Disclaimer: See chapter 1.
A/N: Yes, this was a rather short story, but it was intense. Thanks for reading and thanks, as always, to Kelli for finding my mistakes.
Our demons are out own limitations, which shut us off from the realization of the ubiquity of the spirit...each of these demons is conquered in a vision quest - Joseph Campbell
Sam knew that Dean was trying, but he couldn't quite pull off the nonchalant attitude he usually had when they were traveling to a new job. Despite their father's death and the rollercoaster of emotions that Dean had been going through since then, he still liked to help people and tended to look forward to new gigs. He felt good when he was able to kill some evil thing to keep it from hurting anyone else. Normally Dean looked forward to a new job and approached it with calmness, but that's not how he was acting now.
Dean was nervous and hadn't let Sam out of his sight all day. When they stopped for gas, Dean kept him talking so he wouldn't go into the store alone. When they finally stopped for food, he wouldn't even let Sam go to the bathroom alone.
What Sam thought was odd was that Dean didn't seem to be worried about Sam, but himself. Dean didn't like to be alone, but that didn't mean he didn't enjoy some privacy now and then. He was overprotective, but that he was fine when Sam was in another room.
Sam made up his mind that this was a conversation they needed to have and when they stopped at a motel that night, he feigned being too tired to go out for food and talked Dean into ordering a pizza instead. Sam had deliberately left his computer in the car and when he told Dean he was going out to get it, he didn't miss the sudden nervousness coming from his brother.
He watched as Dean closed his eyes for a moment, then turned his back on him.
"What's going on, man?" Sam asked as he sat on the edge of his bed. "Talk to me."
"Don't give me that. Something's wrong. What is it?"
Sam waited as Dean moved from the chair and walked to his own bed, then toward the window.
"I don't know, okay? I don't know!"
Sam was shocked by his brother's reaction. He wanted to be closer to him, to offer some kind of support, but he didn't think Dean was ready for that yet so he stayed where he was. Dean was across the room, his back to Sam and his head hung down.
"Okay," Sam said gently. "Is it this job? You've been acting weird since I told you about it."
Dean glanced at him and Sam saw how pale he'd become.
"Hey, come on, man," Sam said.
"Look, a child molester is bad enough, but the ghost of one? That's just…."
"Dean, seriously, we don't have to do this job. I'll call Bobby and have him get someone to –"
"I don't run from jobs." Dean's voice was low.
"I know you don't, dude, but –"
"But nothing, Sam. I don't know what the hell is wrong with me; I'm acting like a pussy for no reason. We'll get into town tomorrow, find out where the sonofabitch is buried then salt and burn the bones. In and out and no other kid has to get hurt."
"Okay. Simple in and out," Sam agreed, more worried about his brother than he had been.
They arrived in town late afternoon the next day and found the courthouse. Looking for the burial records only took one of them, but Dean wasn't ready to let Sam out of his sight and Sam decided it wasn't worth arguing about. Sam had woken up during the night to find Dean thrashing in his own bed, clearly in the grip of a nightmare. He couldn't remember the last time that had happened; it was usually Dean waking up to find Sam in a nightmare.
Dean had mumbled something about their father and said a name Sam didn't recognize; Wally. He'd been about to get out of bed to comfort Dean when he woke up on his own. Sam had said nothing, waiting to see what would happen and when Dean silently padded across the floor and into the bathroom, he'd realized his brother wanted to be left alone. At least something about his brother seemed familiar.
It took a couple hours of research to find out where the child molester had been buried because the records weren't in the best of shape. They'd been stored in the basement and water damage after a fire several years before had all but ruined most of the paper. It wasn't surprising that no family had claimed him after his death and he'd been buried in a potter's field at the edge of town.
"This is not going to be easy," Sam said as they got out of the Impala at the old graveyard. It was overgrown and most of the small markers were practically illegible. They'd found out that the last burial at the cemetery was 20 years ago and it didn't appear to have gotten much care since then.
