Author's Note: Basically, all my S8 finale predictions, hopes, and musings wrapped into one fic. Mind you, this was SUPPOSED to be a drabble. But then it just kept going like an Energizer Cas bunny. It would not die, I tell you. Which, actually, turned out to be a good thing!

Jumps back and forth between the present (aftermath of "finale") and flashbacks (closing the gates of Hell, aka "finale"). Mostly Dean's POV during present-time, then flip flops back and forth during flashbacks between him, Sam, Cas, Meg, and Crowley. Didn't really get a chance to delve into Kevin's POV during this one, but if you guys have any Kevin Tran, Advanced Placement requests - let me know!


Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.

Rabindranath Tagore

"Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck," declares the radio. "Some nights I call it a draw."

If that ain't the damn truth, thinks Dean to himself, listening offhandedly to the scratchy lyrics coming from the old box on the counter in Rufus's cabin. It's quiet in the little safehouse; normally, that might bother him, but at the moment it isn't so bad. Just the radio droning at low volume, the occasional bird call out the window, and the soft snores coming from his brother. Sam is sitting at the table in the kitchenette, asleep with his nose buried in a book. His position looks a little uncomfortable—slung arm tucked against his chest, hunched awkwardly over the table, forehead pressed against his other arm and dusty pages of an old tome under his cheek. Sam dozes on, though—two hours he's been like this, and Dean isn't going to wake him up.

The older hunter picks idly at the cast on his leg. He thinks he's really getting sick of plaster; two years and as many broken legs is an inconvenience as much as it's a literal pain in the ass.

Could have been worse.

He looks over at Sam again, introspective, and cataloguing the injuries between them. At least Sam's shoulder was only dislocated—and that's really the worst of his brother's battle scars, the scars on his mind notwithstanding. Broken bones took a lot longer to mend than slipped discs and popped sockets. Not to mention, Sammy didn't need no pain in the ass cast slowing him down for the next few weeks.

He remembers the pre-battle Winchester chat he and Sam had shared—not unlike the many others, but unique in a way that reflected just how tired the both of them truly were. It just feels like more of the same, Sam had told him. Something tries to end the world, we pack up our weapons and ride out. We lose people, we watch them die. Half the time, we're just so out of our league, I think about giving up and letting it be someone else's problem. We get our asses kicked until some magic piece of the puzzle pops up in the eleventh hour, and somehow we manage not to royally screw it up. We're lucky, Dean. That's all we are. We lose a piece of ourselves, more and more each time. I feel like we always go into each battle so blind. I guess… it'd just be nice for a change to have the edge.

You and me both, Sammy, Dean had replied, with a weary scowl and long draw from the glass in his hand.

Every now and then, they both have another headache flare up. But, by now, it's not anything a little Aspirin and Jack can't fix. Dean considers turning the television on, because he's bored out of his damn mind, but quickly thinks better of it. Nothing but news on right now, playing in a loop if it isn't new coverage. And, really, Dean would rather not relive it all, thank you very much. He has enough of that going on in his head without the constant high definition reminder.

It's been a day and six hours since the veritable blast wave that shook the earth.

Later, when they join the land of the living again, people will tell him that it was like watching lightning tear up the sky, or a meteor strike. A dustbowl of black smoke and nightmares come to life. No one quite has the words to describe it, except that there was a brilliant flash of light in a sky turned red that seemed to set the heavens themselves on fire. There was a quaking in the earth, a rumble that rose up from its very core. The seas roared and churned, waves crashing against the barricades of civilization.

Some say the world will end in fire, wrote Robert Frost, some say in ice.

One day and six hours ago, flame and glacier joined in a terrible display of beauty. It was one of those moments where it hurt more to look away than it did to look on. Dean remembers it.

Sometimes he wishes he didn't. Other times, he's glad he does.

"Though, I still wake up," murmurs the radio, as his eyes glaze over. "I still see your ghost."

"This is it boys, this is war," growls Crowley as he stares back at them.

"What are we waiting for?" retorts the Righteous Man, with a smile that's ten shades of devil-may-care.

The Devil's vessel is at his side, and both brothers are armed to the teeth. Once again, they're surrounded by enemies ready to rip out their throats, odds so colossal and stacked that it would take a turn of the truly impossible for them to come out alive, much less successful. They form a two man barrier around Kevin, killing demons and banishing black smoke in a chaotic flurry of limbs and blood. The prophet is reading from the tablet, quavering voice no less carrying loud and strident over the howl of rushing winds and attacking demons.

Both Winchesters carry multiple shotguns and belts riddled with salt rounds and holy water. They share the killing knife between them, blade refracting the smoldering flare of each life taken. They grapple when they have to, blade and fist digging in where the blast and report of firearms cannot. They guard Kevin, the prophet recites, and the archaic language grates across mortal and eternal planes. It rocks the foundations of realities, summoning up old, primordial power—the sort where a word alone could spell damnation or eternal life. The gates of Hell shudder on their hinges at the force pressed up against them. They yield under the weight, brimstone and sulfur spewing from the barrier they form.

The air smells of fire, a thick layer that enshrouds their lungs in a heady coating of spiritually toxic dust.

Crowley is a storm cloud in the eye of it all. The sun is swallowed by thunderheads, and black smoke fills the sky and earth like ash. The King's red eyes glare through the darkness in a menacing silhouette. Hell itself begins to corporealize around them; the ground splits beneath their feet, and the surrounding vista begins to fall away—obstructed by the break in reality. With a snap of the fingers, Crowley unleashes an old favorite, and Dean feels them coming. He doesn't need to hear the howls, nor the pounding footfalls, for that instinctual fear to race up his spine in a lick of ice. Dread fills him, his stomach drops. He can feel his heart start to pound in his chest as every hair on the back of his neck rises.

"Sammy! Get to higher ground!"

Sam is battling a large demon, gun wrestled away in the struggle, and Dean hears his brother shout when his arm is wrenched up behind his back. Mind racing, heart somewhere now in the vicinity of his throat, Dean sets himself and squares his shoulders, turning back around to face the wave of opposition head on.

"Kevin, stay behind me!" he commands, voice rising above the noise. Briefly, he meets the young man's frightened gaze and watches as Kevin steels himself as well. He's not a Winchester, but he's strong.

Kevin nods quickly and picks up where he left off, yelling a language older than Man at the sky, each syllable thrumming with power. Each note is an orchestra of pure, messianic authority that flows across the battleground.

Dean tries to concentrate on the enemy he can't see, approaching fast. Shadowy masses dart past his vision and he grips the barrel of his shotgun tighter, knuckles splashed white. Purgatory has made him sharper, there's no question, and far more dangerous than ever before. But he would rather face an eternity in that place than have to deal with the things after him now. He shoots at nothing, hearing the growls and catching a stray paw print in his peripheral. A demon hurdles into him, bringing an unwanted distraction. Dean fights it back, catching a right cross to the jaw, but he brings the stock of his weapon smashing up into the demon's throat. He fires off a salt round into its chest.

He's about to take off for Sam when he feels the jaws cinch down around his leg, and a brute force tears him off his feet so hard he's slamming down onto the ground. His teeth rattle in his skull and he fights off a scream when he's dragged a good six feet from his weapon. He feels his flesh tear and bones grind together and he grits his teeth against the pain, twisting around and fighting off the waves of panic assaulting him now.

Anything but freaking hellhounds.

