Author's Note:

I know I've never posted a purely Sam and Dean story here on FF, but I've got a few on AO3, and I'm kind of in an angst + hurt/comfort rut at the moment, and I needed to get some of it out so I can focus on my less angst ridden stories. So, enjoy!

This is set right after Dark Side Of The Moon, and is compliant with the headcanon that Sam and Dean are soulmates, and get to share a Heaven. Not necessarily soulmates of the Wincest variety, but you can read it that way if you want. I'm leaving that up to you, because I enjoy it both ways.

Also, just to clarify, there is zero Dean bashing going on here. There were a lot of trust issues going on during season 5, and this reflects that. So, don't worry. I love them both.

Sam wasn't consciously aware of what their motel was called, much less the town or state. Somehow he'd been able to leave the room while Dean was in the shower, and somehow he'd found a park not too far from the motel where he could sit in silence for awhile. The problem with sitting in silence, however, is that it gives one time to think. How could everything have gotten so screwed up?

It wasn't like he and Dean had exactly been dancing on rainbows and hugging puppies together or anything, but they'd been at least functioning well together. Now? Figures that it would be a trip to Heaven that wrecked their precarious balance. Gotta love irony. Sam wasn't exactly sure how he'd ended up in Heaven in the first place. If Ash was to be believed, they'd both been before, but Sam didn't get how. Dean, sure, that made sense. If anyone deserved Heaven, it was Sam's big brother, but Sam himself? How does the boy with the demon blood get into Heaven?

Maybe the demon blood had tainted his Heaven. Maybe that was why he saw all those mediocre memories. Sure, they were good memories in their own right, but they weren't anything close to his greatest hits. It didn't make sense for that to be his Heaven, so something must have gone wrong. Maybe Heaven was trying to tell him he didn't belong, as if Sam needed a reminder.

Apparently Dean had taken the reminder to heart, since he had effectively thrown Sam away as soon as they'd gotten back. Sure, they were still together, still hunting, but they weren't a team anymore. Dean acted like Sam wasn't even there half the time, and Sam felt tears prick his eyes every time he saw his brother and the conspicuous absence of the amulet around his neck. Maybe he should have seen it coming, but it still hurt.

Shaking his head slightly to clear the painful thoughts away, Sam closed his eyes and leaned back against the park bench. He wasn't ready to go back to the motel room and have to awkwardly navigate around a brother who didn't want to acknowledge his existence.

When Sam finally made it back to the motel room, Dean was sitting on the bed closest to the door, flicking idly through the television channels.

"Hey," Sam greeted him quietly.

"Where've you been?" Dean asked, his tone neutral, but not friendly.

"The park down the road," Sam answered honestly. "I just needed to sit and think for awhile." He moved forward into the room, sparing the television a glance and heading for his duffel bag to get changed for bed.

"Huh. Good for you." Nothing about Dean's tone indicated that Sam had been believed, but he decided not to push it.

When Sam emerged from the bathroom and took the second bed, he hesitated briefly before asking, "So, are we moving on tomorrow?"

"Yeah, I guess." Dean replied with an ambivalent shrug. "I guess we just pick a direction for now."

That seemed to be the end of the conversation, and Sam nodded, tucking himself down into the bed. Maybe if he didn't pick any fights, things would go back to normal faster.

The problem with ignoring a festering wound is that it always makes itself known again, usually with a vengeance. Sam and Dean had managed to work together as effectively as ever on a generic salt and burn case, but the case itself hadn't been the catalyst. The bar they went to afterwards had been.

Sam only had one beer, not feeling in the mood to get drunk. Dean, on the other hand, seemed to be in the mood to get drunk a lot these days, more so since their impromptu visit to Heaven. Sam just sighed and left him to it, knowing that any intervention on his part would not be seen as the caring gesture it was.

Of course, that meant that Sam had to drag Dean's dead weight out to the Impala, which was no easy feat. Sam drove back to the motel, casting glances at his not-quite-unconscious brother every few seconds until they arrived.

