The next three weeks are a blur of hunting, fucking, and saving people. Dean’s mastered all of his former abilities as a living, breathing being. He even sleeps through the night. Although Sam can’t forget that Dean’s not really alive, he’s also stopped his frantic search for a way to fix Dean.
There may come a time when resurrecting Dean body and soul becomes necessary. But for now, Dean’s as much himself as he’s ever been, with the added bonus of his ability to disappear at will.
He’s also able to make himself visible only to Sam, which is helpful when questioning witnesses.
That particular ability becomes extremely valuable on the day in early August when Sam finds himself jumped by two demons.
“Thanks for keeping this warm for me, Sam,” the demon possessing a blond woman says, grabbing the demon knife away from Sam as the one possessing a young man holds Sam tight.
Dean flickers into view behind Ruby, and Sam shakes his head in warning. This is the first time in two months that they’ve even seen a demon. It’s time for some intel.
“It's nice to be back,” Ruby says. “Where I was, even for Hell, it was nasty. I guess I really pissed Lilith off. Imagine my relief when she gave me one last chance to take it topside. And all I had to do was find you and kill you.”
“Yeah?” Sam puffs out his chest. “Go ahead.”
Dean’s eyes widen, but Sam’s bluff pays off. Instead of stabbing him, Ruby plunges her knife into the other demon, who lets go of Sam as he dies.
“You’re a hard man to find, Sam Winchester,” Ruby notes. “Now, come on. Grab your keys. We need to get out of here.”
“I’m not going anywhere till I get some answers,” Sam says, rubbing his aching shoulder.
“Do you want Lilith to find you?” Ruby stares at him. “She’s been gunning for you ever since Dean went to Hell. I had to work hard just to convince her to let me out to come find you, but she still doesn’t trust me completely. She’s got somebody tailing me right now, to make sure I make good on my promise. So unless you want to die right now...”
“You’re lying,” Sam snaps. “Dean’s not in Hell.”
Ruby wipes the blade on her sleeve and smirks at him. “I assure you, he is,” she says. “He’s being tortured as we speak by the very same master torturer who trained me. Not a nice guy, to say the least.”
Sam shifts his feet, licks his lips, and glances at Dean over Ruby’s shoulder.
Dean shakes his head, but stays silent.
“If you’re not here to kill me, what are you doing here?” Sam demands.
“I can help you kill Lilith,” Ruby says. “But like I said, we need to leave. Now!”
Sam scoffs. “I don’t need you to help me kill Lilith,” he snaps. “I saw the way she looked at me when she tried to kill me before. She’s afraid of me.”
“Because you’re more powerful than she expected.” Ruby nods. “But you’re not strong enough to kill her, yet. I can help you get stronger, channel your power. We can beat her, Sam! And you can get your revenge for Dean. We just need to get someplace safe...”
Sam considers her for a moment, glances at Dean before turning his full attention on Ruby.
“Give me the knife,” he demands, putting his hand out.
Ruby smirks, sure she’s won. She lays the hilt of the knife into the palm of Sam’s hand, and Sam doesn’t hesitate. Dean steps up behind her and grabs Ruby’s arms, surprising her just long enough for Sam to push the blade into her chest. Her head goes back, mouth wide with surprise, and Sam’s pretty sure that Dean’s the last thing she sees before she expires in a burst of flashing sparks.
Sam pulls the knife free and glances up at Dean.
“Now we get out of here,” Sam says, grabbing the keys and tossing them to Dean.
They leave the mess for the demons to clean up.
“Ruby thinks you’re in Hell,” Sam notes when they’re in the car, leaving the scene at top speed, Dean behind the wheel. “Thought,” he adds when he remembers. “She thought you were in Hell.”
Dean shrugs. “Demons lie.”
“Right,” Sam agrees. “Of course they do. They also lie to each other. If all run-of-the-mill demons assume you’re in the pit, that might explain why I couldn’t get one to answer my summons.”
“Or maybe somebody down there doesn’t want word getting round that I’m not there,” Dean suggests. “It’d be bad for business, finding out that one of the souls they were supposed to collect went rogue and didn’t show up for his tour of duty after all.”
Sam nods thoughtfully. “Yeah. Maybe.”
Not for the first time, it occurs to Sam that Dean isn’t fully human. He may be the most powerful ghost Sam’s ever encountered, or he may be something else, but he’s definitely not human anymore.
