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In the late half of Season 9, I decided to do something I'd never done: participate in a Supernatural Fan Fiction contest. I resolved not to do any slash but instead write up a big budget, movie style, possible "finale" to the show which tied up loose ends.  I chose it as my Auld Lang Syne feature article not only because it was a lot of fun to write (and had some great artwork by neigeausoleil) but also because it's somewhat humorous to look back two seasons later to see what I got wrong about the show's future plots... and what I ended up getting right.


H-Day

Originally Published: July 22, 2014

Editor's Note: For the first time ever, The Winchester Family Business is very excited to present to you a complete work of fan fiction. Written by our very own Nate Winchester, this story follows Sam and Dean on one of the largest, riskiest adventures of their lives. Nate’s official story summary reads:

“Frustrated by too many losses, the brothers decide they need one decisive win, and take the fight straight to Hell.”

This story is classified as “General Fiction”, meaning there are no pairings or ships, and it strictly adheres to the canon presented on the Show. It is rated “R” for violence (no more than you would imagine from the Show) and graphic depictions of disturbing images (this is Supernatural and Hell after all, but again, nothing too far from Show standards). Nate wrote this mid-season 9, so consider that it takes place roughly where we are right now on the #WFBRewatch (i.e. sometime after "First Born"; maybe even after "Blade Runners", but before the season's finale episodes). There are no season 10 spoilers. We will be running installments of the story twice each week for the next four weeks (with the possible exception of next week because of breaking news from ComicCon). Most likely, you will find it on Tuesdays and Fridays.

I love this story. In my opinion, it just keeps getting better and better the deeper you get into it. I have read it many times, yet tears still stream down my face during one of the final scenes. The greatest reward fan fiction writers receive is feedback from their readers, so please let Nate know what you think of his story. I hope you like it as much as I do.

-          Nightsky
*************

Author's Note: A bit of backstory first.  Those uninterested can skip down to the title card if they want to get right to the story.

Many months ago, fellow fan and writer here Bookdal alerted me to the J2 Big-Bang fan fic challenge.  Now normally I wouldn't pay much attention to it.  However...

As you might have noticed, I have not been a big fan of season 9, partly because of it's continued despoliation of canon.  Of course there's one reply that is ever waiting to be cried, always hovering in the back of your mind whenever you criticize something: "you think you can do better?"

Well that challenge can be fair enough, so given that I enjoy writing for fun, I decided to take up the Big Bang fanfic challenge.  I wanted to prove that canon should not only be respected, but can be used to tell a better story.  (I even jokingly posted the story's "ship" (relationship pairing) as "SPN/canon", though I don't know if anyone got the joke.)

Now because I'm a heartless monster who delights in the suffering of others, I recruited fellow writer Nightsky to be my beta reader & editor for this.  She accepted because ... well, actually I don't know why she agreed to do this. I think she might be a little crazy!  At any rate, she thought it was good and would fill a perfect niche for passing the long "Hellatus" with The Winchester Family Business.

We're breaking this up into a multi-part story that will be released over the next few weeks.  I hope you enjoy.

P.S. I like to think that if we were to ever get a big-budget movie for the show, this is what we would get.

 - Nate

hdaybanner
The woods had a certain... majestic quality about them, helped no less by their infinite nature.  Sam and Dean Winchester crouched by a tall rock formation, each checking the contents of their army duffel bags.  Both had a metal, gasoline can holding a gallon of holy water and two of the “demon grenades” Kevin Tran had built for them so long ago.  Around their torsos they wore a bandoleer holding fifty shotgun shells sparkling white with the rock salt inside them.  Around their waists each wore a belt holding another twenty-five salt shells.

            Dean broke open his trusty, Baikal sawed-off shotgun and double-checked that it was loaded before he made sure the magazine on his forty-five Colt MK IV was similarly full.  “You still got the map and compass, Sammy?”

            Sam nodded as he pulled out four salt shells from his jacket pocket and loaded them into his twelve gauge Ithaca shotgun before stuffing it into his duffel bag.  “You got the First?”

            Dean reached behind and patted the First Blade strapped sideways on the back of his belt.  “You got the knife?”

            Sam patted the sheath that was strapped to his right thigh, Ruby’s knife resting within it.  He pulled out a bundle crudely wrapped in newspaper and said, “I got you a gift.”

            “Why?” Dean asked as he accepted it.

            “Days like this…”  Sam searched for what he was trying to say.  “A person better say everything he needs to.”

            Dean held up his hand and started to speak but Sam interrupted him.

            “Yeah I know.  Figured this gift would be less ‘chick-flick-ee’ than actually talking.”

            Dean tore open the wrapping.  Inside he found a golden, circular amulet with a Celtic knot design on the interior and the word ‘BROTHER’ inscribed on it.  He held it up with a questioning look.

            “It represents eternity and how we’ll always be brothers.  It’s good luck and…”  Sam stopped and shrugged his huge shoulders.

            Dean chuckled in an attempt to hide his deep appreciation for the amulet as he donned it.  “Hey Sammy, got a gift for you too.”  He held up a bottle of beer.

            Sam took it, cracked it open, and took a long drink while Dean took out a spray can, shook it a few times, then painted a bright, florescent-orange X on a tree.

            “Where’s yours?” Sam asked when his brother remained dry.

            “Had to give it away,” Dean said with that tone Sam knew meant a story he had to hear later.  Sam reached into the front mini pocket on his jeans and pulled out a shiny, mechanical pocket watch.  It had been made in the fifties, but was still nearly brand new having crossed the centuries in their grandfather’s hand.  He opened it up and checked the time.

            “Well?” asked Dean.

            “Time to go,” Sam said, closing the watch and stuffing it back into his pants.  “Hey, Dean?”

            “Yeah?”

            “Good luck.”

            “You too, Sammy.”

            Sam finished his beer and tossed the bottle aside.  They zipped up their bags and shouldered them.  Dean stepped onto one of the smaller boulders at the bottom of the pile and, with Sam’s help, pushed aside a large rock, revealing the dark gap behind it.  From it spilled out a wind so foul it felt like their very souls recoiled.

            “Let’s go, bitch,” Dean said as he put on a pair of black, horn rimmed glasses that bore signs of having been scorched by fire.

            “After you, jerk,” Sam said as he donned his own pair of safety goggles that had been similarly toasted by holy fire.

            They entered the hole and though their feet never left the ground, both of their stomachs felt like they were tumbling end over end as they passed from Purgatory – into the shallows of Hell.

            They emerged from a forgotten cranny at the end of a hall.  Around them were walls and columns built of stone that looked older than the Earth itself.  A red light bathed everything in a fiery glow.  Beyond the hall, they could hear the indistinct screams and cries of hopeless souls.

            Dean glanced around to make sure the place was empty then nodded to Sam.

            The younger brother pulled a folded piece of parchment and a cheap directional compass out of his pocket.  Although the parchment was blank at first, lines quickly began appearing and spreading out over the square, until a diagram off the hall they were in was displayed, with attached rooms and branching paths.

            “Which way?” asked Dean.

            Sam looked at the compass.  The red end of the needle was pointing ahead, but slightly to their left.  “There.”

            Sam led the way down the indicated hall, a small flashlight in his hand so he could see the map and compass.  For a place of eternal flames, there were a lot of shadows and darkness around, which was helpful since occasionally he had to signal his brother to duck behind a crevice or to take cover to avoid being detected by demons and creatures of darkness.  The demons they passed were either in bodies or vaguely human forms of billowing black smoke, as if the strange gravity of Hell kept them from flying like clouds.

            “Shouldn’t there be... more?” asked Dean after only two demons and one hound had passed them.

            “Maybe we’re in the wrong zip code,” Sam replied as he pulled out the map and checked it again.  “They could all be wreaking havoc on earth.”

            “Maybe we’ve wiped out that many of the sons of bitches,” Dean said with a touch of prideful glee in his voice.

            Sam stopped.  The path curved to the left, but on their right, there was a huge gap in the wall.  They inched forward and looked out.  It took a moment for them to comprehend the vast gulf they were seeing.  It stretched for miles and plunged down beyond the sight of their eyes.  The cries and howls of tortured souls echoed up unceasingly from its black maw. 

            “Maybe not,” said Sam.

            “Think what we’re looking for is down there?”

            “You trust the express route?”

            Dean shook his head no.

            Sam looked at the compass.  Its red end pointed at the hole.  “Then we’ll have to keep looking for another way down.”

            They stepped back from the edge and resumed their walk.  After forty paces, Sam found a set of narrow stairs and led the way down.  The passage was so cramped they had to duck to avoid hitting their heads; causing both to grumble under their breaths as they went down one flight of stairs then another and another.  Sam reached a landing with a square doorframe that wasn’t as misshapen or foreboding as the previous ones they had passed.  Cries of torture and pleas for mercy drifted from it and he waivered a moment wondering whether they should help or not.  He checked the map and compass and neither pointed to it.  Trying to ignore his instinct to help, Sam turned away… and froze up.  Less than a yard from him was a daeva.

            With his holy glasses Sam could make out its form.  The creature was shaped like a human but smoke and black bugs were spilling off it as if it was perpetually melting.  Black claws glistened from the ends of scaly, bony hands – its only notable feature aside from the numerous teeth that gnashed together within a featureless head.

            The daeva lunged first, knocking Sam through the doorway behind him.  Sam felt his flashlight, the map and the compass go flying out of his hands as he struggled to keep the creature’s claws and teeth from tearing him apart.  He needed to grab Ruby’s knife but to let go of the daeva for even a second would be fatal.  Its putrid breath filled his nostrils as it leaned forward, trying to bite his face off.

            Suddenly the daeva stopped.  Its body arched forward as its head snapped with a blood curdling scream.  Flies, beetles, and other bugs made of smoke poured out onto Sam from a fresh, gaping wound that extended from its back through to its chest.

            Dean withdrew the First Blade from the creature and pushed it off his brother.  “That felt good,” he said with a creepy expression.

            “Now’s not the time,” Sam said as he furiously swatted the bugs off him.  He got to his feet and while it looked like all the insects had fallen or evaporated from him, Sam wasn’t sure his skin wouldn’t have that creeping sensation for the rest of his life.  “Where’s the map?”

            “Not the issue,” said Dean.

            Sam turned around to see where his brother was looking.  The daeva had knocked them through the doorway into a circular room.  The walls of the room were lined with jail cell after jail cell, each one a hand’s width apart from the next, all around the entire room.  Above the first row of cells was another ring of cells, then another and another, up to six total levels before ending at the ceiling.  Each cell was so small that its captive was forced to stand.  The ancient stone bars themselves were close enough that only those with the thinnest arms could even reach out past their wrists.  In the middle of the room was a large square table made of wood, with something writhing on it that they couldn’t quite see.  Beside it was a smaller table with numerous torture instruments of every era and make.  A tall, thin demon that looked like a man, and every bit the part of a classic mad scientist with his glasses and lab coat, stood beside it in a bloody apron and gloves.  Closer to the door they had just come through were two other demons with bodies of smoke, advancing on the Winchesters.

            “Come on, plenty more where that came from,” Dean said, brandishing the First Blade with glee.

            Sam faced the demon on their left, raising his fist in a brawling stance.  The large demonic guard charged and Sam stepped back, placing his hand on Ruby’s dagger.  He withdrew it at the last moment, driving its point into the bottom of the demon’s skull before it realized what had happened.  The demon’s body burned away, the consuming embers flowing out from the fatal wound Sam delivered.

            Looking over his shoulder, he saw Dean slicing the other demon apart a piece at a time, even as it tried to get away from him.  Sam was about to shout a warning but it was too late.  He watched helplessly as a small, shiny projectile flew through the air, heading straight for Dean’s head.  Luckily Dean raised his arm for another blow, causing the doctor’s scalpel to hit it instead, but not hard enough to pierce the leather jacket he always wore.  Sam dropped his duffel bag, pulled out his shotgun and fired on the doctor with a round of rocksalt, knocking the demon back.

            “Dean, finish it!” Sam shouted as he jumped over a waist high divider.

            Dean, sighing loud enough for Sam to still hear it over the ruckus, thrust the First Blade into the center of the fleeing guard’s mass.

            Meanwhile the doctor was trying to get to his feet but Sam’s long legs crossed the distance too quickly, and he slammed Ruby’s knife into its back.

            “Wonder why the guards didn’t get their own meatsuits?” Dean said as he sheathed his weapon.

            “Doesn’t matter,” Sam said, waiting for the lights of the dying demon to leave the doctor’s eyes.  “We don’t have time to answer every question today.”

            “Not even for an old friend?”

            Both Winchesters looked around, scanning the room for the source of the voice.  The first thing they saw was a waist high divider that turned out to be storage for many larger torture devices that wouldn’t fit on the smaller table.  Three such storage cabinets were spread equidistant around the room, dividing the torturing center from the cages in the walls.  The occupants of said cages had withdrawn from the doors and fallen silent, fearful of the invading brothers.  Finally they looked at the table in the center of the room and saw someone they hadn’t seen for many years.

            Sam couldn’t tell if his brother’s face was an expression of pity or smug delight at the person strapped to the table.  Dean’s tone of voice also seemed to reflect a mix of emotions as he said, “Hello, Bela.”

            “Hi, darling.  Doesn’t the nerd look just suit you.”  The thief was laying there naked, gaping wounds in her side and legs with a strange hybrid of smoke and blood pouring out of them.

            “Can’t say the demon look has done you any favors,” said Dean.

            “Being tortured for centuries will do that to a person.”

            Sam walked over and undid one of the straps on her ankle.

            “What are you doing?” asked his brother.

            “Dude, we can’t leave her here.”

            “Sure we can!”

            “Come now, honey,” said Bela.  “Do what you want with me before letting me go if you want.  We never did get that angry sex.”

            “Shut up,” said Dean.  “Sam, she’s practically one of them.”

            “But not yet.  What if someone had freed you while you were in here?”

