"So, what, you're just gonna walk back in and we're gonna be the dynamic duo again?"

"Look, Dean, I can do this. I can. I'm gonna prove it to you."

"Look, Sam—it doesn't matter—whatever we do. I mean, it turns out that you and me, we're the, uh, the fire and the oil of the Armageddon. You know, on that basis alone, we should just pick a hemisphere. Stay away from each other for good."

"Dean, it does nothave to be like this. We can fight it."

"Yeah, you're right. We can. But not together. We're not stronger when we're together, Sam. I think we're weaker. Because whatever we have between us—love, family, whatever it is—they are always gonna use it against us. And you know that. Yeah, we're better off apart. We got a better chance of dodging Lucifer and Michael and this whole damn thing, if we just go our own ways."

"Dean, don't do this."

"Bye, Sam."

Sam and Dean "The End"

Too familiar tremors shook Sam's hands as he sat on the edge of his motel bed. He knew this feeling, knew the sensation well, and he cursed himself for it. Cursed that he had ever been stupid enough to put himself in this position. It didn't matter that it wasn't his fault this time. Those bastards had pinned him down, tried to force the demon blood down his throat, and he'd spat it back in their faces. Still, that hadn't been enough to completely stop him from getting a taste. Even after he'd spat it out, he'd still had to breathe, and that had been all it took to wash some of that blood down his throat. He'd tried—God, had he tried. But he knew that, in the end, it was still his fault. It was still his fault he was sitting here now fighting through the low key withdrawal that even that tiny amount had given him. Because, if he hadn't taken that first drink from Ruby, if he hadn't been so damn stupid to screw himself up like this, than he wouldn't have ever been in this position.

The addict that lived inside of Sam was screaming at him to go out and find a demon. To drink them until they were drained dry. You'll feel better that voice whispered to him. Remember how it felt? Remember that power?

No! Sam curled his hands into fists and fought back those voices. He'd become pretty good at ignoring their whispers. There were other voices in his head, louder voices, that could usually drown out the addict in him. But the voices he heard now didn't help to take the feeling away. If anything, they made it worse. He could hear Lucifer's words from his dream coming back to him, whispering, taunting, promising. And he could hear Dean, loud, angry, and then tired. Just, tired. That one cut almost the deepest of all. To know that he'd pushed his brother to that point. That he'd put Dean through so much that his brother was just tired. Too tired to even be angry anymore. All because of him.

Sam knew what he'd done. Could sit here and list them off, one by one, the things that had slowly destroyed his relationship with his brother, destroyed himself, and now could very well be responsible for destroying the world.

It felt like no matter what choice he made or what direction he went anymore it was always going to be the wrong one. There were so many times that he should've just listened to what his brother told him. If he had, they wouldn't be here. Lucifer wouldn't be free. Sam had proved over and over that his own judgment wasn't to be trusted.

But he'd tried to go back to Dean. Tried to put himself with a person whose judgment he knew he could trust. Only, his brother had turned him away. 'Stay away from each other for good', he'd said. Pick a hemisphere. And Sam had only gotten to tell him about Lucifer. He couldn't imagine what Dean would've been like if he'd told him about the hunters that had tried to feed him the blood. Maybe it was better he hadn't said it. He'd put so much on Dean's shoulders already. Enough was finally enough.

Dean had been right to deny bringing them back together. All Sam would do would get in his way and drag him down. He obviously wasn't any help in stopping things. It wouldn't be fair to saddle Dean with him again. His brother was already busy enough trying to clean up the giant mess that Sam had made. Asking him to babysit his freaky addict of a brother wasn't fair and it wasn't right.

It was better this way.

Dean and Castiel could work together to try and stop the apocalypse. They made a great team. At least Dean didn't have to worry about trusting Cas. The angel would always have his back. He'd take care of him like Sam couldn't. If there was anyone that stood a chance of fixing things, it was them. They could work things from their end, figure out a way to stop Michael and save the world.

And Sam? Well…

His eyes drifted to the duffle bag that was lying on the ground. His own words from his dream echoed back at him. 'I will kill myself before letting you in.'

Lucifer had said that he'd just bring him back, but he was the Father of Lies. No matter that he had promised not to lie to Sam. What liar was going to admit that they were going to lie to you?

