A/N: Hey! I've really been itching to write some sort of Supernatural fic that follows the series. I haven't read any similar fics prior to this and last time I did was years ago, so if anything seems similar to something, I promise that it's not on purpose! This first chapter is just background stuff and a bit long, sorry! Rated M for safety. Hope you all enjoy it anyway :)

Disclaimer: I own nothing except for my OC, Katherine.

October 2nd, 1998

Columbia, Missouri

A storm raged outside, rain pouring down and wind whipping the trees. Thunder rumbled just overhead and lightning would strike every couple of minutes, illuminating the dark streets and buildings.

Sam and Dean Winchester stomped through each puddle without a care, both of them already soaked to the bone and covered in mud; the latter of the two taking out a key as they trudged up to their motel room door. He shoved the key into the lock impatiently, practically grunting as he pushed the door open and stumbled inside, flicking on the light.

"Dad," Sam called out as he followed his brother into the room, shutting the door behind him. All was silent aside from another clap of thunder, and both boys could see that the beds were empty and the bathroom was open and dark. "Huh. He's not back yet. What do you think he's doing?"

"Don't know, Sammy. Don't care, Sammy," Dean groaned, kicking off his boots, "It's Dad. He's probably just...doing something. He can take care of himself." He shrugged off his filthy jacket and tossed it onto a chair.

"Yeah, I know, but what if he found another...whatever those things were?" Sam sighed.

Dean looked over at him, raising an eyebrow. "You wanna go help him?"


"Yeah, that's what I thought. I'm hitting the shower." He walked into the bathroom and turned the light on, ignoring Sam's noises of protests.

"Come on, man. Why do you get to shower first?"

"Because I'm the oldest."

"I'm the smartest."

"What does that have to do with anything—"

Lightning flashed and the door suddenly slammed open, startling Sam and causing Dean to immediately run out of the bathroom, prepared to fight whatever it was that was breaking into their room. Two dark figures, one tall and one a lot smaller, stood in the doorway for only a moment before rushing into the light.

There stood John Winchester, his arm around a girl who looked to be around Sam's age, though you couldn't decipher much beneath her mussed hair and mud-covered form. John lead her to the table, tossing Dean's jacket off of one of the chairs and sitting her down.

"—what the hell, Dad?" Dean managed to spit out after a moment's shock. "You're bringing home strays now? Never thought I'd see the day—"

"Shut up, Dean," John said simply. Dean obeyed immediately, though hardly any time passed before Sam piped up.

"He's right, Dad. We've never brought home anyone before..." He looked at the girl curiously, his brow furrowed. "What's going on?"

John heaved a heavy sigh; one that was often brought out when Sam exasperated him. "Drop it, Sam," was all he said, before he looked at the girl. "What's your name, honey?"

The two brothers immediately looked at each other, Sam mouthing 'honey?' in complete confusion, having never heard his dad talk that way. They looked back at the girl. She looked lost for a moment, like she wasn't all there, before she suddenly looked at John.

She seemed to struggle for a moment, opening and closing her mouth. Finally, after a moment of trying to speak, she uttered softly, "Katherine."

"Katherine. Okay, Katherine," John helped her to her feet, more gentle than he had ever been in years, to Sam and Dean's surprise, "why don't you go in and take a shower? There's towels in there and I'll leave you something to wear. Go on now." He lead her to the bathroom. He turned the shower on for her then left the room, shutting the door and sighing softly.

"Seriously, Dad, what the hell?" Sam asked, interrupting John's rare moment of rest. "You've never done this before. You'd probably give us hell if we did it...what's going on?"

John's face immediately soured. "Watch your tone with me. I'm the authority here, I'll bring someone here if I want to."

"I'm just saying that it's weird! I just wanna know why..."

"Because!" He sighed again, running a hand through his own filthy hair. "It won't be for long, okay?" He looked at Sam, then Dean, who looked just as confused as Sam despite his silence. "So don't worry about it and just...drop it."

"But, Dad—"

"Sam." Dean interrupted, giving him a look, trying to prevent a fight.

"Look, give her one of your shirts or something. Make sure she's okay. I'm going to get a room for her." John went over to his bag of belongings and took out some cash. He could feel the boys' gazes on him. "Just trust me on this. It's only going to be a couple of weeks."

