I own nothing. And the title is not mine, it's from the song "Grace of God Go I" by Flogging Molly.
January, 1992. Ogunquit, Maine
Two brothers shivered in a hotel room while watching a blizzard of historical proportions waging outside. Weather reports had been whining shrilly on every television station for the past week, warning the residents of Ogunquit that a "Severe Winter Storm Warning" was in place, and for everyone to take shelter until the storm passed. Their room held little in terms of blankets and comforters, so the boys were left, albeit grudgingly, to scrunch together, the elder's arm slung across the shoulders of his brother, on the worn out sofa underneath two holey, grungy bedspreads. Chilled winds blowing off the Atlantic found purchase in the open spaces underneath the door and through the windowsill, causing Dean and Sam to shake uncontrollably, in spite of their closeness.
Sam, the younger of the two brothers, sighed loudly. Yet again, he and Dean were stuck in a run-down hotel room, trying desperately to keep from freezing to death. Normally, this wouldn't have been such a big deal, but ever since Christmas, when he inadvertently discovered the family secret, things had become a little awkward between the two. Sam had become increasingly paranoid as the weeks passed, thinking that every squeak or crunch was caused by a ferocious supernatural entity. Night after night, he woke up in a cold sweat, terrified by the monsters that raced through his dreams, of women pinned to the ceiling, and the coppery, metallic taste of blood in his mouth.
Their father was currently out on a hunt for a particularly vicious poltergeist taking up residence in an orphanage across town. Once again, Sam wondered idly why Dad always seemed to find jobs in the northern states during winter. Would it kill the man to look around in Texas for some big nasty to be torched? And why, oh why, did he think that going hunting during the worst snowstorm in Maine history was a good idea?
Dean shifted beside him then tightened his arm around his little brother by a fraction. Once Sam had read Dad's journal, the older boy had taken protectiveness to a whole new level. Not only was he keeping watch over Sam in case any more nightmares came, he had taken it upon himself to educate Sam in the goings-on of the supernatural world, to the best of his knowledge, at least. Everything that Dean knew about ghosts, zombies, black dogs, Wendigos, and the like, he passed on to his brother knowing that Sam absorbed knowledge like a sponge and thrived on the opportunity to learn more. Throughout this whole process, Sam's fears waned a bit and took shape to a slight interest in this mysterious world fraught with danger.
But there was one topic that was never touched on in these lessons, one that had been bugging Sam since the previous Christmas Eve. And on that night, after Dean had once again woken Sam up from a nightmare, he built up enough courage to get some answers.
"Hey, Dean?" Sam queried hesitantly, chewing on his bottom lip.
"Hmmm?" Dean responded.
Sam cleared his throat quietly, moving his body in such a way that Dean's arm was still over his shoulders but he could see Dean's face clearly.
"I… I know you don't want me to talk about it, but I was… um… wondering what happened to… Mom," Sam stammered, looking up at his brother, trying to gauge his expressions in the dim lighting.
Dean stiffened, his lips thinned into a line, and his eyes narrowed. Taking a deep breath, he opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed. Sam, knowing it was best not to push his brother to talk, patiently waited for Dean's response. Perhaps it was the late hour that allowed Dean's sleep-addled barriers to lift, but after a few moments, Dean relaxed a bit and muttered, "Dad doesn't… he doesn't know what did it, but uh… he said that she was s-stuck on the ceiling above—" He paused, coughed, then continued, "She was on the ceiling, and then she just… you know, caught on fire, I guess. Dad couldn't get her down in time." Eyes bright with unshed tears, Dean turned his gaze to the right, avoiding Sam's gaze.
Sam took in the information, his head reeling. He pressed himself in closer to Dean's side, the fear of the unknown taking hold once more. He found himself wishing more than ever that he could have known his mother, that this horror had never happened to his family. Then, something Dean had said grabbed his attention. "What do you mean, 'above'? Where was she?"
Dean grimaced and said, "You don't wanna know, Sammy."
"Dean? Come on, tell me. I wanna know. Please, Dean?" Sam didn't know why he wanted to know so badly, but something inside him felt this was important.
Nodding, Dean reluctantly told him, "Mom was—Mom was in your nursery, Sammy. Above your crib." Dean gulped and chanced a look at his brother, whose mouth was agape with shock.
His heart racing wildly, Sam processed Dean's words and then leapt off of the couch. He began pacing across the room, from the far wall to the couch and back again. All the while, Dean watched him, waiting for Sam to say something.
In the middle of the fourth pass, Sam stopped, breathing heavily, and turned to Dean. Fixing his brother with a no-nonsense glare, Sam demanded, "That thing, whatever it was—was it after me?" Dean opened his mouth to deny the claim, but Sam interrupted, "I mean, it was in my room, wasn't it, Dean? Why else? You said that these creatures have reasons for what they do. Motives! Mom… she must have, I don't know… Tried to stop it? Did she die for me, Dean? Am I the reason—?"
Dean jumped off the couch and strode over to Sam, grabbed the front of his shirt, and pushed him onto one of the twin beds, cutting him off in the middle of his tirade. Sam stared up at his brother, eyes wet, as both boys stood still, their chests heaving. The only sounds in the room were their rapid breaths coupled with the chattering of their teeth and the howling of the outside wind.
Dean knelt down in front of his brother, placed his hands on Sam's legs, and began, "Sammy… I didn't want to tell you that because I knew what you'd think, that you'd somehow blame yourself for what happened to Mom. But, Sam… you were just a baby! You didn't do anything! Never, and I mean never think that Mom's death was your fault, okay? It wasn't. It wasn't, Sammy, I swear." Dean gave his brother's legs a comforting squeeze and stood up, holding out a hand.
