Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Author's Note: This story follows Season 7's "Party on, Garth". I had good intensions to have a good chunk of this story written before I posted it, but I just got anxious to get some feedback. So, as is my usual practice, this story will be a work in process. I'll post updates when I can and rely on your generous reviews to keep my muse alive.

Summary: For Dean and Sam the only thing harder than staying together…is being forced to be apart.


Chapter 1


Dean leaned against the side of the '75 Ford Pinto, tried to make his pose seem causal instead of what it was, him rooting himself into the spot with no intentions to move. Regardless of that imploring look Sam was giving him. "Why are we here?"

Shifting on his feet in front of his brother, Sam exhaled, then calmly managed, "You know why."

Dean's eyes flared with anger that seeped from his next words. "Yeah, and I said no, Sam." Didn't know how many times he had said it since the topic had come up but apparently Sam's hearing must have been affected by his brother's hangover.

"Dean, we talked about this…" Sam nearly whined.

"You talked and I said no. No friggin' way," Dean shot back, pushing off the Pinto to come to stand toe to toe with Sam. "I am not leaving Bobby's flask in some ….some storage unit where someone could steal it."

Sam couldn't hold back his smirk. "Dean, have you looked at the thing. No one's going to steal it."

"You're right, because it's staying with me. Now get in the car…" he ordered, started to walk around the car to claim the driver's seat. But Sam's hand wrapped around his bicep, the gesture alone stopping him. But just because Sam could stop him with just a touch, that didn't mean he could control him, that he had to look at Sam, to get browbeaten by the worried look he knew would be in his brother's eyes…if he dared to meet them. So instead he turned his head, read the storage unit's sign like he hadn't been there before, with their dad, with Sam….with Bobby once.

Knowing that it wasn't his strength keeping Dean in place but his brother's loyalty to him, Sam eased his grip but couldn't quite get himself to release his brother. This was too important to concede to Dean's wishes. Knowing that this wasn't an easy topic, was a painful request, Sam stepped closer to Dean, gentled his tone. "Dean, we need to be sure, do some tests. I'm not asking you to give up carrying the flask….just leave it here for a few days. And then if anything hinky happens, we know it's not tied to …." He didn't say Bobby's name, couldn't, not when Dean's head swiveled and his brother faced him, eyes pained.

"If you want me to get on the wagon, sign me up for AA, why didn't you just say so…" Dean joked, hoped to misdirect the conversation.

A misdirect that Sam winced at, because Dean's drinking, it scared him. Badly. Mostly because it felt like every time Dean took a swallow, he was shutting him out. Was silently screaming, 'I don't care!'. And Sam was terrified it meant more than Dean not caring about saving the world, was more about not caring to save himself. 'To save me, he digs up an Angel, but to save himself….' He bitterly began but pushed the thought away, of Cas, of the angel's sacrifice to save him, of Dean's sacrifice to seek help from someone who had hurt and betrayed him to the core. Alright, so maybe Dean's drinking was for another day's discussion.

Steeling himself, Sam decided to be direct. "You want to know if Bobby's here, right?" He didn't miss the twitch in his brother's frame, as if just the utterance of their surrogate father's name hurt Dean. It took more resolve than he almost had to continue, to press Dean into doing the last thing his brother wanted to: let the embers of his hope die. "Well….this is how we find out. We leave the flask here and pick it up after the job. Please Dean, I …I want to know. I miss him too and I want…."

But Dean gruffly cut Sam's words off, didn't think Sam felt what he felt, wouldn't make him do this if he did. "What are you going to give up?" That caught Sam off guard, had his brother tilting his head in confusion. "If I'm giving up Bobby's flask, you have to leave something here too." Sam opened his mouth but Dean was already restricting his choices, "And not your stupid laptop. Something sentimental, something that you can't stand to lose."

And that was as revealing as anything, was as willingly as Dean would ever be to admit how he felt about the flask now in his hands.

Dean's words, ' Can't stand to lose…' echoed in Sam's head and honestly, there was only one thing that fell into that category for him: And he was standing right in front of him. But there was something that came close, was tied irrevocably into that necessity.

