A/N: Thank you for all the lovely reviews! And I'm happy that I was able to translate just a small bit of the emotion the episode made me feel into something for all of you to read. Enjoy the chapter!

Disclaimer: Supernatural and all its affiliates belong to Eric Kripke

Apparently, the Apocalypse really hadn't done much to dampen this particular individual's style and indeed, Hell's second prince looked no different than the first time Dean had laid eyes on him- slick Russian calf shoes, thin blue pinstriped Yves St. Laurent suit, high Irish cheekbones complemented by eyes of jade and the same self-assured, arrogant shit-eating grin that made the elder Winchester want to carve off his face. But doing so would mean relinquishing the body he held in his arms so Dean merely clutched Castiel's limp frame closer, hate streaming through his veins like liquid fire.

"Dean Winchester," the demon drawled as he walked across the length of the room, effortlessly picking his way through the carnage. "Fancy meeting you again. What's it been, all of five years?" Belial smirked as he came to a stop not ten feet away. "And how have you been, old sport?"

"You just keep your distance, you sick bastard," Dean managed to spit out. He rounded his shoulders and twisted his torso slightly, shielding his burden from Belial's appraising eyes, one hand falling away from supporting the back of the heavy head to grope blindly at the cold concrete for a weapon, any weapon- even though he knew it would be of no use on Lucifer's second in command. "You can't have him."

Cas had spent his entire life dodging this demon and Dean wasn't about to let the pervert claim Castiel's body as a friggin' trophy now. This was the least he could do, and it seemed like a pretty piss poor repayment for everything the angel had done for him, what with the whole rebelling against Heaven and losing his brothers and getting kicked out of his home deal- and to gain what in return? He was dead because of Dean, and it didn't matter that it was the heartless dick the elder Winchester was supposed to turn into who'd sent him to his death, he was going to take care of Cas because no one had seen to such a task for five years and this was the result.

Belial's eyebrows arched and he let out a distinguished chuckle; half in pity and the other in condescension. "Have him?" He repeated, walking even closer and glancing disinterestedly down at the shell that once housed the angel known as Castiel, that once was the most selfless and stupidly loyal son of a bitch Dean had ever met, that once used to be Gabriel's beloved little brother and the object of the lord of lust's twisted fantasies. "Oh no, my dear boy," he smiled congenially, flashing a set of perfectly straight pearly whites and something white-hot coiled dangerously in Dean's chest. "I have no use for spoiled leftovers."

The something twisting like a corkscrew in the elder Winchester's heart erupted in a burst of anger at the offhanded comment and as Belial extended a foot to prod carelessly at Castiel's frame, he jerked away with a snarl- "Don't you touch him!"

The demon was laughing; a cruel curl of his lip. "And why would I want to do that? I told you I have no use for that pestilence-ridden piece of meat." He shrugged casually then grinned, an animalistic arrangement of his vessel's face. "After all, I'll be having so much more fun with his soul downstairs."

What? Dean felt like he'd been sucker punched right in the gut and his mouth opened and closed one or twice before his vocal cords unstuck themselves from the sides of his windpipe and even then, the protest that flew past his lips was a mere whisper. "Bullshit." Demon and hunter stared each other down for a moment and Dean could feel the rage slowly being swallowed up by the emerging despair that twined its steely fingers around his lungs. "You're lying."

"Because demons always lie, no?" Belial chuckled and shook his head as if pitying the human's utter lack of brains. "What would I have to gain from lying to you Dean, hmm?" Long fingers slipped into the suit's inner pocket and produced a cigarette; the demon snapped his fingers and a candle's flame flared up out of his index finger. "Let's see. The angels are gone…" He inhaled deeply, starting to walk in a slow circle around the kneeling hunter. "Your body is out back, succumbing to rigor mortis..." An slowly exhale clouded Dean's eyes with smoke, but the hard glints of emerald never left the circling demon, and neither did his grip on the dead weight he held loosen. "And your pathetic little resistance efforts have all but been quashed into the dust."

"So you're here to gloat."

