"Burden"

Disclaimer: I own nothing, and profit from nothing, related to CW's "Supernatural," and write for enjoyment only.

Warning: This story refers to events that occurred in the Season Two finale, and takes place immediately following that episode.

Chapter One: "The Wishing Tree"

Sam stood in the doorway to Dean's makeshift bedroom and watched his big brother sleep on the old cot, just as he did every early morning since that night in the cemetery three weeks ago when they killed the Yellow Eyed Demon. They had been staying at Bobby's since then, Ellen too, to prepare for the fight against the army of demons that had been released from Hell's gate. Many hunters had been in and out since then, Bobby's place having become the unofficial headquarters. Progress had been slow and information little, but that was still more than Sam could say for his vow to save Dean from the deal he made to bring him back to life.

It baffled him how Dean could sleep so soundly night after night with all that had happened. Sam, set up in the attic on a sleeping bag, got two or three hours of sleep a night at best, when his mind was finally too exhausted to think and his eyes too blurry to read his laptop screen. He understood now, never really understanding before, what it must feel like for Dean knowing his father died to save his life. He wouldn't let Dean die for him in a year and his soul to suffer in Hell forever. He just wouldn't. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, trying in vain, he knew, to dispel the forever nagging headache that had begun about two and a half weeks ago. It had started as a dull ache that came and went but now that ache was constant. Advil had helped at first, but he had given up after realizing that he was up to ten a day with no significant benefit. It worried him a bit, but not enough to tell Dean or waste any energy on thinking about it.

As the morning sun rose, light filtered in through the blinds eventually casting a glow over Dean's face. He stirred and then shot up in bed when he saw Sam watching him.

"Jesus! You scared me! You want to give me a heart attack and Fed Ex me to Hell early?" Dean said, a smile on his lips. The smile quickly left his lips when he saw Sam wasn't smiling. Whoops, Dean thought. Bobby hadn't found that type of humor amusing either.

"What's wrong?" Dean said as he ran a hand over his face, now covered with stubble.

"Nothing. I was just going to make some breakfast and wanted to see if you were awake," Sam answered smoothly. Dean knew better, of course, and looked more intently at his baby brother. Sam looked like he had already made a round trip to Hell and back. Sammy locked eyes with him only for a moment before looking down, pretending to concentrate on the difficult task of shoving his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. With this motion, Sam's shirt pulled tighter on his torso, and Dean noticed for the first time that he looked thinner than he remembered.

"You sure you're okay?" Dean said as he got up from the bed. He grabbed his clothes off of the floor after smelling them and deeming them acceptable.

"I'm fine," Sam said. I'm not the one dead in a year, he thought.

"Uh huh. Well, I'm going to go shower. Save me some eggs or something," Dean said, deciding to let the subject drop for now

"Sure. See you later then," Sam said as he left.

Sam had no intention of eating breakfast, however, and went to find Bobby after he heard Dean turn on the shower. He found Bobby working on one of his cars in the garage.

"Hey Bobby," Sam said as he leaned against a nearby workbench.

"How's it going, Sam?" Bobby asked without looking up from the car engine. Bobby hated to take time away from the preparations, but the repairs paid the bills.

Sam paused, not sure of where to begin.

"I need your help…to fix something," Sam began.

"Fix what?" Bobby asked, still distracted with the engine.

"Dean. Me. It's all wrong," he answered.

Bobby put down his tools, wiped his hands on a nearby rag, and looked at the youngest Winchester.

"What are you talking about?" He asked.

"I'm not supposed to be here. Dean's not supposed to die in a year. How do I fix it?" Sam looked Bobby right in the eyes so he would know that he was serious. Bobby sighed, he could see the kid was struggling to keep it all together. He had been noticing it for the past couple of weeks now. He wondered when Sam would approach him with this very conversation.

"Sam, we'll do our best to find a way to keep Dean alive. But for now, you know we have to focus all of our attention on stopping the demon army or none of us will be here in a year," Bobby answered, putting his had on Sam's shoulder.

"I don't think you understand. This has to be done now. I can't think about anything else. I need some help here. Just point me in the right direction. Please," Sam said, not caring if he sounded like he was pleading. Because he knew he was pleading.

"Look, why don't you lie down for awhile? You don't look so good," Bobby advised. Sam roughly shrugged out from under Bobby's hand and punched the nearby wall. He would not be babied. Bobby's eyes widened at the uncharacteristic display of aggression.

"I told you Bobby. It's all wrong!" Sam yelled.

"Sam!" Sam spun around at the sound of Dean's voice. "What the hell are you yelling about? What's all wrong?"

"Just leave me alone!" Sam muttered as he stormed out of the garage.

Dean began to walk after him, but Bobby stopped him.

"Just let him go for awhile. He'll be no good to talk to like that," Bobby explained.

"I'm worried about him," Dean said as he watched Sam disappear into Bobby's graveyard of cars.

"We all got a lot to worry about," Bobby said as he went back to working on the engine.

Sam began to run, the cool rain a welcome feeling on his face and neck. Sam remembered Dean smiling about his joke that morning. Sam felt alone in his burden, almost as if it was all a practical joke that no one told him was over. He slowed to a fast walk when he finally reached the weeping willow tree at the far corner of Bobby's property. He had found this spot the second night they had been there and he immediately found it special for a reason he could not put into words. It was there that he prayed everyday, sometimes twice, for a way to save his brother. No answer had come to him yet, and a nagging voice in the back of his mind told him that he would not be the one to save Dean. He was afraid that the voice was right, and it scared him. They had saved so many others on their hunts, was there no way to save themselves?

He kneeled by the tree, ignoring the mud, and clasped his hands together. He closed his eyes as he began to pray. Tears fell from his eyes as they did every time, joining the rain already running down his face. Please, God, please help me…