Losing a brother, losing somebody you've literally spent nearly every single day of your whole life with, you don't lose just your future, you lose your past. You lose the person who knows all your punch lines, exactly remembers that place where you did that thing that time that nobody else will ever know about, the person who knows the difference between what you say and what you're saying. Losing a brother is losing half of yourself.


Sam's different. Not the psychic crap, I'm not talking about that. That's just something - something we'll deal with when it comes to it. Dean and me, we ain't talked about it since that one time. Sam and me sure ain't talked about it. Sam and me ain't never gonna talk about it more'n likely. Not while Dean is still with us, not least of all because Dean wouldn't stand for it.

No, when I say Sam's different, I mean he's different from Dean, he always has been, even when they were kids and Sam was trying to damn near be a carbon copy of him. Dean is bluster and smart-ass and talking a convincing diversion. Sam is thinking and considering and trying to not hurt anybody's feelings.

Dean's a talker; Sam ain't. At least not with anybody who ain't Dean he ain't a talker. Oh he'll talk up research and information and anything that has anything to do with a job, that stuff he'll talk to anybody until he's wrung every last bit of info out of 'em. But ask him anything about himself, how is he, does he need anything - anything not related to a job - and it's like a Yugo mechanic asking if he can take care of a Porsche. Thanks but no thanks.

Don't get me wrong, scratch away a lot of my crustiness and you're gonna find out I care about those boys, both of 'em, and I ain't sorry to say it, but only one person gets to take care of Sam and that's Dean and that goes for any wound, not just the physical ones.

So I was standing next to a wounded Sam, at the trunk of a tree, in the woods, and it was getting dark. Sam was sitting, cradling his right arm. We'd been hunting a lusus naturae, a nasty one. It threw Sam into a tree, this tree, maybe breaking his arm, and Dean went off after it because the thing that hurts his brother don't get to live another hour.

"Dean - you let me go out there with you. You don't want t'be hunting that thing in the dark all by your lonesome."

"I got plenty a'daylight. You stay with Sam, in case it circles back. Remember - dead shot to the torso. Head shot does nothing."

"I know how to kill the damn thing - and it knows how to kill you."

"Dean - don't go out there alone." Sam tried telling him. "I've got my gun, I'll keep this tree behind me. Take Bobby with you."

"It took your gun arm out."

"I can shoot left-handed."

"Forget it Sam, you're not staying here by yourself and that's that. Bobby -."

"I'm on it Dean. You watch yourself."

"Dean -." Sam tried it one more time before Dean took off through the trees. Made no difference, Dean was off and gone.

And me and Sam were left alone. Together.

"Y'ever hunt one of these before?" I asked.

"Yeah, Dad anyway, back in ninety-five. That was a young one though, 'least that's what Dad said, he took it out pretty easy. This one seems to have some more experience."

"It's not being taken by surprise, that's for sure." I noticed Sam wincing and shifting how he was holding his arm.

"Want me t'have a look at that arm?"

"No, thanks. It'll keep."

Until Dean can have a look.

"I got a new load a'books in." I said. I figured that would get Sam's attention. "Next time you boys stop by, you'll have to have a go at 'em."


"Must near two hundred of 'em."

Yep, that got his attention.

"Really? That many?"

"Yeah. I think I'm gonna have to figure out a better way to organize 'em all."

We were down to a little over three months until Dean's deal came due, and I felt like I was getting the house ready to move in an orphaned nephew. At least I was planning that Sam was gonna move in with me when Dean was gone. Made sense I thought, the boy was gonna be on his own, he needed a home base. Truth was - I figured he was gonna need somebody else in his life. I'd never be his brother or his father, but I was his friend and we were both gonna need each other.

'Course this was something else I hadn't discussed with Sam. And all the discussion with Dean came down to him asking me - or maybe telling me - 'You'll watch out for him? You gotta watch out for him.' and I agreed because I knew in the Winchester way, Dean would have at least some peace in hell if he knew his little brother was being taken care of.

