Fear of Losing Him

Summary: 1-shot. The second trial is completed but the Winchesters troubles are just increasing. Dean must struggle with his concerns for Sam, his doubts over possibly losing another ally and finally tries to come to grips with his deepest fear…losing his brother. / Angsty/brooding/big brother!Dean & Limp/tired/concerned!Sam *Spoilers for 08x19 Taxi Driver*

Warnings/Spoilers: Warnings for language. This does have spoilers for 08x19-Taxi Driver so please be aware of this before reading.

Tags: 08x19-Taxi Driver

Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or anything to do with the show. This is just written for fun and enjoyment.

Author Note: The 2nd tag for Taxi Driver. Like always, it took a turn I wasn't plotting but I think it came out well. Please read and enjoy. Thanks!

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"Yeah, well give us a shout if you hear anything that can help, Garth. No, it's not your fault. Both Sam and I could tell that Kevin was wound a bit too tight. Yeah, bye. Damn."

Resisting the urge to toss his cell phone against the wall of the Men of Letters base or in the nearby trashcan, Dean Winchester scrubbed a hand over his face in a combination of weariness and frustration.

There had been a time in his life that he honestly thought that nothing could surprise him anymore. In Dean's opinion he'd been killing things that would scare any normal person since he was a teenager. His Mom had been killed when he was four years old, his Dad had sort of gone obsessive after that.

He and his brother grew up moving from one motel to another. He'd been to Hell, he'd been to Purgatory and even seen the fringe of what was supposed to be Heaven if he believed Zachariah's bullshit.

He'd seen his brother killed, made a deal that saved Sam but sent himself to Hell for forty years (or four months Earth time), seen his little brother addicted to demon blood, nearly lost that same brother to a damn Cage with two warring Archangels and then wondered what the hell had come out of that Cage.

Dean had honestly thought that fighting to get Sam's soul put back, watched their Angel friend go post nuclear after absorbing most of the evil from Purgatory and then getting stuck there for a year would top his list.

"Yeah, fat chance of that," he sighed, sitting at the long table in the main room of the base he and Sam had sort of adopted as home and headquarters.

Ever since his plan of being the one to complete the three trials to close Hell for good had backfired and landed on Sam's shoulders, Dean knew his life would suck but the last twenty-four hours had surprised even him.

The call from their already flighty Prophet had given the Winchesters the news that to complete the second trial Sam needed to go into Hell to retrieve an innocent soul.

Letting his younger brother go into Hell was bad news to Dean to start with even if he hadn't known that Sam was already being hurt by these trials and he just seemed to be getting weaker despite the fact that Sam still tried to hide it.

Promising not to lie to Dean anymore was one thing but Dean knew his brother and knew that the kid would still try to make it look like he was doing better than he was.

Pouring a generous glass of whiskey into a glass, Dean just stared at it rather than pick it up like he would've have even three months earlier.

Sam going into Hell with a rogue Reaper was one issue but finding out that the innocent soul he needed to save was that of their very own former friend and mentor, Bobby Singer, was another problem for Dean.

Losing Bobby had been brutal for both Winchesters but Dean knew that it was so much harder on Sam who had always been the more emotional of the two brothers.

Going deep into Hell would be hard enough on Sam but having to find Bobby, get him out and then let him go again…well, that was something that not even Dean had been looking forward to facing but his biggest fear was letting Sam go alone.

It wasn't because he didn't trust his brother to get the job done despite not being on his A-game. He did trust Sam…it was more Dean's own fears that made him hesitate in letting Sam go and if he'd known then what he did now he never would've let the kid go into that alley.

"Sonuvabitch," he muttered, lifting the glass to his lips and wanting to get so drunk that he could forget the last day or so after that bitch Angel Naomi had dropped it on him that Sam hadn't just gone into Hell but he'd gone there via Purgatory.

Dean had spent a year stuck in Purgatory. He'd spent a year fighting to just survive and keep his sanity intact. There were times when he'd doubted if he'd ever see his brother again much less get back to the real world.

The thought of that place even touching his little brother made Dean sick and when he feared that Sam might be trapped there that fear had made him come as close to panic as he been in years.

It had been a long time since Dean had to face the fears he'd learned to bury. He and Sam had grown apart in the last few years though Dean hadn't honestly considered it as bad as it was until just recently and was now working hard on fixing a lot of those issues.

