Yes, yes, I know I'm horrible, what with how ever other many stories I'm working on right now...but this plot bunny wouldn't leave me alone! It's a shorter one, though, just a few chapters by the end, I promise. And this one is much more serious, just so you know...So anyway, please read and review if you like this teaser! Thanks so much! :)

Timing: Alternate ending to 4x18, "The Monter at the End of This Book," so spoilers up to and including that episode.

Genre: Angst, Drama, Family

"Time's Redemption"

Lilith wore a dimly smug expression as Sam slowly leaned over her, and that sealed the decision. At the last moment he grabbed for the knife on the nightstand, and he thought he had her. Unfortunately, it seemed that even without her powers to use against him, she was faster. Her hand snapped up to catch his wrist and flip him over, turn the tables. Suddenly she had the knife, and seemed intent on using it.

That was when the door burst open, and Dean rushed in with—

"I am the prophet, Chuck!"

The writer?

Lilith glared back at them, springing off the bed. "You've got to be joking." Sam stayed where he was against the headboard, just as confused as she was.

"Oh, this is no joke," Dean smirked, clapping a hand on Chuck's shoulder. "You see, Chuck here has got an archangel on his shoulder."

The room began to vibrate, and white light poured in through the window. Lilith glanced around quickly, unsure of what was happening. Sam still wasn't so certain himself.

"You got about ten seconds before this room is fulla wrath, and you're a piece of charcoal! You sure you wanna tangle with that?"

Sam pushed up against the wall, bracing himself as the room shook and watching Lilith warily. She snapped around to glower at him, and the look sent shivers down his spine. Then she spun back on Dean and Chuck.

For Sam it was all slow motion from there. Lilith flicked a wrist in his brother's direction, and Dean's head snapped to the side so sharply he didn't need to hear the sickening crack that came with it.

"NO!" He heard himself scream, saw Dean fall. Chuck froze, wide-eyed, and Lilith escaped. In seconds she was out of the body she'd stolen, and out the window. The room stopped shaking and the light faded as the dental hygienist dropped to the floor, unconscious.

"Dean! DEAN!" Sam was already scrambling off the bed, and he was across the room almost before he knew he'd moved. He dropped to the floor at his brother's side, pulling Dean up into his arms. "Nonononono…" he moaned. Dean's head hung too loosely, and his eyes were wide…empty. Dead. Again.

Sam pulled Dean's head against his chest, cradling his brother's limp body in his arms. Cold déjà vu gripped his chest like a vice, and suddenly, as the tears came, it was too hard to breathe.

"Dean no," he gasped. "No!"

"Oh no oh no oh no," Chuck mumbled frantically. "This wasn't supposed to happen! He was supposed to stop it all…"

Sam looked up quickly, only then remembering that other man was there. He could have asked about that last comment, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered now. "Get out of here."

Chuck blinked. "What?"

"Just go!" He nodded toward the woman on the floor. "Take her and leave!"


"Now, Chuck!"

He stumbled back, nodding quickly. "O-okay, okay..." A moment later he'd dragged the woman to the door. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry…" he muttered as he went. Sam ignored him, waiting for the door to shut.

It wasn't until then that he let himself bury his face in Dean's shoulder and cry.

"I don't understand," he sobbed. "That wasn't supposed to happen…"

"No. It should not have happened."

Sam looked up again. His vision was clouded with the tears that streaked his face now, but there was no mistaking the figure in front of him.

It was Castiel.

"What are you doing here?" He swiped at his eyes, and when he could see the angel more clearly, he frowned. Cas looked…distraught.

"This was not supposed to happen," Castiel repeated, as if he couldn't understand it either.

"Then fix it!" Sam demanded, suddenly angry. He held Dean tighter. "Bring him back again!"

Castiel looked at him apologetically. "It took four of your months to reach him last time. This time they would be ready. I do not know that we could pull him out again."

The realization hit him like a slap in the face.

Dean was in hell again.

"No…No, there has to be a way. We can't just leave him there! We have to do something!"

"Yes…we must do something." The angel shook his head slowly. "As I said…I do not understand this. Dean Winchester was to be the only man who could stop all of this, somehow."

"What?" Sam didn't understand. What was he talking about?

"I cannot explain now," Castiel answered, as if he'd heard the thought.

