Author's Notes: I just re-watched Season One and Dean's little bit about wanting to be a fireman stood out to me, considering his past experiences with fire. Also, I thought the episode with the Shtriga was interesting in that it gave a little insight into Dean as a kid. So I tied them both together, and got . . . .

Air

For Mandy, Nadia, Julia, and Abbott

I told you you'd love this show.

All he'd wanted was some air. Just a change of scenery, just a second to call his own.

But now something was tearing at him, tearing him apart from the inside out, screaming I'm sorry and it's my fault and please don't hate me. He couldn't bear standing in his own skin, wanted to run as fast and far as he could and hope that he could leave himself behind, somehow.

But Dad was Dad and you can't disobey an order (take your brother as fast as you can, now Dean, go), not in this house, not when Dean had seen what happened when he didn't do what Dad said.

He learned that lesson when he was four. Say your prayers before bed, Dean-o, Dad had told him firmly and Dean said, okay Daddy but didn't actually do it because he was just so tired. But then he figured that God got angry because . . . .

Because then Mom was on the ceiling and the house exploded and Dean knew it was his fault so he never disobeyed an order ever again and he never would.

. . . . He'd only wanted some air.

He didn't know what it was that came through the window, that tried to kill Sammy, but Dean knew that it was his fault, he didn't shoot fast enough, he didn't listen to Dad, he didn't do anything right because he never did anything right and that's why Mom died and that's why Dad was gone all the time and that's why that thing came after Sammy.

He couldn't look at Sammy anymore, not knowing that he'd almost gotten his brother killed just because he'd wanted air. Because he was so selfish, stealing a whole ten minutes—six hundred seconds that he'd left Sammy alone, all by himself, and what was Dean thinking? Sammy came first, Sammy always came first, and he needed to stop believing that he deserved anything at all because he didn't, not when it was his fault that Mom died in the first place. That's why he wanted to be a fireman, to put out the fires, to save all the other moms that were pinned to ceilings. To be strong and run into burning houses and pull out ruined little boys who didn't say their prayers.

Dean's eyes narrowed. He discarded the gun in his hands and picked up some of Dad's knives instead; he aimed at the dartboard on the back of the door, blood tinged silver with steel determination.

He'd have to be perfect with everything, if he was going to protect Sammy. He couldn't be just a good shot; not just a fast runner; not just a strong fighter. He had to be perfectly accurate and skilled with every weapon because you never knew when something would show up out of nowhere and—

He discarded the desperate, clawing feeling. No room for fear, no room for doubt. He was ten, and it was time to grow up. Time to put aside all those secret dreams that he'd locked away.

Whoever thought that firemen were all that special, anyways?