There have been many fics in which Dean finds out that Sam is out of the Pit. This is another one. It is rated for some language and a little innuendo. There are of course spoilers for season 5. Any mistakes are of course my own. I greatly appreciate all who choose to read it.

Disclaimer: Supernatural is the property of E. Kripke and the CW.

And He's Been Gone For a While

Dean tried the door to room 134 and found it unlocked. He slipped silently past the door and flipped on the light. The room was beige; walls, floors, bedspread all the same off-brown. He remember Lisa telling him the color went with anything and had the random thought that it must mean that this was a room meant to do anything in. This was probably appropriate since the rooms in this none too classy establishment rented by the hour.

The room appeared empty; except for the standard double beds with broken down mattresses and scarred chest of drawers. The bathroom door was closed but he had been in enough similar rooms to know what it would look like. He moved to the center of the room and called out, "I'm here, Cas, what was so damn important that for the first time in almost a year you visit me in a dream and tell me to get my ass here ASAP? Where are you? I get up in the middle of the night and drive 4 hours to this Rohypnol hotel and you're not even here to play host?"

"I am here Dean."

The voice came from just behind Winchester's right shoulder, causing him to startle and quickly turn only to find Castiel's face not 6 inches from his own. Dean jumped back. "Still not real good with the whole concept of personal space I see." Dean took a second to look at the angel. He was still wearing Jimmy but he looked less rumpled. Dean swore that if he squinted he would be able to see power shining around the angel like some kind of freakish aura. "Looking good. I guess being the new sheriff agrees with you."

Cas shook his head. "Things are still troubled. Being one of the powers in Heaven is not so desirable as you might imagine."

"Yeah, I'm sure it sucks to be you. Now what was so important I had to come here to hear it?"

"I have asked you here to show you something. Something you should have seen a long time ago."

"I had to drive four hours in the middle of the night so you could show me something?"

"Yes, something that is wonderful and do not fear, it is only what it appears, totally in its original state."

Dean looked around the small room with the double beds and then back at the angel that raised him from perdition and ultimately gave up everything for him, including his life. "So, ahhh, you asked me to meet you at a no-tell motel, at the ass-end of night, to show me something that is wonderful? And apparently only you can show me. And it is totally natural."

"Yes."

"Cas," Dean shifted uneasily, hoping he was totally misinterpreting the angel, "You do know that I don't swing that way."

Castiel stared at Dean, his forehead slight scrunched and his head tilted. "I did not invite you here for sexual congress. I had not even considered…" he stopped as if he just might be considering it.

"No, no of course not," Dean stammered. He cleared his throat. "So what is wonderful thing?"

"It's me."

The voice came from the direction of the bathroom. Dean turned slowly, fear and hope a staccato beat in his chest. The doorway was now filled with a man that Dean believed he would never see again. The voice was one that he never thought he'd hear again outside of his nightmares. "Sam?"

"Yeah, Dean, it's me. Only me." Sam Winchester didn't get a chance to say anything else before his brother wrapped his arms around him and hugged him so tightly that no other words were possible. He brought his own arms up and returned the embrace. It felt like he was finally home and released a weight that until that minute he didn't realize he had been carrying.

The angel discreetly disappeared, leaving the brothers to their reunion.

Both men's eyes watered with tears of relief and joy and neither wanted to let go of the other long enough to wipe them away. Minutes passed before either brother stepped back.

"How?" Dean asked, keeping one hand on Sam's shoulder, as if afraid if he let go the other might disappear, and not even trying to disguise that fact that he was given his brother the once over.

"I don't really know. Castiel thinks that maybe it was God."

Dean nodded his acceptance and said a quick, silent prayer of gratitude. All the anger he felt at the Big Man disappeared in the space of a breath. Sam deserved to have been saved by God. "You're okay?"

"Relatively okay, yeah."

"That's just…you're back. I never thought I'd ever see you…" Dean's thoughts, feelings and words were all colliding into a big chaotic, happy mess.

