Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to Kripke and Co.

It's been a year, but it's still not enough. But you know that, don't you Sammy? When the clock strikes midnight it'll be just that- a year. You were dead, Sam. What else was I supposed to do? Seein' you, lying there on that bed at Bobby's- I couldn't even remember how to think.

I lost you once. I knew better than to make that mistake again. You almost died so many times. The fire- the demon- when you were just a baby, the shtriga, every hunt we've ever been in and then when I saw that knife go in your back I knew I had failed you again. I couldn't help it, Sammy- it's my job to protect you. Even when that means dying for you. My Hell is a life where you're dead.

You don't know this but your first and last steps were towards me. You were about a year old and I had just turned five, and I was still trying to understand why we weren't at home anymore. Dad had managed to get us this little shitty half-furnished apartment for a few weeks. We were playing in what passed for the living room- rolling this ball back and forth or at least I was rolling a ball towards you and you were sitting there doing whatever it is babies do. You never caught it of course. It rolled behind you this one time and I got up to get it. Dad was watching us from the kitchen I think. When I got up to get it, just as soon as I walked behind you, you got this look on your face like you were furious I was out of your line of sight. You stood up and put one of those little feet in front of the other. Made it about five steps before you fell. The fall startled you more than it actually hurt, but you cried anyway, and I was by your side before Dad could even move.

It's always been like that, Sammy. I don't remember a whole lot before Mom died and some of it I'm sure is stuff Dad has filled in or told me through the years. I wasn't so sure about the whole big brother thing when they told me, especially once they said you wouldn't even be able to talk for a long long time. As soon as I saw you though- all wrapped up like they do with newborns and Mom holding you- it was like being a big brother was what I had been born to do, you know? And after Mom died, no one could keep me out of your crib, no matter how they tried. I guess at first Dad thought I was going to smother you or something, but eventually he just let it be. I knew what was out there by then, and I needed to protect you from it. Not that a four year old would do much good, I know that now. I'm almost thirty and I still didn't do much good. I would always make sure you had the last of the Lucky Charms, even when I hadn't had any. They were my favorite, but you liked them more. We were never starving by any means, but we definitely had less to eat then we would've liked, especially when we were teenagers. I was ravenous from the ages of 12-14, but I always made sure you had a little bit more on your plate. When you hit that growth spurt when you were 14, god, you must have shot up six inches in six months, I hardly ate. When you were little and would have a nightmare about whatever thing Dad was huntin' that week you always made me come to your bed. I never complained, no matter how much you kicked me in your sleep because I knew you were safe. It's the little things, Sam. I wouldn't trade those for anything. Not a thing, even my soul back. They're what make you, you, my little brother. Of course sometimes things were hard. I was so determined to keep you in the dark, but you wanted to know why. Why we were different, why we moved so much, why Dad was always gone, why we didn't have a Mom, why the salt- I was only about 11. I couldn't take it anymore, so I told you the truth. Dad was mad when I told him what happened, but he acknowledge that we wouldn't have been able to keep you in the dark much longer, not with you realizing that everyone else stayed in one place for the most part, and that they didn't have salt lines at their doors.

I don't know if I ever apologized for telling you that monsters were real and Santa wasn't at the time, but I am sorry for that. You were just a kid. Even then though, Sam, you were still so innocent. Once I assured you that there weren't really monsters under the bed you were more upset about the whole Santa thing than anything else. And another thing, Sammy, as mad as I was when you left for school, it wasn't you I was mad at. It was me because you had decided you didn't need protecting anymore. I knew you were gonna find a way to go to school. You were always smart, and I was so proud when you said you had gotten a full ride to Stanford. I figured someone should be, and it sure as hell wasn't going to be Dad. From the time you started high school on when I wasn't breaking up the fights between you and Dad, I was trying to convince him to let us stay in one place for just a few more days because you were doing so well in that school. Tryin' to give you some stability let you do high school, at least, in peace. You know as well as I do it didn't work, but I still tried Sam, I swear I did.

I just figured someone in our family shouldn't be a failure, you know? When I came to get you that night I had thought long and hard about it. And when I saw Jess, the picture of effin' innocence in a Smurfs t-shirt of all things, I almost turned around and walked out anyway, no matter how much I needed your help, because you deserve that life- apple pie and all. Who knows maybe without me in the picture you'll leave this life behind and find a girl, marry her, all of that. I know you probably won't, but I still hope. I raised you, Sammy. You're my baby brother, my world. I know how awful it is to have someone sell their soul for you- Dad did it for me remember? I wasn't even thinking of what it would do to you when I did it though. I just knew I couldn't live without you. It's an all-consuming grief. I wish I would've thought of it, because I don't want you to know that. Like I said though, I couldn't even think without you.

You remember when we were kids and Dad would leave us at Bobby's for long stretches of time, especially in the summer? You'd make me play hide and seek with you in the junk yard and then when we got older, after Dad gave me the Impala, you would sit there and read while I did maintenance on her, handing me tools when you're eyes got tired. You never were in to the car stuff. I guess you figured you would always have me around for that. I taught you as much I could about her and her quirks in the time we had. I'm sure you'll learn her little noises, and stuff in time. Just take care of her for me Sammy, and for heaven's sake don't you dare mess with her sound system. She is just fine with tapes. Don't get hurt Sam. I know you're better at first aid then I am, but still, just don't do it. If you keep hunting try to find someone you can hunt with, that you trust. They won't be me; they won't put themselves between you and an angry spirit on purpose, but just someone to have your back. Eat lots of pie. Or at least the occasional slice for me- I'm guessing Hell doesn't have pie. Get laid, Sam, preferably with someone you won't have to kill later. Please don't try to bring me back and you sure as hell better not try and sell your soul for me. I knew what I was doing. Not much longer now. I know you won't stop trying to save me, but I've accepted it. I'm ok with this. Be careful out there, Sammy. I can't protect you anymore, and you don't know a world without that.

Even at Stanford I would come and check up on you. Just from a distance, and you never knew I was there. I saw you hated Halloween, and always spent Christmas alone. That was normal, for you I guess. Most people go home to their families then. I think you took some trips, stayed out of trouble though, and never went out alone at night or let anyone else do that either. I guess some things run too deep. I wish it didn't have to be like that. That Dad never taught you how to shoot a bull's eye with your eyes closed, and sleep with a knife under your pillow. That I hadn't drilled into you that there was danger everywhere, and to always be on your guard. Its instinct for us, but you were never meant for that. It was always harder for you, you didn't remember Mom, and you didn't have a baby brother to protect. Why should you learn the family business? I guess what I'm trying to say Sam is that I love you. And I want you to be safe and happy, no matter the cost. Don't give me that look, Sammy, I'm on borrowed time here, I'm allowed a chick flick moment or two. Just accept that I'm gone when I'm gone and live your life the way you know how.

I shook my head in the mirror, clearing the thoughts. I was dead. Bobby and Sam weren't giving up, and I was goin' with them. I knew I was a dead man though. One last trip with Sam and Baby then an eternity in Hell, so my brother could have a real life. I walked downstairs.

"Come on, Sammy. Let's go."

A/N: Just my take on what Dean may have been thinking before he went to die in NRFTW. It's something that wouldn't leave me alone, so I figured a quick one shot might help get the gears turning for my other stories. Whether you loved it or hated it I'd like to know so R/R.