(I just know we're all we've got... more than that, we keep each other human)

When Dean says you go , Sam pauses, blinks. When Dean says he has to do research, gotta know what we're up against, Sam pauses, and is... confused.

It's not that splitting up doesn't make tactical sense - after all, Sam's not expecting any real danger (he could handle anything that comes at him anyway), and research is important, crucial, really, in any hunt or case a hunter might find. The premise is sound but something about the equation doesn't fit; Dean plus research plus staying put equals... oddity.

He stares at Dean, searches for a sign, but even though Dean's staring right back at him over the rim of his glass, Dean's eyes are so flat, so blocked off that even Sam can't read him. And Sam knows how to read Dean.

It's easy.

While he ponders he continues to stand there, not in a hurry while this intrigues him - while Dean intrigues him, which is a rare enough occurrence.

He gets nowhere, Dean's face not yielding a hint or a clue, and so out of habit Sam sighs a little, takes a breath, which causes him to actively notice the sharp and acrid smell wrapped around Dean like a particularly repulsive snake. Sam wrinkles his nose, glances at the half-full glass in his brother's hand, and on second thought, he thinks, maybe Dean staying in is for the best - his brother probably won't take well to the suggestion of a second shower, and witnesses tend to not trust interrogators that have alcohol oozing out of their pores.

Simple logic. Decision made.

For no reason he can fathom, however, Sam remains motionless, his feet rebelling against going. Fighting them would only be tedious, and so he uses the time to think a little more, try to decipher how this silence makes him feel even farther away from Dean than before, when it's not like Dean isn't here, when it's not like he's being ignored, when it's actually just about the opposite - Dean is watching him almost too intently, to be honest, as if he trying to predict Sam's next move even though there's really nothing to predict, nothing for Sam to protest, Dean's suggestion was actually surprisingly reasonable and of course Sam will go and leave Dean behind, it makes perfect sense (but since Dean hates leaving Sam even more than Sam leaving him, maybe it doesn't, and Sam has to wonder what this means, who is the one actually doing the leaving).

Still, it isn't until he has a sudden vision of Dean (laptop on his lap, diary beside him, maps strewn all over the bed) researching, when he recalls that Dean is actually capable, that Sam's feet release him, that Sam tells Dean okay.

...Not that he would fight or argue if it wasn't.

There wouldn't be any point in that.


The first punch takes Sam by surprise.

Sam and Dean have a history of lying, and Sam remembers it well - remembers being told there were no monsters when in fact there were, being told that everything was fine when in fact Dad had broken his collarbone and was in the ER. Remembers Dean saying he'll never tell about hell and then telling, remembers Dean saying of course not and then attempting to say yes to Michael, saying he'd moved on from Dad's death when Sam of course knew he hadn't. So he'd bugged Dean about hell, got Castiel to find him when he ran away, confronted Dean about their father.

And that's the difference, really. Sam always knows to see through the lies.

Dean, on the other hand, never does.

So when Dean points a knife at him, Sam tells him the truth, but not only that - he makes sure, just like when he lied all those times before (I froze, Sam had said, which was a ridiculous lie really because he's a real hunter now and real hunters don't freeze), to pull and twist at his face to make the appropriate facial expressions, I don't feel, I'm not scared anymore, to make it properly sincere and desperate, and when his brother finally puts down the weapon he smiles a little inside, because he's been getting better at this and there, now there was a performance.

Even if it was actually the truth for once - it still was necessary to act like himself, or rather act like how he used to be, if only so Dean would have more incentive to believe. Truth is truth, yes, but Dean can't be trusted to know that. Dean believes what he sees, so Sam lets him see it, lets him see what he wants.

Which is, of course, Sammy.

It's a tried-and-tested fact. Dean always believes Sammy. He simply doesn't know any better.

The first punch takes Sam by surprise. And for the first time, Sam considers that maybe it isn't that Dean never knew any better, but that Dean just always wanted to believe him, so very badly.


...By the time he's knocked unconscious, however, Sam's not surprised at all.


