Well guys, we've come to the end of another story. I so appreciate all of you who have stuck with me on this story and this series. I am so happy that you have embraced Danny, even though he is the dreaded...eek...third sibling! I will have more stories with Danny, so don't fret too much. He won't be in the next one I start posting, but he'll be back, I promise. I'll probably wait a few days to start posting my next story. I am about ten chapters into it right now, so you won't be waiting so long for updates, at least until I catch up and then you'll have to wait for me to finish writing before I post the next chapter. So, I'll let you get onto the epilogue. Take care

Cindy

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EPILOGUE

"Are you sure you want to do this, Sammy? It's not too late to change your mind you know," Dean said softly as he gazed around Sam's small dorm room.

Sam's roommate had left the Winchester men and now it was only the four of them in the small, plain room. Sam looked up at his brother and smiled. "I have to stay, Dean. I'll be fine," he answered just as softly as his brother.

Dean pursed his lips and nodded. He knew what Sam's answer would be, but he had to try anyway. The thought of leaving Sam behind, alone and unprotected went against everything that he and his family stood for. Never leave one of your own behind. It didn't sit well with Dean at all and he knew that Daniel felt the same way. Daniel had been almost too calm when Sam had told them of his plans and that's how Dean knew that his older brother was torn up inside, just as he was. Since that night almost a month ago, he'd caught Daniel watching Sam, unaware that he was being watched, and there had been several times that Dean could distinctively see tears in the eldest siblings eyes. Daniel was just as scared as he was and Dean suspected the same of John, even though the patriarch of their family barely showed it. There were subtle changes in the man's behavior that cued Dean into his true feelings. He was eating less, sleeping less and seemed to stay a little closer to Sam than normal. Nothing that was blaring, but Dean noticed nonetheless.

"Sam, we could find a place here in Palo Alto and set up a base camp here. That way, you could live in the dorms and not have us constantly underfoot, but we could still be near, just in case you need us," Daniel said hopefully, a slight tremor in his voice.

"Danny, that would just defeat the purpose wouldn't it? I need to do this on my own and if you guys are just a short drive away, I'm not really on my own now am I?" Sam replied, eyeing his brother sadly.

"You're right, but it's just…it's too hard to leave you here. It's harder then it was the first time we had to leave you, Sammy," Daniel whispered.

"Danny…"

"Look, I know I said that we had to support you on this, but it goes against everything we've stood for our whole lives…"

"Danny's right, Sam. We can't just leave you here. You have nothing to prove. Not to us," Dean said, happy to finally have someone else voice his fears.

"I have something to prove to myself," Sam replied, the boy sinking down onto the edge of the twin bed that held his two duffel bags, everything that he owned.

"You're brother is right, boys. You're just making this harder…on everyone," John admonished from where he stood near the only window in the room.

"I don't care. I can't just drive away and leave him here! I know I said I could, but I can't! I'm not that strong!" Dean cried, the young man turning his back to avoid the embarrassment of his family seeing the tears in his eyes.

Sam stood and moved behind his brother. He rested his hand on Dean's shoulder and eased the man around until they were facing each other. Dean could see tears in Sam's eyes and he swallowed against the emotions that seeing Sam cry always brought to the surface. He reached up and cupped Sam's neck, saddened that he had put the tears there.

"Dean, please…this isn't easy for me either, but it's something I have to do. I understand, I really do, but you have to let me go. It's not forever. I'll take all of the precautions. I have all of the wards Bobby put together for me and I'll be extra careful of anyone I don't know," Sam pleaded, his hazel eyes wide and glistening with unshed tears.

"Sammy, I just don't know if I can. I know Danny feels the same way too," Dean said quietly.

Sam looked to his eldest brother and saw the truth in Dean's words. He sighed heavily and moved back to the bed, sinking heavily onto the edge and dropping his head to stare at his knees. "So, I was right, huh?" he whispered sadly.

Dean and Daniel both moved to the bed simultaneously. Dean sat next to his brother while Daniel crouched before him. Daniel ducked down so he could see Sam's face, his heart breaking a little at the tears that slowly trailed down his cheeks.

"Right about what, Sammy?" Daniel queried softly.

