"So, is your life always like this or does it sometimes get exciting?"

Sam chuckled at the question and would have spared a moment to answer, had an antique chest of drawers not been heading towards him at great speed just at that second. "Move!" he said, pushing Ben in front of him towards the kitchen door.

They both skidded through just in time to hear the crash as the chest connected with the wall where they'd just been standing. Dean looked up from behind the upturned table and smirked at them.

"So how's that diversion thing working out for you, Sammy?" he said and Sam glared at him.

"It's Sam, and if you don't get a move on this thing will be diverted enough to actually kill us." he said exasperatedly.

"Oh come on, lighten up would ya? I'm the one in here doing all the hard work." he said, gesturing to the bags of herbs - and other things that Sam really didn't want to identify - littered on the ground.

"Right, cos getting thrown around and having heavy furniture aimed at your head is so relaxing!" he retorted.

"Are you guys always like this?" said Ben, looking at them incredulously.

They shared a glance and then both answered simultaneously "Pretty much."

The teenager shook his head "You guys are seriously whacked, you do know that right?" he said and Dean just shot him a grin "Winchester family motto." he said, reaching into his pocket to grab John's journal.

Sam shook his head. "Ignore him, there weren't enough brain cells to go round when it was Dean's turn." he said dryly, earning himself an indignant "Hey!" from behind the table.

"Seriously, how are you doing with all this?" he asked Ben with concern.

The boy shrugged. "Well aside from never watching another horror film in the same way again, I'm just fine." he said and Sam smiled. "Yeah, it does kind of take the fun out of it when you know that stuff's real."

"Plus it's annoying when they never know what they're doing and get the whole thing totally wrong." Dean added, coming out from behind the table carrying the now full bag in one hand and the journal in the other.

Sam shared a glance with Ben and rolled his eyes, making the teenager grin. He had to admit he was pretty impressed with how Ben was holding up so far. It wasn't every 15 year old who would so calmly accept that his Grandfather's old cabin really was inhabited by a poltergeist and not only that, but offer to help get rid of said spirit.

They'd only been passing through the small town when they'd spotted the article in the newspaper about an unfortunate workman found burned to death just yards from an old cabin in the woods. Some discreet – on Sam's part at least – enquiries had lead them to Ben's father, the man who'd inherited the cabin a few months before and who had been trying to do it up to sell on ever since. Unfortunately, the place had in the meantime become home to a poltergeist with a yen for flames. First the grounds around the cabin had caught fire, then a passing hiker who'd tried to shelter there from a storm had found themselves hastily trying to put out their suddenly alight clothing, and finally the guy hired to renovate the cabin had become, as Dean so eloquently put it, a crispy critter.

Ben's father had bought their story about being students working on a project about unexplained 'spontaneous combustion' and had told them they could look around the place as much as they wanted.

As long as they didn't sue him if they ended up on fire.

Ben on the other hand hadn't believed a word of it, and when he'd caught them checking out the place with the EMF meter they'd been forced to tell him the truth.

Which brought them to this moment, huddled in the kitchen while the spirit did it's best to kill or, at the very least, put some significant dents in them. Sam was just glad he couldn't smell any smoke yet.

Fire was definitely not a Winchester's favourite thing.

Dean meanwhile was actually enjoying himself quite a bit. The poltergeist seemed pretty standard, aside from the flame thing, and he'd easily found a ritual that should by all accounts 'smoke it'. He chuckled at his own joke, earning himself a quizzical look from Sam.

He coughed. "Ok, so what do you say we whack this thing or are you and Casper still bonding?"

Sam gave him a hand gesture that was definitely not in the sign language dictionary and Dean just grinned even more. "Alright, this is how it goes – you and Ben make a run for it out the front door. I'll drop this stuff in the middle of the room, say the words and high tail it out behind you. Next stop, one poltergeist free cabin." he said confidently.

Sam frowned "I'm not sure I like the idea of you staying behind to do all that. What if it realises what you're up to and tries to stop you? Or what if it throws something and you get knocked out? Plus we still haven't seen any fire yet, and that's making me nervous."

Dean put up his hand "Would you relax already? Jeez, Sam, it's not like I haven't done this before you know. Chances are it'll be distracted by you and Ben running out and the Latin only takes a few seconds."

