Once upon a time…

A little boy named Sam Winchester lost his mother when he was only six months old. And, although he never knew her, his father and older brother made sure that he knew "of" her. They spoke of his mother almost constantly, telling Sam what a marvelous woman she had been; how she had loved them all without question and how she had been tragically taken away from them all on a cold November night in 1983.

So it came to pass that, as Sam grew older, he actually believed that he had known this long departed, awe-inspiring woman. And in his mind, this wondrous woman became everything that a motherless child would have wanted in a mother. He could often be found just sitting in a chair, staring at a faded picture with burnt edges of a family that he had never really known: a smiling, happy father holding a light-haired, impish, pre-school boy on his lap and a beautiful blond woman lovingly cradling a tiny, dark-haired baby.

Sammy, as both his older brother and father called him, knew all too-well who the man, the boy and the baby were. But it was the woman who fascinated him the most. Her bright, angelic smile seemed to light up the picture all on its own and it was her presence that seemed to bind them all together. And he wondered how she could have ever left them if her very existence was so crucial to their survival.

But, as young children often do, Sammy would put this mysterious mother-angel out of his mind as he went about the process of growing up. And there were always plenty of other things to occupy his increasingly, insatiable mind. It seemed to him that they were constantly calling a different town or city home. With a new home came new adventures, new places to discover and new people to meet. And Sam never tired of those things no matter how often they surfaced in his life. He relished the opportunity to learn about anything new and exciting, hoping to find out as much about the world around him as he could.

Of course, there was always his older brother to shield him from anything painful. It was Dean who Sammy ran to when he skinned his knees or fell off his bike. If a bully was picking on him, Sam could always count on Dean to be there to protect him and make sure it didn't happen again. And Dean was never far away when he awoke from a nightmare or did something that displeased his father. Dean wasn't like most of his friend's bigger brothers. Dean actually liked to spend time with him and he was always willing to answer all of Sammy's questions. Dean never - or almost never - called him a brat or told him he was spoiled-rotten. On the contrary, it was Dad who often told Dean to stop coddling him. But Dean didn't seem to listen to his father too much, at least where Sammy was concerned. Dean's unyielding devotion to him made Sam feel safe and secure; his unconditional love providing Sam with a strong sense of belonging. And because of this, Sam seldom missed the mother he never knew.

Like most children, he was hesitant to see the abnormalities that set his family apart from others and so he viewed his life through rose-colored glasses, adapting it to fit the classic fairytale…

Sam was no different than any other boy his age; he enjoyed rough-housing and wrestling with both his father and older brother. Sam learned early on that this type of activity wasn't just for fun and sometimes he wondered why his father seemed to take it all so seriously. It was like it was a requirement that he learn how to fight if he was going to be a member of this family. Every night after supper, Dad would make him wrestle with Dean, giving pointers and criticisms as he saw fit. And it wasn't until he was almost nine that Sammy actually got the upper hand against his brother one night. And even though he had successfully pinned his brother to the floor and warded off most of his blows, his father had seemed to be extremely upset when it was all over. He had gotten up and left the room without so much as one word to either of them.

As usual, Dean had been right there telling Sam how proud he was of him and what a good fighter he was turning into. He rattled on and on about how exceptional it was for Sam to have beaten him in an honest-to-goodness-old-fashioned-wrestling match. And Sam had been proud of himself and consoled himself with the fact that Dean was too.

But later that night, when Sam had gone to bed, he overheard his father talking sternly to Dean. He heard his father tell Dean that he was wrong to back off and let Sammy win, that he would never be good enough if Dean kept doing that. And Dean had responded that Sammy would just get discouraged if he never won, that he'd stop trying if he felt that he could never beat him. It just wasn't fair to expect an eight-year-old to be able to fight a twelve-year-old. But Dad had torn a strip off him, insisting that there were bigger things than a twelve-year-old that he would have to worry about soon. And then he had sent Dean to bed. Sam had remained quiet as Dean entered their room and slowly got ready for bed. But as Dean crawled under the covers Sam turned towards him.

"Dean?" he asked timidly.

"Just go to sleep Sammy," came Dean's heartbroken response.

Sam had lain awake for most of the night and although he sensed that Dean was also not sleeping, he refrained from speaking to him again. Sam couldn't get his mind around some of the things his father had said. What type of bigger things was he soon going to have to worry about? Why was it so important that he be able to wrestle and fight with his brother? What secrets weren't they telling him? But Sam had no way of knowing because, for the first time in his life, Dean had made it clear that he wasn't going to answer any of Sam's questions.

And that became the first crack in the fairytale…

From that day forward, Sam noticed little things that had failed to get his attention before. He noticed the strange symbols and drawings that always seemed to be everywhere they lived. He noticed the salt that his father scattered around doorways and under windows. He noticed the guns, knives and other weapons that his father was constantly buying and maintaining. He noticed the large hunting knife that his father gave Dean for his 13th birthday. And he noticed that his brother always kept that knife tucked under his pillow. Sam also noticed that his father went out somewhere almost every night with an armful of different weapons. But before he left, he would both run around the apartment or motel, wherever they happened to be staying at the time, and check the drawings, the symbols and the salt to make sure that there were no breaks in the lines that would allow something evil to slip inside.

And then one night when his father had taken them for a drive and Sammy had fallen asleep in the backseat as he was apt to do, he woke up unexpectedly to discover that he was all alone in the car. The car was pulled over on the side of the road and Sam could see that someone had drawn symbols on every window. When he looked out the window at the ground, he saw a circle of salt surrounding the car. How many times had he fallen asleep in the car just to be left alone like this? What did all these symbols and drawings mean? And what was the salt for? Why did it all seem to have such an important meaning in their lives? Not that he had any idea what that meaning was.

