Disclaimer: Not mine

Author's Notes: Thanks to Jedi Sapphire for the beta

Summary: Sam isn't himself and Dean knows whatever is bothering him is a secret long-kept and somehow connected to a fellow hunters death.


Chapter I: The Catalyst

The Winchester brothers had just arrived home after wrapping up a case in Missouri when they got word about James Hooper, or "Hoop" as he was called by his friends and hunting buddies, which included John Winchester.

"We've only been home a night after chasing a nest of Vampires for two weeks straight, Dean. Can't we just send our condolences?" Sam made his case for not attending the services.

"He was a friend of Dad's, Sammy. We should go," Dean urged.

"We're both exhausted and beat up," Sam continued. "They're hunters. They'll understand if we can't make it."

"I don't understand," Dean looked at his brother confused. "You're the last person I'd ever expect to see back out of paying their respects to any hunter, let alone a friend. No matter how tired or busted up you might be. You do remember Hoop used to watch you while Dad and I hunted!"

"You're right, we should go." Sam said doing a complete about-face. "I'll get my things."

Sam turned to leave but Dean grabbed hold of his arm and gently turned him by taking hold of the other. "You okay?" Dean asked, his voice soft and eyes full of concern. "This isn't like you."

"I'm fine," Sam assured his brother. "I'm sorry, it's just me being tired and talking before thinking, that's all."

"Is that all this is?" Dean questioned.

"Yes!" Sam answered growing defensive. "Why else wouldn't I want to pay my respects to Hoop?"

"Okay, Sammy, okay," Dean backed off in a calming voice. "I'll drive, that way you can get some sleep."

"Thanks," Sam said appreciating his brother's offer. "I'll return the favor on the way back."

Dean watched Sam with worried eyes as he left the room, wanting to believe fatigue was all there was to his brother's uncharacteristic behavior, but he couldn't shake off the feeling that something was terribly wrong.