Twilight Zone – Part 1 of 3

Summary: A creature from their past revisits the boys in their time of grief. Will they be able to put aside their feelings and deal with this old threat? Set directly after ELAC (S2). Somewhat of a sequel to Enter Sandman but it's not necessary to read that story first.


Bobby entered the kitchen and grabbed his chipped mug, ready for another cup of coffee. When he reached for the carafe he found it missing. That was the main drawback to having guests in his house –no matter how many pots of coffee he made, it disappeared before he could have more than one cup.

Not that the lack of coffee was the only drawback. Another one was standing at the sink, running hot water, staring at the wall blankly.

Sam had taken blow after blow in the loss department and outwardly appeared to be bearing up okay with the death of John Winchester, but Bobby was pretty sure it was a front.

In a reversal of their usual roles, Dean's feelings seemed to be exploding out of him, both with physical and emotional outbursts. Bobby wasn't stupid, he'd seen the damage to the Impala's trunk that hadn't been a result of the accident and he'd heard the way the older Winchester boy snapped at the youngest for no apparent reason.

Sam, for his part, seemed content to take the verbal jabs from his brother and withdraw into himself. Strange days, indeed.

Well there was nothing Bobby could do at the moment to mend the Winchesters but he could make another pot of coffee if he had the carafe. "Sam, are you washing the coffee pot?"

The young man continued to stare ahead with a zoned out expression on his face. It would be one thing if there were a window over the sink, something to look upon, but there was only a bare, dingy, white wall. Bobby could see the steam rising from the sink. If nothing else, his dishes had probably never been so clean before.

And then Bobby's gut twisted when he looked closely and saw that Sam's left hand was directly under the flow of scalding water and the boy wasn't making a peep or withdrawing his hand. "Damn it, boy, what are you trying to do to yourself?"

Not sure what kind of response he'd get, but expecting something, Bobby sprang into action when Sam ignored him. Twisting the faucet to off the seasoned hunter cringed when he felt the heat of the metal faucet. Grabbing Sam by the arms, Bobby pulled the dazed boy away from the sink and propelled him toward the kitchen table. The younger man dropped awkwardly into the hard backed chair when the back of his legs were jammed against the seat.

Sam's bangs were hanging in his eyes, obscuring the bruised face from Bobby's view. Grabbing Sam by the wrist, he lifted the hand and saw the bright red burn marks. "What the hell is wrong with you, boy?"

Bobby had grown used to the silent treatment so when no response was forthcoming he moved to the sink, turning on the tap to its coldest setting, and then pulled out a clean towel from the drawer next to the sink. When the water was running cold, he soaked the towel before wringing it out.

During this whole procedure his brain was churning, trying to process what his eyes had seen. And he didn't like any of the possibilities his brain was turning up.

Striding back to the quiet boy, Bobby wrapped the cool towel gently around the burnt limb. Bobby grabbed Sam's chin in his right hand and pulled his head up. When Sam still refused to make eye contact and hadn't uttered a word, Bobby flashed his left hand in front of Sam's face.

No response.

This was plain old creepy. How did Sam knowingly scald himself and then not respond? Unless, of course, he wasn't able to or didn't realize that was what had happened.

It didn't matter whether Sam was responsive or not, the first order of business was to take care of the heated splotches covering the top of Sam's hand. Blisters were already popping up, Sam's face was beyond pale, and his eyes were dilated.

Sam was going into shock.

Leaning down, Bobby wrapped his hands tightly around Sam's biceps and pulled him to his feet. By wrapping an arm around the boy's waist, Bobby was able to maneuver the unusually compliant Sam the short distance between the kitchen and the living room. The bedrooms were upstairs so Bobby opted to settle the injured boy on the couch. Once he had Sam stretched out, flat on his back, Bobby pulled the ancient afghan off the back of the second hand couch and smoothed it over the supine Winchester.

Bobby returned to the kitchen and filled a bowl with cool water. Dashing back to Sam, he unwrapped the younger man's hand and dunked it in the liquid. Satisfied that the damaged limb was submersed in the cool water, Bobby placed the bowl on the floor.

