Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Notes: Ok, so…a lot of things contributed to this. The Writer's Strike and how it affects our shows, the thoughts I've been having about Season 3, and a suggestion my mother made that got me thinking. And then the writing bug bit. And this is what happened as a result. It may be confusing, and it's definitely heartbreaking. Hurt to write it to be honest. But give it a chance. Please.

Sam walks into the hotel room and kicks the door shut behind him. He drops his bag on the bed, along with the Colt. He pulls off his shirt and heads for the bathroom, dropping it on the floor as he steps into the shower and turns the water on as hot as it'll go. He removes the rest of his clothing and steps under the water, hissing slightly as it burns his skin. He adjusts to the temperature and runs his hands over his face, feeling the exhaustion set in again. One week. That's all he had left with his brother. No matter how many demons he killed, or tortured for information, nothing had changed. He was still going to lose Dean, still going to watch his brother go to Hell.

All his anger and frustration boils over and he slams his fists into the wall of the shower, then sighs when all it does is causes him more pain. He scrubs away the dirt and blood from his latest hunt and turns off the water, stepping out and wrapping a towel around his waist. He frowns when he hears movement in the room and wrenches the door open, glaring at the source of the noise.

"Wondered how long it'd take."

Ruby spins to face him, her eyes taking in his long, lean body. She pouts playfully.

"You sound like you don't want me here."

"I don't."

He pushes past her to the bed and digs through his bag for some fresh clothes. He can feel her watching him and he glances at the Colt lying on the bed.

"Sam, honey…is that any way to treat a friend?"

"You're no friend."

"Hmm…true. But I'm not an enemy, either."

She perches on the edge of the opposite bed, watching him closely for any sign of danger. She still couldn't fully trust him, but she was running out of time. Her eyebrows raise as he turns his back to her and quickly pulls on his clothes.

"Could've slowed down a little there, sport."

"Tell me again why I shouldn't kill you?"

"Sam, it's been almost a year. I haven't attacked you or your brother once. I've been helping. That's why. Besides, you still don't have the guts."

Sam glances at the Colt again, knowing she was right, but there was still the temptation calling him.

"What do you want this time?"

"It's time I told you the game plan. Time's running out for your darling brother, and you're getting restless, sloppy even….almost let those demons get away earlier."

Sam sits down across from her, his foot tapping on the ground.

"So I slipped up. I got them in the end. Doesn't matter, still won't help Dean."

"That's why I'm here. This is taking longer than I thought, so it's time to step it up a little."

He frowns, looking at her. She'd been taunting him for months, telling him they were close to saving Dean, but still nothing. Now she was offering it up? With seven days left?

"What do you mean?"

She tilts her head to look at him.

"You're still not the big, brave soldier I hoped you'd be, but you don't have as much emotion anymore, which is a plus. You're stronger, more brutal….I'd say you're ready."

"Ready for what?"

"To lead the army."

He stares at her for a moment, then begins to laugh. He laughs so hard, tears form in his eyes. All his frustration, his anger, everything, escapes him as he realizes how ridiculous this is. He finally calms down and looks at her.

"Lead the army? What army? We've killed most of them already. And I'm not seeing any signs of a big battle."

"That's because we're waiting for someone to give us orders. The few that you've killed are the rebels, the ones who can't wait in line. They needed to go out with a bang, and they sure did. You saw to that. But the bulk of us are still hiding away patiently, waiting for our king."

"And you think that's me? I have no powers anymore, Ruby! I'm just a regular guy, trying to save my brother!"

"And this is how you'll save him."

He stops and looks at her.

"What?"

"Why do you think I've been helping you? I've been trying to make the transition easier. Leading this army will be tough. You'll have to make bad decisions, and most of them aimed at people you've called friends. But if you give in, let us follow you into battle, your powers will be unlocked and there'll be no stopping you."

"You're insane. You think I'm just gonna walk away from all this when my brother is going to die?"

"You're not listening, Sam. When you join us, the deal will be broken. You'll no longer be Sam, not the one Dean wanted back. Not that you've really been him anyway. But you come with me, and he will live."

Sam swallows nervously and looks at the floor. He could save Dean. His brother would live…only to see Sam fighting for the other side. He should have known there would be a catch, something that would make this a sacrifice. For both of them.

Ruby stands up, staring down at him. She knew how this would end, and so did he, but there were still formalities one had to follow.

"I'll give you some time to think about it. If your answer is yes, meet me at the crossroads tomorrow night. If your answer is no…then it was a pleasure doing business with you."

