A/N: Meh. Guilty again. But I had this image after the season premiere and thought I'd share.
Warning: Spoilers for 4x01.
It's only after they've left the ruined motel room and gone to Bobby's that he feels. Dean hasn't been asleep long, and Sam stands in the doorway of the spare bedroom for a long time, before daring to creep across the floor to the bedside. He stands there, staring down at his brother, trying not to breathe too hard or too loud, as if the sound or the pressure could prove Dean to be an illusion. Chase him off somehow, blow him away like smoke.
He stares and he stares, silence wrapping around his face. He had his moment of shock, his embrace, and within minutes, they were back to routine – bickering, talking shop, going after something evil. It had moved too fast, not giving him time to think, not allowing him to finish crossing the bridge between Dean dying and Dean reviving four months later.
Sam is so used to the void. Not comfortable. The pain never weakened, not once – but he had gotten accustomed to it. He had gotten accustomed to being alone. Now, Dean is alive, but Sam still feels loss. He crinkles his nose at the gaping, black hole inside him; it's shrinking, maybe. But not gone.
He's waiting to find out it's not real. He's having a vision on acid, and soon enough, he'll snap out of it and find himself back in his motel room with the single bed. He'll drive out to Dean's grave and find the cross still there and the ground smoothed over, unchanged. No one comes back to life after four months. Dean's body is rotten back in Pontiac, and this man Sam's watching is not real.
He crouches down, shuts his eyes, and breathes against his fisted hands. Dean is still there when he looks again, lying on his side. Sam is not a skeptic of what most people would call "impossible" or "unnatural" but of all the shit he's seen, human resurrection isn't included. Not without a deal. Not for its own sake. Even if there's a God, Sam isn't stupid enough to believe that his brother could get out of hell without a payoff for someone. God's not that nice.
Sam approaches the bed, still on his haunches, and kneels when he stops. He watches Dean's face, listens to the slow wheeze of breath on each exhale. Looks just like his brother. Sam purses his mouth shut, bottom lip quivering, eyes hot. He shuts them again, telling himself to stop.
After a moment, he reaches out and lays his hand on Dean's shoulder. It falls into place with the scar Sam knows is beneath the sleeve. Dean inhales, sharp and loud, but doesn't wake up. Sam bites his bottom lip. His feels his own heartbeat quicken but doesn't move.
He doesn't know if he can do this again. He doesn't know if he can go back to being a man who can lose, instead of a man who has already lost. He thinks about being both at once and his body begins to shake.
He wasn't a stranger to loss when Dean died. But nothing – not Mom or Jess or Dad – had felt the way Dean had. It could never be about a missing piece or revenge or regret. All it left him with was self-destruction. Even now, he couldn't name what his brother's death did to him. Language made it sound trivial. It was so deep, so vast and dark within him, that he learned not what his limits are but that he has no limits. His capacity for pain – if he can even call this pain – is infinite.
When he reaches out to kill hell spawn, that is where he draws the energy.
Dean squints at him, voice still sleep heavy.
"What's wrong?" he says.
Sam's tears spill down.
"Dean," he says. He tries to think of an excuse. He doesn't want to leave, but he has no other reason to be here except watching Dean sleep. He squeezes Dean's shoulder a little, looking for words. Dean shuts his eyes again.
"Get in," he says.
Sam nods and stands up, rounding the bed and slipping in on the other side. He doesn't hesitate; he circles his arm around Dean, lies against him, face fitting in the curve of Dean's neck. He breathes in Dean's scent, and it is not death. He fists his hand in Dean's shirt and feels his brother's warm back against him, shoulder blades poking him a little. He forces himself to shut up again, to listen, and there – his brother's heart in front of his. He can feel it; that could never be artificial.
He begins to cry, first time since the day he buried Dean. He tries to be quiet, but Dean's neck is slick and salty. They stay still for a long time, while Sam cries, and he begins to think Dean fell asleep again. But his brother rolls over, pushing Sam along with him, and Sam doesn't want to let go or move over. Once he's on his other side, though, Dean pulls Sam back against him with one arm and clutches.
They don't speak. Sam feels and feels and feels his brother, living against him and around him and with him. It's been four months. He doesn't know how. He doesn't know who did this for him, but he thanks God.