A/N: I know it's been a long time coming but life's busyness has a way of taking over and taking charge. For anyone still waiting and caring enough to read, here's the ending in all of it long-winded glory. If you enjoy, please grace me with a review to let me know what you thought. Thanks for reading :D

*

*

The splendor of a King,
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice,
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in light,
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at his voice,
And trembles at his voice…

-Chris Tomlin

*

*

Dead silence. Nothing moves. Air sucked out of the night.

Flames flick and bend in slow motion, sparks taking their time wafting upward.

Sam sees Bobby turn towards him sluggishly, mouth opening and words coming out deep and drawn, incomprehensible, dragging through the air with difficulty and Bobby is motioning haltingly with an arm towards the hole where Dean disappeared.

Sam's eyes move back to where Bobby is pointing, seeing every second, every moment with perfect clarity, noting the position of each angel, frozen in time, catching a glimpse of Pamela, shouting soundlessly, mouth gaping wide, a hand to her throat, and then onto Castiel, who is staring back at him with an intensity that Sam doesn't understand, like he wants Sam to do something but Sam can't get his brain to work, can't figure out what it is he's supposed to do. Castiel's mouth moves, forming words, but not a sound reaches Sam's ears in the vacuum surrounding him as he struggles to understand what just happened.

Dean. Dean is gone. Back to hell.

Over Sam's dead body.

"NOOOOOOO!" Sam hears someone screaming in his head and suddenly, he's back in real time and his throat is bursting with pain as another shrieking "NO!" rips out of his gut.

Two lumbering steps takes him to the gaping hole and then he's diving, head first, down into the pit, hands in front of him like he's freaking Superman or something, free-falling into hell, his only thought to save his brother.

Not again, not again. This isn't going to happen again!

Fire slaps at his skin, licking and tasting his flesh, straining to consume, to devour all of him and he slaps as it burns his hair and skin. The smoke of brimstone and his own charred flesh clogs his throat, ripping at his mouth and lips, gagging him as he chokes on it, squinting ahead in a blaze so bright it's hard to see and it seems like he's falling forever, for eternity.

Time slows as he plummets, becoming hell-time, and he thinks four months is like forty years and he can see each crack, each crevice in the earth around him, noting absently the claw marks dragging down the wall and once they stop, realizing that Lucifer had tried to stop his own headlong descent and Dean had dragged him back into space, making sure the bastard never made it back up to earth again.

Dammit, Dean! You shoulda let me handle things. How am I supposed to live with you saving my ass and going back to hell again? No way, dude, not this time. This time, I'm getting you back. You're not sacrificing yourself for me or anybody else, ever again. This time, you're going to live.

"SAM!"

Sam dips his head, looking behind him and sees Bobby, coming down fast.

*

Talons claw along the dirt, scrabbling and scratching, dragging down, sapphire eyes full of hate and rage, meeting murderous green ones.

"You're not going anywhere but back to hell, you son of a bitch, right on the express elevator!" Dean pulls at Lucifer's wrists, yanking him away from the walls, trying to wrestle his arms down to his sides so they fall faster.

"Let me go!" Satan slashes at Dean's face, reopening the cuts from Anna's nails, blood flowing down, splattering them both.

"Only when you're good and dead, you sick bastard!" Dean grapples with the Dark Lord, wrapping his legs and arms around the evilness and they plummet faster, flying like a bullet into the dark fires of hell.

*

Just as Sam looks back at Bobby, a haze covers over him, black and murky, making it impossible to see because it surrounds him and the walls on each side of him fade away, the roar of fire growing louder and now screams fill his head so shrill, his eardrums feel like they're close to bursting. He tries to slap his hands over his ears but it takes forever to get them there, like he's moving under water and pulling them up through a heavy, thick curtain. When Sam finally manages to flatten his palms against his ears to shut out the desolate howling, the maniacal crying and the shrieking, he's close to madness with the noise of it all.

God, he's so thirsty.

Suddenly, time speeds back up and catches up with Sam and he's hurtling down, arms and legs pin-wheeling out of control, coming in too fast and he hits hard, belly down, spine crashing forward onto the hard terrain, breath knocked out of his lungs.

Dream-like he raises his head. Holy crap, he's alive, uninjured, in pain, but still alive. Sam groans, getting stiffly to his feet, looking around at his first glimpse of hell.

