The Kids Are Alright tag. I needed to see the brothers break down their barriers a little and confront the huge revelation that Dean thought he might have a son and how he felt about that. I hope the show will address that issue in a future episode, but if not… my Dean and Sam are going to have a little talk! (Oh, how I love that thought! Kripke, you will share them, right?)

Remember they are still Winchesters so we can't expect them to reveal everything, but in my stories we at least get some discussion! I'm not really complaining, Mr. Kripke… it's just that I need my brotherly emotional moments to survive. It is the very heart and soul of the show and why I am hopelessly devoted to it. The action and horror are great, but it's not why I come to the party. Gotta have me some Winchester bonding!

I hope you enjoy reading my little story as much as I loved writing it. Any thoughts and comments are always appreciated. Thanks for coming to my party..; unfortunately I think J & J's invitations were lost in the mail.

This story is dedicated to my two favorite brothers in the whole, wide world… my nephews, Zach and Lo, 'cause brothers should always talk about the important stuff going on in their lives.

Not My Life

"So, that was Lisa Braeden?"

"Yeah."

"She's pretty."

"Yeah."

"So?"

"So, what?"

Dean slid into the Impala and turned over the engine. He sat staring out the windshield at the driveway to Lisa's suburban house. He barely looked at his brother and that was always a sign. An indication something was going on inside that thick head of his and he was worried any flicker of his green eyes might reveal his hidden thoughts. It was safer to keep them front and center and ignore the probing gaze of his nosy brother.

Sam was not so easily dissuaded. "So, did you guys get reacquainted?"

"Yeah, sure."

"That's it?" Sam grinned his goofy smile as he continued, "No tales of bendy moments? No visions of wild times you want to share with me?" The teasing in Sam's voice was evident, trying to wrangle some emotion from his unresponsive brother. "You know, something… anything to replace the blinding sight of you with the Doublemint twins?"

Dean was tapping his fingers against the steering wheel. "She's a mom now, Sam," he answered matter-of-factly as he shifted uneasily in his seat. His fingers tightened around the leather grip as he held on to the one constant in his life. "We were kids then… times have changed. She's changed."

Sam stared out the window too, processing what Dean was saying and what he wasn't saying. He slowly turned and his gaze again fell upon the profile of his brother, shadows covering most of his face, his façade obscuring the rest. "And you've changed?"

Dean scoffed, his laugh sounding forced, but Sam couldn't tell for sure. The only thing he knew for sure was his brother wouldn't look at him.

"Me? Same old, same old," Dean grumbled before revving the engine and seamlessly jumping into 'hyper drive Dean', leaving pensive, reflective Dean in his dust, "I vote we haul ass and leave this burg in our rearview. You ever been to Six Flags?"

"You're kidding, right? An amusement park? Since when have you ever wanted to go to a theme park?"

"First time for everything, Sammy."

"Uh-huh."

Sounding like a ten year old ready to take off on his first big adventure without Mom and Dad, Dean urged his brother on, "Dude, I need to be amused… so, you with me?"

"Another one of your last wishes?"

"If that's what it takes." Dean finally turned to look at him with a smirk on his lips and a sparkle in his eyes. "Come on, Sammy… live a little. I hear they have a roller coaster that's twenty stories high."

"I thought you were afraid of heights?"

"Heights? What, you crazy? I'm not afraid of heights." Dean offered up his patented cocky grin, "Planes, dude. There's a difference."

Sam almost saw a glimpse of the old, familiar Dean… almost. Except the old Dean never had to try this hard.

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The three hour drive got them to the Chicago theme park at four in the morning. Sam really hoped they'd get a motel room even if they did have to pay full price for a few hours of sleep, but Dean was anxious they be there right when the park opened.

"Come on, Sammy. Why waste money on a room? I'll even let you have the back. Lots of room to stretch out those long legs of yours."

Sam scrunched up his face, obviously displeased. "You're the one always complaining about not having a bed to sleep in when we actually have a reason to sleep in the car, and now you want to sleep in the car? Because why? We're not on a stakeout, Dean, unless you've got another secret case here."

"Be like old times. Come on, Sammy…" Dean's eyes actually looked like a kid's pleading for a later bedtime or that cool, new video game, "Humor me."

Sam never could resist Dean when he got in this playful, juvenile mood. It had occurred so rarely since Dad died and Sam treasured it, especially now. At least he's not asking for another go-round with the Doublemint Twins. Thank God!

Dean pulled his duffle out of the trunk to use as a pillow and shifted down across the seat, his knees bent and leaning against the steering wheel because even he didn't fit in the damn car. Sam squeezed his long frame within the confines of the back seat as best he could; cursing that he was relenting to another one of Dean's passing fancies. Just how many last wishes do you expect to receive here, Dean?