Sam looked at him for a moment then took the proffered hand, allowing him to be steered back to the couch. Once they were both curled together on the couch again, Sam continued the conversation. "So, that's why Dad hunts? He's trying to find what killed Mom?"
Dean rubbed Sam's arm, trying to warm him up again, and said, "He told me that he's doing it to keep us safe, but that part of it is to get revenge. He's trying to find it, I know he is. He's always muttering about it when he thinks I can't hear him. And I want to find it, too. Not just for Mom, but… for all of us."
Silence descended upon the brothers as their gazes turned outwards once more, watching the snow fall as they waited for their father to return.
October, 1998. Fargo, North Dakota
"Sam, I want you to be the lookout, all right? I know this is just a salt and burn, but we can't be too careful. That ghost is out there somewhere," John instructed his youngest.
The three Winchesters stood in the middle of a cemetery devoid of any other signs of life, waiting to dig up the grave of a man whose spirit had taken to exacting his revenge on those who killed him. Though the hunt was fairly straightforward, it was best not to go into hunts with a feeling of arrogance, which was a dangerous attitude when dealing with the supernatural.
Sam nodded his assent, perfectly content with being relegated to watchman duty while Dean and his father dug up the grave.
The night wore on, and the sound of piling dirt and the occasional grunts of exertion were the only things that broke the silence. Sam's mind wandered to the homework he should be doing and to that pretty redhead in his Geometry class, his grip on the shotgun faltering. At that moment, a whooshing sound accompanied by a sudden upheaval of leaves and blades of grass blew over the trio. Sam shook his head, pulling his head down from the clouds, his sharp eyes on the lookout for the impending danger, glancing back at his brother and father who, after a momentary pause, resumed their shoveling with vigor.
One of their shovels hit something with a loud thunk, and Dean's growl of triumph bolstered Sam's sense of security. As they scrambled to clear the rest of the coffin of the remaining soil, Sam kept his eyes peeled for the spirit to make another appearance. Hearing a familiar rustle behind him, Sam whipped around, shotgun at the ready. The spirit was right behind him, grabbing for his face when Sam shot him straight through with rock salt. As the apparition dissipated, Sam saw his brother pull himself out of the coffin. Wiping the sweat off his brow, Dean huffed, "Nice job, Sammy," before lunging for the duffel bag.
Another whisper in the wind alerted Sam to the spirit's presence, and his shotgun once again held it at bay. Sam looked behind him again to find Dean and John spreading salt and fuel over the bones as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
As John whipped out his matchbook to set the bones aflame, Dean looked over at Sam, his grin quickly turning to a horrified "oh."
"Sam, behind you!" Dean bellowed, rushing to his brother's aid. Sam turned around just in time to see the ghost raise his arms to throw Sam to the side. Sam prepared himself for the move, but was blindsided by Dean who barreled into him at top speed, pushing him out of the ghost's line of fire. Dean was then thrown into the air then slammed into a large headstone, his head cracking against the stone.
"DEAN!" cried Sam, hurrying to his brother. There was a large gash along Dean's hairline that was gushing blood, and Sam quickly bunched up his jacket and pressed it to the side of Dean's head to staunch the flow. In his peripheral vision, Sam saw John drop the burning matches onto the bones, which burst into flames. An unearthly scream pierced through the air, then silence.
John asked, "Are you boys okay?"
"Dad, it's Dean—he's hurt!"
John ran to his sons, dropped to his knees, and reached to inspect Dean's injuries. "It's okay, Sam, it's just a head wound. You know how they always look worse than they really are. He's probably got a concussion, but he'll be fine." John lightly slapped the side of Dean's face and said, "Come on, wake up, son. That's it. Wake up."
Dean groaned then opened his eyes blearily. "Wha'? Dad? Is the spirit gone?"
"Yeah, it's taken care of, Dean. Can you walk?"
Dean nodded, then Sam leapt to action, pulling his brother to his feet. John went to grab the shovels and the duffel bag as Sam helped Dean to the car.
Once back home, Dean's wound was easily cleaned and dressed. He seemed a bit disoriented and out of sorts, so Sam was charged with the duty of waking his brother up every couple hours to make sure the concussion didn't cause permanent damage. For the moment, Dean was resting comfortably on his bed, completely oblivious to the world around him.
They were currently staying in a small apartment building, and John was able to have a room separate from the boys. John had already gone to bed, so Sam was sitting in the dark on his bed, watching his brother sleep on the other side of the room.
Sam couldn't wrap his mind around what Dean had done. I should be the one lying on the bed with a concussion, not him. Why would he do something like that? And that isn't the first instance of that happening. Time and time again Dean stepped in front of Sam to face danger in place of his brother, and Sam was fed up with the idea.
These thoughts raced through Sam's brain so loudly that he barely registered Dean groan and open his eyes.
"S'my?" Jolting himself out of his reverie, Sam jumped off the bed.
Kneeling down by his brother's side, Sam asked, "How are you feeling? Do you need anything? Water, maybe? You thirsty?"
Dean put his hand up to halt Sam from going any further. "One question at a time, dude. But yeah, I could use some water." Sam handed him the glass on the bed table, and Dean sat up and took a few sips. After he finished, Dean leaned back against the headboard. "Thanks," he muttered.
Sam nodded and sat back down on his own bed. Knowing that Dean was watching him closely, Sam kept his eyes focused on his hands folded together on his legs.
Dean coughed and said, "So, uh… where's Dad?"
An awkward tension filled the room, and Sam, rather than stew in this mess for days, decided to just confront his brother with what was bothering him.
"Dean, um…" Sam broke off. He opened and closed his mouth as if to speak, mumbled a quiet "never mind."
That confronting thing never really worked out anyway.
