Brand New Day

Author: Lady Sam Mallory

Disclaimers: Boys not mine; I just borrow them from time to time when the muse moves me.

Special Thanks to: My exceptional Beta Queen, Zoe, without whom I'd be doomed to a life of grammatical inaccuracy. You are truly my Conductor of Light. Thank you for over 30 years of friendship and fandoms.

For my beautiful friend, Heather, whose incredible command of the English language allows her to provide me with individually needed words at a moment's notice.

Warnings: H/C, Angst, Smarm, Some violence and usually a bit of colorful language.

Spoilers: S3 E11 "Mystery Spot"

Story Playlist: "Brand New Day" by Ryan Star, "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, "Frontier City" by Kings of Leon, "Gone, Gone, Gone" by Phillip Phillips, "Heat of the Moment" by Asia, "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis and the News and "Wake Me Up" by Aviici

Author's Comments: Story is a Tag to "Mystery Spot". Sam went through a lot in that episode and what felt like six months without his brother. That would wreak havoc on anybody.

"I need to break out…Let's open our eyes to the brand new day"

~"Brand New Day" by Ryan Star

Sam's heart picks up the beat as he heads towards a state of awareness. He hears "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis and the News playing in the background but can't bring himself to open his eyes just yet. What if it's another trick and Dean's still dead?

He remembers arriving at the Mystery Spot in Florida to meet Bobby, so they could summon the Trickster. His mind replays the argument with Bobby and the images of stabbing him through the back when he erroneously thought his friend was the monster he'd been hunting.

He was so damn sure it was another trick that he'd leapt to conclusions and the relief that pours through him that it was an illusion calms his racing heart.

For the first time in his life, he had begged and pleaded for something. He'd promised the Trickster amnesty for the chance to be with his brother.

His Dad would have been pissed. Monsters don't get a free pass. They get dead, but then his Dad didn't have to hold Dean's bleeding body as he breathed his last breath.

It was one death in hundreds; only this time Sam didn't wake up. There was no magic mulligan that would allow him a chance to repair what was broken and save his brother.

The song still plays in the background as he contemplates opening his eyes before actually completing the deed. Pink flamingos fill his peripheral vision, and he can scarcely control the slamming of his heart into his throat.

He sits up hesitantly, unable to look upward from the comforter. What if this is all a dream, and when he wakes up, he's alone in some god forsaken hole in the wall? What if Dean isn't really there when he finally brings himself to check?

Taking a shallow breath in deference to the pain in his chest, he lifts his hazel eyes and they unerringly find his brother. He's unable to utter a single word let alone a sound that could break this fragile moment and make it all disappear.

Dean looks over at him while brushing his teeth. "What are you going to sleep all day?" He asks his younger brother, and his voice is like a balm to Sam's battle weary soul. He's spent just over six months killing every monster he could find as he searches for the Trickster.

Dean studies his brother momentarily, noticing that Sammy doesn't look quite right. Maybe he just needs a minute to wake up, so he nods and criticizes, "I know, no Asia. This station sucks."

Dean continues brushing his teeth as if nothing has changed, and Sam glances towards the clock in slow motion. He feels sluggish and just can't seem to get his brain to catch up.

His eyes focus on the three little letters, WED, on the clock allowing Sam to finally take a full breath. He turns his head back towards his brother, who's still standing there just looking at him, his green eyes starting to show worry.

Glancing over at Dean once again, his hazel eyes suspiciously wet, Sam inhales a deep breath almost afraid it will shatter the illusion currently surrounding him.

"It's Wednesday," Sam whispers, his voice hoarse with emotion. Watching his brother doing something so mundane as brushing his teeth makes his heart squeeze slightly. This might actually be real, and Sam loathes the uncertainty plaguing him as he continues to stare at his brother.

Dean looks at Sam with concern. "Yeah, which usually follows Tuesday," he states sarcastically. "Turn that thing off," he orders Sam gesturing at the radio with his toothbrush before rinsing it out.

Sam quickly throws off the covers and gets up from the bed. He makes his way across the room, his gaze laser focused on his brother before him. He doesn't blink as he grabs Dean in a bear hug, his arms squeezing his brother around the neck so hard that Dean's eyes go wide and then close.

Sam doesn't seem to be anywhere close to letting him go either. Sam breathes in the mint and gun oil smell he's associated with his brother for so very long and holds it in his lungs as he continues to hug Dean.

He doesn't care that his eyes well up with emotion or that his brother may think him foolish for his clinginess. He just survived a little over six months of hell without his brother, and he finally has him back. He'll hold on to him as long as he damn well pleases.

"Dude, how many Tuesdays did you have?" Dean asks carefully, not even attempting to break his brother's hold knowing the younger man needs this and generally being sensitive to whatever Sam may need.

"Enough," Sam answers next to his ear, his voice so soft it's more a puff of air than an actual word. "Wait," he starts, pulling back from Dean slightly, but remaining well within his personal space, their faces mere inches away from one other. "What do you remember?" Sam asks his older brother and watches with anticipation awaiting the answer.

Dean looks at Sam, and his brows crease with concern at the emotion he sees there. Sammy's eyes are so large in his face. It's as if he's been lost at sea and finally found a port in the storm.

"I remember you were pretty whacked out yesterday. I remember catching up with the Trickster. That's about it," Dean says gauging his brother's reaction carefully.

Sam nods slightly, pausing for a moment before he nods once again. "Let's go," he speaks softly, unable to take his eyes from his brother but with great difficulty dropping his arms from the security of his brother's own.

"No breakfast?" Dean asks, his features marred slightly by a disappointed frown.

Sam shakes his head, a small smile playing about his lips. "No breakfast," he confirms with finality, and Dean knows with absolute certainty that there will be no changing Sam's mind by the flash of desperation he witnesses in his hazel eyes.

Dean starts to turn away. "Alright, I'll pack the car," he offers grabbing his shaving kit off the sink.

"You're not going anywhere alone," Sam commands and Dean's eyes widen as he turns back towards his brother. Sam hasn't been like this since right after Dad's deal to bring him back.

Wanting to gauge just how high on the scale Sam's protective instincts were firing, he decides to test him just a little bit.

"It's the parking lot, Sam," Dean reminds his brother, but Sam's threatening gaze silences anything else he plans to say. Alright, that's about an eleven out of ten on the Sammy Scale.

Sam looks his brother straight in the eyes hoping to convey the level of conviction he feels in this matter. "Just..just trust me," he stutters trying to reassure his brother as he turns away to pack his stuff.

They gather their gear together and double check the room to make sure they haven't forgotten anything.

Dean heads for the door and looks back at his younger brother sitting staring into space on the corner of his bed. Sam's been way too quiet this morning, and he just knows deep in his bones that something happened that Sam isn't telling him. That's never a good thing, so he decides to take a chance and throw one more question at his little brother.

"Hey, you don't look so good. Something else happen?" Dean asks glancing at Sammy with concern, studying the younger man to determine if he'll tell the truth.

When Sam's quiet so long, Dean begins to wonder if he'll answer the question at all, let alone truthfully, but he waits patiently his hand still resting on the door.

"Just had a really weird dream," Sam finally whispers, and his voice sounds so lost it makes Dean's heart hurt and his eyes flash uncertainly for just a second.

He can tell his brother's lying his ass off. Awesome.

Dean takes a moment to decide how to proceed with this. Tilting his head, he opts for trying to break Sam out of his funk and asks, "Clown or midgets?"

Sam looks up at him, and Dean cracks a smile and waggles his eyebrows as the taller man stands up from the bed.

His younger brother tries, but the forced smile disturbs Dean more than he cares to admit. He turns and walks away leaving his brother to follow.

Sam slowly makes his way to the door not wanting his brother to get too far ahead of him. He looks around the room slowly, taking in the mussed sheets on the bed he slept in and thinking about how he couldn't bear to make that bed after the dreams he'd had.

Sam turns out the light and shuts the door slowly, his body trembling with exhaustion from his time spent without Dean.

His brother waits at the car for him, and he tries to shake off the heavy feelings that are holding him hostage. Looking back at the faded pink building one last time, he sighs and gets into the Impala.

Dean looks over at him from the driver's seat. "You sure you're okay?" He asks, starting up his Baby who roars with a loud purr that makes Dean smile.

"Yeah," Sam breathes out unconvincingly on yet another sigh. "Let's get out of here," he orders, his eyes taking in every detail of his brother.

Dean leans forward and turns on the radio hoping a little music will dispel his brother's dark mood.

