Summary: Tag to 13x21 – Sam was pale and dirty and covered in blood, the alarming amount testifying to the fatal wounds he had sustained. Yet there he was – alive and staring straight at them.

Disclaimer: Not mine

Warnings: Spoilers for 13x21

As long as you're right here next to me, everything's gonna be alright. – Florida Georgia Line

Mary thought it was a suicide mission; her expression said as much.

The others would agree, would shift their glances among each other but would say nothing.

Because there was nothing to say.

Nothing could fill the gaping hole aching in Dean's chest. Nothing could extinguish the seething rage burning within. Nothing could stop the constant replay of Sam's last moments.

Dean clenched his jaw, unable to hear the water sloshing into his canteen over the echoing loop of Sam's voice calling his name – a fearful, desperate gasp as blood had gushed from Sam's neck. His little brother calling to him in pain and terror, believing Dean could save him even as his life had pooled around him on the cold cave floor.

But Dean couldn't save him.

And worse – he didn't even go after him.

Vampires drug Sam away in a smear of blood and screams, and Dean didn't even follow.

And why?

Because Cas said so? Because Cas said Sam couldn't be saved? Because Cas said there wasn't time?

What the fuck?

Since when did Dean let anyone keep him from his brother? Since when did Dean not fucking kill whoever was stupid enough to try? Since when did Dean leave his reason for living lying alone in a cave?

Fresh guilt and rage twisted in Dean's gut like a jagged dagger.

He felt Mary staring at him as he screwed the lid back on his canteen. She could understand in a general sense how it felt to lose Sam, but she had no grasp on the width and depth of that loss. She had known him as an infant for six months, 30-some years ago, and had been aloof during their recent reunion. She didn't know Sam.

But Dean did.

Dean lived and breathed for his little brother, for that floppy-haired kid with big eyes and an even bigger heart who grew up to be the kind of person their shitty world didn't deserve.

The world had punched Sam in the face so many times Dean wouldn't have blamed him if he had stopped believing in good.

But Sam never did. He believed in good, and he believed in Dean. What's more – he believed in the good in Dean. He believed Dean would follow him into the dark.

He was wrong.

Dean swallowed against the tightness in his throat, wondering how he could have left Sam behind? Wondering if Sam was still murmuring his name with his last breaths of life. Wondering if Sam felt betrayed and abandoned, if Sam regretted his speech about them coming here together...even if that meant dying – because they would do that together, too.

What a fucking joke.

Dean was a fucking joke. Any love and respect Sam had ever given him was misplaced at best and wasted at worst.

The world didn't deserve Sam...but neither did Dean.

Instead of risking his life to save his brother, instead of dying right alongside him, Dean left him. He took an angel's word over his own instincts as a big brother and left Sam to die.

Dean knew the guilt would crush him soon enough, but he also knew a quicker way to end things – a better way. The way he should have handled it before.

"We have to go back," Dean announced, his voice raw and hoarse from the emotion he kept pushing down. He hefted his pack to his shoulder. "Get his body."

And if the vampires killed him in the process, so be it.

Dean hoped they would.

Because as Sam had alluded back at the bunker – wherever they went, they went together…or they didn't fucking go.

Death was no exception.

Mary remained silent, recognizing the stubborn determination on Dean's face since she had seen the same expression on John's so many times in a life far from this one. She sighed, following her son but also keeping her distance since he did not invite her to join. Although Dean had said "we," she sensed he didn't mean it. He intended to retrieve Sam's body by himself because that's what big brothers did – they took care of their little brothers even in death.

The thought made Mary's heart ache, made the mother inside of her want to reason with Dean.

But any conversation would have to wait since it seemed a new danger was on the horizon. The camp bell only rang to signal trouble, and someone was ringing the shit out of it.

Mary glanced at Dean, watching his expression morph from alert suspicion to stunned recognition. She frowned, wondering what he could sense, and followed his gaze as Sam shuffled into view.

He was pale and dirty and covered in blood, the alarming amount testifying to the fatal wounds he had sustained. Yet there he was – alive and staring straight at them.

Or rather, straight at Dean.

And Dean was staring straight back.

Something passed between them. Mary had witnessed it several times, not only since she had been reunited with them in the past few months but since they were children as well. There had always been an unspoken force between them – the kind that occurs when one soul is split between two bodies – and she saw that bond, that connection, that love on full display now.

Sam's shaky smile was brief, swept away in a soft, choked breath akin to a sob that only made sense when the devil himself appeared behind him.

The entire camp froze as realization dawned: Sam was alive because Lucifer made it so...which meant this deal had strings, per usual.

Sam closed his eyes in an instant of dread and shame, and ducked his head, unable to bear Dean's disappointment. He had let down his big brother so many times. So many times. And now...

Dean shook his head, walking toward Sam until he had the kid in his arms, until Sam's chin was resting on his shoulder, until his hands were gripping the back of Sam's jacket. He held his little brother close and tight, assuring Sam that it didn't matter.

Whatever had happened, whatever Lucifer had done or said, it didn't matter. Sam wasn't to blame; Dean was. Dean was to blame for leaving Sam alone and vulnerable. Dean was to blame for not going after his brother and protecting him when he needed it the most.

Whatever deal was struck, they would carry it – and figure a way out of it – together.

Sam stood there, rigid and uncertain for only a heartbeat before receiving Dean's message and melting into his big brother's embrace, his fingers twisting the fabric of Dean's jacket in return. He pressed his forehead against Dean's shoulder and closed his eyes in absolute relief, the way a child does when he is home.

Mary's eyes misted as she watched them, reminded that while she was their mother, she would never be home to either of them. They were home to each other, and she was content with that, had known that from the beginning.

Dean held his brother, allowing Sam to rest against him as he pinned Lucifer with a hard gaze over Sam's shoulder.

Lucifer smirked, confident he had somehow won, that Sam somehow belonged to him now.

But the devil was wrong.

In this world and in any other, Sam belonged to two people: himself and Dean.

All others could go fuck themselves.

Including Lucifer.

Especially Lucifer.

Dean twitched a defiant smile and hugged his little brother a little tighter.