But Dean wouldn't let it go. He sighed, and then said, "Spit it out, Sam. I know you got something to say. Save me the trouble from having to beat it out of you later, would ya?" Sam turned his head, but Dean reached out and smacked him on the leg, saying, "Come on, kiddo. Talk to me."
Sam huffed, then paused, wondering how best to phrase his concerns. "It's just… I mean… Dean, tonight, that spirit was going after me. And you jumped in front of me, knowing full well that it was going to cause you some damage. You keep doing stuff like that! Whenever I'm in any kind of danger, you come swooping in to save the day, and… I don't like seeing you hurt, man! Especially not on my account. It… I just don't like it," Sam finished, feeling rather foolish. During his speech, he kept his eyes glued firmly to his folded hands.
Sam heard Dean grunt, then swing his legs over the side of his bed, facing his brother face to face. Dean placed his hands determinedly on Sam's thighs, shaking them a little, and demanded, "Sam, look at me."
Sam reluctantly complied, raising his eyes a fraction to meet with his brothers through his brown fringe of hair. Dean's eyes were full of understanding, annoyance, and determination, the likes of which Sam had never before seen so strongly in Dean before.
Dean shook his head, muttered something about "little brothers" and "chick-flick moments" before he began, "Sam, listen closely, because I don't want have to say this again, you got me?" After receiving Sam's nod of assent, Dean continued, "I'm your big brother, Sam. I don't think you fully understand what that means; and that's fine, you don't have to. But it's my job to take care of you, ya know? Watch out for you, keep you from getting hurt. And I wouldn't have it any other way. When I saw that spirit coming after you, my senses went into hyper-drive, and all I could think of was getting to you quickly enough to push you out of the way. It's my job. And I like it. So next time some big nasty's gearing up to rip your face off, I'm gonna stop it. It's what I do." Sam gulped at hearing his brother's heart-felt words. He always knew he felt that way, but his brother's confession still left him reeling. His throat too closed up to speak, Sam let silence be his answer, trusting Dean to pick up on Sam's hidden meaning. Seeming satisfied with the response, Dean finished with, "Now, quit dwelling on it. Get some sleep; you look like shit."
Sam huffed a laugh of amusement at his brother's blunt honesty. "King of Tact, you are not. Besides, you ought to take a look in a mirror, Oh Concussed One."
Dean growled, then curled up under his sheets once more. Sam set the alarm on his clock to go off in another two hours. He was fairly certain that Dean was out of the clear, concussion wise, but Sam wanted to be sure.
As he reached to turn off the light between their beds, Sam whispered, "I do understand, Dean."
Dean turned his head to the side exasperatedly and rasped, "What?"
"I do understand what you mean, Dean. But it's not a 'big brother thing,' man. It's just a 'brother thing.' It's my job, too, you know."
The brothers looked at each other for a few moments, Dean searching his little brother's face. Then he nodded, a small smile of pride on his face.
"All right, now that's out of the way, could we end this little chick moment we got going on here? I'd like to get some sleep since I'm sure you'll be waking me up again in a couple hours."
Indignantly, Sam responded, "It's for your own good, Dean!"
Dean sluggishly waved his hand in Sam's direction, saying, "Yeah, yeah, whatever, bitch."
March, 2004. Palo Alto, California.
Sam lay cuddled on the couch with his girlfriend, Jessica, their legs entwined together as they varied between speaking lightly or just watching the night fall through the window. Vibrant shades of blazing red and orange burst across the sky as the sun fell below the horizon. Both Sam and Jess were mesmerized by the sunset, enthralled by the simple beauty of nature.
Jess broke the silence, whispering, "I never fully appreciated sunsets when I lived back home. They're so magical." Jess was from a small town in northern Indiana, a town prone to various weather disturbances such as heavy thunderstorms or the occasional blizzard that knocked the town off the map for a day or two.
As the sun dipped completely out of sight, the black of the night sky came in to view, broken by the countless stars that appeared. The night was perfect with not a cloud in sight.
Moments later, Jess chuckled lightly. "And to think, my parents are home worrying about the snowstorm that just rolled in."
Bemused, Sam said, "Snowstorm? But it's the middle of March!"
Jess tapped him lightly on the cheek and informed him, "It's the Mid-west, Sam. They get snow clear through April sometimes." She laughed again and shifted closer into Sam's side, burrowing under his strong arm. Fiddling with the buttons on Sam's shirt, she continued, "I remember one storm we had in April. It was right around my sister's birthday, so she was freaking out. The weather had been pretty mild for the past week, so a lot of my neighbors had put their snow blowers away. But not my dad! Nope, he kept his out and at the ready, just waiting for the one last storm he knew would pass through. Sure enough, the same night everyone put their blowers away, a storm came and dropped a foot of snow on the town. The next morning, you could hear people a block away grumbling about the snow, especially when they saw our already cleared driveway. My dad was a bare to live with that night; you'd think he'd single-handedly cured AIDS, he was so proud of himself."
Sam laughed. Jess always liked to tell Sam stories of her childhood. Sam thought a lot of that was to make up for the fact that Sam hardly ever told any. He didn't mind hearing the stories, either. It was refreshing to know that his sweet, innocent girlfriend did not share the darkness of his own past.
"So did your sister have snow on her birthday, then?"
Jess threw back her head and laughed loudly. "Yeah, Amy was pissed. She had this whole party planned at the park around the corner from our house, but the whole placed was buried under snow and ice, so instead we had to cram fifteen girls in our tiny house. It was a nightmare."
Stillness reigned once more over the quiet apartment building. Jess made a noise that sounded as if she wanted to speak, but stopped. Confused, Sam looked at her and observed, as she appeared to be battling with herself about something.
Amused, Sam asked, "What?"
Startled, Jess stared at Sam before she stuttered, "I – I – um…Well, I was just, you know, um…"
Having a feeling where this question was heading, if it ever got there, Sam interrupted and said, "Calm down, Jess. Just say it!"