October 14th, 1998

Carmel, Indiana

Nearly a couple of weeks after that, John, Dean, Sam, and Katherine all sat around in a motel room, eating lunch. It was all burgers and fries from some nearby fast food joint; John ate a bite every so often as he looked through the newspaper for strange occurrences, Dean devoured his food like an animal, Sam ate his food rather reluctantly for a growing teenage boy, and Katherine just stared at hers.

She was still there, despite John's promises. He still had yet to explain why he'd taken her in to the boys, and Sam eventually stopped asking and just tried to be kind to the girl. She barely spoke, and barely ate, and stayed at whatever motels they stopped at while they went on a hunt. Sam would sometimes stay with her and enjoyed it far more than hunting, which was part of the reason why he didn't bother pestering his dad about her.

They hardly knew anything about her, but both boys could admit that she was pretty, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and innocent features. Though they — even Dean — hadn't thought about it much. It was hard to when she was in their lives under such strange circumstances, and it was clear that she was traumatized from something.

Now, she slowly lifted up a french fry and stared at it. "It's all real."

John, Dean, and Sam, as many horrifying things as they had dealt with, nearly jumped out of their seats at the sound of her voice. She hadn't really said much of anything since she practically whispered her name the first night she was brought there. They all just stared in stunned silence for a moment, but Dean managed to recover first.

"Uh...it's delicious, but it ain't real." That earned him a look from both John and Sam, which he ignored.

Katherine looked up at him, then quickly back down. "No. I...I mean, the things you read about in books, and watch on TV, and see in movies. Monsters...ghosts...all of that. It's real."

There was silence again. John sighed and folded up the newspaper he had been reading. "It's all real. We've dealt with it...firsthand." He shifted awkwardly as Katherine nodded in thought.

"You talk about it so casually. Like it's normal. Like..."

"Like we're used to it." John leaned forward in his seat. "That's because we are. I lost my wife to one of these 'monsters' a long time ago, and I've been going after it ever since." His eyes darkened as he spoke. "We take care of other things along the way...we're hunters. That's why we search for them and we go out on hunts."

"We're like pest control." Dean chuckled to himself. Sam rolled his eyes.

Katherine nodded, furrowing her brow. "I feel like I'm supposed to be in shock and denial, but...I know what I saw." Pain quickly flickered over her face and she looked over at John. "Where do I go from here? I have nothing! I...I have..."

"I know, I know," John quickly interrupted before she could begin to panic. "You told me plenty when I found you—"

"Found her?" Sam stood up, his curiosity coming back full force. "Dad, are you ever going to tell us what this is all about?"

"Sam, is now really the time?" John snapped, glaring at him.

"When is it ever going to be the time? You won't tell us anything!"

"I have had about enough—"

"Please," Katherine spoke the loudest she ever had around them. It was hardly even close to a shout, but it was loud enough that it got through to them. "I'm sorry, but I'm a little scared right now. I don't know what to do..."

Sam looked away bashfully and sat back down, while John returned his attention to her. "I've been trying to think of something these past couple of weeks. You're not old enough for me to let you go out on your own in good conscience...and I don't have time to be putting some kid in foster care. It wouldn't be fair to you anyway. The only thing I can figure, is that you stay with us until we can find something else."

Both Dean and Sam wanted to tell their father, once again, how unlike him this was. But they both stayed silent, knowing that there had to be a damn good reason for him to offer this girl a place with them.

"Not that I don't want to take your offer, but are you sure? You clearly have your lives figured out...you didn't ask to find me..."

"You didn't ask to be found. As long as you don't get in our way and can contribute somehow, I have no problem letting you tag along with us." John looked over at Sam and Dean. "My boys, on the other hand..."

"I don't mind," Sam quickly said. "I'm confused, but I don't mind. I like staying back at the motel with her over hunting anyway..."

Dean sighed and said almost convincingly, "It's cool. It's gonna be weird having a girl around, but it's cool." He was, perhaps, a little upset that their life was going to be shifted, but he didn't dare say anything so vulnerable.

