In the end, the "end" was anti-climactic. In spite of their best efforts, the manipulation of time, space, and cell phone messages brought them to Detroit; not to an angelic battlefield or the earthly version of the throne of heaven…just a crappy motel room like every other crappy motel room they'd ever stayed in with questionable stains on the carpet and a wheezing, antiquated air conditioner.
Dean paced in frustration, checking the salt lines at the door and angel sigils on the wall. He had prepared the room so no entity would get past him, but in reality nothing out there was trying to get in. It was just him and Sam.
Dean cut his gaze to the bed across the room. Sam was resting quietly for the moment, but Dean knew it wouldn't last. For all the effort Lucifer had put in to insure that Sam was immune to the Croatoan virus, it was ironic that it was a common version of the flu that took his vessel down. Sam's illness had been building since they hit the outskirts of the city, wracking shivers and spiraling fever kept him miserable and delirious. Dean did the best he could to keep Sam hydrated, but he really wasn't looking good and in his gut Dean knew time was running out. For all of his size, Sam looked diminished.
Sam's brow creased as Dean was watching, and he shook his head in negation at the fever-voices. A broken "no" escaped his lips, and then he was silent. Dean gave up pretending he was doing anything worthwhile at the door and made his way over to Sam's bed. Before he could decide what to do next, Sam was seized by a wrenching cough. He couldn't manage to lever himself out of a prone position, so Dean sat next to him on the bed and pulled him until he was seated against the headboard.
Dean held Sam by the shoulders until the worst had passed, and then he moved his hand down to Sam's chest, keeping enough pressure to prevent Sam from falling over but far enough removed to see if Sam could stay up on his own. Dean's hand rested firmly against the damn amulet that Sam had rescued so many months ago; Dean refused to acknowledge it, and Sam refused to take it off. It was a constant reminder of all that remained unsaid between them.
Suddenly, Dean could hear a voice that made his blood run cold. He whipped around and stood up, but the room was empty. Nothing had changed. No one was there.
Sam was mumbling again, weak negations, as he slid sideways against the bed. Shaking, Dean sat down again. He righted Sam against the pillows and laid a trembling hand against Sam's chest, but he didn't hear anything. Dean deliberately moved his hand so it covered the amulet and once again he could hear the voice of Lucifer whispering to Sam in his fever-dreams.
Dean was horrified to realize that this was the reason there had been no assault. Lucifer didn't need to be in Sam's physical presence to attack his spirit. The illness made Sam weak in body and gave Lucifer unlimited access to his fevered mind. Unconsciously Dean made a fist around the amulet as he listened.
"I'm amazed you still hang on to this thing, Sam…" Dean could feel the amulet burn with cold in his hand, but he didn't release his grip.
"For all of Dean's talk about 'family', how easy was it for him to toss you away?"
Now Dean was shaking his head in negation, "Don't listen to him, Sammy." But Sam wasn't responding to either of them.
"I know, Sam…I know how it feels. To be talked at. To be ordered around. To be expected to obey." Dean could hear an eerie echo of his own words in his own voice, "Leave it, Sam." Sam flinched beneath Dean's hand.
"And when you don't do it, " Lucifer continued, "when you think for yourself…you're repaid in anger, disappointment, and resentment. He doesn't trust you, Sam. If you don't follow the rules of the 'world according to Dean Winchester' then what good are you?"
Dean hung his head; he couldn't fight the words any more than Sam could. "Please, don't listen to him Sam."
Lucifer continued relentlessly. "You know, Sam…you know I'm just trying to make things right."
Make things right.
Dean was seized with an inspiration. He drew the amulet's cord up over Sam's head and in one motion placed it around his own neck. He grabbed Sam's right hand and placed it against the amulet, pressing it into the flesh of his chest and prayed that the angel-radio worked both ways.
"I get it, Sam. I'm sorry I didn't see it before. It was never about God, or Dad…it was always you and me, Sam." Dean's throat closed up with emotion but he was afraid to stop talking. "We're a team, Sammy. To the end."
Sam's hand drew closed into a fist gathering Dean's shirt and the amulet together. For the first time in days, Dean could see sense in Sam's eyes. More importantly…he saw hope. "To the end." Sam repeated.
Somewhere, Lucifer was screaming in defeat.