Author: Mousitsa

Spoilers: Occurrences through 3x06. Rating: PG-13 for language, some graphic violence

Summary: Sam has been holding in a lot of emotion & putting on his best game face with Dean's deal. But everyone has their breaking point… and their breakdown. Trying to get deep inside Sam's head. (Introspection & Angst, topped with angst and a side serving of angst! Plus some chick-flick moments as well.) Don't let the length scare you away! ;)

Notes: This has been sitting on my hard drive for a couple of months now and finally decided to post it. Not sure why or how this developed into something from Sam's point of view considering I'm a total Deanoholic (since I actually started to write it from Dean's point of view), but it did, so hope it works. It also started out much shorter, but grew before I knew it. Blame the Freakin' plot bunnies and my unstoppable drive for description and exposition! No beta, so all mistakes are my own (mistakes?! what mistakes?!)

Disclaimer: standard blah-blah applies. No copyright infringement intended. I don't own anything associated with Supernatural except the official DVDs, magazines, etc., but the order in which 98% of the words appear here is mine. And the only payment I'll ever get are the reviews of readers, so please don't let me work for free!! Constructive criticism always welcome.

WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS

PROLOGUE: Nightmares

All Sam could do was watch in wide-eyed horror as flashes of demonic red eyes flickered throughout the motel room. He stood frozen and unable to move, even though his mind was screaming out to his muscles to do something... anything. He was unable to speak while a thousand words and thoughts scrambled in his head and struggled to make their escape. And he was barely able to breathe, but that was only because of the innate reflex forced him to inhale. The sounds of deep, bone-chilling snarls continued to echo off the walls while Dean inched backwards, closer and closer into a far corner, as the sounds of these sons of Cerberus slinked in his direction, surrounding him. For the first time in his life, Sam saw pure fear and terror blanket his brother's face. Dean had never really been afraid to die or face danger head-on considering the work they did all the time. But the thought of being ripped apart by hellhounds was one manner of death very low on his list of possible ways to exit this world. Neither one of them wanted to believe that it would actually come down to this inevitable day. After all, it was Sam's job all year long to find a way out of this. Sadly, he hadn't. He had failed to keep his promise. He had failed his family (or what little was left of it) once again. All he could do now was helplessly witness his brother's last moments of life.

The beastly guardians of Hades flickered in and out and six crimson eyes glowed from the three heads on each body. The number of teeth and fangs were impossible to count but they filled the nine hungry mouths and glistened as bile-colored saliva dripped onto the carpet and disappeared within the matching hue. After a few more inter-dimensional flickers, the three canine bodies became corporeal and they proceeded to do that which hellhounds do best... collect on deals made by desperate humans by dragging their souls into hell once their allotted time was up. But they had to get rid of the body first. Descend upon it. Allow their three heads with their razor-sharp fangs to bite and rip morsels out of the tender human flesh. Savor the salty taste of the fresh flowing blood. And allow the claws to start the process by shredding and ripping the clothes that offered the body a thin layer of protection. The three hellhounds made a synchronized leap landing on Dean. If he was going to go out, it was in his nature to go out fighting. Dean gritted his teeth in determination, grunting and allowing his fear to turn into anger. His arms punched and his legs kicked, trying with all his might to push the hounds away, but he was no match for the demonic creatures. He was easily pushed down to the ground within seconds and held there by the sheer weight of these massive hellhounds. Nine heads descended upon him and he screamed in agony and terror as they bit down into his flesh. His screams echoed, getting louder and louder. And Sam was still mute and frozen, unable to act to defend his brother, as Dean's screams increased, reverberating in his head, echoing over and over … and over and over... getting louder…

And then Sam woke up.

CHAPTER 1: Insomnia

Sam bolted up into a sitting position, breathing so fast he was sure he would hyperventilate and pass out. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead to sting his eyes, with his dampened shirt now sticking to his trembling torso. His blanket and sheets had become a tangled mess. Sam turned his head to the right and stared at the dreary orange numbers of the alarm clock. 3:17. Their orange tint supplied the darkened motel room with a glow reminiscent of a nightlight that would normally give solace to an eight-year-old who believed that monsters could be scared off by nightlights. But that was before the eight year old discovered that nightmares could be real. If only it were that easy, Sam thought to himself. For the third time that night he found himself in the grip of the same nightmare. Or maybe it was the tenth time... he really wasn't keeping count. He just needed peaceful sleep to overtake him, because his body desperately needed it, but his mind was unwilling to comply.

