Disclaimer: If I owned the boys, this would have happened a long time ago.
Author's Note (with Fic Spoilers): Yeah… So I'm obsessed with that ugly little horned guy. Sue me. :P
This is the amulet fixit I promised. The epilogue to Illusion is coming soon, probably Monday. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this!
Thanks to Cheryl for helping with (yet another) account of how an old charm on a worn leather cord returned to its rightful place.
Summary: At a Supernatural convention, Dean notices that all the people dressed up as 'Dean Winchester' have something that he hasn't got. He wants it.
Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's…
(… and unto Dean that which is Dean's)
"Tell me again how we wound up here," I muttered, looking around at the milling crowd. It was even worse than the last time had been: that had just been surreal and annoying; this was surreal and creepy.
"Relax, Dean," said Sam. He seemed amused, the freak. "The whole thing is probably a prank – that's what Bobby thought, anyway. We can dig around, ask some questions. If it turns out to be someone trying to make the LARPing a little too exciting, that'll be the end of it. We'll be in another state by tomorrow night."
"LARPing?" I repeated in disgust. "You're as bad as they are!"
Sam laughed, dimples showing. I felt my breath catch – I still couldn't believe I had my little brother back. Just the thought of it made me want to hug him, or do something else stupid and girly.
I punched him in the arm instead. "I still can't believe we had to pay to come here and watch these idiots pretending to be us." I paused to look at the pair of 'Winchester brothers' standing by the entrance checking tickets. 'Dean' was a skinny little midget – I mean, I know I'm shorter than Sam, but come on, world! I'm not freaking five feet tall! 'Sam' was short, too, and he was greeting each arrival with a twisted grimace that was probably supposed to be the Sammy's bitchface. Not a fraction as annoying as the real thing.
We crossed the lobby to a door on the far side. A sign next to it read "Current Panel: Is Sam Winchester destined to be evil?"
"Ignore it," I snarled, grabbing Sam's arm and pulling him away before he could get upset. "They don't know what they're talking about. Evil. Calling my little brother evil. They're the ones that are evil. Evil, sadistic sons of… You OK, Sammy?"
"I'm fine," Sam said, and he sounded fine, so I let go of his arm. "Let's see what else is on."
Another door led to a panel on "Should Dean have let Sam die in the Stanford fire?"
We avoided the panels after that.
A guy wearing a copy of Sam's charcoal hoodie gave us a sheaf of papers and asked if we wanted to sit in on Chuck's panel in the evening. I told him we wanted nothing of the kind. The guy looked at me intently, mouth turned a little down at the corners, tiny line between his eyes –
When I realized what he was trying to do, I nearly laughed in his face. He was trying to puppy-dog me, Dean Winchester, the real and original Dean Winchester, into submission. And he wasn't even Sam!
Nice try, muttonhead.
Sam took the papers from me, thanked the guy (who looked like he was about to burst a blood vessel), and said, "We'd really love to attend Chuck's panel – I mean, who wouldn't? But we have this thing…" Eyes wide. Tiny pout. "I wish we could, I mean I hope he won't mind –"
The guy interrupted, assuring Sam that it was OK and Chuck would understand.
You see? That is how you do the eyes. Moron.
Sam threw away most of the papers without letting me see them. ("You don't want to know, Dean.") I was about to argue, but then I saw someone nearby waving one that said "Winchester History: Dean as an abusive older brother" and decided Sam was right. I didn't want to know.
I looked at the one sheet Sam did thrust into my hands. It was a map of the convention centre. Most of the rooms were marked off for panel discussions – definitely not going near those, thank you very much, lunatics – but there seemed to be a courtyard kind of thing behind the main building where they had something listed as "General Interaction". That seemed like the place to go to find out what was going on.
Sam and I went out and split up to cover more ground. It was Sam's idea; I think he just wanted to avoid the embarrassment of standing next to me and having people think we were another pair of convention junkies all dressed up to go larking or whatever the hell it's called.
