Good morning! Surprise! :) I don't usually post twice in one week and this was planned to be posted next Monday. Yesterday, I had a pretty lousy day and decided I just wanted to post because this little story is finished, I really love how it turned out, and why not post it? Life's short, do what makes ya happy. So that's why I am posting this today. :)

Here's to a couple beloved Winchester boys who have a lot of lousier days than most of us have! :)


Instinct

Set post 10.19, The Werther Project


Instinct.

What a bitch.

Dean hated instinct. Sure, it had kept them alive on many occasions. Yeah, he relied on it every day. Even so, at times like these, he wished he could turn the damn thing off. Of course, the issue wasn't so much with instinct itself as it was the fact that his instincts were at war with each other.

Driving the sledgehammer through the front of the Werther Box, Dean ignored the blood and focused on the destruction.

If it wasn't for damned instinct telling him this murderous box needed to be smashed into dust, he wouldn't be in this moldy basement. He'd be with his brother; where he needed to be.

Instead, he was here and Sam was waiting in the car.

Swinging the hammer again, Dean gritted his teeth as the reverberations sent shockwaves up his arms to his shoulders. He was tense enough that the box might not be the only thing to shatter.

And things had started out so well.

He'd been in a good mood. A real good mood; not just one of those good moods he faked. A really good mood. He'd even apologized to Sam about the vamp hunt he'd taken on by himself. Apologized, and then helped Sam with his own attempted solo case. It had all been going so well.

Wiping sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand, he stared at the small alcove where the nightmare box sat. The small alcove where he'd found his brother nearly bleeding to death. Furious as he was, an icy shiver went up his spine and the heated anger was muted by cold fear.

If he'd been any slower. If he'd been trapped in the hallucination even a moment longer. If he had spent a single second searching the house in all the wrong places.

If, if, if, if.

The hammer hit again and vanquished the cold fear.

Anger pulsed through his veins as he pounded metal against metal. It wasn't the Mark. It was pure, human anger. Pure brother anger. Anger at circumstances he couldn't control.

Circumstances that seemed to always be fighting to tear his brother from his grasp.

When he'd entered the alcove earlier, his first glance at his brother, crumpled beside the box, bleeding, had sent his stomach plummeting like a carnival ride. Even now, knowing Sam was alive and safely settled in the Impala, his stomach wavered unsteadily.

As much as he hated, hated, being down here destroying this box, it gave him an outlet for his emotions. It was good. Being in control. Being able to put his energy into something so productive.

So destructive.

Dean hit the box again and again, the adrenaline working the fear from his bloodstream. Most of the fear, anyway. He put a few more dents into the nightmare box, then turned away. He'd done what he could and hopefully it would be enough.

He took the steps two at a time. Time to concentrate on more important things.

Once outside, he made a beeline for the Impala. His fear eased somewhat when he caught sight of his brother still sitting upright in the passenger seat. Sam looked up from the book in his hand - the one he'd nearly died for.

"Overkill, don't you think?" Sam asked, glancing over his shoulder. "I mean, we broke the spell. The box is just a box."

"Well, now it's scrap metal," Dean said, dropping the sledgehammer in the trunk. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm great."

It was laughable, but Dean didn't call him out on it, just asked, "You road ready?"

"I'll be fine."

Dean rolled his eyes, but still didn't comment on the obvious falsity of his brother's statement.

"That says something, doesn't it?" he said, instead. "Werther splits us up in there. Within an hour, we're both on the brink of death. Sorry about yesterday, going rogue on you like that."

"You know what, Dean? Don't apologize. I...I think that makes us even."

"The universe is trying to tell us something we both should already know. We're stronger together than apart."

"Mmhm."

"Now what could possibly be so valuable that it takes a spell that nasty to protect it huh?" Dean sank into the driver's seat, not sure he wanted to know the answer to his own question.

"No idea." Sam settled in his seat; slouched down, the mysterious book on his lap. "But whatever it is, we'll keep it safe."

