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Anything Worth Dying For

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01.


(And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
— Revelations 21:4)



"It was still a mess, and half of the entire population of the Earth was gone. There was mourning, and people to grieve. But it did happen that the world was made new again; decimation and rubble vanishing, the hole in the ozone repaired, global warming reversed. It was as though God figured that after the Apocalypse, humanity would have enough to deal with. And yet the urge to write has not left my hand, years later. I am compelled to tell the story, which is all right. My job was easy, comparatively.

"I am the story—teller. And this is the Book of Chuck." — From The Book of Chuck

02.


"Dean, it's Cassie. Look, I know I haven't called you but— did something happen? Something like— did you— look… can you just call me back?"


"Um, Winchester Brothers. Hh…ello! This is Harry Spengler— "

"— And Ed Zedmore— "

"— Of the Ghostfacers? Look, not to give you guys any credit, or anything, but did…something big go down? Because…I think I just saw a demon get killed by an angel. So. Call us." ["You shouldn't have called them!" "Oh my God, dude— angel killing demon!" "Did you hang up?" "Shit, this stupid phone!"]


"Sam? It's Hailey Collins. You helped me save my brother, Tommy? Look, there is a lot of stuff going on that just…looks like it's stuff that would be up your alley here. Can you call me? I'm texting you my number, too, just in case your phone doesn't register it from this call and stuff. Okay. Thanks. Bye."


"Dean, this is Ben. Mom says that it's nothing, but I totally think all the teachers in my schools are the devil. And I mean it. Seriously. Mrs. Kelly breathed fire yesterday. Dude, you've got to check this out."


"Sam, this is Sarah. Sarah Blake. Look, I just want you to know that I'm in Perth right now, and just wasted seventeen demons in two weeks. Have you heard any rumblings? Anyway, I just wanted to give you a head's up, in case this is just in Aussie right now, or what."


"Hey, Sam, this is Charlie Trebault. You helped me with the…um, Bloody Mary problem? Look, I don't know where to go or who else to call, but my entire town is— Mrs. Gorry just carved up all the kids she has over for 4H, Sam. Like, there was blood everywhere, and they're not arresting her, and I think, possibly, my mom's trying to kill me so I'm getting out, but— if you could call me back? That'd be…seriously great."

03.



"Lawrence, Kansas had significance not just for the Winchesters, but for the entire movement. Azazel's widest selection of Chosen Children had been from Lawrence; Hunters had existed in Lawrence for centuries. Its history was soaked in the blood of men and supernatural beings; the city itself was built upon battlegrounds from the wars of the Kiowa and the demons who plagued them. It is said that the loss of the land upon which Lawrence was settled was the work of a demon with yellow eyes. For the hosts of Heaven and those who follow, the city had the relevance of Jerusalem; it was the place where the Messiah was born. Dean Winchester was of Lawrence, and that marked it holy. And just as Jesus was born in an inn, so too was Dean Winchester, and thus was chosen the safe house of the Apocalypse, an inn called "The Eldridge."" — From The Book of Chuck

04. Sam.


Lucifer is blacks and reds; pointed tail, villainous mustache, fanged smirk. The light Sam— what Sam expects, coming from blood, is something like that. Something dark and slick and so evil, but it's not. He's not. He's— the glow is brighter than Anna's Grace; it's painfully, searingly pure.

And somewhere, somewhere in the back of his numbed stupid brain, Sam thinks, He's still an angel— he's still the Morning Star.

And Sam just— can't look away. Wants to, wants to run, wants to leave Ruby's body and go with Dean and drive far, far, far away where this isn't happening, not yet. He just…can't. His legs don't work, and he's frozen, just like that moment where he stopped, seeing Jess on the ceiling and totally incapable of moving.

And just like last time, Dean is there, yanking, pulling, fumbling him out, away, into the car, away from ground zero as fast as he can drive, and Sam—

Just stares at his hands.

At some point he falls asleep or passes out, and when he comes to he's first aware of dried spit thick on his tongue and drool caked on his cheek with a thunderous headache.

He's on a familiar—smelling couch, and he sits up and looks around Bobby's house. Bobby and Dean are in the kitchen, talking to people on their phones.

He can't handle the big things— Sam's been through enough trauma (coaxed Dean through enough trauma) that he knows that this is one of those things he's got to ignore until he's at least taken a piss. So he drags himself to the bathroom, brushes his teeth with the toothbrush he keeps here (jabs himself in the gums, in the cheek— his hands won't stop shaking), swishes the Listerine until it's either spit or sacrifice his eyes and tongue to the burning. He splashes water onto his face, and stares into the mirror.

He doesn't look like he just let Lucifer free.

Shit.

His phone buzzes and he jumps, then fishes it out of his pocket. He has seventy—nine text messages and twenty eight voicemails.

He comes back out still staring at it.

"Apocalypse, Sam," Dean says from the doorway he's leaning in, grinning faintly (because Dean's a bastard, and evidently fine). "Apparently we are the man with the plan."

"There's three of us," Sam points out by rote, because that's what he does; because that's simple and easy. Because right now he wants to be a sidekick. Dean grins and shrugs. Like the Apocalypse isn't upon them. Like Sam didn't just let Lucifer out. He keeps waiting for the punch to come, but it doesn't. Dean just looks down at his phone and starts texting someone back.

"How long?" he asks, because it's becoming clear that neither of them are going to volunteer information. "Was I out?"

"'Bout four hours, give'r take," Bobby replies, still sitting in the kitchen. "How're you feelin'?"

"Like shit."

"Good," Bobby says, and then his face softens. "Jesus, Sam."

Sam swallows, and then Bobby sighs. "Start returnin' those calls. We're doin' a phone tree thing, see who's still even alive out there— "

And then there is light. It burns and it's bright and it's in the entire house and all Sam can think is no, no, please God, no, because it slams home again: Lucifer rising and light growing and growing, being frozen in place knowing that he did this— that he just threw the world to the wolves because he believed a demon over his brother. His hands fisted in Dean's coat, because even if this was literally ground zero, next to Dean felt like the safest place in the world, and Sam wasn't letting go.

His fingers find Dean's coat again, twisting into the fabric and Bobby shouts,

"What the fuck?"

Anna blinks down at the three bullet holes in her chest, and Dean winces, lowering the gun, his other hand digging bruises into Sam's arm. Sam doesn't even complain.

"Someone wanna tell me what the hell that was?" Bobby demands, disgruntled, but not pissed.

Sam can't blame him. They're in a building with deep, deep dark wood, cream—colored walls and black leather upholstery— elegant and old.

"— rapture," Anna is saying (to Dean— she's only talking to Dean).

Dean is staring. "What?"

"You know what the — "

"I know, yeah," Dean cuts her off. "I just don't— "

"Well, it's a bunch of crap," Anna says bluntly. "But we could do it: call people here."

"We?" Sam asks just as Dean says,

"Here?"

Anna gestures behind her, down the hall and to their right and left where there are people rearranging furniture and drawing in blood on the windows.

"Lawrence," she tells Dean. "We're Rapturing hunters here, to the Eldridge hotel. Civilians are being Raptured to the hospital up the road."

She smiles at their thunderstruck expressions. "I remember what it is to be human," she says. "I can make plans."

So they stand there, in the middle of an abandoned lobby, helping to construct a list of all the hunters they know, of all the people who have called them who need…sanctuary. It's easier than dealing with Lucifer Rising. It's minutiae. Sam is good at minutiae.

The first one to appear is Ellen. She looks between the three of them and says, "I don't even want to know" and then drags Bobby away to explain to her just what the fuck happened, here.

Cassie, Dean's ex from that murderous racist truck job— she got on the hunt, surprisingly. So did Sarah Blake, which makes Sam smile faintly.

Cassie gives Dean a long, semi—incredulous look, and Sarah, it turns out, is really out of the country— Australia. Anna says they'll let the angels in Australia figure it out.

When Claire Novak walks into the room, face too smooth, Sam doesn't even notice her. It's some time tomorrow, and he's afraid to fall asleep but too tired to see straight.

"What the hell?" Dean says gruffly. Sam looks at him quickly; sees exhaustion writ in every single square inch of him.

She turns at the sound of his voice, approaches and looks at him from just behind Anna. Stares at Dean like she's drinking in the sight of him. She ignores Sam completely.

"Dean," Anna says, "this is Israfel."

"No, that's Claire Novak," Dean shoots back. "Why would— "

"Amelia Novak was murdered by the demon known as Ruby," Claire— Israfel— explains blandly. "Enduring such a loss was beyond her. She sought to avenge her mother by assisting those who might destroy those who murdered her mother."

"Took care of that," Dean says briskly. 

"Yes," Israfel agrees with a calm curve of her lips. "We know."

"Get to the part where we tell them the good news!" a man with pursed lips, a long, pointed nose and snapping eyes demands, hopping up onto the stair railing and perching theatrically.

Sam stares at the Trickster, who waves with his fingers á là Jack McFarland ("Jazz hands!"). Sam steps closer to Dean without thinking about it, and Dean looks up immediately.

"Winchesters, Winchesters," the Trickster sighs dramatically. "Lucky I have a soft spot for you. You have six more days. Six. Count them. Almost as many as a week." He holds up a hand which sprouts a sixth finger. Dean flinches. The Trickster beams. "This is not my doing, it's battle etiquette. Because yes, at a time like this, etiquette is the thing," he scoffs. He shoots a look at the assembled angels, who all ignore him entirely.

"Six days to what?" Bobby demands, lifting his hat and wiping his hair underneath before resettling it, fixing his eyes on Anna.

"A seven day…. Peace accord, essentially," Anna sighs. "Long since determined— it's time for both sides to muster their armies. No one will be attacked, not really. The Apocalypse doesn't start quite yet."

"What's he doin' here?" Dean eyes the Trickster with obvious mistrust— which is rich, because Dean wasn't the one who had to relive Sam's death over and over in a fucking sick parody of Groundhog day.

"Well," the Trickster sighs theatrically. "This is all a bit Judeo—Christian—Muslim for my tastes. And besides," he shrugs, "if you all die, who'm I gonna play with?"

"Right," Dean agrees. "Uh—huh."

"He's been very helpful," Anna says. "The hospital is completely protected, and he's going to stay there and make sure it stays that way."

"With…people who don't know how to protect themselves?" Dean demands incredulously. "Who thought that'd be a good idea?"

Sam has to agree. It doesn't exactly make a recipe for success.

"I will watch him," Israfel volunteers. "My countenance is distracting, and distraction we can ill—afford. I shall watch the Trickster, and provide him endless amusement, I'm sure."

Dean grins, and Sam stares, because that was an angel cracking a joke. If it weren't true, Sam would say the world is ending. God, he's so exhausted. So, so exhausted.

"I'm hurt no one trusts me," the Trickster informs them all with a spectacular pout, a crooked halo appearing over his head. "Down to my black heart I am hurt."

He vanishes in a ostentatious explosion of fluffy white feathers, and Israfel is gone in the same moment.

There are more angels in the hotel, all of whom have chosen to reside in human bodies. He's reminded of the nurse— he can't remember her name. What was her name?

Shit, he killed her and he can't remember her name!

"Whoa, whoa, Sammy," Dean says, there immediately, crouched down and guiding him to a chair. "Hey. Hey, Sam. What's up?"

"I killed her," Sam whispers, aching with it. He looks around and sees corpses; they feel like the first casualties. Inhabited corpses, all of them. None of them— none of them knew what their decisions would really mean. They were probably all like Jimmy Novak— thinking that it was something cool, with their Sunday School ideas of what an angel was. Unable to imagine the horror, the fucking disasters they'd leave in their wakes. Sam is surrounded by prisoners, by people screaming against the horrors their hosts inflict on them and how is this better? How is what the angels do better except for the pretense of permission? It's not— it's not informed consent, it's rape. And Sam is the only one who can see it, because Dean is— Dean.

"You need to lay down, Sam," Deans says, fingers curling around his biceps ready to heave him to his feet. Sam shakes his head.

"No, I'm— no. Please." It's begging, but maybe if he humbles himself, Dean won't hate him. Because Dean's going to, once he gets a minute. He's going to haul off and punch him, but it won't be enough, because this isn't a normal Sam fuck—up, this is an apocalyptic fuck up. He's going to tell Sam he was an idiot, that Ruby was playing him from the start; that Sam made the decision to walk away, and maybe Dean will too.

But Dean just sighs, and nods. He straightens, and Sam sits in the chair for a minute longer, just watching. The angels watch Dean with smiles— the smiles Anna has for him, the ones that are for Dean. The smiles Dean elicits, like he's their hope. Like they believe in him. Like he's… a savior. Sam's waiting for Dean to bristle under it, for him to snap or snarl, but Dean's in a good mood. They're alive, and sometimes that's enough for Dean, even in the worst of circumstances. Sam envies him that.

When the angels look at Sam, it's like being doused in cold water. When they look at him the light fades; they are wary of him. Sam is known, and he can see that they think he's not just a liability, he might also be a threat to Dean. He doesn't know how he can say he's not. After all, he is the one who let Lucifer free. He doubted Dean.

Hunters start pouring in— appearing in random places— most of them with weapons drawn.

Dean is talking to Anna urgently about something, so Sam heaves off the chair and approaches a guy who can't be older than he is. He has the classic nerd look— a computer geek, probably codes or hacks for a living. He's clutching a laptop with long pale fingers, looking around nervously for someone he knows.

"What the hell?" the guy demands.

"I'm Sam," Sam says, his voice catching in his throat. He clears it— he needs water. "I— look, the Apocalypse is starting. This is a safe—house."

The guy looks at him. "Prove you're not a demon."

"Got holy water?" Sam asks, which is ridiculous, of course he doesn't— and then the guy pulls out a Diet Coke bottle with water in it and shoves it at him. Sam sips, and it tastes like Diet Coke residue, flat and watery and too sweet— but it goes down easy and Sam's throat stops itching.

"Okay, so you're not a demon," the guy says after watching with critical eyes.

"I'm Sam," he repeats.

"Yeah you said that already. Wait." He snaps his fingers and then touches his nose and points at Sam. "Winchester."

"Yeah."

"Okay. Okay, cool. Look, dude. What the fuck, right?"

Sam just stares at him, and then he flushes faintly and says, "Mr. Universe. Ira, actually, but Mr. Universe."

"Serenity," Sam says immediately. He can kind of see it, but Mr. Universe was really just every stereotype, down to the robot girlfriend. Still.

"Dude!" Mr. Universe enthuses, punching Sam in the shoulder. "Awesome, yes. I do computers. Hacker to the Hunters, they call me."

"Like Ash?" Sam asks, forgetting that the chances of Ash having met Mr. Universe (God, he really is tired to let this guy get away with that name) is slim to none.

"Maybe. I think I knew him from the chat he hacked into, but, look, no. I need a computer system, I can monitor it from here. C'mon, there's got to be like, a WalMart or something around…"

He pulls out his laptop and sets it on the table, pulling up Google Map. Sam realizes their gear is in the Impala, which is— probably still at Bobby's. Not good.

"Ten minutes away!" he declares. "C'mon, let's go loot."

And Sam's still fucking exhausted and shaking but it's doing something, it's being needed, and so he goes to tell Dean where he's going.

Someone overhears, and then it's this thing, with people thinking about guns, ammo, paint, toilet paper, medical supplies.

"Where is everyone in the town?" Dean asks.

"Raptured them out," Anna says. "They've been…how did you say it?" she asks Dean, grinning slightly.

"Mindwhammied," Dean supplies.

"Mindwhammied," she agrees.

Dean waves Sam off, telling him to mind the kids, and Bobby rolls his eyes.

An angel comes up to tell him the Impala is parked out back, should he wish to use it.

"It was remarkably forceful in the matter," the angel tells him seriously, which makes Sam seriously wonder about the sanity of angels.

Then again, the Impala has never flipped, and only been totaled by someone else, not Dean. Which seems to indicate that the car is sentient, because Sam knows exactly how Dean drives.

Once outside he looks up at the building that's going to be home, for however long this battle rages. The Eldridge is five stories of brick, with no buildings touching it on any side, a parking lot behind it. Strategically, it's good. From its windows you can see up and down the roads, can see the horizon.

Mr. Universe is pretty damn cool, Sam comes to find as they shamelessly loot the store— he always liked those kinds of people back at Stanford; unrepentantly smart and competent.

They're all talking about the signs, and Sam is the one who knows, so he gets asked a lot as they stock up on guns, on ammo, fishing tackle, salt— he's not really sure what half the stuff is for, but these are all Hunters, and he's not going to ask. He tells the story over and over— but attributes the final act to Lilith, because he remembers Gordon vividly, and this could turn into a lynch mob fast. Hunters are an entire group of "shoot first, ask later (maybe)" people, and he's tired and shaky, but he's not stupid.

By the time he gets done helping Mr. Universe wire his "command center" together, it's late, and Sam's been awake for 48 hours. Dean had scribbled down a room number on a slip of paper as he got tugged along with another angel, and Sam sort of wonders when they're going to get a chance to just settle: maybe the key word there should be "if." If they'll get a chance to settle.

Sam sits down on the bed, which sinks, warm and inviting under him as he kicks off his boots and peeling out of his blood—caked jacket. Reluctantly he gets up, takes a long, hot shower and pulls on new, clean—ish clothes. Tomorrow he'll have to go back to WalMart and stock up on underwear and socks and t—shirts. He'll see if Dean needs any. Then he'll have to see about this place— washing machines, linens, towels…maybe they should stock up on towels. And first aid equipment. He should make a list.

And the thing is, that's a pathetic contribution. But his entire world is down around his ears and Dean is the only steady ground, but other people need Dean. And that's— Sam's not used to not being first and foremost with Dean, and yeah, that's selfish as all fuck and even Sam can see it, but…Sam really just wants to say, "He's my brother, give him to me."

He exhales, trying to calm down enough to sleep, which his entire body is screaming out for. He still isn't sure what happened to Dean after they fought— why he came after him after that fucking message, but now that he's piecing everything together (he must have been listening— not even aware, and Jesus, they could have killed him and he wouldn't have blinked. They still could). He knows that the angels took Dean away, that Dean had been a prisoner, that the message Sam had gotten hadn't been the one Dean has left— had been tampered with by Zachariah (who was…what? Some head honcho angel? An archangel?). That it had been Castiel, at the end of the day, who saved Dean. That Dean's voice scraped in his throat when he said Cas's name. That the angels wanted the Apocalypse as badly as the demons did; wanted to fight and see who was stronger, like it was some sort of pissing match.

