Happy Birthday, Trasan, this is your birthday fic! I hope you like it.

Tag for 6.6 and spoilers for season six up to and including previews for 6.7.

Beating Heart and Missing Soul

"Where the hell are you?" Dean's voice was a low growl.

"That's not important."

"Like hell it isn't!" Dean was furious. "Sam-"

"Look, just listen for a second, okay? You owe me that much."

"Owe you?" Dean sputtered at the concept and the phone went dead.

One Month Later:

Call me when you find my soul.

Your brother Sam.

Dean stared at the text incredulously. "Are you kidding me?" he muttered darkly. "Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Dean?" Bobby sounded wary and Dean tossed his cell phone on the table as he paced in the older man's small kitchen.

"I still can't believe that bastard sent me a text." It was now three weeks old but it still pissed him off.

Bobby sighed and looked at Dean. "I could try tracking the GPS again."

Dean snorted derisively. "Yeah, 'cause that's worked so well for us before." Sam kept switching phones. Every time Dean thought he was close, it was just to find another discarded phone. Even Castiel had no luck. Seeing the fleeting hurt look on his friend's face before it morphed into something more, he added. "Sorry, Bobby. I'm just tired." He slumped down at the older man's table and let his head rest against the worn surface. Wordlessly Bobby poured them both a shot of whiskey. "It's been a month… I'm tired of chasing him but what the hell else am I supposed to do? I can't just leave him out there like that." Lifting his head, Dean grabbed the glass, and gulped down the shot. The whisky burned going down. It felt good.

"Then stop chasing him and focus on finding his soul instead." Bobby sounded so reasonable.

Dean raised his blood shot eyes and stared. "Sure. I'll get right on that…" He snorted bitterly, "What the hell do you think I've been doing?"

"Hunting your brother." The older man stated bluntly.

Temper spiking, Dean shoved at the table and stood up but Bobby grabbed his wrist tightly and growled. "Don't get like that, Dean. Listen for a second, won't ya?"

The words echoed Sam's and Dean's eyes dropped. He didn't sit back down though, just stood there, the muscle in his jaw tight as Bobby continued. "You have been hunting your brother ever since he gave you and Cas the slip… and I get it, I really do. Sam's out there, he's dangerous-" Dean opened his mouth but Bobby spoke over him, "and vulnerable… but, kid, this ain't the way. You want to help your brother? Get your Sam back? Then you need to help me figure this missing soul stuff out 'cause the sooner we can find Sam's soul and get them back together, the safer it's going to be for all of us."

Acid churned in Dean's stomach. "You really think he's dangerous like this?"

Bobby shot it right back at him. "Do you?"

Slowly Dean sank back down in the chair. "I don't know." His voice was gruff and it hurt to admit. "I really don't know."

"Dean," the grip on his wrist squeezed for a moment and then let go. "Not having a soul doesn't make Sam bad, you know that, you've hunted with him, did he seem evil to you?"

"No. Not evil." Dean was honest. "Just… I dunno? More practial? Definite no holds barred attitude."

"Unfortunately," Bobby stated seriously, "practicality can be manipulated and that is where the true danger lies."

New tension threaded through Dean but before he could say anything else, his cell phone rang. Snatching it up, he glanced down at the call display and then up at Bobby. He didn't recognize the number but just knew anyway. "It's Sam," he said, immediately taking the call and turning in his seat away from Bobby. "Sam?"

"Hey… uh, D-Dean?"

Something in Sam's voice had Dean sitting up, the phone pressed hard against his ear. "What's wrong?" he immediately demanded, all anger and attitude replaced by genuine concern. It surprised him.

"Just- just wanted… to tell ya… s'it okay… you can s-stop now…"

"Stop?" Dean spoke slowly and carefully, he felt Bobby lean towards him. "Stop what, Sam?" He tried to hear around his brother but all he could pick up was Sam's breathing. It was ragged sounded and hitched with each exhale.

"S-stop looking for – for m'soul."

Fleeting anger chased concern but before Dean could put it to words, Sam continued.

"D-dangerous gig… Drew the s-short… straw…"

The words stopped Dean cold. All the blood drained from his face as his very own words from a million years ago came back to haunt him.

