Alright…the last chapter. Never thought I'd make it…but here it is.

I'm surprisingly calm posting this, so you'll be the judge if that's a good or a bad thing ;-)

From this dark room

Chapter 18

"Hey…"

Sam approached the carcass of one of the gutted trucks that lay rusting away in the back of Bobby's salvage yard.

"Hey…"

Dean, who was sitting on the hood of a old ford-pickup didn't so much as take his eyes off whatever he was looking at, one leg stretched out in front of him, the other bend at the knee, left arm held to his side. His fingers nimbly held on to the neck of an almost-empty beer bottle that sat between his thighs on the rusted and dented hood of the car.

Sam ambled over another couple of steps, rounding the huge Rottweiler/Doberman mix that lay sprawled on its side next to one of the front tires - or rather, next to where the front tires were supposed to be. It barely opened its eye, ear twitching, then grunting and stretching before lying still again.

Sam lifted his hand that held two newly opened, still sweating bottles of Dean's favorite brew, wiggling them slightly. He spilled a little over his fingers and he carefully licked it off before repeating the motion more carefully this time.

"Think I could join the party? I've got something to buy my way in if that's what it takes!"

Dean glanced over, raising one eyebrow and Sam couldn't help but notice he was still a bit too pale, a bit too haggard, his cheeks a little too caved in, his hair a little too ruffled to appear as normal and alright as he no doubt wanted to appear.

"I'm afraid the party is closed due to overcrowding, Sammy. Sorry. No space available."

Sam grunted, moved over and climbed the dangerously rusted fender anyway, waiting for his brother to scoot over on the hood and make space for him to sit down in a mirror stance to Dean's, their shoulders almost touching.

"There's always space for one more, dude." Sam said softly while handing one bottle over to his brother. But he didn't mean the beer, and they both knew it.

Dean took the last swig out of his old bottle, let it drop to the ground next to the car and grabbed the new one with still slightly stiff fingers. He didn't take another drink right away, but started drawing circular designs into the sweaty glass with his thumb, looking wistful.

"You know, you always said that."

"Said what?"

"When you were little, and you woke up from a nightmare or were scared of a thunderstorm or the monster in the closet and you wanted to crawl into my bed in the middle of the night… I used to say that there wasn't enough space for the both of us and you always said but Dean, I'm not that tall, there's got to be room for me… Always got you way with that one…"

"Yeah, right. You SO just made that up!"

Dean shook his head, smiling faintly.

"Did not. Man, you were one insistent little bugger. Always ended up with the biggest part of the blanket, too. Almost kicked me out of bed on more than one occasion."

Sam just sat, took a swig out of his bottle, actually glimpsing something that felt like a memory flashing before his inner eye.

"Must have been before it became socially awkward to share a bed then…I remember vividly the times when dad didn't give us a choice though, renting rooms with only two beds to save some money. Remember that one time, I don't know when or where exactly, but we were bitching and whining about it for hours until dad forced us to sleep on the floor so we'd see how good we actually had it having even one bed to start with…?"

Dean's head tipped a little to the side, eyes still averted.

"Yeah…was before a lot of things…was before you grew to be a freaking giant, pretty much pushing me out of the bed as soon as you fell asleep and I ended up having to sleep in yours anyway. I always knew you were swinging in a different direction then, still never had the heart to deny you anything though…"

The smile Dean used while saying it disarmed the statement right away, leaving nothing of the stale taste behind that had accompanied each and every single sentence he'd delivered over the past couple of days.

"Not my fault you stopped growing at the age of four, man…"

Dean flipped him a one-fingered answer to that, which was actually a kind of two fingered one since the fingers of his right hand still wouldn't really work properly, middle and ring finger splinted together, the whole limb swollen and puffy, the wrist bandaged thickly. Then he quickly put the bottle to his mouth with his left, trying in vain to hide the smirk that had begun to settle on his lips. But even if he'd been successful, the smile around his eyes, fine lines crowding to soften his features, the smile he couldn't hide as easily, was still there.

Maybe they were getting better again. Sam hadn't thought it possible anymore. Not after as many ups and downs as they'd had in the past couple of days, months…hell, probably even years.

"I must have been a pain in the ass…" Sam said softly.

"Still are." Dean shot back, far too quickly and as if on autopilot, as if it was something he'd been programmed to say at the right moment, the right cue-word.

