A/N: Taking a little break from "Apocalypse Redux" and thought I'd go back to play around with this oneshot I started a while back. Spoilers through the Season Three finale, and a big ol' angst warning, for good measure. Title comes from an old Eskimo proverb about warmth, which seemed appropriate.

Disclaimer: I do not own. If I did, this would NOT be a network show.

He's always been warmer than you, ever since you were kids. It's like his temperature runs a couple degrees higher than a normal person or something.

You remember when he was a baby, remember that night like it was yesterday. There was heat all around you, flames licking at your heels as you sprinted out of the house with your dad's panicked voice ringing in your ears. But nothing burned as hot as baby Sammy in your arms, clutched so tight against your chest you were scared you might crush him to death. You sat on the hood of the car when it was over, your nose pressed against his forehead while he cried - while you both cried - and you baptized him with your tears.

That was the first time you knew he was yours.

When you were six, Dad left. It was only for a couple hours, but you were scared out of your mind. You went over every possible awful scenario that might happen in his absence, all of them ending with two-year-old Sammy dead or badly injured. You had only just realized that the monsters your dad hunted were real, actual monster-monsters - like the kind you saw on TV when Dad let you stay up past bed-time. The thought that a vampire or werewolf or blob of goo might burst through the window and take Sammy away terrified you, and you spent the following 138 minutes going from door to window to the bed you shared with your baby brother, checking locks, checking salt lines, checking Sammy's breathing.

You noticed the fever about half an hour after Dad left, though you told yourself for a while it was just your imagination. Sammy was curled up in a nest of yellowed sheets, sweat curling his hair at the edges around his forehead and neck. He was shivering, and that's how you knew something was wrong.

You called Pastor Jim, like Dad told you to, and when he didn't answer you knew with a certainty you'd never felt before that Sammy was going to die, and it was going to be all your fault.

The lady at the front desk looked a little hassled when you went barreling into the lobby, a little leery of a young kid running around on his own after midnight. But when you told her your baby brother was sick and your Dad was too, she gave you a motherly pat on the head and put a bottle of Children's Tylenol in your hand.

It took you forever to get Sammy to take the medicine. He squirmed and cried and clamped his lips together, eyes screwed shut as he shook his head vehemently back and forth. It wasn't until he realized you were crying too that he actually went still, cocking his head and looking up at you with wide, luminous eyes, lower lip jutting out and a confused frown drawing down his eyebrows.

"Don't cwy, Dean," he said, taking the medicine dropper with one chubby little hand and sticking it in his mouth. He choked and sputtered and you weren't sure he managed to get much of it down, but he gave you a satisfied smile and crawled into your lap, nuzzling up against your chin. You wrapped your arms around him and let out a long, scared breath into his hair. It tickled your nose, but you weren't about to let him go until you felt the fever break.

He cooled off by degrees, and you tucked him back under the sheets, smiling a little at the way he reached out for you even in his sleep, and then you resumed your rounds.

When Dad got back, you didn't talk to him for almost a whole day.

The first time you fired a gun with the intent to hit something, you were nine. It was a Glock, and you remember it being cold in your hands. "Tenifer," Dad said, running your fingertips over the smooth steel coating. He showed you how to release the magazine and put in a new one, made you practice it until you could do it in your sleep.

He'd had special cartridges made for it, each one containing 17 silver rounds. Dad said they'd stop the werewolf in its tracks, but he promised it wouldn't come near you and Sammy. He said the gun was just for protection; "insurance," he called it.

You don't really know what went wrong. You and Sammy were in the tent, and you were trying to teach Sammy to play Go Fish, except he kept trying to look at your cards and ask stupid questions, and you got mad and told him to go away and play with his GI Joes.

He pouted for a while, buried up to the nose under his sleeping bag with his back toward you, and you rolled your eyes and took out your pocket knife, working away at a stick you'd found in the woods, until you had it shaped into a nice little stake.

