Spoiler: Tag to Season 5 season premiere, "Sympathy for the Devil".

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Beneath a Night Sky
by FraidyCat

He realized Sam was not following closely behind him, and he hesitated for a moment during his journey to the Impala. Dean half-turned to face his brother, but never completed the rotation. He had said what he had said -- and he stood by his words. They were not spoken in anger, during the heat of an argument; nor were they influenced by a Siren, or anything else supernatural. They were words he had spent days stringing together in his own mind; hearing them escape into the night air of the hospital parking lot had broken his heart as much as it had Sam's. Both brothers recognized the veracity of those words; there was no point in trying to take them back, now. They had spent their entire lives in an unimaginable reality that demanded subterfuge and deception at every turn; their very familiarity with fraud was also why it was so easy to discern the truth when it was spoken. (Unless, of course, it was spoken by a demon who used grief, sex, and addiction to sell her story.)

And so, Dean turned away from Sam.

He crossed the few feet that remained between him and the Impala. His hand was heavy as he lifted the handle of the driver's door, and his exhausted body practically fell into position behind the steering wheel. It took several seconds for him to shove the keys into the ignition. Then he sat in the silence, and waited. Dean wasn't thinking; he was feeling. Feeling was something he tried to avoid, if at all possible -- especially since his return from Down Under. Feeling was for girls, and for emo guys like Sam. Yet there was no denying it: Dean Felt Bad. He felt bereft. He felt worse than he had when Sam had died in his arms, back at Cold Oak -- and that was pretty bad. His brother was gone again -- had been gone for months -- but this time, Dean had to drag a sorry shell of Sam around with him, a constant, bitter, reminder of what had been lost.

He couldn't have said how long he sat there before he sensed Sam's bulk outside the car. He was leaning over, peering into the driver's side window. Dean cranked the handle, and lowered it a few inches.

He did not look at Sam, but kept his eyes trained straight ahead, his gaze fixed on the leather dash.

"You go on ahead," Sam said quietly. "I'll walk."

Dean rolled his eyes, and turned his head so that he was almost looking at Sam -- but not quite. "Sam, the motel is almost five miles from here."

Sam straightened, his hands in the pockets of his jeans. "I know," he agreed. "We run that far all the time, when we're training; it's no big deal. I'd just like to take a walk."

Dean's voice was gruff. "I ddn't say you couldn't ride in my girl, anymore."

Sam received the sentence in silence, letting a beat pass before he responded. "I heard what you said, Dean." Another second passed. "I'll see you at the motel," Sam said softly, shuffling away from the car.

And so, Dean let him go.

He rolled up the window, turned the key in the ignition until the Impala rumbled to life, fastened his seatbelt and adjusted his rear-view mirror. He backed out of the parking space, shifted into Drive, and left the hospital -- and Sam -- behind.

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He stopped for a burger on the way back to the motel. Almost without realizing what he was doing, Dean only ordered one. Back in the room, he ate half of it, most of his fries, and drank a soda while he lay on his back on the bed, propped into a semi-recline on the pillows. In this position, he watched an entire movie; something, appropriately enough, about a group of people pretending to be what they weren't. It starred Clooney, or Pitt -- maybe both of them; Dean wasn't paying very close attention. The next movie was fifteen minutes into plot development before Dean even realized that his movie was over. He clicked off the television, rolled over onto his side, and went to sleep.

He awoke some time later, when Sam finally came in, a burst of fresh air at his back soon swallowed by the stale vacuum of the motel room. Dean opened his eyes, but he didn't move. Sam crept quietly around the small room. Dean was always amazed that someone so big could be so quiet. There was a soft rustle of cloth as Sam took off his jacket. Two thumps in close proximity to each other signaled that sneakers had been kicked off. Then Sam's knees entered Dean's field of vision, and he closed his eyes, listening to his brother sink onto the edge of the other bed.

