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The dog’s fur was soft and warm under his fingers. He stroked her gently, trying to avoid the blood streaks along her side.

Sam had driven for twelve straight hours that day (or perhaps it was the night before? He kept losing track). He played the same cassette tapes from Dean’s shoe box over and over, and rolled the window down halfway so cold air blew his hair back from his face. The driver’s side window had always been a little sticky and tough to roll down, something Dean never seemed to mind and Sam never worried about from his place in the passenger seat.

The cold of the night air did little to chase away the fatigue he felt, so deep in his bones that no amount of coffee or sleep could relieve it. Lights from the oncoming traffic grew from small pinpricks in the distance to bright orbs that burned his retinas, blinding him to anything else on the road. As he watched the lights grow and fade over and over again, he wondered what it would be like to just let go - let go of the wheel and drift into the next lane, let go of hunting, let go of life - and that’s when he hit it.

The dog was just a flash of white and grey dodging out from the shoulder of the road before it bounced off the car’s bumper. Sam stomped on the brakes, squealing tires against the asphalt, before shifting the car into reverse, spotting the small still body beside a highway sign.

All that fur made the dog look bigger and heavier than it actually was. Sam crouched down to pick up its head, surprised how it felt light like a bird with hollow bones. It didn’t whine or growl at Sam as he sat down, his back up against the side of the car, pulling the dog up onto his lap. Its breaths were labored, speeding up only to inevitably slow down to nothing. Its life was slipping away and there was nothing Sam could do to hold onto it, to pull it back from the darkness waiting for it on the other side.

“It’s gonna be alright, girl. Just don’t leave me here alone, okay?” He leaned down to murmur comforts close to its ear, nuzzling the ruff that surrounded its neck.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat like that, long enough for the tears to dry on his cheeks and the body on his lap to turn cold, before a patrol car pulled up behind him, its headlights splashed across the pale gravel and blacktop.

The figure walking towards him was a black shadow against the white light, hand on the gun at its hip.

“Are you alright, sir?”

When Sam pulled his hand back to shield his eyes from the bright headlights, he noticed the dried blood across his palm and held it in front of him. As a hunter, he had spilled a lot of blood in his life but most of those he killed deserved their deaths. Now after all those years, he was taking the innocent down with him into the death that inevitably followed him everywhere.

He looked up at the shadow, which was dark but not as black as the Leviathans in his dreams. “I lost him. I lost my brother.”

Saying it out loud released him, somehow making it real, and he felt a subtle snap inside him. It was like one of the Impala’s fan belts breaking, after running on its last few threads, the tenuous and well worn rubber unable to hold together anymore. Yeah, the engine might run a long time like that and you were unaware of the problem, unable to fix what you didn’t know was broken.

Sam knew he was broken inside. He just didn’t care to fix it.

He leaned his head back against the car door, gripping the dog’s fur tightly, hugging it closer to him, unable to move or speak. A tag jingled loose from its collar and Sam could read it in the light. RIOT.

“Sir, why don’t I help you stand up?”

When Sam shook his head, the figure retreated to the patrol car, where the crackle of a police radio seemed too far away to concern Sam.

His mind seemed to be drifting, and he needed something to anchor him back down, and that’s when his eyes locked onto the green road sign above him, announcing the city limits in white lettering glittering in the patrol car headlights.

Welcome to Amelia, Texas.