Last chapter of this one! Put me on Author Alerts if you haven't already to be notified when the next fic in this verse is coming out. And as always, if you have some time, please leave us a review! We always appreciate the feedback.


He stalks across the lawn, bright and green despite the fall chill, tears up the porch steps and he doesn't knock, doesn't bother with pretext or patience or picking the lock, just rears back and kicks the goddamn thing in, because this whole damn town is in on it, this whole damn town, working together to keep Dean from him, working together to kill and take and burn down every good damn thing they can get their hands on. The scythe is still in Sam's hand, gripped tight and at the ready before he consciously registers the older woman stumbling into the room, wicked curve of the blade against her throat before he can even process the shocked, terrified look on her face, pressing, digging, and suddenly everything a little hotter, a little wetter, her whimpers a little higher, a little more frantic.

"Where is he?" Sam snarls in her ear, still dragging her up, forcing the pudgy woman to balance precariously on her toes to keep the razor-sharp curve of the blade from digging in further, sharper.

The world is red and unsteady, hot and heady and worse, so much worse, every second he doesn't get an answer, and Dean could still be gone, could still be lying cold somewhere, lost and gone forever. She could know, could have done it, could have taken him-

"Where?" Sam demands, giving a little jab.

There's a mirror over the fireplace, flecked with age and heirloom heavy. Her wide, terrified eyes dart around the room, catch his, search for something and find nothing, nothing but hatred, nothing but determination that whatever it is - whatever she knows, whatever she did that ended with Dean ripped away from him - she pays for. Sam can see the horror rising as the color drains from her face, as her eyes trace over the blade at her throat with recognition, as she breathes in the acrid scent of smoke and burning applewood. He can see her world crumble away. It only makes him dig the blade in sharper, because she has no idea,no idea, and there's a second, just one, where he sees the curl of his own lip in the mirror, the hard, unforgiving line of his jaw, and hates the monster that love has made him.

And then he hears the echo of Dean's voice beneath the floorboards, and suddenly nothing else matters.

In a heartbeat, Old Lady McApple-Cult is tied up and out of the way, swearing raggedly under a gag made of her own fussy lace curtain ties. She's nothing, nothing at all, as Sam throws aside the heavy basement door. He tears down the steps, Dean's freeform jets of profanity like a fucking beacon as Sam rockets around a listing bank of shelves to see his brother hammering at the flimsy, weather-beaten wood planks of the storm doors. He might say something, he might call his brother's name or add to the swearing or say nothing at all before their bodies collide like comets, and nothing else matters.

"Jesus Christ, Sammy. Give a guy some warning," Dean wheezes, but he's got a fist in Sam's jacket and his hand shoved messily into his hair. They're both holding on so tight that the leather of Dean's jacket is creaking and Sam's ribs are twinging just a little in protest, and none of it matters, none of it at all, because Dean is here and he's not lost or bleeding or scarecrow chow or shouting at Sam about how he's worthless and annoying and should just go somewhere not here and stay there, and that's really all Sam cares about right now.

Even though there's a blonde girl in a cardigan standing just over Dean's shoulder looking really awkward, and okay, yeah there are probably a few things Sam and Dean need to sort out before they do the whole 'touching reunion' thing.

"There anyone in the house besides the old lady?" Sam asks, forcing himself to let go of Dean's jacket, reluctantly stepping back from hands and arms and fingers in his hair and feeling like he's not missing something crucial, something critical, like a hand or an arm or a fucking lung, for the first time in days.

"Last I saw it was just the old broad upstairs and her geezer of a husband," Dean grumbles as Sam fights the urge to snatch him back, to make sure, to just double check that he's really here, that he's really okay, that this whole goddamn nightmare is really the fuck over. "What's that smell?"

"I kinda… set the orchard on fire," Sam shrugs, avoiding Dean's eye as he feels the blush creep up his neck

"Aww, Sammy," Dean teases, ruffling his hair as they make for the stairs, "you do the sweetest things."