Just outside the room the fluorescent bulbs of the lamppost in the parking lot provided an additional ghostly beam, which filtered in through the sliver of an opening left by the incomplete closing of the drapes. Specks of dust danced delicately along the beam. Sam turned his head to the right once again staring at the antiquated alarm clock perched on the nightstand between the two double beds. "3:19" He sighed and a frown crept across his face in the dark. A frown brought on partly from the lingering frustration and partly from the splitting migraine that seemed to follow him everywhere lately. It was almost as bad as the headaches brought on by the visions he was having so many months ago. He opened his mouth and wiggled his jaw left and right trying to exercise away another constant ache. But that dull ache was a natural byproduct of spending half his days clenching it tightly. During the day it was a Herculean effort to keep that jaw from trembling and exposing his true state of mind, valiantly trying to put on a stoic game face at all costs, at least for his brother's sake. Clenching his jaw tightly was one of the few ways to keep those emotions at bay. Other times it was combined with holding his breath until instinct forced him to inhale once again.

As he looked towards the alarm clock, he could see the shadowy outline of his older brother sleeping soundly in the other bed, cocooned within the blanket and comforter. Sam's tossing and turning had not awaken Dean, and luckily Sam hadn't yelled out this time. His brother's rhythmic deep breathing, with just a hint of a snore, offered a break in the overwhelming silence of the room. Breathing sounds that gave Sam a sense of comfort because at least Dean was still breathing, which at least meant he was still alive. Which only reminded him once again that in four months there was the very real possibility that there may be nothing but silence -- permanently. And in just that instance he could feel a knot grab hold of his stomach as his mind wandered back to those dreaded thoughts again. It seemed like no matter where they started, they would almost always terminate in the same place. To the dreadful countdown clock still in motion, heralding the arrival of the 365th day, the attack of the hellhounds coming to collect a soul, and the end of his brother's life. Involuntarily he clenched his jaw tightly once again.

He quietly peeled back the mangled covers and swung his legs off the bed, the chill in the room offering some solace to his feverish skin. He sat there for a few moments staring pensively at the outline of his brother. It had been eight months since that fateful night in Cold Oak and the set of events in that dreaded ghost town which ended with his death. That's right, his death. Even thinking it to himself he still found it hard to believe that he had actually died that night. It had been eight months since his last fading memory of that evening was his brother running at him, eyes wide with terror and an anguished, protracted "No!" being yelled out. His last sensation was not the painful fire arising from the fatal stab wound in his back, but his brother's tremulous embrace as he held on to him for dear life, just as his own life was quickly slipping away. He thought he could remember the echo of his name being yelled out but he wasn't sure if that was a true memory or a dream image from so many nightmares that followed. It had been eight months since his big brother made the ultimate sacrifice, trading his very soul and an eternity in Hell so that Sam could live, and in return getting only one more year to live himself. Eight months since Sam made a promise to his brother that no matter what, he was going to find a way to nullify that deal. Eight frustrating, agonizing, heartbreaking, difficult months that went by all too quickly and still no sign of an answer.

CHAPTER 2: Understanding

"If it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna save you." Dean's words reverberated in Sam's head but they had become his own secret mantra now. He could feel the wetness creeping into his eyes once more as it had so many times before, just as he struggled with all his might to wheedle it back. It was really no surprise there seemed to be an almost Pavlovian reaction built in now between any thoughts of Dean not making it through this and his own inability to keep those emotions in check. So far he had managed to hide this from Dean and go about their daily business with a tough and determined exterior, having some fun times, making a few jokes, being a pain-in-the-ass little brother, and hunting down all forms of evil along the way. Or as Dean liked to say "as many evil sonnavubitches." But inside, in his heart and soul, he was deteriorating faster than a bite full of cotton candy hitting a wet mouth. The pressure was building more and more at the passing of each sunset and Sam felt like he was stretching closer and closer to the breaking point. All that was needed was a little pinprick at just the right moment for the explosion to occur. A more proper analogy would be that of a volcano waiting to erupt, but that comparison implied anger. And he could not be angry with Dean for this. Sure, there were still biting instances of anger, but for the most part it had all been replaced by gratitude and admiration.

