Sam's hand shook as he mixed the ingredients necessary for the spell he was attempting. His voice cracked as he chanted the incantation. His nerves were shot, the last few months hell on Earth. He had tried everything, everything to get his brother back. The obvious, selling his soul, failed so spectacularly Sam went on a monster hunting rampage before a particularly nasty fuck up grounded him, forcing him to rest for nearly a month. During that time he attempted everything he could think of to bring Dean back; animal sacrifice, witches, amulets, ancient artifacts, he even attempted human sacrifice one time when he was blind to anything but seeing his brother, the only thing that kept him sane in this world, alive and well again. He'd all but given up, dozens of attempts under his belt weighing heavy on his soul, until finally, finally, he ran across an obscure spell that promised him the life of his brother back. He was wary, understandably, as many things, and people, had promised the same only to disappoint him and shatter his psyche just a bit more.
As Sam uttered the last part of the incantation, the concoction began bubbling, the colour turning dark as it flowed over the edge of the bowl, pooling in a mess on the table. The battery-powered light nearby sparked and exploded, throwing the room into darkness for a few moments, leaving Sam to listen to his own heavy breathing and the bubbling until the potion started glowing, gently at first, then suddenly filling the room with brightness and forcing Sam to cover his eyes as he took a step back reflexively.
The light subsided, and Sam became aware of someone other than himself breathing. His arm fell away from his face, eyes wide and mouth agape, breath coming in bursts. He blinked a couple of times to try and clear the light spots from his vision before his eyes focused on the figure standing across from him.
"De-dean." Sam's voice hitched, eyes watering, chest feeling so full it left him unable to breathe. He staggered forward, brows furrowing slightly when his brother didn't respond.
"Dean?" Voice dropped low, head tilting to see the older Winchester's face better, another step forward. Sam stopped less than a foot from his brother, advance finally halted as he got close enough in the dark to see Dean clearly. Another call of his brother's name was choked off as Dean tilted his head upward.
"Oh God, Dean
The vibrant, lively hazel eyes Sam had grown up knowing were gone, replaced with dull, lifeless ones, staring back at him as if mocking. Sam reached out, hand shaking, gently touching Dean's shoulder. After a few moments the poor imitation of his brother reacted, turning into the touch, eyes aiming downward as if he needed to 'see' what was happening to respond accordingly. The tears collecting in Sam's eyes spilled over, rolling hotly down his cheeks. His chest was tight, constricting painfully as he tried to draw in air.
"I'm so sorry Dean, I'm so sorry
" Sam choked out, pulling his puppet-like brother into a bone-crushing hug. Dean didn't even react to the tight grip, breathing even and controlled the entire time, arms moving to rest limply against Sam's back several moments after the hug began, drawn to reacting to the situation based on what Sam was doing.
Sam pulled back, gaze focused on some random spot on his brother's chest, Dean's hands coming to rest on Sam's hips before falling back to his sides in some farce of the near instantaneous reaction time he used to sport. Sam couldn't look at Dean again, unable to handle those eyes staring up at him, dead.
He mumbled apologizes until his throat was sore, hands shaking on his brother's shoulders. At some point Dean's listless body copied the motion, arms awkwardly arching around Sam's, hands resting on the younger Winchester's quivering shoulders. His body couldn't quite figure out the shaking Sam was doing, hands sporadically twitching instead, reminding Sam every time just how much this wasn't his brother, despite being the same body, with the same scars, the same leather and whiskey scent. Dean was gone, and all Sam was left with was an empty husk, mindlessly following tasks as it was directed, and Sam knew, he knew, that this was his fault. He had been desperate, blinded, hopeful, and now he had to face a situation worse than his brother being gone, out of sight, dead in a grave somewhere. He had to deal with a thing that looked like his brother being there, constantly reminding him just what he had lost, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. He refused to lose his brother again, and if all he was allowed to have was a memory, some untouchable illusion, a shadow of what was, then he was going to latch onto it for all he was worth, because seeing his brother there in the flesh, even if he was just that flesh, made Sam feel more human than he had since he had lost Dean. And he wasn't going to let anyone take that away from him.