NB: Please be aware that this chapter contains some swearing. Many thanks to all those who have reviewed so far. Hope you enjoy this one...

The silence was more deafening that any cries of anguish that Sam could muster. Without realising it, he had stopped screaming not because he had got his emotions in check but simply because his voice was so raw that no sound came out. He sat on the floor hugging his knees tightly to his chest, his back turned away from the room's entrance so that he did not have to look at the massacre that hung there. Dropping his head to his knees, Sam rubbed at his temples trying to expel the imagery of what had just happened. Dean wasn't dead. He couldn't be. It was just a nightmare. It had to be a nightmare.

"Would you willingly trade your insignificant life for this pitiful soul?"


"Would he trade his for yours I wonder?"

"I wouldn't let him"

Sam shook as Dean's final words haunted him, the desolate feeling of loneliness weighing heavily in the pit of his stomach. If this was a nightmare then why wasn't he waking up? Why wasn't he bolting upright in the bed of the latest downtrodden motel they had checked into covered in sweat and panting heavily as he usually did? Why couldn't he hear Dean's sleep deprived voice bitch at him for waking him up only for it to turn into brotherly concern as he tried to prise out details of Sam's latest nocturnal assault and what he could do to help him? Why wasn't he settling back down to sleep knowing that secretly Dean would spend the rest of the night watching over him to make sure he was safe? Why was none of that happening?

The cold hard truth that he would never again share these moments of weird 'normal' with Dean hit Sam with an intensity that his body simply couldn't handle. The bile rose quickly and expelled itself with force as he retched emptying the contents of his stomach on the plush carpet beneath him until he could do no more. There was nothing left inside of him. His light was gone. His strength was gone. His soul was gone. His brother was gone. His Dean was gone. There were no words to describe the emptiness engulfing him. Sam curled himself up into a ball and wished the whole world would disappear as once more tears of despair claimed him.

Sam wasn't sure how long he had stayed that. Seconds, minutes or maybe even hours. Either way he knew he couldn't hide forever; he had to face the reality of the situation sooner or later. He owed Dean that much at least. Cautiously Sam pulled himself up onto unsteady legs not convinced that he would be able to keep himself upright, as he felt so numb. He hadn't been able to draw the courage to look at Dean since his brutal demise and he still wasn't sure that he could do it now. He knew the bloodshed that lay in wait for him and Sam couldn't stop himself from shivering as he gradually forced himself to turn around. Slowly raising his head, the first thing that caught Sam's eye was the silver ring on Dean's right hand followed by the pendant that hung around his brother's neck. Upon seeing them Sam dropped his head again and gave a faint forlorn smile at his brother's taste in accessories. For a man that didn't believe in hallmark-ridden sentiment, Dean Winchester proudly wore the evidence of two of the biggest chick flick moments in his life ever.

The ring had been given to Dean on his sixteenth birthday. It had belonged to his mother, a family heirloom that had been passed down through the years. It was one of the few items that their father had managed to salvage from the burned wreckage of their Lawrence home and at first John Winchester hadn't been sure that he could give something as precious as this last piece of his wife up. Yet as Dean grew he could see so much of Mary's compassion, intuition and strength in their eldest son, especially when it came to Sam, that it only seemed natural that Dean should inherit the sole evidence of her legacy. Dean didn't celebrate birthdays as a rule. Usually he was too busy on a hunt, working on research or making sure that Sammy kept up with his schoolwork to even realise that he had turned a year older. It didn't bother him, as that's the way it had always been. There were far more important things to deal with than party streamers and cupcakes. His sixteenth birthday seemed to pass in much the same way. There were only ten minutes of the day left when John had passed Dean the small wooden box.

"What's this?" Dean asked putting down the gun he had been cleaning to take the box from his father.

"Why don't you open it and find out," John answered quietly surprised at how much the simple task of handing the box over had affected him.

The subtle hint of sadness in his father's voice didn't go unnoticed by Dean and he was intrigued as to what could have made his dad feel this way. With peaked curiosity Dean opened the box half expecting to see a specially tipped bullet or arrowhead or something but instead he discovered a plain silver ring.

"It was your mother's," his father said in way of explanation, ""I know she'd want you to have it."

Dean couldn't find the right words to say as he gently took the ring from the box and gently ran his fingers over its contours. It had been so long since he had touched anything tangible belonging to his mother that he couldn't stop the lump that now formed in his throat or the lone tear that threatened to spill from his eye. He looked at his father in confusion, unsure as to what he had done to warrant such a gift.

