Summary: AU tag to 1.01 – Dean's POV – The next thing I knew, I had an armful of little brother. And that's when I smelled that smell again – that smell of smoke and fire...and blood.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warnings: I think there's one f-bomb...maybe two. Plus, there's a character death at the end...and not just the usual one associated with the pilot episode.


I woke up wondering what was real – is it what you see and touch, or what you feel? ~ Faith Hill


I've decided to go ahead and write this down.

Maybe if I do, it'll make sense.

It began the night before last.

Frustrated by a case that just wouldn't come together and by information that just didn't make sense, I found myself sitting alone in a dark motel room; alternately staring at an illuminated laptop screen and the various papers spread around me on the small table...but not really seeing any of it.

It was late – already past midnight – and although I was used to the exhaustion and the loneliness and the long hours required by a hunter's life, it all suddenly seemed too much; too heavy to carry by myself.

Especially now that Dad was gone.

I sighed and picked up my phone from the table, checking the messages just to be sure Dad hadn't called.

He hadn't...which was beginning to worry me.

Because while it wasn't unusual for Dad to be away for several days on a solo hunt, it was unusual for him to not at least check in with me.

So that meant...what?

Was Dad in some kind of trouble?

I sighed and glanced back at the laptop and papers scattered on the table, knowing I couldn't concentrate on the case because I was distracted by whatever was going on with Dad...wherever he was.

I leaned forward, my elbows propped on the table, and rubbed my face with both hands; trying to remember anything Dad had said before he had left a few days ago; anything that might could give a clue as to where he was now or what might be going on.

But as I continued to sit there, another person came to mind – Sam.

Because he would know.

My kid brother would know how to process the research and the clues. He would know how to make it make sense. He would know how to manipulate it and explain it and use it to help us solve this case...and maybe find Dad in the process.

But it wasn't just that; it wasn't just the case.

Sam had been gone for almost four years – and I missed him.

I missed him so fucking much.

I missed him more now than I did those first few weeks after he had left for Stanford, and I didn't even think that was possible.

But it was.

I missed my geeky, moody, pain in the ass little brother.

And regardless of what Sam's reaction would be tomorrow, I couldn't wait to see him – even if I was a day late in getting here.

Not that Sam would know I was behind schedule.

Hell, he didn't even know I was here.

I smiled at the thought and glanced back at my phone; wondering if I should call him; if I should tell Sam that I was in California; that I was literally a couple hours away from Palo Alto...or if I should stick with my original plan of just showing up on his doorstep.

It wasn't like I didn't know where Sam lived; I had been by that apartment complex more times than I could count to check on the kid over the past few years. Always out of sight – out of sight, out of mind – but close enough to make sure Sam was okay; and close enough to check out the hot blond chick my little brother was shacking up with.

I chuckled and shook my head.

Ah, Sammy...

But my amusement quickly faded when I considered Sam's reaction to my impromptu visit; to the news of Dad being gone; and to me wanting Sam to come back and help me find him.

I sighed, overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions and possibilities and reality.

Finally at some point, I shut down the laptop, abandoned the scattered papers, and went to bed.

I remember having just closed my eyes when I first sensed it – a single strong whiff of that hard-to-explain smell that comes after a fire has been extinguished; a mix of smoke and ash and loss.

I instantly sat up, more attuned than most to any indication of a fire, and listened intently.

But there was no sound.

And then suddenly there was; light steps and a rattle of the motel doorknob as the lock was picked.

Before I could reach for my knife or even get out of bed, the door opened.

And there he stood.

Even deep in the shadows, even after almost four years, I could tell it was Sam.

He stood there; one hand on the doorknob, the other running through his floppy hair.

I was happy to see him – ecstatic to see him – but the hunter in me was immediately suspicious.

Because how did I know this was really my brother?

I hadn't talked to the kid in years; Sam didn't even know I was on this side of the country; and now he suddenly appears in my motel room doorway in the middle of the night?

