Sam didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so he settled for something in the middle.
"Jesus Dean! You certainly pick your moments." he said with something that was somewhere between a chuckle and a sob.
Dean just rolled his eyes and tried to sit up.
"Dude, don't go getting all melodramatic on me" he said, his voice still incredibly raspy.
Sam just shook his head and helped Dean up, keeping hold of his arm when Dean's knees buckled as soon as he was standing. Between them they managed to get him over to the couch and he sat down, leaning his head against the back of it and rubbing his throat with a wince.
Sam sat on the coffee table in front of him.
"You ok?" he said softly and Dean lifted his head up to look at him.
"I'm fine, Sammy" he said with a tired smile and Sam grinned. It felt good to hear Dean calling him that and for once he didn't correct it.
Dean turned his head to look at Anna and Sam realised he'd almost forgotten she was there.
"You ok over there, Casper?" said Dean gently and Anna managed a watery smile.
"Sure, no problem – all in a days work right?" she said but they could both see how shaken she was.
Sam stood up and went over to where she was standing, wishing he could at least put his hand on her shoulder or something.
"Listen, you did great back there Anna – you really did. If you hadn't distracted Anderson like that,"
He swallowed deliberately trying to stop his mind from heading down that path.
Anna shook her head ruefully.
"I just wish I'd been able to actually do something. I felt so helpless and when Dean.." she stopped, looking across at Dean, and then back to Sam "I just didn't know if you were gonna get back here in time."
"That's a point – how did you get here so fast?" said Dean looking at him quizzically.
Sam shrugged a little self-consciously.
"I ran. I had a feeling, all of a sudden, that something was wrong" he said and Dean shook his head.
"I am officially never making fun of your 'shining' again, Sam." he said with a smirk.
Sam looked at Dean.
"I don't think it was a 'shining' thing Dean, I think it was just a.. You know.. Brother thing" he said, ducking his head embarrassed.
Dean winced but a smile twitched at his lips and he didn't correct Sam. It gave him a warm feeling inside, knowing that the connection between them was so strong Sam knew when something was wrong.
Not that he was ever admitting that this side of hell freezing over.
Clearing his throat, Sam decided a subject change was in order.
"So how do you feel, now he's gone?" he said to Anna.
"Better, I think. I really didn't remember him until I heard his voice but when I did it all came flooding back. I'm just glad he's gone – at least he'll never be able to hurt anyone else now."
"Told ya we'd smoke his ass." said Dean with a cocky grin and Sam shot him a look.
"Yeah, and I also recall you saying it would be 'no problem'. Not exactly the case now, was it?" he said dryly and Dean just shrugged.
"It all turned out ok in the end didn't it?" he said and Sam shook his head.
"If you count you almost dying as ok, then yeah sure – it went brilliantly" he said, with more anger in his voice than he'd intended.
He swallowed and looked away from Dean, who was frowning at him now. Before Dean could say anything though Anna suddenly gasped.
"Oh! Can you guys see that?" she said.
Dean and Sam both turned to look where she was pointing but they couldn't see anything except the wall of the apartment.
"No – what is it?" said Sam, alert for some new and unexpected danger.
"I don't know but it's.. Beautiful."
She turned to look at both of them with a smile.
"I think maybe it's where I'm supposed to go"
Dean threw his hands in the air.
"Great – now I've turned into freakin Jennifer Love Hewitt" he said, glaring at Sam. "This is all your fault you know, psychic-wonder"
Sam just rolled his eyes and looked back to Anna.
"So I guess this is goodbye then?" he said sadly.
She smiled at both of them, tears shining in her eyes.
"Thank you both – for everything." she said earnestly.
"Hey, we should be thanking you. Without your help we'd never have got Anderson" said Dean softly and he gave her a genuine smile.
"Yeah, he's right. Thank you so much, Anna." said Sam and she flushed with embarrassment.
"You're welcome. You guys take care ok? And look after each other." she said.
Dean looked embarrassed, but nodded and Sam smiled at her.
"We will. Good luck" he said and with a final look at both of them, Anna walked towards the far wall and disappeared.
"I think I'm actually going to miss her." he said.
"Yeah, like a headache." said Dean, but Sam could tell he was sad to see her go too.
Walking back over, he sat down on the table in front of Dean again.
"So. How's your throat?" he said, reaching out and gently lifting Dean's head to look at the angry red mark on his neck.
Dean pulled his head back with a wince and batted Sam's hand away.
"Dude, it's fine – when you're not poking at it. Stop worrying, would ya?"
Sam shook his head.
"Sure, it's not like you almost died a few minutes ago or anything. I mean why should I be worried? You're Dean Winchester – Mr Invincible right?"