Sam understood now that when Dean first made that deal he couldn't think past that devastating moment. All Dean wanted was to have his brother alive again. He couldn't think of the long-term effect it would have on Sam. Like the guilt of knowing the cost. The frustration of not being able to find a solution. The despair at the thought of losing the one and only person left of his shattered family. The sheer horror at the thought of failure and trying to go on alone after burying his only brother, his only family. There was no doubt in his mind that he probably would have done the same thing had the tables been turned.

He fully understood now. How Dean must have felt knowing their father gave up his life so that he would live following the crash over a year and a half ago. He understood the despair of losing the only family you have left and the willingness to do anything to prevent it. Hell, there had been several times that Sam was tempted to go summon that deal-making demon bitch himself. But when the temptation was almost too great, his brother could practically read his thoughts and put a quick stop to it. "Sam, don't you dare! Don't even think about it! What's the point of me dying if you can't be safe?" Damn Dean and his over-protectiveness. And damn that word again. But Sam's stubbornness was stronger and he confronted the red-eyed demon anyway, despite his brother's protestations. After all, it was logical to reason that if she died then the deal would die with her. Logical, but too easy. And Winchesters have never had it easy. Or lucky. He couldn't possibly have imagined the bombshell that would be thrown at him: that there was an even more powerful and still unknown demon controlling the deal. And the wetness pooled in his eyes again threatening to roll down his cheeks. Yup, all it would take now would be just a little pinprick. But the tears still did not overflow, instead they drained through his tear ducts and trickled down the inside of his nose causing him to sniffle a couple of times.

Sam knew that if he sat there and continued to sniffle, Dean's big-brother radar would be alerted and he would wake up, generally being a light sleeper. And, honestly, Sam was rather surprised that his earlier tossing and turning hadn't already gotten Dean's attention. Using the sliver of light from the outside as his beacon, he got up quietly and walked over to one of the chairs in the corner of the room. He grabbed his jeans and pulled them over his boxers, then put on his socks and shoes. He was already wearing a dark blue, long-sleeved tee and proceeded to put his jacket over the sweat-dampened garment to protect him from the biting chill in the air. He continued to fumble his way in the dark, feeling his way around for the second plastic chair until his hands landed on smooth but weathered leather. He reached into the right hand pocket of Dean's jacket and cusped the keys to the Impala, making every possible effort to keep them from jiggling and possibly alerting that overprotective big-brother radar of his. He turned the bolt on the door, carefully and deliberately, to minimize the noise once again. As the door opened, an icy gust of wind hit him blowing the bangs from his eyes and making his jeans flap against his legs. Just outside the door, Dean's car waited patiently for her boys and their next road trip. Dean viewed the black '67 Chevy like a member of their shattered family ever since their dad handed her down to him a little over ten years ago, affectionately calling her "baby" at every opportunity, and often stroking her hood or trunk as if caressing a beloved house pet.

He unlocked the driver's side door and slid into the cold vinyl seat behind the steering wheel. This was an unusual position to be sitting in since Dean rarely gave up driving duties. But it was a position he might as well get used to if he didn't make any further progress on coming up with a solution to save his brother's life.

CHAPTER 3: Introspection

You better take care of my car or I swear I will haunt your ass. Shutting his eyes tight and taking a deep inhale, Sam leaned back against the car seat. After several seconds he let the breath out, an involuntary hitching breaking up the smoothness of the airflow. He then slid across to the passenger side where it had the familiar feel of his seat, his place. He didn't care if he never got to drive the car as long as he could get some type of reassurance that it would always be his brother guiding her down the road.