Going back to the kitchen, he fished out the first aid kit and found the Bacitracin and a nonstick sterile dressing. Once the skin temperature had cooled down and the area was gently dried he would spread the antibiotic ointment to the affected area and cover it with dressing to keep it clean.

The last step Bobby needed to take involved treating the pain he was sure was contributing to Sam's shock so he filled a glass with cool water. Upon locating the acetaminophen in a crowded cupboard, Bobby dumped out four pills into his own shaking hand. Double the recommended dose but he figured it would do the trick.

Stepping back into the living room, Bobby heaved a sigh of concern. Sam was still staring straight ahead, face blank and eyes vague. Setting the glass of water down on the coffee table, Bobby slipped his palm under the heavy head and raised it up. "Here, Sam, I want you to swallow these down."

Without argument, without blinking, Sam received the pills into his mouth and swallowed them down when Bobby held the glass up to his lips. As Bobby lowered his head back to the couch, Sam's eyes lowered.

Perching on the coffee table, Bobby reached across Sam's body and lifted his right hand. Placing two fingers on the pulse point, the older man timed the beats. Fast, but not a medical emergency.

Sam shouldn't need medical attention as long as the scald didn't develop signs of infection. He might, however, still need medical attention if his non-responsive behavior were anything to go by.

Bobby stared toward the door, willing Dean to appear. The hunter thought to himself he just might be getting too old for this shit after all.


Dean entered the kitchen through the back door and gave a sigh of relief; the kitchen was empty. He'd half expected his brother to ambush him with questions of how he was feeling and didn't he need to talk things through. But come to think of it, Sam hadn't pulled that since they'd killed the Rakshasa at the circus. No, actually he'd stopped stalking Dean with his grief counseling tactics after the scene at the Impala last week.

That had been a doozy. A subdued Sam had told Dean he wasn't doing okay and that he knew Dean wasn't either. He hadn't stuck around for Dean's response – a sledgehammer applied to the trunk of the already heavily damaged Impala.

Sam thought grief was turning Dean inside out but that was only a part of it. Anger had driven Dean to lose his control.

His dad's cryptic words about Sam, uttered in the hospital right before his dad died, had taken a heavy toll on Dean. And the kicker was Dean couldn't say anything to his brother about it. Sam would be devastated if he found out his dad thought he might have to be put down like some rabid animal.

If Dean breathed a word of what their dad had imparted, Sam might go off the deep end. He might even try to leave. And that was one thing Dean couldn't survive. Not again. And certainly not on the heels of losing his dad, his hero, so recently.

So Dean sucked it up and tried to hold it together. Not that he was doing a bang up job but he found if he avoided being in Sam's presence too much, it was more tolerable. If he didn't have to face Sam's concerned face and beseeching eyes, he could make it through each day without folding up into a ball and railing at the injustice of life.

And death.

Deep down, he knew his dad had given his life, sold his soul, so that Dean could live. It wasn't something he'd given voice to, but there really wasn't another explanation as to why Dean had escaped a grim reaper and John Winchester had suddenly collapsed dead.

Pouring every ounce of energy he had into fixing the Impala, Dean let the rest of the world, including his little brother, fade into the background. That could account for why he didn't have a clue as to where Bobby and Sam were right now. It was going on 6 pm and usually something would be on the stove burner or in the oven, waiting to tempt Dean's appetite. But the kitchen was void of tantalizing smells.

Dean moved through the doorway and paused when he saw Bobby standing in front of the couch, speaking softly. He was tempted to creep through the living room and high tail it upstairs where a nice, warm shower was waiting for him but something in Bobby's body language made him linger.

Bobby alternated between bending over and standing up straight but there was no mistaking the stiffness in his shoulders and back. The older man appeared to be upset.

Inching closer, Dean tried to figure out what was going on while remaining inconspicuous.

The older man's voice was quiet but the aggravation came through loud and clear. "Dammit boy, I think you need your head examined."

Quelling the snort that threatened to burst from his lips, Dean remained silent in his amusement. So good ole Bobby was giving Sam what for. At least he assumed it was little brother since the Winchesters had been his only visitors these last couple of weeks. He wondered what his good intentioned but sometimes dense brother had done to upset their host.

