Here's a secret for you – Dean was afraid of storms when he was a kid.

You'd think, being younger, that it would have been me, but it wasn't. Thunder and lightning didn't bother me at all. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I naively thought Dean could protect me from the storms like he protected me from everything else. I wasn't afraid of storms when Dad was there, and I wasn't afraid of storms when he wasn't. Considering we spent a lot of time driving back and forth through tornado alley, that attitude might have been a little stupid on my part. You grow up in the Midwest and you usually gain a healthy respect for Mother Nature. I never bothered.

Dean did though. Storms made him nervous until he was old enough to drive. I guess a driver's license and access to a vehicle gave him more confidence. If a storm threatened he'd just get in the car and go somewhere else. As a kid though, with no way to escape, Dean freaked out when it stormed. I remember once, when I was five, the tornado sirens going off while Dad was away on a Hunt and me and Dean alone in an Oklahoma motel. The manager came and hustled us all down into a storm cellar built under the lobby building.

A family of three – mom, dad and a little girl – sat next to us in a corner under the stairs. The little girl was holding on to a teddy bear so tightly her knuckles were white. Dean was holding on to me so tight he left bruises on my arms.

I eventually found out that this was because a tornado went through Lawrence when my brother was three and I wasn't even a thought in my parents' heads. The tornado side-swiped our house, pulling off a piece of the roof. Dad wasn't there for that either. He'd been at work and couldn't get home in time. Mom took Dean down into the basement and they were perfectly safe, but it scared the piss out of Dean anyway. When Dad told me this story I asked him if Mom was scared too.

"Your mother wasn't afraid of anything," he'd said.

She certainly wasn't afraid of weather. There were other, scarier things out there to be afraid of, but she knew how to kill them so they didn't bother her either, and like Dean at sixteen, Mom knew the way to handle bad weather was to just get the hell out of it.

Anyway, it could have been an omen, that tornado. The section of roof it ripped off was directly over the room that would eventually be mine.

It was storming like gang-busters the night Bobby and Dean summoned me. You could hear the drum of a heavy downpour on the gymnasium roof. The crash of thunder reverberated through the wooden floor. The air was thick with humidity, and electromagnetic energy. I don't know if Bobby and Dean could feel it, but I could. Once an addict, always an addict. Smokers quit smoking and start eating. I shake the demon blood addiction and trade it for death and a different kind of craving.

Bobby recited the summoning while Dean, struggling with his crutches, performed the ritual. With each step, each word, energy began to build up within the room. From there it flowed like liquid toward each point of the pentacle drawn on the floor. Unless they were psychic, a human couldn't see it, but I could. There's no accurate description, no color to define it with, but I could see it gathering inside the circle. It baited me. I knew if I stepped into the circle I'd be trapped. I also knew I wanted – needed – that energy badly. I couldn't resist promised warmth - and I was so very, very cold.

I resisted though. I held on because old habits die hard, and I had just enough stubbornness left in me to want to do things on my terms. I was also scared. For ten years Dean and I had death standing between us. I'd watched him move on with his life without interference. The wall of death protected both of us and it was about to be torn down. We'd be face to face for the first time in ten years, truly interacting with each other, without anything to hide behind. Death preserved the good, and edited out the bad and the ugly. Real life was never that easy.

This wasn't going to be like it was when Dean came back from Hell. I was still going to be dead, he was alive, and both of us had changed. It would be game time, time to come face to face with some crappy realities and make some tough decisions. This was the day I'd always dreaded, and at the same time longed for with all my heart.

Bobby was right. No matter what happened – it was going to hurt.

The more I resisted, the more power the spell drew from the storm. Outside the wind picked up, and the lighting became more and more intense. Once a bolt hit the building itself, and sent blue sparks crackling all along the steel girders supporting the roof above our heads. The noise was deafening. At the center of the pentagram, a brilliant light began to appear. A wind began to pick up inside the room. The candles flickered. It tugged at Dean and Bobby's shirts.

"Bobby?" Dean shouted. "What's going on?"

"Nothing good!" Bobby yelled back.


"I don't think so. We've got something hooked, but it's not wanting to cooperate!"

