Just an angsty little one-shot…not sure if it makes any sense really but it's what came to me in the aftermath of the season première tonight….

The Middle

Ben and Lisa are still at Bobby's for now…for which Dean is incredibly thankful. Seeing Sam pull away is almost more then he can bear and he really needs to be alone right to get himself back together before he can face them again. The slight tinkling clang of the keys to the Impala resting in his pocket remind Dean of what his brother had just turned away. It takes him back to that fateful day in the field, the day when both his brothers tumbled into the depths of Hell and out of his life forever…or so he thought…

The keys make him think of the Impala…the Impala makes him think of all the pieces of their lives that were tied up in that sleek, beautiful car. It was the only real home they ever had, besides each other, and when Dean had shown up on Lisa's doorstep all those months ago, Dean had put her away, leaving everything just the way it was because he knew he could never drive her again. She was the embodiment of everything he'd lost, everything he'd sacrificed and he just couldn't bear to have that so close to him every day from then on. Today, when he'd offered it to his brother, he'd hoped Sam would take it, that he'd let it remind him of their life, of him…but Sam had said no, just dismissed it without any real consideration and that had left Dean deeply wounded. He'd played it off, just as he'd always done, but deep down, he felt like that was the last tie and that Sam was severing it.

Seeing Sam, healthy and whole and…seemingly happy…it was more than Dean ever could have hoped for. He was so grateful to know his brother was ok, really ok and back, living and thriving. Below that, though, Dean was utterly crushed. Sam didn't need him, didn't want him around. He honestly thought Dean would rather be Mr.-Happy-Go-Lucky-Suburbia, with the white picket fence and the steady job and a girl, throwing backyard barbeques and whatever…then being with his family. If Dean was honest with himself, he did enjoy his life, little moments with Lisa or Ben, the warmth of an honest days work…but none of those things EVER came close to making him feel whole. Believing his brother was forever being tortured in Hell and that he couldn't do a damn thing to save him…it broke him. He thought Sammy dying that night at Jake's hand had been the bottom dropping out beneath his feet…well, turns out there was a whole other level well below that…

And then…Sam. Sam showing up, saving him, just giving him a cocky smirk and expecting him to just be fucking GLAD that he'd been back a year and hadn't even told him so. Bobby too, goddammit!

Dean had never felt so goddamn hurt or betrayed as that moment right then and they just didn't get it. They would never get it. Lisa was wonderful, beautiful, kind…and if life had gone a different way, he would have felt blessed to have been able to be with her. He would have built a life with her and Ben and he would have been a very lucky man. Lisa and Ben, now matter how awesome they were, though, they weren't family. They weren't the brother he raised, a son, best friend, and brother all rolled into one frighteningly tall, mop-haired package. Because, really, if he had to, Dean could live without them. But Sammy…he never could. Oh, he might have been walking around, maybe even smiling, seemingly the picture of domestic happiness but inside…not a day went by that he didn't think of his brother.

Not a day went by that he didn't think on all the horrible things being done to him and how he had failed to save Sammy even though he'd promised he would. A day didn't pass where he didn't pray Sam would be saved, released, allowed to go to Heaven, where he belonged. Not a day went by that he didn't wish Sammy was there with him. He still caught himself thinking of things he just had to tell Sammy or random jokes he wanted to crack and see Sammy bitch-face over…and when the reality of the fact that his baby brother was gone caught up to him again, it tore him apart all over again.

Inside, he was forever aching and raw with his grief for his baby brother. More often then not, his nightmares, when they weren't his own Hell-induced memories, featured all the horrible things he knew where happening to his brother down below, trapped with Lucifer for all eternity. He woke too many times to remember with tears drying in deep tracks on his world-weary face because of those images. Lisa didn't pry about it and he loved her for that.

He tried to be happy there, with Lisa and Ben, because he had promised his little brother, it was the last promise he'd made. Not a day went by for months when he didn't try to find a way to bring Sam back or to set him free and put him to rest at least and when that failed, not a day went by that he didn't thinking of following his brother to the grave, despite his promise. That thought never went away, always just hovered there at the back of his mind even though he did eventually let himself feel the tiny amounts of happiness that life with Lisa and Ben brought him. He always knew though, that they would never be enough, never be equal to his brother, his family.

Dean made it inside the house before he broke down at least. Just collapsed back against the door and slid down it, head bowed and he finally let it out. The relief, the joy, the sadness and betrayal…he let it all come. Dean had never felt so alone in all his life as right then. He'd told Sam that staying was the better option, trying to hurt him, maybe just a little, maybe get a rise out of him and Sam…he'd just shrugged and let him and just walked away. Dean had hoped maybe he'd fight for him, that maybe he would matter as much to Sam as Sam did to him but…he didn't, not anymore, if he ever had.

Sam didn't need him, he was all grown up now and he had the Campbells to be his guides and backup now. Sam didn't need his big brother around anymore. He said he wanted Dean to have what he had never had and he wanted him to be happy but Sam just couldn't see that Dean wasn't truly happy and never would be without his brother there in his life with him. Losing Sam again was almost worse this time, really, because it's one thing to lose someone you love to something you can't control, but losing them because they purposely leave you behind…well that was a whole other animal.

Well…everyone wanted him out of their lives…everybody wanted him to have the life he never got to have because of hunting…well he'd give them what they wanted, just like he always did. He didn't know how to be any different and it was too late to try to fix himself now and besides, he just couldn't bring himself to find the will to care to try to do it anyways. He'd stay. He'd play the role they wanted him to play and if he died a little more each day, then so be it. They hadn't bothered to save him from drowning in the agony of his loss of his purpose, of his best friend, his son…It was just another reminder that he wasn't needed, wasn't important, wasn't loved by anyone, least of all himself.

Sam's half-hearted invitation to rejoin him did nothing to lessen that feeling. The other disturbing thing was that Sam really wasn't his Sammy anymore. He was colder, his bleeding-heart ways dead and gone, his emotionality and innocence was gone. If Hell had made Dean more vulnerable, unable to wall up his emotions as he had done on all his life before then, then it done the opposite to Sam. All the bright, deep warmth that had been the very essence of Sammy was gone forever. Seeing that, even more then the betrayal of not being told he was alive, hurt Dean to the core. He couldn't bear the thought of riding around day after day with a cold stranger that bore his little brother's face. He couldn't do it. So he stayed. He stayed and he hung on as his life was torn up around him all over again and he mourned for the two lives that he'd never belong to. He would always be straddling the middle, never able to be wholly a part of either one, just alone and stuck there…forever…

A/N: Idk...I have a mixed reaction on this one but I'm putting it out there anyways...hope y'all enjoy!

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