Hi everybody! I know I should be posting more of 'The Hardest Thing' but I'm just not getting there at the moment. I promise I'm trying and I do have every intention of finishing the story...I'm NOT going to leave it incomplete! Anyway, I just got to thinking about the end of 'Hunted', and how much poor Sam has been through, and what the impact of it all might be on him...okay, I just wanted to write another chick flick. If you don't like them, don't read...probably anything by me, coz I love 'em. This is a one shot for now but I'm thinking about writing a second one about THE promise Dean makes Sam in 'Playthings'...if you guys don't think this one is too much! Anyway I'd love to hear from you all again, and hope you enjoy! xx

Don't own 'em, just borrowing 'em, coz I love 'em.

"Go home, Ava. You'll be safe there."

Sam Winchester heard the words again in his head. Only hours earlier he had spoken them to the pretty, petite girl he'd met while on his quest for answers, the girl with the contagious laugh and the bubbly, outgoing personality whom he'd warmed to almost instantly.

Ava had driven all the way to Lafayette to warn him of his impending death, a tragedy she had foreseen in a dream and decided to stop. He probably owed her his life.

He'd sent her home alone, thinking he was doing the right thing. Sent her back to her house and her fiancé, to her normal life and her secretarial job and her wedding invitations. He'd thought it was the best thing to do, thought it was the best way to keep her safe.

Sam himself was on a rescue mission, searching for his brother Dean, who had been kidnapped and held hostage by the twisted hunter Gordon.

Kidnapped while searching for Sam, who'd run away in the night, sneaking away from his brother like a petulant child unable to get their own way.

He regretted his actions now.

If he hadn't acted the way he did, none of this ever would have happened.

Dean would never have been kidnapped, Sam probably wouldn't have been hunted, and Ava wouldn't be…

Sam swallowed hard and leant his head against the cool glass of the Impala's passenger side window. It was raining lightly outside, and the glass was cool against his forehead, soothing the headache that was threatening to build there.

The truth was, he didn't know what had happened to Ava, but he was pretty certain that she wasn't safe.

When his new found friend had not answered her phone, Sam had convinced Dean to drive to her house and investigate. He wanted to make sure she was alright. Wanted to make sure she was safe.

Sam didn't know what they would find there, but it was worse than anything he expected.

They found a dark, silent house, empty of light or signs of life.

They found her fiancé, dead on the bed, slaughtered like an animal and covered in sheets of his own blood.

They found traces of sulfur on the windowsill, a sure sign that the demon had paid Ava and her lover a visit.

And Sam found Ava's engagement ring at the end of the bed, twinkling forlornly in the torchlight from a sticky pool of crimson.

Possibilities whirled in his head; horrible imaginings of what might have happened here. He crouched and stared at the ring in slowly dawning horror, suddenly bending under the weight of the last few days; feeling the pressure starting to force him down.

Dean took charge then, wiping away their prints, ushering Sam from the house, assuring him that there was nothing they could do tonight and that they'd think of something in the morning.

Sam made all the right noises and nodded in all the right places, folded himself into the Impala and let his brother drive them away from the mess and the blood and the horror.

For a while there, after the whirlwind of emotional turmoil and fear and violence that had taken place in the town where the virus 'Croatoan' had spread, Sam had let his anger take over.

Dean had finally revealed the secret he'd been shouldering for so long; had finally told Sam just what it was their father had whispered to his eldest son moments before his death.

"He said I had to save you. That nothing else mattered. And he said if I couldn't, that I had to…kill you. He said I might have to kill you, Sammy."

He'd tried not to think about those words, about the broken, desperate look in Dean's eyes as he spoke them, but now he remembered, and the pain of remembering made him bite down hard on his lip to keep from crying out.

He'd tried not to think about so many things.

The way his father looked, crumpled on the floor in that empty hospital room. The way his skin felt cold, so cold to the touch when Sam grabbed onto him, willing him not to be gone, to please be okay.

The way his father burned, and the smell, and the tears that felt so hot on his own face as he stood beside his older brother and watched and wondered why? Whose life was like this? Who had to stand and watch their father burn on a homemade funeral pyre?

He'd tried not to think about the way Dean had been acting. About the harsh, angry, cruel words that had sprung from his brother's mouth and hurt his heart.

"What you're doing, Sam? It's too little too late."