Bobby began to recite the words of the spell again, commanding me to appear, and this time I felt it. It hurt, like a giant hand had reached inside me and grabbed a hold of my heart. It squeezed me tight and began pulling me toward the center of the pentagram. The light grew brighter. It hurt my eyes. I could feel my skin tingle with a million tiny electric shocks. I felt this. I physically felt it from the soles of my shoes to the ends of my hair. My spirit was being dragged out of limbo and dressed up in substance. I was going to show up to the party whether I wanted to or not.

"No. Bobby. Stop." I dug in my heels. I stopped at the edge of the first circle, refusing to go any further. I wasn't ready for this. Dean wasn't ready for this. "Stop!"

Thunder boomed overhead. I let out a yell when I was suddenly yanked off my feet and dumped into the center of the light. The yell turned into a scream when all that built up energy slammed into me all at once. I was on my knees, my arms outstretched, my spine arched back so painfully I thought it was going to snap, body or no body. My voice echoed through the empty gymnasium and overrode the storm.


I walked into a liquor store at 1 a.m. May 2, 2008 and bought two bottles of whiskey. I had to wait for the clerk, so I stood there looking at myself in the mirror behind the counter.

I was twenty-five years old.

There was blood on my shirt and a body in my car.

Happy fucking birthday to me.

The clerk came out of the back room. He didn't even give me a second glance, as if men with blood-stained shirts came in every night to buy whiskey. There was blood on the cash I gave him too. It was still wet and sticky. That caused him to wrinkle a lip in disgust, but he handed me my change and bagged my booze without a word. I wasn't paying attention anyway. I was hoping I hadn't gotten blood on the Impala's carpet. It would leave a stain.

Dean will kill me.

Dean's dead.

"It's my birthday," I said, as if that explained everything.

The clerk didn't give a shit. He just wanted me out before the cops came. "Well, happy birthday, kid."

I knew what he was really thinking.

Get out, you freak.

Three hours later Bobby and I were in Pontiac, Illinois. We dug a hole and I buried the shredded remains of my brother. I was drunk out of my mind by then. I never told Dean, but I threw up at the foot of his grave before we left. I don't know why I never told him. He would have laughed his ass off.

Bloodstains won't come out of hardwood floors. It has to be sanded out. The house in New Harmony had beautiful hardwood floors – before Dean bled all over them.

"They weren't shiny," I murmured. I was kneeling on a hardwood floor, a hardwood floor made shiny with layers and layers of clear varnish put down over many years. I ran a hand over the smooth surface. Wood retained warmth better than anything else, but not like this. This was warm, too warm, like it was alive, like the tree was somehow still alive. "But it's not," I said. "Not alive. Not really."

It wasn't that the wood was warm, it was that I was cold. Cold. And dead.


Bobby. Bobby's voice. Hardwood floor – gym floor. Okay. Stuff was coming back into alignment. Memory anyway. My insides – not so much.

"I think I'm gonna puke," I said hoarsely.

"I doubt that, ya idjit. You've got no stomach to throw up with."

I sat up slowly. I felt like I had a hangover. My head was throbbing, I was dizzier than hell, and for all that Bobby said I couldn't throw up, I sure felt like I was going to.

"Yeah? Are you going to say that when I hurl ectoplasmic glop all over your shoes?"

Bobby looked at Dean. "Lucifer didn't have that much of a sense of humor. Did he?"

"Lucifer had a sick sense of humor," I answered, working my way back onto my feet. "It's me, Bobby. Don't worry." I glanced over at Dean and my sense of humor vanished. I could barely get out the words, "Hey, Dean."

We met mid-court. I didn't move. Neither of us said anything at first. We were within arm's length of each other when Dean reached out and ran his fingers across my chest. His hand flattened out. He placed his palm over my heart and curled his fingers into the front of my shirt until he had a handful of it clenched in his fist.

Solid. Real.

For now.

"Sam," he croaked. "You're here."

It should have been more emotional for Dean than me, after all, I'd been with him every single day for the past ten years. I think we ended up about even on the emotionally gob-smacked scale, but I was the one that started the waterworks. I couldn't help it. Being there, being there, finally, after ten years of watching and waiting for something, anything, to got to me.

"I never left," I whispered. "Dean. I never left."

"Sammy, why didn't you let me know you were here?"

"You know why."

"So you just let me go on thinking you were in the pit with Lucifer?"

"Did you really think I was?"

