What's In A Soul?

Summary: Dean's POV in another take of what could have happened when Death restored Sam's soul. Hurt/angsty Sam and Protective big brother Dean.

Spoilers/Tags: Spoilers from 'Appointment in Samarra so if you haven't watched the episode…avoid this!

Ratings: K+ merely for language.

Disclaimers: I don't own the boys. Just using them briefly for entertainment and relief of building cliffhanging endings.

A/N: I promise that I am working on the new chapters for Fears & Dreams…along with two other pieces but when a ficlet demands attention it won't let go.

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"DEAN!"

I wake up to Sam screaming for me…

Yesterday sucked bigtime and I'm talking more than most things recently…well, except being turned into a vamp.

I literally died for almost eight minutes only to get roped into a bet with Death that he knew going in that I'd screw up. Wear his ring, be Death for twenty-four hours and he'd get my little brother's soul back out of the Cage where it's been trapped for over a year with two pissed off Angels.

Sure, I knew the risks. Cas and Crowley (before Cas burned his bones literally) had both warned that Sammy's soul would be damaged but what is a soul? On anyone else, I couldn't say. But for Sam? His soul is what makes him…Sam.

Ever since he'd come clean and admitted he had no emotions, no feelings, no nothing I'd been trying to find anything to get his soul back because RoboSam, this emotionally devoid giant who had cheap sex with a hippie chick while I was being abducted by fairies (I still so do not want to remember the microwave deal) just was not my little brother.

Sam had said he wanted it back. That he knew he was a better person with it but I'm not stupid, despite what some Angels, a few demons and Bobby occasionally believe…I knew the moment he started to get scared about what having it back would do to him.

Out of the two of us, Sam was always the emotional one. He wore that great big bleeding heart on his sleeve. I knew that his reluctance to get his soul back was partly a way to protect himself from the pain, from the memories of Hell, of being locked up with Lucifer and Michael and what they did to him. I knew all that but as I also knew he couldn't keep going without it.

Was it selfish of me to want my brother back? Hell, yeah but then I never claimed to be selfless. I knew the risks were high that getting it back could turn Sammy into a drooling brainfried vegetable but at least that was something that Cas, Bobby and I could handle. This cold, unfeeling person…sure he was a great hunter but I'd take a not-so great hunter to what Sammy was right now.

I knew Death was the one thing in all of Creation that could crack the Cage and get it back. I just wasn't counting on two things. His terms and Sam's desperation to keep his soul out.

Death said he'd help. He'd get the soul out and even make a wall to protect Sammy's mind from the bad stuff…if I would take his place for twenty-four freakin' hours. Act as the Angel of Death, so to speak, and help Tessa claim victims for just that little bit of time. No prob, easy as pie, right? Yeah, don't let anyone tell you that screwing the natural order of things up won't hurt because it does.

I screwed up and failed the bet but you won't tell me that guy didn't already know that from the start. I hate being taught lessons from things that can wipe me from the face of the planet with a blink. He got his ring back and I got back to Bobby's place just in time to keep my pain in the ass little soulless brother from killing the next best thing to a Father we still have.

I. Hate. Angels. Really, hate 'em…well, not Cas…most of the time. Sammy panicked and went to Balthazar for a spell to lock his soul out and it would only call for him to kill his 'father'. Well, our dad's been dead for over five years so he chose the next best thing and people wonder why I want his soul back? Because my brother, the brother who fought with Bobby to keep from scrappin' the Impala when I was dying, would never have thought about slitting Bobby's throat.

Bobby…I was shocked he didn't kick us out. He just helped me lug Sam back into the panic room and cuff him down again. I hate doing that. I hate seeing him cuffed to that damn bed so bad but I also can't have him killing people.

Sam's still out. I didn't hit him that hard so I'm sure it's whatever Bobby doused him with that's keeping him asleep. Sleep is good. If he's asleep then he's not looking at me with hopeless eyes and giving me the line that it's his soul and his life. Right, like I haven't kept him alive for twenty-seven years to listen to that crap now.

I didn't want to sleep. I wanted to stay by him like I used to when we were kids but it just hurt too damn bad to know that I had been so close to helping him and I failed…so I slept…and woke up to my brother screaming for me.

"DEAN!"

Something in the tone woke me up fast, going back into automatic big brother mode without even realizing it because that was Sammy's terrified, confused tone…It was…Sammy screaming my name and I went from the room we once shared on the second floor down to the locked panic room in the basement in a blur of frenzied thoughts.

Once part of my brain, the part that my Father had drilled, was telling me to be careful; that it could just be a trick while the other part, the bigger part, was saying Sammy was afraid and screaming for me in a way that I hadn't heard since before I went to Hell.

I barely heard Bobby's sleepy voice behind me as I unlocked the door, unaware that I'd pulled my pistol in case something had found a way past the wards into the room to hurt my brother.

