This is yet another tag for Lucifer Rising. I have read many 4.22 tags and greatly enjoyed most, each adding a little something original. Like everyone else, I am eagerly awaiting the new season to see how Kripke resolves the brothers' issues (if he does and doesn't just ignore them). This is unbeta-ed but even if it were, any errors would still be mine.

Supernatural and its characters belong to Kripke and the CW.

Of Saints and Sinners

The world, it seemed, wasn't going to end in darkness. It was going to end in light. At first Dean had tried to get Sam to run, to escape the light. Sam just grabbed Dean's jacket and stared with horrid fascination into the blinding illumination. When he couldn't move his brother, Dean steeled himself with weary resignation to face what was coming. The light built in intensity. The sound that had been slowly growing was now a deafening white noise. Dean's hand found his brother's where it was clutching his jacket and closed his eyes. He knew death was coming but was unable to force himself to watch it reach for him or Sam.

It was too late for apologies, too late for regrets. He had given too few of the first and had too many of the latter.

He took one final deep breath and…felt warmth in the shape of a hand on his shoulder. "You must go!" The light got brighter and then every thing went black.

Sam didn't understand how they had been saved. One second he was watching the beginning of the end of the world and the next he was looking into the face of a clearly startled Bobby Singer.

Bobby had just stepped into his living room when a small bright nova appeared in front of him with a brief, intensive flash that left an after image burned in his eye, momentarily blinding him. When he could see again, a second later, there were three men in front of him, one of whom dropped like rock to lay unmoving on the questionably clean floor.

"What the…Sam! Dean!" Bobby dropped the chipped cup from which he had been nursing some too strong coffee. He took a hurried step and knelt down by the fallen Winchester, hand immediately going his neck to check his pulse. He looked up at the only person he didn't recognize. "Who are you?" he demanded gruffly, though he strongly suspected that he knew.

"I am Castiel, an angel," he paused a second as if thinking and then added with determination, "an angel of the Lord."

Sam, stunned to find himself at the salvage yard with his brother at this feet, only stood and gaped while his mind tried to catch up with his reality.

The angel tipped his head down to indicate Dean. "I believe he is uninjured and his unconsciousness due only to physical reasons," Castiel reassured the older man. "He is probably laid low only due to stress, fatigue, and dehydration. He has not eaten or slept since he brought Sam here to allow the effects of drinking demon blood to pass. He needs to rest."

"You said probably," Bobby said, slowly standing. "What the hell does that mean?"

Castiel seemed to consider what he should say before he spoke. "Dean was standing on the threshold of the door to the Great Deceiver's prison when it opened. Sensing his enemy, Lucifer reached forth his hand to crush the righteous man." His expression appeared briefly troubled but it passed so quickly that Bobby wasn't certain that he had seen it. "I believe I was able to remove him from Lucifer's presence in time, though his voice and his breath brushed Dean. However, even if it did affect him, it should be temporary."

"What the hell are you talking about? Do you mean that Lucifer is freed and Dean and Sam were there? They were too late to stop the last seal from being broken?" Bobby demanded.

"That is what I mean, Mr. Singer."

Bobby rubbed his chin and sighed, "Ah, hell."

"Exactly," Castiel replied. The angel took a step forward and Bobby caught a flash of silver that drew his eye to a knife that Castiel was now gripping. Before Bobby had a chance to react, the angel slashed his left arm and dropped the knife. He then knelt by Dean and using his finger as a pen and his blood as ink, drew a sigil on the older Winchester's forehead. The blood glowed brightly for a second and then seemed to be absorbed into the skin.

"What's that for?" Bobby questioned, uncomfortable at not knowing what to expect from the angel.

"So none will see, so none will hear—this will protect him."

"Who does he need protecting from?"

"Everyone."

Bobby looked over at Sam, who had been unusually quiet. The younger man seemed pale and Bobby could see his pulse beating rapidly in his throat, like a moth flapping its wings beneath the skin and trying to get out. "What about Sam? Won't he need some protection too?"

Castiel stood. He caught Sam's eye and stared, his face impassive. "Sam still has his hex bag. It will hide him." The angel cocked his head as if hearing something that no one else could. "I must go. If Dean has not awakened by the morning then call and I will come."

Then the angel was gone, leaving Sam and Bobby staring uneasily at each other. Bobby broke the silence. "I know you got a lot to tell me but first let's get your brother up off the floor and to bed. He keeps lying like that, he's bound to get a kink in his neck."

Sam seemed to shake himself out of a trance. "Bobby," he began, his voice hoarse and barely above a whisper.

"Not now, Sam."

"I have to tell you. You don't know what I did. Lilith was the final seal. When I killed her, I brought the apocalypse down on us. I freed Lucifer."

Bobby rubbed his jaw and sighed wearily. Damn. "Did you know that killing Lilith would break the last seal?"

"No, no, of course not, I thought that by killing her I was keeping her from breaking the last seal but I was willing to do whatever it took…whatever it took. I thought if it turned out right then what I was doing wasn't wrong. My intentions might have been good but they weren't pure. What I've done…I hurt you…I hurt Dean and all for nothing, for worse than nothing. I just…I'm sorry, I am so sorry." Sam said this all in a rush as if afraid if he didn't say it all now, he'd never find the courage again.

