I really loved this episode, don't get me wrong. But I am a Sam girl, and it would have been nice to see a bit more of Sam and have a bit more emotion when he and Dean and Bobby were all reunited. And of course, a bit of limp!Sam wouldn't have gone astray... So I thought I'd post this- it's a slightly different version a couple of scenes. Hope you like it. Ta :)

disclaimer: still don't own anything

warning: spoilers for S4 episode 1


Dean felt his breath freeze in his lungs. He wasn't breathing, because Bobby didn't appear to be breathing.

Bobby's face was white, his eyes too wide. His mouth was slightly ajar.

"Heya, Bobby." Dean's voice was raw, his throat scratchy. His tongue was thick against the roof of his mouth. He hadn't used his voice in a long time. There was still dirt in his clothes.

Bobby's lips moved, but no sound came forth.

Dean wished his old friend would stop staring, and say something. The silence was painful. It stretched between them, threatening to snap. Dean felt like his whole body had been snapped.

The light in Bobby's eyes flared, and then he lashed out.

Dean felt knuckles against his jaw and he stumbled back, lifting his forearms in self-defense. He didn't want to fight. His joints were stiff, his reactions slow.

"Who the hell are you?" Bobby's tone was one of accusation. He lunged again, and batted at Dean's head.

Dean fell back, panting. He couldn't blame Bobby for reacting this way, but, God, he wanted it to stop. He didn't have energy to fight. "Bobby, please-" He swiped a knife from a table.

Bobby reacted to Dean's action as if it was a threat. "You're not Dean." There was heartache in his words. "How dare you come in here and try to fool me."

Dean felt his friend's pain. He felt sad, desperate and guilty all at once. He held the knife to his arm and pressed the blade into the skin. It stung like a bitch. He gritted his teeth. "Look-" he wheezed.

Bobby's eyes narrowed, and then grew wider.

"If I were a trickster or a shape-shifter, I wouldn't do this." Dean pinned Bobby with a pleading look. His heart was a hammer against his ribs. His lungs jerked as he gulped down mouthfuls of air.

Bobby suddenly lunged to the side. He grabbed a flask and hurled its contents in Dean's face.

Dean felt the shock of the liquid hitting his skin and blinked in surprise.

Bobby stared at him, blinking in return. His chest hitched with every breath.

"I'm not a demon, either." Dean felt his stomach curl. He wasn't even supposed to be alive. He'd been dead. Buried. He'd been in Hell. He didn't know how he'd got here, but he needed Bobby to believe him. He needed to be told that he wasn't dreaming.

"Bobby," he begged. "Please." His voice faded to a whisper. His throat burned. "Please..."

Bobby's eyes betrayed the battle that was taking place within him.

Dean felt like his knees were about to buckle.

Bobby opened his mouth. His expression shifted from disbelief, to horror, and then finally settled on reluctant astonishment. He staggered forward, hesitated, and then jerked Dean into a clumsy but powerful embrace.

Dean felt his body jar at the sudden movement. His breath left his lungs.

His mind stumbled a moment, and then his arms were reaching up to wrap around his friend. His whole frame shook. His teeth were chattering.

Bobby levered them apart, and stared into Dean's eyes. His own eyes were glassy.

Dean had never seen Bobby so speechless. It was frightening.

Bobby's grip tightened, and his features softened. "Damn…" His voice was hoarse. There were shadows around his eyes that told of sleepless nights. His composure faltered. "It's good to see you, boy."

Dean's voice snagged in his throat.

Bobby's calloused hand rose to cup his cheek. "But…" Bobby's eyes crinkled at their edges. "How?"

Dean had been dreading the question. He didn't know. He wished he had the answer, but he was at a loss for words. His stomach curled again. There was only one explanation he'd been able to think of, but he didn't want it to be real.

It couldn't be real.

After a weighty silence, he finally asked, "Where's Sam?"

