A/N: I don't own Supernatural, or any of the characters. Cause if I did, I wouldn't be here writing story for it for free...

One Year

Samuel Winchester looked down at the body at his feet. There had been a time when his first concern would have been for the host, who had been very much alive when this all started. Since Dean died, though, doing whatever he could to hurt the other side no matter what the collateral damage had become an obsession of his. The only real way to hurt a demon was when they were still inside the host. He'd bound the demon to the small auburn haired soccer mom that it had possessed – a trick he'd learned from one of his new followers, a witch named Hazel – and tortured it mercilessly until it told him everything it knew. Then he simply shot the host in the head. The demon was still trapped inside, the binding spell preventing it from reanimating the body. It would be bound to the body of its host long after it was nothing more than dust and bones. He smiled, knowing it could still see him through the black unblinking eyes. "Like that? A taste of your own medicine… stuck in a body you can't control." He looked at the person closest to him. "Bury it."

The demon stepped forward and carried the body out of the warehouse. He looked around at the assorted demons and witches gathered around him, nearly a hundred in all and only a small fraction of those who had rallied to his side in his war against Lilith. His new family, he thought with a twisted smile. The thing that Dean probably hadn't counted on when he sold his soul was that he would go just as far to get him back as Dean had been willing to go for Sam. He was going into hell after his brother, and he didn't even need to make a deal to do it. All he had to do was give in. Soon he'd be powerful enough to simply walk right in, free Dean, and take him right back out.

"I'm goin' out for a couple hours. Behave yourselves." He walked out without a backwards glance, Ruby and a handful of demons that acted as his guard following behind him. He'd argued against having a contingent of demons following him everywhere at first, but they'd insisted and now he barely noticed them anymore. Besides, he did need them. Lilith had made more than one attempt on his life. Maybe she couldn't kill him herself, but that didn't mean that she couldn't come at him sideways. He was still mortal despite his powers.

"Where are we going?" Her question sounded casual but he knew better. She had seemed worried almost since the day he had agreed to lead the army and use his powers. Maybe she was having buyer's remorse. That was just too damn bad, he thought. She'd wanted him to lead and now he was.

Sam didn't break stride, didn't turn to look at her. "We're not going anywhere. You're staying here to watch the kid like a good little lieutenant." Because you're the only one I actually trust. He left it unspoken but knew she understood.

"You're starting to sound more and more like your brother." She sounded petulant, a little disappointed.

Sam stopped abruptly and stared her down. "Even though I know it's not how you meant it, I take that as a compliment. Now stay!"


One year ago…

Sam wasn't sure how long he'd been sitting there, holding his brother's body. Bobby and the others were trying to get him to move, to let Dean go, but how did he do that? How did he let his brother go? Dean was dead because of him. Being tortured in Hell because of him. He had to get him back… but he couldn't stop flashing back to the hell hounds ripping him open, couldn't stop hearing him scream, long enough to even begin to think about how. As bad as his death – his murder - had been, it was only the beginning. Dean was going to suffer so much worse than that. He looked down at his brother's face. It looked deceptively peaceful now that Sam had closed his eyes, almost as if he were just asleep.

Finally Sam leaned forward and lifted Dean, cradling him like a baby. It took all his strength and more to stand holding the dead weight, but he felt that he had to. He couldn't allow Dean to be carted around like a damn sack of potatoes between two people, or over his shoulder. Dean deserved better than that, he deserved better than Hell, better than he ever managed to get or anyone ever gave him. He sobbed again at the thought. His brother had been a good man. Selfless, devoting himself to saving everyone around him. Especially Sam. He didn't deserve this.

He walked slowly out to the front door of the house. It seemed so peaceful out here, in this small suburban neighborhood. He couldn't understand why the entire place wasn't in an uproar. Hadn't they heard the screaming? Bobby or one of the others had brought the Impala and she sat waiting to give Dean one final ride. Sam's mind rebelled against the idea. The Impala was Dean's, would always be Deans. And he would make sure that his brother got to drive her again.

"I'll save you, Dean," he murmured to his brother, ignoring the looks Bobby was giving him. "I swear. I'll find a way to save you. I won't let them keep you or turn you into a demon." Bobby opened the car door for him and he slid his brother into the back seat. He wiped a smudge of blood he'd missed earlier from his brother's face, an aborted sob breaking from his lips at the coldness of his skin. Abruptly he backed away and slammed the door shut, leaning heavily against the car. He couldn't do this.

"I'll drive, son." Bobby's voice was soft and filled with sadness.

"No," Sam snapped, a little too harshly. He was the only person still alive that Dean ever let drive his baby and even then, grudgingly. It was bad enough that someone else had driven it here. "I'll drive. I want to be alone with him for a little while longer."

