Originally written in Season 3, before Dean's deal came due. Originally published in Brotherhood 8 (Pyramid Press) in 2009. I've tweaked it a bit since then, but nothing major.
Thanks to all my betas: faye_dartmouth, Tyranusfan, carocali, harrigan, and debbiel. If this is any good at all, it's because of you.
When You Were Young
…I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look, but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now. The child is grown…
-Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"
There are few things more disconcerting than waking up with a gun in your face.
Dean knew from experience: a gorgeous, willing farmer's daughter one hot, steamy August night in Indiana when he was nineteen…and her father at the crack of dawn the next morning, right about egg-gathering time. That sick Bender family full of freaks hadn't been too friendly, either, though that had been a hot poker rather than a double-barrel, but, hey, close enough.
He scrambled for his knife, hand digging underneath the pillow, only to hear the ominous sound of a voice saying, "Hands where I can see 'em."
It would have been laughable—a line straight out of Bugs Bunny or one of Dad's spaghetti westerns—but when the cold barrel of the shotgun pressed hard against his neck, he found it a little hard to see the humor in the situation.
"Hey, now. Let's talk about this before somebody gets—" Dean dove for the gun, but missed when it was yanked back and then smashed against his forehead. "Son of a bitch!"
"Don't. Move." The voice was lower now, an angry growl. But there was fear in it, too, and now that Dean was paying attention—oh, yeah, that little smack to the head definitely had his attention—it sounded a lot younger than it was aiming for.
He rubbed at his head, still swearing under his breath. His eyes finally adjusted to the lack of light, and it turned out his guess was spot-on. The gun still trained on him was clutched tight in the grip of a gangly-looking kid, head-and-shoulders shorter than Dean, whites of his eyes stark against shadows that mostly hid the rest of him.
"What the hell are you doing here?" And where the hell is Sam? He usually woke up if Dean so much as sneezed but now that some crazy kid had broken in for reasons unknown, of course baby brother was nowhere to be found.
"This is our room. What're you doing here?" The kid's features were clearer now, defiance in the set of his chin, even though he still looked spooked. Hair hung low over the kid's forehead, and he was skinny and smaller than the big voice had implied, but his aim didn't waver.
The room—Dean's room, no matter what the kid said—was empty apart from the two of them. No Sam. No evidence of any others to give credence to the kid's "our." What the hell was going on?
"Listen, kid. There's been some kind of mistake. I don't know where you came from, but—" Dean ducked and rolled, catching the kid around the waist and knocking him flat.
The kid fought like a demon: punching, kicking, biting. He'd let the gun go as soon as he was hit, trained enough to know it wouldn't do him any good in a close quarters. Sharp knees and bony elbows did some damage, though, and a lesser man than Dean might have given up when the kid sank a sharp set of incisors into the webbing between Dean's thumb and forefinger and tore.
"You're really starting to piss me off, Alfalfa." Forget trying to be nice about it: time to get the kid subdued so he could figure out what was happening.
It took less than a minute to get Junior locked up, legs clamped over legs, one arm over both the boy's and the other snug under his chin, careful but unyielding. Squeezing, just the smallest amount. Hands clawed at him as the kid panicked, heaving in an effort to breathe. Dean hung on just long enough for the slighter body to grow limp under his. Then he let go, rolling so he could pin the kid's arms against his chest.
"You going to cooperate now?" The lamp was close enough to reach, if he stretched. Dean snapped it on…and froze. "Sammy?"
The sight of his mop-topped little brother—truly little: young and small, but exactly as Dean remembered him from more than a dozen years earlier—was enough to make him drop his guard. The kid—Sammy?—scrambled back, one hand massaging his throat, the other flailing back for support. He stopped when he ran into the wall, then pushed himself slowly to standing, never taking his eyes off Dean.
When the kid lunged, Dean was ready for it, on him before he'd taken more than a step toward the door. He gripped the kid's wrists from behind, pulling them in opposite directions across his middle and tugging the kid close, cradled under Dean's chin. Human straitjacket, Sammy used to call it, one of younger-Dean's surefire moves that had proven sadly ineffective once his brother learned leverage and started to catch up in height.
