Title: Reality Check

Author: Philote

Rating: PG

Summary: Dean just needs a minute to get his bearings. Missing scene for "What Is and What Should Never Be."

Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Supernatural do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.

Warnings: Spoilers for "What Is and What Should Never Be." Also pretty, fluffy h/c. Does that need a warning? 

Author's Note: Written for my spn25 table, prompt #25: sense.


The Djinn's body falls heavily to the side. Dean's eyes follow it. When he's sure it isn't moving, he looks back to Sam. Their eyes connect briefly, the sounds of their labored breaths echoing loudly in the silence.

Dean waits for a nod from his brother, a confirmation that he's okay. Then he cautiously bends down to make sure the thing is dead and intends to stay that way. He sees no signs of life, and after a few minutes he allows himself to relax a bit.

The adrenaline rush he needed to get free and help Sam deserts him along with the threat. He rubs at his neck as he registers the aches and the dizzy exhaustion. He doesn't even feel the normal satisfaction of a successful hunt. He just feels drained.

He stands and turns back to Sam in what should be one smooth move. Instead, he earns himself a hellish head rush and briefly loses track of which way is up.

"Whoa!" Sam lunges forward to catch him. His knees still crack painfully onto the hard floor, but Sam's grip on his biceps keeps him upright. When his vision clears he peers up. Sam's sitting on the third stair, towering over him even more than normal. Cool fingers thread behind his neck, palm on his cheek. "Dean? Talk to me. Are you okay?"

The dizziness fades, a sudden wave of doubt rushing in to take its place. How does he know he's back in reality?

He unconsciously leans into Sam's touch, even as he sits straighter with sudden urgency. "We're close, right?"

Sam's brow crinkles in confusion. "Close to what?"

"Each other. We hunt together, right?"

Sam glances uneasily towards the spot where he was bound, then to the Djinn's body before refocusing on him. "Dean, what exactly happened to you?"

"Just answer me, Sammy." His voice is rough, strained. Even he can hear the desperate ring to it.

He's somewhat comforted when Sam doesn't protest the nickname. "Yes, of course. We're close. And we hunt. The family business and all that."

"Where do we live?"

"Is that a trick question?"


Sam's shaking his head, but he has apparently decided to humor his crazy brother. "Hotels. The Impala. Home moves around a lot."

"What happened to Jessica?"

Maybe the question's a little cruel, and he regrets it for a moment when familiar pain sparks in Sam's eyes. "The demon killed her. You know that."

He shuts his eyes briefly, hating himself, but needing one more answer. "And Mom?"

Sam's starting to look seriously concerned. "Mom, too. What is this about, Dean?"

He swallows hard, and doesn't answer right away. Instead he gives into some instinctual need and lets himself tip forward. It's not much of a stretch, and he lands against Sam's chest. He presses his face against his brother's shoulder and fists a hand in the front of his jacket.

It's not a hug. Sure, Sam responds by putting his arms around him, but that's Sam's issue. Dean just needs a minute to get his bearings, that's all.

And it turns out that his instincts were spot on, as they generally are. He needs to ground himself in reality, and apparently Sam is good for that. He breathes in, taking comfort in the familiar scents he associates with Sam and hunting. He turns his head so he can hear the heartbeat beneath his ear.

Sam's fingers come to rest on his neck, not so subtly checking his pulse. "Dean?"

"'M okay," he mumbles. Sam snorts in disbelief, but doesn't push the issue. He goes quiet, and Dean finds himself preoccupied with Sam's warmth and solidity.

He'd been able to feel in the illusion, true. He'd hugged, he'd kissed, he'd driven a knife through his chest (which had hurt more than he'd expected, before he'd snapped out of it). But that's all fading. He wishes he could remember what Mom smelled like, that he could hold onto the feel of her in his arms. But it was quite literally a dream, and whatever sensations he might have imagined are slipping away now.

Sam's here; Sam's real. Sam is all he has.

