Indirect Proof by Starliteyes17

Warning: AU, language, a little violence, angst of the epic proportions. Spoilers for seasons one and two.

Summary: Dean's not just any brother.

A/N: I should mention that I got the idea for this story while reading stories by Kroki-Refur over at LJ. Her works are fantastic and though I don't know exactly what it was that brought this idea to me, I have no doubt that her words inspired it. Thank you Refur!

---

Dean is four and Sammy's crying and he won't stop. It's been three weeks since Mommy left and Daddy is snoring on the bed, a bottle resting on grubby motel carpet inches from his outstretched hand. Dean is sitting on the edge of the bed at Daddy's feet, the television turned up loud so nobody can hear Sammy and Daddy won't get asked to leave again like the last motel did.

Dean swings his legs back and forth, hitting the bedspread with his heels in time to the breaths between Sammy's shattering cries. He stares at the screen where Big Bird is explaining the letter B and how it starts words like bed and bath and big and bird and what other words can you think of that start with B, Dean? Dean blinks once slowly, checking over his shoulder to make sure Daddy is still sleeping. Sammy is screaming and Daddy is mumbling and Dean is thinking baby and burn and brother.

And then Dean thinks ofbroken and that's the words Daddy used when he was talking to the lady with the clipboard and funny glasses that Dean colored with yesterday. Dean thinks broken and then he stops thinking of more B words after that. Because Dean is broken, that's what Daddy said and that's all there is to it, because Dean knows Daddy is right and that's all there is, all that's left.

Dean is four and Sammy's crying and he won't stop, and Dean doesn't go to him.

---

The Crossroads Demon circles Dean once, twice while she considers his offer.

"Who do you think you're joking? Keep your gutter soul, it's too tarnished anyways."

She turns to leave but Dean grabs her arm, stops her. "Please. He's my brother."

She stops, intrigued. Without facing him she asks, "You really would do anything for him, wouldn't you?"

Dean doesn't answer, but his hand clenches tighter around her arm. She smiles and slowly turns to look at him.

"All right, let's make a deal."

---

When Sammy's six he finds a stray kitten in the field across from their apartment. It's raining and Dean is cleaning guns when Sammy stumbles in from the cold, trying to hide a mewling bulge underneath his jacket.

Dean sighs and grumbles, "Not very stealthy, Sam."

Sam holds out the muddy ball of fur to Dean, his eyes pleading. "Can we keep it?"

Dean says nothing, just stares hard at the little kitty before he grabs it roughly from Sam, ignoring his brother's questioning gaze, carrying the pitiful thing by the scruff of its neck into the bathroom. He sets the mangy kitten in the sink and is turning on the bath faucet just as Sam wanders in, his eyes already tearing up, because Dean did this last summer to a hurt bunny Sammy found and he doesn't want Dean to do it again. He grabs the kitten and runs, makes it as far as the kitchen before Dean tackles him and they fall to the ground, the kitten screaming bloody murder and scratching up Sam's neck when Dean's hand lands on its tail.

"No! Please Dean, I'll just take it outside and let it go, it'll be like I never found it, please," Sam begs, and he's all-out crying now but he knows Dean knows it's not because of the scratches, it's because Sam knows that no matter what he says Dean won't change his mind.

"No, Sam," is Dean's only answer as he once again carries the kitten into the bathroom, only this time he doesn't put it in the sink, he throws it into the tub and holds its head underneath the water. When it's done Dean comes back into the kitchen with a garbage bag, finds Sam sitting on the floor, curled into a ball. He raises his hands from his face when Dean enters, stares at Dean with stinging eyes and feels betrayed. But he doesn't say anything as Dean walks past him to the door, making for the building dumpster. He's still sitting there when Dean walks back in. Without looking at him Dean goes back to the table and starts cleaning guns again.

An hours passes before Sam moves, pulls himself up and starts running for their bedroom door, but he still hears the harsh reprimand at his back. "You can't make attachments, Sam. You'll just get hurt in the end."

---

They move to Tucson a couple weeks before Sam starts eighth grade. John just gave Dean the Impala that summer and it seems like what little Sam saw of his brother before, he sees even less of now. Sam wouldn't really care, but it'd be nice to at least get some rides to school once in a while. Dean said no before Sam even got the chance to ask though. Sam can ride a tricycle there for all Dean cares.

Sam's taking a shortcut home through an alleyway the second week of school when he hears his name getting called. He turns and it's Trevor Newton, the kid in his biology class who was teasing him for getting 100 on the pop quiz they had today.

