"Listen to me, you blooducking freak…"

"It means you're a monster…"

"The Sam I knew? He's gone…"

"You walk out that door, don't you ever come back!"

"I'm having a hard time forgiving and forgetting here, you know?...I don't think we can ever be what we were...I just don't think I can trust you."

"We should just pick a hemisphere. Stay away from each other for good."

"I don't believe. In you...they're gonna find a way to turn you."

"Mistakes? Well, let's go through some of Sammy's greatest hits. Drinking demon blood? Check. Being in cahoots with Ruby? Not telling me that you lost your soul? Or how about running around with Samuel for a whole year, letting me think that you were dead while you were doing all kinds of crazy? Those aren't mistakes, Sam. Those are choices!"

"Well, I'm just spit-balling here, but if I were you, uh... Ruby, killing Lilith, letting Lucifer out, losing your soul, not looking for me when I went to Purgatory…"

"Now, if anybody needs a chaperone while doing the heavy lifting, it's Sam."

Sam sat on the faded blue hotel bedspread, a bottle of pain medication in his hand. He flipped it over several times, listening to the rattle of the small blue pills in the bottle. His head throbbed lightly, though he found it hard to care when he was so close to ending everything. He had been a monster, an abomination, his entire life and he had been able to justify his existence with the argument that he helped more people than he hurt. Now, though, he could see it was just an excuse, a lame defense that carried no weight. When all was said and done, he couldn't even save his own brother.

He thought he had saved Dean that night in the bunker, when he was able to get rid of the black eyes and empty soul that had been parading around in skin that resembled his brother. He thought he had gotten Dean back and that they would be able to fix their relationship that had been broken for years, but he should have known that it wouldn't be that easy; happy endings don't happen when you're latently evil. At most, he had bought Dean more time and for that he was grateful, but now it was time to face the inevitable. The mark on Dean's arm wouldn't release it's dark hold over Dean and he couldn't save his brother from this. He was a failure.

He had made many mistakes over the years, mistakes that Dean threw back in his face every time they got into a nasty fight, and he wasn't afraid to own up to them. Sam knew he had a tarnished soul, a black spot inside that sometimes reared its ugly head and reminded him that he hadn't been pure and innocent since he was six months old. He had failed many times as well, when it came to protecting those he loved. Jess, Dean, Madison, Dean, Sarah, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean...he had lost so many people that really made a difference in the world, such as his Dad, Ellen and Jo, Bobby, Dean...why was he still here when they were not?

He heard the rumble of the Impala's engine and he stashed the pills underneath his pillow before stretching out on the bed to stare at the ceiling. He couldn't do it now, not when Dean would walk through that door in any second. No matter what Dean was becoming, he wasn't going to make his brother watch him end his own life. Besides, he couldn't risk Dean stopping him from fulfilling what needed to be done. He had done his research, and from the assumptions he could make from studying the lore, the mark was going to drive Dean into bloody violence and death with increasing severity until he eventually killed his brother; the way that Cain killed Abel. And Sam knew that Dean couldn't kill him, mark or not. The order to protect and save Sam was too strongly embedded in Dean to be overthrown. Instead, more innocent people would die or Dean would suffer. Sam wasn't going to let that happen.

After all, he deserved to die and Dean deserved to live.

Many years ago, Dean had left him a voicemail that all but said that Sam was past redemption and needed to be eliminated. Sam had waited for Dean to make good on that threat; the anger Dean held certainly didn't diminish, and every time they fought, Sam thought for sure it would be that time that Dean would end him. And Dean never did, even when Sam relapsed on demon blood with Famine, even when Sam decided to say yes to Lucifer and throw himself into the cage, even when Sam came back without a soul and then neglected to find Dean in purgatory. So many times, Sam had let Dean down and failed him, and not once did Dean pull the trigger. Now he knew that Dean couldn't let go, that the protective instinct was too strong. No, he'd have to do this himself if it were going to be done.

After all, if there was no brother for Dean to kill, the mark had to lose it's power. It was the only logical solution; if the mark required you to eliminate your brother, it could only work if you actually had a brother to kill. Sam knew Dean wasn't going to do it, so he had to do it himself. And he wasn't going to fail Dean, not this time.

The door opened and Dean walked in, carrying two brown bags oozing with grease, "They didn't have salad or chicken or anything that looked like girl food, so I brought you back a burger."

"Thanks." Sam replied, but he made no move to join his brother at the rickety wooden table. How could he? He was worried that Dean would take one look at him and know what Sam was planning; Dean almost always knew what Sam was thinking or feeling, sometimes before Sam even realized it himself.

"You okay, man?" Dean asked, shaking the bag again to gain Sam's attention, "You feeling alright?"

"I'm fine." Sam said quietly, propping himself up on his elbows and glancing in Dean's direction, "Not that hungry though, you can have mine."

