A/N: Okay, so there are probably plenty of other stories I should be working on, including the one I plan on publishing eventually. :-) But this just jumped out at me after reading a few absolutely stellar Supernatural fics here on good ol'fanficDOTnet. Tell you the truth, I'm surprised I lasted this long. Sam and Dean—especially Sam (Grr, baby, grr!)—are just so sexy and fun to play with. Oops, did that sound dirty? It did? Can't imagine why….

Anyway, fresh from the mind of Kaslinn (that's me), I give you:


Summary: A near fatal run-in with the thing that killed their mother leaves one of the brothers questioning his beliefs, and the other fighting for his life. With appearances by Missouri Mosley and :gaspu: the wayward John Winchester.

Warnings: Let's see. What do you need to be warned of? Well, there's a fair bit of torture, physical and mental, and most of it is fairly Sam-centric, although this chapter deals primarily with Dean. Most chapters afterward (if there are any) will be written in Sam's point of view (in third person, of course. I just don't know first person well at all shudders) Don't worry Dean-fans, there will be plenty of lime light for the eldest Winchester son. I myself am a shameless Sam fangirl, though you wouldn't know by the way I torture him so. :Evil grin: What can I say? I show my affections in strange ways.

But warnings? Not a lot. Some blood, of course—it's a must for a good angsty fic! Quite a lot of swearing, but that's okay, our boys are grown men, after all. H/c, bonding, and chick-flick moments—all in the spirits of good, wholesome brotherly love, and do allow me to stress the word brotherly. I don't have a problem with slash in most cases but incest is on a scale of gross all on its own. In other words, Sam and Dean will NOT be getting it on—or even making out, which is btw, NASTY—in this story. Oh, and I don't have a beta-reader; my best friend is the spell checker and sometimes even he fails me. So beware typos--they're ugly little things.

Oh, and this story is not one of those that starts at the end and works backward. The beginning is actually the beginning, despite the chapter title. Sorry for the slight contradiction there. The title just sounded cool. Yeah, I'm cheesy, I'm aware. Anyway, the only insight I'm going to give you as to what happened prior to the opening chapter will come in flashbacks and recounts from both the boys.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, save for Arena, and she doesn't really count seeing as how she dies before she's really even properly introduced.

I. Beginning at the End

Shawnee Theme Park in upstate New Jersey was condemned. Condemned for several reasons, the most prevalent being the number of unexplained deaths and freak accidents that occurred on its grounds during the days of its operation. Most claimed the place was haunted to begin with, and was now surely to be a portal for the supernatural after so many had lost their lives there. Whether these rumors--and the loss of business they inspired--or the stain of a bad reputation led the owner into bankruptcy was unclear, but not long after its inception, Shawnee Park was closed to the public.

Many years later, after the park closed down, there were a number of near fatal mishaps involving the youth of the town, dares and hazing and such like. A college freshman was nearly thrown to his death from a carriage of the old wooden Ferris wheel. Four high school students were trapped inside a ticket booth and almost froze to death during the frigid January night.

Local law enforcement was involved; Shawnee Park became, for a few months, a breeding ground for police cars and hidden surveillance cameras. Of course, knowing that the park was essentially forbidden made its luster and novelty even more appealing to the kids, who were more excited at the prospect of foiling the cops than experiencing a close encounter with a denizen from the spiritual world. They continued to make their nightly investigations of the place. Most returned without ever having seeing or heard anything. But some, some claimed that they'd been visited by a presence, or had been spoken to by a disembodied voice. It was these tales that sent more students flocking to the park to catch their own "Medium" moment.

These after hour visitations ended with the drowning of a young girl in Shawnee Lake. It took everyone off guard; she was the first to actually die at the park since it opened in the early nineteen hundreds. Since the death, people of the town avoided Shawnee like the plague, as if just realizing how truly eerie it was. Police cars dwindled; cameras were left to the wilderness. It became, for all practical purposes, abandoned and forsaken.

Naturally, spending the night at a place so deserted and so isolated would be terrifying for any normal human being. Six recorded deaths, countless rumored others, and reasonable cause for haunting? Any normal person would see the sign for Shawnee Park and keep driving the extra hundred miles to the town.

