I really, really want both brothers to survive Season 3 so we can have a Season 4.

One Year Later

Dean slept well since making the deal to save his brother. The weight was off his shoulders. Unfortunately, Sam chose to pick up that monstrous burden, carrying it like some damn martyr. His brother must have aged five years in the past single year. Dean even suspected some gray hairs were creeping in his brother's hair, right at the temples.

Sam had a plan. His brother discussed it nearly every evening, going over every step in excruciating detail. There was just one flaw that Sam did not know about. If they tried anything, anything, then Sam was dead. It would all be for nothing. So while Dean parroted back the details like Sam wanted, played along like they were really going to do this, Dean knew he had to stop it. Just a few days before his deadline, Dean realized what he needed to do.

They went over the plan again, because they did it every night, before bed. Dean crawled under the covers and pretended to fall deeply asleep. He listened as Sam continued to research on the laptop long into the night. He suspected he might have actually dropped off a couple of times while waiting for Sam to go to bed. After endless waiting, Sam finally went to bed. Wide awake now, Dean waited for the telltale sounds of Sam sleeping. His brother slept well so rarely anymore, it was difficult to know when it was safe.

Sam's breathing sounded slow and even. Dean slipped out of bed. He grabbed his clothes and boots, no man should die without his boots on, and a few other necessities before gently opening the door. He left as quickly and quietly as he could, fearing Sam could wake up any second.

Dean dressed just outside the door, thankful to the early hour that no one was up to see him. He darted through the parking lot, looking for a likely car. Selecting one, Dean jimmied the door open. He slid into the driver's seat to hotwire the car, which took seconds. Driving out carefully because no one should be arrested on the way to his own funeral, Dean headed for a likely crossroads he had spotted in the area.

One of his necessities was a tin box. It rattled on the seat next to him. Dean patted it as he drove, finding its presence calming. When he arrived at the crossroad, Dean pulled the car off the road. Digging with his hands, Dean buried the box in the dead center of the crossroad and waited.

"Dean? Trying to renegotiate?" A woman with slinky long brown hair and glowing red eyes approached, seemingly from nowhere.

"No," Dean said, shaking his head, "I'm ready."

She paused in her approach. "But you still have three days."

"I know. Take me now." Dean insisted.

She approached, trailing a finger along his arm, over his shoulder. "Why? No one wants to go early. I was expecting this, but I expected you to be begging for more time."

Dean sighed. "We both know that won't happen. So just take me now. You won't have to waste a hellhound."

He tried not to shudder as she ran those possessed fingers over his shoulders and up his neck, a wispy touch along his jaw. "You still haven't told me why you want to go early."

Dean debated on whether or not to lie. "Sam has a plan," he said softly.

"To save you?" She asked with a laugh.

Dean nodded. He had no intention of going into any details, just in case Sam could actually use that plan to save someone else one day.

"But you know if he tries, he dies. Is that it? Why you're so eager to go?" She laughed again, sending chills down his spine. God he hated demons. Her red glowing eyes crinkled at the corners. He nodded, unable to trust his voice. She smiled. "Very well."

Sam woke feeling that something was wrong, very wrong. He stared at the ceiling trying to place the sound that woke him. Then he realized how quiet the room was. Sam threw himself off the bed, staring at Dean's empty bed.

"Damn it!" Sam shouted. "What did that idiot do now?" He shoved his body into his clothes, misbuttoning his shirt and shoes in hand as he bolted out the door. Sam froze at the first thing he saw. The Impala was still parked outside.

He ran a hand over his pockets, feeling the hard lump for the first time in his right pocket. With a shaking hand, Sam pulled out the keys for his brother's car. "Oh, Dean," he whispered, raking a hand through his hair, "what did you do?"

He slumped against the doorframe, the possibilities racing through his mind. Sam went back inside to find his cellphone, forgotten in his earlier haste. He tried calling his brother, but it continually rolled over to voicemail. Damn it! Sam pushed down his rising panic, choosing instead to search through Dean's things.

Only a couple of items were missing: Dean's favorite slim-jim and the box used to summon the crossroads demon. Sam knew then what must have happened. A lump hardened in his stomach as he realized that his brother did not trust his plan. But why not? It was a good plan, better than the one Dean used to trap the demon last time. Unless…was there a catch to the deal that Dean never told him? Sam slammed his head against the wall. Of course! Dean protected him right up to the end. Stubborn bastard.

Then a new idea occurred to Sam. He flipped open his laptop. It was a good thing he was pre-law at Stanford, because he was going to need it.

That night Sam went to the crossroads where the police recovered a stolen car earlier during the day. There had been no sign of the thief. Sam dug in the center of the crossroads until he found the tin box. He opened it, removed Dean's picture and placed his own inside. Sam buried the box and waited.

