A/N: February 18th marks my seventh month of posting here on Fanfic and this one shot just popped into my head last night, so I took it as a sign! (And since I am very close to breaking 400,000 posted words, and this story will do it, I thought that was a good way to celebrate my anniversary!) I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the lovely months I've been here—I am looking forward to many, many more! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review and for all your support! This story takes place shortly after the events of "Faith."

When Last I Cried

Dean was talking. He'd been talking for three days, his throat was sore, the words getting harsh as he forced them out. They were never-ending, he wouldn't let them end, he talked, he sang, his throat ached with the effort of nearly seventy-two hours of words, but still he wouldn't stop. He was talking and as long as he was talking…

Sam was alive.

If he stopped…

He scrubbed shaking hands across his face. His eyes ached with unshed tears, tears trapped in his eyes, threatening but never coming. Sometimes he felt if he could just force them beyond his eyes somehow it would be better. At this point anything was better. For the hundredth time he pulled his cell phone out and dialed, waiting until the voicemail on the other end picked up.

"It's me again. Please, please call. Dad, I don't know what to do. Sammy's…Please dad, I need you here, I need you to call. I…" he hung up as his voice broke, as the tears slammed into the wall that was holding them back, making his throat close and his head ache, but still they wouldn't come.

"He's probably out on the hunt, what do you think?" Dean said to the motionless figure on the bed. "Probably out of cell range. I'm sure that's it. He'd never…" Dean stopped himself, knowing the lie in the words. Sam had called their father two weeks before, after Dean had been electrocuted. "He didn't call, did he? I never thought he would just leave me—us—alone like this. He was always distant, but never like this. He was always there for the big stuff." Dean's thoughts were vocalized, the words bouncing around the room, covering the sounds of machines, of televisions on up and down the corridor, covering the sound of his own heart, beating, but feeling as if it had stopped.

"It did, I think, Sam. I think it did stop. It felt the way it did after the shock, sluggish, aching." He got up and paced across the room. "I'm sorry." It was the thousandth time he'd said it in that nearly silent room, the thousandth time he'd hoped that by saying it some vengeful god would relent and give him his brother back, it was the thousandth time he'd held his breath, waiting hoping, and—nothing.

Sam still lay, essentially dead, on the hospital bed. Oh, his heart was beating—aided by a machine. He was breathing—aided by a machine. He had blood flowing through his veins, his life was sustained.

"But you know, Sammy, it's almost like the note at the end of some bad metal. Too long, just held there as you wait for something more, but the note just goes on and on, never changing." He paced to the window and looked out at the gray day. "Still raining." Dean walked back over to the bed. "I need some coffee. I'll be back in ten minutes, okay, little brother?" He put his hand down on Sam's arm as he said it. The skin was cool, not quite cold, but lacking the feeling of life. Damn. Dean took one more look at his brother and headed, with weary steps, down the hall to the espresso stand.

Four Days Earlier

It was raining. It seemed like the rain never ended, it was there in the morning when they woke, there all day as they drove and then there as they checked into the motel and settled in for the night. It wasn't helping Dean's mood. He'd be the first to admit he was brooding, and it was a dark brood. It colored the days, it colored his mood, it colored the conversation with his brother. He was snappish and unkind at times, just morose at others. Sam felt it, he knew, and it bothered him, but he still couldn't pull himself out of it.

Someone had died for him. And for no reason other than the selfish judgment of a psychotic woman. Then there was Layla. He couldn't save her, and he had tried, he'd seen the reaper and had known it was coming for him, and he'd let it. His life for hers was acceptable. Sam would miss him, but he had been sure his brother would understand. He'd been wrong.

Dean let it slip, by accident, what had happened. They'd stopped for the night after a particularly long and stressful day diverting around washed-out roads. Sam had been in a bad mood starting about the fourth replay of "Bark at the Moon." He'd started huffing the way he did at nearly every suggestion Dean made—it was Sam-in-a-contrary-mood Sam, one that Dean remembered well from many years of traveling with his brother. By the time they stopped, Dean had a pounding headache, his back hurt, he wanted to scream and he decided he deserved a little numbing.