Christ, he's so frigging thirsty.

Bitter smoke curls around him, swirling and hanging in the air, making it impossible to breathe, the stench of death, ripe and festering, cloying in its heaviness, and Sam coughs, trying to hold his breath, staring with wide eyes at the figures that walk the horizon as far as the eye can see.

So many of them…so many damned souls…

They're everywhere, burning, twisting, writhing in flames, in agony and eternal torment, mouths split open to scream soundlessly, vocal chords and tongues gone, either burned away or cut away from torture on the rack, faces stretched and melting from the heat, bodies charred, seared chunks of flesh dropping from their bones.

The ground sways and rolls under his feet and when Sam looks down, there are faces in the dry, dusty earth, moving and swirling under him, faces that melt into bony skulls, eye holes gaping, jaw bones unhinged and shrieking with pain and fury.

Craters and dunes stretch into eternity and a feeling of overwhelming despair takes over Sam, fills his heart and mind and for a moment, he's overcome, dropping to his knees and weeping without even knowing why, retching into the faces under his hands and knees and they scream at him, insane with their suffering, enraged and hating.

Sam feels every emotion, every shriek of agony that they do, feels it throbbing through his hands, seeping into him when he touches their faces. He is connected to them and he knows desperation, fear-

Hopelessness. There is no exit, no finish, no end to this. There is no hope.

Sam's mind begins to fragment, his power spreading and thinning, and a thought in his mind repeats over and over, Coming undone, coming undone…

Thirst, God, he thirsts…

His throat burns with it, mouth parched, lips numb, and he can barely swallow. It steals his voice and Sam feels his vocal chords may snap like dry twigs if he tries to speak. He can't even scream out his terror.

He feels himself slipping away and knows that in a few seconds, he'll be lost for all eternity, lost in hell, no use to anyone, just a glimmer of memory in the mind, and frantically, he begins to claw at his blistered, swollen face, needing the sting of pain to bring him back to himself. He rips and tears, pulling deep scratches through his skin, blood coming fast, dripping onto those desperate souls beneath him and they open their mouths wide, trying to catch the drops, desperate for anything to quench their insatiable thirsts.

"Sam!" He hears a voice from far away, calling his name but it's too far back, lost in the screams of the sorrow beneath him and he starts to slip away, the pain not helping anymore, the pull of insanity too much to resist and his mind turns towards the edge, towards the black hole that will suck him in and devour him.

*

"Sam!" Bobby grabs him up, yanking him to his feet and pulling him away, hugging him close, holding him up because Sam's knees give out and he drops like a stone. Bobby sags under Sam's weight but doesn't let go, only tightening his grip and whispering in his ear, "I got you, boy…I got you."

*

Sam fights against weight holding him down, the shrieks in his head overpowering him and he can't think, can't feel or function with this heaviness laying against him. Snakes appear, hissing and twisting around his arms, his neck, choking him under the load of them and he lashes out, connecting with something solid.

No hope, no hope…

A grunt penetrates his mind and his brain grasps at the human sound, the only sane noise in his head and he focuses on it, clinging to it for dear life and his vision swims in and out, hearing the voice again, close to him now. "Sam. Sam. Come on, son, snap out of it."

Sam's head begins to clear and he comes back to himself, realizing he's on firm ground again, no souls underfoot, no screaming thirsting mouths to feed and the despair moves to the back of his mind, breathing becomes easier and he can see again, think again. His power comes flowing back into his mind, into his body and his legs, although shaky and tentative, can now bear his weight and he sees Bobby in front of him, and Sam's hands are twisted in Bobby's shirt, holding on tight.

Bobby's amber eyes look into his, "Sam? You with me?"

"Bobby? Yeah, I'm-Yeah" Sam breathes deep, the rest of the cobwebs flying away, "Thanks, man, I don't think I'd made it if you hadn't pulled me off them…"

"Pulled you off what?" Bobby looks puzzled.

"The faces." Sam gestures, and when Bobby looks back at him like he's lost his mind, asks "Don't you see them? They're right there!"

"I don't see anything, Sam. What faces?"

"The damned souls. I was kneeling on them and they were screaming…it must be your angel eyes, you can't see them."

"Are you better now?"

