A/N: This is just a quick AU-ish look at how far Dean will go to protect Sam. The resurrection spell is a mix of my imagination and spells I found online.

Born Again

Paper bowls on a plastic motel table. Dean pours the cereal, sits, rustles up the newspaper so he can scan the headlines. Cold morning light peers through an opening in the thin curtains, the dingy empty lot of the motel barely visible. Dean pours milk into his bowl and spoons some cereal into his mouth while he reads. The other bowl sits across from him at a currently unoccupied setting.

A rustle of bedsheets. A sleepy groan. Sam, rubbing his head, mussing his already untidy hair, hauls himself out of bed. He shuffles to the table, looks down dismally at the cereal bowl, then plonks ungracefully into the waiting chair. Dean glances up and smiles. His tense eyes soften.

"Hey, Sammy."

Sam's lips quirk into a minute grin. He looks pale and weary, though Dean knows he slept. Sam reaches for the small milk carton, picks it up, but his large hand trembles as he carries it to his bowl. Dean's smile slips.

"Here, let me." He reaches over and pours the milk for Sam.

They are children again, alone and waiting for their father. Always waiting. Dean makes dinner, and they eat, and Sammy asks questions to which Dean has no answers.

Sam shakily lifts his own spoon, takes a few bites of his breakfast before he sets the spoon on the table. Dean, pretending to read the paper, watches the silvery implement out of the corner of his eye. Sam doesn't reach for it again, just sits silently. He doesn't speak much these days. Even his footsteps are soft as clouds. Quiet as the dead.

What's dead should stay dead, Dean had said. And he meant it, except when he didn't. Except when it came to Sammy.

Deans continues scanning the paper. They are safe, as far as he can tell. He stands, leans over to the window to do a quick scan of the lot. He's sure they weren't followed, but he just needs to check again. He just needs to keep Sammy safe.

He's keeping Sam safe. That's what he tells himself over and over. He's keeping Sam alive, making deals with devils and performing dark spells to do it, but Sam's breathing and walking and sometimes even eating, even though his heart stopped and his breath stopped and he stopped. Dean brought him back, and then he did it again, but he thinks that somewhere along the way he made a mistake because Sam's alive but he's not living.

(Use the blood to paint a pentagram onto the hallowed ground. Place the body of the person you wish to resurrect in the center of the pentagram. Light the ash candles. Cut along the life line of your right hand and place your hand over the dead person's heart.)

Dean will fix it. Somehow he'll make his Sammy whole again, take back the pieces of him left in the afterlife. In the meantime, he's keeping them safe, running from the demons, laying low. Running usually isn't his style, but he knows that now is not the time to lunge out with guns blazing. God knows that he wants to. He longs to rip apart all those bastards that hurt (Sam) his family; he dreams about their blood on his hands.

Sometimes he wonders if he's the monster, not Sammy. No, definitely not Sammy with his too-trusting eyes and his fragile born-again body and his not-quite-there-anymore mind. But Dean will fix it. Dean will fix everything in the end.

He sweeps the newspaper, his empty bowl, and Sam's partially full bowl into the trash bin. Sam slowly gets dressed while Dean packs, then Dean leads his brother to their rust-bucket Impala (he has no time for car maintenance, not anymore) and tosses their meager luggage in the backseat. Sam carefully buckles as Dean slides into the passenger seat, revs the engine, blasts the music, and they're gone.

Flying down the highway at ninety miles per hour, the windows down, Sam's long hair blowing wildly in the rushing wind. His hand is out the window, riding the air waves. Dean doesn't tell him to close the window even though the swirling air is frigid, because Sam is smiling. Dean finds himself smiling too, smiling genuinely, and he turns up the music more and sings along, and he's confident that everything will be alright in the end.

He just needs to keep Sammy safe.