The constant action, the constant threats they've been facing in the past years since their Dad died had started as a tiny wedge between them that Dean's own issues and doubts hadn't allowed him time or energy to see how much wider it had gotten or how much of his little brother had gotten lost in the depth of that loss.

"Sammy," laying a faded photo on the table in front of him, Dean smiled at the image of his four year old self holding his new chubby baby brother.

This was when neither of them had problems aside from being children. It was six months later that it all changed and even then Dean struggled to protect his little brother.

A glance between the still untouched whiskey and the open medical kit on the table made his green eyes narrow since every time Dean needed to patch up bruises or wounds on Sam it brought back the fact that he sucked at keeping the promise to always look after his little brother.

Dean grew up looking after his brother since it was often just the two of them while their Dad was off hunting one thing or another. He managed to keep Sam in the dark as to what their father did for a living until the Christmas Sam was eight and got too nosy then all he could hope for was to keep his little brother safe until the time came when Sam could get out.

It had been a long time since he allowed himself to think back on those early days after they began hunting together again but for Dean it was in those times that he could feel that the strain wasn't as huge. That rift hadn't come until after he'd returned from Hell and everyone just seemed determined to drive him and Sam apart.

Demons, Angels, so much more just kept pushing until Dean now realizes how much time he and Sam lost being brothers. The bond between them kept them together for the most part but now Dean sees that it was mainly duty on his part and not knowing what else to do on Sam's.

Except for a few exceptions they hadn't really been acting like brothers in at least three years…not since Dean dropped the amulet in a motel trashcan, not since his doubts, his exhaustion, and his own weariness made him nearly lose the only other person he still loved even if it usually took a crowbar or a near death situation to force him to admit it.

Losing Sam to the Cage with Lucifer and Michael had briefly reminded Dean what it was like to not have his brother and how easy it would've been for him to finally end it all if Sam, or what seemed like Sam, hadn't returned when he did.

Being big brother hadn't come easily for Dean since all the fights started after his return from Hell but deep down he knew the need to protect Sam was still there, it just wasn't always easy to show it to a grown man who was so determined not to need his older brother as much.

Since Sam got his soul back, which was still so odd for Dean to think about, his brother had been more open and some of the stress had eased off until all the crap with the Leviathans happened and Sam began keeping how much he was hurting and how hard it was for him to keep Lucifer's voice out of his own head.

When Sam finally collapsed and ended up in the hospital, Dean felt lost and helpless. He'd felt the buried fear tingle but had managed to keep it from showing as he fought to save not only his brother's body but also his mind.

It was hard for him to face his biggest fears when he'd grown up being told to never show them, never have any type of fear that could be used against him. It was usually only his brother that could make him face those but with all the strain and fighting, the lies and secrets between them it was still hard for him to open up.

The closest he'd come was the incident in Vegas with Sam and Becky and it hadn't been his fears he'd faced that time but his rage at anyone hurting his little brother.

Being tough and brave worked fine for Sam normally but as Dean knew well there were times, injuries, that his brother couldn't bury them and nearly resorted to opening himself to emotions that Sam had been hiding so he wouldn't appear weak to his brother.

Showing weakness or fear had always been frowned upon growing up and while Sam had been the more open one with his emotions, he'd begun hiding them after Dean's deal had come due and he was left alone. Another thing that Dean knew he should've handled better.

Lifting the glass to his lips, images flashed in Dean's mind and he didn't even bother to try to stop his hands from shaking as he slowly lowered the whiskey and finally let himself think back.

"Damn it," not even aware of when his voice seemed to echo in the large room, Dean closed his eyes against the sudden rush of memories.

Dean had far more fears and secrets that even Sam believed and it was fine for Dean to let his brother go on believing that because no matter what else there had always been things that he'd promised himself that Sam would never know.

Now it seemed like the stress of this last trial wasn't only affecting Sam but the strain and fears that it had brought back was also bringing back other things that Dean would rather not remember.

Proud of the tough guy image he'd made for himself since he'd been a teenager, he knew and accepted that his own rules of not showing emotion or fears and the way he'd more often than not bury his own had made Sam believe all the lies he'd been told or believed.