Once they were both back in the room and Dean was on the bed, Sam set about preparing their basic cure-all hangover remedy, knowing that Dean would need it soon.

"What are you still doing here?" Dean growled from behind him.

Sam turned, surprised that Dean was even awake. "What do you mean?"

"Just what I said, what the hell are you still doing here? Shouldn't you be off celebrating your independence somewhere?" Dean spat out, wavering slightly on the bed when he tried to sit up.

"Uh, okay, dude, you're pretty drunk. Can we maybe do this later?" Sam tried, knowing that Dean would not be put off so easily.

"We both know you're going to leave, Sam. Just get out already, okay? Like duct tape - you take it off quick so it hurts less." Dean explained, almost falling back on the bed.

Sam winced at the comment, but didn't respond right away. "Are you all right, or do you need to be in the bathroom?"

"I'm not gonna throw up," Dean shot back with a scowl. "I feel like it sometimes, when I think about you betraying your family." The words were designed to hurt, and they did.

Sam didn't bother to hide his wounded expression, but he did turn away, trying to regain control. "Dean, can we please just talk about this when you're sober?"

"I'm fine!" Dean snapped. "I need you gone before you do something else to screw everything up."

"You don't mean that," Sam tried, hoping he was right.

"I can't trust you!" Dean exploded. "Maybe I never could."

Sam jerked back as if he'd been slapped. Part of him was well aware that Dean was way beyond inebriated, and that he'd probably regret his words in the morning, but the rest of him had been expected something similar to come out of Dean's mouth ever since returning from Heaven, and he couldn't say he was surprised. "Okay," he said quietly.

"Good," Dean replied firmly, collapsing back onto the bed. He studiously ignored Sam as he quickly gathered his things into his bag.

Sam paused briefly to finish setting up Dean's hangover remedy, then let himself out the door. He found himself staring at the Impala, feeling a pang of loss. He'd either have to steal a car or hitch hike, and neither of those options appealed to him. First though, he needed to make sure Dean would be safe. That meant getting Dean back up.

Pulling out his phone, Sam quickly hit the number 3 speed dial.


"Hey, Cas," Sam greeted the angel with relief. Sometimes Castiel didn't answer his calls.

"Is something the matter?" Castiel asked, concerned.

"No, I'll be fine," Sam replied quickly. "I just need you to check on Dean for me." Sam rattled off the address and room number of the motel, pausing briefly before launching into a vague explanation. "I'm not sure what he'll be like in the morning, but make sure he takes the hangover remedy I left out, or he'll have a bitch of a headache all day. Just, make sure he's safe, okay?"

"Of course, Sam, but where will you be?" Castiel's tone was wary.

Sam blew out a sharp breath and shook his head, regardless of the fact that Castiel couldn't actually see him. "Doesn't matter. This isn't about me. Just take care of him, please?"

"You know I will," Castiel began, but for Sam that was enough and he ended the call.

Sam sighed and looked around. He might as well steal a car for the time being, before Castiel showed up to interfere.

Dean woke up with sunlight streaming in through his windows, and flinched at the blazing headache it awoke in him. His head was throbbing, and he felt sick to his stomach. Groaning, he rolled over and almost pissed himself in shock.

"DAMMIT, CAS!" He bellowed, launching upright, then gripping his head in pain at the sudden movement. "I think I'm gonna be sick," he moaned.

Castiel looked at him with an expression that was torn between legitimate concern and irritation. "Here," he offered, handing a glass of something to Dean along with a handful of pills. "Sam informed me that you would need this."

It took Dean a moment to figure out what he was being handed, then he sighed with relief and downed both pills and drink. "Thank God," he muttered. It took a few minutes to work, but slowly the headache and nausea inched away, and he felt more functional. "Winchester Hangover Cure-All," he explained to Castiel. "Works every time."

"What I do not understand," Castiel emphasized, "Is why Sam felt the need to call me to take care of you in your drunken state."

