Three days we'd been at Bobby's and Sam'd been disappearing a little more each day. Not talking much, not eating enough, shying away if Bobby or me happened to walk too close to him. He went to bed before I did, he got up again before I do. He spent all his time doing research and building up our supplies like he was outfitting the whole world; salt rounds, holy water, talismans, sigils, prayers, you name it - he was building up an arsenal, in his head and in Bobby's storage room.

Even this morning, I came downstairs to find Bobby in the kitchen and Sam nowhere around.

"Where is he?"

"Packing salt rounds since daybreak, then he took the newspaper and went outside." Bobby said. He waved me to a cup and the coffee.

"Probably didn't eat breakfast, did he?" I asked. "I suppose he's not checking the show times for 'Star Trek.'"

"I suppose not, but I almost wish he would. He's getting to look as bad as he did downstairs. He needs to cut himself some slack."

The front door squeaked open and I was just about to go drag Sam in for some breakfast when he appeared in the kitchen doorway. Still wearing that same apologetic 'I'm sorry I'm taking up space in the world I doomed' look on his face. He had the newspaper in his hand but I wasn't placing bets on Star Trek.

"Sam - I'm just about to make breakfast, take a seat."

He only shook his head a little at my offer and kept going with what he came to us for. He pointed to a spot in the newspaper.

"There's an estate sale in here, says they're selling a lot of religious items. I thought - I thought it'd be something worth checking out. I didn't recognize the street name though."

He even talked like he was trying to be invisible.

"Here, let me take a look." Bobby said. He walked to Sam who held the paper out as far as he could it seemed like. Bobby noticed, he had to, but he didn't say anything about it.

"This circled one? Yeah, that's about thirty miles away from here. I'm heading out that way anyway, I'll swing by and check it out. You boys try to behave while I'm gone."

He gave me a parting 'why don't you fix this while I'm gone?' look and left. Sam stayed in the doorway until we heard the front door squeak open and closed again, then he turned and started to walk away.

"Hey." I called him back. "I'm not kidding about breakfast."

"I don't want anything."

"I don't care. Sit."

He sighed but he sat, taking the chair farthest away from me. He didn't look up.

"What's your pleasure? Eggs?" I scanned the fridge and freezer. "We got frozen waffles, two kinds of sausage, hey, I could make French toast."

"No Dean, nothing. Really. I don't - I'm not - please."

I gave up my quest momentarily and sat down across from him.

"How much sleep did you get last night?"

"Does it matter?"

"It matters to me. How much?"

Sam shrugged, looked around the kitchen like the answer was pasted on the walls somewhere.

"I came downstairs around three."

"Define 'around'."

"Um - two thirty seven?"

Great, that meant he had three hours of sleep. And only if he went downstairs as soon as he woke up.

"Okay, here's the plan: One - you will not give me lip. B - you will eat breakfast. Third - you will take a nap. Think you can remember all that?"

"Dean -." He looked up at me, he probably meant to give me his 'make Dean melt to my every demand' look, but what I saw in his face only confirmed that he needed to eat and to sleep. So I gave him my 'Really - I'm not backing down' look. For all the yelling and arguing we do, it's amazing sometimes how much conversation we have without talking.

So - I won. Shocker, hunh? Sam's face crumpled and he looked down at his hands on the table. I was about to graciously accept my victory by starting to make breakfast for us when he whispered something that kept me in my seat.

"She called me Dumbo."

She. Sam hadn't said that bitch's name once out loud since that night. Who the hell was she to be calling Sammy any kind of name?

"Yeah well, she was a skank. A lying, manipulative, skank-assed -." Really, I had too many colorful descriptions for her to just pick out a few so I jumped to my next point. "She's dead and I hope there's a hell for dead demons because if there is..."

Sam wasn't buying it. I'm not sure he was even listening to me. It was really bothering him, so if dissing the disser wasn't getting through to him, I had to find another way.

"Why did she call you that? What was she saying?"

"When she said I didn't need the blood to kill Lilith." He said. He'd already told me she said that. He'd already told me everything. Or I thought he did. "She said 'you didn't need the feather to fly' whatever that means. Then she called me 'Dumbo.'"

Something clicked inside my head, some old, old memory. Feather, flying...

"Do you know what Dumbo is?" I asked Sam.

"Yeah. Some big, dumb, slow-moving -."

"He's a cartoon character." I decided to interrupt his train of self-derision. "He's a baby elephant who learned how to fly." Yeah, great, what did that have to do with anything? "Sammy, don't let anything she said get to you, okay? She was a skank, she was - worthless. Don't give her one bit more of attention. Okay?"

He shrugged, he nodded. He was placating me. I could live with that for the moment.

"Okay. So - toaster waffles and sausage and then nap time for little brothers. You can even sleep on the couch if you want." I stood up and waited for him to agree. Because he was going to agree.

"Okay."

So we ate our breakfast. Sam hardly looked at his food and I bet he tasted it even less. But he ate. He kept sighing and I bet he didn't even realize.

This reminded me a lot of how Sam was just after Jessica died. Quiet, staring off into space a lot, not eating, not sleeping, wielding his guilt like it was a club he was trying to knock himself senseless with. That couldn't go on, for a lot of reasons.

"Done?" I asked when his plate was clean. Or nearly clean. "Okay, c'mon. Nap time."

"Dean."

"Hey, we agreed, remember?"

"I don't want to sleep."

"It's not sleeping, it's napping."

Well, he closed his eyes and shook his head, but he stood up and followed me to the couch and plunked himself down.

