Then (Dean)

Sometimes Sam really got on Dean's nerves. Sure, the kid was cool sometimes even though he was a nerd. Yeah, he was Dean's only sibling and practically all the family he had, but sometimes enough was enough! It began when Sam was fourteen and punched a kid in the schoolyard. After that, the little punk grew an ego that was ten times more inflated than Dean's was. If that was even possible. It happened after that hit and then it just got worse. Dean's nerves began to grind like one stone on another.

What made matters worse was that John, their father, was gone more often leaving the boys together for long durations. When John would come home to their current motel, he would even pressure Dean about hunting. He would always claim that he was "getting closer to the bastard that murdered Mary". Dean knew better than that. Dad was always getting closer and then never catching the thing.

Smooth talking girls was just a distraction from their unusual life. Just being out of a motel was solace, but when he got to hide out at a hot chick's house when the parents were away for the weekend was great. He could have as much pizza, beer, and sex as he wanted. Of course he knew that he had to take care of his little brother, but didn't Dean come first a few times?

"When are we going to leave this shithole, De?" asked Sam as he walked along the sidewalk with his older brother at his side one winter day. Dean glanced down at his shorter brother with raised eyebrows. How could something so cute and small say a cuss word and then call him by a childhood nickname? Dean shook his head, mentally rolling his eyes. Maybe Sammy had spent a little too much time tagging around with him.

"I don't know, kiddo," Dean answered as they turned the corner, "Whenever Dad comes back from the hunt, I guess."

Sam made an impatient sighing noise, "It's always about Dad and the stupid hunt."

"Hey, you better not say anything like that in front of Dad," Dean warned, "You know how important the hunt is to Dad."

"But it's so stupid that he has to drag us around from place to place. It's not like he's actually here with us, so why move us too?" Sam replied with a plausible explanation, "Can't he just leave us somewhere and come back when he's not on the hunt?"

Dean had to admit that his kid brother had a point. Things would be one Hell of a lot easier if they were in one spot for more than two months.

"I have no idea what goes through Dad's head and I really don't want to know," Dean told Sam, "but it's better if we don't bring it up. We don't want to start an argument with Dad over nothing."

"But it isn't nothing! It's our lives!"

"Sam," Dean growled in a menacing manner, "Don't start this again."

Sam paused. He knew that whenever Dean used Dad's tone of voice and called him "Sam" instead of "Sammy" that he was border lining trouble. This time was different though. Sam didn't want to start since this had gotten on his nerves for far too long.

"C'mon Dean, you know I'm right," Sam insisted, "What if we talk to Dad? We could convince him to let us stay and then we could get jobs and go to college and--"

"Sam," Dean said more threatening this time, "Drop it."

"I'm just saying--"

"SAM!" Dean nearly shouted, "You're not supposed to think like that! Dad says that we aren't supposed to think like that! We can't go to college or stay in one place for too long, it's just not our way. Okay? If we try to change things than the bad things will catch up with us. We're not meant to have a normal homelife or a life at all! You don't understand that yet because you're only fourteen!"

Sam was silent, biting his lip in a pout and Dean sighed, "It's not in our blood to be normal and if we try to pretend that we're normal something bad is going to ruin our lives and get the people we love killed."

"Fine, whatever," Sam spat out and continued walking down the icy sidewalk toward their motel.

After that first argument, things went downhill in the relationship between the brothers. Sam became violent and angry at school when kids picked on him because of his size and would hit a kid if they dared say anything rude. Dean would often be the one in the principal's office (since he had already graduated when Sammy became a sophomore) and the counselor's office talking about his brother and their slightly less than perfect homelife. He created stories about how his father was in the military and their mother had overdosed on drugs, how they visited an uncle that was a drunk and that was influencing Sam's increasingly violent and erratic behavior. Dean never gave their father an indication that Sam was getting into trouble at school. Just as long as John Winchester saw Sam's straight A's on his report card, everything was all good. Dean didn't know how Sam maintained perfect grades, but he had a theory about it. His theory was that Sam had the motivation to get a scholarship to go to a university somewhere to get away from Dean and John.

Dean would catch Sam doing homework in all hours of the night, studying, memorizing and then Dean noticed something new when Sam turned sixteen. Scholarship and university pamphlets. One of them was circled and notes were everywhere. That one was for Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, not too far away from San Francisco. Dean had taken it while Sam was at school and read it. It was a prestigious law school and you had to have some cash to get in there. They didn't have any money to spare between the credit card scams and occasional thievery. Definitely not anywhere close to what Sam would need. Hell, they probably couldn't even pay for him to go to a community college let alone Stanford.