And they were dressed up. The charcoal hoodie seemed to be the garment of choice among the guys playing Sam – kind of weird, considering he doesn't wear it that often. (I was strongly tempted to tell everyone I could see that that was not my 'getting sick' hoodie, damn it! I just wore it once, to cut out of the hospital after the rawhead incident. And… yeah, that other time when I had the flu, but that was only because it was big and warm and comfortable. Sam has nice clothes. And, OK, maybe I wore it when I sprained my knee chasing down that Wendigo in Montana, but that still doesn't make it my 'getting sick' hoodie!)
The fake Deans are mostly wearing leather jackets, although a couple are wearing that other blue one. A few of them have rings (can't say I miss that thing).
And they all have amulets.
I wasn't even feeling bad about it, you know? I mean, yeah, I shouldn't have thrown it away, but I'm not the type to brood about things I can't change. I threw it away, and that sucks, but that was the end of it.
I didn't miss it.
When I agreed to Sam's stupid plan to say yes to Lucifer and jump into the Cage, I totally did not call that motel and offer them anything they wanted if they would go through their trash and find an amulet I threw away. When they told me not to be retarded, I totally did not offer them anything they wanted if they would let me go through their trash.
I also didn't try to bribe the guys who ran the local garbage dump. And I did not threaten to salt and burn their stupid freaking landfill if they didn't produce the amulet right the hell now.
I didn't do any of those things.
And when all the things I didn't do failed to produce the amulet, I absolutely did not spend the next twelve months absent-mindedly feeling for it and wanting to eat my gun every time I realized there was no ugly horned dude hanging on an old leather cord around my neck.
Since I'm setting the record straight, I might as well set it fully straight. If I'd gone back to that motel, found the maid who cleaned our room and offered her five thousand dollars (a week's worth of hustling pool) to tell me where the amulet was, and if she'd said she was damn sure there was no amulet in the trash ever because she would have noticed something like that… I do suspect that that would've been because Sam snatched the amulet out of the trash.
Because that's the kind of stupid thing Sam would do.
But maybe he didn't. Because if Sam had had it, he would've given it back to me, right? Maybe not right away – he might have been pissed at me for throwing it away – but eventually. Like when he knew he was going downstairs with Lucifer and leaving me. When he made me swear to get on with life and not try to bust him out.
When my Sammy came back to me after close to two hundred years in the Cage. He would've given it to me then, right? I mean, he woke up, came straight upstairs to me, and threw himself at me like the little kid he used to be.
But he didn't give it to me, even after I made that blanket apology speech over Rufus's grave, so it stands to reason that he doesn't have it.
That glint of metal I keep seeing when Sam's packing or unpacking his duffel, that he tries to pretend isn't there (I asked once and he laughed and said, "Dude, you're imagining things," and zipped his bag shut) can't be the amulet. It's probably something else. Like a bottle-opener.
Because if Sam has it and won't give it to me…
That isn't possible. It isn't. Sam wouldn't – he just wouldn't. Sam hasn't got it and the motel maid was probably lying. Or unobservant. Either one works.
I started. I'd been so wrapped up in thinking (not brooding; I don't brood) about that damn amulet that I completely forgot I was supposed to be questioning people.
"Sorry," I told the guy who was pretending to be me. "I was just thinking about something… Anyway, dude, what about that case they've written up for us this time? Weird, isn't it? Some people are saying it's a real haunting."
"Dude, tell me about it!" he said eagerly. "I don't blame them – I kind of think it might be real, too! I mean, that newspaper article they put in the file totally gave me the chills! Dude, right up my spine!"
"And they've been putting together some pretty awesome effects for it."
"That ghost at last night's dinner? It freaked me out totally, man! It was incredible! It looked – well, I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me it was real. And the way that dude screamed when it grabbed him –"
"Totally out of character," the guy's partner added. "Dean would never scream like that. But hell, I would probably have done the same thing."
