Summary: There are five stages of grief. Sam's going through all of them. Tag to Lucifer Rising.

A/N: Even though I loved the glimmer of hope in the finale when the brothers clutched at each other, I don't think that all their problems are gone, especially Sam's. That boy's got issues. :P



1. Denial

After the light faded, there was silence for a brief, hanging second that stretched into an eternity.

Sam Winchester blinked slowly, his eyes trailing down to the petite body sprawled on the ground before him. For once, Ruby looked innocent, her too-familiar smirk gone and her dark hair spilling across the floor, leaving the long strands matted with fresh, rich blood. Abruptly, a fierce, burning hunger roared through him, sparking through his veins like fire. He needed it. Needed to be strong to face what was coming. Lucifer. The apocalypse. Angels. Demons. Dean.

Yet an urgent voice was in his ear, telling him that they had to leave, had to get out while they still could, and gradually he became aware that a hand was wrapped tightly in his jacket and was dragging at him. So Sam tore his eyes away from the now-empty body lying on the floor and he let himself be tugged away, stumbling down the long stone passageway that was strewn with bodies and cloaked in dust, and on into the heart of the convent. Finally, a breath of fresh air struck him almost like a physical blow, catching in his lungs as he heaved in painful gasps, and he and Dean burst through the main doors and out into the open.

Immediately, Sam realised that the weather had changed. Whereas before the night had been still and silent, with shadows whispering between the streaks of moonlight that had made the blood in Ruby's goblet gleam like silver, now the wind was howling as lightning broke the sky, and rain lashed down, cutting him, knife-like, as he ran.

An ear-splitting roar tore through the air and Sam jerked to a halt, slipping on the wet grass as he spun round, needing to see what was happening. His heart stopped. The stone building which had housed the altar had split completely in two and blinding white light was spilling out of the dividing crack, sending dark shadows fleeing in its presence.

Lucifer was free. The apocalypse had started. And he had brought it on.

"No," he croaked. Barely realising he was doing it, he staggered, then fell to his knees as all his strength left him, only just managing to catch himself before he planted face-first into the ground. With his arms braced beneath him, he leant forward and retched, feeling the wet of the grass seep damply into the knees of his jeans as he vomited.

A second later, there was a hand on his back, another clenched vice-like around his arm and he was forced to his feet. But as he went, struggling to get the long length of his legs under him, he caught a glimpse of the dark pool of bile he had left behind on the ground. Just then, lightning exploded in the sky overhead, illuminating streaks of red in the slick black puddle.

"Oh, god."

He pulled away from Dean, wrenching himself from the unyielding grip, but fell again a second later, this time landing with a force that shook him to his bones.

"This can't be happening," he whispered in disbelief, his mind whirling, racing. "It can't. I killed her, I killed Lilith. Everything's meant to be better now."

The presence at his shoulder had gone. Sam wasn't surprised. After hearing that voicemail, he was amazed that Dean had bothered with him at all.

But suddenly, a warm, sweaty hand was on the back of his neck, and Sam became aware that Ruby's Mustang was idling nearby, the engine purring seductively.

"Sam, there's no time for this," Dean was saying in his ear, his voice desperate. "We're leaving, now."

Bile rose unchecked in Sam's throat. Unable to stop himself, he vomited again, bringing up more blood. Yet he had barely wiped the red, stringy saliva from his mouth when Dean started pulling at him.

For the second time that night, Sam let himself be tugged to his feet and found himself being herded towards the car, whose doors hung open, the rain soaking the dark leather interior. Dean shoved him into the passenger seat, his hand on the top of his head, making sure he didn't hit it on the frame. Protecting him. Like always.

Seconds later, the Mustang pulled out of the convent grounds, its tires squealing. Sam turned around in his seat, unable to stop himself from taking one last look. He watched in sick fascination as the entire building began to crumble around the bright light, huge chunks of stone breaking off and plummeting to the ground unchecked before rolling to a heavy stop, leaving broken chunks of earth in their wake.

