For the record, I hated Season 8. So if that's something that gets your hackles up, turn back now!

Starting with the retconning : 1) Crowley was in Mesopatamia? Then how did he make a Crossroads deal for 3 more inches below the belt 200 years ago in Scotland? Or we supposed to believe everything that happened in Weekend at Bobby's was all just a con game? 2) There's a back door to Hell from Purgatory. Reapers know about it. Low level crossorads demons know about it. Even Naomi knew about it… Crowley must feel pretty stupid since he spent the entire 6th season looking for a way in and it was right there under his nose. Didn't even need an eclipse or anything. Plus, does it matter that the gates of Hell are closed if there's a back door? 3) John's dad disappeared when he was 8? Then why in "In the Beginning", did the guy in the diner tell John to say hi to his old man? That John was in his early 20's, not 8. I loved the Men of Letters introduction, but couldn't they have figured out how to do it without ignoring the show's established mythology? 4) They went on a farting donkey ride in the Grand Canyon when Sam was 4? Then why did Dean say, "All this driving back and forth across the country and I've never seen the Grand Canyon." in Croatoan? Just forgot? 5) Cas has been mind-wiped for centuries? So how did he remember anything he's done before? How did he remember Anna? There's many more, but you get the picture.

So many gaping logic holes, with no answers. 1) Why did Sam just drop out and not even try to figure out what happened to Dean? Why did he turn off his phones so nobody (Kevin) could find him? If there was nobody left for him to turn to, if he was so alone, who the hell was left to call him? Garth? 2) Why did he hate Benny with such a passion? He helped Dean escape Purgatory. Dean vouched for him, but Sam never once even tried to listen. Just hated him because he was a monster? Isn't Sam the one who said "We don't kill someone unless they've done something to be killed for?" 3) Why did he get so pissy with Metatron when they discovered he'd dropped out and hadn't tried to protect Kevin, the prophet, when Sam had done the exact same thing by turning off his phones and leaving Kevin in Crowley's clutches? 4) Why did Charlie make a point of blaming Dean for Sam 'losing a chance at happiness' when all he did was send a text. Sam chose not to go back to Amelia, all by himself. How was that Dean's fault? And did anyone actual buy the Amelia love story to begin with?

There were so many other problems that took me right out of the story and frankly, made me dislike Sam. The biggest one was how Jeremy Carver kept insisting the trials were a joint effort, that the boys were doing them 'together' despite having Sam actually say "I have to do this solo!" Seriously? I won't even go into the many, many Sam cheerleader speeches given by everyone from Dean to Bobby to Charlie. It was like a sledgehammer. If it was that hard of a sell, maybe they shouldn't have been trying to sell it? And Carver kept mentioning Dean and Sam being 'united in their quest for revenge." Revenge against who? Revenge for what? They've been battling back and forth with Crowley for years. I can't remember him doing anything they wouldn't have expected from him that was enough for them to want revenge. He didn't do anything that could even remotely be considered fodder for 'revenge' until episode 22! If he had started killing off their saves much earlier, OK. But not for just one episode. Sometimes I wonder if Carver's keeping his shows straight because I don't think I'm watching the same show he thinks he's producing.

Anyway – the one episode I absolutely despised was Taxi Driver. It should've been a triumph in the course of the season, but it was a huge disappointment to me. Sidelining Dean to cook eggs and act as nothing more than a buffer for everyone else was maddening. It was so contrived that I couldn't even believe what I was watching. In what universe would Dean Winchester let his brother go to Hell – alone? Let alone just sit back and scramble eggs while the soul at stake was Bobby's? Of course, they had to do that so Dean could call Benny and sacrifice him to save Sam. Reapers can just pop in and out of Purgatory at will (why didn't the angels know that? After all, many angels lost their lives saving Cas!) and Hell was like a haunted house at Six Flags. Walk around a corner and there was Bobby! Not to mention the fact that Naomi knew about the backdoor to Hell, then in almost the next sentence admitted a lot of angels died to save Cas. Why didn't she just call her buddy Ajay the Reaper? It was all just so contrived and stupid and they killed Benny, one of the few good things about this season, for absolutely no reason. Grrr. It still annoys the crap out of me. So, I challenged myself to re-write Taxi Driver, USING established mythology instead of crapping all over it, with both boys involved as they should have been, and without killing anyone!

