Summary: Sam's been running into burning buildings since he was twelve.

Okay, so I know Bobby probably didn't mean literally but well, that line gave me the impetus to have a bash at writing SPN gen again. This is the end result...

PS: This is unbeta'ed as I wrote it this morning, took me just over an hour (you'll probably work that out for yourselves).

Too Young The Hero.

At Scottsbluff Junior High, Nebraska, Sam's guidance councillor looks a lot like the ghoul his dad annihilated with an axe on a sticky-hot summer's evening last year.

Most other kids Sam's age would have been eating ice cream, playing in the local Skate Park but not Sam. Sam was too busy hand-washing ghoul gunk out of his dad's pants in a motel bathroom sink to practice his ollie.

Mrs. Coleridge is skinny as a reaper, all long bony arms and wiry silver hair but she's fast with a smile and has razor sharp blue eyes.

She seems to take a special interest in Sam, which Sam thinks is partly due to his styled by Goodwill appearance and partly to his sky-high grades. She tells him how smart he is and how he's going to make big bucks in the city some day—says it like she means it too, not like she's taking pity on him and that's heart-warming and all but Sam's twelve. His dad and his brother are hunters. Some day, Sam's going to be a hunter too.

The kind of future Mrs. Coleridge keeps talking about won't ever come knocking at Sam's door.

Destiny is a strange thing. Most people spend their life working towards it but Sam's only ever wanted to run away from the road ahead of him, the one his family have all mapped out.

SNSNSN

On Friday night, to celebrate school breaking up for the Christmas holidays, Dean sneaks one of Dad's bottles of cheap bourbon. He lets Sam taste a capful before tugging the bottle away and ends up getting so wasted on Whiskey Skin that he pukes all over himself.

Sam does his best to clean up the mess, tucks his inebriated brother into bed and sits at the kitchen table waiting for Dad to come home. He's sprayed almost an entire can of air freshener so the apartment doesn't smell of dried vomit anymore but rather a sickly, unnatural, scent of lavender. In hindsight, Sam realizes that if anything, it's going to make Dad even more suspicious.

It takes John Winchester less than five minutes to find out about the missing bourbon, he has a strange sixth sense where his stash of alcohol is concerned. Instead of exploding like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park—as Sam expects and is bracing himself for—John rubs at his bristled chin and sighs heavily. "Dean needed to blow off some steam I guess."

Sam doesn't ask why Dad is so cool about his eldest son being passed-out, drunk and drooling—because he reckons he already knows the real reason. Dad and Dean worked tag-team on a case less than a week ago and although they didn't tell Sam the full story, it was clear from their faces that some bad shit had gone down.

The day after the hunt, Sam had been the first out of bed, getting ready for school while his family slept in. He perused the morning papers over a bowl of Wheetos and a glass of milk already on the turn.

On the front page, black and white print accompanied by a grainy photograph, Sam read how five-year-old Nancy Hughes, the only daughter of a local family, had been kidnapped from her own backyard. Turns out her mangled body had been found by a hiker in woods close to her home, the local police department were still waiting for an autopsy report but believed a wild animal attack was behind her death.

Sam put the paper in the trash after that and cleared the table without finishing his breakfast. A child being slaughtered by a black dog didn't do much for his appetite.

SNSNSN

With Dean sleeping off his belly full of booze, Sam crawls onto the couch and watches his dad packing a freshly oiled shotgun and several boxes of bullets into a duffle. "Can I go with you?" It's a snap decision—Dean shouldn't be the only one trying to help carry their family's burden—but it still seems to surprise him as much as it surprises his father.

John blinks. He takes too long to answer so Sam shuffles in his seat and clears his throat, loudly. "Sam..."

"Dad, you might need some back-up. You know I'm a good shot."

"A crack shot," John mutters thoughtfully. "If you're sure you're ready?"

Sam isn't sure and he definitely isn't ready but he nods his head and Dad grins, dry chapped lips stretched wide across his careworn face. The smile warms Sam's insides. Sam's not used to being the good son.

SNSNSN

It's an imp, a nasty one with a bad case of blood lust. That's the only information Sam is given on the drive to the derelict church in nearby Bayard.