Sam doesn’t think too hard about why he doesn’t let that bother him. He’s grateful to have Dean with him, no matter how changed he is. He’s getting used to this version of his brother, the one with seemingly magical powers who seems okay with Sam’s psychic abilities.
Sam wonders about that, though.
“Hey, Dean, do you remember how you used to get freaked out by my psychic stuff?”
Dean frowns. “Yeah, so? That was before you could use it to communicate with me, dude.”
“Right,” Sam nods. “Like that time in the hospital with the Ouija board. After the accident.”
“What accident?” Dean looks confused. “You mean when Dad died?”
Sam nods. “You said you didn’t remember.”
“I don’t,” Dean agrees. “You told me about it. There was a reaper, right?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. So you really don’t mind me using my powers now,” Sam clarifies.
“Like I say, if it’s for something good, like communicating with me, helping me be more solid, then I’m fine with it. Besides, your mojo must not be all demon-given if you can do good with it, right?”
Sam isn’t so sure about that. He’s got demon blood in him. No amount of using his psychic power to concentrate his brother into a solid state of existence can change that.
Dean’s existence can’t be a bad thing, though. It’s not. It could never be. If there’s one thing Sam’s sure of, it’s that. Dean’s a hero. He saves people.
The evil inside Sam can’t have anything to do with Dean.
He won’t let it.
That split the night
“Doesn’t it seem strange to you that we haven’t heard or seen of any demonic omens or demon sightings in almost four months?”
They’re sitting across from each other at Moe’s, the “Best Burger in Five Counties” diner. It’s been almost two weeks since their encounter with Ruby, and Sam’s feeling a little antsy. After the demons escaped from the Devil’s Gate in Wyoming, Sam and Dean had had a lot of work to do hunting them all down. Sam had assumed he’d still be doing that, after Dean went to Hell.
But things haven’t worked out like that. Sam and Dean were supposed to be ganking demons, but they can’t seem to find one to save their lives. Werewolves, shapeshifters, ghosts, vampires, even a couple of weird urban legends that turned out to be vengeful spirits, but no demons.
It’s almost like the things are avoiding the Winchesters, which doesn’t make any sense.
“Well, there was Ruby,” Dean says as he takes another bite of his burger.
“Yeah, but she said I was a tough man to find,” Sam says, flinching as Dean chews with his mouth partly open. When he notices Sam’s expression, Dean grins and opens wider. “Dude!”
“I dunno,” Dean shrugs. “Maybe they’re avoiding you.”
“I dunno, maybe you smell bad?” Dean takes a swig of his beer, shakes his head. “Demons, man. No taste.”
Sam scoffs. “I just figured we’d be fighting a demon war. I thought I’d be doing it alone, to be honest, but since you stayed around after all, I just figured we’d be fighting a lot more demons about this time.” He takes a sip of his beer. “Maybe we should call Bobby. Hell, maybe we should go visit the old man. It’s been almost four months. He probably thinks I’m avoiding him.”
“Are you?” Dean’s eyes narrow. “Avoiding him, I mean.”
“No!” Sam’s shocked. “Why would I do that? He’s the next best thing to a father to us, you know that.”
He doesn’t think about the calls he hasn’t answered, the voice mails he hasn’t listened to.
“He also helped you bury me,” Dean reminds him. “Not sure he’d be exactly excited to see me topside.”
“Why would you say that?” Sam shakes his head in disbelief. “You’re like the son he never had. Besides, you’re his favorite.”
Dean’s mouth quirks up in a smug grin. “I am, aren’t I? Well, that’s only fair, since you were Dad’s favorite.”
“I was not!” Sam’s indignant. He hates it when Dean gets down on himself. Dean always felt he wasn’t good enough, didn’t do enough, couldn’t live up to their father’s expectations, no matter how hard he tried. Sam can’t make up for Dean’s feelings of inadequacy, but he wishes he could.
“Sure you were,” Dean insists. “Dad was always going on to me about protecting you, taking care of you, keeping you innocent about what we did as long as possible.”
Sam shakes his head as a terrible thought occurs to him. “You don’t think he knew, do you? When I was little, I mean. You think he knew about Azazel back then?”
“No, I don’t,” Dean assures him angrily. “He definitely didn’t find out about that till after you left for college. He was just piecing it all together when we found him again, remember?”
“Yeah,” Sam nods, looking down at his plate. His father’s memory is always painful. He sees now that part of his anger with John had to do with Dean, with the way John undervalued and overburdened Dean, right up to and including the moment he told Dean he might have to kill Sam.