He catches sight of Sam standing over the fallen demon, sees the fear in his brother's eyes when their gazes lock. Dean hears Sam shout, but he doesn't have time to worry about that. He draws a knife from his belt and starts stabbing. The hellhound's foul breath pours hot over him, and there are more coming. Some have gone for Sam, who's back at Kevin's side, throwing desperate glances at his brother. He shadows Kevin though, after Dean bellowed at him to stay the hell put.

"Sam!" Kevin shouts, a desperate plea for guidance.

"Keep reading!"

Sam shoots for all he's worth, reloading shell after shell, aiming wherever he hears those sickly pants. Despite his efforts, his shots start to go wild whenever a shadow threatens the line, and they're quickly becoming overwhelmed. He needs to get to his brother, but that is a hopeless venture, and so he's forced to watch—again—as Dean is torn apart by the hounds.

A paw drags hard down Dean's chest, and there are two on him now.

Son of a bitch, repeats in a mantra through his thoughts. Dean screams, in spite of his efforts, feeling his jeans tear and the sticky warmth of blood pooling down his leg and into his boot. He keeps stabbing.

A second set of jaws clamp down on his shoulder. Dean lashes out again with the knife. He kicks his legs and writhes from the snapping teeth as best he can. And then, suddenly, there's the smell of ozone and rainfall permeating his senses. In a blur of tan, the first hellhound is torn from him. Dean looks up and sees Castiel roll back onto his feet to battle an invisible foe. There is light pouring from his hands and determination painting a stark mask on his face. Dean hears a yelp and then the second hound is ripped away. He catches sight of Cas wrestling it to the ground, and he wonders if the angel can see it. Dean scrambles for his shotgun, ignoring the assault of pain that shoots up his leg. When he looks up again, he can see the bloody claw marks running down the angel's face and neck. Dean sometimes forgets that his friend is not human, and is reminded of it now, watching the fight. Cas delivers blow upon blow—as best as one can fight a beast, and finally gets his arms around the thing's meaty neck. Dean hears bone and cartilage break under the grip.

Castiel is supposed to be taking on the King of Hell right now. But he has never been able to stop being their guardian. His trenchcoat billows around him, the wind picking up speed.

"Protect the prophet!" Cas commands him, just before he's taken down by the rest of the pack.

Dean bares his teeth in a feral grimace and starts shooting.

It's strange how the world seems so quiet now, especially when those moments seem so fresh still in his mind. Dean looks out from the window, having hobbled over to get a better look. Sam is still passed out at the table, and Dean wishes he could sleep too. He scratches again at his cast, eyeing it critically. If his waning patience is anything to go by, he'll have it sawed off by tomorrow. His shoulder still aches. A glance at the clock tells him the time, and he looks over his shoulder at the old threadbare couch in the middle of the room. It's the twelve hour mark.

He picks up what's nearest to him—a spare roll of toilet paper—and lobs it at the mound under the blanket. "Cas. Gotta change your bandages, dude." He throws another when there's no response.

This time there's a grunt at the intrusion, but, other than that, Dean watches as Cas merely turns his head away and settles back in. There were some aspects of humanity that the angel was catching on to quicker than others, a grouchy belligerence about being woken up from a dead sleep being one of them. His dark hair is sticking up in every direction, a tan arm flung over the arm of the couch. Gone are the suit and trench coat—in their place, whatever spare tee shirt and jeans Dean had managed to scrounge out of his bag.

The hunter sighs when his efforts to rouse his company are met with failure. He's in the middle of debating whether he should try again, or just dump the featherbrain onto his ass on the floor, when a toe emerges from the warmth of the blankets to poke Castiel in the side.

"Clarence. Bandages," says another voice, from the opposite end of the couch.

Dean rolls his eyes when Cas starts to obediently stir at the muffled command.

Dean's ruthless, Sam realizes, but concedes that, then again… so is he. Both have become such efficient killing machines. It sometimes disturbs him how easily their eyes can fall blank, void of any emotion as they slice through demons, monsters, and anything that gets in their way. Neither of them mess around anymore, especially when there is something so monumental on the line—no more quips or jokes. It's war, and it's been hardening his brother at an alarming rate—and it isn't until now that Sam realizes he has been effected just as deeply. The knife has become an extension of them both. Demons all around them vanquish in a blaze of yellowy hellfire. There is a heavy stench of death and brimstone sizzling in the air.

It's all these little things that remind him that no one comes back from the Pit unchanged. Not his brother, not him, not even angels or demons. Even still, while any humanity they possess is lost in battle, to their fellow soldiers and to the people they fight for, their passion to protect is blinding as ever.

Dean does a quick recon of the immediate perimeter surrounding them, eyes peeled for invisible canis bodies covered in ash and soot, vigilant for approaching paw prints. Cas must have at least ten of those bastards stuck on him. He's on his feet again, for the most part, but has to keep throwing hellhounds off his back. Crowley watches on complacently from the sidelines still, enjoying the sight of his pets tearing into the angel.

"Impressive technique," the King taunts when Castiel is slammed into the rocks amid the thundering howls.

The angel struggles to one knee, casting out his grace in a wide arc that cuts into a dozen or so unseen bodies. Yelps and cries crop up, the burning scent of flesh melding with the other terrible smells in the air. The wounded are left crippled and dying, the others circling their celestial prey. Crowley raises an eyebrow.

"Going to turn the other cheek, Sparkles?" His tone is smugly bored, but there is a latent thrill at seeing his enemy suffer.

Castiel rises to his feet, eyes glowing with the divine. "That law is for men."

He lashes out, light flooding the darkness like a beacon, and they meet in a collision of power. Crowley's rejoinder has teeth, clouds darkening in the sky, talons digging in. Castiel's efforts are made difficult by the hounds still nipping at his heels, but then he feels her errant darkness and smiles.

"Bit harder to put on a show when you're being treated like a chew toy, isn't it?" Crowley says. He's grinning madly, teeth a sliver of white cutting through the smoke. "Where's your sword, angel?"

But then again, Castiel is also wearing something like a smile, and there's a new player on the battlefield.

"Right here, you smarmy dick."

It's a distraction, Crowley realizes, belatedly. That familiar, smoky drawl makes him want to tear into something.

There is a canine cry and a strangled yelp, and then the sound of a large body collapsing onto the earth. Meg holds an angel blade and wears a matching grin, half-manic and half-amused. The holy steel in her hand is covered in blood and the glint of her teeth hunger for it.

Castiel feels his chest tighten with pride, her power joining his when she appears at his side. "I brought a friend," the angel says.

Crowley is a portrait of resigned disgust. "Whore," he snarls.

The King of Hell had been so focused on averting their plans to close the gates of Hell, it had been appallingly easy to slip into the dominion itself and rescue Meg from its darkest confines. Castiel, in a rare display of arrogance, had lamented over the lack of challenge.

"Merry reunion to me," intones the little demon at his side.

She doesn't let anyone else near Castiel's bandages—has to change everything herself.

Every time you two shortbuses try to help him, he ends up with something else that needs fixing, she'll say.

Anyways, Meg has about the crappiest bedside manner any of them have ever seen. She helped out with tending to him and Sam as well, much to her and their combined vexation. It mostly resulted in the usual arguing and occasional death threat, but eventually everyone got patched up and on the mend.