Worked well now, though. Dean could almost hear Sam's heart jumping rabbit-fast against his ribs, could feel the kid shaking against him. But though he strained against Dean's hold, he couldn't break it, couldn't even budge. Dean leaned, mouth to Sam's ear, following when Sam flinched away. "I'm not going to hurt you, okay?"
No answer, but Dean hadn't really expected one. Sam shook harder.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he repeated, trying to sound as sincere as he could. "I need you to calm down and not fight me. I just want to talk." He turned, walking Sam toward the bed.
Like he'd been hit by an electrical current, Sam was suddenly jerking against him, moaning a horrible low sound of utter terror. Bed. Yeah. Bad idea. Dean changed direction, heading for the couch instead, using his foot to slide the shotgun toward the opposite wall. He braced himself before letting go, ready for Sam to try to take off again. But the kid just huddled up on the far end of the couch, heels dug in, hands gripping the fabric. Ready, but not moving yet. And breathing so fast he was almost hyperventilating.
The kid flinched again and, okay. This really wasn't going well.
"Look." Dean ran a hand over his mouth, wincing when he was reminded of the bite. He stared at the reddish-purple teeth marks as he tried to figure out where to start, glad it wasn't bleeding. The way it had felt, he'd thought for sure he'd be missing a good-sized chunk of flesh. He flexed the hand, sighing. "This is going to sound crazy, I know, but…I'm Dean. Your brother."
"Liar." Instant and certain. Sam's posture didn't change, but somehow the brief show of bravado only served to make him look more vulnerable.
"I know, okay? I probably wouldn't believe it, either, if I were you. But I swear it's the truth. When I went to bed last night you were all grown up. An adult. And when I woke up, you were…" Dean made an abortive gesture with his hands, not sure exactly what Sam was now, except so impossibly young.
"My Dad'll be back. Any minute. He'll kill you."
Sam's words rang with conviction, and Dean knew, if John walked in at that moment, they'd be true. But young-Sam's tells were the same as grown-Sam's, and when he brought his chin up, eyes narrowing, Dean knew he was lying. Dad wasn't close. Neither was some younger version of Dean himself. Sam was alone.
"He's not here, though, is he?" Peripherally, Dean was picking up on the layout of the room. It seemed identical to the place he and Sam had fallen asleep the night before, but he couldn't see any of his stuff. No duffel, no weapons bag, no boots flopped at the foot of the bed. Nothing.
Instead, there was a single Army surplus backpack, like the matching ones he and Sam used for school, once upon a time. A pile of school books crowned the stand between the beds, along with a Walkman that looked a lot like the one Sam had given him for his sixteenth birthday. A brown snap-button jacket he remembered wearing through junior high and then passing down to Sam when he outgrew it was draped over the back of a chair. A pair of faded blue Converse high tops Sam had kept until his toes poked through lay tangled beneath it.
That answered one question, at least: Dean had been the one to pull a Back to the Future. And suddenly, he knew exactly where Dad and his younger self were.
"He and Dean are hunting and they left you here by yourself."
Watching the color drain from Sam's face was all the confirmation Dean needed. But, damn it, Sam's eyes were welling up, his voice tremulous and haunted. "What are you? What have you done to them?"
"Sammy…" The tears that started to slip down Sam's cheeks were pretty much the worst things Dean had ever seen. "I haven't done anything, I swear. They're okay. They're coming back." He hoped. There was no way of knowing what else might have been changed. But he couldn't deal with thinking otherwise.
Not sure what else to say, Dean looked up, searching for inspiration in the familiar water stains and uneven paneling of his childhood. What he found instead was a godawful painting of giant yellow daisies hanging crooked just above the couch. The petals were misshapen, like they'd been drawn by a kindergartner, and the colors clashed with the aged pink wallpaper curling away from the cracked wall. And he'd seen them before. Probably just about a dozen years ago.
He ignored the way Sam recoiled when he snapped his fingers. "I know where Dad is."
It was starting to make sense now, at least a little. Sam had even said, Talk about déjà vu when they'd rolled into town the night before, but then, that could have fit any of a hundred little towns or more they'd passed through over the years. But thinking over the other landmarks he'd noticed, the route they'd taken, the names of the surrounding cities, Dean was pretty sure he had it. "He and I are hunting a ghoul, right? We ended up bagging it just across the river, up by Platteville."