"Yeah, I know. I never thought I'd be topside again, that I'd see you again."

"And here you are," Dean replied with a trace of wonder.

"And here I am.

"Dean it is more than great to finally see you but I had a reason for asking Castiel to bring you here, I need your help." Sam gently took his brother's hand off his shoulder and moved to the bed, leaning down he pulled his duffle bag out from under it and retrieved a folder of papers. He lay them on top of the taupe coverlet and spread them out for his brother to see. "I've been tracking what I and Castiel think may be a rogue angel. We've narrowed it down to this area." He indicated a place on a map.

Dean sauntered over and looked at the papers and the research. "I'm not hunting anymore Sam," he said absently, studying the file, "You asked me not to, it was practically the last thing you asked me to do." He was quiet several minutes. "This research looks like it took weeks, maybe months to put together." He sat down slowly on the bed, eyes slowly finding his brother's. "How long you been out, Sam?" he asked quietly.

Sam didn't respond immediately. "A while," he admitted reluctantly.

"How long is a while? How long you been waking around topside without letting me know?" Dean asked with quiet intensity.

"Does it really matter? You know now and I need your help, Castiel needs your help."

"It matters to me, Sam. How long?" Dean demanded.

"About a year," Sam muttered.

"A year?"

Sam nodded slowly.

"And Cas, he knew you were walking around up here and he didn't tell me?"

"I asked him not to."

"And Bobby? Does Bobby know too? You might as well tell me the truth 'cause I'm gonna ask him."

Sam gave one quick nod. "A few months ago I ran across him on a hunt."

Dean stood. "You've been back almost a year and are only telling me this now because you need help on a hunt." His voice sounded raw and as if it hurt to say the words.

Sam stood and faced his brother. "I didn't tell you before because I wanted you to have your chance at normal. You deserve it and it was the only way I could pay you back for all of your sacrifices."

"Of course you did it for me, Sam. You wanted me to play at happy-family, to try to start a new life even though the only thing I really wanted was not to be alive. You wanted me to be with a great woman and an awesome kid who deserve much better than to be stuck with a man who is tormented each night by nightmares of his brother being in Hell and each day by memories of how he couldn't save him and how he looked falling back into the Pit.

"And in the meantime, you finally had your chance to be on your own, making your own decisions without your older brother slowing you down or pushing you around. After all, since I thought you were being tortured in Hell, I certainly wouldn't be looking for you. Considering what I remember of our trip to Heaven, this last year is probably going to make the top ten of your personal Paradise Drama-Ramas."

"Dean it's not like that! I wanted to come see you and let you know I was out but I have to hunt these leftovers from the Apocalypse, I think that may be why God pulled me out, and I didn't want to ruin your chance at finally having a home. If you knew I was back and hunting, you wouldn't have stayed with Lisa and Ben. You would have felt obligated to come with me. I didn't want you to even be faced with having to choose."

"Well, I guess we'll never know what I might have chosen, Sam." Dean looked at his brother as if he were trying to memorize his face and then walked out the door without a backward glance, very carefully and quietly shutting it behind him.

Sam stood, stunned, and waited to hear the familiar rumble of the Impala's engine as his brother drove out of his life one last time.

It never came.

Sam slowly opened the door, not certain what he hoped to see. What he saw was the driver's door open and Dean sitting sideways in the seat, feet on the ground, elbows on knees and staring fixedly at something in his hand. Sam quietly walked over to see what his brother was looking at with such dispassion. Although he knew that his brother realized he was approaching, Dean didn't look up. Sam had to lean against the back door before he could clearly see what his brother was staring at. Dean had the Horsemen's rings.

"You kept them with you?" he asked, surprised that Dean would keep such powerful talismans on his person rather than safe in some curse box.

Dean just frowned before he slowly closed his hand over the rings.

