A/N: This fic was born from a conversation with Christie, where she mentioned she'd have loved to have seen what would have happened if Sabbath had gone with Sam instead. She also wanted angst by the bucket load...a future trip with Zachariah for Sam...and a visit from someone. I won't spoil you...you'll have to read. Where does this fic fit in the verse? Well technically it doesn't. I'm not going to get all Doc Brown on it...this is just more of a "what if" nothing more. The next installment in the verse will be the proper continuation of events, covering Dean and Sabbath in The End. Hopefully you'll enjoy that too.

Thanks as always, Tara and Deb for reading this for me, giving me ideas and helping me clarify things better. You guys are irreplacable. (HUGS)

xxxxXXXXXxxxxxx

Go his own way. Take some time off…whatever you wanted to call it, Sam kept trying to tell himself that it was for the best. Just a temporary measure until he was able to get his head around his addiction, the lack of trust he had not only in himself, but that Dean had for him too. The one person in the world that Sam had always relied on to know him, now looked at him with distrust. Like he was dealing with a stranger and not the kid brother he had known all his life.

And why shouldn't he? Sam had hardly been the poster child for the perfect little brother lately. He'd picked Ruby over Dean, had fought with his own brother and walked out on him, leaving Dean bleeding and hurt…leaving Sabbath dead.

Sam glanced back over his shoulder as he headed towards the Impala to retrieve his backpack. He could see Dean still sitting stoically at the picnic table, Sabbath sat by his side, watching.

The German Shepard whined and got to his feet anxiously, barking at Sam. Why was he leaving without them? Sabbath didn't understand it or like it. He trotted a few paces after Sam, barking again, trying to get him to listen and come back.

"Go on, Boy…go with him." Dean called quietly.

Sabbath froze in his tracks and cocked his head to the side as he looked back at Dean. He was giving him up? Why? Had he done something to upset Dean? Was he being sent away again like he had been for growling at Bobby?

"Come here…" Dean slapped his thigh and felt his throat tighten with emotion as Sabbath obeyed instantly. He ran a hand over the dog's head, pulling his soft velvety ears through his hand as he spoke. "I need you to watch out for him, buddy. I need to know he's gonna be okay out there."

Sabbath cocked his head to one side, clearly not comprehending what Dean was saying, a look of almost betrayal in his eyes.

"Watch him. Okay? Guard Sammy for me." Dean stressed again, still patting Sabbath and wondering if he was doing the right thing here? The amulet Sam had given him when they were kids was gone, still in Castiel's possession. Sam had refused Dean's offer of the Impala - even though he was glad on some level not to lose his baby too - and Dean couldn't let his brother go without something, some connection to him that would not only let Sam know he wasn't alone…but something to remind him to come home too.

Sabbath whined and nudged Dean's leg, understanding two of the command words Dean had said. Watch. Guard. It was beginning to make sense now, even though Sabbath hated the idea of being away from Dean.

"I know, boy, I know. Go on…get going." Dean ran his hands over Sabbath one last time, as if he was worried it might be the last time he saw him again. "I'll see you both soon…"

Sabbath loped after Sam, falling into step beside him after a last look back at Dean. He understood now that he had been given a command and he would obey, no matter what.

"Sabbath? What the-?" Sam was surprised to see the dog by his side…and even more surprised when he heard the familiar growl of the Impala's engine. A moment later, and all that remained of the muscle car was a cloud of dust and a set of tail-lights disappearing into the distance. Dean had left Sabbath behind? What the hell was his brother thinking?

Pulling his cell phone out, Sam considered calling Dean to ask him if he was out of his mind, leaving Sabbath with the guy that had killed him? But there was an obvious reason for it. Why else had Dean offered the Impala? Why was Sabbath here now? It was Dean's way of telling him to come home when he was ready…that Dean would be expecting him.

An ache set into Sam's chest. He slipped his phone away and crouched down to Sabbath's level. "It's not going to be easy getting a ride with you with me…you know that, right?"

His answer was a soft whine and slobbery dog tongue washing his face before Sam pushed Sabbath off him. "Yeah, it's not your fault, dude. I get that. Come on…hopefully we'll get a ride soon."

Xxxxxxxxx

That ride, ending up being in the back of a pick up truck that smelt like a piggery. It had been just before night fall that the truck had pulled over. They had been walking for most of the day and Sam's feet were throbbing. He knew from the way that Sabbath had looked at Sam for help into the back of the pick up, that his paws were hurting him. Taking the time to look at them, Sam's heart went out to the dog. His paws were cracked and bleeding and yet he hadn't complained or slowed down once.

"It'll be alright, Sabbath…I'll get us a motel room soon and we can rest okay? I'll take care of you." Sam assured the German Shepard as he ran his fingers through his thick coat, glad to have company to talk to. "I'll make sure you're okay."

He owed the dog that much after what had happened in that motel room with Ruby. Sam had no idea how Sabbath had been brought back to life. Dean had refused to talk about it, beyond revealing how much it had hurt him and it wasn't like Sam could ask Sabbath what happened.

He had his suspicions, though. Castiel had brought Dean back from Hell, from the grave. If anyone could have given Sabbath back to Dean? It would have been the angel. It made Sam glad that Dean had someone watching out for him like that, because he'd dropped the ball so badly himself.

By the time they arrived in Garber, Oklahoma, Sam was sure he wasn't going to be walking upright for a week. Sabbath had huddled in close to Sam and offered warmth as the cold night air blasted over them in the open bed of the pick up, but several hours of that had locked up Sam's body into that of an 80 year old man.

"Hey…thanks." Sam gently tapped the side of the pick up after he had climbed out, making sure Sabbath was well clear as it pulled away into the night again.

The motel was run down enough that the owner didn't blink twice at Sam's choice in room mate, handing over the keys with a bored air about his voice and a expression that bordered on stone.

As soon as they were inside the room, Sam dumped his backpack on the small table near the door, rummaging through it for the small first aid kit he always kept on hand. Sabbath was limping badly, trying to shift his weight so as not to apply too much pressure on his paws.

Murmuring softly to him, Sam scooped the dog up and carried him to the bed. "Easy, buddy. You'll be okay…I'm just going to bandage your paws. Just lie still for me."

Sabbath complied quietly, licking Sam's hand and arm if it came within reach to show his gratitude.