            His brother wasn’t happy, but knew Sam was right, so they soon had Bela out of the restraints and on her feet.

            The Winchesters then went back to where they had fallen during the fight with the daeva and guards.  Sam put his gun back in his pack and re-shouldered his bag while Dean pulled his mini flashlight out of his jacket pocket. 

            “What are the two of you doing?” asked Bela as they searched the crevices of the room.

            “Not your concern,” said Dean.  “And put some clothes on.”

            With the light’s help, he and Sam located the flashlight, map, and compass Sam had lost.  Gathered up, they turned to see Bela standing there in a sleek black evening gown.

            “Sorry,” she said.  “Here the clothes are what we think of and for some reason I can’t help but think of this certain party...”

            “Lovely.  Now do your own thing.  We’re busy,” Dean snapped as Sam reoriented themselves to the map and led the way out of the room and back down the stairs.

            “What a fascinating map and compass,” Bela said, following them.  “Wherever did you get it?”

then2

“Here you go, Moose,” said the sharply dressed man handing a folded piece of paper to Sam.  “And this,” he said, holding up an envelope, “will be properly filed in case anyone ever needs to try again.”

            “What the hell, Crowley?  This is blank.” said Sam.

            “Of course it’s blank.  Hell is not some simple, Euclidean place that obeys the laws of physics,” said Crowley.  “It is infinite.  Ever changing.  Obeying the laws of ‘metaphysics.’”

            “Long way to go to make a joke,” Dean said, glaring at the former king.

            “It’s not a joke.  You can’t make a simple map.  When the winds of Hell blow on that paper, the map will be visible and it will change as Hell does.  Make sure you leave it folded unless you need more.  Then unfold just what you need.  Oh.”  Crowley reached into the pocket of his fancy coat and brought out a small rectangle about the size of his palm.  “You’ll also need this.”

            Dean took the object.  In a circle on the rectangle, a thick needle with one end painted red slowly spun around without end.  “A boy scout compass?”

            “Enchanted.  The red end points towards the cage.  The white will point the way out.”

            “You sure you’re going to be alright?” asked Sam.

            Crowley shrugged.  “The Bunker will still be here if you two make it back.”

            “Mr. Crowley?”

            The three of them turned to face a young woman in glasses and business clothes.

            “What is it, kid?”

            “Charlie says that Dorothy isn’t getting in less danger the longer she has to wait.”

            “Finishing up, I’ll be there in a moment.”  Once she left, Crowley turned to the brothers and said, “Well, duty calls.  These new Men of Letters aren’t teaching themselves after all.”

            “Seems you caused a lot of trouble last time you were in a clerical position,” said Dean.

            “True, but it’s what I’m good at.”  Crowley stopped a moment and let the words sink in, like he did every time Dean reminded him.  “A lot of years, a lot of wrongs to right.  I only hope the time I’ve been given as a man – thanks to you, Sam – is enough to do so.  Good luck, boys.”

            They watched him walk away in the white suit he now always wore.

            “You sure we should have finished curing him?” asked Dean.

            “Like you said, we lost sight of the family business.  First step of saving people, is to make them people.”

            “Doesn’t mean he won’t betray us all.”

            “That’s why we told Krissy and her friends to act as Men of Letters recruits.  They’ll keep an eye on him.  We have to start letting go of the future, Dean.”

            “Yeah you’re right.  That Aiden always struck me as a bookworm anyway.”

            “Speaking of, you going to say anything to Charlie?” asked Sam.

            Dean shook his head.  “She’s got her own worries in Oz.  We can tell her all about it when we get back.”

            “And if we don’t get back?” asked Sam.

            “Then Crowley can tell her.”




now2
“I really think you boys should be going the other way.”

            “Nobody’s asking you to come, Bela,” Dean said, his voice dripping with annoyance.

            “And leave you two—” 

            They paused their conversation to hide in a dark room as some demons approached.  The three stood motionless, holding their breath to avoid detection by the denizens.  The wait caused their attention to waiver and they each slowly became aware that they seemed to be moving against their will.  The ground, dark and shadowed, was shifting.  Bela, the first to be aware of it, climbed the tallest thing she could find, and hopped on Sam’s back.  Both Winchesters shut their eyes and tried not to think about the sensations they felt of something crawling over their feet.

            Finally the demons passed.  The three waited a few more seconds to be sure they were clear then Dean darted out of the room, slapping his legs and stomping his feet to clear them of any crawling things.  Sam shuffled out almost as quickly, slowed only by the thief on his back.

            “Really, Bela?” he asked, pushing her off and checking that his own feet were clear.

            “Those Hell… nasties consume souls and demons,” said Bela.  “You’re both lucky they have no taste for actual flesh.  I did what I had to do to survive.  It’s what I’ve always done.  It’s… what I’m best at.  Anyways, both of you blokes are going to need some competence on your side down here.”

            “Last time we saw you, you sold us out,” said Sam.

            “Well a few years of torture changes a person.  Maybe it taught me that one should ask for help when they need it.”

            “You don’t even know what we’re doing,” said Dean.

            “No, but it’s clearly something to spite the ones running this joint and that’s something I can support.”

            “Where in the hell is...” Sam muttered to himself in frustration.  He unfolded the map two more times.

            “Sammy, what are you doing?”

            “I know we keep going down, but I swear it feels like we’re going in circles.”

            “Of course you are,” said Bela.  “That’s all Hell is.  One.  Big.  Circle.  It’s an ingenious design that keeps anyone from escaping.”

            “But we need to get to somewhere,” Dean said with a growl of frustration.  “How can we do that going nowhere?”

            “Weren’t you both here before?”

            “We try not to think about it,” said Sam.

            “Didn’t do a lot of moving,” said Dean.

            “Everything has its place.  You want to go somewhere, you need to belong there.”

            The brothers mulled over her words.

            Sam spoke first saying, “So if we need to ‘belong’ somewhere, we need to simulate the conditions that will… draw out or ‘bait’ the target.”

            Dean nodded in understanding.  “That one we can reach easy when… Sam, how long?”

            Sam pulled out the pocket watch.  “One hour from now on the surface.  Where we are now, this level of Hell, it takes ten seconds for one second to pass on the watch.  I’d say that gives us ten hours from our relative perspective.”

            “That gives us time to handle the other two first and save that guy for last,” said Dean.

            “That means we need to get sick or starve before then,” said Sam.

            “Which will take longer than ten hours,” noted Dean.

            “I’m surprised we haven’t run into Famine already.  Not like there’s a lot of food in Hell except… what… we… brought,” Sam said, trailing off as his mind worked.  He then yanked his duffel bag open and began rummaging in it.

            “What are you doing?”

            “We need to dump our food.”

            “This is going to suck,” Dean muttered as he began scavenging through his own bag for every last morsel of food and water.

            Digging through their bags, both pulled out the beef jerky, MREs, water and a few other supplies they had brought along.  Sam gathered it all up and tossed the lot into the writhing room.

            “Have you boys gone completely mad?”

            “A few times,” said Sam.

            “Now…” said Dean, “which way?”

            Sam looked at the map again.  Maybe he was going mad with wishful thinking, but he swore there was a path on the map that wasn’t there before.  Pulling out the compass, he led the way there.  The path was little more than a walkway between two sheer walls so narrow the brothers had to turn sideways to follow it.  It opened up again at a Y intersection.  Sam veered to the right and they once again found themselves in another of the twisting, changing halls of Hell.  As they walked, the old stone halls seemed to melt and give way to a section with large stone columns that held up a ceiling so high it couldn’t be seen.  From there the landscape twisted and mutated into an underground tunnel that was so cramped the boys had to duck to make it through.  Dean had taken the lead through this tunnel, so he was the first to be confronted by the large hell-hound guarding the path.  He reveled in the chance to make short work of it, though he took a bite to his leg in the process.  The tunnel melted away to a place where the floor was level but the walls skewed at odd angles.  The boys had to shut their eyes to avoid vertigo, leaving it to Bela to lead them through.  When they opened their eyes again, they found themselves in a wide, circular area.  The ceiling looked like it was slowly bleeding; the falling blood drops forming grotesque, red stalactites hovering over their heads like teeth poised to bite.  Under the red ceiling, rotting plants surrounded them.  Stalks of barley and corn were interspersed here and there throughout a field of decaying fruit trees, their ruined produce dragging down their branches.  As they walked, they occasionally spotted the bones of an animal, usually cattle, lying on the parched ground.

            “Oh no,” muttered Bela.

            “You know where we are?” asked Dean. 

            “Maybe.  I think I do.”

            Dean stared at her.  “Well?”

            “Dean look!” Sam said, holding up the map so his brother could see.  They were standing in a large circle with only a dead end, but there was a smaller circle drawn inside, close to the far edge.

            “The… ‘Hunger Pit’,” Dean read off the map.  “Sounds like a place to find Famine.”

            “Where are we now?” asked Bela.

            Unable to read the label, Sam had to unfold the map a bit.  “This is... ‘Hell-Hound Den.’”

            All three looked around as several growls echoed about them.

            “Oh hell,” all three said simultaneously.

            “These sons of bitches must be kept ever hungry,” Dean realized as he readied the First Blade.

            “That keeps them motivated to find those who made a deal,” Bela said with a touch of fear.

            “Oh I’m going to enjoy this payback you bitches.”

            “Get down!” shouted Sam.

            Dean didn’t respond.  Sam grabbed his brother’s shoulder and pulled him back with one hand as he tossed a demon bomb with the other.  The bomb landed in the middle of the dozen hounds that were closing in on them and detonated, vaporizing them instantly.  The edge of the blast touched Bela’s skin.  She recoiled with a shriek.

            “What the hell!” shouted Dean, swinging wildly.

            “We don’t have all day for you to fight ever hound in here ‘Mr. Liam Neeson’,” Sam said, barely avoiding Dean’s clumsy attack.

            “Right.  Sorry.”  Dean looked sheepish as he flipped the Blade into a reverse grip.  “Which way?”

            Sam pointed and his brother led the way.

            “You’re almost full demon, aren’t you?” Sam asked Bela quietly as they fell in behind the elder Winchester.

            “Despite my best efforts.”

            “So you’re following us...”

            “Hoping you’ll do me a favor at the end,” said Bela.

            They stopped talking as they reached a wide depression in the ground.  Around the edge of it, brush and bramble grew so thick they couldn’t see what awaited them within.  However there was a single path cleared through the brush.  An arbor of dead plants stretched over the path, forming an archway taller than the brush and brambles, making an entryway into the pit.  Dean led them down.  At the bottom, in the center of the pit, they found a large throne.  It was constructed of farming tools of every age from the first spade chiseled from rock to engine parts of the modern tractor – but all of them were rusting and rotten.  On the throne a thin old man sat majestically.  He was dressed in a simple black and white suit.  Thin grey hair covered the back of his head and as he breathed, his entire body rattled with the effort.

            “Has it been so long?” wheezed the old man.

            “Hello, Famine,” Dean said, raising the First Blade.

            A laugh rattled the Horseman’s body.  “This is the first time I’ve ever met someone twice.  Have you both grown so tired of living you seek me in my own home?”

            Dean assessed the surroundings as he said, “We came for your ring.  You can hand it over, or we can do this the fun way.  I got to admit, I’m kind of hoping you choose the fun way.”

            “Yes I suppose you do... what with the Mark of Cain and all... You hunger for violence, don’t you?”

            Dean smiled and took a step forward.  “Yeah.  So try super charging my bloodlust.  Go on.  I dare you.”

            The old man sneered, as he said, “Oh I shall.”  Famine raised his arm.  A loud growl from behind them caused them all to jump.  Turning around, Sam and Dean saw the shape of a monstrous hell-hound waiting on the other side of the arbor, its shoulder almost as tall as them.

            “Dean...”

            But it was too late.  His brother couldn’t resist the call for revenge and slaughter.  Raising the First Blade, Dean let out a cry and ran towards the hound, leaving Sam and Bela alone to deal with the horseman.

            “Dear Sam.  Thirst no more?”

            Sam swallowed as he remembered those dark days.  “I’ve been purified and found peace.  You have no power over me.”

            “Nor you over I,” said the horseman.  “So we wait here until judgment day 2?”

            Sam looked back, acting concerned for Dean’s welfare as he slid Ruby’s knife from its sheath.  Moving fast, he raised the knife and charged the throne, but the old man was quicker than he expected and caught him by the throat.

            “I only appear weak in my own domain,” Famine laughed.  With his other hand he reached towards Bela, and she was paralyzed where she stood.  “Though I am hungry...”

            “Sam!  Help me!” cried Bela as she was dragged forward despite her struggles.

            Desperate, Sam plunged Ruby’s dagger into Famine’s shoulder.

            The horseman laughed harder as the knife stuck and Sam was unable to pull it free.

            “I’m so sorry about your shoulder!  Please!” Bela said, begging as she fought the horseman’s pull.

            Sam decided to try something else and pulled out his Taurus PT-92.  He fired into Famine’s chest but it seemed to have no effect.  Taking aim, he shot the horseman’s eye.  Famine barely flinched and his grip on Sam’s throat didn’t waiver.

            As he fired the gun with his right hand, Sam used his left to grab at the vice slowly chocking off his air.  He blindly felt along the fingers, seeking any weakness that could save him.  Suddenly Sam realized that all he was feeling was dry skin pulled taut over brittle bone.  The fingers were bare – there was no ring!  He glanced at the hand Famine held out for Bela.  Its fingers were also bare.  Sam, vision growing blurry, tried to figure out where the ring could be.  He looked again at Famine’s throne.  It was an amalgam of farming tools, rusted and broken, but at the top of it, the pinnacle of the chair’s back, were brown, dead leaves and stalks of corn twisted together.  At first glance, Sam had thought they were nothing more than decoration for the throne.  Now he realized it looked very much like a crown – a crown with a black jewel resting in the middle of it.  A black jewel he had seen once before many years ago.  Raising his pistol, Sam fired.