"Right. Well, I was gonna ask if you ever had any winters like that. I know you moved around a lot, so…" She finished lamely. Sam understood why. Even though she seemed to pick up the slack on the story-swap most of the time, that didn't stop her from prying facts of Sam's mysterious childhood out of him. Usually, Sam was receptive and was able to water down a story so that it didn't include any of his family's hunting exploits. Last time, however, when Jess asked for more detail on his dad's work that kept them moving, Sam was cold and evasive, saying nothing more than, "He was a mechanic." So Jess' hesitance to ask Sam such a simple question was understandable, though that knowledge did nothing to make Sam feel any less guilty.
Eager to please her, Sam recalled, "There was this one night, when I was 8 or so, and we were staying at this motel in Maine. My dad was out on a, uh, a house call, so Dean and I had to stay in this place by ourselves. A blizzard hit that night, and the room was freezing. We sat together on this couch facing the window, kinda like you and I are now; shivering underneath the comforters and blankets we'd dragged over from the bed. I remember thinking about how pretty the snow looked underneath the streetlights, and how the trees always looked better when snow on top of the branches. Dean and I, we – we talked about a lot of stuff. I always asked questions, and that got on Dean's nerves most of the time, but something about that night… I don't know, it was easier to talk about stuff, I guess. We didn't have to worry about Dad coming in and over-hearing us, nobody was gonna come to the door… We were completely isolated. It was actually nice. I was sad when the storm ended." Sam cut off, lost in memories of that night, when he found out the truth about his mom and the terrifying realization that her death might have been his fault. Shivering slightly, Sam pulled Jess closer to him.
Noticing his distress, Jess whispered, "You miss him, don't you? Your brother?"
Sucking in a breath, Sam admitted, "Yeah. I do. Everyday."
"You should call him. I bet he'd like to hear from you."
Sam shook his head. "No, he and dad are fine without me. They don't want anything to do with me."
Jess bristled and replied, "I don't believe that for a minute. I've heard you talk about them before, Sam! You love them, and I'm positive they love you, too. You're all just too stubborn to do anything about it."
Sam opened his mouth to respond, but Jess continued, "I know that what your dad said hurt you, Sam. And for the life of me, I'll never understand what possessed him to give you such an ultimatum. But… one day, they'll understand. They might not approve of your decision now, but you know this is right, Sam. This is what you want. They'll realize that in time."
Sam released a shaky breath, smiled lightly, and bent down to kiss the top of Jess' head. He rested his head on hers, wordlessly trying to show his gratitude. Jess seemed to understand, and snuggled in to Sam's side once more.
The couple looked out at the stars, reveling in the comfortable silence.
December, 2005. Catasauqua, Pennsylvania
For the life of him, Sam could not shut off his brain and get to sleep.
He should be just like his brother, who zonked out hours ago, completely shut off from the troubles of the world around him. He didn't stay up nights on end, dwelling on the past. He didn't seem overly concerned about finding their dad and tracking down the creature that killed their mom and Jess. He didn't have demons cropping up and announcing that they knew about Jessica's death and informing him that she's currently burning in hell for no reason at all other than the fact that she was unfortunate enough to know him.
That night, he and Dean exorcised a demon whose sole mission was to bring down a plane, killing all on board in an attempt to clean up its mess. While the demon in question possessed the co-pilot, the words of the demon pierced through Sam's heart, the two-tone voice leaving him frightened and desperate.
"I know what happened to your girlfriend! She must have died screaming – even now, she's burning!"
Dean tried to reassure him, he really did. But even Sam could tell that Dean wasn't one hundred percent sure that what he said was the truth, either.
Without his brother by his side this last month, Sam would never have made it through in one piece. As much as Dean tries to brush past "chick-flick moments," he found ways to ease Sam's pain whenever he so much as saw a flicker of sadness in Sam's eyes. A pat on the back, an affectionate swat on the arm… His brother had been the firm grip on reality, keeping Sam grounded. Even the nightmares were dissipating after Dean got up night after night to calm Sam down, the mirror image of the brothers from countless times in their childhood.
Though there were still occasions when Sam and Dean find difficulty in connecting with each other, for the most part, things seemed normal. Sam willingly took back the mantle of "little brother," allowing himself to be protected by his big brother. For his part, Dean, though his excitement was dampened by the circumstances concerning their reunion, jumped back into his role with ease, on the lookout for anything aiming to take a swing at his brother, supernatural or otherwise.
This return to normalcy was just what Sam needed in order to heal the hole in his heart. If he was honest with himself, he knew that the whole time at Stanford didn't feel completely right without Dean by his side. And now, he could almost pretend he was okay.
Though he could do without the constant reminders of his loss. Thanks, plane demon. Really appreciated that one.
And after losing Jess and any shred of hope for a normal life, he lived in an almost constant fear that he would lose his brother, too. Every time Dean planted himself in front of his brother as a shield, Sam couldn't help but picture some gruesome, tragic way in which Sam's world could fully collapse. The fact that both his mother and Jessica were both killed (most likely because of him) made him even more terrified of losing Dean.
That fear, however, Sam tried hard to keep under wraps. It was enough that Dean was aware of Sam's grief over losing Jess. But for him to know that the very thought of Dean's death was enough to keep him enough at night, even after the pains of grief left him…
Then, something from his childhood sprang into his mind. When he was around twelve years old, they were visiting Pastor Jim in Minnesota. That was around the time when Sam's belligerent attitude had begun to take shape, and he was feeling rather like the black sheep in his family. Pastor Jim sat down with him, though, and told him about God, about how he is always there in times of trouble; Pastor Jim even taught him some prayers. Sam never thought much about what he'd said after they left, until that moment when the memory burst into his mind.
