By: Karen B.

Summary: Heart Tag. Worried, caring Dean. Freaked out, angst, Sam.

Dedicated to my lovely friend: Mouse Fiction

Disclaimer: Not the owner!


A single shot was fired, and a sick bubbling filled my gut. Sam's trembling sobs floated into the kitchen from the living room. I stood jittery and silent on numb legs, fists clenching and unclenching, gripping at nothing but air. I could feel Sam's pain amplifying through me. I wanted to give the kid time to grieve, but neighbors would have heard the shot and called the authorities. I gave Sam what I could. A whole, whopping sixty-seconds before barreling into the living room.

I paused to steady myself at the sight. Sam stood over Madison's body, rigid and stiff, his loaded gun still pointed at her chest. I could sense the hidden ticking time-bomb inside him -- waiting to explode at the slightest touch. He was pale-moon-white, only his cheeks colored red and raw from the tears he'd obviously tried to scrub away. He was quiet now, gazing with empty eyes down at her.

"Sam," I called quietly not wanting to startle him.

He remained motionless, in a shocked, vegetative state. We didn't have time for this. Not here. Not right now.

"Son of a bitch," I whispered, biting deeply into my bottom lip.

I took my eyes off Sam for a second. Madison stared sightlessly up at the ceiling, lips pursed, her blood soaking like red Kool-Aid into the carpet. She was beautiful, more importantly, she was the first girl Sam had actually seemed interested in since Jess, and now she too, was dead. I swallowed hard at what that meant to my brother. I could only imagine how that fact alone had sent Sam to the edge. Kid's world just kept falling away piece by piece, and there was nothing I could do to hold the ground together beneath him.

I wished I could coddle Sam right now, the way I used to when he was five and had a bad dream. I wanted to give him all the time he needed to come to terms, but there was no other way about it; we had to get the hell out of here -- yesterday. In three strides, I crossed the room and stood at his side.

"Sam, we have to get out of here." I kept my voice calm, but firm. He didn't answer, completely withdrawn, just kept staring at her. I looked at the gun, Sam's finger was spasming against the trigger. That scared the crap out of me. "Sammy, can I have the gun?"

Sam's forehead wrinkled, but he didn't make a move. I had to break through his defenses.

"Bro, come on, man!" I pushed harder. "We have to shag ass."

Sam's eyes never shifted, and I was beginning to think I was going to have to wrestle the pistol from him, and toss my shell-shocked brother over my shoulder.

"She's dead." Sam's voice startled me.

"I know," I said softly.

"I killed her." Sam finally looked at me through watery-red, sad eyes. "How could I have done that?" His body began to tremble from his head to his toes.

"I'm sorry," I blurted quickly.

"I did it." Sam wobbled unsteadily.

"You had to," I reminded. Sam was turned inside out, upside down, and twisted the wrong way around. "Damn it." Risking a misfire, I reached over slowly. "I've got it." I wrapped my hand around the gun in his hand.

"What?" Sam bristled against the touch, holding tighter to the weapon.

He wasn't thinking rationally, knocked for an emotional loop. A grand and glorious, airborne maneuver headlong into a tree would have been less of a trauma. I could hear sirens not far away.

"Sam, the cops are coming." I pulled at the gun, Sam pulled back. "Dude, let go!" Fighting over a loaded weapon -- so not cool.

"Let go," Sam parroted in confusion. "What do I…do I do?" Sam squinted at me, and a few stray tears fell from his eyes.

"You have to give me the gun. Now!" I ordered. "We've got to go."

We, Winchesters and our militarized, cursed, never short on turmoil world.

The breath just suddenly whooshed out of Sam like a busted balloon, and his shoulders slumped. He released the gun to me, and half-collapsed.

"Sam, come on." I absorbed his weigh, compensating for his over-sized sasquatch of a body that had become to heavy for his legs. "Don't lose it now, stay with me!" With a click, I set the safety.

"No! No!" Sam yelled, frantically reaching down toward Madison.

"Move," I commanded harshly, struggling with his weight toward the door. Sam seemed to deflate when I shoved his back against the wall. "It's going to be okay, Sam," I whispered, taking a second to holster the gun.

"I'll save her," Sam muttered, paling further and suddenly doing a slow slide down the wall toward the floor.

"Hey, hey!" Shoving my hands under his armpits, I heaved him up. "Hold it right there." I pressed one hand hard in the center of his chest, reaching awkwardly to open the door with the other. "Pull it together, man." I drug Sam out into the hallway, he seemed blindly unaware. He stood in front of me, hunched up and looking straight through me like I was a ghost or some shit. I shuddered. "Sam!" I took his chin in my hand. Sam tensed and tugged away. "Shh, easy." I ran a thumb lightly over his cheek. "You remember me?" I urged him to answer, leaning in closer and peering into his eyes. "Your awesome brother. Yes?" I nodded.

"Vaguely." The corners of Sam's mouth finally turned up into a sheepish smile.