It hadn't been until they were working on the first trial and Dean let down a small part of the walls within himself to reveal why he was doing the trials himself that more than emotional walls had broken between them.

Since that night, since it became clear that Sam had taken the weight and eventual outcome onto himself that a lot of the strain between had had eased up but with every day that passed, with every nightmare Sam had or every little clue that something was wrong with his little brother is also brought more of Dean's fears to the surface.

This latest trial had now unleashed his biggest fear of all: the fear of losing his brother for good without having any way to help or save him this time.

Dean had several fears but nothing like the one he had about losing his little brother and there had been too many times in his life that he'd been forced to confront it.

Several times growing up Sam had been hurt or sick enough that doctors had told John that his youngest son might not make it and Dean had sat with his little brother, just hoping that he'd pull through because he couldn't see his life without Sammy.

Since hunting together again, Dean had once again faced that fear too often than he liked. The night his brother had been kidnapped by those damn rednecks still makes Dean wish he'd hurt them more but it was the night in Cold Oak when Sam had literally been killed that his biggest fear had come true and he'd reacted in the only way he'd known how.

He'd made the deal that saved Sam but also sent them both down the path that would ultimately drive them apart and only just recently begun to finally heal that rift.

"Yeah, and what cost?" he demanded to himself, thinking of the other night when he'd realized his brother was trapped in Purgatory with no way home and he'd been powerless to help him…again.

It was being powerless that bothered Dean almost as much as the fears did because he'd fought his whole life as a hunter to ever be that helpless or powerless again. Twice had he been in those positions and he'd sworn never to be that way again and to never be powerless when it came to protecting his brother.

Thinking of Purgatory and Sam's brief time in it still made Dean's skin crawl because Sam had only looked at Dean with those huge eyes but had avoided talking about it which was Dean's first huge clue that Sam had seen too much and something had happened that while he wanted to talk or ask Dean something he was leery on either bringing back bad memories or starting a fight, which had been Dean's normal way to avoid his brother's questions about either Hell or Purgatory.

Knowing he didn't have any other option, Dean had taken a huge stab in the dark when he called on Benny to ask him for help in saving Sam from the hell they'd both gone through down there and to this very moment he was still a little shocked that the vampire had agreed.

Benny had been one of the issues of strife between him and Sam since his return from Purgatory because Sam didn't understand why Dean had formed such a strong bond with the vampire and Dean hadn't been able to fully explain it to his brother without going further into explaining Purgatory than he ever wanted Sam to know about.

He'd known Benny was having a hard time readjusting to life topside but had been too preoccupied when he'd finally made the choice to break contact in a way to maybe put at least one thing right with Sam only to be forced to asking his friend to go back into Purgatory in order to save a young man who really believed that the vampire needed to be killed.

It was actually amusing to Dean in some sick way that their roles were reversed now since he could clearly recall the fight he and Sam had gotten into when Sam had defended the vampire Lenore and her nest and Dean believed they should've been killed or he had before Gordon became a bigger threat.

It had hurt to kill Benny but the more vital object for Dean was at least to give his brother a fighting chance to survive Purgatory and get out alive.

The next several hours were murder for Dean as he could only wait and worry about what was happening to Sam down there.

He knew his little brother could usually take care of himself in most situations and against most foes they faced but that was before doing the trials began taking a much larger toll on Sam and that wasn't against what he'd see in Hell and what he'd possibly have to face in Purgatory.

Dean knew only too well that the monsters in Purgatory were far worse than anything they'd faced and most had a huge mad-on for any Winchester and they'd be only too thrilled to take their hatred for Dean out on Sam and that was only one of many fears that had been going wild in his head as he paced those empty Maine woods until he saw his brother stumble out of the trees.

Knowing he'd broken his number one rule of no chick-flick moments the moment he moved to grab Sam into a hug that he hadn't felt as deep or true in a long time, Dean ignored all that to concentrate on not embarrassing himself or Sam if he actually had broken into tears of relief that his brother was out of Purgatory alive but Dean knew without asking that Sam had seen and realized too much.

Learning of Benny's sacrifice in order to save Sam didn't surprise Dean since he'd been afraid that his friend would make the choice not to return and then he was too busy getting tossed into a tree by Crowley to think more on that.