Dean Winchester, however, was not normal. Far from it. In fact, at a different time, Shawnee Park would be his cup of tea, right up his ally, and so on with the many other clichés that described his affinity for the paranormal. The park was the reason he had come to New Jersey in the first place, although he was presently sitting in an old ticket booth, not because he was investigating his newest ghost haunt, but because it was actually the safest place he knew to hide from the authorities.

Oh, it wouldn't last long, he knew. Sooner or later his trail would lead back to this place. A week ago he'd been poking around the town, scouring libraries and museums, asking questions without reservation about the park's history. After all, why not? As far as anyone in Shawnee knew, he was just another college student looking for a good way to start off a fraternity party. In hind sight, he wished he'd been a little more discreet. Maybe then he'd have more time. Time to think. Time to plan.

Time he just didn't have. Every minute that he passed sitting here in the cramped, moldy wooden cubicle was a minute of Sam's life that slipped away. And Sam's minutes were definitely limited by this point. Dean once again and for the umpteenth time cursed his terrible judgment. He just had this uncanny ability of refusing to listen to his baby brother's advice. Hadn't Sam told him not to come here? Hadn't he flat out told Dean that he'd had one of his freaky visions about Shawnee, warning them away? Why god, why didn't he listen?

Because you were so sure that you could protect him, whispered the snide, cruel voice in his head--the one that had been tormenting him for the last day and a half--You were so damn sure that whatever came our way, you could keep him safe. Big brother Dean, indestructible, infallible, reliable to a fault.

Also inexplicably full of shit. Look at him now, big brother Dean. Look at your baby brother, look at Sammy. He's dying, and it's your fault.

Dean growled and scrubbed at his forehead with the palms of his hands, as if he could iron out the wrinkles there. Talking back to the voice would do no good--it would only prove that he had, in fact, finally gone crazy--so he chose to ignore it. The task was becoming steadily harder; the voice was growing more savage as time marched on.

Truth hurts, doesn't it?

A low moan drew Dean away from the scathing comment he was formulating (even if it did mean he was talking to himself). The booth's interior was suspended in twilight, half illuminated by the ghostly light of the moon, half swathed in shadow, but he could still see Sam's pale face and the pained expression that twisted his boyish features. Dean shifted a little, trying not to jostle Sam too much. He wanted to make sure his kid bother could see his face when he woke.

As if you'll be any comfort to him. It's your fault he's hurt. You got him into this mess.

"And I'll get him out of it," Dean grumbled, wishing intensely that the voice would just shut the hell up. A part of him knew that it was only his guilt speaking to him, and he could silence it as soon as he forgave himself. It was also the part of him that knew that he was truly not to blame for Sam's injury, or Arena's death. Unfortunately, this part of him was taking a backseat to the voice of guilt, and therefore he didn't pay much attention to it. Perhaps he should have, but he rather felt that having to listen to the voice was part of his punishment for failing Sam. If that was the case, he would deal with it. It was the least he could do.

Sam groaned again, distracting Dean from his possible post-traumatic breakdown. Groping around in the dark, Dean sought his brother's hand and grasped it firmly. A true-blue "chick flick" moment move, but he wanted Sam to know he was there for him.

"Sammy?" he said quietly, eyes flickering between watching his brother's face and the booth's single door. All of his senses were on the alert, for both human in nature and the otherworldly. The cops were still after him for Arena's murder; any minute now he was expecting a foot to bash in the door or the sound of sirens to fill the night air. But right now, the cops could wait. Dean focused all of his energy toward Sam, and into making his voice sound calmer than he really felt.

"Sammy?" he said again, giving Sam's hand a small squeeze. "You with me, buddy?"

With a gut wrenching whimper, Sam at last rose into consciousness, or at least, some semblance of it. His brown eyes were glazed with fever, and his gaze did not immediately rise to meet Dean's. When it did, Sam gave a pitifully weak smile. "Dean..."

"Hey there, baby brother," Dean couldn't help the return smile the spread across his face. "Glad to hear you talking again. How're you feeling?"

What stupid question, dumbshit.

Dean flinched. Of course, what kind of question was that? Sam had narrowly avoided being gutted by the thing that killed their mom and Jessica, "narrowly" meaning slashed just shallowly enough to escape with his life but deep enough to make Dean question for how long he would be able to hold on to it. How was he feeling? Dean could've probably ventured a guess, one that didn't start with "I'm" and end with "peachy, thanks."