They'd spent a week in Dubuque, Iowa, right before he'd dropped out of high school, researching and tracking. The hunt itself had taken another four days, and Dean had been the one to bag the Big Bad. His second kill since he'd started being Dad's wingman, which was probably the reason he still remembered it so vividly, all these years later.
Sam was shaking his head in denial, but Dean knew he was right. "We were on a school break, drove over from Fort Dodge."
He felt a tug on his neck and readjusted his amulet, trying to think of something else from that time that might convince Sam he was telling the truth. When he looked up, Sam was staring, in shock and something else Dean couldn't quite read. He glanced over his shoulder, not sure what the kid was seeing, not sure if maybe his dad and his other self—and wouldn't that just be awkward—were back after all. But there was nothing…at least until he caught a glimpse of the amulet again and realized he might have just found the one thing Sam could believe in.
"You remember this?" Sam didn't answer. He just swallowed, hard. "You gave this to me. Christmas, remember? When you read Dad's journal? You were going to give it to Dad, but you gave it to me instead." He held it out so Sam could see it better. "And I gave you—"
"A Barbie." Sam whispered the last words with him.
Dean chuckled, letting the amulet fall back into place. "Yeah. Sorry about that."
Sam inched forward, eyes wide and searching. "How did you…?"
"I've kept it. All this time. I, uh…" Dean cleared his throat, a little embarrassed. "I never take it off."
Silence fell, Sam processing and Dean…hoping.
"I know it sounds crazy, Sammy, but I swear, I'm Dean. Your brother, just older."
"How much older?"
"I'm twenty-nine." Rarely had it felt so ancient. Dean watched Sam's eyes narrow.
"And how old am I?"
"You mean in the future?" Sam nodded. "Coming up on twenty-five."
"Where are we from?"
Oh, this was his brother all right. Gathering info. Calculating. Too damned smart for own good, pretty much from birth. Dean settled back on his heels, ready for the Sammy Inquisition. "Lawrence, Kansas."
"What's your favorite weapon?"
"Joshua's flamethrower." Dean grinned. Good times.
Sam nodded again, looking like he was mentally ticking off a checklist. "What's the name of Pastor Jim's church?"
He had to think a minute on that one. "Hope United Methodist."
"What was the name of that motel we stayed at in New Mexico?"
Shit. He'd been stupid to think they'd all be easy questions. How many hundreds of motels had they stayed at over the years, as adults, as kids? New Mexico didn't ring a bell in terms of hunts or major life events, and deep down, Dean started to panic. Just a little. "Sam, there's no way I could—" And then he stopped, caught in another memory. "Elephant Butte Resort." They'd laughed over it for days, had used it as code for months after, the words alone enough to send them giggling again.
Sam didn't laugh now, but that was okay. Better than okay, since the look of flat-out disbelief was finally gone. He still didn't seem to know quite what to make of everything—Dean could relate—but he wasn't freaking out anymore. Dean was ready to count that as a win.
And did, as soon as Sam finally said "Dean." Half statement, half question.
"Yeah, Sammy. It's me."
Sam's forehead wrinkled. "How?"
"Kid, I have no idea."
Running through the situation with this Sam wasn't too different from hashing things out with older-Sam. The kid asked good questions, for the most part: what kind of hunt had they been on, had Dean noticed anything unusual before he'd fallen asleep, had he warded the room the way Dad taught them, who had he pissed off?
"What makes you think I pissed someone off?" Dean scowled, rolling his eyes when Sam just gave him a pointed look. "Well, I didn't. We didn't even stop for food. Sam—you—grabbed sandwiches from the gas station up the block."
Cross-legged, Sam planted his elbows on his knees, chin on raised fists. "Maybe it's a portal."
He was sitting looser now. He hadn't balked when Dean had taken up the other side of the couch though he kept staring every now and then, glancing away when Dean caught him but always looking again, like he couldn't quite believe Dean was real. Which was…totally understandable, really. Dean found himself doing the same thing, more than once. Far more stealthily, of course.
"Yeah, but how?" Why? And how do I get back? Dean didn't ask those questions aloud, but Sam didn't seem to know any better than he did.
However, little brother did have a plan. "We'll have to do some research."
Despite his obvious worry, Sam looked excited and Dean couldn't help smirking. "Still my little geek boy, aren't you?"