"Shut up," Sam mutters, flushing in full force now as he digs a knife from his jacket. "You want the scythe or the fillet knife?"

"Fillet me," Dean grins, putting just enough extra in the second syllable to justify the suggestive quirk to his eyebrows.

And how his brother can be both the most ridiculous and important person on the planet Sam doesn't know. He doesn't care. He's just so damn glad to have him back that getting out of the basement, ducking townies long enough to make for the Impala, and packing Crosses-and-Cardigans off onto the next bus for Boston fades into a long, amazing blur of Dean.

Dean's here and safe, and it's so easy, so easy to ignore the pinch at Dean's mouth, the air thick with everything they're not saying as the bus pulls away, leaving them leaning against the fender of the Impala in heavy, hurt silence.

But it can't last forever, because Dean's still pissed at Sam, and Sam's still pissed at Dean, and there's no hunt to shove it aside for, no more reason to lock it in.

There's no burying this. Not any more.

"That doesn't count," his brother announces, still staring down the highway as the bus fades into the distance.

"What?" Sam sputters, because even though he expected something, he didn't- He- What is Dean even-?!

"The saving," his brother bites out, annoyed set to his jaw now. "Didn't ask for it, didn't count."

"Oh my god, Dean. What the hell?!" Sam bursts out incredulously, because really?

Really?!

"I'm just saying that I get a do-over of, like, everything," Dean shrugs, still and set and solidly, infuriatingly stubborn no matter how light and fake-dismissive his voice is.

"You're gonna abandon me at another gas station?!" Sam demands, horrified and terrified and on the border of hysteria, just like that.

Losing Dean was bad, but being about to lose Dean at every moment? Being on the edge of thisall the time?!

"We are not doing this again, EVER!" he practically shouts, wheeling on his brother. "You are not going the BATHROOM alone for the next YEAR! Every time I turn around, Dean, you're get kidnapped by fucking townsfolk and stuffed in basements!"

"Okay, not even true!" Dean objects with a glare.

"I can't- Dean, I am serious," Sam continues. "I can't handle this again. I can't. So whatever macho thing you need to prove to yourself, fucking prove it now, because this is NEVER happening again!"

"So, what, you're never gonna let me hunt alone again?" his brother demands, ugly challenge in the timber of his voice, the stone set of his jaw.

"Why do you need to?" Sam counters, rising to the challenge. "I'm here. Why would you need to hunt by yourself?"

"Reasons, Sam," Dean evades. "Reasons."

"Like what, exactly?" Sam presses, not letting him get away with that one, not after all of this.

"Like, I could do it before, and I can't now!" Dean tosses back.

"That makes no sense, Dean!" Sam exclaims, shoving his hands through his hair.

"I'm a grown ass man!" Dean explodes, "I shouldn't need to have my fragile, broken bird, baby brother pull my ass outta the fire every goddamn hunt!"

"Excuse me?!" Sam sputters incredulously.

"You heard me!" Dean sneers, the gloves coming off now. "Dude, you get twitchy every time I take too long going to get ice!"

"Okay, is this about you having to get saved, or you having to get saved by ME?" Sam demands hotly.

"Neither. Both. Some. I don't know!" Dean shouts back angrily.

"Okay, so lemme figure this out really quickly," Sam holds up a hand with a glare. "You're not upset that you got kidnapped by fucking hill people-"

"No, I am. That was embarrassing," his brother snipes.

"But you're more upset that you had to be saved by your incompetent little brother with panic attacks?" Sam pushes, pissed and humiliated, and he knew, he knew he was a burden, an embarrassment, a pain in the ass to hunt with, but to have Dean come out at say it-

"I did not say incompetent," Dean interrupts, holding up a finger.

"Clearly not," Sam sneers. "I'm at least more competent than you."

"Oh, what the fuck ever!" Dean rolls his eyes.

"Says the guy who got snatched by villagers," Sam tosses back. "You know, this whole thing wouldn't have even happened if you hadn't been an idiot and left me in the middle of nowhere!"

