The Long and Winding Road (amypond45) wrote,
The Long and Winding Road

A Hazy Shade of Winter - Part Three

Sam's breathing hard, sweating in Dean's bed. Cas is standing over him, gazing down with an expression at once quizzical and concerned. He's clearly unsure whether he should have been trying to wake Sam up.

"Fuck!" Sam runs a hand through his hair as he sits up, pushing the blankets away. He clings to the vestiges of the dream, still main-lining adrenaline as he grabs hold of Cas's arm just to have something – someone – solid to hold onto. "What the hell just happened?"

Cas's familiar face is creased with concern. "You were dreaming," he states the obvious. Then you started thrashing your arms and legs. You appeared to be in some distress, and I was just about to try to wake you when you woke up."

"Fuck," Sam runs his hand through his hair again. "I was with Dean, and we were in the car, and then this bright light came at us and I thought we were done for – Fuck. What just happened?"

"Since you are repeating the question, I must assume you are referring to the events in the dream," Cas says with infuriating calm.

"Yeah, yeah," Sam nods, shaking his head as he struggles to recall the memories and feelings in the dream as they slide away. "It was like an explosion, or like being hit by a truck head-on." Then a thought occurs to him and he gasps, staring up at Castiel as terror washes over him. "Oh shit, Castiel. She found him. Amara found him. That's what that was. He was hiding and he got away – we got away in the Impala, and we were driving but I told him we needed to go back so he turned the car around and then – Oh shit, Cas. Oh shit!"

He pulls away as wave after wave of grief hits him. He's fucked up. He'll never see Dean again, even in his dreams. It overwhelms him, filling him with despair. He buries his head in his hands and rocks miserably on the bed for several moments as Cas stands by helplessly, arms hanging stiffly at his sides.

"Sam, it is possible that your dream, however real it may have seemed, was simply an ordinary dream," Cas reminds him. "It may be that you were simply having a nightmare."

"No," Sam shakes his head vigorously. "That's not what this was. I had all my memories, I knew Dean, this dream was a sequel to the last one, down to every detail. That's too much coincidence for this to have been anything but an actual psychic phenomenon. And Dean's causing it. He was trying to break free from wherever she's got him held, and now I've ruined it. Now she'll never let him go. She'll never let him hide from her again. And it's all my fault!"


"I know how these things go, Cas," Sam insists, rising from the bed with an angry wave of dismissal. "I was the captive of the greatest evil the world has ever known, before the Darkness. I know, Cas, okay? I know."

"Sam, I don't mean to argue, but Dean's relationship to Amara is not quite as contentious as your relationship to Lucifer," Cas offers. "It is unlikely that she means him any real harm. Her fascination with him more closely resembles that of a human with a beloved pet, or perhaps a human who adopts the beloved pet of an estranged sibling..."

"Yeah, a sibling who wants you locked away for all eternity," Sam snarks, pacing the room angrily. "Amara may be curious about Dean, but she hates what he represents. Plus, he came to her with a bomb in his chest. How long before she starts hating on him for that?"

"Apparently, her brother's creation was only possible because of her," Castiel reminds him. "In essence, she had a hand in God's creation. It is therefore at least partly her creation as well."

"Bring it down to earth, Cas," Sam scolds. "It's always about basic family dynamics. Amara's brother locked her up, so when she gets out she's pissed at him and by extension everything he's made without her. Everything."

"Or maybe she just wants him to care." Castiel shrugs. "Maybe all her displays of anger and destruction were for God's sake. To get his attention. To get him to notice her. Maybe she was just being an annoying little sister looking for approval from her big brother in the only way she knows how."

Sam stops pacing and scrubs a hand over his face. He's tired, and now that the dream has faded he just wants to sleep, to forget all of this. Maybe Cas was right to take his memories away in the first place. Maybe he's better off just letting Dean go.

But he knows he can't. He won't. In his dream, Sam had a vague memory of stopping his search for his brother once before, long ago, and although he doesn't remember the details, he remembers the guilt. The regret.

He won't stop trying to get Dean back. Not this time.

They try to get Sam back to that dream world several times over the next week, but nothing seems to work. Cas finally refuses to help, and he and Sam have their first real fight, which ends with Sam stomping off to the garage and slamming the door. Gabriel has a lead on Lucifer, and Castiel flies off angrily. It's probably just as well. Sam knows he'll be back.

