Warning: This is really sad. I never thought I'd write one, but this is a death fic. Only read it with tissues and chocolate nearby. My hope is that, even in its sadness, you will see the beauty of the relationship of the brothers Winchester.

Set around Season 2

One In Soul

Sam's skin is hot to the touch; his cheeks flushed with fever. Beads of perspiration glisten in the dull light of the dingy motel room. Chocolate brown bangs, glued to a sweat-slicked brow, seem almost black in contrast to the ghost-like pallor of his near translucent skin. Paper thin sheets, soaked in fevered sweat, cling tightly to the sculptured upper body of the stricken hunter as if a second skin. They reveal chiseled muscles and solid bone- normally indications of health and vitality, but now, the strained, sunken indentations in and around them tell a different story- of a desperate struggle to function, to draw in enough air to make a difference.

The few respirations that manage to transpire are rapid and shallow, ineffective, having been drawn through swollen bronchia into fluid filled lungs that cannot absorb the oxygen that is so desperately needed.

Sam's suffocating body is not receiving nearly enough to sustain what little life it has left within its fiery frame. His chest suddenly collapses with an exhausted puff of overheated air then stills for a moment only to instinctively begin its futile attempt again. He pants for air, air his failing body cannot process.

Dean, whose body perspires merely from his presence seated beside his overheating sibling, watches on as his brother suffers the raging fire within him, battles the undefeatable foe, succumbs to the injuries of this unjust war.

And the eldest Winchester is helpless to do anything but watch and wait. Something he's never been able to do-not when it comes to his younger brother-to Sam.

He knows it should be he, suffering on the bed, barely clinging to life; and he curses himself that it isn't -for his failure.

He was supposed to protect Sam.

He's still not sure how he could have prevented this, his mind now a muddled mess of despair, his fears clouding his ability to think, to reason, to function at all.

But he is sure he should have … or at least died trying.

It had happened so quickly. One minute the brothers had been stalking prey in the back woods of Wisconsin, the next, Sam was down, convulsing, the creature screaming out its victory wail as Sam lay cruelly pinned beneath its massive frame- a poisonous fang protruding from his trembling body.

An anger, unlike anything Dean had experienced before, had risen deep within his chest, and he had exploded with rage-attacking the creature, mercilessly hacking it to bloody bits for what it had done, for downing Sam, daring to poison his little brother-and for have the nerve to celebrate it.

Minutes later, as the creature lay scattered in pieces, viciously destroyed, Dean, whose face and body were covered in its viscous blood, felt a sense of relief- of justice. The beast had gotten what it had coming.

Dean had righted the wrong against his brother.

But one look at Sam told Dean that what he'd done would make no difference. The puncture, the seeping wound, the foamy substance oozing from his brother's chest- Sam had taken a full dose of the monster's venom- a toxin with no antidote, a fatal injection of its poison for which there is no cure.

ooOOoo

Dean closes his eyes to erase the image that torments him, hoping that somehow in doing so, it will go away.

But it doesn't.

Sam shudders then rolls his head to one side. A moan erupts from his throat-the deep sound of pain and hurt. His brow furrows, his eyes squeeze tight, and he rolls his head back as if trying to escape whatever assails him in the depths of his mind.

Dean shushes his brother, tells him in quiet whispers to hang in there, to fight, to not give up.

But his words are laced with hopelessness because he knows that Sam cannot win this battle, has already lost, and is succumbing to the battle wounds that will soon claim his life.

He dips a bleached white wash cloth into the cool water resting on the nightstand near Sam's head, wrings it out, and lays it gently across his younger brother's brow, frowning at how quickly it becomes warm with his brother's heat.

Sam shivers and then groans with Dean's contact, and the despairing older sibling watches on helplessly. He is one who acts, who hunts, who defeats the enemies that threaten him and his own-that threaten Sam-and it's destroying him to sit, helplessly, waiting for the inevitable outcome he'd promised his little brother he'd prevent.

