Author's Note- I apologize again for taking so long to update, and I can go through a list of excuses about my lateness, but instead of taking up your time I'll just say that it has been hard for me to get this chapter typed and I truly will try harder in the future. -Mary

Disclaimer- I've forgotten about this so far in this story, so I'll just through it out there now. I do not own anything and I am not making any profit whatsoever by writing this story.

Dean stood in front of the mirror, wanting to hit his reflection but not wanting to bring attention to himself. He had to get away. He had to do something. He didn't deserve this family and he had no right to cause them pain.

Needing to do something, to move, Dean slammed his hand down on the counter, but the sharp wooden edge sliced his skin as he hit it.

Dean stared at the blood for a second. His hand hurt, hurt like Sammy was hurting, like his dad was hurting. Dean began to shake. He had caused this mess. It was his job to fix it, but there was nothing he could fix. That was his fault.

He had wanted his dad to show anger towards him, to scream at him even, but he never did. It was like there was no consequence to Dean's complete screw up. Why didn't his father just smack him across the face and tell him what a disgrace he was? That would be better than nothing. But, his father didn't do any of these things, and Dean didn't know what to do.

He had to do something.

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Friday, July 6, 1995, 10:33 A.M.

Dean wasn't perfect; he knew that. He didn't expect to be or try to be perfect. Perfection was a myth, a figment of the imagination that set an unreachable and impossible expectation.

Dean had made mistakes before, and a majority of these mistakes had been made during or surrounding a hunt. With these mistakes came retribution; some kind of reminder that demanded, 'You will not do this again'. Usually when Dean messed up he somehow ended up getting hurt. If he managed to make it out unscathed, his father's safety lectures and extra practice were punishment enough.

Consequences.

It was almost comforting; Dean had made his mistake, so he deserved to be suffering for it.

This is what he told himself as he grabbed a box cutter from the edge of the sink, dragging it down the underside of his arm and watching the crimson blood seep from the self-inflicted wound.

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"Take these."

Without question John dry swallowed the two pills his friend had handed them, then as an afterthought took a drink from the water bottle that Nielson was offering to him.

"Keep taking those and if you're lucky you won't have to deal with an infection," Aaron advised. Before John had an opportunity to speak, his friend added, "and no, those meds do not mix well with alcohol. Don't ask."

John couldn't help but grin as he defended himself. "Give me a little credit here, Nielson."

"Fine, fine." Aaron held up his hands in defeat, a mild smirk remaining on his face. It was amazing how the two friends could fall back into the amicable bantering and old habits they had always had. Time and circumstances often kept them from enjoying each other's company, but they made the best of their friendship when they could.

John abruptly stood up. "I'm going to check on the boys again."

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John quietly pushed the door open to the room in which Sam was staying. He saw his younger son lying, still asleep on the bed. Dean was sitting in the chair next to him, standing guard over his brother once again.

"How's he doing?"

The sudden noise caused Dean to jump and turn towards the source of the noise. After seeing that it was only their father, Dean visibly relaxed and turned his attention towards his younger brother. "Same as before." Dean's arms were folded, held tightly to his stomach.

John nodded, but was made wary by Dean's jumpiness. It was unusual for anybody to be able to sneak up on the teenager. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," Dean answered quickly.

John wanted to push farther; his son had answered too quickly, and John could spot a lie faster than practically anyone. 'Drop it,' John told himself. 'He's stressed out, he's worried, and he probably didn't sleep well last night. He'll be fine.' Instead John took a seat in the folding chair next to Dean, who couldn't help fidgeting a little as his father sat down next to him.

"You sure?" John asked again, concerned. All he received in response was a terse nod. "Dean, I promise, Sammy is going to be fine, now what is it?"

"I'm fine," Dean answered again.

John still didn't believe him, but he decided he would let it go for the time being. If Dean wasn't willing to open up to him, then he wouldn't force the issue. Dean would talk to him when he felt ready.

A wave of exhaustion swept over John, a reminder that he hadn't slept in over twenty-four hours. He rubbed his eyes, not wanting to give into his fatigue quite yet.

Dean glanced over towards his father. "You should get some sleep, Dad," Dean advised.

John met his eyes and smiled. "Yeah," he admitted, "I probably should." Dean bringing up his exhaustion actually made him feel better; Dean couldn't be too upset if he was still observing what was going on around him. It was the attribute of Dean's that John was most proud of. No matter what, Dean put himself second to look out for his family.

But then again, it would probably get him killed someday.

'No,' John told himself. 'That won't happen. Dean's too smart to allow that to happen.'

Putting his hand on Dean's shoulder, John stood up. "I'm going to get a few hours of sleep." Squeezing Dean's shoulder, he added, "Will you watch after Sammy for me?" He asked, already knowing he would receive an affirmative answer.

With just his sleeping brother to keep him company, Dean was alone. Suddenly the silence began to eat away at him. His thoughts became too loud and he was forced to stop shoving them aside.

'What have you done?'

'What were you thinking?'

'Watch over Sammy? What difference could you make?'