            Famine’s grip on Sam and Bela waivered as he spun around.  The bullet hit the crown, sending it flying from the throne.  Coughing and gasping for air, Sam kept his eyes on the crown.  Its construction looked flimsy, yet it had remained intact despite the impact.  Realizing that conventional weapons might not harm it, Sam grabbed a mattock attached to the throne.  He managed to wrench the tool free, though the handle shattered in half.  Holding onto the remains of the wooden handle, Sam ran after the crown.

            Sam ran as fast as he could, but Famine materialized beside the crown right before Sam could reach it.  The horseman bent down to pick up his treasure, but Bela slammed into him, her half smoke form trailing behind.

            “Hungry!” Famine shouted, his mouth opening wide to eat Bela whole.

            Sam raised the mattock, and brought it down on one side of the black jewel.

            Famine froze as part of the crown broke.

            Sam raised the mattock again, and chopped the other side, severing the jewel from the crown.

            Famine screamed an earth-shaking, wretched cry that sounded like all the cries of every child that ever had to go to sleep starving, as Sam picked up the jewel.  Freed from its bindings, the tattered remains of the crown stuck to the jewel twisted and joined to form the shape of a ring.  Famine shoved Bela away.  Sam opened his hand, revealing a second ring already in his possession – this one made of pale white bone.  Famine’s ring joined the ring of Death, magnetically drawn to its side.  The horseman took a step forward in an attempt to retrieve the source of his power.  Sam raised his pistol and fired.

            Without his ring, the bullet shattered Famine who disintegrated into the dust of long dead fields.  Ruby’s knife clattered onto the floor.

            “Thanks for the help,” Sam said as he retrieved the knife.

            “Figured I owed you,” said Bela.

            “Let’s go see if my brother’s still alive.”

            Walking out of the pit and through the decaying arbor, they found Dean splattered with splotches of black and red blood.

            “Dude, how much of that is yours?” asked Sam, racing over to see if Dean was injured.

            Dean, wearing a satisfied grin, looked down and noticed how he looked.  “Oh yeah.  Most of this is his.”  He pointed behind him at the remains of a hound larger than he was, even when it was dead and laying on its side.  “A few tried to help, but once the big alpha went down, they scattered.”  Now they could see the bodies of over half a dozen other hell-hounds littering the ground.

            Sam looked at Dean’s smoking double-barreled shotgun, the missing shells on his ammo belts, and the blood pouring off the First Blade.  Dean’s left pants’ leg had been torn and it looked like there was a gash around the shin.  Sam did his best to bandage it as he asked, “You killed the alpha hell-hound?”

            “What?”  Dean glanced at the remains.  “I don’t know.  I meant alpha as in, ‘pack-leader’.  Might explain why he’s so big, though.  You two get Famine?”

            Sam finished the first aid then held up the joined rings.

            “Nice.”

            “What’s that other one?” asked Bela.

            Sam stuffed the rings into his pocket as he stammered for an explanation.

            “It’s Death’s ring,” Dean answered.

            “How in the world did you two get it?”

then3

“You have got to be joking,” said the entity known only as Death.

            Dean held up his hands.  “No tricks.  No binding spells.  Not even bribery.”

            “Though we did bring a pizza if you want it,” said Sam.

            “I don’t.  What do you want?”

            “To borrow your ring,” said Dean.

            “You miss being me, Dean?”

            “It’s for both of us,” said Sam.

            Death turned his ancient eyes to the younger Winchester.

            For the first time in many years, Sam felt very small.  “We... just need it... for a day,”

            “To rid yourselves of one of your many enemies?”

            “No,” said Dean.  “We swear, we won’t use it to do your job or anything.”

            “Then why do you need it?”

            They told him.

            Death stared at them, but neither brother flinched.  He couldn’t help it as pearls of laughter started spilling out of him, the ancient entity thankful he had brought his cane along this time to keep standing as the laughter nearly doubled him over.  “For giving me a laugh I haven’t had in centuries – and because I’ve got to see this – it’s yours.”  Death held up his right hand so they could see the ring wrapped around his middle finger.  It had returned to its pure form, a simple, perfectly circular band of bright white bone. 

            Removing it, Death tossed it to Dean.

            “In twenty-six hours I will have it back,” said Death.  “Whether you are done or not.”




now3
They resumed their trek ever downward, keeping an eye on the rooms they passed.  Eventually they found one that was empty – of everything.  It had no furniture and the floor was cold hard stone.  They could see only one way in and out.  The trio slipped in and sat down, appreciating a moment to rest though Dean wouldn’t stop fidgeting.

            “How long?” he asked.

            Sam checked the pocket watch.  “Quarter of an hour topside.  Down here we’re now at twenty seconds to every one.”

            “That would place us near the neighborhood I spent time in.”

            Sam nodded.  “Man, wish we hadn’t thrown away our food.”

            “Wouldn’t have found Famine if we hadn’t.”

            “So how do we get to Pestilence?  Wait for one of us to get sick?”

            Bela coughed nervously.  “I... might be able to help.”

            Both of them looked at her.

            “Given what my... ‘day job’ was in life, they seem to be giving me the ability to ‘steal’ health from the living,” she explained.

            “So you’re a disease demon,” said Sam.

            “About to be.  ‘til you two helped out.”

            “So you make one of us sick, and we’ll find Pestilence?” asked Dean.

            Bela nodded, disrupting the smoke that now made up her hair.

            Dean looked at Sam.  “Paper-rock-scissors?”

            “You, Dean,” said Bela.

            They both looked at her in bewilderment.

            “I can sense that you’re already partially injured.  Besides I shot Sam once.  I would rather not injure him again – especially after he saved me.”

            “Can you undo whatever you infect me with?” Dean asked as he started undoing the bandage around his left leg.

            “I... think I can,” Bela said as she leaned over the wound.  Focusing on a gash along his shin, Bela’s eyes turned solid green before she vomited a yellow pus over the wound.  Dean and Sam both had to look away as she worked.

            Dean started to talk but was reduced to a coughing fit.  “What did you give me?” he finally asked.

            “Um... I don’t have that much control...” said Bela.

            “What did you give him?” demanded Sam.

            “I didn’t give him Ebola,” she said.

            Dean looked at the whitening leprosy spot on his left hand.  “Just everything else?”

            “Maybe not HIV.”

            Sam helped his brother to his feet.  “Come on, Dean, let’s parade you around and see if he takes the bait.”

            Supporting Dean and his gear, Sam led the way out of the room.  He checked the map but found no hints as to where to go, so they picked a direction and started walking.

            “Bro, you need to lose some weight,” said Sam.

            Dean chuckled.

            “What?”

            “Go on.  Call me Mr. Frodo.  Just once.”

            “Not now, Dean,” Sam said, though it was already too late, he couldn’t stop himself from a little guffaw.

            “Come on... I’ve got the ‘One Blade’, you’re named Sam... do it.”

            He punched his older brother’s side and waited for the retaliatory noogie.  Instead Dean started coughing up flecks of blood.

            Concerned, Sam checked the latest rendering on the map.  Behind them and to the right was a large room labeled ‘the Incubator.’  The room between them and it was labeled ‘the Children’s Ward.’

            They turned around and backtracked through a tall, narrow hall lined with shards of mirrors and a spongy, red, circular hall that pulsated like the throat of a great beast.  Past it they entered a bright, white room with a high ceiling.  Bunk-beds, four high, lined the walls to their left and right.  Little girl after little girl dropped from the beds, staring at the Winchesters with sullen, angry eyes.

            “Acheri demons,” noted Sam.  “Hadn’t seen them since Ava was wasted.”

            On the far side of the room, a bald, sickly-looking man they both recognized walked through the doorway.  “I thought I smelled mortals coming,” said Pestilence.  “Dean.  Sam.  We got to spend so little time together before.”

            “Oh we’re all about quality time,” Dean said as he and his brother adjusted their duffel bags and unzipped them.

            “He’s right.  I was stuck down here for years and never did get to know you,” Sam said as they inched forward.  “What’s your favorite movie?”

            “I know that,” said Dean, “it’s Outbreak.  I’m curious about his favorite book.”

            “I bet it’s the Andromeda Strain.”

            Pestilence laughed.  By now the little girls in the room had either surrounded the brothers, or gathered about the horseman.  He smiled as he patted one’s head like a father would to his daughter.  “The DSM, actually.  I find it so funny the diseases you humans will inflict upon yourselves without any help from me… though demons can be helpful in breaking a mind,” he said, looking straight at Bela.

            “Hey!  Over here, Sneezy,” Dean said before he started coughing violently.

            Sam, doing his best to hide concern for his brother and failing, tried to take over the taunting.  “You should worry about us, not some two-bit demon.”

            “Oh no, she was to be one of my nurses,” said Pestilence.  They looked through the door behind him and noticed there seemed to be several women clad in scanty nurse outfits milling around a throne built of medical equipment.

            “You see it?” Sam half whispered.

            “Yeah,” Dean said hoarsely.

            “A lot of them between us and it.”

            “I’ll clear, you run,” said Dean before he lunged forward and stabbed the closest acheri demon.  The little girl disintegrated in a cloud of burning coals.

            “Really?” laughed the horseman.  “You want a round two without your little angel helping you?”

            Another demon got too close and Dean sliced her in half with the First Blade.  “Huh, I feel better,” he commented, straightening up a bit.  “Give us your best shot you overgrown bug farm.”

            “Fine,” said Pestilence.  “No long, drawn-out suffering this time.  You will die – now.”  Flies and mosquitoes, surrounded by a noxious green and yellow cloud, spewed from Pestilence’s body.  The brothers dropped their bags to the ground and ducked right before the clouds of bugs and diseases covered them.

            “Bring the recruit here.  Painfully,” Pestilence said with a dismissive wave of his hand as he turned back to the throne room.

            The little girls advanced towards Bela.

            Sam and Dean burst from the cloud of disease and insects still swarming about.  Both of them were wearing gas masks they had purchased from a military surplus store.  In their hands they held the gas cans of holy water.  They took the offensive, charging at Pestilence and driving back the archeri demons that got in their way.  The girls shrank back, crying in pain, and leaving a clear path to the horseman.

            Dean was through the doorway and into the Incubator first, swinging the can at the demon servants that closed in on them.  Behind him, Sam knelt down and pulled out a canister of salt, spreading it across the door’s threshold before any of the acheri could follow.

            “Done!” he shouted.

            Dean tossed the holy water over his shoulder to his brother.  Sam caught the can as Dean stabbed a demon that got too close.

            “Ladies, there’s two ways this can go down,” Dean said, his voice echoing a bit from the confines of the mask.  “I’d enjoy either, but you’ll only enjoy one of them.”  Another demon charged and he decapitated her.  “Poor choice.”

            Sam followed his brother’s steady advance towards the throne using the holy water and Ruby’s knife to keep their back cleared.

            “Aren’t you clever,” Pestilence said, suddenly appearing before Dean.  He ripped the gas mask off with one motion and breathed into Dean’s face.

            Momentarily stunned, the elder Winchester stood there a moment, trying to regain his wits. Then he flipped the First Blade over and stabbed another demon.  His arm glowed as the demon disintegrated.  “All better,” Dean said with a smart-ass expression.

            Pestilence swung a wide punch.  Dean blocked it with his left arm and buried the Blade into the horseman’s gut. 

            “Stop toying with him and get this done,” Sam said with his customary annoyance towards his brother’s showy ways.

            “I agree,” said Pestilence.  He grabbed the shoulder of Dean’s jacket, picked the human up and slammed him onto his back.       “Looks like I’ll have to use the traditional method.”  The horseman straddled Dean and began pummeling his face.

            Dean yanked the First Blade out of the horseman’s stomach and stabbed him again in the side of the neck.

            “Try again,” Pestilence said, raising his fist.

            “Like this?” asked Sam.  While Dean had been distracting the horseman, Sam had made his way to the horseman’s throne.  It was built of numerous medical instruments from both ancient and modern times, all as rusted and useless as the components of Famine’s chair.  Pestilence’s crown looked like one of those head-mirrors used for years by doctors, except it had a pale green jewel in the middle of the mirror.

            In fighting to this position, Sam had passed several tools laid out on a table, and picked up an old, blood covered bone saw.  It had obviously been used by Pestilence and his helpers for purposes Sam tried not to think about.  Once he’d gotten his hands on the crown, Sam cut one side of the strap holding the mirror, when Dean stabbed Pestilence’s neck.  Unsure if his brother could survive much more punishment, Sam taunted the horseman again.

            As soon as Pestilence’s eyes were on him, Sam used the old saw to cut the mirror free from the crown on the other side.  Immediately the mirror surrounding the green gem began to melt and warp into the shape of a ring.

            “Kill him!” shouted Pestilence.  One of his demonic nurses raced towards Sam.  With his hands fun, Sam threw the old bone saw but it glanced off her with no effect.

            Dean twisted Pestilence off him, yanking the First Blade free.  “Get down, Sammy!”  Sam ducked just as Dean threw the Blade.  It hit the demon full on the chest just as her claws got close enough to scratch Sam’s face.  Ignoring the burning sensation of the cuts, Sam pulled the other two rings from his pocket and joined Pestilence’s to them.

            Dean stood over the prone, weakening horseman.  The demon nurses were shrinking back from the brothers or standing at the door, begging to leave but stymied by the salt line.  Dean knelt beside him and said, “Looks like I’ll have to use the traditional method.”  Pulling his fist back, Dean slugged Pestilence as hard as he could, causing the horseman to shatter into a million dead flies on impact.

            “Makes us two for two,” said Dean, a bit smug.

            “I did most of the work,” Sam countered.  He then handed back the First Blade saying, “You dropped this.”

            “Thanks.”

            They looked around the room at the nurses cowering from them or trying futilely to escape over the line of salt.

            “What should we do with them?” asked Sam.

            “Oh you know my vote,” Dean said with glee as he raised his knife.

            While screams echoed around him, Sam returned the masks to their duffel bags and checked the other supplies, tossing out empty cans of salt and holy water as he found them.  When the room fell quiet, Sam stood up and held out Dean’s duffel for him.

