Author's Notes: It has been FOREVER since I've written anything, so please forgive me for being so rusty with it. Anyway, this is my first time delving into SPN fandom, so please to be gentle with me! Mostly I'll probably be poking and prodding the characters and seeing what I can get from them.

Usual Disclaimers: I do not own Supernatural. Characters, plot, and themes from the show belong to Eric Kripke and more recently to Sera Gamble. But yeah, you get the idea.

...

Silent Lucidity

...

He was looking at his phone again.

Thumb on the call button but still. Not moving and it never would make the final push. It was as if it would be the deciding factor—to stay, to leave.

That wasn't true, though. Not exactly.

It was fear. It was regret. It was loss. It was resignation.

It made Sam sick to see this tragic tableau yet again upon entering the motel room they were staying at. It tore at his heart—soul, he knew now that that was were he felt the pain in his chest. One of those moments where it felt like he was intruding on something that he had no right to, not after everything they'd been through for the past few months. Not after the way he had treated his brother. Soul or no soul, Sam should have known better. He should have been able to stop himself.

He shouldn't look at this sad scene and think to himself and know that while his decision to let the vampire get to his brother was wrong, it had been the most effective.

It had been so wrong, though. It had been that choice that had ripped Dean fully out of the attempt at normal and back into the reality of the hunt.

Lisa never called. It tore at Dean, Sam knew. In those times he thought Sam wasn't paying attention or was elsewhere, he'd do this. Go quiet, pull out his phone, and just stare at it as if it held the answers to everything, as if he could somehow relay to Lisa how much he loved her, how much he hated himself for whatever had happened to have her cut him off from her and Ben. As if it would be enough to have her call him, take him back.

The phone remained still and silent in his hand. No familiar guitar riff—was that even the ringtone Dean had for Lisa? Maybe someone had finally taught him how to program in different ringtones so he didn't have to bother looking at the ID to see who was calling...

Sam's stomach did an awkward flop and sink, not knowing how to break the silence without bringing attention to his brother's off-guarded moment. Dean always hated being seen as vulnerable, hated to be seen on his lows. Even during the Apocalypse and everything going on back then, only when he was at his most desperate-when there seemed to be no way out, no other option, backed into a corner by the angels and the demons and the horsemen like a frightened animal... that had been when Dean let on most what he was feeling.

But maybe that changed, too?

Sam could remember everything that had happened the past few months, albeit with a bit more emotion to it. He could remember the Djinn coming after Dean, could remember the house that his brother and Lisa and Ben had called home for a year, could remember how freaked out Dean had gotten at the idea of something happening to either of them. He could remember Dean holding the shapeshifter baby, lulling it to sleep, knowing how to take care of it despite how much he argued that he had no idea what to do, hating and loathing the idea of a group of hunters raising it. He could remember how green in the face Dean had been when faced with the deaths thanks to the Staff of Moses, how horrified he had been when Castiel and Sam himself knew that putting a kid through torture to get information was the best way to go about things. He could remember Dean white-knuckling his way through four barf bags on the airplane when heading to Scotland to collect Crowley's bones, threatening to use his plastic fork if anyone tried to head to the emergency exit door while over the Atlantic Ocean... all of that for Bobby.

Sam almost wished he couldn't remember the fiasco with the vampire. The way how Dean had looked after the vamp had gotten away, almost as broken and defeated as he had appeared when ready to say yes to Michael. Sam knew why that was. Dean was terrified and worst of all, he had believed that he would never be able to see Lisa and Ben again as human. Which is why Dean had run off to say his goodbyes. Which, of course, ended miserably. Typical of the Winchesters' luck.

If Sam had just told him of the cure...

It wasn't your fault, Sam. It wasn't you.

That was what Dean kept telling him, but even so... after that time, trust had been hard to come by.

He could remember the case with Veritas, remember lying to Dean's face and Dean believing him—wanting to believe him—only to find out that it was all a lie, that Sam was worse than broken, he was a monster. The anger and betrayal and fear written across Dean's face during that time between Veritas revealing that truth and Castiel proclaiming Sam to be without his soul spoke volumes. Sam guessed it was bad enough that Dean believed he failed his brother by having let him fallen into the Pit, but to find out that very same brother was now at the level of the fuglies they hunted on a daily basis? That could have destroyed Dean.

He said that I had to... save you. He just said that I had to save you, that nothing else mattered, and if I couldn't... I'd have to kill you.

If Sam thought he had any right to anymore, he could curse their father once again for giving Dean that final order, for putting it into Dean's head... forever and always that Dean was responsible for whatever actions Sam had chosen. For making Dean think that one day, he'd have to kill his own brother—the boy he'd nearly single-handedly raised...

But the anger toward John Winchester was long gone, years cold.

The anger, the sorrow, the shame that Sam felt... that was very much the forefront now, these days.

Remembering how Dean had made himself Sam's moral compass while he was soulless, taking on that burden as naturally as all the other times he'd protected Sam, it weighed on Sam. He could even remember the way how Dean stood up to their grandfather, Samuel, accused him and put his foot down on capturing the Alpha, on working for Crowley... and yet, Dean had still had a moment to spare to keep Sam from shooting Samuel right there and then.

Their roles had been switched. Suddenly, it was Sam who was the quick-triggered shoot first ask questions later, who ran off with some UFO hippy while his brother was God knows where—something Dean himself would never have done in the past, not if Sam had been in danger. Suddenly, it was Dean taking the moral stance, keeping Sam reined in and focused on the hunt—or rather, the more subtle mannerisms with the hunt such as talking with that skinwalker, or dealing with the victims.

