Okay, I really want to just say a big thank you to everyone who has read this fic of mine. I have had some lovely feedback and I really appreciate it.

I also want to thank you all for being patient - I must be the slowest writer on the planet, but then I wasn't intending to write a 22'000 + word fic :-)

I just hope this last chapter was worth the wait, cuz I struggled... I really struggled...

Enjoy xxx



Dean watched, glassy eyed, as the blonde dude who looked like a reject from a WWF Tag Team wrapped the tourniquet round the top of his arm and began slapping the crook of his elbow, trying to bring up a vein. On the bedside table sat the biggest needle Dean had ever seen, and he licked his dry lips, swallowing nervously. On the bed next to his brother's, Sam sat watching the proceedings like an eager med student on his first rounds.

"Do you have to?" Dean asked, his voice hoarse and about an octave lower than it should have been, and the blonde guy whose name Dean couldn't quite keep in his head gave him a grim little smile and nodded. "Sorry Kid, I gotta." After quickly swabbing the crook of Dean's elbow with alcohol, he picked up the needle, hesitating at the anxious expression on his patient's face. "Close your eyes man, it'll be done in a second." And Dean did as he was told, wincing at the sharp sting.

"Not too bad, huh?" the guy asked, quickly taping the needle down with surgical tape and untying the tourniquet, and Dean shook his head, letting out the breath that he'd been holding. Compared to everything else that was hurting, getting an inch thick needle stuck into his arm wasn't really that bad after all. Then he watched the guy attach a bag of fluid to the IV line and hang it from the buffalo horns that were nailed to the wall above their beds – turning the motel room into some sort of weird cowboy themed hospital ward.

"A couple of these babies and you should feel better." The guy told him, sitting back down on the edge of the bed and motioning for Sam to hand him a pillow, he gently laid Dean's arm out straight on top of it. "The reason you feel so lousy, kid, is because you are so dehydrated. When you have some fluids in you, you'll feel human again, I promise."

"What about the seizure he had, Miller?" John said from the end of the bed. He had been standing there the whole time, arms crossed tensely. "And that bump on his head?"

Miller. That was the dude's name. Dean chided himself. Lee Miller. Bobby's hunter pal, army medic guy. WWF Superstar…

"Well, Winchester…" Miller replied, levelling his sharp gaze at John. Admittedly, the guy looked and sounded like some old hippy stoner who spent his days rocking on his own pill stash, but his eyes were as clear and as sharp as their Dad's. There was no mistaking that Miller had seen action, and even as fuzzy round the edges as Dean felt, he could clearly see that the two hunters had some sort of history and that the guy wasn't taking well to John's presence looming over him.

But then their Dad could rub a Saint up the wrong way. It was his gift.

"Your kid has a hard head, don't think that bump is gonna cause a problem. Might need a stitch or two in that cut though - but I can sort that out later. He might have a little rib fracture and his knees are going to be sore as hell for a while, but that's all small stuff. Nothing that won't heal. I'm gonna give him something to stop him from seizing again - something to make him sleep; a little Diazepam -" And he smiled conspiratorially at Dean. "- that's Valium to you and me… Housewife's best friend." And rummaging around in the big black bag that was sitting on the floor by the bed, he pulled out a white pot and shook out two small white pills into Dean's hand.

Dean eyed them warily. He wasn't really much for taking meds - only taking painkillers when he absolutely had to. But what the hell? He couldn't feel any worse than he did, and he popped the Valium into his mouth, downing them with a sip from the half-empty bottle of Gatorade that Sam handed him with the all efficiency of a theatre nurse.

Swab - Scalpel - Purple sports drink.

Dean wasn't much for Gatorade either – in fact, he hated the stuff, but his Dad was watching him like a hawk from the end of the bed, and he decided it was best to do exactly as he was told. He could have cut the tension between Sam, Dad and Miller with a knife and he hoped the pills would hurry up and knock him out before it all kicked off around him. He felt too lousy to be stuck in the middle of yet another row and by the way his Dad and Sam were avoiding eye contact, he guessed round one had already happened.