He feels a growing passion to punish something, destroy something, make something pay for his little brother's plight. Killing the creature wasn't enough, didn't satisfy, doesn't begin to cover the anger he's feeling inside- that his brother is about to be unjustly torn from him. Sam doesn't deserve to die. Not now, not like this.

He suddenly trembles, struggling to contain the rage that burns within him.

Dean draws in a deep breath to steady himself. He has to contain his emotions because Sam needs him - needs him to be steady, to keep it together, to see him through.

Even if it's to the other side.

He removes the hot cloth from his brother's brow, dips it in the bedside water that is barely room temperature now, and wraps it gently around Sam's left wrist hoping to cool the overheated blood that pulses through it.

He glances up to Sam's face, studying his sibling's ghostly white features, his pale cracked lips, his open mouth, dropped as if trying to offer his wheezing body a shot at more air should his windpipe be able to let a little of the desperately needed gas slip past his swollen trachea.

Dean recognizes there is little life left in Sam now, that it is only a matter of hours, maybe even minutes, until his one reason for living ceases to exist. And the anger that threatened to undo him earlier suddenly melts into despair.

Sam seems so young, so innocent, so vulnerable….so in need of Dean to do something, anything to help him, to turn the outcome in his favor, to save him like he's always done.

But Dean has no weapon he can use in his brother's defense, no spell to undo what has been done, nothing earthly to save his brother.

And his mind wanders to God.

He wants to ask heaven to undo the wrong that has been committed against his little brother, to plead on Sam's behalf in the hopes that God might listen and heal his brother.

After all, Sam is the one that has faith, even prays, believes in angels, and God, and hope. If anyone deserves to be healed it should be Sam, right? Isn't God supposed to take care of his own?

But where was God when Sam needed him? Where were his angels when the creature inflicted its sentence of death on his little brother? Where was God when the Yellow Eyed demon fed its blood into his baby brother's mouth and killed his mother-their mother?

Anger wells up in Dean. If God is real, he decides he wants no part of him.

Another dip in the bed side water, another wrist overcoming the rag's coolness, and Dean's anger dissolves into guilt.

As much as he wants to blame the creature and God, he feels the blame falls squarely on his shoulders. It is his burden to carry, and his alone. He was the one who insisted on taking point as the two made their way through the woodland; who refused his little brother's offer to be up in front as the bait, to lure the creature out. And it was his decision that made Sam the sacrificial lamb in the end.

He thought he was being smart, anticipating the supernatural being's predatory nature - to pick off the lead as it had tried two times before. He'd thought he was protecting Sam, that his brother would be safer following up the rear.

He was wrong.

The bastard had changed pattern and gone straight for Sam.

Without warning.

It was as if a giant bull's-eye had been painted on his little brother's back. Like the damn thing could tell Sam was the vulnerable one of the team; the one who didn't reek of vengeance, who would always choose mercy over condemnation- who would hesitate.

And the damn thing had taken advantage, changed its attack plan that had worked since the beginning of time, just this once-just for Sam.

Dean curses. He should have let Sam take point. Then at least he could have watched his back.

His head drops to his chest in despair. If only…..

God he wishes he could go back, just one night, to take up Sam's suggestion that they take the night off, have a few beers and ready for the hunt the following day.

The kid had been tired- weary. He'd seen it in his eyes, heard it in his voice, felt it in his brother's soul.

But he'd been too damned eager for the hunt, too hungry for the adrenaline rush- too damn selfish.

Dean curses, then removes the hot cloth from Sam's fiery forehead, dips it back into the cool water and wrings it out. A tear drizzles down his cheek as the water drips back into the bowl, and he snuffles and returns to his ministrations knowing that the coolness will be gone the moment it contacts his brother's overheated brow.

His labors are in vain and he knows it. They are incapable of accomplishing what he wants them to- to cool his sibling; to give Sam more time for his body to fight.

He refuses to accept that more time would make little difference, and only prolong the suffering Sam is enduring, that the outcome would be the same.

