Author's Note: Okay, so, usually I am dead against all AU Winchester-as-girl fics, but, I don't really know. This sort of came to me this morning and I haven't been able to get it out of my head. I guess the basic point is that I want to take a look (at least at preseries through season 1) at what the Winchesters might be light with different family dynamics; the point isn't so much the gender but the relationships. (At least that's what I'm telling myself to make myself feel better.)

I've never seen a Dean-was-born-a-girl scenario, so I thought I'd try my hand at it. I tried to include as many canon aspects as I could—the A Very Supernatural Weechesters Christmas scene, and the Shtriga scene, Cassie (now 'Cassidy'), Lisa (Lewis!)… and so on.

I don't know how I feel about the end result, because it's radically, RADICALLY different from anything I've ever written before in Supernatural, but… I guess we'll see? Tell me what you think. Seriously.

It's more or less unbeta'd because I just don't have the stamina to go through this whole thing with a fine-tooth comb, but… oh well?

Anyway, enjoy.

oh lady, be good

"Deanna! Take your brother outside, now! Go, Deanna, go!"

Deanna clutches little Sam to her. He is crying and she's shaking 'cause she's never seen Daddy so scared before ever and the house is on fire and she doesn't know where Mommy is and Daddy still hasn't made it out of the house yet and—

Two strong arms sweep her up and just like that she feels completely safe and brave and okay because Daddy's here and Daddy wouldn't ever let anything bad happen to her. Daddy's arms are really tight around her middle and it sort of hurts, but Daddy isn't letting go so Deanna isn't going to let go, either.

She squeezes her eyes shut when the house starts to explode, curling herself into Daddy's chest and gripping Sam. Everything is dark and smokey and burning but Daddy is strong and warm and she knows that once Mommy gets here everything is going to be all right.

"Mr. Winchester," the fireman is saying, looking solemn and sad, "Your wife … was she …"

Daddy's breath comes in a ragged, uneven gasp, and he nods, and Deanna's head snaps to look at the house because his silence tells her everything she needs to know.

Her mouth snaps shut, and she clings to Sam.

.x.

She doesn't really feel like talking much after that. Uncle Mike lets them stay at his house and Daddy goes away for a long time and all that's left of everything from Before The Fire is Sam, and all Sam does is eat and sleep and cry.

Deanna doesn't blame him. She doesn't want to do much else, either.

But Uncle Mike makes her go to school and everyone there treats her like she's a paper doll that's one breeze away from blowing into oblivion (and the idea doesn't sound so bad). But Miss Gordon, who Deanna hated before because of her pointy nose and slanty eyes, is really really nice to her and always says that she looks pretty or that her work is done well and that if she needs anything, anything at all, just go ahead and ask.

Deanna doesn't need anything, 'cept her Daddy, and she doesn't think Miss Gordon could hand him back like she does homework assignments.

Everyone always wants to know how come she doesn't talk anymore, like Lolly and Susan, who used to be her best friends but now they just seem sort of like old toys she doesn't wanna play with anymore. She just shrugs when they ask her.

She just doesn't feel like it. She doesn't have anything to say.

Pretty soon Lolly and Susan start playing with Amy Bradshaw, the new girl, and Deanna doesn't even care. She doesn't care about anything but Sam, 'cause if Sam's okay than maybe everything else will be okay, and if she takes real good care of Sam then maybe—maybe Daddy and Mommy will come home.

.x.

The first time they move, Deanna's really really excited. She doesn't like Lawrence anymore, she doesn't like anyone in this stupid town because they look at her like they're sad all the time and she knows why, it's 'cause her Mommy is dead.

She thinks that maybe if they go to a new town they can start over and everything will be like it used to be, except this time without—this time without—

They don't move very far, just over to Smileyberg, which Deanna thinks is a really stupid name for a town.

As they drive out of Lawrence's county limits she notices her Daddy looks stiff and angry and sad and keeps looking in the rearview mirror so she says, "It'll be okay, Daddy," and her voice is hoarse and scratchy from disuse.

His eyes cut to her, wide and startled, and two seconds later he's pulled the car over and she's in his lap and he's crying so she starts crying, too. She misses Mommy. Mommy would have known why he was crying, and how to make him stop, but all Deanna can do is hug him around his neck and it's okay over and over again and say I miss Mommy too.

"Dee," he whispers, his voice cracking and static, "Dee."

She rests her head against his chest and refuses to let go of his neck. They drive the rest of the way like this.

.x.

Daddy tries to leave a couple of times that first year, but Deanna cries so loud and so hard that he doesn't make it out of the front door. She's not embarrassed about the way she clings to Daddy, the way she feels like her whole body is being crushed when he's away for even a second.

Daddy and Mommy were out of her sight right Before The Fire and she's not gonna let that happen again. So she wraps herself around his leg and always keeps one eye on Sammy, just to be sure.

Daddy says something about "making things right", something about hunting, but Deanna doesn'twant to hear it. She throws things at the babysitters and screams loud enough to wake the dead and if it's bad she doesn't care.

She's keeping Daddy home and with her if it's the last thing she does.

.x.

They move to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the year that Deanna turns ten. She knows about stuff by now, so she's practically frozen with fear every time Daddy tells her to pack up. She looks sullenly out of the window and watches the places pass by; she hates leaving, she hates moving, she hates living out of the back of the Impala.

It's got nothing to do with the towns, she care about them or the people in them or the friends she has to pretend she likes. But every time they move it means that they're leaving someplace safe for someplace dangerous. It's the stupid formula for life that Deanna's ever heard and she keeps glancing at Sam, still somehow sure that if she can just be looking at him all the time then nothing will ever happen.

Her teachers tell her Dad that she's moody and anti-social and she if she is, so what? They don't know anything. They're trying to teach her about the American Revolution and Thanksgiving and she wants to just say yeah, well, you wanna know what really happened at Roanoke? People are so stupid.