Sam hid (or at least thought he hid) his college things away from Dean, but there was one that was stuck in Sam's personal Bible that Dean found. Sam had a Bible that he carried around from town to town, motel to motel. It was a nice copy that they had found in a nicer motel in Texas. Sam had found it in the drawer and taken it along for the ride. He actually read it and went to church if he could get away on a Sunday. Dean didn't know why Sam was faithful, but he hadn't ever argued with Sam being a Christian. Sam needed some sort of comfort in his life. This Bible was not only Sam's key to knowing God, but it was also his treasure trove. He hide the most important documents away inside the Bible. Notes from a girl he had liked, a few pictures, and valentines were stowed away in there. Then Dean one day found a rather important letter addressed to Mr. Samuel Winchester.

It was an acceptance letter. To Stanford.

Of course Dean should have been happy and proud for his brother's achievement, but the selfishness got in the way. He knew that his father's wrath would come down on him once Sam left. Even though Sam was four months from being eighteen and graduating, he wished that it was more like forty years. Nothing would please him more.

Deep down, he was proud and excited for his brother but of course he couldn't let himself succumb to the ultimate chick-flick moment. Hell, he couldn't even acknowledge to Sammy that he knew since Sam didn't want to tell him.

At least not yet.

It came one night three days after Sam's graduation. As per tradition, John hadn't made it to Sam's graduation just like he hadn't made it to Dean's. He had been unreachable and he had blown back into town in the middle of June to sweep them away to their summer motel. Sam had been disappointed that their father hadn't attended his graduation, but didn't have to be upset for long. He was about to have his revenge with one piece of news.

"Hey, Dad, Dean, I need to talk to you two," Sam said at the end of dinner that night, three days after his graduation.

"Go ahead, Sammy," John answered, glancing up at his younger son. Sam swallowed and got up from the table to fetch his Bible. Out came the envelope addressed to Mr. Samuel Winchester. Dean's heart dropped to the bottom of his stomach and he felt like he was about to throw up the meal he had just ate.

"I was accepted into Stanford University," Sam said slowly, holding up the letter stamped with Stanford's seal. John's eyes went wide and then his eyebrows narrowed darkly, "We don't have the money to send you to college, Sam and you need to be here to hunt."

"I don't want to hunt," Sam protested, "I want to go to college and I already have a scholarship!"

John stood up from the table, facing his tall eighteen-year-old, "You're going to do as I say because you're my son."

"Not anymore then," Sam shot back, "I am not going to hunt and you can't force me to do so."

"Sam," John snarled.

"No," Sam said with the most resolve he had ever possessed, "I'm leaving."

"Sam," Dean's voice joined in before he knew what he was doing, "Don't go."

"I'm not going to waste my life like you are, Dean," Sam answered while he was grabbing his suitcase and shoving his prized Bible with the letter inside it, "I'm going to make something of myself."

Sam had already packed his things and was pulling his backpack over his shoulders at the door when John spoke once more.

"If you walk out that door, don't you ever come back, boy."

Without looking back, Sam walked out of the motel room on his way to Stanford.

Dean had trouble sleeping for a long time. He was so used to hearing Sam's soft breathing at night and that was replaced with the chainsaw sound of his father snoring. He often left the motel room and just walked down the street at three am. Killing monsters was the distraction from missing his brother, his longtime sidekick.

Every once and a while he would look at the one picture he possessed of himself and Sam. It was taken at Sam's seventeenth birthday after he had shot up a few feet in a growth spurt and was taller than Dean. The picture only made him worse though.

Dean spent what seemed like the longest time hunting with his father while and then they went separate ways for two different hunts. That didn't happen too often, but sometimes they split up. Dean made it to the rendezvous point a little behind schedule, expecting his father to already be there. For some reason, he wasn't. Dean waited for a few days and called several times, but John was nowhere in sight or in hearing range.

So after nearly two weeks, Dean left in desperation. He was alone for the first time in his life, completely alone, and he needed help. Who better to go to than his little college frat boy brother? For two days Dean played the role of stalker. He received many stares from the well-dressed boys and girls of privileged living since he was in torn jeans and a nearly worn-out shirt. He looked all around campus and went to the admin office where he found out where Sam was living.

