Title: Second Verse (Same as the First)
Author: SBG
Category: episode tag, angst
Rating: R, for language
Season/spoilers: S2, through Playthings
Summary: Another awkward conversation, this one on a manipulated promise.

Disclaimer: The Winchesters don't belong to me, though I really think they should. We'd have ever such a good time together. Alas, no, they belong to Kripke Enterprises and The CW.

Author's Note: I'm note sure I'm satisfied with this, so I reserve the right to change and/or expand it in the future. Any comments or suggestions are welcome, of course. Also, I love Sam and hope this doesn't give the impression that I don't.

Second Verse (Same as the First)

"Don't be scared, Dean."

Don't be scared, right. He wasn't sorry at all that he'd called his father an ass, because it was true. It had always been true, even if he hadn't wanted to admit it to himself before. The preface his father had given him to shitty news had pushed to the fore of his mind again. The more it lingered in his head, and it did linger, the angrier Dean became about it. He wanted to know just how John Winchester thought anyone could possibly not be scared at the thought of 1) Sam going evil and/or 2) he himself having to either play saviour or executioner to his own brother; neither was an easy role. There was nothing about the situation that was unscary from any angle he could imagine.

And now there was this.

He looked over at Sam surreptitiously, while his brother managed to look at nothing but the road in front of them. Dean knew that trick. He'd invented that trick. He supposed that, ultimately, this mess was his own fault. He never should have said anything, and now that he had he couldn't take it back, couldn't really talk about it. He didn't know why he'd suffered under the illusion that telling Sam, unloading their father's fucking parting words on him, would somehow help lessen his own burden. He was pretty damned stupid, because that idea had very quickly been proven wrong. He should have known exactly how Sam would react. For the most part, if he thought about it, he had known and done it anyway.

The whole ditching thing, though, that had actually taken him by surprise. He'd been fooled by his brother once on that, shame on Sam; fooled twice now, shame on him. Dean should never have let himself think that the moment Sam had motive or opportunity he wouldn't get his ass so far away from Dean so fast he'd leave a fucking windstorm in his wake. Sam had never really, truly taken Dean into consideration with anything in his whole life. That wasn't going to change, apparently. Dean Winchester: Family Chump.

He tried to swallow the bitterness down. There were no take backs in this life. Sam had ditched him physically, but if Dean had to admit it he'd done similarly for a long time, just on a more mental level. Hell, he'd also once done the save-the-world thing Sam was now doing, if for different reasons. Their lives were a slightly twisted mirror of what had already occurred, with roles reversed. He hated this shit, this stewing in his own thoughts, but he couldn't turn his brain off.

Sam had made it clear he wasn't open to discussion on any topic related to the gloom and doom forecast of his impending evilness. Yeah, it scared the shit out of both of them, and he might be a bastard but he did take a little comfort in knowing at least he wasn't alone in that. Sort of. Maybe. Not really. He felt fucking alone, always. God, he needed to knock this off. It wasn't helping anyone.

"So, what're we going to do now?"

"We have to call Ellen and tell her what happened. Maybe she'll have another case for us."

Dean nodded, but felt a twinge of apprehension. Part of him appreciated having a source for the supernatural goings-on instead of forging on alone. Another part of him, jut as big, remained suspicious. His feelings for his father might be colored more now than they had been in the past, but he still respected the man as a hunter; he couldn't help but think there was some bigger reason that John had stayed away – and had kept them all away – from the Roadhouse than the death of Ellen's husband. Every time he and Sam used those resources, he wondered if they were doing the right thing. That went double now that they knew someone there had Sam's number and considered him fair game.

"Maybe," he said. "Or maybe we should just be on our own for a while."

"We already had a month of down time."

"That wasn't down time, we were looking for that Ava chick." He sneaked another look at Sam. He really hated that muted, monotone voice his brother was using. "And I wasn't suggesting a vacation. I learned my lesson on that one already."

No way was he getting fooled a third time, at least not on that particular (really good) idea. He was sticking with Sam like white on rice from now on. Sleep be damned. Dean had slept with one eye open for a that entire month of "down time."

"Dean, I said I was sorry about that," Sam said. Monotone had switched to soft, earnest. Sam's 'I'm playing you and you don't even know it, sucker' voice. Dean was on to that trick, too, and he swore he'd work on not buying into it so easily anymore. "I'm not going any…"

"Don't. Don't say it, Sam," he said, burst out like steam from an engine, actually. "Don't make promises you don't know you'll keep."

"Dude, why are you yelling? What's your problem?"

