You're Not a Grunt, You're My Brother

Summary: A late night brooding session by himself will bring Sam face to face with not only some buried emotions of his own but also face to face with Dean over things that Sam would much rather his brother never find out. /Brooding/Upset/Angsty!Sam & some angsty/upset/angry/big brother!Dean *Spoilers for 08x14 Trial and Error.

Warnings: Mild language some minor described violence but it's not even that descriptive. Just want to put it out there.

Spoilers: There are mild spoilers from 08x14 Trial and Error so be cautious. I try not to do too much spoiling but on this one it was hard.

Tags: 08x14: Trial and Error

Disclaimer: I own nothing. This is written for the fun of it and for the enjoyment of fans.


"'I'm a grunt, Sam. You're not. You've always been the brains of this operation and you told me yourself that you see a way out. You see a light at the end of this ugly ass tunnel. I don't. But I'll tell you what I do know is that I'm gonna die with a gun in my hand. Cause that's what I have waiting for me and that's all I have waiting for me.'"

"Damn it," no matter how hard Sam Winchester tried he couldn't banish those words from his head and he'd been trying for the past several hours.

Sam and his older brother, Dean, had returned to what Dean liked to call their 'Batcave' after dispatching the hellhound that finished step one of the three tasks to closing the gates of Hell forever.

Granted it hadn't turned out quite like Dean had planned and Sam knew his brother still wasn't happy that it ended up being Sam who killed the beast and essentially took the tasks on since only one of them could do all three tasks and since Sam had killed the Hellhound and did the spell that meant it was up to him.

The speech that was still echoing in the younger Winchester's head hours after getting 'home' had been given when Dean had decided it would be him who would do it all since Dean knew that whenever the Winchesters tried to save the world…one of them ended up dying…or getting stuck in Hell, or a Cage with two raging Archangels or in Purgatory.

Yeah, their track record was good for saving the world. They just weren't so good at both coming out of those encounters whole. Which is why, Sam guessed, that Dean decided to just take the jump but Sam hadn't counted on his brother saying what he had or actually believing it.

Unable to sleep after they got back, Sam had wandered back out to the main room in the old Men of Letters base they'd taken to using as a base ever since learning of its existence to just sit down to leaf through one of the old journals he'd been reading over when they'd gotten that call from Kevin.

Dean had gone to bed or so Sam assumed since he hadn't seen his brother in a few hours. Considering that his brother did have a wound from the Hellhound, he guessed that it was good that Dean was sleeping. That and the fact that it would give Sam time to consider things.

Not how he'd handle completing the other two trials since they didn't even know what those were yet. No, Sam guessed he'd tackle those things as they came up.

He was considering more how he'd handle Dean's words that were still rattling around in his brain. They'd bothered him from the second he'd heard them. Though it was the thought that Dean actually just considered himself a 'grunt' with no more worth than something to be tossed away in a fight so others would live is what both seriously concerned and pissed Sam off.

Pinching the bridge of his nose where he could feel a headache starting, Sam shoved the journal aside and reached for his Dad's journal but didn't open it. Instead he ran a finger over the faint engraving in the leather. 'HW' had always been there but for some reason neither he nor Dean had ever asked about the initials.

It wasn't until they recently met Henry Winchester, their paternal grandfather, that it made more sense. "As if any of that made sense," Sam muttered, still recalling the day Henry appeared out of their motel room closet and the shock when he finally revealed he was John's father was nothing compared to the confusion both Sam and Dean felt upon learning that Grandpa Henry had been a bit more than their Dad had known.

Henry's explanation about the Men of Letters, his role with them and how it would have been John's Legacy and their own to be future Men of Letters was what Sam suspected started his brother's doubts about his role and future since it was clear that being a Man of Letters was a bit higher up the chain than being a hunter.

His brother and grandfather didn't hit off for that reason since Henry's low opinion of hunters at the start couldn't be missed but Sam knew that at the end Henry was proud of them.

Flipping open the journal, Sam knew where to find what he wanted since he'd been through this book countless times both as a kid and then as an adult.

Being a hunter had been all Dean knew. It was how John had raised him and was all Dean would ever be and that was something else Sam knew his brother accepted a long time ago. Hell, Sam figured his brother had accepted that before Sam was even walking steadily.

"'I'm a grunt, Sam. You're not,'" those words blared in Sam's head again and knew where it came from or at least a part of it. "Dad."