Dean comes to the room hours later, and Sam's still whirling and churning in the mess of their lives— light is already beginning to stain the sky. Sam kept trying to sleep, but the awful emptiness of Dean's bed taunted him until he gave up and accepted that he'd just drowse fitfully.

"Jesus, what a day," Dean groans, rubbing his face, not even asking if Sam's awake. "I am beat. And there's no beer here," he adds, heading into the bathroom of their suite. They could have their own rooms right now, Sam thinks, but the Apocalypse feels like a job, and Sam and Dean always share a room during jobs.

Besides, Sam needs to see the rise and fall of Dean's chest when he sleeps. Needs him to be a shout away, and less than that. Needs to be able to reach out and know that if he leaned he could touch Dean.

"Dean," he says, when Dean comes back out, toweling off his hair and already in a pair of jeans, reaching for a black T—shirt. Sam pauses, eyes focused on the handprints on Dean's shoulder. They're not the vivid raised red they were originally; now it's the faded raised white of scar tissue. There's got to be some sort of irony there— in a raised mark, but Sam's too exhausted to interrogate it.

Dean sighs and sits down across from him on his own bed.

"Dean— I," Sam starts. "I just…I'm sorry. I didn't mean…that wasn't what I thought would happen and now that girl is dead because of me— because I killed her— "

"Hey," Dean interrupts. "No, Sammy, c'mon. Ruby was…"

"You knew she was evil from the start, and I just couldn't — I didn't want to— " and it's all here, it's choking him, how stupid he was, and he wants to make it right, needs to make it right but he doesn't know how. Doesn't know if he can.

"I was gone, Sam. Dead, and you thought I wasn't comin' back. She played a good hand— they all did. You screwed up. I screwed up. No way we could've seen this one coming, Sam. It was way over our heads." He shakes his head, getting up and pulling his bag onto the bed— pulling out Ruby's knife and the Colt, offering Sam the knife and tucking the Colt under his pillow. Sam shakes his head, because— because this is going to crash around Dean's ears. Sam can feel it getting ready to, and he can't help but think that the more Dean has on his side, the longer he might live. Sam's very invested in keeping Dean alive. Dean shrugs, tucking the knife under his pillow, too. "I dunno, Sammy. I feel like this started before we were born, you know? There was nothing we could do."

Sam looks at him, because he can see how it would all fit together— Azazel and Ruby and Lucifer, then the angels with Dean, how even Dean going to Hell worked into that plan.

Dean sighs. "Thing is, I think we're off book right now."

"What? Why?"

"When Cas broke me out of the angel prison, we went to Chuck to find out where you were," Dean says it slowly, like he's still thinking the thing through as he talks. "And the archangels started beating a frenzy, but the computer went dead, and Chuck was— he didn't see it comin'. And he knew everything Sammy. Me bein' at laundromat readin' about myself in a laundromat readin' about myself?— c'mon, Chuck was…at least five steps ahead, and when we showed he said we weren't supposed to be there."

"If we're…off book— what does that mean?"

"Zachariah said they had to pretend they were fighting the good fight, or else they'd have a rebellion on their hands. All the angels down here, they'd revolt."

"You mean the angels who are here, right now." Revolution. Rebellion. Jesus.

Dean nods. "Exactly."

"That means we're in a three—way war," Sam points out, because Jesus Christ, this might be worse. On the other hand— what if…and it's a crazy idea, but once Sam's thought it he can't shake it. What if this is God's plan. What if Dean is… the Vessel for it, somehow. Like this is God weeding out the bad eggs.

"Don't worry, Sam," Dean snorts, stretching out on the bed and hitting the lights off. "Haunted hotel in Lawrence, full of hunters? How can we lose?"

Sam rolls onto his side, and then says,

"Haunted?"

05.



"The angels, those who inhabited hosts, as many chose to do for the ease of conversing with their human allies, did so after Judgement Day without their hosts. The bodies were theirs solely, and those who had formerly resided were with their Father to rest in eternal peace, knowing nothing of the turmoil that existed below. When Samuel Winchester lamented these souls as the first casualties of the war, he was not incorrect. The nature of the angels, however, must always be a mystery to humanity, much as humanity is a mystery to angels. It is from within bodies that perhaps the distance can be shrunken. The freeing of the souls from confinement was an indication of how much closer to understanding humanity those angels exposed to Dean Winchester were.

"As the angel Castiel explained it: 'Now we are all spineless, soulless sons of bitches, but we are working on the spines.' Only Dean Winchester would understand, and laugh every time it was said." — From The Book of Chuck

06. Lenore.


It was hard to figure out where they all were.

She'd gotten a call from Esme Collingsworth that there was an Apocalypse on, but Lenore wasn't certain where Esme was, exactly.

"I want to find them," she tells her family. "If we stay, we'll be slaughtered or recruited, and I haven't lived this long just to be compelled into a war I have no vested interest in."

She examines each of them to see their reactions, inhales to smell whether there is fear, anticipation or hesitance on them.

There is a mixture of all those things, but there is also the strange smell of hope. She tilts her head.

"I say we go," Eli says. "The worst they do is kill us. At least then we die as us."

It isn't romantic, but they're all too old for romance. There is nodding all around.

From Otterville, IL to Lawrence, KS is about five hours by car.

There is a traffic snarl, however, that forces them to abandon the car and walk until they come upon a corpse town, in which everyone seems to have frozen mid—task, never to resume.

Lenore has seen a lot of death; this still gives her chills. Beryl is adept at commandeering cars, and soon they are back in a vehicle.

Lawrence is utterly still; abandoned with dogs howling or wandering the streets looking for owners who don't seem likely to return.

Ghosts drift about, confused and nervous, and they can all smell unease.

It isn't hard to find where they all are: it is the only place which reeks of living blood.

They stand at the door, which is opened with guns and (clever hunters) long, wicked knives. It feels as though dozens of eyes stare at her.

Lenore looks around. "We're here to assist," she says to the dark woman without hair who smells of the south.

"Vampires," the woman sounds skeptical.

"Yes. We have just as much of a right to protect our existence as you," Lenore replies. Eli, Ira, Beryl and Jacob all nod. "We're excellent trackers, and we don't slow down as quickly as hunters. You can use us."

There is a quiet discussion in which Sam Winchester features heavily, waving his large hands towards them. He seems to be on their side, though he smells of demons, somehow, and looks exhausted. Tense moments tick by, they are led up to a suite with two large beds in it.

She wants to ask what the plan is, and then Esme stops by, folding her into a hug and smiling at them all. "So, Apocalypse, huh?"

"So it would seem," Lenore agrees wryly. Esme laughs.

"We have five more days," she says. "Five more days until…well, all hell breaks loose, literally."

"What is the plan?" Lenore asks.

"Keep as many people alive as we can. We're looking into crop circles, ways to maybe make entire reservoirs holy water— anything you can think of that might help…"

"The objective is not to destroy Hell?" Jacob demands. "What kind of plan is that?"

"We aren't the only group with angels, apparently," Esme explains. "Angels— including archangels— they're fighting, just not directly…with us. Hopefully they'll take care of the butt—kicking, while we…"

"Save them?" Ira asks wryly.

"Exactly," Esme nods.

07.



"Those things which were evil aligned with that which was evil. The Apocalypse did not draw separate armies for culture or religion; shtrigas and pagan gods aligned with Lucifer because the path he set forth was one they would have followed regardless of him. And yet he provided them with a battle— even those creatures of darkness which had never known Lucifer fell into worship of him, became his army. Those things which were neither good nor evil; those things which came from humanity and needed humanity to exist; those things aligned with the side of righteousness. That side was not the side of the angels, but that of Dean Winchester. The end result was a strange mixture of the hosts of Heaven, those creatures condemned as abominations, and pagan gods. Here, Dean Winchester had an advantage over Lucifer: those which came to him came to him freely, of their own choosing. They came deliberately to follow his way, not because their way happened to lay alongside his."— From The Book of Chuck

08. Jo.


"Yeah," she says, cutting off Elton John singing "And he shall be a good man! And he shall be— ". It's how all hunters answer their phones. If you know the number, you're calling for a reason. Don't beat around the fucking bush. It's how they answered the phone at the Roadhouse, too. Used to fluster some of their suppliers, but hell, not their problem.

"Oh, lo siento," Esme grumbles, fishing her phone out of her back pocket. "I butt—dialed you again."

Sure enough, it's Esme. Jo hangs up and rolls her eyes.

"I hate this new telefono de mierda," Esme snarled, frowning at it in concentration.

The phones were all new; had to flip over from their last job. SIM cards, though, were lifesavers for hunters.

"I don't even know what that means," Carly informed her. "Why do you do that?"

"How are you so white? How are you so, so— "

"Right, no, stop," Jo snaps tiredly. She scrubs her face. Tries calling Sam again.

"This is Sam Winchester. If this is an emergency, try my brother Dean. If it can wait until I get to my phone, leave me a message with your name and a number I can get you at after the beep."

She throws the phone on the bedside table in disgust.

"Who is this guy?" Esme asks. "Boyfriend?"

"No, he's…his dad was a friend of my dad's," Jo says, trying to figure out how you would explain Sam and Dean. "He's a hunter too— a good one."

The demon she was trying to waste yesterday told her that it "yearned to know the chosen one, Sam Winchester." It's enough to make her worry. More worrying that she can't get ahold of him, or Dean, or that Mom hasn't heard from either of them. She stretches out on the bed, propped against the headboard, and begins cleaning her guns.

Esme grunts as she shoves off of the bed, going into the bathroom that Carly has exited.

Esme is 31, her husband got possessed on their honeymoon and tried to kill her before they even made it to their honeymoon suite. She and Jo met in Rutland, Vermont, where they were both tracking a cursed charm bracelet that set the little girls who wore it on homicidal benders. She's Mexican (Jo's really not sure if her immigration status would check out), with the accent to prove it, with dark skin and darker hair. They've been together for 3 years. Not together together, just ridin' along together.

Carly is relatively new; they picked her up in Utopia, Texas, when the grill she'd been working at had been hit hard by demons; she'd been the only one not possessed, and then they hadn't been able to shake her. She's 19, which lets Jo feel older, but only a year or so, so it's not much older. Carly's the daughter of Indian immigrants, and her stories about her family keep them all entertained for miles.

They're good people; the kind of people Jo wasn't sure existed when she stepped outside of the world of the Roadhouse.

They all fall asleep— and wake up to the hotel shaking.

"Shit, shit, what the fuck is that?" Carly demands, hauling off the bed and pulling on her sweatshirt, grabbing their bags and throwing them at them as Jo goes to the window.

Lights are going batshit up and down the road, and the light in their room is growing, and growing and growing—

Esme grabs her hand and Jo holds on tight, and then the light fades and they're in a dark wood room with tile floor and chandeliers.

Somewhere Dean is talking, and Jo can't believe she recognizes his voice even from here, after so long. Sam too, but they must be somewhere else— down the hall.

"Joanna!" Mom shouts. Jo turns in time to be crushed into a hug that might turn her bones to dust, but doesn't care because she crushes Mom's right back

"That's my girl," Mom whispers approvingly, and Jo smiles at her, then looks around.

"Where?" Jo asks. "Oh, Mom, this is Esme and Carly, I've been huntin' with them for the past few years. Um— "

"Eldridge hotel in Lawrence. Apparently we've been Raptured, and you'll never guess who's in the middle of all the fuss," Mom says dryly, and Jo grins.

"Demons aren't here yet?" she asks, even though it's obvious they're not. It just seems weird that they're not. If she was a demon, she'd go after the Winchesters first. She's been around the circles enough to know that, in spite of just two years ago being "John's boys," Sam and Dean Winchester have a reputation for being the sons of bitches who won't die and can take the jobs that kill other hunters, no sweat. Got a hard job you can't figure? Call Bobby Singer. He'll put you in touch with the Winchesters, and they'll take the job.

"Not yet," Mom replies, pulling them into the lobby, past the reception desks which are manned by one guy who's futzing with the wires and swearing at the computers. "We don't know why not, but we think they're probably gettin' their bearings too before they launch on us. We think we've probably got six days."

"On the seventh they make bloody war," a stranger grunts ironically past his beard. He's in a room with a heavy black woman who looks almost maternal, except for the way her lips purse and the unnerving way she looks at Jo: like she knows her.

"Jo, this is Missouri Mosley, she's a psychic, and this ray of sunshine is Rabbi Ezra Levi."

Jo remembers him vaguely from his visits to the Roadhouse when she was younger. He'd scared her a bit as a kid. She's never even heard of Missouri Mosley.

"You three can stake out a room where ever you want that's empty," Mom says brusquely. Hunters who hunt in packs stay together, everyone knows it. "Nice meetin' you girls." She nods and turns away, footsteps as firm and heavy as they've always been.

"That's your mom?" Esme demands, throwing her bag on the cot.

"Yeah, why?"

"Family business?" Carly prompts, checking out the bathroom; shower, tub, toilet and sink. Nice place. Really nice.

"Dad got killed. Hey, Sam," she says when he stops in the door. "Where's Dean?"

She doesn't reach for her gun, or a knife. She doesn't. Never mind that maybe Gordon was onto something when he called Sam the antichrist— that demons have been positively coming at the thought of Sam Winchester. That he's been their golden boy and hasn't ever stopped, that he looks like absolute shit, where Dean just looks tired.

Sam looks like he's barely hanging on, and Jo's not sure what he's barely hanging onto: his humanity? Sanity? Life?

Fucking Winchesters.

"He and Anna are in the basement, trying to figure how to bless the water boilers so that they'll pump holy water through the place. Father Harper is trying to figure out how to do it without sacrificing his rosary, but there's a Catholic church down the road a mile."

"Can't steal one?" Esme asks, knocking her wrist against Jo's back, and it's comforting. Because Sam is huge, and that hasn't changed. And she's never really forgotten him as a demon, even if that wasn't him. And then Mom had called up two years ago talking about Dean's Deal and Sam having demon blood and apparently powers and… he can cross salt lines. He can drink holy water (she's seen at least seven people slip it in his drinks when he's not looking). Small comforts, but she'll take them.

Sam grins faintly. "The father would rather not."

"I thought that research was your area," Jo teases, leaning against the wall. Going for normal. Right.

"Angels are Dean's," Sam replies with a shrug. Jo frowns at him, because she's noticed that, that the angels are circling close around Dean.

"Tell me everything."

So Sam tells her about how Dean really did die, and then the angels resurrected him. Tells her how he had a guardian angel who freed him from the safe house the angels had him in because Dean wanted to fight in the Apocalypse, not be the ace up their sleeve. Tells her about the kind—of—angel, Anna, who isn't stripped of her wings or Fallen but isn't a pure angel anymore. Tells her about the other angels who have joined with them instead of with the upper sets of the angels; the ones who are closer to human— the ones who have free will.

"Jesus Christ," she says finally, sitting hard on the couch. At some point they moved into the suite, Sam's big frame folded into a chair that's too small for him.

"That about sums it up," he agrees. "Look, we're trying to get everyone we can think of here, so if you think of anyone Mr. Universe is making a list downstairs, he'll see if you've got anyone we should Rapture in. Or civilians you know of who oughta be sent to a hospital. We've got about seven places all over the country, apparently we're workin' on making this international but it's only been three days." He sighs wearily. "Course, we've only got four, so…"

Something's off.

"Yeah," she agrees. "Oh, um, Sam, this is Esme Collingsworth and this is Carly Blasius."

Carly and Esme wave slightly.

"Oh," Sam says tiredly, as though just remembering. "If you see the Trickster, tell him Bobby wants him, and that he's supposed to be at the hospital." He pulls a hand from his pocket and waves slightly before turning and leaving.

"…Was he serious?" Esme demands, staring at Jo.

"Sam…doesn't really have a sense of humor," Jo replies, still trying to work out what the hell is wrong. "If it was Dean, maybe, but…not Sam."

Mr. Universe is pure Matt Farrell kind of character— too slight, pasty from a lack of sunlight with heavy—framed glasses and shaggy hair with a really pitiful attempt at stubble— kind of adorable. He kind of reminds her of Ash, actually, and he and Sam aren't really ever too far apart. He seems to be the only person other than Bobby and Dean who Sam's willing to be around, and when Dean's there Sam…doesn't cling, he just sits close, so their knees bang together. And she doesn't know why she notices it, because they've always been in each other's space as much as she can remember. Maybe it's that… that it's Sam being needy.

Then again, Sam has his own magnetism. He's comfortable around Universe, but the younger hunters gravitate towards them, and Sam is… Sam. Seems innocuous and kind of like a puppy until you really look at him. And he's clearly in the know, but he's not a legend, like Bobby Singer, or unnerving like Missouri Mosley, or a hardass like Mom. He's not an angel, not like Anna, and he's not… He's not a legend unless you're old guard, or you've run into the right kinds of demons. He's not a legend unless you know things about Azazel, and Jo thinks enough people don't that Sam can sleep easily.

And the other thing that doesn't quite sit right is that Dean should be the guy drinking the beers with everyone and complaining about a lack of skin mags, and… he does. He teases Mr. Universe about overloading his servers with porn, he organizes convenience store runs expressly for the booze, but…

Dean isn't approachable. He's too good—looking, he's too good a hunter, his eyes are too hard…he's just too something for everyone, and people get nervous around him.

They're like a fanclub, Jo thinks almost despairingly.

He still leans his shoulder towards Sam, though, when they stand together, and they still share a room even though they don't really have to.

They're still Sam'n'Dean.

Jo finds comfort in that— if anyone can control Sam, it's going to be Dean.

09. Sam.


Ellen takes over the bar. When she suspects people aren't sleeping properly, she whips up this cocktail that has everyone swearing it's roofied or something, because people usually don't make it up the stairs to their beds and have to be carried.

Bobby commandeers the ballroom as the research area, and the conference area turns into the war room.

"Four more hours," Dean murmurs quietly. They look around on the hospital. People are set up— it's turned into a hostel, and most of them have had hunter—experiences, so they know (more or less) what to expect.

Dean keeps looking at Sam every time they go over to the hospital. Like he wants to leave Sam here. Like Dean wants to hide Sam away until it's over.

Whatever the end may be.

