Pain Management

Disclaimer: They aren't mine.

Beta'd: By Muffy Morrigan, Carocali, and yes, even poor Phx, for whom this story is intended. There really is no such thing as a free lunch (or story) apparently. LOL.

Thank you really is inadequate to express my gratitude. You guys rock!

I played after they beta'd, so as usual, all remaining errors are mine and mine alone.

Time Line: Set some time after Heaven and Hell, as such, spoilers abound.

Dedicated: To Phx. I'm sorry the last chapter took a century. I hope you understand.

………………………………………And Wisdom to Know the Difference………………………………...

The doctor had explained everything in horrifying detail, but the one thing Dean had latched onto was that Sam would be fine. He'd lost a lot of blood and done a number on his arm. Dean had been right about internal injuries, which as much as it sucked, could have been a lot worse. The surgeon was confident they'd repaired all the damage, so all that remained for Sam to get better was rest. That also left the part Dean hated most – waiting.

Dean walked into the room, noticing immediately how pale Sam looked against the white sheets and harsh florescent lighting. He also looked incredibly young. Gone were the lines of stress and worry on his face, his closed eyes didn't hint at deeper hurts or a lifetime of loss contained within the twenty-five-year-old body.

He took a seat beside Sam's bed, listening to the rhythmic beep of the heart monitor chirp in reassurance. The view outside the window was the dull beige exterior of the adjacent wing and the gravel topped roof of a lower level portion of the building they were in. The gray sky and nondescript view only added to Dean's mood.

He twisted the ring on his finger, mesmerized by the glint of light off the silver band. Blood from the aufhocker or his brother, Dean wasn't sure which, lined the creases of his palms. He rubbed at the red with the pad of his thumb until his hands burned from the heat of friction. Eyes blinking, he yawned wide, leaning back in his chair. Sleep wasn't on the agenda, only waiting. Long moments of waiting with no one to keep him company, but his own thoughts.


Sam's fingers twitched. He felt the rough texture of inexpensive sheets against his skin. They must have made it back to the motel. He wasn't feeling any real pain and he wondered how long he'd been out of it.

"Sam?" Dean's voice, hopeful, expectant, calling him back to awareness. Warm fingers brushed sweaty bangs off his forehead.

I'm fine, Sam thought. What came out sounded more like a hiss of air escaping through dry lips. His eyebrows twitched in frustration. A rhythmic beeping danced on nerves. Turn off the damn alarm clock, Dean. I'm tired.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean said, looping his fingers in Sam's. "Go back to sleep. You're safe."


The low rumble of his brother's voice woke him the second time. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so tired. Sam blinked wearily, staring blankly forward. It took several beats before his mind engaged and he correctly identified where he was. Hospital.

"Sam?" Dean leaned down into his field of vision. "Are you awake?"

He slowly turned his head, eyes mostly unfocused. Dean. "Dean?" the younger Winchester managed, parroting his thoughts.

"How do you feel?" Dean asked, pressing closer to the bed.

Sam blinked, his sluggish brain refusing to cooperate. "Tired?"

"Was that a question?" Dean asked, a note of laughter in his voice. He sat back, scrubbing a hand down his face. "They're still giving you the really good stuff. You should go back to sleep."

Sam nodded, he probably should, but it felt like he was forgetting something important. He furrowed his brow in concentration. "You okay?" He swallowed hard trying to rid the cottony feeling from his throat.

"I'm fine," Dean said, pouring water into a small glass. He bent the straw and held it for Sam to take a sip. Sam made a move for the cup, knocking it sideways, the water sloshing over the edge onto the blankets. He frowned and Dean relinquished the cup.

"You got the aufhocker," Sam said. He took a sip of water, placing the cup back on the tray table.

It was a statement, but Dean must have heard the question behind it. "Yeah, beheaded, salted and burned."