Sam took another swig of his beer he used to hide his own smile behind. Dean was still staring down, peeling at the label of his bottle, pulling the edge off and rolling them between his fingers to form a little ball he then flicked off onto the trampled and brown grass in front of the car.

"Still love me though." Sam said quietly, mouth tugged into a half-smile, praying that he got it right, that he wasn't taking it too fast. He still had the feeling that they could break apart again any second, their relationship too fragile to warrant too much teasing.

"Yeah…what can I say…I'm an awesome big brother. The most patient one, too. Always have been. Too soft a heart for those puppy dogs you learned to pull on me from, like, when you were barely a day old. Got you the last cookie every single time."

"Maybe that's why I continued growing past the size of a midget, then…"

"Midget my ass." Dean countered quickly "You know that girls like to have a shoulder to lean on, not a bellybutton to stub their nose in…"

Sam barked a short laugh.

"Jealous, much?"

"Like hell…"

They both took another swig of their beer simultaneously, looking out over the salvage yard as if it was the most beautiful scenery ever, some sunset or mountain or soft flowing river. And to them it almost appeared that way. Scratch the tires and rusted cars piled on top of each other, the dried grass and dust covering the ground and use some of your imagination and it almost was the most beautiful place they'd ever been. What was so special about beaches and mountains anyway? The house and garage – Bobby - and, hell, to Dean even the cars all they needed to be happy, right? This life at least taught them to care about the really important things, in the end.

"You know…I'm going to be alright, Sammy… We're going to be alright…"

Dean's voice startled Sam out of his reverie and he momentarily forgot the not looking straight at Dean rule and looked over, eyebrows raised imploringly.

"What…? Uhm…yeah, Dean, sure. We are…"

Now what the hell…? Where had that come from all of a sudden?

"No, you know…I mean it. I know you…Bobby too…you're worried about me… But I'm alright. I'll be back on my feet in a day or two and we can get moving again - find us another hunt. We could leave right now, actually. I just…don't wanna disappoint Bobby and leave too soon. You know, at his age and all, he needs to feel needed…"

Sam couldn't help but stare at Dean's profile, couldn't look away from what he realized was supposed to be Dean's most determined face but turned out to look more like he wanted to persuade himself more than anybody else.

"Uhm, Dean…I know you are feeling better and all, but there's no hurry. We kinda have an open invitation, so why don't we just take it easy and stay, get you back on your feet, let you get your strength back. You have to be exhausted still…"

Sam knew the moment the words left his mouth that it had been the wrong approach. Never make this about Dean, Sam knew it, the number one rule in the how to deal with Dean Winchester book. Never make it about Dean but make it seem as if it was about Sam instead, or Bobby, or dad, or a complete stranger even…anyone but Dean himself. He might consider playing along with it then.

"I'm fine, Sam. I told you. I'm fine. Got plenty of rest as it is. I didn't do much, period, didn't even get hurt real bad or anything. I'm feeling good, we could leave right now, if that's what you want - if you need any proof…"

Dean's whole body had tensed up again, fingers tight around the neck of the beer bottle. His face closed off and Sam could have kicked himself - and mentally he did just that. Tried desperately to find a way out of this.

"I'm not…I wasn't…Jesus, Dean, ease up, will you? I wasn't suggesting that you weren't as capable or anything. I just…you need a break, Dean. Hell, I need a break. You think this has been easy on me?"

And damn again. Right from bad to worse. One could think that he would be able to actually think before opening his goddamn mouth.

Dean nodded tensely, the muscles in his jaw cording and twitching as he lowered his head, letting his lashes cover his eyes, curtaining himself off.

"Dean…"

"No, no, you're right. I messed up. Big time. And I'm sorry. I don't know…how I can make it up for you, Sam, but I'll find a way. I'll make this up to you, I'll make this right again… I'll find a way."

Dean made to get up and Sam knew that if he let him go now, he'd most likely need to start all over, if he ever even got the chance again, that was. And he was just so sick of waiting.

"Fuck no, Dean. You don't get to walk away from me now. We need to talk about this? So lets talk. Now. No more stalling or avoiding or beating around the bush. We talk. Now."

The force behind his own voice surprised Sam himself and apparently Dean was taken a little off his track as well as he looked at him wide eyed for maybe a second too long before closing up again.

"There's nothing to talk about…I messed up. I'm sorry. Case closed. It won't happen again."

