AN: Consider this a Thanksgiving gift. I'm ashamed that it took so long, and I'll explain myself in the AN after the chapter. Just read it first. I think/hope you'll find this one worth the wait.


You're Not Alone

– – Chapter Five – –

What Sam Needs

"What did you say?"

"I said I know what this is, Sammy. But it…it doesn't make sense. She's so…so young…."

Dean trailed off, getting lost in thought about how someone so young could have met such a fate. That girl couldn't have been older than seven. There was no way she could have become what she had. And that look she had given him before she ran off. She had looked horrified, scared, lost, and sad. How could such an innocent girl-

"Dean?"

Sam pulled him out of his thoughts, and he turned to meet his brother's gaze. He could see confusion and…something else there. Worry? But there was no way it was worry.

Dean looked away.

"Come on," Sam said quietly. He moved the hand that was still on his back, put both of his hands under Dean's arm, and pulled gently. "Let's get away from here."

Suddenly, Dean became aware of the fact that he had just vomited the contents of his stomach on the grass, and his stomach churned at the sight and smell. He put his hand to his mouth, and Sam paused in his efforts to help him up, kneeling down next to him and placing a hand on his back again.

As Dean struggled with the images that were taking over his mind (that innocent little boy, torn to shreds, his chest gaping open, heart gone; that little girl, flesh and blood dripping from her teeth, anger, hatred, and fear in her eyes) he tried to calm the nausea and shaking that had taken over his body. Sam had once again taken to stroking his back in small circles, his other hand gripping his arm tightly, but Dean didn't notice. He was too lost in his thoughts. He fought for control over his emotions and his body.

Finally, his stomach stopped clenching and the nausea went away. His breathing eventually slowed to normal and the gentle shaking dissipated. His head continued to swim with thoughts, but at least he had managed to get a hold on himself.

"You okay?" Sam asked.

Dean had forgotten he was there. It was like the world around him had faded away, lost in a haze. He had been sucked away into another world.

"Dean?"

Dean came to himself enough to nod, unable to make his mouth work. Sam's grip tightened further on his arm, but he didn't really notice.

"Come on," Sam said again, and he put his hands under Dean's arm and pulled him off the ground slowly. Dean stood and let Sam lead him away from the hole in the ground and the horrors that lay within it. Sam put his hand on Dean's back again, his other hand remaining on his arm to guide him toward the trees on the graveyard's edge.

If Dean could have focused, he would have noticed Sam deliberately place himself between Dean and the open grave, shielding it from his sight. If Dean could have focused, he would have felt the gentle, caring way in which Sam led him away from the boy's grave. If Dean could have focused, he would have noticed the way Sam's hands gently shook as he helped him toward the trees. If Dean could have focused, he would have realized that he never let Sam touch him or help him like this.

If he could have focused, maybe Dean would have recognized the fear and concern in his brother's eyes. Maybe he would have realized that Sam was scared to death by the way his older brother, always the strong one, was acting.

But he couldn't focus. Not anymore. It was all too much to take in. Dad's death, the nightmares, thinking his family neither loved nor needed him, the little boy, the innocent girl who had become a monster…. It was all too much.

So he didn't fight Sam, didn't tell him he was fine and he could walk perfectly well thank you very much. He let Sam lead him away from the grave, numb to the world around him.

Finally, they reached the edge of the graveyard, and Dean allowed Sam to help him to the ground. He sat down, leaning back against the tree behind him when Sam pushed him gently toward it. Sam sat down next to him, his hands leaving his back, but Dean hardly noticed.

"Dean?"

That poor boy. What would his family go through when they found out about what had happened to him?

"Dean?"

That boy had died too young in the first place. How could his family possibly deal with burying him again?

"Dean!"

That girl was too young, too. Too young to have become what she had. If that son of a bitch demon had anything to do with this…

"Dean! Talk to me. Say something. Anything! Call me a jerk; tell me to leave you alone, to get lost. Something. Hit me, I don't care. Just do something!"