Dean couldn't hear Sam's side of the conversation; his voice was only a soft murmur, which was surprising since Bobby was the one with his back to Dean.

Bobby's reply was more disgruntled and louder this time. "Are you sure they cleared you? I mean head trauma is nothing to screw around with. Because I've got to say, this…whatever you call it, that's not normal. I think you need to get it checked out."

His interest thoroughly piqued, Dean couldn't stay silent any longer. "What's going on?"

Moving into the living room he saw Bobby standing protectively over a reclining Sam. What the hell was his little brother doing lying down at this time of the day?

Skirting the coffee table, Dean got his first look at his brother. The old plaid afghan that usually rested on the back of the couch was draped over his brother. Sam turned his head at the sound of Dean's voice and he was reminded that his little brother still had bruises fading with yellows and green surrounding his right eye. The colors only heightened the pallor of the skin. "Well, don't everyone speak at once."

Sam fidgeted on the couch, throwing his long legs to the side until his feet hit the ground, a groan exploding from his lips as he sat up. Bobby steadied him with a hand to his shoulder. "Easy, Sam. Just relax."

Trying to rein in his impatience, Dean pushed past Bobby and sank onto the couch next to his brother. "What's going on, Sammy?"

The childhood nickname just jumped out of his mouth. Dean realized he hadn't used it since before their dad…well, he hadn't used it in a while. But Sam was obviously under the weather and it had always been Dean's job to look out for him. Sammy fit the situation.

However, Sam wasn't very communicative which irritated Dean. His lack of patience these days was another reason he tried to steer clear of his little brother; he didn't want to say something hurtful, like too little, too late.

Sam kept his eyes on the ground but finally found his voice. "I, ah, burned my hand. It's nothing. But I think I'll turn in early."

Pushing off the couch with his right hand, cradling the bandaged left hand against his middle, Sam rose to his feet awkwardly. Bobby reached out as if to steady his brother but Sam brushed his hand away. "Thanks, Bobby, but I'm okay now. I'll see you in the morning. 'Night."

Dean was at a loss for words. The tension in the living was thick and Bobby stared at Sam's retreating back with heavy concern. Pushing himself to his feet, Dean started for the stairs. His brother wasn't okay if he was hitting the sack before dinner.

While Dean had buried his head, trying and failing to come to terms with his dad's bizarre instructions, something had happened to his brother. A strong, tanned hand snagged him by the elbow, halting his progress. "Just leave him be for now. I think we need to talk."

Looking toward the stairs where his brother had disappeared, Dean was torn. He wanted to see with his own two eyes that Sam wasn't hurt worse than "just a burn." But maybe Bobby would fill him in on what was going on. His brother certainly hadn't wanted to which set off all sorts of warning bells in Dean's head. "Yeah, sure. Is there any coffee left?"

Dean didn't understand Bobby's pained expression at the mention of coffee. He suspected it was going to be a long conversation and he could use the caffeine pick me up.


Sam had to stop midway up the stairs as a wave of dizziness hit him. Something damp hit his upper lip and when he brought his right hand up and touched it with his fingers, they came away bloodied. Fantastic, he had a nosebleed. Again. This was the fourth one he'd had in the last couple of days. It was just what he needed to top off his spectacular day.

He was still reeling from what Bobby had told him – apparently Sam had held his hand under scalding water and had no memory of it. He'd woken up on the couch, confused and with a killer headache that matched the throbbing in his hand. The older man had patiently explained his lack of response throughout the whole event and then demanded answers.

Had this happened before that Sam was aware of? Did Sam remember anything? Did Sam know what had set him off?

No, Sam did not.

And that terrified Sam more than the scald or waking up disoriented. Sam wondered if he was losing his mind. It had been a brutal year and maybe his sanity had slipped along the way.

Still grieving for his father, and the lost chance to fix that relationship, Sam was now faced with his distant brother. The vitriol Dean had hurled at him after Bobby's minivan broke down while on their last job had really hit Sam hard. Too little, too late. Yeah, like Sam hadn't figured that one out. And to top it off, Dean couldn't stand to be in the same room as Sam. That hurt more than Dean's words.