After they'd checked in he'd gone down the block and got himself a bottle of tequila, splurging on Patron Silver. Goes down smoother, hangover is not as vicious and well, it makes me happy. I'll send Sammy out to get pizza and by the time he gets back I'll be a little numb. Haven't done that in awhile. Not really since the night he left to go to Stanford. I was drunk that night. It didn't make the ache go away. When he got back to the room, Sam was already gone, a note on the table said "Gone for tacos, back in thirty."

Dean settled on the bed. Plan ahead, this way not stumbling to bed after I drink too much. The weight of the death in exchange for his, the fact he couldn't save Layla in the end had dragged him down to the point where he needed a little escape. He poured a shot, holding it up he tried to think of a toast, nothing came up but "to a crappy world" and he thought that wasn't a great one, so he just tossed the shot back. The tequila was smooth, lighting a line of fine down his throat and into his stomach, warming him. He poured another. And another. And another.

Sam opened the door shortly after shot number five. "Sammy!" Dean said, hearing a slight slur on the S in his brother's name. Wow, am I that wasted already?

"Dean?" Sam put the food on the table. He looked over at Dean a little frown curling between his eyebrows. "Are you drunk?"

"Who me?" Dean said, pouring another shot with a hand getting increasingly numb. "Not yet."

Sam took the bottle from his hand and looked at it. "How much have you had?"

"Not enough." Dean made a grab for the bottle, but ended up on the floor instead. Hmm, might be a little drunker than I thought. "Give it back."

"Okay, get up and get it and you can have it," Sam said reasonably. Dean lifted his head and saw Sam walk across the room and put the bottle on the table.

"Fine." Dean pushed himself up, using the bed for leverage. After standing for a minute he focused on the bottle and took a step towards the table. One down. He managed another. Two down. He took another. Three down. Hey, wait. He was lying on the carpet. How did I end up down here? Sam grabbed his arm and pulled him up and pushed him back on the bed. I might have had enough.

"What the hell is going on with you, man?" Sam snapped.

"Me? Nothing." Dean shifted a little so he could look as Sam without having to hold his head up. It was a little too heavy to manage just then.

"You have been moody for days and days, you're angry, silent, complaining and now drunk. Not much fun to be around Dean. Want to tell me what the hell it's all about?" Sam was turning red.

"You're red, Sammy." Dean laughed.

"Damn it, Dean."

It broke, all of it, inside him, the wound loosened by the liberal application of tequila. "I'm alive, Sam."

"Yeah?"

"And he's not."

"Who?" Sam asked with a bewildered expression, then his frown deepened. "No, Dean, he would have died anyway. If not for you, then someone else."

"But it was me, Sam. And then Layla. I couldn't save her, you stopped it before I could…" As drunk as he was, he knew that he had said too much. Sam had gotten completely still. His hands clasped in his lap, the knuckles suddenly bone-white against his skin.

"Before you could what?" Sam's voice was barely a whisper, calm, reasonable.

"Nothing. Forget I said anything, I might be a little drunk."

"You were going to let the reaper take you, weren't you?" Sam said, still calm.

"Shammy…" Shammy? Yep, drunk.

"Dean, you can't fix that by dying. You can't. And Layla still believes there's hope."

"Hope in what?" The words were bitter in his mouth. Tears had sprung to his eyes. Stupid tequila makes my eyes water. "Nothing to hope for, there are no miracles, there is only this world and it is a shitty world."

"You don't believe that."

"There is nothing to believe in. Nothing to have faith in. Nothing. We live, we die. It's mostly brutal and without meaning." Hey, I get a little poetic when I'm drunk. I should try writing this down, maybe get a hit out of it. Dean and the Impalas and their number one hit "It's a Brutal Life."

"No," Sam said, shaking his head. "I don't believe it…"

"Okay, Mr. Belief? What do you believe in? Fairytales? Miracles? True Love?" Dean and the Impalas and their number one hit "Fairytales Suck." Sam was quiet, looking at him with eyes brimming with tears. "Well?" Sam said something, so quietly, Dean didn't catch it. "What?"