"You with me so far?"

"Wha'… no…I…" Sam grunted, glancing around the hallway. "I'm not sure." His gaze came back to meet mine.

Everything about Sam read pain, confusion, shock and grief. "Dean," he said quietly, his legs threatening to go out from under him.

"I got you, buddy," I coaxed softly, wrapping a hand around his waist. "March," I ordered wasting no more time as we tripped down the stairwell to the street.

Sam was a robot who'd do as he was told. I managed to steer us around the cops. We were several miles away now, Sam slouched in the passenger seat. He was back to a vegetative state, not that he ever got out of that state. I kept glancing over at him worriedly. He sat ramrod straight, hands placed flat, one on each thigh, and staring blankly out the window. I kept one hand on his shoulder, unsure of what he might do. He was really freaking me out.

I drove until I thought we were far enough away and got us a motel room. He hadn't even flinched when I turned the radio up or scratched an itch in miles. Certain Sam wouldn't move without being ordered to, I drug our gear in first, then headed back to drag in Sam.

"Come on, pal. Out of the car," I said, keeping instructions short and clear. Wasn't hard getting Robot Sam to do anything now. He slowly got his feet under him and started to walk. "Attaboy," I praised. "This way." I steered him toward the room when he walked off the wrong way.

Ten paces, and a few of my best curse words later -- we were inside another crappy motel room.

"Sit," I said, locking us in, drawing all the curtains, and hiking up the heat.

Sam lumbered over to a corner chair and slouched into it. "Was my gun. Mine," he muttered.

I tried to keep calm, but the circumstances were anything but. I looked at Sam, but quickly had to look away, feeling like I'd just taken a punch to my gut. I could taste the sour bile come up into my mouth, and gulped down the desperation. "Look." I gathered myself, turning back and squatting down next to him. "You saved her," I whispered, placing a hand on a jittery knee. "She wouldn't have wanted to live that way. No one would."

Sam let out a chilly laugh, like I'd just told some sick, perverted joke. He didn't say anything more, just stared at me through his Medusa-like bangs as if he were strung up by his ears in limbo.

"Sam." I frowned. "Can you hear me?" I asked quietly, afraid my breath alone would send my brother tumbling over the edge, into insanity. "It wasn't murder. You know that." I dared him with my eyes to argue -- he didn't. Didn't so much as twitch his lip, blink his eyes, or flutter a pinky finger. I sighed, got up and pulled a whiskey bottle from my duffle. Pouring Sam a shot, I stood over him and handed him the glass."Take it."

Sam took the offering, but remained silent and staring.

"Drink it," I commanded.

Sam took a deep breath and in a very drugged, spaced out sort of way, downed the glass in one gulp.

If I'd told the kid to do a sexy striptease down to his boxers and dance like a monkey on the hood of my car -- right now -- he would. If I wasn't so worried, I might have told him to do just that. Would make a great photo to add to my 'dorky Sam' collection. I had to pull Sam back up and out of the black waves that had sucked him under, but I didn't know how.

I'd gotten robot Sam to down a few more shots and wrangled his bone weary self into bed. He'd been out cold for three hours now. I sat at the small dinette table helping myself to a few shots. I was so sick of the good guy always biting it. Sick of having to be judge, jury, and executioner. Sick of the supernatural bullshit that existed in the first fucking place. To the cops, Madison's death would be viewed as cold-blooded, first-degree murder. Through Sam's eyes, he probably thought the same right now. For me, battles won didn't always have happy endings. That was the shit -- the fecal pieces that made up our lives.

Sam tossed and turned on the bed, making inhuman, guttural sounds in the back of his throat. I didn't move. I decided I couldn't do much more. He had to process himself back, wade through this nightmare. I looked him squarely in the face. His eyes were squeezed tight as he winced and grimaced, struggling in the throes of his breakdown. I squirmed in my chair, Sam's guilt had to be staggering. I could feel his remorse from here. A filthy, despicable monster, grinding my little brother up big-time.

"Dammit," I growled, gripping the table when the chain that held me back almost broke. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. If fighting shock with shock, was the same thing as fighting fire with fire.

"Gah!" Sam jolted upward, feet immediately swinging over the edge of the bed, eyes darting around the room. Clarity seemed to hit him fast, like a cold slap of water in the face. "Ma…Madison," he stammered, his lower lip quivering as our eyes met.

"It's okay, Sam, slow your roll." I still refrained from moving to him, figuring he needed a minute. "It's okay. I'm here. We're in a motel room. It's over," I gushed.

"Madison," he repeated. "I…I…oh, God, I…" he panted out of breath, slipping off the bed and hitting the floor real hard. "Oh, God," he cried, no-holds-barred, on his knees.

My chain broke and I was there, dropping to crouch directly in front of him. "Sam… Sam, take a few breaths."

