Common Ground

Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Author's Note: Just a warning that this may come across as emotionally OOC for Dean and Sam. I needed to release some emotional baggage I had, so, instead of focusing on me like a well adjusted human being, I happily transferred my emotional outlet to the poor Winchester boys. Hope it's not too out of whack to be entertaining.

Summary:Rest would only come if they both found common ground. Tag to WIAWSNB. No slash.


The question kept replaying in Dean's head long after night fell and Sam's breathing evened out into sleep. What kind of loser was he that he needed his mother to be murdered, needed to be driven to wipe out every evil incarnate he came across, needed his life to be in freakin' ashes to keep him off the 'loser of the year's top five. That without the worst things happening in his life, he wouldn't have even shaped himself up to be a worthwhile human being, to be a son you wanted knocking on your door, at any hour, or to be a brother who didn't snake everything you treasured.

He had told Sam that alternative Sam was a wussie but he had purposely neglected to confess what a grade A loser alternate Dean was..that he was. That he was unworthy to have a close brotherly relationship with Sam. Somehow the words wouldn't come, the confession too close to the bone, too real. He knew in this life, people perceived him as a loser and he could deal with that, could console himself with the knowledge that those people didn't know him, didn't get him in any way, shape or form…not like his father had, not like he hoped Sam did.

Unbidden, alternate Sam's words rang in his head, "I can't believe we're even related." The words hurt, like they had in the dreamscape, hurt because, though Dean had been bracing himself to hear that from Sam all of his life, he had always prayed it would go unsaid. That Sam would always manage to choke down the words, to dim the hatred in his eyes, to not strike a mortal blow into his brother's heart where it was most vulnerable. Alternate Sam was not so reserved making Dean speculate how often, how close his real brother had been to uttering the same sentiment.

Pushing back the bed covers, Dean sat up, heart pounding, mouth dry, head in his hands. He knew it wasn't real, any of it but it had felt real, had played out with such sincerity, such truth, blessed and painful alike. It left him knowing in his gut that if fate had been kinder, that that life could have been his, with its perfections and its failing…and the kicker would have been…he would have taken it all for granted, his mom, his dad, Sam, Jess, Carmen, the Impala's vacant trunk, the life without fears, without pain, without the weight of other people's lives in his hands. He would have been an ungrateful jerk, that ungrateful jerk in that dreamscape, asking what the world could do for him, never what he could do for the world at large.

Raising his head, Dean looked at Sam across the small expansion between their beds, his brother's sleep slackened face lit by the moonlight. Sam's earlier words meshed in his head, overriding, contradicting with alternate Sam's take on his brother. "I'm glad we do, Dean," and the look in Sam's eyes said more than his words did. Told Dean irrefutably the way Sam felt about him, about his brother.

Working sore muscles, Dean stood up and crossed to the chair where his jeans were draped. Pulling on his pants, Dean was unprepared for the world to tilt on him, forcing him to clutch onto the chair to stay upright while the room righted itself again. 'Freakin' blood loss….and genies who can't mind their own business. Thing couldn't just kill me, had to play with my head first, like my psyche's not ground zero for nightmares already.'

Shaking his head, Dean willed his body to obey his command, for the remnants of weakness to bow to his mind's wishes. And after a moment, Dean had control again, control of his aching, weak limbed, cold body. Snatching the room access card and his coat off the table, Dean walked across the room and out the door, shutting the door quietly in his wake.

Shrugging into his coat required more effort, invoked more pain than Dean wanted to acknowledge even to himself. His body had no such misgivings about offering up a protest as it threatened to shut down on him. Stumbling backwards, Dean leaned against the wall beside the room door, his breath labored, his eyes clamped shut, his knees locked because he refused to go down without a fight. With his eyes shut, he could see his mother, could feel her hand brushing his check, could remember her kissing him on his head like she had done all those years ago, could hear her say "I love you" and "We'll be a family" and "No more pain, no more fear, you'll be safe."

The sob burst out of Dean before he knew it was coming, before he could ward against it, before he could call himself a freakin' crybaby of a chick. And once the dam broke, it all poured from him, the agony of loss of what had been gone for twenty two years and gone all over again only a few hours ago. Of the life Sam could have had, the happiness he could have had with Jess, even without his big brother in his life, maybe more so without his presence. The freakin' chance he himself had to live a life with his soul intact, without blood on his hands, scars on his heart and fears latching onto every nook and cranny he possessed. To be a son that John Winchester would have said, "I love you, Son" to instead of a son who earned a "I'm proud of you," as his father's last words. To be a man that deserved a woman's love like Carmen's, who had earned a place to call home, a paycheck in the mail every Friday. To even be a jerk of a brother but still one that Sam valued enough to try and protect, even from himself. To be a child that was blessed with his mother's presence in his life as he grew up, blessed with her feather light kisses on his skinned knees, her gentle reassurances when he was heartbroken over some girl, blest with her steadfast faith in him, love for him, in spite of his grievous faults.

