Something was different this morning. Dean, lately, woke up later than me, before the pit, he had been the one to call me lazy bones, but now, I had that right. But this morning, I woke up to hard rock music, and a brother who was dressed and ready, looking through the newspaper. He turned when he saw me wake, he gave a small smile. A smile that was more smirk than happy, and it hinted at lives past.

"You're up early." I noted and ran a hand down the length of my face.

"Yeah, been sleepin' a lot lately. Just done I guess."

"Doctor said you needed rest."

"Nah." He waved me off. But evidence of the brutal beating was still unmistakable on his face in the form of bright purple, dull green, and sickly yellow bruises marring his face, still audible in his voice, a voice that still rasped more than functioned, he still should be resting.

"Dean, you have to take care of yourself."

"Awww come on Sammy, when have I ever listened to those quacks?"

I thought about that briefly. Never. My brother never listened to a doctor, no matter how much he should. That was why he had a scar that ran the length of his leg, or well used to before the magic angel ointment erased the scars on my brother's flesh, wish they could have done the same for his mind, would have made a lot of things much much more simple. Dean never listened to anyone but himself.

"True enough. But you should be resting some more. You had a nasty concussion."

"One in a thousand Sam."

"Dean, Alistair…"

"I know what he did to me Sam. I most certainly don't need reminders." His voice turned, cold, lethal. Dean hadn't sounded like that since…since…well since I can't remember when. It was oddly comforting. "Get your lazy ass out of bed, get a shower, we need to hit the road. There is something that thinks snacking on kids is a good thing."

"Demon?"

"Not everything is a demon Sammy. Some things are just good old fashioned corporeal monsters. You know, stuff that responds really well to rock salt and buck shot. Something we can shoot at. The fun stuff."

"I don't recall any of it ever being fun…"

"Oh come on Sam. You know it's fun to blast a hole in something evil, something that needs a good ass whopping to show 'em who's boss. Just move. Get a shower. I can smell you from over here. Can't sneak up on the creepy crawlies when they can smell you comin' Sam. Come on hustle."

"Okay, okay. I'm goin' I'm goin'." Man who got him on a sugar buzz? I didn't have time to think about what in the world was going on with Dean, because he pounded on the door every other minute it seemed, called me a girl, and told me to hurry up, that I just needed to smell better, that I didn't have to look pretty and fuss with my hair. I actually laughed. I haven't laughed in a long time, it felt good, but out of habit, a habit I thought I had long forgot, I affixed a scowl on my face, went out into the main room and looked at him through wet long bangs.

"What are you in such a hurry for? Who lit a fire under your ass?"

"Just feel good, that's all Sammy." He smirked and smacked me hard on the chest. What in the hell is going on today? Dean hasn't smirked since his return trip from the pit. Sure he had tried to fake it, but this was an honest to God, Patented-Dean-Winchester-Smirk. One that meant trouble and lots of it. What was with him?

I brushed out my wet hair, gathered my things, and booked out of the room before Dean could take off without me. The car was already running when I jumped inside, the rush of hurrying of trying to make it on time invigorated me, made me feel alive again, made me feel comfortable in my own skin again, made me feel like I belonged somewhere again. Then the rock music blared. The windows were rolled down and the car took off at a break neck speed. I didn't mind, I didn't mind the cold wind biting into my skin, nor did I care that Dean was singing at the top of his lungs, incredibly off key, and out of tune. He was smiling, he was happy, or he was putting on one hell of a show. But why would he put on a show? It was just me. He didn't need to pretend, hadn't pretended since the pit, why would he do it now? Maybe Castiel did something, maybe Cass took away Dean's memories of the pit, was that why he was so happy?

"You sure you're okay Dean?" I asked when we stopped for lunch at a diner on the outskirts of some no name town.

"Why do you keep asking me Sammy? I'm fine."

"But, the, well, the way…"

"I'm okay." He said honestly. "You hungry? I'm starving." Dean said and looked around for our waitress. A young shy girl was thrown his way by the other waitresses, and she fidgeted with her pad, and she clumsily took our order as Dean grinned and flirted with her. I had to smile. Dean had talked about sex, a lot since his return, but he hadn't flirted good naturedly in months. And here he was flirting with this girl who was obviously unaccustomed to having someone flirt with her. Dean did that though. He always liked to talk about the beautiful women, but he always flirted with the girls who were shy, or weren't that pretty but they were nice. When I was a teen and hormonal and just looking for a pretty girl, I asked Dean why he gave the girls who were plain the time of day. He said that it was because those girls needed to be reminded that they were special too, that just because they weren't the prettiest girls on the block didn't mean that they wouldn't appreciate someone making them feel good, that they were as good as the girls who hadn't been afforded natural beauty. He said that some girls were just so pretty on the inside, that it could blind a man to her physical flaws. Said that's why he didn't go out with the plain ones, said that they would over power him and make him want to stay, make him want to take her with us, and he never wanted to drag anyone else into our life. I learned a lot about women from that example.

