Life it seems to fade away,

Drifting further everyday

The brothers drove away from the hospital in silence. It seemed that all words had dried up as soon as the doctor had shaken his head and called John Winchester's time of death.

It just didn't make sense. Their father had been all right; he had been recovering from his injures, both those demon-inflicted and the results of the car accident.

Dean seemed extremely shocked by John's sudden passing. Sam had tried to talk to him back at the hospital, tried to find an explanation with his brother but Dean completely shut him out. He signed the necessary forms the doctor gave him and ignored his younger brother.

Sam bit his lip and stared at his hands laced together in his lap.

"It just doesn't make any sense," he muttered to himself.

Dean had been the one in danger; he had been in a coma and his doctor had not been optimistic. The physician had all but told Sam to prepare for the loss of his only sibling.

"Are you sure nothing strange happened?" Sam asked Dean, hoping his brother would answer.

Sam didn't know what had happened. Dean, although miraculously awake and on the mend hadn't been eager to talk about his experience as a ghost. What he had been impatient to do though, was speak to their father. Sam had tried to follow his older sibling, if only because Dean had just woken from an apparently irreversible coma, but his brother had slammed the door to John's room in his face. So Sam had decided to grab some coffee at the cafeteria and try not to feel too bad about Dean's shutting him out in such a rude way.

"I already told you I don't know," Dean snapped, "One minute I was a ghost and the next I was awake!"

Sam glanced wide-eyed at his brother, startled by the outburst, before dropping his gaze back to his hands.

It's my fault, Sam thought guiltily, I was too focused on Dean and I didn't see that Dad wasn't doing as well as the doctor thought.

If he had spent half as much time with John as he had spent trying to communicate with his phantom brother, Sam might have noticed something was wrong.

If he had been more careful on the road Sam would have seen that transport truck coming. John and Dean were already hurt badly and that accident just tipped the scale even more.

Sam's eyes suddenly felt hot and wet but he ignored them.

There was nothing he could do to make things right now. John was gone and he wasn't coming back. And it was all Sam's doing.

Getting lost within myself

Nothing matters, no one else

If you can't save your brother, you have to kill him.

John's final words played on an endless loop in Dean's head.

He really had no idea what the older man had been talking about but the words chilled Dean to the bone.

He was sure that his father's warning had something to do with the Yellow-Eyed Demon. But what that had to do with Sam, Dean could only guess at.

Dean wanted to talk about the demon with someone- anyone- except Sam.

He couldn't confide in his brother, not this time. He wasn't going to tell Sam about the bastard possessing that Reaper and he sure as hell wasn't going to relay John's last message to him either.

The young man's hands tightened on the steering wheel of the rental car they were forced to use until they arrived at Bobby's and Dean could start repairing the Impala.

What the fuck had John been thinking, giving Dean an order like that? How could he even think that Dean would ever hurt Sam?

And John dying, just like that? Well, Dean was damned if it didn't have something to do with the Yellow-Eyed Demon. He had heard about people- desperate or greedy people- making deals with demons but John Winchester? Never in a million years would John Henry Winchester make a deal with a demon- and certainly not the bastard who'd killed his wife- for anything.

But, the more Dean thought about the events leading up to his father's death, the more it started to sound like that was exactly what John had done. Traded his life for Dean's.

Why? Dean thought his father wanted to tear that piece of shit limb from limb and nothing was going to stop him.

Except for his critically injured son.

How could he do that? How could he leave Dean like that?

Dean wanted to punch something. He squeezed the steering wheel until his knuckles were white.

SPN

Sam was a big fuck-up.

He couldn't seem to do anything right.

He couldn't do as John had ordered and shoot his father while the Yellow-Eyed Demon possessed the man.

He couldn't drive the Impala to the safety of a hospital.

He couldn't see that his father's life was in danger, even though the doctor had said John was recovering.

That wasn't even the worst of it though! Oh no, there was more…

Sam was a failure as a hunter.

