It's kind of stupid to feel betrayed by a damn necklace, but Dean can't help but feel like if the bronzed face had just done what it was supposed to do, then some of this could have been avoided. Dean looks back on the Christmas that Sam gave it to him and knows that it was the true night that everything started. Their dad had been hunting for years before that but it wasn't until that exact night that they were in it as a family. It was the night that Sam lost a piece of faith in their dad and put it in Dean. It was the night they became the brothers they are now. The brothers they were.
So in some sense it's all the amulet's fault. If it had just been Dean's necklace then it wouldn't be a big deal. But it's a God detector, a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is the apocalypse, and a physical piece of evidence of just how hopeless it all is. It's also now a reminder of the brother who doesn't love him as much as he thought. And Dean knows he can't look at the thing a second longer without losing whatever delusional piece of sanity he has left.
Dean's not an idiot. He knows that when he let the necklace clunk to the bottom of the trash can that he hurt his brother. The problem was that Dean was too hurt to care and too worn out to explain. Some time ago the other meaning, the brother meaning, of the amulet would have been enough for Dean to keep it.
It isn't anymore.
After hell, Dean thought there was no way the pit inside him could get any darker, wider, or deeper. But it could and it did. It expanded so much that it consumed everything that ever made him Dean Winchester. Hunting seems like a joke in comparison to the world falling in shambles, he hasn't gone off to find a meaningless one night stand in close to a year, Sam apparently couldn't care less about him, and there's no way on earth to stop what they put in motion. If heaven and hell and everything else in between has taught him anything over the past few months, it's that everything he's ever done in his life has meant nothing. He's condemned all the people he's saved over the years by breaking in hell, because he was too weak to keep saying "no." He's put all his energy and soul into watching out for his little brother, only to find out that Sam would rather live in world without him in it. He put his last shred of faith and hope into yet another father who let him down.
Now he's just tired and he doesn't care whether they win or lose, as long as it's over.
It's three and a half weeks after heaven and they stop trying to call Cas. He's not answering and Dean doesn't blame him. If there was any way that he could drop off the radar, he'd do it too. That leaves him with Sam. Sam who keeps shooting him those 'let me help' looks that he's so good at giving, all the while staying silent. They only talk when they have to. It's almost as if they've come to an agreement that there's just no point in speaking anymore. There's nothing left to talk about.
They have a demon hunt, Dean's favorite kind, and they've got Sam by the throat. Again. Dean finds a tiny shred of comfort in the fact that even after all the lies, betrayals, hurts, and crushed hopes, he still can feel a tinge of fear and panic when he sees Sam in danger. Death doesn't hold the same threat as it used to, as Sam points out later, but pain is still very real and he doesn't like seeing Sam in it. Emotional pain is a little different because Dean has so much of it he can't even comprehend taking care of someone else's anymore. Physical pain is the exception. That Dean can fix.
A few days later he walks into their motel room and finds Sam completely tanked, and clutching onto the amulet that Dean threw away four weeks ago. Dean sighs as he slams the door shut, wondering why he assumed that Sam would just leave the amulet in the trash. Sam isn't one to let things like that go, especially with all that they've already lost. The alcohol is a little bit of a surprise though. That's been Dean's M.O. lately.
He leans against the shut door, arms crossed, as he stares at his train wreck of a little brother. He silently wonders if this is what Sam sees in Dean every day. Sam's got a fifth of vodka in one hand, hanging over the arm of the chair he's sitting in, and the necklace is in his other. He's staring at the familiar golden piece as if he were staring at a headstone, morose and broken. Tears and snot are on his face, some of it dry and some of it still running, and Sam either hasn't noticed Dean yet or he's ignoring him. Probably the later.
"How much have you had?" Dean finds himself asking, not knowing if he really wants to know or if he just needs a neutral way to break the ice.
Sam snorts drunkenly as he shrugs, sloshing around the clear liquid inside the bottle, "Why do you care?"
Dean rolls his eyes, feeling frustration and exhaustion zap his patience instantly, "Come on, Sam."
Sam starts giggling which eventually escalates into full hysterical laughter. It's the kind of laughter that shouts "crazy" and "at the end of the rope."
"What?" Dean half demands, trying to keep his temper in check. Fighting with Sam while he's like this is going to get them nowhere, especially since he probably won't even remember it tomorrow.
"Just funny is all. You, asking me, how much I've had to drink," Sam pauses to bark out another laugh, "And expecting me to think you care."
Dean's eyes narrow as he rolls that around in his head, trying to determine how he should respond. As Dean stews in his thoughts, Sam drinks. He takes a few more gulps, sloppily letting some of it run down his chin. When he drops the bottle from his mouth he accidentally knocks it against the wooden leg of the chair, coming close to shattering it.
