I don't know how much more I can take. I know I'm supposed to suck it up and soldier on and all that crap, but I'm so friggin' tired of it. I'm tired of everything. I haven't slept in four days. Or four nights. After Famine's little freak-fest, we broke and ran for Bobby's, and Sam's standing reservation in the panic room. And there followed three days - and nights - of Sam crying out to me for help, and me crying out to God for help, and neither of us getting that help.

And I am tired of it.

So I am most definitely not in the right frame of mind when Sam materializes in the kitchen and slips into the chair across from me and starts talking.

He's been out of the panic room six or seven hours now, since dawn this morning. He managed tea and tapioca pudding for breakfast and lunch, and before and since he's already taken two hot showers. Now he appears across from me in jeans and wool socks and the two heaviest shirts to be found in Bobby's closets.


I don't want to hear it. He's swearing off demon blood? Heard it already. He's sorry? Don't want to hear it again. Realized a foolproof way to end the Apocalypse? Send me an email. Just - just - give me some time to regroup already, all right?

"What?" I don't even try to make that sound inviting.

"I - sorry - I - just - wanted - wondered - ."

For being the talkative one in our family, it always still could take Sam awhile to work up to what he wanted to talk about.

"Spit it out already." I have coffee to not drink and Velveeta on Ritz to not eat and sleep to not get and I can't not do those things if I have to wait for him to talk.

"I wanted to ask something of you." He spits out. The way he phrases it makes me wonder. Ask something of me?


"I know you've been thinking it and I know it's gonna come up sooner or later when we're arguing and I'd just - I'd rather you just said it now and get it over with and then I don't have to keep wondering when you're ever going to say it anyway."

Like I said, I'm tired, but I'm not so tired that I couldn't have heard a clue in that run-on paragraph if one had actually been there. I have no idea what Sam is talking about.


"I just wanted you to - to - say it."

Still missing that clue.

"Say what?"

"Well - say - say -." He drops his head and suddenly finds the top of Bobby's kitchen table fascinating. Then he mumbles. "Say what you said on that voicemail you left me last year…"

Still missing the -

Wait - it suddenly hits me. The voicemail. The call I made from the Green Room. Okay, there we go. There's a clue.

But not enough of a clue because I still don't know what he wants me to say. That I'm sorry? Okay, I would say that. If I actually did anything this time to be sorry for. But nothing comes to mind.

"Is it still true? What you said?" Sam asks, still admiring the table top. "What you said then, do you still think that? If you still think that I just - I want you to say it out loud so that - so that - it'll just be over with and I won't have to wonder anymore when you're going to say it."

Did I mention how tired I am? I did, didn't I? I can't remember the voicemail word for word, I can only remember the gist of it. I'm sorry I hurt you, we're family, that's all that matters and that'll never change.

Okay, I guess I can understand Sammy wanting to hear that again, especially now.

"Yeah. Yeah I still mean it. Of course I do. Why wouldn't I?"

That makes him happy. I think it makes him happy. It ought to make him happy. Except, he closes his eyes and lets out a breath like he's upset, and if I didn't know he was relieved, I'd think he was really upset. But he has to be relieved. Right? Doesn't he?

Then he does that wibble thing with his chin, which always means his emotions are threatening to overcome him. He doesn't lift his head.

"Would you - um -." He clears his throat. "Would you - say it - out loud?"

Sammy, I went to hell for you, but don't make me talk when I'm this tired.


"Because - because then it would - it would be really real."

All right. Okay. Sam is still obviously wasted from this year's withdrawal nightmare. He looks like he lost weight in those three days, he's shivering, he's pale. And he's wibbling. I can withstand a lot, but not that.

"Okay, Sam…I'm sorry if I hurt you, but we're family and nothing's gonna change that."

He nods. Good. Have another tapioca and go to bed dude, because you are wearing me out.

"Then say it."

Uhh - I just did.

"Sam - ." No, arguing with him will not be a good thing. "You're tired, c'mon. I'll get you some more tapioca, or anything you want, and then you need to get some serious sleep."

He sighs like he used to when I'd tell he had to stop studying and go to bed.

"No, I'm not hungry. I'll just go back down and rest."

He's on his feet and a couple of steps away from the table before his words sink in.

"Wait - what? Down? What down? The panic room?"

He shrugs and nods and talks like he's as exhausted as I am.

"Where else y'want me to be?"

"Oh, I don't know. How about - up? Stairs? In bed?"

