This came out to be...a rather odd story. Let me just say that Heart was one of the singularly most depressing, tragic episodes I've ever seen. It's wasn't on par with The Body...but it was damn close. I honestly can't remember another episode where Sam was that happy. And then, Supernatural being Supernatural, all that potential happiness got turned into gut-wrenching tragedy.

Dean's reactions to the whole affair kinda stuck with me, especially at the end. And I remembered that bit from The Body, where Buffy kept imagining better outcomes only to get jerked back to reality. The way Dean looked at the very end of the episode, I could totally imagine him doing the same thing. After all, Dean pretty desperately wants Sam to be happy, especially at this point in the series. The song they played at the end also partially inspired this "plot"...I thought the song pretty perfectly matched what I thought Dean must be feeling about Sam, so...this happened.

Anyway, this was a bit of an experiment on my part. It's pretty lengthy, but I hope you enjoy.


"Sam, I'm sorry."

Three little words that weren't enough, weren't anywhere near enough. Sam stood before him, shoulders hunched protectively, eyes over bright as tears made their way down his face, looking sad and defeated and all Dean could do was apologize.

Sam shook his head. "No," he whispered. "You're right. She's right."

Ordinarily, Dean loved it when he was right. He loved getting one up on his book smart brother. Not now, though. Now, he'd give anything to be wrong.

He realized that he was still holding the gun. The gun he'd taken from Sam. The gun Madison had handed Sam. He couldn't not be right about what had to happen, but maybe there was one other thing he could do.

"Sammy, I got this one. I'll do it," he insisted.

Sam shook his head, his gaze never leaving Dean's. "She asked me to," he said, just as insistently, just as forcefully.

"You don't have to." And Dean didn't want him to. Sam loved that girl standing alone in the other room, loved her like he hadn't loved since Jessica burned. But just because he loved her didn't mean she could ask him to do this.

"Yes, I do," said Sam. His voice was, despite the agony in his eyes, as steady as Dean had ever heard it. He held out his hand. "Please."

Slowly, reluctantly, Dean handed the weapon over. Sam took it, his fingers shifting instinctively into the firing position.

Slowly, reluctantly, his entire body shaking like a dead leaf waiting to be stepped on, Sam moved towards the door that led to the room where Madison waited calmly for death. He looked back once at his brother.

"Just wait here," he begged, and then he turned the corner and was gone from sight. Dean watched him go, but did not follow. He could not follow. Sam did not want to be seen killing an innocent girl, and Dean didn't want to see him. He'd wait. He'd wait with his breath held and his fists clenched at his sides for that single, damning sound…

…the phone rang, and Dean yelped and cursed as the sound of "Smoke on the Water" echoed throughout the house. He pulled out his phone, intending more to see who to beat down later than to actually answer it. But the name flashing on the screen was "Bobby Singer."

He answered it on reflex, just because it's Bobby, and the first words out of the other Hunter's mouth were "don't kill her." He hurriedly told Dean why, and Dean felt his heart jump into his throat at the news. Then he realized what he had to do and charged for the next room, running faster than he'd ever run from the scariest monsters ever to walk to world.

He saw Madison, saw Sam, saw Sam raising the gun to point to Madison's heart. But he was running now, running and stumbling and tripping over furniture, and he collided headlong with his brother and knocked them both to the ground.

They laid there for a second, dazed. Sam recovered first. Raising his head off the ground, he stared in resignation at his older brother. He started to raise the hand that held the gun off the floor. Dean moved faster, and pinned it back. He stared into Sam's tear blurred, over bright green eyes, and spoke breathlessly.

"Don't do it. Don't do it, Sam. Just…just hold on a sec. More than a sec. Bobby called. Just listen to this."

* * *

The ritual was simple. It was so ridiculously simple that Dean wasn't the least bit surprised that no one had ever found it.

There was no visible change in Madison once the ritual was done, none at all. There was no way to know, except for the obvious way.

