A/N: First of all I'd like to thank klu, BranchSuper, and mandancie for their reviews of my last chapter. Thank you so much for your support, it means so much! Thanks also to those who have followed, favorited, or even just read this story. I really appreciate it! DISCLAIMER: I don't own Supernatural or any of its characters. All rights reserved.
When Sam awakened, he half expected to find himself in a hospital room, his friends and family by his side, the strong smell of disinfectant mingling with the overpowering scent of flowers, and tacky gift shop memorabilia, complete with the standard stuffed teddy bear and colourful Get Well Soon balloons. In fact, when Sam didn't recognize his surroundings, anxiety nearly overwhelmed him. Where am I? What happened? Sam blinked, staring at the dingy ceiling above, yellowed from years of cigarette smoke and the occasional stains from water damage that had obviously been ignored. No, hospitals were never this crappy, even the shitty ones. He closed his eyes, surprised that he wasn't feeling the expected fire in his belly from where he had stabbed himself.
And then, he heard a voice: soft, familiar, overcome with emotion. A voice that Sam Winchester had believed he would never hear again.
He'd recognize that voice anywhere.
Slowly, Sam reopened his eyes, squinting in the brightness. He was in a crappy motel room, on an uncomfortable double bed; and Dean was at his side, eyes which had only minutes ago been fraught with worry and bright with unshed tears were now filled with relief. "Thank God," Dean murmured, one calloused hand brushing against first Sam's throat, and then his cheek. "Thank God. I thought I'd lost you, kiddo."
But Sam couldn't reply; just stared at his brother in awe and gratitude. At the man that he had lost, had buried; had spoken about at his own damned funeral. And yet, there he stood before him, alive and breathing and just there, caring for him, loving him, being there for him. The emotions overwhelmed Sam, and he felt that he would have cried if there were any tears left. Instead, he reached faintly for Dean's hand, just feeling the need to hold it and never let go. Yeah, it would be the mother of all chick flick moments, but at the moment, Sam didn't give a shit. He had lost his brother, and had gotten him back. Maybe it had been a manifestation created by the Djinn, but to Sam, it had been all too real. "Dean," he whispered, voice hoarse from lack of use.
"I'm here, Sammy, I'm right here little brother. I've got ya." Dean accepted his brother's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. The feeling of the other brother's grasp was a comfort to both Winchesters. Sam lay there, relishing in the presence of his older brother, memories of those horrible days fading like autumn leaves falling at the coming of winter. It was all just a horrible dream. Because Sam could finally accept that the life of his dreams was, in fact, not what he really desired after all. He loved Jessica with all his heart, dearly wished that his parents were alive and well. But he knew, deep down, that his life was in reality that of a hunter, with Dean. A life where research was spent not on case files, but on Wendigo sightings and vengeful spirits; where home was not a suburban home with Jess at his side and a kid or two, but riding shotgun in the Impala, listening to Dean's off key renditions of "Master of Puppets" or "Ride the Lightning"; where instead of roast beef dinners on Sunday afternoons, he shared cold pizza and beer in crappy motel rooms with his brother, watching cheesy horror movies on AMC. This was his life. And it sucked sometimes, but it was what he knew. What he wanted.
"How long?" In a voice barely above a whisper, but Dean knew what his brother was asking. "About four days," he answered. "God, Sam, you were unconscious for four freaking days and I couldn't do a damn thing about it." He massaged his temple, the ghost of days of stress headaches haunting him. Sam realized just how old beyond his years Dean looked just then: deep circles under usually vivid green eyes, face ashen, a few days' worth of stubble making him look years older. "You wouldn't wake up, man. I couldn't do anything, had to just sit there and hope you'd dig yourself out." He paused for a moment, almost hesitant to ask. "What made you do it?"
Sam closed his eyes, not really wanting to answer. But he was the one who usually was in to the whole "sharing and caring" thing. Had practically begged Dean to open up when he clearly didn't want to. And the guy had just spent days at his bedside, caring for him. Had given him his own blood, for goddsake. He owed him this much.
Dean looked down at Sam, saw the pain on the kid's face even now, and simply nodded his head in understanding. Of course he must have died. If the roles had been reversed, it would have probably taken something as drastic as that to bring him out of it too. Without a word, he handed his brother a glass of water, made him take a sip. The kid was probably going to be talking for a while, even when he shouldn't be.