Sam barely registers her leaving, his mind racing. He falls back on the bed and stares at the stained ceiling, hoping that somehow he will figure a way out of this.

ΩΩΩΩΩ

Dean looks at his brother as they have lunch the next day, a frown on his face.

"Sammy, you sure you're alright? You like Hell warmed over."

At the mention of Hell, Sam jumps a little, almost spilling his coffee. He sighs and looks at Dean.

"Rough night."

Dean nods, knowing there was more but he wouldn't get it by pushing. He finishes the last of his coffee and stretches back in his seat. Six days left and that was it. He knew he should be upset, angry, but he just didn't feel it. He'd resigned himself to the fact that he wasn't gonna make it past the weekend. He knew Sam had tried his hardest, and sure, Dean had secretly been hoping they would free him, but no luck. That was that, and he'd just have to deal.

Sam stares at his plate, shoving the food around. His stomach was churning, and he couldn't sit still. He glances at Dean, noticing the faraway look in his eyes and knows exactly what his brother is thinking about. It's the same thing that haunted his dreams last night. He stands abruptly and looks at Dean.

"We should go."

"Yeah, ok."

They pay for their meal and walks out to the car, getting in and sitting in silence. Dean looks at Sam.

"What do ya say we skip looking for jobs today and just hang out?"

Sam swallows and looks out the window. It made things easier, Dean suggesting this. Almost like he knew what was coming.

"Sure."

They end up at a park, watching parents push their kids on swings and people walking their dogs. Normal lives they'd never have. Sam keeps fidgeting with the zipper on his jacket, and Dean's busy studying his car keys. A young girl chases a ball that comes a little close to them and she stops, not wanting to approach. Dean smiles and hands the ball back to her, watching her run back to her friends. Sam knows it's time.

"Dean…there's some stuff I gotta say and I know you're gonna give me hell for it, but right now I don't care, so just shut up and listen, alright?"

Dean looks at him, curious about what's got him so agitated. He nods a little and goes back to looking at his keys. Sam looks around for a moment, before picking a spot to focus on and taking a deep breath.

"You pulled me out of the fire that night, when mom was killed. And ever since then, you've protected me. Dad told you to do it a hundred times a day, but even if he'd never said it, you still would have looked out for me. Hell, we're adults now and you still treat me like I'm five years old with a skinned knee. But that deal you made…was stupid. And kinda selfish. But…I know why you did it. And I'd do the same, for you. Because you're my brother. My family. And in our screwed up little world that's the only normal thing I've had to hold on to. So…I just want you to know that anything that happens from here on out…there's a reason for it. Ok?"

Dean looks at him for a long moment, wondering what the hidden meaning behind the words was. Be instead of dwelling on it, he just smiles a little.

"Ok."

ΩΩΩΩΩ

Sam waits until Dean's asleep before getting out of bed. He throws some clothes on quickly and places the Colt on the nightstand next to Dean's bed, along with a note. He studies Dean as he sleeps, then, with tears in his eyes, he turns and leaves the room, not looking back. He walks along the streets, trying to hold it together, ignoring the stares of people passing by.

About half an hour later, he reaches the crossroads. He sees Ruby standing in the centre and nods at her a little. He watches her smile and knows that this is it. He has sealed his fate. He stops in front of her.

"He'll definitely live?"

"To a ripe old age."

"Fine. Then let's get this over with."

She nods and turns around, but not before he sees her eyes turn jet black. He frowns as the ground shakes a little, then his eyes widen as some sort of portal opens up before them. She turns to look at him.

"Welcome to Hell, Sammy. Enjoy your stay."

She takes his hand and pulls him along behind her. Sam takes one last look at the world he knew, and follows her willingly.

ΩΩΩΩΩ

Across town, Dean bolts upright in bed, sweating and breathing hard. He sees lightning flash through the thin curtains of the motel room and looks over at the other bed, his heart dropping when he finds it empty. He swallows as he spots the colt on the night stand and slides to the edge of the bed, taking the note attached. His eyes start to burn as he reads it, then he drops it on the ground, pulls on some clothes and grabs his keys. He places the Colt in his bag and rushes out of the room.

The lightning flashes again, outlining the piece of paper discarded on the floor.

You'll need this, Dean, to use on me. I had to do it. I'm sorry. Forgive me.

ΩΩΩΩΩ

3 months later:

"You're sure?"

Bobby looks at Dean and nods.

"All major demonic omens are settling over this area. There's nobody left alive. It's the battle zone."

Dean sighs and braces himself against the table. He'd been alive three months longer than he should, and he knew it had something to do with Sam disappearing. They'd looked everywhere and there was no sign of him. And now, demons were showing up out of nowhere. The storm Bobby so often mentioned was finally here. And he was alone.

