A/N: Dean DID say it was a hunch...
He didn't even realize he still had it in his pocket when the damn thing tumbled out.
Sure, he knew he still had it. He figured that at some playground around some town, he'd hand it off to one of the kids and instruct them in the manners of the hand buzzer. Maybe encourage some of their friends to go find one for themselves and make magic shop owners happy. (Okay, so Dean felt a little guilty about traumatizing the last magic shop guy and leaving melted rubber chicken on his counter.)
But he'd forgotten that the hand buzzer was in his pocket. He pulled his jacket off and tossed it towards the bed, and when it missed and hit the floor, the buzzer tumbled out. It made tiny clinking sounds as it bounced across the floor until it came to a rolled stop. Right at Sam's feet.
What Dean wasn't prepared for, but probably really should've been, was the look on his brother's face. Surprise registered first, then the patented bitch-face that Dean had actually missed more than he wanted to admit, and then hurt. Honest to god betrayed hurt, and it surprised Dean enough that he found himself staring.
Sam pinched his lips and slid his bitch-face over the hurt. "I thought you'd have tossed the stupid thing by now," he muttered. A half second later he impulsively kicked it away, and it made a clanging sound when it hit the wall. "Want to keep a memento? If you did, I'd suggest the whoopie-cushion. That one was funnier."
Yeah, Dean was pretty sure he knew why the whoopie-cushion was funnier. Castiel had all but laid Sam out, chewed him out over Sam's part in things, so yeah, Dean could see why his brother was angry at the angel.
"Nah, didn't want it," Dean said with a faked cheerfulness. "Not as good as the buzzer." Not as good as you, he silently conveyed.
Sam's shoulders bunched up to his ears and he turned away from Dean. "Yeah, not as much fun as scaring your brother into thinking he's about to be electrocuted, right?" Sam said through gritted teeth.
So Dean'd been completely off base on this one. "Oh," was all he said. "Sam, I knew it wouldn't-"
"No, you had a hunch," and when Sam whirled around, the hurt was back. "You could've killed me if you'd been wrong, Dean! And I don't know if you remember what it felt like to be electrocuted, but I sure as hell remember what you looked like and how freaking scared I was for you but hey, I'm just the guy who started the apocalypse and made all the wrong choices, so why not-"
"I tried it on myself first," Dean cut in, wishing he'd said this earlier, and that stopped Sam in his tracks, breathing heavily.
"I pressed it against my fingers first," he said. "When it didn't do anything except buzz, I knew it was safe, and making you jump has always been one of my greatest pleasures since you were six." He gave a grin that didn't feel at all cheerful, and he was pretty certain his regret was shining through. "Should've told you afterwards, but I didn't think it mattered that much. I'm sorry, Sammy."
Sam's cheeks were flushed now, and he turned his face away, running his fingers through his hair. "No, I'm...I'm sorry, Dean, I shouldn't have...god, I'm so stupid. I'm sorry."
Pranks were out of the question for the foreseeable future. Not when things were still too raw between them, when the hurt from their separation was still there. New hurt flared, that Sam had actually thought Dean would risk his life like that, that Sam didn't automatically know that Dean would never put Sam in harm's way. Even after all of this, everything that had happened, Dean would never intentionally hurt Sam like that.
If Sam honestly thought he would, then Dean was doing something wrong.
He stepped over towards Sam, and when Sam glanced back, another apology on his lips, Dean hurried to speak first. "Don't apologize for getting upset, or for yelling at me, or for whatever the hell you were gonna apologize for. The only thing I ever want you to be sorry for is actually believing I would let you get hurt." Sam's eyes darted away, and it only twisted Dean's gut further. Bingo. "I don't care what's going on between us, or what's happened, but I would never, never, hurt you intentionally. Or risk your life. Swear to me that you know that." Should've known that, should've given Dean a bitch-face and maybe an eye roll, not a stunned look of shock and fear and betrayal that yeah, sure, got covered up immediately with anger, but Dean knew now what he'd seen.
Sam didn't say anything. His sole focus seemed to be on nervously sliding his fingers over the bottom edge of his shirt, and his eyes were cast towards the ground. Dean bit his lip and tried to figure out what to say beyond what he'd already said, and ten seconds later his mind caught on what Sam had said before.
"... but hey, I'm just the guy who started the apocalypse and made all the wrong choices..."
For the first time in a long time Dean found himself wanting to punch his newly-made friend of an angel. He should've said something then. He'd kinda hoped that by taking Sam's side about the kid that his brother would see Dean's support in other matters, but apparently, he hadn't. No silent messages between the two of them anymore, either.
So yeah, they still had a ways to go to getting back to being brothers. They had the basics down, at the level any other brothers would be at, but they weren't at the Winchester level. Scratch that: they weren't at the SamnDean level.
"Castiel shouldn't have said what he did," Dean said, unable to think of a subtle way to start the conversation. It wound up working in his favor, because Sam immediately turned his head back around, frowning.
"Everything he said was the truth, Dean."
"In regards to a few choices made, yeah. You made a couple of bad ones." Sam snorted bitterly. Dean pursed his lips and caught Sam's shoulder, pulling him back around. "That doesn't make you evil, Sam. Or wrong, or unforgivable."
"Then what am I?" Sam asked angrily.
Dean caught his gaze and held it. "Human," he said simply. The anger slid from his brother's face, and he watched Sam deflate. "And it doesn't come down all to you. I told you that. I started it when I opened the first seal. And for god's sake, if you hadn't gotten to Lilith before I did, I would've killed her. We didn't know, Sammy."
Sam was back to watching the floor. "Besides, Castiel's not much of an innocent in this, either; he was letting Zachariah yank him around," Dean added. "Who knows how much the angels added to the mess?"
It was a long silence that followed, leaving Dean feeling almost awkward enough to consider removing his hand from Sam's shoulder. Two seconds from his actually doing so, Sam slid his gaze around to meet Dean's. "He still helped you, when it mattered."
Trust and faith in what Dean was saying, what Sam hadn't felt in his brother back at the house with the buzzer. Dean gave a small smile and squeezed Sam's shoulder. "So have you," he replied, and watched hope spark in his brother's eyes.
No pranks for awhile, or a dozen other things that had once made them uniquely connected. But the silent message Sam was giving him now? Dean understood it just fine.