Dean was sitting on his bed in Bobby's guest room, reading a magazine, when he heard familiar footsteps in the hallway and saw a familiar shadow stop just outside the door.


He didn't come into the room, he stood where Dean could just see him, with his hands pushed into his pockets, and his shoulders hunched like he was trying to see something at his feet.

"Sammy - did you get something to eat?"

"Uh - yeah."

They'd been here three days. Sam didn't - he never - ate meals with Dean and Bobby. He either got something before they sat down to eat, or he waited until the kitchen was empty and the downstairs practically deserted before he'd make a hit and run on the fridge and disappear back into the labyrinth of Bobby's house.

"You going to bed?"

It was after supper, nearly nightfall, but Sam had been as wary of bedtimes as he was of mealtimes. Maybe he'd go to bed if Dean went somewhere else for awhile.

"Uh - no." Sam wasn't looking at anything but the floor. His shoulders were up like he was expecting to be hit. That'd been his basic posture since they got here. "I'm gonna just - go outside. Y'know, get some air..." Then he shadowed away again.

Dean thought about it a minute, wanting to go after Sam, but not sure he should. For three days he'd mostly only seen the back of Sam as he hurried away, or the heel of his sneaker as he turned a corner. That wasn't the body language of someone who wanted company, so Dean had let him have his space. This was different though - this time Sam was telling Dean where he was going. So maybe that meant...

Dean went outside and found Sam sitting on the hood of the car, just outside the back door. Night was falling and overhead the dusk to dawn light was fuzzing and sputtering into life. If Dean had been one for metaphors, he'd say that light was a perfect metaphor for their relationship right now.

He stood a minute and gauged Sam's mood. Dejected. Lost. Exhausted. But hopeful. He had to have some hope or he wouldn't have told Dean where he was going or be sitting right here where Dean could find him without looking. That was an opening Dean would take. He sat on the hood next to Sam, but Sam didn't say anything.

"Tell me what's going on inside your head, Sam."

"Inside my head isn't a pleasant place to be right now."

"So tell me."

"Do you know what I was going to do?" Sam asked after a minute.

"No - what were you going to do?"

"When I became a lawyer, I was gonna buy a house, a big house, a double, side by side, and the one side was gonna be for you and Dad so that you'd always have someplace to come, so you'd always have a home."

"That sounds great, Sammy." Dean said, honestly. That woulda been real nice."

"Pfft - yeah. And that burned up just like every other good idea I ever had."

What could Dean say? Sam hadn't had a whole lotta good ideas lately.

"It doesn't matter how many times you fall down, Sam. It matters how many times you get up."

"Wouldn't it have been better if I'd stayed dead? Wouldn't it be better if I didn't get up that time? We wouldn't be in this mess right now if I'd stayed dead."

"You mean if I hadn't made the deal."

"If I hadn't turned my back on Jake, if I hadn't left the knife there, Jake couldn't have killed me."

Sam was so not going to win this argument, Dean decided.

"And if I'd driven three miles an hour faster I would've gotten to you before he did."

"It's not your fault." Sam said, sounding surprised that Dean would say otherwise.

"It's not yours."

"Right." Sam answered, sarcastically. "Because I'm not the one who opened the door to hell. Oh wait - I am."

Dean couldn't deny that.

"If you turned the key, Sammy - I'm the one who put the key in the lock. Nothing would've happened at all if I hadn't started it."

"And you wouldn't have been in hell if I hadn't died - no, Dean." Sam cut off Dean's interruption. "This is mine. It just is. I made every bad decision I possibly could. I chose that path. I let my pride, my arrogance, tell me what to do. If I'd just listened to you -"

"Same thing would've happened Sam. Details might've been different but the same thing would've happened. Hell and Heaven both had it in for us that you'd kill Lilith and I'd sit by helpless to do anything to save you." Dean sighed. "Sammy - this one is ours."

Dean waited for a response. First there was a chuff, then a chuckle, then a quiet laugh, then Sam actually laughed out loud, the deep, loud, honest laugh that Dean hadn't heard out of him in years.

"What?" He had to ask.

"Oh, we make a hell of a team." Sam said, wiping at his eyes and having trouble controlling his laughter. "I mean - we work together well, but together - we screw up spectacularly."

Dean looked at him for a minute liked Sam finally gone stark raving cuckoo, but then even he had to laugh.

"Oh God - do we ever." He agreed, laughing. "We can't do anything simple like crash the stock market or sink a multi-billion dollar company. No, we bring on the Apocalypse."

"And they say there are no career moves in hunting." Sam said, still laughing.

"What d'you think we should do for an encore?"

"I don't know. Maybe we could get Cas on 'The Bachelor'." Sam said. "Or get Zachariah a seat on Dr. Phil."

Dean made a 'pfft' noise.

"Or a colonic. No - wait - I've got it." He tapped Sam's shoulder with the back of his hand. "The absolutely only thing in the entire universe that could possibly top the Apocalypse...we get Bobby on an episode of 'What Not To Wear'."

They both laughed until they couldn't laugh anymore.

"Oh man, I gotta tell you..." Sam said when he could breathe. "I didn't think I'd ever laugh again. And for damn sure I never thought I'd be laughing about the Apocalypse."

"Yeah, with a little work, we could put a routine together and take it on the road." Dean was just happy to see something other than despair on his brother's face. "Tell a joke, exorcize a demon, tell another joke..."

"I thought that was what we did already." Sam said. He grinned and Dean smiled, then got to the point he'd had in mind for three days.

"We'll get through this, Sammy. We will. We need to keep our heads and yeah, we really need to keep a sense of humor. But we'll get through it."

It took another minute of thinking about it, but Sam nodded.

"Okay." It was less than enthusiastic, but it was another opening Dean was willing to take.

"Okay. C'mon in the house and I'll buy you a beer." They slid off the car and headed to the stairs. "Hey - what do you think the punch line would be to the joke, 'how many hunters does it take to change a light bulb...'?"

The End