"It's a dangerous gig and I drew the short straw." Dean smiled up at his brother from his hospital bed, his body still shaking slightly from the electrocution.

"Sam…" wary caution dragged the name out. "Where are you?"

"Don't matter-" the words were gasps, "just w-wanna tell ya… d-don't need m'soul… n'more…"

"Oh no. No. No. Sam, you don't get to do this," Dean was on his feet. He pulled his mouth away from the phone and hollered. "Cas! Castiel get thy ass down here! NOW!" Then spoke to Sam again. "Where are you, Sam?" Bobby was standing next to him now. "Damnit! Where?"

A presence behind him assured Dean that the angel was here.

"Sam?" Castiel asked. Dean nodded fervently as he waited for his brother to answer.

"S-stuck," finally came a pain-filled groan.

It ached fiercely to hear that kind of pain in his brother's voice. Sam didn't feel pain anymore – he didn't feel anything and yet… yet Sam called him. To say… good-bye? Oh God, this sounded like a good-bye. He turned to Castiel and held out the phone. "Can you find him? He's hurt."

"Dean," Castiel sounded pained.

Dean shook the phone, desperate. "Please, Cas – he's dying." Dean knew it. He just knew it and suddenly all the distance and issues between them seemed like nothing compared to the idea of Sam dying.

The angel searched his face for a long moment and then nodded and took the phone. "Sam?" he sounded so calm and it helped Dean. Grounded him somehow. Maybe someplace deep, he still had faith. Of some sort. "Where are you?"

And then Cas was gone, the cell phone falling to the floor.

Dean grimaced when he looked at Sam. It had almost been a month since he had last seen his brother but the damage was still there, in a fading motley of bruises on a bloodless pale face. Marks Dean had put there in a fit of impotent rage.

Sam was sitting stiffly on the edge of Bobby's couch, not having moved since Castiel deposited him there. The heavy stench of blood and the vicious tears in his dark blue shirt told the story more eloquently then Cas's brief one sentence summed it up, just before the angel has whisked himself away.

"He was impaled on a fence."

The mental image alone had made Dean sick. If Castiel hadn't gone when he did and healed the life-threatening punctures, Sam would have been dead by now.

"What are you going to do?" Sam sounded tired, his hazel eyes hooded as he glanced up at Dean.

Dean leaned in the doorway and folded his arms across his chest. Bobby poured Sam a drink and placed it down on the coffee table in front of them. It was probably holy water but the younger hunter didn't even glance at it, just picked it up, drank it down and then gave Bobby a brief nod of acknowledgment as the man moved to stand beside Dean; Sam's eyes remained laser focused on Dean.

"About what?" Dean tested the waters.

"Me." Sam stated bluntly.

"Depends," Dean admitted. "You going to take off again?"

Sam didn't say anything, his lips pressed together in a tight line.

Dean pushed. "Why did you run? We had just found out what was wrong with you… and then, bam, you're gone. What'd ya think? We were going to kill you or something?"

As if in curiosity, Sam's hand reached up to finger at the bruises still mottling his face, then dropped back down to his lap. Dean swallowed hard and glanced away. "Yeah, well… that aside."

"I thought it would be for the best at the time." Sam admitted.

"The best for who?" Dean scoffed as he teetered between apologizing for beating crap out of his brother and wanting to beat the crap out of his brother, again. What was it about Sam that got him so fired up? No one else on the short list of people he loved sparked such a reaction.

"For you." Sam sounded so reasonable it stunned Dean for a moment. "I thought it was best for you."

Bobby snorted softly and shook his head but didn't say anything although it was apparent he was reluctant to leave them alone.

"Sam? What the-? How? How exactly could not knowing where the hell you are, be the best thing for me?"

"Dean. You've always had trouble with me being a freak-"

"You weren't a freak." Dean interrupted.

"I am now," Sam countered smoothly. "I don't have a soul, Dean. No soul. If that doesn't make me a freak then nothing ever will. Never mind all the demon blood, exorcising demons with my mind crap. This just makes me a whole new level of freak."

It was weird hearing Sam sound so unimpassioned about himself. They could have been talking about scones for how unaffected Sam was and if that didn't drive how messed up he was, nothing did.

