Dean was back

Hush now don't you cry
Wipe away the teardrop from your eye
You're lying safe in bed
It was all a bad dream
Spinning in your head
Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over...or has it just begun?

-Silent Lucidity

Dean was back.

Sam didn't know the details. He didn't know exactly when, or why, and he certainly didn't know how. He knew where they-Dean-him and Dean-were, and that was at the Why-Not Motor Inn, another tiny, dingy motel in another middle of nowhere town that Sam was staying at while he hunted…well, he wasn't even sure yet. He'd only been there one day, had only just started researching into the local deaths, when this had happened.

When Dean came back.

Sam had walked into the room, and flicked on the light, and he was tired and cold and wet because it was raining outside and the motel didn't even have guest car parks, he'd had to park on the street and then make his way up to the room. But he was tired; he'd been researching all day, and he was too tired to run or even jog just because there was cold water coming down from the sky and drenching his skin.

But it was more than that, more than just ordinary weariness, it was the lethargy that had soaked into his very being since Dean…since Dean's death. It didn't seem like there was ever a reason to rush, ever a reason to hurry, most days it didn't even seem like there was a reason to be.

He went through the motions, and the days blurred into each other, and he couldn't have really said how long it had been since Dean died, only that his hair was longer and shaggier than normal, more unkempt. He'd shaved once or twice, but it was hard to remember exactly when, and the stubble was back again.

Dean was gone. The only family he had left in the world was gone. So a little cold, a little rain soaking through his clothes, that was no big deal. Eating, sleeping, hunting…none of it was any big deal. Sometimes he did it, sometimes he didn't.

And now…Dean was back. The light switch flicked under Sam's fingers, and the cheap fluorescent light in the centre of the ceiling flickered weakly, as if in protest, than reluctantly shed a dim, yellowish light over the dingy room.

And there he was. Sam's eyes were immediately drawn to him, the only thing in the room that was different to the way he'd left it, that wasn't…wasn't…his mind shied away from the thought that Dean wasn't supposed to be there, sitting on that bed nearest the door, hunched over himself, his elbows resting on his knees. Of course his big brother was supposed to be here, right here, but he couldn't be, Sam must be…he must have been tireder than he thought, he must be really worn out, he must be seeing things.

Then Dean looked up, slowly, so slowly, as if it tired him to move his neck and lift his head.

"Hey Sammy." The voice that came from his brother was hoarse and gravely, full of weariness and under all that, dull pain.

Sam couldn't move. His hand was still frozen by the light switch, his eyes riveted on his…Dean? It couldn't be, couldn't be Dean. Dean…Dean was dead.

He thought he had only thought the words, but he realised he must have spoken them when Dean shook his head slowly.

"I am Dean, Sammy, and I'm not dead…not anymore, anyway."

Sam took a half step forward that turned into a half step back and he was still in the doorway where he'd started, cold rain streaming down his back, and his mind whirling, the world whirling as he tried to figure out what was going on.

"Sammy, how about you shut the door? How about you come inside and shut the door?" The voice was more familiar now, there was concern laced in with the weariness and the pain, and something inside of Sam, some cold hard lump that had settled and grown on his insides since that day he held his brother's bloody, lifeless body in his arms started to tear loose.

He had to defend himself, had to defend the coldness that had settled around his heart and protected him from feeling, protected him from spiralling downward into that dark pit that had been yawning beneath his feet since the day Dean died.

The weapons bag was still slung over his shoulder, and he found his hand clasping the sawn off that was still filled with rock salt, felt himself pulling it loose and raising it, his hand trembling, and pointing it towards Dean…or whatever it was that looked like Dean, spirit, demon, whatever it was because it couldn't be Dean.

Dean rose slowly, stiffly. "Not quite the welcome I'd imagined." He held out his hands, trying to be calming. "Look, Sammy, we've been here before. Shooting me with that rock salt ain't gonna kill me, but it's sure gonna hurt like a bitch. And just between you and me, I've been through enough hurt lately."

At those words, that cold strength slipped further away, and Sam's hand and arm trembled even harder, the gun slipping so it pointed at the floor and not at Dean.

"I know this must be hard…impossible…for you to believe…and I can't explain it right now, so that's gonna make it even worse…but it's me, just Dean…what do you want me to do? Drink some holy water? You got some on you, right?"