Seeing the indecisiveness in Sam's features, Dean goaded, "Not so easy, is it, when the tables are turned. So you ready to throw in the towel and forgot about this?"

Dropping his hand from Dean's arm, Sam saw the relief start to wash over Dean's eyes right before he squashed it. "Fine, but I don't want to talk about it," he stated as a condition even as he crossed to the trunk, began routing into the depths of his clothing bag.

Dean turned to track his brother's motions. "Don't want to talk about what?"

Sam met Dean's eyes over the open truck lid. "Promise me that we'll wait to talk about this until this job is over."

Dean's brow creased, his instincts telling him that whatever rabbit Sam was about to pull out of his bag, he wasn't going to like it. "No. No, I'm not promising to not talk about whatever you don't want to talk about."

Giving Dean a frustrated glare, Sam huffed, "Dean, if you want me to do this…."

"I don't want to do any of this!" Dean shouted back, hand unconsciously fisting around Bobby's flask, to the only tangible tie he still had to the man who had been a second father to him. To a man that was gone and Sam wanted him to relinquish even his last keepsake of the man.

Eyes dropping to Dean's possessive grip on the flask, Sam felt his heart clench. He was being cruel, part of him knew that. But the bigger part of his soul, didn't care. Would be cruel if it meant Dean stayed with him, didn't get himself killed or wounded because he believed Bobby was around watching out for him, meant Dean didn't take some stupid risk to retrieve the flask if it got left behind one day…say in a burning building or something. No, Dean's attachment to the flask, Dean's tenacious faith that Bobby was tied to it, was there protecting him, it could cost Dean his life. And Sam wasn't going to let that happen.

Curling his own hand around the sentimental possession he had retrieved from his bag, Sam closed the trunk and headed for the storage unit door. But Dean stepped into his path.

"Show and tell, Sammy," Dean demanded, eyes holding Sam's eyes instead of trying to see what his brother was trying to hide in his hand.

And as much as Sam knew this day would come, he never saw it happening this way. Had wanted it to be under different circumstances, to be delivered with just the right words, words he hadn't yet figured out how to put together. Bracing himself, he met Dean's eyes and slowly opened his hand. He held his breath but his eyes never strayed from his brother, watched his brother's head bow as Dean's eyes dropped to what he held. Then he noted the tension that shot through his brother's frame.

Sam opened his mouth to make things alright but Dean never gave him the chance, never raised his eyes to him, simply turned on his heel, stalked to the storage unit, yanked open the door and disappeared inside. Silently, Sam cursed and closed his fist around the treasure in his hand: the necklace he had given Dean for Christmas when they were kids. The amulet that Dean had thrown away…and Sam had retrieved and kept close, even when he was running around Soulless. The unspoken symbol of their brotherhood.

It was the very last secret Sam had kept from Dean. Had kept it that way because he had been too afraid that Dean would deem it worthless all over again. And he couldn't bear that, to know that Dean had forgiven him so much but that they would never be the brothers that they once were, that they were twenty years ago. That he had destroyed that and there was no getting it back.


The ride into the small Midwest town of Cooper's Flat was quiet. Painfully so. Dean had not said one word since he had left Bobby's flask behind…right beside his discarded amulet. Well, that wasn't exactly true. He had said, "Don't" in that warning growl when Sam had uttered his name, needing, wanting to talk about what he said he didn't want to talk about. And Sam had choked off his explanation, had sat in silence in the passenger seat.

Their pit stop to get a motel room and change into their FBI suits was just as noiseless. Like two spirits sharing space but not willing or able to communicate with one another. And now here they were, walking into the rural police station, side by side, pretending to be FBI partners, just like they were pretending that there wasn't an emotional wall between them that even Death himself couldn't construct.

It was probably their worst performance ever. They spoke over each other, gave conflicting responses to the grey haired chief police's inquires and generally looked like two people who couldn't keep their lies straight. Chief Fox gave them a hard look before he said, "My ex-wife and I got along better than you two and we nearly killed one another. So either you're new partners or very old partners."

"Old…" Sam confidently announced even as Dean sheepishly said, "New." And then they glared at one another.