Sam glowered at him, and carefully got to his feet. He hefted Dean up with him, and carried him back to the other bed. Gently he laid his brother's body there, and with a trembling hand closed Dean's eyes. With a sob he dropped to his knees again, beside the bed.

"Please…you have to do something," he choked. Not once since he had actually met an angel for the first time had he ever imagined begging one for anything. But this…he couldn't handle this. He couldn't lose Dean again—not after he'd already gotten him back once.

For a long moment there was silence, and then a soft sigh.

"Remain here. I will return…I must seek guidance."

When Sam glanced back, Castiel was gone.

He didn't know how long he cried—no less than last time—and this time the knowledge that every moment was hours for Dean in hell…it didn't make it any easier to stop.

"I should have listened to you," he sobbed. "We should have run—prophecy or no damn prophecy. I thought I really could stop it all now. I thought I could kill her…" A fist shot out and slammed into the nightstand. "I couldn't do anything! It was all for nothing."

His shoulders shook, and he pulled his hand back to find Dean's arm and hold onto it. "I'm sorry…"

Everything faded out in the grief, and the helplessness…and Sam wasn't really aware of much until he heard the sharp knock on the door. For a moment he hoped Castiel had returned, but then he remembered that an angel wouldn't knock on the door.

There was no one else he wanted to talk to right now, so he ignored it.

"Sam! Come on, damnit, open up."

It was only the anger that made him get up and fling open the door. "Go away, Ruby."

The demon crossed her arms. "What? I got wind of some celestial commotion around here. What's going on? Where's Dean?"

"Dean is dead," he snapped.

Her arms dropped. "What?"

"He's dead. Lilith killed him.

"Lilith was here?!" Ignoring his protests, Ruby pushed past him into the room. She only went far enough to see Dean's body on the bed before she stopped and turned. "You tried to kill her, didn't you?"

"Of course I did! You would have done the same."

"No, I would have waited until I knew I was strong enough!"

"I thought I was!"

"I told you that it would take more time!" She scowled and pointed to the bed. "You acted before you were ready, and she retaliated. What else did you expect her to do! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is no one's fault but your own, Sam."

His jaw clenched. "I don't need you to tell me that!" Suddenly everything seemed too bright, too loud, too much…Sam groaned and dropped to all fours, pulling in air sharply. In a moment Ruby was behind him, leaning down close, a hand running over his shoulders.

"Sam, I'm sorry. I am. But we've got to keep going. We can take Lilith down. Maybe you're not strong enough now, but you will be…with my help…"

Chuck's words flashed through his mind. I mean, sucking blood, man? You gotta know that's wrong.

The thing was, he knew Dean would have said exactly the same thing.

Sam pushed her away and staggered to his feet. "How can you even think about that right now!"

Ruby straightened and crossed her arms again. "Because we still have a war to fight. Lilith's still out there, apparently, and she has to be stopped. If it's just us now, we're going to have to crack down. We've got work to do."

She began rolling up her sleeve, and even though he could feel the part of himself that wanted it…he shook his head slowly. "No…not like that."

She stopped and raised her eyebrows at him. "What else is there? You have to be able to kill her eventually."

Sam just kept shaking his head. He backed up toward the other side of the room, toward Dean. "No, just…not right now. I can't. Not right now."

Dean wanted me to stop anything that had to do with my powers. I wouldn't listen to him when he was here. Maybe I really should have listened to him. Maybe if I had listened he would still be alive.

The cold truth cut in sharp, and he heard himself gasp in a painful breath.

Ruby watched him for a moment. She watched as he backed up into the nightstand and sank to the floor again, head in his hands. "Please just go," he said weakly. He felt the fresh wave of tears as he pulled his knees up to his chest, and Ruby's expression softened.

"Fine," she sighed, and hesitated a moment. "I'm sorry," she repeated. Then she was gone.

Crying silently, Sam pulled himself up on the edge of the bed and sat there, staring down at Dean's still form. More uncountable time passed, until a breeze that shouldn't have reached him in a motel room made him look up.

Castiel had returned.

Sam levered himself back to his feet, daring to hope. "Well?"

The angel almost winced—almost—before he answered. "I can promise nothing, but, if you are willing…there may be a way to save your bother. There may be a way to do much more than that."