Since Cas all but imprinted on her at the hospital, those two have been damn near inseparable whenever they're within spitting distance of each other. Cas found out Crowley had her and yanked her ass out of Hell, and Dean is pretty sure the surly little demon is less annoyed by the angel's attentions than she used to be. Meg imprinted right back, resembling some freaky cross between a mother hen and overprotective girlfriend. If Cas minds, it sure doesn't show. But then, he's never really shaken off old habits—and Dean is pretty sure he likes taking orders. Especially from a certain little pint-sized demon.

Stuck to each other like a couple of barnacles.

Disconcerting, is one way to look at it—not to mention the tamest word the hunter can come up with.

Still… there's a strange, underlying fondness shared between them all. None of them will ever admit to it, of course—hell, no—violent and noxious as it may be. Sort of like siblings who like to torment each other. All of them tended to break things. Now, they're just… sort of breaking the same things. If Meg is a hammer, and she is, it's suffice to say that they're all finally in the same toolbox. They're all more likely to die trying to kill each other, but at least they're ganking bad guys in the process.

So, Meg changes Castiel's bandages on his chest and makes him lie back down. Dean isn't sure if this behavior is some leftover remnant of taking care of the angel at the hospital, or if the unthinkable happened and Meg actually cares. He and Sam were not above taking bets.

She's passing by him now with a condescendingly placid look—that raised eyebrow and defiant smirk—as though she can still sense his discomfort. She's wearing one of Cas's white shirts, and only that shirt, much to the hunter's chagrin. This cabin ain't a friggin' penthouse, after all.

Dean glowers back. "Where're you going?" It's spoken like an accusation.

"Womanly business," the former demon snaps at him. "Want me to draw you a diagram?"

"Bitch," Dean retorts at her back, though it lacks any real venom.

Her mocking laughter trails after her down the hall.

The inferno roars beneath the rifting pavement, the hellhounds growl, and the damned wail of the inevitable, far below. Swords and gunfire flash, like sparks in the night. Grace and smoke and dying embers merge as one in the common stand. They're both designed for destruction, but Meg thinks that maybe they were meant to kill together.

They work in tandem. Their symbiosis is too perfect, their offense and defense too complementary to think otherwise. Their strategies align, like stars and planets ought to and ought not. They slash and tear at enemies like they were made for this. He attacks from above, she from below. They are Death and Judgment, wrapped in one.

They are a perfect mirror. Light and darkness, serenity and rage. Order, chaos. As one they are an angular shape of powers, characterized by sharp turns in alternating directions. He goes right, she goes left.

They meet in the center.

Meg is overpowered by a larger demon, and Castiel appears before her in an angry flurry of ashen feathers. He slams his palm onto the opposing demon's forehead as the other tightens around its throat. As the body convulses under the onslaught of a holy firestorm, Meg's back brushes his, cutting off any flanking attacks. No other creature has wielded his blade before her—none had dared, and none had ever been able to take it from him. Meg uses it like it was hers all along.

Her face is coated in the sable blood of the hounds, and she wipes it away with a careless swipe of her arm. Her jacket is torn in places, she's favoring one arm, but she hasn't slowed down since her arrival.

Dean reloads, Sam fires. They switch off, repeat, and kill anything that beelines for Kevin. Gusts of wind shove at their backs, making them struggle. Rain pelts their faces at erratic intervals. Something grabs Sam's arm and he feels the bones protest at the pressure. Dean tosses him the knife and the younger Winchester whirls and arcs, nearly beheading the demon with a hold on him. They feint and parry, shoot and stab, bracing like a shield against attack for Kevin. Neither are sure if the weather is a byproduct of the ritual, or if that's Cas's mood summoning the storm around them.

Crowley's smirk descends like a mirage of mockery at their efforts from beyond the fray. His fingers brush down to pet the skull of his favorite hound, scratching at its ears. It gives a low, eager rumble in reply. "Fetch him up, boy," he mutters, voice lost on the wind.

He need only remove one player from the board for the scales to tip in his favor. As he hears the raking of claws against the pavement, Crowley tips over the white king game piece in his mind. Checkmate.

Castiel sees the shadow of grotesque fur and rotting limbs, the brimstone stare, and tracks the creature with his eyes. He will allow the Winchesters and Kevin Tran to go on believing that hellhounds are simply dogs, rather than the hellish mutations they truly are. He is calm with focused efficiency. He intercepts the beast as it pounces for Meg, using the thing's momentum against it to drive it into the earth with a thundering slam of mutilated flesh and bone. He grips the creature around the maw and yanks back, snapping its neck. Bones rend from ligaments. Two more he disposes of in this manner, another with a blinding flash of grace. He takes care to check his power, moderating his use of it so as not to hurt Meg in the process. He looks around for her, having somehow lost her in the melee.

He hears Meg shout his name—no flashy pet name, but his own—and it's a moment too late because the alpha hound leaps up onto his back, digging in claws and tearing flesh and bone asunder. A piercing blast of sheer noise rips from his throat.

The celestial voice tears through the lot. Sam sees Meg running for Cas, hears the stomach churning sound of bones breaking, and the angel's agonized yell. He can't see the damage, but a part of him knows that the hounds are ripping away at Castiel's wings. Sam digs in his heels to prevent his legs from running to his friend, and sees Dean do the same. The older Winchester bites out a loud curse, but stays a firm sentry at Kevin's side.

"Cas!" is the small demon's infuriated shriek. She's sprinting towards him, cutting a bloody path.

He's already on his knees, brought down by the alpha. "SHUT YOUR EYES!"

Meg skids to a stop, throwing an arm up to shield her face. Dean and Sam both hear the loud, ear piercing ring that knifes through the air and instinctually wire their eyes shut and cover their ears. Kevin chants on, immune to the assault, and nearing the end of the passage.

There is a yell of Enochian from the epicenter of the chaos. A blast of pure holy power rips through the hounds in a burning fury, ricocheting through the demon horde as well—taking out a large sum of the lesser sycophants. Dozens shriek as the light slams into them. Stark, stretching shadows veer out, blotting out sparses of residual daylight. The silhouettes shimmer, smoldering embers caught within their nebulous depths. Crowley watches the display with simmering fury.

Castiel is a beacon of light, surrounded by a graveyard of burnt out husks. There is blood spilled all down his back, but still he shines like the center of a burning star. He takes care to dim his grace, so that Meg can approach him. She's smoking, the ends of her hair a little singed. She stabs the dead alpha through the skull with her blade, for good measure.

There are a mere few stragglers left of the pack, and Castiel turns brilliant blue eyes on her sharply. "I'll hold them off!" he says over the wind. A mixture of blood and light seep through the healing wounds on his abused wings, and he ignores the pain tearing through him. "Finish Crowley!"

He knows it's what she's desired, all this time. He knows what it means to her. That, and he as an awful feeling in the pit of his gut that he'll be needed elsewhere. He looks to the sky, that feeling mounting. His mending wings fidget anxiously, unseen, and he reads her comprehension loud and clear.

Meg's smile is pure predator. "You got it, hot wings. It'd be my pleasure."

Crowley is hers.

Meg is all thorns and hungry vengeance. She takes off, butchering her way through Crowley's best men in militant hunt for the King. She can practically taste his blood already, slipping between her fingers. Her eyes slit to black with anticipation, the inky surface reflecting an abyss. No one knows, and no one ever will know, the reasons behind her vendetta. No one but she and Crowley. No one knows that he is the creature with whom she made her deal—the deal that cost her soul. No one knows that she was once human and desperate, and believed all his pretty lies. All's you have to do is sign on the dotted line, precious. Some few hundred years ago—she's lost track, over time—she put faith in false means, vowing after to never make the same mistake again. Meg doesn't remember this—doesn't remember her humanity at all; Hell saw to that. She only remembers that Crowley must die.