The Impala sits in the middle of the bunker's garage, amid the dust-covered classic cars from earlier times, and Sam can't help but be drawn to it. Sam knows how important this car was to Dean, even if he can't recall the memories themselves. Sam's learned enough now to understand why Dean loved this car so much, and when he crosses the room and lays his hand on its hood, he can almost feel the rumble of the engine under him, can almost imagine Dean in the driver's seat beside him.

The car needs her spark plugs changed, so Sam gathers his gauge and some new plugs, drives the car out into the shadow of the old cedar tree just outside the garage door. It's a warm spring day, sun shining, birds singing. As Sam lifts the hood he hears a rustle of wings behind him and turns toward the sound, half expecting to see Castiel standing there, his handsome face a mask of hopeful contrition.

"Forgive me, Sam," he would say. "I was out of line. Of course your search for your brother takes precedence over all other concerns."

But Cas isn't there. Instead, a flock of crows rises over the newly-budding cornfield across the road, and Sam watches them for a moment as they circle, oddly silent except for the flapping of their huge, black wings.

Then a movement on the road causes Sam's gaze to drop from the birds to the asphalt. It's too far away to tell, but there's a figure there, almost at the edge of the horizon, where Sam knows there's an intersection without road signs because he's driven that way a thousand times.

Sam wipes his hands on his oil rag, then shades his eyes, squinting in the morning sunlight as the figure moves closer. It's a man, approaching slowly but steadily, with a jacket or maybe an over-shirt wrapped around his waist as if he's overheated from his walk. At first Sam thinks he's limping because there's something a little cock-eyed about his gait. But as he gets closer Sam realizes the man is bow-legged, so that his hips roll as he walks.

Sam watches with fascination as the man gets close enough to hail, but something holds him back. Instead, Sam and the stranger regard each other steadily and cautiously until the man is only a few feet away. Sam knows he should say something. His hunter's instincts warn him that this could be anyone, or anything. A monster come to kill him, another hunter seeking vengeance.

But Sam recognizes this man. He's seen him in his dreams.

"Hey, Sammy," Dean says softly, his voice deep and familiar. Sam nods.

"Dean." He takes a quick breath. "Is it really you?"

"It's me," Dean nods. "You should test me with everything you've got, but yeah. It's really me."

"I believe you," Sam says, wiping his hands again just to have something to do. "What happened?"

Dean takes a deep breath, and Sam can see his eyes glistening in the sun. "She let me go, Sam," he answers, and his voice catches. "She just – she said she understood now."

"Understood what?" Sam demands, feeling snappish for no reason that he can figure.

"She understood what we mean to each other, you and me," Dean says, and now Sam can see the film of tears over his eyes. "She gets it. And she's just glad to have her brother back."

"Me too," Sam whispers. He puts the crag down on the Impala's engine, takes two giant steps forward, and gathers Dean into a rough embrace. He breathes in all the unfamiliar scents that flood his mind with sense-memories from his dreams, sense-memories that are no less intense for being dream-like. He buries his face in the crook of Dean's neck and lets them wash over him.

"Okay, okay, you know the drill," Dean says when he finally pulls away. He tests himself with holy water and a silver knife from the Impala's trunk while Sam watches, then binds his own bleeding hand and turns his attention to the car. "So how long has it been? She looks great."

"Almost two years," Sam answers, watching Dean's face as he takes this in. He seems stunned at first, and his eyes fill with tears again as he glances up at Sam, then back at the car. Sam has an overwhelming urge to gather him up in his arms, but he doesn't feel he has the right. Dean belongs to that other Sam, the one who remembers him.

Dean helps change the spark-plugs, then the oil. He checks the Impala's other fluid levels and pronounces the car in good condition.

"Do you want to take her for a spin?" Sam suggests, observing the relief in Dean's eyes as he slides behind the wheel and pulls her familiar smell into his lungs.

"No dog this time, huh?" he asks in response, and Sam frowns, feels that familiar hesitation in his brain when no memory comes forth to explain Dean's question, followed by shame. He should know what Dean is talking about but he just doesn't.

Dean's looking at him funny, and Sam shrugs and looks away, shifting uncomfortably.

"I'm sorry," he mutters. "I don't remember."