Raising his trembling hand, Dean clamped it over his mouth, trying to smother the sobs that weren't relenting. It was too hard, writing it all off now that he had had a taste of what could have been, maybe what should have been. It wasn't fair! What had he done, or even Sammy for that matter, to deserve this! To not deserve that life! To not be worthy of love?!


Tears streamed down Sam's face as he leaned his head against the wall beside the motel room's door. A new level of agony was ripping his heart apart as he heard his brother's muffled sobs through the too thin door. He wanted to make it better for Dean, to heal him from this latest emotional ambush but he didn't know how, didn't know a way to be what Dean needed, what he deserved. Raising his hand, he brushed it against the wall, knowing that Dean was on the other side, there but gone all the same.

Sam wanted to go to Dean, to let him know that he wasn't alone, to give him whatever strength he could, to show him how much he was loved. But Sam didn't move, knew that Dean had left him behind in the room for a reason, had almost left him behind in this world for yet another reason. 'I can't compare to that, to him having mom, having a steady life, a women to love, to being freed of the burden of taking care of me. I'm a piss poor thing to come back to, to be left with.'

A wave of relieved gratitude produced a silent sob from Sam. Dean had come back, was here, wasn't even more than three feet away from him. No matter what that other life had offered, Dean had fought to be returned here, to him, to this crappy, scary, life. Had made a conscious decision to return to what he knew was the life he had been fated with.

Sam did not have to wonder just how bitterly Dean regretted that decision now. He could hear it in his brother's sobs, had felt it radiating off of Dean's soul, had seen it in the bleakness in his brother's eyes. Dean's painfully honest words echoed in Sam's soul, "I wanted to stay, Sam." But what had washed over Sam was, 'He was going to leave me behind, was going to choose death over life with me.' And now that point was sharper, more wounding as he witnessed his brother's anguished sobs of regret.

'I will never be enough, will never be what he deserves, or even what he needs,' Sam surmised, feeling again that pit of despair that he had felt when he knew he was the reason his mom and Jess were dead, that their family had been shattered apart and left stumbling down the path of a hunter's life. His fault, Dean's pain was again his fault and a "I'm sorry" would never be enough, would never heal anything but it didn't stop the words from screaming in his soul again and again.


Though Sam was staring at the screen of his laptop, he had yet to read a single displayed word. He couldn't seem to read and, at the same time, wonder when he would hear Dean's boots scoffing the sidewalk outside the room, when his brother would come back to the room, to him. 'If he comes back this time. I shouldn't have left him just walk away, I should have stopped him, told him it was too cold for him to take a walk or too soon after he was nearly ensanguined while hung up like a side of beef.' But Sam hadn't, had instead remained leaning against the wall that separated him from his brother and listened as his brother's boots met with the sidewalk, carrying Dean from him into the midnight cloaked town.

Looking to his watch, Sam felt his chest tighten further. Two hours, Dean had been gone now for two hours. Once again, Sam's eyes slid to Dean's cell phone that lay abandoned on the table beside the laptop. Reaching out, Sam slid the phone toward him, closed his hand around it as it came to rest in front of the laptop. It was pathetic how sacred everything that belonged to Dean was to him, like Sam was some unhinged stalker, collecting weird, creepy mementoes. Sam couldn't help smirking as he remembered arguing with Bobby about salvaging the Impala, probably making the car one of the biggest mementoes any stalker had ever dared to try and hide away. But those memories were bittersweet, reminding him too vividly of Dean unmoving in the hospital, not breathing voluntarily, seemingly set on leaving him… 'Just like last night.' A shiver ran through Sam as he relived that dread, that terror again of seeing Dean hanging limply in that warehouse, his face without color, his eyelids flickering and his eyes vacant, dull, dying.

Sam's head swung up as the motel room door swung open to reveal Dean as pale as he was in Sam's memories. Flying from the chair, Sam leapt forward, catching Dean's sagging body in his grasp. "I gotcha, Dean," he soothed, slipping his arm around his brother's waist even as he felt Dean struggling to get his feet under himself again.

"I got it," Dean said through chattering teeth, his ice cold hand landing on Sam's chest, pushing him away.

Jolted by the frigidness of his brother's hand, Sam dismissed Dean's wishes without conscious thought and instead put the palm of his left hand against Dean's left cheek. "Holy crap, Dean! You're freezing!" Sam exclaimed, slipping his arm around Dean's waist and beginning to manhandle Dean toward his bed.