Just as he finished talking the clock on the wall hurled itself across the room, making all three of them duck. "Ok that's it with the talking! Go – now!" he shouted, and Sam gave him one last unhappy look but did as he was told.

Grabbing Ben's arm the two of them ran through the main living area and hit the deck outside. Skidding down the steps they kept going until they reached the trees a few feet away and turned back to look at the cabin.

Sam's heart was racing, and it had nothing to do with the mad dash they'd just made. "Come on, Dean – what's taking so long?" he muttered, tapping his foot nervously.

He jumped as Ben put his hand on his shoulder "He's done this loads of times, right? I'm sure it'll be fine." and Sam forced himself to smile. "Sure, of course it will." he said feeling a little guilty that the teen was the one trying to make him feel better.

Seconds became minutes, and still there was no sign of his brother. Sam was just about to head back to the cabin when suddenly there was a huge explosion. They were thrown backwards as flames rocketed towards the sky, smoke billowing from the pile of wood that was once a cabin and fire licking the surrounding trees.

Sam sat up coughing, staring in disbelief at the remains of the cabin. He was literally frozen to the spot. Ben's muttered "Oh my God!" suddenly seemed to get his brain working again and he scrambled up, running towards the flames screaming Dean's name.

"Dean! Dean, where are you? Dean!"

He put his hand up to his face, feeling the intense heat stopping him from getting too close. He felt Ben grab his arm, pulling him back.

"Sam, you can't go in there!" he said. Sam shook him off, still trying to get nearer.

It was like a nightmare. Part of his brain knew nobody could have survived a blast like that, but the other part couldn't bring itself to consider the thought that his brother was dead. He dropped to his knees, barely able to see through his tears. 'No, please no' he whispered. He felt Ben put his hand on his shoulder, heard him saying how sorry he was over and over, but none of that mattered.

Dean was gone. And Sam's world felt like it had just ended.

It seemed like days later when he finally pulled in to the parking lot of the motel they'd been staying in and switched off the engine. Wearily he rested his head on the steering wheel. The last few hours were a blur, Ben seemingly having called the Fire Department at some point because suddenly there had been fire fighters and Sheriffs, and people asking him questions.

He'd heard Ben explaining that they'd been investigating the recent spate of fires when suddenly something had exploded, and he'd told them that he and Sam had been thrown clear as they were already outside, but that Dean had still been inside. He'd even been smart enough to give the aliases Sam and Dean had been using.

Not that any of that mattered to Sam. He knew he should have been the one doing the talking, that he was leaving everything to a 15 year old boy, but he couldn't speak. He wasn't sure how he was still breathing if he was honest. It felt like there was a rock, pressing down on his chest. His throat ached and his eyes burned, and it wasn't from the smoke.

Suddenly the inside of the Impala felt claustrophobic. It was wrong, being in that car without Dean, sitting there alone, being in the driver's seat. He literally fell over himself in his hurry to get out of the car and even as he slammed the door shut he could hear Dean's voice in his head, berating him for hurting 'his baby'.

The tears that had been welling spilled over down Sam's cheeks and he rubbed them away angrily. Winchester's did not break down in parking lots, he knew that's what his brother would say, and locking the car door he headed towards their room.

Walking back in without Dean was torture. His stuff was still on the bed, his other jacket hanging by the door. Sam stood there taking it all in.

Then ran to the bathroom as the urge to throw up took over.

He slammed to his knees in front of the toilet and brought up everything he'd eaten that day. When that was done he still continued retching until he thought he would pass out. Eventually it stopped and he slumped against the wall, shivering.

This can't be happening he thought. It had been bad enough with Jess, but at least then he'd had Dean to see him through it. But now.. What the hell am I supposed to do without him? he thought and he began to shake as tears streamed down his face.

He had no idea ho long he'd sat there. Eventually he'd cried himself out, and now he was just numb. Darkness had fallen at some point and the only light came from outside, but still he didn't move.

It didn't matter. None of it mattered anymore.

