This was written for Mikiya, here is her prompt:

Set anywhere between "Shadows" and "Dead Man's Blood" both Sam and John get kidnapped by monster of the week (maybe as a part of a bigger "thing" where more than two hostages (Sam/John) are involved?), Hurt!Sam very much appreciated but the kidnappers don't know they are related and they decide to keep it a secret so that they cannot be used against each other. (At least at the beginning of everything.) So basically I want some Sam and John in action with some hurt and comfort thrown in... Bonus if they make it out of the mess on their own but I have nothing against Dean to come rushing as knight in shining armor...

Here is my humble interpretation, including most, but sorry to say not all elements. Although it isn't a story about Christmas, I still thought the title was appropriate.

Disclaimer: The Winchesters and everything Supernatural don't belong to me; I'm just playing with them. Spoilers for Pre-Season and Season 1 up to "Shadows"

A Winchester Miracle

John Winchester was a man of action, he liked to be in control and even if he didn't know what to do, he usually took the initiative and rather did something than nothing at all. So the situation he found himself in now, was not at all to his liking. By all rights, he shouldn't even have been here in the first place. He had been on his way to Louisiana to follow up on a demon sighting.

After meeting up with his boys in Chicago two week ago, everything had pointed south. Strange weather pattern, reports of peaceful people becoming violent and dropping dead after they completed their gruesome deeds, having clouds of black surround them and an unmistakable odor of sulfur penetrating their clothes and skin. All this left no doubt that he was on the right trail and nothing could keep him from following the tracks.

That was until he crossed the state line into Mississippi and received a call from Pastor Jim about people disappearing in a rural area not to far off hi route. Only because it was the priest, who asked, did he reluctantly agree to check into it.

It turned out that all of the missing men were between the ages of twenty and fifty-five. Only one, a man in his mid forties had ever been found. It looked like he had been severely beaten before he died. There had been a brand on the middle of his forehead, which had been applied post-mortem, as per the coroners report. It resembled a circle with the letters 'FdD' in it, something that no one around the area had ever seen before. It also seemed strange that out of ten men disappearing in the last six years, he was the only one ever to be found.

For a while John had been stumped, until he had finally found some old records in the basement of the town hall. Obviously several of the area farms had once belonged to the same owner, a man by the name of François Durant, who had been killed by a few of his slaves in 1845. His plantation had been the largest around, but neither of the other area landowners had kept in close contact with him. Owning slaves had been normal at that time and they weren't seen as anything other than property. Yet people around here took pride in what they owned and they took care of it. Francois hadn't been an exception, only to him slaves weren't property; he saw them as something to be used and thrown out when it was worn out. So he raped the girls as soon as they were old enough to bear children, if they survived long enough to reach that age. Boys and men were castrated and most of the male children were lucky, if they reached the age of eight. Anyone older had usually been acquired as an adult and the average life expectancy for them was two years after they arrived. After death, they got branded in the middle of the forehead with the insignia of the plantation Fierté de Durant and burned in front of all the other slaves without any funeral rituals being performed.

When John looked further into the record, he found that besides Francois, who just happened to be fifty-five at the time of his death, two of his brothers, Jacques, fifty-one and Antoine forty-five and three of their sons, all between the ages of twenty and thirty, were also murdered. Francois' wife had sold the plantation after that and moved to New Orleans, taking her two sister in laws and seven remaining children under the age of eighteen with her. The new owner tore the mansion that belonged to the plantation down and erected a large farm house, dividing most of the property and selling it off. The main farm house had been abandoned since the last owner died six years ago without leaving any heirs.

And this was what had brought John here, to the empty building. On first view it wouldn't really seem that out of control, except that after he'd entered the house, the doors and windows disappeared, the light from the outside being replaced by an eerie shadow light, that remained the same in every room of the house. His attempts to find a way out had been left without success. There was no reception for his cell and salt rounds and holy water showed no effect on the place.

So far he had been attacked three times by a shadowy figure and only at the last moment had been able to get of salt shots to disperse it. His rounds started to run low and so he started to lay out a circle of salt and sit in it, hoping that morning would bring a low in the entities powers and with it an opportunity to escape.

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Morning came, but the only way the Winchester elder was able to tell, was from his wrist watch. As ten rolled around, he gave up hoping for the door and windows so reappear, the only change daylight brought, was the vanishing of the spirit. Figuring that it didn't have enough power to stay partially solid and maintain power over the house during the daytime, he decided to use the opportunity and explore the building, hoping he would find something, which would help him out.