"Good. It wasn't your choice, anyway." John looked at Katherine, nodding. "You'll be fine with us until we figure something out."

November 5th, 1998

Evanston, Wyoming

Katherine had been with them for over a month now, with no sign of any other option for her to go to. Everything seemed to be falling into place; Sam and Dean were getting used to having her around and she was becoming more like herself. With each passing day, the quiet, solemn, fearful girl they had met was replaced with a smart, stubborn, but thoughtful girl. She still had her bad moments because of whatever had happened to her — Sam assumed it had something to do with the hunt that night his dad found her, but he had yet to figure out why that would make her have to stay with them — but she was getting better.

Sam enjoyed having her around, especially because staying behind at the motel with her still got him out of a hunt every now and then. Dean found that he didn't mind the change as much as he thought he would, and he definitely didn't mind having a pretty girl around.

She did as was asked of her. She didn't get in the way of anything they were doing and she helped by looking for any leads for a hunt.

That was what she was doing now, a few newspapers spread out on the bed where she was sitting. Sam sat on the other bed in the room, snacking on something while he looked through one of the newspapers, and John and Dean were out checking on something that sounded like it might be supernatural.

"I can't find anything...I'm not convinced there's anything here. This might just be another pass-through." She was getting good at this whole 'hunter' thing, too, even if she hadn't actually hunted. She knew what to look out for and usually knew whether or not they would have to stay in town or move on somewhere else. She would be lying if she said she wasn't beginning to enjoy it. She was beginning to enjoy the Winchesters, too, as much as she could in her still-fragile state.

"Same here." Sam folded the newspaper up. "Dad's gonna be pissed...but what else is new?"

Katherine looked over at him. "What do we do now? We can't just sit here until Dean and your dad get back..."

"I don't know...we could go out and pick up food. Something that's not on a value menu, maybe?"

"—should we leave the motel when they're not here?"

Sam shrugged, standing up. "Sure, why not? I'm old enough now to go places on my own. I'm not helpless like Dean thinks I am. Besides, we'll stay close and be back in ten minutes."

"—okay." Katherine stood. "I'll go to my room and get on some warmer clothes." When she first stayed with them, John had sent Dean out to pick up a few things from a thrift store for her. Luckily, after a little while, she was able to go to a thrift store herself and pick out some more suitable things.

She didn't feel completely up to going out, even after all this time, but felt safe with Sam.

"I'll change here, I guess." Sam walked to his bag and got out some more outdoorsy clothes, before going into the bathroom and shutting the door.

Katherine walked over to the door to leave, but stumbled back when she opened it to find a man standing there. While his sudden presence would have startled anyone, not only was she still a little skittish, but something felt very wrong. Her heart started to pound, but she licked her lips nervously and said, "Um, excuse me? I think you have the wrong room..."

The man said nothing. He stepped into the room and Katherine quickly stepped back, but with each step she took away, he took another towards her.

"Sa—" She didn't realize how close to the wall she was until he shoved her against it, putting his hand over her mouth.

"I knew I had to stop. I just smelled something so good." He leaned in to smell her hair and she tried to cringe away, stopped by the wall behind her. "It'll only hurt for a minute, girl, and then I'll be done." He opened his mouth and leaned in, and Katherine didn't need to know what kind of monster he was to know he was about to, for lack of a better term, make her into a meal.

She immediately started to struggle against him, hitting at his chest and screaming against his hand as loudly as she could, anything to get him off and alert Sam. The man didn't even seem to notice her struggles, and she could feel his teeth, and then—

The door to the bathroom was thrown open and Sam stumbled out. "What— Katherine!" He immediately jumped into action, running over to the beds and pulling a duffel bag out from under one.

"I don't appreciate having my meals interrupted." The man pulled away only to glare at Sam, keeping Katherine pinned against the wall. "You'll be next, don't worry..." He turned back to Katherine and continued his pursuit to feast on any flesh he could see.

"Leave her alone!" Sam pulled out the first weapon he could find, a small dagger, and turned to throw it at the man. It hit the wall, burying itself right next to Katherine's head, causing her to scream. "Oh, God! I'm sorry! Just..." He quickly turned to look through the bag again.

