A/N: Here, as promised, is the story of the werewolf hunt that Sam mentions in my story Picking Up the Pieces. The present section starts right before the episode Heart. Thank you to everyone who's asked me to write and post this story, and a huge thank you to my beta MuffyMorrigan for making me believe that what I write is actually worth posting.

This story is a sequel to my stories Hitting Walls and Getting Scars and Picking Up the Pieces, but you won't need to read them to read this.

The title and quotes at the beginning of the chapter is from Within Temptation's song What Have You Done ? I own neither Supernatural nor the song.

A Curse Between Us

Chapter One

"Why does fate make us suffer?"

Present

Palo Alto

"So, you want to go there or not?" Dean asked again, Sam having given no reply the first time he had posed the question five minutes before.

Sam kept staring out the windshield, his eyes unseeing, his thoughts months away. Dean knew how hard it must be for his brother to be near Palo Alto again. Even though hunts had taken them to California since Sam had lost Jess, they hadn't been this close to the place where Sam had spent 18 happy months with the girl he had meant to marry.

They hadn't been this close to the place where she was buried.

"Sam?" Dean's voice was low, compassionate.

No reaction.

"Sam…" Dean paused, struggling to find the right words to say. "Sam, we… you… don't have to do this, you know. We can go on to San Francisco."

Finally, Sam reacted. He took a deep breath, releasing the air on a sigh, then shook his head. "No, I want… I need to…" His voice faltered.

Dean nodded, then turned the key in the ignition and started towards the graveyard where they had stood in the rain months earlier while Jess' family had buried an empty casket, the fire having burned away every trace of the cheerful, vigorous blonde girl they had all loved.

Dean had stood to one side, as close to Sam as he had felt he could, wanting to be close to his brother, yet feeling he didn't belong there among the many people he didn't know. People who had been a part of his brother's life in the years that he hadn't.

Yet when the whole thing was over, it was him that his brother had turned to. It was he who held his brother that night when the dam finally broke and Sam let go of the terrifying self-control he had clamped down on himself as firmly as he had slammed the trunk of the Impala shut while the firemen were still pouring water on the inferno that had been his home only a few moments before.

Dean tried to tear his thoughts away from the memory of that night, but he didn't manage it. He hoped he would never have to witness his brother that devastated again, the lost, broken state he had been in, the pain inside him almost too much to bear. Dean hadn't know what to do, the years they had been apart laying between them, the few days they had been together hunting the woman in white not enough time to re-establish the close relationship of their childhood. But when his brother had woken from his nightmares that night (like every single night since the fire), screaming Jessica's name at the top of his lungs, his eyes fixed on the ceiling as if still seeing her burning up above his bed, he hadn't turned his back on Dean like he had done the other nights.

Instead, when Dean had gently shaken his shoulder to wake him up, Sam had latched on to his brother in a tight hug, as if the contact would ease his pain. At first surprised, Dean had returned the hug, figuring that this might be one way to get through to his brother.

He had been right.

What he hadn't managed to do with words during the week, the simple gesture of returning the hug, in addition to the stress of having gone through the funeral earlier that day, seemed to do just fine. Sam had started shaking, then quietly started sobbing into Dean's shoulder before the sobs grew more violent and all his misery and pain and loneliness and grief came pouring out. Dean just held him, letting the emotions run their course, silently grateful that his brother hadn't changed much in the years that had gone, that he still hadn't fully perfected the Winchester way of 'no chick-flick moments'.

When the sobs finally quieted again, Sam released him and leaned back against the headboard of his bed, tucking his legs up so he could rest his arms upon his knees and his chin upon his arms. He sat there for a few minutes, silent, staring into space, then Dean saw silent tears once again starting to roll from his eyes.

"She's gone." Sam's voice was so low, Dean could hardly make out the words.

"Sam?"

"She's gone, Dean. Gone. Everything… All we… All gone. There's nothing left. I've got nothing left." His voice was hoarse, broken, oozing with grief.

Dean didn't know what to say. How do you respond to something like that? Tell him it's going to be ok? When he's just lost his entire life? He looked at his brother, then down upon his hands, then back up at Sam. You've still got me, Sam. Me and Dad. Wherever he is. We're your family, too. He took a deep breath to start speaking, but Sam silently shook his head, making Dean keep his silence.