These past few months there was so much he wanted to say to Dean but he just couldn't bring himself to fully open up. Instead, he felt as though he was walking on eggshells all the time, afraid that he might say or do something wrong. What if he said something that upset Dean? Or worse, what if he said something that hurt Dean? He couldn't face the repercussions of that. Couldn't face the thought that Dean might be going into his last days thinking that his little brother hated him. That his little brother didn't appreciate him. Didn't adore him. Didn't respect him... didn't love him. They could never say the words to one another, but they knew. He did know, right? Sam had no doubt how his brother felt about him, so certainly Dean knew as well. (right?) Again the tears pooled in his eyes but this time they found their way down his cheeks. There was no doubt in his mind that if Dean saw him now he would most certainly tell him to stop being such a girl. A typical Dean retort that truly had no mockery to it but was simply Dean's own survival mechanism of dealing with difficult emotional situations by injecting bits of humor whenever possible. But girls weren't the only ones to have proprietary rights to tears, because girls weren't the only ones to feel their heart shattering.

Over the last few months Sam recognized the signs that Dean was slowly trying to prepare for the inevitable. Trying to prepare for the day when he would no longer be there; for when Sam would be left completely alone. Trying to let go. At first it started with the occasional offer to drive his baby. Here, you drive Sam. I'm feeling a little tired right now. The first time Dean said that, Sam looked at him in total disbelief and was tempted to reach for the holy water. And the occasional auto-shop lessons that followed were cause for concern as well. Then it was all the other times that Dean tossed half their arsenal onto his bed. Sam, give me a hand cleaning these things so I don't waste half the night. But nothing was louder and clearer than Dean sending Sam off to handle a few hunts on his own. Granted, they were minor hunts with minimal opportunities for danger, but considering that Dean had rarely let Sam out of his sight ever since Cold Oak, it was an uncomfortable progression. Dean tried to hide it, but Sam saw him following in the shadows, making sure that his little brother was safe. But the worse was the avoidance. Whenever Sam asked his older brother what he knew about a specific creature or particular ritual, Dean would just shrug and tell him to check dad's journal, look online or call to ask Bobby. Dean was trying to make himself unnecessary and unimportant in Sam's life... in Sam's whole existence. And all these little experiences of being pushed into functioning on his own only served to contribute to the accumulative pain of his heart breaking just a little more each day. And it wasn't that he couldn't function on his own. On the contrary, he managed quite well on his own during his four years at Stanford. But even then, in the back of his mind, he always knew that his brother and father were only a phone call away if he really needed them. He wasn't truly all alone. But in four months he would be. Completely and entirely alone. And thus completing the pattern that seemed to curse his entire existence where everyone he cared about was taken from him no matter what he did.

Maybe this was why Dean always avoided talking. It certainly seemed much easier to bottle it all up inside instead of risking emotional exposure. After all, how does one go about expressing what's really in their heart? How does one come to terms with the end of their hopes? The end of their dreams? To never know the warm caress of your wife. Or the infectious giggle of your child. To never know what it is to have a normal life. And all because something decided a long time ago that the Winchester family was expendable in the pursuit of its evil, twisted games. That particular 'something' was now dead, but there was an even greater battle presently at hand.

He leaned forward, his arms crossed and resting on the dashboard. His forehead leaned against his forearms and he took another deep inhale. His head continued to throb as he clenched his jaw yet again. And he asked himself, just as he had a thousand other times, why this was happening to his family. Why couldn't they just live a normal life? Why couldn't they marry some nice girls and have their 2.5 kids behind adjoining white picket fences. Sam as a lawyer, Dean most likely a mechanic. Why couldn't they see their hopes and dreams come true? Why did everyone around him have to die? Why had he been singled out and marked by a demon? The overwhelming assortment of thoughts offered the final pinprick. Without warning all the emotions he had been holding back these past few months simply erupted and uncontrollable tears streamed down his face. Just as they had when he lost Jessica… when he lost his dad… and Madison. And now, the worst nightmare of all... he was slowly losing his brother too. His anguished cries erupted and were witnessed only by 'baby', while her rolled-up windows muffled the sounds from the outside world. An outside world that could not hear the utter frustration, fear and despair in those cries as the tears cascaded down his cheeks. In the middle of this frigid January night, the levee had finally broken to the point of no return.

