Fifty minutes was a long time for a walk. No, sorry, fifty-one minutes. Dean didn't doubt that Sam would check in before an hour, but he had a feeling his brother hadn't really walked anywhere.

More like walked, gotten into a car, then drove.

Not that Dean had any proof, but Sam's speech from earlier still weighed on his mind. Sam had talked about going after the "head of the snake". They hadn't sounded like Sam's words. Not with the hesitant pause, then the slight stumbling as he'd said them. More like he was repeating someone else, and Dean had a pretty damn good idea of who. And considering Sam's immediate refusal of anything going on...kid couldn't lie worth crap.

Fifty-three minutes. Dean nursed his drink between his fingers, the deck of cards stacked nicely off to his left. The waitress had awkwardly shuffled them together and placed them on the bar, and hadn't said anything when Dean had taken a seat near them. Just asked him what his choice of poison would be, then had left him to his thoughts.

He felt like there was a sledgehammer being dropped on his head, repeatedly. The parallels between the magic duo and Dean and his own brother made for uneasy thinking. And honestly, Dean didn't even know which one he himself was paralleling. Charlie stepping off the far end, Jay rejecting his offer. Charlie watching out for Jay, Jay feeling lost and confused. Charlie winding up dead after Dean killed him, Sam staring at him with betrayal in his eyes even as he died-

Dean shut his eyes tight until the images swirled away. Too much overlapping. And if Sam felt the same way he did...

Of course he did. It was why he'd taken off. Taken off to Ruby, no doubt, and the thought made fear curl deep in Dean's belly.

"You know, Charlie was like my brother. And now he's dead. Because I did the right thing. So now I have to spend the rest of my life old and alone. What's so right about that?"

Fifty-seven minutes, and Dean's phone finally rang. Without even looking at the caller ID he answered it. "Have a good walk?"

"Not really," Sam answered, sounding tired and off. "Dean, we...we need to talk."

Dean let his head fall forward and took a minute to breathe. "Yeah, I know." Another last breath, and Dean pulled himself up slowly to sitting. "Where are you?"

"Outside." The off part in Sam's voice suddenly sounded a lot like pain, and Dean had no problems sitting up straight now. He clicked the cell phone shut and slid off the barstool, hurrying towards the door and outside.

Sam was to the left of the door, seated against the wall, legs splayed out in front of him like a rag doll. Dean's gut did a little twist with the extra shot of fear, and he all but ran the few steps separating him from Sam. Sam's head was bowed, chin almost to his chest, forcing Dean to slide to his knees to see him. "Sam? What happened?"

Sam tilted his head towards Dean but didn't raise it. Dean pursed his lips and swung one of his legs over his brother's outstretched knees. With the frontward position, he was able to reach out and cradle his brother's face, then lift it to see.

Blood was streaming out of Sam's nose, coating his lips. Dean cursed and dug into his pocket for the handkerchief he usually kept. All he felt was silk, though: the stupid tie he'd been wearing the other day. Without hesitation it came out, and he gently wiped at the blood. "What happened?" he asked, trying to keep the fear out of his voice.

Sam's eyes slowly lifted towards Dean. "I don't wanna do this when I'm an old man," he rasped, and Dean winced at how raw it sounded. "I...I want this to end, Dean. I need this to end. For me." He swallowed, coughed, and his nose started bleeding again. "For you," he added, his voice a whisper.

Dean stared at him, still trying to stop the blood from flowing while he absorbed his brother's words. There was no doubt in his mind what Sam had gone and done now. "You went with Ruby to practice, didn't you," he said, and was fairly pleased with himself when his tone came out level.

Sam winced all the same as if he'd been slapped. "Thirty-four seals, Dean. That's how many have been broken. The angels can't...I have to stop her," he whispered, fast and desperate. His eyes were glued to Dean, and the pain in them was enough to make Dean wish he'd stopped after the first drink.