Dean raised his eyebrows and Sam looked away. He started to get up, but Dean put his hand out and grabbed Sam's arm.
"Hey. What's going on, Sam?" he said, his voice full of concern.
Sam sat back down with a sigh and raked his hand through his hair.
"It's just.. Coming back and seeing you like that. I can't get the image out of my head." he said softly, looking everywhere but at Dean.
"Hey, come on – look at me for a second would you?" said Dean, waiting until Sam lifted his head to meet his gaze.
"I'm still here, ok? I know it was pretty crappy coming back to that, and believe me – it wasn't all that fun from this end. But it's over with. No point dwelling on it right?"
"I guess. I just can't help thinking."
"Yeah well, that's always been your problem – you think too damn much"
"Hilarious Dean. I'm trying to be serious here, man. How many chances are we gonna get? How many near misses huh? Cause from where I'm standing, you're starting to use up most of your nine lives" said Sam softly.
Dean sighed. He hated seeing Sam like this, especially because of him. He just wasn't any good at all this 'talking' stuff. Deciding that cracking a joke clearly wasn't going to solve things this time round, Dean opted for the truth.
"Look, truth is the work we do – it's dangerous. And yeah, I've had a few near misses lately. But you know what? Either one of us could get hit by a bus crossing the street tomorrow. That's the way life is. And sitting there tying yourself in knots because of it isn't going to make a damn bit of difference. I can't promise you nothing's ever gonna happen to me. But I'm not stupid, and I don't take unnecessary risks. And besides, I got a secret weapon remember"
Sam looked at him quizzically.
"What secret weapon?" he said and Dean grinned.
"You. Super-Sam, rushing in to save the day" he said and Sam shook his head.
Dean cut him off.
"I'm serious, Sam. Look how you came rushing back in here today. And after that whole electrocution thing? You were such a pain in the ass, refusing to let me just die in peace. Way I see it, I got pretty good odds in my favour don't you think?"
Sam tried to stay serious but he couldn't stop the smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.
Truth is, what Dean had just said meant a lot, and he was surprised as hell that his usually stoic big brother had said it in the first place. But he couldn't quite let go of the fear completely.
"That's nice, Dean, and thanks – seriously – but what if I'm not there one day? What if I'm too late, or we're not together when something happens to you?"
Dean looked down and then back up again at Sam.
"You planning on going somewhere?" he said, and Sam could see from the look in his eye that this question was loaded with a whole lot of history. He understood what it must have taken for Dean to ask him that outright, and he thought carefully for a few moments before answering.
"Not for now." he said honestly and Dean nodded.
He would have preferred 'never' but for now was good enough. In their line of work sometimes for now was all they had anyway.
"Well then we don't have a problem do we?" he said with a finality that told Sam the conversation was definitely over.
Sam nodded, and looked away trying to get his composure back. Too many emotions were swirling too near the surface right now from relief, to fear, to worry.
Dean stood up, wavering only a little as he did so, and nudged Sam with his leg.
"Come on, Sam. I don't know about you but I am not spending another night in this place"
"I hear ya." said Sam getting up.
Dean was about to move away when Sam suddenly put his hand on Dean's shoulder.
"Listen.." he stopped, wanting to say so many things and not knowing how to say any of them.
Dean cut him off though, before he could continue.
"I know. Really. Now if you're completely done with all this girly-crap can we please get out of here before I start getting the urge to braid hair?" he said dryly.
Sam shook his head and grabbed the flask of holy water and John's journal, putting both back in one of the bags.
Dean pulled the rope down from the light fitting and shuddered as he buried that right at the bottom of the bag. Putting the chair back in it's rightful place as well, while Sam quickly wiped away the chalk drawings on the floor, he grabbed his jacket and handed Sam his.
"Let's get out of here." he said and both of them left the apartment without a backwards glance.
Sam insisted on driving and after dropping the keys back to Mr Pierson and informing him they shouldn't have any further problems with the place, they sped out of town.
Dean put his head back against the seat and closed his eyes, happy to be back on the road and listening to the relaxing rumbling of the Impala's engine.
"Hey Sam?" he said after a moment, still keeping his eyes closed.
"Just try and do me a favour next time will ya? Keep the whole Haley Joel crap to yourself – I can so do without damn spirits bending my ear when I'm trying to work."
Looking across Sam saw the smirk on his brother's face.
"I'll do my best."
"Long as that's clear"
Having settled that matter, Dean shifted to a more comfortable position and drifted off to sleep.
Sam gave him a look of fond exasperation and turned his attention back to the road. Dean was right before – as long as Sam was around he would move heaven and earth to keep Dean safe, just like Dean would do for him. And maybe, just maybe, that would be enough.
Feeling comforted by that thought, Sam drove on into the night and wherever the road would take them next.