Disclaimer: I do not own "Supernatural".

This is an alternate way "Something Wicked" could have gone after Dean shoots the shtrega off Sam.

"You ok, little brother?"

Dean still holds the gun, his knuckles white from how tightly he clenches the weapon. For one second Sam doesn't answer, and that one second is too much for Dean.

So he runs.

Dean Winchester runs.

Protect your brother.

Protect Sammy.

That's an order.

An order.


You failed, Dean.

You can't protect him.

You never could.





Slamming the motel room door behind him, Dean throws himself onto his bed, pulling the covers over his head. He is seven, he is eight, he is nine, he is ninety, and he is failing his baby brother every day of his life.

And suddenly he is crying, great gulping sobs coming from that place he thought he had shut off forever. Pressing his face into the pillow, Dean lets out a scream, which blends with the frantic pounding on the door.

"Dean! Dean! Let me in, c'mon man!"

And that is the thing. Dean doesn't know how to let Sam in. He can give him the last bowl of Lucky Charms, the passenger seat of the Impala, the nicknames of Sammy and bitch, the stinging wit, the mullet rock…but he can't open that door inside himself.

A softer knock sounds on the door. "Dean, its Michael," the young voice says. Dean hears a key turn in the lock, and realizes the smart kid has gone and gotten the extra room key from behind the registration desk. He expects to see Sam following right behind him, frantic Sam with a thousand questions and concerns and words of comfort.

But Sam doesn't follow. "He's outside," Michael says quietly, noticing the look of abject terror on Dean's face at the lack of his Sammy. "He's not hurt. He's just waiting outside."

Now that he looks more carefully with slightly clearer eyes, Dean can make out a small amount of Sam's tousled hair framed in the small crack between barely open door and wall. Dean can picture him exactly, sitting there with his lanky legs up to his chest, head leaning back against the outside of the motel, hands clenching and unclenching because he doesn't know what to do to fix this.

"Ok," Dean answers Michael, even softer, and moves over on the bed to make room for the small boy to sit.

"He's worried about you," Michael says, looking into Dean's face with the frankness only a child of that age possesses. "But he knew you wouldn't talk to him."

"Sammy always was the smart one," Dean answers, with a laugh so fake he knows no one is buying it. That knowledge, that he can't even summon up that protective barrier of believable sarcasm, is enough to bring around more tears, and he sees Sam's right shoulder tense up in the doorframe's halo of light.

"Why are you crying?" Michael asks, with all the childlike innocence Dean wishes Sam still possessed, and suddenly Dean feels a small hand in his and looks down to spy Michael is attempting reassurance the way a child knows best.

"Because my baby brother almost died," Dean admits, and Sam's shoulder gets even closer to his ears. Dean can feel the tension radiating off his Sammy, the almost unbearable desire to come into the room and try to make everything ok.

"But he didn't," Michael answers simply and matter-of-fact.

"But he almost did, he always almost does." Dean is suddenly hugging the pillow to his chest without being able to remember grabbing it, and he rocks back and forth somewhere between boy and man. "Have you ever had to watch your little brother almost get strangled by an extension chord?" He asks this terrible question without thinking of the audience, but when he looks quickly at Michael the boy is not fazed.

"No," Michael says, looking up into Dean's eyes. "But I saw him fall and hit his head once. That was scary."

"Yeah, I bet it was." Dean finds himself putting an arm around Michael's shoulders, the understanding between them thick as the tension radiating from the door where Sam still sits anxiously waiting. "Life gets scary for big brothers when their little brothers get hurt."

"Do you love your little brother?" Michael asks, and Dean cannot help but smile at the amazing innocence still behind Michael's questions. Even after everything this kid has seen, his focus is on love.

"I love him more than anyone or anything," Dean says, and a smile flashes across his face as he glances towards the door. He knows full well Sam is listening. He's glad his Sammy is listening. "More than my car, more than my life, and more than my dad."

"Wow," Michael says in awe, staring up at Dean with something akin to hero-worship in his eyes. "Always?"

"Even when he left," Dean says softly, and there is a stirring at the door as Sam's lanky frame uncurls itself, and Sam makes his way towards the bed. Sam stops before he reaches Dean, but their eyes meet.

"He's never leaving again," Sam says, just as softly, the bruises around his neck moving with the rhythm of his vocal chords. "Not to college, not to die, just…just never, Dean."

In one fluid motion the pillow in Dean's arms is replaced by Sam, Dean standing up and pulling Sam into a hug so tight for a moment Sam can't breathe, but its perfect because its from love not a monster or an extension chord or anything else that can and will get thrown their way.

Sam's bigger than Dean now, taller with longer legs and longer hair, but Dean knows he will always be the big brother, and he takes in everything that comes with that. A car is heard from outside, and Michael sprints past them to throw his arms around his own little brother.

Sam and Dean watch, and Dean ruffles Sam's hair, and Sam lightly punches Dean in the arm, and they are young, and they are old, and there is the past, and there is the present, but they also know there is the future, and it has both of them in it, together.