The boy had power. He coveted it since the moment he was born. It called to him; it sang to him. And as he stood over the baby's cradle, he knew he would have it – it belonged to him.

Killing the mother was a fringe benefit. Her death was inconsequential. What was important was the fire. The fire had to consume the baby before the power could be released. But he'd been thwarted; the father was quicker than he had realized. The baby was saved. And afraid of fire.

He could wait.

Though time held little meaning for him, he found himself growing impatient. The power in the boy grew stronger as the boy grew. It sang louder; it called to him. He needed to possess it.

Killing the girl was a fringe benefit. Her death was inconsequential. What was important was the fire. The fire had to consume the boy before the power could be released. But he'd been thwarted again. The boy was saved, and doubly afraid of fire.

He could no longer wait.

He had to possess the power. He ached to consume it as much as the fire ached to consume the boy. The boy could no longer be surprised, he was on guard. But how to entice him to enter the fire?

Put the one who had carried him out both times at the center.

Dean awoke feeling groggy. He could not remember much about the thing that had snatched him except that it was bad. And, that it was after Sam. Dad had known, all this time, Sam was the target; Sam was the goal. That's why he had trained them like he had – pushed and pushed until they both could take care of themselves under any circumstances. Then he let Sam go, to have a real life - a life that Dean had dragged him away from. This was exactly what Dad was trying to protect Sam from…and Dean had walked him right into it.

Dean tried to sit up but realized he was bound to the table on which he lay. One by one he tested the bonds; it seemed like they were all connected – he moved his right arm, the left got tighter – he shifted his feet, the rope tightened around his neck. Great, I've got a regular cowboy tying me up here… The only good thing about the arrangement was if he managed to get one hand free he could easily slip the bonds of the others.

"He's coming."

Dean froze; he hadn't realized he wasn't alone. The voice floating across the room was hard to place; Dean thought the creature might have been standing over to his right. The anticipation in the malevolent voice sent a shiver down his spine. There was only one "he" Dean knew could be coming and this was the last place Sam should be. Dean tried more frantically to figure out the trick to the ropes holding him and work himself free.

"Welcome, young one." Dean's head whipped around. Sam stood silhouetted in the doorway. "I've been waiting for you for a long time."

Dean could see that Sam was tight with tension. The blade he held in his hand seemed to gather all the light in the dimly lit room. A conversation he had with Sam came back to him and Sam's words echoed in his head. You're my brother. I would die for you.

Not today, Sam. This isn't that day.

Dean tried to shout out a warning but found himself unable to produce more than a hoarse croak. He grimaced in frustration and tried to work some saliva down to his throat.

"Come in." the creature invited in a disturbing friendly neighbor sort of way. "It's time we take care of business." The naked longing in the creature's voice filled Dean with disgust. If Sam had any sense he would've headed for the exit long ago – that was assuming Sam had any sense.

"I've come for my brother." Sam stepped grimly into the room, knife at the ready.

"Of course, of course. That's why we're all here. All it'll take to free him is one slice from that knife."

It was too easy. Dean knew it, and he saw that Sam knew it too. He might not have common sense, but he wasn't stupid. Dean tried again to croak out a warning, but he still couldn't produce anything audible.

"You hesitate, little one." Dean rolled his eyes – Sam hadn't been little since he hit puberty. This guy's tone was really working his nerves.

"Perhaps your brother doesn't mean as much to you as I thought." A sound from behind him alerted Dean to a sword being drawn. Oh crap! Dean worked harder to try to free himself; Sam inched closer.

"I shall put you to the test."

Dean could only see the sword hovering above him, not the hand that wielded it. He braced himself for a blow. He was not expecting what happened instead. A sliver of blue-white flame shot from the tip of the sword and quickly encircled the table Dean was laying on. Instantly flames shot up all around. Dean couldn't suppress a flinch, and the movement of his legs nearly caused the rope around his neck to choke him.

Dean could hear the murmured whispering of the creature, encouraging Sam to run into the fire. He tried to scream a warning to Sam. He wanted to tell him to run away, leave him, save himself. He wanted to warn of the creature's desire for Sam's death. But all he managed to croak out was "Sam…" before the smoke from the flames and the ropes around his neck choked everything else he wanted to say into unintelligible nonsense.

Dean knew he had failed. He knew Sam would hear his cry, not as a warning, but as a plea for help. Nothing would stop Sam from leaping into the inferno – it would consume them both.

At first, Dean could hear Sam screaming his name but then the roar of the flames destroyed all other sound. There was no air left to breathe, and Dean prayed for oblivion before the fire could begin to consume his flesh. Then like an avenging angel, Sam leapt into the fire. He landed on Dean's chest and with a swift slash of the knife severed the rope encircling Dean's neck. But it was too late. Dean could see the fire all around Sam – his shirt, his pants, even his hair was on fire. There even seemed to be flames in his eyes. It was the most gruesome sight Dean had ever seen. He closed his eyes and got his wish – oblivion came.

"Dean?" Can't a guy sleep in…ever?

"Dean." More demanding this time.

Dean tried to force his eyes to open, but they really didn't want to obey. He groaned instead, and then groaned again at how much pain it caused. The pain kicked off a memory and he remembered why it was his throat hurt so badly.

Eyes still closed, Dean groped to find the owner of the voice. "Sam? Sammy?" Struggling to sit up and grateful to realize he wasn't tied to a table anymore Dean finally managed to open his eyes. Grabbing Sam by his jacket, Dean pulled him closer to get a really good look at his face. "Sammy?" he repeated.

Sam could only work up a tired grimace at the old argument between them. "It's Sam." Unexpectedly Sam moved in closer to Dean and dropped his head on Dean's shoulder. Dean could feel the tremors that shook his body. He let go of Sam's jacket and put one arm around Sam's shoulders.

"What happened, Sam?"

Sam didn't answer; he just shook harder in Dean's embrace. Dean looked around warily. "Is it safe to stay here, Sam?" Sam nodded into Dean's shoulder. "Then tell me what happened."

Without looking at Dean, Sam turned himself around so he could settle against Dean's shoulder with his back to him. "Remember that secret I never told you…"