Prologue:

The first thing he felt was the fire.

The room was silent and still, nothing was burning, but he could feel the heat anyway--all the way down to his bones. Faint laughter was coming from somewhere, and there was another room down the hall. It was a kitchen, with white wooden cupboards that had flowers painted on all the corners and vases of roses on the counters, and standing leaning against the sink was a woman he would never forget.

His mother. Still beautiful, undeniably, but with a few more lines around the eyes, a bit of grey hair falling from the mostly golden ponytail, and sitting at the table wearing the same wry grin she was there was a young man, in a black t-shirt and jeans and boots, a strange pendant hanging around his neck.

He opened his mouth to talk to them, but closed it when he realized he wasn't really there.

It got cold before it got hotter, a sharp freezing instant and then the laughter faded into screams, and his mother was slamming into the wall, crawling up, slowly, slowly, higher--

And the man with her tried to stop it, but there was nothing he could do.

Sam woke screaming just as the fire came in.

John was already there, gripping him at the shoulders, intense eyes wide-awake like it wasn't three in the morning, and a scream hadn't just startled him awake. For all Sam knew, maybe it hadn't, he had his suspicions that his father never slept at all.

"What did you see?" he asked. Not 'are you alright?' but Sam was used to this, he was better than the newspapers and the Internet and the contacts and the stories, because reporters can get things wrong, but he never did.

What he saw will happen, had happened, was happening; unless they could stop it. It was rare they made it in time.

"Mom," he told him, breathing heavily, still dizzy from the smell of imaginary smoke.

John's eyes didn't soften or light up the way they usually did at the mention of Mary, they looked a little terrified, instead. "What did you see?" he asked again.

"I think the demon is going after her," Sam said, and the words catch a little in his throat.

John let his shoulders go, his hands falling to his sides as he stands. "Are you certain it was her?" he asked.

"Yes," Sam said. "And there was no baby. It doesn't make sense that it would go after her if it wasn't--"

"Was she alone?" John demanded. He was all soldier now. Dad was never present on the hunts; he made his appearance less and less the last few weeks, the closer they got to what they were searching for.

"No," Sam said, closing his eyes. He pictured the young man again, smiling brightly, and he knew without ever having met him who it was. "I think Dean was with her. I think...I think Dean is what it's after."

"Dean?" John said, sounding sick. "No, it wouldn't, it was never--"

"We have to find them," Sam told him. "I know you said it was too dangerous to look for them, but it's coming for them, I can feel it, and we have to find them first."

John nodded. "Start packing," he said, before turning to do the same.

Sam pushed the covers back, shaking off the residual panic he still felt tingling in his limbs from the dream, and started throwing everything he owned into his duffle bag. "Where will we start? They could be anywhere."

John paused briefly, enough that Sam noticed, and he watched him with narrowed eyes as he started packing again. "Dad?"

"I know where they are," he said quietly. He reached into his bag and pulled a photo out, before handing it to Sam.

Sam looked at it, not entirely believing what he saw. It was them. His mother and Dean, looking just like they had in his dream, sitting together on the porch of some ordinary house. "You've known," he said, and he could feel the anger surging up, along with something like betrayal. "You've known where they were all this time and you never said anything--"

"We had to stay away," John snapped. "You know that. We couldn't put them in danger."

Sam felt the world narrow in. He meant that they weren't safe with Sam. Sam was marked. Hunted. Dangerous. He'd been told that all his life.

"Things have changed," John said, softer this time, like he still believed he could make everything alright again, like he thought maybe Sam could even remember when it was. "It's time we get this family back together.


Chapter One: The Veil

"You're a little old to be giving me the silent treatment, Sammy," John said, as he pulled the Impala out onto the highway.

"It's Sam," he snapped. "And I just can't believe this. You could have at least told me, let me know they're alright--"

"You would have wanted to see them," John said.

