Disclaimer: Nope, don't own 'em.

Just a little something in honor of only seven more days until a new ep! yay!

Here be spoilers: Spoilers for S1 and S2 with a brief mention of a character from ep 2.11. You've been warned.

The greatest barrier to someone achieving their potential is their denial of it. --
Simon Travaglia

He crouches behind the Impala, back against cold metal. He lets his head rest briefly against the window and closes his eyes. He takes a long drag on the cigarette, holds the smoke, lets it go.

He's not hiding because he's guilty. He's passed guilt.

There's not much he cares about anymore.

But he does care about his brother. He loves his brother.

He'll admit it freely to anyone who asks.

His brother never asks.

He takes another drag and peers toward the closed motel room door.

His brother knows though.

The man coughs once and grinds the cigarette butt into the slush.

The man gets to his feet. He moves stiffly. He's not sure if it's from the cold or recent bruises. It doesn't matter. He can move fast enough when he has to.

His brother expects him to be a certain way. To be a certain person. Someone he can protect. And Sam Winchester is fine with that. He'll be whoever Dean wants.

Because he'll do whatever Dean wants, no questions asked.

His asking days are over. He knows his purpose now. He's known for a while. He's managed to keep Dean in the dark these past few months.

About the drinking.

The smoking.

The truth.

Not because Dean doesn't deserve to know. He's not sure Dean would give two shits about the drinking or smoking. Sure, he'd put on a worried face and might toss a half-hearted lecture Sam's way.

But the truth?

He'd care about that, all right.

But Dean doesn't have a lot of leg to stand on when it comes to secrets. Secrets run in the Winchester family's blood, right along with salt and vengeance.

Sam looks up at the moon.

It looks back.

When he was little he used to poke Dean from the back of the Impala. Lookit, Dean! I see a face! Can you see it? It's the man in the moon!

There's no such thing, Sammy.

But now, Sam wonders. It might be his dad's face looking down.

And the moon says, Watch out for your brother.

Sam's boots crunch through dirty snow and he jams his hands into his back pockets. He heads for the room.

He'll watch out for Dean.

He's traded protected for protector and Dean hasn't caught on quite yet.

Sam wants to finish this thing before he does.


He slips into the room.

Dean is still sleeping, one hand curled around the knife hilt beneath his pillow.

Sam moves into the bathroom and showers. He's pretty sure Dean doesn't know he's smoking. He's being careful. He's been trained to have secrets.

He rests on the edge of the tub. If he thought he could manage it, thought he could still function, he'd do more than smoke and drink. He'd ingest every drug known to man. He'd eat vicodin like candy and ride the H-train and dance with Mary Jane and...

Sam snorts. He can't think of any other lame drug analogies. He drops his head into his hands and a sound leaks through his fingers. It might be a sob. It might be laughter. Sam can't tell the difference.

Drugs are bad anyway. Isn't that what Dean always said growing up?

If I ever catch you with pot, not only will I kick your ass, I'll tell Dad. And he'll do a lot more than kick your ass, Sam.

Dean, I never said--

You need to be at one hundred percent when you hunt.

I know that!

Can you see Dad stopping at a mini mart on a hunt because you have a case of the munchies?

Sam makes another noise and this time he can tell it's laughter.

He misses Dad.

He wishes he had someone to talk to about it.

He has Dean of course, but Dean's made it clear Dad is his own Personal Cross to Bear. And he prefers to bear it alone.

Which means Sam has to grieve on his own. Losing Dad feels like shit. But losing Dean would have been a thousand times worse. He's tried to tell that to Dean, tried to say, I miss Dad but I'm glad you're here. I'd pick you over Dad any day. Hell, you practically were my Dad. If I had to choose I'd always pick you. I pick you, Dean.

But he knows better. He doesn't feel like getting another fist to the face. He'd take it, sure. But that's not the same as wanting it.

He'll be the best little brother ever. He has a shitload to make up for, but he's got a good start. He coaxes the occasional emotion out of Dean, stands by him, listens to him. He's down with the whole family business now. Dean wouldn't be able to pry him out of the Impala with a crow bar these days.

When he slips out of the bathroom Dean is still asleep.

Sam knows he won't be sleeping. After the run in with Croatoan sleep has been a fond memory.