What kind of father does that?
“Pretty sure Bobby would take one look at me and try to end me,” Dean says as he takes another long swallow of his beer. “Which, by the way, is kind of what I thought you might do.”
“Dean.” Sam shakes his head and scoffs lightly. “I’d never, you know that.”
Dean raises an eyebrow. “I haven’t been seeing you research ways to get me back into my body for a while now, Sam. You giving up on that?”
“What? No!” But of course Dean’s right. Lately, Sam’s been content with keeping things the way they are. Now that Dean’s solid, able to drive the car, eat, sleep, act mostly human, Sam’s put the idea of resurrection on the back burner.
Not to mention, Sam’s a little in love, not that he’d ever say that out loud. Dean treats him with more affection now, since Sam admitted his feelings. Dean touches him more often than he ever did before, and Sam likes it. Sam doesn’t want to do anything to change that.
He knows he’s being selfish. He just likes Dean the way he is. The way things have worked out for them is more than Sam could’ve hoped for when Dean was alive.
It’s probably a little creepy, how much he enjoys fucking this inhuman version of his brother. Dean’s technically a monster now, whether Sam wants to face that or not.
“I just thought we’d get you into good shape before I started poking around trying to fix things, you know?”
When he raises his eyes, Dean’s giving him a look that makes Sam blush. He knows. It might be Sam’s dirty little secret, but Dean knows.
“I never wanted to be a monster, Sam,” Dean says softly. “I’d rather die for good than stay this way forever. You know that.”
Sam’s throat closes up and tears smart at the backs of his eyes.
“Yeah,” he chokes out hoarsely. He clears his throat and squares his shoulders. “I know. I know, Dean. We’ll figure it out.”
Problem is, Sam’s not sure he wants to.
The end comes without warning.
The night after a particularly brutal hunt, they lie in bed together, just resting. They’ve showered and checked each other over for injuries, and Sam thinks again about how fucked-up it is that Dean pretends to get injured just to give Sam the semblance of normalcy he craves in their anything-but-normal relationship. Dean wants to let Sam feel he’s taking care of his brother, that he didn’t fail and let him die after all.
It’s mid-September and the nights are getting cooler. They sleep with the air-conditioning off most nights now, cool breeze from the window pebbling their naked skin. Sam still spends a portion of the night gazing at his brother’s body, amazed that it’s here, in one piece, even though he knows it’s not.
He should be trying to get Dean’s body back. He shouldn’t let this ghostly substitute distract him so much.
Dean’s eyes fly open wide, panic making his features seize up.
“Dean, what’s wrong?” Sam reaches out instinctively.
His hand passes right through Dean’s body.
“What the hell?”
Dean raises panic-stricken eyes to Sam’s. “I don’t know. Sam, I don’t know! Something’s not right.”
“Okay, okay, we just need to focus, that’s all,” Sam mutters, dampening his terror with practicality. “Take a deep breath. Concentrate!”
Sam closes his eyes, breathes through his nose, following his own advice.
Dean’s panicked voice sounds far away, like an echo across a canyon.
“Sammy! What the hell’s happening? Sam!”
Sam’s eyes fly open. Dean’s barely there. He’s shadowy and flickering. Sam can see the bedsheets through him. He stares at Sam with utter horror, mouth open in a soundless cry.
“Dean! Hold on!”
Sam jumps out of bed, grabs his phone, and punches Pamela’s number.
“He’s — he’s disappearing!” Sam shouts into the phone, keeping his eyes on Dean, who flickers again, reappearing so faintly that Sam has to blink in order to see him. “What do I do?!”
Dean looks down at himself, then back up at Sam, anguish and sorrow transforming his handsome face.
“Pamela, what do I do?”
“Goodby, Sammy,” Dean whispers, his voice so soft Sam has to strain to hear it. “I’m sorry.”
He flickers out, and this time, he doesn’t come back.
“Sam?” Pamela’s voice pierces through Sam’s panic, and Sam jumps. He’d forgotten he was still holding the phone.
“He’s gone! Pamela, what happened? What the hell happened?”
“I can’t tell you, Sam,” Pamela’s voice is soft, sympathetic. “But I knew, the minute I picked up the phone, I knew. I’m sorry.”
Sam huffs out a breath. He’s panting. Hyperventilating. “So, how do I get him back?”
