What doesn't kill you…

Disclaimer: I don't own anything Supernatural.

a/n: I have been kept afloat as I wrote this story by the following people, some who always seem to give their time to motivate others. I don't beg for reviews nor do I socialise well at times but seeing these names in my Inbox makes me smile…a lot!

deangirl1, dimensions-in-space, apieceofcake, Maz101, Vanessa Sgroi, Madebyme and Zatnikatel, zuimar, ukfan101, the tribble master, DeanBeanWinchester, riquitv, masondixon, magohair, shelby02, Mokibobolink, supernaturalsammy67, Ghostwriter, Naed, Ster1

Enough of the mushiness…and on with the angst!!

lb.

Chapter 12

It's much easier to cope with grief when your hands are busy. Just keep moving because the last thing you want is to stop and have time to acknowledge reality even though a part of you knows it's waiting defiantly in the shadows to catch you unaware.

You can always run but you can't hide. Although Dean Winchester was never really one to fall within the parameters of any lame cliché, especially when it came to his brother.

Dean's body was past the point of collapse when he came around but he was too broken to understand the signs of exhaustion and even if he had, it would have changed little. No idea how long it had been since he had passed out except that his brother's body was still warm, Dean sat defiantly, desperately, waiting to wake up from the nightmare.

He had always crossed lines when it came to Sam. Except this time there were no lines only impenetrable walls, reinforced with steel.

Cold hard truth.

Slow and deliberate, Dean started wiping the blood away from Sam's face with the sleeve of his shirt. His shoulder was stiff and tendrils of pain weaved through his body with every movement but he couldn't bear to see the evidence of his brother's struggle and pain any longer.

He's not moving.

His eyes moved repeatedly across the still body until they stopped on the shackled wrist and suddenly he had to get that off.

He's not breathing.

Sam shouldn't be tied up like some animal.

Dead animal.

He had to crawl to the other side of the room to get Sam's knife because he couldn't find his own. The end of the knife only just fitted into the lock on the rusted shackle but he couldn't get it to twist or move.

Sam wasn't moving anymore.

By the time it took him to release the lock, his fingers were bloody and numb.

Just like Sam.

Holding Sam's hand carefully, he let the restraint fall to the floor as he wiped the black blood from the open wound on his palm. He placed his brother's hand over his chest as he sat and stared at the gun on the ground, a terrible ache in his heart and revenge beginning to consume his mind.

Not at all expecting the hand he was holding to twitch.

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Dean gasped in shock, the fragment of his brain that was still rational telling him that this was just nerves endings firing and nothing more. The other part of him, the grieving desperate brother, reached a shaking hand out towards Sam's chest.

And felt a heartbeat.

He scrambled up and felt again and it was still there, still beating softly. Hand under his brother's nose he could only just feel the shallow exhale of air as Sam breathed on his own. But it was there and it was real.

Sam was breathing.

Sam was breathing.

He made a noise that was supposed to be his brother's name except it sounded like a wretched plea, as though he was too afraid to break the silence and shatter the illusion.

"Sam?" He brushed the sweat soaked hair from his brother's forehead.

All his life he had held on to the belief that seeing was believing but as much as he wanted this to be real, as much as he clung on to this hope with a white knuckled grip, there was still a niggling doubt. He didn't want to voice it or acknowledge it but what if Sam had been changed? What if it wasn't really Sammy that woke up?

A part of Sam had already been lost and a piece of his own heart had withered and died with the knowledge that if he had done something, anything differently, his brother might still be okay. Still be whole. The clarity of hindsight only twisted the knife deeper even though Dean was well aware the odds were always stacked against them.

He had to hope, have a little faith this time.

Sam moved.

Dean's heart suddenly seemed to take up residence halfway up his throat, almost cutting off his airways as he eased himself back down by his brother's side. Sam's hand lifted off the ground again as his head turned a little to the side. The movement elicited a hoarse sound of pain and Dean moved his hand to Sam's shoulder hoping to alert the younger boy that he wasn't alone.

It took nearly another hour before Sam's eyelids began their struggle to open and when they finally won out, the eyes beneath were dark and unfocused.

"Sam can you hear me? Sammy?"

Dean watched as his brother's head slowly turned towards him, relieved he was getting some response but at the same time alarmed at the amount of pain contained in the accompanying groan.

"You're gonna be okay Sam, I'll get you out of here. Just…just rest a bit and then we're gonna get out of here."