"Hey, Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"Tell me again why we're not using the fake credit cards that we don't even pay the bills on to get us a nice comfy room with an actual bed?"

Dean huffed out his response, "Whiner."

They lay there in silence, neither one able to sleep in the pretzel form they had taken to fit within the confines of the Impala. Dean's mind took him back to all the days and nights spent within these four doors. The smell of the leather comforting and familiar, reminding him of his childhood when all was almost right with the world, or as right as it would ever again be for a motherless child, back before he realized their lives were fucked up beyond salvage and Dad didn't know everything. Dad may not have known everything, but he knew enough… he gave his sons the skills to survive. A kid needs a dad that can show him how the world works, when to fight and how. He smiled with pride as he remembered the look on Ben's face as he took down that bully with a swift kick to the nads.

"Dean?"

"WHAT?" Geez, can a man get some sleep around here?

"You sleeping?"

"Sam, for a freakin' genius, you sure ask the dumbest questions. If I'm talking what does that mean?"

"Let's see, Dean… maybe it means you're sleepwalking." Sam laughed at the absurdity of this night. How in the hell did I ever let him rope me into this?

"You mean sleep-laying?"

Sam silently grinned. He stared up at the roof of the car and wondered how many nights they'd spent as kids looking up at that roof, waiting for Dad to return from some hunt or sleeping in the car while Dad hustled pool or met with a contact. He never minded sleeping in the car when he was a kid, not as long as Dean was there. They'd spent a lifetime in this car… maybe that's why Dean held such a passion for her. She really was the only home they'd ever known. I wonder if that's why Dean wanted to sleep in here tonight? It has been such a long time and there's just something about him now… something I can't quite put my finger on… all I know is something's eating him. Maybe nostalgia? Funny, that's not really Dean, now is it? …but maybe.

"Sammy?"

"Yeah, Dean."

"When you were with Jessica, did you guys ever talk about, you know, having kids? I mean, you were going to ask her to marry you, right?"

Sam swallowed the lump in his throat and tried to respond. It surprised him that after all this time Dean would ask, because although Dean had been totally supportive after Jess died, he'd always steered clear of any probing questions, like he didn't want to intrude into his brother's grief. I always felt like the last thing Dean wanted was to get into a chick-flick moment… but he would have put aside his own wants and dived in head first if I needed him to.

Sam always knew Dean was ready to listen if he felt like talking… hell, Dean told him that enough times he'd have to be an idiot not to get that message, but he never had opened up about his life with Jess. At the time it had seemed too raw and tender. A lot had happened in the past two years and the wounds had finally scabbed over. Sam had new fears and hurts to deal with, and a man can only handle so much at one time. Something's got to give…

"Kids? Yeah, we talked about it… some."

Dean was silent again; either mulling over what his brother had said or simply deciding where he wanted this conversation to go. Sam couldn't tell. He just knew the air was thick with need. Dean was acting so strange and Sam was unsure how to proceed so he waited… waited for big brother to show him the way. Dean finally released a barely audible breath and his voice was tender and caring as he whispered, "Sammy, you should have kids… You'd make a great dad."

The comment seemed so out of character, so out of the blue, and all Sam could think of was all the evil in the world and all the reasons to not bring another life into the fray. "Dean, with this life… with all those demons we let loose… I don't think…"

Dean interrupted, his voice firm and sure now, but a slight tremble flittered around the edges echoing the hurt within. Sam couldn't remember ever hearing Dean's voice sound so distant and… sad.

"Sammy, do it. You need to be a dad. Any kid would be lucky to have you for their dad."

Sam's gut twisted and clenched and a thick mass lodged in his throat as his mind swam with all kinds of conflicting thoughts. The overwhelming sensation was of tension, followed by fear for the fragile voice coming from the front seat. "Dean.., what is it? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, Sam, get some sleep. 'night, Sammy."

The leather creaked as Dean shifted down in the front seat and the conversation ended. Sam lay there pondering where Dean's head was at. There had been a distance between them ever since he found out about Dean's demon deal. A wedge keeping them apart… Dean all oversexed and carefree while acting like everything was just freakin' perfect, and Sam stuck in despair… secretly spending all his time researching a way out. Maybe a day at the amusement park would do them both good… let them forget for awhile, pretend their world hadn't come crashing down around them in a pile of despair.

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The trouble with sleeping in the car, besides the obvious comfort factor, was there were no drapes to shut out the morning sun. The Winchesters were used to rising at dawn when they were on a case, but this was downtime, and three hours sleep was hardly optimal for grown men. Although they were used to functioning with little or no sleep when they were on a job and it was necessary, they both wanted… needed a few more hours of shut-eye than the sunrise was willing to relinquish.

Their grunts and the protesting of the leather as they shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position and block out the light were the sounds of the morning. After two hours of trying to carve out more sleep they both appeared resigned to surrender.

