This story starts with Sam under the street light at the end of season five and moves forward a few days from there. Just one person's idea of how Sam might try to ease Dean's pain without ruining his apple pie life. Hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: Only the idea is mine. Supernatural and the characters therein belong to the writers, directors, producers, and actors that bring it to life. The song quoted in the story is by the group Within Temptation, and is titled Forgiven.

Sam stood beneath the street light, watching Dean have dinner with Lisa and Ben. He couldn't believe he was here, out of the Pit, back in the world again. Dean smiled inside the house, but there was a touch of sadness to it. That's my fault. Sam thought. Because of what I did. I'm so sorry, Dean. For everything. Bobby, Cas, you. Every part of Sam longed to walk up to the house and knock softly on the door. He knew that Dean would come to the door, and after the prerequisite tests to ensure Sam wasn't a demon or some other creature, Dean would envelop him in a brotherly hug. There, in the safety of his brother's arms, everything would be okay, at least for a few moments. Dean would protect him, keep him safe, maybe even forgive him. More than anything, Sam wanted his big brother at that moment. He wanted Dean. But he knew it might not be safe, and he knew that it would ruin Dean's shot at getting out.

He sighed, hunched his shoulders, and toed at the dirt beneath his feet. Knocking on that door would drag Dean back into the hunting life. Maybe not the same as before, but still... Sam just couldn't do that. This was Dean's chance. This was what Dean wanted. Sam still remembered the time they both took the dream root to save Bobby and the look on Dean's face when he had seen Lisa on that picnic blanket. As much as Sam had ever wanted normal, had wanted Stanford and all that went with it, Dean wanted "normal" too. His normal was Lisa and Ben. After everything he'd done, everything he'd cost Dean and all the pain he'd caused, Sam couldn't bring himself to go to that door and pull Dean away.

But he knew Dean would suffer believing he was still in the Pit, so he tried to think of a way to make it right. Reluctantly, he walked away from the house. He walked away from his brother, ignoring the voice screaming in his head to turn around and go back, pretending the tears that fell were from the wind in his eyes.

It only took a day to come up with a way to let Dean know he was safe. It took three days of arguing with himself to do it. He listened to the song over and over, trying to decide if it was the right one. Dean probably wouldn't like the music, he might turn the tape off as soon as he heard it. Sam thought of a solution to that problem. Then he wrote down what he wanted to say, but ripped the paper to shreds when he read it out loud. Tried again with the same results. In the end, he just hit record and talked, trying to say what he thought was most important. Before he lost his nerve, he climbed into the crappy car he bought for a few hundred dollars (money won at the pool table) and drove to where Dean was, with the cassette tape practically burning a hole in his pocket.

It was late or early, depending on your viewpoint, closing in on three am. Sam knew that if Dean were sleeping, this would be the best time. In the past, Dean slept the deepest around 3am. Sam knew, because that's when the snoring would wake him up momentarily, and he'd look over at his brother to gauge if it was a good night's rest or not. Too often, the last year, it hadn't been. Dean had been sleeping simply because of exhaustion. Sam blamed himself for that. Hopefully, Dean was sleeping better now.

Sam crept up to the Impala, and using the keys he still had in his pocket, silently opened the door. He slid into the passenger seat with an overwhelming sense of familiarity. All he wanted to do was lean his head back and sleep. He closed his eyes briefly against the wave of grief inside. I can do this. I have to do this. For Dean. Hands shaking a bit, he pressed the eject button on the car's tape player. Motorhead popped out, and Sam dropped the cassette in his lap. Then he opened the case of the tape he had made, and pushed it into the player. He put the Motorhead tape away in it's holder. His hands shook again as he pulled a small, tissue wrapped object from his pocket and placed it in the cassette holder of the tape he'd made. The holder went into the box with the rest of Dean's tapes. Sam took a deep breath trying to memorize the smell of the car and of Dean. Then he eased out of the seat, locked the door and gently shut it, trying to avoid the telltale creak of the old metal. He considered leaving his set of keys under the seat, but decided in the end it was better he didn't. What if someone stole the Impala using the set of keys I left behind? Dean would never forgive me. At least that was the thought he kept running through his head as he walked back to his own car, crying again, clutching the keys to the Impala in his fist, running his thumb back and forth over them like they were a worry stone.

Dean drove to work the next morning without turning on the radio. After work, he called Lisa to see if she wanted him to pick up something for dinner.

"Hey Dean, how was work today?"

"Same old, same old. Carburetors and fuel lines."

Lisa laughed. "So what's up?"

"I was just calling to see if you wanted me to pick up pizza or something for dinner so you didn't have to cook." Dean leaned against the fender of the Impala, looking up at the sky.

"That's nice, but tonight Ben and I have to go finish up the back to school shopping, remember? And get his hair cut. We were going to grab a bite to eat while we were out. You're still welcome to join us. Ben would love having someone to complain about shopping to. Or you could just meet us for dinner."

"I thought you were planning that for tomorrow night. My mistake. Listen, I think I'll skip the shopping if it's okay with you. I'll go for a drive instead and see you and Ben at the house later, okay?"