"Damn straight!" Sam yelled. "They're my family!" He scrubbed a hand through his hair. "And I don't even know them."

John frowned. "You know why it had to be this way," he said.

"Yeah," Sam said bitterly. "Because I would have gotten them killed."

"None of this is your fault," John said firmly, but he kept his eyes on the road. "You get that straight right now."

"I know the story," Sam said, leaning in the seat. "I was the cursed baby."

"You blame those babies we've saved for the mothers we didn't get to in time?" John snapped.

Sam glared at him. "Of course not."

"Then don't blame yourself," he said. "I sent Dean and your mother away because I needed to hide you to keep you safe, and I could do that better if I wasn't worrying about them too. It wasn't easy, but it was the right thing to do."

"They're in trouble now anyway," Sam said, tapping his fingers nervously on his knees.

"Nothing's going to touch them," John said, with a kind of deadly calm. "We're Winchesters, Sammy. Nothing's gonna touch any of us. "

-----

"Are you getting this from some kind of mother's handbook, or something?"

Mary grinned and slapped Dean upside the head, before dropping a mug of coffee in front of him. He smiled back unrepentantly. "I just asked if you were seeing anyone," she said. "It's a mother's prerogative to know these things."

Dean laughed and shook his head. "No, I'm not seeing anyone. Not exactly, anyway."

Mary winced. "Oh, Dean. Nevermind. I probably don't want to know. It's enough that I have to deal with all the neighbors."

Dean grinned. "That calendar still going around then?"

"Margery had your month laminated and framed on the wall," Mary said wryly.

"It was for charity," Dean said, sweetly, and not fooling her for a minute. "The fire department does one every year."

"It's not every year it's my baby half dressed on the cover," Mary said, but she was still smiling. "How is work going?"

"There are no fires in this town," Dean said. "I don't know whether to be grateful or bored."

"Be grateful," Mary said, a little shakily, and Dean glanced away.

He knew she wasn't exactly happy with his chosen line of work, considering what had happened when he was a child, but Dean had wanted to be a fireman since that same night, when one of the men had set him in the fire truck and let him wear his hat.

"Anyway," Dean said, "I did save a kitten yesterday. You would have been proud."

Mary laughed. "I heard about that. Ally was very impressed with the rescue--she says she's going to marry you some day."

"She'll get over it," Dean said, laughing. "Eight year olds are so fickle."

Mary poured herself some more coffee. "Are you staying for dinner?"

"Can't," Dean said. "I have a date."

Mary took a sip of her coffee. "Anyone I know?"

Dean flashed her an innocent grin. "She's not exactly the kind of girl I'd bring home."

Mary rolled her eyes. "Where did I go wrong with you?"

-----

Sam felt as nervous as he'd been in ten years as they pulled up beside the quiet house. It was exactly like the picture; the lawn was well tended, none of the paint was peeling, there wasn't a vacancy sign hovering twenty feet above the door. It was an actual home.

Sam had very little experience with them.

John got out of the car first, and Sam followed, in a wary kind of truce with him that had started two states back, when they had run out of things to say, or yell. He didn't usually fight with his father, but when he did, it was usually pretty damn serious.

John went to the trunk, pulled up the trap door and reached for a sawed off shotgun. He grabbed up some rock salt shell casings and glanced at Sam. "It might already be here," he explained.

Sam reached for another shotgun, thinking distantly that this is not how it should be. People didn't go to family reunions armed.

John loaded the weapon without looking at him. "We go in, get them, and get them out. We'll save the introductions for later."

Sam blinked at him. "They don't know we're coming," he said. "We can't just--"

"We're not taking any chances," John said. "I almost lost my family to this demon once already. It's not getting that close to us ever again. You understand that, Sammy?"

"It's Sam," Sam said.

John nodded, like that was an agreement, or something, and then marched up the walkway towards the door. Sam followed him, shotgun held loose at his side, and he saw the curtains in the window next-door slip open, before closing the minute he looked up. It was dark enough that the guns couldn't be seen, and Sam hoped the neighbor didn't think to call the police.