Dad. What if that had been Dad? What if-

"Dean!"

Suddenly the haze around Dean's mind began to lift, and he felt himself coming to. He realized he was still in the cemetery, leaning against a tree, and that the sky had lightened considerably, a faint light rising in the East.

And suddenly he realized that Sam's hand was on his shoulder, and he could feel a faint power coursing through his body, starting from that point of contact. He couldn't place what was behind the power at first. But finally, as the fog lifted further, he realized he could feel a great sense of fear in the energy coursing into him.

It was coming from Sam.

"Dean, please. Let me know you're still here."

And as Dean began to feel sadness pour into him, he felt the fog shatter, and he flinched at the feeling of intense energy that wasn't his own pouring into him. He pulled himself quickly out from under Sam's hand, and as the contact broke he immediately felt better. The energy lingered slightly, but he could no longer place the emotions behind it. He began to wonder if he had really felt them at all. He had probably just imagined them. Figments of his own emotions left over from getting lost in his own thoughts.

"Dean, are you alright?" Sam asked, and when Sam reached out a hand to touch him, Dean pulled away slightly. Sam got the hint and he let his hand drop to his side.

"Of course I'm okay, Sammy. Why shouldn't I be?" he asked.

Sam gave Dean an incredulous look – his patented 'what the hell is your problem?' look – and Dean looked away.

"Dean, you just completely blanked out-"

"It's a jikininki, Sam."

"You…what…a jikiwhatie?

"A jikininki," Dean repeated, glad that Sam had gone with the change of subject. "It means 'man-eating ghost.' They're from Japanese Buddhist mythology."

"What are they?"

"They're spirits. People who are really greedy and selfish in their lives are cursed after their deaths to devour human…corpses. I guess they're so selfish in life that their greed haunts them after death. They have to feed every few days or they go insane with their hunger. They hate that they need it so much, but they can't help their need for it. They always hunt at night, and they prefer…fresher…corpses."

"How do you get rid of them?"

"There's a special incantation you say to trap them. While they're immobile, you say this prayer and they're gone. It's really easy to get rid of them if you can say the incantation before they escape. People used to think that anyone who made eye contact with one would be frozen in fear, but Dad and I found out that was a load of crap. They're actually more scared of living bodies than we are of them."

"You've seen one before?"

Dean nodded. "Back when I was…thirteen, I guess…Dad took me out to hunt one. He said it had ravaged nearly a dozen corpses in Missouri before he was able to track it down. He brought me out with him. Said he wanted me to be the one to do it. I'd killed stuff before, but I'd never done a ritual like this. Anyway, we got to the cemetery. Didn't take us long to find it. I said the incantation before it could get away. And then I got rid of it. It was a man, mid forties, early fifties I think. Before he…before he went…wherever he went…he looked at me and smiled. He looked…it was like he was trying to say…that he was sorry."

Dean gazed down at the ground, lost in thought of that night long ago.

Sam was the one to finally break the silence. "Where do they…where do they go after you…after you say the prayer?"

Dean looked up, but he didn't look at Sam. "Dad told me that they go wherever they would have gone before they became what they did. But I don't think…I don't really know if he knew himself. I think maybe he was just saying that to…to make me feel better. The way it happened…the screaming…the darkness…it didn't feel like he was going anywhere good. I can't know for sure, but it…I feel like…I feel like I sent him to Hell."

Dean fell silent, trying hard not to think about the young girl who had become this monster. This monster that he'd have to get rid of. This innocent girl that he might have to-

"It made sense back then, Sam. These things…they're born out of intense greed and selfishness. The kind of stuff that makes people kill. But this girl…she's so…."

"Young," Sam finished for him.

"Yeah," Dean agreed. "Kids that age…they don't really get that way. I mean, sure, they might not want to share their toys, but they don't usually…kill for things."