That damn angel can see her humanity, though—if he looks hard and long enough. He has so many ways of seeing beneath her borrowed surface. Meg's never been able to decide if she hates or admires him for that.

Midbattle, there is another series of eruptions in the sky. What looks to be flaming comets hurtle downwards, impacting the earth with colossal slams and leaving large concaves behind. As one, several humanoid bodies rise up, all suited and with fierce expressions hardwired on their face.

At the front of this new line is Naomi.

"Enough!" she commands, in defiance of the roaring din.

Dean looks up when Meg returns, making a beeline back for the couch. She hugs the shirt tighter around her shoulders, complaining something about always being cold now—can't ever seem to get warm.

Being a demon had kept her in a permanently fevered state, the lick of sulfur and brimstone a phantom haunt in the back of her mind, when topside. Never aware of anything other than shadows and fire, and that erratic sensation of burning that always lingered just at the corner of her senses. Inside a body, she was aware of bloody thorns and smoky insides, a whirling chaos trapped in the cage of bone and flesh. Now, though, all she has are the memories without the high definition callbacks. Too cold up here, she'd gripe. Especially in the middle of Backwoods, Nowhere on the eve of winter.

Since Cas's little episode turned her mortal, Meg has been a delight and a half to have around. More so even than usual, much to the Winchesters' eternal displeasure.

Dean focuses on the simple task of creating his sandwich, but says pleasantly, "You could always put some more clothes on, Slutty McPherson."

"Bite me, bowlegs."

Yeah, they still don't like each other—even if they are the same species now. It was the shockwave, the backlash, of Castiel's closing expulsion of grace that turned her human—best they can figure, at least. She's still a little pissed at him for that—but, then again, she isn't rotting away forever in Hell with the other demons, either, so beggars can't be choosers.

Meg keeps complaining about this new, touchy-feeling business she has going on with her psyche now, or something. Dean only half pays attention when she goes on a rant. Sometimes it seems like she's a little nicer, but other times she's just bitchier than usual, and she hasn't come out of her perpetually cranky mood since the Closing. Dean desperately hopes she does, because he really can't take any more bitching about her being stuck in a meatsuit with no powers until she gets old and dies. I will not have my wrinkled old ass parked in a retirement home with a freaking beach ball getting bounced off my head, twenty-four seven. I'll see to it that Cas kills me before I ever let that happen, she'd seethe. Meg's tirades were an acquired taste. Cas would often listen to them with affectionate exasperation, assuring that he would not be killing her at any point in time, for any reason. Dean can tell the moments when the ex-angel really wants to, though.

Cas is less mopey than the volatile little spitfire they've acquired. But then, he didn't have humanity forced on him, either. He all but swan dived headfirst into it himself. True, he probably thought he was going to die—best case scenario—but the outcome is basically the same.

At least now when Cas and Meg do the horizontal tango, the power grid doesn't suffer. Dean and his brother both were getting real tired of changing out lightbulbs whenever the formers angel and demon were feeling particularly frisky. Meg likes to complain about the lack of theatrics during the "big finish" now, but Meg complains about everything, so screw her.

Cas shadows her like a damn puppy still, so I guess she's staying. Dug in like a tick, thinks Dean acidly, though there are tinges of amusement skirting at the edges of his thoughts. At least his angel is all grown up and finally getting some.

He glances over his shoulder to see Meg back at the couch. She ruffles the dark head of hair sticking out from the blanket. "Move over, Pinocchio."

Castiel does so without even opening his eyes, shuffling back into the cushions to afford her some space to shimmy in beside him. She complains about freezing every one of her damn toes off, and he mumbles something unintelligible back, tucking an arm and the blanket around her. She's like a little doll—fits right in, snug up against him. She reminds him he'd better have eaten something over the last few hours, and Cas sleepily assures her he has. Whether it's the truth, or a means of pacifying Meg so as to prevent further nagging, is anybody's guess. Meg lets it go, either way; she only has so much benevolence in her emotional reservoirs, after all. Even still, as she settles in, eyes slipping shut, those agitated frown lines gradually ease from her face. Castiel buries his nose in her hair and they're still.

Minutes later, Dean can hear their breathing even out and they're already gone and of no more use or entertainment.

Granted, she's moody and a pain in the ass in general, but it's no secret Meg has a soft spot a mile wide for the former angel. Even back when they hated each other—on some level, they probably still do—they hadn't ever been able to kill one another. Meg washes his trenchcoat, for crying out loud. She's been trying to get the bloodstains out since they got back. She says it's because he's going to keep the damn thing anyway—might as well be clean so he doesn't look like some psycho straight out of the asylum. But Meg says a lot of things.

He draws a smile out of her once in awhile, Cas does. Nothing sarcastic or even her usual baleful smirk—just a genuine, unbound smile. It's weird to see Meg looking happy—minus when she's cutting into things. Strange, and a little off-putting, maybe.

Beats the alternative, I guess, Dean silently concedes. Angry Meg usually got stabby.

"One way," Meg grinds out around a sharpened smile as she tears through demons, "or another." Dodge, twist, snap, slice. One step closer to that cheeky bastard, and she knows he can feel her. "I'm gonna find ya. I'm gonna getcha." She sings the words to herself, under her breath in a staccato beat among her fight to get through. "Getcha." Twist. "Getcha." Snap. "Getcha." Slice.

She ignores the sounds of the descending garrison, clenching her fingers rhythmically around the handle of the angel blade, kicking a stray hellhound in the muzzle, stabbing a demon twice her size through the sternum. Over the corpse's head as it falls, Meg meets Crowley's pompous stare, the distance between them steadily diminishing.

Her smile promises pain.

"Enough!" rings Naomi's command, from another corner of the battlefield.

Great, Dean grates aloud in his head, heavy unease setting in. The God Squad's here.

"Think they're here to help?" Sam bellows to him over the noise. Dean can see that same concern in his brother's eyes.

They can't afford trouble right now.

"Don't hold your breath."

Naomi leads the front, shoulders and jaw set in furious disapproval. Behind her, the other angels are batting away hellhounds in their path. "Castiel!" the female angel beckons, her voice slicing through the madness with authority. There is an obvious fracture in her usually serene composure.

Castiel feels instinctually for his absent sword, holding his ground.

"This goes beyond disobedience—even for you!" There is intense repulsion in her eyes as they stand facing off amid the fray. "The prophet is for our purposes, not yours," she hisses. "You were told to keep out of Heaven's affairs. You are no longer a general, Castiel, but a servant. Turn back, now! Stow your efforts in this futile venture. The prophet is a tool to be wielded by the will of Heaven—not the whim of two humans."

"The will of Heaven, or the will of its angels?" Castiel growls back, brazened by the heat of battle. His mounting anger vibrates through him so fiercely that it simmers as flecks of neon blue behind his eyes.

Naomi sends out a warning death knell of grace that washes over him, setting his borrowed skin aflame. "The boy is coming with us."

In a blink, she is gone.

"Don't!" he shouts to the empty air. Castiel whirls around, panic rising up. If Kevin is interrupted, they will all be exposed and the incantation useless. Dean is busy killing, but Sam is huddled close to the prophet and utilizing his large body as a barricade. "Sam!" the angel yells out. "They are going for Kevin!"