At Sam's nod, Bobby looks around, "You seen Dean or Satan?"

Sam feels a dark laughter bubble up inside his gut at the insane question and pushes it down because Bobby will think he's gone mad if he lets it out. He shakes his head wordlessly, still fighting against the despair that's at the edges of his vision, threatening to overwhelm him if he lets his guard down.

Bobby puts out his hands, "Then we'll have to use the amulet. Do you remember the spell?"

Sam nods, grabbing hold of Bobby's hands with his own and they close their eyes, reciting the incantation they learned in the church rectory, focusing all of their conscious thought on Dean's amulet, on Dean's soul.

"Exhibeo lux lucis, Exhibeo animus quatenus pullus nox noctis no teneo. Pro I oro, Exhibeo prognatus, laus tutis unus."

A sudden gust of wind, swirling dust and old bones into a funnel cloud surrounds them, tearing at their clothes and hair and they struggle to hold onto each other, being pushed and tossed by the gale and it sweeps past them. The storm circles wildly towards the valley before them, towards the beacon that erupted seconds before, a light so bright it burns the eyes.

Sam squints at it, holding his hand up before him to shield himself from the intense shine but Bobby stares straight at it, his angel-given eyes protecting him.

"Let's go!" Sam urges and they run towards the light, towards Dean.

*

Dean's eyes, feral and rabid, dart back and forth, scanning the landscape for a hint of movement, a dust cloud, anything that will help him find his prey. He runs, low to the ground, searching…

He lost Lucifer when they hit, the dark Lord rolling away and shimmering into thin air as soon as Dean was knocked loose. He's got to find him, cage him or kill him so that fissures will close and hell will be sealed again.

But where? Where would Satan hide? And why? Why not just take Dean out? It's not like Dean has the power to stop him yet Lucifer chose to run. Why?

He rubs his face, wiping away most of the caked blood and realizes he feels different inside. Completely different. Like he's not Dean Winchester, at least not the man he was before the AntiChrist took him over.

Where is that awful pit of hopelessness that's gnawed at his guts since he came back from hell? Where is that guilt, the brokenness of never being good enough, of always letting people in his life down? Where is his old soul?

An odd flicker tingles on his spine and he searches his mind for the old weights, the old hurts and he finds them, still there as always, but when he pulls them down and looks close, the sting of them is gone, the cold slither that's always been wrapped around his heart missing, the worthlessness and the rage that often overwhelmed him misplaced, lost and he feels the odd pull of melancholy.

His soul may have been tarnished and old but it was all he had, it was his and he misses it somehow.

This new heart, unchained, unbroken, free of pain is foreign and he's out of synch with himself, not knowing if he can even kill anymore, not sure he wants to. He remembers the hate, the murderous lust in his heart but the emotion, the thrill of it is gone. Dean needs to be hard as nails, grim with determination and not swayed from his duty.

He needs to hunt and kill Satan.

Dean remembers it all, when he was possessed by that evil thing, watched it through a hazy lens, unable to stop a damn thing from happening and his mouth is foul with the old taste of blood and flesh. His stomach rolls and quakes and Dean feels it coming up, hurriedly pushing the images and memories away, swallowing hard against the bile, against the vomit that roils just under the surface, ready to spew if he lets it.

When this is over, when Satan is dead or caged, he'll let himself remember it all and he'll try to deal with all the horrors that happened at his hands, because of his existence. Now, however, there are more pressing matters.

A flicker at the corner of his eye catches his attention. There's something there, in the murk and dust, movement, a figure, now two, silhouettes lit by fire raging behind them, one tall, one short. He hunkers close to the ground, hiding as best he can. They're walking right towards him, like they see him but that's not possible. They're too far away and it's dusty, hazy, darkness and shadows and there's no way, no way they can see him.

But they do.

What the hell?

*

They run through the dry parched earth, Sam taking out every demon that stands in their way, quickly, efficiently dispatching them with a touch, even as he pulls Bobby along behind him.

Bobby is feeling the pull of hell now, fighting against the despair that's nearly overwhelming Sam, so Sam keeps him moving, thinking if his feet don't stay in one place too long, Bobby will be able to keep the desolation, the hopelessness at bay.

The insidious malevolence in the air creeps around the soul, grasping at it, trying to dissolve all goodness, all light and Bobby's alternately crying and laughing with the madness that threatens his mind.