"She's sweet." I said casually as I looked through my menu.

"Nice, yeah." He hedged. She came back and handed us our meals. "Thank you darlin'." He drawled. He did that sometimes, well he used to do that, he used to drawl out his words, like he was from Texas or something. That was another thing he hadn't done since coming back from the pit. What in the hell was going on?"

"So," he started as he shoved a fork full of something, that at one point, was meatloaf, into his mouth, and my goodness he made a mess. I huffed because that is just what I do, when Dean does something uncouth, and needs to be reminded that civilized people do not make a mess with their food. He grinned. Damn jerk. "I think this thing might be another rawhead. I was thinking on the way here,'

"You could think through all of that noise?" He looked truly offended. Score.

"Dude, that was music. I'm sorry you only listen to crappy emo stuff. But that classic sound helps my brain move and think. Anyway." He rolled his eyes at me. "But it has all of the markings of one. I think we still have the tazers in the back,"

"This time don't just about get yourself killed."

"Awww, come on Sammy. That's half the fun."

"It's Sam." I huffed, not really wanting him to stop calling me Sammy, but I almost felt obligated to say it, he hadn't called me 'Sammy' this often in a long time. He simply grinned at me.

With dinner and flirting complete, we ended up in the town in which the children were going missing, and we did some reconnaissance work. It didn't take long to figure out where the thing was hole up. We worked in tandem, each of us working to our strengths, Dean talking with local residents, me at the library looking for the next possible place of an attack, then together talking to victim's families.

Dean ran the hunt, just like he had all of those years ago when we started to work together again. It was old and new all at the same time, it was refreshing, and I was so confused at this point. What, seriously, had changed in my brother to make him go from lying broken in the hospital bed, crying, and so overwhelmed that he wouldn't let me sit anywhere near him, wouldn't let me in his room, until he was released, to being back on top of his game like nothing had changed, like angels were still on the bull crap list and demons were just something off in the distance that we would fight when the time came but not a minute before, like we still had time to fight the little evil of the world. It was strange. Something was really strange.

"Sam, you take your supernatural steroids?" he asked as we were on route to the most likely target area. The question jarred me, confused me, scared me. Was I supposed to lie? Should I tell the truth? What do I say? Was he mad? He didn't sound mad? He sounded like it he was asking me if I cleaned my gun.

"Sorry?"

"Whatever you take to juice you up? Because I need you to be on point, just in case this fugly bastard goes nuts on me. I need you to be able to pin his ass to a wall so I can electrocute the sucker."

"I can't-" I started the lie.

"I know you can. I mean, dude, you killed Alistair. Quit acting like I don't have a clue. I do. I'm asking, you ready with that mojo of yours?"

"Yeah?" I am beyond thoroughly confused now.

"Good." Good? What in the hell? I think that is going to be my new phrase. I don't have a clue what has gotten into my brother, or how life has gotten back into my brother, but I don't have time to ask. We are at the site.

Victory on our lips, we got back to the motel room just before daybreak. "We got this son of a bitch this time without me being electrocuted." Dean said as we turned on the lights.

"Yeah we did." I feel like this conversation isn't meant to have me in it. Dean and I had worked side by side to get the monster, and save the children. Dean and I worked like there had never been a strain on our relationship, like everything was all right. I used my powers, held the monster against the wall, like a demon would hold a mere human, and Dean shot the thing and electrocuted the hell out of it, and this time, we did leave it with it extra crispy, us intact, and the children safe, crying, but safe and returned them home to their parents, who were grateful and offered to pay us, to reward us for finding their children. And like always, when someone offered us money, no matter how desperate we were for funds, no matter how low on gas the car was, or how many nights we had spent sleeping in the car, Dean refused the money, said that we didn't need it, that it was just the right thing to do, and that we were glad that the kids were back home safely. It was just like it always had. His eyes bright, adrenaline bright, collar up and his attitude cocky. Dean was the Dean of yesteryear.

"What happened to you Dean?" I blurted. Sometimes I really need to get a firmer grip on my mouth.

"What are you talking about Sam?" he asked as he threw his coat on the chair and took a seat on the bed next to mine.

"I mean this new attitude. A week ago I could hardly pay you to get a shower and dressed. Your eyes were like to piss holes in the snow.."

"I love you too Sammy." He grumbled at me.