The hunter looks to him with startled eyes, and Castiel sees the same panic mirrored in Sam's expression as his own. Sam shouts to his brother, but it's in vain. Castiel unfurls his wings and throws himself towards the trio in desperation. He's interrupted midflight, two of his own brothers intercepting him with ringing swords and angered grace. Castiel fights them as he is, weaponless, and disarms them before darting away. He sees a brother and a sister appear behind Kevin Tran, sees the boy's resistant efforts and furious outcry. Sees the Winchesters fighting off demons to get at the angels, but in the time it takes for Crowley's conquering smile to split the shadows, Kevin is gone.

The tablet falls to the ground, shattering.

Dean is already cutting into his arm to start up the banishment symbols, but there is little point to it now. The world around them drains of color, hopes plummeting at the foot of their owners.

Castiel feels a rush of emotion go through him. He is suddenly aware of his heart pounding hard against his borrowed ribcage in a foreign, despairing way. A feeling like someone has just poured ice water down his back assaults him, and he sees the identical expression mirrored in the Winchesters' eyes—the sensation of the earth opening up beneath them. There is the mocking laughter of demons all around them, folding in around them in a taunting fog.

Castiel looks at the broken tablet, to the brothers, to Crowley, to the angels, and knows what he must do.

The knowledge fills him with a sense of impending dread and exhilaration. Two vastly different emotions tear at him from warring sides. He closes his eyes, allowing a moment to gather himself, feels the wind and the smoke choking his lungs and the shuddering ground beneath his feet. There is no time for hesitation.

Hell, if you're going to disobey, you may as well go big, a voice sounding suspiciously like Dean's rings out in his thoughts.

He swears he can hear Meg gushing dark praises far at his back. That's my boy.

His vision tunnels with driven purpose, the grim set of his face a contrast to the madness. What he is planning is far more forbidden than an angel and a demon uniting, that is for certain. He's kept several contingency plans hidden away for safekeeping in his mind, and he sincerely hopes that he won't need to resort to them all. Realistically, he knows this is just the first domino.

Latent power is called on with a force of ten hurricanes. A crack of thunder pierces the veil of battle, a rumbling in the earth rising up, dwarfing even the resistant travails of Hell's gates. Energy spasms around him, and every light in the lot and neighboring streets not already blown out erupts now in a shower of sparks and cascade of glass. He sends out a prayer in solemn veneration.

I'm sorry, Father.

Castiel's grace flares around him in a brilliant reveal of white light and rekindled holy flame, swelling in heat and power until it is enough to drown out the darkness. His beryl eyes emanate the cosmic burning of dual stars, so vibrant that the color nearly drains of them completely. His shadowed wings arch out. The earth crumbles at his feet, under the weight of him, and even the demons lax in their violent efforts, watching on in stunned fear. Grace olden as Time itself stirs, roused from its slumber under the sway of his silent, commanding call. There is a flood of inconceivable warmth—long forgotten but so very familiar—building within him. It is the feeling of God's presence; the Divine itself. Light is shed on every shadow, so supreme that every dark thing must look away.

Castiel's vessel melds with his true form, visage becoming an ever-shifting constellation of wavelengths.

He will make his own prophets.

Crowley sees the wings—sees the additional pairs unfurl slowly as if wakening from a deep slumber—and he screams ineffectually for his demons to attack. That magnificently repulsive light severs still through the burnt darkness of Hell's fragments cropping up on this plane.

Meg feels the blast of heat at her back, turning briefly to look on that terrible beauty that draws her in like a moth to its flame. She breathes in reverence at what she's seeing, shaking her head in pride at the angel's revealed glory. "Pretty as a freaking comet, Clarence," she murmurs. It provides just the touchstone she needs, and she flings herself back into the fray, taking advantage of the distraction his actions have left on the enemy.

White noise drags loud over every ear, filling their heads. Dean and Sam both start when Castiel appears in front of them, so bright they try to look away, but an unseen force won't allow them. Dean thinks his friend looks like he's about to go supernova on them all, but Castiel instead eyes them both with a repentant expression, glowing eyes regretful but determined. "This will hurt," advises the inhuman voice, distorted by grace. There is benediction and aching sorrow wrapped around every syllable. Snatches of his true voice slip through, an unbidden melody of shifting layers, traversing planes to form into cognitive resemblance of speech. It curves along the air almost like music, a million whispered echoes lost in the ether.

Far back, Crowley knows what is about to happen, and his angry scream is bloodcurdling. He recognizes an archangel when he sees one.

The Winchesters seize up when Castiel lays a hand on each of their heads, power lancing through them.

He is breaking every law his Master set forth, with this singular act. That awareness doesn't stop him. Carefully, he arranges volatile particles of the living Word as a composer might, guiding them into a deliberate flow. They form a compliant order, obedient to his will, until he is pressing that scalding knowledge into the minds of his dearest friends.

Dean and Sam both yell out in unison, overwhelmed beneath the flood of power. Words rush at them from the darkness, branding into the backs of their eyelids in an eddy of divine command. They drop their weapons, paralyzed by the transfer of sight. Castiel calls on reserves of power not needed since the dawn of Time itself, where it has been kept dormant for countless millennia since his rebirth. His origin spills out into reality—burning out nearby demons and hounds, anything fool enough to venture too close. Those lucky enough to escape it look on full of rage and despair at the sight of such pure of Grace burning so bright. Their wailing increases as he summons the strength of his birthright; ancient, biblical power rising up with a roar of heavenly light.

The Winchesters are both temporarily blinded, their silent screams lost within the devastating storm of grace from Heaven's first angel. The reveal, both of the words and this exposed identity, brings them to their knees. Somewhere in the chaos, exclamations of shock and awe rise up from the other angels.

He has infused the Winchesters with the knowledge of the compendiums.

The brothers stare up at their friend in utter shock, eyes sparking with the divine now as well, as Kevin's had when blessed with the gift. "Cas…" Sam trips over the name, blinking wildly as his vision gradually returns. The breath leaves his lungs in a powerful rush, and words ironically fail him.

There is something unimaginably sedate, and so much less tormented, about the angel now. The warm glow emitting from him is deceptively peaceful, even as the chaos mounts around them, so golden and pure. And the image of those six pairs of wings throws them both for a tailspin, but it's Dean who at last voices the obvious.

"You're Metatron," he whispers, breathless in revelation.

A thousand words of apology are poured out from ancient eyes—for never telling them, for this new burden, for everything. "Finish the scripture," Castiel tells them, in lieu of a response. "Finish this." That calm order of encouragement is so packed with silent meaning and weight of the unspoken, so much more than what those simple words have indicated, that the two kneeling figures nearly bow under the force of it.

But they do not bow. Instead, they rise.

The brothers, the Winchesters, pick up their weapons and recommence the chant. The words, once so foreign and impossible to decipher, flow now from their lips as surely as the pull of a trigger or jab of a knife. Inherent now as breathing. They exchange a look between them, voiceless except for the Word, until they once more are facing the opposition head on.

"Ihanao bt'areaa hoay aakhiydaa! Ihanao bt'areaa hoay aakhiydaa!"

Castiel sags to the ground, energy deserting him. The display has weakened and drained him—so long has it been since calling on such strength. Fleetingly, he considers that this is what the Winchesters might label a Hail Mary pass. But, not quite yet. He has one more card up his sleeve. After all—what was the purpose in fighting if not to sacrifice everything you had for the cause?