Making his way up the stairs, he started this exploration at the end of the hall. The first door he opened led into an empty room. Manacles on long chains were bolted to the ceiling, far enough apart to leave anyone restrained with them in extreme discomfort. Judging from the blood on them, they had been used in the not too distant past.

The next room looked identical, only there was still a victim in the restraints, or whatever was left of him. Taking a closer look, he judged the man had been there for at least two years, maybe longer. Poor bastard looked like both arms and legs were broken.

After the first two, John was reluctant to open the next door, afraid he would find another beaten up corpse. Still, if he wanted to get out, he needed to check everything. Opening the door, he froze in shock, when he saw that not just was there a person restrained to the ceiling, but that the young man was still alive. Tall, his arms were above his head, the chain holding him pulled through a hook in the nine foot ceiling. His leg weren't secured, but hardly reached the floor. He wore jeans but his upper body was bare, his head covered with a sack like cloth. There was no doubt he was alive, as the movement of his chest showed, but very likely unconscious, his head lolling down on his chest.

Tearing himself out of his stupor, the hunter rushed to the chained victim and gently removed the sack from his head. Once again he gasped, unsure if it was his disbelief or his dismay, which caused it.

"Sam!"

Yet instead of freezing again, he feverish began to dig through his pockets, finally coming up with a lock pick. Staring up, he realized, he wouldn't be able to reach high enough to unlock the restraints this way. Remembering passing a wooden box in the hall, he went to retrieve it. Turning it over, he stepped on it and carefully removed the first cuff, dropping Sam's arm over his shoulder, before removing the second. Just as his giant of a son started to slip, he wrapped his arms around his waist and caught him, before he could fall to the floor, eliciting a cry from the young man. It took him all but a second to figure out the reason; as he felt the sticky wetness on his hands. Very gently he stepped of the box and slid to the floor, taking his youngest with him, so his head rested on his knees, his abdomen on the ground. Another gasp escaped him, as he surveyed the mess that used to be Sam's back, now marred by bloody whip marks, several of them cutting deep into the muscle, the red life force still flowing from them.

Taking his top shirt off, he tore several strips away and pressed them into the deepest wounds. There was a moan from Sam and for a moment his lids fluttered, yet never opened before he relaxed back into unconsciousness. John stroked his hand through his youngest' hair hoping to bring him at least some comfort.

Sitting silently and being able to think for the first time since he entered this room, his heartbeat suddenly picked up. If Sam was here, then Dean had to be around also. The very thought almost made him jump up, yet at the last moment he remembered his precious burden still lying in his lap. Carefully folding what was left of his shirt; he lifted Sam's head and moved out from under it, before sliding the soft flannel underneath.

"Sorry kiddo, I'll have to look for your brother, I'll be back as soon as possible."

He was reluctant to leave one son behind to find another, yet couldn't see another way. Making sure his boy was breathing alright and the bleeding had slowed, he hurried out, checking the rest of the rooms on this level. It seemed like all of them were equipped the same way, yet with the exception of one, which contained the mummified body of another victim, they all were empty. There was only one room that was equipped differently, the bathroom and there was nothing but an old cast iron bathtub, a sink and a toilet in it.

One more door was on the end of the hall, narrower than the others and before he opened it, he suspected it was hiding a closet. So it surprised him, when he saw the steep stairs. Obviously they were leading up to the attic. Running back to make sure Sam was still okay, he was relieved when he found him unchanged and no further blood having leaked through the makeshift bandages. Satisfied, he went back and made his way up to the attic. Finding it bare of anything but dust, he stood for a moment, unsure if he should be disappointed or relieved that there was no sign of his firstborn.

Eventually he turned and walked back down. When he entered the room where he left Sam, he found his son's hazel eyes open and lazily roaming around. Still glassy, they brightened with surprise as they came to rest on the Winchester elder. Turning to his side, he cried out in pain, when he put pressure on several of the deeper cuts. John hurried to his son's side, carefully helping him back on his stomach.

"Easy there, breathe through it, son, nice and slow." He encouraged him, pushing his rough hand through his boy's unruly mop, when he saw the tears in his youngest eyes.

Doing as told, Sam leant against the older man, finding comfort in the warmth of the contact. After a few a minutes the pain ebbed off and his eyes wandered upwards, seeking those of the older man.

"Dad…?" Disbelieve and confusion laced his voice.

"Yeah Sammy, it's me." John couldn't hide the smile that appeared on his face. At this moment his youngest reminded him so much of a four year old, who'd just seen Santa Claus. It warmed his heart, yet at the same time filled him with sadness, too much shit had happened between them.

"You came for me!"

A lonely tear threatened to make its way down the Winchester patriarch's cheek, "Wish I could say I did kiddo, problem is I'm almost as deep in this mess as you are. I came here because Pastor Jim asked me for a favor. Spirit was smarter though and trapped me."