His stomach lurched again and he forced himself to turn away, staring out the front windshield as rain spattered against it in heavy drops. He was just aware of Dean, silent in the seat beside him, his gaze fixed on the road opening out in front of them, his hands white-knuckled around the steering wheel as they fled from the apocalypse.

Behind them, lightning flashed and a roll of thunder echoed menacingly across the sky.


2. Anger

He had to get out.

The feeling had been pressing at him for a while now yet he had remained quiet, unwilling to break the silence that hung between them, uneasy about what Dean was planning on doing with him. But as the miles had passed, his apprehension had lessened, replaced with a burning impatience that was developing quickly into fury.

"Stop the car," he gritted out finally, unable to remain silent any longer.

Dean kept driving.


After a long minute, the car slowed to a halt and Sam pushed open his door, his need to get out, to get away, overwhelming.

Behind him, Dean got out more slowly, not looking at Sam, who paced to the edge of the road and back, his rage mounting as he thought back on the events of the past few days. Without warning, something in him snapped and he turned on Dean. "Why didn't you stop me?" he demanded angrily.

Dean raised one of his eyebrows, meeting his gaze for the first time since leaving the churchyard. "You seriously gonna do this?" he asked.

Breathing hard, Sam advanced on the other man, his arms spread wide. "How could you let this happen?" he shouted. "How could you let me do this, Dean? You promised me! You promised you'd watch out for me! You were supposed to kill me before this happened!"

Dean remained silent and Sam looked at his brother in disgust, his face twisting with contempt. "I should've known you wouldn't have the balls," he muttered, only half under his breath.

It took him a fraction of a second to realise what he'd just said, then his stomach twisted and he was on the ground again, coughing and retching, trying to choke up more of the blood, the evil, inside of him.

When nothing was coming up but bile, he fell back against the front wheel of the yellow and black Mustang and sat there on the grassy verge, cradling his pounding head in his hands as he tried to slow his breathing.

He stayed like that for a long time before he chanced a look up, half-expecting to discover that he was alone.

But Dean was still there, his arms crossed over his chest as he leant against the back wheel guard, his gaze on the distant horizon. "You done?" he said, and his voice was even, his face blank.

Defeated, Sam dropped his gaze. He stood up, using the car for support, and got back into the Mustang, shutting the door with a quiet thud.

It was a long time before Dean did the same.


3. Bargaining

They arrived at Bobby's in the early hours of the morning, when the sun was just beginning to slink over a cloud-laden horizon. The Impala was sitting in front of the house like a homing beacon, its black sides glinting, beetle-like, under the pale rays of early morning light.

It was only a few seconds before Bobby himself appeared, hurrying down his front steps and coming to a stop in the middle of the driveway, his trucker cap clenched uncharacteristically between his hands instead of being perched in its usual spot on his greying head.

Sam knew that Dean had spoken to Bobby when they had pulled over to refuel just before dawn, letting him know what had gone down at the convent, about what Sam had done. But he didn't know what Bobby's reaction had been, whether he, like Dean, was done trying to save him. And he didn't want to find out.

Knowing he couldn't stay in the car, Sam steeled himself, clenching his jaw against the slight tremble that threatened. Keeping his head down and his eyes forward, he opened his door and slid out of his seat. Yet as he moved past the other hunter on his way to the house, he could not resist sneaking a quick glance at him. The older man was watching him with a queer look in his eyes and it took Sam a second to recognise it for what it was. Pity.

Sam flinched. Only a few hours ago, he had been strong, powerful. He'd been able to save Dean and Castiel, an angel, from the demon Alistair, had been able to destroy the son of a bitch who had tortured Dean in Hell for so many years, had sent dozens of demons back to the Pit in only a few short months. For the first time in his life, he had been able to do something, to save people, instead of just watching everyone around him get hurt, whether they burned on the ceiling above him or were ripped to shreds with him pinned to the wall mere feet away. He'd turned his curse into a gift that had allowed him some control for the first time in years. And now Bobby was looking at him like he was a lost dog that needed to be put down.

Bobby took a step towards him. "Kid-" he started, his voice rough.