If you loved the episode, probably best you don't read this. But to me, this is the way it should have been done. I thank my wonderful beta, Sharlot, who kept me on target and whose magnificent suggestions made this a better story. She says it works, so I'll post it and see if anyone agrees. Some scenes and dialogue were taken directly from the ep, so don't sue me Warner Brothers. I'm just playing in your sandbox. I'll leave the toys where I found them, but you may want to be a little more careful who you let handle them.

Taxi Driver – Redux

Act I

"Keeeevin. Keeeevin."

Kevin Tran's eyes opened, his heart jumping at the sound of the voice. At first his muddy, sleep-addled brain assumed it was Garth, calling to tell him he'd returned from… wherever it was the guy went. Kevin didn't really pay much attention.

"I know what you're up to."

That was not Garth.

The young man rose from the cot, his breath coming in gasps as he recognized the voice echoing in the confines of the small boat he'd been living on in almost complete isolation for the last few months.

"Working with them, those Winchesters? Dead end, Kevin."

No. It couldn't be. How did he find me?

Kevin ran across the small room, his heart in his throat. He'd thought he was safe. Sam and Dean had assured him that there was no way for Crowley to find him. Garth told him the sigils painted all over the boat were enough to keep him safe. He was supposed to be hidden here. That's the only reason he'd agreed to stay on this godforsaken tin can, the only reason he'd agreed to send his mom away.

He stepped to the doorway between the two tiny rooms of the boat, his eyes searching the moonlit darkness, the voice continuing to reverberate, taunting him.

"Not here."

He stepped out into the grayness of the room, his eyes darting from shadow to shadow, searching for any sign of the King of Hell.

"Not here, either."

After Crowley had tortured him, cut off his finger in an attempt to get him to give him the information from the tablet, Kevin had dedicated himself to figuring out the way to close the gates of Hell. He'd convinced himself it was the only way he would ever truly be safe. The Winchesters had done what they could to keep him alive, but they couldn't watch him 24/7. Not even Garth was around enough to be considered a bodyguard. It was just him. Alone. Or so he thought….

"Give up?" Crowley's voice continued to taunt him as he searched. "I'm in your head." Kevin peeked under a tarp thrown across the table. "As well as everywhere else."

In his head? But it sounded so real. So close…

The reflection from a mirror caught his attention and he moved to the small cabinet across the room.

"Last time you irked me, you lost a finger. Imagine what will happen this time."

The reflection in the mirror held up an arm, a bloody stump all that remained where his hand used to be.

Kevin screamed, his eyes riveted to the blood pouring from the truncated limb. His knee suddenly gave out and he tilted precariously, the pain a sudden flash as his other leg joined the first and he sank into a pool of dark blood. As his body slowly broke apart, piece by piece, he could only scream as the voice began to laugh.

SNSNSNSNSNSNSNS

"Kevin! Open up!" Dean pounded on the metal hatch to Garth's boat, listening for any sign of the teenaged prophet. "Kevin!"

There was a creak of metal on metal and the door slowly opened, revealing a very freaked out Kevin Tran, armed with a large cast iron frying pan.

"Whoa, whoa!" Dean held up a hand in a universal gesture of surrender as he pushed past the young man followed closely by his brother. "What's going on? What's with the S.O.S?"

"It's him."

"It's who?" Sam inquired as both hunters entered the interior of the boat and quickly scanned the area for any kind of threat.

"Crowley," Kevin responded.

Both hunters turned and stared at the prophet in surprise.

"What about him?"