“I don’t know if you can,” Pamela admits. “I’m not even sure how you did it in the first place. You’re an enigma, Sam Winchester. One thing I do know, though.”
“What’s that?” Sam struggles to control his breathing, but he’s light-headed, sick to his stomach. He’s afraid he’s going to pass out.
“The bond between you and your brother is stronger than anything I’ve ever seen,” Pamela says. “If there’s a way, he’ll come back to you. Now let me get my rest. It’s three in the morning.”
After Sam hangs up, he turns the light on and pulls his laptop out. He’s still there when dawn comes, seeping through the window blinds like a slowly incoming tide.
By noon, he’s figured out what to do. It’s a long shot, but he figures the spell he’s been looking at could work, which beats the alternative.
He stops at the Walgreen’s in town to pick up supplies, grabs a coffee from the McDonald’s drive-through. He’s not hungry, but he orders a breakfast sandwich anyway, almost hearing Dean’s voice in his head telling him to eat something.
The drive to Pontiac takes four hours, and by the time he pulls into the dirt lane that leads into the wooded area where he buried Dean, it’s late in the afternoon. The trees shade the lane, but beyond the edge of the road the sun still shines down on what at first looks like a large meadow. Frowning, Sam grabs the bag of supplies and a shovel from the trunk of the Impala and heads up the bank and into the woods.
He’s walked just past the tree line when he’s in the open space he saw from the road. The trees have all blown down, as if some massive tornado blew through. They lie in almost perfect formation, like matchsticks, surrounding the site of Dean’s grave, which is clearly empty.
Sam’s too late.
His first thought is demons. Somehow, demons found Dean’s grave and stole his body. He doesn’t even want to think about what that might mean. Some demon could be wearing Dean’s body right now, using it to do unspeakable things...
Sam whirls around at the sound of that familiar voice, stares disbelievingly at the sight in front of him.
Dean looks like a revenant. Or a ghoul, maybe. He’s covered in dirt up to his eye sockets, bloody knuckles giving away what he’s just done.
Sam drops the shovel and the bag, crosses the distance between them, and sweeps Dean into his arms without hesitation. He doesn’t care that his brother might be possessed, doesn’t care that he might be some kind of monster. He’s lived with an inhuman version of Dean for the past four months and just lost him again, inexplicably. Nothing matters except getting Dean back.
Sam’s not about to let go again.
Dean returns the hug with all of the relief and desperation that Sam feels. Dean’s literally covered in grave dirt, smells like decay, but Sam won’t be the first to end the hug. He won’t.
“Okay,” Dean croaks finally. He pushes Sam back with more than a little reluctance but keeps ahold of him at arm’s length. “You wanna tell me what you did, Sammy?”
“Huh?” Sam blinks. “I didn’t do anything. I was coming here to dig your body up. Found a reanimation spell I was gonna try.”
Dean glances at the shovel and discarded bag on the ground. “You didn’t make a deal?”
“What?” Sam’s stunned. “You don’t remember? No demon would answer my summons.” It occurs to Sam that this is really Dean. His body. Resurrected. “You don’t remember me telling you that?”
Dean blinks, squints like he’s trying to figure something out.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says. “The last thing I remember is being torn apart by Hellhounds. Then I woke up in a pine box an hour ago or so. Took everything I had to dig myself out.”
“Jesus.” Sam stares, disbelieving. “You’re not kidding.”
“Why would I kid about that? You can see for yourself.” Dean gestures at the devastation around the empty grave. His grave.
Sam swallows. “So you — You’re not a ghost,” he clarifies.
Dean shakes his head. “Nor a revenant, nor a ghoul, nor any other supernatural creature. I’m me, Sammy. I’m really me.” He frowns. “Of course, you should run all the tests. Don’t take my word for it.”
“No, of course not,” Sam mutters. He’s having a hard time processing what he’s hearing. Dean’s serious about not remembering the past four months. Sam’s not sure how he feels about that. “Okay. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“I’d kill for a bottle of water right now,” Dean croaks as Sam picks up the shovel and bag and leads the way to the car.
“Yeah, sure,” Sam mumbles, mind racing. If Dean doesn’t remember, what does that mean?
Sam opens the trunk, tosses the bag and the shovel inside, grabs a towel and a bottle of water for Dean.
Dean doesn’t remember.
“So, how long was I under?” Dean asks, toweling the worst of the dirt off, then chugging the water thirstily.
