A/N: This is one of those stories that just sort of sprung up with a life all its own, something that wouldn't let me alone. It might be the beginning of a series of one shots. Thank you to everyone who held my hand and poked me through the nerves on this one! You guys were awesome!!! Thanks to TraSan.

Warnings: Spoilers for 5.14. Also, like the show, I am playing with religious themes and, like the show, have mixed them up a little for the story. No offense is intended in any way.

The Truth

He'd said please to an empty sky, and what answer did he get? Silence. He'd begged for help, for something, and what did he get? Silence. He'd cried there among the broken and rusting cars and what comfort did he get? Silence.

Silence from the uninvolved, uncaring universe. It just figured.

Dean took a deep breath and turned back towards the house. He'd been away from his brother for a long time. There was nothing he could do but be there, and Sam wouldn't even know, but Dean would. He walked through the yard, a night bird calling in the distance, making an eerie echo through the yard. Something about the call sounded almost like his name. He shook off the chill that buzzed from his spine along his skin and headed in and back down the stairs.

Cas was standing there, his faraway look on his face. He nodded at Dean and returned to his staring. Cas was a quality staring kind of guy, Dean liked that about him. There, but not. Dean did wonder how the angel could not know, but he didn't, no one seemed to know.

Sam was screaming again. Yelling for help, shouting to the things that were pursuing him in his room. Dean could hear the rattle of chains as Sam fought the demons and everything else he saw while detoxing. God, it hurt to hear him. The screams changed, Sam was fighting Famine again, yelling about the blood and the demons and...

Oh, god, had Sam just said it?

Dean glanced nervously at Cas, the angel looked over curiously. "It's not him, Dean," Cas said for the ninth time, offering comfort, and apparently not hearing what Sam was screaming about. And it wasn't comforting, because it was Sam in there, facing his demons, facing things that Dean didn't think he could. That's what made it hurt so damn much.

"Yeah," Dean whispered, leaning back against the wall. He wanted a drink, but it was a pointless desire. The alcohol wouldn't change anything, wouldn't make it different or better or even numb. It didn't even help with the numb anymore. It would be nice if Famine had been right, that he was dead inside and he could devour that numbness with a hunger that even Famine couldn't comprehend.

How could they not know?

A shriek of terror issued from the room. It took everything Dean had left to not go in and comfort his brother. He knew there was nothing he could do, but listening to him... Dean drew a slow breath in, the shrieks quieted. The demons must have said something to Sam, he was screaming about it again. Dean looked at Cas. The angel had checked back out, staring at the far wall like it held the answers to life.

If only it did.

Dean slid down the wall so he was sitting on the floor, letting the icy stone burn into his legs. The pain was welcome, it was something. It felt like he'd been lost for so long, fighting this, fighting everything it would mean. Some days letting Michael in seemed like the easy way out. It would peel away the responsibility and give him feeling he had helped somehow, he fought for the right side and come out on top. Assuming he came out on top, if he gave himself to Michael, would Sam give way to Lucifer? And if they face each other, who would win? People liked to believe good would triumph, it didn't always work that way—and of course that was all based n the assumption that Michael was playing on the right team.

How could free will and destiny both be tied so closely?

How could denying one lead to the other and still be true to both?

"Help me! Dean! No!" Sam was back to that. Dean banged his head against the wall and waited. He wanted to comfort his brother, help him somehow.

"It's not him, Dean," Cas said.

With a sigh, Dean closed his eyes. Why couldn't he be dead inside? It would make it so damn easy. The fact that Famine saw death, really nothing, inside and not what was actually there just made it so much worse. It made it True, with a capital T true and all the denial in the world—hell the universe—couldn't unmake that truth.

Sleep would be good about now.

It had been so long, so long since he'd slept. He used to pride himself in being able to sleep any time, any where. Even after hell, he could numb himself to the point of unconsciousness and at least enter oblivion for a little while. But now? Now, sleep was more than elusive, it was gone. Every time he started to slip into sleep it was there, staring at him. Destiny, free will, Michael, Lucifer, choices, the end of the world, horsemen, angels, demons.

Maybe he'd send it all to R.E.M. and let them write a song.

Sam knew something, he was yelling about it again, over and over. Screaming Dean's name, shouting defiance at Famine and his demons. How did he know, when no one did? Famine hadn't known, or he would have seen it, wouldn't he? Or would he deny knowing, say Dean was dead and urge him to end it before something happened?

Huh, could that be it?