Starting the engine, Dean wanted nothing more but to throw the book into another vault - one not guarded by a disturbing suicide spell. There were any number of curse boxes back at the Bunker that the book could fit into nicely. In a box, in another box, in a dark, deep, dusty corner to be forgotten. Yes, that seemed like a perfect plan.

Of course, from the way Sam was practically cradling the thing like it was his most precious possession, it was obvious he wouldn't be on board with the dusty corner thing.

"What is it?" Dean asked, as he pointed the car toward the fastest route home.

"What?" Sam jerked in his seat, his grip on the book tightening. Blinking hard a few times like he might have fallen asleep in the last thirty seconds, he shook his head and frowned at Dean.

"The book. What is it?"

"Uh." Sam looked down at the book. "It's a...well, I guess."

Dean's eyebrows went up and he spared a glance from the road to his brother before asking, "Was that supposed to make sense?"

"No. I mean, yes. I don't know." Sam sighed, his head thumping back against the seat.

"Don't know what the book is or don't know if the jumble of words you strung together was supposed to make sense?"

"Both."

It was worded as a statement, but Dean could've sworn he heard a question in there somewhere. A different time, he would have pursued it, but right now, he had other things to worry about.

"You said you were ok to hit the road," he said, the paperwhite color of his brother's skin sending a clear message to the contrary. Sam was breathing shallowly, eyes closed, a cold sweat breaking out at his temples. "Are you going to be sick?"

"No."

"Uh huh." At a stop light, Dean fumbled around in the back seat until he found a plastic bag full of trash. Dumping the trash out, he pushed the bag toward Sam. "Here."

"I'm not going to throw up," Sam snapped. Well, he probably had intended to snap. Instead, he just sounded tired. He wouldn't release his grip on the book to take the bag.

The light turned green and Dean put the bag on the seat between them. "That book isn't as important as Baby's upholstery. You better make a fast grab for that bag when you need it or you're cleaning the car. Did you drink the whole bottle of water?"

"Yes." Sam swallowed hard, not moving his head from the seat or opening his eyes. "Can you just shut up?"

Instinct had Dean opening his mouth to reply in brotherly banter, but another glance at his brother - pale, clammy, his arms hastily but securely bandaged - had a different instinct taking over. One that said there was no way they were driving through the night back home. One that said he needed to look for a motel. One telling him he needed to get fluids, clean bandages, and to find a soft bed for his brother to crash on before he passed out completely.

He would have much preferred to have gotten far out of St. Louis rather than to start looking for a motel already. Not that there was anyone on their tail or any specific pressure to leave, but the near-constant itch of wariness was irritating the fight or flight part of his brain. Well, to be honest, these days it was more the fight and fight part. Fighting was the default.

But lately, he was, ha, fighting the urge to fight. Dean's mouth twisted in a bitter smile. It wasn't funny, not at all. His hand came off the steering wheel to rub against the curse hidden by his sleeve. The Mark was quiet right now; as quiet as it ever got. But it was there, still burning. Still reminding him he wasn't fully in control.

Shaking his head, Dean started looking for a motel. As he did, he added water, dinner, medications, and bandages to a mental list. If he'd been any slower in getting to his brother, he'd be looking for a hospital not a motel. Teeth clenching at the thought, he stole a glance at his brother.

Sam was alive. Sleeping. Looked exhausted. And the blood loss couldn't even be fully held responsible for that; Dean hadn't slept soundly in months and he hadn't seen Sam enjoying long leisurely slumber either. The Mark was weighing on both of them, if in different ways.

Shaking his head, Dean found a motel on the edge of town. He'd figure everything else out later.

"Dean?"

"Yeah?"

Sam was looking around groggily. "Where are we?"

"Motel for the night," Dean said, putting the car into park. "Sit tight and I'll get us a room."

"We don't need to stop yet."

