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

Rating: G

Synopsis: It is the end of days for Dean, time has run out and Dean and Sam are sitting around, waiting for the inevitable, the outcome of that deal.

Time had a habit of running out and this time was no different. The last minute save was not going to come. The last day of that fateful year had come and time seemed alternately to race along and creep forward. When the clock struck midnight, it would all be over. There was nowhere to run, no get-out-of-hell-free card that would save his sorry behind this time around. And it wasn't for lack of trying. Despite every demon, every poltergeist, every werewolf, every vampire or other evil creature they had buried over this year, his time was up and there was nothing to be done about it. Sam had tried. He had tried every trick in the book. He had probably made up a few new ones on the way. But it had all been for nothing in the end. And that was mainly because Dean had refused to play along. Any risk to Sam's life was a risk not worth taking. He wouldn't try hoodoo, voodoo, faith healers or anything else that might even come within striking distance of breaking this deal. He simply refused. He had given his word and with Sam's life in the balance, he saw no other option than to keep it.

The bar was quiet, not many people about on this night, and those few that were around couldn't care less about his impending demise. A public place had struck him as a good idea at the time. But now he wasn't so sure. The minutes of the last hour were ticking by, the beer tasted stale, and he couldn't bring himself to look at Sam, who sat across from him, his hands folded on top of the worn planks of the table, his gaze locked on Dean. It seemed that he would not lose even one second now, wouldn't budge from Dean's side, and in a sense it was comforting that he was not going to be able to shake his shadow even now.

"You should go," he said. He had said it before and Sam had refused every time.

"I'm not going anywhere," Sam said, repeating well worn words without moving a muscle.

"What's the point, Sammy? It's not like some miracle is gonna stop this at the last possible moment. You know that. We don't have that much luck in life," Dean said and sighed. He pushed the beer away and leaned back on the creaking chair. "I don't want you to see this, Sammy. Please."

Sam's gaze didn't waver. He just sat there and watched his brother, unmoving, his expression chiseled in stone. He was being brave, but Dean knew him well enough to know that it was a facade, that it would crumble eventually. "I'm not leaving you," Sam insisted.

A glance at the clock mounted over the bar and Dean felt the sudden urge to down a bottle of whiskey in one go. But he remained seated. Thirty minutes to go. He had no doubt that they would come for him. He had contemplated going to meet them, but where would he go? Sam had killed the crossroad demon he had made the deal with and he wouldn't know where to start looking for a crossroad in this godforsaken spot of a town anyway.

The third hand of the clock measured out the seconds and turned them into minutes. He hated waiting, always had. Waiting reminded him of funerals and hospitals, of waiting rooms and abandoned motel rooms. Waiting was bad, always had been. The joy of waiting for Christmas, of waiting for birthdays, for dad to come home from work or mom to come back from the basement or the attic or the neighbors had long since been transformed into the anxiousness of waiting for the doctor to bring news or the phone to ring to let him know dad was safe or Sam was on the way back. He hated waiting. He hated the in-between. It would be a relief when it was over. He was tired of life, tired of always waiting, of always having to bid his time and never getting exactly what he wanted at the end of it. The pat on the head, the hug, the kind word, the pride, the gratefulness. It was all absent, had never had quite the effect it should have had when it finally came. No, life in and of itself had been nothing but one big disappointment. He had lost everybody he cared about; mom, dad, even Sam. But one thing he had promised himself time and time again, one thing he had stuck to and would stick to until his last second came. He would not lose Sam. Not this time, not again.

It was unfair that Sam was going to lose him, of course, but the ultimate price had been paid to ensure Sam's survival and that was a price he was willing to pay. Hell, he would pay it again if he could. And that was the only thing that made the waiting now bearable. He focused on Sam, met his eyes, and managed a quirky smile. "Cheer up, Sammy. The wait's almost over," he said, well aware of the sarcasm rolling off his words.

Sam said nothing, held his gaze for a moment, then averted his eyes. His armor was cracking here in the final hour and Dean would not be able to do anything to put him back together. He had tried to push Sam away, to maintain that debonair devil-may-care attitude that would drive his brother away from him in the end, but Sam had stuck to him like glue, had forced him to understand that his little brother was not going to leave or let him push him to the brink.

So here they sat, the two of them together, waiting for that moment when something would happen. Over the last month, Dean had found himself thinking a lot about this point in time, about what would happen. Would there be hell hounds or were they only reserved for those that ran? Would the demon he had made the deal with come itself or would it send some of its henchmen? Would it hurt? Would it be a long, drawn-out death or would it be quick? Would he remember it afterwards? Would he even be aware?

The second hand of the clock ticked almost loudly onto the nine. Fifteen minutes to go and all was quiet. Nobody was talking, the bar was silent, so silent that he could almost hear the third hand on the clock ticking out the last remaining seconds of his life. "This sucks," he muttered, grabbed the bottle and washed down the rest of the beer.

"If only ..." Sam began and looked up.

