Sam sat in the motel room staring at the small brass amulet in his hand. The worn black cord dangled below his hand limply. Dean was off at a bar doing God knows what and had invited Sam along but he'd declined. He knew Dean would worry about him brooding but he couldn't help it. He needed some time by himself to think.
In the month since he'd gotten his soul back he'd been slowly remembering what he'd done. He didn't do it on purpose; the memories just came. Staring at the amulet, he wondered how he could have allowed his brother to be turned into a vampire and not do anything but watch. He sighed and felt his throat closing. A tear made its way slowly down his cheek and he didn't bother to wipe it away.
The door opened and Sam immediately shoved the amulet under his pillow and wiped his face. Dean walked in and sat down on his bed. "Whatcha been up to, Sam?"
"Nothing," was Sam's reply. He hasn't called me 'Sammy' in forever, he realized suddenly. He felt his mood sink even lower.
Dean looked curiously at Sam. He knew something was off but wasn't sure what. "You okay?" he asked. Even to Sam's ears Dean sounded worried. Wishful thinking, he decided.
"Fine," he replied glumly.
"You don't look it. Come on...spill."
"I'm fine, Dean. Go to bed."
"Dude, I'm totally inviting a chick flick moment here."
"It's okay," Sam replied dully. "You don't have to."
Dean looked at Sam for a minute then shrugged. "Okay but the offer still stands."
Sam nodded and watched as Dean slowly made his way to the bathroom. He sighed again and swinging his legs onto the bed, he lay down. He closed his eyes, fingers curling around the precious amulet under his pillow. By the time Dean emerged from the bathroom some ten minutes later Sam was sound asleep. Dean looked at him worried. Something was wrong. His Sammy-radar was going full tilt. He sighed. 'Come on, kiddo, what's bothering you?' he thought as he untied Sam's shoes and pulled them off. He then grabbed the cover from his own bed and put it over Sam. His brotherly duties discharged, he changed clothes and got into bed.
Two hours later Sam shot up gasping. He reached under his pillow frantically, relaxing only when his fingers found the amulet. He glanced at the other bed and was surprised to see Dean awake and facing him, his head propped on his hand. "Want to talk about it?" Dean offered hopefully.
Sam shook his head but couldn't control the shivering that overtook him. Dean sighed and threw the covers off. He stood and then sat down next to Sam. He noticed that Sam's hand was still under the pillow. "Sammy, come on, talk to me," Dean said softly.
The reaction he got startled him. Sam's eyes filled and tears spilled down his cheeks. "You said it." Sam whispered brokenly.
"Said what? Sam? What'd I say?"
"You...you haven't called me 'Sammy' in forever," Sam replied. Without realizing what he was doing, his hand came out from under the pillow with the amulet clutched in his fist. Then he noticed Dean. His brother was staring at the cord dangling from Sam's right hand.
"Sam? What...is that what I think it is?" Dean asked, his voice suspiciously hoarse.
Sam followed Dean's gaze and tried to hide his hand again. Too late. Dean grabbed Sam's hand and pried it open. There in Sam's palm lay the amulet. Dean could remember the Christmas Sam gave it to him as if it were yesterday. He'd regretted dropping it in the trash every single moment of every single day. Dean looked at Sam in shock. "You picked it up?"
Sam nodded. "I just couldn't leave it there."
Dean looked at Sam. "Not a day has gone by that I haven't regretted throwing it out. I...I saw your heaven then when we got back and Cas gave it back to me and said it was useless I just felt lost or something. I didn't feel like your brother anymore. I hadn't in a long time, to be honest."
"I know, Dean. But I hoped you wouldn't feel that way forever and I wanted to give it back to you when things had gotten more normal between us. When you weren't blaming me for everything. When I felt like you didn't hate me anymore."