"Yeah… Hey, you know who that guy was? I want to talk to him… You know, I need to find out what it felt like to have a ghost grab him."
"Yeah, sure, dude. He's over there." The guy pointed to a man standing across the courtyard. He was in Dean gear. Yay.
Just as I was about to walk away, the guy dressed as Sam asked, "Dude, where's your amulet?"
He shrugged. "Well, you know… You're supposed to be Dean, right? Where's your amulet?"
Way to make me feel horrible, guys.
"I just thought… you know… Maybe Dean got bored of the amulet." Both guys stared at me in shock, and I bit my lip. Even I knew that was lame, but now that I'd said it… "I mean, he wore it all the time. Must've gotten in the way on hunts. Maybe he just… you know… tossed it."
"Dude," fake Sam said with a kind of quiet horror.
"Dean would never do that," fake Dean added. Shows how much you know, fake Dean. "Dude, that would totally break Sammy's heart."
Shows how much you know, Dean.
"I just thought –"
"Dude," fake Dean cut in firmly. "Don't. Dean cares about Sam way too much to do anything that stupid."
"Yeah," I said, throat tight. "Yeah, I guess he does."
Or, at least, he cares about Sam enough that if he actually did something that stupid, he'd do everything he could do get the damn thing back.
"Hey, don't worry about it," fake Dean said, obviously feeling sorry for me. He didn't know the half of it. "You can get one right over there." He indicated a stall selling memorabilia. It wasn't far from where the other fake Dean – the one who actually came in contact with the alleged ghost – was standing.
"Yeah," I told him. "Yeah, thanks, man."
I couldn't resist stopping to check the stall out on my way across the courtyard. There was a lot of random junk… My ring, that black bracelet Sam used to wear, t-shirts with Sam and me dressed in priests' robes, t-shirts and mugs and freaking coasters with the Impala on them…
Amulets in huge heaps, three ninety-nine each, and hell, I could've bought over a thousand of them for the five thousand dollars that I totally did not (did not, remember) offer the motel maid.
I was about to buy one – yeah, Sam might have thought it was weird (although, knowing him, probably not) but Sam didn't have to live with looking in the mirror every freaking day and knowing that something that had stayed around his neck ever since his little brother gave it to him twenty years ago wasn't there anymore.
Just as I was about to help myself to one, though, I stopped.
All I'd be doing would be taking a charm from a box of identical charms. That would be pointless, wouldn't it? I mean, I didn't like the amulet for itself or anything – if some girl had given it to me, I would've worn it for a couple of days to keep her interested and then 'forgotten' it on the motel room table when we skipped out of town. I wore that amulet for almost twenty years because Sam gave it to me and told me he wanted me to have it.
If Sam didn't want me to have it, I might as well hang one of those little brass werewolves around my neck.
I went on to the other fake Dean, but I couldn't help glancing over at the memorabilia stall a couple of times. I mean… Sam was around somewhere. He probably had his eye on me. If he realized I wanted an amulet he'd get me one.
And yes, fine, I admit it. I wanted an amulet. I wanted my amulet, but since that seemed to be gone for good, I wanted something that would tell me Sam still –
I needed an amulet. That was the one thing that might've made up for all those nights at Lisa's when I couldn't sleep, couldn't bear to stay awake, couldn't do anything other than stare into the darkness and wish for my brother back.
So when I saw Sam – my Sam – slip over to the stall, I couldn't help feeling relieved. And a little happy, too. Maybe I'd finally managed to convince Sammy that I did want to be his brother. And even a fake amulet, if Sam gave it to me and said he wanted me to have it, would be just as good as the real amulet.
Sam and I met up again at lunch in something called the Amber Banquet Room.
I couldn't help laughing when I saw Sam's plate. He had (obviously) ignored the actual food and taken a heaping plateful of salad.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Do you know what that hamburger is going to do to your arteries?"
"I've had heart failure before, Sam. My little brother didn't let me die."
