Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Supernatural. The characters and the universe of Supernatural do not belong to me. I make no profit from this story.
Thanks to kaz2y567i for her fantastic beta'ing. You are the best!
Brothers and Strangers
Dean sat in his car, his eyes never leaving the apartment building that was a few meters down the street. He had parked the Impala behind a shady, white van so he wouldn't be visible by anyone stepping out of the building.
Not that it mattered anyway. Dean knew the one person who it would matter to, Sam, wasn't at home. After two hours spent in the Impala and watching the window of this brother's apartment – Sam had an apartment! – he had finally found the courage to get out of his car and knock on Sam's door. No one had answered.
Now he was back in the Impala waiting for Sam to return. He had to come back eventually, after all it was the weekend and he wasn't likely to have any classes on a Saturday. Though knowing his geek brother he had probably buried himself in between a dozen books in the library. That would mean it could take hours for him to come back.
Dean would just have to wait. No way was he leaving before casting a glance at his brother. He didn't need to talk to him; Sam probably wouldn't want that anyway. And as much as that hurt, Dean was willing to accept it. He just needed to see that Sam was all right, that he was still there – that was enough.
After another hour or so – Dean had pretty much lost track of time – he saw a cab stopping in front of the building. A moment later Sam climbed out, accompanied by a young woman Sam's age. She had long, curly, blond hair and looked breathtakingly beautiful.
'So out of Sammy's league.' Dean thought grinning. And so what his brother deserved.
Sam and his girlfriend – at least Dean assumed she was his girlfriend, judging by the fact that they were holding hands; and wow, Sam had a girlfriend! – walked towards the apartment building when Sam suddenly stopped. Dean saw the woman look at him questioningly. They talked for a moment and eventually she let go of Sam's hand, gently stroked his cheek and gave him a kiss on the mouth. When she looked at Sam, her eyes were filled with warmth and love … and worry.
Dean felt a bad feeling start to build in his gut. He watched Sam walk a few steps away from the building and sit down on a bench. The woman turned to go through the front door, then seemed to change her mind and stayed out - right in front of the door and far away enough from Sam to give him the space he apparently needed right now but still close enough to be there for him should he need her.
Dean decided he liked her.
He turned his attention back to Sam who had pulled out his cell phone and was staring at it incredulously. Dean felt his heart beat a bit faster.
The next few minutes nothing really happened. Sam still sat on the bench, staring at the phone in his hands. The woman – Sam's girlfriend! – still hung back at the door and watched him carefully. And Dean was still in the Impala, watching both of them. He would have laughed at the situation if there weren't this feeling in his gut telling him something was wrong.
When his phone rang, he jumped in his seat. He grabbed his cell and stared at the Caller ID.
Dean looked back to his brother and saw him holding the phone to his ear. Sam was calling someone. Sam was calling him.
After two years of hardly any contact at all except for a text message every now and then for birthdays, holidays or New Year, Dean would talk to his little brother again. He cleared his throat and answered the phone.
For a moment Dean thought he had imagined the ringing tone or Sam's name on the display. Then he finally heard his brother's voice. It was the best sound he had heard in two years.
"Hey ... it's me."
Dean would have jumped for joy if he hadn't been sitting in the Impala and it wouldn't be such an uncool thing to do.
Instead he cleared his throat and tried to make his voice sound as casual as possible. "How's it going?"
"Okay." Dean replied after a moment. Sam's answer had come too fast for his liking. And Sam talking in one-word-sentences never meant anything good. "So, is Stanford everything you thought it would be?" If not, I'm just a few feet away and ready to pick you up and get you out of here, bro.
"Yeah, it's great."
Okay, something was definitely wrong. Dean watched his brother intently. He was still sitting on the bench, leaning slightly forward, his elbows resting on his knees. He looked pale, Dean noticed. Dark circles were under his eyes and he had definitely lost a few pounds. Dean shook his head. The kid was probably too engulfed in his studies to even think about proper food or sleep.
"So, um, what's the occasion?" Dean asked, hoping that this time he would get a more detailed reply from his brother.
"Can't I just call you?" Sam asked. His voice sounded weak and tired and everything in Dean screamed that this wasn't just a simple social call.
"Sam, we haven't talked in nearly two years. Not that I'm complaining. I'm happy you called. But it's not really like you to just call and say hi."