The demon took another drag on the cigarette, blowing the smoke out into the air through pursed lips. "In a manner of speaking, yes." He sighed and glanced down again with disinterest. "Although I see that I have encountered a less than captivated audience…" A nefarious light lit up his features. "But that can be changed." Dean's eyes widened and though he knew what was about to happen (and in fact this move was kind of getting old; couldn't they think of anything new over the course of five years?) it didn't make it any less painful as he was slammed against the adjacent wall, as the breath was ripped from his lungs and as Castiel was ripped away from the hunter's protective grasp. Son of a-

"I must say, I am somewhat put out because of you, Dean," Belial chided like a disapproving father as the hunter struggled against the telekinetic hold. He waved a hand and sat down comfortably in the leather armchair that'd appeared out of nowhere, feet coming to rest on the curve of Castiel's back. Dean stiffened at the action and raised eyes burning with murderous intent, jerking uselessly against the demon's power. The response was a bemused eyebrow arch and another long exhalation of smoke. "And yet at the same time I am immensely pleased- because honestly? I could not have broken dear little Cas any more efficiently than you did."

The words had the same effect upon the hunter's conscience as salt in an open wound; twice as corrosive and ten times as painful, because there was no protest Dean could offer in defense of his future self's actions. Had he the ability to speak, there wouldn't have been anything to say because for once, the lord of lies was speaking nothing but the truth. And that's the damn misery of it.

"Of course, I had hoped to be the one to crumble his will, to shatter his seemingly insurmountable faith, to drain away the near-endless supply of hope swimming in those big, pretty eyes…" Using the toe of his shoe, Belial nudged at the body until it lay flat on its back and he leaned forward, intently studying the features that had not been peaceful in the final moments before death, but were still contorted in inexpressible pain, even after the cessation of life. "But lo and behold you did all three without even so much as having to break a sweat." Switching the cigarette to the other hand, he reached into his left breast pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief that had been carefully folded into quarters and glanced up at Dean with a knowing smirk. "I knew there was a reason Alastair deemed you his favorite, the old sod. But who knew you'd be so skilled as to know how to use and abuse an angel?"

"And now his soul's stretched out upon the rack down in the bowels of Hell, just ripe for the taking," Belial murmured thoughtfully as he stroked the white silk over the contours of Castiel's face, along the jagged lacerations and through the tearstains, dying the cloth a crimson red. "Mine, forevermore." The demon licked his lips lasciviously at the mere thought; a chill ran down Dean's spine and his mind raced because it wasn't true; the son of a bitch was bluffing- it couldn't be true; even though the angels were dicks, there was no way they'd let one of their own-

oh hell no.

"Oh yes," Belial smirked, tucking the now-bloodied handkerchief away into his pocket with a flourish. He stood fluidly, gracefully and nodded down at Castiel's body. "Fallen angels don't get to fly back upstairs after they lose their wings. Pearly gates are shut to them; the only way to go…" He paused, taking another drag on the cigarette, "is down into the Pit. And you know who ensured Castiel's one-way ticket there?"

"Fuck you," Dean finally managed to choke out, voice shaking like an eighteen year old boy trying to get lucky on his prom night and Belial laughed, flicking cigarette ash down onto the blood spattered floor beneath his feet.

"Yes, well thank you, old sport." The demon said, stepping down upon the wrist of Castiel's broken arm with blasé apathy and rolling the joint against the concrete until the stiffening fingers loosened their clutch upon something that lay in the deceased's palm, an object that he'd been clinging onto in his final moments- "Here, a token of my appreciation."

Just like that then, the demon was gone and Dean fell to his hands and knees, hardly wincing at the twin spokes of pain that instantly flared up his limbs as he crawled over to where the angel lay, grasping the small amulet with shaking fingers. Cas, you stupid bastard...you stupid, stupid undyingly loyal son of a bitch. The tears came again, hot and unyielding but he could still see the black oxfords that moved into his line of vision and Dean raised his head to feel the press of two fingers against his forehead-


"The time for tricks is over. Give yourself to Michael and we can strike…before Lucifer gets to Sam. Before billions die. Before you condemn Castiel to his death and an eternity in Hell."

