A/N Whilst I am still no longer writing – in any form – and have no intention of returning to it, I made a throwaway comment to a good friend of mine after watching 'Levee Breaks' and she promptly pounced on it and insisted it needed further exploration in the form of a story. Being an idiot, I somehow agreed to give it a go and this is the result..

I originally had no intention of sharing this with anyone but my friend, however once she'd read it she was adamant that other people would enjoy it too and also – as a Sam girl – felt that it presented an unbiased view of Sam's actions without giving him flak, as has happened a lot this season. Given all that, she set about gently nudging to see if she could change my mind about posting. And since I obviously have all the willpower of a jellyfish I'm therefore (grudgingly) putting this out there just in case anyone might be vaugely interested.

Which I imagine is going to be a very short list of people..

Anyway, I suppose I should also elaborate on what the comment was that sparked all this – I mentioned that I'd noticed how when Sam was strangling Dean, Dean's necklace was sitting right there next to Sam's hands. Knowing how the necklace came about, and the meaning behind it, that just struck me as a really powerful (if unintentional) image.

I guess all that's left for me to do now is dedicate this to my aforementioned friend, Kristi, without whom there wouldn't even have been a story. (And if everyone thinks it too awful then I'm blaming it entirely on her…)

It wasn't until Sam was all the way out of the room and nearly at the car that the significance of the image seared into his brain actually caught up with him.

He stumbled, veering off to one side and reaching out blindly until his hand caught the wall. It wasn't enough to keep him on his feet and he landed on his knees, hard, barely noticing the flare of pain as he bent over and retched. Not having eaten anything in so long he couldn't remember, there was little to bring up but it didn't stop his stomach trying to turn itself inside out nonetheless. When he finally finished heaving he staggered back until he was resting against the wall and slide down it, bringing his knees up and wrapping his arms around them as he leant his head forward.

He could see it as clearly as if he was still in the room.

Dean's face, looking up at him as he desperately gasped for air.

The hurt and pain and sheer disbelief in his gaze, that Sam was really doing this to him.

But that wasn't what was making his eyes sting and his heart pound, nightmarish as the images were.

No, what was making him feel hot and cold and like he wanted to be sick again was the thing he'd barely noticed at the time but that was now at the forefront of his mind.

Dean's necklace.

It had been around his brother's neck, same as it always was, and as Sam had done his level best to choke the one person who had meant more to him than anyone else his whole life, the string had slipped until it was resting next to Sam's hands. Thinking about it, he wasn't sure if on some subconscious level that wasn't what had made him abruptly stop. Although he hoped, somewhere deep inside, that the driving force behind that had actually been a desire not to see his brother die. Certainly not at his own hands.

But the truth was he'd been so full of rage, a rage that on some level didn't feel like it even came from him, that he'd been blind to anything else. Until he'd caught a glimpse of the gold amulet that had represented the bond between him and Dean for so many years.

Normally it was so familiar that he barely paid attention to it, just another one of those constants like Dean's leather jacket, or the Impala. Something that he saw day in and day out without it ever really registering.

Of course there had been a time – four long and excruciating months of time, to be exact – when it had been one of the things he noticed every second of every day. The weight of it against his skin, tucked under his shirt, had felt like the weight of the world. Seeing it on himself when he looked in the mirror had been wrong, so wrong, but he hadn't been able to take it off.

He'd told himself over and over that he was just looking after it, that the situation was only temporary, but until that wonderful moment when Bobby's words had finally sunk in, when it had finally registered that his brother was standing in front of him like some kind of miracle, it was only then that he'd allowed himself to realise just how much he'd dreaded having to wear the necklace for the rest of eternity. Handing it back to Dean, seeing a flash in his brother's eyes that told him how he felt about Sam having worn it while he was gone, that had been like something clicking back into place, right where it should be.

Something he'd thought was gone forever.

And now it really might be. Not through death, or hell hounds, or anything other than his own actions. Dean's words, choked out in a voice that telegraphed loud and clear what Sam had just done, had been final. The kind of words that should be set in stone.

The kind that you couldn't come back from.

Sam wasn't even sure they'd registered properly, not yet, but one thing he couldn't pretend was that he hadn't just broken the bond between him and his brother forever. There was no apology big enough for this, no words that could possibly make it ok again, and part of him – the part that was still burning with an anger hot enough to melt lead – didn't care. That part was still hurt Dean wouldn't trust him this one time, when it mattered above all else. That Dean couldn't see this was the only way and that Sam was doing it not just to defeat Lilith and save the world but to protect his brother as well. Protect him from the very demon that had sent him to hell in the first place, not to mention the angels Sam was more and more disillusioned with every day.

The other part though, the part that was still the Sam that had given Dean the amulet in the first place, was horrified. Horrified that things had gone so far, that he'd let his anger take him to the brink of doing the unthinkable, that he'd given up the one thing he truly had left in the whole world to follow a demon.