Dean turned away, taking an angry swig of his beer, his posture radiating anger and…impatience – at himself, at getting caught off his guard like that. Sam knew that the only thing keeping his brother from getting up and walking away from him at the moment was the fact that, the way he'd been sitting here for probably some hours already, his muscles would not obey quite as unconditional and smoothly as he would have liked. Dean knew that. And he wouldn't allow for what he would think to be a weakness to show, so he forced himself to stay and sit it out.

Fine, if that's what it took, so be it. Right now Sam would take whatever help he could get.

"How did you mess up, Dean? You got possessed, it happens. To the best of us." Sam's grin was left unanswered. OK, so they were past that point already – or not quite there yet. Either way, it had been worth the try.

"It doesn't just happen, Sam. I let it happen. And I couldn't fight it…"

"Like hell you let it happen, Dean. He jumped you. You didn't know…we didn't know. And you did fight, goddamn it, you fought nails and teeth."

"Then I probably should have fought harder."

The dog next to the car sat up, ears perking as he no doubt picked up the tensed atmosphere between them, looking at Sam and Dean in turn, the sight almost comical.

"What are you talking about…trying harder? We didn't know. You got jumped. You fought it. With all you had. You know what this thing is capable of, you read the book, you know, Dean. It could have happened to anyone, hell, it could have happened to me, if I would have sat in that chair instead of you."

"Yeah, great, but it wasn't you, it was me. And with all we know, what we found out, I should have been able to beat this. Or at least leave you behind until we figured this out. Before…"

Sam was so frustrated, he felt like slamming the beer bottle right into Dean's face, just to beat some sense into his clearly impaired brother. Only, he doubted that another hit on the head would do him more good than harm.

"God, you are…you're impossible, you know that? What the hell's wrong with you? Are you looking for something to blame yourself for, is that it? You need to suffer in order to feel whole or something? I know you aren't stupid or anything, but sometimes I really doubt your sanity, Dean. This…I don't even know what to say to you…"

The dog had gotten up, stretching and yawning seemingly incuriously while at the same time eyeing them out of the corner of it's eyes and Sam couldn't shake the distinct feeling that the dog would be ready to pounce on him the minute he got off the car, no doubt trying to protect Dean. Even though it seemed outwardly relaxed the huge animal emanated the same sense of tension, ready to spring into action coil of muscle and mind that also made Dean the dangerous hunter that he was.

So, better not get off the car while they were still fighting or rather, arguing then. Sam really didn't fancy fighting off the 100 pound dog and then chasing after his brother, leg chewed up to a bloody pulp.

"Just cut it out, Sam. Let's just forget I ever said anything, alright?"

That about did it.

"No, no, Dean, we don't just forget. We sort this out. Now. I wanna go back to normal again, you got me? I'm sick and tired of us traipsing around each other. We've been through this before…we were getting better, Dean. I don't want us losing that again. It's just the two of us now, no more dad to blame anything on, to let off steam with. We're in this together - all of it. Just, please, don't make this any harder than it already is, alright? I get that you feel terrible, I get it. I've been there, too, remember?"

Sam shuddered at the memory, the feeling of self-recrimination, of guilt. But Dean hadn't let him beat himself up, had kept him from delving even deeper into his misery. And if Dean had managed to do it, Sam could, too.

"I felt like shit, but weren't you the one who told me that it wasn't my fault, that I shouldn't blame myself? I remember you saying that, over and over and over again, through all my nightmares and worries and moments of self-destruction. Hell, Dean, I lied to you, ran away from you, shot you, beat you up…and still you insisted that it wasn't my fault, that you didn't blame me. So, you lied to me on that one? You actually do blame me after all?"

At that Dean straightened, whipped his head around to latch dangerously glinting eyes on him, chin dipped low.

"You know that's not true. I didn't…I don't… That wasn't your fault, Sam."

Sam spread his hands in a helpless gesture, left palm turned outwards, the other hand still clutching the damn beer-bottle like a fucking lifeline.

"Alright…so, how is it that it wasn't my fault back then, but it's yours now? Enlighten me here, Dean because I really want to see the logic in this… Where do you draw the line as to who's to blame and who isn't?"

"It just…that was different, Sam…"

"How? How was that different Dean? I don't get it."

"That was…it was…"

Dean was flailing, but Sam wasn't going to let him get the hook.

"What? It was what?" he pressed, leaning closer.

"It was you…it was different because it was you."

Sam stopped short at that. Just for a second.

"That's no explanation, Dean. How is it that you get to be judged by different standards than me?"