John Winchester had grown up without a father, believing his own had run out on him and hardly ever spoke of the man. John had grown up as well as possible and might have had a good life if the unnatural hadn't stepped into his home one night, killed his wife and stripped away most of the good that was still in the man.

Sam had accepted long ago that their Dad wouldn't have won Father of the Year and while he still had issues with the man he'd honestly stopped hating him. Except for one thing.

"We were his sons, not soldiers," Sam wasn't aware that he'd spoken aloud until he heard his own voice echo back in the silence and pulled the worn photo out that was of him and Dean with John when Sam was still too young to know the truth.

John had drilled his sons a lot like he'd been drilled in the Marines but had been especially hard on his oldest. Sam had watched his brother strive to be a perfect as John had wanted no matter how hurt he was or how tired.

Dean had had it drilled into his head from probably the age of five or six that he was a soldier in John Winchester's private army and it looked like a part of his brother still believed that.

Sam knew Dean had taken the majority of the hard work, the training, the grunt work so to speak and worked damn hard to stay between Sam and John when it was clear that things weren't working the way John had planned since Sam did not want to be a hunter.

"I never wanted it. I wanted out…and Dean made sure I could get out," Sam hadn't understood until much later just how much his brother had sacrificed so he could find normal, so he could get out of the life and go to college and that was another reason Sam knew that this missing piece of the history had started Dean thinking again.

"'You've always been the brains of this operation.'"

"Dean's the grunt and I'm the brains. I see a way out and he never has. Son of a bitch," Sam suddenly began to see and once again didn't know who to be angry with; his Father for convincing Dean that he only had two purposes in this life or his damn stubborn brother for believing it still.

Ever since Sam was young he knew his brother had been tasked with keeping him safe and failure was not tolerated by any means. For Sam it was often a pain in the ass to be drilled and lectured at from John but it was also a pain in the ass when he was a teenager to know his big brother was always a step behind him in one way or another.

It wasn't until a few years ago that Sam learned why his brother followed their Dad's orders so strictly or how much Dean gave up for him.

Of course, Sam also thought that with the more recent stuff that had happened between them that Dean had finally given up on the idea of keeping 'Sammy safe' and had just stopped caring after his return from Purgatory and learning that Sam had given the 'Life' up for a year and had a really hard time coming back to it.

Being hunters had been how they were raised. Hunting things, saving people was the Winchester family business or so they'd thought until meeting Henry and Dean figured out that once again Sam could have another life…away from the one he'd tried to hard to get free of.

"Be a Man of Letters if you want," Sam repeated softly something else his brother had said, understanding how this was playing out now. "A Man of Letters is smart, the brains that savage hunters turned to for information or tips, or help."

Dean had always downplayed his intelligence and Sam knew that. He knew his big brother was a hell of a lot smarter than he often let on. Hell, Dean had managed to keep them one step ahead of social workers, teachers, and worse while they were growing up.

As an adult, he'd kept them alive and usually out of a cell…Sam didn't count that one time since he blamed Bella for that, but knew if his brother was half the 'grunt' he thought he was that both of them would've been dead or behind bars years ago.

Dean had wanted to take the tasks on so he'd be the only one hurt if things went bad. Because he didn't think he had anyone who'd give a damn and with a groan Sam caught the meaning of that. His brother believed that Sam had left hunting behind and hadn't looked for him at all. Dean believed that Sam hadn't cared enough to look for him and Sam had let him think that because he hadn't wanted to tell Dean the truth.

Wincing as his arm began to remind him of the task he'd completed, Sam also thought of something else on that arm as he closed John's journal slowly and thought of the scar on his shoulder that extended a good two inches down his arm.

Sam knew and accepted that Dean believed that Amelia and a normal life was what took him away from hunting…away from finding a way to free Dean from Purgatory. He knew that he could've have stopped the more recent strain between them over Benny, over Amelia if he'd just told Dean the truth but a small part of Sam still feared his brother's reaction to that and chose to leave it alone for as long as he could.

"I'll tell him," he whispered to himself, closing his fist against the dull pain in that arm now. "Before the final spell, before the gate's closed…I'll tell him…maybe."

"Talking to yourself in the middle of the night is not the way to convince me that letting you do this was a good move, Sammy."

Not expecting any sound that late at night, much less his brother's, Sam jumped and accidentally knocked the books off the table he'd been standing by. "Dean. What're you doing here?"

