This Is The End, Beautiful Friend

Dean sat at the scarred wooden table, cleaning off the demon-killing blade. The weak, caged light overhead gave the ancient metal a jaundiced, used-up look that reflected the overall tone of the cabin. The piece of cloth he used to wipe it with was infused with too much grime to show up the pale pinkish-brown traces of blood that overlaid the older stains.

There was a knock at the door. Dean looked up to see Castiel peering in at him through the wire mesh that guarded the glass. Dean returned his attention to the knife.

"What?" he called, disinterested.

"Dean, it's me. Cas."

Dean sighed. "I'm busy, Cas." He kept cleaning.

Castiel stood outside in the dark, debating whether or not to walk away. He decided not to.

"Dean, I want to talk to you." He took a deep breath, urging himself on. "About Lucifer."

Dean gave a slow shake of his head. He wrapped the knife in the cloth and placed it on the table. He stood up, screeching his chair against the dusty floorboards, and went to the door. He opened it.

Castiel looked the same as he always did: dirty, dazed, and disheveled.

Dean looked down on him. "Well?"

Castiel ignored Dean's impatient tone and posture. "May I come in?" he asked cordially.

Dean rolled his eyes and unbarred the doorway. He returned to his chair at the table, returned to cleaning his knife.

Castiel let himself in and closed the door behind him. He walked over to where Dean was sitting and stood, inspecting the knife from a safe distance. It looked clean, brightly polished by Dean's rough hands, but there were still a few stubborn deposits of dirt refusing to be lifted out of the engraving.

"Demon blood," Castiel observed. "That stuff's a bitch."

"Did you have something useful to tell me," Dean snapped, "or are you just here to look at shiny things?" He twisted the blade around in the light to illustrate its luminosity, hoping to dazzle Cas' perpetually stoned mind.

Castiel stared at the knife, dutifully taken in by the movement, but it had nothing to do with it being shiny. It had everything to do with it being a sharp, jagged, instrument of sadistic death.

"Dean," said Cas through a traumatized trance, "what you did to that demon…"

Dean shrugged. "I've done worse."

"No," Castiel said, watching Dean's hand gliding over the blade again and again, pinching the cloth tighter against his palm in an effort to force the fibers deeper. "Not since you were in Hell."

"Take a look around, Cas!" Dean shouted at him. "The demons brought Hell to us! It's about time we started playing by their rules."

He held the cloth tighter, moved his hand faster and with more force. The blade broke through the cloth and cut across his lifeline.

"Ah, damn it!"

He dropped the knife on the table and bent over his palm to inspect the long thin stream of red.

Castiel took an instinctive step towards him.

"Here, let me -"

Dean sprang up, knocking over his chair. He grabbed the knife with his bleeding hand and held it up to Cas' throat. Cas leaned back and put his hands up.

"I just wanted to -"

"Yeah," Dean pre-empted him, "I know what you wanted. But you can't kiss my boo-boos better for me anymore, Cas. You don't have the wings for it."

Castiel narrowed his eyes but said nothing.

Dean watched him closely for a moment, then decided that Cas wasn't worth the trouble. He turned back to the table, put the knife down, and picked up the torn, blood-spattered rag. He pressed it to his cut, heedless of contamination.

"You know what I want, Cas?" he said tiredly, not looking back. "I want you to stay the hell away from me when you're ripped off your ass. That's what I want."

"Well," said Cas, relaxing enough to smile, "then you'd never see me."

"Fine by me."

Castiel watched over Dean's shoulder as Dean's blood spread and mingled with that of the demon he'd killed. Dean had tortured it relentlessly for days, and it had finally broken down and told Dean everything he wanted to know. Castiel had watched the interrogation off and on, alternately sickened and hardened by the process. He'd seen Dean work over demons before - had asked him to, in fact - but this last one… Alastair had gotten off lightly in comparison.

Maybe Cas was just more sensitive to violence these days, having wandered idly down the path of peace and love and calming herbs. Maybe he was just disturbed that Dean had fallen back on old habits so easily.