He smiles as Asia's "Heat of the Moment" comes on the radio.

Sam's eyes widen and with shaking fingers, he shoves in whatever tape Dean has in the deck with more force than needed.

"Dude, watch the tunes," Dean grates out between his teeth as Led Zeppelin fills the cab of the Impala. "Why'd you do that? You like Asia," Dean asks his brother with a sidelong glance.

"Not anymore and most definitely not that song," Sam growls and turns up the music to discourage his brother from further discussion.

Dean sighs and shakes his head. This is going to be a long trip if Sam's mood is anything to go by.

Sam sees the tension moving into his brother's jawline and tries to dispel it. "Sorry," Sam mumbles as he looks sideways at Dean tipping his head towards the window.

"Why don't you try to get some sleep, Sammy?" Dean suggests as Sam struggles to sit up straighter not wanting to take his eyes off his brother just yet.

"'m…fine…," he slurs as his eyes flutter closed, and he begins to succumb to the exhaustion that's been plaguing him since before the start of the time loop.

Sam shakes his head hoping to dispel the tiredness, but fatigue wins out and soon he's sleeping albeit restlessly.

Dean studies him for a second debating whether to wake him up or let him get the sleep he obviously needs. He opts for the latter and forces his eyes back to the road stretching out before them.

Sammy jerks upright in the seat, "Dean!" He shouts out nearly giving his brother a heart attack.

"Right here, Sammy," Dean reassures him and casts a worried glance at his brother.

Sam looks around at the passing scenery and pushes himself up a little straighter in the seat.

"Where are we?" He asks unable to figure it out from the terrain with no visible signs to go by.

Dean studies his brother for a few seconds and answers, "We just passed through Orlando. You hungry? We never did get breakfast."

Sam shakes his head and looks again at the passing terrain. He realizes Dean's listening to a different album this time, ZZ Top's Eliminator.

Dean frowns at the negative answer and checks for the next exit. "You need to eat something, Sammy," he scolds as he starts looking for a decent place to pull off the road for some food.

Sammy shrugs and surreptitiously steals glances at his brother for the sole purpose of ensuring that this is all real.

Losing his brother hundreds of times, holding him in death had killed a piece of him and try as he may, he can't figure out how to get it back.

"So wake me up when it all over…All this time I was finding myself and I didn't know I was lost."

~ "Wake Me Up" by Aviici

"Dean!" Sammy shouts tossing and turning in the lumpy motel bed, twisting the bedcovers beneath his lanky frame.

Dean sits upright in his own bed, his Colt M1911 in his right hand checking the room. Seeing his brother's state, he rubs his head with his left hand and places the weapon on the nightstand between them.

"Sammy?" He calls out, hoping to rouse him enough to escape the nightmare while trying to push back the vestiges of his own.

Sam bolts up in the bed and drops his head in his hands scrubbing at his face.

"You okay?" Dean asks, startling his brother whose head flies up, his hazel eyes pinning his brother with an angry look.

One thing about living in each other's pockets is it leaves no real room for privacy.

Sam ignores his brother in a vain attempt to get him to drop the subject and gets up from the bed. He turns and pulls the blankets straight, using his hands to smooth out the wrinkles, erasing the evidence that he's even been there before making his way to the bathroom. Splashing some cold water on his face, he feels marginally better and reaches for the hand towel.

Dean stares at his brother's retreating form shaking his head at how surreal his brother's acting. Did Sammy just stop after a nightmare and calmly make his bed with damn near military precision. What the hell?

He pushes his legs out from under his own covers and stands up slowly, still exhausted from driving all day. Crossing the room to the open bathroom door, he leans heavily on the jamb.

"I'm not going to let this go, Sammy," Dean warns swiping at the sleep still crusting the corners of his eyes. "I'm a dog with a bone."

Sam smiles sardonically while toweling off his face meeting Dean's gaze in the mirror. "You're a dog alright," he agrees causing his brother to roll his eyes as he laughs and shifts to stand up straight and step into the room.

His younger brother glares at him. "You mind?" Sam asks, annoyance coloring his tone spectacularly.

Dean laughs again, tips his head forward and replies with a wink, "Not at all, dude. You wanna be alone, shut the damn door."

Dean jumps back with a chuckle as the door suddenly flies towards his face before his brother uses the flat of his hand to slam it shut completely.

"I'm not going anywhere, Sammy, so you might as well talk to me," Dean yells through the cheap wooden door slapping his open hand upon it to emphasize his point.

The door flies open and a very pissed off little brother fills the entire doorway. "You're an idiot….and a liar," Sam adds as an afterthought, poking Dean in the chest to drive him back from the door.

Dean stands his ground, but his face turns serious in light of his brother's angry accusations.

"Really?" Dean inquires, his green eyes flashing at his brother before dropping to take in Sam's finger still poking him in the chest.

Sam takes a deep breath and drops his hand but remains in the doorway as if it will afford him additional protection as it would in an earthquake.

"You ARE going away, Dean," he starts, his hazel eyes brimming with pain. He lifts his arms to brace himself on the door jamb feeling as though he's being flayed alive. "You're going to hell, Dean, and I haven't been able to find a way to stop it and I've tried. I've spent every spare minute trying to stop it. Hell, that's all I did in Florida, but nothing I did changed a damn thing," Sam babbles his eyes watery with unshed tears like they do every damn time he thinks about his brother's fate. The lump in his throat makes it difficult to swallow.

"Sammy…" Dean starts only to be cut off by his brother who has stepped away from the protection of the doorway to meet him.

"NO! You don't get it, Dean. What if I can't? What if I'm not strong enough? What happens then?" Sam asks, his voice tapering off as he fires the questions at Dean, a tear rolling down his angular cheek.

Sam turns away for a moment his hand over his mouth trying to force the emotions back inside the box like his father had taught him.

Dean inhales and looks away from his brother's back for a moment trying to push down the very real fear that fate will deal him a dead man's hand. He places a hand on his brother's shoulder, and when Sam won't turn to meet him, he steps around him and takes in the fine tremors raking his brother's lanky frame. Dragging his hand down his face, he squeezes Sam's shoulder.

"Then I'll go to hell, Sammy," he whispers lifting his eyes up to meet his brother's. "And I would do it again if it meant saving your life," Dean announces earning a glare from his brother but making sure he keeps Sam's gaze locked with his own. "Losing you? Well, it's not an option for me, Sam. It's just not," Dean lays out, his eyes flashing dangerously with conviction.

Sam's hazel eyes fill with liquid fire as he rasps, "But losing you is? I'm supposed to be okay with that? You're my big brother, Dean. You've watched out for me my whole life. How do I even begin to be okay with that?"

Dean looks away unable to hold his brother's gaze any longer or find the words he needs to comfort him. "Well, we can start by taking out that evil son of a bitch Trickster that got to you," Dean suggests, his other hand slicing through the air to point at his brother.

Sam pales considerably and his legs nearly fail him as he clutches at his brother in an effort to stay upright. "No!" He yells, his face a mask of such terror that Dean immediately places both hands on his shoulders to support him.

Finding his strength, Sam lifts his head and pulls himself to his full height. His fury unleashing a white-hot fire within him, he grabs his brother's black t-shirt in trembling hands. "We are not going after him. You hear me, Dean? If you even try, I will knock you out, handcuff you and throw you in the trunk of your beloved Baby. You got me?" Sam questions quietly not giving Dean any room to maneuver.

Dean's green eyes widen as he takes in the ferocity in his brother's tone and his flashing hazel eyes. This version of Sam is much more dangerous than the shouting one. He lifts his hands slowly from Sam's shoulders and closes them firmly over his brother's trembling ones still fisting his shirt.

As if gentling a wild animal, he adapts a calmness shown mainly on the rare occasions when his brother falls apart. "Okay, Sammy. I've got you. Just breathe," he murmurs while gently unclenching his little brother's fingers from his shirt.

Sam's hazel eyes begin to clear of the desperate murkiness that clouded them moments before. Allowing Dean to uncurl his fingers, he grabs his brother in a bear hug and holds on for a minute before disengaging and reminding him, "NO going after the Trickster."

Dean smiles tightly and nods his head. "Yah think? You've made that abundantly clear, dude. Trickster off the table. Got it," Dean reassures the younger man, his eyes widening as he looks towards the floor wondering about his brother's grip on sanity.

"I mean it, Dean. I just got you back. We're not messing that up," Sam states, his tone leaving no room for argument.