Dean watched how Sam raked his hand through his hair. He looked almost ... devastated.
"Where are you?"
"Huh?" Sam's question took Dean by surprise and he quickly tried to come up with an answer. I'm only a few feet away hiding behind a big, white van and spying on youprobably wouldn't go too well with his brother.
"Are you on a hunt?" Sam asked before Dean could come up with an appropriate answer.
"Uh, no. Actually, I just finished a job in Solvang and, um, I'm on my way to Vegas. You know, relax a bit." It was only half a lie. He had just finished a job before he had come here. Dean had to grin when he saw Sam smiling at his remark.
The smile didn't stay long though.
Right, Dad. He and Sam still weren't on speaking terms. They hadn't even reached the occasional text message stage. Dean sighed. Their relationship really was a mess.
"Dad's working with Caleb. An exorcism. I was still busy finishing this poltergeist, so when Caleb called Dad went alone. I'm meeting up with him later the in week."
Why don't you join us?
The question was on the tip of his lips, but he didn't say it out loud. It would be useless anyway.
"A poltergeist, huh?"
"Yeah, piece of cake." Dean grinned.
Through the phone he heard Sam take a deep breath. He figured he would soon find out the real reason for his brother's call.
"Um, I ... I know it's been a while since we talked last." Sam started hesitantly. "And I could understand if this isn't a good time for you, but, um ..."
"Just spit it out, Sam."
Sam cleared his throat. "I, um, I need to ask for a favor."
"I ... I have this thing, um, this medical thing and, um ..." He cleared his throat again and Dean saw him raking his hand through his hair. He caught his breath at the mention of the term medical.
"What do you need, Sammy?" Money? Blood? A kidney? It's all yours, bro.
"It's a ... a ... abonemarrowtransplant." Sam had spoken so quickly that his words were barely discernible. Dean had understood him anyway.
"What?" He asked shocked. He knew exactly what this meant. Although he prayed that there was a reason for such a medical procedure that he didn't know about yet.
"It's not that big a deal, really. I wouldn't even ask, but ... well, the doc said that siblings are usually a match, the perfect donor so to speak, so ... you don't have to come right away, either. There is still some time ... um, I'm getting blood transfusions and stuff, so ..." By now Sam had stood up from the bench and had started pacing nervously up and down the pavement. "You won't have to get here right away. I mean, if there's a hunt waiting, I can understand that's ..."
"Whoa, whoa, Sam, stop! What are you talking about? Of course I'm coming! Consider myself already there." He cleared his throat. "Do you really think I would let you go through this alone? And what exactly are we talking about here anyway?" Dean burst out after the first shock had passed.
Sam sighed and sat down on the bench again. "It's MDS, um, myelodysplastic syndrome, or something. Jess could tell you the right medical term."
Jess. That had to be Sam's girlfriend.
"What exactly is that?" Dean had never heard of it. He was just glad it wasn't cancer. Everything was better than cancer, right?
"There's something wrong with my blood cells. I, um, I didn't really get everything the doc told me. Jess, she could explain this better. She's pre-med, you know."
He sounded proud. And damn scared.
"Blood cells, huh? So, what exactly are the symptoms?"
"At the moment, I'm just feeling tired. A lot. Nothing too bad."
That didn't sound convincing. Sam had never been a good liar, at least not to people who knew him.
"So, how did they found out about this? I'm mean, you're not exactly the type to go to a doctor because you're feeling tired." Dean insisted to know everything about this.
"Well, um ..." Sam cleared his throat. "I kinda passed out two weeks ago. And ... I have this nose bleeding for a while, so Jess insisted that I'd go. Good thing I listened to her on this." Sam chuckled quietly. It didn't sound happy.
"Yeah, that's a good thing." Dean replied. He liked this Jess girl more and more. "What do I need to do?"
Straight to business. That's the Winchester way to deal with everything. Except when it came to how you feel.
"You'd have to stay in hospital for a few days. There are like, tons of tests. Jess could ... you know, she can explain it all better." Sam said quietly.
"She sounds like a clever girl."
Dean was surprised when he saw his brother's face light up. He must really love her.
"So, a few days, huh? Well, I had been looking forward to do some relaxing. And at least this way I won't have to listen to Dad's and Caleb's lame jokes." Dean paused for a moment. "You want me to call him?"