"Good." The flames were the last thing Sam had a clear memory of. The walk back to the Impala was disjointed and fragmented at best. He weakly tugged the nasal canula. He never liked the feeling of forced air up his nose; the dry air burned the sensitive membranes. "So, when can we leave?"

"Not until you're cleared by the doctors," Dean said. "You just had surgery." The older man tilted his head in the direction of the heavy cast on Sam's arm. "Not to mention they're talking bruised kidneys, the broken rib, and they want to observe you for awhile, make sure they got all the internal bleeding stopped. You got smashed flat, Sam. There's no rush. We're staying."

"I feel fine." Sam met his brother's intense gaze. He couldn't get side-lined now. Dean needed him.

"You feel okay right now because you're on painkillers," the older man said, his green eyes sparkling. "What's with the rush to leave and why do you keep insisting you're fine all the time?"

Sam bit the inside of his lip. How could he explain to his brother that after everything that Dean had been through, complaining about much of anything felt like whining about a stubbed toe? He could see Dean's frustration building at his silence. His brother's leg bounced, hands clenched, then relaxed, one moving to tap out a beat on his thigh. "I think you're right," Sam said finally. He was too spent to face another battle with his brother. "I'm just tired. You should go back to the motel and get some sleep."

To emphasize his point, and to spare himself and Dean the pain of having that conversation, Sam closed his eyes. There was a good chance Dean wouldn't leave, but then again, Sam really was tired and maybe he would fall asleep. Either way, he could delay the argument, the lecture he was sure was brewing until he could, at the very least, form a coherent response to Dean's questions. His entire body vibrated with anxiety.

Dean wasn't leaving.

He heard a choked sound, the rustle of denim, Dean's ring tapping lighting on the bed rail. "Sam." Sam tensed; he didn't want to do this right now.

"Dean, please," he said, mentally cringing at how desperate his tone sounded. Sam cleared his throat. "Just go. I'm tired. We can talk later, okay?"

"Sammy?" Dean began again. A warm hand rested gently on his shoulder. Sam felt his resolve falter. Months of building new walls falling at the familiar, yet now seldom used name. Demons had used it to mock him. Their taunts tainting the endearment that had meant he was loved and cared for by his family and driving home how truly alone he was.

He felt the muscles in his shoulder quiver under Dean's hand. If his brother didn't leave soon, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to hold it together. Whether it was the anesthesia still floating around in his system, the drugs, or his injuries, it wouldn't matter. Sam's defenses were on the verge of crumbling.

"I haven't completely forgotten how to be your brother, Sam," Dean said softly. "I may not have been paying enough attention at first, or maybe you were better at hiding it for awhile, I dunno. But I do know you're hiding something from me."

So that was it. Dean was afraid he was keeping things from him again. His heart sank into his stomach. He was so tired of explaining himself, of trying to do the right thing and failing at every turn. Sam opened his eyes, his entire body sagging under the weight of guilt. "Dean, I told you everything."

"Look, I get it okay?" Dean said. "I understand why you didn't tell me about the demon blood. I even get why you didn't tell me about using your abilities." He stopped and stared pointedly at Sam. "You should have told me, but I get it."

Sam swallowed hard. Pinpricks of electrical sensation ghosted up and down his arm under the cast. Whatever painkillers they had given him, they were wearing off. He tried to formulate a good response to Dean's statements, but his brain was still under the influence of a medicated fog. Dean spared him the trouble by continuing.

"But this is different. This goes beyond putting up a good front." Dean leaned forward in his chair, resting his arms on his knees. His was only inches from Sam's, Dean's penetrating green gaze raking over him. The younger man squirmed under the scrutiny. "Painkillers are wearing off, aren't they? Use the morphine, Sam."

"I…" Sam started. He raised a shaky hand for the water glass, his mouth suddenly dry. Dean helped him get a drink. "Thanks." Sam met his brother's gaze. "I didn't know I had any."