Lifting an eyebrow at the question, Dean Winchester smirked. "We live here and I'm awake because there's pie in the fridge and I'm hungry. Now, want to tell me what's the matter with you?" he asked curiously, guessing not but figuring it never hurt to try to get Sam to talk.

"Just restless and couldn't sleep so I figured I'd…read," motioning to the books as he went to pick them up, Sam hissed again as his arm reminded him that there were bound to be side-effects to these trials but refused to show them to his brother since he knew how that would be received.

"Uh-huh, sure," Dean saw that lie for what it was but hesitated to call Sam on it since it was too early in the morning to start what could turn into a fight depending on things and Dean had been trying for the past few weeks not to fight with Sam.

However, that didn't mean he missed the flash of pain on Sam's face or the way he'd been favoring that damn arm since he'd did the spell back at that ranch. It also still didn't mean it didn't hurt him to see his little brother hurt. "You sure you're okay?" he asked, kneeling down to pick the journals up himself when he spotted their Dad's among the pile. "Think Dad had hidden insight on slamming the gates shut on Crowley?"

"No, I think Dad was an asshole for letting you think all your life that you were nothing but canon fodder in this life he brought us into."

The bitter retort came quick, hot and totally unexpected to both brothers. Dean rocked back on his heels to once again lift a surprised eyebrow at Sam who had just realized what he'd said and swore under his breath while struggling to think of a way to cover it.

"Huh, cranky much, little brother?" Dean knew his brother and knew Sam had meant what he'd just said but hadn't meant to voice it aloud since normally Dean was John's biggest defender. "I sometimes think of stronger terms to describe Dad but I don't think that's something either of us want to get into at three in the morning," he picked the books up before standing, holding out a hand. "Want pie?"

Surprised by this reaction, Sam accepted the hand up but shook his head to the offer of food, much less cherry pie. "No, I think I'll go to bed."

"Suit yourself, more for me," Dean knew something else was bothering the kid but was still leery of pushing Sam since things had just started to feel right between them again and he didn't want to bring back the tension or lack of trust.

He started to turn but stopped, a long ago learned gut instinct telling him that something was not right. "Sam, you'd tell me if you were hurt, right?"

"Yeah, of course I would, Dean," Sam scoffed but knowing what Dean meant, seeing his brother shrug and start to head off when once again those damn words echoed in his ears and he heard himself speaking before he knew what he wanted to say. "You know you're more than a grunt, don't you, Dean? You know that, right?"

Glad he had his back to Sam so his brother couldn't see him close his eyes and once again wishing either he'd kept his mouth shut or his little brother didn't have the memory of an elephant, Dean debated on this answer because he could hear the change of Sam's voice and figured this was what was keeping him awake.

"Sam, you and I grew up hunters but it's pretty clear now that our roles in how we do this gig can be totally different," Dean decided to try this answer first since he didn't really think Sam would like his real one. "I mean, you're totally at home reading all this stuff, cataloging it or whatever the hell it is you've been doing. Real Men of Letters stuff, like Henry," he shifted slightly to look over his shoulder and knew before he did he'd be getting the slightly pissed off bitch face his brother was good at.

"As for me? We both know I'd strangle someone if I had to do more than casual research and the only thing I can really use a computer for is…okay, skipping that," Dean coughed since he sure as hell wanted to avoid any mention of his one real skill on a computer or what Sam's might be froze on again.

"I'm a hunter and let's face it. Dad raised a soldier and that's what I am, a grunt. You can't deny it and I won't cause that's what I am and regardless of how this turns out for us what I'll die as," he finished in the same fatalistic tone he'd used earlier which he hoped would be enough to get Sam to let this drop.

"Bullshit," came the instant reply but with a lot more heat than Dean was expecting from his normally easy going brother. "You're the best damn hunter I've ever seen. Better than Dad, better than Pastor Jim…better than…" Sam hesitated, catching the warning look in Dean's green eyes. "Well, as good as Bobby maybe but my point is…"

Seeing that this could go on all night, Dean decided it best to stop it now and if that meant picking a fight to piss Sam off then he'd handle that and take the fallout later. "I know what your point is, Sammy," he sighed, waving a hand while turning to leave as if walking away which had been his usual way to put a halt to uncomfortable talks in the past. "You gave it me earlier and it's moot since you've already taken on the responsibilities so…"

Maybe it was the casualness of it, or the too light tone but suddenly something deep inside Sam seemed to break. All the buried anger and emotions he'd been carrying recently just chose that moment to come to the surface and in a fit of restless energy he swept his sore arm across the table he'd remained near to sweep everything, journals, papers, cups, etc, off onto the floor with a crash that had Dean whirling back around.