"But I am still a good hunter. Better then I've ever been. Better then you even-"

Dean opened his mouth to argue but Sam held up his hand silently asking to be allowed to finish. Clamping his jaw shut, Dean quirked an eyebrow and waited for Sam to make his point.

"So when I heard Castiel tell you what was wrong with me, I knew that you'd want to find my soul but you'd be freaking out at the same time so I knew it was best if I just went back to hunting until you could fix me."

Dumbfounded Dean stared at his brother. When it was apparent that Sam was finished and Dean could finally find his voice, he managed. "You ran away… so I could fix you?"

"No," Sam gave him a small smile. "I put distance between us so we could each focus on doing what we do best. I hunt, you take care of… things."

"Things?" the word tasted nasty on his tongue.

"You know what I mean," Sam let out a weary sigh and Dean's attention sharpened on him. It was the first sign of weakness he'd seen from his brother since Sam'd returned from hell.

"What's wrong with you?" he demanded finally moving closer to his brother. "Cas healed you." He didn't mean for it to come out as an accusation.

"Yes, he did," Sam admitted as he slowly sank back against the couch. When his head finally came to rest against it, he closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Lost a lot of blood though. Don't think he topped it up."

"Yeah, well, you were being stupid," Dean huffed although he did grab the blanket off the back of the couch and tossed it at Sam. "Hunting by yourself."

Sam opened his eyes when the blanket hit him.

"Don't get blood on that," Bobby grumbled then glanced at Dean. "You got anything for him to wear?"

"Bobby," Sam opened his mouth to protest but Dean was already standing back up and digging threw his pocket for his keys. He held them out to the older man.

"Can I trust you two boneheads here alone for a few minutes?" Bobby asked as he took the keys and eyed Sam for a moment before fixing Dean with a heavy look.

Dean hated that Bobby had to ask. He met his gaze though and gave a curt nod. The older man didn't look completely convinced but headed outside, leaving the brothers alone anyway.

"Old coot doesn't trust me to keep my hands to myself," he muttered, having already gotten an earful from Bobby about this, among other things.

"You did what you had to do," Sam easily absolved him.

It should have made Dean feel better but it didn't. He sat down next to his brother this time. "Don't."

"Don't what?"

"Don't tell me it was okay."

Sam looked at him. He frowned. "What?"

"Beating the hell out of you. Don't tell me it was okay." Dean stared straight ahead unable to hold his brother's gaze.

"You were angry," Sam supplied.

"Doesn't make it all right." Dean sighed heavily and slumped back next to his brother. He made himself look at Sam now, look at the fading damage he had put there. "I thought you were lying to me."

Sam's brow furrowed. "Which time?"

"When you asked for help."


"I thought you were playing me, you know? That you were going for my Achilles heel or something and I snapped. I just – well, it was easier when I didn't think you were you."

Sam shifted slightly. Now it was his turn to look away.

"Sam? What is it?"

"I don't know what to say, Dean." Sam shrugged and closed his eyes.

"Yeah, well I do." Sam looked at him again. Dean swallowed hard and prepared to force the words out. They turned out to be easier to say then he thought. "I'm sorry, Sam."

Sam sighed, then reached between them and gave Dean's leg a little squeeze. "So am I." Then he pushed up off the couch and staggered towards the kitchen.

Dean rose with him, his hand immediately going out to steady his brother. They met Bobby in the kitchen and while Sam changed into a clean shirt and Bobby put on a fresh pot of coffee, Dean leaned against the counter and watched, noticing for the first time that Sam had lost bulk. He wasn't as big as Dean remembered him being before his brother had gone to hell.

He thought about Bobby's words about Sam's unique susceptibility and something inside him hardened.

Sam was vulnerable. Maybe not so much physically anymore but definitely where it was the most important. His heart. His humanity. And Dean would be damned (again) before he let anyone take what was left of his brother and twist him into something Sam could never live with once they got his soul back. Come hell or high water, Sam was going to get his soul back.

And when he did, only then would Dean truly get his little brother back.

Until then, it was up to Dean to make sure this brother was something his brother could come back to. He'd just have to take care of the kid, beating heart and missing soul.

And the fact while dying, and even soul-less, Sam had wanted to call him, had wanted to spend his possible last moments talking to Dean? Yeah, that meant something too.

The end