He settles in beneath the blankets and thinks.


Calculates distances.

One thing he doesn't do is dream. Awake or asleep, he's done dreaming.

He accepts the way things are now.

It took a while.

But he's finally made peace.

Or the closest thing he can get to it.


Stage 1: Denial

This isn't happening, he thinks. He's bent over a log in the middle of a godforsaken Colorado Forest. And Dad isn't here. A Wendigo is. And Sam couldn't care less.

All he wants is Dad. Dad will help him figure this out and then he'll kill the demon and go back to Stanford. Because Stanford is all he has left of Jess.


He still has that scrap of magazine in his wallet. A picture of the engagement ring he wanted to buy. He was going to propose at Christmas, and now it's all gone. His whole future, his life, his dreams.


Dean gives him pep talks about saving people and hunting things and family business, but it doesn't mean anything. He can't save Jessica. He doesn't even know what killed her, much less where it is.

And the family business?

Dean can have it.

This isn't the life Sam wanted.

He'll stay here now. He'll stay with Dean and look for Dad and watch Dean's back. Sam owes Dean that much. More, if he cares to think about it.

He'll stay for now.

But as soon as they find The Demon?

He's leaving.


Stage 2: Anger

This. Cannot. Be. Happening.

Sam clenches his jaw and jerks the car door open.

He's not sticking around for this shit.

If Dean wants to think he's a selfish bastard, fine.

Maybe he is.

But he's tire of waiting. He's tired of Dad ringing the bell and waiting to see how high he and Dean will jump.

This is about Mom.

And Jessica.

And if Dean doesn't want to confront Dad, that's fine. Sam has enough anger for the both of them.

He's not even supposed to be here.

He's supposed to be back at school by now.

And Dean has the gall to call him selfish because he doesn't want to waste any more time? Because he wants to find The Demon and kill it?

Sam scowls and adjusts his backpack.

He is not waiting one day--one minute--longer.

Dad's done jerking him around.

He strides down the road, hands clenched into fists.

He watches the Impala pull away.

And then he starts down the road.

He doesn't look back.


Stage 3: Bargaining

I'll do whatever you want, just don't take him away.

Sam sits beside Dean's bed.

Dean is sleeping and Sam watches every rise and fall of his brother's chest.

Heart attack.

Heart damage.

Won't survive the month.

Sam swallows down a lump of guilt.

Sam's praying, but he's not sure to whom.

He doesn't care about Stanford now.

Or picket fences and apple pies.

All he wants is the life he has now. A life with his brother.

Please, don't take him away. Not yet.

Dean has been his constant over the past few months. He's pulled him through the worst with Jessica, joked him through his anger at Dad. Amused and irritated him in equal parts.

He can't be without Dean.

His first memory is of Dean holding his hand. Always look both ways, Sammy.

Sam reaches trembling fingers toward Dean's hand. It feels warm and dry and Sam doesn't ever want to let go.

He will contact all of Dad's friends. Joshua and Caleb and Pastor Jim.

He'll track down every lead.

He'll beg.

He'll bargain.

He'll steal.

Sam promises, I'll hunt forever if you let him live.


Stage 4: Depression

"Just give me the gun," he says.

Let this be over.

Dean gives him a look like what the fuck?

Sam doesn't care. He needs to save Dean. And if saving Dean means killing himself, so be it.

It's getting hard to be the strong one. He has no idea how Dean did it for so long.

He can see why Dean's tired of it.

If he pulls the trigger Dean will be free of him, The Demon, and the last guilty tie to Dad.

He's tired of being a living reminder of Dean's loss.

If pulling the trigger will help slide that mantel of burden off Dean's shoulders, he's all for it.

His eyes are wet and he's ready to be done.

He wants to let go, but Dean won't leave.

His voice is a harsh rasp. "Dean. Get out of here."

There's yelling and arguing but Sam's not listening. He doesn't have the energy to pay attention to anyone beyond Dean.

Dean is the priority.

He has to save Dean.

But then Dean tosses the car keys to Sarge and Sam thinks:

Too late.


Stage 5: Acceptance

Sam did some investigating after the incident in Rivergrove, Oregon.

He knows things.

Neither Andy's nor Webber's mind control worked on him.