Hunter instincts on full, I looked around the room warily before my eyes locked on the tear streaked face of my baby brother as he fought against the restraints on the bed and only one thing registered to me…Sam was crying. I hadn't seen tears in his eyes since before the whole mess with Lucifer went down.

"Sam?" more cautious now, I sat on the edge of the bed to put a hand flat on his chest like I would before, feeling his heart racing under it. "Take it easy and I'll get these off," I told him, watching his face as I undid the cuffs first but wasn't expecting his sudden lunge up.

Tensing for an attack, I felt my heart stop when I suddenly had an armful of sobbing and babbling little brother to contend with. "Easy, Sammy, take it easy and tell me what's wrong," I tried to soothe but it had been a hell of a long time since I'd had to when it finally hit me…my cold, distant and emotionless brother was clinging to me and sobbing like he'd used to as a kid after a bad dream. "Ah, shit. Sammy?"

Trying to ease him back just so I could look at his eyes, Sam clung tighter and was babbling crap about hurting, me, vampires, and it slowly dawned on me that he was trying to apologize to me for everything from the beating in Stull to letting the vamps turn me to the hippie chick. I was beginning to wonder if the buzzing in my head was from my not being able to draw in a breath for several minutes when I felt the presence.

"If the wall holds, his mind will remain intact but the wall is merely a weak construct that won't be able to contain all the memories, Dean," Death spoke from where he stood in the corner, both hands on that cane he always carried.

Arms tightening automatically to shield, I glanced over at the only Horseman who ever was really straight with us. "Why?" I asked, needing to know that. "I failed your test, I lost the bet so why'd you do this?"

Questioning Death? Yeah, maybe not a wise move but he'd already come to know that I hardly ever treated anyone with proper respect. Why start now?

"You and Sam serve a purpose, Dean," he replied cryptically, shrugging. "You're actually doing some very fine detective work so I'd suggest you keep digging because it's the souls that are important. You will understand more when it's time to. In the meantime, I'd suggest you focus on helping him heal because Sam will still need your help."

No duh but I don't bother to say that…not that I could since the guy had upped and vanished on me again and I was left with my little brother who had slowly cried himself out but still clung to me.

"Look at me, Sammy?" I eased him back but made sure to keep a firm grip on his shoulder as I lifted his face to see what I'd been looking for.

Deep, soulful looking puppy dog hazel eyes staring up at me in both confusion and fear and I threw the normal 'no chick-flick moments' rule out the window in order to yank him back into my arms to hold him like I'd wanted to since I first woke up to him after the Djinn attack.

"It's okay, little brother," I promised, voice gruff from the tears I was holding back when I felt his arms reach up to hold on and right then a seven foot Smurf could attack and I wouldn't have let go of him.

I'm not sure how long we stayed that way though I had knew Cas was close since Sam's other restraints had vanished and I suddenly wanted him out of this damn room.

"Okay, kiddo, lets get you upstairs, find some food and then a real bed," I saw his eyes go down and knew on instinct what was wrong. "Sammy, you're alright. I'm here and we will face whatever comes just the two of us…though we might have to help Cas win his little war in Heaven so he won't bitch."

Sam finally lifted his eyes to look at me and I saw every damn fear, doubt, and emotion reflected in those big eyes. "How can you forgive me, Dean?" he asked me, bottom lip trembling in the way I knew meant tears would come soon. "I hurt you so damn bad in that cemetery, I let a vampire turn you, I didn't look hard enough when you were grabbed by…"

Placing a hand on one shaking shoulder while I used the other to gently grip the back of his neck I brought his head down closer to mine (have I mentioned hating the fact that my little brother was taller than me?) in order to keep contact.

"Sammy, I can forgive all of that and so much more for the same reason I will always forgive you and stand by you," I tell him quietly, waiting to make sure I have his attention. "You're my baby brother and I have loved you since the day Mom brought you home and I will always love you and look out for you…no matter how big a pain in the ass you can be at times…bitch."

It's been a long time since I used the familiar and often used in place of deeper emotion word and I just waited to see how he'd react, not expecting how much I counted on hearing one little word until I saw his lips move slightly and finally…

"Jerk," he tossed back, leaning closer when I wrapped one arm around him to lead him out of the panic room and out of the basement. "Dean…I…I…well, y'know…"

Letting my eyes focus on the top of the steps, I swallowed the lump that was in my throat and coughed. "Yeah, Sammy, I know you do," I reply, waiting until I had him halfway up to say four little words that had an immediate reaction in him. "I love you too."

"If you two idjits are done with the tear jerker in my basement, maybe you'd care to come up here and tell me just what the hell is going on?" Bobby's voice hollered down from where I knew he'd been waiting in case I needed help and things seemed right again…now if they'd just stay like that for about a week I'd be happy.

The End

A/N II: Well, this is it. I just had to do one in Dean's POV for some reason it came to me this morning and wouldn't let go. Enjoy.