Kevin slowly approached, one hand holding the frying pan aloft, the other pointing toward himself. Dean couldn't help but notice the kid looked like crap.

"He's in my head."

"He's in your head?" Sam repeated.

"Do you know what that means?" Kevin's voice rose, his agitation increasing dramatically.

"Yeah, it means we need to up your anxiety meds," Dean surmised. "Kevin you're dreaming. Look, if Crowley knew where you were, he'd do a hell of a lot more than mess with your head." Dean kept his voice level, hoping a bit of reassurance would be enough to stop the teenager's imagination from jumping the track. The boat was warded, there was no way Crowley could figure out where the prophet was hiding.

He and Sam had spoken about moving Kevin to the bunker, but didn't want to chance it as long as he was safe. Maybe it was time to give the move a little more thought. The kid was obviously freaked out. He had dark circles under his eyes, his clothes looked like he'd been wearing them for a week and he'd even managed to grow a little bit of scruff on his chin – quite a feat for an Asian teenager under the gun.

"Where's Garth?" Sam suddenly asked, finally realizing the awkward hunter was nowhere to be seen.

"On a case," Kevin shook his head. "Or at the dentist, I don't know. I haven't heard from him."

"OK," Dean tried to steer the kid back to business, hoping to stop the imminent freak out barreling toward them. "Well, what did you want to tell us you couldn't say over the phone?" He dropped his eyes, not able to take the kid seriously while he was standing there with something more adept at battling eggs than demons. "And would you put the frying pan down, please."

Kevin acquiesced, placing the pan back onto the small cook stove to his left. He gave the brothers a haunted look. "I translated the second trial from the tablet."

Dean and Sam exchanged a look of surprise before turning to watch Kevin walk back over to his desk.

"You crazy prophet, you. Nice work!" Dean enthused, receiving an angry glare in return.

"And if Crowley's in my head, he knows!"

Dean took a breath. So much for heading the crazy train off at the pass.

"He's definitely not in your head," he offered at the same time that Sam gave his assurances.

"He's not in your head, Kevin. It's okay. Just… we know you're stressed, just stay with us." Kevin didn't look like he believed them, but his agitation fell a level or two, so Sam continued. "What's the second trial?"

Kevin answered the question between quick gasps. "An innocent soul has to be rescued from Hell and delivered unto Heaven."

"What?"

"Unto," Kevin responded, completely misinterpreting Dean's surprise for confusion. "That's… that's how God talks."

"Rescue a soul from Hell?" Sam asked, his voice catching at the thought of the place both he and his brother still had nightmares about. "Like… like actually go to Hell? How do you get a soul 'unto Heaven'? How do you even get a soul out of Hell?"

"What else could do it?"

What? Pull your soul out of the hot box? Nothing I can find."

Dean could almost hear Bobby's voice responding to almost the same question years ago.

"Angels?" he responded with a shrug.

"Great," Sam said with more than a hint of sarcasm. "Because the one angel who might actually help us has gone off the deep end… again."

"True." Dean couldn't argue with his brother's assessment, but angels weren't the only option. He gave Sam a knowing grin. "But I've got another idea."

SNSNSNSNSNSNSN

"I thought that thing burned with everything else at Bobby's." Sam remarked as Dean dug into an old box in the trunk of the Impala.

"Actually, never got around to giving it to him," Dean shrugged as he pulled the small, leather bound book from under a pile of rags. "Thought it might come in handy someday."

Sam frowned. "Dean, that was years ago."

The older man shrugged. "Yeah, so?"

"We've never even looked at it since we took it from Roy LaGrange's wife."

Dean pursed his lips, avoiding his brother's gaze. "Maybe."

"Maybe?" Sam scoffed. "Dean. Bobby may have been able to use the information in that book for some hunt – either for us or someone else."

Dean simply shrugged, thumbing through the pages of the small, leather bound book. The book was filled with spells of dark magic, spells that the hunter never wanted to use, but held some insight into certain problems that had come up over the years. "Bobby had plenty of research books, Sam. It's not like there was a bright shiny answer in this that he couldn't find somewhere else."

