Yeah, I still don't own anything associated with this show... just felt like playing a little cat and mouse with the characters. Truth is when I'm bored I write, and I guess you could say I've been bored this week. I'm a big fan of constructive criticism and so fourth, so if you would leave me a comment. Hope you enjoy.


CASS

~Now~

May 2010

THEY WEREN'T HIS CHARGES ANYMORE. Hadn't been for quite some time now, but that didn't mean he hadn't checked in on them from time to time. He'd spent too many hours with Sam and Dean Winchester over the last few years to know that leaving them completely on their own was seriously misguided at best. Truth be told, he'd felt compelled to check in at first, out of a sense of loyalty, like he'd owed it to the Winchester brothers for everything they had done. For everything they had suffered.

But as the days passed and turned to weeks it became apparent that neither one of them was functioning at a level they'd survive for long, so he began checking on them daily out of a sense of duty, just to make sure they were both still alive. Or more accurately, he reflected, to make sure the two of them were at least breathing—because as far as living was concerned neither one of them were really doing that.

CASTIEL WATCHED IN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE, an invisible force perched amongst the clutter that filled the rafters of Lisa Braeden's garage. It was a Friday evening, just after six. Another day of overtime for an already overly weary Dean Winchester.

Below him he watched as Dean shuffled through the contents of a junk drawer, heard a low curse, and startled as Dean threw his hands up slamming the drawer shut.

He watched as Dean turned, running a hand through his hair, his eyes wide—wild. Then just as suddenly as the anger had arrived it diminished, easing off of the young man's face as he took in a deep breath. From his vantage point Cass could see the sudden regret that swept across Deans face as he stared at the tarp covered car just before him. Oh no, Don't do this to yourself Dean, he whispers knowing that his wishes will fall on deaf ears.

DEAN

~Now~

May 2010

THERE WERE DAYS WHEN DEAN RETURNED HOME from work that he found himself sitting alone in Lisa's garage staring at the tarp covered Impala. Some of those days he'd find himself smiling at the memories that were held within the car and was able to walk away without a second glance. Other days a random memory would creep up and stop him cold. He would find his feet frozen in place, stuck to the concrete floor, staring at the dusty tarp as minutes lapsed until something or someone broke his concentration or the memory ended.

More often than not, in recent weeks, he'd found himself locked in place, unable to move as the tightening in his chest overwhelmed him to the point he couldn't breathe. It was in those moments that he would unearth the Impala from its dusty brown plastic cocoon and stare hard at her as if trying to resurrect the life he'd always known. It was those days when he'd pulled back the tarp he'd climb inside, plug in an old cassette tape and let his mind fade to the past.

Friday had been one of those hard days—it was rainy and cold, and generally miserable outside. Dean was cold, tired and restless and as a result he'd retreated to the one place that could still remind him of whom he had been, who he wished he could still be, instead of the person he had become in this twisted version of his new life.

As he pulled the tarp back, he sucked in a deep breath, crawled inside the sleek black door, and closed it behind him. He leaned back and drew in the familiar smell of old leather. Instinctively he gripped at the steering wheel; the smooth surfaces where his hands had long ago worn out the leather cradled his hands. The memories of Sam in this car were relentless from the moment he is seated inside, some are good, some bad, others are in-between— but no matter what each memory is welcome.

He had done his fair share of choking up emotions since Sam had been gone, but the memories were a chance for him to close his eyes and see Sam sitting there next to him one more time.

Dean ran a hand over his face, pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. He allowed his mind to run backward, replaying his life like an old fashioned film on a continuous loop. He saw himself driving down the road Sam asleep next to him in the front seat, snoring. He saw himself holding onto Sam as their father raced down the road, applying pressure to the first wound Sam had incurred during a hunt. He could still see the blood on his hands and the pale glow of his brother's skin that night. He caught glimpses of Sam sitting there next to him at various points throughout the years, smiling, laughing… his face angry, shocked and scared.

Exhaling sharply, he looked over at the empty passenger seat and closed his eyes. In that moment it's February of 2001 that comes to mind, and he's watching Sam stare down at a folded sheet of paper in his hands.