"I'm fine, Sam," Dean denied just as a shiver wracked his body.

"Yeah, you're fine," Sam sallied back, depositing Dean onto the mattress. Crossing to Dean's bag, he started to pull clothing out with carelessness, letting the clothing spill onto the floor.

"Hey, why are you ransacking my wardrobe? Don't tell me you're finally gonna admit that you envy me my style?" Dean joked, rubbing his hands together hoping for the circulation to return.

Finding what he was after, Sam returned to Dean's side, a hoodie in hand. "Envy your style, right?!" Sam chuckled. "You must have frozen all of your brain cells while you were out there." Before Dean could make a reply, Sam ordered, "Take off your coat," his hands already pushing Dean's denim coat off Dean's shoulders.

"I'm cold, Sam. I'm not having heat flashes," Dean protested, attempting to put his coat back in position but Sam refused to relinquish his hold on the coat's lapels.

"I get that, Dean. That's why you should dress in layers, you know, put the hoodie on and the coat."

"Oh…kay," Dean murmured, sounding like a little lost boy as he obediently gave the denim fabric up to his brother's hold again. He didn't even offer up a protest as Sam helped slid the coat from his arms. When his bandaged wrist caught on his sleeve, Dean turned his head to the right and worked to get his hand free. Giving a grunt of satisfaction when he was free of the coat, Dean was unprepared for the hoodie to be pulled over his head, blinding him for a moment.

Dean unleashed a growl of "Sam!" which was muffled by material as he reached up to snag the hoodie. But Sam was already forcing the fabric down. When his head broke free of the fabric, Dean groused, "Back off, dude!" backhanding Sam in the gut, satisfied hearing the startled whoosh of air escape his brother.

With hands on his hips and a yearning to interfere, Sam stood watching Dean struggle to get his aching arms into the sleeves of the hoodie. It was the combination of the wince of pain that marred Dean's face and the sight of the right sleeve snaring Dean's arm that pushed Sam beyond his endurance level. Snagging the right sleeve, Sam straightened it out and threaded Dean's arm through it. Sighing as his hand was pushed away the instant the calamity had passed.

"You have unfulfilled dreams of being a personal valet or what, Sam," Dean said sourly, lancing a disgruntled look at his hovering brother as he pulled the hoodie down into place. Inexplicable, Dean was annoyed by Sam's concern, concern that usually loosened whatever pain was coiling around his heart. But today it made a knot in his gut, felt patronizing, a sham of the highest level. 'I can't believe we're even related' suddenly echoed in his head, and Dean could see how easily that same disgusted expression could slip onto the face of the Sam of the here and now.

Unknowingly, a hard glint entered Dean's eyes as an internal resolve cemented. 'I made it in that life without Sam as my anchor, without Dad as my anchor, I can do it here. Saving people is my job in this life, more than it ever was for Dad, was for Sam before his whole 'saving-others-can-make-me-worthy-of-being-saved' crusade. And if I have to do it alone…' it hurt to think about traveling without Sam at his side, hunting without Sam at his back, hurt like it had walking out of his mother's house, a silver knife in hand, a genie to kill and a nightmare of a life to return to. But he had done it because he couldn't live with trading people's lives for his happiness. 'I can do this without Sam, can save lives even when my own life might not be worth living.'

Sam found himself shivering at the cold resolve overtaking his brother's eyes, at the walls he felt Dean was erecting, the distance that suddenly separated him from his brother. "Dean…" he began in warning, in worry, needing to head Dean off at the pass before he got too far away, slipped away to somewhere Sam was not.

"What Sam? What?! You got something to say, say it," Dean goaded, his eyes blazing now, daring Sam to cross an invisible line to make the break easy…well, easier. Walking away had never been Dean's thing, required too much confidence that he could survive alone, that he would not live his life wishing he had just stayed.

Feeling as if he had been tried and fought guilty of a crime he didn't even know he had committed, Sam shot back, "Yeah, you know I have lots to say, Dean, but the trouble is you never listen!"

Standing, Dean faced Sam and it was like a charge sparked between them, threatening to ignite the entire world. "All I do is listen! You're like a freakin' park ranger telling me stuff I don't care about …like the history of all the trees in the forest and ordering me not to walk on the grass or feed the bears or…"

"Go after a Djinn by yourself," Sam growled back, a feral look in his eyes, his hands clenched at his side, "cause that one's proven to be pretty good advice….if you ever bothered to take my advice."

"Screw you, Sam!" The shove to Sam was all reaction but harder than Dean ever wanted to unleash on his own brother.

