"Dude, stop looking like such a sad freakin' puppy."

The instruction was sent from a rickety old wooden chair; a chair that had a stake claimed on it as soon as the item of furniture had been swung around and both of the occupants legs had found position either side of the backrest. Sam was seated with his back propped up against the headboard of his motel bed, and from Dean's position, the expression which he has chosen to bitch about was especially prominent.

The furrow of Sam's eyebrows deepened slightly as he absorbed Dean's words, and a a grimace crossed his expression as he lifted his head to glance towards the older guy.

"It's meltin' my heart," Dean spoke as soon as he realised the eyes were on him, "Quit it."

Sam heard the complaint from his brother's mouth, watched the lips move to release the sound, but failed to respond. He dropped his head back to its original position and proceeded to take his stare back to his hands.

"If anything," Dean spoke pointedly, propping both elbows atop of the unstable backrest, "I should be the one sitting here all pissed."

"I've already said I'm sorry." Sam sighed with an air of honesty, taught cheeks pulling into dimples with the action but eyes not shifting to gain contact. "And I am. Sorry."

"S'ok, Sammy." Dean shrugged, held his left hand up to catch a glint of sunlight in order to visually examine the swelling and bruising that surrounded his index and middle fingers. "That wasn't exactly the point."

"Then what was the point?" Sam mumbled, leaning his head back against the headboard and closing his eyes.

"You. Being all pissy. I don't get it."

"I'm tired." Sam shrugged, "It's a bad day, that's all."

"'A bad day'?" Dean repeated slowly, poking at the two fingers that had been splinted together, and allowing a hiss to be dragged from behind his teeth. "What has even happened today? As far as I'm aware, we've just been sitting on our asses doing... let me think... nothing."

Sam just shook his head, "Dean." He sighed again. "There's nothing wrong."

"You're forgetting that I know you, Sam." Dean let out a dry chuckle. "You're forgetting that I saw your face when you got that college acceptance e-mail. You're forgetting that I was with you when Dad died. I know you inside and out, and y'know what? I know when you're pissy." He pulled back an elbow, pointed his good hand, "You're being pissy, an' if I'm going to be sitting around with you, you'd better tell me why."

Sam's chest heaved and then dropped as he inhaled deeply and shook his head in submission. "But won't saying it out loud just add another scratch?"

The bitch was being sarcastic, and yeah, now it was time for Dean to be pissed off.

"I only ever say it because..." Dean blinked in shock, mouthed a barely audible "fuck" before carrying on. "Jesus Christ, Sam. You say those words like it's a joke."

Sam didn't provide a verbal response to that one either, he merely shrugged his shoulders and tilted his head towards the ceiling.

"Look," Dean grumbled as he began to pluck at straws,"It wasn't your fault that I busted my fingers. I choose to punch that guy, remember?" A slight smirk fell upon his lips, the wad of cash in his pocket letting him know that it was so worth it.

"I don't even know why we went hustling, Dean." Sam's voice rose slightly as he spoke. "Since when do we still do that?"

"I'd had a few drinks, felt the liquor flowing. For old times sake, y'know? It felt right."

"Liquor." Sam let out a tight scoff as his gaze shifted to his brother. "It's not good for you."

Dean coughed to clear his throat, "We got some cash, didn't we? No harm no foul."

Sam just shook his head again - when his brother had an answer for everything, especially when he was feeling too down to argue, there was literally no point in a conversation.

"That doesn't explain why you've been pissy all morning." Dean pressed, "I know the soul deal just as well as you do, but haven't spent every day moping. Something's different. Something's up."

"Why don't you go and get some breakfast, Dean?" Sam replied with another sigh, blinked to rid the tiredness from his eyes. "Coffee would be nice."

No way, little brother, not leaving you alone to wallow and scratch.

"C'mon then." Dean replied instantly as he begun to pry his butt up from the hard chair, paying due attention to his sore fingers, "I saw a diner a couple of blocks back."

"I had a flashback, all right?"

That caused Dean to halt in his movement.

"A flashback?" He repeated slowly, letting the words roll off his tongue in waves, "Of what?" His question was tentative and left him praying for the best out of two options.

"It was broken up." Sam shook his head, "I have no idea where I was. Just that I was alone and in a bar some place."

Dean let out the breath he'd be unconsciously holding. "A bar, Sammy? We've been to hundreds of bars. No big."

"I know that. It's just..." Sam raised a hand to his head, let long fingers scrape through his dark hair, "If I hadn't been blinking back that image I'd have shoved you out of the way before that guy..."

