4.19 Jump the Shark tag – Sam and Dean need to talk.

Why did I write this story?

Simply put… I needed my Winchester Moment and this was huge, them having another brother. Yep, definitely something the guys needed to talk out.

Man, I miss them sharing and caring… C'mon, Kripke, let's get them back together in S5. Pretty please…

I hope you enjoy, B.J.

---

"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." – Blaise Pascal

Fortunate Son

"Dean, why are you so upset?"

It was an honest question, and even though Sam thought he knew the answer, he wanted to hear Dean's thoughts, what his big brother was feeling. The emotions contorting Dean's face and the tone of his voice as he quizzed the kid told the story, but with Dean, Sam knew it was never the full story. That was normally buried deep, hidden beneath years of denial and a brave front. In this case, Dean hadn't had time to dig a hole, hadn't yet found an empty box to stuff this bad experience in, hadn't yet performed his own ritualized burial of painful truths.

A casual swipe of his right hand massaging down his face couldn't hide the fury building within Dean's eyes. Those soulful eyes looked up, the whites angrily standing out for a moment before his glare subtly shifted into wounded betrayal as his mouth twisted, quirking into a sad fusion between the smirk he intended and the grimace he couldn't hide. "Forget it," he gruffly answered as he pulled back and tried to turn away.

Sam grabbed his bicep, halting his movement and leaning further into his brother's personal space, his voice insistent yet filled with compassion to temper the brash move. "No. Is it 'cause Adam got the life you always wanted?"

Dean easily broke the hold but he stood his ground, feet planted and shoulders tense, a solid wall of muscle braced for impact, knowing there would be no escape. "No," he harshly spat out, struggling with an inner battle before reluctantly stammering in a softer, almost wondrous voice, "I mean…yeah." His eyes flittered up from the floor of another no-name motel room to form a tentative connection with his brother, a dozen emotions swirling within the liquid depths, the anger unable to mask the raw hurt. "Dad took him to a ballgame, Sam. Sat through a whole game…hell, probably bought him gummy bears…a hot dog and a coke." Dean hesitated, the words grinding to a halt as he wrestled with his conscience, trying to tamp down the emotions before he allowed any more of his pain to seep out, before he became petty and god-forbid…whined. Somehow reason lost this skirmish, years of simmering resentment spilling forth, the festering wound rupturing as the hurt oozed out, bitter words fighting their way into the open. "Spent the freaking day with him, Sam. The whole day."

Displaying an unnatural calmness, a surreal detachment from his own emotions beginning to stir, Sam found himself answering in defense of their dad. "Dean, it was one day…one day in a year." He maintained eye contact, his words gentle, attempting to soothe, so damn reasonable with only the barest hitch betraying his own conflicted feelings over discovering they had another brother. A brother who now made him an older brother, a totally foreign concept and yet unnervingly comforting. He found himself falling into acceptance like he'd always wanted this, somehow relieved that he was no longer the kid brother. He had grown weary of the constant need within Dean to be over-protective, to be the big brother, and a part of him hoped this might be his way out, the chance for Dean to accept that he was a full-grown man now, no longer the baby of the family in need of protecting. He silently hoped that Adam would now assume that role.

Under the circumstances, Sam's own issues were forced to take a backseat to the turmoil stirred up in his brother. After everything Dean had been through, suffered through because of his big brother complex, Sam wanted to do what he could to help him accept this truth and the hurts it inevitably triggered. He turned all focus towards that end as he addressed the issue. "Dean, Dad spent more time with you over the years." His tone found its way back to his younger self, the compassionate, caring, just-ripped-out-of-Stanford Sammy who had been missing since he'd been forced to adopt the harder edge needed as he tried to make it on his own after Dean's death. "Maybe he just wanted to give Adam a good memory…you know, to make up for all the times he was away."

"A good memory, huh?" Dean whispered, unable to hide the bitterness in his voice, cursing that he couldn't just let this drop, that all these dormant issues were right there again, staring him in the face, dredging up this…resentment. His eyes again rose, filled with such hurt as even more pain seemed to descend upon him, burying him further as years of disappointments tumbled into the open, each one demanding their due.

