A/N: I have absolutely no idea where this came from. But I might as well put it up before the next episode.

You wouldn't understand, Dean says.

He's standing over Sam, wearing the same old jacket and the same worn clothes, looking exactly like always except… except not exactly.

Something's different.

It takes a moment for Sam to discern the changes. Dean's shoulders are less hunched, back less of a curve, almost as if an invisible weight was cast off and discarded like some kid's playacting cape. His skin is just a little darker, like he'd been chasing something in the sun, and the freckles on his arms blur into unabashed obscurity against the warmer color. The steady green eyes glitter like gems, shadows underneath them gone, the wrinkles gentler, but for all that there's a darkness to them – one that Sam of all people understands, one that he finds all too familiar.

Only, he doesn't know why Dean would be sorry.

He tries to speak, ask what and just try, please, just try and I will too, but his words smoke out of his mouth and into the air, curling and spiraling like dust motes before falling uselessly to the ground next to his bed.

He watches them land and sink into the carpet, then stares back up at Dean - this old (but younger), familiar, almost-forgotten Dean.

His head is fuzzy. And it's hard to move, like the blood in his veins somehow turned to lead (black, black lead) and draws Sam towards the table like a magnet. His eyes feel strangely runny, his body strangely weary, and he blinks, blinks up at Dean. He wonders if he's dreaming, and at the same time knows he is.

Still. Dean's right there. And not just a little there, but all of him at once, like Dean wasn't – like he hasn't been, in a very long time.

So Sam reaches.

His arm extends, fingers still a little limp and pointing in different directions. His wrist is so very heavy, but he lifts it anyway. All he needs is just a touch, to verify Dean's there.

He doesn't make it.

His arm falls, a short distance. He doesn't think Dean moved away, but Sam can't be sure so he doesn't let himself wonder. Assuming makes an ass out of you and me, and Sam's been the ass way too many times not to learn the lesson.

A glance at his hand, then back to his face. Sam's brother flashes that bright brittle grin of his, the one that always makes Sam feel like he's being seen through the wrong side of a two-way mirror. Almost like Dean's not really seeing Sam, at all, but instead – instead –

Sorry Sammy, Dean says, smiling sadly. I could never make you understand.


Waking up feels like a series of trials and errors.

At first there are only brief flashes of consciousness, which aren't really much more than vague awareness of his body and his breathing and ow my throat, but then he starts wanting to open his eyes, and then he starts hearing things, and then there's an urge to sneeze and really by the time he wakes up it legitimately feels like forever.

He coughs. The cough turns to retching, which is then helpfully directed into a red plastic bowl held out in front of him. Warm hands pat his back, firm but hesitating, like they know what he needs but think he might break getting it.

There's water in his eyes, and it makes the room – the basement – that place – all blurry like a watercolor painting, broad strokes of soft color across a huge splotchy canvas. He can't wipe it away so he blinks rapidly, blinks a lot.

But then, suddenly, he can.

He looks at his arm in surprise as it lifts involuntarily, now that it's free, and a weak distressed noise escapes the back of his throat while he stares at the shiny red and purple rings around his wrist.

"You stopped screaming," someone tells him, explaining. When Sam jerks his head up he sees it's Castiel. "Can you eat?"

Sam's head is fuzzy, and when it's not fuzzy it hurts. He doesn't feel like eating, and Castiel isn't the one he's supposed to be seeing. He doesn't want to say it though, so he just shakes his head, even though it feels like the entire thing might come off with the movement. Vile-tasting liquid crawls up his throat and slides back down again, settling uncomfortably in his stomach.

"Easy, easy there son," Bobby says, clutching Sam's shoulder as if he's trying to keep Sam from scattering into a million pieces. "Easy. How're you feeling? Sam? How's it feel?"

He doesn't know what he's supposed to say. He absently rubs his wrists - they sting - only stopping when Bobby gently slaps his hands apart. No, he thinks. He doesn't feel good.

But, but maybe. Maybe better than before.

"Good, good," Bobby breathes, sounding almost like it matters a whole lot what Sam says, what Sam feels. Which isn't true, but still. It's nice to pretend sometimes. "Weren't sure when to come in, but I didn't want to chance waiting too long. Looks like it's all done with now though."

Sam's head lolls a little. He really hopes it's over – he could really do without going through this again ever.

Where is he?

"Nonono, you gotta drink this first," Bobby says. "C'mon kiddo, have a sip and we can take you upstairs."

The last word echoes in Sam's head. Upstairs, upstairs. Where the good people are.

Water dribbles down his chin, down his neck and under his shirt – but that's already wet anyways so he doesn't really care. The rest of it does make it into his mouth though, and Sam only chokes a little, throat so very dry, before managing to swallow properly. It feels blessedly cool, blessedly pure against his tongue.