"No, don't. I mean, no need to worry him. This isn't a big deal." Sam said quietly. His voice was slightly trembling.
Damn, you idiot, I can see you want your father around, why don't you just say so? "He's in the area, I'm sure he would be happy to stop by." Okay, maybe happy wasn't the right word.
"When do you think you could be here?"
Change of subject. The Winchester way to deal with everything you didn't want to deal with. Perfect.
"Two hours I think." That would give him enough time to find out more about this MDS and wouldn't give the impression that he was just around the corner. He would bring their Dad up later again.
"Okay." Sam swallowed. "That's great."
Dean cleared his throat. "Is there a good motel nearby you can recommend?"
"Why?" Sam sounded confused.
"Well, I have to stay somewhere, right? I'm not planning to just come here for the hospital stay." What was his brother thinking? That he would donor some blood or whatever and disappear again? Just ignore the fact that his brother was sick and needed his family?
"Oh … you can stay here if you like." Sam replied quietly.
"Here?" Not that Dean didn't know exactly where here was, but officially he didn't know anything about Sam's apartment.
"Oh, right. Um, Jess and I moved together a few weeks ago. I'll send you the address via text message."
Dean noticed that Sam looked guilty. Good, he should feel guilty. Moving together with his girlfriend was something Dean should have found out from Sam himself, and not from his former neighbor that Dean had given fifty bucks to get some info on his brother.
"Great, I'll see you in two hours then."
"Yeah, okay. Bye."
Dean waited until Sam ended the call before he turned off his phone. He watched how Sam once again raked his hands through his hair, before he got up and walked back towards the apartment building. His girlfriend, Jess, was still waiting for him. She asked him something and Sam nodded his head. He put his arm around her shoulder and together they disappeared in the building.
Dean stayed a while just staring at the empty space his little brother had just vacated. He wondered what Jess had been asking him. If his brother would come and help him? Of course he would come. There wasn't even a question about that. What was she thinking? That he would let his brother down on this? For a moment Sam's new girlfriend didn't seem as sympathetic anymore. She should know that there was nothing he wouldn't do for his brother.
But then he remembered the look she had cast at Sam … full of love, sympathy, warmth and understanding. And it had been her who had convinced Sam to see a doctor. That definitely gave her a quite a lot of sympathy points.
After a few minutes of pondering about Sam and this new life of his, Dean eventually started the Impala and drove to the next library. It was about time he found out more about this MDS.
It hadn't taken Dean long to find all the information he needed on myelodysplastic syndrome. He was sitting at a table covered with several medical books, mumbling quietly to himself while he was reading.
"Myelodysplastic syndrome, formerly known as preleukemia … Leukemia?" Alerted Dean stared at the words in front of him. Sam had said nothing of leukemia! Taking he deep breath, he forced himself to stay calm and kept reading. "… a diverse collection of hematological conditions united by ineffective production of blood cells and varying risks of transformation to acute myelogenous leukemia." Damn, there it was again. He hadn't understood much of what was written in there, but that one word he knew. Leukemia. He was going to kill Sam. "Not a big deal, my ass. This is serious business. Sam, you …" He cursed out loud.
"Shhht!" scolded the passing librarian who looked to be all of a hundred years old in Dean's eyes.
Dean cast her a half apologetic, half annoyed glance and returned his attention back to the books.
"Symptoms of myelodysplastic conditions are chronic tiredness, shortness of breath, chilled sensation, sometimes chest pain … okay, that I can deal with." Dean exhaled relieved. This didn't sound too serious. Yet. "Increased susceptibility to infection and bleeding." Infection and bleeding – nothing he hadn't dealt with yet. He was feeling reassured that the worst case scenario – Sam dying from leukemia – could be prevented by him getting that stem cell transplant. And Dean would make sure he would get it. With his big brother being the perfect donor. "Although there is some risk for developing acute myelogenous leukemia …" Really, how many times was that repeated in this book? "… about 50 percent of deaths occur as a result of bleeding or infection."
Frozen Dean stared at the book in front of him. 50 percent. So much for being able to deal with bleeding and infection. He was so going to call their father. This was more than he could cope with. Their Dad deserved to be here. This was a family thing. And even though the Winchesters hadn't spent much time together the last two years, this was definitely a reason for all three of them to reunite. He would talk to Sam about this one more time and if he still refused, he would pull his big brother card and make the call anyway. Big brothers always were right.
