Hi guys. Just wanted to say that since it looks like the site is cracking down on their 'no explicit content' rule that they haven't been enforcing thus far, it's possible my fics might start getting deleted without warning. I'll keep posting here until they kick me off, but if that happens everyone is welcome to continue following this series either at my livejournal, where my name is paper_storm88, or at AO3, where it's simply paperstorm.

Contains dialogue from the episode Lazarus Rising. It belongs to Eric Kripke.

Part of my Deleted Scenes series. Full list of fics in reading order available on my profile page. They will make more sense if read in order. :)

A knock at the door snaps Sam out of his reverie. He blinks a few times, taking in his surroundings and trying to remember where he is. An double bed with an ugly floral quilt … a small TV, playing some kind of infomercial … cheap pine furniture and a stained carpet … must be a motel room. In … Illinois? Sam shakes his head to clear it. Pontiac. Right. The demons.

Sometimes the days flow into each other and Sam can't remember if it's still Thursday or how many weeks or months or years have passed since Dean was taken. How many times he's sat alone in the Impala, how many meals he's eaten without having to nag somebody to eat vegetables, how many diner waitress he's just ordered and received food from without having to endure being ignored while Dean hits on her. The one number he did keep track of is how many different motel beds he slept in by himself. Sam doesn't know why that's the number that stuck in his head, but it is. The one he'll sleep in tonight, coincidentally in the same city where he buried Dean's body, will make an even one hundred. Almost one for every day Dean's been gone, except for a few he slept in more than once when a hunt took a couple days, and for the one night she slept next to him when he lost his mind and let her stay.

Although, come to think of it, he's not even sure if demons sleep.

Another knock at the door, this one slightly sharper that the last, and Sam groans and pushes himself off the lumpy couch. If he opens the door and that damn Bobby Singer is standing there, looking for a hug and a heart-to-heart about Dean … he just might slug him, and harder this time. Sam growls to himself and opens the door, but it isn't Bobby. It's her.

"Well, look who finally learned to knock," he mutters, leaving it open for her and walking back to the couch.

Ruby sighs, a put-upon sound like Sam's a misbehaving child, and steps inside, flipping her dark hair and swinging the door closed behind her. "I didn't think you appreciated when I just showed up in your room."

"I didn't think you gave a shit," he returns unfeelingly. Sam's never had a more complicated relationship with anyone he's ever met. He spends half the time grateful for Ruby; grateful she stuck around, to keep him company, to help him, to keep him focused, even if the voice of the new body she's riding grates on his nerves. And he spends the rest of the time clenching his fists in an effort not to use his new powers to send her back to the pit where she belongs.

"Next time I won't. What's wrong with you? Wake up on Dean's side of the bed?"

Sam clenches his teeth and doesn't answer. It's a familiar insult, a song-and-dance he's put up with every day for months now. He doesn't know if she knows what he and Dean used to be to each other, or if she just enjoys mocking him, but either way he's learned to ignore her.

"You got something for me?" he asks, scooping up a stack of papers from the coffee table.

There's a soft shuffling noise, and when Sam turns around, Ruby's stripped out of her jacket and is unbuttoning her shirt, leering at him. "Always."

Sam glares at her. "Not that. Something on the demons we followed up here, I mean."

"I know what you meant." Her checkered shirt falls to the floor, leaving just the thin tank-top underneath, and then she starts wiggling out of her jeans. "Just reminding you I'm always on the table."

"Yeah. I bet," Sam mumbles, turning away, and she huffs in mock outrage.

"Why, Sammy. Is that any way to talk to a lady?"

"Call me that again and I'll – "

"Okay, I get it," she interrupts. She saunters over to him, pressing her small body up against his, and blinks her brown eyes slowly up at him. "Forgive me?"

"I'm not sleeping with you again, okay? I told you, that was a mistake."

Ruby grins at him, but there's no happiness in it. There never is. Sometimes Sam's almost sure he can see her real face behind the girl she's riding. "Don't flatter yourself, honey. I'm just gettin' comfy, it's got nothin' to do with you."

Every muscle in Sam's body tenses and releases as she walks away again. For whatever reason, this is one of the days when he hates her. She spots the knife he'd left on the table, and bends over obscenely to pick it up. Sam rolls his eyes and deliberately looks away. There are times when he can tolerate how abrasive she is, but right now isn't one of them. His head isn't right today. Being so close to Dean's grave, to where Dean's torn up body is decomposing in the ground, is doing more of a number on Sam's psyche than he'd like to admit.

