Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Time's up, the deal is due, but things don't turn out exactly how Dean imagined.

The year came and went and many slain demons later, time had run out and no solution had presented itself. Another motel room in another god-forsaken town in Somewhere, US of A, and Dean had decided to stop running. The closer they came to the cut-off date, the less willing he was to fight. Sam had gone through a multitude of different emotional states to keep his brother in the game, but eventually even he had to give up. Dean had accepted his fate and Sam was torn to shreds by it.

"You can't just give up, Dean. Please," he begged for the umpteenth time, afraid to let go, afraid to leave his brother for even a second lest he do something stupid.

But Dean only smiled that odd little smile he had adopted over the last month and shook his head lightly. "What's the point, Sam? I can't outrun my destiny," he said and smirked joylessly.

"You don't believe in destiny, man," Sam snapped, angry again. His emotional states went from fear to sorrow to anger to desolation to hope and back through the whole list again and it was wearing him out. Dean only seemed to have one emotional state these days; hopelessness.

"Dammit, Dean. You think this is what Dad wanted? For you to give up? There's still a few days left. And I'm still waiting for that reply from that professor. Please, man, you can't give up. Not now." Pleading had no effect. Sam couldn't guilt-trip Dean into staying in the fight, he couldn't coerce him, couldn't threaten him or otherwise influence him. Bobby's anger and Ellen's pleading had no effect either. He had given up and that was the end of it.

"When then?" Dean asked and shook his head lightly. "There's no way around it, Sammy. I made the deal and I gotta stick with it. If I don't, you die and I can't live with that," he countered. It was his single most prominent reason for giving up the fight, for accepting what was coming his way, and Sam hated him for it, hated that Dean would lay down his life and willingly go to Hell for him.

And Sam was running out of options, out of reasons, out of pleas and threats. None of it had any effect any more. Dean knew what was coming and he was going to face it head on like he did everything else.

Dean rose from the chair he'd been sitting on and started pulling various items out of his pockets. His wallet, a switchblade, a pack of gum, his gun, and placed them on the table. Then he pulled his necklace over his head and eyed the horned head for a moment before placing it almost carefully on top of the wallet.

"What are you doing?" Sam asked, not really wanting to know.

"Getting ready," Dean replied. "There's a crossroad about a mile out of town to the north. It's as good a place as any to meet that bitch. I'm gonna take the Impala, but you have to promise me to pick her up tomorrow morning."

"I'm coming with you," Sam said stubbornly.

Dean met his gaze dead on, his expression almost bland. "No, you're not. Not this time, Sam. I don't want you to see this."

"But ..."

"I said no, Sam. This is something I have to do alone." Dean smiled vaguely, but his eyes remained unemotional. "It's funny. I always thought I'd go out with a bang, you know? This is so ... anti-climactic in a way."

"You can't just expect me to sit here and wait while ..." Sam tried again, but couldn't bring himself to say the words out loud.

"But I do," Dean countered. "You know, when Dad did this for me ... I was angry at him. Angry for leaving without ... telling me. I don't want to do the same to you. So I want you know I'm going. And I want you to know that I'll never blame you. I did this for you in the first place. You're not supposed to die. You're supposed to live and have a wonderful life, Sam. Go find a girl. Get married. Have some kids. Do whatever the hell you want to do. That's why I'm doing this, little brother. To give you a fighting chance."

Sam felt the tears rise in his eyes and the resentment rise in his heart. "No, Dean. I'm not going to let you go. Not like this. This is not fair. This isn't how it's supposed to be."

Dean smiled. "This is exactly how it's supposed to be, Sammy. I've outstayed my welcome. Time to hit the road, dude." He eyed Sam for a moment and Sam couldn't get over how tired he looked, how much older than his years he looked. "Don't be angry, Sam. Don't do that to me. Not now. I need to know that I'm doing this for a reason and that you're not gonna give up the fight when I'm gone. Okay?"

Sam shook his head, unwilling to let Dean go, unwilling to give him what he asked for because it just might change his mind if he didn't. But he knew that Dean would leave and he knew there was nothing he could do to stop him. "Dean, please," he tried one last time. "Just wait one more day."

"I saw a big black mutt last night, Sam. With red eyes. Big, ugly mother of a dog. Time's run out and I'm not gonna be dragged away by one of those bastards like those others. Not gonna happen. I'll do this on my terms." He grabbed his leather jacket and shrugged into it. "If she wants me, she'll have to come and get me herself," he added, then eyed Sam sadly. "I'm sorry, Sammy. This is how it's supposed to be. You just promise me you'll have a good life, okay? And don't do anything stupid. Let it end here."