"What is it, Dean?" Sam gently prodded, his eyes appealing to his brother, the softness of his voice offering all the empathy he could muster. Hoping that in some small way he could help Dean through this revelation; help that he'd been unable to provide for his Hell experience.

"It's just…" Dean's jaw clenched as he held back, fighting the urge, the resulting pressure causing a twitch along his left jawline. He let out a nervous sigh as if that would clear the air, allow him to regain his composure and move past this share and care. Venting his feelings wasn't going to change anything; they had another brother…the evidence was irrefutable. So what? It was a fact of life. Seems the old man still had some kick left. He'd been reckless and wanton and gotten one past the goalie. It happens. Dean grimaced at the picture that flashed through his mind…Dad sex wasn't something he ever wanted to think about.

Dad's the one who screwed up. He's the one who kept this a secret…the one who lied. Dad's the one he should be… He took another deep breath, his mind reeling. This wasn't the kid's fault. Dean didn't want to resent Adam, didn't want to be…jealous of him, it was just…. His gut ached, just freaking ached. Like it was twisted into knots, mashed into a tight ball and then smashed flat under a heavy weight. And his heart was in even greater distress.

Anxiously shifting his position, waiting and praying that Dean's walls would finally crumble, that Dean would somehow step free of the rubble and release how he truly felt, Sam studied him, his eyes searching, tender and hopeful under knotted brows. He wasn't in the mood to ignore yet another family issue, too many had previously been shoved down a hole and buried deep, and this…this secret, this revelation, had hit a nerve in Dean, somehow crushing the last of his denial. From the moment Dean answered Dad's phone and listened to those fateful words from Adam, he had taken this personally, defending Dad against some perceived slander, railing against the very possibility, denying the logic…holding firm to what he had always held dear, until he was faced with the unrelenting truth of that photograph: a picture of Dad and Adam at a ballgame, smiling and happy…carefree. Dad having a normal father/son time in celebration of his son's birthday.

Dean didn't want to over-think this, and the truth was, his head wasn't the problem, it was his heart. It was how he now felt when he remembered their past, his thoughts inevitably traveling back to all the birthdays that had passed by unnoticed. One in particular, his thirteenth birthday, when Dad had promised to be home and wasn't; dragging in three days late and never mentioning the date, only noting the emergence of a teenager as a reason to step-up his older son's training. At the time, Dean did what he always did, denied the lack of any celebration and the dearth of presents bothered him; happily forgiving the absence of cake and ice cream, feeling it was beneath him anyway. As expected, he dismissed his dad's absence as a necessity in their war with evil; his lack of interest in his older son's right of passage, merely the cost of doing the job. Instead, Dean focused on his duty, the pride he felt in the transition; thankful his dad looked to him as a man now and not a child. Ready and anxious to take on even more responsibility, to become the hunter destiny and his dad demanded, never realizing the full cost. That knowledge coming much, much later, hammering home the goddamn truth of their screwed-up childhoods and how Dad had failed them.

Unable to stop himself, he went back further in his memories, fixating on the time when Adam would have been conceived, right around his eleventh birthday, Sammy just six years old. Remembering two young boys stashed in yet another craptastic motel room, alone and waiting, hoping their father was still alive as the days wore on with no word.

The stark image of their lost youth imposed all kinds of questions, brought all levels of reprehension, ultimately shattering Dean's resolve and sending him dangerously close to the edge of condemnation. And he hated feeling like this; hated playing the victim, the wronged… It wasn't who he was. Never had been and he didn't want to start now.

Sam wished he could crawl inside Dean's head, sort through the tangled mass of pain and issues and pull out the peace he deserved. With all the other secrets still between them, Sam wanted this to not add to their weight. This was something they needed to talk out; this was something he could handle.

As Sam tried to think of a reasonable approach, Dean barreled ahead, not needing any further prodding to ease his way, allowing pure emotion to drive the conversation as he confronted the hurt and cracked himself wide open. There was venom in his voice, his body subtly shaking from the mounting pressure, the hurt expressing itself in bitter rage. "When did we ever get to go to a ballgame? Huh, Sam?" His eyes held years of hurt, glimmering with tears never spent; every single tear from his childhood poised and ready to break free. "Why'd this kid get that?"