The Croatoan disease didn't affect him.

He also finds it interesting The Demon chose to control John and not him or Dean. He wonders if it can control him.

He's been in contact with Ash.

They've been e-mailing back and forth.

Dean doesn't know.

The signs are pointing to Peoria, Illinois.

Sam looks at the clock and rolls out of bed. It's almost time to go.

He lets Dean sleep a few more minutes.

By the time Dean wakes, Sam has his bag packed and he's already got coffee.

Dean blinks in surprise. "Aren't you the early bird," he notes.

Sam shrugs. "It's time to get the worm."

"We have a worm?"

"Actually a demon, but they are both slimy."

"Just that one in Cincinnati," Dean says with a slight shudder. He pulls on his jeans and jacket. He takes a sip of coffee and rolls suspicious eyes toward Sam. "What did you do?"

Sam's brows pull together. "What do you mean?"

"You got real coffee. None of that dust in a bag mixed with scalding water shit. So I repeat, what did you do?"

Sam puts on his best puppy-eyed expression and grins widely. "I anticipated my brother's needs."

Dean smirks. "Anticipate this." He tosses his bag to Sam who deftly catches it. Not one drop of coffee spills from the cup in Sam's left hand.

Dean purses his lips, vaguely impressed by the catch.

"Come on," Sam says, heading out the door.


They take turns driving.

By now they don't even have to ask. They can each recognize the signs of weariness in the other. When they stop in Madison for cheap gas and cheaper sandwiches, Sam really wants a cigarette.

Dean is already sliding behind the wheel and Sam can't think of an excuse to lag behind.

Sam sighs and folds his lanky frame into the passenger seat.

He tells himself, Only seven more hours.

He looks out the window and watches the trees flash by. He concentrates, head against the glass, and presses. In the side mirror he can see the faint curl of smoke uncoil from the top of each tree.

After a while, Dean turns, squints out the window. "Did you see that?"

Sam keeps his eyes on the road. "What?"

"I thought I saw smoke back there."

Sam turns to look. "Really?" He keeps his voice light. "I didn't see anything."

And he wonders what weighs more: guilt or secrets.

He glances over at Dean and smiles. He's being crushed. It's hard to breathe, but he won't let on. This is his battle. His.

Dean lifts his eyebrows, mystified. "What?"

Sam shrugs. "Nothing. I was just thinking."

"About the hunt?"



"About you."

"What about me?"

Sam opens his mouth to say, Look, you're my brother and I'd die for you. But there are some things I need to keep to myself.

To say, I love you.

To say, I'm sorry Dad died, but I have never been sorry, not once, that you lived.

But the words that come out are, "You don't suck all of the time."

Dean smiles. "You do." And he laughs.


Dean stares at the house for a long moment.

Then he turns to Sam. "What the hell?"

Sam doesn't answer. Instead he extracts a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket. He looks at Dean and holds out his hand. "Dude, your Zippo?"

Dean's mouth drops open as if Sam has just produced a small baby from his pocket. Or a beating heart. "What the hell, Sam?"

Sam sighs. "Don't worry, they're menthol," he says helpfully.

Dean just stares and the look on his face is priceless. Sam tries not to laugh. He fails. "Dude," he snorts, "the look on your face!"

Dean's mouth twists into a scowl. "Wait'll you see the look on your face after I make you eat the whole pack."

Sam rolls his eyes. "Dean. I'm not fourteen."

"You're acting like you're fourteen."

Sam points toward the house. "We have more important things to think about than the condition of my lungs. Like The Demon."

"What about it? You said it's a shtriga, right?"

Sam clears his throat.

Dean leans toward Sam, glaring. "It's not a shtriga?"

Sam has the decency to look slightly sheepish. "Nope." He punches in the chrome lighter in the Impala's dash board.

Dean yanks the lighter right back out. "What kind of demon is it?"

"Not a demon."

Dean's tilts his head. "Not a..." he blinks, stunned. "You mean The Demon?"

Sam nods. He looks at his watch. "We don't have much time."

Dean's arms fall to his sides. He is stunned. "Sam. What the hell is this?" He doesn't like secretive Sam. And he hates secretive smoking Sam. "Why didn't you tell me?" Anger and hurt war for control over his features. Hurt wins.