"So really, what's with you?" she asks, turning back to him and running her fingertips along the knife. "You're always a bit of a downer but you're not usually this pouty. Is it, like, Dean's birthday or something?"

"Don't talk about Dean," Sam grinds out.

"Fine. Geez, you're the one who called me, remember?" She holds the knife up and raises her eyebrows, imitating him in a lilting, high-pitched voice that sounds nothing like reality. "Oh Ruby, please come help me. There's so many demons, I can't do this without you!"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's not even close to what I said." Sam stalks over to her and grabs the knife out of her hand. "Where do you want it?"

She grins again, predatory and ugly, and runs the tip of her tongue along her bottom lip. "Where do you want it?"

"How 'bout wherever it'll hurt the most," Sam returns angrily.

"Ooh. Kinky."

Sam sighs again, and pushes her down onto the couch, not at all gently. "We're at war and you're making jokes. That's good, that sense of humor will really come in handy when that pack of demons is snacking on our intestines."

She doesn't answer, just keeps smiling at him, and Sam sits down on the coffee table and grabs her leg. He cuts a shallow slice into the side of her calf, squeezes the muscle to get the blood flowing, and then lowers his mouth to it and sucks the warm, metallic-tasting liquid out. Ruby hums like she's enjoying it, and Sam hates himself all over again for the time he let this dissolve into sex.

When he's finished, he wipes his lips with the back of his hand and doesn't look her in the eye while he gets up. He hands her an antiseptic wipe from his first-aid kit, and she rubs it briefly over the break in her skin. It's only a minute before Sam feels it, the rush he craves when she's gone for too long. The blood in his own veins comes alive, pulsing faster under his skin, and suddenly colors are brighter and his focus sharpens. He really doesn't want to have to do this again later, so hopefully one hit will be enough to take the demons out. And if it isn't and Sam ends up dead, well, maybe that wouldn't be the worst thing either.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watches Ruby reach up into her shirt and undo her bra, pulling it out through the sleeve and tossing it away, and then she flakes out on the couch in her underwear, lying casually on her back with her feet propped up against the armrest. Sam just shakes his head.

"So, you really got nothing? No new intel?" he asks in annoyance.

She shrugs and doesn't look at him; examines the nails on her right hand instead. "What am I, a magic eight-ball? Everything I know about them I already told you."

"Except why they suddenly showed up here."

"I don't know why they're here, Sherlock, that's what we're here to find out."

Sam rolls his eyes again and presses his lips together. She's just baiting him. Maybe if he doesn't give her anything to work with, she'll get bored of it. "I'm gonna take a shower," he says, more to the empty space in the room than to her, and heads for the bathroom.

"I'll order a pizza, what do you want?"

"Whatever's fine."

She says something else, Sam thinks he might hear the words toenails and cat feet, but he shuts the door behind himself and doesn't answer.

The brief glimpse Sam catches of himself in the mirror, the drying blood on his lips, is enough to make his skin crawl. Sometimes he finds himself actually glad that Dean's gone, because if Dean could see him now? If Dean could see the person Sam's become without him? He's pretty sure Dean would hate him. Even more than Sam hates himself. He knows the blood is a necessity. He knows he needs it, that it helps him and that one day, hopefully soon, he'll be able to twist a demon out of the body it's piggy-backing without the person underneath dying too. But he wishes he didn't.

The warm water soothes his tired skin, and by the time he's dried off and pulled his t-shirt and boxers back on, Sam feels a little more human. Dean's still gone – his body is still here just outside of town and there's still no way Sam will be able to force himself to go visit that grave – and Sam is still shattered, but he can maybe make himself be less of an asshole about it. He knows he shouldn't be so hostile to Ruby. She's only here to help him. Really, she's the only thing that's kept him sane. She gave him a task, something to concentrate on. Something to do. It kept him from remembering how much he misses Dean, how his whole body aches for his brother. He's just hung up right now on the bed. Sam has never, in his entire life, slept in a hundred different beds without Dean. At least not in a row. And the number will just keep growing, for the rest of his life. It'll hit two hundred, and then three hundred, and then higher and higher and Sam's not sure he'll make it that far. It's been long enough that the hole Dean left in his chest isn't bleeding anymore, but it's still there, and it still hurts when the wind blows through.