"How did this girl become one, then?" Sam asked. "You don't think-"

"Yeah, Sam, I do," Dean replied. Sam didn't even need to say it; Dean knew what he meant. He had been thinking the same thing.

"The Demon," Sam said quietly.

"Yeah," Dean replied, his gaze dropping to the ground.

"You think the Demon somehow turned this girl into one of these…things?"

"Maybe. I don't know for sure. But it makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, what are the odds that we'd find one of these things in the same place we just buried-"

"Dad," Sam said suddenly, raising his head to look at Dean. "Dean, Dad was buried here a week ago. And if this thing goes after fresh…bodies…then that means…. The Demon has to be behind this, Dean. It knew we buried Dad here, so it took an innocent girl and turned her into this monster and sent her here. To get to us. Son of a bitch!"

Dean looked up in surprise at the curse that came out of Sam's mouth. Sam hardly ever cursed.

"We have to do something, Dean. She's scared, we saw it. She knows what she's doing and she can't stop herself. We can't…we can't let this happen, Dean. We have to do something," Sam said, and Dean caught the look of determination in his eyes.

"Sam…what if…what if I'm right? What if this…what if this ritual sends her to Hell? I mean we can't just…she's an innocent girl, Sam. We can't send her to Hell."

"We don't know if they go to Hell though, right? I mean…some people…some people stick around to help others, right? And when their spirits leave Earth…they can't all go to Hell, Dean. The good ones can't just go to Hell, can they?"

Dean wanted to agree with Sam, but he knew that even Sam wasn't sure about what he was saying. It all sounded nice, didn't it? But the world was a cruel place, and life just wasn't fair. There was no reason that the good people had to end up anywhere but in Hell.

"Sam…."

"You saw the look on her face, Dean. You saw how scared she was, how upset she was over what she was doing. We can't just let her exist like this. Not if there's a chance we can save her. Send her somewhere…happier. And besides, we can't let her keep doing this."

Dean sighed and closed his eyes, wishing that because he couldn't see the world it didn't exist.

"Dean, we have to do this. Not for the people who are gone, but…for the people they left behind."

Dean sighed again before turning his gaze to Sam. "I know we do, Sammy. It's just that…I don't know what will happen to her."

"I know. But what other choice do we have? We can't just let her keep doing this. We can't. For all we know, she could…it could go after…."

Sam trailed off, and Dean knew he was afraid to say the same thing they were both thinking.

It could go after their father.

And right now, Dean honestly didn't think he could live with that. He couldn't bury his father again. He couldn't let Sam bury their father again. He wouldn't. He'd be damned if he let his brother live through their father's death again. Dean still loved his brother, even if he didn't think Sam loved him.

"The incantation and prayer are in Dad's journal. We'll have to come back tomorrow night," Dean said, looking off to the East where the sun was slowly peeking over the horizon.

Sam followed his gaze and nodded. "Yeah, I guess we will," he said quietly, and Dean frowned at the sudden change in Sam's demeanor. The anger and determination had vanished, and suddenly Sam seemed pensive and sad as he gazed down at the ground.

"What is it?" Dean asked quietly.

Sam lifted his head and looked at him. "Nothing," he said unconvincingly, turning his eyes back toward the ground.

Dean sat quietly for a minute. Sam wasn't usually the one to let things go unsaid. If he wanted to talk about it, he would, and there was nothing Dean could do to stop him even if he wanted to.

Finally, Sam sighed and turned to him. "We should get going," he said, standing up and brushing himself off. "We should try and get some sleep before tonight."

Dean nodded and prepared to stand up. Sam took a step toward him, but Dean put a hand up to stop him, and Sam backed off. Dean stood up slowly, surprised to find himself steadier on his feet than he had been in a long time. The usual grating in his sore chest had subsided to a dull pain. As they walked slowly back toward the car, Sam standing closely next to him as though he were afraid he would fall down at any second, Dean pondered why he felt physically better than he had in awhile.