Sam then took a shuddering breath, calming himself. He couldn't stop the tears that kept pouring down his face, just as he couldn't stop the grief that was tearing him apart inside, but he could at least re-gain a little of the control that he had lost. He swallowed a couple of times until he was sure his voice was working again, then he looked up at Dean. "There's no reason for us to stay here. There's nothing left." He paused, fighting back the sea of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. "Let's go find Dad. Let's go tomorrow."

Dean looked at him in silence for a few seconds, then merely nodded his assent. Sam flashed him a small, grateful smile, then settled himself back into his bed and fell into an exhausted sleep, dreamless for the first time that week.

"Dean?" Sam's quiet voice tore him from the memories that had engulfed him against his will. He blinked, confused, then realised he was about to pass the cemetery. He braked sharply, then turned the Impala into the parking lot next to the church. He parked close to the entrance in the low wall bordering the cemetery, looking across at Sam when he turned the engine off. Sam sat staring at the church for a few moments, then abruptly opened the door and got out of the car, slamming it behind him harder than Dean would normally have accepted.

Dean waited, expecting Sam to walk past him to enter the cemetery, but when a minute passed and he didn't see him, he turned his head to see Sam standing a short distance from the Impala, shoulders slumped, hands buried in his pockets, staring blindly at the church. Dean took a deep breath, then opened the door and stepped out of the car. Am I doing the right thing? Would he want me to…?

"Want some company?" he said.

Sam looked at him, surprised, knowing how Dean had shunned their mother's grave only a few months ago. Then he nodded, grateful for the gesture of support, remembering how his brother's presence had been the only thing that had stopped him from breaking down at the funeral where so much more than Jess was buried and lost to him forever.

"Let's go," he said, then led the way over the green, much-too-vivid grass to the corner of the cemetery where Jess' gravestone stood. Although he hadn't been there since the funeral, his dreams had made him visit the place more times than he cared to remember, and his feet now took him to the right place without hesitation. Dean followed at his side, and if he was surprised by the certainty of Sam's steps, he didn't show it.

They finally stopped at the stone, Sam breathing heavily, trying to stop the tears that had started flowing when he saw her name and photograph on the headstone. Dean stood beside him, silently offering his support, thinking of the blonde girl he had only met once but who had become a victim of their lives like so many others.

His thoughts strayed to the moment not long ago when he and Sam had held their own private funeral, a clearing in the woods the arena for their father's funeral pyre. His heart filled with hatred for the thing that had taken so much from them, then it hardened with the resolve to put an end to it all, to the suffering the evil in their lives had caused both them and others. But more than anything, he resolved to keep the promised he had made the man beside him, to save him from that evil, no matter what.

Sam's voice broke into his thoughts.

"I never told her."

Dean looked at him. "What?"

"I never told her I'd bought them."

Dean looked at his brother in confusion, then understanding flooded through him when he noticed the hand Sam held clenched to his chest. He looked at Sam with compassion, realising in that moment what it was that Sam had gotten out of the trunk, realising why he'd asked to come here in the first place.

"Tell her now," he said.

Sam nodded in answer.

"I'll wait in the car," Dean said, realising this was something Sam had to do on his own. His brother flashed him a small, tearful smile in reply, then Dean put his hand on Sam's shoulder and squeezed it briefly before turning and slowly walking back to the car, looking back over his shoulders a few times on the way there to check if his brother needed him.

When Sam felt Dean's gentle squeeze of his shoulder and then saw him turn and walk away, it was all he could to keep from breaking down, yet at the same time he was happy that Dean understood that what he was about to do, he had to do alone.

His brother's quiet support was what kept him together, had kept him together for a long time. It was only in rare instances when he was alone that he let the grief out, knowing that Dean himself had been – hell, still was – torn up inside by their father's death. Sam wanted to be there for Dean in the same way his brother was there for him, but it was difficult for him to take that role, what with his brother's long-nurtured habit of hiding his emotions deep inside, to always be the strong one, to protect his little brother from any kind of worry or pain.

To protect him from turning evil.