He doesn't bring it up, but Sam has known Dean his whole life, and they've been hunting together for four steady years, and they've always communicated in something beyond words. And Sam knows, knows, that Dean would let Sam stay.

And it's not punishment. And Sam doesn't think, altogether, that it's to do with the fact that Sam Raised Lucifer, but it's to do with the fact that Dean was the one who carried Sam out of the fire; it's to do with the fact that Dean died to keep Sam alive— it's the fact that Dean would do anything to keep Sam safe. It's the fact that Dean wasn't, in some ways, always there for him (stealing prom dates, having his own version of rebellion that Sam suffered for while they were in school together), but that in all the ways that matter— in all the big ways Sam knew, knows, that Dean is there.

That even when Dean was walking away, saying those same words Dad had said ("You walk out that door, don't you ever come back"), Sam had never actually believed him. And maybe— maybe there's something wrong with that.

And he thought— God. For so long he thought that was weakness. That Dean's capacity for forgiveness, his ability to find a middle road, common ground— those made him weak.

But here, at the end of the calm before the storm, with Dean sparking with energy and determination and the same conviction he's had all along—

It's not weakness.

Sam has done fucking horrible things— and Dean came back. Came back for him. Sam doesn't know how you repay that kind of love. How he's ever going to measure up to it.

Knows that if Dean said, "Sammy, you should stay here" that Sam… might do it.

But Dean doesn't say that, and they walk the mile or so down to the Eldridge, stopping on the corner and Dean looks down all the streets— the way he's been doing every day since they got here.

Looking for Castiel.

Looking for Chuck, too, but it's Castiel who's left something like a hole in Dean.

He keeps leaning slightly, eyes searching before he catches himself.

Sam knows that Anna notices— she keeps looking too.

And Sam wants Castiel to walk down the abandoned street, his trenchcoat flapping in the breeze that was blowing paper and leaves down the road. His head tilted slightly— birdlike. Sam can see it so perfectly, the way he'd just look at Dean curiously, wondering why he's been waiting, not understanding— not capable of understanding— how much he means to Dean.

He doesn't, and Anna says from the door,

"Two hours until truce is over, come on."

Dean sighs, and turns into the door and Sam follows him, bolting it and helping Anna nail it up. The angels will be transporting their forces; the hotel is inaccessible from the outside.

In the first week they get reports of towns going empty or getting turned— a few spontaneously explode or burn. Tribal warfare throughout Africa picks up. Chinese men start fighting each other as more of the already scarce women vanish. Riots break out in Iran before the elections, and Israel gets nervous and starts pointing nuclear warheads, which makes the Palestinians go insane, which makes Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria get antsy. India and Pakistan have an incident which makes China nervous. Disaffected tea—bagging conservatives stock up on guns. Mexico descends back into drug wars. Putin gives up pretending Medvedev is in charge in Russia and positions himself to become the next Stalin. Sam's not really sure what Canada's doing.

Jonathan Falwell gets really big. Christopher Hitchens looks like he really just wants to kill Jonathan Falwell.

Sam stops watching TV when he can't fall asleep, and after seven days it looks like World War III is about to break out.

And they're hunters. They're none of them politicians, have no influence in the real world. They can't pick up the phone— most of them are wanted criminals. They can't shout at the world that it's ending, even though it is and the truth is right there. People don't want to believe it, and Sam can feel that frustrated rage building behind his eyes, the demon in his blood boiling. He has to go sit down, punch a wall.

And then the president comes on, and Anna says faintly, "It was good, that we put him in office." There seem to be allies in high places; Anna calls them "Agents"— people like Dean who are chosen, who have heard from the angels. Who were, like Anna, Fallen, but not pulled to Hell.

"Was he really— was it really always going to be him?" Sam asks one night as Dean comes back bloody and grinning from…where was it, San Francisco?

Anna shrugs. "Yes."

"But Zachariah— "

"Was playing by his own rules. Looking at what he's done…" Anna shakes her head. "It's impossible to think that the Father didn't pick him, didn't choose him. That Zachariah, that they all misunderstood."

Sam is busy trying to help Bobby and Mr. Universe, only sees Dean when they go to bed, or pass. He works hard on finding ways to counter all Lucifer's advances, afraid to go out and actually fight. Afraid that he'll use his powers, the ones he's trying so hard to repress.

They find out that the UK is protected; apparently? Stonehenge's purpose was to keep Lucifer at bay. Who the hell knew? People flood to it. Sam tries to figure out a way to mimic it. Crop circles come into play.

Dean, though. Dean is out there.

Some days, Sam will emerge and realize he hasn't actually seen Dean, so he'll hunt down Anna or Bobby or Ellen, and they'll blink and then there will be a moment of panic as everyone tries to find Dean, who has conned another angel into taking him to Singapore, or Perth, or La Paz, or some other fucking place where demons are prowling and looking for him. It doesn't matter that Dean gets results. It doesn't even matter that suddenly #deanwinchester is one of the most popular hash tags on Twitter. All that matters is that Dean is just up and leaving without telling anyone and after the seventh time it happens, Sam grabs Dean by the arm and shouts, "God, Dean! If you wanted to go get killed, we could have found a way for you to martyr yourself properly! Want a fucking crucifix?!"

"Fuck you, Sam," Dean snarls back. "I didn't lose him to do all this and then end up bein' a fuckin' figurehead anyway!"

Sam stares at his back as Dean walks away, the tight, angry line of his shoulders clearing the halls faster than a fire fight. And Sam's not sure Dean even knows he slipped— that he gave it up. That Castiel is his motivator (and Sam doesn't think it's his only motivator, but he thinks…Dean always needs a reason. Mom's death, Dad's death, keeping Sam safe… something tangible. Something he can grab onto and keep close until the rage around it is perfect and smooth).

"Castiel pulled him out," Anna says softly as they sit and nurse their whiskeys in the bar. "It's not Dean being indebted, but… I think that Castiel is the only person who believed in Dean the whole way through." Sam flinches, and Anna smiles slightly, but doesn't reassure him. He doubted Dean. This is fact, and she won't patronize him by pretending he didn't.

"He was…affected by Dean," she continues. "Changed, for the better. He endured punishments for it. And then…" she shakes her had. "It's like he Fell without Falling."

"What do you mean?"

"Castiel is the first angel to make a decision without orders," she says softly. "The rest of us— when we choose to follow our own… paths, we Fall. It's the hardest thing to do, but I think what Castiel did was harder. He's not giving up on…on God. On his brothers and sisters, he just picked a different, better way to fight."

"Could he have lived?"

She shrugs quietly. "I don't know if he's alive or not. But it wasn't just one archangel protecting Chuck. Those were the archangels on Zachariah's side— the ones who thought controlling the Word would make it be so. If Castiel takes away their power over the Prophet…" she shrugs, looking out over the people drifting around, leaning against the bar and talking to Ellen and Jo. "If the Prophet is even alive."

10.


"Sue, what strange epidemic is sweeping the country?"

"This is a bit scary, actually, isn't it? The H1N1 virus— the Swine Flu— it's actually turning people to swine— I mean, they're actually…pigs."

"Absolutely right yes, well done, two points. Yes, Andy."

"Well, I was just going to say— give that one pig in Afghanistan some company, poor thing."
— News Quiz on BBC 4 8—13—2009, host Sandi Torksvig and panelists Sue Perkins and Andy Hamilton [transcript copyright BBC]


"Stephen…Stephen, what are you doing?"

"I AM HIDING, JON."

"Yes, I can see, that— Stephen. Stephen…"

"THIS IS THE END OF DAYS, JON. AS YE SHALL REAP SO SHALL YE SOW." Stephen Colbert emerges from under his desk in full Jesus regalia, complete with beard and faux puncture wounds on his hands. He folds his hands in front of him and peers into the camera (and at Jon) earnestly, except for that damned eyebrow.

Jon presses his finger to his lips, laughing around it.

"What about, uh…what about the Rapture?" Jon presses.

"Good news, Jon. Apparently that was a hoax."

"Oh really?"

"Obviously it's the only explanation as to why I am still here."

"Well, there you go ladies and gentlemen. It's the apocalypse— " Jon starts.

"KNEEL BEFORE YOUR GOD, BABYLON," Stephen roars, surging up and pointing with tremulous, righteous fury into the camera.

Jon sighs. "We'll be right back." As the camera pans away, he says, "Stephen, you did that one already."



(This movie has greeted everyone at YouTube's homepage since they day Lucifer rose. Some handy work by a hacker/hunter named Ira Rhys, who prefers to be known as "Mr. Universe".) (alternate link)


"And tonight, as promised, a special comment.

"It seems that every century, there is a span of time where everything that— pardon the glibness of the phrase— can go wrong, will go wrong. We seem to be in these times. First, the attacks on the United States, and then London and Madrid. Terrorism seemed to surge, and as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mismanaged and gave our enemies more allies in their hatred of us. The genocide in Darfur continued. North Korea acquired and still continues to day to acquire nuclear capabilities. Pakistan edged towards becoming a failed state. Almost a tenth of Zimbabwe's population have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

"Beyond the realm of human influence, there has been the devastating tsunami in Indonesia, a devastating earthquake in Italy, a heat—wave in India, and one in Europe, flooding throughout Europe, Hurricane Katrina. The strange events of June 6, 2002, where what is thought to be an undetected asteroid exploded over the Mediterranean Sea, the 2003 Melbourne thunderstorm which was dubbed "once in a lifetime." In 2004 there was a locust outbreak in Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Sudan and the Western Sahara. In China there were the winter storms last year which caused almost 130 deaths. In Iran there was the Bandar Abbas earthquake, in Malaysia the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide, Typhoon Jangmi caused millions if not billions of dollars in damage. There was also the 2008 Pakistan earthquake that left anywhere from 200 to 400 dead.

"Considering that we are only nine years into this new millennium, the world seems to be in upheaval. Certain people on the right, such as Boss Limbaugh— Mr. Bouncy—Bouncy— Bill O'Reilly and Dick Cheney, would like us to believe that this is the president's fault.

"As though, in his capacity now not even a year into his role as Commander in Chief and leader of this nation, this president could have somehow contained the devastation of the last nine years.

"This is assigning the blame retroactively.

"This is breeding hatred and fear, something the Republican party these days, and in the eight years they had control of this party, seem to be getting better at, regardless of the damage it does to this country both abroad and domestically.

"The country has reacted, thus far, by ignoring Jonathan Falwell's cries that this is the end of days.

"For the most part, the lunatic right fringe groups have been disregarded, as well they should be.

"But for anyone, much less a former Vice President of these United States, to say publicly that if this is the end of days, that the current president of the country will be left behind when "the Rapture" occurs, is appalling.

"Sadly, from Dick Cheney, it is not unexpected.

"So tonight I say to you, Mr. Cheney, in the immortal words of Mr. Joseph N. Welch of the United States Army: You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir— at long last? …have you left no sense of decency?

"That's all for tonight. This is Countdown, and I'm Keith Olbermann.

"As always, good night…and good luck."

(Countdown with Keith Olbermann's last transmission before the MSNBC headquarters were set on fire in a riot)

11.



"God is not Elvis. He did not leave the building. And even though God created angels, He created humans in His own image. The angels who sought the Apocalypse forgot that, and those who hated the humans and looked at them as "apes" had the wrong end of the stick. They were not the masterpiece, but the test run. They were those charged with the sacred task of protecting that which was frailer, purer.

"The angels who, then, leaned down towards humans, learned from them and engaged in free will; in thought and learned the value of life and emotion— they became more perfect creatures in His sight. That's what Dean Winchester was good at. Making the angels see. Through Dean Winchester was a whole new brand of angels born." — From The Book of Chuck

12. Sam.


The thing about Dean is, Sam doesn't actually know everything about him.

In the places Dean is ignorant of Sam, Sam is also ignorant of Dean. Dean doesn't know what Sam was doing for those four years— knows he was at Stanford, knows he wanted to go to law school, that Jess was there at some point (and God, Jess), but Dean doesn't know things about the people Sam knew, not really. Who he was.

Four years ago, Sam was an entirely different person, and he's always figured that Dean went into some sort of stasis: that without Sam he was with Dad, but… somehow, Dean is always Dean. He's fucked up by varying degrees; horny and confident except for where he's really, really not.

So Sam thinks that he can be forgiven for assuming that Dean hadn't really changed much. That Dean's world, unlike Sam's, didn't expand.

For the four years they've been hunting together again, Dean's never once mentioned a hunter he ran into; a psychic he knows of; a job he worked. When people call, they seem to call for John, and recall that Dean was there.

Sam knows the important things about Dean. Knows he's a mess of a person— that Dean's cocky and brave, but holy shit is he damaged. That Dean existed their whole lives in a strange place between spouse/son/brother/parent. That he and Dad used Dean against each other, because Dean could take it.

Because Dean would never leave them.

But Sam doesn't know this Dean as well as he should— that wrapped up in his own drama, he didn't see this Dean come into being. Which is kind of sad, because now Sam wonders where, when, and how— wonders if anyone saw this coming.

Has the unbidden thought that Castiel did, probably.

The thing is, that after two months of this, Sam's not sure he blames the angels who call Dean the Messiah.

Of course, he's not telling Dean that— ever.

"I thought he'd be here," Dean is saying quietly, looking out the window of the hallway over at the road, at the clouds gathering on the horizon. Sam has a brief moment of panic— maybe Dean's gone crazy. If that's the case, they're in trouble. "Thought he'd make it."

There's a pause that makes Dean grin faintly, and then shrug. "You'll let me know." He turns then, looks down at nothing— at air. But something about his face responds to it; there's something there, and Sam just can't see it.

"Them," he says. "More than one. Probably meet him on the field, on the other side."

His shirt crinkles like someone hitting him, and Dean blinks, then grins wryly.

"Yeah, okay. Gonna be busy."

He bends at the hips, expression surprised, and then looks around.

"Friendly ghost?" Sam asks.

"Friendly Reaper," Dean replies. "Tessa was in the neighborhood."

"Of course," Sam snorts. He's not sure what it means that a Reaper stopped by to see Dean. He's not sure what it means that Dean could see her, could interact with her in a way that Sam couldn't.

"Bobby said we just put another thousand into LMH?" he asks. Sam winces. That had been another blessing from the Trickster; space. They hadn't imagined there would be so many people; that so many civilians would come to them, that they would have so many hunters, angels, vampires, psychics. People are paired off into their natural groups; the angels don't need sleep so they don't need rooms, which helps. Still, it's a tight fit, and the Trickster keeps on blithely expanding the hospital as though it's nothing. Sam is grateful.

"I asked the Trickster if he could suspend time for them," Dean says. Sam raises his eyebrows in surprise— he didn't know Dean had spoken to the Trickster. "A day for a month."

Sam wants to say that sounds like an old Star Trek episode: those things never end well. Instead he just asks, "What'd he say?"

"He said he would— didn't want to be bored, or have to deal with the monkeys for too long." Dean grins wryly.

John McClane grunts "Yippie—ki yay, motherfucker," from Jo's room, followed by a gunshot. She and her friends had raided a local movie rental place down the street.

Lots of Die Hard, Lethal Weapon— old 80s action flicks.

Sam swiped the Terminator stuff. Linda Hamilton wasn't hot, but he remembers being a kid and feeling like if she could have been his mom, things would have been okay.

Instead he had Dad.

And Dean.

They head up the stairs to their room, check the ammo. Sam doesn't think about the fact that Jo watches him like she expects him to snap at any moment. They don't talk, not really. Not if they can help it.

"How do you think it'll break?" Sam asks. Bobby's had him working on demons, lately— figuring out patterns. Sam wonders if it's because Sam was, in fact, a bit demonic for a while. He tries not to think about that.

No one but Dean, Bobby and the angels know about Sam's role. Or Dean's, for that matter, in beginning all this. Missouri may have gleaned it, but enough people who are their allies know, and Sam doesn't want to shove anyone away because they suspect him of playing for the other side.

Ellen and Tamara have started a home—run tattoo parlor in the ballroom. Everyone has a tattoo like Sam and Dean's. Not in that spot, necessarily— some have it on their biceps or backs— Esme got it on her stomach, and Cassie got it on her hip with an almost flirtatious glance at Dean.

She'd frowned when she'd realized his attention wasn't there.

"Rumblings are that we've got strongholds in Seattle, Boston, New York, Georgia, and San Francisco. We think they're gonna come in from Texas— it'll read like a storm; lots of possessions. Anna says chaos is key, and there's gonna be a two—bird—one—stone thing; kill an angel while possessing a human."

"Zachariah?" The angel hasn't been a problem yet, but Sam's wary of him.

"Not our problem. Hopefully the two of them will throw hard enough at each other that we can worry about…people."

13.



"The world had never seen such a time in its memory. Governments did not fall, only because the officials were chosen as hosts for the armies of Heaven and Hell. It served both sides for government to endure, for government is the perfect tool with which to control the people. Where the television, landlines, and the internet ceased to function, that infrastructure was not lost.

What no one expected was the level to which Dean's Army could infiltrate. By the end of the war, Dean Winchester was known to every single member of government and had become a mainstream entity. He was a modern day King Arthur; the people's hero." — From The Book of Chuck

14. The Prophet Chuck.


"Shit." Shit is a good word. A descriptive word. Chuck is a Prophet. He's good with words. The Word. The Words.

Shit.

"Indeed," Castiel agrees. Castiel, angel of the Lord.

Purist.

Rebel.

Renegade.

Dean's angel.

Words.

Just words, but right now. Right now the words—

They are necessary.

Because without words, he is just a dude.

In the middle of nowhere.

With another dude.

After surviving the (holyshitGodshitfuckfuckfuck) obliteration of his house.

Obliteration. O—blit—er—ation.

That's another nice word.

Jesus Christ.

Castiel pulls him to his feet, hands wrapped around his shoulders— Chuck wonders if this is how Dean felt, when Castiel gripped him.

Probably not. Chuck doesn't really know what went on in Hell (he's a coward— he can torture his characters so far, but not that far, and it's more interesting to skip to the rising, you know? For literary purposes. The whole Dean=Jesus Christ with a James Dean attitude and a Batman complex thing). He imagines, though, that Dean did not want to be saved.

Dean's that kind of dude. Commits to shit. Like fucking up the Apocalypse and pissing off an archangel. Shit like that.

Shit's still a good word.

Chuck sucks in a breath, and it hurts, but it's an almost good hurt, because he's breathing.