Sam said something quietly under his breath and then louder. "Yeah, miracles. You're alive, Dean. You were supposed to be dead by now."

"It wasn't a miracle, Sham, it was a reaper held captive. No miracle." Sham? Hmmm. "No one should have to trade their life for mine." He could feel the tears running down his face. Did the light just get brighter? He closed his eyes. "No one should…Shleepy…" He felt himself falling a little to the side. Someone caught him and steered him gently onto his pillow.

The smell of coffee woke him. The scent stabbed itself into his brain with a violence he wouldn't have expected from a beverage. He groaned and rolled over. The little food he'd eaten the night before suddenly decided it wanted out and he bolted for the bathroom. When he came out, he noticed Sam sitting at the table, eyes a little puffy, with two cups of coffee in front of them. Without saying anything he shoved a cup towards Dean.

"Thanks," he said, sinking down into the chair across from Sam. Dean took a good look at his brother. Sam had dark circles under his red, puffy eyes. What did I say last night? Dean tried to drag his memory, nothing came to the surface. I might have had a little too much to drink. "What happened?" Like I don't know.

"Happened?" Sam said with a little raise of the eyebrows. "Nothing, Dean. Nothing at all." Sam's hands were shaking as he took a drink of his coffee.

"Nothing?" Yeah, right, Sammy. Nothing. You look like nothing. Do we need to talk about this? "I say anything embarrassing?"

"Nope," Sam said with a shake of his head. "Nothing like that." He paused. Uh oh, here it comes. Something happened and it's about to smack me in the ass. "Nothing except for that whole you intended to let the reaper kill you for Layla. That's all. Nothing more than that—hell it's like nothing at all."

"Sam…"

"Don't deny it Dean, you said it. I heard you, and you were too drunk to lie. How could…"

"What?"

Sam looked a little wild for a minute, his eyes wide. "How could you…Dean…"

"What?" Dean looked at Sam as a little sliver of memory started creeping back into his head. "I was drunk, Sam."

"Yeah. You were." Sam got up and paced away. "Hard to lie to me when you're that drunk."

"I didn't know what I was saying and…"

"What?" Sam snapped.

"I thought you'd understand." Dean said, then stopped. Where did that come from?

"Understand you wanted to die? When I spent how many sleepless nights trying to save your life? Time spent trying to find a way to…Trying to save someone who apparently was willing to just throw it all away again?"

"She…She believed, Sam, she needed the miracle."

"And you don't, right? Just a fluke, right and you were willing to throw it away?" Sam's words sounded forced out through clenched teeth.

"Sam…" Dean walked over to where his brother was standing. He put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Hey…" Before he could say anything more Sam swung. Dean found himself on the floor looking up at his brother. Sam looked so surprised Dean chuckled a little, rubbing his jaw.

"Oh, god, Dean, I'm sorry." Sam reached down to give him a hand up. "I…Sorry." He ran a hand though his hair before sighing. "Let's just finish this job and get out of here." Sam paced back over to the table.

Not finished with this discussion are we, Sammy? My fault, I shouldn't have done that. If for no other reason than tequila seems to make my foot-in-mouth disease act up. "Sam…"

"You can't fix this with some joke, Dean. It's not funny. Let's just get this over with." Sam stalked out of the room, leaving the door open. Dean saw him give the tire a little kick as he walked to the car. Hey, Sammy, I understand you're pissed at me, but what did she do?

Grabbing his keys Dean followed his brother. As he pulled out of the parking lot he shoved "Bark at the Moon" back into the stereo. Sam looked over at him, rolled down his window, reached over and ejected the tape. With another look at Dean, he dropped it out the window. Dean saw it bounce once before the car behind him ran over it. "What the hell, Sammy?"

"It's Sam," his brother said sulkily.

Dean sighed. Oh, just great. Hangover and sulky Sam. Anything else you want to throw at me? He addressed the universe at large. Well? The drive was silent except for the occasional huff from Sam. Dean was about to scream just to relieve the tension and see what his brother would do, when he spotted the old building they were looking for. He parked the car outside and after grabbing a few choice items out of the trunk, they slipped through the chain-link fence surrounding the building. "Well?" Dean said to his brother as Sam stopped by the door.