"I did not leave you in the middle of nowhere," Dean dismisses.

"Dude, it was a Quickie-Mart!" Sam exclaims. "The only thing around for twenty miles was a Piggly Wiggly!"

"And?" his brother prompts, spreading his arms wide.

"That's pretty much the definition of the middle of nowhere!" Sam cries, throwing his hands up.

"I'm not sure that's true," Dean denies, and Sam wants to just smack the stupid, snarky little smirk off his damn face.

"You left me my phone, but you didn't leave me with my laptop or a fucking pair of pants! These are the same clothes from yesterday, Dean!" he complains. "I feel gross!"

"Aww, poor baby," Dean scoffs. "You had supplies."

"No, Dean, my cell phone and a wallet do not count as supplies!" Sam argues, refusing to let Dean pass leaving his ass on the side of the highway off with a joke and a smart remark just like everything else in their goddamn lives. "I had no idea where you were, no idea where you were going, no fucking clue what was going on, when you'd be back, if you'd be okay-"

"I was fine," Dean insists.

"Really," Sam nails him with his best skeptical look at that one, because it just might be the biggest load of bullshit he's heard in his life, right up there with 'Monsters aren't real' and 'I think the bowl cut's a good look for you, Sammy'.

"Totally fine," his brother nods, poker face firmly applied.

"You had it together, huh?" Sam presses, nailing Dean with his best 'You Are So Fucking Full of Shit' glare.

"I had it together," Dean confirms, blithely ignoring the fact that Sam found him unarmed and reduced to futily swearing at barn wood. "I had a plan. I was totally fine. I wasn't even in the basement for that long."

"Really, 'cause I've been calling you, and you haven't been answering. Why was that, Dean?" Sam demands, arching an eyebrow.

"Bad reception. Apple god magic, uh, gumming up the works," Dean gropes. "Whatever, I was completely fine, Sam! I could have handled it!"

"Okay, even if you could have-" Sam shakes his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Definitely could have," Dean interrupts stubbornly.

"But that's not the point, Dean!" Sam bursts out. "Why do you think you have to? Why- I literally have no idea why we're even doing this. This is stupid!"

"Oh, I am sorry!" Dean fake apologizes. "I'm so sorry that the things I think are stupid. You know, I forget. 'All of Dean's plans are stupid. All of Dean's plans are gonna get us killed! We're gonna die if we follow Dean's plans!'"

"You don't have plans!" Sam throws back. "You have Dad's plans!"

"That's how it works, Sam!" Dean argues. "Dad gives us an order, we follow it!"

"No, not anymore," Sam shakes his head, resolve echoing through every bone in his body. "This is the third time, Dean. The third time he's sent us somewhere and one or both of us nearly didn't make it! Why have you not grasped that following Dad's orders is a terrible idea?"

"Dude, we're hunters! It's gonna be dangerous no matter whose hunt it is!" Dean defends.

"Except Dad's hunts have a special proclivity for landing you injured in basements, which is all the more reason you don't GO OFF ALONE!" Sam shouts.

"No, no! Bad examples!" Dean responds hotly. "I go off alone all the time, and I've always been perfectly fine, Sam! I was hunting on my own for FOUR YEARS while you were off at Stanford. Not a damn thing happened to me! I can do this, but not if you keep following me!"

"If I hadn't followed you, you'd still be locked in that basement, or worse, being skinned a-fucking-live by a goddamn scarecrow!" Sam cries. "If I hadn't followed you, you'd be DEAD!"

"I'd have figured something out!"

"You shouldn't have had to!" he roars. "We hunt TOGETHER! We work TOGETHER! You act like you're the only one who's ever in trouble here! I don't understand why it's all okay for you to ride in on your white horse and save my goddamn ass, but it happens to you-"

"When?" Dean demands. "When have I had to save your ass?!"

"Shifter," Sam bites out.

"Okay-"

"Lawrence," he adds flatly.