Bobby backed off a little, stepping away. His face lost some more of its colour. "I don't know," he admitted. His voice was small.

Dean felt panic rise. "What do you mean, you don't know?"

Bobby shook his head, as if in apology. "Dean, you died." His words shook. "Sam and I had to bury you. It was… God, it was awful." He lifted a shaky hand and scrubbed his face.

Dean noticed the empty bottles of alcohol scattered about the room. Guilt sank his stomach.

"Sam went off to find Lillith," Bobby continued. "I haven't seen him in months."

Dean's pounding heart stuttered and skipped a few beats. He nearly buckled over. "Excuse me?" He knew Bobby was hurting, but he'd trusted the older man with Sam. "He went off to find who? Why the hell weren't you looking after him?!"

Anger flared briefly behind Bobby's eyes. It quickly burnt itself out, and left frightening hollowness in its wake. "You think I didn't try?" He stepped back further, and sank into a chair at a desk.

Dean was startled to see Bobby looking so defeated. He slung an arm around his twisting stomach and tried to hold himself together. He felt like he was about to come apart.

"I tried to go after him, tried to stop him…" Bobby grabbed a nearby bottle and drained it of its contents. His brow furrowed. He looked at Dean despairingly. "The boy didn't want to be found. God knows, I tried..."

Dean stepped towards the desk and leaned heavily upon it. The shattered jigsaw of what had happened was beginning to fall into place. There was no other explanation; Sam had to have brought him back. He thumped a fist against the desk's surface, and doubled over.

"Dean…" Bobby was on his feet.

Dean pushed his friend off, and shook his head until his thoughts stopped spinning. He wasn't angry with Bobby, but by God, if Sam had gone and done something stupid…

"You think Sam made a deal, don't you." Bobby's eyes were wide once more. They were bright orbs, and there was a world of fear behind them.

Dean didn't reply. If he spoke his fear aloud, then there was a chance it could be real. He bit his tongue. He needed to find Sam. His little brother was out there, somewhere, and Dean needed to know where, right now.

He doubled over in a fit of coughing. His whole chest rattled. His lungs hadn't been used in such a long time. He brought a hand to wipe at his mouth, and felt dirt grit sickeningly against his teeth.

"Bobby," he rapsed, ignoring the dirt. "I need to use your phone."


Sam stumbled over the threshold of his motel room. He made it two feet and then crumpled to the floor. In the dim light spilling into the room from the hallway, he could just make out the shine of blood upon his hands. His side ached. There was fire in his head. The taste of copper sat heavily upon his tongue, and there was sticky warmth coating his upper lip. He tried to breathe normally, but the pain from his side made it impossible.

He rolled, turning his face into the rancid carpet. A rattling cough tore through his body, and he wanted to pass out but he didn't.

The light flicked on.

Hands grabbed his shoulders and turned him onto his back. His stomach twisted at the movement. He wanted to protest, but he couldn't.

Ruby stared down at him. Her lip twitched. "That was abysmal. If you want to avoid getting your ass kicked, I'd advise you to try harder."

Sam wanted to spit in her face. He'd been trying as hard as he possibly could. He'd been sacrificing sleep to practice the exercises she'd taught him. The demons he'd confronted today would have been easy targets, had he not lost his concentration.

"Tell me you didn't feel it." His voice was fractured. It barely made it over his lips.

Ruby was a silhouette, her face in shadows. "Feel what?"

Sam knew she was lying. There was no way she could have missed the way the air around them had screamed, as if echoing a massive explosion. Something had happened. The demons had sensed it, so she must have as well. Sam's eyes rolled about in his head, and his eyelids fluttered.

Ruby jerked at his t-shirt. She was merciless. Her probing fingers stung his wound. When his concentration had wavered, one of the demons had pulled a knife and had stabbed him in the side. He'd gone down. He'd barely made it out of there alive.

"I'm going to get you some ice." Ruby stepped towards the door.