He was a failure as a college student.

He couldn't even protect his girlfriend.

'Why is it that everyone close to you dies?' a voice in Sam's head asked.

It was true too. First it had been his mother, and then Jess and now his father was gone.

And… was all of that his fault?

'You knew about Jess's death for weeks before it happened and yet you said nothing,' the voice reminded Sam, 'You just ran off with Dean and left her all alone.'

I didn't know it was really going to happen! Sam thought, his heart aching at the fresh wave of sorrow that washed over him at the thought of his deceased girlfriend.

'You knew Dean could take care of himself,' the voice continued, 'Always has and always will. But you didn't care. You didn't even give your father a second thought, did you?'

He was in a coma! He wasn't waking up and Dad seemed okay, Sam tried to reason with the voice but to no avail.

'And your mother,' the voice mocked, 'if you hadn't been born, she would still be alive.'

I was just a baby, Sam argued silently, there was no way I could have done anything to stop her death.

But the damage was done. The seed of doubt was planted.

Everyone Sam loved died.

He sucked in a shaky breath and stared out the car's side window instead of at his hands.

Dean didn't notice his inner turmoil. He was too focused on the road ahead of them, it seemed.

I have lost the will to live

Simply nothing more to give

Sam picked listlessly at his salad while Dean munched steadily on his cheeseburger.

The older brother noticed his sibling was playing with his food but said nothing. Sam wasn't a baby and didn't to be told what to do. Besides, Dean had more important things to worry about then whether his twenty-three year old brother ate or not.

Now he had just one more reason to hunt down that Yellow-Eyed son of a bitch and put a bullet in his brain. He had killed their mother and their father. Dean wasn't going to let the bastard take away anyone else he loved.

He looked across the table at Sam and felt a piece of his burger stick painfully in his throat as he thought about losing his sibling.

Setting his unfinished cheeseburger on the plate, Dean dug his wallet from the pocket of his jeans and tossed some bills onto the table.

"C'mon Sam," he muttered, "Let's go."

His brother didn't complain; it wasn't like he had been eating his lunch anyway, and followed Dean out the door.

Once in the rental car, the eldest Winchester drove slowly. Bobby was expecting them but Dean didn't really want to see the grizzled hunter just then. He really just wanted to be alone. Even without his brother.

He decided he would drive until nightfall and then book a motel room. He was exhausted, drained both physically and emotionally. He was certain Sam felt the same.

They would get some rest and then regroup in the morning.

SPN

Sam dozed as Dean drove.

Nightmares plagued his sleeping mind however, preventing rest.

Over and over he relived the moment of John's death.

Over and over he walked down the same sterile hospital corridor, the scent of bleach strong in his nose, the fluorescent lights making every surface sharp, paper cup of coffee held casually in one hand.

Over and over he heard the shriek of monitors and his stroll slipped into a sprint.

Over and over he stood in the doorway to John's room, the heart monitor flat lining and screaming. He dropped his hot coffee onto the floor as he was propelled forward, even as the doctor and nurses rushed in after him.

Over and over the medical team attempted to defibrillate John and over and over, he remained motionless. Dead.

W

Sam opened his eyes and raked his bangs back from his brow.

He couldn't stop thinking about his father.

Could he have done something to save John?

He was sure there was. But he had been too late.

Sam closed his eyes as he recalled the look his brother had given him as he'd ran into the room.

This is your fault, that look said; you did this.

Little wonder Dean was barely speaking to him. He blamed Sam for their father's death.

"I'm sorry," Sam whispered; his voice not audible over the sound of the rental car's engine.

SPN

This is my fault; Dean thought as he stared at his brother's stricken expression, I did this.

Sam's face had lost all colour as he appeared in the doorway to John's bedroom, mere moments after the older man had whispered in Dean's ear his final order.

Their father's doctor and a half-dozen nurses pushed past Sam and surrounded the bed, pressing both sons out of the circle that had formed around the hunter.

