Ok, so I've decided it's about time I put Sam through the mill (see, I do listen!) and so here it is, starting with a good helping of depression! Thanks to the boffins on the net who gave me a rough date for John's death (before the anniversary of Jess' anyway) - and any disputes can go to them! But now, without any further ado...here we go...


Chapter One.

"November Blues."

Three hundred and sixty five days it had been, three hundred sixty five days, twelve whole months. A year exactly since she'd died.

It felt more like ten, and why wouldn't it have? His college-life, his law career and Jess were all gone, floating around the fringes of his subconscious like memories from a past life, each one a million miles from where he'd ended up, from how he'd ended up, from who.

Was it really only a year ago?

They'd been in Jessica's hometown for three days, on the case of some hunt Sam had 'created' with the help of a loosely interpreted newspaper article reporting a vaguely suspicious death. He wouldn't be able to keep up the pretence much longer – Dean was already starting to see the thing as a dead end – but every second he remained there felt worthwhile. It was like being close to her again, like being close to the things in her life that had mattered.

He'd borrowed the Impala the day earlier, claiming he was going out to buy supplies – which he had even done to maintain his cover – for most of the two hours he'd been absent however he'd been sitting outside Jessica's parent's house, watching her dad clip roses off a large and blooming bush in the front garden, collecting them lovingly into a bunch and knowing where they would end up. Hadn't he known Jess had hated roses? Maybe he had, maybe it didn't matter anymore. At least he got to spend the anniversary with her at the grave, Dean had all but banned Sam, reasoning that his appearance would lead to confusion and questions he shouldn't and couldn't answer.

"Look Sammy, we can go next month, next week even,"

Neither were good enough, next month would be too late, next week would be too late, the only day that mattered was the day and he was missing it, slumped instead at some sleazy bar draining his third whisky and lining up another.

"Think you've had enough?"

Usually he could sense Dean before he saw him – the rustle of a leather jacket, the confident pace of his stride, a waft of familiar scent – the alcohol however shut them all down, numbing him to the wider world beyond the glass. Dean filtered through it only when he spoke, drawing in alongside to rest his arms across the bar top with a sigh.

"I'm still conscious," Sam slurred back, a hell of a lot more lucid than he hoped he'd be.

"Yeah."

"How'd you know I was here?"

A finger flapped casually towards the bar in response, indicating a pretty blonde barmaid who glanced towards them briefly as if on instinct. Dean nodded at her gently,

"Thanks Becky,"

"Sure thing," she smiled back before turning sympathetic eyes and a hang on in there expression towards Sam, "I was getting worried about you."

Ah, of course, trust one of Dean's many floozies to be on the case. Honestly, how in a three-day time span could his older brother have already banged the barmaid of a place they'd only been in twice? It was unbelievable. It was annoying, Dean treating women like throwaway playthings. Didn't he realise how special they could be? Didn't he realise how fragile –

Sam trailed off with a sigh.

No, he didn't. How could he? He was Dean and Dean had never been in love. Not like Sam had.

"Finish your drink," came the sudden instruction to his right, Dean trying to sound gentle but still managing to clip the order almost militarily, "We're leaving,"

"Leaving the bar?"

"Leaving town."

"What?" Sam's blood ran cold, a shiver of hot sweat following close behind as he blinked up at his brother in undisguised horror. They couldn't leave, not that day of all days, "But – ,"

"I said we're leaving Sam," Dean repeated, firmer and colder as he unfolded some bills and pushed a couple across the counter in exchange for the drinks, effortlessly settling his sibling's tab.

"I can't,"

It was a whisper, miserable, pitiful and just mournful enough to stop Dean in his tracks, expression softening instinctively. A hand dropped down heavily onto his shoulder,

"I know Sammy,"

"No you don't," Sam murmured in response, pulling away and almost lurching off his bar stool in the process. Dean stopped him with a handful of jacket, spinning his brother back towards him and taking a deep breath in an attempt to muster his patience.

"Yes, I do. You think I'd be in this place chasing some bogus case if I didn't?"

"Huh?"

Dean knew about the fake story? A hand rose to cup his face briefly, turning into a rallying pat as the moment lingered too close to sentimental.

"Believe me Sam, I know. But that doesn't change anything – we're still leaving. Now drink up,"

There was no point in arguing with him, partly because he was using his not messing around voice but largely because Sam just didn't have the energy. He was tired, tired of everything. Tired of never staying long enough in one place to learn where things were, tired of never doing the simple things he'd enjoyed before like going to the movies or taking a stroll on a lazy afternoon. He was tired of feeling unfulfilled and uninspired. He was tired of it all.

Throwing back the rest of his drink and slipping ungracefully from his seat, Sam irritably flapped off Dean's steadying hand, turning for the door and trying to ignore the look he knew he brother was flashing the still concerned-looking Becky, a silent apology and a casual shrug in the vein of brothers, what are you going to do huh? Only that was the point, Sam didn't care.

The Impala was parked outside on the road, a big black beast of a gleam in the winter sunlight. Their bags were already packed in the back, the sight making Sam frown as he leant heavily against the roof for support.

"You checked us out?"