"No! No, you don't get my point, damn it!" Sam yelled, frustrated both at himself and at his brother. "You're not a goddamn grunt, Dean! You've got more to live for than to wait to die with a gun in your hand! You've got more because you are more!"

This outburst wasn't something Dean had been expecting. He'd known Sam was upset at what he'd said earlier but had figured that like most things between them lately Sam would let it go or forget it. It had been a long time, in fact Dean was having a hard time pinning down a time that his little brother had gotten this angry with him to drop the shields he'd been keeping up.

Ignoring the demon-blood induced incident, the closest Dean could come was the night Sam had called Dean on the carpet for his lack of caring and suicidal stunts the year before Dean's deal came do. The night Gordon Walker, as a vampire, was hunting for them and Sam finally broke.

That time his emotions were plain and on his sleeve as he said all he wanted was Dean to be his brother again because for months Dean recalled he'd been more involved in proving that going to Hell didn't scare him than being there for Sam.

Here, once again, Sam found himself confronted with Dean not caring about himself and only thinking that his life held so little meaning or that he didn't have anything or anyone waiting for him. So long as Sam was safe then he could've done what needed to be done while the world went on without him.

"Sam," Dean took a step toward his brother, debating on how bad this was and how best to defuse it without having to go full chick flick moment but stopped the second a finger was jabbed into his chest.

"Ooo-kay," he let out a slow breath before looking up into hazel eyes that were a little larger than his liked but were definitely full out pissed. "I know you're not drunk, or stoned so there better be a damn good reason you're in my face at three in the damn morning throwing a full out near tantrum just because you don't agree with my opinion of myself."

Seeing the twitch in Sam's jaw warned Dean how close his brother was and considering how quickly he'd snapped from calm to furious, he guessed it was time to just face it and see what this was really about. "What am I, Sam?" he suddenly asked with more than a little resignation, seeing that his brother had to readjust his train of thoughts at the question so he went on. "You said I was more, that I had more…so you tell me, what am I if not a grunt or just a hunter?"

"My brother," the answer was soft, nearly a whisper but because Sam was still close Dean had no trouble hearing it and then he felt like he'd been punched in the heart because of all the replies he'd been waiting to hear, that hadn't been the one he'd seen coming.

"You're my brother, Dean. I'm what you still have up here and despite it all, despite all the fights, the doubts, even the mistrust, I thought…hoped that you'd still consider me important enough to think more of yourself," Sam went on then dropped his eyes to see he'd clenched his fists in his brother's T-shirt and slowly made himself step back. "I'm…sorry. I…it's just…I can't see doing this or anything if you weren't around."

Dean was fighting to find words to just reply to the first answer when Sam hit him with this last emotional punch to the gut because if Dean was weak against anything it was his little brother when he was quiet, hurt, or using pure puppy eye power and when Sam was getting emotional like this then Dean knew to expect those damn eyes to be forthcoming and wasn't disappointed.

"Sam…" he began but had to stop to run over his face, unsure how to handle this one. Emotions were Sam's strong suit or had been before the last couple years had hit and just staying sane had become a priority for his younger brother.

Since Dean's return from Purgatory, he knew that they still had issues to sort out but resentment, a lot of resentment from both of them, had built up and hadn't been settled since Sam had just accepted that Dean's way of handling that sort of thing was to let it go.

Much to Dean's surprise, his brother hadn't pressed him anymore as to why he'd finally severed ties with Benny. He hadn't been pressing for details on what really happened in Purgatory or anything. Just like Dean knew Sam was still holding tiny things back as to why he'd finally chosen to stay hunting rather than go back to Amelia even though Dean had given him a way out.

Now it seemed like all of that had built up and after the recent events of meeting their grandfather, seeing him die, facing a Hellhound to start the process of closing the gates of Hell and whatever the Hell else was hiding in Sam's brain, his emotions were coming to the surface.

It had been a long time since Sam had used that deep a tone in calling Dean his brother but what nearly broke the elder Winchester was that it was said in the hurt tone that Sam only used when Dean had infrequently said or did something that truly hurt Sam.