"Dean?"

"WHAT?" Dean's voice had an edge to it, like maybe his sensible side, the twisted, achy, miserable side, now saw the error in sleeping in the car.

"Can we like, maybe get some coffee?"

"Dude, I thought you'd never ask."

Dean sat up and stretched, cursing when his right knee whacked into the steering column. I guess you can't go home again.

"Sammy, next time I mention sleeping in the car, smack me, alright?"

"Count on it."

Dean started the car, the powerful roar of the engine and the blare of Zeppelin from the tape deck competing noises as they left the theme park parking lot and cruised down the main drag looking for a coffee joint.

"There's a Starbucks," Dean observed.

"Can we maybe find some real food? I don't think I'll survive without something more substantial than a muffin."

"I'm with ya there," Dean chuckled, "Need me some bacon and eggs."

Sam grunted, "You know, you don't have to mainline the cholesterol, Dean."

"Yeah, but the good news is I can kiss the bran goodbye. I don't know how anyone can eat that grit… a hundred years of eating bran?… I'd rather take the fast track. What's the use of living, if you ain't living?"

Sam's guts roiled but settled down quickly. He was getting used to Dean's flippant remarks about his impending death, but they still stung, still brought a light misting of tears over his eyes; but they ultimately only helped to steel his resolve at finding that out for Dean That was the only thought that kept Sam going, that and savoring every infuriating moment with his smart aleck brother.

-----------------------

Dean was like a kid hyped up on a sugar high as they headed up to the ticket gate, telling Sam all about the awesome roller coasters and other main attractions like a freaking tour guide. Sam couldn't recall the last time Dean rattled on this long about anything other than women, cars or evil. He'd picked up a brochure at the breakfast joint and had been scrutinizing it ever since, excitedly relaying all the details.

"Oh, Sammy, first stop Raging Bull. Twenty stories man… twenty… and it plunges down at seventy miles an hour. Awesome!"

"Ah, Dean… we just ate. You really want me to lose my breakfast?"

Dean carefully rolled his eyes over his brother's huge form before tsk, tsking. "Sam, look at you. You going to tell me you can't handle a freaking rollercoaster? I'm embarrassed for you. Look around. You see these kids… they can handle it. They've never even imagined some of the things you've witnessed and you mean to tell me, you can't handle a little rollercoaster? Sad, Sammy… real sad."

"Dean, how about we start off slow and build up to the twenty stories? Like Carly says, 'anticipation'."

Dean's wide-eyed gaze of annoyance fell upon his brother, "Dude, she sold out to a ketchup company… kinda lost the right to tell me what to think."

Sam huffed at that. "So, Dean…, does that mean Zeppelin sold out too?"

Dean turned with disgust, his body tense in a protective stance. "No way… at least that was a Cadillac… a car, dude… not some stupid condiment."

Sam laughed, it was always so much fun to prod Dean and see how his mind worked. Yeah, I know… Zeppelin rules… don't speak ill of the gods of rock.

The line was moving along and they were almost to the entry gates and Dean was practically bouncing. It felt good to see him acting excited about something other than getting laid… to see that little smile over something as normal as a rollercoaster, even if it was a gut-wrenching twenty story monstrosity.

"So, Dean… you ever been on a rollercoaster before?"

Dean squeezed through the turnstile and stood there taking in the sights and sounds of the park. "Nope," then he turned back toward his brother with a lewd smirk on his face, "guess that makes me a virgin," he suggestively wiggled his eyebrows and smacked his lips, "looking forward to the ride of my life!"

Any anxiety Sam felt disappeared and he laughed long and hard and it felt so damn good. He could spare one day off in his search for a cure if it meant he got to play teenager with his crazed brother.

"So, Sammy, you ever been to an amusement park before?"

"Just once… Jess took me to Disneyland."

Dean scoffed, "Kiddieland, you mean. Get ready for the big time, Sammy. This is where the real terror lives."

----------------------------

Considering they had just eaten breakfast, Sam couldn't believe how much junk food Dean was scarfing down. He was stopping at every vendor, perusing the limited offerings, and taste-testing their best sellers. He had yet to find anything he didn't proclaim absolutely delicious. Dean was certainly feasting on the banquet of life and he excitedly tried to get his brother to join in. Sam got a few tasty morsels shoved into his mouth before he learned the duck and roll that kept him beyond Dean's reach. Dean pouted that Sam wouldn't share in his culinary delights, but Sam figured he could deal. Breakfast still felt like a lead weight in his stomach and he had no idea where Dean was putting it all.