Trying to forget his troubled relationship with his brother, Sam mopped up the blood on his face from the nose bleed and brushed his teeth. That was hard enough to accomplish with one hand but changing into his pajama bottoms and a clean t-shirt had almost thrown him over the edge. He kept forgetting about his damaged hand but it was sure to remind him if he jostled it too much.

Sam tried to relax but his mind kept circling back to his brother. He was trying to fly under the radar, not do anything to upset or stress his brother further. Spacing out and scalding himself as well as nosebleeds and dizziness didn't exactly fit with his plan.

Pulling back the covers, Sam sank down onto the single bed. A low hum filled his ears, adding to the pervasive dizziness threatening to overwhelm him. He felt strangely at peace and instead of fighting the feeling, Sam allowed himself to drift off.


Dean cradled the coffee mug between his hands tightly. The tension was radiating off him in waves and what Bobby was about to tell him wouldn't help his peace of mind. But ignoring the problem wouldn't make it disappear so Bobby jumped in with both feet. "Have you noticed anything off about your brother?"

Instead of the patented snarky Dean Winchester reply, the younger man pursed his lips as though in thought. "He stopped bugging me about helping with the Impala so I haven't seen that much of him lately. What exactly is going on?"

Bobby took a sip from his own mug, savoring the strong taste. It was a delaying tactic; now that he had Dean's undivided attention, he had second thoughts about interfering between the brothers. Shaking his head, he forced himself to continue. Sam's health was deteriorating and where the youngest Winchester wouldn't listen to Bobby, he might listen to his older brother. "There were a few times I caught him staring into space but I thought he was just deep in thought. But after lunch I found him at the kitchen sink with scalding water running on his left hand. I had to pull him away and it was like he was in a trance or something. He was really out of it."

Rubbing a hand through his short hand, Dean sighed. "Was he having a vision?"

Worry colored the young man's voice and Bobby was relieved; Sam needed his brother to give a damn.

Not much bothered Bobby but since the brothers had come to stay with him, Dean's reluctance to talk to or even stay in the same room as his brother was wearing on Bobby. As if Dean blamed Sam for something.

It was funny how John and Dean had always maintained that Sam wore his heart out on his sleeve and couldn't control his emotions; from the ringside seat Bobby had, he'd have to stay that wasn't true at all. 

Sure, Sam could talk your ear off if you asked the right questions but he'd been withdrawn ever since Bobby had rushed to the hospital to find Dean at death's door and John just marginally better off.

Maybe this problem with Sam would get the brothers to quit dancing around each other and start acting like brothers again. Bobby wasn't much of an optimist but he would take what he could get. "Sam says no. I don't know what to think. I know he's been having some nosebleeds and he's been pretty quiet. I even asked him if his head was bothering him – that car accident and the beating before it really did a number on him. I don't think he ever had it checked out. I know he wouldn't let anyone touch him while you and John were so bad off."

The mug was set down with a thump, coffee sloshing onto the table. "Why didn't Sam say something?"

The voice was low and measured. It throbbed with raw hurt. Like Dean thought there'd been some conspiracy to keep things quiet. There really was nothing Bobby could say to assuage Dean but he still tried. "Simmer down, boy. You need to remember that things have been a mess since…well, since you ended up in the hospital. Sam was the only one mobile enough to see to things. I doubt he was trying to pull one over on you. He just had his hands full is all."

Dean pushed himself to his feet, scraping the kitchen chair back out of his way. "I'm going to go check on Sam. Thanks for…just thanks."


Dean wasn't sure what he was going to say to Sam. I'm sorry I haven't been there for you. I'm sorry I've been an asshole. I'm sorry about what Dad said to me.

It all applied but Dean didn't think he could go there yet. He just wanted to make sure his little brother was okay. Although going into trances, burning his hand, and getting nosebleeds didn't sound okay to him. But there were levels of being okay; he just wanted to see with his own eyes how Sam was doing.

Bobby was right, things had been really crazy in the hospital and then when their dad died, everything kind of fell apart. But Dean blamed himself for not knowing that Sam had been more hurt in the crash than he'd let on.