There are voices coming from beyond the bathroom door. One of them Sam recognizes as Ruby's sarcastic snark, but the other he doesn't. It must be the pizza. Sam checks his watch and frowns. That was fast.

Sam walks out into the room, gets two words of a sentence out, and then his heart stops. Everything slows down, like the world stats spinning the wrong way until it just grinds to a halt and time stands still. Sam blinks. He's dreaming. He has to be. This isn't real, it isn't happening. Because it can't be. Sam's eyes are seeing something that isn't there. Maybe he's having a stroke. Or a nervous breakdown, that would explain it. Or the grief he's been pushing away so hard is finally catching up with him. He saw Jessica all the time too, in the weeks after she died. Maybe that's what's supposed to happen when someone you love more than anything is taken away, maybe it should have been happening for the last four months but Sam didn't let it because it was the only way he could keep moving forward. He holstered his pain and he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other; it's all he could do. He doesn't know why this is happening now, after all this time, but it's the only explanation that makes a god-damn lick of sense.

"Hey-ya, Sammy," it says.

Then everything speeds up again, the world turning twice as fast to make up for lost time, and Sam's heart leaps into his throat. That voice. Quiet and gentle, but a little rough, with just a hint of Kansas twang, and exactly how Sam remembers it. Exactly the same as it always is in the dreams that haunt him. Sam's mesmerized for just a moment, everything else disappearing and narrowing down to just that sound, those four syllables, every fiber of his being wishing against all odds that it could be true. But he'd tried. He tried everything. There was no way. So it's not a dream, or an aneurism. It's a monster. Some demon or shape-shifter or whatever-the-fuck, and it's pretending to be his brother just to watch him shatter.

The thing steps into the room, Ruby steps aside, and Sam's instincts take over. The ones Dean taught him – the real Dean, the one who's in Hell because of Sam. Without thinking, he whips out his silver knife and launches himself forward. He connects and it struggles, and it feels human, but they always do. It fights back for just a moment, and Sam's heart races so fast it hurts, but the one that looks like Bobby jumps in and wrestles Sam away.

"Who are you?!" Sam yells.

"Like you didn't do this?!" it yells back.

"Do what?!"

"It's him! It's him, Sam!" Bobby says loudly, still holding Sam back as Sam fights against him. Whatever it is, whatever piece of filth is standing there pretending to be his brother, Sam's going to tear it to pieces. "I've been through this already, it's really him!"

Sam hears the words, but it takes a moment for them to sink in, and then even longer for it to make sense.

"But …" He stops struggling in shock.

"I know," Dean says gently. "I look fantastic, huh?" he adds, tossing Sam a lopsided smile that's so Dean it makes Sam's teeth hurt.

For a moment he just stares. He wants to believe it. He could cry with how much he wishes it were true. But it isn't possible … he'd tried everything he knew to get Dean back, everything. Nothing had worked. It can't be possible … but there he is, in the flesh … and Bobby said it was really Dean. What if they're both … ? What if it's some kind of trap? Sam's frantic mind races through the possibilities. Against all his better judgment, and everything he thinks he knows to be true, seeing those green eyes … the ones he thought he'd never see again … Sam gives in. If it's not real, if it's going to kill him as soon as he lets his guard down, Sam doesn't even care. Blinking back tears, he drops the knife and throws himself into his brother's arms.

Dean hugs him back, his arms wrapped tightly around Sam, and then Sam knows it's really him. He doesn't know how he knows, but he does. He can feel it. His breath comes in heaves and everything is still spinning, but the warmth from Dean's body, his familiar smell, the feeling of his arms around Sam … it's like an anchor tying Sam back to the reality he's spent four months running from. He hugs Dean tighter, and clenches his jaw to keep the tears back. Eventually he remembers that Bobby's watching so he pulls back, but reluctantly. If it really is Dean … Sam wants to grab him and hold him and never let him go, ever again.

"So, are you two like … together?" Ruby asks hesitantly, and anger washes over Sam again. He hates that one of the first things he'll say to Dean will be a lie because of her.

"What?" he asks, pretending to be shocked but not sure he pulls it off. "No, no. He's my brother."

"Oh. Got it, I guess." She's an even shittier actor than Sam is. "Look, I should probably go …"

"Yeah. Yeah, that's probably a good idea," Sam agrees, maybe a little too strongly but right now he just wants her gone. "Sorry."