Dean looked like a deer caught in the headlight, wishing desperately to be able to pounce off into the forest just feet away, yet hopelessly unable to simply move a single muscle.

"I…this was me, Sam. You get that? It wasn't some kind of demon possessing me, taking over my body to use for it's own intentions and purposes. It was me, live and uncensored. A part of me, no black smoke or eyes or anything the like, no skin walker using my awesome looks for its advantage. It was me and nobody but me. Me doing those things, me saying those things, me…hurting you…wanting to kill you… You have no idea…no idea how that felt, Sam…knowing."

Dean took a deep, shuddering breath.

"I knew what I was saying to you, I knew what I was doing. I knew that it was wrong…and I still did it. It wasn't like with you and Meg…I was completely aware, you know, at all times. I saw you, I knew it was you, who you were and what you meant to me and still…I wanted to stop but I fucking couldn't. That's why it's different Sam. Because when you were possessed, it was Meg, her doing this, her using you. But this here, that was me, no one else. No one else to blame but me…"

He was almost out of breath after his confession, everything breaking out of him with such force, it almost blew Sam right off the car and into the dirt surrounding it. Dean was stunned by it himself, he was breathing heavily, his hand clenched into a fists so tight, Sam was afraid he was going to break the bottle of beer he was still holding onto. His knuckles were turning white already and Sam instinctively reached forward stopping just short of touching though, not sure if he was allowed to make contact yet, if it wouldn't only serve to make matters worse.

Sam shifted his body around, forcing Dean to look at him, giving him no choice but to look straight at him or away on purpose and Sam was fully prepared to grab his brother's face and make him keep up the eye-contact if need be. The car creaked dangerously underneath his shifting weight, making the dog take a couple of steps back before sitting down again, it's whole attention focused unabashedly onto them now.

No more playing pretend.

"You listen to me now, Dean, and you listen good."

Dean's head snapped back a little as he no doubt realized that there was no way out for him anymore. The windshield at his back, Sam in front. To his side freedom, sure, but he needed to get off the damn car first, and he no doubt knew that he wouldn't be fast or agile enough to so without either Sam getting to him first or him falling rather ungracefully on his way down. Neither option seemed to appeal to him right now.

"There is no way you make this about you again, you hear me? You were possessed, Dean, possessed. That thing, call it whatever you like, crawling inside of you and turning you against yourself. It took your…feelings and emotions and memories, all the love and devotion and whatever else it could get a hold of and twisted them around."

Sam threw up his hands, let them slump down again theatrically.

"So, yeah, it wasn't quite as impressive as me being inhabited by a chick and all, no binding link and black smoke and cracking the ceiling by sheer power of will, but under no circumstances, no way whatsoever was that thing you, Dean. It wasn't even close. Just a piss poor spin off, nothing else. It just used you, tried to break you. I know you fought it, I saw you give me that tiny window of opportunity to fight you off when you were trying to cut my throat, saw you fight back so I could get the drop on you. You didn't let it win, you beat it. We beat it. End of story. You never grew tired of telling me that you didn't blame me and you expected me to believe you, right?"

Dean just stared at him, head slightly down, doing that shadowing the eyes thing again that sometimes drove Sam mad. Just like right now.

"Dean…you expected me to believe because you really meant it, right?"

Finally, Dean nodded, almost imperceptibly.

"'Course I do."

"Right, so why don't you cut me some slack and believe me now, alright? I'm telling you it wasn't your fault. None of it. And, sure, it was hell, on me too, Dean, but me being possessed wasn't exactly a walk in the park for you either, so I guess we can call it even. And don't give me crap like mine was worse than yours or anything like that, because you can't really win that competition, dude, and you know it. We close this case now, once and for all and call it even. We can talk about this all you want, which I know you won't, but we can, just so you know. But you will stop blaming yourself or, so help me god …"

Dean snorted, had to clear his throat before it came out a halfway decent sound, his voice not cracking anymore. Sam thought he saw a glint of wetness in the corner of his eyes, glazing over the radiant green, but he couldn't really be sure since Dean was too quick to avert his gaze, cover it up again.

"That was one hell of a speech there… How many times did you watch Good Will Hunting, Sammy?"

"Don't make fun of this, Dean. Just don't. I need you to take this seriously, alright? Just this once. Let's just pretend that you are not some smart-ass-know-it-all and please don't make fun of me on this… I was terrified, Dean, you get that? I was terrified that I was going to lose you. Do you have any idea?"

