We're back, with yet another installment of the Brother's Blood 'verse! This fic takes place during and after "Asylum." Hope you enjoy! Please take the time to leave us a review if you do. Chapter two is coming next week!

Sam's still having nightmares.

And yeah, Dean could lie to himself. Say they're about Jess and the life and all the awful, fucked up shit they tangle with day in and day out, but the way Sam is some mornings, all smothered anxiety, constantly tracking Dean with his eyes like he's afraid his brother's gonna find a way to bite the dust somewhere between the Impala and the gas station bathroom? The way he's always there, just out of eyeshot, six feet and then some of constant, silent worry, like he's just waiting for Dean to get snatched out from under him?

This is something older than getting back in the saddle. Something from before the fire and Jess and all that mess.

Something like Covington. Something like Dean's big Louisiana screw-up haunting Sammy's dreams and making his life a living hell of stress and worry.

Not like that wouldn't be obvious, even without the bad dreams. Seems like Dean can't go anywhere without Sam's stupid Gigantor feet treading on his heels, little brother constantly in his space and at his elbow, sticking his nose here there and yonder like it's all his goddamn business.

And this? The irritation? It's more than just living in each other's pockets. That, Dean's used to, just part and parcel of the crazy, messed up lives they lead.

What he's not used to is clingy, which is the only label he can find for what Sam's being, the only word he has for the constant barrage of questions, the 24/7 bird-dogging of his every movement and location: "Where are you going?" "When are you going to back?" "How far away is it?" 'You got your gun on you?" "You're positive it's just a spirit?" "Are you sure you don't need back-up?"" Are you gonna be drinking?" "You said you were going to be back by 2am. Where are you?"

"Goddamn, if I wanted to answer these kinds of questions all damn day, I could've just got married," Dean will grumble, watching the bottle blonde he's been flirting with for the past three drinks roll her eyes and make her way down the bar for less distracted pastures.

"That's not funny, Dean," Sam says, frowning so intensely Dean can practically hear it through the phone lines.

And yeah, it's really not.

It's not like Dean isn't trying to be sympathetic.

He gets it: He almost got himself killed before, so Sam's worried he's going to do it again, especially after losing Jess outta left field like that.

But it's been months, and Dean's been working his ass off, tearing through cases like it's his mission in life, kicking ass, taking names, and saving Sam's sorry hide on more than one occasion. But Dean's still dealing with the Sammish Inquisition day and night, and worse, he's gotta see that wide-eyed, gut-punched terror on Sammy's face every time shit gets real, every time the hunt goes just a little bit not as planned, which is just the opening act for what comes next.

Because every time the hunt goes a little pear shaped? Every time they make it through by the skin of their teeth or less? Every time Dean sees that horrified look of I-Almost-Lost-You on Sammy's face? It's Dean who has to watch the kid toss and turn the night after, face creased in pain, hands clenched around his pillow or Dean or both. Dean's the one who has to deal with it, the one who has to coax Sammy through that night and the next morning. He has to swallow his brother's mother henning and his panic and his hands clutching at the sleeve of Dean's jacket, at his wrist, his elbow, like he needs to keep touching Dean to make sure he's still there, that he's not spirit chow or wendigo bait, not dead or gone or forgotten in a hole somewhere. Dean has to do it all, and he has to do it knowing that it's his fault. That it's only happening because he screwed up, keeps screwing up, just can't fucking make good on his promise to be strong enough – good enough – to keep both of them safe.

Christ, track record like his? It's no wonder Sammy doesn't feel like Dean can take care of them anymore. It's no wonder Sam's lost all the faith he had in his big brother, not really, but dammit, if Dean had nothing else, he at least thought he'd always have that.

Still, as rough as it's been these last few months, it's still been good as often as it's been bad. They make a hell of a team, him and Sam, and it's not like it used to be with Dad at all. Definitely not the way Dean imagined it.

But it's good.

Sometimes it's even better, because Dean's never had Sam like this before. Never had Sam all to himself – warm and constant at Dean's elbow, sarcastic and bitchy and oh-so-enlightened, ruthlessly funny when he wants to be, all snark and no bite, ordering his salads and bitching about Dean's music and ducking his head to try to hide his dimpled grin when Dean tells a really awful joke.

Everything's all shuffled around, now, and it's almost— It is better this way. Now it's Dean in the driver's seat, not Dad, and he's not craning his neck to make comments at Sam in the back seat before turning back to the roadmap or to talk about the next hunt. Sam's right there, and he just fits next to Dean, like he belongs there. Like he's always belonged there.

Always will belong there.

It's not perfect. There are fights, hurt feelings, arguments and grudges and all the raw edges where they rub one another wrong, places they dig into and hurt each other when they don't even mean to, but even then, it's good, better than good, the best.

More than Dean could have possibly imagined.

But Dad. Dad's the real problem.

Sam's still mad at him, so so fucking mad. And Dean just can't fix it, no matter how hard he's been trying, trying to remind Sam about the things Dad's been through, what he's done for both of them, telling him how Dad used to swing by Stanford all the time to check up on Sam, how he was just worried when Sam went away to college – didn't mean those things he said, couldn't have. But Sam won't hear it. He just shuts Dean down every time, only needs one word to do it: "Louisiana."

One word to sum up every way John Winchester's failed them.

Nine letters. Five syllables. All Sam needs to spell out everything he's holding against Dad, every inch of the fury he's got stored up in him for the man, everything he just won't find it in himself to forgive.

And when it all comes to a head in Rockford, Dean doesn't even know why he's surprised.

He should have expected this. Should've known better than to leave Sam alone in an asylum guaranteed to turn people's anger into homicidal rage, especially when Sam's been nothing but angry since they received yet another text with coordinates from Dad – first word they've gotten from him since before Lawrence, before Jess, and of course, of fucking course, it's about a hunt.