"Maybe-"

"Mary. The Hook Man. Rockford. PALO ALTO," Sam lists, each word coming out like a punch. "You save my ass all the time, Dean! You don't see me going on fucking Magical Feelings Field Trips to deal with it! I'm cool with it! We're partners. That's what partners do."

"You shouldn't have to save me all the time!" Dean insists stubbornly. "You shouldn't. You shouldn't, because I should be fucking- fucking competent enough to handle the job on my own."

"You don't have to, though, Dean," Sam presses, pleads, just tries to make his brother understand. "Not that way. And you're the only one who thinks you should! I just- I really I do not even understand."

He breaks off, frustrated, because Dean is just not- not working with him here, refusing to even- to even try.

"Listen, you're my brother," Sam starts over, tries to go back to the beginning, to work this thing out. "I worry about you. I know you're not incompetent, okay? But shit happens! It's a dangerous job! Sometimes, you're gonna need someone at your back, and that's okay!"

Sam rolls his eyes.

"I mean," he swallows the shame, the embarrassment, the sad, sick knowledge that this next part is completely true, "I know you would rather it be some one big and strong instead of your panic attacky little brother, but until you find them and team up, you're stuck with me!"

"I'm not stuck with you," Dean roll his eyes with a scoff. "It's not like that."

"Really?" Sam demands, raising a skeptical eyebrow. "Because you hate working with me enough to try and go off on your own and get killed!"

"It's not 'cause I hate working with you, Sam," Dean denies, still stubborn, still angry, but softer. Softer, but no less fierce.

But Sam's not perfect. He's not perfect, and he's not okay with any of this, especially with Dean not wanting him here, with him always trying to ditch out, to leave Sam alone and wondering, always wondering, always goddamn haunted by the 'what if's, the 'maybe's, the 'could be's of where his brother is and what could be happening to him and it's not okay, none of this is okay, and if Dean could just see that-

"So until you find this magical imaginary manly hunter you're okay being saved by, (possibly Dad)-" Sam presses, voice rising again and he knows it's mean, knows it's only gonna make this escalate, but Dean's gonna leave him, he's just gonna keep going and trying and it almost killed him this time and he's as good as said there's gonna be a next time and if things go south next time, if Sam's not around, if Dean's alone...

"Yeah, 'cause I really want Dad finding me in a fucking basement," Dean scoffs. "I really want Dad finding out I got taken out by villagers-"

"Well, I am so glad I'm the lesser of two evils!" Sam cries. "I am so glad that there's an endgame, that one day you'll be enough of a badass to abandon me forever in favor of Dad. Woo hoo! We don't have to deal with Sam's crazy forever! Eventually we can just dump him for good."

"My god. Now you're really being ridiculous," Dean sneers with a fed-up glare.

"That's what you just said!" Sam insists with a accusing finger in Dean's direction.

"That's not even a little bit what I said!" his brother denies with an angry curl of his lip. "And even if I did want to go back to hunting with Dad, apparently I can't!"

"What, because you're not good enough?" Sam spits out sarcastically. "You're every bit good enough, Dean! Just because you had two bad hunts-"

"Yeah, try telling him that-"

"I'm not gonna tell him anything! He's an asshole!" Sam shouts, flinging his arms wide. "I don't care what he thinks, and neither should you!"

"It's not that simple!" Dean tosses back angrily.

"It is every bit that simple!" Sam spits. "Dad's a dick, I hate him, and so should you!"

"Yeah, sorry, I'm not gonna hate someone just 'cause you want me to," his brother barks, straight and strong and still every bit John Winchester's soldier, even after this, and it kills Sam, burns him from his core that Dean can't just look, can't see, not even after everything. "I'm not gonna stop listening to Dad just 'cause you think you know better than him."

"Every time you follow one of his dumb-ass orders, you end up mortally wounded, trapped in a basement, or BOTH!" Sam screams at the top of his lungs, done, just fucking done with his brother's stupid, suicidal obsession with following Dad into an early grave.

"Not EVERY time-" Dean starts, but Sam doesn't let him get that far.

