Title: AStolen Life

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.

Summary: Post "Faith"Sam tries to helpDean come to terms with his guilt over Layla.

A/N: This hasn't been beta'd so forgive the multitude of screwups. I hadn't posted and I'm going into withdrawal. New multi chapter starting soon!

Dean pushed the door closed after Layla left, leaning back against it with his eyes closed, throat jumping. He had meant what he'd said. Even if it was only a few words thrown into the darkness before he tried to sleep, it would be a prayer for her. Hoping someone was listening, just that once, wishing her that miracle.

And cursing the miracle that had been thrust upon him at a cost he wouldn't have been willing to pay if he had known.

God, this was so wrong! How could he still breath, laugh, feel his heart still beating, bear the joy in Sam's eyes, knowing it came at the expense of two people's lives. One an innocent victim and the other a young girl who had watched Dean snatch her chance at life from her hands. And could still smile at him…and be happy for him….

He groaned aloud and ground his fists into his eyes, sliding down the door until he was sitting on the floor. He couldn't deal with this. Sam kept harping that Dean was not to blame. How could either one of them have known? It was a terrible series of events that had finally come to an end. They had saved people that might have otherwise died at Mrs. LaGrange's hands. Dean understood that, but he, Dean, was personally responsible for two of those lives. He didn't give a damn about the circumstances that led up to it.

Dean had killed on many occasions, without thought or remorse, only triumphant pleasure, even in the face of injury, at the evil he was destroying before it could, in turn, destroy. But he had never, in all those years, personally taken a human life, even in self defense. Knowing he lived because someone else had died, knowing a second person would die because that stolen gift of life had been bestowed on him instead of the one who deserved it was turning him inside out.

To save Sam, he would have willingly embraced death, thrown himself in its way, to keep it from his brother. Done anything in his power to keep Sam from doing the same thing for Dean. But he would never, for any reason, have wished his own death on someone else to save his own life.

Marshall Hall had not deserved to die in Dean's place. Dean did not deserve to have that miracle of healing instead of Layla Roarke. If Marshall Hall was destined to die, no matter what, then Layla should have been the one to live, not Dean. He believed that with every fiber and cursed Sam for ever dragging him here. If they had been a day later, even an hour, it would have been too late. If Dean had never entered that tent, never agreed to go to the stage……let that man touch him.

He could still feel the cold shock as LaGrange's hand had touched his shoulder, cupped his face. The humming vibration that Dean had heard more than felt. The sensation that had engulfed him, made him feel as though part of him was slipping away. He had gone with it, falling boneless to the stage floor, dimly hearing Sam call his name as blackness swept over him. The sudden shock as he had gasped for air and floundered to consciousness, all the pain he had know for the last week gone. And he had seen the reaper standing over LaGrange's shoulder and had known something was horribly wrong.

Even Sam's happiness when the doctor had said Dean was not only well, but never appeared to have been ill could not push aside Dean's discomfort. When the reaper had laid it's hands on Dean that last time and Layla's pain had become his, his stolen life draining away to save hers, he had been willing to let it go. Even at the expense of Sam's pain. Sam wouldn't have understood, still couldn't. Sam had stopped Mrs. LaGrange before the mistake could be made right and Layla would now die while Dean lived. Just as Marshall Hall had died.

How long he sat on the floor with his head in his arms, thoughts spinning out of control,

he didn't know. He was jerked to awareness as someone grabbed the doorknob and tried to open the door.

"Dean? Open the door, man! " Sam's voice called through the wood. "It's not locked. Is something blocking it?"

When Dean did not reply, Sam called again. "Dean! Are you in there?" Dean felt Sam heave against the door, shoving him forward slightly. "Are you all right?" Sam's voice took on an edge.

"Hang on a minute!" Dean snarled, pushing himself up and away.

The door flew open and Sam stumbled in. "What the hell?" Sam snapped, looking around. "What was the deal with the door?" He had two small bags in one hand and a drink tray with two sodas in the other.

"I was sitting in front of it, okay?" Dean growled, settling back down on his bed.

"Why?" Sam frowned at him. Dean had gone back to staring at the floor and did not reply.

Sam's face was pinched as he crossed to the table and set the food and drinks down. "Everything go okay with, Layla?" he asked casually. He had hoped a conversation with the girl, who held no ill will for Dean or Sam, would help Dean get past his monumental guilt trip. Apparently not, though, from the look of things.

'Yeah, I guess." Dean's voice was listless as he spoke to his dangling hands, twisted together, between his knees. "She says good bye." Shit, great choice of words, Dean. He lifted his hands and rubbed roughly at his face.

Sam eyed Dean, taking in the body language. He opened one of the bags and took out the prerequisite cheeseburger and fries. "I brought you some food."

Dean shook his head and sighed. "I'm not hungry, Sam." He slid back on the bed and lay down, putting an arm over his eyes.

Sam straightened, still facing the table and sighed himself, but with a lot more feeling. "Dean, you haven't eaten since Tuesday morning, it's now Wednesday evening, you need to eat. "

"Leave me alone, Sammy. " Dean groaned. "Can't you just…. ever…leave me alone?" Dean rolled on his side, away from Sam and wrapped his arms around himself.