Dean's brain hardly registered what was happening, his father's words seemed to take up all room for thought.

He reached out and grabbed his brother's arm, keeping Sam by him.

He could hear his sibling talking- yelling- but the words were incoherent, whether from Sam's panic or from the fact that his brain seemed to refuse to focus on nothing but John's order, Dean didn't know.

Then, everything grew sharp and clear suddenly. The doctor looked up and called John Winchester's time of death, a nurse drew the blanket up over their father's face and the team left the room in somber single-file.

"Dad!" Sam exclaimed and pulled out of Dean's grasp.

Dean watched as his brother approached the bed and yanked the blanket down, gripped his father's shoulders and shook him.

"Sam!" Dean barked and grabbed his sibling's arm, pulling him away, "He's gone."

His brother stared into their father's face for a long moment before looking up at him. Sam's eyes, usually so bright and expressive, were dull and dark.

Sam stepped away from Dean and turned, walking through the doorway, leaving the older brother alone.

There is nothing more for me

Need the end to set me free

Dean sat a little taller in the driver's seat as they passed a bar on the way into the small, no-name town.

Good, he thought, I could use a drink. Or ten.

He pulled into the driveway of the first motel he saw; the Riverview, it was called though Dean saw no sign of a river at all.

Whatever, Dean shrugged; we're not here to enjoy the scenery.

Stopping in front of the office, the elder Winchester quickly procured a room key from the motel's octogenarian manager and drove to the parking spot reserved for the occupants of Rm. 9.

SPN

Sam dropped his duffel bag onto the bed furthest from the door and took in their most recent accommodations.

The carpet was dark blue and worn in the areas that had the greatest foot traffic. The walls were an institutional grey but prints of a ship- that looked a lot like the Titanic- and a lighthouse attempted to brighten the room. The covers on the beds were green and the sheets were a pale blue.

Dean sat his single piece of luggage on his chosen bed and turned to the door.

"I'm going out for a while," he commented without looking at Sam, "Don't wait up for me."

The younger man opened his mouth to speak; perhaps to ask Dean to stay with him but his brother was gone before any words came out.

Sam listened as the sound of the rental car's engine grew distant before sitting down on the edge of his bed and putting his head in his hands.

SPN

Dean breathed a sigh of relief as he pulled out of motel parking lot.

He had only been in the room for a minute or two and he'd felt stifled.

Now, behind the wheel of a car- even though it wasn't his beloved Impala- and on his way to one of his favourite places- a bar- he felt somewhat better than he had since his father's death earlier that morning.

He was tired of mulling over John's order. He didn't want to think about it anymore- at least not today- and a few beers was certain to soften the blow both John's death and final words had dealt Dean.

He spied the bar they had passed on the way into town- a hole-in-the-wall kind of place called Tom Dooley's- and pulled into its bustling parking lot.

SPN

Sam sighed heavily and wiped a hand down his face. He stared despondently at the picture of the lighthouse over his bed that was supposed to soften the grey walls and make the room homier, not even realizing that tears were leaking down his cheeks and dripping from his jaw.

He had hoped not to feel this way for a long time. It was that same feeling that had blossomed in him when Jessica had died and now it had returned once again with a vengeance.

It felt as though a great, dark hole had opened up in Sam, sucking away any joy and spewing out guilt and sadness.

The young man barely registered the fact that his cell phone was ringing in his jacket pocket as he laid down across the bed, fully clothed and closed his eyes.

SPN

Dean didn't want any company, not tonight, despite the number of pretty young women in the bar- even though a more than half of them had turned their heads in his direction already and smiled at what they saw- and hunched over his beer bottle, taking up a booth by himself.

As he had thought, the alcohol had numbed him to the sorrow he felt at his father's death. It made his thoughts slippery as well, so that they could not get a foothold in his brain.

Dean took a large swallow of beer and motioned to a waitress for another one. Although not exactly happy- even alcohol couldn't do that for him- he at least felt content.