Sam saw the frown and thought that his brother was upset that he thought Dean couldn't protect the rings. He quickly backtracked, wanting to appease Dean's prickly sense of competency. "Actually, I suppose you having them at hand is the safest place for them."

Dean shook his head but didn't look up. "I kept them close so that if I finally got my courage up, I could act before I chickened out."

Dean's words slowly sunk in and Sam could actually feel himself pale. If he hadn't finally contacted Dean…If he had waited a few more months or weeks or days…If Dean had decided to…"Dean" he whispered, appalled at what Dean might have done and knowing that it would have been his fault.

"Calm down Sam. It didn't happen. I couldn't get my nerve up. Guess it was a good thing this time that I'm a coward when…"

"Dean" Sam said quickly, stopping his brother before he could continue to put himself down and blame himself for not doing something that he should never even have been contemplating. "It's not being a coward to be afraid of going to Hell, especially when you know exactly what's waiting there for you. That's not being a coward, that's being smart."

Dean finally looked at Sam. "It wasn't that I was afraid of going back to Hell, I didn't use them because I didn't want to face you in Hell and have you know that I didn't do that last thing you asked of me; that I couldn't honor your last request…And I knew…I know that eventually everyone breaks and I was afraid I might end up under your knife, or even worse you would end up under mine. I might be a freak but I don't want to be a monster…didn't want you to see me like that no matter how much I wanted to see you…how much I wanted to let you know you weren't alone."

Sam felt like he was choking. He couldn't seem to swallow since his heart was in his throat, he wasn't certain he could force out the words, even if he knew what he should say. He saw all the possibilities of what could have happened. Quick visions of Dean killing himself slowly with alcohol and loneliness or going to Hell only to find that Sam wasn't there careened into his brain like a hit and run driver. "I realize I should have told you when I got back. It was…cruel of me not to let you know…to let you think I was suffering, being tortured. I didn't think…"

Dean gave a half-smile that never reached his eyes. "Yeah, Sam, you didn't think. You were so sure of what I should want that you didn't even think about what I would really want. I swear, sometimes it's like you don't even know me at all."

The older Winchester stuck the rings in his jacket pocket and continued softly as if taking to himself. "I prayed for God to pull you out. I've prayed maybe a handful of times and never got an answered unless it was no. I prayed that mom would come back when I was just a little kid. I didn't pray again until Layla…she died of her brain tumor less than 6 months after we left Nebraska. I prayed after Cold Oak, but had to go else where to get what I was asking for. Then when Chuck was writing about you making a deal with Lilith, I kinda prayed then but it was more like blackmailing Cas to do something. Then I prayed for help after Famine, while you were detoxing in the panic room. All I got from that was cold, dark silence.

"Despite all that, I prayed, I begged, for Him to pull you from the Pit, I told God He could have anything that was mine to give, that I would trade places with you if that was what He wanted and that I would never ask for anything ever again if He would just save you, if I could get one more chance to see you and know that you are okay.

"He did, you're here, I've seen you and you're okay."

Sam looked down, suddenly finding his shoes very interesting. "I know I hurt you again and I am so, so sorry for that but I really need someone I trust to have my back on this hunt." He looked up, his eyes shining with remorse like headlights on a foggy morning. "I need you to have my back."

Dean swiveled his legs into the Impala and shut the door with a sound like a small thunder clap. Sam watched as his brother placed both hands on the steering wheel, his hands gripping it so tightly that the tendons in his wrist looked like cables under his skin. Then Dean looked at him and rolled down the window. "I get that you need someone to watch your back, Sam. I guess my question is, who can I trust to watch mine?"

Dean then revved the engine and pulled out of the parking lot without looking back.

Sam watched him go.

He felt a disturbance of air behind him and knew the angel was there. "That could have gone better," he remarked with a casualness that he didn't feel.

"You kept your resurrection from him for a year. He sees it as yet another betrayal. Still, he will be back."

Sam turned. "How do you know, Castiel? Because you're an angel?"

"No, Sam, because he's your brother."

End