About how Dean's fist had felt when it connected with his face, and the way his brother had looked at him, with so much anger and fury in his eyes that Sam had been afraid. Not afraid that his brother would hit him again, because that he could handle. Afraid that he was losing Dean, the one person he'd always thought he could count on. Afraid that Dean was starting to hate him.

He'd tried not to think about the way Dean had trapped the crossroad demon, and the deal his brother had been offered. About the way Dean's eyes slid away from him when he asked his brother if he'd ever actually considered taking the deal, about the way Dean's refusal to answer was all the answer Sam really needed.

Sam had tried not to think about the fact that he was immune to some demonic virus; about the way Dean had given up and waited to die in that stingy clinic in some out of the way town.

He'd tried not to think about the way Gordon had hunted him, convinced that Sam was fair game, a threat, evil, no better than a demon himself.

Now he was trying not to think about Ava, who was probably dead, and Dean, who could have been dead, and his father, who was dead, and himself, who could have very easily been dead.

His anger had kept him going for a little while after Dean's confession; had given him the strength and the resolve to go off on his own and hunt for the answers he so desperately needed.

But the anger was all gone now.

How could he be angry at Dean, who had been through so much and tried so hard to shield Sam from the worst of it all? His father was dead; so there was no point being angry with him. He couldn't even muster up the energy to be angry at the demon.

He was drained, exhausted, and he felt broken.

He simply leant against the window and let his thoughts swirl around him, let his exhaustion creep over him.

He knew Dean hadn't been fooled into believing he was okay.

He could tell by the way his older brother kept glancing over at him, his face a mask of concern and sympathy.

He could tell because Dean kept the music turned down, and spared Sam the lecture he deserved about running off in the middle of the night and endangering them both.

He could tell because Dean turned into the first motel he saw, even though it looked pretty up market and more expensive than they could really afford.

He was too weary to protest, and he waited in the car without moving while Dean checked them in and retrieved a room key.

Once they were inside Dean locked the door quietly behind them, tossing the keys onto the table along with his jacket and wallet.

"You take first shower." He urged Sam quietly. "Get cleaned up."

Sam looked at him blankly for a moment, and Dean tapped the side of his brother's head gently with his finger. The soft pain reminded Sam of his run in with Gordon, and he nodded slowly, reality dawning on him again.

The shower was hot, and the water pressure was good. It was a rarity for them, but Sam couldn't enjoy it. He showered briefly, but thoroughly, and dressed himself on auto pilot, hardly aware of his own actions.

He settled himself on the bed farthest from the front door, lying curled up on his side, knowing that his older brother would want the bed nearest the entry point.

He was vaguely aware that Dean was taking his turn in the shower, and he shut his eyes slowly, fatigue washing over him and making the room spin lazily. Sleep didn't come, though, because his thoughts were too jumbled, too many. His mind was too busy.

He felt the bed dip gently as Dean settled himself beside his brother, and kept his eyes closed even though whatever antiseptic was being dabbed on his wound stung a little. Dean's gentle fingers deftly applied a butterfly bandage on the split over his brow, careful not to cause unnecessary pain, and Sam wondered with a pang what the hell he was thinking to run away like that.

He expected Dean to rise then and go to his own bed, but a second later he felt his brother's fingers brush gently through his hair and over his scalp.

Such affection was a rarity from Dean at the best of times; in the last few months, it had been almost non existent. He opened his eyes and blinked wearily, questioningly up at his brother.

"Hey." Dean said softly, his hand stilling, but not moving away from Sam's head. It rested there, a reassuring weight against his hair. "You weren't asleep."

"I can't sleep." Sam whispered, knowing it was true despite the weariness in his voice.

Dean was quiet for a little while then, his hazel eyes studying his little brother's face. Finally, he spoke softly again. "It's going to be okay, Sammy."

Sam shut his eyes for a minute to keep tears from rising in them at his brother's words. He'd longed to hear those words, that quiet promise, for months now. And now it had finally come, and he didn't think he could believe it anymore.

He opened his eyes and focused on his brother's knee, which was close to his face, afraid that if he kept his eyes shut Dean would move away. "I'm sorry I ran away." He whispered, meaning every word.

"Don't do that to me again." Dean's words were still soft, but there was an undercurrent of urgency, of pleading.