It was Sam's turn to scowl, though he didn't deny it. Instead, he reached for the stack of books, which had turned out to include things like cryptid anthologies and histories of necromancy, rather than school texts. "Here, take one of these." He grabbed one himself and started thumbing through it, frowning a little in concentration.
"What do you do when Dad and I are gone? Break into libraries?"
Sam didn't even look up. "Nope. Usually, I go through your stuff."
Dean swatted him on the back of the head without thinking. Instead of turning on him, though, Sam just ducked and grinned a shy little grin. His dimples were showing, and while Dean never planned to admit it, something warm tugged at his heart.
He squashed the feeling down without analyzing it and set to work reading, unconsciously imitating his little brother.
Research without the laptop, Dean decided, sucked. He never would've thought he'd miss the stupid little machine that swallowed up so much of Sam's attention—especially now, with the deal deadline looming ever-closer—but a few hours hunched over Sammy's small library had all but turned him into a technophile.
A relative silence drew out, punctuated only by the turning of pages. Sam didn't seem to be having any more luck then Dean was, blowing his bangs out of his eyes in frustration every few minutes and slamming books closed when they seemed to yield nothing of value.
Dean groaned as he massaged out a kink in his neck, glancing at his watch. It was a pretty obscene hour of the morning, at least for this kind of entertainment. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Sam stifling a yawn. "Hey, shouldn't you be sleeping?"
Sam shook his head. "Nah. I'll wait 'til they get home, make sure everything's okay." He didn't look up, just tossed the words carelessly over his shoulder, like staying up all night or longer, waiting on the only remaining members of his family to return safely, was no big deal.
But it was suddenly a big deal to Dean.
He'd never thought about what it must have been like for Sam to wait all alone in whatever motel or apartment they were currently calling home. To not know exactly when Dad and Dean were coming back, to maybe even wonder—those few times when they'd been delayed by weather or a hunt gone pear-shaped—if they were coming back at all. He'd figured Sam was safe, far out of harm's way, and that's what had mattered.
It was fair to say that now, he had a whole different perspective. A little kid in a strange town trying to keep up appearances: going to school, doing his homework and the laundry and the cooking, a virtual prisoner of whatever four walls he'd been left in because it wasn't safe to be too visible. It wasn't safe to let anyone in, either, even kids his own age; no one could know who he really was or what they did, or—God help them—that he was on his own, even if it was only for a day or two.
Thinking back, Dean realized it was when Dad had started taking Dean and leaving Sam behind that the kid had really started to dig his heels in, balking at the way they were raised, the training they did, the moving, the way Dad treated them like soldiers. What began as disillusionment the Christmas when Sam was eight became something darker and more resentful. Dean had faulted Sam for it; Dad had, too.
The attitude hadn't improved when Sam was allowed to hunt with them, the roots of his frustrations sunk too deep. And then, there was Stanford.
It was suddenly much easier to understand the whole progression. All Sam had then were secrets and lies and isolation…and this was back before cell phones, before wireless and instant messaging. Dad would check in from a pay phone every night when he could, and Bobby and Pastor Jim were emergency contacts, but the rest of the time, Sam hadn't had anyone.
Small wonder that Dad started Sam hunting younger than Dean, probably figuring human risks far outweighed supernatural ones. Even smaller wonder that the kid had come to hate it all so much.
Dean's heart broke a little, thinking of the boy who had been. "Hey."
Sam looked up, a finger marking his place.
"Let's take a break. The books aren't going anywhere."
Sam's expression turned skeptical and he started to protest.
Dean cut him off. "Just for a little while. We'll pick up at first light."
"Come on, no arguments. I'm going to show you how to make an EMF meter."
He reached for the Walkman, surprised when Sam leaped in front of him to scoop it up and cradle it to his chest. "That's Dean's!"
Wide-eyed, Dean stared until Sam started to blush. He didn't say anything, just quirked an eyebrow as Sam's embarrassment grew more apparent, then leaned back, amused.
"I mean, it's…it's yours, but…" Sam stuttered, the internal debate playing out expressively over his face. When at last he held the Walkman out, he didn't let go, even when Dean's fingers closed around it. "Dean'll kill me if it's wrecked. It…"
Dean let him off the hook this time. "It'll be fine, Sammy. He won't be mad, I promise." It was a pledge he could make without a second's hesitation.