"We have to find it," Dean said.
"We'll find it," he said with more force.
Sam watched as Dean walked into the cemetery. Most everything Dean did was with a purpose, especially when working a job, but Dean seemed even more intent than usual. After a moment, he followed.
The records hadn't been specific to the exact location of Humphries' grave so they had to look through the whole place. Luckily, it wasn't particularly large and just over an hour later, Dean found it.
Sam was several yards behind his brother when he stopped and crouched down. He cleaned some debris away from the marker that was as nondescript as the rest of them and though Sam was sure it was the grave they'd been looking for, Dean didn't call him over. As Sam watched, Dean somehow seemed to get smaller. His shoulders were hunched and his usual outward bravado was gone.
"Find something?" Sam called to him.
He saw Dean flinch. "Yeah. I found Humphries."
"Let's mark it so we can find it when we come back after dark," Sam said as he walked toward his brother.
Dean didn't respond. When Sam got closer, he laid a hand on Dean's shoulder and was taken aback when he practically jumped away from him.
"Hey, it's just me, man." Sam noticed the startled look in Dean's eyes. "You okay?"
"Yeah, sorry." Dean pretended to be unaffected and Sam saw how easily he slipped back into the mask that he wore to hide his feelings. "Let's mark it and get out of here."
"Okay, Dean," Sam said as they walked into the motel room they'd just rented. "What's going on with you?"
"Aw, Sammy, just leave it alone, okay?" Dean sat down on the bed closest to the door and rubbed his face. "I'm fine."
"You had a nightmare last night."
Dean glanced at him.
"You were talking in your sleep, too."
Dean still said nothing.
"Who's Wally?" Sam asked carefully and was stunned when Dean looked at him with tears in his eyes.
"I don't want to talk about this now."
"Later, Sam, okay?" Dean stood up and walked to the window. He leaned against the wall and stared outside. "Please."
Sam looked at him, not sure what to do. This reaction was completely abnormal for his brother. He decided to let it go for the time being and if Dean didn't talk on his own, he would push him when the job was done.
"I'm gonna try to get a couple hours of sleep before we go back to the cemetery," Dean said as he kicked off his shoes and sat on the edge of his bed.
Sam only nodded.
Dean pretended to sleep, but he couldn't stop thinking about the nightmare. He normally didn't remember his dreams, but remembered every horrible, vivid second of this one. And, he remembered what caused it. Not all of it, of course, because he hadn't been conscious the entire time, but enough of it. But it had happened so long ago, why was it coming up now?
Wally, the name he'd called out in his sleep, had been one of the people his father had hated most in the world. His dislike for the man ranked up there with how he felt about the demon that had killed his wife. For years, Dean had heard the name, but as far as he knew, he hadn't met him. He didn't remember when he was six-years old….Even now, it was more like a dream than a memory.
Sam lay in his own bed, thinking about the job and about his brother. Something was familiar about the name Dean had called out in his sleep, but he couldn't quite remember what. He didn't think it was someone he'd ever met, but knew he should recognize it.
It came to him a few minutes later, but he wasn't sure what it had to do with his brother's current state of mind.
About a year after Sam had gone to Stanford, his dad and brother had been working a job that involved Wally. Ironically, the man had come to their father asking for help on behalf of his half brother who innocently gotten on the bad side of a witch, a practitioner of black magic. Sam didn't know the whole story, but he did know that Wally kidnapped Dean and held him in some remote place. He also knew his brother had been tortured; he'd somehow sensed that something was wrong and despite having no contact with his family since he left, Sam called to make sure his brother was all right. They talked about it later and Sam always suspected that Dean had downplayed the experience.