Sam tries not to watch the water drip down his chin.
Dean doesn’t remember.
“Four months,” Sam says. “It’s been four months since I buried you.”
Dean blinks, clearly shocked. “And you were going to dig me up after four months? Yikes.” He looks down at himself. “Hey, I look pretty good for a four-months-dead corpse, huh?”
You have no idea, Sam thinks but doesn’t say. He rolls his eyes, crossing around to the passenger side of the car. Dean searches his pockets, finally looks up at Sam when he can’t find his keys.
Sam tosses the keys to him. “Yours are back in the hotel,” he says.
“Where are we staying?” Dean asks as he slides into the driver’s seat.
“The Astoria Hotel in Pontiac,” Sam replies.
“Classy,” Dean notes. He runs his hands over the dashboard, the steering wheel. “Hey baby, did you miss me?”
Sam scoffs, as much to hide his blush as anything. “Get a room.”
Dean shoots Sam a smirking grin, and Sam practically comes in his jeans. Dean slams the keys into the ignition, bringing the Impala roaring to life, and they fishtail down the lane, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake.
“So, four months, huh?”
Dean’s munching on a power bar, chugging another bottle of water as they head down the two-lane towards Pontiac.
“Yeah.” Sam tries not to watch as Dean’s bloody-knuckled hands flex on the steering wheel.
“What have you been up to?”
Sam shrugs. “Hunting. The usual.”
“Alone?” Dean shoots Sam a disapproving look, and Sam shakes his head.
“No. No, I’ve teamed up a few times,” Sam lies.
“With anybody I know?”
Sam shakes his head. “Don’t think so,” he says. He looks out the window as he feels Dean throw a skeptical glance at him.
“Seriously? Dude, who do you know that I don’t know? Huh?”
“Pamela Barnes,” Sam blurts out. “She’s a psychic. Lives about four hours south of Pontiac.”
Dean lets out a low whistle. “Wow. Psychic, huh? So you two have a few things in common.”
Sam can hear the jealousy in Dean’s voice. “She was helpful, yeah.”
“I’ll bet,” Dean waggles his eyebrows.
Sam huffs out a laugh, shakes his head. “You’re an idiot. It wasn’t like that.”
“Sure, it wasn’t,” Dean chuckles, still smirking.
Sam rolls his eyes, shakes his head again as he gazes out at the darkening landscape. The sun set a few minutes ago, leaving gloom-covered fields under a multi-colored sky. The changing sky matches Sam’s mood, which is all over the place. He’s relieved to have Dean back, but terrified that he can’t remember being a ghost.
Maybe he’ll never recover those memories. Or maybe he doesn’t remember because the ghost wasn’t really Dean. Maybe it wasn’t even a ghost.
There’s no doubt in Sam’s mind that the man sitting in the driver’s seat is Sam’s brother. But he was just as sure that the ghost was Dean, and Sam can’t reconcile those two truths in his brain. It’s just too weird.
In their long lives of confronting weird, this just takes the cake, and that’s saying something.
Sam’s not sure how long he can keep lying to Dean. His brother keeps glancing at him, probably noticing that Sam doesn’t look as broken up and sleepless as he should, for somebody who lost his brother four months ago. Dean’s probably beating himself up for returning to a Sam who doesn’t appear to have missed him much.
Sam feels like he needs to apologize.
“Hey,” Sam says. “When you died, I really lost it for a while. You know? I tried everything I could think of to get you back. I swear I did.”
“I believe you, Sammy,” Dean says. He sounds sincere. Relieved, even. “It’s okay. I know you tried.”
“That spell I was gonna try wasn’t exactly a sure thing,” Sam says. “I was just getting desperate.”
“Stupid, more like,” Dean grumbles, but he seems appeased. “It’s okay, Sammy. I’m just glad you didn’t sell your soul.”
Sam lets Dean have the first shower when they get back to the hotel. Dean wrinkles his nose at the decor — leopard-print wallpaper and framed photographs of tigers — and heads straight into the bathroom.
“What the hell?”
Dean sounds freaked, and Sam dashes to the door of the bathroom to check on him.
Dean’s naked from the waist up, standing in the middle of the bathroom floor, staring into the mirror, at what looks like a huge welt in the shape of a hand on his left shoulder.
“What the hell is that?” Sam breathes.
Dean’s wide eyes meet Sam’s in the mirror. “It’s like something rode me out,” he says, panic in his voice.
