RUNNING ON EMPTY

By supernaturaldh

Thank you to Kokoda2007 for being my wonderful beta on this story. Her encouraging words and simple changes only made my work easier.

Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed this story. You are all the best. -supernaturaldh-

Chapter 8

Let Your Burden Go

The doorway to the Winchester's simple motel room swung open with excessive force, the older man balancing two large take out bags, a six pack of beer, and bottled water in his hands. He moved hesitantly across the threshold; his eyes resting on the older Winchester. He realized the sound of his old pickup was familiar and Dean had obviously heard him come into the parking lot. He relaxed slightly, his fear of being witness to Dean's big brother protection mode easing from his mind.

"It's me," Bobby offered up, bags ruffling around as his heel booted the door shut, his arm's struggling to hold the objects, and make it to the table.

The senior hunter quickly diverted his face back to the loot in his hands, as he caught sight of the two figures slumped against the bed. He didn't want to stare, or make a big deal, as Dean untangled his arms from the giant bear hug he was obviously giving his distraught little brother. He heard the younger Winchester sniffle, and glanced back up to see his clumsy bandaged fingers swiping against his damp cheeks.

"Stop that Sam; you'll make your hands bleed again." Dean said authoritatively as he shifted to his feet, and moved toward Bobby. "We're starving, aren't we Sammy?

"Na," Sam mumbled nasally as he eased back down against the pillows, his feverish lids slipping closed.

"Whoa, hang on a second, Sammy. You're eating something kiddo, so don't even think about sleeping yet." Dean demanded.

Sam's hazel eyes gazed blearily at his older brother, an exasperated look flitting momentarily across his pale face.

Dean gave him a sloppy grin; fingers rummaging through the take out bags. "So, Bobby, what cha' get?"

Bobby felt a small smile curl to his lips. This was good, Sam was awake, and maybe they were talking. This was good.

-o-

Pushing the now empty take out bag across the table, Dean slid his back against the chair, his burning eyes staring at Sam. His little brother was asleep again, curled over on his side, one bandaged hand fisted up, and squashed between the pillow and his pale cheek. The image alone made Dean smile. He yawned silently, his tired arms reaching up above his weary head and stretching against exhaustion.

"Okay, that's it." A voice weaved its way into Dean's sluggish ears and he tilted his head to the side, his tired jade orbs looking inquisitively at Bobby Singer.

"Huh?" he whispered.

Bobby's firm hands reached down and grasped Dean by the forearms, "I said that's it; you got to get some sleep."

The tired man blinked slowly.

"Come on Dean; let's get you over to the bed." Bobby said resolutely.

"No," Dean breathed, yanking his arms away from the grasping fingers, "I'm watching Sam."

"Don't mess with me son, I said you're getting some rest, and I mean it."

No room for questions or retorts, Bobby's hands came back and yanked Dean abruptly up to stand against him.

The tired hunter swayed. "I'm fine, Bobby, really."

"Yeah, sure you are. You two have been running on empty for weeks now, enough already."

Dean knew there was no fighting Bobby Singer. When he got a thought in his head, he was like a dog with a bone. He let his heavy body be lurched forward; Bobby's secure grip holding him steady. He was pushed lightly downward, tired limbs flailing against the worn out mattress. He relaxed into the comfort, his body stretching out and betraying him, as he sunk resignedly against the softness.

"You rest, I'll watch Sam." Bobby said again, tucking a well worn blanket up across Dean.

The older Winchester sighed in response, his sleepy, bloodshot eyes gazing unwavering at Bobby's face, "Promise?"

A large hand patted the exhausted hunter lightly on the chest. "Yes, Dean, I promise. I won't let him out of my sight. You can rest now."

Dean's head rolled slowly to the side, half mast lids falling to watch his sleeping brother. He struggled to stay awake, but, soon lost the battle, as his heavy eyes closed, oblivion taking him under.

-o-

Time had slowed in the motel room, exhausted Winchesters languishing on the both beds. Bobby had watched them as they slept, tugged at their blankets, checked Sam's hands, and monitored the younger man's fever for the last seven hours. He had drunk all the coffee, watched reruns on television, read the newspapers, and soaked in the silence. He couldn't take it anymore. His stomach grumbled from the hunger. He hated to do it, but, he was going to have to wake up Dean.

He moved silently across the room, hand squeezing the sleeping man's shoulder and giving him a light shake.

Dean's lips twitched, his eyelashes fluttering against his face.

Bobby shook him a little harder, watching as Dean made a conscious effort to open his eyes.

"Hey kid." Bobby grinned, "Time to get up."

Dean's weighty lids blinked again, as he brought one hand up to scrub across his face. Sudden memory flashed across his features, his hand dropping, as his eyes flickered across the room to look at Sam.

"He's fine, still sleeping," the older hunter offered with a smile, "His fever's down."

Dean sighed and pushed up to a sitting position, looking curiously at his watch, then back to Bobby.