Sam's eyes looked straight at him but all Dean saw in them was pain and he began to wonder how much damage the lupine blood had done. After only minutes, Sam's eyelids drifted closed again as though he had never been there at all.

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The pain is alive and it blisters and burns endlessly through his bones and skin, constantly devouring, quick heat like wildfire. It goes on for a lifetime and he gets lost in the flames as he screams without words or understanding.

As the fire begins to recede he can't distinguish the relief at first, hidden beneath the memory of searing heat and confusion. Phantom pain lingering from the intensity is still too much except now there's something else on the edge of his consciousness. Something he is drawn to like a moth to the flame, incomprehensible but irresistible.

Familiar.

Sammy.

Whispered but somehow penetrating the maelstrom in his mind.

Sam clings to the whisper unaware his body has tried to move towards the sound.

Awareness of something beyond the pain and fire is enough for now and all he can manage.

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It was hard to move away but things had changed now, there was more at stake than just his own life if Adrian returned and he was unprepared.

Dean struggled back up the ladder which seemed to have become at least twice as high as he remembered. Almost surprised to hear his own laboured breathing and grunts of exertion, he focused instead on placing one foot after another until he had reached the piece of iron still wedged in the trapdoor.

Once more gripping the cold metal in his hand, he began to force his body weight against the resistance. The movement was barely perceptible but it was there and after all but hanging off the end of the rebar he finally felt the weight above shift as the gap widened. With clenched teeth and white knuckles, Dean leant precariously out to the side of the ladder as he struggled to widen the angle and increase the leverage.

The resistance suddenly gave and Dean only just managed to catch his fingers on the wood before he tumbled over the side. Panting and grimacing as his injury screamed in protest, he looked up in almost disbelief at the unobstructed exit.

He had done it.

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Glancing back at his brother, Dean reluctantly ascended the ladder knowing he had to check they were safe before he tried to get Sam out. As he cautiously lifted himself onto the floor above he cursed himself as it dawned on him he had no weapon.

Sitting on the floor, legs still dangling over the edge, Dean broke out in a cold sweat when he saw what had weighted the trapdoor closed.

Adrian.

"What the hell?"

Eyes darting nervously around to take in the rest of the room, he moved unsteadily over to the far wall when he saw a familiar shape on the ground. Sam's gun now in his hand and thankfully still loaded, Dean clicked the safety off as he advanced on the motionless body. Gun poised, he managed with some difficulty to roll Adrian's large frame over onto his back but there was no sign of life, supernatural or otherwise.

He would have been relieved except for the blood. The black blood that seeped from the man's nose and ears and pooled on the floor in a congealing froth where it had leaked out of his mouth.

The same black blood that had bled from his brother.

Except Sam was alive…

Even though he shouldn't be…but Dean wasn't about to start thinking too hard about that even though a sliver of fear pierced his heart like a razor sharp thread.

Sam was alive.

And that's all that mattered.

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It was the cloying stench that finally permeated his senses and he snapped back to the present still reeling from an overload of questions and fears. However, with well practised precision Dean blocked out everything except his instinct.

He had to get Sam out. Everything else came after.

Half climbing, half falling down the ladder as his coordination refused to rise to the task, Dean slowly made his way to Sam and closed his eyes letting his head drop back on his shoulders as soon as his knees hit the dirt. Opening his eyes he took a few minutes as he watched the evidence of life in the slow rise and fall of his brother's chest.

"Sam? C'mon Sammy you need to wake up now."

As he placed a gentle hand on his brother's arm, he couldn't help but smile in relief when he saw Sam's eyes open again. The relief was short lived though when the younger boy began almost hyperventilating in panic and began trying to move away, arms and legs struggling until he gave up and lay whimpering on the ground.

"God Sammy it's okay, it's me. You're safe okay, I've got you. I've got you."

The words tumbled from his mouth as they had done a hundred times before when his brother had woken from injury, still in the midst of a fight he didn't know was over. It was a legacy they shared, when their lives were almost a daily struggle to survive, the basic fight or flight instinct was strong within them.

Keeping his voice gentle, he slowly reached up to his brother's face trying to get through, needing to have Sam here with him.

"Sam?" Dean almost held his breath as dark eyes watched him without any sign of recognition.

"Sammy please?"

"De…?" After what seemed an eternity, that one barely audible sound was enough to allow Dean to draw a shuddering breath as a myriad of unacceptable scenarios were pushed from his mind.

Sam remembered him.

"Yeah, I'm here okay. Don't try and talk Sammy, you've cut your mouth up pretty bad I think and I'm sorry man but we've got no water." He continued to talk, hoping to retain his brother's attention and bring him around enough to move.