Drawing his jacket around his shoulders like a shroud, Sam hunched his shoulders and strode past Bobby without a word, refusing to acknowledge the pair of sharp, concerned eyes that followed his every move.

He didn't have to look back to know that Dean wasn't behind him.

As he pushed open the front door of the house and headed towards the stairs that led down to the basement, an immediate sense of relief swamped him at finally being alone. Finally, he had time to gather his thoughts, to work out exactly what had gone wrong, and when. To figure out how he had been so oblivious to Ruby's manipulations, to the fact that she had been manipulating him ever since he had first met her, almost two years ago now.

About to reach up to pry open the heavy metal door that led to the panic room, Sam froze. Hardly daring to breathe and with his heart beating hard against his chest, he raised his hands and placed them both carefully against the smooth iron surface of the door. He braced himself, half-expecting the consecrated metal to sizzle and burn against his open palms, but he felt nothing, just the cool surface beneath his skin. A fierce surge of relief went through him. A demon couldn't have done what he just had.

But then his mind flickered backwards, providing him with details he didn't want to remember. Jake had turned, it reminded him, had given in to Azazeal's plans, yet he had still been able to cross the massive Devil's Trap in Wyoming. He had been designed for the task, in fact. And so had Sam.

Forcing the thought to the back of his mind, Sam pushed open the iron door and moved inside, then closed it again behind him. The creak of the heavy hinges brought back more unwanted memories, this time of only a few days ago, when he had been locked up like an animal by the only two people he had trusted to have his back, who had trusted him. But things were different now.

Again, he pushed the thought down and closed the distance to the low camp bed that was still sitting in the middle of the room. As he sunk down onto the uneven mattress, his eyes drifted to the four pairs of handcuffs that hung limply from the side of the bed, the narrow metal rings flashing eerily in the red-tinted light. For the second time in as many days, he dropped his head into his hands. He felt tired and weak, stretched thin almost. And he hated it.

It was a long time before he heard the long, slow creak of the metal door being pushed open from the other side.


It was Bobby, with Dean in the shadows behind him.

The older hunter cleared his throat. "Me and Dean," he started, "well… we think it'd be best you stay down here for a few days, til things have calmed down a little out there. We don't really know what we're expecting, but I think it's safe to say that things are gonna get a little hairy before they get better."

Sam lifted his head to look at Bobby. "You mean other hunters," he said flatly, feeling his voice scratch against his throat, hoarse from lack of use. "Hunters are going to be looking for me, aren't they?"

"We don't know that for sure."

"It makes sense, though, right? I mean, they knew about the Devil's Gate opening back in Wyoming. So it makes sense they'll find out about this. About what I did."


Sam turned away. Eventually, he heard the long, drawn-out squeal of the door closing in on him, just as it had a few days past, the sound ratcheting through his head like nails on a chalk-board. But it wasn't until he heard the sound of someone else's footsteps echoing on the chamber floor that he realised Dean had stayed inside as well.

The hours dragged by in painful, tense silence, with Bobby coming and going, bringing food and extra blankets, passing along the most recent rumours he'd heard from the vast network of hunters with whom he was in contact.

Sam didn't move from his spot on the camp bed. He kept his eyes fixed on the wall in front of him, his mind roving over the events of the past year as he tried to figure out exactly when he had become what he had feared the most, and how he could fix it.

Dean was more restless. Though he never spoke, he never sat still for very long either, instead wandering in loose circles around the panic room, trailing his hand against the cool iron surface, or else settling down against a wall with one of the magazines that Bobby had left them.

Night fell when Sam was staring up at the sky, watching the stars blink at him as the giant ceiling fan spun slowly upon its axis, round and around and around. Suddenly, he knew what he had to do.

Casting a furtive glance at Dean, he stood up, wavering for a second before managing to catch his balance, and moved towards the iron door. Raising his hand, he banged on it, sending violent tremors shuddering through the enclosed space.

Behind him, Dean climbed to his feet. "What are you doing?" he said, his voice sharp, suspicious.

Sam lowered his hand. "I just need a few days," he said quietly, without turning around.