"I told you not to chase it towards the motel, Dean!" John's voice came from outside the room, before he and Dean ran inside. "Shit!" He wasted no time before grabbing the man off of Katherine, tossing him to the floor.

"You again! I thought I had lost you...just let me eat!" The man dodged John's fist, quickly scrambling to his feet and shoving Dean aside easily, running out the door.

"After him! Now!" John tossed a weapon to Dean, who went out after the man.

Sam stopped looking through the bag, watching Dean go and then looking at his father. "Is Dean going to be okay?"

"He'll be fine. He can handle this." John moved to Katherine, who was still against the wall, her eyes wide. "Katherine? Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"

Katherine did a quick mental check of herself, nodding. She was surprised to find that she wasn't as scared as she thought she might be in a situation like this; maybe the Winchesters were a bigger help than she knew. That didn't mean she wasn't damn scared, but she wasn't whimpering and panicking on the floor like...when John had found her. "Yes, actually...and no, he didn't. Sam distracted him, then you and Dean came in before he could. What was he?"

He didn't answer her. "If me, Sam, or Dean hadn't been here, you would have been in a lot of trouble." He looked at her, nodding. "I think it's time to teach you how to hunt." Neither she nor Sam had a chance to respond to that before his gaze went to the dagger in the wall. "—Sam!"

January 8th, 1999

Elgin, Illinois

"Oh, come on, if I were some monster you would seriously be my bitch right now."

"Shut up, Dean!"

Katherine and the Winchesters had fallen into a comfortable routine. Katherine — and sometimes Sam — researched areas for anything suspicious, Dean and John — and sometimes Sam — would hunt anything that needed hunting, they would all eat, they would all sleep, and John would teach Katherine about monsters, weapons, or fighting in their spare time.

With each day, she grew stronger both physically and mentally. Her personality, the Winchesters found, was usually caring and gentle, albeit quick-witted and still stubborn; and when she needed to be, she could be fiery.

Like now, as John and Sam were off on a hunt this time, and Dean couldn't bear another second of research, so he decided to teach her how to escape various holds. He was relentless in his fighting and his teasing, which frustrated Katherine beyond belief.

"I'm just saying!" He had her pinned face first against a wall in her motel room, holding one of her arms behind her back. "I think my dad's holding back on you. You can't get out of this? You're a monster's bitch. With a collar and everything."

Katherine growled, struggling against him, which only made him twist her arm further behind her back. "Dean! That hurts!"

"The kind of shit that's out there isn't going to care whether they hurt you or not." He paused, then chuckled. "Do you hear that jingle? It's the bell on your little pink collar, complete with 'Kitty Kat' inscribed into the leather—"

She suddenly turned, elbowing him right in the stomach with her free arm — a bit harder than she meant to. He gasped for air and released her, stumbling back, gripping at his stomach as he doubled over in pain.

"There." She turned to face him, stretching out her aching arm.

He looked up at her and said breathlessly, "That wasn't so hard, was it?" He took another deep breath and then straightened up, nodding. "Good. That was good. Why don't we go out and get some drinks from the vending machine?"

"Thank God. Let's get some snacks, too." Katherine walked towards the door. She made it just a couple of feet before she was suddenly tackled right to the floor by Dean. "Hey! Dean! What the hell?"

"Never ever," He grunted as he flipped her onto her back, pinning her to the floor, "let your guard down. Or turn your back. Or trust someone. You made a lot of mistakes there." He grinned and she glared at him half-heartedly, before they both just looked at each other, neither of them moving. "—so, are you going to thank me for teaching you?"

She smirked, then easily flipped them over, pinning Dean beneath her. "You're a stereotypical, horny nineteen-year-old boy."

"Hey, I'm going to be twenty in a couple weeks."

"And I'm going to be sixteen next month, which means that you're actually a stereotypical pervert."

"Come on, it's a four year difference. It's not like it's my dad hitting on you...wait, he hasn't, has he?"

"No! Gross...is that something I should be wary of?"

"Of course not—"

A loud bang suddenly came from the room next door, followed by the sound of John's muffled voice. Katherine and Dean looked at each other and both quickly got to their feet, going out to investigate what was going on. The door to the boys' room was wide open, so they stood in the doorway to watch.