Daddy doesn't know that she knows about stuff, because he always leaves her and Sammy with Pastor Jim whenever he goes away for long hunts. That's when she learns everything; he goes away and she instantly runs for the books that he keeps hidden in his army duffel, the journal he sometimes forget when he leaves his leather jacket behind, the old textbooks that Pastor Jim doesn't even remember that he has in his attic.

And it's scary, but it's smart, too, because if she's going to protect her Daddy and Sam then she's gonna have to know everything.

Sam's gotten bigger now, and pretty annoying, and he always wants to play with her when she's trying to read. But Deanna still gets itchy and fidgety when he's out of sight for too long, so she usually puts down what she's doing and plays with him.

She loves staying with Pastor Jim because Sam loves staying with Pastor Jim. The six-year-old goes to the daycare center and plays with all the other little runts there and Deanna hangs around at the church with Pastor Jim reading all day.

One day Sammy comes home crying, asking her how come he doesn't have a Mommy to pick him up from daycare, how come Daddy doesn't like to play little league like the other daddys, and Deanna pulls him into a hug and tells him that he's stupid. "What d'you need a Mommy for?" She asks, like he's the biggest dummy ever. "You've got me 'n Dad."

"But Daddy's never here," Sammy whines, his big eyes wide and tearful. He takes a deep breath. "Davy Jordan says the reason Daddy's never here is cuz he doesn't like us and I said that's not true but he said it was but it isn't, right, it isn't, Dee?"

"Davy Jordan is stupid," she tells him firmly, pulling him onto her lap. "Daddy's off doing important stuff, that's all." But she's kinda mad at him, too, 'specially if Sam's having a hard time at school. "D'you want me to read you a story?"

They go back into their room and lie on the bed and Sammy snuggles into her arm as she reads to him from one of the stupid kid's books Pastor Jim always buys for her.

.x.

Dad comes home four days later, and Deanna's yelling at him before he's even got his boots off.

"You don't know anything about anything," she's yelling. "Sam always gets picked on at school and Pastor Jim has other stuff to do than look after us and you're the worst Dad in the world! You're always going off to help other families but you never have any time for your own!"

He looks down at her, startled. "Dee," he says, the word a sigh, "I know it's difficult for you to understand, but—"

"No! You always go away and put your life in danger and leave Sammy and me here by ourselves! What if you don't come back, one time? Huh? What if you go get killed by a ghost or a demon or a—a—chumbawumba and then Sam and I are stuck in this stupid podunk little town without even knowing how to protect ourselves?" She wipes tears angrily out of her eyes. "Don't you even care about us?"

Dad's frozen as he looks at her. "How did you know about … I mean …" he gestures wordlessly.

She narrows her eyes at him. "You're the worst Dad ever," she says again, viciously, and then turns on her heel and storms out.

.x.

After that, Dad stops bringing them to Pastor Jim's for a while. He teaches Deanna how to hold a gun and how to throw a punch and how to put the salt lines up right and the best ways to tell if someone you're talking to is actually a demon. He teaches her how to tell the difference between a werewolf and a black dog, and how to kill a vampire, and that you have to salt and burn a body if you don't want it coming back as a ghost.

Deanna is turning thirteen, and she wants to learn how to braid her own hair, and put on makeup, and shave her legs. She wants to know why her stomach gets this fluttery feeling every time Jacob Corbin smiles at her. She wants a bicycle.

Maybe if she cared about fighting or thought it was cool watching guys beat each other up, like the boys at school, she'd be a bit more interested in hunting. But to tell you the truth, she just doesn't find it that appealing. She likes that she knows how to keep Sammy safe now, that she could protect him if it came down to it, but she'd really rather just go over to Eleanor Russel's house and play jump rope.

Eleanor Russel is kind of a dope, but she's funny, so Deanna likes her. People in Montgomery call her Anna instead of Dee, and she kind of likes that too. At home she's Dee, and she takes care of Sammy and puts up the salt lines and studies Latin with Dad while her kid brother watches The Munsters, but at school she can be Anna, who wears skirts (she brings them in her backpack so Dad doesn't seem them) and plays four square and paints her nails in the girl's bathroom during recess even though the nuns don't like it.

On her thirteenth birthday, Anna kisses Jacob Corbin behind the tool shed on the playground. Eleanor's mom had baked her cookies, which she shares with the class, and after school they hang around on the playground playing Truth or Consequences ("I lived in a place called Truth or Consequences, one," Anna says to Eleanor, "It was in Kansas.")

At home, Dad doesn't call from wherever he is but Sammy makes her a mudpie and puts a stick in it for the candle and tells her that she's the best big sister ever and he loves her.

"I love you too," she tells him with a grin, deciding not to take it out on Sam that their Dad's a deadbeat. "C'mon. Let's go rent a movie, huh?"

They stay up as late as Sammy can, eating popcorn and watching Escape from Witch Mountain and Sammy falls asleep in her lap. She doesn't even mind when he drools a little bit onto her shirt.

Around ten o'clock the phone rings and she jumps to answer it, thinking maybe it's Dad, thinking maybe he remembered, but it's just Eleanor on the other end.

"Hey, a bunch of us snuck out and we're in the arcade a block or two from your house. Wanna come?" Deanna hesitates for a minute, thinking about Dad's word of warning (always the same: take care of Sammy, like she'd do anything else), but it's her birthday and he's not here so she thinks: screw you. She disentangles herself from Sammy and leaves him there asleep, thinking, yeah, I can do this.

When she comes back there's this—this thing hanging over Sam and she reaches for the gun but—

Dad blows past her, his shoulder shoving her to the side, and she knocks into the door frame. He's kneeling on the couch next to Sammy, who's crying and holding Dad like they're best friends and it's not Deanna who sits beside him when he has nightmares and not Deanna who cooks him dinner every night and not Deanna who—

"What happened?" Dad asks without looking up from Sam. He just keeps soothing the kid's hair back, rocking him. "Deanna Winchester. What. happened."

