Previously…

It was most likely a good thing, but felt like the end of an era to finally admit that there was no going back.

They were hunters again.

And…

The world didn't stop just because it was about to end.

In retrospect, Dean thought, Lilith's death had been entirely predictable.

She had Heaven and Hell after her and only so many places to hide before she was caught.

It didn't stop the news from being an emotional tidal wave.

"Fuck!" Dean shouted just as Sam let out a small exhalation, almost like a sigh.

"So Lucifer is walking among us?" Sam asked, face showing no emotion, and Dean wondered momentarily if he had snapped. He himself felt like screaming.

Cas nodded gravely.

Dean looked between Castiel's stony expression and his brother's emotionless face. How could they remain so calm, when their world was breaking apart?

Sam stood abruptly, and Dean flinched at the sudden movement.

"I'm going for a walk."

He left before Dean could stop him. Looking outside, at the ice covering the roads and the snow falling from the sky, and to Sam's jacket lying over the back of the chair he had just vacated, Dean thought that maybe he wasn't so calm.

XXX

Sam was beginning to think that this had been a very bad idea.

Snow fell on his bared skin, melting upon contact, and he shivered, walking faster, in the vain hope movement would prevent death by hypothermia.

This was all his fault.

Why do you have to keep fucking up?

And the worst of it was, he couldn't even bring himself to be entirely pissed off. He was just the tiniest bit relieved.

Meg had told him the only way Dean would remain out of Hell was if Lilith died. If Dean had known, he would have fucked himself over, and saved the world, despite the personal consequences. Sam was not so heroic. If it had been his own soul on the line, sure, but Dean's? That was out of the question. He figured he was heading down anyway, fucking demons and drinking their blood, Sam had always been pursued by Hell. Yet Dean, who was at that moment most likely making moon eyes at an angel, that self sacrificing asshole, was the one who actually ended up there. It wasn't fair, and it wasn't something Sam would like to see repeated. So yes, part of him was happy Lilith was dead, that his brother could have a chance at happiness. Rainbows and puppies, or whatever Heaven consisted of.

The rest of him was guilty for feeling that.

"You got a light?"

He froze, and turned to face the familiar face, grinning up at him with a cigarette between wicked lips.

It seemed Hell continued to pursue him.

XXX

The awkwardness was back.

It was something that Dean felt was just beginning to ebb away. Or maybe he was simply adjusting to it. But it was back in force now. It was sending for reinforcements or something.

"How did it happen?" He finally asked, his voice cracking on the first word.

"She was ambushed by a pack of demons, most likely they were hoping for a reward, just outside Cincinnati, earlier this morning."

"Oh."

He was still figuring out how one should react to the news of the impending apocalypse when he heard the words come out of his mouth.

"What now?"

"Heaven and Hell pursue you, and they ultimately burn the world."

"What can we do?"

"I don't know yet."

"We'll find something," Dean said stubbornly.

"I have faith in you."

There it was again. Cas believed in him. Despite all the fuck ups. It was surreal.

And he was staring at him again.

"Dean. I feel the need to initiate contact."

Dean almost smiled. "You don't need to warn me, you know."

"Oh. In that case."

Cas reached out his hand, and Dean took it, still marveling at despite how everything became so awkward, touching him seemed perfectly normal and the world a little better, and gently kissed his knuckles.

"I approve of this contact."

Dean, however, figured it wasn't enough contact. "Come on," he said, and dragged Castiel against him.

XXX

"What do you want now?"

"Light?" She said, still smirking up at him. "I know you carry around that lighter everywhere."

Automatically, he slid his hand into his pocket and brought out the lighter, flicking it open and lighting it in one smooth motion.

"Much obliged," she said once she'd pulled away from the flame, which proceeded to sputter and die in the harsh winter winds.

"What do you want, Ruby?" He finally sighed out when she made no move to start a conversation.

She shrugged. "I can't just want the pleasure of your company and a light?"

"I don't think you would trust me enough to risk coming here for something so simple. I might kill you. Dean definitely would."

She snorted. "I'd like to see him try."

"You know he could. You've seen him."

"Yes, with your help."

"I am here, you may have noticed."

"But you won't kill me."

"And why not, pray tell?"