"Dean, our lives were different. Adam…Adam had a mom, he didn't know about the monsters or what Dad did." Sam raised his brows, his lips curling up in a tender smile; casual, like it didn't matter, even though they both knew it mattered…it mattered a lot. "Dad couldn't exactly take him hunting or out to target practice. If he wanted to spend any time with him, he needed to do something the kid wanted."

While it seemed reasonable, a rational argument to further explain the injustice, Sam's words seemed hollow, only able to incite more fury. Dean looked up, hurt exploding across his face as sharp words blew out of his mouth. "What the kid wanted? What about us, Sam? If Dad could give that to this kid, then why not us?" Dean stopped, struggling again with what he would and wouldn't say; finally giving a what-the-hell shrug to those strong shoulders as he released his darkest desires, his lips trembling in a broken smirk. "Do you realize Dad never did anything for me, Sam? Just for me. Something that I wanted, something that didn't involve hunting or training or…" He stopped short, a look of horror flickering past his eyes before they silently apologized for what he hadn't even said; Dean's guilt forever driving his responses as he reined himself back.

Sam didn't need to hear the words to hear them. He finished out his brother's thought as effortlessly as he used to when they were still kids, before any differences threatened to divide them. "Taking care of your kid brother?"

"No…," Dean protested, his mouth twisting again, jaw clenched tight before his lips fell open and the words rushed out, "God, it's not like that, Sam." He stood silent before his brother, shoulders now hunched, tunneling inward before he broke the still and looked up, sensitive eyes pleading for understanding. "I wanted to take care of you. I wanted to be there for you like Dad…"

"Wasn't for you?" Sam seamlessly filled in, again in sync with his brother after such a long time. He breathed a sigh of relief, sure in this exchange, in where it was heading and how he'd handle it. They could move past this as long as Dean continued to talk.

"Yeah, I guess," Dean relented. "I mean, face it, Dad was gone a lot."

"Dean… Dad loved you." It was a simple statement of fact, something they both knew…still, it was something that needed to be said.

"I know."

"He'd have done anything for you."

Dean quirked his left brow, his voice ever softer, barely rising above the pain. "I know."

Worry crept across Sam's features, his brows furrowed over tender eyes that never strayed from his brother's face. He leaned in, only wanting to close the gulf between them. "Dean?"

Dean looked up, straight into his eyes, the connection deep and true, his voice gravelly and low, brittle and on the verge of breaking as he answered. "He did, didn't he? I mean, the man died to save me…and yet, he never really took the time to know me. What I wanted, what I dreamed of…" He sucked in a shaky breath, allowing the words to escape as he exhaled, "Who I was."

Dean's pain sliced into Sam's heart, deftly cutting and shredding the fragile organ, a stark reminder of when they first lost Dad, all the emotions of that time tumbling back again, filling out Dean's face with hurt and bitterness, while Sam struggled with his own feelings of loss and regret, all the unresolved issues that had been shoved aside as greater concerns demanded all focus. Sam only wanted the pain to end. All of it… Dean's and his. He took one small step toward that end as he reached out to his brother. "Dean, it's not that he didn't want to…it's just…"

"Yeah, I know…the job."

The job, their lives, destiny and fate…everything that had happened in the last four years relentlessly pounding them down, separating them as their grief and more hurts pushed them further away from each other. They needed to start somewhere, someone needed to reach out and bridge the distance. Somehow they needed to find each other if only for the moment. Sam took a steadying breath, only wanting to help, do one thing right that would make Dean feel better instead of worse. Take one small step toward fixing them. He needed Dean to be fixed, somehow… To not allow this additional hurt to weigh on him like his time in Hell still did. A man can only take so much, even a Winchester. In a whisper he asked, "So, Dean…tell me. What did you want? What did you dream of?"