"Sam," Bobby started then stopped, at a loss for words. "Boy that should a told you right there that what you were doing was wrong. You were willing to do what ever it took, sacrifice who ever needed sacrificing…including you brother…to get Lilith. Nothing good comes from hurting other people to get what you want. Now help me get this brother of yours upstairs and into bed."

"Bobby! Aren't you listening to me! I set Lucifer free. I'm a monster!"

"Stop it right there. Do I look like a priest? I don't need to hear your confession. If you messed up then you need to fix it and if you can't fix it then you need to make amends as best ya can." Bobby took a deep breath. "One way to start would be to get Dean's arms while I take his legs 'cause he ain't getting up those stairs by himself."

Exasperated, Sam did as told and helped Bobby carry Dean to the bedroom that the two of them usually shared when staying with the older hunter. After arranging him as comfortably as possible, Bobby tucked an old but clean blanket around the sleeping man while Sam just stared at this brother. Dean didn't stir.

"He said we were through and that he wanted to hunt me," Sam lamented softly.

"Who said such a thing?"

"Dean."

"I don't believe it," Bobby scoffed. "Your brother might be more than a little pissed at you but he would never say that."

"He left a message on my phone after our…fight at the hotel." Sam fumbled in his pockets looking for his phone. "After what I did, after what I said to him, I don't blame him. I deserve him hating me." Finally locating his phone, Sam went to his voice mail and set it on speaker. He wasn't certain why he wanted Bobby to hear the message Dean had left him—to show Bobby that Dean hated him now and that Bobby should hate him too or to prove that about this one thing he wasn't lying.

"Hey, it's m-me…Uh…Look I'll just get right to it. I'm still pissed and I owe you a serious beat-down but…I shouldn't have said what I said. I'm not Dad. We're brothers, you know, we're family and, uh, no matter how bad it gets that doesn't change…Sammy, I'm sor…"

"That's not what it said before, Bobby, I swear that isn't what he said," Sam paused, his eyes widening in realization. "Ruby was there when I listened to it, she changed the message." On top of everything else, this last betrayal was too much. Sam's legs went weak and he sunk onto the vacant bed.

"Sam," Bobby said, putting a comforting hand on Sam's shoulder. He could see the tears gathering in the youngest Winchester's eyes and threatening to spill down his face.

"He forgave me. I almost killed him, Bobby. I was choking him and he couldn't breathe but he wasn't fighting me anymore. I said horrible things to him and walked out on him with him laying on the floor gasping for breath. I was just so hurt and angry because he wouldn't trust me. I just wanted him to hurt as much as I was." Sam took a shuddering breath. "And he still wanted to be my brother. He forgave me."

"You idiot, your brother always put you and your daddy first. I should smack you upside the head for even thinking that he would ever hate you, no matter what you did…and I will as soon as you don't look like a feather could knock you over." He pushed the unresisting man down until he was laying on the bed. "Go to sleep, Sam. We'll start figuring things out in the morning." Making sure his charge was staying put, Bobby backed out of the room, flipping off the light as he left and muttering quietly to himself, "An angel in my living room, guess I better start keeping an eye on the sky in case pigs start flying too."

Sam didn't think he could calm himself down enough to rest. His mind was racing, still trying to take in all that had happened and reconcile it with his intentions. He had too much to think about. He didn't think he could possibly fall asleep but he was wrong about that too.

Sam woke in slow stages the following day. First he became aware of sunlight struggling valiantly to enter the room through the grimy window pane and tattered curtains. He then realized that he felt nauseous and wondered briefly if it was due to hunger, withdrawal or anxiety. He would have to face his brother today and try to make amends. Sam glanced over at the other bed. It was empty. He allowed himself to feel a moment of gratitude that Dean had been unscathed by Lucifer rising.

Sam struggled to his feet and staggered to the door. He felt weakened by his rest rather than refreshed. In the doorway, he could smell the odor of bacon. He walked slowly down the steps, hoping to delay the inevitable. The day before felt like a dream: the fight with Dean, killing Lilith, helping Dean kill Ruby, the seal breaking. Only it wasn't dream, it was a freaking nightmare.

Sam stood at the threshold to the kitchen watching Bobby furiously beat some raw eggs in a large bowl with a wire whisk. Bobby glanced up briefly and then turned his attention back to his breakfast preparation. "Breakfast will be done in a few minutes. Ya hungry?" he asked.

"A bit," Sam reluctantly admitted, his stomach still rolling uncomfortably. "But…ah…first I need to…um…where's Dean?"

Bobby inclined his head toward the back door. "Been out there since before I got up."

Sam nodded and headed toward the door. He slowly stepped through the kitchen door and out onto the porch. Dean was standing with his hands in his pockets, staring out at nothing.

"Do you think we can not have this conversation and pretend that we did?" Dean said hopefully without turning around.

"No, Dean, we can't." Sam thought that avoiding all that had happened would not shrink the distance that had developed between them. A distance that he shamefully thought was mainly his fault and therefore he had to take the first step to bridge.

