"Are you prepared to return?" Castiel asked the brothers. He'd been standing out of their view for just a few minutes, feeling that it was necessary to give them their privacy. But it seemed, now, that Dean had managed to convince Sam that this nightmare was not reality. It was a good time to get out of there, especially after the things Castiel had come across in his detour through Sam's other nightmares.

Dean stood, bringing Sam up with him. "Yeah, Cas. We're good to go," he told the angel. "When we're back, can you and Bobby give us a minute?"

"You wish to confer with Sam, alone?" he verified.

"Yes, please."

"Very well," the angel agreed, then placed his hands on their shoulders.

Dean suddenly found himself looking up at the ceiling from his place lying on the floor. He turned his head, noting Castiel was leading Bobby out of the room, then pushed himself up from the floor and turned to his brother, who was still lying on his back on the couch.

But once Sam caught sight of Dean, he pushed himself up off of the couch and pulled his brother into a real embrace. "That was real, right?" Sam asked. "What just happened in the dream..."

"Yeah, Sammy," Dean replied, returning the embrace just as tightly. And suddenly, all the images returned to him from earlier; Sam holding that gun to his head... Sam showing him his bloody wrists in the dream... "Never do that to me again," he wanted to shout, but it came out as a broken sob, and he held him tighter, to ensure his tortured eyes could remain unseen.

Sam's face scrunched a bit at the pain in his brother's voice. "I'm sorry, Dean," he told him. "The dreams...they just seemed so...real."

"I don't care!" he pulled away, looking Sam in the eyes. "I don't care how real or logical anything might ever seem to you, Sam! You never...never try and do that again..."

"Dean...I'm sorry. I won't. I promise, I won't ever..."

"I mean, what the hell?" he raised his brows. "Even if I had hated you, which wouldn't happen, why the hell would you..." he couldn't even bring himself to finish the question. "Why? When you could go off and live your own life...make something for yourself!"

Sam narrowed his eyes before opening them again and raising his brow. "Why would I kill myself?" he asked in a low voice. Dean just glared at him. Sam sunk back down to sit on the couch; eyes darting around the room. "I've tried...life without you, Dean," he told him. That was true on several occasions. One, he was fairly sure Dean would never know about; at the mystery spot, when Dean died that last time, and was gone for six months. His life during that half of a year was methodical and mechanical and...farther from living than he could ever have imagined at that point.

Neither of them could forget the other time, when Dean went to Hell those four months. Well, four for Sam, anyway.

And of course, life away from Dean voluntarily. Thinking it'd be safer for everyone that way, and having left him in order to stay out of the life of hunting. It just...wasn't meant to be, clearly. He'd been miserable.

"I don't know how to explain it," Sam continued. "We're not like other people, obviously. But as a family, we're really not like anyone else, either. We're more than that, Dean. It's...probably weird, I guess. It's like I'm not whole when you're gone. I can't...be here if you're not here with me... There's no apple pie life for either of us, and hunting is just a part of that."

Dean had listened, speechless at first; baffled by what his brother was telling him. "That's not true, Sam. You can't stand around thinkin' if one of us goes, we're both screwed."

"Oh really?" Sam cocked his head and furrowed his brow. "Then why did you make that crossroads deal?"

"That was different..."

"How? How is that different, Dean?" Sam asked. Dean's eyes darted around. "It's not different at all," Sam continued. "Face it; as chick-flick as it might sound," he said with a slight smirk, "It's a fact..."

He didn't need to say it. They didn't like life without the other around. They didn't do life very well, when the other wasn't in it. Sam, especially, didn't like who he was, without his brother in his life. There was no going back to his old life. Hell, there never really was a real life back there; just deception and lies and inevitability. He'd been lying to himself, back then; thinking he could have what he'd wanted: normalcy. Or at least, that's what he'd thought he'd wanted. Really, he just didn't want to be what fate had laid out for him to be. But there was no way out of that. There was twisting and changing of the destination; but no real escape from the path. He'd come to terms with that, though. As long as he could walk that path with his brother.

Dean knew, all too well, what Sam had meant. As much as he longed to deny it, he was right; there was no way he'd have been able to go on without his little brother. If that demon hadn't been willing to make the deal, he would've gone back to that shack and ended his own life, right beside him.

What a completely messed up, terrifying freaking thought... But those were the facts.

Dean didn't have a return argument. What he had was a grim and horrific sense of acceptance that he hoped to God would never again be back on the table.

He met Sam's eyes, let out a long breath, and nodded shortly to him, "Alright, Sammy... What say we change the channel on this chick-flick, then. Want a beer?"

Sam crinkled his nose, attempting, but failing, not to smile at Dean's desperation to change the subject. "Sure..." he stood and followed Dean to Bobby's kitchen.

"So, you're feelin' okay, then?" he asked as he opened the fridge.

"Yeah, actually," Sam replied. "I'm glad Cas showed up, for more than the obvious reason. It would've taken weeks to get back to walking normally, after my hip..."

"You remember that?" Dean turned around, holding two bottles of beer, and stood there for a moment, waiting for his response.