Pissed now, Sam stomped over to Dean's bed and kicked it. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he demanded as Dean jerked back over to give Sam a disbelieving look.

"What's you're problem, dude!" Dean exclaimed.

"What's my problem?" Sam yelled, feeling the end of his rope go sliding through his hands. "What the fuck is your problem?" He kicked the bed again, suddenly furious. The stress of the last week hit him all at once and he realized he had had all he could stand. "All you've done for the past two days is mope around this shitty room and feel sorry for yourself! You won't eat, you don't sleep. All you do is feel bad because someone else died instead of you!" Sam was working himself into a frenzy. "How many times do you need to hear it wasn't your fault before you believe it? God dammit, Dean, no one blames you!"

"I blame me, Sam!" Dean yelled back. Off the bed and in Sam's face before Sam could back up. "I fucking blame me! I should have known better!" His forefinger speared Sam's chest. Dean's green eyes glittered with tears he would die before he would allow to fall.

"Better than what?" Sam cried, exasperated by Dean's unfathomable attitude. He grabbed Dean's arms and jerked him. "What, for God's sake? Help me understand this!"

"None of this would have happened if you'd just--" Dean cut himself off and grabbed his head, digging his fingers in his hair. He turned away.

Sam grabbed his arm and pulled him back. "Just what?" His voice was low, threatening. He jerked Dean's arm again. "Just what?" he repeated louder. "Just sat and watched you die? Is that what you wanted? Really, to just lay there and die? For me to do nothing? Would that have made it that much easier for you?" Sam's grip on Dean's armed tightened painfully.

Dean yanked his arm free. "Sam, one innocent person is already dead because of me, another one's gonna die! Because of what we—I did! How am I supposed to live with that?" The agony in Dean's voice cut through Sam like a knife. Dean hooked a hand around his neck and paced up and down in front of Sam. Dean's moral torment had him by the throat and it hurt Sam to watch.

Sam swallowed nervously, spoke again, his voice softer, choosing his words with care. A strung out Dean was a dangerous Dean.

"Dean, you didn't do anything. You didn't kill anyone. When we got here, you had the same chance as everyone else. Marshall Hall is dead because of Mrs. LaGrange, because of the sick deal she made. Not because of you. Layla was dying before we met her. You didn't do this to her, Dean." Sam spoke with conviction, trying to get Dean to not just hear but accept it.

Dean sank down on the bed, he was getting lightheaded, breathing to fast. "It should have been her, Sam. " His voice quiet. "Not me. You don't get it." Dean spoke to the floor, head in his hands. "I stole her shot at living."

Sam stared at him, brow furrowed, not sure he understood what Dean was saying. "What?"

"If LaGrange hadn't chosen me, Layla wouldn't be dying now. If I hadn't been there…" Dean's eyes spilled over with guilt. "I tried not to….I didn't want to go….I couldn't stand the look on your face when I tried to get him to pick someone else." Dean's hands rose and fell in a helpless gesture. "How could I not go, Sam? I couldn't do that to you." Dean's voice was shaking, he worked his hands together, as if trying to wash them.

Sam, stunned, had never seen Dean in a mood like this. Where was this coming from?

"And you think it would have been better to just let me watch you die, without trying to help you?" Sam pushed the long hair out of his eyes and squatted down in front of Dean. "Dean, look at me…please." When Dean wouldn't Sam sighed and bit his lip, "Dean…" he began slowly. "I'm sorry things turned out the way they did for Marshall and for Layla, but I'm not sorry for what I did." Dean's eyes shifted to Sam's face. Sam reached out toward Dean's knee but Dean jerked it away. "Dean, you didn't deserve to die either."

The sudden flicker in Dean's eyes as Sam said it gave him away. Sam drew his breath in and his knees hit the ground.

"My God, Dean," Sam put a hand over his mouth. "Is that it?" Dean looked up steadily from under his lashes. "Christ, Dean, do really believe that you deserve to die?" Sam got to his feet, unable to think of what to say to this. He took a quick turn around the room, fingering his jaw. Dean's went back to staring at the floor.

Sam thought frantically, he knew Dean had major league emotional problems, self esteem issues, abandonment, you named it and Dean probably had it, despite his aura of blustery self confidence. But this….that Dean could attach so little value to himself.

Returning to the bed, Sam knelt down on the floor in front of Dean. "Dean, LaGrange chose you for a reason. He said so. He said you had a job to do and you weren't finished yet. If it was supposed to be Layla, he would have chosen her." This time when Sam reached out Dean flinched but allowed the touch of Sam's hands. "And even if he hadn't picked you, you don't know it would have been her instead. You didn't steal anything." He gripped both of Dean's knees, trying to convey his certainty to Dean through his hands.

"Listen to me," Sam lowered his head to try to see Dean's eyes. "I know this is gonna sound weird but, as bad as all this was, maybe—" Sam took a deep breath and swiped at his own eyes. "Maybe this is what was meant to happen--"

Dean made a disgusted sound and pushed Sam away, standing up and taking a few short steps.