Because that's what he was doing. He was trusting Ruby, trusting her version of things, over his brother's. And while she'd been there for him in his darkest hour, and while what she said seemed to make sense, it still felt like a knife twisting inside that he'd had to make that choice.

That it had gotten to this point.

He shivered, tightening his grip on his knees and burying his head even further. It shouldn't be like this. When the clock had struck midnight and he'd heard the hell hounds coming for his brother, that should have been the worst moment of his life. Dean's screams as he was ripped to shreds, the dull emptiness of his gaze as Sam had cradled his broken body, that should have been the worst image seared into Sam's consciousness.

But it wasn't. Because now after a year of fighting and frustration and being pushed from pillar to post by the very people Sam used to pray to for help, now he had an image that felt worse to contend with. Now he had words in his head that drowned out even the memory of Dean's final screams.

And right at that moment Sam wasn't sure who he hated most – god, the angels, Ruby, the YED, Dean, or himself. All had played a part in leading them this far and all could take some of the blame. But he knew in his heart there was only one true answer, and it didn't matter whether Dean would ever forgive him for what he'd done.

Because right now Sam knew he'd never forgive himself.

Taking a shaky breath he forced himself to move, knowing Ruby would come looking for him if he stayed on his ass in the dirt any longer. Either that or Dean would stagger out into the parking lot, and Sam knew they couldn't have another confrontation, not now. Because if they did then one of them wouldn't walk away from it, and the very idea of that made him swallow convulsively as he fought not to be sick again.

Pushing up off of the ground he somehow managed to lock his knees enough not to fall straight back down. Rubbing a hand over his face, surprised to find it was wet with tears he hadn't even realised he'd shed, he stumbled back to the parking lot and crossed it as quickly as he could manage.

Ruby looked at him as he pulled open the door and slid inside but for once she said nothing, and for that he was grateful. Hunching down into the seat and wedging his head against the cold glass he closed his eyes, trying not to think about the last thing he saw as they pulled out.

However much he tried though, the image of the Impala wouldn't go away. Anymore than the other images that haunted him would.

He knew it was most likely the last time he'd ever see the car that had been the only home he'd ever known, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He was exhausted and, more than that, he was numb.

It was over. There was no turning back now, not from the path he'd chosen, and he had to accept that. The one thing that kept him from going under completely was the thought that he was doing the right thing. When they stopped Lilith, when they saved the final seal, it would put an end to all this. No more demon army, no more impending apocalypse. He knew he probably wouldn't survive but that didn't matter, because the important thing was that Dean would.

His brother might never forgive him, even once he was gone, but Sam held onto the hope that maybe one day he'd understand. Maybe one day he'd see that Sam had been right, and that he'd done the wrong things for the right reasons.

Maybe then Dean would remember him as the little brother that had given him the amulet as a symbol of a bond that couldn't be broken, by anyone or anything.

Not as the person who'd torn that bond apart with his own hands, while the very same necklace lay close enough to touch.

Hunching down further, that thought was the only thing left Sam could hold on to.

Watching the taillights fade into the distance Dean collapsed against the Impala, his hands shaking too badly to get the keys out of his jacket and with knees like rubber. His throat was on fire and as he raised fingers to gently probe the abused skin they brushed the cord of his necklace.

He froze. The thing that rested under his hand, the cold metal almost burning his skin, was a reminder of all that he held dear. And now it was a symbol of what he'd lost.

Of how far Sam had fallen.

The man who'd just driven away with a demon wasn't his brother. He wasn't the little boy that had handed Dean a badly wrapped package, acting as if it was nothing when they both knew it was everything. That boy was gone, maybe forever, and Dean felt himself struggle for air in a way that had nothing to do with almost being strangled.

He almost pulled the necklace off, the urge to throw it as far away as possible rising like a tide. But then the feeling was gone, and in it's place was an unbearable sadness that felt as if someone was tearing his heart in two.

Dropping his hand and instead fumbling again for the keys in his pocket, Dean unlocked the door at last and practically fell into the driver's seat. He was barely aware of putting the key in the ignition or starting the engine but he forced himself to concentrate as he reversed out of the parking space, knowing that however appealing the idea was it would do no good if he ended up killing himself by wrapping the car around a tree.

As he pulled out onto the road, heading in the opposite direction to the one Sam and Ruby had just taken, he swallowed, wincing at the pain that simple movement caused. The amulet had fallen back into it's usual place but now he could feel it's weight as if it were made of lead. He tried to ignore it, to push aside the pain that went far beyond the physical, but he was only partially successful.

And sitting there he couldn't help hoping, with some tiny part of himself that hadn't been destroyed back in that room, that maybe, just maybe, his brother wasn't gone for good.

Because as he began the long drive back to Bobby's, that really was the only thing he had left to hold on to.