"You still believe that?" the question was out before Dean could stop it and swore under his breath at the reflex cringe Sam gave since both knew what it was in reference to. "Damn it. Sam, I didn't mean…"

"I looked for you," Sam cut him off but turned away as he did because he now needed space to both gather his thoughts and because he wanted space between them in case this went bad.

Sam knew he'd let his emotions and exhaustion get the better of him the second he snapped at Dean, so he should've known his anti-chick flick brother would still throw up the year he was in Purgatory and Sam was running solo because that was Dean's one huge issue right then and was what probably also made him think so little of his own worth or that Sam still cared.

Now there was a huge silence in the main room of the Men of Letter's base as Dean's green eyes narrowed at that sudden announcement but the slight tick of that muscle in his brother jaw had begun to twitch.

"Come again?" Dean figured he was already on the verge of breaking every anti-chick-flick rule he'd created over the years and had popped off something that he knew was a mistake the second he'd heard his own voice when Sam spoke again.

This time there was no denying the shock on his face or the confusion because as far as Dean knew, Sam had dropped out of sight right after that whole mess with Dick Roman went down. "I've jumped down your throat for months for not even looking for me, for just dropping off-grid…"

"I…looked, Dean. I looked for three months," Sam admitted, keeping his back to his brother so he could avoid any looks of disappointment or worse, shame. "I pulled in favors from people we hadn't seen since Dad, I even called Missouri but I couldn't find you. I couldn't find a way into Purgatory much less find a way to pull you out and then…"

Growing up with Sam, watching him since he'd been six months old and knowing every tone, move, or tell he had allowed Dean to hear it before he saw the tell-tale change of unease in his younger brother's body language. He heard the slight break in an already quiet voice and Dean knew his brother only dropped his voice like that when he was hesitant or scared to tell him something.

"And then what, Sam? What happened to make you stop?" Dean asked, knowing his own tone was more gruff than he liked but as bottling his own emotions up right then since his first instinct was to step forward, to cut the distance between him and Sam in half but had a hunch that his brother wasn't ready for that yet and would probably bolt if he tried so he stayed still, except for the occasional clenching of his fist. "After three months, was it easier to justify stopping?"

He hadn't meant to move, hadn't wanted to look at his brother but that question made Sam turn to lock eyes with Dean, a deep hurt plain on his face as he started to reach a hand out then let it drop. "You're my big brother, Dean. I told you once that I've been looking up to you since I was four and I will never stop looking up to you so to actually stop looking for you was like shoving that damn demon killing knife into my own heart," he stated, making himself look fully at his brother and didn't see anger there which surprised him but knew these days it was hard to gauge Dean's reactions.

Memories were taking an already bad night and making it even worse for Sam since he had not wanted to do this yet. His arm was aching and just thinking back to what he wasn't telling Dean was bringing back other pains.

"No one I talked to could help me, Dean. You were gone. Bobby was gone. Then one day after…I mean, it hit me that everyone we ever counted on was gone but before you were always with me, there for me. You always knew what to do and that rock I'd counted on since I was little was gone and I…was alone to cope with…and I…ran," Sam blinked when his vision suddenly blurred, slashing a hand over his eyes he didn't seem aware that his hands were shaking or that he'd begun leaning against the table for support. "I…was a coward just like Dad said I'd be and I ran away from it but I looked because you were my brother and…"

"What happened, Sam?" Dean interrupted smoothly, his voice oddly calm despite the fact the building anger he could feel.

Not expecting the question, Sam had to stop, take a breath then figure out what his brother had asked since he figured he'd already answered that. "I told you. I looked then…I ran so…"

"Huh," Dean couldn't help but wonder when his little brother had forgotten every rule he'd ever taught him about lying but then Sam never could lie to Dean or at least not unless he was trying really hard and Dean was having an off day.

"You started this by getting pissed off at me because I thought I was only a grunt," he chose to remind Sam, shooting him a look that Sam knew meant his brother wasn't done speaking as he went on. "Now you wanna see me get pissed off? Call yourself a coward again and we'll talk about being pissed off because if there is one thing you are not is a damn coward and when the hell did Dad ever say you were?"

"No, I stopped looking cause…" Sam was floundering suddenly and he knew it. He was still trying to gloss over a huge part of the reason he'd left hunting, stopped looking for Dean, but suddenly his brother wasn't reacting like he figured he would and that was throwing him off because he'd grown accustomed to dealing with Dean when he was disinterested or angry but the sudden intensity in those green eyes was too similar to when Sam was younger and trying to hide something from his brother.