Dean might have been in a coma but when he woke up, he felt fine. He had mild aches and pains but his energy was even okay. Probably courtesy of the deal Dean suspected his dad had made on his behalf.

Sam, however, dragged around, and the bruising on his face was spectacular. Dean had dropped the ball. If Sam was suffering the after affects of the crash and ignoring his own health while seeing to his brother and dad, it would be one more thing to add to the list of things Dean had screwed up.

Pushing open the door to the bedroom he shared with his brother, Dean entered the darkened room. The blinds were drawn shut, screening out most of the afternoon sun, but there was still enough light to make out the shape of his brother curled on his side, facing away from the door. Moving around the bed, Dean was able to see Sam clearly as a weak sunbeam streamed past the blinds, lingering over the sleeping form.

Sam was on his left side, his injured hand cradled against his stomach. His face was drawn in a frown and his body twitched in an uneasy sleep. Dean's eyes were once again drawn to the fading bruise circling Sam's right eye. He'd taken one hell of a beating from Yellow Eyes' son and who knows what kind of damage had occurred between that and the accident.

Dean's right index finger softly touched and traced the bruise. Expecting Sam's eyes to open, Dean was disappointed when his brother slept on.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Dean pulled Sam's left hand onto his lap and gently worked at peeling off a part of the bandage. He wanted to see for himself what Sam had done. There were splotches of deep red interspersed with white blisters. The whole area was wet and shiny. Definitely a second degree burn. "What's going on with you, little brother?"

Sam shifted away, trying to draw his hand with him, but Dean held fast. There was enough adhesive left to the bandage so a new one could wait to be applied in the morning. Dean tugged the bandage over and smoothed down the edges. When he looked at his brother's face, he saw eyes slitted open against the weak rays filtering through the blinds. "Dean, what are you doing in my bed?"

The voice was a soft, drowsy drawl but it was underscored with confusion and it made Dean want to pick him and sooth him like he'd done when Sam was a toddler. "I was checking out your new war wound. Looks kind of painful."

Rolling on to his back, Sam succeeded in pulling his hand away from Dean. "It's fine. I'm just tired."

Dean wasn't sure how to proceed. It was like trying to speak a foreign language and he couldn't find the words; he'd lost his ability to speak Sam-ese. And Sam, hardly ever at a loss for words, was content to just lay there. And then with a sudden cough, Sam seemed to find his voice. "Shit. It's back."

Unsure as to what Sam was referring to when he said "it's back", Dean didn't know how to respond. But then he spotted the dark, wet slick under Sam's nose. "Geez, you've got a nosebleed. Let's get you upright so you don't choke on the blood."

Without waiting for Sam's acquiescence, Dean stood up before working his right hand under his brother's body and pulling him upright. Sam squeezed his eyes shut and swayed a moment. Jamming a pillow behind his back, Dean eased Sam against the headboard. "Lean forward and pinch your nostrils. I'll get a towel."

Not liking what he was seeing, Dean reminded himself to calm down. He knew how to deal with a nosebleed. But sometimes a nosebleed wasn't just a nosebleed. That little scene at Roosevelt Asylum in Rockford when Sam's mind was co-opted by the ghost of Dr. Ellicott was the first thing that sprang to mind. Dean grabbed a hand towel out of the bathroom and returned to Sam.

His little brother was leaning forward over his bent knees, gently squeezing his nostrils with his right thumb and forefinger. Dean tucked the towel on top of Sam's knees to catch any blood that trickled past his fingers.

The minutes ticked by and Dean felt useless. He knew it took a good five minutes to stop a nosebleed and if that didn't work, then he was going to insist on taking Sam to the ER. As it was, he thought it still 

might be a good idea but Sam had the usual aversion to doctors as all Winchester men and short of manhandling Sam, he didn't think he'd be able to get his stubborn brother into the car.

Sam picked up his head, wiping at his face with the towel. Dean couldn't keep the gasp from escaping his lips; with the left-over bruises and fresh blood streaking Sam's lower face, he looked a mess. Transfixed by the blood, it took Dean a moment to realize that Sam was no longer moving. His brother's injured hand rested on the sheets and his right hand perched on his still bent legs but Sam's eyes were focused somewhere in the distance.