Dean looked up, curious and slightly startled, hesitant to go further down this road…so much that needed to be addressed, so much on their plates already, no time for introspection and 'what ifs'. In this war between angels and demons, poised on the brink of the apocalypse, this hardly mattered. Reason dictated they move past this as quickly as possible and stay focused on the fate of the world. Still, the offer had been extended and for some vague cause he couldn't justify, he cracked open the door. "I don't know, Sam," he cautiously reflected. He looked up and embraced tender eyes, the desire to understand glowing within, comforting him as he spoke and easing him further down this road. "With our lives there was never any point…no reason to wish for something that you knew was never gonna happen." The tentative way in which he talked made it clear he was feeling his way through a minefield, each hesitant step taking him toward self-awareness and bringing him closer to his brother, but also revealing more of himself, more secrets that he was now scared to share, nervous enough to admit the truth to himself.

Sam smiled at this small start, this tiny opening. "But if you had, Dean…what would it be?"

It was noticeable, not dramatic or overpowering, but Dean seemed to subtly relax, the tension lessening as he eased into the moment, allowing himself to consider the offer, for once receiving permission to focus on his needs and then actually taking it. His eyes glimmered at the possibilities as they opened up, welcoming Sam into the emerald depths. "I don't know, Sam… Maybe just a day where we could do guy stuff…where Dad would be there for me. No hunts or maneuvers, nothing but us. God, just a normal nothing day, you know?" A smile nudged him, a wistful turn of his lips as his eyes softened, taking on a subtle glow. "A man spending time with his son…just the two of us together. A day that wouldn't mean anything to most kids… Something they wouldn't even remember a week later, but…"

"What, Dean?" Sam whispered, in awe of how open he was, how raw and unguarded.

Dean's eyes glistened with moisture, pure emotion radiating off of him in heavy waves of want and need. His voice trembling from sheer desire. "I would have remembered. A day like that, Dad spending time with me… It would have meant something…it would have meant somethin' to me."

Sam choked around a lump the size of a walnut that had mysteriously formed in his throat, tears misting his eyes from seeing his brother this painfully open and honest. It brought back memories of other times, so many over the past few years, special moments when Dean lowered his walls and let his brother see into his heart, allowing their closeness to bring comfort. With all the secrets and lies between them now, the undeniable slide from sharing to hiding, Sam hadn't even realized how much he missed this and how much he hated how things had deteriorated between them.

Dean had finally admitted he remembered Hell, shared the stark reality of the horrors he'd suffered there, the thirty years of torture followed by the ten where he wielded the knife. He'd confessed to his failings in a shocking disclosure before clamming up again, burying the details and shuddering through the guilt and the enormity of his pain on his own; hidden behind a wall of silence and denial, almost like he deserved the anguish, the unrelenting torment, that it was his cross to bear, his penance for falling short.

Sam honestly wasn't sure if he wanted to know more about Dean's time in Hell or if he welcomed the chance to avoid the gritty details. As much as he wanted to help, he wasn't sure there was anything that could ease that kind of suffering.

This was different, more normal, more understandable and forgivable…and this was something Dean seemed able to talk about; willingly sharing his thoughts, not only letting his brother witness his pain, but allowing him the long-denied opportunity to help. "I'm sorry," was all Sam could initially manage, overcome by the weight bearing down on them, heavy and unrelenting; still trying to find his sea legs, find the tenderness he'd long thought he'd buried. For Dean he would grab that shovel and start digging, hoping he could hold on to the closeness that again seemed within reach.

"Yeah, I know…." Dean lingered, lost in the moment, trembling eyes blinking back the threat of tears before pulling back his shoulders and standing tall, dismissing the emotion with a determined shrug as he edged back towards control. "It's stupid. I mean, after all this time, what difference?"

"It's not stupid, Dean." Sam grabbed hold of the moment, a true chance to connect with his brother. He stood beside him, united on this front, refusing to surrender this part of his big brother, so vulnerable and sincere, unwilling to return so readily to the gulf that had grown between them. He continued on, calm and rational, holding firm to the validity of their feelings. "And finding Adam like this, knowing what Dad did with him, it's natural to feel slighted." He smiled, nervous and trying to hang on to the hope as his own pain welled. "It's normal, Dean."