She swallows, wanting to lie, but—"I just…went out. It's my birthday and Sam was sleeping and some kids were at the arcade down the street and I needed some fresh air and I just … went out. Only for a bit." She lowers her eyes. Looks at the floor. "I'm sorry."

.x.

She wakes up in the morning to the sound of Dad packing. He doesn't look at her as he says that they're leaving and they don't speak the whole drive to Uncle Bobby's.

.x.

Deanna smokes her first cigarette when she's fifteen. She's behind the gym with George and Lewis Braeden, two seniors, and George offers her one sort of as a joke but she takes it as a challenge so she smokes it.

It burns and she wants to cough but she doesn't because that would be losing.

She takes to going out there every day after school, because it feels so good to do something you're not supposed to, to do something that you know is against the rules. She rolls her pleated skirt and buys the uniform sweater a size too small and keeps her shirt unbuttoned a bit at the top. She likes the way it makes people look at her, see her, pay attention to her.

Dad doesn't look at her much when he's home, and she knows why. Her long blonde hair and hazel eyes, her pale skin, her little half-grin. She looks like Mom, just like Mom, and she doesn't much looking at herself in the mirror, either. That's why she wears her clothes the way she does, her hair the way she does, her makeup the way she does.

She wants to erase everything about her mother in her face because her mother is gone and she isn't going to walk around like a poster child for fire prevention.

It doesn't change what she sees when she looks at herself, though. She still sees her mother, but dressed like a Brittany spears video and—

It feels wrong, misplaced, off-kilter, but she does it anyway because she is not her mother, goddamn it.

.x.

A couple months after that first cigarette, Anna Winchester lets George Braeden fuck her in his Camaro in the school parking lot. It's pretty quick, hurts a little, nothing special. She doesn't understand why all the other boys want it all the time, but, whatever. At least it's out of the way.

He drops her off a couple blocks from home, 'cuz Dad would shit himself if he saw her with a boy dressed the way she is. He leans out of his window and says, "Merry Christmas," as she gets to the sidewalk. She laughs. Christmas. What a freakin' joke.

During the walk home she pulls down her skirt and buttons up her shirt and pulls out her earrings.

She might not have bothered; Dad's not even home.

But Sammy is, and she doesn't want him to see her dressed like that, so she quickly changes into jeans and a big t-shirt and he tells her all about his day as she cooks dinner. She likes nights like this, with Sam, just her and her little brother. She teases him about being too smart for his own good and he blushes deep red with pleasure.

"Is Dad gonna come home tonight?" Sam asks, mouth full of Chef Boyardee. "For Christmas?"

Deanna wants to protect Sam from everything, so she wants to lie, but Sam's getting better at knowing when he's being kept in the dark so she goes for a half-truth. "He's gonna try. I talked to him this morning. He wants to be here, but … you know how it is."

Sam looks at her, his eye cocked, as if trying to decide if she's telling the truth, so she smiles. "Anyway, you and I both know that if you aren't in bed ten minutes ago Santa isn't coming."

Sam huffs. "Santa isn't real, Dee."

"How d'you know?"

"Cuz Dad would hunt him. That's probably where he is now."

Deanna freezes, startled, and nearly drops the pot she's holding. This is how Dad must have felt, she realizes, thinking back to that day at Pastor Jim's, and feels a new sense of understanding, and sadness, and fear.

As if somehow knowing about evil makes Sam a target.

Still. She makes herself smile, knowing from experience where Sam learned about what's out there. She'd raised him, after all. "That's not where he is. And anyway, Dad wouldn't hunt Santa. That's just stupid. Now seriously, Dad gave me some stuff to give you but you can't see it 'till tomorrow, so get in bed already."

Sam obeys.

Into the darkness, he asks quietly, "Is it always going to be like this?"

And she knows he doesn't mean Christmases without Dad or gifts. Deanna looks out of the window at the dirty street, remembering a time where she had pretty dresses to wear every day and Mom would sing her to sleep, days when Dad called her his little princess and she would fall asleep with him watching Scooby Doo. "There's a whole 'nother world out there, Sammy," she tells him softly. "Hunting—that's just—what Dad does. It doesn't have to be what … you do."

Once she's sure he's asleep, Deanna goes into the kitchen area and unhooks the phone. She knows her Dad isn't going answer, because he hasn't answered any of her phone calls yet, but she leaves a message. "It's Christmas, Dad," she whispers. "It's Christmas, and stupid nosy Sam read your journal somehow and knows about—you know … and your eleven-year-old son wants you home for one day a year. And you can't manage it. You can't manage one day, for the sake of your kid? Oh, and by the way, great job of buying Christmas gifts for him. Yeah, Sammy just loooooved all that nothin' sitting under the tree." She shakes her head, wants to hang up. But instead she says again, "You're the worst dad ever."

.x.

It always gets bad around November. It's the one month that Deanna doesn't mind her Dad being an ass hole, the one month where she mostly tries to stay out of his way because it's not really his fault that she looks like her Mom and she doesn't want to hurt him any more than he already is hurting.

She keeps Sam quiet and out of the way and together they mourn their Mom in their own way. It's harder as Sam gets older, because he doesn't remember Mom, he doesn't know what it's like to feel her absence, so she takes to being sad on her own.

On the 21st (the worst day of the year) Dad's out at some bar somewhere and Sam's asleep so she curls up on the couch and blinks away as many tears as she can. She wants to forget her. She wants to hug her. She wants her Mom.

Dad's not quiet as he comes in, and for a minute they just stare at each other, both of their eyes red and puffy, and without a word he opens his arms and she walks into them.

"I'm so sorry, Deanna, I love you," he murmurs into her hair, and she thinks, I know.

.x.

She stops dressing like a Britney Spears video after that.

.x.

