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Dean is tired. They've had a busy life. Their whole life they've lost people - they've lost Dad, and he almost lost Sam. So when he notices that there's something different about Sam since Cold Oak, he decides he's too tired to deal with it. Who wouldn't be different after coming back from the dead anyway?
It takes a few weeks for Dean to see it. He blames it on the fact they've been recovering from a hell of a week.
Sam's not that much different anyway. He mostly just..asks weird questions. And goes down memory lane a bit too often. It could be worse. Sam is, well...almost Sam, and Dean is happy. They're together. That's all that matters.
The first time he feels Sam acts like not-Sam, they're just driving down the road. Sam's been quiet for a while when he speaks up.
"Do you remember when that cat clawed me in the face and I got an infection? You gave me a Snickers every day for a week after that."
"Sure, I remember." Dean answers, expecting Sam to continue. He doesn't say anything though. "Why this sudden urge to tell me that?"
"Just because," Sam says and stays quiet.
After that it happens more and more.
Dean's almost fallen asleep when Sam speaks up.
"Yes, Sam" he answers tiredly.
"Do you remember that Christmas at Bobby's house when he and Dad stayed up with us all night to play Monopoly?
"Yeah, Sam. So?"
"That's a nice memory."
Dean smiles. It was. But that doesn't explain why Sam's bringing it up now.
"Sam?" he says. But he seems to have fallen asleep.
"Jeez, it's freezing!" Dean expresses and ducks to get under a branch.
"Yeah, it's almost like that time when Dad just dropped us off in that forest in Illinois in the middle of December and told us to find our way back within fourteen hours." Sam sniggers, "You almost froze your butt off!"
"That was so not funny, Sam. Just because you had gotten dressed with triple layers that morning. That was a lucky guess."
"I don't think I've ever seen you so angry. I must've learned all the curse words I know from that time. It was hilarious," Sam laughs and has to lean on a tree for support.
"Just watch it so I don't leave you out here all by yourself," Dean shoots back.
They're up in Wisconsin and Dean's driving on slippery cold roads in the middle of the night. Sam's staring out of the window looking all angsty. Dean guesses it's because of the volume on the radio.
"Dean," Sam says, looks at him.
"I have to tell you something."
Sam's quiet. Looks out of the window again.
"Sam, what do you need to tell me?"
"That's a big hole," Sam says.
"Yes, it is. That's why you're going in there," Dean says, looking into the dark hole.
"It's a big hole, but not big enough," Sam says, quite satisfied with himself.
"You know, I used to be tall too, like very tall. I'm actually still tall. Your just happen to be taller. What makes you think I can fit in there if you can't?"
"Because it's a big hole. But not enough for me," Sam grins.
Dean grumbles, crouches down and takes his flashlight in one hand, and the gun in the other.
Halfway in he can hear Sam, "Dean?"
"What, Sam?" he yells back.
"Remember when I was so small you could carry me around?"
Dean's putting gas in the car while Sam's sitting in the front seat, just looking. He's been doing that a lot.
"Do you remember my seventh birthday party?"
"I guess, that was the one we celebrated up at Pastor Jim's wasn't it? Even Dad was there."
"Yeah. You made my cake, and it was filled with strawberry jam. I liked that."
"Okay, weirdo. Want me to buy you a jar of strawberry jam? Is that what this is? I promise I'll let you eat the whole thing now. You're a grown man."
"No thanks. I just wanted you to remember," Sam says and goes back to staring out of the window.
"Dean?" Sam says.
Dean takes a big bite of his burger, and chews extra loudly just to annoy his brother.
"What, Sam?" he says when he's done and Sam's got that annoyed look.
"I think we should go and see Bobby."
"I told you, he doesn't want to see us."
"Because, because he doesn't, okay? We had a fight and he won't see us."
"What kind of fight?"
"Just a fight."
"About the deal?"
Dean puts his burger down. He's lost his appetite. "Yes, Sam. About the deal."
"Jesus, Sam when are you going to stop behaving like a damn five-year old?"
"You're one to talk," Sam says and grins.
Dean hates doing laundry. And he hates people. There is a guy in the laundromat that keeps staring at them like they were an exhibit at the zoo and it's creeping Dean out. Sam however doesn't seem to notice, as usual. Just sits on a chair looking at Dean doing the laundry like when he was a little child. It's not the first time Dean's been thinking about that, that Sam came back with a younger mind. Like he's a kid again.
"What is it, Sam?
"Do you remember when you taught me how to ride a bike?"
Dean glares at the guy that's staring at them, "Who can forget? It took forever, because your legs were too short, and the bike was too big." He looks at Sam, " At least you won't have that problem now, Sasquatch," gives Sam a big smile and takes out their laundry. It's time to go. Maybe the guy recognizes them from the news.