Dean raised his eyebrows in disbelief. Surely I heard wrong. Sam doesn't really believe I hate him, does he? Out loud he said, "Sammy, I've never hated you a day in my life. Not while you were at Stanford, not while you were running around with Ruby, not when you chose her over me, not even when I got turned. I could never hate you. Never."
Sam looked down at his lap, ashamed. "I never said you actually did hate me, it just felt like you did," he replied softly.
Dean put his hand under Sam's chin and raised his head so that they were looking at each other. "You're my kid brother, Sammy. That never changes, no matter what. We're family. I raised you."
"What about the voicemail?"
"What voicemail?" Dean asked.
"The one you left me two years ago. You said Dad told you you'd either have to save me or kill me and that you were done trying to save me. I listened to it just before Ruby and I went into the convent. That's why I went ahead. I didn't think I had anything left to live for so I might as well go on and try and kill Lilith. I didn't expect to survive it. I couldn't believe it when I heard you outside the door. You were the last person I expected to see that night."
Dean looked horrified. "I never said that, Sam! Do you still have the message?"
"Yeah. I listen to it every now and then." He pulled out his cell and hit voicemail. The message began at once, exactly as Sam said. Dean's face went white, then green. He leapt up and raced for the bathroom. Sam heard him retching. Sam was so stunned by Dean's reaction he just sat there unable to move.
When Dean came back out, he looked slightly less green but still horrified. "Sammy, I never said that. The message I left you said that we were still brothers. That I had no right to tell you to never come back. That's something Dad would say, not me. I said I was sorry. I never, ever said I'd kill you."
Sam stared at Dean incredulously. "But, but I heard you," he protested weakly.
"Sammy, anybody could have screwed with that message. Hell Zachariah all but said he'd do anything he had to in order to make sure you killed Lilith. Never thought he'd stoop this low but he was a dick."
Sam looked at Dean and tears began making their way down his face again. Dean reached for Sam and pulled him close, wrapping his arms around him. "It's okay, little brother. I gotcha." he soothed.
After a few minutes, Sam managed to calm himself down and pulled away slightly. "I'm so sorry, Dean. So much could have been avoided if I'd...part of me knew you'd never say that but I heard it and I just...I gave up."
"S'okay, Sammy. I understand." He glanced at the amulet Sam was still clutching in his hand. Motioning to it he asked, "could I," he swallowed hard then continued, "could I have it back?"
Sam looked at Dean in disbelief. "You still want it? After...after everything I've done to you?"
Dean nodded quickly. "Absolutely. Like I said, we're still brothers, that never changed. It may have gotten lost for a little while but it never went away."
Sam looked at Dean then at the amulet. He held it in mid air and dropped it into Dean's waiting palm. Dean instantly put it on and a look of intense relief flooded his face. He clutched it in his fist for a moment before letting it go. The familiar weight was comforting and solid and real. "Thanks, Sammy."
Sam shrugged. "Don't mention it." He hesitated, wondering how far he could push it. Finally he added, "Jerk."
Dean looked at Sam and smiled. "Bitch." It felt weird on his tongue; he hadn't called Sam "bitch" in forever but it felt right. Dean shivered in the cold room and looked at Sam. Sam still looked spooked and Dean knew he'd been awakened by a nightmare. He said, "mind if I sleep over here? You've got all the covers."
Sam looked at Dean surprised and secretly pleased. "Sure." He scooted over and Dean crawled into the much warmer bed. He lay down facing Sam and pulled the covers up over both of them. Minutes ticked by and Dean was sure Sam was asleep but was startled by his voice in the dark. "You died. You died thinking I hated you and all I had left was the amulet. I kept wishing I'd given it back to you sooner."
Dean looked at Sam in the dark. His cheeks were shiny and Dean knew there were still tears coursing down his brother's cheeks. Dean rolled over on his back and held out his arm. Sam instantly scooted over, laying his head on Dean's chest where he could hear Dean's heart beating. "It's okay, Sammy," Dean said. "I've gotcha. I always have and I always will."