Author's Note: This was written a while ago, but not posted – and it would still be unposted if it hadn't been for Cheryl assuring me that it wasn't as bad as I thought and Amanda thinking up a title for it. Thank you both!

This is my first attempt at Supernatural fiction – apologies in advance for discrepancies and mistakes.

Disclaimer: Nothing's mine.

Spoilers: Up to 5.22.

Summary: This is set after 5.22, Swan Song. Anything else would be spoiling it!


Prologue

It's two in the morning and Dean can't sleep.

Not that that's unusual. Can't pretty much sums up the last eleven weeks of his life. Can't sleep. Can't eat. Can't laugh. Can't do anything but get from one day to the next and count it an achievement that he manages to drag himself out of bed in the morning.

He barely recognizes himself now. He has breakfast with Lisa and Ben – or, to be honest, he pushes food around his plate while Ben, perpetually running late, bolts his toast and eggs and Lisa looks at him with badly-hidden concern. Then he goes to the garage where he's got a day job and tinkers with the underbellies of cars, tightening and loosening and oiling purely on instinct, while his entire mind is focused on not thinking about it. He walks home in time for dinner, a meal which will be half a bread roll washed down with more whisky than is good for him.

He knows Lisa is worried, but that's not something he can openly admit. If he acknowledges her worries he'll have to talk about them, and he can't do that. He can't talk about the nightmares that keep him up all night. He can't talk about why he's locked the Impala in Lisa's garage after stuffing its backseat with weapons, clothes, books, every relic of his previous life. He can't talk about why he's still with Lisa and Ben when it's clear that every fibre of him wants to be somewhere else.

It's the only way he can keep his promise. He's never been good at dealing with grief. He's been strong, sure. All his life he's been strong for Sam. He doesn't know if he can still be strong now that –

He stops the thought just in time.

If he doesn't think it, he can almost pretend that Sam's in Stanford, finally studying law, and the lack of communication is only because Sam's mad at him, not because –

He checks himself again.

Trying to occupy himself, he looks at the newspaper he's been pretending to read for the past half-hour. Headlines jump out at him, and his brain, trained to sense the unspoken details, runs through them automatically.

Four commuters murdered by mystery gang.

There's a photograph, the inside of a train, with an esoteric symbol spray-painted on the back of a seat. It looks vaguely familiar: Dean knows he's seen it somewhere, but he can't for the life of him remember where. Sam would know. Sam would have identified as soon as he saw it, he would probably have known the date of its first known appearance and the name of the person who drew it. Sam would –

Stop, Dean orders himself, but it's too late now. Memories come flooding in and he can't stop them: Sam absent-mindedly reeling off names and dates as he flicks through a book on Wiccan lore, Sam laughing at Dean's attempts to pass himself off as an Art History major, Sam laughing, Sam next to him in the Impala...

And Dean knows tonight will be another night when he'll stay up till dawn, drinking.

He's about to get to his feet to pour himself a whisky when he senses something in the room. Eleven weeks of soft living haven't overridden his hunter's instincts. He grabs the nearest thing that could serve as a weapon – which turns out to be a breadknife Lisa forgot to put away – stands, and turns.

The room is empty.

"I'm not going to hurt you," a voice says mildly. Dean nearly drops the knife in shock as he whirls. The lights are beginning to flicker, but he can still recognize the figure standing in the doorway, eyeing him with a sickening mixture of pity and amusement. "You can put the knife down."

"Castiel." Dean knows he doesn't sound friendly. He doesn't care. Castiel is alive when Sam isn't, and Castiel has gone back to serving the God who allowed that to happen. Castiel has nerve turning up here. "What do you want?"

"We need your help."

For a moment Dean can't believe he's hearing right. When he finally finds his voice, he demands, "My help? You want something from me? Why the hell would I do anything for you?"

"You may have noticed an increase in the number of unnatural accidents lately," Castiel continues, unperturbed. "Fires, storms, children drowning in four inches of water, hikers missing –"

"I don't care."

"You are still angry."

The angel sounds a little surprised, and Dean snaps. "Angry? Yeah, Cas, I am angry! My brother's dead, in case you hadn't noticed."

"You are not the only man who has ever lost someone, Dean."

"No, but I'm the only man who has ever had to sit and watch while his brother threw himself into Lucifer's cage for an eternity of torture, and I'm sure as hell the only man who's had to sit around not even trying to do anything about it! So whatever your problem is, you deal with it. I – don't – care."

"Dean, I'm not asking you to do anything. I only want to borrow the amulet again."

"The amulet?" Dean's tone is blank, but his mind isn't. It's full of all the regret and gut-wrenching guilt he feels every time he thinks of the amulet, of throwing it away – with his back to Sam, because there was no way he could have looked into his brother's eyes and done that – in a fit of pique that he would do anything to take back. "You said it's worthless."

"I think God may be willing to let us find him, now that the Apocalypse has been averted. He may be able to stop this anarchy. But for that I need the amulet."

"I don't have it," Dean says, and the admission hurts.

"Where is it?"

"I don't know."

"Dean –"

"I don't know, all right? If that's what you're here for, you're wasting your time. Now get out!"

Castiel sighs, glances at the window, hesitates. After a long look at Dean, he shakes his head and draws back into the shadows. A moment later he's gone.

Dean glowers at the air where he disappeared. He knows he's being unfair to the angel, but he doesn't care. Cas is alive – Cas is healthy – Cas is stronger than ever. And Sam is suffering unimaginable torment at the hands of two very angry archangels. That justifies any amount of unfairness in Dean's book.

After a minute, Dean staggers outside. The keys to the Impala are in his pocket – they're always in his pocket. He gets to the garage, although he's not quite sure how, stumbles in, and slides into his car.

It wasn't just his weapons and clothes that Dean locked in the car eleven weeks ago. It was everything Sam ever owned, or touched, or talked about – everything that might remind him of what he's lost. There's Sam's laptop, the duffle bag that, if Dean opens it, is going to smell of aftershave and old leather and little brother, the few books that Sam picked up while they were travelling, and, on top of the heap, the shirt that Dean was wearing on that day that he tries not to remember, the shirt that was the last thing that Sammy ever touched.

Alone, in the dark, Dean finally lets himself cry.


TBC


What do you think? Please let me know!