"I haven't found much else. People go in and never come out. It was a church, local rumor has it that Satanists worship here. You know what people say." He shrugged. "Most of it is the same as dad's friend said when we talked to him."

"Sometimes dad's friends surprise me," Dean said conversationally, tired of the sullen silence. "Small town sheriff? Who'd a thunk?" Sam looked over at him with a scowl and opened the door to the building. Well, that went well. Sorry, Sam. Okay? I'm sorry. He sighed, watching the tall form of his brother disappear into the shadows. "Hey, Sammy, wait up."

"It's Sam," his brother's voice drifted back. Yep, and cranky Sam, too.

When Dean caught up with Sam his brother was standing in what had been the nave of the church. He had the EMF in his hand, but it was quiet, nothing indicating any activity of any kind. Sam looked at him and shrugged, moving off towards where the altar had once stood. Dean paced in the other direction. Not ready for a week-long temper tantrum, Sam. Although I guess I deserve it a little, only a little though. I thought you knew, I guess when you had Layla come by I…I don't know what the hell I thought Sammy. He put a hand against his aching head, closing his eyes for a minute to shut out the glare coming through the broken windows.

He thought he heard something behind him, just for an instant, before he heard Sam shout his name and he was tackled, Sam landing heavily on top of him. "Sam? What?" He shoved at his brother.

"It was behind you, Dean. I saw…" Sam was dragged off him. Dean saw his brother slam into the steps leading up to the altar, and the thing was there, descending on Sam. Dean pushed himself and was moving towards them as his brother screamed. Sam was still screaming as Dean brought his gun up and fired off a series of shots, he had no idea he'd emptied the clip until the hammer came down on an empty chamber. It was gone, whatever it had been. Sam was lying on the steps, blood running across his face. Unmoving.

Dean slammed to his knees beside his brother, his hand desperately seeking a pulse, looking for a sign of life in his brother. Nothing. Sam's heart wasn't beating, he wasn't breathing. As Dean dragged his body down to the floor he dialed 911.

"My brother—he's not breathing, I'm at St. Cecelia's church, hurry." He dropped the phone on the floor and started CPR. His world narrowed until all he knew were the count of breaths and chest compression. Sam, no, come on Sammy. Sam, no, come on. Please, Sam, please Sam, please Sam, please Sam, pleasesampleasesampleasesam. It was a litany kept in time by the endless round of breaths.

Gentle, but firm, hands pulled him off his brother. He cried out and tried to get back to Sam, but the EMT held Dean in place until he focused on him. "We've got him." Dean watched with unseeing eyes as they worked on Sam. He blinked when he realized Sam was no longer on the floor. The EMT was in front of him again. "We're taking him to Valley Medical," he said, waiting for Dean's nod.

Dean stumbled out of the church after the stretcher, hearing the wail of sirens as the ambulance took his brother away. He dropped into the Impala and managed to get the keys into the ignition on the fourth try. His head was pounding, but it had nothing to do with the hangover. Tears were suddenly trapped behind his eyes, aching like a wound.

Their father's friend, Paul, the local sheriff, was waiting when he arrived at the hospital. Dean told him what had happened, he thought the man had said how sorry he was, Dean wasn't sure, nothing was really working its way into his mind. The doctor came, Dean listened to words like "irreparable, unknown damage, no hope," but those words meant nothing. He nodded through the doctor's explanation, aware of the tears hovering just behind his eyes, burning him, but held captive.

When the doctor had finally left him, he'd started talking. He hadn't stopped except for the quick trips for coffee. He'd forgotten when he'd eaten, he'd forgotten when he'd slept. All that existed in his world were the words, the motionless figure on the bed and coffee. It was an endless round, like the round of CPR, trying to sustain his brother until he could live without the help.

Present

Dean pushed the door to Sam's room open. He always paused for a minute before going all the way in. Hoping against hope that something had changed, and just for that instant he could picture Sam's eyes open, his face lit with a small smile, waiting for Dean to return. They way he looked when he was a kid, when he was sick and I went to get some kind of treat. He'd feel like hell but he'd always smile that little smile. Dean sighed as the memory played in his head. Bracing himself, he walked into the room, Sam was unchanged. Eyes closed, machine breathing for him, his skin cool, not yet cold, but without the warmth of life.