As he clambered back into the van, getting up into his seat without Sam's help, Dean decided that he probably had too much else on his mind right now. Little things like sore chests were insignificant. Innocent girls turned into vicious creatures, bodies of loved ones mutilated, the prospect of finding their father's body desecrated…stuff like that mattered.

This time, Dean didn't fight the images that began to run through his head. As Sam drove them back toward the hotel, Dean gazed out the window and prayed that getting rid of this jikininki would be as easy as getting rid of the one 14 years ago.

Unfortunately, he just knew it wouldn't be.

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When they arrived back at the hotel, Dean pulled out their father's journal, leafing through the pages until he found the one that contained the incantation and the prayer. He read the words over in his head, bits and pieces of it coming back to him. It was so simple really. Just a few words and a few lines and the spirit was sent packing. But the idea that he didn't know where the spirit would be sent to was all Dean could think about.

After a few minutes, Sam told him they should try and get some sleep. Dean wasn't sure he could sleep even if he wanted to, but he didn't protest the simple suggestion. He knew it would get Sam off his back if he at least tried. He got dressed and crawled into bed, Sam doing the same across from him. He placed the journal on the nightstand between them, the page carefully marked. He rolled over and faced the wall. He could feel Sam's eyes boring a hole into his back, and Dean tried hard to ignore him.

Finally, he heard Sam's breathing even out, and he knew his brother had fallen asleep. He lay awake for a few more hours, staring at the wall and trying hard not to think about what the night would bring. He knew he would be the one to do this, to say the words. There was no way he was letting Sam do this himself. Hell, if he didn't know that Sam would yell until his throat was sore, he would refuse to let him go at all. This was an easy job. It wasn't something Sam needed to be with him for. Dean could do the job and come back easily; he could promise that.

What he couldn't promise was that he'd handle it well. The thought that he might be sending this young, innocent girl to Hell was too much for him to even imagine, let alone have to go through. It would be a burden – a burden he would have to live with for the rest of his life.

But it was a burden he would gladly bear for his brother.

Dean stared at the wall, trying hard to stave off a sleep that he knew would be fraught with nightmares. Eventually though, his body caved, and he fell into a fitful sleep, visions of a young girl screaming in pain and crying and begging him to save her haunting his dreams.

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Dean jerked awake, panting slightly. Noises echoed in his head: screams, sobs, and a young girl asking him why he had sent her away to that horrible place where everything hurt all the time and there was no one to help her. He closed his eyes, willing the voice to go away.

Eventually, it stopped, and Dean opened his eyes and gazed around the room. He was sitting up in bed – he must have jerked himself upright when he woke up – and the room was brightly lit, streams of light filtering around the curtains over the window. He realized the sun would be setting soon.

The next thing he noticed, when he tried to move, was that he couldn't. He pulled on his hands, and he was shocked to find that he couldn't move them. They were anchored to the headboard behind him.

Someone had tied him to the bed.

Dean cursed and pulled on the ropes binding him. They were tied tight.

He wasn't going anywhere.

He cursed again and leaned back against the headboard, gazing around the room.

Finally, his eyes landed on Sam. He was sitting at the table, his arms crossed over his chest, Dad's journal on the table in front of him, his eyes firmly locked on him.

Dean was struck speechless for a moment. But it didn't last.

"Sam, what the hell is going on here? Untie me."

"You're not coming with me, Dean."

"What?" Dean asked incredulously.

"I said you're not coming with me. I'm doing this one myself, Dean, and you can't stop me."

"Sam…you're talking crazy. Let me out of here. How did you even get me tied up in the first place?"

Dean saw a flash of pain pass over Sam's eyes before fading. "Your dreams, Dean. It's so hard to…it's hard to wake you up from them sometimes. I tried to… to wake you up, but when I realized that you couldn't hear me, I decided…I realized that this was the solution I was looking for. I know how you think, Dean, and I knew you would never let me do this even if I begged you. I knew that nothing short of tying you up was going to keep you from doing this ritual tonight. So I…I decided I'd have to do that."