Sam looked up and moved his gaze from one brother to the next before resting his eyes on Daniel. "You…you think I'm weak. You don't trust me. You think that I can't take care of myself," he answered.

"No, we don't think…" Daniel started.

"I understand, you know. I let all of those things happen to me. I was too weak to stop any of it. I can see where you guys would think that there's no way I could ever make it on my own."

The brothers looked to one another then up to their father as the man moved to stand behind Daniel. John didn't look happy at all. "Sammy," John's gruff voice said and the young man lifted his eyes to his father's face. "You didn't let anything happen…right boys?"

Both Dean and Daniel nodded before turning back to Sam. Dean draped an arm over Sam's shoulders and sighed as wet, hazel eyes turned onto him. "We don't think you're weak. Like Dad said, you didn't let any of those things happen to you. In fact, you played the biggest part in ending all of those monsters, Sam. It's not you who's weak…it's us. We can't let go. We're scared to death, not because we don't think you can take care of yourself though. Its just…there's so many evil things out there and because of what we do, they're a bit more tuned into us and with you on your own…it's just hard to leave you."

Daniel squeezed Sam's knee and smiled when his baby brother turned his gaze to him. "Sammy, anyone of us would be vulnerable if we were alone. We would be worried to have any of us be alone, but with you? For some reason, you seem to be more attractive to the big bads. You're the baby, whether you like it or not, and we're just more protective of you. We can't help it. It doesn't mean we think you're weak. It just means that we love you so much and we couldn't make it without you. We love you, Sammy," the eldest brother whispered softly.

Sam swallowed the lump in his throat and reached up to brush the tears from his cheeks. "I love you guys too…so much. I worried every day when I was away before, and I know I'll worry every day now, but I have to do this. I can't do anything else to try and make you understand. The only way to get the Wilcox's and Randy Gregory out of my dreams…out of my life, is to prove to myself that I can be on my own, nobody else to rely on but myself…"

"See, that's what goes against everything we've ever been taught, Sammy. You shouldn't have to rely only on yourself," Dean started.

"But that's just it! I may have to someday, Dean! I may not have a choice!" Sam cried, his tears renewed.

The three older men eyed the boy with confusion. John moved to sit on the other side of his youngest, the man reaching over to tenderly pull Sam's head around. "What do you mean, Sam?" he asked nervously.

Sam sighed and swallowed back the lump in his throat. "What am I going to do if one day I get that call, Dad? What we do…it's so dangerous. I'm terrified that one day, you guys aren't going to make it home. I have to be able to take care of myself. It's either that or I follow you…"

"Stop! Don't even think it, Sam! We will never leave you alone like that," Dean cried.

"You don't know that, Dean. Anything could happen. That's the reality of our lives," Sam replied, his body trembling.

"Hey…hey, calm down, kiddo. We get it, okay…we get it," Daniel soothed, his hand squeezing Sam's knee once more.

"Do you? Do you really get it, Danny? We've been lucky so far. I mean, as lucky as we could hope for. We're all alive, but you know how quickly that could change. I don't want to think about it, but I have to. You guys could go out on a hunt and never come back and I'll be left alone. I have some yellow eyed thing gunning for me. I have to know how to handle myself," Sam cried, his voice hitching.

"Sammy…" John started.

"I don't know. Maybe you're right. Maybe I can't take care of myself. Maybe it would be best if I just follow after you because I don't know if I could live with the pain anyway. I just…I…"

Dean grabbed his brother and swung him around, his green eyes staring intently into Sam's own hazel ones. "If I ever hear you talk about killing yourself again, I swear, Sammy…I'm going to have to go kung fu on your ass! No matter what happens in the future, you will live! If we die, which we won't, but if we do, you will continue on! You will carry on because you're strong, Sammy. Stronger than any of us! You're a Winchester, and Winchesters don't quit! We don't give up and we definitely don't take the easy way out!"