As the leader of this little expedition, Dean kept up a fast pace, determined to see and do everything, and Sam simply followed his lead, wherever it took them, one rollercoaster after the next until he thought his head was going to explode. It was as if Dean was cramming an entire lifetime of thrills into one fast-paced day… and I guess he is. That thought might have derailed Sam's enjoyment except he'd already determined this was going to be a good memory… a day without hunting or pain or regrets… a day for Dean.

The lines were starting to get long and they were finally waiting in line for the mother of all rollercoasters, The Raging Bull, when Dean spotted a funnel cake stand and insisted his stomach just couldn't do without. With Sam to hold his place, he took off for one more gastro-intestinal catastrophe.

With Dean gone, Sam noticed for the first time how insanely tall he was in relation to everyone else in line. Looking up at the looming metal display before him he couldn't believe all these kids would willingly strap themselves into that monstrosity and he further couldn't believe their parents actually allowed it. There were plenty of adults in line too, which kept him from feeling totally out of place, but the appeal of the steel contraptions started to wane after the fifth ride, that is if they ever held any appeal in the first place, aside from the satisfaction in observing Dean's joy.

It seemed like Dean had been gone forever when he reappeared with a boy in tow.

"Sammy, this is Kyle."

The young, grade school boy looked up and smiled and his front tooth was missing, but he hardly seemed to care. The infectious grin on his face seemed vaguely familiar and reminded Sam of better days. He was a cute kid, sandy hair, cut short in a spiky, gelled style, fair skinned and freckled, and kinda tall, considering. He reminded Sam of a certain big brother back when he was supposed to be a kid, except this kid didn't have the haunted look and wised appearance of the younger Dean. Dean always seemed older than his age… that is until he actually became an adult and sometimes acted as if he was stuck back in his childhood. Dean always was a strange mix of boy and man.

"Kyle? Hey, nice to meet you." The boy eased right into line between the brothers and Sam's mind went into fast-forward. "So, Kyle, you going to ride the Bull?"

"Yep."

Dean was standing there with his hand on the boy's shoulder, gazing up at the steel monster with wonder.

Sam continued on, trying to piece together how they came into possession of a boy… like where the heck did he come from? "So, Kyle, you here alone?"

"Nope, I'm with Dean." And a grin broke out consuming his face and the kid looked like he'd just won the lottery.

Dean's smile was brilliant and he beamed with pride… pride?

As they got closer to the big event, Dean appeared nervous. He was whispering to the kid and getting positive nods in response. They then observed the ride operators pulling certain kids out of line and taking them to a measuring stand and that's when Sam noticed the sign with the height requirement of 54 inches and began to wonder if Kyle would meet it. Dean and Kyle seemed to have the same concerns.

Dean pressed a firm hand on the back of Kyle's neck, squeezing it in a comforting grip. "Kyle, you sure you want to ride this? It is kinda huge." The kid looked up and for the first time a glimmer of worry flashed on his face as Dean voiced his own concerns, "I mean, I'm not so sure I want to ride it… it is one tall sucker."

The screams from the riders as the ride whipped them through the air was piercing and the pasty look of some as they walked away on shaky legs seemed to reinforce that this was the ride to end all rides. Kyle took a deep breath and responded, "Yeah, I want to ride it. I'm good."

"Hey, dude… I know you're good to go… I was worrying about me," Dean teased, his voice light and filled with laughter, but his eyes still held the promise of rescue, if only the kid would say the word.

Sam felt his own gut tighten at the prospect of strapping into this ride and trusting his fate to an unknown force. He risked his life all the time, but that had a purpose and he had some control over his fate… this was simply handing over his well-being to a carny. Did Dean do any research to make sure there weren't any supernatural events going on here? After all, the last case simply appeared out of thin air… in our line of work, we never know when another case might pop up. I'd sure as hell hate to be the blurb in the paper that brings another hunter to a hunt.

"Sam? Sammy?"

He startled back to reality with his brother's insistent green eyes staring up at him.

"Huh?"

"Sammy, where were you? Kyle here isn't too sure about this ride."

"No, I'm sure," Kyle added.

Dean turned back toward the kid. "Kyle, you don't have to do this just to prove something. You follow your own heart. You do what you gotta do. You stand up for yourself."

Kyle seemed to sigh with a touch of relief then, but his gaze never left Dean's and he reiterated, "Really, I want to do this."

Dean smiled. "Okay, then… but if you change your mind."

"I won't."

"But if you do…"

Sam couldn't help but smile at the exchange and it drew him back to all the years of Dean playing the big brother, protective and supportive, everything you could ask for in a brother… or dad. The way Dean was reacting to this kid… the way he was so protective of Ben… Sam's mind was putting some of the pieces together and still the puzzle of Dean was scattered out across the kitchen table, bits and pieces, but slowly a picture was taking shape, just the inner heart with so much of the background still lying there in a heap waiting for skilled hands to decipher the mystery, but the outline at the center was now distinctive.

