A/N: So... yeah. I kinda dropped off the map for awhile. Sorry to those of you who are waiting for updates. This is what has sucked me in recently. This, and school. Supernatural is amazing. That's all I have to say.

So... yeah.

First completed Supernatural story. w00t! Rated mainly for safety. Lots of angst!

Tag to "Jus In Bello". I needed a little more closure on a certain part. Probably spoilers for everything, but especially for AHBL pts 1 and 2, "Jus In Bello", "Malleus Maleficarum", "Mystery Spot", and a slightly minor spoiler for "Dream a Little Dream of Me".

Pretty much a missing scene from JIB. Takes place after the big battle, but before the final scene. Can also be considered a minor tag for "Mystery Spot".

Oh, I'm pretty much pulling most of the quotes from memory, as I'm a forgetful fan and forgot my first two seasons of SPN back in my dorm room (as I'm currently on break). Longer quotes in italics are from episodes... mainly JIB, and AHBL 1 and 2. Directly quoted as much as possible, but if I made any mistakes, forgive me.

This is my first SPN fic, so I'd really appreciate feedback - I always like to make sure I've got people in character and such.

And alas, these beautiful boys... er, men... aren't mine. They belong to Kripke (as well as those direct quotes. Those aren't mine, either). I just borrow them. Enjoy!


The midnight-black Impala sped down the road, the worn tires spitting out as much asphalt between them and Monument, Colorado as possible. Dean Winchester shifted slightly in his seat, not even working to conceal a wince as pain flared through his shoulder. Sam was currently staring out the window, completely oblivious to anything happening inside the car – much to Dean's annoyance. Normally Sam would be all over Dean's case, making sure he was okay, questioning whether it was safe for him to drive, asking if the bleeding bullet wound had stopped... well, bleeding. Normally it drove Dean nuts.

But right now, Sam was saying absolutely nothing. And at this particular moment in time, it was just as bad, if not worse.

"Her name's Lilith. And she really, really wants Sam's intestines on a stick."

Dean growled under his breath, his grip on the steering wheel tightening as Ruby's words sliced through his head once more, a steadily repeating litany of hurt, terror, and betrayal.

"You didn't tell Dean? I'm surprised."

"There's a big new up-and-comer. A real pied piper."

"She really, really wants Sam's intestines on a stick."

Sam's intestines on a stick…

Sam.

Why didn't you tell me? Dean wondered for the millionth time, glancing at his younger brother out of the corner of his eye. Sam shifted slightly in his seat, as if he knew Dean was looking at him… again… but he didn't look back. Dean's gaze hardened, and he focused back on the road. The air within the Chevy was thick with tension between, and each mile added to the odometer multiplied it to the point where Dean could practically hear the air cackle.

Dean's head jerked to the right a little when he sensed Sam's gaze finally move from the window to look at him. The two hunters made eye contact for the briefest of moments before Sam looked away again. Dean sensed a slight change in the tension, and he waited for Sam to make the first move.

"Dean-"

That did it. "How long, Sam? How frickin' long have you known about this?" he asked, his voice nearly bursting with tension.

"Since Massachusetts," Sam admitted quietly, straightening in his seat and staring straight ahead, knowing exactly what his brother was upset about.

"The coven?" Dean exclaimed, his eyes flicking towards his brother again.

Sam nodded. "Bef- before you… before you came, Tammi – the demon in Tammi, anyway – said that there was there was a new player. Someone who wanted me out of the game."

"So you knew. You've known this whole time there's someone after you, and you didn't tell me? Damn it, Sam! You don't keep this kind of stuff from me!" Dean growled, running a hand through his short hair. "Since when did you become so secretive?"

"How sure are you that what you brought back is 100 percent pure Sam?"

"Oh, and like you've never kept stuff from me, Dean? Huh? You're entitled to your secrets but I can't have any?" Sam shot back, glaring at the elder Winchester.

"Not ones that can affect us like this!" Dean replied, shooting back a glare of his own. "Geez, Sam, all those demons – they were after us! After you! Don't you think I'd like to know when a demon army is gunning after you? How am I supposed to protect you when you won't let me know what's coming?"

"That's my job, right? Watch after my pain-in-the-ass little brother?"

"How am I supposed to let you keep trying to protect me when it won't matter six months from now? You'll be dead, Dean. Unless I can figure out a way to get you out of the deal, you'll be in Hell and I'll be on my own. No one to watch my back. So excuse me if I thought I would get a head start," Sam answered, his voice laced with pure venom.