"But we're not normal, are we?" Dean quickly countered, a sad resignation infusing his words, solemn eyes further enforcing the sentiment. "We didn't get the normal upbringing, the normal outings, the…."

Sam gently cut him off, trying to steer Dean back to the point, not wanting to lose the ground they'd already won. "Dean, we may not have a normal life, but what you're feeling, what you wanted from Dad…it's allowed, you know that, right? You're allowed to feel hurt."

"Why?" Dean sincerely asked; his brows scrunched together, his mouth slightly open beneath dimples twitching as they tried to register. "What good is it? Dad's gone. I'm grown, Sam. I'm not some needy kid waiting for my dad to come home and play catch."

Shuddering through his own doubts, Sam focused on the floor, the carpet a mossy green, green like envy, worn like their emotions, ugly like he hoped they could never be, even as they struggled within their needs. "Dean, can I tell you something?"

Dean paused, eyes rising to focus on his brother, intent and steady, his head slightly tilted as he waited. "What?"

Taking a deep breath, Sam ventured into the honesty Dean had shown, trying his hand at sharing his feelings. "How you're feeling about Adam, the time he spent with Dad…that's how I used to feel about you."

Not missing a beat, Dean leaped into his big brother protector role. "Sammy…."

Seeing the transformation, totally not what he intended, Sam tried to clarify. "No, Dean, just listen, okay?"

"Sam…."

"Just listen…. Dean, you and Dad were so close. I mean, the two of you would work on the car for hours." Sam paused, caring eyes reaching out to his brother as his own resentments stirred, long buried and denied. "You had so much in common with the man…the car, your music…hunting and all the weapons."

"Right…." Dean replied, his eyes betraying the word as he quirked his head to the side and squinted, that persistent tick in his jawline again throbbing.

"Dean, what is it?"

Dean cleared his throat, his voice whiskey raw, the words considered as he strained to control his emotions stealthily lying in wait for their chance to surge forth again once his guard was down. "Sam, what you saw…what you thought you saw…that wasn't the whole story."

"Oh, really?" Snapping more than he intended and betraying his own fragile state, Sam bitterly demanded, "Well, then, explain it to me, 'cause I was the one who felt left out, like I didn't belong." Once he started he found he couldn't stop, his own hurts surfacing and spilling forth, not meaning to accuse, rather, merely explain, and yet the petulant child was right there forcing silent hurts into the open. "You and dad were so much alike…" Sam gasped, trembling from the intense feelings, shocked himself with his outburst as he tried to backtrack, tried to calm himself down and not make matters worse. He offered a slight concession, apologetically adding, "At least that's how it seemed."

Quirking his left brow again, dimples flashing before holding steady over a half-smirk of recognition, Dean casually nodded his agreement. "I guess it did…as long as I showed an interest in what he liked…."

"What?" Sam whispered, eyes earnestly trying to comprehend as he again reached out. "So, you didn't like the same stuff?"

"It's not that I didn't like it…." Dean waited, searching for the right words, not wanting this to turn into a competition, another battle with his brother. There had already been too many confrontations, too many bitter arguments and he was so tired of the tension. He truly wanted to stand on common ground, to have his Sammy back again, and to have him understand…after all this time, just understand.

"Then what, Dean?" Sam gently asked, also needing to find a commonality in all of this, only wanting to be closer to his brother.

"It's just…" Dean cleared his throat, his voice tender and resigned as he continued, "It's just, if I didn't like it…if I liked something else, then it wouldn't have mattered." He offered a casual shrug, tender eyes holding firm as he added, "And I knew it…." He forced a smile, an attempt to temper that bitter truth and hold on to some control. "I'm not an idiot, Sam. I always knew."

Sam muffled a gasp. All he thought he'd known about Dean stuttering to a halt as he saw his brother in a new light. He nodded his understanding, aligned again on the same side as Dean concerning their father, both wanting more from Dad than he'd been able to give. Sam's mind traveled over all the false impressions of Dean he'd held onto over the years, all the lies he'd already seen fall away as the truth slowly revealed itself. Pushing their connection, embracing this chance to bond further, Sam tried for more insight, hoping Dean wouldn't break the thin thread holding them together. "Did you ever think about rebelling? You know, doing your own thing?"