Unprepared for the assault, Sam toppled backward, landing on the hard mattress with a whoosh of breath slamming out of his lungs, his eyes wild, shocked as they remained fixed on Dean.

A tinge of shame went through Dean but it couldn't compete with the other emotions that held him firmly in their crushing grip. "You always have to be the perfect one and I have to be the loser, right?" Snidely calling Sam 'mr. perfect' had first erupted from him during the Trickster fiasco but now that bitter label came so much easier. Even in the pseudo world it was Sam that was the respectable one, Sam who was the golden boy, going to law school, marrying the perfect girl next door, heading for the picture perfect future. Leaving Dean the one that no one expected to tied on a few too many and get his marbles rattled around, who worked at a garage, wasn't the owner, not like Dad had been. And it had been so easy for Sam to believe he had broken into mom's house…that he hadn't used a key, had a key, that he would steal his mother's freakin' silver. The bookie lie had rolled off Dean's tongue and there had been no moment of doubt but confirmation instead in Sam's eyes, just more evidence to what Sam already knew…his brother was a first class loser.

Sam felt fear rip through him, not a fear of a physical attack by Dean but twisting worry that Dean would pack his things, walk out, get in the Impala and not look back, would not even miss him. It was not the Dean he thought he knew, not the brother who needed him. No, more importantly than that, Dean was not acting like he wanted him in his life, at his side.

Slowly sitting up on the bed, Sam's eyes latched onto Dean with desperate need, his voice husky when he spoke. "Please, Dean. Don't punish me because that other Sam was too freakin' stupid to treasure you. To know that a brother like you…." Then Sam's voice cracked and his eyes filled, his lips twisted in a tremulous smile. "Well, no one else has a brother like you, Dean. You've always put my happiness before your own, put my life before yours. You think some wussie version of me knows what it's like to have you stand between me and death, between me and my going darkside?! He didn't know you, Dean. Not the real you. But I do, Dean. I do."

Dean swallowed down the emotions crawling up his throat, choking him, threatening to erupt in another bout of sobs because Sam, this Sam, the real Sam,… what he saw in his brother's eyes….It was real, it wasn't some manipulative outpouring, it wasn't conjured up by some genie or even his own warped mind. It was the truth and it humbled him, shamed him, made him sink down on his bed, bow his head, draw his hands up to link at the base of his neck. Sam loved him. 'No matter how screwed up I am, Sam is still here, still with me, still taking my crap.'

"Dean," and Dean could hear the tenderness and worry in his brother's soft call, wasn't surprised to find his bed sink lower as Sam sat beside him, his brother's leg coming to rest against his own.

Dean flinched when Sam's hand lightly settled onto his shoulder but his reaction didn't scare Sam away, instead Sam's fingers desperately wrapped around the fabric of the hoodie, anchoring Dean in place, anchoring Dean with him. It hurt Sam to see Dean like this, wounded, lost, vulnerable and new hatred for the genie flared in him. He knew what it was like to have the life you wanted, to think it would last and to have it all taken away, brutally. It had the power to destroy a soul from the inside out, to make life a punishment instead of a gift, to make everything that came after nothing but a bitter journey. 'But I was blessed…I had Dean. He was my anchor, he was the one patching up my soul a little bit day by day, making me smile instead of cry. Dean made the road ahead a path I wanted to travel…as long as he was by his side.' Sam wanted so badly to offer that same loving support to Dean, to be the brother Dean had always been for him.

A shiver shook Dean's body, reminding Sam that the coldness emanating from Dean wasn't healthy, made him notice the almost translucency of the skin on Dean's hands, to sharply see a flash again of Dean hanging in the warehouse, looking like we was dead. "Dean, you should get under the covers, try and warm up," Sam gently suggested, giving Dean's shoulder a squeeze, glad when Dean sighed and raised his head but felt hurt that his brother purposely kept his eyes trained forward, away from his brother at his side.

Forcing himself to get up, Sam crossed the room and switched the room's climate controls to heater but found that the air conditioner still clunked along. Punching the button to shut off the fan, the fan fell silent but as he clicked the controls to hot and again pushed the fan back on, silence still greeted the room. Uncharacteristically, Sam unleashed a kick to the machine but no heater hummed to life.

"You break it and we'll have to buy it, Sammy," Dean's tired voice came from behind Sam, both easing some of Sam's tension and inspiring his concern. He hated when Dean's voice conveyed weakness and pain, of either the physical or the mental kind. Schooling his features into a controlled composure, Sam turned around, was surprised to see Dean had done what he asked and climbed onto the bed, was lying on his side, facing Sam with the covers pulled up to his chin, his shivering chin, looking too young for Sam, looking younger than even Sam's twenty three years.