"I couldn't."

"Why not?"

Sam sighs heavily and slides the cigarette back into the pack. "If I told you, you'd try to stop me," he says simply.

"Damn right!" Dean pounds a fist on the steering wheel.

They both sit in silence watching the house.

"So what are you planning?" Dean finally asks. "So I can, you know, stop you."

"I'm going to kill it," Sam responds.

Dean stares. "Just like that?"

Sam shrugs.

Dean's face tightens. He turns the key in the ignition. "Fuck this. We're out of here."

Sam's hand flies to the door handle. "Dean! What–"

"You think you just get to spring this on me? And I'm going to go along with your death wish?" His face is red with anger but Sam can read between the lines. How could you?

"It's not a death wish, Dean. I promise." And he yanks open the door and tumbles out onto the street.

The Impala screeches to a halt. Dean jumps out the car. "Sam! What the FUCK!"

Sam points. "It's starting."


Dean can't believe this is happening.

His little brother? Tracking The Demon without even telling him?

And smoking?

What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On?

And he doesn't even have time to yell at Sam properly because the lights up and down the street are flickering on and off like cheap ass party lights. A breeze kicks up a swirl of powdered snow and candy bar wrappers.

Panic clamps an icy hand around Dean's throat. He tries to choke out Sammy, but the name is barbed wire.

This is never going to work.

We don't even have the Colt!

Dean closes his eyes hard, wishing Sam and himself back to–to anywhere.

Anywhere but here.

One motherfucking demon versus two broken down brothers. Even when you throw in the crazy amount of weapons, the odds are still bad.

"Sammy!" Dean finally manages to croak out Sam's name but the wind grabs his cry and whisks it up and away.

Sam's almost to the front door.

Standing alone in the yard Dean can see a light go on in a second floor room.

The nursery.


The door goes down with one well placed kick. Sam's through the door and takes the stairs two a time. He's yelling at the top of his lungs.

"Everybody out! Fire! Everybody out!"

Muffled voices above him.

A baby starts to cry.

A startled shriek.

Sam hears Dean pounding up the stairs behind him. "Get the parents," Sam yells and brushes past a stunned woman, her mouth frozen in a rictus of terror. Sam follows her gaze into the nursery. A man stands before the crib.

For one second Sam can hear everything.

The ticking of the Curious George clock on the nursery wall.

The tink of the light bulb filament burning out in the hall.

The sharp intake of the mother's breath.

And then the quiet is shattered with another wail from the baby.

Dean hustles the struggling mother and father down the stairs. They pepper him with a chorus of questions. What's going on? Who are you? Where's my baby? Who's that man?

Dean herds them along, ignoring the questions. "We're here to help," he says. "Sam's got your baby."

Sam moves passed The Demon with a confidence he doesn't feel and gently picks up the baby. A boy. He's wearing blue one piece pajamas covered with little baseballs. Twenty-three years ago this could have been him.

The Demon smiles and yellow eyes flicker. "Excuse me," he smiles. "I believe that belongs to me."

"No," Sam hisses. "It doesn't. If you want somebody in this room, you'll have to take me."

The Demon looks momentarily surprised. Then the smile grows wider. "That works for me."

Sam stalks out into the hallway. "Dean!" he bellows.

Dean's at the bottom of the steps, waiting. Sam holds the baby out, places it in his brother's waiting arms. "Dean, take the baby outside as fast as you can! "

Dean opens his mouth to argue but Sam's already turning away. "Get everyone out," he calls over his shoulder. "That means you, too."

The Demon leans against the crib watching him.

"I think your Daddy would be a little disappointed in you," The Demon says thoughtfully.

Sam lifts his chin in defiance. "I don't."

Dean rushes out of the house thinking, Weird fucking deja vu.

He hands the baby off to the weeping mom and turns back to front door.

It slams shut in his face.

Dean takes a step back and pounds on it with a ferocity that cracks the wood.


He runs out into the yard and looks up at the nursery.

He can see two faint shadows through the curtains.

While he watches one of them bursts into flames.


Sam's hands curl into loose fists at his sides. He offers The Demon a tight lipped smile. "I'm not going to make this easy," he says.