"Whatever it was Sam, it did a number on you, but it's time to come back," Dean said, dropping into the chair by the bed. "I grabbed dad's journal the other day. What do you think it was? Any ideas? You're right, it doesn't matter does it? I just…I don't know, Sammy, I guess I keep hoping if I can solve it, you'll be okay." He sighed, drinking his coffee. "Latte, Sam. The girl at the stand said it was better for me. She offered to make something with ice cream in it, but I just got this instead." Dean took another sip of the vanilla latte. "They're not all that bad, you know. More like candy than coffee, though. The sugar is giving me a little buzz, I think."

He pulled out their father's journal, flipping through it again. "I swear it's almost like a reaper got you, Sammy. Just didn't quite finish the job." There was nothing in the journal. "It would be nice to have you here to do the internet thing. I have no idea where to begin really." Dean opened the book he'd found in the lobby. "Think this might help?" Dean held it before Sam, as if his brother could see it. The Dictionary of Magick and Myth had been lying in a chair in the hospital's lobby when Dean had walked thorough for his coffee. He'd grabbed it and brought it back to the room. "Probably not, you're right." He started flipping idly though the pages without really registering the words.

"The problem is I don't have help researching. If I had help this would go faster. Hear me, Sam? I could use a little help." Dean realized his hands were shaking. "I'm sorry, Sam. I got careless, I was distracted and you paid the price. Why? Why did you do that?" The question fell from his mouth for the millionth time.

"I never told you this, Sam, I never would I don't think, but you need to know in case you…Please don't die, Sammy. But…Sam? In my whole life there was only one constant. You. That's all. Not even dad, he came and went, but there was always you. Yeah, I know," he said, answering the statement he imagined from Sam. "Yeah, I complained now and then, but Sam—it was the thing that kept me going sometimes. It was all there was. Every time you got sick I panicked. Remember that time you were hurt when you were, what, twelve? I thought you were going to die, Sam, and…" The tears were hovering at the edges of his eyes again, making his chest ache. "I never realized it, Sam, I guess I never thought about it, but I do believe in something…And Sam? Remember what you said about not letting me die? That goes double for you, you know."

Something in the book he was staring at stopped him. He flipped the page back and reread the entry. "Sam? What do you think the chances are of a New Age magic book having the answer?" He read the entry again, this time out loud to Sam. "Well? What do you think?"

"Who are you talking to?" Paul said from the door. He was still in uniform, the bulk of his bullet-proof vest visible under his shirt.

"Sam," Dean said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. His father's friend looked at him with concern. "I…Never mind."

"Have you heard from John?"

"No, he must be out of cell reception range." I believe that, I have to, why else wouldn't he call.

"I tried once or twice, too," Paul said, coming over to stand beside Dean. "Any change?"

"No." The tears stabbed against the back of his eyes, blocking his throat, making his voice sound harsh. If he hadn't have known he was speaking, he wouldn't have recognized his own voice. "No change. Nothing."

"I'm sorry, Dean."

"I might have found something," Dean said, still surprised by that voice. "But I need to know what the local sheriff will do." He tried for a smile, it came out as a half-hearted smirk.

"Will do if you do what?"

"Commit arson?" Dean sighed. "I might need to burn the church to the ground."

"Will it stop whatever is going on?" Paul asked, looking at him.

"It might." Dean looked at him. "I think it might. And it will save Sam." I have to believe that. I can't go on thinking there is nothing I can do but wait for Sam to die. Sammy? Please don't die.

"Arson it is, can I help somehow?"

"It's a big building," Dean said with a small grin. "Could use a little help." He put his hand down on Sam's arm, still startled by the lack of warmth. "I'm going to kill it, Sammy. Just hang on a little longer and it will be gone, okay? I'll be back in an hour or two. Wait for me." He turned back to Paul. "Let's go."

"We'll take my car," the sheriff said. "Less trouble for you if you're with me."