To the chief's credit, he laughed. "I don't know whether to call you on your con game or just be grateful someone wants to dig into this death, that frankly, has me a little freaked out."

Turning from Sam, Dean pulled on his professional tone. "Chief, I guess it's obvious that my partner and I have some issues to work out. We used to work together and then we had other partners for a while so we're trying to find our rhythm again, you know." He gave a smile to sell the lie.

The chief simply nodded, not necessarily in acceptance but a goad for Dean to keep talking.

Refusing to explain his relationship with Sam any further to a stranger, Dean steered the conversation back to the fatality. "Anyway, you have a dozen witnesses that saw the man got stabbed with a knife and then…caught on fire?" though he threw skepticism into the statement, he didn't doubt the facts.

"That's about the sum of it," the chief concurred, running a hand through his thick white hair. "It makes as much sense as any of this. Sure, Brendal and Josh has some issues, what brothers don't, especially trying to keep afloat their family restaurant. But Brendal attacking Josh? I never thought to see the day."

That statement hit too close for Sam and Dean. Had them both dropping their eyes to the ground to ensure they didn't have to look at one another. Sam looked up to the chief when the silence in the office went a beat beyond comfortable. "So no sibling rivalry? Neither one of them struggling to be the sole owner of the restaurant?

"Absolutely there was rivalry," the chief began before he smiled, "when it came to girls when they were in high school or now with who got the most toys to play with, but over the restaurant? Sorry, you're shaking the wrong end of the stick. Witnesses say Josh was shouting that he was leaving town, that Brendal could have the restaurant all to himself. They say Josh was even trying to hand some papers to Brendal when Brendal just….flipped. Stabbed his brother with a knife he was holding. Everyone I talked to said Brendal looked as surprised as Josh. Then Josh…poof…was on fire. Brendal burned his hands trying to put it …him out but it was too late."

It wasn't a pretty picture, seeing someone on fire, Dean knew that first hand. "And this argument of theirs happened in the dining area, not the kitchen near any flames?"

"Right by the cash register," the Chief answered. "Coroner is calling cause of death the burns, deemed the stab wound non-life threatening but I had to book Brendal and send him down to the county prison for Murder one. Doesn't quite sit right with me, so any light you can shine on this, no matter how wackado it sounds, I wanna hear about it."

In unison, the Winchesters replied, "Yes, Sir."


Coming down the police station steps, Sam said with undisguised distaste, "So fire…" It just had to be fire, his least favorite topic of conversation.

Shooting Sam a concerned look, Dean gently asked, "You going to be Ok to work this job? I could do it alone."

"No, I'll be fine," Sam quickly denied, didn't want Dean to think that he was weak, that he was going to forever be useless as soon as a case involved fire. "Beside, fire is a tool of our trade. It would be like a fireman afraid …." He didn't know quite how to finish the statement without implying that he was in no hurry to get up close and personal with fire.

"A fireman knows to respect the flames enough to fear them," Dean allowed, giving Sam, not only a free pass for his fear, but justification for it.

Sam smiled timidly, knew exactly why Dean was making that statement. That no matter the tension between them, Dean still wasn't passing judgment on him for his fears. "So, we talking about human combustion, a curse, a fire wraith, or Brendal's a whiz at pyro-kinesis?"

"I say we see if Brendal gets hot under the collar," Dean said, rising his eyebrows until Sam acknowledged his poor attempt at humor.

"Ha ha," Sam grumbled but he turned away before Dean caught him in the act of smiling.


Brendal Larson sat across from Sam and Dean in the county prison interrogation room, his hands, wrapped, concealing the burns he had earned trying to put the flames out on his own brother, trembled on the table. And his eyes were red rimmed and haunted and his words came haltingly, like he was still in shock. "He was gonna leave and I….I just lost it. The dream was always ours. That we would keep the restaurant in the family, would be partners and pass it onto our kids one day. But he…he had papers and everything to sell me his half."

Carefully, Sam inquired, "So you…stopped him from leaving."