So this was the vague, spacey look Bobby had described. It was downright spooky. The lights were on but Sam wasn't home. The more Dean witnessed, the more he suspected there was something supernatural at work.

Gripping Sam's biceps tightly in his hands, Dean gave his brother a quick shake. Sam's head bobbed back and then forward but his face remained lax, his eyes staring ahead vacantly.

Dean had seen this very same look on Sam's face about ten years ago, and it had happened in this very house. He sincerely doubted his brother was being stalked by a Memory Demon but the parallel behavior was uncanny.

Continuing his vigil, Dean perched on the edge of Sam's bed. He remembered Sam's mad climb on the rooftop all those years ago and he wasn't letting Sam get anywhere near a window. Just in case.

Cupping his brother's chin in his palm, Dean brushed the long bangs out of Sam's eyes. Hazel eyes suddenly blinked and focused on Dean's face. "Nos es tamen a nocens memoria."

Dean's calm shattered at the words. He yanked Sam into his arms and hugged him tightly. "This isn't happening. Not again."

Sam leaned his head on Dean's shoulder, pliant in his arms. His brother's arms snaked hesitantly around Dean's neck. "Dean, what's wrong? You're scaring me."

Cradling the back of Sam's head, Dean rocked his brother back and forth. "We've got a problem. It's back."


Allowing himself to be comforted for a moment, Sam relaxed in his brother's arms. He didn't understand what was happening. He'd had a nosebleed and then found himself cradled against Dean's chest with no idea of how he had got there.

Sam leaned his head forward until it rested on his brother's shoulder. His limbs felt loose and wobbly as he tentatively placed his arms around Dean's neck. When his brother gathered him even closer, Sam's adrenaline kicked in. "Dean, what's wrong? You're scaring me."

His brother rocked Sam in his arms and that only heightened his alarm. Dean's voice was rough and gravelly. "We've got a problem. It's back."

Thinking he was imagining this conversation – Dean didn't hug his brother, forgot rocking him – Sam draped all of his weight into the arms around him and pretended he was a kid again, secure and well cared for by his loved ones. And then his brother spoke again and the illusion was broken. "Sam, are you with me? I said the Memory Demon is back."

Easing away from his brother, Sam saw the worry evident in the lines on Dean's face. But his head was swimming and he felt lethargic despite the lingering pain spiking through his hand. "Can we talk about this tomorrow? I think I need to sleep now."

Dean's hands tugged Sam's unresisting body down until he was laying flat again. "Go ahead and sleep. I'll make sure nothing gets you."


Bobby could see some of the tension between the brothers had lessened but at the same time Dean looked worried and Sam bemused. "So tell me."

It was the first time in over two weeks that all three men were at the kitchen table. Sam sipped at his doctored up coffee while Dean gulped down the black liquid like a starving man. Bobby waited to see who would crack first and fill him in on what was going on.

Sam concentrated on his coffee while Dean cleared his throat. "I think the Memory Demon is back."

Out of anything Dean might have said, that had to rank up there as one of the most unexpected in Bobby's book. As far as he knew, the Memory Demons had never been caught by John but once they'd extracted the spine out of Sam's head, things had swiftly returned to normal for the Winchesters. In fact, John had never mentioned them again. Out of sight, out of mind. "What makes you say that?"

Dean shot his brother a quick look before proceeding but Sam kept his face down, his hair blocking his face from view. "I saw Sam's freaky space routine last night. After he had a nosebleed. And when he was coming out of his trance, he said nos es tamen a nocens memoria. Sound familiar?"

Bobby took his baseball cap off and scratched absently at the top of his head. "We are but a bad memory. Huh, I suppose it's possible. But I thought we got all of the spine out of Sam's head."

Sam picked his head up as his right hand crossed over the front of his body and rubbed the left side of his head awkwardly. "I don't know what to think."

The older brother laid a hand on the younger's shoulder and squeezed. "Well I'll tell you what I think. Until we get this figured out, I'm not letting you out of my sight."

He couldn't exactly say the brothers were at ease in each other's company, but Dean had certainly pulled a 180 in regard to his brother in the last twenty-four hours. This was the over protective, older brother routine Bobby was accustomed to seeing.