Getting out of the car, Dean didn't bother to contradict his brother. Sam was weak from blood loss but he was more than capable of arguing all night and Dean wasn't at all in the mood for an argument. He slammed the door on whatever Sam was saying. It might have been funny another time, but right now it was far from it.

Fifteen minutes longer, he'd moved the car in front of the room.

"Ready?" Dean asked, pocketing the keys.

Sam nodded, slowly reaching for the door handle.

Dean was around the car in time to pull his brother to his feet. Sam was steadier than expected, but didn't try to shake off the hand Dean kept under his elbow. He still had the book in his hands and didn't seem to be in any hurry to relinquish it. Dean could hardly look at the thing knowing the price that had been paid to get it.

Looking away from the book, he concentrated on getting them into the motel room.

"Med's take the edge off at all?" Dean asked, guiding Sam to the bed. He'd given his brother a couple over the counter pills when he'd first gotten him out of the basement and wrapped his arms.

Sam's barely noticable shrug said the meds hadn't done much but he wasn't going to admit it aloud.

"Just need to crash for a few." He slumped heavily down onto the bed, the book still in his hands.

"Coat off first."

Dean grabbed his shoulder before he could lay down. He reached for the book, half expecting a fight given the way Sam had been cradling the thing like it was gold. Instead, Sam let him take it although he watched like a hawk as Dean set it on the bedside table.

Gently helping with his coat, Dean said, "Gotta get you stitched up before you can crash."

"I can crash while you stitch." Sam smiled, but it looked strained. His shoulders were hunched as he rested his bandaged arms gingerly on his thighs.

"You can crash in a minute." Carefully, Dean checked the bandages. He'd done a decent job of wrapping the wounds and he didn't see any fresh blood leaking through the pristine white of the bandages. "Sit still."

Sam nodded, staring at the book.

Dean watched him for a moment to ensure he wasn't going to pass out against orders, then hurried back out to the car to grab their gear and the first aid kit. Yanking things out of the trunk, Dean smacked his elbow and let out a low curse. He gritted his teeth slung his bag over his shoulder, one thought filling his mind like the spread of blood through water:

What if I hadn't crashed Sam's hunt?

Dean shook his head, but the blood only seemed to spread further.

He'd be dead right now.

Slamming the trunk much harder than he needed to, Dean stalked back to the motel room, heart pounding. If he hadn't come, if he hadn't broken through the hallucination...Sam would be dead.

It was thanks to The Mark. The Mark had saved him.

His boot caught the broken edge of the sidewalk and he stumbled. Bracing a shoulder against the wall, he pressed his hand against the suddenly burning mark on his arm. It ached and hurt and felt like power and death and life. He wouldn't have withstood the hallucination if not for the Mark.

It had saved him; it had saved them. He loved it and hated it and feared it and needed it like nothing he'd ever needed in his life before. It was everything he'd ever wanted, how could he ever have wanted it to be gone?

From somewhere, he vaguely heard a voice calling his name. It was quiet, insignificant in the face of the power he was marveling at right now. Everything was insignificant. The entire world was muted. All he could feel or think about was the power flowing through his veins.

From miles away, he heard his name being called again.

The sound cut through the pounding of blood in his ears, cut through the exhilarating siren call of the Mark. Blinking hard, Dean shook his head. The burning on his arm, the lure of unchecked power faded into a dim memory. He had no clue how long he'd been standing in a daze, but it had been long enough that Sam had been calling for him. Focus was restored almost instantly and his grip tightened on the bag of gear as he hurried to the motel room.

Stepping inside, he found Sam sprawled back across the bed, one leg hanging over the edge. Arms limp at his sides, he was looking straight at Dean.

"Sam?" His heart hit his stomach and the gear hit the floor as he crossed the room in three strides.

"Get lost on the way back?" Sam sounded breathless, but alert enough to attempt to joke.

"What happened?" Dean ignored the attempt at humor and concentrated on the rapid pulse beneath his searching fingertips and the way Sam's skin was ice cold and clammy.

"I told you I needed to crash."