Most of the time Sam is just Sam. They fight, they laugh and it's like normal. And Dean forgets all about the awkward times when Sam acts like...like someone who's back from the dead.
Sam's not a ghost, or a demon. He walks perfectly fine over salt-lines and there's no problems with electronics. That's all Dean has to know, really.
"Do you think something's wrong with me?"
"What? No. Where's that coming from?"
"That answer came a bit too fast."
"Sam...You're fine. Normal as usual. Well, as normal as you ever were, and that's not saying much."
"Sam! Seriously, stop it with the freaking questions!"
She is hot. Really. Super hot.
Dean chugs down the last of his drink. Kelley, or Kim, twists her fingers in his hair and drags him up from his seat. He makes thumps up to Sam, and stumbles into her arms. She laughs and gives him a big kiss. "I think you've had a bit too many, honey. You sure you're feeling okay?"
"Never been better," he says, grins and follows her.
"Don't wait up, Sammy," he yells back. Sam just rolls his eyes.
"You sure got your Daddy's skills, boy. I've been tracking you for months," Bobby says and walks in, as Dean opens the motel door.
"Bobby," Dean says.
Bobby looks around the room. There are some paper clippings, Sam's laptop is up, and their duffel bag's got clothes all around.
"What, I'm not getting a beer?" Bobby says and sits down in a chair.
Dean hands him a bottle, "I thought you wouldn't talk to me again."
"What do you mean? Because of what you said? Since when have I listened to you? I gave you some time, but then you just disappeared. It's been hard as hell to find you."
"How about, I don't know, the phone?"
Bobby lifts his eyebrows . "Dean, you wouldn't answer my calls. And then you changed your damn number."
"Oh, yeah. Forgot."
Bobby looks down, drinks some beer. He looks at Sam's bed and then at Dean.
"Listen," he says. "I know. I know this is hard to talk about Dean, but we really have to talk about it. About Sam"
"What about Sam?" Dean says.
"That night, Dean, when-"
"No, you listen Bobby. I don't wanna talk about that night, okay. We both had our different views. I hope you've changed your mind, so we can forget about it and move on."
"Dean. You have to... I've heard things. I'm worried, okay? I think, I think we need to have a serious talk about Sam."
"Why don't you have the talk with Sam yourself? I'm not gonna talk behind his back."
Bobby looks at him for a few moments and then he looks down.
"You're making it hard for me, Dean."
He looks so sad, but Dean won't have any of it. Protecting Sam is on top of the list.
"Hard for you to do what? Talk bad about Sam? It's Sam, alright. I would know if something was wrong. It's SAM, a hundred percent Sam." Deans angry now, "I wan't you out of here before he comes back."
He takes up his gun.
"I know you just came here to talk. But I'm sure as hell not talking."
"Was that Bobby's car I just saw?" Sam says as he comes in the room again.
"We need to go," Dean says, while trying to pack everything they have.
Again with the "Dean's".
"Yes Sam, fucking yes, what is it?"
"Why can't we talk to Bobby?"
Dean stops packing and looks up at Sam. Runs a hand over his face.
"Because... because he thinks you came back wrong."
"Wrong, like in...evil?"
"I did make a deal with a demon," Dean suggests, smiles a bit. Sam however does not look happy.
"Come on, Sam. We both know you're not evil."
"But something's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Sam, just get in the car."
He is so ready to give Sam a big smack in the face right now.
"Do you remember when Bobby took us camping and we hid his cap up in a tree?
He can just ignore it.
He doesn't want to answer, because he knows what's coming.
It might get a bit annoying after a while, though.
"Yes, Sam." Patience is so not his middle name.
"Do you remember?"
"Do I remember what, exactly."
Okay...no answer. "Sam?"
"What is it, Dean?"
"Do I remember what?"
Sam laughs hard, clutching his stomach while trying to get some air.
Dean shoots him an angry glare and gets up from the ground, grabs his shotgun while wiping some of the mud away from his face. "Well, you could have helped," Dean snarls. "But no, nooo, you just had to stand there and laugh while the freakin' ghost kicks my ass!"
Sam smiles and looks into the fire of the now burning corpse.
"Kicked your ass? She gave you a little push. Not my fault it was in a mud puddle."
"Well, you still could have helped. I don't get why I'm the one who always has to do all the digging."
"Do you remember the time I ate so much candy I threw up over the couch in our motel room?"
"What are we doing here, Sam?"
Sam told him to drive here. And, because he's a big idiot, he did what Sam asked.
"It's the forest behind Bobby's house, of course I remember. We always played here as kids."
Sam looks at him sadly. "We got good memories from this place."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Okay dude, really, what's up with you and good memories lately? You're acting like an eighty year old about to die."
"Remember that corner?" Sam says, ignoring his comment. "That's where you showed me how to pick a lock for the first time. And over there" Sam says, pointing to an old fallen tree, "That's where-"
"Where I tricked you Dad would give you ice cream if you got skunked. Because ice cream would take away the smell."
