Aftershock

Summary

All actions have consequences, some immediate, some delayed. The brothers find out the hard way that just because the demon is defeated, it does not mean that they have escaped unscathed.

Disclaimer

Unfortunately I still do not own anything to do with Supernatural – I'm not sure I could be trusted to behave if I did!

Author's Note

This is my SFTCOL(AR)S Secret Santa Summer Fic for Angie4 – Please accept my sincerest apologies, Angie, for this not being finished to deadline but will only be a few chapters long so no long waits! I hope you don't mind but I am hoping to combine your three plot ideas – won't go into them now as I don't want to give too much away! I hope this is ok for you, please let me know if not as I can always change subsequent chapters…

Thanks to Gem for her super fast beta-ing and her patience. Any fic of mine is infinitely improved by her generous and talented involvement!

Warnings

There may be the odd naughty word creeping in here and there… Oh and will refer to episodes up to and including the Season 2 finale so if you haven't seen them and don't want to be spoiled, please go no further…

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Chapter 1

Sam was tired.

God, it felt as though he had been tired for an eternity; a bone-chilling weariness that seemed to seep into his soul.

He tried to pinpoint when this sensation had started, even though sometimes, it felt like it had always been part of him. Had it been as early as when Jess had died? He had felt the exhaustion of despair and depression then, but this, this was different. Had it been with his first vision, when he had realised that normalcy was a dream now out of reach and withheld from him?

Or perhaps when Dean had revealed their father's secret and Sam had finally understood that his fears were that one step closer to reality?

No, the young hunter's well-trained mind was focussed, this time the hunt within himself. He clinically thought back over the last two years, and there it was.

No, the first time he had felt this was after Meg's possession. Since then, there had been an, icy core deep inside that seemed to be leeching all warmth and strength from him. He'd suppressed it as much as he could, sometimes even completely. But now, it wouldn't be ignored.

He fought the urge to close his eyes. Dean had left him alone in the car while he had gone into the mini-mart for supplies, and he didn't want to be sleeping when Dean came out, didn't want to look like anything was wrong at all.

Dean's mood had lifted since he had killed the yellow-eyed demon and now they knew that their father's soul was no longer residing in hell. Despite his deadline, and isn't that an apt turn of phrase, Dean had regained some of his light heartedness and optimism. A weight had been lifted from his shoulders and like hell was Sam going to put it back there because he couldn't cope with the after-effects of a possession.

He couldn't let Dean down again. It was his fault Dean was in the position he was in now. If only he had been stronger and had killed Jake in the first place instead of turning his back like some green, doe-eyed civilian. And as always, it was Dean paying the price for his weakness.

He relished the return of his confident and enthusiastic older brother. It had been a hard year for both of them, but particularly hard on Dean.

Dean had lost the father he had adored and revered and who, in the end, had sacrificed himself for his son. Guilt for his father, shame for what he believed was an unequal bargain and anger for the same had eaten away at him.

On top of that, he had the burden of a secret that should never been laid upon him, that he had to save his brother and if he could not, he'd have to kill him. The pressure of that burden alone was debilitating. He could never relax. Fear that his failure would condemn a brother he had sworn to keep safe from harm haunted him, the terror that one day, a fate he could not protect Sam against would overwhelm him.

And his defence mechanism, his belief in black and white, that good and bad were distinct and defined had been stripped from him.

And it's all my fault.

Oh, Sam had been angry at first for Dean keeping his secrets, first their father's, then his own, but that had only lasted briefly. After all, Sam knew about keeping secrets. Especially those that were meant to protect the ones he loved. He had still not told his brother of what the demon had shown him, that their mother knew a damn sight more than they had ever believed about the supernatural world in general, and their own personal demon in particular.

What was the point in telling him?

Both the Demon and Mary were now dead. It was a secret that held nothing but pain for his brother, who idolised the memory of his mother. Dean who had only been recently reminded of what could have been, of a mother's love, by the djinn.

Sam felt his eyes begin to close again and he jerked back in the seat, startled. He hissed as the sudden movement cause a searing pain along his spine. His back still burned, a hot spasm in stark contrast to the cold chill he felt trickle down the nape of his neck.

