Dean was there. Sam could see him through the window. His big brother. But he didn't move. He didn't move an inch.

Sam could remember, when he and his brother had resumed hunting together, the times Dean would reach out and pull him into an embrace. Or he would clap Sam on the shoulder, or put a reassuring hand to his back. Even if they were at odds there would be a touch, if nothing more than a brushing of arms. A fond ruffling of hair. A punch on the arm.

Then their time together was filled with nothing but sidelong glances and shrugged off conversations. The Impala was suddenly getting more intimacy than Sam was, as Dean constantly gripped the wheel tightly, peering through the windshield. The tension was constant in Sam's chest, making the distance between them stretch as endlessly as the dark road ahead of them.

It had angered Sam. He hadn't changed that much! Had he? He still felt like Sam Winchester. Maybe he was more in control. Wasn't that what Dean wanted, for him to be able to take care of himself? To be in control of himself? He doubted it. And so they went on.

When Dean had died, Sam turned into a machine. He trained hard, daily, in ways he'd never done before. His body became stone. His will turned into iron, along with his muscles. The mirror showed how his face had hardened. He was in complete control, or so he thought.

It had been hard for him when Dean returned. Sure, he was glad to get his brother back. But he could feel himself sinking back into the little brother role, and he fought it with all his being. He didn't want it! And there were times when he had to take over, and it worked for him. Oddly enough Dean didn't seem as broken after his ordeal in hell as he did after their dad had died, and a part of Sam was glad. He was expecting to have to put Dean back together, and he found he didn't want to. Even though he asked, he didn't want to face what Dean had gone through for him. He felt endless guilt. And he felt Dean didn't want it, that he had come back so internally bruised that he didn't even want a brother anymore. Sam was confused.

Then it was his turn to face the pit.

He knew in that final moment before he fell just how much Dean really cared for him, depended on him. He saw it in Dean's beaten, abused eyes. Dean had brought him back, after all. Sold his soul and continued the chain of events that Sam was about to put an end to. The panic in Dean's eyes, the subtle shake of his head...Sam regretted having wasted all that time. It was his last thought as he went over the edge.

The fall took forever, and yet one second. His torment was agony. He faced down evil itself, and sat the core of its being.

When he came back, he wanted to be alone.

He had to process.

There was no doubt the machine had taken on a harder shell. Sam Winchester, he suddenly realized, had indeed died. There was no going back.

And standing there underneath the artificial halo of streetlight, seeing Dean in Lisa's house, he wasn't sure he wanted to go back.

But he couldn't deny the ache he felt, when Dean put his hand to Lisa's back.