He hears Dean suck in a breath. "Never mind," he says softly. "It was a stupid joke. Yeah, come on. Let's go. You probably don't have anything to eat in the bunker anyway, and I'm starving!"

They head out onto the highway in the midday sun, sneaking sidelong glances at each other. Sam can't help comparing this drive to the one in his dream. He sits stiffly in the passenger seat, tension and nervous energy making his knee bounce, until Dean reaches across and lays his hand on it, warm and firm.

"You just don't remember much, do you?" Dean asks, and Sam shakes his head, biting on his lip now that his knee is still.

"I know you from dreams, Dean," he says hesitantly. "And pictures on the internet."

Dean nods, keeping his eyes on the road. Sam watches his jaw clench, remembers feeling safe and protected when he looked at Dean's profile in his dream.

"I remember those dreams, too," Dean says. "They're pretty fuzzy, though. I remember you telling me you couldn't remember me in the real world."

"Yeah," Sam nods. "It's all sense memories and what I've read about you – about us – online."

"And Cas did this to you?"

"Cas fixed me when I was in pretty bad shape, Dean," Sam says, immediately defensive about his friend. "He saved my life."

"Yeah, I get that," Dean says, jaw clenching again, and Sam thinks he understands. He read about what happened to Sam while Dean was in Hell.

"Cas isn't Ruby, Dean," Sam says, still defensive. "It's not like he's been filling me full of demon blood these past two years."

Dean's glance is sharp, incredulous. "I can't believe you said that," he says. "You would never say that. The Sam I know would never bring that bitch up. Okay, you know what? I think we're done here. I think we need to test you."

He pulls the car over onto the shoulder and stops, then gets out and slams the door. Sam gets out too, stands next to the car and watches as Dean digs the holy water and silver knife out of the trunk. He stands his ground stubbornly as Dean tests him, managing not to flinch as Dean cuts him, although it isn't the pain that affects him as much as having his hand cradled in Dean's. His skin is work-calloused, just like Sam's sense memory, and it makes Sam's heart race, makes him shiver.

Dean drops Sam's hand immediately and backs off, skittish. He paces back and forth, scrubs a hand over his face, keeps glancing at Sam like he thinks he'll disappear any moment.

"Okay, you know what? This is just fuckin' weird for me," Dean says finally. "I come back to find you've been shacking up with an angel, and you let him change you. How is that different from what happened the last time? Huh? I'm trying to wrap my mind around this, Sam, I really am."

Sam feels a rush of shame at Dean's accusation, almost as if he really were cheating on Dean. As if he and Castiel were lovers. Then he's blushing at a sense memory of firm, warm skin under his hands, a strong male body pressed against his.

"It's not like that, Dean," Sam protests, fighting down the heat rising in his cheeks. "Castiel and I are just friends. He's just been doing what you told him to do. Taking care of me. Without my memories, I'm kind of fucked-up. I remember how to do stuff, how to hunt, how to do everything, really, just without the context. Since, apparently, you were my context."

"Damn straight, I was," Dean stops pacing and stares at Sam, and Sam can see his anger slip away, replaced by something that looks like helpless frustration. "It's just, every time I leave, you end up different."

Sam takes a deep breath. "I thought you were dead, Dean," he says. "Then when I found out you weren't, I did everything I could think of to get you back, because that's what we do for each other, right? Even without my memories, I know that much."

Dean blinks rapidly at him, and Sam realizes he's got tears in his eyes again. It's something Sam's read about in the books, Dean's proclivity for wearing his heart on his sleeve, but seeing it in real life is almost overwhelming for Sam. All these feelings directed at Sam make Sam feel inadequate, seriously wanting emotionally. He knows he loves his brother, knows he should feel deeply right now, but his stupid memory-loss prevents that and just makes him feel guiltier. Dean doesn't deserve this.

"Okay," Dean says finally, taking a deep breath to steady himself. "We can deal with this, just like we deal with everything. We'll find a way to fix it, put you back the way you were before, then we'll move on. Just like we always do."

Sam doesn't have the heart to explain that he and Cas have already tried everything they could to reverse Sam's memory impairment. If Dean needed to believe he could fix it, Sam's not about to burst his bubble. Not within the first couple of hours after his return, at least. There'd be time to talk about it when they got back to the bunker.