Dean ignored the hint of irritation, instead moving to help support his brother's weight as he opened the door with his free hand,

"I told you, we're leaving."

Sam pushed him away ungratefully, folding into the car limply and slumping heavily into the seat. Dean threw his eyes skywards, letting his hands follow suit at the spectacle before moving to slam the door behind him. So much for gratitude. Honestly, Sam could be a pissy little bastard when he put his mind to it – not that he didn't have a good reason for it mind.

"The sooner we're out of this town the better," he muttered to himself as he rounded hood keys jingling in one hand. Maybe his younger brother would cheer the hell up once they were away from what must have been constant reminders of Jessica, although judging by the expression that greeted him as he climbed behind the wheel, maybe not.

Oh yeah, hours on the road with this is going to be fun.

Sam didn't speak until they were well out of town, not even responding to the Metallica Dean turned on extra-loud in the hopes of sparking a reaction. Sam's eyes were drooping fast, mind wandering lazily across a varied patchwork quilt of thoughts and emotions, each seemingly unconnected with the last but finally settling on an image of Becky, smiling warmly at Dean from across the bar moments before. It promptly led back to Jess and suddenly he was annoyed with his brother all over again,

"Why don't you treat them right Dean?" he asked, surprised by how slurred the exhaustion was making him sound. Or maybe it was finally the alcohol doing its job.

From behind the wheel Dean offered him an off-hand response, sensing that his sibling was most probably teetering on the edge of nonsensical chatter and only mildly happy to reply in that it meant they were talking again.

"Who?"

"Girls,"

Dean blinked,

"Girls?"

"Yeah,"

Dean's following grin was not entirely what Sam had been expecting, although whatever he had been expecting temporarily eluded him,

"I think you'll find Sammy that I treat girls very well. I've certainly never had any complaints."

"That's not what I mean,"

"Fine," Dean sighed in exaggerated tones, his attempt to lighten the mood falling on deaf ears, "Explain. How do I not treat them right?"

"You always leave them," Sam's voice sounded small, even to himself and Dean's tone softened instantly in response, trying to answer as simply as he could without the urge to roll his eyes,

"I never promise I'll stay you know,"

"You should," the answer caught Dean by surprise, making him frown all over again as he took in his slumped younger brother, head resting sideways against the window, eyes shut and heavy-looking, "It's nice to stay,"

"Yeah well, I'll just have to take your word for it Sammy,"

Although in reality he didn't doubt it and didn't that just break his heart all over again? Sam pining for something so normal, a functional relationship no less. If he could, Dean would have moved heaven and earth to give it to him but instead he was being forced to deliver him the next best thing. Retribution.

"You should stay."

He was slipping fast but for some reason refusing to let sleep fully wash over him. Dean at least could do something about that.

"Hey Sam?"

"Mmmm?"

He was practically there anyway and so Dean flipped off the music, plunging the car into a blissful silence broken only by the steady rumble of the engine.

"Get some rest, huh? You're no use to me like the walking dead," he winced involuntarily at his own choice of words but luckily Sam was too far gone to notice and only minutes later Dean was rewarded by the sound of heavy rhythmic breathing, "Thank God," that was something anyway and hopefully by the time Sam woke up again the day would just be a distant memory.

They managed to make another fifty miles before Dean's cell started to ring, the sensation of vibrations running through his thigh alerting him to the call before the ring tone did.

He scrabbled for it frantically, patting at the shape through the material of his jacket before diving a hand into the folds and pulling it free with a quick glance towards his brother as he snapped it open and pressed it to his ear. He was still sleeping soundly, crisis averted although Dean couldn't quite help the sharp edge from creeping into his tone as he answered in a whispered hiss.

"Yeah?"

"Dean?"

The voice was a crackle across a staticky line, breathless and barely coherent but definitely his name nonetheless. He frowned in response,

"Who is this?"

" –al, –al Rudman…"

"Cal?"

What the hell – Cal Rudman? Cal Rudman was calling him?

"Hey –an, –'ve you been?"

Dean could barely hear him, not that he much wanted to. As far as he was concerned he hadn't seen or heard from his fellow hunter in nearly four years and that was the way he liked it. Still, if nothing else his curiosity drove him towards civility,

"What's up Cal?"

Well, sort of anyway.

"Got a –ase, need –ome help. You interested?"

"What is it?"

" –etala,"

"A vetala?"

Nasty sons of bitches and definitely more than Cal Rudman could possibly handle. But why was he phoning them? Did he not know anyone else who could help save his ass?

"Yeah. –ou in?"

Dean paused hesitantly, eyes flickering briefly towards Sam as he debated silently. He was certainly in no hurry to work with Cal Rudman again, but nor could he deny the chance to take Sam's mind off his resurgent grief either. A good hunt was probably just what he needed besides which Dean couldn't help but be intrigued by the sudden contact.

After all the years that had passed, why now?

"Where are you?"

" –hat mean you're coming?"

It was a good question, were they?

Dean glanced over at Sam again, the frown drawn across the face of the slumbering figure making his mind up for him with sudden determination.

"How soon do you need us?"

He only hoped he wouldn't regret it.


So, hands up. Who thinks he will? Anyone?

Settle back folks, this is going to be quite a long one (By my standards anyway!)