Brendal choked on a sob. "I just got so….angry." A tear slipped free and he shook his head. "I never felt rage like that before. I didn't plan on using the knife…on hurting…" He bowed his head down onto the table a moment and when he raised his head, his eyes bled despair and guilt, "He's my brother! I wouldn't…I can't believe I …I killed him."

Trying to not be affected by the man's emotions, to not focus on the fact that he and Sam had been close to killing one another, on more than one occasion, Dean pressed, "But you did. You killed him with the fire."

"No! I…I stabbed him with the knife, yes, but the fire…it came after. Consumed him and I tried…" Brendal raised his bandaged hands, stammered, "I tried…." Without warning, he grabbed Dean's hands and his eyes bore into the elder Winchester's. "You have to believe me. I tried to save him. He was my little brother. I didn't want him to leave town so why would I kill him and send him away from me forever!"

The man's words lanced into Dean, re-opened the wounds that had not healed, would probably never heal. But who said they should, that he should get a free pass for trying to kill his own brother, for telling his baby brother that, 'yeah, Sam, go jump in the pit with the devil', for giving his friggin' blessing for Sam to condemn himself for a world that wasn't worth it, wasn't worth Sam's life, let alone his soul.

Seeing but not able to interpret the look on Dean's face and concerned when his brother wasn't shaking the other man's hold off, Sam intervened, pried Brendal's hands loose from Dean's. And then he slid his hand under Dean's bicep was hauling Dean to his feet, was getting his brother away from the other man who had attacked and probably killed his own brother.

And even more unnerving to Sam, Dean didn't pull out of his hold, let him lead him out of the interrogation room, down the hallway and out into the noon day sun.

They didn't speak until they were in the car, heading back to town.

"He was pretty convincing, huh?" Sam prodded, worriedly watching Dean, hoping to get a gauge of what was going through his brother's head.

Clearing his throat before he could talk, Dean conceded, "Yeah." If anyone knew what it was like to hurt his brother while under the influence of something supernatural, like say a Siren, it was him. And to hurt his brother for the greater good…like to save the world. Or when he lost his temper…like when Soulless Sam finally admitted that he knew something was off with himself. Any category that came up, he could check. Sam had borne the brunt of so much of his rage and hurt and misguided intensions. It was little wonder that Sam ended up hitting the road so often rather than sticking around to be his punching bag.

Dean's one word reply, it spoke volumes to Sam. Brendal's testimony had rattled Dean, badly. Sam just didn't know how. "So you think something made him attack his brother?" he quietly posed, tracking Dean's every facial tick.

Dean shrugged. "Could be." Then again, brothers were known to simply treat their younger siblings like crap just because they could.

It wasn't the telling comeback Sam was hoping for. "Could be, huh? You got no other theories to throw my way?" a ting of goading in his tone.

Which Dean did not rise to. "Nope."

"Well I say we check out the crime scene," Sam suggested.

"Good, because I could eat," Dean lobbed back waited for Sam's annoyed, "Dean, I don't think they're open for business" before he smirked, showed Sam that he was fine, could handle a little thing like fratricide without losing his sense of humor.

Catching Dean's smirk, Sam was too relieved to mock his brother's sick sense of humor.


But the restaurant offered little in the way of supernatural clues: no sulfur, no hex bags, no sigils, or EMF readings. Just blood stains and ash that once was Josh Larson, little brother to one Brendal Larson.

And the witness accounts were pretty consistent: Two arguing brothers, one stabs the other and then Josh's on fire. End of sibling rivalry. Forever.

So it was to the motel room, with laptop and some of Bobby's books. It wasn't really surprising that Dean confiscated the books, was readily substituting the flask for the old tomes. But Sam didn't say anything. Dean had relented to his wishes about leaving the flask behind, he wasn't about to push Dean to give up more.

After two hours of hitting website after website about anger and fire related deaths and coming up with nothing uniform, Sam sighed and leaned back in his chair, eyed Dean who was on the bed, leaning against the headrest, books on his lap and on his legs. "You got anything?"

Dean took the moment to raise his head, massage the back of his aching neck with his free hand and met Sam's gaze across the room. "Maybe Josh toasted himself. Had a …chemical imbalance."

"He started himself on fire?" Sam questioned, his belief in that likelihood evident in his incredulous tone.