"Thanks," Dean said, following Paul out of the hospital. He dropped into the passenger seat of the patrol car, with a sigh. His heart was starting to pound a little in anticipation. They stopped to get a few things Dean needed and then headed out of town towards the church. Dean watched the road as it rolled by. This has got to work, it has to. Oh, god, Sam, it has to work. I…I know I let you leave for California, I let you leave for school, but this is different, Sam, I'm not letting you leave like this. I can't…Even when we weren't talking I knew you were there, if I needed you. I know I said I thought you wouldn't answer the phone, but I knew you would, you always did. The same goes for your little snit trip to California, you were there on the phone when I called. I need you around Sam. I just…Sam…I…The tears were there again, plaguing him. I…I was wrong to want the reaper to take me for Layla. How could I think…? Sam…god, I'm sorry.

Paul had stopped outside the church. "Now what?" he said, looking over at Dean.

"I need to go in and summon it, then we burn the place, and hopefully it will go up with the place."

"Hopefully?" Paul said with a raise of his eyebrows.

"I'm a hopeful guy," Dean said. He got out, pulling his bag with him. "You start getting the place ready, I'll take care of the summoning." Paul nodded and Dean headed into the church.

Stopping in the middle of the huge space, Dean dropped the bag and pulled out a piece of sidewalk chalk. Opening the book, he carefully drew the pattern copied from a cave wall in Crete. Once the design was complete, he lit two red candles and, taking a deep breath, read the summoning spell he had found, hoping his pronunciation was good enough to make the spell work. My Latin is bad enough, but Ancient Greek? I'm not even sure how it's supposed to sound. He finished the spell and poured a little oil into the center of the design he had made.

There was a sudden crackling noise, like something dropped into boiling oil and then, with a shriek it appeared in the center of the design. It reached for him with its claws, hatred in the depth of its eyes.

"Release my brother," Dean said to it. Let him go. Give him back to me. The thing just hissed at him. "Do it or…" Do it or die. Well, do it then die, because you are going down for this. It hissed and tried to rush him, only to be brought up short at the edges of the design. "Fine," Dean said. Die. Right here, right now. He read the last part of the summoning spell again, anchoring the thing to the spot for eternity. It was shrieking at him as he walked away. I hope burning it will release the souls it's taken. He stepped out of the church, Paul was waiting outside. "Ready?"

The sheriff smiled. "I'll make a great arsonist if I ever have to quit this job." He handed Dean a stick, the end gleaming in the afternoon light. Dean held his lighter to it and the flames roared to life. He stuck the firebrand into the pile of rags piled outside the door. The explosion of flames threw him back from the building. By the time he stood, the entire outside of the building was ablaze. Burn, baby, burn. Die. He and Paul turned and walked back to the car. As they pulled away the roof caved in, consumed by flames.

When they reached the hospital, Dean sprinted to Sam's room, his heart lighter than it had been for days. I killed it, Sammy, everything's going to be okay. He had a smile on his face, the first that had been there in many days. The doctor was in the room when Dean pushed the door open. Dean smiled at him as he came into the room. "Hey, how's my brother?" he said, almost laughing.

The doctor turned to him and looked at him like he was crazy. "No change."

Dean stopped like he had run into a wall. "What?"

"There's no change, I thought we discussed this yesterday," the doctor said, not unkindly.

"What?" Dean said, not hearing the doctor. He staggered over to the bed, putting his hand down on the cool arm lying motionless on the bed. Sam? Why aren't you better? Why didn't it work?

"Yesterday, we spoke about your brother's prognosis, I believe I said it's only a matter of time. I think I said that he would never…"

No, I fixed it, no, not never. Sammy? Why aren't you better? Why are you still dying?

"What?" Dean said again, the tears so long held in check beginning to blind him. "Yeah." He looked down at Sam and the up at the doctor. "I'll be back," he whispered to his brother and turned and walked out of the room and down the hallway. After punching the button to the elevator, he noticed a door marked "stairway" at the end of the hall. He walked towards it and down the stairs. It was no longer raining when he walked out of the building. Dean just barely noticed that, he kept walking, the walk became faster and he propelled himself out of town, blindly moving until he could go no more.