"Wait, what?" Dean refocused on Castiel, confused. "Where is he?"

"I do not know," Castiel informed him. "He called last night to tell me where you were, and that you would probably need someone to ensure you were all right in the morning. Given your state, I can understand that part, but not why he is not here himself."

Dean processed the absence of Sam's duffel bag, and the fact that Sam's bed hadn't been slept in. His expression darkened. "He left. I knew it."

Castiel looked confused. "Why would Sam leave you? I have never seen a bond more strongly forged than between the two of you."

Dean snorted. "Yeah, right. Well, Sam's betrayed his family dozens of times. It's no surprise he did it again."

Now Castiel looked angry, and he towered over Dean, who was still sitting on the bed. "Dean Winchester," he growled, expression fierce, "Now is not the time to create such divisions! What has caused this rot to infect your relationship?"

Dean scowled and stood, shoving Castiel away from him. "Back off, Cas. It's everything, okay? Heaven just made it worse."

If possible, Castiel now looked even more confused. "What are you talking about?" He asked, his expression intensely quizzical.

"Sam's Heaven was all these times he ran out on his family, or got to ditch us for something he thought was better. You know what my Heaven was? Hanging out with Sam when we were kids. My mom. My family. Tell me that's not a betrayal." Dean went hunting for a beer, then remembered his headache and thought better of it, leaning against the wall instead.

Castiel still looked confused. "No, that's not right," he insisted.

"What's not right, Cas?" Dean sighed tiredly.

"You have both been to Heaven before," Castiel pointed out. "Sam had beautiful memories in Heaven. It is complicated to explain. You and Sam have a strong connection that allows you to come together in Heaven, much as you did recently. When one of you is there without the other, such as has happened to Sam on several occasions, their soul manipulates their Heaven to compensate for the absence of that bond, until the other half is present. The bond between the two of you is one of the strongest ever witnessed by Heaven, and it was strongly reflected in Sam's Heaven on the other occasions he was there, such as before you made your deal."

Dean processed that, not sure he was understanding correctly. "So..." He shook his head. "Okay, so Sam's Heaven in the past has been, what, memories of me? Because I wasn't there with him?"

Castiel inclined his head to the side slightly and made a noise of consideration. "Not exactly, but that will do for now. His memories were largely of you, with a generous mixture of memories he probably does not know he has, of his parents during his infancy, and also memories of his deceased girlfriend."

Dean had to admit that that made sense. He'd been so focused on the absence of himself in Sam's memories that he hadn't even realized that there hadn't been any memories of Jessica, which really didn't make any sense, considering Sam had been planning to marry her. "Okay, so why was his Heaven different this time?"

"Given your reaction, I would not be surprised if Zachariah manipulated what was seen in order to drive a wedge between the two of you. Unfortunately, the tactic would appear to have succeeded." Castiel gave Dean a disappointed look.

An uncomfortable feeling was brewing in the pit of Dean's stomach, and he cleared his throat before asking with hesitation, "Cas...can you, I dunno, clear up the hangover fog? I don't really remember last night, and I'm afraid I might have said something-"

"I would not be surprised," Castiel muttered, but he stepped forward and pressed a finger to Dean's forehead.

The hunter's drunken night came rushing back, along with Sam's wounded facial expressions and attempts to salvage what was left of their relationship while a drunk and belligerent Dean kept tearing it down. "Shit."

"You are not particularly agreeable while inebriated," Castiel pointed out unnecessarily.

"Yeah, Cas, understatement." Dean griped. "He didn't want to leave, but I pushed him out, and he left because he thought I wanted him to, and he called you to make sure I'd be safe since he's usually my back up."

"Sam cares about you a great deal," Castiel offered solemnly.

Dean shot him a look. "I got that with the whole soulmates thing," He replied sullenly. "God, if I was pissed because of his Heaven, how did Sam react? Did it feel wrong to him or what?" He looked to Castiel, hoping the angel had the answer.

Castiel shook his head. "You will have to ask Sam."

