Disclaimer: Not mine
AN: Thanks to Jedi Sapphire for the beta.
Summary: Sometimes the choices we don't make hurt.
A month had gone by since the Winchester brothers shut the Gates of Hell. Sam survived but barely and Dean's worst nightmare of losing him never came to light. The ordeal of the trials had strengthened and deepened their relationship but the trials had also left scars that would take time to heal. The effects of the spell on Sam lessened greatly but a full recovery would be slower to come and almost losing Sam was now a memory that haunted Dean. It had left him overly protective and fearful for his brother's well-being.
With the Men Of letters Sam had discovered a place where he fit into the hunting life and a sense of belonging he never experienced before. Together the brothers began to carry on with the family business of saving people and hunting things or as they saw it getting back to normal.
It was early evening when the brothers using a classic salt and burn, rid the Douglas family home of a nasty poltergeist, drawing their case in Savannah, Georgia to a close.
Grabbing a bite to eat at a nearby diner the boys then hit the Wal-Mart across the street to stock up on food and drink for the trip home the following morning.
Piling a variety of junk food and beer into a cart they got in line to pay. It was there that Dean noticed Sam staring at a tall, dark-haired man about his age two aisles over.
"I need to talk to him," Sam said turning to Dean.
"What? Who is he?" Dean asked.
"Someone I know."
"Thanks for clearing that up Sam."
"I just need a few minutes." Sam told Dean.
"Okay I'll go with you after we pay for our stuff."
"Alone," Sam said gently.
"No!" Dean wouldn't hear of it
"You do know I'm 30?"
"Your point being?"
"Dean, I need to do this," Sam insisted. "I'll explain later, alright?"
"Okay," Dean agreed reluctantly.
Whatever this was about, it was important to Sam so Dean hung back and kept an eye on him while the cashier rang up their items. But one move or look from this guy towards Sam he didn't like and he'd pounce.
Dean watched as Sam greeted this man who by his appearance and demeanor hardly seemed a threat. He did however seem uncomfortable as did his brother but their conversation was polite, and looked like a lot of small talk more than anything .
That was until this guy said something that upset Sam. Now Sam kept on smiling and acting like he was fine, even seemingly congratulating this man for something. But Dean knew differently. His brother was hurting and this guy was responsible.
That was enough for Dean. He wasn't happy with this man now so he grabbed his bags and made himself known.
"Hey," Dean intruded with a forced smile. "I'm Sam's brother Dean."
The man nodded in recognition, said he was sorry, then rushed off saying he was already late for an appointment.
"Sure you are," Dean muttered under his breath, eyeing the guy sharply as he left. "You okay?" he asked Sam. "You look like someone just hit you with a two by four."
"I'm fine Dean." Sam tried to reassure him.
"Sure you are," Dean said, not buying it.
"Let's just go," Sam started towards the door.
"Who was that?" Dean asked. Now sorry the guy left wanting to ring his neck.
"Can we just talk about this later, please?"
"Sam." Dean tried again.
"I'll tell you everything," Sam promised. "Just not now."
"Okay." Dean agreed.
"Can we just grab our stuff and go?" Sam asked.
"No sleep or shower?" Dean asked knowing he and Sam needed both badly.
"How about a compromise?" Sam offered. "A quick shower and I'll drive, okay?"
"Sammy, what happened?" Dean asked softly, stopping him in place to look at him.
"Dean." Was all Sam could get out but he didn't need to say more. The hurt in his eyes said the rest and the emotion close to the surface ready to bubble over told Dean to back off and let Sam be.
"Alright, Sammy, we'll take off tonight."
They each took a quick shower, packed and headed out. Dean wouldn't hear of Sam driving. Besides he could never sleep until Sam spilled on who this character was and what he said that got Sam so upset he wanted to leave Savannah.
Especially after Sam had bugged Dean until he agreed to spend some time on the waterfront before they left. But Dean would give Sam the space and time he needed and let him talk when he was ready. They had a long ride home.
After an hour on the road Sam blurted it out, "That was Don."
"Don?" Dean had no recollection of anyone named Don.
"Amelia's husband," Sam reminded him.
"Oh back from the dead Don. I do remember you mentioning him."
"Yeah that was him."
"So you wanted to check up on Amelia?" Dean surmised. "See how she is?"
"So this is why you didn't want to tell me who he is?"
"I know she's not your favorite subject."
"Not true Sammy. Well not anymore." Dean corrected himself.
Sam gave him a questioning look.
"She's important to you, so that means she's important to me. That's the way it is."
Sam gave Dean a pleased look hearing this new outlook.
"But wait," Dean asked. "What was Don doing in Georgia?"
"He and Amelia live there now," Sam filled him in. "His new job."
"So how is she?" Dean asked not understanding why Sam wanted to torture himself this way.
"She's good." Sam replied. Then he became quiet as they left the state of Georgia behind.
"You okay?" Dean glanced over and asked.
"They're expecting their first child."
"Oh," Dean said softly.
"Yeah," Sam added. "I'm happy for her, for them both," Sam went on to say.
Dean knew Sam was hurting. It should be him not Don with Amelia living a normal life, expecting their first kid. The guilt he felt for the part he played in this could be clearly seen on his face.
"Dean don't," Sam's loud booming voice startled Dean. "I made this choice. So don't you go blaming yourself or feeling guilty for anything! Saving lives, making a difference in this world and doing it with my big brother. I couldn't think of a life now I'd want more!"
Sam realized that this was the first time he'd ever vocalized this. He wasn't sure he even knew he felt this way until now. That this is the life he wanted and there were no doubts anymore. It was also a first for Dean and the impact could be seen on his face.
"Dean," Sam asked. "Are you okay?"
"Is this really the life you want Sammy?"
"Yes," Sam answered.
"Are you sure?" Dean asked.
"Do you want me to say it louder?" Sam offered.
"No," Dean gave Sam a warm glance. "My ears are still ringing."
"Looks like you're stuck with me." Sam said quietly.
"I think I can deal with that." Dean answered wanting to feel elated. This was what he'd always wanted, his brother by his side having made that choice himself. But Sam was hurting and when he hurt, Dean hurt.
Sam gave up a chance to have a normal life with a woman he loved deeply for the greater good and that he wouldn't leave his brother out there alone fighting this fight. Today Sam was hit with a reminder of what he gave up by seeing someone else living the life that was once his to embrace and it hurt. Even with Sam's decision to follow another path in his life, it still hurt and Dean understood that.
Dean glanced over at Sam staring out the window trying to pretend like this was no big deal. But Dean knew differently.
There were no hands slapping away the arm Dean extended around Sam's shoulder or wordy protests as he tugged on Sam's neck to pull him close. No Sam didn't resist at all. He welcomed the comfort his big brother offered him.