Disclaimer: refer to chapter one

NOTE TO READERS: Well, this is it … the last chapter, the finale, and I hope you're happy with it when you're done reading. It's a long one. I wanted to personally, thank every reader that has reviewed either all or some of the chapters, and has stuck with the story through thick and thin … even through parts or story angles you weren't sure you even wanted to continue to read through to see how they panned out, thanks for sticking with it. I appreciate everything a great deal.

Side Note: Some items mentioned in this chapter: Goofer Dust and Devil's Bit mojo bags they provide protection from demons. The dust they aren't supposed to be able to cross and the Devil's Bit bags hold them in place and they can't move, so they can't cross through a threshold or opening. Also, should a demon sit or stand on a spot with DB bags they are essentially super glued to the spot the bags are affixed. These items fall under Hoodoo.

Let me know what you think. Thanks again!

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Letting Go to Hold On

By Dawn Nyberg

"When the hour is upon us … no you will not be alone … leave your fear in the fray, let us hold each other, 'til the end of our days." Excerpt by Rob Thomas, Now Comes the Night

One Week Later

Dean stared at the ceiling and his mind wandered. He glanced at the clock and could see it was after 1 AM and sleep was still eluding him, and he knew why. The past week had been difficult and his family seemed to be splintering in all directions. It felt like his grip wasn't strong enough anymore to keep the family together. His father hadn't said much in the past few days and Dean knew his dad was troubled about the decision to hunt again. There had been a lot of phone calls between his father and Joshua the last couple days, but his father never said anything to him. Sammy still wouldn't let go of the residential living arrangement. Dean let out a frustrated sigh and got up. He opened his door and quickly noticed his father's bedroom light was on. Dean stood at the closed door and debated, finally he couldn't hold back anymore, and he knocked quietly.

"Dad?" Dean kept his voice low. He knew Sam slept pretty deeply after his evening meds, but didn't want to run the chance in waking him. John opened the door and his face was full of concern.

"Dean? You okay?" John asked as he quickly surveyed his oldest child.

"Yeah, I …" Dean took a breath. "I need to talk to you Dad." John smiled warmly and he and Dean slipped down the hall and went to the kitchen. They turned the light on over the kitchen sink which illuminated the kitchen in a dim light and allowed them both to seek solace in the shadows surrounding the kitchen table.

"What is it?" John asked taking a seat.

"Dad," Dean's voice was slightly incredulous. John offered a mild smile.

"I wish I had answers for you Dean. I know you deserve them. I've been talking to Joshua and the demon hasn't shown his face again anywhere that he's heard, and I've run a check on the signs and haven't found any. It's quiet. I can't see uprooting you from your life here and seeing Sammy go back to Ivy Ridge to wait for that damn place he wants to go to only because he thinks he's helping us."

"Dad, I can't…" Dean looked at his father with pained eyes. "Dad, I want to help, I do, but I just can't leave Sammy. I thought I could, I did. I tried to convince myself that we all had to sacrifice and that I could let him go to that place. But, Dad, I can't." He paused. "I won't." John smiled. "What? You're not disappointed? I'm letting you down."

"Letting me down? Disappointed? Dean, I'm proud of you. I admit part of me wanted you with me, but I had to let you figure this out on your own. I don't want you thinking for one second that you let me down. In fact, had you been able to leave Sammy behind I would have been disappointed. Your brother doesn't belong in that place. I mean, it's not like a home in the sense either of us are thinking it is, but it's still not where he belongs."

"Yeah, well, convince Sammy of that. I feel like we're losing him a little more everyday and I can't do a damn thing about it. He says he'll stay until we are ready to go, and he won't discuss it at all. He's trying to be a damn martyr or something and I won't let him."

"Dean, your brother has a mind of his own. That boy has been contrary by nature since he could walk, but he thinks he's doing the one thing he can in this hunt for the demon and that's let us go where he can't follow." John cleared his voice. "He's letting us go, in order to hold on to us, and we thought the same thing, but it won't work because in the end we wouldn't be together, and like Sammy said, were stronger as a family." Dean smiled remembering his brother words back in Colorado when he had said those words, and Dean remembered saying them to their father, as well when he agreed with his little brother.

"So, what are you saying? Are you not gonna do this … return to the hunt?"

"I don't know," John hedged. "But, I do know one thing and there is no way Sammy is going off to that residential living place, no way in hell. I can't even believe I took this long to admit it. I must have been insane to even consider it." Dean laughed lightly.

"I feel the same way. I mean, I considered it you know. I ran these scenarios in my head on how it was gonna work, but every time it came down to it Sammy would be alone, and I wouldn't be there if something happened. I just couldn't live with myself if he stuck himself in that place just to keep us from worrying about him … when we would anyway, you know."

"Look we'll talk to him in the morning and tell him you're staying."

"He's going to fight us," Dean replied bluntly. "You know that, right?" John nodded. Dean was silent and John knew something else was on his son's mind, too.

"Okay," John let out a fatherly sigh. "Somethin' else beyond Sammy and hunting is on your mind," John spoke casually. "What is it?" Dean offered his father a mild smile as he rubbed a hand over his face and blew a breath out. John laughed quietly. "Woman trouble, huh?"

"It's not like that Dad, it's …" Dean wasn't used to heart to hearts with his Dad about girl's. "It's just I said something to April a couple weeks ago, and we've both been doing phone tag ever since. She's finishing her R.N. credits and I've been busy here and at work. And, I think I need to talk to her about it, and I don't know how."

"You let the 'L' word slip didn't you?" John smiled knowingly. Dean nodded and dropped his face in his hands. "Well, now," John tried to make his voice reassuring. "How bad we talkin' here," he hedged. "Did you say, 'I love you,' or 'I'm in love with you', what?"

"Dad," Dean wanted to crawl under a rock.

"Well, I'm just trying to help son. Some statements are less fatal than others. I need to know if you ate a bullet or if it's a flesh wound."

"Look it wasn't like that you know … it's not like I got down on one knee or something. It happened right before I left her place to go to the hospital when you called about Sammy." John smiled at his child. "What?"

"Nothin' go on," he urged.

"It wasn't some big declaration or anything … I just said 'love you' really quick and gave her a fast peck on the lips and I was gone. But…"

"But, you're not sure how she took it, right?"

"Yeah, I mean, I care for 'Pril I do, but we kinda got into this whole thing because it was casual. It's just…"

"You love her, but you're not in love," John offered. Dean looked at his father for a long moment. "Well, not that you couldn't in the distant future, but you're not there now, right?"

"Why do you know this stuff?" John chuckled.

"Hey, I was your age once you know. Your old Dad didn't just fall from the sky full grown you know. I went through my twenties, too. And, then I met your mom." He winked at his son. Dean smiled. "Well, the best thing you can do is talk to her and see what's going on in her head."

"How do I do that?"

"Dean, look women are complex creatures, and they aren't stupid. Your mother could dance circles around me in a conversation or disagreement. Hell, even when I was right, somehow by the end of the argument I was thinking I was wrong and I was apologizing. Your best bet is to just be honest. Bring it up … see where she is with what you said, and then work it out from there."

"I don't want to hurt her," Dean spoke softly.

"I understand that son, I do. But, have you considered she may be in the same spot you are. Maybe you're both on the same page and you're worrying over nothing."

"Yeah, maybe," Dean looked hopeful. "Thanks Dad."

"No problem. I'm good for something, eh?"

"Dad," Dean admonished. John smiled.

"It's late kiddo, we better call it a night. After all, we have to still talk to Sammy in the morning."

"It's already morning," Dean countered.

"Yeah, well, we can still get a little sleep before we have to go forty rounds with your brother in the morning." Dean offered a rueful smile.

"You thinks its gonna be that bad?" John just looked at his son as if to say this is Sammy we're talking about here. "Yeah, you're right. I'll see you in a few hours."

"'Night son."

"'Night Dad."

Later the Next Morning

"Morning son," John said as Sam walked into the kitchen. The youngest member of the family noticed that both his brother and father were up and both looked a little tired which meant they had probably been up for a while.

"Morning," Sam returned. "You two are up early."

"Yeah, we wanted to talk to you son." John answered. "Have a seat." He pulled a chair out at the table for Sam.

"About what?" Sam was leery.

"Sammy," Dean began. "I'm staying here okay. I'm not gonna hunt that demon."

"What? No, you have to go. You have to watch Dad's back."

"Sam," John spoke. "I told you I wouldn't be alone. I'm not going off half cocked. Your brother wants to stay."