So he keeps on, unable to do anything else.

Dean chokes back a sob. He's a man of action, but now, all he can do is wait; and it eats him alive, inside, separating his soul from his existence.

ooOOOoo

It is near midnight when tiny slits widen to half-mast as Sam's dull, glazed eyes sluggishly make an appearance. They roll lazily from side to side, seemingly unable to focus-until they happen on a familiar face, a brother's face, and pause as if drinking in the image before them.

"Sammy?" Dean whispers, trying to determine if his brother's gaze is intentional or whether his sibling's eyes are unseeing, unable to function anymore, unable to make sense of the world that is slowly fading around them.

Sam's lids begin to droop and Dean holds his breath, not knowing if this is it - his brother's final waking moment, and possibly his last goodbye.

Fate spares the older Winchester the unthinkable, and Sam's eyes move beneath his closed lids.

Dean exhales, draws in a breath, and dares to believe.

His belief is soon rewarded when Sam manages to open his eyes again. His younger brother is conscious, barely, and his heart aches as Sam's unfocused eyes roll up then down then side to side seemingly searching for him.

Dean leans in to help, and forces a smile when his little brother fixes his gaze in his direction- this time not about to let go without a fight. It is as if Sam's life depends on him, and, in a way, Dean knows what little of it left… does.

Sam's breathing hitches slightly- the strained wheezing of collapsing lungs silence, but for a second. His chest freezes in a sunken position, and then he struggles to inhale and exhale purposefully -to communicate in some small way.

But his body is too weak, his pain too great to do anything more than force a strained sigh, and his lungs once again begin the mantra of congested rattling indicative of the drowning that is taking place.

Though the interrupted breath would have been missed by most, it speaks volumes to the one who has listened to and interpreted his younger brother's breathing his entire life. He knows what his little brother is saying, even though his younger sibling cannot speak: Sam needs him, cannot do this without him -is afraid.

It is clear Sam doesn't know much but pain and cold, the need to breathe, and Dean, and he willingly allows his brother to soak in his presence.

Dean watches his little brother's struggle, fighting tears that threaten to undo him.

Sam briefly loses his focus again; his gaze drifts slightly off to the left.

Dean moves closer, centering his face in his sibling's gaze, and begins to speak.

At first he calls Sam's name, then he rests a gentle hand on his brother's face. His hand stings from the heat that radiates there, but he continues his contact, helping to focus his brother's drifting gaze.

He places his second hand on his brother's chest above the blankets over his heart as if trying to reach the very core of his being.

In soft, hushed tones, he reassures him of his presence; that he's going to be okay; that he needs to get some rest.

Inside, his mind screams for Sam to stay awake, to stay with him, to not leave him. Not yet.

Sam's lids close and, this time, don't reopen.

Dean chokes back a sob. He doesn't know if Sam is lost to sleep, unconsciousness, or worse.

He hesitates to check for a pulse, not knowing if he can handle what his fingers might find….not find.

But Sam's chest partially rises again, strained, accompanied by a gurgling wheeze, and Dean knows his little brother is still with him.

He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, releasing all the carbon dioxide from his system. And he wishes he could release his anguish along with it.

He reaches a shaking hand out to his younger sibling's shoulder and gently jostles him.

A whispered, "Sammy?" escapes his taut lips.

And he waits, daring to believe he might be able to get a response- that Sam is still there, just beneath the surface of consciousness, waiting to be called out.

Sam's head lolls back and forth slightly with the movement, but stills as soon as Dean's hand does.

The unresponsive sibling takes on an even more ghostly hue and fear tightens in Dean's chest.

Dean tries again with a more intense shake, desperately spoken words, and even pleas.

But Sam is still, unnervingly still; and eventually unwanted tears cloud Dean's vision. Sam is no longer capable of responding and Dean knows why. The poison has dragged his little brother into the deepest, darkest parts of his mind, having shut down too many of his body's systems to keep him functional. He's been swallowed up in a coma- and death is eminent.