"They only had purple in the shop, Dean. Sorry." Sam told his brother, seeing Dean's nose wrinkle at the taste of the drink. He loved the stuff, but he knew Dean didn't.

"He's not drinking it for the taste, Sam." Miller replied. "We gotta try and replace all the electrolytes and other bits and bobs that he sweated out during his beauty sleep in the desert." Then he turned back to look at John, voice quieter. "He should really be in a hospital, Winchester. I'm only going to be able to do so much here... I.V. meds are hard to come by, you know. Can't just pick up supplies at the local Wal-Mart."

"I'll pay you for everything, don't worry about that." John replied, and Miller sighed. "That's not what I meant and you know it. Your boy here was lucky, John. Heatstroke isn't something to screw around with. If you hadn't put him in the tub when you did, I'm not sure he would still be with us."

Dean looked over at Sam. His little brother was staring at the floor, biting his lip, looking like he was about to explode and Dean inwardly cringed. He had seen it start this way so many times, Sam just blurting out anything and everything that was on his mind, to hell with the consequences. He truly wore his heart on his sleeve and most of the time Dean admired Sam for his openness, his fearlessness - other times he wanted to throttle him for it.

"Don't start, Sam. I'm okay." Dean told his little brother, mustering as much sincerity as he could, but he knew Sam wouldn't buy it. The kid knew how to read him, always had. No matter how hard Dean tried to hide, no matter how many walls he put up, Sam always found him in the end.

"You're not ok, Dean. You nearly died. You should be in a hospital. Dad should have taken you to the ER…"

Dean winced. He felt better than he did an hour or two ago, but not much. His head was thumping, his knees, despite the icepacks Miller had placed over them, were so swollen and painful he wondered if he hadn't actually broken his kneecaps, and that wasn't even mentioning the stab of pain that shot across his chest every time he tried to move. "Sam, please. Don't do this now. I'm okay – really. I'm just tired."

"Dean, you're always okay… Your eyes could be bleeding, or – or your arm could be hanging on by a thread and you'd say you're okay!"

"Sammy – Don't. Please!" Dean pleaded, trying to push himself up on his elbow. Miller shook his head and put a hand on Dean's shoulder, pushing him gently back down to the bed.

"Don't get up, kid." He warned him gently, and for once, Dean did as he was told. Everything had begun to get fuzzy again, and the room was spinning. Being upright was definitely not a good idea.

Sam shook his head. "No, Dean. This needs to be said and you never will. You almost died. You had a seizure. You were that sick. You could be dead now and he didn't even call an ambulance. If I didn't go and steal a car, you'd still be laying out in the Impala in the desert! He couldn't care less about you Dean, he couldn't care less about either of us!"

"Sam, I did what I had to do. You don't know why we are out here…" John began, but Sam didn't give him a chance to finish.

"And why don't we know? Because you never tell us, that's why. You expect me and Dean to just follow orders that you give us and you expect us to do it on blind faith, but that's not good enough anymore, Dad. You should have called an ambulance; you should have got Dean to a hospital. He needs a proper doctor, not some stoned old army medic!" Sam yelled, getting to his feet and squaring up to face John. "We are your sons; we're not your soldiers, Dad. You could at least pretend you care about us."

John stared at Sam, "I don't care about you, huh, Sam?" he said quietly and Sam frowned. He'd clearly expected John to just lose it – he'd pushed him before, but maybe not this far. Dean however knew exactly what was coming and he closed his eyes – knowing this was the calm before the storm. Why couldn't they all just get along like before? Why did everything have to turn into full-scale warfare?

Stop it! Please Sam – Dad, just stop it…

Sam bit his lip, breathing heavily. "No Dad, all you care about is the hunt. All you care about is revenge. Dean could have died today and you did nothing. You don't care about me or him."