Once that was done, Sam scratched Sabbath's chest, then realised it was time to pull his boots off. Not exactly a task he was looking forward too. Unlacing each boot, Sam slid the first boot off his heel with a wince and a harsh hiss of air pulled in through gritted teeth. The sock was peeled away soon after, revealing a mass of blistered skin that had Sam blinking back tears.

His other foot wasn't much better. A gentle nudge at his elbow had Sam looking down as Sabbath snuck his head under Sam's arm, peering up at him with huge brown eyes while his tail smacked against the mattress like a drum beat.

"We make a great pair, huh?" Sam shook his head at the state of them both. "Stay. I'm going to try and take a shower." He hobbled painfully to the bathroom, sucking in his bottom lip against the stinging pain as the water hit his feet moments later.

When he finally resurfaced, towel wrapped around his waist and hobbling across the room like he was walking on hot coals, Sam found that Sabbath had been digging through his back pack. Clothes were strewn across the bed and the floor.

"Sabbath! Aw come on, dude! That's my bag! My clothes! What the hell's gotten into you?"

Sabbath looked completely contrite, rolling over into submission, his ears flattened, tail tucking in between his back legs. A black t-shirt was poking out from beneath his front paws. Sam frowned, puzzled as he picked up the shirt that he couldn't remember owning.

And then it hit him. It wasn't his shirt. It was Dean's.

Somehow it must have gotten mixed up with his own shirts when Sam was packing. Lifting it to his nose, Sam could just pick faintly, the smell of gun oil, sweat…everything essentially his brother. "No wonder you wanted this…"

Sam dropped the shirt back in front of Sabbath and smiled sadly as he saw the dog rub his nose against the shirt, then whine miserably, looking up at Sam with large, sad eyes.

"Yeah, I know, boy. I miss him too."

xxxxXXXXXxxxx

It took two weeks of bar work and just living off the radar, for Sam to start believing he was free from hunting. His ID's were burned, his new alias of "Keith" was working just fine for him. Working as a busboy was hardly going to be a lifetime career, but it kept the motel room bill paid while allowing Sam and Sabbath to eat and get by.

Maybe they could even look at getting an apartment? Just for a little while. Just until Sam could be sure he wasn't craving the demon blood anymore and going to be a threat to Dean again. To everyone.

After starting the Apocalypse, was it too much for Sam to just ask to be forgotten? To be a nobody? Just a guy with a bar job and a dog and some ratty little apartment?

Was that really too much to ask? He had tried to stop the end of the world…tried to be a hero in the name of revenge…and look where that had gotten him? Look where it gotten everyone. The world was ending thanks to him. No…everyone was better off if Sam was just Keith and out of the fight.

Dean was better off without him.

Sam had been tempted to drive to Bobby's and leave Sabbath there in the middle of the night. So that Dean could have him back…but if he was honest with himself? As much as Sam knew that Dean had to be missing Sabbath? He would miss his company too…and it wasn't forever…right? Sam just needed some more time.

And Sabbath was good company. He didn't snore, didn't take all the hot water or bitch about what Sam wanted to watch on tv. Sam tried to tell himself he didn't miss those things…or Dean.

But it was a lie. How many times had he pulled up Dean's name on his phone? Or turned to say something to his brother, only to remember he was alone? Or bought the usual burger and fries that Dean always ate…only to feed them to Sabbath in the end?

Sam was missing his brother every damn day and he knew that Sabbath was too. It wasn't easy on the dog to have him locked up back in the motel room, waiting for Sam. Reminding them both too much of when Sam had been Sam Wesson while Dean had been a corporate dick thanks to Zachariah.

So Sam had begun taking Sabbath to the bar instead. It was easy to hide him out the back, away from the customers and as long as he was quiet and well behaved? The boss had no problem with the situation.

"Hey, Keith? You need a ride home?" Lindsay, the local barmaid asked him as she finished up for the night. She had been eyeing Sam off since the first day he had arrived. Pretty and pushy, all too interested in who "Keith" was and why he would be working in a place like this? Apparently thinking she had found a kindred spirit in the addiction stakes…although Sam's was a little more hard core than alcohol, but was Lindsay really looking to hear that? Sam had to admit that he had been momentarily interested in the attention he was getting from Lindsay, wondering if it was worth a few nights amusement between the sheets?

But Sabbath had taken an instant dislike to the girl. Curling his lip and growling any time she approached Sam in his presence. Was that because of Sam's history with Ruby? Or just because of something he sensed in Lindsay herself? Sam wasn't sure and he wasn't willing to take the chance.

"No…thanks, but it's not that far. Sabbath could do with the walk." Sam nodded to her pleasantly, noting the disappointed huff of air as she shrugged her shoulders.

"Okay, then…just trying to be friendly. See ya tomorrow, Keith."

"Yeah. Night, Lindsay!" Sam gave her a quick wave as she left, before he went back to wiping down the bar. The place had been dead for over an hour now and Sam was ready to head home himself. He checked the front doors were locked, before shutting off the lights and heading out the back, through the kitchen to where Sabbath was patiently waiting for him by the back door. "Hey, buddy, what do you say we grab something to eat on the way home, huh?"

Sabbath barked excitedly, his tail slashing back and forth like a whip. He sat waiting for Sam to lock the back door, when the crunch of boots on gravel caught his ears.

Sam turned at the same time as Sabbath, his hand already reaching for the folding knife in his back pocket as he heard the dog growl deeply in warning. "Stay Sabbath…easy."

"Hey, Sam…Sam Winchester, long time no see, boy."

Sam frowned, vaguely recognising the three men before him from back when his father was alive still. "Hank?"

"Alive and in the flesh. It's good to see you, Sam. You've really grown up huh? I remember you being nothing but a skinny ass kid following that brother of yours around on your first hunts. Guess that was a long time ago now…" Hank was grinning easily, his thumbs hooked in to his belt as his two companions stood either side of him.

Something about the whole thing felt off to Sam and he held back, knowing that Sabbath was watching their every move, teeth bared.

"Nice dog. He yours?" Hank nodded towards Sabbath.

"My brother's. Look, Hank…it's great to see you guys again. But how the hell did you even find me?"

"Come on, Sam. You think we haven't got tabs on you and your brother? After everything you two have done? You especially? I mean, you started the damn Apocalypse, boy. How'd you expect to do something like that and then just disappear?" Hank took a step forward, pausing only when Sabbath's snarling stepped up a notch.