Besides, maybe Dean's fresh perspective on the problem would yield some answers that Sam and Cas haven't thought of. It's worth a shot anyway, and Sam has a feeling he'd trusted his brother's instincts in the past for a reason. Dean's a gifted hunter, and maybe his considerable problem-solving skills really could fix this particular problem. Sam had always believed in Dean in the past, he knows that much, even if he can't remember exactly how that felt.

When they get to the diner in Kearney, Sam calls Jody to tell her the good news, and of course she's thrilled and asks to talk to Dean immediately.

When Dean hands the phone back, his fingers brush Sam's; he catches Sam's gaze and holds it for a moment, and Sam knows Jody's been singing his praises, which makes him blush.

"I owe you one, Jody," Sam tells her, dragging his eyes away from Dean. "I never would've found him if it wasn't for you."

"How's Castiel?" she asks.

"I haven't told him yet," Sam admits. "When I figured out what I needed to do to contact Dean, Cas and I had a little disagreement about methods. He took off early this morning, just before Dean came back."

"Sam, I know it's none of my business, but that angel loves you. He only does what he does because he thinks it's best for you."

Sam feels like he's twenty years younger suddenly, like Jody's his mom. He nods because he's a little choked up, then manages a sniffled, "I know," after he clears his throat.

In the diner, Dean watches Sam over the top of his menu till Sam puts his own menu down.

"What?" he demands.

"Nothin'." Dean shrugs, gazing unseeing at his menu. "Jody says you only found out about me a couple of months ago."

"That's right." Sam nods. "We were on a case near Sioux Falls, and she was in on it."

"So Cas lied to you all that time? Took away your memories and lied to you about your past?"

Sam takes a deep breath, shakes his head sharply. "He didn't exactly lie," he says. "He just didn't fill in the blanks. And there were a lot of blanks. So I – mostly I made assumptions, you know? I was brain-damaged, and he was my caretaker."

"So he let you believe things that weren't true," Dean clarifies. "That's called lying, Sam."

Sam shakes his head. "No, it isn't," he insists. "It's not like Cas was trying to deliberately deceive me. If I asked direct questions, he always gave me pretty straight answers."

"But you thought he'd been with you since you were a kid," Dean says. "That's a pretty big deception right there, Sam. He let you think he was your lifelong guardian angel. What kind of shit is that?"

The waitress arrives at that moment to take their order, and Dean watches Sam like a hawk as he orders his salad and a plain turkey sandwich on wheat bread, hold the mayo. Sam stares as Dean orders a bacon-cheeseburger with extra onions and wonders how he can be related to this guy.

"I had sense memories of somebody taking care of me, when I was a kid," Sam says when the waitress leaves them alone again. "Somebody besides Dad. I figured it was Cas, but I never asked him to confirm that. I didn't think I needed to. It felt like there'd been something wrong with me all my life, and he'd always been there to look out for me."

"That was me, Sam," Dean growls. "I was the one looking out for you."

"I know that now," Sam nods.

Dean stares at him for another moment then shakes his head. "This is just so fuckin' weird," he admits. "You're probably not even that glad to see me. Probably didn't even miss me much."

"I guess I did before Cas fixed me," Sam reminds him. "Nearly died trying to get you back, apparently. Plus, once Jody helped me figure everything out, I got back to work trying to find you. Then I had those dreams, and there you were, trying to get back."

"Of course I was." Dean shrugs. "I couldn't stay with her forever. I needed to get back to you before you did something stupid. I knew you'd think I was dead, and that's never good."

Their food arrives, and for a few minutes they eat in silence, stealing glances at each other, then looking away as soon as they notice the other one looking. It feels like an awkward first date. When Sam's foot knocks against Dean's under the table he jumps, pulling his foot back with a mumbled "sorry" that makes Dean frown.

"So – Amara," Sam tries after too many minutes have gone by.

"What about her?" Dean growls, pissed off about something. Again.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"What do you think, Sam?" Dean grouses.

"I'm just wondering what happened, that's all."

"She agreed to my terms," Dean mumbles. "Stop destroying the world if I came with her."

"And the bomb – ?"

"She defused it, of course," Dean shrugs. "Knew it was there right away."

"So that flash of light I saw – "

"Was just her uniting with Chuck and turning the sun on again," Dean says.

"She and Chuck? Together?"