Sam again shook his head, but Dean merely smiled, stepped up to him and pulled him into a hug. For a moment Sam couldn't convince himself to return the hug, but knowing it would be the last time he was close to his brother, he eventually relented and hugged him back. "Damn you, Dean," he whispered, barely able to speak around the lump in his throat.

"That's one way of looking at it, I guess," Dean agreed and leaned back. "You take care of yourself, Sammy. Stay out of trouble, okay?"

Sam pressed his lips together into a thin line while fighting a losing battle against the tears. "I love you, man," he whispered.

Dean merely smiled, patted his cheek, then turned around and left. When the door clicked shut behind him, Sam sank down on the bed and let the tears flow. The rumble of the Impala's engine sent a surge of anguish through him and he felt whatever remained of his happiness drift away with the fading sound of that engine. That car was going straight to the scrapheap in the morning. There was no way he was going to drive around in that antiquated heap of metal alone. The Impala would always be Dean's car and if Dean wasn't around, neither was his car.


The sound of the engine was as comforting as it ever had been and Dean found himself to be in an oddly placid state of mind. Somewhere he knew he had accepted what was going to happen to him and all he cared about was that Sam was alive and stood a good chance of remaining that way. If that meant he had to go to Hell, then he would go gladly.

The crossroad he had found on the map was there as promised and he pulled the Impala over to the side of the road, parked her and left the keys in the ignition before getting out. The small metal box that would summon the crossroad demon he had made the deal with, rattle lightly as he made his way to the center of the crossroad and hunkered down to bury it.

Then he rose, stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket and waited. There was no rush tonight. The air was mild, the sky free of clouds and every single star could be seen tonight. There was peace out there, and serenity, and he wished all of that for Sam. For himself, he hoped for oblivion and knew he would not get it.

"You're early."

Her voice made him sigh and he took his own sweet time before he turned around to face her. "Why drag out the anguish?" he countered.

She eyed him, her red eyes gleaming for a moment before they settled back down to whatever eye color this particular woman had. "Why indeed?" she countered with a contented smile. She looked like the cat that had eaten the canary, only he was the canary and she hadn't eaten him yet. "I can't believe it. I actually expected you to fight this hand and nail until the last possible moment. I thought you would try to fight off the inevitable for as long as you could."

"Well, I guess you got me wrong, didn't you?" he countered and gave her a joyless smirk. "Just get on with it," he added.

She eyed him closely for a moment. "No," she finally said. "The deal was that I gave you one year to live and your brother's life, but in return you would not try to weasel your way out of this deal."

"And I haven't," he countered, a little cautious now.

"No, but your brother has tried every trick in the book. He even made up a few along the way," she countered and shook her head in mock-disappointment. "And you knew about it."

"So? I didn't do anything to encourage him," Dean said.

"But you knew about it," she repeated and made a face. "Deal's off," she added. "You get to live, Dean Winchester. But without your brother for companionship. You're so much more interesting alive anyway and the anguish you displayed when he was dead," she added and shuddered with delight. "Exquisite."

"What?! No! You can't do that. I didn't try to break this deal. I have no control over what others do," he snapped, an icy chill rippling through him.

"Sorry, Dean. A deal's a deal and your brother broke it. I exert my right to take back my offer and annul this deal. Have a nice life," she said, smiled gleefully, turned around and walked away.

The world had gone totally crazy in a split second and Dean couldn't think right then. His mind was stuck in idle, in that second of terror when he realized what she was saying. "Sammy," he rasped, swirled around and raced back to the Impala.

The engine roared to life and he tore the car around and raced back to town, back toward the motel where he had left Sam, his heart racing in his chest, his eyes blurring with tears of fear and frustration.

Once there, he nearly kicked down the door and for a split second the room appeared empty. Then he caught sight of the figure on the floor and he sucked in a pained breath. "Sammy?" he rasped and raced over to his brother's slumped form.

He lay on the floor between the two beds, on his stomach, and his t-shirt was soaked with blood on the back. "No!" Dean croaked and dropped to his knees, grabbing his brother's limp form and turning him over. "No, Sammy. Please, don't do this to me."

With fingers as cold as ice he felt for a pulse, searching for the life that was supposed to be there, and he found nothing. "Oh god, no," he whispered and pulled Sam close to him. "This is not how it's supposed to end. Not like this. Oh, please no."

All he could do was sit there with his brother in his arms while the blood of the reopened wound soaked into his jeans and Sam's body grew steadily colder. And all he could think of was that this was not how it was supposed to be. And he knew, somewhere deep down, that this had been the crossroad demon's intention all along and he cursed her to the nether regions of Hell for it, but he did not have enough left in him to work up the anger that would make him bite back. He was broken inside, unable to function any more. His world had ended tonight and there was nothing more to be done about it.