She laughed when Dean told her. "Sleep?" she demanded incredulously, raising her eyebrows. "I could wake up a bloodthirsty monster and rip you all to shreds. How the hell do you expect me to sleep?"

He didn't expect her to sleep, but sleep she eventually did, curled up on Bobby's old couch with her head resting on Sam's chest as the television flickered over their faces. Sam slept to, soon after she did. Dean stayed up until the point when "late night" became "early morning", but by then Bobby had set up a mattress for him in the next room and promised to wait out the rest of the night.

He woke up to the smell of eggs burning. He rolled out of bed reluctantly. After the night they'd had, even one of Bobby's old mattresses felt like something out of the Taj Mahal. But he rolled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, expecting to see Bobby at the stove. Even though Bobby never burned eggs…

Madison turned to smile at him as she took the pan off the burner and flipped off the heat. She looked tired, but there were no traces of blood at all, none on her clothes or on her face.

"Morning," she said. "Sleep well?"

She hadn't left the couch all night.

* * *

They dropped Madison back off at her house the next day. Dean left her and Sam alone to spend some "quality time" together that hopefully wouldn't be interrupted this time by Madison growing fangs. Sam stayed at Madison's until a little after sundown, then called Dean to come and pick him up.

Dean was surprised, when he pulled up to the curb, to see Sam waiting there with his bags.

"Something I miss?" he asked as Sam put his stuff back in the trunk. But he knew as soon as he got a good look at Sam's face that nothing bad had happened. Nothing bad at all. Sam looked up at him and Dean couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his little brother look so damn happy.

"No," he said. He shook his head but continued to smile. "No. We…talked. We just…talked."

Dean raised his eyebrows. "I left you alone with a hot pure grade human chick for six hours and all you did was talk?"

The slight flush that made its way up Sam's face told Dean that no, that hadn't been all they'd done, and he grinned. But he also let himself feel a little bit of pity at the sight of Sammy blushing, and relented just enough to ask: "So…what'd you talk about?"

Sam shrugged. "Stuff…things…"

"'Stuff' and 'things' that led to you packing?" Dean folded his arms. "We're not in a hurry, Sam. No weirdness in town, no hunts on the wire…chill out, man."

Sam shook his head, his expression finally sobering up a little. "Dean…we have a job. We have a job that we have to finish, or…or I'll never be able to move on with her. Not…not after Jessica…"

Dean understood, and let out his breath in a sigh. Yellow Eyes. "Sam…"

"Dean. I mean it. I don't want to wake up one night to find her burning to death on the ceiling! As long as Yellow Eyes is out there…"

"Then let me do it. You stay here for a few days. Have some fun, dammit. I'll take care of that demonic son of a bitch for you."

Sam shook his head. "Not alone, Dean. When we kill it, we kill it together."

"Why the sudden about face?" Dean asked, as Sam slammed the trunk shut. "Last I heard you wanted Yellow Eyes in the rearview mirror. What about his big 'master plan'? What about his 'plans for you and all the children like you'? I mean, laying aside the fact that I've been telling you for weeks not to worry about any of that crap, you…"

"I don't care," said Sam. Dean shut his mouth and raised his eyebrows and Sam looked up at him with an unfamiliar look in his eyes. "I don't care what Yellow Eyes has planned for me anymore. You were right, Dean. It doesn't matter. I don't have to become a killer, or…or a demon, or whatever he keeps trying to turn me into. I just have to kill him."

Dean made a play of applauding. "Brilliant deduction, Watson," he teased. "Only took you a few months to figure it out."

Sam had the decency to look sheepish. Dean shrugged and smiled. "Hey, I'm just glad you've finally pulled your head out of the storm clouds. I'd just like to know what finally did it for you. Sure as hell wasn't me."

"Actually, Dean…it was you." Sam leaned against the car next to his brother, staring off into his own personal distance, looking morose again. "If you hadn't…if you hadn't stopped me…"

"But I did."