"I'm okay Sam, it all worked out okay." Dean murmured. He had done as he was told and lay back down on the bed, but the room was still spinning and he covered his eyes with the crook of his elbow, fighting the dizziness that washed through him. Miller gave him a sympathetic pat on the arm.

"Hey kid?" he whispered, and Dean cracked open an eye to look at the hunter who gestured a thumb towards John and Sam who were now glaring at each other like two stags sizing each other up. "Those two like this all the time, or is this best behaviour seeing as they have company an' all?"

Dean couldn't help but smile. Despite his initial doubts, he really kind of liked Miller – and the drugs the guy had given him were beginning to work a treat. "Dude, you have no idea."

"How about I leave you the Valium and you can slip them a couple every time they start to kick off." Miller continued, smiling that knowing smile again.

"Dude, that would be… Great." Dean murmured as his eyes fluttered closed again. If he'd had the strength, he would have got out of bed, grabbed the Impala's keys, and just driven off somewhere – anywhere. The trouble with this plan though was that he barely had energy to keep his eyes open. The other problem was that the Impala was wrecked out in the desert somewhere, waiting for Bobby to come and tow it back to his junk yard – and at that moment, he wished Bobby would come and throw a chain around him and drag him off somewhere too.

He'd had enough of being piggy in the middle.

"Have you finished, Sam?" John said quietly after a few moments. It was clear that John was giving him an out, giving him the chance to back down, but Sam wasn't going to back down – not this time. A line had been crossed; a line that John had pissed in the desert sand between them and they all knew that now Sam had crossed it, there was no going back.

John stared at Sam for a little while, not saying anything, not moving, his hands shoved deep in his pockets and like a mirror image, Sam stared defiantly back, expecting his Dad to start packing up his bag and walking out on them like he usually did, but instead of grabbing his own duffle, John went to the cupboard and dragged out Sam's bag, throwing it on his bed.

"So you think I'm selfish, do you Sammy? Think I don't care about you boys?"

Sam stared at the bag and Dean could see sudden, unadulterated terror on his face. John was pulling clothes out of the bag and throwing them all over the floor and a moment later, he held the college application forms in his hands. Looking up, he waved the papers under Sam's nose, looking keenly at him, as if he expected some explanation as to what they were and why they were in Sam's bag, when he knew damn well what they were, and when Sam remained silent, John threw them on the floor by Sam's feet like a gauntlet.

"Well, Son? Were you just going to sneak out like a coward one day, or were you actually planning on saying goodbye to me and your brother?"

Sam opened his mouth but nothing came out. After finding the application forms, Dean had had visions of this conversations so many times over the past few months and in all the scenarios he had run through in his head, it had never ended well.

"I'm going to do pre-law at Stanford. I've been offered a full ride and I'm going." Sam eventually said.

John stared at Sam for a moment and when he spoke again, his voice was cold and hard and Dean could see his hands shaking with barely contained fury. "You're not going anywhere Samuel Winchester. I don't care if you won the state lottery or got crowned King of freakin' England. You are not going to college because you are not leaving this family. End of story."

Sam looked down at his feet; breathing heavily, trying to keep calm but Dean could see how close to tears he was – and he wasn't surprised because he felt exactly the same way. Most parents would be over the moon to hear what Sam had just said – how many kids got a full ride? Most parents would be cracking open the champagne right about now. But then nothing in their lives was how it was meant to be. John wasn't going to listen, he wasn't going to reason – once again, John Winchester had laid down the mission and expected his soldiers to follow...

"You can't stop me." Sam said quietly as John stalked around the room like a caged animal, and Dean could see that he meant it. It was college for Christ's sake… Going to college was what people were meant to do.

John stopped pacing and stopped in front of the sideboard, picking up his truck keys and clutching them so tightly in his fist that Dean expected to see blood trickle out. Then he came over to Dean's bedside and stood over him and Dean found himself wishing he could just sink into the mattress, anything to get away from that look of his Dad's face – an expression somewhere between fury and utter disappointment. "I suppose you knew about this?"