Sam twisted his heavy gaze to follow her. Something big had happened today, and she wasn't worried. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

She threw a look over her shoulder. "Try not to stain the carpet." She disappeared, slamming the door.

Sam groaned and tried to catch his breath. He couldn't breathe properly. His side was splitting. Agonizingly, he pushed himself up off the floor and crawled towards the bed. Once there, he wobbled to his feet and fell upon the mattress.

The room spun wildly. He squeezed his eyes closed. His gut clenched with a sudden rush of grief and despair.

He missed his brother.

Dean was burning in Hell, and Sam still hadn't found a way to free him.

He tilted his face towards the room's other bed. It was painfully empty. He never allowed Ruby to stay with him.

Wetness stung his cheeks. It flowed freely, and it wasn't blood. His chest hitched, but he refused to sob openly. He was already ashamed at having failed his brother so far. He didn't want to disgrace himself further by losing his grip on his emotions in front of Ruby.

He clutched his side, and doubled over, rolling into the musty mattress.

God, he missed his brother.

He had no words for how much he missed his best friend.


Dean counted numbers as he moved swiftly along the motel's corridor with Bobby at his side. He'd tracked Sam's cell phone, and had been surprised at how close Sam was to the grave he'd just crawled out of. Frantic butterflies threatened to churn up his insides as they neared the door to Sam's room. If Sam had made a deal to bring Dean back…

Bobby's face was grey in the dim light.

Dean swallowed roughly. His fist trembled as he lifted it and rapped his knuckles against the flaky wood of Sam's door. His heart was banging in his ears. His palms were clammy, his collar too tight around his neck.

They waited in silence, but no sound came from behind the closed door.

Dean pounded again. He wanted to call out, but resisted.

A soft shuffling began. It came from the room beyond the door. It was almost imperceptible, but Dean's trained ears didn't miss it. Someone was there. He nodded to Bobby.

Bobby steeled his shoulders.

Dean's throat constricted as the door was opened. He forgot how to breathe.

Sam leaned heavily upon the door, his shirt ripped and covered in blood.

Dean still couldn't breathe.

Sam's face froze, his expression and reaction similar to the way Bobby's had been. He let go of the door. He stumbled backwards, his right arm extending abruptly.

Dean's vision was beginning to swim. He still hadn't taken a breath. Burns covered Sam's right hand.

Bobby was the first to speak. "Sam…"

Sam's eyes were like a frightened animal's.

"Son-" Bobby tried again.

But Sam was a portrait of terror. He struck out at Dean, lunging with his hand extended and grabbing Dean around the throat.

Dean suddenly remembered how to breathe, and tried to tell his brother to calm down. This was not the reaction he'd been expecting. If Sam had brought him back, then the kid wouldn't be freaking out like this.

But if Sam hadn't brought him back, then who...?

Perhaps Sam was easy to fight off because he was injured, or perhaps the splinter of hope that Dean caught in his brother's eye was enough to cause Sam to falter in his attack. Bobby grabbed the youngest Winchester around the chest and staggered as he pulled him off his older brother.

Dean fell against a wall, panting.

Sam gasped in lungful after lungful of air, still fighting against Bobby but not as frantically. He was exhausted, and injured from God only knew what.

Bobby struggled to hold Sam up.

Dean reached a calming hand towards his brother, wanting to say a thousand things at once but not knowing where to begin. Sam was covered in blood. That alone was horrifying.

Sam's voice finally emerged, and in a broken whisper he hissed, "What the hell is this, Bobby?" He struggled some more. "Let me go. That's not Dean. Let me go!"

But Bobby held the boy firm. "Yes," he replied, his voice still housing its own disbelief. "It is. I've been through this. Sam. It's okay."

Dean stared at his brother. Honestly, he'd never thought he'd see Sam again. His eyes were stinging, and his voice was still caught.