"Remember the first time I got wasted?" Sam questions softly. His eyes are glued to the jewelry in his hand, as if he is talking to the little golden face and not Dean.
"I got so…so sick," Sam continues and chuckles, "You, uh…you sat with me in the bathroom the whole time. I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital. And you said, 'you ever come home drunk again and I'll kick your ass into next week.' I always thought that was funny because you drank all the time. Still do."
Dean swallows hard and then clears his throat, "You were 16."
"Yeah," Sam replies with a sad, fond smile, and then takes another drink, "You didn't leave my side the whole day."
"What happened to us, Dean?" Sam deadpans, his eyes wet again.
If Dean concentrates long enough he can see the 16 year old who stumbled into the house they were renting, all slurs and singular syllables, and already looking a little green. He sees that kid and he can't lie to him, and he can't play the blame game either.
"I don't know, Sammy."
Because he doesn't. There are so many answers: Stanford, hell, heaven, angels, Alastair, hell hounds, Ruby, demon blood, crossroad deals, fate. There are so many answers but at the same time there are isn't one to justify how severed their bond is. He's tired, they're defeated, broken in almost every way, and he doesn't know any of the answers any more.
The next day Sam doesn't remember any of it and Dean acts like it never happened, but he knows what he has to do.
Sometimes he fights his way to the surface. It hurts like a bitch but every once in a while he needs the reassurance that he still exists. Jimmy said being taken over by an angel was like being chained to a comet. He was right. He was also right when he said that it being "not much fun" was an understatement. Except, Dean has an archangel driving him around, and that's a little bit like being caught in a supernova blast, so he thinks that Jimmy got off easy. It'd actually be kind of pretty, if it didn't hurt so much.
Michael keeps him suppressed for the big fight, which both pisses Dean off and relieves him. Call him a coward but he doesn't know if he wants to see how this ends. Either Michael's going to smite Lucifer back to the pit or Lucifer is going to click Michael's (and consequentially, Dean's) lights out for good. Either way, a lot of people are going to die, and Dean's not too keen on witnessing any of it.
And then there's Sam.
Before he said "yes" to Michael he made the archangel promise to keep Sam, Bobby, and Cas out of the crossfire. No one touches any of them and they stay safe. Michael agreed but he also said that if Sam said yes too, then all bets were off for Dean's little brother. It makes sense. If Sam says yes to Lucifer then there's no way to kill Lucifer without hurting (killing) Sam.
Dean isn't worried though; he knows Sam won't say yes. Sam is too determined to make things right and prove that there isn't this dark thing inside of him. Sam's always been the stronger one, even if that strength got misdirected sometimes, so Dean knows he won't say yes. Or at least that's what Dean keeps telling himself because the alternative is that Sam caved, and now Dean is unknowingly taking part in a mission to kill his little brother.
So really he doesn't mind that Michael doesn't let him watch the big show, because if he's wrong and Sam said yes…
It's not an option.
Awareness comes slowly and starts with pain. Christ, he feels like he was shoved off a building. He's actually almost scared to move in case anything is broken or shattered.
"Dean? Dean, wake up."
He hears the voice but it's all muted, like Dean's underwater or his hearing has been blown. The later is much more plausible.
His name is said more urgently, followed by a slap to the face, which, ow.
Dean groans and then coughs as the vibrations rip through his throat like razor blades.
He hears a deep sigh of relief, "Thank God."
Dean pries his eyes open and comes face to face with a completely wrecked looking Bobby.
"What happened?" Dean croaks, wincing as he shifts and feels the pain in his body full force.
"Michael," Bobby replies in a deadpan, "And Lucifer."
Everything clicks into place. He doesn't remember details but he remembers knowing that the fight was going down. Since he's alive, he's guessing Michael won. Dean looks past Bobby and sees Castiel standing over him. The angel isn't paying attention to Dean, he's looking pensively at something in the distance. Dean does a double take and realizes that something very vital is missing from his view.
"Where's Sam?" he demands, trying to calm the panic that is rapidly expanding in his chest.
Bobby flickers his gaze up to Castiel for a brief second as if silently asking for help. Castiel meets Bobby's gaze but remains silent, brooding.
Bobby sighs, "Son…"
Dean knows then, knows it as if one of them had screamed it at him. Sam didn't make it. He said yes.
Dean makes a guttural, wounded sound, "No!"
