Disclaimer: The TV show Supernatural and all characters therein are owned by assorted Americans, not me. This fiction is purely for the enjoyment of readers; no money is being made. All Original Characters remain the property of Catherine D. Stewart and may not be used without the express permission of the authoress.

Summary: Vignette inspired by the spoilers for the episode Devil's Trap and some discussion on the Spoilers page of Supernatural.tv - nowhere near to being shown here in the UK yet – but go with it…

Rating: 'T'/15 because the story deals in part with sensitive subject matter, but there is no gore, graphic or gratuitous infliction of suffering and few bad words. Feedback as always is requested.

THE WINCHESTER UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE

A black 1967 Chevy Impala purred through the night, sleek and fast and not audibly impinging on the sleeping ears of America's Midwesterners.

Its driver in contrast was definitely growling.

In the passenger seat, Sam cast a sidelong glance at his brother; Dean was unaware of the occasional sub-vocal sound he made that betrayed his inner stress, and nor was he aware of his own clenched jaw and the audible grinding together of back molars.

"Dean," Sam sighed with dramatic exaggeration, "if you keep doing that you're going to wear your teeth down to a nub – not to mention be faced with an orthodontist's bill as long as your arm."

"Leave it alone, Sam, I'm not in the mood for sarcasm."

"Ladies and gentlemen – those thuds you just heard was the entire staff of Ripley's Believe It Or Not falling off their chairs in shock," Sam deadpanned but then said seriously, "what's your problem, Dean?"

Dean spared him a hostile glare before turning his gaze back to the road, but ground out, "Look, I know I'm a freak – I got no difficulty admitting it, but for all my admittedly seriously screwed psyche, I'm not totally psychotic…" he didn't say 'yet' but the word definitely hung in the air for a moment.

"Meaning?"

"Meaning contrary to popular opinion including yours, I am having some difficulty in facing the fact that I defenestrated an innocent woman from a second-storey window!"

There was a moment's silence; Dean shot his brother another glance and despite his current angst-level, he felt a curling warmth deep inside because Sam's face had absolutely no look of surprise that his never-finished-high-school brother could throw around words like 'defenestrated' accurately and in context. Sam was scowling not at the content of his harsh retort, but the theme.

"You may not have done," Sam replied eventually with an uninterested shrug.

Part of Dean was astonished – and worried – that Sam was so blasé about the situation, as this sort of moral dilemma usually had him hogging the emotional self-flagellation scene. "What do you mean? You know as well as I do that Bobby said –"

"No, he didn't say that," Sam contradicted with considerable bite in his tone, "not explicitly, and considering he looks like he's spent most of his life being real close to Jim, Jack, Johnny and José, I'm not inclined to take his pronouncements as Gospel."

"He's dad's friend."

"That is not something listed in my 'pro's' column, Dean." Sam bit out but felt a twinge of guilt at the flicker of hurt in Dean's eyes…damn, one day me and Dad are going to start thinking about how much it hurts Dean to always be in the middle of our eternal Civil War and think before we start mouthing off…and then Dean'll probably drop dead from the shock.

"Well obviously I'm too dumb to have grasped all the subtext to what Bobby said that you clearly have, so why don't you explain it to lil ole' me?" For all his initial statement, Dean's sarcasm was clearly limbering up and getting ready to don the gloves.

"Dean, why don't we meditate?"

"What!" Genuinely startled by this non sequitur Dean jerked his head to look at his brother and came perilously close making the Impala swerve.

"I don't mean now, I mean generally."

"Dude, you know why we don't meditate. Why nobody in our world meditates. You know how dangerous meditation can be with what's out there!"

"Exactly," Sam responded. "The Big Three ways to get yourself an unwelcome body-guest are drugs, alcohol and extreme emotions, but there are other ways. That's why such as the Bible instructs its followers to meditate but then proscribes certain types of meditation. In the Bible, meditation isn't about all that chanting and 'ohm' stuff but about thinking deeply over serious issues and meaning-of-life pondering. That's ok. The problem with all that 'emptying your mind' deal is that nature abhors a vacuum – and there are lots of varyingly unpleasant and down right diabolical things out there in the cosmic ether more than happy to jump into that nice warm home you've so conveniently vacated for them."

"Like a joyrider in a stolen car," Dean agreed, "it's about vulnerability. Sam, I know why the Bible forbids meditation combined with alcohol or narcotics precisely because they alter your mental state - the same reason why the Bible also allows the drinking of alcohol but forbids drunkenness. It's precisely why so many cultures use psychotropic and hallucinogen drugs to facilitate access to the wider planes of existence and the spirit realm. That works, but leaves you open to everything that's out there, not just what you're looking for. Basically, anything that weakens your command over your own mind makes you vulnerable to being –"

"Mentally carjacked," Sam finished grimly.

