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It was in Indiana that Dean met the guys. ‘The guys’ were two strange men, one old and balding, the other younger and tiny. He met the old one first. He sat down at Dean’s table in a bar, uninvited and seemingly coming out of nowhere. Dean glared at him and considered punching him in the face, because he was invading his personal space and he looked unbearably smug about his own existence. On top of that, Dean had just learned that he had missed his brother once again. Also? One of the women Dean interviewed on his missing brother turned out to be a girlfriend of Dean’s from nine years ago, and she had a son who’d be turning eight in a couple of weeks, and no matter what Lisa told him about the kid’s dad being some biker from some bar, it kind of freaked him out.

And now there was this guy, Mr. Smuggy McSmug-Smug, who sat down beside him like an old friend and smugged right into Dean’s face with his smug face.

“What?” Dean growled. “I’m really not in the mood-”

“I have been looking for you,” the man told him.

Dean groaned. “You’re not my type.”

“Let me say that again: I have been looking for you, Dean Winchester. Unfortunately I have been looking in the wrong place. Well, to be entirely accurate, I have been looking in the right place, only to find you are in the wrong one. But let’s not waste time with details.”

Dean stared at him. For all of half a second. Then his hand flew to his gun – only to find it was gone.

Smugface smirked at him and held up the gun without even attempting to shield it from the eyes of the other people in the room. Even though at least one of them looked directly at them, no one seemed bothered by it at all. “If it’s any consolation, this wouldn’t do anything but cause a scene.”

“Who are you?” Dean asked. “You know, never mind that. What are you?”

“My name is Zachariah,” Smugface said despite Dean’s declared disinterest in his name. “I’m an angel.”

“Sure you are.”

Zachariah let out a long-suffering sigh. “I could prove it to you, but this is hardly the right place for religious revelations. Just take my word for it. Or don’t. Actually, I don’t really give a shit what you believe.”

Some words for an angel.

“Okay, identity issues aside, what do you want from me?”

“I’m trying to help you.”

“Oh, right. You know where my brother is?”

Zachariah snorted. “Believe me, Dean, your brother is the last of my interests. He could be lying dead in a dumpster for all I care. No, I am here to help you fulfil your destiny. And for that, you don’t need Sam. Not yet.”

Dean’s gaze went past the stranger to the door, looking for the shortest way out. This guy was seriously creepy.

“Okay, gramps, I bet you expect me to be all ears about that supposed destiny of mine now, but all I want is for you to stay far away from me and my brother before I hand your ass to you on a silver platter.” Actually, Dean would hunt this supposed angel down anyway, because the last thing his family needed now was an evil supernatural stalker.

Smugface only smiled at him, if possibly looking even smugger than a second before. “I would love to see you try,” he said. “And with what,” he added, reminding Dean that he stole his gun without Dean even noticing. “But before you do and risk hurting yourself, let’s put aside the fact that you are a microbe with the temper of a five-year-old and talk business.”

“Not interested.” Dean tried to stand, but before he could even move, Zachariah placed a hand on his thigh and held him down with surprising and unsettling strength.

“We’re not done yet,” he said calmly.

Dean tried again, but found he couldn’t even get his ass off the seat. It dawned on him that he was in a hostage situation with himself as the hostage, and that he needed to adapt his plan accordingly.

So instead of jumping up and making a dignified run for the door, he leaned back in his chair and glared at the stranger. “What business do we have, then?”

“Would you like to have your father back?”

Dean froze. His fingers twitched for his absent gun. “Not funny, man. Not funny at all.”

“Really? I thought you loved him. But if you prefer him burning in hell…”

“In hell?” Dean’s fingers curled into a fist. “Bullshit. Why would he be in hell?”

“Demon possession,” Zachariah said matter-of-factly. “You see, that’s what happens if your soul is attached to a demon when you die: it pulls you down. And there’s no hope of ever getting out. By the way, Dean, do you know how demons come to be in the first place?”

Dean didn’t want to ask, but the question forced itself out through his gritted teeth. “What do you mean?”