"Bullshit," Sam barked as he stood up abruptly. "If I wasn't lll…like I am. He'd be ggg…gone. If I didn't hhh…have thh…these damn seizures with mm…my visions," Sam was visibly upset and his fractured speech was a dead give away to his family.

"Sammy chill out okay," Dean put a hand out to touch his brother's flailing right arm. Sam jerked away as if the touch burned him.

"Ddd…don't coddle me. I'm doin' this. I ccc…can help and thh…this is how I can."

"Son, you putting yourself in an assisted living facility isn't helping us. I know you think it is, but your brother and I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing where you were and knowing it wasn't where you're supposed to be."

"Thh..then what am I supposed to do?" Sam pleaded and yelled at the same time.

"First, you're going to sit before you get yourself all worked up," John patted the table. Sam let out a frustrated sigh and sat heavily in his chair. And, second, you're not supposed to do anything Sammy," John spoke softly. "This isn't something you have to fix, okay. You're not the problem here. That damn demon is what's wrong."

"I ccc…can't be what you and Dean nnn…need," Sam's eyes misted as he dropped his eyes to stare at his hands.

"Sammy that's crap," Dean said softly. "You've always been what ever we needed. And, if it hadn't been for you on that last hunt," Dean reached out and put a hand on his brother's forearm. He was happy when his little brother didn't pull away. "If it hadn't been for you … Dad and me would be dead. And, so would Joshua and Jefferson for that matter."

"Your brother is right Sammy." John replied. "Look, I'm not in your shoes, but I can imagine how frustrating it is to feel held back by some physical limitation. I'll admit your seizures scare the hell out of me because I can't help you. I can't take them on for you."

"Dad, please," Sam turned emotional eyes to his father. "You need Dean. Dean needs you. It's safer if you hunt together." John shook his head slightly. Dean started to speak, but John lifted a hand silencing him.

"Sammy, we all need each other, okay? Coming back here to Jefferson City was the best decision I've made in years. I was a damn fool for leaving to begin with. And, being back with you boys under the same roof has been a gift, it has. I wish the demon wasn't a factor to our family, but he is. He's taken too much from us all ready I won't let him destroy everything good we've managed to create as a family. I want you and Dean to stay. I promise I won't disappear again." Sam nodded reluctantly.

"Okay, that was way too easy," Dean quipped as he looked from his apparently resolved brother to his father's emphatic eyes. "Sammy?"

"What?" he snapped.

"We only went a couple rounds with you," Dean answered candidly. "I mean, come on you gave in pretty quick."

"It's whh…what you and Dad www…want, right? Dad needs to go alone. Fine."

"Sammy," John spoke. "Please, I need to know you understand. I can't watch you boys go back into the hunt again not after what you finally have," he paused. "You both have a real home and lives now."

"Sss…so do you," Sam answered quietly not meeting his father's eyes.

"Yes," John conceded to his youngest child, but elaborated no further.

"Sam," Dean's voice was tentative. "It's not gonna be like before," he offered. "Dad, isn't going to just disappear. He's going to be calling every day, or well, almost every day. And, we can call him. It's gonna be okay." A small tremble worked through Sam and John and Dean exchanged looks. "Sammy? You okay?"

"Yeah," he answered quietly. John and Dean weren't convinced.

"You take your morning meds," Dean asked. Sam shook his head. John read his oldest son's face and stood up.

"I'll go get them," John replied. Dean studied his brother's quiet countenance.

"Sss…stop ss…staring," Sam stuttered. "I'm not going to hhh…have a seizure. It was just a chill."

"I'm not staring," Dean offered bluntly. "It's called looking." He smiled trying to get a small smile from his brother. He frowned when he didn't get anything. "Oh, come on Sammy, lighten up, will ya?"

"Here," John came back into the room with three pill bottles. "Let me get you some water. You doin' okay?" He looked at Sam.

"He's okay, Dad," Dean assured. They watched Sam swallow his pills and the family sat silent at the kitchen table for a few minutes.

"So," Sam began breaking the silence. "When are you ll…leaving?" His voice sounded solemn.

"Not sure yet kiddo," John answered honestly. "I'm still talking to Joshua and some friends. I won't just up and vanish, I promise." Sam looked at his father and nodded.

"I hh…have OT today, and I'm taking the bus, so I better ff…finish getting ready."

"Your brother and I are off today … one of us could take you and pick you up," John offered.

"No," Sam replied. "I want ttt…to go alone." Sam got up from the table and left.

"He'll be okay Dean," John reassured. "He does understand, you know. He might not like our decision, but he'll be okay."

"I hope."

"So, are you going to call April and get this other matter worked out?"

"Yeah," Dean sighed.

Later that Afternoon

"Sorry about the two weeks of phone tag," Dean said across from April while they sat a table in the local park.

"It's okay Dean, I'm just as guilty over the tag situation," she replied with a soft smile. "So, how is everything with your brother since he was released from the hospital?"

"He's good. So, you keepin' busy?"

"Yeah, a lot has been happening," she paused. "I wanted to talk to you about some things."

"Yeah, me too," he answered with a hesitant voice. "Ladies first."

"Dean, the last few months we've been getting together," she started. "We both wanted something casual and that's been working. But, the last time we were together, well…"

"Yeah, I know," Dean hedged. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"You go," she urged.

"No, you." He countered. They both sat looking at each other, and the silence filled the space between them. And, as if on cue both decided to blurt it out.

"I'm not in love with you," they both said in unison. Dean and April sat looking at each other dumbfounded by the sudden and identical admission. And both laughed.

"Oh God, I was beating myself up. I've lost sleep," April said through her laugh.

"Yeah, me too," Dean mused. "When I said what I said, it wasn't well…"

"The in love kinda 'love you'," she joked.

"Yeah," Dean admitted. "I mean you're smokin' hot, smart, and the casual thing has been working, and I could get there some day, I could, but…"

"But, no commitments right now," she offered.

"Yeah, it's just I'm not ready to settle down …"

"Dean, you don't have to explain. I'm not ready for the house, dog and two kids either. And, if there is one thing I have always respected about you from the beginning is your up front honesty before we started this thing, whatever it is," April paused. "I mean, I know I called myself your girlfriend that night and I liked hearing you say what you said, but …"

"It's cool," Dean replied. "No worries. I guess we're more like …" his voice trailed off.

"Lovers," she countered. He smiled.

"Is that okay?" April laughed.

"Yeah, of course."

"So," Dean began. "Was that all you had to tell me?"

"No, not exactly." She hedged.

"What? You're not …" his heart suddenly skipped.

"Oh, lord, no," she answered quickly. "Bite your tongue." Dean smiled. "Um, I've been approached with this awesome opportunity after I pass my boards."

"Really? What?"

"Well, I'm taking my boards next week, and there is a program for traveling nurses and therapists. You know PT and speech. Well, they fly you all over to different places here in the US. My lease ends in a month and I was thinking I can put my stuff in storage and go. I can see places I've always wanted too, and work at some really great facilities across the country. I'd be gone six months to a year traveling and completing different stints at hospitals and rehab centers."

"Sounds great," Dean replied. "I know you love to travel."

"I can always take a week or two or three," she said with a smile. "For some shore leave," she winked.

"Well, I'd be happy to oblige you in that category." She smiled.

Meanwhile, Ivy Ridge Rehab

Sam stared at a tax worksheet and let out a frustrated sigh. "I know this looks difficult Sam, but you'll get it?" Darlene encouraged. "Just follow the sample info to fill in the slots and do your calculations."

"I'm trying," he complained. He stared at the directions and no matter how many times he read the directions they almost seemed like they were in a foreign language. He shoved the worksheet away. "I can't dd…do this."

"Yes, you can," Darlene countered as she patiently pushed the worksheet back under Sam's bowed head. "Hey, can't never did a thing," she quipped. Sam raised his head and looked at her. "Okay, maybe that sounded lame, but I try."

"Why cc…can't I understand?"

"Sam," Darlene began. "You know that some cognitive things are more difficult for you than others. And, hey, I hear you passed the classes you took at the community college. I know you still have some difficulties, and possibly always will. You've adjusted and made excellent progress in a lot of areas."

"Nnn…not this," Sam's voice was angry. "I sss..still have trouble bbb…balancing a checkbook. I should understand. I did before the accident. A monkey could do what I can't."

"Now, listen here," Darlene chided. "A monkey couldn't and you know it. Look a lot of people have trouble balancing a checkbook and even more don't understand how to do their taxes. Why do you think so many people pay to have them done? What you've been able to accomplish with the level of brain injury you suffered is amazing Sam. You have to realize how lucky you are."

