Ease of Death

Summary: Post-5x16. Sam sees the hopelessness in Dean and the anguish in Castiel. He wishes he could fix it. Emotional whumpage for all.

Author's Notes: Just watched "Dark Side of the Moon". Dear god, tear my heart out. That last scene with the amulet. My fandom is trying to kill me, I know it. Hopeless Dean and now disillusioned Cas, who knew Sam would be the last one standing in the hope department? Wrote this after watching because, well I had to write something. Had a few different endings in mind for this, but this is how it came out. Enjoy. And feel free to vent about the episode.

"What do you want me to do Sam?" There was no anger in his voice "The world's gonna end and not even God cares. Why should I?"

The lack of emotion from his brother scared Sam, shook him to his core really, but he couldn't let it show.

"I'm not talking about saving the world." Sam stressed calmly, almost pleadingly. "It's just a haunting I ran into in town. Just one family to save-"

"So they can all die together with the rest of the world?" Dean didn't even turn around from where he was washing his jacket sleeve in the sink. Mechanically, he didn't seem to really care if it was clean or not.

Sam ached for his brother. The grief and pain his sibling held and then the….the nothing he believed to be inside him. Not a thing Sam said could convince him otherwise. The gap between the brothers that had been closing seemed enormous again. They had both changed so much, Sam didn't know what to say to Dean anymore and Dean….Sam thought maybe Dean was done even trying.

"I just thought-" Sam started, unsure like a child anticipating rejection. "Maybe if we could save someone and we could see that it made a difference-" 'Maybe you'd feel better somehow' a small voice in his mind finished. 'I just want you to feel better'.

"It doesn't make a difference though Sam" Still not…anything in his voice. Dean turned, grabbed a beer out of habit more than anything else and sat on the bed. "It'll end the same. Now. In a few days, few months," he sipped the beer "in Detroit". It was the closest Sam had heard to any inflection in his voice and it cut him to the bone at the same time it gave him some flash of light. "Doesn't matter" Dean muttered.

Sam stood watching Dean for long moments. The TV wasn't on, he just stared forward and sipped his beer. There was nothing he could say or do, but he could at least stand testament to his brother's pain, pain Sam knew he caused. Pain he would do anything to fix. He knew in his heart at that moment he would let Dean hit him, hate him, kill him if it would make his brother better.

Sam's thoughts were interrupted by his phone ringing. He signed and pressed the button, recognizing the number as Castiel's cell phone. Dean probably wouldn't have answered if the angel called.

"Cas?"

"No. Listen, you got a dark-haired friend who doesn't say much or make any sense when he does?"

Sam was instantly alert.

"Who is this?" he didn't know if this was a stranger, if Castiel had been caught, if-

"Who am I?! Who the hell is this?!" The gruff voice on the other end shouted "Look, I run the bar in town, this guy's in here drunk off his ass and ramblin' about crazy things, and he's not my problem. I'm just being real polite here and callin' to see if he's yours before I throw his trenchcoat wearin' ass out on the sidewalk."

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and almost smiled at the absurdity of it.

"Yeah. Yea, that sounds like one of my problems. I'll be right down".

Whatever humor Sam had been on the verge of from imagining a drunk angel came to an abrupt halt as he closed the phone and turned to his brother. Dean hadn't moved.

"Um. A bartender called on Castiel's cell phone. He said he's trashed." Sam tried to smile, hoping for something, anything out of Dean.

The older Winchester just nodded his head slightly and took another swig of his beer.

Sam bit his lip and bowed his head as he grabbed the car keys.

"I'm gonna go pick him up. I'll be right back." Sam didn't bother waiting for an answer that wouldn't come.

He closed the motel door behind himself and leaned against it briefly. He stuffed his hand in his coat pocket and looked at the amulet he had given Dean a lifetime ago. It was a physical representation of their bond, though neither of them would ever say anything remotely like that. It was just always unspoken.

Sam had given it to Dean at a time when he thought his big brother was a superhero. Dean had worn it ever since. Through secret fireworks and fights with their father, through four years apart peppered with postcards and tense phone calls. Dean had worn that amulet the night he died and then Sam had worn it through the worst four months of his life.

That little piece of metal had been around Dean's neck when they laughed with Bobby and fought about Ruby. When they betrayed each other and Lucifer rose. When an angel asked Dean to hand it over because it may be the only hope humanity had, Sam thought Dean was going to hit him rather than give it up. Now…

Sam blinked back tears.

Now Dean didn't even know Sam had it. Cas had given it back and Sam watched as Dean let it fall into the trash. What that represented…Sam didn't want to think about it.

Cursing the water in his eyes, Sam stashed the amulet back in his pocket and headed for the Impala.

Dean had finally done what everyone had been telling them both to do, what Sam had asked Dean to do more than once.

Let his brother go.

