5.20 The Devil You Know tag - Well, sort of…with input from 5.22 Swan Song.

Dante's Inferno

It was a dark and stormy night; the kind of night wiser men chose not to intrude upon. Something in the wind foretold their story, death and the rancid stench that lingers long after thick and pungent in the thin air, only serving to bring on more trepidation. Each step brought them closer to their goal while simultaneously threatening to push them from their shaky precipice and unceremoniously land them back in the pit.

Neither wanted to venture out in this maelstrom, neither wanted to face the possible end result of such foolishness, but duty called. The chance to save an innocent all their minds could process, relegating their apprehension to the pit of their stomachs, rumbling with anticipation and dread.

"Dean?" A long pause, the air charged with electricity, crackling with need far beyond the lightning that lit up the darkening sky. "Anything?" Sam's voice was tinged in hope, shying away from the desperation the situation warranted.

Gravel crunched beneath the weight of heavy boots, rocks and pebbles displaced, sound echoing as they cascaded down the sheer cliff to their final resting place a thousand feet below, hidden within the depths of a cavernous black hole. The narrow trail to their destination barely able to hold the hunters. Something had to give and for now it was rock and sand. Dean's voice was raspy, winded and weary as he replied, "No, nothin'."

They trudged on, boots slipping, more rocks falling into the pit. Hands feeling their way along the rough wall, bending back the occasional tenacious branch from a tree that impossibly managed to survive in this stark barren landscape, poking out of the mountain's wall and temporarily blocking their path. Dean cursed as he lost his grip and a branch whipped back, stinging as it scraped a bloody gash into his cheek, then hanging on to it and praying its roots held as one foot slipped into nothingness and the only thing keeping him on the mountain was that straggly splinter of wood.

Behind him Sam gasped, the resulting sounds from ahead all that clued him in to his brother's peril. He blindly reached out, clutching at Dean's jacket and holding tight, then pulling back, trying to center his brother and keep him perched on the treacherous ledge. "Dean?"

"M' okay, Sammy." Heavy breathing revealed the truth, the toll this quest enacted and the contempt for their fates emphasized by Dean's curse at the near-miss. "Goddammit."

Sam patted his brother's sleeve, more to comfort himself than Dean, more for reassurance that he was still there. He'd already lost too many people they cared about. His brother and he were the lucky ones, the ones who had cheated death and escaped Hell. Men who had mistakenly freed Lucifer and then miraculously trapped him back in his cage; and yet, after all that, here they were, Dean leading the charge back into the devil's lair.

Neither doubted their course.

Pushing onward, Dean moved beyond Sam's protective grasp, leaving his kid brother to face that same damn branch as he followed. Only he'd been forewarned and Dean was again holding it back, easing his way and giving him room to move past it.

"Watch it, Sammy," Dean cautioned as his grip found his brother's forearm and he pulled him beyond the reach of the offending branch. "Keep moving."

Time stilled as they trudged on, up the mountain and into the bowels of evil, steadily advancing towards another inevitable conflict. Their trek much like Frodo and Sam's, noble and just, unwanted but necessary. Their Mount Doom going by another name, more familiar and for the Winchesters more intimately known, but still sweltering hot, fire-red and treacherous. The higher they climbed the more their breathing labored, strong lungs and stout hearts taxed to their limit. Their legs throbbing as their muscles tensed, the exertion more than simply physical, the weight of their actions heavy on their minds.

Success was critical, failure unfathomable. This was Bobby

They both knew Hell, knew what pain and anguish demons and the devil himself wrought, especially for men such as themselves.

Crowley might have betrayed them, might have deposited Bobby's soul down into the pit, but this was family and despite their memories and the terrors they imposed, they would not abandon their friend. Bobby was coming home, that was a given.

Hell had not contained them before, and it couldn't hold them now.

Right was on their side, that and that old Winchester will. They had already proven the strength of their love and the power of their commitment.

Onward they marched into Hell together.

The End

bjxmas

June 2010

All standard disclaimers apply.

For the Supernatural tv Summer Hellatus 2010 challenge, write a story starting with "It was a dark and stormy night…" Just a quickie for fun.

Thanks for reading, B.J.