The trip to the desert was a long one. He was going to see his brother off just as they had seen their father off. Salted and burned, that's the way a hunter was buried. It worried him that Dean's body wouldn't be around when he brought Dean back, but he knew he couldn't just leave it where something could get to it. If it took more than a couple of days to get Dean back there would be no way he could preserve it well enough anyway. He'd figure something out, another body maybe. Although Dean would be pissed to end up in someone else's body, at least he'd be alive. Worse came to worse, he'd simply free his brother's soul to move on the way John had been freed. Even his brother going off into the light the way their father had was better than Hell.

He spent the drive reminiscing. After everything that they'd been through, everything that they'd survived. It couldn't end like this. Their father had pushed them so hard, and Dean had never once pushed back. He'd just taken it and done whatever John wanted. Let John make him feel responsible for Sam's life. So responsible that he felt he had to sell his soul. "You never should have let him do that to you, man. Put all that shit on you. You should have left, lived your own life. Been your own man." Then maybe he'd still be alive.

He wiped away tears with his shirtsleeve, never taking his eyes off the road. Where else was there to look? In the back seat at the lifeless husk that used to be the only family he had left in the whole damn world? His big brother who was currently in Hell – because of him? "You are a good big brother, dude. The best. I don't know how I'm gonna live without you. I wish to God you hadn't done it, that you hadn't traded your soul for my life. Why did you have to do this, Dean?"

Dean had taught Sam to fight and sheltered as much of his innocence as possible for as long as he could, had nurtured his dreams even when they meant Sam abandoning him. He turned that word around in his head as he tried futilely to blink back tears. Dean had never left before. It was always Sam who walked away, who got possessed and shot him, who pushed him away… until now. As much as Sam wanted to be angry with him for this, how could he? Dean had done it all out of love. Sam had always known that Dean would sacrifice his life for him, but he never would have guessed that he'd sell his soul.

In the desert, in the same spot where he and Dean had built the funeral prier for John Winchester only a little more than a year previously, Sam sat about doing the same thing for his brother with Bobby, Ellen and a few other hunters helping out. Once it was finished to his satisfaction, cleaned his brother up in the back seat of the Impala with a bottle of water and a hotel towel they'd picked up somewhere, and changed his clothes. He knew that it didn't matter much, but he didn't want everyone seeing Dean with a gaping hole in his chest and covered with blood. Hell, he wished that he could erase the memory from his own mind.

Once he was finished, he gently pulled his brother out of the car and carried him to the wooden platform where he laid him down carefully as if he were only sleeping and Sam was putting him to bed. The way Dean had put him to bed so many times when he was little, or more recently when he was injured. He poured the rock salt on the body and took the torch that Bobby was holding. He stood looking at his brother for so long without moving that people began to shuffle nervously. He could practically feel them wondering what he was going to do, if he actually had it in him to do the smart thing or if one of them would have to step up. Sam would never measure up to John or Dean, but he was still a Winchester. He clinched his jaw tight and touched the torch to the prier and the dry, oil soaked wood went up quickly, taking Dean with it as the salt burned blue.

He stood there, watching his brother burn, clutching his leather jacket against his chest until long after everyone except Bobby finally just left him alone. The weapons, the Impala, the jacket and ashes. Soon, those were the only things left to him of his brother. He had long since stopped crying, and he felt nothing now. He was numb and hollow. Empty.

Dean's phone was ringing. It wasn't the first time, but it was a rare occurrence now. Most of their friends and acquaintances knew that Dean was… gone. Sam kept the phone on though, mostly so that he could call it and hear the ring tone and then listen to Dean's voice when it went to voicemail. Sam picked it up and looked at the caller id. Cassie. He sat up with a start. It had been a long time since he'd even thought about her. His brother had been with a lot of women, and had cared for many of them. But Cassie had been the one woman that Sam knew Dean had actually fallen for. He had been willing, for the first and only time, to settle down. Make a family. And Sam had forgotten to tell her. Well, maybe if he'd gone through his brother's phone book, he'd have remembered, he thought with a sigh and an eye roll, upset with himself for the oversight.


There was a hesitation. "Dean?" She sounded unsure, like she was afraid that she'd misdialed.

"It's Sam, Cassie." His voice sounded tired to his own ears. Ever since Dean's death he'd had this bone-deep weariness that he just couldn't shake no matter how much he slept. He should just tell her, he knew he should. But he hated saying it. He looked at the nightstand next to his bed that held the urn with his brother's ashes.

"Oh, hi. Where's Dean?"

"He's… he's gone."

Another pause. "When will he be back?" She sounded hesitant, as if she suspected the true meaning of what he was saying but didn't want to consider it.