Dean's eyes flicked over to his briefly but Sam didn't give his brother a chance to interrupt.

"You were out for over three days, Dean. Three days. You didn't wake up for almost 75 hours. Do you have any idea what that did to me…watching you lie there, not moving, then seizing and cramping and practically foaming from the mouth …? I didn't sleep, Dean, for over 50 hours after the…exorcism I didn't dare close my eyes because I was afraid that the moment I would, you'd stop breathing. You chipped about 10 years off me and Bobby both, dude, all that worry, all that waiting…"

"I'm sorry…"

"Don't…don't be sorry, Dean. I don't want you to be sorry. Do you have any idea how I felt, thinking that, maybe, I'd signed your death warrant, that I actively had a hand in killing my own brother? And yeah, I know what dad asked of you and I think that I get it now…I get it. Because I almost did, Dean, I almost killed you. I tied you up and held you down and carved something into your chest…"

Dean's bandaged and splinted hand instinctively flipped up towards his chest, laying over the spot on his pec that still throbbed with a burning sensation, with searing heat every once in a while, waking him almost every night from some unwelcome dream. Sam knew. And he winced along with his brother, closed his eyes in pain as he remembered doing that to Dean, remembered the look of horror and disbelief and hatred Dean had given him right before he'd finally passed out, only to stay like that for goddamn three days straight.

"We had no idea if you were going to wake up again, no idea if you were going to be…yourself again after or if that thing had taken too much of you already for you to ever be whole again. We had nothing to go by but one single, questionable account of that exorcism. You know, I was almost willing to actually untie you, right before we started, untie you and let you go out and fucking kill someone, anyone, just so you could get all that anger and hatred out of your system."

Sam couldn't believe he was saying this, couldn't believe he admitted to the terrifying thoughts that had crossed his mind. He sure wasn't proud of himself, but the fear for his brother had been too damn strong…

"I was willing to risk some innocent life to try something that would have most likely not worked. I was desperate, Dean, I was fucking scared shitless. If it wasn't for Bobby, I don't know if I'd been able to pull through this, not by myself. But you know what, none of this matters. Because we made it – it's over and done with. But if you bail out on me now, if you turn your back and shut me out, there'd be no sense to it, anymore."

Sam gulped in a breath, ran a weary hand over his eyes before going on.

"I get it, you know, all that blind devotion and faith and willingness to give up everything for your family, Dean. Because those days when I watched you lie there, no idea if you were ever going to wake up again, I would have been willing to give everything to get you back. I always would have, you know that, but seeing this…seeing you… I won't let you beat yourself up. I wanted you back, I got you back, I deserve to have you back, damn it. You owe me that much, Dean, you owe me to be my brother again."

The silence that fell between them was heavy and only broken by the heavy huff of the dog as it started inching closer to the car, obviously getting nervous. It's keen canine senses picking up on the strained vibe in the air, ready to protect Dean, no doubt, contributor of many a tender show of affection, a snatched away piece of chicken breast or nibbled off pork rib over the past two days.

A low, almost questioning growl sounded from somewhere to the side and Sam tensed a little.

He eyed the dog out of the corner of his eyes, not daring to take his eyes away form his brother's face completely, fearing that he'd lose him if he turned away now. He knew the huge animal would have no problem getting up on the car with one probably not even very large leap. He wasn't usually afraid of dogs, liked them more than Dean did, as a matter of fact, but this right now made him just a tad nervous. It was as if the dog was mirroring Dean's state of mind, almost, as if the animal was able to feel what his brother was feeling, reacting as Dean would never be able to react, never allow him self to react out in the open.

When Dean cleared his throat, Sam almost jumped out of his skin. It was only now he realized that he'd taken a hold of his brother's shoulder, the good one in a pretty harsh grip. The other shoulder Dean still held close to his chest even though he had just this morning refused to wear the straps holding it immobile anymore.

Sam unclenched his fingers quickly, eased up and smoothed the fabric of Dean's shirt apologetically before letting his hand drop back into his lap. Still able to reach out any second, still close enough.

"So…uhm…" Dean rasped, then cleared his throat dryly "…you wanna call it even…"

Sam nodded, eager like a five-year-old, he realized, but what the hell.

"Yeah…"

Dean nodded too, running his tongue over his bottom lip, unconsciously smoothing his still bandaged and swollen hand over that spot on his chest, poking at the gauze underneath the shirt until he winced in obvious pain but still not stopping. Sam finally reached out, gently plucked the hand away from his chest, feeling the muscles in Dean's forearm flex for an instant before going lax again, allowing Sam to deposit the limb back in Dean's lap.