---------------------

If they were all being honest, they would have to admit to a certain trepidation as they strapped into the metal contraption preparing to be catapulted through the air. Dean gave Kyle the thumbs up sign as the gears strained and the ride shifted and started to move. Kyle wrapped his hands around the metal frame and nodded in return. The ride took off and the anticipation morphed into reality.

Dean was loud, but what else is new? It was like a primal scream holding back all his hidden terrors and secret worries was being released as the sound ripped from his throat. Adrenaline surged through the hunters as if they were engaged in the fight of their lives. They rocketed through the air with the wind whipping at their faces and their guts clenched in exhilarating terror. Dean felt alive, really alive, and it felt good.

Kyle seemed a little shaken, but he had a grin of victory on his face as they exited the ride. He'd faced the Bull and come out intact. Dean gripped his shoulders and the young boy leaned into the solid frame of the man beside him. It didn't take long for the oohs and aahs of the amazing experience to engulf both kids in a rapid discussion of the thrills of that awesome ride.

"Dean, can we go again?" Kyle excitedly asked.

Dean stole a look at his watch before muttering, "Maybe later, dude. We gotta meet your mom."

Sam grinned at the familiar picture… maybe this all makes sense now. Dean's awkward attempts to woo Andrea coming to mind.

They were passing the bathrooms and Kyle motioned he needed to use the men's room so the brothers stepped to the side as the boy slipped inside.

"Go ahead, we'll be right here." Dean stopped and leaned up against the side of the building, his right leg bent with his foot flat against the wall.

"So, Dean… we're meeting the mom now?"

"Yeah, noon at the Crazy Buffalo Saloon for lunch."

"Figures."

Dean offered a resigned look, smiling slightly as his eyes squinted into the sun. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Just it fits."

"Oh, really… so tell me, Sammy, what exactly do you see fitting together here?"

Sam hated having to spell it out, I mean, it's obvious… but if Dean needed it in bold letters, he was always more than happy to oblige. "Looking for some MILF action, Dean? You actually trying the Jerry McGuire act now?"

Dean's eyes flashed with a fleeting glimpse of pain before he quirked his head to the side and his dimples deepened. "Yeah, I guess I deserve that. Whatever works, right? Maybe I should just be upfront about all this, huh? I can see it working like a charm… 'Hey, look, you don't know me, but I'm dying… how about a pity fuck?' That sound about like me, Sammy?"

Sam felt a huge pang of regret… something about the hurt etched on Dean's face hit deep in his gut, making it twist, and he hated himself for his casual comment and for making Dean look like this… feel like this… but Dean was just acting so strange… Sam no longer knew how to read him. One minute he's flaunting the Doublemint Twins in his face and acting the total jerk and the next he's acting all concerned over whether this kid should go on the rollercoaster he says he wants to ride. Acting like the protective big brother or… dad?

Sam swallowed and tried to make eye contact with his brother. "Dean, you alright?"

Dean again offered his standard, radiant, cocky grin. "Why wouldn't I be?" He stopped and studied the pained expression on Sam's face before adding, "Dude, get over it… I'm fine."

"Dean, I didn't mean…"

"Yeah, I know… Sammy, can we drop it? I wanna have fun today, alright?"

Sam started to open his mouth, his own desires to talk out this thing between them driving him before Dean abruptly shut him down.

"Sammy, please… not now."

Sam drew in a breath and silently nodded.

Kyle returned from the restroom and it was as if the conversation never happened as Dean returned to his previous breezy, cocky self.

"So, Kyle, you hungry?"

Kyle looked up at Dean and his smile was blinding, not because his teeth were bleached beyond reason, but because his entire face beamed with an infectious joy. Dean soaked up the good vibes and returned the enthusiastic smile.

"Dean, I'm totally starving."

"Yeah, me too."

Sam observed the little exchange and couldn't help but smile, especially when he considered where the hell Dean could put one more ounce of food.

Dean turned a warm smile to his brother.., like always Dean forgave and forgot as he relished the moment. "Sammy, you coming?"

Sam smiled in turn. "Yeah, wouldn't miss it."

All of Sam's suspicions proved unfounded when they finally met up with Kyle's mom. Sam wanted to slap himself and then give himself an additional quick kick in the butt for doubting Dean's sincerity with the kid and intentions toward the mom. Obviously he was way off base. Not that Kyle's mom wasn't a delightful woman and pretty too, but besides being considerably older than Dean, it turned out Kyle's mom had MS and was confined to a wheelchair. Spending all morning out in the sun had taxed her to the point of exhaustion and Dean was simply being a good Samaritan and helping her out, letting her rest inside an air-conditioned building while he saw to it her son got the full enjoyment out of his day at the park.

Sam continued to scold himself for jumping to conclusions about Dean's motives but damn it all… Dean has made a point of being on the prowl of late… what else was I supposed to think?