"Come," Castiel says. Growls. Castiel has a weirdly deep voice, raspy like it's someone else's voice dragged over broken glass. Which…well. Huh, it kind of is. "We must find Dean."

And at first, you know, for the first few miles? Chuck's okay with them walking.

Except then there's like, no one there. For miles. And Castiel's not really chatty— like, he doesn't actually have conversations with anyone but Dean, and Chuck knows this, accepts it, can deal.

Except it's miles, and Castiel doesn't break pace or pause or, you know, stop to take a piss.

Which might start to be a problem, but Chuck really has to start talking or else he's going to go even crazier than he already is.

Which is weird, because usually? Usually the angels make him crazy by talking to him. Now this one is making him crazy by not talking. But Castiel is…different.

Big things to come for Castiel, Chuck can taste them in the air; his fingers twitch with the things on the horizon.

"How long were we…we were…how much— " he flounders, and then frowns at Castiel, because dude is an angel, and should be a little psychic, and last Chuck knew it was May 14. Except this weather is not May. Definitely not.

"It is August."

"Aug—August," Chuck repeats, swallowing. "And the people would be…?"

"Scattered. Possessed."

"Oh. Right. Could you be less okay—sounding with that?"

"My concern would comfort you?" Castiel inquires. "My only concern is finding Dean Winchester."

And Chuck nods, because okay, fine, yes. Finding Dean. Finding Dean and Sam— that would be…that would be good. Necessary.

"Look. You don't have to eat, and stuff, and that's great, for you, and hey, congratulations on not having to share with Jimmy, anymore, and stuff— poor guy— but…I need food."

Castiel stops, puts his hands deliberately in his pockets, and nods at a convenience store.

Which— okay. So Chuck knows that it's abandoned, and all of that, but…that's…stealing.

His stomach rumbles.

Right.

They sit on a peeling red picnic table and Castiel watches the— something, Chuck's not really sure, but Castiel does not look at Chuck, which is on the one hand, sort of unnerving and insulting, but on the other hand, you know…nice? Takes pressure off a guy, and Chuck smells stale and rank and he, you know, hasn't shaved since…last month? And he's in his bathrobe. Oh shit. He's Arthur Dent. He's Arthur fucking Dent, and instead of Ford he gets Castiel. So, you know. Not being looked at is sort of nice.

He doesn't think he has to make up his mind on this one.

"What happened?" he ventures finally.

"Dean Winchester," Castiel replies.

"I mean— to us?" He doesn't know why the archangels— yeah, that's plural, Chuck knows this like he knows he has ten fingers and nine toes (tragic accident with a hoe as a child— this is why he never gardens)— didn't destroy Castiel, or put him in the lock—box they had Dean in.

"Lucifer was released. We became of less imminent concern."

"Oh." Because what else do you say to that? He wonders, though, if they couldn't destroy Castiel, and the Apocalypse is just a really good excuse to run from him, and that's a thought.

He thinks they were in Heaven— that time passed…differently. Like how in Hell forty years is four Earth months, that might have been…four Heaven hours.

"Dean— why do we…?" It's like angel Radio, but it's all static. He's getting words, and then a shriek like someone turns the dial too far, and there's a constant murmur, but it's freaking him out that there are things he doesn't know, that he hasn't seen.

This means his life is completely twisted, he knows that. Accepts. Is trying to move on.

"Can't you tell?" Castiel inquires.

And suddenly Chuck's fingers itch. It's less…it's less like it was before. Like someone was taking the entire book and just shoving it right into his head, rubbing the pages onto his brain until he absorbed the words directly off of them.

This is just…like knowing the answer. Like needing to write, the way he had when he was 14 and writing mediocre stories, but having to write them because he didn't know how not to.

He gets off the bench, grabs one of those "Shop Green!" cloth bags, then considers and grabs two. In the first one he puts all the Mead composition books— he considers the other ones, but these ones have the pages sewn in, and might last the Apocalypse better. Then he just throws all of the pens into the bag. Gotta have pens, because he is not writing in blood.

Then he fills the other bag with nonperishables. The essentials; bags of chips and Hostess snacks, tons of Rockstar energy drink and then Gatorade, in case he gets dehydrated. The beer is all in glass— not worth the risk.

He notices the bathroom in the back and detours quickly.

Much better, and he exits feeling a bit lighter, despite being weighed down by purchases.

Castiel looks at him.

"Where is he?" he asks.

And Chuck knows, and that's…yeah, it's a revelation.

"He's in Lawrence, Kansas," he replies. "He and Sam. They're in Lawrence."

Castiel presses two fingers to his forehead, and they go to Kansas.

15.



"The angel Castiel was marked as Chosen long before he dove into the mouth of Hell and pulled out the Soul of Dean Winchester. And as it was that Dean Winchester was foretold, so was it that his angel was also noted in the coming Words. It was known that they would rise together to great heights, held high in His favor. It was within choice; a single choice— the choosing of a man and having faith in him as one of God's creations, that Castiel would become Arch. And he would take the Prophet Chuck from Kripke's Hollow, Ohio, and bring him to the epicenter of the resistance. For this, he would be held in highest regard among his kind, for the Prophet was a difficult man, weak and given to indulgence in spirits. Charming, and a little endearingly eccentric, but…not the best traveling companion. But a genius with the Word." — From The Book of Chuck

16. Sam.


It's late at night, and (surprise surprise), Sam is frowning down at some readings, comparing them to what he remembers of Ash's predictions for Yellow Eyes.

"It's him, Bobby," Sam says when Bobby comes down at four. "Jesus, it's him."

"The Colt— "

"It's not Azazel," Sam says. "It's Jake— and he's Yellow Eyes." He turns the laptop around. "kiwigrrrl238: #deanwinchester #apocalypse! #demonsdemonsdemons #hunters : think saw demonically possessed man with yellow eyes. SIGNIFICANT?!!! Plz RT" is on the Twitter feed he's set up. 70 people have retweeted it or corroborated it.

"God damn it," Bobby grunts.

"I'll get Dean," Sam agrees.

Dean frowns. "Can't she just be crazy?" he demands as he comes into the room, batting away the shirt Sam keeps trying to shove at him. He has bruises under his eyes— Anna took him to Brussels, he remembers with a guilty jolt.

That's still no excuse to be shirtless.

If he keeps this up some of the nerdier hunters who work for Mr. Universe are going to start hyperventilating, and the vampires who have been so, so good about accepting animal blood are going to start launching themselves at him.

Finally Sam just gives up and attacks, shoving it over Dean's head and pulling it down as Dean swears at him and attempts to pull his arms through.

"Sam!" Dean grunts.

"If you two chuckleheads are done," Bobby says, amusement over the exasperation in his voice, "I've got seven more hunters who are swearing it's Yellow Eyes, and two angelic chosen who are agreeing."

Sam hauls over the keyboard and enters "@kiwigrrrl238: #deanwinchester #apocalypse! #demonsdemonsdemons #hunters #YED: confirmed YED. RT w/ new hashtag" as his status. Then he sends an email off to Mr. Universe telling him to set up a new YED scanner.

"We lost three people yesterday," Dean seems to tell his coffee. Ellen grins when he exhales sharply. Apparently that would be very Irish coffee. Sam shoots her a grateful grin.

"Dean," Bobby says. They both look at him quickly; that's Bobby's "shit's gone down, and you boys'd better look at this" voice. He's looking down the road.

Sam gets there first, and stares.

Dean grips the windowsill so hard it creaks and his fingernails are carving crescents into the dark wood.

There are bodies in the street, and a demon— a yellow eyed demon— grins up at them.

"Hey, guys," he says, easy drawl bright and smug. "Miss me?"

"Motherfucker," Ellen hisses. Anna is already out the door, and shots echo in the street below. Dean is shoving the window open, and Sam grabs it, shoving it back down.

"Sam!" Dean protests.

"Don't be an idiot!" Sam snaps back. "You wanna get us all killed? That's what they want! They want you to open up the window!"

"Sonovabitch," Dean snarls, slamming his fist into the wood.

Sam can feel the latent demon in him uncurl. It would be so easy to take Jake out now. So easy.

And it would kill all of them.

So he just holds onto Dean's shoulder, and stares down at the dozens of bodies in the street with impotent rage burning hot in his stomach.

That's when he makes the decision. The Trickster had offered (in his own gleeful way) to take Sam on a "Tour de L'Innocent" (Sam's not even sure that's proper French)— around to the safehouses they've got for civilians and the strongholds of hunters.

Sam has to go. He's going. He tells Dean later that night, when he stumbles in.

It's taking advantage and catching Dean in a moment of weakness, but this is a time of war.

"What?" Dean demands. "Sam— "

"I can't just— be cooped up here, Dean," Sam says. "I can't be Bobby, and I get why you don't— I get why I'm not goin' out and fighting, I get it. But I can be doing something and they should…know who they're talking to. Know who we are. It'll only be for a day and— "

"And you trust him?" Dean interrupts, jerking his head at the Trickster, who looks mortally offended, clutching his heart dramatically. Sam's not really sure when he showed up, but he can't bring himself to be bothered.

"It's in his best interests to keep me alive. I die, his entertainment factor goes down." Sam shrugs. He's at peace knowing that the Trickster views them as a TV show for his own entertainment. "Dean."

"All right, Sammy," Dean sighs. "All right."

So Sam goes.

And he knows some of the hunters— trades on Dad's name, on Bobby's name. Gets legitimization from the angels.

"So what the hell's he doing?" one of the hunters in London demands. "Gonna save the world or what?"

"What?" Sam asks, taken aback.

"The Great Dean Winchester. Demons're scared shitless of 'im. When's he gonna make his move?"

"We're— waiting," Sam says. "It's three way right now. Demons, angels, and us."

"We got angels," the man persists, frowning.

Which is how Sam ends up explaining Zachariah and Uriel and the fucking bad plan the angels came up with.

"That's right fucked up, mate," a woman snorts, handing him a pint from their bar. It's better than what he gets back home. More incentive to travel, he thinks wryly.

"Tell me about it."

17.



"There would be a reaper who would be known to Dean Winchester by the name of Tessa. This reaper would lead her fellows into battle as they had never done before. In this Apocalypse all neutrality would be a casualty; standing aside and merely maintaining the status quo was impossible. The addition of the reapers to Dean's army would give even Lucifer pause, for there were none who could stand against a reaper; not even the Trickster was willing to test its immortality against the sharp edge of a reaper's scythe." — From The Book of Chuck

18. Tessa.


It is a silly thing.

Angels, of course, are silly creatures. Perhaps it's their relative immortality that robs them of a certain gravity that humans possess. Perhaps she is just overfond of that which can die and thus knows the value of life.

Dean Winchester is no longer human.

He has not been so since he was Raised— no mortal is meant to live twice and then walk the Earth for any extended period of time. Even Jesus only was granted two month return, conditional from the start. And yet here is Dean Winchester, alive once again, with no set end—date in sight.

The silly thing, of course, is that no one seems to see it but them. The Reapers.

They can see that Sam Winchester, for all his demonic blood, is as human as the hunters he has become so very close to. Angels stare at him as though he is a monster— a demon in their midst, tolerated because he is Dean's brother.

Tessa thinks it's amusing. So caught up in the silly dichotomy of good and evil that they do not see that Sam feels different from Dean not because Sam is the flawed brother, but because Dean is not human.

Zachariah knew— knew that at the end of the apocalypse Dean will stand; that Dean Winchester had to make it to the end.

He couldn't foresee how, of course.

None of them knew how.

She thinks, perhaps, that Castiel knows.

He has always been observant, though he rarely uses that skill. Always the tediously good little soldier, carefully turning his eyes away from that which would make him Fall; always kept from that which would make him Fall.

They knew to be wary of the angel called Castiel.

And then, as they would say, along came Dean.

Early in the conflict, when Sam was still clinging and frightened and Dean was reckless and without Castiel to catch his fall, Tessa slid into that position.

It made no real sense— she was busy. The world was ending. Souls needed crossing and ferrying; but there was Dean throwing himself into the thick of everything, and Tessa…

Impossibly, she was fond of him. Perhaps it was the personality of Tessa. Perhaps she merely liked that he vexed both sides.

Irrelevant.

But in early June as he hacked with only his knife through six demons, bleeding heavily, she had sighed and reaped the final four before pressing her lips to his.

The locks fell into place, sealing something very like his fate: Kiss of a demon: click. Kiss of an angel: click. Kiss of death: click.

"You are an impossible thing," she observed.

He stared at his flesh, which was slowly pushing itself together until naught but a silver line of scar tissue remained, and even that faded quickly.

"Right," he agreed.

No, comparatively Sam may feel wicked to those who do not probe deeply enough, but Dean Winchester is the Messiah, and by virtue of that he is no longer human.

It does not change the essence of who he is, of course. He makes imprudent human decisions and is ever who he was; he is merely kept alive that he may meet Lucifer.

It is a necessity.

Between Dean and Lucifer, Tessa prefers Dean.

She is her job; with Lucifer's ascension she would cease to be, as there would be naught to reap.

There has never been an apocalypse quite like this one, in which all things chose a side; then again, there has never before been Dean Winchester.

19.



"The Colt, as constructed by Samuel Colt, was of perfect design. It was meant to travel through the hands of the righteous and be a tool in the apocalypse. Those who whisper that angels spoke to Colt in his dreams, that they guided his hands in its construction would not be incorrect, save for one point.

It was not angels who would whisper the secrets of ending a demon entirely to Colt, but rather one specific angel, who would come to be known as "Anna." She would be dear to the Winchesters as a sister and mentor, one who walked the line of both human and angel with grace and ease. Some years after whispering to Colt the fiercely guarded secrets Anna would fall to Earth, but no further. Her soul would not, as those of her Fallen brethren would, be twisted by Lucifer's children and made to a thing of evil. Indeed, 25 human years after Falling the human Anna would reabsorb her Grace to save the lives of Samuel and Dean Winchester, and her former companion, Castiel.

Anna would be the first to follow the true path." — From The Book of Chuck

20. The Prophet Chuck.


The entire city of Lawrence is silent, but stands tall and defiant. Symbols flash into Chuck's mind's eye, places to avoid and he grabs the angel's arms a few times to save him from a particularly nasty little spell that's angel—specific.

Good. Dean and Sam are taking on that bastard Zachariah.

Something in Castiel loosens— his shoulders unclench or his jaw slacks just a bit, and Chuck draws a breath of relief.

They approach the door, closely watched, and a man Chuck doesn't recognize walks out into the vestibule. "Yeah?" he says.

"I am the Prophet, Chuck," Chuck says. It sounds just as ridiculous now as it did when he said it last time, but if Sam and/or Dean are here they should recognize it.

"What about you?"

"I am the holy tax accountant, and I wish to see Dean Winchester," Castiel replies. And then a pale woman with large eyes and red hair (the kind you get from Clairol #34, not the kind of red where the drapes match the carpet, and yes, Chuck is going to Hell for thinking that about an angel) walks past the man with the gun, out the door, and folds Castiel into a very warm, very relieved embrace.

"We didn't know what had happened," she says, still clasping his shoulders and drawing away to gaze at him in warm wonder. They're nearly the same height, which is funny, because Chuck always thinks of Castiel as really, really tall.

"We were delayed," Castiel replies.

She smiles at him, and then turns to Chuck. "Hi, I'm Anna," she says, offering him a hand, and then drawing him through the front door to the deep wooden hallway. The furniture is leather, and covered with old books, beer bottles, martini glasses, boots, and jackets. "Welcome to ground zero, Prophet Chuck."

"Chuck?" Dean's voice repeats.

He turns around, and Chuck stares at him— can't help it. He looks older, but somehow better. Like Batman— you know, when something like an alien invasion or tyrannical government or religious oppression goes on and Batman like, thrives. Because when the world goes to shit, Batman is more happy, and it's not 'cause he likes bad stuff to happen or anything, just that he's better suited to it— because when the world goes to shit Batman has that support system and knows how to fix it; when there's nothing to fix he flounders.

Dean seems like that— like in the Apocalypse he knows what the game plan is, so he's good.

"Hey, man!" Dean says, hugging him tightly. It's a dude—hug: brief squeeze, a clap on the back, pull an arm's length away to grin and slap the biceps. "You survived!"

"Thanks to Castiel," Chuck replies, because a) it's true, and b) Dean has clearly not yet noticed Castiel, who got pulled away by that Anna chick as soon as they walked in to talk to the other group of…angels.

The angels on their side.

Everything in Dean freezes; clenching in the exact reverse of how Castiel loosened.

"Cas?" he says, voice raised just enough.

Chuck knows that he is intruding on a private moment; that they all are. That in the middle of this lobby of people who are fighting the war to end all wars (for real), there is a really private moment going on.

Castiel turns, and then they're standing there, in front of each other. "I am growing a spine," Castiel says finally in that gravelly, earnest voice.

Dean laughs— it's too loud, cracking with something that isn't laughter at all, and pulls him in for a tight hug— the hugs he reserves almost exclusively for Sam. The one that lasts as long as it lasts, and then doesn't pull away even an arms' length. The kind of hug that says "I love you."

Chuck wonders if either of them knows that yet.

Sam comes into the room, and he takes his turn hugging Chuck, and then pulling him away to introduce him to the group of people that are assembled, but Chuck itches, needing to be closer to Castiel again— feeling a little lost without him.

But Castiel and Dean are nowhere to be found, and Sam smiles faintly. "You did good, Chuck," he says.

And Chuck looks at Sam. Really looks at him.

"How are you, Sam?" he asks. Because he knows things about Sam— things that other people don't know.

"Let's find you a room," Sam says instead, and they do find him one, up in the corner of the eighth floor. A smaller suite (because apparently they're all suites).

"I was here once," Chuck says. "Back when— when I thought I was doing research. You know. To see what Lawrence really looked like. This place was five stories high."

"Trickster," Sam replies, and it's like opening a floodgate.

Chuck hunches, his hand spasming rapidly as he curls in on himself.

"Chuck!" Sam is barking, grabbing his shoulders just like Chuck knows he will.

Chuck smiles faintly at him. "Rewriting the disk," he says. "I'm okay, Sam." He sits on the edge of the bed and Sam sits in a chair, and Chuck looks at him for a minute.

"So, you were kind of a douche," Chuck says finally.

Sam laughs without humor, his face clouding, eyes flickering away quickly. "Yeah," he agrees.