"I have to find him first," Dean pointed out, "which will either be simple or insanely difficult depending on whether or not he expects me to come after him."

"I will assist you in any way I can," Castiel promised.

"Thanks, Cas." Dean replied with a sigh. He ran a hand through his hair and dug his cell phone out of his jeans. "I guess I'll start with Bobby."

Sam answered his ringing phone, keeping one hand on the wheel of the Camry he'd stolen to replace the car from the motel parking lot. "Hey, Bobby. What's up?"

"I'd like to know why Dean just called me to ask if I'd heard from you," Bobby snapped. "What the hell is going with you two idjits?!"

Sam sighed, shouldering the phone and switching hands. "Is Cas with him?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Good." Sam merged into the left lane of the highway and glanced at the map open in the passenger's seat. "He'll be fine then."

"He'd be a hell of a lot better with his brother by his side," Bobby snapped. "What's got your panties in a twist this time?"

Sam sighed again, not wanting to go over this. "He doesn't want me at his side right now, and I'm not going to force my presence on him," he explained. "We'll go our separate ways for awhile, and maybe we'll be able to work together again after a break."

Bobby growled over the phone. "Boy, need I remind you that the last time you two went your separate ways, you got attacked by hunters and something so drastic happened to Dean that he wouldn't even tell anybody?"

"You didn't tell Dean about the Oklahoma thing, right?" Sam asked suddenly, concerned.

"You asked me not to," Bobby reminded him. "I keep my word, kid."

"Thanks," Sam offered.

Bobby huffed. "Yeah, well. I've half a mind to tell him anyway. Dean deserves to know about that."

"He doesn't need more to worry about," Sam insisted. "Cas will help with with the apocalypse stuff, and he won't say yes to Michael. I'm going to work on the Lucifer problem from my end."

"The Lucifer problem?" Bobby demanded incredulously. "How the hell do you figure you can do that by yourself, Sam?"

"Because I'm already dealing with it by myself!" Sam snapped. "Now it's just going to be my main focus. Instead of pushing it down under everything else, I'm going to handle it."

"What are you talking about?" Bobby asked, confused. "You're not making sense."

"Lucifer comes to me in my dreams almost every night," Sam revealed with a sigh. "I'm going to use that. Find out how I can stop him. I already know that I can't just kill myself, so I have to find some other way to stop him. That's my mission. I can handle it."

"Back up, Sam," Bobby said sharply. "What the hell do you mean that you already know you can't kill yourself?"

"Don't worry about it, Bobby," Sam sighed, regretting his word choice. He hadn't wanted to burden anybody with that particular revelation. "Lucifer promised he would revive me, that's all."

"That's bull," Bobby snapped back. "You can't handle this alone, Sam."

"I started it, Bobby. I need to fix it. Besides, Dean and Cas are a better team. The angel and the man he saved, you know? They'll do what needs to be done on their end, and I'll do what needs to be done on my end." Sam nodded to himself, affirming his plan. It would work.

"Boy, you know what Dean said when he called me?" Bobby asked him, his tone dark.

Sam shrugged, despite the fact that he knew Bobby couldn't actually see him. "No idea."

"He wanted to know if I'd heard from you, because according to him, he said something stupid while drunk and you left, leaving no other word other than asking Cas to take care of him. Since when do you take anything Dean says while drunk seriously?" Bobby demanded sharply.

"Since it wasn't anything he wouldn't have said while sober," Sam explained. "Look, Bobby, I appreciate the concern, I really do, but this is how it has to be. I get that now."

"Sam, where are you?" Bobby asked, his tone considerably gentler.

"Goodbye, Bobby," Sam replied firmly, hanging up the phone.

Dean answered the phone immediately, putting it on speaker so Castiel could hear. "Bobby! Any news? You're on speaker. All I've got from this end is that Sam stole a car from the parking lot here, but he could be anywhere by now."