"I didn't think you would."

Sam's face hardens. "I want you to promise something."

The Demon chuckles softly. "What makes you think I'd promise you anything?"

"You kept a promise to my Dad. His life and the Colt. For Dean."

Now The Demon looks surprised. "Interesting. You Winchesters are a chatty bunch, apparently. What do you want me to promise?"

"That you won't hurt Dean."

The Demon rolls yellow eyes. "Are you all on some quest to die for Dean?" He huffs. "I met Dean, Sammy. He's not that great."

"Promise," Sam grits, his voice like nails.

The Demon shrugs and flames unroll behind him. "I promise."

Sam nods. He looks at the window behind The Demon and it shatters outward.

The Demon's lip curls. "Why, Sammy. Have you been practicing?"

Dean hacks at the door with an axe.

It's not working. It's taking too long. Cursing, he throws down the axe.

The bedraggled family huddles together like lost owls, watching him.

Sirens mourn in the distance.

Come on, Sam.

Don't do this.

He races to the front of the house, wraps his arm in his coat and smashes through the glass.

He crawls in through the window, breathing hard, yelling Sam's name.


Sam can hear Dean calling downstairs.

His eyes lock on The Demon's.

The Demon smiles, triumphant.

Fire bursts out of the ceiling. Long geysers of flame crawl down the walls.

They stand in a box of fire.

The Demon steps forward and Sam feels a presence whispering around his head.

He feels hot fingers on his mind, trying to sift memories.

Trying to control.

Sam's face contorts with fury. "Don't do that," he yells and concentrates.

The Demon flies across the room and hits the wall.

A shower of sparks pops over The Demon's head.

"I want you to leave me and my family alone," Sam screams over the inferno.

He's not sure if the heat radiates from him or the room.

"This is for my Mom," Sam cries and pushes. There are tears on his face. The heat dries them to soot covered tracks.

The Demon stares in shocked disbelief as Sam slides it up the wall.

Through the fire.

"This is for Jessica!"

The Demon slides further up the wall.

A thread of blood trickles from Sam's left nostril.

Sam coughs out hoarsely, "And for my Dad, you fucker!" Sam wipes at his face. "You killed my Dad!"

He's crying and the pain and the heat and the smoke render him mute. He doesn't care.

He doesn't need his voice for this.

Dean is coming up the stairs.

The thread of blood has become a ribbon.

The Demon screams and Sam feels pain lance through his skull. The Demon's mind sends invisible fingers, desperately trying to pry at Sam's mind.

Sam falls to his knees but he doesn't let go. Not for anything. Not now.

This is for Max and Andy and Webber and Ava and all the kids you fucked with.

This is for me.

The Demon jerks onto the ceiling.

Sam looks up at him, eyes burning.

"This is for me," he whispers and thinks fire.

The Demon's eyes go wide.

He opens his mouth to scream.

And fire rushes out, climbing over and around him until there is nothing left.

Burnt plaster rains down on Sam.

He feels a hand on his arm and Dean pulls him up.

They stumble down the stairs and out into the night.


The fire explodes out of the second story windows.

It unfurls like a victory banner, waving high in the starry sky.

The fire curls hot fingers around the house and squeezes.

The first of the fire trucks pull up.

A fireman jumps out and when he looks up at the house, he stands frozen.

There, on the lawn, are two men.

The tall one has his arms out.

One arm supports a shorter man. The other helps him balance.

For just a moment the flames jump and spread behind him like gold and copper wings.

The fireman blinks and the effect is gone.


The brothers stagger over to the sidewalk and collapse.

Everything is loud and hot and Dean glares at Sam. "You're bleeding."

Sam nods. He feels sick. Like he's been stretched too thin for too long. His head is pounding and nausea roils in his stomach.

But it's worth it. It is so fucking worth it.

He grins at Dean. A huge dimpled white-teeth grin and it's like Sam just unwrapped a long lost gift.

It's a pure, honest, joyful smile.

It's a look Dean hasn't seen in a long time. He can't resist it.

"I did it," Sam says. His voice holds a trace of wonder.

"You did," Dean nods and rests a hand on Sam's shoulder.

Together, they watch the house burn.

Ash floats briefly around their heads like bits of memory.

And then drifts away.