A/N: I wanted this to be all artsy and whatever, but as it turns out I am not an artsy kind of writer. Surprise - I don't think this is depressing. I also don't think this is how Kripke's going to have it go.

They Brought Him to the Place Called Gol'gotha

The streets didn't run red with blood. There wasn't fire or smoke or screaming. There was only heavy smog and a vague oppressed feeling of desperation so entrenched it was tangible. He could taste it on his tongue, carbon and sulfur and burned rubber. It was like the rest of the nation, the world, suffering in the grips of an apocalypse it had no idea was upon them. Detroit wasn't what Dean expected it to be, which wasn't saying much because what he had expected was to never ever set foot in Detroit. His free will wasn't an illusion, but it was something to be stolen, bastardized beyond recognition.

"None of this would have had to happen, you know, all the killing, the death," the man said, voice hoarse, dry as a desert and matter-of-fact. "Not one bit of it would have come to pass if you boys weren't such pig-headed fools. It's a serious character flaw."

"What, you're just up here to take in the sights? A vacation from the pit? Bullshit, pal," Dean said, knowing as he did the words were a mistake. "Your whole business is pain. You would have killed and destroyed no matter what. It helps you curb your feelings of inadequacy because dear old daddy didn't love you as much as he loved your brothers."

The familiar sensation of his organs liquefying was neither pleasant nor unexpected. Unable to stop himself, Dean let out a groan and staggered. He hunched over but willed himself to stay on his feet. Take that free will and suck it, he thought as he successfully remained vertical. He was well aware how ridiculous it was taking pride in such a pitiful victory. It lasted forever and a few seconds both. When the pain was over, he wasn't sure he was ever going to take a full breath again in his whole life. Not that it mattered. He didn't think he'd see another sunrise.

"He's going to say yes," Lucifer said. He smirked. "One look at you, and he's mine. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it."

It was Sam's birthday, Dean thought, and so much for blowing out candles and making wishes. More than ten years had passed since either of them had so much as a piece of cake to celebrate the anniversaries of their births. He guessed after a certain point, it had become questionable whether or not their miserable lives were worth a party. Funny how now he knew they absolutely were. If he was going to die, it was going to mean something. In all this mess, someone's death had to have meaning.

"Because it was written," Dean said flatly. "Yeah, spare me the same old crap story. Sam will never say yes to you, you rotting sack of shit."

Lucifer laughed but it turned to ragged, wet coughs almost immediately. He cleared his throat and spat blood. The sputum glistened in the dim streetlight's glow, dark and slick.

"I like you, Dean. I really do. You remind me of Michael. So sure of yourself, even though you're a big hypocrite. Just like Michael." Lucifer spat again as he dragged Dean along, messily swiping the bloody saliva off his lips. It streaked on his forearm. "When Sam needed you the most you turned on him. You said you loved him and then you beat him down every chance you got. That's why this is all happening, really."

Dean almost laughed himself at the revisionist telling of his and Sam's history, or in reality Michael and Lucifer's. The only thing that stopped him was the sincere look on the devil's burn-ridden face, and not because he was swayed by it. He knew the consequences would be harsh if he laughed. Psychopaths didn't enjoy being mocked, whether human, angel or devil. It wasn't time for that. Not yet, not yet.

"I don't want you to die. I know what you mean to Sam. But I have to kill you. I know it doesn't make sense to you," Lucifer said. The sad, conversational reasonableness in his voice was real and it was insane. "It's me or him. It's Sam or it's you. It's all the same now. Well, it will be soon."

The lights were on low and the doors locked. The golden arches glowed. Dean's stomach almost revolted as the smell of grease, rotting vegetables and spoiled milk grew stronger. He didn't think there could be a more ridiculous place in the world for it all to end than back by the dumpsters of a rundown McDonald's. There was probably some crazy sort of logic in the choice. Dean didn't care to know what it was.

"Classy," Dean said. "You want fries with that?"

"Over twenty billion served."

On a frigging platter. Dean leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. Being yoinked halfway across the nation by Satan was exhausting, not to mention the torture. He was pretty sure his gall bladder actually had been liquefied, not just the victim of exaggerated figures of speech. The pain was constant now, and nothing he hadn't endured before. It was like a paper cut. But he hoped he didn't look as bad as he felt. He probably did. He had to trust that Sam would hold steady. Part of him believed Lucifer was right, Sam would cave.

"Of course he will, Dean," Lucifer said, answering his unspoken thought. "That's the plan."