CHAPTER 4: Discovery

Dean stirred to shift his sleeping position from lying on his back to lying on his left side. As he tried to find a comfortable new spot on the lumpy motel mattress, he woke for a few seconds and instinctively looked across in the dark towards the other bed for his little brother's sleeping form. The sliver of light peeking through a crack in the drapes was hardly enough to be able to make anything out clearly in the room and the orange glow of the alarm clock created even more unusual shadows. He listened intently for the comforting sound of his brother's breathing but was met instead by an awkward silence. Curiosity sprinkled with concern caused him to reach across with his right hand and turn on the lamp on the nightstand. As his eyes blinked rapidly and adjusted, he gazed upon an empty bed littered with crumpled sheets, intermingled with blanket and bedspread.

"... sam? ..." he asked in a near whisper, looking across the room towards the bathroom and the possible tell-tale sign of light coming from under the crack between the door and the floor. There was nothing but darkness. He tossed off the covers and his body was met by the chill that hung in the air, setting in shivers. Walking across the room and flipping on another light, he looked into an empty bathroom and a knot started growing in his stomach. New chills crawled across his body, these ones entirely unassociated with the January cold in the air. Concerned, he automatically surveyed the entire room and noticed Sam's clothes were missing from one of the chairs, only the flannel red-plaid shirt was left behind. His heart raced and panic set in.

He headed towards the door, reaching for the handle and paused. The salt lines preventing entrance by demonic forces were still intact and nothing unusual seemed to be left in addition to the salt. Instead of opening the door he pushed up the corner of the drapes to look outside, his eyes darting right, left and all around. The fluorescent glow from the lamppost illuminated the parking lot in a ghostly haze, accentuated by a light foggy mist in the air. His eyes settled on his beloved Impala, waiting there with her back towards him. And in her passenger seat he could make out a familiar shadowy outline, slumped forward against the dashboard, with shoulders quaking up and down.

After letting out a sigh of relief, his heart sank. He let the corner of the drapes fall from his grasp and he slowly pivoted to lean against the wall, willfully banging the back of his head against the stucco and shutting his eyes tight in a grimace of sadness. Oh Sammy, not again... This was the third time in less than a month that Sam had slipped out in the middle of the night to seek solace and escape in the Impala. I hate seeing you like this! Dean turned and lifted the corner of the drapes once again. Should I get you this time? or leave you alone like I always do? And what can I possibly say to make this all right? Dean could choose to do what he did all the other times... keep an eye on Sam until he was ready to come back inside. Then quickly get into bed and pretend to be sleeping, and in the morning act as if nothing happened. Thus adding this to the long checklist of items he was planning to come clean about on the day before the arrival of the hellhounds.

Dammit! This isn't right! As hard as he tried to protect Sam from the physical injury and pain (and he was doing a damn fine job of that), there was no way to protect him from the emotional pain that the countdown clock was inflicting on a daily basis. Dean had noticed the strain on his brother building more and more as the months went by. Sam had made valiant efforts to hide it but there wasn't much that Sam could get away with without Dean knowing about -- he knew his brother all too well. Dean reflected back to the time last year when their father died and he remembered the guilt he felt over his dad's sacrifice. His father had willingly given up his life -- his very soul -- to the Yellow-Eyed Demon in order to guarantee that Dean would live. He wasn't ready to bury his father. He didn't feel worthy of such a sacrifice. And the guilt ate away at him for months. If it wasn't for Sam's ever present care, support and concern he was sure he would have never clawed his way back from the darkness and anguish. And now he was putting Sam in the same position. But the alternative was simply unthinkable.

He decided that this charade couldn't continue any longer. He quickly slipped on his boots but didn't take time put any other clothes on. He simply braved the biting cold in his boxers and tee shirt. He hugged his torso in a desperate act to protect himself from the cold and moved quickly to the Impala. He tapped on the driver's side window. "Sam!" But his brother did not react, giving Dean an extra cause for concern. "Sam!" And again, there was no reaction.

CHAPTER 5: Discussion

Dean opened the driver's side door and leaned into the car without sitting down.

"Sam?..."

Sam would not lift his head from resting on his forearms. "Go back inside." His voice cracked and wavered, and his face remained buried in his arms.

"No, I want you to come inside."

"Dean, please... just leave me alone."