A lump rose in Sam's throat because it felt again like he held his brother's life in his hands. Made him remember the suffocating worry he had felt as he watched Dean those days, those weeks after their father had died, afraid that he wouldn't be quick enough, smart enough, strong enough to pull Dean back from the edge he was so keen on walking. That Dean would slip away from him, would choose to leave him behind……like he almost had last night.

Shaking off the pit of worry in his gut, Sam came to his bed and promptly pulled the thin blanket off. Two steps brought him to Dean's bed and Sam almost smiled at the wariness in Dean's eyes as he tracked his motions. Before Dean could protest, Sam draped the blanket over Dean's shivering form.

"Sam!" Dean objected with a growl, working to move his hands from under the two blankets so he could fling Sam's pity offering at his head. In an unforeseen move, Sam sank down to sit on the bed at Dean's side and planted his hands on either side of Dean, pinning the blankets in place, trapping Dean's hands mid motion under their material.

His worried but determined gaze piercing into Dean as he leaned forward, Sam gently reasoned, "Dean, your body's still cold because you lost so much blood. We need to keep you warm until your body replenishes what you lost or you could…."

"Go into shock, yeah, yeah," Dean groused, raising his head from the pillow to glare at Sam since his other limbs were pinned beneath his little brother's too tall and heavy body. "But if the heater's not going to work you're going to need your blanket, Einstein. It may be spring but it feels like winter. Even those of us who are blood deficient can tell that," Dean smugly returned, letting his head fall back on the pillow, watching Sam. "You'll be doing your own shivering routine without your blanket." When triumph flickered in Sam's eyes, Dean had the feeling that he had gotten played by his little brother.

"Fine," Sam allowed. Sitting back, he released Dean from his imprisoning arms and came to his feet. "Move over then," he ordered, covertly amused when Dean's head whipped up to him, shock glittering in his eyes.

"What?" Dean choked out but the look in Sam's eyes wasn't reassuring. "No," Dean refused, but the chatter of his teeth made the word more a plea than a steely objection.

"Yeah, Dean. 'Cause like you said, I need my blanket," Sam said, amusement now creeping into his voice, lighting up his eyes.

"Well, take it, jerk," Dean countered, making a grab for the top blanket, ready to fling in off of him.

"Over, Dean," Sam demanded, his voice having no problem hitting the steely level, In contradiction, the backhanded slap he gave Dean's chest was gentle. "Move, Dean 'cause I'm tired and I would really like to sleep a few more hours before the sun comes up."

Dean wanted to rail against Sam's tactics, at Sam using his instincts to take care of his little brother against him. But there was that look in Sam's eyes, nearly hidden under the stern look but still there, still revealing Sam's concern for him. With a growl of annoyance, Dean rolled across the bed until he was on the other side, his back to Sam. "You even so much as sigh in my direction….." he threatened over his shoulder but Sam cut him off as he turned off the light and his weight rocked the bed.

"Hey you even look in my direction and I'm suing you for sexual harassment, Rico Swavy," Sam shot back, settling onto his back and pulling the one too many blankets over himself.

Resting his head back on the pillow, Dean snorted "Funny…" he began but Sam jumped in with …

"Looking, yes you are. I've been waiting for you to admit that your whole life."

"The other Sam had a better sense of humor," Dean zinged back but silence greeted him instead of an insult and he could sense the stillness that had fallen on Sam's body. "I'm lying, Sam," Dean confessed, his voice hitching, could feel the reassuring way Sam drew in a breath, settled his tall frame more comfortably on the bed. Silence fell between them and Dean hated to breathe, to move, to shatter whatever connection Sam still thought he wanted to have with him but the shivers had again decided to wrack his body without his permission.

Sam's eyes burned as he watched Dean's back shake, felt the tremor in the bed as his brother's body faltered under the blood loss and whatever mojo the genie unleashed on his victims. Sam tentatively reached his hand out toward Dean's shoulder, contemplated moving closer to the shivering body and offering it some more warmth. But Sam closed his hand in a fist and pulled it back before it touched Dean, knowing that Dean would not welcome that form of aid, that somehow instead of fortifying Dean's defenses Sam would crumble them, hurting Dean more deeply than he ever wanted to.

Dean's breath caught in his chest as he sensed Sam's intentions, his muscles coiled, his jaw clenched. As much as he understood what Sam wanted to offer to him, he couldn't accept it. Not and keep everything that was churning in his soul under control. Dean didn't want to lose control in front of Sam, didn't want Sam to see the new fissions in his soul, to finally see how flimsy the walls were that kept him together, that allowed him to continue to be functional and put one foot in front of the other, that gave him the resolve to not even dare to look in the rearview mirror. Or had…until last night, until wishes became truth, until what lay in the rearview mirror was this life and what lay on the highway ahead… 'It wasn't real, Dean. You can't pretend it was real, that it was something you lost. It was something you never had, were never meant to have.'