This time it was Sam's turn to smile, "Who are you and what have you done to my father." He grimaced as the pain in his back picked up again.

"Take it easy, you took quite a whipping." His father spoke with honest concern.

"I'm fine." The lie came over his lips with ease, years of training meant to fool anyone but another Winchester.

"Yeah right…"

"You sound like Dean." Sam suddenly stopped, a thought crossing his mind, "You probably wonder were Dean is."

He looked up at his father again, reading the answer in his eyes before the older man was able to respond, "We separated for a few days. Dean really wanted to go and visit this guy he hunted with while I was at Stanford. Said he owed the guy a few beers and a good time. He wanted me to come, but I thought I would just be on the way." He stopped when he saw the confusion in John's face.

"He let you go on a hunt by yourself?"

"Oh no, I was just coming to town to do research. I promised him, I wouldn't set foot on the property. Dean was going to meet me here on Thursday and we were going to take care of the spirit together." Sam hurried to defend his brother.

"You broke your promise." It was more a statement then question.

"No dad, no, I wouldn't do that to Dean." Sam rebuked, "Yeah, sure I was tempted, but I didn't set foot on the property, at least I thought I didn't. I guess I missed one important detail; the road leading to the grounds used to be part of it until the local government bought it and turned it into a county road. I came here late evening to check out the location from a distant. Bastard surprised and snatched me. Next thing I knew, I was in those shackles and the guy beat the shit out of me."

Sam closed his eyes, suddenly tired beyond reason.

"Sorry kiddo, I should have known better. Even when you wouldn't listen to me, you always listened to your brother." The older hunter once again stroked his hand over his youngest face, pulling the younger man up against his chest, careful of his injuries. Feeling the unnatural warmth radiating from his body, he frowned. He'd been afraid of it, but secretly had hoped Sam would escape infection. Guess Winchester's didn't have that kind of luck.

Sam leant into his father, enjoying the closeness. He suddenly felt something rise up in him that he hadn't experienced since he'd been a little boy. Making him feel safe and secure had been something Dean had done for him as long as he could think, yet he still could remember the moments, when his dad would do it also. That had been before he found out about the supernatural, before his father handed him that .45, when he was afraid of the thing in the closet.

There had been times, when he would wake up from his nap screaming and Dean would be at school. Dad had always been there, picking him up, rocking him, at times even singing to him. Or when he had been sick and his father would give him medicine and hold him until he would fall asleep.

Leaning even closer into his father, the youngest Winchester gave into his tiredness, letting the warmth and security he felt accompany him into a peaceful sleep.

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John had been sitting on the floor for the last three hours, holding his sleeping baby boy in his arms. At times he wished Sam still was that little baby, he could hold in his arms and rock, keeping all hurt and worry the world could bring away from him. He knew he failed his son, failed both of them. He turned Dean into his little soldier, depriving him of his childhood, while he tried to protect Sammy from the supernatural world as long as possible. After the little boy found out, he expected him to become just like Dean, forgetting that Sam never knew what they lost.

He wished too God he could make it up to both of them, but it was too late for that. The best he could hope for now, was that he would get a chance to show both of his sons how much he loved them.

John looked down at his youngest, careful, as not to wake him, touching his cheek and forehead. It was a gesture of love, rather then an actual check of his body temperature, as just by holding the kid he could feel the heat radiating off him. He knew it was time to do something.

"Sam…" His voice was laced with a tenderness he hadn't expressed in over a decade, "Sammy, it's time to wake up."

Cloudy blue green eyes opened to slits, blinking shut again and then opened a little further, gazing at the older man in confusion, "Dad?!"

"Yeah kiddo, remember what happened?"

The young hunter closed his eyes for a moment, opening them once more just when his father thought he had fallen asleep again.

"I do." He answered the earlier question, "I got whipped by a spirit and you got trapped."

"Right, at least that's what happened in the short version." John smiled, though his concern picked up, when he saw his son grimace, "I wish I had something for your pain and your fever."

"I'm okay dad."

"You don't have to suck it up kiddo, I know you're hurting." The Winchester patriarch said with regret in his voice, remembering how many time he had told both boys to do just that.

It seemed like Sam could read his mind, as he looked at him with a serious expression, "It's alright dad, you only did what you thought was right at the time. It just wasn't that easy to understand at the time."

"Hey, you were only a little boy, neither you nor your brother should ever have to suffer the kind of injuries you did." Knowing he needed to act, he changed the subject, "We got to move. It's getting late and I'm afraid the spirit will return as soon as it gets dark. We got only a couple hours till then. I wish we could stay up here, but I don't have enough salt bullets left and I used the salt I had to make a circle downstairs."