Sam shook his head. "And it was of so much more use buried in the trunk of your car?"

"It came in handy."

"When?"

Dean shifted on his feet, his eyes squinting at the small print in front of him. "What's it matter?"

Sam tilted his head at his brother's evasive behavior. "Humor me."

Dean shot a quick look at his brother. "Fine. An angel and a demon walk into a bar –"

"Dean," Sam huffed, interrupting the attempt at a dodge.

Dean gave his brother a look of annoyance. "My God, Sam. You are like a dog with a bone." He let the book fall toward his legs, one finger marking the page he had been searching. "I pulled it out after you jumped into the pit, okay? I figured if it had a way to bind a Reaper, it may have a way into Hell. You happy now?"

Sam's brows rose in surprise. "Um…" He wasn't sure what to say. He'd known that Dean hadn't sat idly by after he'd jumped into Lucifer's cage. Dean had admitted that right off the bat. Despite Sam's appeal that he find Lisa and try to live a normal life, Dean had spent plenty of time and energy trying to find a way to get him out. Of course, unknown to Dean, Sam had already been pulled out by Castiel – well most of him anyway – but Dean hadn't ever really given up on him.

It made Sam ashamed of the fact that he'd given up on Dean so easily.

When Dean had disappeared after skewering Dick Roman, Sam had been in shock. He had been completely alone for the first time, and his mind had gone blank. After retrieving the Impala and getting back on the road, he had convinced himself his brother was dead and gone. He hadn't looked, he hadn't questioned the fact that there was no body, no remains. Dean had just gone 'poof' and Sam had washed his hands of it all.

What kind of a brother did that make him?

Sure, they had always told each other to move on. To live a life. To try and keep going. But like Dean said when Sam had unexpectedly found him at Rufus' cabin, they'd always ignored that deal because of their deep and abiding love for each other. Dean had said it with more than a note of sarcasm, but that didn't make it any less true. Sam had let his brother down. He'd let Kevin down, he'd let everyone who'd ever depended on him down. And he wasn't sure if it was something he could ever be redeemed for.

That was why it was so important for him to succeed in these trials. He needed to make it up to Dean. He needed to prove that he could be counted on when the going got rough. He knew it was going to be hard. He knew there might not be a light at the end of the tunnel like he'd tried to convince his brother. But he had to try. He owed Dean that much.

Dean, sensing his brother's train of thought had slipped off the rails, tried to refocus on the matter at hand. "I never actually tried it, but I had an idea of how to get into Hell. I just couldn't figure out how to get you back out again. If we can figure out how to bind a Reaper, I'm guessing she could give us a little advice."

"She?" Sam grinned at his brother's slip.

Dean simply shrugged. "It's not like we've been introduced to a gaggle of Reapers."

Sam couldn't help but chuckle. "A group of Reapers is called a gaggle?"

"Gaggle, herd, cluster…" Dean rambled off. "Whatever you want to call it. My point is, I've only met one Reaper, besides the Big Cahuna, who seemed to want to have anything to do with us, so…"

Sam chuckled at his brother's obvious discomfort. "Are we sure this is a good idea? I mean it didn't work out to well for Sue Ann Granger."

"Without taking his eyes from the book, Dean tilted his head for a moment. "She was forcing the reaper to kill. We're just gonna ask her a couple questions. Not the same scenario." He suddenly straightened as his eyes focused on a page in the book. "Here we go."

Sam leaned forward and craned his neck, reading the passage over his brother's shoulder. "Looks do-able," he admitted. "But will she help us?"

Dean returned his brother's gaze and smiled. "Only one way to find out."

SNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSN

The ritual wasn't as involved as some of the others they'd performed. A few herbs, a Celtic cross they found at an antique store and a couple phrases in Latin and they found themselves face to face with the pretty brunette reaper Dean had met what seemed like a lifetime ago.