Dean chuckled lightly. "I suppose with all the wires and tubing it's hard to tell what's hooked up to you." Sam returned the smile. Dean reached over the bedrail and pushed the button for the pain medication. "Go to sleep. We can talk later when you're more up for it."

If Dean meant for his words to be reassuring, they weren't. Although, maybe it wasn't about him after all, maybe Dean just needed to talk. "Is it about what you told me the other day?" Sam asked. A warm relief flooded his body as the morphine quickly took effect. It sapped what little energy he had left and he fought to keep his eyes open.

"No," Dean said firmly, his expression darkening. "We're going to pretend that conversation never happened."

Sam yawned, his body fighting his efforts to stay awake. He should just let it go, it's what he'd wanted only moments before. However, now that Dean had broached the subject Sam's mind couldn't stop mulling it over. "What then?" He knew his brother and if Dean wanted to talk it was more than just Sam's insistence that everything was fine. It meant something much bigger was brewing in his brother's mind. There was no point in delaying the inevitable.

Dean shook his head. "Later. Sleep now."

The drugs stole his anxiety and his resolve, calming his emotions and conversely forming chaos out of his normally organized thoughts. "You too," Sam insisted, reaching out to pat the air in Dean's general direction. "You look like crap."

"Ah, the wonders of Morphine-Sammy," Dean said. He sniffed his armpit and grimaced. "You're not wrong though. I need a shower."

"You need a bed," Sam said. "It's not like I'm going anywhere. I'm just going to sleep."

"I've seen you on narcotics," Dean replied. "You ramble senselessly, then you crash." He stretched through the bedrail, patting Sam softly on the leg. "Can't leave until you go to sleep, there's no telling what you'll do otherwise."

Sam chuckled, suddenly overwhelmingly amused by his brother. "You can go, Dean. I'll be fine on my own for five minutes."

The smile dropped from Dean's face, the wrinkles around his eyes smoothing. "I'm sorry you've had to go it alone for so long already," he said.

Sam frowned, his forehead crinkling. "You're back now. It's over." He didn't want to think about his life while Dean was in hell, not when he was at his best and certainly not while he suffered from a drug-induced emotional vulnerability. It was never going to happen again. Sam would do whatever it took to make sure that no one else died in his place, least of all his brother.

"I'm not talking about while I was in hell, Sammy," Dean said.

Sam tried to respond, to offer a response to Dean's revelation, but his eyes closed of their own volition. He really hated what strong drugs did to him. Before the morphine whisked his mind away, Sam managed a whispered, "M'sorry, too."


In spite of his intentions and what he'd told his brother, Dean didn't talk to Sam in the hospital. Another soul-bearing conversation on the heels of the last one would mean he'd need some space, and he couldn't leave Sam alone, he just couldn't, no matter how self-reliant his already independent brother had become. Dean was working hard on not taking it as rejection, but it was still difficult overcoming the feeling that more often than not, Sam didn't seem to need him anymore.

So, he'd kept the conversation light. They'd talked about the deplorable choices on daytime television, rehashed childhood memories including the prank war that had left Sam bald, and the unbelievably terrible state of hospital food. Two days later they were headed for Bobby's.

The nurse pulled the wheelchair to a stop beside the Impala's passenger door and Sam was settled inside in no time. "Wave good-bye to the nice lady, Sammy," Dean said, leaning down to pat him on the shoulder.

An eye roll and glare shot his way before a dimpled grin was aimed at the nurse. "Thanks, Kathleen," Sam said.

The brunette smiled back, the skin wrinkling around her eyes. "Take it easy, okay?" she lectured. "No more bear hunting for awhile."

"I'll see that he doesn't," Dean said, edging further between the nurse and his brother. Another glare from Sam and he swallowed back a chuckle. Sometimes Sam was just so easy. He accepted the white paper bag of his brother's prescriptions from Kathleen. "Thanks," he said, nodding in her direction and shutting the passenger door.