"No," Dean said softly. "Sometimes...yes. But there were times when..." His voice broke, and it was his turn. Tag team tears. "I'm no psychic," he said gruffly.

"You don't have to be."

We were outside. The storms had passed and the night cleared. Just like old times we leaned against the car and talked. The only thing missing was the Impala. We were at Bobby's car instead – Dean sitting on the hood, taking the weight off his bad leg, me leaning against the fender. It looked like I was going to stick around for a while. I was pretty charged-up this time, and more or less against my will.

"No, I guess not." Dean took a deep breath. "I felt you. It was like if I looked up, you'd be there, pissed at me for ignoring you." He paused. "I kept my promise, Sammy."

"I know. Thanks for that."

"Was it boring?"

"What? Watching you play at Dad of the Year?" I laughed. "Not for a minute."

He scowled. "I'm glad my hard work provided you with so much entertainment."

"I got a kick out of you changing Junior's diapers."

"Dude. I used to change your diapers."

Abruptly, there was an awkward silence. I know it sounds really stupid, but I couldn't think of anything to say. Dean turned his head to hide his face from me, but as solid as I was right then, I could feel his shoulder next to mine, and I could feel it shake.

In a barely audible whisper he said, "Sammy..." And then, "I wanted to die."

"I know."

"No. You don't. You...defined me, Sam. Everything. Everything in my life revolved around you, and it always had." I glanced over my shoulder and saw his face. The look was agonized. His teeth were clenched. "Don't tell me you know, because you don't. I've been looking after you since I was four years old. I sold my soul for you. I went to Hell for you. But... you changed...I changed, and then you were gone and...I had no idea who I was anymore." He took a shuddering breath, and shook his head sadly. "You can't understand, Sammy. You just...can't."

But I did. I had.

"And now?" I asked softly. "Who are you?"

He laughed a little. "Not Dad of the Year."

"No. But you're still a damn good dad. Are you sorry for that, Dean? I mean, it must be worth something because you didn't trade it for my ass this time."

"I promised you I wouldn't."

"And of all the things I could have made you promise, why the hell do you think I picked that one, huh?" I looked up at the stars. "Give me some credit, will you?" I said. "Do you honestly think I don't understand the meaning of loss? That I haven't hurt? Look who you're talking to, Dean. I would have traded my soul in a million times over to fix what got broken because of me, but I was never allowed." I turned around so I could face him. "Can't you let me have this one?"

"What do you want me to say, Sam?" Dean shot back. "Huh? What?"

"Christ, Dean. Just tell me you're happy for once in your life!"

He stared at me, tears in his eyes and his mouth open. For a long time he didn't say anything at all, but then he shook his head and whispered. "I can't."

"No," I said. "You can't because you've chained yourself to a corpse." I pleaded. "Let it go, Dean. Please, just let me go. I'm what's making you miserable."

It didn't surprise either of us that the last thing he said to me before he picked up his crutches and went home were the same two words.

"I can't."

Some people equate evil with chaos, but that's not necessarily true. Demons like to cause chaos, and in that way, they themselves become predictable. Like ghosts, demons tend to follow "the rules." Among a lot of other things that's what made Ruby so attractive. She was a demon who didn't follow the rules. I thought she was there to help me. Sometimes, I thought she loved me. I've heard it, and I've said it myself a million times - I should have known better.

It had started pouring rain again when we finally left the gym. Dean wasn't in much of a talking mood by then, physically and emotionally wrung out. Bobby dropped him off at the end of the block and he carefully made his way up to the house, soaked through and hurting bad by the time he got there. He knew now I was there with him, and I was still fully charged. The spell had pumped me full of electromagnetic meth. I could manifest as solid to the touch as I would have been wearing flesh – if I chose. At that time I chose to keep a low profile.

Dean and I were used to putting each other before ourselves, too afraid to go it alone. I never knew that about myself until I lost him, and I'd done what I'd once accused him of doing after Dad died. That Hellhound ripped out my heart just as it had Dean's – only I had to keep on living with the hole it left, that gaping wound in my chest. I would have done anything to make it stop hurting – and I did. I tried to fill it with Ruby, and revenge. I reached for things I knew I shouldn't have touched. I did exactly what the demons knew I would if they took Dean away from me.

