A/N: This was written for my friend cineophilia, who wondered about the reference concerning Sam doing magic tricks when he was 13:

"Oh right I forgot, you were actually into this stuff, weren't you? You had like a deck of cards, and a wand..."

"Dude, I was thirteen. It was a phase."

I also wondered why Dean hates witches so much.

"Pick a card."

Dean slowly moved his glare from the television set, which he had been watching moments before, to the little brother standing patiently beside the sofa. When he didn't move, Sam merely nudged the spread out cards towards him again. "C'mon, pick a card."

"Then will you leave me alone?" Dean asked. Sam pursed his lips in annoyance. Dean pursed his right back. "I mean it; you've been on this for hours now."

"If you'd just pick a card, then maybe I wouldn't," Sam countered. Dean narrowed his gaze, but Sam only thrust the fan of cards even closer to Dean. "I mean it!"

"Pushy little magician wanna-be," Dean muttered, but randomly grabbed a card and tugged hard. Two more cards almost came with it, but both were quickly pushed back into the deck by an annoyed but still satisfied Sam, who began to move the cards around. Dean merely waited, card in his hand.

A few days ago, when Sam had finished up school and had tried to find something to do, they'd let him loose in the library for a few hours. Geek heaven, and Dean and Dad both figured it'd give him something to do.

Unfortunately, it did.

Dean sent a baleful glare at the two innocent looking books on the counter. One said in cheerful, bright letters, CARD TRICKS FOR EVERYONE! while the other declared, You Can Be a Magician, Too. Sam had pulled them out, and generally, the kid was good about giving them back. Dean was all for the idea of keeping the books that he liked, but Sam was a stickler, always giving them back before they left town.

The books had been picked up two towns ago. Sam wasn't giving them back.

"Uh, hello?"

Dean shut his eyes tight before turning back to Sam. Sam was holding the deck, now closed, back at him again. Parted somewhere down the middle of the cards, from the look of it. "And?" Dean asked back.

"Put your card back on the deck," Sam said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Dean rolled his eyes but set the card on top of the pile Sam had offered. "Now, remember it," Sam said, and his attempt to make his voice low and mysterious was enough to make Dean snort.

Two seconds before the cards were brought together, Dean glanced back up at Sam. "Wait, what do you mean remember it?"

Sam froze, before he looked at Dean. "Remember it as in, I'm going to magically pick what card you had from the deck so you better know it was yours for this to work."

Oops. "You wanted me to look at it?" Dean said. Sam stared in stunned horror, then slowly extended the deck back out to Dean.

"Pick your card back up and look at it. Now."

Grumbling, Dean grabbed the card and actually looked at it this time. The Jack of Spades looked as bored as Dean was. "Now put it back," Sam said. Dean sighed and tossed the card back on the deck. Sam eagerly brought both halves of the deck together and began moving cards around. Dean let his attention drift back to the television and glared when he realized he'd missed his favorite fight scene from the movie. No point watching it now. Slowly Dean turned his glare back towards Sam so he could fully appreciate his older brother's wrath.

Finally Sam splayed the cards and began "magically" searching for Dean's. He frowned and began moving through the cards, looking all around, thumbing through each one. "Abracadabra left you, Houdini?" Dean couldn't help but ask, smirking.

Sam pursed his lips, going through them all again. Finally he lifted his gaze to Dean. "You screwed it up," he said, his voice low and not for magician imitation purposes.

Dean blinked, jaw dropping. "I screwed it up? How the hell could I screw it up? I'm not the one doing the magic here!"

"You put the card in wrong!" Sam insisted. "You put it in face up, didn't you?"

"The hell difference does it make?" Dean asked, perplexed.

"All the difference!" Sam scowled, pulled the cards back into a single deck, then stormed off to his books. "Let me find one you can't screw up."

"You're welcome!" Dean shouted after him, then rolled his eyes. Nice thanks he got for playing along with the dumb kid's illusions. Real magic wasn't card tricks: it was dangerous. Like the witch Dad was hunting now. She wasn't doing card tricks, nor was she adhering to the Wiccan rules.

No, this was black magic. Magic summoned from Hell, magic that had killed three people in town already.

The door knob rustled and both Sam and Dean tensed, with Dean already rising in case it wasn't Dad. Dad wasn't due back for another couple of hours or so, and Sam looked poised to run from his spot at the table.

Dad walked through the door a moment later, and Dean let himself relax. "Thought you were gonna be gone for awhile," Sam said, the question still heard in the statement.