The night was cool, unusual for this time of year. Sam wrapped his arms around himself, staring up at the stars overhead. He hoped this would work. It had to, or they would both be doing some serious time in Hell. The cooling engine of the Impala kept his backside warm as he leaned against it, waiting.

"You called?" A woman's voice shattered the silence of the night.

Sam looked up, not moving away from the car. "Took you long enough," he quipped.

She smiled at him, her eyes shining that demon red. Sam hoped there was only one crossroads demon, or at least just one in this area. "Sam," her smile broadened, "let me guess. You're here about big brother, aren't you? Curious about why he left early?"

"There was a catch, right?" Sam asked, forcing his foot to stay on the bumper, grounding himself, so to speak. "Something about if Dean tried anything, the deal was null and void."

She approached him, reaching out a hand. Sam forced himself to remain still, not to pull away or reach for his gun. Not that the gun would do anything but hurt the woman currently possessed. So Sam stayed where he was, unmoving, as she touched his cheek.

"You want to bring him back, don't you?" She crooned, stroking his cheek. "I can do that, you know. You and Dean could have ten more years, hunting all those nasties that go bump in the night."

Sam crooked an eyebrow at her. "You mean, like you?"

She smiled at that. "Oh, Sam. You wouldn't do that, would you? You wouldn't jeopardize our deal."

"Never said I wanted to make a deal," Sam replied, staring her in those glowing eyes. God, that was creepy. "I wanted to talk about Dean's deal."

Her hand dropped away from his cheek. She walked away, toward the center of the crossroads. "Talk, talk, talk. Wasting my time, Sam."

Sam expected her to attempt to deflect his inquiry, but he grew up with Dean. Dean was the king of deflection. By comparison, this demon was an amateur. "Conditions?"

She turned to look at him over her shoulder. "Well, you didn't think I'd bring back a Winchester without making sure I could take one, did you?"

No, he didn't. "What were the conditions?" Sam asked again. This worked with Dean. If he asked enough times, eventually Dean would give him at least some semblance of an answer.

"That if he tried anything," she walked toward him again, did not continue until she could breathe in his ear, "and I mean anything." She pulled back, giving him a taunting smile. "That you would be worm food." The demon laughed at him. "Looks like big brother is still looking out for you, Sammy."

"Sam," he corrected automatically. The only people allowed to call him Sammy were dead. "So he came to you, asked to be taken early. Is that it?"

She was still smiling. "Yes. He said baby brother had a plan, but he just couldn't risk your life." Those eyes glowed a deeper red. "Must hurt, to know he was always giving everything up for you. Poor Dean. You know, after mommy died, he wasn't allowed to be a kid anymore. He did everything he could to keep you safe. And what did you do?"

Sam braced himself. He should have expected this, but somehow he didn't.

"You did the one thing that could hurt him. You left. Never even looked back, did you?" Sam steadied himself against the car, glad he chose to wait here. It gave him a piece of Dean to hang on to, to remind him that they were past all that.

"Do you know what it was like for Dean while you were at Stanford?" she asked. Another taunt.

"You took him early," Sam stated, staring at her. "You broke the contract."

She chuckled, twirling around. "He asked to go early. Said I wouldn't have to waste a hellhound's time." She shrugged. "And I agreed. He wasn't worth the hound's time anyway."

Sam's anger bubbled to the surface, but he held it at bay. "You had a verbal contract with Dean. His soul for my life and one year. You broke it."

Her eyes flashed bright red for an instant, the only indication that he was on the right track.

"He asked. Begged me." She smiled again. "You should have seen him when he first came to me, after you died." She laughed lightly at the memory. "He was such a mess. All broken up, desperate. You know, he wanted the whole ten years. Like that was going to happen." Sam's heart clenched. At least Dean did ask for more. "I considered talking him down to six months, but I just couldn't take that heartbroken look on his face." She giggled then and Sam felt the roar of blood in his ears.

"So you were generous enough to give him one whole year," Sam finished for her, trying to get her back where he wanted her.

"That's right. Hey, it's a better deal than your dad got." She laughed. "Doesn't get much worse than that."

"Wasn't that bad," Sam snapped. "At least that yellow-eyed bastard understood how much Dean is worth." He took a deep breath. "You gave Dean a whole year, then you took him three days early. That constitutes a violation of a verbal contract."

She frowned at him. "And?"

"And that renders the contract void." Sam stated, back in comfortable territory. "You have to bring him back."

"Or what?" She laughed. "There's nothing you can do about it."

"Actually, there is." Sam smiled now. "Tell me, do you have any idea what yellow eyes was up to? Why he was so interested in me?"

She shrugged. "None of my concern. He didn't care when you died, so it couldn't be that important."