He angles his gaze up to his brother's face. Sam's attention is centered on him, but he's also keeping an eye on the nearby body and their surroundings. Just like he was taught; just like the good hunter he is. It makes Dean proud even as it makes his heart ache. But this…this is the biggest reason why he had to come back. Sam, his real Sam, would have still been out here, facing whatever is coming. Alone.

He could never let that happen. Even if he found a way to be selfish about innocent lives that would never be saved, he could never be selfish where Sam is concerned.

During his silent pondering, Sam has taken to subtle attempts at comfort. One hand is still hovering around his neck, bracing his head. The other is rubbing his back in light, soothing strokes. Dean knows he should pull away. He's not the little boy who's just lost his mother and needs to be held; he's the big brother here. And he can't afford to be weak.

But he can't deny how good it feels, how real it feels.

Sam breaks the silence then, allowing him to put off the disentanglement a bit longer. "So…I don't suppose you got three wishes."

"Nope. Just one. And the life that went with it."

"Hm?" Curious, but still not pushing.

Dean tries to explain anyway. "It goes into your mind, pries out a wish, then makes you think it's been granted. It's like a dream world."

He's not sure he's making sense. But he must be, because Sam guesses quietly, "And Mom was alive in yours?"

The only answer he manages is a silent nod, his head connecting softly with Sam's chin.

"Must have been nice."

It's a colossal understatement. "Yeah," he chokes out simply.

"I'm sorry." With that Sam somehow squeezes him closer, such that it's practically a cuddle now. Dean's gonna push away and put a stop to this madness. He is. Any second now.

Which is why he's a little confused when it's Sam who gently pries him away some indeterminate amount of time later. He hangs onto him though, gently grasping Dean's chin and studying his eyes. "You still with me?"

He doesn't think. He just responds. "Always."

Sam blinks and then smiles softly as he specifies, "How are you feeling?"

Oh. "Fine," he answers automatically. With the spell somewhat broken, he ignores Sam's raised eyebrows and uses his brother for leverage to get to his feet. To his credit, he only wobbles a little as he blinks to clear his vision. He hardly even needs the support that Sam jumps up to provide.

Once he's steady, he slaps at Sam's hands and starts walking off on his own. He gets a few steps before Sam grabs his elbow, steering him in the right direction. Okay, so he's a little turned around. He was busy being catatonic when he was dragged in; he's entitled.

Sam, of course, takes his confusion as an invitation to hover close. Dean rolls his eyes, not about to admit how comforting he finds it. He clears his throat and nods to the Djinn. "We should take care of that. Oh, and the girl. Did you see a girl on your way in, strung up like me?"


Dean winces. "Maybe not anymore. But she would have been a little…fresher than the other occupants."

"Yeah, I think I know which one you mean."

"We should check on her, just to be sure. There might be others, too."

"All right." Sam nudges him to the right, leading him through a doorway. "We'll get them out, Dean."

He pauses when he spots the girl and the corpses beyond her. "They might not thank us for it."

Sam studies him seriously for a long moment. "Then I guess it's a good thing we're not in this for the thanks."

No. What they are in this for…well, that conversation can stay between him and his father's grave. His softball-playing father. Dean smiles despite himself. "Hey, speak for yourself there, Sammy. I am all about the adoration of grateful victims."

A slow grin creeps across Sam's face. "Really? I am glad to hear you say that. I'd like my adoration in the form of driving privileges for the next week. Oh, and I'll be picking the music, of course."

"Hey, who saved who here, sidekick-boy?" Dean shot back as he started moving again. "Besides, I already let you hug me."

"Oh, yeah. I know that was a great sacrifice on your part."

Sacrifice. The word resonates, and his smile fades as he approaches the girl. She doesn't look good; they're probably too late. He takes in her slack features and battered condition; he remembers the fear in her voice and the way the creature touched her and fed on her blood.

Would she have lived, if he'd fought his way back sooner?

He draws in a deep breath and squares his jaw. They'll save the next one. This is his job, his duty.

His life.

He steadies himself and resolutely reaches out to her, just to be sure. He can sense Sam behind him, a silent, steady presence lending him strength.