            “That’s the second most fun I’ve ever had with nurses,” said Dean.

            “Dude, we’re in Hell, not porn,” Sam scolded.

            “That reminds me – Bela!”

            They ran out of the room, only to find her standing in the middle of the empty ward, glaring at them.

            “What happened to the kids?” Dean asked, looking around.

            Bela lifted her metaphorical shirt enough to show the gash in her side where black smoke poured out instead of blood.  “The ‘occupants’ of the children’s ward were torturing me while you two had your fun, but then they just... stopped… and ran.”

            “Guess they didn’t want to tussle with the guys who kicked their boss’s ass,” said Dean with a smile.

            “Here let me heal you,” Bela offered.  She placed her hands beside Dean’s head and closed her eyes.  After a few seconds, her brow knotted in frustration.

            “What?”

            “You seem... practically well.  There’s almost nothing to take back.”

            “Yeah apparently the First Blade... keeps him alive or something,” said Sam.

            “That’s not... disturbing,” said Bela.  “Well if I’m following your mad plan, there’s one more bloke you want to visit.”

            Sam pulled out the pocket watch.  “We’ll see him in about... two minutes.”

            “What happens in two minutes?”

            Dean put away the First Blade and took his shotgun out of his bag.  “We show these sons of bitches why you don’t fuck with Winchesters.”

then4

Castiel took a deep breath and knocked on the door.  It still took all of his self-control to practice patience.  None of them were as fast as they once were since they had to do everything at the speed of any other mortal.  Still, after so many centuries of being able to move at the speed of thought it was agonizing having to waste seconds waiting for someone to come to the front door.

            The door opened a crack and a petite young Jewish girl looked out.  “Hello?”

            Castiel took a moment to look past the body before him and see if it was a normal human or the vessel he was seeking.  “Hello, Nuriel,” he said once he recognized her.

            “Castiel, have you come to kill me?” she asked, her voice trembling.

            Cas sighed.  He knew why so many feared his presence – it was for much of the same reason why those who knew them feared seeing the Winchesters at their doorstep.  Still the guilt and pain of their fear weighed heavier upon him than gravity upon his wingless form.  “Far from.  I come offering hope.”

            “No one believes in any hope you offer,” she replied.

            “It is the hope of purpose.”

            “So now you lead us?”

            Castiel sighed and nodded before explaining that two crazy, stupid humans he knew were going to try something crazy and stupid.  Though she doubted him, he held up an old revolver once made by Samuel Colt himself.

            “So you could do it,” said Nuriel.  “Still doesn’t answer why.”

            Before Cas could speak, someone to his right said, “Because it’s what we should do.”  The dark-skinned man stepped into Nuriel’s view and challenged her with his glare.

            “J-J-Joshua,” she said.  She struggled to find something to say before finally blurting out, “Is this what Daddy wants?”

            “Maybe, maybe not.  But it’s what’s right.”

            Nuriel looked at Joshua then at Castiel.  Back and forth several times as if she wasn’t sure they were who they appeared to be.

            Finally she stepped out of the house, shutting the front door behind her.  “Who else is coming?”

now4
Castiel inserted the Colt into the Demon’s gate and took a deep breath.  Something... something was missing.  He padded down his coat but all the items he was supposed to bring were here.  The angel turned around and looked behind him at the mass of his assembled siblings.  Just under ten million of them remained, yet here they all stood, each in a vessel, behind him in Montana.  Something was wrong here.  If Dean or Sam were beside him, they would know what it was.  Everyone was just standing there, looking at him.

            Then he remembered one of those movies they forced him to watch along with them.  “Ah, this is where the epic speech goes,” he said half to himself, as if the brothers were right there.

            The angels closest to him looked confused, except for Joshua who nodded in agreement.

            “Brethren!” Castiel said with his heavenly voice to make sure everyone could hear him.  “I know that many of you are frightened.  Frightened of what lies beyond that door!  Though many of us have fought on that battlefield, never has Heaven been weaker, nor Hell stronger!  We have not our wings!  Our grace is fading!  So why are we here?”

            He let the question linger in the air, and could hear mummers echoing him.

            “Because we have fallen!” he shouted, silencing all.  “Because we lost our way!  We heeded not the words of our Father but grew discontent at the tasks left to us!  No more!  Tonight we reclaim our heritage!”

            Castiel withdrew his angel sword and lifted it into the air.  The blade seemed to glow but he figured that was a trick of the moonlight.  “Tonight we remind Hell and all of creation: we are the warriors of God!  We!  Are!  Angels!”

            One by one the rest of them lifted their own swords in salute, chanting their Enochian war cry that hadn’t been heard in several millennium.

            With their cheers at his back, Castiel turned around, shifting his weapon to his left hand and reaching for the Colt.  “Now we are ready,” he said to himself before turning the Colt.

            The great iron doors flew open, the winds of Hell assaulting them.  Castiel and the throng were driven back a step… then two, but he dug in his heels.

            Smoke whirled up from the pit beyond, seeking freedom, but Castiel reached out and grabbed it in his hand.  The smoke writhed in his grasp but Castiel’s power forced the demon into a semi-coherent form before he drove his blade into the thickest point of the smoke.

            A great cry shook the tombstones as the demon disintegrated in fire.  The first blood was theirs.

            Castiel turned back to face the pit, its fierce wind whipping his long coat about him.  His heavenly eyes could see the ethereal forms of hell-hounds and daevas crawling out of it, hungry for angel flesh.

            With a roar that shook the earth and heavens, Castiel charged forward, with nearly ten million angels on his heels.



* * *


            “What is it?” asked Sam when Bela suddenly glanced up.

            “I don’t know something just... I don’t know.”

            Sam glanced at the watch.

            “He’s always punctual,” Dean said as he hoisted his shotgun and stepped out from the children’s ward into the halls of Hell.

            Sam finished taping Ruby’s knife to the end of his own shotgun like a bayonet then followed after Dean and Bela who were moving through this new hall.

            They reached what looked like a mezzanine or catwalk.  Above them an open sky was filled with swirling reds and oranges.  On their left, the gaping maw waited for them, kept at bay by an ancient stone balustrade that was broken in some places.  To their right and everywhere else they looked, a sheer wall stitched together from human skins of all shades rose up to untold heights.  Ahead and behind were dark doorways that looked like they had been cut out of macabre walls, though the floor was at least still stone.  From the door ahead, another demon found them.  It charged forward but Dean knocked the demon to the left with the handle of his gun then fired.  The salt from the blast sent it tumbling over the balustrade and into the void beyond.

            “Two behind!” Sam said before driving them back with shots of his own.

            “That all you got?” shouted Dean.  “I thought we’d at least see your A-game!”

            Concerned that Dean’s bloodlust was growing out of control, Sam took the lead with Ruby’s knife.  The doorway at the end of the balcony led to a hall constructed entirely of bones – even the floor.  No other demons bothered them as they passed through the hall even though their footsteps echoed.

            Eventually the passage changed as they passed through a doorway into a hall that was richly decorated with plush carpets and ornate furniture along the wall.  The boys started to relax, until they realized that the hall was filled with grotesque art.  Paintings on both sides, and sculptures in between, each devoted to the worst examples of man’s inhumanity to man, covered the walls.  Both Winchesters looked down at the floor and hurried through another doorway.

            This time they emerged on a simple stone bridge surrounded with such blackness that the stone almost seemed to glow.  Halfway across, a daeva waited for them, making Dean thankful he had thought to put the holy glasses back on.  It charged but a blast of salt knocked it off balance and the First Blade into its skull finished it off.  At the end of the stone walkway, several vines hung in the middle of the air.  Walking through them, they discovered the vines were an entryway to a huge forest filled with trees.  Instead of boughs filled with leaves, however, bodies hung from all the branches.

            “We’re close Dean,” Sam said, looking at the map.

            “So are they,” said Bela.

            Ahead of them, scattered throughout the forest, were dozens and dozens of demons.

            Sam and Dean took one look at each other, then ducked behind a tree just before a large rock hit the spot where they had stood, nicking Bela enough to scatter her in a poof of black smoke.

            “Ready for this, Sammy?” Dean shouted over the ruckus of telekinetically tossed debris.  He fumbled about with his bag to retrieve a few items needed to “greet” the oncoming army.

            Sam, a few feet away behind his own tree, shouted his disagreement but his voice was swallowed by the racket.  He resorted to shaking his head.

            “Too bad!”  Dean stepped out and fired into an onrushing black cloud, scattering it, then ducked behind another tree right before a new barrage struck.

            Sam, who had also managed to advance a bit closer, pointed to their right.  “We need to go that way!” he shouted.

            Although he couldn’t hear his brother, Dean gave a thumbs up to signal his understanding as he opened his shotgun.  In the middle of reloading it, a demon reached around from behind the tree and grabbed his arm.  The elder Winchester pulled the demon around to his side and headbutted it, giving him just enough time to snap his gun close and unload a shot of salt into its face.  Free, he lifted the duffel bag to protect his head and ran over to where Sam had been.

            Another pause and they ran again, heading right and forward, at an angle to the collection of demons who were charging straight at them.  The demonic mass turned to surround the Winchesters’ path.  One leapt from behind a tree in front of Sam, and found itself impaled on his makeshift bayonet.  As they ran, a loud groan echoed about them.  Ahead, a large tree toppled to the ground, pushed over by the demons to blockade the brothers, but Sam and Dean, using their hands, vaulted over it easily.

            “Never thought I’d thank Dad for his obstacle courses!” Dean shouted over his shoulder.

            “Water!” Sam shouted back.

            Dean tossed the last can of holy water to his brother.

            Sam grabbed it and shouted, “Ready?”

            With practiced motion, Dean ejected two more spent shells from his shotgun and loaded in one of the regular shells he had bothered to bring and replied, “Loaded!”

            “Fire in the hole!” shouted Sam.  He spun around, threw the can of holy water, and ducked.

            Behind them, several demons were jumping and climbing over the fallen tree.  Dean spun around just as the can was sailing over their heads.  In a split second, he aimed and fired.  The can exploded, drenching a large number of demons in holy water, forcing them to their knees in agony.

            By now more were coming from their left.  Sam fired at two that got close but another wave was descending upon the brothers as they ran out of real estate.  Sam reloaded his Ithaca as he ran.

            “How much further?” asked Dean.  By now he was wielding his Baikal in his left hand and the First Blade in his right.

            “The other side of them,” Sam said, coming to a halt.

            Behind a gathering of demons, Dean could make out two thin, tall trees that each had a branch pointing to the other, forming a crude doorway.

            More demons arrived from their left and behind them until the Winchesters were surrounded.

            With resigned frustration, Sam and Dean threw their shotguns on the dirt.

            “Any last words, Winchesters?” hissed one of them.

            “Just one,” said Dean.

            “Catch!” shouted Sam.

            As one the boys pulled off a sphere hanging from their belts.  Sam threw his towards the tree-framed doorway, as Dean threw his in the opposite direction.  The demons, ignorant of what they were, watched the spheres as they sailed over their heads.  Sam and Dean both pulled out their pistols and fired.

            The demon bombs exploded right over the heads of the demon army.  The brothers grabbed their shotguns and ran as fast they could.  The demons to their left and right were mostly out of the blast zone, but the light of the explosion was so bright they were blinded.

            Sam and Dean sprinted between the pair of petrified trees and found themselves on a stretch of beach surrounded by towering rock cliffs.  Sam dropped his bag, and fished out a can of salt.

            “Hurry up!” shouted Dean, readjusting his weapons.

            Black smoke with the face of a woman streamed through the doorway as Sam started to pour out the white granules that made an impenetrable barrier.  One demon jumped across as Sam finished the line, but Dean greeted it with the First Blade.

            The demons amassed on the other side of the doorway, glaring at them.

            “We could scrape a small opening in the salt line and let you through one at a time,” Dean said, waving the First Blade where they could see it.  “Who wants to be first?”

            The demons looked at each other.  Realizing they couldn’t reach their prey, they all slowly backed away, deciding it was better to admit defeat than die in a hopeless fight.

            “Bela, how are you... oh,” said Sam.

            Their ally was partially standing there, her left arm gone completely and numerous wounds leaking black smoke from her right arm, left stump, and torso.

            “One of your bombs kind of caught me,” she said.

            “Why are you still here?” asked Dean.  “Get out.  Leave this place.”

            “I’ve watched two horsemen beaten in one day,” she laughed.  “You think I’d miss you two trying for a third?”

            Sam checked the map.  “He’s close.”

            “How close?” asked Dean.

            The beach they stood on was rocky.  A few feet away, an ocean of blood lapped at the shore.  Past the waters an orange glow filled the sky as if the sun was setting, but all three of them knew that light was from the fires of Hell.  Across the beach they could make out a door cut into the far rock face like the one they had just barricaded.  Sam pointed at it and said, “Through there is his throne room.”

            “Let’s not keep a horseman waiting,” said Dean

            They crossed the beach, Bela limping behind them.  They passed through the doorway and entered a large, open room.  All around, everywhere they looked, the room was covered with names.  On the walls, the distant ceiling, the numerous columns, and even on the floor, in all kinds of language, were names.  The Winchesters found themselves drawn to examining it, curious if they might see a name they recognized – in a language they recognized.

            “It’s the names of everybody I’ve killed.”

            Sam and Dean turned to face the being that had spoken.  In the middle of the room, sitting atop his throne, was War.  He looked just like the last time they had seen him except this time he was wearing on his brow a circlet of pure gold, with a blood red stone in the middle.  His throne was made of weapons from every era of history.  From swords to primitive spears, from guns to bows, even the remains of missiles and tanks could be seen in his chair, down to a simple rock serving as one of the feet.

            “I must congratulate you two on being so clever.”

            The brothers took a step forward and to the side, slowly moving into flanking positions.