"How…how did you hear about that?" Sam felt a chill run down his spine. What was he dealing with here? Hunters? Demons? Both? Nothing could be ruled out these days.

"You're kidding me, right? Sam…there's not a hunter out there that hasn't heard about what you've done. How you unleashed Lucifer and damn well condemned us all."

"So…what then? What do you want? What are you doing here? You want to kill me?" Sam braced himself as he spoke, wondering if Dean was having this trouble too? Did they blame him too? Had Sam screwed them both over and left them with nowhere to go now? No allies save a handful of people like Bobby and Ellen?

Sam wasn't even sure he could add Ellen and Jo to that list. Sure, they trusted Dean. But him? He was the one responsible. Public enemy number one to angel, demon and hunter alike.

"Actually? We need your help, Sam."

"My help?" Okay, that was unexpected.

"Yeah, we crossed paths with a nasty ass demon a couple of counties over. We were hoping you'd help us take it down?" Hank glanced at his two buddies. "Right guys?"

"Yeah." A guy spoke up that Sam recalled as Reggie. He'd been a nice guy, level headed, a smart hunter for the most part. "See we ran into another demon 'bout a week ago, told us all about you, Sam…and what you can do."

Hank held up a glass vial full of dark red liquid and Sam felt every cell in his body suddenly cry out in need for it. His stomach clenched, a ball of ice seemingly forming inside as goose bumps prickled across his skin. "No.."

"Word is, Sam? We give you this? And we have ourselves a super weapon for taking out demons. Now I don't know about you. But considering you started all this? You gave these hell bitches a chance to take over the world? I reckon the least you can do is help us take them down." Hank shook the vial gently. "Starting with the demon we've found near by. Before it can call up some of it's buddies."

"No." Sam repeated firmly. "You don't know what you're asking. I can't."

"Oh so you can let the Devil out to walk the damn earth, but you won't pony up to help us?" Reggie narrowed his eyes at Sam. "That's not the answer we're looking for Sam."

Sam realised too late, that he'd let Reggie distract him. All hell broke loose as the third member of the group, Steve, pulled his hand out of his pocket and threw salt into Sabbath's face as both Hank and Reggie rushed Sam.

The German Shepard let out a high pitched yelp of agony as a boot slammed into his ribs seconds later, sending the dog rolling away from the fight that had erupted.

Sam's head was snapped back by a wild punch from Hank, causing him to stumble before his feet were kicked out from under him. The air punched out of Sam's lungs as he landed hard on his back. A boot slammed into his side, lifting Sam and rolling him before he struggled to his knees. A thickly muscled arm locked around his throat as Reggie grabbed Sam from behind and restrained him.

Hank uncapped the vial, grabbing Sam by the hair and forcing his head back to open his mouth as he gasped for air.

Spots were starting to dance before Sam's eyes, his lungs burning as he tried to draw a breathe and came up empty. Rich, coppery blood filled his mouth a moment later, his jaw pushed closed and held. They were going to force Sam to swallow the blood.

Savage snarling filled Sam's hearing before something solid connected with him and he was slammed to the ground. He spat the demon blood from his mouth, trying to ignore the gloriously dark rush through his veins from the tiny amount he had been unable to help swallowing. His head snapped up to see Sabbath latched onto Reggie's arm, blood spattering the ground as the man screamed and tried to free himself from a very large and pissed off dog.

Hank was moving in to help Reggie, Steve flanking from the other side. Sam snatched a handful of gravel from his feet and threw it Hank, blinding the man before he launched himself forward, his shoulder sinking into Hank's stomach as he spear tackled the older hunter to the ground. A hard right punch from Sam followed, the sound of bone cracking as Hank's cheekbone fractured from the blow. Snatching Hank's collar, Sam yanked the hunter's head up and snapped out another savage punch, blood spraying from Hank's nose as his eyes rolled back in his head.

Letting go of Hank's shirt, Sam scrambled to search him for a weapon. Hunter's weren't stupid enough to walk around unarmed and as his fingers closed around Hank's Magnum revolver tucked into his belt, Sam heard Sabbath yelp in sudden pain. The sound cut right through Sam's heart and he spun instantly, bringing the gun to bear in one fluid motion as his finger closed around the trigger.

Steve was holding a bloody knife and moving in again towards Sabbath. The German Shepard was still hanging off of Reggie's arm, even though his side was awash with blood now.

The gunshot echoed around the parking lot as Sam put a bullet in the ground at Steve's feet. He'd been tempted to put the bullet through the hunter's leg, but if Sam was willing to start doing that? Then he really was a lost cause.

"Back up! Now!" Sam snarled, stumbling to his feet, the gun still trained on Steve. "Sabbath, leave!"

The parking lot became quieter suddenly as Sabbath released Reggie and backed away from the hunter. He was unsteady on his feet, Sam all too aware that he was favouring one back leg.

"Get up." Sam told Reggie, not giving a damn for the state of the man's arm. He had brought that on himself by attacking them. "Take Hank and get the hell out of here. If I see any of you again? I won't call Sabbath off. Understand?"

"Yeah…yeah we understand." Reggie nodded, his face tight with pain. He kept his arm tucked in against himself. "Steve…you heard him."

Sam backed up, not taking his eye off the men, keeping the gun raised until they had carried Hank back to their car and driven away. Then and only then, did Sam drop his guard and slip the gun into the back of his jeans.

Sabbath whimpered nearby, trying to keep his back leg off the ground and stumbling as he licked at his side, still shaking his head to clear the salt stinging his eyes.

"Oh shit…hey…hey, it's okay, boy." Sam rushed over to Sabbath and tried to get a look at the wound, his hand coming away scarlet. "Jesus."

Picking him up as best he could without hurting him, Sam felt like every damn whimper and yelp from the dog was a physical attack against him too. He was supposed to be looking after Sabbath for Dean…and instead he had almost gotten him killed. "You'll be okay, buddy…I'll get you back and fix you up, okay?"

His voice was soft, hopefully soothing as he continued to talk to Sabbath all the way back to the motel. His back was screaming, the weight of a full grown Shepard growing heavier by the minute. But it was a small price to pay for the loyalty that Sabbath had just shown Sam. He felt sick to his stomach. The dog had defended Sam without hesitation, something that Sam didn't deserve.

