Hollow Victory

Chapter 1:

Sam couldn't sleep. He had gotten used to not sleeping well over the years. He always had trouble sleeping. Part of it had come with the training. You had to be alert to be a hunter. You never really fully slept. You always kept one eye open, as Dean would often tell him. Then when he had become a student, the long hours studying in libraries and dorm rooms usually turned into all-nighters.

When Jessica had died, he had barely closed his eyes for days, only sleeping when his body couldn't take the deprivation any more and he had to surrender unwillingly. Over time, Dean had helped him through losing her and he had started to sleep again, if fitfully.

Sleep was eluding him tonight because it had been ten years ago. Ten years since he had lost the one life he would have given anything to save. Even after all these years, it made his heart tighten at the memory. After several hours, Sam knew it would be futile to try and fall asleep so he decided to get up and walked into the living room. There, he found the chair that Sarah had insisted they buy because it was the only one that could handle him curling up in it. Sam smiled at the thought. She'd been right and it had become his favorite, especially on nights like these.

Just as he settled into it, he heard his cell phone ringing on his desk. He reached for it, recognized the number and answered it.

"Hey, Bobby," Sam said tiredly.

"How did I know you'd be up at this hour?" Bobby scolded lightly on the other end.

"Just like I knew you'd be calling at this hour," Sam teased.

Sam heard Bobby grumble about being a smart aleck and he couldn't help smiling.

"You coming up?" Sam asked.

"Yeh."

"Great. Sarah and the kids will be glad to see you…" Sam paused. "Me too."

"I'll be there first thing…" Bobby said as he paused too. "Sam?"

"Yeh?"

"I miss him, son."

"Yeh, Bobby, me too," Sam said, his voice quavering.

Sam hung up, immersed himself into the soft folds of the chair and he let his thoughts wander. He was looking forward to seeing Bobby. Their visits had become few and far between these days. Bobby had decided that he was getting too old to be tossed around by angry spirits anymore so he had settled into being Sam's researcher and experienced mentor until, as Bobby had put it, "life has decided it's had enough of me". Sam was grateful for the comfort Bobby provided him. He was a familiar voice, a warm presence. Family. All the family he had left other than Sarah and the kids. Though Sarah had met Dean, she had never come to know him and the kids had never met their uncle so Sam had relied on Bobby to help him keep the memories alive for him. Not that it was hard to do because when his mind wasn't on his family or hunting, it would stray to remembering Dean, but it was nice to talk to someone who had known the kind of man Dean had been and who could enjoy the story telling with him or share in the tears of his loss.

Finally, Sam let the weariness take him over and he fell asleep in his comfy chair.

Sam found himself being awakened by someone tugging at him, breaking him from his, thankfully, dreamless, sleep.

"Daddy? Daddy, wake up," the familiar voice of his eldest son called.

Sam groaned a bit and opened his eyes.

"Hey, buddy, what are you doing up?"

"It's morning, Daddy. You must have fallen asleep in the chair."

"Oh, yeh, you're right."

He looked beyond his 5 year-old son and saw Sarah standing there, beautiful even at that hour in the morning.

"Hey, Sleepy Head, Bobby will be here any minute. Mind getting up and helping me get the kids ready," Sarah teased as she smiled brightly at her mop-haired husband.

Sam smiled back and uncurled himself out of his chair.

"Be right there," Sam said.

Sarah walked over and kissed Sam on the top of his head. She combed back the hair from his eyes and face then looked at him, her eyes filled with love and concern for him.

"I love you," she said.

"Me too," Sam smiled back and hugged her.

He never thought he would ever find love again, let alone have a family. Sarah had been a lifesaver for him. She had made him believe that he could live again after losing Dean.

She then walked back towards the kitchen where Sam could hear his other children squealing in the background. Sam started to stand up and lifted his son into his arms then onto his shoulders.

"Okay, Dean, let's help Mommy get your brother and sister, ready, huh?"

"Okay, Daddy! Let's help Mommy!" Dean said.

Today of all days reminded Sam of how much he had missed Dean, seeing his son so eager to help his siblings. Back when Sam and Dean were kids, it hadn't been quite so happy-go-lucky, but Dean had always seen to Sam's needs. Little Dean reminded Sam of what Dean might have been like at 4, before they had lost their mom, helpful and caring. He had never stopped caring for Sam even well into their adult years. He swallowed a lump in his throat then sat Dean down into his chair.

Once Sarah and Sam got the kids dressed and off next door to play with the neighbors, Bobby had arrived, a plate of eggs and bacon waiting for him along with a hot cup of black coffee.

"Bless that wife of yours," Bobby said as he sat down and dove in.

Sam smiled at the man he had considered like a second father. The kids called him Uncle Bobby because he hadn't been fond of being called Gramps, but he might as well have been a grandfather to them.

"Yeh, I'm a lucky guy…" Sam smiled, his expression wistful and grateful.

"So, how you holding up?"

"Okay, it's just…" Sam stumbled. "When my mind's taken up with getting the kids ready, I'm okay, it's just at night when they're all asleep is when I really can't stop thinking about him. I can't believe it's been ten years."

Bobby took a swig of coffee then sighed.

"I know. I can't either. Some nights, it feels like yesterday."

"Yeh, I know," Sam said, his expression softening. "Thanks for always coming up every year."

"Nonsense, you're like family, Sam. Hell, you are my family and I wouldn't miss your wife's cooking for anything in the world. A bachelor's life doesn't afford cuisine like hers. I'm lucky I crack open a can of beans some nights."

"Why don't you move up here and be close to us?" Sam asked. "Sarah worries about you being all alone."

"Can't change my stripes, Sam. That house is all I have in the world. It has all of my memories tucked away in it. My wife's memories are there, too, both the good and the bad. I can't leave it."

Sam nodded in understanding.

"Your room's ready as usual."

"When are we leaving?"

"In a minute. Sarah's getting ready."

"Okay."

"In the meantime, we can catch up."

TO BE CONTINUED