"Your loss." Dean shrugged, eyeing Sam suspiciously but not commenting further. Instead, he opened his bag and began to dig in, groaning appreciately after the first bite, "Dude, you don't know what you're missing out on."

"Heart disease?"

"Hardy-har-har." Dean retorted dryly, "Found us a case yet?"

Sam forced himself into an actual sitting position, grimacing when the movement kicked up his headache a few notches higher, and opened his laptop, "Possible werewolf just outside of Duluth."

"It's fucking cold in Duluth. Can't you find us a case in, I don't know, San Antonio? Miami?"

"Sorry, I'll just tell all of the baddies to head south for the winter." Sam retorted, a hint of a smile on his face, "Sorry vamps, werewolves, wendigos, spirits; you've all got to remain south of the mason-dixie line until April."

"It's the least they could do." Dean mumbled, crumpling the foil wrapper from his burger and opening the second bag, "Last chance for food, dude."

"I'm good." Sam replied, "Have at it."

"You don't have to twist my arm."

Sam turned the laptop so Dean could see it, "Four dead so far in Duluth, we need to end it. We'll need some heavier winter clothes; it's snowing and in the 20s there. We can hit a store in the morning and head out from there."

"Great." Dean said sarcastically, displeasure evident on his face. Hunting a werewolf in freezing ass weather was not something he was looking forward to. Why couldn't they be after something that terrorized the beaches of Key West? He threw away his dinner trash, and cracked open a beer before sitting on his bed and grabbing the remote, flipping through a few channels before landing on some reality tv show about a mechanic, "This good?"

"Whatever," Sam shrugged, "I think I'm going to turn in early."

Sam knew that if he was asleep, Dean would likely settle down earlier than if Sam was clacking away on the keyboard. Once Dean was asleep, he could carry on with his plan and then Dean could head to Duluth alone to work the case. The mark situation would have resolved itself and Dean would probably do much better on the case without Sam getting in the way or screwing it up.

"You sure you're okay?" Dean questioned again, clearly concerned but unable to really pinpoint why, "It's only 10."

"I've got a bit of a headache, that's all." Sam said, throwing Dean an excuse that was not only true, but enough of a reason to explain away any behavior Dean may think of as out of the ordinary without being something for Dean to worry over.

"Did you take something?"

"Yes, Dad." Sam retorted, giving Dean a half smile before rolling over in the other direction in an attempt to look like he was going to sleep. He couldn't really fall asleep, he had such a small window to pull off he plans and while it was highly unlikely that he would sleep all night, he didn't want to run the risk of missing his opportunity.

Like he expected, it only took about half an hour for Dean to follow Sam's lead and go to bed. Once his older brother's breathing had evened out, signaling Dean was asleep, Sam carefully picked up the pill bottle, not wanting its contents to rattle and give him away, and he slowly crept to the bathroom, shutting the door with a barely audible click behind him before even turning on the light. Things had to go exactly right, or it wasn't going to work.

He opened the bottle, emptying the small blue pills into his open hand. This was it, the moment he had been fighting for his entire adulthood but was finally ready to face. He was an abomination, he had been told as much so many times before, and now he was cleaning up his mess and taking himself out of the equation. It was the least he could do; he ruined everything he touched. Dean was safe now, and with Sam out of the picture perhaps he would stay safe. With Sam around, there was always the chance Dean would get involved in another half-thought-out, self-sacrificing, risky scheme at the first glimpse of trouble; and there would be trouble, because Sam attracted trouble like a magnet.

He turned on the faucet, lining up the pills on the counter. He cupped some water in his hand, using it to swallow the first three pills. No big deal, this was easy. it may even be a painless way to go, no blood or brains splattered on the wall. He cupped his hand under the faucet, swallowing another three pills, then another, then another. Soon, the sink ledge was empty and Sam sank against the wall, sliding to the floor. The room swam around him, his arms and legs tingling and his chest feeling as though an elephant were sitting on top of it, making it hard for him to breathe, the world greying around the edges.

The next thing Sam was aware of was Dean tapping his face, shouting words with a mixture of anger and worry, though Sam was too out of it to make sense of anything that was going on. He couldn't move his hands and he couldn't formulate a reply to let Dean know he was okay and to leave him alone. Dean was still shouting, and all Sam could do was moan quietly, slumping over as soon as Dean's grip on him was released.

"Fuck, Sam." Dean swore, kneeling in front of his brother at a complete loss for what was going on. He had heard Sam go into the bathroom, and when half an hour had passed without Sam returning to bed, he had been worried enough to invade Sam's privacy to check on him. He had found Sam sprawled out on the floor, unconscious with no sign of returning to the alert world any time soon. He had tried to rouse his brother, and was about to call 911 when he spotted the empty pill bottle on the floor. The sight of the orange bottle made Dean panic even more and he quickly dragged his brother to the toilet, opening the lid and propping up Sam between it and the wall, trying to formulate a plan.