"Yeah," Dean sighed heavily, "I didn't think so." Dean turned to face Sam. Sam was certain that Dean was going to give him the biggest I-told-you-so in the history of the world. So it came as a shock when Dean quickly said, "I'm sorry. This whole mess is mostly my fault. I broke the first seal when I was in Hell. If I had just been stronger, this wouldn't have fallen on you. I'm sorry."

Sam was floored by Dean's admission. He stuttered, "What are you talking about? You broke the first seal?"

Dean looked down, unable to meet his brother's eyes in his shame. "I didn't know until my last little talk with Alistair." He cleared his throat, "Yea, it is written that when the righteous man draws blood in hell…as he breaks so shall the first seal. I thought, I hoped he was lying to me but I asked Cas and he confirmed it. This is all my fault Sam. I was weak and tired of the pain but that's no excuse…the apocalypse, that's blood on my hands."

"Dean, why didn't you tell me this before?" Sam asked gently.

Dean shrugged dejectedly. "Right after I found out, we had our three week corporate vacation and after that…" Dean paused. "You already thought I was weak. I didn't want to give you another reason to despise me."

Sam was speechless. Dean took his silence for agreement and turn away again. Sam finally found his voice. "Dean, you didn't know that getting off the rack would break the first seal. It's not your fault."

"And you didn't know that killing Lilith would break the last seal, Sam. We both made some mistakes but, man, the deck was so stacked against us." Dean's voice was gruff with emotion. "The demons and even some of the angels wanted the last seal broken. They made it easier for you, opened some doors but, Sam, you're the one that decided to go through them."

"I really didn't mean for it to turn out like this Dean. I mean, I did mean to kill Lilith. I thought I had to, that I was the only one who could. I was right about that but I was wrong about everything else. I knew I was driving you away but I thought that after it was all over …I don't know. I'm truly sorry that you were the price I was willing to pay to get what I wanted. I regret that even more than breaking the seal. I know you've no reason to believe anything I say but please believe that."

"Sure I believe that little brother," Dean retorted somewhat bitterly, his emotions flying all over the place. Shame, guilt, anger, and deep abiding sadness warred with each other, any one likely to predominate at any given moment. "That's exactly what I was thinking when you had your hands around my throat and I couldn't breathe. I was thinking, Sam sure is gonna regret this. But, hey, I'm not gonna whine like some teenage girl because I got my feelings hurt that my brother left me for a demon. I think we have bigger things to worry about then me getting my feelings hurt."

Sam jerked back as if hit in the gut. Dean immediately felt contrite.

"I should never as said that, Sam. I'm sorry. I'm still pretty pissed at you but that was out of line."

"No, you have every right to be mad at me, Dean. I was so mad, about you not being willing to trust me…about the whole situation, that I wasn't thinking. What I did, all those things I said, I was just angry. I didn't mean it, not any of it. And I know it's too little, too late, but the only thing I can do is say I am truly, truly sorry."

Dean didn't doubt the sincerity of Sam's apology. He was certain that his brother truly felt sorry for what he had said and done—now; now that his so-called good intentions had literally blown up in his face. He couldn't keep hiding from the truth about what he really meant to his brother.

"You meant every word of it Sam. You always do, every single time, but it doesn't matter," Dean said nonchalantly. It really didn't matter to Dean. He had convinced himself long ago that what really matter was what he felt about his brother, not what his brother thought about him.

Sam stepped forward and grabbed Dean by the shoulder to turn him around and face him. Something flashed in Dean's eyes when they met his brother's and Sam quickly let go and stepped back. "Don't say that, just don't even think that, okay. When I said those things…everything I said was a lie. I don't think you're weak or pathetic. And no one has ever known me better than you do; sometimes I think you know me better than I know myself. So of course it matters that you believe that is what I really think. It matters to me because you matter." Sam desperately searched his brother's face but didn't find whatever he was looking for. "Of course you don't believe me, how could you after all the times I've lied. Just please, give me a chance to make it up to you. Please, please tell me that you forgive me."

"You're my brother, Sam. We both have said and done some things we wish we hadn't."

"That's not an answer, Dean. I know saying I'm sorry isn't much but it's all I got," Sam pleaded desperately for absolution.

Dean dropped his eyes again. He took a minute to compose himself before answering. "I should never have given up on you, Sam," he whispered hoarsely. "You're my family and nothing, nothing will ever change that but a lot has happened. You're asking me to forgive and forget. I'm telling you it's gonna take some time before we're okay again."

Sam dropped his head in sad acceptance. It was less than he wanted but more than he deserved.

"Sam," Dean said quietly, putting his hand on his brother's shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze, "we will...eventually...be okay."

Suddenly there was a third man on the porch as Castiel appeared in a bright flash accompanied by the rustle of unseen feathers. He briefly caught Sam's eye, the corner's of his mouth turning slightly down as if he had judged the man and found him wanting or saw him as some particularly complex puzzle. He then slid his intense gaze to Dean and addressed him.

"It is beginning. We have work to do."

End