He'd stood before Famine unprotected. The protection had been unwitting all these years, but now he was fighting that huge truth he was walking around naked, unprotected, could they see it on him? Smell it? And would that make him more or less of a target?

Dean opened his eyes a slit at peeked at Cas. Of course the angel hadn't moved. It seemed odd that this huge thing could be there in front of him and Cas was oblivious. Everyone was, the end of the world and they were all going about their business. Okay, be fair, they were fighting, good old Team Free Will. It just seemed that this truth should be out there, everything had been planned all along if you listened to the angels—fallen and not.

Why couldn't he be dead inside?

It would make it so much easier. No choices when you were dead. Maybe Michael would give up on him. No, his body would still be there, and that's all the angel wanted. And the angel only thought he knew what was happening. They all did, and no one knew that truth that Dean was still fighting, still denying.

Choices.

Which was the right one? Which was the correct truth and what would be an act of free will? And was free will actually defiance? Is that what all this was? Defiance in the face of a supposed heaven appointed fate. Free will fighting with destiny? Michael said the whole his vessel thing was an act of heaven, the only right choice in the face of the destruction of the world.

Michael spoke of destiny, and denied free will. Lucifer spoke of destiny and denied free will.

That truth, was it destiny? Free will? A combination of the two and could you even have that? He was back in the loop, over and over again, running over the facts, the choices, the things revealed to lead him here. All he wanted to do was hunt evil and save people. Fight with his brother by his side. And now he was here, and where was here and where the hell did he go from this place. That truth he was madly denying was haunting him, it all was. And it was the truth, no matter how often he told himself it was all part of a bad dream.

God, he was so tired.

"Dean?" Cas had a hand on his shoulder.

"What?" Dean opened his eyes.

"It's over, Sam's calling for you."

"Over?" How long had he been sitting there? Dean pushed himself up, fighting a stiff knee and the spasm in his back he always got from sitting too long. Taking a careful step on a still-asleep foot, he walked to the door and opened it.

The room stank. Fear, anger other, more tangible things, filled the air. Dean looked at his brother where he was chained on the bed, blood on his wrists from fighting the manacles. Dean had tried to protect his arms, but the torn bits of towel had slipped from under the metal. He swallowed down guilt and took another step. Sam met his eyes—and they were his brother's eyes—unbelievably weary, still hurting, but Sam, sane and present. There was something else there well. The truth was there, staring at Dean through Sam's eyes.

He knew.

No one else, nothing else knew, but Sam did now, or at least some portion of the truth.

Dean stopped beside the bed and unlocked the chains, gently lifting Sam's hands to rest on his chest before undoing the restraints on his ankles. He kept his back to his brother, unwilling to see that truth there, if that's what it was. Maybe it was just accusation for not being strong enough, for not being there, for...

He heard Sam's intake of breath and braced himself for what was coming. "Can I take a shower?" he said, his voice hoarse from long hours of screaming.

"Yeah," Dean answered, his voice equally hoarse for some reason.

"I need a minute."

"Yeah." Dean took a breath, willing himself to turn around and face this, but he did what he'd been doing lately—and fled. He pushed past Cas without a word and went out into the yard. It was night—again or still—he didn't know or care. Once out the door, he walked to the Impala and sat down on the hood, drawing what comfort he could from her familiar presence. Even then the thoughts still pounding through his skull with a persistence that was almost madness.

Destiny, free will, defiance, which was the right choice? Did he have a choice?

This thing that he'd been denying—that he couldn't even bring himself to say. He'd said it once, spoken that truth only once and it had been so huge he'd let it go. Even now, he couldn't say it. He'd left himself unprotected because of that, his soul open—or not—to Famine and he still couldn't say it. Dean had fought it, screamed that it was a lie, how could it even be true with Michael already vying for his body and saying that was the only destiny? How could this truth be true?

How could it possibly be?

"No," he said softly to the silent stars. Their bright light seemed to laugh at him, mocking his dilemma, while acknowledging the outcome of his choices might even affect where they stood witness to the world's foibles.

Michael and Lucifer insisted that their ending of the world was the one that was true, the one that was destined, but maybe they were lying—or so caught up in their own personal war that they thought their way was the only way. Maybe this truth was the answer to that—maybe it was a way to re-balance everything. And maybe Dean had always suspected something of this truth. He'd faced War and Famine, faced them both down and still was standing. Not only standing, but still fighting.

"Dean?"

He shifted on the car to face his brother. Sam's hair was still wet, his eyes looking bruised from exhaustion. "Hey," Dean replied.