His head drops, chin to chest, and his eyes close in anguish. He knew this was how it would go. He's watched his brother fading slowly, painfully with each passing minute: the fever, the weakness, the congestion in his lungs, the difficulty breathing - now the coma. He's going to lose Sam, and there isn't a damn thing he can do to stop it.

ooOOOoo

Seconds pass, as if days, and Dean awaits the inevitable.

His heart aches for all the things he wishes he had said to Sam but won't be able to. To tell him that he loves him, that he's proud of whom he's become, that he knew he'd never become evil…that he cannot live without him.

But it is too late. Sam's ears are unhearing, his mind unthinking, his body, not functioning- shutting down with each passing second.

ooOOOoo

When the inevitable comes, Dean cannot accept it. He removes the cloth from his lifeless sibling's brow, dips it in the cool water beside the bed, wrings it to dampness, and replaces it on his brother's unnaturally cooling forehead.

He adjusts the blankets, cocooning Sam's body to keep in his warmth- warmth that is quickly dissipating with each passing moment.

He tells Sam to rest, that he is here, that he will always be here for him; and he sits silently, numbly, unable to accept the fact that Sam no longer needs him.

ooOOOoo

Bobby arrives at the forgotten motel on the outskirts of town less than a day later, having been summoned by Dean's frantic call hours after the attack had occurred. He knows Sam has been poisoned, has been dying, and even more, that Dean is blaming himself-and his heart aches for both. He's traveled all night, called every contact he's ever known, desperate to offer a cure upon his arrival. But none can be offered. All contacts agree; the venom is without cure, the effects are irreversible. Sam's fate is sealed. Now he comes to offer support, to ease Sam's passing, and to share Dean's grief.

But he's too late; for both of them.

He finds Dean robotically nursing Sam's body in death: offering soft whispers to unhearing ears, a cool cloth to soothe an unfeeling forehead, a blanket tucked neatly to hold in a warmth that has long since escaped.

It is all Dean knows to do, has ever done, expected to ever do-to care of Sam; and he is unable to disconnect from his sole purpose in life.

Even if that purpose is gone.

The sight chokes the normally stoic hunter, breaking his heart and threatening to undo him.

ooOOoo

The old family friend eventually gains his composure and approaches Dean, tries to connect with him, to console him.

But Dean cannot be consoled, doesn't need consolation; because in his mind, Sam is still there, he's just asleep, needs more rest, will wake up soon-at least one more time.

Dean's anger flairs when Bobby finally dares to tell him Sam is gone. He rebukes the hunter and defies his lies. Sam isn't gone. He can't be. He wouldn't have left him behind- alone.

Each time Bobby attempts to bring Dean back to the here and now, to what has happened, to moving on, Dean rages… for him to get out, to go away, to leave them alone.

The word them burns deep within the older hunter's heart as he knows half of Dean is Sam, and that half is now gone, torn from his side, ripped from the core of his being.

It pains Bobby to see Dean quiet himself after each outburst, as if fearful he might have upset his younger sibling; and he watches sadly as Dean goes back to tending his brother's lifeless frame, returning to the soft, gentle tones of assurance he'd been uttering long before Sam had even passed. The sincerity of each promise is gut wrenching, and, moment by moment, Bobby witnesses Dean's withdrawal deeper and deeper into himself.

Bobby knows denial when he sees it. Dean is lost in the mind numbing world, buried alive, clinging desperately to the fantasy of hope denial offers- since reality has failed him…again.

He's not surprised to find him there now; the kid's no stranger to the place, has been visiting denial for years. Bobby's watched him come and go.

But he's never seen Dean so completely lost in the mind numbing world.

He remembers the first time he bore witness to Dean's detachment from reality when he was four, when he'd had seen his mom burn to death on the ceiling. For more than a month, the kid's youthful face had been awash with a blankness that had broken the then younger uncle's heart. The boy's eyes had been hollow and empty, his voice silent as if mute, his body still, as if broken.