The most obvious and efficient way to quickly rid his brother of the pills was to induce vomiting, and as much as he didn't want to, he knew it was either that or call 911, which would just end with a mandatory psych hold. He knelt beside his brother, trying to figure out the best way to do this, and said quietly, "This is going to suck out loud, Sammy. I'm sorry, but I've got to. Don't bite me, bro."

Cringing slightly, he pried open Sam's mouth, which was surprisingly easy due to Sam's complete lack of muscle control at the moment, and pushed two fingers to the back of Sam's throat with a grimace, hating everything about this. Sam shuddered several times before loudly gagging, and Dean withdrew his hand, scowling when nothing happened. With a heavy sigh, he gripped his brother once more and repeated the action, this time refusing to retreat until Sam was in the process of ejecting the medication he had ingested. He held Sam's head over the toilet while his little brother was sick, trying to talk himself through everything he knew about overdoses, needing to have a clear point in his mind where he'd decide Sam needed a hospital.

After several minutes, the heaving stopped and Dean pulled Sam away and propped him against the wall again, his brother's eyes closing instantly and his head drooping slightly as he wavered between consciousness and unconsciousness. Dean grimaced as he looked into the toilet in hopes that he'd be able to see evidence that he had made a difference in preventing a legitimate overdose, but was unable to distinguish medication from everything else that had been ejected. Hating that he had to do this, he pulled his brother away from the wall, slinging one of Sam's limp arms over his own shoulder and urging, "Please help me out, here, Sammy. I can't lug you around on my own, you've got to do some of the work, bro. I'm going to get you some help."

Two days later, Sam awoke to the sound of beeping. Without opening his eyes, he knew that he was in the hospital; the sounds of machines and the distinct smell of disinfectant giving it away, and despite his best efforts, he could not prevent the tears that leaked from under his eyelids.

"Sammy? Can you hear me?" Dean asked, his voice heavy and hoarse from a combination of stress and lack of sleep; it had been a long couple of days for everyone involved, "Open your eyes, it's time to wake up."

"Leave me alone." Sam whispered quietly, bringing an IV-laced hand to wipe away the tears from his cheeks, "Please, don't look at me like that."

"Like what?" Dean replied, knowing that Sam had yet to open his eyes and therefore had no idea of the expression on his face. He was worried about his kid brother, more worried than he had been in years, and still hadn't really come to terms with the fact that he had almost lost the younger man a few days prior.

Sam drew in a shaky breath, replying so lowly that Dean had to actually lean closer to hear, "Like I'm crazy or stupid or pathetic. However you're looking at me."

"I'm looking at you like I'm glad you're still alive." Dean replied honestly, his own eyes bright with unshed tears, "I'm looking at you like I want to shake myself for not seeing you were on edge, looking at you like I am so fucking glad that we've been close our whole lives because if we hadn't, I wouldn't have checked on you and you wouldn't be here. You came so close...so fucking close...to dying."

"I'm sorry." Sam replied, not entirely sure if he was apologizing for the attempt or for not being successful. He blinked open his eyes, then brought his un-wired hand to cover his eyes as the brightness blinded him momentarily. He was saved from having to speak further when Dean moved his chair even closer to the bed, grabbing Sam's other hand with his own.

Dean exhaled, the action showing how tired and worried he had been, and said quietly but with conviction, "Listen to me, Sam. We're going to get through this. You and me, we're a team. We may be completely fucked up at times, but people don't go through what we've been through just to give up on each other."

"You'd be better off without me. I'm a liability, a freak."

"Talk about my little brother like that again and I'll punch you, I don't care if you're laid up in a hospital bed or not." Dean said firmly, his tone leaving no doubt that he was serious, "Is this because of something I've said? Something I've done? Because if it is...Sammy...we say a lot of shit we don't mean. You are the most important thing in my life. Don't you ever doubt that, not for a second. You're my best friend, my brother, the only family I have left. You've been the one constant in my life since I was four years old, and you're not allowed to quit on me."

Sam felt tears shining in his own eyes, unable to respond due to the emotion he knew would make his voice catch in his throat. Instead, he squeezed the hand Dean still had a firm grip on, hoping that his point was being made without actual words. He was touched, floored by his brother's uncharacteristic openness, relieved to actually hear that Dean felt this way instead of just hoping he did. And when Dean squeezed back, silently meeting Sam's gaze, the younger man instantly knew that they were on the same page. For the first time in years, Sam was certain they were fighting on the same side, with each other and for each other instead of just alongside each other. He could see the concern, the love, in his big brother's eyes and looking back, he hadn't seen this version of his big brother since before Dean had gone to hell so many years ago. Perhaps, everything would be okay, perhaps it wouldn't, but Sam knew he at least no longer had to feel like he was fighting this battle alone.