I made Dean break our vicious cycle with a single promise, but I was beginning to realize that it hadn't changed anything. Dean throwing in the towel on Hunting threw the demons off. He became unpredictable, vanishing off their radar because he didn't do what they expected him to do. Going to Lisa kept him safe, and at the same time it eased the pain – but not enough, not nearly enough. You can't patch up a wound like that with a band aid. The life he had with Lisa came too late. It was the life he had always wanted, but he was too far gone to enjoy it. The wound would never heal completely.

Now he had a choice to make. He knew I wasn't suffering. He knew if I moved on, I'd be at peace. It wasn't me that kept him holding on, not really. It was the fact that if he let go, acknowledged that he wouldn't have to keep his promise to me, he'd have no excuse to stay. He'd have to admit the truth – that he wasn't domesticated, that the role of house husband he'd been playing for the past ten years was killing him.

He'd have to start Hunting again.

It boiled down to him having to chose between me and Lisa, his dead brother and his living children. That wasn't an enviable position for anyone. He himself would be miserable with either choice. He was tired of Hunting, but it was all he knew, and all he'd have left if he abandoned his TVLand life. It's hard, knowing you have a calling and hating it. You can't ignore it. It's like committing murder. How many lives could you have saved while you were in that PTA meeting, or hanging out with the kids at some family theme park?

In retrospect, me forcing him to take what he'd always wanted, hurt Dean more than it saved him. After we dispatched Lucifer, and he thought I'd trapped in oblivion, Dean came to the end of the road himself. Famine had hit the mark – my brother was dead inside. He'd finally arrived at the point where everything had gone numb. There was no more grief, no more guilt, no more pain. He had nothing left to love, so what did it matter what he did next? So he fulfilled his promise, never knowing it would make him feel again. But what he felt, more than anything else, was just more pain.

I should have known better.

What's dead, should stay dead.

The lights were on in the house. Dean sighed as he saw them. Lisa was up, and no doubt noticed Dean's absence. He was already drained. Now there would be a confrontation with Lisa he just wasn't up to having.

"Dammit," he murmured, and opened the door. "Lise..."

It hit us both at the same time. I felt it as a major disruption in the energies inside the house, a supernatural alarm bell ringing loud enough to make all my senses shoot into hyperdrive. It was the smell that got Dean. Pungent, reeking, like a barrel full of rotten eggs spoiling in the summer sun - the unmistakable stink of sulfur.

"No. Oh, God. No..."

I stepped out of limbo and grabbed his arm. "Dean, wait..."

He shook me off, swinging his crutches forward and back and plunging head-long over the threshold. "Lisa? LISA!"

She was standing in the living room, wearing just a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt, what she normally wore to bed. Her bare legs were spattered with blood. Her chest was covered in it. A thin red line stretched across her throat from one ear to the other – the source of the literal waterfall of blood.

Dean stopped in his tracks, gasping for breath. Lisa smiled at him.

"Hello Dean, and...oh my God! Is that our little Sammy?" She laughed. "Well, this has been a night of surprises." Waving one bloodstained hand, she came closer. The smell of iron and sulfur increased. "I came to this po-dunk town expecting to find some silly girl playing at witchcraft. Imagine my surprise to discover the long lost Dean Winchester, and now look! It's Sam too. I couldn't be happier." She made a mock pout and her eyes went completely black. "Things just haven't been the same without you boys."

With an odd, strangled sound that was half growl, half scream, Dean launched himself at her, swinging one of his crutches hard toward her head. She blocked the blow with ease, wrenching his makeshift weapon out of his grasp with one hand and punching him with the other. He crashed into a bookcase, going down hard under a barrage of broken glass. With a gleeful laugh she dropped the crutch and threw up her right hand. Dean was jerked up off the floor and hurled across the room again – this time toward the stone fireplace.

The landing might have killed him if I hadn't interrupted his trajectory. I threw up a hand and "caught" him. Instead of hitting the hearth, his flight fell short, onto the sofa. His body bounced off the cushions and landed on the living room rug with a pretty loud thud but no serious damage. The demon whirled back around to face me. Her eyes narrowed. We began to circle one another.

"That spell," she hissed. "The one I followed here. He summoned you." Her brow knit. "But you...could that mean Lucifer is free as well?"