Well, that one was obvious, or should be. Dean wanted to let Sam hear what real yelling was like. He wanted to pull the car over, yank Sam from the passenger seat and beat the spit out of him. He wanted to cry. He wanted this weight to lift from his shoulders, and to have it not be at the expense of everything he knew and loved. Instead, he laughed sourly for a couple of seconds.

"You don't think we should talk about this? You, Mr. Share-Your-Feelings?"

"Oh. That. Not really. I don't think there's anything else to be said."

And so Dean ended up following at least part of an impulse. He pulled the car over, steering it jerkily to the shoulder. He switched off the engine and pushed his way out, into the cold rain. It was all the way dark now, which always made rain seem colder to him, harsher, even during hot summer months. There wasn't anywhere for him to go, and he wasn't looking to escape for more than a minute or two. He started walking away from the car, off into the dark and rain and cold. After a few feet he stopped, stood there like he was in a shower that could wash away everything bad, at least temporarily. Sam didn't follow him, breaking pattern yet again. He was relieved as much as he was disappointed. He went back to the car after a minute or two, got them back on the road to nowhere.

"I called Ellen," Sam said after a few minutes, calmly, as if the subject of the manipulated promise hadn't come up at all. As if Dean's feelings on the matter were inconsequential. As if Dean hadn't said he'd rather not call the Roadhouse. Déjà vu. Dad all over again.

"Oh, you did."

"Yeah, she said she's got a mysterious death of a college guy in Asheville, North Carolina or a supposedly haunted family restaurant in Derry, Maine. Which sounds good to you?"

Neither.

"Which one do you think?" Dean said dully. Sam wasn't consulting him; he'd already decided the place to go was the place additional loss of life could happen – greater chance of saving those lives; all these tricks he'd taught Sammy were biting him in the butt. Dean was just along for the ride now. He felt like he did when he was always in the passenger seat, John behind the wheel. Sam drunk thought Dean was bossy. Sam sober didn't even realize he was the one calling so many of the shots. "We're already on a southbound road."

"Good, Asheville. I was hoping you'd agree."

He snorted. Sam probably still thought this was a democracy. Dean knew he had free will, but it felt like he didn't and never really had, not about anything important. He could pick what beer to drink, what motel to stay at, what woman to fuck, but he couldn't choose to not kill his brother. Oh, yeah, he was angry about the whole damned thing. First his father had removed that choice, now Sam had. They were like two peas in a fucking pod and neither of them had even seen it. He hadn't either, not until the end.

"Of course I agree," he said. "Nothing to disagree about on that."

"Hopefully we can get there in time to prevent anyone else from getting killed. Ash is emailing me the specifics."

He wondered if Ash was also going to send other seasoned hunters after them. He didn't say anything, but knew he'd be more vigilant than ever. He had to watch out for Sam on so many levels – for Sam's back, for signs Sam was becoming something less than human, for Sam to become reckless in his need to save lives. No pressure on him, really.

"Great. Thank goodness for Ash. We'll kill whatever evil son of a bitch killed the college kid, then carry on killing more evil sons of bitches."

"Dean…" Whoops, his sarcasm must have been noticeable. "You used to be the one looking forward to the next hunt."

"In case you hadn't noticed, things have changed, Sammy," he said.

"I know," Sam said, in a voice so low and quiet Dean could barely hear him. "I know they have, but that doesn't mean we stop doing what we've always done. Hunting things, saving people."

Sam said all the right words, but Dean wasn't convinced he was as intent on saving people's lives as much as he was in saving his own soul. And he couldn't fault Sam that. He didn't know anyone that would, but Sam had to know that saving lives wasn't a guaranteed prevention against going dark side. Sam was as hard driven and obsessed with finding the demon and exacting revenge for Mom, Jess and now Dad as Dad ever had been. Add to it a deep-seated need to save people at whatever cost, and it was enough to make Dean very uneasy. Second verse, same as the first.

"We can't save everyone," he said, and knew he sounded desperate.

"We can try. I have to try, Dean. I can't become…I can't be…"

"You won't, you aren't, damnit. Sam, you have to get a handle on this. I can't watch you kill yourself trying to save someone else."

"Well, that beats the alternative," Sam said after a moment, voice thick. "Doesn't it?"

Dean hated that, yes, he selfishly thought it did. He couldn't find it in him to say it out loud. He tried and failed to not think about how that had been their father's logic. The rain picked up, beat against the roof of the car loudly. They were driving right into the heart of it. He turned the windshield wipers up. They didn't seem to want to work fast enough. Nothing was clear.

"You promised me, Dean, and I know that is was shitty of me to ask you. But, god, I really don't want you to have to fulfill that promise."

Dean shivered, cold and damp and terrified and somehow so very alone.