It was the detection of all these little oddities that caused nine-year-old Sammy's safe little world to slowly unravel. He tried to ask to Dean about it but all his brother would say was that he wasn't ready yet. And then he would add that he hoped Sammy would never be ready. But he wouldn't explain what he meant. No matter how hard Sam pestered him. And Sam was afraid to ask his father because he knew that his father would tell him everything and Sam was pretty sure he really didn't want to know everything. He just wanted to know enough to calm his fears and stop his nightmares.

But without sufficient knowledge of what it all meant, his nightmares only increased which resulted in an escalation of his fears too. His nightmares and qualms intensified until finally Sammy was afraid of everything. When he voiced his fears to Dean, his brother just told him not to worry because he was there to protect him. He didn't tell him not to be afraid or that his fears were groundless like Sam had expected; he just told him that he would always be there to watch over him. So Sammy finally worked up the courage to speak to his father and he hesitantly told him that he thought there was something in his closet and it was making him afraid. And his father gave him a gun. And he told him to shoot anything that came out of his closet.

And another page of the fairytale was violently ripped out of the storybook…

Sammy's fear almost paralyzed him and it wasn't long before Dean sat down with him and explained everything that he had wanted to know for the past year. It wasn't easy for Sam to learn that most of his fears were well-founded but at least he was finally able to separate the nightmares from reality. Although he had to admit that there wasn't much of a difference. But Dean had stayed with him as he tried to get his mind around all this new and horrible information. And Dean had enthralled him with stories of his own encounters with some of these beings, making it sound more like an science-fiction adventure than real-life and Sam found he wasn't nearly as scared as he had been before.

Until his father decided just after he turned ten that he should accompany them on a hunt.

Then Sammy became terror-stricken once again. But Dean was there to tell him that he would be right beside him and he had nothing to worry about, that he would never let anything happen to him. It was a promise that he intended to keep until the day he died. And Sam's fears subsided because he knew that Dean meant what he said and he would be protected as long as his brother was around. That night they loaded up the car with so many weapons and gadgets that Sammy found his heart was pounding in his ears just from the sight of them.

Sam knew that Dean was keeping a close eye on him from that moment on, even opting out of sitting shot-gun in the car in favor of sitting beside him in the backseat. Although, he never voiced his displeasure, Sam knew his father didn't approve by the way he kept glancing at them in the rearview mirror. And Dean was carefully not to raise his father's ire while, at the same time, managing to help Sammy control his uneasiness by just being close to him. It was the same comfort Sam had always felt by having his brother close by and he knew he probably needed it now more than he ever had before.

When they arrived at their destination, his father handed him a pistol. He told Sam there was a silver bullet in the chamber that would kill the beast if he shot it. But he was only to use the gun if he felt his life was in danger. His father set him up on the edge of the forest and told him to wait there. He and Dean were going into the forest to find the creature. They would kill it there before it even had a chance to get anywhere near Sam.

Dean grinned at him before he followed his father into the forest and Sam heard him mumble something about pretending he was John Wayne if he saw the creature coming out of the woods. But before Sam could figure out what he was talking about, both his father and brother disappeared into the dense vegetation and Sam found himself alone. His eyes darted back and forth taking in every movement he saw. Sam was afraid that the creature they were hunting would know that he was alone and it would come for him but he was also terrified that he might shoot the gun at either his father or brother when they re-emerged from the forest. And he didn't know which thought terrified him the most.

So Sam sat stock-still, petrified of moving. Afraid that he would either attract the attention of the creature or inadvertently kill his brother or father. His anxiety level was so high that he failed to notice the pair of luminescent eyes watching him from only a short distance away. Without warning, the creature jumped on top of him, knocking him to the ground. Sam was gripping the pistol so tightly that he didn't drop it as he tumbled to the ground with the creature on top of him. But he was also paralyzed with fear. He had never seen anything like this creature; it looked like a lion with a human head. But it was the teeth that horrified Sam. There were three rows of razor-sharp incisors and they dripped a combination of blood and saliva when it opened its mouth just inches from Sam's face. Sam was unable to move as he stared into the creature's mouth and he dreaded being ripped apart by this monster.

Then, as suddenly as the creature had attacked him, something whizzed past him and knocked the creature off him. Sam scrambled out of the way before he saw Dean charge the beast and land on top of it. It was then that Sam saw the arrow protruding from the creature's body and he knew that Dean had shot it with his crossbow. But the arrow hadn't killed the creature and it was now engaged in a physical confrontation with Dean. Sam watched helplessly while the creature rapidly gained the upper hand on his brother until his father abruptly emerged from the shadows and grabbed Dean by the back of his shirt collar. In one fluid movement, he lifted Dean off the creature and tossed him toward Sammy. Then he fired his weapon at the monstrous beast. The bullet hit the creature squarely in the chest, killing it instantly.

As Dean picked himself up off the ground, Sammy crawled over to him and nestled himself in his arms. Sam stared forlornly at the lifeless creature on the ground and he couldn't help but think that the bullet that killed it had probably been the last remnant of his shattered childhood for it had been forged from the melted-down remains of his baby spoon. And as he shivered in his brother's comforting embrace, Sam realized that Dean was probably his only safety net that remained intact.

And although, years later, Sam would find himself striving to find his own happily-ever-after…

None of the Winchesters…

Ever again…

Believed in fairytales.