“What, you think they have demon-sex and produce little demon babies? Only one of the two, Dean. All demons – all demons! – used to be humans, once. You see, hell is no walk in the park. They torture the humanity out of you quickly enough, and then you become just like them.”

Dean stared at the stranger, not following where this was going, but not liking it in the least.

Zachariah gave him a look of fake sympathy. “Okay, I admit, I wasn’t completely honest with you. Your father might come out again, one day. But by then he’ll be one of the things you hunt, possessing some innocent bastard, raping, maiming and killing to his black heart’s content, until someone sends him back to hell. Maybe you, Dean. Think you can send dear Daddy back down to the pit for another round of torture before he climbs out again?”

He hadn’t spoken the last word before Dean’s hands closed around the lapels of his shirt and he hissed in his face, “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, asshole, but it’s not going to work. I burned my father. He’s gone!”

“You really think hell cares about your little campfire?” Zachariah asked with obvious amusement in his voice. “You merely denied him the possibility of lingering in this world in order to postpone his eternal suffering.”

He was talking bullshit, of course. Dean knew that, but a tiny little part of him formed into a cold, slimy ball inside his stomach and asked ‘What if…?’

“Even if it were true, why tell me this?” he snapped. “You tryin’ to say it’s my destiny to kill him again?”

“Not at all.” Zachariah shook his head, still looking like he was about to fall over and roll though the room laughing. “It’s your destiny to get him out.”

“How so?”

“Why, by taking his place, or course.”

Dean froze. “Take his place? As in, go to hell? Become a demon?”

“Something along those lines. Except I can promise you that you will be freed before you can break. We, the angels, will pull you out.”

“Oh, of course. And why won’t you just go in and save my dad?”

“You believe me, then?”

Dean couldn’t help but feel Zachariah was trying to put words into his mouth and probably his mind as well. “Just answer the damn question!”

The asshole let out a long-suffering sigh, as if he couldn’t believe he had to explain this. “Because you would be going down voluntarily, as a heroic sacrifice. It would leave a door open for us to reach you.”

“Okay, let’s pretend for a moment that I believe you. Why would heaven be interested in saving my dad?”

“Oh, it isn’t. This is all about you, Dean. You have this great destiny waiting for you, but in order to fulfil it, you need to get the start right. Saving your dad in the process is really just a bonus, but I thought you might find it a suitable motivation.”

“Fuck off.” Dean stood, and this time Zachariah didn’t hold him back. “You think I’m buying any of this? Destiny my ass! You’re just another dick with psychic powers waiting to get his ass kicked, and wherever my dad ended up, it’s certainly not hell.”

“You’re willing to risk that?” Zachariah asked. He didn’t bother to stand, nor did he make any move to stop Dean as he walked away. “Don’t forget your gun,” he called after him, and when Dean instinctively reached for it his fingers closed around the familiar weight beneath his belt.

He didn’t draw, only turned around and walked away, already trying to figure out how to kill this one.

Too bad Sammy wasn’t here. He was always so good at figuring out things like that…

“Let me know if you change your mind,” he heard Zachariah’s voice just before he reached the door. “Here’s something to think about: Remember Meg, that demon you send back to hell? Well, she’s down there with your dad, and she’s very, very pissed…”

The door shut behind him. Outside, Dean was greeted by cool air and silence.

*-*-*-*

The second guy Dean met only minutes after the first one, outside the bar, when he was still fuming and his heart still whispered that Zachariah – so that actually was his name – knew far too much about Dean and his family to be wrong about everything. The second guy stepped out behind a duster and said, “Howdy.”

He was a good bit smaller than Dean and had longish hair like Sam. Dean nearly shot him in the face. He was thinking about it, anyway.

“Who the fuck are you?” he snapped.

“Me? Oh, I’m a friend of old Zach in there.” The man grimaced. “Well, I say friend. Let’s make that acquaintance. Distant relative. Anyway, I hate his guts.”

“That why you’re trying to annoy me like him?”

