"You take care of your brother." Dean said to the child. He looked up at the boy's mother and smiled.

"How can I possibly repay you?" she asked, tears rolling down her face. Dean shrugged.

"Just knowing that all of you are together and safe is enough for me." he said and turned to leave.

"What about you?"

"Excuse me ma'am?" he asked softly.

"Your family. Don't they worry about you? Don't' they worry about you risking your life the way you did. I mean….look at you." She was right, he was cut to hell, and his shoulder hurt like a son of a bitch. He knew he would be ramming it back into place using the wall of his current motel room. He simply smiled at the woman clutching her son, and the younger boy clutching onto the older boy as if his life began and ended with the elder.

"Evil got my family." He said simply. The woman pulled her eldest a little closer to her. Dean understood. He represented what could happen to a family, he represented what evil could to do a man, to those he loved. It could tear them up and turn them into a hollow shell, it could send the soul to hell, carve it into something new, and return it damaged and broken and unable to save the very life that it had been trying to protect for a lifetime.

He got into his car and drove away from the family he just saved, ensured that the younger boy would never know what it would be like to be without his big brother, ensured that they would be able to keep their mother until a natural death over took her, or some other more normal death. He drove back to the motel, with one double bed, with one duffel bag, and with only one set of boots beside the door.

When Sam left for Stanford all of those years ago, Dean had been upset, scared, and lost, but he knew that his brother was better off, happier, finally getting the normal he always wanted. But this time, he left him to be with a demon. One of the filthy things that ruined their family, took him to hell, and managed single handedly to destroy the closest brother bond in all of history. He chose Ruby over him.

So tonight he did what he did every night now after a hunt, he wrote down the family that he saved, he wrote down what the monster was, how to kill it, and wrote down little details that he thought might be useful later on. Then, in the overwhelming silence that seemed to envelop him, he made his way to bed, and flopped down onto it and fell into a restless sleep.

He didn't drink anymore. He barely spoke to anyone. The last time he spoke to a witness his voice was more gruff than it had ever been in his life. Dean was becoming something he isn't. He didn't go to bars, he didn't chase women, he barely acknowledged they existed any more. He ate sparingly, and he spent his free time researching hunts, and not just any hunts, hunts in which he could most definitely save a family.

Then there were times where he sat on his bed and starred out of the window for hours. Didn't move, didn't speak, didn't even appear to be breathing. Those were scary moments.

The only times he was actually brought to some semblance of his former self, was when Bobby would call and tell him that a hunter was on Sam's trail, that the hunter was going to wipe Sam off of the face of the planet because he was an abomination, that he was a monster, that he was evil, and that he should be destroyed. Those were the only times that Dean was moved to action, moved to extreme emotion, made to yell, scream, kick and break things. He would open up that Impala and make her fly to wherever she was needed and he would fight that hunter, put him or her in their place, maim them if necessary, and kill if exceedingly necessary, but he wouldn't' allow any hunter on the grid to even contemplate killing Sam.

Sam may not have spoken to his brother since that fateful night, but it didn't mean that he didn't care, didn't miss him deeply, but he was better off not near him. Everyone he loved dies. Dean died once, and thankfully been resurrected by the good guys, and not in anymore pain, he didn't want his brother to die again, because of him, or for him. Dean deserved to live. Yet the life he was living right this second wasn't the life that Sam had envisioned for his brother. Foolishly, he thought that without him Dean would be able to have a real life, be able to do something other than hunting, but by the looks of it all it did was make his brother a shell, a sad, lonely shell. Sam wiped his mouth and sighed when he watched Dean turn out the lights in his room.

"You done with your weird, twisted little peep show?" Ruby asked from the shadows.

"I just need to make sure he's okay."

"He obviously is. He's not dead. Come on, let's go already."

"He's hurt."

"His shoulder was dislocated by a poltergeist. Nothing he hasn't been through a million times."

"But I was always there…or dad."

"He chose this life Sam."

"That's not true." Sam said softly, and watched, with his new demon eyes, his brother turn over in bed and wince, groan and turn back onto his back and lay there, eyes wide with pain and fear. Sam swallowed. "He was never given a choice."

"Sam…" Ruby said impatiently.

"Just one more minute. I just have to be sure."

"Sure of what?" And that was most certainly the question. What was he checking on? His brother was alive, as well as he could be after being thrown into a wall. So what did he need to be sure of?

"I just want…"

"You just want what you can't have Sammy."

"Please don't call me that." He whispered. She sauntered up to him and put her hands around his waist.

"We need to go. There are things to do, people to see, and demons to hunt."

"I know." The sadness in his voice was palpable.

Ruby rolled her eyes. "We'll come check on him again this week. I promise Sammy. Come on. We have to go." Sam blinked the tears out of his eyes, pulled his bottom lip between his teeth and nodded rapidly.

"Yeah. You're right. Okay. Let's go." Sam left his brother again, just like he has done a thousand times. However, this time it was to protect his brother, to keep him alive, to keep him safe. Sam, as Ruby began to drive away from the no tell motel, realized that this must have been what Dean felt every single time he went to check up on him at Stanford. And Sam found himself wondering what could possibly happen that would give him excuse enough to go and find his brother and attempt to repair the bridges that had been burnt. They turned into traffic and the motel became just a blur in the windshield and Sam felt part of himself being torn away. I miss you Dean.