Dean seemed oblivious to Sam's torment and went about the business of having fun with Kyle, kidding and joking and generally being a kid again. Sam found an empty table for them and sat with Valerie while Dean and Kyle took everyone's orders and went up to the buffet to gather their food. Sam couldn't help but wonder why Valerie would hand over her son to a complete stranger without knowing anything about him… not that Dean was a serial killer or anything, but still… in this day and age… you can't be too careful.

Valerie seemed to have a sense about things and quickly cut to the chase, addressing Sam's questions before he even voiced them.

"Your brother is an amazing man, isn't he?"

Sam blinked several times and felt like a fool, because… yeah, he is pretty amazing, but not in the way that most recognize or think is good.

He stumbled over his words, unsure what to say, before realizing the simple truth was always best, "Yeah, he is."

"You're wondering why I trusted him with my son?"

Sam again hemmed and hawed, not wanting to appear critical. "Ah, no… no… I mean obviously you could use a little help and… Dean's great at helping out people in need." Then he wanted to kick himself for making it seem like she was desperate and couldn't handle things on her own. "Look, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that you…"

She quietly laughed at his blundering. "Sam, it's all right. You didn't offend me."

"Good, 'cause I wouldn't want you to think…"

"Sam, it's fine." She smiled an open, honest smile and he relaxed. "Kyle was upset that I needed to rest. You know how kids can be. He is such a good kid, always helping me out, never complaining. He always puts my needs before his own. Not too many kids that mature and selfless at that age." Sam nodded in agreement before she continued, "He never asks for anything… but he wanted to ride that Bull ride. It broke my heart to see how much he wanted it. I just couldn't handle that line." Tears filled her eyes as she recounted the event leading up to Dean taking over the kid.

"So Dean came to the rescue?" Sam whispered, again in awe of his big brother.

She sighed, "My hero." She placed her hand on Sam's arm and gave a slight squeeze. "Dean is so much like my late husband. On the outside they're all tough and macho, so strong and in control, but if you look in their eyes you can see the pain… the hurts that never healed and they learned through the years to shove them down inside because hero's don't cry, now do they?"

Sam was speechless. How can this woman who barely met Dean see him so clearly?

"You always have this ability to read people?" Sam asked in admiration.

"People don't always look at someone in a wheelchair. Oh, they pretend to, but some only see the chair. It gives me a lot of time to study people. Your brother, he looked right into my eyes… he saw me straight away and he knew what I needed… what Kyle needed and he just offered. I could see the sincerity in his eyes. I think it helped him too, to get over his own grief."

Sam startled and the words came out of his mouth before he even realized it, "What grief?"

"Losing his son."

Sam gasped, "What son?" And again wanted to kick himself because obviously Dean had used a line to get her to trust him. Before he could offer up a cover story she answered him.

"Ben."

And Sam's world stopped. Ben? Sam had never thought about it; he'd been so consumed in his own little deception he'd failed to even consider it. He kinda had a lot on his plate here, what with being the Boy King, and Mom's connection to the yellow-eyed Demon, and then Ruby… DEMON Ruby… and then that little matter of trying to save his idiot brother's life… yeah, he was definitely preoccupied, but what the fuck? Just how old was Ben? Did it fit? Why didn't Dean say something? I mean, could it be true? Seriously, what the fuck, Dean?

He didn't have long to ponder this new revelation before a mound of food appeared on the table and Dean and Kyle rejoined them still excitedly discussing the awesomeness of the Bull. Valerie and Sam exchanged knowing glances as they settled into the fervor of the conversation. It appeared the two kids were already conspiring for another encounter with the Bull.

After wolfing down another vast array of food, Dean and Kyle were ready to tackle their next big adventure. Sam begged off and since Dean had a cohort willing and anxious to endure as many rollercoaster rides as he desired he reluctantly let his brother off the hook.

"Sammy, you sure? You never know the next time you'll get the chance. Carpe diem, bro."

Sam laughed, Dean's knowledge of movie trivia again providing an ample supply of memorable quotes. "You and Kyle go ahead. I'm gonna stay and get better acquainted with Valerie."

Dean leaned in next to Valerie and whispered close to her ear, "Just keep an eye out for his lines… he never could resist a pretty girl." His hand gently swept across her shoulder as he chastely kissed her on the forehead and she gazed up into his eyes and they exchanged a tender look.

Sam froze the moment in his mind's eye… so sensitive and special, so sweet… so unlike Dean, but then so totally Dean. If I live to be a hundred I don't think I'll ever completely understand my brother.

"Hey, Dean… have fun out there," Sam offered and they both smiled, each happy with how the day was turning out.