Sam is just trying to hang onto the one sane thought he has.

Find Dean, find Dean.

"Dean!" Sam shouts through the hopelessness that shrouds him, telling Dean they're coming, dragging Bobby through the dust and wind, holding on tight so they don't lose themselves, lose their minds in this God-forsaken place, "Almost there, Bobby. Just hold on a little bit longer. Dean!"

*

He's on the move, zig-zagging through the rocks and dead brush, keeping the figures in sight but staying hidden, crouching low to the ground. If he keeps running, they can't pinpoint his position and find him before he finds Satan.

He hears Sam's voice and shakes his head, sure he's delusional, dreaming and hears it again and he squints against the dust and wind, staring hard at the tall figure, recognizing that slump-shouldered loping walk, that shock of hair and-

His eyes move to the shorter figure, hat, beard…Bobby! But, his eyes are wrong and Dean tenses, wondering if Sam's been captured by the Bobby-thing, but it looks like Sam is helping Bobby, pulling him along and he senses no evil from them, only fear and anguish rolling off them in waves, both falling down under the weight of it.

He takes in deep breath and makes his decision, standing up to reveal himself and yelling back, "Sam!"

The two figures break into a run, bee-lining towards him and he's caught up in a bear-hug that he never saw coming, Sam picking him up and swinging him around, holding him so tight he can't breathe.

"Jesus, Dean, thank God we found you!" Sam breathes into his ear and puts him down to look at him, hands going all over him to make sure he's not hurt or bleeding. Used to be Dean took care of Sam, not the other way around. Sam sounds like he's fighting tears "Is it really you in there?"

"Yeah, Sammy, it's me. At least I think it is. What the hell are you doing here?" Dean pulls away, looking up at Sam's face with a scowl, "You followed me?"

"There was no way I was going to let you sacrifice yourself for me again, Dean."

"Of all the stupid-" Dean looks at Bobby in disgust, ready to rip into him and Sam both, "And you helped him come here?"

Before he can say another word, he's caught up in another tight hug from Bobby, who pulls back quick and pushes against his shoulder, voice gruff, his voice tear-filled as well "Good to see you, boy. Damn good to see you."

"What's up with the eyes, Bobby?"

"Cas helped me out so I wouldn't get burned blind when I looked at the angels. You've missed a lot, son. You were gone for a bit. What do you remember?"

"Everything, Bobby. I was way back inside but I saw it all. I can't-" Dean stops, swallowing hard, unable to speak with the horrors still stuck in his memory, and helplessly shakes his head "I just can't, not right now."

Sam puts a hand on his shoulder, squeezing hard, "I know, Dean..." and he looks at Bobby, who nods, "We both do."

Dean puts a hand on Bobby's shoulder, "You ok? You look kind of desperate."

Rubbing the back of his neck, Bobby takes in a deep breath, "It's the air down here, Dean. It wants to suck out my soul and eat me alive. No hope." His eyes narrow, "Actually, since I hugged you, I'm better. I don't feel like I'm losing my mind anymore. That's weird."

Sam nods, "Me, too, Bobby. It's like it never was. What the hell?"

Dean shrugs back at him and gives Sam a narrowed look, "You shouldn't be here, Sammy. How the hell am I supposed to get you back up topside? And you, Bobby? You're the one who told me I was itching to throw myself into the pit. What about you, huh? Now I gotta worry about the two of you as well as Lucifer!"

"Dean, we can help."

"How, Sam? You got something that can kill Satan? 'Cause up there it looked like you were losing."

"I can hold him-"

"Great, that'll help for about five minutes!"

Sam finishes calmly "-While you kill him…"

Dean says sarcastically, looking incredulously from Bobby to Sam, "What, just like that, huh? You hold him and I'll kill him. No problem, Sam. Now, you do have a way for this killing to happen? 'Cause you should really clue me in on it."

Bobby looks confused but he, too, seems oddly calm, just like Sam. Dean's fleeting thought is that both have gone off the deep end and are hanging onto sane by a short, brittle thread.

"Actually, Dean, you're the only one who can do it. You've got an angel's grace inside you. Anna left it there when she pulled the Beast out of you. I could see it inside of you, working in you, knitting you back together. It takes an angel to kill an angel."

