Hey, everyone. I'm sorry this chapter has been such a long time coming! I have been stressed out this semester with my class load and fin I really don't have much time to write, aside from the million papers and a play that are due for class. Anyways, in honor of Jensen's birthday I decided I need to update. I'm sorry for the wait. I hope this makes up for it. Enjoy.

Dean knew it wasn't going to be a good night. He could just feel in his bones. It was that sinking feeling in his stomach, like he hadn't eaten in days, but he still felt like he was going to puke. A gnawing, twisting feeling; almost fear. Except, Dean Winchester didn't register fear anymore; he hadn't for a long time. John called that his hunter sense. He would say that it was pure instinct, from back when man wasn't on the top of the food chain, when mere survival was based on how fast a man could react to danger. John's rule number two, in a long list of rules, right under "watch out for Sammy at all costs", was "stay alert, stay alive". Those were the words ringing in Dean's head as he threw the weapons duffle on top of the secret compartment, easily at hand for a quick grab and go. His whole body was vibrating with tension. Dean shook his head in a futile attempt to clear his mind and focus back on the upcoming hunt. But no matter how hard Dean tried to shake the feeling that something really bad was going to happen he couldn't. It was times like this that he wished he allowed himself to drink before hunts, not a lot of course, but enough to steady his nerves. But even if his moral compass would allow him to drink on the job, Dean knew John would tan his hide if he ever caught with a bottle in his hands.

Dean jumped as another duffle bag slammed down next to his in the trunk.

"You okay kiddo? You looked like you were a million miles away?" Asked John gruffly.

Dean shook his head and fixed a reassuring smile on his face, "I'm great; just going over everything in my head."

"Stay focused Dean. Staying alert is," John started.

"Is staying alive, I know. I'm focused. I just got a feeling." Dean admitted.

"I've got one too. I hate cases with kids. "John closed the trunk and then tossed the keys to Dean. "Let's go."

Dean knew he should have listened to his hunter sense, but he knew that truthfully no primal instinct could prepare him for something like his. Cases with kids were bad enough, but cases going south were downright heart breaking. It was nights like this that Dean wondered what the hell all of his sacrifices were even for. These were the nights where he wished he could lose himself so deep in the bottle that there was no possible way to ever find his way out again. He hated this life; it brought him nothing but pain and heart ache. When he was little, before the fire, he used to tell Mary that he wanted to be a police officer, or a fireman, (he can't really remember which one he said more often anymore)so he could help people. Heck, a few times he still flirted with the idea, late at night when there was nothing left to protect him from the darkness but a mind filled with hopeful situations and an ounce of imagination. Not the fireman dream though, that dream had literally been burnt away with his old life on a ceiling. But tonight he would gladly have been inside an inferno battling an untamable element; anything to get away from what he was dealing with right now. How could it come to this? All his life it seemed like same demons were chasing him. Sometimes he could escape for a bit, but in the end they would always be there, a cold grip on his ankle dragging him back into the world he was drowning in. Tonight, it was the shtriga; the same damn monster that tried to take Sammy away from him. Years later and he's still paying the price; still making the same damn mistakes that get people killed. Never before had he longed to trade places with any person more than he did tonight. If he could, he would take the place of the little girl he clutched gently in his hand in an instant. She was so small, so fragile, so unnaturally cold. Dean pressed her body closer in a vain attempt to regenerate some of her warmth. It felt wrong to him that she should be met with nothing but coldness.

The sound of boots heavily upon the wooden floor pulled Dean back in.

"It's time to pack it up Dean-o; we have to get out here before things get anymore hinky." John said gently, placing a hand on his sons shoulder.

"Are you really so cold that this isn't affecting you even a little?" Dean snapped, shrugging out of his dad's grasp.

"What did you say to me?" John asked tensely. God, he needed for this hunt to be over. His failure cradled gently in his son's arms felt like a knife twisting in his side.

"A girl is dead Dad. Can't you just pretend to be a little sad for just a minuet? For me?" Dean whispered, clutching the girl closely. She must have been about six.

"This was going to happen one way or another Dean. The Shtriga had already started on her before we could get there. At least, this time it was fast and painless." John tried to comfort, fighting all the while to keep calm; they both couldn't afford having a break down right now, not with a dead girl and a trigger happy sheriff on the loose.

"You're a cold hearted bastard, you know that?" Dean muttered.

"Dean," John warned.

"I'm not leaving her, not like this. It's my fault she's here. Our fault. We knew what the hell it was, why did we wait so long to end it?"

"Dean, we can discuss all this later. Right now we have to go. Just because a hunt got flubbed does not mean you need to go to jail for a murder you didn't commit." John said trying to pull the girl out of Dean's arms.

"Fuck you! I did do this! I did murder her!" Dean said grasping tightly. "I saw what it was doing, but I was too afraid to take the shot. I killed her Dad."

"Dean, stop this nonsense now. Pull yourself together kiddo." John warned, this time forcing Dean to stand, the girl slipping gently out of his arms.

"No, damn it! Just because you lost whatever soul you had when mom died!"

The hit came so fast it caught both of them by surprise. Dean hadn't braced for the sudden attack, and fell to the ground with the hard punch.

"You shut your fucking mouth!" John roared. "I am tired of talking about this shit with you Dean. I am in charge damn it and you will listen to me. Now get your ass in the car before I leave you here."

"I hate you," Dean said pulling himself to his feet.

"At the moment I don't really give a fuck. Now are you coming or not?"

Dean looked at his Dad fire and pain in his eyes, "Not."

John roared in rage grabbing the front of Dean's shirt and raising his fist ready to set him straight, Dean braced himself; John stopped and let out a pained moan. He dropped his hands, a terrified look in his eyes.

"Dean, I…" He looked sick. Without another word he turned and headed for the car.

Dean didn't even bother turning to look as he heard the impala roar to life. Instead he kneeled buy the little girl and fished out his phone to call for an ambulance. He knew there was nothing that could be done about his father, and frankly at the moment he didn't care; his attention right now was on the little girl. As he waited for the paramedics to arrive he realized he didn't even know her name. In the end he realized it didn't really matter, she was but one of the many faceless victims the terror that was his life had consumed. He stayed there until the paramedics arrived; spouting a million questions a minuet. He gave them his phone number for when they needed to reach him, and he knew they would, not that it mattered, the Winchester's would be long out of the town by the time anyone opened up an investigation.

By the time that Dean had managed to trek back to the motel room they sky was beginning to lighten. Dean and John had been separated for hours and Dean was sure that in that time John had probably managed to raid a liquor store and get himself comfortably drunk. Any other night, Dean might have actually given a damn, but right now all he wanted was to join him. It was a surprise then when he walked in and his dad was sitting on the couch sober. His eyes were red and his clothes in disarray, but John Winchester was stone cold sober. Dean sighed and shut the door.

"Glad to see you're in one piece," Dean sighed sinking unto his bed, shrugging out of his jacket.

John sighed and looked at Dean hard in the face. If Dean didn't know better, he'd say his Dad had been crying. "Dean," his voice was huskier than usual, "We need to talk."