There was a key under the mat. "I told her a hundred times not to leave a key under the door," John muttered. "She was like you. Never listened to a word I said."

Sam watched him warily, because he sounded more fond than angry, as he placed the key in the door and opened it slowly. "Shouldn't we knock?" he asked.

"If something else is here with them, we don't want it knowing until it's too late," John whispered, and then stepped into the darkened entryway.

Sam followed him close behind. He recognized this place. The kitchen was to the right. He could see the light on in the room and he tapped his father's shoulder, motioning him to it. John nodded and slipped in front of him, taking point.

They were three feet from the kitchen when the light went out. John froze in front of him, instantly on his guard, and Sam spun around as he felt a presence behind him. He was slamming into a wall before he could think to call out a warning to his father, and the shotgun was pulled from his hands.

"You came into the wrong house, buddy," he heard someone say, but then John was there, pulling the guy off him, and throwing him to the ground. Sam saw a flash of light bounce of a pendant on the man's neck just as realization sunk in, but before he could call his father off he'd already aimed the shotgun at him.

The lights flashed back on.

It was Dean on the ground, wearing the same clothes he had been in Sam's dream, staring up at them like they were the scum of the Earth, right up until the moment he finally saw John. "Oh god," he said, and John lowered the shotgun shakily, just as Mary appeared in the doorway.

"Get away from--" she shouted, before paling like the rest of them, all of them, every last one, looked like they'd seen a ghost. "John?"

John almost lost his grip on the gun, but years of training kept it in his hands. "Mary," he said, and Sam thought his voice sounded strange, not at all like his father, or maybe exactly like the father he'd never really met. "Oh, god, Mary--"

Mary grabbed him at the same time he reached out, and Sam wondered distantly what the hell had happened to saving the introductions for later. He glanced back over at his brother, who was watching their parents with confusion, and staggering to his feet. Sam noticed that he still had his shotgun in his hands.

He'd get a lecture for it, he was sure. Winchesters weren't supposed to be taken by surprise. He wondered if he'd be forgiven considering it was a Winchester that had caught him off his guard.

Dean stood there warily, his eyes darting between John and Sam. He held that gun like he knew how to use it. Sam opened his mouth to try and say something, like maybe, hi, nice to meet you, I'm your brother, but his voice wasn't working.

"What the hell is this?" Dean said finally. He held up the shotgun like an accusation, and Mary and John finally pulled away from each other long enough to notice they weren't the only ones there.

"Dean," John said, sounding like he was caught in some kind of dream, but Dean looked anything but pleased to see them.

"Yeah," he said. "And you would be my estranged father, right? Nice to meet you. Now, you want to tell me why the hell you just broke in here with shotguns?"

"Dean, it's okay," Mary said, stepping forward, before catching sight of Sam. "Sam? Sam is that you?"

Sam glanced over at her, noticing the way Dean stilled as he looked back over at him, as though it was just now starting to click.

"Sammy?" he echoed, sounding young suddenly, but he still didn't move.

Mary grabbed him, hugging him, and sobbing, and Sam didn't know how to respond. He tried to hug her back, but he'd never been very good at it, and when all he could think to say was 'hi' he felt like an idiot.

Mary pulled away again, wiping at her eyes, and turning back to John. Now that the shock was fading, Sam noticed she looked almost as angry as Dean. "You bastard," she said. "God, it's been twenty-two years, you never called, not once, I thought you were i dead /i ."

John swallowed, trying to get himself together. Sam knew this wasn't the neat way he'd had this night planned. "It wasn't safe," he said. "And it's not safe now either. We came to get you both out of here."

"Get us out of here," Dean said dubiously. "Are you people insane? We're not going anywhere with you."

Mary winced a little, and John turned her, looking disbelieving. "What did you tell him?" he asked.