Sammy heard the noises before you did, a scuffling, he said, like something trying to move quietly through the woods. You told him it was nothing, just the wind rustling the falling leaves, but secretly you felt a cold chill of fear, and secretly your hand crept toward the gun under your pillow.

The howl shattered the nighttime peace of the forest, and you nearly pulled the trigger right there in the tent. Sammy started to cry, and when you looked over your shoulder at him, he whimpered and told you he peed his pants. You told him to be quiet then and you crawled to the opening of the tent, terrified of what was going to be on the other side.

The werewolf was probably newly turned, though you didn't know it then. It lunged wildly, haphazardly, pawing at the nylon fabric of the tent, getting itself tangled in the cords that ran from the frame all the way to the anchors you and Dad had pounded into the ground that morning.

The Glock was in your hand and you shot it without thinking, without fear or guilt or sadness, because the only other option was to let it get Sammy, and that wasn't ever really an option.

Afterward, you got Sammy cleaned up, changed him into a pair of Superman Underoos and your old spare sweatpants, and promised you wouldn't tell Dad. You made him follow you down to the creek, holding your hand the whole way, and you threw his soiled clothes into the water, watching them float away in the white moonlight.

Dad got back and he cried that night, holding you and Sammy against his chest, whispering strangled "I'm sorry's" against the tops of your heads. You reached out and held Sammy's hand, so warm and soft after the cold, cruel steel of the handgun, and you swore to yourself you'd never fire another one again.

When you were fourteen, you decided you didn't want to share a bed with Sam anymore. He was gangly and awkward and he kicked like a mule. Most mornings, you ended up halfway off the bed, and the rest you ended up in the floor. You bitched and moaned to Dad, but he wouldn't shell out the extra fifteen bucks for a rollaway, and you were the oldest and there was no way you were going to sleep on the floor of the skeevy motel rooms you stayed in.

It was summer, and of course, the freakin' place didn't have air conditioning. A window unit shook and shuddered, sweating condensation into a puddle on the yellow linoleum, but the room stayed above 80 at all times. You walked around in a tank top and boxers, guzzling cold Cokes from the vending machine around the corner until Dad told you off for wasting so much money.

Sam refused to sleep in the bathtub, even though you tried to convince him it'd be cooler in there, and you bickered back and forth until Dad turned off all the lights and yelled at you to shut the hell up. You flopped down on the mattress, pissed off and drenched already, kicking down the sheets and moving with the oscillating fan every time it clicked by.

You groaned when Sam tried to snuggle up against your side, radiating heat like a freakin' furnace. You shoved him away, told him he wasn't a little kid anymore, then called him a girl when he kept trying to wiggle closer. The teasing eventually worked, and you pretended you couldn't hear Sam sniffling from his side of the bed.

You kept pretending for the next 20 minutes, until Sam's hitching breath evened out and got heavy and slow. You squirmed over to his side of the bed, sweating bullets, but you put your arm over his waist anyway, and you pressed your face into his shoulder. He sighed a little, relaxing into you, and you drifted off into a restless sleep.

You woke up the next morning, sore and sticky with sweat, lying in a heap on the floor.

Sam ran away for the first time when you were eighteen, and you didn't think then that you could ever in your life feel so betrayed. He'd been fighting with Dad pretty much non-stop, and you were getting sick of being the go-between. When Sam screamed that he didn't need you to fight his battles, you threw up your hands and told him to have at it.

That night, Sam slid out of bed and slung his backpack over his shoulder, slinking out into the dark. You were staying in a small run-down carriage house at the time, and for the first time in your lives, you had separate bedrooms. You didn't hear Sam leave, didn't even hear the front door snick shut when he pulled it to.

You found the note the next day, and you said words to your dad that you wouldn't say in front of a drunken sailor. He beat your ass, and you hit him back, for the first and only time in your life. He tried to stop you from getting in the car when he went to look for Sam, and you threatened to pull the goddamn door off its hinges. He started to pull away, and you shouted into the open window that you'd tear down the whole fuckin' house. He stopped, and you got in, and neither of you said a word all the way to Flagstaff.

