THE CRUSADE SERIES

PART 1: THE PENITENT MAN

Okay, so here it goes. First attempt at SPN fic. I tried starting a story or two in SGA-community a few years ago, but kind of fizzled out on both the series and writing. I'll try my best to not make the same mistakes this time 'round. But be forewarned that I'm not entirely sure where I'm headed with this one. (In theory, there will be three stories in the Crusade-verse… but I figured I should test of the waters before going completely overboard.)

SUMMARY: Sam's made a decision, but will Dean ever understand what's going on in his brother's head. Picks up a month after "It's the Great Pumpkin Sam Winchester" and goes AU from there. Angsty Dean POV. First in the Crusade 'verse. WIP.

NOTE: I'm trying out a technique I read somewhere in another fic. Inner thoughts that a character's not willing to admit are in parenthesis. You'll see what I mean. Speak up if it's too confusing. I'd love to credit the author responsible, if anyone knows who it might be…

DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters/ story plots of Supernatural. This is just for fun.

WARNINGS: Lots of cursing. Religious Themes. Disregard for Canon storyline.

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"Only the penitent man will pass. Only the penitent man will pass…. The penitent man is humble... He kneels before God." ~ The Last Crusade

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Chapter 1

"No…no…no…….not again."

After everything that's happened lately, I just know that I've got to be hallucinating that empty bed next to me. I grab a fistful of the threadbare motel blankets and try closing my eyes, but nope, Sammy's bed stays empty. I'm not sure what woke me up, but 3:14 is glowing in sadistic red from the radio alarm, pushing me back for an unwelcome moment into the dream (nightmare / flashback) that I'd been having.

My back cracks as I push myself to standing. The only reason I'm not already planning out my little brother's death, is the sight of my girl sitting safely in her spot in the deserted lot out front. But seeing my baby is good and bad. Good, because it means I don't need to smother my car-thieving kid brother in his sleep (as if he ever sleeps…) But bad, because we're pit stopped in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, and the only thing around for miles is a whole lot of nothing.

There's a sad little gas station about fifteen miles back, but even they'd been locking up for the night at 10pm when I talked my way into some M&Ms and Fritos. Of course Sammy the anorexic Green Giant, said he wasn't hungry. But even if the store had still been open, I don't figure Sam set off on a two-hour walk for a midnight snack. Which leaves a very worried older brother and a whole lot of unfamiliar woods.

I might give him a hard time, but I really don't think that Sam went and called up Ruby. He knows how pissed off (hurt / horrified / intimidated) I was in that mausoleum when he broke his promise and pulled out the demon mojo. I'm not even angry with him really, just so completely tired of the never-ending crap that gets thrown at us. And yeah, maybe a little resentful. We're not quite back to 'okay' yet, but I was hoping we were heading that way…

I mean… maybe I hadn't talked much while driving away from the last hunt. But (surprise, surprise) things hadn't turned out like we planned. We've had a bunch of rough jobs over the last couple of weeks. Neither of us was doing so hot. I just needed a bit of time to get my head back in the game, and Sammy's a big boy.

He hadn't even seemed angry about the music, so I don't think he's out sulking. But who knows. The kid's a bottomless pit of angst. Maybe he remembered stepping on a bug yesterday and he's sitting on a rock somewhere mourning. I can't help snorting at the mental image of Samantha, the reining emo champion. Though the smile slips away just as quickly. Okay… so Sam being a girl never stops being hilarious. But, the thought of him crying alone in the middle of the dark woods… an open target for anything… not so funny. Especially if he's out there to avoid his big brother.

My jaw clenches at how much 'avoiding' my little brother's been doing lately. Even when he's right in the room, it feels like he's not really there. Sam's always gotten lost in his own head. But the last few weeks he's seemed even more spacey than usual. He'd been permanently sporting that crease in his forehead that I hate, and I can't even remember the last time I heard the geek laugh.

Well, that's just great…. Now I can feel my chest tightening up on me; familiar churn in my gut that only Sammy stirs up. But it's not like I'm scared or anything. Dean Winchester doesn't do fear. I'm just confused (terrified)… and I don't like being confused when it comes to Sammy. I'm supposed to be the expert. Of course lately, the only predictable thing Sammy's been doing is disappearing from his bed in the middle of the night. And that's not exactly the dependable behavior I'm looking for.

I look down, and I'm surprised to see that I'm already half-dressed. Guess there's some habits that never change. I slide on my boots and jacket before reaching for the doorknob and steeling myself for the blast of night air. It's not quite winter; but it sometimes feels like the Midwest's only got two seasons. Anyway, stomping through the cold woods in bumfuck Minnesota is not where I want to be at three in the morning. But I've got a brother to find.

Damnit Sam. If you're sitting on a log, contemplating your navel or something… you're gonna wish for a return to the good old days of Nair in your shampoo (please just be meditating on a log).

To kill time while I stumble through the woods, I start brainstorming out ways to start Sammy-proofing the hotel rooms; or better yet, Sammy-proofing Sam. I wonder if they make those leash harnesses for toddlers in size yeti? Maybe he'd agree to one of those house-arrest ankle cuffs? Then again, with his history of getting kidnapped, that might be a waste. I got it, a GPS tracking chip! I could lo-jack his ass…

I'm so caught up in planning, that I almost miss the muffled cracking sound coming from my right. The shattered nighttime stillness makes the silence of my search suddenly and painfully obvious. How could I not realize I haven't been calling out for Sam while I walked? There hadn't been any signs of struggle in hotel room, but for some reason it just seems like I shouldn't be making noise. I'm not sure why, but it feels important and I learned a long time ago to trust my instincts.

It's a split-second decision that changes my world forever. I know I'll never in my life forget the sight in that clearing. I wonder how different things might have been if I'd yelled out for my brother when searching the woods that night. But maybe there is such a thing as fate, because man did he need to be found before things got any worse.

TBC