Ignoring my orders, Sam panted, "W…wh…what happen? What'd I do?" He gnarled his fingers into my shirt dragging me closer.

"What you had to!" I yelled, grabbing him by the shoulders and dropping my head so I could peer into his eyes.

"No! Just…" he sucked in a breath. "No." Sam's gaze faltered and he looked away, shaking his head in denial.

"Take it easy, Sam, just take it easy." I urgently placed a hand to his chest, feeling his heartbeat, rapid and uneven. Kid was going to crack in two if he didn't calm down, and I wasn't sure I could put Humpty back together. "You hearing what I'm saying to you, man? You had to."

Sam gazed urgently at me a long time, shivering hard. I watched as slowly his pain iced over. "De..Dean." The only word he could get out as he dropped his head to rest against my chest.

He looked so small, like he'd shrunk to the size of a raisin. His shoulders were shaking, but no tears fell. I felt a cold arrow lodge in my own chest. Insanity was a one man army, outfitted with bow and arrow, circling the Winchester wagons.

I ran one hand down Sam's arm, digging my fingertips into his skin. "Come on, Sam," I said softly. "You back with it? Talk nerdy to me, bro," I tried for a laugh, but it got stuck in my throat and came out in the form of a choked sob.

"She's gone?" Sam asked.

"Yes," I barely got the word out. "Was the only way you could save her," I swallowed. "Madison knew that, too," I added. Sam eased away from my chest, dull eyes peering up at me. "Hey, you." I tried for a smile, but could feel the grim reaper pulling at the corners of my lips. Sam shifted, his body limp with exhaustion. I eased down beside him, wrapping my arms around him and holding him close leaning up against the bed.

Life never wasted any time wringing the living hell out of my brother.

"I killed her."

"Stop it!" I yelled. Robot Sam was suddenly back, laying heavy in my arms. "Come here." I eased him into a more comfortable position in the crook of my arm, running a hand through his hair. "There was nothing else we could have done. You got that, square brain?"

Sam looked up at me and I prepared to argue the point further with him, but to my surprise, he agreed.

"I got it, Dean."

I scooted to get comfortable, figuring I didn't want to move Sam now that he seemed settled. "Just sleep, I won't go anywhere."

"Can't." Sam twisted stubbornly in my grasp, eyes flicking open and shut.

"Great," I huffed. " I liked robot Sam better."

"I need…I need…" Sam sat up. "Walk. Need to walk."

I sighed, understanding everyone needed to free the pain, get back in touch with their uncrazy side. Some dudes needed to hook up with a hot woman. Raising hand. Others, needed a drink. More hand raising. Some, a pack of smokes. Sam. Sam needed to walk. He'd been that way since he was a boy. He'd get a bad grade, screw up training, get into it with dad. We all had our limits and when Sam met his, he needed to get away. More from working over his own brain, then anything else. He'd storm out like he was never coming back. Lots of times, I'd follow Sam. Up and down the sidewalks, through the parks, through narrow alleyways, through the all night Convince stores, through his pain; until he came home again. Even dead on his feet, when the kid said he needed to walk, he was dead-set on going and would crawl if he had to just to get the job done.

"Oh, for.." I gave Sam a hand up and he swayed on Gummy Worm legs. "You did say walk?" I chuckled lightly, keeping hold of his arm, watching him balance on two legs as if he only had one.

"I just need some time." Sam dared me with his eyes to stop him -- a trick he learned from me.

"Take your cell." Once Sam seemed to have his balance, I let go. "Don't be all night." I folded my arms across my chest, giving him the, 'I don't like it, but okay', look.

I watched Sam weeble-wobble over to the table. He looked massively hung over -- with grief -- the worst kind of hangover. He swiped his jacket off the back of a chair, pulled on his shoes, and grabbed a copy of the motel key-card and his cell. He got as far as a hand on the doorknob, paused a moment, then turned to me…

"Want to come?" Sam asked, sincerely.

"Huh." I unfolded my arms. "Thought you wanted to be alone?"

"You'll follow me, anyway." Never taking his eyes off mine, Sam twisted the knob and pushed the door open.

"Not true. Thought I'd just stay here…clean the toilet with your toothbrush." I smiled, almost believing my own lie.

"Gross." Sam flinched.

"Don't forget creepy and disgusting." I kept smiling.

Sam still stood in the open doorway, eyes pleading.

"Is that what you want?" I asked, smile fading.

"Yes." Sam glanced down. "Please."

Without saying a word, I stepped over to my duffle, grabbed my gun , cell, and keys.

"Thanks, Dean."

"Didn't feel like scrubbing the toilet any way." I walked over to Sam, clapping a hand to his shoulder.

"What do we do tomorrow?" Sam gingerly peeked up, and I could still see that wide-eyed, freaked-out, little boy look on his face.

"What we do everyday, little brother…" I gave Sam's shoulder a gentle squeeze, directing him out into the night. "Whatever we have to," I said, quietly closing the door behind us.

The end