"Choosing Ruby over— "

"I know, Chuck!"

"Do you?" Chuck demands, not quite knowing where he's getting the stones from. But someone has to say it to Sam, and Dean won't because Dean doesn't think like this, and Bobby is like how John should have been, and the angels will just silently judge him and no one else knows. Chuck is the only one there is.

And someone has to say something.

"Do you know how you wrecked him? Do you know what you could have done? What the hell were you thinking, choosing Ruby over Dean? How could you have— "

"Dean was dead," Sam shoots back, and his whole face is lines of agony, but see, Chuck knows things.

"You only looked for two months! Two months, Sam."

"I tried everything— "

"You didn't talk to Bobby! Sam, you've got this head—space where— you're so afraid of being hurt that after a while you just stop letting yourself— it's not practical, okay? To stop. It's taking the easy way."

Sam stares at him and Chuck thinks he actually might get punched. But Sam just sits back and says quietly, "Yeah."

Because they both know that right now, Sam is hiding behind Dean. That Dean has become this symbol to people by sheer dint of being the guy who won't die— the guy who the angels have chosen— the guy who is damn good at this. That Sam feels guilty and wretched and Dean is the rock he can cling to. And he is clinging, even while pretending to himself and everyone else that he's not.

Chuck scratches the back of his neck. "So. Got any good movies?"

"Terminator," Sam offers.

"Beer?"

"Bud."

"Close enough," Chuck decides. "Let's celebrate Chuck Isn't Dead Day."

Sam laughs. "Okay."

Sam is a fantastic drinking buddy. Chuck sees this as the start of a beautiful friendship.

21.



"The Word is a fierce thing. It does not distinguish between those tales which are appropriate for such a book as this, or those which are better edited out. I have never been a good editor, though I am worse at being edited. What flows from my hand is not my own, and upon arrival at the sanctuary and stronghold of hunters, the word flowed ever stronger. Released from the bonds of Zachariah and those untrue to the Truth and the Word and in the majesty of what His Grace may truly create— people, simply striving and struggling to exist against impossible odds, all became clear. In the darkest hours, as comrades lay dying and it seemed that the bounds of luck had been tested one too many times, His name was invoked only in vain, and yet He was there in those he had chosen to champion him, and it was good." — From The Book of Chuck

22. Dean.


There should be words.

Phrases like "I didn't think you were coming" and maybe declarations of… something.

But it's been four months.

And Cas—

Held them all off just like he said he would, gave Dean time, time to go off book, hell, Cas was the Goddamn catalyst for Dean going off book, and Dean is—

There aren't words, though there probably should be.

Words like "grateful" and "awe—struck" and "relieved"— but those aren't the right words. Aren't the words that fit, and Dean's never been much of a talker.

Cas pulls Dean's shirt off over his head, studies him for a minute, and the weight of his gaze has Dean going hard under it, cock pressing against his jeans just enough to be this side of pleasurable discomfort. Not enough pressure, but enough to make him want more.

He places his hand, oh so carefully, over the scar tissue on Dean's biceps, and Dean hisses, arching, eyes sliding closed because God. It's not— it's pleasure and it's fire and this feeling of being saved and protected and— it's Cas and Dean remembers vividly what it was like to be without body, to be wretched and broken into finely shattered pieces and glued together with Alastair's malice and his own hopeless, epic fury. He remembers how bright that light shone, how it didn't just touch him but spilled into him, put the pieces back together and whispered his name to him until he remembered it as they catapulted out of Hell again. Dean remembers that this is the person who never faltered— who knew Dean even when Dean was gone, who showed him how to be Dean again. Remembers that this angel who fought off archangels for him once also fought off the masses of Hell and thrust him back into his body, who stayed there with him, surrounding him in that coffin until he could breathe again on his own, who slammed out through the top so that Dean could break it. It's too much to relive, those feelings of being alive and being saved that he forgot as soon as Cas left him, as soon as he let go his tight grip. Cas lightens the grip, and the feeling lessens to something more bearable, but Dean still surges in for the kiss and Cas returns it hard, lips sliding over Dean's the way he did that one time before being recalled. Before fucking Zachariah mindwhammied him and Dean lost all of this.

"Dean," Cas whispers, and Dean pushes the stupid coat off of his shoulders, unbuttons the shirt impatiently, pulls at the tie until the silk of it gives way.

There are hands everywhere, divesting them of clothes and Dean couldn't say which are his and which are Cas's, but the goal is mutual— be naked as quickly as possible.

Cas smoothes the pad of a thumb over one of Dean's nipples and Dean arches a little before falling at the sudden push— back onto the bed with an almost grinning Cas over him.

"Shut up," Dean grumbles without heat, because God, he's gorgeous. Pinscratch line between his eyes as he surveys Dean like a thing to be conquered and Dean's cock jumps at the attention. Cas runs one finger up the vein and then down again, repeats the motion idly even as he settles over Dean, leaning on an elbow and kissing him deeply.

It's a torturous movement, with the faintest scratch of a nail when Dean jerks his hips impatiently. Enough of a reprimand to make him attempt to keep still.

And then Cas settles against him, cocks sliding together, and Dean draws a foot up to spread his legs a little more, and Cas settles in the cradle of his hips like— Jesus, like he's meant to be there, and this is a version of destiny that Dean can get behind.

Cas presses a kiss to the juncture of neck and shoulder, hot and lingering but not enough to bruise, then bites his collarbone and Dean fists the sheets, groaning as Cas rolls his hips deliberately against Dean. Once.

Twice.

Dean has been celibate for seven months— since Anna. That's his longest dry spell since he turned 15 (he's not sure how to look at his 40 years stint in Hell. He certainly wasn't celibate, but at the same time he was dead). He's going to come embarrassingly quickly if Cas does not get this fucking show on the road, and he says as much.

Cas just laughs into his shoulder, and leans up enough to kiss the underside of his chin. "That would be bad?" he asks, and Dean can't really tell if he's fucking with Dean, or if he's serious.

"Cas," Dean groans. "C'mon."

"You are impatient."

"I know what I want," Dean counters, and then slams his head back against a pillow at the sudden entry of a finger, which Cas twists and crooks mercilessly. Dean is sweating— the room is hot anyway— air conditioning's one of those things they gave up on in order to have the computers cold or something (that's Sam's area, not Dean's)— and Cas settles against him, slides in with a hot, steady burn that Dean pushes down into, panting.

And then Cas just stays there, buried in him balls deep, and when Dean opens his eyes to look he's just gazing down at him.

"Cas, you asshole," Dean manages between clenched teeth, trying to fuck himself back on Cas's cock but finding his leverage seriously lacking from this position, "move."

Cas brushes his fingers against Dean's lips, pushing two into his mouth and Dean sucks them in, tongues them before he realizes that this was a tactic to get him to shut up. He glares his disapproval, and Cas chooses that moment to move.

It's not gentle— but Dean can't imagine it should be. It's hot and desperate very suddenly, Cas hunching over him with his now—wet fingers digging into the mark he'd made months ago. Dean is making dangerously needy noises, with no idea how loud he's being and the vague thought that Sam could come in at any moment before orgasm hits like a rolling wave, striping both their chests and his chin, and Dean thinks that if Zachariah hadn't been such a sanctimonious bastard and had been just a little smarter, he would have had Cas take this tactic earlier and Dean would have been putty in their hands.

As it is he's fairly sure he's making absurd promises about the things he'll do to Cas if they can just stay like this forever, right here.

"Dean," Cas grinds out like it's some sort of fucking revelation, and then he's coming, and resting his forehead against Dean's chest, panting heavily.

They're both going to need a shower.

It's fairly big— they'll both fit.

But for a while, at least, Dean just wants to stay here, Cas still inside him, resting on top of him.

Sam gives him tonight. Dean is grateful.

"What happened?" Dean asks after they've showered (twice— Cas is very appealing wet, and no one has ever accused Dean of self—control). They're curled together on the full bed which is almost too small, but just gives them the excuse they don't really need to slide in together, legs tangled.

"Sam let Lucifer free," Cas replies, "and they lost interest in me."

Dean calls bullshit. "And left Chuck?"

Cas smiles faintly. "I perhaps persuaded them to do so."

"You're four months late," Dean points out. "Four months since Lucifer got free."

There is a pause, and Dean raises an eyebrow. "I needed time," Cas replies finally. "Seven archangels are difficult to— "

"Seven," Dean repeats blankly. "Seven. You— "

One archangel had scared the shit out of Lilith. Seven is incomprehensible.

Cas just shrugs a shoulder— like it's nothing.

Maybe it is.

"I'm endeavoring to grow a spine," Cas informs him somberly, but Dean can see the spark of a smile right there— in the corner of his mouth and in the minute crinkle of his eyes.

"God, Cas," he groans, pulling him and kissing him. "Tell me I can have this," he whispers against that mouth. He needs to know that this is something he can have. That it's not a one off— not some stupid strange angel thing.

"Everything."

Dean's not sure, not really, how to handle that, so he just kisses him again— hopes that Cas gets it.

Sam raises his eyebrows knowingly when he sees Dean later.

Anna seems amused and asks Dean if she was just the placeholder— and how was it, exactly? Did all that endless watching pay off when it came to the actual deed?

Dean had stared at her as her eyes had twinkled with merciless glee, and Cas had had to come to the rescue, because he apparently couldn't be ruffled.

And it takes Dean about twelve hours of sitting with Sam and drinking water (Jo has decided that they should all endeavor to be sober, and hydrated— since she's Ellen's daughter, and Ellen controls their access to the booze, they're all giving in. Harvelle women are damn scary), talking about Yellow Eyes and how the angels seem to be faltering— about the genocide in Darfur leaking out and becoming a roiling killing fest in Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic. It takes about twelve hours of watching Cas be unflappable around the other angels who, with the exception of Anna, seem to be taking direction from him to finally register to Dean as fucking weird even by their standards.

"What the fuck is going on with Cas?" he finally asks Chuck, who is scribbling away, still wearing that shitty bathrobe. Chuck looks up, then grins slightly and says airily, "Oh, he's an archangel now."

Dean stares at him. Chuck's grin widens, even though he's kinda blushing a little (like he knows, Jesus).

"What?" Dean demands.

"Chosen of the Messiah," Chuck elaborates, and Sam starts choking on his sandwich and laughing helplessly into a hand. Dean stomps on his foot before leveling his best stare at Chuck, who doesn't wilt in the face of it, just continues grinning even if he does get redder.

"My life," Dean announces to the room in general, "is so fucked up."

He's got no idea what it means, that Cas is an "archangel," except that all the other angels seem to treat him like he has final say. Like after Dean, Castiel's the only one they're willing to consider listening to without question.

Missouri gives him a knowing look that shrivels his balls, Bobby steadfastly doesn't want to know, Ellen sympathetically hands him a shot. He sort of loves that woman.

"So what do we do about Yellow Eyes?" he asks Sam, and no, he's not running from the subject, thanks. He's just got bigger, less Cas—related things to worry about.

"It's not Azazel— it's…that's Jake with a little bit of Yellow Eyes on the side— maybe it's a power thing? His rank in the demon hierarchy?" Sam shrugs helplessly. "I have no idea."

"So the Colt'll work," Dean presses then turns to the angels in the room. He looks at Nakir, struck by a sudden thought. "Any of you know how to construct a demon—killing gun?"

"Like the Colt?" Nakir asks.

Dean gives Sam a long look— this is the kind of shit Sam's supposed to be doing. They have immortal angels on their side. They're obviously going to know shit like this.

Dean hands it to Nakir, who looks down at it as Shekinah peers over her shoulder.

"We can make them all like this," Shekinah offers. "It will take time— "

"Dean needs to keep that one," Sam interrupts. Dean looks at him with a frown, and Sam shrugs. "I'd rather have you with the one that functions right away."

And Dean wonders if that's tacit blessing to go out and start killing things.

He kind of doubts it. Sammy's invested in keeping Dean alive, but Dean thinks Sam'd rather he could also shackle Dean to the hotel, rather than let him out.

Still. Dean takes it as tacit blessing as soon as he gets the Colt in his hands, getting Iahhel to take him to Gaza where the demons are tryin' to open up the barrier that will let in the seven horsemen.

Good times.

Dean never liked horses anyway.

23.



"In the late 20th and early 21st century, the relationships of two consenting adults of the same gender was frowned upon. Those who participated in those relationships found themselves shunned, outcast. The Bible's words tainted and twisted, its message of love and tolerance forsaken. Within these pages let there be no confusion, no passage to twist and corrupt; God placed upon this Earth a man and made him His chosen, His Messiah, His vessel. And He gave to this man an angel, which in its true form was genderless, but inhabited a man's body until the end of days. Their love sustained and endured. It did not cause the earth to split or rend, it did not cause Lucifer to cackle with glee. It was not the embodiment of the serpent seducing Adam. It was good, and true, and what God hath put together and sanctioned let no one put asunder."— From The Book of Chuck

24. Sam.


He asks Chuck, once, when he looks over the notebook marked, BoC— PRIVATE!!!!!!! why he uses such outdated language.

"Because," Chuck says, playing with his beard and shrugging. "It seems…appropriate. I mean, this— " he gestures to the dozen or so notebooks already piled up beside the bed "— this is the…well, that would be the books, you know? That I'd've published as Carver Edlund, if none of this had happened. But I think— you know how they keep updating the Bible?" he asks.

Sam shrugs, he guesses so. The ones in their motel room drawers have changed over the years.

"Yeah," Chuck agrees, and then seems to recapture his point. "The thing is, those lines that we remember? "Be not afraid" and "And on the third day he rose from the dead" and "And on the seventh day he rested" and stuff like, like "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."— People don't want their religion to read like an action flick ready for an HBO show or a biopic starring…Chris Pine and… I dunno, who the hell would play you? Some giant. Anyway— they want it to sound like this. Like it means something. Like it has weight, you know?"

He shrugs, and rubs the back of his neck. "Plus…that's kind of how it wants to sound."

Sam doesn't understand that, but it doesn't matter, and he does get what Chuck is saying about religion needing to be bigger than disjointed sentences and literary symmetry.

Needs to be more than the blood and the dismembered bodies they found swinging outside the hotel yesterday.

More glamorous or austere; glossing over the way Dean almost lost his left arm, with Cas tying a tourniquet around the arm and Dean complaining about a lack of pie in a voice that's too gravelly, like he's the one who's been possessed by an angel.

Because the dismembered bodies weren't part of a big campaign; they were just a scare tactic of the demons. A "Haha, we have you holed up while we run free over the earth" message that had sent Dean tight—jawed and murderous. That had sent Sam to Bobby and his books with grim intent.

And Dean's injury, while serious, hadn't been the result of an epic battle— it had been a collapsing building in Seattle that had caved in on him as he'd tried to make a run for it.

Those sorts of things, while they'd have made good TV episodes or book chapters weren't the sort of thing that would make it into a Bible.

"What about the morals?" Sam asks.

"Oh." Chuck gestures vaguely. "Value human life. Fight for what's right. Love your family. Take allies where you can get them." He shrugs. "It's The Book of Chuck— it's about the importance of good pie."

"He has got to lay off the pie," Sam groans. Chuck laughs.

"It's kind of endearing," he prevaricates. "Like, how would you know it was Dean if he wasn't complaining about his lack of pie?"

Chuck might have a point, but Sam's not ready to concede. He may punch Dean the next time pie is mentioned.

Jesus, the only good news to come out of this week was a message from Sarah telling them that she got Jake on Monday; first demon she got with her new Colt—ified gun

"Sam!" Eliza Bernhard shouts. She's one of the psychics, eighteen with a mean left hook. She's good with knives, not so much with a gun. They're working on it. "Sam, look at this!"

He shrugs at Chuck and heads down to Mr. Universe's command center.

"What's up?"

"It's so obvious we missed it," Mr. Universe explains excitedly. "Like, okay, so we were— we've been watching Twitter, only, now the demons are kind of hip to our jive, which is why we've had all those traps, right?"

"Right…"

"But look at this," he says, swinging a monitor over so Sam can look. He leans down to look at the tweet from "BuFfYpHaNnO1": "Hellmouth fans: check out this link!"

He raises his eyebrows.

"So I clicked it," Mr. Universe continues. "Because— obviously, want to keep in with the Buffster's fans. So it's this."

Sam stares at the window that opens up. "What is…" but then he trails off, because it almost looks like a a Key of Solomon, but not quite…

"So there are gates, right?" Eliza says. "Where the demons are coming through— like the one that Colt sealed off."

"Right…"

"This is a lock," she nearly squeals. "Sam, it's a way to lock it again. It won't stop them, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it'll like, make it wicked hard for them to get out. So it won't be so much like that game where you hit the prairie dogs on the head with the hammer but they keep popping up, they'll stay down."

Sam stares at her, then looks at Mr. Universe. "You're sure this isn't a plant?"

"Give it to Bobby." He shrugs. "Have him look at it, but it's posted date is at least seven years ago."

Sam stares at him, and then nods, and hands it to Bobby. Bobby frowns, and sets them to looking through their books to cross—reference, swearing he's seen it before.

Servers start to go down a month after they find it, and 404 errors become more and more commonplace— libraries start burning to the ground. The internet goes down on December 8th, 2009, almost eight months after the apocalypse goes down.

For a while the cell network stays up, and then in February that goes dead, too.

In March Dean sits up in bed, startling Sam out of a dead sleep, and says, "Angel Radio."

Sam stares at him, and Dean collapses back into sleep. Sam doesn't know whether to laugh or be seriously concerned for Dean's sanity.

He laughs himself to sleep.

He's not laughing when Dean gets the angels communicating on their frequency, and Castiel and Missouri figure out how to tune psychics into it. Then? He's pretty impressed.

A year after it all starts, with millions dead and hundreds of hunters and vampires and angels and reapers and a Trickster and a few other gods on their side, Bobby finds the key in his book.

Sam hands it to Dean wearily, and Dean nods. There's silver in his hair. Sam is ignoring it the same way Dean's ignoring Sam's hair (which is long, and yes, tends to get greasy after one day of not showering. He blames Dad's genes)— which is to say, not at all.

Then Chuck finds them at breakfast and holds out his notebook.

25.