"I know," Sam whispered with his eyes dropped. "It's just sometimes I don't feel so lucky."

"I know." Darlene tried to sound comforting as she patted him on the hand. "Here why don't we try something else and come back to personal taxes. How about making change?" Sam let out a frustrated sigh. "Hey, one or the other," she offered.

"Fine, I'll make the damn change."

"Boy, someone got up on the wrong side of the bed today. Everything okay at home?"

"Yeah," Sam replied. "Sss…sorry Darlene I didn't mm…mean to …"

"It's okay Sam. I know you get frustrated. It really is alright." Darlene assured. "Okay, let's get started.

The Winchester House

John sat in the family room talking on the phone. "No, the boys are both out," John spoke to Joshua.

So, is Dean coming with you? I know you mentioned Sam going to that residential place.

"No, Dean and Sam belong together. And, there's no way in hell I'm letting my kid go to an assisted living place. He has a home."

John? I know what finding and killing this demon means to you, but are you willing to pay the price? I mean, leaving the boys behind.

"What? You think it's easy for me to leave my son's. I screwed up so badly with them, and now that we're finally on track it all gets shot to hell because of that damn bastard demon."

Well, John if you feel like you're pissing in the wind then just say so and we won't do this. The demon is lying low right now anyway.

John let out a frustrated sigh and ran a hand through his hair. "Josh, I'll get back to you in a day or two, okay?"

"Yeah, sure John, take your time buddy. I don't have kids, but I can imagine it's gotta be tough.

"Thanks Joshua. If something comes up before you hear from me … give me a call, okay?"

You got it John. Talk to you later.

Ivy Ridge Rehab Center

Sam walked outside the center to start his long walk up the entrance driveway to go to the nearby bus stop to catch his connection back to the city. He glanced at his watch and saw that he had a good forty minutes to kill before his connection came, so he decided to take a quick stroll down by the pond. He could hear the ducks on the water and decided he wanted to sit and relax for a while. He knew the bus stop was only a ten minute walk when push came to shove. He stood at the waters edge and looked out at the still water. The only movement was the rippling waves that cascaded away from the ducks as they swam in the distance. A cool March breeze blew across the water and Sam slipped into the light jacket he held folded over his arm. A feeling of being watched crept over him and he looked over his shoulder, but there was only empty space and trees. He looked back over the water and he knew without seeing and a fist involuntarily clenched.

"I know you're here," his tone low and warning. "I ff…feel you." There was a clapping noise that drew Sam's line of sight to a tree about twenty-feet away, and he watched a figure step into view. Sam squinted against the sun streaming in and out of the trees. He saw a man with a short cropped hair, and he wore a long duster jacket. He recognized the body language right away, and as he looked to his eyes, he knew it was the demon. He looked exactly as he had in Salvation in Rosie's nursery. The figure stopped his congratulatory clapping.

"Sammy, Sammy," he cooed. "You should pat yourself on the back," he replied. "You're more adept at that little gift of yours when you let yourself embrace it. How is that precious family of yours? I'm sure your daddy told you we saw each other in Eden."

"Leave my ff…family out of this. You murdered that ff…family. Even the bbb…baby."

"The child was unfortunate. He would have served me well when he came of age. But, survival of the fittest as they say …"

"Why are you hh…here?"

"Just checking in Sammy," the demon smiled, but no kindness emitted from that smile only malice.

"On me? Whh…why? I'm nn…not worth your time now."

"Oh, I admit your little complication after the accident was never planned, and yes it has made me reconsider your usefulness in my plans, but when all is said and done, you have something I want and one day I will come calling for you. Of course, it does seem that pesky seizure thing doesn't agree with your gift. But, I'm not coming for you right now. After all, what's that old human saying, 'all good things come to those who wait.'"

"I'll nnn…never do what you want. I won't go www…with you."

"Oh, I think you will," The demon leered. "After all, you wouldn't want daddy or that big brother of yours in my line of fire, would you? Although, I wouldn't mind having another go at your brother … I had such fun with him in that cabin. Oh, and your father, his meat suit was a good time, too."

"Don't threaten my family," Sam warned. The demon looked at Sam for a long moment. His yellow eyes staring deep into Sam's dark eyes both studying the other.

"We'll meet again Sammy… everything in its time." And, in the span of a blink he was gone. Sam looked around frantically, but the demon was gone leaving behind the smell of sulfur in the March breeze. Sam felt shaken and walked to the bench near the water and sat down. The sun had already begun to drop lower in the sky and Sam looked at his watch.

"Dd…damn, its 4:00 already," Sam hissed. It felt like only minutes he was here. Where in the hell did I lose two hours, Sam thought to himself. "Shit," he spat as he recognized the early signs of an oncoming seizure. "Ppp…please, not now. Nnn…no more." He tried to relax and hoped it wouldn't be a bad one. He sat on the bench and loosely held his left arm as it jerked and seized. His hand would clench so tightly his knuckles popped once or twice as his grip released and clenched spastically. The Jacksonian seizure stayed localized to his arm, and he felt thankful for this small gift.

The Winchester House

"I thought I'd order in some Thai food from that new place down the street," John suggested as he pulled out local menus from a drawer in the kitchen. "I know there's a menu in here somewhere for them. It came in the paper last week." John kept pushing papers around.

"Yeah sounds good," Dean answered.

"So, did things go okay with April?" John asked as he continued his menu search.

"You were right Dad, go figure," Dean mused. "She and I were on the same page … turns out she's taking this traveling nurse and therapist offer to travel for the better part of a year. We're going to keep in touch one way or the other while she's gone, but yeah, we're okay."

"Still going to see each other until she leaves?" John turned his attention from the drawer for a moment to look at his son.

"Yeah, still keepin' things casual." John nodded and turned back to the kitchen drawer.

"Got it," John replied. He craned his head around and looked at the clock on the kitchen wall. "Is that right?" He said looking at his watch to verify the clock was right.

"Yeah, why?"

"Your brother should have been home from rehab a long time ago." Dean shared a concerned look with his father. He pulled out his cell phone and pushed send.

Ivy Ridge Rehab Center

The sound of his cell phone ringing shook Sam from his thoughts. He was tired and his mind was racing from the demon's words. No, his warnings; awful portents to his future if the demon has his way. "Hello?" Sam's voice shook despite his effort to sound fine.

"Sammy?" Dean's big brother alarm was immediately peaked at the sound of his brother's voice. "You okay? You sound off."

The line was still silent. "Sam? Sammy!" Dean shouted into the phone. John strode over and grabbed the cell phone from his son.

"Sammy? It's Dad," John felt panic rise up in his chest. Something was wrong. "Talk to me," his voice was a mixture of plea and command.

"Dad?" Sam found his voice once again.

"Hey, kiddo," John felt relief at the sound of his youngest child's voice. "Where are you?"

"Ivy Ridge."

"Still? Why? You miss your bus?"

"Hhh…had a seizure," Sam began and his father barked into the phone. Sam flinched.

"Sonofabitch," John spoke quickly. "Are you okay Sammy? We're on the way, okay?"

"What? What's wrong?" Dean asked. Sam could hear his brother in the background. He heard his father speak to his sibling.

"He had a seizure." John's voice was gruff. Sam heard his father shift back into the cell phone. "Sammy, son," he began. "You're okay right?"

"I'm fff…fine. It was a small one. Mm…my arm only."

"Only your arm," John's voice softened. "Are you in a treatment room? Is Dr. Myers with you?"

"Nnn…no it happened at the pond. I was sitting." Sam's voice still sounded a bit off to John.

"Sammy, are you sure you're okay? What is it?" Sam took a breath and spoke.

"Hhh…he was here. He came while I was at thh..the pond. He talked to me and lll…left." Sam's voice shook.

"He who?" John gripped the phone tightly. There was a quiet pause on the phone. "Sammy?" John heard his youngest son take a shaky breath.

"The ddd…demon," his voice came out sounding so young and afraid.

"Shit," John spat. "Are you hurt?"


"You go inside the center Sammy. You go now. You're brother and I are on the way."

"He's gg..gone dad," Sam replied.

"You listen to me Sam. You do as I say. You go inside and wait for us in the lobby." John's voice was harsh. He took a breath and softened his tone. "Please, Sammy," John asked.

"Okay," Sam's voice was small.

John snapped Dean's cell phone closed. Dean looked at his father and saw a feral look in his father's eyes. "Dad, what is it? Sammy's okay, right?"