And I'd feel better knowing Sam had himself a home, a good home. I'll never make 'Better Homes and Gardens', I'll sure never make anybody's list for any kinda positive role model, but I could give that boy a fixed roof over his head, a safe place to sleep, and as much home cooked food as he could eat.

I could give him just somebody to be there at the edges.

Now I'm as crusty as they come and that's a persona I don't even gotta work hard at. But I've spent nearly half my life knowing those boys and - well - they got under my skin. They're each of 'em tough as nails and each of 'em in their own way as vulnerable as any kid lost and looking for a way home.

When Sam died, I thought I could get Dean to move in with me. Well, I hoped it. But the bond between those boys is so strong it's practically alive all by itself - you cut that bond, you kill one brother, and the other brother starts to bleed to death. When Dean wouldn't come back with me, when he threw me out of Cold Oak, I really thought he was planning on finding a way to off himself, and I expected to have to go back and bury two bodies.

I hoped I wouldn't have to worry about the same thing with Sam.

"Be kinda hard to group 'em by subject." Sam said. He'd been thinking into the silence about my books. "Some of 'em, yeah. I mean the ones that are only about one thing, sure. Hey Bobby, don't you have a database in your computer for all your books?"

"What do I look like? A computer nerd?" I asked. Sam just stared at me a minute.

"So how have you got the database set up?" He asked me anyway.

"Oh - I cross-reference by author, title, year, weapon, and creature." I admitted.

Sam smiled which is something I don't see very often. I'm not sure anyone does.

"So it might just be a matter of organizing them alphabetically by author or title."

"Yeah, now all I need is to get myself enough bookshelves."

We went back to the silence then.

I didn't like how fast the sun seemed to be setting and how slow Dean was coming back to us. As worried as I mighta been though, Sam was feeling it a hundred times more. He stared out into the forest that seemed to be getting darker each second, leaning forward toward Dean and the danger he was walking himself straight into.

"We should go out there." Sam said.

"Few more minutes and I'll be agreeing with you."

Just before those few minutes were up, we heard a shot then a whoop, then Dean came striding in like he was king of the walk.

"I came, I saw, I kicked its ass!"

"Are you okay?" Sam asked. "There's blood on your jacket."

"Not mine. C'mon, let's get you back to the car and get a look at that arm."

"What'd you do with the body?" I asked him.

"Convenient sinkhole. Deep one too. People in China might find it, but nobody around here will. C'mon. Let's get out of here."

Dean hooked an arm under Sam's to help him to his feet, though I wouldn't a'bet the house that Sam needed it. Sam didn't put up a fuss, he was a fountain of questions as he got to his feet and we headed for the car.

"You sure it's dead? Shouldn't we burn it? Are you sure you didn't get hurt? Did you see any evidence of another one?"

"Dude - breathe. I got it covered, okay? How's the arm?"



"No. The same. I can move it a little better."

"Good, maybe it's not broken."

We walked another maybe ten minutes to the car. Dean opened the back passenger door and gave Sam a push toward it.

"Have a seat, I'll get the first aide."

As Sam took his seat in the back of the car, I wondered what it was gonna be like taking care of him after Dean was gone. Was he gonna do what I said when I said it? Or was he gonna brush me off and think he had to take care of everything himself? I've known that boy since before he could tie his own shoes and I'd never have the familiar touch for him that Dean had by instinct.

"Okay, here, let me see." Dean crouched in front of Sam who sat sideways in the car with his feet out on the ground. Dean ran his hand up and down Sam's arm, watching his face for a reaction.

"How's this feel?"

"Hurts. Not broken."

"Yeah, I'll be the judge of that. How's this feel?"

"Ow - Dean." Sam flinched but didn't pull away I noticed. He let Dean keep checking him out as he moved on from Sam's arm to the rest of him and when I guess nothing else was broken or out of place, he put a sling around Sam's arm.

"All right Sammy, slide in, lay down, get comfy. We'll get back to the motel."

"I'm not gonna lay down."

"Oh, I think you are."

"Dean -."