But Sam was shaking too hard now; because Dean said he was Dean, and he was right there, and he had to believe…he'd always believed…everything that Dean had said.

"Dean?" He said, hearing his voice break, the way his cold strength was breaking, and then Dean was standing in front of him, reaching around him to shut the door, and the smell broke Sam even more, it smelt like Dean, aftershave and gun powder and big brother, alive not dead, and none of that awful coppery smell of blood that had hung around him last time.

The door was hard against his back, hard and solid, while the world around him was anything but. The corners of his vision were greying, he could hear his heart pounding in his ears, and he was sliding down, his back against the door, his legs splaying out to lie flat on the floor in front of him.

Dean crouched in front of him, crouched with his feet on either side of Sam's legs, and there was nothing but concern written all over his tired, bruised face.

"Sammy?" He didn't know whether to touch the kid or not, didn't know what would be the best thing to do. He could see the tremors wracking his brother's frame, could see the way the colour had left his face, leaving him pale, too pale, making the dark shadows under his eyes stand out even more.

Dean knew, could see, that Sam was going into shock, was floundering in a world that was suddenly too confusing, but he was floundering too, unsure of the right thing to do. He could only imagine how hard it must be, what Sam must be thinking and feeling right now, and he was sure that his brother's thoughts were following the track their father had taught them; shoot first, ask questions later. Especially where objects of the supernatural were concerned. And that had to be what Sam took Dean for, suddenly appearing weeks after his death, appearing in his motel room on a cold and rainy night, suddenly there with no explanation.

But Dean had underestimated Sam's blind faith in his big brother, his unconditional love and trust. Dean said he was Dean, and that was all the explanation or assurance that the younger brother needed. No holy water or rock salt or exorcism was needed, not to test Dean's word, not to test the truth of what his big brother said.

Sam looked up then, wide, wet brown eyes meeting weary, concerned mossy ones, and this time when he spoke his brother's name it was a plea. "Dean…"

And then his little brother's arms were wrapped around Dean's neck, and his face was buried in the hollow where his neck met his shoulder, and he was clinging hard, so hard it hurt, it hurt where he had skin clutched in his fingers along with the fabric of Dean's shirt and that familiar leather jacket.

He was starting to sob, starting to break, for some reason he was feeling now that loss which he had never truly allowed himself to fully feel when his brother died; knowing on some level that to feel it would destroy him entirely.

Then Dean's arms were around him, holding him just as tightly, hugging him hard against a chest that was warm and solid and familiar and another sob tore through him, tore from a place deep inside him that he thought must be his soul, and god it hurt, and all he could think was please, please don't let him go again, please let him stay.

Then there was a hand on the back of his head, nursing it there with all the tenderness of a mother to their child, and Dean's breath was warm against his ear, "Sammy, shhh, I'm here, I'm staying."

The pieces of his world started to slowly morph back together, his mind started to slowly take back its' grip on reality as he realised that he'd spoken aloud, again, that Dean had heard him and was answering him and was saying that he wasn't leaving.

"Christ, Sammy, you're soaked," Dean said softly, and Sam leant in closer, trying to burrow, trying to absorb his brother's warmth, his strength, his presence. He felt Dean's hand rub up and down his back, as if trying to wipe away the cold wetness that had soaked through to his skin, and he knew that in reality it did nothing but still he felt a hot warmth where Dean touched him. He wrapped his arms tighter around his older brother, if that was possible, and Dean made a soft grunting noise in response.

"Easy, Sammy, I've got a few war wounds." And even though the words hurt, they hurt because they conjured up images of his brother in pain, he wanted to hear Dean's voice again, hearing his voice was magic, it was unbelievable, it was a miracle.

Dean ran a hand through his brother's hair, smoothing away some of the rain drops clinging there, "You must be freezing," he muttered, because the wetness of Sam's clothes was soaking through to his; the coldness of his skin was penetrating Dean's. "Come on, let's get up off the floor, huh?"