"Oh, oh really? 'Cause all those other times worked out so great?!" he challenges, riding right past anger to vicious, laser-focused rage. "Let's go through a list of Dad's greatest hits: Dad raises us like psychopaths on the road. That ended really well for everyone I think."

"Dude-"

"Dad kicks me out of the family forever for wanting for further my education. That was fun," Sam continues sarcastically, ignoring Dean's interjection.

"Um, you-"

"AND THEN Dad sends you on a solo hunt to Vampire Basement Land, on which you ALMOST DIE. I appreciated that one. That was nice," he lists over Dean acerbically.

"Dude."

"Of course, in classic Dad fashion, when things get tough he abandons us both," Sam pushes on, "leaving me no choice but to maim myself to save your life. Something you will not stop giving me crap for TO THIS DAY."

"Sam-"

"He then proceeds to never call or contact us ever again, except to send us on increasingly fucked up hunts that keep ending up with one or both of us ALMOST DYING," Sam finishes, voice rising to an accusing shout. "Starting to see a pattern here, Dean? Starting to wonder if the shit he puts us through might not be exactly in our best interest?!"

"Hey, that's the job-" Dean interrupts, but Sam is not letting him get away with that, not this time.

"If he were anyone else on the planet, ANYONE ELSE," Sam challenges hotly, "you'd have torn him apart ages ago for the shit he's done to me ALONE. But for what he's done to you? Jesus Christ, Dean, tell me again why we haven't killed this man?"

"Well, I know you haven't killed him 'cause you haven't fucking found him yet," Dean flings back at Sam. "I haven't killed him 'cause I actually care about him. 'Cause he's our FATHER! And really, Sammy? We're killing Dad now? That's what's happening?"

"Like he doesn't deserve it!" Sam cries, refusing to back down. "He has done more fucked up shit to us than every monster and spirit we've faced COMBINED, Dean! Why you keep seeking his approval completely escapes me!"

He throws his hands up.

"Honestly, at this point? I just- I have no idea. Why are we even fighting each other? I'm not the enemy here, Dean! It's him! And I'm certainly not the one who thinks you're incompetent. This thing? All of this? It's just you! No one thinks you're inadequate but you. No one thinks you have to be perfect but you! You're trying to prove shit to yourself, and you don't need to prove it, okay?" he presses. "And don't shake your head like 'Oh, Sam, you have no idea what you're talking about.'"

"I don't sound like that," Dean scoffs.

"It's what you sound like to me!" Sam fires back with an acerbic smirk.

He sighs, scrubs a hand over his face.

"Listen," he starts, fingers making tired, frustrated circles to try and force the pounding out of his temples. "We're in this together. Sometimes we're gonna have to pull one another out of a goddamn basement. For fuck's sake, Dean! Helping one another out? Having each other's back? It's not superiority, its solidarity! It's me saying you're my brother and I'd rather you not be DEAD!"

"Fine. Whatever," Dean rolls his eyes and turns with a shrug.

"Don't 'fine, whatever' me-" Sam commands, forcing Dean to face him with a sharp jerk on his jacket sleeve.

"Well, what do you want me to say, Sam?" Dean demands, arms flinging wide. "'Oh, I've seen the light, everything's fixed now! I'm so glad that you HATE OUR FATHER. Oh, that's awesome; great, you're gonna be killing yourself picking up my slack for the rest of my natural life, yippee!'"

He yanks his jacket out of Sam's grasp, eyes hard, jaw sharp.

"What? This is just fixed because you said so?" he challenges. "Sam says this is fixed, so it's fixed? I'm supposed to be completely okay with the fact that I can't do the job, with you putting your ass on the line to make up for that fact, because you say so? You say stop worrying, so I'm supposed to stop worrying?

"That how it works now, Sammy?" Dean presses, lays into him, vicious and unyielding. "So If I say, 'Sam, stop peeing yourself every time I leave the room,' you're gonna just drop your pearls and let me off the goddamn leash? That's gonna fix it? That's not how this goes and you know it."