"A few days to do what?"

Sam drew in a long, shuddering breath. "To fix this," he said softly. "Then I'll come back." He turned around, and the words began to fall from his mouth, unchecked. "I remember what you said, Dean, and I understand why you have to kill me, but give me a chance, alright? I can fix this, I just need to-"

Dean raised a hand, interrupting him brusquely. "Hang on a minute. What exactly are you planning on doing?"

Sam took another deep breath and released it. "I'm going after Lucifer."

Dean's eyes snapped up to his. "Like hell you are. You're not getting out of here unless I say so."

"I'm the only one who can stop him, Dean. And I did this, all right? It's up to me to fix it."

Dean's lip curled scornfully. "So what? You're just gonna go suck down some more demon blood? After what happened last time?"

"No," Sam protested, but Dean kept talking.

"I saw what you did to that girl, Sam. You gonna use her again? Or are you going to go after some other innocent per-"

"No!" Sam shook his head violently, refusing to let the thought of Cindy McKellan, a nurse with a husband of six years, dissuade him. "I'm not doing that anymore, Dean, I don't have to. Ruby said I didn't need the blood. It was me all along."

Dean scoffed. "And you believe that bitch? She fed you a pack of lies for two years, Sam!"

Sam recoiled at the unveiled accusation in Dean's eyes, the recrimination, but made himself push down his hurt, burying it where no one could see it and use it against him. "I know that now, I do. But I can do this, Dean."

Dean shook his head. "Forget it. You're not going."

"Why not?"

"Why not? Are you kidding me?" Dean threw his hands up. "Do you have any idea what you've done? You just unleashed the apocalypse, Sam!"

Sam gritted his teeth, his jaw tight. "I know what I did. And I can fix it, I swear."

Dean stopped, stared at him. "No. You can't," he said simply. "It's all on me, Sam. I'm the only one who can stop what's coming."

"You don't know that."

"Yeah, I do. The angels told me. And they may be manipulative dicks, but I'm pretty sure they weren't lying about this one."

Sam took this in, forcing down the familiar bitterness that his brother was the one who had been chosen by Heaven, when he had been chosen by Hell. "Then let me help you."

Dean's voice was hard. "I think you've done enough, don't you?"

The breath rattled from Sam's lungs at Dean's words and he took a step backwards, coming to an abrupt halt as his back hit the locked door. A terrible thought occurred to him. "Dean," he started, stumbling slightly over the name, "you know that I didn't mean to do it, right? I didn't know that killing Lilith was the last seal."

The corner of Dean's mouth quirked strangely. "If you had known," he said flatly, "would you have stopped?"

Sam felt his insides turn to ice. Was that truly what Dean thought of him? That he had gone so far, become so much of a monster, that he would knowingly have broken the world?

Silence hung thick and heavy in the room until Bobby knocked from the other side of the door. "You boys alright in there?" he asked, his voice muffled by the thick metal barrier of the panic room walls.

"We're good, Bobby," Dean called back.

Sam didn't say anything. After a long time, he sunk to the floor, bringing his knees up to his chest.

On the other side of the room, Dean did the same. He looked uneasy, as if he regretted what he had just said. Finally, after a long time had passed, he spoke. "Kinda makes you wish we had a baseball, huh?" he muttered.

Sam didn't answer him.


4. Depression

It had been days since his last fix. Sam could feel it crawling under his skin, the last vestiges of the demon blood slipping and sliding through his veins, begging to be used. And he could feel himself hunger for more, for the strength he had believed it had given him, for the power.

More than once, he caught himself moving, his foot tapping a rapid beat upon the floor, his leg jolting aimlessly. And every time, he caught Dean watching him. So he forced himself to still, to think of other things, like the end of the world.

When the pain started, he bit down on it, clenching his muscles and digging his fingernails into his palms to distract himself. Soon it became too much, and he started chewing on his bottom lip until it split beneath his teeth, and the warm, familiar taste of demon-tainted blood spread throughout his mouth, dulling the pain for a brief moment. But he forced himself to unclench his fist, to swipe it across his mouth, ridding himself of the sensation.