Sam wavered, but managed to stay on his feet when Bobby released him. His mouth was open, but he didn't say anything. His gaze traveled up and down his brother, disbelieving. His brow was pinched.

"Sammy…" Dean finally managed to say. His voice broke through the barrier between them. It lifted from his lips and fell like snow through the air.

Sam's expression flickered. His eyes threatened to overflow. He shook his head defiantly, and began to sway, backing away.

Dean reached out a hand as a reflex.

Sam side-stepped. His eyes darted between Dean and Bobby, and he wobbled some more. There were so many questions burning behind his eyes. He began to fall.

This time Dean caught him. The older brother took the weight as Sam's knees buckled.

"Dean-" Sam's voice was muffled and broken. He spoke into Dean's jacket. His face was buried and damp with tears and his whole body shook.

Dean raised a trembling hand to rest upon the back of Sam's head.

"I'm sorry," Sam breathed.

Dean felt his brother's body grow heavier, and then it went still.

Shock travelled through Dean's body in a wave.

"No-"

He shook his brother, but Sam didn't move.


Ruby entered the motel's corridor, and stopped. The bag of ice she'd gathered from the bar next door dripped onto the carpet, but the carpet was so worn that the water didn't seep in.

She felt something.

She felt something she hadn't felt in a long time.

She felt Dean's presence, and it was living.

Her lip twitched into a tired smile. He was back. How he was back didn't matter; he was back, and he was real.

Silently, she backed away. She retraced her steps. The bag continued dripping, leaving a trail of droplets that glinted dully in the corridor's bad light.

She'd talk to Sam later. Right now, he was hurting. And he needed his brother.

The best thing for her to do would be to disappear.


Sam cracked open his eyes.

He saw his brother.

At first he thought he was dreaming; the same dream he had every night, where Dean was alive and then died again, graphically, without Sam being able to help him.

Sam squeezed his eyes closed, and re-opened them.

Dean was still there.

Sam's heart hammered. His stomach dipped. His lashes fluttered open fully and he tried to push himself upright.

Dean grabbed him around the shoulders and pushed him back against the bed. "Whoa, easy." His touch was gentle. His eyes were relieved.

Sam felt pain strike down his side, and his fingers touched gauze. He remembered being injured. Ruby had gone to get ice.

Sam's thoughts buckled. Ruby. He looked around, but she wasn't there.

Dean leaned against the mattress, his elbows pressing into the sheets. He put his face in his hands. "Jesus, Sammy."

Sam wanted to say the same thing. He had been saying the same thing, for weeks, months... But God hadn't been listening. He'd begged for his brother to come back. But each day he'd woken and Dean still hadn't returned.

Now Dean was right here.

Sam felt sick. Bile rose in his throat. He groaned and twisted away as his stomach constricted. He didn't understand how Dean could be here.

Dean's hand found his shoulder. "When you passed out…" He made a funny noise in his throat. "God, Sam, I thought you were dead."

Sam's breath hitched. He wasn't dead.

Dean had been dead.

God…

Dean had been dead.

And months had passed.

Sam had searched for a solution, but he hadn't been able to find one.

The knowledge that he hadn't been able to save his brother had shattered him. It had shredded him from the inside. He'd resorted to seeking Ruby's help, despite the fact that Dean had begged him not to.

He hadn't been able to save Dean, and his insides felt like a car wreck. He was sorry.

God.

He was so fucking sorry.

Tears pricked the corners of his eyes.

Dean watched him, his own eyes watering.

Sam wanted to twist away from his brother. "Dean, I'm sorry…"

Dean's expression twitched. His brow furrowed. He pulled a face like he didn't know what Sam was apologizing for.

Sam felt frustration swell within him. It burst forth in a confession. "I tried to find a way to get you back, but I just couldn't." Sobs racked his body. This time, he didn't hold them back. He let shame wash over him.

Dean's hand fell gently upon Sam's forehead.