"Well, I could always try making you feel like shit about it," Sam snaps back, eyes narrowing into a poisonous glare. "That seems to be working great for me. Hell, now that you've called me, what was it? An incontinent pearl-clutching broken bird? Yeah, I think I'm all the fuck better, Dean!"

He gives a sharp, sarcastic laugh.

"I don't know why we didn't try this before!" he crows. "Let's just make me feel more like a neurotic fuck-up, that'll make it all go away!"

He rakes his hand back through his hair.

"Jesus, Dean," he exclaim, at his wit's fucking end. "You think I haven't tried to fix this? You think I haven't tried to not think about this shit?! I try! I try all goddamn day, but every time you're gone it's like it's happening over again and I know it's ridiculous and I know it's annoying, and it's not because of you. It's because of me."

He sighs.

"I know you can handle this. I know you can. But some part of me just can't let go of the one time you couldn't."

There's a long, weighted pause.

"It's not about you," he assures, tired and heavy and done, so done with all of this. The fighting. The worrying. The fear that any second of any minute of every hour of every day something awful is gonna happen. "None of it is about you. This is my crap, and look, I get it. You shouldn't have to deal with it."

He looks up at Dean, standing across from him with a shuttered, measuring look on his face and Sam is hoping, fucking imploring him to listen, now, to just goddamn listen.

"If I could turn it off, I would. You gotta understand, Dean. It's not about anything you're doing or have done. It's not about what happened to you- You gotta know that I think you can handle it."

At Dean's skeptical look, he steps in, moves closer.

"Hey, no," he shakes his head, cuts his brother off before he can say anything. "I know that you can handle it. You're not perfect. No hunter is. Everyone needs somebody. But it's not even about that. You're a badass. We all know it. But there is crap in our world that no one can see coming, Dean, not without someone watching their back.

"It happened then," Sam explains. "It happened just now, and it's going to keep happening, and I'm paranoid it's gonna happen at all times. That's me. That is entirely me. It's not about you AT ALL. It's me being FREAKED OUT that meteors are gonna drop outta the sky and crush you on the way to the ice machine, and that's not a reflection of your fucking hunter abilities, it's a reflection of me being a paranoid, twitchy, what did you call it, 'pearl-clutching broken bird?'"

"Okay, alright," Dean stops him at the epithet, holding a hand up and pinching the bridge of his nose with a wince. "Sam. I don't-"

He breaks off, sighs, scrubs a hand over his face in frustration and starts again.

"Okay. That was crappy," Dean admits with a guilty nod. "That was- seriously crappy. I don't- You're not- Dude. I don't think of you like that, alright?"

"Apparently you do!" Sam tosses back, trying and failing to tamp down the indignation, the anger, to keep a hold on this tiny, fragile thread of fucking progress they've made and keep this from dissolving into another round of shouting and accusations. "And I'm sorry, I'm so sorry! I've tried to stop, but I can't! It doesn't just stop, Dean! It doesn't! It's all the time! All. The. Time. Whenever I can't see you, I'm freaking out about it and I keep trying! I am TRYING, and I'm getting better, but It's not gonna happen overnight, Dean.

"I'm gonna keep worrying about you for the foreseeable future," he finishes, "but it's not because you can't handle the job, it's because I almost lost you to the job once, and I can't, I CAN'T, do that I again. I just can't."

And they're close now, closer then they've been this whole damn time, close enough for Dean to catch Sam's sleeve, to tug his hand away when he goes to shove his hand through his hair again, the wince that means he's thinking Sam's gonna stress himself into male pattern baldness if he's not careful on his face.

"Alright. Look," Dean starts. "Not so good with the caring and sharing thing, Sam."

"Really? You?" Sam gives a sad, hollow little laugh.

"Okay," he sighs, exhausted by just- everything as he drops to lean against the side of the Impala. "Whatever. Just… say 'okay' or some shit, and stow the manly feelings crap that you can't deal with in a box or something."