"I thought we were done with this, Sam!" John threw the dagger he had been carrying onto the bed.

Sam stood across the room, his arms crossed and anger evident on his face. "I just don't understand, Dad! Why won't you tell us? What is so terrible that you won't tell us?"

"Fine! You wanna know, Sam?" John yelled, his tone taking on a terrifying quality that both Sam and Dean knew meant he was furious. "That night...that hunt...that was her family. Her family turned into those creatures and they were going after her—"

Sam looked at his father in horror, before his gaze went to the door, where Katherine stood looking ready to cry and Dean stood in shock. "Dad—"

"No, you wanted to hear this! That was her family that we hunted that night. While you and Dean ran off to go get clean, I found her cowering underneath a tree. I know you think I'm a dick, Sam, but do you know what that was like? That little girl was scared because she didn't understand what happened to her family and she had nothing else. So that's why I took her in and that's why she's still here. Are you happy now?"

Dean glanced at Katherine and quickly stepped into the room. "Dad?"

"What?" John snapped, turning and noticing Katherine. "—Katherine. I'm sorry you had to hear that..."

"No. It's okay." Her voice were shaky and tears had gathered in her eyes from the memory of why she was here. She may have been feeling better and settling in with the Winchesters, but that pain was still there. "I'm...glad they know. It was clearly bugging them." She did her best to smile, before quickly walking back to her room.

John sighed heavily and looked at Sam with a shake of his head, walking into the bathroom and slamming the door shut.

Sam ran a hand through his hair, sitting down on the foot of one of the beds. "I shouldn't have pushed him."

"You always push him, Sam." Dean crossed his arms and leaned against the wall.

"It's different this time. It wasn't just us getting at each other...Katherine was finally opening up and being...I don't know. Normal! And now...I messed it all up..."

"She'll be fine. She made it through it once, she'll do it again...that shit always hurts. You know that." Dean looked away as Sam grimaced. "But...she'll be fine. She has us and...God, this is so cheesy. Wanna go get something to eat?"

Sam looked pensive for a moment. "—no. Uh...you pick something up. I'll be right back." He stood up without another word and walked out of the room, leaving Dean confused.

May 24th, 1999

Clive, Iowa

"Katherine? Katherine? Katherine!"

The call of her name sounded so far away, like someone was shouting it into a tin can from a desert island. Beyond that, she recognized stomping, yelling, banging; all muffled just like her name. A high ringing sound overpowered every other noise and she couldn't help but think about how irritating it was.

"Katherine." Something touched her face, then tugged at her arms. She slowly blinked her eyes open to see a blurry figure crouching down in front of her. She blinked again and again, and as much as she had to before the figure came in focus and she could see Sam's face. "Are you okay?"

Everything came rushing back to her. Hunt. House. Ghost. Throw. She groaned as pain radiated through her body. They had been on a hunt for some sort of ghost, her first legitimate hunt, and things hadn't gone as planned. Unless John, Dean, and Sam secretly planned for the ghost to use its powers to hurl her across the room and right into the wall.

"You know, Sam," she started, still a little delirious, "I don't think John and Dean trained me very well."

Sam nearly rolled his eyes and started to move to help her up, only to stop and look over his shoulder as John called to him. "Coming!" He got up, running across the room.

Katherine watched for a moment, seeing John hand a few things to Sam while Dean dealt with the ghost. She tried to stand and immediately felt dizzy, falling to her knees in an attempt to keep from actually passing out. "Hey...a little help...here..." She felt a little useless, watching Sam go over to a nearby fireplace that was already lit. She didn't remember that, but assumed one of the boys did it.

Suddenly, Sam was out of her view and there was a thud beside her, as he was thrown into the wall just like her. He also went a tad unconscious, just like her, only able to let out a quiet groan.

"—necklace! The necklace!" John was yelling. "Katherine, get the damn necklace!"

She furrowed her brow in confusion, before looking down and seeing an old, jewel necklace on the floor by Sam. She looked at that, then the fireplace, then the necklace again, then—her eyes caught sight of the ghost. It dropped its attention from John and Dean, who were doing their best to keep it occupied, and started walking towards her. At an alarming speed. She barely had time to think before she grabbed the necklace and started to practically crawl as quickly as she could toward the fireplace.