"He died about a month ago." Murdered. Dragged kicking and screaming to Hell. He heard something fall over the phone. He mentally kicked himself. He should have been gentler. "Cassie? Are you alright?"

"God, no… I was too late." Her voice was barely a whisper and he could hear the tears in her voice.

"He loved you Cassie. I know he did. You're the only one he told, the only one that it was hard for him to leave. He… he knew how you felt about him." He was trying to give her some comfort, though he was badly out of practice. He hadn't comforted anyone since his brother had died.

There was a strangled sob over the line. "God no. It's all my fault. He never got to meet her."

"Cassie… he never got to meet who?" Sam's voice was calm, calmer then he felt.

"Dena. His daughter."

After Sam had gotten over the shock, he realized that Cassie was still talking. He mumbled something into the phone and hung up. He grabbed his duffle and threw it into the trunk, next to Dean's. He put Dean's urn in its customary place in the passenger seat. Before he knew it, he was burning up Route 66 on his way to Missouri, to meet his niece. Dean's daughter.

When he arrived at her house, Cassie was a mess. She was holding a crying toddler when she answered the door. Sam looked down at the child immediately, desperate for something, anything, that could make him feel close to his brother. She was beautiful, a mixture of Cassie and Dean. Fairer then Cassie and darker then Dean, with curly dark blond hair, green eyes and freckles. She looked at him, seemed to look into him, and her crying slowed to a few whimpers as she stared at him with his brother's eyes. He broke eye contact with the child for a few seconds and looked at Cassie. "Are you okay?"

Cassie gave him a small sad smile. "Yeah. I… I've been so upset since I talked to you. Dena can tell. She can always tell when I'm upset and she makes a big fuss." Her bottom lip quivered. "Just like her daddy."

She invited him in and offered him tea. He declined and thanked her for the offer. All very polite. Very civilized. Sam was feeling anything but polite and civilized, though. He wanted to shake Cassie until her damn teeth rattled. If she had told Dean about the baby from the very beginning, it would have given his brother something to live for. He never would have made that damn deal with the crossroad's demon, not with a kid of his own to watch out for.

"Can I hold her," he asked finally, feeling like his heart would break the minute he touched her but needing to anyway.

Cassie handed the baby to him wordlessly and watched them stare at each other in silence as if they'd known each other forever.

"Hey little girl. You've got your Daddy's eyes. I wish you could have known him. He was the best big brother in the world. He…" Sam's voice broke. He cleared his throat and tried again. "He would have been a great Dad. He would have loved you the instant he saw you. But don't worry. I'll tell you all about him. I promise."

"How did he…" Cassie's voice trailed off. She was obviously having as much difficulty as Sam saying the words.

"Saving me," Sam said. It was a horrible oversimplification, but how did he explain everything that had happened over the past fourteen months? She knew about them, about what they did – she had been the only civilian the usually tight lipped Dean had ever told – but still. How did you tell someone that Dean had sold his soul to bring Sam back from the dead?

She smiled, a few tears spilling from her eyes. She wiped them away and sniffled. "That's so like him. I should have told him. I didn't want to tie him down. He did so much good, and he didn't ask to be a father. It was stupid… I was stupid." She snorted softly, shaking her head.

"What made you change your mind?"

She shook her head again. "I knew it was wrong. Dean had a right to know about her and I didn't want my daughter growing up without a father. They had a right to know each other." Her voice broke and she started to cry again. She rushed out of the room, her hand over her mouth.

He watched her leave as he held his niece. He looked down at the child. "I'm gonna bring him back to us," he whispered to her. "I promise. We Winchesters never break our word. Not ever, y' understand?"

Ruby showed up the next day, offering a way to get Dean back. He ignored her for weeks, studying everything he could get his hands on about Hell, looking for a weakness, an opening, anything. But he came up empty. The only thing, supposedly, that could get a soul out of Hell was an angel, and Ruby had told them a long time ago that there were no angels, no Heaven. No God. He killed as many evil sons of bitches as he could find, but he always came back to Missouri, to Dena. He didn't sleep well, and when he did his dreams were filled with Dean smiling and happy one minute and screaming in agony and torment the next. Dean begging him to come save him. Dean being tortured.

He stayed in Missouri for over a month, getting to know his niece and Cassie. He could see why Dean had loved her. She was one kick ass woman. The kind of woman that Dean would need to keep him honest. What he couldn't understand was why she didn't tell him about the baby. Did she think he wouldn't care? That he would have ever left his daughter? How could she love him and not know him better than that?

One day the war with Lilith followed him to Missouri, to De. He'd managed to save her but he knew things couldn't keep up the way they were. He had to get his brother out of Hell and he had to keep his niece safe in the meantime. Out of pure exhaustion and desperation, he finally gave into Ruby.