"Dude. I don't blame you for freaking out, okay," Dean gives him, falling back against the cool, jet black steel with Sam. "It's not- I know it's not your fault. It's-"

"Don't say 'It's my fault!'" Sam cuts him off with a sharp look. "I can see you saying "It's my fault' in your head, and it's not, Dean! It's not your fault, and it's not my fault. It's Dad's fault. And I accept that you don't believe that it's Dad's fault, but it's DAD'S FAULT!"

He raises his hands as Dean opens his mouth to argue.

"And if you don't like me saying that then, fine, I'll stop saying it. It won't make it any less true, but I'll stop saying it, because you're my brother. But seeing you blame yourself for crap he put you through, crap you clearly had NO CONTROL OVER-"

"Sam, if I could handle myself-" Dean starts, but there is no way, no way, Sam is letting him do that to himself. Not again. Not without being the one goddamn voice in Dean's life that'll cut him a fucking break, that'll say he doesn't have to be the goddamn perfect hunter at every fucking turn.

"NOPE! No, no, no, no no!" Sam interrupts. "Dude, you were in a parking lot getting pie! No. Not your fault."

Dean opens his mouth, but again, if Sam has to be his brother's goddamn Jiminy Cricket of Self E-fucking-steem, he'll goddamn do it.

"And don't say Apple People was your fault either, because it was the entire goddamn town, and we have never dealt with that before. Don't," he repeats when he sees the guilt intensify on Dean's face. "I can see you blaming yourself in your head. Don't do that."

"But Sam-" Dean protests, but Sam just thrusts his hand in Dean's pocket and fishes out the keys to the Impala.

"No," he shakes his head, shoving Dean off the door handle. "That wasn't your fault, this wasn't your fault, Dad is to blame for everything, and we are getting in the car."

Sam opens the door, sliding into the driver's seat.

"I don't care where we're going, but we're calling it an early night because these jeans are getting crusty and I need to shower. PANTS. YESTERDAY. GROSS," he continues. "Which actually is your fault, by the way. That, you can blame yourself for. The fact that I'm nasty and need to shower? You can blame yourself for that. Everything else? Not on you."

"Yeah, okay. That was a dick move," Dean concedes with a wry little smile, looking down at Sam from where he's still leaning against the car.

"What I've been saying all along," Sam nods, snapping his seatbelt in a way he hope communicates just enough bitchy indignation to get his point across without starting another fucking fight.

"But dude, you can't keep blaming Dad for every-"

"Yes, I can, actually," Sam interrupts. "I'm doing it right now. It feels awesome.

He gestures to the empty bus station parking lot around them.

"Notice how I'm not abandoning you on the side of the road to go blame Dad alone somewhere," he points out. "I think we've grown. Get in the car. This is a Greyhound stop, Dean, not Softy McCuddle's Care and Share."

"Alright," Dean laughs, his head dropping a little as a smile sneaks onto his face against his will. "Let's just go."

"Finally, some sense," Sam murmurs as he fires up the Impala.

"And yeah, dude you really do reek," Dean adds as he slides into the passenger seat, leaning across to take a whiff of Sam.

"Like you smell like sunshine and daisies," Sam bitches, pulling out of the abandoned parking lot. "What did they keep in that basement, manure?"

"I think so," Dean winces, sniffing at his jacket. "God, can we just never- Are there states that outlaw basements? Like, somewhere they're illegal or some shit? Let's go there. Like, now."

"Hey, even Superman had Kryptonite," Sam offers, pulling out onto the highway and laughing when Dean makes a face.

"Friggen boy scout," he grumbles, stuffing Brave New World into the tape deck and settling back in the passenger seat and with that, with the road stretching before them and Dean in the seat beside him, a world in a bubble of steel and chrome, all the worry, all the fear, just melts away, leaves Sam feather light and dizzy with relief. Like putting down a ten ton weight he didn't even know he was carrying. Like that first hit of air after nearly drowning.

Like coming home.

It's like he's finally, finally home.