The old hunter had also seen Dean rise out of the ashes of denial, finding new purpose in being baby Sam's protector- a new role for the proud big brother. One he'd handled with vigor.

And Dean had moved on.

Denial had claimed the elder sibling again, seventeen years later, when his younger brother had left for Stanford. Bobby had seen a brokenness in the eldest sibling that was in some ways worse than when he was a child, only it was more subtle, more inside, hidden, less visible, masked by a lifetime of experiences of swallowing his pain, his feeling… his needs.

John had tried to be for Dean what Sam had been, but the hole was not to be filled by anyone other than the little brother Dean had come to know and love -and live for. And without his sibling, Dean was but a shadow of the young man he'd become.

Sam was the one person who could keep Dean alive, offer him a reason to live, and Dean needed him for solace- for purpose.

It was no surprise when Bobby found out that Dean had gone straight for Sam when their father had suddenly disappeared a few years later. Dean had always wanted to go after his brother. He'd just needed a justifiable reason to do so.

And Sam had faithfully assumed his position at his older brother's side to look for their father, knowing fully, that Dean's search was not just for their father, but for the brotherly relationship that had once been lost.

And Dean had once again risen from the ashes.

Dean later had become entrenched in the mind numbing world of denial when he suffered his father's death- the sacrifice on his behalf and his dad's commission to kill Sam if he couldn't save him.

Bobby had experienced it personally, having partnered with the brothers on several occasions. He'd seen it in the elder Winchester's eyes, heard it in his voice, watched it in his behavior. The more Dean had buried himself in denial, the more the pain, too great, too all encompassing for him to manage, erupted from him - showing itself as anger, directed at the one person who could save him, bring him back from the brink…Sam.

And yet, Sam stayed there, faithful through it all.

The more Dean tried to push him away, push life away, the closer Sam came- returning love for anger, ever constant and loyal.

Sam eventually helped his older brother live again-to leave the world of denial behind and move forward. Sam had accomplished that for Dean, and Bobby had watched in amazement.

ooOOoo

Bobby pauses, his thoughts interrupted by Dean's ministrations to his lifeless sibling: a cool cloth, another gentle pull on Sam's blanket to bring it up under his chin for warmth, a false promise that he will be okay and to hang in there.

But this? How the hell can Dean get past this?

Bobby slowly wipes his calloused hand across his face and sighs.

He knows, as he studies the same blank eyes of years gone by, that Sam's death has the potential of pushing Dean over the edge, of being the final nail in the last remaining Winchester's coffin, trapping him in a world of denial forever; and Sam…..Sam is no longer here to reason with him, to compel him to press on, to give him purpose and pull him back.

And Bobby's worried.

After failed attempts to tug and pull Dean back, and near violence from the denying sibling, Bobby realizes he must allow Dean to remain lost for a while longer. The kid needs to live in denial, in defiance of what has happened- what he's lost. He can only exist that way, at least for now, at least until he is willing to open his eyes and see the truth.

Bobby admits to himself that he cannot change Dean, and he thinks that maybe he shouldn't even try.

There are some things that can't be rushed, and he fears to do so might shatter the clearly broken man before him into so many jagged pieces that it would be impossible to put him back together, to help him rise again.

As he looks over to Dean talking to Sam, pushing his bangs from his forehead, fixing his blanket once more, Bobby's not sure rising again is even possible. Dean has lost half of himself. He is crippled, though he may not know it yet, severely crippled; and Bobby wonders if the best he can hope for is a shadowy version of the small boy who once carried his baby brother as if he were pure gold; the young man who stood proudly with his admiring brother at his side; the strong adult who would fight to the death for his sibling. In Dean's mind, to acknowledge Sam's death would mean there is nothing to live for, to fight for, exist for- at least not what Dean would consider worth living for.

Bobby's chest tightens. He has to try. He cannot lose another one of John's sons, even if it is into himself.

Dean growls at Bobby again, threatening that if he doesn't leave, he will kill him.