"Sure, no problem. Are you okay?" Dean heard the concern in the question Lisa asked.

He sighed and closed his eyes against the pain. "Yeah. I just... I dreamt about him last night. Driving with him. When I got in the car this morning, I swore I could smell his cologne there. Threw me, you know? It's just been a hard day. I... miss him. I want him back." He tried not to let the emotion into his voice, but he choked on the last words.

Lisa said, "I know, babe, I know. I wish there was something I could do to help you. Why don't you just come home? We can all do something together tonight. Ben's school shopping can wait, he'll be thrilled. Come home, Dean."

Dean drew in a deep breath and ruthlessly shut down the voice in his head that answered, You aren't my home. My brother is my home and he's gone now. He's in constant pain and he's suffering because I couldn't save him. You can never be my home. You're just the wonderful woman who's helping me hold the pieces together as best I can. I'll never have a home again. He thought all this, but said only, "No, you and Ben go ahead with your plans. I think a drive will help me clear my head a little. I'll see you later tonight, okay? Thanks, Lisa. Tell Ben I said not to hassle you too much about the clothes you pick."

She laughed again at that, but Dean could hear the sadness for him there. "We'll see you tonight, Dean. Drive safe. Bye." She hung up without waiting for his answer and he knew that she was wondering if tonight would be the night that he didn't return. Would tonight be the night he finally broke and fled, or worse? For a moment he thought of calling her back to reassure her, but couldn't think of anything he might say that would be reassuring. So instead he got into the car, and drove away, listening only to the rumble of the engine.

After an hour or so of solitude, Dean was driving down a quiet back road, too fast, but he didn't care. As always when he was alone, his thoughts drifted to Sam. He ran through all the events of the last year, analyzing choices, regretting actions, wishing he could take back some things he'd said and say something else in its place.

I should have gone with him. I should have jumped in that hole and followed him down. At least then...

He felt the tears fill his eyes, and he hit the steering wheel, hard. Then again, and again. Quickly he pulled over to the side of the road and threw the car into park. He opened the door and barely made it to the grass before the scream building inside him tore loose and knocked him over. At first it was wordless, just a visceral, choking rage that he shouted to the skies between broken sobs. But when that didn't help, he stood, and glaring at the sky, screamed, "WHY?" Not sure if he was waiting for an answer, or to be struck down, he stayed still, listening. When nothing happened, he screamed again, "Why? Why him? Why my Sammy?" His voice cracked from the force of the screams, and his throat felt raw. He turned away from the empty sky and walked over to the car. His voice was low when he whispered, "I need him back." Dean got behind the wheel of the car, closed the door, and started driving again, knowing there was nowhere he could drive to that would change the fact Sam was gone.

Shortly after, Dean knew he needed to numb his brain, at least for a while, before he went back to Lisa and Ben. If he showed up like this, she'd think it was that first night all over again. The worst night, except for the ones that followed after. Because the pain of letting Sam go never got better. It just got harder. So, he needed a distraction. Deciding some loud, rage filled music was just the ticket, he reached over to the radio dial, and flipped on the cassette deck, expecting Motorhead to blare out of the speakers. Instead, gentle piano music filled the car.

"What the hell?" Dean said out loud. Lisa, he thought. It must have been Lisa. Chick music. Just as he reached for the eject button on the cassette player, the singer started. A woman's voice, sounding pretty, simple, and filled with pain.

Couldn't save you from the start
Love you so it hurts my soul

Can you forgive me for trying again
Your silence makes me hold my breath

His hand slipped away from the dash as he focused on the words she was singing. Sam. It was like she was singing about him and Sam. How he couldn't save Sam.

Ooh, for so long I've tried to shield you from the world
Ooh, you couldn't face the freedom on your own
Here I am left in silence

That was always his job. To protect Sam. Shield him from all the big bads in the world. But in the end, he'd failed. He left Sam alone when he died, thinking that Sam would be safe. Instead of him going to hell though, everything else had gone to hell. Sam had been tricked by Ruby, thinking he was helping people, hunting Lilith, when really he'd been helping Ruby set Lucifer free. And Dean had raged at him, blamed him, and forgiven him. But had he let Sam know? Did Sam know that Dean had forgiven him? Even before Stull?

You gave up the fight
You left me behind
All that's done's forgiven
You'll always be mine
I know deep inside
All that's done's forgiven

He thought back to all the times he'd told Sam he was done. That he was too tired to keep going. That he wished it would just be over. He thought of the things he said to Sam that he wished now he could take back. Did Sam forgive me? I wish I knew for sure. It wasn't enough to just be there with him. To not let him die alone. I should have done more. Dean swiped the tears away from his face again as the singer continued.