"Everything was perfect. Mom and Dad were alive, so was Jess. We were actually married, and you were my best man."
"Of course I was." Now that Sam was out of danger, Dean felt his usual self come back from hibernation. The one who cracked mild jokes to keep his emotions in check. Dean was Sam's best man at his wedding? God, no wonder the kid wanted to stay.
"Had a good job at the local law firm, too. Paralegal. Shitty hours but pretty good money. And you had a kid, Dean. A beautiful woman and a little boy. You named him Sammy." If Sam had looked up at the moment, he would have seen the wetness in Dean's emerald eyes. But his eyes remained closed, remembering. "You were happy, Dean. And then there was the accident. Hit head on by a drunk driver."
"And I kept getting these flashes. At first they were dreams. I could hear you calling me, but couldn't see you. Saw close ups of me, looking like I was asleep. And there was this girl. Brunette, wearing a tank top and penguin sleep pants."
"She was one of the Djinn's other victims. Found her while I was looking for you."
Sam nodded. "Makes sense." He paused a moment, allowing Dean to give him another sip of water; the cold liquid slid comfortably down his throat and he let out a small, grateful sigh before continuing. "Told Pleasantville you about it, freaked you out a bit, but you seemed to actually believe me. Even if you did think I was, uh, what did you call it…"
"'Dingo ate my baby' crazy?" Dean suggested and Sam smiled faintly. "Yeah, that's it." God, his brother was so predictable. He had never realized just how comfortable life was with Dean, how much he knew him. Sure, he knew that he could trust Dean with his life, and vice versa. But their banter, how they worked and lived together. It was a well-choreographed dance, mastered from years of experience. Would he have felt that comfort in his alternate reality? As much as he loved that version of Dean, and vice versa, he wasn't completely sold on the idea that they would have worked together so seamlessly.
"And then I saw this vision of me lying on a bed, and you're giving me a blood transfusion or something. And I…I…well, I remembered my priorities."
Dean looked down at Sam, amazed. He'd had a vision of him giving him blood? And that had brought him back? Swallowing the lump that was forming at the back of his throat, Dean turned away, afraid that Sam would see him cry. After a few moments, struggling to regain his composure, Dean finally spoke up. "Well, I'm glad you did," he said hoarsely. Sam nodded, leaning back deeper into his pillows. He hated being so helpless, but guess that was what four days of unconsciousness did to you, huh? He wanted to keep talking, ask Dean how he had found him, but in moments had fallen asleep. Only this time, when he awakened, he knew that Dean would be there, waiting.
It was a good three or four days before Sam was strong enough to head out. To be honest, he would have gladly taken a few more days in the motel, relaxing and spending time with his brother. As horrible as the ordeal with the Djinn had been, Sam had admittedly enjoyed the forced downtime with his brother. True, the first day had been spent mostly sleeping, while Dean finally rested his injured ankle and watched daytime TV, but the other days were spent together, enjoying each other's company. For the first day or so, Sam had stared in awe at his brother, still finding it hard to believe he was alive, until Dean told him to "cut it out, for Christ's sake, Sam, you're giving me the freaking creeps". When Sam was at last convinced that Dean was, in fact, real and very much alive, he felt himself relax. Dean had rented some classics from the local video store (Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack) and the brothers had spent many an hour laughing hysterically at Bill Murray's hilarious hijinks. At one point, Sam had dared to break the light mood by asking how he had been found, and Dean reluctantly told the story of how he had found the Djinn's lair and the seemingly hundreds of victims he had found before finally finding his younger brother. He omitted the fact that the Djinn had almost killed him in the process, and thankfully, Sam hadn't pressed for further details. By the fifth day following his return to the real world, the brothers finally checked out, heading to Oregon for a simple salt and burn. Start off small, right? Dean had said and Sam had nodded. In all honesty, he felt good enough to tackle anything, even a rugaru or shifter, not just a simple cut and dry spirit. But to be honest, Sam Winchester didn't really care. Because he was doing what he now knew he was meant to do: saving people, hunting things. He still wished, deep down, that he could leave it behind one day, have the life of domesticity he secretly still wanted, but he also knew that, if he were to truly be honest with himself, life was on the road with Dean. And nothing would ever change that.