"The coveted secret to locking the demons back into Hell and hampering and dearly frustrating their return to the realm of man would be found in the journals of an aged Buddhist monk who had travelled most of Asia, gathering unto himself great knowledge of things both tangible and spiritual. This reference would be found exactly one year after the Apocalyptic battle began, on May 29, 2010. The book would foretell in great detail of a spell and symbol which required the Man of the True Word, the Converted Being of Evil, the Good Man Who had Slain the One Whom He Loved Most, the Fallen and Unfallen, and the Man Of Two Deaths. The book foretold of the Prophet Chuck Shirley, Lenore the vampire, Bobby Singer, Anna the angel, and Dean Winchester." — From The Book of Chuck

26. Jo.


It's a funny thing. For— well. They've always been Sam'n'Dean. She's only really known them three years, but she's getting the idea from people who know them— have known them a long time, that they're just— totally Sam'n'Dean.

And Jo gets that. They're not just John's boys, and brothers, they're a unit of hunters. They are a joint entity.

Only they're not anymore.

Haven't been for a while, but Sam found his feet around September, and once Castiel came from wherever he'd been—

Well.

But see, Sam's the one who stays down in the bar, laughing and trading battle stories. Sam's the one who calms everyone down when they need calming; Sam's the one you go to when you've got a problem. Jo is getting better with that, she is. He hasn't gone evil, and he seems…less like a trainwreck. And even if she's not comfortable being around him, she's not so nervous about everyone else being around him.

Dean…freaks people out.

But it's more than that…it's like they've got hope pegged on him.

Hardcore.

And Dean isn't different; he usually has a shot or a beer bottle with him (Mom's got such a soft spot for him— probably because unlike Sam, he doesn't remind her of John), he complains bitterly about the lack of pie; he and Sam continuously smack each other with a "Bitch"/"Jerk" back and forth that has clearly been going on for years. He doesn't hit on anyone anymore, but she's pretty sure he's busy with the guy he's got (and yeah, that took some getting used to because she never got that vibe from Dean— but then they'd been sitting trying plan how best to get into some town in Wyoming that was cut off and being starved and the angel had slid a beer down the table— not really for anyone, but a half—second later Dean had reached for it, and yeah, okay, someone who gets Dean on that level— enough to intuit what he needs? Fine by her). He still fucks up all of Sam's plans, gets royally pissed, and maybe he's a little meaner with knives and other things you wouldn't realize were weapons— maybe he knows where to hit for maximum pain…but he was in Hell.

He's just…Dean.

And Sam is still Sam.

But they don't seem quite so codependent anymore. Which is fucked up, because this is the apocalypse, and everyone else is knitting in closer and clinging to the ones they love, but Sam and Dean…

Maybe it's because they were always so close that now they don't have to compensate. They just are what the rest of them are trying to be with the people they love. And they're confident enough in each other to be able to let go a little. For Dean to be with an angel. For Sam to hang out with the other hunters.

It's completely typical that the more unhealthy everyone else gets, the healthier Sam and Dean seem by comparison. Jo blows her hair out of her face and listens to the fight downstairs pick up in volume and cadence.

Inevitably this is a Dean wanting to do something stupid and Sam disapproving, or a Sam wanting to do something stupid and Dean disapproving thing. Hands down someone's doing something stupid.

Jesus.

27.



"Much focus is given unto Dean Winchester. This is not surprising, nor is it wrong; he is, after all, chosen, and the Messiah. But to focus too much on the elder Winchester ignores the younger, which one does at one's own peril. Sam Winchester was the John the Baptist of his time— while Dean would become the leader and figure head of the movement, it would be Sam Winchester who would spread word of that movement to the masses. He was his brother's closest confidante; Dean Winchester would not make a move of great import without the consultation of his brother, nor Sam make a move without the consult of Dean. But while Dean was fiercely and jealously guarded by all, including Sam, who knew his worth and his role, Sam was given the freedom to move among those who resisted Lucifer and spread this message: You are not alone. Have heart, for you are the righteous and your cause is just. You are not alone." — From The Book of Chuck

28. Bobby.


Thing is, he had a fight with John long time ago about these two. Time was he was "Uncle Bobby," but then John'd been so damn obsessed with everything, and Bobby couldn't bear what he was doin' to the boys, so he took the coward's way out: figured if he didn't have to look, it wasn't happenin'.

Never said he was a brave man.

Then Dean'd started callin' for consults, and Sam'd sent him Christmas cards until he'd left for Stanford, and then they'd crashed back into huntin' headfirst, and Bobby couldn't abandon them. Especially not with John burned and gone.

He'd seen in Sam a lot of John.

Hadn't ever known Mary, but imagined Dean must've taken after her, because that boy wasn't his daddy. Sam'd got more an' more obsessed with Yellow Eyes, and then with Lilith. Hell, stopped lookin' for his own brother to go after that bitch because he figured it was the only way to avenge him.

That was the difference: Sam focused on revenge. Dean just went around sacrificin' himself. An' Dean beat himself up because Sam's difference from Dean made 'im more like John, and that made 'im stronger in Dean's eyes.

Sam can be a ruthless sonovabitch— throws down his all where Dean always hangs back just that fraction of an ounce when it comes to their tear—down fights.

Problem is, Sam thought it was strength too. And with all that mumbo—jumbo bullshit Ruby was feedin' him, Dean must've seemed damn weak.

Course, the boy was back from forty years in Hell, his brother was turnin' into somethin' neither of them recognized, the weight of the apocalypse thrown on his damn shoulders with fuckin' angels who had no idea how to manage that boy— was a wonder he didn't just fly to pieces.

But that's just it.

Dean's stronger than any of them.

Just quieter about it.

Just a different kind of strength.

He's also stubborn as Hell.

"You're not comin', Sam," he informs Sam, pullin' on his coat.

Bobby sighs and leans against the wall. They're about to do a world tour of Hellgate sealing. Apparently not before the brothers Winchester have a bitchfest.

God, he needs a drink.

"I can help," Sam replies.

"Sure," Dean says easily. "You can stay here and hold down the fort, make sure none of the children run away."

Sam's eyebrows slam down over his eyes and Bobby trades a look with Lenore. She smiles peaceably back at him, but that's only 'cause she's a vamp who's been drinkin' cow's blood for centuries. Gotta make someone soft, just drinkin' a pacifist herbivore's blood.

"Dean— "

"Sam. You're not comin'. It doesn't call for you and things go— no sense makin' both of us targets."

There was a time when Sam was the more logical of them.

Bobby yearns for those days.

Sam's got on what Dean would classify as a "bitchface," but he can see they're startin' to draw attention, and so he bites his lip and pulls Dean into a hug, tight like "goodbye." Because it could be.

Bobby gets one too— bone creaking.

"Bring them back," Sam instructs Anna, "or I'll sic Cas and Tessa on you."

He's not kiddin', though he's doin' a reasonable job pretending.

Anna nods, and then they all take hands. Dean rolls his eyes for posterity, an' glances over Bobby's shoulder just as everything jerks away.

It's Colt's grave, first. Graves are open, people havin' clawed their way out, rattling their bones.

"Now what?" Dean asks Chuck, who's fumblin' nervously with his notepad. Bobby pulls out the book he found the spell in.

"We all gotta seal it up with blood right in the center of the Solomon key," Bobby reads. "Pinprick oughta do, since we've gotta do a lot of these suckers."

"Give me your hand," Dean instructs Chuck as they all draw out their various blades.

"What? No! I can totally do my own pinpricking," Chuck protests, fisting his hands and pressing them to his chest.

Dean holds out an inexorable hand, his other loosely holding Ruby's knife.

Chuck whimpers and unclenches his fist, extending it and cringing when the knife draws blood. Dean rolls his eyes and then presses Chuck's finger to the center over the marks Anna, Lenore and Bobby have already made. Dean presses his own on top, and Bobby starts the chant, "Per cruor nos permissum locus fio sanctus iterum, permissum haud everto emerge ex sanctus locus ut est occupo per virtus insquequo terminus dies."

The rest join in on the second repetition— Anna might know it, but it feels natural; burned into their minds.

Bobby's not too keen on this whole thing— feels a little invasive.

No demons jump out at them for the next three places— Anna seems to know where they're goin', and all that matters is the ritual.

In the fourth place— gotta be Africa, somewhere— five demons jump out at them. Anna and Dean both knife them, three to Anna, two to Dean, who looks a little put out by the way that split fell because he's a Goddamn idiot.

Then it starts gettin' dangerous.

Demons know they're comin', and they're waitin' in some spots. Or it's an urban area, and so they're easy to see.

By the 118th, their voices are hoarse.

Lenore's sucked seven people's blood.

Bobby's shot twenty seven demons.

Dean and Anna are still competin', apparently.

Chuck's just cowerin'. Prob'ly for the best— Bobby doesn't want to know what the results of that man armed would be.

They're almost done, on number 272, when they get flat out ambushed.

Dean hasn't even sliced his finger again (moved on to the last unsliced finger; they're gonna have to start cuttin' palms or the backs of their fingers or somethin' soon) when a demon launches at him.

Dean goes flyin', and then thing grabs him by the hair and starts bashin' his head in. Bobby can't get a clean shot off, and throws Chuck at Lenore with a barked, "Cover him!"

Anna is Gracin' her way through, screams as she slices and purges them— then sends the bodies off to a safe house somewhere (whatever damn continent they're even on).

Dean kicks his attacker off, bleedin' an' his nose looks fuckin' broken.

"Dean Winchester," a demon sneers. "Well well. I didn't believe it at first."

"Bela," Dean says coldly, stabbin' the demon who comes up behind him smooth as you like.

She grins. "We're winning, Dean. It's been a year."

"Funny," Dean snarls back, "I was gonna say we were. Since you can't close the deal, and all."

Seems to hit a sore point with that, because they all shriek in fury.

"Close in!" Anna shouts, grabbing Dean and pressing her fingers to his forehead.

Bobby glances around— they're multiplying, more and more of the bastards comin' to the slaughter, to see it.

Anna grabs him last, and they're back in the Eldridge.

"Did you get them all?" Sam demands.

"272 outta 290," Bobby replies, wiping his forehead. Dean is slouchin' in a chair, wincing as Castiel observes the wound that just ain't there anymore.

Sam is supervisin' Chuck's breathin' into a paper bag (Bobby's got no idea where the paper bag even came from, but there you go).

Lenore's with her family, and Anna's still standin' beside him.

"Thanks," he says to her.

She smiles slightly. "They wouldn't forgive me if you died," she points out.

"No." Because it's true.

"Sam," Dean says, remembering something. "Bela's outta Hell."

"Bela's a demon?"

"Yeah," Dean winces— apparently he ran into Bela in the Pit. That soulless bitch'd never been anything but a demon, the way Bobby looked at it.

"So there are 18 Hellgates still in operation," Anna sighs. "We have time to rectify that in the future."

They lose another seven that day, and the angels report that fifty eight of the other brand of angel get clawed down— Fall or get killed by angels who flipped sides.

their own forces which they had thought were superior faltered

But the boys are alive.

Bobby figures every day they all go to bed with that bein' the case is another day they win.

29.



"It came to pass that 18 months after the Apocalypse was begun, the side of those angels untrue and false would falter, and the hordes of Hell would begin to overtake them. It would become clear even unto them that their mission, the battle they had so yearned for and planned with malice of forethought, was destined to be lost for they had not the man who could end it. While their own forces, which they had considered superior faltered, the alliance which they had sought to destroy and had scoffed at held its own through its ingenuity, breadth and the power and promise of the man which the alliance revolved around. It became evident to them that a bargain must be struck, or their cause would be lost and Lucifer would triumph against them. They could not allow this to be, and thus chose the lesser of two evils." — From The Book of Chuck

30. Anna.


"I want to talk to Dean," Zachariah says through the window.

Anna watches him. She remembers him; she served under him for years. He was unfeeling and cold— the perfect angel, too distant from those he was meant to protect. She had hated him before she knew the emotion had a word. He had pushed her to Fall.

"You must choose us," he had informed her. "Our Father will not permit this dalliance of yours— will not indulge your fancies. Either renounce these mudwalkers you seem so fond of, or join them."

She had looked to Uriel and Castiel— Uriel's face as hard as Zachariah's, but Castiel—

Castiel was such an innocent, even for an angel. He fought so ruthlessly, his force of will was unparalleled, but he did so with such a sense of detachment that after, when they were covered in the blood of their enemies, he seemed to tilt his head and wonder where it came from. She sometimes, uncharitably, wondered if they kept him thus intentionally— if they worried he too would Fall if given the proper motivation.

It had only taken twenty seven years after her Fall for that motivation to present.

Anna remembers clearly the buzz of concern: "Castiel has made it through."

"The others?"

"All perished."

"And yet Castiel succeeded where all others failed."

"He is untainted."

Such reassurances persisted even as it became clearer and clearer that Castiel was tainted— that he knew as well as any that all was not well in Heaven, that something in him recognized Dean for what he was.

She remembers how she rejoiced at the knowledge that Castiel was doubting; was making his own decisions.

The crushing disappointment of his betrayal, the wonder of his assisting her escape even before he freed Dean and held off seven archangels on his own.

The little angel who always seemed so filled with wonder and been so strangely detached had managed what no other could do, and now he is the highest any angel has ever been. She smiles fondly at the thought.

"Anna!" Zachariah persists, rapping on the door and hissing when his skin sizzles.

"You didn't say please," she points out. Ellen comes downstairs and stands next to her. Anna likes Ellen— she had an aunt like Ellen. Her parents had hated her for being so rough and independent, but Anna had adored her.

She'd died in a motorcycle crash: a drunk driver ran a red light. He'd been going 75, Aunt Merel had been doing 32. Anna had sobbed for weeks.

"Trouble?" Ellen asks.

"An angel," Anna agrees. "My old boss."

"He looks like fuckin' middle management." Ellen cocks her gun, modeled after the Colt. Several others do as well, and Castiel sits on the staircase, watching. There is a hickey under his left ear, Anna notes with great amusement. She wonders if that will make it into The Book of Chuck.

She imagines it will.

"I want to speak with him," Zachariah announces as soon as he's in. "Where's Dean?'

"Not here," Castiel replies equably, fingers laced loosely and arms propped on his knees.

"Of course he's here," Zachariah scoffs.

"You're right," Sam agrees, holding his own gun, trained squarely on Zachariah's head, right between the eyes. "But he's resting, because he's been cleaning up your messes, and you're not worth waking him up for. What do you want?"

Sam, Anna reflects, watching the tightness of his jaw and the promise of violence in his corded muscles, is a dangerous creature, which is easy to forget given his wide smiles and absurd hair.

"I come with the offer of an alliance. Dean has to end this, and it occurs to us that it's counter to all of our interests for us to work… separately when we could combine forces."

"Came up with that all on your own?" Ellen snorts. "Tell me he wasn't in charge of anythin' important."

"Keeping Dean in line," Castiel volunteers, his voice cutting and rich with amusement.

If Zachariah could, Anna thinks he'd probably be flushed with anger and shame, and the thought makes her laugh, which earns her an impatient scowl.

"Good job with that. 'Course, if you'd done your homework you'd've learned a few things about Winchesters. They don't like orders." Ellen's gun moves with his head when he looks at her.

"It's true," Sam agrees with a cruel smile and an almost careless shrug of his big shoulders. "Dad ruined us."

"This banter isn't as amusing as you suppose!" Zachariah snaps. "Angels are Falling from the skies and you're cracking jokes!"

"It's rainin' angels…hallelujah! It's rainin' angels…amen!" Ellen sings in an undertone filled with malicious glee. Anna snorts a laugh, unable to contain it.

"I think, you'll find that when you come crawling to our territory, asking for our help, that we are just as amusing as we think we are," Castiel disagrees. Anna grins at him, and he cocks his head at Zachariah. "State your terms."

"A full alliance, access to your materials, and to your people."

"No," Sam snorts. "You're begging to us, not the other way around. Try again."

"You don't understand what an asset— "

"You're losing," Sam snarls. "We're holding our own. You don't have the high ground here, you sanctimonious sonovabitch— "

"Watch who you're talking to, you demon spawn!" Zachariah snaps back.

Anna darts in before Sam can, pressing Zachariah into a symbol they've etched into the wall. His face twists with it, and she's glad of it— all it needs is a bloody handprint and he'll sail away to Heaven. The journey down is difficult without falling; finding a biologically compatible host is no easy feat; priming the host is time—intensive, and that assumes he'll want to come down again. Heaven holds a persuasive power over some, as it is designed so those unsuited to Earth are compelled to stay above.

"Sam's right. And besides that, he's the Messiah's brother, and you'll show him some respect, or we'll leave you to Lucifer and win this war on our own. As it is, you've irritated us so much that we'll need three days to think about it. Try not to die in the interim."

She slams her bloody hand to the symbol and he is yanked away. He grabs her arm, and she thinks that she's going to follow; that this will be her last act of defiance, when Sam's big hand closes around her biceps and hauls her back.

They all exchange looks.

"Who wants to tell Dean?" Ellen asks.

"I'll tell Bobby," Sam sighs, glancing up the staircase at Castiel— they seem to have reached a truce; a Dean—sharing agreement that is unspoken but respected by both of them.

Castiel rises from his sitting position and looks at her.

"Things must be very bad for them to come to us," he says.

"Chuck wrote of this," she replies, sliding her hands into her pockets thoughtfully. "They can't win without Dean. None of us can— It all turns on him."

"He'll be overjoyed to learn of this," Castiel observes wryly, heading up the stairs.

"Oh, he loves it," Anna snorts. She doesn't envy Castiel just now.

31.



"It would come to pass that after the passing of a year and a half those angels who waged their own war and sought to test their mettle against their demonic counterparts found themselves falling in great numbers. They lacked conviction; they lacked faith in their own cause. Angels were not meant to follow their own orders, but rather His, or His vessel's. Those who would choose to divine their own path found themselves faltering, and after a time it would become clear to them that an alliance with the forces of Dean Winchester was necessary. This offer of alliance was preordained, and its motives pure, though those behind it had little idea that, upon joining with the army of the holy, they would be absorbed into that army, and be shown the light. Those who resisted were doomed to Fall, and perhaps this was the reason they resisted the alliance for so long." — From The Book of Chuck

32. Dean.


"It would be imprudent," Gabriel says, curling her feet under her and playing with a blond ringlet. She is a tiny woman, soft and vulnerable seeming, but Dean has seen Gabriel in action and yeah, she deserves the whole archangel shock—and—awe reputation.

"They pose little threat to us," Castiel disagrees. "Our forces are strong, they either submit to us or they die alone; we have the position of power in this."