"I'll get you a pillow. Think it's warm enough you won't need a blanket?"

He shrugged like he didn't care and bent down to pull his boots off.

"Hey Dean?" He asked before he had even one boot pulled.

"Yeah?"

"Do you know the whole story?"

"What story?" I asked. Something more about him and the skank?

"The story about - about - Dumbo." I could tell he hated saying that word. "What happened? How did the baby elephant learn to fly?"

"Uh - well -" I sat on the edge of Bobby's desk, in front of Sam. I barely remembered the story and it was hard work dredging that up. "Mrs. Elephant was in a circus. One day she had a baby. But he had big ears, really big ears, and the other animals made fun of him. And - um - one day his Mom got so mad trying to protect him that the circus people took her away from him and he was left all alone."

Gee, was this story sounding vaguely familiar or what? Sam just kept watching me, intent on hearing the story.

"They put him in a clown act in the circus but he was too young and he forgot his lines and all the other animals made fun of him and wouldn't play with him anymore. Y'know, like Rudolph? The only friend he had was - was -."

Was what? I couldn't remember. Well, I've improvised before and I'll improvise again.

"Jiminy Cricket. That was the baby elephant's only friend."

"Wasn't he with Pinocchio?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, but Disney had him under contract so he had to do another movie for them."

"Oh." He almost sounded like he almost believed me.

"So anyway, one night the baby elephant was trying to get away from a bully and without thinking he just started flying. With his ears, y'know? And Jiminy thought it was a good thing but the baby elephant was scared and couldn't do it again. So Jiminy came up with the idea of telling him that he could fly if he held onto a feather."

In the middle of regaling Sam with this story, I couldn't help remembering all the bedtime and naptime stories we had between us. Sam had the same look on his face now that he'd had twenty years before - engrossed, fascinated, worried even about fictional characters.

"So whenever he wanted to fly he held onto that feather in his nose, his trunk. But the one time he was flying and he dropped the feather and just when he thought he was gonna face-plant under the big top, Jiminy tells him the truth that he could fly all by himself. And he could. And after that nobody made fun of him and he got to be with him Mom again and - and - everybody lived happily ever after."

"Oh." Sam just seemed to deflate all at once. Maybe the 'happily ever after' was a little too much. "So - so - what you're saying is that - she - was my Jiminy Cricket."

"What? No! You know what - no. She was everybody making fun of the baby elephant. Dumbo wasn't his real name you know. It was - it was -" What was it? What's a baby elephant name? " - Simba."

"Wasn't that the Lion King?"

"No, that's the name of Tarzan's elephant. The baby elephant's mother named him for Tarzan's elephant." I said it with unquestionable authority; sometimes that was the only way to keep Sammy from arguing with me.

"But it was the Lion King's name too."

Okay, so it didn't always keep him from arguing with me.

"Sam, this movie is like from the Thirties. The Lion King didn't exist yet. Tarzan did."

"Okay."

"Okay? Great. So - so -."

The expression on Sam's face stopped me again. He looked so young, so vulnerable. More vulnerable than he'd seemed since I came back from Inferno Disney. He really wanted to hear what I had to say because maybe, just maybe, it would make sense. Maybe it would make opening the door on Armageddon more about what he did and less about what he was.

"Sammy, listen." I left the desk and sat next to him on the couch. "Killing Lilith, that's not 'flying', that's not your gift. That's circus people trying to force you into some stupid clown routine. You know what your gift is?"

"What?"

Well damn, I had too many to choose from. His brain, his wit, his sense of humor, his smart-ass, his strength, his perseverance, his belief in me no matter what.

"Your gift - your best gift 'cause Sammy you got a ton of 'em - your best gift is that no matter what happens, no matter what crap you've been handed over in your lifetime, you care about people. You care about anybody and everybody else. Yeah, you killed Lilith, but you did it to save everybody else on the planet, didn't you?"

He nodded just slightly, still afraid to remember out loud what he'd done.

"What Ru- what she did, what they all did - Sam - the angels were the circus people taking me away from you. She was the other people mocking you because she didn't - even if she could see your gift, she wouldn't have been able to understand it."

He stared at me. Sam stared at me like he was processing what I said. Me, I was hoping he'd say something fast, and something that would relieve the embarrassment I was feeling after comparing myself to Mother Elephant.

He didn't say anything though, tears filled his eyes and - oh Sammy his chin trembled - please tell me I'm not making this worse for you.

"Sammy - your gift, the one that means the most to me, is that no matter what a dick I am, how bad I treat you or misunderstand you or no matter what I've ever done, you still call me your brother, you still call yourself my brother. Man, that's flying."

He nodded. Then, finally, Sam nodded.

"Yeah. Yeah, I think so too. And I'm glad we're back together." He managed a smile and I couldn't help a grin of relief and pride. I also couldn't help putting my arm around his shoulders and giving him a squeeze.

"Well okay then. A little addendum to our 'to do list', but okay. Nap time now, right?"

He blew out a really deep breath but nodded. I squeezed a little harder a little longer, "I'll be right back," and went to get pillows and blankets.

SPN SPN SPN

Later, much with Sammy tucked into the couch and me camped out on the floor next to him, I heard Bobby come back into the house. His footsteps stopped in the doorway to the office and he huffed a little it sounded like in surprise before muttering,

"Some things never change."

I peeled an eye open to have a look at Sam, sound asleep, head on a pillow and - at his request - covered with my leather jacket.

Some things never will change, I thought.

The end