Sam slid in but he didn't make a move to lay down. After a mini stare-off, Dean shut the door.

"I'm marking this down Sammy. This is going in the book."

"Yeah, right."

I got in shotgun and we got underway back to the motel, with a run for supper through a drive-thru right near the motel. We had rooms next to each other and Dean pulled in next to my truck.

"Come in to eat?" Dean asked as we got out of the car.

I shook my head. Those boys had little enough time left together, I wasn't gonna take more of it than I needed to.

"Nah, thanks. I just want to put my feet up and watch a little pay per view."

"Okay. Wake you up for breakfast?" He asked as he handed me my bag of supper.

"Right - I'll be up before both you youngsters."

Dean laughed but it didn't last long as he helped Sam out of the car. By now Sam's injuries were dragging him down and he looked like he really needed the shoulder that Dean propped him up on.

"Need help?" I asked.

Dean shook his head. Sam straightened up and stood himself away from Dean and walked to the door like I'd insulted him. For Dean, Sam'll buckle under to a sliver. For anybody else, he'll just pick his head up from wherever it might be rolling away from him, stick it back on, and keep going.

Thinking I might have care of him after Dean left us was looking to be a ticklish undertaking.

We went our separate ways, each to our own room and supper and bed. I was awake for a while, making notes, just settling in. After a couple hours or so, I saw a familiar tall shadow walk past my window and a couple minutes later walk past again.

Sam musta been out for a soft drink run.

I could see his reflection through my window in my dark TV screen and he didn't go back into their room. Seemed like he took a seat on the hood of the car.

For some reason, as I watched him on the sly, I thought about the first time I saw Sam after he came back to hunting from school, from college. John was in trouble, the boys were desperate, and they came to me for help. Now, I been a hunter since before those boys were born and considering I'm still alive and in one piece, I guess it ain't bragging to say I'm a damn good one. But that day, that demon Meg broke in my door and flung Dean across my living room, and before he even hit the wall, Sam had himself in front of me like I was some green civilian that he was gonna protect or die trying.

I ain't had much experience with it, but take Dean out of the picture, even a little, and Sam in charge is an iron wall of will and action. That might get him through losing Dean.

Or it might make him so brittle he'd fall apart at the first touch.

I kept expecting Dean to come out, show up reflected in my dark TV screen, seeing to Sam. But he didn't show up and Sam didn't move.

If I was gonna have care of that boy in a few months, maybe I should start getting my practice in. I took myself out of my room and over to him.

"Bobby - everything okay?"

"I was about to ask you the exact same thing."

"I just - came out for some air."

Right, and I was playing polo in the morning. Nighttime in Georgia in January is still nighttime in January and the air was more what I'd call brisk than refreshing.

"Y'arm bothering you?" He still had it in the sling, which he wouldn't if it wasn't bothering him. I knew that much about him.

"Naah. Just don't want to hear Dean complaining if he catches me without it."

Speaking of which... A quick glance to the window showed that the light was off inside their room. Dean must be asleep. That would make this next part either easier or harder.

"How're you doin'Sam?"

He perked up, he straightened up, he lied right to my face.

"I'm fine."

"And I'm a gray-haired granny."

"You do have gray hair."

Tell me those boys ain't brothers. Same damn sense of the absurd.

"What're you really doing out here in the cold?"

"Just sitting." He shrugged his good shoulder. "Just thinking."

"Thinking about what?" Sure I was probably pushing it, and Sam gave me a look like I was asking details of his last conjugal experience, but I felt like I had to try.

"Just thinking." Sam said it with a loud and clear warning that I should back off. Now Sam can be scary without trying and downright terrifying when he puts a little thought into it, but he don't scare me and so I didn't back off.

"Anything I can help with?"

Yep, I got the 'Yugo mechanic wanting to work on a Porsche' look.

"No. Thanks." That at least sounded sincere.

"Y'know Sam -."

What? I thought. 'Come next May we're gonna be all we have so it'd be nice if we knew how to actually talk to each other.'? That'd go over real well.