"There we go. All right. Castiel, mind getting him upstairs?"

Sam vaguely wonders how Bobby manages to maneuver between floors, what with his wheelchair and all. Stairs and wheels don't really mix. His eyes close for a moment as Castiel puts a hand on his forehead - Castiel tries to be gentle but he isn't very good at keeping out of other people's space yet, and his hands are too cold from flying or whatever, not like other people.

When he next opens them, the gray cement walls have disappeared. There's a window - he can see the sky, cloudy and white and a little gray.

But not cement.

"Damn it, I didn't say get me upstairs!"

"It was the most prudent choice."

"Yeah well, I'd appreciate it if you leave me out of your angel shenanigans next – where do you think you're going? You get your ass back on that bed right now, boy, I'm not gonna say it twice… oh for Pete's sake. Cas, give me a hand here, I don't even know how he's standing."

"Dean," Sam says. His legs buckle as Bobby and Cas force him back, hands gentle and stronger than his. Just two days ago he could have tossed them both back with a mere gesture, and maybe he doesn't want to go through this again but he misses it, God he misses it. "Dean."

"Don't worry Sam, he'll get here soon." Bobby keeps Sam's head still, which annoys Sam because it doesn't stop the ceiling from spinning. "Where the hell is he?"

"Dean said he needed air."

"Air, huh? Well as it happens my house isn't exactly lacking on that front, so tell his majesty to come breathe over here if he doesn't want me to shoot his sorry ass. Sam needs him."

Ruffle of feathers.

"Goddamn it Dean," Bobby mutters. A hand leaves Sam and scrubs over the rugged face.

"Water?" The word barely makes it out of his throat, and he wonders if it disappeared.

But no. After a second Bobby blinks and looks back at Sam. "Ah, sure thing."

The water is blessedly pure. Sam doesn't spill a single drop.

"He isn't here."

"What? Are you sure you didn't miss him? It's a big place, he might be – "

"I looked. He isn't here."

"Jesus. Of all times to drive off somewhere…"

"No. Dean's car… the car is still here."

"Still - what do you mean, it's still here? How can – he's not like you, Castiel, he can't just disappear!"

Sam wasn't listening before, but the ceiling's not spinning anymore so Bobby's hiss finally sinks in, and Sam surfaces. Disappear? "What, where – where'd he go? Dean?"

He can feel Bobby flinch. The man's voice softens, as if to make up for his outburst before. "Don't you – now don't you worry about that, Sam, Dean will – he'll be here soon. You think," this is aimed at Castiel quietly, "you think someone grabbed him? Couldn't have been a demon or a ghost, the entire yard's warded after last time."

"No. I would have felt a malicious presence." Sam hears a click and opens his eyes to look at Castiel. The angel's staring down at Sam grimly, one hand rummaging in his coat pocket.

"What, you – you're calling him? Cas, he's not gonna – "


Bobby snatches the phone out of Castiel's hand and puts it up to his ear. "Now you listen to me, you lilly-livered son of a gun, when I get my hands on you you will wish – no shut up and listen -- " Short pause, then an irritated, "What."

Sam stares at Cas's phone, the one Dean gave him. Maybe if he stares hard enough Dean will say let me talk to Sam, and then Sam could tell Dean to come and Dean would, and he would sit by the bed and put his feet up on Sam' chest, and Sam could say get off you jerk and Dean would say but it's so comfortable and Sam would say God you degenerate asshole and Dean would laugh –

The phone jolts as the hand holding it shakes.

Sam frowns. Stupid phone.

Blood drains out of Bobby's face. "You – what...? No, no you're not – no. No. He'd never."

"What's going on?" Sam asks Castiel, getting tired, but either he didn't really say it or Castiel's too busy listening to Bobby talk to Dean, because he doesn't get an answer.

"But why – no never mind, I don't care, just – just you get out, right now. I don't care what you are or what he told you, you fucking get out or I, I swear I'll –"

Bobby goes silent, leaving the threat unfinished. The hand with the cell phone falls to his lap lifelessly.


"Bobby," Castiel says quietly. "Did he – "

"The idiot, the idiot, that goddamn idiot!!"

Sam closes his eyes and decides to go to sleep. Just for a little while longer.

He can wake up when Dean gets here.


You wouldn't understand, Dean says.

He's standing over Sam, wearing the same old jacket and the same worn clothes, looking exactly like always except… except not exactly.

Sorry Sammy, Dean says, smiling sadly. I could never make you understand.

A/N: Ack, my fics are usually more cheerful. Oh well. This is what happens when I watch MBV plus Wishful Thinking on the same day. Also I figured that after all the 'Dean didn't say yes' fics I've read (and written) I'd write one where he did. Just because, you know. It hasn't been Kripked yet, after all.

Hope you enjoyed!