The idea seemed ludicrous. What would Dean say if he saw Sam? He'd have blackmail fodder for months. But the thought of any form of comfort, one that Dean couldn't even provide, was too appealing to pass up.
Sam sighed then closed his eyes, his hands discreetly clasped on his stomach. He began in hushed tones, "Uh.. God? I, um… Man, I really feel like an idiot right now... I'm not even sure you're real. I'd like to think you are, though… If you 're really out there, could you, um… watch out for Dean? I'll do my best to keep him safe, but… I haven't been very good at saving people lately. So if you could pitch in, that'd be great. With Dad, too. We have no idea where he is, but I'm pretty sure he wants it that way. So… keep him safe, too. And… could you tell J-Jessica I love her?" Feeling awkward, Sam mumbled out an "Amen" then sneaked a glance over to the next bed. Dean lay sprawled, mouth wide open in a deep sleep.
Relieved, Sam pulled the covers over his shoulders. For the first time since Jess' death, he fell asleep within minutes.
May, 2006. Saginaw, Michigan
Sam's thoughts consisted mainly of one string, saying, I'm not the only one.
Sam and Dean were once again in their hotel room, this time packing up their possessions and getting ready to put Saginaw behind them. All the while, Sam could not shake the events of their most recent hunt.
Max Miller admitted that his mother died in his nursery, that his dad saw her pinned to the ceiling, much like John had seen Mary in Sam's own nursery.
Max Miller also just happened to have had psychic powers, his of telekinesis.
Dean was wrong. Sam and Max, though their personalities were perhaps different, were still very alike with the things that mattered most.
They were freaks.
Sam's visions were getting completely out of control. They used to just be dreams paired with a minor headache. Now, they appeared in the middle of the day like a bulldozer, pushing his brain to the very edges of his skull.
And that's not to mention that apparently Sam was also telekinetic.
There was just entirely too much evidence to be able to deny his ongoing fear. Both Mom's and Jess' death had to have been because of him. Otherwise, it was just too much of a coincidence that both of them died, pinned to the ceiling over his bed. And now, with the knowledge that Max's mom in the same way, the evidence was irrefutable.
But why? Why did the demon come after him?
When Sam thought about Max and how he ended up, he couldn't help but wonder if that was how he would be, as well. While he couldn't possibly imagine killing Dean and John, maybe that fate was out of his control. Was it his destiny to kill his family?
These thoughts haunted him, took up every ounce of his being, until he couldn't help but bring them to Dean's attention. He needed his brother's help on this one. As much as he wanted to, he knew that if he really was to blame for their mother's death, he didn't really deserve to keep that knowledge to himself.
As he put one of their bags in the trunk, Sam steeled himself for the inevitable. Sam walked back into their hotel room saying, "Dean, I've been thinking…"
November, 2006. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Sam and Dean had been staying at Bobby's for days now, and they had yet to exchange more than a few words between one another. Sam felt it best to allow Dean to grieve their father on his own rather than force his company on his brother. Dean was cold to Sam and Bobby, barely eating, and spending all hours of the day working outside on the Impala. Sam was not doing much better, but he kept himself busy looking through Bobby's extensive library and trying to make sense of the notes John left behind. All that alone time left plenty of opportunity for Sam to mull things over.
This particular day found Sam brushing the dust off yet another one of the gigantic tomes Bobby had collected. Sam's mind however was elsewhere. He couldn't help but be reminded of the days of his youth when the three Winchesters would stay at "Uncle Bobby's" house, and Sam would oftentimes find John mimicking Sam's current position; going through Bobby's books, searching in vain for any scrap of information on the yellow-eyed demon.
Another death in the family to add to the running tally. Sam had his suspicions that, despite the fact that John wasn't sliced open and pinned to the ceiling at the time of his death, Yellow-Eyes had something to do with John's demise. Most likely, John had made some kind of deal in order to save Dean. Dean himself had probably come to the same conclusion and would inevitably blame himself for John's death, but Sam felt the blame really lay with him. Why else would the demon have any interest in their family if not for Sam's existence?
Not only that, but Sam felt that he should have been more aware of his dad's actions in that hospital. After their big blowout after Sam received the supplies for John, Sam went of in his own world, trying to help Dean with the Reaper. Logically, he knew that there was little he could have done. If John wanted to sneak off on his own, there was nothing that could have stopped him. Nevertheless, the very fact that Sam was there when this all went down meant that he should have at least tried. For Pete's sake, Bobby told him that those supplies were for summoning, but Sam got them anyway in the hope that John would wait until Dean was healed. And look what that hope got them… A dead father, a mourning, broken, big brother, and a cursed, murdering little brother.
A sick, perverse part of Sam almost wished that he had followed through with John's order to shoot him in the heart back at the cabin. Sure, his death would have been Sam's fault in a more direct way, but at least the demon would have been killed as a result, not to mention Dean wouldn't be able to blame himself for their father's death. The blame would lie solely, and rightfully, on Sam's shoulders alone. But instead, Sam listened to and obeyed his brother's gurgling pleas, and John died anyway.
My plans for you, Sammy. You, and all the children like you. Sam shivered, then brushed past that torturous train of thought.
The last time he ever spoke with his father, all Sam did was jump down his throat. He would have continued the argument, much in the same fashion as the myriad of times in their past, but John quelled the conversation, asking Sam to get him some coffee and leave him enough time to leave Dean with his last words. Rather than leave Sam with a comforting final memory, John departed that blessing to his oldest, his best and brightest soldier, an action Sam could do nothing to refute.
Because no matter what he did, Sam would never get it right. All his life, he'd been the screw-up. John spent years trying to fix that, but it was an impossible task. Sam was doomed for failure. Either he got John killed in the cabin or in the hospital, the end result is the same. John could join the ranks with Mary and Jess. It was only a matter of time before Dean died because of him, too.