Bobby placates with palms up and out as if in surrender. He half believes that in Dean's state the kid just might pull his weapon and shoot and he's desperate to appease the enraged young man before he does something that both of them would regret.

But he will not leave, cannot leave, even though Dean demands it. Not now, not when Dean is so broken and destroyed and unable to cope.

So he backs off, and watches and waits from a distance.

ooOOoo

Hours later, Dean collapses at Sam's side and Bobby moves in to take over.

He tends the near catatonic Winchester, soothing the older sibling's brow with warm water, whispering encouraging words that he'd just heard Dean utter to his deceased sibling- to rest easy, that it's going to be okay.

The lies choke in this throat and he pushes past them to keep going. It won't be okay, and he knows it. A person can't survive without his heart; and Sam was the very center of Dean's being.

Bobby sighs and looks over to Sam, finding it hard to believe the boy is gone, feeling as if a part of his heart is missing as well.

Images flash through his mind; of little Sammy learning to walk, toddling around Rumsfeld when he was a rambunctious puppy; of young Sam, destroying his library of ancient texts trying to devour the world he'd just discovered his father and brother were immersed in; of adult Sam, ever faithful at Dean's side, helping his older brother through the painful death of their father when he was struggling with his own loss.

Bobby's eyes tear as the image of the dead young man before him comes back into focus.

Sam was immensely bright and compassionate, and had held all the promise and hope the Winchesters' had that life wasn't quite as god awful as it seemed. His innocence was a beacon, a point of reference for those who loved him- of how to navigate themselves back from the darkness they often found themselves entrenched in. Sam's youthfulness, purity, and his integrity had offered them a plumb line- a north to their sometimes confused compasses.

But now, he was gone-too young, too soon. Like a new star that had supernova-ed before its time, his light had gone out, leaving only a black hole in the heart of the ones who knew him best- who'd been left behind.

Bobby shook his head. Of all the ways Sam could have died, this was never one he'd considered—slow and painful poisoning, his brother watching on helplessly as his sibling faded to nothing, his life draining from his young, otherwise healthy body.

Life is cruel, fate even crueler…and Bobby curses them both.

He wipes a tired hand over his weary face and knows what he must do next- bury Sam.

Bury Sam

His mind repeats the words in despair; the thought burns through him. He'd never expected to outlive either of John's boys, just as a father never expects to outlast his sons. It is not the right order of things, and it feels… wrong, just plain wrong. John's death was sad; noble, but not unexpected. But this? Sam is…was… like a son to him, and his death will be difficult if not impossible to ever accept.

ooOOoo

It is raining outside, the sky, gray and dark, when Bobby finally heads out the door to look for a place to lay the youngest Winchester to rest.

The rain falls heavily; large drops smack against his clothing, the roof top, and all that surrounds him, puddling on the ground beneath his feet.

Bobby feels it is fitting that the earth mourn the loss of one so young, so innocent, so….Sam; and he welcomes heaven's tears and the sympathy he attributes to them.

He makes his way across the back parking lot to the tree line beyond and, with shovel in hand, treks deeper and deeper into the woods looking for the right spot to lay the youngest Winchester to rest, the perfect place to hold one so dear.

After searching for nearly thirty minutes, Bobby realizes there is no perfect place to bury John's youngest.

It isn't that the area is lacking; the woods themselves are somewhat peaceful- even in the rain. It's that Sam shouldn't need to be buried at all, and nowhere, no matter how ideal, seems right.

So he forgoes perfect and drops the point of the shovel down, accepting its landing as the place to begin digging.

With each turn of the shovel, he unearths small creatures and insects as he digs. It is as if the woodland itself is singing to life and asking him to join in.

But he can't. He's not celebrating life.

And he finds each new creature distressing, a mockery of his pain and the task becomes more daunting with each shovelful.

Bobby tosses a glance toward the motel, feeling as if in doing so, he's checking on Dean. He's glad Dean doesn't have to bear witness to what is taking place, unsure if Dean could handle putting Sam in the cold wet ground, then wonders whether Dean will be able to find closure having not participated in his younger brother's burial.