Sons of God

Sam had finally agreed to meet with Bobby after months of him showing up begging for a few minutes to sit and talk. Sam always seemed puzzled by how Bobby could always find him, but he wasn't giving away his secrets, not with how those damn creatures the kid traveled with liked their binding and cloaking spells. He wasn't sure if he could get through to the boy but he had to try. He owed it to John and Dean. He'd never had much luck talking sense into any Winchester, and Sam was every bit the stubborn jackass his father had been. Except Bobby was pretty certain that John would never have worked with evil demons and witches.

"They're not hurting anyone," Sam said in response to Bobby pointing out that John wouldn't approve of his association with the demons he'd walked into the bar with. "I don't let them."

"What about the bodies they're walkin' around in?"

Sam shrugged and looked at the mirror behind the bar, stared at his own reflection like he was trying to recognize it. Probably didn't. Bobby sure as hell didn't recognize the kid anymore. "A necessary evil."

"You didn't used to believe in those, boy."

"I changed."

"No shit. You think your brother would want you goin' this far?"

"You think I wanted him to go as far as he did? To go to hell just so he could get me back? But he didn't ask me, did he Bobby?" He downed the rest of his whiskey and slammed the empty glass down. Bobby wondered when he'd started drinking as hard as Dean and John had. "I can't ask him and I sure as hell ain't askin' you." He threw some bills on the bar as he got up and headed for the door. Well, that ended a lot quicker than even Bobby thought it would.

"Sammy-" he called, but was cut off by the look of cold fury in Sam's eyes when he turned at the sound of his nickname.

Same leaned into his space with a snarl. Fear raised goosebumps on his arms. "I haven't been Sammy in a year old man. Sammy's dead. He died watching his big brother screaming in pain and terror on the floor while a hellhound ripped open his heart. Sammy was a soft, weak loser who let his brother go to Hell."

"At least take the baby back to her mother."

Sam cringed and looked away. "Cassie can't protect her. It's safer for both of them this way."

Bobby remembered the day that made Sam leave Missouri, the day the Lilith's demons had attacked Cassie and little De in their home. From what Bobby had been able to piece together, Sam had gotten there just in time to save them. By the time Bobby had gotten there, Cassie was in critical condition at the hospital and Sam had disappeared with De. "How would your brother feel about his kid bein' babysat by a bunch of evil bastards that he would have been tryin' t' kill if he was around to do it, boy?"

Sam didn't answer. Instead, he glared at Bobby before stalking out angrily, followed by a handful of unsavory characters that were likely his demons. His demons, Bobby repeated to himself, feeling chilled to the bone. It probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world to follow him, but Bobby did it anyway, hoping to find some way to get through to the young man, or die trying. The die trying part was looking more and more likely. But he owed it to John. Aggravating as he could be, he'd been a good friend. Loyal to a fault. And Dean… he'd loved both boys like they were his own. He wouldn't give up on Sam.

He was walking fast to compensate for his shorter legs, and had nearly caught up with the boy just before they reached the Impala, when he heard a loud thump. Whatever had fallen made the ground shake. They both turned to see a tall, thin woman straightening up from a crouch. Her skin was a curious golden shade and she wore a long black coat with shiny silver buttons that seemed to reflect far more light then existed in the dark parking lot. She began walking towards them purposefully. Behind her, other creatures dressed in similar fashion, all with oddly colored metallic looking skin, began to fall like rain from the sky and land with thumps of their own. In all, there were about a dozen. "Samuel Winchester," she said in a voice that was melodious and commanding at the same time, "don't be afraid."

That was easier said than done as Bobby, Sam and Sam's pet demons all backed away instinctively. Bobby could feel raw power radiating off her. The demons hissed at her. "What are you doing in our sandbox," one of them asked in a voice that was almost a growl.

She glared at him, her eyes glowing silver for an instant the way the demon's turned pitch black. "Silence." Her voice was soft, yet seemed to fill the night air with an unspoken threat. Her voice sounded like it was music being played on an instrument, but it was… dangerous too. Bobby felt a tingle of fear run up his spine as the demon shrank away and practically hid behind Sam. Anything that could scare a demon like that was not something to trifle with.

"What are you," Sam demanded, his jaw set and his voice steady. If Bobby hadn't known him all his life, he might not have recognized the fear underneath his bravado.

The woman cocked her head at him and smiled slightly. "I am a Son of God."

"A Son of God," Sam repeated incredulously.

"Commonly known as an angel, although that's technically incorrect. I and my brothers have business with you. Or, more accurately," she cocked her head, eyes locked on Sam, "business that concerns you."