She just kinda smirks at him, and then goes about hastily putting her clothes back on. Sam pulls his shirt and jeans back on too, and Dean and Bobby just watch and wait, none of them wanting to say anything until she's gone. It wouldn't matter anyway, but Dean and Bobby don't know she's Ruby. Sam has no idea how he's going to tell them. He still can't even wrap his head around the fact that Dean is standing there, looking exactly like he did four months ago before Sam lost him. Before everything fell apart. It's too surreal to make any sense. Sam's still not completely sure it is real. He's still half-expecting to wake up at any minute.

Once she's dressed, Ruby lets Sam show her out the door like she's just some chick he hooked up with last night. "So, call me."

Sam wants to hit her. "Yeah. Yeah, sure thing, Kathy."

"Kristy," she corrects, her face falling, and then Sam wants to hit her even more. Apparently it's not enough that it looks like he's into one-night-stands now.

"Right," Sam replies through gritted teeth, and she smiles hopefully at him and then she's gone. Sam just blinks a few times and shakes his head a little. He kind of can't believe she just did that to him, but then, being a bitch has always been right in her wheelhouse.

He turns back to his brother – his brother, Sam still can't get his head around that.

"So tell me, what'd it cost?" Dean's voice sounds angry, and Sam's confused.

"The girl? I don't pay, Dean."

"That's not funny, Sam," Dean says menacingly. "To bring me back. What'd it cost? Was it just your soul, or was it something worse?"

"You think I made a deal?"

"That's exactly what we think," Bobby says gruffly.

"Well I didn't," Sam says curtly. God knows he'd tried.

"Don't lie to me."

"I'm not lying!" As if Sam could. Not to Dean, not about this.

"So what, now I'm off the hook and you're on? Is that it?" Dean growls. "You're some demon's bitch-boy? I didn't want to be saved like this!"

"Look, Dean, I wish I had done it, alright?!" Sam's voice shakes, heart beats too fast, hands tremble all over again.

Dean moves forward quickly and grabs the front of Sam's shirt. "There's no other way that this could've gone down, now tell the truth!"

"I tried everything, that's the truth!" Sam cries, pushing Dean's hands away. "I tried opening the Devil's Gate, hell, I tried to bargain, Dean, but no demon would deal, alright?" Sam knows Bobby's there; knows he has to pretend Dean is just his brother. But the normal rules have never applied to him and Dean, and he can't stop the overwhelming emotion from seeping into his voice. "You were rotting in Hell for months. For months and I couldn't stop it. So I'm sorry it wasn't me, alright? Dean, I'm sorry."

Dean's voice is gentle when he speaks, like he can tell how messed up Sam is over all this. He has no idea. "It's okay, Sammy. You don't have to apologize, I believe you."

Sam nods. His whole body is quivering now and he can't stop it. He should have been the one who got Dean out. He shouldn't have given up, he should have kept trying even when it looked like he was out of options. Dean's here now. Something brought him back, which means bringing him back is something that was always possible and Sam should've looked harder.

"Don't get me wrong, I am glad that Sam's soul remains in tact," Bobby starts. "But, it does raise a sticky question."

Sam looks up at Dean through watery eyes, and Dean sighs and says, "If he didn't pull me out, what did."

Sam gets three beers out of the fridge as Dean and Bobby debate the possibilities. Sam speaks a couple of times, but it's like he hears himself say the words but doesn't actually feel them come out of his mouth. Given the way he's lived his life, all the impossible things he's seen, it probably shouldn't be so hard to accept that Dean's here, sitting next to him. But it is. Because Sam had been so sure it was impossible. It'd been the hardest realization he'd ever had. And now Dean's here, alive and okay, and it should have been because of Sam. He's not sure he's ever going to forgive himself for that.

Eventually Bobby says something about a psychic he knows and goes off to phone her, and Sam remembers something. "Hey, wait," he says to Dean, pulling the amulet over his head. Probably the most painful thing Sam's ever done in his entire life was pull the necklace off Dean's blood-soaked corpse.

Dean looks at it, examines it in his hand like he doesn't quite know how to feel. "Thanks."

"Yeah, don't mention it." Sam feels just a little bit better when Dean puts it on, when the little metal face is back in place on Dean's chest. "Hey, Dean, what was it like?"

"What, Hell?"

Sam doesn't want to know, not really, but he needs to. It's something Dean went through, and now that he's back they'll have to deal with that, even though Dean won't want to.