Dean looks at the cold desperate eyes and realizes that Sammy accidentally dropped a hint as to what else may have happened. He makes a decision. "No going after him. You have my word," Dean promises and from Sam's reaction knows he's made the right choice.

Sam exhales the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding and nods, acknowledging his brother's concession. Dean always keeps his promises, at least the ones he's made to him. His features relax slightly, and he heads back into the little bathroom.

"I'm gonna shower," Sam says shutting the door firmly, cutting himself off from any questions his brother may think to ask at his admission.

Dean knocks on the door. "Hey, you might want your bag, genius," he croaks out dropping it with a thump against the door. "I'm going out to get us some grub."

Sam's heart drops at the news that his brother's leaving, but he swallows down the fear. Leaning his head against the door, he summons the control that ruled him during the time without his brother. Exhaling, Sam opens the door, snags his bag and brings it inside before slamming it shut once again.

He cranks on the water before grabbing toiletries from his duffel. Pulling out the toothpaste, he cranks on the hot water and holds the crusty tube under the steaming faucet until it's clean. Sam proceeds to arrange his brush, razor, toothbrush and other necessities in a straight line across the countertop next to the sink ordering them by size. Satisfied that everything's in order, he strips down folding his clothes and placing them on the toilet lid and pulls back the shower curtain.

Stepping into the shower, he allows the hot steaming water to wash away the soreness he feels down into his bones. Trying to save his brother's life over and over took a physical toll on him, but the repetitive loss of Dean's life caused mental damage he hasn't yet begun to process.

Sam stands there acquiescing to the comfort the water affords as it sluices down his tall frame. He closes his eyes and just feels for several minutes trying to turn off his brain and the images plaguing him from the nightmare, especially Dean's dead eyes staring blankly back at him.

He's unable to let that last image go, and his anger ratchets up another degree.

Scrubbing his face and pushing water through his long hair, he turns his back to the shower head and lathers up after washing his hair. His anger seeps into motion as he scrubs his skin which pinks in reaction to the aggression.

He glances down at his chest remembering that in his dream he'd placed several stitches on his left side. "Get a grip, Sam," he murmurs through the steamy haze of the water falling around him. Rinsing quickly, he shuts off the water, grabs a towel from the rack and wraps it firmly around his hips.

Remembering Dean's broken neck, he carefully steps from the bathtub and over to the fogged mirror. Grabbing the hand towel which he hung on the rack earlier, he folds it and clears the glass. Sam studies the flawless skin and can scarcely believe it. He knows it was a dream, but it really felt like over six months of hell.

The Trickster crammed his mind with months of life without his brother. His hazel eyes fill with tears at the emptiness and darkness he remembers feeling within him. There was just so much damn pain; it made it hard to breathe.

Gasping, Sam sits down on the closed toilet and puts his head between his knees, his elbows resting on his knees. As his breathing levels out, he begins to remember snatches of his hellish dream.

There was a vampire nest in Austin, Texas, where he took on six of them carving through them like they were made of tissue, beheading one after another. One of the vamps clawed him down the back of his right shoulder as he was taking out another one.

His quaking fingers softly palpate the area over his scapula. Of course, he finds only smooth skin under his fingers, but at that moment, he decides he has to see it. Sam stands so suddenly the room tilts, and he quickly reaches out for support. He steps over in front of the mirror and looks at his reflection. Turning slowly, almost afraid of what he'll see; he shakes his head, inhales deeply, and glances at the smooth expanse of back reflected back at him.

"Great," he says with a nod and flails mentally as he decides he's a little fried right now. He rubs a hand down the stubble on his cheek and makes eye contact with himself, scarcely recognizing the haunted image he sees there.

Sam hauls his bag up from the floor and pulls out a stack of folded clothes. Donning a soft pair of sweats and a t-shirt, he eyes his razor on the sink but dismisses using it, suddenly too tired for anything else.

Opening the door, he notes that his brother has yet to return with the food and grabs his phone quickly dialing the number before he changes his mind.

"Sam? Everything okay?" Bobby asks, genuine concern coloring his tone even from a distance.

"Um. Yeah, but…" Sam starts, suddenly unsure where to go from here.

Bobby sighs on the other end of the line. "Well, spit it out, boy. I'm not getting any younger," Bobby commands in a gentle, but firm voice.

Sam shrugs and asks, "How ya been, Bobby?"

"What's going on, Sam?" Bobby interrogates and Sam's hand tightens on the phone with the emotions roiling through him.

"Never mind, Bobby. I'm just tired," Sam excuses as he looks around the room thankful to see a more sedate décor than the flamingos of the last one.

"You sure you're okay, kid?" the older man questions cautiously suddenly picking up on the subtleties Sam's trying to disguise.

Sam nods then rolls his eyes. "Yeah, Bobby. Just fine. Sorry I bothered you," he states as he hears the Impala pull into the lot.

"It's never a bother, kid. You know that. You sure you're okay? You sound a little off," Bobby checks once again, wishing he could see the boy's face, which usually can't hide what his words often will.

"Yeah, sorry, man. Just really beat. I better go, Dean's back with food. See ya later. Thanks, Bobby," Sam finishes and hears Bobby sign off just before he closes the connection.

Sam tosses the phone on the bed next to him and pulls his fingers through his wet hair.

Shaking his head to dispel the demons raging there, he steps towards the small kitchenette and takes a seat at the table.

Dean knocks once before unlocking the door and making his way through it. "You feeling better?" he asks as he tosses the bag down on the table in front of Sam.

Sam opens the bag realizing that he's starving and can't remember the last time he ate thanks to the stupid time loop.

"I'm fine," he mumbles grabbing a burger and unwrapping it before sinking his teeth into the juicy meat.

Dean pulls out a chair, plops down and grabs his own burger digging into it greedily.

Sam looks over at his brother and smiles at the enjoyment the man takes in eating his burger.

A wave of profound grief overcomes him as he realizes that Dean's lifespan was a matter of only twelve weeks, not the years that he should have before him.

He remembers the desolation of hunting alone, not really caring if anyone had his back or even if he made it out alive.

The burger drops from Sam's nerveless fingers, and he ignores his brother's questioning glance as he grabs his jacket and heads towards the door.

"I need some air," Sam announces before opening the door and stepping through it.

Shutting the door, he takes a deep breath hoping to dislodge the pain in his chest that represents the hole his brother will leave, and he feels hopeless to stop it.

Tears pricking his hazel eyes, he hunches down in his coat and walks away. Sam knows without a doubt, he won't be gone long. He can ill afford to lose much of the precious little time left with his brother, but for this moment, he needs to regroup.

He needs to get it together before his brother figures out he's not the man he was before the hell he survived in Broward County.

"Say it loud and in the light…. before it's going, going, gone…"

~"Frontier City by King of Leon

Dean glances up as Sam lets himself back into the room after a knock on the door. "That didn't take long," Dean mutters looking over at his brother.

Sam just shrugs, removes his jacket and folds it in half before placing it neatly at the foot of his bed. He looks up to see his brother watching his every move. "What?" Sam questions meeting Dean's troubled gaze.

Dean shakes his head unable to put his finger on what's bothering him about his brother's behavior. Looking down at the laptop then back at Sam, he decides it'll come to him eventually.

"Found us a case," Dean proclaims studying his younger but taller sibling for any signs of the anger he was displaying earlier.

"Great," Sam voices cautiously as he heads over to join his brother.

Dean studies Sam for another minute before responding, "Think there's a nest of vamps using Paducah, Kentucky, as their own personal buffet."

"Oh yeah?" Sam asks looking over Dean's shoulder at the data he's compiled.

"Yeah, bodies dropping like crazy. Nine in the last five days and we've got about a dozen missing over the past two months," Dean explains, tracing his fingers over the screen of the laptop.

Sam nods and heads for his duffel. "Sounds good. Let's head out," Sam offers, grabbing his gear.

Dean's brows pull together, and he looks at his brother. "Whoa. It's like 3 A.M., Sammy. I think it can wait a couple hours for the sun to come up, don't you?" He questions, his gaze never leaving his brother's face.

Sam looks down at his gear and back at his brother. "If you need more sleep, I can drive," Sam suggests, tossing his bag up on his shoulder.

Dean glances at Sam thoughtfully and shrugs. He tosses Sam the keys and heads towards his gear. "Fine by me, if you need to be moving," he replies grabbing his own gear and heading towards the door.

Sam follows him, and they head for the Impala.

"Thanks, Dean," Sam offers as he gets behind the wheel and starts her up. Pulling out of the space, he heads towards I-24 and a case that gives him purpose allowing him a momentary reprieve.