"Hey Winchester, what are you, some kinda geeky nerd? Or just a shit-for-brains like you think the rest of us are, huh?"

Trevor walks closer and Sam sees three of his thug friends are with him now too, and right then and there decides that the odds are too stacked and it's not worth it. He starts to run but Trevor's faster and he catches Sam by the collar and throws him into the brick wall.

"Where ya going? You some kinda pussy or something?"

Sam's jaw clenches but he doesn't say anything, just stares hard into Trevor's eyes. Right then Sam hears a familiar rumble at the front of the alley. A shiny black Impala slows to a stop and Sam knows that car and he smirks because he also knows who's behind the wheel and if he needs anybody right now – though he hates to admit it – it's Dean.

"My brother's going to kick your ass," Sam says sure as the sky is blue, and Trevor turns to him, his eyes confused and maybe a little afraid.

But then something happens and Sam can hardly comprehend it but the car is moving again, going past the alleyway and driving on like there was nothing going on, like Dean didn't just see that Sam was about to get beaten up and drove away anyhow.

Trevor turns back to Sam and grins. "Doesn't seem like your brother gives a shit about you either, Winchester."

Sam closes his eyes and feels the tears coming, but they're not tears of fear they're tears of anger and suddenly Sam only sees red. He pushes off the wall, using the techniques his father taught him and beats the hell out of three boys. He knocks out Trevor and another kid but has enough sense to let the last one run after a couple punches so that he doesn't have to clean up this mess himself.

Dean's sitting on the front steps having a beer when Sam gets home, only a scratched shoulders and a darkening bruise on his cheek to show for his pains. Sam bounds up past him with no plan to stop before the front door is firmly slammed shut, but with no decision of his own finds himself standing directly behind his brother instead, his eyes shooting daggers into the top of Dean's damn head. Dean stands up and turns around in that moment, as if he knew Sam was this close to kicking him in the back out of spite.

Dean smirks when Sam's face stays hard. "What, you think I'm going to risk this pretty face just so you can be saved again, Sam?" Dean shakes his head. "When are you going to learn, Sam? You can't always expect to be saved. You can't be weak, because Dad and I won't always be there to get you out of trouble."

Sam's fists clench at his sides and he growls out, "You're never there," before swiveling and running into the house, slamming the door just like he planned. That night Sam sits in his room and wonders if it should worry him that the entire time he was beating up Trevor Newton and his friends, all he could see was Dean's grin and Dean's cold eyes.

---

The night Sam leaves for Stanford isn't all that different from a hundred other nights, except for the fact that Sam actually leaves. John is furious, calls Sam a liar by omission for not telling his family his plan, and Sam shoots back with what sort of family is this and gets his father to raise his fist for a second before lowering it and saying quietly if you leave, don't plan on ever coming back.

Now Sam's in his room and he's packing and he's so caught up in his anger he hardly notices when Dean walks into the room, leans against the door.

"What do you want? You gonna try to take a punch at me too?"

Dean doesn't answer and Sam thinks that's weird because Dean always comes back with something either sarcastic or cruel, often a mixture of both, but this time he doesn't and Sam wasn't expecting that. Sam turns and looks at Dean, and for a second he swears he sees something like regret in Dean's eyes before they turn hard and uncaring again and he says, "You better sure as hell follow that last order, Sam."

Sam bites his lip as Dean turns, opens the door and walks out. He was expecting a lot of things, brutal honesty included, but Dean's outright indifference to Sam's decision burns Sam's soul worse than he had ever imagined it could. Dean's his brother and that should mean something to Dean, but it doesn't and Sam just can't understand why.

Four hours later Sam gets on a bus and falls asleep before he can think too hard about what happened. But his dreams don't forget and in them he sees Dean staring at Sam like he really loves him, like that look he gave Sam tonight in the bedroom. Sam remembers dream-Dean for a moment after he wakes up, but then the bus doors open and his future is here and suddenly Sam can't remember what his dream was about and that kinda bothers him, but he doesn't know why and what does it matter anyways?

---

After Jess dies Sam goes on the road with Dean, but not because John is still missing or because all Sam's dreams burnt to ashes around him or even because Dean offered. Sam wants one thing only, and that one thing is revenge. For a couple weeks Sam is so caught up in his grief that he doesn't notice anything around him, but gradually he starts to observe some and the observations he makes surprise him a bit. Dean is still Dean in most ways, still rude and crude and a downright pain in the ass. He still protects Sam on a hunt like he always did, but now he starts to protect him outside of the hunt like he never did too. It's only little things, like not complaining when Sam gets coffee from Starbucks and not the 7-11, or letting Sam choose what made-for-TV movie they watch. The funnier part is Dean doesn't even seem to realize he's doing it until Sam gives him a questioning look when Dean offers to do the laundry. Dean catches the gaze and just like that his eyes shutter and it's like the last few weeks never happened, like Dean was never anything but the distant, edgy brother Sam grew up with. Sam misses it more than he thought was possible, even if he'd only just begun to appreciate it.