Sam didn't notice the falter, nor did he seem take offense to the question. He did chuckle humorlessly, a dry, rasping sound that only deepened Dean's concern rather than alleviate it. "I've...been better. How about...you?"

The absurdity it made Dean laugh, but the sound was closer to a sob than an expression of mirth. A knot lodged itself in his throat; suddenly his eyes were burning. Dean turned his face away, so Sam couldn't see the tears there.


"Jesus, Sammy, I wasn't the one who...I didn't almost die a few hours ago," Dean said, straining to keep his voice even and not quite succeeding. "You shouldn't have to ask about me, because in comparison, I'm fucking spectacular."

Several minutes of silence passed after this exchange; neither of the brothers knew what to say to follow-up. Dean knew he should tell Sam the details of what had happened back at the barn, and he knew he should tell him just how much trouble they were both in.

And Sam...Sam wanted to ask, but was having extreme difficulty in just staying conscious.

Finally, after battling a wave of nausea, the younger Winchester managed to gasp out a one word query: "Arena?"

Brown hair, cute silk pajamas, bunny slippers, all covered in blood. Sam's blood. His brother's blood. Right hand, five fingernails, dripping with it. Her face...confused, terrified, then sad and yet somehow understanding… before the gun went off. Twice.

Dean shuddered. The name triggered the memory he'd been trying to suppress for the last four hours. Poor Arena. She realized what had happened right before the end, and she'd been truly repentant for it. She hadn't been evil. She didn't have to die. But Dean had shot her nonetheless. Twice. Point-blank with a twelve-gauge shotgun. (A/N: Or whatever the hell kind of gun Dean carries. I'm such a girl, I have no idea what is is other than it goes BANG and kills things. Sorry for the interruption)

But possessed or not, she'd been after Sammy. That had been her death warrant. Unfortunately for him, the police didn't quite see it that way. Would Sammy?


Dean realized he'd been staring off into space, looking ever bit the poor, scarred post-trauma patient he was supposed to be. Shaking off the memory as best he could, he turned back to Sam. His brother had grown paler, becoming an alarming shade of white that nearly matched the color of the moonlight. Truly, Sam looked on the verge of a faint, but was hanging onto consciousness for the news of the poor brunette Jersey girl. Dean took a deep, shamefully shuddering breath.

"Sammy, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that thing was in her until it was too late. All I saw was her bending over you, and you were covered in blood...I lost it. I...I shot her. And I killed her. The police have me pegged for her murder, that's why we're in this little shithole and not the hospital. Sammy...Sammy, I'm so sorry."

But you can't say you didn't mean to kill her. Because you did. What a brave older brother you are. Shooting an innocent sixteen year old child. The police are after you for murder because that what you are. A murderer.

Dean choked back another sob, but couldn't stop the tears from falling. Sam's sudden silence did not help to sate his remorse. He had half hoped that his brother would comfort him, would reassure him that it wasn't his fault, that he'd only been trying to protect him. That everything would be okay. But that was Dean's line. He was the older brother. He was the one who was supposed to offer reassurances, condolences, lies, if he had too. Sam was the sensitive one. Dean was supposed to protect him.

And what a wonderful job you're doing. On top of everything else, at least you're setting a good example.

That damned voice was relentless. Dean had to bite his tongue to keep from screaming at it. That was all he needed, for Sam to think his brother had gone off the deep end. Assuming, of course, that Sam didn't think that already.

With all of his emotions boiling to breaking point, Dean reverted back into a role he was comfortable with: protector. Even if he was doing a shoddy job of it. It was what he knew best. Giving Sam's hand a brief squeeze, he adjusted the wad of cloth--his own shirt--over the gash in Sam's side and reapplied firm pressure to the wound. Sam stiffened and hissed through clenched teeth, making Dean's heart pound painfully in his chest.

"Sorry, Sammy," he said around the lump in his throat, "but it's gotta be done. I can't stitch you up without the first aid kit and it's too risky to go out in the open yet. But don't worry. I'll get you out of this. I'll get you somewhere safe. Just a few phone calls and soon you'll be on your way to recovery. You just gotta hold on until I can get you there, okay? Hold on for me, baby brother."