John smiled gently reaching out to wipe the tear that had now fallen down his firstborn's face. "Happy Birthday son," he whispered, "Happy Birthday."

Sam had bought the pendant for Dean when he was thirteen years old. It wasn't for any special occasion other than to let his big brother know just how much he meant to him. Sam had been on a hunt with Dean and his dad, a hunt that had left Dean nursing two cracked ribs and thirteen stitches in his abdomen after Sam had dropped his weapon when face to face with a wendigo. Rather than let Sammy become demon chow, Dean had once more stepped in to protect his little brother and took the full brunt of the creature's attack. Even though his father intervened in time and smoked the beast, Sam was overridden with guilt that Dean had been hurt badly because of him. For three days he avoided being anywhere near Dean. He felt ashamed and couldn't bear to see him, too afraid to talk to him even though he knew Dean wouldn't blame him for any of what had happened. His big brother always went to extraordinary lengths to keep him safe and would always put himself in harm's way first if it meant protecting Sam. Sam was scared that one day this hero complex would end up getting Dean killed. If only there were some way that he could protect Dean in return. That's when Sam found the pendant lying in the window of some dingy old antique store. He thought that he recognised the strange symbol that hung from the piece of leather thread but couldn't quite place where he had seen it. Sam bought the pendant on impulse not falling for one minute for the lame ass story the storeowner had spun him in order to make a sale. He hoped to high heaven that he had not just purchased an amulet of evil but his doubts were alleviated when his dad's journal confirmed that the silver emblem was in fact an old Navajo symbol and signified eternal protection to its bearer. It was the perfect gift but meant that in order to give it to Dean he had to face him.

Dean was sleeping when Sam cautiously entered his bedroom. His heart beat so loudly in his chest he was surprised that it didn't wake Dean up. Part of him wanted to just drop the pendant on the bedside table and get the hell out of there his initial fear still overpowering him in waves. Yet the other part only saw his brother lying hurt and he wondered how he could ever have stayed away as long as he did.

"Why don't you take a picture Sammy, it'll last longer," Dean suddenly murmured startling Sam out of his thought pattern. Sam shuffled his feet and looked down to the ground, embarrassed that he had been caught out, "I'm sorry," he managed to mumble, "I didn't mean to wake you."

"Yeah well stealth was never very high on the list of things your good at big guy," Dean smirked struggling to sit up trying not to cause himself pain in anyway, "we'll have to work on that. So what's up?"

Sam didn't know what to say or how to start so he stayed quiet his head still facing the floor so he didn't need to look his brother in the eye.

"Sam, what is it?" Dean asked, concerned by his brother's continued silence, "come on Sammy tell me what's wrong." He reached out and tried to grab Sam's arm to get his attention but recoiled back as he pulled at his stitches letting out a gasp at the stinging pain that now wracked his abdomen.

Sam lifted his head abruptly at hearing Dean's sharp intake of breath. "Oh God Dean, are you OK?" he asked moving closer to the bed ready to be on hand for whatever his brother needed.

"I'm fine Sammy," Dean breathed out between gritted teeth, "but I'd be better if you'd just spill what's got up your ass"

Sighing Sam dropped to sit on the bed careful not to jar his brother and cause him even more discomfort. Once again he dropped his head so he didn't have to deal with Dean's scrutiny. "I'm sorry," he said sadly, "I'm sorry that I didn't come to see you sooner. I'm sorry that I stayed away."

Dean tried to catch Sam's eye but couldn't. Instead he was acutely aware of the conflict that seemed to be dancing across his thirteen-year old brother's face. He seemed to be battling some inner turmoil and that in turn automatically sent Dean's big brother's protective streak into overdrive. "It's ok kiddo," he assured, "you must have had your reasons for doing what you did but you're here now and that's all that matters."

Dean's understanding was the last thing that Sam needed. "Don't do that!" he yelled unexpectedly leaping from the bed oblivious to the burning twinge his jostling had caused his brother, "don't talk to me as if I could do no wrong Dean. Aren't you pissed off with me? Aren't you mad that you took thirteen stitches to your stomach because I fucked up and didn't even have the decency to say thank you and come and see how you're doing?"

"Watch your language Sammy!" Dean warned.

Sam let out a sarcastic grunt, "Huh, you're lying there with half your guts spilling out and you're worried about my language."

"Yeah well I don't like anything getting in the way of you being such a smart ass!" Dean grunted clutching his side in an attempt to try and ride out his body's painful objection to his sudden change of mood.