"The demon came to him at the pond," John hissed as he grabbed keys to his truck.

"What?! Is he okay? That bastard hurt him?" Dean followed after his father.

"He said he wasn't hurt. I think he's just shook up. Sammy said that evil bastard talked to him. I just want to get to him," John said. "Come on."

Later that Evening, the Winchester House

They had sat in the family room and John looked at his boys. Sam had told them what the demon had said. He wanted to hold back, but decided to tell them everything, and he did. John ran a hand over his tired eyes. "So, he said 'everything in its time' you're sure that's what he said?"

"Yeah, dad," Sam replied. "He made it sound like it might be a while before he … you know … comes back for me."

"That not gonna happen Sammy," Dean spoke. "That bastard isn't touching you." John could feel the rage rolling off his eldest son.

"Easy, Dean," John urged. "It's going to be okay." He shifted his eyes to his youngest child. He saw the dark circles under his baby boy's eyes, and he looked frail to him all of a sudden. "Sammy?" His voice was soft as he reached a hand out and put it on his son's knee. Sam raised his eyes to meet his father's. John gently squeezed his knee and smiled. "It's going to be okay kiddo. We're going to face this as a family." He comforted.

"Thh…thanks dad," Sam's voice was quiet.

"You look exhausted Sammy why don't you go lay down for a while. We'll have a late dinner okay? I was going to have Thai delivered."

"I'm okay," Sam offered.

"Dad's right Sammy," Dean agreed looking at his brother. "You should rest for a while. Humor us, okay?"

"Yeah, okay," Sam agreed. He was too exhausted to put up much of a resistance anyway. Once Sam disappeared into his room John looked at Dean.

"Son, I need you to check the perimeter of the house. Check the buried amulets, and lay a new Goofer Dust line in the soil against the house. I'm going to check the salt lines around the house and the amulets. I'll check the Devil's Bit mojo bags at the doors and our bedroom windows."

"You got it Dad," Dean replied standing quickly. He had switched from big brother mode into hunter/protector in an instant. "Dad, maybe we should add some devil's traps at the doors and windows just to be safe."

"Yeah, I'll draw some small ones on the windows with a window marker, and the doors will be easy. I'll just put the traps under the mats on the inside of the doors."

"Sounds good." Both Winchester's went about their duties while the youngest member of their family slept.

John crept quietly into Sam's room and went to his son's window to check the salt and Goofer dust line and Devil's Bit bags that hung … everything was secure. The house had been triple checked and Dean was almost done laying the new Goofer dust line next to the house. John stopped near Sam's bed to watch his son sleep. His young face looked tense even in sleep. His brow bore a slight tension crease. John smiled warmly and lowered a hand onto his son's head. Sam didn't stir. John gently ran a thumb over the crease in child's forehead. "Easy Sammy," John comforted in a hushed tone. "It's okay." Sam moved slightly and sighed under his father's gentle touch. John felt the hot sting of tears welling in his eyes as he watched Sam relax under his fatherly ministrations. His son was resting peacefully now.

"Dad?" Dean's voice whispered at his brother's doorway. "He okay?"

"Yeah," John's voice was gruff with emotion. "You finish up?" John asked as he moved toward his oldest son and quietly left Sam's room closing the door slightly as he left.

"Yeah, it's taken care of," Dean assured.

"Good." John and Dean walked to the kitchen. John poured himself a cup of coffee. "You want a cup son?" John asked as he watched his child sit down at the kitchen table.

"Yeah, thanks." John placed the hot cup in front of his son. "So, dad," Dean began. "When do you think he'll come back?"

"It's hard to say, but I don't think it'll be for a while."

"What's a while?" Dean hedged.

"Could be years Dean," John replied in frustration. "Or maybe a few months, I don't know."

"Dad there are other children like Sammy still being born," Dean started. "I mean look at that baby in Salvation that survived. And, then the one in Eden that…" Dean's voice trailed off he didn't want to say the words and remind his father of that hunt gone horribly wrong. "If kids are still being born … one's like Sam … then what's that mean? If the demon has some kind of master plan for Sam and the other children like him … how's that gonna work? A baby can't do anything, hell; Sammy didn't get his abilities until he was twenty-two." John studied his firstborn. He knew the truth about the demon's plans for Sammy and the others, but he couldn't tell Dean, not yet. He wanted to protect both his children from the truth for as long as possible. He wasn't going to let that evil bastard get near either of his children again. He wasn't going to lose Sammy to this darkness. His baby boy came into this world special, but Sam was his son, his flesh and blood, and he would find a way to see his youngest son through the trials ahead, no matter what.

"I don't have all the answers Dean," John answered with a slight pang of guilt for lying to his son. He knew one day soon he'd tell Dean the truth, but for right now, but soon. "We'll handle this as a family, okay?" Dean nodded.

Meanwhile, Upstate New York

Sarah sat at her desk in the gallery composing an email addressed to Sam. Her fingers hovered over the keys as she contemplated each word, as if the gravity of the world would sit upon them. She had come back from Missouri months ago, but she hadn't been able to let Sam go. She didn't care about the disabilities. He was still Sam to her and he always would be. She felt a connection to him that she wanted to fight for. She wasn't going to fool herself … she didn't understand the world he and his family lived in, but she wanted to try or at the least accept what they do. She had seen it with her own eyes when she and Sam had faced that evil spirit of the little girl. She knew that things went bump in the night now, and things had never been the same for her. Finally, she started to write.

Dear Sam,

It's been a few months since we've spoken. But, I had to email. I've missed you. Sam, I know what we talked about and that you said it wasn't safe. I understand, I do, but life is risk and I want to know you, be with you. I don't care about the speech problems, none of it makes me care any less for you. We haven't been in contact since my visit in December and I wanted to see how things were. Any news on your end? Kill that demon yet? Things are quiet with me. The gallery has been busy lately. A lot of estate sales. I'm rambling, I know, but I just want to see you again or talk on the phone, hear your voice.

I'm not giving up on you Sam Winchester. I see so much potential for us Sam, and even you admitted that once when we first met that there was something between us. I know you're dealing with issues I'll never truly comprehend, but I can try to understand them, and support you. I'm willing to stay away Sam if that's what you need, but I want you to know that I want to try being an 'us' when you're ready. I hope you email me back or hey a call would be nice too. I miss your voice. Maybe, you could come to New York for a visit or I could visit again. Who knows? It's just that when you find someone you feel a strong connection with you don't just want to let it go without a fight.

Miss you,


She read over the email and contemplated deleting it, but took a breath and hit send.

The Winchester House

John closed the front door after paying the food delivery man. "Sammy still sleeping?" John asked Dean as he saw his son come from the direction of the hallway.

"Yeah, I could wake him, though," Dean replied. "It's already 7:00 and he usually hits the sack around 11 because his meds knock him out once they take effect."

"Okay, wake him up," John relented. "You're right … he'll be taking his meds in a couple hours anyway." John headed to the kitchen.

Thirty minutes later the Winchester men settled back in their chairs in the kitchen. "That was pretty good," Dean replied. "I'm stuffed."

"Yeah, it wasn't bad." John agreed. The family had tried to keep dinner light and there was no talk of the demon and what had happened at the rehab center. Sam pushed remnants of a couple noodles on his plate with a fork. John and Dean exchanged looks.

"You okay Sammy?" Dean asked.

"Yeah, ff..fine," Sam placed his fork down.

"Sam," John began. "I don't want you letting that bastard get to you, okay? We're handling this as a family."

"How?" Sam asked suddenly.

"How what?" John looked at his son curious. His son's question seemed a bit ambiguous.

"How are we ggg…going to handle it as a ff…family? You're leaving." Sam stared at his hands not meeting his father's eyes. John let out a soft sigh.

"We'll figure it out, okay? We're a family no matter what Sammy," John comforted.

"Dad's right," Dean agreed. "Hey, Sammy you said yourself way back in Chicago. Remember?" Sam looked at him and frowned trying to recall. "Remember when I was talkin' about wanting the three of us together again. To be a family. But, you said 'we are a family' and you were right. Even if the three of us aren't together we are still a family no matter where we are … together or not." Sam smirked at his brother. "What?"

"Nothin,' Sam replied with a grin.

"Samantha," Dean's tone was low. "What?"

"It's jj…just that little speech you jjj…just said … regular Lifetime movie moment man. Where are the ccc…cameras?" John chuckled softly.

"Shut up," Dean groused under the trace of a smile. Sam laughed.