“What?” Sam’s just as freaked.
“How the hell do I know? Some weird-ass demon, maybe?”
Sam’s eyes widen. “So you were in Hell? You remember being in Hell?”
“No!” Dean glares. “I told you, I don’t remember a damn thing!”
Why does Sam get the feeling that Dean’s lying to him?
“Okay, okay,” Sam says, trying to soothe, desperate to get his emotions under control. “We’ll figure it out, okay? Just — take your shower. I’ll order us some pizzas.”
“So you haven’t seen any demons at all?” Dean asks later, after his shower. He smells so good it’s making Sam painfully hard. He’s trying his best not to think about how desperate he is for reunion sex, but he’s failing. Miserably. “What’s that all about? I mean, when I died, I thought I was leaving you to fight a demon army all on your own.” He shifts awkwardly in his chair, and Sam knows he’s feeling guilty.
Sam shakes his head, looking down at his pizza to hide his own discomfort. “None. Nada. I’ve just been hunting average run-of-the-mill monsters since you left.” He can’t bring himself to say the word “died,” especially since it had only felt like Dean was dead for the first few weeks, until his ghost finally appeared.
Those few weeks had felt like Hell, though. Sam won’t forget that anytime soon.
“That’s really weird,” Dean says, taking another bite of his pizza. “Did you and Bobby come up with any theories?”
Sam shifts in his seat. “Not really,” he admits.
Dean drops his pizza. “Sam, how long has it been since you talked to Bobby?”
Sam makes a face. “He kinda wasn’t into any of my ideas for bringing you back, Dean,” he says.
“I gotta call him.”
Sam listens nervously as Dean calls Bobby, calls Bobby back when the old guy hangs up on him.
“It’s really him, Bobby,” Sam assures him, taking the phone from his brother when Bobby starts threatening to kill him. “He’s back. He insisted on calling you.”
“Sam, I swear to God, if you’ve used those freaky powers of yours to do something stupid...”
“I didn’t, Bobby, I swear. Just — here he is.” Sam hands the phone to Dean, who starts to tear up as soon as he hears Bobby’s voice.
Asshole didn’t cry when he first talked to me, Sam can’t help thinking, then feels ashamed. Being jealous of Bobby is like being jealous of their dad.
Which Sam is, when he’s being honest with himself. He’s jealous of everyone Dean loves. He can’t help it.
“Something big, Bobby,” Dean says into the phone. “Whatever happened, it must’ve been huge. You should’ve seen the grave site. It was like a fuckin’ nuke went off.”
Dean listens for a minute, then nods. “It gets weirder. Something rode me out. It left this weird — scar? — on my left shoulder.”
He listens for another moment, then looks up at Sam, holding out the phone. “He wants to talk to you.”
“Sam, if you did this, then something is after you. And Dean. You do realize that, right?”
“I didn’t do it, Bobby, I swear,” Sam repeats. “I was headed back to the grave site when I found him, already out.”
“Uh-huh.” Sam can practically see Bobby’s eyes roll. “And that ghost you called me about a few months ago...”
“He’s gone,” Sam closes his eyes, pinches the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know what that was, but it went away on its own. I don’t think I did anything? I just don’t know anymore, Bobby.”
“You talk to Pamela?”
“Not since yesterday,” Sam admits. “She doesn’t know Dean’s back. I mean, unless she knows, you know?”
“This is dangerous, son,” Bobby warns. “Whatever’s happening here? It doesn’t sound good.”
“Okay, listen, you two get a good night’s sleep. I’ll be there in the morning and we’ll all head to Pamela’s together, all right? I want to get a look at that scar.”
Bobby takes a deep breath. “And Sam, I hope you’ve done all the tests. Even if your Spidey-senses tell you this is Dean, that don’t mean it’s not.”
“What’d he say?” Dean asks as soon as Sam hangs up.
“He wants me to run the tests, make sure you’re really you.”
“Well, of course he does,” Dean nods. “I told you we should’ve done that in the first place.”
Sam shifts miserably in his chair. “The thing is, I really do know,” he says. “I just don’t understand how you could’ve been in two places at once.”
“What are you talking about?”
Sam sighs. It’s not like he can keep this secret forever. Bobby knows. So does Pamela. It’ll be better if Dean hears it from Sam.
“You were here, Dean,” Sam says softly. “All those months when you should’ve been in Hell. You were here.”