"Hey, I get it, man," Dean notes as he leans up against the door trying to get comfortable.

Sam eyes Dean warily, thinking he agreed way too easily, which usually means big brother has an agenda.

"So, Sammy…what did you mean by you just got me back?" Dean asks in a lazy tone, his eyes at half-mast as if he's not actually paying attention.

And there it is. The agenda. Sam shakes his head and chuckles. "I knew that was too easy," he laments as he taps the wheel nervously knowing Dean's got a hundred miles to get some answers.

Dean waits silently, his gaze never wavering, his posture relaxed. He doesn't usually delve into this stuff, but when it's Sammy, it's time to make an exception.

Sam casts Dean another sidelong glance after checking the road. "What?" Sam questions with feigned innocence, hoping to throw his brother off the trail.

Dean smiles a wolf's grin and leans forward slightly. "Want me to use smaller words? Come on, Sammy. Spill it," He inquires his razor -sharp attention tightly focused on his brother's tense face.

Sam sighs heavily and signals to pull off the highway onto a smaller dirt road. After about a quarter mile, he pulls into a field and shuts off the car.

Sam pockets the keys and tries to take a deep breath combating the claustrophobia that has just set in. Slapping the steering wheel, he reaches over the seat, grabs a couple of beers out of the cooler and gets out the of the car.

He twists the cap off his beer and takes a healthy swig of the wheat ale trying to determine where to begin.

He hears Dean get out of the Impala and gently shut the door. Before he knows it, his brother perches next to him on the hood and reaches for the beer Sam offers him.

Dean's always been able to wait him out when it comes to this stuff. Sam leans back against the windshield and looks at the vast number of stars dotting the night sky. Closing his eyes, he finds his voice and begins, "The last time you died…it was…in the parking lot of the Flamingo."

He clears his throat, but keeps his eyes closed even though he can feel his brother's penetrating gaze prickle along his nerve endings.

"You were shot in the chest by a guy named Cal. He was desperate, and it was an accident…but you died… only this time…" Sam stops as his throat closes around the words.

"Only this time?" Dean prompts, causing his brother to clear his throat once again.

Sam squeezes the bridge of his nose to stave off the headache beginning there as well as hold back the tears threatening to fall. "This time…there was no time loop," he finishes softly opening his eyes to peel at the label on the bottle in his hand.

Dean whistles softly and turns to face his brother, his green eyes brimming with sympathy for the pain that must have wrought.

Sam continues, his voice so quiet that Dean strains to hear him.

"Yeah, it pretty much sucked," Sam agrees taking another swig of his beer, allowing the bitter hops to roll over his tongue.

"What happened next?" Dean asks, keeping his voice low afraid it will break the moment and his brother will stop talking.

"There was so much blood; it had soaked up through your clothes and was all over my jeans from kneeling next to you. The police came and tried to take you away," Sam says unable to look at his brother for fear that Dean will see the pain flooding his eyes.

"They arrested Cal, but it didn't matter. It wasn't going to bring you back. Then there was the morgue. You were lying on the slab…" Sam starts only to stop when he can go no further.

Dean lays his hand on Sam's shoulder. "It didn't happen, Sam. I'm right here next to you and we're about to gank some vamps," he tries to reassure his brother.

Sam shakes his head; a single tear finally breaks free and runs down his cheek. "You can say that, Dean, but the fact is…I remember it… and it did happen. I was there and I lived it. I woke up alone in the room the next morning," he states, his voice hoarse from the emotions threatening to swamp him.

After several minutes of silence, Sam regains control and swallows convulsively.

Dean meets his eyes and tips his head back to take another swig of his beer.

"What did you do when you thought I was dead?" Dean asks suddenly curious.

Sam shrugs and finishes his beer, pulling his feet up so he can rest his elbows on his knees.

"What else? I hunted while trying to find the Trickster," Sam informs him before jumping down from the hood and heading for the driver's side door. "We should get going."

"What the hell, Sam? You can't just drop a bomb like that and then walk away, man," Dean's words shoot from his mouth like rapid gunfire.

Sam smirks back at his brother. "Good talk," he declares, opens his door and gets in the car. He turns over the engine and looks at Dean. "You gonna stand there all night? Sun'll be up soon," Sam reminds him as he puts the car in gear.

Dean glares at his brother before circling around the car and plopping into the seat grumbling. "Don't think for one second this discussion's over, Sammy," he warns and slams his door.

"It's all the same. Only the names will change…Sometimes when you're alone, all you do is think."

~"Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi

Dean lets himself back into the room, a carrier of coffee carefully balanced in his right hand and files in his left. His eyes widen as he takes in both neatly made beds with papers and a map laid carefully out across their surfaces.

"What's all this, Hugh Hefner?" Dean rails as he tosses a stack of files on the television stand and loosens his tie.

"Research," Sam answers, then he turns towards his brother, a confused expression on his face. "Did you just call me Hugh Hefner?"

Dean chuckles and shakes his head. "I know that's the Playboy dude, but I can't remember the name of that aviator guy. You know that movie you made me watch about that totally OCD dude. Show me all the blueprints. Show me all the blueprints," Dean stammers out doing a fairly decent Leonardo DiCaprio imitation.

Sam scrunches his face and nods. "Howard Hughes and I'm not that bad. This made the patterns I found easier to show you," Sam defends glancing over at the missing victim's files that he had laid out and organized in straight lines.

Dean takes a deep breath. "You're not that bad? Dude, look at the beds, or look at your stuff by the sink. It's arranged in a straight line by size," he huffs out pointing towards his brother's toiletries in the next room. "It's a bit over the top, even for you."

Sam shrugs it off and looks over at his older brother. "Do you want to see what I found or not?" He asks impatiently, his mouth tight with the corners pulled down in a slight pout.

"Will there be a quiz later?" Dean throws out sarcastically just pushing his brother's buttons like nobody else can. His smile grows wider when Sam's expression becomes even more irritated.

Sam picks up the new morgue files and sets them down in a line along the edge of Dean's bed. "Come on, man. This is serious," he complains as he finishes lining up the files.

Dean gestures towards the newly laid out morgue files and gives his brother an "I told you so" smirk.

Sam rolls his eyes and turns back towards his map. "If you look at the map, each x notes the last known location for each victim if it was in the file," Sam starts, indicating localities on the map.

Dean glances down and his face pulls into a frown. "Dude, that's a lot more than twelve," he notes as he takes in the map.

Sam nods in agreement pushing his hair back from his face. "Yeah, I hacked into the Paducah Police Department files and went back five years. That brought the numbers up to 109 missing person reports and 38 dead," Sam explains as he grabs his small notebook and verifies the information.

Dean blows out a breath and slaps his brother on the shoulder. "Wow, somebody's been busy," he remarks and crosses the room to grab a beer.

"These two areas seemed to have the highest concentration of missing," Sam concludes pointing two large rectangles containing several little red bubbles.

"What are the red bubbles?" Dean asks indicating one of the two areas.

Sam smiles knowing this will be his brother's favorite part. "They're bars," he announces watching as his brother's expression changes from concentration to celebration.

"Dude, are you telling me we finally landed a case where I have to go barhopping?" Dean questions with a nod and a grin. "I am so there."

Sam lifts a sheet of paper off his pillow with a sigh. "Oh, it gets better," he promises as he turns towards Dean and hands him the list with the top two entries circled.

Dean laughs and sets the list down. "Is this for real, or are you just messing with me?" he asks, suddenly suspicious that this is too good to be true.

Sam waves towards all his research and brings his eyes back up to his brother.

"Well, I'm not messing with you," he reassures Dean with a gentle smile. "I knew that would be your favorite part."

"You're seriously telling me that the last two missing vics disappeared from two bars called Night Moves and the Silver Bullet?" Dean verifies, his eyes glowing like emeralds in a display case.

"That's what I'm saying, Dean. We should hit Night Moves first because they close at eleven whereas, the other bar is open until 3 am. Thought we'd get a better feel if we go in as patrons instead of agents," Sam informs him as he rolls up the sleeves on his flannel shirt.

Dean bobs his head in enthusiastic agreement as he quickly grabs some clothes out of his bag and loosens his tie.

Sam begins to gather his research into neat piles before organizing it into a single stack of files on the nightstand. Seeing the excitement rolling off his brother he feels obligated to remind, "Working the case, remember?"

Dean just shakes his head and tosses on his black tee and a flannel. "So little faith, Sammy. I am nothing if not professional," he drawls with a wink grabbing his gun and jacket.