Sam finally relinquished it, darting between the beds to grab Dad's spare toolbox. He cleared a space for Dean at the small table, listening with rapt attention as Dean cracked into the black plastic shell.
"See, the thing you need to know about radio transmitters is that they use continuous sine waves—you know what sine waves are, right?—on a specific frequency."
They were both engrossed in no time flat.
Daylight crept through the low gap in the curtains. Sam held the Walkman-turned-EMF meter in his hands, flicking it on and off every couple of minutes as though making sure it still worked. Except Dean was pretty sure the kid didn't even know he was doing it. His expression was distant, and Dean would have blamed tiredness if Sam hadn't chosen that moment to turn his full attention to his brother. He focused with a piercing, speculative look that put knots in Dean's belly, knowing the kid was going to ask one of the Big Questions. Not knowing what it was or how he would answer.
"Dad says this will all be over soon."
Dean swallowed carefully, trying not let his expression give anything away.
"He says he's close to finding it." Sam's breath hitched a little, uncertain. "The thing that killed Mom."
The words hung in the air between them, Dean not answering and Sam not saying anything else but watching with even greater intensity. Measuring.
It was all Dean could do to not break. When the hell did Dad say that? Never in front of Dean, that's for sure. He would have remembered. Damn straight, he would have remembered.
He'd been his father's soldier from the beginning and was now at a point where he couldn't imagine living any other way. But if Dad had said it was done, way back then, that the mission was accomplished, Mom avenged, the family safe? Yeah, it would've been pretty much a dream come true.
Dean didn't think about it too much, but the truth was that hunting had been scary, in ways he tried not to even admit to himself. Always worrying that Dad might get hurt. That he might get hurt and that Sam would be alone. That he wouldn't be good enough or fast enough and someone would die. Dad was gone now, and Dean had lost Sam once already, and he knew now better than ever how much there really was to be afraid of. Sam's destiny, his own upcoming date with Hell…there was pretty much no way to be prepared for things like that.
Dad had never told Dean their hunting days might someday be over. Finding and destroying the thing that killed Mom might have been goal, but Dad never even hinted it would be the end. Dean couldn't help but wonder why he'd said it to Sam. Had Sam misinterpreted him? Had Dad thought, at the time, they really were close? Had he lied to Sam to motivate him or give him a sense of security, however false?
It wouldn't have been the first time.
Whatever the reason, it was another revealing piece of the puzzle that was Sam and Dad's relationship. Perception was everything, and in Sam's mind, Dad had proven himself to be untrustworthy. He'd lied to Sam from the beginning, about the biggest things. Maybe he hadn't planned it that way—and God help him, after everything, Dean could still give the man the benefit of the doubt—but how was a kid supposed to accept all of it, justify what he'd surely viewed as the worst of betrayals?
Sam's voice was a mere whisper now, weighed down by the assumption that he already knew the answer and it wasn't good. "Do we? Do we find it?"
It was a partial truth, but at least it was truth. "Yeah. Yeah, kiddo. We do." Dean's grin was the lie: triumphant and conspiratorial on the surface, but underneath, pure relief. At least he could give Sam a token comfort, here in this moment, even knowing it wouldn't last.
"C'mere." He threw an arm around Sam's shoulders and yanked him down until they were both sitting, leaning against the headboard. Sam slumped into him, weary but relieved, too, maybe even more than Dean would have understood before this whole experience. Which made him feel guilty and sad in ways he could hardly put words to. "It's you and me 'til the end."
Another truth, this time with nothing partial about it.
Minutes ticked by and, slowly, the weight pressed to Dean's side grew heavier. Sam's breathing turned deep and even, and he shifted a little, snuggling in. Dean kept his arm around Sam, cradling him, protecting him the way he'd been born to do. He'd make sure this Sam was never alone again, not if he could help it. And he wouldn't leave grown-up Sam, either. They'd figure out a way to break the deal and everything would be okay.
When Dean first woke up, he'd forgotten all of it. He stretched, arms feeling strangely empty, and glanced over to where Sam, as expected, was typing furiously at the laptop.
He bolted upright, lifting covers, eyes darting frantically around the room, looking for—
Sam was frowning at him. Dean gave the room one last look, taking in their clothes and duffels, the weapons and scatterings of newspaper clippings. He was back again, in real time, as though none of it had happened.