She looked at him. "You know why. You're in denial Sam, it's unattractive."

"I don't care about what is or is not attractive right now. The world is ending, and I apparently care about a demon." He turned his head to the aside to look at her askance. "You must have noticed, the world is about to end, so why wouldn't a turncoat demon seek me out?"

She looked away and focused her attention on the burning tip of her cigarette, which she periodically flicked, sending ash cascading into the bitter wind beside the swirling smoke, barely ever actually putting it to her lips. She remained silent, intent on her inane task.

"This could be so painless," she said in one breath, still refusing to make eye contact. "The world, it could just end already, save everyone the pain of waiting and a slow decline into complete chaos."

Her words were a slap to the face. "What?"

"Wouldn't it be better, if it were a swift blow, the great battle, instead of Lucifer raining hell on earth until in collapses in on itself?"

"Do you even realize what you're saying?"

She finally did meet his eyes, and they looked completely black. He couldn't tell if it was the demon or the lighting. "Think about it, Sam," she said in the same tone with which one might chastise a stupid child. "Would you rather have a fast, relatively painless death, or be tortured for days until your body can't take it anymore, and it simply gives up?"

"There's more chance for survival in a prolonged death. More opportunities to escape fate."

"And if it can't be escaped? What would you prefer? Better yet, what would you wish on others?"

Her eyes flashed bright and red in the darkness like a flare making Sam stumble backwards in shock. The smirk in place had none of Ruby left in it.

"What are you?" He demanded. "What have you done to her?"

The smirk widened.

"Think on what I've said."

With a wave of energy that blew out the streetlamp the thing had disappeared.

XXX

"It was the Devil."

Both of them stared at Cas, uncomprehending.

"So," Sam said slowly. "Minutes after being released from the pit, Lucifer visits… me?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because you are his true vessel."

"Whoa, fuck, hold up," Dean cut in. "Slow down. I don't believe in this fate bullshit. So why Sammy?"

"Because of his relationship with you, his family heritage and more recently, his resilience and high tolerance for demon blood."

Dean's eyes snapped to Sam accusingly.

"I'm clean," Sam said in a hurt tone.

"What do you mean his relationship with me?"

"Rebellious younger brother, the obedient older. It is the same relationship that broke heaven apart."

"So, this ridiculous path we've been on our entire lives, has just led us to this point? Pawns?"

"I did not choose this Dean. It was all decided long before I was born."

"You still should have told me."

"I know," Cas said quietly.

Dean rubbed his hand down his face. "What does this mean for us?"

"It could mean multiple things," Cas said. "To become vessels, you must say yes. If you do, you lose yourself, Heaven and Hell are free to rain full apocalypse on the earth."

"So," Dean said. "All we have to do is say no?"

"They can be very persuasive."

"I'm assuming persuasive is not a positive nor subtle quality in this case?" Sam said, with a quirk to the side of his mouth.

Cas tilted his head to the side a fraction of an inch. "No. They will threaten you, torture you, make your life hell until you agree."

"Awesome," Dean said, throwing his hands up. "So we run?"

"What else is new?" Sam put in, Dean gave him a glare.

"I can give you a certain amount of protection, keep you mainly out of the sight of angels, but it will be temporary."

"Until we can find a way to stop this," Dean said. There was a stubborn set to his jaw. Tremulous, but set, like the first time he'd shot a rifle, or faced down something nasty.

"If anyone can, it will be you two."

Cas disappeared, with one last meaningful look with Dean, to which Sam rolled his eyes, and got up to find alcohol.

He passed a beer to Dean as he sat back down, who gave him a nod of thanks.

The world was ending, it was mostly their fault, and it was on their shoulders to stop it, with Heaven and Hell on their tail the whole time.

Their stable form of income was gone.

They were both hopelessly entangled with an angel and a demon, despite their best efforts.

Dean let out a deep sigh. "We're fucked."

Sam snorted and clinked his bottle against his brother's. "What else is new?"

THE END

Author's Note: So it's finally over, and I have to apologize for the ending. I'm bad with endings, or beginnings and you know that part in the middle. Anyway, it has been fantastic of all of you to keep reading this and to those of you who just joined up hi. And bye. Love you all.