The bar played good music- classic Rock n' Roll- and it was warm and loud, full of frivolous people that also helped Dean take his mind of his loss. He could almost imagine he was just out enjoying a drink for the hell of it and that all was right with the world. Almost.

"Thanks," Dean muttered as the waitress returned with a fresh bottle of beer.

"Anything else I can get you?" she asked, snapping a wad of bright pink bubble gum against her tongue.

Dean shook his head and gulped down half of the icy beer in one long swallow.

SPN

Sam didn't know how long he'd been asleep. It could have been minutes or hours.

Dean was still out and now the motel room was dark. Sitting up slowly, Sam raked his bangs back from his brow and reached out to turn on the lamp sitting on the nightstand between the two beds.

Yellow light filled the room but did nothing to chase away the darkness residing in Sam.

Standing, the young man moved to the bathroom and closed the door. Turning on the light, Sam peered at his reflection in the mirror.

His face was pale and he had dark circles beneath his eyes as though he hadn't slept in days. He raised a hand to his chin and his fingers rasped against the beginnings of stubble.

Taking a plastic cup from the stack beside the sink, Sam filled it from the tap and took a long drink of water.

Setting the cup down, Sam gripped the edge of the counter with both hands as vertigo suddenly caused the world to tilt around him. Squeezing his eyes shut and clenching his teeth, Sam counted to ten before daring to look around the room again.

This time the bathroom remained in place. Sam turned on the tap again and splashed some water onto his face.

Without drying off, Sam exited the bathroom, leaving the light on and sat down at the small desk in the corner of the room by the window. He pulled aside the curtain and peered out at the parking lot but there was no sign of his brother.

Don't wait up for me, Dean had said and Sam suddenly had the irrational fear that maybe his brother had left him.

But that didn't make sense, Sam told himself, his duffel's still here.

Shoulders sagging with relief, Sam released the curtain and leaned back in the chair, causing it to creak slightly in protest.

'Dean will leave you,' the voice spoke up, 'By hook or by crook, he'll leave you. Everyone has.'

Sam shook his head to try and clear his thoughts.

'You're dangerous. You're poisonous,' the voice kept on, 'And your taint will spread to Dean too.'

Sam stood up and clenched his fists.

"Shut up!" he snarled, "Dean's all right. He will be all right."

'But for how much longer?' the voice taunted.

The young man spun around, unsure of what to do. He knew that the voice was just in his head, that it was only a manifestation of his guilt over his father's death but it was difficult to ignore all the same.

Sam sighed and closed his eyes, taking deep breaths to try and calm his nerves. He just needed a good night's sleep, that was all. It had been a trying day and the stress was really starting to get to him.

The youngest Winchester walked across the room to his bed and grabbed his duffel, unzipping it. He pawed through his clothes until he found what he was looking for: a bottle of over-the-counter sleeping aid pills he'd purchased when his nightmares about Jessica's fiery death had prevented him from resting peacefully. Sam had shoved them into the bottom of his bag once the bad dreams finally abated and all but forgot about them until now.

Twisting off the childproof lid, Sam shook one pill and then another one into his palm. He peered down at the small, white ovals in his hand for a long moment before adding two more, just for good measure.

Sam swallowed the quartet of pills without any water, replaced the lid on the bottle and shoved it to the bottom of his duffel again. Dropping his bag onto the floor at the end of his bed, Sam sat down and reached out, turning off the bedside lamp but ignored the bathroom light.

The young man laid down on top of bed- not bothering to pull the blankets over himself- and closed his eyes, drifting into unconsciousness.

Things not what they used to be

Missing one inside of me

Dean looked up as the bartender announced the last call. He didn't really want to leave. He didn't want to go back to the motel room and face Sam.

Instead, Dean stood, set a few bills on the table to pay for his drinks and left the bar before he ended up being the only one left inside besides the staff.

Even though everything was closed by now- it was four in the morning- Dean decided that a little cruise around town wouldn't hurt.