You shook Sam when you finally found him, shook him and screamed and swore and then walked out when you couldn't stop the tears anymore. He'd been grinning when you walked in, eating a Twinkie and stroking the fur of a large yellow dog, happy as a clam.

Dad stayed calm, probably because you couldn't, and he dragged Sam out of there with barely a word. You rode back home in the backseat, sullen and pissed, and ignored the tear tracks you could see reflected on Sam's cheeks in the side mirror. You refused to believe he'd been anything but miserable there on his own, without Dad, without you, even though all the evidence pointed to the contrary.

When you got back, you locked yourself in the bathroom and punched the wall so hard your knuckles bled. Dad cussed a blue streak and threatened to tan your hide again, and he made you pay him for the damage right then and there, out of the money you'd saved from mowing lawns in the neighborhood – the money you'd been planning to give to Sam so he could take that stupid law workshop down at the community center.

Sam never apologized, and you never gave him the money for the class. You figured he'd learned his lesson.

You were twenty when you figured out things weren't quite right between the two of you. Sam talked about college and girls and the future, and you worked on the Impala and hustled pool and didn't talk much about anything at all. You dated some, mostly older chicks from the dive bars in the towns where you stayed, and you never brought them back to the hotel or apartment or whatever.

Sam went on his first date the week after he turned sixteen. He couldn't drive, but somehow he and Dad conned you into dropping them off at the movies. Her name was Krista, and she had brown hair and huge dark eyes, made impossibly larger by the thick glasses she wore over them. She was cute, in a nerdy way, and Sam's eyes lit up when you told him so.

You picked them up two and a half hours later, all giggles and sideways glances in the backseat, and you weren't too friendly when you dropped Krista off at her parents' house. Sam walked her up to the front porch, and you looked away when he leaned in for a kiss. You pictured her slapping him, shoving him away, telling him indignantly that she wasn't that kind of girl, but the grin he wore when he climbed into the passenger seat told you otherwise.

You took a cold shower that night, the first of hundreds, and you snuck your dad's flask out of his duffle bag. The liquor burned hot and sweet down your chest, and you couldn't help but think it wasn't anything compared to the warmth of feeling Sammy pressed up against you when you slept.

Sam ran away again when you were 22, but this time, he did it on the up and up. He told you about the application to Stanford, and he told you when he got accepted, eyes shining with pride and a lopsided grin on his face. You knew the inevitable fight with Dad would be nasty, but you could barely stand to listen to the insults they hurled at each other.

Sam kept you out of it, mostly, but it didn't make the pain lessen any when he walked out the front door and into the night. You watched him march across the street, backpack sagging off his shoulder, carrying the Adidas duffle you gave him for graduation. He looked over his shoulder once, and you ducked behind the curtain, stubbornly refusing to give an inch, like always.

He called you, those first couple months, leaving voicemail after voicemail. When you finally returned the call, you made up excuses, told him you didn't know how to check your messages on the new cell phone Dad bought you, but you knew he didn't buy it. The calls dwindled over the next few months, then died out completely. By Christmas, you were lucky to get a text every few weeks, just to let you know he was alive. You didn't hear from him again until summer break, when he sent you a terse message to let you know he had made arrangements for the vacation.

You didn't hear about Jess until they'd been dating almost a year, and you were surprised at how much it tore you up, ripped you into shreds on the inside until you weren't even sure how you were still breathing. You asked to meet her, stupidly, but Sam said no. He politely told you in so many words to stay the hell away, and so you did. You figured the one thing you could do for him was let him have a normal life. You made it your cause, almost, like a religious martyr sacrificing his life for the greater good.

You became cold inside, cold and hard, and it seemed right somehow, that you were like that, because you knew how Sam burned so hot and bright. Without him there, there was nothing to thaw you, nothing to keep you warm, and you built your walls of ice and you made them thick and strong and you were proud of them.

