Your standard disclaimer applies and despite the fact that I was excited by the knowledge that Kripke and I had apparently a similar idea on why Sam was acting the way he was the cause and reasoning are totally different. Believe it or not, I started this last week before Malleus Maleficarum aired this week. :)

"How certain are you…that what you brought back is 100 percent...Pure…Sam?" That's what Azazel, the Yellow-eyed demon said to Dean before he died. Now Dean finds out the truth behind those words.

Chapter 1

It's been 6 months since Dean shot and killed the Yellowed-Eyed Demon. Six months since Dean made the deal to bring Sam back from the dead and the youngest Winchester was still nowhere near to finding a way to get his brother out of it. He'd worked relentlessly with Bobby trying to find a way out of Dean's deal. They'd picked through every relevant text at their disposal and had found nothing.

Ruby had dangled the promise of helping Sam find a way to saving Dean but, aside from the few times she stepped in to aid the brothers when they've needed it, she was utterly useless in Sam's eyes. He was starting to think that he should have killed her as soon as he found out she was a demon but, at the time, he just couldn't take the chance of losing an opportunity to save his brother. He still couldn't take that chance.

So far, Dean had been holding himself together pretty well considering, but he could see the strain it had on him grow with each passing day. At first he was over the top. Everything had been a joke to Dean as he overcompensated in an effort to convince Sam he was fine and fool himself into believing that he wasn't scared shitless at the prospect of going to hell. Oh, he hid it well, but Sam knew his brother. Had at times confronted him with that fact when Sam's own strain at watching Dean take risks built up to the point that he could do nothing but.

Sam knew how hard it was for his older brother to express himself in a way that didn't involve some punch line or one-liner and confronting him often led to fights, but he couldn't help it. There was no way he was going to let Dean destroy himself before he found a way to get him out of the deal.

There were times when, for just a fraction of a second, Sam thought that maybe he should let his brother go out in a blaze of glory. Dean told him the contract was for a year. It was naive to even contemplate it, but if he died before then, would that necessarily mean he would go to hell? Sam knew it didn't make a difference, but his own fear at not finding a way to save Dean's life…just maybe he could at least save his soul.

In the meantime Sam used all his ammo in his emotional arsenal to try and utilize some control over Dean. He knew he was being manipulative and even felt the tiniest bit guilty for pushing Dean to do what he wanted at times. But contrary to that fleeting thought of an early death, he had no desire to see his older brother die before his time was truly up. After a while, Dean had begun to feel the same.

It was Christmas when Sam realized that not wanting to celebrate because it would most likely be Dean's last Christmas was more selfish than he cared to admit. He didn't want to accept it as the last, but it was so clear that Dean had needed it that to not celebrate became unthinkable. How could he possibly deny his brother any bit of happiness when true happiness had always been out of his brother's reach?

So Sam began to keep things to himself; hold in his own emotions as much as he could and the only way to do that was to take that childhood hero worship and try to solidify it. After all, Dean's life had always been about holding himself together for the family and Sam felt it was time for him to lighten his brother's load.

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Dean sat back on a secluded stone bench just inside the park boundaries on a bright and sunny day. A cool breeze ruffled his hair and set the branches above him to sway. He listened to that wind as the occasional bird chirped and the sound of laughter could be heard in the distance. Two chipmunks that he'd dubbed Chip and Dale dashed to the far end of the bench. Dean watched as they gathered up sunflower seeds, pausing long enough to stuff their mouths, twitching and fidgeting as they did, before making a mad dash to the massive tree above and behind him.

Dean kept still in an effort not to frighten them away, tossing more seeds onto the ground after each had ferried their load away. It had taken him twenty minutes to get them as close he did and he was now content to watch their antics unfold. He never thought that watching something so simple could bring him so much calm. Dean supposed that it had something to do with the simplicity of the lives of such small creatures.

Eat, shit, procreate and die. What else was there for a chipmunk? He imagined that a bad day would be running the risk of getting run over by a car or eaten by a hawk or something. Not so hot for the chipmunk but it served a purpose and the chipmunk was born with the instinct that this was the way of things. Never would you see a chipmunk run the risk of having its soul taken straight to hell.

Of course Dean knew that, if you striped down the basics of human life, it would essentially be the same. Yet humans did more than what nature requested. They had this tendency to change things for good or bad. Miracles and sins, good and evil, tit for tat. In everything there is a balance and when you change things that balance gets met no matter the cost.

The first time he'd learned this was the first time he'd almost died. The first time he should have died. The first time he'd felt guilt for being alive. He had to admit that this guilt played a small role in making the deal that he did. If their dad hadn't saved his life, if he'd just let nature take its course on a life that shouldn't have been to begin with…things would have gone differently. There was no doubt in his mind that John Winchester would have gotten that yellow-eyed bastard and Sam would have never of died. The gate to hell would have stayed closed. They would not be at war.