"No," I said. "Big Daddy is still locked up nice and tight. So sorry to disappoint you." With a snarl, I made the reveal. I could see the face behind the meat. I could smell the stink of her black, rotten soul. "Meg."

"Oh, just call me Lisa." Meg chuckled. "You know, I should have known she was Dean's bitch. Long legs, big tits...just his type. She fought me. I might have let her live if she had just cooperated. Too bad."

The "too bad" was directed at Dean, who had pulled himself back up onto his feet. With gritted teeth he limped over to where I stood. His face was pale and sweat beaded up across his forehead. Pain radiated off of him like waves, and it wasn't just physical pain. Emotionally he was in agony. It was just the kind of stuff a demon gets off on but there was no way he could hold it back.

"You'll pay for this," he growled. "I swear to God..."

"God," Meg rolled her eyes and snorted. "Who didn't even bother to come to the Apocalypse party we threw him? Dean," she added in a patronizing stage whisper. "I don't think he's listening."

"What do you want?" I demanded. "It's over for us. We're out of it. Go play somewhere else – preferably in Hell."

"What do I want? Hmm?" She turned her gaze upward and tapped her chin in an exaggerated gesture, finally shrugging. "What everyone wants I guess. Love, marriage, a home, and..."

Her best demonic grin, on Lisa's face, was unnerving. I could have predicted what would come next.


As if on cue, a scream echoed down the stairs. It was a child's scream, followed immediately by another, only this one contained a word.


Meg thrust out a hand, prempting Dean's rush for the stairs. He flew back into the wall and was pinned there. "Oh, no you don't," she said pleasantly. Glancing over her shoulder, we could all see a second demon descending the stairs with a small, limp body lying in his arms.

"No." Dean's voice cracked. He didn't bother to hide the tears, and he didn't hesitate to beg. She had his son, the only family he had left, and if Dean values anything, it's family. "Please. Meg, please...I'll do anything. I swear, I'll give you anything you want. My life, my soul. Just don't hurt him. Please."

She slowly made her way toward him, her smile mocking. "Sorry. I'm not bargaining. Not with you. Not with that," she pointed at Junior. "But I'm not going to hurt him, not a hair on his little head, because you know what I see there? I see another chance. I see redemption." Her accomplice arrived at her side, still carrying Dean's son. Meg reached over and pulled a knife from his belt. I recognized it. I knew that knife real well. It had once been Ruby's.

"He's a little old, but he'll do. It's all in the breeding – and the blood." Her lip curled as she held out her arm and ran the knife across her wrist. Despite what Lisa's body had already spilled, blood flowed quickly from the cut. But then, this wasn't Lisa's human blood. It was the demon's.

I hadn't moved from where I stood. I suspect Meg thought maybe I couldn't, or wouldn't, but she was wrong on both counts. As soon as I understood what she had planned, my paralysis broke. I struck her fast and I struck her hard, wrenching the knife from her hand and thrusting her up against the wall opposite where Dean still stood trapped. Her minion started to come to her defense, dropping Junior into an armchair. I gave a quick flip of my wrist and the knife flew from my hand, burying itself in the demon's chest. He gave a gurgling scream and died where he stood.

Meg didn't move. We stood nose to nose, my arm shoved up under her chin and across her throat, just like the wound she wore, the wound that killed the love of Dean's life and the mother of his children. I felt sick. It was happening again - the same curse coming back to haunt us again. Another family torn apart.

Without warning, Meg raised her arm like she was going to belt me one. I quickly grabbed her wrist and held it with my free hand. I could feel her struggling against me both physically and psychically.

"You," she croaked. "Might have the power of the dead behind you, Sam. But I have Hell in my corner. You've felt that power. You know who's going to win this." Her eyes flashed black. "I'm going to suck you dry, Casper, and once you're out of my way, I'm going to take your brother apart piece by piece by piece." She laughed despite the pressure of my arm on her throat. "And you know what I'm going to do then? I'm going to claim the boy as Hell's own. Castiel and his feathered buddies can put up all the seals they want, but I'll bust 'em all, and in the end, Dean's little whelp will throw open the final door. Lucifer will rise again, Sammy, and there's nothing you can do to stop it this time."

She was true to her word. Almost immediately I could feel myself weakening as she began to siphon off my energy. I was a spirit, a human spirit. I was no match for a demon, especially one as old and savvy as Meg. She had my number too, some psychic tie left over from when she'd possessed me, giving her an advantage another demon might not have. She'd bleed me back into limbo and I would be unable to stop her.