'When did it get so quiet in here?'

'What is wrong with you?'

"But it felt so... releasing..."

'Well that is definitely not a normal reaction.'

Dean did not want to take the silence any longer. He couldn't take it any longer, but he could not wake Sammy. It was his responsibility to watch over him.

A solution came to Dean in the form of Sam's small red portable CD player. Grabbing the headphones and wishing he didn't prefer tapes over CDs, Dean resigned himself to listening to some of Sammy's music. He didn't actually like it much, but anything beat the stifling silence. Dean checked to disc Sam already had in the player. It was Nine Inch Nails' album The Downward Spiral. Dean hit the shuffle button and began listening to the wholly unappealing songs.

After about fifteen minutes of listening to the disc, Dean decided that although he didn't entirely agree with his brother's taste in music, it wasn't all too terrible once you tried it out. Not that he would ever admit that to Sam, of course. It was then that one song in particular, the last one on the CD, caught his attention.

I hurt myself today to see if I still feel.

I focus on the pain, the only thing that's real.

The needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting,

Try to kill it all away, but I remember everything.

What have I become? My sweetest friend,

Everyone I know goes away in the end.

And you could have it all, my empire of dirt,

I will let you down, I will make you hurt.

I wear this crown of shit upon my liar's chair.

Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair.

Beneath the stains of time the feelings disappear.

You are someone else. I am still right here.

What have I become? My sweetest friend,

Everyone I touch goes away in the end.

But you could have it all, my empire of dirt,

I will let you down, I will make you hurt.

If I could start again a million miles away,

I would keep myself,

I would find a way.

Dean went back to listen to the song again, but he didn't even get through the first line of lyrics before Sammy began moving about in his sleep.

Taking off the headphones, Dean stood up next to Sam's bed and placed his hand on the young boy's shoulder. At the touch Sammy's body suddenly jerked to the side as if he was trying to get away.

As Dean grabbed his younger brother's body to stop his jerking and thrashing, Sammy awoke, sitting up with a loud yell.

"Sam! Sammy, come on, it's me, you need to calm down, it's okay..."

Out of breath, Sammy glanced around the room, as if he were looking for something. His eyes met Dean's, and Dean saw the fear and alarm in his brother's eyes.

"There's nothing here, you're safe here Sammy, it's okay," Dean whispered. He placed one hand on Sam's shoulder and the other on his back. Physical contact usually helped to calm Sammy down whenever he was upset.

The brothers heard footsteps from the hallways, and both turned just in time to see their father coming into the room. "Are you two alright?"

"Yeah," Sammy spoke up as he pressed his hand to his stomach, where a stinging pain had developed. The action caught John's eye, and he watched as his son pulled his hand away. It was covered in blood.

"Some of your stitches must have been pulled out," John said quickly before either of his sons could become alarmed. "I'll fix it, hold on." John then left the room to go downstairs and get Aaron's suture kit.

Once the two boys were alone again, Dean asked, "Are you sure you're okay?" On a small table on the other side of Sam's bed was a roll of paper towels. Dean reached over and grabbed them. Pulling a few sheets off, Dean helped Sammy lie down and began to apply pressure to the wound.

Sammy nodded. "Yeah, it was just a dream." Dean still wasn't reassured though. 'You have got to be kidding me,' he thought to himself. 'Dad asks you to watch over him and you manage to screw it up after the first fifteen minutes.'

John came back into the small bedroom holding the suture kit, with Aaron following close behind him. Dean stepped back from his brother to let the older hunters take over.

"I can do the sutures myself," John protested weakly, sounding amused that Aaron was taking charge of the situation.

Aaron raised his eyebrows. "Johnny, have you looked in a mirror lately? You look like a dead man walking. Now stop whining and give me the kit."

Relenting, John handed the kit over to his friend. The Winchesters watched as Nielson expertly took care of Sammy's wounds. He finished relatively quickly, and, catching Sam's eye, he stated, "Finished." He then added, "And last night when I told you to bug your father to come back, I meant for you to wait a few weeks, at least. But hey, your idea works too."

"I try not to do things half way," Sammy answered. Aaron grinned and left the room, wanting to give the family a moment alone.

The twelve-year-old looked about as exhausted as John felt. John told him, "You should probably get some rest, son." Both of them knew that it wasn't a request.

Dean saw a conflict going on in John's head. John wanted to stay and make sure Sammy was alright, but he also wanted to get some sleep, especially since Sam wouldn't be awake much longer. "Aaron was right, Dad," Dean pointed out. "You look like a dead man walking."

Once Sammy was asleep and John was gone, Dean sat in the chair he had been in before and buried his head in his hands. Then he quickly looked up, keeping an eye on the sleeping boy in front of him. He made a promise to himself. 'No more screw-ups.'

Author's Note- Here's chapter four, and I promise (for real this time) that chapter five will not take as long! Also I'll probably go back and update this chapter because I'm not a hundred percent satisfied with it, but I won't make any significant changes to the plot or anything. Please review and let me know what you think of the chapter!