"I'm hungry," the worn-out hunter mumbled.

"No shit," Bobby chortled.

Dean shrugged, brows furrowing in confusion.

"I'm going for food," the older man stated eagerly. He grabbed up the keys from the table, anxious to take a break from his long hours sitting in the motel room.

"Bring me some pie." Dean grinned.

Bobby twisted around, facing the man sitting on the bed.

"Sammy wants some pie." Dean continued, large wide eyes pleading with Bobby.

Bobby rolled his eyes, his hand absently clamoring for the doorknob. Dean didn't do the puppy dog face as well as Sammy, but he definitely could pull it off.

He huffed in disbelieve at Dean. Sam didn't want no damn pie, he was asleep.

The older hunter smirked as he shook his head and exited the room.

-o-

Bobby Singer knew it was time for him to go. He had both Winchester boys rested up and recovering from the events of the last couple of days, their lives returning to normal. Well, as normal as their life could get. He sighed heavily. Unfortunately, he knew there was more going on here than just Sam being kidnapped and buried alive. These boys had totally dismissed the occurrences of the last four months, neither wanting to discuss any of it.

Bobby recalled the devastation left in the wake of Dean's untimely death; the horrible days and nights that Sam had stayed with him - spiraling slowly out of control. He also understood the shock that both men had experienced, with Dean's return from hell. While the details were vague: both he and Sam were ecstatic. The fact he was back, was a total readjustment for everyone. The older hunter had high hopes that the brothers had talked after they left his house, but obviously, that had not happened. He understood they each needed time to come to terms with everything - Dean's rise from hell, and Sam's months without him. But ignoring the issues, not discussing them, was not the answer, and Bobby wanted that fixed.

He leaned forward, tugging his baseball cap back against his forehead. He looked at the brothers, both resting against the headboards, shoulders barely touching, watching old reruns on TV. He watched as Sam's mop top of hair slid slowly down onto Dean's shoulder, the older brother moving slightly to accommodate his little brother's weight. He smiled. He had known these boys since they were small and had watched John Winchester raise them as warriors. Now, John was gone, but he wasn't, and he would do anything to help these boys get through this.

"Dean," Bobby whispered, "we need to talk."

The older man stood, and muted the television, before turning and walking toward the motel door.

Dean twisted slightly to look at Bobby's retreating back, and then glanced down to his brother, nestled against his shoulder. He moved his hand up and gently eased Sam's face down to a pillow. His little brother shuffled, mumbling something in Latin, but didn't stir, as he drifted back to sleep.

The two hunters crept noiselessly outside into the cool evening air.

"Yeah, Bobby, what is it?" Dean asked as he pushed the door almost closed, a small crack evident, so he could still see Sam.

"Dean, I'm not trying to tell you what to do…" Bobby said hesitantly.

The eldest Winchester's eyes quirked up into a confused glint and he gazed at the concerned hunters face.

"It's just, well, I think you and Sam need to talk bout 'it'."

"It?" Dean said casually.

Bobby's face fell, "Oh, come on, you know what 'it' is, your time in hell, and Sam's time without you."

"Why?" A sullen voice questioned, face glaring down to the gravel beneath socked feet.

"Cause I think you both need to let it out, move forward, get on with your lives."

"We talked, we've moved on." Dean said quietly.

"No Dean, you haven't, and neither has Sam. You got to make the effort, talk to your brother."

Dean watched through the open door as Bobby stepped back into room. He stared, as the closest person he had to a father, moved beside the sleeping Sam. He felt a slight tug at his heartstrings as Bobby gently brushed long bangs from his brother's eyes, then, tugged a blanket up over the kid. Bobby was right. He needed to deal, but more than that, he needed to help Sam deal.

-o-

It was night outside when Sam woke up, the television on mute, the room quiet and dark. He moved slowly, his taunt muscle protesting, as he pushed himself up against the pillows. He squinted around the darkness, no Dean or Bobby in sight. A fear gripped at his chest, and he strangled in a wayward breath. Where were they?

He immediately noticed the motel door was open a couple of inches, and swung his shaky legs around to sit up. They must be outside .

He stood gradually, gauze wrapped fingers clutching at the bedspread. He shuffled slowly toward the doorway, wrapped hands moving from the bed post, to the chair, to the table, to the doorframe, in an attempt to keep his weak knees from buckling.

The dim room was spun lightly, and he sucked in a large gulp of air, hoping that the spinning would stop. Boy, the last few days had taken a lot out of him. He shuddered at his thoughts and leaned against the doorframe. His bandaged fingers throbbed as he held on to the door.

"Dean?" he whispered through the crack, the door swinging open with his weight.

Dean stood leaning against the stucco wall; he stared blankly into space. He jumped unconsciously with Sam's words. He darted his eyes over to rest on his swaying sibling. He immediately moved, and reached one hand over to grip at Sammy's arm.