"Ok…" Dean's not getting it but the light's dawned for Bobby, who nods at Sam.

"Sam's right! Lucifer is nothing but an angel. He was cast out of heaven by God and sent to hell with all of his followers because he thought he was better than man! That's how he became the Dark Lord! He's no God. He's just a freaking angel…a powerful kick-ass angel but still…that's all he is!"

"So, I can kill him?" Dean still scowls at them, "But I don't know how to use it or control it and I got no time to learn. So, now what?"

Sam and Bobby look at each other, at a loss.

Sam shrugs, "Hopefully, when the time comes, you'll just know."

"And how the hell are we supposed to find Satan? I lost him when we hit and haven't been able to spot him since." Dean throws the question at them and Bobby responds this time.

"Your grace, son."

"What?"

Bobby takes a deep breath, "An angel can always find another angel. You have the light inside you. If we can figure out how to get you to shine, you'll show us where he's hiding. The amulet you're wearing may help. When I gave it to Sam to give to your Dad, it was to protect him from possession. It's also a beacon of light that can show the wearer his true goodness. That's how we found you. Maybe, I don't know, hold it or something and concentrate?"

Dean asks, "Why didn't you tell me before that I'm wearing a angel glow-stick?"

Bobby rolls his eyes at Dean, "'Cause you didn't need to know before, ya idjit."

Dean and Sam exchange looks and Sam pipes up, "Bobby, will I throw off its mojo if I'm close? I let my demon power loose so aren't I pure evil now?"

"Sam! Don't even-" Dean starts to snap and Bobby cuts him off.

"No, son, you're not evil. In your gut you know what you are and you became what you needed to-to save us all. You were God's best kept secret, Sam, his most powerful weapon against all this and you did everything you were supposed to do."

Bobby nods at Dean, "Go ahead, Dean. Try it."

Dean grips the amulet around his neck tightly in his fist, squeezing his eyes shut and focusing his mind on finding the grace inside him. Nothing. He clears his mind of everything else but one thought, find the grace, find the grace.

Frustrated, he tries again, searching for light, for radiance and ends up with an image of Anna popping into his head. Great, this is going nowhere…

Suddenly, he hears a gasp out of Sam and he opens his eyes, "What?"

Bobby motions to him, "You're glowing, son."

Dean looks down at himself and holy crap, he is, lit up like a frigging Christmas tree and as he watches, a bright trail of light rolls from him and slides along the ground, twisting and twirling along the dust, leaving a trail of frozen tundra in its wake. The three stare at the icy path laid before them, all realizing at once that it's a road to follow, one that will lead them to the final confrontation, the showdown with Satan.

They burst into a run, following it before it disappears.

*

Satan leaves his shimmer on so as not to be detected. He knows what Dean is and what Dean can do. A warrior of old, he weighs his options and the best recourse at this moment, until he can figure out how to kill Dean, is to hide.

The old hunter he can take down with a flick of his talon and the younger one, the half-demon, strong as he is, is easily swayed if his brother or friend is in danger and he can be brought down the instant his focus wavers.

Dean, however, is the One who is the most dangerous to his existence. Dean not only has an angel's grace in him but he also has righteousness which means he will kill with grim determination, with no recriminations, simply because he must. He won't second guess or try to find another way. He will murder without blinking because it is just, necessary and that makes him the most challenging of foes.

*

"I don't see him!" Bobby yells over, searching around where the ice crystals have melted back into the earth.

"Me either-" Sam is on the other side of Dean, searching the landscape frantically.

Dean, his glow faded now, stands, dead calm and alert, eyes moving rapidly, flicking over the dead land before him, fists at the ready.

Bobby suddenly gives a yell and he's hanging in mid air, suspended by nothing, legs kicking futilely in space.

Something stirs next to him and the air twitches and trembles, taking shape and form and then Satan is there, sapphire eyes staring straight into Dean's, holding Bobby up by the shirt collar with a hand, the other at his throat, talon extended, ready to slice the flesh wide open.

"Bobby!" Sam rushes forward without thinking and Satan gives a twist of his head, throwing Sam backwards into the rocks behind him, banging him hard against them and knocking the breath out of him. Sam sinks to the ground, shaking his head to clear it and holding his chest in pain.

