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Post 4.10-Dean is having difficulty coping with his experiences (This is tentatively intended as a prologue for a multi-chapter fiction but is currently a stand alone)

Much thanks to Insane Troll Logic for suggestions and editing.

Avoidance

"What are you doing out here, Dean?"

Dean half turned, gave his younger brother a brief glance and muttered "Nothing," before turning back and looking out over a mostly deserted motel parking lot. Since it was well past midnight, the lot was dark. The air was crisp, just this side of being cold. Dean leaned casually against the Impala's hood, though the warmth of the engine had long since faded.

Sam stepped forward and sat on the hood beside him. "Couldn't sleep?"

Dean snorted.

Sam nodded slightly, even though he knew his brother wasn't looking at him. It was a stupid question.

Sam chewed his lip nervously. Since his brother's road side confession, after Anna had regained her Grace, he had been trying to find the words to make Dean feel better; to let him know that he didn't blame him or think less of him for what he did in Hell. He still wasn't sure what to say but thought he had been quiet long enough. "Dean…"

"Not now, Sammy, just don't," Dean pleaded softly.

"Yeah, okay, but if you need to or just…I'm here, Dean. And I want you to know that I don't think less of you for…"

"Breaking?"

"No, man, no, for doing what you had to do to survive! You don't have anything to feel guilty about. You held out for longer than anyone could have expected you to and those souls that you…" Sam stopped unable to continue with what he was going to say. "All I'm saying is that they weren't innocents, they were damned. They deserved to be there."

"Yeah, of course they did, Sam. I mean, maybe they were rapists or murderers or maybe they sold their souls to save their brother's life," Dean growled.

Sam instantly regretted his choice of words. "Dean, that's not what I meant. You didn't deserve Hell. I'm sorry, that came out wrong."

"You're not wrong," he whispered, his mood rapidly swinging from anger back to despair. "After what I did, the things…" Dean shook his head. "That's where I deserved to be. The things I did down there, Sammy-I didn't deserve to be saved. I should have held out, been stronger but…I was losing myself. I was becoming something as evil as anything we've ever hunted and I can't forget that. Believe me, I've tried. But with what we do, who we are, there are so many things I can't avoid, can't get out of my mind. There are demons everywhere reminding me of what I was becoming."

"Ruby," Sam said reluctantly.

"Yeah," Dean sighed. "It's not that I'm not…grateful…that she kept you going but, Sammy, when I look at her, I remember what she looked like in Freemont and then, in a flash, I see those same dark, cruel faces leaning over me, stripping the meat from my bones and laughing. I'm afraid to look in a mirror; afraid my eyes will be black and it…it makes it hard to be around her.

"When I lay down, my mind won't shut off. I don't want to sleep 'cause I know I'm gonna dream. And I don't know which dreams are worse, the ones where I'm on the rack or the ones where I'm off."

"Dean, why didn't you say anything? I would have…"

"You would have what, Sam?" Dean interrupted. "Not snuck out at night when you thought I was sleeping? Not invited her into your life, our life? Not taken what she tells you as gospel? What would you have done, hmm, little brother? Besides," he continued wearily, "I thought once you were through with using your psychic mojo, she wouldn't be hanging around anymore."

"Dean, Ruby was there when I needed her. She's saved my life-your life."

"She's a demon, Sammy. Don't be fooling yourself. She's helping you for a reason and it ain't because of your big pretty eyes. Do you think she's helping you because she cares about you?"

"No, of course not…"

Dean turned and looked his brother in the eye. "She's using you, Sam."

"No, Dean, I'm using her! I'm using her to get to Lilith. She doesn't like Lilith anymore than we do. She wants to see her brought down and she thinks I can do it."

"But you're not using those powers anymore Sam, why is she still hanging around? Did you ask yourself that?"

"Because she doesn't have anywhere else to go, Dean! When she cast her lot in with me, she pretty much alienated herself from other demons."

"So she hangs around so you can protect her? Because with Lilith and Alistair gunning for us, and my new best bud being an angel, hanging around with you is just so very safe."

"What are you saying I should do, Dean? Abandon her? Ignore her? After all she's done for us?" Sam was getting agitated. His own uncertainties about his relationship with Ruby making him need to defend her to his brother so he could defend his decisions to himself.

"I'm not saying that she's not helped you, Sam. But remember she's also lied to you. Last year when she dangled being able to save me from the Pit in front of your nose, you forget that? Why'd she do that, Sam?"

Sam looked down, unable to meet his brother's gaze any longer, "You know why she did it. She wanted to get close to me; to get me to trust her."

"Did she know how to save me?"

"No."

"But you still trust her. Trust a demon."

"I don't trust her!"

"Well, you sure as hell, act like it!" Dean hissed.

The older Winchester took a deep, calming breath, already regretting his outburst.

"Don't worry, Sam," Dean mumbled "I won't ask you to choose."

Sam was immediately offended that Dean thought so little of him. His brother actually believed there was a chance he would give him up for Ruby? He opened his mouth to deny that would even be a choice but shut it without saying a word. A cold realization wormed its way through his gut. He still needed Ruby.

Dean cleared his throat. "Did you know there are at least three factions in Hell? Lilith seems to be heading one faction. Alistair is, or maybe was, supporting her, at least for now. There are a lot of demons who don't want anyone to be lead dog, they like it the way things are but they're gonna go with the flow and support who ever comes out on top. Then there's the third faction. Apparently your demonic blood donor was hot stuff, I don't know what Azazel planned but they're ready to follow his general. Still."

"How do you know?" Sam asked with some trepidation.

"Demons like the sound of their own voice; they would talk to me when I wasn't screaming. They would say things to break my spirit. Tell me that you were dead or that you were becoming the Hell spawn that yellow-eyed bastard wanted you to be. I just kept telling myself that demons lie…they lie.

"Ruby's still looking to make you the leader of a demon army, Sammy. I know she is. Don't tell me that she hasn't told you that the only way for you to win this war is to open that door in your mind and step through. Don't tell me that she's happy with your decision to stop."

"She can't make me do anything, Dean, and she still could be useful."

"She's a demon, Sam."

"She saved our lives, Dean. She saved Anna's life. What do you want me to do? Exorcise her and send her back to Hell or maybe kill her with her own knife? That would certainly give us the moral high ground."

"Sammy…"

"You said you weren't gonna make me choose, Dean, so don't."

Dean nodded slowly.

"I'm sorry, Dean, I just can't…"

"Hey, don't worry about it, Sam. Why don't you go back inside and get some sleep. No reason that both of us should be up."

"Dean?"

"Sam, really, just go back inside. I want to stay out here a while longer."

Sam was reluctant to leave. He had wanted to comfort his brother but had ended up hurting him. Dean was tortured by demons. He had nightmares about Hell. Being around demons made the nightmares worse, brought the memories to the foreground where no amount of alcohol could dull them. He had wanted to help but thought he had probably made things worse. He couldn't even reassure Dean that if it came down to an ultimatum that he would choose his brother. That insight made Sam disgusted with himself.

Ruby's mere presence hurt his brother. Yet Sam couldn't give her up. Not yet. Not while she might still be useful. Not while Lilith was still out there.

The only thing that he could do for his brother right now was to leave him alone.

So he did.

End