Sam watched as Dean struggled to get his breathing and pain under control and guilt flared through him once more. "You see this is what I'm talking about man," he said with remorse, "and why I shouldn't be allowed to be anywhere near you. No matter what I do I always manage to do something that ends up with you getting hurt. I mean look at you; I can't even talk to you without you doubling up. Maybe it would be better if you send me as far away as possible perhaps to a military school or something so you can get through the summer without me dragging your ass down or getting you killed."

Dean sighed, his heart constricting at Sam's forlorn confession. This lad definitely had an overload on his sensitivity gene and was one of the reasons why he loved the kid so. "I'm only going to say this once more Sammy," he declared, "what happened with the wendigo was not your fault." Sam opened his mouth to argue back but Dean held his hand up to stop him. "It was me that let the bastard get the drop on me. I was too slow to combat him Sam plain and simple. Now get this idea that I would be better off without you out of your fucking head right fucking now because Sam believe me without having you around to be a pain in my ass would do more fucking bad than good. You got that!"

Sam had never felt as much admiration for anyone as he did for Dean at that moment. His brother was amazing and he could feel his face flush pink with pride safe in the knowledge that there would never be a reason to fear being with his elder sibling again. "Dean," he smiled, feeling more confident now looking his brother straight in the eye, "watch your language!"

Dean smirked at Sam before reaching behind himself to pull out a pillow to throw at the cheeky young upstart ignoring the twinge of protest that came from his ribs. He knew that everything was going to be OK and that the big brother/little brother balance had been restored although when he got back on his feet little Sammy was going to pay for taking the piss out of an injured man. When he was sure he was safe from Dean's mock assault, Sam retrieved the pillow from the floor and placed it once more behind Dean's back helping his brother to settle and get comfortable before taking a seat beside him. "I almost forgot," he said remembering the package in his back pocket, "I got something for you." He reached into the rear pocket of his jeans and took out the small tissue wrapped gift and handed it over to Dean. Dean looked at Sam inquisitively before tearing at the paper. The silver pendant he found there felt cool to the touch as he ran it over his fingers. He examined the symbol more closely recognising it almost immediately.

"The Navajo symbol of protection," he said in awe confirming to Sammy that he knew of its origin. "Why'd you get me this?"

Sam suddenly felt very small indeed under Dean's questioning gaze. He realised that his intended gesture of good will was a precariously balanced chick flick moment in the making and that Dean would ridicule him mercilessly if he became too sentimental. "Just because I wanted to I guess," he replied sheepishly, "I mean all my life you have gone out of your way to protect me Dean, to keep me safe and I suppose I wanted to do a little something for you in return. I mean I know its not much considering everything you've done for me but..."

Before Sam could finish his sentence, Dean had grabbed him across the shoulders pulling him close and into as much of a hug as his sore body would allow. When he pulled back Sam could have swore that he saw tears pooled in Dean's eyes. To diffuse the moment, Sam took the pendant from his brother's hands and carefully slipped it over his head. "There," he said his own voice breaking a little as he lay the emblem to rest on Dean's chest, "now wherever you are, I'll always be able to protect you."

Dean smiled and placed his hand over the pendant and his heart. "Thank you Sammy," he said sincerely, "I love you, you little bitch"

Dean had never intentionally taken that pendant off ever since. There had been more than one occasion when it had been removed from him without permission whether it had been cut from him by a medic or stolen by a shape shifter but Dean always made it his priority to get it back. Now the pendant almost mocked Sam as it hung just as lifelessly around Dean's neck as his brother's body hung from the door. "So much for protecting you eh Dean?" Sam whispered, the irony of his memory not lost on him.

Cautiously he took a few steps closer to his brother's corpse still unable to look at his brother head on. When he was but a hair's breadth away Sam finally plucked up the courage to face his fear and lifted his head to sadly look upon Dean fully. If Sam thought that his well of tears had run dry then he was sadly mistaken. The moment he looked upon the vacant features of Dean's face, the well was well and truly full again. Strangely though Sam did not feel the need to fall to pieces and look away. Instead he was drawn to reach out and touch his brother yearning to feel that special connection that they had always shared. Dean's skin was cold but Sam had expected that. He ran his fingers slowly over the contours of Dean's face, across his cheekbones and into his hairline, down the bridge of his nose to the fullness of his smartass mouth. It was as if he were a blind man and he wanted to commit his brother's features to memory not that he would ever forget what his brother looked like. Sam couldn't help but give a wry grin as he realised that Dean had been right all along, he really was the handsome one. His exploration continued when eventually Sam met the hollowness of Dean's gaze and his heart broke once more. Dean's eyes were always a window into his soul and would betray what he was feeling at any given moment. They showed love, lust, anger and fear and Sam had spent the best years of his life reading Dean this way. Even now in death, Dean's hazel orbs still told a story. "Get me down from here," they pleaded with Sam, "take me home little brother."