"Yeah, I don't remember a lot about that part," Dean admits. "I kept trying to convince her that she needed him the way I – Well, I just figured if she could see how important family is, maybe she'd make up with Chuck and let his creation go, you know? Seemed like it was worth a shot."

"But she kept you," Sam says. "You were her prisoner."

"Yeah, I guess I was," Dean agrees, avoiding Sam's eyes.

"But when I first found you in my dream, you said you'd been trying to get through to me for a while," Sam coaxes.

"Yeah, I guess I was," Dean says again, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. His knee knocks against Sam's under the table and Sam forces himself not to pull away, to let Dean's leg lean easily against his. "It's pretty fuzzy, to be honest. Felt like just a few months, but you say it's been two years." Dean shakes his head. "That's gonna take some getting used to."

Dean asks about the others, about Crowley and Rowena and the archangels, and Sam fills him in as best he can from his dream-memories and discussions with Castiel.

"So Lucifer's still in the wind." Dean nods as Sam pays the check and they get up to leave. "Seems like putting him away again is our top priority, wouldn't you say? After we get you fixed up."

Sam says nothing, and he can feel Dean frowning at his back as he leads the way to the car, almost gets into the driver's seat before he remembers. It's going to take a little getting used to, he decides as he slides into the passenger seat.

When they get back to the bunker, Castiel is already there, the look of contrition which Sam had expected to see on his face replaced with a look of shock as he sees Dean.

"Dean!" The angel barrels past Sam and straight into Dean, practically knocking him over as he embraces Sam's brother. Sam watches his angel respond to Dean with utter familiarity and he feels like an outsider, almost a voyeur. He knows that Castiel saved Dean from Hell, and that they had a special bond as a result. Sam thinks he should feel a little jealousy right now.

None of his feelings are right except the shame he feels for not remembering the things he thinks he should.

"Hey, uh, Sam's filled me in on what happened after I left," Dean says when he pulls away, holding Cas at arms length. "I want you to know I'm grateful for what you did. For looking after Sam. I know it wasn't easy, and you had to take some drastic measures."

He glances as Sam, like he expects a sympathetic look, or maybe gratitude that he's keeping his temper and not berating the angel for messing up his brother the way he did in the diner.

Sam nods his encouragement and approval, and Dean takes another step back, facing Castiel again.

"So just, thank you, Cas, for looking after Sam while I was gone. I know you probably had to put aside some of your angel stuff over the past two years, and I'm – I'm grateful, man. You really are a brother."

Sam frowns. He's aware that Castiel spent all that time with him, and he had understood after reading the Supernatural books that Castiel usually had other things he did that had more to do with Heaven and the angels. It had plagued him variously through the past year-and-a-half, off and on, but he believed Cas when the angel told him there was no place he'd rather be. It had been important to Sam that this was true, that he wasn't being a burden or preventing Castiel from doing something else. Now he feels another rush of shame at the idea that Castiel was lying to him about that, as well...

"Believe me, Dean, there was nowhere I would rather have been," Castiel intones, somehow understanding what Sam needed to hear. "Sam needed me. I have never been necessary to anyone like that. It was an honor, and an experience that I will cherish always." He looks up at Sam, and there's a film of tears over his lovely blue eyes. "Sam and I share a profound bond. Different, perhaps, from the one you and I share, but no less profound."

"Yeah, well, I think this calls for some beer." Dean lowers his eyes and shifts awkwardly. "Then it sounds like we've got work to do."

While Dean gets the beer – and Sam fights back the urge to prevent him from leaving the room because he remembers too clearly what happened after that in his dream – Castiel turns his sorrowful eyes up to Sam.

"I am sorry, Sam," he says, "for not believing you when you insisted that Dean was alive, and for refusing to believe that your dreams were a real psychic phenomenon. I see now that I was wrong. I was afraid you were starting down the same path of obsession and self-harm that nearly got you killed last year, and I couldn't see past that to consider the possibility that what you were experiencing was more than a simple dream. I see now that you were right. Your bond with your brother has saved you both. Again."

"It's okay, Cas." Sam puts his hand on Cas's shoulder and squeezes. Cas steps forward impulsively and wraps his arms around Sam. It's different from hugging Dean – more familiar, but without all the sense memories.

"Okay, okay, here we go." Dean clears his throat as he enters the room, three beer bottles dangling from one hand. Sam and Cas separate, and Sam fights down a pang of guilt, as if he's been caught making out with Castiel instead of merely hugging him.

