Author's Note: This is my first Supernatural fanfic. Hope it doesn't disappoint. It's what I feel should have happened in Exile on Main Street. I understood what Dean was going through then, but I never expected him to decide not to follow Sam.

Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural.

The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works is the family.

Lee Iacocca

"So...I'm gonna go join the Campbell's after this. You coming?"

"No...No,Sam. I'm staying." Dean replied, seemingly oblivious to the way Sam's jaw tightened. "The moment I knocked on that door, I put them both in danger. I can't leave them now."

"But...You know, staying here, you're only putting them in more danger. Y-You know that." Sam whispered.

"At least I'd be protecting them, not leaving them unprotected."

Trying to ignore the way his lip trembled ever so slightly, Sam looked into his brother's eyes and saw his guilt and determination, and managed a quiet "Ok."

He had to remember that he was the one who had made Dean promise not to bring him back to life, and the one to force the promise on Dean that he return to Lisa and Ben, to live a normal, happy, apple-pie life. But the sinking feeling, while not overwhelming, had been a great deal more than any other emotion he had felt in the previous year while he was hunting alone, causing him to refuse the Impala, even though that was one of the few objects that would serve to remind him that he wasn't that alone. Furthermore, taking the Impala would only further cement the truth that Dean was putting his hunting career behind him, and putting his time with Sam behind him.

Sam grabbed his car keys, jammed them into the ignition and quickly backed out of the driveway, trying to ignore how quiet the car was. No rattling in the dashboard, no rock music, and no brother beside him. Breathing harshly, he drove into an unoccupied lot in a nearby car park before allowing the strange, yet so very familiar ache overwhelm him.

All through the time when he was detoxing from demon blood, even when his brother had called him a monster and a freak, it hadn't cut so deeply, because while Dean had been disappointed, even disgusted with him for acting as he did, he had stayed around. Even when they had separated for a bit, Dean had carried on hunting, and Sam knew deep down that however upset and angry his brother was with him, he could still count on him to Dean for anything.

But now, as he stared at the way his fingers trembled, he knew that if Dean stuck to his decision, that part of his life was over. No more counting on him to save his ass. No more chick-flick moments. No more being called "Sammy" in that exasperatedly amused tone. No more being taken care of. No more...big brother. He hadn't had any of those in the past year, but deep inside, he had counted on it, and that itself had kept him going when the hunt seemed to only reach dead-ends, or when he was hurt and had to stitch himself up, or just when the days seemed to morph into weeks and nothing seemed to matter anymore.

Dean was somebody else's now, and even while that somebody happened to be someone as deserving of his brother as Lisa, it didn't matter, the hole in his gut was still as empty. All that mattered was that Dean had somebody in his life now, somebody that wasn't Sam anymore. He remembered that feeling of being almost whole, when he had been with Jessica. To have somebody untainted by life as he was make him smile seemed to be a godsend. Dean, he deserved to lead a life like that. Saving the world and all that. This, though, did not make it any easier. All through his life, while Dad had not been a permanent fixture in his life, Dean had been. Acting as a mum when he was young, rocking him to sleep and wiping his tears away, then acting as a dad when their dad wasn't around. Dean would patch up his cuts and scrapes, threaten his bullies and train with him. Then, when he had grown up a little bit more, he just became Dean. Taking care of him like a mum, protecting him like a dad, and helping him just like a brother would. Now, however, Dean had chosen somebody over him, and that made the hole in him grow in size.

What had changed? He was still the same person, the same hunter as he had been the previous year, but as he felt the prickling in his eyes, he knew something profoundly huge had changed. He hadn't felt any emotion at all since waking up in that field, and this physical reaction scared him as much as breaking down would have normally. While the lack of emotion had definitely served him well on hunts, it had brought about a feeling of dread that he wasn't all whole, not to mention the total lack for the need to sleep. But while travelling to Dean's place, all that had suddenly seemed unimportant, for he had been so sure that Dean would know how to help him...that Dean would want to help him... Now, however, the dread came back full force, together with an ache that he had identified as hurt, and the full realisation that he was well and truly alone this time.

Wrapping his arms tightly around his midsection, he hunched forward, resting his forehead on the steering wheel, and shut his eyes, trying to ignore the chill that had gradually settled in his bones since leaving Dean's house. He hadn't felt emotions for an entire year, but that didn't mean he was completely ignorant of what his body's reactions stood for. His bodily reactions like tears were all there, they just seemed to get lost on the way to his brain, or heart, in this case. He knew what his ice-cold fingers stood for, but he just couldn't feel the fear. Clenching harder around himself, he let himself sink into a mesh of confusion as minutes dragged into hours, and as the night darkened around him.

Raking his hand through his hair in frustration, Dean stalked to the couch, ignoring the way Lisa gently shooed Ben out of the room. Sam had been back for an entire year, and he never called? Hell, the first thing that went through his own mind when he himself was brought back was to call Sam. Breathing harshly, he dragged his arm roughly across his face, smearing the tears that had started the moment Sam left in his car. He had missed his brother so much it hurt to even look at anything that would remind him of Sam, which was pretty much everything he had before he had settled down into this apple-pie, white picket fence life. That was why everything was on lockdown in the garage. Now Sam was back, but he had let him go off hunting alone because he was the one who had dragged Lisa and Ben into this mess of a life, and there was no way he could just walk out on them after marking them in neon to all those evil sons of bitches out there. But Sam was, out there too, alone...Not exactly alone, but without a brother acting as a partner-in-crime, a surgeon, hell, even a counsellor at times.

