A/N: I do not own Supernatural or any of its characters. For entertainment purposes only. Spoilers for 8x19, "Taxi Driver".

The Waiting Game

Waiting. It's something that has never been easy for Dean Winchester. He remembered as a baby how impatient he had been when his mother had told him that he was going to have a new brother or a sister. "Where?" Dean had asked with wide eyed innocence, expecting to see a new sibling within the day, two at the most. Mary had only smiled, her musical laugh lingering through the kitchen. "Not yet, baby," she had told him, her heart melting at her son's disappointment. "Baby has to grow in Mommy's tummy for a while first." Then, when baby Sammy finally did arrive five months later, Dean had been more than upset to see the tiny, red faced creature, who did nothing but cry and poop and barf. Where was the little brother who was ready to play race cars and catch?

As the brothers grew up, Dean realized that waiting was still an excruciating process for him. It seemed that all he and Sam did as children was wait: wait for the orders to pack up and leave town, wait for the day they would finally be allowed to hunt, wait for the day they could legally find solace in alcohol. At one point Dean eagerly awaited his dad's fulfilment of his promise to bequeath him the Impala on his eighteenth birthday. But most of all, it was waiting alone in motel rooms, trying to pass the time while John was on another hunt, wondering if each time would be his last. As an adult, the waiting took on a newer, darker meaning: following his crossroads deal, he had spent twelve months waiting to cash in his one way ticket to Hell, while Sam waited for the inevitable (for he had confessed that despite his valiant efforts to save his brother, he had always carried this sinking feeling that his efforts would be in vain). And when Sam had jumped in the pit, sacrificing his very life to save humanity, Dean had waited for the day when he would get the courage to kill himself, or at least die from alcohol poisoning.

And now, he was waiting again. Pacing frantically amidst the foliage, Dean scanned the darkness of the Maine wilderness, his heart pounding with both anticipation and dread. Sam had gone on the second trial alone, enduring both Hell and Purgatory in search of Bobby's imprisoned soul. And Benny was down there too. God help him, he had killed Benny to bring back his baby brother. It had nearly torn him apart to do it, especially after he had only recently severed all ties with him, but the kind hearted vampire had agreed, placing himself on the proverbial chopping block to rescue the man who had never really trusted him, who had no doubt been jealous of his relationship with Dean. He had sworn that he would somehow arrange to bring Benny back, but Dean had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that his friend didn't even want to. Hell, he had seen how hard it was for him to live among humans, the vampire had told him as such minutes before he had died. But there was always that hope that maybe, just maybe, he would tag along for the ride topside. If Sam managed to survive the trial. He had even buried his remains, leaving the option open should Benny change his mind and decide to come back.

Waiting. Dean paused for a moment, running a hand anxiously through his hair. He had already lost a brother when he had sent Benny back to Purgatory. He couldn't lose Sam too. He just couldn't. He closed his eyes a moment, trying to find a sense of comfort and peace. But instead, he found misery: sitting at Sam's bedside after Jake had stabbed him; crouching, alone and bloodied, in Stull cemetery, holding the rings which had opened the pit, had taken his brother away from him, in trembling hands. The echoes of gunshots as Walt murdered his brother before his very eyes…

"No," Dean murmured, opening his eyes again. He can't go through this again. He had lost Sam so many times before, had almost lost him again when their stubborn behaviour had almost caused them to go separate ways. He can't lose him again, not when they were finally becoming brothers again.

A light flashed before him in the distance, its beams cutting through the darkness, and Dean's heart skipped a beat. It was Sam. It had to be his Sammy. Sure enough, in the distance, a shadow, hunched over and clearly in pain, emerged from the light, slowly making its way around its surroundings, eyes adjusting to the surrounding darkness. Dean anxiously stepped toward the figure, certain that it's his brother coming back. And sure enough, there is Sam, staggering towards his brother, a look of pure exhaustion and pain on his suddenly much older looking face. A face which had experienced firsthand what Dean had endured that past year, the endless fighting for survival which always seemed to tag along in Purgatory. For a moment, their eyes met, Dean frozen in place. And then, without a word, he rushed to his brother, pulling him close, holding him like he had that night all those years ago, when he had returned to that dingy cabin where only hours before, Sam had been lying dead. He didn't want to let him go, couldn't for the longest time. Sammy was safe, his brother was with him and safe…

Finally, Dean pulled away, one hand still on Sam's shoulder. And then, seeing the sadness in his brother's eyes, Dean felt his heart stop. Drawing an unsteady breath, he struggled to regain his composure. He couldn't say the words, but he knew, somehow, that he wasn't coming back. He didn't want to say the words, couldn't acknowledge what he knew was undoubtedly the truth, but somehow they still slipped from slightly trembling lips.

"Sam? Where's Benny?"