Taking umbrage to Sam's tone, Dean shot back, "Then you tell me what this is about?"

Sullenly, Sam grumbled, "I don't know." Before he returned back to the computer but couldn't stop shooting Dean glances over the laptop.

Without looking up from his book, Dean demanded, "What?"

Slowly closing the laptop, almost stalling for time, Sam exhaled, bit his lip and then took the plunge. "You're mad I kept it?" Knew that he didn't have to be specific, that Dean was thinking about the amulet as much as he was.

Dean didn't look up or supply a response, but he turned the page of the book he was researching with a decided snap.

It was answer enough.

Reopening his laptop, Sam resumed his research…for about thirty seconds before he asked in that little boy vulnerable tone that he hadn't lost even after all he had been through, "Why are you mad?"

Still refusing to look at Sam, Dean bit out, "It was your idea to not talk about it until the job's over."

There was a catch in Sam's two worded admission, "I know."

And Dean knew Sam expected him to react to that tone, to fold, like he usually did. But the amulet, seeing it again, knowing that Sam had had it all this time and didn't tell him…it just brought on an onslaught of memoires he had thought he had worked through: Like Sam giving him the necklace instead of their Dad, Cas asking him to part with the amulet to find God, Sam's slide show of his greatest hits in heaven…which were all about him leaving his family, him behind. Then Joshua saying that God was done helping them, Cas throwing the amulet back to him in heartbroken anger. The way it felt as it slipped out of his hand into the trash can.

All of those emotions conjured up by those events had hit him hard just at the sight of the amulet, leaving his breath crushed in his chest. The only thing he could do to cope was walk away, from the amulet, from Sam.

Dean wouldn't have been surprised if he was leaving a blood trail in his wake from the open wound in the vicinity of his heart. Because, after all that stuff, Sam had pulled the amulet out of the trash, had kept it. Was now sentimentally tied to it. And part of Dean railed at that, that Sam found the necklace worthy of saving and yet had no problem walking away from him time after time.

And now Sam wanted to 'talk about it', to emote about why it set him off…when he couldn't even explain it to himself.

Without bothering to read the page that he was on, Dean snapped the book to a new page.

"So we're not going to talk about it…." Sam hazarded, hated to think of the tension that would remain hanging over them until they aired things out but wasn't entirely ready to push Dean to open up to him. Not yet, anyway.

Snapping his eyes up to Sam's, Dean growled, "No." He didn't think he could make it any clearer than that without using flash cards.

Stilted silence blanketed the room and Dean told himself that was fine with him. Sam could be pissed or whatever he was.

But the last thing Sam felt was anger. Was too busy chastising himself for keeping the amulet in secret, for hurting Dean with his actions, for putting a wedge between him and Dean. Again. 'If a smart man doesn't keep making the same mistakes, than how stupid does that make me?" he bitterly condemned himself as he returned to his research, did the only thing he could when his emotions were stretched to the breaking point: focus on the job.

Dean couldn't believe Sam was actually going to drop it, that his brother wasn't going to pull out one of his secret weapons: puppy dog eyes, hurt tone, unrelenting stare. Instead Sam's head was down again, his eyes zeroed in the computer screen. Dean couldn't believe his good luck. …except it hurt, somehow. That it wasn't worth Sam's time to push the issue, to come clean about the amulet he had squirreled away.

'You don't want to talk about it, remember,' he reminded himself, dropping his eyes again to the book he held in his hands. Bobby's book. Bobby who might be around yet, helping them like the man always did, even if he put himself in danger. 'Got him killed, you mean,' Dean snarled internally, didn't know why Bobby would stay behind, would give up even a Memorex heaven to stay with them, unless it was to give him a payback for getting him killed. But if Bobby was around like his gut was telling him his surrogate father was, the man was there for one thing and one thing only: to protect them…in death as he had in life.

'Just like Mom and Dad did in their own ways….' And that thought soured the diner food he had scarfed down, had him switching up books, picking up one that Sam had liberated from Frank's trailer. Oh, yeah, Frank. He was just another number to add to their body count. Tossing that book aside, he grabbed another, one that he himself had checked out of a library….back in 2002. He thought he might be onto something, when Sam spoke, his brother's voice a jarring intrusion to his concentration.