"And your point would be…?" Dean prompted after a second of replaying the past minute in his head and not feeling appreciably less confused.

"That is my point. Look, I'll admit that the vast majority of demon-possessed people are innocent victims. One wild weekend isn't much of a problem, but any person who regularly fails to exercise self-control over their boozing, their recreational stimulants and/or their anger management issues might as well put up a sign, BODY FOR RENT – One Not Very Careful Owner. Sooner or later their Id is going to end up dumped naked at the roadside watching helplessly as the laughing demon roars off in their body for a little murder and mayhem before leaving it a burnt-out wreck and letting the poor sap take the rap for the crimes committed, like the Hookman did to those clergyman before Lori Sorenson."

"So what you're saying is, 'shit happens'? That it's unfortunate for Meg Masters but sometimes life just sucks and that's it?" Dean couldn't believe it was Mr Morality, Sam the World's Conscience expressing such sentiments and was starting to wonder whether he shouldn't splash a little Holy Water into Sam's face to see what would happen. "Dude, on Stargate SG-1 they might have no problem casually blowing away the innocent human being trapped in their own body by the snake-thing because it's too much effort to try and save them, but this is real life – Meg Masters is an innocent victim here, and last I checked, we try to get them out alive!"

"No, that's not what I mean," Sam contradicted him firmly, "and what I'm trying to say is that she may not be either innocent or a victim. It's like Schrödinger's Cat. The guy puts a cat and an open bottle of poison in a sealed box –"

"Yeah, yeah," Dean didn't bother with his indicators as it was 1:30am and the only thing moving on the Midwestern Interstate was them, "I know that one. At any given moment there's a fifty-percent chance that the cat is dead and a fifty-percent chance the cat is still alive, but you've no way to determine which…Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle…so what?"

"So the Winchester Uncertainty Principle is the same," Sam stated with a shrug. "Yes, the vast majority of demon-possessed folks were psychically carjacked, but not everyone…case in point: those charming rural folk the Bender family. They were not under a spell, Dean. They were not cursed. They were not under a compulsion. They were not possessed." Sam uttered the short, grim sentences into the silence of the car's interior. "The Wendigou at Blackwater Ridge was originally an ordinary guy who made the terrible mistake of eating human flesh because he was trapped and starving and desperate. The Benders did it for fun. Tell me, which of them was the most evil?"

Dean remained silent as his brother spoke with harsh passion; the Bender family was not something he could think about with ease, and not just because they had taken his beloved brother…even now he still struggled inwardly with the knowledge that the Benders had not been a supernatural evil but just…people.

"This is the 21st century, nobody believes in demon possession anymore, yet at the same time many highly intelligent people in this country attend church, believe they've got their own personal guardian angel and accept the existence of ghosts and other supernatural phenomena." Sam commented.

"But you can't have your cake and eat it," Dean nodded, "If you believe there are angels, you have to accept that demons exist as well. If you accept the existence of Him Above you've got to accept that the 'him below' is equally as real."

"Precisely, and some people really would rather reign in hell – or so they think they will – than serve in heaven. I should know, at Stanford I had to –" Sam broke off, mentally cursing his slip.

"You had to what?" Dean prompted.

Sheepish silence.

When his brother wouldn't meet his gaze, Dean's eyes narrowed dangerously. "When I came to you to find Dad you said you were done hunting…"

Still sheepish silence.

"You hunted at Stanford? You hunted alone?" Dean's voice rose exponentially as he barked the sentence.

"Dude, I'm twenty-two," Sam tossed back the retort Dean had made to him that night at Stanford.

"I swear, if you don't tell me right now I am gonna pull over and beat it out of you –"

"Will you tell me why Mary could make your eyes bleed?"

The charged silence crackled in the air for a heartbeat, then two, then –

Sam blew out a breath and shifted his position to sit facing Dean so his brother could clearly see his face without having to take his attention from the road ahead. "Look, it wasn't a Hunt hunt…and it was only twice, I swear. The first time it was the first semester before I met Jess, the second time…she came too close to finding out."

"Sam. What. Happened?" Dean gritted out the words; sure he'd told Sam that Dad had driven by a few times to check on Sam, but nothing would have made him admit that he'd practically haunted the campus for the first two years of Sam's college existence, watching over Sam from afar…or feeling his heart break as his baby brother laughed with his college buddies and clearly didn't miss or need Dean in his life to look after him any longer.