"It's alright dad, let's do it." Sam moved, once again grimacing.

John helped him sit up then stood, his hands never leaving their supportive position on his son's shoulders. Moving them underneath his arms, he pulled the younger man up, until his tall body rested against him. Sam was unable to hold back a cry of pain and his head fell onto John's shoulder almost instantly. Only with the utmost effort did the older Winchester manage to keep him upright when his knees buckled. Standing like this until the kid found his bearings; the father enjoyed the feeling of being needed. Although happy when Sam straightened out slightly, he still felt a loss when it happened.

Together the two men made their way down the stairs. By the time they arrived in the room where John spent the last night, the older Winchester was almost carrying the younger. At first Sam's arm had been around his father's neck, offering him enough support to steady his gait. As they were halfway down the steps he started to stumble, threatening to fall and John instinctively laid his arm around his son's waist, a move he had avoided because he was aware how much more pain the touch would cause. Now it was no longer avoidable and albeit suffering the consequences of the additional support, Sam still gave his father a grateful nod.

As the family head helped his youngest lie down within the protective salt circle, he could see the damage the move from upstairs had caused. Sweat was running down the kids face, mixing with the tears of pain from his eyes, making it almost impossible to tell which was which. His body was glistening with moisture also and as the concern father inspected his boy's back, he could see that at least some of the torment had been caused by the salty body fluid running into the reopened deeper wounds.

Sam squeezed his eyes shut, more tears appearing beneath the dark lashes, as he took in slow deep breaths, letting them out through his mouth, just like his father had taught him years ago.

Wanting to give him some privacy to regain his balance and feeling the need to find something to clean the wounds with, John said, "I'll go and check, if there is water in the kitchen." Not expecting a response, he hurried off.

He'd checked the kitchen earlier and knew there was nothing in it, then a sink and an old stove, yet he hoped that the water was supplied by a well and hopefully was still usable. Turning the squeaking faucet handle, rust brown fluid exploded from it. Letting it run for several minutes, it started to change and finally ran crystal clear. Dipping his finger into it, he was surprised to find it tasted clean and cool. Now if he just could find a container to get some of this to Sam.

Thinking for a moment, a thought rose up. But what were the chances?

Opening the bottom of the old oven, he found several pots and pans in it. Taking two of them out, he took them over to the sink and washed them as well as possible. He couldn't have the luck that the stove was working and supplied with gas, could he? Turning every one of the knobs, he could tell his good fortune didn't go that far. Still, for the moment he would take what he got. Filling the smaller pot with some of the clear liquid, he carried it out to the other room.

He helped Sam sit up and supported him, as the younger man started to gulp down the refreshing liquid. After a moment he stopped him.

"Take it easy, I wouldn't want you to throw it all up again. You can have some more in a little while."

Setting the pot to the side, he went back into the kitchen and filled the bigger pot also, before bringing it to the other room and setting it down beside Sam. Again he ran off, this time upstairs to get his gun and the rest of his shirt. Once back beside his son, he started to tear off a strip from the shirt and dip it into the water.

Seeing Sam's hazels watching his every move, he warned, "Sorry, this is gonna hurt, I promise I'll be careful."

Carefully he squeezed some of the liquid onto one of the lacerations and began to wash it. He repeated the procedure several times until he'd tended to all of them. He didn't like the raised welts and deep cuts, all of which were surrounded by angry redness. Where the skin didn't burst dark purple discolorations were visible underneath the skin. The deeper lacerations started to seep again, yet at the moment John felt this was better than the yellowish color that appeared in the smaller once. He just hoped they somehow they would find a way out or someone would rescue them.

Taking the pot to the kitchen, he dumped the water and rinsed it, refilling it with fresh water. After he carried it back and set it down onto the floor again, he made sure the salt ring was intact. It was getting late enough that by now darkness had to have fallen on the outside and he expected the spirit to return at any moment.

Right after John completed the last thought; a bone chilling scream tore through the house. The prompt appearance of the shadowy figure in the room right after that almost made him feel like he had called it with his thinking, yet he knew it had only been his experience, which had told him what to expect and when.

For the first time the oldest Winchester could make out eyes within the otherwise obscured face. Eyes so dark and yet burning like fire, it made him look away for a moment. The next thing he knew was the entity shooting towards him, making him back off, even though he knew the salt ring would protect him. It did its job, as the spirit bounced off, as if hitting an invisible wall. That didn't keep it from screaming once again, making both men cover their ears with their hands.