Sam stared back at his brother, his eyes widening at the outburst. Dean was breathing heavily and his eyes still held the anger they did before his tirade. Sam took a deep breath and began to speak. "Well, if you want me to be able to carry on, even if I lose you, then you're going to have to let me go now. You're going to have to let me prove to myself that I can do it because I can tell you this…I'm not going to be babysat my entire life. Not by Bobby, or Pastor Jim…Joshua or Caleb. I'm either going to take care of myself or I'm going to die."

Dean sat back and eyed his brother, shocked by Sam's words. He looked over at his father then to his brother. Daniel had his head down and his body was shaking slightly. Dean could tell there were tears on his face. He pulled his gaze away from his older brother and turned back to Sam. Sam still had his eyes locked on Dean, waiting for what the older hunter had to say.

"Uh…okay. You're right. I don't like you talking like that, but I guess it got our attention. Yes, you do need to know how to take care of yourself, just in case, but if you think you're going to be completely alone, think again. If…and that's a big if…if something happens to us, Bobby and the others will be there for you. Not to babysit you, but to back you up, just like they do now," Dean said, his gaze moving to his father to finish when his voice suddenly left him.

John cleared his throat and waited for Sam to turn to him before he began to speak. "So, here's the deal. We won't set up here. We'll leave you to go to school and you'll promise to keep all of the wards up. You'll let us know if yellow eyes contacts you again," John said, holding his hand up when it looked like Sam was about to protest. "We aren't messing around with this thing. I'm sure it's a demon and one hunter cannot deal with a demon, no matter who they are," he continued.

It was Daniel's turn next, the eldest sibling cupping the back of Sam's neck before speaking. "It'll be just like before. You call us every Thursday at eight, no exceptions."

Sam glanced at each man then nodded his agreement. It was actually more than he had expected so he was happy to accept. "Uh…so, maybe we should get going. The others are waiting at the diner," Sam said softly, a slight smile curling his lips.

"Yeah, they're gonna think some college coeds got ahold of us or something," Dean said with a chuckle.

The hunters shook their heads as they stood and headed for the door. They made their way downstairs and out to the Impala, Dean climbing in behind the wheel with John riding shotgun and Daniel and Sam in the back. They drove to the diner where Bobby, Frank, Caleb and Joshua waited for them. Once all of the men were seated together and their orders had been taken, they proceeded to talk about past hunts, future hunts and anything else other than the looming hour that they would have to drive away and leave Sam behind, on his own and completely unprotected. Their meals came and they ate and talked and sometimes they laughed, but each hunter felt the dread slowly fill them as the minutes ticked by, Sam included.

Finally, their meals were finished and the bill was paid. The men made their way outside and stood around on the sidewalk, none of them quite ready to leave. The sound of laughter suddenly filled the night and the men turned to look across the street, and Sam sucked in a quick breath. The hunters looked at Sam then turned to see where he was looking. All they saw was a group of students entering a coffee shop. Nothing scary or out of the ordinary. The men returned their gazes to Sam, only to find his eyes still on the coffee shop across the street.

"Uh…Sammy, what's going on?" Caleb queried as he grasped his friends arm.

Sam jerked his head around and met Caleb's eyes. "Nothing…sorry," Sam answered, the young man not fooling any of the hunters.

"Sam, you look like you've seen a ghost. Spill," Joshua said.

Sam glanced at Joshua then went back to staring across the street. "That's…um…that's the coffee shop where…" he started, his voice trailing off as he shuffled nervously.

"Where…wh…oh. That's where you were first attacked?" Dean questioned, the young man moving closer to his brother without thinking.

"Yeah, and those are my friends I was with when it happened," Sam said softly.

Daniel stepped up next to Sam and nudged his shoulder. "Come on, we'll take you back to your dorm, kiddo."

Sam glanced over at his brother then squared his shoulders. "No…no, I'm going to go see my friends. I'm supposed to be proving something. If I can't go into the coffee shop where all of my friends hang out after class then I may as well quit now," he said with conviction.

"You sure, little brother? I mean, you can start proving yourself tomorrow," Dean said.

Sam swallowed then turned to look at his family and friends. "I'm sure. I may as well start now. Besides, the last time I saw them, well…you know," he replied.

"If that's what you want, Sam. We can wait for you to go say hi then we can drive you back to your dorm," John said.

"No, that's okay, Dad. I'll walk back with them," Sam answered.