Sam took it as an invitation and walked over to the car. "I'm sorry."

"Not your fault," Dean said gently. "And even souped up on demon blood, you still came and fought for the right team."

"I drank the blood, though." Sam's voice was full of regret and unshed tears.

"Famine affected everyone, even Cas couldn't fight the hunger."

"You did," Sam said softly. Dean looked away from Sam's intent gaze.

"Yeah."

"Cas said Famine told you that you were dead inside—nothing to hunger for."

Dean shrugged.

"I noticed that you seem less like yourself lately, think I mentioned it on Valentine's day."

"When a dog doesn't eat," Dean said, surprised a the bitterness in his voice.

"That wasn't fair of me," Sam apologized.

"Whatever," Dean said, but the word wasn't angry, it was just normal between them and he needed normal for a split second.

"Dean..." Sam trialed off and sighed, out of the corner of his eye, Dean saw him look up at the stars. Maybe Sam was looking for the answer from them too. "Do you think the things I see when I'm detoxing—do you think some of them are true?"

This was the moment, Dean could deny it, tell Sam they were all lies and that truth that Sam had been screaming was nothing but a vision sent by the hell of withdrawal. He could deny everything and they could go on to that fate that Michael and Lucifer offered, loss of self, loss of each other, loss of the world. It would be so damned easy, so simple, just to say no to Sam's questions. It would solve everything.

"Yes, some of them might be true," Dean said, turning his eyes to the stars.

"I love Tolkien."

"Random, much?"

"And he was right."

"Even more random."

"In the beginning they made the rings of power."

"Not really relevant."

"But it is, you killed War by taking his ring. Cas said the horsemen's power is in their rings."

"Right, and this applies to Tolkien how? I don't think War was a rabid elf."

"No, he wasn't," Sam said seriously, ignoring Dean's sarcasm. "And while Tolkien was right, he was all wrong too."

"The Apocalypse is coming, Michael and Lucifer want us, and we're talking about Tolkien?"

"Yes, we are."

"Okay, go geekboy. But if you bring up Star Trek, I'm leaving."

"The One Ring."

"Uh huh, yeah, right, the one ring to rule them all," Dean said, smirking at the sky then stopped. His breath caught in his throat, he looked over at his brother to find Sam gazing at him.

"But Tolkien was wrong, the One Ring is a symbol of virtue, not evil. Truth rules over all, not hate," Sam said softly.

Dean couldn't breath, Sam held his eyes and wouldn't let him look away.

"Funny, most people don't know there are actually five horsemen."

"What?" Dean whispered.

"There are five horsemen. Five, Dean, the fifth one fights for heaven and wears the One Ring." Sam frowned at him, the gentle looked that mean he was afraid for Dean, worried—and something else. "Doesn't he?"

And there it was. What he'd been hiding from all this time. The truth, capital T, no hold barred, Truth. The ultimate act of defiance. The way to maybe save everything.

Sam held out his hand, Dean looked down, glittering in the soft light was Dean's ring. Dean had taken it off when he'd found out the truth, hidden it away so he didn't have to face it.

But it was there, in his brother's hand.

Sam held it out, Dean put his hand over it—the silver was warm from his brother's hand, and a soft heat of the truth.

"Doesn't he, Dean?" Sam whispered.

"He does."

Why couldn't he be dead inside?

Instead there was this truth, this huge truth, this world changing truth. The decision before him was the act of defiance heaven offered him, that moment between free will and the destiny Michael and Lucifer kept throwing in their faces. It was the moment when maybe hatred between angelic brothers wouldn't pull the world down, the moment when everything would change. What would it mean? That choice? He'd been afraid to even whisper the truth, and now that it was here it was more terrifying, more liberating than he'd ever dreamed. He'd faced it alone for so long—but maybe that was the truth that was wrong. He wasn't alone, he was never alone, was he? He wasn't meant to be alone, in the choice or anything else. There was another player in all this, the person who would stand beside him.

"What do I do, Sammy? God, what do I do?"

"I don't know." But Sam put his other hand over Dean's trapping the ring against Dean's palm, pressing it gently into the flesh. Dean looked up. Sam's eyes were bright with tears, full of fear and worry, love and determination. "But I'm with you, whatever you choose."

"And now I saw heaven open, and a white horse appear; its rider was called Trustworthy and Truth. His eyes were flames of fire, the name written on him was known only to himself, his cloak was soaked in blood. Behind him, dressed in linen of dazzling white, rode the armies of heaven on white horses." Revelation 19:11-14