Once again moving up to the circle, this time stopping just inches away from it, the figure started to speak in a screeching voice, "You took my price. He is mine." Something like a hand became visible and pointed towards Sam, "He has to die like all the others."

"Sorry, but you can't have him!" Without loosing a beat John blasted a salt bullet right into the middle of the entity, making it dissipate in a cloud of smoke.

Looking over at his son and expecting to see fear, he was surprised to instead find something like admiration written in the younger man's face.

"You alright?" He asked.

"Yeah, been better, but yeah, I'm okay." Sam smiled up at his father, "I'm just glad you're here with me."

For a second John was silent, musing over what he just heard and seen. A few years ago he told the kid in beside him, if he would leave, he should never come back again, which led to the almost complete destruction of their family. Now the same kid told him he was glad he, the guy who made him choose, was here with him. His heart suddenly warmed, as he remembered the curly haired little boy, who would greet him with the same enthusiasm, no matter if he had been gone for a week or if it had been only an hour.

He suddenly had to blink to hide the tears that threatened to fall. Whatever happened? How did he let it get this far? And yet, Sammy still loved him.

"Me to, son." He finally said, "Me too. I just wish, we weren't in the mess, we are in."

Sam pulled himself up to a sitting position, groaning as he did and leant against his dad for support, "It's alright dad, I know we'll get out of here."

The older man wanted to lie, pretend he was just as optimistic, yet remembering his youngest wasn't a little kid anymore, he decided he deserved the truth, "I hope you're right, but it doesn't look very good for us.

"I know, but I'm sure Dean is probably already looking for me. And for now, we just have to put together what we know and see, if we can't come up with something."

John nodded in agreement, pleasantly surprised by how levelheaded his son was. Kid certainly had come a long way then again, he obviously didn't have a choice with being on his own for so long and then loosing his girlfriend…

"Alright, let's see what we know." He said, "The owner of this property was a coldhearted bastard, who thought his kind was the bread of the world and everyone of different skin color was less than dirt. The only one of the men ever found again had the insignia of the plantation burned into his forehead, just like the slaves. So it stands to assume that we are dealing with the spirit of the owner, Francois Durant." The father looked expectantly at his son.

Sam hesitated for a moment, before he started, his voice trembled a little in the beginning, but becoming steadier as he went on, "I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you. I don't think its Durant we are dealing with, but rather one of his slaves."

The Winchester patriarch pulled up his eyebrows in surprise, yet stayed silent, eager to hear what arguments Sam would make for his case.

"Look, all the men, who disappeared were white, I checked their background. All, except of one the only one to be found. His great-grandmother was black. The spirit must have realized his mistake too late and tried to make up for it by at least giving the body back to his family."

John smirked and shook his head, "Should've known, your research was always more thorough than Dean and mine combined."

"Thanks, Dad. This would also explain why the activity didn't start earlier. The man who bought the property was part Chickasaw Indian and by buying the plantation reclaimed part of his ancestral land. That must be what kept the spirit at bay until the last owner, who was a direct descendent, died." Sam leant a little heavier against his father's shoulder, suddenly feeling, like all his strength had been zapped from him, still, he couldn't go to sleep now, not until he'd told his dad everything, he knew. "I also found out about a story going around in the area. The slaves, who rose up and killed the Durant men escaped. Only one was ever found and brought back. Francois widow had him branded like the other slaves and then beheaded. Supposedly his body was burned, but his head with the branding on it was buried in the northeast corner of the mansion." He paused, almost too exhausted to go on.

Noting his son's distress, John picked up the smaller pot of water and held it up to Sam's lips.

The younger man drank greedily, before he said, "Thanks, I needed that."

The older hunter looked at his son with increasing worry. His skin was radiating with heat and the eyes within the flushed face were shiny with fever. He wished, he could let his youngest rest and yet, he knew Sam had information that could save both of their lives.

As if reading his mind, Sam continued, "I laid the plans of the old property with the mansion over the ones of the new one with this building. From what I could tell, the exact spot of the burial should be here in the basement, right underneath the kitchen." He stopped to take a deep breath then said, "Six feet from the east wall and four feet from the northern one. Sorry, I don't know how deep it is."

Reaching for the pot, while holding on to his son with the other, John's voice was soft with pride, "You've done good son."

He pulled his hand back, when he felt Sam's head fall against his shoulder and his body starting to slide forward. Holding on to him with both hands now, he gently let his unconscious son's body slide to the floor. Laying him down into a rescue position, he put his coat underneath his head. After soaking one of the larger strips of his shirt in the water, he expressed the excess and laid it on his forehead, yet not before pressing a kiss onto it.

"You've done really good, son. Rest now, I'll get us out of here."