He kept reading more about Pathophysiology and the types of classification. He didn't really understand much. But he would copy everything and get this Jess girl to explain everything to him. He wanted to know every little detail of this disease. He was going to spend several days in hospital – enough time to learn everything.
He skipped a few pages until he reached the part about therapy. From what he had read before, Sam seemed to have high-risk-MDS. Of course he couldn't have taken the low kind of this disease. It was never the easy way with his brother.
"The goals of therapy are to control symptoms, improve quality of life, improve overall survival and decrease progression to acute myelogenous leukemia. … Okay, that's a lot of improvement." Dean mumbled dissatisfied. "And what about cure this thing?" He skimmed over several mentions of different medications that were used for treatment until he found what he had been looking for. "Bone marrow transplant, particularly in younger patients (ie less than 40 years of age), more severely affected patients, offers the potential for curative therapy."
"The bone mark transplant is therapy of choice for patients under 50 years with high-risk-MDS. According to a study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the US with 251 MDS-patients, the survival without recurrence of MDS six years after the transplant averages to 40 percent."
40 percent. So Sam had a 50 percent chance of dying from bleeding or infection. And if he would survive all that and not get leukemia, he had a 40 percent chance to get sick again during the next six years. This sucked.
Frustrated Dean closed the book with a loud thump, which earned him another scolding look from the librarian. He didn't care.
"Can I help you with anything? Um, I noticed all the medical books and I'm a medical student. Don't get me wrong, but somehow you don't exactly look like the med student kind of guy, so if you have any questions …"
A young woman stood next to Dean. She looked hot. Under any other circumstances Dean would have hit on her. But that thought didn't even cross his mind right now.
"My brother has MDS. I was just trying to find out what that really is. About treatment and stuff." Dean said quietly. Somehow he hoped that she would tell him that it wasn't all that bad after all. That these books were exaggerating a lot. That Sam would be fine.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I don't really know much about that." She looked truly sorry.
Dean didn't care.
"You know anything about bone mark transplant? Something about stem cells …"
"That I can tell you about." The woman smiled and took a seat next to him. "I'm Sally."
"Okay, let me see …" She searched through the books that were lying on the table. A moment later she picked one up and skimmed through the pages. "Here … there's everything you should need to know."
Giving her a thankful smile, Dean took the book from her. Due to Sally's presence, Dean read quietly this time.
Allogeneic HSCT involves two people, one is the (normal) donor and one is the (patient) recipient. Allogeneic HSC donors must have a tissue (HLA) type that matches the recipient. Matching is performed on the basis of variability at three or more loci of the (HLA) gene, and a perfect match at these loci is preferred. Even if there is a good match at these critical alleles, the recipient will require immunosuppressive medications to mitigate graft-versus-host disease. Allogeneic transplant donors may be related (usually a sibling) or unrelated volunteers. Allogeneic transplants are also performed using umbilical cord blood as the source of stem cells.
"So, being brothers means I can definitely donor for him, right?" Dean asked.
"There is a good chance, yes." Sally replied carefully.
"A good chance? What about a 100 percent assurance?" Or maybe 150 percent. Better safe than sorry.
"There are no 100 percent assurances in the medicine field, Dean. Too many things that can go wrong."
"Right." Dean stared back at the book. He didn't think he could handle seeing the pity in her eyes. Taking a deep breath, he continued reading.
Donor selection: To avoid rejection of the transplanted stem cells or severe graft-versus-host disease, the donor should have the same human leukocyte antigens (HLA) as the recipient. About 25 to 30 percent of potential HSCT recipients have an HLA-identical sibling. Even so-called "perfect matches" may have mismatched minor alleles that contribute to graft-versus-host disease.
He could make Sam sick. There was a chance, a 25 to 30 percent chance to be exactly, that his blood or stem cells or whatever would make Sam's condition worse and not better. He swallowed. "What exactly is graft-versus-host disease?" He asked in a hoarse voice.
Sally looked at him sympathetically. Dean wished she wouldn't.
"It's a common complication of the transplant. The functional immune cells in the transplanted marrow recognize the recipient as foreign and mount an immunologic attack." She explained quietly. "There can be selective damage to the liver, skin, mucosa or the gastrointestinal tract as well as the immun system and the lungs." She paused a moment to let Dean take all of this in.