            “I mean, Famine is easy to find, even by yourself.  Pestilence... a bit harder.  The trick is finding him before you die, but me?  How do you get War?  As I’ve felt the two of you incapacitating my brothers, I almost laughed.  You could never reach me.  To start a war with just the two of you would be your demise.  How could you ever get here?”  The horseman paused, examining them.  “Bring all the angels into Hell and pick a few fights yourselves.  I admit, I didn’t see it coming.”

            “Surprised you didn’t invite any friends,” said Dean.

            “I’ve been watching you since you fought Pestilence and his minions,” said War.  “I thought the demon army I nudged in your direction would add you to my wall but if they couldn’t...”

            “You knew we were coming, and you didn’t bother gathering all of Hell to defend yourself?” asked Sam.

            War looked at the weapon in Dean’s hand.  “If you look by the door,” he said, pointing there, “you will see the first name written in this room: Abel.”

            “Cain and Abel… a war?” asked Sam.

            “A single act wiped out a quarter of the world’s entire population,” said the horseman.  “Some might disagree but oh yes, the first brothers were also the First World War.  The weapon used – the first weapon – was my inspiration.  It is my nephew.  I feel the power it takes with each life.  Had I brought any others here it would only serve to make your brother stronger.”

            “So we doing this?” asked Dean.  “You going to try and make me and my brother fight each other or something?”

            “While you’re wearing holy glasses?” asked War.  “Illusion would be wasted.  No I shall remain here.”

            Both Winchesters glanced at each other and reached an agreement that didn’t need to be spoken after years of fighting together.  They advanced.

            Before they could get within an arms’ reach of the horseman though, several weapons on the throne came alive and jutted out.  Sam and Dean were faced with a wall of spears, swords, and pikes all forming a deadly barrier between them and their target.  They both tried to push or climb through, but the weapons moved in unison with them, cutting both.

            They retreated back, and the weapons tucked back into place on the throne.

            “Don’t even try,” said War.  “You humans have invented enough weapons for me to stave off any number or kind of foe.”

            “So... you’re just going to sit there?” asked Dean.

            “Until you leave or die of old age,” answered War.

            “While we’re waiting,” said Sam, “why is your crown gold?  I understood the others but...”

            “My crown is the first and last cause of war: greed.”

            “I know something about that.”

            Bela, who had snuck up behind War, grabbed the crown with her remaining arm and tossed it at Dean.

            “What?” shouted War in shock.

            “Guess an unarmed, one-armed demon is harder for you to notice,” said Sam.

            “Anything to say about this?” asked Dean as he used the First Blade to cut the jewel free from the crown.  Before War could stand, Dean tossed the red jewel to Sam.  As it sailed through the air, the tattered bits of gold attached to it twisted into a ring shape right before Sam caught it.  He added their new prize to the ring configuration; famine, pestilence, and war, all pointing and joined together by death.

            “Now I suppose you’ll break my current form like my brothers,” said the horseman.  “Make me spend a few years reconstituting myself.”

            “I don’t we need to,” Dean said, before turning around and walking away.

            “This isn’t over!” shouted War.

            “It is for today,” said Sam.

            The three of them backtracked in silence, crossing the beach of the blood ocean and back through the now empty and quiet dead-forest.  They crossed the stone bridge that hung in the black void and hurried through the hall of grotesque art.  Once past the hall of bone, and on the mezzanine Dean finally had to ask, “How much further?”

            Sam looked at the map but couldn’t figure out an answer.

             “Where you boys headed now?” asked Bela.

            “To the bottom.  The pit,” said Dean.

            “If we can ever make it there,” Sam said with frustration.

            “Fastest way down… is to jump,” said Bela, pointing at the maw before them.

            Dean and Sam both considered it.

            “Really?” asked Dean.

            Bela nodded.  “Any other way would take... ages.  That way… even that way may take a while if you have no connections—”

            “Trust us, we have connections to the pit,” said Sam.

            They stood in silence.

            “You coming with us?” asked Dean.

            “That... I will pass,” Bela said with a mournful smile.  “So… you boys want to finish me off here?  Save me an eternity of torture?”

            Dean looked at the First Blade in his hand, making Sam a bit nervous.  He placed his hand on his elder brother’s shoulder and said, “She helped us.  A lot.”

            Dean sighed.  “Yeah.  Go on, get out of here.”

            Bela looked around.  “Uh… how?”

            Sam and Dean looked at the map and compass Sam was holding, then at each other.  Sam handed the items to Bela.  “The white end of the compass points the way out of Hell,” he said.  “Head up, see if you can find an angel to help you get out.”

            “Won’t they kill me on sight?” she asked with bitter laughter.

            “That’s your problem,” said Dean.  “If you get one to talk, tell them you’re in the family business.  They should ask you what that is.  You then tell them, ‘saving people, hunting things’.”

            “If you make it topside, look for Crowley,” said Sam.

            “Crowley?  The Crowley?” asked Bela.  “Well this day just gets better and better.”

            “He’s formerly ‘the’ Crowley,” said Dean.

            “He knows how to cure demons and is cured now himself.  He should be able to help you out,” explained Sam.

            “Then… I guess I’ll try getting out of here,” Bela said with the first genuine smile they had ever seen on her.

            “Good luck,” Sam said, giving her a hug which she returned with a kiss on the cheek.

            Dean reluctantly gave her a hug too, which she repaid with a kiss full on the mouth.

            “It’s been fun,” she said waving goodbye.

            The brothers waved back as they watched her go.  Once alone, they looked over the edge at the bottomless chasm.

            “Maybe we should take the long way,” said Dean.

            “How without a map?” asked Sam.

            Together they backed up as far as they could.  Grabbing each other’s shoulders, they ran forward and jumped.

            Almost instantly, Sam and Dean slammed into the ground.

            “Ow!  Sammy?  Sammy you ok?”

            A groan answered Dean.  “Yeah.  Bruised, but ok.”

            “Weird,” Dean said as he stood and dusted himself off.  “I really thought we’d fall longer than that.”

            Sam stood, wincing as he wiped some dirt from his face and touched the scratches on it.  They were standing on what looked like stony ground that was mostly flat.  It stretched in front and behind them for what seemed like forever.  The distance in front of them was pitch black.  Behind them, the sky glowed orange and red.  Looking to the left and right, Sam could eventually make out where it looked like the ground sloped gently upward on both sides before fading from sight.  Looking closer, Sam saw that on the ground and various points on the slope were gaps of various shapes that opened up.  “Dude,” Sam said as the truth of it all dawned on him.  “We’re on the side of the tunnel.  This is the Maw of Hell.”

            Dean looked around for a second.  “Shit!  We have to walk to the pit?”

            Sam gave his usual ‘what-do-you-want-me-to-do-about-it’ expression and shrug of the shoulders.

            “I’m surprised we haven’t seen Abaddon by now,” said Dean.  “What do you got to do to get a bitch’s attention in this place?”

            “Maybe Cas and his pals are doing their job.”

            Dean chuckled.  “Yeah, it’d be nice to have them be dicks to somebody else for a change.”

            Sam was about to reply but his voice was drowned out by growing rumble.  They both looked for the source of the noise when Sam realized his glasses had been knocked off by the fall.  He was grateful Dean still had his on because from Dean’s stance, he had obviously spotted the oncoming danger.  Unable to explain over the deafening noise, Dean just grabbed his younger brother and shoved Sam to the ground before using his own body to shield Sam.  Without seeing or hearing them, the boys felt the passage of thousands, maybe millions of demons streaming towards the higher levels of Hell.

            After several tense minutes, the last of them passed and the boys stood up.

            “I guess Abaddon called in the cavalry,” said Sam.

            “I’m just glad none of them bothered us,” said Dean.

            “We should thank Cain for my cologne.”

            “Yeah, if he was still alive.”

            Gathering their things, Sam and Dean started walking towards the dark end of Hell.

            And they walked.

            For a while.

            Quite a while.

            “Sammy, we making any progress?” Dean finally asked as he threw off his bag and sat down.

            “Sort of.  Hell’s big.  At a walking rate of two to three miles per hour, it could... take a while.”

            Dean glared at his brother.  “How long, Sam?”

            “Well twenty hours in a day, giving us four hours to rest, that’s sixty miles in a day...  a few... thousand years.  Maybe.  If we’re lucky.”

            Dean sighed.  Sam knew how he felt.  They were too close to the end of their task for them to only fail now.  “Wait...” said Dean, wearing that expression he got when he had an idea.  “Bela said this place works by ‘connections’, right?”

            “Right.  My connection to Lucifer, your connection to Michael.”

            “If... you don’t want to do this...”

            Sam held up his hand and with a smile said, “No chick flick moments.  Besides.  I need to do this.”

            Sam closed his eyes.  Once upon a time his soul and the essence of Lucifer had shared first a body, then a cage together.  Though he rarely tried to think about it, Sam knew that deep down, there was a scar – no a brand – on his soul from the fallen archangel.  It was that part of him that liked the sheer power being Lucifer gave him.  It was the root of all his rage, all his envy, and all his pride.  When he stopped fighting it, when he gave into it, Sam could feel that it wasn’t an insurmountable distance between him and Lucifer, they were within arms’ reach.

            Before he realized it, Sam’s feet left the ground, and with his eyes still closed, he plummeted to the pit of Hell, his brother hanging onto him.

then5

            “Why did you summon me here?”

            “We had a deal.”

            “I know and I can feel that Abaddon isn’t dead yet, so why are you here?” said Cain.

            “We’re going after Abaddon,” said Sam, “and if we don’t make it back...”

            “It’s time to return your last videotape, Mr. Bateman.”

            Cain looked at both Winchesters.  “How... are you going to kill Abaddon?”

            “Like I said, we’re going after her,” said Sam.

            Cain’s eyes narrowed.  “Into Hell?  Are you going after Abaddon in Hell?”

            The Winchesters nodded.

            “Can’t be done.”

            “Oh we’re going to try,” said Dean.

            “You have a plan?”

            “Almost,” said Sam.

            “Any assets?”

            Dean smiled as he pointed at Sam and said, “His brains, Fezzik’s strength, my steel.”

            Cain just looked at him in confusion.  “So little I understand about kids these days.”

            “Sammy, it seems cruel to gank a fella that hasn’t watched the Princess Bride yet.”

            “No you’re right,” said Cain.  “You should kill me now before you jump into Hell and squelch on our deal.”

            “You don’t think we can do it,” said Dean.

            “I know you can’t,” said Cain.  “If you make it in there alive, you won’t stay that way.”

            “Don’t suppose you have... any tips on surviving,” Sam said in a half apologetic, half pleading tone.

            Cain laughed.  “You have any idea what two mortal bodies are going to smell like down there?  Demons are going to be all over you.”

            Both Winchesters pulled down their shirts enough to reveal their anti-possession tattoos, though Sam’s looked a little newer.

            “That will help.  But it won’t cover up the smell.”

            “What will?” asked Sam.

            “A ‘perfume’ made of sulfur and blood and...  Actually Dean might not need it.  With my mark he probably smells like a knight.  Sam, you should just sit out.”

            “Not an option,” they both said simultaneously.

            “O...k.  Sam, let me show you this recipe then we can get on with my death so you boys can get on with yours.”




now5
To human ears the death rattle of an angel was a whoosh of power as light poured out from its vessel, but to heavenly ears it was a bitter, piercing scream of pure sorrow.  Castiel had heard the cry far more than he’d ever want to in the last decade.

            That was the fifth time he’d heard it today.

            “Pull back, spread to the Despair Plains,” he ordered those angels who could hear him.  They spread the word and like a tide his siblings washed out to the plains.

            Alone, Castiel raised his sword and faced the knight.

            “You should have kept them here with you,” said Abaddon, brandishing her own, stolen angel sword.  “Then you might have stood a chance.”

            “No more will die by your hand.”

            The Knight of Hell lunged.  Castiel struck with the full force of his might, but the demon didn’t slow.  He lifted his own blade just in time to parry hers.

            “Angels.  Never used to a real fight are you?” Abaddon said as she slashed and stabbed at her enemy.

            “You won’t win this day,” said Castiel.  He parried one blow, then dodged another, each time taking another step back.

            “I’ve already killed three of you!” said Abaddon with a laugh.  “I call that a win any day!”

            Castiel took another step back and his heel hit the wall.  He’d been backed into a corner!  Abaddon smiled as she flipped her sword over and stabbed downward.  Castiel entangled the blades with one hand and caught her wrist with his other hand, stopping the point an inch shy of his face.

            “Really I’m disappointed I didn’t get one of the archangels,” Abaddon said, grabbing his arm and pushing down with all her power.

            Castiel trembled as he tried to hold the knight back, but the killing blow drew nearer.

            “You angels never learn.”

            Castiel smiled.  “Actually, the Winchesters taught me plenty.”

            Abaddon screamed as she arched back.  When she turned around with murderous fury, Castiel saw a wicked obsidian blade tied to a long bone sticking out of her back.  Behind her, Benny stood there with a gleeful grin on his face and a stone club in his hand.

            “Sorry I’m late, twinkle-toes,” said Benny.  “Wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get around this place.”

            “You always bring welcome greetings, Benny,” said the angel.

            “A vampire?  Really?” said Abaddon.

            “And I brought friends,” Benny said, gesturing to the denizens of Purgatory running among the halls of Hell.  “Shame the entrance into Hell wasn’t large enough to let in any Leviathans or some of the other, nastier beasties.  They would have loved this place.”

            Abaddon moved to strike Benny, but Castiel grabbed the weapon in her back and wrenched it free, causing her to stumble and her blow to fall short.  She swung back wide but Castiel was able to press back into the corner enough that the tip of her blade only caught the edge of his coat and suit.

            She stood there, glaring at the two of them as both comrades readied themselves.

            “Well now that it’s a fight...” said Abaddon.  She moved the angel blade to her left hand and held out her right.  From all around, the red light and flames of Hell streamed towards the knight, gathering around her palm.  As they watched, more flames and lights came together, swirling into a gleaming axe of hellfire.