I watched the clouds drifting away
Still the sun can't warm my face
I know it was destined to go wrong
You were looking for the great escape
To chase your demons away

I've been so lost since you've gone
Why not me before you
Why did fate deceive me
Everything turned out so wrong
Why did you leave me in silence

Dean listened to the last verses, wondering again why Lisa put this tape in his car. He felt strange listening, since it wasn't really his kind of music. But her voice. What she was saying, the repetition of "All that's done's forgiven" over and over soothed a place in him he had thought impossible to reach. It didn't make Sam dying acceptable, but it eased a tightness inside him. It felt almost like he could breath again. The song ended with a single chord, and silence filled the car. Dean reached again for the eject button, this time to stop before the next song started. He was reluctant to let go of the feeling created by listening to the song. Before he pressed it though, he heard Sam's voice through the speakers.

Hey Dean. I hope you liked the song, if you listened to it and didn't just fast forward like the directions on the tape said.

At that, Dean popped the tape out and looked at it. There, in Sam's scrawl, was a message to him.

Dean – fast forward past the song. For me. Sam. He flipped the tape over and on the back was written, I'm so sorry.

Shaking now, he put the tape back in the player, rewound it a second, and listened to Sam's voice again.

Hey Dean. I hope you liked the song, if you listened to it and didn't just fast forward like the directions on the tape said. I'm not sure where to start, Dean, or what I should say to you. I know you hate chick flick moments, but I need to tell you some stuff. First, I'm so sorry. I know I need to say that. For everything that I did. I messed up, over and over, and I disappointed you. I disappointed everyone, especially myself. I hate that what I did hurt you so much.

Sam sighed on the tape, and Dean could picture him running his hand through his hair and scrunching up his face. Sam continued, I put this tape in your car on the morning of August 27th. I'm not sure when you'll listen to it, so I wanted to say that. I'm out of the Pit, Dean. I don't know how. But I am. I'm free. It's just me in here. Well, me and a boatload of guilt. Anyway, I was in the Pit, and then I wasn't. I was across the street from Lisa's house, standing under a streetlamp, watching you have dinner. That was three nights ago. I wanted to go knock on the door so much, Dean. To look you in the eye and tell you how sorry I am for all of this mess I got us into. Bobby and Cas are gone and it's my fault. Every night I wake up from the nightmare of watching Lucifer beat you and not being able to stop him. I deserved the Pit for everything I put us through. I don't know who decided I didn't, so I don't know how I got out. I know it wasn't you. I knew that you wouldn't break your promise, because that just isn't you. That isn't my big brother Dean. But I wanted you to know that I'm not down there any more. I'm here, so you can stop worrying. And feeling guilty.

Sam sighed again and Dean's breath caught in his throat. Now for the hard part. Sam huffed on the tape, and Dean could hear the apology in Sam's voice as he started speaking once more. You aren't going to understand this, and you're probably going to get mad, but it needs to be this way. I can't see you, Dean. Before you start yelling at the tape, listen to me. I'm pretty sure there are still some things after me. Seeing you will put you in danger. And Lisa and Ben too. I won't do that again. I won't put you and your family in danger, Dean. I can't hurt you anymore. I know this will hurt too, and I'm sorry for that, but it's better, I think, for now.

The other reason is just as important, but might be tougher for you to understand. I can't forgive myself, Dean. I know, in the end, I did the right thing. I let him out, I locked him back up again. But I can't forgive myself for letting him out in the first place. I'm pretty sure you forgive me, and you'd take me back in a heartbeat. But I don't want to pull you back into this. Especially not now, when you've got something special happening. And even though you never did anything wrong, I'm going to say it. I forgive you, Dean. You never did anything that needed my forgiveness, but in case you want it, here it is. I forgive you. I'm so sorry about all my screw-ups. Later, maybe, if it's safe, and I can forgive myself, I'll come see you. I miss you so much big brother. If you need me, just leave me a message at my old email. I'll answer it. And Dean? I love you. Take care of yourself and live a good life. You've earned it. Stay safe. Oh – and check the box for this cassette. I left something there for you. I hope you want it back.

The tape hissed as Sam's voice cut off. Dean pulled over to the side of the road again, parked the car, and grabbed for the box of cassettes in the passenger side wheel well. There, at the top, was a box labeled simply, for Dean, in Sam's handwriting. Dean opened the plastic case slowly, and lifted the tissue wrapped object out. His heartbeat pulsed faster with the hope of what it was. He clutched it in his hand for a moment, not believing this was all real. He cradled the tissue in his left hand, and unwrapped it with his right. There, nestled in his palm, was his amulet. The one Sam had given him for Christmas that Dean had thrown away years later when he'd lost his hope. When he believed that Sam didn't love him, didn't think of him as family. Sam must have pulled it out of the trash that day, and kept it with him. His hand clenched around it reflexively as he sobbed, "Sam." This time though, the pain eased. Sam was alive. Dean believed that this tape was from his brother. For the first time in months, he felt hope. Yes, Sam was being stubborn and self-sacrificing. He was being a Winchester. But he was alive, which meant Dean could find him. He slid the necklace on, and held the amulet in his left hand as he pulled the car back onto the road again.

Squeezing tightly he said, "I'm going to find you and bring you home, Sam. I'm bringing you home."

Dean let go of the amulet long enough to get his phone out and call Bobby.

The song used in the story is titled Forgiven by the group Within Temptation.