John watched both his boys laugh and smile and in that moment he felt a quiet respite fall over him. He was happy. "You boys want to watch a movie on the tube?"

"Yeah, Dad, sounds good," Dean answered. "I think the Sci-Fi channel is playing Saw 2."

"I'm not watching that crap Dean. I saw the previews for that the other night."

"Okay," Dean said with a laugh. "The FX channel is playing Thirteen Ghosts." Now John laughed.

"A comedy, huh? Sounds good." John looked at his youngest. "You comin' Sammy?"

"In a bit. I ww…want to use the laptop."

"Okay. Well, we'll be in the family room when you're done." Sam nodded.

Sam accessed his email and quickly noted he had an email from Sarah. He hadn't heard from her since her December visit and he clicked quickly. The mail opened and he read it. When he finished he felt torn by what she had said. She was accepting him no matter what, and he knew she had no idea about his latest improvements with his speech, and she was right. There was a connection, but Sam thought to himself, it's just not safe right now. It may never be. He took a breath and made a decision. He got up and closed his bedroom door quietly. He grabbed his cell phone and called Sarah.


"Hi, Sarah. It's Sam." He concentrated to get his words right.

"Sam! Hey, I'm so happy to hear your voice."

"I got your email."

"So, how are you?" Sarah's voice sounded happy.

"Okay," his voice was hesitant.

"But? I hear a but in there."

"Sarah, ww…what you said in your email. It means the world tt..to me. But, it's not safe to be with me," he paused. "It may never be."

"Sam," Sarah's voice was soft. "You can't lock yourself away from life. There are no safety guarantees in life. I mean, yeah, okay, your life is a bit different than the average guy on the street. But, one of us could just as easily get plowed into by a drunk driver and die, its life."

"Sarah, I know you're trying to understand my life and the way my fff…family lives … the hunting evil part, but if I can keep you safe, I will." He heard her patient sigh. "Look, I know you could cross the street and get mowed over, or what did you say that one time … hit by a bus and die, whatever," he continued. "I don't have ccc…control over that, but I do over what I can prevent. And, that's keeping you away from the evil that plagues my ff…family."

"Okay," it was soft and resigned. Then something occurred to her and she smiled. "Sam your speech … you're barely having trouble," her voice was excited. Sam smiled to himself.

"Yeah, if I tt… try to concentrate I can control it a lot more than I could back in December. I saw a speech pathologist that specializes in brain injury speech problems and stuttering."

"That's great. You sound wonderful."


The conversation went on for a bit longer, but in the end Sam asked Sarah to live her life and that he'd touch base once in a while. "So, this is it, huh?" Her voice sounded gentle.

"Yeah, I guess so." Sam replied. "Uh, Sarah, thanks for everything."

"For what? I haven't done anything."

"You have … just know that," Sam responded. "If you ever need anything," Sam began.

"I know," Sarah interjected quickly. "You too."

"Take care Sarah. Be happy, okay?"

"You too Sam. Be safe."

"I will."

And the conversation ended with versions of goodbye without saying the words. Sam snapped his cell phone closed and felt like a deflated balloon. It was the right thing to do, he told himself. He couldn't ask her to wait for what could be years, and with a solemn sigh he stood up to join his brother and father in the family room. Things were the way they had to be, and he let go of what might have been.

Sam walked into the room, "Come on Sammy, you gotta see these idiots. You'll get a good laugh." Sam offered a mild grin and took his spot on the couch between his brother and father. John glanced at his youngest.

"Everything alright?"

"Yeah," Sam answered. John wasn't sure he believed his son's response, but he let it go. Sometimes he knew his baby boy just needed to work through things on his own. He reached over and dropped his hand on Sam's forearm and squeezed once before lifting it up. Sam met his father's eyes and nodded. The silent understanding and acknowledgement based between father and son without words.

One Month Later, April 2009

John continued to work at the garage while he still worked out plans with Joshua. The truth was he was dragging his feet. There was a larger part of him that didn't want to leave his boys alone. John felt that they would be vulnerable without him, although, he knew it was most likely the same odds either way. His fatherly instincts had been in overdrive since returning to his children, but had basically redlined over the course of the previous month and the visitation Sam received at the rehab center.

Dean was back at work and Sam had returned to the library near home. He only helped out a couple days a week as he attended more OT sessions at Ivy Ridge.

John's cell phone rang as he left the auto garage for the day. He looked on the caller ID. It was Dean. "Dean?"

"Hey Dad," his voice casual. "Look I'm kinda stuck outside Tipton."

"Tipton? What in the hell are you doing there?"

"Yeah, I needed to pick up a part for the Impala. You remember the side mirror got trashed last week by a shopping cart," Dean replied.

"Oh yeah," John admitted.

"Yeah, well the place that could get in a replacement for classic cars is in Tipton, anyway," Dean sighed. "I got a flat Dad."

"And, let me guess, no spare," John hedged.

"Yeah, well, I never really cleared out the weapon space in the trunk. Not a lot of room for a spare. I'm about ten minutes outside Tipton. I think I picked up a nail or something."

"Alright, sit tight. Let me swing back at work. I'll pick you up another tire and bring it to you. What about Sammy?"

"I called him. He's already home from library."

"Should I stop by a get him? Does he want to come?"

"Nah, he said he doesn't want to, and anyway it's not quite two hours round trip," Dean sighed. "Sammy said he'd be fine. Sorry dad. I know this is probably the last thing you wanted to do when you got off work."

"It's okay. I'm already back at the shop. I'll get you another tire and be on the way."

"Thanks Dad. I owe ya one."

"Not a problem."

John snapped his phone shut after asking Dean exactly where outside Tipton he was, and he went about getting a tire he knew would fit on the Impala. He threw the tire in the back of his truck and climbed in. As John pulled into traffic and headed out of the city for Tipton he felt this fleeting moment of hesitation in his gut toward leaving Sammy alone at home. He resisted the urge to stop at the house and get his son and kept heading out of town.

The Winchester House

Sam walked into the kitchen and pulled a soda out of the refrigerator. The bottle hissed as he twisted the cap off. He smirked at the 'caffeine free' label. His big brother was always making sure stuff was okay for him to consume. He looked at the clock and saw it was already 5 PM, and Dean had called a short while ago to say he had heard from their Dad and he was about 10 miles from Tipton, so they'd be on their way back just as soon as he got the tire changed. The sun was already getting low in the sky and Sam contemplated trying to start dinner, but decided to wait. He tilted his head back to take another long drink of soda when the kitchen lights began to flicker.

He put his soda down on the counter and walked toward the family room and could see the lamps flickering in their as well. He could see through the open curtains that the street lights outside were coming on and off, as well. The light show wasn't that obvious to the outside world because the sun was not completely set and no one would notice the lights outside. A feeling of dread filled Sam. He looked around panicked. He tried to convince himself that it was just an approaching storm or a disruption in the electricity. The house was safe. The protection amulets, mojo bags, and everything else was in place, and then as if on cue a horrible realization came to him … the fireplace.

And, just as he spun to look at the fireplace while the lights still flickered he saw the thick black mist snake out of the brick hearth and in the blink of an eye the Demon stood before Sam with a lecherous smile. "Hello Sammy," he cooed. Sam started for the front door in a vain attempt to get away. "Not so fast," the demon replied casually. Sam was flung against the nearest wall and held there by an invisible force.

"Let me ggg…go." Sam demanded.

"Let you ggg…go?" The demon replied while mocking Sam's stutter. "I want something and I'm here to collect." Sam filled with rage looking at the demon.

"I told you … I won't do what you want … nnn…never." The demon shook his head and approached Sam.

"I haven't come for you," the demon began. "In due time Sammy. The time has not yet come to pass … everything in its time." He assured with a voice that sent cold shivers down Sam's spine. "I've come for the Colt. I know its here and I need you to give it to me."


"Then your father and your brother are dead," the demon replied. "It would be such a shame if a horrible accident were to happen … once again. You'll give me the Colt or you'll be deciding in a few days whether to bury or cremate them."

"Why?" Sam dared to ask. "It isn't a danger to you in this form. It didn't work in Salvation."

"No, but I have my reasons, and as you well know my true form doesn't allow me nearly as much fun as stepping into a meat suit. I want the Colt Sam, now," the demon ground out in a low warning tone.

"You knn…know its here, get it your damn self." Sam felt a white hot pain lance through his head followed by a tickle beneath his nose. He could taste the coppery blood drip across his mouth. The pain in his head was blinding and it began to ebb away slowly.