Dean again nodded, eyes actually flicking up as he dipped his chin upwards, meeting Sam's gaze for the first time during their talk, for the first time not drawing away again immediately.

"You think I owe you that…"

It was a statement more than a question.

Sam felt like one of those dogs in the back of a car, head bobbing up and down continuously during the drive. Those things would drive him insane. Right now the thought made him smile.

"Yeah, I think you do."

"And then we'd be even?"

"Yep, I think I could live with that."

Dean shrugged, looking away, furrowing his brow, apparently thinking it through.

Sam could see him locking eyes with the dog, the animal's gaze not wavering as it held Dean's eyes before suddenly dropping back down to the ground with a heavy thud. It rested its huge head on its front paws with an exaggerated sigh before blinking its lids shut. Sam thought he still saw a slit of amber peeking out, realizing that the dog still kept up his guard, not shutting down completely. Still doing its job.

"So…if I say yes to that now, there's no taking it back later, right?"

Sam thought he'd detected a very faint hint of a teasing undertone in Dean's voice, but he was still far too serious to be absolutely nonchalant, so Sam chose to take his own advice to heart and not make fun of this right now. Not that he felt like it…

"No, absolutely no turning back. You commit yourself, that's going to be the end of it."

Again that nodding thing, it seemed to be somewhat compulsive with them, lately.

"You don't seem to give me much of a choice here…"

"No, I'm not. You should have thought about that when you delivered the speech to me back after we got rid of Meg. You know I've always been able to keep things like that memorized. It has to suck getting your own medicine thrown back in your face like that…!"

Dean tipped his head to the side, the corner of his mouth curling into an involuntary smile.

"Yeah, go figure. And there I was thinking that you never listen to anything I say to you."

"Should know me better than that, man."

Silence again, but the tension was fainter than before – and waning still. Still Sam detained from getting all light-headed with success. He knew better than to count his chickens before they were hatched.

Dean sat still but seemed a little more relaxed, his breaths deep. That wistful look in the distance look that always made Sam want to snap a finger in front of his eyes crept over his features, smoothing out some of the lines of worry and tension that had been prominent there just moments ago. Dean started swirling the now empty bottle of beer between his fingers, the glass of the bottom scratching lightly over the peeled lacquer of the hood, peeling off tiny pieces of paint that stuck to the sweating bottle.

Sam took the last swig of his own bottle, copying Dean's motions for a minute before he decided that now would be as good a time as any to get that final agreement from his brother. Just like Bobby had said to him before, he needed to hear it in order to believe it. Dean no doubt knew about that rule as well, very likely to play it in his own favor as much as Sam was.

"So, what do you say…we got a deal or what?"

Dean looked at him a little doubtful, raising an eyebrow, revealing once more orbs of green that at least in Sam's mind were a little less burdened than before. At least that was what he wanted to believe.

"That getting even, not blaming ourselves thing goes both ways, though, doesn't it? No more you kicking yourself for being Meg-nitized and going all feral on me either, right?"

"Yeah, sure. That's what getting even means, Dean. We both cut ourselves some slack. Should be easy enough. I heard other people do it all the time."

"Alright…since you insist…I guess I have no choice but to accept, then."

"Good."

"Fine."

Sam waited a beat, then charged forward again.

"You mind shaking on it or something? Let me see those fingers, man, so I can make sure you're not crossing them or anything…"

Dean smirked but obliged, extended his thickly wrapped right hand towards his brother, then switching hands as he realized that it wouldn't work like this, changing to his left. Wrapped as well, sure, but not as badly as the other. Sam took it gingerly, shaking it softly before letting go again.

"I'm deeply wounded, Sam. You don't trust your own brother?"

"Always better to make sure, Dean. No pun intended."

That done Sam settled back against the windshield finally, turning away from Dean to look out over the salvage yard again. His back rested against the cool glass and he felt the car shift and groan as Dean settled down next to him. This time, their shoulders touched and neither of them made a move to break the contact.

Sam lifted his beer to his mouth after a couple of minutes only to find it empty. He could basically feel Dean grin next to him before he made the same mistake himself only about 20 seconds later. Sam hurled his bottle away then, as full force as he managed without getting up and putting much swing behind the throw, extending a victorious fist above his head when the bottle came crashing down about halfway across the yard, slamming full force into the already dented beyond repair roof of a battered Honda Civic.