"You turned twenty-five the night I went to Hell. You spent four months on your own…we'll ignore the bitch, and I hadn't taught you nearly what I should have before I left you alone but you didn't run back to normalville and chuck it all…and you really should have that time," Dean decided, not moving his eyes away from his brother and also not missing what he knew Sam had no clue he was showing.

"You aren't a coward, Sam. The only time you ever run, the only times I have ever seen you close to running is when you're scared…and hurt," leaving the last word hanging, Dean suddenly felt any leftover anger at Sam slowly leaving him because he instantly caught the way his little brother's body had gone rigid and slowly ran his tongue over his teeth while fighting the urge to form a fist that would more than likely be misjudged. "What happened to really make you run, Sam?" he asked curiously then tossed in a final question. "Who hurt you, Sammy?"

It was the nickname that finally did it since it had only been very recently that Dean had started using it more frequently but still Sam struggled against the base need to just tell his big brother the truth.

Forcing a shaky smile, Sam shook his head and began to wave the questions away when his damn arm suddenly shot full of pain bad enough that he gasped, grabbing for it and losing balance until strong hands caught his shoulders for support.

"What. Happened. To. You?" measuring each word carefully, Dean asked it this time with no doubt that he'd picked up on the unspoken things in Sam's halting excuse that the younger hunter had been hoping he wouldn't.

Pulling a chair out with a foot, Dean shifted until Sam was sitting down and caught the way his brother seemed to avoid letting his back touch wood and slowly knelt down before moving one hand until it was lightly grasping the back of Sam's neck; much like he would when his brother was younger and needing to know he wasn't alone.

"You faced down Clifford the Big Red dog to keep me from being a chew toy again and you've taken on the chore of slamming Crowley's front door in his face so we don't have to listen to that damn accent ever again but you don't want to tell me what really happened to make you stop hunting," Dean seemed to consider this for a moment before using his other hand to lift his brother's face up to eye level. "It might just be me and the fact that it's the middle of the night or the fact that I'm in the midst of the chick flick moment to beat 'em all but that isn't making me feel good since every time you avoid telling me something I usually end up still picking you up after you faceplant and still want to feed someone their lungs.

"So, one more time…what or who happened to you, Sammy?" asking again but this time holding his brother's eyes, Dean finally saw tired acceptance in the opposite set of hazel eyes and guessed he'd at least won this small victory but had no clue what to expect when Sam moved back in the chair to stare at him for a long moment.

Sam knew Dean would never give up now that he suspected that there was more to this than Sam was letting on and while he dreaded what was probably going to happen, he was also suddenly tired and just wanted to get it over with so with a deep breath he moved to stand up and simply pull his T-shirt off in one quick motion to show back and upper right shoulder to his brother and immediately heard the harsh oath.

Biting his lip, Sam waited for the explosion he was sure would come so he made certain to keep his back turned but knew he was rigid even before he jerked on reflex at the feel of gentle fingers touching what he knew was probably still a pretty livid looking scar toward his lower back.

"Sam?" Dean's voice was tight but there was no way he could even manage a normal tone right then. He'd been expecting to see something when his brother took his shirt off since for Sam to willingly do that told him right off where the issue was.

He just hadn't been expecting to see the jagged scar on his little brother's upper shoulder that also went a little onto the arm much less the more severe scar, or what looked more like a jagged tattoo drawn with a switchblade on Sam's lower back.

"Yeah, Dean?" the reply was soft and shaking meaning that Sam was expecting the rage and more than likely expected it to be aimed at him.

Honestly shocked that he was keeping this calm a tone considering his first instinct, Dean felt like slapping the kid in the head for the simple answer but refrained…barely. "We both know how this should be playing out and I am really trying hard to not react like that but…Sam, answer me one thing," his gaze was shifting between the wounds when he caught sight of another less visible mark on Sam's side that had a red film come over his eyes for just a moment. "Who the hell carved this onto your back and where the hell are they now?"

Hearing and recognizing this tone, Sam was reaching back to grab for his brother's arm before Dean could move. "Let it go, Dean," he whispered, hearing the choked answer that response got. "So this is it. This is the reason I ran. I got jumped and…hurt, so I knew it best if I disappeared and…"

Taking another look at the scars gave Dean a good impression of just how serious they'd been to begin with and didn't like the scenes that were flashing in his brain as he pictured several scenarios and the outcome. "Who did this?" he asked, wanting to groan in frustration at his little brother's lack of cooperation in this area. "Sam, you tell me or I start calling around because someone is bound to know who did this. Did you at least go to Missouri?"