Sam's only response was a weak squeeze of Dean's hand, but to Dean, it was better than words. At least Sam hadn't completely lost faith in him. Yet.

A few hours passed. Maybe more, maybe less. Dean lost track of time, he was too preoccupied trying to riddle a way out of the mess he'd landed himself in. Naturally, he'd already tried to reach his father, several times. Each time he could only get John Winchester's voicemail message, which instructed the caller to phone him, Dean, if it was an emergency. Well, Dean certainly couldn't call himself, and even if he could, he wasn't sure he wanted his own help at the moment, since it had been his brilliance that had gotten them in trouble in the first place. After the first couple of tries, Dean gave up the effort. He only hoped his message would get through.

Dad, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, come to New Jersey right now. Sammy's life is in danger and I'm wanted by the cops for murder.

Any parent would have a heart attack, hearing their son relay that message. Dean hoped it would be enough to drag their father out of hiding. That is, if he was capable of replying at all, though Dean tried hard not to think about the prospect otherwise.

But no message ever came through. And Dean, for the first time, began to doubt that his father was still alive. There was just no way that John Winchester could ignore his sons, especially when Dean had specifically mentioned that Sammy had nearly been killed by the thing that had murdered their mother. He felt sure that if their dad was able to contact them, he would have immediately done so after learning about their dilemma.

So that left Dean with a few options. His first option was to attempt an escape. His Impala was still parked in back lot of the fair grounds, out of the way of the prying eye but not exactly hidden either. One way or the other he'd have to move it soon, or their cover would be blown. He could chance leaving now, in the middle of the night, assuming that none of the roads had been blocked off yet. It could work; the murder had only happened the past evening, so the police would still be trying to get warrants out for his arrest. Chances were that there would be no barricades or warnings out until morning. If he could get to the car without being seen, and likewise leave town without being noticed, he could be out of New Jersey by dawn.

But...Sam complicated things. His younger brother had lost a lot of blood in the attack, and without stitches, he would continue to bleed sluggishly through the shirt/bandage until he had nothing left to bleed. Moving him around at the fast paced speed that a silent escape required would most likely kill him. Dean had seen a man bleed out once; it had not been a pleasant sight. For Sammy to suffer the same fate was unbearable and unacceptable.

That led to his second, and most desperate, option: turn himself in. While Dean didn't exactly relish the idea of doing life in prison, it seemed like the best way to get Sam to a hospital quickly. The police did think Sam was one of Dean's victims, after all. No doubt his kid brother would be looked after. It seemed pretty cut and dry. Leave right now and walk to police station, tell them where Sam was and start preparing his story for court. Maybe he'd even get lucky and get a decent state-appointed lawyer. Maybe he wouldn't even get a life sentence.

No, I'd say you're looking at 95 years tops, buddy-boy. Nothing too serious. Don't sweat it, no big deal.

Unfortunately, that was not the snide voice that had been hissing at him for so long. No, that was just his own well-perfected sense of sarcasm rising up to bite him in the ass. Dean shook his head. He didn't think of himself as a coward, but he really, really did not want to end up behind bars for the rest of his life.

But if it meant saving Sammy...

Dean sighed and rested his head against the cold, rotting wood wall. There was always the third option, but it was far-fetched at best. He could call for help. He just needed to think of who to call. Besides the Ghostbusters (and yes, he was trying really hard not to think about how his little joke was so painfully ironic). He needed someone he could trust. Someone that lived far away from New Jersey and could put him and Sam up for several weeks, maybe months at most. Most importantly, he needed someone that knew his story, so there wouldn't be too much unnecessary explaining.

Obviously his father was out of the question. He'd been robbed of his mother at an early age, and had never quite settled down enough to attract a steady girlfriend. No grandparents to speak of, and no close friends of the family.

"Who you gonna call?" Dean sang softly, a shadow of a mirthless grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Right, like any Ghostbuster or psychic or medium could possible help..."

He trailed off. The word psychic had triggered a thought. There was one person who he knew he could trust, one that knew their story very well, and she lived a long, long way from New Jersey.

Kansas, in fact. Lawrence, Kansas.

"Home again, home again, jigity-jog," Dean muttered under his breath, and pulled out his cell phone. With a few clicks, Missouri Mosley's phone number glared up at him from the iridescent screen.