There was a knock on the door suddenly. Still he didn't move, not caring who it was. It could be Ben, the teen had been extremely upset by what had happened and had just kept telling Sam over and over how sorry he was. As had Ben's father. To his credit, the older man had made no accusations at the loss of his cabin his only concern being that another young man had lost his life. They'd wanted Sam to go home with them but he'd refused, saying he had stuff to take care of. The truth was he'd just needed to be alone.

After all, he had to get used to it now.

Even as he was thinking this he became aware of another noise. The knocking had long since stopped, and in it's place was the sound of scratching. Sam tensed, wondering if somehow the poltergeist had survived the blast and was now latched on to him. Or perhaps he was being robbed. Before he could move though, the door suddenly opened and someone came in.

They didn't get very far.

As they were turning to close the door, Sam was on them. Leaping at the intruder with a cry of rage, they went down in a pile of limbs. Sam threw a punch that connected and heard an 'oof' from the figure he now had pinned to the floor. They struggled back but Sam tightened his grip, then froze when the figure spoke.

"Jesus Christ, Sam, are you trying to kill me?" The voice was choked, due to Sam's hands round their neck, and sounded totally indignant.

It also sounded a lot like Dean.

Sam's hesitation was all 'Dean' needed to flip things around so that he was the one on top. Climbing off his now prone brother he reached out and flipped on the light, before staggering back to the nearest bed, rubbing his throat. Sam lay there, just looking at him in disbelief.

It looked like Dean.

It sounded like Dean.

It smelled like Dean, albeit Dean covered in smoke. But it couldn't be.

Dean coughed and fixed Sam with a glare. "You could have strangled me you know." he said. He frowned when he got no response.

"You gonna lay there all day or are you gonna tell me why the hell I had to walk 3 miles from that forest after you drove off in my car? Which you had better not have scratched by the way." he said, standing up and going over to the window to look out at the Impala.

Sam finally managed to get his vocal chords to work.

"Dean?" he said and it was his tone of voice that got Dean's attention.

There was so much in one word – pain, hope, disbelief. Frowning he looked down at Sam and then his eyes widened. "Oh come on – you didn't think.. You didn't think I was dead, did you?" he said, and Sam could only nod.

"Man, I am so sorry." he said, his voice full of compassion as he dropped to his knees beside his brother. "I wondered why the hell you'd taken off without me and I was worried that you or Ben had been hurt. I never thought – I am so sorry." he said again, reaching out a hand towards Sam's shoulder.

Sam scrambled backwards though.

"Whoa, hey – it's me. I promise you, it's me." he said, holding his hands out in surrender.

"How do I know that?" whispered Sam. "Nothing could have survived inside that cabin!"

"You're right – nothing could. Which is why it's fortunate for me I wasn't in the cabin, but underneath when it blew." Dean replied calmly.

Now it was Sam's turn to frown. "What do you mean underneath?" he said and Dean smiled "Well, I was just getting to the important part of the ritual when our friend started really kicking off. The fire flared up in front of the door and I could see there was no way I was gonna get past. It then threw a rug at me, which by the way was pretty lame in my opinion, but anyway suddenly I could see this trapdoor in the floor. So I finished the incantation, threw open the door, and dropped about a mile as there were no freaking steps. As I fell I heard the explosion, and then nothing. Till I woke up in the dark smelling like a damn bar-b-q. I managed to dig myself out and the place was deserted, 'cept for all the yellow tape. I didn't know where you or Ben were so I just headed in this direction." he said, shrugging his shoulders "And here I am."

Sam stared at him for ages. He wanted to believe what he said so much, and it did make a certain kind of sense, but what if it wasn't real?

Getting up he crawled over to Dean, reaching out to put his hand on Dean's face. Although his brother winced, he let him do it. He could see in Sam's eyes how desperately he wanted to believe.

"It's really me, Sammy, I promise." he said softly and Sam gave him a watery smile

"It's Sam." he whispered and Dean grinned at him, then suddenly he was being crushed in a bear hug and Sam was shaking, sobbing into his shoulder.

Putting aside the fact that this was a monumental chick-flick moment, Dean put his arms round Sam and held him in return. "It's ok. It's alright." he said softly, rubbing circles on his back to try and calm him.

Sam managed to pull himself together pretty quickly under the circumstances, and sat back on his heels a short while later, rubbing his hands over his face.