"Fact of the matter is. Dean. You told me that you didn't want to live anymore, that you didn't want to be the one responsible for this apocalypse, and that you wanted to be back in hell because you obviously weren't doing anything right up here. And, today, you encouraged me to use my powers. ENCOURAGED Dean. You've done nothing but stare at me like I'm a freak and beg me not to use them, and then today, you treat it as if it is just another weapon in the arsenal. What gives Dean?" Dean didn't answer for a long time. He starred straight ahead, and his eyes took on that far away look that they had had the majority of his time back, that look that says he can't figure out what to tell me, what will set me off, what will make me leave. I would never leave. That's what he doesn't understand. He started the apocalypse, because of me, because he tried to survive for over 30 years in the pit and he couldn't, no one could. I'm the one who lies to him on a fairly regular basis, he has no idea what Ruby and I do to get my "supernatural steroid" as Dean so affectionately put it. He doesn't know, yet he stays, and yet he worries that I will leave him.

"Dean?" I prompt. He is jarred back into reality by his name. He looks over at me briefly, licks his lips, and rubs his hands together and sighs.

"This war is my fault Sammy. Mine. And I've been laying around moaning and emoing the hell out of it, and it isn't getting us anywhere. My life used to be so full. Full of you, dad, Bobby, saving people, knowing I made a positive mark in the world. Now, now." He shrugged. "Now, I start wars, I alienate those I love, and I don't think for myself. You pointed out, what? Four years ago now, that I just follow orders like a good little soldier." God he has a mind like a steel trap. When will he forget those words. I didn't mean them. I really didn't. "I realized that was what I was doing again. I was just blindly following Cas and his orders, and look at what I did. I tortured some man."

"You tortured Alistair." I amended. That son of a bitch deserved more than the little bit of torture that Dean had dished, and he deserved far worse than the swift death I gave him.

"But he was riding some poor dude, and that guy had to feel it right along side Alistair. I tortured another person, because I was told to. I did it because Cas said it was needed…"

"Cas didn't know that Uriel…"

"Not the point Sammy. Not the point. I should have used my own head and known better, said no, walked away, let the angels take care of that. But I didn't. And I just decided that I can't live my life like that anymore Sammy. I can't live wallowing in self pity." Dean licked his lips again and I knew better than to speak, when Dean got like this, it meant that I better keep my mouth shut and wait for him to start talking, because he would only do so when he was good and ready, and if you interrupt then he won't continue, he'll bottle it all back up and you'll never hear about it again. "I think I need to get back to me, get back to me and you, we need to be out there saving people and hunting things. I lost that, I lost my purpose. I'm gonna find it again."

Oh. Wow. That was his purpose in life and he knew it. It was the one thing that he always came back to. He told me a little bit about his adventure with the Djin, and the reason he came back had little to do with me in all actuality, but the fact that he couldn't live with the knowledge that all of those people we saved had passed, because of some great and terrible evil that he knew how to dispose of. "And your powers." He started. I was startled. He didn't' usually talk this much about anything relevant, sure he talked about food, women, television, movies, music, that stupid car, anything other than what needed to be spoken of for hours. We have needed to discuss this whole power issue for some time now, and I knew it, I just couldn't bring myself to talk about it and see the look of disappointment and fear on my brother's face. "Cas didn't smite you when you destroyed Alistair."

"How?" I most certainly didn't tell him about destroying Alistair. Did Cas tell him?

"Just figured that you would be the one to save me this time."

"What?"

"Give me credit Sam. I know you. Part of the reason you do what you do with your powers is because you were trying to save me, to get me back, and now every single chance you get you save me, you stop the bad guys from killing me. I don't know what exactly you do to practice, and I'm not sure I want to know, and I'm fairly certain that you aren't going to tell me, and if I ask you'll probably lie to me." Gulp. He was right. I wouldn't tell him because I am ashamed to say that I suck the blood out of a demon. I'm horrified that I do it. I don't want to see the disappointment or fear in his eyes, because, at times, I'm scared, scared of how far I can go, how much of my humanity is slipping away with each and every sip, gulp, lick and taste of the sulfuric blood. I don't want my big brother to think less of me. So I lie to him. Which in a sense I'm trading one evil for another.

"But I decided to look at it this way, if I get you to use them and practice around me and not Ruby then I can make sure you are okay, that you aren't hurting yourself. I guess I just decided that I have to roll with it Sammy. I miss having you at my back, and I have to accept everything in order for you to be at my back and not hers. I just…can't die while my body keeps functioning. So, I decided to do something about it. Now, are we done with this chick flick moment? I need a shower, that damn thing left me a mess, mud freaking up to my knees, why do these evil sons of bitches hole up in the most disgusting place on the planet? Why can't we go hunt something that lives in a nice house, with premium cable channels, and nice leather couches? Huh? Why not Sammy? I think you need to find us a hunt." He was standing up and moving towards the bathroom. "See if you can find us a haunting of a classy hotel." I chuckled.

"Whatever Dean." The door shut. "Leave me some hot water!" I yelled. He wouldn't. He never did.