They move to Louisville, Kentucky three months before her eighteenth birthday. Her Dad's been acting secretive all week and when the big day rolls around he drops Sam off at the neighbors. Sam looks like he wants to argue, but he doesn't, so Deanna gets in the car and let's her Dad drive her an hour only to end up back at their house.

"Happy birthday," he tells her, a shit-eating grin all over his face.

She frowns at him. "Uh, thanks, Dad," she says slowly, the words sounding more like you're insane. "That was, um, one hell of a party."

Dad laughs, pulling the Impala's keys out of the ignition and drops them in her palm. "I just wanted to drive her one last time as her owner before I handed her over to you. You take care of her, DeeDee."

She blinks at him, uncomprehending, and when the wheels click into place she screams, throwing herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck in a way she hasn't done since she was a little girl. "Daddy!" She crows, kissing him all over his face. "Thank you!"

He laughs, swatting her away, looking vaguely uncomfortable with the display of affection. "Jesus, Dee, it's not that big of a deal." He shrugs, somewhat sheepishly.

"Don't be an ass," she returns, but she's smiling hugely. "It's a huge deal. Seriously, Dad. Thank you. I don't know what to say."

He lets her drive to pick up Sam, and the kid bounces up and down like a freakin' Jack-in-the-Box the whole way home. "This is so cool," he mutters jealously, but he's grinning. "You have your own car. Man. The Impala. Man."

Deanna laughs, looking at him in the rearview. He's getting so tall. Little Sammy shot up, and God, when did he get so big? It's her birthday but suddenly she feels like the parent, looking at little Sammy growing up, and feels both burning pride and sadness.

Her Dad reaches over and squeezes her hand, understanding.

.x.

She gets a job as a waitress and bartender while they live in Culpeper, Virginia. Sammy goes to a nearby public school and she drops him off every morning before driving to work; she ignores the whistles and hoots of the senior boys as she leans out of the car to make Sam give her a kiss on the cheek, but she winks at one of the more attractive football players.

She can't help it. It's fun.

There aren't too many girls that she foresees lasting relationships with; a lot of them are threatened by her and the others are intimidated by the way she holds herself, the confrontational glint in her eye, the way she can throw back with sailors and soldiers and anyone else that wants to buy her a drink and get into her pants.

She hasn't gotten laid in three months. Hasn't really felt like it, hasn't looked forward to getting out of bed and getting into the shower before Sammy comes home. It's too much work to be a good girl at home and a bad one at work so mostly she just sticks to flirting and serving alcohol.

Sam comes in after school and does his homework at the counter; she helps him with his Algebra while she cleans glasses.

"You heard from Dad lately?" He asks, looking up from his calculator with his head cocked. "I mean, he know how much longer we're gonna be here?"

Deanna frowns. Sam and Dad have been getting into it a bit lately; Sam's been feeling too babied (which is mostly Deanna's fault and not Dad's, but, whatever, at least she doesn't have to deal with bitchy!Sam) and wants to hunt.

The idea of Sam hunting makes Deanna's blood go absolutely cold.

She goes with Dad sometimes, these days; he takes her when he knows it's going to be a two-person job and he's getting confident enough to call her in the middle if he realizes that he needs backup. She's salted and burned more bodies than she can count, and her pointer finger on her left hand will never be the same after the zombie in El Paso last Christmas. Dad's funny about her hunting, sometimes; she's not sure that he's ever been able to look at her holding a gun or a machete and not shudder, thinking of her Mom.

Deanna doesn't like to hunt, but she doesn't hate it, either, so she doesn't complain. She just knows that this isn't how her children are going to be raised.

"He hasn't said," she tells Sam guardedly. "Why?"

He ducks his head, avoiding her eyes. "I, uh, got invited to Homecoming," he mutters. "'S not a big deal or anything, okay. Don't tell Dad."

Deanna gasps, feeling suddenly like both a proud mother and eager sister all rolled into one. She drops a kiss onto his cheek. "Way to go, Sammy!" She crows, setting the glass to the side. "Of course you're going. When is it? A month? Next week? Whatever. It doesn't matter. I'll get you a suit and shoes, but you'll have to pick out a corsage for her—do you know what her favorite color is? Now, we'll have to pick her up at her house because that's the gentlemanly thing to do. It's too bad you don't have your license. I wonder if—I mean, I want to meet her first."

She frowns thoughtfully. "Aha! I'll pick you up at school. Bring her outside. I'll be nice, I promise." She's beaming. "I'm so excited for you!"

Sam's red and horrified, looking everywhere but at her face. "It's not a big deal, DeeDee," he says again, emphatically. "Please don't go all Martha Stewart on me about this."

She huffs. "Well, fine. Steal all my fun. But you're still wearing a suit and we're still getting her a corsage, so deal, you little jerk."

He laughs at her, reaching up to fondly tug her hair. "Bitch."

.x.

Her name is Krista. She's pretty enough, if a little bland. She takes one look at Deanna—dressed in jeans and heels ('cause that's just classy, damnit) and a black t-shirt and her eyes go wide and awed. Deanna smiles, trying to be friendly and not embarrass Sam.

"Hi. I'm Deanna, Sam's sister."

Krista's silent for a moment before she snaps her jaw shut and shakes her head and says, "Sorry. Hi. I'm Krista McDougal." Then she blurts, "You're the girl Jensen is always talking about!"

Deanna frowns. "Jensen?"

"He's my brother, he's on the football team. He sees you out front in the mornings, everyone thinks you're so pretty."

She laughs, noticing Sam's eye roll. "Don't tell her that," Sam groans, "You'll make her head even bigger than it is."

Deanna grins, chucking her little brother on the chin. "She's just telling the truth, Sammy-o. No need to get angry because I got all the good-lookin' genes." She looks over at Krista, warming to her. "D'you want to come over sometime, Krista? I make a mean macaroni."

The girl blushes red, looking over at Sam for confirmation and approval, and Deanna thinks that this is just about the perfect girl that she would have picked for her fifteen (-and-a-half)-year-old brother's first girlfriend.