"You ok there now, Princess?" said Dean teasingly and Sam snorted. "Yeah, well, I wasn't the only one doing some hugging you know." he said and Dean shook his head.

"Hey, I was just trying to get some room to breathe, you were crushing my ribs." he said as he stood, reaching a hand down to help Sam up.

When he got to his feet instead of letting go though, Sam held on to Dean's hand, waiting until his brother looked at him quizzically.

"It is real isn't it?" he said softly and Dean squeezed his hand. "Yeah it's real – you know you don't get rid of me that easily."

Sam found himself grinning inanely, and Dean rolled his eyes in disgust and pulled his hand away. "Don't even think about hugging me again, Sam, I will put you down." he said firmly but nothing could take away the smile and Dean found himself grinning back – Sam's smile could be pretty infectious.

"I don't know about you, but I'm not a huge fan of Eu de smoke, so I'm gonna take a shower." he said eventually, breaking the moment and heading towards the bathroom.

Sam sat down on the bed, feeling drained but lighter. He still couldn't believe it – his brother was alive. He didn't know what they'd done to deserve a second chance this time but he thanked whoever was out there for bringing Dean back to him.

Picking up his phone, he quickly dialed Ben's number and was sure Dean must have heard the delighted shriek from the teen even in the shower. After running through just how he'd made his miraculous escape, Sam signed off with a promise that they'd drop by and say goodbye on their way out of town.

After Dean finally emerged dripping, Sam showered himself, grateful to get rid of the smoke and the memories of the last few hours. When he came out his brother was sprawled on the bed watching TV.

"So how long do you think you were unconscious for?" he asked with concern, and Dean rolled his eyes. "I don't know Sam, I was unconscious" he said dryly and Sam shook his head.

"Maybe we should get you checked out." he began but Dean was already shaking his head. "No way, Sam, it's just a knock on the head. We get those all the time. I'm fine so just leave it, ok?" he said, in a tone that brooked no argument.

Sam reluctantly went along with it. He knew the drill so he'd just keep an eye on Dean for the next few days, whether he liked it or not.

Sitting down on the other bed, he watched the TV for a few minutes. He kept glancing at Dean however, every 5 seconds, and eventually Dean sighed. "I'm not going anywhere, but if you keep staring at me I am gonna make you get your own room."

There was no real ire behind the words though, as he understood how awful it must have been for his brother.

He could only imagine how he would have felt.

Sam grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, it's just hard, you know?" he said and Dean grimaced. "Yeah, I know but it's over now. No need to dwell on it ok?"

Sam nodded "I'll do my best."

They went back to watching TV again but it wasn't long before Sam cleared his throat, a little nervously.

"Uh, Dean? There was one thing that was bothering me before. I mean, when I thought you were, you know." He stopped, not quite able to say the word, and had to clear his throat a second time before he could continue. "It got me thinking. About things I hadn't said."

Dean held up his hand "Don't even think about finishing that sentence. We are so not having a Dr Phil moment – there's nothing that needs to be said, so just move on." he said firmly but Sam was already shaking his head.

"I can't, Dean. I need you to know how important you are to me. Thinking you were dead – that was the worst thing that's ever happened to me. I know we don't always agree on things, but that doesn't matter. You're my brother and.." Dean cut him off again.

"I know, Sam – what makes you think I don't? Look, we're bound to tick each other off sometimes, it'd be hard not to living in each other's pockets 24/7, but the point is none of that stuff makes any difference. I know how you feel, and you know how I feel, so that's all that matters, right?" he said and Sam nodded after a moment.

"Ok, as long as you're sure you know"

Dean rolled his eyes. "I know – now can we please move on before I start thinking I've got a sister?"

Sam laughed and threw a pillow at him, which Dean easily caught. "One day we really need to talk about how repressed you are, Dean." he said with a smirk and Dean just waved a hand at him.

"Yeah whatever, Francis. Now shut up would ya? I'm trying to watch this."

Sam lay back, still with a smile on his face. They may be dysfunctional, they may not lead 'normal' lives, but when it came down to it all that mattered was they were family.

And as long as Dean was around, that was all Sam needed.