Sam's smile broadened. "What do you think would happen to someone who was infected with demon blood as a baby?"

She watched him suspiciously. She should, he was planning to play this for all he was worth. "I'm not sure."

Sam locked eyes with her, trying to convince her that he was not lying. "I'm one of those. If I give in to it, to the demon blood, I'll get all kinds of abilities. Right now all I have are these death visions. But if I give in I get telekinesis, mind control, electro-shock, demon-control, super-strength, uh…" Sam paused, trying to remember more and hoping she caught the important one.

"Demon-control? What do you mean, demon-control?" The crossroads demon demanded, looking flustered for the first time since arriving.

"I watched one of the others controlling an akirri. I'd guess it would work with other kinds of demons, too." Sam shrugged. "Oh, and I think someone could stop people's hearts."

"So why haven't you given in to it? Sounds like things people come to me for." She said, openly curious now and, he hoped, a little afraid.

"Dean." Sam replied simply.

"Your brother? What does he have to do with it?" He thought she would like to sneer at him, but now he could see the fear he had hoped was there. The expression was so human, Sam suspected she was unaware of it.

"Dean wouldn't approve," Sam replied, pushing off the car to stand on his own two feet. "But, now that he's gone…" Sam shrugged, stepping forward and locking eyes with her. "You know, I could use it to go after things, demons, who hurt us." He smiled at her. "Wonder where I'll start."

"All that, over three lousy days?" She demanded, staggering backward.

"Those weren't your days," Sam replied. "And I had a plan. It might have worked, might not." He shrugged. "If it worked, I would have had my brother. If it didn't, then we both would have been dead. As it is, all I have to fall back on is what Dad taught us."

She waited, but he did not offer any more. "What was that? Hunting?"

Sam shook his head. "Revenge." He shrugged. "Lousy legacy, but it's all I have now." Sam went back to the car, slid in behind the wheel. He gunned the motor as he pulled into the crossroads, forcing her to jump to the side.

Sam drove back to the hotel, wondering if it worked. He hoped it did, because he really did not want to follow through with his threat. It would not be intentional but once the fact of Dean's death, and sacrifice, really hit home, Sam could not promise what he would do.

"Proud of yourself?" Dean asked from the passenger seat, his voice so unexpected Sam nearly drove off the road. Fortunately it was a country road in the middle of the night so it was deserted.

Sam slammed on the brakes, the big car fishtailing to a stop. He took a deep breath before looking to the side. There sat Dean, the trademark smirk on his face.

"Damn, Sammy. If I knew you'd treat my car like that, I never would have left it to you." The words were hard, but that smirk stayed fixed firmly in place and his eyes were smiling. God, even Dean's eyes were smiling!

"Dean?" he whispered, as though if he spoke too loud the vision next to him would turn to dust and blow away.

"Maybe you should go back to school. You'd make a hell of a lawyer." The smirk broadened into a full, ear to ear grin.

"Cute," Sam sneered, putting the car back in drive. "But if you ever pull anything like that again…"

"You'll leave me to rot in hell?"

Sam nearly snapped out that Dean would deserve it, but he didn't. It wasn't true. "I might."

Dean's laugh filled the car, filled his heart and his soul. "You wouldn't do that Sammy." The laugh came again and Sam felt lighter than he had in a year.

"Sure I would," Sam insisted, feeling the corners of his mouth turning up, "the exact same way if I disappear again you won't come looking for me."

"What time is it, Sammy?" Dean asked. From the sound of it, his brother was digging through the box of tapes. Sam glanced over. Dean found a tape and was shoving it into the tapedeck.

"Uh," Sam squinted at his watch in the dim light from the dash, "just after midnight."

"Good," Dean leaned back in the seat, his music booming from the speakers. "Let's hit a bar," he shouted over the music.

Sam nodded, not even trying to compete with Dean's music. Today was Dean's deadline, he realized. Sam chuckled to himself. As he pulled up at a rather rough looking bar, he wondered if either of them would be sober enough to walk out. Sam shut off the music and the engine.

"Dean?" Sam hesitated in pulling the keys out of the ignition. "Can we…just buy some beer and drink it back at the room?" He looked over, meeting his brother's eyes that glinted with – Life. "Just us?"

The smile did not waver, but Dean's tone was softer when he asked, "That what you want, Sammy?"

Sam nodded slowly. "We can go to a bar tomorrow night and you can hit on all the women you want. But tonight…"

A strong hand gripped his shoulder. "Sounds good, Sammy. Think we can find a Godzilla movie on?"

"I'll find an all-night rental place," Sam replied, cranking the engine, "I'm sure they'll have Godzilla. The originals. We don't want that stupid new one." Sam pulled out onto the street.

Dean laughed again. "But you like the new one, Sam."

"It's Sammy."