"No."

No hesitation before the answer came, harsh and curt, as sad resignation again filled solemn eyes.

"Never?"

Dean's voice turned softer, bordering on compliant. "No…not really." Those expressive eyes were again swimming in tears, on the verge of shattering, so tender and hurt, so vulnerable…repentant, then defiant and yet reticent, totally conflicted and embarrassed by how he actually felt and how he felt he should. Lost within that pain, but not broken, never broken.

Shifting nervously, Sam pursued the thought, remembering how Dean stood up to Dad when they met up to fight the vampires and get the colt. How Dean didn't back down when Dad said he was going after Yellow-Eyes on his own, instead insisting they were stronger as a family and winning that battle of wills. Sam remembered how shocked he was at the time, looking upon his brother with awe as Dean stepped far beyond the role of the obedient soldier, mindless and subservient. Sam's mind took him back to other times, all the subtle ways Dean got away with questioning authority. All the times Sam hadn't noticed when he was younger, always believing he followed orders blindly. Remembering with more guilt how he had childishly put Dean down for being Daddy's 'good little soldier' and how he now regretted every cutting word and spiteful snipe. Wondering how often his perception of Dean was skewered, off-kilter from what was really happening; and now, after all these years, getting the chance to see what Dean saw, hoping to better understand him through his own eyes. "Why not, Dean? I mean, you just said that Dad didn't care what your interests were."

"So, what, Sam? I'm supposed to fight him, demand he see me?"

Sam again softened his voice, struggling to ease the tension his question triggered. "I'm just saying, I don't understand. Either you wanted other things or you didn't."

"I wanted Dad, Sam."

It was a bold statement, a man's strong voice betraying the child's fragile need. Once released, the words hung in the air, the echo reaching back through years of denial, resonating within the dark caverns of his pain. Dean finally offered the slightest smile of recognition, acceptance…that small tick beneath his left eye bringing attention back to forlorn eyes swollen with tears, years of need on display as his walls swiftly crumbled.

Sam gasped from the enormity of the moment, the rawness triggering the compassion he thought he'd forever buried beneath his need to grow stronger and fiercer.

Before Sam could formulate a response Dean softly continued, all barriers broken down. "I wanted Dad to see me…to like me…not for hunting or my skills with weapons, just for me."

"Dean, Dad loved you."

"I know…" His next words came more forcefully, succinct and to the point. "I know he loved me, Sam. It's not about love, it's about respect…him knowing who I was and giving a damn." Dean released a gentle sigh, finally relenting and freeing the last of his need. "For him to say I was good enough without the hunting and the weapons training…that who I was was okay." Dean's voice broke; the ticks along his jawline and beneath his left eye quivering as the pressure throbbed from within his very soul. "I wanted him to be proud of me."

"He was, Dean." Sam eased closer, his voice calm and low. "I don't know how you can doubt that."

"You don't, huh?"

"No, I don't."

"He only saw what he wanted to see. What I let him…." Dean took a steadying breath, his voice subtly breaking as he continued, "Dad never saw the real me, Sam. I don't know what he'd think of me 'cause he never really knew me. I didn't let him. I was too damn scared he'd turn away…that he'd turn me out like he did…."

"Me?"

"Yeah, I guess." Dean turned all focus back to his kid brother, his eyes warm and gentle, tender and caring. "But you always knew who you were, what you wanted. You were always so much stronger than me, so independent." Dean grinned, sincere and steady, pride in his kid brother dispelling his own pain for a second. "You didn't care what he thought."

"You're wrong, Dean. I cared."

"Oh, really?" He quirked his lips into another tentative half-smirk, tender eyes still searching. "You sure didn't show it."

"Yeah, Dean, I did," Sam purposely stated. "I just went about it the opposite of you." He nervously offered his own half-smile, his brows furrowed over mellow eyes as they welled with moisture, his voice trembling as he tried to lock down his surging emotions and get through this confession. "I fought him to get him to see me…to accept me. Hell, I did everything I could to get him to listen to what I wanted." He released a short chuckle, a sad mix between resignation and disgust. "It didn't work."