"I swear to whoever's in charge upstairs these days, you boys are bone dead stupid," Bobby griped. "I don't know what you said to Sam, but he's decided it's his mission to, and I freaking quote, 'fix the Lucifer problem.' Apparently he thinks you and Castiel the friendly angel will make a better team to take care of the apocalypse without him around getting in the way."

Castiel's head tilted slightly in response to the comment, but didn't otherwise address Bobby's words.

"He's doing what?!" Dean choked.

"Oh, that kid told me lots of interesting things, some I don't even think he meant to," Bobby snapped. "First, apparently Lucifer told him that if he killed himself that he'd revive him, and I'm pretty damn sure Sam tested the theory."

Dean was pretty sure his heart stopped. "I...what?"

Bobby didn't even pause. "Oh, and that's in addition to the fact that apparently Lucifer visits Sam in his dreams every night, and he's just been dealing with it this whole time, figuring that that's just his burden to bear. Which is also apparently why he's decided he's going to take on the one man mission to take care of Lucifer."

Dean groaned out loud, rubbing his chin in thought as he tried to figure out what to do next. "I don't suppose he told you where he is?" He asked hopefully.

"Of course not!" Bobby griped. "You don't think I would have led with that?"

"All right, sorry," Dean replied quickly. "We just need to find him - like now."

"Yeah, well. Get on that before he gets himself killed, or worse." Bobby hung up the phone.

Dean didn't even have to ask to know that 'or worse' meant saying yes to the devil.

Sam idly tapped at the amulet he had lying under his shirt. He'd had it there since it had hit the bottom of that motel trashcan, but he'd been careful to make sure Dean didn't notice. Sam still felt like it was something to hold onto, but he hadn't wanted to make Dean angry by forcing it back into his world when he clearly didn't want it.

As if on cue, Sam's phone began to ring again, this time lighting up with one word - Dean. It wasn't the first time he'd called, but after Sam let the phone ring out, it blinked to indicate that Dean had left a message, and that was a first.

Reluctantly, he pressed play.

"Hey, Sam, we need to talk. Cas came and explained some stuff you need to know, because I was wrong, and I was an ass, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said to you, and we really need to talk about it. You can't shoulder all this crap on your own, and I don't want to do any part of this without you. Okay, so I can't keep doing this chick flick thing with Cas over here giving me the soul stare, so please, for the love of whoever cares, get your ass back here? Trust me, you don't and I'm just going to hunt you down anyway. You're not doing this without me, got it?"

Sam dropped the phone into the cupholder and stared out at the road, thinking. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a genuine apology from Dean about anything, and it was kind of staggering. His brother has simultaneously made him want to cry and laugh in one voicemail, and he'd forgotten how they'd used to be so easy around each other that that wouldn't sound weird.

Pursing his lips, Sam picked his phone back up and dialed Castiel. He had a few questions before he made a decision.

"Sam?" Castiel's voice was so excited that Sam almost dropped the phone in surprise.

"Uh, yeah. Hey, Cas."

"GIVE ME THE PHONE!" Dean yelled in the background.

"Patience!" Castiel snapped, then said more clearly into the speaker, "I am assuming since you called me that you would prefer I not allow your brother to abscond with the phone."

"For the moment, yeah," Sam admitted, lips twitching in amusement in spite of himself. "I just wanted to ask you something first, before I make any decisions."

"What do you need to ask me?" Castiel inquired, his tone grave. Whatever Dean had been saying in the background quieted down at Castiel's question.

"What did you tell Dean that he thinks I need to know?" Sam asked firmly, keeping his tone in check.

"Zachariah manipulated your perception of Heaven," Castiel replied immediately. "It was originally a theory, but I have since checked and confirmed that that was exactly what he did. You and Dean have a soul bond that allows you to share a Heaven, and both of you are meant to experience memories that reflect intense love. As I explained to Dean, in previous journeys to Heaven, the majority of your memories have been of Dean, your parents, and your former girlfriend."