"What are you doing up?" he queried as he swiftly wrapped his arm round Sammy's waist.

"I couldn't find you or Bobby." The youngest Winchester said quietly.

"Come on, back to bed for you, wobble boy."

Sam's lips quirked up in a small grin, as he let Dean bodily move him toward the bed.

"Bobby just left." Dean said, easing his brother's gangly limbs down against the mattress.

"You should've woken me."

"And face the wrath of Bobby Singer…no thank you." Dean grinned.

He shoved his brother's legs beneath the blankets, then, tugged the covers up to against his chest.

"How are your hands?"

"They feel okay." Sam said. He held his bandaged hands up for Dean to see.

Dean drew in a slow breath. It was now or never. He slid down on the opposite bed, hands clutching tightly at his knee caps through his faded blue jeans. He looked intently across at Sam.

"So, how you doing - otherwise?"

Sam looked curiously at his older brother.

"Otherwise?"

"You know, four months without your big brother here to take care of you?" Dean said as he frowned slightly, but continued to gaze at his little brother.

Sam cleared his throat, a sudden knot sitting there. He looked down at the blanket, eyes fixated on a wayward thread. If he was honest, he was an emotional train wreck . He knew he needed to talk to Dean, to deal with all his memories, his fears, but it was so hard. It was much easier to ignore it all, than to struggle to find the right words to say.

Dean sat patiently, watching Sam, knowing his brother was thinking, mulling over his next words.

"'Kay," Sam mumbled.

"Sammy, you are not okay."

Sam gazed critically at his brother.

"But, neither am I." Dean quickly spoke up.

Sam's head rose to gawk at Dean. Did his brother just admit he wasn't okay ?

"You're not okay?" Sam's voice quivered in a deep timber as he questioned Dean's words.

"No Sam, but I'm better than you. I spent four months in hell, of which I don't remember jack shit, except these vague nightmares of screaming, crying, and yelling – crazy ass stuff." Dean clipped out angrily. He licked his dry lips, trying to regain control of his simmering emotions. "You, you had it rougher than me, little brother, you remember it all."

They sat in silence, Dean waiting to see if Sam would respond. He had put it out there, hoping his brother would talk, confide, and let some of his burden go.

The younger hunter's gauzed fingers twiddled with the thread; breathe hitching in his throat.

"Sam, look at me." Dean demanded.

Sam's bright eyes rose, his face slowly tilting to look at Dean.

"Four months, bro, that's a long time." Dean said sadly.

Sam's head nodded up and down silently, his lower lip trembling as tears pooled beneath his lids. He blinked quickly, and stared wide hazel orbs at his big brother, his voice, a soft, almost undetectable, whisper.

"I never felt so…alone, not even when I was at Stanford. At least then, I knew, in the back of my mind -You and Dad ...you guys were still there. A phone call away." The younger man's voice stuttered as he tried to stay in control.

"I'm sorry Sammy, sorry that you had to go through that. That you had to be all by yourself. I wish I could take those memories away for you."

Sam hiccupped, the tears weaving a slow path down his pale cheeks.

Dean stood abruptly, easing himself over to sit on the same bed as Sam. He pulled the kid against him. Boy, two chick flicks in two days, must be a record.

"It sounds like hell on earth, Sammy."

Dean held his brother tightly, as light shudders racked his sobbing form.

Sam talked for a long time, voice hitching on the words. He quietly explained the endless days and weeks he roamed the countryside, no direction, no goals, just hunting anything to stop from thinking about his brother. He heaved with emotion as he told the story of watching his Dean die, the blood pooling around his brother dismembered body. He cried when he told how it felt to stand by and do nothing while the hellhounds took Dean's life. He shook visibly as he explained why he buried Dean, instead of burning his brother's body. Hot tears soaked into Dean's shirt as Sam detailed his deep desire to pull his brother back from hell, at any and all costs.

And through it all, Dean hung on tightly, listening and rocking his tormented little brother. His insides ached for Sammy. He murmured soft reassurances against the chestnut hair, praying to God, that he could take the nightmare away.

Eventually, Sam gave in to exhaustion, the emotional wave crested and slowly ebbed away. He fell tiredly against his brother, body succumbing to a deep and restful sleep.

Dean shifted up against the headboard, hands tugging his sleeping brother with him.

"Dean…" Long fingers immediately clutched at Dean's shirt.

"Sleep, Sammy," a comforing voice said.

Dean blinked back his own wayward tears as he felt Sam slump back against him as he drifted once again to sleep. He wasn't letting go just yet. Sammy needed him.

His own thoughts assaulted him, and he stifled a tiny gasp. Honestly, his memories of hell scared the crap out of him.

He held on tighter to Sam.

He knew it would take a long time for his kid brother to recover, and probably even longer for him; but they would get through this, like always - together.

He smiled as he ran fingers through his little brother's hair. He was back, right where he was supposed to be.

THE END!

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