"We're a pair, aren't we?" Dean asked. "Neither one of us got what we wanted from Dad and yet, Adam…well, he got it all."

"No, he didn't." Sam stated that simple fact and waited before continuing on, letting the words settle for a moment. "He got one day a year. A few phone calls. He said it himself, he didn't know Dad. Just like Dad never got to know us, he never let Adam know him."

"Man, we are one screwed-up family, you know that?"

"Yeah…" Sam agreed, his voice solemn but slightly hopeful, "But it's our family… And it's all we've got."

"Yeah…."

They seemed to have reached an impasse, a level playing field where they both understood the other better and could share in their regrets and unresolved needs. A comfortable place to rest before continuing on with their journey. After a few minutes of strained silence, they each returned to their previous tasks, Sam researching the town disappearances on the laptop while Dean cleaned the last of the weapons he'd brought into the room to pass the time as they figured out how to handle Adam's case.

Dean was the one to revisit their talk, going back to an earlier comment and seeking more insight. "So, you were jealous of Dad and me?" He looked up as he cleaned out the barrel of the pistol in his grip, his hands expertly doing their job while his mind had time to ponder other things. He took a quick look down the barrel before reassembling the gun, snapping the barrel back onto the stock and engaging the slide, laying the handgun back down on the bed beside him before picking up the next one.

"I wouldn't say jealous, exactly..." Sam offered a small grin, his eyes narrowing in recognition, a fondness replacing the rage he'd once harbored for his family and their chosen profession. "It was just, seeing the two of you together, side by side, working on the car or at target practice… later when you'd go on a hunt with him. It used to make me, I don't know… I guess, envious…the way he treated you…like you were somebody." Sam looked down before his eyes rose up and locked with his brother, sincerity breathing out through his answer. "I just wanted him to look at me like that."

"Really? You felt like that?" Dean scratched at the back of his head, his voice filled with awe; a soft smile graced his full lips while his eyes still held concern.

"Yeah, I did." Sam nodded; a larger grin spreading out as all the conflicts of that time seemed to shrink in comparison to all the conflicts they now faced. "It's funny, but I didn't want to do all the stuff you did with Dad and yet…I wanted him…and you to spend some time with me on my stuff."

"Me? You wanted more time with me?" Dean asked, perplexed by the notion, a larger grin, wondrous and quite satisfied, trembling for release.

"Well, yeah." Sam laughed, a comforting, familiar sound, too long hidden. "Dude, you were like the coolest big brother around."

Dean looked down at the gun in his hand, suspended there, all motion halted. He jostled the weapon, almost bouncing it in his grip as his eyes shifted up and the fine lines crinkling around his eyes made them stand out, now appearing happy and content, so unlike his pained expression from before. "Huh… Half the time I thought I embarrassed you…thought you wanted me to just disappear and leave you to your books and all that normal crap you were always into."

"Dean…that was teen angst or rebellion or I don't know…just trying to find my own way, apart from the family and what Dad wanted."

"Yeah, you always did have a mind of your own," Dean wistfully acknowledged, a father's pride shining through.

Sam shook his head in recognition, facing his own shortcomings as a demanding teen. "I was stubborn…just plain bullheaded…but under all the protests, I always wanted to be just like my big brother…strong…fearless…so sure and confident. Nothing scared you."

Dean softly chuckled. "You're wrong about that, Sammy."

"But you didn't show it. When we were kids and Dad was gone… Dean, I know there must have been times when you had to be scared. I know I was… but I always had you." Sam offered a tender smile, tears pricking his eyes with true joy and love. "I always knew I had my big brother by my side. Knew whatever happened, you'd be there." He looked up and captured his brother's warm gaze, embracing the chance to connect like this. "And you're still here… Even after all the crap, even with…" Sam stopped, the empty space quickly filling with all their issues, all the unresolved tension that came from Dean's deal and its aftermath.

Sam couldn't handle that now, not now.