Dean was about to do the same thing, hurl his beer to, of course, beat Sam at it, him always being better at baseball when they were younger and still had been throwing some balls every once in a while. That had been before it had become part of their training schedule, before it had become work instead of fun.

Only now, the bottle only made it about 10 feet, tops, landing with a dull thumb in the middle of a dried up patch of grass, making the dog jump up and growl low in its throat when it startled at the impact. Sam was about to shoot some snide remark at Dean, something about throwing like a girl, but when he turned his head to look at his brother, he could see Dean cradling his left arm closer to his body, lips pouted out in frustration.

"You OK? Did you throw with your left arm? Did you hurt yourself again?"

Dean grumbled something, forced himself to relax while rotating his shoulder carefully, testing the stiffness, wincing a little when he reached the point where he still wasn't able to lift it up farther without causing it to hurt.

"It's fine…just forgot for a second."

"Alright."

Dean huffed, then added with an audible pout:

"'t was a lucky shot anyway."

Sam laughed, rolled the back of his head on the windshield, eyeing his brother with a satisfied smirk.

"If that makes you feel better…sure. Go on believing it."

"I'm injured, dude. Both shoulder and hand. And I shot with my left. So, yeah, usually I'd beat you without even breaking a sweat."

"Sure…"

"Absolutely."

"Alright, alright. Whatever, dude."

Sam chuckled softly, saw the dog suddenly perk its ears up and turn around, facing towards the house, it's head tipped to the side a little, listening intently.

A second later they heard it too, a faint shout, Bobby hollering Sam's name at the top of his lungs, then adding something that sounded like dinner and get your asses into gear or something the like.

Dean laughed hoarsely next to him.

"Doesn't he sound like a soccer-mum right there? I wonder what he's cooked up tonight?"

Sam rolled his eyes, picturing Bobby in a flowered apron, a dish of appel strudel in his hands, for whatever reason, barely suppressing a laughing fit at the image.

"God, I hope his girlfriend, that Susan-woman brought something over. The pasta he made yesterday still sits in my stomach like a block of cement."

"Yeah…gross. But at least he did make an effort…"

Sam watched Dean push himself upright, stretching his legs, then slowly sliding off the hood of the car. He stopped to regain his balance for a second, then started, slowly, to walk towards the house.

"Better not keep him waiting or else he'll throw a fit and flush it all down the drain." He shot back at Sam.

Sam chuckled, watched Dean slightly concerned as his brother limped a little, walking slightly hunched over for the first couple of steps before gradually straightening, his muscles loosening up apparently, allowing him to get back a faint memory of his nonchalant swagger.

It still took him some time, a little too much effort, especially when getting up after sitting or lying down for too long, after getting out of bed in the morning, Sam knew that. His muscles still locked up way too easily, still sore and stiff but at least now he was able to get them moving and obeying his commands fairly quickly.

Yet Sam had no idea how much he was hurting, really, deep down.

Either way, mentally or physically.

But he recognized the effort and he knew that Dean at least was trying. He remembered himself, back then, after Meg, trying so hard, being afraid of failing. Dean had been there to build him back up, always. So he'd just return the favor now, whether Dean liked it or not. And Sam was sure that, in the end, that's what his brother wanted. Nobody wanted to be alone in something like this not even Dean.

The dog got up when Dean passed by it, fell in step on his left side, close without touching and Sam watched in silent amusement as Dean reached down to scratch the dog's ear, then turned back to look at Sam who was still sitting on the hood of the car.

"You coming or what? Or are you not hungry?"

Sam shook his head and slid off the car, trotting a couple of steps until he'd caught up with his brother and falling in step besides him, choosing his right side to give the dog some space.

A strange pair, those two. But somehow they seemed so at ease with each other, it gave Sam a strange sense of comfort, even though it was just a dog that his brother chose to trust at a time like this. Better than nothing.

They walked in quiet until, about halfway across the yard, Dean nudged Sam with his elbow, drawing his attention again.

"You know, we should really talk about that body-pain-job you did on me… I mean, I always knew that you swing that way but that did take it a little far, don't you think?"

Sam huffed, scratched the back of his head while looking at Dean out of the corner of his eyes.

"Come on Dean, you enjoyed it. Those perky nipples didn't lie, man."

Dean snorted, chucked his heel towards his little brother's leg, nudging him half-heartedly, almost losing balance himself when trying to trip Sam down.