"You feelin' worse?" Dean tugged the pillows away from the head of the bed and had Sam's legs elevated on them in a matter of seconds.

The aggravated expression just looked sickly, but Sam's voice was steady enough when he said, "I'm fine. I got a little lightheaded. You don't have to go all M.A.S.H. on me. You're making a big deal out of this-"

"If I was making a big deal out of this, you wouldn't be on that bed, you'd be in an emergency room, color coordinating with their starchy white sheets right now." The pounding of his heart eased a little, but the fear and adrenaline ensured it still wasn't close to normal.

"I don't need an emergency room." Sam shook his head, then squeezed his eyes closed, his sheet-pale face losing even more color.

"Sure you don't. You gonna hurl?"

"No." Swallowing hard, Sam added, "Maybe."

Dean grabbed the nearest trash can and waited.

After a few moments, Sam opened his eyes and said, "I'm ok."

Setting the trash can aside, Dean asked, "Water?"

"I don't really want to sit up." His eyes slipped closed again. "Room's still spinning."

"I'll get you a straw."

Sam huffed a laugh but didn't argue.

"Stay put. I'll be right back." Dean started to move away, but Sam caught his sleeve.

"What took you so long before?" Sam asked, looking unwell but just as worried as Dean felt. "You were gone almost fifteen minutes."

It hadn't felt that long. Dean's mouth was dry as he said, "Just took me a few minutes to grab everything. Didn't know I was on the clock."

Sam let go of his sleeve and allowed Dean's paperthin excuse without argument. He looked resigned; like he knew Dean was deliberately misleading him, but didn't have the strength to call him out.

Turning away before he had time to think about the reason he was lying to his brother, Dean dug through his bag. He grabbed a bottle of water and then hesitated when he saw the bottle of whiskey. They were out of strong painkillers so he took both bottles. Sam would most likely turn down the whiskey, but Dean wasn't opposed to a steadying nip before getting out the first aid kit.

Dean turned around and set the bottles down on the bedside table. He studied his brother for a moment, then asked, "Think you're up to moving?"

"I can move," Sam said, making no move to actually...move.

Dean helped him sit up and hovered as he took a few sips of water. To his surprise, Sam then motioned for the whiskey and took a few generous swallows. By the time they got him settled back against the pillows, he was trembling and chilled. Dean pulled the blanket off the other bed, threw it over his brother, and grabbed the first aid kit and a chair.

Sam gingerly shifted, turning his left arm up for inspection.

"You ready?"

"As I'll ever be. It's just stitches." Sam closed his eyes with a resigned sigh.

It's just stitches.

Because this was their life. Stitches in motel rooms. Freakish, hallucinatory boxes of doom. Good times.

Dean didn't comment, just started working. It didn't take him long to get both of Sam's arms stitched and redressed. It was just stitches, after all, and fortunately - or unfortunately depending on perspective - Dean was good at doing them.

Sam was silent during the entire procedure, taking a few additional sips of water when prompted. He also took several more generous swallows of whiskey that Dean had not prompted. But hey, he wasn't the one getting his arms stitched back together, so Dean wasn't going to argue if Sam wanted a little more numbing.

By the time Dean was finished, Sam's breathing was easy in sleep even if his face was still tight with pain.

"What were you thinking?" Dean muttered softly, packing the supplies away.

"Clearly I wasn't," Sam answered, not as asleep as Dean thought he was. He didn't open his eyes or move.

Before he could stop himself, Dean asked, "What did you see? What made you think bleeding to death was worth it?"

Sam didn't answer immediately and Dean took a long pull of whiskey that didn't really steady his nerves like he hoped it would.

Finally, Sam said, "Rowena."

"Rowena?" Dean shook his head, bottle still in his hand.

"Yes. She was telling me what I had to do to open the box. She was...helping."

"First of all she wasn't even there."

"I know that." Sam shot him a glare.