His vision darkens at the edges, and he turns his head to watch the brothers charge forward into the mass of smoke, shotguns blasting, scripture pouring from their lips in frenzied, authoritative shouts. He feels the disturbance of air beside him and looks up into the horrified visage of Naomi.

"What have you done?!"

Castiel smiles bitterly. "It is none of your concern," he manages out. Parroting then, a little smugly, "As you were."

Her expression twists ferociously, and she stoops down to grasp him up roughly by the collar. "You were forbidden," she snarls in his ear. "Your purpose as Scribe concluded well before these creatures walked the earth. You will undo what you have done. You will undo it, and you will do as Heaven commands. As I command."

Castiel struggles against the compulsion and resists, an effort that only further dilutes him. "No."

Naomi snarls through her perfect white teeth, losing all composure in a fiery display of temper. She hurls him back to the ground, shrieking to the remainder of the garrison. "Kill them! Kill them, now!"

The angels lock in on the Winchesters as their new targets, promptly forgetting about the demons and hounds.

Castiel's head jerks up at the new threat, final vestiges of strength surging up in a protective rush. Naomi grunts irately when she's seized and thrown back. She skids on her heels, blue eyes sparking dangerously at the opposing blue stare. She draws her weapon, blade singing. "Stand down, Scribe."

"Leave them be."

"You were once a star that shone brighter than us all, Castiel—brighter even than Lucifer! And this is what you've allowed yourself to become? Where is your fortitude?"

"With them, as it's always been."

"Then I will make an example out of you."

Naomi lunges and the two angels grapple, dodging and colliding in a melee of conflicting grace. Wingbeats disrupt the hostile air, rival trueforms winking in and out. Castiel, though weary, checks every attack, radiating wrath and determination. The power struggle carries on for what feels an endless length of time, the crackle of lightning paving their violent path. The now freezing wind contrasts the furnace heat of Hell on earth, yanking at his clothes, trenchcoat snapping around him as he finally wrestles away Naomi's blade.

She draws back, wary against the point of her own blade turned against her.

"Call them off." The ice-cold command tightens his tone, all compassion frozen over in the arctic chill of his expression.

"You are too weak to fight all of us, Castiel."

"I don't plan on fighting you."

To say that his sister is stunned when he suddenly turns the blade on himself is an understatement of nautical proportions.

"What are you doing?" Naomi demands.

What is he doing?

Putting an end to a war. An end to being used as a tool against his only friends, to being a puppet to his own brethren. No more will he fail the Winchesters as an angel, willfully or not. No more will he be used as a means of betrayal. What he's about to do will wipe out the remainder of enemies obstructing the Winchesters from this victory. They are prophets now, so they won't be harmed in the process. Meg will likely die, but she already knew how limited her options were going into this—they all did. They spoke, beforehand, and she knew she would either be locked away in Hell forever, or die. Just so long as Crowley wasn't allowed to win, she was on their side.

She would stand with him against a common enemy.

That is all he can ask for.

Meg is a shell of her once human visage, barely even a remnant. She is a black echo of lost humanity, veritably unchanging as a stone, yet, because of him, she has been fed a constant eddy of light—just strong enough to illuminate her dark nothingness into a dying ember of hope. He has been that constant candle flicker, driving away the shadows that always lingered. She hates him for it, but sort of loves him, too.

Something makes her stop, midstride.

She is so close to Crowley—so irrevocably close—and yet she stops. Something intangible lures her hesitation, and a glance back over her shoulder tells her exactly what is about to happen.

The little cloudhopper is about to sacrifice himself. Or something like it.

And the Winchesters? They're slipping—Ovaltine Cas may have given them a power-up, but they'll surely fumble without him. They might not make it.

And why should she care? If they succeed, she'll be locked away in Hell with the rest of her kind. At least if she stays here, stays on this path, Crowley will be dead—she can finish him off and even rule Hell in his place. All she needs to do is keep running. Stick to a centuries-old agenda.

But she doesn't.

An unexpected and admittedly unwelcome swell of emotion rocks through her. Throat thick with dread, casting a final look at that damned angel and those stupid Winchesters, she turns back. She deigns to helping a friend over the satisfaction any vengeance will surely bring, cursing herself again and again in her head. Crowley's haughty little meatsuit vanishes from view as she sprints towards the angel.

It is that moment that breathes life into the forgotten relics of her humanity. Something changes in her very make up, something that causes her to ascend.

The King of Hell lingers on the sight far ahead, rekindled arrogance giving way to fresh unease and suspicion. "The hell's that little angel doing?" he mutters to himself.

Naomi laughs, a sound somewhere between hysterical and pitying. We'll just bring you back, her eyes seem to say. Thinking him such a poor, negligent fool.

Except that's not it. Because there is one thing angels can't do, a Fall they cannot fix. Something only He can do. And that is imbue an angel with grace.

Only God can create angels.

Realizing then what their wayward brother is about to do, the other angels stutter mid-battle on their strings, horror writ across their otherwise inexpressive features. As one, when time no longer is at a standstill, they race to stop him. Naomi, enraged and feeling genuine terror, surges towards him.

"Jimmy…" Castiel growls out, blade bared. It's a question and a summons.

Do it, he hears.

Across the fray, Dean meets his eye, shocked at the acceptance that lay there in his friend's face. Castiel doesn't look surprised, nor conflicted, and Dean wonders if the angel's known this whole time this would happen, known and welcomed what he was about to do. As though this was always the plan. Dean feels this revelation like a punch to the gut, sees the same reaction in Sam's demeanor as his own.

Then, with a gut-wrenching smile that's half triumph and half despair, instead of stabbing himself, Castiel slices down his chest with the blade, cutting through fabric, flesh, and bone. He reaches in, with fragments of his true form, eyes shining bright, and grips the nebulous of grace deep in his core, and tears.

He guts out every trace of light he can find, ignoring the cries of the other angels, the screams of the demons burning out, and the stunned dismay of his friends.

Time itself stutters on its axis, and Castiel feels a strange sense of peace.

Being an angel, being so incessantly powerful, has brought him little but pain. It's bloody, it's corrupt. Not pleasant, the words of Dean ring in his ears—when he'd spoken those words to Emmanuel, the innocent shell of lost memories. The manifestation of the thing he so longed to be again. Void of such jaded and war torn scars.

He has had so many faces, so many self-lies and broken paths.

He will never betray the Winchesters again. And he is no good to them, his kin, as a man. This is one law not even they can break. Mortal creatures with no greater destiny are to be overlooked.

He will finally be left alone.

It is inevitable then that an excruciating pain pull at his body in a swirling vortex of power, tearing at his well worn vessel, while he feels Jimmy's farewell death throes as keenly as his own. Grace surges up in a final, glorious display, all six massive wings flaring out in a broad arc. They dissolve in fire as quickly as they'd roused, until all power of the Scribe is vanquished, leaving behind the simple Angel of Thursday. There is a piercing blast of light, loud and mighty as the Voice of Heaven, until, that too, is burned dry. Castiel tips his head back, embracing the Fall.

The brothers read on, despite this devastating turn. Neither knows whose hand closes over whose arm, holding the other back. Neither knows who's voice sends out, "Keep going," over the maddening rush of cresting infernos and nightmarish Hell visions.

Finish it, Castiel had told them. And they intend to.

Crowley looks on from a secure distance behind psychic shields, taking care to avoid the shrapnel of diverging light. Even as every single one of his soldiers burn up in agonizing death, he can't help but be impressed. He observes the dying star with something almost akin to respect. There still is a malignant smile, despite any sympathies, curving across his mouth.

