A/N 1: My apologies to everyone who I haven't thanked for a review of any of my stories, or who I need to email. I'm having computer issues.

A/N 2: I've posted an original short story to Amazon, available for sale. If you're interested, you can check out either my home page on this website , or the link to my other home page on this home page.

Now, on to the story.


God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

"Does it?" Sam asked me, right out of the blue. Two days he'd been re-souled and it was like his brain was running to catch up, and that left him a little loopy. And really, really tired.

We were driving down a back country road to a little town called – I kid you not – Dull, Ohio, and the last thing we said to each other was at least an hour or so before, some general comment on the weather. And all that was, was pretty much me saying I was glad it stopped raining, and Sam looking at me for a full fifteen seconds before nodding. But I couldn't be sure that he was agreeing to what I said, or simply acknowledging that I'd said anything at all.

"Does what?" I asked back. But I only got a puzzled look from Sam, like he didn't know what I was talking about. Then he turned back to look out the windshield, and didn't answer me.

Poor kid was exhausted out of his noggin and fighting it every single second, any way he could. Random snatches of conversation, counting fence posts, doing long division probably, just to keep his brain occupied enough to keep awake. Well, he'd crash eventually. I just had to wait him out.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

I gave a glance over to him again. He needed a haircut. A trim, if nothing else. RoboSam had managed to keep all that hair in control, probably from sheer strength of will, but Sammy's hair always seemed to have a mind of its own. Sometimes I thought he never even looked in a mirror except to shave. And maybe not even then. He always shaved though. Even impending Apocalypse never kept him from shaving every morning. But I wondered if he ever even suspected what his hair was doing half the time.

"Sam? Does what?" I asked him again, since he didn't seem to be thinking about answering me.

He looked at me and I could see the wheels turning, trying to remember what he had been asking me.

"Does it still bother you?"

Well, that was specific. Not. He was talking in dead ends. Does what still bother me? It's not like I had a clue. This was Sam – he could've been asking about getting turned into a vampire, or he could've been asking about that obstinate baby tooth I had to have surgically removed when I was nine. Or he could've been asking about anything in between. Like Angela Cronin from Senior High. She was going to bother me until the day I died. Again.

"Sam? Does what still bother me?"

Then again, maybe I didn't even want to know. Then again - again - that could be moot, because if Little Blinkie there didn't get some decent shut-eye and soon, and give his brain a chance to regroup, I might never know what it was he wanted to know.

"Sam?"

I got the 'Oh, right' look.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

"Does hell still bother you?"

Nope, did not want to know that he wanted to know about that. I didn't even want to think about it. I mean - yeah, it did bother me, and no, it didn't bother me, and maybe all Sam wanted to know was how long he could expect to drag his own hell along with him.

Not long at all, if I had anything to say about it.

"Is my book still in the trunk?" Sam asked then, instead. I didn't know if he was changing the subject or just forgot what he'd asked me. Or that he'd asked me anything at all. Next time we damn stopped, he was so getting dosed with a sleepy-time pill.

"Everything of yours is still in the trunk." I told him. Every shirt, t-shirt, sock, shoe, book, notebook, pen, pencil, and paper clip. If he wanted it, I could have it in my hand in five seconds. But Sam went off to that other place again, thinking about something, only who knew what that something was. Maybe not even Sam.

I gave him another look. He needed some new clothes, too. I didn't want him to have to wear any of RoboSam's clothes, that just didn't feel right. So, we'd get him some new clothes. He'd like that. At any age, Sam always got a thrill out of actual brand new clothes, probably because we got them so rarely. So, as soon as I could, I'd hunt up the 'big & tall' store nearest to Dull, OH, and buy him some new jeans, and shirts long enough that he could actually tuck them in, and anything else that looked like he could use it.

Of course, Sam always seemed to get a bigger thrill when I'd hand him down whatever didn't fit me anymore, like that stretched out sweatshirt that was too big for him that he used as a pajama top for two winters, or all those flannel shirts worn soft, that hung almost to his knees, with sleeves so long they had to be rolled up practically halfway just to get to his wrists. And any time anybody asked him why he was wearing a shirt that was just so big on him, his only answer was a proud, 'Dean gave it to me.'

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

"Did you know that peanut butter was actually invented a thousand years B.C.?"

Sam's question brought me out of wishing he was still at an age that I could hand him down things and make him ridiculously happy doing it.

So, peanut butter, hunh? He'd been spending that time thinking about food?

Good.

"Are you hungry?" I asked. Leave it to Sam to not realize he might be hungry, and to have it come out as another bit of fascinating trivia.

"I'm not making any sense, am I?" He asked. Apologized. Like he had to apologize.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

"Yeah, you are." I told him. Maybe not to yourself, but to me - Sammy, you are a book I know by heart.

I didn't know if he understood my answer. He went back to the other place for a little while.