"I didn't know if you were ever coming back, John," she said. "I didn't know where you were. You said two months, and you'd find me--and you never did, I didn't...I thought--"

"It was too close," John said softly. "I couldn't risk it."

"Couldn't risk what?" Dean demanded. "What are you talking about?"

John glanced at him. "We'll explain later," he said, before looking back at Mary. "Grab some clothes, anything you can't part with, pictures, whatever. We're not coming back." John reached over and pulled the shotgun out of Dean's hands, before returning it to Sam. "Now," he said.

Dean snorted. "Wow. Crazy doesn't begin to cover it, does it?"

Mary looked distracted. "You still have some clothes in your old room, Dean," she said.

Dean looked at her, disbelieving. "You're not serious," he said.

"Something is coming after us," she said. "John wouldn't be here otherwise. We can't stay."

"Something," Dean repeated, looking between them all. His gaze lingered on Sam for a moment, silent against the wall, holding the shotgun like it was his teddy bear.

"We don't have time for this," John said. "Sam, get your brother to the car. Mary and I will grab the clothes."

"Look, I don't know what's going on here," Dean said, "but I'm not going anywhere."

"Dean, please," Mary said. "I'll explain, I promise. I'm not happy about this either, but I know your father, and he--"

"He's not my father," Dean snapped. "I don't have one."

John's expression tightened and Sam stayed still, thinking that this couldn't go much worse. He'd thought about meeting his brother and his mother about a hundred times, but they were happy childish fantasies, and Sam, of all people, should have known it wasn't how the world worked.

John stepped up to Dean, staring him down. "Your mother is coming with me. Your brother is. Maybe you don't give a damn about me, kid, but are you going to lose your chance with them?"

Dean glared at him. "I already lost my chance with my brother, thanks to you."

"You're getting another one," Mary said, quietly. "If you want to leave later, we can't stop you--" John shot her a look that stated clearly his thoughts on that, but Mary kept speaking. "At least give us a chance to explain."

Dean looked like he was faltering, and John nodded at Sam. "Get him to the car," he said, and then he and Mary took off up the stairs.

Dean and Sam shared a look after their parents had disappeared up the stairs, and Sam swallowed, feeling uncomfortable under his brother's gaze. "It's an Impala," he said. "67. Uh...you like cars?"

Dean gave a kind of half-hearted grin. "An Impala, huh? Well, why didn't you say so?"

Sam gave a nervous laugh. "I'm Sam," he said, holding out his hand.

Dean took it. "Yeah, I know," he said. "And I'm Dean. Which you know." He let his eyes stray up. "Why the hell are you so tall?"

Sam bit his lip. "Good genes, I guess," he said.

Dean threw him a full-blown grin, that time. "Well at least I'm the handsome one."

Sam smiled back, thinking that wow, this was what brothers did, and then John and Mary were rushing back down the stairs, and Dean's smile faded. "I thought I told you to get him in the car, Sam," John snapped.

Dean glared at him. "Well 'he' isn't exactly willing to be dragged anywhere, so don't blame Sam."

Sam looked at Dean sideways, wondering at the way he spoke to John Winchester. It made sense, he supposed, because Dean didn't know him, so he couldn't know he probably shouldn't mouth off; and it was a weird feeling, having someone stick up for him.

John glared at Dean, and then glanced at Mary. "Can you handle him?"

"Handle me?" Dean snapped. "Just where the hell do you get off--"

"Dean, honey," Mary said. "Shut up and get your ass in the car."

Dean's eyes widened. "In case you've forgotten, I'm twenty-six, and I--"

"Now, Dean, we might not have much time."

John motioned Sam to lead the way, and Sam glanced back, watching as Dean shrugged away from his mother's reaching hand and stalked from the house. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask why they couldn't just tell Dean what was coming for him, but he learned a long time ago that people that didn't know wouldn't understand until they saw it with their own eyes.