Suddenly feeling immensely ashamed, Sam reached out and wrapped his fingers around Dean's wrist, the wrist of the hand not resting on his head. "Sorry." He whispered again.

Dean turned his hand over and pulled it back a little so that Sam's hand was resting in his palm. He closed his fingers over it, and Sam could feel the calluses on his brother's hands; the strength in his fingers, and it was strangely comforting.

"You don't need to apologise." Dean said quietly. There was silence again for a while, and Dean started rubbing his thumb back and forth over the back of Sam's hand, smoothing the cool skin there and stroking it gently.

Sam laid still and watched the monotonous motion dully, wishing it would lull him to sleep.

Eventually Dean spoke again. "I have to apologise to you, Sammy."

"What for?" Sam asked, dulled surprise in his voice.

Dean chuckled softly. "Where to start? For the way I've been acting. For the things I've said. For hitting you. For hurting you. For not telling you what Dad said to me. This whole thing, Sam…I've handled it badly, and I know it. I've hurt you and made it harder, but I want you to know…I don't know if you can believe this, but I never wanted…it was never my intention to hurt you. I was trying to protect you from it."

"Dean, I know." Sam said simply, because it was obvious. When did Dean ever do anything else other than try and protect him?

"So you forgive me, just like that?" Dean's hand brushed over his hair again, a gentle reassurance that despite his words, he was not trying to be confrontational. "You must have been pretty pissed at me, Sammy, to run off like that and not tell me where you were going. Not call me back, not leave me a note. Don't you want to yell at me a little? I can take it." His voice was only half joking.

"I'm not mad at you for keeping the secret, or for hitting me, or for the things you said." Sam said slowly, exhaustion forcing honesty.

Dean waited silently, the only movement the stroking motion of his thumb on Sam's hand.

"I'm mad at you for the things you've done to yourself." Sam admitted, feeling a lump rise in his throat.

Dean wanted to leave the conversation alone, but more than that he wanted to ensure his brother never ran off like than on him again. "What things?" He asked quietly.

"The crossroad demon, mostly." He could hear the tears in Sam's voice now, and he wanted to spare his brother any more pain, but he had to know. "I know you thought about the trade, I know you thought about leaving me. You're reckless, you're erratic, you don't care what happens to you…but what about me, Dean? You're all I have left, and you're acting like you don't care if you die, and…and you're scaring me." Sam's voice broke on the last few words, and a few tears finally spilled over and wet his cheeks.

His heart aching, Dean moved his hand away from Sam's head and down onto his face, using his thumb to stroke away the offending tears from his brother's skin.

The tender touch only broke Sam more, and he allowed a soft sob to escape, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to hold the pain in.

Then he felt strong, gentle hands guiding him to sit up, pulling him against Dean's chest, and Dean's hand on the back of his neck guided his head down to pillow against Dean's shoulder. "C'mere." He heard Dean murmur, "Come here, little brother."

He was aware that Dean was finally holding him, finally offering the physical comfort and interaction Sam had so desperately needed for so long. One of Dean's arms was wrapped protectively around his back, cradling his younger brother against his chest, and his other hand cupped the back of Sam's head, holding it against his shoulder.

Somewhere close to his ear, Dean was making soft hushing sounds, as if Sam was a small child again, and Sam let the tender noises soothe his weary tears, let the quiet sobs tearing their way from his aching chest die down.

"I'm sorry, baby, I'm sorry I scared you." Dean crooned, stroking Sam's hair back gently.

"If you could just care about what happens to you, Dean, just a little bit as much as you care what happens to me." Sam pleaded, his tears quieter now, winding their way slowly down his face to dampen his brother's skin and shirt.

"It's okay." Dean tried to hush him, his fingers tangling in Sam's soft hair, and he felt Sam shake his head slightly.

"It's not okay, Dean, it's not. I know you're hurting, and I know…I know it's hard, but I don't want to be alone." More wet, warm tears against his neck. "Please don't leave me." Sam whispered, his voice shaking, and a quiver to match it ran through his body.

"Sammy, I won't. I promise, I won't." Dean tightened his hold on his little brother, wishing he had words to make this right, to take away the pain he had bestowed on his younger sibling.

He remembered the way Sam had looked that night driving away from the crossroads, his face anxious, his voice nervous as he asked his brother about the night's events.

"You never really thought about making the deal…right?"