Gripping the dusty book with white-knuckles fingers, Sam resolved himself to look out for his brother even more than before. He would be damned if he lost him, too. Jessica's death nearly destroyed him, their father's tore him apart, but if he lost Dean… There'd be nothing left to mutilate. He'd come so close to losing him in that damn hospital…
And he needed to make it up to his dad, to fix all the wrongs caused by their constant butting heads. He owed it to his father to dedicate himself to the hunt, by carrying on his life's work. The thought of going back to Stanford didn't seem quite so appealing anymore… He should never have left in the first place. Yet another mistake for him to rectify... And he'd start by connecting to Dean again.
Before Sam went out to track down his brother, he recalled the many times he'd prayed for Dean and John's safety over the last few months, and he wondered, Where is God in all this?
May, 2007. Wyoming.
Dean's going to hell. He sold his soul for me, and now he's going to hell.
The last couple of days were completely overwhelming, the events becoming jumbled and confused in Sam's head as he tried to make sense of it all.
Only hours ago, Dean and Sam had succeeded in finishing the nearly 24-year battle against Yellow-Eyes, the demon that killed their mother, Sam's beloved Jessica, and their father.
Though the brothers should have been celebrating their triumph over evil, the happiness was sorely dampened by the events preceding their victory.
Sam knew that he had seen and done too much for him to quickly move past. His time spent in Cold Oak would haunt him for months to come. Ava... That sweet girl from Peoria who had saved him from being killed at Gordon's hands, the one with the loving fiancé back home, the one Sam had spent months searching for, hoping that there was still a chance that she was still alive… She had learned to harness her powers and call upon paranormal entities to pick off her competition one by one. The yellow-eyed demon was searching for a weapon, a psychic child to lead his army, and Ava delivered…
That was Sam's destiny. Even Jake turned, and Sam had put so much faith into him as an ally…
Jake had killed him. Stabbed him in the back.
But Sam had returned the favor, shooting him full of bullets in front of the very gates to hell. Sam was the reigning champion of the psychic freaks.
Dozens and dozens of psychic children must have been sent through Cold Oak, all of whom had received a not-so-pleasant visit from the yellow-eyed demon on their six-month birthday. Not all of them were unfortunate enough to have lost their mother as a result of it – Sam was one of the few whose mother had simply "gotten in the way."
The worst part of all this was the discovery of how he received his powers. The whole time, Sam had been under the delusion that he was born with such abilities, that the demon was after his power. But that theory was blown clear out of the war and replaced with a far more terrifying truth. The demon had come to give him power.
Sam had demon blood in him, pumping through his veins and infecting the rest of his body with the demonic disease. He wasn't even fully human.
How could he possibly tell Dean that the man he thought was his little brother was actually some demonic freak of nature?
John must have known. Suddenly, his father's secret held new meaning, one that froze Sam's insides. He said I had to save you, and if I didn't, I'd have to kill you. John knew that the demon kids were destined for this dark fate, that their purpose in life was to kill each other to reach the top tier and stand alongside Yellow-Eyes as he waged war on all humanity. How long had he known?
But Sam didn't have time to waste over his own problems. Not with Dean's lovely countdown to hell.
Dean, the selfish, two-faced, aggravating, infuriating, amazing, big brother he was, sold his goddamn soul to bring Sam back to life.
I wonder if he would have made the deal if he knew I had the blood of the yellow-eyed demon in me?
Sam couldn't help but be pissed at his brother. While he could never understand the depth of his brother's pain when he died, the fact remained – Dean had gone and done exactly what John himself had done. Dean readily offered up his own soul to bring Sam back. The fact that Dean was on the fast track to hell all because of his tainted self was eating Sam alive.
He meant what he said to Dean before with every fiber of his being. He would find a way out of this deal. Whatever it took, Sam would make sure that Dean would never suffer the pains of hell on his account. He wasn't worth it.
He wasn't worth it, damnit!
All his life, Dean took point; he called the shots, he killed the baddies, and he risked life and limb to keep his brother safe. Hardly a thought was spared on his own well being but rather focused everything he had on protecting his little brother.
Dean proved his absolute love and devotion for his little brother by sacrificing the most intimate possession he had – his very own soul. Because of that, Sam would not rest until he was sure that Dean was safe. No longer would he sit on the sidelines while Dean fought his battles for him.
Dean deserved so much more than Sam could ever offer. Dean was the one who could do some good in the world, who could make a difference. Sam was forevermore a screw-up, a mistake, a curse… If Dean ever went out, he would go down with his head held high, fighting off as many supernatural ghosts and monsters as possible, not lay down like some pathetic dog, giving up his right to live for a demonic little brother.
Sam had to save Dean. He would fight for his brother's salvation with his last breath if he had to. With a previously unknown fervor, Sam delved into his research, the thought of losing his brother firmly in the front of his mind. His terror would be his motivation, his reason to exist.
Demon-blood infected, or no, Sam's purpose was clear.
I don't care what it takes, I'm gonna get you out of this.
And not for the first time, Sam prayed for help.
June, 2008. Pontiac, Illinois.
In a no-name bar off a no-name dirt road sat Sam Winchester nursing his fifth glass of Jack Daniels. On either side of him sat burly biker dudes, growling and snarling at each other as they played pool and got trashed. Skanky women strolled among them, made comely remarks, used their hands in flirtatious manners, and swayed their hips far more than necessary. More than once, some woman wearing entirely too much lipstick and not enough blouse offered to buy Sam a drink, but his stone cold glare in the opposite direction quickly gave them the hint that they would have better luck elsewhere.