Dean tracked down the dorm house number and once he saw it, blew out a sigh. It was the white picket fence, apple pie in the window kind of house that Dean had always imagined his brother moving to if he had a real life away from hunting. Then he hid behind a cluster of bushes when he saw the door open. Then his heart leapt when he saw his younger brother walk out with a girl by his side. They were holding hands and smiling as they talked to each other. Dean's heart then sunk to the lowest depths it could go.

Sam had made a life for himself and Dean had come to ruin it all because of their father that had screwed up their lives for all of their teenage and younger years. This was not fair at all.

Dean watched as Sam and the blond, pretty girl walked down the sidewalk away from his position and then sighed when they were out of view. Sam was going to hate him for dragging him away from his Beverly Hills life.

"NOO!" rang above the hiss and crackle of flames on the ceiling and Dean leapt up from the seat of the car. He saw the lights that he knew didn't come from a lamp come from the interior of the house and knew something was wrong. He had left minutes before, but then on a hunch swung back around the neighborhood to say a few last things. Fortune was on his side that day.

"Sam!" Dean shouted as he ran inside the house. Once he got to the bedroom, he stared up at the ceiling with an open mouth for a moment as Sam's girlfriend Jess hung from the ceiling, burning.

Without any more hesitation, Dean grabbed Sam and pulled him from the room and then from the house, all the while Sam shouted, "No! Jess!"

"We gotta get out of here!" Dean called to Sam.

It wasn't long before the fire department came and talked to the neighbors and the Winchester brothers stayed far away from them. Sam sat on the trunk of the Impala with nearly unnoticeable tear tracks trailing down his cheeks. Dean sat beside him and thought of words he had spoken years ago.

"It's not in our blood to be normal and if we try to pretend that we're normal something bad is going to ruin our lives and get the people we love killed."

Dean got off the Impala and rummaged around in the trunk. Sam looked absently into the weapons, picking one up and then throwing it back in.

"We've got work to do," Sam said darkly before shutting the trunk. Dean felt a shiver run down his spine at his brother's tone, but didn't think much of the menace that usually wasn't there. Hell, the kid's girlfriend was just burnt to a crisp!

Dean didn't mind being with Sam constantly until he became worried about his brother's. . .idiosyncrasies. Such as the visions, nightmares, and the general freakiness. He was concerned that it was becoming too overwhelming for his brother, especially when Sammy would wake up in the middle of the night screaming when he dreamt that somebody (usually Jess if it wasn't a vision) was dying. Dean tried his best to comfort his brother, but usually that didn't go over that well. Sam would insist that he was fine and force Dean to move on. Dean didn't like that too much, but he wasn't going to become a hypocrite over it. Hell, he was the one that didn't like to talk about his feelings in fear of a chick-flick moment where they would be all touchy-feely and eventually hug and cry. No, that would be a nightmare of epic proportions that was not going to happen.

Every once and a while, he felt like he was going to have a meltdown or that Sam would and the other would have to pick up the pieces. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Sam kept his feelings to himself, struggled with it alone. Dean took out his emotions in private and kept going on for his brother.

Then after their father died, things became a lot harder to deal with. Sam was shaken up, Dean could tell and his own anger was blinding him to the tasks at hand such as safeguarding Sam and hunting down the demon that had killed their parents. Sam became increasingly more erratic and scary to be around while in a funk. Dean tried to lighten the mood by playing their traditional pranks on each other, but that only lasted for a few days at the most. More concerned about his brother than their the yellow-eyed demon, Dean kept a close eye on Sam. His powers were starting to manifest at a greater speed than before, like something was dawning on them.

Then the worst came to bear on the Winchester brothers.

"SAM!" Dean howled as he held his brother to his chest. His entire body was shaking.

No, no, please no, I can't lose him. He can't be dead. . .

Dean closed his eyes and pressed his face to his little brother's neck, still gripping him tightly.

Then (Sam)

Blue-green eyes opened to flames. A sizzle came to his ears which was then accompanied by screams from his throat. His flesh was smoking and sizzling from the flames licking them.

"DEAN!" he hollered as the flames grew more intense. His voice was cut off by the peeling of his skin, exposing his flesh.

"Sam," came a soft, female voice, "Sam, it's going to be alright."

Sam titled his head and saw a woman standing over him, balanced on the chains suspending him above the depths of Hell. Her hair was a soft brown and her eyes were a stormy blue. She was dressed in a brown dress with blue stitching around the seams.

"Who are you?" Sam's voice came out as a croak, but she understood him anyway, because she smiled a little and replied, "I am Adriel, your Guardian Angel."