Chapter One

Sam was getting seriously pissed with his Dad. He loved the man, even if some days that seemed like an impossible accomplishment, but that didn't mean he couldn't be angry with him. Angry was kind of a mellow word for how Sam felt. It was more of a, I'm ready to scream and smash things and rip the heads off of teddy bears, sort of feeling. And it took every ounce of self control Sam had in him to sit quietly on the bed and fume in silence when really he wanted to chuck the remote at the man in question's head who happened to be seated at the table with his back to Sam.

Dammit, he was fifteen years old, he didn't need this crap. He was old enough to make his own decisions, to choose what was good for him. But did John Winchester let him make any decisions for himself? No. Why would he do that when he could bark out orders and control his sons like some freaking puppet master? How was he supposed to learn anything if he wasn't allowed to make a wrong decision every once in a while? Wrong decisions always lead to life lessons and Sam Winchester was ready to learn, on his own, without his Dad constantly telling him which way to turn.

What got to Sam the most was that the wrong decisions he wanted to make wouldn't seem so wrong in anyone else's eyes. Only his messed up family could find a fault in his decisions to want to stay home and work on a Civics essay instead of going off to play hunter with them. Couldn't his Dad see that there were other things out there besides hunting? What would they do if suddenly there was nothing more to hunt? What then? The Winchesters weren't exactly bred to fit into this world. So if Sam wanted to write a damned Civics essay then by God he should be allowed to write it. If only to be able to say that he knew the inner workings of America's court systems. But no, now he'd never get a chance to write it and one day when some proclaimed lawyer came up to him and asked him what the difference between the judicial and legislative branches of the government were, he wouldn't be able to answer. Thanks to John Winchester, boycotter of American public schools and education.

Sam must have sighed a little too heavily because John turned in his chair and eyed him. He didn't even try to hide the scowl on his face and John just snorted and turned back to the journal he was writing in. "Sam, the things you learn on hunts like these could one day save your life." Sam couldn't help rolling his eyes. He'd heard the speech a million times. He could almost recite it in his sleep. "One day you're going to be old enough to do this on your own and we aren't going to be there to back you up. You need to know these things."

"Dad, we go on hunts all the time," Sam spat, not bothering to keep the venom out of his voice. "Whatever we're going to do this weekend I could learn on some other weekend. I only get one chance to write this paper. If I don't take it, I'll never be given another one."

"What's more important?" John asked, his back still facing Sam. "Learning something that could be the difference between life and death or getting a gold star and a pat on the back from your teacher?"

"At least I'd get a pat on the back," Sam grumbled. When John slammed the pen down onto the table and turned, Sam straightened a little, knowing that he'd crossed over that fine line of complaining to insulting.

"Dammit, Sam!" John yelled and stood up. He walked a few steps towards the bed and for a moment Sam thought he would pounce on him. But he stopped and pointed a finger angrily at the ground. "Hunting is your life. That's the way it's going to be until the day we find the thing that killed your mother. Don't you dare forget why we're doing this."

Sam had to look away at that. He played with a string on the hem of his shirt before giving a quiet, "Yes, sir." John stood still for a moment, but Sam wasn't about to look up at him. His Dad was like the Alpha male of a wolf pack. Submissions was the only way to stay alive. Don't try to stare him down because you'll never win. And whatever you do, make sure he got what he wanted before you did.

John ran a hand through his hair and sighed before he sat back down at the table and continued writing. He didn't know what to do with his youngest. It had been so much easier with Dean. He'd been so wide eyed and accepting that he'd never once questioned what they did. Dean had blossomed beneath the burden of being a hunter. But Sam was different. With Sam, there was always a question, always a resistance. He was learning how to be a hunter, that was for sure, but he wasn't embracing it. His heart wasn't there and John didn't know how to change it. Hell, he didn't even know if he wanted to change it. Did he even have the right? Of course he did. Until Mary's killer was found, he had every right to ask Sam to hunt. So why then was it so hard?

Sulking now, Sam stared at the television and tried to get his mind off how much he just wanted to get this whole thing over with. Heck maybe they could finish in a day and be home by early Sunday morning. That would give him time. Probably not enough to make it the awesome essay he knew he could write, but it would be enough to show his teachers he knew what he was talking about. Yeah, finish this hunt quick and he could get back to the real work that needed to be done.

The door to the motel room opened and Dean sauntered in with a grin on his face. He was counting the wad of money he held in his hands. Sam could practically smell the smoke and beer that had collected itself onto Dean's clothes. He'd been hustling pool again. It was a skill Dean had embraced with open arms. Sam couldn't help but feel relieved that his older brother was back. Dean always seemed to negate whatever tension Sam felt towards his father when he was in the room. Dean looked up from the money, the smile still plastered on his face. He glanced at Sam and then threw the money down in front of John, who picked it up and starting counting it.

"Did you get enough?" John asked, not looking up at his son.

"Of course," Dean grunted, as though it was wrong of his father even to ask. Dean closed the door with a kick of the leg and took off his jacket, throwing it onto one of the unoccupied chairs. He looked at the television and frowned. "What are you watching?" he asked.