Then, when you were 26, Sam came back. It wasn't by choice and it wasn't the reunion you secretly imagined at night when Dad was asleep and there was nothing to keep you company but the dripping of a leaky faucet or the rumble of passing cars on the highway outside. But he was back, and for a while, that was enough.

The walls began to fall after the scarecrow incident. Sam had been given the opportunity to leave, and he hadn't taken it. You told yourself it didn't mean anything, but you smiled a lot more, and sometimes you hummed when you drove, and sometimes you'd give Sam a playful shove, just to see the annoyed face he'd always make back at you.

You started to feel warm again, and it was weird, and a little freaky, but Sam stayed, and really, it was more than you ever hoped for.

The year you turned 27, you were just starting to think you could have it all. Sam was back, and the two of you were hunting baddies, and close on the trail of finding Dad. Life was good, for a brief, sweet minute, Sam next to you in the passenger seat, the sun shining in warm and soft on your arms over the steering wheel, and a sense of rightness in the world like you had never known.

When Dad died, the walls went back up. There was a distance between you and Sam, a coldness like you hadn't felt since those first months he was at Stanford. You knew what he might become, and you knew what Dad had done. The knowledge weighed on you, especially at night, pressing down on your chest until you couldn't breathe, until you had to sit up, gasping for air and choking, alone in your bed with Sam sleeping, warm and safe, just a few feet away.

Then Sam died too, and a little piece of you went with him. You don't know what came over you when you made the deal. You were crazy, half-wild with grief, and you weren't thinking. That's what you told Bobby, anyway, even though you knew you'd do it again in a heartbeat, totally sane and totally rational.

You knew that last year would be hard, but you never expected the reasons why. You weren't prepared the night Sam crept into bed with you, nudging into your side the way he had when he was a kid, sobbing quietly into the pillow. You dragged your arms around him, pressing into his warmth, and you told yourself you weren't going to be afraid, you weren't going to be cold, anymore.

His lips were warm, warmer than any girl's you could remember, when he finally turned over to face you. You sought the heat of his mouth like you were coming home, and in a way, you were. You whispered things you'd always meant to say and had never gotten around to, and Sam didn't tell you it was too late. He cried a little, and then so did you, and both of you pretended not to notice.

When he put his hand down your boxers, you nodded, whispered a quiet "yes," because this was right, and this was what you'd always needed. Neither of you spoke much after that, other than a stifled cry or a halting, half-embarrassed request. Sam gave you everything, absolutely everything, and you let yourself take it, not even able to feel all that guilty about it.

He held you tight until the morning, like you might get up and leave right then, just walk away after breakfast and never come back. You kissed him in the shower, hard and demanding, not caring that there wasn't enough room or that the water went cold after seven minutes. He was enough to keep you warm.

You didn't talk about it much, but you didn't really think you needed to. You both knew the score, and you both knew that impending death was the only thing making this okay. That didn't deter Sam from his ceaseless research, but it also didn't stop you from holding out your hand and telling him you didn't want to spend your last days bent over a dim laptop screen when you could be wrapped up inside him in every possible way.

It wasn't Lilith you were afraid of, not then and not ever. Your only fear was leaving Sam alone, leaving him to the coldness you'd experienced once upon a time without him. You knew you couldn't fix it, and neither could he, and in a way, you started to make peace with that. You did everything you could, researched every possible avenue to make sure there was no way Sam could make some dumbass deal to weasel you out of this.

You were scared, when it happened. It hurt and burned and ached a million times worse than the worst pain you'd ever felt. But what hurt even more was the look on Sam's face, the anguish in his voice as he watched you being ripped apart. You silently begged for forgiveness, praying someday he'd understand, someday he'd know why you did it.

You looked at him, as the light faded and dimmed and your vision went blurry, and you hoped he could see it on your face.

He was yours, and always would be.