He shakes his head and chews on his lip and takes his seat across from me again.

"Why won't you say it?"

"Dude - say what?"

"What you said on my voicemail."

"I did."

"No, you didn't. Why won't you say it?"

"SAY. WHAT? Sammy?"

And he doesn't answer me.

All right. All right. I scrub my hand over my face and stand up and try to keep a grip. It was an hallucination. That's it. He hallucinated some freaky voicemail during his latest detox and - and - he wants me to play some part in it. Somehow.

"All right. Okay. Just - tell me what you want me to say."

"I don't want you to say it." he tells me.

"Well apparently - you do."

Sam does that hand-rolling-gesture thing that means shorthand for 'I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but you don't realize that what you heard is not what I meant'

"I don't want you to say it, but I want you to say it, so I don't have to keep wondering when you will say it."

Of course - that makes perfect sense. Either one of us is crazy or we both are, which could take this conversation a lot of interesting places.

But Sam - Sammy - is looking at me, willing me to understand what he's talking about.

"All right, Sam. What do you want to hear me say?"

"What you said - what you said on that voicemail." He says, again, and when I give him my 'still not getting it' look, he rolls his eyes like he's in pain and I can tell he's forcing himself to say it. "That I'm a monster..."

All right, I said that. But to his face, in that honeymoon motel room. So, he's just a little confused. Okay. Understandable. It's understandable that he's confused and understandable that he thinks I might still think that way but -

"That I'm a vampire. And you were done protecting me."

I said he was a vampire? And I was done protecting him?


He doesn't answer me though. I'm getting pissed.

"Remind me when it was I got whacked on the head because I don't remember ever, ever, saying that to you. Voicemail or not."

Sammy hates being told he's wrong. And as sick and as tired and as miserable as he is right now, he's still hating it, I can tell, the way he's sending death glares down at the table and that curl he gets in his lip. I walk closer to him and smack his shoulder.

"All right, y'got the phone? You save the message? C'mon. Give."

He's nodding and I'm doing the 'hand it over now' gesture and he puts the phone in my hand. I boot up the message, hold the phone to my ear, and press 'play'.

'Hey, it's me. Uh – look, I'll just get right to it. I'm still pissed, and I still owe you a serious beat-down. But…I shouldn't have said what I said. Y'know? I'm not Dad. We're brothers, we're `family. No matter how bad it gets, that doesn't change. Sammy - I'm sorry…'

"Yeah - that's what I said. Word for word." I offer the phone back to him. "And unless 'brothers, family and sorry' is code for 'monsters, vampires, and on-your-own', I have no idea why you think I said what you think I said."

He takes the phone and keeps his eyes on me like he's afraid I might jump him while he listens to the message.

And he listens.

And his mouth falls open.

He starts to shake and two huge tears roll down his face.

And he lowers the phone.

"I - uh - I - that - that - isn't - that isn't what I - what I heard."


"You never listened to the message again?" I ask.

"No. No. I - I -."

No, why would he?

He gets up and leaves the kitchen for real. Not down to the panic room. Not upstairs. Not into the library. No, with no shoes, no coat, and no sense, my brother goes outside into a South Dakota February.

I grab our jackets and follow him out He's only sitting on the steps at least, not traipsing out into the snow. That top step is still pretty damn cold though as I sit down next to him. I drop his jacket in his lap but he makes no move to put it on, so I don't put mine on either.

"Well, now that I understand the question - the answer obviously is 'no'." I tell him.

"'No'?" He asks without looking at me.

"'No', you're not a monster. Or a vampire. 'No' I am not done protecting you…" I clear my throat for a little time. "I'm sorry you thought you even had to ask that."

He kind of nods, kind of shakes his head. He keeps going.

"Dean - I swear I heard you say - that voicemail I got - oh God -"

"What?" The look of absolute panic on his face worries me.

"Do you think - did I - Dean - if you didn't leave that message - did I - did I want to hear that? Did I want to - to -"

"To what, Sam? Did you want to what?"

"I - I - ." He picks at his jacket. Two more tears roll down his face. "Dean, if I had heard your voicemail, I woulda - I never woulda - if I had known - if I had believed - "

I'm about to tell him to take a deep breath and calm down when he does it himself. He grips a clump of jacket sleeve in his hand, takes a deep breath of freezing air, and when he talks again, he actually makes sense.

"I wasn't sure I should go ahead with killing Lilith. What you said to me, that we should go after her together, it started to make sense. Dean, if I'd heard your voicemail, I would've gone back for you. I would've - I would've - left Ruby and gone back for you."