It was the latter, more than anything else, that made it difficult for Sam to make Dean rely on him in the same way that he could – and had always been able to – rely on his big brother. Part of him was ashamed of the desperate plea he had made to Dean in a drunken stupor, but another part of him knew that sometimes that promise was all that kept him going, that kept him fighting an evil that he was terrified might one day consume him from inside. He had to know, if the worst happened, that someone would stop him before… His mind recoiled from the thought of what he might become.

Suddenly, unbidden, a long-forgotten memory appeared, flooding him with the terror that he had felt once on a hunt when he thought… He managed to drown the memory before he thought any further about it. He had no wish to remember that exact hunt. It had been too close. Much too close.

And he didn't dare think about the fact that part of what he had feared back then might be coming true.

The one thing that kept him from going crazy, kept him from utter despair, was his brother. Only a few weeks before, Dean had told him in no uncertain terms that there was nothing he wouldn't do in order to save him. He had needed to hear those words at that point, the memory – no, the feeling of what he had done – what Meg did – still fresh in his mind. It wasn't you. His brother's calming voice sounded in his mind.

He sighed, suddenly realising that he was kneeling in front of the gravestone. He looked at the photograph, already slightly faded. Jess' happy smile pierced his heart with a pain stronger than anything he'd ever felt. "Jess," he sobbed, then stopped, unable to say anything more. Oh, God, Jess, I'm so sorry. I should've know I could never escape this life. I should've protected you. I should've kept away. It was because of me. I know that now, and for that I'm so so so sorry, Jess. But I swear… I swear I'm going to find it, Jess. For you. For Mom. For Dad.

At the thought of his father, fresh tears sprang from his eyes. Does it ever end? Will we ever stop losing those we care about? Sometimes… Sometimes I feel it would be better to stop caring, to just drift through life with no attachments… Like Dean does. No, like he did. He's changed, too. I can feel it, even though he would never admit that. But I know… I know, Jess, you would tell me to keep going. To keep caring. Maybe even one day… He stopped, not really wanting to go on but also knowing that he had to do this, he had to say this, otherwise he would never be able to move on.

He took a deep breath. "I never told you…" His voice broke, but he swallowed a couple of times, wanting to do this right, wanting to say the words out loud. "I…" He clenched his hand, holding it to his lips. "I meant to ask you… that day, after the interview…" He swallowed again, raising his head, looking out across the graveyard as if something out there could give him the strength to go on. He suddenly remembered Dean waiting at the car behind him. He cleared his throat, then held out his hand in front of him, opening it to reveal two golden rings, warm against his palm after being held there for so long. He looked at the rings for a few seconds, then turned his eyes to Jess' photograph.

"I wanted that day to be perfect. I wanted to take you out to the beach, to ask you in the sunset. I wanted you to marry me, Jess. I…" He stopped, unable to go on. He sat there for a few moments, tears falling steadily from his eyes. Then, when they slowed, he dug a small hole in the grass in front of the gravestone, placed the rings there then re-placed the dirt and grass above them, in a quiet, simple gesture of burying his dreams of a normal life in that small hole. He sighed. "I wish… I wish things were different, Jess. I wish… God, sometimes I wish I'd never met you, because then you'd still be alive…"

He bit his lip, then went on. "But I know you'd tell me to move on. I know… Dean told me once, he was sure you'd want me to be happy. And I know you would. I'm not sure I'll ever be, with this crappy life we're living, with what might be happening to me. But I know you wouldn't want me to stop living. I…" He laughed, briefly, grief and ironic amusement joining in the sound. "I know it sound cheesy, but you'd understand…" His voice broke once more, and he clenched his teeth to stop the tears that once more started sliding down his cheeks. I'll always love you, Jess. God, that sounds so cheesy, but I mean it. And I know you know that. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, sending out his thoughts to Jess, somehow sensing that she would know what he was saying, communicating not only with words but also with his emotions, pouring his entire being into a final goodbye to the girl who had taught him to love and let himself be loved.

And who had died for it.

Then he rose and walked across the graveyard to his brother without a backwards glance, tears still flowing from his eyes but his heart somehow lighter.

A few days later, Dean was driving the Impala out of San Francisco with the broken pieces of Sam in the passenger seat beside him.

To Be Continued