Disclaimer : I do not own Supernatural (quite obviously). I do, however, own these socks.

A/N: My muse wouldn't leave me alone until I jotted down something, so to pacify it, I wrote this. It's a bit disjointed, and meant to be, in a rambling kind of way. It's intended as something of a one-shot, but if anyone really likes it, and wants more, I might look into it.

As always, please review!

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He didn't know what he expected.

Open the gates and walk right outta hell? Maybe roll out the red carpet, wipe his boots on the welcome back mat, and get right back to living? Yeah... pull his broken body from a place it shouldn't have been able to go, pick up a shotgun full of rock salt, and go right on hunting those bastards down.

Like nothing had happened.

He'd told Sam, what seemed like hundreds of years ago, that if anyone could find a way out of Hell, it was their father. Like father, like son. He was a product of that man, hell, he was more John than Dean, really. Couldn't remember being his own person. Behind that sarcastic smirk, that sharp wit, he was just a little boy wanting to make his Daddy proud, be a chip off the old block.

It was easier than he thought. Easier than it should ever have been. Come up from behind that sad ass demon, stick a knife through it's throat. Practically choke on the taste of its black, tar blood, and he was out.

Out of Hell.

Hell! And wasn't that so fucked, so deeply wrong? He shouldn't have been able to be there in the first place, not his body. Soul shoulda been sucked out, body left empty, dead where he lay.

But hell wasn't like you heard about as a kid. He knew that, should've known that anyway. Hell wasn't some tangible place deep under ground, wasn't a fiery furnace with demons and brimstone. You didn't sink through layers of rock and earth and land next to some guy with a pitchfork and a pointy tail.

He didn't know what Hell was, even still.

Hell was... it was dark, and lonely. It was Dad and Sam telling him he was worthless, dying over and over right in front of his eyes. It was standing in the nursery, not a boy, but a man. A man in a body with the knowledge and tools to take him down, but not being able to stop that yellow-eyed bastard. It was watching him kill Mom over and over, watching Dad burn as the demon carried baby Sammy off into the night.

It was a thousand shadows rolling over him like oily water, touching his skin in intimate ways while he tried, tried so hard to sleep, but he never did. (Couldn't sleep, wasn't able no matter how tired he got.) He winced and whimpered and pulled away, was humiliated when he cried, but those clouds of smoke pressed against him, sliding into his ears, through his nostrils and eyes, touching his brain with prying fingers.

It was watching them break his body. Using Dad, using Sam. Harsh words, hissed confessions. Snap the limbs, flay open the skin, beat him and cut him until he screamed, cried like a child and begged - God, he begged. Not for mercy, no, not for that. He begged for death.

He welcomed death, to close his eyes finally, to sleep, to die, to just stop being, but it never came. No, he was dead already, and his body had been taken, too. More useful, that way, easier to break, and maybe, just maybe it was more fun that way.

They enjoyed it.

He didn't know where he was. No place in particular. He just was. He could feel cold floor beneath him, reach out and touch walls, but it didn't mean he was there. No, he was everywhere and nowhere. He was Dean, flesh, blood, and bone, but he was something else, too. Could feel himself floating sometimes, a rush of air over his skin, everything muted and grey. Almost like flying, and he began to panic, and that was when his body would come back.

He would be back. Back, just long enough to realize he was gone again. See the sky, the stars, breathe in air, just a taste, just enough to show him what he was missing. His heart would surge with hope he couldn't bite back - he was there, he was alive! - and at that very moment, he was torn away again, deposited somewhere else.

He watched himself do bad things, tried to find comfort because he knew it wasn't him, he couldn't be doing that. He was under their control, possessed, had to be. Had to be, but he wasn't. It was him doing those things, his hands that dealt out death like playing cards.

He thought selling his soul meant he went to Hell, and that was it. Burning away for eternity. He didn't realize it meant the demon had his soul, had control. Didn't know that when that gravelly voice barked a command, he would jump to obey. Or that it didn't matter how hard he tried, how hard he wanted to fight. He belonged to this demon and whether he liked it or not, he would do what he was told.

Whatever he was told.

They told Dean he was a natural. He fit right in, they said, took to it like a duck to water.

He plotted... planned... biding his time until the moment presented itself. Spent night after night telling himself it had to present itself.

He had no idea how much time passed. Held on to his hope, until they beat that away, too. And then there was only anger. Anger he embraced because that was all that remained.

And then, it came. One night. It was hot, stifling under the atmosphere after being nowhere, everywhere all at once. He was standing over a a body. The body that housed the demon he knew as Ruby. She told him once that it took centuries to become a demon, so he couldn't be a demon, could he? Time passed differently there, he knew that, but had to way to calculate. No way to judge, because he'd never get any older.

It couldn't have been that long, because that would mean...

Sammy? You'll never see him again. Dead and gone, years and years ago. Body's probably dust by now.

He wondered if Sammy went to Heaven. If Heaven even existed. Hell existed, so you never knew, but the voices told him Sammy was just ... gone.

So he stood there, vacant eyed over the body of Ruby. The demon that had been a thorn in so many sides, her and her knife. She had helped them with the Colt, helped them and pissed off a lot of demons.

And then the Colt got stolen, the only thing they could have used to break the deal. But it wasn't the only thing, he remembered. It was a moment of enlightenment, realization dawning on him as he knelt by the body.

The demon laughed, and then he took that knife, that damn cursed object, and he stuck it through the throat. Severed the spinal cord of the body the demon was wearing, and broke free of the bond.

And just like that, it was over.

Too easy, too easy his mind screamed, and he ran, convinced the hounds of hell were on his heels again, baring their teeth, ready to bite down and drag him back. The demon - his demon - was dead, but could it really be that simple? There were more, so many more that would love to get their hands on him.

The world didn't look like centuries had passed. Things looked the same, but they felt different. He felt different.

What was he? Human? Demon?

No, not demon... can't be.

But what?

He spent that night behind a dumpster in an alley, curled up in a ball, making himself as small and scarce as he could. His body was aching. He'd gone as far as he could before it shut down on him. He didn't remember what it felt like to be tired, and thought maybe if he tried, maybe now he could sleep... but he couldn't chance it. He couldn't be caught unaware, so he stayed awake, crying in frustration because he was just so tired.

No hounds came calling.

No demons.

Nothing.

But it didn't matter, did it? He was as good as dead.

No, he could not go back to living, because he had no life to return to. No Dad, no Sam, no phone full of contacts to call for help. He had the knife now, Ruby's knife, but that was all.

He had no purpose. So he did the only thing he knew how to do.

He went on.