"Ran into another victim that had stopped up traffic," Dad replied shortly. "And believe me when I say you don't want to ask further." Even as Dean winced he could see his little brother paling. Apparently his brother was making up enough visuals to satisfy his inner curiosity, and that pushed Dean off the sofa.

Sam's fingers were sliding restlessly over the cards, head obviously still wrapped up in whatever thought he'd come up with. When Dean's hand came to rest on his shoulder, though, he stopped his movements and glanced up. "Dad'll get her," Dean said quietly. "Promise."

"I'm not even sure it's a her anymore," Dad said, sinking into the chair opposite of Sam.

"What do you mean?"

"Magic this black, this powerful?" Dad shook his head, looking disgusted. "It changes you. Leaves you less and less human each time." He did finally glance up, and his face softened when he looked at Sam. "We'll get her," he said. "I promise, Sam."

Sam managed a nod, and Dean could practically see his little brother trying to calm himself down. Trying not to worry like he constantly did now, and Dean still hated a little part of himself for being the one to tell Sam. He'd known that eventually, Sam would know. Sam would have to find out. But Dean was the one who was supposed to keep the kid safe, and instead he'd been the one-

"No point heading out to get the amulet now," Dad said, and Dean pulled himself out of his thoughts. "She only needs one more victim to finish her spell. Tomorrow we'll hit the school, keep an eye on the place."

Right. Specific victims. Last one was supposed to be young to counter the first victim, the old. God but Dean hated it when kids got involved.

From the look on their dad's face, he wasn't enjoying it any more than Dean or Sam was. "Make sure you both get a good night's sleep tonight; you're both coming along," Dad said. He pinched the bridge of his nose, and he looked so much older for a minute that Dean wished he'd been there for the last victim. Help share the grief, the load. But there wasn't anything he could do except stand and try to be a silent support.

Sam had yet to master the technique of the silent support. Still, when he splayed his deck of cards out in front of Dad and said, "Pick a card," Dad actually managed a small grin.

And when Dean stopped being silent long enough to groan, Dad's grin grew a little more.

The ceiling wasn't giving answers. It generally didn't, but John figured that night it couldn't hurt.

He shut his eyes and pressed the heels of his palms into them for good measure. The only thing he could see, still after all these hours, was the street, the stopped cars, the horrified faces.

The blood. And god knew he'd seen a lot of blood in his time, but he honestly didn't think he'd ever seen so much of it before. And certainly not from a single person. He'd missed the last three crime scenes, so he'd only seen the bodies afterwards. None of the blood.

The thought that she, it, would choose someone young to do it to in the future made something twist in his chest. He'd be more concerned for his own young one, except there was a not-so-young-anymore one that wouldn't let the witch anywhere near his brother. And that was only if it got past John first.

One glance at the clock made John waiver between attempting sleep again or getting up, but the lure of coffee finally pushed him to sitting. There were just some nights he didn't get sleep. As long as the boys did, though, he was okay. Technically, they didn't need to sleep: they could sleep tomorrow in the car while they watched the school, but the main reason John was bringing them along was to watch them. With the witch still out there, John wasn't taking any chances.

Besides, it'd give Sam more opportunities to play his card tricks on his brother. He pushed himself up and couldn't help the small smile at Sam's latest hobby. It was keeping him busy at least, something not always easy in the summer months. It was also keeping Dean busy, which his oldest probably wasn't viewing as a good thing.

He stepped out into the hall and the sudden sound of quiet tapping made him pause. Probably a branch, but John had learned never to be too careful. He moved around the side of the hallway, closer to the room the boys shared. Rental had only been two bedrooms, not three, but the boys hadn't minded. Listening closer now, the tapping was too rhythmic to be a tree branch. No, someone was causing the tapping.

He entered their room cautiously, but all he saw were two sleeping boys. Well, one sleeping boy: Dean was already waking up. "Dad?" he whispered, voice sleep-rough. "S'matter?"

"I don't know," John said honestly. Dean shook himself awake at that and slid from bed. He only wobbled once due to sleep weary limbs, and they headed out to the living room where the front door was. A quick stop was made behind the sofa, where several various weapons were stashed. The tapping kept going, and he knew now that Dean heard it, too. His oldest was tense, straining to hear where it was coming from. John scanned the windows but couldn't see anything.

