Summary: Because Faith had more than a few missing moments…

"We still have options."

"What options? Burial or cremation? I'm going to die. And you can't stop it."

"Watch me." Sam and Dean, Faith.

Once, when Sam was perhaps twelve and their father was on a hunt, Dean had landed in the hospital.

It was an unnecessary nuisance; there had been a very, very small zombie in their new motel's front bedroom and Dean had taken a swing at it before it could take a swing at Sammy. The thing was killed, no doubt about that. It had definitely ended up on the worse end of the deal. And for a twelve-year-old, Sam could patch up his big brother like no body's business.

No, it wasn't the injuries that were the problem, it was the uncharacteristically concerned tenth-grade humanities teacher. She was the one who'd sent Dean to the hospital and had a whole freakin' mess of social workers, state workers, and psychologists waiting there.

So it was at the ripe age of sixteen that Dean learned how to sneak out of a hospital. The art was to look as if you weren't sick, and/or in need of care. This was actually much easier to pull off with a life-threatening heart defect that with an array of cuts and bruises.

Moving through the hospital corridors was easy for Dean Winchester. Despite his inbred aversion to the places, he'd landed in these buildings more times than was completely necessary for a twenty-six year old. They were all laid out in the same general pattern, as if the contractors had merely taken the original design and flipped it on its head, or turned some of the rooms around.

Because he was dressed in "civilian" clothes, smuggled in by Sam after Dean had raised hell about wearing the robes they dispensed at the hospital, people barely glanced at him. One candy-striper smirked at him, flirtatious for a seventeen-year-old. Dean, even with a time bomb ticking in his chest, gave a reflexive grin in return.

Dean's pace quickened as he neared the exit. The reason for his escape was twofold. First and foremost, he would not, could not spend the rest of his days in a hospital filled to brim with people who couldn't give a half damn about him.

Second…well, maybe his was the most important. It was what made Dean get out of the relative comfort of the bed, stagger upright, and head for the exit. It was what made the heart he'd always claimed wasn't there twist with the nervousness of betrayal…

Sam hadn't seen him in three days. Three days without so much as a word, a phone call, a text message. Some part of Dean said that was for the best, that the kid shouldn't have to hang around for a month waiting for his big brother to kick the bucket.

A larger part of him, the part buried beneath the shields acquired from seeing too much wickedness in the world, wished that Sam hadn't taken off, not without saying goodbye. Did these last couple of months mean less to Sammy than they had to Dean? Had his little brother not been having…if not fun, than at the least the excitement, the thrill of the chase and the hunt, the…the comfortable feeling of companionship, of brotherhood that had been growing stronger with each day?

"Looks like you're going to leave town without me."

"What are you talking about? I'm not going to leave you here."

Dean instinctively stopped the thought process there, labeling the whole train of thought as too mushy and moving on. For phase two of breaking out of the hospital without being noticed, he needed transportation. When he was sixteen, he had been heading back to the crappy motel he'd shared with his brother and, occasionally, their father at the time. Now..,

Where was he going now? Dean paused, leaning one hand against the bus schedule for support. Sam would have taken the Impala; it was the only thing he really got as an inheritance from his brother. Plus, Dean had all but thrown it at him; "Hey, you better take care of that car or I'm going to kick your ass."

"I don't think that's funny."

"Oh, well. It's a bit funny." Sam never did think Dean's particular brand of irony was very amusing, but what did the kid know? He'd basically been raised ender a rock, and college had done nothing in furthering his education in humor.

Still, Dean was left with the problem of no transportation, nowhere to go once he acquired the first part…Sam wouldn't have left anything at the motel. They were too careful, too paranoid about covering any tracks they left behind.

Nevertheless, the next bus that pulled up Dean got into, saying the address of the motel without thinking. Well, dying in a motel was better than dying in a hospital, anyway. But he would still be alone.