~Then~

February 2001

ALTHOUGH THERE HAD NEVER BEEN a formal agreement spoken between the two of them, it was simply understood. Cemented into place the roles of which both of them had long honored. Dean was the oldest, the protector—Sam the baby, the protected.

It had freaked Dean out to no end the first time Sam had even mentioned college. But the day Sam shoved an official looking letterhead in his face, eyes beaming, smile plastered to his face, Dean felt downright sick. What was he supposed to do if Sam left? If something happened to Sam? How was he supposed to protect someone who didn't want to be protected any longer?

In the front seat of the Impala Dean looked over at his brother. They had the heat turned up full blast, but he had to choke back the shock of Sam's announcement, and no matter what he did he couldn't keep from shaking.

"I actually got in Dean." Sam said breathlessly, still clutching the acceptance letter in his hand, "I have to go. You understand right?" The question cut through the air slicing right into Dean's chest. Even as Dean heard himself say yes, his voice was cracking. "You and dad—you're gonna be alright Dean. I'm gonna be alright."

Dean nodded. He was far from alright. He wasn't even a little bit okay. In fact he'd never been so damn scared in his life.

Dean stared hard through the front windshield of his Impala. The winter had been especially brutal that year. No matter where they had ended up the snow had followed, along with temperatures that had been driven well below zero on several occasions, to the point that describing this winter as 'brutal' was an understatement. But this- this was worse.

True to form, just when he thought the winter was coming to its end a whole new storm was brewing. Shit.

"I just—I can't believe it…" Sam was still staring in wonder at what was sure to become his most prized possession, "I gotta scholarship to Stanford."

Dean exhaled; unaware he'd been holding his breath, "Yeah Sammy." He said. "Good job."

For a moment they both sat silently in the Impala.

Dean swallowed staring out at the blinding white of the snow on the ground. How come he couldn't just be happy for Sam? Sam deserved it, he'd worked his ass off for this. But still.

It wasn't until the reverberation of air brakes from a passing truck sounded that Dean realized Sam was staring at him. He glanced down across the bench seat. Sam's brown eyes studying him. Trying hard to gage his reaction.

Then a distant thought emerged, and Dean shook his head as he thought of his father; this - Sam leaving—wasn't going to end pretty. Sam had to know that. Clearing his throat, he looked away, and rubbed his hands nervously together, "Sam…" he started.

"Yeah?" Sam answered.

"You gonna tell dad?"

Sam blew out a steady even breath and slouched back into the seat.

Dean shook his head his eyebrows furrowing together in the middle of his forehead, "Yeah," He said. "Me either."

And to his credit he hadn't. Dean hadn't told his father not even when he had wanted to, part of him hoping Sam would come around to his senses sooner or later, part of him refusing to even speak the possibility of Sam leaving again because he couldn't let go of his brother. Not now. Not ever.

~Now~

May 2010

FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE EVENING Dean had hidden out of sight from both Lisa and Ben; ducking back into the house only after dinner had been served and the dishes cleared. Even still, every corner he turned, he'd catch glimpses of them watching his movements, their concerned eyes following him from room to room. Eventually he found himself standing in the kitchen. He was hungry. But when he reached into the refrigerator it wasn't food he pulled out. Instead his hand came away with the first bottle of a six pack he'd purchased just after work. He gulped down his first beer, wondering momentarily if six were really going to be enough. Wondering if it he'd even feel a buzz, because he knew it would never be enough to clench the pain that radiated throughout his chest.

In the past he'd always enjoyed sitting down with a cold beer, but these days he was verging on becoming a full on alcoholic. Someone he couldn't even recognize.

He drained the second bottle in a few long swallows then started in on his third. As he leaned over the counter, spinning the bottle between his hands, Dean spotted Lisa out of the corner of his eye standing in the doorway, leaning casually against the door frame.

"I know you're hurting Dean." Her words were quiet as she uncrossed her arms and started across the kitchen.

"Don't Lisa." He said looking away from her, "Just don't." Every part of him, every fiber of his being hurt too damn much to have this conversation again.