It's Sam's turn to shake his head as they head out the door.

"But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him. He's not heavy, he's my brother."

~He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother by The Hollies

"Bobby? It's me," Sam whispers on a gasp through clenched teeth as he curls in on his side on top of an unfamiliar comforter. Where the hell was he?

"Sam? What happened?" Bobby inquires switching the phone to his other hand and moving towards the television to flick off the sound.

Sam shifts on the motel bed causing him to groan heavily.

"Answer me, boy!" The older man orders as he veers off towards the closet where he keeps his go bag, a sense of foreboding penetrating deep into his bones.

"Vamp nest in Austin…went sideways…think I got stabbed," Sam reports through chattering teeth, shock reverberating through his system.

Bobby's steps cease as he tries to process the conflicting information. Last he knew, his boys were hunting a vamps' nest in Paducah, Kentucky. "Where's your brother?"

Sam gasps audibly as his jaw snaps shut against both the physical and mental anguish the question brings to the surface. "Dead…Bobby…you..."

Bobby's eyes close of their own volition at the news. Something isn't right here. "Stay with me, Sam. I'm on my way, but I need you to tell me where you are so I can get there," he coaxes as he grabs a pen and pad of paper out of the drawer of the motel nightstand.

Sam glances around frantically for any clues as to where he may be. Seeing a pad of stationary on the night table he grabs it and answers, "America's Best Value Inn. Just a sec." Sam turns the phone on the table towards him and spies the room number. "Room 31."

Bobby nods and moves to the door. "Be there soon, Sam," he reassures, hoisting his bag up farther on his shoulder and dialing another number, one he knows better than his own.

"Bobby?" Dean answers huffing out a breath.

"What the hell, boy? I swear, you boys'll be the death of me," he drawls as he starts the engine in his beater and rests his head on the wheel for a second in relief.

"What'd I do now?" Dean complains switching hands as he drags the headless corpse farther into the bushes.

"Well, I thought you'd gone and gotten dead, but Sam didn't sound right so I thought I'd better call," Bobby explains as he pulls onto I-64 East.

Dean pauses as he shoves the guy farther under the bushes with his boot. He glances around the grounds of the palatial estate where they had found the nest a few hours ago.

"Sam called and told you I was dead?" Dean inquires as he finally processes Bobby's words. He scrubs his free hand down his face and starts to hoof it back to his Baby.

"That about sums it up," Bobby confirms as he switches lanes to make the next exit. "Like I said, kid didn't sound right. Said he was in Austin for one."

"Austin? We're in Paducah, Kentucky, like I told ya. What the hell, Bobby?" Dean questions as he begins to make his way back, hoping to get an explanation from his brother in person.

"What the hell happened, Dean?" Bobby demands as he flexes his hands on the wheel nervously.

"We found the nest and beheaded about a dozen vamps. Sammy was grappling with one as I chased the last one out the door. Damn vamp made me chase his ass all over the place before I took his head," Dean reports as he quickens his steps to where he left Baby.

"No shit, Sherlock, but something doesn't add up. Quit your jabberin' and move your ass," the older man grounds out.

Turning the corner, Dean gasps and bends over, his hands braced on his knees. "Where's…my…car?" He forces out trying to remain calm.

Bobby rolls his eyes. "Best guess, your brother took it, genius. If he thought you were dead, he wouldn't exactly wait around, ya idjit," the older man grouses as he glances up at the road sign announcing his next turn in forty miles. "Look, I'm on my way…"

"Bobby, that's nice, but I promise, I'm fine. Reports of my death and all that," Dean confirms once again. "You don't need to make the trip. It's like twelve hours from Sioux Falls, man."

Bobby rubs his beard with the back of the hand holding the phone. "Was hunting a Rugaru in St. Louis. I just passed Washington Park, Illinois, so I'm still a couple of hours away. Besides, Sam said he'd been stabbed, and I'm betting on a concussion seeing how he didn't know where he was," he drops the news on Dean expecting the explosion to follow.

"Stabbed! Dammit, Bobby. You should've led with that. Where the hell's my brother?" Dean demands giving up on a little walk in the fresh air in favor of a ride.

"America's Best Value Inn. Room 31. Go save our boy," Bobby orders as he hangs up the phone and tosses it onto the seat next to him. With a muttered curse, he pushes the gas pedal a little closer to the floorboards.

Dean checks out the motel on his phone and the businesses surrounding it. Looking around for any car he can jack, he realizes the street is oddly empty. "Of course, never a car to steal when you really need one," he mutters, then looks down the road when he hears an approaching vehicle.

Dean waves his hands at the passing motorist, an older woman, who slams on her brakes, causing her white Subaru to swerve slightly.

"You scared the life out of me, young man," she scolds as he leans in towards the opposite window.

"Yeah, sorry about that," Dean apologizes holding the woman's gaze.

"You look like roadkill. What happened to ya?" She asks gently, her brow creased with concern.

Dean offers his most charming and hopefully harmless smile. "Well, ma'am, a car hit me down the road and drove off. I didn't get a look at it, but I think I'm okay," he lies effortlessly, adding a little flinch as he shifts position.

She clucks sympathetically simultaneously studying him. "Why that's just plain awful, young man. I'm s'posed to be meeting my husband for an early breakfast, but he can wait a few minutes while I take you to a hospital. Sorry, where are my manners? The name's Gwen and you are...?" she asks, unlocking the doors.

"Name's Dean," he replies and settles into the comfortable seat. "I'm a little dinged up, but really, I'm fine. Is there any way you'd give me a ride to my hotel instead?"

She looks him over again to make sure he's telling her the truth and then shrugs. "I'd be happy to. Let me text my husband and tell him I'll be late," she offers and puts action to words. "I should warn you, Dean. My husband says I'm a terrible driver," she adds as she pushes down the gas pedal, and the car jolts forward.

Dean smiles as he glances at the speedometer noting that she's speeding significantly. "It'll be fine, ma'am," he reassures her and shakes his head in amusement.

"Where you staying, sweetie" She asks, her blue eyes dancing at the chance for a little adventure.

"The Red Roof Inn over on Cairo Road," he answers smoothly without pause.

"Oh, wonderful. I know exactly where that is. Little Jenny used to work over there. She's one of my grandbabies," Gwen notes as she takes the next turn a little faster than he expects, and he braces himself against the dash.

He nods and takes his hand off the dash at her slightly guilty look.

They make the drive in record time, and he climbs out of the car and turns to close the door. Leaning in the open window, he offers her another smile. "Gwen, I think you drive pretty damned good. Thanks for the ride," he adds and he glances over his shoulder at the motel doors.

She beams at him. "Well, thank you, Dean. I'll be sure to let my husband know that a much younger and very handsome young man thinks I drive right as rain," she says with a wink.

He shakes his head with amusement. "Take care, ma'am," he drawls and she waves as the door closes behind him.

As soon as she pulls away, he sprints out the door and down the road towards the American Best Value. He curses the training that made him tell her a different motel costing him valuable time. Time that his brother may not have.

Reaching the door of the room, he knocks before jimmying the lock and shoving through the door. He stops dead at what he sees.

Sam lay on his side curled in the fetal position in his own vomit and blood, his long, coiled up frame trembling most likely with shock or fever.

Pushing himself forward, Dean checks to ensure his brother's breathing before he grabs all the towels from the bathroom, wetting several on the way. He pulls the fully stocked first aid kit out of his brother's duffel.

His brother's still alive, but it's time to take inventory of the damage. He wants to have his brother stabilized before Bobby arrives.

Dean gently lays a shaking hand on Sam's shoulder; his knees nearly give out as he's overcome with relief at the groan that leaves Sam's somewhat battered body. Dean carefully rolls his little brother onto his back to begin assessing his condition.

Using two fingers, he scoops leftover vomit from Sam's mouth grimacing as he flings it towards the trash. "Gross, Sammy," he complains with a gag. Dean wipes his brother's clammy face with a wet cloth cleaning away dried vomit and blood, so he can clearly make a determination on the care Sammy requires.

"Damn, you're a mess, kid," Dean notes as he pulls his knife out of its sheath to cut away Sam's t-shirt, being especially careful around the area that sticks to his brother's left side.

Sam tries to push Dean's hands away but is easily overpowered in his weakened state.

"Sammy, it's me. Knock it off," Dean asserts as he places Sam's hands on the bed once again.

Sam shakes his head disconcertedly as he mumbles, "Dean...dead," he reminds himself as he tries to roll to his right side away from the pain. "Bobby…too tired."