He smiles. Dad had been pissed, because Sam had indeed done what Dean had told him to do. But in the end it all ended with ice cream anyway.
"Dean?" Sam says.
"Look at that tree."
There's a tree a bit further away. Dean walks closer, but he feels like he shouldn't. There's a cross there and Dean looks at Sam.
"Why would Bobby put a cross there?"
Sam's just quiet.
"Did he bury his dog there or something?"
The cross is nicely done. There are words on it, but Dean can't see them, it's too dark and Dean doesn't feel like walking closer.
Sam turns around and faces Dean. He looks sad. But then again, he always looks sad.
"Dean, you need to remember."
"I need to remember what, exactly? Did we bury a squirrel there or something?"
Sam smiles, a sad smile.
Dean looks behind the tree, at Bobby's house in the shadows. He gulps.
"Did we bury Bobby or something and I miraculously forgot about it?"
"Bobby's fine, Dean."
"Then whose cross is it?" He doesn't really want to know. It's obviously painful. So painful he pushed it out of his mind. On the other hand he also knows Sam won't stop nagging about it.
Sam looks him in his eyes.
"It's mine, Dean."
"Yeah, right," Dean snorts.
Sam walks up to it, reads the name to be sure, "Yup. It's mine."
"Sam, really, no. You're right here."
"No, I'm not."
Flashes come to Dean's mind. Sam lying cold and... and dead on the bed.
"No, Sam, you, you're fine. I fixed you. I fixed you."
"I died. And you couldn't fix that."
"I made a deal, Sammy."
"The demon wouldn't do it. She turned you away. So you called Bobby and together you burned my body right here."
"Sam, what the hell, that is not true!"
Flashes again. Dean puts a hand to his eyes, the other one on top of his head to stop the memories that are flooding through his mind.
"Please, Sam. Please. Tell me it's not true."
"It's not true," Sam says simply and sits down on the ground.
"It was a joke," Sam says, and starts twisting his shoelace around his finger.
"A...you just told me you...a joke? How the hell is that a fucking joke?"
Dean angrily wipes away some tears. He's ready to strangle Sam.
"What do you want me to say, Dean?"
"You're not making any sense! You don't joke about stuff like that. Why are we here, Sam?"
"Because you need to remember the truth."
Deans so frustrated he doesn't know what to do with himself.
"You know what I remember? I remember I forced you to watch Star Wars and I have regretted it ever since. Start talking like a human being!"
He takes a few breaths and sits down across from Sam.
"Okay, Yoda. What is the truth?"
"You really want to know, Dean?"
He's tired. He's tired of driving around with his wacko brother who doesn't make any sense.
"Just get out with it."
Sam's face lacks any expressions. "I'm dead, Dean. I'm not here."
"You just told me that was a joke."
Sam just sighs deeply. "Because you wanted it to be. Dean, I'm in you're mind. I am your mind. Whatever you want me to do, I'll do."
"I really don't want to hear that you're dead, but you're doing it anyway."
"Because Sam would have wanted to tell you that, and you're imagining Sam."
"That makes no sense whatsoever."
"Well, you kind of got a twisted mind," Sam smiles and laughs a bit, showing off his dimples.
"So do you, freak."
"At least I'm not the one talking to my dead brother for a whole year. Who's not even a spirit, I may add."
"Hey, that's not fair."
"And now you're arguing with yourself. That's healthy."
"Stop it, Sam."
"I'm not Sam."
Dean closes his eyes for a second but opens them quickly again. He wants to look at his brother. He wants to see that smile he get's when he knows he's right about something.
"You need to remember the truth, Dean."
Dean sniffles. The tears have started and they won't stop.
"Maybe I don't want to."
"You want to head out on the road again? With your imaginary brother that you know is imaginary?"
"Maybe I can block that memory too?"
"I won't let you," Sam says.
"You won't let me? I thought you were...me? God, this is confusing."
Sam looks smug, "Well...deep down, you kind of know you have to see the truth. It's been long enough already. And you know real Sam would have a fit if he knew about this."
Dean wipes away some tears and looks at Sam. His Sam.
"Then..." he says, and his voice cracks. "Then can we sit here forever?"
Sam smiles, and Dean lets out a sob. He never wants to stop looking at that smile.
"I think Bobby would have something to say about that."
Dean laughs a silly laugh that ends up in a sob again.
"You need to let me go." And Sam's got that serious look again.
"Yeah,"Dean says. "Before I go nuts."
"I...would say it's too late for that," Sam says and grins.
Dean grins back at Sam and takes in the features, the smile, remembering every detail.
Then he just stands up and slowly walks on the crusty grass over to the cross and touches it gently, tracing his fingers over the letters that spell his brother's name.
"I miss you, Sammy."
He doesn't have to turn around to know that Sam's not there anymore.