By: Ridley

Rating: T-language-this is an emotional moment and thus crudeness is allowed.

A/N: Tag on for Everybody Loves A Clown

Working as a therapist, I find grief to be one of the purest and most difficult emotions one has to deal with. It intrigues me as much as it terrifies me. It is interwoven into the very fabric of life, making it unavoidable, inescapable, as this title relates. Most of us have felt that crushing weight. I just wanted to finally see Dean admit it…at least in his own way, and deal with it and those other little feelings that he is unable to deny.

Sorrow makes us all children again.- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The easiest kind of relationship for me is with 10,000 people. The hardest is with one. -Joan Baez

Sometimes the pain was blinding. Stealing his breath in the strangest of moments-like in the morning when the sun first touched his face- warm against his skin like the firelight from his father's Viking funeral.

The brightness of day was a painful reminder that some ghosts could linger beyond the boundaries of darkness- the worst nightmares could be endless.

Death wasn't enslaved to the same rules as other supernatural occurrences. Its touch could be felt any time, any place. Inescapable was its reaches. But Dean just wanted it to go away.

He wanted every reminder, every irrefutable fact to disappear and leave him the hell alone. But that was asking the impossible, demanding the undeliverable.

For one, Sam was a living-breathing, walking-talking, blatant memorial. He was the only thing left of Dean's family. The one thing Dean had escaped with from both battles-more sacred than his own survival. The last precious piece of a life he could only dream of.

And a part of Dean hated him for that. Hated those feelings his baby brother brought bubbling to the surface with just one glance in his direction-one blink of those guilt-filled, tormented eyes. The older hunter had always known he was hard-wired to know when Sam was hurting, when he was in trouble, and he had always revered it as a sort of gift-his own brand of psychic ability. Now it was stifling, and not at all welcome.

Jessica's death had been hard. Watching Sam in pain, unable to rebound, had nearly sent Dean to the edge a few times. But their father…Dean could barely handle his own emotions, his own grief, let alone his brother's misery. Yet like that chasm of loss he could not maneuver around, Sam was always right underfoot. And hearing his tearful, gut-wrenching confession of Dean's correctness about Sam's dealing with their father's death had been the final straw.

He'd exploded-taken it out on the only physical connection he had left with John Winchester. The Impala. His dad had passed her down to him, entrusted her in his care, almost like the way he had given him Sam.

Damn, but she had been a mess.

A twisted and mangled steel tribute to how Dean felt on the inside. Another reminder his family had once again been blind-sided by fate. Maybe that was why it was so important to fix her-to get back on the road. It gave him the illusion other things could be repaired just as easily, and a modicum of control over something. That's what drove him back under the hood, even as a little voice taunted him that he was wasting his time.

Light had almost surrendered to dusk's cover when Bobby's deep voice broke Dean's concentration, and the wrench he was wielding almost left yet another mark on his already-scarred face. "Damn it," he hissed, not bothering to slide from beneath the car. "Can't a man work in peace?"

"I was wondering the same damn thing," Bobby huffed. "Your kid brother is worse than any pup I've ever raised."

Kid brother came out sounding like a curse and Dean sighed, almost feeling bad for leaving Sam to his own devices. Whether his sympathy was for his brother or the demon hunter he wasn't sure. After all, a bored Sam was an annoying Sam. And it wasn't like there was much to do around the junkyard, at least not of the caliber that would keep Sam occupied.

"Give him a book, Bobby," the older Winchester finally offered. "It kind of has the same effect as a chew toy."

"Tried that, but he read everything I had and then he got the brilliant idea to try and fix dinner."

Dean snorted. "I hate to break it to you, but that's not a good idea. He's about as adept as Dad is in the kitchen." As Dad was-that haranguing little voice corrected. Dean went back to work.

"Exactly what I told him. Little shit for brains listens about as well as he did when he was knee-high to a katydid."

"Just don't eat anything he fixes, man." The younger hunter grunted as he twisted the wrench. When Bobby sighed heavily, Dean clenched his teeth and tightened his grip on the tool. Why did everyone expect him to have all the fucking answers? "What the hell do you want me to do about it, Bobby?"

"Well-for starters, genius, you could come stitch him up before he bleeds out on my kitchen floor." The demon expert leaned carelessly against the Impala, picked at his nails. "I mean, I'd do it myself, but I haven't wielded a needle in a while and…"

"What the hell happened?" Dean was scrambling out from under the car before the older man could finish his lament. "Why's he bleeding?"