Dean twists open a beer and hands it to Sam, who takes it awkwardly, ignoring his irritation at being treated like someone who can't even open his own beer because he knows that's not Dean's intention. It must be a habit, one of the ways Dean has offered his affection and care-giving over the years, if only Sam could remember.

When he does the same for Castiel, Sam knows he's right. Cas is an honorary brother now, so he gets treated like a younger sibling, too.

"Here's to us kicking the Darkness's ass," Dean raises his bottle, and the others raise theirs and wait while Dean clinks his bottle against first Sam's, then Castiel's bottle. Then Sam touches his bottle to Cas's, smiling his reassurance, and Dean frowns. Apparently that look was supposed to be for him. Castiel watches as Dean and Sam take swigs of their beer, and Sam grins as Castiel follows their lead, making a face as the cold liquid pours down his throat.

"I have never understood why humans enjoy alcohol so much," he says, and Dean chuckles.

"That's because you can't get drunk," he says with a wink at Sam, who blushes to the roots of his hair and lowers his eyes. When he looks up again Dean's watching him, a speculative look in his eye that Sam can't quite read. It makes the blood rush to Sam's groin, though, and he chews on his bottom lip. He watches Dean tilt his head back as he takes another sip of his beer, full, wet lips pressed to the mouth of the bottle, powerful neck muscles moving as he swallows.

If Sam wasn't missing all memory of Dean flirting with him, he'd say this was it.

Dean pulls the bottle off with a smack. He licks his lips slowly before lifting his eyes to Sam, holding his gaze with a smirk on the edges of his perfect mouth. Now it's pretty clear he's flirting. It doesn't take any memories at all to figure that out.

"So what've you got on Lucifer?" Dean asks Castiel, although his eyes linger on Sam's another moment and his smirk widens just a little when he turns away, as though he's feeling a little smug about the effect he's having.

Sam turns away with a scowl and rolls his eyes, but Dean's right. Sam's definitely affected. How did that other Sam ever manage this? Dean's a walking promise of sensual pleasures beyond anything Sam can imagine, and Sam's supposed to resist that because Dean's his brother? What kind of cosmic joke is God playing here?

They spend the afternoon going over Castiel's leads. Apparently, Lucifer has been moonlighting as a rockstar, a televangelist, and an actor on a reality TV show called "Ask the Devil If He Cares." He's being embarrassingly obvious, according to Castiel, as if he's flaunting it in their faces that he knows he can't be stopped.

And while Michael has been busy in Heaven, fixing all the chaos among the angels there, Gabriel and Castiel have discussed plans for taking Lucifer down and caging him again, with or without Michael's help.

"Of course, as his former vessel, he can sense me when I come anywhere near him," Castiel reminds the Winchesters. "Sam, too. When it comes to capturing Lucifer, it may come down to you and Gabriel, Dean."

"I can do that," Dean says, all bluster and bravado, but Sam catches the fleeting glimpse of fear in his eyes.

"Let's see what we can come up with that doesn't involve Dean sacrificing himself to save the world again," Sam says gruffly. "He's been home from his last gig for less than a day. I think we need to give it a break, don't you?"

When he was met with two sets of concerned looks, Sam threw his hands up.

"What? You think I'm being out of character here? The old Sam Winchester would just say, 'Oh, sure, go right ahead and kill yourself again, Dean. Fine by me!'"

"If that's what it takes to put Lucifer away, Sam, then yes, I'm willing to die," Dean growls. "It's Lucifer, Sam! You of all people know how important it is to stop him."

Sam flashes back to his dream about Chuck; he thinks he can almost remember having a conversation with Dean along these very lines, but he's not sure whether they were talking about Amara or Lucifer. It's all too fuzzy.

Sam doesn't realize he's bent over and clutching his head until Dean's hands are on him, strong and reassuring, petting his hair and guiding him to the armchair in the corner, the one Chuck sat in in Sam's dream.

"Hey," Dean soothes, close to his ear. "Hey, buddy. You having one of your psychic episodes again? Huh? Is that what this is?"

Sam's head hurts, but he imagines it's not quite like those visions he used to get, not that he can remember. He clutches Dean's arm and the front of his shirt as his brother starts to pull away, blinks up at him as Dean's features swim in front of his eyes, familiar and beloved one moment, strange and sinfully attractive the next.