"I don't know, I – I must've blacked it out. I don't remember a damn thing."

Sam nods. It isn't what he was expecting Dean to say, but given the alternative, it's better than Sam could've hoped for. "Well, thank God for that."


"Okay, I told her we'd be there in a couple hours," Bobby says, sticking his phone back into his pocket. "So, I'll just … I'll go drive around the block a few times, alright?"

Dean frowns at him. "Why?"

"It's been four months since you two've seen each other. I'm guessin' you could use a minute." Bobby smiles knowingly, and Sam's never been so grateful for anything.

Dean kinda rolls his eyes, irritated at being coddled, but Sam nods and says, "Thanks, Bobby." He walks the older man to the door, quietly adding, "Look, I'm really sorry. About everything."

Bobby looks up at him with tired but kind eyes. "I know you are, kid. I didn't take losin' him so well myself. But we got him back, that's all that's important."

Sam closes the door behind him and then closes his eyes. He takes a couple deep breaths before he can compel himself to turn around – he's terrified that when he does, Dean will be gone again; that this will all turn out to be just a dream, or a hallucination, or some demon's fucked up idea of a joke. Sam doesn't think he could take it if it was.


Dean's voice is gentle and anxious, and Sam hopes to God it's real. He turns around slowly, and can't help the tears that burn his eyes when he sees Dean standing there, looking concerned and confused but irrefutably solid.

"You okay?" Dean asks.

Sam swallows thickly and shakes his head. "Not really. You?"

Dean shrugs a little. "I mean, I'm out. S'gotta be better than …"

"Yeah." Sam sighs and pushes his hair back off his face. He suddenly doesn't feel like he belongs in his own skin. "I just … can't figure out how this is real."

"I know. Me neither."

"It is, right? Real?" Sam asks, dreading the answer, but Dean just nods.

"I can't explain it, but yeah, it is."

Sam's lower lip trembles and he chews on it in an attempt to hide it. "Okay. Well we shouldn't keep Bobby waiting, I guess."

Dean just looks at him, hesitating for a moment, but then he closes the distance between them and wraps his arms back around Sam. Sam's fingers automatically grab fistfuls of his brother's shirt and he holds on tight, unable to shake the fear that Dean might disappear at any moment. He's shaking again but completely powerless to stop it. Dean rubs one hand up and down Sam's back, and when Sam was a kid that always calmed him down but right now it just makes everything worse.

"I'm right here, little brother," Dean murmurs.

"How is that even possible?" Sam asks unsteadily, his words muffled by Dean's shoulder.

"I don't know, but it is, okay? I'm real, I promise."

Sam nods feebly and tries in vain to get himself back under control. For a few minutes he lets himself get lost in the feeling of Dean's arms around him – the feeling of being loved and safe, like he hasn't felt for a single moment since Dean died. Dean pulls back a little after a while, and Sam thinks he's going to move away but he doesn't. He leans up and brushes his lips against Sam's, not even really a kiss but almost, and Sam forgets how to breathe.

The world is spinning too fast again.

"Sorry," Dean mutters. "Habit."

Sam shakes his head. He doesn't know what to think, what to say, what to feel. "It's not … the girl, she wasn't …"

"You don't need to explain yourself to me."

"I just …" Sam sighs, blinking back tears for the hundredth time today, and rests his forehead on Dean's. His knees feel like they're about to give out.

"Yeah," Dean says softly. "Conversation for a different time."

Sam nods, and it physically hurts but he lets go of his brother. "Let's go figure out how you broke loose, okay?"

Dean looks at Sam with mourning in his eyes for just a few seconds longer, and then the expression vanishes and is replaced with Dean's practiced stoic mask. Sam knows he probably should have worked harder to keep his emotions in check and be the one offering Dean some comfort, but he doesn't think he could handle it if Dean broke down right now. He's not sure he can handle any of this.

"Hey, Sammy? I …" Dean cups Sam's cheek briefly with his hand, just a glimmer of truth in his eyes behind the part he plays too well. "It's really good to see you."

Sam wants to dive back into Dean's arms more than anything. He wants to pull Dean into bed and cry and hug him so tightly they'd lose circulation in their arms. To kiss Dean and never stop. To tell Dean how much he missed him; how lost and broken he was without him.

But he doesn't. Instead he nods and mumbled a weak, "You too."