What was he thinking? Sleeping? He had a year, just one year in which to figure out a way to save his brother. No, he had to suck it up and get on with the hunt.

Screw the demons; he had a brother to save and a lifetime of debt to repay.

The cold seemed to spread, penetrating and pervasive, and he reached across to turn up the heater.

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Unknown to the younger hunter, Dean was watching surreptitiously through the large glass windows of the mini-mart as he paid for their goods.

Sam was tired. Exhausted, really.

Then again, it wasn't that long since Sam had been dead.

It had to have taken a lot out of him; maybe a vacation would do them both good.

But they had at least a couple of hundred demons on the loose, hardly the time for a vacation.

And how did Sam know how many had escaped? Dean hated his mind sometimes.

But if there was one thing that Dean had learned, it was that there was always another demon – he only had one brother.

His brow furrowed as he watched Sam slide further down in his seat, curling in and hugging himself as if he were cold. It was mild and sunny day, and when Dean had left the car, he had been roasting. He'd even loitered around the chilled section to cool off.

And if that great-looking chick that had followed him in all too thin t-shirt had walked down here, what of it? Pure coincidence.

Dean's shook his head as his eyes caught Sam leaning across to fiddle with something on the dash. Sam seemed to feel the cold more these days; his already broad shoulders were continuously wrapped in layers, making him look even larger but, at the same time, smaller. Like a little boy swathed in clothes two sizes too big for him.

It reminded the elder brother of when they were young and Sam had been sick bundled himself in Dean's clothes. Dean had once described germs as tiny monsters that cast curses on you that made you ill. So Sam had rationalised that since Dean fought off monsters all the time, then his clothes would keep the germs away and he would get better quicker. Sam's tiny frame would be dwarfed in his big brother's clothes, sleeves flopping over his hands and sweaters that reached his ankles, and he would snuggle up against his brother's chest and demand a story.

Dean had always been good at stories. From telling teachers how he and Sam had received their sometimes all-too-visible bruises and injuries to why their father couldn't make the parent/teacher meetings. From convincing impertinent motel clerks to wait an extra day until John returned from the hunt to pay the bills, to distracting the girls at the checkouts while Sam stole food or nurses when they needed to raid medical supplies.

He was a master of tall tales and a weaver of truths and half-truths to create a believable lie.

But the ones he took most pride in were the ones where he seemed to almost magically ease Sammy's fears and take him away from any physical pains and upsets. His rendition of the Three Blind Psychic Psychotic Mice had helped Sam forget his fear of thunder and lightening. Snow White had also received the Dean treatment with Demonic Dwarves and the Hunter as the hero, with Snow White always represented by their Mom…

Sam had been enthralled as a kid. Huge brown, expressive eyes peering through a mop of dark, curling hair, had been wide with wonder; peeking over the edge of the covers he had drawn up to his nose in fright or pressed against his mouth to muffle the giggles enough so that John would not know that they were still awake.

Dean would weave them into the stories, too. It was John who killed the Big Bad Werewolf that was terrorising the Prigs, though it was Dean who saved any damsel, battling dragons and slaying monsters, with his trusty sidekick little brother forever at his side.

Whenever Sam had complained about being the sidekick (which, if Dean were honest, was hardly ever), Dean would simply tell him to be thankful he hadn't been made the damsel.

After one particularly spectacular tantrum, though, he had, and for a whole month Sam had been called Rapunzel. That was, until Sam shaved his hair off in attempt to prove he wasn't a girl.

Dean's soon learned how much Sam looked up to him and that he was a kid of action, (he was a Winchester, too, after all) when he had come to find Sam sitting tearfully amongst his shorn locks on the floor of a grubby motel bathroom, his head covered in tiny nicks where he had struggle to shave the back.

And then John had come home and given Dean a tongue-lashing on responsibility and taking care of his brother; how as older brother he should know better than to tease and should act as an adult. Sam had been reprimanded for being too soft, but it was the sight of his big brother's eyes, bright with unshed tears, that had had the required effect on his sensitive sibling.

What story would ease his little brother's fears now? What tale could he tell to whisk them back to a time more innocent, when they could defeat monsters with wooden stick swords and dustbin lid shields, and at the end of the day, they were always safe?.

Back to the time where the heroes always won and the bad guys defeated in the nick of time?