He didn't know how long he'd been asleep when Sam was awakened by the sound of his brother's voice. At first he thought it had been his imagination, but he looked toward the other bed and Dean was writhing under the covers. A moment later, he made a sound that Sam could only describe as a whimper and before he had time to react, Dean started yelling and sat up. Sam called out his name and moved toward him, finding it odd to be on the other side of a nightmare. It didn't happen as much anymore, but there were still nights that Sam would wake up yelling with Dean rushing to comfort him.
Sam sat on the edge of his brother's bed and held his forearms firmly. "Dean, it's okay, it was a dream. You're okay."
Glassy-eyed, Dean reached out for his brother. Sam didn't think he had any idea what he was doing; he was acting on pure instinct. A trembling hand touched Sam's face. "Sammy?"
"Yeah, it's me. You awake?"
"Yeah. Sorry." Dean tried to move away, but Sam wouldn't let him. He saw the book they'd gotten about serial criminals on the bed next to his brother and he wondered when Dean had started to read it.
"Talk to me, Dean. What did you dream about?"
"I don –"
"Don't tell me you don't remember," Sam said gently. "I know all the lies, okay? I've used them on you. In the end, they don't work anyway and you'll just suffer. Talk to me, big brother."
Sam saw Dean's eyes meet his and he felt an immediate sadness over the pain he saw reflected in them.
"I need something to drink," Dean said, his voice low and rough.
They moved to the small table across the room and Dean opened a bottle of beer. With no refrigerator, it was room temperature and after one swig, he grimaced and put it aside.
Sam took some change he'd left on the table earlier. "I'll get something from the vending machine outside. I'll be right back."
When Sam returned, Dean was sitting on the edge of his bed. Sam handed his brother a bottle of water and sat across from him.
"Thanks," Dean muttered. He took the water, his hand still shaking.
Sam had never seen him like this and it scared him.
"Dean? I – I remember who Wally is. You told me that ridiculous story about the kinky sex when I asked about that scar on your shoulder, but it was really Wally who –"
"What does this have to do with anything, Sam?"
"I don't know, but you had a nightmare and said his name. Why?"
"It was just a dream."
"I'm not having this conversation, Sam. We have work to do."
"We have time. Please, Dean. Talk to me. You're scaring me, man, I've never seen you like this."
"What did I tell you about Wally?" Dean asked quietly after a few failed attempts to avoid the subject.
"Not much. He'd been working for some witch that was trying to get revenge on Dad. You said he managed to get you with a sucker punch or something and tied you up in a room…. You didn't tell me many of the details and I always figured you downplayed what happened."
Dean grunted. "Yeah, I probably did. But…."
"What, Dean?" Sam asked after a moment.
"There's other stuff. Before."
Dean looked away and wiped at his eyes. "Why do they do it, man? What the hell makes a kid so attractive to these people that –"
Sam's heart started to beat faster. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what his brother was going to tell him.
"I mean, a little kid, man? What the hell?"
"The first time Dad met Wally, we were all at a park. You were maybe two and Dad had just come back from a hunt. He probably wanted to tire me out so I'd go to sleep and he could have some peace. He sat on a bench with you; you were sleeping. I went to the swings and….I saw this puppy and I wanted to play with it. I looked over at Dad and he was paying attention to you so….I knew I wasn't supposed to go anywhere, but I could still see him so I guess I figured it was okay. Then this guy, Wally, came up to me."
Dean stood up and walked to the other side of the small room. Sam waited for him to continue.
"We went behind some building where the puppy had run off to. I heard Dad calling for me and he was there a second later. Wally didn't have time to do much, but…." He glanced at his brother. "Dad took us home and he asked me what happened. I told him nothing. He asked again the next morning. I told him the same thing. He kept asking for a few days and then I guess he had to believe me."
"What did happen?" Sam whispered.
Dean sat back down on the bed. "Not a whole lot more than nothing, but enough that I had nightmares for a while. Then I managed to forget about it. I'm still not sure if what I remember really happened or…."
"That's what you've been dreaming about?"