Dean moves so fast, he's a blur, and he's standing between Sam and the Dark Lord, protective, a vicious snarl on his lips, his eyes filled with a cold hatred and he flicks his head towards Bobby, voice toneless and old, "Let him go."

Lucifer scraps his sharp claw along Bobby's skin, drawing a bead of blood, and smiles gleefully at Dean, "I think not."

Bobby kicks against the hand holding him, "Kill the son of a bitch, Dean! Take him out now!"

The Master pulls Bobby near, "Oh, but if he is unsuccessful, you all die. That is what he's thinking now, is that not right, my son?"

His lip curling, trembling with the rage that suddenly fills his heart, Dean grinds out slowly, succinctly "I am not your son, you evil bastard!"

Satan gives a "tsk, tsk" before shaking his head slightly, "You didn't feel that way when you were down here last time, child. You were so grateful to me when I gave you drink, when I gave you food. You pledged your love to me. And now you've left me for your other family."

The Evil One almost spits the last word out and turns back to Bobby, asking, "But you're not blood, are you, hunter? No, you've no Winchester in you so you're no longer necessary here."

He starts to dig into Bobby's neck, deep, just under his ear, aiming for his artery and Bobby grabs his arm and slices into it with the demon knife he's kept hidden, the deep cut spurting blood, smoking and hissing as the metal burns through the evil skin.

Satan screams in pain, dropping Bobby to the ground and holding his injured arm in surprise, gasping at the hunter "What have you done to me?"

Scrambling away, Bobby's hands are against his own throat, feeling for damage as he snarls back, "I had Castiel touch the knife before I jumped in here. A little angel present for you, you son of a bitch!"

"You dare to cut me with that rancid steel, put that putrid goodness into my flesh? I will take my time killing you."

And Satan starts to move forward towards Bobby and then stops in surprise, looking at Dean. He's frozen in place, talons extended, sharp teeth gritted together in a growl of rage, one foot in front of the other.

Sam rises up behind Dean, eyes shining with mad power, staring intensely at Lucifer, moving around Dean to tower over the evil One, his body shaking with the force he's pushing to hold the malevolence in limbo.

Waggling a finger in Satan's face, Sam taunts, "Now you know I'm not going to let you do that, don't you?"

Sam motions to the festering cut on Lucifer's arm, "You feel that working inside you? That's light and life sliding through that thing you call a heart. Remember that, angel? Do you remember when you were God's favored one, how the light was what you lived for? How's it feel now, asshole?"

Satan growls at Sam, teeth bared ferociously, almost spitting the words out, "I remember I was expected to bow down, humble myself before lesser beings like you and when I refused and stood by my beliefs, the beliefs that your God instilled in me at my creation, I was cast out, thrown away like rotting garbage, like I was nothing."

He struggles against Sam's hold on him, managing to break free long enough to move one leg forward.

Sam flexes his mind harder and pushes back, both figures quaking and gasping at the exertion, the mental battle of wills taking its toll on both of them.

Lucifer fights against Sam grimly, wearing him down, his power more constant than Sam's, "Now, I have the Healer's attention, don't I? I am no longer yesterday's trash but now am a worthy opponent, with more followers than He will ever have and that gives me strength, stamina to stay the distance. I will never be gone. I am necessary for the balance of the universe. If the King of King exists, then I must also exist. It is required."

Sam is pushed back by an invisible blow as the Dark Lord takes two steps forward.

"Dean! Now would be a good time to do your thing!" Sam calls back, panting in exertion, surging another sweep towards the Devil.

"And you'd have some idea of how I'm supposed to do that, Sam?"

Sam is whipped backwards without warning, smashed into the rocks behind Dean and when he sees Sam go down, his mind goes fierce and deadly and Dean turns, the grace overtaking him, enveloping him and his glows shines from him, a blinding light that touches Satan's eyes, causing him to howl in agony.

Dean throws out an arm and the evil One shields himself with both hands, trying to stop the untainted light, the pure clean radiance that surges towards him, burning him with the intensity, enveloping him with righteous power.

Satan's eyes go opaque, a film burning into them from the force of the shining light and he is blinded, screaming curses at Dean and God, shrieking hate at the Deliverer and all his goodness and begins to claw at his unseeing eyes with a wild ferocity, trying to see, trying to survive.