For months now, Dean had felt as if he didn't really know who Sam was, anymore; but apparently, Sam still knew Dean. Although Dean had not moved, and his eyes were closed, Sam knew that he was awake. He spoke quietly in the darkness. "I'm not sure what I can do, now." He sounded resigned; sad. "It might be too late to do anything. But I owe it to...to the world, I guess...to try. I caused this mess, and I need to try to clean it up." Dean did not respond, and after a few seconds, Sam continued as if he didn't really expect his brother to say anything, anyway. "We'll be fighting the same battle -- but you're right. You need to be surrounded by people you can trust to have your back. Bobby; other hunters. Cas." He snickered, a sound harsh and out of place. "Other angels. Maybe Anna will come back to help." He shifted slightly on the bed, and the worn springs squeaked in protest. "I know how important it is for you to be able to trust the people around you.... I just want you to believe one thing, Dean. I may not live long, but as long as I do, I will always regret...well, virtually everything since Cold Oak. It was my time to go, then." He sighed, so heavily, so painfully, that Dean almost opened his eyes. "I know I've said that you aren't strong enough for the hunt, anymore," Sam went on. "The truth is -- I wasn't strong enough, after you brought me back. I wasn't strong enough to watch you go to hell, I wasn't strong enough to do the job without you, and I wasn't strong enough to let you come back; to trust that you wouldn't leave me, again."

Silence settled on the room like a heavy, smothering, blanket. Dean waited...and remembered. This was the Sammy of his past, full of sorrow, self-doubt, sacrifice...honesty. God, he had missed chick-flick Sammy, and he swallowed thickly, pushing something back down his throat before it escaped as a sob and ricocheted around the room like a wild thing, intent on killing them both.

He was so focused on maintaining his breathing pattern, that he almost missed what Sam said next. "I'll leave in the morning. Just promise me one thing -- that you won't try to do this alone. Hook up with Bobby -- he's going to need back-up as much as you will."

Dean felt his eyes pop open; not that the action helped much, in the darkness of the motel room. He pushed himself up so that he was sitting on the edge of his own bed, his knees almost touching Sam's as they faced each other. Dean peered into the shadows, trying to see Sam's face more clearly. "What are you talking about?" he asked, and winced. His voice had come out as a growl, not at all what he was expecting. "I never said you had to leave." He wondered briefly if he was possessed when he heard himself add a bitter coda. "Although, leaving is what you've always done best, isn't it?"

He snapped his mouth shut in horror, but Sam did not seem surprised at his words. "I'll stay until Bobby gets here," he amended. "I know you can't believe that I'll be watching your back, but I couldn't live with myself if I left you alone in the middle of all this." He snickered again, and the sound was still harsh. "I can barely live with myself as it is."

Dean wanted to beg him to stay. He wanted to beg God, or Cas, or some entity, to erase the last year and make him trust his brother, again. He wanted...all that he had lost. "Where will you go?" he whispered, against his will, against his desires. He felt as if the invisible hand that had been wrapped around his heart, ever since he crawled out of hell, was squeezing; it was difficult to breathe.

"I'm not sure," Sam admitted. "I'll do some research while we're waiting for Bobby, and follow the signs."

"Then we'll be going to the same places," Dean pointed out desperately.

He felt Sam's shrug in the dark. "Maybe...but probably not at the same time, Dean. We haven't been on the same page for quite a while, now."

Dean flinched, not so much at the words as at their truth. He dug deep, and gave Sam what he could; turned out, it wasn't much. "You're still my brother," he said. "I...I care about you, Sam...I just don't trust you."

Sam accepted the sorry offering gracefully. "I appreciate that," he responded. "I'll keep in touch." A final snicker, this one both bitter and dispassionate. "I've got your number." He stood, and moved toward the bathroom. He had to squeeze by Dean, still sitting, silently now, on the edge of his bed.

Dean easily could have reached out and grabbed Sam's dangling hand, as he passed. There was a time when he would have. Even now, even after everything, he felt his own hand twitch, and lift a few inches from the bed. There was too much space between the brothers, though, and there was no contact.

And so, the brothers drifted apart.

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End