"You're gonna be just fine, okay? Just fine. I'll take care of you. I'll get you cleaned up, a few stitches. Everything will be okay." Sam wasn't sure he was trying to convince more, himself or Sabbath? There was no chance of Castiel coming to save the dog this time if Sam was too late. No. Not too late. That wasn't happening. He wasn't going to lose Sabbath.

xxxxxXXXXXxxxxx

Sam didn't know exactly who he should be thanking, whether there really was a God like Castiel believed or not. But someone seemed to be looking after them, because as much as Sam was accustomed to dealing with his own injuries or Dean's? He wasn't a vet. It had been a time consuming and painstaking job to shave away enough fur from the wound on Sabbath's back leg, so it could be sewn shut. The blade had slashed down long his side too, but the wound was thankfully shallow.

Sam dragged the back of his hand across his mouth as he looked down at Sabbath, wishing he could have taken the dog to a vet. But there wasn't one to be found in Garber and Sam wasn't sure that Sabbath would have survived long enough for them to steal a car and find one in the next town.

But looking down at his handy work, Sam was finally able to catch his breath. The wound was closed up and clean. In the morning, Sam would find some raw liver in town to help bring Sabbath's iron levels up again.

He sat down gently on the bed, running his hand over Sabbath's head. "Maybe I'll bring you home some ground beef too huh?"

Sabbath whined softly and licked Sam's hand, his tail thumping gently on the bed. It had been instinctive to protect Sam, saving his Master from those other humans. Sabbath wasn't stupid, he had watched Sam since the day they had left Dean and he was well aware that the man he was with, was his Sam. Part of his pack that he cared for and would keep safe.

"Easy - just…kinda shift over there…that's it." Sam gently moved Sabbath so that he could lie down on the bed beside the dog. He had contemplated sleeping on the floor - wouldn't Dean have loved to have seen that? - so that Sabbath would be comfortable. But with the amount of blood loss Sabbath had suffered, Sam was worried about keeping the dog warm overnight. He was worried that if something went wrong through the night, he wouldn't know. So instead, Sam stretched out on the bed, not bothering to shower or even kick off his boots, worn out now that the adrenaline had left his system.

Sabbath tucked in close to Sam, seeking the warmth and reassurance while he was hurting. Sam placed Dean's t-shirt on the other side of the dog, smiling as he watched Sabbath rest his head on it and close his eyes. Sam let himself surrender to sleep moments later, his hand resting on Sabbath's shoulders.

xxxxxXXXXXxxxx

It was Sabbath's frantic barking, that had Sam bolting upright in bed. The bed springs crunched beneath him and a myriad of expressions from outright shock to a more muted confusion flooded Sam's features as he took in the motel room around him.

It was covered in dust, cobwebs, broken furniture…what little there was of it, anyway. As if the room hadn't been touched in years. What the hell? Was he dreaming?

"Sabbath, quiet!" Sam got up off the bed, waving a hand towards the dog who was still barking furiously, hobbling back and forth anxiously while he favoured his injured leg.

Going to the motel room door, Sam opened it cautiously and peered out, shocked to see the parking lot was almost deserted save for one or two cars that had been clearly abandoned. The whole place looked deserted. How was that possible?

"Sabbath, heel." Sam looked back in the room for his back pack but found nothing. The room was dirty and disused. What had happened? Was Dean alright? Sam needed answers and he needed them now. He pulled out his phone but wasn't exactly surprised to find there was no signal. It just seemed to fit with everything else…like Murphy's Law had wanted to give one final kick in the pants.

Fine. Sam would have to find his answers in person. Bobby's place seemed the likeliest place to check right now. If Dean wasn't there? Then Bobby would know where he was…

xxxxxxXXXXXxxxxxx

It had been sound in theory. But from the moment Sam and Sabbath had walked into Bobby's, Sam had known they wouldn't find Dean here. There was no one here, the house looking almost the same as it would have been before…except that there was dust over everything. The place was abandoned.

Sam stood in the kitchen, trying to fight the panic rising inside him. Where was everybody? What had happened? He had fallen asleep in a world on the brink of the Apocalypse…and awoken to a world that Sam no longer even recognised. Towns had been deserted. Others were burning. There were no cars on the road, not a living soul to be seen anywhere. It didn't make any sense at all.

Sabbath whined, then began barking loudly from the living room. Sam kept a firm grip on the Magnum that thankfully had still been tucked into his belt, making his way to where Sabbath was, his heart sinking at the sight.

A wheelchair, lying forlornly on it's side, punched full of bullet holes.

Sabbath pawed at the wheelchair, sniffing it and then sitting back to unleash an mournful howl that shook Sam.

"Well now isn't that sweet? Looks like someone might actually mourn Bobby Singer after all…"

Sam didn't bother bringing the gun up as he whirled around to see Zachariah's smug face smiling at him from the doorway. "You did this? What happened here?"

"What happened? You happened, Sam. It's the end of the world as you know it…"

"How? How did this all happen overnight?" Sam demanded.

"Overnight? You need to catch up on your current affairs there, Sam." Zachariah picked up a newspaper from a table near him and tossed it over to Sam. The headlines spoke of a global epidemic. The Government struggling to contain the outbreak across the country, while reports were coming in from other countries of the virus spreading like wildfire through populations and cities.

"Five years? I've jumped five years? How?"

"And finally…he catches on. Nice to see your college education wasn't wasted there, kid." Zachariah spat snidely at him. "I brought you here, Sam. To show you the consequences of starting the Apocalypse."

"Where's Dean? Where my brother?" Sam wasn't in the mood to play games. He held his ground as Zachariah approached, noting that Sabbath moved to intercept the angel, blocking his path to Sam. The German Shepard bared his teeth, all too aware that wouldn't end well for him but more than willing to defend Sam against the angel regardless.

"Dean? Oh he's alive, if that's what you're worried about. Unlike most of your friends. You'll find him about 2 hours North East of here. Camp should find it easy enough to sneak around. I've hidden you and Lassie there from any prying eyes."

"Why? Why can't Dean see me?"

"It's for your own good, Sam. Let's just say, your brother isn't the same guy you knew."

Zachariah disappeared a moment later with the sound of wings unfurling.

Not the same? Sam didn't know what that meant. He was just relieved to know that Dean was still alive. Bobby's empty and blood stained wheelchair sent a shudder through Sam as he tucked his gun away. "Sabbath, come on, boy. We need to find Dean."

xxxxxXXXXXxxxxxxx

In his entire life, Sam had never wished not to see his brother. Not when he was in Stanford…not even when he was lying behind Dean's back with Ruby. Even as he had left Dean lying on the floor of the motel room, broken bloody and telling Sam "Don't ever come back…", had he really wanted it to happen.