"Sam, I think…" John started, only to be cut off by the young man.

"I'll be fine. They stay in the dorms too."

John glanced across the street then back to Sam. "Okay, Sam. So, I guess this is goodbye then, huh?"

Sam swallowed as he glanced at each man. "Yeah, I guess. Uh…you guess be safe okay?" he answered.

John stepped up to Sam and pulled him into his arms. "You be careful, son," he whispered into Sam's ear.

"I will, Dad…don't worry," Sam replied as he pulled away.

Dean draped his arm over Sam's shoulder and turned him away from the others. "You got everything you need, Sammy? Pens? Pencils? Notebooks? Rubbers?" he asked with a chuckle.

Sam smiled at his brother, recognizing the joke covering the concern. "I'll be fine, Dean," he said as he turned to face his brother.

Dean pursed his lips then wrapped his arms around Sam. He slapped him twice on the back before pulling away. Sam nodded then turned to Daniel.

"Danny, I'm gonna miss you," Sam said, his stomach clenching at the pain he saw in his eldest brother's eyes.

Daniel hurried forward and pulled Sam into yet another hug and Sam could feel his brother's heart pounding in his chest. "I'll be okay, Danny…I promise," he whispered.

Daniel pulled away, his hands moving to grasp Sam's upper arms. "I know you will be, Sammy. Not so sure about myself though. Don't forget, call…"

"I know. Call every Thursday night at eight. I won't forget. Uh, I better go or we'll be standing here all night," Sam said, the young man turning to face each man.

Sam stepped forward and shook each of his 'uncles' hands, coming to Bobby last. "Take care of 'em, Bobby, okay?" he said with a smile.

"You got it, kiddo. You take care of yourself, you hear!" Bobby replied.

"I will. I'll be fine guys. Really."

"Yeah…well, you better go," John said.

Sam nodded, glanced once more at his family then turned and headed across the street. He turned once more before entering the coffee shop and waved then headed inside. The hunters watched as he approached the group of students who had entered earlier. The students all rose and embraced Sam exuberantly, and the men smiled as Sam's dimples made an appearance. They didn't know what the future held for any of them, but then again, who did? Sam would be alone and they would have to learn to deal with it. John was the first to break the moment as he headed to the Impala and waited for Dean to come unlock the car. The others followed, John, Dean and Daniel climbing into the Impala while Bobby, Joshua, Frank and Caleb got into Caleb's SUV. They sat for a moment longer then they reluctantly pulled away, leaving their youngest member to start the next chapter of his life. A chapter that didn't include any of them.

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Sam glanced over his shoulder at his family before turning and stepping into the small coffee shop. He walked to where his friends had seated themselves while at the same time watching the men across the street from the corner of his eye. He approached the laughing students, none of whom had noticed him at that point.

"Uh…hey guys," Sam called lightly, smiling as Jason looked up, the young man's eyes going wide at seeing his friend.

"Sam! Holy crap, dude! You're back!" Jason cried as he stood and hurried to Sam and pulled him into a quick hug.

"Yeah…I'm back," Sam replied, the young man stumbling slightly as he was nearly tackled by the rest of his friends.

Andrea was the last to approach him and Sam gazed down at her nervously. "Hey, Andi. How was your summer?" he asked softly.

"God, Sam! I was so worried about you. Are you okay? What the heck happened to you?" Andrea cried as she lunged toward Sam and pulled him into a tight embrace.

"Uh…I was sick. Encephalitis," Sam answered.

"Oh my God! Isn't that a brain infection?" Will asked as he clapped Sam on the back.

"Yeah. It was pretty bad. Messed with my head. I'm sorry I scared you all that night," Sam replied as he pulled out of Andrea's embrace.

"Don't apologize, dude. You can die from encephalitis. It's not your fault. We're just glad you're back. We kind of thought maybe you wouldn't be," Greg said.

"Well, I wasn't sure if my family was going to let me come back," Sam said in reply.

"Oh man, your dad is scary, dude. He was asking us all of these weird questions. What was that all about anyway?" Will queried.