"Well, in about four months you'll have all the alone time you want. But for now, haul your ass inside."

Sam lifted his head slowly and turned to look sideways towards Dean. His mouth hung open in disbelief, his reddened eyes filled with unspeakable sadness. "Do you honestly think that was funny?" His voice was still cracking, although he tried to fight it.

Dean was taken aback at the challenge, immediately regretting the words he had uttered. "You're right, it's not and I'm sorry. But hey, most of the time my mouth shoots ahead of my brain... right?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah." They exchanged glances that stated simply 'apology accepted.'

"Good. Now come inside man, 'cause I'm seriously freezing my ass off here."

"Right... wouldn't want you to catch pneumonia..." the statement was made in a barely audible whisper.

Dean smirked. "You see Sammy, now that right there, that was funny!" Sam looked up at his brother, the attempt at humor having no effect on stopping the tears still streaming down his face. "And would you stop acting like such a girl!" Without a doubt, typical Dean.

Reluctantly Sam exited from the passenger side door and followed Dean back to their motel room, along the way trying to wipe away the tears and dreading his brother's comments about chick-flick moments, which he was certain were coming. Once inside, Dean was already rubbing his upper arms and doing a little jumping dance in place in an effort to warm up. Without hesitation, Sam removed his warm jacket and placed it over Dean's shoulders despite the protests. He grabbed his own flannel shirt from the chair, putting it on, as Dean reached for his jeans. They made their way back to their beds, sitting to face each other. Sam really was in no mood for this talk. He just wanted to hide underneath the covers and pretend that he was stuck in some nightmare. Correction... he didn't have to pretend, he really was stuck in a nightmare.

"Sammy, you can't keep doing this." There was definite care and concern in his voice. Especially any time he prefaced anything he said by using the Sammy nickname.

"I can't control it... it just happens any time I think about..."

"Yeah, but this is the third time this month you've run off in the middle of night."

Sam looked up in surprise. "You've known?"

"I know about those times... unless there were more."

"But why didn't you say anything?"

"I figured you didn't want me to know, and that you'd talk to me when you did."

Sam swallowed hard and clenched his jaw so tight it hurt. He was trying as hard as he could to remain in control of his emotions and it just killed him the way his brother knew him so well. But how could he not? With the exception of the time Sam spent away at college, Dean had always been right there with him since the day he was born.

"Sam, I don't know what to say to make this all right. But you don't have to hide."

"I didn't want to worry you." Sam could barely look at his older brother.

"You kidding me? You know I'll always worry about you... 'til my dying day."

"And that's another thing, Dean... I'd wish you'd stop saying crap like that all the time." Now Sam was looking at his brother, almost staring a hole right through him.

"Like what?"

"Like all that crap that just points to the inevitable. It's not helping!"

"Sam, you're being a little dramatic."

"And what if I am? Would it be so hard for you to stop saying things that remind me that I'm failing? I mean, it's bad enough you haven't lifted a finger to save yourself!"

"Look, first off, I don't think you're failing. Second, you know why I can't help you. I can't do anything to try to weasel--"

"--weasel your way out, or I'll drop dead, yeah, I know. But you know what? I don't care!"

"Well, I do!"

"Why? What's the point, Dean? Do you honestly think that I'd want to go on... alone?"

"Sam, don't you dare say that!" Dean glared at his little brother.

"You can ignore it, but it's true."

Dean shook his head in disbelief. This wasn't part of the plan. Sam wasn't supposed to react this way. "No. Don't make what I did be for nothing."

"What you did is put me in the same position that dad put you in!" Sam hung his head and just looked down at the carpet. "And we both remember how well that turned out."

"Ok, yeah, I was a mess. But given a little time, I came back from the edge. I got over it."

Sam lifted his head, his hazel eyes squinted in disbelief as he spoke through gritted teeth. "Over it? You're not over it... not by a longshot! And you came back from the edge because I was there to pull you back!" Sam paused for a moment to let his words sink in and he could see he was having an effect as Dean's face contorted while his mind flashed back through a multitude of memories from that dark and desperate time.