I pushed back the sheets and swung my legs over the side of the bed but didn't stand; my hand reaching under my pillow just in case.

"Sam?" I called to him.

Sam looked at me but didn't say anything.

Instead, he looked over his shoulder as if listening to someone else.

But I could neither see nor hear anyone but the two of us.

There was silence.

Sam then came into the room, shutting the door and crossing to sit on the edge of the bed next to me.

My grip reflexively tightened on my knife, still hidden under my pillow; even though I somehow knew this was not a shifter or any other supernatural being.

It was my kid brother.

It was Sam sitting beside me.

But still...

"Sam..." I tried again.

Sam stared at me, his eyes wide and scared. "I need to talk to you."

His voice trembled as he spoke and with the long held instinct of being a big brother, I immediately released my knife and reached for Sam instead; lightly squeezing the back of his neck; just like always...just like there weren't four years of silence and separation between us.

"Sure, Sammy," I told him. "But you know you could've called, right?"

I chuckled, and the corner of Sam's mouth twitched in a smile.

"I know," he agreed. "But I wanted to see you. I had to see you."

I smiled. "It's funny you say that. I was coming to see you later today."

Sam shook his head. "You'll be too late."

I frown. That was a strange thing to say.

"What?" I asked him.

Sam shook his head again.

I decided to let it go. "Anyway...looks like you beat me to the visit first." I paused. "But how did you know I was even here?"

Sam shrugged and smiled a little, blinking against the sudden moisture in his eyes. "Guess I'm a hunter after all."

His answer surprised me and the way he said it – smiling through welling tears – felt like a punch in the stomach.

There came again that smell of smoke and fire, only stronger now; and then something even stronger than that –the coppery tang of blood in the air.

Sensing that Sam was hurt, I reached to turn on the lamp sitting between the beds.

But Sam grabbed my hand and shook his head.

My heart slammed in my chest.

"Sam. What's wrong?"

He said nothing; only continued to smile through his tears.

...which only served to freak me out even more.

"Sam?"

Then suddenly, in halting phrases, his story came out; of how the glory of escaping the hunter's life had not been what he had thought it would be; of how college was hard and "normal" was even harder; of how he had missed me; of how he had almost called me every single day for the past four years; of how sorry he was that he never did; of how he hoped I could forgive him.

And then Sam fell strangely silent.

I sat stunned and silent myself and gently squeezed the back of Sam's neck again; unable to find the words to respond but knowing that my kid brother would be soothed by touch; especially to my touch.

And I was right.

The next thing I knew, I had an armful of little brother.

Sam crumpled against me like he did when he was a kid and was upset or scared, and I could feel him trembling beneath my arms as I held him; his tears dampening my shirt as he clung to me.

A little unnerved – and yet strangely at peace – I rubbed Sam's back and then rested my chin on his head; figuring explanations could wait until later.

Because right now, Sam just needed me to be what I always was – his big brother.

So, we sat that way – him against me.

And that's when I smelled that smell again – that smell of smoke and fire...and blood.

"Sam..." I called softly. "Are you hurt?"

He said nothing but tightened his grip around me, burying his face in my chest.

And while I knew I should, but I didn't have the heart to push Sam back to see if he was injured.

Because it felt good to have him here; not only at "home" but here...right here with me.

Finally, Sam's tears stopped; but he didn't pull away from me as I figured he would.

Again I asked him if he was alright.

"Please, Dean," he said quietly, and I heard the lingering tears in his voice. "I just want to stay here for a while. I know it's childish and girly and all those other things you like to tease me about...but just...please?"

I was speechless.

I couldn't remember the last time my little brother had needed me as a sanctuary – and it felt so damn good to be needed again; to be Sam's protector; to be whatever the kid needed me to be.

So, I sat there; feeling Sam's body warm against mine, and the gentle rise and fall of his chest as his breathing steadied.