The day of the big dance Dad comes home with his head cracked and his side ripped open, staining his shirt. His hand is twisted, looks broken, and he faints as soon as the door closes behind him.

Without a word, Deanna pulls the first-aid kit out of the cupboard and gets to work; without looking at him she says, "Sam, go into the bedroom and get the sheets. I'm going to need you to rip them into bandages."

From his position on the floor, Dad stutters, "Sam—dance—"

Deanna puts her hand over his mouth, smiling down at him. "Shh. Dad. It's just dance. Right, Sam?"

He's too busy ripping the sheets to answer back, but he's thrown his suit jacket into a heap on the floor and when he feels them looking at him, smiles.

.x.

Deanna clutches her .45, shivering in the December cold. She doesn't know why the fuck Dad thought it was a good idea to take a job in Evanston, Illinois in the middle of fucking winter, but he did, and she isn't wearing a scarf or earmuffs or even a heavy jacket because it makes it too difficult to move and you must always be prepared.

Sammy, warmed by his bulk and his muscle, is sitting pretty next to her, one arm wrapped around her shoulders to lend body heat. He's playing with lighter and looks bored. "I still think it's Joon Rayton," he tells her flatly. "Violent death, her possible murderer getting engaged… I mean, it all fits. The only question is: ghost or zombie?"

Deanna shrugs. "I just wish Dad could hurry the hell up in there. I swear to God, if he gets arrested for breaking and entering again I am not bailing him out."

Sam grins over at her. "Yeah you are. You can't discipline for shit."

"Language," she tells him distractedly as their father emerges. His face is pale and he's shouting, but she can't hear over the radiator and the closed windows.

Ten seconds later, the whole car flips over. Sam kicks the windshield out and drags her through it, and she's taking the safety off the gun as he does.

Oh look. Joon Rayton.

"I told you," Sam says, dropping into a fighting stance. The zombie snarls at him and Deanna kicks into mother-mode, stepping in front of him and snarling right back. "Geez, Dee Dee, I'm not eight," Sam mutters from behind her.

Joon launches for them and wraps her hands around Deanna's wrist, snapping it. She goes tumbling to the ground and scrambles back up, trying to get to Joon before—

But Sam's got it; he grapples the zombie to the ground without breaking a sweat, face a mask of concentration the whole time. Dad steps up to chop of poor Joon's head and together the two men grin at one another over the body.

It's the most terrifying thing that Deanna's ever seen. She can see, suddenly, the future: Sam out of school, the three of them going on hunts together all the time. She can see Sam, spiraling deeper and deeper into this life, gentle Sammy, always-keep-the-safety-on Sammy, becoming as hard and businesslike as Dad.

She doesn't want that for her little Sammy. She wants more for him. She wants better for him. She's going to spend the rest of her life as a waitress and maybe a hunter on the side, when she's needed, maybe just following Dad around (because someone has to take care of the old man, make sure he remembers to eat sometimes), but Sam—not Sam.

Dad whistles. "Well done, Sammy," he compliments, before turning with a worried frown to Deanna. "Dee, you—"

"I'm okay," she says quickly, trying to unclench her fists. "My wrist's pretty broken, but nothing a cast can't fix."

.x.

It's three months later that they gets the idea. Sammy's a junior in high school, so they have this Parent-Teacher thing towards the end of the year, and (of course) Dad's gone so Deanna goes instead. They look sort of wary of her, in her tight jeans and low-cut top, but she explains that their Dad works a lot so she's stepping in for him, just for today.

"Sam's an extremely bright boy," his advisor is saying, and Sammy blushes. "I mean, we haven't seen first-time SAT scores like his in… well… ever. I'd like him to start making a list of places he'd like to go."

Deanna frowns. "Go?"

"To college."

Deanna and Sam look at each other.

.x.

Sam only applies to one school. She tries to make him write out for more, but he looks at her very quietly and says in that Sammy no-nonsense voice that I'm going to Stanford if I go at all. So she shuts up and lets him do his own thing.

"You know," he says on the day that they mail the application in, "Dad's never going to let me go, even if I do get in." Then he sighs. "I don't know. I mean, I don't like hunting, but—I can't leave you."

Deanna draws herself up as tall as she can, startled by that train of thought. He can't leave her? Who is the older sibling here?

"Listen to me, Samuel Winchester. You're going to get into Stanford and then you are going to go. D'you hear me? You aren't sticking around out of some misplaced sense of chivalry."

He takes a step back, looking startled, and she's surprised to find tears in her own eyes. She doesn't wipe them away—the men in her family are incapable of watching her cry, and she knows it, and she will use it to her advantage if she has to.

Sam pulls her into a rough hug. "I love you, Dee Dee," he says, voice gruff, and she wraps her arms around his middle.

"I love you too, Sam-o."

.x.

"No," Dad says the instant the envelope from Stanford comes. Sam is looking at it like it's going to bite him, a mixture of longing and fear and hesitance in his eyes. Deanna puts her hands on her hips, but for the first time it doesn't seem to have any affect. Dad's eyes are shuttered. "Absolutely not."

"Dad—"

"Sam. I said. no. You are not walking out on this family."

The kitchen is heavy, and quiet, and for a minute Deanna thinks that Sam is going to give up. She puts her hand into his and looks up at him, and when he looks down at her she can tell that he doesn't know what to do.

She is twenty-two. She has her mother's mouth, her mother's eyes, her mother's hair, her mother's nose.

But she has her father's temper.

"He's going to college." Dad looks over at her, startled at her sudden entrance into the conversation, and narrows his eyes. She takes a step towards him, her hands crossed over her chest. She's always been little, in both body and height, so has to look up at him, even in heels. "This is what is best for Sam," she tells him quietly. "I will go with you on hunts. You know I can do it, you know I'm as good as he is. And he's smart, Dad. He's really, really fuckin' smart. He can be anything—a lawyer, a doctor, anything. Just give him the chance."