Bobby's soul was sent to Heaven thanks to the so-called intervention of Naomi, Crowley vanished and then Dean's week finished blowing up when he and Sam got back to Garth's houseboat only to discover that Kevin had apparently fled or if what Kevin had been saying was true, grabbed by someone.

"One trial to go and the kid flips out," Dean shook his head, guessing he should've paid more attention to Kevin in the past few days especially when he began saying he was hearing Crowley.

It wasn't that Dean didn't believe the young Prophet but between Kevin's own bizarre behavior since cracking the half of tablet to having every demon ward on the boat he was at a cross at what to believe and just hoped they found either Kevin or the tablet before something happened that he couldn't correct, like Sam going downhill too badly.

That thought was the crux of Dean's fears right then and the one that he didn't have an easy way to fix. Sam surviving Purgatory or at least he had physically was one relief even though Dean knew only too well that his little brother was bothered by something he'd seen or thought of and would probably bring it up at the worst possible time.

It was the fear of what was happening to Sam now and what the final trial would do to him that Dean feared the most because he'd seen the agony on his brother as this trial had ended, he'd seen the near tears in Sam's eyes that he'd fought not to shed and he'd also noticed the way that Sam was favoring that damn arm.

As someone who'd grown up with Sam, who had seen him go through a lot of sickness, injuries, pain, and grief Dean knew every tell-tale sign his brother had and was seeing way too many on him now.

Usually Sam was touchy or testy when sick or hurt and Dean tried to hover or help but more than once since getting back here since leaving the houseboat his brother hadn't objected or argued with a suggestion to try to sleep or let him look at the minor wounds Sam had picked up this time.

The big giveaway to Dean however, the thing that alarmed him the most and raised his fear level to the next notch was after he'd cleaned the wounds and gotten his too off balance brother to his room Sam asked him to leave the door open and to leave the light on.

"Yeah, that wasn't too alarming," again pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off the building tension headache, Dean picked up the glass of whiskey again but even as it touched his lips he whirled to hurl it across the room to smash the glass into the wall and only barely resisted the urge to send the chair after it.

He hated not knowing what was going to happen next. He hated to be powerless in any fight and he hated the thought of being unable to protect his brother even as he knew the kid was slowly falling apart.

"Dean?"

Sam's voice was shaky but without turning Dean couldn't be certain if that was because he'd woken up with a nightmare, he was in more pain than he was sharing or if he was wary of what mood his often too angry when drinking brother was in.

If Dean had to guess he'd pick the last one since he was pretty positive that Sam's eyes would've zeroed in on the whiskey bottle still sitting on the table.

"Hey. I thought you were sleeping," he coughed to try to force his voice back to normal but still heard it more gruff than he liked and swore under his breath because he also knew how that gruff tone would be taken by Sam if he let it go that far.

Sam had, in fact, woken up from a shaky sleep with a too vivid nightmare and had come looking for his brother when he heard the sound of breaking glass and one look into the room made him doubt his choice.

The open whiskey bottle on the table, the broken glass across the room and the way Dean's fingers were clenching into the back of the chair warned Sam that his brother was probably not in the mood to listen to his issues.

"Yeah, I was," he admitted slowly, scuffing the toe of his boot nervously while stepping in slowly. "Woke up," he hedged, biting his lip while considering if he should stay or leave Dean alone.

He'd promised not to keep anymore secrets from Dean and had been putting this off since they'd gotten back but if Dean knew his reactions then Sam also knew his brother's and knew if Dean had been drinking too long and was already in a bad mood that this might not be a good time.

Sam knew this but he also knew he wasn't ready to face going back to his room yet. If he was honest with himself the one thing he didn't like about staying in the Men of Letters base was they no longer shared one motel room.

Once upon a time he'd longed to have a room of his own, to have privacy but now that he did…Sam regretted it because it had been so easy to know that if he was hurt or woke up that his brother was there.

Now, even though Dean was only a door or two away, it felt weird for Sam to wake his brother up over something as stupid as a bad dream when he'd been hitting thirty in another month.

This night on the other hand Sam still felt too raw and in pain to ignore the need to seek his brother out even if he was leery of Dean's mood.

"Why're you still up?" he tried to see if he could gauge the extent of Dean's dark mood or his whiskey consumption before taking that final step.