His younger brother smiled slowly, and looked back at Dean with determination in his eyes. "But you did. And if there's hope for her…maybe there's hope for me, too."

* * *

And there was.

They never really knew what Yellow Eyes "master plan" would have been, but in the end it didn't matter. The other "Special Children" helped bring the demon to bear…Andy and Ava were both there when it died…but in the end it was Sam who aimed the magic gun and pulled the trigger. And he watched, with Dean at his side, as the Yellow Eyed Demon screamed in agony and died for good.

It had been a long battle to reach that glorious moment. Once it truly sank in that Yellow Eyes was dead, the very next thing Sam and Dean realized was that they were exhausted. Andy and Ava both drove them to the nearest motel.

"We really did it…" Sam kept whispering, as though he truly couldn't believe it. He was shaking as Dean helped him settle down onto one of the room's beds.

"We did it, Sam," Dean replied. It was the eighth time he'd said those words in less than an hour, but he didn't care. He'd say them again and again all damn night, because they were true. "We did it."

He tried to push Sam horizontal, but Sam grabbed his wrist. He was smiling like a little kid who'd just learned that Santa Claus really was real, and Dean couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his little brother look so damn happy.

"We…we have to tell them," he insisted. "Bobby, Jo, Ellen…"

"Don't forget Madison."

Sam nodded fervently and fumbled for his pocket, looking for his phone. Dean took advantage of his distraction to lightly shove his brother down onto the bed. As Sam blinked in tired confusion, Dean held up his own phone.

"Get some sleep, Sasquatch. I'll pass along the good news."

"Dean…" Sam whispered.

Almost without thinking, he reached out and ran a hand softly through Sam's hair, a gesture of affection he'd never normally offer if he wasn't dead sure that Sam probably wouldn't remember any of this tomorrow. "Go to sleep."

Sam nodded, and Dean felt him settle down. He waited until he heard his brother's breathing even out, then dialed Bobby and made the first of many phone calls.

* * *

"Lemme get this straight, Sam." He was being taken out to dinner by the happy couple on Sam's last night in town. Madison had ducked out to hit the ladies' room, leaving them alone for a few minutes. "How long have you been doing this little back-and-forth gig?"

Sam shrugged self-consciously. "Little over three years now."

"She keeps a room made up for you."

"Yeah."

"She's learned how to fire half the guns I keep in the Impala."

Sam grinned. "Your idea, not mine."

Dean shrugged. "She had fun. She also lets me cart my laundry in there whenever I drop by."

"Yeah, but she makes you do it."

Again, Dean shrugged. When you were a Hunter, sometimes even detergent was a luxury. "My point is…" He leaned across the table, putting himself almost nose to nose with Sam. "…why haven't you asked her yet, dumbass?!"

Sam blinked. "…asked her what?"

"You know!" Dean waved his arms for emphasis. "Ring! Down on one knee!"

Sam promptly blushed worse than Dean had ever seen him blush. "What?!" He shook his head. "Dean…no…I mean, even if Yellow Eyes is dead…you know something even worse is going to take his place someday…I don't want to take the same chances with her that I did with Jessica…"

"Bull," said Dean flatly. As Sam raised his eyebrows, he hurried on. "You know what? You're damn right something worse than Yellow Eyes is going to pop up someday. But that's just it, Sam. 'Someday' can be a long time. And, until then, you're all but living with a very hot woman who not only lets you be a normal, boring dork…she knows about us and she's fine with it." He leaned forward again, resting his elbows on the table. "Sammy, you're not gonna find another one like her. Screw the demons, screw the monsters…you know what? Screw hunting. Take your happiness where you can get it."

* * *

Dean didn't bring up that hushed conversation for another three months. Only Sam could get past his commitment issues. Even so, he knew for a fact that Sam was not that dense.

He pulled up outside the house, having been called back for another visit, to see Sam waiting for him on the porch. He waved when he saw the Impala pull into the driveway, then hurriedly got to his feet and went back inside the house. Dean blinked at this strange reception, but got out of the car nonetheless and went to work getting his bags out of the trunk. Sam returned barely a minute later, however, this time with Madison in tow.