“In a way.” The guy shrugged and pulled something from his pocket. Dean tensed and was in the process of reaching for his gun when he saw it was merely a lollipop. The stranger unwrapped it and put it in his mouth. “Actually, I meant to be nice. You know, be all comforting and let you know that your daddy is safe and in heaven with your mom. Nothing to worry about, and most certainly nothing to sell your soul for.”

Dean narrowed his eyes, suddenly pissed off more than anything. “Why is everyone suddenly interested in my soul?”

“Oh, because it’s meant for great things, depending on who you ask.” The guy was kind of hard to understand with the candy in his mouth, though he had obviously learned to talk around it. “Not that Zach cares. He’s just trying to save his ass because it’s his job to make sure things go according to the script and the script went up in smoke.”

“What script? What are you talking about?” Dean snorted and then turned away. “You know, never mind. Play your games without me. Because whatever either of you says, I’m not believing any of it.”

“If one of us says your daddy is in hell and the other says he isn’t, one of us has to be right.”

Smartass. “What’s it to you?” Dean was already on the way to his car, all too happy to put as many miles between this place and himself as possible.

“Nothing much. Actually, I came here to get away from this whole issue. But then – bam! – I ran into your little Sammy the other day.”

Dean froze. “You what?”

“Well, actually, he ran into me, and not by accident. There I was, just about to start my new job as a janitor, and he comes at me with holy oil and a lot of inventive threats. Which was quite interesting, if a little disturbing.” He pulled the lollipop from his mouth with a pop. “As it happens, I like interesting people. And as for the disturbing part… what can I say? It’s a kink.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Dean made a move toward the stranger, but before he got further than one step, a sudden, blinding white light fell through the window of the bar. Dean covered his eyes for a second, and when he could see again, he heard a stern, rough voice say, “Gabriel! Stay away from them!”

Dean turned around to see Guy Number Three stand beside his car. Guy Number Three was taller than Guy Number Two, had shorter hair and was wearing a trench coat that made him look like he was cosplaying as Columbo. He was staring at the one with the candy, never so much as sparing Dean a glance.

Weirdly enough, all Dean thought for a moment was that the day had started so normal. Weirdly averted case, possible fatherhood, no Sam. And now this.

He couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was missing something.

“Hey, no need to get territorial,” the small one said. “But don’t you think you were overreacting just a little bit in there? Okay, Zachariah was a dick and had it coming, but you’re hardly…” His eyes narrowed as he took another look at the newly arrived guy. “You’re different. Definitely more juice than you ought to have, and not from around here. Which – oh!” His face broke into a delighted smile. “Which explains so much! And here I thought Dean was the guy to come to for answers. But Dean has no idea, am I right?”

“No. And it’s going to stay that way.”

Dean would have liked to get an idea. He was going to say so, too, but apparently Columbo decided to have this conversation somewhere else, because he took hold of the other’s shoulder and a second later they were just gone.

If he hadn’t known better, Dean would have sworn he heard the flapping of wings.

*-*-*-*

The light hurt. Dean rolled over and draped his arm over his eyes, wishing for the day to be over and night to come. His head was pounding, and when the call of nature forced him to leave the bed, he found that his whole body felt like it was made of rubber. Stumbling to the bathroom, he racked his brain for information on the night before and some clues about the reason why he had felt the need to get so terribly drunk.

It probably had something to do with Sam.

Sam never had a headache when he was hung-over. He just threw up a lot.

Slowly, it came back to him. Lisa and her son, and Sam being gone and having left no trace. Lisa had seen him, though. He was there, talked to her about Dean, told her Dean might drop in sometime soon. Lisa had been looking forward to seeing him again. She looked great and had had been disappointed he had to leave so soon, but Dean couldn’t let Sam get too far away.

And Ben. The right age to be Dean’s son, which had freaked him out. Enough to drink himself into oblivion? Not likely, but if there was anything else, it was gone.

The entire end of the night was gone.

At least Dean had woken up alone. He rarely got laid these days – would have been a shame to get lucky and then not remember.