"I'm not dead. Open your eyes," Dean commands as he returns his brother to his back, Sam battling him every step of the way. "Dammit, Sammy. Stop fighting me. I'm trying to help you."

Dean struggles to keep his brother in position so he can finish his assessment. Grabbing the new bottle of alcohol from the fully stocked first aid kit, he quickly pours some over his hands, wincing as the alcohol penetrates the cuts on his hands from fighting vamps earlier. Glancing down at his brother, his brow creases with concern.

"Sorry, Sam. This is really gonna hurt," he whispers as he pours alcohol over his brother's chest making sure to saturate the t-shirt stuck to the wound.

Sam yells hoarsely at the burning that tears through him and begins to retch as pain screams through all his nerve endings. Dean turns him onto his side as he empties what little is left in his stomach.

"I know, man. Just hold on," Dean bolsters the younger man, placing his hand on Sam's fevered brow.

Wetting the t-shirt allows Dean to pull it free carefully, ready with a sterile gauze pad to stop the blood flowing from the newly opened wound. Leaning forward, he inhales deeply, nodding when he doesn't smell the tell-tale stench of a perforated bowel.

"Small favors," he mumbles as he pushes a clean white towel over the sterile dressing in an effort to control his brother's still bleeding gut. He glances down at the tattered shirt and sees flecks of glass dotting the right side of his brother's face and hair.

"Awesome, Sam. You went through a window again, huh? Yup, that always sucks. Let's get the glass out," Dean mutters as he starts to sift through the kit for the tools he'll need, leaving one hand on his brother's chest to keep him calm.

"Vamps…too many," Sam mutters, his breath heaving in and out of his chest like a chimney bellows.

Dean jumps startled when Sam grabs his hand. "Miss you," Sammy utters, his tear-bright eyes shining with pain.

"I'm right here," Dean reassures as he wipes away the blood and reaches for the suture kit. "Sorry, kiddo, but with the knock to the noggin, pain meds are right out," he apologizes as he grabs a set of long tweezers out of the kit. He flames them with his lighter, shakes his head and exhales before prying apart the laceration with his fingers and digging through the wound tract for imbedded glass and cloth.

Sam writhes in agony on the bed too weak from blood loss to get far. "Not real," he mutters with stuttering breath causing Dean to flinch as his brother tries to move away with a guttural moan of pain.

Dean pulls a few small slivers of glass out of the wound and tosses them in the trash can next to the bed.

"Come on. Where's the rest of you little bastards?" he hisses as he spies a small piece of cloth wedged in by a larger piece of glass which he gingerly pulls from the wound. "Got it, see that wasn't so bad," he says as he tosses the piece of cloth and glass in the trash, grabs the pre-loaded suture needle and drops in the first stitch after thoroughly washing out the wound with additional alcohol.

Sam yells once again as liquid fire rips through his midsection. Dean nearly comes undone at the lone tear that escapes from his brother's right eye.

"Hurts…need Dean," Sammy moans, his hands clenched into white- knuckled fists. "Gone."

"I'm right here and we're almost there. It won't take me long to finish this up, Sammy. Just hold on a little bit longer," Dean pleads as he swipes at the sweat on his forehead with the back of his sleeve, his hands drenched in his brother's blood.

The smell nauseates him as he tries to think past the stench of iron that permeates the air. Placing the last stitch, he drops the suture needle on the sterile gauze and grabs another to stitch up the deep cut along the left side of his brother's hairline.

Dean makes quick work of the four stitches needed to sew up his brother's head. He drops the needle next to the other and grabs the bottle of alcohol, pouring a generous amount over both wounds. Taking a washcloth, he washes the barely noticeable nicks hidden by Sam's long hair. For two seconds, he thinks about shaving around the wound so he can get a better look, but the fact that his brother would murder him kills the idea.

He looks down at Sammy immensely grateful that his brother had the grace to pass out somewhere along the way.

Snapping up a hand towel, he wets it down with cool water and makes his way back to Sam. Working steadily, he cleans the rest of the blood and vomit laying a towel down over the mess that stains the comforter. He decides to wait until Bobby gets there to change the sheets, knowing the job will be that much easier with an extra set of hands.

Rubbing a hand down his face, he contemplates his next move. Deciding that getting Sam well is the priority, he removes the taller man's jeans and strips him down to his boxers in an effort to reduce the fever.

He glances down at Sam's shivering form and draws a deep breath into his lungs before exhaling slowly.

Nothing to do now but wait.

Famous last words when you have a little brother who's a pain in the ass.

Dean glances down worriedly at Sam just as his little brother begins to have a seizure.

"I love it when a plan comes together."

~Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith from The A-Team

36 hours ago

"You know that sounds completely whack, right?" Dean questions looking askance at his brother like he's lost his mind.

"Our lives are pretty crazy, Dean. How is this any different?" Sam argues waving his hand in the air over all his research and taking in his brother's look. "Don't look at me like that!"

"Like what?" Dean asks belligerently continuing to fix annoyed eyes on his brother.

Sam sighs and elucidates, "Like that. That's your 'bitch be crazy' look and it's really starting to piss me off. I saw it hundreds of times in Florida so stop."

Dean's eyes widen slightly as he remembers his brother had to watch him die repeatedly. "You sure you're okay to work this case?" Dean asks, his features suddenly colored with concern.

Sam nods and turns away for a second. "I'm fine, Dean," Sam reassures his brother. "I just need to get through to my stubborn ass brother," Sam states with a snide smile.

"Good luck with that. He can be such a dick," Dean mumbles and smiles when Sam laughs out loud.

Sam shakes his head at his brother's antics but appreciates that he feels much better, like an invisible weight has been lifted. "Look, man. I'm just saying we can't assume monsters will always fit in the box we put them in, so we need to stop thinking that way. Remember Lenore?"

Dean nods his head and waits for his brother to continue.

"Okay, just listen. The victims were last seen in dozens of bars all across the city. Too many for one nest of vamps. Can we at least agree on that?" Sam asks looking up at his brother from where he's just sat down on the bed.

"Sure, I'll buy that," Dean agrees readily nodding his head.

"We've talked to dozens of witnesses who confirmed the victims all left alone," Sam starts only to be cut off by his brother.

"So they met someone outside the bar," Dean suggests causing Sam to roll his eyes and wave his arms at his brother disbelievingly.

Sam takes a deep breath and adds, "Every single one of them, Dean? There are almost 150 victims in these files, and that's just in the last five years."

Dean shakes his head at his little brother, pulls out a chair, turns it and plops down on it backwards. He rolls his hand for his brother to continue.

"Drunk people are easy marks, Dean," Sam relays as he glances up from his notes to see his brother still paying attention.

"That's why we hustle in bars, Sammy. Tell me something I don't know," Dean retorts just to push his brother's buttons.

"The police were thinking a cab company, but they dropped the lead when it didn't seem to go anywhere. I think they were onto something and just didn't put the pieces together. This a smart vamp, man. It's been years and he's hasn't dropped onto a hunter's radar. That takes some skill," Sam states, making eye contact with his brother.

"Or experience. He could have been around awhile. That would certainly give him an advantage," Dean adds warming up to the discussion.

"Would have given him the time to amass a small fortune. If he's got the money, then he's got the means, Dean, so he seeds several of the companies with his vamps who then pick up the fares and take them home for dinner. Only literally," Sam finishes putting his notes together.

Dean pauses and thinks about it for another minute. Scratching his head, he sighs. "That's pretty thin, little brother. So, a nest of vamps with a taste for boozy blood?" He questions, the disbelief readily apparent in his tone until he sees his brother's face. "I know that look. You've got more so get to the part where we gank these things, Sammy."

"I've spent the last two days on this while you were 'out in the field'," Sam stresses using air quotes.

"What I won't do for this job, Sammy," Dean throws out earning a scathing look from his brother which disintegrates into a knowing smile.

"What was her name?" Sam asks tilting his head waiting for his brother to reply.

Dean shakes his head and places his hand over his heart affecting his most wounded look saying, "That really hurts, Sammy. I'm a…"

"Professional. Yeah, so you've said…repeatedly," Sam fills in the end of his brother's sentence in an age- old argument. "But I also know you and there was definitely a her."

Dean shrugs, his eyes twinkling as an enormous smile spreads across his face. "Melody and she was indeed musically talented. She played me like a…" he adds pausing for dramatic effect, lifting his eyebrows suggestively.