"Maybe we should have saved some of that stuff, the paint, I mean. Could have drawn you some boobs, turn you into the girl you always wanted to be."

"Well, Dean, you just keep wolfing down those burgers the way you do and you'll grow yourself a nice-sized pair there yourself…"

This time the hit he received did hurt and Sam hobbled, favoring his left leg, still not able to hold back the wicked grin that split his face pretty much in two. He saw his brother smirk too, even though not quite as openly as him.

"Told you before, gladly gonna tell you again. Burning a lot of calories here, Sammy, all that hunting and then the sex…"

"Oh come on, don't…I don't wanna hear about that."

Dean shrugged, grinning brightly.

"Well… you could still learn something, you know? I'm telling you, I look awesome, never had any complaints. But, you know, maybe its better that way. Don't need you poaching through my territory."

"You just fear the competition, man."

Any remark from Dean was cut short when another shout from the house startled them both.

"God, he's one impatient housewife!"

Sam saw Dean halt, suddenly, slowing down, eyes squinting intently. He was about to reach out, grab his big brother, thinking that maybe he got sick, was going to keel over or something when Dean's eyebrows shot up so high, they almost disappeared into his hairline and he turned to look at Sam with open delight shining in his once again bright green eyes.

"That smell like Lasagne to you?"

Sam held up his head, sniffing the air, his face brightening up almost instantly.

"Damn it…I bet that's Susan's work. Better hurry up, we actually have something to look forward to now!"

They mounted the front steps to the house side by side, the dog staying behind at the bottom of the steps, smacking its flews loudly, clearly reminding Dean of his duty to bring him some treat of the delicious smelling food later on.

"Sorry pal, can't promise that there's going to be anything left for you once we're finished." Dean called softly over his shoulder.

But Sam was sure that somehow, Dean would manage to sneak at least a tiny bite back out later on.

Sam held the door for his brother, ignoring his mocking gaze at the motion while ushering him inside to the wonderful smell of the home cooked Italian food and the sound of muffled conversation coming from the kitchen.

Something about those boys are going to be going to be going to bed without dinner if they don't show up soon. Then Susan's light laughter, followed by Bobby's surprisingly uncontained one.

The brother's shared an amused look before Sam let the door fall shut loudly behind them.

Announcing their presence to Bobby and Susan, neither wanting to walk in on something…

It was good to get back on track again, even though it was still far too…awkward, at times, as if they both were afraid of how far they could go without doing any damage. But if they'd stick together, stick to their truce, their deal, they'd be doing alright, Sam guessed. And with Bobby by their side they made some sort of family even.

A pretty awesome one at that. There were plenty of people that had nothing even remotely like it.

So, maybe they were pretty good off after all.

All things considered.

The end

Final AN:

Alright…so, what do you think? I hope I managed to pull it off…

Needless to say, it's been a long, long story and I'm thankful for all of you that stuck with it all the way through. Even more so as I know I haven't been exactly…stable, at times, and I went completely out of character and unloaded that on you, which I never, ever should have done, ever.

But it taught me learn some valuable lessons, one of which is, that sometimes help or support comes from the most unexpected sources. So, I know I said it before but I have to say it again – thanks to all of those offering support – through Pm's and reviews or otherwise. You are wonderful – really. I don't know what I would have done without you.

Another lesson was that, when at one point I decided that I was never, ever going to write anything ever again, I discovered that it's close to impossible and I didn't make it for more than a day or two before I had to write 'just a quick little something' that later culminated into something more. Which now leaves me with a couple other ideas in my head and partly on paper, that I'll probably dish out, no matter what. Holding them back is not going to help any, so I might as well just hope for the best.

Then, of course, a special thanks to OcherMe who beta-ed this story and managed to point out my mistakes without being very obvious about it, for correcting sentences that made absolutely no sense but in the end still sounded like I wanted them to… and for the little notes on the sides that made me smile and sometimes even laugh out loud. That's the most amazing thing – seeing or reading the immediate reaction to a sentence or a train of thought…it really helped a lot!

So – thanks, for everything.

Alright…so, to end this An that's probably longer than the whole damn story…again thank you so much, for every single review and alert and PM. You're all wonderful, awesome, great and I hope to hear from you again at some point.

I'll probably start posting a sequel to 'demons I get' pretty soon – if anyone's at all interested. It's called 'whiplash' – at least that's the working title. So, if you want, stay on the lookout for that!

Cheers to you all and take special care!!!