Fear rushed up from the cold, dark recesses of Dean's gut, with a gust of icy panic blowing in right behind it. "Is he alright?"

Bobby frowned at him, crossed his arms over his chest. "Did you not just here me say he was hemorrhaging all over my fucking rug?"

"What?" No. Nothing else bad could happen-not to Sam.

The mechanic knew it was a cruel tactic, but goddamnit he was tired of watching John's boys walk around on freakin' egg shells. Stubbornness was as prevalent in the Winchester family as trouble was. "I don't think it's life-threatening, mind you, but he wouldn't let me take too good of a look at it, and for all his yammering on you'd think he lost an appendage…"

"Fuck," Dean swore, tossing the wrench to the ground, glaring at Bobby, before he turned and stormed off in the direction of the house.

The demon hunter watched him go, a grim smile touching his bearded face. He patted the Impala's fender. "Don't worry, girl. We'll fix them up- good as new."

"Sam?" Dean bellowed as he bounded into Bobby's house, the door banging loudly behind him. "Sammy!"

"In here," his brother's voice echoed from the hallway, originating in the general direction of the bathroom.

Dean crossed the living room in long strides, practically jogging the short distance separating him from the youngest Winchester. "Are you okay?" He demanded breathlessly as he entered the small washroom.

Sam was sitting on the edge of the tub, a towel held tightly across his left palm. The younger hunter looked up in surprise as his brother charged into the room, bridging the distance between them in seconds. "Yeah, it's not as bad as it looks."

It looked bad. Dean felt his meager lunch of peanut M&M's and Coke make a rebellious declaration of an impending reappearance. He swallowed hard, squatted on the floor in front of his brother as he tried to reign in his out of control heart rate. "What the hell did you do, Chef-Boy-Ar-Disaster?" It came out harsher than he meant, more accusatory than concerned. But, damn, it seemed to him that Sam was hell bent on sending him into another round of cardiac arrest.

"Ow!" Sam yelped as Dean, none too gently, took his hand, pulling the blood-soaked towel free. "Cut it out!"

The gash wasn't very long, but it was deep and jagged, as if it had been done with a serrated edge. Dean's gaze shot up, meeting his brother's. "What were you using-a saw?"

"I was peeling potatoes," the psychic muttered, "it was the only knife I could find."

"Damn it, Sammy," Dean hissed, as the blood continued to seep from the cut. "You could have dug up a ceremonial dagger in this place."

"I'm sorry," the younger hunter replied, meekly, "Emeril, Bobby is not." .

"Keep it low." Dean eased his brother's hand down slightly, before reluctantly letting it go. He turned to the vanity beside them and opened the bottom cabinet. It only took a moment of digging and rearranging before he found what he was looking for-the staple of every hunter's house-a first aid kit.

"Hold this," he instructed as he pushed gauze into Sam's uninjured hand. He gripped a few packages of sterile bandages between his teeth, as he uncapped the peroxide. Without words he conveyed his intentions. Sam nodded once, biting his lip in anticipation of the familiar sting.

Still, he hissed, reflexively drawing his hand back, but Dean's fingers wrapped around his wrist and held firm, his touch cool against Sam's heated skin. The older hunter poured more liquid across the wound and then probed it gently. He removed the bandages so he could speak. "It's going to take some stitches."

"Just do it," Sam grunted, wearily. "What's a few more sutures-right?"

Dean set the peroxide aside, digging once more for the suture kit he knew would be present.

Sam watched him through bloodshot eyes, mesmerized by the efficiency and ease in which his sibling threaded the needle, and prepared the rest of the supplies. It all seemed so old hat, so second nature. Suddenly the sickening smell of copper and the bitter taste of regret had him pulling free of Dean and dropping to his knees in front of the commode seat.

He heard his brother sigh, even as the dry heaves took hold, relentlessly abusing his stomach for its lack of nourishment. Sam couldn't remember the last time he had eaten anything solid, but food was far from his mind as the acidic remnants of his last meal burned his throat, bringing tears to his eyes. "Damn it," he gasped, as the assault continued.

Dean was moving behind him, and Sam heard water running. He almost sagged in relief as something cold and wet draped across his neck, but then a warm pressure rested against his back, between his shoulder blades.