Dean opened his mouth to reply but instead Miller got to his feet and put a hand up to John's chest, keeping him back. "Winchester, leave this kid out of it for now, okay. I can see you're angry man, but Dean really ain't fit for a rumble."

John stopped, practically bristling, and Dean could see he was torn between listening to Miller and just flattening the guy. Then he sagged and looked back down, and the betrayal Dean saw in his Dad's eyes made him feel sick.

"I only saw the forms; I didn't know he was going for sure." Dean told him. "I swear, Dad, I didn't know…."

John was silent for a moment, breathing heavily and Dean could tell he was struggling to keep from exploding. Then without another word, he walked out the door, slamming it behind him and they heard the truck as John gunned the engine and screeched off into the night.

Sam stayed where he was, looking utterly shell-shocked, and after a few moments, Miller got to his feet and patted Sam on the shoulder, concern etched on his grizzled features and Dean wondered briefly if the guy had children of his own.

"You okay, Kid?" The medic asked and Sam nodded, before sinking down onto the other bed with his head in his hands.

"It'll be okay, Sammy. It will… I'll make it okay." Dean told him gently, ignoring the spinning of the room as he elbowed himself up. But they both knew these were empty promises and Sam looked up at him, face ashen and tear streaked. They had both done their fair share of crying over the years, but Dean had never seen his little brother look so crushed - so defeated, and at that moment in time, he hated his Dad for doing that to Sam.

"You can't. Not this time, Dean. It's not going to be okay this time." Sam sniffed, and Dean knew that he was right.

This time, it really wasn't going to be okay.


It was the summer of 1989 and Sam and Dean were laid up at Bobby's house with Chicken Pox when John had first heard about the Colt. He had wanted to stay in the motel they had been holed up in for the past two weeks, but when Dean came down hard with the infection two days after his little brother, John knew he had to take the boys somewhere they would both be looked after while he finished the hunt he was on. Besides, school was out and staying at Bobby's junkyard was like a holiday for the boys. Dean always had hours of amusement tinkering with the old junkers sitting around the place, and both boys liked playing with Bobby's dog Blue – a Rottweiler so big it could have bitten Sam's head off in one quick snap of it's giant jaws, but the old mutt was a docile as a kitten around the boys. Plus Bobby had books – millions of books, and even when he was very young, Sam loved to study, much to John's pride and Dean's amusement.

Bobby hadn't minded John brining his sick kids to stay – he loved Sam and Dean almost like they were his own children and although John drove him to thoughts of cold-blooded murder sometimes, he liked having him around too. The man could track demons like no one he'd ever met before and he was always useful for whatever research he was working on. There were not many supernatural creatures that John Winchester hadn't hunted and killed.

It was one night after the boys had been put to bed in Bobby's guest bedroom, doused head to toe in calamine lotion yet still scratching themselves to pieces, that Bobby cracked open a bottle of Jack and invited John to join him at the table. John had eyed him warily, taking the whisky. On the table was the biggest book he'd ever seen - about two foot wide and half a foot thick. Not exactly light reading and John was tired. Digging up graves to salt and burn the bones of the vengeful dead was hard and thankless work and he just wanted to sleep.

Bobby swallowed a big gulp of the whisky and placing the glass on the table, he opened the book at the bookmarked page and beckoned John over, pointing to an illustrated passage that showed an engraving of a man that John vaguely recognised.

"Samuel Colt." Bobby said, picking up the glass and downing the rest of the amber coloured liquid.

John nodded, knowing he'd seen the man's face before but he was confused. Why was Bobby showing him a picture of a long dead gun maker?

Bobby reached for the bottle and poured himself another slug of whisky and he turned to look at John, a strange little smile playing on his lips. John frowned; Bobby had some intel, but was going to make him work for it. "Okay, Singer. Why are you showing me a picture of Samuel Colt?"

