A/N Okay, most of you wanted a Dean POV, so here it is. I hope it lives up to your expectations. I'm not sure about the ending, if it's angsty enough or if there's enough h/c, but I've gone over it so many times, rewritten it so many times - on the computer as well as in my head! - that I can't tell what works and what doesn't. So, instead of ditching the idea altogether, I figured I would post it *blush* and let you guys be the judge *double blush*. ~ Kelcor

"About a week ago, I heard the Angels talking… about you… what you did in hell…"

Dean Winchester stared out the windshield, eyes glued to the road ahead as Anna's words from the previous night ran around in his head. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't shut them off.

"Dean… it wasn't your fault… you should forgive yourself…"

As he and Sam drove out of town, Dean leaned forward to turn up the classic rock blasting from the speakers, in a vain attempt to drown out the voice.

"You have people that wanna help, you're not alone."

After pulling the car over to the side of the road, he ignored the look of confusion on his brother's face and stepped out of the vehicle. Walking around to the back, he grabbed a couple beer out of the trunk, his thoughts taking him back to the moments right after Anna disappeared into the vortex of light that seemed to emanate from her very being. Castiel had taken him aside - away from Sam, Ruby and, more importantly, away from that ass, Uriel.

"You should talk to your brother, Dean."

"About what?"

"Your time in hell," Castiel replied, in his usual no nonsense fashion, getting right to the point.

"Who are you, the angel-version of Dr. Phil? I don't need any of that touchy-feely, self-help crap."

"Actually, that's exactly what you do need."

Dean sighed loudly in frustration and started to walk away but Castiel grabbed his elbow in an iron-like grip, waiting until Dean looked back at him, made eye contact. Then, with his voice full of conviction and passionate belief, he said: "You're a strong warrior, Dean Winchester, with a big heart. The two main reasons why God wants you fighting in His war… but, what happened to you in hell? No man should have to bear that agony alone. Let Sam help you. Who knows? Maybe by helping you, he'll be helping himself at the same time."

"What are you saying?" Dean asked, not entirely surprised when the Angel disappeared before the question was completely out of his mouth. "Cryptic much?" he called out to the emptiness surrounding him.

Even now, while he leaned against the front fender of the Impala, having a celebratory drink with his brother, he just couldn't bring himself to be happy about their recent win - I mean, it was just one battle, not the war, they still had many more battles to come, and the odds were stacked high against the Winchesters coming out as the victors.

"I can't believe we made it outta there," he said, trying to keep his voice light.

"Again," Sam agreed.

They both reached out and clinked their bottles together, a metaphorical pat on the back, then each took a slow swig of beer. After a long moment, Dean finally, against his better judgement, took the advice of the two Angels.

"I know you heard him."

"Who?"

"Alastair, what he said, about how I had promise."

Sam hesitated a moment, then: "I heard him."

"You're not curious?"

"Dean, I'm damn curious. But, you're not talkin' about hell and I'm not pushin'."

Part of him wanted to shut up, to keep Sam out of his head, protect him from his damaged psyche. But another part actually wanted to talk about it - and how messed up was that!? Dean Winchester wanted to talk about his feelings? What the hell!? Essentially, though, the part that won the argument, was the one that believed Castiel's words about how helping Dean may actually help Sam hang on to his humanity. And, Dean was all about helping to keep his little brother from going dark side on him. That was one thing that no amount of 'fire and brimstone' could ever change.

"It wasn't four months, y'know," he said, instantly feeling his brother's eyes on him, realizing without a doubt that there was no turning back now.

"What?"

"It was four months up here, but down there… I don't know, time's different. It was more like 40 years."

"My God," the younger Winchester said softly.

"They, uh, they sliced, 'n carved, and tore at me in ways that you…" Dean hesitated, tried desperately to stop himself from going any further with this, changed his mind, he'd find another way to help Sammy. He could remember the pain, the torture, as if it was yesterday. Just get in the car and drive, Winchester. Don't put this burden on Sam's shoulders. Don't make him lose all respect for you. Don't make him hate you as much as you hate yourself. But, it was as if his tongue had a mind of its own because, even as he had this internal argument, he continued, "Until there was nothing left. And then, suddenly, I would be whole again - like magic," he said, feeling the tears burning his eyes, trying desperately to hold them at bay.

"Just so they could start in all over," Dean continued, his voice tight with raw, barely controlled, emotion. "And, Alastair, at the end of every day… every one… he would come over and he would make me an offer… to get off the rack, if I put souls on. If I started the torturing." Please don't hate me for this, Sammy! Please, I can handle anything, anything but that!