He didn't know where he was, it was silent there, the wind moving gently over fields of grass, a lone tree stood over him, its branches reaching into a sullen sky. The tree proved the last obstacle, the one he couldn't get past. He slammed a fist into it, striking out blindly at the universe in general, the pain as his knuckles came into contact with rough bark jarring him. He dropped to his knees. The tears finally caught him there, under the silent tree in the middle of the vast plain, filled with dead grass and the bare bones of plants stripped of life by the unrelenting weather.

Time had passed, he had no idea of how much time. Night had come upon him there in the cold grass. The tears had eventually stopped, as if his body had no more to give. He could still feel the ache, but the tears themselves were gone. When was the last time I cried like that? Oh, yeah, Sammy, I have before. More than once. Sam…I…He rolled over. He was soaked through, a combination of tears, a small downpour and lying in the wet grass. The stars were out, he stared up at them. So, how do I go on from here? Do I go on? I thought you stars were supposed to have the answers. Words formed in his heart and drifted out of him slowly into the night, gentle pleading words, begging for something, an end to the ache, an end to the pain, a beginning for his brother.

A coyote yipped from somewhere not very far away. Dean could hear the rustling of something in the grass. It was dark, the stars bright against the velvet black of the sky, the Milky Way looking like a sparkling river of light, the stars like bright pebbles on a dark beach.

The emotion had leeched out of him with the tears. It was all gone now, there was nothing left, just an empty aching hole where he realized the spark of his brother had been. Sammy…If there was something I could do…But there isn't, is there? Where do I go from here? Once you're gone, where do I go? What do I do without my geek boy? I never really imagined life without you, Sammy. Even when you were at college, it never occurred to me…What do I do? Do I look for dad? He's abandoned us, left you alone when I was sick, left me alone while you were…Do I hunt? Yes. That's what's left to me. I hunt. I kill. The coyote yipped again, its voice joined in song by another and another, the notes weaving around each other like musical tapestry, one over the other, creating a pattern in the dark night. Dean lay, listening, as the creatures hunted in the night. Finally exhaustion took him away to silent darkness.

The wind was still blowing when he woke, the soft light of a morning sun shining down on him. Dean was warm in those first moments as he woke from a comforting dream of a home he had never known, the scent of cookies still with him as the world started to come back. The warmth quickly gave way to cold, the soft bed under him became the hard ground, covered in rocks. He heard himself groan as he rolled over. Memory was slowly coming back as he started shivering in the cold morning air. Oh, god, Sammy, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be gone so long. Please don't be dead. Oh, god, Sam, I'm so sorry. Dean pushed himself up, holding onto the tree as the world spun for a moment. He looked down at his bloodied right hand. The knuckles were swollen and bruised. Good job I did there, nothing like hitting trees to show how smart you are. His hand was starting to ache, he hoped he hadn't dislocated something again. But if I did? I probably deserve it, again, punching trees is not very smart.

Dean turned back in the direction of town, he pulled out his cell phone to call their father and let him know what was happening, but the phone was dead. Looking at the phone, tears welled up in his eyes again. Dead phone, figures. The walk back into town took a long time. How far did I run, I wonder? The building he had been walking towards proved to be the hotel they were staying at. Dean stopped by the room long enough to shower quickly, changing into dry clothes before walking the rest of the way to the hospital.

It was nearly noon when he arrived. His feet had started hurting a little, and his hand ached quite a bit more than that. On his way in he stopped by the espresso stand. She offered to make him a vanilla latte, but he just ordered coffee, black, and headed up towards Sam's room. He was waiting at the elevator when a nurse he remembered from the emergency room stopped and looked at his hand. Before he realized what had happened she had pulled him down to the ER and they were x-raying his hand, and then bandaging it. It was like a dream, he was disconnected from the pain, from everything as he sipped his coffee. He thought they might have given him something, the ache had receded to a dull roar.