Dean paused, uncertainty crossing his features as he saw how weak his brother was and knowing they had to not only walk the few miles back to the cabin but somehow get up the ladder to escape this now hateful room. After waiting a good twenty minutes for his brother to get his bearings a little, the urgency of getting out outweighed everything else including Sam's level of hurt.

"Sam I need you to try and get up okay?"

He waited until Sam nodded slowly, eyes not leaving Dean's face even though he visibly tensed as a strong hand gripped his upper arm. Eyes widening in panic.

"Just me Sam, it's just me." Dean tried not to imagine what was going through his brother's mind as he couldn't help but recall the physical agony Sam had gone through.

As he struggled to support his younger brother's weight he could see though this was more about the pain he was causing at every point of contact. As Sam finally got his legs under him, Dean placed his brother's arm around his shoulders and gripped him around the waist with his good arm. Dean's own grunt of pain as his wound was jostled was drowned out by Sam's anguished cry as he finally stood leaning heavily on his older sibling.

"I'm sorry Sammy I know it's hurting but can you keep going?"

Another nod, eyes downcast, face paling in the dim light.

He hated this part. He could always manage his own pain, mask it, deflect it or just ignore it outright if he had to until the job was done. It was always there waiting for him at the end of the day – just like it was now.

But this, when he had to make his brother go through it, he hated this. It wasn't like there was any other option and he knew that, there was no room for the pain in between when the choice was either life or death. If he was truthful though, it was a part of the job that sickened him more than any bloodied body or rotting corpse.

He sat Sam at the base of the ladder, his back leaning against the bottom rungs for support. With a glance at the bodies left in the dirt, Dean picked his handgun up from the ground and tucked it into his waistband alongside the other. Retrieving his brother's jacket along the way he suddenly heard the girl's voice in his head scared, so young…Lucy…his eyes moved again to her motionless body.

Dean shook his head to rid himself of the memory, quickly pushing away the other voice that told him it could have just as easily been Sam still lying dead in the dirt.

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They both lay gasping on the floorboards of the cabin, the smell of rotten flesh so strong Dean could taste it but still couldn't stop sucking the fetid air into his lungs. He half rolled on his side, bracing his shoulder with the opposite hand so he could sit up. They had made it up the ladder, worse for wear but still out in one piece. It had only taken nearly fifteen minutes.

Sam was on his back, eyes closed and his face coated in sweat and dirt as he coughed hard and raw as he tried to control his breathing. As Dean watched, his brother's eyes opened and he held out a shaking hand, asking silently to be helped up.

"Easy Sam, you're bleeding." Gently hauling his brother up until he was sitting hunched over his knees, Dean saw blood trickle from the corner of Sam's mouth, red blood. "Let me see."

As he thought, Sam had already bitten his tongue and lips bloody and the coughing seemed to have reopened the still fresh wounds. He knew this was the least of Sam's injuries but there was little he could do at the moment for his brother's muscles and joints which at best were just strained and traumatised.

He had no idea what else, apart from the physical trauma, his brother was dealing with and the thought scared him. He knew what it was like to have memories that haunted you, memories that you didn't want but still cut you to shreds nonetheless.

They sat side by side in the stinking air surrounded by death and the low buzz of insects seeking out the banquet of cold flesh nearby. Sam had listed to the side and rested on Dean's wounded shoulder as though he needed the contact. The pressure made his wound ache but the contact more than compensated as Dean leaned back on his brother.

They both needed something to reaffirm they were alive in the middle of the killing field.

Once he saw that Sam was breathing as close to normal as he was going to get, Dean got to his feet, now anxious to leave this place. The pounding in his head with the change in altitude made him brace a hand on his knee until the percussion softened to a steady backbeat.

"C'mon Sammy, let's get out of here."

Sam let his brother pull him to his feet but stopped Dean when he offered his arm for support.

"Sam?"

Concentration and pain etched in the lines of his face, Sam shook his head. "You're hurt."

Dean couldn't help the smile that graced his face as he breathed a sigh of relief. "Is that it? Man you scared me for second there I thought…never mind." He looked his brother square in the eyes. "Yeah Sam I'm hurt, you're hurt and we could both probably sleep for a month but I am getting your sorry ass out of here. Now, unless you reckon you can fight me off…deal with it."

Sam gave a weary half smile and for a brief moment he looked far too young for the amount of grief that still shone brightly in his eyes. "'Kay."