"You're welcome," Kathleen said. She smiled, waving over her shoulder on her way into the hospital.

Dean slid into the car, glancing over at his brother. Sam cradled his ribs with his uninjured arm, his head resting against the window. He'd been given a strong dose of painkillers before they left the room and Dean figured Sam would sleep most of the trip. "You okay?"

The younger man turned his head towards Dean and blinked lazily. His head wobbled a little before resettling against the window. "Just tired."

"Do you want coffee or sleep?" Dean flipped the ignition and pulled out of the parking spot. He couldn't wait to get the Impala on the open road for a few hours. When there was no response, Dean looked over at his brother. Sam's face was screwed up in consternation. "I didn't think it was that hard of a decision." The younger man just blinked. "It's okay, Sam, go to sleep. I'll make coffee at Bobby's."

It seemed to be what Sam needed to hear because he nodded his head falling back soundly against the glass. Dean winced. "Ow," Sam said, belatedly.

The older man thumped his brother lightly on his chest. "We'll be there in a few hours."

"Good," Sam said, his eyes slipping closed.

The sleek black car pulled out on the highway, quickly gaining speed. The music wasn't on. Not because Dean worried about disturbing his brother. Sam was dead to the world from the last round of medication. It was more that he couldn't handle the grinding guitar and the pulsating beat. Music had always soothed him when he needed something to take the edge off life, but lately, it only served to remind him how really not okay he was.

Sam shifted in the seat beside him, a low mumble that Dean couldn't begin to decipher and then he settled back against the window. Light from a passing vehicle briefly illuminated the car's interior and Dean took the opportunity to glance at his brother. Sam's forehead scrunched in lines of worry or dismay, Dean couldn't tell which. His once open brother had become a bit of an enigma, seemingly aging years in six months. He wondered if Sam had the same trouble understanding him these days.

True to his word, Dean pulled into Bobby's three hours later. The older hunter appeared backlit in the doorway to greet the Winchesters. Dean waved as he pulled the Impala to a stop and Bobby stood at his window before he'd had a chance to switch off the engine. He exited the car, tossing the other man the keys. "Can you grab our bags?"

"What's this look like to you?" Bobby asked. "The Ritz Carlton?"

Dean smirked, slapping Bobby on the shoulder on his way past. "Fine, I'll grab the bags, you're on sasquatch duty."

"I ain't lugging his ass up those stairs," Bobby said, walking with Dean around the car and pausing at the trunk. "That kid weighs a ton now."

"Yeah, I know," Dean said. If the sparring in the gym hadn't driven that point home, the assisted carry through the woods had. He paused, hand resting on the door handle. The air was cool and smelled of rain. He was glad they'd be inside tonight, not working a job. "Bobby?"

The older man closed the trunk lid halfway to look at Dean. "Yeah?"

He didn't know what he'd been thinking. He regretted telling Sam what he'd been through. There was no way he was asking Bobby a question on how to deal with what had happened with the aufhocker. It would lead to more questions he wasn't prepared to answer. "Never mind," Dean said.

He ignored Bobby's questioning look, ducking his head to open the passenger door.

As the door swung, Sam immediately started to fall out of the car. Dean pressed closer, keeping his brother in the seat. "Easy there, Sam," he said. "Come on, wake up for me."

"I'm awake," Sam mumbled. "Don't want to go inside. Leave me here. S'comfortable."

"Uh-huh," Dean said, looping an arm around his brother's long legs, twisting until they hung outside the car door. "You say that now. Tomorrow it'd be…'Dean, why'd you leave me in the car all night'." He smirked; pleased he'd gotten the pitch of Sam's little brother edge perfect.

Sam snorted. "I do not sound like that."

He wrapped an arm around the younger man's shoulders, helping him to standing. "'Fraid so," Dean said, shutting the door with his hip.

Sam scowled. "You're a riot."

Dean smiled, prodding his brother forward. "Come on, kiddo," he urged. "Bed."