He picked up the larger pot and his shot gun and stepped over the salt line, making sure not to interrupt it. Knowing Sam would be safe for now, he turned one more time.

"I'll be back as soon as I can, I promise."

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It didn't take the elder Winchester long to find the spot he needed to dig. The one thing, which hindered his immediate progress though, was the fact that the ground was tightly laid with brigs. Although he was relieved not to find solid concrete, he still needed something other than the pot to remove at least the first couple blocks. Where was a pick axe when you needed one?

Remembering seeing a cast iron pan in the oven drawer, he ran back upstairs to get it. On his way back down, he peeked in on Sam. To his dismay, the spirit was hovering as close to the salt circle as possible, mumbling angrily. If it wouldn't have been so serious, the scene could have been funny, as his baby boy was still lying on the floor unconscious, blessedly unaware of the irate curses directed at him..

John was tempted to put a load of salt into the entities gut, yet thought better of it. With Sam well protected, he could use the distraction to get the digging done without any interruption. He just hoped the kid wouldn't wake up and accidentally disturb the salt line. No matter what, he had to take the risk, if he wanted them to get out.

The experienced hunter started working without further delay, as soon as he got back to the basement. Pounding one of the brigs with the handle of the pan, he scrapped any debris away as it came loose. It still took him longer than he would have liked before he accomplished his goal. Finally he threw the last shards out of the newly created hole. Using the handle as a lever, he pushed up the surrounding blocks, removing them until the area, where the head had allegedly been buried, was uncovered.

Using the pot now, he began to dig, once again discovering it was slow going, as the ground was hard and his tool was dull by any description. It didn't take long before sweat was running down his face. Thinking of his helpless son lying upstairs, burning up with fever, while the ghostly apparition waited for the first possible opportunity to attack him, made him push his limits and work even harder and faster.

As the depth of the hole increased, John sent a prayer to the God he hadn't believed in since that night of November 2nd, 1983. It wasn't really because he suddenly started believing, but rather because he didn't know who else to ask for that little bit of help he depended on right now. It wasn't really much he asked for, just that Sam's calculations were right and the head was really buried here.

It seemed like it didn't matter so much to the receiver of the prayer, if the sender believed in him or not, as it wasn't much later when the edge of the pot didn't make the usually scraping sound as it dug into the dirt. Instead there was a hollow, metal on wood kinda sound. Changing to digging with his hands, John removed as much as possible from on top of the wood, until he uncovered the outline of a square wooden box. Using the handle of the pan once again, he hit the lid until it broke into several pieces. Removing the remnants, he peered inside.

"Bingo." He called out as he looked down on the brownish discolored skull, the insignia "FdD" clearly visible on what used to be the forehead. The iron had burned straight through the layers of skin and tissue and into the bone.

Without delay he pulled one of the few salt bullets he had left, matches and the small bottle of lighter fluid he always carried, out of his pant pockets. It was only a minute amount of accelerant but hopefully it would be enough. After opening the shell and sprinkling the salt over the skull, he squirted the liquid over it, then struck a match and threw it on it.

Standing up, he stepped back, watching it light up, as a screech from behind made him spin around. Being face to face with the spirit, this time in the real sense of the word, as he stared into a dark face with even darker pupil, he took a step back, just as the ghost jumped forward and reached out, beginning to strangle him with dark bony fingers. The touch lasted only for a second though, as the entity let go with another screech and dissolved into flames.

The elder Winchester let out a breath of relief, it was finally over. Running back upstairs without further delay, he just entered the kitchen, when the eerie shadow light disappeared, just to be replaced with the first rays of morning sun peeking through the rematerialized windows. Concern for Sam drove him to ignore it and hurry into the next room. He was glad to see his son's eyes open, even thought they were still glassy with fever.

The young hunter smiled at his father, before trying to sit up. His attempt would have failed miserably, if it wouldn't have been for John reaching out and supporting him.

"Easy there, kiddo, let me help you!" He warned, as he pulled him to a standing position.

"Wanna get out of here." Sam slurred, before his eyes rolled back in his head.

His father had almost expected this to happen and was ready when his legs gave out. Pulling Sam's arm around his neck and laying his arm around his waist, he waited until the younger man recovered enough to take some of his own weight.

"I know you're ready to leave, so am I, only I don't think you face planting would accomplish anything." He smirked, trying to lighten the air, then continued, "Alright, I think we can give it a try now."

The youngest Winchester just nodded, with his head feeling like he was under water and the rest of his body feeling like hot flames into which the blacksmith stabbed the sword he was forging, he needed all his strength just to take the first step and the next and the one after and the one after that and….

