That Old Familiar Feeling

"Call me if you find him?" Sam says leaning in the open passenger window. Dean just nods.

"Maybe I can meet up with you later, huh?" Sam adds.

"Yeah, all right," Dean responds somewhat nonchalantly, trying to keep the disappointment out of the reply. He looks away dismissively. Yeah, 'cause it's no big deal.

Sam lingers for a second, as if he wants to say something more, but he doesn't. Winchester stubbornness and stoicism is unrelenting, even if there's a lot to say after more than two years of being apart. They can both feel the weight of that, and of the silence and the distance that has grown between them. They were in different worlds now.

Sam pats the door and starts to walk away and Dean feels something like desperation break through his false insouciance at the sight.

"Sam?" He calls after him. Sam stops, turning back to face him.

"You know, we made a hell of a team back there."

"Yeah" his brother affirms with a slight smile, and Dean can hear the dedication, to him, but not to the hunt, in his brother's voice, and he can see the perseverance to get back to his 'normal' life in his face.

And Dean gets his final answer.

Dean doesn't stay to watch Sam go inside because it's too hard. He pulls away from the curb and drives off, leaving it at that, leaving Sam standing there. Because it's what Sam wants, and it's all he can do.

Dean only makes it as far as turning the corner down the street and he pulls over and shuts the car off.

How can he leave it at this?

His words to Sam echo back to him, "We made a hell of a team." They had always made a good team, and he had wanted his brother to know that, to hear the need behind it.

Dean had thought Sam would come back with him, at least until they found their father. Then maybe even after. Maybe once they were all together again Sam could see that they were better off sticking together as a family.

The hunt had felt like old times. It had felt right, and nothing had felt right in over two years.

Dean had hoped that his brother would see that. He thought maybe when Sam saw him somehow things would fall back into their old rhythm. Maybe he should have known better. Sam had never wanted this life.

"I can't do this alone."

"Yes, you can."

"Yeah, well I don't want to."

It was more than that. He couldn't do it alone, because he was just that. He wasn't strong enough. He needed Sam, even if Sam didn't need him anymore. And the latter was a thought he didn't care to think about. If Sam didn't need him, then what the hell was he supposed to do?

He had missed Sam. He may have some issues with the kid leaving like he did, but God, he missed him. Seeing him, being with him again brought all of the feelings he had tried to suppress in order to get by flooding back. It had felt good, good to be brothers again.

The past couple of years had been empty. It had felt like something was missing. That was because something had been missing: Sam.

And now Dad was missing, and Dean was left completely and utterly alone. He had nowhere yet everywhere to go and no idea where to begin.

Maybe Sam didn't need him anymore, but he still needed Sam.

Even if things didn't work out like he wanted, Dean could at least make sure Sam was safe. Despite their time apart, that instinct still came as naturally to him as breathing, and was just as necessary.

That need, and not knowing what else he could do, Dean turns the key and starts the car back up. He puts it into reverse and heads back to the one job he knows he can do. It's the one that never stops and the one he can't fathom not doing. He'll take care of Sam. He heads back to the only family he has left at the moment.

Dean is pulling back up to the curb on the opposite side of the street outside his brother's apartment when the low tune of the radio begins to cut in and out with static before going out completely. The brief flickering of the light at the door of his brother's building catches Dean's eye.

It could very well just be crappy reception and a worn bulb. Anyone else would chalk it up to as much, but Dean's not anyone else.

Hunter's intuition automatically kicks in followed by another feeling. It's a pulling feeling seeded deep in his gut, gnawing and reaching to clasp around his heart with an icy grip.

It's a feeling he hates but always heeds to, a feeling that something is wrong. It's the feeling that tells him that Sam is in danger, and that is indeed very wrong. Dean sure as hell hasn't forgotten that feeling either.

He gets out of the car and enters the building. He heads up the stairs and reaches his brother's door. He hears a muffled shout.


Then he smells the smoke.

That awful feeling inside of him intensifies and he kicks the door open. Calling his brother's name as he enters, he can see a bright orange glow coming from a room in the back. He hears his brother's yell again. He moves automatically.

He reaches the bedroom and is assaulted with heat, brightness, smoke, and the smell of burning flesh. His arms come up to shield him instinctively. He immediately seeks out and sees Sam, alive laying on the bed, arms up in front of himself, looking above him, wide-eyed and scared.

Then he looks to where Sam's frightened eyes are fixed and he sees the fire itself on the ceiling - and the form within it.

Oh, God.

For a split second Dean can't move. His heart stops, mind racing with similar images from long ago as he stood with the baby in his arms.

The fire roars and crackles menacingly as it rolls across the ceiling. It's as though it's looking at them both, taunting them like it has a life of its own, a life with one intent: Kill.

He is moving before he even realizes it.

"Take your brother outside as fast as you can."

His mind is focused on only one thing: Sam.

"Now, Dean! Go!"

Since their father placed a baby Sam in his arms that night he has been his. His responsibility. His little brother. His. Dean didn't let the fire have him back then and he wouldn't now. Not ever.

He rushes over and grabs fistfuls of Sam's jacket, hauling him up off of the bed. He places his body in front of Sam's, pushing him towards the door, but Sam is struggling against him.

"Jess!" Sam cries looking back to the form in the flames as Dean continues to bodily push him. Dean knows it is already too late for the girl.

There is a loud burst as the flames seemingly explode in rage. The fire is spreading, climbing down and engulfing the walls. It seems to chase and chastise them. Jessica is no longer visible, consumed in the inferno.