"Hurts doesn't it?" The demon smiled. "I could rip you apart from the inside. Ask your brother about that sensation. I could burst a vessel in that brain of yours … not that it could take much more damage," the demon snickered. "I could leave you a drooling rag doll for the rest of your short human life."

"Yeah," Sam panted. "But you won't."

"Don't be too sure of that Sammy," the demon warned.

"You need mmm…me," Sam replied. "You have ppp…plans."

"Yes, but there are more children available to me … you're a dime a dozen. If you die, it may be a bit of an inconvenience, but so was Max Miller, such promise in that boy, but such is life, you're expendable to me, and so is your family," the demon spoke in a self assured voice. "Now, get me that gun Samuel," the demon spoke. "If I have to ask again, you'll wish I hadn't." Sam felt himself released from the wall. Sam disappeared into his father's room and came out with a metal box. The box bore the markings of a Devil's Trap on every side, the top and bottom.

"You can't get inside can you?" Sam questioned.

"A small technicality," the demon responded. "Now open it and give me that damn gun."

"But, holy water doesn't even work on you," Sam hedged. "Why would this stop…" Sam's voice was cut off suddenly and he gasped in pain. The pain in his head lanced sharply from one side to the other and exploded behind his eyes. He sagged to his knees from the pain. The metal box fell numbly from his fingers.

"Now!" the demon roared. Sam's hands shook as he worked the combination lock and lifted the metal lid. Sam hesitated reaching in for the gun. "Give it to me Samuel. Fine," he sighed in frustration. "You've just killed your father and your brother."

"No!" Sam shouted as fear gripped him. "Don't hurt them." Sam struggled to his feet with the box in hand.

"You know," the demon began. "I may enjoy seeing them both dead much more than having this gun."

"No, don't hhh…hurt them," Sam pleaded.

"Hmm… I could kill your father with no effort. Squeeze his heart slowly with a mere thought … feel it stop beating. And, your brother … I'd let him live long enough to bury your pain in the ass father, and then I would crush Dean … you'd be all alone Sammy. And, the only reason your family would be dead … is you."

"Sss…shut up … you bastard. Here," Sam hissed. He lifted the Colt out of the box and handed it to the demon. "Take it and leave my family alone." The demon took the gun. He ran his finger over the engraved Latin phrase and chuckled at its translated meaning Fear no Evil.

"This little visit has been nice Sammy. And since you've been such a gracious host it would be rude of me to leave without a parting gift." Sam felt himself forced viciously against a wall. His head connected violently. His world began to dim around the edges with darkness as he heard the demon hiss, "Like I told you by the pond survival of the fittest," and just as Sam began to sink into an all encompassing blackness sliding to the floor he saw two things … the demon disappear into a swirling blackness with the Colt and fire erupt up a distant wall spreading upward to the ceiling. And everything went black.

Meanwhile, Just Outside Jefferson City

Dean followed behind his father on their way back into the city. They had switched out the flat throwing the bad tire into the back of his father's truck and put the new tire on. It had taken a little longer than they thought, but it still wasn't too late. Dean glanced at his watch and noted it was 6:30 PM. Dean got caught up at a red light as he his dad passed under the yellow. He watched his father wave to him out his driver's side and Dean waved back indicating he'd see him at home. He noticed up ahead a fire truck was blazing through an intersection and he thought nothing more of it as he turned up his radio when Metallica's Until it Sleeps began to play.

John tried to turn up his street, but couldn't get very far as he found the street partially blocked by a police cruiser as they kept the area open for the incoming second fire unit. He could see the thick black smoke billowing up from somewhere down his street. John felt a coldness consume him. He pulled his truck against the curb and jumped out.

"Sir, return to your car," the police officer approached him. "This isn't a spectator event."

"My house is down there. My son is home. What house is on fire?" John tried to push past the officer to get further up the street to see, but his gut was already taunting him that it was his home burning into the early hours of the evening.

"Sir, please," the officer put out an arm blocking him from progressing further. John looked at the officer; his eyes blazing.

"I said, my son is home. What house dammit? The address?" The officer gave John a sympathetic look and clicked on his personal radio.

"Dispatch this is unit 517 I need address verification on the house fire in progress on Willow Bend Ave."

"517 the fire was reported by a neighbor," there was a pause. "911 dispatch indicates the address is 2440 Willow Bend Ave." The voice over the radio crackled.

"Oh God, No," John whispered. "Sam!" John yelled. It didn't matter that his house was half a block away, he yelled anyway. "That's my home. My son. Please!"

"Sir, I'll try to find out details for you, but you have to stay back let the fire department work."

"I need to be closer, and if you want to stop me you're going to have to arrest me!" John pushed past the officer. The police officer sighed, but didn't stop the upset parent.

"Hey Derek?" the officer spoke over his radio to his partner up the street managing the scene by the house.


"Just givin' you a head's up … there's a guy headed your way. He's in blue work overall's said Pro Care Auto on the front … it's his house that's on fire. He said his son was home."

"I see him coming, thanks Jeremy. I got it."

"Yeah, okay."

John approached the officer with panicked eyes. He saw the waiting ambulance, but it was empty and the paramedics sat waiting. "My son where is he?" John barked to the officer that approached him.

"Sir, I'm Officer Macke, and you are?"

"John Winchester," he snapped. "That's my house. My son," he begged. "Where is he? Is he alright?"

Dean screeched to a stop against the curb behind his father's truck. He had seen the dark smoke as he entered the neighborhood. He felt sick as he jumped out of the Impala. He knew without being told that it was his house on fire. Dean was blocked by the officer.

"Sir," but before he could say anything else Dean glared at him.

"Save it, buddy! That's my Dad's truck. My brother's down there," and he pushed past the man. The officer let him pass to join his father.

Dean saw his dad standing with an officer. His father's back was to him, but he heard the words the officer was saying to him, and he tasted the bile creeping up his throat. The words would haunt him the rest of his life.

Sir, I'm sorry. The house was completely engulfed when the first unit arrived. There has been a partial roof collapse. A neighbor called in the fire when they spotted smoke and then they said the front window literally exploded outward from the heat. They are trying their best sir, but it's doubtful if your son was in there… they were just able to gain access in the rear, but sir, it's unlikely anyone could survive. They think it was faulty wiring with the gas heater, based on the explosion, but they won't know for certain until the fire investigation team can inspect.

"Dad?" Dean's voice sounded broken and lost. John turned and immediately his eyes softened as he looked at his eldest child. "Dad? Sammy?" Dean cast frantic eyes toward the house.

"Dean," John pulled his son next to him and kept him close. There were no words.

"Sammy?" Dean repeated again a soft plea as he watched the red flames dance into the night sky. John wrapped an arm around Dean's shoulders. "Not fire, Dad. Not Sammy." Dean looked at no one, but the flames. His voice sounded distant even to his own ears.

"Could I get a blanket for him," John shot concerned eyes from his child to the officer as he felt Dean tremble. "I think he's in mild shock." The officer got a blanket from emergency services and John wrapped it around his son. "Dean? Son, look at me?" John encouraged. His heart was split between two sons in this moment, but this son he could help, he could do something for. "Dean?"

"Not dead. Not Sammy," Dean mumbled. "Not fire."

"Dean, listen to me," John took his son's face in his hands. "Look at me son." John forced Dean to finally make eye contact.

"Dad?" Dean's face crumbled and John simply pulled his son against him and held him tightly as he watched the fire department work to put out the raging fire consuming his home, and he silently prayed to a God he seldom acknowledged, please, let Sammy be okay. Don't take him, not like this, not now.

Forty-Minutes Earlier

Sam woke to thick black smoke and the popping noise his mind soon registered as fire. There was a roar across the ceiling and the flames licked downward. Sam coughed against the suffocating smoke. He could see nothing through the blanket of black smoke. He turned over onto his stomach trying desperately to remember where he was exactly in the family room before he'd lost consciousness. He had no bearings to go from and his heart hammered against his sternum as he felt the heat of the fire getting closer. There was a loud explosion noise and the shattering of glass. Sam covered his head with his arms as the front window in the family room exploded outward when hot flames pushed against it. The waning light of day illuminated the room through the smoke just enough that Sam saw the couch and knew where he was. He crawled toward the direction of the kitchen using his hands to feel the way. His lungs burned as they filled with the acrid hot smoke. He tried to keep one hand cupped over his mouth and nose, as he crawled toward a hopeful escape.