Dean's half-closed eyes opened wide at that stray thought. He had never, ever worried about being alone. He and Sammy had been taught from a young age not to trust anyone, not even (almost especially) their father. That lesson had mutated in Dean, making him unable to be completely comfortable around strangers, any stranger. He preferred being alone.

Which is why the sudden wish for company caught him off guard.

Having nothing better to do on the twenty-minute bus ride, Dean did a bit of soul-searching, though if anyone, especially Sammy, asked, he would deny it to his death day. But he did look inside himself, find his inner child, all that psyche crap. Why the heck didn't Dean want to be alone when he died? That was the most peaceful way to go.

He'd never wanted to be a hero. He hated it when people looked at him as if he was something special, something to be admired. Sammy had always looked at him like that. But Dean was nothing special. He just did what he thought was right as often as he could. He would go down swinging…

Not lying in a bed.

And immediately Dean knew what he'd do during his last days. He wouldn't seek out Sam (this was going against a part of him, a large part of him that mysteriously craved the freak's company). He wouldn't continue the fruitless quest for their father (this, for some reason, wasn't met with as much resistance as not looking for Sam). He would get to the hotel and turn right around, going off to find one last hunt.

He was a hunter, a stalker, a killer of all things other-worldly. No way was his own heart going to stop him now. He'd go down swinging, taking as many monsters as he could with him. And maybe then the world will have been a little better off for having Dean Winchester walk on it, albeit for a short time.

When the bus stopped, though, and Dean had a chance to get off at the motel or stay on as the vehicle kept going straight to the edge of town, eh got off. There was some gut instinct telling him that staying on the bus was the wrong thing to do. Dean had only survived to the old age of twenty-six on gut instincts. So he got off.

On weary feet, he made his way to the second story, the room he and Sam had stayed in a lifetime ago before Dean's own body turned on him. Dean realized he didn't have a key and found himself knocking, somewhat uselessly, on a door that had to conceal an empty room.

Seconds later, the door opened. Dean had never been more surprised to see anyone in his life, and felt his mouth fall open a centimeter or so before he caught himself. "What the hell are you doing here?" Dean resolved to teach his baby brother better manners in the future. Thankfully, the kid stepped aside and Dean went into the room. He was starting to feel dizzy, and his chest was sore. Not half as painful as some of the wounds he'd gotten in that area, but sore.

"Checked myself out." Dean said easily, trying not to look surprised as his brother's, well, existence. Everything in Dean had said that Sammy would be hundreds of miles away by now.

Smiling wryly to himself as Sam berated him gently for not offering himself to death on a silver platter, Dean realized that that he had never expected Sam to leave. Not really. The kid was crazy about him, and they both knew it. The fact that he'd been researching potential cures for a fatal wound was proof enough.

Later that night, when the curtains were drawn tight and a gun was propped by the door and on the nightstand, Dean woke to find a hand on his chest. Without opening his eyes he reached for the gun reflexively, hand shaking.

"It's okay, it's just me." Dean's mouth twitched at the sound of Sam's voice even as his hand feebly swatted the boy away. "Wha' you want? You okay?"

His eyes were open all the way, now, and he studied Sam, remembering that this boy was four years younger than him. Twenty-two years old. He had seen enough to be fifty. Dean had seen Sam all layers of the word 'scared', but nothing like this, nothing that brought that level or sadness to his eyes, that compassion to his voice.

"Did you ever think it would end like this?" Sam asked quietly, hand still resting near Dean's reluctantly beating heart.

"Seriously? No. Never." The possibility that he wouldn't die in battle hadn't even occurred to him. Now that the situation presented itself, Dean didn't know what to do, what to say to lessen Sam's pain. "I'll be okay."

"Stubborn ass." Sam said quietly, the words coming out in a strangled sob. "Your heart's too big."

And lying there in the dark hours of the morning, Dean believed him. No one's heart should be big enough to hold this much sorrow, or love, or….damnit, but it was there….hope.

Dean never thinks he means anything to Sam. I label it as 'older brother complex'.

As always, please review.