"But who's going to be there for me, Dean? Who's going to pull me back from the edge? Who's going to be there to stop me when I turn into a grieving, resentful, revenging, cold-blooded killer with nothing left to live for?"

Dean shook his head, not wanting to hear any of this. "That's not you, Sam. That'll never be you. You're stronger than that."

But Sam continued to taunt him. "Don't be so sure. Maybe I'll just accept who I am. Give in to my destiny. Give in to whatever power I have inside me and become the leader they want me to be. After all, you won't be around to stop me!" It was almost as if he had accepted the foregone conclusion that in four months he will lose his brother. And this is the fear that constantly gnaws at his gut and shatters his heart. A fear so great that he can hardly bear it any more.

Dean quickly got up and walked towards the middle of the room, trying to hide how much this latest dose of reality bothered him. Sam quickly followed, grabbing his brother's left arm and spinning him back around.

"Dean, don't walk away just 'cause you don't like where the conversation is going." The brothers found themselves staring each other down once again. Then Dean softened.

"Sam, you're stronger than me. Always have been. And if it ever comes to that, I know you can get through this. You have to."

"Who says I want to?"

Dean reacted instinctively and angrily and with both palms pushed against Sam's chest sending him backwards a few steps, off balance. "No. No way." Dean shook his head is disbelief. "You don't get to use my own words against me."

"They're my words, too."

Dean's frustration was building and just shook his head as he wasn't sure what to say next. He began walking towards the chair, removing Sam's jacket along the way, and reaching for his own instead. Sam was getting angry at the typical way Dean would avoid discussions by simply walking away from them. He sprinted towards his brother, gritting his teeth. With some strange instinct now controlling his actions, he grabbed Dean by the shirt, fists pushing against Dean's chest and the force of strength pushing Dean backwards into the wall. It would have been easy for Dean to fight back. He could still kick his little brother's ass if he really wanted to, despite a slight height advantage by Sam. But he let his arms hang passively down by his side instead.

"Sam, I did what I did to give you a second chance to live." Dean stated that very matter-of-factly, as though there was no room for further discussion.

"No, Dean. You did what you did because you couldn't face being alone."

"Shut up, Sam…" His voice was exhibiting a growing frustration. His hands were slowly curling into fists, getting tighter, and the knot in his stomach gripped like a vice.

"And you know what? You will still. Be. Alone."

Dean was honestly confused by Sam's latest reasoning. "What?"

"You can't escape the one fear that got you into this mess in the first place. Because in case you forgot, dad climbed his way out… he's not there any more!"

"Shut up Sam!" And now Dean did feel like fighting back, bringing his arms up and fisting Sam's shirt in return. But Sam stood his ground.

"If you don't like what I'm saying, then FIGHT! Help me find a way to save you! Fight to stay alive, damn it!" Sam's eyes were pleading, full of pain, ready for the levee to break once more. And the emotions were getting to Dean too as wetness crept across his own eyes, but he kept his game face on. After a few tense seconds, which seemed liked an eternity, they both loosened their hold on each other in unison, with Sam taking a step back.

Dean just closed his eyes and pushed the back of his head against the wall. "I can't."

Letting out an exasperated grunt, Sam just walked back to the bed and sat on the edge once more, resting his elbows on his thighs and burying his face in his palms. Dean reluctantly followed and sat next to him on the left side, within inches of each other. When he spoke, his voice was soft.

"Look, I don't really want to die, Sam. But I can't watch you die. Not again. So what am I supposed to do?"

"Well, you can stop sabotaging me." Dean seemed perplexed by the statement. "Every time I think I'm on to something, you try to throw me off the trail or distract me in some way." Dean remained quiet taking a deep breath, which was almost as good as agreeing with Sam. "And you can give me the missing pages out of dad's journal."

"What are you talking about?" Sam knew that voice all too well. The voice of denial. The voice that stated he didn't know anything about a subject, when in fact he knew a lot.

"There are pages missing out of dad's journal. Have been for a while. Did you think I wouldn't notice?" Again, Dean remained quiet. "What's on those pages, Dean? A clue... a lead... an answer...?"

"Sam, stop it. The demon bitch was pretty clear in what would happen if I tried to help--"

"That demon bitch is dead!"

