Note: It appears that after Abandon All Hope, I ... abandoned all hope. Hehe. Consider this a forewarning that this isn't a lighthearted story. In fact, it's gloomy enough I actually wrote two versions. This is the happier of the two. The second? I'm adding as a second chapter and I leave it up to you to decide if you would like to give that one a go. Maybe I should have posted that one first - to rip the proverbial angst bandage right off.

Poor Boy, You're Bound to Die

His dreams were always about the end of the world. For anyone else, they'd be exaggerated; Technicolor horrors of blood, fire and death, and the worst thing to come from them would be waking in a cold sweat. But for Sam they were simply the future, integral to who he was and who he was to become. He couldn't remember when he'd begun having the dreams, and he also couldn't remember a time when he hadn't had them. It was like they were a living part of him now, indivisible from the present and coming realities. They filled him with terror and excitement at the same time, the way the craving for demon blood still did no matter how much he tried not to think about it.

The day was almost here. Sam knew it. He could sense it deep within his bones. Even without that vague intuition, he'd long ago realized nothing good could come on the anniversary of his birth. Lucifer had told him when and where, but he'd stupidly clung to the idea that it couldn't be true. But now there were two days left before it would happen, and there was no hope left. The odds were stacked against them.

Sam looked across the room at the sleeping form of his brother. He envied the sleep, though he knew Dean only accomplished it by drinking heavily and it only lasted in one or two hour intervals. It wasn't safe for both of them to sleep at the same time, and as it stood, he didn't much care to anyway. He supposed he should consider himself lucky; he'd have thought Dean and Bobby would have tried to lock him in the panic room by now. He knew Dean also knew it was all about to come to a head, and yet still had or had regained enough trust in him to doze off. Sam frowned and had to look away.

Sam pulled back the drapes a sliver, staring out at the misleadingly peaceful morning for a moment. The sky was dark pink in the east, nearly red, as the sun struggled to break the horizon. In the shadows, Bobby's yard already looked like the apocalypse had hit it. It had looked this way for years. Closing his eyes, he could see him and Dean trolling around the junk, playing hide-and-seek, attacking like hunters when Dad jumped at them from out of nowhere with a monstrous roar. Dean, he thought, had known then they were training rather than playing, but it had taken Sam years for those happy times to be tainted by full understanding. He smiled at the memories anyway, bittersweet as they were, because the times they came here before Dad pissed Bobby off had often been the best, closest thing to happiness Sam had known as a kid. He wanted to remember him and Dean like that, smiling and together.

He shook himself out of the drowsy place his memories let him slip into. He couldn't sleep now. Sam wondered if he'd ever sleep again. It was academic, he reminded himself. He only had a couple days left on this Earth, maybe fewer; all of them did. He rolled his neck, feeling it crack in a small rush of pleasure pain. He let the drapes fall back and stood. He had to do this now, before he chickened out. Before Dean woke up.

There was almost nothing in the world he wanted to do less.

They'd wasted too much time trying to keep themselves untouched and alive, both him and Dean. By trying to buck the "it is foretold" destiny trend, they'd made it all about themselves anyway, and it was. But it wasn't. It was about so much more than them too, and it wasn't fair to think the fate of the world depended on Dean and Sam Winchester living through the war. They'd been pretty damned selfish about it, thinking of it that way. He was almost sure about their selfishness now, just as he was almost sure the fate of the world actually depended on at least one of them dying, horribly. Unspeakably. And he was almost sure he about to do the only thing he could, and that while it was no real choice of his own at all, Dean would never believe otherwise.

Sam had known for a while the who and what and how of what was going to happen to him. All he had to do was recall the decaying husk of the devil's current, sacrificial meat suit and remember Meg riding him hard so long ago, in another life. Lucifer had delighted in telling him the where and when. And as much as it pained him, Sam knew now why he was Lucifer's, and it was this: there weren't many other options left. Every path he and Dean walked was going to lead to the end of the world, no matter their intention and no matter how hard they fought. He knew that now and he supposed he had always known it. Their lives had become a double-edged sword, destined to split them. He was resigned to that, if not okay, as long as he was the only one to bleed.

He'd already decided to take the rusty 1979 pickup. The Impala would get him there faster, and more reliably. With what Sam was about to do to Dean, though, he couldn't add that insult to the injury. He didn't need food or water. He didn't need clothes or fake IDs. Where he was going required only him. He stood for a moment in the middle of the cluttered room, uncertain and scared as much as determined. He hated every single motherfucking second of this. He took a deep breath and scrawled Dean and Bobby a note on the backside of a rite they'd tried against Lucifer, one of the countless things they'd tried since the Cold failed. It seemed inappropriately appropriate. Sam knew what he wrote would only make things worse. He left the paper on the kitchen table, setting a half-full whiskey bottle on one corner to keep it in place and to ensure it was found. He took an unopened bottle with him.

The sky had brightened to a dusky orange, still more shadow than light. He should have gone earlier, right after Dean had fallen asleep. It was too late to correct that or any mistake at this point. He moved to the truck, opening the door and put it in neutral. It was so Sound of Music to push the truck down the drive like this, but he couldn't risk Dean or Bobby waking up until he was far enough away. Climbing in the cab when he deemed it safe, Sam turned the key. The engine failed to turn over. It didn't even pretend to. He knew enough about vehicles and about Dean to know it wasn't going to start. Dean didn't trust him after all. Sam smiled sadly, figuring all the normally-functioning cars in Bobby's yard had been rendered useless.