The most terrifying growl came from the ghost that sent a chill through Katherine despite all of her training, but she didn't have time to stop for her own fear.

Sam started to wake, John and Dean ran after the ghost, and Katherine tossed the necklace right into the fireplace.

The spirit reached out for her threateningly and she closed her eyes tightly, bracing herself for whatever it could do to her. Instead of another trip across the room or anything else physical, there was a horrible scream that echoed through the room, and she opened her eyes just in time to see the ghost disappear from sight.

All was silent except for their breathing, until Sam finally moaned, "Katherine's right. I don't think you trained us very well." It was said in a half-joking tone, though no one laughed as Dean rushed to help him up.

"You okay, Sammy?"

John walked over and pulled Katherine to her feet, giving her a hard slap on the shoulder. It may have been okay for a young man like Dean or an incredibly tall teenager like Sam, but the hit had the sixteen-year-old girl nearly stumbling forward, giving John an offended look.

"You did good, kid," he said, making her offended stare morph into a tentative smile.

Sam assured Dean he was fine and brushed himself off. "Come on, she saved our asses."

"Yeah, right," Dean scoffed, grabbing a bag of their supplies and weapons as they headed to the door. "Who did all the work while Sleeping Beauty took a nap? We're lucky she was awake enough to get rid of the necklace." Despite his words, he slung an arm around Katherine's shoulders and pulled her close. "At least you didn't run away screaming. Not bad for your first actual hunt...I'll even get you a participant ribbon, Kat."

The nickname rolled off his tongue easily, as it had for the past couple of months. It was either because he was too lazy to say her full name or because he felt close enough to give her a nickname, but either way, it stuck.

"Thanks a lot, Dean-o," she bantered back easily, which was the usual interactions between them. Her own nickname for him had started out sarcastic, but sometimes it stuck, too.

February 20th, 2000

Tulsa, Oklahoma

It had been over a year since Katherine met the Winchesters, and there was still no sign of her leaving. Truth be told, despite the circumstances, she didn't want to leave them; truth be told, despite the change of having her around, they didn't want her to leave. John enjoyed the extra help, she and Dean bantered happily, and she and Sam became especially close, given their close ages and, as they discovered, similar thoughts and sensitivites. She had even eased into their lifestyle and moved onto bigger hunts, able to fight alongside the boys with little difference to them.

She wouldn't call them a family. Though protective at times, John was hardly even close to a father figure to her, and Sam and Dean felt more like friends than brothers. None of them knew what to call their group and none of them felt the need to, they all just knew it was pretty good.


"Happy birthday to you...happy birthday to you...happy birthday, dear Kat...happy birthday to you..." Sam sang tiredly, a little off key, but Katherine didn't mind.

To be perfectly honest, she was pretty drugged up.

It may have been her birthday, but they had to go out on a hunt that night anyway. John had been so sure this time that it was that Yellow-Eyed Demon he sought after so valiantly, so there was no passing it up.

It wasn't. They weren't really sure what it was, just that it was aggressive, strong, fast, and had an amazing handling of knives. Which Katherine found out the hard way when she went to attack it and it took the knife from her without even a struggle.

So now they were in the boys' motel room. Katherine was laying back on the bed, her arm covered with drying blood as Dean stitched up the deep gash in it, John sat at the table and stitched up his own slash from the beast, and Sam stood by with some snack cake that had a singular candle in it.

"Thanks, Sammy," Katherine practically slurred, reaching up to touch his face with her good arm. She missed, which might have something to do with the fact that Sam was standing on the opposite side of the bed. She couldn't really tell; she didn't know what John gave her to help with the pain, but it really did help.

"Hey, I call him Sammy." Dean finished stitching up her wound, moving to cut the thread. "Eat your damn cake...and, uh, whatever Sam got you...I totally helped pick that out." That earned him a look from his little brother.

Katherine looked up at Sam, her eyes shining with pure excitement despite how out of it she obviously was. "Is there a present?"