Sam shrugged and said, "A documentary on mosquitoes."

"God, what's wrong with you," Dean joked and swiped the remote from Sam's hand before he had a chance to react.

"Hey, I was watching that," Sam said, trying to grab the remote back but Dean turned it away as he flipped through the channels. "Come on," Sam tried to reach over his brother's shoulder but Dean hunched over and cocooned the remote with his body, still flipping through the channels. "Why do you have to be such a jerk?" Sam snapped and sat back down in defeat. Though he truly wasn't all that upset. The previous anger he had felt for his father was beginning to fade a bit. It was amazing how much Dean had that effect on him.

"Because," Dean said absently as he searched for something to watch. "It's my job." Finally, Dean gave a triumphant, "Yes!" and threw the remote onto the table separating the two beds. Sam started to reach for it, but Dean sot him a death glare. "Touch it and die. This is quality entertainment right here."

"Leon the Professional?" Sam groaned and looked over at Dean, who had flung himself down onto one of the beds and kicked his boots off. He looked content. Sam wouldn't allow it. "You've seen this movie like a hundred times."

"Because it's a good fucking movie," Dean proclaimed and waved his hand at Sam to get him to shut up.

Sam was about to say something more when his Dad beat him to it. "Dean, there's a hundred and twenty three dollars here. What the hell was your bet?"

"Oh, shit," Dean squawked and jumped off the bed. He ran out the door in his socks. Sam took the opportunity to grab the remote and change the channel. He quickly found the documentary he had been watching and then shoved the remote underneath the bed. He laid back down trying to look innocent as Dean ran back into the room with a case of beer in his hands. "There ya go," he said and took one of them for himself.

"How did you get that?" Sam asked before he could stop himself. Dean wasn't old enough to buy beer.

Dean looked at him with a stupid look as he unscrewed the cap on his bottle and took a long swig. "What? You think they let me into a bar to play pool if I tell them I'm nineteen?" Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out an ID. He flicked it at Sam's face and said, "And you call yourself smart." Sam looked down and read the fake ID

"Whatever Mr. Baumgartner," Sam snickered and flicked it back at him. Dean swatted it before it could hit his face. He started to sit down when he caught sight of the television. He turned burning eyes to Sam and set his beer down with ease.

"You little…" Dean grumbled as he jumped at Sam, who immediately tried to roll out of the way, only to find himself suddenly pinned face down on the bed as Dean sat on top of him. Sam grunted as Dean effectively held him still and started ruffling around with the pillows and blankets looking for the remote. "What'd you do with it?" Dean asked in annoyance.

"Ugh," was the only response Sam could get out. Dean was heavy, damn he was heavy. "I can't breathe…" he gasped out.

Dean lightened up ever so slightly, letting Sam get some air in but still pinning him down. "Then flip me off, princess," Dean said distractedly, now looking behind him and all around the room for the remote while still sitting on his brother's back, one leg on either side of Sam's stomach. "Where the hell did you put it?" he asked, but obviously didn't expect an answer.

"Get off," Sam grunted and tried to push himself up so he could get some leverage to flip his brother. But he couldn't quite do it. Sam may have been catching up to Dean height wise, but Dean was, and always would be, the stronger of the two. He had just started to bulk up while Sam was still at those awkward stages of his teenage years when he'd grown up instead of out. Sam grunted again and squeezed out, "Fucker…"

"Aww, come on, Sammy," Dean teased and ruffled Sam's hair. "Use those scrawny arms."

At last, Dean had eased up enough on Sam that he was able to push himself up just the right amount to get some leverage beneath him. He gave a mighty push with all the strength he had in him and turned to the side, sensing victory when Dean titled with the unexpected sudden burst of movement. But just as Sam thought he had won, Dean's legs wrapped around his waist and pulled Sam with him. He let out a yelp as he was tugged onto his back, caught in Dean's grasp.

John was watching with slight amusement from the table. He'd opened one of the beers. Though he had wished Dean wouldn't have wasted the money on them, he had to admit that he'd been craving one for a while. He watched as his sons wrestled on the bed. Dean seemed to always have the upper hand, letting Sam get a move or two in, but never losing control of their quarrel. John never doubted Dean's fighting skills. Some of them John had taught himself, but he had not clue where the rest of it came from. Dean used to watch a lot of kung fu movies, and sure as hell had a lot of hands on experience with fighting to know what worked and what didn't, but his son had an innate talent that both pleased him and surprised him. Dean was a born hunter, of that he was sure.

He watched as Sam struggled to get out of the headlock his brother now had him in. Dean was looking casually around the room, trying to spot where his brother had hidden the remote. John didn't want to point out that it would have probably been easier if Dean had just gotten up and changed the channel manually. The tussling was good for them. He thought that Sam was about to call uncle when suddenly Dean started coughing. John frowned as Dean untangled himself with his brother and rolled to the side of the bed, leaning over when the coughing stopped, trying to catch his breath. Sam had rolled away so as not to be caught again if it had been a trick, but was now sitting red faced on the end of the bed, watching his brother with a look of worry etched into his brow.