He really sounded upset, so I patted his arm. "I'll be fine, Sam. I work out enough to burn all the cholesterol."
Sam bitchfaced. (Shut up, Sam. It's a verb if I want it to be a verb.) He didn't say anything else, though, so I got to eat my hamburger and fries in peace.
We had a break after lunch, so Sam and I went up to our room to compare notes. Everything I'd found out had made me disbelieve in the alleged haunting – I'd been a hunter long enough to be able to tell between an actual ghost and someone with a sick sense of humour smearing animal blood on the walls.
Sam thought the same thing, and we spent a happy half-hour discussing what kind of twisted freak a person would need to be to think murderous man-eating ghosts were fun.
Just as we were about to go back downstairs, Sam said, "Hang on, I got you something."
"Oh?" I asked, trying to sound surprised, as though I hadn't spent the past hour wondering when Sam was going to give it to me – which I hadn't, at all; I just didn't want Sam to get the wrong impression and think I had when I hadn't.
Sam grinned and shoved a little package across the table.
My heart was thudding so loudly I was pretty sure Sam would be able to hear it. It was small enough to be the amulet.
I tore the paper off.
And I couldn't stop the disappointed expression when I saw what it was. It was a two-inch model of the Impala on the end of a keychain.
"It's…" I cleared my throat. "It's great, Sam. Thanks."
Sam's face fell. "I thought you'd like it."
Make him feel like you don't like his present, Dean, that's the way to get him to give you back your amulet. You want to do anything else to encourage him? Maybe make a couple of nasty cracks about Jessica?
Sam got to his feet. I scrambled up, too. I had to fix this. I had to fix it right freaking now.
Sam paused with his hand on the door handle. "Dean, it's fine. It was just – look, I thought you'd like it. It was stupid, OK? Let's just finish up here –"
"I love it, Sam."
"Dean, you don't have to –"
"Sam. I mean it." I pulled the car keys out of my pocket and wrestled them off their keychain. "It's awesome. Now I can show everyone what my baby looks like." I slipped the keys onto the new keychain. "See? It's perfect."
Sam smiled. It was a tiny smile, but it was real and I had put it there, so I felt pretty good about myself.
"Let's go," I said, grabbing Sam's arm and pulling him out of the room. "Sooner we finish, sooner we can get out of here. We can go see that ball of twine –"
"Come on, Sammy, you know you loved it."
We went back downstairs, and of course it was bloody Winchester luck that we ran into the same guys I'd met that morning. (Actually, it probably wasn't. Bloody Winchester luck would've been if we'd run into Chuck and Becky.)
"Hey, dude," fake Dean said before we could sidle away. "How'd it go with Brad?" (Brad being the guy who got grabbed by the ghost.)
"Cool," I said, hoping he wouldn't bring up the amulet again. It was one thing trying to rationalize it to a couple of strangers who were just being nosy. I couldn't even begin to justify myself in front of my little brother.
"So you're his Sam?" fake Sam asked, eyeing my brother up and down.
"Yeah," I answered. "He's my Sam."
My Sam. My Sammy back from Hell, back from Lucifer's Cage, here and in one piece and having my back again.
"Huh. I think maybe you're a little too tall, dude," fake Sam said.
"No," Sam replied, grinning. "I just look that way because he's too short."
Fake Sam and fake Dean laughed. So did I. There aren't words for how much I missed Sam making fun of the two inches I no longer have on him. (Yeah, Sam. Two inches. You are not five inches taller than me!)
"Still not got yourself one of those amulets?" fake Dean said suddenly.
And there we go.
Sam's smile vanished, and I didn't know whether I wanted to shoot fake Dean or myself.
"There's a contest," the guy went on, oblivious to my glare. "For the best get-up, you know? No way you're going to win without the amulet, dude." He turned to Sam. "You should make him wear one."
Oh, sure. You want to see if there's any other way you can make this worse, you son of a bitch?