One night not long after Nebraska and the Reaper, Dean comes back to the motel trashed as all hell. He stumbles coming out of the bathroom and Sam moves to grab him, but Dean pushes him away.

"Stay out of my face, Sam," Dean grumbles, lying facedown on the bed. Sam watches him for a second before shrugging and climbing back under his own covers. He closes his eyes and is almost back asleep when he hears Dean call him.

"What?"

Dean starts to laugh hard, as though Sam said something hilarious instead of asking a simple question, but his voice is cold as ice when he says, "Why'd you do it, Sam?"

"Do what?"

"Why'd you save me, huh? Why didn't you just let me die?"

Sam turns his body away from the wall, looks over at the other bed where Dean is still sprawled, staring back at him, his eyes wild. Sam can tell that Dean really wants to know, this question has been on his mind for a while, and that scares Sam because he isn't sure what Dean will say when he hears the answer.

"Because you're my brother," he finally says before turning back to the wall, pretending as though he isn't going to have trouble falling asleep again now that Dean has disturbed the unwritten rule of not talking about chick-flick stuff they both set long ago.

Eventually Dean turns out the light and Sam pretends to be sleeping, his breath coming out even and steady though he knows Dean can always tell when he's still awake. So he's not surprised when he hears Dean shuffle in his bed again and take a breath to speak.

"I wouldn't have done it for you. I would have just let you die."

Dean sounds like he's lying but Sam doesn't acknowledge that, because Dean doesn't lie when it's important and when it hurts and this is both, and Sam can't see his eyes so he could never be sure anyways. Sam keeps his breath steady. Maybe Dean thought he was asleep and couldn't hear him, because no brother, not even Dean would want their brother to know something like that was true.

Then again, Dean's never just been any brother.

---

Dean leans in to kiss her, but she pulls away. "No, this is on different terms." She yanks her arm out of Dean's grip, ignoring his mutinous expression. "You're different, Dean Winchester. You think I'm stupid enough to think Hell would be any real trouble for you? Going there would be like fulfilling your life-long dream. Sacrifice yourself for baby brother, right? Well, we can't have that."

Dean's looks ready to eviscerate something, namely her. "You bitch! You said – "

"Now, now, sugar, I said we had a deal, and I wasn't lying. But here's the thing: I'm going to make a deal that doesn't involved you going to Hell. Pain in life is so much more interesting than pain in death, don't you think?"

Dean says nothing, and she makes a pouting face. "How would you like it if I gave you the opportunity to make it so Sam never died, Dean? So none of this ever happened. Problem is, in nearly every possible outcome, this is exactly what happens. Sam dies and you sacrifice yourself to save him. In all but one world. Namely, a world where Sam doesn't love you."

Dean's breath hitches and he finally looks away. She knows she's got him, though. "So I'll make you a deal. I'll send you back – way back, all the way to the beginning – and if you can make it so Sam doesn't love you, he doesn't die. Simple as that. Deal?"

Dean stares hard into her eyes, doesn't answer for a while, but there is no hesitation in his voice when he says, "Deal."

Their mouths meet in desperation, and just as the deal is fully sealed the demon thinks to herself that if any human can do the impossible, he can. Dean Winchester's not just any brother, after all.

---

They're in the cabin and the Demon is in John, he is John and Sam doesn't know what to do. Dean's bleeding out on the floor, no help at all and Sam is standing before his father, the Colt raised to aim at his chest.

"You shoot me! You shoot me in the heart, son!" John cries, his body shaking and his teeth bared from the effort of holding the Demon hostage.

Sam doesn't know what to do, he doesn't know and then he hears it, a faint whisper coming from his right.

"No, Sammy," Dean pleads, his voice breaking, his eyes full of pain and something else Sam doesn't recognize but thinks he ought to. "No."

Sam's hand trembles for a moment before the quaking stops and Sam's head is clear and he knows what he has to do now. He pulls the trigger.

Two days later, when Sam hears Dean is out of the woods and should be waking up soon anddon't worry, your brother is going to be all right he walks out of the hospital, rents a car and starts driving back to California. Turns out Sam's not just any brother, either.

Dean calls once but Sam doesn't answer. It's just better this way.