"These aren't the droids you're looking for." Dean rolled his eyes. "Your Jedi mind tricks don't impress me."

Lucifer chuckled, and weighted Dean to the spot. Chains were so passé these days.

Dean kept his eyes closed, pretended to sleep. There wasn't much else for him to do. He didn't have interest in whatever mumbo-jumbo Lucifer was muttering about. Actually, he already knew what Lucifer was muttering about. Same old evil chanting and summoning. He drifted, until something changed and pulled him out of his almost-rest. Silence, and more.

The hair on the back of Dean's neck prickled. Someone was watching. It wasn't Sam. He couldn't feel Sam yet. He cracked his eyes, a bit startled to find a crowd had drawn. Formless shapes in the dark, circling the parking lot just outside the light of the restaurant. Bad guys, good guys, it didn't matter. Rumble at Mickey D's, Sodapop. Just waitin' on Ponyboy. This was a big event. End of the world big, Dean heard in Bobby's voice. Okay, maybe he was the crazy one. He hadn't had a drink or a nap in days.

"What, did you advertise or something?" he mumbled. Dean cleared his throat and shouted, "Standing room only, folks."

The crowd emitted a collective whisper and started shifting, the shadows milling with no coordination at first and then parting like the goddamn Red Sea. Ah, schedules had been cleared. There was Death and War and Pestilence and Famine.

"Ooh, the A-listers."

"I don't like to brag, but some folks think I'm kind of important." Lucifer shrugged.

"It's going to be awfully embarrassing for you, then." Dean looked toward the crowd, ignoring the full body ache and the fear. "I'll bet my life on the side of good."

At that, the mass of evil beings jeered. Dean smiled at them, and with what little movement he was allowed flicked them off with both hands. With a snap of Lucifer's fingers, he was immobilized, intense pressure pinning him to the wall. Death by crushing wasn't much better than death by liquefaction. He knew both well. His arms raised involuntarily, stretched wide with his hands palm out. Jesus, that was just fucking stupid.

"Symbology," Lucifer said. "It makes for a great show."

"Don't tell me about the commemorative coins you're having minted. I can't stand the thought of being part of something so tacky."

The crowd murmured again, pitch gradually rising. Dean knew why. He knew Sam was close. It was almost time. He took a deep breath. He squinted, searching the faceless throng for his brother. For Castiel. For Bobby. At long last the Red Sea effect again, and there was only Sam. Huge and strong and sad and small. Dean had told him a poker face wouldn't matter because everyone knew, but now he wished like hell he had told Sam to suck it up and be a Winchester. That expression had always cut him to the quick, even, he admitted, when he didn't trust Sam further than he could throw him.

"Happy birthday, Sammy," Dean said softly.

Sam's nostrils flared just a little, his eyes wet with tears. It was the worst thing Dean could have said to him, and they both knew it. As far as regrets went, though, it didn't rank high. Dean tilted his chin up, his own understated brand of symbology that Sam answered with a slight nod.

"How noble," Lucifer said. "Back literally to the wall, all cards on the table and you still think this is going to go your way, don't you, Dean? Not this time. You don't win this time."

If it could have, Dean's body would have doubled over involuntarily to stave off the agony. Sudden hot and wet on his belly, the acrid scent of his own blood. He didn't scream, but the demons and evil things did. He heard it all through the rushing noise in his ears. Sharp digging, an invisible blade to his insides, twisting, slicing. Dean refused to cry out, to show weakness. The howls continued, the laughter escalated with every cut inflicted, every drop of blood shed. Finally, he heard Sam screaming.

"Don't," Sam shouted, anger palpable. "Stop it. Stop."

The torture ceased, left Dean panting. The hold Lucifer had on him let go. Dean fell to his knees. He glared at the devil's sympathetic smile.

"Didn't I tell you?" Lucifer said. "I told him, Sam. The choice is simple. You say yes, I let Dean live."

Dean cradled his abdomen as he struggled to his feet. He swayed, and his vision was fuzzy at best. It would have to do. This was it. When Sam took too long to answer Lucifer, the pain started again.

"Stop," Sam cried right away this time, deep and hollow.

"So it's yes," Lucifer said.

"He said stop," Dean said, turning his attention skyward, "and I say go, go, go."

He blinked to clear his eyes, in time to see Castiel pushing through the crowd. Raphael. Gabriel. Phanuel and Simiel. Sam, heartbroken but ready, one last nod and everything was too bright light.

Everything was Michael.