I had a few ideas for tags to 5x22, Swan Song, but they were all different, so I decided to use them all as chapters. These four chapters are all related, in theme, but are independent of each other, and don't follow any particular order. Each should be viewed as its own short story.

I own nothing, and reviews are craved. Thanks to geminigrl11 for the super-fast edit!

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Three Ways Sam Came Back from Hell and One Way He Didn't

I.

Sam stood there, staring through Lisa's window for a long time before he realized he was actually there. It wasn't a hallucination. His mind wasn't trying to distract him from the tortures of Hell.

He blinked, frowning as he glanced down at himself. He was whole. There were no chains, no demons cutting into him as he struggled helplessly on the rack.

Sam and Adam had been cast aside—consigned to the demons—almost immediately, the vessels no longer needed.

Lucifer and Michael were nowhere in sight. They'd been locked in constant combat from the moment the box slammed shut. Brother against brother. Angel against angel. Neither would ever die.

Hell was Hell, even for angels.

Sam drew a deep breath. No sulfur. No ash. No fire. But, the peace was short-lived. His hands started to shake, no matter how hard he clenched them, and moments later, the rest of his body felt like it was going to rattle itself apart.

He looked back at the house, and he found his brother stood at the window, staring right at him. Their eyes met, and in a flash, Dean was racing out the door.

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Dean was reeling. He'd been eating with Lisa and Ben, trying desperately to put his brother out of his mind. He was miserable—soul-wrenchingly lonely, even with Lisa—but he'd made a promise, and he wouldn't break a promise. Not his last one to Sam, anyway. Sam had saved the world, right after saving Dean's life one last time. Dean could keep a simple promise in return.

But, that had been months ago. Sam was dead. Locked with Lucifer in the Pit.

Sam wasn't supposed to be standing right in front of him. He wasn't supposed to be outside Lisa's house.

If this was Sam. Had the plan failed? Had Lucifer found a way out?

Castiel had left one of the angel-killing swords, in case Dean needed it. You never know when one of these may come in handy. But, it was in the Impala's trunk. If this wasn't Sam, the weapon would do Dean no good there.

His brother's eyes hadn't left his since Dean had spotted him from the window. He didn't see the cold, inhuman malice he'd seen while Lucifer was pummeling him at Stull. These eyes were...confused. Lost. Growing more agitated the closer Dean got.

"Sammy?"

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Dean stopped a half a dozen feet away. Staring at him like he was a ghost. Or worse.

Sam opened his mouth, but had to think. It'd been so long since he'd done anything but scream, he wasn't sure what to do anymore.

Dean was frozen, clearly unsure how to react. "Sammy, is that you?"

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"Dean?" Sam's voice was rough, shaky. He looked at Dean blankly, not moving.

It was Sam. Dean could feel it. Lucifer hadn't escaped, just Sam. Dean stepped forward, intending to scoop his kid brother up in the chick-flick moment to end all chick-flick moments...but Sam stepped back, his confused expression shifting to horror, then to betrayal, and finally hurt.

"You...what did you do? You promised me— Dean, you promised you wouldn't...."

"Sammy—?"

Sam backed up until he fell against the streetlamp pole, then slid slowly down as his knees buckled. He was talking so fast it was almost gibberish. "If he came back with me...I— I can't— I won't be able to fight him again.... He's too— You shouldn't have...I deserved it...what I did—"

Dean stepped forward and grabbed his brother before he sank all the way to the ground. He needed to calm Sam down before they'd be able to figure anything out. "Hey! Sammy, hey! I didn't do anything. I swear. God, I'm so sorry…I didn't do anything. Can you hear me?"

His brother's eyes refocused on his again, and after a tense moment, Sam relaxed into Dean's grasp. Dean pulled him close, until Sam's head was resting on his shoulder.

"I— I don't understand. How could—?"

"I don't know, either, man, but—" Dean broke off, his vision blurring even as a grin spread on his face. "God, Sammy, I missed you so much."

"H-how lo—" Sam choked up, folding in on himself a little. "How—?"