"But we can't be sure the deal died with her. Not after what she told you."

"Dean, we might as well take the chance... because at this rate, I'm not gonna make it anyway."

Dean looked at his brother and, as much as he hated to admit it, he knew at some deeper level that Sam was right. He could see that just the stress alone was making him sick, not to mention the lack of sleep. At this rate a heart attack or aneurysm were not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

"Just help me... tell me what you know about this."

"What makes you think I know anything?"

"Because you were still hunting with dad for almost four years while I was at Stanford. That's four more years of knowledge that I don't have." Sam had so much hope that his dad or his brother had run into stories about this type of situation during that time.

"I'm sorry, Sammy... but I really don't have the answer." Sam hung his head once again, deflated and defeated.

"Then help me find one." Sam cocked his head slightly to the side and opened his eyes wide, bringing out a weapon in his emotional arsenal that Dean was practically powerless to resist throughout the years -- the pleading eyes. "Dean, I've lost everyone I've ever cared for. And the thought of losing you too scares the crap out of me."

"Don't look at me like that."

"You've got to start helping me… I can't do this alone." His older brother's defenses were finally breaking down.

"Sammy, anybody ever tell you, you shoulda been a lawyer?"

"Maybe one or two people," Sam stated with a smirk. "So, are you gonna help?"

"You know what little brother? you're a pain in the ass!"

"And you're a stubborn jerk," Sam teased with a gentle smile.

Dean nodded in agreement reluctantly. "O.K. I won't risk your life, but I'll do what I can."

If we're going down, then we're going down together. It was Sam that uttered those words, but in their hearts, they both felt the same way.

Sam took a deep inhale, acknowledging his brother's offer to help and started contemplating the various possibilities of where to look next. He felt his eyes growing heavy with exhaustion but he was lost deep in thought. And once again, his mind spontaneously brought back images of the attacking hellhounds into focus. At that moment, Dean caught sight of a lone tear as it started to make its descent down Sam's cheek.

"Hey..." The gentle nudge from his brother's elbow brought Sam out of his trance. "You o.k.?"

Sam shook his head in the negative. "I'll be ok when the year is up... and you're still here."

Then Sam did something that neither of them expected Sam to do. He leaned his head towards the left and just let it rest on Dean's shoulder, eyes shut in a frown. The act came without thought or premeditation, just an autonomic reaction taking place. Something that he hadn't done in years. Dean glanced down at his brother, eyebrows drawing together, ready to protest this uncomfortable breach of personal space. But he paused and waited a few moments as the frown on Sam's face relaxed into a rare peacefulness.

Sam was exhausted and looked liked hell, so Dean sat there quietly, glad to have his brother alive, but heartbroken at what he was going through. He reached out with his left hand, cradling Sam's head against his shoulder. He rested his own chin on top of the disheveled brown hair and slowly disappeared into his own thoughts. Sam seemed to welcome the rare display of closeness but, more importantly, Dean didn't fight it. It really had been years since Sam seeked out this type of solace and comfort. Within a few minutes Sam's breathing evened out and his head lolled as sleep was finally overcoming him. Dean's thoughts continued to wander and reflect on their situation. Convinced that Sam was finally asleep after countless nights of insomnia, Dean pushed him back to lay him down on the pillow. As he gently lifted Sam's legs onto the bed, he wondered if his little brother would be able to make it through what was left of the night without waking up to another nightmare. He certainly hoped so. Dean sat down on the edge of the other bed and stared at his brother's face. It looked so peaceful now, but the stresses of the past months were definitely taking a toll on Sam's youthful appearance. The thought of his brother in so much emotional agony brought an inconsolable pain to Dean's heart. But the possibility of living without Sam was not a viable option. There had to be a way out of this deal. He realized he wanted this now more than ever. Because if they both couldn't live, then they would both surely die. With his elbows supported by his thighs, he rested his forehead is his palms. And for the first time in months he allowed his own levee to open up just a little bit. It certainly didn't appear like he was going to be getting any more sleep tonight.

Dean, you're my big brother and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you. And if it's the last thing I do, I'm going to save you... it's my turn to save your ass for a change.

"I'm counting on it, Sammy. God, I'm really counting on it."

END

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