"Yeah, uh," he nearly laughed, having never seen her so excited before. "I'll get it, but you gotta blow out the candle first..." She immediately did as he asked, so he set the cake and extinguished candle down, moving to grab something out of his bag. "I know how you like Harry Potter so...here..." He handed her a thick book and glanced at Dean. He wouldn't dare admit in front of him that he liked Harry Potter, too.

For a long moment, Katherine just stared at the book. The only sound in the room was the rustling of John and Dean putting medical supplies away. Then there was a sob.

All three men in the room froze when she began to cry. Dean didn't really know what the hell to do and John may have been well-versed in dealing with a crying woman once upon time. He wasn't anymore.

Surprisingly, Sam recovered quickly and sat on the bed, gently rubbing her back. "Hey...it's...I...you don't have to take the book..."

"It's not that," she sobbed again. "I...don't know what would have happened if I didn't have you guys. I had...I had nothing. I was so afraid. But you took me in even though you don't even do that stuff and...what would I do without you?" She whimpered and sniffed, and no one could say a thing before she asked, "Please, can I have a room without an elephant in it?"

"—oookay, Kit Kat," Dean drawled. That was a rare nickname, one he usually used when he was humoring her. "Your room's next door." He picked her up out of fear of the trouble she could get in by walking to her room.

"Are there elephants?"

"No. No elephants...well, I mean, I haven't been in there, so maybe—" He stopped at her frightened whimper, clearing his throat to keep from laughing. "I'll check, okay? I'll scare them off if there are any."

August 8th, 2002

Norfolk, Nebraska

"Sam, get your ass back here!"

Four years. Hunting monsters. Fighting monsters and sometimes each other. Nursing wounds. Eating way too much fast food. Lying to get ahead or to get information. Those were only a few things Katherine's life consisted of now.

Almost four years.

And it certainly wasn't the first time she woke up in the middle of the night to yelling.

But it was the first time that yell scared the hell out of her for a reason other than being told that there was some monster or creature nearby. It was John, his voice filled with such fury that even the darkest being would shudder.

Part of her said not to get up out of fear, but the rest of her shot out of bed in an instant and hurriedly threw on some acceptable clothes to wear outside. She raced out of her bedroom—all of the motels in town were booked up, so they were forced to stay at a little bed and breakfast for a change—and outside to find a scene she didn't really expect.

Sam was halfway to the road, his bag of belongings over one shoulder, though he wasn't walking away. He stood facing John, despite the fury in the older man's eyes. Dean stood back with a forced look of stoicism, at least a dozen different emotions stirring just beneath his fake expression that couldn't even be missed in the dark.

"—what's going on?" Katherine asked after a moment, walking over to them.

John didn't seem to notice her presence until she came into his vision. "Sam's leaving us." He didn't even look at her. He kept his harsh glare on Sam.

"I'm not— God, Dad, if you would just—" Sam stopped short in frustration, looking over at Katherine. "I'm going to Stanford. I got accepted..."

She didn't know what to think. Oh, they had talked about this...in moments alone, when one of them couldn't sleep, they would talk. Sometimes Sam would bring up his dream of going to college and being normal and safe, but she had thought it was just that; a dream. She didn't know whether to be thrilled for him for getting what he wanted, or to feel hurt at his departure. For herself. For Dean. Even for John, whose pain must have been somewhere beneath his anger.

"Sam, that's...that's..."

"Horrible. He's abandoning his family," John spat out quickly. "So you hate this life, huh, Sam? You hate this life that we live to avenge your mother—"

"Mom wouldn't have wanted this! She wouldn't want her family forsaking their futures and risking their lives just to catch one demon!"

"You don't know what the hell your mother would have wanted! You didn't even know her."

Pain was immediately evident on Sam's face. "If you hate me so much—"

"I hate you? I'm not the one who picks all these fights, Sam! I'm not—"

"I'm going, Dad," Sam cut in, jaw clenched. "You can yell at me all you want, but I'm not missing out on the chance to go to Stanford."

John shook is head. "You leave, don't you even think of coming back. You understand me?"