"Dammit, John." Bobby replied, pointing to the text below the picture. "Just read the entry, will you?" And John did as he was told, eyes following the faded print and when he had finished, he dropped the glass to the table, hands shaking too badly to hold it.

"Is this true, Bobby?" He asked the grizzled hunter. It couldn't be true – it was impossible. The words he'd just read were the answer to everything.

Bobby was silent for a moment, draining the last of his Jack before handing the bottle to John, then he looked up, meeting his friend's eyes. The text in the book referred to a gun – a very special gun. A gun that could kill a Demon stone dead.

"For Christ's sake, Singer… Is this true?" John repeated, and Bobby nodded, reaching for the bottle once more.

"It's true John. That Colt is real. And I just might know how to find it too. Now all we need is a map."


Sam sat on the edge of his bed. It had just gone midnight and their Dad hadn't come home yet. In the corner of the room, the TV was on, quietly playing some old black and white western full of long dead actors that Sam didn't recognise. He knew that Dean would probably consider the movie to be a classic and would have berated him for not knowing what he was missing, but Dean was sleeping restlessly in the other bed and Sam wasn't really watching the TV, it was just a distraction.

Dean had woken a few times since Miller had left, disorientated and hurting. Sam had brought him water, tried to get him to drink more Gatorade and given him a couple of the painkillers that the medic had left for him. He still felt ridiculously hot to the touch and a couple of times Sam had carefully laid a cold damp washcloth on his brother's forehead, trying his hardest to avoid the stitches Miller had put into the cut on Dean's hairline. The medic had told him that Dean would probably run a fever for a few days, and as long as his temperature didn't start rising drastically, then he was probably going to be okay. Sam was exhausted himself, but sleep was pretty much out of the question. He was too worried about Dean and too keyed up about what had happened – going over the row over and over in his head. He couldn't believe that Dad had just walked out and left them, left Dean as sick as he was. And he had called Sam selfish.

Pulling the phone out of his pocket, Sam scrolled down the numbers on the screen until he came to his Dad's, thumb hovering over the call button for a moment, before throwing it back on the bed behind him. What was the point of trying to talk to him? It would just lead to more yelling and Sam was too tired to yell. He was tired of everything. He just wanted a chance at being a regular guy, a chance to try a life that didn't involve digging up corpses, bad motel rooms and rock salt loaded sawed-offs. He just wanted normal.

Sam looked over at his brother. Dean was wrapped up in tangle of sheets in the other bed, arm thrown over his face, looking like he was trying to protect himself from some unseen danger and suddenly Sam found his eyes blurring with unexpected tears. Leaving this life meant leaving Dean and that was going to be the hardest thing he'd ever had to do – they had never ever been apart. His big brother had been the one constant in his life, the one person in the whole world he knew he could rely on. When he'd been hurt, it was Dean who'd looked after him, when he'd been sick, Dean had made him soup and made it all better. Dad had taught him about weapons - how to shoot, how to fight, but it was Dean who had taught him to hustle, taught him how to talk his way into things and back out of them again if he had to - taught him about girls. His big brother had always been there when he needed him. Who was going to be there for Dean when he was gone? Their dad sure as hell wasn't.

"I'm sorry, man." Sam whispered in the dark, and wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he padded quietly into the bathroom and pulled the door closed behind him. Heart pounding, he switched on the shaving light above the sink and turned on the tap, splashing his face with cold water to wash away the tears – barely able to look at himself in the mirror. Then sinking to the floor, Sam pulled his knees to his chest and buried his face in his arms, desperately trying to contain the fraught sobs that burst out of him so Dean wouldn't hear him crying. But Sam had never been able to hide anything from his brother and a few minutes later there was a knock on the door and Dean called his name quietly.