"I can hardly force him," Sam said lightly. I could hear the undercurrent of tension in his voice and I just knew the whole thing was going to blow up in my face.
"Oh, come on," I said, nudging Sam with my elbow. "You know you can make me do anything, Sammy."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Can I?"
"You should make him wear an amulet then," fake Dean said – couldn't the guy take a freaking hint? "I mean, he was telling us about that theory he has – that Dean would probably get bored of wearing it and toss it, but I'm sure Dean wouldn't."
There you go. That's the way you can make it worse. Thank you. My brother probably hates me now.
"I don't know," Sam said, still lightly, still with that tightness to his voice that only I could hear. "He's probably right. Dean doesn't really need the amulet."
Yes, I do. Yes, I do, I need it and I want it and I know you have it so freaking GIVE it to me!
"You really think Dean would throw it away?" fake Sam asked, sounding shocked all over again. "Dude, that would practically be saying he didn't want to be Sam's brother anymore. Dean could never break Sam's heart like that!"
Thank you. Keep talking. It's not like you're wrecking my baby brother's faith in me with every word.
Sam shrugged. "Dean was mad enough, he'd probably think Sam deserved it. Anyway… great meeting you guys, but I have to go. I'll see you around."
Sam left. He went straight to the courtyard. I took the time to be grateful that he hadn't seen "Dean's life if Sam hadn't been born" outside Discussion Room Four before I ran out after him.
"Sam!" I grabbed his arm. "Come on, Sammy. They're idiots. They don't know what they're talking about."
Sam just looked at me. "You told them you were bored of having to wear the amulet?"
My brother the lawyer. Awesome.
"Sammy, he asked and I – I had to say something, man, and I panicked. What else was I supposed to say?"
"Nothing, Dean. It's fine. We just need to talk to that writer and then to the woman who's handling special effects, and then we can go."
"No, we can't. Screw the job. Sam, I'm sorry, I know I wasn't very nice to you –"
"It was years ago, Dean. Let's just –"
"Sam, please. Just – just let me say this. I hurt you and I knew I was hurting you and I wanted to hurt you. I was a jerk. It took my little brother being taken away for me to get my head out of my ass. It would probably serve me right if you couldn't forgive me for that, for all the crap I pulled, but you're you so you did and believe me I'm grateful, Sam. And I can't lose you now. I can't. Not after everything we've been through. So just tell me what I have to do to make it up to you and I'll do it. Anything."
Sam's face got so withdrawn even I couldn't read his expression. I knew I was losing ground fast. Before he could shut me out completely, I grabbed his arm, pointed at the memorabilia stall, and said, "Sammy, get me one."
"You want one?" Sam enquired. There was something in his voice I couldn't identify.
"God, yes! Then maybe these idiots'll stop asking me about it." Sam frowned, and I knew I'd put my foot in it, although I couldn't figure out what exactly I'd said wrong. "Sammy?"
"You want one to keep people from asking you where yours is?" Sam asked tightly, and I cringed.
Idiot. How about you just try not talking for a few days? Then you won't be able to say anything so monumentally stupid.
"That's not what I –"
Sam jerked his arm out of my grasp. "They're just four dollars, Dean. Get one yourself."
"That's not the same," I said desperately. "I – I can't wear one unless you give it to me, Sammy. Please."
Sam stared at me in disbelief. "Screw you."
He went back inside.
Crap. Crap crap CRAP.
OK, plan of action. Sam probably won't skip on me, but if I try to talk to him now he'll brush me off with some crap about the job and whether the ghost is real, so I need to get that out of the way first. Talk to the writer-lady, have a firm word with whoever decided to take matters into their own hands and creep the 'hunt' up, and then go find Sam.
It didn't take me long to wrap the case up. Some hard questioning – and it was hard, because every minute I wasted here was another minute I hadn't set things right with Sam – and a few threats later, I had one terrified twenty-two-year-old promising never to do it again.
I went inside.