It didn't take long to get Sam settled in the spare bedroom. It took even less time for Dean's restless legs to drive him from his bed and back downstairs into Bobby's kitchen. The older man sat at the table nursing a whisky.

"Pull up a seat," Bobby said, gesturing to the spot across the table. "There're glasses in the cupboard."

Dean nodded. He searched the cabinet for the hot cocoa he knew the older hunter used to keep for cold winter nights when they were kids. He found it tucked behind cans of beans. The cinnamon was harder to find, but there were two jugs of milk in the refrigerator. He started the milk heating and took a seat at the table.

He made eye contact with the older man. Bobby had pushed his hat back on his head or maybe his eyebrows had pushed it up his forehead as they seemed to be trying to escape the confines of Bobby's face. "Something you want to tell me, Dean?"

"What?" Dean asked, screwing up his face. "No, just couldn't sleep."

Bobby jerked his head in the direction of the stove. "I meant with the 'Sammy Special' over there. I haven't seen you make that since, well, since that hunt in Louisiana when you boys were kids."

The corner of the younger man's mouth quirked in remembrance. "Hey, it got him back to sleep," Dean defended.

"No, it didn't," Bobby said, his tone suggesting Dean was idiot. "You did. You didn't brush off his fears, but you didn't dwell on them either. You let him work through it on his own and he did because he knew you were there for him."

Dean scowled, standing to check the milk. "Are we still talking about Sam?"

"Who else?" Bobby asked innocently, pouring another shot.

Dean poured the warm milk into a mug, stirring in the cocoa and sprinkling cinnamon on top. He took a sip and smiled. It was as good as he remembered. "I'm taking my hot chocolate on the road, Dr. Phil," Dean said.

"Good night, Dean," the older man said.

"Night, Bobby."


Sam woke, slowly stretching muscles stiff from days in bed. He pretty much ached all over, the rib and his arm giving him the most trouble. It only took a few seconds to realize he was in Bobby's spare room. The bed was definitely softer than the sofa. He made a mental note to try remembering that for the next time. Sam eased to sitting, snagging his jeans. It was time to find Dean.

Sounds of dishes rattling drew him to the kitchen. "Hey, Bobby," Sam said, his voice morning rough. He smothered a chuckle when the older man turned from the sink wearing an apron. He could feel his lips twitching. "Have you seen Dean?"

"Lots of times," Bobby said, his voice light. He turned back to the sink.

Sam smirked, tilting his head slightly. "Do you know where he is?"

Bobby turned to him and smiled, placing a sudsy hand on Sam's shoulder. "Yep, but you should eat something before you go out after him. He'll be fine for a few minutes." The gruff hunter carefully man-handled Sam into a chair by the table, then handed him a glass of juice.

The younger man rolled his eyes. "I'm not a kid, Bobby. I can take care of myself."

"Yeah, I know," Bobby said, "but I got a plateful of leftovers and somebody's gotta eat it." Sam's eyes opened wide at the sight of the heaping plate of food the older man set on the table. "Plate's hot, I just took it out of the oven."

"Thanks, Bobby," Sam said, pouring on a thick layer of maple syrup. He took a bite of pancake. "It's good."

"Don't sound so surprised," Bobby said. "You always did like my pancakes."

Sam grimaced. "You always used them to butter me up. So, spill."

The older man took a seat across the table. "I was that obvious, huh?"

"Not when I was younger, no." He waggled a fork at the seasoned hunter. "But I'm on to you."

Bobby smiled. "Truth is," he said, his eyes glinting with concern. "I wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I'm fine," Sam said. "Just a little sore." He inclined his head towards the other man when Bobby shot him a look of disbelief. "Okay, I've had better days."

"Been thinking, you boys should stay here for a couple of weeks," Bobby said. He held up his hand when Sam tried to interrupt. "I could use some help." The older man snapped his fingers, standing up, taking something out of the cupboard. "Dean asked me to give you these when you got up."

