The Illusionist

Chapter 22 : Here Comes the Sun

The drive back to Palo Alto was a long one, and Dean hated every minute of it. He hated the fact that this might be the last time he ever saw his little brother, because all hunters knew that tomorrow was never promised, regardless of how much you wished it was. And Dean was a hunter in every sense of the word. He wondered sometimes what it would be like to not be one, to not save people and kill things that went bump in the night, to live like his brother was living. He wanted to understand it, but a part of him just couldn't. It felt like it was his duty, and there was no way in hell he could ever see himself sitting behind some desk at an office job. It just wasn't in the cards.

Besides, he still had to find their father, and doing it alone wouldn't be easy.

It was almost midnight when he pulled up in front of his little brother's apartment. He forced a fake smile on his face and turned towards Sam. "Home sweet home," he said, bringing his thumb and fingers together and tapping the side of his chin, then moving his hand an inch or so upwards and tapping the side of his cheek as well.

"Yeah," Sam agreed with a nod, a fake grin plastered on his visage as well, his hands tightly clasping his bag.

Silence fell between them for a moment, an awkward one even Dean could sense. He sighed and tapped his fingers on the wheel, breaking it. "You know, you can always come with me. If Jessica's the kind of girl you say she is, she'll wait for you here." He kept his gaze straight ahead for a minute before looking at his little brother, already knowing what type of reaction he was going to get.

Sam let the fake smile linger on his face for a little while longer, but shook his head. "I can't, Dean. I wish I could, but I have a life here. A normal one. A good one." He paused for a moment, preparing to throw his proposition out there. "I-I was wondering if—"

"She's waiting on you," Dean stated, cutting him off, his eyes glued to the dash. He hated good-byes. They were one of the suckiest things in the world, and he'd never been good at them for as long as he could remember.

"Right," Sam nodded, letting his hand trail to the door handle. He let out a sigh, and slowly pulled it back, cracking open the door.

"It was nice seeing you again, Sammy," Dean said, hoping his voice was coming out stronger than how he truly felt. "Take care of yourself." He let his gaze travel back to his little brother, a half smile on his lips when he saw Sam's one-leg-out-of-the-car-one-still-in position.

"You too, Dean. You too...," he let his voice trail off. He forced the rest of his body out of the Impala, his left hand still gripping his pack.

Dean watched him hesitate a little while longer before his lips started to move again. As soon Dean read the word love, he held a hand up, bringing his little brother's words to a halt. "No chick-flick moments, dude. I know what you're going to say." He waited a moment before mumbling, "Me too."

Sam shook his head and even laughed a little at his older brother's reluctance to tell him he loved him, but he accepted it with a nod and started walking towards the apartment. He turned just before he went in, and waved again, the same goofy grin still on his face.

Dean nodded and threw his hand out in a quick wave, then started the engine. He gave his little brother one last glance before pulling off, heart breaking with each new piece of pavement the Impala's tires traveled over.

He didn't get far though when his phone vibrated in his pocket. His forehead creased in confusion as he retrieved it from his jeans and flipped it open, NO SIGNAL flashing on the screen.

That's strange, he thought as he closed it, his gaze falling on the car radio. He watched the dial begin moving back and forth on its own, and he immediately knew there was a problem.

The tires squealed on the pavement as he made a U-turn and headed back towards Sam's apartment. Something's wrong, something's wrong...The words repeated in his head like a mantra, over and over again as he came to an abrupt stop a little ways away from the building. He jumped out, and ran towards the door his little brother had just entered minutes before, heart pounding in his chest.

He flung it open and went inside, the hair on the back of his neck already on end. He saw light coming from underneath the bedroom door, and immediately ran towards it. Without even trying the knob, he kicked it open, a screaming brother and flames meeting him on the other side. He hesitated just a second as his gaze went to the ceiling, Jessica sprawled across it just as their mother had been so many years before.

He pushed the thought away and ran over to the bed, using strength he knew he didn't really have and grabbed his little brother. He used himself as a shield and got in between Sam and the fire, pushing him out the door before the room fully ignited. He managed to get them both outside where a crowd had already started to gather. He dragged Sam back to the Impala, and opened the passenger door, depositing him safely inside.

"You okay?" he asked, crouching down in front of him. He watched the brunette shake his head, tears already cascading down his cheeks. He could read Jess's name on his brother's quivering lips, and leaned forward, pulling Sam into an embrace. "I'm sorry, Sammy," he said, placing a hand on the back of his brother's head. He could feel Sam's body trembling, and a dampness spreading on his shoulder.

It had been a long time since he'd had to comfort his little brother, and he never imagined that this weekend would wind up like this.

Sam didn't deserve for this to happen—Dean knew this, and a part of him wondered what was going to happen now. Sam's normal life was gone the minute that girl started to burn on the ceiling, Dean thought, and he hated the image that came rushing back to his mind. Just like Mom...

His train of thought was broken as he felt Sam starting to push away from him. He backed up, giving the youngest Winchester some space.

"I-I need a minute, Dean," Sam said, tears still slipping from his eyes and falling to the ground below. "Please," he added when Dean still hadn't responded, the older hunter's mind finally coming fully back to the present.

"Yeah, sure thing, Sammy. I'll be right over there," he stated, nodding towards the crowd. "Don't do anything stupid," he added, green eyes glistening in the din of the streetlights.

"I won't," Sam clarified with a shake of the head. Dean watched as he put his face in his hands, blocking the outside world from view.

Dean slowly backed away, and walked over to the crowd that was now much larger in size than it had been before. His gaze fell back on the remnants of the burning apartment building, and he was back again, twenty-one years before. Even though he had only been four, he could still recall the way his father had screamed when he had seen their mother burning; the way the man had rushed out of the room holding baby Sammy and placing him in his arms and telling him to "not look back and go, Dean! Now!"

Dean shook the memory from his head, realizing that now was not the time nor place to wallow in the past. He had a brother to take care of, and a father to find.

He glanced back at the Impala, Sam standing behind it now with the trunk open. He walked back over, mouth open to say something, but no words actually making it out. He watched as Sam finished checking a gun, and threw it back in the trunk, tears still falling.

"We've got work to do," Sam stated, his eyes avoiding his older brother's.

Dean nodded in response, knowing that just about anything he said at this point probably wouldn't have an effect on Sam, but the kid was right; they did have work to do, and plenty of it.

He only hoped they would both survive through it.

A/N : After almost TWO years, it's finished, and I can't THANK you all enough for your reviews, and feedback. It's meant so much to me, and really helped me in the writing process. So, MANY, MANY THANKS goes to shammy101, Anon, babyreaper, melancholyblood, JJJFan, kissacazador, and Glades of Grey; and the rest of you who have reviewed past chapters, or put me on a favorite or alert list. THANK YOU all once again, and I hope you've enjoyed this story.