Glancing in the rearview mirror at the house, Sam saw a curtain fall into place. It was time to play hide-and-seek, and he tried to convince himself he didn't know he'd already lost because the game had started before he could find cover. He even tried to convince himself he wasn't a little bit relieved. He had never won against Dean anyway, not once until divine interference had allowed him the upper hand only to let loose the devil. Sam's only victories were pyrrhic. He opened the whiskey bottle and raised it to his lips, swallowing the burning liquid. He needed the fuel.

He started walking, useless as it was. There would be no hitchhiking, no hiding. It was pointless to try, but he had already messed things up. He couldn't go back now. Sam didn't make it more than a hundred feet from the end of Bobby's driveway when he heard footsteps behind him, running. Angry. He didn't flee. He stopped and pivoted on his heel, met Dean's anger with sadness and no defense. The first punch had him staggering, the second knocking him flat on his back. In the orange light of dawn, the clouds above looked like flames.

"It was bad enough you chose that bitch demon over me, Sam," Dean said, rage making his voice lower, more controlled, and dangerous, "but now you're picking the devil."

Sam blinked, somehow stunned to learn exactly how little Dean trusted him. He got himself upright, the cold, wet dirt soaking through his clothes. The whiskey bottle was broken, spilling its contents like blood in a pool all around him. His stomach churned.

"You think I'm…" he whispered. Where Dean sounded controlled and strong, Sam heard his own voice trembling like a baby's. He swallowed, his gaze focused for a moment on Dean's clenched fists, the crumpled piece of paper in his right hand, before he stared his brother in the eye. "I wasn't going to Detroit, Dean."

"I don't believe you." Dean unclenched his left hand, then curled his fingers back into a fist, over and over like he was counting time.

Getting to his feet, Sam said nothing. He didn't want to say it out loud. He didn't want to go into gory detail what he had planned on doing, the steps he'd have had to take for it to work. The steps he might still have to take. He stood silently for so long that Dean shoved him hard, as if it would dislodge a confession. Instead, a half-choked sob burst out of him. He cursed his inability to handle this like a Winchester, tough and hard. He'd practiced that exterior, developed what was only a cracking shell.

"I don't believe you," Dean said again. "You wrote this little note – which is complete bullshit, by the way. You were sneaking off the way you did before, with Ruby. What else would you be …"

Sam saw the moment it clicked for Dean, when the total anger in his eyes subtly made way for realization and finally, bleakness. He watched Dean relax from a fighter's stance, and look down at the note. He didn't know what to do. There was nothing he could do. It was out there, ugly and sad. When Dean took a sudden step forward, his instinct was to back away. But Dean didn't punch or push or kick him, he only raised his right hand and grabbed the nape of Sam's neck in a tight squeeze, pulling him down a little. The rough, crumpled paper tickled against his hairline.

"Do you think that is a better choice?" Dean asked. "You just give up?"

Sam had known, oh, he'd known Dean would see it that way. And Dean wasn't wrong, but it was the only choice left that he could try that might come close to working. There was nothing else. He was suddenly angry himself, because he literally could not win, ever. He was born to die, or worse. He jerked out of Dean's grasp.

"It's not … I don't, God, I didn't, don't, want to do this." Sam tripped over his words. "I don't want to die. But what other choice do I have, Dean? Tell me what other choice there is."

"We stick together. To the end. That's what we agreed."

"Do you even know what that means? I know and you know that it's coming. Every goddamned thing that anyone's told us would happen, has happened. Just because we got people rooting for us now doesn't mean what's supposed to happen won't. I can't … don't you get it? If I don't do this myself, then..."

"Then what?" Dean said. His nostrils flared, angry once again, as he studied Sam's face. "You buy into this prophecy bullshit."

"No." Sam denied it instantly, but he was a liar. The evidence said there was something to it all. He didn't want to say yes to Lucifer, but everyone was so damned sure he was going to anyway. He felt in his gut that was true. "Maybe."

"There's no maybe. Either you do or you don't."

"All I do know is I can't give Lucifer even the tiniest chance of getting me. I don't think you can possibly understand how bad that would be, with what I've got inside me already. If I don't end this myself, Dean, then you're going to have to. You know that. You know it. I can't …" Sam trailed off, giving Dean a desperate look, willing him to understand this was a choice he wasn't even really making. "I won't do that to you."

"So you off yourself, and then what? You've got it all figured out, genius. I'll tell you what happens after that – Lucifer hops around from person to person and you leave me alone fighting for this fucking shithole of a world until I bite it too. No." Dean stood up straight, shoulders squaring. "This isn't the answer. You cannot leave me again. If we go down, we both go down together, Sammy."

Deep down, Sam admitted that was what he wanted Dean to say. He wanted to believe that if he wished hard enough, it would end like that. It would end with him and Dean side-by-side, even if not the way they used to be, some faded remnant of themselves. That would be more than he hoped, to not die alone. But he just couldn't believe it, not now. Sam nodded and hid his dread behind a watery smile.