And the pain started again.

He deserved it, that he was sure of. He had released Lucifer, put the final nail in the proverbial coffin. So when the thought crept into his mind to ask for a gun and a single bullet, he didn't banish it straight away. But in his heart, he knew that he'd never get the gun, that whilst things between them had changed enough that Dean would have let him die in the throes of withdrawal and might even be preparing to put him down even now, he would never let Sam take his own life. Sam knew it much the same way as he knew he'd never get out of the panic room without Dean's permission. And he hated that knowledge, that feeling, that he wasn't in control anymore.

In the brief moments when the pain receded enough for him to think clearly, he let his mind wander, dissecting the past year, studying it like it was one of his pre-law subjects back at Stanford, trying to keep himself focused enough to delay the next bout of pain. When that was no longer enough, he turned to the only other person in the room to distract him.

"Why are you even doing this?" he demanded.

Dean's head jerked up from where it was buried in Mechanic's Weekly, though he hadn't turned a page in hours. "What?" he said blankly.

"You want me clean before you kill me? You think it'll be easier that way, that I won't struggle when you put a bullet in my head?"

"I'm not going to-" Dean started, but Sam was on a roll. He stood up, began to pace around the room, trying to outrun the burgeoning flashes of fire that were flickering along his veins.

"Or what, are you waiting for your angel buddies to arrive, so they can do it and save you from the guilt of-"

"I don't know where Cas is," Dean interrupted, standing up himself. "And nobody's going to do anything to you, not while I'm around."

Sam laughed, feeling it bubble up in his throat. "Right," he scoffed. "I forgot. You want to kill me yourself, don't you?"

Dean stilled. "I don't get why you keep saying that, but if you don't shut the hell up, I swear to God, I'll-"

"What? You'll kill me?" Sam shrugged and spread his arms out from his body. "Go ahead. I mean, I've gone darkside, right, like I was destined to? Like you thought I would?"

"For the last damn time, I'm not going to kill you, Sam."

Sam gave another despairing laugh as the pain began to die down a little. Bringing himself to a halt, he fell back against the panic room wall and slowly let himself sink down to the floor, feeling the cold iron surface catch at his clothes. "You should," he murmured, once he had hit the ground. "You should have left me dead back in Cold Oak. Then none of this would have happened."

Dean's features hardened. "So all this is my fault, is that what you're saying?"

Sam shook his head. "This isn't about you, Dean," he muttered. Then he looked up. "Do you know something?" he said suddenly. "Every decision I've made for years, every single choice, has been the wrong one."

Dean frowned. "What are you talking about?"

Sam shrugged, his gaze dropping back down to the floor. "I decided to go to college and Jessica died, all because she met me. I didn't kill Dad when he told me to and he went to Hell, and I left Jake alive and you ended up there too, bringing me back. And now the whole world's going to hell. And it's all because of me and what I did."

Dean didn't reply, but he slid down the opposite wall until the two of them were at eye-level with each other with the camp bed in between them. "Sam?" he said. "Why'd you trust her?"

Sam didn't need to ask to know who Dean was talking about. "Ruby saved my life," he said. "Over and over. Yours too."

Dean shook his head. "No. That's not good enough."

Sam let his head fall back against the cold wall and closed his eyes. The pain had at last faded to a distant thrum. Finally, he opened his eyes once more. "I had to," he murmured. "She was a demon."

Dean snorted. "Yeah, and for most people, that'd make her less trustworthy, not more."

Sam looked at him. For once, Dean was looking right back. "She was a demon," he repeated, more slowly. "And I've had demon blood in me since I was six months old. I've been sucking it down for most of the past year and I can kill things with my mind. So what the hell do you think that makes me?"

There was silence for a while before Dean spoke, his voice carefully neutral. "You're not a demon, Sam," he said.

Something warm stirred in the pit of his stomach at Dean's words, but Sam forced himself to shrug. "I'm not totally human, either," he said, matter-of fact, knowing it for the truth. "And I thought that if Ruby could be a demon and be good, then maybe there was hope for me." He paused, then added, "I guess I was wrong about that, too."