Or maybe it wasn't so suddenly. Dean had always had that compassionate side to him, always had been a caring individual hidden behind layers of sarcasm, ill-timed jokes, undignified behavior, and self-doubt. The layers were just paper-thin now, as if Dean stopped trying to pretend no one saw through his acts, as if it just didn't matter anymore. It probably didn't. The year with Lisa and Ben... it could have been the most honest time Dean had ever been to himself, finally having the home he'd lost at the age of four years old.

And even that wasn't true. And Sam knew it. Knew that it had to have been hell for Dean to go through the motions of that year, knowing where Sam was...

Sam remembered all of this, everything. He could see the reasonings and logic behind all the actions, but that was probably the worst thing. Even with a soul, Sam felt... numb. Like he couldn't process everything that had happened. It was too much, it was not him—

It wasn't you.

Having his soul back changed his views on what had happened in recent months, made him ache knowing that he'd ripped Dean from the one place he may have stood a chance to finally live a life he deserved, that their own grandfather had betrayed them to demons and eventually Dean himself threatened to kill the man who swore up and down that he was doing it all for their mother, as though his grandsons meant so little...

Worst, Sam had more than threatened someone who might as well be family during that time. He'd tried to kill Bobby. To keep his soul out. He knew Dean's plan was only a temporary fix, only enough to hold everything at bay so he wasn't overwhelmed by what happened in the cage. Over a year and a half inside the cage, trapped with Lucifer, Michael, Adam...

You may feel a little... itchy. Do me a favor. Don't scratch the wall.

Death had done him no favors.

But Sam would never say that to Dean, not after everything that his brother had gone through for him, with him, because of him.

Not when he looked so forlornly at his phone, waiting for the call that would never come. Without his soul, Sam would find the whole thing pathetic. With his soul, it was just... tragic. A reminder of how unfair and wrecked their lives were.

In some ways, Sam could see that losing Jess the way he had... could have been easier. More traumatizing, for certain, but it had been quick and Sam had found purpose in the hunt, in revenge, in his brother, in family. He was stronger for it, but at the same time, worse off for it. All he had was the memory of Jess, nothing more. With Lisa... at least Dean had the knowledge that she was still alive, but even that wasn't a certainty. Without a call or a check in, without being able to be there to protect her, literally anything could get Lisa or Ben. Instead of finding purpose again, Dean had just lost it again. Too soon.

Sam had had four years of normalcy.

Dean had only had the one.

"Better to have had and lost than to have never had at all."

Sam felt like he could gut whoever came up with that saying, but that was probably the soulless side of him talking.

He remembered nothing of Hell, or if he remembered anything, it was all in flashes—fear, pain, anger—all in a blink and then gone. The itch that Death had told him would be there was, indeed, there. All the time. And it was much like that time when Dean had told Sam not even to scratch his nose after losing the rabbit's foot.

Sam tried to resist scratching, but sometimes, he just didn't even notice he was doing it until some wear in the wall Death had erected showed.

In fact, he felt the itch right then as he was opening the door and entering, all of these thoughts happening within a second, just long enough for Dean to eventually notice him.

"Want me to order take-out? Chinese or pizza?"

It was a front, a cover.

Sam let him have that comfort as he tossed his bag down onto the table.

"Whatever you feel like having," he said with a sigh, weary and tired.

Dean, motherhen that he could be, eyed him while not overtly lifting his head. "You okay?"

Dude, I'm okay. I'm okay! Okay? I swear the next person to ask me if I'm okay, I'm gonna start throwing punches!

"... 'bout what you'd expect," Sam mumbled in answer instead of using the very same words his brother had used before, shuffling over to pour himself a glass of whiskey. It was really too bad that he didn't really get the appeal of the drink until the year before he took the dive.

There was a beat of silence before his brother offered up, "Think I found something in our field down in Louisiana."

He inwardly groaned. "Dean, last time we went there, there was a hoodoo witch who was threatening to turn your intestines to ash because you slept with her granddaughter—"

"Dude, she was hot. And legal," protested Dean predictably. "And how was I supposed to know she had family in that practice? Anyway, I'd be more worried about you getting threatened this time around."

Sam tried not to flinch. He knew his brother hadn't meant it like that, but still...

He took a long drink of the alcohol, feeling the burn of it in his mouth, on his tongue, down his throat before turning and sitting on the bed next to Dean's. Research-geek cap on, as Dean would call it, Sam pulled up his laptop. "So what'd you find?"

Dean leaned forward to explain his findings, phone still in his right hand even as he used that index finger to point out the areas mentioned in the news articles he'd been looking into.

He'd probably always be expecting that call.

Whether or not he'd actually get it was something altogether different, and Sam could not feel worse for it.

But they were slowly feeling each other out again, trying to get back into a rhythm again. Once again, they were all they had and there was no telling how long it would last. They had been through this before, though, several times in fact. And all throughout those times, even when they hurt each other more than anything out there in the world, they remained the brothers they had always been, will always be. Sam wished they could be the same people they were... as kids—hell, even six years ago.

Then again, probably not.

Not if it meant taking away what they had, what they worked so hard to gain through their losses.

fin.


Author's notes: I felt like writing a thing, so I wrote a thing. Derp. That's pretty much it. Anyway, thanks for reading if you actually read! As you can tell, this was more of a character study than anything else. Because there sure as hell gonna be some awkwardness between the brothers again. Soooo much that went on this season so far, plus the year Sam was in the Cage and Dean was playing house. D'awww. Thanks again!