"Aw, come on, Sam!" Dean's laugh was bitter. "You really think this is what 'God," Dean made quotation marks with his fingers, "had in mind all along?" He waved a hand through the air. "I can hear it now! Well, shit! Looks like Dean Winchester finally got his ass fried saving two kids from a rawhead, what a fucking waste! I guess I'll send him to that faith healer, so that Reverend Lagrange can save Dean by killing that son of a bitch Marshall Hall, who's been pissing me off lately! "

Sam looked down as Dean continued.

"Oh, and while I'm at it-" Dean snapped his fingers. "I'm gonna fix that Mrs. Roarke too, cause I am so sick and tired of her whining to me about her dying daughter! Yeah, that Dean Winchester is a liar, a thief and a killer but, hell, let's save him instead!" Dean groaned suddenly and put his hand to his forehead, staggering back into the table.

Sam jumped up and grabbed him to stop the fall. "Dean, please! Sit down." Sam pulled him to a chair. Dean collapsed into it, head swimming. "I told you. You need to eat!"

Dean, breathing heavily, head on his arms, made a wordless noise.

Sam bit his lip and pulled on his long brown hair. "Dean, I don't know where you're getting this shit," he began, angry, tired and frustrated, "I don't know how to make you see…I'm sorry I asked Layla to come here. I thought if you talked to her it would help, not leave you feeling like you don't deserve to live!"

Sam grabbed his hair again and walked in a tight circle in front of Dean.

"Okay!" He finally barked, coming to a halt.. "You want to know who Dean Winchester is?" He counted off on his fingers as he spoke. "You are a liar and a thief and a killer if it makes you happy to think of yourself that way. You're also irritating and obnoxious, you drink too much, you whore too much, you're rude. you're a total wack job, you are the scariest son of a bitch I ever met and sometimes you can be so stupid it makes me want to scream—" Dean was watching him now, the look on his face actually laughable as Sam recounted Dean's shortcomings.

Sam dropped his hands and went down on his knees again, taking another deep breath. "But you are also the best man I've ever known, I trust you with my life, hell, I owe you my life, there is no one I would rather have at my back, in front of me or at my side. You've spent your whole life looking out for me and Dad, helping other people who needed it because they couldn't help themselves. I know for a fact that you would crawl blind, through hell, if that's what it was gonna take to get the job you needed to do done. And you wouldn't once stop and ask yourself if the person you were trying to save deserved to live. You know that's not your decision to make. Not even when it's your own life you're talking about!" Sam hit the table with a fist, pausing to get his voice under control.

"Like it or not, and I believe this, I need you to believe this," Sam's voice took on an edge. "if you weren't supposed to live, nothing on earth was gonna save you. I'd still be looking for some way to help you and you'd be out on painkillers waiting to die!" Sam banged his fists lightly on Dean's knees "Want it or not, regardless of how you got it, you've been given a gift, Dean,"

Sam took a deep breath and pressed his fingers to his eyes. "Right now, I think you need to spend less time asking why you and more time figuring out how to keep from wasting

that gift and the lives of the people who gave it to you. If they'd had a choice things would probably be different, but you can't change what's happened with them."

Sam caught Dean's face between his hands and forced Dean to look at him. "Maybe they don't deserve to die, but dammit, Dean, neither do you!" Sam dropped one hand and gently cupped Dean's face with the other. "Don't let them have died for nothing." Sam said softly, voice breaking. He released Dean and dropped his head into his hands, absolutely spent.

Finally Dean murmured softy into he growing silence. "It did help."

Sam glanced up at him. "What helped?"

Dean met his eyes briefly. "Layla. We…talked. I know she doesn't blame me, but—" His eyes flicked away again. He took a shaky breath and rubbed his eyes. He understood what Sam was saying, knew it was true. He didn't want for it to have all been for nothing. He wanted to know his life had been spared for a reason, just not at the expense of someone

else's. He would get past this, but he would never get over it.

His voice when he spoke was thick, rough. "I can't….It's just so fucking unfair…"

"I know, Dean." Sam sighed and dragged himself to his feet, sitting down in the chair opposite Dean with a thump. "Not much in life is." They sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at the tabletop. Finally, Sam reached out and pushed the hamburger toward Dean, an offering. "If we're done, can we please eat now?"

Dean stared at him, snorted, shook his head and wiped at his eyes. He reached out and pulled a French fry from the box.

Later that night as they both lay in the darkness, staring at the ceiling, unable to find sleep, Sam heard Dean shift slightly on the creaky mattress.

"Sam, can I ask you a question?" Dean sounded more than tired, drained. But the pain was gone from his voice.

Sam thought about it. What could there possibly be left to say? "I guess so."

"If you had known, I mean, what LeGrange's wife was doing…. before we went. Would you still have taken me there?"

Sam' breath caught in his throat. Would he have? Knowing what it would have meant. Sam was grateful for the darkness that hid his eyes

After a pause. "Get some sleep, Dean. We got a long drive tomorrow.""

The End

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