"And, second of all, why would you think she was helping? Why would you listen to her?" Dean tightened his grip on the bottle, trying not to look at the bandages on his brother's arms and failing entirely to push the image of Sam bleeding to death from his mind. "She's a witch. She's not our friend and -"

"I know that!"

"Well, sometimes you don't act like you do."

Sam took a deep breath as if preparing for his scathing comeback, but he didn't say anything. Just closed his eyes, breathing out slowly, then swallowing hard.

The silence was a slap in the face of Dean's anger. The way Sam's skin had gone grey diffused the anger entirely. Setting the whiskey aside, Dean ran a hand through his hair, then squeezed Sam's shoulder.

"You know what," he said softly. "Let's not...I don't want to argue."

"Good, because it's been a long day and I'm tired." Sam glanced at him with a half smile that faded almost instantly.

Dean managed to lift his lips in a half-hearted smile in return.

"What did you see?" Sam asked, his words slurring ever so slightly.

"Doesn't matter," Dean said quickly. "What matters is that I got there in time to stop you from killing yourself."

The words tasted bitter and ugly in his mouth and then suddenly they didn't. The burn on his arm took over, flooding him with sensations of vengeance and justice and inevitability.

My story began when I killed my brother, and that's where your story inevitably will end.

"Dean?"

Sam's voice, as it had earlier, drew him back to the moment.

Hands trembling, Dean grabbed the first aid kit and stalked across the room to shove it into the duffle bag. Anything to be busy. Anything to distract himself. Anything to keep himself from picturing Sam dead on the ground while he stood above him and laughed with joy.

His stomach lurched and he headed for the bathroom. Slamming the door behind him, he braced his hands on the sink, wavering where he stood. Bile rose in his throat and he lowered his head, sucking in a steadying breath. Swallowing back the nausea, he stared down at the sink.

Tell me I don't have to do this. Tell me that you'll stop. Tell me that you can stop!

But Cain had said he would never stop and so Dean had killed him.

He'd stopped Cain, but could he stop himself?

His elbows shook with the strain of holding himself up against the sink.

Shaking his head, Dean gritted his teeth against the rage that was fighting to break free. Control. It was all about control. He had to control himself. Had to control the monster just under his skin.

Control.

What was that?

Cain had been one of the most in control people Dean had ever seen. And Cain hadn't been able to withstand the power of the Mark. Why would Dean be any different?

His knees went weak and he would have hit the scuffed tile if not for the hand that caught him under his elbow.

"Dean, what the hell?"

Sam was dragging him out of the bathroom and shoving him in a chair.

The haze of evil he'd been submerged in, cleared and he stared up at his brother. Words failed him, though. What could he say? What could he do to explain what he'd just experienced. Explain the thoughts he'd been having. There was no way he could form the words I was daydreaming about murdering you and it felt good.

Whatever he couldn't say, clearly something was written all over his face and, judging by Sam's expression, it wasn't good.

"What's going on?" Sam asked, one hand on Dean's shoulder.

"Nothing."

It was better than other things he could have said even if it was a bold faced lie. His voice was steady, but nothing else was.

"Are you sick? Is it from the box?" Sam peppered him with questions. Bracing his free hand on the table, he leaned down and studied Dean with bleary, but focused eyes. "Dean?"

"Just tired," Dean said, searching for the quickest and easiest excuse. "You're gonna fall over if you don't sit down."

Sam wavered unsteadily, proving Dean's point.

"How did you even manage to get up?" Dean was on his feet and pushing Sam back toward the bed before he wound up collapsing to the carpet.

"You...something was wrong." Crisis somewhat passed, Sam's words were running together again and Dean barely got him onto the bed before his legs went out from under him.

"The only thing that's wrong is you trying to move around when you're down a few too many red blood cells." Dean shoved him - gently - back against a pillow. "You should drink some more water and then -"

"Was it the Mark?" Sam interrupted softly.

"Was what the Mark?" Dean pulled the covers up over his brother, wishing he'd locked the bathroom door.

