The first thing Sam notices when he wakes up is the Devil's trap painted on the ceiling above his head. It's done in white paint that's gone grey with age and the contamination of countless souls trapped beneath its symbols and curves. It's familiar to Sam like gas stations and bullet wounds, so familiar that he doesn't understand it at first. He squints his eyes and the whole thing seems to pulse like a heart beating under water.
The second thing Sam notices is that he can't reach up to touch the Devil's trap, because he's tied to a chair in Bobby's study.
He jerks automatically, ropes cutting painfully into his wrists and legs. They're tied mercilessly tight, and he already knows he's not getting out of them without a knife. There's one still strapped around his ankle, but he has no way of reaching it. Realizing there's no gag in his mouth, Sam starts to yell for Dean.
"He ain't coming, Sam." Something that looks like Bobby appears in the doorway, a rifle held loosely in its hands. The expression it wears on Bobby's face is tired and sick, with a redness to its eyes that suggests it's been crying.
"What are you?" Sam demands. "What have you done to Bobby?"
"Nothing," the Bobby-thing answers. It switches the rifle to one hand to flick some holy water over its arm then run a finger down a silver blade. "I'm not possessed, and I ain't some shifter or anything that like neither. I'm all me, unfortunately."
"I don't believe you," Sam spits. "And when Dean gets here, he's going to murder you."
"Dean ain't coming." The Bobby-thing passes a hand over its face, and when it drops it back to the barrel of the gun he looks, if possible, even sicker than before. "Jesus, Sam, why did it have to come to this?"
"Come to what?" Sam is still scanning the room, still tugging on his robes, and he can't help but notice there's no sign of a struggle. It would be an almost unheard of occurrence for something supernatural to get the jump on Bobby Singer without him putting up a fight. "And what the hell have you done to Dean?"
"I haven't touched him," Bobby says in a voice Sam has only heard him use when he's in the middle of burying a friend. He doesn't meet Sam's eyes, swallowing like he's about to throw up.
"I don't believe you!" Sam bellows back at him because he is kind of starting to, and it's scaring the shit out of him. He wants to go back to the moment when he was safely dying in Dean's arms, not this fucked up realitywhere Bobby ties him to a chair and acts like the world has ended. "Dean! Dean, get your ass in here! Dean!"
"I told you, he ain't coming." Bobby's voice breaks and he puts his hand over his eyes again, but this time he doesn't remove it for a long time. When his shoulders stop shaking and he finally looks back at Sam it's with an expression Sam recognizes immediately from Hell. It's the expression of a soul that knows something worse than it's own nightmares is coming for blood, and there's nothing that can stop it. "Sam… Dean's dead."
Sam goes cold, every muscle in his body freezing instantly to ice. For a second, he can't speak, he can hardly even breathe, then what comes out is almost a scream. "You're lying! What have you done to him? Dean! DEAN!"
"I didn't do a damn thing to him, Sam." Bobby sounds wrecked, and at the same time more helpless and more furious than Sam has ever heard him sound before. "You did. Dean's been dead for five months."
Sam can't breathe. He's tied to a chair and there's a Devil's trap on the ceiling and Bobby is holding a gun and he's telling Sam Dean is dead and Sam can't breathe.
"You're lying," he says again faintly.
"I wish I was. Hell, I'd give anything to— But Dean was dead ten minutes after he pulled you outta Hell, when you put your hand through his chest like it was nothing."
Bobby's voice goes gruffer, and though Sam's vision has gone hazy he's sure Bobby's hands have tightened on the gun. "You murdered him, Sam. You left me here beaten half to death and you took off with your brother's corpse riding shotgun."
"No." Sam's is shaking his head, trying to block out Bobby's words and all the images he's shoving into Sam's mind. "Dean's fine, we've been traveling together, we have a house—"
"You've been traveling and you have a house. All Dean's got is some shoddy protections spells keeping the maggots and insects from eating what's left of his face and a brother who can't accept the fact that he's a killer now. Think about it, Sam. Think about what you've been doing."
Sam keeps shaking his head, but with his hands tied down he can't block his ears and Bobby's words slither inside and take hold. He sees the panic room when he first woke up, and he sees it with blood smeared across the walls and a piece of Dean's ribs on the floor near his foot. He sees the first motel room they stayed in, and the fleur-de-lis trapping the scent of decay from Dean laying still on the bed, one of his eye sockets a gaping hole. He sees their house, him carrying Dean from the couch to the bed, the kitchen to the front porch.