As if she could read his mind, she sighed, bit at her bottom lip and looked straight at him, "I'm sorry." Lisa said, her eyes shining with tears. "I'm sorry that you feel like this. I'm sorry I can't fix what happened. I'm sorry I can't bring Sam back. And I'm sorry that I don't know what the right thing to say or do is anymore." Her movements were deliberate as she moved next to him, pulled his fingers from the grip he had around the glass bottle. "What more could you have done?" She asked.

"I don't know. Something. Anything. It was my job to take care of him. He was my brother. I should've done something."

"You can't blame yourself for this."

He lifted his head and drew back to look at her.

"And I can't keep watching you do this to yourself. Its killing you."

Dean cleared his throat wanting to say something. But what? If Sam were still alive I wouldn't be here and you wouldn't have to watch this. Should he tell her that all he wanted was his brother back? Nothing else.

"You have to move on Dean."

Dean swore and ran a hand down his face, "I don't need this. I can't do this right now." Grabbing the bottle from the counter top he stepped back, turning on his heels to leave the room.

"Dean!" Lisa cried out, she took in a deep breath and encircled his wrist with her hand, "Sam wouldn't want this for you. You have to let him go."

Let him go.

"No." He'd tried to do that long ago he'd swore that he'd never do that again—and he sure as hell wasn't going to back on that promise tonight.

~Then~

August 2001

IT HAD BEEN SIX MONTHS AFTER Sam's official acceptance letter to Stanford had arrived, on a hot and dry August afternoon.

The first thing that Dean had noticed when he entered the hotel room, beaten down and tired from finishing a hunt, was the sole green duffle bag perched against the ratty hotel bed. The second thing he noticed was the way Sam looked as he sat on the edge of the nearest bed, elbows resting casually on his thighs; hands folded in just below his chin, eyes intensely gazing over the knuckles.

"What is this Sam?" John Winchester had asked his voice calm and collected even as he stopped cold just behind Dean in the doorway.

Sam stood as they had entered the rented room, his motions slow and deliberate, "I thought you'd want to say goodbye."

"Where do you think you're goin'?" Dean shot a look over his shoulder at his father. John knew damn well where Sam was headed. He'd found the acceptance letter in early May. Not surprisingly he'd been pissed, and Dean had spent a few hours listening to the screaming, the threatening. To his credit Sam had stood there taking it until their father was finished and then true to himself as Sam always had been—he'd thrown a few of his own words out there for their father to chew on. When the conversation was over John Winchester had assumed the situation had been resolved. And Dean had gone along with that belief, accepting it more as time wore on and Sam stopped bringing up the subject of Stanford altogether, though in retrospect, Dean conceded, he should have known better.

And he damn sure should have known better and figured out what was coming when Sam had made up some lame excuse about food poisoning to get out of finishing the job earlier that morning.

"Sam." Dean's voice was cautious as he looked at his kid brother. The words, why are you doing this, stuck in his throat.

But neither Sam nor John even seemed to acknowledge Dean's voice; their eyes were solidly locked on each other, one daring the other to pick a fight.

Dean took a few more hesitant steps into the room and watched as his father followed, tossing his ammo bag on the closest bed. As he slammed the motel door behind him, John turned back to Sam jaw clenched, "You think you can make it on your own son?"

"Yes." Sam cleared his throat as he took a step closer to the door and added, "Sir."

"You really think so?" The older man challenged.

Dean shot a sideways glance at Sam, begging him not to go through with this and for the briefest of moments Sam looked as if he was second guessing himself. Then with an even more determination Sam looked back to his father and nodded, "I know I can."

Dean felt his knees begin to buckle as he slumped back into the green felt chair situated near the doorway. He felt his throat too tight to speak as he sat watching the only family he'd ever known disintegrating in front of his eyes. He rocked forward lowering his head as he closed his eyes; it amazed him sometimes the toll his family had paid, how willing they were to destroy themselves all for the sake of saving others from the same fate.

"If you go Sam," the voice was low, thick and drawn out, "don't ever come back."