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Dean had lost count of the number of times Sam had fallen down, unable to find the strength in his battered limbs to hold his body upright even with Dean's assistance.

It breaks Dean a little each time he sees his brother fall. He feels like it marks another notch on his board of failures.

The last time is the worst as Sam starts retching and blood, black blood, spews from his mouth as his body continues to purge itself. The last time is the worst because Sam gives up and won't go on. He collapses on the cold ground and starts shaking and sobbing.

"Can't."

Dean shoves his compassion and grief into the far corner of his heart in deference to the knowledge that with their injuries they need shelter before the night closes in completely. It doesn't stop the tears that leak like traitors from the corner of his eyes.

"No choice Sam, we have to keep going. You can either get up or I'll carry you." Dean has no idea what he's really going to do if his brother can't get up.

Sam finally nods and lets his brother manhandle him to his feet, both of them somehow defying the laws of gravity and human endurance by staying mostly upright.

Dean can feel Sam's body shaking but he pushes on, trying to block out the sound of his brother in agony. "M'sorry Sammy."

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When he finally sees the cabin in the waning daylight, Dean doesn't register at first what he's looking at in the midst of the pain and struggle. Then it hits him like a sledgehammer that they've made it and he nearly folds down onto the ground in relief but he fights to keep going the last fifty feet.

It seems to take forever and then some.

He's shaking and gasping nearly as much as Sam by the time his almost numb hand lifts the latch and they tumble inside. He barely has the presence of mind to secure the door and hold Sam up until he reaches a bed, lowering the near unconscious boy in a heap onto the mattress before he sinks to the floor.

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He hears a groan as the cool trickle of water hits his parched throat and he realises vaguely that he made the sound. A hand lowers his head back down and he can feel softness underneath him and warmth around him.

Squinting and trying to see through the haze he recognises with relief the face looking at him with concern.

Lulled by the feeling of safe and warm, his eyes close without warning or the chance to say his brother's name even though it registers somewhere in his brain.

Sam.

"Rest."

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Thirst drove his body up from the murky nothingness into the dull daylight where pain and cold embrace him. It took minutes, maybe longer until Sam regained some semblance of thought to understand where he was. Still blinking slowly, a disjointed picture formed in his mind and he struggled to remember. There were flashes of stumbling through the forest, his brother the only thing keeping him up, making him move.

Making him try even when he knew he couldn't.

He opened his mouth to call out but his tongue felt thick and swollen and his throat felt like it was embedded with broken glass. The strangled sound that came out did nothing but bring on a coughing fit and his hand came away from his lips bloody.

He registered it was day but had no sense of how much time had passed and a sense of panic began to edge in as he struggled to sit up. Panic tipped over into something else when he took in the crumpled body of his older brother right there on the floor next to him like some fallen sentinel.

Sam slid off the bed ungracefully but careful to avoid his brother's upper body which was lying awkwardly on his side as though he had tried to turn over but failed miserably. It was probably more good luck than good management that Dean's wounded shoulder was lying up in the air not trapped underneath him.

Carefully placing his arms underneath Dean's back and knees, Sam found he couldn't lift his brother's weight from the floor, his right knee collapsing underneath him without warning. Managing to sit back up on the bed, Sam reached down and pulled Dean's torso up and across his own legs. He was then able to stand and shift his brother's legs onto the bed before covering him with a blanket.

Water. That was the next thought that struggled through his mind as he limped into the next room bracing his hands along the rough timbered walls as he went. Retrieving a bottle from their supplies, his thirst outweighed the burn as the cold liquid stung his torn mouth and raw throat.

"Dean?" He lifted his brother's head and tipped the bottle to his lips, thankful that Dean drank a little and began to shift. As he rested his head back down, Dean stirred and looked up into his face holding his stare and nodding slightly. Sam could see the utter exhaustion reflected in the green depths but he could also see his brother was okay, was there with him.

"Rest." The sound is rough but Dean seems to understand as he finally succumbs to his body's demands.

Cold is the next sensation that he needs to think about because Dean is trembling under the thin layer of blanket and he can barely feel his own hands. There are more covers in the wooden box at the end of the bed and a layer of dust is disturbed as Sam removes all four and piles them over his brother.

By the time he gets a fire started, thankful they had already brought wood inside before they had left, Sam eases himself down near the flames and lets the warmth seep though his shaking body.

He finds himself staring at the torn skin of his hand and that's when everything comes tumbling down on top of him.

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Dean was at a loss to understand why he felt so damn heavy when all he wanted to do was roll over and catch a couple more hours sleep before they hit the road. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before lifting his head.