Sam downed the last of the glass and grunted in the way of the bartender, signaling his desire for another. Moments later, another glass of the amber liquid was placed before him. He raised the glass to his lips and swallowed half the glass.
Over the past week, Sam had become quite a regular in this bar. From open to close, Sam sat on the same barstool, sometimes drinking, other times just staring at the wall. He never said anything apart from his initial grunt "whiskey" his first night.
Out of all the bars that Sam had been to in his lifetime, he appreciated this one the most. The bartender was not one to make small talk, a fact for which Sam, had he been fully aware of his surroundings, would have thanked the man. Not even when Sam clearly had consumed enough did the man tell Sam to lay off. He simply nodded as Sam paid his tab and stumbled out the door and into the Impala, where he would fall into an alcohol-induced slumber until the next morning.
Currently his sixth night in the bar, Sam was doing his very best to block out the voices in his head, the constant mantra of You failed, You failed, You got him killed, He's in hell because you failed, You failed…
Shaking his head morosely as if to shake the thoughts from his skull, Sam tipped the glass into his mouth, draining the last of the drink with one more swallow. Raising his hand for yet another, the bartender nodded his assent and placed the glass in front of him.
At that moment, Sam's phone buzzed silently in his pocket. He allowed himself a brief thrill, thinking Maybe it's Dean! before swiftly quelling that grain of hope. Without bothering to look at the screen, Sam pulled the phone out and pressed "Ignore."
Bobby had been calling Sam twice a day ever since he left the salvage yard. The two men had quickly buried Dean's body under Sam's insistence. Sam had followed Bobby to South Dakota, stayed with him for a night before realizing his place was with his brother. In the night, Sam snuck out of Bobby's house and was on his way back to Pontiac to be with Dean.
After camping out alongside the field where Dean's body lay, Sam soon found a bar a mile down the road, which was where Sam spent the majority of his time. Part of him wanted desperately to answer Bobby's call and hear the soothing voice of his surrogate father, but he denied himself that comfort. He was, after all, the reason Dean was dead, the reason why their whole family was plunged into tragedy, pain, and death. He deserved nothing more than to live out the rest of his life, alone and desperate, with a hole in him so large, it was destroying him from the inside out.
Afraid of where his thoughts were leading him, Sam gulped down his drink, praying for the alcohol to take hold.
I don't want to die. I don't want to go to hell.
We'll find a way to save you.
Remember what Dad taught you… Remember what I taught you…
I'm not gonna let you go to hell!
You're my brother, and I'd die for you…
I don't care what it takes.
Guess I gotta save your ass for a change.
So you can save him? No, but you can.
You're my big brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you.
I had to look out for you; that's my job!
You sacrifice everything for me; don't you think I'd do the same for you?
Your brother is carrying a bomb inside him, and we'd be stupid not to use it!
Sam growled and pressed his fists into his temples. "Shut up… Shut up…"
But the voices kept coming, rolling over each other and sliding into every crevice of his brain. Sam jumped up, his stool flying backwards in his haste. He reached behind the bar and grabbed a nearly full bottle of whiskey, threw money down on the counter, and hurried out of the bar.
He tripped on his feet and nearly face-planted into the ground. Once he righted himself, he reached the Impala. Sam slid behind the wheel and took a long pull from the bottle, enjoying the burn as it cascaded down his throat.
Sam started up the car and swerved down the road towards that desolate field where his brother's body decomposed in the cold, hard earth. Not paying attention to where he parked the car, he barely registered the scraping sounds of rock on steel as he drove over the curb. Sam opened the door and slid out of the car. Taking a moment to orient himself, he made his way to the wooden cross.
His breath hitched in his chest, a sob working its way out of his throat. He raised the bottle of whiskey to his lips once again, chugging the alcohol in an effort to dull the pain.
Sam dropped to his knees, unable to support his own weight. He stared at the cross and snorted at the irony.
Feeling the rage build inside him, Sam looked into the heavens and bellowed, "What did he ever do to deserve this? Huh, God? Why didn't you let me save him? He doesn't… he doesn't deserve to be in hell!" Growling, Sam pushed himself to his feet once more, taking another pull from the bottle.
"Dean… all he ever did was save people. All he ever did was save me. He shouldn't have… He should have let me rot. But he didn't… He brought me back. And why? So I could be alone? So I could live with this guilt? I've killed EVERYONE. Mom, Dad, Jess, and now Dean… Everyone…
"Dean doesn't want me to use my powers. Ruby said I could have saved him… That day, she said if I had worked on it, I could have saved him. But Dean didn't let me… Didn't want me to sacrifice myself like he and Dad did.
"I promised him! I swore I would save him, and I failed…
"That's all I ever do."
Sam took another swallow of the bottle, already almost halfway drained. In his clouded mind, the slurring of his words didn't even register.
He whispered, "All I ever do…"
His gaze turned to the pathetic wooden cross marking Dean's grave, and muttered, "God isn't here. He doesn't care. If he cared, you wouldn't be dead. You'd be here, and I'd be dead."
Sam slumped to the ground, and the bottle fell out of his hands. His eyes began to burn, a lump in his throat making it hard to breathe. Unable to hold back his emotions, he let the alcohol take over, tears spilling out of his eyes amidst his guttural cries.
"I… I'm sorry, Dean… I could have saved you… Could have saved you…"
He knew that if he had listened to Ruby, if he had pushed Dean's warnings and gone with his gut instinct, his brother would still be alive.
Dean's voice wormed it's way into Sam's head. Don't you see a pattern here? Dad's deal, my deal, now this? Every time one of us is up the creek, the other is begging to sell their soul... Sammy, all I'm saying is you're my weak spot. You are; and I'm yours. Bad guys know it, too.
"No. No, Dean… I don't care what you say… I won't let you stay down there. I won't. I won't."