He hit the call button and waited.

Missouri was in the middle of making herself a cup of tea when the phone rang. Now, most people who find themselves awake during the wee hours of the morn would usually react badly to such a rude intrusion. However, Missouri happened to be waiting for the call. She knew who was on the other line, and it was because of this knowledge that she was awake. The dread and apprehension in the air had been too thick for her to sleep.

Hurrying from her small kitchen to the hall, he lifted the phone from the cradle and raised it to her ear. Without bothering to ask, she greeted, "Dean. I knew you would be calling soon."

The voice that came across the speaker did not sound like the confident young man she'd met a few weeks ago. This Dean sounded tired, scared, and worried, or in other words, like a nervous wreck. "Course you did. Psychic and all that. Listen, Missouri, sorry for calling so late, but I really need your help. Sam and I are in a lot of trouble and I...I didn't know who else to call."

"It's all right, I understand. Now calm down, and talk to me slowly. What happened? Where are you?"

"Shawnee, New Jersey. Sam and I were on a hunt, just a normal hunt. We didn't think it was anything special, you know? Just a regular job. But when we got there...Missouri, that thing followed us. The thing that killed mom and Sam's girlfriend, it was there. It was after us...well, it was really after Sammy."

Missouri nodded, a sense of dread washing over her. She figured something like this would happen soon. Sam's spiritual powers were growing and the boy didn't even know it. The evil that was after that power was bound to have reappeared to claim it. She'd been worried for his safety, for both of them, but she hadn't thought anything would happen quite this soon...

Realizing that Dean had gone quiet waiting for her reply, she cleared her throat. "What happened, Dean? Is Sam all right?"

More silence--hesitation.

"No. No, he's not all right. It got to him. It possessed the body of one of the town girls we were trying to help. I was in the park, I couldn't stop it...It..it cut Sam across the stomach like it did with our mom. He's alive, but if I can't get him somewhere safe soon so I can stitch him up, he'll bleed out."

"Well, why the hell are you hanging around in Jersey for, boy?" Missouri demanded, though she felt there was more to this story than Dean was telling her. "You know you don't need permission to come to here if something's happened to one of you."

"I know, I know! Don't you think I would take him to the hospital if I could? It's not that simple!"

Missouri frowned. "Why not?"

Dean now sounded absolutely harassed. "Because I shot and killed the girl that the thing had possessed to get it away from Sam, okay? I killed her, and the police are now after me for her murder. If I leave right now I can probably get away before they block off the roads and I can make it to Kansas in a few days. Now can I bring Sammy there or not?"

Though she was reeling from the information Dean had just provided her with, Missouri knew her answer right away. "Of course you can. Leave as soon as you get off the phone. Drive halfway, I'll meet you in Illinois. You'll want to get rid of your car as soon as you can."

"Meet you where in Illinois?"

A noise from the basement made her jump. Someone was coming up the stairs. "I'll call you. Or you call me. It doesn't matter. But in two days, we'll talk again, Dean. You keep yourself safe now, hear? And Sam too."

There was a fraction of hesitation on the other line, and Missouri could feel the elder Winchester's guilt even from hundreds of miles away. It almost made her weep. Then Dean said firmly, "I will." And the connection was lost.

"I will," Dean promised around the lump in his throat, then ended the call. It was time to move. After checking the makeshift bandage around Sam's side to make sure it was as tight as it would go, Dean shifted out from underneath his brother carefully. Standing for the first time in a few hours, Dean worked out all his cramps, stretched his muscles, and gave himself a good shake, like a runner preparing for a marathon. Then he knelt and tapped Sam gently about the face.

"Sammy," he said, voice just over a whisper. "Sammy, time to wake up."

Sam stirred, moving his head from side to side, but didn't wake.

Dean tapped his face a little harder. "Come on buddy, wake up. It's time to go."

Groaning, Sam rose once more into consciousness, but his eyes only half opened. "D-Dean..."

Dean didn't like the way Sam was gazing at nothing, and he especially didn't like the slow, raspy breaths his brother was slowly drawing in. But there was no time for complete mother hen mode. "Hey there, kid," he said, briefly running his hand over the top of Sam's curly brown hair, like they were kids again. "With me now? Good. 'Cause it's time we got moving."