"I know why you're hunting Lucifer so hard, Dean," he said to Dean's back.

"Uh, so I can kill the son of a bitch?"

"No. So that he can kill you."

Dean glared at him briefly before returning to his cut. It stung, but it was shallow. With the excess blood wiped away, it was already starting to close.

"You know you can't beat him," Cas said.

"I won't know that until I try," Dean answered. "Do you remember trying, Cas?"

"Yes," Cas nodded solemnly. "I remember."

Cas had tried to help Dean. He had tried to give him what he wanted. He had tried to do what he thought was right. And all of it had backfired. All of it.

"Get out of here, Cas," Dean sighed.

"I'm not going anywhere."

Dean rounded on him, forcing him back into the wall. Dean pinned Castiel by the throat, just short of choking him with his forearm.

"Then why don't I make you go?" Dean growled.

Castiel stared into Dean's eyes, defiant. Dean stared back, not wanting to be the first to back down, but of course he was. He wasn't going to kill Cas, even after everything Cas had done, and the bastard knew it. Dean shook his head at him and let him go.

Castiel took a shuddering breath of air into his smoke-damaged lungs. He doubled over and coughed. Dean had no sympathy for him.

"You know you're going to get us all killed?" Cas demanded.

"Oh, you're doing a fine job of killing yourself. A few more months, and you might just be human enough to OD."

"But I don't have a few more months," Cas glared, "do I?"

"You know, you don't have to come. You can stay here with your drugs and your skanks and your broken dreams of the 'glory-be-to-God' days."

"I am not going to let you die alone," Castiel promised.

"I won't be alone."

Castiel immediately grasped Dean's misguided meaning. He let out a long, hard sigh.

"Sam's gone, Dean."

Dean turned on him again, pointing and scowling.

"Don't you say that to me," Dean threatened. "Don't you even say his name. I know damn well that my brother is gone, and I know why."

Cas closed his eyes. "How many times can I say I'm sorry?"

"Don't bother. I don't want to hear it."

Dean turned his back on Cas again, placing his palms flat on the table. He ignored the flare of pain across his right lifeline. He needed to occupy his hands before they found their way to Cas' neck.

"I am sorry, Dean. More than you will ever believe."

"I don't care, Cas. Be sorry. Don't be sorry. Come with me and die. Stay behind and live. I honestly don't care."

Dean noticed the overturned chair on the floor. He righted it and sat back down at the table. He picked up the knife and the cloth and resumed cleaning the blade more carefully.

"You're closing in on Lucifer, aren't you?" Cas asked.

He had not been there to witness the ultimate demise of Dean's latest victim. The graphic foreplay had been enough to make him bail out a few hours before the climax. But of course Dean had gotten what he wanted. The demon would not have been shown the mercy of death if he hadn't.

"The demons are getting chatty," Cas surmised.

"Yeah." Dean made a slow, thoughtful sweep of the blade. "Funny how that happens."

Cas nodded. "How long do we have left?" he asked calmly. "Weeks?"

"More like days. Two or three, tops."

Cas nodded again. "Two or three days left to live," he translated. "I should organize an orgy. You want in?"

"No, Cas." Dean might have laughed if he could've been bothered, or if he thought Cas was joking.

"What about something more personal?" Cas offered. "Private," he added coyly, "for old time's sake?"

"Cas," Dean groaned, "I couldn't get it up for you if I tried."

"There's a pill for that," Cas said. "There's a pill for everything."

"Is there a pill for self-respect?" Dean asked pointedly.

"Temporarily," Cas shrugged off the insult, "yeah, sure."

Dean slammed Castiel up against the wall again, but this time, Cas was facing it. Cas' face twisted in pain and ecstasy as Dean slammed into him again, and again.

Castiel clawed at the log-cabin wall, moaning and sighing, eyes shut against all unwanted stimuli.

Dean stayed silent behind him; expressionless, mechanical. He kept his eyes half-open, watching Cas writhe and shudder beneath him like a dying animal.