Seeing the near bitch face that question brought told Dean the answer as he suddenly thought of something and shifted Sam so he could see his chest, catching the look sent his way. "Only these or are there more?"

"Just my back," Sam gritted, wanting his shirt back on and was a little surprised when it was tossed at him but not so surprised that Dean wasn't giving up on knowing who had attacked him or how. "I'd been calling around, talking to people Dad knew, trying to find any lore on Purgatory that I didn't already know when I…followed a lead down to Louisiana."

"Ugh. Sammy, didn't I ever tell you never to follow leads to Louisiana?" Dean shook his head, still seeing red but figuring if he let Sam talk enough he could get the answers he wanted. "Voodoo crap, bad news. Trust me."

Sitting on the edge of the table, Sam stared at his hands rather than his restlessly pacing brother. "Got a tip that some people might have some lore or news that would at least get me a basic idea if there was another way into the place cause right then that's all I wanted. I just wanted to get into Purgatory, to help you. Figured I'd figure the getting out part later…Dean, stop snarling."

"One does not simply walk into Purgatory," Dean replied, seeing Sam's small smile as he butchered one of Sam's favorite movie quotes. "Who gave you the tip?"

"Jefferson," Sam sighed then was quick to add. "He thought it was legit, Dean. He did or he wouldn't have sent me. He said so when he…"

Figuring his brother was getting tired when Sam began saying more than he intended, Dean let most of that go except for the last. "When he what?" he asked, finally having enough and stepping back to Sam, carefully laying a hand on the shoulder he knew wasn't hurt since he figured that right then his brother could feel the pain inflicted a year ago.

"Alright, here's how this plays," he made certain he had Sam's full attention before going on in a tone he used only when Sam was sixteen and being a pain in his ass. "You tell me the goddamn truth about who touched you, who carved that thing onto your back and cut you or I give Jefferson a treat and send Garth to his goddamn door," Dean knew he had Sam the moment his brother's eyebrows about crawled back on his head.

"Jeff thought Caleb and I were a pain in his ass at sixteen?" Dean gave that smirk he always did before getting into some form of trouble. "He hasn't seen anything until I shove Garth on him. Now, give."

Hating this since he knew his brother's temper and could guess the ultimate outcome if he did tell Dean the truth, Sam hesitated a second then closed his eyes. "Roy and Walt."

Flashes of a bitter memory hit Dean a second before the names registered fully. Sounds of a shotgun going off, the brief sight of seeing his little brother shot before his own chest exploded in pain as he was also shot by two raggedy assed hunters and the memory of a very solemn vow also came to him.

"Huh," he grunted, suddenly very certain of his next detour the very first time he dropped Sam on Kevin and or Garth. "Do I want to ask how bad it was or how you got out or not?"

"Not," came the reply in the near pleading tone to just drop it which Dean would reluctantly and only for the moment as Sam sighed. "About a week is what I remember. Walt's gotten…creative since the night in the motel and he…remembered what you told him too."

"'When I come back, and I will come back, I'll find you,'" Dean recalled that promise too and for the first time in a seriously long time wished he'd've carried it out so maybe his brother wouldn't have been hurt now. "I might have to finish that."

"When I didn't call him back, Jeff came looking and I honestly don't know what happened cause I was pretty out of it but I think he scared 'em off and when I came to I was in a hospital with Jeff apologizing. Dean, he didn't know they were setting me up," he looked up when he realized his brother had finally stopped pacing again. "I stayed with Jeff for a couple weeks then he picked up rumors that Walt was spreading and I knew I couldn't deal with the whole damn community on my own so I ran and prayed you'd come home and that you wouldn't hate me too much."

Dean suddenly understood why Sam took it so hard when Dean said that Benny had never let him down. He thought he'd let him down again.

Walking over to the hidden bar, Dean poured two glasses of whiskey and brought them back to where Sam was sitting on the edge of the table.

Sam had been running restless fingers through his longer hair and had once again managed to get some of into his eyes but Dean, for once, didn't have the heart to tease him about his hair as he nudged the glass into his hand.

"Drink," he urged him, seeing the exhaustion now that Sam had finally expelled a lot of what he'd been keeping buried inside.

