After nearly five months, Dean figures out why Sam doesn't sleep anymore, and it really has nothing to do with the fact that he doesn't even have a soul - and it shatters what's left of his broken heart. He can't believe he didn't realize it before.
Dean's sitting at the table in their motel room, shuffling some files together, getting ready to go to bed, when he hears the unmistakable sound of retching coming from the bathroom. He puts the files down and listens, and the noise continues. "Sam?" he yells out, getting up from his chair.
Sam yells back, shakily, "I'm fine...I think I just have food poisoning or something."
And Dean knows that Sam's lying, since they haven't eaten anything since the afternoon and it's nearly midnight now - he knows for a fact that if Sam had food poisoning, he would have gotten it way sooner.
And the horrible noise continues, followed by spastic coughing, so Dean decides to go in. He walks to the bathroom and slowly twists the doorknob, hoping it's not locked - it isn't. They were always taught to keep doors unlocked (in case something happened to one of them) and he's relieved that soulless Sam must have done it on instinct.
Dean slowly opens the door and is greeted by the sight of Sam curled up against the toilet. He's hanging his head over it, poised it seems, for another onslaught of vomiting. He can clearly see from the door that Sam's normally golden skin is pale and covered in a fine sheen of sweat; his light blue plaid shirt is sticking to him and his hair's plastered to his forehead.
Sam laughs, voice trembling a little, when he sees Dean, "I should have known you'd come in here anyway."
Dean shrugs and cautiously makes his way over to his brother. This is the first time he's seen him in such a vulnerable state since he got back. "I know you don't have food poisoning," he blurts out.
Sam's about to make a snotty reply (Dean can tell by the look on his face) but he's suddenly throwing up again.
Dean does what comes natural to him - taking care of Sammy - and bends down to steady his brother's shaking body and brush his long hair out of his face so it doesn't get in the way.
They stay like that for awhile, after the nausea passes through, and Dean doesn't even realize he's stroking the base of Sam's neck and his back until Sam moves to stand up.
"I think I'm okay now," Sam whispers as he tries to get to his feet. He can feel Dean's warm hands through the layers of his disheveled clothes and it's giving him a kind of peace, melting away his headache.
Dean feels Sam pull away as he flushes the toilet and hobbles over to the sink and brushes his teeth thoroughly and then washes his face. Their eyes meet once or twice in the mirror, and Dean thinks he sees a glimpse of old Sam.
Sam's turning to walk out of the bathroom, but he stumbles - and isn't it funny that Dean catches him, just gets an armful of Sam without really even meaning to? This is Dean's most basic instinct, making sure Sam's okay, and he can't just turn it off, even when he's brother's in his late twenties and walking around without a conscience.
Sam doesn't pull away, not even when Dean's arms come up to envelop him. He presses his flushed face against Dean's chest because now that he's there, in his arms, it feels really nice. It feels so painfully human and he's missed that.
And Dean doesn't say anything, just stands there and holds his brother closely, absently strokes his back. God, he's missed Sam. He's missed this - just simply holding his brother - a palpable way of knowing he's safe and that nothing's going to hurt him.
"It wasn't food poisoning," Sam mumbles into Dean's chest a few minutes later. "It's anxiety."
"Anxiety?" Dean questions, confused. For the past few months, Sam's been the least anxious person that he's ever met. He simply goes in and gets the job done without hesitating.
And Sam doesn't even realize he's doing it, but he tightens his grip on Dean when he whispers, "You know, residual of effects of...Hell." He says the last word quieter than the rest as his entire body stiffens.
It's like a flash bulb goes off in Dean's head. He should have known since he experienced the same thing when he got out of the Pit. It's just that lately, he's been so focused on Sam not having a soul, on not having feelings, that it seems to have completely slipped his mind that he had still been in Hell - that Hell is Hell, no matter which way you try to swing it. Sam's soul is still there, but this other part of him, this cold, supposedly unfeeling part, is here now and he's experienced it, too.
Dean tries not to cry when he realizes that while one part of Sam is still struggling in the Pit, the other part of him is struggling with the aftermath. He tightens his arms around Sam, strokes his hair back and whispers, "Jesus Christ, Sammy. I'm so sorry."
Sam doesn't know how or why, but suddenly he's trying to swallow the lump in his throat. "I have anxiety attacks everyday. It's usually small doses of what you've seen here...it's...it's why I can't sleep, Dean. Because when I close my eyes, all I see is..." He trails off and that's when he feels them - the tears gathering in his eyes. They drip warm and wet on to Dean's shirt. He hasn't cried since he jumped in the Pit.
Dean feels his own tears finally sliding down his face and it's like he can't hold the weight of them anymore. So, with Sam still in his arms, they slide down the wall of the bathroom and land with a soft thud on the floor. He strokes Sam's hair and whispers, "Shh..."
Sam lets out a ragged breath. It's like he can't even control the words as they spill over into Dean's chest. "I was tortured and raped every day when I was down there, Dean. Every single day."
And that's when this Sam, this Sam that has no soul and supposedly has no feelings, that's when he breaks down and he's choking back sobs. "But it was worse when it was you, Dean. It was worse when they made me watch them do those horrible things reserved for me to you."
Dean's sucking in a ragged breath, barely holding it together now. He doesn't know what he feels more of - the jagged pain of Sam's experiences, or white hot anger at what happened - is still happening - to him in the Pit. He tries to calm himself, tries to be strong for Sam. "It's okay, Sammy. Hey, shh. It's okay," he finally manages quietly, pressing Sam tight against him, kissing his forehead.
"You have to get him out," Sam begs, shaking uncontrollably in Dean's arms. "Please...if I barely survived, his chances are extremely low."
"We'll get him out," Dean murmurs, a new and sudden strength overtaking him. "I promise, Sammy, we'll get you out."
And it's like that's all Sam's ever needed to hear because he suddenly slumps against Dean, a feeling of absolute security washing over him, and he falls into a deep, dreamless sleep.
It isn't long before Dean joins him in slumber; for now, they have no choice but to be two broken brothers on a motel bathroom floor.
Maybe that's all they've ever needed - to just be broken together.