"Oh, Dad was in the military. He's always been like that. The doctors weren't sure at first what was going on, so he thought maybe something happened here. Sorry you had to meet him like that," Sam answered as he turned to look over his shoulder at the counter.

"She's not working tonight. She asked about you yesterday though. Wondered if we knew if you were coming back," Jason said with a grin.

"Who? Oh, you mean Jessica? No, I was just wondering if I should get a latte," Sam stammered.

"Yeah…sure. Go on, go get a drink. We don't have classes tomorrow," Will said.

Sam smiled and watched as his friends sat again. He walked up to the counter and ordered a latte. The sound of the bell over the door made him flinch, but he quickly shrugged it off with a light chuckle. He however couldn't shake it off when a hand grasped his arm. He jumped around, his hazel eyes wide with fear until he saw the pretty blonde who had come up behind him. The sight of her caused a quick flash of something to zip through his mind, but in a second it was gone. He shook his head slightly as his face lit up with a bright smile.

"J-Jessica…how are you?" Sam stammered, his heart fluttering as the girl looked up at him with her beautiful blue eyes.

"I'm fine, Sam. How are you? It's really good to see you," Jessica answered, concern evident in her voice.

"I'm better. Uh…I heard you came to the hospital. Thanks for that," Sam said softly.

"Oh…I was worried about you. You hit your head pretty hard," Jessica replied.

"Yeah…good thing I have a hard head. Uh…do you want something?"

"Um…yeah. A mocha would be nice."

Sam smiled and turned to the barista and ordered the mocha. He lifted the latte that the girl had handed to him to his lips and took a sip as he and Jessica waited for her drink. Once her drink arrived, Sam paid the girl and both he and Jessica headed back toward his friends. Once they were seated, Sam in an armchair and Jessica on the couch next to Andrea, the group fell into small talk about what they did over the summer. Sam couldn't keep his eyes away from Jessica and it wasn't just because she was the first girl to catch his eyes since Alisa. There was something about her that he thought he should know. Something that kept skirting the edges of his memories, but wouldn't come close enough for him to grasp it. He couldn't shake the feeling that she was somehow in danger, but he couldn't figure out why he would think that. Finally, he shrugged it off as nerves. He was back at school, his family on their way out of town at that very moment, leaving him on his own and he had the girl who made his heart flutter sitting within two feet of him.

Sam jumped when a hand suddenly came to rest on his knee and he looked up into Jessica's concerned eyes. "Uh…sorry, did you say something?" he asked, a slight blush to his cheeks.

"You were kind of spacing out. Is everything okay?" Jessica asked, her voice a soft melody to Sam's ears.

"Oh. Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking how glad I am to be back," Sam replied.

Sam gazed around at his friends as they talked and laughed, but his eyes always seemed to rest on Jessica the longest. She was so beautiful and full of life, just as Alisa had been. He felt a twinge of guilt for having feelings for this girl, but he knew that Alisa would want him to move on. He just didn't know if he should. He didn't want any harm to come to Jessica by being with him. Sam shook the thoughts out of his mind and relaxed back into the chair. His thoughts drifted to his family and the all too familiar lump once again formed in his throat. He already missed them, but this was his chance. It was his chance to prove to them and to himself that he deserved to be called Winchester. He would not fail them and he would not fail himself. Not ever again. Sam tuned back in to the conversation and soon he was laughing right along with his friends, the horrors of the summer temporarily forgotten. The memories would return all too soon, but for right now, Sam was just like all of the other students who had converged onto the campus. Young and eager to make their lives the best that they could be. The whole world before them, theirs for the taking. It was what Sam had always wanted. It was too bad that he didn't know at the time that the life he craved was never going to be his. Fate and destiny would never allow it.

THE END

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Gosh, I hope that didn't suck! Please, please, please let me know what you thought. I'd love to hear from some of those who haven't commented yet. The feedback help immensely! You are all the best and are the reason I keep doing this. Don't want to bore you by going into any long speech or anything, so I'll just let you know that my next story is titled 'A Family Torn Asunder' and I'll start posting it in a few days. No Danny...sorry. I don't know how long it will turn out to be. I never know for sure where these stories will take me. I hope to see you all there! Love you all!

Cindy