He expects to wake up - even now, he knows that Dean would never kill him, that big brother would never hurt him in a permanent manner. He expects to wake up on a cold floor, next to decomposing corpses on examining tables, with his face a bloated mess and maybe a few welts on his arm where a cat saw it fit to use it as a scratching post.

He does not expect to wake up in a bed. But that is what he does.

A strong copper taste swirls in his mouth as he swallows. His cheeks sting wetly, the considerable pain not constant but coming in waves, washing back and forth across his face. After a quick mental check, he determines that he isn't hurt anywhere else, and yet still his arms are heavy, his legs (the rebels) refusing to budge. Defeated, he remains where he is, keeps his eyes closed to gather more information concerning his surroundings.

Possibilities: he's captured. Perfectly reasonable, considering his vast list of enemies and rather shorter list of allies. Could be a monster seeking revenge - or playtime, same thing - and could equally be a hunter wanting to interrogate him for whatever it is he might know. Or, it's possible he's on lockdown in the hospital, someone having discovered him and Veritas' body, not to mention the remains of those other unfortunate victims, put two and two together and now have him chained to a bed - most likely in a private suite - as the cops wait for him to wake up and explain himself.

All of which can be dealt with. Sam relaxes.

His ear detects activity on his left side, the slow shuffling of feet against the floor. A breath of a chuckle, or something close to it, the weight of someone's gaze. A liquid - poison? - drips unto the floor.

Then - movement -

Sam's hand shoots up, catching the hand targeting his face at the wrist. But instead of a struggle, or whoever it is tearing away from his grasp, the hand just stays there, its pulse beating steadily against Sam's fingers, and again there's that same soft noise, which now Sam can recognize as a bitter, bitter shadow of a laugh.

"Knew you were faking it."

His hand lets go, as if by its own decision.

"...Dean?" he whispers. The word hurts, cheeks screaming from the pain of moving his face. He compartmentalizes it, focuses on the present. It doesn't make sense.

A sigh is his only answer. Then suddenly - wet, on his face, on his bruises, and it's a glorious relief even as it snaps him from his haze, even as his injuries scream all the more.

He can't suppress a gasp, and the towel moves gently across his forehead, across his puffed up cheeks, below the bridge of his nose.

He struggles to focus. "What - what are you doing here?" he manages in between swipes at his mouth. Collecting data. Can't have theories without data.

"What does it look like?"

His face refuses to frown. This is completely beyond him. "I don't know, I can't see."

"Funny, smartass."

The water's freezing. Sam tries and fails to hold in a whimper.

Silence. More cold water.


"Shut up, Sam."

And Sam does.


What he knows:



They must be still in there, he reasons, in the huge house full of windows and tables and stairs, but when Sam manages to open his eyes - well, one eye, the other is swollen shut - he sees a familiarly yellowed ceiling, familiar in that it's just like the ceiling in every other motel room he'd ever been in.

Not like the ceiling a TV journalist or an ancient goddess would have in her modern, spotless mansion.

He rolls his eye to the side, trying to gather more details. Sees Dean sitting next to him instead.

Feels nothing.

"Where..." his mouth is dry, despite everything, "where are we?"

Tonelessly. "Motel. Illinois."

In a way it's easier, to be freed from the burden of having to contort his face into expressions, but the inability still frustrates him - he's used to it by now. He settles for a piercing one-eyed stare. "How?"

"Car." And it's almost like Dean, in sympathy with Sam's condition, had decided to also forgo any facial movement, because Sam looks and looks and searches and can't find a twitch.

(so what if you are? what are you gonna do, take a leave of absence? ...You're gonna bury it, you're gonna forget about it, because that's how we keep going)

"You dragged me... all the way there?" And there were stairs, Sam remembers those stairs. Dean's not that strong, is he? "By yourself?"

"No, the cats helped." Beat. "Of course by myself, you fucking idiot."

"But -"

Ignored. "Speaking of which, you could really stand to lose a few hundred pounds."

"But... why?" Sam insists, refuses to back down. The anomaly grates. "Why not leave me there? Cut your losses?"

Dean looks at him, raising an eyebrow in almost angry bemusement. "Is this an I don't understand you humans kind of question, or is this just you being an asshole?"

This time he does succeed at a frown. The agony is excruciating, but it's worth it. "I just want to know."