Dean jerked slightly when Sam got out of the bed, couldn't help rolling onto his back when curiosity got the best of him to watch Sam haul his bag onto the other bed and begin pulling out his clothing. Thinking that Sam was going to opt to put on another layer of clothing, Dean could only draw his brows together in confusion when Sam turned around with two sweatshirts, a coat and two long sleeve shirts draped held in his arms. "You can't be that cold," Dean said, wondering if Sam was getting sick.

"No, but you are," Sam replied, spreading out the long sleeve shirts on Dean's legs.

"Sam, for pete sake, I'm…"

"You're not, Dean!" Sam cut off, his breath coming out in a burst, his eyes reflecting anguish instead of anger. "Just…." Sam bit his lip and looked away and it hurt Dean like it always did.

"I feel like a freakin' washline, Sam," Dean grumbled but his eyes were kind as Sam's eyes swung back to him.

'He's letting me take care of him for my sake, not his own,' Sam realized but he wasn't willing to argue the point when he was getting what he wanted. "Like you ever hung anything out on a washline," Sam sallied back, spreading his coat out on Dean's chest and settling the sweatshirts over his brother's torso. He fought the urge to tuck the garments and blanket around his brother's still shivering body.

"Don't even think about it," Dean warned, and knew by the surprised look and quick smile that he had guessed his brother's intentions correctly.

Climbing back under the covers, Sam looked to Dean and for a moment their eyes met as they both lay on their back before they both shifted their focus to the ceiling in silence.

"I was a jerk," Dean's rough voice broke the silence, sent Sam's eyes skittering to him even as his own stayed on the stucco overhead. "It was my wish and I ended up being a jerk."

Sam knew his brother wanted to pass it off as inconsequential but he recognized the hurt in Dean's voice, in the fact that he wouldn't look at him. "Glad my character wasn't the only one butchered in your 'wonderful life' scenario," Sam teased because he wanted to wipe away the vulnerability in Dean's eyes, to loosen the tension in his brother's pale jaw.

"I was a jerk to you…to that Sam. It was my actions that put a wall between us." Dean snorted, "I snaked your…his ATM Card, his prom date and missed his graduation."

"So nothing much has changed," Sam rejoined, his tone light, a true smile on his lips as Dean's head swung to him and his indignant eyes lanced into his. "You're still a jerk who likes credit card fraud, stole the first love of my life, Jennifer Palmer, and blew off things like my play when I was cast as a carrot, a talking carrot, no less."

The haunted look faded a little in Dean's eyes as he defended, "Hey, you benefit from my credit card cons. And, please, dude, Jennifer Palmer was your 10th grade history teacher who was waaaaayyyyy out of your league, not to mention you were jail bait. As for your starring role as Bugs Bunny's favorite snack," Dean mockingly grimaced, "man, I am sorry about that. Guess I should have came and sat in the front row …but my puking up everything I ate in the whole ten years of my life might have been a little distracting to your audience and fellow playmates."

Sam laughed, "I still say you purposefully ralphed on your English textbook," remembering his childhood with fondness this time.

A devious smile lit up Dean's pale face, "You should have seen the look on Mr. Hinkle's face when I handed that book to him, I thought he was gonna lose his cookies right there in front of the whole class."

"You are disgusting, you know that, right?" Sam said laughing, with awe in his eyes as they fondly held Dean's.

"It's a talent, Sammy," Dean boasted, settling more comfortably on the bed as the shivers abated seemingly without his notice. But as Sam's eyes became serious, Dean sighed, "Alright, ask whatever question you're dying to ask Sam." Bracing himself to recount how happy Sam had been, how beautiful Jessica had been, how much mom had loved both of her sons, Dean was blindsided by Sam's quiet, somber question.

"You told me how you figured out it wasn't real but how'd you break free of the dream, Dean? The hospital…they …" Sam let his words stop, having forgotten that he wanted to let Dean believe the girl they had rescued from the genie would make a full recovery.

"The hospital what?" Dean pressed, intensity back in his green gaze.

Sighing, Sam revealed, "The hospital said they were working to stabilize the girl but she hadn't …ah woken up yet…didn't respond like she should have to their tests. I mean you came out of it on your own, Dean even before I removed the …needle from your neck," Sam swallowed, hating the memory of pulling the needle free from his brother's vulnerable flesh, of seeing blood, Dean's blood pooling in a bag, waiting for…Shaking his head clear of that path of thought, Sam finished, "but she wasn't coming around Dean, not in the warehouse and not in the hospital."