"Yeah, I got it. TMI, man," Sam interrupts before continuing. "Well, while you were…questioning Melody, I found something," Sam informs him as he gets up from his bed and begins to pace taking in the wolf's grin on his brother's face.

"Now we're talking," Dean says gets up and shoves his chair back under the little table.

"I traced over half these people to the same eight cabs. I tracked the medallions for each cab back to a bunch of dummy companies that are all owned by a single umbrella corporation called Mendler & Sons Security Specialists. Company's been in business since 1908," Sam throws out knowing by the look in Dean's eyes that he's got him.

"There it is," Dean agrees as he stops and turns around.

Sam sighs and glances over at his brother as he grabs his weapon, racks the slide and shoves it in his belt. "It's actually brilliant. By adding the "sons" to his company, he covers his ass as he ages," he adds as he heads towards the door.

"You can tell him how smart he is when we gank him. Got an address?" Dean inquires pausing a moment.

"Just for the business, but I doubt that's where the nest is," Sam states grabbing his jacket and laying the neat stack of files in his duffel.

"What's the play here?" Dean asks glancing over at his brother from the door.

"Let's grab someone and see if you can make him talk," Sam suggests, watching Dean's eyes light up.

"Sammy, you doubt me?" Dean asks pouting for one second before a smile lights up his face.

"Not for a minute," Sam adds as he closes the door behind him, missing the pride that shines from Dean's green eyes.

"Lean on me when you're not strong. I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on."

~Lean on Me by Bill Withers

"Damnit, Sammy," Dean growls out, his jaw clenched with determination, as he pulls his belt free and places it between his brother's teeth to ride out the seizure.

After what seems an eternity, Sam's body drops limply back onto the bed, and Dean feels the heat waves rolling off his little brother.

He grabs another washcloth from the ice bucket and is bathing Sam when he hears a knock followed by Bobby's gruff voice.

"Let me in, boy," Bobby demands as Dean looks over his brother again before he crosses to the door.

"Hey, you made damn good time," Dean notes as he checks out the digital clock on the nightstand.

Bobby nods and shrugs it off. "I was motivated," he admits pulling Dean in for a hug. "How's he doin'?"

Dean pulls on his neck, his worried gaze on the supine form across the room. "Just had a seizure," he whispers and Bobby shakes his head.

"Damn fool boy. What the hell have you pieced together? From the beginning," Bobby interrogates the younger man next to him.

"It went like clockwork. We hit the house hard but quiet, taking out vamps as we went. We cleared each room before moving to the next from one end of the house to the other. It took a bit more time, but we figured it'd be more successful," Dean relates his eyes never leaving his brother's still form.

Bobby nods with approval. "That's how I would've done it," he admits before asking. "Where'd you get your intel?"

"Hey, it's me," he throws out, earning an annoyed look from the older man. "Found a vamp that felt like sharing," Dean relates with a smile, winking at Bobby's chagrined expression. "Come 'ere."

Dean steps forward pulling the older man into a hug. His worry for Sam lessens slightly with the stability offered by his friend's strong embrace.

"I'll bet. It's your charm," Bobby agrees pulling back so he can study Dean closely.

"I know. What can I say? I'm awesome," he adds, slapping a hand on the older man's shoulder.

Bobby chuckles and looks at Dean from under the bill of his tattered baseball cap. "You're 'bout to trip on your ego, boy," he warns playfully watching as Dean's features turn sour with worry.

"He'll be okay, Dean. You look like you got him settled pretty well. We'll keep watch over him," Bobby promises giving a supportive squeeze to Dean's shoulder. "Oh, and we'll give him a shot in the butt," Bobby states, pulling a syringe out of his field kit.

"Where'd you get that?" Dean asks, eyeing it with trepidation.

Bobby shakes his head with a smile. "I saved a nurse from the abusive dick haunting her, and she resupplied my first aid kit as a thank you," Bobby answers, turning and taking a step towards the bed.

"'Kay," Dean replies distractedly following his friend to the bed. "I'll need your help changing the sheets. They're a mess."

Bobby nods at him. "Let's get some medicine in him first," he adds gruffly, relieved to be here with his boys. "Roll him on his side so I can get this done," Bobby orders, pulling the cap from the syringe and flicking it to get any air bubbles out.

Dean rolls his brother towards him and looks away while Bobby administers the shot. Sam doesn't even flinch in reaction which makes Dean worry further.

They change the sheets in short order, putting the soiled ones in a trash bag and tossing it in the corner of the room.

Looking down at his brother, Dean drags another towel from the bucket of cool water and places it on Sam's chest.

"You've done what you can for now, kid, so give it a rest," Bobby commands steering Dean towards the other bed.

Dean nods his eyes firmly fixed on Sam. "Thanks for coming, Bobby. It's good to have the company. So, tell me about this nurse. Was she hot?" Dean interrogates his brows bobbing up and down suggestively as he looks over at him.

"You expect me to answer that, kid?" He quips as he turns back to look over at the bandages on Sam's chest.

Pushing the kid's hair out of his face, he studies the stitches Dean dropped in and can't help but smile. "This is fine stitching, boy," he praises and Dean puffs up at the compliment.

"Don't get too excited. Maybe if this hunting thing don't work out, you can take up cross stitching," Bobby baits with a smile.

"You're a riot," Dean shoots back his hands on his bouncing knees as his agitation increases.

"Dean? Sam'll need to eat a little something to keep his strength up. Why don't you go grab him something bland?" Bobby suggests gently.

Dean glances over at his brother without moving a muscle.

"I've got this," Bobby reassures him while placing another cool cloth on the sleeping form. "Grab a bag of ice too."

Dean plucks his jacket from the hook by the door and pulls the keys from his pocket. "Call me immediately if he wakes up," Dean stipulates and nods when Bobby acknowledges the request.

"Thanks, Bobby. I mean that," Dean reiterates as his hand turns the knob on the door.

"Enough of that. Next thing you know we'll be crying in tubs of ice cream about our feelings. Get going, boy," Bobby demands pointing towards the door. "I'll keep an eye on this one."

With one last look at his brother's still form, Dean opens the door and steps through it. Sam looks so fragile, but he knows that's deceiving because Sammy's one of the strongest people he knows.

"Bring forth the healing winds of time. This pain is both yours and mine."

~Song of the Lost by Ashes You Leave

"Bobby?" Sam's weakened voice barely carries across the few feet between them.

The man in question turns to Dean and whispers, "Let me take the lead. We need to know what's going on in that kid's head." When Dean nods his agreement, Bobby crosses over to the bed pulling a chair with him before he settles into it.

"I'm here, son," Bobby reassures him as he places his hand gently on Sam's chest.

Sam's fever bright eyes take in the older man. "Thanks for coming. I'm pretty messed up. I dreamed Dean was here," Sam admits with a tinge of shame in his voice. "I miss him, Bobby."

Bobby pauses and strokes his bearded chin a few times before deciding how to proceed. "Catch me up, kid," he says, leaning forward with interest and understanding.

Sam looks up at Bobby and sighs. "With Dean gone, it's been hard. I've been researching the Trickster and hunting and I'm tired," he concedes with a shrug wincing at the pull in the stitches in his side.

"So, you've been hunting on your own?" Bobby asks and the younger man nods suddenly tired.

Bobby catches Sam's eye and holds his gaze captive with his own. "How long?" he asks hoping like hell Sam will answer.

"Over six months. I remember you called to tell me you found a way to summon the Trickster," Sam supplies looking away with guilt ridden features.

"What is it, boy?" Bobby questions not missing the expression that crosses Sam's pale features.

Sam returns his gaze to the older man but can't stop the self-reproach gnawing at his gut enough to look him in the eyes.

"Sam?" Bobby asks again for an explanation.

Sam lifts his hazel eyes to meet Bobby's blue ones. "I killed you," he whispers so softly that Bobby barely hears the words.

"Well, you didn't. I'm still here," Bobby reassures him.

"It was another trick, and you disappeared. I remember begging the Trickster to give Dean back. I tried, Bobby, I really did, but he said…" Sam relates his voice hoarse with emotion.

Bobby lays a hand on his shoulder. "I know you did. There's nothing you boys wouldn't do for the other," he states shaking his head.

"Bastard just kept taunting me," Sam murmurs as tears leak from his glassy eyes.

The older man pats him gently. "I need to know what happened here," Bobby entreats, never breaking eye contact with the younger man who's clearly hurting.

"It was a lead on the Trickster, a sighting down in Texas. It was another dead end, but it led me to a nest of vamps in Austin. There were six of them and I had it under control until the last one," Sam relates watching Bobby's expression.