            Castiel ducked just as her axe cut through the ancient walls of Hell where his head had been.  Benny tried to attack her from behind, but Abaddon was too fast.  The vampire just barely leaned away in time, so that he only received a shallow gash from shoulder to stomach.  Castiel stabbed again but the knight parried.  Her move did leave her open enough for Cas to sink Benny’s weapon into her thigh.  Screaming, Abaddon threw the angel sword straight at Cas’ head.  The angel dodged, but not quite fast enough.  The blade took his left ear and embedded it in the wall.  Seeing an opening, Benny brought his club to the back of Abaddon’s head, the stone shattering as she stumbled from the blow.

            “Thanks for the help,” said Castiel.  As he checked on how much blood was pouring from his ear, Cas tossed Benny’s weapon back to the vampire and the two of them quickly backed away from the knight.

            “What can I say?  It’s always fun when it comes to you and Dean.”

            On their left they saw a doorway leading out to the pale gray fields on which the other angels were busy fighting.

            “Might we take this tussle outside?” asked Benny.

            “No.  No more angels will die today,” said Castiel.

            “What makes you think that after I’m through with you, I won’t go out there and kill the rest?” Abaddon asked as she pulled her angel sword from the wall.

            “Is that my cue?”

            Benny and Castiel turned around to see a smaller figure standing behind them.

            “Who are you?” asked Abaddon.

            “Mr X,” said the newcomer.  “Well... you probably once knew me as Metatron.”

            “The nerd?” Abaddon said with a mix of growling and laughter.  “What can you possibly do?”

            “Did you know that, by design, the swords of angels can only affect angels and demons?”

            “So?”

            Metatron raised his hand, his fingers poised to snap.  “My army consists of old fashioned souls.”  He snapped.  Hundreds, then thousands of partially translucent people poured forth from behind him.

then6

           “You two must be truly insane,” said Metatron.            Dean shrugged. “We flew over the cuckoo's nest long ago.”

            The angel took a step forward, his expression simmering with danger despite his form’s diminutive size compared to the brothers.  “No sigils.  No holy oil.  Yet you summon me anyway.  Are you both that weary of life?”

            “We’re here to make a deal,” Sam said, stepping forward.

            “What could you possibly have to offer me?”

            “A truce,” said Dean.

            “What?”

            “A peace treaty.  A non-aggression deal,” said Sam.

            “You help us with this, we swear we won’t interfere with anything you’ve got cooking,” Dean answered.  “Destroy the world – take it over – doesn’t matter.  No matter what you do, we won’t bother you at all.”

            “Interesting.  What do you want from me?”

            “A few friends.”

            Metatron raised his eyebrows and looked at Sam.  “That’s all?”

            Sam nodded.

            The angel laughed.  “Alright boys.  I’ll help just to see this.  Although... humans are renowned for breaking their deals.  It would be nice to have some way to cement this arrangement.”

            “I took the liberty of drawing up a contract,” Sam said, stepping forward and handing over a packet of legal paper.

            “All that pre-law schooling wasn’t wasted on you after all,” Metatron said, glancing through the pages.  “But I prefer something more... binding.”

            Both of the Winchesters shifted uncomfortably.

            “Do we... have to kiss you or something?” asked Dean.

            “Me?  The originator of writing?”  Metatron laughed as he raised his hands, one pointed at Dean, the other pointed at Sam.

            Both of them stumbled back as they felt a momentary, intense burning sensation in their chests.

            “Our deal is seared on your hearts.  Should you do anything to break it, your heart will stop working.  Immediately.  Now what do I do?”

            Sam stumbled forward, pulling out a post-it note and picture.  “There’s a friend of ours, named Ash.  Tell him we’re going into Hell and could use his help, and anybody else he can find.”

            Metatron looked at the note and photo.  “How are they supposed to get into Hell to help you?”

            “That’s your part in this,” said Dean.

            “You expect me to drag a soul or two into Hell?”

            “Will it be that much trouble for the lord of Heaven?” Sam asked with a bit of mocking.

            Metatron straightened.  “No.  A dozen souls, a thousand, it won’t matter how many ‘friends’ you have, I’ll get them there.  And when this is over…”

            “You won’t have to worry about us,” said Dean, smiling.

now6
Abaddon’s weapons were yanked from her hands by the spirits as they grabbed her arms and legs.  She tried to free herself, but there were too many of them.  She felt herself being lifted off the ground, then being pulled in four different directions.

            “This won’t stop me!” she screamed.  “I am a knight of Hell!”

            “And we,” said Castiel, standing over her, “are a team.”  He placed his hand on her forehead as his eyes began to glow.  The light increased and increased until it was pouring out of every pore.  Under his palm, Abaddon writhed as the intense light burned her.  It grew so bright Benny had to look away and cover his eyes. The light began streaming from every opening in Abaddon’s body until a flash brighter than the sun burned out the rest of her.  The knight of Hell was pulled to shattering, charcoal pieces by the surrounding ghosts.

            “Hell of a light show, twinkle-toes,” said Benny.

            “Yes very good,” Metatron said, moving as if to place a hand on Cas’ shoulder.

            Before anyone realized it, Metatron drove his sword into the center of Castiel’s back.

            The Winchesters’ friend fell face first onto the floor and was still.

            “Too good,” said Metatron, wiping Castiel’s blood off his weapon.  “You played the role of leader better than I hoped.  In fact, this excursion should do quite well in weeding the unworthy from my cause.”

            “Metatron, do you really think I’d trust you a second time?”

            Metatron jumped.  Before him stood Castiel, as translucent as the ghosts.  “Wha...”

            “I thought you knew how the swords worked,” said Cas.  “Joshua told me.  They ‘break’ our grace, unleashing its full power to burn us from the inside out.  But what if an angel has no grace?  Then, if we die in a vessel, we die as any human would.”

            Metatron grew visible angry.  “You—”

            “Expended all my grace to defeat a knight of Hell so I would be rid of it when you made your move.”

            While Castiel talked, Metatron didn’t notice Benny picking up the sword the former scribe had dropped, nor that the vampire was positioning himself behind the treacherous angel.  Had Metatron been a soldier, had he fought in more battles as Castiel had, he would have sensed the movement behind him.  Instead he just stood there as Benny stabbed him in the back of the neck.

            Metatron might have cried out had he been able to.  Instead, light erupted from his eyes and mouth, then he fell to the ground a lifeless heap, the ash remains of wings stretching from his body.

            “Well ain’t this handy,” Benny said, checking out the angel sword he held in his hand.

            “Use it well, friend,” Castiel said, “I have other things to attend to.”  The angel then faded from sight.

then7

“Well ain’t you a sight for sore eyes.  How’d you get back in Purgatory?  Gank a few more Leviathans?”            Dean shrugged and tossed a beer bottle at Benny.  “Waltzed through the front door.”

            “Why ever in hell would you?” the vampire said as he twisted off the cap and took a drink.

            “My brother and I have a party planned.  Thought you and a few friends might want to come.”

            “Why kind of party are ya’ll planning?” asked Benny.

            Dean explained to him their assault on Hell.

            “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said once Dean was finished.  “Who would ever go into Hell willingly?”

            “It’s going to be a hell of a fight,” said Dean with a sly grin.  “Surely you’ve got a few pals up for a brawl.”

            “Benny!”

            Both of them turned and looked to see who was approaching them.  Dean’s jaw dropped when he recognized her.

            “Madison?” he exclaimed.

            The woman who had once stolen his brother’s heart smiled as she said, “Dean.  Good to see you again.”

            “How... how did you and Benny...” Dean trailed off, trying to figure out what was the proper thing to say.

            “Turns out quite a few here know the name ‘Winchester,’” said Benny.

            “For good or bad?”

            “Mostly bad,” the vampire answered.  “Just the other day I offed a... what was it, Maddy?”

            “A rugaru,” said Madison.

            “Right.  It called himself ‘Travis.’  Had a right nasty hatred of you two.  Though if they haven’t heard of you or Sam, they’re usually former ‘friends’ of your father.”

            “So you don’t have any buddies to bring along?” Dean asked with a defeated sigh.

            “Just me, Maddy, and my girl.”

            Dean looked at Benny in confusion.

            “Come on out, darling.”

            Another vampire emerged from behind a tree and approached to stand beside Benny.

            Dean rolled his eyes.  “Hello, Andrea.”

            “You here to kill me, again?” she asked.

            Dean’s hand slid near the First Blade strapped to the back of his belt.  “You going to give me a reason to?”

            Andrea bared her fangs and said, “You’re just lucky I’m not hungry, no matter how nice a juicy human smells right now.”

            “Now play nice, kids,” said Benny.  “It’s the law of the land of the dead, Andrea.  One can’t be hungry if you’re not alive.”

            “Lucky for me,” Dean said, glancing around the woods.  “Now Sammy and I will be leaving soon, so you got to tell me: in or out?”

            “I’ll come along,” Benny answered.  “Sorry I can’t bring more.”

            “He could ask the pack-leader,” said Madison.

            Dean’s eyes narrowed.  “Who?”

            The three monsters glanced around to make sure nobody else was near before Madison continued, “There’s some guy out there...  Has a following.”

            “How?”

            She stepped closer and lowered her voice, “He’s psychotic, kills everything.  It got so bad, that hundreds of others have banded around him and become his followers just in the hope he’d spare them.”

            “They travel Purgatory, fighting anyone and everyone they come across that doesn’t join them,” said Benny.  “I’ve heard even Eve curses his name because the younglings flock to him.”

            “‘Younglings?’” asked Dean.

            “The hodge-podge monstrosities the Mother made the last time she visited Earth,” answered Benny.  “Ain’t many of them, and to the rest of us they’re almost jokes.”

            “But he don’t mind them following him,” said Madison.  “There are even rumors he’s taken down a leviathan.”

            “That I don’t believe,” said Benny.

            “Who cares?  If he’s got the army, let’s go give him an invite,” said Dean.

            “If his wendigo guards let us get close enough,” Benny muttered as he led the way.

 

It didn’t take long for the quartet to reach the location.  Together they climbed a ridge which overlooked a clearing with a hill in the middle.  The clearing was filled with people, so many that a few stood a step or two up the hill, but none got any closer to the solitary figure standing on its crest.  Dean surveyed the crowd, recognizing more faces than he was comfortable admitting.  The central figure had its back to them, but from the stature and shape, Dean deduced it was a man – one he felt like he should recognize but couldn’t recall at the moment.

            “What are they doing?” he whispered.

            “Picking a direction,” said Madison.

            “For?”

            “Rampaging.”

            The central figure turned around, and Dean sighed as he recognized him.  Before anyone could stop him, Dean stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Hey, Gordon!  Want a beer?”

            The crowd started towards their position until Gordon held up his hand, and they all stopped.  “Don’t,” he said.  “This is very personal.”

            The sentiment of “Same here!” was shouted by several voices in the crowd.

            “Then I’ll leave you plenty to enjoy,” Gordon said as he walked down the hill and towards the ridge.

            “This ain’t good,” said Benny.

            “Stay low,” Dean told them as he walked down the slope, fishing a beer bottle out of his army duffel bag.  He was halfway down when he met Gordon.

            “You’re only going to live long enough to make sure Sam gets here,” said the ex-hunter.

            Dean held out the beer bottle.  “I thought you’d be thanking us.  An afterlife of brawling with every beasty that walked the Earth?  You would have hated Heaven.”

            “You been?” Gordon asked as he popped the cap from the bottle with his fangs and took a swig. 

            Dean nodded.  “Real boring.  Purgatory’s a lot more exciting.”

            Gordon looked down at the bottle and grimaced.  “No beer there either, huh?”

            The human laughed.  “No.  It’s for the best anyway.  You die and can eat and drink all you want, but it just goes right through you.  Nothing to do but enjoy the taste.  Besides, you already missed Sam.”

            Gordon’s eyes narrowed.  “What?”

            “Yeah he stopped by Purgatory to sneak into Hell and back.”

            “That’s impossible.”

            Dean shrugged.  “You’d think so, but this megalomaniacal demon Crowley and crazy angel Castiel were trying to break in here awhile back.  Seems a side-effect cracked a small opening between here and Hell.”

            “When will Sam come to save you?”

            Dean shook his head.  “He said he wouldn’t.  Heck I’m still here aren’t I?”

            “I’d heard rumors of a Winchester about...”

            “Well here I am.  Now you want to do this or you want a real fight?”

            Gordon finished the beer and crushed the bottle with a squeeze of his hand.  “You’re stalling.”

            “Nope, I’m going to Hell.  Um... literally.  Figured I’d see what sort of Cain I could raise there.  You in?”

            Gordon hesitated and Dean saw his chance.

            “You always saw yourself as the hero, Gordon; a man standing bravely against the forces of darkness.  Well I’m going to the lair of Darkness Itself.  You want to keep brawling with the second stringers, or you want to fight evil where it lives?”

            After a long pause he turned back to his crowd and said, “I’ll think on it.”

            “If you decide, look for the tree with the orange ‘X!’” Dean shouted at him. 

 

As Dean walked away from the gathering, Benny, Andrea, and Madison caught up to him.  Benny fell into step with Dean and said, “Might fine speechifying.  You think he’ll accept?”

            “He might beat us there,” Dean answered.

            “You lied to him about a lot of things.”

            “Gordon’s never been much for details.  Best to keep it simple.”

            “You keeping it simple for me too, Dean?”

            The human stopped and looked Benny in the eye.  “Do I need to?  Can I count on you, Benny?”

            The vampire nodded.

            Reaching into his bag, Dean withdrew a simple, short sword and handed it to his friend.

            “What’s this?”

            “The sword of an angel,” said Dean.  “You stab something that has the power of an angel with that, and it is lights out.  Forever.”

            “We fighting a lot of Castiel’s family?”

            “Only one.  Listen there’s an angel named Metatron.  You’ll know him when you see him – he looks like a nerd.  He’ll be joining this fight, and during it will probably look for an excuse to stab Cas in the back – literally.  Find Cas, watch his back.”