Swearing oaths to himself, Sam once again pulled himself to his feet, stooped down to grab the nearly empty bottle of whiskey and stumbled to the Impala.
"I won't." Sam opened the glove box and grabbed the map Dean had picked up on his last day alive. Blinking tears from his eyes, Sam perused the map, frantically looking for the answer.
Sure enough, about two miles down the road, lay his solution.
He would do what Dean and his father had taught him. John's sacrifice for Dean, and the fact that he gave Dean the last goodbye, proved that Dean's life was more valuable than Sam's. But Dean ruined that by bringing his demon-tainted little brother back from his rightful place in hell. By all that was good and right in this godforsaken world, Sam would bring his brother back.
Sam would fix Dean's mistake.
With that thought in mind, Sam barreled off towards the crossroads.
June, 2008. Pontiac, Illinois.
Sam cleaned the guns mechanically, his mind miles away. Surrounding him were empty bottles, shotgun shells, and various weeds that had grown through the slats of the cabin. The smell of sickness and decay filtered through his nostrils and was almost a tangible entity in the room. Silence reigned supreme over the room save for the occasional scrape or click as Sam moved from one weapon to the next.
Ruby was back.
She claimed that Lillith had sent her to kill him, but at the first opportunity, she killed her demon buddy and ran off with Sam in the Impala. Wasn't long before Sam sent her packing, though. After his unsuccessful meeting with the crossroads demon, Sam wasn't feeling overly chatty. And when she said that she didn't know of anything powerful enough to bring Dean back, which was all Sam needed to hear. That was days ago, however; enough time for Sam to regret his decision.
Sam had exhausted all other options. No matter where Sam looked, despite how many books he searched through, professors he interrogated, spells he cast… there was no way to rescue Dean.
His promises to his brother sounded emptier than ever before.
Looking back on his life, Sam felt he could better understand his father's burning desire to kill Azazel. He thought he'd understood after Jess died; and he had, to a certain extent. He knew the gut-wrenching despair and how it served as a motivator. How the promise of revenge could consume one's entire being…
But his past experiences paled in comparison to how he felt now.
Sam desired nothing more than to find Lillith and peel the skin off her flesh, piece by piece, and to hear her scream for mercy. He wanted to look her in the eyes as he killed her, to revel in his victory. He wanted to tear her limb from limb and burn the pieces.
The past few days of solitude allowed Sam to construct quite a few imaginative and violent ways in which Lillith would meet her end, but he knew, deep down, that none of them would succeed.
Lillith was just too powerful. Never before had Sam faced up against an opponent as formidable as Azazel. He knew that the traditional tactics and exorcisms would be completely useless.
What he needed was a weapon. He needed something foolproof. That puny knife wouldn't do much good; the likelihood of it getting knocked out of his hands was too great a risk.
What Sam needed was power.
He knew what Dean would say. He would tell Sam that what he was doing was foolish, stupid, irresponsible, and would only lead to a worse fate. He would tell Sam to suck it up and find some other way to destroy Lillith.
But Dean wasn't there, and that was Sam's fault.
Sam couldn't remember a time when he or his family wasn't consumed with a need for revenge. John's obsession to find Yellow-Eyes led him to take risks, ones that could have cost him his own life or the life of his sons. And he took them anyway. He taught his boys to be tough, to look out for each other, to defend each other, and to kill any son of a bitch who tried to stop them.
To that end, Sam failed. Time and time again.
But Dean would understand… He had to….
There was nothing else for Sam to care about on this Earth other than to see Lillith destroyed.
He caused the deaths of everyone he ever loved. Anyone he touched ended up hurt or killed as a result, and the guilt was more than Sam could bear.
His mother died because she entered Sam's room at the wrong time.
Jessica died because Sam dared to think he deserved a normal life.
John died because Sam was too weak to obey his orders.
Dean died because Sam turned his back on Jake.
How many more would die at his hands? Whose death would he bring about next? Bobby's? Ellen's?
Sam had the power inside him to achieve his goal. He could feel it pumping through is veins. It was pure evil running through his body, but he could harness that power. He could use it for good, to save anyone else from being hurt at his hands. This is why you allowed that demon to destroy my life, right, God? To use it for good? To save people?
Can I be saved, too?
Dean would understand… wouldn't he?
A memory revived itself in Sam's mind; the voice of Sam's long-lost girlfriend.
One day, they'll understand. They might not approve of your decision now, but you know this is right, Sam. This is what you want. They'll realize that in time.
Later that day, when Ruby knocked on his door and pleaded her case, Sam already had his answer.
He would learn what he could from Ruby and get his revenge on Lillith.
I'm sorry, Dean. But I'm doing it for you.
June, 2008. Pontiac, Illinois.
Ruby slid the blade across her wrist. Blood trickled down her arm and dripped off the tips of her fingers.
"It's okay, Sam. It'll make you stronger."
Sam stared at Ruby, watching the progress of the crimson liquid as it paved a trail down her arm. He took a deep breath and wondered, not for the first time, if he was doing the right thing.
Outright exorcisms weren't getting the job done. Sam wasn't able to tap into enough of his own power to drive the demons out of their bodies and back into hell, so Ruby had come up with a solution.
The idea repulsed him to no end. He couldn't even imagine what Dean would say to him.
I told you, Sam! She's bad news! She's screwing you over, and you're too blind to see it! End this while you still can, Sam. Send her ass back to hell where she belongs!
But Sam couldn't do it. Ruby promised that he would get his revenge.
"Think of your brother, Sam. Lillith killed him. This can kill her."
She gave him hope.
With a small nod, Sam sighed, then stepped forward. As Sam drank in his first mouthful of Ruby's blood, he sold his soul.
Sam, remember what Dad taught you, okay? And remember what I taught you.