"He isn't going, Deanna. End of story."

"No, not end of story." It's Sam's voice now, and he pulls loose from her hand and steps forward. She had seen this coming—the tension had been building in the house for weeks, Sammy versus Dad, and she steps to the side to let it happen. She's not getting in the middle of whatever testosterone-fueled battle they've been waging. "I'm sorry Mom died. I'm sorry that the world isn't a perfect place. But you know what? I'm also sorry that I've lived in all fifty states and Hawaii. I'm sorry that I learned how to melt down silver into bullets before I learned how to tie my own shoes. I'm sorry that Deanna never got a chance to be anything other than a waitress—I'm sorry you never made it back for Christmas—I'm sorry I'm too embarrassed to bring friends home—I'm sorry that you're so busy questing for revenge that you missed the childhoods of both your children and that you're too selfish to see outside of your own pain. But there's a whole nother world out there, Dad. Hunting is what you do. It doesn't have to be what I do."

His breathing is uneven as he finishes, standing taller that Deanna's seen him in a long time. In a low, dangerous voice, Dad says, "If you walk out that door, Sam, don't bother coming back."

Sam leaves that night.

.x.

She drops Sam off at Stanford by herself. She left Dad a message on his cell phone, telling her where she's gone. She's not thrilled with the idea of leaving him without anyone, especially not when he's this mad and liable to do something stupid while hunting, but—he left her no choice.

They unpack quickly, and Deanna makes Sam come with her to Target. They get some sheets and pillows, and Deana makes him buy a poster for his walls ("everyone else will have them, Sam!")

They stand awkwardly in the room once she's finished bustling about, and from her purse she pulls a small wooden frame. It's got Mom and Dad in it, and they're smiling, and when she hands it to him there're tears in her eyes. "I—I know you don't remember her," she tells him quietly, her voice breaking, "But… she loved you, and Dad loves you, and I love you, and—just—you'll do great, okay?"

And just like that, she's in his arms, wrapped tight in him, wondering where her four-year-old Sammy-o went and when he got replaced by the man now holding her so tightly that her feet don't touch the floor. "I am so proud of you," she whispers fiercely into his ear. "Don't ever forget that, no matter what happens."

Then she releases him and runs, afraid that if she stays she won't ever be able to leave him.

.x.

Dad's pissed when she get back, but she expected him to be. He drags her out to some case at the University of Ohio and makes her pose as a student.

She's feeling vulnerable, useless without Sammy to look after and worry about, and Dad's not the type to let her mother him the way Sam had. So it's not a big surprise that in her emotional state she finds herself, for the first time, falling in love.

Hard.

His name is Cassidy, and he's dark-skinned and muscled, with short, curly black hair. He works for the school newspaper and he's investigating the same mysterious deaths that she is, so at first she thinks, okay, good, I can use him.

But then he grins at her, earnest and excited, and—

They meet over coffee. He pays for her. Deanna's known a lot of guys in her time, but none of them offered to do that for her, none of them looked at her with the ill-disguised awe that he does. "So, Cassidy," she says, feeling nervous for the first time in a long time.

"Please," he interrupts. "Call me Cass."

She smiles, looking demurely down at her cup. "All right. Cassidy. You, uh, have any theories about what's going on down at the south quad?"

He shrugs. "I dunno. I mean, four students, that's—that's a lot of people to be dying in the same way in the same place without raising questions. And how many twenty-one-year-olds do you know that have heart attacks? It just doesn't make sense. Maybe it's some sort of drug thing, I don't know…"

She lets him talk, liking the low rumble of his voice, and puts her chin on her hand. She thinks she could be happy sitting here listening to him ramble on for the rest of her life, if he'll have her.

.x.

He insists that they date. Deanna's never actually dated before, not really; she was never more than a one-night-stand kind of a girl. She couldn't be, with the way they moved, and—even now, she's not sure this is a good idea. Not when she knows that sooner or later they're going to have to pack it up and leave Cass the way she's left countless others.

She thinks, oddly, of George Braeden.

After five dates he finally works up the courage to bring her to his dorm room, and she's used to ignoring the looks she gets from his housemates as they pass through the common room. She takes her hand in his when she sees he's uncomfortable and gives him the smile that took her years to perfect.

"So, this is it," he says awkwardly, gesturing toward the single bed and the half-open dresser. She looks at the pictures on his desk.

"Is that your brother?" She asks, pointing at a boy in slung under Cass's arm in a family portrait. He nods. Deanna smiles, a little sadly. "I have a brother. He goes to Stanford."

The loss is aching and strong, so without another word she grabs him by his shirt and buries her mouth in his.

.x.

She doesn't bother sneaking back into the hotel room the next morning. Her Dad looks uncomfortable with her disheveled clothes and sex hair, and she raises an eyebrow when he asks, "Where were you last night?"

"I'm twenty-three, Dad," she says with a laugh as he buries his hands in his pocket. "Do you really want to know?"

Dad's face crinkles into a half-small, half-grimace, and he looks away. "On second thought," he says, "probably not."

.x.

They stay for two more weeks before they manage to get rid of the entire clan of witches living on the third floor of Ryors Hall. "Pack up," her Dad says that night. "And say goodbye to anyone you need to. We're leaving tomorrow first thing."

She spends four hours sitting in the quad, looking up at the sky and wondering who is looking back down at her. Cass calls twice and she ignores him both times. Maybe she should just leave. Maybe she should just go, walk away, not let things get anymore serious than they are.

But the thought of leaving him, the thought of being without him, makes Deanna feel sick. Her stomach roils at the idea that he will never know where she went or what happened to her, that he will—oh God—meet someone else.

So she finally picks up the phone and they meet again for coffee and she takes a deep breath as she says, "Cass, I… I haven't been totally honest with you."

He frowns. "What do you mean?"

"I'm not a student here." At his face, she adds hastily, "I was working on the same case you were investigating. I work with my Dad, we're sort of like—I mean, that's what we do."

