Hello everybody!!! I haven't talked to you guys in a while, it's been a long time since a plot bunny bit me...and I've just moved house, and am starting to get settled in. I've missed you all! Just to let you know, this one may seem a little disjointed and different to my other stuff. It's a bit ramble-y and I'm not exactly sure where it's going yet. But I've got a bit done, so I thought I'd post and rely on you guys, as usual, for feedback and suggestions. Or just to say hi! So, the parts written in present tense are happening now, and the parts written in past tense are what has already happened...takes place late in season two, but before 'Heart', because I hadn't seen it yet when I started writing this one. Looking forward to hearing from you! xoxo

'Blessed is he who loves his brother as much when he is sick and useless as when he is well and can be of service to him.'

-St Francis of Assisi

Dean brings them here, to X, because he can't think of anywhere else to take them.

He wants to take Sam somewhere warm and safe, where he can recover, where Dean can watch him and care for him, but he's starting to think there is nowhere warm and safe left in the world. At least, not for them. And he knows that's a fucking depressing thought, and an incredibly self pitying one, but right now he can't help it and he doesn't care. Nothing seems to go their way anymore. Nothing.

They arrive in the middle of the night, because Dean has been driving for twelve straight hours only stopping for gas. He drives because it's something he can do, something he has control over, something he is good at amongst the million things that he's not good at and he can't control. Like fixing his little brother, putting him back together and taking that awful expression out of his eyes.

He glances over at Sam, who is sitting slumped in the passenger seat, in the same position he's been in for the last twelve hours of the trip. Dean thinks it must be damn uncomfortable by now, and knows that Sam is going to pay the price for his stillness when he eventually tries to move again.

The glow from a streetlight invades the car and lights up Sam's features momentarily before they pass by it, then Sam's expression is lost again in the shadows. Dean doesn't need to see his little brother's face, though, to know how he looks.

Sam looks tired, lost, broken, defeated. There are shadows under his eyes because he hasn't slept in days; there are bruises on his face, a painful reminder of their last hunt, the one that has left Sam so broken and exhausted. Dean, too, but Sam is worse off, and Dean is forcing himself to hold it together, to be strong for his injured little brother.

He sees a sign for a motel that has twenty-four hour check in, and a neon green sign flashes 'vacancy' under that. He pulls into the parking lot and puts the car in park, his hand resting on the keys, ready to turn them in the ignition, ready to turn the car off.

"Sam, we're going to stop here for the night, okay?" He asks because he needs to check; because he so desperately wants to do whatever it is that Sam needs right now, whatever it is that Sam needs to make him all right.

But his little brother doesn't reply or even move, although Dean knows he is awake because the lights outside are reflecting in Sam's eyes. Sam won't look at him; he's staring out into the night. He won't look at Dean, he won't talk to Dean, he certainly won't tell Dean what it is he needs, so Dean has to guess and hope he's getting it right. Right now his best guess is that what Sam needs is sleep, a warm bed and a soft pillow to encourage and entice him into the rest he's been so stubbornly avoiding.

"I'll be right back." Dean exits the car, closing the door quietly behind him and almost jogging to the office. He rings the after hours bell impatiently, one eye on the dark interior of the building, one eye on the Impala and Sam. Even when the manager arrives to check him in, a middle aged lady in a robe and slippers, he keeps most of his attention focused on his brother. He signs for the room haphazardly and takes the offered key absently, impatient to be near Sam again, to make sure he's all right and that he hasn't slipped further into the silent world he's been inhabiting more often than not lately.

Finally, key in hand, he emerges from the office, and retrieves both their bags. He crosses to the passenger side door, opens it slowly and carefully, sliding a hand inside to support Sam, who has been leaning against the door all this time.

"Come on." He coaxes softly, the way he might talk to a frightened child or a small puppy. "Time to go inside now, Sammy."

Sam just looks up at him blankly, blinking slowly, and Dean can tell that Sam wants to understand what is being asked of him, that he wants to snap out of it, wants to stop being this helpless, lost person he has become, but that he doesn't know how.

"I'll help you." Dean promises, softly, and he's not just talking about getting inside.

Something flutters behind Sam's eyes; an emotion there and then gone so quickly Dean almost misses it. Then his brother nods, almost imperceptibly, and allows Dean to draw him from the car, one hand wrapped securely around his shoulder. When Sam tries to stand and move his knees almost buckle, but Dean is there already, an arm wrapped firmly around Sam's waist in preparation for this problem. Sam grabs at him anyway, to hold himself up, and his fingers twist in Dean's shirt, holding on tightly.

"I've got you." Dean reassures him, feeling a small flower of hope blossom in his stomach. He didn't expect Sam to try and save himself from falling. If Sam doesn't want to fall, maybe things will be okay again after all.

He helps his brother to the room, helps him inside and eases him down on the bed farthest from the door. He slides Sam's jacket from his shoulders, unbuttons his over shirt, kneels down and unties his brother's shoes and tugs off his socks. Sam allows all this, his eyes drooping in exhaustion, swaying slightly where he sits. Dean holds him still with one hand while he turns down the bed, then helps him lay down and tucks the blankets over him as if he is a small child again, and not a grown man who's actually taller than Dean.

