Thanks, R

Precautionary Measures
K Hanna Korossy

"I don't know, Sam, a fake psychic? Isn't that a little out of our league? I mean, we start going after every Miss Cleo out there, and late night TV won't have anything left to advertise besides knife sets and phone sex." Dean canted his head thoughtfully. "Actually—"

"She's not just a phony psychic, Dean." Sam turned his laptop around on the scarred tabletop so it faced his brother. "Three people who went to her for readings have died, all three of them after she predicted their death."

Dean scanned the screen and shrugged. He took a bite of his sandwich and spoke around the mouthful. "So maybe she's the real deal—there are a few of 'em out there, like Missouri."

Sam made a face, both at the words and the sight of masticated roast beef. "Can you see Missouri telling anyone they were going to die?"

"No, she'd just smack them in the head and tell them to get out of Dodge. I'm just sayin', not everyone's that…"

A smile pulled at Sam's mouth. "Principled?"

"I was going to say 'crazy.'"

"Okay, how about this. All three people died violently, and the psychic didn't have an alibi for any of the deaths."

"Which…wouldn't be surprising if she had nothing to do with them. I mean, come on, Sam, most people don't have alibis for a lot of their time. Look at us…" He grimaced. "Okay, bad example."

"Dean…"

His brother's eyes narrowed as he studied him. "Your Spidey senses tingling about this one, Sam?"

"No," he hedged. "Just an ordinary, I don't know, feeling about it."

Dean chewed thoughtfully a minute, then shrugged. "Guess it wouldn't hurt to check it out. Georgia's only a few hundred miles from here—we can make it by tonight."

Sam nodded, grateful. They both had veto power over each other's suggestions for a job, but Dean usually didn't argue his too much. There were a hundred reasons Sam could have come up with for that, his "gift" being at the top of the list, but the one that mattered was Dean cared what he thought. Sometimes that made all the difference.

He logged off the computer and shut it, sliding it into his satchel. Papers and a map followed. Sam took a final bite of his half-eaten and truly awful turkey club, and slid toward the edge of the booth. "I'll be right back."

Dean stopped chewing. "Where're you going?"

"Where do you think I'm going? Watch the laptop."

"Bring the laptop—I'm going, too."

Sam stopped, cast his brother a look. "You're going with me to the bathroom?"

Dean crammed the end of his sandwich into his mouth and stood, wiping his fingers on a napkin he tossed on the plate. "Yeah, Sam, that's how I get my kicks—no, I'm not going with you to the bathroom, I just need to take a leak before we hit the road."

"Dean." Sam stopped, put a hand up. "Look, I know what you're doing, okay? Ever since Minnesota, it's like you won't even let me out of your sight. I'm not gonna get snatched again, all right?"

"Of course I let you out of my sight, and you're right, you're not gonna get snatched again."

"You won't even let me go to the bathroom by myself. I like you a lot, man, but this joined at the hip thing, it's getting kinda old."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Dean muttered and, giving him a pointed look, pushed past him. He didn't look back to see if Sam was following as he disappeared into the men's room.

Sam stared after him a minute, sighing. He glanced absently around the small diner…and paused as his eye caught one of the other storefronts in the strip mall. Huh. A look back at the restrooms, and he shouldered his bag and went outside.

Sam returned to the diner three minutes later to find Dean about to venture in the ladies' room in sheer desperation. Sam winced at the unmistakable panic that retreated—slowly—from his brother's eyes as Dean caught sight of him.

"Where have you been?" The question was angry because Dean never showed fear in the aftermath.

"I'm sorry, I just…ran out to get something."

"Oh. You ran out to get something." Dean's jaw shifted. "Is this some kind of teach-me-a-lesson thing—you don't like that I'm keeping an eye on you so you disappear on me? Because if so, I gotta tell you, Sam, your judgment sucks."

"It's not like that—I'm sorry, I didn't think—"

"Yeah. You didn't."

Sam didn't even try to argue—he should have realized and he knew it—just looked apologetic. He hadn't missed the admission that had slipped out. Keeping an eye on him: yeah, it felt like he was five again…but that wasn't completely a bad thing. Not everybody had someone who would track them down when they'd been taken hostage by cannibalistic backwoodsmen.

Dean cooled off at the signs of contrition, as Sam knew he would. He made a face, stopped just short of rolling his eyes, and finally nodded grudgingly at his brother. "So what was so important that you almost gave me a heart-attack?"

"Dean, I'm fine, see? I went out for a minute and I didn't—"

"Save it for when we're not a couple days out from you vanishing without a trace, okay, Sam?"

Yeah, okay, fair enough. Sam took a breath, held out the small brown bag.

Dean gave him a wary look but took it, opened it, peered inside. He frowned, and dug in to remove the small box. "Paper clips?"

The corner of Sam's mouth pulled up.

Dean went back to staring at the box, and Sam wished he could see his eyes because that was usually where the action was. His face could have been marble.

"Don't forget," Sam finally said quietly, because Dean didn't seem inclined to speak up, "I wasn't the only one who disappeared out there." His agony of suspense had been a lot shorter, but just as ominous. As it turned out, Dean had gotten the worst treatment at the hands of the Benders. Sam could tell his head still ached, and he continued to favor his left arm. And emotional wounds took longer to heal than the physical, even in someone as practical as Dean Winchester.

Dean snorted a soft laugh, glancing up at Sam. The anger was gone, pain still there but not as sharp. Mostly it was affection, and an edge of humor. "Paper clips?"

"Well, I was gonna get you a handcuff key, but paper clips seem to be more your thing."

"Hundred-and-one uses," Dean agreed, hefting the box a moment before slipping it into his pocket. "Thanks," he said, with another sideways glance at Sam. Just in case he missed the subtext there.

But no, he had plenty of experience reading his brother, translating the anger and over-protection and teasing into the love it really was. And while Dean would have groused at the interpretation, Sam knew his brother expected him to understand.

"So, you ready to hit the road?" Dean asked, shaking off the moment as he did any that dragged on too long.

"Yeah, I, uh, just have to hit the bathroom first."

Dean rolled his eyes. "I'll be out in the car."

"Really?" It slipped out before Sam could catch himself.

"Yes, Sam, really, but if you take more than two minutes, I'm coming in packing."

He laughed. "Yeah, okay."

Dean made a disgruntled sound and strode out.

But he wouldn't be far. Sam knew it, and didn't want it any other way.

The End