"Hey."

The scratched voice is low, right beside him and he turns his head, startled until his brother comes into focus.

"Sam?" Lifting his head again as the here and now takes a hold of his senses, Dean sees the mountain of blankets that cover him up to his chin. "You trying to bury me alive?"

Receiving no answer he takes in the dishevelled appearance of his younger brother and the haunted look in his eyes.

"Don't remember going to bed, not that I'm complaining." Actually he could barely recall getting back to the cabin but it didn't matter, they were both here and both in relatively one piece.

Sam sat in a chair by the bedside with arms folded across his body and shoulders hunched but still made no attempt to speak even though he retrieved a bottle of water from the floor and held it out in offering. Dean took the bottle gratefully, only realising how parched he was when he saw the visual prompt.

"You okay Sam?" As his brother replaced the lid on the now near empty bottle, Dean managed to move enough of the coverings to allow him to sit up. He noticed his shoulder had been bandaged with an actual bandage and although the pain was sharp it was bearable. He also noticed that Sam was still wearing the same clothes and his bare forearms were covered in dark bruises.

A dismissive nod. "You should take these and then maybe try to eat."

Sam held out three tablets and Dean took them, hoping they'd lessen the growing throb in his shoulder.

'Yeah actually that sounds good. How long we been here?" He watched as the younger boy seemed to consider this before answering.

"Nearly a day."

He winced in sympathy when Sam's voice seemed to catch on something painfully sharp.

"I've been out that long?" Dean moved his legs out from under the coverings and placed his feet on the floor amazed at how tired and weak he still felt.

"You got us out. I don't know how but you did."

"Yeah." Something was off and he was too damn tired to figure it out himself but he felt the niggling doubts begin to rise to the surface. Vivid images in his mind's eye of black blood and screaming. "How do you feel Sam, you okay?"

An expression flickered across Sam's face that Dean was at a loss to place and that in itself was disconcerting.

"I'm fine." Sam was already walking away, out of the small bedroom.

Dean stood and followed his brother noticing the slow and laboured walk, much like his own he realised. Nothing surprising given what they had endured.

Sam was opening cupboards and reached up to retrieve what Dean saw were several tins on the higher shelf of the meagre pantry. As Sam stretched, exposing a strip of skin across his lower back, Dean saw more bruising on his brother's flesh. He walked forward and without warning lifted the thin cotton covering Sam's torso.

"Jesus Sam, is this all over you?" He ignored his brother's startled jump and attempt to cover himself back up. He had already seen the damage extended over Sam's abdomen, side and upper back.

"Just bruises, they'll heal."

"Sammy what's wrong man? You seem okay, you're not even stuttering but…are you mad at me? Are you hurt anywhere else?"

Sam looked almost defiant then seemed to physically sag right before Dean's eyes. When he finally looked up Dean couldn't look away.

"I'm fine Dean, that's the problem. I think I'm…fixed and…and I shouldn't even be alive. That's what's wrong, I'm here and breathing and okay and I should be…you should've…you let me live and if I haven't already hurt someone then what's gonna happen next full moon? I can't be this and I don't even remember Dean, I don't remember."

Sam's raw voice was painful to listen to but the words were worse. Sam thought he had turned into what they hunted, a monster. Dean realised Sam had no idea what had happened to him.

"No Sammy it's alright man, you didn't change. I don't understand it but your body fought it somehow and you didn't change…" Dean tried to ignore the pang of doubt when he realised he couldn't account for last night but surely the fact he was unhurt was proof enough that Sam hadn't turned.

"You know…" Sam shook his head hands clenching into fists. "You know that's not possible Dean. You know there's no cure except a bullet and if you can't…"

"I don't know how you did it but whatever it was that saved you, I think it killed Adrian. He bit you and maybe whatever was in your blood, the metal, I think it destroyed the lupine blood. All I know Sam is you didn't change and you're gonna be okay."

Dean watched as his brother tried to comprehend the details, shaking his head and looking away when Dean reached out to him. "They got the metal out of my blood at the hospital Dean and how could something like that stop me turning and then reverse the damage it did in the first place? How did it fix me Dean?"

"I know you want answers Sam but can't you just accept this and be thankful? You nearly died, hell you did die but you're here now and I am not gonna be sorry about that just because I don't know how it worked."

"Sam?"

"I'm…I'm just scared Dean. What if there's more to this…?"

"Then we work it out as we go, like we always do."