Sam felt a pang at the mention of Jess, but it was overshadowed by the magnitude of Castiel's words. "I knew it didn't feel right. I thought maybe I was wrong somehow - that the demon blood made Heaven react badly to me or something."

Castiel growled. "Why is your opinion of yourself so low?" He demanded. "Were it not for Zachariah's involvement, you would have had a peaceful and beautiful Heaven with your brother."

"Cas, I want to believe that, I do, but-" Sam started.

"Then trust me," Castiel interrupted. "Where are you?"

Sam hesitated, then sighed and ran his free hand through his hair. "About halfway down Interstate 80," he finally said. "Yellow Toyota Camry." He barely had the words out before Castiel was sitting in his passenger's seat, closing his cell phone.

"We are returning to Dean," Castiel informed him, his tone leaving no room for argument.

Sam nodded slowly. "So...we're soulmates? Dean and I?" He asked tentatively.

"Of a sort. The term is accurate. It is also the phrase Dean chose to refer to my explanation. Please collect your belongings." Castiel nodded at Sam, clearly waiting.

Sam felt his lips twitch at that, and he reached into the back of the car to grab his duffel bag.

Dean was pacing the room when he heard the soft fluttering of wings that always indicated Castiel's arrival. He turned on his heel and threw himself at Sam, almost knocking the taller man off balance with the intensity of the bear hug.

"Woah!" Sam exclaimed, rocking back on his heels before managing to regain his equilibrium and hug Dean back.

"God, Sam, don't ever do that to me again," Dean demanded, his tone a mixture of annoyance and pure relief.

"Sorry," Sam offered, still feeling guarded.

Dean pulled back and gave him a look. "Neither of us is finishing this without the other, okay? I need you, end of story. Hell, we need each other. We're stronger together, Sam. We'll deal with both Michael and Lucifer as a team, got it?"

Slowly, Sam nodded, allowing an expression of relief to cross his face. "Yeah. Got it."

Relaxing, Dean finally let Sam go, his eyes dropping down to Sam's chest, and the slight indentation under his shirt. It took him a split second to process the sight, and then he was looking up at Sam again, eyes wide. "Is that...?"

Sam flushed and his hand flew up to cover the lump under his shirt. "Sorry, I know you didn't want it anymore," he apologized quickly. "I was still important to me, even if it's not worth anything for finding God. I didn't want to leave it behind." He tried to sound cavalier about it, like it wasn't even half as important to him as it really was.

"I shouldn't have thrown it away," Dean said quietly. "Forget finding God, that was beyond cruel, and I knew it too. I'm sorry I was stupid enough to let Zachariah's mind games break us apart. It is not going to happen again, you hear me?" His expression was fierce.

Sam allowed a real smile to light up his face, and he nodded quickly. "Yeah, I hear you. Together." He hesitated, his fingers still lightly touching the lump under his shirt. "Do you...?"

"Yes," Dean replied quickly, not waiting for the end of the question. He knew he'd made the right choice when he saw Sam's expression as his younger brother lifted the amulet slowly off his own neck and flipped it around, placing it back over Dean's neck where it belonged.

"Good," Castiel affirmed from behind them. "You have a bond that no enemy should be able to break. Allow this reforging to be the foundation upon which you build each other up, and do not allow your foes to break you apart again."

"Thanks, Cas," Sam said softly.

"I am glad I could help," Castiel said solemnly, nodding once. "I will take my leave now, but call me if you need my assistance again. Ah, and Sam?"

"Yeah?" Sam turned to face him, expectant.

Castiel leaned forward and tapped Sam's forehead carefully. "That should hinder my brother's access to your mind. Should it fall, do not hesitate to let me know. You should not have to suffer his attacks. I regret that my power is not strong enough to offer a permanent solution, but this should help at least."

"Thank you," Sam said fervently, eyes wide with surprise.

"Dude, we are so lucky you're on our side," Dean told him emphatically.

"You are lucky to have each other," Castiel said pointedly, before vanishing.

Dean glanced back at Sam, who still looked awed. "Yeah. We are."