"You always do, don't you," Dean mutters... only to freeze.

It's irritating, how Sam can't even manage a wrinkle.

"Dean?" he asks, trying to sound compassionate and caring and Sam.

Something he can't name slides over Dean's face. It looks painful.


Tightly - "I swear, Sam, the fucking crap I put up with from you -"


Sam doesn't dwell on it. He wets his lips, wishes for water. "You punched me."

A sigh. "Yeah. Stay still, or I'll do it again." Pause. Dean gets up, walks out of Sam's field of vision. "Actually no, sit up," he says. "I got you a straw."

Sam nods, props himself up on his arms, maneuvers so he's leaning back against the wall. Dean comes to him, glass in hand, a pink straw inside it. Sam's arms feel heavy, so Dean gingerly holds up the glass for him, a terse look on his face.

The first thing Sam does is sniff at it, just to be sure, but it doesn't smell. Water, then.

He drinks. Peers at Dean. After a while, Dean pulls back, rests the glass on the table, turns away.

Sam searches for something to say (c'mon Sam, do it for the free food, Dean had told him at sixteen - ask some random questions, nod and smile, heck just use those big puppy eyes). "Uh, so ever hear from Lisa and -"

Dean's hand clenches. "Don't," he snaps, voice as dangerous as Sam's ever heard it.

Except Sam can't get scared anymore.

"Dean -"

Green eyes flash. "I said don't!" he shouts harshly, jumping out of his chair. "Don't you even say their names!"

He tries to frown again - the last one slipped. "Did you talk to her, then? Did she... say something... to upset you...?"

Dean laughs then, incredulously. "You just don't get it, do you? She's fine, you fucking bastard. It's you. I don't want to hear their names, coming out of your mouth!"

Sam stares at him.

Dean stalks to the door, opens it, then whirls around, one hand still on the doorknob. "I don't want to hear you - you, talking like you - like you care. I might be stupid enough to put up with all - with all this, but Lisa and Ben...you don't touch them, you hear me? They - they don't deserve to be used, like, like..." he falters, looks away. "They don't deserve it," he repeats.

(You chose a demon over your own brother, Dean had said brokenly, the 'how could you' left unspoken)

"I hear you," Sam says quietly. "I'm sorry, Dean."

Suddenly, Dean grins, teeth bared at Sam, eyes dark. After all that's been said, the effect is jarring.

"No, you're not," he says, and steps away into the sunshine.


Past experience tells him that just as Dean always takes him back, no matter what he's done, Dean also always returns.

But even still, Dean is unstable, unpredictable. There's nothing to say that he won't just leave Sam there, that he hadn't patched Sam up out of guilt, only to leave once Sam woke up. And while twenty-plus years do vouch for a lot, Sam also remembers these past couple of years, the times Dean had acted like a shell of a person, like less of himself, when he'd had enough of the world and hunting and ghosts and Sam, most of all Sam. Remembers the times Dean called him a monster, or punched him, or just left for the night so he wouldn't have to look his own brother in the face.

No. There's nothing to say that Dean will come back.

...And yet. Sam doesn't move from the bed.

He'll wait.


Footsteps. The door opens.

Dean comes in without looking at Sam, tosses his jacket on the bed, flops down, turns on the TV. Puts it on mute.

They both stare at it vacantly for a while - the details of whatever's going on glance by Sam, too unimportant to really register. It's not like Dean will think him human if he proves that he's able to follow the storyline. There is no test for what Sam isn't.

Or if there was - he's failed it already.

"I tried to hate you sometimes," Dean says suddenly.

He glances over. The movement's painful, but he ignores it.

"Before you died. Then after I died. Because you're right, there were... there were lots of times, where the smart thing would have been to - to let you go. Cut my losses. That's... that would have probably been the... the healthy thing to do."

Sam swallows - a natural reaction to fluid buildup in his mouth. To hearing that Dean wanted to leave him.

Perfectly natural.

"Yeah," Dean says softly, as if to himself. "Probably, it probably was." He cranes his head back, glowers faintly at the ceiling. Continues, "But then, when I was... done, with everything. You had me come with you to save Adam, even though it was fucking stupid. And that. That was the first time I ever actually felt like... like you got it. What it all means."