Willing each finger to relax, slowly Dean was able to finally let go of the chair back but decided to wait until he knew his face and eyes appeared calmer before he turned. "Too much crap on my mind," he shrugged, silently kicking himself for the tone as it was the gruff, couldn't care less tone he'd been more prone to using after they'd fought and that was not the one he wanted to give. "Sorry. I just wanted to think before trying to go toss and turn."

"Garth hasn't turned up any leads?" Sam knew his brother was going to call the skinny hunter who'd been helping them recently and guessed that was probably one issue going on.

Neither he nor Dean had laid any stock in Kevin's fears that he was hearing the King of Hell in his head and Sam knew how hurtful that could be since he'd lived with Lucifer talking in his head until he'd finally snapped.

Losing their link to the last trial was bound to put strain on Dean since he'd blame himself for losing Kevin and for extending the strain Sam was going through.

"No, but he's going to keep trying," Dean sighed, wondering if that would even help since if Crowley or worse, the Angels, grabbed their prophet then they were seriously screwed but he wasn't about to admit those fears to Sam yet. "We'll find him," he added, feeling Sam approach without even looking but did finally look over his shoulder and felt his lips thin in a frown.

Sam had been pale the entire night but now as he looked his brother seemed even more so. He could also tell by the way Sam's hair looked messed up that restless fingers had been going through it and barely resisted the long time urge to mention he needed a haircut.

Nodding, Sam tried to figure out what else besides Kevin's disappearance could have Dean this stressed when another thought crossed his mind and he felt like groaning. "I'm…sorry you didn't get to see Bobby before he…crossed to Heaven," he hoped that didn't sound too lame but wasn't sure how to bring that up since he knew how his brother felt about dealing with emotions and Bobby's death was still a sore issue for both of them.

"What did Bobby say to you about goodbyes when you saw him?" Dean asked, figuring the former hunter wouldn't have been too thrilled to repeat the performance and Dean wasn't sure if he would've wanted to.

He was happy that Sam got to have even a short amount of time with Bobby and knew it would've been more important for Sam to have that closure because while Bobby was important to them both and Dean loved the older man like a surrogate father and mentor he also knew that Bobby was aware of which of them he needed to find closure with himself.

"Umm, that he'd already said goodbye to me once and that there was no reason to think that this would stick any better than the last time had," Sam replied, smiling a little at the memory of the cranky old hunter. "He punched me when he first saw me."

Sticking his tongue in his cheek, Dean fought the urge to laugh at that since he remember all too well Bobby's reaction the day Dean had showed up on his door after getting out of Hell. "Just be glad he didn't has any Holy Water or he'd've soaked you with it."

"At least he'd at peace now," Sam tried, hesitating before laying a hand on Dean's shoulder as if to offer support but didn't miss the quick jerk at the touch. "Dean?"

"Getting Bobby outta Hell was two-fold, Sam," Dean told him, feeling the touch lighten as if Sam wasn't certain if it was the right move or not. "We would've gotten him out anyway and he needed to come out to finish the trial. I'm glad Bobby's up there bugging the Angel Patrol but that's not what's keeping me awake."

Struggling to go through his memory to see if he could figure out what was bothering his normally so stoic brother but coming up blank and deciding it was probably best if he left Dean alone Sam started to move back only to feel a strong grasp grip his wrist to stop him. "Huh? Dean?"

The way Sam tensed along with the cautious expression and the still slight shake to his voice told Dean that his brother really had no clue to what was keeping him awake and that realization was just another reminder to Dean to how far he'd let them grow apart.

"It's not sinking in with you yet is it, Geek Boy?" he asked quietly while making sure to meet and hold Sam's confused gaze then offered a sad smile when Sam finally shook his head.

Turning Sam's wrist that he still had a hold of over so he could grasp it better then reached with his other to lightly lay it over the back of Sam's neck to squeeze it much like he would when they'd both been younger, Dean shook his head. "You're what's keeping me awake, Sam."

"What? Me? Why?" Sam had been confused before but now he was beyond confused. Then he realized he didn't smell any whiskey on his brother. "You're not…drunk."

"Would me being drunk and being freaked out about you make more sense to you, little brother?" Dean chuckled, letting go of Sam to take a couple steps away but not far enough that he couldn't make a grab if Sam went to fall since that was how pale he seemed right then.