"Did I hurt you?" Sam asked. The question was sincere and held no teasing at all. That was a quality in Sam that John was sure he'd gotten from his mother. Sam was sincere. Sometimes even when he didn't need to be. As much as John wanted to hate that trait in him, he couldn't. He couldn't hate something Mary had given to her sons.

"Yeah right," Dean waved it off and stood up, clearing his throat. "My throat's been bother me all night. I think it was all that smoke," Dean said, but John could see it in his face that Dean didn't think that was the answer. Smoke had never bothered him. John hoped he wasn't coming down with something. Dean didn't get sick often, but when he did, it usually hit him hard.

"Maybe you were just getting tired and it was a plot to wimp out early," Sam teased and Dean turned to stare at him with that classic big brother stare he had.

Dean sat down on his own bed and grabbed his beer again, taking another long swig. "Shut up and watch your stupid documentary, geek." Sam grinned as he leaned over his bed and pulled the remote from beneath it. When he came up, he saw Dean watching him with disgust. "You little shit," he mumbled before finishing off his beer and putting the empty bottle on the table next to him. He laid his head down on his arm and dawned a melodramatic face of boredom.

Sam just chuckled as he switched the channel back to Dean's movie. He turned and saw his brother frowning at him. "It was boring anyway," he ducked as Dean chucked a pillow at his head.

John stood up and grabbed the rest of the beer. He looked at Dean as he said, "Call it an early night tonight, huh? Especially if you're getting sick. We've got a lot to do tomorrow."

"I'm not getting sick," Dean protested, but moved on quickly, not wanting to dwell on the lie he knew he was giving. "What time are we meeting Marshall?" Dean asked, sitting up again. Their whole reason for coming out here was because John had gotten a call from a buddy of his he'd known in the Marines. Marshall McAdams had called and told John that strange things had been happening around his little town and a friend had mentioned John's name as someone who may be able to help. John hadn't even batted an eye when he'd agreed to come out. Marshall had been a damn good Marine and they'd save each other's butts countless times.

"Six thirty," John answered, opening the door so he could go to his own room.

"In the morning?" Dean asked, eyes wide.

'Yes, so go to bed." John didn't wait for an answer as he closed the door, leaving the brothers alone in their room.

"Christ, our mornings keep getting earlier and earlier," Dean complained as he stood up and started getting ready for bed. Sam did the same. Of course Dean would go to bed early, since it had been suggested to do so by their Dad. Sam sighed, but had to admit that he was tired and 6:30 was just seven short hours away. But Sam liked to stew on things.

"Dean, I get up at 5:45 every morning for school," Sam said, boastful as he watched his brother turn and fake horror.

Dean stripped back the blankets on his bed and climbed in, feeling unbelievably tired all of sudden. Damn, maybe he was coming down with something. "Well I don't function before seven," he grumbled and pulled the covers up over him. Sam went to brush his teeth and when he came back, Dean was ready with a question. "So, did you and Dad have another fight?"

Sam looked shocked that Dean had even said anything. "How did you know?" he asked, sitting down on his bed and looking over at his brother.

"ESP," he joked and had to stifle a yawn. "What was it about this time?"

Sam sighed and laid down in bed, covering himself up and staring at the ceiling. "What is it always about?" Sam said, still ornery over the whole thing. "I just…" Sam sighed, knowing getting mad now wouldn't help anything. "I want to do other things than just hunt. I mean, I still want to help," he added quickly as he saw Dean's frown. "But I just think there's more to life than hunting, you know?"

"Not really," Dean said with a smile and at first Sam thought his brother was making fun of him. But when Dean's smile slowly faded, he realized that Dean wasn't kidding around, he was actually being serious. Sam made sure he listened up for whatever his brother had to say. Their serious moments were usually pretty meaningful. "I never got in to school the way you did. I was never really good at it. But I'm good at hunting, so…it's what I do." Sam looked contemplative for a moment. It wasn't often he heard Dean say stuff like that. His brother was usually boasting about his skills and talents. It was odd to hear him say he wasn't good at something. "Sam, you're a smart kid. If school is something you really want to do, you'll figure something out."

Sam smiled at his brother, accepting the compliment whole heartedly. "Thanks."

"Whatever," Dean muttered as he rolled over onto his stomach and turned away from his brother. Sam heard him clear his throat and cough again before he really settled down. Sam watched him for a moment, wondering how things would be different if none of this had ever happened, if their Mom was still alive. Would she support Sam's desire to thrive at school? There was no way to know, so Sam didn't think about it for too long. Instead, he rolled back over and looked at the ceiling again. "Sammy?" Dean called. Sam turned his head, surprised that his brother was still awake.

"Yeah?" Sam asked.

"Just don't tell Dad I said that," he mumbled, obviously seconds away from falling asleep. Sam chuckled and turned away again. Sometimes he didn't know what to think of his brother.

"I won't."