How long had it been?

Dean paced back and forth impatiently, desperate for the son of a bitch to show their face. The cracked earth beneath his boots formed the intersection of two roads off in the countryside.

How long?

How long since Sam had disappeared? How long since Dean had glanced away for one second and lost sight of his brother forever?

He'd failed.

Failure.

The one person in his life he'd never wanted to let down. The one person he'd do anything for.

The person he'd failed when they were kids. The person he'd failed again when they reunited.

You're a fucking failure. He deserved better and he always did.

The insidious voice whispered in Dean's mind constantly. Every day he sat at that same table, praying his brother would reappear. How long had it been? Days? Weeks? Months? Considering that Bobby had chased him out of the house, it had to have been a long time.

There's nothing you can do for him now. He's gone and you need to accept that.

Had it been a year?

How long would Bobby let Dean stay in his house? The days had blended together. All he did was read, and research, and delve into lore he'd never known existed.

Anything to get his brother back.

Tears pricked at Dean's eyes as he paced angrily across the crossroads.

"Aren't you a sight for sore eyes, sugar."

Dean whipped around at the voice. A woman stood there, her face passionless as she stared back at him. Red eyes glimmered at him.

A crossroad demon. The maker of deals.

Dean practically threw himself at her, grabbing her shoulders. "Bring him back!" His voice practically begged her. His brother, his partner, the person who relied on him above all others. "Bring Sammy back to life!"

The demon pulled herself out of his arms effortlessly. Pure demon strength showed through in the movement. Nothing Dean did could keep her still.

"Well what do we have here," she clucked as her eyes changed back to the darkest brown orbs he'd ever seen. "A kicked puppy that lost his best friend."

"Please," Dean begged, his voice hoarse. "Please, just bring him back. You can have my soul, just bring back Sam."

She crossed her arms and started to pace around the circle. "You Winchesters. You're all the same, so willing to give themselves up for each other. But no."

His heart pounded in his ears as he tried to blink away a sudden surge of anger. "No? What do you mean, no… I give you my soul, and you give me what I ask, that's how it works."

Red lips painted with luscious lipstick curled into a smile. More like a snarl. "I can onlybring him back if he was actually dead. Now, try again."

Not dead? Dean's mind focused right on that thought. But he's been gone for-

How long?

"What do you mean, he isn't dead?" Dean snapped. "He's been gone for…"

"Six months," the demon supplied helpfully. "Your little Sammy hasn't been around for six months now."

Dean snarled. "Youbitch, bring him back!"

She came up to him, stroking a finger down his cheek. A muscle twitched at the unwelcome contact, but Dean didn't move. "Sweet Sammy has been at Bobby's this entire time. He's just too…small for you to see."

There was an urge to bite her finger off, but Dean held back. A trickle of hope came to him. "Then make him normal. Make my brother normal-sized. I'll give you my soul for that. Ten years, this sweet ass," he held out his arms, "is all yours."

She chewed her lips. "No."

"No? What do you mean, no? " Dean grabbed her slim wrist. "That's the deal. You give me Sam and you come to collect in ten years. End of story."

She wasn't even fazed by his powerful hand gripping her. She shook her head. "That's the deal everyone else gets. But you, Dean Winchester, are a special case."

"F-five years…" Dean said, desperation rising. "I'll give you five years."

She didn't even consider it. "No." She pulled her wrist away from him, effortless once more. "Now, if you'll excuse me…"

She turned to walk away.

"Three years?"

She closed her eyes with a grim smile at that. Satisfaction almost bled from every pore. "No." She turned around. "One year. One year with dear Sammy, and your bill is up."

Dean blanched. One year. One year of life and he'd go to hell.

But for Sam, he'd do anything.

"Fine," he growled out.

Before he even knew she was moving, he was caught up in a passionate kiss. He tried to pull away, but her bright red eyes drew him in, forcing him to seal the deal.

Then she was gone.

The sound of stumbling came from behind Dean, and he whipped around, catching the man behind him in shock.

"Sam?!"

The person he held in his arms only bore a passing resemblance to the four inch hunter he'd had at his side. He was massive and built, a good few inches taller than Dean himself. But those hazel eyes, despite the way they darted about in a panic, were the most familiar eyes he'd ever seen. His hair was a mess, ragged and longer than ever. His clothing was tattered. A massive hook hung out of his satchel, the three prongs glinting in the sunlight and the clear fishing line the thickness of Dean's pinkie.

"Dean?"

The voice sounded unused, hoarse. Sam's hazel eyes tried to focus on Dean, like he didn't believe what he was seeing. He tried desperately to pull away from the older, but now smaller hunter, but didn't get far. There was a quivering in his limbs, a weakness that hadn't been present before.

"Here, c'mon pint-size," Dean said softly. He guided his brother over to the Impala, sitting him carefully down in the passenger's side. "Drink," he commanded, holding a water bottle up to Sam's lips.

The younger brother let Dean give him a drink. His jacket was removed, and his satchel tossed in the back next to Dean's duffel. Dean brushed the scattered hair out of his eyes.

"H-how?" Sam managed to croak out. "I thought… I thought you couldn't find me. I could always hear you searching… but I just… I just kept getting smaller."

A part of Dean froze up at that confirmation of his fears. "How small?"

Sam shook his head desperately. "No idea. I just… things kept changing. I couldn't even focus on things after awhile." His blinking hazel eyes forced themselves to focus on Dean. "Subatomic… too small…"

Dean wet one of the handkerchiefs in his duffel, and patted it against Sam's face, clearing off the grime and sweat that had caked up after months on his own. "I'm here now, and I'm not going anywhere." He forced out a fake smile, remembering the year of life he had left.

"You and me together, Sasquatch."