Returned
K Hanna Korossy

Sam was the first to move, to approach Dean, even if he was too late to help him sink down to the floor. He knew it was Dean, knew from the moment he said "Sammy" in that voice, that inflection, but even with a lifetime of dealing with curveballs, Sam's brain was still stuttering.

Then he saw the tremors in his brother's hands, the confusion in his eyes at not knowing why Michael had left, and it suddenly became really simple.

"Mom," Sam said quietly, eyes not budging from Dean. "Can you go back with Bobby?"

He could feel her resistance to the idea—Dean was her son—but Sam just didn't care about that right now. And maybe she'd gotten to know them a little, too, because she didn't say anything, just gave a protesting Bobby a nudge toward the door.

"How do we know if he's really—?" was all Sam heard before the door closed behind them, but he knew. He knew.

Like he could see Dean's shoulders come down a fraction of an inch at no longer having an audience. Like he could recognize how Dean's eyes turn inward, darting back and forth as he tried to remember everything that had happened. Like every line in Sam's shaking, rattled brother screaming human instead of archangel.

Sam swallowed, allowing in memories that he usually repressed, of those awful hours after Gadreel. He drew on them now, not crowding Dean but there, voice pitched low to cut through the storm of thoughts. "Hey."

Dean's eyes shot back to his face, desperate for something to hold on to, something that made sense.

"Are you hurt?"

The shake of the head was more instinct than conscious decision.

Sam finally reached out, slow but solid, feeling Dean shudder under his hand but then settle a little. "Dean," was all he said, gentle command.

Dean swallowed and looked at him, finally really looked. "I, uh." He licked cracked lips. "I don't…no. Nothing…bad. Just…"

Yeah, Sam knew exactly what just. Just strange in his own skin. Just feeling as if he hadn't had sleep or food in weeks—which he probably hadn't—yet not wanting either. Just confused about time and place and what he was feeling and what he should do and what was happening.

"Sam…"

He nodded, slipped his grip to under Dean's arm. "C'mon. Let's get out of here."

Dean stood on uncertain legs, but he was getting his equilibrium back, which was a good sign. Sam let go but stayed close as his brother wobbled out the door…and paused, just for a second, at the sight of the Impala. Dean smoothed his hand briefly over the curve of her roof before sinking inside.

Sam drove, and Dean didn't protest. He did glance over a few times at Sam like he was waiting for the inquisition, but Sam didn't miss how he seemed to loosen up a little more each time it didn't come. Sam didn't say anything. There'd be time for that later.

He did stop at a drive-through about a half-hour out of town, ordering a baked potato and soup and milk and some chicken and fries, raising an eyebrow at Dean in question, but his brother didn't make any requests or protests. He didn't eat it all, but he ate some of everything, while Sam polished off two chicken sandwiches, appetite finally back.

Dean was sunk low in the seat, eyes starting to glaze with fatigue as he stared out into the dark, when he finally spoke. "I don't remember anything."

"Okay," Sam answered, because it was. Everything was, if Dean was back.

Dean turned his head just enough to look at Sam. "How long?"

Sam's throat worked at that; the burn in his eyes surprised him. "Little over seven weeks."

Dean was silent.

Sam glanced at him a few times, then nodded at his overcoat. "You wanna get that off?"

That elicited a blink, like Dean didn't realize what he was wearing, then a fervent, "Oh yeah," as he sat up and pulled the fancy garment off. A few seconds later it was flying out the window.

Sam shrugged out of his jacket at the same time. They had blankets in the trunk. He had Dean's jacketin the trunk. But he wanted his brother to know, down to the unconscious, that he was home, and that meant their being together. That meant Sam.

Dean barely hesitated to take the jacket. He glanced at Sam again, eyes more hooded now, recovered enough to hide the rawness he'd displayed in the church. Dean shrugged Sam's jacket over his shoulder and bedded down against the window, exhaustion visibly pulling at him.

"You've got something on your chin."

Sam startled, not expecting to hear anything else from the passenger side of the car. His hands darted up to his face, palpating around his mouth for a remainder of dinner, but he didn't feel anything.

He glanced over at Dean questioningly.

"Think it's mold." Dean was slurring a little, but his gaze was still very aware. "'R a dead rat."

Oh, God, Dean was teasing him. Sam's eyes watered in earnest as his mouth curled up, irrepressible. "I was a little busy to shave, man."

"Jus' got tired of lookin' like a girl," Dean muttered. Everything else was right there in his eyes.

Sam nodded jerkily, the emotion just starting to finally hit: Dean was back. "Right. Next time I'll take some time for grooming before going to save your ass."

Dean's mouth twitched, but he was mostly gone. Sam remembered that exhaustion, body hit with a massive sleep debt without an angel to keep it going. And how, despite the inevitable nightmares, the sleep was also a relief from the hurricane of waking thoughts.

He snapped on the radio, shoving in whatever tape was already in there. The soothing sounds of Metallica filled the car. Dean exhaled long and low, finally completely relaxed.

"Welcome back, Dean," Sam said quietly. And drove the ten hours through the night to bring his brother home.

The End