Dean had watched as Sam bristled at his insistence on abandoning the search for Dad yet again, especially on John Winchester's orders. He'd taken in Sam's bitter, pinch-lipped silence when Dean had said that, yeah, they did have to do what Dad told them to do, and he'd ignored the way Sam had glared and huffed his way through the first part of the hunt, and now he's paying for it at the price of one brainwashed and severely pissed off baby brother, plus artillery.

"Dean," Sam exhales. "Step away from the door."

His voice is hard, laced with an undercurrent of trembling rage, and Dean knows, even before he turns around and sees the sawed-off pointed at his chest, the red sludge of blood dribbling from his brother's nose.

Dean raises his hands in surrender, standing slowly.

"Sammy, put the gun down."

Sam cocks his head, rivulets of blood painting his chin in garish streams.

"Why?" he bites out, eyes hard. "Don't you trust me?"

"Yeah, of course I do," Dean placates. "But man, this isn't you. Ellicott scrambled your eggs, Sam; you don't know what you're doing."

Sam huffs out a bitter little laugh.

"This is me," he says. "I'm just telling the truth for the first time. I mean, come on, why are we even here, Dean? Because Dad gave you an order? Because you trust him more than you trust me?

"Sam," Dean says.

He takes a step forward, and Sam cocks the shotgun, eyes glittering with intent. Dean draws back again.

"What are you gonna do?" he asks. "That gun's full of rock salt. It can't kill me."

The next thing he knows, there's pain shooting through his chest and he's flying backwards through the hidden door. He lands hard, gasping for the air that's been forced out of his lungs.

"No," Sam says calmly, stepping into the room to stand with a foot on either side of Dean's body, gun still trained on his brother, "but it might shut you up for a minute or two. Maybe then you'll listen to me for once in your damn life."

Dean turns on his side, clutches at his chest as he scans the room for signs of the doc's body.

"We gotta salt and burn Ellicott," he wheezes. "Then this'll all be over. You'll go back to normal."

Sam scoffs.

"Then what, Dean? We gonna pretend it never happened?" he says. "Oh, wait, I forgot. That treatment's just for Dad. I mean, I go off to college and you won't let me forget it for the rest of my life. But Dad leaves you to die, and that's just fine with you. Still following his commands like a good little soldier. Still defending him no matter what kind of crap he pulls."

"This isn't you talking," Dean grits out. He's not sure who he's trying to convince, Sam or himself.

"What the hell is wrong with you, huh?" Sam presses on. "Are you that brainwashed? No matter what he does to you, you just keep crawling back to the man. You're like a kicked dog. It's pathetic."

Dean's brain is firing on all cylinders, trying to think past the words Sam is hurling at him to come up with some way to get by his brother, to toast the spirit controlling him and get them both out of this.

"The worst part is, after everything he's done, you're still siding with him over me!" Sam insists, voice escalating to a shout. "You're always on his side! Every fight we ever had was my fault! He threw me out of the house and told me to never come back, and YOU DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING!"

Dean pinches his eyes shut. He's not looking to have a conversation about that night with Sam ever, much less a Sam armed with a shotgun and a spook-given inclination to turn Dean into Swiss cheese.

"So what?" he says instead. "You wanna kill me?"

"I want to keep you safe! I want to protect you!" Sam exclaims. "But you won't let me do that, will you? If you're gonna keep following Dad's orders until he gets you killed, then I might as well just do the job now, right?"

Dean's got his opening, digs his Taurus out of his jacket and holds it up.

"Then here. You want me dead so bad? Real bullets are gonna work a hell of a lot better than rock salt."

Sam's hand hovers over the gun for a moment, his brows furrowed.

"Take it!" Dean shouts.

Sam tosses aside the shotgun and snatches up the pistol, pointing it at Dean's face, finger on the trigger.

"You really think you can shoot me?" Dean asks levelly. "You think you can kill your own brother?"

"I'm just giving you what you want, Dean!" Sam laughs, and it's bitter, unhinged, harsh and hysterical as it echoes in the ruined asylum. "You wanna go out hunting?! You wanna do Dad's dirty work until it fucking kills you?! At least this way, I know you won't have to go alone! At least this way, you die my brother and not his fucking puppet!"

He smiles. There's a smear of blood on his teeth, and Dean feels his stomach churn.

"First you, then me," Sam says, manic glint in his eyes. "My way, my terms! Not his!"

Dean swallows bile.

"Okay," he says. "Okay, if that's what you want, go ahead and do it. Do it!"

His brother's face twists, and he pulls the trigger. The gun clicks uselessly, chamber empty, and Sam blinks in confusion before Dean lunges up and knocks him unconscious with two solid right hooks.

He crouches, panting for a moment, heart hammering in his chest, but he doesn't have time to think about the things Sam's said, can't let himself, won't let himself.

He burns the bones, sends Ellicott off to Hell, then gets a newly sane Sam and their batch of civvies out of the asylum, and after it's all finished Sam says he's sorry, says he didn't mean any of the things he said, wants to talk about it. Dean brushes him off. He's not in the mood to listen to any apologies from Sam right now. He's not really in the mood to hear anything from Sam at all.

"Dean, listen to me," Sam insists when they're back in the motel. "I'm telling you, I'm sorry. I—"

Dean shuts the bathroom door in his face, turns on the shower so he can pretend he doesn't hear Sam trying to call him. He sees the shadow of Sam's feet lurking under the door for a good five minutes before he finally slinks away.

'Now who's the kicked dog?' Dean thinks and hates himself for it.

After he gets out of the shower, he'll tell Sam everything's fine. He's say it's not a big deal, that he's not taking it personally, that he's just tired.

He'll go to bed angry.