As he glances in Dean's direction, he can't help but notice the back of the motel; how aged it looks, in sad need of repair. And, standing several meters from the motel's property line, Bobby's grief deepens. Sam deserves better than this, deserves not to be buried in the back yard like a family dog.

But Bobby has little choice. According to the police records, Sam Winchester is dead, has been for a year now, along with his brother, Dean. If Sam's existence is proven, then Dean's will come into question and Bobby cannot let that happen. Sam wouldn't want him to.

Thirty-five minutes later, the shallow grave is dug and he retrieves Sam's body from beside his silent, unconscious brother. He knows Dean should join him for acceptance, for closure, for peace, but decides Dean will experience none whether he sees the act or not.

He wraps Sam's body in a bed sheet, takes him out and lays him in the shallow, mud sodden grave. Then, opens the rain soaked fabric and fixes Sam's hands across his heart.

Bobby pauses for a moment of silence, too choked to voice his feelings aloud as he takes one last look upon the deceased young man he considers….considered a son.

Even in death, Sam reflects his father's image. Bobby isn't sure whether it is his hair, the angles of his features, or the look of consternation on his now lifeless face. Something reminds him of John, and he mourns the loss of both.

In his heart he makes a promise, one he knows both father and son would approve of- to watch over Dean, to help him, protect him, and love him on their behalf.

A tear and choked sob later, Bobby reaches in his pocket to retrieve an amulet of protection and sets it gently between Sam's rain soaked hands. He respectfully covers Sam's body with the motel sheet and slowly scoops the muddy soil in the grave and tamps it down.

He pauses again, still unable to find his voice.

There is no ceremony; just a quiet moment in a silent wooded area behind the motel and a marker to indicate that someone precious had been lost there.

Bobby silently hopes wherever Sam is now holds promise of the peace Sam searched for his entire short life, but never found. The kid deserves that much.

ooOOoo

Two more days find Dean conscious, physically; emotionally, he is wrecked. He has finally connected with the reality that Sam is dead; that he couldn't save him; that he is alone. And the pain and loss is so great, he can barely breathe, think, live.

Bobby offers food, but none is received. He offers comfort, but it is rejected. He offers his presence, but even that is unwanted. Dean wants to die and nothing Bobby says or does can change his objective.

And slowly… the last Winchester begins to fade away.

Bobby calls on family friends, but they are few, and none can reach the broken sibling.

In desperation, he calls on God.

But Dean slips away two days later anyway.

Bobby doesn't wonder why. Dean's heart had stopped five days earlier with Sam's. It just took his body time to realize it.

Bobby buries Dean next to Sam-where he belongs, always has belonged-at his little brother's side. And he carefully places another marker to indicate a second precious loss.

As he steps back, the two markers, side by side yet separate, don't sit right with Bobby.

So he removes the rain sodden markers and replaces them with one, larger, hand carved marker, which he painstakingly inscribes with the brothers' names-Dean's on the left arm of the cross, Sam's on the right.

Small numbers, whittled out beneath each name, reveal the story of two lives, here and gone, well before their time. The birth dates might be different, but the dates of death are the same- as they should be. Bobby knows that Dean really died when Sam did, and that the few additional days his body continued on were a mistake. A body should never survive without its soul.

He hopes the two are together again wherever they are as he knows they'll need each other in the next life as much as they needed each other in this one.

A tear drops to the forest floor then another and another until Bobby is no longer able to contain his grief.

ooOOoo

When he can cry no more, he crouches down between the two loosened clumps of soil and whispers a heartfelt good bye, then rises, turns and walks away- feeling the loss of the Winchester family deep within his heart.

He will remember them all, John, Mary, Dean and Sammy, as long as he has breath- their friendship, their dedication to defeat evil, their willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of a life, and their devotion to each other.

But mostly he will remember the two brothers whose lives were so intertwined, so interconnected- they were as one in soul.