Sam frowned, fingering the pills Bobby had deposited in front of him before he'd sat back down. Antibiotics and painkillers, nothing unexpected, so he swallowed them with a swig of orange juice. "What do you need help with?" Sam asked, turning his attention back to their previous conversation. If Bobby needed their help, he couldn't turn the older man down.

"I don't know what it is, that's kind of what I need help with," Bobby said, scratching his head. "Maybe some time this afternoon we could go over it?"

"Sure," the younger man agreed. Sam narrowed his eyes. "This isn't just some ploy you and Dean cooked up to keep us here for awhile, is it?"

"So, what if it is?" Bobby asked. "That change your answer?"

"No," Sam said. "Just curious."

"Good." Bobby stood, refilled his cup and poured one for Sam. He set the steaming mug down in front of the youngest Winchester. "Now, after you finish that and your breakfast, I'll tell you where Dean is."

Sam raised an eyebrow, but accepted the mother-hen routine from the older hunter. Bobby went back to washing the dishes, yet Sam caught him surreptitiously glancing in his direction several times. He sighed. It was going to be a long couple of weeks.


As it was Bobby kept him busy with this, that or the other for over an hour and Sam began to suspect that he was being intentionally delayed. When he finally managed to pry it out of the older man, he mentally flinched. Ordinarily, he wouldn't have given the half acre trek out to the grassy field behind the garage another thought. Today, it seemed a nearly insurmountable challenge. He realized then that Bobby had been stalling to keep him at the house hoping that Dean would return.

A part of him just wanted to crawl his way up the stairs and into bed. The bigger part of him was worried about Dean. It took nearly twenty minutes to walk the short distance across the old pasture. The uneven ground caused him to stumble twice, jostling his ribs and aggravating the incision on his stomach. Sam spotted his brother by the fence shortly before the first shot rang out.

He wrapped his good arm around his chest, stopping within feet of the older man. Dean lined up the sight on his Colt, gently squeezing the trigger. There was another satisfying pop and then an explosion of glass and whisky. "What are you doing?" Sam asked, his breath hitching.

"What am I doing?" Dean asked, his brow knotted in a meld of confusion and frustration. "What are you doing? You should be resting."

"I will," Sam said, knowing it was the truth. He was beat and there was still the return trip to ahead of him. "I wanted to find you first."

"Well, you found me," Dean said, his voice tight, but his tone wasn't angry. "Now sit down before you fall down."

Sam shook his head, although Dean had a good point, he could feel his knees wobbling. "Tell me why you're out here."

The older man stared at Sam, then focused his attention on the bottles lined up approximately twenty feet away. "I'm not taking any more chances," Dean said, his tone was a decent attempt at casual, but there were cracks in it. "No more drinking."

Now Sam understood. He took a step closer to his brother. "Dean, what happened out there, it – it wasn't your fault. I mean I…" He trailed off at the look Dean threw him. The icy glare, the clenched jaw, it said, 'Shut up, Sam' as clearly as if the words had been said aloud.

"Don't," Dean said, shaking his head, "just, don't." The silence grew until the older man raised his weapon, shooting off another round.

"You know, you don't have to give up drinking entirely, Dean," Sam said, sidling up to his brother. He carefully eased down to rest on the edge of the fence. "Everything in moderation."

"Including moderation?" Dean quipped, a smirk appearing then disappearing nearly as quickly.

Sam smiled though, pulling his injured arm in closer to his torso, cradling it lightly. "Yeah, especially moderation."

Dean looked sideways at his brother. "I'm sorry, Sam," he said, abruptly, his voice choked.

Sam turned to him, the confusion on his face melting into a softer expression. "Dean, you and me? We're going to be okay."

Dean snorted, a wet sound. "Everything's screwed to hell, Sam. I'm your brother, I'm supposed to watch out for you and instead, I wasn't fast enough all because of the choice that I made that you warned me about," Dean said, his voice growing in volume with his agitation.