Spending the rest of the day with Valerie turned out to be an enlightening experience. She intuitively understood Dean, and like her husband before him, found him to be an exceptional man. Sam enjoyed hearing her take on Dean and knowing that someone besides him and Bobby appreciated the fine qualities his brother possessed. Maybe that was the biggest tragedy of this demon deal; that Dean, himself, didn't seem to recognize his own worth.

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As the day wound down, all parties seemed to ease into a mellow contentedness. Countless rides on the rollercoasters had finally squeezed the insatiable energy out of both Dean and Kyle and they finally collapsed onto the seats next to Sam and Valerie with exhausted grins on their faces. Valerie couldn't stop thanking Dean and Sam for their kindness and Dean in turn sincerely expressed his joy at having an upstanding young man like Kyle for company.

As they prepared to part Kyle wrapped his arms around Dean's middle and simply hung on. Dean pensively smiled as his arms returned the embrace and his hand gently stroked the back of Kyle's head, mussing what little hair was there before offering one final firm pat on the back.

"Kyle, you take care of your mom. You're the man of the house now."

Kyle looked up into Dean's eyes and again his smile was brilliant, but there was a touch of sadness in his eyes at parting with his new friend. Sam noticed the same sadness in Dean's eyes and it hurt to see how his brother always had to step back every time he got close to someone. It seemed like Dean was so good at making a connection with people… especially kids… but with their lifestyle it never progressed into more. People did gravitate towards Dean, sensing his humanity… his goodness, but Dean always retreated… either by necessity or maybe that underlying fear of getting too close.

Dean was never one to wallow in sentimental moments. He cleared his throat and pushed onward. "Alrighty then. Sam, you ready?"

Sam smiled, the day had brought about much insight into his brother and he had already resolved to have that much needed conversation with him over Ben. Dean gave Valerie a tender kiss on her cheek and turned and walked away. Sam offered his own farewells and last glances and walked steady beside his brother as they covered the distance to the exit.

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The motel room was their standard freaky room with loud print wallpaper that was reminiscent of the flower power vibe of the 60's and a color scheme of orange and pink. Even the bathroom had pink fixtures and Dean rolled his eyes at the thought of using a pink toilet. He shuddered and resigned himself to the inevitable and claimed first dibs on the shower. The massaging action of the shower head and the intense heat as he turned the knob all the way to H helped soothe the aches of his body and soul. He lost himself in the pounding action and tried to forget. Not so easy… his heart still ached for something he never even realized he desired.

Now that they were alone, Sam needed to have that talk. He waited for Dean to finish his shower determined to confront him about Ben. Sam was upset… with Dean… and with himself. How could Dean keep this from him? There was such a gulf between them now… a disconnect. Sam could hardly hold a grudge against Dean for keeping secrets when he had a mountain of secrets he was keeping himself, but his irrational mind somehow did. This was huge… Dean a dad? Even the possibility was mind-boggling and then to consider what Dean thought… what he felt when he considered the idea. For the first time in a long time, Sam didn't know what to think or feel. Or what to say. He felt the chasm between them deepening and he missed his brother.

I guess we just have our own agendas now… Dean wants to enjoy his last year and die in peace… and I want to save him and find out what the hell is going on with me and this damn demon curse. I should tell him about Mom and all her friends dying… that she knew the demon… that it is all because of me.., but how can I lay that crap on him when he's already dealing with so much shit? Man, we really are fucked up! And if Ruby CAN help save Dean, then I can't tell him about her being a demon… What if he wanted to exorcise her or something? …I can't risk it. He said he'd stop me… fat chance, Dean… no one is stopping me, especially not you.

As messed up as everything was, there was still one discussion the brothers were going to have…. Ben. Sam would see to it. He hated ambushing Dean over this but he needed to know… he needed to understand where Dean was coming from, what was in his twisted head, what he really felt about all this. What the truth was.

As soon as Dean exited the bathroom with his hair dripping water down onto the neckline of his T-shirt and his face scrunched up from exhaustion he knew he was in trouble. Hunters have a sixth sense about danger, not that he needed it in this instance. Sam always wore his feelings on his sleeve, never learning how to hold his emotions close to the vest like John and Dean, never learning the finer points of poker. One look at his brother and he knew Sam wanted to talk. Okay then, let's talk.

"Sam."

Sam looked up and waited, his eyes searching and then he saw just the slightest glimmer of hurt and recognition and Dean started to talk. He was shocked he didn't even have to voice the question. Maybe the distance between them wasn't insurmountable after all.

"Kyle's a great kid isn't he?"

"Yeah, Dean, he is."

"You really didn't get to know Ben, but he's a great kid too."

Sam shifted on the bed, intently watching Dean… waiting.

Dean continued on, "Ben just turned eight." It was a simple statement of fact, but obviously it held more significance.