Dean couldn't answer that; couldn't lie straight to Sam's face, so he looked away and turned the music up to fill the silence. Still, he didn't miss the expression on Sam's face as his brother turned away.

The stricken, wet eyes, the fear and pain and hurt written all over his little brother's face. Sam looked so young and vulnerable and heartbroken in that instant, and Dean wished he had the words to take that look off his brother's face, but he didn't, so he let it go.

And again, that same look in that room at the clinic…the same shattered, stricken expression. God, when did I get so good at hurting him? He wondered, his hand moving again to stroke the soft waves in Sam's hair.

"I'm sorry, buddy." He said again, meaning it. "It's okay now. You're okay."

"I wouldn't be okay without you, Dean." Sam said miserably, turning his face to bury it in Dean's shirt front. "I think…I think that's why Dad did it, you know?"

Dean stiffened almost imperceptibly at the mention of their father. After everything that had happened, he was still carrying a lot of anger for the man. It wasn't a topic he was yet ready to discuss.

Sam was too tired and miserable to notice the change in his brother's posture, and he took advantage of Dean's silence to press the point home. "I miss Dad, Dean, I really do."

"I know you do." Dean whispered, but Sam hadn't wanted a response, and he forced himself on.

"I miss him, Dean, but if it were you…if it had of been you that died…I couldn't…I…" His voice thickened again, and he swallowed hard, trying to force the tears back for long enough to say what needed to be said.

Dean rested his chin on the top of Sam's head. "Shhh. I'm right here."

"Dad knew, that if it came down to him or you…that I need you more." Sam whispered, and Dean felt tears finally building in his own eyes. "I think that's why he did it, Dean. For you, to save you, yeah, but for me too. To save me. Because I need…I need you."

Sam's shoulders shook then, the toll taken on him from the conversation too much. "Please…please understand that." He said through his tears, little, quiet sobs punctuating his words.

"Okay, Sammy." Dean said softly, his voice rough with unshed tears. "Okay, kiddo, I get it, I do. I promise. I'll stop…I'll just stop, okay? I won't leave. I'm not going anywhere. Okay? I'm here, I'm staying. I promise. I promise. Shhhh. I promise."

His voice softened; his words died away to soothing nothings, to the soft sounds one makes to a frightened or upset child to calm them.

Comforted by the promise and the presence of his big brother, Sam let older, happier memories join the jumble in his head. Memories of Dean soothing away nightmares that tormented a younger Sam. Memories of Dean picking him up after he'd fallen down, quieting his tears and patching his hurts.

A favourite memory from a time long ago resurfaced slowly, like an air bubble drifting lightly to the surface of a glass of water.

He was only eight when a vivid nightmare sent him scurrying to his brother's bed, to clamber up beside a sleeping Dean and burrow his way frantically under the blankets, cold little hands reaching out to grasp onto his warmer, stronger older brother.

Dean woke easily, his Sammy radar telling him something was wrong even before those chubby little hands found his shirt.

"Hey, kiddo." He yawned, reaching out a lazy arm to scoop the trembling bundle of little brother closer. "What's the matter?"

"I had a bad dream." Sam confided tearfully, snuggling in.

"What happened in your dream?" Dean asked kindly.

"Something bad happened." Sam sniffled, and wiped his face on the front of Dean's shirt. The older brother didn't press for details. Sam rarely gave them about his nightmares, and only got more upset when John tried to draw them from the child.

"Sammy, nothing bad is going to happen." Dean soothed, using his own sleeve to dry the little boy's wet eyes. "I'm your big brother, and I promise."

Sam's lower lip still quivered, and he looked doubtful. "Promises are made to be broken, Dean." He quoted, making Dean smile in amusement.

"Not between you and me, Sammy. Our promises are special." He told his little brother, tucking the blanket around them both. "Our promises are made to be kept."

Eventually the storm would pass and his tears would die slowly away, and he would fall asleep still nestled in his brother's protective embrace, just like those long ago nights when the full horror the demon would bring to their lives had not yet been comprehended.

Dean sat while Sam slept, and brooded.

He had made a promise he might not be able to keep, because Sam needed to hear it, and because Dean needed to be a big brother again and soothe his younger brother's fears.

Dean Winchester did not make promises lightly.

He tried not to make promises he could not keep.

He had never liked the saying 'promises are made to be broken'.

He had made Sam a promise, and he would do everything in his power to see that he could keep it.