He wished he was behind the wheel of his baby instead of the stupid rental but beggars couldn't be choosers and he was happy he had a car at all.

Dean rolled down the driver's side window and drove slowly, enjoying the silence and solitude the town was bathed in at this wee hour of the morning.

W

Dean swore when he turned on the light inside the motel room and saw that Sam was sleeping.

His brother didn't wake however and Dean relaxed. At least he didn't have to face Sam's 'puppy eyes'.

Tugging off his boots, Dean nudged the door closed with his shoulder and stomped across the room to his bed, falling onto it belly-first, asleep before his head hit the pillow.

SPN

Sam blinked groggily as cheery morning light splashed across his face, nearly blinding him with its intensity.

Rubbing a hand over his face, he sat up and glanced at the bed closest to the door. Dean was lying on his stomach, arms beneath his pillow, face turned away from him, sawing logs.

Sam sighed and yawned. He squinted at the alarm clock on the nightstand between the beds and groaned.

It was ten thirty.

"Dean," Sam called, "Dean, wake up."

His brother grunted something unintelligible but continued to snore.

Standing, Sam crossed the short distance to his brother's bed and shook Dean's shoulder.

"Hey," he said quietly, "We've gotta get going."

Dean turned to peer blearily at him, haggard-faced and puffy-eyed.

"Bobby's expecting us," Sam reminded his brother quietly.

Dean sighed in an exasperated tone and sat up.

"I just woke up too," Sam told him but Dean glared daggers at him and stood, grabbing his boots from where he had left them the night before.

Sam watched as Dean shrugged into his coat and pulled the car keys from his pocket, snagging his duffel as he did so with his other hand.

"Well c'mon," Dean growled, "Bobby's expecting us, isn't that what you said?"

Sam's eyes widened slightly at the irritated tone of his brother voice but said nothing. Nodding instead, he grabbed his own duffel bag and slipped his shoes on.

"Do you want me to drive?" Sam asked as Dean heaved his bag into the trunk.

"No," Dean grouched.

"I can if you want," Sam pressed, "You look like He-"

"We all know what happens when you drive, Sam!" Dean snapped suddenly, "We meet the business end of a transport truck!"

Sam stared at his brother, shocked and hurt.

Dean slammed the trunk's lid down and stalked towards the driver's side.

Sam, head lowered in shame, went to the passenger's side and sat down in the seat.

SPN

Dean glanced at Sam from the corner of his eye and kicked himself for his uncalled for outburst. The accident hadn't been his fault. Not at all. Dean was sure that if he or John had been driving, the same thing would have happened.

"Sam," Dean said, trying to keep his tone soft, "Sammy-"

"Don't Dean," his brother interrupted his apology, however, and turned away from him to stare out the passenger window.

The older brother wanted to continue, wanted to force Sam to listen to his apology but he bit his tongue.

Turning the key in the ignition, Dean started the car and drove the short distance to the office to check out.

SPN

Sam tried not to let Dean see how much his words had hurt him. But they had, and badly. They cut like a knife and Sam felt that gaping hole inside him vomit even more guilt into the hollow cavity where his heart should have been.

He was a big fuck-up.

He was dangerous to everyone around him and right now it looked as though Dean didn't want him around.

What was he going to do? How could he make up for all the deaths he had caused?

I could leave, he thought, just take my stuff and disappear.

Dean would probably thank him if he did that. He wouldn't have his failure of a little brother to worry about any longer.

And Sam… he wouldn't have to see the blame in Dean's eyes every time he looked at him, wouldn't have to hear the accusation in every word Dean spoke to him.

Just go away, Sam thought, leave… and everything will be better…

Author's Note:

Happy birthday to a very dear friend! AlxM, I hope that your special day is filled with joy and love! Thank you so much for always being there for me, encouraging me and helping me out with my fanfics! Lots of love!

Fanfic title and lyrics come from Metallica's Fade To Black.

Please take a moment and leave a comment, Constant Readers.