            Benny looked at the sword.  “All this just for him?”

            “Well demons are an unholy blend of human souls and angel powers.  That will work wonders on them too.  Oh, and there’s a vampire we killed awhile back named Lenore.  You should look her up sometime.”

            The two of them shook hands and wished each other luck.




now7Cold was not the word to describe the bottom of Hell.  Cold would have been an improvement.  Absolute zero would have felt like a heat wave down here, and Sam idly wondered if that’s why time was different down here.  Despite having fallen into the deepest pit of Hell, the Winchesters hit Hell’s floor without injury.  It looked like an entire sea was frozen here, stretching infinitely in all directions although there were great cracks in the ice as if it had been broken once.  Above, the sky looked like solid rock pressing down close enough that Sam thought he could reach up and touch it, but the ceiling always seemed to be just beyond his fingertips.  Likewise, the great maw that had led to here always seemed to be overhead, no matter how far they walked in either direction.

            “Are we getting anywhere?” Dean asked with heavy frustration.

            Sam looked around.  “If this is truly infinite, then by definition we can’t.”

            Dean stomped on the ground a few times.  “Hey!  Dickbags, can you hear us?  Open up and give us our brother back.”

            Sam thought it seemed to grow lighter beneath their feet a moment, but he couldn’t be sure.  If either archangel could hear them, there was no sign of it.

            “How we doing?”

            Sam pulled out the pocket watch and checked.  For a moment he wasn’t sure if it was still working, but finally he saw the second hand move.  “It is several minutes between seconds, maybe even an hour,” he said.  “We’ve got at least six months... maybe years before Death takes back his ring.”

            Dean looked up at the maw of Hell again.  “We might need that time to get out of here.  Let’s get this done already.”

            Sam pulled out the configuration of rings from his pocket.  The three rings of War, Famine and Pestilence, joined and pointing towards the ring of Death.  “I guess we can try it like before.  Toss them anywhere and say the words.”

            Dean shrugged.  “No telling what will happen, Sammy.  Then again…”

            Sam turned around and saw the small hole in the ground that had drawn Dean’s attention.  Part of him wondered if it had always been there and they didn’t see it, or if it had appeared when the rings were readied.  It was only an inch deep, and perfectly shaped like the configuration of the rings.

            “Yahtzee,” said Dean.

            Both Winchesters dropped their duffel bags and opened them.  Dean pulled out a rigging of wires like the ones used by demolition teams as Sam withdrew a couple of bottles.  While Sam prepared the ground, Dean pulled the supplies a few steps away.

            “Ready?” he asked his brother.

            Sam brandished the demon knife then handed the conjoined rings to Dean.

            “Dude, you sure?”

            Sam nodded.  “I did it last time.  You get the honor today.”

            Dean took the rings in his left hand, readied the first blade in his right, and knelt beside the keyhole they’d found.

            Sam took a few steps back and nodded that he was ready.

            Dean placed the rings into the indention and said, “Bvtmon Tabges Babalon.”  He was startled as the rings suddenly turned a bit, as if a portion of the ground had just loosened.  He rotated the rings counter-clockwise until they started spinning on their own.  Light brighter than the sun, a kind they had seen once before in their lives, poured from the midst of the rings until they were swallowed by it, yet still the light continued to grow.

            “Be ready, Sammy!  No plane this time!” Dean shouted over a roar that shook Hell itself.

            The light dimmed such that they could look back.  A gap had formed in the ice.  Everything in every direction was being pulled in and swallowed into the gap, as if the gravitational force of a black hole was just beyond their view.  They had seen something like this just one other time, on that fateful day.  Beside the gap, as if just tossed out, a figure lay prone on the ice.

            “Adam!” Dean cried out, racing over.  “Adam can you hear me?”

            “Dean...” moaned Adam.

            “It’s ok, man, we’ve got you.”

            Adam’s hand grabbed Dean’s throat.  “No.  We have you.”

            Unable to breathe, Dean stabbed the First Blade into Adam’s chest.  His half-brother yelled and tossed Dean aside like a misbehaving kitten.

            The eldest Winchester hit the ground with a sickening crack, dislocating his right shoulder and at least bruising a few ribs.  Struggling to breathe, he got to his feet, facing the being that wore Adam’s face.

            “The First Blade?  Really?” asked Michael.

            “So you’re still in there,” Dean said, stumbling a few steps as his body protested the very act of breathing.

            “Show me gratitude.  Had I abandoned your brother in the cage, there would be nothing left for you to fail to rescue.”

            Dean raised the weapon as much as he could, taking a few more steps to the side.  “Hang on, Adam, we’re getting you out of this.”

            In the span of a blink, Michael was inches from Dean, grabbing his neck and lifting him up.  “After you tried stabbing him?  Did you honestly think the Mark of Cain would kill an archangel?”

            “I was hoping it wouldn’t.  We just needed to distract you.”

            Michael looked past Dean and saw Sam standing there.  Before Michael could react, the younger Winchester stomped on a detonator, sending a spark through the laid wire that ignited the circle of holy oil surrounding Michael.  Flames leapt up, striking the arm that held Dean.  The angel screamed as that arm disintegrated past the elbow.  Severed from the angel, Dean tumbled into the hole in the floor of Hell.

            “Well done, Sam,” Michael said, stepping as close as the flames would allow.  “What’s your plan now?  The cry of my brother will summon every demon and foul thing that serves him to here.”  Light and particles began streaming from the stump of his right arm.  Soon bones, muscle and skin could be seen forming.  “You will beg to be on this side of the flames with me.”

            “Thanks for healing our brother,” Sam said, once Adam’s right arm was whole again.  He pulled out a piece of paper and said, “Now listen close, Omni potentas Dei potestatum invocoOmni potentas Dei potestatum invocoAborbe terran...”
*                                  *                                  *


Dean didn’t care that the ground was cold and uncomfortable, he just wanted to stay there, laying on his face, forever and ever.  However Sam was in trouble, so like every morning, Dean hauled himself to his feet.

            Before him was a plain, beige wall.  Against it rested a simple metal bed with a stained mattress.  To his left was another plain, beige wall.  Looking right, he saw a third plain, beige wall.  Nothing distinguished one from another except for the bed against the wall in front of him.  Looking behind, Dean saw a doorway open, the blood-red light of hell pouring from it.  He spun around.

            “What the Hell…”  Dean had just turned his whole body completely around to try and face the doorway back to Hell, yet once again he was facing a plain beige wall.  Against it rested a simple metal bed with a stained mattress.  He looked left and right, and again there was nothing but the plain, beige walls.  Out of the corner of his eye he could see the open door had remained behind him.  He turned to the right ninety degrees, so that the door should have been immediately to his right, yet all he could see when he looked right was the bed.  To his left, was another plain wall.  Behind him the door waited.  He spun to his left and right as fast as he could, yet no matter which way he turned, the door was always behind him.  Keeping his eye on the bed, Dean walked backwards until he felt something hit his back.  Taking a deep breath, Dean spun around and took a quick step forward.

            Dean smashed into a plain beige wall.  On his right, was a simple metal bed with a stained mattress.  To his left, was another wall.  Just behind him, he could see an open door.  He walked over to the bed and touched it, confirming that it was real, and he wasn’t dreaming.  He tried to lift it, but the bed wouldn’t move.  The mattress couldn’t even be shifted from its position on the bed springs.  Again, keeping an eye on the bed, Dean backed up until he was sure he was over halfway across the room.  Then taking a deep breath he turned and jumped.

            Before him was a plain beige wall.  Against it rested a simple metal bed with a stained mattress.  Dean tripped over the bed, tumbling onto it at full force.  Bracing himself against the wall, Dean moved himself into a sitting position where he could clearly see, across the room, an open door with the blood-red light of Hell streaming through it.

            “Maddening isn’t it?”

            On the other end of the bed sat Lucifer, wearing the face of Nick.

            “But then, how else do you expect a cage for an archangel to work?”

            “Can’t leave?” Dean asked, unable to hide the hint of joy in his voice.

            “Sure, I’m hiding my true form from you since I don’t want your eyes burned out today, but without your brother or any other vessel, that door is too small for me to fit through.”

            “But I can,” said Dean.

            “And my brother, pulled as he was by the common bond you boys share.  You always need outside help to leave.  Without the proper key, it’s impossible to get out once you’re in.    Unless...”  Lucifer pointed up.

            Dean looked at the beige ceiling and noticed a circular indention in it.  Cracks formed several diameters across the circle, leaving the whole thing divided up into slices like some perverse pizza.  Without even counting, Dean was willing to bet there were sixty-six slices up there.

            “Sixty-four, actually,” said Lucifer.  “The first seal unlocks it.  The rest remove one of those ‘slices’.  The last seal lowers a lifeline to pull me all the way out of Hell.”

            “Sucks to be you, doesn’t it?” Dean said as he stood up, and backed away from the bed.

            Lucifer lounged upon it.  “Oh I don’t know.  Since stuck back in here, I’ve always had a Winchester to play with.”

            Dean started rolling up his sleeves.  “Bring it on, pretty boy.”

            “Oh please, you think I don’t know you have my mark?  Or the First Blade?  Wait… you left that outside.  Oh well, it does you as much good out there as it would in here.  I mean, did you really think I would make something that could kill me?”  Lucifer stood up and began advancing slowly.  “Then again... with the Mark of Cain, you might survive being my vessel.  I wonder what would happen if Michael and I both crawled inside you.  It would be a wonderful family bonding moment.”

            “Never.”

            “Don’t say that, Dean.  We’ve got an eternity together.”

            Dean had a sense of deja-vu as he felt a hand grab the back of his jacket collar and pull him backwards.  Time slowed to a crawl as he fell backwards.  A storm raged about him, with thunder and lightning and wind that made him feel like he was suddenly in the middle of a massive hurricane.

Dean, let me in! said a voice in his mind.

Michael?

            Yes.  Be my vessel or you and your brothers will never escape Hell.

            Sure, but I get to pick the music.

            The storm poured into him.  The thunder became his bones as he felt lightning become his veins.  The power was incredible.  He felt like he could do almost anything!  Then his ears heard, “Omni potentas Dei potestatum invoco...”

Oops, ride’s over, bitch.

            Dean couldn’t hear Michael’s protest over his own laughter as the archangel poured from him just as suddenly as they joined.

            Sam finished hauling   his brother out of the hole as Michael was evicted, the archangel’s true form pulled back into the cage by its vindictive brother.

            “Chdr bvtmon tabges babalon!” shouted Sam.

            The light vanished as the hole in the floor of Hell closed.  The indentation holding the rings of the horsemen was all that remained.  Sam picked up the rings and considered them.  The horsemen couldn’t be killed, nor could they be separated from their rings forever.  He pulled the rings apart and tossed War’s, Famine’s, and Pestilence’s as far away in random directions as he could throw.  Maybe trying to retrieve them would occupy the horsemen and demons long enough for him and his brothers to escape.  Death’s ring, he put in his pocket.

            Both of his brothers lay on the ground.

            Kneeling beside Dean, Sam lifted his head and gave him a light slap saying, “Hey, how many of you are in there?”

            Dean coughed and held up his index finger.

            “Using me to funnel Michael back into the cage, through a hole he was too big for was ingenious,” said Dean, “and your timing: impeccable.”

            “I’m just glad you remembered to say yes even if you went in ahead of schedule.”

            “I knew you had my back,” Dean said with a smile as he got to his feet.  “The First Blade?”

            Sam nodded.  “I tossed it into the cage.”

            Dean let out a sigh of relief.  “We done here?”

            They both looked at the unconscious form of Adam.

            “Yeah man,” said Sam.  “Nobody’s been left behind.”




then8
           “Dean, you feeling alright?” Dean was twirling his fork around the meringue of his chocolate pie.  He hadn’t taken a single bite, which Sam knew meant trouble.  If his brother wasn’t possessed or switched with some imitation, then the situation was much worse: something was bothering Dean and he had an idea on dealing with it.

            “Just... keep thinking about Kevin.  Then Bobby... Rufus... Jo and Ellen...”

            Sam leaned back in the booth.  Their lives did seem to be emptier each day.  “Yeah.”

            “All the people we save... never is it family.”

            Sam took a drink of his bottled water.  He was right, they had no more family of blood or bond any more.  Even the distant cousins they had briefly hunted with had become casualties of this never-ending war.

            “We need to change that,” Dean said, finally taking a bite of his pie.

            “Ok, Dean.  Next family we meet, we’ll do a better job,” said Sam.

            From the way his brother wasn’t looking at him, Sam realized he just guessed incorrectly.  “Dean we don’t... have enough souls to bargain everyone back to life.”

            “Not that.”

            “Without their wings, it doesn’t seem like the angels are capable of time traveling.”

            “Our luck with time isn’t the best anyway,” sighed Dean.  “No, Sam, we need to help a brother that’s still in trouble.”

            “Oh.”  Sam knew now what Dean was thinking.  It was something that haunted Sam’s thoughts on quiet nights when he couldn’t sleep and his mind wandered.  He never told anyone but sometimes Sam felt that he wasn’t the one that should have been retrieved from Hell.  “You want to rescue Adam.”

            Dean nodded as he finished his slice of pie.

            “How... do we do that?”

            “Try binding Death?  Make him get Adam out like he did you?”

            Sam took the bottle of beer Dean was drinking and set it out of reach.  “You’ve had way too much if you think that will work.”

            “Sam, I spent over a year trying to figure out how to get you out without unleashing Lucifer.  I talked to Crowley and even he didn’t have any idea.  When Cas sprang you, he only ended up doing a half-ass job.  We’ve got to do something but I don’t know what besides prayer which, last I checked, didn’t accomplish anything.”

            “Well we might keep praying just in case,” said Sam.  He leaned forward in the booth so he could talk quieter.  “But given that I’ve been in and out of Hell one more time than you, I do have an idea.”