"You don't mess with kids, man. It's just….it's messed up." Dean said, his voice sounding far away.
"Yeah, it is. Dean, I'm sorry. If I'd known –"
"You weren't ever supposed to know. I mean, it was probably less than ten minutes of my life total."
"The amount of time doesn't matter, Dean."
"I guess not."
"Dean?" Sam asked after a few minutes. "What happened when Wally had you locked up?"
"Not what you're thinking; I wasn't a kid anymore," Dean said and Sam knew he was trying to make a joke. "And I guess his hobby changed. He'd moved on to knives and other fun things like that."
"What happened to him?"
Dean rubbed the shoulder that Wally had burned with a hot poker nearly five years before. Sam knew it wasn't painful for him after all of this time, but he imagined the memory of the pain was just as strong as if the injury had just happened. "Dad would have probably killed him, but I asked him not to. I figured it would be worse for him if he lived and knew that Dad could show up at any time. I don't know where he is now."
Sam nodded and stared at a spot on the wall across from him. "Dean….You know, you don't have to keep things to yourself anymore. You don't have to protect me from the truth – about anything. And –"
"It's a hard habit to break, Sam." Dean glanced at his brother. "And this one…."
"This one, what?"
"This was an ugly truth. Not as ugly as it could have been; not as ugly as those kids suffered…."
"Dean, it wasn't your fault. You were just a kid wanting to play with a puppy."
"Doesn't matter," Dean shook his head. "I should have known better. Dad told me –"
"Stop it, Dean. I'm not going to let you do that to yourself. Not this time. You were, what? Six?" he paused as Dean nodded. "You were too young to know any better and I'm not going to let you put that burden on your shoulders."
Dean clasped his hands between his knees and hung his head.
"Dad put a lot on you, but even he wouldn't have let you bear this one alone."
"I think Dad knew," Dean whispered after a few minutes. "I didn't want him to know, but it was hard to hide anything from him."
"I always wanted him to think I could handle things and that's why I didn't want him to know about this. I screwed up –"
Sam quickly moved to the other bed and leaned close to his brother, forcing Dean to look into his eyes.
"I said I'm not going to let you do that this time. You want to take responsibility for the striga when you were nine, fine, but not this one. Not this time. Even you should get a pass for being a kid."
Dean didn't respond, he didn't so much as move and Sam put one of his big hands on the back of Dean's neck. "Dean, listen to me. You have to hear me this time."
Sam knew that Dean wanted to pull away. He wasn't entirely comfortable with physical contact when he was feeling vulnerable, but Sam also knew that if he let Dean go now, he probably wouldn't get him back. The conversation would be over and the pain would be stuffed away again.
"Dean, listen to me. Look at me."
Dean's eyes cut away and Sam gripped his neck tighter. "Look at me."
It took a few moments, but Dean turned his eyes to his brother. "You were six years old, Dean. Do you think the kids we're here to help – the other kids this guy hurt when he was alive – do you think it's their fault?"
"No," Dean whispered.
"And it's not yours, either. Adults are in charge, not kids. It was Wally's fault, not yours."
Dean glanced away and Sam squeezed his neck again. "It was Wally's fault."
"It wasn't your fault, Dean. Please hear me."
"He burned me."
Sam was confused, but before he could say anything, Dean continued. "When he was holding me prisoner in that room. I was drugged and handcuffed to a cot and he used a knife that he heated with an electric hot plate. Then he used the knife to cut my shoulder where he burned it. He had this….leather case; like a suitcase. Goddamn piece of luggage where he kept his….toys."
"Sick bastard," Sam muttered, his grip on his brother becoming more protective as he felt a slight trembling coming from Dean. "Who does that kind of crap?"
Dean smiled sadly. "I wasn't a kid that time."
"It still wasn't your fault," Sam said with compassion. "You're not invincible, Dean. No one is. He got you with a cheap shot and he kept you tied and drugged. Any other way, you would have been able to get out. He had to cheat."
