Not Sam
K Hanna Korossy

Dean pushed the speedometer needle past ninety, ignoring the engine's protesting whine. Any reason the Demon had to take Sam to South Dakota was bound to be a bad one, and Dean had to get there, now. He'd even have taken a plane if it would've helped, but between how remote they were and Cold Oak was, car was still the best way to go. Really freakin' fast car.

Bobby would've heard the car straining, too, and known Dean was risking blowing the engine, but the mechanic didn't even glance at Dean. If anything, that just made Dean push down even harder on the gas. When Bobby took risking the Impala for granted, you knew things were about to go critical.

Dean spared a glance over at their old friend's profile. Funny, he couldn't remember Bobby sitting next to him in the car before. The few times he'd joined the Winchesters on hunts, he'd brought his own truck, or, once, sat in the back. No one sat in that passenger seat now, ever, except—

Dean's jaw bunched and he stared forward through the window.

"We'll find him, Dean," Bobby said flatly from beside him. From his brother's spot.

Dean nodded once, sharply. He appreciated it, he really did. But he couldn't help resenting the fact Sam wasn't the one at his side.

He poured on a little more speed and willed his baby a little faster toward the one indispensable member of their small team.

00000

Dean stared dully at the weight in his lap, looking without seeing.

He remembered vaguely what had come before. Seeing Sam stumbling toward them, a relieved smile on his face. Seeing the guy in the fatigues, knife in hand, lunge at him from behind. Seeing Sam seize up and collapse. Holding him and feeling him…

He wasn't sure how he'd ended up there, though. Dean's eyes slid to the right, taking in black vinyl, rain-streaked glass. The car. They were in the car, but he wasn't driving.

He looked up. Bobby's eyes, abnormally creased and shiny, met his in the rear view mirror. Bobby was driving? Why was Dean in the back seat?

The car lurched, fighting the uneven road, and the weight in his lap shifted. It felt almost animated, but looking down, there was just stillness, everything motionless. Sam was…

It wasn't Sam, though. Couldn't be. Sam was full of life and energy. Rocking with tears when he grieved. Pacing when he was worried. Flailing around like a yappy puppy when he was excited. Practically bouncing when he was happy. Clumsy when he was nervous or lovestruck. The corner of Dean's mouth bent. Jessica must've had a thing for the awkward type.

"Dean?"

His eyes flicked up to Bobby, who was staring at him in the mirror again, his expression odd. Why was he driving again? And where was Sam?

God, Dean thought, eyes damp as he stared out the window and felt the car shift the weight in his lap once more. He missed Sam.

00000

"So, the roadhouse is gone?" Sam asked, voice pitched low.

Dean nodded, glancing over at him again. "Yeah. Burned to the ground."

"And…Ellen? Ash?"

Dean stole small looks at the passenger seat as he drove. "Looks like Ash got caught in it. Don't know about Ellen." He should've been keeping his eyes on the road. Should've felt grief at the thought of lost friends. But he couldn't seem to do anything but stare at Sam, feel anything but joy.

"God, Ellen," Sam murmured, shaking his head and blinking hard.

Dean roused himself a little. He cared about Ellen, a lot, but she'd practically become a distant sort of second mom to Sam. This had to hurt, and Dean softened. "Sorry, man," he said gently.

Sam's jaw rippled and he nodded once.

He'd lost others, too. Andy. That Ava girl, even if she'd turned out evil. And Sam had no idea he'd been…lost, too, for a while, just woke to half his world wiped out. Dean's compassion grew, the connection to Sam never feeling more real or important. "Bobby'll know something. We'll figure this out, Sammy. That yellow-eyed son of a bitch isn't getting away with this."

Sam gave him a halfway look at that, eyes distressingly liquid. But he nodded, believing his brother.

Dean knew he should feel something of what Sam was, mourning the dead. But all there was in him was overwhelming relief it wasn't Sam.

00000

Sam was driving. Dean had kind of lost the option when he'd followed his momentous proclamation that they work to do, with slumping half-conscious against the trunk of the car. He maybe still would have taken a stab at arguing about it, if it didn't feel like his head would crack open at any moment, finishing the job the Demon had started.

The dead Demon. Dean was still trying to wrap his bruised brain around that one, the satisfaction not even close to having sunk in yet.

"Tell me if you need to stop," Sam said with stony quiet beside him, eyes glued to the road.

And there was the killjoy that had stopped Dean's celebration in its tracks. Sam's anger and dismay at finding out about Dean's deal would have been cause enough; there was little Dean hated as much as that wounded look in his brother's eyes. It was shades of Jess again, and Dean would've been gratified he rated as high as the love of Sam's life if he wasn't wishing his brother had never had to feel that way at all.

But there was also that insidious whisper chasing itself through Dean's mind. How certain are you that what you brought back is one-hundred percent pure Sam? A seed of doubt, planted deep. Dean shivered with it, no quick retort for that, no denial strong enough to drown it out completely.

Sam was watching him out of the corner of his eye. Even without looking up from where he was huddled in the corner of the seat, Dean could tell. He could also see when those familiar fingers—callused on the pointer finger from gripping a lifetime of pens, knuckles scraped from a fight Dean had arrived too late for—reached over to nudge the heat on, then, hesitating, shoved in a tape. AC/DC rolled through the car. Sam's long arm—hanging off jungle gyms as a kid like he was half-monkey, stretching down to grab Dean before he slipped—reached into the back to fish out one of their extra jackets and toss it at Dean, then under the seat for the bottles of water and painkillers rolling around on the floorboards. Then he went back to gripping the wheel with both hands, long hair—one last attempt at being like the other kids, pasted in damp curls against his skin when he was sick—sliding across his forehead to hide his eyes. Eyes Dean also had memorized.

He swallowed a few pills and slumped into the warm jacket against the window, quietly watching his brother. Not pure Sam? Dean snorted softly, the sound enough to draw Sam's attention a moment. Dean smiled at him, and saw his brother's lips automatically twitch before he looked away.

No, Dean tuned out the voice of misgiving. He'd know.

It's Sam.

The End