"I don't want to lose you again," Sam chokes brokenly. "I need to get to know you. I feel like I'm supposed to know you."

Dean blinks, frowns, runs his hand through Sam's hair as he gazes into his face, searching for something.

"I'm not going anywhere, Sam," he says quietly. "I'm right here, okay? I'll be right here as long as you need me."

Sam shivers, Dean's deep voice resonating through his bones as if it comes from inside his head, like it has done over the past year and a half, steadying him and keeping him sane.

"I think we need to take a break for today," Dean tells Cas. "Maybe get some food, get some rest, start again in the morning. What do you say?"

Castiel nods. "I will make soup," he announces. "Sam likes soup. When he's having an episode, it is the only food he will take."

"An episode," Dean repeats, straightening so he can turn to Cas. Sam tries not to reach for him, to maintain contact the way he wants to, to keep himself grounded. "So you've seen this before."

Cas nods. "At first, after his memories were wiped, he was happier," Cas explains. "He seemed content to go on an occasional hunt, but mostly he spent hours organizing the archives here. Then about six months ago, he began having migraines. I assumed they were a normal side-effect of his brain healing itself. Usually they would pass after he slept, so I gave him soup and put him to bed, and he was better in the morning. He forgot all about the migraine each time he had one, so I wasn't concerned."

"Hey, I'm right here," Sam reminds them, running a hand through his hair as he lifts his head, regarding them both irritably. "You talk about me like I'm some kind of mental patient. Like I'm sick."

"You are sick, Sam," Dean growls. "You're not yourself, okay? Your memories are gone, and now I find out you've been having episodes..."

"There may be an explanation for those," Castiel says. "You say you started trying to contact Sam six months ago. Perhaps his migraines were a response to that psychic connection."

"See?" Sam throws a grateful look at Cas before peering up at Dean. "I'm not sick."

"So you're saying those migraines were just Sam's attempt to tune into my bat signal," Dean raises an eyebrow. "Of course they were. I always knew your telepathy thing was good for something."

"No, you didn't." Sam shakes his head. "You always thought it was caused by my demon-blood infection."

"You remember that?" Dean asks sharply.

"I read it online, Dean," Sam sighs. "In those Supernatural books."

"Oh. Right." Dean deflates a little. "Okay, but here's what I don't get. If those episodes were Sam Winchester Radio receiving my signal, what's going on now? Why would he have an episode when I'm right here in the room with him?"

"Uh, feedback, maybe?" Sam ventures. "You know, that high-pitched sound that happens when the receiver and the signal are too close together?"

Castiel shakes his head. "When Sam had one of his seizures, he usually passed out afterwards, and he never remembered it when he woke up. This is something else. It may be nothing psychic at all. Just Sam responding normally to having you back. You are soul-bonded, after all. Simply to be united must be a great relief for you both, physically as well as emotionally."

"Okay, I've heard enough," Dean licks his lips nervously and won't look Sam in the eye, so Sam suspects Castiel has hit the nail on the head. "Time for food, then sleep."

Sam's knees are a little weak, but he gets up with Dean's help and manages to make it into the kitchen. While Dean heats the soup, Castiel stands around awkwardly, unsure what to do now that his care-giving duties have been returned to their previous owner. Sam reaches out a hand, gesturing to him with an encouraging smile until Cas moves closer and lets Sam take his hand.

"Come sit with me," Sam commands, and Cas complies without question, sitting just as stiffly as he stood. Sam keeps hold of his hand for another moment, squeezing it before he lets it go, and Cas leaves it on the table, his other arm hanging awkwardly at his side.

When Sam looks up, Dean's frowning at them from his place by the stove where he's stirring the soup. He says nothing, but Sam can tell he's not happy, and it fills Sam with that strange combination of shame and defiance that he's already felt several times today. Dean disapproves of his relationship with Cas. He's jealous, sure, but he's also feeling guilty, which Sam understands. Dean feels he should have been here, that he should have been the one caring for Sam when Sam needed it. But that's impossible, and it irritates Sam that Dean should be so stubborn in his disapproval. He needs to get past it and be grateful, damn it.

How the fuck do I know that? he asks himself, and of course he gets no answer because Dean's not in his head anymore. Dean's not snarking at him about how he should "damn well know that, Sam!" because he's right here now. For real.