"There's no time for that now, Sam," Dean cut him off, squashing that brief glimmer of hope, of defiance, of the undeniable urge to do something. He glanced over at the clock again. "Fourteen minutes to go. I really think you should leave."

"Not gonna happen," Sam said decisively, grabbed the now empty bottle and started to methodically peel the label off. "I'm not going anywhere. There's no way I'm gonna let you face this alone."

Dean couldn't help a snort. "What are you gonna do? Shoot'em full of rock salt when they come?" he asked.

"It might be worth a try," Sam said, his tone as defiant as his words.

The second hand hit the ten and the door to the bar opened. Dean couldn't help it, he sucked in a lung full of air, nearly hissing, expecting it to be a glowing-eyed demon-possessed man or woman. But the woman who stepped in and briefly stopped just inside the door looked as normal and common as anyone else in this place. She wore a dark duster that reached all the way to her ankles and it was glistening with the rain falling outside. She grabbed the lapels of the coat and jerked at them, shedding some of the moisture, then headed toward the bar and ordered a beer.

Dean relaxed again, glanced up at the clock once more and started to feel the first faint shimmer of anxiousness creeping up his spine. Five minutes to go. Time was running out and what did he really have to show for his life? "This sucks," he muttered again.

"In so many words," Sam agreed.

Dean caught movement from the corner of his eyes and looked up to see the woman in the oilskin duster standing next to their table, the bottle held idly in one hand, the other hand in the pocket of her duster while she eyed him with a vague smile. "Dean Winchester," she said. "I believe we have an appointment."

He stared up at her, uncertain of how to respond at first. She was definitely not what he had expected. Hell, he didn't really know what he had expected, but she wasn't it.

"You look disappointed," she said, grabbed a chair and sat down on it.

Sam stared at her, his right hand under the table, obviously grabbing the gun he had hidden there. And all Dean could think of doing was to stare at her too.

"Not what you expected?" the woman asked.

"In so many words," he agreed. For now, she displayed no signs of possession. Her eyes were blue, her hair dark and pulled back in a not unbecoming ponytail. Her skin was still slightly moist from the rain and it struck him that she didn't seem to be wearing any makeup.

"So," she said and took an almost tentative sip of her beer. "Here we are. Four minutes to go. And all you are doing ... is having a beer?" She sounded oddly surprised by this.

"What would you like me to do? Run?" he asked. "That could be misinterpreted and I'm not doing anything to jeopardize his life," he added and nodded toward Sam.

She glanced at Sam, that smile still playing over her lips. She looked so achingly normal that it was hard to believe she could contain something evil. "You can pull the trigger on that gun, Sam, but it won't change anything," she said.

"I'll take my chances," Sam countered, pressing the words out through clenched teeth.

"I'm sure you will, but that gun will misfire every time," she said, her tone almost conversational.

A click followed her words, then another, before Sam gave up on this futile idea and slammed the gun onto the table. It was the Colt, the one that was said to be able to kill anything. Obviously, it couldn't kill something like her, though. She eyed it for a moment, then smirked and returned her attention to Dean.

"As I was saying. Three minutes to go and all you do is sit here and drink," she said. "Those that think you were a fool for making this deal obviously didn't know what they were talking about."

Dean tried to decipher who she might be. Was she the one he had actually made the deal with, the one holding the contract, or was she just another errand boy for the big bad? Would it really matter in the end?

"I take it you are still willing to uphold your end of this deal?" she asked after another minute had ticked by.

"I'm here, aren't I?" he countered sarcastically.

"That you are," she agreed. "And you're not running. And you don't seem afraid," she added and frowned lightly. "How odd."

She glanced over her shoulder at the clock until the second hand settled on the last minute and the third hand slowly ticked over the twelve. And then it stopped. One minute away from the end of his existence and the clock froze.

Dean stared at it, then realized that the clock was not the only thing that had stopped. All the other patrons of the bar, apart from himself and Sam, had stopped moving. "Neat trick," he said, not really that impressed. It could be an illusion, a glimmer to make him think time had stopped.

"Not a trick. They go on. We stand still," she said and shrugged lightly. Then she snorted, took another swig of the bottle and set it down almost gently on the table top. "I hate to lose," she said and arched both eyebrows, her gaze locked on the bottle. "Boy, do I hate to lose."

Dean glanced at Sam, who was watching her with equal amounts of concern and confusion. "How do you see this as losing?" Dean asked and returned his attention to her. "Aren't I just another soul for you to collect?"

She gave him a lopsided smirk, her eyes locking on his. "Under normal circumstances, yes," she agreed, "but these are hardly normal circumstances. I have gained as much ... glee from watching you squirm for a year as I could. But, rules are rules and all fun must end."

Again Dean glanced at Sam, who was still watching her intently. This whole meeting was completely out of wack. He had the distinct impression that he was missing some major point here, but it did seem that Sam wasn't really getting it either, which was a comfort. "What are you talking about?" he asked and again returned his undivided attention to the woman.