Maybe he tried, got turned down, got plastered. Maybe he just felt like getting plastered for no specific reason at all.

Chasing Sam was a frustrating business.

And fruitless.

Lisa had said Sam looked sick. Thin and tired, worn. Good, Dean remembered thinking. He couldn’t run much further, then, and Dean was very pointedly not worried.

Falling back into bed and sleeping until it was night again sounded tempting, but Dean couldn’t remember how long he had the room. Also, he needed to make sure his car hadn’t been towed. He was pretty certain he left it at the bar because even if he didn’t remember, he knew himself well enough to say for sure that he didn’t drive when he was completely plastered.

Things got even better: While in the shower, Dean discovered that he’d also gotten a tattoo. Apparently. Because there it was, on his chest: a repelling symbol often used in wards against demons.

Now, that was not worst kind of tattoo for a hunter to get. But it was definitely something he should remember having done.

Funny enough, the tattoo was basically the only part of his body that didn’t feel sore. Dean had never gotten a tattoo before, but he was pretty certain there was something wrong with that.

By the time he got out of the shower, Dean was thoroughly freaked out. It got worse when he looked out of the window and saw the Impala in the motel parking lot. For a minute, he could only stare at her, desperately looking for memories that were simply lost.

Perhaps someone had driven him here. It was an explanation, but he didn’t like it. He would walk for hours before he let some stranger drive his car and the bar wasn’t that far away.

Funny that he remembered that.

Lost, Dean looked around the room for clues. A bra would have been a good clue. But there was none. Just his dirty clothes strewn about, empty take-out boxes, a stack of paper. Dean flipped through them and found a letter to Bobby he had started, slipped between some magazines as if he’d been trying to hide it.

Dean didn’t remember writing it.

Bobby, he read, I have no idea what’s going on here, but it’s freaky. Met some guys in a bar tonight who claimed to be angels. Looked like humans, but disappeared from one moment to the next. One of them looked like Columbo and killed one of the others, and when the guy died some kind of light exploded out of him. Guests at the bar told me about the murder - I didn’t see it happen myself, but I saw the light and the corpse. The guy – introduced himself as Zachariah – left dark shadows the shape of wings burned into the floor beneath him when he snuffed it.

That ring any bells? I need to know more about them – mainly, how to kill them. Because they know more about me – about my family than I’d like. They kept ta

The letter ended right there, and Dean was overcome with the memory of sitting at the table writing, and then something disturbing him. Yes, yes – there had been someone at the door, and Dean put some magazines on top of the letter before he opened with the gun in his hand and…

And in came the guy in the trench coat. Dean remembered now – the bar. That weird conversation. Columbo and Lollipop and Smugface.

The guy in the trench coat standing behind him all of a sudden, saying, “Stop looking for Sam,” and “Be happy,” and “Forget.” Then, before Dean could react, a hand pressed to his forehead and after that nothing.

Dean came back to the present with the words “Son of a bitch!” ringing in his ears. He stared down at the crumpled piece of paper lying at his feet.

He’d always known his letters to Bobby would come in handy one day.

One minute later he was stuffing his clothes into his duffle, a stream of curses falling from his lips. Whatever was going on here, he wouldn’t let the trench coated asshole get away with it. First of all he was going to find Sam, just out of spite.

Of course, he had no clue where to start looking. Sam hadn’t left a trace, no hint where he was going. All Dean could do was read the papers and hope Bobby would hear something.

At least they knew what to look for by now.

He called Bobby to tell him what had happened. Bobby didn’t know anything about the “angels” either, but he promised to look it up. He didn’t even complain about Dean calling him at half past seven in the morning, which told Dean a lot about how much this worried his old friend.

“Let me know if you hear about anything that sounds like Sam.” It was the same way he always ended their conversations, but this time Dean added, “And… check the hospitals as well.”

He cut off the call before Bobby could ask about that and threw the phone on the passenger seat where his brother used to sit. The road flew by as Dean was going nowhere far too fast, not knowing what to do but unable to do nothing until he figured it out.