"Actually, yeah. It would," Sam nodded then gave a sheepish shrug. "It's four in the morning, you're still awake and you're not drunk or even smell like the whiskey that's sitting here so…what I do?"

Trying to choose a simple comeback that last question put Dean off-base and also served to piss him off a little when he stopped walking to turn on his heel with a questioning look. "Come again? You think you did something to make me stay up most of the night brooding about it?"

"Usually that's what happens," Sam confirmed, feeling tired and sort of wishing he hadn't started this now when he went to lean on the chair only to feel his arm give out but so did his legs. "Damn…Dean, what…?"

Seeing his brother start to go down, Dean's move was quick and he was able to catch Sam and pull out the chair to sit his suddenly shaking brother down in all before Sam could try to catch himself.

"Yeah, you did do something that's keeping me up most nights," Dean began, keeping a hand on Sam's shoulder when he felt him go to move while pulling another chair closer to he could sit but still keep some form of contact with his now edgy sibling.

Letting his eyes drop to the hand that he hadn't known had fisted in pain it surprised Sam how much those words hurt when he'd long since thought he was used to his brother's mood swings and now thought he had a clue to what was wrong.

"I'm sorry, Dean," he murmured, not needing to lift his eyes up to know what he'd see in the hard green eyes watching him since he'd seen that same disappointment too often before. "I…I should've stayed. I should've made sure Benny came out with me or…I don't know. I should've done something differently and maybe…"

Actually speechless at what he was hearing it took Dean several long moments before he could shake himself back to reality and made himself not raise his voice in a way his already upset and clearly exhausted brother would take any more wrong than anything else right then.

"Huh. You think I'm pissed off at you because you didn't stick around Purgatory to help Benny and then bring him out with you?" he waited for the short nod then slowly run his tongue over his teeth in honest amazement that he wasn't banging his head off the table

"I sent Benny in there after you," he reminded Sam carefully, surprised that his mood was settling as he watched the fingers of Sam's left hand trace long ago learned sigils onto the leg of his jeans. "He knew the risks of going back after he helped me and like you said, he was having a hard time up here so I wasn't surprised that he didn't come back."

"Yeah, but he was your friend," Sam argued, closing his eyes as they suddenly stung then nearly flinched at the unexpected hands that caught his face between them to lift it.

"And you're my brother," Dean countered firmly, no longer liking the way this conversation was going and deciding to put an end to it. "Now, ask me which of those is more important and if you even look like you're putting yourself second I will so kick your ass, little brother."

Blinking at the gruff no nonsense tone that also held a slight tremor that Dean's voice normally only had when he was upset, Sam's eyes opened to lock on his brother's and was a little surprised that he didn't see disappointment.

He recognized the low anger that went along with the tone but he felt his throat tighten at the sight of tears that weren't being shed. "You said I did something and…ow," he winced as one hand moved to lightly slap him in the back of the head.

"You want to know what you did to keep me up at night, Sam?" Dean asked with an eye roll that reminded Sam of the ones he did that his brother was always bitching about. "Fine. You killed a goddamn hellhound, took these damn trials on, and I'm forced to just stand by and watch as you get weaker and more scared every day, every night and with every goddamn nightmare. That's what you did, Sammy."

Seeing the honest surprise in Sam's tired eyes once again reminded Dean that they'd grown too apart these past few years and that Sam still believed so much of what had been said between them.

"When I told you that I wanted you out of this life when I planned on doing the trials myself, I meant that. I still mean that," he needed space if he was going to do this and Sam's huge tear filling puppy dog eyes were not going to make this easy so Dean stood to pace a few steps from the table. "It wasn't fair of Dad to put you in a life that you didn't want and it wasn't fair of me to bring you back in once you'd gotten out.

"Would you have been able to stay out with all the demons and stuff? I don't know but maybe if I hadn't dragged you back in…you would've had a better shot," Dean stopped to look back and ached for the innocence his brother had once had and still if he looked deep enough could still see in him now. "I've tried to reason it all away. All the crap we've been through since Dad died and I'm not stupid enough to think that even if we close Hell that all the troubles will go away because I know it won't.

Watching what're going through with these trials, I know I underestimated them because some piece of me just thought do the trials, say a spell and get one step closer to slamming the door on Crowley. I didn't consider the long term effects…I didn't consider the risk or the Hell with trusting you and we would've found another Hell-mutt," he stated, offering a low curse at the way Sam's face fell and he moved to kneel next to the chair as he struggled to make his point.