"Obviously, ya idjit, or I wouldn't be here. Looks like you went through a window. Did you get the vamp?" He asks with concern.

"Yessir. Took his head, but the momentum took me out the window," Sam confirms and Bobby nods knowingly.

"Where were you before this?" The older man asks warily, not exactly sure how far he can push this.

"I'm sorry I haven't kept in touch. I've just got to keep moving, or I'll never make it," Sam apologizes, not witnessing the tears in Dean's green eyes across the room.

"I hear ya," Bobby agrees, tugging his battered hat down further on his head.

"Before Austin, I was in Albuquerque taking out a Revenant, a water spirit at Big Bear Lake and a Wendigo that was snatching people from the Mill Canyon Trail in Utah. That one was a little dicey when a poacher shot me, but it turned out all right," Sam explains running a trembling hand through his hair. "Before that, well I hunt, sleep, eat and hunt some more, so it all kind of runs together."

Bobby sighs, his eyes heavy with worry. "Kid, that's no kind of life. You know your brother would want more than that for you," he explains, adjusting his ratty blue ball cap once again.

Sam looks away before swinging his defeated hazel gaze back to the man who's like a father to him. "Doesn't really matter what Dean wants anymore. He's in hell being tortured because I couldn't save him like he saved me," Sam hisses, his eyes finally shedding the tears they've been holding.

"Okay," Bobby states drawing it out with a moment's uncertainty on how to proceed until it hits him out of the blue. "You took a massive knock to the head, Sam, and it's messed with your memories a little bit. Your brother said the Trickster kept messing with you. He killed Dean repeatedly, right?"

Sam nods but is unable to speak past the lump in his throat.

"Well, kid. Maybe all that other stuff was just the Trickster messing with you. Right now, you're not in Austin, Texas, Sam. We're in Paducah, Kentucky, and your brother…" Bobby starts trying to decide how to tell Sam this next part.

"Kid, your brother's right here. He's the one that found you and patched you up," he finishes, waving a hand at Dean to come out of the shadows.

Dean crosses to the bed and looks down at his brother through tearful green eyes. "Hiya, Sammy," he says in a choked voice.

Sam stares at his brother wanting to believe but not really daring to hope that everything that happened was a dream. His brows draw together in apprehension.

"But the scars," he whispers placing his hand over his left ribs to touch the bullet wound scar only to find smooth skin.

Dean looks down at his brother with concern. "What scars, Sammy? I didn't see anything new when I was patching you up," he mentions, following the movements of his brother's hand.

"But I remember," Sam mutters and tries to get up from the bed.

"Whoa, Sammy. You've got stitches that are some of my finest, and you're throwing off enough heat waves to fry bacon. You need to settle down," Dean tries to explain while grasping his brother's arm to guide him back to the bed.

"I need to see, Dean. I have to," Sam argues fighting his brother with every painful breath he drags into his lungs.

Dean pauses and looks into Sam's hazel eyes. The desperation and determination he sees there make the decision for him.

"Give me a hand, Bobby," Dean asks shooting a glance at the older man.

"But…oh hell. You two really will be the death of me," Bobby grumbles and helps Sam sit up from the other side.

Sam groans when he drags his feet to the floor but glowers at his brother when Dean inhales to say something.

Dean bites the inside of his cheek to keep himself from saying it.

Sam makes his way slowly to the bathroom with the two men he admires most holding him up.

Glancing in the mirror, he barely recognizes the man staring back at him. His eyes are bright with fever, but standing there in his boxers he sees no evidence of the bullet wound that he remembers so acutely stitching up in yet another motel room. Turning with an audible groan, he spies no claw marks on the back of his shoulder.

He shakes his head disbelievingly. "But it was so real," Sam whispers lifting pained eyes towards his reflection.

Dean meets his brother's shocked gaze in the mirror. "I'm sure it was," Dean agrees before continuing. "The Trickster's a dick, Sammy, and after what he put you through, I want to kill him even more."

Sam's eyes widen slightly, betraying the fear he feels at the thought of living through losing Dean again.

"Sammy?" Dean tries to break through the doubt he sees in his brother's face. "Sam!" He repeats a little louder smiling when Sam's eyes focus on him yet again. "I'll keep my promise not to go after him, but if he crosses our path, all bets are off," Dean states unequivocally swiping his hand through the air.

"That's fair," Sam whispers before turning towards the toilet.

"Need a hand, Sammy?" Dean asks as Bobby leaves the room. "You're not too steady on your feet, man."

"I've got it," Sam answers adding an addendum when Dean refuses to budge. "I'll holler if I have any trouble."

Dean nods and looks over at his brother commanding his undivided attention. "You know there's gonna be words, right?" He asks stoically, his green eyes piercing through Sam who nods in response.

"Shut the door," Sam requests leaning against the wall for added support.

Dean closes the door and lays his head against it with a thump. Hearing his brother sigh through it, he steps back and sits down on the closest chair before his legs fail him.

Bobby steps forward and places a hand on his shoulder. "He's gonna be fine, Dean," the bearded man reassures taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly.

"Yeah, this time. I'm not loving how he handled losing me though. Damn kid could've gotten himself killed," Dean rages, shooting up from the chair losing the support and comfort of Bobby's hand.

Bobby looks at the boy he loves like his own and shakes his head. "He's a hunter, Dean, and that's not going to change when we lose you," he scolds, his blue eyes suspiciously wet as he leans forward and yanks his coat off the rack. "I need some air…and a beer. I'll be back."

"I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say. I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be."

~The Promise by When In Rome

Two Days Later

"You look a hell of a lot better, man," Dean notes as his brother walks out of the bathroom in a billow of steam, jeans riding low on his hips.

Sam nods without looking at his brother. "Thanks?" He responds grabbing a flannel shirt from his bag and shrugging into it.

Dean studies his little brother carefully. "How ya feeling, Sammy?" He asks gauging his brother's responses.

"Fine," Sam replies automatically still unable to meet his brother's gaze.

Dean looks up from his Colt 1911 that he was cleaning and clears his throat. "Look, Sammy," he starts pointing a finger at his brother.

"Don't want to talk about it. When are we heading out?" Sam questions stuffing gear in his bag and checking the resupply for the first aid kit.

Dean sets the gun down and pops up from his chair. "Too bad, Sammy, cause we're definitely gonna talk about it," he demands crossing the floor to stand in front of his brother.

"Dean…" Sam warns.

"No, Sammy. I've let you crawl into a hole the past couple days cause I knew you needed a minute, but time's up, man," Dean announces as he steps into his brother's space forcing the taller man back a step. "Will you look at me?"

Sam brings pained eyes up to meet his brother's.

Dean inhales deeply letting it out on a sigh. "Look, man, I'm sorry you went through that, but I need you to hear me," he starts only to be interrupted by his brother.

"What is it, Dean?" Sam says despondently brushing his wet hair back from his face. "Nothing you say will change anything if I can't save you."

Dean shakes his head. "One thing needs to change though. Hunting on your own? You coulda been killed, Sammy," Dean points out as he shoves a finger into his brother's chest. "I don't want that for you. You need to live a life, man. I don't want you trading your soul or making deals with the devil. I need to know that you'll be okay when I'm gone."

Sam's hazel eyes flash angrily. "Screw you, Dean. I'm your brother and maybe you need to hear me for a change," Sam starts, pushing his brother back a step.

"Okay," Dean relents, his body tense waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"I will do everything in my power to bring you back if I can't save you from it. Everything, Dean, and there's not a damn thing you can say or do to stop me. So…back…off," Sam promises grabbing his gear and tossing the bag down by the door.

"Damnit, Sammy. Get back here," Dean demands following his brother's long strides towards the door. "You can't…"

"Watch me, Dean," Sam spits as the phone on the table rings and he snatches it up not caring that it's his brother's. "What?" He barks into the line. "Where? Good, we're on our way," Sam adds as he tosses his brother the mobile.

"Bela was spotted in Monument, Colorado. We don't have time for this. Grab your stuff and let's go get the Colt that bitch stole," Sam orders as he begins gathering his own things.

Walking briskly towards the door, he grabs his jacket and his bag and opens it wide before stepping out into the bright day.

"This isn't over," Dean states emphatically tossing his own gear up on his shoulder.

"It is today," Sam replies making his way to the Impala and hoping like hell they catch Bela in time to get the Colt back. Lilith needs to be put down and he is damn tired of everyone thinking he couldn't do it.

He'd get the job done or die trying.

The End