Sam stood silently, deep in thought. The double meaning and the applicable reversal of Dean's statement wasn't lost on him, but the truth was he hadn't heard this line of reasoning from Dean in a long time. "And I'm your brother," he said, softly countering Dean's argument.

"My little brother," Dean shot back.

Sam nodded, a grin lighting his face momentarily. "Okay, sure, trust you to get caught up in the semantics but, Dean, we have the same job we just go about it in different ways." Dean's brow furrowed as he listened to Sam. "We look out for each other."

Sam kept his expression carefully neutral, no blame, no accusations, but no pity either, just an openness that used to be his signature look, now in rusty disuse. "And I've never doubted my brother had my back."

"Me neither," Dean said with a small grin.


They stood in companionable silence, staring out at the expanse of snow covered prairie grass until Sam started shivering. The first time Sam winced at the movement, Dean ignored it. The second time it was accompanied by a low groan and he couldn't pretend he didn't notice. "Time's up," Dean said. "I'm cold." The younger man gave him a half-grin and a side-long glance. Sam was on to him.

"Yeah, okay," Sam said. He wrapped the end of his scarf around the fingers trapped in the cast, driving the other deep into his pocket.

The brothers trudged towards Bobby's both lost in contemplation. Sam's brow wrinkled deeply and, by the time they were halfway back across the pasture, Dean had worried long enough. The younger man looked exhausted, the slump of his shoulders more hunched than usual. His mouth was a tight line of pain, but the brow wrinkling, that was something else entirely. "Sam, we're good, right?"

If anything, the lines deepened. "Yeah, we're good," Sam agreed. "Why?"

"Because I could lose a quarter in those." Dean swirled a finger near Sam's forehead. "So what gives?"

The younger man stopped walking and turned to face Dean. "It's just, where do we go from here?"

"What do you mean?" Dean asked, a frown tugging his lips at the fear he heard in his own voice.

"No, not like that," Sam said, his expression mirroring his brother's. "I'm not sure what we're supposed to do. Look for Lilith? Wait for a sign?"

"We do what we've always done," the older man insisted. "We keep on hunting and we'll figure it out. Our way."

"How can you possibly know that, Dean? We've got angels some of whom are on our side, some of whom…" Sam stopped, lowering his gaze.

"Are dicks," Dean supplied, his lips curling into a smile.

"Yeah," Sam said, "and demons, ancient seals and end of the world shit. This is so much bigger than the two of us."

Dean nodded, a full beat passing before he bumped Sam's shoulder with his own. "Not to me." He waited, watching his brother's expression and yet he still nearly missed the glimpse of Sammy hiding in the worried hazel depths.

"Me neither," Sam said softly, a slight grin appearing. "So, back to the hunt?"

Dean started walking again, Sam falling into step beside him. "No way, not yet." He waited for the answering huff, pleased when he heard his brother's unmistakable annoyance. Some things hadn't changed so much after all. "Bobby needs our help."

"Mm-hmm," Sam hummed. "For a couple of weeks, got the spiel already."

Dean rolled his eyes. "You know, for being such a cracker-jack hunter, Bobby really sucks at lying sometimes."

Sam nodded, the grin reappearing, deepening. "Kind of amazing considering he can lie to strangers without batting an eye."

Dean chuckled as they crossed through to the back of Bobby's house, neatly bypassing three trip alarms. He opened the door and a warm waft of inside air breezed past them. "You know, when we head out you're on research and back up only."

Sam's eyes sparkled mischievously. "We'll see."

Dean stepped to the side allowing his brother to enter the house first, pressing a hand to Sam's back as he passed by. Maybe he could throw himself back into the hunt, try to make amends for his time in hell, and do his job. And maybe, just maybe, he and Sam really were, finally, okay.



AN: I'm so sorry for the long wait. No excuses, just humble apologies. Thanks for reading!