"Y'know when I was down there, even as Benny and I were fighting to find Cas and get out, the one thing that kept me going every damn night was that I knew you were up here and safe…or at least safer than you would've been down there but…" Dean paused a second to lift the glass to his lips but didn't drink while making sure Sam did take a few sips of his. "There were times, a lot of times, when I wished I had you fighting by my side cause no matter what else, no matter how many times Benny might've saved my ass, he wasn't you, Sammy.

"He wasn't my baby little and regardless of what we've faced or what we will face down the road, you're who I want covering my back and fighting alongside me," Dean looked next to him with a smile that only his brother could usually bring out. "You're my little brother, Sammy. That will always mean something to me. You will always be what matters to me. I will be here to help you any way that I can with this crap and if there is a light at the end of this ugly ass tunnel then I guess we'll find it together cause I promised you once that we were brothers and nothing would ever change that."

Glancing next to him, Dean knew what he'd see and wasn't disappointed to see shining hazel eyes wide with full on puppy power to the Nth degree in a way that he hadn't seen in years. Which is why, or at least would be Dean's excuse later, he shrugged off the last no-chick-flick rule to reach over to give Sam a full brotherly hug that felt more real than the one in the cabin when they'd been reunited after Dean's return from Purgatory.

Wary, Sam tentatively returned the gesture until he felt Dean shift a hand to give a light squeeze to the back of his neck which was how Sam used to know things were alright between them. "Dean?" he asked, blinking his suddenly heavy eyes. "You still think you're a grunt?"

Chuckling softly, Dean shook his head while shifting to see how easy it was going to be to get his 6'4" brother down to where their rooms were in this place. "No, Sammy, I think we covered that," he assured him, figuring that exhaustion, emotion, and the half a glass of whiskey had combined to finally make Sam sleepy. He'd just forgotten that his little brother was, much to his distaste, four inches taller than he was. "I'm a helluva lot more than just a grunt or a hunter."

"Told you that," Sam muttered, able to walk but guessing he shouldn't have drank this late at night on nearly an empty stomach. "What are you?"

"Yeah, half a glass of Jack and you're out there," Dean rolled his eyes with amusement, shoving the door to his brother's room open then lightly letting him fall on his stomach before reaching for another blanket to toss over Sam.

Sitting on the edge of the bed to make sure Sam was going to sleep alright, he shifted the blanket aside to lift his brother's T-shirt up for one last look at the jagged carving of an old hunter's brand and then lightly let his fingers card back through Sam's hair like he would when he was small. "I'm a big brother with a little brother who I will still feed someone their lungs over hurting him," he murmured to himself, hearing Sam mumble something in his sleep and laughed. "Yeah, g'night to you too, bitch."

Dean left the door open just enough so he'd know if Sam woke up since it was still a little weird for them not to share a room and he knew Sam had nightmares when he wasn't worked up so the odds of him sleeping through the night were slim.

Stepping into his own room, Dean dropped down onto his own new memory foam mattress to stare at the ceiling and think of the past hour. He hadn't gotten his pie as he'd originally gone out for but had gotten something more important.

He'd come to a better understanding with Sam and while he'd probably always feel a little bit like a grunt he accepted that he did have something up here for him, something to keep striving for…something to protect because no matter if it was Sam who would have to do these tasks, Dean fully planned to have his back and take as much of the burden as he could because he'd be damned if he lost Sammy just to close the Gates of Hell.

Taking a look at his watch, he gauged time zones before snatching his cell phone and keying a number. "Hey, Jeff, it's Dean Winchester," he smiled at the dead air before the older man finally responded and he looked at a picture he'd had on the table by the bed of him holding his chubby baby brother. "I need to ask you something and I'm guessing you already know what that is so…why don't you tell me where to find the sons of bitches who touched my baby brother and we'll go from there?"

As Dean listened, he let his eyes close. He fully planned on helping Sam with these chores and they'd handle whatever else came their way but before the year was out, he also planned on keeping that promise he'd made to Walt and by going after Sam it was a sure bet that he'd do just that cause as Sam pointed out, he was more than a grunt. He was Sam's brother and Dean Winchester Rule #1…no one touched Dean's little brother without expecting to die.

"Promise," Dean whispered, shaking his head. "Jeff, have you ever met the littlest hunter that could?" he broke in, figuring Garth would come in handy after all.

The End

Author Note: This is my third tag for this episode but I will say that this one took a small off course change (Sam's fault) that I wasn't planning when I started but that is often the way with stories. Thank you all for reading and I certainly hope you enjoy it.