A/N: Set post-Purgatory, just because.
Sam drove on through the dark, wet night. The winding road was surprisingly busy for such a late, rainy hour, but they weren't headed anywhere except the next motel, so Sam could mind the speed limit and the treacherous soggy leaves carpeting the black top, and just take his time getting wherever they would eventually end up.
On the bench seat next to Sam, Dean slept with his head against the window and Sam's jacket covering him like a blanket. He was congested a little, snoring a little, and dead, sound, asleep.
It'd been a simple enough hunt - simple enough since Dean killed Roman - separating a Levi from its head, on the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie. But Dean had started the day with a flush on his skin and a tickle in his throat, and accomplishing the kill in a chilly afternoon sun shower hadn't done anything good for either of those conditions. So after they'd burned the body and bagged and boxed up the head, Dean took shotgun with the jacket across him and the heater on full blast while Sam drove them to Lake Superior to dispose of the head.
Dean had fallen asleep not long after that and Sam let himself just revel - again - in the fact that he had Dean back. Again.
How many times had Sam gotten Dean back? He didn't want to count the losses anymore; he only wanted to count the wins. So all he counted was that he'd gotten Dean back every single time.
Each trip downstairs had changed them, each of them separately and both of them together. Dean's return from hell found them each hurt and wary, growing subtly farther and farther apart until Sam opened the Cage and thought he'd destroyed any way of them ever find they way back to being brothers again. And with their own special brand of Winchester luck, it seemed they found that niche of 'brotherness' again just thirty-seven hours before Sam jumped into hell.
His own return trip had been more prolonged, more confusing, more wretched, on so many levels. When Sam got his soul back, and when the Wall fell, Dean was ready and willing to be in perpetual Big Brother Overdrive, but Sam didn't have the strength to let Dean help him as much as Dean wanted to. Sam finally understood why Dean had kept Sam as far away from his horrors of hells as he could. The chaos, misery, confusion, and traumatic abnegation of everything that made you you was so utterly overwhelming, it wasn't that the one brother wouldn't understand what the other one went through, it's that the other one didn't fully understand himself what he'd been through, so there was no real way of telling it.
Dean's little trek through Purgatory was different though. It hadn't broken Dean, it'd strengthened him. Alive or dead or on some shadowy plane in between, Dean was a hunter. Dean was the best damn hunter Sam had ever known and being marooned in a world full of fuglies had sharpened every skill and technique Dean had in his arsenal and taught him more than a few more as well. And he'd survived, so he'd been successful and so he came back home bold, confident, and feeling at the top of his game. He came back Dean Winchester.
Sam had survived being marooned without Dean this time differently too. He'd been desperate, but not despairing. Dean getting sucked into Purgatory - and Sam had quickly realized that had to be where Dean & Cas had gone - was, amazingly enough, an accident. Dean and Cas were just too close to the blast field. There was no demon or angel to hunt down and negotiate with. Or torture, if it came to it. No twisted plans to decipher and unravel and scuttle and hope it was enough. There was a job to be done, and Sam got the job done and never once lost himself in the middle of it.
Finally, the brothers were back together - again - on the road, in the Impala, saving people, hunting things. So happy to be back together again that the insults had gone off the charts, and so had the number of moments of checking that they were still in each other's line of sight and hadn't just disappeared off somewhere.
Now, Dean was sick and that was okay. He'd dosed himself up with aspirin and orange juice and as soon as they got to a motel, Sam would tuck him into bed with more medicine and the heating pad and anything else Dean needed to be healing, resting and comfortable. Until then, he was just going to enjoy being in the car with his brother again.
After awhile Dean sat up, looking groggy. He scrubbed the side of his face that had been against the window, finished off the last of the orange juice from the bottle next to him on the seat, then blinked heavily and looked around at their dark surroundings. When his gaze fell on Sam, he blinked again and seemed to be considering him, and then he reached up and poked Sam's arm.
Apparently satisfied with whatever that told him, he gave a shallow nod and leaned over until his head was on Sam's shoulder.
In another minute, he was asleep again.
Sam decided to take his time finding them a motel for the night.