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John stopped them right outside the house, looking at the spot where he left his truck two days ago. His delight the vehicle was still there, disappeared as soon as he saw the four slashed tires.

"Great, just what we needed."

He didn't speak the thought out loud, not wanting to discourage Sam. He knew the closest hard top road was two miles out and he wasn't sure Sam was going to make it there. Still, they had to at least try.

"Kiddo, we've got to walk for a bit. It's not gonna be easy, you can do this. Alright?"

Giving him an encouraging look, he started to move again, grabbing the waist band of his boy's jeans just a little bit tighter.

Once again Sam hung on to his mantra, saying it over and over again in his head.

"One step and another and another and another after that and just one more after that and then just one more…"

His head continued to swim and in his ears it sounded like the wind driving ocean waves against the rocks so loudly, it overrode any noise coming from outside of him. That was until it the noise changed to a roaring. A roaring that got louder and louder until it overpowered anything else. And then it ended without any prior warning in a screeching sound.

It was then that he realized they were no longer walking. Lifting up his heavy head, his vision wavering in and out of focus, the outline of a black monster appeared in front of him. It stayed there only for a moment, before it was replaced by a face that he would have known anywhere, contorted or not. Using all the strength he could muster, he tore away from his father's hold and staggered toward the other man.

"D'n…"

His knees giving out and his body betraying him, the last thing he felt before darkness took over, where the strong arms of his big brother prevented him from kissing the hard gravel of the road.

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John Winchester recognized the Impala by the roar of its engine, before he ever saw it; after all, it had been his baby long before it had been Dean's. Suddenly he felt like a whole avalanche rolled of his heart. Watching the classic black beauty come closer, he attempted to stop, just to find that Sam continued on and wouldn't respond to his pleas. Having no choice, he carried on, in order to prevent the younger man from falling. It was obvious the kid was no longer in control and was moving his legs automatically.

Dean brought his baby to a screeching halt right in front of the two men. He jumped out as it stopped, the expression on his face showing the surprise and worry he felt. At the same moment John realized Sam froze for just a second. His next move caught the father off guard, as he developed a surprising strength and tore away from him. A slurred version of his brother's name came over his lips, before he collapsed right into the arms of the older kid.

The Winchester patriarch was surprised by the emotions, which suddenly welled up within him. He remembered times, when Sammy was only a little boy and would run into his brother's protective arms, rather then staying with him that aroused a feeling of jealousy and envy in him. Almost expecting to experience the same now, he was surprised by the sense of warmth and contentment that rushed him. For a second he closed his eyes, trying to figure out what was different this time, when he realized it was the way Sam had looked at him, when he dispersed the spirit last night and how his baby boy had told him, he was glad he was here with him.

This was, what made all the difference now. He would always know Dean was number one in Sam's life. He could live with that, mainly because he had wanted it that way. What he couldn't live with was the feeling of distrust and separation that had existed between them and this was gone; it no longer managed to survive. One night of danger, of working together without questioning the other, had done more than words ever could.

Making himself return to reality, he walked towards Dean and took half of Sam's weight off him. His oldest looked at him but didn't say anything. Questions could wait till later. He didn't have to know what happened to see that his baby brother needed help fast. Letting his dad help him get Sam into the back of the car, he scooted in after him.

"You drive." He said, too worried about his brother to leave him for even a second.

While John drove, Dean held on to his sibling, his eyes moving over the wounds on his back. It was clear they were whip marks and if there would have been any doubt in his mind that the entity, which caused them, was taken care off, he would have gotten out the car and killed the culprit himself. As it was, he was certain the spirit had gotten off easy by not having to feel the wrath of one Dean Winchester.

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Four hours later found both older Winchesters at Sam's bedside. Not that either one of them ever left his side, since they arrived at Doc Olson's small clinic. The doc was a man in his mid seventies, who retired from a large medical group ten years ago and since then, devoted his life to helping the less fortunate in the little clinic; he had bought with some of the money he saved over the years he worked.

The place was now supported by money, he wisely invested and by donations. It was a place were people could find help without ever having to worry about paying and where many a hunter found medical care and a warm bed after a long drive and days spent out hunting the things that went bump in the night.

Now it was the place where John had taken them to find help. Doc Olson had started treating Sam with IV fluids, antibiotics and pain meds as soon as the kid was lying on his exam table. The next thing he did was cleaning out the angry looking gashes and dressing them with ointment and gauze.

During the whole time John and Dean had quietly assisted and held Sam, whenever he became restless. Only now that their youngest was at last taken care of did they allow themselves a break. Handing his father a cup of coffee, Dean sat down and waited for an explanation.