Dean had finally done it and the irony was not lost on Sam that now it was Sam who couldn't let Dean go.

Sam spotted Castiel immediately. Sitting on a stool hunched over the bar looking like any other miserable working man drinking away his problems. He nodded to the bartender who came straight over when he saw Sam approach Cas.

"Hey, after our little phone conversation your friend informed me that he 'had no money to give'-"

"I got it" Sam handed over their most recent credit card. "Whatever he's drinking, two more."

The man grumbled, but lumbered away. Sam took the open seat next to Cas who had yet to look up. The angel looked tired and miserable and it was too much of a resemblance to Dean for Sam's liking.

"Cas? What are you doing here?"

"Drinking". It wasn't said in that oblivious way Castiel had when he didn't really understand the question or reference. It was just a statement just like any human would make and that hurt something inside Sam.

"Why are you drinking?" Sam glanced up to acknowledge to bartender when he returned with their drinks. Castiel was still staring into the amber liquid before him.

"The longer I remain here, I feel more from this than I used to. I don't have to think for awhile."

Sam was really hating the all-to-human answers. He swirled his own drink around and didn't say anything more. Sitting with Dean didn't seem to do much good, but maybe it would help Castiel a bit. After a few minutes of companionable silence, Castiel spoke.

"He doesn't even care." Like disbelief, denial, grief. "The world is ending, his children, angels and humans both, are dying, facing obliteration and he doesn't care."

Sam nodded, just listening and wishing Cas was a bit more drunk than he was.

"What have I been doing? Searching for a being like that?" Sam didn't know if Castiel was capable of shedding tears, but his voice held them even if his face didn't. "It's been for nothing."

The hopelessness burned Sam. He could count his family on one hand and all of them were suffering so badly. Because of the world, because of Lucifer and the angels, because of him.

Dean was broken, done, only going through the motions. Bobby was paralyzed and mourning the loss of his wife for the second time. And Castiel was drinking away the thought of a father who didn't love him.

And he couldn't help any of them.

"I know it doesn't mean anything Cas," he started slowly "But I am sorry. About everything."

Castiel closed his eyes and nodded tightly.

"It doesn't mean nothing." He says, but Sam hears the unspoken, 'but it doesn't mean enough'.

Sam's world was burning around him. Dean was going to say yes, he could feel it. Their destiny was going to destroy them after all.

'If there's anything left to destroy' he thought.

"Why do you still carry that?" Cas asked suddenly, surprising Sam. "The amulet. It's worthless now."

Sam reminded himself that Castiel didn't know how those words stung and that he deserved the pain anyway.

He smirked despite himself and pulled out the battered necklace. The angel looked scornfully at the jeweler, like it had betrayed him.

"Because I can't let go." He threaded the worn leather cord through his fingers and scoffed. "All those times I wanted to let go, did let go and ran…and now I can't." He saw the wet spot on the bar and only peripherally realized he was crying. Sam clenched his jaw.

"We've spent all our lives trying to keep each other alive. Making deals and sacrifices and going to the ends of the world just to keep the other breathing." He shook his head. "We're always willing to die for each other. Round and round the Winchesters go…" he mused to himself.

"Sam-" Something, maybe concern was in the angel's slightly slurred tone.

"Death has always been the big threat, the absolute worst case and we always knew that." There was no humor in his smile "But it's not."

"I don't understand what you mean. Death is a valid mortal fear, an inevitability."

"Yea, but dying for someone, that's easy. You're saving a life that you care about more than your own. It's a tangible thing, fixable. But, seeing that person you'd do anything for in pain, seeing the weight and despair and soul-deep weariness…knowing you can't do anything, that there are no deals to make…"

Sam turned to look into Castiel's concerned blue eyes and smiled.

"It's easy to die for someone Cas. It's living for them that'll tear you apart."

Castiel tried to form words, to think of anything that would help the youngest Winchester, but ended up just staring at him.

Sam downed his drink and stood, composed as when he came in. He pulled Castiel's arm around his shoulder and coaxed him to stand.

"Come on. Let's go."

They stumbled toward the door with blue eyes never leaving Sam's face. Tracks of dried tears clashed with the small reassuring smile Sam was trying to put on.

From the passenger side of the Impala, Castiel watched Sam stop for a moment at the driver's side door and take a deep breath, shaking hand briefly covering the pocket that contained the discarded amulet before getting in.

"You ready to go home and nurse your first hangover?"

Castiel knew exactly what Sam meant about being helpless in the face of pain and wished he didn't.

As they drove back to the motel, the angel spoke up.

"What are you going to do Sam?" he knew, he just knew these boys.

"I'm not saying yes. Neither is he." Almost to himself "I won't let him."

Castiel swallowed.

"Then what will you do?"

Sam's lips quirked, bittersweet, like the expression of a dying man and said nothing.

They rode in silence the rest of the way.