He felt the shift from carpet to linoleum under his fingers and knew he was in the kitchen. There was a little bit of daylight breaking through the smoke blanket. He crawled toward the door connected with the garage, but when his hand touched the door he drew it back with a hiss. The fire had breached the interior walls and had reached the garage. He shifted direction quickly as he crawled toward the second door in the kitchen that led to the backyard. His world was beginning to fade in and out and he knew his hold on consciousness was beginning to fail as the smoke inhalation became more acute. There was a loud cracking and rumble from the direction of the family room and Sam pushed himself to stand. He swayed on his feet as his world threatened to slip away and he knew he had to get out or he would die in here. His hand found the door and he grabbed the knob and fell outside the door into the fresh air. Black smoke plumed out behind him, and the cracking inside the house reached a crescendo just as a portion of the roof began to collapse under the devouring hungry beast consuming the house in flame.

He stumbled against the line of six-foot property lining shrubs between the house and the neighbor's yard next door. The shrubs were double lined with smaller ones on their side and the neighbor's had the taller greenery. The shorter bushy shrub gave way under his weight, and as he fought to maintain his hold on the world he lost the battle falling into a dark oblivion. Sam fell into the shrubs and landed between the short shrubs and the taller ones. Sam lay unconscious perfectly hidden among the full green shrubbery.

The Winchester House, Present Time

John and Dean stood and watched in horror as the house continued to burn. It was another half-hour before they began to see more smoke than flame. Finally, the devastation was visible as the fire was successfully doused by the fire department. John watched firefighters enter the house with axes and pokers.

And shortly after he saw a solemn looking man walking toward him and John saw the badge on his fireman's jacket: Battalion Chief Kirsch.

"Mr. Winchester," his voice firm, yet gentle.

"My son?" John's voice caught in his throat.

"Sir, I'm sorry, but we didn't find your son, and I wish I didn't have to say this, but with the intensity of this fire…" John held up a hand to stop the man from saying anything else. He held onto Dean who seemed to have withdrawn into a shell and remained stoically passive to the presence of the Fire Chief.

"Don't," John spoke softly … his voice raw with emotion.

"Sir," the man began hesitantly.

"I understand," John replied with a distant voice. "There's nothing left to find."

"I'm sorry." John nodded, but his throat constricted and all he could do was offer the man a curt nod. He pulled Dean close and wanted nothing more than to shelter him from this loss, this terrible loss he himself couldn't even get his mind around. And, just as John began to let the consuming grief of losing Sammy slip into his mind and body he heard a shout from the side of the house.

"Christ!" A firefighter yelled. "We need the paramedics now! We found the kid. Dammit how long has he been here?" There was a flurry of activity at the side of the house and John and Dean were both prevented from going to where the medics and firefighter's had gathered. They watched in a rapt sense of joy and panic. They had no idea if Sam was alive or lost to them forever. Had he been burned? John's gaze never broke from watching the side of the house as he kept Dean close to his side. Please, don't let him be burned … please, not Sammy. Please, be alive … this one unified thought passed from father to first born son as they waited. And, soon the flurry of activity shifted back toward the front of the house and they saw firefighter's helping to carry Sam on a backboard as a medic followed along side squeezing a bag hooked to a plastic tube snaking out of Sam's mouth ventilating him. John and Dean caught a glimpse of their youngest family member. His face was covered in black smudges of soot and ash. His lips looked chapped and bloodless. His eyes were closed and they knew Sam wasn't conscious. The medic's had already cut his shirt from him and had attached a heart monitor and pulse-ox to his hand. Another firefighter ran alongside trying to keep the IV fluid bag high to help Sam get fluids faster.

Sam and the backboard carrying him were placed on a gurney and he was swiftly loaded into the ambulance. "We need room to work," a medic spoke briskly to John and Dean as they stepped forward to join Sam's prone form. "We're headed to Capitol. You can meet us there." John nodded and he and Dean were on the move.

Two Days Later, ICU Conference Room

"Mr. Winchester as you know Sam suffered extensive smoke inhalation and on top of that the MRI indicated a blunt force trauma head injury. Sam is still unresponsive and his lungs haven't yet begun to rebound from the smoke injury. His throat is slightly swollen, as well, from the inhalation of the hot smoke. The respiratory therapist tested his tidal volumes today and they are extremely poor. Your son isn't currently able to oxygenate himself adequately. The lung damage has posed us certain problems in keeping his oxygen levels up despite the use of the ventilator."

"But his lungs will heal?" John questioned. He hated sitting in medical conference rooms. It brought back bad memories of the last time he sat in one and was told Sam had no hope of a meaningful recovery, and then he had abandoned his boys.

"I'm hopeful," Dr. Lineman answered. "However, I'm more concerned about the head injury. Your son's history with serious head trauma gives me pause. I've consulted with his neurologist Dr. Myers." John nodded. "His case is being co-handled by her and our new on staff neurologist Dr. Reka. Sam is unresponsive to deep pain stimuli, and his pupil response is sluggish."

"The coma," John began. "He'll come out of it, right? I mean, there's no reason to believe he won't?" John wanted to be with Sam at his bedside. Dean wouldn't leave Sam and hasn't since he was settled in his ICU room. John understood why because he felt the same way, but fought the urge. They both knew the demon had to be at blame, and they both worried if they weren't with Sam that he'd slip away without one or both of them there to anchor him to this living world.

"Coma's are tricky, Mr. Winchester," Dr. Lineman started. "It's hard to say when Sam will wake up. There's been no sign of brain hemorrhage or skull fracture and that's good. There is indication of a very slight edema, but we're managing that," he paused. "But, there's a chance that the coma…" John cut the doctor off.

"My son's waking up. This hospital wrote him off once before and I'm not letting that happen again." The doctor nodded. He knew Sam's history and the previous diagnosis that had been given to the young man. And, he was also well versed on the dramatic recovery when Dr. Myers had filled in the blanks. "I'd like to get back to my son. Are we done here for now?"

"Yes, when I have more updates I'll speak with you. I'll see Sam on my evening rounds." John shook the doctor's hand and left.

Dean sat watching his little brother. His stillness unnerved him, but it always did. His brother was an animated person and this lax, unmoving body wasn't his Sammy. "Come on, kiddo," Dean pleaded. He held his brother's cool, lax hand in his own. "Hey, sleeping beauty it's time to open your eyes." Dean watched and waited. It seems he is always in this position … at his brother's side waiting to know if he'll be okay, if he'll live. He was frustrated, but mostly he was just scared … scared of losing his brother … scared of a world without Sam. "Sammy, listen to me," Dean leaned forward and spoke in a lowered tone at his brother's ear. "You gotta fight Sammy," Dean urged. "After everything we've been through … after everything you've beaten … it doesn't happen like this, you hear me!" His tone elevated slightly, but still remained within a private level. This conversation was between one brother to another and not for the world to hear. "I can't lose you Sammy," Dean's voice caught in his throat. The emotion was raw and his throat constricted. "This is an order Sam," Dean's tone became serious. "You've been through worse, so you fight! You don't have permission to die. You hear me? You're not dead until I tell you … got it Sammy? You're not dead until I tell you … that's an order."

"Think he'll listen?" John's voice was soft at the doorway to his child's room. He offered his eldest child a warm and supportive smile. Dean looked at his father and then back at his brother.

"He better," was Dean's only reply.

"Yeah," John answered quietly as he took up the second vacant chair at his son's bedside. There was a long moment of silence that filled the room leaving only the sounds of the heart monitor and ventilator to fill the void.

"What did the doctor say?" Dean asked suddenly breaking the silence.

"Sammy's a fighter Dean. He's gonna be okay." John assured.

"That's not what I asked Dad," Dean shifted his eyes from watching his brother's face to meet his father's gaze dead on.

"No, it isn't," John conceded. "He didn't say much. He said Sammy's lungs haven't begun to rebound yet, and that even with the ventilator they are fighting to keep his oxygen levels up. Um … he's worried about the head injury because of Sam's previous injury. He said Sammy was unresponsive and he mentioned the coma," John ran a hand through his hair. "Look, they've written Sammy off before okay … and no one really ever knows about anything. He's gonna wake up Dean, and his lungs will get better. He'll wake up when he's ready." John assured as he leaned forward and placed one hand on Sam's arm and another on Dean's knee patting him reassuringly.

"Yeah," Dean responded, his voice thick with emotion. "Yeah, he will."