"No!" Sam yells as Dean finally manages to shove his brother out of the bedroom. When they reach the living room Sam finally starts to not fight him, but Dean doesn't let go of him. Sam turns forward and Dean throws an arm tightly around his back, clasping his shoulder and still pushing him out in front of himself, standing between Sam and the threat, always making sure Sam gets to safety before himself.

They make it out of the apartment and into the hallway, the heat and smoke growing more intense behind them. Dean grabs Sam's upper arm and they bound down the stairs, coughing as the smoke begins to choke them.

They burst out of the main door into fresh night air and run out to the street. Once clear, they stop and turn, taking in the sight before them. The fire has spread wildly, Sam's apartment engulfed in the flames as they lick out of the shattered windows and thick smoke rises. There are already sirens in the distance.

Dean looks from the building to Sam. Sam stares in shock and horror and Dean stares wide-eyed at his brother. He doesn't release his grip on Sam's arm.

He could have lost him. If he hadn't gone back, he might have.

Sam suddenly drops, rear hitting the asphalt. He fists his hands in his hair. His eyes are wild and bright with shock, terror and grief. Dean's nearly match them as he descends with his brother, never letting him go, hand squeezing his bicep. Sam hangs his head. Sobs intermingle with heaving breaths from smoke-choked lungs. Dean places his other hand, shaking but firm, between his shoulder blades, not breaking the physical connection he has to Sam. His eyes stay fixated on the fire. His mind reels.

Firemen and paramedics arrive. They move quickly, swarming. Some run up to Dean and Sam, ushering them away, throwing questions at them.

Sam doesn't speak and allows himself to be moved. Now he's back to staring at the fire, transfixed. It unnerves Dean even more. He hears someone say "shock." He snaps out of it. A hospital will not do either of them any good right now. He manages to gain control enough to answer the questions for his brother as well as himself. No, they're not hurt. No, they didn't inhale much smoke. Yes, there had been someone inside.

She had just died as their mother had over twenty years ago. He couldn't bring his mind to comprehend what that might mean just now.

They are told that the police will want to question them and Dean just says "Okay." The brothers fade into the background of the chaos and flashing lights and growing crowd of gawking on-lookers.

Sam hadn't said a word or stopped acting like he was in a trance.

Dean knows Sam is in shock, but he knows how to handle that. No one can help them with this. That and mostly he has no intention of letting Sam out of his sight right now. He will take care of him. He has taken care of him his whole life.

They're leaning against the Impala further down the street. Dean had had to move it to make way for the emergency response teams. Dean stands at his brother's side, his shoulder touching Sam's, letting him know he's there. He doesn't know if it does any good or not, but he finds some comfort in the touch. He tries to resist the urge to look over at his brother because he has never seen Sam like this. He's never seen him look so broken. If he looks he's afraid he might break him. If he looks he might break too.

Dean hadn't known Sam's girlfriend. He had only just met her. She had seemed like a nice girl, and he knew Sam had loved her. Now that pretty girl he had met a couple of days ago is gone.

He doesn't know the pain of losing someone like that, but right now, he wishes he could if it meant his little brother wouldn't have to.

His mind is flooded with memories from that night twenty-two years ago. He hadn't seen his mother burn, or what put her on the ceiling, but he remembers the brightness and the heat and the fear. He pushes the feelings to the back of his mind.

It was just like their mother. Sam had had both of the women in his life die right in front of him. Even though he couldn't remember that night in his nursery, he sure as hell would remember this.

What did this mean? Was this thing following their family? Was it after them? After Sam? There's no doubt in Dean's mind that whatever had destroyed their family over two decades ago was also the cause of this. As much as he wants to be able to deny it, he can't. He can feel it. And he's scared. He wants his father here. John would know what to do. He could restore some order and makes some sense of this.

But their father isn't here.

Dean knows he will have to call his him. His worry moves up a notch because if this doesn't elicit a response from the man, it could mean what he's feared since his dad had gone missing, and he couldn't go there. Especially now.

He just wants to take Sam and run.

He wants to get Sam away from here.

The police have arrived and have sectioned off the area and are keeping the onlookers back. A couple of them come to question the brothers. To Dean's relief, Sam manages to actually look at the officers once or twice and nod in confirmation to his answers.

The officers get their statements and walk away. Sam slinks slowly back to the Impala, shoulders hunched, hands in his jacket pockets. Dean watches him then turns to look at what's left of the fire. It's mostly been extinguished now. Firefighters had been able to prevent it from taking much more of the building.

Dean doesn't know what to do now. This is all so messed up. He doesn't know if Sam will be alright or what's going to happen when they leave. He just knows he's going to be there for his brother and do whatever he can in the here and now.

He glances back at the Impala and walks over. Sam is standing behind the car, trunk open, no doubt doing something with the weapons cache, and Dean wonders if he should be more worried. As Dean rounds the car he sees Sam, head down, body tense, loading rounds into the sawed-off. He looks at the trunk, then at Sam.

Sam's face is set in an almost unreadable expression. Dean can sense more than see the mask of all too fresh pain turned to desperate anger. Yeah, Dean is more worried.

Sam lets out a sigh and drops the shotgun back into the trunk.

"We got work to do."

He shuts the trunk.

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or its characters.

A/N: Not sure how I feel about this one, but I started writing it before I saw the deleted scene for the Pilot episode in which Dean notices his watch stopped and goes back to Sam's.