Because Dean was Dean. He was his brother, the guy who had raised him. The guy who had always been there for him.

But the man Sam had discovered at Camp Chitaqua? That wasn't the Dean that Sam recognised anymore and it scared him - broke his heart even -- to see his brother now. The man he had become.

Sam couldn't even say that Dean had become Dad, because Dad wasn't that cold. Even at his most driven. It was like the last five years had just sucked all the humanity out of his brother and left a broken shell behind. A man who was willing to shoot his own men if they were infected. A man who was willing to send his own people…including a now human Castiel, into a meat grinder…so that he could gain the advantage of a distraction.

Sam watched from treeline, holding Sabbath's collar firmly to keep the dog close and safe, even though he knew Zachariah had hidden them. He watched as Dean gave that last order to Castiel and the others, sending them into a building that erupted with gunfire. Sam didn't need to be in there to know that Castiel and the others weren't getting out alive.

Sabbath whined softly beside Sam, looking to him for answers, for some explanation as to why the man who looked like Dean, didn't feel like him. He had changed somehow and Sabbath couldn't recognise his Master anymore. His tone of voice was deeper, the green eyes that Sabbath had always known were now cold and almost lifeless. As if the Dean Sabbath had grown up with, was no longer there.

"Amazing isn't it? What just five years can do to someone you think you know?"

Sam looked over his shoulder to see Zachariah standing there again, that same smug smile on his face. He locked his grip tightly on Sabbath's collar as the dog threatened to lunge at the angel. "What happened here? To Dean?"

"You happened, Sam. I'm not sure I can make it much clearer than that. Oh…wait…I can." Zachariah reached out, ignoring Sabbath, to touch Sam's forehead.

In the next instant after the white light that had engulfed him faded, Sam saw Dean fighting a tall figure dressed in white. A familiar figure. His heart lurched in his chest, blood running cold and the hair on the back of his neck standing on end. Dean was facing off with him. "No…"

"Yes, actually. Why do you think Ruby wanted your help, Sam? Why do you think you were at ground zero when Lucifer was released? You're his vessel…same as Dean is Michael's. Or was.."

"Was?" Sam couldn't take his eyes from the fight, already realising that Dean was holding back as he fought. Fending off blows and taking hits that shouldn't have landed. His heart wasn't in the fight.

"Dean refused to say yes to Michael, Sam. Because of you. Because he didn't have the stones to fight even an empty shell that looked like you. Your brother lost everything. Bobby, that dog at your feet…even you when you gave in to Lucifer. But he still refused to say yes to Michael and now it's too late…"

"What? No…No!" Sam couldn't stand by and watch his brother die. He rushed forward, releasing Sabbath and calling out to Dean, praying that he would see him and stop this from happening. "DEAN!"

Dean deflected another punch thrown towards him, even as he half turned, shock clearly evident on his face as he saw his little brother running towards him. "Sammy?"

The distraction cost Dean dearly. He was lifted off his feet by Lucifer and slammed to the ground, a foot placed on his throat, holding him in place.

"No! NO!!" Sam was still running, his eyes locked on Dean's, captured by the pain, the regret swimming in those pools of green. This wasn't meant to happen. Dean wasn't meant to have been able to see him.

A sickening crack was heard a moment later as Lucifer twisted his foot ever so slightly, breaking Dean's neck.

Sam skidded to a halt, feeling bile surging up his throat, his heart hammering against his ribs so hard it felt like it was going to burst through. Dean was still now, his eyes closed, his head at an unnatural angle. Dead. Sam had failed to save Dean again…

"Oh…hello, Sam." Lucifer turned and looked up, a calm, amused smile twitching the corner's of his lips as he looked into a mirror image of himself. "Well aren't you a surprise?"

Sam blinked and tried to shield his eyes as there a sudden flash of lightning. Sabbath was beside him growling as Sam whirled to see Lucifer had shifted to stand behind him now. "Sabbath, leave." Sam grabbed the dog by his collar and dragged him away. He had lost Dean already. He couldn't lose Sabbath too.

"You've come a long way to see this." Lucifer looked sympathetically at Sam. "It must be difficult for you to know this is your destiny."

"No." The word was spat out through gritted teeth.

"Yes, Sam. This has always been your destiny. This is why you were chosen. Why it had to be you. You are the balance against your brother. The flipside of the same coin. You were always meant to be here. You have to know that."

"No. I won't do it. I won't give you permission. I won't turn against Dean." Sam stood firm.

"Turn against him?" Lucifer almost sounded sad now. "Sam, you haven't seen your brother in five years. He didn't call you. He didn't come looking for you…or even for that animal beside you. He decided you were better off apart and so did you. You stayed away from each other…and when I came for you? You said yes…because you had nothing left to lose. It's nothing to be ashamed of Sam. It's merely your destiny. You fulfilled the part you had to play…it's that simple."

Tears were filling Sam's eyes as he set his jaw and ground out the words again. "No…I won't let that happen."

Lucifer stepped forward, stilling Sabbath with a gentle wave of his hand before he placed that same hand on Sam's shoulder, looking wounded as Sam tried to flinch away from his touch. "I'll see you soon, Sam…"

The lightning flashed again and Lucifer was gone. Sam shuddered, feeling as though he needed to scrub his shoulder where the Devil had touched him, as if the skin was tainted now by it.

Sabbath lunged, snarling in Sam's grip, alerting him to Zachariah's presence only seconds later.

"So have you learnt your lesson Sam? All this?" Zachariah waved a hand towards Dean's body. "All this loss of life? Can be avoided…by you doing one simple thing."

"What?"

"Take yourself out of the equation. You're the reason Dean doesn't say yes to Michael. You're the reason for all of this. So give the world a chance. Give your brother a chance to do what's right, Sam. You know what to do." Zachariah reached out, touching his fingers to Sam's forehead.

Everything flared out white and as the world began to swim back into focus again seconds later, Sam and Sabbath found themselves back in the motel room in Garber. Everything looked as it should. Sam's clothes and back pack were still there. Dean's shirt was still on the bed.

Sam pulled his phone out again, searching for Dean's number, his thumb hovering over the dial button as he hesitated. A tremble sent into Sam, a cold sweat breaking out as he recalled Lucifer's words, Zachariah's words. He put the phone back in his pocket.

