Disclaimer: Still don't own them. Damn it. .

Sam's thoughts on Dean's Deal occurred to me while I was watching Fresh Blood. I wanted to make something more out of it, but this felt finished before I had intended it to. I believe this is actually the shortest fic I have ever written.

Breaking Down

He managed to keep it in until Dean was off on another one of his conquests, leaving him in the car because he couldn't be bothered to get a hotel room first. Dean had finally stopped staring at him every five minutes, but that didn't mean he was willing to let him get out of earshot, and somehow this 'solution' had become a twisted compromise. But once he was certain Dean was ... distracted, he felt the tight feeling in his chest that hadn't faded since the moment Dean confessed about The Deal grow again.

He wheezed, struggling to breathe, and closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the seat as he let out a shaky sigh that soon turned into a sob. He didn't feel the tears until his face was already wet, but didn't bother to wipe them away. They continued to roll slowly down his cheeks, as he sobbed in the quiet of the car.

One year. One year with the only family member he had left, the only person who he could truly define as family. He loved his dad, but no matter what Dean wanted to believe, he'd always been more of a drill sergeant than a father figure. His mom was someone he'd lost before he was old enough to remember her, and the closest thing they had to extended family was Dad's hunting friends.

Dean had raised him, comforted him, tortured him, and loved him all his life. He was both parents and sibling all rolled into one, something it had taken Stanford for him to see. Dean wasn't just his brother, he was his brother. How many other people had he met that could say with honest and complete certainty that their brother would do anything for them?

Even sell their soul to hell to keep them alive.

Another sob ripped though him, this one so harsh it made him double over, coughing as he curled in on himself. What was he supposed to do without Dean? How ... how could he even try?

This wasn't like Stanford. At Stanford, there had always been the hope that someday Dean would call. The knowledge that if it really came down to it, Dean would answer if he needed him. He'd been alone, but he hadn't been ... alone.

Not like this.

There wouldn't be a safety net after the end of this year. No Dean to fall back on, no Dean to come through for him at the last second. There'd just be him. All by himself.

He wasn't strong enough for that.

No matter what Dean thought, Sam wasn't as strong as he tried to pretend he was. And he only tried because Dean needed him to be strong. If he wasn't strong enough to back Dean up, then Dean could be killed. Or worse. And no matter what, he couldn't that to happen to his brother.

But without Dean to make him be strong, keep him sane, why would he even need to be? Why should he care? What was left for him after this? Hunting? Bobby? Hunting had never been something he did because he wanted to, and while he loved Bobby, Bobby wasn't family in the sense that Dean was.

His life began and ended with Dean. It was a dramatic way to put it, and Dean would have called him a girl - again, but it was true. Dean had saved him as an infant, raised him into his teens, saved him as an adult when he would have died watching Jess burn, and forced him to find a purpose in his life again. Without Dean around, what was he supposed to do now?

He sniffled, reaching for the pocket tissues he'd snagged at a gas station a few days ago. Dean would have said they were a sissy thing to have, but Jess had taught him that they came in handy more often than not. Not that he'd been expecting to use them like this.

He heard the sound of the front door of the house opening and closed his eyes, shoving the used tissue in his pocket. He shifted like he was rolling over in his sleep to rest his head against the window, slowly letting out his breath as the glass cooled his forehead. The sound of the driver's side door opening made his eyes burn again, and he scrunched them tighter to keep any more tears from falling.

The car started up, but didn't pull away immediately. Instead there was a long silence as Dean waited for ... something. He didn't open his eyes to find out.

He started a little when a hand reached over to brush his hair back, and heard a sigh. "Aw, Sammy ... " Dean murmured. The hand moved to his shoulder, hesitated there for a moment, and at last retreated.

Sam kept his eyes closed, ignoring that Dean knew he wasn't asleep. And Dean let him pretend.

At last he felt the Impala shift, and move off into the night.