Dean frowns. “What are you talking about?”
Sam winces. “Your ghost. Your ghost was here.”
Dean’s eyebrows go up, and Sam sighs. In for a penny.
“At least, I thought you were a ghost at first,” he goes on. “After we went to see Pamela, you got solid. You were you, Dean, in every way. Maybe you don’t remember that now, but that’s what happened. You were my partner, just like always. We hunted, we did a lot of jobs, saved a lot of people, did what we usually do. Even killed a demon. Ruby. Then, last night you — faded and disappeared. It was like — you got called back to your body just before you resurrected.”
Dean stares, eyes wide. “That’s impossible,” he says, but Sam sees the confusion in his face.
“You remember?” Sam says, more excited than he should be.
Dean looks around the room, then back at Sam. “Did we stay here, another time?”
“Yeah, about three months ago,” Sam nods. “You made snarky comments about the decor and — “ Sam blushes. Dean’s comments hadn’t been exactly G-rated. “I called you an idiot.”
Dean shakes his head. “I don’t remember. It just feels familiar. When you first mentioned it, I got a memory of this really sleazy motel.”
“That’s right,” Sam nods.
“What were we hunting?”
“We were hunting a ghost that was haunting an old hospital,” Sam says. “You wanted to try out your new skills, see if you could gank the ghost in the veil.”
“Huh.” Dean looks impressed. “Did it work?”
“You managed to tie the ghost up so it wouldn’t bother us, but I still had to dig up the body and burn the bones,” Sam says. “You couldn’t handle a shovel yet, so I did that part alone.”
Dean grimaces, then smirks. “No wonder you look so buff, Sammy.”
“Shut up.” Sam blushes again. “I need a shower. Bobby’s coming, so we should probably get some rest.”
He can feel Dean’s eyes on him as he heads to the bathroom. His skin prickles under his shirt, and he clenches his ass self-consciously. If Dean starts remembering what they did while his body was rotting in that grave, Sam’s not sure he can handle it. He’s sure as hell not going to tell Dean everything that happened while he wasn’t all topside. It fills Sam with shame to think that what happened between them while Dean was a ghost wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Dean felt tied to Sam, depended on Sam, was probably too tangled up to make an informed decision. If he’d been truly free, able to function independently, then what happened between them might never have happened.
Sam deliberately ignores his erection as he showers. He’s not about to indulge those feelings now, maybe not ever again. If Dean remembers, then they’ll deal with it, but he’s not going to take advantage of Dean’s amnesia. And he’ll make damn sure Dean gets every chance to make a very different choice about their relationship, should it ever come up.
When Sam returns to the room, Dean’s looking through his duffel. He looks nervous when he glances up at Sam, then he outright blushes when he looks down at Sam’s naked chest.
“You looking for something?” Sam asks, reaching for his own duffel to pull out a clean t-shirt and boxers.
“I just — some of this stuff is new,” Dean notes.
“Yeah,” Sam nods, dropping his towel so he can pull his boxers on. He can feel Dean glance at him, then look away. “We went shopping a few weeks ago. Salvation Army, Goodwill, the usual.”
“Huh.” Dean pulls out a t-shirt that has a Metallica logo on it. “Ghost-Me had good taste.”
Sam starts to pull on a t-shirt, realizes suddenly that he’s still wearing Dean’s amulet. He reaches up to his neck to slide it off and turns to find Dean right there, in his personal space, gazing up at him thoughtfully.
“I lied, Sam,” Dean says. His cheeks and the tips of his ears are pink. He parts his lips, licks them. “I do remember.”
Sam holds his breath as Dean lays his hand on Sam’s chest, over his heart. He holds perfectly still, dangling the amulet in one hand as he waits.
“I thought I was dreaming,” Dean goes on. “Consciously, I was in Hell, but I — I don’t want to talk about that.”
Sam swallows, and Dean’s eyes track the movement. His thumb slides over Sam’s nipple, and Sam sucks in a shuddering breath.
“When the torturing stopped, I dreamed,” Dean says, voice slightly hoarse again. “You and me, hunting, doing all the things we do. As well as a few things we never did before.”
Dean’s eyes rise to Sam’s, shiny with tears. Sam watches as a single tear rolls down Dean’s right cheek.
“Those dreams kept me sane, Sammy,” he says. “I don’t think I would’ve made it without them.”
Sam’s throat closes up. He fights the urge to cry. He can see the suffering in Dean’s face, can only imagine what Dean’s been through.