Dean nodded. "Yeah, we've hung out here long enough. I found us a place to hide out for a while. Remember Missouri Mosley? She said she'd put us up at her place. Now come on, sit up. I'll help you."

To his credit, Sam really did try. He made it to propped up position on his elbows, teeth gritted, face gleaming with sweat, before his arms gave out and he fell. He would have hit the floor again if Dean hadn't been there, one arm wrapped around his shoulders.

"I can't...I can't..." Sam gasped out, sagging limply in Dean's hold. "Sorry..."

"Yes, you can," Dean said firmly, tightening his grip. "You just need more help, that's all. I'm gonna lift you up and you're gonna stand, okay? Count of three. One, two, three!"

On three he gently began lifting, pulling Sam up and onto his feet. The motion made Sam cry out in sudden pain, and he staggered, almost falling. Dean ducked under his left arm, letting him lean all his weight on him. "That's good, Sammy, you're doing great. We're just gonna walk to the car, and then it'll be over. Okay? Stay with me now."

Sam nodded shakily. The younger Winchester's pallor had worsened rapidly; he'd gone from being a pasty white to a stark gray, and he was shaking uncontrollably. Dean cursed himself colorfully, in as many different languages as he could remember. He was rushing things, he knew. But he was scared. Scared that if he waited any longer, he would be in prison and Sammy would be dead.

They started walking, so slowly it was almost pointless, but Dean wasn't willing to push Sam any further than he could take. Already he looked on the verge of passing out. Even the pace they were taking seemed too much for him. Sam was breathing heavily, and his head constantly drooped and rolled from side to side; during such times Dean was practically dragging him across the dew covered grounds.

They were within sight of the parking lot when Sam stopped. He slumped against Dean, his head dropping down to rest on the shoulder pad of Dean's leather jacket. His breathing came at random intervals, gasps for breaths that sounded far too much like the wheezing of an asthmatic.

Dean could feel him shivering. If Sam didn't have a fever, then he was probably going into shock, and honestly he didn't know which one would be worse at the moment. "Come on, Sam, don't stop now. We're almost there. Just a few more steps."

"D...Dean..." It was so soft he almost didn't hear it, but Dean knew that his brother was pleading with him to stop. Again, he cursed himself for putting him through so much pain. That was just another notch on his Guilt-O-Meter. Another shiny star for being such a wonderful big brother.

Dean forced back the bitterness with effort. With his free hand, he cupped Sam's face and directed his gaze at his own. Even though the night was chilly, Dean could feel a steady heat radiating from Sam's skin, the kind of heat that leached the cold from his own fingers. Yep, definitely a fever. Wonderful. "Sammy, I know it hurts, and you have no idea how sorry I am, but we have to keep going. I promise once we get in the car, you can lie down in the back and sleep until we get to Missouri's. When you wake up, it'll all be over. You just have to keep walking. Please?"

By way of reply, Sam took a faltering step forward, followed by another, but he was unable to completely muffle his pained groans. Dean heard every one of them, and they made his heart ache.

"Sammy, I wish I could help," he said as they walked. "But I can't carry you the way I carried you out of our burning house, you're a little big for that now. And trust me, buddy, a fireman's carry would only hurt more than help."

Through his great heaves of air, Sam managed to grunt, "Don't need...to be carried. And don't call me...Sammy."

His indignation was actually comforting to Dean, who gave a genuine chuckle and nodded. Together they closed the last few yards between them and the parked Impala. Dean fumbled for the keys one handed, found them in his back pocket, and unlocked the rear passenger's side door. Gently he helped Sam to lie down across the bench seat, wincing sympathetically when Sam did and mentally berating himself with an inventive string of swear words that would make Jerry Springer proud.

But so far, so good. No cops, no vengeful townspeople. Hell, even the ghosts of Shawnee Park had left them well enough alone. Dean climbed into the driver's seat and made an effort to shut the door quietly after him, rather then slamming it closed as he usually did. He slid the key into the ignition and turned. The engine whined and spluttered for a few dreadful moments, but the girl remained faithful as ever and soon she was purring like a kitten.