The summoning had given me the ability to have form and substance. It had also given me back my human senses. When Meg attempted to hit me, when I grabbed her arm, blood spattered across my face from the cut she'd made at her wrist. Now it ran freely over my hand and fell in thick, sluggish drops to the floor. The smell of it woke up memories I thought were long gone. When I licked my lips the taste of it hit me like a freight train. I didn't just want it. I needed it.

I didn't know what it meant. I was dead. My body was dust. I shouldn't have felt what I did.

But I did, and I knew what I had to do next regardless of the cost. I wasn't about to let her turn my nephew into a monster like me.

"Think again, bitch," I growled, and pulled her arm up to my mouth.

Castiel told me what would have happened if I'd done it – if, as a ghost, I'd consumed demon blood. The theory was that it would have turned me right then and there. My human spirit would have been destroyed, warped into the black, sulfurous smoke we know as demons when they're not possessing a body. I say it's only theory because it had never been proven. It had never happened before. Cas seemed pretty convinced though, and that was enough for me to be glad I failed.

What stopped me?


Of course. What else?

Once a Hunter, always a Hunter. If Meg had stepped back just a few feet further into the living room, she would have been caught by the Devil's trap Dean had painted on the floor beneath the rug. In the dining room liquor cabinet there was a vodka bottle full of holy water and a wooden box full of "goofer dust." In the umbrella stand beside the front door was a length of solid iron rod, and a sawed-off shotgun loaded with rock salt.

Meg poured everything she had into the battle with me. Her attention was focused on keeping me off her, because like Cas, she wasn't real sure what would happen if I got a good taste of her blood. She didn't notice Junior had stirred from the chair. Her hold on Dean was loosening. He'd gotten his feet back on the floor, and when his son rushed into his arms with a cry, Meg didn't notice. She didn't see Dean send Junior away on a mission of his own.


I turned, and though it seemed like a lifetime, what happened next took only seconds.

Dean stood there behind me. In his left hand he held the shotgun he'd had John Robert retrieve from the umbrella stand. In his right hand was Ruby's bloody knife. The knife was for Meg, the shotgun was for me.

We stood on the brink. It was Stull Cemetery all over again. I could feel the rush of wind pulling me down as the vortex opened up under my feet, I could feel Lucifer clawing at my mind, fighting to regain control, and I could see the painful resignation in my brother's eyes. There was no other way to end the Apocalypse. There was no other way to save ourselves. He had to go his way, and me, mine, even if that meant spending an eternity in Hell.

It wasn't God who saved me that day. It had been Dean. He'd made a vow, a promise, and by keeping it, he made sure that every single day he spent with Lisa, he would think of me. That promise had been my lifeline. It freed me, and yet it bound me too. Now the power it had over me was wearing thin.

Dean couldn't live the life I asked him to live. For ten years he'd flown under the demons' radar, but it wouldn't have lasted forever. It would have always ended like this. They would have always found him, no matter how fast or how far he ran. Now he had no choice. Meg had forced his hand. He had to let go of the normal life we'd both wanted.

We stood on the brink of death, both of us.

I'm sorry, Sammy.

I know. It's okay, Dean. It's okay.

His finger closed around the trigger, and he filled my chest with rock salt.

There is nothing in life or death that causes that much pain. Every particle of my being was being torn apart, the definition of disintegration, and even though it looks instantaneous, it doesn't feel instantaneous. It feels like it's being done in slow motion, like being eroded away into nothing. I lost my grip on Meg. I lost my grip on reality. All the energy Bobby and Dean had given me with the summoning took off like air from a popped balloon. There was nothing left for me to clothe myself in, nothing to give me the strength to manifest among the living. I was dead again. Thoroughly, totally, dead.

If I hadn't been distracted by the pain I would have noticed Ruby's dagger fly past just as I vanished. I would have heard Meg's scream of agony if my own hadn't been filling my head. Dean's throw struck her right through the heart. Ruby's dagger killed Meg instantly, along with anything that might have remained of Lisa. The last thing I remember of that moment was catching a glimpse of Lisa's body falling to the floor, and hearing the heartbroken wail of a child who would never be the same again.