“I’m sorry,” Sam whispers past the lump in his throat. “I’m so sorry.”
Dean takes the last step, so they’re almost chest-to-chest. He slides his hands up Sam’s arms to his neck, holds his face, presses his index finger to Sam’s lips, and shakes his head.
“Not your fault, Sam,” he says, his voice a quiet growl. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat, knowing you’d be here waiting for me when I got back. I’d spend an eternity in Hell, if I knew you were safe.”
“Dean, I didn’t know,” Sam chokes out. “I wasn’t sure you were really you or something I made up in my head to replace you. Like a tulpa. Or maybe something worse. And I just wanted you back so bad, it didn’t even matter if you were some kind of monster. I — I’m sorry.”
The confession makes Sam’s chest ache, makes his eyes fill with tears.
“Shhh.” Dean presses his finger against Sam’s lips again, tips his head down so Dean can reach his mouth. “It’s okay, Sammy. I’m here now. You saved me.”
As his lips meet Dean’s, Sam doesn’t think too hard about how different he feels. Dean’s mouth is warm and wet, his skin firm and real. There’s nothing of the ghost about him now.
This is one-hundred-percent all Dean.
Sam lays Dean out on the bed, kisses down his unscarred chest, pulls his boxers off and swallows Dean down without hesitating. Having him back in one piece, all of him, feels too good to be true. Sam can’t get enough. Can’t stop.
Dean moans and arches under him, obviously fighting the urge to thrust into Sam’s mouth. Sam lets his cock go so he can kiss down between Dean’s thighs to his hole, tongues it while Dean keens, pulls his knees back to give Sam better access.
“Hey, Sammy, you gonna take m’cherry?” Dean gasps. “I think I got re-hymenated downstairs. M’body’s brand new again.”
“Oh my God, shut up!” Sam’s cock hardens painfully. It’s not like he knew Dean’s body intimately before he went to Hell, but he did know most of Dean’s scars, since he’d stitched up a lot of his wounds over the years. And yes, he’s noticed how smooth and scarless Dean’s skin is now. It might be weird, might be yet another reason he should test to be sure Dean isn’t a shapeshifter.
But again, Sam just doesn’t care. He’s too grateful to have Dean back.
And begging to be fucked, no less.
If he didn’t know that Dean’d been in Hell the past four months, Sam would feel like the luckiest man alive.
It takes a while to work him open enough for Sam’s cock, but when Sam finally sinks inside Dean’s tight, hot channel, he doesn’t last long. Being reunited, physically as well as psychically connected, is just too much for Sam. He comes long and hard, making more noise than he should, and it’s only when he’s beginning to come down that he realizes Dean’s come, too.
As he rolls off and heads to the bathroom for a washcloth, Dean lies naked on the bed, spread out and so vulnerable it makes Sam pause for a minute when he gets back, just to gaze. Dean’s face is flushed, his eyes closed, his chest rising and falling as he snores lightly, and Sam’s struck for the millionth time by how beautiful and alive he is. He’ll never, never forget how it felt to hold Dean’s dead body in his arms, and though he’s done it more times than he wants to count, it was that final time in Indiana that will stay with him forever.
Even the time Dean died senselessly in the parking lot in Florida doesn’t measure up. Sam buried him that time, too, determined to find a way to get him back. During those horrible six months until he found the Trickster, Sam dreamed about Dean every night. He caught glimpses of him just out of the corner of his eye every day. Sam thinks maybe Dean’s ghost was with him then, too, just never able to fully manifest.
He’s never told Dean about those six months. He probably never will.
Dean mutters in his sleep as Sam cleans his belly, then drops the washcloth on the floor and climbs into the bed. As Sam slides his arm around his brother, Dean turns on his side and snuggles back against Sam so that he’s spooned in Sam’s arms, sighing contentedly.
Dean would never admit it, but he loves to cuddle. He loves letting Sam hold him like this. Sam knows this because Dean’s been doing this regularly ever since this began. Dean feels safe in Sam’s arms.
And when he wakes up screaming with Hell memories, Sam will be right there to soothe him.
Tomorrow, Bobby will come and they’ll all head south to visit Pamela. Sam can almost see Pamela’s expression when she opens the door to find Dean there, in the flesh this time. It makes Sam jealous, even though he knows Dean’s his.
Nothing and nobody will ever come between them again.
Sam will make sure of it.