He was driving himself nuts. The guilt at choosing Lisa and Ben over Sam was starting to manifest itself in ugly ways, morphing into frustration and anger at both Sam and himself. Why had he listened to the kid when he had asked Dean to 'go live his apple-pie life and have a shot at normal'? If he hadn't, none of them would be in this mess now. Lisa and Ben would be free to live normally, without the need for all the fear and worry that he had brought on their doorstep. He would probably be sitting in the Impala now, with Sam riding shortgun beside him, like old times. He clutched at his hair, breathing raggedly as the tears spilled from his eyes. The urge to smash something to smithereens was thrumming in him, so much so that he had to clench his hands to prevent them from breaking the things around him.

As he sat there, trying to get his emotions under control, he realised with a start that he was alone in the living room. Furrowing his brow in worry, he got up quickly, eyes darting around the room. Moving quietly to the rest of the rooms, he was taken aback when he saw the room that Lisa and he shared, cleaned up. No jacket draped across the back of the chair, no socks left haphazardly around the room... Then Lisa came out of the walk-in closet holding his leather jacket.

He stared at her blackly as she folded his clothes neatly into his duffel bag and held out his jacket to him.

"Put this on. It's starting to get chilly. You wouldn't want to catch a cold while driving around out there at this time of the year."

He took the jacket with numb fingers, eyes never leaving hers. Her eyes were shimmering with unshed tears, but they were bright with love and understanding.

"Dean, I understand, ok? I really do. He's your brother, and now that he's back, he needs you, and you know you need him. This apple-pie life's never really suited you, though I'm awfully grateful you gave it a try with me."

"Lisa..." She shushed him gently, bringing a finger up to his lips. "Shh...It's ok Dean, it's ok. Just make sure you come and see Ben and me from time to time. We'll make this work." She smiled at him softly, tears brimming on her lashes. "And take care of Sam and yourself."

"Lisa, I'm...I'm so sorry for dragging Ben and you into this mess. I..." He was cut off with soft lips pressing against his. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tenderly. "Thank you."

Dragging on his leather jacket, he quickly gave a sleepy Ben a quick peck on the forehead, before sliding into the Impala with practised ease, even though it had been a year since he had actually sat in it.

I'm coming home, Sammy.

Driving along the gravel road, Dean could only be thankful the town wasn't a busy one, with intersections and junctions everywhere. It was a long straight road, which made his job of finding his pain-in-the-ass brother, to kick his ass, simpler. Thrumming his fingers on the steering wheel, he didn't realise he was pushing the Impala too much, breaking the town's speed limit at the same time, until the rattling in the dashboard became too loud. Slowing down, he caught side of a black car at the end of the nearby car park, whose driver was just sitting there, unmoving.

Heart clenching in his chest, he sped up, driving across empty parking lots, just intent on getting to his brother as fast as he could.

Jumping out of his car, he raced over. "Sam!"

Sam gave a start, blinking confusedly at him, as if seeing his brother race towards him was something too much for him to comprehend. "Dea-" He barely got the words out before warm arms crushed him against his brother's chest. He stiffened before relaxing into the embrace.

"God, Sammy, I thought...I'm sorry, I shouldn't have let you go on alone. You...Are you alright?" Pulling back from his brother, Dean scrutinised his face. Pale, worn, with red-rimmed eyes. As Sam nodded tiredly, he hugged him once more. He could care less that he had just initiated this whole chick flick moment as Sam sagged against him, seeming to need the closeness as much as he did.

"Dean, I thought you weren't coming. What about Lisa and Ben?"

"She knew we both needed this. She packed my bag for me." He smiled sheepishly, nodding towards the Impala. "I'm coming with you."

"Oh." Sam uttered softly, before the tears started leaking out again. "Thanks."

Feeling the front of his shirt grow wet, he brushed Sam's hair gently from his face. It had grown longer, and coarser, as though taking care of it was the last thing on Sam's agenda. It probably was, looking at the state of him. New scars decorating his arm and a bruise on his forehead that was initially covered by his fringe.

"Dude, what the hell happened to you?"

"I don't know. Something sprung me from the cage, and everything's been cold and hollow ever since. Myself included. I don't know what's happening, everything's a mess, I don't know what's going on...I don't...It's...It's scaring me." Sam admitted hollowly as his breathing quickened.

"It's ok Sam, we're going to find out what happened, and I'll take care of it. That's my job right? Looking after my idjit of a kid brother?" He tried for a little joke as he ran his fingers through his brother's long, floppy hair till Sam relaxed again.

A small smile grew on Sam's face as he leaned against Dean, breathing in the faint smell of cologne and gunpowder that had always clung to his jacket no matter how many times he washed it. "Thanks," he breathed quietly, feeling a soft glow within that chased the chill and the darkness away.

Thanks for always being there for me.

Review! :)