I don't own them but it is my birthday soon should anyone ask!

Five years; five years have gone by since Dean died, since the hell-hounds came and took him away, since his brother's broken body was salted and burned and his ashes floated away in the wind.

He swore he would not become bitter but, instead, he just became hard. He does everything without really thinking. He hunts, he kills, and he goes through the motions of life. He still researches, still spends hours on the lap-top. He couldn't save his brother's life but he might still save his soul.

He stays at Bobby's. He sits on the edge of the bath and stares at himself in the mirror. His hair is longer than ever and he swears that he sees slivers of grey threading through the brown. There are lines around his eyes and dark circles under them. He looks old before his time, unhappy and worn, his body and mind exhausted.

He eats but doesn't taste. Bobby watches him, eyes on his face like a hawk watching its prey. Sam makes a big show of eating, of smacking his lips and commenting on the quality of the food. Bobby pushes the greasy burger around his plate and grins, predatory and knowing.

He hasn't touched or hugged another soul since he clutched his brother's bloody, torn body to him, knees in the crossroad's dirt. He hasn't shed a tear since then either, not a drop of water has stung his eyes and he feels like he is existing rather than living.

He knows he must stink sometimes. His shirts get washed when he can afford to stop and do laundry, his hair and body when he cracks and gets a motel room – single for one – and showers. Doesn't matter, he figures, he isn't trying to make friends or even make acquaintances and you don't need to smell of Calvin Klein to hunt the supernatural.

Jo wrinkles her nose at him as he enters the rebuilt roadhouse. She finally returned to her mother after three years of avoiding the issue. She hunts and Ellen isn't happy about it, but there has been so much loss that she tolerates it for everyone's sake.

He ignores her and drinks the whiskey that Ellen offers. He has never been much of a drinker but he seems to be able to tolerate it now. Nothing makes him feel happy but, then, nothing makes him feel really sad either. He is totally and utterly broken and the worse thing is everybody knows it.

Bobby shows him the litter of pups and he doesn't understand why. He watches them, wriggling on the floor of the store room, their mother, a fierce looking rottweiler, standing over them, her eyes watching him suspiciously.

"Time you had a companion," Bobby states, hands rubbing under his cap, scratching at his beard, "and I can't raise them all myself, be helping me out really."

Sam goes to see the pups every day, watches them grow. He finds himself smiling as he sees them falling over themselves, biting playfully and fighting for purchase at their mother's teat. One catches his eye; he is the runt, a fierce, cocky little creature who seems determined to have what he wants despite his size.

He takes the pup when he is seven weeks old and weaned. He watches as the creature jumps into the passenger seat of the Impala as if he belonged there and it makes him smile. The action of curving his mouth upwards seems alien to him and it hurts for a moment. Sam is overjoyed to feel again and he fastens his belt and revs up the car, the pup sitting beside him, alert and eager, tongue hanging out as they set off.

He calls the pup Ted Nugent, one of Dean's favourite aliases. Ted seems to like his name and responds. He is a strange dog, Sam muses, knowing and crafty; he seems too aware, too cunning for such a young pup. He is impeccably clean, always letting Sam know when he wants to stop, never, ever messing with the upholstery. Sam hasn't trained him and it seems weird, but he doesn't question it and just enjoys the company.

Ted won't wear a collar or eat standard issue dog food. He eats Sam's left overs and seems particularly fond of greasy burger and fries. Despite this, he grows big and strong and muscular and Sam feels safer somehow, with him around.

Women seem to dig dogs and they certainly take to Ted, despite his size and his, almost constant, drooling. When a young woman stops to pet him and ask about him, Sam responds, shyly, unused to making conversation. Ted nudges him with his nose and makes a display of affection, jumping up and pawing at the girl until she giggles helplessly and Sam has to wipe the drool off her skirt.

Later, lying lax and sated in her arms, Sam can see Ted watching him in the darkness, bright eyes somehow proud. It is an odd moment, but Sam is too boneless, to relaxed to wonder or worry and he snuggles the girl closer, wondering if he might manage one more round.

The next day Sam finds a barbers and gets a hair cut. He buys some new shirts and a couple of pairs of jeans and he gets Ted a bucket of fried chicken. The dog chows down with some enthusiasm and then sits on the bed next to him whilst he watches a Simpson's marathon. If Sam didn't know any better he'd think Ted was laughing.

A demon attacks in Kansas and Sam is on the ground before he can do anything, colt slammed out of his hand. He feels hard fingers around his throat and he wants to give into the inevitable. There is a bark and a growl and the demon's host is knocked to the ground, teeth and claws biting into tender flesh, blood pouring everywhere, not all of it Sam's.

Ted's paws are on his chest and he is being licked and drooled on. He opens his eyes to see that the demon is, most definitely, dead and he is, comparatively, unharmed. Ted lays his head across Sam's chest, deep brown eyes watching him, tongue lolling, paws virtually wrapped around Sam's neck.

Sam swallows and grips the dog's fur, tears flooding his eyes. He can't stop staring, can't stop holding and he feels a strange sense of something that he can't put a name to.

"What did you do?" he asks Bobby as he sits at the older man's table, feeding Ted scraps, surreptitiously, beneath the cloth.

"It was an old ritual – didn't know if it would work – didn't want to build your hopes up." Bobby grins, his eyes bright, "I'm sorry son, but it was the best I could do."

Sam stares down at the dog beside him. He feels foolish, his neck flushing red as he bends closer, "Dean?" He says.

Sam swears the dog winks at him.