Two Weeks Later, ICU

John walked toward his son's room. He had hated that he had to take care of business over the last week, and couldn't be with Sam every second, but Dean still stayed with is brother. John had had to deal with the fire inspection with the landlord and fire department. It had been deemed an accidental fire due to faulty wiring that in turn ignited the gas furnace. And, it was that combination that caused the house to be such a fast burn. John knew the truth though, the real reason. At any rate, there was no blame to place as far as the fire department was concerned. John had tried to salvage a little from the remains. He was glad that he had always kept important papers and family photos in a fire proof cabinet and those items had survived the flames and water damage from the fire hoses. He had noticed right away upon entering the house the empty metal box lying discarded against a wall. It was the box that held the Colt and the gun was nowhere to be found. He knew the demon had taken it. There were random items that could be saved, but mostly everything was a complete loss, not that it mattered the most precious thing to survive the fire was at the hospital clinging to life in the ICU. John rented a small storage unit for the items he was able to save from the ruins of the house before it was boarded up.

John stood silently at the entrance to Sam's room. Dean had fallen asleep with his head resting on an arm next to Sammy. He watched Dean sleep with his head near his brother's arm. His face held a scruffy stubble and John smiled warmly. He had had to force his oldest child to return to the hotel room they had taken up residence in for showers and limited sleep. Dean managed to shave every few days at John's urging, but it was clear that his son was due for another clean up. John walked quietly to the other side Sam's bed and ran a hand through his son's long hair. It seems his youngest child always had long unruly hair and even Dean's hair had grown out. His hair would never be like Sam's, but Dean now had bangs that could be pushed to the side. Both of his sons looked so young while they slept. John frowned at that notion because in reality only one son was truly sleeping the other was in a coma. A coma the doctors were now worried may be irreversible the longer it lasted, but John hadn't told Dean that recent news. Sam had made a mild improvement as his lungs began to mend from the smoke inhalation. He had begun triggering the ventilator on his own a few times an hour, but he still required help with his breathing.

"Hey kiddo," John kept his voice to a whisper. He didn't want to wake Dean. "Sammy, I need you to come back, okay? Your brother is going to grow roots if he sits in that chair much longer," John mused. He wanted to try anything he could to bring his son toward consciousness. He let out a patient sigh and gently stroked Sam's forehead. "It's okay Sammy," he cooed. "You come back to us when you're ready. We'll be here." He was still watching Sam's face and stroking his forehead and hair when Dean stirred. Dean opened his eyes and studied his younger brother for a long moment then shifted his eyes to the monitors. John watched his son's routine … the same routine whenever he woke up at Sam's side or came back into the room. Finally, Dean shifted his eyes across the bed to where his father sat. John had stopped stroking Sam's hair and now his hand simply rested on his boy's head.

"You should have woke me up? How long you been back?"

"Not long. And you needed the sleep."

"How'd the house inspection go?"

"Faulty wiring you know the drill," John replied his voice bitter as he recalled the fire that had claimed Mary. Dean simply grunted a reply.

"Dr. Myers was here earlier. She talked to me about Sammy's latest MRI."


"She said the edema is almost gone, so that's good," Dean's voice perked up ever so slightly.

"Yeah, that is," John agreed.

"Dad, Dr. Myers was talking…" his voice trailed off. John knew what was coming. The doctor had told Dean the possible outcome that Sam may never open his eyes again.

"What did she say?"

"She, uh," Dean shifted his eyes to his brother's still features. "I know you know, Dad, about them saying Sammy might not wake up. But, Dr. Myers isn't ready to give up; she said there is always hope, always until there isn't." John smiled. He was thankful that Sam's doctor from Ivy Ridge still maintained an attitude of possibility when talking to Dean. He realized she probably knew Dean quite well, at least in respect of how to approach him and deal with him when Sammy was concerned.

"Smart woman," John offered, but said no more. Both men sat in silent vigil at Sam's side.

One Week Later, ICU

Sam began to stir slowly at first. His hands and then his legs moved absently with no real purpose as his mind fought to surface toward waking. "Sam? Sammy?" Dean stood over his brother. John ran a thumb across his son's forehead.

"Sammy?" John encouraged further.

It happened suddenly, as if a light switch had been thrown. Sam's eyes snapped open and they were filled with two emotions that Dean and John read clearly: confusion and fear. Sam rebelled violently against the tubing in his throat. Dean lunged for his brother's hands as they tried to grasp at the intruding apparatus in his mouth. "Sammy, no," Dean spoke gently, but with urgency. "It's okay. You're okay. You're safe." John stepped outside his son's room asking for help. "It's your breathing tube Sammy. It's okay. Relax." Sam finally focused on his brother's voice more than the words and he began to still under his touch just as medical staff poured into the room and John and Dean were quickly ushered out.

Four Hours Later, Outside ICU

"I just can't," John spoke into his cell phone.

"I understand Johnny, I do," Joshua consoled. "So, Sam is going to be okay?"

"The doctors say he turned a corner. They were able to take him off the ventilator. He's gonna be okay."

"Good," Joshua replied. "The kid has sort of grown on me over the years." John offered a quiet laugh. "Look Johnny, we'll keep an eye out for things, okay? I'll keep in touch. And, you know how to contact me if you need anything, anything at all, right?"

"I do. Thanks Josh."

"No problem. So, I'll tell the others … you're sure?"

"Yes," John answered without hesitation. "I'm not leavin' my boys again. There has to be a line in the sand Joshua and this is it for me. That bastard wants to come again, let him, but it'll be on my turf not his. I won't play into his hands again. I won't make the same mistake that happened in Eden not with my kids."

"But, the Colt," Joshua began. "You're sure he has it?"

"Yeah," John answered. His mind slipped back to the moment Sam was trying desperately to speak, but his raw throat hadn't wanted to cooperate. He had whispered painfully that he had given the gun to the demon. John had comforted his youngest and told him it didn't matter. "Yeah," he began again. "I'm sure."

John finished his conversation with his long time friend and fellow hunter. He snapped his phone shut and walked back toward the ICU. Everything that mattered to him in his life was in that hospital unit. His son's.

Two Months Later, May 2, 2009

Sam sat in the small kitchen of their new home with his eyes covered. John had rented a new place near the river before Sam was even discharged from the hospital over a month ago. Dean and John both had gone out buying used furniture at local garage sales and had bought a couple pieces from a nearby discount furniture store. John was bound and determined to not allow the demon to rob his boys of one more damn thing. He could give them another home, and a sense of normalcy. He had told his sons while Sam was still in the hospital that he wasn't returning to the hunt for the demon. He was staying with them, and if a local hunt popped up they'd do it as a family, but his cross country search for the demon was over. Instead, he stayed at the body shop working, and Dean did too. Sammy had returned to taking classes and working with his OT at Ivy Ridge.

"Keep em' covered," Dean ordered playfully.

"I am," Sam groused with amusement. "I'm twenty-six dd…dude, not six."

"You'll always be six to me Sammy," Dean quipped with a laugh. "Okay, open em'."

"Happy Birthday Sammy," John and Dean both said in unison as they sat a small cake in front of the youngest member of their family with a single candle. Sam smiled.

"Thanks." He closed his eyes a second and then blew the single candle out.

Later that Evening

"He asleep?" John asked as Dean sat down on the couch.

"Yep," Dean replied. "I think he enjoyed the cake and dinner."

"Me too. I'm glad." John answered. "You check the dust and salt lines?"

"Triple checked."

They had learned how the demon had gained access to the house to get to Sam and they learned from their near fatal mistake. John leaned back into the couch turning on ESPN to watch with his firstborn. He had taken every precaution to protect his family while home. He knew nothing was guaranteed, but the entire family had become vigilant. John knew the demon would come calling again one day, but if the prophecy he had learned of was true, it wouldn't be until that last cycle of special births, the winter solstice 2015. And, then the battle would begin. He and his son's would be ready, but for now John was content to sit by his son on the couch watching sports while his youngest son slept safely down the hall.

The Winchester's had learned a lesson as a family since that fateful night in the cabin and the life altering car wreck. Two truths … they are stronger together than apart and that sometimes in order to hold on you have to be willing to let go. Their journey as a family wasn't finished, but for now it was quiet, for now it was peaceful … and the battle would find them again, but not yet … not yet.

The End

Well, for good or bad this story is finally complete. I hope you liked the finale and that it didn't let you down as a reader. I know based on quite a few requests many of you wanted to see it continue, but I had always envisioned an ending, so it couldn't last forever.

Thank you for sticking with the story through 28 chapters. I appreciate every reader, every review and PM I have received during this lengthy writing endeavor. I hope you take a moment of your time to leave a review or comment before parting ways with this final chapter. Thank you!

Read and Review.