"Spoiled brats happened. Parasites on society who wanted it all and wanted it now and who didn't give a damn about who they hurt or what they destroyed as long they got what they wanted." Sam reeled off. "There were two guys who went Dark Side. Seriously black magic and attempted human sacrifice of a Freshman Co-ed for immortality and Bill Gates' bank account et cetera."

"You didn't…?" Dean bit off the question, not wanting to hear the answer.

"I didn't have to. It's amazing how many suckers go straight for immortality without asking for invulnerability as well. Yes, you can live for ever master…as long as you don't slip at the top of the stairs or end up in a highway pile-up…I destroyed their altars and vessels of power and the demon each thought he was giving the orders to did the slice and dice…literally." Sam swallowed against the gory memories of what he had had to clean up once the enraged demon had finished with its erstwhile 'master' and been dragged howling back to hell.

Dean couldn't prevent a small sigh of relief.

"It taught me a thing or too about prejudice, I'll admit." Sam confessed. "Both times I went straight and put the über-rich, white Prep School boys under surveillance but the first Emperor Palpatine was a middle-class, solidly White Baptist Iowa farm boy and the second was a trailer park escapee on a scholarship fund for economically deprived but scholastically gifted youths. It taught me that being stupid enough to spoil your child has nothing to do with being rich -"

"Okay," Dean cut in, not wanting the discussion to get round to why his own eyes had bled when Mary Worthington had gone after Sam, "So how does your little 'reign in hell parable' relate to Meg Masters, Sammy?"

"It's Sam," but the correction was said automatically, "and quite simply: the Winchester Uncertainty Principle, a.k.a. 'The Devil's Cat'."

"Come again?"

"There's a fifty-percent chance that Meg Masters is an innocent young woman cruelly trapped in her own body while a demonic carjacker joyrides around in it in full-on serial killer mode," Sam expounded. "But there's also a fifty-percent chance that Meg Masters is another Little Miss Bender who happily tossed Beelzebub the car keys to her body for one of his minions to use on the condition she got to sit in the passenger seat and watch the fun."

"Because that's the bummer," Dean gave an angry snort, "Demons are evil. They have no souls to redeem, but humans have free will – it's our greatest blessing and our most terrible curse. Joan Baez said we get to choose nothing in life except whether to be good or evil. Some murderers are like Lori Sorenson and the Hookman's previous clergymen pawns, but some like the Benders aren't possessed by anything; they're just evil, wicked people who got off on hurting innocent other people."

"Unfortunately, it's usually impossible to tell until after the fact which category is which – human perpetrator or demon's patsy." Sam agreed, "And that was what dear old Bobby didn't mention. Like Pastor Jim used to tell us, sin is never a dirty plate of cold cabbage, it's always fine china and hot cherry pie with cream…"

"…and some people will willingly take a bite, despite knowing perfectly well the thing's laced with enough arsenic to wipe out a continent." Dean admitted wryly.

"Meg Masters may be young, blonde and totally hot, but like William Thackeray said, you'd be amazed at how widespread is the delusion that beautiful is a synonym of goodness." Sam sighed.

"So what are we supposed to do the next time the bell rings for another round with Merrily Murderous Meg?" Dean demanded. "How are we supposed to determine whether she's a pawn or a participant, or am I supposed to just blow her away with a shrug and a "'Sorry, but them's the breaks, sweetheart'" platitude?"

For a moment Sam said nothing, but gentle affection darkened his eyes as he noted the change of pronoun and how Dean, even before the event, was taking onto himself to spare Sam the responsibility and the emotional burden of potentially having to - in effect - murder an innocent girl for the 'greater good'.

"No, there has to be a way to distinguish between servant of heaven and minion of hell before we have to kick ass." Sam insisted.

"Oh, and do you know what that way is?" challenged Dean.

"Not yet –"

"Huh."

"Hey, Geek Boy Supreme here, remember? I'll find it, even if I have to read every grimoire ever written since the Fall of Man."

"It may not even exist," Dean muttered pessimistically.

"It has to," Sam stated with complete belief. "We're just the latest in a long line of Champions of Good, Dean, and pretty much the defining characteristic of Good is that it doesn't commit evil acts. To borrow your Stargate analogy, previous supposed Champions of Good who went around casually killing possessed people for no better reason than expediency, without trying to save those that were innocently trapped, would not stay Champions for long. If we did that to Meg our boss would not be pleased."