Sam moved his hand to his brother's wrist, surprised when he flinched.
"He cheated, Dean. That's how he got to you. But he didn't win, Dean. He didn't win when you were six and he didn't win later, either. You're better than he is. He….he's just a sick fuck who gets his thrills by doing messed up things. I'm glad Dad didn't kill him and I hope he doesn't know that Dad is dead. I don't want him to ever feel safe."
The more Sam spoke, the more anger he felt and he heard it coming out in his voice.
"I swear, Dean, if he was here, I'd tear him apart myself."
"No," Dean said gravely, his eyes making him look dangerous. "If our paths cross, I get to tear him apart."
Dean managed to pull away from Sam, but he didn't go far. "I never told Dad. He tried to get me to talk….He was more…Dad than he had been in a long time. I didn't tell him. But…."
Sam looked at him. "But what?"
"You called," Dean said, awed. "Out of the blue. We hadn't talked; hadn't heard from you….Did Dad call you?"
Sam shook his head, remembering the phone call. "I had a dream about you. When I woke up, I had this….strong, overwhelming feeling that I had to talk to you. I knew something happened, but I didn't know what."
Sam saw his brother's eyes glistening with tears. A moment later, he turned away and slammed his fist into the wall. He managed to hit it once more before Sam got to him.
"You're gonna break your hand, man. Come on…." Sam led him back to the bed and looked at Dean's hand. The skin on his knuckles was cut and there were spots of blood.
"How could he do that?" Dean demanded, finally sounding angry. "You don't mess with kids and you don't burn people. You don't torture them. It's messed up. No way to get out and he..."
Dean practically howled; his pain palpable. Even though only four years separated them, it had only been recently that Sam realized Dean was not really a superhero. He got scared, just like everyone else, and he could feel pain. Sam wondered sometimes just how much pain his big brother had inside of him. Dean always tried so hard to be the good son, the good brother, the protector, the mediator, the hunter….when did he just get to be Dean? When did he get to unload?
Before Sam had a moment to react, Dean took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. "We have work to do,"
"Not yet," Sam said quietly. "We're not done here."
"What else is there to do, man? Huh? There's nothing else to say."
"It's not your fault. None of what Wally did was your fault."
Dean looked away and made a move to stand. Sam grabbed his wrist. "It's not your fault, Dean."
"Let go of me, Sammy."
Dean's use of his nickname told Sam that he was still listening and wasn't ready to stop talking. If he'd truly lost his patience, if he really wanted Sam to turn him loose, he wouldn't have used Sammy. He would just pull away.
"It wasn't your fault."
Sam saw hope in his brother's green eyes.
"Not my fault."
"Not your fault."
"Wally's one sick fuck, huh?" Dean asked, sounding as if he really believed it.
"He's one sick fuck," Sam agreed, seeing the light coming back into Dean's face.
"I was scared, man."
Sam was taken aback by his brother's honest admission.
"I would have been, too."
"Just tied up like that…." Dean shook his head, then looked straight ahead at nothing. "All I could think about was Dad finding me. I didn't even care if he would be mad at me for getting caught; I just wanted him to find me."
"He wouldn't have been mad, Dean."
Dean nodded. "I know."
"You really know? Dean, Dad was tough, but he loved us. He –"
"I know that, Sammy," Dean looked at him and Sam saw his eyes glisten with tears again. "I just wanted him to find me."
Sam hesitated only a moment to consider how Dean would react before putting an arm around his shoulders. He had quickly prepared himself for Dean to pull away and pretend everything was okay again, but instead his brother slumped and leaned into him…just a little bit.
"I can guarantee you that all Dad wanted was to find you, Dean."
"So, uh…." Dean glanced away and wiped his face with the back of one hand.
"What, Dean?" Sam's voice was gentle.
"You, uh, you don't think anything…." He rubbed his palms on his jeans. "I mean…."