"Shit!" Sam whispered, quickly scrubbing at his face, trying to wipe away the tears with his sleeve and he pulled himself to his feet as his brother opened the door and pushed his way into the room. Dean was white faced apart from two spots of flushed colour on his cheeks, hair plastered to his head with sweat. He was wavering slightly on his feet, left arm held protectively across his chest and Sam couldn't help but wince at the bruising that lay behind it. "Dean, you shouldn't be out of bed," He told him, and Dean shrugged, reaching for the sink.

"What? Dude, I gotta take a leak." He replied dismissively, but Sam could see how unsteady he was on his feet, see the pain etched onto his ashen face and he was holding onto the sink for support so tightly that his knuckles were white.

"I doubt that." Sam answered and Dean sighed heavily, visibly sagging. Anyone else might have believed him, that he really did need to use the bathroom, but Sam knew better. Dean had literally dragged himself out of bed just to make sure he was all right. "Okay Sammy," Dean said after a moment, letting out a shaky breath and he closed his eyes, knowing he was rumbled. "I don't really have to pee..."

"I know." Sam replied gently, and slipping his arm underneath Dean's, he pulled his brothers hand out of the death grip he had on the sink and slowly guided him across the faded cactus patterned carpet and back to his bed. Easing him down, Sam picked up the water from the bedside table, helping Dean hold the glass in his shaking hands as he took a few sips and when he was done, Sam sat back on his own bed opposite him. "Are you okay, Bro?" He asked his brother gently when Dean had got his breath back.

"I'm peachy, Sam. How 'bout you?" Dean replied, looking up and meeting Sam's eyes. He looked shattered and Sam could see from the way he was holding himself, he was in pain, but that wasn't all. There was something in Dean's eyes that he couldn't quite read, something he hadn't seen before and it was wild and desperate and terrified and he didn't like that look one bit.

"Never better, Dean." Sam replied, his voice barely more than a strained whisper as fresh tears escaped down his cheeks, and this time he didn't even bother to wipe them away.

Dean sighed heavily. "Don't cry, Sammy. C'mon, we can work this out, okay..."

"How, Dean? How can we work this out?" Sam yelled, getting to his feet and Dean winced at the volume, knuckling the area between his eyebrows.

"Dude, please. Head really hurting here - "

"Sorry." Sam replied, lowering his voice. And he sat back dejectedly on his bed.

Dean was quiet for a moment before he looked back up at his brother. "He tries, you know. It's hard for him. No-one gave him a 'Dad of the Year' manual when Mom died… He's just scared, Sam. Maybe if you give him time to get used to the idea?"

Sam shook his head. "Dude, I've seen him take on a werewolf with his bare hands. Dad's not scared of anything." He was used to Dean defending their Dad's actions - he did it all the time. Dean was loyal to their father in a way he never could understand and if he was honest, it was the one thing about his brother that pissed him off. Dean could be as annoying as hell sometimes, he was an untidy, smart-mouthed slob, not to mention bossy – but these were all things that Sam had learned to deal with over the years. They were traits that made Dean who he was as much as his love of mullet rock, his easy charm and his outright selflessness – and given the chance, Sam wouldn't change any of it. But where Dad was concerned, Dean just took the crap that their Dad threw at him without a murmur of protest and he wished that Dean would stand up for himself sometimes and stop being Daddy good little soldier.

"He's scared of you being out on your own, Sam. Scared that he's not going to be around to protect you." Dean replied quietly, and scooting back onto the bed, he attempted to lay back down, hissing at the stab of pain from his injured ribs. "Son-of-a-bitch!"

Sam sighed. "Hold up, Dean. Let me help you." And reaching over, he gently lifted Dean's legs back on the bed and then grabbing all the spare pillows, he smooshed them into a pile so Dean had something softer than the lumpy old motel mattress to lay back on. Then when Dean was settled, he pulled the discarded sheet back up to his chest, stopping short of actually tucking him in. "You okay now?" He asked.

Dean nodded in reply, eyes shut tightly as he got used to the change in altitude, and when Sam was sure Dean wasn't about to puke or have another seizure or both, he flopped back on his own bed and lay on his back, watching the shadows from the silver light of the TV play across the ceiling.