If he was going to do this. He needed to do it now. No more hesitation. Screw destiny. Screw everything. Sam was going to make things right again.

"Sabbath…bed. Now." Sam clicked his fingers and was glad that he was obeyed without question. He walked over to one of the cracked vinyl chairs tucked in around the small table in the kitchenette. Sitting down heavily, Sam pulled out the Magnum, resting his hands on his knees for a moment to settle the tremble in them. He cocked the hammer on the revolver, noting that Sabbath's head snapped up from the bed at the same time, the dog's gaze burning into him.

"Stay, Sabbath….just…just stay, boy. Please."

Sabbath cocked his head, whining as he edged forward on the bed. This wasn't right. Everything inside his head was telling Sabbath to stop Sam from what he was about to do.

Sam closed his eyes, placing the end of the revolver muzzle in his mouth. One quick pull of the trigger and it would be over. Lucifer wouldn't be wearing Sam to the end of the world…he wouldn't be using Sam to kill Dean. It was worth it to save Dean. A chance to finally correct things after Cold Creek.

Click!

The hammer fell…

Sam opened his eyes, frowning. Blood, brains and the back of his skull should have been splattered across the wall behind him, CSI style. How the hell was he still here? He pulled the trigger again and heard the same hollow click of the hammer falling. Opening up the gun, he checked it was fully loaded, spinning the barrel before he closed it again and jammed the gun back into his mouth.

Click!

"Dammit!" Fine. Sam wasn't going to be so easily swayed from what needed to be done. There were other methods. Something that mechanical failure couldn't prevent. He left the gun on the table, crossing the room to the bed and digging through the back pack. A bottle of Vicodin. That would do the trick.

Pouring a glass of water from the kitchen, Sam swallowed down more than enough pills to do the job, emptying what was left of the bottle. The water and pill mix sat heavily in his stomach as Sam walked back to the bed, his vision blurred with tears. This had to work…right? It had to. He had started this by letting Lucifer out and now Sam wanted nothing more than to screw up the Devil's plans.

Flipping on the tv with the remote, Sam made himself comfortable on the bed, resting his arm on Sabbath as the dog stretched along beside him.

"You'll be okay, Sabbath. Bobby's number is on your collar. Someone…someone will call it. He'll find you, boy. He'll get you back to Dean. You'll be fine." Sam assured the dog, fighting to stop his voice choking up. He knew Sabbath couldn't understand him and could only hope the dog would get back to Dean safely…and soon.

Whoever said overdose was a painless way to go? Had obviously never tried it with Vicodin. Sam fought to keep himself on the bed as the stomach cramps began, cold sweat washing over his body as he hugged his arms around his stomach as Sabbath licked his face anxiously. Nausea came in waves that had Sam fighting the urge to vomit. He couldn't undo everything now. He had to see this through to the end.

As the minutes ticked by, Sabbath became more and more anxious. He could see that something was wrong. Very wrong. Sam was in danger. The breathing was starting to sound wrong and Sabbath was aware that Sam was fighting to keep his eyes open.

Leaping off the bed, Sabbath went to the room door, scratching at it, despite how it pulled on his injured side. There was no way to get out of the room to get help. So Sabbath would have to bring help here. He began to bark loudly, incessantly.

Someone would have to come and Sabbath wasn't going to stop until they did.

xxxxxxxxxx

"I thought I raised you smarter than that, Sam."

Sam blinked blearily at the figure crouched over him. He vaguely recalled pitching to the side and sliding off the bed onto the floor. The voice was so familiar…achingly familiar and tears welled up in Sam's eyes.

"Dad?"

"Yeah, it's me, son."

Sam tried to laugh then, the sound soft, barely a whisper as his body continued to shut down around him. "Mom…mom came to see me once before, you know? She…she said things, Dad.." He closed his eyes, turning away from his father. This was just another illusion. A desperate wish cooked up by his drugged and dying mind.

"Come on, Sam. You know as well as I do. That wasn't your Mom. Mary wouldn't say those things to you. She loved you, son. And if you had been given the chance to know her? You'd have known that for yourself." John reached out, placing a hand on San's shoulder to make him focus. "Sam, listen to me. You're playing their game. You're letting them win, dammit."

"No…No, Dad, I'm not. I'm making sure Lucifer can't win." Sam argued, wondering why he really could feel his father's hand on his shoulder. How was that possible? Dad wasn't really there, was he? It was just his imagination playing tricks.

"How? By killing yourself? How the hell is that helping anyone, Sam? Least of all…you and Dean? After everything he went through…you really think he wants you dead? You're all he has, Sam. You're the reason your brother fights. You always have been. He needs you."

"It's too late, Dad." Sam could feel everything slipping further and further away.

"The hell it is. Stop playing their game. Start doing things your way. You and Dean. Take the fight to them. You hear me? Together."

"Yes…yes sir." Sam felt a tear escape the corner of his eye and slide down past his temple.

John grabbed Sam's hand then, gripping it firmly and smiling as he saw the realisation of how real it felt, fill Sam's eyes. "Hold on, Sam. Just hold on. Help's coming."

"Don't…don't leave me, Dad. I don't want to be alone." Sam pleaded, wishing he could return the strength he felt in his father's hand with any strength of his own at all. It was all ebbing away with each slowing beat of his heart.

"You're not, Sam. You never have been…" John assured him. "I'm right here, Sammy. I'm right here. Just hang on."

The motel room door was kicked in moments later as a Garber county sheriff stepped into the room, followed by the motel manager.

Sabbath continued barking, backing up towards Sam, torn between the instinct to protect him from the strangers in the room now and the need to get Sam help.

A sensation that felt like a warm hand gripped his collar and Sabbath heard a voice that somehow sounded somewhat like Dean's speak to him.

"Easy, buddy. Let them do their job…you've done yours."

Sabbath wagged his tail, picking up on the faintly glowing image of someone standing beside him that resembled his Master in a lot of ways, but older. Feelings of peace and calm emanated from the figure and Sabbath knew then, that this person, whoever they were…was like Castiel somehow. Sabbath knew then, that he had begged for help with every desperate bark…and he had been heard.

xxxxxXXXXXXxxxxxx

Dean had barely closed his eyes an hour before after nearly fourteen hours behind the damn wheel, when his phone had woken him. Logic dictated that he should just shut it off and roll over back to sleep. Except that sleep wasn't a friend for Dean lately. He was too damn used to sleeping with Sabbath on the foot of the bed or listening to Sabbath and Sam snore together across the room.