He wished his dad was there to tell him to calm the fuck down and think before running blindly.

But he wasn’t. And telling his self just wasn’t the same.

*-*-*-*

It was the hospital check that brought Dean a step closer to his brother the next time, but that was months and months later with few traces in between, all of them dead ends. By the time he got the call, Dean had been chasing Sam for so long that his initial reaction to the news was worry (like a punch to the stomach, like failure) instead of satisfaction. In the beginning, he might have thought that a trip the ER was a small price to pay for his father’s death; at the very least he would have been grateful for the information. Now, Dean was still grateful because a trace was a trace, but also concerned because a little brother in the hospital was never a good thing.

When Dean got to Nebraska, naturally, Sam was gone again. The hospital staff refused to give him any information because Ted McMorris didn’t have any living relatives Dean could pretend to be, but he was at least able to find out who brought him there.

It was a young family who was just about to move into their new home when this tall, skinny guy showed up and told them there were two murderous kids living under the house and moving between the walls. Naturally, they didn’t believe him. Naturally, Sam showed up again when the kids in question were in their living room about to carve up the husband.

He knocked out the dirty, malnourished and bat shit crazy young woman but got into a brief fight with the guy – her brother, as the police found out later. Sam ultimately won, but got hurt in the process. Not bad – just a deep cut to his arm. He definitely had worse. What made the family’s mother rush him to the hospital was that after tying up the homicidal siblings, Sam collapsed and started seizing, freaking everyone out because they thought the blade that hurt him had been poisoned or something along those lines. He passed out afterwards, and instead of waiting for the police to arrive, they bundled him into the car and drove him two miles to the local hospital.

Sam woke up only minutes after arriving, saying something about a chronic disorder that was nothing to worry about. When the family he’d saved came back the next day to check on him, he had already signed out against medical advice and taken off, no doubt rushing to the next miraculous rescue.

*-*-*-*

Dean had started writing letters much more obsessively after the events in Indiana, and Bobby had stopped complaining about them. Dean also kept copies of everything he wrote hidden in his duffel like a secret journal, in case anyone ever tried to wipe his memories again.

No one did, and neither Columbo nor the janitor of evil showed up again. Sam didn’t either, but Dean kept looking, and in the end he didn’t need Bobby to pick up the trail again.

It was a tiny little article in an online newspaper that caught his eye: a bus driver lamented the loss of a book he kept in his bus, which had been broken into the day before. The loss was only tragic because he had a lock of his dead son’s hair hidden inside, to keep it close. Naturally, that got Dean’s attention: hair meant DNA which meant something for ghosts to hold on to.

What also got his attention was the name of the school the bus was going to. Dean and Sam had attended classes there, once, for a month, a long time ago.

The article was recent when Dean found it and he managed to reach the school only a day later, around noon, on streets that were wet from rain. Since the bus had been broken into at night and there had been no other weird happenings around, Dean didn’t think that Sam had shown his face to anyone. He still ran through the corridors with his brother’s photo in his hands, asking around. To his considerable surprise he got lucky.

It was a Mr. Wyatt who recognized the man in the picture. Told Dean that he used to be in his English class in 1997 and that he remembered him well due to a horror story the boy wrote instead of the assigned non-fictional report. And just yesterday he dropped in for a moment after class to tell his former teacher how much the advice he’d once given the boy had meant to him.

“I told him to follow his own goals instead of letting himself be pushed into a role that only serves the interests of other people,” he said when Dean asked. “Up to that point no one had ever bothered to ask what he wanted to do with his life.”

Dean’s stomach clenched at that with something that was maybe anger, maybe not. Before he could say anything, Wyatt added, “It didn’t do him any good, though. Told me he still ended up in the family business, and… Well, he didn’t look…” He sighed and leaned back against his desk. “It’s a shame, actually. He had such potential.”

You have no idea, Dean thought. “He didn’t look what?”

“He looked sick. Thin, exhausted. I think he might have been on drugs. Whatever choices he made for his life, they are destroying him now. That much is obvious.” He seemed genuinely upset about that.