Okay, so – food, then a place to crash, and the chemical means to accomplish the crashing. Although, if I could get enough food into Sam, he'd crash all on his own. He'd always been that way. A big meal, a warm car, music turned down just enough, and it was 'goodnight Sammy.' Even if it was only two in the afternoon.

RoboSam never slept, never napped, never – he just never had any 'down' time. Pretty much all one note, except for the few times he could be pushed to anger. No humor, no wit, no extravagance, no annoyance, no nothing. It's hard traveling with a guy who's a flat line most of the time.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

"Yes." Sam followed the revolving door out of the other place again.

"That's what I said." I said. "Yes. You are making sense. Exhausted-out-of-your-mind sense, maybe. But sense."

Well, that perplexed him, if the wrinkle between his eyebrows was anything to go by. So, that was not what he'd been referring to?

"No - yes." He said it like I'd understand immediately what he was referring to. I did a fast backtrack of our conversation.

"'Yes' you're hungry?"

"I'd like to eat something."

He said it like he wasn't sure that answer meant he was hungry, but that he recognized that I'd asked him if he was hungry and he wanted to answer the question I asked, but he didn't want to lie. Even by semantics.

What a geek.

A giant-sized, over-tired, precise-to-a-fault, sweet, lovable, geek.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

"What would you like to eat?"

Salad, probably. Some fiber-licious, ultra-organic, non-processed, nearly-vegetarian health food. And frou-frou coffee. Whatever it was, it didn't matter. If Sammy wanted it, I'd make sure he got it.

If only he'd tell me what he wanted.

"Sam? What do you want to eat?"

"Does it?"

He asked that back so fast it was like he got flung out of that revolving door. Leave it to Sammy to find his way through the maze of his own mind back to that question. I could put him off all day and night, change the subject every five seconds, speak in a foreign language, and turn the music up to a thousand decibels - Sam would always find his way back to any question he hadn't gotten a satisfactory answer to.

So - what was I supposed to tell him? That sometimes I still dream of my hell? But I always dream of his hell?

And how was I supposed to tell him anything if I couldn't keep his attention longer than three seconds at a time? He wasn't the only one here who was exhausted.

I pulled over to the side of the road, near a fenced field that was home to a herd of cows. Maybe if I didn't give him changing scenery to constantly fixate on, maybe if I could get his brain to stop thinking it had to keep running, maybe he'd fixate on me long enough to end this conversation.

So I stopped driving. And I waited.

And then I waited some more.

All his life, Sam has had the sometimes incredible, sometimes annoying, ability to laser focus on something, on anything, that caught his interest. Wringing out every last bit of information about it, even if that involved wringing it out of actual living human beings. Talking, asking, taking mental notes on mental note cards, shuffling those cards into the right order and filling in all the blanks he found, writing mental guidebooks to the subject.

And then, he'd tell me all about it.

RoboSam never really talked. He spoke, but he never really talked. He already had everything figured out. For Sam though, talking was always part of the way he got everything in line. It was a way to smooth out the rough corners of niggling facts that hadn't quite fit to his liking, reshuffling those note cards until he had them all in razor straight perfect order.

There'd been times when he'd be talking so single-mindedly while we were driving somewhere, that we'd get there and he'd ask, 'We're here already?', even if it'd been a ten hour drive.

After five or ten minutes of admiring the cows that were admiring us at the moment, I finally got that 'where is this place and what are we doing here' look from Sam.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

"Can we go to a movie?" He asked.

I gotta tell you, the thought of going to a movie, of doing something normal with my brother, was a dream I'd had for a very long time.

Sammy, I would love to go to a movie with you. I'd love to do anything with you. Just as soon as your brain stops hiccupping.

I didn't say that though. I didn't say anything. I knew that revolving door was still revolving, and from the look on Sam's face it seemed to be heading towards reality. We might just get this conversation resolved after all, if I didn't risk it all by actually saying something to him.

"It doesn't all fit." Sam said then. A short but beautifully coherent statement.

"It doesn't have to all fit, Sammy. The pieces can go wherever they need to go. I just want to keep track of a few of them."

"I'm not tired."

Boy, did I know that tone of voice. 'Dean - why do I have to go to bed? I don't want to go to bed. I can't go to bed. I have homework, I have to study, there's a movie on, it's not a school night, Dad's not home yet…' He had at least three arguments for every one thing he didn't want to do. He was a born lawyer.

God, it was good to have him sitting next to me again.

"Yes, you are tired. You're exhausted. I'm just interested in what happens between now and dreamland."

Like keeping you well-rested and well-fed, and on only one topic of conversation for ten minutes at a time.

"Christmas won't be on a Saturday again until the year 2021."

Fun fact number 231, 683. And the thing is, Sam always presented these fun facts and general trivia like he was the last person to have figured it out, and everybody else already knew.

"You're not exhausted, you're in a talking coma." I told him. We so had to find a way to get him on Jeopardy. Show the world just how smart my little brother is.

"Sleep isn't as good as I thought it would be." Sam said. I loved complete, coherent sentences.