"Dad would understand…" Dean began.

"I'm not talking about Dad…" Sam pointed his right forefinger straight up, "…I'm talking about The Big Guy we all work for."

Involuntarily Dean glanced up nervously towards the star-strewn sky as he drove. "You really believe He's left a Demon Possession for Dummies guide around?"

"Sure. The Bible has been the victim of more concerted and vicious attempts to destroy it than any other book in history," Sam explained, "yet not only is it available in ninety-eight percent of the world's languages today but we have surviving copies of it going back over 700 years before Christ's birth, proving that the text has been accurately preserved as it was written. I think that proves the Creator of the Universe can quite easily manage to ensure His books of Handy Tips & Hints for Better Evil Hunting are available for anyone looking to find."

Dean blinked at this firm statement and turned to look Sam straight in the eyes with a faint sort of pleading in his own expression. "You really believe He actually cares?"

For a moment it hung there, and then Sam gave Dean his special smile, that sweet, little-boy grin that Dean could never resist and which always made him feel that he could leap tall buildings if he tried hard enough.

"I do…and if I didn't before, I would have three months ago."

The seconds ticked by; Sam, damn him, sat there faintly smirking and picking non-existent lint of his jeans. Dean clenched his teeth…he's going to make me ask…oh just you wait, Sammy…He yielded to the inevitable:

"All right, I'll bite. What happened three months ago?"

"I contacted Roy Le Strange in Nebraska," despite the seriousness of his words Sam smiled at Dean's stunned guppy-fish expression, "and he told me that Layla Rourke is alive and well after she went into spontaneous remission. The doctors have no explanation as to why her brain tumour suddenly started shrinking until it was small enough to be operable but they weren't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The surgeons are confident they got it all and that she'll make a full recovery."

God works in mysterious ways. For a moment Dean closed his eyes and swallowed hard. He had prayed for Layla, but coward that he was he'd never had the courage to try and find out what happened to the young woman.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions and a river of tears flows alongside it." Sam spoke softly, almost to himself. "It matters not just that you do right, but that you do right in the right way. Sue-Ann Le Strange thought she could do a deal with the devil yet still be righteous, even though she was effectively usurping God's right to Judge the value of a person's worthiness to exist…because she meant well. It doesn't work like that. Two wrongs don't make a right, and the end never justifies the means, because the instant you start thinking like that, you've eaten the whole pie and are about to keel over from arsenic poisoning."

"But what if it comes down to it…the big battle or whatever and…we still don't know? What are we gonna do?" Dean intended his words to be a demand, but it came out as a plea for reassurance.

"We'll have to deal with it." Sam conceded. "Personally I don't think it'll come to that because God doesn't give you wings and then take away the sky. But if it happens, we'll just have to do our best and be able to show that we did everything we could to find out whether Meg was a victim or a villain."

"I hope that's enough." Dean said quietly.

"It'll have to be." Sam smiled sadly his big brother, "'cause it's all we got."

© 2006, Catherine D. Stewart

Author's Note:

Defenestration from the Latin fenestra, meaning 'window'. Semi-mythically a 'traditional' Slavic assassination method; to murder someone (or commit suicide) by throwing them (or jumping) out of the topmost window of multi-storey building, e.g., a castle/palace or modern-day apartment block/tower. See also: fenestrate and fenestration.

Grimoire a book the subject matter of which is specifically esoteric and/or arcane subjects such as the paranormal, supernatural, magic arts, alchemy or sorcery such as Tarot, astrology etc. Technically applies to all books explaining these subjects or instructing how to practise them, including books on so-called 'white' magic. However, 'grimoire' tends to be used in fantasy literature to refer particularly to those texts dealing with the use and 'control' of black magic, dark arts, evil sorcery. Theoretically, sorcerers today could write a grimoire and sell it on Amazon, but traditionally grimoires are hundreds (sometimes over a thousand) years old; they tend to be handwritten or in Gothic-letter type and are about the same size and thickness as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, with covers customarily made from leather, or carved wood with locks. Many grimoires also tend to be written with 'ink' that is human blood, and have pages made from human skin. ALTERNATIVE words: tome, codex, quarto, opus.

Shrödinger, Erwin (1887 – 1961), Physicist and Nobel Laureate

Heisenberg, Werner Karl (1901 – 1976), Theoretical Physicist and Nobel Laureate

Thackeray, William Makepeace (1811 – 1863), Author, journalist, editor and lecturer, most famous for his novel, Vanity Fair.