"Sam-"

"I wanted to wake you up, Dean. Believe me I did. And I tried. So hard. But you just…you just couldn't hear me, and I…this is for the best, Dean. I can't let you do this ritual tonight. I won't."

Dean was going to say something, but he didn't know what to say. He'd never seen Sam like this before. His voice was trembling as he spoke, and Dean could see tears welling up in his eyes.

"Sam-"

"You're messed up, Dean. You're messed up something terrible, and I can't stand seeing you like this. It's just…it's too much. I don't expect you to be the strong one all the time; I never have. But I'm…I'm scared for you, Dean. I've never seen you like this before. I've never seen you lose it. Ever since these nightmares started…you've been shutting me out. Even more than usual. No matter what I did you wouldn't open up to me or even speak to me. And last night…last night was the last straw. Do you have any idea how long I yelled at you last night? How long I told you to say something, to do something? How long I begged you to give me some sign that you were still around? That you weren't…."

Sam turned his gaze away, and Dean watched in fascination as a few tears poured out of Sam's eyes. Sam wasn't crying for him. There was just no way.

"For so long, Dean. I tried for so long to get you to react to me. But it was like you were somewhere else, somewhere I…I couldn't reach you. But I didn't stop, and thank God you finally came around, but you just pushed me away again, like nothing had happened. Like I hadn't just spent half an hour begging you to just turn your head and look at me. You scared the hell out of me last night, Dean. It's like…you were gone…and for the longest time I couldn't get you back. I'm not gonna let it happen again. I'm not going to let you do this ritual tonight, Dean. I don't think…I don't think you can handle it. I'm just afraid…I'm afraid it'll kill you."

Dean stared at Sam as he lapsed into silence, tears drying on his face. Sam couldn't possibly be afraid for him. Sam didn't love him enough for that.

"Sam…."

Dean didn't know what to say. He was at a complete loss. So he didn't say anything.

Which was precisely what Sam didn't want.

"Say something to me, Dean. Don't shut me out like you always do. I don't care if you yell at me. If you want to hit me I'll gladly come over there and let you take a few swings. Just don't shut me out. Please."

Dean sighed, gazing down at his lap. He couldn't let Sam do this. Dean didn't care what happened to himself. All he cared about was Sam, and he didn't want his brother to have to deal with this. For Sam, dealing with what happened to Dean if he sent the girl to Hell had to be easier than dealing with it himself. Especially considering…

"Sam, you don't have to do this."

"Don't have to do what?" Sam asked, standing up and taking a step toward him.

"Pretend that you care." Dean said it quietly, so quietly he could barely hear himself say it.

But apparently Sam heard him.

"What are you talking about?" he asked quietly, but Dean could feel the slight anger hidden behind the question.

"I know the truth, Sam. I know that…Dad told me, Sam. He told me how you…."

"What, Dean? How I what?"

"How you don't need me the way I need you. How you don't…how you and he…how you couldn't possibly love me. But I understand, Sam. I understand-"

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Sam shouted, and when the lights in the room started to flicker on and off and the bed began to shake slightly underneath him, Dean regretted ever opening his mouth. But he just couldn't stop himself.

"Dad told me, Sam. He told me that-"

"Where the hell would you get a stupid idea like that from?!" Sam asked loudly, and Dean cringed at the wave of anger he felt wash over him suddenly.

"Sam-"

"I swear to God you can be so thick sometimes, Dean."

Dean flinched and looked down at the bed, which was still shaking, though the lights had stopped flickering.

"When did this happen, Dean? When did Dad tell you this?" Sam asked, spitting the words out.

"Back in the cabin," Dean answered, unable to stop himself. "Dad said it to my face. He said that-"

"Did he really say it to you, Dean, or was it just his voice in your head?"

"I…he…." Suddenly, Dean just wasn't sure anymore.