“Well, I’ve come to save him,” Dean declared. “That’s why I’m looking for him. I’m his brother.”

“Oh.” Wyatt looked at him with new interest. “I remember – you were basically the hero of that werewolf essay. Kid seemed to think you were the best thing that ever happened to this planet.”

Dean’s stomach clenched some more. “And you sure don’t know where he was going?”

“No, he didn’t say. But he can’t have gone far. The roads were closed until this morning because of the storm.”

Dean was out a second later, overcome by the need to act. Thinking was overrated. He could think on the way outside.

What it came down to was once again searching the roadside for any unlucky hitchhikers and the motels for any information on where Sam might have stayed and gone.

After such a long stretch of bad luck, he was pretty surprised when he not only found Sam’s motel but also that he hadn’t checked out yet. Getting the room number out of the receptionist wasn’t hard, and one minute later Dean was standing in front of Sam’s door, his heart pounding like crazy while he picked the lock as quietly as possible.

He was breaking into the room of a hunter. The chances of getting shot in the head were high, but this was Sam, who was all about ‘Ask questions first, then let the fucker get arrested.’ Dean still stepped aside until the door was all the way open, not particularly fond of the potential hit to the head.

Nothing happened, and when Dean stepped inside, he found the room empty. Crushing disappointment was his initial reaction, but then he noticed the duffel standing beside the bed, the laptop sitting on the table. So either Sam was hiding in the bathroom, or was just gone for the moment and would come back.

Probably. Unless a vision warned him last minute and he didn’t have time to pack. But even then, he’d probably have grabbed his laptop.

A look in the bathroom confirmed that it was empty, and it had no window to escape through either. Dean decided to wait.

He made use of the opportunity to look around the room and the duffel, trying to figure out what his brother had been doing in all the fucking time without Dean when he wasn’t hunting things or saving people. The answer was apparently not much. There was not a single piece of personal belonging in the duffel or the room, not even a book. Just the laptop. So maybe that was what Sam did all day. Surfing the internet. Nothing wrong with that.

He couldn’t live just for the hunt. Not Sam. Not even Dad had been entirely capable of that.

Dean found a small, almost empty box of pills in the duffel and another one, with different pills, in a drawer of the nightstand. Both boxes were unmarked.

Sam kept a journal but there was almost nothing in it. Only the first few pages were filled. All Sam had written on them, however, was a list. Names, places, dates. Some underlined, most crossed out, the latest ones unmarked. Looking the list over, Dean recognized some names, like Milwaukee, shape shifter, February 2007, or Pierponc Inn, Cornwall (Conneticut), ghost, or Cicero, Indiana, changelings, May 2007 (Lisa).

The list went on, beyond the present date. The latest date Dean read was January 2012.

His next step was turning on the laptop, which fortunately was only on stand-by. Sam had a browser window open, displaying an unfinished email to a woman called Kate Milligan. Reading through the attached history, Dean found out that she’d known his dad and knew about ghosts, demons and, most of all, ghouls. In his first mail, Sam had introduced himself as an old friend of John Winchester and told her of his death (heroic, went down in a blaze of glory) before warning her that the kids of some ghouls John had killed in Kate’s neighbourhood ages ago were now out for revenge. Why they would go after this woman remained a mystery to Dean, but she accepted the warning and let Sam know that her and her son had relocated to another state without letting anyone know where they’d gone. In her latest mail she asked Sam when he would take care of the ghouls so they could return home, and Sam was in the progress of answering that he was on his way, just got held up by the weather.

Dean checked the list in the journal again, and sure enough there she was. Kate and Adam Milligan, Windom, Minnesota, Spring 2009. A red circle was drawn around that point. Probably meant “Work in Progress”.

There certainly was more interesting stuff on the laptop, but as Dean sat down to look through the files, he couldn’t help but think that maybe this was too much of a breach of privacy. He leaned back for a second, took a deep breath and frowned when he became aware that that was an odd realisation to have after he had just broken into his brother’s room and was looking through his life.

