They're in California, a little town in the central valley. Monsters ain't stupid. A monster can do more damage quicker in a big city: more people closer together that you can hurt quicker, but it does worse damage longer in a little town where you trust your neighbors. And these neighbors are possessed by something. Demon, maybe. Doesn't matter, so long as it yields to salt and holy water and good cold steel.
Dean stabs one of them and watches light and ash billow out and the corpse dissolves to nothing as whatever was possessing it returns to its infernal source. Sam has the other. She's screaming curses and getting in some good hits, but Sammy's bigger and he's got a knife. Sam gets a clear shot and slides the knife up and under the ribs, drives it home.
She doesn't go up in smoke. She crumples around the blade, bleeding and screaming and writhing and human. Human. It was just the one demon, unless another one's hiding around town somewhere else. Odds are against that, but they'll still check. Later. They could have saved her. Did save her from having her soul eaten or whatever, but still human, and dead.
Sam freezes and turns to look at Dean.
"Don't worry, Sammy," Dean says. "Everything's going to be all right. I'll make everything all right."
She was the first, and the first was the hardest. It gets easier. They never could save them all. It's easier, knowing sometimes it doesn't matter if they make the wrong call in the heat of battle. They're doing God's work, protecting this green earth from the monsters that would rend it asunder and devour its people. Sometimes you gotta break some eggs, and they only have the one handbasket for them all.
Dean isn't quite sure who was the first. Who was the first to make the ID, not a monster, in the heat of battle, and not pull their blow. It keeps them fresh, less worried, so he figures it must be intended. All part of God's master plan.
There's a nest of vampires in Iowa. They've already sucked the life out of the goths they've rounded up by the time Sam and Dean bust through the doors. When it's all over but the steady drip of holy water and blood off the rafters, the pile of black clothing stirs, and one survivor gets to her feet in the middle of all the wreckage, pretty and pale with ruined makeup trickling down her round little cheeks.
"They were going to kill me," she says. "You saved me. Thank God."
Sam steps forward, knife still in his hand.
"You ever think we might be the monsters, Dean?"
"Plenty worse things out there than us. The way I look at it, we're saving these people. Keeping them safe from all the things that go bump in the night. They owe us, Sammy. We're just taking a little of what's rightfully ours."
There's rules to it, of course. It makes sense, because they're on a mission from God, so they gotta obey God's rules. It's gotta be one of the ones they've saved. It's a tithe, or close enough, which means no more than one in ten. They're like Abraham, sacrificing the ones they love the most because God tells them to. But God never stops the blade. Not that they're demanding anything flashy like lights or a burning bush, but it would be nice to have some face time with the big guy, instead of the occasional run-in with one of His fascist fascinum angels. Dean would appreciate that, a bit of a check-in so they can tell Him all's well, that even if He may be a bit AWOL from most of Creation at the moment, that His faithful servants, his shepherds, are on duty, guarding the flock from the wolves.
They're investigating a haunting up in Essex County, MA. Routine. But Sam's up and out at the ass-crack of dawn, and the zombies catch Dean sleeping. Unaware. Next thing to helpless, though you couldn't rightly say that any shepherd of the Lord was helpless. But the zombies nearly have him when Sammy comes in and saves his sorry ass.
After it's all over, Sammy looks at him, and Dean looks him straight back in the eye.
"Thine only brother, whom thou lovest," Dean says, and bows his head.