"I don't see any other cases of strange fires or violent outbreaks in town," Sam announced, eyes purposefully on the online news article and not his brother. When Dean didn't make a comment, he peeked his eyes over the laptop, saw that Dean was merrily reading his book, was acting like he hadn't spoken. Letting out an internal sigh, Sam returned to his research.

When Sam lapsed into silence after imparting his tidbit, Dean was grateful, began to reread the sentence again that he had one a moment ago. He almost got to the period when Sam spoke again.

"Brendal's got no arrest records, no juvenile files. By everything I see, he played well with others," Sam snuck in the levity Dean would usually use, hoped to ease the tension he saw in his brother's posture. But Dean's curt "'kay," hinted at hostility instead.

Dean was making his third run at reading the sentence he was on when Sam innocently said, "Josh, on the other hand, has a record. Apparently he wasn't the pacifist his brother is: few arrests in local bars, one for …"

Exasperatedly slapping his book closed, Dean tossed it onto the end of the bed and lanced Sam with his blazing regard. "Fine. You got my undivided attention," he growled.

Stunned by Dean's anger, Sam stammered, "What…what do you mean?"
Dean spread his arms out wide. "The floor is yours, counselor. Regale me with your brilliance," he prompted with malice.

Sam's lips tightened into a grim line at Dean's 'counselor' quip, knew that his brother only referred to his failed aspiration to be an attorney to strike a blow. "You said you wanted to work the case, so we're working it, Dean," he volleyed back, his own ire mixing with Dean's.

"We?" Dean repeated with a scoff. "Wow, you're gracious enough to include me and my small contribution. I'm touched."

Brutally flicking the laptop closed so he could send an unobstructed glare to Dean, Sam spat, "What? We're working together." It was all they ever did: work together, eat together, sleep…well you know what I mean. There was no "I" with them. It was ludicrous for Dean to imply they were anything else but linked…at the friggin' hip.

"Really," Dean drawled, moving to sit at the edge of his bed and face Sam. "You're always bragging up every lame detail you find, you shoot down every theory I say…"

"'Cause they're stupid," Sam shot back, wanting to land a retaliating blow to his brother's ego.

Dean's eyes frosted over and his features got that eerie stillness that radiated fury and menace, "You'ld be dead a few more times if some of my stupid theories weren't right."

"Yeah, and how many times did we almost die going along with one of your suicidal plans?" Sam shouted back, a list already being compiled in his head.

Dean became even more of a statue carved out of marble. "You wanna keep score, Sammy?" he lowly challenged. "Seems like I paid a pretty steep price to bring you back from the dead and risked more getting your soul outta hell than it cost you to return the favor. Oh, that's right…Dad saved my life and Cas got me outta hell."

Dean's words, his accusations, they sliced savagely into Sam. Surging to his feet, knocking the chair over in the process, Sam stood before Dean, his limbs trembling, his heart racing, his breathing nearly heaving. "You really doubt I wouldn't have done anything to get you out. That I didn't try everything…."

"Like sleeping with Ruby?" Dean coldly interjected. "And when that didn't work the first time, what could you do but try, try again."

Fury and hurt assailed Sam, made his next words nearly a wheeze, "You throw that in my face…. after everything."

Coming to his feet, Dean didn't apologize, wouldn't allow himself to, didn't want to let himself open for more hurt. "And you still have your secrets, don't you, Sammy. Telling me Bobby couldn't be around and then going behind my back and trying to summon him. Keeping the amulet all this time, pretending it has 'sentimental value' for you all of a sudden."

"It does!" Sam railed back, couldn't stand there and let Dean say otherwise, believe otherwise.

"Why?" Dean's shout reverberated through the room, through Sam's chest.

Sam couldn't believe Dean had to ask, didn't know. When Dean was dead, he had worn that amulet night and day, was the best way, the only way to keep a part of his brother with him. When he felt like just stepping out into traffic, on purpose, he found himself wrapping his hand around the metal dangling around his neck, clutching onto it so hard the sharp angles left an imprint in his palm….into his soul.