They chatted about nothing very much…the weather, the drive up, the exorcism Dean had performed last week…as they walked up the driveway together. Sam led the way back into the house, and Dean's bag was dropped by the couch.

Proper greetings and hugs were exchanged, even between Sam and Dean. Two weeks was two weeks, after all. After that, Dean settled back on his heels and waited. He wouldn't bring it up. He'd just wait for Sam to man up and…

Dean talked for a bit about hunting. Sam talked for a bit about everything else. Madison pretty much just let them talk, occasionally interjecting a comment of her own whenever Sam left something out and slipping Dean a high five after he finished his story of the exorcism.

As they talked, Dean felt himself…relaxing. He'd already discovered months ago that he could relax here, now that Madison had no chance of wolfing out and eating them in their sleep. It was Sam's home more than his, now, but it was safe and it was nice…

"Dean?"

Dean blinked, the sound of Sam's voice brining him back to the present. Sam and Madison were both looking at him expectantly. "Hm?" he asked, realizing that he'd missed the last five seconds of conversation.

Sam smirked at him from across the coffee table. "Sure you don't need a nap?"

The reply came easily. "Bite me." He stretched. "So, what'd I miss?"

He saw Sam and Madison exchange Looks, and knew exactly what he'd missed even before Sam hesitantly cleared his throat. "Well…while you were away…Madison and I got to talking…I…I mentioned to her what we'd talked about a few months ago and…"

Sam looked at Madison. Madison looked at Sam. A slow smiled lit Sam's face, and Dean couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his little brother look so damn happy.

Sam took Madison's hand, and looked back at Dean with his eyes shining.

"Long story short…" he finished, and held up her hand in his so Dean could see the engagement ring glittering on her finger.

Bang!

The sound of the gunshot rang through the house, jolting Dean from his reverie. He found himself forcibly snapped back to the present day, standing in Madison's kitchen, alone.

From the sound of things, Sam had just finished the job.

Dean didn't go to him immediately. He stayed in the kitchen, trying to collect his scattered thoughts. His visions of the future had been so vivid, so real…had it really been only a moment since he'd tried to convince his brother to hand over the gun? A moment since Sam had left the kitchen to see Madison for the last time?

He closed his eyes and took a breath, trying to expel the visions from his mind. Whatever they'd been, why he'd seen them…none of that mattered. They weren't true. They'd never be true. No point tormenting himself with what could have (should have)been when Sam was in the other room, alone with what had once been the woman he'd loved.

The woman he could have (should have) been happy with.

He pushed those thoughts firmly to the back of his mind again, hopefully for good. He pushed away his visions of the future that would never be, and managed to force himself to move into the living room.

The first thing he saw was Madison. The dead woman had fallen back from the force of Sam's shot, like a puppet with no strings. The wound wasn't bleeding much, at least not yet, but her eyes were dim and whatever had made her amazing enough to hold Sam's heart was clearly long gone.

He didn't see Sam – he heard him. It took Dean a few seconds to register exactly what he was hearing, but then he did, and then he saw Sam slumped against the wall opposite the dead woman, knees drawn up to his chest, face in his hands, curled into a tight little ball of anguish. It didn't help. Dean could still hear him crying from here, could still hear the soft, muffled sobs as his brother tried desperately to hide from the world around him.

Dean wanted to go to him…but he didn't. Somehow, he couldn't. Seeing Sam like this…he felt that he was really intruding on something private. Something Sam wouldn't want him to see. And Dean suddenly found that he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his little brother look so damn small.

Dean compromised by remaining where he was in the kitchen doorway. He slumped against the frame, suddenly exhausted. He swallowed as the memories of what he'd seen as Sam had left the room suddenly assaulted his mind afresh, and allowed himself to shed a few tears over the future that would never be.