"What does that mean exactly?" Dean asked, his voice trembling slightly. He didn't like any of this and instead of making him feel better, it made him scared.
"He could develop pneumonia or infections, for instance. Other symptoms are abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. But Dean, this doesn't need to happen. In most cases, everything goes fine. I wouldn't worry about this."
"What?" Sally asked.
"How long until we know that he won't have this … disease?"
"Oh … about three months."
"Three months?" Dean stared at her. This was all just getting worse and worse. He had come here to find out how he could help Sam. And all he had found out was that even if he did try to help him, he could make things worse.
He felt the bile rise in his throat at the thought of all the things that could go wrong. He needed his father. His Dad would know what to do.
Startled Dean looked up. He had almost forgotten about Sally's presence. "Listen, um, I gotta go. Thanks for your help."
"No problem. I hope your brother will be all right."
"Yeah …" He gave her a forced smile and left. As soon as he stepped out of the library, he pulled out his phone. He really, really needed to talk to his father right now.
"Dad?" After the fifth ringing his father had finally answered the phone and Dean called out for him in relieve.
"Dean? Where are you? Did you finish the poltergeist?" John Winchester asked, his voice sounding slightly impatient.
"Yeah, yeah, the job is done. Dad, listen, I … I'm in Palo Alto." Dean swallowed. He could practically see the annoyed glare his father was probably sending him through the phone right now.
"I was expecting you here, Dean. Caleb and I …"
"Dad, it's Sam.. He … He's sick. I think it's bad." Dean swallowed.
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. "What's wrong with him?"
Dean let out a relieved breath. He would tell his father everything and he would take care of things from here on. "He has MDS." For the live of him he couldn't remember the exact word of his brother's disease. "Something's wrong with his blood. He needs a bone mark transplant. I … I can probably be a donor, but … Dad, there are so many things that can go wrong." His voice hitched and Dean could feel tears well up in his eyes. Damn, he couldn't cry now. Not with his father on the other line. Or with anyone in a three mile radius being able to see him. "Can you come? I think … I think this would mean a lot to Sam. He could really …"
"Did he say he wants me to be there?" John interrupted him.
"What? No … not really. But you know Sam, he's as stubborn as the rest of us. He wouldn't ask for you to come. Heck, he only called me because he needs me as a donor." Okay, that had not come out right. "I know he wants you there. He needs you, Dad." I need you!
Another long pause on the phone made Dean want to scream out his frustration out loud. What was there to think about? Sammy was sick.
"Dean, you know how your brother is. I don't want to make this worse for him than it already is."
"Look Dean, this exorcism Caleb is dealing with is real tricky. It's a two men job. You stay with Sammy for as long as you need. And … keep me posted on … how he is."
There was a slight tremble audible in John's voice, but Dean was too angry at the moment to notice it.
"Sam might die, Dad. Can't you …"
"I have to go now. Tell Sam … Watch out for him, Ace." With that John ended the call.
Incredulously Dean stared at the phone in his hand. His father had not just hang up on him. He couldn't believe this. How could he just turn his back on his own son? Okay, so their relationship wasn't the best, but this was Sam!
A streetlight suddenly turning on right next to where Dean was standing, reminded him how much time had passed. It was already evening. A look at his watch told him that he was supposed to have been arrived at Sam's place over an hour ago. He had lost three hours that he could have spend with Sam.
He suddenly felt like he was running out of time. He had always thought that as soon as Sam was done with college, he would return to them and they would hunt again together until they grew old and gray. Or until one of them got killed by one of the supernatural things they were hunting, but Dean usually refused to even think about that possibility. The plan was for him and Sam to hunt together forever. And now it seemed as if Sam wouldn't even have enough time left to finish college and return to him. If he had ever planned to return in the first place.
Frustratingly raking his hand through his hair, he put his phone back in his jacket, got into the Impala and started the engine. Forcing away all thoughts of Sam dying or his father refusing to be there for his son, Dean drove onto the road and back to Sam's apartment.