She can't read his expression, maybe because there's so many emotions on it. "So you're like—a detective or something?"

She smiles wryly, already imagining telling that to Sam the next time he calls. "Well, or something, anyway."

Then he leans forward, grinning a little. "So do you have any more of an idea who did it than I do? I mean, are there clues you haven't been giving me?"

She takes a deep breath. Looks down at her coffee. "Yeah, actually. We—uh—we took care of the problem. It was a coven of witches. D'you know Gillian Myers? She was leading it, although honestly, I don't think Gillian had been Gillian for a while." She pauses for a moment, and when he isn't screaming and running away she says slowly, "I know this sounds crazy. But ghosts, demons, witches, they're… they're real. I mean, with witches it's different, you know, because they get their power from whatever demon they're worshipping, but the magic is still basically the same idea. All that stuff you thought were just in movies, it isn't… I mean, it's real. And that's… what I do. I hunt those things down and kill them."

He doesn't say anything, so she dares to look up.

Later, when she's pulled over on the side of the room heaving with tears of fury and regret and—and hurt, she will wish she hadn't, will wish she had simply gotten up and walked away without ever looking back.

.x.

What follows is a string of men and sex that blend together. She's got a sailor in every town, and if her Dad notices, he doesn't say anything. Deanna hasn't used sex as an emotional getaway plan since she was fifteen, sixteen, but God, it's like riding a bicycle.

She wears short skirts and high heels and low-cut tops and it's so easy that it's almost boring.

She stops taking side-jobs and focuses on helping Dad, because there's not much point of tiring yourself with work if you can just use the credit cards and that way she's better in action. She gets stronger, quicker. Better.

It's satisfying in a way she hadn't expected. Sex is fun, and helps her sleep, but hunting is… gratifying, for her. It makes her feel useful again. Important again. Needed again.

Sam's calls come less and less. She guesses he's fitting in.

.x.

She goes to see him for the holidays. The first year she couldn't make it; Dad had broken his left arm and his right ankle and he could barely bathe himself without help, much less walk or cook or buy groceries.

But she goes up that Thanksgiving and since it's just a long weekend not many of Sam's friends go home. She's wearing what she usually does, jean skirt, boots, form-fitting shirt. Comparatively tame to what she wears at home when the nights are too long.

She's developing a commitment trouble, and having trouble giving a shit. She knows what happens when you try to have a relationship in this job, in this life.

If Sam notices the change of style, he keeps his mouth shut; Deanna has a new edge that she didn't have before, her softer side hardened, if only slightly. They all go out to a bar and Deanna kicks his ass at pool and afterwards they sit at one of the booths and she pretends not to be bored.

She's happy for Sam. Really. She is. He fits this apple-pie life like he was born into it, but… she's changed. Things have changed for her. Being Sam's mother had kept her soft and girly and—normal, if only just barely.

Without him, she has Dad, and she has the hunt, and that's about it. There's not a whole lot of room for normal in that world.

But she smiles and plays along, tells stories from their childhood that she know will piss him off, and when she notices his friends noticing her she doesn't even lead them on. (Well. Actually. When the one sitting next to her puts his hand on her knee she lets him leave it there.)

After, both a little tipsy, they go back to Sam's dorm room and collapse on his bed, Deanna with her head rested on his chest, like old times.

He's bigger. God. So much bigger, but not in body just in his… Sam-ness.

"Your skirts have gotten a bit shorter," he says after a beat of silence, and she laughs tiredly.

"Yeah," she says. Nothing else.

"How's… I mean… how are you? Really?"

She doesn't look at him. There are a lot of things she wants to say to Sam, a lot of things she would have said, before. But it's different now. It's just… different. "I'm good," she says, yawning.

"You got a job?"

"Nah. Not usually, anymore. Mostly just been hunting with Dad. I mean, we move around so much faster when we're both on the case there isn't really a point."

"What about night school? You'd said maybe you'd look into it somewhere."

Deanna sighs. "Yeah, I haven't really—I mean, it's just… it's not in the cards for me, you know?"

"It could be." She pulls away. The edge in his voice startles her, and when she looks at him she sees that his jaw is tight and set, the way Dad's is when he's getting ready to lecture. "You don't have to be like this, you know," he says, gesturing at her. She frowns. "I mean, you can—you're smart, Dee! You could go back to school, get a degree, make something of yourself!"

"I am making something of myself," she snaps back. "I'm saving lives, Sam."

"Do you do it dressed like that?"

She stands up, taking a few steps away from him. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"It's just… Dee, you don't have to be stuck in that life. There's so much else out there, so much else you could do! You could be so much more!"

"Oh, like you, you mean?"

"Well—yeah!"

She has a sinking feeling as she looks at Sam. He is bigger, but it's only because he makes her feel small. They used to fit just right, she and her Sam, but now something is off. Now something is different and she doesn't know what it is except that she has, somehow, lost him.

"Let me tell you something, Sam," she says, her voice cold. She's never yelled at Sam before, not really. "You got to run away and play normal college boy and that's great, okay, but not all of us are cut out for that. So you sit here and write your papers and learn fucking algebra, and I hope that makes you happy. But I'm out there saving lives, I'm out there making an actual fucking difference, and I'm sorry that you can't understand what it means to put someone else before yourself because you never had to."

"What is that supposed—"

"You might not think that you owe this family anything, but you know what? I do."

Sam stands too, looking angry, looking like he wants her to get out. "That's not what family is supposed to be about—owing things. It's supposed to be about understanding and—and unconditional love and—"

She loses her breath, stumbling back away from him. "And you think you didn't get that?"

He gives her a hard look, folding his arms over his chest, and she says, "Fuck you, Sam."

She says, "I'll see you around."

And as the door slams she says, "Merry fucking Christmas."

.x.

She doesn't answer his phone calls and then, after, he doesn't answer hers.