He didn't mean to stiffen, didn't mean to flinch away, but the sensation was so foreign, so unexpected. So missed. It had been weeks since his brother had touched him. Since anyone but doctors had breached his personal space. The Winchesters might not have been good at using words to relate how they felt, but they had always been demonstrative to some degree-even if it was thumps on the head or manly punches or elbows. Sam briefly wondered how long a person could go without physical contact and retain the very thing that made them human.

"Easy," Dean's voice was soft, and Sam guessed he had misread the reflex, "just breathe."

Sam took his brother's advice. The need to turn his guts inside out subsided a little. Finally, he nodded for Dean's benefit, and the touch was gone. Sam felt the terrible coldness return and he shivered involuntarily.

The older Winchester reached up and flushed the toilet, offering his brother another towel for his face. The younger man took it with a grateful glance before collapsing back against the tub this time his injured hand cradled to his chest. "Sorry, man."

"Don't sweat it. As soon as I heard you were cooking, I knew someone would end up paying homage to the porcelain god."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Funny."

Dean's grin faded. "You could have called for pizza, you know."

Sam shrugged. "I wanted to do something…anything."

"Yeah." Dean took his brother's hand again. "Well, this was definitely 'something'."

"This wasn't what I had in mind." He had planned on a peace offering.

"Good. You're a little old for the whole self-mutilation thing. Besides, cutting is for girls." Dean glanced up at him again. "Although I gotta say, you have been generating the drama, Samantha."

"You've been watching Oprah again, haven't you?"

"No." Dean used some gauze to wipe the fresh blood from his brother's palm. "Dr. Phil."

Sam snorted, shook his head. "Freak."

It felt good for a moment, the normal banter flowing between them, but then the needle pinched his skin and Sam was brought back to the painful reality of their plight. Nothing was normal between him and his brother. They might as well have been using the Mystical Talking Board to communicate.

"I wanted to make you dinner," he explained, hoping for once he could cross the void separating them.

Again, Dean looked up. "Dude, if you were that pissed at me, you should have said something. No need for threats."

Sam sighed. "You haven't been eating."

"I had lunch."

"M&M's aren't lunch."

Dean raised a brow. "You been spying on me?"

Sam tried to focus on the feel of the needle as it slid through his palm. The pain cleared his mind. "I just want to help and I thought…"

"I thought we already had this discussion." Dean hesitated, his hand stilling for a second. "You babbled, I listened…It's over."

"I saw what you did to the Impala."

Dean didn't flinch. Instead, he gently finished off the last stitch. The cut hadn't needed as many as he had feared. "Give me the antibiotic cream." He jutted his chin towards the small tube on the floor by his brother's hip.

Sam didn't move so Dean grabbed it himself. He hastily tied off the sutures, cut the remaining surgical thread, and applied a thin layer of Neosporin.

"Dean?" Sam's voice was quiet, but persistent. "Talk to me, man."

Dean placed a sterile bandage over the wound, carefully taping the edges.


"Goddamnit, Sammy!" Dean shoved his brother's wounded hand away, wincing as he watched pain flicker across the younger man's face. "Just leave me the hell alone, why don't you." He couldn't handle the way his brother's voice made his throat tighten, his eyes burn.

"No!" Sam shouted back, once again bringing his hand protectively to his chest. "I won't leave you alone. You're my brother."

"Yes!" Dean threw his arms in the air. "I'm your brother not your fucking keeper!"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means I'm not here to be at your beck and call. I'm not here to fix every little thing that you somehow manage to break. I'm not here to make you feel better when I can't even make my self feel any goddamn better."

"Dean…" Sam reached out, but Dean jerked away.


"Why are you shutting me out?"

"Are you kidding me?" Dean shook his head, cursed the tears he could feel budding in his eyes. "How the hell can I shut you out when I'm never out of your sight?"

"I've tried to give you your space. I left you alone with the car…"

"You call coming to check on me every hour giving me space? We might as well be conjoined twins. Hell-we could join up with those carnies, go on the road, get paid to be freaks for a change."

Sam shook his head slowly, his eyes filling. "Do you want me to leave? Is that it? You're mad at me?"

Dean swallowed hard, blinked as the man in front of him seemed to morph into his five-year-old little brother with the same guileless eyes, the trembling lip. "Do you blame me for Dad's death?"

