Sam had always had trouble keeping his priorities straight. A good example of that was when his brother had returned from hell. Sam had been so blinded by revenge, so focused on doing everything he could to kill Lilith, that he had ignored his brother and pushed aside all of his warnings. And what had happened when he had done that? Lucifer was freed. This was a drastic example of skewed priorities, yes, but in his and Dean's line of work, drastic was the norm. Being hunters, they had to keep their priorities straight or risk…well, ending the world.

He had changed since then. He had done everything he could to regain Dean's trust, to rebuild their relationship. He thought he had realigned his priorities and decided what was most important to him.

He was wrong.

Regaining his brother's trust was nothing. The most important thing was finding Dean safe and alive.

Sam dispatched the being that had taken his brother after a long, grueling fight and searched the deserted building with a growing sense of dread. His brother was supposed to be here. Dean was supposed to be in this building! But as the search continued, as room after room was cleared, panic ratcheted up another level, because Sam couldn't find him. His repeated shouts for his brother went unanswered and he was fast running out of places to check.

He was here, he had to be. Sam could feel that pull, that awareness that he and his brother had for each other, and it told him he was close. He paused in front of the last door, his hand lingering on the doorknob. He made time for one quick plea—please, be here—and flung the door open.

It was a basement, pitch black. It was such a suffocating darkness that he stayed in the doorway, hand scrambling against the wall for the light switch, not once looking away from the black hole that threatened to swallow him. The heavy feeling passed once the light flooded the stairs and what little of the room he could see, and he stepped hesitantly down the stairs. He held his knife in front of him, eyes sweeping across the floor until he cleared the low ceiling and saw the figure lying on the floor, cringing away from the light. He froze for a moment. His brother… But it couldn't be Dean, because this pale figure was too small and too fragile to be him. It couldn't be…

The tremor that went through the figure unfroze Sam, and he ran down the final few steps, breath caught in his throat as he realized it was his brother and that he was there, finally, after all this time. He slid on his knees as he reached Dean's side, the knife clattering to the ground as he reached out to grasp him.

"Dean! Dean, I found you, man. It's over. Dean…Dean? It's okay; it's over, I promise. Can you open your eyes?" His pleas went unanswered, but Dean's face furrowed in confusion, as if he were trying to place the voice and the hands touching him. Sam studied his brother, noting the injuries and the bruises as he swept his eyes across the trembling body.

He let the words continue, not even bothering to think about what he was saying. He only knew that he needed to see if his brother was okay. He slid his hands down Dean's arms, letting the touch reassure him that his brother was still there, still alive.

Sam spoke louder, needing Dean to listen to him, to open his eyes and see him. The confusion changed into an expression Sam recognized as weariness as Dean slowly pulled away, tucking his hands even tighter against his body and screwing his eyes closed even further. He was shutting Sam out, in the only way his battered body allowed him to do so. The sudden swell of anger towards the being that had hurt his brother was so severe that Sam's fingers trembled with the force of it. The emotion was gone as fast as it came. He needed to keep all of his energy focused on helping Dean.

Sam kept speaking, kept telling Dean that it was over, that everything was okay, all the while hoping that his brother was hearing him. It wouldn't be the first time that one of their voices brought the other back from the darkness, but there was no sigh of relief, no smile that broke across Dean's face. He shook Dean's arm gently, but that still didn't bring any reaction from his brother. Finally, he slid his hand up to gently squeeze his brother's neck in a gesture they both were familiar with. How many times had he felt Dean clasp his neck when he had been grieving for Jess, or when he was sick or hurt? And every time he could get away with it, Sam would return the touch—although it was usually only when Dean was too sick or hurt to push away the comfort.

Dean shuddered and Sam talked faster, hoping that he was finally getting through to him. He gave another squeeze and saw Dean's eyebrows furrow. Why wouldn't he just open his eyes?

Dean's mouth quirked in amusement and Sam's voice faltered. "Dean? Come on, Dean. Please, please, open your eyes. Open your eyes, it's okay. It's over, I found you."

The agitation those words caused his brother was obvious. Dean shook his head slightly, a frown marring his face.

"It's me, Dean. Come on man, open your eyes."

Dean's mouth moved and Sam leaned even closer to him, tilting his head to catch the words.

"Go…'way…"

"Go…go away?" Sam frowned, shaking his head emphatically. "I'm not leaving you, Dean. I'm not. Come on, open your eyes." It was important. Dean had to open his eyes. This nightmare wouldn't be over until Sam saw those hazel eyes peaking out at him.

Sam grabbed Dean's hands, calmly messaging his fingers until they hung loose in Sam's hands, the tension slowly melting from his body. A few moments later and he realized the limpness wasn't only from Dean relaxing. He wasn't conscious anymore. Sam swore softly before carefully placing his hands under his brother's body and lifting.