Bobby flinches, his eyes watering. Castiel doesn't move. Dean forces himself to his feet, ignoring the deep aches and dried blood as he does so, and then sees what Castiel has been staring so intently at. The area looks like an angelic a-bomb went off, kind of like his once grave site, but that isn't what has Dean's attention. It's Sam, dressed in that god damned white suit, lying motionless on his back with black angel wings outlined underneath him. Dean stumbles and then runs the short distance to his brother, collapsing next to him.
"Sam, Sammy," Dean pleads as he grabs Sam's face in his hands, ignoring the blood that trickles out of Sam's mouth, "Sam, come on." But Sam's not responding, he's not breathing.
That's when he sees it, the familiar cord around Sam's neck. He follows it down to the amulet resting against his chest. Inside his own chest, Dean's heart cracks in two. Dean grabs the amulet so hard that the points dig into his skin and cause pain.
"God damn it, you stupid, stupid, son of a bitch," Dean hisses as tears cloud his eyes.
All Dean can think is that it wasn't supposed to happen this way. Sam wasn't supposed to say yes. He was supposed to stay out of the crossfire; he was supposed to stay safe. Why'd he say yes? Why? What was the point in Dean giving in and saving this God forsaken planet if Sam wasn't going to be on it anymore? Sam wasn't supposed to say yes.
There's shuffling behind him, feet scrapping against dirt and pebbles, "Dean."
Clumsily, Dean gets to his feet and faces Cas. His battered body screams in protest at the movement. He means to appear threatening but he's too tired, too off balance, and too devastated to pull it off correctly. Castiel stares with palpable sympathy and regret, true pain that just makes Dean's chest hurt more.
Dean twists his hands in the front of Castiel's trench coat and he realizes that hanging on to the angel is what's keeping him upright, "Bring him back. All you angel assholes owe me, so bring. him. back."
Castiel looks genuinely upset as he shakes his head once, "You know I can't."
Dean growls and shoves him away. Castiel barely budges but Dean stumbles backwards, still weak and in pain from the angelic fight. Castiel reaches out to steady him but Dean snarls, and right himself.
And then Dean yells. He yells hateful phrases about being screwed over by heaven and all its inhabitants one too many times, and how dare they kill his brother? How dare they let him stay dead after all Dean's done? He doesn't care if destiny says it was supposed to happen, it's not fucking fair.
Dean's just starting to transition from yelling to sobbing when Castiel grabs one of Dean's arms, and says, "Dean, look."
Dean turns around and then gapes.
The amulet resting on Sam's chest is glowing. And Sam's breathing.
Thirty hours later he and Sam are sitting side by side on Bobby's sofa in a comfortable but heavy silence. They both slept almost a full day in the aftermath of being prom suits for two seriously powerful angels, and now they're both left with that weird 'what now?' feeling. Do they hunt? Do they retire? What do they do?
"Can't believe we both made it out of there," Sam starts, his voice low and still groggy.
"Again. Barely," Dean responds. He pictures Sam dead with blackened angel wings under him. Sam's died more times than Dean cares to remember but this last time really stung. And God, the guy that Dean was pissed the most at, brought Sam back. He guesses he owes the big guy an apology.
Sam nods in agreement, "Yeah."
A few more beats pass by before Dean swallows, and then speaks again, "Why'd you do it, Sammy? Why'd you say yes?"
"Why did you?"
Sam's reply isn't a jibe or the start of a fight, it's merely conversational.
"No other choice," Dean says with a one shoulder shrug, "Things were going to hell, man, literally. I just wanted it to be over."
Sam nods a few times but doesn't respond. Dean elbows him gently, "Come on. I shared with the class, your turn."
"Didn't want to do it alone. Don't even know if I could've," Sam says, "I figured if you were taking the plunge then it was only right that I did too. Destiny, right?"
Both of their reasons are selfish and they both know it, but neither of them call each other on it. They saved the world, not all the people in it, but they stopped the apocalypse. Doing something like that is kind of like pushing the 'reset' button. There's no point in fighting about the things they can't change or what's already happened. They don't even want to.
Sam makes a sound in acknowledgment.
"Can I, uh…I mean, you have…"
Sam snorts lightly in amusement and reaches up to his shirt to pull the amulet out of his collar, and over his head. He dangles the necklace over Dean's waiting hand and then drops it, "Just keeping it safe for you, dude."
Dean palms the necklace as if he's getting reacquainted with it before he slides the cord over his neck, "Thanks for that. Sorry you had to in the first place."
Sam looks over and locks eyes with his brother, and sees the sincerity there. Sam smiles, the first full on dimple one in forever.
"Yeah well, don't expect me to do it again." I forgive you, jerk. You back on board?
"Wouldn't dream of it." Damn straight, get used to it.