Sam wasn't in the lobby, and I was pretty sure he wouldn't be sitting in on any of the panel discussions. That left the bar and our room.
I glanced at my watch. Five. Too early for the bar, at least for Sam. Besides, when Sam gets drunk because he's upset, he usually likes to do it in private.
Right. Our room, then.
I stopped on the way to snake a salad shake from the Amber Banquet Room (not my fault they don't keep an eye on their merchandise). I went up, opened the door without knocking, and there was Sam.
He was sitting back on his bed with a half-empty bottle of a cognac at his elbow. He had his knees drawn up, hands resting on them –
And the amulet in his hands.
The amulet. Not a fake. I could tell, I knew just by looking at it that that was the same amulet an eight-year-old Sam had wanted me to have, the same amulet I'd thrown away in a fit of despair.
"Brought you something," I said, holding up the paper cup and keeping my voice carefully even. Sam didn't respond. I put the cup on the table next to him. "I think you've had enough of that, Sammy."
"Screw you," Sam said, voice slurring.
"I thought you hated me."
"You're an idiot."
"I'm an idiot?" Sam snapped. "What the hell else was I supposed to think, Dean?"
"You were supposed to think I was a jerk and I needed my ass kicked." I reached for him. At any other time Sam would have shoved me off, but he tends to be clingy when he's drunk, especially when he's drunk and upset. He came willingly into my arms, although he was still glaring at me. "I'm sorry."
"I thought, if I took Lucifer down… if I put him back… I thought you'd stop hating me if I fixed it so you could have your normal life."
"You're an idiot," I said, more fiercely. "I could never hate you, Sammy. I'm so sorry."
"You're a jerk."
"Yeah, I am." I started to lower Sam to the bed, but his free hand – the one not holding the amulet – latched on to a fistful of my shirt. "I'm not going anywhere, Sammy. Just trying to get you comfortable."
"I missed you."
"Dude, I was just downstairs."
"Not now… When I was in the Cage. I missed you."
Damn it. How does the kid manage to do this to me?
"I know, Sammy," I said, brushing hair off his forehead. "I missed you, too. Awesome Dean Winchester needs his trusty sidekick Geekboy, right?"
"Jerk," Sam mumbled drowsily.
"Bitch." I patted Sam's shoulder. "I don't think you're going to be up to going downstairs for Dinner and Interaction with Chuck Lambert, kiddo, so let me just order us some room service. Jim Williams is paying."
"Wait." Sam grabbed my hand and dropped the amulet into it. "You're still a jerk. But I want you to have it."
For a minute it seemed like the entire world had stopped. I couldn't hear anything, could barely see anything; the entire world had come down to Sam's fingers curled around my wrist and the cold metal resting in my palm.
"Why?" I asked quietly.
Sam looked at me with his soul in his eyes. "Because you're my brother and I love you. And you didn't lie to me."
"You're not worried I'll screw up again?"
"Anyone might screw up, Dean. You might screw up. I might screw up. At least… at least I know that if you do screw up, you'll fix it. You're my big brother."
"Sammy…" It took all my will power to keep from closing my hand around the amulet possessively. "Not now, Sammy." I put it by his pillow. "Give it to me in the morning, if you still want to do it when you're sober."
"I'm not that drunk," Sam protested.
That was probably true: Sam gets plastered pretty easily, but later he usually remembers what he said and what he says is usually something along the lines of how I'm the best big brother ever – embarrassing, to have said it out loud, but not something the kid doesn't mean. All the same, I wasn't going to take advantage of Sam when he was drunk.
"Then I'll still get it in the morning," I said lightly, picking up the phone. "What do you want for dinner, Sammy?"
I woke up the next morning to find the amulet on my bed, right by my hand, holding down a note that said Sam had gone to get breakfast. Along with a flyer for a panel in Discussion Room Two on "Supernatural and Girls: Why does Dean Winchester want to sleep with every woman in America?"
I was still laughing when Sam came back with the coffee and donuts.
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