A life sadly lacking anything worth living for. Dean suddenly felt ashamed, which was idiotic considering he never had any problem going through Sam’s stuff when they had still been together and as happy as they ever were.

And then Dean only felt weary. Weary and tired. It had been so long. He just wanted to see his brother again and finally get this over with.

*-*-*-*

When Sam finally got back, he opened the door with his key and never seemed to notice that someone had broken in. He just stepped in, closed and locked the door before dropping a shopping bag to the floor by the desk and shuffling over to the bed, his feet barely leaving the ground as he walked. Dean half expected him to fall face down on the mattress and pass out (or die), but Sam only sat on the edge of the bed and buried his face in his hands for a long moment, slumped shoulders, bent forward. Dean could hear him breathing all the way in the back of the room, evenly, deeply, too loud.

A year seemed to pass before he finally lifted his head, turned and saw Dean standing not ten feet away, between the bathroom and the microwave. He stopped moving then, just stared, wide-eyed and pale.

“Hey Sammy,” Dean said.

Something seemed to leave Sam that moment. His shoulders slumped even more; his whole body seemed to sink inwards. Maybe he thought about running, but if he did, he never tried. “Hey Dean,” he said tiredly. “It’s been a while.”

“It’s been three fucking years!” Dean suddenly yelled, the outburst a long, long time coming yet surprising even himself. “I’ve been chasing your sorry ass for years, you dick! Ever since you murdered Dad and left me bleeding out in that cabin, and I’d punch you in the face if I didn’t think that might actually kill you!”

It was a justified caution. Sam looked terrible; thin and pale as paper, with bruised looking eyes and sharp lines in his face that weren’t there when Dean last saw him. His hair was unwashed and hung in his face in too-long strands. He hadn’t shaved in days.

This wasn’t the Sam Dean knew. Dean’s Sam had always made sure to be clean no matter how dirty their home of the moment. Dean’s Sam had bitched if their clothes hadn’t been washed in a week. Dean’s Sam would have risen to Dean’s anger, instead of blinking slowly at him and saying, “You weren’t supposed to follow me.”

And didn’t that just take the cake. After everything he put Dean through, this was all Sam had to say to him? Dean very nearly punched him after all. Instead he crossed his arms before his chest and let something inside him turn to stone. “Well, I did.”

Sam exhaled slowly, a conscious act that didn’t take away any of the tension that was barely visible in the set of his shoulders, the thin line at the corner of his mouth. “Leave me alone, Dean. Please, just go.”

“Go?” Dean echoed incredulously. “Go where, exactly? There is nowhere to go, little brother – not since you took everything away from me. So please tell me why you are under the impression that what you want matters in the least! You have no right to ask anything of me!”

Sam didn’t react to the sharp tone. “Why are you even here?” he asked tiredly. “Of all placed to be…”

“I was looking for you, you dimwit!”

“But why? I killed dad. I abandoned you. What could you possibly hope to get from me?”

“Well, an explanation would be nice for starters,” Dean snapped. “I’ve been trying to figure out what was going on in that freaky head of yours and I’ve got nothing. So tell me, just so I can put it to rest and move on. You owe me that much.”

Sam looked at him as if Dean was speaking a foreign language. Not a language Sam didn’t understand, of course, but one he was surprised Dean had mastered. Dean sneered at him. “Also, after everything you did, giving you a good beating was a driving factor as well.”

“Go ahead, beat me up then,” Sam said without passion or energy. “If it makes you leave, I don’t mind.”

“That kinda takes the fun out of it, don’t you think? How about you just tell me why you fucked off without a word and we’ll see if that’s good enough?”

Sam looked away, sat still for a long time as he stared at nothing. When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet and rough. “I hate you,” he said.

“Yeah, you’ve been telling me that since you were five.”

“No, Dean.” Now Sam looked at him, his eyes dark and gleaming in the dim light. “I hate you. You and Dad. My whole life you’ve forced me to live as you have wanted me to. And when I finally got away, when I had something good with Jessica, you came and destroyed everything. I’ve hated you ever since you pulled me out of that fire, Dean. You were just so happy to drag me back into your world. I bet you were glad Jess was gone.”

