Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: So… Two days to go, and if you're like me, you're really hoping against hope that Torn and Frayed is going to mark the end of this fight and a return to the good old days of boys on the road saving people and killing things. This is my contribution to that (and hopefully a little something to ease the agony until Wednesday night).

Also, I'm planning on doing this year's SPN Big Bang, so there may not be much from me until the first draft of that is done. (Except those one-shots – I still have a couple unposted, so, you know.)

Summary: Set after Citizen Fang. My version of what's going to happen with the quarrel and Amelia's offer. Spoilers for Citizen Fang (and the summary of Torn and Frayed, if you consider that a spoiler).

The More People Change

I'm not quite sure what time it is, how long I've been lying awake in the dark. Thinking.

This wasn't supposed to happen. This was never supposed to happen.

There was a reason I left Amelia as soon as Don came back. She deserves better than me. Don was – is – hers, wholly and completely hers. He's not a shell of a man mourning the other half of his soul. He's not an abomination cursed to bring heartbreak to everyone he touches.

He's not me.

But Amelia saw me and came and –

And she believes in us.

Us. Amelia and Sam. Sam and Amelia. And she's willing to give us a chance if I am and –

And that's the killer, isn't it? A few months ago – hell, a week ago – I would've said it was a no-brainer. I don't love hunting, but that doesn't mean I don't love my brother, and I would never have been tempted by a life that couldn't include him.


It isn't that I don't love my brother.

It's that I don't think that's enough for him.

It's that it's such a relief – such a glorious, wonderful relief – to have someone in my life who doesn't still hold everything against me. Ruby. Lucifer.

Lucifer and Michael.

I can't suppress a shudder.

There was a time when I knew Dean loved me more than anything. It's a distant memory now, tucked far in the past, behind the years of Leviathan hunting and soulless-dick-Sam and the decades of enduring the worst Lucifer and Michael could dream up. There was a time, before that, when Dean loved me.

But that was close to two hundred years ago in my reckoning. Dean loved me two hundred years ago. And Amelia loved me last night.

Two hundred years. That's enough time for empires to fall. Enough time for Dean to decide that Benny is the only person he knows worth trusting. I thought that two hundred years might also be enough time for Dean to forgive, but I guess not.

Of course, it wasn't two hundred years for Dean.

I shut my eyes. Hellfire sears my eyelids. But that doesn't matter – that's just a memory of physical pain. Michael's torture. Stupid Michael.

Lucifer was so much smarter. Lucifer never laid a hand on me. He just looked at me, smiled that knowing smile, and said, "You know what, Sammy? Everything Michael's doing to you isn't enough to make Dean forgive you. If you were here for the rest of eternity, it still wouldn't be enough."

I ignored him then, because I fully expected that I would be in Lucifer's Cage for the rest of eternity.

It's hard to ignore now, and I can't hold back the nagging question. Just how many years would have been enough for Dean? Three hundred? Three thousand? Forever?

Why did he even bring me back if he thought I couldn't be trusted?

Why did he bring me back if he was going to do this to me?

By morning I've made my decision.

It's wrenching my heart and my gut, it feels like I'm tearing out a part of myself – and, who am I kidding, that's exactly what I'm doing – but it's the only thing I can do. Because Dean… Well, he's made it amply clear that he doesn't want me around.

When the knock comes at the door, I get to my feet, expecting that it's Amelia.

It's not.

Dean's standing there looking at me, eyes a little red and lips quirking like they're about to form – what? An apology? An explanation?

There's a part of me that wants to take him back, to open the door the rest of the way and let him in and hope that things go back to the way they were. But there's another part of me telling me that things won't ever go back to the way they were because Dean doesn't have forgiveness – not for me, anyway. And another part of me, a part that I'm almost ashamed of, whispering that I apologized and begged and did every damn thing I could and it's time to stop letting Dean break my heart.

That's the part that's in control as I take a deep breath and snarl, so furiously that I even surprise myself, "What?"

"Sammy, I need your help."

Of course. Of course that's it. Dean's not here because he wants to apologize or attempt to be friends again or because he regrets a single thing he's ever done. Dean's here because he needs me to hack into some Fed database for him, probably so he can find a list of people nobody'll miss for Benny to suck dry.

I know that thought is unfair as soon as it's in my head, but I can't make myself unthink it.

"It's Sam," I say, because, seriously, Dean thought he still had big-brother rights? "And the answer's no."

Dean has the nerve to look hurt.

"Sam, I know I screwed up –"

"Screwed up?" I hiss. "You didn't screw up, Dean. You get my laptop stuck on Japanese cartoon porn, that's screwing up. What you did was –"

"A dick move," Dean says. "I'm sorry. I'll buy you a latte."

"Screw you."