Dean is suddenly in front of him, plunging an angelic hand into Lucifer's chest, burning him with the holy essence he carries in his very being, making the evil entity writhe and jerk with suffering.

Satan claws back at Dean, slicing into him deeply, through his stomach and chest, grasping and pulling, trying to rip out his heart. Dean cries out in pain as his blood runs out from the slashes those talons are delivering, ripping his skin and his muscles, but he won't pull back, hand still buried inside the demonic skin.

He grabs the back of the Evil One's head, shoving his hand further into the fetid chest, grunting with effort, finding the putrid heart, feeling it thumping in his fist and he yanks, tearing it out, arteries and veins shredded, blood pouring over his hands and Satan throws back his head, mouth gaping with a scream that's cut off with a gurgle, voice bubbling with frothy blood as the lungs are flooded with blood and air is gone. Dean pulls his hand out and drops the heart, fist covered in gore.

He grips Lucifer's head with both hands, and with a triumphant scream, gives a sharp twist and a rip and the body drops away, a stump of a neck pumping out the rest of the body's blood and he's left gripping the Dark Master's head, face still twitching from errant nerves.

Dean screams out, "God, Your will is done!" and holds the head up high, blood dripping down onto him, onto the ground, and he stands tall, his glow pulsing out of him now, his trophy offered up to the heavens-

The very air itself seems to sigh with relief as Sam and Bobby crawl over to stand next to Dean, staring up with him into the skies of hell-

A gentle rain begins to fall on their upturned faces, so light at first it may have been imagination but then, pattering down onto the parched and dead earth, onto the gaping open mouths of screaming, tormented, thirsty demons, turning into a shower and then a torrent, washing away the stench, the dust, the blood.

The head in Dean's hands shimmers and disappears with the rain.

The three men stand shoulder to shoulder, the flood washing over them, washing them clean and they open their mouths, filling their scorched throats with heaven's essence, drinking deeply until they're filled up and the thirst, the never-ending thirst is gone and hope is restored.

Through the downpour, they can make out a glimmer of a staircase appearing in front of them, waxing and waning in the rain and Castiel walks down it, feet barely touching, almost floating over the steps. He motions for Dean, Sam and Bobby to come join him and they are suddenly on the stairs, standing next to him, looking out at a different hell, watching the damned souls drink, mouths wide open, crying out with joy at the cleansing rain.

Castiel's voice rings out to all, "The ladder will remain for those who want to be judged worthy to enter heaven. All souls are welcome to be tried and measured. Make your choice quickly as the ladder will disappear in due time."

With that, he turns to walk up and Dean follows without question, his glow fading now and he climbs, motioning to Sam and Bobby to come. Bobby looks over at Sam, muttering under his breath, "This is going to be one hell of a long walk…"

Sam gives a small smile and nods in agreement.

*

Castiel waves his hand and they're back in the street, back where they first jumped into the pit, staring at each other with shell-shocked eyes, looking around the world wonderingly, the roads and sidewalks still cracked and broken, the people laying dead in the street or screaming for mercy, fires still burning and smoke hanging heavy in the air.

Dean reaches out to Sam, putting a hand on his shoulder and looks at him and Bobby gratefully, "Thank you for-" and he trails off, shaking his head, giving it up.

There aren't words.

Sam gathers him up in his arms, hugging him tightly, scared to let him go, grateful, so grateful to have his brother back. When they pull apart, they look at Bobby, watching them with tear-filled eyes and he cuffs them both on the shoulders, nodding at them, unable to speak.

They've gone through too much, seen too much to waste time on words. Touching is what matters most now.

Sam sees Castiel over Bobby's shoulder and clears his throat, "Cas, will it ever be like it was before?"

Castiel's eyes wander over their faces as he nods, "Humans are resilient. They will regroup, rebuild and heal from this with time. They won't forget, but they will forgive. They must in order to survive. You will heal, too."

Sam, Bobby and Dean exchange hollow glances. They know they will never recover from what they've seen and what they've done. The most they can hope for is to someday be able to live with it and maybe one day, even forgive themselves.

Maybe that's all anyone can do.

*

-the end-

*

A/N: Latin Translation of incantation (sort of): Show the light, Show the soul that Blackest night cannot hold. As I speak it, show the son, the glory of the protected one.