"I understand your feelings of helplessness, but we can accomplish no more here," Missouri said him with a gentle hand on his. "Everyone is safe. Sam is all right now. Believe it."

John nodded.

"Because of you. There is no way I can express the gratitude I am feeling for that," John said to Missouri.

"Just take care of your boys. That will be thanks enough," Missouri said.

"Well, we better get going. Ready to go, son?" John asked Sam.

Sam nodded and began to move off of the bed.

"Let me help you. Your ankle is sprained, another mystery that it looks like we may never solve," John explained as he helped support his son.

"Take care, Sam," Missouri said as she hugged the boy.

"Thank you," Sam said.

"I'll be in touch," John said as he and Missouri hugged.

"You better be," she said with a smile. "See you around."

A few minutes later, after she watched John drive out of the parking lot from the window of her rented room, Missouri dropped back onto the desk chair. Head in her hands, she began to sob for John and for his boys. Mostly, however, she shed tears for Sam. Great evil visiting that boy twice in his life, she knew, was not random.


Chapter 7: Sacrifice

John anxiously again glanced back at Sam who was being unnaturally quiet on the short ride back to their motel.

"I'm okay, Dad," Sam assured him in a quiet voice, although he didn't bother to lift his head from where he was resting it against the passenger side window. "I'm just really tired."

"And confused too, I'd bet," John added in another attempt to engage his youngest in conversation. "I think it would make you feel better to talk about what happened. Even if we don't have all the answers-."

"Talk about what?" Sam shrieked, angry tears welling in his eyes. "You told me that EVERYONE else who was in the house is now dead but ME. Three of the kids were my friends and one was my teacher! So tell me, dad, what else is there to say?!"

John sighed as he pulled the car into the lot and then into a parking space. When Sam moved to get out, John stopped him with a gently grip on his arm.

"Please, just let me go," Sam begged through the tears, the previous anger replaced with grief.

Without further protest, John nodded and hurried around the car to help Sam into the motel room. He hoped that maybe Dean would have more luck with Sam when he got back from school. Better yet, maybe Dean would have some information for them as well. John next helped Sam to the bathroom. After pausing at the door until he heard the water turn on for a bath, he walked over to the table and opened up one of his old books. However, only moments later the words were too blurry to read. John let himself cry with relief for a few minutes that his son was okay before wiping them away. Soon angry resolve replaced the anguish and he slammed his fists on the table, again vowing to himself that he had no choice but to soon make some very tough changes to protect his boys…

That afternoon…

John may have cried again at the sight of Dean and Sam's reunion a few hours later… the hugging, the smiling, the brotherly teasing… if he wasn't so damned angry again. Bobby, who was sitting next to him at the table, had just informed him that he had found nothing out of the ordinary in the houses of the children or Sam's teacher. Nothing but more dead ends! And by the look on Bobby's face, his friend seemed just as angry at what he had just told him about his new plan of action regarding his boys.

"Can we go outside?" Bobby hissed, telling John it was more of a request than a question.

"What?" John asked.

"What? What? You know what! You're planning to turn your sons into soldiers? You'd do that to them? After all they've lost, don't take away their childhood too!" Bobby implored.

"Better than their lives!" John responded angrily. "What I've taught them so far about the supernatural has obviously NOT been nearly enough! I realize that now! I have to step it up. Teach them everything I have learned, and I mean everything, both from my Marine training and my experience with hunting the supernatural!"

"You're making a big mistake!' Bobby insisted. "Please, John-."

"Then it's my mistake to make! They're MY kids, not yours!" John shot back.

"No one is disputing that! But I love you and your kids like family! You expect me to just sit back while you subject these boys to-," Bobby responded heatedly.

"We'll start with the drills as soon as Sam can more easily bear weight on his ankle. As many as we can fit in between school and hunts. We will practice non-stop until they can fight anything in their SLEEP!" John angrily informed him. "I will not leave them unable to protect themselves again."

"John-," Bobby began again when John suddenly turned and charged back into the room.

"Boys? Bobby is leaving," John announced suddenly.

John watched as his friend's face registered a look of shock before quickly morphing into a smile.

"Yeah, I gotta go, boys," Bobby recovered quickly. "Get back to my dog and my shop."

John watched as his friend hugged his boys and then left without another word to him. John shook his head in acceptance. He hoped his friend would get over it, but if he didn't... well, that was a price he was willing to pay.

"Dean?" John asked a few minutes later after Sam walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. "You find out anything at school?"

Dean walked over and joined his father who had a moment ago sat down at the table.

"Nothing in the teacher's desk or the kids' lockers. But...and you'll like this, dad,...the three kids who had been all buddy buddy with Sam had been a source of some major gossip at school," Dean said proudly.

"Why?" the dad asked.

"For not acting like themselves for the past few months. They were meaner to everyone, ignored their friends entirely, and blew off most of their school assignments. Could be that they just decided that they hated school and their friends were lame or-," Dean answered.

"Or they were possessed," John completed his son's sentence with a smile, quickly realizing where his son was going with his explanation.

"Exactly," Dean agreed.