At Sam's stunned silence, Dean sneered, "You think God might start taking your calls if you hang onto it? That you might actually find Him, maybe at the next convenient store you stop in?"

"No!" Sam indignantly barked, Dean's wrong guess infuriating him, making him wonder if Dean knew him at all. Had ever bothered to get to know him.

Maliciously smirking at Sam's passionate denial, Dean baited, "Maybe you plan on giving it to a more worthy recipient this time around, huh? Someone who didn't call you a monster to your face?"

Dean dredging up those memories was a low blow, caused a devastatingly painful wound to reopen, made Sam ache to return hurt for hurt. "Well, since you think Bobby's hanging around. Maybe Dad is too. I'll give it to him like I should have from the start."

The declaration stole the air from the room, left them both facing each other stonily, chests heaving.

It was Dean who broke free first, crossed over to his duffle bag, ripped the zipper open before snagging all his shirts on the hangers and unceremoniously stuffing them into his bag. Sam had seen this scene before, the sight of Dean being too disgusted with him to stay one more second with him, knew that last time Dean had been the one throwing punches, wasn't so sure that this time, he wouldn't be the one resorting to violence.

"You're leaving. Sure, go ahead," Sam darkly bit out, like he actually approved of the idea.

Dean didn't look to Sam, didn't think he could bear seeing the satisfaction in Sam's eyes to match his brother's tone. Sam wanted this, he should have known that. But then again, he never learned the real hard lessons without them being jammed down his throat, over and over and over again.

Making sure that his eyes didn't land on Sam, he bid, "Good luck with your fire bug," as a last dig, heartlessly reminding Sam that it involved fire, this little case of his that he wanted to work on alone. Side stepping Sam, he made certain that he didn't touch Sam that Sam couldn't block his exit. But Sam never moved, to block his exit, to look at him, to acknowledge in any way that his leaving meant anything to him.

Dean didn't shut the motel door in his wake. And Sam didn't move to close it, didn't move, couldn't move at all. Not until the slam of a car door, until the sputter of the non-descript car they were calling home these days erupted, not until he could detect the car speeding out of the motel parking lot, down the road, away from him. Only then did he move, did he breathe.


The RPM gauge on the Pinto was redlining, the engine protesting the abuse with a whine that filled the small car's interior but still Dean didn't let up on the gas. Needed to get away, be somewhere else, as soon as possible. To let Sam's words behind, to bury them, to pretend that they weren't true. That he didn't know how true they were.

The amulet was always supposed to be Sam's gift to their Dad. It was hindsight, an act of anger that Sam had ended up giving it to him. It was just another second hand gift, some hand me down he had gotten: like the car, like his Dad's leather jacket, like Bobby's books and flask. Things not so much earned as discarded. Junk that no one else wanted so he might as well have.


Breaking from his stupor, Sam stalked to his own duffle bag, found that Dean's coat was covering it. That in his brother's haste to get away from him, he had forgotten it. Angrily, Sam threw the coat across the room to land on Dean's bed, well the bed that had been Dean's.

"Stupid slob!" he heatedly condemned to the empty room. Having forgotten what he had even gone over to his bag for, he returned to the room's small table, threw himself back into the chair by the computer. Typing with aggressive strokes, he continued to research the case, the case that Dean wanted to pursue in the first place. But the coat, it kept snagging his attention from the computer screen, was an ever present reminder of his brother's absence.

'Like I need a reminder…' Sam dourly thought. Had felt the loneliness coiling around him even before Dean had made it all the way out of the door, had felt the wrongness of Dean leaving, had felt the air in his chest compress when Dean drove away.

Two weeks ago in the hospital mental ward, all he had wanted, all he had clung to was the certainty that Dean would come back. That Dean wouldn't let him die alone. All he been asking of life yet was to see his brother one more time. To get a chance to say goodbye.

"And now you push him away. Great job! Quite the thanks-for-tracking-down-Cas-and-saving-my-life gesture," he muttered to himself. Didn't know how things had escalating, how one minute they were talking about the case and the next they were hurling accusations at one another.