'Because it had to be you, Sam. It always had to be you.'

No. It didn't have to be him. Everything else had been him .Everything else, he had done. It was his fault. But this? This, he could fix. This, he could stop. Let Dean and Castiel take care of the rest. Sam would do this one last thing for his brother. He would get this right, no matter what the cost.

His thoughts were surprisingly calm as he closed his hand around his gun.

Lucifer had said he'd just bring him back. It was time to test that theory.

With a steady hand, he lifted the gun and pulled the trigger.

The first thing Sam saw when he opened his eyes was the stain on the motel room ceiling that looked oddly like a wendigo. He'd stared at it earlier, a bit disturbed by it. Seeing it now had him sighing and closing his eyes once more. If he was seeing the stained motel ceiling it meant that his plan hadn't worked. He wasn't lying, at least about this. He brought me back. Of course he had. Because when had any plan that Sam built ever gone the way he wanted? He should've known it wouldn't be this easy. He wasn't going to be able to escape this easily. You started this whole mess—it's only right you don't get a 'get out of jail free' card like this.

Sighing, he tried to gather enough energy to sit up. When he opened his eyes again he tilted them back, tilting his head back as well, to look at the wall. Surprise showed on his face when there wasn't any sort of mess there. That was…odd.

"I cleaned you up." A voice said from somewhere off to the side. "And let me tell you, it wasn't a pretty sight. But, hey! At least we got proof now you're more than just a pretty face. There actually were some brains in there. Or, well, all over the wall. Which I cleaned up." He paused, giving a dramatic, long-suffering sigh. "You're welcome, by the way."

Surprise had Sam spinning quickly. One hand was already reaching for a gun that should've been there and wasn't. What he found was the very last thing he'd expected. There, sitting cross legged on the bed opposite his, was the Trickster. He sat there cross legged, eating from a bag of skittles. What made the whole situation even more disconcerting was to briefly see the sad look on the usually mocking face before it was replaced with a smirk. Sam wanted to yell at him. To demand what the hell it was he thought he was doing here. But when he tried, he found he just didn't have the strength to do it. Pressing a hand on the bed, he pushed himself upright. "If you've come here to kill me, as you saw there's no real point."

"I'm not here to kill you, Sam." The Trickster's voice was uncharacteristically sober. Then he shrugged and sounded a bit more like himself. "Wouldn't work, right? And I'm not one to let someone off that easy. Where's the fun in that?"

"Then why are you here?"

He'd expected some sort of flippant answer. Something a little more mocking and a little less serious. Yet again, the Trickster surprised him. "Thought I'd check up on my favorite hunter. I heard about what happened with those other hunters."

"Why on earth do you care?"

"I don't." The Trickster argued. "You're the idiot who drank skanky's blood to begin with, even after me trying to scare you on the straight and narrow. If you'd just listened to me to begin with, we wouldn't have to worry about this crap fest." Then he grimaced a little, shrugging one shoulder as he popped a couple skittles in his mouth. "I just think consent is an important thing. You didn't consent."

Sam couldn't stop the snort that tore from him, a half laugh that sounded both hollow and cynical. "Wouldn't that be a novel experience."

He was facing the wrong way as he climbed up from the bed and so he missed the grimace that crossed the Trickster's face. By the time Sam turned back around, his face was composed once more, a hint of its usual mockery in place. "Never pictured you the suicidal type here, kiddo. I knew you were crazy. Didn't know you were a coward, too."

"What business is it of yours?" Sam asked flatly, refusing to rise to the bait.

The Trickster's smirk grew a little. "Well, you did let big and nasty loose on the world, a world I happen to enjoy. If he kills off all the humans, who's gonna make my chocolate?"

Sam shrugged one shoulder. "It would've solved the problem if it had worked." And why he was explaining himself to a Trickster of all things, he had no idea. He didn't owe this monster any answers. But he was just too damn tired to really care all that much at the moment. Just, tired. His gaze fell on the gun on the ground and he sighed before bending down to pick it up. His hands were steadier, he noticed, and he snorted. "Hey, at least he brought me back minus the withdrawal. I guess this was good for something." He mumbled to himself.