When Dean rolled his head to face the ceiling, Sam felt his heart drop to his stomach in dread. Reaching out to Dean, Sam wrapped his fingers around Dean's forearm, forestalling Dean's next action, namely to turn his back on him, to shut him out. "Dean, I want to know," Sam gently implored, his eyes watching as Dean swallowed hard before his head turned and his cloaked eyes fell upon him.

"Sam, it's not important," Dean replied, knowing that Sam wouldn't like the details.

"I think it is, especially if you don't want to tell me," Sam pressed, needing to know the answer with more intensity than before.

Attempting to pull his arm from Sam's hold, Dean hissed when his brother's fingers made a grab to hold on and ended up latching onto his bruised wrist.

Sam released Dean's wrist like it was fire and stammered, "Dean, I'm sorry, I didn't mean…"

"It's alright, Sam. Just surprised me more than…" Dean started to assure but again Sam finished his sentence.

"Hurt you, right?" There was a reprimand in Sam's tone, if not in his look. "Fine, I'm here if you want to talk, Dean," Sam relented sadly and started to turn his back to Dean when Dean's hand wrapped around his wrist, stopping his motion. Stilling, Sam tried to keep the hope in his eyes shielded as his eyes met Dean's.

Releasing Sam's wrist, Dean sighed in big brotherly annoyance, "You're a pain in the butt, Sam. I swear, you angle for confessions more than a priest."

"Only from you, Dean," Sam sallied back, a soft smile on his lips as he sensed Dean's barriers were coming down.

Dean cleared his throat, tried to prepare himself for Sam's response and then he began, "I…well, I went on an old wives' tale…."

"That goes like…" Sam prodded, hanging on Dean's every word, his every gesture.

Steeling himself for the consequences of this confession, Dean announced, nonchalance in his tone, "If you're dying in your dream, you'll wake up."

"What?!" Sam nearly shouted, rolling to his side, sliding his elbow under him, so that he was propped up enough to allow himself to achieve a vantage point to glare down at Dean. "Dean, tell me you didn't…." but his words broke off, got stuck in his throat at the cool, stubborn look in Dean's eyes that answered his question with brutal frankness. Shaking his head in disbelief, in horror, Sam wheezed out, "But you knew, right?! Without a shadow of a doubt that it was a dream, that you weren't actually going to die, weren't actually going to kill yourself. You knew that, right, Dean?!"

In no mood to sugarcoat the truth, not when Sam had manipulated him into the confessional stall, Dean coolly admitted, "Well, I was 90 sure."

Recognizing the truth in Dean's eyes, Sam's heart seemed to skip a beat before it took off on a run for its life. "Crap Dean!" he exclaimed, sitting up, turning to fully face Dean, who was starting to make the motions of rising as well. Putting a hand on Dean's chest, Sam preempted his brother's motion. "So what? You walked out in front of a bus because you were guessing it was a dream?!" Incredulousness and terror and anger intermingled in Sam's tone, sparked from his eyes, conveyed itself when his hand gave Dean's chest a shove before pulling free to clutch on to the blanket pooled in front of his knees.

Indignation rose in Dean as he denied, "I didn't do it with a bus, Sam!"

"Yeah, fine, then how did you do it, Dean. How did you kill yourself!" Sam felt his control slipping, felt like this was all surreal, like Dean's dream. His brother wasn't suicidal, not in real life and not in some dream.

Seeing the horror growing in Sam's eyes, knowing that his kid brother was going to be like that other Sam, would start making plans for his stay in a nice rubber room, Dean briskly said, "Doesn't matter how only that it worked."

A million bloody scenarios flickered through Sam's mind leaving him feeling more scared than all of his vision combined had generated from him. Well, except for the one that had Dean dying at the hand of Max. "You blew your stupid head off, didn't you," anger soaked Sam's every word, made his hands tremble; it had to be anger because fear was foolish, it was a dream nothing more. 'A dream in which my brother blows his head off.' Suddenly, Sam felt sick to his stomach.

Hating the way Sam paled, Dean railed back, hoping to wipe that gutted look from his brother's face. "Haven't you been paying attention. I wasn't a hunter there. The Impala was naked, no salt, no shotgun."

Sam leveled Dean with a censorious look, his voice as dangerous as Dean had ever heard it when directed at him, "You went after the Djinn unarmed! Dean…" Sam fell silent as everything fell into place, made sense, well, made sense in the way that Dean's recklessness had of making sense. A granite set overtook Sam's jaw even as a deadly gleam darkened his eyes as they burned into Dean's. "You used a knife, didn't you? The knife you took along to kill the Djinn."