Sam's hand reaches out and closes over Dean's wrist, his touch tentative and soft, not demanding, not revealing his need. But Dean knows anyway and immediately sits down on the side of the bed, smoothing the covers over his brother's chest. "I'm here." He says, quietly, and Sam looks relieved.

"Thanks, Dean." He whispers, and Dean can see him fighting to keep his eyes open.

He lays a hand on Sam's head and runs his fingers through the wavy brown hair. "Go to sleep now, Sammy."

Sam has obeyed him, giving in to the exhaustion, when Dean's phone rings softly in his pocket. He pulls it out and glances at the caller ID, and when he sees Ellen's name, he turns the phone off and tosses it away.

He can't talk to her right now. If he does, he'll say things he'll regret, and he knows that. Now, in the aftermath, some small part of him blames her for this, for what has happened to him and his Sammy, and he knows that's not fair.

There was no way Ellen could have known what would happen.

They were cruising down a highway when she rang them, not going anywhere in particular, just driving. They'd finished off a poltergeist in Ohio the night before, and there was a muted sense of contentment in the car. Dean, in particular, felt satisfied. His car was purring like a kitten, ACDC was blaring from the speakers, and Sam was safe and sound beside him. Uninjured, healthy, happy. Life was good.

Then the music changed; a conflicting tune joining the classic rock, and Dean shot his younger brother a disapproving glare as Sam turned down the music.

"Dude," he complained without any real heat, watching out of the corner of his eye as Sam glanced at the screen of his mobile before answering.

"Hello?" He turned the music off altogether, ignoring his older brother.

"Sam. Hi, sweetie." The female voice that was slowly becoming familiar to his ears greeted him.

"Hi, Ellen."

"How are you boys doing?"

"Fine, thanks. What's up?" Sam liked Ellen, but being around Dean for so long was starting to rub off on him. Chats on the phone were kept simple and brief.

"I've got a job for you and Dean, if you'd like to take it."

"A job?" Sam repeated, glancing over at Dean, who raised his eyebrows and inclined his head slightly. "Okay, what is it?"

"An old friend of mine called me this morning. Her husband was a hunter too. They have a son, he'd be about ten now. Faye-that's my friend's name-she thinks her son may be possessed."

"Possessed?" Sam's voice was a little stiff, and Dean glanced over at him. Possession was still a touchy subject around Sam, who still felt guilty about what he'd done while under the power of the demon they knew as 'Meg'. Sam avoided Dean's gaze, waiting until his older brother looked back at the road before continuing his conversation. "What makes her think that?"

"Well, there's a few warning signs. It's early days yet, she says she only noticed changes about a week ago…but Jordan's been acting up, which isn't like him…talking to an imaginary friend all the time, saying things that are completely out of character…and last night, she found their pet cat, dead under his bed. She said someone killed it."

Sam frowned a little. "Okay. Where does she live, Ellen?"

Dean waited while Sam jotted down an address and said quick goodbyes to Ellen. He hung up and tossed his mobile onto the back seat.

Before Dean could speak, Sam did. "So looks like we've got a new gig." He said quickly, not looking at Dean.

"What's the story?" Dean kept his voice neutral and listened in silence while Sam relayed what Ellen had said.

Once he'd finished, Sam pulled out the road map they kept in the glove box and unfolded it, and Dean wasn't fooled. Sam was nervous, or worried.

"Sam." His younger brother didn't look up from the map. "Sam." He tried again.

"I'm just trying to work out the quickest way to get there." Sam muttered, tracing lines on the paper with his finger. Dean rolled his eyes and reached over, snatching the map away.

"Dude, I know the quickest way to get there. It's not far. But right now, I'm not convinced that we should go."

Sam hesitated, torn, wishing his brother wouldn't do this. He knew exactly what Dean was talking about, and knew that pretending he didn't wouldn't hold off the conversation for long. But it was one he really didn't want to have.

"Come on, Dean." He said softly, looking down at his hands. "This is what we do."

"Maybe it's too soon."

"We've been hurt by spirits a hundred times." Sam pointed out. "Does that mean we're never going to hunt a spirit again?"

"No, Sam, dammit, that's different." Dean raised his voice a little. "Stop being so…I know what you're trying to do, and it's not going to work."

Sam sighed. "Dean, I'll be fine. We'll probably be safer than we would on any other hunt. We've got those charms Bobby gave us, right?"

"Yeah." Dean conceded reluctantly.

"So." Sam shrugged. "It's just a simple exorcism. Won't take long. Let's just do it, okay?"

This time he did look over at his brother, and Dean saw weariness and sadness in his expression, and that made him want to say no. Sam was tired, Dean could see that. He'd been tired ever since his possession, moving like he was on auto pilot, not letting himself get overly involved in anything, and that wasn't like Sam. Dean knew his little brother was trying to deal with what had happened; was struggling to overcome the guilt of having killed a man…even though it wasn't him that had done it, and he'd had no control over his body at the time. Dean wasn't good at the touchy-feely stuff, and even if he had been he was unsure there was anything he could have said or done to get Sam through this. It was Sam's own personal battle, and it was one Dean was afraid his little brother was losing.

He had his puppy dog eyes on though, which meant Dean couldn't say no, even if he wanted to.

"Okay." He muttered, allowing Sam to retrieve the map and begin folding it carefully back up.