As he finally left the ER he glanced at the clock. Great, 2:30, almost time for Scooby Doo. I hope it's not one of the ones with the guest stars from a bad seventies cartoon. The Addams Family is okay, but some of those others, oh and the one with Davey Jones, not one of my favorites. He stopped long enough to get another coffee and turned towards the elevators, as he stepped in he sighed. The shot they had given him had done nothing for the ache in his chest. The elevator opened and he stood for several seconds before getting out. He smiled at the nurses as he passed their station.

"Sorry I'm late," he said automatically as he opened the door to his brother's room.

"It's okay," a whisper answered him.

Dean looked at the bed, his heart pounding, the coffee nearly slipped from nerveless fingers. "Sammy?" He walked over to the bed, unable to believe, fearing if he blinked somehow everything would revert to the way it had been when he had ran from the room the night before. He set the coffee down and then put his hand down on his brother's arm. It was warm to the touch, under his own hand that was suddenly ice cold.

"Hey, Dean," Sam said, his voice still barely more than a whisper. "Where've you been?" Dean swallowed, he could feel his hand trembling where it rested on his brother's arm. "Dean?" Sam suddenly looked worried.

Without thinking about it, before he knew what he was doing, he pulled Sam against him in a tight hug. Sammy. You're alive. His brother's arms had gone around him, for a moment Dean held his breath, wondering if it would all shatter and some horrible reality would take its place. He let Sam go and smiled. "Hey, Sam," he said, ignoring what felt like tears in his eyes. Tears again, great, I'm going to dehydrate. Sammy, you have a funny look on your face.

"What happened?" Sam said, looking at him with a little frown. "I remember being in the church, then…I think I died, she said I did."

"Who?"

"The thing that attacked us. She…she said I died so my soul was hers. She feeds on them, she…" He swallowed, looking away for a minute and growing pale. Oh, god, Sam. "Then she was screaming, I remember that, the pain stopped. I think I smelled something burning. Then I was here." Sam smiled his half smile. "I think I scared the staff a little when I came out of it."

"Yeah," Dean said. Yeah, I bet you did, since they told me you were dead yesterday.

"Where were you?" Sam smiled at him. "Did you go back to the hotel after visiting hours? That's what the nurse said."

"Yeah," Dean said, reaching for his coffee. If I stick to one word I think I can keep it together. Unless Sammy …

"What happened to your hand?"

Trust Sam to notice. "I got in a fight." I'll just stick to words of one syllable.

"A fight?" Sam's voice was beginning to fade a little.

"Yeah."

"With?"

"A guy in a bar with a hot girl." All one syllable, that'll keep me out of trouble. Tears, you just stay in my head. I got rid of you last night, hear me? No tearing up in front of Sammy.

"You went out to a bar, to pick up girls, while I was here?" Sam asked dubiously.

"Yeah." Dean looked away from his brother.

"Dean?" Sam said, Dean recognized the tone, it was one that demanded a truthful answer no matter what, and it always worked. Sam had used it to get information from him for years, and it always worked.

"A tree."

"What?"

"A tree."

"You got into a fight with a tree?"

"It jumped out in front of me."

"The tree?" Sam's eyebrows had climbed into his bangs.

"Yeah."

"Dean?" Sam peered at him with concerned eyes. "Are you okay?"

"Me? Why wouldn't I be?" You're alive Sam, I…I…Sam…

"Your eyes are kind of red."

"My hand hurts."

"Right."

"It does."

"Sure, it just looked a little like you might have been crying."

A little? Yeah, I cried last night. I think…I wept, Sammy. I think I might have prayed. I might have had a crisis of faith. I don't know, but I cried Sam. I cried for you. I cried because you were gone, I cried because I didn't say everything I wanted to say, I…god, Sammy… "Are you freaking nuts?"

"What?"

"Crying? Sam? Dude."

"You never cry?"

"Never. Well, okay, once at the end of the 'Iron Giant', but only that one time."

"Right."

"Yeah."

"Sure…"

"Shut up, Sam."

"Jerk," Sam said, a slow smile spreading across his face.

Dean felt an answering smile on his face. "Bitch." Dean scrubbed the tear off his face with one hand. "Shut up," he said, looking at Sam, his brother smiled gentle understanding.

"Never?"

"Never."

The End