"I didn't see him say anything to you, Dean."

"He…." Dean paused, trying hard to ignore the gentle shaking of the bed under him.

"Think hard, Dean. Try."

Dean closed his eyes and thought back to that night in the cabin. Memories flooded over him. Memories of his father staring him in the face, grinning as he cried out in pain. Memories of begging his father to save him, only to have his pleas fall on deaf ears. Memories of his father telling him that he and Sam didn't need him. That they didn't love him. That they never could. He began to fall into thoughts of that night, and suddenly everything was running together. One minute his father was saying it to his face, his lips moving and the words coming out; the next his father was gazing at him, mouth unmoving, the words floating through Dean's mind. He couldn't tell them apart anymore. He couldn't tell what had really happened.

Suddenly, he felt a warm pressure on his shoulder, and he heard a voice in his ear. "Dean, I'm here. Don't listen to anything Dad's saying. It wasn't really Dad, Dean. Dad was possessed by the Demon. The Demon said those things to you. Whatever sounded like Dad it wasn't him."

Dean could feel himself breathing heavily, clutching at his head as his mind swam with too many images too fast and it was all too much.

"Dean!"

Sam's voice penetrated his mind.

"Dean, come back to me. Please. Don't let it get to you. Don't let this son of a bitch drive you crazy. None of what Dad said that night was real. None of it. How many times has Dad told you not to listen to demons? How many times have we gone over the drill? 'Don't listen to anything a demon tells you, because demons lie.' It wasn't really him, Dean. It wasn't him."

Suddenly, images of the night in the cabin were replaced by his father's voice. Dean couldn't see him, but he knew his voice anywhere, and he knew his father had said these things to him.

Demons lie, son…

Demons know just what to say to really get to you, to really mess with your head. You have to just tune them out. Don't ever listen to anything a demon tells you, Dean…

People who are possessed can't control what they say, Dean. The demon takes over their body and talks to you in their voice, but that person is gone, locked away deep inside their body, powerless to stop what the demon uses their body to say and do. Don't ever trust a person who's possessed. Even if it's me…

"Dad," Dean heard himself say.

I love you, Dean. Don't you ever forget that…

"Dad…."

You keep us together, Dean. Whenever we fall apart, you're right there to help put us back together. We need you just as much as you need us. Maybe even more. I love you son, and I always will…

I love you, Dean.

Dean knew that voice, too.

"Sam?"

Dean heard Sam's voice again. He could feel Sam's hands on his shoulders, and he could feel energy flowing into him again. But this time he could place it. He knew what this feeling was. It was the same thing he felt whenever he looked at Sam.

Love.

Don't listen to what that thing tells you, Dean. I love you. I need you. Here, with me. Please. Don't listen to it. Don't let it destroy you. I can't lose you, too. I won't do this alone. I can't.

And finally, Dean understood. He saw the events in the cabin play out the way that they really had. His father hadn't said that stuff to him out loud. Dean had heard the words in his head, in his father's voice, but his father hadn't meant a word of it. His father had been the one to stop the Demon from killing him completely. His father had let Sam go, giving him the chance to rescue him. His father had been the one to beg the Demon to stop.

The nightmares he'd been having…they weren't real. His father hadn't said any of that to him. The Demon had. The same son of a bitch who had killed their mother, had killed the woman Sam had wanted to spend the rest of his life with, had helped kill their father, and had almost killed him. The Demon had said all of that.

His father loved him. He'd told him before. Not often, but enough. And he hadn't had to say it, either. Simple gestures had been enough. Suddenly, Dean knew his father had loved him, and he felt stupid for ever thinking differently.

And that meant that-

"Sammy."

Dean jerked his eyes open, and the world came rushing back to him as he forced all the unwanted images out of his head. He saw Sam looking at him intently, his eyes lit up with tears, a few stray ones on his face. He felt Sam's hands on his shoulders, felt a comforting energy coursing into him, and he realized that Sam had untied him. He looked at Sam, and suddenly he realized how stupid he had been.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, unable to keep the tremble out of his voice.