Meg's weapon drops and she presses both hands to her ears at the agony along with her demon brothers. Her teeth vibrate in her skull, and the beast inside her instinctually recoils in wild desperation. It slams against the walls of her host in search of escape. Another thunderclap of sound knifes through her in echo, and she steels herself ineffectively against the burning light. She writhes under a suffering insurmountable, feeling her darkness being scorched out under the onslaught of unbridled grace. Meg screams, her demon voice merging with her body's, as the earth rushes up at her. She crumples in on herself, assuming her ticket is about to be punched—and she's glad it's by him and no one else.

Except it is taking too long. All around her, fellow demons are reduced to little more than smoldering husks and ash falling through the cracks. Her own black smoke contorts, becoming misshapen under the indistinguishable manipulation. Her onyx eyes are pools of anguish, a pain greater than anything Alistair ever inflicted on her rising up. What is happening?

She feels as though her insides are being scalded with a poker, rearranged to make room for something big, something bright white and hot and painfully pure. It hollows her out, filling up the empty places. All at once, she can feel that grace surrounding her like the brush of feathers and the searing caress of holy water, running through her veins, eating away at her innermost being like acid. Every tarnished thread, every flaw, is targeted and erased, until the canvas of her soul is wrought new and unpolluted of Damnation's aftertaste.

Sound and light razors out in a titanic, alien cry, all evidence of the seraphic assault finally reaching exodus as a shockwave of transcendental power ripples through the air in a roll of thunder. There is a burning crater in the earth, a tear in the clouds, and Castiel lies at its center. His chest is a gory mess, form as unmoving as the dead.

Meg opens her eyes, startled to find that she is alive and able to breathe again. There is something foreign and hot burning in her chest, but she foregoes decoding it, gathering herself up onto shaky feet. She runs for the crater. There are no more demons, no more hounds. She still has his blade in her hand, her own breath gasping and tight in her lungs.

The garrison of angels stand amid the aftermath of devastating loss, within the corporeal manifestation of Hell itself. They stand without knowing what to do, orders failing them. They look amongst one another in a rare display of fear, of doubt. It is brief, in passing, but all the time she needs. Meg seizes the window, taking her weapon and renting open the flesh of her wrist, spilling her blood onto the pavement. With practiced strokes, she forms the sigil in record time, slamming her palm down onto its center. The angels are banished from the fight—she hopes for long enough.

The ritual hits a crescendo all around them, reality warping to its fullest in a truly nightmarish array. From deep within the bowels of the earth, the Gates offer an ominous shudder, the grinding of iron and brimstone shaking the very foundations of the planet.

Meg falls to her knees beside Castiel, sees the two gloriously terrifying wing imprints seared into the ground beneath him. Her hands grip tight into his coat, fingers becoming sticky and warm with his blood as she shakes him. "Get up."

The wound left behind by the blade is not as bad as it should be—not as bad as it was—but he's still not moving. There is a deathly stillness to him, the pallor of his skin even worse under the hellish glow around them.

"Come on, you ass. Light show's over. Get the hell up!" She hauls him against her, struggling with his weight, holding him tight as she starts to shiver. "Don't you dare," she whispers, voice no longer commanding at all, but small and angry and frayed at the edges. Not even she can hear the words over the roaring collision of powers. Her fingers twist into his hair and she stares out furiously against the red sky. "Don't you dare, Castiel."

Sam and Dean stand before the King of Hell, shouting the ancient scripture into the wind and chaos. There are no more of Crowley's demon henchmen nor hounds, but there are worse things. As the ground splits in great fissures, steam boiling up from below, gnarled limbs and grotesque faces begin to crawl from the earth. Every evil since the dawn of Man and long before begins to rise up in answer to the assault, bodies dripping sulfur and lacking in anything resembling of human shape.

Crowley sees the fall of his demons, sees the brothers standing strong—even in the face of Hell itself. He sees this, and knows his Kingdom is about to crumble. He steps forward, out of his shields, human façade slowly falling away. Cardinal eyes burn as the fires of Perdition itself.

"You want something done right," grates a distorted, hideous voice, "always see to it yourself." It is said with his usual mock humility, but there is something truly terrifying about him now.

Thorns sprout from every ridge of flesh, twisting around in a crackling resonance of meat and bone. Pale skin blots and tarnishes until it is a mixture of rust and volcanic rock, and dusky shadows swallow any light fool enough to draw near. Spines sprout from the demon's back, gnarled bones snapping and arcing as several leathery wings slice at the air. Taloned claws carve at the stone in avarice, and that familiar red smoke spreads out in a choking plume against the backdrop of turmoil.

Crowley's true form snarls at them in old Latin as a revolt, damned souls and fallen beasts at his command. The guttural sound, as well as the Winchesters' shouting, is intermittently lost in the shrieking winds. But soon enough, the warring words begin to rise in dark coalition with the unrelenting, tumultuous roar.

Meg never loosens her hold on the fallen angel, unwilling to leave his side even as the damned themselves start to close in. She grips his weapon tight, ready to defend as, all around them, the chaos mounts to a cacophony of true peril. There is a disturbance of air suddenly beside them, and Meg knows with livid realization that at least one angel was too powerful for the sway of her banishing symbol.

Naomi has reclaimed her own blade, towering now over the two damaged forms beneath her. "Step away from him, you pathetic mutation." There is no fear in her words—no trepidation of the unfolding horror around them.

Meg feels herself bristle, nerves on fire, pinpointing the leveled threat at her back. Without turning her head, arm still embracing him, she says, "You know… Cas warned me about a bitchy redhead. You must be her."

Meg moves in a blur, spinning around and lashing out with the blade. Naomi narrowly avoids it, hissing out a curse.

"Wretch!" the angel casts out. She draws herself up like a snake, eyes and grace blazing in warning.

The souls around them hover at the edges of the confrontation, ready to snap up either of them if they're not careful.

Meg feels that inbred fear at the lick of holy wrath and forcefully tamps it back down. She's already on her feet and raises his blade, her resilience lending her height where her body doesn't. Her lips pull back in a fierce smile. "You're not the first angel I've killed, honey—not even the first one I've killed for him."

They meet in a violent dance across the treacherous terrain, ducking and feinting between souls and steaming geysers in a broad circle. The blades meet once, twice, sparks raining around them. Naomi howls in fierce reply when Meg manages to tear a burning line down her abdomen that spills light into the hellish fog. Meg presses the advantage, but, to her frustration and alarm, is all-too-soon forced back onto the defensive. With the arc of steel and one well-placed kick, she is knocked off guard and suddenly the angel is behind her, pulling her into a crushing chokehold.

Naomi smirks, chortling. "You don't know, do you? But how could you, simple creature." The grip on Meg's throat tightens. "You're not a demon anymore, little girl." The fiery-haired angel forces Meg away, who stumbles and eyes Naomi back with obvious disbelief. "You have no power, no greater purpose—not even as the godless stain you once were." A careless gesture at the fallen angel still motionless at her back. "His Light cured you of damnation's scars. I'd tell you to thank him if it weren't for the fact that it will cost you your life." Naomi throws up an impatient hand and Meg feels her insides twist agonizingly. Pain rocks through her until she's doubling over with a strangled cry, coughing blood. Castiel's blade clatters to the ground and rolls away. Naomi approaches the suffering human with indifference, staring down at Meg as though she is a nuisance easily rid of as the way one might rid away an ant beneath the toe of their boot.