"Dean, we knew the risks and I accept them," Sam argued, surprised by this sudden emotion in his brother.

"We knew the risks of fighting our way through Crowley, we knew the risks that went with you even completing each trial," Dean agreed, reaching for the hand that was still fisted and trying to hide his concern at how easy it was for him to uncurl it. "I'm talking about the risks to you, Sam. I didn't consider the ultimate risk to you and what's happening to you now."

Frowning, Sam didn't want to get into that because while he'd promised not to keep anything about his health from Dean he wasn't sure he was ready to face that concern himself. "Dean, I'm fine," he tried to say but blew out a breath at the raised eyebrow he received. "Basically."

"You're fine?" Dean knew that was a lie even as he was gripping his brother's hand. "Prove it then. Squeeze my hand and prove to me that you're fine…basically. Then you can tell me how you're not waking up with nightmares nearly every night and you're back to 'basically' only sleeping when we're on the road."

Startled hazel eyes shot up to meet the knowing green ones of his brother and after a moment Sam let out a shaky breath and shook his hand when his hand simply didn't have the strength right then, the fear of that clear in his eyes. "It hurts tonight so I don't have much strength when it's hurting," he admitted quietly, then frowned. "How'd you know about the dreams? I haven't woke you up or…"

"I'm your big brother, Sam. I know you and even in separate rooms I can tell when you have a nightmare," Dean shrugged, lightly squeezing the hand he had gripped before letting go to sit back in the chair beside Sam. "Even before Cas said there was something wrong with you I knew it and I've…been checking more on you at night so if the signs are there I stick around so maybe you can sleep," he admitted with slight embarrassment.

"Thinking about these trials, not knowing how much worse they'll hurt you in the long run since every day you seem weaker it makes me wonder if just chucking this plan is a better idea. Just let the damn door stay open," Dean sighed, this time feeling Sam's fingers fight to tighten around his.

"Closing the door to Hell is important," the younger Winchester argued, now more than a little concerned at this sudden attitude change. "You've always said that. Nothing is more important than closing Hell and…"

"You're more important, Sammy!" Dean cut him off, those buried fears coming to surface before he could bottle them back up. "I've watched you, taken care of you since you were little and God knows I've been scared before but this time…Sammy, the fear of losing you…"

Again, Dean needed to find space but gritted his teeth as Sam's stronger left hand closed on his arm to keep him sitting and he was forced to meet his brother's eyes. "Thinking of you stuck in Purgatory scared the shit out of me because I never wanted you to know what it was like down there. I never wanted that touching you and the moment you came out of those trees I swore that I wasn't losing you, that I wasn't facing that fear.

"You're my little brother and like I said, I might not be able to do these trials if you insist on trying to do the third one but I will be beside you and I will always take care of you but I'm telling you one thing right now…I am not losing you to this," Dean's voice had dropped to the deep, gruffer one that always came up when he was emotional as he let his hand rest on the back of Sam's neck with a squeeze of support. "You promised me that there was a light at the end of this so-called tunnel and we will find it…together."

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Sam could only nod. He hesitated in doing what he felt like trying but once again forgot that his brother still could read him and didn't resist the slight tug that pulled him forward into a hug that he returned with as much strength as he had right then.

"We'll get through it," he agreed, closing his eyes tightly as images of what had woken his up earlier flashed back. "Dean…I know I have to do it alone but…don't…leave me?"

A light hearted comment meant to ease some of the click flick depth in the room was on the tip of his tongue when that shaky plea hit him and Dean was forced to take several breaths before he would even attempt to speak since he knew his voice wouldn't be steady.

"I'm not leaving you, kiddo," he promised, holding the hug until he felt some of the tension ease out of Sam then moved back to see the exhaustion in his brother's face but also the shadows in his eyes. "We'll face this together and I'll have your back even if I have to ride you piggy-back like I used to when you were six."

The soft laugh uncurled some of the tension in Dean's gut and he met Sam's smile with the one honest smile he only seemed to give to his brother when trying to reassure some of Sam's fears or doubts.

"That'd be kinda hard since I'm taller than you," Sam chose to point out, hiding his smile when his brother offered a well-chosen reply to that dig since it never stopped to annoy Dean that his younger brother was four inches taller than he was.

