"Supernatural" and all things Winchester are owned and operated by the Great Kripke; a true magician.

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Ice Cream

by Fraidy Cat

Sam was lightly dozing when Dean found the only gas station in town and stopped to fill the tank. Dean spared him a glance. Sam's head was leaning against the passenger window, but Dean could tell he wasn't deeply out; for one thing, he wasn't snoring. No, this was probably all part of an intricate plan to avoid pumping gas.

Dean slammed his door a little harder than necessary when he climbed out of the car. He smirked to himself when Sam straightened in the seat as if he'd been shot. In truth, Dean didn't care who pumped the gas. It might as well be him, since he intended to hunt out the facilities anyway. He leaned over and waved at Sam through the driver's side window, waggling an eyebrow. Sam just rolled his eyes and turned his head to the view on his side of the car.

There wasn't much to see. In an earlier era, this would have been called a "one-horse town". At least the Winchesters were only passing through on their way to a job Bobby had lined up for them.

Sam was staring pensively across the street when Dean creaked open his door ten minutes later, and jumped back into the Impala. "Dude," he began, rubbing his hands together before starting the engine, "it's colder than a witch's…"

"Dean," Sam interrupted, "do we have time to stop for ice cream?"

Dean looked at Sam as if he was speaking...well, Latin. "Huh?"

A blush crept onto Sam's face and he hung his head sheepishly, his long hair flopping over his forehead. "It's just that, I was surprised. That a town this small would have a Dairy Queen®. Isn't that a national franchise?"

Dean leaned forward a little to look out of Sam's window. "Huh," he said again. He wasn't even sure the place was open – there were no cars in front. "Sam, it's what? 40 degrees outside?"

Sam glanced at him, shrugging. "They have other stuff. You don't have to get ice cream. You could have a burger."

Dean shook his head, as if to clear away cobwebs. "We just had lunch two hours ago." He snorted. "Well, some of us had lunch. Some of us just pushed stuff around on our plates. If you'd actually eaten, you wouldn't be starving now!"

Sam bristled slightly. "You're not my father," he sulked petulantly. "Besides, I'm still not all that hungry. Never mind."

Dean heaved a put-upon sigh and started the engine. He allowed its satisfied purr to settle his nerves before he spoke again. "So why the sudden craving for ice cream? Just because it's there?"

Ordinarily, Sam would never admit what he was about to admit – but he was tired of keeping secrets, tired of lying, tired of the growing distance between him and his brother. "My throat's a little sore," he said. "I just thought…."

A shadow crossed Dean's face, and he threw the car into gear. "How long?" he asked, almost angrily. "It's those damn tonsils again." He pointed the vehicle toward the Dairy Queen® and peeled out of the gas station.

Sam felt a little guilty, but he had been feeling so much more than a little guilty for so long that it was almost a relief. "It's not bad," he said softly. "Really, Dean, we don't have to stop."

Dean burned rubber as he squealed into the restaurant's parking lot and slid into a space. He shifted the car into park, but did not turn off the engine. Instead, he glared at the dashboard, angst coming off him in waves. "If you weren't so damn stubborn," he said, "you would have had your tonsils out already. I had mine out at 3, like any reasonable child."

Sam huffed. "Dude, you were 3," he protested. "How could you possibly remember that?"

Dean turned his head completely away from Sam, so that he was looking out the driver's side window. "I remember because Mom was there," he answered quietly.

Now, Sam felt almost as guilty as his road trips with Ruby made him feel. It had not been his intention to cause Dean pain; that was never his intention, and yet it was all he seemed to do anymore. "Oh," he finally responded. He let a few seconds pass before he spoke again. "Seriously, Dean. I'll just get some throat lozenges or something when we stop for the night. Maybe there are even still some in the first aid kit."

Dean turned his head to face the windshield in front of him again and leaned to kill the motor and grab the keys from the ignition. "There should be," he said, his tone leaking sarcasm. "You've had a dozen sore throats in the last couple of years, since before I…." He stopped, then started again as if nothing had happened. "Since that time back in Chicago, when I dragged your ass into a free clinic and the doc there told us you needed to have your tonsils out."

Sam exhaled, and raised one hand to rub at his head. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

Dean twirled the keys in his hand. "Do you want me to go in and get you something? Maybe we should stop early – are you getting a fever?"

Sam swallowed and blinked back tears. He didn't mean for any of this to happen. He probably did have a fever, because it was all getting mixed up in his head. He wanted ice cream because his throat hurt; he went with Ruby because Lilith had to pay. Ruby and his powers were the best tools available to deal with the demon bitch, just like ice cream was the best tool available to soothe the burning in his throat. "I'm sorry," he croaked again. "I couldn't stop her in time, and I'm sorry." He dropped his hand and turned his head toward Dean. His eyes flashed. "She has to pay for what she did to you. For every second of every day of every year, she'll pay."

There was an ache in the vicinity of Dean's heart – which frankly, he had never understood. Sure, he was no med student, but even he knew that a heart was just a glorified water pump squeezed into your chest. There was no rational reason for this feeling.

When he considered it, though, there was no rational reason for most of his life – or Sam's. It was what it was, and the only thing – the only thing – that made sense of any of it was the way they felt about each other. They had each other's backs; they always had. Maybe he didn't understand what Sam was doing; maybe it scared him shitless even before angels from freakin' heaven started threatening to off his brother; yet in the end, things were what they were.

Dean cleared his throat. "I remember…she brought me lots of ice cream. Whenever I wanted." He smiled at the memory, and Sam's own lips lifted to see it. Without looking at his brother, Dean reached out a hand to slap Sam on the thigh. "So come on, Sasquatch; it's a family tradition, now. Deanie will buy you a cone."

Sam's smile widened, and his guilt lightened, and his throat…well, his throat hurt – but it already felt better.

Dean made everything better.

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end