There was no reply this time and Sam shut his eyes as the pain started once more.


5. Acceptance

His addiction got worse before it got better. There was pain and there were cravings, and seizures that racked his body, making it twist and ache and hurt and burn. And then there were the hallucinations. They were worst of all.

Jessica came to him first, torn open and bloody, just as his mother had been. She told him what he already knew, that it was his fault she had died. "Murderer," she hissed at him, before disappearing in a burst of howling flames that were intermingled with her screams. His father was next, murmuring in his ear as he tried to sleep that he should have left Sam to burn in his crib as a baby. But that was nothing compared to when Dean appeared beside him, razor in hand, and began to carve and slice at Sam like he'd been born to do it, one cut for every lie, every sin, that Sam had committed against him since he got back from Hell. The others, Dean whispered to him, were just for fun.

Gradually however, his loved ones vanished and stopped haunting his sleep, his dreams and the hours he spent awake, and one morning, almost a week after he had entered the panic room, Sam woke to sunlight on his face, streaming in through the large circular vent in the ceiling.

Rolling his head to the side, he saw Dean, or at least the back of him, sitting on the floor next to the camp bed with his legs sprawled out, looking tired and worn. Summoning his strength, Sam raised his head up off the camp bed. "Why are you still here?" he rasped through a throat torn ragged from screams.

One of Dean's shoulders lifted before dropping. "Why would I leave?"

"You did last time."

"I did it wrong last time," Dean replied abruptly and he pushed a large glass of water at Sam.

When he had gulped down a few sips, Sam handed the glass back and collapsed against the limp mattress. His body ached and sweat drenched his clothes, but he felt better than he had in weeks, cleaner somehow. As he lay there, watching the blades of the giant ceiling fan swing round in their endless circle, he found his mind going back over the past weeks and months for the thousandth time. And he realised that there was something he needed to know.

"Dean?" he said hesitantly, unsure if he had forfeited the right to ask anything of the other man.

To his surprise, however, Dean answered him after only a short pause. "What is it, Sam?"

"Ever since you got back from Hell, you've thought I'd go darkside." It was not a question.

Dean shifted slightly on the floor next to him. "Yeah. I did."


Dean shrugged. "You weren't you anymore. You'd changed."

Sam nodded slowly. He had changed. He had hardened in order to survive Dean's death, had become more cynical, more realistic about his life, about what it was to truly be a hunter. He had learnt to keep his emotions in check behind a closely guarded wall so he did not hurt so much. He had lied to keep Dean with him while continuing on a path of revenge he had already chosen, had relied on his pride to keep himself from crumbling under a growing sense of doubt and fear. But still … he wasn't the only one who had changed. "So had you," he accused, his voice soft.

"I know," came the equally quiet response, before Dean cleared his throat. His voice, however, was still rough when he spoke. "Sam," Dean started. "When I was in the Pit, I became a monster. I mean, I did things to people that I can't even describe. And I guess I thought that if I could break and do what I did, then you could break too."

Sam tilted his head towards where he could just see the solid breadth of Dean's shoulders over the edge of the camp bed. It was easier, somehow, to talk when they couldn't see each other's faces. "You were in Hell. And you lasted for thirty years, man." He thought back to when Alistair had him on the rack, of Dean bending over him with a malicious smile as his blade danced along Sam's rib bones. He shuddered. "I could never do that, no one could."

"Dad could. And he did. Alistair told me."

"He was lying."

"Maybe. Maybe not. Still doesn't change what I did down there."

Knowing that his protests would mean nothing to Dean, and that sympathy would only break him further, Sam kept his silence and returned his gaze to the fan. Therefore, he was surprised when Dean's voice echoed through the chamber again.



"There's something I've been meaning to tell you for a while now, about this whole apocalypse thing." Dean cleared his throat again. "It's not totally your fault."

Sam shook his head. "Dean, I know what I did. You don't have to-"

Dean ignored him. "The thing is, Sam, you could never have broken the last seal if I hadn't broken the first."

