The necklace dropped. Sam's heart went to his throat, and he watched his brother walk away, never looking back. And Sam knew. That while they had been in Heaven, nothing of the trip had been paradise for Dean. Even Dean's happy memories were tinged with the sadness of loss, his mother, and ultimately Sam. Heaven for Dean was his family together, laughing and having a good time, and that meant, Mom, Dad, Dean, and Sam. And instead of that, Dean had been forced to remember days that while for Sam had been wonderful and full of independence and joy had been sad and painful and scary for his older brother.
Sam went to the trashcan, retrieved the necklace, and vowed to have it back on Dean's body. He would earn his brother's trust, earn that right to be front and center in his brother's life again. He stuffed it into his pocket, grabbed his own bag and followed his brother.
Sam expected Dean to be in the car, not looking at him, but at least waiting for him, but instead, the car was empty, Dean's bag dropped right next to the driver's side door but Dean wasn't anywhere around his beloved car. Sam dropped his bag next to his brother's and he jogged towards the road looking back and forth, hoping to spot his sad brother. He saw Dean walking, he was pretty far down the road, and Sam followed. He kept that impossible distance between the two of them, wondering if he was doing it for himself or if he was doing it to preserve Dean's pretense of space.
They walked for hours, and the sun was warm, and Sam's legs were still wobbly after their little death trip, but he continued, he vowed to push as long as his brother pushed. And hours after the sun dipped past the noon mark, Dean veered to the left, off the road, and into the trees. Sam jogged to catch up and follow him.
The woods were thick and difficult to see through, and he lost Dean for several minutes, and then he spotted him on the bank of a small stream, sitting, knees up to his chin, and his arms wrapped around them. Sam debated if he should intrude, wondered for the first time in his life if he was accepted into Dean's personal space. Dean interrupted his thoughts.
"Have you really been trying to get away from me for that long Sammy?" Sam was startled by the nickname. "Have you?" Dean asked when Sam didn't answer promptly.
"It's never been about getting away from you." Sam said and took a step closer.
"Well it sure as hell looks like it." Dean took a breath and said, "Why can't just one, just one, of your greatest hits have me in it?! Huh?! I gave up everything for you, for dad, for mom, for people I don't even know! And why can't anyone, just one single person, have a good thing to say about me? Why can't I be someone else's good memory?"
"I have lots of good memories with you."
"But they aren't your heaven." Sam didn't know what to say to that. It was true, every single memory that he experienced didn't have his brother in them. Sam hung his head, he felt guilty for that truth.
"Truth is Sam, I guess I never realized just how little people thought of me. I knew that I never thought much of me, but I thought, hoped, that all of the good things I did, or tried to do, that people might think a little of me, just a little. Especially you."
Sam was taken aback and his eyes stung, "Dean.."
"Truth is truth Sam. I smothered you so badly that I pushed you into the arms of a demon and addiction, Dad ditched me because I wasn't you, mom died because of me, and God, well God who supposedly loves all of us, just wants me to stop praying, because I'm annoying. Because he doesn't want in the middle of this mess. Well neither do I! But I was manipulated and forced into it."
"Maybe you should just go." Sam cocked his head, unsure as to what his brother meant. Dean fished the keys out of his pocket and threw them behind him. They landed with a thunk on the ground in front of Sam's feet. "Just go. Take the car. Put the Ipod back in it. Just go. You were so much happier when I was gone, so just…just go. No guilt, no worries, hell say yes to Lucifer if you want. Don't let me hold you back anymore. You should have just told me back when I got you from Stanford all of those years ago, that it was me you were trying to get away from, I would have let you go. Wouldn't have forced myself back into your life. I didn't know." He said and took a deep breath and watched the water.
Sam squatted down and picked up the keys, and looked at his brother's back, then he sat down hard and crossed is legs. Dean turned slightly and caught his brother out of the corner of his eye and watched as he turned the keys over in his hands.
"Why aren't you leaving?" Dean asked. He was on the verge of tears, and he didn't need his brother to see them, he didn't need Sam to see just how completely gone he was, how broke, sad and defeated he was.
"I remember the first time you threw the keys to me. I was 15. You said that I needed to learn how to drive, because you would need a getaway car. I almost wrecked the Impala that day, but you didn't yell at me, you took me to a diner and gave me pointers and smiled, said that I did a good job, and that you were impressed."
"Oh don't do this Sam. Don't lie, don't try to make me feel better. I saw your Heaven. I know how you really feel."
Frustration ran through Sam's body and he clenched the keys tightly in his hand. "I'm not lying." Dean turned and the look of complete distrust in his eyes made Sam fall back a little. "I just want you to know that….that this isn't all peaches and cream for me either. I hate seeing you beaten down and hurt every single time an angel gets a whim. It's what I've been trying to be strong enough to stop since you got back from the pit. I did it all the wrong way, but that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to stop it, I wanted to be the one who saved you for a change. Watching them do this to you, it isn't good for me either. It hurts to watch."
"Yeah, yeah yeah yeah it hurts you to watch whatever. You ought to be the one who has to live this nightmare. But don't you worry, I'll get over this and I'll be back to normal I won't quit, can't quit, can't let you do something stupid, got to have your back…"
"And I have to have your back." Dean stopped and looked at Sam over his shoulder.
"You don't have my back."
"I do. I do when you let me. And you haven't let me for a while, and I get it, I haven't been exactly the most trustworthy partner.."
"Tell me about it."
Sam chose to ignore the comment and continued. "But I want to be there again, I want to help."
"Why?" Sam was taken aback by the question and he struggled for a response. There were so many reasons that he wanted to be back in his brother's good graces, wanted to be h is partner, wanted to be the one he trusted with everything, from his sex life to his mortal life.
"Because, you're my brother, my family, and someone taught me this week, something I should have known all along, that family is worth more than any strength, any anything."
Dean mulled over the comment and two years ago, Sam would have been able to read the thoughts behind his brother's troubled eyes, but demon blood, trust issues, demons, demon blood, and addiction and Hell had changed many things for the brother's Winchester. Dean took a deep breath and said, "Yeah, well, whatever. Let's go. Gotta get to Bobby's." Dean said and stood and hurried past his brother, got a few feet away and turned and said, "Hustle Sam hustle." And Sam stood, put his hands in his pocket, and felt the amulet. Baby steps. He would earn back his brother's trust, and their brotherhood. And this amulet would sit front and center on his brother's chest just like it had for years. They just needed to start with baby steps.