Dean's hand tightened on the steering wheel. That one had hurt, and it wasn't just the words. The words may have been spat out, but Dean could hear the despair in his little brother's voice. That, more than anything, was what drove the knife through Dean, twisting until he felt like he was already dead, at least on the inside. "I'm still here, dude," he finally murmured, his voice nearly drowned out by AC/DC on the radio.

Sam's breath hitched as he looked out the window again. "I – I know…" he breathed shakily. "I just – oh, God…"

"Sam?"

"Pull over, Dean," Sam croaked, hunching over slightly.

Dean's heart pounded in his chest. "Sammy? What's wrong? It's not a vision, is it?" he asked, trying and failing to keep the worry out of his voice.

Sam's breath hitched again. "N-no, just… please… pull over…"

Dean was already moving, slamming on the brakes and jerking the wheel slightly to the right. He felt a faint tug as the tires slipped off the edge of the road. The door squeaked as Sam threw it open before the car had even come to a complete stop. "Sam!" Dean called, throwing the Impala into park and rushing to unbuckle his seatbelt as his brother tumbled out and staggered away from the car.

As Dean scrambled out of the car, Sam made it about five steps before tumbling to his hands and knees, his entire body shaking and heaving. Dean made a slight face as the breeze wafted the harsh stench of vomit in his direction, but quickly moved so he was next to his brother, one hand resting lightly on Sam's back as the heaves died away, moisture from the muddy ground soaking into his jeans. "Sammy, are you okay?"

At the sound of Dean's voice, Sam started heaving again, managing to only bring up a small dribble of bile despite the violent heaves. Dean rubbed Sam's back in small circles, using his other hand to gently support Sam's head, wondering just why Sam had seemed to vomit at his words.

After a long moment, Sam's body started going limp, and he rocked backwards, sagging almost bonelessly into Dean's shoulder. Dean shifted slightly so Sam's head sank onto his shoulder, his right hand still rubbing small soothing circles on his brother's back. "You wanna tell me what the hell that was all about?" he murmured roughly.

"Listen to me – we're gonna patch you up, okay? You'll be good as new…"

"It wasn't a vision… at least, not what you would call a vision," Sam replied cryptically, his voice painfully hoarse.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean demanded, tilting his head to look at his brother.

Sam's head lolled deeper into Dean's shoulder, as if avoiding his gaze. "I can't."

The whisper was nearly lost in Dean's jacket, but the hunter's keen ears barely managed to pick it up. "You can't what?"

"I can't," Sam repeated, his body starting to tremble again.

"Sam! What's going through that shaggy head of yours?" Dean barked, his brusqueness overlying his panic at the younger Winchester's bizarre behavior.

"I have to get you out of the deal, Dean," Sam whispered, raising his head slightly to look through the fringe of his bangs at the elder hunter.

Dean swallowed at the despair in his brother's broken whisper and watery eyes. "I know, dude. We've been over this a million times already. I'm not a fan of dying, you obviously aren't either-"

"No, Dean," Sam cut in desperately. Dean felt a hand grip at the hem of his jacket, something Sam had done even as a kid when he was upset. "I have to get you out. I – I won't be able to make it without you."

"What you did was selfish, Dean."

"Don't you talk like that," Dean ordered, shaking his brother once. "You'll survive, Sammy."

"Yeah, but I won't make it," Sam whispered, pulling away from Dean so he could look him straight in the eye.

Dean tilted his head slightly in confusion. "What are you talking about?" he demanded, reaching up and feeling his brother's head, barely suppressing a wince of pain as his shoulder moved. "You don't have a concussion or something, do you?"

Sam batted his probing hands away, annoyed. "No, Dean, I don't have a concussion."

"Then what the hell are you talking about?" Dean demanded again. "Of course you'll make it! How do you know-"

"Because I couldn't last three freakin' months without you, man! How am I supposed to do it when it's permanent?"

A stunned silence settled over the pair. Dean stared in wide-eyed confusion, and Sam's face blanched as a panicked look settled in his eyes. After a moment, Dean's eyes narrowed. "Sam…"

"It's nothing, Dean, forget it," Sam hurriedly said.

"Sam…"

"Dean, seriously. I just… know what it could be like once you're gone, okay? That's what made me sick… so it was a vision, but not a vision-"

"Damn it, Sammy! Stop keeping all these freaking secrets from me! Obviously it's not nothing! What do you mean by three months?" Dean snapped. Suddenly his eyes widened slightly in half-realization. "This is about that damn Trickster, isn't it?"

"N-no," Sam stammered, the little color that remained in his face disappearing completely.

Dean raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Sam."

Sam stared at his brother for a moment longer before his shoulders slumped in defeat. "Waznfirsweday," he muttered, his head dropping towards his lap.