.x.

She runs into Lewis Braeden in Cicero, Indiana. He's teaching a Yoga class, of all things, and she doesn't even recognize him at first. She's eating across the street from his studio, telling Dad that he's a dumbshit if he thinks this is a mora and not a succubus, when he says—"Um, hi, excuse me… Deanna? Deanna Winchester?"

She nearly chokes on her sandwich. "Uh—yes?"

He grins, holding out a hand that's bigger than she remembers. "It's Lewis. Lewis Braeden. You—uh—knew my brother and me, back in Long Island? New Jersey?" At her blank stare he adds, "…High school? My brother had a Camaro, it—"

She interrupts with a gasp and stands, pulling him into a friendly hug. "Oh my God, yes, Lewis, duh, I'm sorry. This is, uh." She coughs, gesturing vaguely at her father. "My Dad, John. This is Lewis Braeden."

Dad shakes his hand and makes a quick exit. As he pays, Lewis leans over and whispers, "Good God. That just might be the scariest man alive."

And, despite everything, she finds herself smiling.

.x.

Later she will call it one of the best weekends of her life. For one this, he's a yoga instructor, which is responsible for a good three-quarters of the fun, but Lewis is also a breath of a fresh air for her. He's got an easy smile and doesn't expect her to be his girlfriend but he—treats her like one, if that makes sense.

He brings her coffee in the morning after and—God—teases her about her childhood, about George, about how she used to wear her uniform.

They leave Cicero on good terms and on the way out she gives a trashbag full of miniskirts and tanktops to Goodwill. She buys a few pairs of jeans and t-shirts.

But. Let's be honest. She keeps the really naughty stuff.

.x.

"Dad, duck!"

She throws the machete at the black dog, more to draw it's attention to her than to inflict any real harm, and when it turns to look at her, Dad runs cuts off its head, neatly, with the long sword-looking knife he'd gotten blessed by Pastor Jim three weeks ago.

He wipes his hands on his jeans and looks up at her, a small smile on his lips. "You just threw it?" He asks, grinning. "Really?"

She shrugs, walking towards him to recover her weapon. "It saved your ass," she points out. "Now can we hurry up and burn this thing before my next birthday?" She prods it with her foot. "God, it feels like forever since we had a simple ghost or water nymph or something. All these freakin' hell hounds."

Dad laughs, tossing her the lighter as he dumps shoots a couple salt rounds into the dog's stomach and empties the small flask of lighter fluid he'd brought in his jacket pocket. "Tell you what," he says, letting her lean against him as they head back to the cars, "I think I got a hint of something from Caleb last week, poltergeist down in Rio. I'm gonna take a few days at Bobby's, get him to put some protective symbols on a couple of my knives—why don't you check it out?"

She turns to look at him, her eyes wide. "You mean, on my own?"

His straight face and forward-facing eyes looks to her like a proud smile as he says, "You can handle it."

.x.

As it turns out, she absolutely can.

Deanna never really gave much thought to how good or bad she was at hunting until she was by herself; before, she had always just felt like Dad's partner, his backup, the Plan B. But on her own she realizes—she's good at this. She takes to it.

She feels like a ten-year-old with a medal when she catches back up with Dad, when she's able to shrug casually and say, "Took care of it, no problems." They eat dinner at Bobby's, and after Dad's gone to sleep she stays up to have an extra beer.

"He's proud of you, you know," Bobby says, looking at her over the top of his own drink. "You did right by him. You always did."

She looks down at her hands. She thinks about Sam, in Stanford, not answering her phone calls. "Yeah," she says with a sigh. "I know. He's m'dad. Couldn't do anything else."

She kisses Bobby's cheek and goes up to the guest room. Dad's asleep on the floor and she climbs into the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

There's an achy hole where Sam used to be, but—it's been three years, coming on four, and—she has Dad. She has Dad, and Bobby, and Pastor Jim, and she might never get married and have kids but since when does that sort of life work out, anyway? She's not exactly happy, but she's not—unhappy, either, and in this world, that's about as good as it gets.

Still.

She thinks about Sam.

.x.

Six months later, her Dad goes missing. He was working a case in Jericho, checking in every few days, and then suddenly—nothing.

She'd been nervous, letting him get that close to Sam; she'd begged him to let her take the case, knowing how much he hates California, knowing how much it hurts him to remember that (not too long ago) there had been a person here, that loved them.

Everything in her tells her to turn the car around. Dad is fine. Dad is fine. He took off all the time, this was no different. He'd call in a few days, say he was sorry, got caught up, didn't think to let her know—

But it is different. She can feel it. She can't explain it, she can't define what it is that's making her nerves crawl at the thought of her father—of her father missing.

In the end, she can't stop herself from going.

But if a hunt is badass enough to vanish her father then she's not going in alone. She thinks of Bobby and Caleb and then drives to Stanford.

.x.

His apartment isn't even really locked. Sam, the ever-trusting, Sam, the god-damned puppy with those eyes and the love for all mankind.

She lets herself in, going to the fridge for a beer, planning to look around and breathe a bit before she wakes him up. She has to get used to this house before she can get used to the idea of Sam in it, the idea of Sam living this whole—this whole life without her.

(There was a person here, not too long ago, that loved them.)

She's three strides from the fridge when she feels a hand on her shoulder and she reacts without thinking, twisting beneath him and wrestling him to the floor. "Whoa, whoa, easy, tiger," she says, catching Sam's face in the moonlight. She can't help the smile.

"Deanna? Jesus, you scared me!"

"That's because you're out of practice." She's on her back before she can think to fight back and she can't help it, she beams at him, proud. "Or not."

Sam rolls his eyes and helps her to her feet, brushing dirt off of his shirt. "What are you doing here?"

She goes with the flippant retort, first, to ease him into a conversation she knows he's going to run away from.

"Well," she says cheerfully, feeling something click into place as she stands next to her baby brother, "I was looking for a beer."