This has been brewing since I finally saw the infamous "Impala beatdown" scene at the end of "Everyone Loves A Clown".

Spoilers: Pilot, Devil's Trap, In My Time Of Dying, Everyone Loves A Clown.

Being a Winchester was never easy. Though she was never officially named, she was a part of the family, as Dean continually told her.

John had loved her, cherished her until that dark night, when she offered silent support and comfort as the broken family huddled on her. A very dark period followed then, a broken and lost man leading a broken and scared family, pressing on the veil shielding the worlds until he broke through.

She always saw it as her responsibility to keep the children safe. The line was simple, easy. Sammy was protected by Dean. Dean was protected by John. John, and thus the boys, were protected by her two tons of solid steel. She offered what comfort she could, cradling them in her vinyl seats, humming a soft lullaby with her throaty engine purr. She listened to their complaints, their dreams, and their hopes. She dried their tears, and soothed the hurts.

John eventually bought a black, sleek monster of a truck, pulling it in beside her at the motel one night, and she felt the shiver as the keys are handed over the for the last time to Dean. He treats her better than most of his one night stands, in truth, he treats her better than any of her previous owners ever did. She murmurs to him softly along the dark stretches of road, keeping him company when Sam leaves, chasing a hopeless dream, leaving a broken family even more shattered.

It's up to her at nights, to once again soothe and comfort the lost and broken child, to ease the pain of a broken heart.

And the dark night, when John is tainted, and she screams in silent warning to them...they don't hear her. Even Dean, whom normally listens, is too blinded by hope and fear and terror to listen to her. She doesn't know what all happened in the cabin, but it is not long before Sam is easing Dean into the back, which is wrong wrong wrong, and turning over her engine. She felt the blood easing along the vinyl, felt the weak fingers trying to burrow into the seat, and she speed along faster than Sam asked of her, racing towards the help offered just minutes down the road.

She saw the truck, saw the headlights screaming towards her, and hoped like hell that she could outrace it. At the least, get far enough ahead to let it hit the back passenger door...that was the safest place.

Damned demon drove like a manic. She couldn't outrace it, could only brace herself, bucking seconds before it hit, throwing John closer to Sam and further away from the door, trying desperately to protect the precious cargo she carried. She fought physics itself, bending her frame into a pretzel to deflect the energy as best she could, straining to let the concussive blasts seep into the engine, away from the trunk, the explosives back there, and away from the three men that was all that she had.

When it all ended, she sighed, and poured the rest of her energy into keeping the radio going...the last offering she could give, as damaged and wounded as she was. Something for Sam to focus on, to keep him from drowning in the darkness that threatened him.

She woke to feel the Junkman's calloused hands on her, his soft hiss of sympathy a testament to her agony. But if the Junkman was taking her, she was going home...Dean could heal her. As the winch pulled her onto the flatbed, she whimpered in pain, and let go again.

She felt Sam's hand brush along the point of impact, his voice arguing with the Junkman's, and she stirred, trying to lean into the soft touch. "Dean's going to want to fix this when he gets better." She sighed in relief...Dean was okay. Or would be. In the last moments, as the medics had pulled him from her broken shelter, she couldn't feel him anymore, couldn't feel the soft deep breaths, the steady thrums of a noble heart. Dean would fix her. She just had to hang on a bit longer.

It wasn't but days later that she felt that sweet touch, the one that felt like hot rain during a moonlit summer night. She purred, arching into the sweet caress like a cat, taking in his deep sigh. It would get better.

"Damnit Sam." The growl was low, angry, and she flinched, feeling the anger surge as he saw where the semi had bit deep into her side. The anger faded just as quickly as he brushed a hand against the blood-stained vinyl, the hand shaking. "You poor baby. Don't worry sweetheart. I'll fix this."

In the next few days, as he welded and pried, bent and reshaped her, she learned the bitter truth. She had failed, they had lost yet another family member. Dean spoke to her as he worked, spoke to her as much as he held silent around his brother, the brother that came out at night, sprawled in the dirt, leaning against the cold metal of her body, tears streaming down his young face as he stared at the stars.

They left for a few days, after Sam had shared a message with Dean, and she sat shivering, just yards from being done, but left half-finished. She fought to stay in the here and the now, waiting with baited breath to hear the squealing whine of the dilapidated van they had left with.

She had dozed off at some point, jerking back when Dean stroked his hand along her hood, opening the door enough to flip on the radio. He didn't say a word, just slid a jack under her frame, easing her up to slip on a new tire. She groaned as he tightened the nuts, pure pleasure sliding along her like oil. He had just lowered her when Sam turned the corner, and she flinched, curling into herself again. The words were soft, quiet, but ignited anger in Dean. She braced herself as he picked up the crow bar that had been laying in the dust from a previous day, neglected as surely as he'd been neglecting himself.

And as he unleashed that anger, frustration, hurt onto her, slamming metal into her with rage, she took the blows, stoic. There was only so much she could do to ease the pain he was suffering from, only so much. Seventeen blows, and he dropped the crowbar as if it were burning him, jaw working as he panted.

It was better for him to unleash that upon her, designed as she was, able to bear the brunt of the hurricane, than for him to unleash it upon Sam. She knew the boys had come to blows before, probably would later too. But this anger, this hurt...As Dean shook off the last of the red haze and forced himself to look at the damage, she knew that it was for the best. Sammy couldn't handle that sort of venting; it would chase him off as surely as Junkman had John once before.

It was her responsibility to protect the children. Sam came first, or so John and Dean always told her. If she had to be the shield between the two brothers, take the blows to keep them safe, then she would. After all, she was little more than steel and rubber, gaskets and gadgets.

It wasn't easy to be a Winchester. But the three of them were all that were left.