Life revolves in circles, and I'm not quoting Disney here. Fads come back, trends reappear decades later, people follow well worn paths generation after generation. A long time ago Dean scoffed at me when I claimed our family was cursed. After we learned more about our past, he changed his tune.

The night my mother died, something broke in Dad. He would never be the same again. Mom's deal to save us all from the life she'd known as a kid, ended up thrusting us right back into it. All she'd ever wanted was to lead a normal life. I tried to give that to Dean, and like Mom, I failed in an awful way. Because of me, Lisa was dead. Because of me, Dean would start Hunting again, and he would take John Robert with him, who will, no doubt, represent the next generation of Campbell/Winchester Hunters. Our curse continues.

After Dean shot me I couldn't go back. I was no longer Earthbound, Dean was no longer haunted. The ties between us had finally been severed. When I reappeared with both feet firmly planted on the spirit side of the veil, Tessa was there waiting for me. Dean had made his choice – had been forced to make his choice. Now it was my turn.

"Dean..." I said, still frantic, not sure about what I'd seen. Was Meg really dead? Were Dean and Junior okay? "Tessa, I can't..."

"You can," she said firmly. "And you will."

"He needs me!"

"Yes, he does." Reaching out her hand, Tessa gently touched my face. I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me. She was never anything but sympathetic. It was her job – Guidance Counselor to the dead. "But not here. Not now."


"Let go, Sam." Her voice softened. "Let him be who he was meant to be."

"God's whipping boy?" I demanded angrily.

"Your big brother."

I looked away from her. I understood what she was saying. For ten years Dean was in limbo, just like me. He could look at his storybook life but he couldn't really touch it. He was starving to death, while I clung to him like a parasite, convinced what I'd given him was a gift he just didn't appreciate. It was my stupid ego at work again. I had to let him go. I couldn't save him. I had to let him save me, at least one more time.

Tessa put a hand on my shoulder. "And in his darkest hours, it will be you who lights his way with peace, and hope. He knows you will be in a better place. He knows you'll be there waiting. You'll be far more valuable to him if you just let him be."

After he regained his memories of her, Dean told me all about Tessa. She knows how to talk the talk. She's as passionate and convincing as a trial lawyer, but then, that's her job.

I didn't take much convincing.

My days here are spent with Jess, doing the things we'd always talked about, but never had the chance to do. Heaven is what you make of it, and we've made our way around the world and back more than once, experiencing all the wonders of God's creation. It's virtual reality, the Earth without all its current flaws. I see now why the angels are so pissed at humanity. Our world in its purest form is breathtakingly beautiful.

So is Jess. Every morning I wake up with her at my side. Every day I fall in love with her all over again. That's a high I've become addicted to without consequence. She laughs at how much I fawn over her, but she doesn't remember things like I do. There are times when we do nothing but spend the day in bed. I don't ever want to let her go again.

My nights in Heaven are different. The world I live in after sundown doesn't include Jessica. There's a bar, a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, and that's where you'll find me. From dusk 'til dawn I'll be there, drinking beer, playing pool, and listening to Ash's bullshit. Sometimes Pamela will stop in for a drink between parties, or concerts, or whatever her Heaven consists of at that moment. Cas has been known to show up for a shot or two. His days spent as a fallen angel have left him with a taste for whiskey. He likes a good bourbon. Dean's influence no doubt. I haven't run into Ellen, or Jo, or my parents. I guess their Heavens don't include me, or seedy backwoods bars, or both.

Around midnight I'll grab a cold one and wander out onto the porch. I'll sit on the steps, or I'll lean against the railing, and I'll wait there until dawn draws me back to Jess again. I've never seen a car on the road that passes in front of the bar, but I know one day I will.

When that day does come I'll look up to see headlights on the road, and hear the rumble of an old V-8 engine. A long black Chevy will pull into the parking lot with a throaty roar, her tires skidding in the gravel, and I'll catch the muffled strains of classic rock through her darkened windows. There won't be any doubt in my mind who'll be in the driver's seat. It could be no one else but Dean.

He'll get out of the car and respond to my "what took you so long?" with nothing but a cocky grin. Then he'll snag my beer, march up the steps into the Roadhouse, and start raising a little hell.

But not tonight. Tonight the road is silent.

So I wait.