Dean realised he had zoned out in the store and the cashier was looking at him strangely. With absentminded charm, he flashed a grin at the girl, who coloured under his gaze. He turned and hurried back to the car.

The sun, although starting to set, still held enough warmth to dispel the lingering cold from the freezer section, and Dean was unprepared for the blast of heat that hit him when he opened the car door.

"Christ, Sam are you a snake or something?" He reached across and flicked the

heating down.

He glanced across at his brother, who hadn't even stirred, still huddled towards Dean's side, knees drawn up and arms hugging his chest. But he was breathing steadily and didn't seem to be in any distress and Dean was loathe to wake him.

On the other hand, his brother would have one hell of a crick if he didn't get him to change position soon.

"Sam?" Dean moved to shake him when his phone rang.

He looked at the caller ID, eyebrows raised in surprise. "Bobby? You missing us already? You know someone could accuse you of being a bit clingy."

"Dean?" the older hunter's voice was brusque and business-like. "Is Sam ok?"

Instantly, Dean's neck prickled and he glanced across at his brother as if to make sure he was still there. "He's fine, he's asleep, why?"

"We've been getting some reports." Bobby hesitated. "Look Dean, it might be best if you and Sam head back here."

"It's not like you to beat about the bush, Bobby. What's wrong?"

"Do you remember Julia Morgan?"

"Who?"

"The girl possessed by the Crossroad Demon?"

"Yeah?" Dean thought back to the traumatised woman left after the demon had fled.

"She's dead."

"What? How?" He thought they had saved her.

"We don't know. She just sickened and faded away. The docs are mystified. It was just as if the life slowly drained out of her."

"But you have a theory." It was a statement of fact, not a question. Dean's voice hardened as he looked across at his sleeping brother. "And what does it have to do with Sam?"

"She was possessed by a demon, Dean."

"And? No, wait. Sam was only possessed for a week by Meg. Julia Morgan was possessed for years."

I've just got him back…

Dean's heart started to pound.

"Just keep an eye on him, Dean. I know, I know, you always do. And it could be that Julia just couldn't move on from what happened. God knows what she went through, or what the demon put her body through - it simply could have just wore her out. But I'll keep digging, just in case."

"Thanks, Bobby." Dean looked across at his brother's slumbering form. Was it him or was Sam looking paler? He put a hand against his brother's brow. No sign of fever; in fact, his skin was quite cool.

Sam opened his eyes and looked blearily up at Dean, his eyes confused but trusting.

"You ok, Dean?" he mumbled, raising one hand to rub sleepily at his eyes.

The gesture reminded Dean of a far younger version of his brother. "I'm fine, Sam. That was just Bobby, inviting us over."

"Wha' for?" Sam mumbled, but smiled. He liked Bobby. With him, Sam always knew where he stood, and there were few other hunters left they felt they could still trust.

"Well, obviously, I leave a huge hole in anyone's life when I leave, Sammy. You on the other hand just leave huge holes in their property."

"Dude, that's not fair. I was possessed."

"I was thinking we could do with a break, so why don't we go see him?"

Sam glowered at his older brother, but Dean pressed on. "And before you say anything about not having time, we can research as easy at Bobby's as we can anywhere else, and he can help. Plus he has all those archaic reference books you get turned on by."

Sam rolled his eyes, mumbling huffily "fine" before snuggling back down. "Wake me when it's my turn to drive."

Dean watched Sam curl back up, his face still turned toward his brother as he fell quickly back asleep.

There's nothing wrong. That Julia chick was just unlucky…

He pretended not to notice when Sam shivered slightly. There's nothing wrong…

There can't be…

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A/N

Hope this is kind of what you were hoping for Angie, if not, please let me know. Again, I cannot apologise enough for this not being fully completed for today, I hope you can forgive me.

Any reviews are appreciated, cherished and eagerly awaited – thanks for reading!

Oh and anyone awaiting my outstanding fics, When Angels Fall will be updated this week, as will What We Have, We'll Hold. Life has been frantic and unfortunately I have not had the time I would like to devote to these.

Apologies to all who have waited patiently and my deepest gratitude to those who read my stories, (much love to those of you who take the time to review also!)

Hugs

Dream