Sam knew what his brother was asking. Dean wanted to know if any of what he'd said had changed his mind about him. He wanted to know if Sam still accepted him; if Sam loved him.
"You know what, Dean? I'm glad you're my big brother. You always take care of me; tell me things are okay. You've always done everything you could to make them okay. I just wish you'd think about yourself once in a while."
Dean looked at Sam and nodded, apparently satisfied. "I'm gonna hit the head and then we should go. It's plenty dark enough to go to the cemetery and I'll have to dig up the bastard by myself."
Sam tried not to react to the sudden change in his brother and watched as Dean headed into the bathroom. "I can help dig the ---"
Dean stuck his head out of the doorway. "Not with that wrist; I'm taking any chances with you."
Sam insisted on stopping for food before going to the cemetery. He wasn't even sure the last time they'd eaten and he knew that Dean would be doing some strenuous digging. He'd need fuel for that.
At the small, overly lit diner, they stayed to safe subjects and comfortable silences as they ate the small meals they'd ordered. At the cemetery, they quickly found the grave they'd marked earlier. Sam tried to help with the digging, but his brother staunchly refused to let him. When Dean exposed the cheap coffin, he used the shovel to break the lid and Sam scattered salt and lighter fluid over the bones. Standing next to him, Dean lit a match and after looking at the flame for a moment, he dropped it into the grave.
"That's for being such a sick fuck," he said as flames erupted from the coffin. "You don't mess with kids."
Back in the motel room, Dean shed his clothes and went into the bathroom in only his underwear. He hadn't said a word the entire time he was filling in the grave or as he drove back to the motel and he only shook his head when Sam asked if he wanted something to eat or drink.
Sam sat in one of the chairs, his wrist resting on the table in front of him, listening to the sound of the water in the shower. He had no idea what to do to ease his brother's nerves, but was determined to make the night as comfortable for him as he could. He gathered up Dean's discarded clothes and put them next to his duffle bag then slipped out of the room and walked to the convenience store on the next block to get a six pack of his brother's favorite beer.
Dean stood under the shower head and let the water roll down his body. It was scalding hot, but it felt good on his aching muscles. Despite the junk food he preferred, Dean was in excellent physical shape and it wasn't the digging that was causing the pain he felt in his joints. He'd been tense since they started this job. The memory of what Wally did to him as a child had rushed to the surface of his consciousness and though he wasn't sure what part of it was real and what was imagined, the pain was more excruciating than he would have believed possible.
And then coming across the same man all those years later….being held prisoner while the bastard tortured him was bad enough, but then he'd started to talk about that day at the park. Wally had told him exactly what he'd wanted to do to him, but never got the chance. Even now, Dean wasn't sure which was worse; the physical pain Wally had put him through in that room or reminding him what had happened when he was only six years old.
Suddenly feeling dizzy, Dean put a hand against the wall of the shower and leaned heavily against it. The pain of both events flooded over him and he didn't realize he was now sitting on the bottom of the tub. He turned his face toward the still hot water falling from the shower head, allowing it to mix with the tears he didn't know he was shedding.
Nearly twenty minutes later, Dean emerged from the bathroom. He pulled on a clean t-shirt, noticing that Sam had moved the trail of clothes he'd left and was now sitting on his bed, his back resting against the headboard. When Sam turned off the television, the light from the bathroom provided the only illumination in the room.
Dean took one of the bottles of beer Sam had stuck in the ice bucket.
"Thanks," he said and removed the cap. "Have you taken anything for your wrist?"
"It's fine, Dean. Are you okay?"
"I could have helped at the cemetery, you know."
"You did; you were the look-out. When your wrist heals, you can dig up the bones."
"Deal," Sam said as Dean sat on the other bed.