At that Dean's head snapped up, his eyes on his father as he tried to decide whether or not the man in front of him was being sincere. John Winchester had said and done some shitty things in his life, but this one took the cake.

Dean leaned forward his hands clasped between his knees. He watched as Sam's face schooled into a careful blank. "You won't have to worry about that." Sam said as he swung his duffle over his shoulder, his words landing hard on the floor of the motel, smashing into a million pieces as he looked back toward John, eyes burning, "Dad."

Dean watched as John pressed his fingers to his temples, watched the vein in his father's neck pulsing, "Don't call me again, and I mean it—don't you ever come back."

Sam shook his head, "That goes both ways." He said stalking across the room his duffle on his back.

As Sam reached out for the doorknob, Dean felt his heart leap into his throat. "Sam?" Even if he could force himself to say something more, the words weren't coming.

Sam turned to him, "I'll see you around." He whispered smiling half-heartedly, "Dean."

The door slammed hard behind Sam, rattling the lone picture that hung on the wall and Dean was on his feet in an instant, "Dad," he murmured, "What are you doing?"

John swallowed, "Let him go Dean." He said, "Just let him go."

And he'd tried. Honest to God he'd tried to let go of Sam that night. But he never could live with it. Leaving Sam behind was like cutting his heart from his chest. He'd sworn long ago, no matter what options he had in front of him he'd never do anything like that again.

~Now~

May 2010

DEANS EYES WIDENED at the memory. In the years since Sam had left for college and returned home he'd never been able to just let Sam go—not even the night Sam died in his arms. Not then, not ever.

Not until that day in Stull Cemetery.

And that had been a mistake.

Resting his head against the door frame of the garage Dean stared at the black metal of the only remaining family he had left. It was a dismal representation of a family—but the Impala had been home for longer than he'd ever actually had a home. He and Sam had grown up, grown apart, and found their way back together in this car. This car knew everything about Dean… hell it knew more about Sam than most of Sam's so called friends had.

Dean's eyes slid shut he took a long drink from the glass bottle in his hand and wished again that maybe this drink would finally be enough to do the trick. Maybe this drink would help him forget. It digs at him though because he knows things like that just don't naturally happen—and forgetting is something Winchesters seem to have a problem with in the first place.

A few minutes pass by and Dean starts moving toward the car, his heart beat ringing in his ears. Opening the trunk Dean finds himself taking stock of the contents, sorting through the items he deems necessary to save his brother. Even through slightly skewed vision Dean knew everything he needed was there—exactly as he'd left it the night he'd arrived at Lisa's nearly a year ago. Throwing in a few new items he stopped short as he caught sight of Sam beside him.

A fourteen year old version of was Sam standing there next to him—already eye to eye with his older brother. Sam was leaning on the rear quarter panel of the Impala, a wide smile lighting up his entire face. It was a smile Dean had always found annoyingly endearing, especially on days like this one. Sam was looking like he was on top of the world—and maybe he was for all Dean knew.

It was a rare day that Dean ever disagreed with his father—especially to find himself agreeing with the logic of his younger brother, but that's exactly what he'd done earlier in the day. With John Winchester breathing down his neck, Dean had backed the play of his brother and directly disobeyed their father. Something he had prayed he wouldn't pay for later on.

"You know what's great about having an older brother?" Sam asked taking a drink from his bottle of root beer.

Dean shrugged as he shuffled through the contents of the trunk, "What geek-boy?"

"Sometimes having you around is just like having a personal superhero." Sam sighed stepping away from the car, "I mean it, thanks for having my back today Dean."

The moment had been fleeting in measurement of time, but it was powerful enough to be forever etched in Dean's memory. As simple as it had been—for a moment Dean had felt just like a superhero—someone his brother was proud to call his own.

Slamming the trunk shut he sighed. Some superhero he had turned out to be, Dean thought bitterly, leaving his little brother locked in a cage in hell for a year—yeah; he was a great older brother.

Maybe he hadn't been the best brother the past few years, but he wasn't about to let his kid brother down anymore than he already had. If Sam needed a superhero to save him now, Dean was willing to take the job.