Dean threw her into drive, ready to tear out of there like a bat out of hell, but his foot hovered over the gas for a few seconds. He turned to look back at Sam, and found that he'd fallen asleep again. That was fine though; Dean had promised him after all. He watched Sam pull in breath after shallow breath, and wondered, with a grim smile, when along the way his kid brother had grown up. Sam had acted like a real man last night, a real hero. A true Winchester. Not that it surprised him, or anything. Sam was every bit as brave as himself or their father. It was just that Sam had always been the one who needed protecting, shielding. For a brief couple of hours, that role had been reversed, and for the first time, Dean had known what it was like to have someone--his brother--watching over him.

He didn't quite like the feeling. He was older, for God's sake, nearly twenty eight. Dean Winchester did not need protecting. He was much more comfortable being the protector. Even if Sam was constantly telling him he didn't need all the attention.

But it was strange. Somehow, though he was twenty two years old, though he was six foot two and no longer "little Sammy," his baby brother just looked so vulnerable to him. Dean supposed he always would. His younger brother, the sensitive one, the delicate one, the intellectual. Ever since that night at their old house, nearly twenty three years ago, when his father had thrust the infant Sam into his arms and told him to run and not look back, he'd swore he would always be there for his brother. The way their mom wasn't able to be there for him, and the way that their father wasn't always able to express.

As if knowing that Dean was thinking about him, Sam sighed and turned fitfully in his sleep. Dean didn't need the snide voice to point out that in the last twenty four hours, he'd done a lousy job fulfilling his oath. The proof of it was right in front of him, every time he looked at the blood that covered Sam's shirt, and the memory of it would linger for every nightmare Sam (or himself, for that matter) had in the years to come concerning the events that had transpired last night.

Never again.

Dean made a new promise. Never again would he let something like this happen. Whatever he had to do, he would make sure that Sam's life was never endangered because of him again. Even if it meant leaving him. Even if it meant letting him go.

"We're going home, Sam," he said, though he was fairly sure Sam couldn't hear him. "We're gonna be there a nice long while."

And in his heart, Dean Winchester knew that when the time came to leave Lawrence again, he and Sam wouldn't be leaving together.

Feeling sick at heart, he drove the pedal to the floor and peeled out of the parking lot, leaving Shawnee Theme Park, his first ever failed mission, to the rearview mirror.

And end the first chapter. Just a few things to say before I go, if you'll bother reading them. First of all, there really is a Shawnee Theme Park in New Jersey, but I don't exactly know where in New Jersey, so the upstate thing might have been a lie. I also confess that I don't know how to spell Shawnee, and that this was my best guess. I only know the park exists because I saw it on ABC Family's Scariest Places on Earth. If anyone out there actually lives around Shawnee and was offended by my ignorance, I apologize and I ask that you contact me and correct my mistakes. Thank you!

Secondly, you might be wondering about Arena. No, she wasn't anyone special, just another townsperson who happened to be an unfortunately casualty of ghost hunting. Like I said, she was dead when the story opened, so…:shrug: She gets mentioned again later, but only in flashbacks and when Dean tells a certain someone about what happened.

Lastly…and I hate to say it…I'm not entirely sure I'm going to continue this story. At least, not right away. :ducks the random sharp and potentially dangerous objects that are hurled at her head: Yeah, lame, isn't it? I must confess I wrote this at a whim to unblock the stoppage that had been clogging my creative flow over the past few weeks. I needed the excuse to write something that didn't matter (or mattered less, I should say) to get over the pressures of writing my novel. Ha ha, yes, my novel, go ahead and laugh.:-P This has sort of been my stress reliever, if you know what I mean. Whether there will be a second chapter or this will be a really sucky one-shot will depend on my inspiration holding up.

But, hey! The best way to get me to continue is to leave a review and tell me what you think! If you liked it, tell me so! If you didn't…well, tell me anyway. I'm always open to hear ideas and suggestions, and I love constructive criticism. I won't even tell you not to flame, since this piece is likely not one of my best works and I'm not particularly fond of it yet.

I'll leave it up to you. Continue, or just leave it as it is? If I keep going, you'll find out who was in Missouri's house at the end of her conversation with Dean (as if you didn't already know) and we'll get more brotherly bonding action, of course. Sam may even….:dramatic pause: …take a turn for the worse! Ha ha ha ha! ;:cue cheesy music:

If not…:shrugs: Then whatever. Make up your own ending, lol. Thanks for reading!