"Shut up or I'm not camping out in your room tonight," Dean growled, keeping a tight grip on Sam's right arm as he helped his brother stand then steadied him until Sam nodded that he was alright.

Dreading the thought of going back to bed or even trying to sleep, Sam was considering an alternative plan until what his brother said dawned on him and he nearly fell trying to turn back to stare. "What? You…what?"

"It's either I camp out in your room or I know you'll try to stay awake the rest of the night or sneak out to sleep in the Impala and neither of those things work for me so you're going to bed and I'm camping on the floor," Dean replied easily, not having too much trouble moving his still stunned brother. "Of course, after all this trial crap is over and you're back to your ever annoying, full strength annoying little brother self I'm sleeping for a week straight and will buzz your head if you even think of waking me up," he tossed in for effect.

Sam was still trying to understand this when he was nudged down onto his bed. "Dean, you don't have to stay in here," he argued, not willing to admit he felt some sense of relief at not being alone but hating to drag his brother out of the room he was so proud to have or the memory foam mattress. "I'll be…"

"Yeah, I know. You'll be fine," Dean snorted, giving a light push to Sam's shoulder which always meant lay down, shut up, and go to sleep in unspoken big brother speech. "Tonight I'm camping out in here cause tomorrow I have a lead on a small hunt in upstate New York while we're waiting on Garth to sniff up a lead," he told his now grumbling brother. "I swear, you bitch face me and you will wake up bald, Sammy," he warned, tossing an extra blanket and pillow on the floor across the room while shooting Sam a well-known look.

Considering calling Dean's bluff, Sam reconsidered since he knew his brother hardly bluffed and couldn't deny he was tired so wanting to sleep and feeling safe enough to with his brother in the room, he rolled to his side and wasn't aware of how fast sleep came even as he was trying to say goodnight to Dean and it came out as a mumble that only an older brother used to Sam could understand.

"Yeah, g'night to you too, Sammy," Dean smiled, laying down to stare up at the ceiling since he'd left one light on in case he needed to get up in a hurry.

He hadn't lied to Sam about finding a case in New York. He'd just stretched it a little since from what he could find out it was a simple little case of an old family curse and it should just require digging up someone and burning a few bones.

The research alone should take Sam a few days of which he'd make sure his brother got rested up, ate some decent food or at least decent Sammy food and could actually squeeze Dean's hand with something like a grip or else Dean would need to think of a Plan B because while Sam had survived Purgatory and he hoped he'd recover from this second trial he was not going to risk losing his brother if he could prevent it.

The other good thing with this little case in Dean's opinion was they'd be on the road which meant dingy motels and sharing a room.

Dean knew Sam didn't like not sharing one since for most if not all of his nearly thirty years they'd been sharing a room. It was weird for Dean too because while he liked having his own room, he couldn't deny missing his little brother especially at night when the fears always came if Sam was safe.

A quick glance toward the bed told Dean that for the moment Sam's sleep was relaxed and he hoped that with Sam knowing he wasn't alone that this wouldn't be one of those nights that the damn dreams kept coming.

Relaxing a little more, Dean let his eyes close. He knew Sam would eventually bring up Purgatory and could only hope he was prepared for that emotional roller coaster since he knew when his too inquisitive brother started asking him about Purgatory and sharing what he'd seen that it would push the no chick flick rule back for another week or so.

Hearing Sam offer another mumble, Dean only rolled his eyes and made a mental note to file that comment away for future use. "Yeah, while we're up in that part of the world we can go but the second we hear a horse and see a dude without a head the rock salt comes out and we salt and burn that thing," he replied, wondering when he ever stop humoring his little brother's ideas. "Never," he decided, letting himself fall to sleep since he knew his inner radar would wake him up if his brother needed him. "Because he's Sammy and there's very little I won't do for him…unless it involves him messing with my car."

With Sam resting for the moment and some of the stress worked out, Dean fell to sleep with the knowledge that while his fear of losing Sam would always be huge he'd fight it just like he'd fight to keep Sam safe throughout the final trial.

The End

A/NII: Well, I hope everyone enjoyed this one. I still have a couple other tags in mind so keep an eye out for them as well as other new stories. Thanks for reading.