"Was that what made you able to withstand the hallucination? To break free?"

It was a good question. It was also a question Dean wasn't interested in finding an answer to. Ignoring the burn on his right arm, he said, "Does it matter? I broke free and we're both alive."

"Of course it matters." Blood loss or not, Sam was a dog with a bone.

"No. It doesn't."

Dean couldn't keep a spark of anger from raising his voice to a near shout. The Mark was a fiery bright pain on his arm and suddenly he needed to leave. Needed to leave before he said - or did - something he'd live to regret. He spun on his heel and headed for the door.

"Stay put and get some sleep," he called over his shoulder; hands shaking as he reached for the doorknob.

"Where are you -"

"Out." Pulling the door open, he tamped down on some of the blistering fury and said, "Just get some sleep, Sam."

And then he was through the door and pulling it closed before he could hear Sam's reply.

Hating himself with every step he took, the urge to… hurt... something was so strong that he probably would have done something terrible if he hadn't tripped over the same bit of broken sidewalk he'd stumbled over earlier. He caught himself on the hood of the Impala.

The cool metal diffused the heat of the Mark and he could see clearly. Could feel clearly. Taking a shaky breath, he straightened and glanced around. It was late and he realized how long it had been since he'd eaten. A small cafe was a block up the road, brightly lit and welcoming.

Maybe he could avoid any acts of violence while eating a burger and some pie.


Either the pie had been that good, or the time distancing himself from reality had done him some good. One way or the other, he was a lot calmer when he returned to the motel room an hour later.

Calmer until he opened the door, anyway.

Instead of sleeping peacefully in the bed, Sam was sitting at the table with that damned book open in front of him like he was studying for a final exam. The whiskey bottle was next to him and he'd obviously been partaking from it. A lot.

Dean slammed the door behind himself and took no small degree of pleasure in Sam's surprised jolt. He was alert enough, though, that Dean was face to face with Sam's Taurus.

"What the hell are you doing?" Dean asked, torn between annoyance and anger.

Lowering the gun with a badly shaking hand, Sam said, "Working."

"You were supposed to be sleeping."

"Can't." Sam shook his head, wavering where he sat. "Gotta find th'answer."

Eyebrow raising, Dean said, "It might have some answers to something, but it's not even in...words."

He glanced at the pages of the book for the first time. The script on the pages was nothing he recognized. It was a jumble of chaos and he wondered how it would look after a few shots of whiskey. Whatever Sam was seeing, it had to be even more convoluted. Psychedelic spells. Good times.

"We just got that thing," Dean said, motioning to the book, "and we don't even know what it-"

"It's th'codex."

Like that explained anything.

"I gotta keep looking." Sam turned back to the ancient book that had nearly cost him his life. "It's here. 'S here."

"If it's there, it will still be there tomorrow," Dean said, pulling the book away from Sam's grasp.

"No, Dean, I have to -" Sam made a grab for the book, failing miserably and nearly falling out of the chair in the process.

One hand on Sam's shoulder to hold him up, Dean tossed the book lightly onto the nearest bed. If Sam hadn't been as incapacitated as he was, he would've thrown a punch. As it was he tried to throw a punch but it was more like a drunken attempt to swat a mosquito. He didn't even connect with Dean at all and the momentum of his awkward movement was exactly what Dean needed to propel him out of the chair and drag him back to the bed.

Sam protested the entire way, but his protests were drunken and mostly incoherent which made it easy for Dean to ignore them.

"Thought I could trust you with an open bottle of whiskey, but clearly I was wrong." Dean pushed Sam onto the bed. "What the hell were you thinking, dumbass? Drinking on top of blood loss? I thought you were supposed to be the smart one."

"Dean, I have to," Sam mumbled, eyes unfocused, his hands fisted in Dean's jacket. "I have to."

Trying to break free of his brother's grasp - and failing - Dean asked, "What do you have to do, Sam?"