She smirked, albeit regretfully. "I keep forgetting that you don't know," she said, took the bottle and sipped the beer almost carefully, then she settled the bottle on her thighs and wrapped both hands around it. "Many years ago, I had a very ... interesting run-in with your dad," she said while eying the bottle.

"My ... dad?" Dean glanced at Sam, then back at her.

"It was a bar much like this," she said and briefly glanced around. "Actually ... it was this exact same bar," she added and smiled. "Hard to tell them apart sometimes. I frequent so many." Her gaze trailed over the worn planks of the tabletop. "At this exact table," she added and met Dean's gaze again. "He was sitting in exactly that chair."

Dean didn't know how to respond to this, didn't know where she was going with it, and it made him anxious. He glanced up at the clock, which was still stuck with fifty-nine seconds to go while the other patrons of the bar all sat in exactly the same position as before. Then he focused on her again. "So?" he asked.

"He was drunk," she said and smiled at the memory. "Angry with life, fed up with hunting, contemplating a future he felt he had no right to." She sipped the beer, then put the bottle back on the table top. "I bought him a beer and we talked. He wasn't interested at first, just kept growling for me to go away. But I'm not that easy to shake," she said, narrowed her eyes a little and smirked. "He talked about you two when he finally loosened up. I don't think he had any idea what I was at the time and I doubt he's wasted many thoughts on me since." She smoothed both hands over her hair, shifted a little to get more comfortable, the memories of that night obviously pleasing in some way. "He was angry with himself for being a poor father, but he was quite convinced that Sam was in good hands. He kept going on about how any social worker with a heart would have taken both of you away from him because he was incapable of taking care of you in the way he should have. But he kept coming back to how it was okay, because his eldest would never let anything happen to his youngest."

"And I wouldn't have," Dean confirmed. "Why are you telling us this?"

"Patience," she said with a grin. "Let me finish this little tale. You'll get the point in the end," she added. "I love a good wager, always have, and I couldn't resist. He was drunk, very drunk, and he was weaving on about his boys and how he was letting both of you down, but he knew you would both be okay because you had each other. So, I offered him a bet. I bet him, right there and then, that given the chance, you, Dean, would never sacrifice your life for your brother. My exact words were: I bet you that, if the situation should ever arise, your eldest would not sacrifice himself for your youngest."

A brief glance at Sam told Dean that Sam at least was catching on. Dean was still pretty much in the dark as to where this was going. "He would never have taken a bet like that," he claimed.

"Wouldn't he?" she asked and sighed. "Well, he considered it and said yes, you would. So I upped the ante, so to speak. I rephrased my words. I said: I bet that, should the situation arise, your eldest would never sell his soul to keep your youngest alive. The threat of going to Hell always sways the odds and no brother has ever loved his sibling enough to make a deal like that and keep it."

Dean made a face. "Well, I guess you were wrong, huh?" he asked. "So, he won the bet. Big deal."

"Big deal indeed," she agreed. "Because he turned the game around on me. He made demands. He claimed that you would sell your soul for your brother if the situation would ever arise. And he also claimed that you would not break the deal in any way and would honor your end of it without hesitation. He was convinced and I was intrigued. Such faith is hard to come by in this day and age where nobody believes much in anything other than mayhem and bloodshed. So I asked him if he would make that bet, if he would accept it. And he said yes, but on two conditions."

Dean couldn't help a brief smirk. Dad and his conditions. It sure sounded like something his father would have said. "So?"

"His conditions were that if you ever made a deal like this and upheld your end of it until the very last moment, then he would have won the bet and in doing so, he wanted two things," she said.

"Like what?" Dean asked. A faint glimmer of hope was starting to stir in the pit of his stomach, but he was afraid to let it grow right now. This could still turn out to be a very bad thing.

She eyed him closely for a moment, then smirked and took another swig of her beer. "His words were these," she said. "If I win that bet, he's off the hook. And I want to be there to see it ... in the flesh." She grinned. "You have got to love a man who can spell out a bet like that."

If she had punched him in the gut, he couldn't have been more surprised. It took a moment to sink in, to really register what this bet meant. A quick, sideways glance at Sam told him that his initial reaction, which had been a breakout of butterflies in his stomach, was exactly the right reaction.

She sighed, eyed the bottle for a moment and set it back on the tabletop before she rose again. She put the chair back where she had taken it and then glanced back at the clock, which had started ticking again. The third hand reached twelve before she returned her attention to Dean with a regretful smile on her lips. "Congratulations, Dean. You've proven your father right. In doing so, you're off the hook."

The door to the bar had opened at the very second the third hand on the clock hit twelve.

Dean pushed his chair back and got up and Sam followed suit, and neither of them could move for the moment it took the woman to turn around and face the man who had just entered the bar.

"For a bet made in a drunken stupor, you sure are one lucky son of a bitch, John Winchester," she said. "Enjoy the rest of your life. And stop making deals. They're breaking my heart," she added, clapped a hand onto his shoulder and then left the bar.

The End