But Sam was looking at me like he was thinking I might just say that exact thing, and ready to rip me a lot of new things if I did.

"Can anybody join this party?" Suddenly Dean was there and I was spared trying to think how to finish my sentence. And the look on Sam's face changed from angry and challenging to open and vulnerable so fast it was a thing to see.

He was already bleeding out; losing Dean was gonna rip him to ribbons.

"I was just about to say that it's kinda damn cold to be outside." I said.

"I'll say it's cold." Dean agreed with me. He took his spot right next to Sam, facing me. "I thought there was some law against cold past the Mason-Dixon line?"

"I think that's more of a guideline." I said and got a smile out of Sam for my effort.

"So what are we doing out here?" Dean asked.

"I was just going to get a soda." Sam said. "I just - I didn't have enough money with me."

"Here." Me and Dean both said at the same time, both reaching for our wallets. I actually had mine with me though and Dean came up empty. I didn't know how much money Sam didn't have with him so I took out two dollars.

Sam looked at me a minute like I might be handing him acid and he didn't make a move to take it until Dean - casually mind you - turned more toward me, bumping Sam's good arm with his elbow.

"Thanks." Sam accepted my money then. "I'll just - I'll - thanks." He went off in search of his soda pop and I watched Dean watch him walk away.

"He's not sleeping." Dean said when the coast was clear.

"It's still early, really. Just 'cause us old folks turn in right after supper -."

"It's been going on for months. It's like if he lets his brain shut down even for a minute, he's failing me. I can't get him to understand that if kills himself - well, it's not like I can get a second mortgage on my soul, now is it?"

"And if he doesn't kill himself trying to save you, he'll think he didn't do enough." That's the Winchester way, anything less than 200% is slacking.

Dean nodded, still watching after Sam who had disappeared into the alcove a hundred feet away. I woulda asked him if he understood yet what his deal was doing, would do, to his brother, but what would the point be now?

"You gotta get him to go back to school." Dean said, all at once like it was a life or death order. "His scholarship should still be good. Or you can convince them to open it up again. Don't let him - don't let him not go back to school."

"Dean - I couldn't get that boy to take a bandage from me if he didn't want it and he was hemorrhaging. What makes you think I can influence how he runs his life?"

"Because you have to." Dean turned to me, desperate and demanding. Was he really that naive?

"Dean, you're the only one I've ever seen get Sam to do what he didn't want to just by telling him. Even your Daddy near had to take his head off, and that was asking reasonable things."

"You said you'd take care of him."

"And I'll do my damnedest. But right now I think I'll call myself a success if I keep him breathing longer than three days."

Dean took an awful deep breath, getting ready to read me a riot act the likes of which might cow a Green Beret. But he stopped before he got one single syllable out and I turned to look behind me.

Sam had gotten his Coke and was headed back to us.

"You were saying?" I asked.

He gave me look that shoulda burned clear through. I mighta smiled if I wasn't tired and this wasn't such a terrible subject to be discussing anytime of the day or night.

"Sam, you should go to bed." Dean said when his brother was close enough. "That arm isn't going to heal by itself."

"I've got more research."

Dean gave me a 'see?' look.

"Sammy. Go to bed."

He said it like Sam was four, not twenty-four. And Sam took a sip of his soda pop, he looked at me, he looked at Dean, he answered like he was four instead of twenty-four.

"You're coming in?"

"Yep." Dean answered, not sparing me a look until Sam had turned back to the motel. And that look told me our conversation was definitely not over. He turned to follow Sam and nearly got knocked over when Sam turned back, holding his soda can in his bad hand, handing something to me with his good hand.

"Your change..."

All the things that boy had to be worrying about right now, and right now he was worried about giving me fifty cents. It seemed too important to him for me to refuse the two quarters.

"Thanks Sam."

He smiled a quick smile then Dean was putting his hand on his good arm, urging him to their room with a light touch but a clear meaning.

"See you in the morning Bobby." Sam said and Dean echoed it and then I was standing by myself on the cold sidewalk of a Georgia motel.

Story of my life.

to be continued