A wave of remorse and regret washed over him, his eyes displaying a wealth of emotions as the last few months with all the hurts assaulted him. All the things that neither brother could face: the deception, the secrets and the lies, the distance that seemed to grow with each passing day.

"Dean, I just want you to know…" Sam took a deep breath, grateful he could tell his brother something that might make him feel good again. "I just want you to know that I see you and… I like what I see."

Dean stared at him, his face a blank slate as he let the words sink in, his eyes shifting as he came to terms with the words just spoken. All tension seemed to fall away, the darkness quickly dissipating, his eyes glowing as his dimples deepened into pits above a slightly off-center but sincere smile. Contrary to how he normally might have reacted to such a comment, he simply allowed the words to settle, finally offering up a contented, "Yeah?"

Sam's grin expanded, reaching up to his glimmering eyes. "Yeah."

Something else still seemed to be weighing on Dean, nudging his consciousness and demanding notice. His tongue came out to sweep across his bottom lip as he nervously fidgeted before he finally spoke, starting and stopping several times as he tried to gather his thoughts. "Sammy…I wish I'da known how you felt, you know…about Dad and me." He looked so sincere and apologetic. "You didn't deserve to feel like that… like you didn't belong or somethin'. I mean, you've always been a big part of this family."

"I know, Dean. It's all right." Sam smiled at his big brother. "Dean… you know what?"

"What?"

"You always made me feel important."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really, Dean."

"Well, you were…hell, Sammy, you are."

Dean contentedly sat there as they relaxed, having found this common ground; so much of the mounting pressure released, so many unresolved issues at last set free. He pondered Adam's life for a second; grateful the kid still had that chance for normal, the normal life he and Sam both yearned for. He found his anger easing, filtering out into the vast beyond and losing its hold over him. He couldn't begrudge Dad's intent. He understood his desire to protect Adam, to keep at least one of his sons on the path toward normal. Hell, it's what Dean had always wished he could give Sam. He knew it was too late for Sam and him, but Adam…Adam had a real shot.

Dean couldn't resent the kid for getting what he knew they all wanted; what they might even deserve if life ever chose to be fair. Life was hard, most especially for the Winchesters, and he'd accepted that reality long ago. Logic dictated he not hold it against the kid, regardless of how those nasty feelings tended to rear their fugly heads when reason left the building. He was determined to honor his dad's wishes, fulfill his duty as the big brother and keep Adam safe, allowing him to live a normal life. Once he had sorted it all out in his own mind, he couldn't help but share his realization. "So maybe Adam was the lucky one, huh? Not having Dad around so much… not having to deal with hunting and our F'd up lives." He offered a sincere smile as he spoke, the bitterness no longer as intrusive. "Guess the kid won the jackpot…got himself a nice, normal life."

"No," Sam firmly answered, never more sure of what he was about to say. "Adam's the one who missed out."

"Yeah?" Dean quirked his brow, his eyes squinting in that humorous way in which he questioned the world. "How's that?"

"He may not have had to deal with Dad and hunting, but I'd take our lives over normal, any day of the week."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really….no contest." Sam tilted his head to the side, coming to terms and accepting their fate. "I wouldn't have before, but I guess I see things different now. It's dangerous not knowing the truth…not being prepared." Sam locked his shoulders, soldier rigid before his voice noticeably softened and he quietly added, "Besides, Adam didn't have you."

"Me?" Dean quirked his brow at the comment, wondering what more his brother might have to lay on him.

"Yeah, Adam had to go it alone. I'm glad I had a brother back then." Sam smiled as he added, "And now."

Dean nodded in agreement, unable to fathom traveling this road on his own, not wanting to even consider it. He'd never wanted to go it alone. Hadn't wanted to when he first sought out Sam at Stanford, and he sure as hell didn't want to now. Times might have gotten strained between Sam and him, but the alternative was so much worse. "Yeah, me too."

"I'd say Adam definitely missed out."

The End

bjxmas

July 2009

All standard disclaimers apply.

And yes, I'd love to receive some reviews...if you are so inclined.

Thanks for reading. Take care, B.J.