The elder Winchester smiled, he didn't expect his oldest to wait this long, after all patience wasn't one of the virtues Dean called his own. It didn't take him long to relay the events of the last two days. The memory of finding Sam in chains and beaten to a pulp made him shiver. It was a miracle things didn't turn out worse then they did.

Hearing a noise from the bed beside him, he looked up, finding Dean already leaning over Sam, in an attempt to coach his brother back to the land of the living. He remained sitting and watched his youngest' eyes move beneath lids that seemed too heavy to open. Dean's encouraging cheers of "Open those eyes, you can do it, don't give up" were rewarded at last, when the still feverish shining hazels were revealed.

"D…" Sam started, but was shushed immediately by his brother, who held a glass of ice water to his lips.

"Here drink this!"

The younger man greedily sucked the water, until his sibling pulled it away, making sure he wouldn't get sick. Setting it back on the night stand, he stated, "You can have some more later."

"Where is dad?" There was a sudden anxiety in the question and John made sure he appeared within his youngest field of vision without further delay.

"I'm right here." He assured him, again being completely taken of guard by the question. Although he had been pleased how enthusiastically Sam reacted to his presence, he'd been almost certain this would change as soon as Dean showed up. The question, together with the almost distressed expression on his younger son's face told him he'd been wrong. Maybe he'd been wrong all along and Sam never really hated him. For the longest time he had felt like the kid only rebelled because it was him, who gave the orders. After all, he hardly ever seemed to have a problem following his big brother's lead.

Now the boy even smiled at him. John suddenly seemed to have a tough time to think of the young man in the bed as an adult. The feverish glow in his eyes and the flush of his cheeks made him look almost exactly like he did, when he was eight years old. Taking Sam's hand, he squeezed it lightly, feeling the pressure returned at the same instance.

"Thanks dad, for saving me."

John smiled, "Guess I can't take all the credit for that. I was the brawn in this operation, did all the physical labor, but without your research, I never would have found the skull. Matter of fact, I wouldn't have known what to look for."

If it wouldn't have been for the flush on his cheeks, Dean would have thought his baby brother actually blushed at their father's words. If he was honest, he was sure he did and while this would have brought on a snarky remark at any other time, right now it made him too emotional to say anything, without having to be afraid of loosing it. So he bit his lip instead and blinked a few times, making sure no one saw the moisture in his eyes. There was no way anybody would ever see him cry like a girl; after all, he had a reputation to uphold.

Sam just looked at his father, for the first time taking the compliment he received for what it was. Still, after all the conflict between them, he was afraid the eldest Winchester would just disappear on him again. The fever and the exhaustion coming with it having a firm grip on him, in combination with the painkillers he was on, made it almost impossible for him to stay awake any longer. Yet, he fought a desperate fight against it, giving it his all. He just couldn't fall asleep again, unless he was sure his father wouldn't leave. Gripping John's hand as tight as he could, he peered up at the older hunter.

The expression on his face was easy to read, even for the father, who had missed out on so much of both his sons' childhoods. Returning the grip, he gave Sam a warm smile, pushing some stray hair out of his forehead.

"Just go to sleep son, I'll be right here when you wake up, I promise. If you have any doubt, trust your brother, he will make sure I won't leave."

The youngest hunter's pupils moved over to Dean, who gave him a confirming nod. His lids dropping, he finally allowed sleep to overcome him, now that he was sure his family would still be complete when he woke up.

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It took two more days for the fever to disappear, during which the youngest Winchester slept more than he was awake. Still, every time he woke, his eyes never had to search far to meet his father's. After the first few times he started to feel secure enough that even the initial moment of searching seized and he just waited for the older man to appear in his field of visions.

After five more days Doc Olson determined Sam's wounds looked well enough for his family to take over the treatments, which in reality meant, it was okay for him to travel, at least a short distance.

Knowing his lead on the demon had gone cold by now, John decided a few more days wouldn't matter. In addition he started to have a strange feeling, like if he wouldn't take the chance, he might never get it again. Having had his truck towed and the tires fixed the same day they arrived at the clinic, he left it at the repair shop, planning to pick it up after spending some quality time with his boys.

Driving the Impala to Biloxi, Dean beside him in the passenger seat, Sam resting in the back still sore, but recovering nicely, it felt almost as if the last ten years never happened. It was no longer just him and Dean or Dean and Sam. No, finally it was all of them together, having one goal – being family again. Maybe it wasn't perfect, maybe it wouldn't even last, but for now it was enough.

THE END

I hope this wasn't too disappointing and came close to what you wanted. For everyone else, I hope you liked it and will let me know. Hugs and Merry Christmas, Vonnie