Sam's always prayed, even more frequently since he found out the truth about the monsters in the dark. He prays whenever his dad and Dean go hunting, every time asking God for their safe return. Once in awhile he remembers to pray for himself too. It irks him somewhat that churches, even forgotten ones, aren't safe havens from evil anymore.

When they get to the church, the situation is worse than Sam could have imagined. Probably worse than Dad imagined too, given the curses he's shouting as he parks the Impala and makes a grab for his gun.

The church is on fire. Long-abandoned and left to ruin, the crumbling wooden walls and roof with more holes than a sieve are burning swiftly, the best type of kindling.

They stand side-by-side simply watching the blaze until Dad spots a shadow moving in the trees behind the church and takes off running in that direction. Ordered to hold position, Sam bites his tongue about how he's meant to be watching his dad's back and pulls himself up to sit on the cool metal of the Impala's hood. He stares intently at the greedy flames, can feel the heat of them on his face even from several meters away. Then, over the roar of the fire, he hears the sound of screaming. A child's voice, shrill with terror.

It's a girl. There's a little girl trapped inside the church.

Sam doesn't hesitate, his hesitation could costs lives. The door to the church isn't alight so Sam rams it with his shoulder and the rotten wood gives way easily. Broken pieces of old brick and shards of glass crunch under his shoes as he hurries into the building. "Where are you? Can you hear me? HELLO?!"

The smoke is thick, black and acrid, it swallows Sam up until he's lost in it. Disorientated, arms held out in front of him, he can't see, no little girl and no way out either.

His head is already starting to spin, the smoke will kill him before the fire does. He lays down on the ground, following hazy memories of the fire safety instructions that his last school drilled into him but once he's down, all he wants to do is close his eyes. Wish himself far away from here.

The last conscious thought Sam has is that the picture on the front of tomorrow's newspaper will be of him.

SNSNSN

Some indeterminable amount of time goes by and Sam feels his body starting to rise upwards. He opens his eyes in a panic but it's no near-death experience—it's his dad carrying him to the car. Dad's face is unreadable, a mask of dirt, blackened with soot and Sam hurts. The skin on his back screams in the places where it rests against his dad's arms.

He passes out again when his dad starts to lay him out in the back of the car.

SNSNSN

The next time Sam cracks open his eyelids, he's in his own bed. His mouth tastes dry and chalky (of crumbled-up pain pills). His entire upper half is swathed in bandages so thick he feels like the mummy from a Hammer Horror movie. He doesn't want to move—even staying motionless hurts—so he settles for squinting in the darkened room until the blurry shape by the side of his bed transforms into the recognizable form of his big brother.

Dean's asleep, slumped to one side in the ratty old armchair which he must have dragged in from the lounge.

"Is the girl dead?"

Dean wakes up straight away, as if he was only pretending to be asleep in the first place. He shakes his head and scowls, reaches out to touch Sam's arm and then stops himself. He looks angry, in fact, he looks really fucking pissed off (scared, he's scared). Finally, after a painfully long gap filled only with the sound of breathing, Dean says, "You're going to be okay."

"Is she dead?" Sam presses. Dean's avoiding the question and that can't mean good news.

"Sam...there wasn't anyone trapped inside that church. It was the imp, it doubled-back on Dad. That's how they get their kicks, imitating children in danger, to lure people to their deaths."

Sam's researched the hell out of practically every supernatural nasty his family has ever hunted. He knows about imps, he knows. "'M s-sorry, I'm sorry." Sam tries to roll away, onto his side, but a flash of pain starbursts behind his eyes and he hisses through clenched teeth.

Dean pales, anger fading from his face as fast as the color. "You could have got yourself killed, why...why did you go?"

Hunting or inside the church? Sam doesn't ask which one Dean's talking about. "I messed up. Now, I'm messed up, right?" Sam glances down at his bandaged covered chest, worries his lip with his teeth (he won't cry dammit).

"Sammy, you look like a boiled lobster but the burns aren't going to scar. You're the luckiest son of a bitch I know...although there is some bad news."

"What?"

"The three hairs that were growing on your chest are long gone dude."

"You're a dick, Dean."

Dean smirks but his eyes remain dimmed. He ruffles Sam's hair and leans back into his chair. "And you're twelve! There's plenty of time for you to play hero, tough guy."

Dean makes things better, Dean always makes things better but Sam can't help wishing those words were leaving his dad's mouth instead of his brother's.

~end~