Close Calls
K Hanna Korossy

After Sam's first vision, Dean listened closely.

He dressed as he listened, still half-groggy, to a suicide that wasn't, a man trapped in a car, a Michigan license plate, Bob Seger on the radio, and the urgency in Sam's voice. He heard the latent panic, too, but Sammy was trying to hide that one so Dean didn't comment on it. He asked questions, and didn't like the answers.

"You sure you didn't just dream this?"

"I know the difference, okay? Could you just…dress faster?"

He couldn't really, but he tried. "So this guy's in Michigan?"

"Uh, I think so. His car's registered in Michigan and it looked like he was going home."

"Michigan's a big state, Sam."

"I remember the plate—I'll call it in on the way and get an address."

"You do realize how nuts this sounds?" But he didn't slow in yanking his boots on, tying the laces. He did hear the hesitation in his brother's voice while he concentrated on his task.

"I know, but…we have to check it out, Dean."

He heard the "we" very clearly. He looked up at Sam, who had momentarily stopped his rushed packing to look back at him. "Okay." Sam had had him at "we have to go," but Dean wanted him to know he was behind him in this new bizarre twist in Winchester life.

He'd listened to the disguised fear, uncertainty, and horror in Sam's voice, but all he heard now, when Sam stopped him as they were walking out the door and said a quiet, grateful, "Thanks," was his little brother needing something from him. That had always been enough for Dean.

00000

After Sam's second, waking vision, Dean watched closely.

He saw his brother's pupils darken and dilate as the vision played out, until he almost looked possessed. It wasn't a bad analogy for the frantic way Sam had reacted when it was over, clutching at Dean's shirt, asking—demanding—they go check on Roger Miller because he was going to die, too. He watched Sam's face as the story poured out, seeing the sheen of sweat, the frightened look in his eyes, the way his mouth tightened as if he were just trying to keep it together.

"You just saw this?" Dean asked carefully, not because he doubted but because this was new, and it scared him, too.

Sam was still gripping his shirt and didn't even seem to realize it. "Yes! Dean, we have to go."

"I know, Sam, we will, just…dude, you don't look so good." He could see the sharp-edged panic sawing away at Sam's control, the lingering shock playing across his face at what he'd just witnessed, and the remnants of the vacant look he had during the vision finally drifting away. That last had scared Dean most of all.

"Dean…" The fingers spasmed in their grip, and he saw one more thing in Sam's face: determination. Sam would find a way to go with our without his help. Dean hadn't missed the pointed lack of reassurance of his concerns, though, or the paleness of Sam's face that made him doubt his brother's legs would hold him no matter how determined he was.

But that was what Dean was there for, wasn't it?

Over three years, Sam hadn't asked him for a thing even though Dean would have done anything for him. He could hear the plea now in his brother's voice, not just for help for Miller, but for trust, for believing that this crazy story didn't mean Sam was going crazy. For his older brother to be there.

He hoped Sam could see the faith in his face as Dean pulled him to his feet, supporting his unsteady weight, and simply said, "Let's go."

00000

After Sam's third vision, Dean stayed close.

He'd thought Sam would collapse for a moment, and had hovered just behind him, ready to play catcher as he watched Sam stare at nothing. The shaking figure that sagged against him when it was done told him he hadn't been far from wrong. Dean held on to him with one arm while he opened the car door, then eased him down on the seat and crouched next to the car. One hand on Sam's thigh, the other on his shoulder, gently massaging, he asked, "What did you see?"

"Max's mom," Sam croaked miserably, still blinking the last of the vision away.

Dean nodded, unsurprised. Sam seemed to be privy to the whole Miller family demise, and wasn't that nice? His grip tightened on his brother's shoulder, drawing Sam's attention away from the horror he'd seen. "Where?"

"At their house. Dean, Max did it—will do it."

Well, that part was different. Sam was still trembling, and Dean leaned further into the car, into his space. With anyone else, it would have been invasive. Sam seemed to calm from the proximity. "Sam, we'll stop him," he vowed, not because he had the power to do it—although his determination could give his brother's a run for the money—but because he needed to get Sam refocused, one less death on his conscience.

Sam nodded uncertainly, and swallowed. He looked more green than white this time; each vision took more out of him, and Dean's hand moved from his leg to his middle.

"You okay?"

Another weak nod, but more certain.

"Okay." He squeezed Sam's shoulder one more time, patted his stomach, reached down to swing his feet into the car. He stayed there a moment longer, reluctant to pull away when Sam looked so ragged. "Take it easy," he said lamely, and was rewarded by a wan smile. It gave him enough willpower to pull away long enough to shut the door and jog around to the driver's side.

He would stick close, he vowed as the car pulled away from the curb. Even if Sam weren't asking in a hundred silent ways, Dean had needed only one.

00000

After Sam's last waking vision, Dean was just close.

He stepped quickly around Max's body, deliberately positioning himself between Sam and the gruesome sight, drawing Sam's stare to him. Ready to grab him when his brother's knees finally gave way, and lowering him onto the edge of the bed. Dean stayed centered in his frame of vision as he crouched before him, chafing cold hands and cheeks, seeing the clammy face that spoke of another vision. Max's death?

"Sam?" he said quietly.

Haunted eyes, trying to see past him, jumped guiltily back to his face. In shock, actually, if the cold, shakes, sweats were any sign, and Dean wasn't too surprised when Sam started gagging. He pushed the perspiration-damp head down almost to Sam's knees and rested the other hand on the curve of his back. A wet cloth would have been good, but Sam needed him there.

Mrs. Miller was crying quietly behind him. Dean left her alone to grieve and concentrated on his family.

"Sam?" he asked again as the hitching expirations evened. "You ready to sit up?"

A tiny nod.

He eased the bowed body up with a grip on both arms, studied the pale face. "You're not gonna pass out or hurl on me?"

He watched the small facial tics, judged the tremor in the voice. "Dean…"

"We'll talk about it later, Sam," he said firmly, gently. "We have to call the cops, and I need to know if you can keep it together."

A hesitation. Self-assessment, and looking for Dean's reaction, taking cues from him. He was good at burying his own darker feelings, offering Sam only compassion and understanding. The rage and worry and disgust could wait for a few beers, a dark motel room, and a steadier Sam.

Sam nodded. "I'm good."

Dean's mouth twitched. "Yeah, you are." He pushed himself to his feet, his leg brushing Sam's knee, hearing his slowing breaths, seeing the slight crane of his body as he tried to look past to see Max, and shifting automatically to again block the view. "Mrs. Miller, we need to call the police," Dean said quietly. Next to him, Sam flinched, and he edged fractionally closer to his shaky brother.

It had been a long time since he'd been needed, but Dean wasn't going anywhere.

The End