Blue eyes drag open in the darkness, graceless and beautiful.

"You'll be returned to the Pit," says Naomi simply, cupping Meg's chin and drawing up her face. The angel's smile is cool and unfriendly as a glacier. Perdition itself looms at her back, scarlet tresses of hair falling out of her perfect bun. Lightning splits the sky above her in angry rebellion, and cold blue eyes contrast the fires while reflecting them too. "Tell me, Asenath… was it worth it?"

Suddenly then, there is a flash of terrible light, and Naomi's expression changes completely to one of absolute pain and dazed realization. Her back arcs under the force and Meg looks down to see the tip of the angel blade protruding from between the female angel's ribs. Castiel stands behind her, bloody and tattered, and he twists the handle of his blade to ensure the killing blow's effectiveness. Naomi's lips part around a soundless scream, and the light is blinding—Meg and Castiel both close their eyes against it.

Naomi crumples to her knees, bowed over and falling at their feet. When the grace is snuffed out—a much lesser display than the expulsion which left the crater—Meg looks up into the pair of blue eyes she's actually fond of and smiles, her relief palpable. "Nice job, wonder boy." The melodic notes of her voice wash over him, the hard edge just a little softer than usual.

Castiel sways on his feet, worryingly pale and lacking in response. There's bruising underneath his eyes and not one holy remnant left within him. Meg catches him when he tips over, following him to the ground. "That was unpleasant," he rumbles hoarsely.

"Didn't think you'd survive that, did you?"

"No," Castiel admits.

Meg looks at him closely. "Yeah, me either," she mutters, the words loaded with meaning.

"I should not be able to move…"

She chuckles dryly. "That's called adrenaline. Trust me, it'll wear off soon." She holds him tighter against the rushing winds, wary eyes turned on the predatory souls closing in around them. There is no viable exit to speak of—all paths blocked by either the damned, or gaping crevices in the earth.

"Can you fight?" she asks him.

"I will," is the answer.

Brave, but it isn't quite the reply she'd been hoping for. Meg reaches around him for one of the discarded shotguns before pressing it into his hands. "Know how to use one of these?"


She runs a hand through his hair, her tight smile being one of goodbye. "Good. Shoot at anything that isn't me or those two lunkheads."

She takes his sword back, claims an abandoned firearm of her own. There aren't many reloads between the two of them, but there are stray shells lying around that may help. Or at least prolong the inevitable.

Meg gets to her feet, feeling Castiel slump against her, lacing one arm around her leg to steady himself. His coat puddles around him; she feels his fingers brush just above her knee in a comforting way.

Yeah. Nice knowing you too, Feathers. The wind tugs at her dark waves of hair and leather jacket. She is a small force against the oncoming army, but she has an angel blade in one hand and a shotgun in the other. A fallen angel at her feet.

Castiel hefts the weapon in his grasp, weighing the odds and taking aim.

Meg starts pulling the trigger, and soon his reports join in with hers.

At the frontline, the Winchesters surrender fully to the duty they've been assigned. Red smoke churns around them in a rushing cyclone, seeking out any viable points of attack. The brothers fend off the strikes, volume and veracity gaining in a strident chorus. They alternate verses, repeat where they must, enunciate again and again when a particular word brings literal agony to the King himself. They shoot, stab, and recite.

The ground shudders beneath the two opposing forces, the violent quaking of the earth growing fierce. Large floes of rock explode up from the mantle of the earth, the awful sound of grinding crags deafening to the ears. Rubble rains down around them and the Gates give another resistant groan of iron. The fiery atmosphere digs in like serrated knives, the ground catching on their feet and tripping them up. Every avenue bears treacherous mines, emotional and physical. An attacking nightmare wraps around them like ugly vines, roots pulling up under their steps, squeezing and infectious where they're not careful.

The Winchesters are mouthpieces to revenge, slaying their way mercilessly through the horde of souls and beasts. Slimy, smoking body parts fly every which way until they can no longer keep track. Just keep cutting, keep chanting.

They are at the center of the storm, lightning wreathed at their backs, each bearing the golden, amberstone eyes of the Prophet. The rumbling below them grows louder and louder, the wails and howls of the damned making a grisly harmony with the thunder and the winds.

Meg and Castiel flank them, protecting their backs as they surge onwards. As one, the four of them become something beyond legend. They become an idea—a righteous maelstrom that no supernatural being can look on without fear. Together, each fallen in their own way, they hurtle themselves headlong into the opposition. The souls wail, slamming to their knees at the Word personified, Hell itself brought down like pillars of corrupted stone. Blood and death pave the infinite chasms far below, and across universes, worlds pause to take in the sight. A hushed silence—in that hour of abominable upheaval—falls over galaxies and over Heaven. Far below and here on ground zero, the Land of Men, a whole new revolutionary war unfolds and comes to a climactic close.

"Sorry, Crowley," says Sam, eyes glowing bright with the Word. There is a bitter and yet triumphant smile playing across his lips, because it was demons who destroyed everything he ever loved. Since the day he was born and to this very moment, demons have been responsible for every unforgivable thing in their lives. Now, to the relief and satisfaction of Azazel's chosen soldier, those sons of bitches will never be able to hurt anyone ever again.

The King of Hell's panic becomes a tangible, living thing. It rises up, high above their heads in a final act of insurgence.

"You should have stayed at the crossroads," says the Righteous Man, bearing the same convictive stare as his brother. Two opposing Vessels, joined as one force, banishing Hell and its demons forever.



In the name of God, close these gates of Hell.

There is a final, sonorous roar.

Something vital and age-old snaps in Hell, like a band pulled too tight and finally breaking. The air around them ripples, caving in on itself. There is the slamming of something massive being shut, and the world shudders on its axis. Light and color begins to rush back as reality gains a foothold, and there is the impossibly distinct sound of a lock sliding into place.

The King of Hell, far below, gives one last, disembodied roar of defiance, and then the furious screams of Perdition are no more than echoes.

"What do I stand for?" wonders Castiel, in the aftermath.

"I could use some friends for a change," chimes Meg, with equal parts bitterness and masked longing.

One day, they will find Kevin. One day, there will be no more monsters and humanity will flourish, as it was always meant to. One day is in their hands.

"Some nights I wish that this all would end," Sam says, with a tired smile.

"Some nights," Dean agrees quietly.

Most nights, none of them really know anymore.

This is who we are now. The fan-freaking-tastic four. One ex-blood junkie. One dropout with six bucks to his name. One ex-angel, and one ex-demon. And let's be brutally honest, here. No one hates me more than I do. No one hates Sam more than Sam does, and no one else hates Cas more than Cas hates himself. Meg just hates everybody.

We're works in progress. Maybe redemption's out there, maybe not. None of us know how the hell we ended up where we are. Because, really, what are the chances of the four of us throwing in? We're a regular Brady Bunch of motley losers, but… we're really all we have, so… that's better than nothing.

Team Free Will.

The lyrics on the radio begin to fade out. "Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle. Some nights I wish they'd just fall off. What do I stand for? What do I stand for? Most nights, I don't know."

Dean settles down into the armchair, and finally sleeps.

Author's Note: Fun fact, kiddies. Elocin actually spent hours translating between English and Aramaic to get the Word speech down. Granted, it probably wouldn't actually be written in Aramaic, since the tablets are supposed to be their own language. But nonetheless. I did take actual Aramaic and twist it around for my own devices. That said... repay my efforts with a review, perhaps? :3