There was a second of quiet. All he could hear was the crinkling of the candy bag that the Trickster held. Then, "By the way, where's that brother of yours? I'm surprised he hasn't come busting in yet."

"Not here." Sam said flatly. There was a pang inside, hot and sharp, and he thrust it down. He shoved the gun into his duffle. Clenching his hands tight on the strap in front of him, he refused to turn around, refused to look at the being who had only ever tortured him in the past. He just, he couldn't deal with this right now. Not with this. Not with him. Wasn't it bad enough that Sam was torturing himself? That Lucifer was in his dreams? Did he have to put up with this everywhere else, too? His shoulders slumped and he bowed his head down. "Can you just…If you're not here to torture me, would you just go? Just…go."

When Sam turned back around, there was only a wrapper on the bed to show that the Trickster had ever been there to begin with.

The hunter shook his head. Really, he should be more worried than he was about the fact that he apparently had a Trickster stalker. He should be trying to figure out why the Trickster felt the need to come and check up on him after hearing what had happened, or how he'd even heard to begin with. Instead, he threw the wrapper in the garbage and then curled up on the bed, not quite able to bring himself to lay in the other one, no matter that it was clean now.

It took a long time for him to drift off to sleep. When he did, he dreamt of blood and death, and a low laugh that echoed in the dark.

The next morning Sam woke with the sun. He went through the motions, showering and dressing himself, even though his body wanted nothing more than to climb right back into bed and curl up for a few more hours. His dreams wouldn't allow it, he knew. His night hadn't been haunted by Lucifer as he'd been half afraid of but that didn't mean that his sleep was restful. There was plenty of fodder for nightmares rolling around in his mind. A man could only take so much of that before enough was enough. He'd dealt with less sleep before.

Once he was showered and dressed, he gathered up his things, which were admittedly few. He paused when he came across his phone. It was off; a rarity for him. In his family they'd always stressed the importance of being able to contact one another. Keeping a phone on them at all times. You don't turn it off unless you absolutely have to just in case someone has to get in contact with you. But who was there to get in contact with him anymore? Who was left out there who gave a damn? Dean had been clear on his feelings when Sam had called from the road last night. Not that it was any less than Sam deserved.

Curling his hand around the phone, the young hunter stared at it for a moment, and then deliberately turned and dropped it into the trash can. He left the motel room without looking back.

The first thing he did was go and check himself out. Then he made his way over to his car. Where he was going, he wasn't sure. Hell, right now, he wasn't even sure what he was going to do. He had a loose idea that he needed to stop Lucifer somehow. But the actual how of it? He had no idea. How did one stop the devil?

The last thing he'd expected to find when he reached his car was the Trickster stretched out in the passenger's seat. But one second he was putting his bag in the trunk and the next he was closing the lid and got a clear view of the pagan through the window.

Sam marched around the car and yanked open the driver's door, dropping down into his seat. He didn't bother closing the door before he turned to glare. "What're you doing here?"

The Trickster looked up from the magazine he was reading and grinned around the stick of a sucker. "Morning, Sam-a-lam-a!"

"What're you doing in my car?"

He lifted up the magazine he held, a Weekly Enquirer, and smirked. "Homework."

"Homework…" Somehow, the idea wasn't all that surprising. It brought up a few questions that Sam almost asked. Then he shook his head and waved a hand in the air. "No, you know what, I don't wanna know. Just, go do it somewhere else, all right? Somewhere not my car."

"Well now that's not very friendly." The Trickster said, wagging a finger at him.

Sam found himself snorting once more and reflected to himself that the pagan seemed to incite that response in him rather frequently. "Pardon me for not being friendly to monsters. It hasn't exactly worked out well for me so far."

"He can be taught!" A snap of the fingers and a graduation cap appeared on Sam's head.

He scowled and yanked the hat off, throwing it into the backseat. "Would you just get out of here already so I can figure out where I'm going?"

That got a raised eyebrow and a look that was most definitely nosey. "Aren't you off to meet up with darling big bro? I'm surprised to see you without him."

"Even brotherly love has its limits." Sam pointed out, not quite able to hold in the snark. "Setting the devil free kind of falls in the 'too much' category. Go figure."

"Boo hoo. You think he should just forgive you?"

