Sammy held the picture of his mother in his hand. As a child of eight, this picture meant the world to him, since it was all he had of his mother and the life the Winchester family had had before he turned six months old. Of course, Sam didn't remember any of it.
In the picture, Mary Winchester was holding him against her chest. He couldn't have been more than a few hours old. Dean was next to him and their mother, smiling at the camera and the person taking the picture, most likely John, since he wasn't in it. Four-year-old Dean was ecstatic at the thought of having a little brother to show the ropes to, to be looked up to.
Sam sat on the bed in the hotel room where they were staying for the night, in another nameless town that they would most likely never see again. It was dark outside, and John was busy putting salt down around the windows and in front of the door, careful to make a thick, straight line that would be unpenetrable by the things he feared and detested.
Sam wished he could talk to his mother. He had memorized every grain in the picture. No one ever talked about her. Dean never mentioned her, his memories barely more than Sam's. But at least he could recall her face without the aid of a picture. John would certainly never mention his wife. For John to recall times before hunting and travelling would only make him want to break down and let down his guard. Letting down one's guard could mean death, and he refused to let the thing that had taken Mary take his sons, too.
"Dean, get me more salt," John said.
"Yes, sir," he said, snapping to it. Dean was already his father's little soldier, obeying all orders. John took the box from his eldest son, and continued laying down salt.
Sam didn't know why they always did that, why they always moved around, but he was beginning to suspect. He would hear his father and brother talking when they thought he was asleep. He heard them talking of hunting and salt and holy water, and things that he didn't understand.
More than anything, he wanted to understand. He wanted to know why he didn't have a mother anymore. He wanted to talk to her, to see her somewhere other than in the same hospital room she that she was always in, smiling at him from the fading look of the picture.
"Now, Sammy, don't you dare leave this hotel room, okay?"
"Yes, sir," said Sam. He sat on the bed, looking solemnly about the derelict room.
"Dean will be back in a little bit to check on you, okay? I need him to help me with some things, alright? We'll be gone an hour, two tops."
Sam nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Just don't leave the room," said John again, as he and Dean left the room, locking it with the key.
Sam sat on the bed, unsure what to do. He hated this. He hated travelling around so much, hated being left to his own devices, hated not knowing what was going on.
He looked at the picture of his mother, which he still held in his hand. It was all he had of his mother.
In that instant, he hated his father for not telling him what was happening, why he didn't have a mother, why no one wanted to speak of her, why they did what they did. Wanting to somehow stick it to his father, he did the unthinkable: he left the hotel room, disobeying a direct order, and stepping over the line of salt.
Sam knew that as soon as he stepped over the salt, he'd probably made a big mistake. Half of him was tempted to go back inside the hotel room and pretend he'd never disobeyed his father. But as he looked back to the door, it was closed. He tried the knob, but it was locked.
"Oh, no," he said. His grip tightened on the picture.
Sam walked down the path to the hotel office. Maybe there was a spare key he could use, and John would never have to find out that he'd been outside. A sense of panic was overtaking him now. He would be in so much trouble. The thought that he might be in real danger, and that there was a reason for John warning him to stay inside never crossed his mind.
When he reached the office, there was just one young man behind the desk. He was a maybe in his early twenties, hardly more than a kid, and obviously bored out of his mind at his menial desk job. But now he seemed different. Sam and Dean had come inside with John when he had paid for the room, and the kid had seemed bored, nice, underpaid, and none too observant. Now he seemed alert, and tense, and Sam wished that he had never decided to leave the room.
"Can I help you?" asked the kid. This too, seemed out of the ordinary. When Sam had seen him before, the kid had not been this polite for a grown man, years his senior, let alone a small boy.
"Um," Sam started, but the kid's eyes had turned black, suddenly, and the next thing he knew, he was being picked up by his collar. Sam was terrified.
He opened his mouth to scream, but the demon took a look at the picture in Sam's hands.
"Aw, Mommy and baby Sammy. How cute." The demonic kid plucked the picture from Sam's hands.
"No!" shrieked Sam. "Give it back!"
When the kid crumbled it into a tiny ball, Sam began to cry. "Don't!" he cried, then asked, "Why? It's the only one I have of my mom!"
Then an angry voice shouted, "Put him down!" It was John.
"Sam!" This was from Dean, who was behind his father.
"Why?" the kid said. "Why do you need him, John? After all, isn't he the reason Mary is dead?" Sam struggled against the kid's hold. "Wouldn't it be easier for you if you didn't have to worry about him?"
"What are you talking about, you son of a bitch? I said, put him down!" John shouted again. Sam turned his head enough so that he could see his brother behind their father, who had a gun pointed at the kid. The kid stepped forward.
Sam couldn't tell what, but something made the kid stop. He looked down and said, "John." Sam looked down too. Odd white symbols in star-shaped patterns were on the floor, barely visible under the thin rug they were under, and coming out from under.
"Not so smart, are you? Put him down, and you can go."
"How do I know that you'll keep your word?" asked the kid.
"How do I know that you'll put down my son? You're just going to have to trust me," John said. "Put him down."
The kid did so, dropping his arm slowly, until Sam's feet reached the floor once again.
Sam immediately jumped backward, and was pulled behind his father by Dean. John pulled out his journal, and dangled the room key in front of Dean's face. Dean took it and dragged Sam with him, while John murmured weird words from his journal. Sam heard the kid yelling, "You promised, John!"
They were packed and ready to go.
John was furious, and pacing back and forth in front of the beds. "Didn't I tell you not to leave this hotel room?"
Sam didn't answer, just stared at the floor, wishing the picture was in his hands, so he could look at his mother's comforting gaze.
"Answer me, Sam!"
Sam nodded his head.
"Why did you leave then?" John asked angrily. He stopped his pacing for a moment.
Sam shrugged. "I dunno," he said quietly. "I just did…had to."
"Don't you ever disobey me again, Sam," John said quietly.
"Dad," Sam asked, looking up, feeling suddenly brave. "What was wrong with that kid?"
John's face suddenly lost all its anger, and was replaced with sadness and an unreadable emotion – fear?
"Nothing, Sam. Just forget it, okay? C'mon, let's go." He headed to the door.
"Dad, tell me."
"Sam," John said warningly, "drop it."
Sam crossed his arms, looking over at his brother, but Dean just looked away from him. Sam sighed and followed his father to the Impala, feeling more than ever like an outsider. He vowed to understand what was going on and prove that he wasn't just a little kid anymore.