Quietly Sam and Dean sat next to each other on the bench in front of Sam's apartment building. The last five months had been hard for both of them. Sam's condition had been a steady up and down. Dean had been the perfect donor, and yet a week after the transplantation Sam had succumbed to graft-versus-host disease. His lungs had been affected and he had a bad case of pneumonia that had weakened him even more. He suffered from nausea and dizziness for weeks. Despite all kinds of medications it seemed to take forever before he had fully recovered from those setbacks. And all this had been accompanied by an always present headache and nightmares every night.
Two days ago Sam's doctor had attested him a clean health. For now. Dean couldn't forget what he had read all those months ago. That the MDS could return anytime. But at least now Sam – and Jess too – would know the symptoms and the disease could be treated in its early stages. Not that that was any re-assurance that Sam would be cured a second time. But it was something.
Dean was reluctant to leave. Even though Sam was getting stronger with every day and had returned to his studies a month ago, Dean didn't feel like leaving him already. But his father had called last week. Asking him to join him on a hunt. Apparently a Black Dog was loose in some huge forest in Wyoming. A two man job. And Sam was okay again, John had pointed out. No reason to stay any longer.
Of course he was right. He couldn't stay here forever. So he would leave.
"I'm sure Jess is going to throw a party that I'm finally gone." Dean joked. He didn't really feel like joking, but he would do anything to not turn this into a chick flick moment.
"Dean, you are always welcome here. And Jess and I are grateful for all your help." Sam looked down at his hands. "I owe you."
Startled Dean looked at his brother. "Don't be stupid, Sammy. You would have done the same."
"Yeah, still …" Hesitantly Sam met Dean's glance. "You wouldn't have needed to stay that long." He cleared his throat and looked down again. When he continued, his voice was barely above a whisper. "I'm glad you did."
This was getting too close to a chick flick moment for Dean's liking. Still, he didn't want to leave letting Sam think he owed him for this. "That's what big brothers are for." He shrugged.
Before Sam could reply anything, he stood up. "Well, it's time to hit the road again. If I let Dad wait any longer, he's going to try to get that Black Dog by himself. And you know how well that ended the last time."
"Yeah." Sam chuckled at the memory of his father, covered in mud and caught in his own trap. John had never told them how he had ended up in this predicament, but his sons had made sure never to let him live it down. They didn't get much chances to make fun of their father.
Sam got up too and followed Dean to the Impala. "So, Wyoming …"
"Yeah, it's not California, but I guess it'll be a nice change." Dean cleared his throat. "Well, take care, little bro. Next time you call, I expect you to have better news."
"I hope so too." Sam smiled.
"Okay, then … I call you when I'm in Wyoming."
"Yeah, okay. And, um, tell Dad …Never mind. Just be careful, okay?"
"I'm always careful. And I'll tell Dad you said Hi." Dean looked at his brother intently. He wished there would be more he could tell their father from Sam.
"Thanks." Sam nodded.
Dean thought that was probably more than he could ask for. "Okay, I'm off then." He looked at Sam for a moment and then, without giving it further thought, he pulled his brother in a tight hug. "Let's not be strangers again, okay?"
He pulled away a second later. He thought he saw tears welling in Sam's eyes. But that was probably just his imagination. The same went for the wetness he felt in his own eyes.
"Take care, bro. And make sure to treat Jess right. You don't meet a woman like her twice in your life."
"I know." Sam smiled. The happy smile he always wore whenever they talked about Jessica.
Dean had been a bit jealous of her at first for making his brother smile like that, but after four months of seeing her taking care of Sam and the loving looks the two shared whenever they locked eyes, had made him change his mind about her quickly. He was happy that Sam had found her.
Feeling that everything had been said between them, Dean got into the car. Before he started the engine though, he leaned over the passenger seat and rolled down the window. "If you ever feel bored by this college life, just give me a call. We're always short a geek boy to do the research for us."
Sam laughed. "Right."
Dean gave him a cocky grin and a moment later the Impala drove back onto the road. Dean watched his brother getting smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. With every meter that the distance grew between them, he felt a little bit more empty inside.
When he drove away from Palo Alto, Dean was determined to stay in contact with his brother this time. But the hunting life didn't leave much chance for social contacts and it was only two years later that Dean saw his brother again. And even though they had promised each other not to become strangers again, when they met again, Dean realized that they had become exactly that. Strangers.
But they were granted a second chance to change that. And Dean prayed every day that they would have enough time left to make sure that they would stay brothers, not strangers, until they grew old and gray.