"What?" Dean shook his head, removing the haunting image of his baby brother from his mind. "Have you lost your fucking mind?"

Sam blinked, sending a tear down his pale face. "All of this, Dean, is because of me. Dad. You don't have a family because of me."

"Sammy-you idiot-you are my family." Dean wanted to stay pissed, but couldn't quite pull it off. He swallowed his pride, reached out, wrapped his hand around his brother's wrist. "And I'm not going to tell you again that this isn't your fault. We don't know what happened to Dad. And whatever it was, it had nothing to do with you." The last words John had whispered to him echoed through his mind, but Dean pressed on. "We'll work it out. Just give me some time."

"But I don't know what to do until then."

Dean nearly laughed. There it was again, Sammy dumping his broken toy at his feet, holding his boo-boo out for a magical kiss.

It really was his damn fault from all those years of wearing a fucking cape, sporting impenetrable scales and touting big brother powers. As much as he wanted to, Dean couldn't pin this on Sam. "Good thing you've got me then, huh?"

"Yeah," Sam ducked his head, rubbed at his eyes. "You're the secret weapon."

"Damn straight." Dean moved his hand from his brother's arm, cupped it around the back of his neck. He squeezed the tense muscles, waited for Sam to look at him. When he did, he held his gaze for a long moment then nodded solemnly. "As long as I'm around, nothing bad is going to happen to you."

It was ridiculous, a promise completely out of his control. It was impossible not to say it, unthinkable not to believe it. And it made his brother smile, dimples even making an appearance. He looked so much like their Dad when he laughed, but Dean tried not to think about that. "But you have got to give the endless chick-flick fest a break. Got it? I'm barely holding it all together here, and worrying about you worrying about me is not making it a picnic for me."

Sam nodded, the warmth of his brother's touch radiating through out his body, driving away the icy chill that had set in over the last week. "If you promise that you'll talk to me when you need to?"

"'ll be the first shoulder I cry on-Scout's honor." Dean squeezed his neck again, grinned. "I'll even let you hold me if that will help."

"I think I'll manage." Sam pulled back, shaking his head. They were Winchesters after all.

"Good," Dean let him go. "Because you stink."

"Thanks, man. You're all heart."

The oldest Winchester pushed himself to his feet, held out a hand to his brother. "And Sammy?"

"Yeah?" Sam winced as his aching muscles protested the change of position.

"Dad knew how you felt about him. Don't ever doubt that." He waited for Sam to get his bearings. "And he loved you, too."

A watery smile crossed the younger hunter's face. He tightened his grip on his older brother's hand, before letting go. "Thanks, man."

Dean swallowed hard, having found his own center. "You're welcome, little brother."

As obvious as the soul-aching loss of his father was, the one thing he had always been powerless to elude was also still there-hovering around him, blanketing his common sense. His feelings for Sam would always be there. That need to protect him, to shelter him, to make things right for him, would follow Dean to the grave-perhaps even beyond.

He had to face it, just like he would eventually have to face that his Dad wasn't coming back. The love he had for Sam was unavoidable- completely undeniable-would always be... inescapable.

October 2006


A/N: First, I want to say a big thanks to Tidia for doing a great job with beta-ing this on such short notice. She's so awesome. I also want to encourage everyone out there in fandom land to write to the lovely creator of our favorite show-you guessed it Eric Kripke. I think we need to express our feel for this season's start. I have loved the brothers, but am not exactly excited about some of the additional characters. I'm all for additional hunters, but I'm not sure if a walking-talking Mary Sue was the way to go. I love girl power just like the next woman, but I'm always a little miffed when men assumes that we want to see certain characteristics displayed. I think the female characters on Dead in the Water and Wendigo were excellent, and was surprised these two new 'hunters' were not more along that line. Plus, come on-Dean is Dean. We love him because he a scamp. Anyway, I'm stepping off my soap box now. Just be vocal whether you like the characters or not, let them know we're watching the show. If Kripke is interested enough to read the boards, he should love some actual snail mail. Okay, since I have shamelessly used fic to mass distribute my opinin-bg-I will tell you that the second chapter of Dragons will be out Tuesday. And if anyone would like to know my opinion on other world events or my stand on legalization of Marijuana-just drop me a line. Oh, and a review would be nice to. -Ridley

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