He felt Sam's hands loosen slightly on his shoulders, and the words came pouring out of him.

"I've been so stupid, Sam. I just…I've been so upset about Dad. And these nightmares I started having…they screwed with my head. I couldn't…I couldn't tell what was real anymore. I let that son of a bitch get the best of me. I shouldn't have listened to it, and I should have known better. I just…I was so upset about Dad, I couldn't help it. I couldn't control it. I let it tell me lies and I believed them. I know how you feel, Sam. I think…I think I've always known. I just…I just forgot, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Sam. I'm sorry I put you through this. I'm sorry I shut you out. I'm sorry-"

Dean felt Sam squeeze his shoulders tightly. "It's okay, Dean. It's okay. Just calm down."

Dean realized he was hyperventilating, and he tried his best to calm himself down. Eventually, he was able to slow his racing heart and gain control over his breathing. When he did, he realized that Sam was shaking slightly.

"Are you okay, Sam?" he asked.

Sam smiled at him. "I am if you are."

Dean smiled back at him, and suddenly he realized something.

"Sam, I think that was more chick flick moment than a man like me can deal with in a lifetime."

Sam laughed, and Dean had to admit, even to himself, that, as cheesy as it was, hearing Sam laugh was one of his favorite sounds.

"Yeah, I guess it was," he said, and he let go of Dean's shoulders and sat up in front of him.

Suddenly, Sam pitched forward, and Dean caught him just before he ended up in his lap.

"Sammy? Are you okay? What's wrong?" he asked, fear in his voice.

"I…I'm fine," Sam replied lifting his head up to look at Dean, who had a firm grip on his shoulders. "I'm just…that really wore me out."

"What...oh. Was it like…that night in the hospital when you…when you brought me back?"

Sam smirked. "You remember that now, huh?"

"Of course I do, Sam. Haven't you been paying attention?" he asked, rolling his eyes jokingly. Sam smiled and tried to sit up before falling forward again, and Dean steadied him.

"Come on, Sammy. Lie down." He pushed Sam gently backward, and Sam pulled himself up, lying sideways on the bed. Dean stayed where he was at the head of the bed, sitting cross-legged and staring at Sam in concern.

"It was like that night, yeah. You seemed to be…lost in thought, I guess. Like you were last night. So I tried to…I just…I really wanted to prove to you that I…that I needed you, so I…I guess I just kind of did."

"Those memories. Those memories of Dad. Did you…did you give those to me, too?"

"What memories of Dad?"

"Those memories…you…you didn't…."

"I didn't…send you any memories of Dad."

"Then…." Dean drifted off. Had he remembered them by himself?

"Dean?"

"I guess…I guess what you did allowed me to remember them on my own. What you did…it let me straighten things out in my head. You helped me…put myself back together. You saved me."

And Sam smiled at him.

"Again."

Dean smiled back.

"Yeah. Again."

They sat in silence for awhile before Sam spoke.

"The sun's going to set soon, Dean."

Dean turned toward the window and realized that Sam was right. That meant that they had to get to the cemetery soon.

"Dean-"

"Let me do this, Sam. Let me be the one to do this."

Sam sat up, and Dean was more upset than he should have been to find that Sam seemed perfectly able to sit up now. If he'd been weaker, he could have forced Sam to stay behind. Now…

"I thought you understood now, Dean. I can't let you do this."

"Sam, I'm better now. Really. I told you, I believe you now. I know that you…that you care. It's just that-"

"You're right. I do care. And that's why I can't let you do this. You can't always do everything for me. Sometimes you have to let me do things. Sometimes you have to let me be the big brother. You have to let me bear the burden."

"I can't, Sam. Not this time. I'd rather take this on myself than let you deal with it."

"So would I," Sam said quietly.

Dean didn't know how to respond to that, so he didn't say anything.