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They had found enough tinned food for a basic meal and sat watching the flames in exhausted silence as daylight slipped from the sky.

"How did I get the bruises?"

Dean frowned wanting to forget the details but knowing he would have asked the same thing. Understanding that Sam had to try and fill in some of the blanks but wishing the pieces didn't hurt so much to recall.

"You nearly turned yourself inside out when your body tried to change, it was…I'm surprised you didn't tear every muscle you own."

"Kinda feels like I did." Sam gave a wry smile and then continued, hesitant. "Are you…you seem…I mean before you were…I thought maybe you were angry at me before this hunt and…"

"I wasn't angry at you Sam. When we hunted the Skrabens and then when you got hurt…" Dean took a breath because he needed his brother to understand this even if he didn't fully comprehend his own behaviour. "I got pretty screwed up on that job Sammy and afterwards, I felt like I either had to lock it down or I was gonna lose it. I couldn't let myself…I couldn't get too close. I didn't want to feel anything Sammy."

Dean had to stop then because the backwash of emotions caught him totally unprepared. How could he explain that although he knew what was happening at the time he couldn't control his actions, he'd been detached, an outsider looking in at his own life. It had been like basic self preservation had kicked in to the detriment of everything else including his brother. It had taken almost losing Sam on this hunt to bring him back, drag him into the harsh light of reality from the unfeeling safety of the darkness.

"It's okay Dean." Sam spoke softly, his voice laced with understanding as he watched his brother struggle to maintain control.

Dean knew those fears and memories were still with him, that they would always be a part of him now. He also knew that they both needed time to heal and right now he couldn't dig any deeper. Nodding at Sam, grateful he didn't push for more, Dean took a breath to steady himself.

Another thought came at him and he fought to rein in the dread when he realised what Sam would find out, what he might already know if his memories had returned. "You said before you felt like you were fixed, the damage was gone. Do you remember that hunt now Sam?"

Sam shook his head. "I remember getting out of the hospital and then things get clearer after that but…no I still don't remember what happened. I know Sarah told me a bit about what you did to help her but she wouldn't go in to it. She said you needed to find yourself and I shouldn't push too hard but I didn't know what to do to help you Dean. I felt like I'd lost you."

"I know Sam and I'm sorry I was so hard on you. I don't think there was anything else you could of done except what you did." Dean knew he had been lost but right now he was torn between the elation his brother was okay and the feeling of guilt as the relief swept through him because Sam didn't remember.

"I didn't do anything, I felt like all I did was make it worse." Sam recalled the bitter feeling of helplessness which still didn't seem that far away from how he felt now.

"You stayed." Dean waited until his brother met his yes, if only briefly before turning them down and away. "Sam no matter how much I pushed you away you stayed man. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't."

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They sat on the floor in front of the fire, the steel hip flask on the floor between them. Dean cleaned the weapons they had with them out of habit and the need for something routine and comforting. Sam assisted when the need arose but was mostly content to just sit and listen and watch. Make sure his brother didn't move his injured shoulder too much. Make sure he was there if Dean needed him.

As fear began its relentless journey from heart to soul, Sam wondered if they would ever be like this again. This moment in time when they were just brothers.

They spoke of past hunts and which direction the road was going to take them when they finally had the energy to walk back to the car. Neither boy spoke about the silver loaded gun that Sam had silently placed on the floor near his brother's leg as the night fell down around them. Neither acknowledged the silver grey moonlight that they both knew covered the forest outside like a thin veil that undulated with the passing clouds.

As soon as the first rays of daylight filtered through the tiny gaps and knots in the timbered walls, Dean stood and placed the gun on the table with the other weapons without a word. He turned to find Sam opening the door, his too lean body silhouetted in the morning glow and highlighting the otherwise imperceptible tremble of his shoulders.

"It's over Sammy."

Sam felt Dean's hand on his shoulder and he nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

Unable to find the words that would convey his love and faith and absolute relief that he had Dean here with him. He had his brother back.

Unable to communicate the terror that still had him in its clutches even though he hadn't turned with the last night of the full moon. There was no lore or logic to the feeling but somehow that made it all the worse.

Sometimes what doesn't kill you, makes you wonder why.

END.

a/n Jun09: Thanx so much for reading and travelling on the winding road this story became – somewhere along the way I hit and passed the 200,000 word mark for this site. I knew I could be a bit wordy sometimes (at least when I write) but this kinda blew my mind a little!!

I know I've left some loose ends – I want to write a sequel. The story is in my head but the page before me is blank so...

lb.