Zachariah was one fat, ugly son of a bitch, but Dean had to admit, the dick sure knew how to hit below the belt, where to hit to make it hurt the most, and was intimidating in his own right. The hunter's feet had indeed been doing a slow few steps backwards when the portly angel advanced with a nasty scowl and threat of teaching him a lesson-

-when he found himself standing on the side of a road, breath fogging up in the chilly air. What the hell? There was only one conclusion, one answer; the name floated to the forefront of his consciousness and, hardly daring to hope, Dean pivoted around to see the familiar dark blue tie, the same stupid beige trench coat and the sapphire eyes that pierced his soul through and through, holding all hope and dumb blind faith and everything that made Castiel who he was- and Dean wanted to bawl (again), and this time with relief. "That was pretty nice timing, Cas," he breathed instead, trying to believe that the angel was really here and had just saved his ass. Again.

"We had an appointment," Castiel replied with a small, barely noticeable smile- but it was so different from the hollow little laugh of bitterness and near-hysteria future Castiel had voiced and it was just so like how the holy tax accountant always spoke that even though Dean never noticed it before, he was sure taking it into account now as the blend of familiarity and sadness and sheer dumb joy rushed through his veins.

He stepped forward and his hand found the comfortingly solidness of Castiel's shoulder, steady and reassuring and it was almost a physical release at not feeling Castiel's frame shaking uncontrollably with gut-wrenching sobs or having his fingers find a hole where flesh and skin should've been, so much so that Dean didn't stop to think- simply flung both arms around the angel's back and pulled him into a fierce, tight hug.

Castiel went awkwardly stiff for a moment, shoulders and spine snapping as tight as a board and Dean was starting to wonder if it had been an epically bad idea to initiate such an act, when suddenly the angel exhaled slowly, tension slipping away from his frame and relaxed into the supportive embrace, his own arms rising to rest against Dean's back. "Dean?" the angel asked quietly and the hunter pulled back, eyes searching the other's face, hand still gripping his shoulder firmly as a constant reassurance that yes, Castiel was still here. Cas was still here.

"Drugs are bad for you, okay?" He blurted out stupidly, and then the words tumbled out in a rush like water gushing out of a broken dam without a filter. "So are booze and women- well women aren't bad, but easy women are- and all three of them together, they're just- you don't wanna be getting STDs while the Apocalypse is-"

"Dean," Castiel began, a slight frown furrowing his brow.

"And you've gotta promise me something Cas, promise me that you'll call me out when I'm acting like a selfish bastard-"

"Dean-"

"'Cause I'm not gonna let that happen and you- just- don't ever change, Cas; don't ever become like me because I'm really not that great of a role model-"

"Dean." The hunter stopped at the quiet insistence in the angel's voice and fell silent as probing sapphire eyes searched his, concerned and not a little bit worried. "What did Zachariah do to you?"

And that was just so like Castiel, to be worried for his sake and to give up everything for him, to rebel against Heaven because he said so, to stare at him with that stupid head tilt…Cas, promise me that you won't ever change. "Showed me the future," Dean muttered faintly, and the mere onslaught of memories forced him to drop his hand and turn away.

"It was…it was bad, Cas." He swallowed hard, throat constricting tightly. "The angels had left, everything had gone to hell and the demons were using the Croatoan virus to destroy the world; I was a dick and you-" His eyes were burning, and the words didn't want to leave his mouth, but he forced them out anyway. "You had no more hope left, you had no more faith and you didn't care anymore; you'd given up searching for God and you let me send you to your death, you-" From behind him, he heard nothing but a sharp inhale and Dean squeezed his eyes shut, hands curling into fists. "You were broken, Cas." And it was I who broke you.

There was a step behind him and then Castiel's hand fell upon his shoulder, like the angel had done nearly a year ago after Dean had seen the choices and decisions of his parents in the past- a gesture of comfort, of reassurance, of care and faith and trust- He turned to see the angel fixing him with a firm and unwavering gaze. "In my Father's absence, I will always have faith in you, Dean. I would follow you until the end."

I know you will, Cas. And that's why I swear I won't let it all come to that end.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed! Please drop a review!