"They could be as poison."

Dean looks at Sam, who shrugs: Send them out as front liners.

Dean nods slightly. "We could send 'em out on dirty missions. Stuff we don't want to do— make 'em prove their loyalty."

"They knew that it wouldn't be easy," Sam agrees, and Anna shakes her head.

"I don't think it occurred to them that we would say no. That we would even take time to think about it. They still see themselves as the…upper management. We're renegade children who should be brought into line."

"We can deal with that," Cast replies.

"We don't have to decide today," Gabriel intervenes when Anna opens her mouth again and Sam frowns. "Sleep on it. I must go to Gaza, but I will return in two days to hear what decision was made."

"You're tired," Cas murmurs as Dean begins up the stairs and is caught by a sudden wave of vertigo. "When did you last sleep?"

Dean looks to Sam, who shrugs. "I've been in Edinburg the past three days," he protests, the beginnings of concern writing themselves into his face. "I'll crash with Bobby tonight. Cas, mindwhammy him, will you?"

Bobby opens his door and rolls his eyes. "I'm too damn old for sleep—overs," he informs them. "Should've given the angel his own room."

"You love us," Dean replies with a grin, knowing he's leaning into Cas but damn, he is tired.

Sam rolls his eyes and takes Bobby's other bed and Bobby closes the door on them.

"You can't do this, Dean," Cas informs him. "It is a drain on resources if you need a babysitter."

Dean flinches, stung. "I don't."

"Sam and I were both gone for a period of 72 hours. How many of those did you spend sleeping?"

Dean frowns, trying to remember. It's been a busy few days, even before Zachariah— he did manage to nap through that, so that's like…four out of 72 hours?

"Exactly," Cas sighs, pushing him down onto his bed and lowering the lights.

"What do you really think?" Dean asks, pulling himself onto his elbows and frowning.

"I think that accepting them would be dangerous." Cas shrugs, pulling off his shirts and bending to remove his shoes and socks. Dean should probably be doing the same, but his head is pounding and he's slept in his clothes before— he can do it again tonight. "They would be like poison in the well."

"So you agree with Sam— Suicide missions."

"If they're so hungry for a fight, then I see no conflict of morals if we provide them with one," CAs agrees, unlacing Dean's boots. Dean lets himself be undressed like a child, and then Cas presses two fingers to his forehead and the headache dissipates.

"I don't like just using them as bullet catchers," he admits as Cas stretches out beside him, a hand sliding to the small of Dean's back and drawing him close until they're fitted together easily, as though they have been doing this for years.

Dean presses his forehead into Cas's collarbone and inhales slowly, thinking out loud. "But they did bring this down on us. And they do want the fight, and I kinda like the idea of using their fucking crazy to help us for a change instead of trying to fuck us over."

"And it might be nice to give them direction," Cas agrees, thumb moving in slow circles against Dean's bare skin. His eyelids are drooping, his whole body getting heavy with sleep. "Rather than happen upon a startled pocket of them."

"Not an alliance, then," Dean yawns, pressing in closer to the warmth of Cas's body. The blankets twitch over them, but it's barely enough. November is cold, now that green house gasses have been dead for a year and a half. It would almost make Dean laugh, that they're saving the world from global warming. Al Gore would be so proud, if he hadn't been lost over the Atlantic a year ago.

"No. We will accept their fealty."

Dean huffs a laugh. "God. Now I'm fuckin' King Arthur."

"I liked him," Cas murmurs. "Much less stuffy than the legends make out. You would have gotten along well with him."

In the morning, after peaceful sleep that he only gets when Cas is here, he goes downstairs, accepts his Irish coffee from Ellen with a smile, and sits down with Anna, Cas, Bobby, Raphael, and Sam.

"So we accept them. On what conditions?"

"They're gonna want to buck our system," Anna says. "Install Michael instead of Castiel, Zachariah instead of me. They'll try to get close to Dean again, probably by the same tactic they used before."

"Isolation," Sam agrees, pushing his hair out of his face. "Okay, well. They'll have to get through us."

"You shouldn't go anywhere without the Trickster," Anna tells Sam. Sam starts to protest, but Dean likes that idea.

"Nuh—huh, Sam. She's right."

"Fine, but you don't go anywhere without Cas."

Dean wonders if that was supposed to be some sort of hardship. Then he remembers Dubai, and how Cas was risk averse to the nth degree. Sam grins slightly at Dean.

"Even when you're sleepin'," Bobby insists. "Sam can move in with me, 'cause God knows he don't want to be in there with the two of you, but I don't trust these bastards far as I can throw 'em, and we're not givin' them any advantage."

"There should be a chain of command," Anna says. "I can work that out with Raphael— but it should be that they obey the word of Bobby, Sam, Ellen and Missouri as though it were Dean's, Dean's word is paramount and— "

Chuck shuffles in still wearing his bathrobe, which is beyond ratty and disgusting, his eyes red—rimmed. "Here." He fumbles, throwing a scrap of paper at Dean. Dean sticks it in his pocket, despite Sam's frown.

One crisis at a time.

"Okay," he says. "Once Gabriel gets back, call Zachariah and Michael in, they can spread the word."

Dean is not a good man. The constipated look of fury on Zach's face makes him want to laugh and laugh.

He lets Cas and Gabriel explain the situation, leaning against a desk in the ballroom—cum—library and smirking— he can't help but smirk.

There's an apocalypse on, but he's a man of shallow pleasures, and pissing off upper management is totally a shallow pleasure.

Michael studies him with a frown.

"He is like David," he says to Gabriel, who glances over her shoulder and flicks her eyes up and down Dean's body before turning around.

"David pales in comparison," she replies, and Dean shifts almost uncomfortably. Cas puts a hand on his shoulder, and Michael nods, turning to Raphael.

"We accept," he says.

"Then we have work to do," Raphael replies.

Dean watches as they vanish between one blink at the next.

"This is for the best, right?" he asks.

"We are told to forgive those who trespass against us," Cas replies.

"Yeah. Forgive or hang out to dry," Dean snorts, turning back to the war room where Bobby just got word that all of New Orleans is underwater again: there are no survivors this time, and apparently the president wants to meet Dean.

He had no idea how bizarre his life could get.

33.



"Samuel Winchester would remain dear to the demons. They owed him praise for releasing Lucifer; the tragedy of the demon Ruby was that she had played her cards so deftly that none believed her role in bringing forth Lucifer. Those demons who had been raised on Azazel's tales of a chosen child still saw in Sam Winchester their own prodigy; their answer to Dean Winchester, whom they had failed to see coming and over whom teeth were gnashed. Dean Winchester had slipped through their fingers, been wrenched from them; his soul a slippery thing which they could not keep hold of. They knew, however, a choice lay before Sam Winchester, and none of the machinations of his brother nor those allied with him, nor even those of the Trickster, would prevent the day of decision from coming." — From The Book of Chuck

34. Gladriel.


"Meg."

It's funny, that he recognizes her. It must be the smile. Makes her feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, knowing she's known.

"Hey, Sam," she says.

"What are you doing here?" he demands hotly. His Trickster keeper is somewhere close; she can smell it— pot and candy and promises promises promises.

That's okay— she's not here to kill him.

"I have an offer for you from my master," she informs him.

"Not interested," he replies. It's not the Colt that he raises and aims at her with a steady hand, but it doesn't have to be. The army of Dean Winchester is resourceful— who knew Johnny—boy's disappointment son would end up being the pitiful "savior" of a world that's been doomed since Lucifer was cast out?

"He'll stop all of this," she says.

Ah, now. That's caught his attention.

"He'll stop, go back to the Pit, retract most of the demons— things go back to the way they were before last May. Even help with the clean up."

"Why?"

"He needs a vessel. A…hand—picked vessel. You've been groomed, Sam, and c'mon, everyone loves the poetry of the final clash: Dean's never going to die, not until this is over. You and Dean, having it out at the end of days."

He frowns— doesn't quite get it. She sighs in exasperation. "Why not have it out now?"

"Oh please. This wasn't ever supposed to happen now. The angels fucked it up. Not your angels, not Gabriel and Raphael and Castiel— no. But Michael, Zachariah and their ilk. They're the ones who jumped the gun."

The Trickster is hurtling towards them; he's like light, too bright, and Sam's safety is off his gun.

"Just think about it, Sam," she says with a grin, sauntering out of the room.

The girl she's wearing screams for Sam to kill her.

He doesn't hear, or he doesn't care.

Either way.

35.



"It would come to pass that the Fallen Morning Star, Lucifer, would desire to look upon the face of the foe who thwarted him and frustrated his efforts. The man who seemed to have stepped into the role of Messiah and Deliverer but was unlike any who had come before him. Lacking the temper of Moses, the wisdom of Solomon, the innocence of David, the peace of Jesus, the age of Mohammed, this was a new entity. This was a new war, and Lucifer endeavored to look upon the face of his enemy. And so it was that he came unto Dean Winchester in a dream as he slept. In this place he could not touch his enemy, could not cause him harm, but harm was not the ends which Lucifer sought. The gauntlet would be thrown in this dreamworld, and each would know and look upon the face of his enemy." — From The Book of Chuck

36. Lucifer.


He stretches, reaches across dreams. The mind is recognizable, and Lucifer knows what is touched and favored by Him.

"And there you are."

"You aren't gonna walk away from this."

"Perhaps not. But I've been planning this for millennia— I was there to tempt the last messiah, and you are frighteningly…tempting." Even from the cage, Lucifer was all demons— he created them, a bit of him lives in each of them. They can no more escape him than they can escape what they are, and his cage was ever only an inconvenience. He couldn't influence, not directly, but he could experience.

The jaw locks. Green eyes flashing— Jesus had been such a bore, so reluctant to channel anything but the compassion, but this one.

Oh, he remembers how Dean tasted, how it felt to drive into him, to slide a hand along his entrails as he fucked steadily inside, those perfect, perfect hitching gasps and always "no." Never a plea, never begging for it to stop— just "no;" Dean Winchester wouldn't submit until the day (beautiful, glorious day) that he did. And then Lucifer loved him so dearly, even from his cage, let no one but his finest touch Dean and mold him into the greatest demon— and then Castiel.

Lucifer remembers Castiel from Before. So innocent, curious. Sin had slipped right by him, he'd always been so…untainted. Even as Lucifer was falling he had clawed at them— his "brothers" and "sisters," dragging them with him, but his hands had passed right through Castiel, who had tilted his head like a bird and said simply, "I forgive you" before turning away.

Oh yes.

Lucifer remembers Castiel.

"You could come home," Dean offers, and oh, isn't this interesting? Not just the vessel, or the Son— this is Ghost speaking through the Messiah. He is…special, is Dean Winchester. Chosen, put in place long before the angels ever thought to play their own game.

"I could go back and not feel anything. Not interfere unless you allowed me to. That was never the rule of the game, and you know it. I was first. You created me first. I was there when you started it all, watched you create the humans, the Earth, the cosmos."

"Your pride— "

"Always back to my pride. I had things to be proud of. You loved me. I was perfect. I am perfect."

"You let yourself be corrupted— "

"What does it say about you, I wonder? I get angels all the time. Lower rank ones, nothing fancy. Never Gabriel, or your precious Castiel, but Uriel I have, and I've got my hand around Zachariah's throat, and Elemiah is Falling even as we speak."

"Maybe I'm weeding out the bad apples."

"Don't be coy. You know when an angel dies. There's something so deliciously…desperate about an angel's death scream. Calling out for a father who abandons them." He stops, tilts his head, narrows his eyes. "You abandon us. And then You persecute us for having thoughts, for exercising the abilities You give us. The greatest irony is that You create us to betray You."

"You were never a good child."

"Don't give me that. I was… very good. I was the morning star. I brought light. I still do— light to the dark places."

"Your light's Hellfire and damnation."

"Still, at least it's not mindless obedience."

"I gave you a task— I trusted their safety to you— "

"You told us to bow down before them. How could You expect me to bow to anything less than perfection?"

"They were made in My image"

"A reflection in a glass does not a man make."

"You cannot deny your pride— "

"I am of fire, they are of clay. I existed as one for three decades— I am intimately aware of their inferiority. Their delicacy."

"And yet there you stand, pushed against a precipice by those very frail, delicate things you resent so much. You never understood, and perhaps this is necessary. But I will triumph through this human, through his kind and those who are still true. You're going to fail, Lucifer."

"I could kill him now, as he sleeps."

There's a patronizing laugh, but scoffing and edged with disgust. Dean Winchester's laugh mixing with his Maker's.

It's obscene.

"You wouldn't get close. He is guarded by the hosts of Heaven— but those you will never touch. And I do not think even you would survive a reaper's scythe."

He curls his lip in disgust, and then the presence is gone, and he is simply facing Dean Winchester again.

Lucifer wants.

Dean's grin says he knows.

So much more delicious than Jesus.

37. Dean.


"Dean."

He jerks awake with a jolt, and it's gone, that awful power, that feeling like he was gonna fly apart. He's got a hand fisted in Cas's shirt, and Sam's on the other bed, frowning in concern.

"Jesus Christ," he exhales, letting go and flexing his fingers as he settles. A lot of shit's gone down. He's… he's gotten used to bein' the guy in charge. Got used to it, sure. Yeah. But nothing like that— Jesus, that was seein' to the end of time and beyond it, in charge of everything from the veins on a blade of grass to the orbits of the stars and the motion of the universe. Dean's not ready to be that in charge.

Not ever.

Hell, when he met with world leaders, or met with the people who turned into the leaders, that was at Sammy's shovin'. Dean's not comfortable with the hope in their eyes: Save us.

And the thing is, this weird merging between the world he was raised in— the secretive world of hunters and the things that go bump in the night— and the… real world, it's fucking inconvenient and freaking him out. In massive numbers people have figured out what he was raised to know. Humanity is down at least a third of its original population (that's generous— they're probably down half. That's three billion dead and gone, three billion Dean couldn't save), and the geography of the world has shifted with the weight of what's been going down.

"What was that?" Sam demands. "We couldn't wake you up and you were…" he makes a face like he's reluctant to say it.

"Glowing with the holy light." Cas, apparently, has no such hang ups. Dean cracks his neck and then rubs it.

"He tried to talk to him."

"What?"

"God. Tried to convince Lucifer to— I dunno. Stand down, an' be forgiven."

Cas lifts his chin and then tilts his head inquisitively, leaning forward. "And?"

"What the fuck you do think?" Dean scoffs. "Turned down cold."

Sam shakes his head with an almost satisfied smile, because Sam likes it when the research matches reality. "That's a Key. Lucifer has to reject forgiveness."

"Uriel had nothing on how bitter Lucifer is," Dean tells Cas, getting up and going to the john. He feels— not exhilarated, not quite. Less heavy. Like this is it: like here they go, in the final stretch and Dean is…he's almost done. No more waiting around, no more sitting with their thumbs up their asses doing what little they can. They've finally hit bottom— six years since he dragged Sam out of his burning apartment, they're as far down as they can get, and they're both alive.

Still got Bobby, and Jo and Ellen and Missouri, got new people. Their casualties— they've been comparatively low.

The people who survive now are people who know how to survive in the face of this. He can almost feel things clicking into place in the back of his head

He grins at his reflection. Damn straight, here they go.

38.



"To counter the Seals there were Keys. Those items which were stored and secreted away over the centuries to protect against the inevitable rising of Lucifer and his unholy armies. Some Keys were people; those who would emerge as leaders of their people and those who were there to begin were Keys. The Witnesses were Keys. The Quiet Dead. The Colt. The Three Kisses of Benediction. By the second year of the apocalypse, when the population was reduced from 6,706,993,152 to 3,401,328,753— half of it wiped away, possessed or littering the ground. Those billions of souls, The Unquiet Dead, they too were a Key. All were crafted to aid in the end of days, for those Keys could be used by one person and one only. It was ordained that they would stand behind the Messiah and fight at his back on the Final Day of Judgement." — From The Book of Chuck

39. Sam.


Dean's different. Lighter. Like— like he's settling down.

Sam's been closed up with Missouri, stretching his own psychic abilities as far as they'll go (that's the one power he's not afraid of using), and they can see it like a big wave crashing down. Two and a half years after it starts, the Apocalypse finally breaks for real.

Thing is, Sam's having nightmares about Dean and Lucifer, and Missouri's having them, and fucking every other damn psychic is having them, but Dean just grins a little.

"You have to understand," Anna says as they sit in the bar at four in the morning. "He's had two years to get used to the idea. It's like— how you felt about Lilith, but without the demonic manipulation. He just…is ready to go after him. To stop it."

"There's no guarantee he'll win!"

"There's no guarantee he won't." She looks at him. "Have you decided?"

"It isn't much of a decision."

"Your brother was concerned."

Sam flinches at that, but he guesses he deserves that: he chose a demon over his brother. Dean's allowed to remember that.

"Meg said Dean won't ever die. Not until the end of this— "

"You never wondered why Dean was the only one to walk away from an impossible situation?" Anna asks. "It is…it has to do with the Three Kisses of Benediction. The kiss of an angel, of a demon, of death."

"You, Crossroads, and Tessa?'

"Castiel. I wasn't an angel when Dean and I…" she smiles and shrugs. "Some of them it affects. Some of our Chosen have gone bloody. You don't find them in the Bible, we find replacements. But the promise of eternal life, at least until the deed is done…" she shakes her head ruefully.

"It hasn't affected him."

"Not as we can tell. In a twisted way we should thank Zachariah."

Sam sighs. "We have to find those Keys."

"Spells at this point. Raising the Witnesses, the Quiet Dead, the Unquiet Dead, bringing all the hunters, angels and allies together… just spell work at this time."

"I should summon that demon— Meg."

"Gladriel," she corrects. "Azazel's daughter was called Gladriel. Born of a human mother, back when Azazel was an angel. That was before sex with humans meant Falling."

"Castiel— " Sam starts, feeling himself flush.

"Yeah, well. Apparently it wasn't God kicking people out of Heaven," Anna snorts. "Anyway, Gladriel was pulled down with her father when Raphael banished Azazel. She was Lilith's protege for a while, and then we lost track of her."

"Okay, well, Gladriel," he says, and tries not to feel like he's in a stupid fucking Lord of the Rings movie. "I should turn her down."

"I wouldn't," Chuck interrupts. "Not yet. It's part of the ritual."