Knowing that there was no use in concealing what Sam already figured out, Dean lowly taunted, "It was a butcher job of a hari-kari but…." Dean's breath was ripped from him as Sam's hands latched onto the hoodie material on his chest and shook him.

"Dean…what if.." Sam's voice broke apart but his eyes refused to stay silent, told Dean how badly his confession wounded Sam, how screwed up and confused Sam felt about his brother committing suicide to survive.

Dean wrapped his hands around Sam's wrists, not to dislodge his brother's hold but to reassure Sam, to steady him, to tell him that he was here, was fine, wasn't going anywhere. But as always Sam's eyes pleaded with him, told him that actions meant nothing without words, without promises, without reassurances. "Sam, it worked ok. Brought me back here, got me out of never never land. I know it was a risk but…dude, our whole lives have been about risks."

For a moment, Sam's eyes seemed ready to overflow and then Sam blinked, nodded his head, before loosening his hold on the fabric clenched in his fists. When Dean slipped his hands from his wrist, Sam managed to dredge up a smirk, "That's it, Dean," his voice husky but steady now as he looked at Dean, "your knife privileges are hereby revoked," as he slipped his hand under Dean's head and slid the large knife free.

"Hey, that's my…" Dean protested, reaching for the knife but Sam was already tossing the knife onto the other bed.

"Your what? Security blankie?" Sam taunted, sliding under the covers again before looking to Dean.

"Precautionary measures, Sammy. Precautionary measures," Dean explained with put upon annoyance.

"Ah, don't worry, Dean. I'll protect you, tonight," Sam cooed, the words coming out as a taunt but in his heart, he meant them fervently. Nothing was going to take his brother from him, not some genie with a taste for his brother's blood, not some callous alternate reality version of himself and certainly not some evil incarnate that was too blind to realize that the connection that bound Sam to Dean would be his downfall. Dean's words rang in Sam's soul, 'I'm saving you Sam, no matter what.'

"I'm saving you, Dean, no matter what," Sam vowed, a grin on his face as Dean groaned.

"We're not hugging, man and if you even …"

"I hear tickling is a great cure for hypothermia…" Sam cut in, a mischievous smile lighting up his face as he raised his hands toward Dean.

Swatting Sam's hands away, Dean shot back, "Hey I can't help you were a gullible kid, Sammy."

"No, I remember you saying that the older brother's always right," Sam recounted, getting past Dean's defenses and poking a finger in Dean's side. Dean jerked back like he had been touched with a cattle prod.

Latching onto Sam's wrist, Dean struggled to keep Sam's hands away from his side, knowing that Sam's efforts were pathetically weak in deference to his older brother's crappy state of health. Any other time, Dean would have resented the babying, but today it was making his eyes mist over. Pushing Sam's hands away with a glare promising harsh consequences, Dean warned, "Now keep your hands to yourself or you'll be wearing two casts this time around," he warned.

Sam only laughed but rolled onto his back, conceding the battle.

"Prick," Dean threw out, unconsciously holding his breath, waiting, anticipating, hoping.

"Jerk," Sam instantly volleyed back and was surprised by the wide smile that lit up Dean's face. "You do know that to everybody else, that's not a compliment, right?" Sam laughed.

"We're not like everybody else, Sammy," Dean said, his smile staying in place, and even notching up in brilliance when Sam shook his head before rolling over.

There was still an ache in Dean's soul but the pain was dulling more every second he spent in Sam's company. He and Sam were not like everyone else and now Dean knew they weren't meant to be. Like Sam said, the path they traveled, it hurt…but it was worth it because at the end of the day, he could live with his choices, knew in his heart that he had done some good in this life, had been true to the road that had been carved out specifically for him. And he didn't walk the treacherous path alone, knew that when his steps faltered, his brother would be there to pull him to his feet, that, when push came to shove, Sam protected him as fiercely as he protected his little brother.

A tender smile fell on Dean's face as he remembered a wish he had made long ago, a wish for a little brother. He could still hear his mother say, "Dean, your wish came true," as she put baby Sammy into his hands, trusting him with his brother's fragile life. Rolling onto his side, putting his back to Sam, Dean eyes fluttered closed and his last thought before sleep overcame him was the treasured memory of his mother singing, "I wish upon a star."


The End.


OK, I know I should have been busy with the 2nd chapter of "Translations" but this story just begged to be written and I didn't have the heart to let it fall along the wayside.

Hope it wasn't too sappy but like I warned ya, I was transferring my own roller coaster emotions to Dean and Sam, making their already angst filled lives even worse. After all, misery likes company but hey I did try to do some healing on their poor world weary souls so that has to count for something right?

Thanks for reading.

Have a great evening!

Cheryl W.