Sam struggled to hold onto himself as he vowed to do this one last thing for Dean. Leaning forward he gently placed a kiss on his brother's forehead before reaching up to close Dean's tortured eyelids. Holding his breath, he pulled the knife from his brother's throat and caught Dean's body as it lurched forward, his head coming to rest on Sam's shoulder. Sam wrapped his arms tightly around Dean's waist and upper body and gently brought them both to rest on the ground adjusting their position so Dean's head now nestled under his chin. The fact that he couldn't feel Dean's heartbeat beneath his fingers broke the last bit of resolve that Sam had and a whole new level of emotion struck him hard. Grief was starting to make way for anger and his tears were starting to make way for rage as what felt like a thousand and one questions started running through his head.

"Why did mom have to die?"

"Why did Jessica have to die?"

"Why has Dad disappeared to God knows where to leave his sons to battle alone?

"What does the demon want with me?"

"What is the cursed power deep inside of me?"

"Why can't I control it?"

"Why do I have visions to help strangers but not the people I love?"

"Why does Dean have to be sacrificed in order to keep me safe?"

"Why did Dean give up all his dreams to make sure that I got mine?"

"Why did I leave him?"

"Why did I cut him out of my life for two years?"

"Why did Dean have to die?"

"Why couldn't I save him?"

"Why is he dead God? WHY IS HE DEAD?"

Sam didn't realise it but he had been yelling the questions out loud to an empty room. He had placed Dean gently on the floor and was pacing completely unaware that the atmosphere around him was starting to crackle and break. "I want him back," he screamed his emotions becoming more and more volatile by the second. Deep within his gut he could feel a numb buzz trying to break the surface and take control of his actions and he didn't inclined to stop it from happening in any way "I want him here with me," he continued to roar to whatever entity cared to listen. "You have to turn the clock back and give him back to me!"

Sam's anger began to boil over and he started to get destructive throwing a stool at the large vanity mirror smashing it into pieces. He began to tear at the drapes with the shards of glass scattered at his feet cutting himself several times, the blood running freely down his arms. Ornaments started to fly around the room not by Sam's hand but by the deep impulse throbbing inside of his mind to devastate all around him. Instinctively he cocooned Dean from his violent actions forming an almost invisible barrier over the body of his fallen brother as ornate pieces of pottery crashed against the bedroom walls. "Not enough time," he cried upending the four-poster bed, "we were just starting to be brothers again. I need more time!"

Sam was completely oblivious to just how much havoc and mayhem he was creating around himself. His focus was solely on getting Dean back. The energy radiating from him was stronger than he had ever felt before and he knew that he was tapping into some previously unutilised higher power although he didn't know to what degree. The angrier and more impassioned he became the more the reality around him began to fracture and tear yet Sam saw none of this. The only thing he could see was Dean's body still lying lifeless at his feet. "We need to go back," he begged taking his brother in his arms holding him close, "do you hear me you fucking bastards? You need to give me my brother back. You need to turn the fucking clock back and give him back to me!! Now!!" Sam's voice resonated around the mansion walls, his fury unparalleled. Without warning he was wrenched from his brother's side and thrown across the room bright white light emanating from several parts of his body. The room collapsed in on itself leaving nothing but an empty void with Sam suspended at its centre. The pressure in his body was intense as he felt he was being pulled from every direction. In a panic he looked around for Dean but could find nothing but darkness. The pull of unconsciousness called out to him and as much as he tried to resist he could not stop himself from falling into oblivion.

When he woke Sam was lying on a cold stone floor. His head felt as if a mallet had pummelled it and for a moment he didn't know where he was. He sat up cautiously rubbing the back of his head as he tried to dispel the nasty taste of blood in his mouth. He looked around for any sign of Dean but didn't find him until his gaze hit the back of the room and what he saw made his flesh crawl. There swinging from the rafters in a hangman's noose was the limp body of his brother...now why did he feel like he had been here before??

Quick note: As I am in England, I haven't seen the opening episode of Season 2 although being the spoiler whore that I am I do know what happens. However I don't want to write about incidents that I haven't actually seen therefore during the process of writing this chapter, I figured the timeline of this story is probably before the first season finale.