"Sammy –"

"No, I mean it. I know what this is about, Dean. You're playing nice because you need my help with something and the second this job is done it's going to be back to that place where I'm a blood-sucking vampire and Benny is the one good thing in your life. I'm done trying to live up to your standards."

"Dude," Dean says slowly, like he's only just realizing something, "how pissed are you?"

"I'm sorry," a new voice says, and it's with a feeling of relief that I turn to Amelia, who's shown up on the doorstep right behind Dean. "Is this a bad time?"

"No," I say. "It's fine, Amelia. Come in. Dean was just leaving."

"Dean?" She brightens, just like Jess did all those years ago. "Your brother Dean?"

"Yeah," Dean says, suddenly belligerent. "I'm Sam's big brother. You're Amelia? The Amelia?"

Amelia, to her credit, doesn't flinch. "Yes. I am. Sam… Have you decided?"

"Decided?" Dean jumps in before I can say anything. "Decided what? Sammy, what's she talking about?"

"Whether I'm going to stop hunting and live with –"

"No!" Dean's shout is loud and unexpected and too panicked to be just because he's worried about who'll hack into the next victim's email account. "No, you promised. You said you weren't going to bail on me. You said it was over." He turns to Amelia. "You can't have him."

"Isn't that Sam's decision to make?" she asks.

"Sammy…" Dean's looking at me like he's seeing me for the first time, eyes wide and almost tearful. "Sammy, you don't… You're not… Are you? Sam, I'm sorry. I know I was out of line with that text message. I'm sorry. Come on, you know you're more important to me than anyone else." He shakes his head, probably seeing in my face that I'm not feeling sympathetic right now. Then he's standing between me and Amelia, facing her. "You can't… Please. Sammy's all I've got. Please don't take him away from me."

"Dean!" I shove him out of the way. "Amelia, I'm sorry. My brother is socially impaired."

"Sam!" Dean grabs my arm. "Sammy, please. Look, if nothing else, just help me with this job. Please. Just a few days."

"Dean," I growl.

"Sam," Amelia says, "it's OK."

"No, it's not," I snap, turning to her. "Listen, I thought about what you said and I want –"

She raises a hand to stop me. "I know. And I want that too, but I don't want you to have regrets. So…" She indicates Dean. "Go. Help him. And then come back to me and we'll make a new start."

One week later, it's done. Dean and I are in Kermit. I feel a slight pang – maybe this is going to be the last time we ever share a motel room. No matter how far out of line Dean's been since he got out of Purgatory, nothing can change the fact that he's my brother. Nothing – and I wish he'd realize that; that would solve half our problems right there – nothing he does could ever make me care about him less.

But there comes a point when you have to stop trying to fix what can't be fixed. Nothing will ever make me love my brother less, but the same isn't true of Dean, and it's time to accept that I'll never be what he expects me to be. None of Dean's apologies or promises that I mean more to him than Benny possibly could are going to fix that problem.

It's time to move on.

I open my eyes.

The bed next to mine is empty.

In a flash I know where Dean is – where he has to be – and I'm furious. He knows Amelia is off-limits.

But that hasn't meant much to Dean lately.

He's taken the Impala, so I have to hotwire a car to get to Amelia's. I park across the street. I can see Amelia and Dean through the window. Neither of them has noticed me yet. They're standing facing each other. Amelia looks a little wary. I can't see Dean's face.

I go up to the door unnoticed. Before I can open it, there's a hand on my arm.

I turn to see Don. He puts a finger to his lips for silence, opens the door quietly, and leads me inside.

This is the most freaking surreal day of my life.

"I know why you're here," Don murmurs, softly enough that the sound doesn't carry beyond the few inches it takes for me to hear. "And I want Amelia to stay with me – I love her, you know I do – but that isn't the reason I'm doing this."

He pulls me across the hall so that we're right next to the living room door.

"Really?" I whisper. "Eavesdropping?"

"I spoke to your brother before I let him see Amelia. Had to make sure he wasn't going to do anything drastic," he explains, in answer to my incredulous glance. "You need to hear this."

"… I still don't know why you're here," Amelia's saying. "I told you already, it's Sam's decision to make."

"I think he's made his decision," Dean says. His voice is hoarser than usual. "That's why… I'm not here to pick a fight. I just… There are some things you should know. About Sam."

My blood runs cold. What's Dean going to tell her? About Jessica? About Ruby?

Don squeezes my shoulder. "Listen."

"Sammy…" Dean's voice is shaking. "Sammy likes his coffee with vanilla and cinnamon. No mint. He hates mint. But he won't tell you because he won't want you to feel bad about it. He doesn't like people waving blades around his head, so when he needs a haircut either you do it or go with him and make sure he gets the nicest barber in town."

I stare at Don in disbelief. He shrugs.