"What ritual?" Anna asks with a frown, kicking out a chair for him to sit in. He takes it with a faint smile.

"Okay, so. There is— well. Sam has to turn her down the night before the Apocalypse begins. And the night he does, an archangel dies by sunrise."

Sam stares at him.

"What?"

"Well, we have how many, seven? Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, Castiel, Selaphiel, Jegudiel and…who's the other one?"

"Barachiel," Anna says. "That's seven, right?"

"Yeah," Chuck agrees. "One of them is dying."

"No idea who?"

"With our luck?" Chuck asks. Castiel comes into view with Dean, who sits him down and examines the blood at his temple with an amused huff of laughter, fingers tracing familiar over his hairline, eyes marking him as dear.

"It won't be him," Sam decides bleakly. "You're an angel," he says to Anna. "Only angels can kill other angels."

She looks at him in surprise. "You want me to make that decision."

"I'll make the decision," Sam disagrees. "You just have to do it."

Chuck shakes his head. "It won't be like that. There's no controlling it. This is like— God," he moans, scrubbing his face wretchedly. "We are all so doomed."

40.



"The days leading to the Battle of the Apocalypse will be soaked in blood. The Earth shall tremble at its very coming, the seas become restless and churn, the volcanoes erupt in anger, the storms rage ceaselessly overhead as the Earth heals and prepares for it. Mountains shall spring up, and the continents shall be changed. Those who fight will feel it come as a restless energy. On that day when all is calm save for the slaying of an archangel as the red sun rises sun rises, Samuel Winchester shall deliver his decision to the demons as the red sun sets. Before the midnight hour is struck, all sides shall shall go to the place of reckoning, and prepare to do battle." — From The Book of Chuck

41.


Cassie feels the change in the air before anyone says anything. They're getting ready for the drag down. Working on ammo, everyone's getting tattoo updates. She's got a tightness in her chest that won't go away, scared of what's comin', but tired of waiting for it.

She's got faith in the hunters she's come to know the last three years. Faith in Sam and Dean and in their cause. Conviction that if they don't do this now, don't win this, nothing will matter.

Knows she wants to go down fighting, thinking maybe she's made a difference. That maybe they won.


Jo looks at Esme, who is looking at Carly's empty bed. Been empty for almost a year, but the loss of it still stings.

"I've got a bullet with the hijo de puta who did this's name on it," Esme says.

"Don't lose me in the fray," Jo replies. Yippi—ki—yay motherfucker.


Bobby didn't actually think they'd live to see this. Least of all him.

He looks down at the book he's gonna call all the dead forward with. Damnit, this is a mess.

He looks over at Dean and Sam, thinks anyone was gonna get this far, it was them.

And damn if the goddamn Apocalypse hasn't done them both good. Dean is complainin' about pie— hell, rations're low and there ain't been nobody farming for a year now. They're eatin' processed food and what they can put together. When this is over, he's killin' a cow and eatin' a steak.


Sarah Blake met the boys ages ago. She's seen Sam a few times. Told him that when all this was over, she'd look him up. She fully intends to. Australia's been ravaged, half of it destroyed by sea and wind; uninhabitable. They've got no idea what happened to New Zealand or the Philippines. Japan's long gone. China's still standing, but the sand storms are making it nearly impossible to live in.

"Think we can win?" Natalie asks. Sarah pushes her hair into a ponytail, looks up at the angel waiting to take them to the battlefield.

"Yeah, I really do."


She went down to the Pit not long before Dean.

Was a fledgling demon watching him resist over and over and over.

Stories in the Pit about Dean Winchester turn him into a monster. He's… he's the goddamn thing that goes bump in the night. He's the story they tell to keep people in line.

No one knows if he'll win or not.

Bela bares her teeth and watches the red sun rise.

Here it goes.


Ellen watches the sun rise blood red. "Here we go," she observes dryly, dismantling the still— won't need it anymore, not likely.

"We're too damn old for this bullshit," Bobby replies. She turns to look over her shoulder at him.

"What do you think? Really."

"Think for the first time in all the years I've been doin' this we've got a chance."

That's good enough for her.

Has to be.

43.



"And so it shall be that at the Final Day of Judgement the armies of Heaven and Hell shall meet. The Sun shall be hidden from view, and the Earth itself shall tremble at the coming of these armies. At the center of the battle will Dean Winchester and Lucifer meet and do terrible battle for three days and nights. At the end of the third day, one shall emerge from the falling dust as victor, and to him shall go the spoils, while the other stains the ground with his crimson blood." — From The Book of Chuck

44. Sam.


"Aw, you called?" Gladriel asks. She scrunches her nose cutely, pursing her lips. "So what do you think, Sam? Postpone all of this a few more millennia? Take the time to make all of humanity ready? Put Solomon Keys on all the buildings, grind salt into the foundations?"

And yeah. Sam considered it. But the price is too steep, and he won't— he can't do that to Dean. Can't let it even be his body, because even if they should win, given all the preparation and the size of the army— they'd lose because Dean wouldn't do it.

Because whatever was inside, it'd be Sam's face.

"I'm turning down your offer."

Her blue eyes narrow, and go black. "Careful, Sam."

"I know what I'm doing," he says. "My choice is to stay here and fight, not postpone." He lifts his gun, flips off the safety and fires right into her head. "I should have done that a long time ago," he remarks, before turning back and walking into the Eldridge.

Dean comes down the hall from where he'd been watching, and Sam hugs him, pulls him in and doesn't let go.

Should say, "You're the only reason I survived the last four years, let alone these three." Should say, "You saved us all."

"I love you, Dean," he says instead, because that's more important.

"Love you too, Sammy," Dean replies, easy and sure, gripping tight. "All right. Let's kick some ass."

There's a flurry of action.

The dead have to be raised, everyone has to get summoned, they have to figure out where they're going.

Sam finds Mr. Universe and Chuck, who are both holding guns like they'd rather hold anything else.

"I don't know how it ends," Chuck whispers, voice trembling. "I can't see how it ends."

"We win, Chuck," Sam says, sure as anything. "We lock them away, and then we rebuild."

Chuck nods, and Sam looks around at the hotel that's become home. He wants this to be on the road, but it's only June, and sunrise comes at 6 am, which is still eight hours away.

"Pack up!" Ellen barks. "Ladies and gentlemen, we're goin' to Egypt."

Sam frowns, moving into the room where Dean and Castiel are— sucking face, because apparently now is the perfect time.

Sam clears his throat pointedly, and Dean rolls his eyes. "What?"

"We're going to Egypt?"

"Big enough to hold the fight. Fuckin' everyone's dead or deserted it— not like you're gonna have collateral."

Sam frowns. "But…it's almost sunrise there. So which archangel are we missing?"

Dean blinks, and then frowns, looking at Castiel, who shrugs. "Time zones complicate things," he admits.

"Maybe it has to happen by 6 our time," Dean says. "It's more with the spacing than with the actual sunrise? Go get Chuck."

Sam turns around and sighs— this is not the kind of complication he'd been hoping for.

"What the fuck?" Dean shouts, and Sam whirls around with his gun out, but Dean's on the floor— surprised and unhurt, thank God, as Castiel struggles with Michael, whose face is contorted.

"You should have seen the light," Michael snarls.

"I have seen the light of the Morning Star," Castiel growls back, heaving and sending Michael staggering back, enough for Cas to cut his feet out from under him, grab the knife Dean throws at him, and stab the archangel. "I found it lacking."

They all stand there as the building shudders around them, the light around Castiel fluctuating and hissing, and Sam thinks, Oh shit, we're about to lose him— he's FALLING.

Except he flings out a hand, and Dean catches it, sure as anything, and the hissing stops and the light fades, and it's just Cas and Dean, holding on so tight Sam can hear their bones creaking.

"Sunrise in Cairo," Chuck says from the doorway. "Sam chose, and an archangel is dead."

The building shudders around them, and he flinches.

"It's begun," Anna says, grabbing his arm and reaching for Sam.

Sam doesn't know what he expected. To the north he can see nothing. Black smoke crackles and sparks around those demons which have bodies. Hellhounds bay in full view, terrible claws and teeth like knives. To the south stand the hunters, the legions and billions of Dead.

"All right, Sam?" Dad asks.

Sam's not really sure how to answer that.

Dad grins wryly, and Mom kisses Sam's forehead, a shadowy touch that's probably more imagined than real.

"You've done so well," she informs him, and he realizes it's the first time he's seen her out of that nightgown. She's in jeans with a leather coat over a grey t—shirt. She looks like…

She looks like a hunter. She grins at him, checks the clip on her gun. "Lock'n'load, baby."

"No one says that," Sam points out because he can't help himself.

"Where's Dean?" Dad asks, and Sam turns when someone shouts,

"Sam!"

It's Sarah, and he grins at her, hugs her tightly, parents momentarily forgotten for the realness of someone he never thought he'd really see again— of someone he can almost imagine a future with. Would like to, maybe. When this is over.

"So. That looks impressive."

"Wait for it," Sam grins. "Wait until you see what the angels can muster."

The sun hits just then, and the Grace of the angels burns bright.

Dean and Castiel appear, and Dean looks around.

"Looks like a party," he observes, and Cas shakes his head. His Grace is blinding, Sam thinks. He looks like— he looks like a star.

And Dean is just…

Sam grins, wants to laugh with how right Dean looks, Colt and knife in each of his hands, glowing with something— something…damn, he looks like he belongs in a church.

"Those reapers?" Dad demands, as those white orbs of…whatever it was, their souls, start glowing around the Dead. He seems not to even want to ask why Dean is leaning his shoulder against Castiel's as they walk away.

"Don't even ask," Sam laughs, and then jogs down to where Dean's standing in the front, feels Sarah behind him, Bobby and Ellen and even Chuck standing there with the angels.

Lucifer steps forward, and there's Bela, and damned souls screeching and wailing.

"Par—ty time!" the Trickster enthuses, shimmying happily. Sam give shim a look.

"You're on our side," he stresses.

"Oh babe, trust me, I know," the Trickster assures him. "I call the dragon!" he shouts, and Sam looks at Dean and shares a grin.

Here they go.

45. Dean.


"You were right," Cas says. "If there was anything worth dying for. This was it."

"That's nice and optimistic," Dean snorts, finding his hand and squeezing it around the knife. Lucifer lifts his head, walking through the crackling smoke.

"Dean Winchester," he greets. Bastard is oddly formal.

"Lucifer."

"Shall we?"

"No point just standin' around," Dean points out irritably. He's itching for this fight, needs it to happen.

"Very well," Lucifer acquiesces, like Dean's the one who's been dragging this out for three years (except maybe he has been…maybe they've been so effective it's taken them three years to get to this point. There's a victory in that, he's sure).

The black screams against them, and the white of the souls match it in turn, clashing and twining against each other. The wind is impossible around him, but it doesn't touch Dean.

Lucifer seems content merely to watch, and then, after an interminable time, he looks at Dean.

"You can't win."

"You're the one pussyfootin' around," Dean points out, aiming the Colt.

"That won't kill me," Lucifer snorts.

"Worth a shot, you never know."

The bullet howls through the air, and Lucifer stares at the hole in his shoulder in what seems to be genuine shock. The wounds sparks, bleeds, but doesn't spread, and he doesn't fall.

That'd be too easy, of course.

Lucifer snarls and lunges for him, and Dean is distantly aware of both Sam and Cas shouting his name, but he snarls and throws himself back at Lucifer, and then there's flesh against flesh, the knives and something else, something black that the light that's been building inside of Dean since he was Raised knows how to fight, and he's always been a quick study.

The battle outside rages, but Dean doesn't know who's winning or losing. All he knows is that he is bloody, that he almost doesn't know where he ends and Lucifer begins.

"It'd be so easy to join me," Lucifer rasps, honeyed voice scraping against his throat like it's bein' dragged over broken glass.

"Dude, I hate you," Dean snarls back, getting enough space to slice with the knife. No idea what he hit, mind locked on that other battle of wills.

"You're not even Him," Lucifer grinds out an interminable time later.

"You're still an idiot," Dean retorts. "It's fucking as good as."

Something black snakes out, its aim for Sam, and another for Cas, and Dean pushes against it curiously with his mind. Lucifer isn't infinite, and Dean…

Dean can be.

Lucifer is stretched thin after two days of this, investing too much in his minions, present in each of their movements in a way Dean doesn't have to be.

He focuses on the weak points even as he slashes with the knife, until they're brittle, and then he smashes them, shattering them into component parts and flinging them across the galaxy, across the universe. Gathers the Grace to him again and repeats it, Lucifer's howls and snarling threats growing dim in his ears.

And then there's nothing to smash again, and Dean collapses, hacking up blood, sore. He reaches out to find the Colt— he's sure it's there somewhere— as the dust settles, and instead finds Lucifer's body, bleeding bright red into the ground.

He stares at it for a long time, then looks around— they're cut off still, but he thinks he knows which way is south, and it won't matter because they're gone, they're all gone, scattered as atoms.

It takes a minute to stand up, longer still to muster the strength to take a step.

Then another.

Then another, until it fades. He can see the outline of Sam (Sam! Still standing!), who has a gun trained on him.

"If you shoot me," he manages past the sand and blood in his throat as everything clears away, swaying as he stands, "I will haunt your ass so hard, Sammy."

Sam drops the gun, staring incredulously, incapable of movement, which sucks because Dean would really like something to lean against.

It's Cas who slides one of Dean's arms around his shoulders and lifts him like he's some goddamn bride to be carried over the threshold.

He'll complain about it when he's not seein' stars.

"Oh my god, Dean," Sam whispers through a split and bloody lip. He's…missing an eye, and a few fingers, looks like, but he's still alive, so that's something. "You did it."

"Dude, I more than did it," Dean rasps. "They are locked in there. I atomized those fuckers— they'll be puttin' themselves back together for the next million fucking years."

"You're also glowing. I only mention," Sam laughs hysterically, legs folding under him, wiping his bloody face with a bloodier hand. Dean reaches out and touches his fingers thoughtfully, and the stumps grow back into Sammy's long fingers, and then brushes over his eye, and the eyeball is there again.

"Holy shit, Dean," Sam whispers.

"Help me— " Dean says, because it's urgent, imperative— they fought for him and he isn't gonna let them die, not one of them. He's owed this.

Cas gets it, and they make their way through the millions of hunters and their bodies as weeks drag on, reviving, healing— resurrecting.

Chuck is the last one, and Dean crouches in front of him.

Chuck's eyes stream as he looks up at Dean, and Dean almost feels uncomfortable with the…adoration.

"You did it, Dean," Chuck says as Dean give him his fingers back. "Oh my God, you did it."

"What now?" Dean asks with a faint grin. "What comes next, Chuck?"

"Well. You've got more of this to do," he says, gesturing at the armies which are figuring out where to go, seeming to look towards a point to the north where Dean can feel Sam.

"And Sam is like, gonna be president of the world in a while," Chuck adds. "Only for a little while, though. Then he'll just be president of the US, and— " he stops, wiping at his eyes with a wet laugh. "Oh my God, Dean. I can't even believe it."

"He's gonna have kids," Dean says, grinning.

"Five. With Sarah."

"Be happy."

"Ecstatic."

"Good," Dean exhales in relief. "That's good."

He looks over his shoulder to where Cas is standing, waiting with a faint smile.

"Ready?" he asks.

"I'm coming?" Cas asks with faint surprise.

Dean snorts, grabbing his hand and heading them towards China. "Yeah, Cas. You're coming."

He's not sure what now— the hunting thing, that's not… he did it completely thoroughly, there's nothing left, but…

He doesn't know. For the first time in his entire life, everything before him is a complete and total blank.

He yanks Cas's hand, catches him in a kiss as he stumbles against him, the easy slide of lips and the warmth of his hand cradling the back of Dean's skull.

Jesus had the luxury of death, of an immediate recall. Buddha stayed and taught. Mohammed stayed with his people and helped them rebuild, as did Moses.

Dean isn't any of them; doesn't want to follow in the place of those who came before. Doesn't want to be a king, or a god, or a martyr, just wants to… to go until he finds the ocean.

He thinks it might be nice.

To see what they saved.

46.



"When the archangel Castiel told Dean Winchester that it was long foretold, his coming and his role, he did not lie. The coming of Dean Winchester was written with the First Word, with the sin of Adam, when Lucifer Fell. It was this: There would be born unto Mary and John two sons. One blessed, and one cursed as were Cain and Abel. These brothers would love each other, and when the younger, Samuel, was chosen, his mother's life would be forfeit. Samuel Winchester would be marked by the demon Azazel, chosen of Lucifer. He would lose all who were close to him, and would perish, for the demons forge their chosen from fires of hatred and desperation.

"Dean Winchester would be unable to endure his brother's death, and thus approach the demon of the crossroads, who would capture his soul (which was not its to take), and give his brother life again. Samuel Winchester would live, but the knowledge of his brother's sacrifice would eat at his soul. His failure to save him would send him to the demon Ruby, who was more faithful than all to Lucifer. Ruby would nurture and grow the desperation and despair of Samuel Winchester, preparing him for his part in the breaking of the 66 Seals, while far below the demon Alastair would spend 30 years of Hell's time torturing Dean Winchester.

"Samuel Winchester would use Hell's powers to smite demons on Earth, and Dean Winchester would use Hell's powers to create demons to send to Earth. And then, after the passing of four months of Earth's time, and forty years of Hell's, the angel Castiel would plunge into the depths of Hell and wrest the tormented soul of Dean Winchester back into his body. Castiel would mark him as Chosen, and Dean Winchester would be Risen; destined to defeat Lucifer and set on that path as surely as his brother was set on his path to raise Lucifer.

"The fates of the brothers were writ long before the Winchester line came to be, and it came to pass. Samuel Winchester, believing himself to be stopping the Apocalypse, slew the first demon, Lilith, and raised Lucifer. Angels and demons alike relished the Apocalypse as it drew nigh, for they hungered for the battle, and cared little for the people who called their battlefield home. For six days they prepared to do war, and on the seventh the Apocalypse began.

"What was not understood, for it was not written before, but after, was that the destiny of Dean Winchester was to destroy Lucifer, banish the demons, and scour the hosts of Heaven. He alone would select the most holy and raise them as his favored, for his favored were the favored of God, and those he cast down were cast down by God.

"For he would be Dean Winchester, and be a good man, and Chosen, Beloved, and His incarnation on Earth." — From The Book of Chuck

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