"How long?" Dean supplied. His brother just nodded. Dean could give him that information easily. "Four months and a little over a week."

Sam suddenly tensed, pulling back and staring at Dean with a haunted, disbelieving look. It was a look Dean knew all too well.

It had been a lot longer than four months for Sam. A lot longer.

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A sharp noise jarred Dean awake. He blinked a few times, trying to adjust his eyes to the early morning sunlight shining through the blinds in Lisa's den. Sam was sitting up on the couch, rubbing his eyes, panting heavily.

Another nightmare. A bad one, from the looks of it. Sam had already been up four times during the night. Dean had brought him down from the guest room to avoid waking Ben again. The kid was too young to witness stuff like this.

The demons had done a real number on Sam downstairs, from the snippets Dean had heard. He planned on taking it out of their collective hides, too, as soon as Sam was up to speed again. Nobody hurt his brother like this and got away with it. He cleared his throat. "You okay, Sam?"

Sam flinched, startled by Dean's voice—as if he hadn't expected to hear it—and looked over at him. He seemed to think about it before answering. "Yeah."

Lie, Dean thought, but he just nodded. He didn't want to push. Sam would talk when he was ready. Dean knew firsthand what it was like to suddenly be alive after Hell. Reality wouldn't make sense for a long time afterward.

Pushing himself off the recliner, he stepped over and grabbed the glass of water he'd placed before dawn off the end table. He sat on the cushion behind Sam, and held out the glass, careful not to touch him. The last time he'd come up on Sam from behind, he'd had to fight his panicked brother off.

Like a wounded animal. Dean shook his head. He hadn't been quite as bad as this when Castiel had pulled him out. On the other hand, Lucifer hadn't worn him like a prom dress, either.

Your Hell is gonna make my tour look like Graceland! You want me to just sit by and do nothing?

God…I am so sorry, Sam…. He should have ignored the promise. Never should have left his little brother to those monsters.

Sam slowly sipped the water, seeming to savor the sensation. "Thank you."

Dean took the glass, gingerly patting Sam on the shoulder. As long as his brother saw the touch coming, he seemed to be okay. Dean frowned. When Sam had first shown up outside, he'd seemed fairly calm, but that quickly degenerated into severe mood swings and he'd been growing worse ever since. Whenever Dean pushed too hard or asked too many questions, Sam freaked.

They would need to take this slowly, but Dean would put his brother back together. He owed him that. "You…wanna talk about it?"

Looking back over his shoulder at Dean, Sam favored him with a slightly baffled look. He turned his head slightly, like he was turning the question over in his mind, trying to solve some puzzle.

"I…I never realized how…creative demons could be." Sam finally said, quietly, an almost sing-song quality to his voice. It gave Dean chills. Sam looked around the room, mood visibly shifting again. "Dean…where are we?"

"Lisa's house," Dean answered. For the fifth time. His brother's brain was scrambled. Sam nodded slowly, mouth forming a faintly humorous OH.

Sam's brow furrowed, and he seemed to draw in on himself for several long minutes. He looked a little more lucid when he turned back to face Dean. "Have…have you seen Adam?"

Dean blinked. That was unexpected. "No."

"He was beside me…on the rack," Sam explained, eyes settling into that thousand yard stare he kept going back to every little while. His voice went down an octave as he spoke, and that scared Dean more than the mood swings. "Vessels get special attention. Gotta find out what makes them tick—"

"Sam," Dean interrupted, halting Sam's line of thought. He didn't want to hear where it went. Not yet. "Adam?"

Sam blinked, breaking out of his trance. He looked at Dean with genuine confusion. "He was so scared, Dean. I tried…tried to keep their attention on me, but— They tore into him, Dean…he was beside me the whole time, but…then one day he just vanished. They didn't know what was happening. Adam was gone…and a minute later…I saw you in the window."

Dean absorbed that. "He got out, too?"

"I guess," Sam shrugged.

Nodding, Dean reached over and squeezed Sam's arm, trying to reassure him. "We'll find him, all right?"

That seemed to make Sam feel better. Dean wished he could say the same.

TBC