Dean sighed and turned his attention to the park before him as a cool gust ruffles his hair. The feeling is subtle and for anyone else would have gone unnoticed. Even with all his experiences, at this level of awareness, Dean would have normally not have noticed yet himself, but the closer he got to his expiration date the more sensitive to them he got.

"Hello, Ruby," he didn't bother turning his head as the demon came to stand a few feet from the bench.

"And how did you know it was me?" the demon smirked. "For all you knew I could have been just someone passing by."

"First off, there's no stink like a demon's stink," Dean glanced at her then back at the park before him. "Second, Sam told me enough that you're skankiness gave you away."

"Ah, Dean…You have such a way with words. You should consider becoming a poet when you decide to retire," She replied. Ruby affected a look of sudden insight, "Oh…but wait. You'll be dead and roasting in hell. Won't be much time for poetry inbetween screams of agony."

"Whatever, bitch." Dean schooled his features and clenched his jaw. He had no desire to think about his impending damnation. "Why are you here, Ruby? I thought Sam was your Winchester of choice."

"He is, but as his brother, I felt I owed you the courtesy of a private chat."

"The courtesy of a chat?" Dean sneered in disbelief as he turned his head to the blonde-haired demon. "You tell Sam everything where we're involved. At least whatever will get you into his good graces in your vain attempt to weasel your way into his life. So why decide on a private chat with me? Don't tell me…you just couldn't control yourself any longer and you couldn't resist my animal magnetism. Sorry, bitch, but the distinct smell of sulfur does nothin' for me."

"Cut the crap, Dean," Ruby rolls her eyes as she climbs up and takes a seat on the wide arm of the stone bench. "What I have to say, Sam isn't ready to hear."

"What could you have to share that I, or Sam for that matter, could possibly have any desire to hear?"

"I found some information on your deal that you need to know…about the demon that really holds your contract. Care to hear it or is Chip and Dale more interesting than your brother's future?"

Dean spared a quick glance at the spot where the little critters would have been, but the animals were smart and must have skedaddled when the evil bitch of the west came near. He hated it when demons did the whole mind-reading bit.

"Spit it out, Ruby."

"Fine. Sam needs to focus on himself and his own will to live and fight and you need to make sure he stops looking for a way out of your deal before he finds out something that he won't want to know. Make sure he knows that no matter what he does, even if he eventually figures out how to break the contract and kill the demon that holds it, you're as good as dead."

"I know the specifics of the deal, Ruby…"

"No you don't, Dean," she interrupts. "You think you know but you don't."

"The point, Ruby. Get to the fucking point."

"The point, Dean, is that even demons have to ultimately follow the rules concerning life and death. Azazel was able to usurp the reaper's hold on you when he brought you back from the brink of death. And even though he interfered with the reaper's claim on you someone ultimately died restoring the reaper ideal of balance."

"And there will still be balance when I'm gone, Yoda…"

"Shut and listen, you idiot." Ruby placed her left leg on the ground as she leaned forward on her perch. "You were still technically alive when that deal was made. Azazel had no claim on your soul. Sam was dead for how long? A couple of hours? Three? His body was cold, Dean. Ready to rot. Do you honestly believe that the Crossroads demon could simply jump start Sammy without a source in which to draw the life from? There are no cold starts when it comes to revivals."

Dean stared at Ruby. Trying to hide the fear and confusion, he held her gaze as he pondered her words. He'd always known that his death was a foregone conclusion as much as he'd wish otherwise, but what Ruby was saying said there was more to it than a 'simple' soul trade off.

"Definitely more than a simple soul trade off, Dean. More like a sharing of one soul's life force to sustain two people. You've been wondering why Sam hasn't been himself so much so that it never occurred to you to notice he was acting like you. They took a bit of you and stuck it in Sam to get that heart of his pumping."

Dean looked down and pushed his hands through his hair and, clasping them behind his head, he let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "If that's the big secret," he said, placing his hands on his thighs and returning his focus to Ruby, "then why keep it from Sam. He'll need to come to terms with me dieing and as far as I'm concerned, the sooner the better."

Ruby had watched as Dean absorbed that bit of information. She hadn't been surprised when she noticed Dean's body begin to relax. She'd always known that Azazel planted the seed of fear into Dean to torment him as their kind was want to do. She felt kind of sorry for the guy as she prepared to burst his bubble.

"Don't be relieved, Dean, because a powerful demon holds your soul in his hands. Your whole soul with the power to do with it as he pleases and we both know that part of your soul now resides within Sam."

"What are you saying?" This time Dean didn't try to hide the trace of fear that crept into his voice.

"If Sam doesn't prepare himself…he won't be able to fight the demon when it begins the process of turning him into the leader of the demon army that Azazel had been trying to groom him for."

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AN: Whew…that sure as hell took me awhile to throw together. Let me know if y'all think I should keep going or drop kick this sucker into the trash bin. Thanks in advance, y'all!