He grabs the front of my shirt, but I don't think he knows he's doing it.

"I wouldn't have killed that nurse."

I put my hand over his on my shirt.

"I know you wouldn't have, Sam. I know you wouldn't have."

I know it now.

"So - so - if you didn't leave that voicemail - then - did I imagine it? Did I - want to hear what I heard so that I wouldn't go back? Did I want to kill Lilith so bad, did I want to show you so bad, that I heard what I wanted to hear, that I needed to hear, to do what I wanted to do? Was I that wrapped up in myself that I gave myself whatever excuse I needed?"

My first impulse is to say 'yes', because what else could it be? And then I remember Zachariah's smug face and his cryptic promise that Sam would get a little nudge at the appropriate time.

And if that voicemail was a 'nudge', then going over Niagara Falls is tripping over a curb.

"No, Sam, you didn't imagine it. Heaven and Hell both wanted this done, and they knew you'd need a push in the right direction. One of 'em messed with your voicemail, and it was probably the 'good guys'."

"Really? You think?"

What I think is that I haven't seen that much relief in Sam's face since I came back from Hell.

"You didn't imagine yourself out of the panic room that first time, did you, Sam? Somebody opened that door, and it was somebody immune to salt, iron, devil's traps, and Bobby's shotgun."

"Why? Why would they do that? Why don't they care about all the people - all the people…"

He doesn't finish that, but I know what he's thinking, all the people he killed.

"Sam - I think they did it because they could. They wanted to, and they could."

He shakes his head and picks at his jacket some more.

"Dean?" He asks quietly; he dreads the answer to a question he hasn't asked yet. "Do you think it's God? Do you think God is behind all this?"

Like I haven't asked myself that question a thousand times in the last four days. If I think God is behind this, or if I think God is off on the back nine, ignoring His pager, I'll be disappointed. Maybe not surprised, but disappointed.

Sammy though - as the angels fall away and Heaven starts to stink and everything and everyone he's ever prayed to shatters in his hands - all Sammy has left is God. Neither of us tries to pretend anymore that I can protect Sam from all comers. The only - person I guess - big enough and strong enough for Sam to really believe in anymore is God. If he loses that, I think it would finally destroy him.

"No, Sam. I don't think God is behind this. I think He's waiting to make His play to stop it. After all -" I gesture to his phone. " - timing is everything."

Sam grips the phone and hefts it like he wants to crush it or whip it out into Bobby's yard.

"I didn't blame you for thinking I was a monster. You know? I called myself that and worse. But then - ever since - I tried so hard to make you not think that anymore. I just - all this time - all these months - I thought - I thought - that's why I told you that I - that I wanted the blood. I wanted you to know - I wanted you to trust me. I wanted you to know - to know that I was trying."

He trails off and I look at him and all these six or eight months since Lilith bit the big one come shouting back at me. Every single step we've taken all those months, bad and good, he's thought that I still thought he was a monster. A vampire.

"I know you've been trying. Sammy, I do know that."

"But I stopped trying. When those demons came at me in the motel room, I didn't try at all. I just - took - what I wanted. I didn't try at all. And when I saw your face - I knew - I just knew I'd - I'd finally blown it all."

He thinks he has to earn my protection.

He takes a deep breath and licks his lips and gives a 'really not amused' laugh.

"So - if you believe I'm a monster or a vampire or whatever you think - please will you just say it so I don't have to keep wondering?"

I want to just spit my own answer out. I want to tell him fast and firm 'no, never, not ever, not in a million years' but that's not the tone of voice he'll believe.

"Sam - I don't. I don't think that." I keep my voice low and measure my words out. "You're not a monster. You're not a vampire. Same as always -." I reach up to ruffle his hair because he hates it. " - you're my little brother. That covers everything else."

He still has his phone in his hand and I pull it away from him.

"You keep saving this voicemail, and whenever you have a question, whenever you wonder, whenever I'm being a major pain in the ass, you listen to this voicemail again, okay? Because this -." I shake the phone for emphasis. " - this will never change…okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, okay." He takes the phone back and manages a small smile. "Thanks."

And Sam leans against me, just enough to notice, his arm against mine, and it's twenty-seven degrees out and I'm tired and Sam's freezing, but he's leaning against me and after three days of not being able to help him, let alone touch him, I'll take a little cold air if it means I get to be his big brother again.

"You're welcome, Sammy."

The end.