"I didn't hurt myself being pushed over, Sam." Dean shook his head, strangely proud of his injured fingers even if it only proved that he'd got in a good hit, "That's not a concern. Flashbacks though, man... they only go as far back at the beginning of the year, right?"

Sam nodded, his lip caught between a row of teeth as they lightly bit down, "Yeah. Besides, from the last time, I don't think I'd be able to shake it off."

Dean shuddered inwardly but nodded his head regardless of his disdain to the event in question. "I hate thinking about all of this crap."

"Me too."

"It's not going to do either of us any good to mope around all day, Sam." Dean shook his head and followed through the action of pulling himself up. "Let's go get breakfast."

Sam looked towards his brother, and felt the genuine effort it took to pull up the lopsided smile. "Yeah." He nodded, "I do need that coffee."

Dean realised that his brother was probably just giving in to him now, to stop the argument and to make life easier, but it was better than nothing. As he rose to his feet, he realised how much of a hindrance his splinted fingers were going to be. He kicked his boots over to his feet and just about managed to force his feet in, but the laces were definitely beyond the effort of jarring those fingers.

Without being asked, Sam had already gotten up and was crouching down, tightly lacing the boots with adept fingers. He looked up at Dean when he was done, a smile twitching the corner of his lips.

"Will you forgive me?"

"For this..." Dean held up his aching hand, "Not your fault. For being a sulky four year old? I suppose I can wing forgiveness your way."

Sam nodded at the words and pushed himself up to his full height. He wordlessly slipped his own feet into the running shoes that had lay next to Dean's all night.

Although Sam had expressed his concerns, he was still looking like a sad puppy, and it struck Dean right in the chest. They needed to find a distraction, a good hunt, but nothing was so forthcoming.

"I'll speak to Bobby later." Dean nodded to himself as he shrugged on a jacket, mindful of his permanently extended fingers, "See if he can hit us up with a case."

Sam nodded in response, but Dean knew his mind was not in it.

"That cool with you?" He asked quietly, tilting his head to one side whilst waiting for an answer.

Sam nodded in response but again kept any words to himself.

"C'mon, Sam." Dean shook his head, balled a fist and faux-punched his brother's shoulder. "Cheer up."

He knew Sam was finding it difficult to cope, with the guilt, with the idea of all the things he's done and all the things he hasn't. He feels like he's losing him. Getting drunk, hustling... he knows it's all because he wants to do things they used to while they still can. Sam's slipping away, slowly, but it's happening. He's becoming withdrawn, quiet, sad. There's nothing he can do. It seems as though his own psyche is destroying him rather than the wall as everybody had feared.

"It's just a bad day." Sam repeats, sighing again and shaking his head. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault." Dean shakes his head, picking up his brothers jacket and handing it to him. "C'mon. We'll get breakfast and then we'll, I don't know, go to the library or something."

A flicker crossed Sam's eyes, and Dean could tell that the suggestion had struck a chord. It was still Sam, and he damn well intended for it to stay that way.

"How does that sound?"

Dean was not prepared for the answer to be in the form of physical contact, and as Sam made a step to close the gap between them and extended his oversized arms, Dean's eyebrows raised in surprise.

"Woah." Dean chuckled as the arms wrapped around his shoulders and he fought to pull his own arms free to reciprocate the embrace. "It's just the library, Sam, we can go whenever the hell you want."

"It's getting harder." Sam mumbled, back arched and face buried against the side of his brother's head. "I'm trying to be normal, I really am."

Dean pulled in a deep inhale and then let it out slowly, "Sammy." He whispered, let the good hand rub the jacket-covered shoulders, scoured to find words to follow through his whisper but failed. He could feel Sam's breath hitching and knew that when they pulled apart he'd see the glisten of tears.

"Sorry." Sam's soft voice was there again, "So sorry."

Dean could feel his own chest tightening, but they didn't need this. Not today. So he pulled back, felt Sam slump a little as the contact dissipated.

"Coffee and the hunt." He spoke a little louder, straightening up his jacket. "Today's a good day, Sam."

The tears were there, glistening across eyelashes and beginning descent down tanned cheeks, but Sam didn't brush them away. He just nodded.

"Sorry." He murmured as Dean's retreating back halted at the motel door and then carried on to the Impala.

If Sam had been in front, he would have seen a similar glisten in his brother's eyes. But Dean didn't want him to see that. He needed to be strong enough for the both of them