Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Note: Vague spoilers for All Hell...

The hardest thing in this life is to watch someone you love die. To sit with him in your arms, feel his breath on your skin – soft and warm and moist – grow lighter and dry.

Until you feel nothing at all.

The hardest thing is to have his heart beat beneath your palm, steady, steady, skip and falter. Each moment stretching out longer than seemingly possible. Each millisecond in between thumps, an eternity. Until there is no in between. Only after. And suddenly the full meaning of eternity becomes painfully clear. And you can't breathe. And you can't think. And you can't…

Dean knew, knew all too well what it was like to hold death in his hands. His father's body, cold and stiff. Sam's, heavy and oozing.

He knew what it was like to look at a face he'd known so well – every dip and curve, line and dimple, freckle and mole – and not recognize it all. He'd watched as eyes grew glazed and distant, skin toughen and pale, all in a matter of mere moments. Seconds. Because that's how long it takes for death to move in. Seconds. That's how long it takes to get left behind.

He knew what it was like in those hours following, when the thick, dense fog began to roll away and lift from his consciousness, just enough so that he could see, clearly discern the difference between before and after. One being loyalty and love, family. The other an endless, lonely ache.

He knew what it was to begin to think after a time of silent stupor, to have his mind spin a steady stream of what if's and but for's, all leading to the same place, the same basic truth. He could have, but he didn't. He would have, but he failed.

He knew what it was like to have to pick up the pieces, put himself back together in hobbled remnants, live a life that came apart in chunks.

He knew what it was like to try and breathe in foreign air, like none he'd ever taken in before. Because Mom was gone. And Dad was gone. And Sam was gone too. And he'd never known the flavor of air untouched by them, at least one of them.

He knew, Dean did, that the hardest thing in this life is to watch someone you love die.

In comparison, he figured, dying should be easy.