Sam finishes his soup under the watchful gaze of his brother and his angel, then pushes his chair back with a loud screech.

"I'm going to bed," he announces, unable to look either of his caregivers in the eye. "Alone."

Cas flinches, and Sam could have caught the startled glare Dean threw at Castiel if he'd cared enough. He knows Castiel's expression is a mixture of chagrin and that weird brand of angel curiosity that sometimes comes across as arrogance.

Sam knows his angel too well. Cas is feeling a tiny bit triumphant and he's trying not to show it.

"He -– He lets you watch him sleep?" Dean hisses.

Sam's left the kitchen and is already in the hall, but the weird acoustics of the bunker ensure he can hear Dean's question, even as he's walking away.

He doesn't hear Castiel's response, but he can guess what his face looks like.

This is so fucked up.

Sam stumbles when he gets to Dean's door; he slept there last night, like he's done for the past two months, and he knows the bed is a mess, but he's too tired to deal with it. Dean can sleep in one of the spare rooms if he wants. Sam keeps going, around the corner and down the hall, finally pushing the door of his own room open, kicking off his boots as he goes. He knows he should shower and brush his teeth, should probably take his clothes off, for God's sake. But he's bone-weary, barely awake, and within a minute after collapsing face-down across his bed he's out.

It's been a long day.

Sometime in the night, or maybe just an hour later, he thinks he can hear voices. There's no way he's waking up, but Dean and Cas seem to be talking in the hallway right outside his door, like they were checking on him. Sam's so tired and mostly asleep that he doesn't move, stays where he is, only half-aware of the low voices, letting the familiar sounds comfort him. He feels like a child whose parents are checking on him before they go to bed.

"You have to make Gabriel fix him," Dean rumbles quietly, all rancor gone from his voice, and it occurs to Sam that Dean and Cas have been up talking, They've hashed things out between them while Sam's been sleeping.

"I can try," Castiel answers, just as quietly.

"He's having seizures and black-outs, Cas," Dean says forcefully. "He can't directly remember anything about his past." He can't remember me, he doesn't say, but Sam hears it anyway.

"Gabriel expressed reservations about what I did for Sam in the first place," Castiel says, his voice rueful and full of doubt. "I am not sure he would help me now."

"So make a deal. Tell Gabriel you'll help him, but on one condition."

Castiel is silent for a moment, and Sam imagines them both standing in his doorway, watching him sleep.

Not creepy at all.

"I will try," Castiel says finally. "He does seem to need my help. And you are here now, so my work here is done."

"Don't say that, Cas," Dean says softly. "You'll always be welcome here. You know that."

Cas hesitates, then sucks in a breath. "He always believed in you," he says. "Against all odds, even when I didn't agree, he insisted that you were trying to get through to him. He knew that you would try everything to get home to him. Even without his memories, he knows you. He has tremendous faith, Dean. In you."

"Of course he does," Dean breathes, and Sam can hear the fondness in his voice, along with the teasing tone Sam always finds so annoying, although he can't consciously remember why.

Sam drifts then, and if he were awake enough he would see Cas and Dean pulling his door shut quietly, leaving him to his rest. If he were a camera mounted in the hall he might be able to follow Dean to his own room, after Cas says goodnight and disappears to go have it out with Gabriel, to make his deal. He might see Dean stopping for a moment in the doorway to his own room, observe the mess. If he were a fly on the wall, Sam might see Dean's expression shift from surprise to annoyance to realization as it hits him that this is where Sam has been spending his nights over the past few months, dreaming his way back to his brother.

If Sam were one of the room's light-fixtures he would see Dean undress down to his tee-shirt and boxers, then slip into the bed, pressing his face into the Sam-scented pillow. He would see Dean hesitate as his fingers find the little amulet, as he pulls it out and stares at it for a moment, frowning. Then Sam would see Dean lay the little charm on the bedside table, next to the picture of Mary and little-boy Dean. He would see Dean reach up to turn out the light, snuggle down into the bed that smells like old sweat and Sam.

If Sam were in Dean's mind he would hear his own voice, murmuring, "It's okay, Dean. You're home now. We're gonna figure it out together, just like we always have."

If Sam were in Dean's dreams he would see himself, standing strong and proud and tall, giving Dean a shy dimpled grin as Dean walks toward him, waiting.



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