The ceiling... That's where it all started... That's where she died... Where she burned...

"Does he blame me?" Sam said suddenly, rolling over onto his side to look at Dean. "Is that why he's always on my case? Why he won't let me go to college?"

"Blame you?" Dean replied after a moment, cracking open an eye to look at his brother. "Blame you for what?"

"For Mom, Dean. The Demon – he was at my crib, in my nursery. Is he punishing me for Mom dying?"

"What the hell, Sam? Where did that come from?" Dean asked, his expression hardening. "Sam, Dad might not always show it, but he loves you more than anything... How could you even think something like that?"

"Because it's the only thing that makes sense, Dean. Nothing I do is ever good enough. Nothing I do ever makes him proud... Dean, I got a full ride. A full ride, man. Most parents would be over the moon, you know."

"I know, Sam -"

"It's not like I'm asking him for anything. Christ Dean, neither of us has ever asked Dad for a damn thing... All I want is for him to let me go."

"Sam, I know -"

"I don't want this life, Dean. I never wanted it. I can't spend the rest of my life trailing from one bad motel room to another, never having a home, never having any friends, anyone else to talk to other than you, Dean. I can't spend my life watching you and Dad get hurt over and over. I can't spend the rest of my life chasing after a Demon. A freakin' Demon, Dean! I just can't... Okay. I just can't!"

"I know Sammy... I know. I'll help you, okay."

Sam wiped tears from his cheeks and looked back over at his brother. "W-what?"

"I said I'll help you, Sam. But please man, you gotta stop crying. You're breaking my freakin' heart here, okay."

In the pale light from the TV, Sam could see his brother's eyes shining with tears as well and he hated himself for doing this to Dean, hurting him like this, kicking him when he was already down - this wasn't how it was meant to happen. But then nothing was how it was meant to be. His whole life wasn't how it was meant to be.

"He'll kill you if you help me leave, you know. For real." Sam sniffed, wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt, and Dean shrugged. "Maybe. But then he'll have no-one to do the laundry."

Sam smiled despite himself and curled into his one remaining pillow. No matter how bad he felt, Dean always knew what to say to make him feel better – and he wanted to believe him, more than anything. Wanted to believe that Dean would make this okay, because if he couldn't, he didn't know what he was going to do.

"Come with me, Dean?" Sam said suddenly, sitting up.

Dean's eyes were now closed, his breathing evening out as exhaustion brought him close to sleep once more and he when he didn't reply straight away, Sam thought he hadn't heard him.

"Dean, please. Come to college with me. We could get an apartment, you could get a regular job..."

"I have a job, Sam." Dean replied, still not looking at his brother.

"I know you do, Dean. Saving people, hunting things. The family business. But -"

"But nothing, Sam!" Dean replied, finally looking over at him. He looked angry but Sam knew better. Behind the anger there was fear in Dean's eyes. "I can't leave Dad, Sam. He needs me."

"You can't do this forever, man. One day you're going to get hurt – really hurt. One day you're not going to be okay."

"Sammy, please. I can't do this now..." Dean gasped, and Sam could see the hurt on his face. His brother was struggling to stay conscious and Sam knew what he was doing to him wasn't fair. Not now, and getting up, he sat on the edge of his brother's bed. Dean was still shivering but Sam knew it wasn't from being cold, and he gently put the back of his hand to Dean's cheek, feeling the heat still pouring off him before Dean groggily swatted it away.

"I'm sorry, man. Go to sleep okay." He told his brother quietly. "We can talk about this when you're feeling better." And going back to his own bed, Sam curled up on his side again, watching Dean fall back into a restless sleep in the silver glow of the TV, until he heard the rumble of his Dad's truck pulling up outside. Then he closed his eyes, pretending he was asleep too - even when John covered him with a blanket, tucking him in like he had when Sam was little - until real sleep eventually took him.

And that night, Sam dreamed of fire.