            “Should we play the Mission Impossible theme?” Dean asked as he leaned forward so he could listen.  Though despite his joking Sam could see an expression on Dean’s face that hadn’t been there in a long time: hope.

            “Well we know there’s more than one way into Hell.”

            “Are you thinking of the Devil’s Gate in Montana?”

            “Better than the one in New York.  Regardless, we don’t go in that way.”

            “Why not?”

            “Break into Hell through the front door?  How far do you think we’d make it?”

            “How do we get in, then?”

            “The hole in Purgatory that leads to Hell.”

            Dean smiled.  “Right.  And Castiel’s opened up Purgatory enough he should know how to get us through that door you used once.”

            “Exactly.  We go in, get to the pit, get Adam.”

            “One thing I do remember: Hell’s big and not an easy place to navigate.”

            “We’ll need a guide or something.”

            “Crowley!” they both said simultaneously.

            “Still, once inside more than a few nasties are going to try and kill us,” said Dean.

            “We’ve got Ruby’s knife and the First Blade,” noted Sam.

            “But with the sheer numbers...”

            “...we better have a distraction.”

            Dean thought a moment.  “Cas and some of the angels might be up for a fight.”

            “We could also ask Benny if he and any other monsters want to help on our way through Purgatory,” said Sam.

            “So we load up, head down.  How do we get Adam out of the pit?”

            Sam took a deep breath.  “We open the door.  Using the horsemen’s rings.”

            “How do we keep Lucifer from getting out?”

            “He... can’t.”

            Dean gave Sam a questioning look.

            “Do you know why I had to jump in?  The door the rings open is too small for an archangel to pass through, unless they are in a vessel.  Now that I’m out...”

            “Lucifer can’t fit through the door.  But Micheal’s still in Adam—”

            Sam finished Dean’s sentence.  “—so he can.”

            “You remember how to open and close it?”

            Sam glared at Dean.  “I can’t forget that time of my life.”

            “Why go into Hell then?  Let’s open the door topside here.”

            “And let Micheal loose on Earth?  At least if we screw up down there he’s stuck in Hell.  Besides, how do you think we’re going to get the horsemen’s rings?”

            Dean thought over it a moment.  “We hid them at Bobby’s.”

            “You sure?  When’s the last time you checked?”

            Dean had no answer.

            “I had to go by there and clean up Bobby’s estate while you were stuck in Purgatory.  Since someone else might be buying that property I worked at removing anything dangerous to Dad’s storage locker.  Guess what was missing.”

            Dean sighed as he rubbed his forehead.  “How?”

            “Judging from the sulfur around the spots, I’m guessing some demons were sent to retrieve them.”

            “The horsemen live in Hell?”

            Sam paused to find the right words.  “Not sure the horsemen are really ‘alive.’  Hell is more like their... base of operations from where they wreak havoc on the world.”

            “So we go down there, yank their rings off, crack the cage open and fish out Adam.  What do we do about his passenger?”

            “Crowley did cough up the angel exorcism spell before he took off.  We can use that to force Michael out.  So the three of us would just be stuck at the center of Hell with a pissed off archangel.”

            “Maybe he’ll show a bit of gratitude for getting him out of the cage,” Dean said, a hopeful smile on his face.

            “Um… Dean… Hell was designed as a prison for angels.  Just being there is agony for them if they don’t have a vessel’s body shielding their essence.”

            Dean just stared at Sam.

            “I had a lot of time…” Sam trailed off as he decided to rephrase that sentence.  “Lucifer liked to overshare.”

            “So you’re saying that even if he was grateful, the agony of just being inside Hell would make Michael go Old Testament.”

            Sam nodded.

            Dean rubbed his chin as he stared out the diner window in thought.  “Alright, we cram Michael inside me and I pull a Sammy.”

            What little water remained in Sam’s bottle was tossed into Dean’s face.  “No!” Sam scolded.  “Nobody.  Nobody left behind.”

            Dean grabbed a napkin from the dispenser and wiped his face.  “But you said without a vessel the archangels won’t fit through the door.  Either one of us goes in or we get smited.  Can we kick Mikey out while inside the cage?”

            Sam rubbed his forehead.  “Perform an exorcism while Lucifer’s in the room?”

            “Could we stand by the door and shout in?”

            “Sound is… weird in there.  What you can and can’t hear from outside is… kind of random.  Although…”

            Dean leaned in listen.

            “Maybe there is a way to do both…”

now8
Sam and Dean gathered up their supplies, put their duffel bags back on, then stood Adam upright, supporting him between them.  Everywhere they looked, the featureless wastes of the bottom of Hell’s pit stretched.  Above them, the maw of Hell yawned, so close yet impossibly far.

            “We’ve got Adam, now how do we get out of Hell?” asked Sam.

            “To tell the truth, I didn’t think we’d make it this far,” said Dean.  “Figured we could at least wreck some havoc before we died.”

            “Death got me out of here once.  Maybe he’ll do it again when he comes to get his ring.”

            That made his older brother laugh.  “Sammy, I think the guy’s just going to let us rot down here.”

            “Well Michael said Lucifer’s cry would draw the legions of Hell.  Maybe we can figure something out when they attack.”

            “If they attack.  Bastards might just decide to leave us down here themselves.”

            “Guess you could taunt them into coming down here.  That usually works.”

            “Yeah, for us and Bill Murray.  Although...”

            Sam looked as Dean rolled up his right sleeve.

            The eldest Winchester nodded at his brother’s shocked expression.  “Yeah, sorry I didn’t mention it sooner.  Michael took off the Mark of Cain when he took me over.  I should send him a thank you card when we get back home.”

            “Still, that means we’re down a weapon.”

            “Who needs that when you have family?”

            Sam and Dean turned around, shocked at the voice they had heard behind them.

            Mary Winchester stood before them, radiant as the last day they had seen her, only she wasn’t glowing with flames, but love.  “Grab your brothers and take my hand,” she said, holding out her right arm.

            “Carry on my sons, there will be peace when you are done.”  Behind her, John Winchester, the grizzled old warrior took his wife’s left hand.  In his eyes was something Sam and Dean had never seen there before: joy.

            “What would you do without me?” asked Jessica as she gave Sam a playful wink and took John’s hand.

            “Let’s get ya idjits home.”  Behind him, Bobby, grinning beneath his old trucker’s hat, clasped hands with Jessica.

            “Don’t know what you boys would do without us.”  Behind Bobby, stood Ellen Harvelle.

            “There’s never a last mission with them, is there mom?” asked Jo Harvelle, standing behind Ellen.

            “I gathered everybody I could,” said Ash as he took Jo’s hand.  “Thought ya’ll were going to need the help.”

            “Don’t expect much gratitude, though,” Kevin Tran said with a wink of sarcasm.

            “To Hell and back.  I shouldn’t have underestimated them,” said Samuel Campbell.

            “They are fine Legacies,” Henry Winchester said as he took the other grandfather’s hand.

            “I’m just glad it’s me saving them for once,” said Victor Henriksen.

            By now the voices were starting to overwhelm Sam and Dean as they looked and saw another person they had known behind another and another, each joining hands with those in front and behind until there was a long chain of ghosts climbing up the maw of Hell and beyond their sight.

            “We thought... maybe a dozen... just a distraction,” Dean said, unable to form coherent thoughts.

            “Forget it,” said John, his voice, even though not raised, cutting through the clamor.

            “Family doesn’t abandon family,” said Mary, holding out her hand again.

hday

Dean and Sam held each other and Adam as tight as they could, then took their mother’s hand.

            The sensation was like trying to water ski while being pulled by a jet.  The winds of Hell whipped at them.  The pain was intense as it felt like their clothes were shredded until they were naught but skin.  Then that was torn away until only their muscles remained.  Yet through it all they kept their eyes closed and trusted the hands of their mother, father, and all the rest of the family they had ever known.  Though the fires of Hell buffeted and raged at them, the brothers never felt their mother’s grasp waiver.

            Neither did their grip on each other.

then9

The universe was laid out before Him.  Upon trillions and trillions of worlds were trillions of billions of tiny beings.  He knew each of their names.  Of each game piece He could tell you the story of his/her/its life.  Taking a step, He moved to examine the tiny blue marble that spun at the edge of an unremarkable galaxy.

            “Why such interest in that tiny rock?” asked His ancient opponent, taking his seat across the universe/table.  “So many other worlds.  An entire multi-verse to play.”

            He looked around.  Yes, there were an infinite number of other universes they simultaneously played their game on.  The Opponent was right.  So many out there.  Some that favored Him.  Some that favored the Opponent.  Some where they were evenly matched.

            “I like the challenge,” He answered.

            The Opponent gave that sigh he was so adept at.  “Challenge?  Fancy words for delaying your own defeat.”

            He laughed.  “Care to bet?”

            The Opponent’s eyes narrowed.  The only game they played as much as this one, was betting on it.  This time it was the Opponent delaying.  They never declined the bets.  “I shall.”

            He couldn’t help smiling at the thought of what was coming.  “You will be asked something soon.  Not bound.  Not coerced.  Just asked.  Humor the request.”

            The Opponent looked at Him.  He never liked it when He laughed.  “You’re betting they will succeed.”

            He nodded.

            “What do I get if they fail?”

            “The capture of some of my best pieces on this rock,” He answered.

            “Tempting.  What do you get if they succeed?” asked Death.

            “A great story.”

now9
~~~~~~~~~~


It was the most beautiful day Dean had ever seen.  The sun was shining, the lake was peaceful, and the brunette sitting on his lap looked stunning in her floral print bikini.

            “I think you got a bite,” she said before raising the beer bottle to his lips so he could take a sip.

            “What?” he asked after swallowing the drink.  “A fish hasn’t touched my tackle all day.”

            “Are you sure they’re the ones you want doing that?” the girl asked in a sultry voice.

            “Dean.”

            He bolted to his feet so fast the girl sailed into the water.  “Dammit, Cas!” Dean shouted as he turned around to face the angel.  “What did I say about invading dreams?”

            “Sorry, but I don’t have time to wait,” said his friend.

            “Why?” he said, straightening up and becoming serious.  “You in trouble?”

            “Abaddon and Metatron are both finished.  Angels are... finding their wings again.”

            “Heh, so the bells toll for thee.  Congrats, Cas.  You earned it.”

            The angel sighed.  “No, Dean I’m... not quite an angel anymore.”

            “What are you then?”

            “An angel... ghost?”

            “That doesn’t make any sense.”

            “I know.”  Castiel paused a moment to appreciate the scenic view of Dean’s mind.  “With Metatron gone we’re hoping to right the Veil but... there’s still a lot of work for us to do.”

            “‘Us?’”

            Castiel looked behind at the distant figure wearing a luchador mask and cape.

            Dean couldn’t help laughing.

            “I know he seems eccentric but he is a doctor and thinks we can fix this.”

            Dean held up his hand to signal Cas to give him a moment until he could stop laughing.  “I’m not laughing at you, man.  He’s an old friend.  And he’s right.  Anything we can do to help?”

            “That’s what I’m saying, Dean.  You can’t.  This could take awhile.  I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again,” said Cas.

            Dean stood there a moment, absorbing the words.  “But if you need help...”

            “Doctor Badass and I know plenty of souls that can help.”

            Dean couldn’t stop the second laughing fit that overtook him.  “He tell you that was his name?”

            Castiel, with a confused expression, nodded.  “Did he... ‘punk’ me?”

            “Not exactly,” said Dean, wiping his eyes.  “But you’re right.  If anyone can get Heaven fixed...”

            Castiel smiled and after a moment to remember how, gave Dean a thumbs up.

            “See ya around, Cas.”

            “Go be with your family, Dean.”
~~~~~~~~~~


Bright sunlight stung Sam’s eyes even though his eyelids were closed.  He blinked, staring up at a gorgeous blue sky, grass tickling his ears.  He sat up and looked around.  It took a moment, the place looked so different in the daylight, but he finally recognized the cemetery in Wyoming.  The mausoleum that served as the gate to Hell was just a few feet away, locked and chained shut.

            “Sammy?”

            “Alive, Dean,” Sam said.

            His brother stumbled up next to him, and Sam saw the recognition cross Dean’s face as well.  “We made it out?” he asked in disbelief.

            Sam nodded with a bit of disbelief as well.

            They both checked that their clothes and skin was still intact, neither being quite able to believe their escape.  For the first time in their lives, they felt lucky… and blessed.

            “Nah, this has to be a dream.”

            Sam nodded for Dean to look behind him.  “I don’t think so.”

            Dean turned around and saw it too: Adam Milligan lay there face down on the grass.

            Sam saw Dean’s big-brother instincts take over as he ran to the guy and started checking him for vital signs.  “Dude, wake up!  We did it.  You’re out of Hell!” Dean said over and over again.

            Adam sputtered and pushed Dean away saying, “Whoa, hey, personal space, man.”

            Sam watched them both as Adam sat upright, blinking at the sight of the world.  “Where am I?” he asked.

            Dean jumped to his feet and let out a whoop that made the other two flinch.  “You hear that?” he shouted at the sky.  “We did it!  We got him out of Hell!  We!  Are!  The!  Champions!”

            “We’re in southern Wyoming,” Sam said as he helped Adam to his feet while Dean began singing the Queen song off key.

            “How’d we get here?” asked Adam.

            “That’s... a long story,” said Sam.  “How about we talk about it over a beer?”

            “Come on you two!” Dean said, grabbing their shoulders for attention.  “We’ll keep on fighting – ‘til the end!”

            Sam looked at Adam and shrugged.  He had to admit that after seeing everyone – the whole family – he too felt like singing. “We are the champions!”

            Adam shook his head at the sight but finally joined in singing, “We are the champions.”

            And all three brothers sang to the heavens at the top of their lungs, “‘No time for losing ‘cause we are the champions. ...OF THE WORLD!’”
THE END
 

 

Comments  

YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2016-01-09 11:29
Hey, whilst the plot didn't keep me going I just wanted to say it was nicely written and I hope I see more of your fics :D