"Let me do this for you, Dean. Just this once. Let me be the big brother. Let me help you. Please. I don't…I can't watch you take on something else for me. You've done it all your life, and I can't watch you do it anymore. Please. Just this once. Let me help you."

Dean closed his eyes, fighting hard against the emotions flowing through him. What kind of older brother would he be if he let Sam do this? If he let Sam bear this burden?

But then his thoughts drifted off to what had just happened between them – the ultimate chick flick moment that Dean needed to swear Sam to secrecy to on penalty of painful death sometime after this was over. He remembered all that Sam had said to him and shown him.

And suddenly, he realized that, if he let Sam do this, he would be an awesome big brother. He realized that, if he wanted to be the big brother, that meant that, every once in awhile, he needed to let his little brother do what he wanted to do; what he needed to do. And if that meant letting Sam be the big brother just this once – if that meant giving Sam what he wanted more than anything right now – then he would gladly do it.

"Okay," he said quietly, gazing down at the bedspread, purposefully avoiding looking at Sam.

He didn't have to see his brother to know what look Sam was giving him right now. He knew it was the same look he had given him when he'd told Sam that if he really wanted Dean to help teach him to ride a bike he would. He knew it was the same look he had given him when he'd told Sam that if he really wanted Dean to help teach him how to defend himself against bullies he would. He knew it was the same look he had given him when he'd told Sam that if he really wanted to go to Stanford, he wouldn't stand in his way.

Finally, Sam spoke. "Do you mean it, Dean?"

Dean sighed long and loud, and he looked at Sam, finding the look he knew he would receive.

"Yeah, Sammy. I mean it. I'll let you do it, but I'm going with you. That's not negotiable."

Sam didn't protest, but he smiled at him, and Dean felt a bit better about letting him do this.

"Thank you," he said quietly, and Dean could have sworn he felt Sam's gratitude from across the bed.

They sat in silence for a minute or two, both lost in thought, before Sam finally spoke.

"We should get ready to go. We want to get there before the sun sets. The sooner we do this the better."

Sam got off the bed and headed for the bathroom.

But not before Dean stopped him.

"I don't have to like this, Sam."

"What?" Sam asked, turning toward him.

"I don't have to like this. Just because I'm letting you do this does not mean that I have to like it."

Sam smiled at him. "I would never expect you to," he said seriously.

"Sam…I don't want you to…if this goes bad…."

"Dean, I promise you that no matter what happens, I will never regret this decision. Ever. If I do this, and the girl goes to Hell, I'll never regret it. Because I'm doing it for you. Just like you would do it for me. Sometimes the best way to be a big brother is to let others have the job when they really want it. I could never regret this. Ever. I promise."

Dean sighed, wondering to himself how it was that Sam always knew what he was thinking and how to make it better.

"Okay, Sammy."

"Okay?" Sam asked, seeking confirmation.

"Okay," Dean replied. As Sam smiled at him and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him, Dean felt better about the decision he had made. He would not renig on this deal. He would give Sam what he needed, because as much as Dean would rather have taken this burden on himself, he realized that what Sam needed more than anything was a chance to do the same.

And Dean had never been very good at denying his brother what he really needed.

TBC…


AN2: Like I said, I'm sorry this took so long. I'm sure you all understand about RL being a bitch sometimes. I also needed this to be perfect, as I'm sure you can understand since it was pretty pivotal. It did end up extra long, so hopefully that helps a bit.

As for the Jikininki, I didn't make it up, I swear, I don't think I could ever make up a name like that and not laugh hysterically. You can Google it if you want. I got my information off of Wikipedia in case you're interested. There's not much there, and obviously I had to take some liberties to make it fit, but since on the show our boys always find some things concerning myths to be different or untrue, I figure what I did works just fine.

Anyway, apologies again. Happy Thanksgiving! And don't forget to drop me a line because I appreciate everything you guys have to say. Cheers. :)