There had been plenty of times in the past couple of weeks, that Dean had pulled up Sam's number on his phone and thought of calling him. Telling Sam to just come home. But what would that have solved? Sam needed space to find himself again, to face his personal demons or whatever the hell it was his brother liked doing when he was feeling all emo on it. And Dean wasn't sure he was ready to work with Sam yet. If he was willing to keep face his trust issues and put them behind him. If he was willing to put aside how badly, Sam had hurt him.

Reaching for the side table, Dean growled under his breath as he picked up his phone and answered it. "This better be good…"

"What? I'm not interrupting your beauty sleep there, am I?"

"Bobby? It's four in the morning. What the hell is so important that it couldn't wait til morning? As in the sun actually being up first?"

"I just got word on a John Doe that was found in a motel room in Garber, Oklahoma. Attempted overdose."

"Yeah? That's fascinating, Bobby. What the hell has it got to do with me?" Dean growled, resting one hand over his eyes and wishing he could just get back to sleep. His eyes felt gritty, his body running on fumes for days now.

"The John Doe is your brother, Dean. The Sheriff got my number off of Sabbath's collar. Apparently his barking had the motel manager calling the cops. They found him guarding Sam…"

"Son of a bitch." Dean sat up right sharply, all thought of sleep blasted from his mind. "Garber huh? I can be there in seven hours. Thanks Bobby…I owe you."

"Just bring him home, you idjit." Bobby growled before he hung up the phone.

xxxxxXXXXXxxxx

Hospitals. There was no mistaking the smell, the sounds, the entire sensory assault that was somehow intrusive and isolating at the same time. That awful feeling that crept into the senses before you opened your eyes and confirmed what you had been suspecting.

The plastic crinkle of the pillow beneath your head. The crisp starchiness of the sheets around you. The rattle of gurneys and trolley's past your room…the soft beep of monitors and buzzing hum of dozens of conversations just below your hearing.

Sam didn't want to open his eyes and acknowledge it all. He knew what his father had said…if it had even been Dad. It was probably just the Vicodin cooking his brain that created that pleasant image for him. Soothing Sam to an easy grave…

Except it hadn't. Dad had told him to hold on. To keep fighting. Together with Dean.

Snoring could be softly heard to his right and Sam finally plucked up the courage to open his eyes and look for the source. There, slumped in what couldn't have been a comfortable position, was Dean. Sound asleep, a blanket draped over him.

Sam's throat closed up, forcing him to swallow around lump that felt like razor blades as tears stung his eyes. How had Dean found him? How long had he been there? How long had Sam been out of it? There was the faint and foul aftertaste of charcoal in his mouth. His throat was scratchy and irritated. Sam had experienced enough tubes down his throat to realise they must have pumped his stomach. It explained why he was still here. He couldn't even get something as simple as killing himself right.

There was a soft pneumatic hiss as the door opened to reveal a petite, red haired nurse. She gave Sam a soft smile, slipping around to the side of his bed with barely a sound as she spoke in a hushed voice. " Nice to see you back with us, Mr Morrison. I'm Natalie. I'm taking care of you, tonight…"

Morrison? That wasn't the name he had left at the motel. All his ID had been burnt, there had been nothing left to identify him. The confusion must have been evident on his face as the nurse laid a hand on his arm.

"Your brother filled us in." Natalie nodded gently in Dean's direction as she continued, her voice still hushed. "He looked so tired, I didn't have the heart to wake him. Hope you don't mind?"

"No…no, it's fine." Sam assured her, looking over at Dean. He didn't just look tired, he looked burnt out. When was the last time his brother had slept properly? Knowing Dean? Sam could bet money it had been before Sabbath had left.

Natalie finished checking Sam, making notes on his chart as she glanced over the clipboard, offering a smile. "If you need anything? Just use the call button, okay? Otherwise try getting some rest. I'll check on you in a few hours…"

The moment Natalie was out the door, Sam's gaze shifted to Dean, already seeing the bright green of his brother's eyes as he opened them. He had noticed the shift in Dean's snoring from the instant Natalie had entered the room. Exhausted as he was, Dean had apparently woken up and been feigning sleep, listening in the whole time.

"Hey…" Sam offered quietly, uncomfortable under that steady green gaze.

"I'd say I told you so? But it seems kinda pointless now, doesn't it?" Dean's voice was gravelly from lack of sleep. He slowly sat up and leaned forward, his spine popping quietly in protest.

"Dean." Sam knew there was no getting away from what he had done, but couldn't they just sit for a moment? Make small talk? Just take in the fact they were together again after being apart for a few weeks? Looking at Dean, Sam couldn't shake that image from his mind of his brother lying on the ground, right before his neck had been broken. How Dean had looked when he had first turned around, the way it had been such a shock to see Sam…how for a split second, there had been hope in his eyes again.

"What? You have something to say? Some brilliant reason for trying to kill yourself? This is exactly why I told you to leave the bathroom door open, Sam. I thought we were passed all this…and then I have to get a call from Bobby? Telling me that you were found in a motel room full of enough Vicodin to kill an elephant? You have any idea what that shit will do to you if it doesn't kill you? Why the fuck didn't you just put a bullet in your head if you were so intent on doing that?"

"I tried."

"What?" The blood ran cold in Dean's veins. "You're kidding me…"

"Yeah, Dean…my death was supposed to be the punch line. Funny huh?" Sam snapped bitterly at his brother before he looked away. "The gun refused to fire…no matter how many times I checked it."

"Jesus, Sammy…." Dean's voice was hollow, hurt. He felt sick at the idea of his little brother in some shitty motel room with a gun to his head. Just how bad had it gotten out there? Why the hell hadn't he tried to call him? "Why?"

"Because. I…I saw our future, Dean. Zachariah showed me what's ahead of me. What I'm supposed to become. I'm Lucifer's vessel."

"And?"

"And?!" Sam looked back at Dean, stunned by the almost casual way Dean had spoken there. "I'm not only the guy that let him out of Hell…but I'm his vessel? I get to be the meat suit that ends the world too? That kills you? Cause that's what I saw Dean. It's all my fault…that was why I was shown. So I could make the right choice."

"By killing yourself?" Dean wanted to shake his brother, even as he ached inside for what he must have been through. Zachariah was a prize asshole. "Killing yourself was the right choice? Come on, Sam. Stop buying the horseshit Zachariah's dealing you. You have a choice here, dude."

