Sam crashes before he even makes it to the Impala. Dean sees it coming, of course. He knows his brother is only upright because he's too stubborn to go down in front of those British bastards. He sees him tremble as he shifts his weight back and forth from his bandaged foot to his veterinarian-patched leg, watches him grasp his lacerated hand and then drop it quickly, as if he doesn't want to draw attention to it, and he knows Sam's running on adrenaline and willpower alone. So he's close enough to catch him when he stumbles and collapses halfway to the car. They bundle him into the back seat of the Impala and Cas lays a hand on his forehead, erasing the damage and leaving him in what Cas calls "a deep restful sleep."
When they finally get back to the bunker and Dean opens the car door, Sam jerks awake and stares at him like he's not really convinced he's there. And, well, Dean can't blame him for that. He doesn't look at Mary at all, and Dean's less sure about that part.
Sam gets out slowly and stretches tentatively, like he expects to be in more pain than he is, and announces he's going to take a very long shower. Mary says she'll go pick up some dinner, and when Dean tries to insist on driving her, she points out that he should stay here with Sam, and also that she's kind of itching to drive the Impala, so he hands her the keys and gives her directions to the Chicken Stop ten miles down the highway.
Dean's sitting at the map room table when Sam shows up with clean clothes and damp hair.
"So," Sam says, taking a seat across from him, but not really looking at him. "Not dead."
"Apparently not." Dean feels oddly uneasy about it. Not about being alive, of course. He's pretty much in favor of that. But Sam was out there, being tortured, thinking Dean had left him alone in the world, and that stings. "Amara and Chuck made up. Didn't need to use the soul bomb after all."
Sam examines his healed left hand. "And where are the souls?"
"Don't really know. They got released."
"And Mom?" Sam says, still not looking at Dean.
"Yeah, that's... I don't even know, man. Amara said I gave her what she wanted most, and she wanted to do the same thing for me. And I guess she decided that was Mom."
Dean's still anxious about the whole thing, and doesn't feel like examining it right now, so he changes the subject. "But listen. You're the one who's been through some serious shit. What the hell was that about? What did that crazy bitch want?"
Sam shrugs. "She had questions. About hunting."
"But what kind of questions? What did she want to know, that was worth kidnapping and torturing you to get?"
And now Sam looks him in the eye, and seems to collapse a bit. He tips his head up toward the ceiling and sighs deeply. "Screw you," he says quietly.
"I told you, the answer is always going to be, screw. You."
"What the fuck, Sam?"
He's quiet, sitting motionless, eyes tightly closed. When he opens them, he looks around and seems disappointed to find himself still in the bunker.
"You. Mom. This." Sam leans forward and plants his elbows on the table, putting his head in his hands. "I knew it was bullshit. Better than the first one, I'll give you that, since I can't seem to break it."
"Dude. What?" Dean's shit is fucked up meter is creeping into the red.
"Oh, come on!" Sam looks up, finally looks at Dean. "Just stop it, okay? I mean, yeah, Dean coming back from the dead, it makes sense. It's happened before. But Mom? How stupid do you think I am?"
"Seriously, Sam, what the fuck are you talking about?"
"Look. I know you're not really him. You didn't think I believed your little story about not being able to do this to me again, did you? Oh no, I'll melt your brain! I know that was bullshit, and this is another hallucination, and you can just fucking stop it."
"Hallucination? She made you have a hallucination?" Dean remembers Sam reaching for his bloody hand, and feels a familiar shiver run down his spine. "Lucifer? You were seeing Lucifer again?"
"Dammit!" Sam slams his hand down on the table. "I'm not stupid! One minute I'm in your basement, and then I wake up in the Impala and all my injuries are gone, and my dead brother and dead mother are here, and I'm supposed to start spilling all my secrets to them?"
"Sam, I don't know what's going on here. Cas healed you. You don't remember?" But Sam crashed before Cas even touched him, and maybe he doesn't remember after all. And it sounds like whatever happened to him in that bitch's basement wasn't as cut-and-dried as Dean assumed. "Sammy," he says cautiously, "I don't know what she did to you that messed with your head like this, but I swear. I'm real. Mom's real. This is all really happening."
"Of course it is," Sam says. "That's why the gun under the table is missing."
Shit, shit. He hadn't even noticed Sam snaking a hand under the table. "I gave it to Mom. When we got here, your blood was all over the floor and I thought she needed a weapon."
Sam's smile is brittle and cold. "How convenient."
"What were you going to do with the gun, Sam?"
"If you really were Dean, you'd know."
And oh, fuck, Dean is terrified that he does know. Because Sam knows how to get out of a djinn's dream, and he might try the same thing to get out of a hallucination he can't stop.
What did that woman do to him?
"Listen. What can I do to prove this is real? There's got to be something. Please, Sam." He stands up and walks around the table as Sam eyes him warily. "Come on, man. Get up." He picks up Sam's hand and puts it on his own arm. "I'm real. Feel me."
Sam jerks his hand back as if he's been burned and jumps out of the chair, distancing himself from Dean. "Jesus Christ! Like that proves anything!"
But then his expression softens. "But why would she try that? She would have known it wouldn't work," he says, under his breath.
Sam folds his arms and looks at Dean, like he's memorizing his features. And Dean tries very hard to look real, which is kind of ridiculous and impossible but seems very important right now.
Finally Sam runs his hands up his face and through his hair. "Actually, you know what? I changed my mind. It doesn't matter."
Dean is completely befuddled. "Yeah, it does. It matters."
"No, it doesn't. See, if you're real, that's great. And if you're not real... then, when I wake up, I'm going be back in that basement. And she's going start hurting me again. So maybe, maybe we can just go with this. Maybe you can just not ask me about any of it, and I can ride this out."
That's not exactly encouraging, and it actually kind of makes something squeeze around Dean's heart and clench until he can't breathe, but it's a start. "So, I won't ask you any questions, and you won't try to kill yourself. Is that a deal?"
Sam's smile is weak, but authentic. "Yeah. Deal."
Dean holds out his hand. "Shake on it." But when he gets a hold of Sam's hand, he pulls him into a hug instead. "It's gonna be okay," he says. "I promise."
Sam stiffens at first, then wraps his arms tightly around Dean and buries his head in his shoulder, and it's only been a few days since they were in this position, but it feels like a lifetime. A long, bad lifetime.
Then Mary gets back with dinner and Dean watches his brother stare at her like she's a dream and he's afraid he's going to wake up, and he swears a silent oath that if he ever sees that bitch again, he's going to shoot her in the face.