Maybe it hadn't. Maybe it was all some weird dream. Which was exactly when he noticed that same creepy daisy painting and the smoothed-over pink wallpaper and felt his stomach drop.
"Yeah, don't get your panties in a twist, Francis." It took some effort to carry off the right amount of exasperated snarl, but it was worth it when Sam's concern shifted to annoyance. He turned back to the computer, and Dean was grateful. He needed a minute—at least—to figure out what the hell was going on this time.
Demon? Trickster? Time warp? Maybe he'd hit his head the night before and forgotten about it. Maybe the gas station attendant had slipped something in his sandwich.
"Cristo." Dean tried pretend it was just a cough.
Sam swiveled in his seat, slow and incredulous. "Did you just Cristo me?"
Okay, so maybe it was stupid, especially since a possessed-Sam was usually far more creative and cruel, as Dean knew only too well. Still, couldn't blame a guy for covering his bases. Scowling, he brushed Sam off. "No. You must be hearing things."
Under normal circumstances, Sam's expression would have been priceless: jaw hanging open, eyebrows practically to his hairline. But in this case, Dean just held his ground, cringing inwardly and hoping he didn't look as exposed as he felt.
"Seriously, dude, are you all right?"
"Seriously, dude, I need coffee. Where's mine?" He jerked his chin toward the mug by Sam's notebook.
Sam was still staring, so Dean stared right back, challenging. Eventually, Sam gave up, shaking his head as he refocused on the laptop. "Get your own."
Dean made a show of grumbling as he stalked toward the kitchenette, snorting when he saw a second steaming mug next to the coffee pot.
He leaned against the counter, watching his little brother bent low over the table, still wondering what to believe. Sam seemed to really be Sam, as far as Dean could tell. And Dean was completely himself. Nothing seemed wrong or out of place except his memories, and there was no indication there was anything malevolent at work…even though he planned to spend the rest of the morning going through Dad's journal to see if he missed something.
He couldn't help but wonder, though, what Sam's memories were now. If maybe Dean wasn't the only one who'd relived a moment in time. "So, we've been here before, huh?"
"Mmmm." Sam nodded absently, totally immersed in his work. "I was twelve. You and Dad were hunting."
"And you stayed behind."
Sam's second "Mmmm" was muffled in a swallow of coffee.
"Anything weird happen while we were gone?"
That seemed to bring Sam up short. He turned, elbow draped over the back of his chair. "You mean back then? Why? You think it's the same thing?"
Good old Sammy Inquisition. Dean smirked into his coffee. "No, Columbo. I just wondered. I didn't remember being here until you mentioned it. Thought maybe there was a reason for that."
"Oh." Sam's face fell a little.
Dean's did, too, wondering if Sam remembered after all. Worried that the memories weren't good ones.
"No. I just, uh…" Sam glanced away, mumbling. "I just remember the places I stayed alone."
Gut-punched, it took a minute for Dean to figure out what to say. "Sammy…"
"Hey, don't worry about it. It was a long time ago." Sam's eyes were back on him, compassionate and determined all in one. He quirked a smile. "At least I already know my way around, right?"
"Yeah. Right." Dean nodded with forced nonchalance. He cleared his throat, staring down at his coffee cup. When he looked up, Sam's attention was already gone, so Dean pulled up a chair beside him and started digging through his notes. "Tell me what we've got so far."
It took a concerted effort to shake off his uncertainty, and in the end, it didn't really work. Sam was rattling off facts and speculation with easy confidence, but all Dean could picture was the child Sam had been. His bright eyes and slow smile, his bravery in facing down what he'd thought was a foe twice his size, his inquisitiveness when Dean had pried open the Walkman's innards and started making modifications. The way his body had fit just-so under Dean's arm; the implicit trust when he'd fallen asleep there.
Dean would make the deal again in a heartbeat, no question. He couldn't imagine a life without Sam in it. Didn't want to. But he didn't want to imagine the kid without him, either. Alone. Orphaned in every way. Sam had paid enough already, and that wasn't even counting Mom and Jess and Dad.
Maybe that was what his little trip back in time had been all about: reminding him Sam needed him—really needed him. And not just because he didn't have anyone else.
Time was running short, and there weren't a lot of options left. But Dean made a vow, right then, to do everything possible to make sure Sam still had him when it ran out.