"I have to…help you. Have to fix it." There were tears in his eyes now. "The Mark-"

"Can wait," Dean cut him off, fury and fear boiling his blood. "Just stop, will you? I had to stitch your arms back together. I came down those stairs and thought...I thought ...I didn't know if I was in time."

Sam's grip hadn't released yet, but he was quiet and trying to focus on what Dean was saying.

"You don't even know if that book has any answers to anything."

Something almost guilty flickered in Sam's expression that was a red flag in Dean's mind, but right now didn't seem to be the time to pursue it.

"I can't not try," Sam said softly. "Don't...don't ask me to."

"I'm not asking you to stop trying, ok?" Dean sighed, running his hand through his hair. "I'm just trying to get you to find...less lethal ways of helping."

"I just got you back."

"And I'm not going anywhere." He meant it, even if the Mark on his arm was fighting him at every turn.

"It was bad. So bad. I can't…" Sam's voice broke. His eyes were distant. Remembering. "I can't watch it happen to you again."

Dean sat down on the edge of the bed, Sam's grip on his shirt finally releasing.

"Sam, I'm fine. Ok? I've got it under control." Dean forced a grin that probably was as much a lie as his words had been.

"Everything's outta control," Sam mumbled, fighting to keep his eyes open. "I tried, Dean, I tried and I couldn't. And if you'd killed me, and there was no one, if Cas hadn't…"

His voice trailed off and Dean blinked hard, trying to sort through the jumble of words he'd just heard.

Sam had said it so casually.

If you'd killed me.

Like it was no big deal.

Dean's throat tightened and the disturbed part of his mind being poisoned by the Mark whispered, If I'd killed you that day in the Bunker, I wouldn't even have cared.

The truth of that fact sickened him. Made it difficult to breathe. Made it difficult to look at Sam. He closed his hands into fists; unconsciously, he could feel the hammer. He'd swung it with strength and the full intention to kill his brother.

"You would've been gone forever," Sam whispered, eyes closed. "Always a demon and I never would have...I never would've forgiven myself."

He was rambling, the alcohol and blood loss loosening his tongue in a way nothing else would.

"Sam, stop. Just stop." Dean gave his brother's shoulder a shake. "None of that happened and there's no sense in thinking about it. We're past that and we're going to get past this, too."

"How?" Sam asked, staring at him, emotion shining bright in his eyes.

Dean forced another smile - this one a bit more genuine - and said, "I expect you're going to figure out what those scribbles in that book mean and come up with a solution. For now, how about you shut up and go to sleep like I told you to do an hour ago? You're as much trouble to put to bed now as you were when you were two."

He waited for an eye roll, but all he got was a desperate question, "Don't leave again?"

Throat tight, Dean nodded and said, "Not goin' anywhere, Sammy. Ok?"

"Ok." Sam nodded, closing his eyes. "Can't live with you gone."

And then he was out, leaving Dean in the silent room with a lump in his throat and a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach and so many regrets.

Regrets and fears because he might have said he was in control, might have done what he could to reassure his brother, but he was afraid. Afraid he wasn't strong enough to resist the instinct that was borne of a curse pulsing through his every cell. Afraid there would be no angelic assist, no nick of time rescue, no Hail Mary play the next time.

He was afraid he was going to kill his brother.

Elbows on his knees, he buried his face in his hands, the sheer terror of the thought nearly outweighed by the invigorating high it gave him. Instincts at war on every level within himself, he wished the cure had killed him. Killed him before he could kill his brother.

Lifting his heavy head, he watched his brother sleep and the fear only increased.

Sam's face was creased in a frown, his hands clenching the blanket. Even in sleep, he was tense. He was thinking. He was working the problem; trying to come up with a solution that would save Dean.

Dean had instincts, but so did his little brother.

Glancing at the book Sam had nearly died to get, Dean's mouth went dry at the realization of exactly how far Sam would go to save him.

You're my brother, and I'd die for you.

The only real question was whose instincts would win out in the end.

the end


Hope you enjoyed!