Startled, Sam pushed himself up onto his elbows. "What did you say?"

"And it is written that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in Hell," Dean recited tonelessly. His head tilted to the side and he glanced back at Sam. "Guess which one of us is righteous?"

His mind reeling, Sam struggled to speak. "You never told me this," he finally managed.

"Yeah, well, the last time I was in a sharing, caring mood, you kind of threw it back in my face, dude."

Sam cringed at the memory. "Dean-"

But Dean interrupted him, his voice thoughtful. "There's one thing I don't get, though. How'd you get out of here? That night, I mean."

Sam shrugged. "I don't know. I woke up and the door was open and I was free. So I left."

"You didn't have to. You could have stayed in here."

Sam couldn't help the disbelieving laugh that escaped him and he pushed himself up so that he was sitting sideways on the mattress, his legs nudging against Dean's shoulder. "Dean, when you locked me in here, you told me that you and Bobby were going after Lilith."


Sam stared at him incredulously. "Don't you remember what happened last year, when we went up against her with Ruby's knife as our only weapon? Lilith ripped you to shreds and she made me watch. I wasn't going to let that happen again, not when I was finally strong enough to take her down for what she'd done."

Abruptly, Dean held up his hand, silencing Sam. "See, now that's what I don't get," he declared. "It was my choice to make the deal, Sam, Lilith only collected on it. So why were you so obsessed with going after her?"

"She was breaking seals, Dean. And…" Sam trailed off, unwilling to finish his train of thought out loud, but Dean didn't let him off the hook.

"And what, Sam?"

Sam took a deep breath and tried to find the right words to explain. "Going after Lilith was the only thing that kept me going after you died, okay? And I sacrificed everything for it. I turned myself into a monster, into something which I knew you would have wanted to hunt, and I didn't care, because killing Lilith was what mattered to me." He paused. "And then you came back, and it didn't change anything. I had to finish what I'd started because if I just managed to do that one thing, then it'd all have been worth it. So when I found out that Lilith was breaking seals…"

The morning light bounced off the fine strands at the back of Dean's head as he nodded slowly. "…It only gave you more of a reason to go after her," he finished. He was silent for a while, as though he was digesting all that Sam had told him. "You know," he commented finally, "it was actually the hellhounds who ripped me to shreds, not Lilith. If you want to be technical about it."

Sam blinked, then stared down at his brother. "You're kidding me, right? You think that makes the slightest bit of diff-"

"I shouldn't have called you a monster, Sammy," Dean blurted suddenly, and Sam froze. "You thought you were doing the right thing."

"I wasn't."

Dean nodded, his head moving up and down. "Yeah. I do kind of owe you the biggest 'I told you so' ever, don't I?"

Though he could tell that Dean was half-joking, Sam felt his eyes begin to prickle and sting. "Dean," he said helplessly. "I started the apocalypse."

"I know." From his position on the floor, Dean swivelled round to face him until he was kneeling next to the bed. "But, Sam, just listen to me for a second. I'm not saying that I approve of everything you've done these past months. And I'm not saying that everything's alright between us, because it's not. But you're not the only one who screwed things up this year, Sammy. And I can't do this alone."

Sam snorted. "Yes, you can. The angels said-"

"Yeah, well, the angels can go bite themselves. I don't want to." Standing up, Dean extended a hand towards him. "So. You ready to do this?"

Sam hesitated, thinking back on his actions of the past months, of how he had doomed the world instead of saving it. He thought of Ruby, who had accepted him for what he was and had led him to break to world through his own misguided choices. He thought of the demon blood still running through his veins, as it had done since he was six months old, of the thirst for more that still played at the very edges of his mind. Finally, he glanced up at Dean, who was looking him straight in the eye, his features serious, but with a lift to his shoulders and a light in his eyes that had been lacking for the past several months.

Sam nodded slowly. "Yeah, I'm ready," he said, and he let his brother pull him to his feet.



Thank you so much for reading everyone, and I'd love some feedback if you have any! Cheers!