A.N.: Well here we are, at the end of this tale. I can't begin to thank you for every single kind word you guys have bestowed on me. I'm THRILLED beyond words that so many of you liked this. :-D I hope you enjoy the ending as well. Oh and the man that is referred to as Dean's hero later in this chapter is John making this set in S2, I just didn't want there to be any confusion. :D Thanks again guys, really and truly. *hugs*

-Becky

Disclaimer: It's not mine.

Sam drifts from the sleeping world into the waking world with a muted twitch of his limbs, a garbled 'Dean' making its way from his nightmares to echo out in the room.

He blinks once, slowly, allowing the lift of his lids to take away the ghastly images that were painted behind them just moments before.

"Dean," he calls out, reaching over to pat around the other bed.

His pupils narrow as he hones in on the bed opposite of him….the empty bed.

He drags his hands across his eyes and scans the rest of the room. Empty.

"Dean?" he starts, fighting down the upsurge of dread that vies for dominance in his scattered mind.

Just chill out Sam, he's probably in the bathroom, or went for a walk, or…

"Dean!" He yells, caught off guard by the sudden fear that plagues him.

His body moves on its own as he tosses the bathroom door to the side, privacy be damned.

Nothing. It's empty.

"Goddammit Dean." He hisses as he slams the door shut and pivots back to face the room.

He's starting to freak out.

Dean is hurt, Dean is traumatized, Dean is gone.

"Fuck," the younger Winchester mutters, throwing his arms into his jacket as he looks around the room for some sort of note.

Nothing. The room is void of any sign of his brother. His 'extremely fucked up, better be okay or he's going to kill him' brother.

His pants go on in one quick motion as he flips open his cell phone and dials his brothers number. He pounds a fist into the frame of the door as it immediately goes to voicemail.

"Dean, it's me. Look I don't know where you went and I really don't care, call me back and let me know you're okay."

He scrolls down the contact list to Bobby.

He hand grips the knob as he lets the door fly open, his fingers shift on the phone to press send when he sees it.

It's barely noticeable in the dark, cooling night, but unmistakable once he realizes its origin.

He sees the top of a head, with the signature mussed up hairstyle he has spent years committing to memory.

It's a feature he could pick out in a crowd of hundreds.

Dean.


He stomps over to the Impala, fully prepared to shake some sense back into his brother, maybe cash in that bitchy lecture that he had forgone on the trip to the hospital, but the appearance of the other man stops him cold.

He looks so small, huddled under his jacket like it is the only thing protecting him from the outside world.

Gone is the bravado that his brother usually decorates himself in, worn with pride like a war metal.

Gone is the sarcasm and insults that he hides his insecurities and flaws behind.

Gone is the fire that Sam could have sworn radiated from within his brother from the day he was born.

His heart softens at the sight of his brother looking so vulnerable and he can see that his amulet is cradled gently in his limp hand.

"Oh Dean," he whispers, overcome by love and loyalty as he stares at his brother. His brother who had just been through the most horrific experience of his fairly horrific life after being prematurely robbed of the man who had always been his hero.

Christ, can they not catch a break?

He sighs and gathers his coat tighter around him as he slides down by the tire to the side of where Dean is resting.

The air whips around them in a hushed whimper as Sam closes his eyes and lets the relief of his brother being there and on the mend, and alive wash over him.

He's blinking back hot tears and swallowing the sob that is crammed in his throat when a soft voice mumbles. "Sammy?"

He cranes his head towards the hood of the car.

"That you?"

"Yeah," Sam begins, hurrying to his feet to assure Dean that the presence he sensed was not a volatile one. "It's me."

Dean nods as he pushes up on his elbows and switches the jacket from his front to his back.

Sam notices that his hands are trembling as they appear out of the sleeves of the jacket and he spies the Impala's keys dangling from the ignition.

Suddenly finding Dean camped out on the hood of his car starts to make sense.

"Fucking cold out," Dean mutters expelling a shaky breath.

"Yeah, it is. What are you doing out here man?"

Dean's face floods with shame and fear moments before he turns it into the wind.

Sam waits, resisting the urge to reach out to his brother, knowing that when Dean gets like this any touch has the same effect as a match to a powder keg.

"I just..." Dean sighs, his breath wobbling as it leaks out of his lips in a visible puff of air. "I can't sleep Sam."

The confession hangs in the air between them as Dean's shoulders slump in defeat.

"Yeah," Sam starts, leaning forward on the door of the Impala. "The beds here are shit dude; I couldn't get any sleep either."

The eldest Winchester's head swivels toward him, shame, guilt and terror slowly but surely being replaced with gratitude and affection and a hint of his trademark smirk.

"Every time you pick the hotel Sammy, I end up missing out on my beauty sleep." He grits out.

Sam chuckles. "And from the looks of it you really need it."

"Shut up. I'm gorgeous." he groans, sliding off the hood.

Sam eases the passenger side door of the Impala open. "The important thing is that you believe that. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm starving." He states, plopping down in the seat.

He leans his head out the window to toss Dean a winning smile.

"It's four am Sam."

"Truck stop diner?"

"Pancakes?" His older brother inquires, his hand resting on the door handle.

Sam can see the uncertainty hidden in the lines on his older siblings face.

"Yeah Dean," He pushes the door open for the other man as an invitation for him to take his rightful place behind the wheel. "Pancakes."

His hand runs along the edge of the door as if he is reacquainting himself with his baby, the look on his face as close to reverence as he has ever seen.

Dean beams as he folds into the driver's seat of the Impala with a contented sigh, fingers curling around the jiggling keys.

He guns the engine with a soft smile before he turns to pop Sam on the shoulder.

"Thanks bro."

Sam smiles at the look of genuine happiness on his older brothers face. "It's just pancakes dude, don't get all emotional on me."

The rumble of the Impala booms in unison with its owner's laughter as he throws the car in reverse.