The images sear across Sam's brain like a brush fire, and he gags from the pain.
"I'm not…" he chokes out, eyes rolling in his skull as he forces himself to forget the horrifying images this whole awful situation is making his mind conjure. "I haven't killed anyone."
"Oh believe me, Sam, you have, and you ain't exactly been subtle about it. You threw yourself through a window in a diner in North Dakota and murdered two innocent folks in the parking lot. Three other bodies were found in a river in Nebraska. And now there's been a bunch of disappearances in Kansas. Seems anyone that ventures down a certain side-road by a certain house don't come back again."
"That's not… Those were zombies, they came after us, I wouldn't…"
Bobby snorts. The sound is ugly and full of pain. "There ain't no such thing like the monsters you've convinced yourself you've been fighting, and you know it. They were only zombies because that's what you wanted them to be. Or because you know that's what Dean woulda wanted them to be."
"No, Dean didn't…" The pain in Sam's head throbs like a blister ready to burst. "He was happy, Bobby, before they came. He was— I don't remember him being so happy in a long time."
"Goddammit, Sam!" Bobby's body jerks like all of his emotion is suddenly too much to keep inside, and the butt of the rifle slams into the wall. "Cas was right. You have no idea." His swings the gun back around, training it on Sam. "We should never have brought you back."
"Bobby, please." Sam twists his hands against the ropes until he feels blood starting to run down his skin. The blister in his head ruptures, spilling something black and slick, and leaving behind a deep hole. "Please, I haven't done anything. I've been fighting these things from Hell, with Dean. He's fine, Bobby, I swear—"
"You are so broken, boy." Bobby gives him one look of utter sadness before his face goes cold and he cocks the gun. "And we all own a little blame for thinking we could pull you out of Hell and you wouldn't be. Dean's paid his price. Now it's time I pay mine."
"Bobby, please!" Sam wrenches at the robes, the pain sending bright sparks into the dark pit inside of him. "Don't do this! I haven't done anything, I swear! I'm not evil!"
"I'll burn your body with your brother's," Bobby murmurs quietly. "The way it should have been."
There's a blast, and everything goes red. Sam thinks he sees the Devil's trap on the ceiling split from the impact, but the next thing he knows he's standing in the middle of the room. There's a bloodied knife in his hand.
He looks down to find a body sprawled at his feet, and he panics for a moment, eyes burning and throat closing before something shifts into place and he sees the streaming skin. It's not Bobby. It was a shifter after all.
He drops the knife at that sound and runs to the front doors, bursting into the yard and looking around wildly. He spots the Impala first, and two steps later he's standing in front of his brother.
Dean grabs onto Sam's arm. "Are you alright?" he asks.
"Yes." Sam grabs him back. Dean feels real, solid, and alive. "I'm fine."
"I thought it was Bobby too, man, and then he grabbed you and—"
"No, Dean. I'm fine." Sam smiles as he starts to realize it himself. His head doesn't hurt anymore, there's no blood in his mouth and he feels like he can draw breath all the way into his lungs. There's a slight pain and lot of pressure on his shoulder, almost as if he's holding something heavy up, but that's nothing. That he can ignore.
"You mean—?" Dean quickly checks him over, then his face splits into an answering grin. "I told you Sammy! I knew you'd get better!"
Sam laughs, and pulls Dean in for a hug. For a second he thinks he catches the whiff of a rotting corpse. It makes him jerk back and there's a moment, a tiny fraction of a moment where he sees Dean with his skin grey and hanging off his bones, his chest cracked open and dismantled like a car in a shop, one eye clouded and lifeless and the other one missing entirely from his face.
But then Sam blinks, and it's gone.
"You're okay," Dean tells him, his smile brighter than the sun.
"Of course I am." Sam pulls him in for another hug, pressing in as close as he can get. He can only feel one heartbeat between the two of them, but that's okay. They can share.
Dean tilts his face up and Sam kisses him, full and deep.
"I'm not leaving you," Sam promises against Dean's lips while Dean breathes his air. "Not ever."