Dean could only stare. He couldn’t believe Sam the words that were spewing out of Sam’s mouth. After everything, after imagining their reunion so many times when he was lying awake in yet another empty motel room, this was what he got.

“I wanted to get rid of your clingy ass so many times,” Sam went on without mercy. “But the opportunity never came up. And then Dad came back. Then the demon… I could finally get Jess’ killer, and that I had to kill Dad to do so? That was a fucking bonus! And after that I only had to leave. I was finally free of Dad, of you. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have shed a tear if you’d died there, Dean. You ruined my life. You took everything from me – do you have any idea how hard it was to bear your presence every day? To act like I didn’t wish you had died instead of Jess? That’s why I left without even seeing if you pulled through. I just didn’t give a fuck.” He laughed, rough and bitter. “That good enough for you?”

One second later he was falling off the bed and Dean’s hand hurt from the force of the blow. For a long moment Dean stood over him, breathing hard and staring down at the pathetic pile of human at his feet, who pushed himself up on his arms but made no move to defend himself.

Then he left.

*-*-*-*

Maybe somewhere deep inside, Dean had harboured the hope that once he got a hold of Sam they could work things out and everything would be as it was before. But if he did, he never admitted it to himself, and now was the worst possible moment to acknowledge that after years of being alone and so much justified anger: he still couldn’t imagine living without his brother.

If Sam needed any confirmation of just how pathetic Dean was, this was it.

It made the words hurt all the more. It made Dean drive blindly, too fast, as if he could outrun the empty pain and furious humiliation that ate away his insides and poisoned every thought. Every memory.

Dean had known that he needed Sam more than Sam needed him. He’d never suspected this.

Sam didn’t care about him. Sam had hated him all the time. Everything Dean had held dear in his heart was a lie.

He had nothing.

The street before him blurred. Dean wiped at his eyes angrily and stepped on the accelerator. Damn, but Sam knew how to get to him. If he’d wanted to make sure Dean left and never thought fondly of him again, he did a damn good job of it.

The wheels left a trail of rubber on the asphalt as Dean stepped on the brakes.

“That little bitch!” he screamed at the cloudless sky.



chapter 3

masterpost

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
etrix
Sep. 8th, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
On my way through this (enjoying it thoroughly, I must say), I noticed a typo:

"The wheels left a trail of rubber on the asphalt as Dean stepped on the breaks."

That should be "brakes".

Now, off to next chapter...
vail_kagami
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
Fixed it! Thanks for pointing it out!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 6th, 2012 10:04 am (UTC)
The part with old Zach was amazing. I could so picture him, and poor Dean had not a glimpse of an idea what was going on. You made this bar scene really enjoyable. The next part was very confusing to me. I didn't catch on that it was Gabe 'til Castiel basically said his name (you gave enough hints, I just didn't get it) and that Castiel killed Zach (killed anyone) didn't occur to me until you spelled it out (next chapter).
I could, however, picture Cas clearly. Forget you brother and be happy - *zapp* that's so him. He has this streak in him, where he either doesn't explain himself at all, or explains anything else too much, like he cannot figure out how humans' brains work and you captured his minimizing side here very well.
The letters came in handy in here, too. It ties perfectly back to last chapter.

And then, finally! He finds Sammy and Dean is just about to admit to himself, that he's not looking for him to kick his ass, but get him back. The scene where he breaks into Sam's room and goes through his stuff is great. He could always find out more (what are those pills, what is on his computer), but he shies away from it, scared it might reveal something, he doesn't want to know.

The way, Sam's pushing Dean away is great. Also how you already let on, how much older Sam seems. I'm so happy, Dean figured it out quickly.

Sweet greetings
vail_kagami
Oct. 6th, 2012 12:31 pm (UTC)
A number of readers found the Zachariah part confusing and I wonder if I could have pulled that off differently. Glad it worked in the end anyway - and that Cas's appearance worked for you.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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