But yeah, that was it, wasn't it? With nightmares on the attack, and agonizing memories on the prowl, sleep was a scary, dangerous place to be. These past two nights, since Sam got his soul back, whenever he did fall asleep, it was only long enough to start dreaming, and then he'd jump awake and search the room with his eyes, until he saw me, and then after awhile, he'd start to relax.

Just enough to fall asleep just long enough to start dreaming again.

"Hey, I was there these past two nights, too." I told Sam. "I know it's not. You still need it."

We both needed it. I'd stay awake as much and as long and as often as Sam needed me to be, but I so wanted to be inside a nice, quiet room, in nice, warm beds, asleep.

"So, c'mon, Sam. We'll get back on the road, we'll find you some peanut butter and we'll get a room and try sleeping again. Even if it's only in little bits at a time, it's better than nothing.

But Sam had gone off, again, and wasn't listening to me.

"Sam."

"Can't I sleep in the car?" He asked me. Like - what? I'd been stopping him?

"I don't know. Can you?"

I guess he didn't get the subtle verbal irony, because he started in again with what was probably another fun fact.

"You know -."

I cut him off. I had to. I wasn't sure my brain could take any more.

"Sam - honestly, if whatever you're going to say isn't about sleep or hunger, I don't think I'm up to it right now."

He puzzled that one for a minute or so. All those fun facts coming to a screeching halt probably. Concussing him from inside.

"You need to sleep, too, Dean. You were awake all of the past two nights with me."

An actual coherent statement, appropriate to the moment. Maybe Sam was getting so tired that logic was finally able to catch up to his brain.

"Yeah, well, when you sleep, I'll sleep. That's how this works."

And by 'sleep', I meant Sam laid out in full, sound, uninterrupted sleep. Because I was not going to leave him, even in sleep, to face his literal demons alone.

"That doesn't make any sense." He told me.

Um - excuse me? I'm not making sense? There's a pot and there's a kettle, and there's the color black.

"And knowing that Christmas won't be on a Saturday again for eleven years does make sense?"

He heaved a sigh so deep, I thought he was going to drain all the air out of the car.

"It helps everything else make sense."

Yeah, I could see that. In Sammy-land, a thought expressed was a thought catalogued and stored away in its proper place. And the more thoughts that were put away, the more opportunity there was to get every other thought put away, too.

"Things will make a lot more sense after you've had some real sleep." I told him. Maybe things would make more sense to both of us. "So - you sleep, I sleep. You don't sleep, I don't sleep. You spit odd bits of trivia out at me, I listen to you spit odd bits of trivia out at me."

Just like always. I never thought I could miss it as much as I had.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

I started the car and scanned the distance for any signs of grocery stores.

"So - peanut butter first?"

"Does it?" Sam asked, before I even took the car out of drive. It was more than just his usual compulsion to know everything that he wanted to know. This, he needed to know.

"Does hell still bother me? That's what you're asking?" I asked him, just to be clear. As clear as we could be between us, with both of us exhausted beyond imagining.

Sam nodded. So far, so good. But - just to be really, really clear -

"Why do you want to know?"

I really expected Sam to go back into that revolving door of trivia, where his thoughts dragged him out of the stream of reality and into that other place. But he kept his eyes on mine. And he kept his thoughts in a straight line.

"If I know, I think I'll be able to sleep."

Which meant that I had to tell him. I had to tell him the truth. And the truth was what the truth had always been - I'd suffer anything, as long as I knew that Sam was okay.

God, it was good to have him sitting next to me again.

"The hell that bothers me, Sam, is your hell. And that's how it gonna be. You faced down my hell for me, when I couldn't. So I'm facing down yours."

I didn't wait for that thought to traverse the revolving door of Sam's brain. I got us back on the road and headed for the next town, the next motel and the next try at sleeping.

Sam looked at me for awhile, but I didn't look back at him. When he said whatever he said next, I'd know where his brain was. Until then, anything I said probably wouldn't register with him. So, let him wander around in his own thoughts for awhile. Hopefully he'd be thinking of food and sleep, and more sleep. Because, God knew, I could use some sleep too.

And maybe he was thinking of sleep, finally, because he sighed and leaned his head against his window. That was always a harbinger of Sammy-sleep. RoboSam never slept in the car. He never slept anywhere, I know, but he never even relaxed in the car. The car wasn't home to him, it wasn't familiar or friendly or a welcome sight for him. It was just a way to get from one place to another.

Sammy though, Sammy and me both, if we couldn't sleep anywhere, we could always sleep in the car. There probably wasn't anything we hadn't done in this car, including surgery. But sleep was the one thing that meant everything else was all right, everything else was good. And it'd been a damn long time since anything in our lives was good.

Next to me, Sam sighed again, and shifted in the seat, making himself more comfortable. It was a sound and a movement I'd known my whole life.

God, it was good to have Sammy sitting next to me again.

I reached over and put my hand on the back of Sam's neck, then let it slide down to give his arm a squeeze.

Good? Having Sammy back, my life was damn near perfect.

The End.