She didn't look pleased.

"You really can't take a hint, can you, Dean?"

Dean smiled "Good to see you, too, Tessa."

The reaper looked down, her expression never changing as she noted the chalk outlined ring of symbols surrounding her.

"You were warned that interfering with the natural order again would not bode well for you."

"That's why we called you and not your boss."

Tessa took a deep breath and briefly closed her eyes. Reopening them, she glanced toward Sam before redirecting her gaze to Dean. "I think he likes you," she gave him a slight smile. "At least he's intrigued enough to allow you to get to the point."

Sam gave him an encouraging look, so Dean continued. "We need a favor."

Tessa's brows rose. "I didn't think I was called here for a tea party."

Sam's snicker was silenced by the sharp looks from his brother and their guest. "No. I guess not." Dean took a deep breath and stepped to the edge of the circle. "We're kind of in over our heads…"

Tessa nodded. "The trials." She glanced again at Sam, who shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. "I know."

"Then you know what we need to do is a little beyond our pay-grade without some help."

She returned her attention to Dean, nodding slightly. "And what would you ask of me?"

Encouraged, Dean continued. "We need a way into Hell."

"Simple," she responded. "Die."

Dean was aware of his brother's gasp, but he kept his attention focused on the reaper. "We were hoping for something not so… permanent."

Tessa allowed a corner of her mouth to shift into a grin. "Death does not seem to be a permanent condition for either of you so far."

Dean dipped his head in acknowledgement. "True, but this is the second step in a three part program. Kinda need to be alive to finish the show."

Tessa tilted her own head in acknowledgement.

"You do realize that if you succeed, you make my job that much harder."

Dean's brow furrowed. "Harder?"

Tessa rolled her eyes slightly. "Closing the gates of Hell makes it more difficult for me to transport souls that belong there. It won't be impossible, but definitely more difficult. Why should I help you make my job more complex?"

"Because you like us?" Dean ventured.

Tessa shook her head. "Still delusional as ever."

Sam stepped forward, standing side by side with his brother. "Look, I know we're not exactly on your Christmas card list, but wouldn't the world be a better place without Crowley and his minions wreaking havoc at will? That's gotta mean something, even to you."

Tessa looked at him with pity. "Your world's problems don't mean anything to my kind, Sam. I'm simply the means to an end. How that end comes about is not my concern." She turned back to Dean. "But you are right about one thing."

Dean's brows rose in question and Tessa smiled.

"I do like you." Dean's inquisitive expression was replaced by one of surprise. "You've… what's the term you use? Grown on me."

"So you'll help us?" Sam quickly asked, pressing their advantage.

"No," she responded. "Not directly. But I will send you someone who can."

Dean held up a hand. "That's all we ask."

"I assume you have a plan?" She asked, looking from one brother to the other.

Sam looked to his brother, it was Dean's plan, he figured Dean should be the one to present it.

"There's a Devil's Gate in Wyoming," Dean offered.

Tessa nodded. "I know of it. Built by a human."

"Colt," Dean supplied. "It's been opened before, but we don't have the key anymore."

"And you would like us to open the gate?"

Dean nodded. "Can you?"

"Yes," she answered matter-of-factly. "You would walk into Hell to accomplish this task?"

Dean looked to Sam who nodded before turning back to the reaper and giving her a one-shouldered shrug. "That's the job, sweetheart."

Tessa studied them both for a moment before slightly dipping her head in acknowledgement. "Very well. Be there by this time tomorrow." She looked down at the circle below her. "If you wouldn't mind?"

Both brothers stepped back, eyeing the chalk trap holding the Tessa in their realm. Dean shifted a foot to wipe out a portion of the drawing binding her.

As soon as the circle was broken, she disappeared.

"You think she'll show?" Sam asked after a few moments. The air in the room was still charged with an unnatural electricity that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Dean looked around and slowly closed the book he'd been holding. "I hope so."

TBC