"—Dad, wait—" Dean, ever the mediator of John and Sam's fights, tried to step in to smooth out the situation. He went ignored as Sam looked into their father's eyes and said,

"Fine." They stared at each other for a long moment. Sam's gaze eventually went to Katherine and he slowly moved to her, dropping his bag on the ground as he did. "Kat...Katherine. I want you to come with me."

That had her taken aback. "Sam, I—" She started out sounding shocked, but quickly shook her head and addressed him calmly. Emotions were high enough as it is. "Sam, there's no place for me at Stanford."

"You can stay with me! I'll get an apartment...Katherine..." He took her hand. "You don't deserve this life. You didn't deserve all that happened to you...my dad forced you into this because he wanted extra recruits." Forced? That was a strong word. Wasn't it? Her learning to hunt had been necessary. "You didn't ask for this...you should have a normal life. A safe life. You should get to move on from the past. Just come with me..."

It was tempting. Yes, she was thankful to the Winchesters for taking her in after such a tragedy when she was practically a kid, and yes, hunting could be exhilirating. The adrenaline, the strength she felt when she took something down, saving people...but it was tiring, too. It was painful, and stressful, and still a little terrifying no matter how many monsters she faced.

She could see just off to the side of Sam, maybe a couple yards behind him, were John and Dean. John had started to storm inside after Sam's decision, and stopped short when he made his offer to Katherine, to see if she would leave them, too. Dean stared at them, his emotions terribly evident, bubbling just beneath the surface. Katherine was surprised he was holding it together. It was clear the his little brother was the most important thing in the world to him and now he was leaving.

She looked at Sam. "—I'm sorry." God, was she sorry, especially when Sam's face crumpled in disappointment. "I can't," she said softly, pulling her hand from his.

How could she? God knew she wasn't as important to Dean or even John as Sam was, but she couldn't abandon them. John had saved her. Dean had accepted her, and Sam had, too, but Sam was moving onto greater things. The only thing she would have with him was a couch or a bedroom in an apartment. At least with John and Dean, she could keep helping the world a little, even if it was scary. She could help them by not having two people walk out on them in one night.

"There's nothing for me there, Sam. I can't just...live in an apartment. That's no reason to go somewhere."

He nodded, and to her surprise, pulled her into a hug. That made her even more sorry, realizing just how damn much she was going to miss him. He was an important piece to this strange puzzle that made it all complete. He was who she had grown closest to the last four years, who she connected to, who she could sit with for hours talking about nearly anything.

But he was getting out of this fucked up life, like he wanted. She was happy for him. Happy and pained, and both feelings had her hugging him back tightly.

"I understand," he said, pulling away. "Take care of Dean, alright?" It was almost funny that the one Dean took care of said such a thing. Almost. It wasn't. "I got a bus to catch." He grabbed his bag off the ground and glanced at all three of them, before walking to the road.

"Sammy, don't do this." It was the second time Dean spoke, his voice subtly laced with pain.

Sam paused. Dean was as important to him as he was to Dean and the pain of that conversation would have been too much, so he kept walking.

John stalked back into the bed and breakfast, slamming the door as he went.

Dean stared at the road, waiting for Sam to just turn around and come back and say it was a joke.

Katherine waited for Dean.

And waited.

And waited.

He stared at the dark road so long that she thought the sun would come up before he finally stopped looking.

Eventually, he did stop. He turned around, defeat and pain radiating off him so it could almost be seen, and he stared at Katherine. She held her hand out. He didn't take it. They walked inside, however, and he followed her to her room instead of going to his own. Neither of them slept that night.

Their relationship, which had been all bantering and helping when it was needed, changed because of Sam's departure. Not a bad change, necessarily, but a damn drastic one. Similar to before on the outside, with new layers deep down.

John changed, too. Drastically. Painfully. Adamant and wild in his hunting, going on more solo trips than ever before, closing himself off a bit more each day.

And none of them would see Sam for a long time.

A/N: There you go! I hope everything wasn't too confusing. There are some big time gaps and hints at things, but of course, flashbacks will likely be entered in somewhere :) I hope there weren't too many mistakes, as I finished this at around midnight and edited it this afternoon lol. And sorry if anyone was OOC, I'm doing my best here. Hope everyone enjoyed. Please review if you did! The next chapter will start off at season one.