He didn't need to, though. He had a hunch, and a strong one, that he knew exactly who had somehow trailed him and found him. He didn't like that he'd been that careless along the way – maybe the victim today had brought his guard down – but he'd be damned if that thing was getting inside.

A hand on Dean's shoulder caught his attention. 'Watch' he mouthed, and Dean merely nodded once. John locked his jaw and set off for the door. He had Dean behind him for backup, and more importantly, he had Dean between him and Sam. Gun locked and loaded, John made the last careful steps towards the door.

Even before he was within reaching distance the door flew open and sent him tumbling back towards the sofa. "Dad!" Dean shouted, and then the dull thud of something heavy filled his ears. He scrambled to push himself up and clear his vision.

The witch stood in the doorway, looking younger than her photo had shown her in the employee list of the local grocery store. Her hair wasn't starting to gray anymore, and her face showed a woman of her early thirties. Not a fifty year old.

When she smiled, though, the newfound youth slid into a hideous grin. "Hunter," she greeted. "Two hunters. I should've guessed."

John moved for his gun which had flown from his hands, and it was whisked away before he could grab it. "It's impolite," the witch continued. "Shooting a guest before you've even invited them in."

"No one invited you, bitch," Dean growled from somewhere behind John, and a quick glance back found his son piled in a heap near the wall. He'd been the heavy thud, then, and it only made John see red.

The witch snarled and stepped inside, the door slamming behind her. "You should have more manners than that," she said. It said, John tried to remind himself, but it was harder seeing a woman and calling her an it even when, technically, she was.

But she was moving fast towards them, and John set the pronoun issue aside and went for Dean's gun even as Dean did. Whichever one got it first would take the shot, but she was running now and the gun went flying to who knew where, and John wasn't going to get to it in time-

A shriek from the witch made them all stop, and she tumbled to the ground. A small plastic wand rolled across the floor from where she'd stepped and slid on it, and John's heart leaped in his throat.


Sam was staring at the witch, eyes wide. The witch began to smile her horrible smile again and quickly rose. "Hunters three," she crowed. "You're going to look sweet crushed beneath me," and one step towards him was all it took.

"Sammy!" Dean shouted but Sam was already moving, running fast for the closet the opposite way from their room. The witch gave chase and Dean shoved himself up fast, and John tried to search for the gun. The door slammed shut behind Sam, and John already knew if he didn't get the gun, Sam would be victim number five, and he would not let that happen. Not to his baby boy.

Dean grabbed a hold of the witch when she was mere moments away from opening the closet door, and despite her best attempts to fling him away, Dean stayed on her. "You stay away from my little brother, you hag," he snapped. "I swear to god, if you even touch him I'll-"

The rest of his words were cut off when she finally sent him flying against the sofa near John. He looked dazed, and it would only be temporary, but it was enough. Her hand was on the doorknob and the gun was still too far away and the door swung open and-

No Sam. Everyone froze again, staring in surprise. The witch stepped inside and glanced around, her fists tightening when Sam didn't appear. It was a tiny closet, John thought wildly, tiniest one he'd seen in a long time. A few shelves, nothing too deep. No vents, nothing.

Where the hell was Sam?

The witch shrieked in fury and slammed the door viciously. Then she spun back around towards Dean, but John finally wrapped his fingers around one of the guns, turned, and fired. The bullet hit right in the heart, and she went down, fury still on her face. For a long moment the room was silent.

Then Dean was shoving himself up and racing for the closet. "Sammy!" he yelled before he even opened the door, and he yanked the door open. "Samm-"

He stopped and blinked, and John couldn't help but stare, because Sam was right there. Standing in front of the shelves, looking scared as hell, but he was right there. "She dead?" he asked, his voice nearly a whisper.

Dean grabbed him out of the closet and pulled him close, and John let the gun pull his arm to the floor. God. Too close a call. Way too close. Sam could've gotten killed, could've gotten hurt, and the memories of a burning cabin in the cold night only made him shudder.

"How the hell did you do that?"

John opened eyes he didn't remember closing and glanced up. Dean was staring at Sam incredulously, and Sam looked confused. Then he glanced over at John, and John gave him a small, reassuring smile. His baby boy was fine. They'd all be fine.

Sam turned back to Dean then, allowing a small smile of his own. "A magician never reveals his secrets," he said, and John chuckled when Dean immediately tried to pinch his brother. He'd deal with the witch in a little bit, get the boys off to bed. Leave the town in the morning.

He highly doubted that Dean would have any trouble with Sam keeping the magic books anymore, though.