Sam let out a hoarse, self-deprecating laugh. "No. Of course not." Why was he explaining himself to the Trickster? Why on earth was he still sitting here instead of going to grab a stake or something like he should be doing?

"Pfft. Maybe cause you know it won't work. And it's Loki, not 'The Trickster'. Even monsters have names, you know." The Trickster—Loki—said scathingly, proving as he did Sam's theory that the god could read his mind. Then he moved in his seat and folded his magazine closed, focusing on Sam. "So what are you planning on doing?"

Mentally he logged away that little fact. Apparently not just a Trickster, but Loki. He wondered if he really meant the actual Loki. That was a question for a different time, though. "Hunt. Keep saying no. Try to find a way to stop the devil. I figure Dean and the angels can work on the rest of it."

"So you're just gonna pawn off your mess on your brother, huh? Wow, Gigantor. Nice. Real class act."

The hunter couldn't even argue that. He shrugged and settled into his seat. It was apparent Loki wasn't going anywhere and he was tired of just sitting here in the parking lot. He'd already proved many times over he could vanish and appear at will and there wasn't anything that Sam knew that could keep him out. He might as well get some distance between himself and the hotel while he listened. Shutting his door, he pulled his buckle on and then started the car. "I never claimed to be classy. It's better this way, anyways."

"Saves you from having to do any work." Loki mocked.

He shrugged a little before backing the car out of its spot. "I've already proved I'm not good at making those kinds of decisions. I just make things worse." There was no whine to his tone, no self-pity, just a flat statement of what he saw as fact. "So I'm going to focus on the problem that I might actually have a chance at. I'll stop him. Somehow. If I can just solve this, Dean can do the rest like he's supposed to."

There was a long moment of quiet before Loki flashed him another one of those bright grins. Then he made a show of deliberately settling down into his seat. The magazine vanished with a finger snap, but a cup of what smelled like cocoa took its place. "Sounds like fun."

The way he said that had Sam sneaking a look over at him. He couldn't actually mean….? No. But that grin grew bigger and Sam stifled a groan. "You are not coming with me."

"I'd like to see you stop me, baby Winchester."

"I don't need you!" Sam snapped, trying to split his focus between the road and the smug pagan beside him. "I've had enough of teaming up with monsters, thanks. It never exactly works out all that well in case you haven't noticed."

Loki shrugged in a way that suggested that clearly wasn't his problem at all. "Well, you've got me."

"You're gonna, what, ride around with me and help me try to stop Lucifer?"

"Hells no." Loki spat out. "Are you kidding? I'm not dumb enough to go after that bastard. I'm just here for the entertainment. Plus, y'know, someone's gotta keep you alive if your brother isn't here to do it. I think last night proves that. Of course, it also kind of proves you can't die, so there's that…"

"Why does it matter to you whether I live or die? Why do you keep trying to save me?" Sam demanded, at the end of his rope. "You're usually the one torturing me!"

One of Loki's hands patted Sam's arm. "I told you, you're my favorite. If anyone's gonna mess with you, it's gonna be me."

There were so many arguments that Sam could make to that and not a single one of them would do him any good. There wasn't any arguing with Loki. That was something Sam had learned about the Trickster. Arguing with him wouldn't do anything but give Sam a headache and he was already battling one of those. Sneaking a look over at his passenger, he had a bad feeling that even if he did find a way to kick him out of the car, the Trickster would just follow him anyways. Better to at least keep him where he could see him. He'd get bored eventually.

Loki's grin turned a bit smug. "So where are we headed?"

Sighing, Sam shook his head. "For now? Far, far away from here."

For those that know me, this is K, not J. This here is my gift to J, written for him, with great help from a few friends, without whom this wouldn't be possible. Eskimita, intoTheWilds, Ahmose, all have offered help here and there when I get stuck, even if it's just support, as have everyone else on J's FB. Thanks so much, all of you, for encouraging me. An thank you J!

For now, I have a few chapters already done that are being proofread, and I have the entire story from start to finish plotted out and outlined. There will be updates every Friday, at least. There might be two updates a week now and again, or if I get the rest written quickly. Please don't be afraid to let me know what you think! This is my longest SPN story and I'm both nervous and excited. I hope you enjoy it.

Don't forget to R&R!