The youngest Winchester was still pale and withdrawn but if Dean was right and the Memory Demon was back, it would certainly account for his behavior. "Hang in there, Sam. We'll get this figured out."

Bobby's eyes tracked Sam as he eased out from under Dean's hand and drifted toward the sink, clutching his coffee mug in his right hand. His back was stiff as he rinsed it. Bobby kept his eyes peeled for any sign that Sam might fall into a trance and scald himself again. Once was enough.

Trading uneasy glances with Dean, Bobby noticed the dark shadows smudging the skin beneath his eyes. So the older brother had stood guard over the younger all night; at least that was his guess. "I need to pick up some groceries in town. Dean, why don't you catch some winks while Sam and I take care of it?"

Both Bobby and Sam jumped when Dean responded loudly. "NO! I mean, I'm fine. How about if you give us a list and Sam and I go into town instead?"

Sam didn't seem overly enthused with that idea but he didn't put up an argument. And after weeks of wishing Dean would pull his head out of his ass and talk to his brother, Bobby wasn't about to dampen the older brother's protective streak now that it had kicked in. "Yeah, that will work, too. I need to get some things done around here and it's easier without you two big galoots under foot."


Dean pushed the cart and consulted Bobby's list as Sam wandered listlessly behind him. It was still uncomfortable being around Sam with the horrible things he'd said standing between them. And it wasn't that Dean didn't want to apologize, he just knew if he started talking about his feelings he'd crack and tell Sam about their dad. He normally wasn't a coward but in this case he didn't feel up to the production number he knew would follow if he started that conversation. Especially now, when Sam wasn't feeling well.

Picking up the last item on the list, Dean checked over his shoulder to make sure Sam was still behind him. It irritated him that Sam wouldn't walk next to him but he supposed his little brother still had some issues with the way Dean had been treating him. He consoled himself it was enough that Sam wasn't fighting him about wanting to keep him close. Of course Sam's own memories of that dark time when he'd had a mind altering spine stuck in his head were probably enough to make him uneasy.

Using the last of his money to pay for the groceries, Dean headed for Bobby's truck. Sam lingered by the exit, reading the notices tacked to a bulletin board, while Dean unloaded the cart. He could see his brother from where they were parked and although he'd prefer Sam was right next to him, he'd settle for having him within his sights.

Pushing the metal cart with the broken wheel back to the store, Dean waited while a little red Miata approached him. It was doing in excess of the 5 mph speed posted in the parking lot, but he took a moment to admire the hot, busty blond behind the wheel. She blew him a kiss and smiled widely.

Glancing up, Dean watched as Sam chose that moment to cross the pavement to the truck. From the short distance Dean could see Sam's eyes were glazed. He shouted a warning but it didn't deter Sam.

Abandoning the cart, Dean darted out in front of the Miata and hit Sam with a flying tackle. Both men dropped heavily to the pavement, Dean's body awkwardly covering Sam's, as tires screeched nearby.

Despite the aches in joints, Dean rolled his weight off his brother and brushed the wayward strands out of Sam's face. Hazel eyes sluggishly opened. "What happened?"

Not wanting to go into it out in the open, especially as a cluster of people were ringing around them, Dean ignored Sam's trance and focused on possible injuries. "You're too big to be practicing your tumbling routine in parking lots. Does anything hurt?"

Sam raised himself onto his elbows and blinked his eyes. "Everything hurts. But I don't think I broke anything. Can we go?"

Dean tugged his brother to his feet and steadied him when he wobbled. He turned down someone's request for an ambulance and threw a meaningless apology to the woman driving the Miata. His first concern was Sam and he loaded him into the truck with exaggerated caution.

He knew it was a bad idea to go into town but he didn't want Sam to feel like he was a prisoner at Bobby's.

Now he was thinking locking Sam up wasn't such a bad idea.


A/N: I really can't say enough good things about my uberbetas – Gidgetgal9 and Floralia. Not only did they clean up my punctuation and spelling, but they tightened up the story. The first draft didn't make a whole lot of sense. With their help, this one is much more coherent. Thanks ladies!