After letting Dean enjoy the beer for a few minutes, Sam threw his long legs over the side of the bed and leaned forward, his hands clasped loosely between his knees. "Dean –"
Dean didn't turn to look at him. "I'm okay, Sam. I'm sorry I –"
"Don't apologize for being human, Dean. Please." When his brother didn't react, Sam continued. "I know you don't like the serious talks, but when I need to, you always let me. You listened to me talk about Jessica for hours on end after she died. You –"
"You were hurting, man."
"You hurt, too. And when you do, I want to make it okay for you to talk to me."
"You do," Dean whispered and looked at Sam.
Sam and Dean stuck around town for another two days to make sure there were no more attacks. Jobs weren't always as cut and dry as this one, but they didn't want to make any assumptions. They didn't talk any more about Dean's experience with Wally and Sam didn't tell his brother that he'd started looking for him. Sam didn't know what he would do if he found him, but he felt like he needed to look.
Dean was subdued for several weeks after they left town. He didn't spent much time trolling for women in bars, but gave his all to the hunt. Without complaint, he took up the slack that Sam's injured wrist demanded. Sam let Dean do things for him that he probably could have done himself, but he saw the peace it gave his brother and he would do anything to keep that look on Dean's face.
When it was time for the follow-up x-ray on Sam's wrist, the brothers were visiting Bobby Singer. He'd become an important person in their lives and both of them felt a little closer to their father when they were with Bobby.
Even though Dean had known that Sam's wrist would be fine, he felt a huge relief when the doctor told them Sam no longer needed to wear the brace. Somehow, after hearing the news, it was as if he could finally put some things behind him. He was more used to stuffing his feelings away than actually dealing with them, but he was beginning to learn that the latter way was often better.
Dean never really thought about why he found it so hard to share things with Sam. Part of it, the part he recognized, was that he wanted to protect his little brother. Even now that Sam was nearly 24 years old and anything but little, Dean still wanted to keep him safe. Some of the things he'd seen, some of what he'd been through….
Another part of the reason Dean had a hard time opening up to Sam was fear of his rejection; not that he had ever considered that. Dean didn't want to be alone and that was the overriding reason he'd gone to Stanford to get Sam when their father went missing. He could have continued on alone, but he couldn't face it. Now, nearly three years after reuniting with his brother and spending a lot of that time afraid that Sam would leave Dean realized he could let him go. He could be alone if it meant Sam was happy, but not if it meant that Sam had rejected him.
Dean had been working on his Impala for most of the afternoon and was enjoying a beer while sitting on the hood when Sam joined him.
"Hey," Sam sat down next to his brother. "How's she running?"
"Better than ever," Dean announced proudly. "So, good news about your wrist this morning, huh?"
"Yeah." Sam flexed his fingers. "It's nice not to have the brace on it."
'I bet. It doesn't hurt at all?"
"No, it's fine."
Dean looked away and nodded.
"We've got dinner ready inside if you're hungry."
"Yeah, I'll be right there."
Sam nodded and walked toward Bobby's house. He stopped and turned back to his brother.
Dean recognized Sam's tone as well as his body language and knew that he was going to bring up something Dean didn't want to talk about.
"Yeah?" He took a long draw from the beer bottle.
"You've been spending a lot of time out here alone. I'm just worried about you."
"If you want to talk about –"
"But if you do want to…."
"I can talk to you," Dean said quietly. "I know that."
Sam nodded. "So, uh, I'm here, okay?"
Dean watched as Sam stood in front of him, looking a little uncomfortable. A moment later, the younger man nodded again and turned away.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean called. "Wait for me."
They walked toward the house together and Dean glanced at Sam when he put a hand, the hand that had been injured, on his shoulder.
Dean felt his mood lighten suddenly and an unusual sense of comfort and safety. He grinned at his brother.
"Last one there has to wash the dishes," he said and then sprinted toward the house.
A moment later he heard Sam's footsteps behind him and he ran faster. For the first time in a long time he felt like he was running toward something and not away from something.