The road indicated three miles until he was in the next town, until he put the town of Cooper Flats in his rearview mirror, until he put Sam in his rearview mirror.

'Yeah, because that makes a lot of sense,' Dean castigated himself. 'Especially since, when you thought you were gonna lose Sam, all over again, you didn't think you could go on, wouldn't bother putting up a fight if someone wanted to end you. And now, now you're ditching him?'

It was a startling enough revelation for him to ease his foot's pressure on the gas, for the car's speedometer to begin to edge away from the painted 80 on the dial. To feel shamed at the words he had thrown at Sam, for saying things he just didn't mean. Well most of them. It did hurt that Sam had hidden the amulet, had had the same gut feeling about Bobby being around yet and denied it, and yeah, it still hurt that Sam had found solace in Ruby when he was in Hell…even though he had no right to talk, not when he had laid in Lisa's arms when his brother was being burned to a crisp in Hell.

But all in all, leaving Sam? That wasn't his intensions, never was. Even when he had made his deal, when he was about to offer his prime piece of real estate meatsuit to Michael, it was never about leaving Sam, it was about saving Sam. About making sure that his brother wasn't hurt. 'Sure, why let someone else hurt him when I can do a much better job of it. Know all the right buttons to push.' His jaw clenched as he recalled throwing out the words, 'counselor' 'fire' 'monster'. It was no wonder Sam didn't stop him from leaving, instead wanted him to leave.

Even though he knew his apology wouldn't add up to a hill of beans, he reached for his phone, had to try to heal the wounds he had inflicted. He jumped when his phone rang in his hand. Felt his throat close up and his eyes well a bit as the ID declared that it was his brother who was calling him.

"Yeah," he answered noncommittally but his voice was hoarse, was a telltale sign of his turmoil to someone who might know something about him: And Sam, Sam alone knew him.

Detecting the tumult of emotions in his brother's voice, Sam had to swallow down a lump before he could get out his rehearsed words, "Dean, I'm sorry, man. What I said…I didn't mean it. Just …don't go."

A renewed wave of love for his little brother washed over Dean. 'Leave it up to Sam to say sorry when I started all this, struck the first blow.' Foot easing up even further on the gas petal, he said, "No, I'm the one who's sorry, Sam. I didn't mean…I wasn't …I was being a jerk," he finished with, knew that they could both agree on that.

"Takes one to know one," Sam nearly singsonged back and there was relief and happiness in his tone, was feeling that weight against his chest lifting, that he might soon be able to stop feeling like he was going to throw up everything he had downed in the last two days.

Dean chuckled, conceded, "Guess it does." Appreciated that Sam wasn't going to be mean-spirited, was being as generous as he always was and was shouldering the blame with him.

"Come back and we'll hit a bar, take the night off, spend some time just hanging out…being brothers," Sam suggested and then held his breath, knew that he might have crossed the line, been too open, expressed what he needed, wanted in a way that would have Dean running for the hills.

"Thought you swore off drinking after that Shojo case?" Dean hazarded, remembered Sam's hangover had lasted two day. 'The lightweight,' he affectionately mocked.

"I said we'ld hit a bar, I didn't say I would keep up with you," Sam countered good-naturedly, though he had no intensions of watching his brother numb himself with hard core alcohol, had some vain hope that he, at least for the night, could provide some comfort to his brother's weary soul. Owed Dean that after the crap he had dumped on him before.

"Well at least you're not delusional…" Dean snarked back, had lifted his foot off the gas, was instead applying the brakes, anticipating the U turn he was about to make, back into Cooper's Flats, back to Sam.

Sam snorted, was about to tell Dean that he let him be the delusional one when Dean let out an alarmed, "Geez!" Then there was a booming thud, the sound of screeching tires, the unforgettable squeal of metal being twisted and then the shattering of glass.

And then, worst of all, there was silence.

At least from the phone.

Sam, on the other hand, was screaming his brother's name. "Dean!"




Well, I would love to hear if you like the story so far! As you probably realize, this story will go AU after the next new episode but I'm hoping you still will come along for the ride.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Cheryl W.