"Oh I do, huh?"

"Yeah…you do. You say no, Sam. Do what you want to do. Not what they say your going to do."

"I'm Lucifer's vessel, Dean. Doesn't that scare you?"

"Should it? I'm the Michael Sword, dude. It kinda stands to reason that you'd be the flip side to me. We know each other better than anyone." Dean shrugged, pulling the chair forward more so that he was closer to Sam's bed. " I know you, Sam. They played on your biggest weakness. Me. But you know what? I'm also your biggest strength…and you're mine. You always have been, Sam. You're what keeps me fighting."

Sam was taken aback by Dean's honesty in that moment and he knew then, looking in his brother's bright expressive green eyes, that he had scared Dean badly for him to be so open right now. "I'm sorry, Dean. I…I thought I was doing the right thing. That it would be better for you, for everyone."

"I know. I know, dude. But don't listen to them, okay? Zachariah…Lucifer…they all just want to use us for their stupid war. We gotta start doing things our way, okay? Our rules. Our way."

"You sound like Dad."

"No shit, Einstein." Dean smirked.

"No, I mean it. I saw him when I…you know. At the motel. He was there, Dean, telling me to hold on. Telling me to do things our way, play our game, not theirs."

"Well, he's right." Dean stated firmly, keeping his feelings on what Sam had just said hidden away inside. Had he really seen Dad? Or was it just the drugs? "From now on, no splitting up, no listening to all those other dickwads. Okay? We watch each other's backs and take on every son of a bitch that comes at us. If it's the end of the world? We go down swinging, back to back. You onboard for that?"

"Yeah…" Sam nodded quietly, accepting the olive branch his brother was offering. "I can deal with that."

"Good. Now can you get your lanky ass out of that bed? We've gotta do a jail break…and you're buying dinner too, dude. With extra pie. "

"What? Why?"

"Sabbath's in the freaking dog pound. I've been sleeping in an arm chair for you…you oughta be counting yourself lucky I'm only asking you to buy dinner." Dean shot back at Sam with a scowl that quickly shifted to a grin. "Come on, haul ass. I need a decent night's sleep…"

"Dean…"

"Come on, Sam. We'll talk back at the motel, okay? I know it's done. I know we need to talk still about everything…but not tonight, okay? Let's just get our dog and go home."

Sam stopped short of saying anything else then. He hadn't missed what Dean had said. Our dog. Not his. Sam was part of a family again. "Yeah…let's go home."

xxxxxXXXXXxxxxx

The cage was big enough to allow him to move around. He could have actually paced if he had wanted to, like some of the other dogs around him were. But Sabbath wasn't like the others. He had hope that someone would come for him. That soon, there would be someone opening the door at the end of the room and he would see Sam again. Sam wouldn't have abandoned him, would he?

Slumping down in front of the bars of the cage, staring at the door expectantly. There was nothing familiar here. No scents he recognised. At least at the motel, he had been able to pick up on Sam. He had Dean's shirt with it's familiar smell. But here? Here it was all just bleach and dog scent and despair. Smaller dogs yapped, larger ones paced or howled, trying to get attention even though all the humans had gone home hours ago, shutting off the lights and leaving the place in darkness.

Sabbath huffed out a lonely breath, wondering if Sam was alright? Had he gotten him help in time? What if they were too late? Would Dean blame him? Was that why he was in here? Because he was a bad dog for not saving Sam?

Footsteps.

There was almost a hush that fell over the room as every dog paused and looked towards the doors, hearing the sound of the lock being clicked open. Sabbath's head lifted from his front paws, his heart leaping as he thought he heard a familiar voice. The door swung open a moment later, light flooding into the room and silhouetting the two figures standing there.

"Sabbath? Where are you, buddy?"

Dean! Sabbath exploded with excited barking, leaping at the bars of his cage, trying to draw attention to himself. Barely a minute later, the familiar and oh so welcome face of Dean, his Master, was right in front of him. A hand reached through the bars and scratched Sabbath's head, allowing him to wash it furiously with a wet tongue.

"Alright, back up, Sabb. I'll get you out of there." Dean slid the slip bolt to the side and pulled the door open, stepping back.

Sabbath rushed out of the cage and in one short leap, launched up into Dean's arms, staggering the hunter backwards several steps before he found his balance again. Sabbath couldn't have cared less. He had what he wanted, licking Dean's face and wriggling excitedly until Dean lost his balance and fell backwards, landing hard enough to drive the air from his lungs as Sabbath continued to show his affection.

Sam was standing in the door way, hugging his stomach as he laughed long and hard, watching Dean flailing, trying to fight Sabbath off while simultaneously trying to breath and laugh.

Sabbath backed off at last before he turned and galloped towards Sam, knocking him down too, all happy licking and lashing tail. He had never been happier to see his pack than that moment.

"C-come on, dude…time to go." Dean was still catching his breath as he tapped Sabbath on the shoulder and offered Sam a hand up. Sabbath looked back towards the room, whining slightly as he looked up pointedly at Dean.

"You've always wanted to do that, haven't you?" Sam grinned at Dean as they left the dog pound behind them. Sabbath was bouncing and jumping before them, like an eager puppy as they walked to the Impala. His injured leg was long forgotten in the excitement of having his Masters back. Around them, a dozen or so dogs were scrambling from the building to escape into the night air.

Dean couldn't help but grin in return at his brother. "What? Everyone deserves a get out of jail, card, Sammy. You enjoyed that as much as I did…"

"Yeah," Sam nodded. " I did. So…burgers? My shout of course."

"Sabbath…you want burgers? Or ribs?"

Sabbath barked heartily in reply to the second word, climbing into the backseat of the Impala as Dean opened the door for him.

"Ribs it is, Sammy. With extra sauce. And you still owe us pie."

The rumble of the Impala, the scent of clothes that needed washing, the worn leather of the seat beneath him and the familiar thumping beat of Black Sabbath's Paranoid as it filled the car, had Sabbath stretching out on the back seat with a contented sigh. He could see Dean and Sam in the front of the Impala and while he knew that things weren't back to the way they should be between them yet? They were making steps towards it. The pack reforming, rebuilding itself to be stronger again.

The way it was meant to be and Sabbath was finally home as he closed his eyes and fell asleep to the sound of his Master's tone deaf singing.