There were so many things I wanted to ask him, to tell him – but I didn't.

I stayed quiet, realizing what I had always known: words weren't needed between us.

Before the sun began to color the sky outside the motel room window, Sam stirred just a little and then pressed his cheek over my heart.

"I don't want you to get all weird about this..." he said, and this time I heard a faint smile in his voice. "...but I love you, Dean. And I've missed you. And although I'm sorry things turned out the way they did, I still appreciate everything you've ever done for me."

I was again stunned; too overwhelmed with emotion to speak.

Because where was this coming from?

"Sam – "

"I mean it," Sam interrupted and shifted against me. "Thank you."

I swallowed. "You're welcome."

Sam nodded; his head still on my chest. "Promise you'll remember."

I frowned. This all sounded so final.

And I didn't like it.

"Sam..."

"Promise me, Dean."

There was a beat of silence.

"I promise," I finally told him – because I'm always making promises to Sam – and then tightened my hold around my brother; still a little confused by the turn of events over the past half hour but thankful that Sam was back; hopeful that I could convince him to stay.

Sam took a deep breath and then let it out slowly.

I looked down at him, and Sam smiled a little before closing his eyes.

But his smile remained – content, safe, at home – and it warmed me; made me feel content, safe, and at home, too.

A few minutes later, I fell asleep.

When I awoke around noon the next day, Sam was gone.

I immediately looked to the bed next to mine, to the small table across the room, to the open bathroom door.

But Sam was just gone.

Slightly panicked, I reached for my phone and was about to dial Sam's number when the phone rang in my hand; Bobby's name flashing on the small illuminated screen.

"Yeah..." I answered distractedly, wondering where the hell Sam went as I crossed to my duffel and began to pull out clothes.

"Have you seen the News?" Bobby asked me, and something in his tone made my heart stutter to a stop.

"No," I told him warily, already reaching for the remote and turning on the television. "Why?"

Bobby didn't answer.

He didn't have to.

By the time I found the local News channel, the story told itself.

A fire at an apartment complex in Palo Alto near the Stanford campus.

The entire complex a complete loss.

Several injured; several more dead.

And then there they were – small photos of the deceased all lined up across the screen.

Including...

I shook my head as Sam's smiling face looked back at me. It was a photo I had never seen – probably his student ID – but unmistakably him...bright eyes, dimpled smile, floppy hair; my kid...my little brother...my Sammy.

And beside him, a photo of that blond chick he was living with.

Both gone.

Gone.

"Dean..." Bobby called over the phone, and I could hear the worry in his voice.

But I didn't answer.

I just kept staring at Sam's face.

"I was coming to see you later today," I had told him last night.

"You'll be too late," Sam had answered.

You'll be too late.

Because Sam had known.

Because it was already too late by then; only I didn't know it yet.

"Dean..." Bobby said again, and I hung up on him.

The next 48 hours passed in a blur.

The news spread like wildfire; people – other hunters...but not Dad – called with their condolences.

Pastor Jim.

Caleb.

Ellen and Jo.

Even some friend of Bobby's named Rufus.

"You're taking this well."

It was a remark I heard more than once...more than twice.

But how could I tell them?

How could I explain the strange peace I felt?

I couldn't.

I couldn't then; I can't now; and I doubt I ever will.

But, like I said earlier, maybe putting this down will help.

I don't know how...but maybe.

Because I know – without a doubt – that through time and space, Sam reached out to me; that in his final moments, my little brother sought his big brother.

I know it.

Sam was as real to me that night as the paper I write this on; as the ink I use; as the tears I've cried.

He was not a ghost or a spirit...or whatever some other hunters would call it.

No.

In his last moments, Sam was here...with me.

And I know what you're thinking – that this is crazy.

"Don't you know your brother is dead?"

Yes.

Believe me...I know it.

I know Sammy is dead because I held him while he died.


FIN