Sam wanted to brush it away, but at the same time, it was a welcome weight. He closed his eyes, and forced his breathing back under control.

Dean was once again bent over the mattress, leaning his forehead against the sheets. His shoulders shook.

Sam noticed the dirt on his brother's jacket, and felt his stomach twist once more.

"It's okay, Sam," Dean said quietly. His words were honest. His hand dropped to Sam's shoulder and he raised his eyes.

Sam looked at his brother. He wanted to agree, but he couldn't bring himself to reply. Something within him had been broken. He wasn't sure how to put it back together again. Dean was wrong; it wasn't okay.

Dean had been dead.

And Sam hadn't been able to save him.

Dean had been in Hell.

And Sam hadn't been able to get him out.

Sam blinked at his perfectly healthy-looking brother, still not convinced he wasn't dreaming.

Dean's gaze fell upon Sam's patched-up wound. He looked at Sam, and a question burned behind his eyes.

There would be many questions, Sam guessed. Some of which would be difficult, on his part, to answer. He wasn't ready for questions right now.

Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. He'd been asleep for a long time.

Sam's eyes were also tired, but he hadn't slept properly in months.

Reaching a shaky hand towards his throat, Sam fumbled with the neck of his shirt. He slipped his fingers underneath and snagged the necklace that he'd been wearing around his neck.

Dean's necklace.

He pulled it up, and managed to wrestle it over his head. It swung like a pendulum.

Dean caught it, and stared at it for a long time.

"I kept it safe for you," Sam told him. Although the truth was that Sam had worn it to remind himself of the brother he'd lost.

Dean's lips twitched in a smile. His eyes warmed, for a moment. The worry left them.

Sam hadn't seen Dean smile in a very long time.

Dean slipped the necklace over his head, and looked down at it as it sat once more against his chest, where it belonged.

There was a knock upon the door.

Sam stiffened.

The door opened, and Bobby entered the room, his arms laden with food.

"Oh," Dean said, rising. "Thank God. I'm starving." He scrambled over to help Bobby with the load.

Sam watched them from his bed. The smell of fries met his nostrils. It should have made him hungry, but instead it made him sick.

Bobby approached the bed. He leaned down, and placed a hand upon Sam's shoulder.

Sam couldn't meet Bobby's eyes. He'd been avoiding the older man for months, despite Bobby's best efforts to contact him. He twisted away.

But Bobby twisted him back again. "It's good to see you, son."

Sam's throat worked, but no sound came out.

Bobby wasn't angry.

Sam couldn't believe that Bobby wasn't angry.

And the three of them were in a room together… again.

It was just like old times. Just like Dean had never died.

Only Dean had died.

Sam swallowed roughly. His throat was parched. His heart was still hammering. He couldn't even think about food. God, he felt so sick.

No matter what happened from this day forth, Sam realized, he wasn't going to be able to forget the heart-splitting agony of the past few months he'd spent without his brother. He could never forget how it had felt, burying his own brother, and then having to wake up alone in already lonely motel rooms, every single day, with the knowledge that Dean was burning in Hell, because of him.

It didn't matter how many times Dean said it, or how sincerely. Things were definitely not okay.

Sam's stomach twisted, and once again he felt like his insides were ripping.

He watched Dean and Bobby.

Dean was alive.

Dean was alive, but things weren't okay.

And, in all honestly, Sam wasn't sure that they ever would be again.


From an unseen place, the angel watched the brothers. It saw Dean's confusion and terror at being alive, and it saw the same things reflected in Sam.

It saw the burning question in Dean's heart of why he'd been brought back. And it saw the weight of failure resting heavily upon Sam's consciousness.

It saw the power that dwelled within each brother, and the delicate balance that such power required to exist.

It saw, quite clearly, that Sam was the flame that had the ability to eliminate darkness.

And it saw, also, that Dean was the lantern, the solid structure, the only thing that could keep Sam's flame in check.


end