"Let's tell the others. We go in tonight."

ΩΩΩΩΩ

Dean grips the Colt tight in his hand as he walks across the field. He glances to his left, seeing Bobby, Ellen and Jo keeping level with him. Behind them at least two hundred other hunters followed. He stops and waits, the air thick with tension. Then he sees it.

The crowd of demons coming from the other side. At least double the number of humans standing behind Dean. And right at the head of the pack, was Sam.

Except it wasn't. The Sam he knew had a light in his eyes, that was always there, even through the toughest of times. This Sam had no such light. His smile was dark and made Dean think of pain and screams. Now he understood. He understood what Sam had meant in the note, and he understood why he was still alive. Sam had traded his soul, for Dean. But Sam wasn't dead. This was much worse.

Bobby looks between the two of them. He glances at the other hunters assembled behind him. They, like him, knew that the brothers would only fight each other tonight.

The two sides of the battle stood facing each other as the seconds stretched by. Then, some invisible signal went out and chaos erupted. The only two still in the same place were Dean and Sam. Staring each other down, Dean's hand twitched on the Colt and Sam smirked. They start to circle each other, ignoring the fighting around them.

"Long time, no see, Dean. Heart still beating?"

"Oh, it's beating, alright. I got you to thank for that?"

"Of course. Couldn't let my precious brother die before he saw the end of the world."

"What makes you so sure the worlds gonna end?"

"I have my reasons."

And suddenly he was moving toward Dean, throwing punches. Some of the soldiers stopped to watch, staring in shock at the way they seemed to anticipate each other's movements. They could tell Sam was thrown a little by this, and Dean was hurting inside from what he had to do. Then it was over and the battle begun again.

Breathing hard, but trying not to let it show, Sam glares at Dean.

"You've been training more, I see."

"Had to be ready."

"You're still not going to win, Dean. Because you know the only way this war will end, and you can't bring yourself to do it."

Dean looks at the Colt in his hand then raises it, pulling back the hammer.

"I can't?"

Everything stops. The noises of battle, the movement of the fighting. The world possibly stops turning. Sam tilts his head, the move so similar to the real Sam that Dean wants to scream.

"Gonna shoot me, Dean? After everything I've done for you?"

"You haven't done a damn thing for me. Sam did it all. And you're not him."

"That's where you're wrong. I am him. I've just finally given into my destiny."

"Sam would never do that."

"He would. For you. Like you said Dean, you're his weakness. And this is what you drove him to."

Silence. It stretches for what seems like eternity, and then Dean pulls the trigger. The bullet seems to travel in slow motion until it slams into Sam's chest. He staggers slightly and looks down, shocked. His eyes travel back to Dean, who sees that now, and only now, it's the real Sam looking at him. Dean rushes over, knowing it was too late and watching as there are several flashes of light and Sam drops to the ground. Dean kneels next to him and turns him over, tears streaming down his cheek as he sees how peaceful Sam looks. Finally.

He stands up, and looks around, demons and humans both watching him back. Then he raises the Colt again and fires at the closest soldier of hell, watching with satisfaction as it drop to the ground, dead. The chaos erupts again all around him and he leaps in to help. He was going to make as many of these demons out while he still could. Then…well, he'd worry about that later.

ΩΩΩΩΩ

Three days since the battle had ended. There were causalities on all sides, but they had fought hard. Dean watches as some of his fellow hunters bury the dead, among them his closest friends. People he'd considered family. He stops near two graves, and stares at the ground until he feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns to look at Ellen and Jo.

"He fought well, Dean. It's how he would've wanted to go."

"I know, Ellen. I know."

He watches them walk off to their car along with so many of the other soldiers that had been by his side for so long. He looks at the graves again and nods a little at Bobby's, then steps over to Sam's and kneels beside it. He looks around, noticing the quiet and suddenly realizes he's the only one left. He's finally, unbearably alone.

He wipes at his eyes angrily, but not knowing who the anger was for. Was it for Sam, for doing this just to save him? Or was it for himself for making the deal in the first place? Or even for his dad, for needing revenge so much that they were thrown into this lifestyle?

He sighs and places his hand against the dirt of the grave, watching as a few dears drop with tiny thumping sounds.

"Don't worry, Sammy. I won't be alone for long."

ΩΩΩΩΩ

Ellen glances in the rear view mirror of her car and blinks back tears as she sees the hundreds of birds take flight from the trees, startled by the lone gunshot that rang throughout the field. They could rest now.

It was over.

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