Dean isn't done. "Don't let him volunteer at any animal shelters. He'll insist that he wants to but then he'll see some cat that's a little scrawny and he'll come back and cry about it and break your heart. I hope he doesn't ever need a doctor, but if he does, I've got a file of his medical history for you. Most of it isn't in the records. And if you can, check with me before Sam takes any medication stronger than Tylenol. If he can't sleep, don't try to force it. Sometimes he has nightmares. Just leave him be and make him hot chocolate. With marshmallows."

"Dean," Amelia interrupts.

"Wait," he says. "Listen. When he gets sick, he makes faces at food, but you can still get soup into him. Light vegetable soup. He doesn't like the texture of chicken soup and tomato will make him sicker. Don't ever back him into corners. He hates that. He… Call me. If he ever gets hurt or sick or there's anything wrong with him, I don't care what time it is, call me." There's a long pause in which neither of them speaks. Then Dean chokes out, "Don't hurt him. Please don't hurt him."

With an exchanged glance, Don and I decide it's time to break the conversation up.

When we go in, Amelia looks up at us.

Dean doesn't. He gets to his feet, shoves a folder at Amelia, grabs his jacket, and stumbles out without meeting my eyes. A moment later, I hear the Impala's engine fire up and fade away.

I'm not quite sure when Don leaves the room too, but I suddenly realize that Amelia and I are alone. She's looking at me with affection and sorrow and understanding and weariness and it's too much.

"Amelia –"

"Don't say it." She puts her hand on my arm. "I love you, Sam, but I don't think even I could love you that much."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be." She stands on tiptoe, and the kiss is soft and sweet and gentle. And final. "You got me through a difficult time, Sam. I'll always be grateful for that."

I nod. "Me too."

"You should go." She indicates the door. "Don't make Dean stay miserable any longer than he has to." She hands me the folder Dean gave her. "Goodbye, Sam."

I flip the folder open on my way out.

It starts with my birth certificate – my actual birth certificate from the hospital in Lawrence, I have no idea where Dean even got that – and has the diagnoses and prescriptions from every single illness or injury I've ever had, including the ones where I went to doctors under aliases.


Dean's – Dean's a lot of things. Stupid and annoying and overprotective and sometimes a little judgemental, but Dean's my brother.

And… Dean's forgiven. He did a stupid thing, but there's really nothing we can't get past.

I have to visit four bars before I finally spot Dean. He's hunched on a barstool by the counter, nursing what, judging by the bartender's pursed lips, is whiskey number how-the-hell-can-one-man-drink-that-much. He's staring into the depths of his glass like he wants to drown in it.

I walk in, cross the smoky room and sit at the bar next to Dean. He doesn't raise his head. He hasn't noticed me.

"What'll you have, buddy?" the bartender asks with disinterest.

"A beer." Dean starts at the sound of my voice, and I add, "And my brother."

"Sammy?" Dean doesn't look up, but I can tell from his voice that he's been crying. Dean. Crying. God. This is just… This has gone on too long. Far too long, and it ends now. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm drinking in the middle of the day. That's my new hobby." Dean snorts, and I go on, "I'm here for you, idiot."

"But… really?" He sounds awkward and hesitant. "What happened to all that stuff about me being an insensitive self-righteous judgemental jerk who's nothing like the brother you used to know?"

"People change." I smile as I quote his own words back to him. "And you're always going to be my brother."

I lean closer to Dean. I can feel him hesitate and steel himself before his arm comes up around my shoulders. He's stiff, clearly expecting to be pushed away.

"You think I've changed, Sammy?"

"It took an insensitive self-righteous judgemental jerk to send me that text message," I tell him, dropping my head to his shoulder. "But that guy with Amelia just now? That was all my big brother. Nice to know he's still in there."

"So I can be your big brother again?"

"Only if you promise to be my big brother."

Dean hesitates, hand skimming over my back. I can feel his fingers tracing protective runes on my shirt. I snicker, and he smacks the back of my head lightly before he goes back to it.

"You know that only works if you use something that leaves a mark, right?" I ask him. "That's why people paint them on walls."

"Don't need runes to keep you safe from bad things, Sam. That's what I'm here for."

"Then why are you doing this?"

"So if there are any demons watching, they know to keep off. Save us some trouble." He pats my head and turns to the bartender. "Hey."


"Sammy's my little brother. You hurt him, I kill you."

The bartender shrugs, obviously thinking Dean's just drunk. "Whatever. You do realize he's big enough for three little brothers, right?"

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get to have me take care of him."

The bartender rolls his eyes and turns to me. "I think he's had enough. You going to take him home?"

"Yeah," I say, unable to hold back a smile when Dean's arm tightens around me and I feel the pressure of his cheek on the top of my head. "I'm going to take him home."

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