At least he wasn't in pain anymore.

He took the time to pull his brother even closer, letting Dean's head roll forward until it rested against Sam's neck. He buried his face into Dean's shoulder, breathing "I'm sorry. So sorry."

He didn't know how long he had been in the basement before he emerged; he only knew that it had been late afternoon when he had started his search for Dean and that the sun was just setting when he carried his brother to the car. He hesitated beside the Impala, debating on whether he should put Dean in the back, or next to him in the front seat. The decision was made when he couldn't stomach the thought of even a seat separating him from his brother after he'd finally gotten him back. He carefully placed his brother on the seat before jogging over to the driver's side and sliding into the seat. Gently, he pulled his brother towards him, wrapping his arm around him until his palm rested against his brother's chest, the steady heartbeat reminding him of how resilient and strong Dean was.

He let his words taper off, letting the sound of Dean's beloved car fill the silence. He drove away from the building, looking into the rearview mirror to glare at the building that had hidden his brother from him. He would return later to set fire to the thing that had taken his brother from him. If he didn't think it would draw too much attention, he would be tempted to set fire to the whole building to erase any and all evidence of the torture Dean had endured.

Sam's fault. It was all Sam's fault, yet again—his brother getting hurt because Sam couldn't save him. It was the same loop repeating, over and over and over again. He should have gotten here sooner. His brother never should have had to suffer through this.

He was lost in his thoughts when he felt Dean's breathing change. Glancing down, he saw Dean's face crumple, the corners of his mouth pulling down, his forehead crinkling. He had only seen that look of grief on his brother's face a few times, like when Sam had lost himself in his own grief over Jess so badly that he couldn't breathe through the broken sobs and when Dean had lost all hope and said yes to Michael. It didn't make any sense for Dean to be grieving. Unless…

"Dean?" He asked as he pulled the car over. "What's wrong?" He repositioned Dean, letting him lean against the door as he left one hand on Dean's arm, the other resting against Dean's neck.

"Sorry…sorry…'m sorry…" he whispered.

"No. No, Dean; there's nothing to be sorry for!" It didn't make sense. Why was his brother apologizing? He had done nothing wrong!

"Sorry…S'mmy…sorry…"

Sam felt his eyes fill at the broken apology. "Dean, open your eyes." The same urge that he had felt in the basement, for Dean to open his eyes and see him, returned. He had a feeling that all of this would be…not over, but easier when Dean opened his eyes and saw he was safe, when he saw that Sam was there with him.

"No." Dean shook his head in agitation.

Sam huffed a sigh, his mixed emotions momentarily stilling his tongue. He was frustrated, because he needed Dean to see him and he wouldn't open his eyes! And it hurt to see his brother like this, stubbornly refusing to do something as simple as opening his eyes and seeing that his nightmare was finally over. "Why not?" He finally managed to ask.

"Not real. You're not real…'S not real…" He whispered.

Sam took a quick breath, his eyes sliding shut in comprehension, his face twisting with sorrow. Dean. It made sense now. If his brother didn't think this was real, if he was saying sorry…then he was apologizing for breaking. He stopped himself from rubbing a hand across his face, knowing that he would have to break his connection with his brother if he did that.

He could fix this. He could. "Dean." He squeezed Dean's shoulder. "It's real, man. I promise. Trust me, Dean."

Dean pursed his lips together, his eyebrows furrowing. He was thinking about it.

"Please." Sam said before he held his breath, afraid another word would make Dean shut down completely.

It took Dean a few moments to make his decision, but finally, finally, he opened his eyes.

"Sam…"

One word. One word, filled with relief and hope and joy was all it took for Sam to realize that his brother had found his way back. Sam smiled, blinking away the tears that suddenly filled his eyes. He leaned forward to rest his forehead against his brother's. Despite Dean's protests in the past over his dislike of chick-flick moments, Dean wasn't pulling away, wouldn't pull away; and Sam knew it was because he needed this touch, needed it to confirm what he was seeing.

Dean closed his eyes, but this time it wasn't to hide. It was in content, and the sigh that fell from his lips was another sign of his relief.

"Found…me," the exhausted voice stated.

Sam nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. "Yeah. I never stopped looking."

Dean's body started to grow limp, but he managed to say one more thing before was completely out. "Thank you."

Sam shook his head and huffed. "Thank you," he replied. For not giving up, for still being here.

For trusting me.

He let his hand rest against his brother's neck for another moment before he drove away.


AN: First off, thanks again to TotallyLosingIt for checking over this chapter for me! Also, my thanks to those of you who left a review for the first chapter. I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts on this chapter, too. Until next time!