"Sam-"

"I know you think it's like a drug, that once you get started you can't stop, and maybe you're right but I don't enjoy it, Dean, I swear," and Sam's voice was hoarser now, panic tinging the edges. "I swear I don't," he whispered fretfully. As if he was trying to convince himself as much as Dean, and Dean realized sharply that the parallel wasn't between him and Charlie or Sam and Charlie or Dean and Jay, it was between just Dean and Sam. Of two brothers, desperate to convince the other that there wasn't enjoyment of something terrible and hellish. This was how it used to have been, long before blood mingled with mud and boxes were buried in dirt.

They'd been mirrors for each other for so long, reflecting the other and not fading away because they were each other, and somehow they'd lost that connection, the thing that had made them a joint name instead of separate ones. SamnDean, and god help him, but Dean missed it like an open wound in his chest.

Dean slid his hand down from Sam's face to rest his thumb underneath his brother's jawline, his other fingers resting against Sam's neck. "You do," he said softly, and Sam shut his eyes tight. "I know you enjoy it. You don't want to, but you do." He took in a small breath, then released it in a long exhale full of words. "I know Sam, trust me, and it's okay."

Sam opened his eyes again, looking weary and in pain and worried but confused above everything else, and that was enough for Dean. "It's okay to enjoy it? It's okay for you to know?"

"Both," Dean said. The ground felt hard underneath his knees, hard and wet, but he only pressed against it harder as he sat up and moved in towards Sam. "And...I get it. The power thing. Why you're doing it. God knows I don't want to get old, either," he joked feebly. When Sam didn't smile, Dean let his fake smile fall and put all his sincerity into his next words. "But I don't want it to end bloody or sad, either, like I said before. And that's why you're doing this, because you don't either. Isn't it."

Sam didn't answer, but they both knew he didn't have to. Despite everything that had happened, despite everything Sam had been faced with and been forced to endure, his little brother would always be an optimist. Always hope for a better tomorrow.

It was just lately that Dean was starting to agree with him, and want the way out that Sam was looking for. Which meant he had to stand side by side with Sam, going with the same decisions Sam made. Stand together. And he wondered when it had become the hard thing to do.

"And now he's dead. Because I did the right thing. What's so right about that?"

"Dean?"

Dean swallowed and took the final plunge. Hard or not, it was still the right thing to do. "If you're going to do this, then...I will, too. Not, you know, the actual power thing, since I don't honestly think I could, but-"

Sam's eyes were round with shock, and only a small portion of that was probably from real shock and blood loss. Speaking of which, more blood was starting to flow, and Dean found a clean section of the tie and started mopping up the new blood.

Sam ducked away, his eyes locked on Dean. "Dean, are you...? Y-You don't have to. The angels-"

"Screw 'em," Dean said, and Sam's eyes only got rounder, fear and worry reflecting back to Dean from what Dean was undoubtedly showing, but hope, too. A tiny sliver of hope, and Dean felt it start in his own mind. "I mean it, Sammy," he said, his voice softer this time. "I'm with you. I don't want to get older, but I'm willing to do it if you get old with me. But only if you're there, dude. I'm not getting older any other way."

And Dean hoped to hell that Sam heard what he was really saying, what he'd been trying to say even though the words refused to come out. I'm worried about you, terrified of where this could go, of what you can do, but the only side I'm picking is yours. If it comes down to it, the only way I'll fight is beside you.

Sam eyes began to glisten in the faded light from the bar. "Dean," he whispered, and his single response told Dean that his brother had heard it all.

Dean let a grin slide across his face. "Let's get you back inside, back to the room, okay? We can sort it all out tomorrow."

One day older tomorrow, but Sam would be, too. And Dean was okay with that.

He pulled his brother to his feet, Sam unsteady and wavering dangerously. Their room wasn't far. Tomorrow there'd be awkward discussions and even more awkward silences, but Dean was prepared to deal with it. And eventually, angels and demons would be knocking at the door, but Dean wasn't quite prepared to deal with that yet.

They would be, though. Powers or not, they would stand together.

And together is how they stumbled back up to their hotel room. Bloody, tired, and weary, and about to get old.

Dean smiled, and when he glanced up at Sam, his brother's lips slid upwards. Mirror images.

Together.

END