Dean cocked his head forward a bit in a silent gesture of command. "What?"

Sam took a deep breath. "It wasn't my first Wednesday," he said shakily. Before Dean could comment, he continued, "The Trickster made it so that it wasn't Tuesday any more. We were… we were packing to leave and you… you were out in the parking lot…"

Dean stared in shock as Sam curled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs, his body quivering again. "I heard a… heard a g-gun and… I ran… you were… there was so much blood…" he whispered, resting his forehead against his knees. "And I couldn't wake up. You were… I couldn't…"

"Sammy…"

"And I survived… but I didn't make it," Sam continued, his voice sounding slightly stronger. He raised his head to stare at his brother, and Dean nearly shivered at the deadened look in his younger brother's eyes. "Three months, Dean. I was on my own for three months. Bobby… Bobby kept trying to call me, but… I wouldn't talk to him. Not after…"

"Not after what?" Dean asked quietly, scooting slightly closer to his brother.

Sam swallowed hard, his eyes tearing up but not looking away from Dean. "Not after he helped burn you."

Dean's face scrunched slightly, and he struggled to swallow past the lump in his throat. "Wh-what did you do?"

"Hunted. Anything and everything," Sam replied hollowly. "Always on the lookout for the Trickster, but I went after everything I could find. I was pretty much a perfect soldier – a robot. Nothing fazed me anymore."

"Nothing?"

Sam shot Dean a weary look. "Dude, I got shot – twice. One was just a graze, but one got lodged against a rib. Dug out the bullet on my own and stitched it up myself. No painkillers. Nothing fazed me."

Dean's eyes widened, and he had to clench his fists to keep himself from checking his brother over for hidden scars and injuries he didn't know about. Sam smiled weakly. "The scars are gone, Dean, although I can still remember what happened."

"So what did happen?" Dean asked. "If you couldn't wake up, then how am I here?"

"Found the Trickster. Made him fix it," Sam replied tersely, nestling his head back onto his knees again.

Dean bit his lip softly. He knew right away there was more to that story, but he felt like he was pushing his luck as it was. Suddenly a thought struck him. "Dude, that still doesn't explain why you didn't tell me something was coming after you. You knew that waaay before the whole Trickster thing."

"I thought I could handle it," Sam muttered.

Dean snorted. "Yeah, that turned out real well," he shot back.

Sam smirked faintly, his head rolling on his knees slightly so he could look at his brother. "Yeah," he murmured. His face got serious a moment later and he added, "And I wanted you to focus on getting out of the deal, not about how you had to save my sorry ass… again."

Dean blinked, stunned at Sam's words. "Yeah, well… you still die if I do anything to try and get out of it, Sammy. And I can't let that happen. I won't," he said firmly.

"And I won't let you die, either. I can't do it, Dean," Sam replied earnestly, his huge brown eyes threatening to tear up again.

"So there you go!" Dean said with brightness in his voice that he didn't feel. At Sam's confused look, he clapped an arm around his brother's shoulder and explained, "I'll save your ass, and you save mine, and it'll all work out." He felt himself relax slightly when Sam smiled faintly. "Now can we get back in the car? This is way too chick-flicky for my taste, and quite frankly, my ass is numb from sitting on the ground. Way to pick a frickin' cold spot to toss your cookies, Sammy," he declared, getting to his feet and offering a hand to his brother.

"I'm gonna take care of you. I'm gonna take care of you. I gotcha."

"Next time I feel like turning my insides out, I'll make sure it's in a more convenient place," Sam replied as he rolled his eyes and staggered to his own feet. Seeing Dean's pout and still-outstretched hand, he pointed out, "You must be nuts if you think you could pull me up with your bad shoulder."

Dean blinked again, dropping his hand and flinching slightly. "Oh yeah…"

Sam huffed at him. "Yeah, cuz it's so easy to forget about a frickin' gunshot wound," he said sarcastically as the pair made their way back to the Impala. "You sure you don't need me to drive? We should probably pull over at the next motel."

"No to the first, and yes to the second, but only because you're gonna need to eat something after hurling everything you've eaten in the past three years," Dean shot back as Sam's door creaked open.

"What-the-hell-ever, jerk," Sam groused, folding his frame into the classic car. Dean grinned as he yanked his own door open, summing up everything he was feeling – panic, anger, fear for himself, fear for Sam, a nearly overwhelming sense of protection and love for his only living family, hate for whatever higher powers-that-be gave them such a messed-up life – in one heartfelt, affectionate phrase.

"Bitch."

A/N: So? Good? Bad? Should I go back in my corner and hide (with my DVDs, of course!) Any and all feedback is appreciated! Thanks for reading!

moogsthewriter