Sam wants to say something (that was the only time?) but he doesn't know what to say.

"You asked why, right?" Dean says, and Sam nods even though Dean is looking the other way. "Thing is, Sam, the day you jumped... you were my brother. For the first time in a long time, you were - you were with me. So. After all that. I'll be damned if I let you go."

Outside there is silence, but Dean's words echo in Sam's head. I'll be damned.

"Besides," Dean says suddenly, and smiles lopsidedly. And it... vexes, somehow, to look at that smile, the smile that differs so much from the previous grin, the previous chuckle, the previous laugh. There is pain, in that smile, and hurt, and honesty that isn't forced, and a good part of what makes Dean Dean - whatever that is.

The feeling - or notion, such as it was - passes.

"Besides," Dean repeats. "The guy that basically just saved the world shows up at your door... you expect him to have a couple of issues."

And it's just so illogical and idiotic, so human and frustrating, that Sam has to look away, can't stand to even look Dean in the eye. He knows nothing he can say can make any of it better - every word, every thing he tells Dean is a lie, a construct, and now that Dean knows it, he can't ever take Sam's word at face value. Not if he wants to stay safe.

And Dean. Dean has to stay safe.

Still, for the person he had once been, for Sammy, Sam has to try. "Dean. You don't want to do this, you can't let me stick around - you can't possibly forgive me -"

"Who says anything about forgiving you?" Dean almost huffs, and for a second it's almost like everything's normal, back to how it used to be.

Sam remembers it isn't.

"But you can't just -"

"Sammy," Dean snaps, sharply, and for the first time he turns his head, meets Sam's eyes.

Beat. The scowl on Dean's face turns into a wince.

"...On the bright side," he says, half dry and half amused as he looks Sam over, "looking like that, you won't be able to lie to me for, like, at least two weeks."

"Dean -"

"No, seriously. Talk about a face only a mother could love."

"It's your stupid fault," Sam mutters, almost petulantly. Which is a lie. An act.

They both know it.

But Dean still smiles a little. And then, illogically, even though the sheer size of his cheeks fights him for it, Sam smiles a little back.

(I mean, you sacrifice everything for me... don't you think I'd do the same for you? )

A/N: For the record, this last episode (6.06)? Did NOT help me with Sam. God Sam, you used to be so easy to write, what the hell happened? (Pun intended)

This last episode - eh, it was okay. Of course my heart broke for Dean like a million times - that's like standard procedure now, right? - and maybe ten times for Lisa (kind of), but Sam, his acting just bugs me. Even the way he revealed THE TRUTH OMG in the last five minutes was... over the top, like he's just too used to getting what he wants out of Dean when he makes a certain face. Which made me sorta glad when Dean punched the living daylights out of him. Well no, I felt a little bad... but only a little. I think I would have liked it better if he'd just full out stopped pretending, making a clear difference between Sammy and not Sammy, if he'd stopped showing emotion. Because all it is really is just an attempt to manipulate Dean, and that, well. I just think Dean deserves better.


As for the previews... I saw only the last five seconds of them, but if it is what I think it is, then I'm a little... maybe disappointed. Not sure. Maybe it's because at 15 I wrote 100 pages of a book about a man without a soul - the way I pictured people attributing emotions to his very logical behaviors seemed fascinating to me - so I'm kinda been there, done that, but if Sam's soul was really gone, wouldn't he be gone? Dean traded his soul and went to hell, so how can Sam be up here with his soul missing? I dunno, it just seems kinda fishy to me.

*end spoilers*

So this story. I had a bunch of people ask me to, well, fix the boys. And believe me, I tried, I thought of a dozen things and none of them fit. What can I say, this Sam's a tough nut to crack. Still, I didn't want to end on a complete downer. So this is what came of it. It's kinda messier than the last chapter, I do apologize for that.

Thank you so very much to all those who reviewed the last chapter! It was amazing to read all those different opinions. And even though Show's let me down in the past, it's also come through in the past, so I really can't wait to see what Show gives us next week.

Tell me what you think!