Author's Note: I honestly don't know where this came from. The first line popped into my head and would not leave me alone. It's a prequel of sorts to "Worth It" but you don't need to read that to understand this and vice-versa. Season 8 spoilers abound as well as some speculation for what the third trial could be. I hope you enjoy!

"You gotta promise that if this thing goes south, you'll let me go."

It was nearly midnight in the Batcave and it was the first moment they've had alone since the influx of hunters that Garth called in descended upon them. Some were staying in the countless guest rooms that this bunker had—the Men of Letters must've liked having company around—but others were at various motels, going over the plans for tomorrow night. Garth was in his own room, snoring and sleeping like he didn't have a care in the world. Then again, Dean thought with a small smirk, he probably didn't.

The third trial was something that the eldest Winchester wasn't thrilled with. The willing blood sacrifice of the hero at the mouth of Hell—which turned out to be three hours South of here in some no-name town that no one had ever heard of—wasn't Dean's ideal version of the grand finale.

Especially if it involved his baby brother bleeding out over some patch of dirt while demons attempted to flee the closing gates of Hell. Not to mention, Crowley was sure to be there and Dean doubted he would just stand by and let his kingdom be shut in for all eternity.

"Dean." Sam's damn puppy dog eyes met his and Dean found his resolve weakening already. He didn't want to go through with this plan. He didn't want to separate from Sam on the battlefield. Screw logic and sense! He should be standing by his brother's side, protecting him from anything that dared to even look at him wrong. Yeah, he knew his little brother could take care of himself, but he was weak now. Every day he grew paler and skinnier. Every night, Dean would check on him and wait until he saw the shaky rise and fall of his brother's chest before he could even consider sleeping.

Every night, he feared that come morning light his brother would be dead.

It haunted his dreams with visions of lifeless eyes and a reality worse than the one that had played out in Cold Oak. He needed his brother with him. Call it what you would, an unhealthy codependency or whatever, but Dean had tried a life without Sam before. He had spent a year with Lisa—a year of barely functioning, a year of drinking too much so that Sam's voice wouldn't ring in his ears—and he wasn't going to go through it again.

They went out together or not at all.

And right now, Dean was leaning towards not at all.

"Dean," Sam began again, crossing the small gap that had formed between them. He gripped his older brother's shoulder and Dean grimaced to feel how weak that grip had become. "Promise me."

He had fulfilled too many of Sam's promises. He promised to kill his brother if he ever went dark side, he promised to not get him out of Hell and he promised him that he would live a normal life with Lisa. All of those promises—all of Sam's wishes—fractured his heart for they went against everything that Dean Winchester stood for. Dean Winchester did not stand by and let his little brother—his only, his most important family member—bleed out just so the damn gates of Hell could close.

But . . .

"Please, Dean."

Sam was asking him. When could he ever refuse Sam and his puppy dog eyes? Half of the time, his little brother never seemed to be aware of it. He would be shocked every time Dean relented, as if he didn't know exactly how he got his way and would always get his way because when had Dean ever refused Sam something that he truly needed? It was for Sam's sake that this promise had to be agreed upon and the eldest Winchester knew he had to agree.

As much as it killed him inside, he had to say yes.

"I promise, Sammy." Sam swayed as the tension that kept him upright and functioning for the past 12 hours straight left him. Dean was there, holding him up and stopping him from face planting onto the floor.

"Sorry." His little brother slurred, exhaustion taking its toll. Since the second trial, Sam's symptoms had grown worse. With the more blood he lost, the more he needed to sleep and rest. Today; however, his little brother had skipped his nap and gone into full overdrive, helping coordinate a plan that involved 50 other hunters.

"Let's get you to bed," Dean told him, an undercurrent of affection seeping into his voice as he helped Sam down the hall to his room. Easing his brother to his bed, Sam smiled softly. "Bitch." He muttered fondly as he helped pull the covers up to his brother's chin. Memories of tucking in a much littler Sam filled his mind and Dean blinked back against the sudden sting of tears that filled his eyes.

Sam would be fine.

Dean would make it so.

"Jerk." Sam whispered, eyes already closed. Smiling, Dean headed out and closed the door behind him softly. He knew he should probably head to bed as well—the fact that tomorrow was a big deal was an understatement—but if he closed his eyes right now all that would greet him would be lifeless hazel eyes.

"You okay?" Garth was in the hallway, rubbing at his eyes and Dean nodded his head. "Sam okay?"

Because it was only natural to assume that if something was wrong with Dean, it meant Sam was hurt.

"He's sleeping."

"Yeah, he looked tired." Garth replied. They both stood there awkwardly, unsure of how to proceed.

"What are you doing up?" He asked casually and the other hunter smirked.

"I got hungry." He supplied and Dean nodded his head. "Hey, Dean?" He met Garth's gaze. "Sam will be just fine," He assured the eldest Winchester, much like a child would assure an adult. "I know it."

"Yeah. Me too."

A pause filled by the chirping of crickets from outside. Garth yawned and a wave of exhaustion hit Dean.

"Well, good night." With that Garth plodded down the hall and into his room. Dean turned and faced Sam's door, placing the palm of his hand on the cool metal.

You gotta promise that if this thing goes south, you'll let me go.

"Sorry, Sammy."

That was one promise he couldn't keep, not this time.

He wasn't going to lose his brother again—not when there was something he could do to stop it.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel—Dean could see the flickering of it now—but Sam had to bring him to it, had to take him into it. Sam was his reason to fight, his reason to get up every morning, his reason to joke and his reason to breathe. He had raised that kid and loved him with a force that would put other brothers to shame.

He wouldn't live without him.


"This is one promise I can't keep."

He glanced at the door, half expecting Sam to rush out and demand that Dean swear that he would keep the promise, but he chuckled dryly. Sam could kick his ass once this trial was over and he was better.

Yeah, he thought with a small smile, that sounded like a plan.

Author's Note: So, there we go. I hope you enjoyed it! I really like how this turned out. Please review if you have a second! Thanks!