"Hmm," John said. "So they started acting strange right around the time we came here because of the demonic omens. What about the other child and the teacher?"

"Nothing on the bully, but most kids were afraid of him, so it's not like many of them really knew him. I got zippo on the teacher too," Dean explained.

"Thanks, Dean. You were a big help today. There is one more thing I want you to do. Talk to your brother. See how he's doing, okay? Also find out if he remembers anything about what happened. Anything at all. You got that?"

"Yes, sir," Dean promised as the toilet flushed and Sam exited the bathroom and looked over at them.

"I'm going out," John announced loudly as he stood up. "Do NOT leave this room for any reason. Keep the shotgun in sight and check the salt around the window sills every fifteen minutes. I'll be back soon."

"What? Let us come!" Dean begged.

"No. Sammy's had enough excitement for one day. Next time, okay, kiddo?" John asked as his eyes darted back toward Sam.

Dean's face fell in disappointment, but he nodded anyway, realizing that his dad wanted him to talk to Sam immediately. A moment later, John grabbed his keys off of the dresser and left.

"Where do you think he's going?" Sam asked as he hobbled over to the table and sat down.

"Hell if I know," Dean answered. "Hey, Sammy? You really don't remember anything about what happened in that house or are you just telling Dad that?"

"You too?" Sam asked angrily. "I'm sick of talking about this! I don't remember anything! Why would I lie?"

"Okay, okay. Calm down, jeez," Dean said. "Just let me tell me one more thing."

"What?" Sam asked with a roll of his eyes.

"You…you really scared me, Sammy," Dean said quietly, his tone serious now. "We couldn't find you for the longest time and then when we did…you were screaming so loud and then you wouldn't talk…wouldn't even move."

Dean shuddered at the frightening memory before continuing.

"I'm sorry…I should have been there. I can't stand when bad things happen to you. I'm going to do better to keep you safe," Dean promised.

Sam sighed.

"Dean, it was my fault for leaving school without at least telling you. I don't blame you-," Sam said as he began to dismiss the apology away as unnecessary. "I'm okay-."

"DON"T!" Dean yelled before he closed his eyes in an attempt to get himself back under control. "Don't. Because you don't look okay to me."

"I'm...," Sam began before he tears welled in his eyes again. "I'm just very sad is all, but I DON'T blame you for any of it."

Dean nodded and stood up. After walking over to the t.v., he turned it on.

"Oh, oh! This is a good one, Sammy!" Dean said excitedly about the Three Stooges Show that was now playing.

Sam smiled through his tears. Leave it to his big brother to always try to make him feel better.

The next morning...

John watched his boys as they slept. How he wished he could sleep as easily as they did. After he had no success himself at learning anything from the locals last night or from searching the school or the math teacher's house, he had wound up at the bar. He had drank four beers before he had realized what the hell he was doing. He knew from experience that alcohol never solved anything. It wouldn't stop him from feeling helpless, angry, or sad. It would only put off the inevitable and give you a hell of a hangover that affected your ability to do your job and stay alive. John stood up. It was now or never.

"Boys?" John said loudly as he pushed at their feet that were under the blankets. "Get up. We're leaving."

"Wha?" Dean said as he lifted his head up. "What time is it?"

"Five," John answered as he began to shove his stuff into his duffle. "Get your stuff quickly."

"Why, dad?" Sam asked. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know," John answered. "And because I don't know, we're leaving. It's not safe here anymore. Never was, I guess."

Dean and Sam, both sitting up now, looked at each other in confusion.

"NOW!" John yelled.

Both boys startled and rushed to get out of bed. Sam, forgetting about his sprained ankle, fell to the floor and gasped in pain.

"Sammy, you okay?" Dean asked as he rushed around to his side of the bed.

Before Sam could answer, John pulled Dean around by his shirt.

"I said NOW! Or didn't you hear my order?" John demanded.

"But Sam-," Dean stuttered.

"Sam is a big boy and has to learn that he can handle a little pain. You are both going to have to start handling a lot more now than you're used to," John said before turning to Sam. "Get up."

Sam shakily stood, using the bed for support, before meeting his father's gaze.

"You boys have ten minutes to get ready and out to car or there will be consequences. You two got that?" John asked in a tone he knew conveyed that he meant business.

Sam and Dean, still looking like two deer in headlights, nodded quickly. Without another word, John strode to the door and out into the cold and still dark morning. When he reached his car, he looked back at the motel room. Tears began to fill his eyes. It hurt so bad, the looks his boys gave him back there, but there was no going back now. Maybe Dean would be okay with it all, eat it up even. He was always a natural when it came to hunting and their kind of lifestyle. But Sam? John shook his head and quickly wiped away the tears before his boys saw. He couldn't think about that now. If either of his boy's love for him was sacrificed along the way, so be it.

The End

(I hope you enjoyed my story that I began writing before this past season's finale explained Lilith's interest in Sam. With this story, I hoped to offer possible explanations of the origin of why Lilith had been targeting Sam, why John acted more like a drill sergeant than a father with his boys, and why Bobby had anger toward John which had been alluded to in an early episode. Thanks always to my readers and reviewers. You are all the best.)