Sam winced from the hurt in Dean's eyes and he wasn't sure where it came from. He still didn't know if Dean was Ben's dad… even more disturbing was the thought that maybe Dean didn't know either.

"Eight, huh? Dean, did you ever think…"

"What, Sammy?" It was almost like they were dancing around each other, for one moment Dean appearing open and honest and in the next breath hiding behind his façade, denying his feelings. Stoic and scared at the same time… and so emotionally vulnerable… laid bare… naked and trembling with need, his eyes opening up to the depths of his soul.

Sam gently prodded, "You know, that maybe… with the time frame and everything… that he might be yours?"

"No."

"Come on, Dean, it fits… you didn't even ask?"

"Yeah, all right… I asked." Every fiber of Dean seemed to collapse in upon itself and it was as if he disappeared… a shell of his former self standing before Sam, empty of the passion that defined Dean. "He's not mine, Sammy." Dean sunk down onto the bed, his hands clenched together across his knees. "He's not."

Sam's voice cracked as his brother's pain shot through him. "Dean, I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" Dean looked up with a look of confusion. "It's best, Sammy. I mean, no way I could stick around, you know? It's just not meant to be. It's not my life."

Sam shifted and his heart reached out to his brother, Dean's disappointment written across his face, the loss apparent. He tried to ease his brother into sharing his pain. "Dean, you wanted him to be?"

"No. I mean… not at first… at first it scared the crap outta me, but later…"

"What, Dean?"

"Sam… in a year I'm gonna be gone and no ones gonna even know I was here… I'm not leaving anything behind.., nothing except a car."

Sam started to tear up and turn away…

"Sammy, look… I'm sorry. I didn't mean… I know you'll miss me. I do, but you're it."

Sam's voice was small and broken as he fought back the tears welling in his eyes, "And Bobby?"

"Yeah, Bobby… sure, but that's it, Sammy. I just thought…"

"What, Dean?"

"I just thought that maybe it'd be nice to leave something behind… but hey, it's best... right? …It wouldn't have been fair to Ben and hell, I don't have the time to give him what he needs. We have a job to do. It's not my life.., it can't be."

"But you would have liked it?"

Dean was wringing his hands and staring at the orange carpet before he reluctantly raised his tear filled eyes and locked his gaze with his brother. The emotional toll evident. "Yeah."

"Dean, I'm sorry."

"I know."

They sat there consumed within the silence, the weight of regrets and lost possibilities overwhelming. Dean's fragile voice finally piercing the quiet, "Sammy, that's why you need to do it. You need to be a dad, otherwise the Winchesters will just die out and Dad and me… well, you just do it, alright?"

The pain in his gut deepened as Sam faced more of his brother's sacrifice and self-denial. Once again Dean wanted for Sam what he refused to acknowledge he deserved for himself. Sam didn't know what to say to ease Dean's pain so he offered him the only truth he knew. "Dean, you made a great dad."

Dean grimaced but looked up and locked eyes with his brother. "Don'tcha mean would have?"

Sam smiled at the memories… all the long nights when Dad was off on his quest and it was just two brothers… two brothers alone, with one taking on all the responsibility of raising his kid brother. "No, Dean… you raised me and you were great. You weren't just my brother; you were like my dad too. You raised me. You did everything a dad would do for a son. A large part of who I am comes from you."

"Sam, Dad…"

"I know, Dean. Dad loved us and he did his best, but the truth is you were the one there, day in and day out. I know it's not the same as actually having your own son… but I just wanted you to know."

Dean smiled at the memories and the love. He'd always cherished the pride he felt over Sam's many accomplishments, his independence, and his heart. The truth was he could never be prouder of anyone. And if he was in any small measure responsible for any of Sam's fine qualities… then he guessed he was a success. Maybe it was enough.

He relaxed into his cocky persona, ready to let the hurts melt away. He didn't have time to wallow in 'what ifs', his clock was ticking and he only wanted to focus on the good. "So, does that mean if you have a kid then I'm grandpa? 'Cause I'm not so sure how I feel about that."

Sam laughed at how his brother's mind worked. "Well, then I guess you're just gonna have to stick around and have some kids of your own."

Dean's face was determined and solemn. "It's not happening, Sammy. You better get used to the idea… one year and I'm gone. That's the deal, period."

So they were back to square one… Dean waiting for his impending death and entry into Hell, and Sam fighting for a way out.

The barrier between them immense, but Sam was determined to bridge it. He was going to save Dean, regardless of what it took. Dean deserved a life… and somehow, someway, some future kid deserved to have a dad like Dean… and Dean deserved to have a son of his own… deserved his own family and that elusive normal life he always claimed he never desired. Once the world was saved and evil was sent back to Hell, after everything else was sacrificed, Dean deserved that much at least. Maybe they both did.

The End

bjxmas October, 2007

All standard disclaimers apply.