"And, every day, I told him to stick it where the sun shines. For 30 years, I told him. But, then I couldn't do it anymore, Sammy," Dean confessed, his voice cracking with emotion. He felt the tears filling his eyes, no longer able to stop them. "… I couldn't. And I got off that rack. God help me, I got right off it. And I started ripping them apart," he continued, the tears now evident in his words, his breath hitching slightly. "I lost count of how many souls." That's when the first tear won the fight and slipped passed the well-honed but collapsing defences. "The th -- the things that I did to them."

"Dean," Sam began, "Dean, look, you held on for 30 years. That's longer than anyone would've."

The older Winchester still refused to give up in his war with his emotions, even as more tears slipped free and slid down his cheeks. He took what he hoped would be a fortifying breath, letting it out in a huff, wiping his tears away with one hand, only to have them replaced with more. "What I feel… inside me… I wish I couldn't feel anything, Sammy. I wish I couldn't feel a damn thing," he finished, somewhat dismayed at the almost-whimper sound to his voice, turning further away from his brother in shame.

"Dean, it's okay."

"How can what I did possibly be okay, Sam? I tortured souls! Tortured!"

"Well, God obviously disagrees with you," Sam offered.

Dean's eyes widened and he spun around to stare at his brother in shock. "He pulled you out of hell, Dean. He obviously felt you were still worth saving! God forgave you, Dean. It's time you forgave yourself!"

Not wanting Sam to see him like this, he turned away, wrapping his arms around his stomach, feeling suddenly nauseous. In an effort to stop himself from falling to the ground, he leaned against the Impala, once again. He flinched slightly when Sam came around and placed a hand on his shoulder, denying him the saving grace of his little brother not actually seeing the tears, not giving Dean the opportunity to deny said tears in the days to come. Not wanting to see the shame and disappointment that was sure to be in the eyes of the only person whose opinion still mattered, the older Winchester did the only thing he could do under the circumstances… he looked everywhere, at everything, but his little brother. C'mon, Sammy, please don't do this.

After a moment, he straightened, made a move to walk away but Sammy wouldn't allow it. The younger placed his free hand on Dean's other shoulder, stopping his retreat. Realizing that Sam wasn't going to just let this go, Dean braced himself for the inevitable and finally looked up at his little brother - and was completely floored when, instead of reproach, he saw sympathy; instead of disgust, he saw understanding; instead of contempt, he saw love. The older Winchester could feel his lower lip tremble as more tears started to fall.

He wanted to ask Sam how he could possibly not hate him, but all he was able to voice was the one word he'd been saying all his life, only this was the first time it was filled with this much pain, desperation and longing: "Sammy?"

He felt Sam's strong hand on his neck, felt the squeeze of support. He leaned towards his brother, seeking comfort, but stopped himself, feeling like, after what he had done in hell, he no longer deserved his brother's comfort."Don't," he pleaded, trying to pull away. But Sam ignored him and Dean felt his brother pull him forward and wrap his arms around him, pulling him close. The older Winchester fought him at first, tried desperately to push him away, but he was exhausted and he needed to conserve his energy to at least keep some of his barriers up… so, he stopped struggling, accepted his brother's attempt at comfort, while still maintaining some semblance of control over his emotions.

Sam whispered. "Let me help you, Dean. Please."

"Dean… it wasn't your fault… you should forgive yourself… You have people that wanna help, you're not alone… "

Dean clutched at his brother's jacket, buried his face in the warm shoulder, tried to gather a strength he no longer had inside him. He soon felt his legs give out from under him and realized that, instead of falling, he was lowered gently to the ground, Sam's arms tightening around him. When he found himself curled up on his brother's lap, cradled in his arms, leaning heavily against his chest, he made one final attempt to pull himself together. No! he thought, trying to push away from the comfort, from the love. But Sam wasn't allowing any distance between them anymore and Dean felt himself pulled even closer, cocooned in his little brother's embrace.

"But, what happened to you in hell? No man should have to bear that agony alone. Let Sam help you."

At Castiel's words, and the feel of Sam now rocking him like a child, Dean sensed his emotions taking over and his body shook with the violent sobs that tore free from his chest. Sam's arms tightened again, and the older Winchester felt his little brother's hand pushing through his close cropped hair, cupping the side of his head in his palm, as Dean cried uncontrollably against his chest, clinging to Sam as if the younger man were a life preserver. And, at that moment, amidst the tears, the shame, the embarrassment… Dean realized that that was exactly what his baby brother was - his very own life preserver, keeping his big brother from drowning in the unfathomable depths of his guilt and pain.

"God forgave you, Dean. It's time you forgave yourself!"

Then, Dean was brought back to the present by six precious words - "I gotcha, big brother. I gotcha." The older Winchester finally allowed himself to be comforted, stopped fighting it, and leaned gratefully into his little brother's arms, buried his face into the crook of Sam's neck, allowing Sam to be the protector this one time.

THE END

A/N Thanks so much for reading. I hope you liked it. Please leave a review??