But Sam clung even harder at that, and another soul-tearing sob wracked his body and was absorbed into Dean's frame. "You like the floor that much?" Dean joked, weakly, too tired to really handle this situation, this ball of rapidly dissolving little brother, because he had just come from…somewhere…much worse, somewhere Sam wasn't, and that had taken all his energy. For a second the room around him was darker as memories threatened, he shuddered as the thick curtain he'd drawn across that part of his mind trembled and threatened to open, just a peek, but a peek would be enough to destroy him, he knew. That curtain had to stay shut, forever.

Then Sam's voice came, drew Dean back to the present, back to that exact moment and time and place, that dingy little motel room and the dirty floor. Sam's voice penetrated his mind-place, and the curtain twitched and fell still.

"What if I move, and none of this is real? What if I let you go, and you're gone?" So much naked fear, so much pain, so much loss, and Dean knew that he wasn't the only one who'd been in…a horrible place, he wasn't the only one who was lost and afraid and was thinking I can't go back there. I can't do that again.

So he pulled himself together; he gathered his strength because that's what he did, that who he was, dammit, and some people might think that was screwed up and that Sam was selfish, that Dean was the one who'd died and gone to Hell and yet he was the one holding it together, doing the comforting, but those people would never understand Sam and Dean, their bond, and Dean would never hold this against his brother because he knew that in his own way Sam had gone through just as much, if not worse.

He rocked back on his heels a little, tried to pull back a little way, but Sam was insistent, almost panicked in the tightness of his grip, the tearful plea that was spoken against Dean's collar bone. "No, please don't go."

"Hey." Dean stopped trying to pull away, waited a moment, stroked his brother's back. "Hey. I'm not going anywhere. Okay? I'm not even going to let go of you, I promise. I just want you to look at me. Sammy? Can we do that, little brother? No letting go. I promise. I just want you to look at me." He waited until the stranglehold eased, and he slowly eased his little brother back, just enough so that there was space between them for him to take Sam's chin in his hand and raise it up so their eyes met, and Dean's heart broke a little, the same way it always did when he saw Sam hurting.

Suddenly he was lost for words, didn't know what he'd wanted to say, only that he had to say something to make this better.

"You died." Sam said, tears still tracking down his too pale face, leaking from his big brown eyes.

"I know." Dean said softly, his thumb absently stroking some of those tears away, wanting to apologise but knowing the futility of such words. Sam's eyes were latched onto his, pleading, that look that Dean knew so well, that said please make it all better, you're my big brother. "I'm back now. I'm staying." The words sounded hollow to him, small and cold comfort, but they were all he had to offer.

Something flickered in Sam's eyes, unreadable, then he spoke again, his voice so small that Dean had to lean forward to hear him, so their foreheads were nearly touching. "Do you promise?" Sam whispered, and the years rolled back around them and they were just two little boys, left alone yet again in another cheap motel room while their father hunted monsters, and they were both scared but Dean was older and it was his job to protect Sammy, to make sure nothing hurt him, to not leave him like their dad kept doing. "Do you promise?" The words echoed around them, a sigh in the air, a plea, familiar and old and now renewed.

"Sammy. I promise." Dean whispered back, the young Dean and the new Dean, and once again he'd underestimated his brother's love and trust; it had no boundaries, it had no limitations. Dean promised. Sam believed. That was that.

Sam pushed his face back into the crook of Dean's neck; Dean buried his face in the cool, damp mess of Sam's hair, and a few of his own tears finally mingled with the rain water there. He held his little brother, and let himself be held, and relaxed in the moment, because Sam wasn't on the brink anymore, he was crying softly, yes, but he was starting to warm up, and the soul-tearing sobs were gone, and Dean knew that this time when he suggested getting up Sam would allow himself to be half-lifted from the floor, would allow his older brother to guide him to his bed and take off the wet clothes, and that they would, in silent agreement, share a bed, the way they had when they were younger.

Tomorrow there would be questions, and discussion, and repercussions to be dealt with, because nothing is ever simple in this life, and escaping from Hell was certainly no exception.

But tonight there was a cheap, crappy motel room with uncomfortable twin beds and no hot water, and dismal rainy weather, and it seemed like the world was empty except for him and his brother.

Dean tightened his arms around Sam, felt the answering squeeze, rested his cheek on the top of his brother's head and shut his eyes.

Tonight the world was perfect. He wouldn't have it any other way.