"'Course," Sam replied, as if it were a silly question. "I remember everything, Dean. Did you really think I wouldn't?"

"I dunno," Dean finally stepped forward and handed him one of the bottles. "Guess I figured the meds woulda made it a bit hazy, at least. Or maybe...you'd remember what I told you after that first nightmare."

Sam held Dean's eyes as he opened his beer. "I...It's not that I didn't remember what you said, Dean," he said in a lower voice. "But...when you were...standing there, telling me how much you hated me; how much you wanted nothing more to do with me; that we...that we weren't brothers anymore..." his voice cracked, still affected by what had played out in his nightmare, even though he now knew it wasn't real. "I couldn't really think about anything but that..."

Dean appraised his younger brother who was still shaken by the memories of his night terrors. He wasn't sure how to feel, knowing how easily his own words could affect him, if he someday chose to misuse them. Though he hadn't been the one to actually say them, he felt extremely guilty.

"You know...I hope you'll remember from now on," Dean began, "That I'd never say those things to you. I'd never feel that way, Sam. I know that you'd never do what your dream showed you doing to me in Hell...so, stop dwelling in that, too."

"You didn't think I'd ever do what I did with Ruby, either, though," Sam said in a small voice. "And before you say, 'That was different,' it wasn't, really... I thought I was doing something good...in the long-run of things. Even if it seemed wrong at the time. I mean, I knew what I was doing wasn't good. But it was helping me to do something I thought was good... What my dream showed me doing to you in Hell...I believed it. That's because the explanation it gave seemed just as messed up as what I'd done with Ruby in the first place. And in a manner of speaking, I did hurt you, while you were in Hell. I hurt you when you came back, too. I lied to you over and over...and I refused to listen to you, when you were right the whole time.

So yeah, I'm kinda dwelling in it, Dean. I don't deserve your trust," his eyes welled and his voice shook a bit. "I have been a thorn in your side. Sometimes...sometimes I do think you'd be better off without me."

"Shut up, Sam," Dean nearly shouted. "Just shut the hell up, right now. We just established the fact that I wouldn't be."

"I know."

"Then you'll stop thinkin' that, right?" it was more of an order than a question.

"I'm not gonna kill myself, Dean. I told you that," he scoffed, smiling slightly; making light of the topic.

"No, it's not just enough that you're tellin' me you won't," Sam argued, furrowing his brow. "If you let that stay in your head like that, do you have any idea how easy it'll be for some thing to come along and twist the truth around? Make it a helluva lot easier to get rid of us? I mean...God Sam..." he set his beer down and ran frustrated hand into his hair as he paced. "I've gotta accept this completely messed up way we've got of thinking. But this is..." he stopped, and his eyes darted around as he dropped his hands to his sides. "We've gotta at least promise to gives things some time; ya know, make sure everything is real, before takin' that next step into absolute hopelessness."

"You're putting rules and requirements on our suicidal tendencies?" Sam smirked up at his brother, with a quirked brow.

Dean picked up a dish-towel and threw it at Sam's head. "Yes," he grunted. "You got a problem with that?"

Sam couldn't take the smile completely off his face, as he pulled the towel from where it landed on his shoulder, "Depends what they are, I guess."

"There's only one," Dean clarified. "Make absolute, one-hundred percent sure, without a single doubt in your mind, that there is absolutely no hope left, before jumpin' the damn gun." Pun intended, or not, the point was clear.

Sam dropped the smile, and put on a more serious face for his reply. "Okay. I can live with that." Pun...probably intended.

"Good," Dean picked up his beer again and held it out in front of him. Sam tapped it with his own bottle, and they made their pact. Though grim, and probably morbid to any normal person, it actually lifted a bit of weight from their shoulders.

Dean moved to sit in the chair at the table, across from Sam, as they drank the rest of their beer in contemplative silence. Tomorrow, they'd pack up their things and be back on the road like nothing had ever happened there. All they'd leave with, was knowing a little more about each other, and a lesson having been learned. That was true for pretty much every place they'd ever ended up in.

That was probably how every place they'd end up in from here on out would end, too.

But for now, they sat and enjoyed each others company for what it was worth. Only, now they knew it was worth a helluva lot more than they'd known it was before. As long as they traveled the inevitable road of horrors that lay ahead, those horrors would be a little less terrifying; a little more bearable, because they'd be traveling it together.

That carried a lot of meaning, before.

Now, maybe, it carried a lot more...


A/N: Thanks, so much, for joining me and supporting me through this story :). You all are very awesome~ I appreciate your reviews/comments more than I can say. I hope you'll join me for the next one...

On another note, please find me on Facebook, Xenascully, and check out the Supernatural and NCIS Fandom convention we're throwing here in VA, for fanfiction authors and readers to meet and greet! We've got so much planned, and it's going to be a blast, as well as raise money for charity! :). We're planning an awards ceremony for stories we'll all be voting on, and there will be catered food, activities, cosplay, etc...just a ton of fun; as much as I can squeeze out of the cover-charge budget ;). Check it out! And I hope you'll join us! :D