Title: A Sign of the Times

A/N: This is my offering for the episode "Salvation" in the Summer of Sam Love. Beta thanks to geminigrl11.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Summary: Sam can see the future. Missing scene for "Salvation."

-o-

Sam can see the future.

Of course, that always sounds more impressive than it is. Because Sam sees the future in visions and nightmares, bursts of terrible, painful truth, searing through his brain and taking hold of him. The things he sees are of death and destruction, pain and loss. Terrible things. Murder and hatred and blood.

They consume him against his will, pull him down, and like a man drowning, his head goes under without his consent. He fights and fights, but cannot surface. He is at the mercy of this thing until it covers every part of him and all he can do is surrender to it.

It could kill him, and he wouldn't know the difference. Waking or sleeping, this future he sees comes at its own leisure. Once, when he's sleeping in a motel room. Again when he's talking to a possible witness in Michigan.

Now, when he's walking down the street to meet up with his family.

No matter how much he wants to get to them, to discuss their plans, the vision is stronger than he is, taking him down right there in public, hand to the head as he tries to get to his knees before it's all too late.

When the struggle is over, the vision plays like a B-quality movie. Dark lighting and jagged scene cuts. A nursery. A child's cry. A mother on the ceiling.

Burn, burn, burn.

The future Sam sees is never cryptic but also not quite clear. It's a promise of something terrible without definitive markers on how to stop it.

He tries to make out pieces. The mother's face. The gender of the baby. The sound of a train's whistle in the distance.

But the more questions he asks, the more the vision fades, and then he is pushed clear of the vision with force.

He opens his eyes with a gasp, sucking in air. He's on the ground, someone's hand on his arm.

"Hey, hey, are you awake?"

Sam blinks, his eyes adjusting to the Iowa sunlight. He has to swallow hard to bring some saliva into his throat, but he manages to say, "Yeah, I'm fine."

The hand is still there, but not as strong now. It's someone Sam doesn't know, a jogger by the looks of him. He's a few years old than Sam, with kind blue eyes. A down-home, real Midwestern kind of guy. The type that will stop for strangers who pass out on the street. "I came around the corner and you were just out, man," he says. "I was going to call 911-"

Sam shakes his head, trying to pull away with what he hopes is a sheepish smile, but with his lingering headache, it's hard to tell how successful the gesture is. "It's okay, really," he says.

The guy doesn't look convinced. "I mean, I'm no doctor-"

"I just saw the doctor," Sam lies. He takes the story and runs with it. "Low blood sugar. I just have to go home, get something to eat. That's all."

The man frowns a little, but eases his grip off entirely. "If you're sure..."

Sam struggles to get his feet beneath him. "I'm sure," he says, and he's confident in that. The last thing he needs in an ambulance he can't pay for to look at a problem no one can fix.

Because Sam's body isn't broken, it's his soul. He can feel it, every time a vision takes hold. The darkness about it. The way it leeches everything inside of him-strength and light and goodness-and leaves bleak darkness in its wake. This will take him whole someday, and he wonders if he'll even see it happening, if he'll even have a choice.

This is why he didn't want to tell Dean, why he still hasn't told his father. This is why he downplays the headaches, shrugs his shoulders and says he's fine. Because Sam can see the future and all signs point to a fate Sam can't fight, no matter how hard he tries.

He tries anyway.

On unsteady feet, he has to keep one hand out for balance, trying not to spend too much time fingering the bump on his head from when he fell. Instead, he bolsters a smile. "Thanks for the help," he says.

The man watches him and it's up to Sam to walk away. His legs feel wobbly, but he puts one foot in front of the other, ignoring the way darkness fringes the edges of his vision.

One foot in front of the other. It's all Sam can do, and it's all he does do, and not just until he's around the corner from his Good Samaritan, but until he's all the way back to the motel, where his dad and brother are waiting for him.

He doesn't know how long he's been out, but he figures it's probably been long enough. If he's late, they'll know. They always know. Anything Sam does, they can figure out. Any mistake Sam makes is easy to discern. Sam can't hide this vision from them, not even if he wants to. Because even though this power isn't a gift, it may be the only lead they have, and Sam owes it to them to share that much.

With his hand on the door, Sam can barely control a wince. The vision's after effects have left him nauseated and unsteady, but he knows these feelings won't go away until he's met his future face to face.

It's funny. Sam can see the future, but he still doesn't know what his family do when they know the truth, when they finally figure out just how wrong Sam is.

Turning the knob, he wonders if this is the time he'll find out or if the future will have something else in store for him.

-o-

Sam can see the future.

That's right there at the top of Dean's Try to Forget list.

Sometimes it's actually kind of easy to forget. With all the crap they've got going on, he has plenty of distractions. Hunting is good for forgetting, at least, and trying to keep the peace between his father and his brother is pretty demanding, too. How they've managed to stay together this long with only one major blow up is still kind of amazing to Dean. But the tension is still thick, mounting by the minute as more people die and as their leads ignite, and there are moments when Dean has to wonder if this is really what he wanted.

The Winchester family unit, back together again, as whole as they ever would be. It's been his fantasy for so long that the real thing sort of pales in comparison, with his father chiding him every two seconds and Sam picking fights in the rest.

But still. Together. That's how Dean's always felt safest. It's how he's always felt the most complete. It's how it's supposed to be, it's his status quo, the thing he's always struggling to get back to, even when Sam and his dad seem particularly averse to ever making it work.

And right when he thinks maybe they've cleared that obstacle and they're finally working as something resembling a team, he's hit with that little truth he's been conveniently ignoring: Sam can see the future.

It's a little hard to ignore when Sam stumbles in to the motel room. To the kid's credit, he's trying to stay upright, but the look of pain that creases his forehead, scrunching between his eyes, is pretty hard to ignore. His face is whitewashed beneath the thick fringe of bangs, and it seems to be all Sam can do to stagger to a bed and sit down hard, cradling his head in his freakishly large hands.

Dean is torn between rushing to him to make sure he's okay and playing cool to keep their cover. Because it's one thing that Sam can see the future, it's another thing that it's something they haven't quite told their father yet.

Too bad their old man has a penchant for picking up on the obvious. He doesn't get up from his seat, but he stops cleaning his gun, and stares Sam down. His voice is rough and gravelly when he outright demands, "What's wrong with you?"

Sam winces at the sound, his shoulder rising somewhat as if to protect himself from it.

It's pretty clear to Dean what's happened, and just as clear that Sam's not quite wanting to talk about it. Whatever is going to come out of Sam's mouth, he's pretty sure it's not going to go over well, so stepping between the spark and the match seems like the smart move.

He's on his feet, going to Sam's bed, kneeling in front of his brother to get a better look, just to be sure.

Sam allows the examination, meets Dean's eyes wearily, and all the signs are there. Pupils still too dilated. The pained downturn of his mouth. The small sheen of sweat across his forehead, on the top of his lips. The minute shaking, even with the jacket in the Iowa spring.

Dean bites his lip and hesitates just for a moment. "He's okay," he reports. Getting to his feet, he bolsters his courage and faces his father. "Or he will be."

John's eyes narrow, and he puts his gun down. The movement is careful and measured, and Dean's walking on eggshells to get through this. The last thing any of them need is a meltdown, and if this revelation is going to come to light, Dean has to tread lightly.

And pray hard.

John doesn't have to demand more of an explanation; it's clear on his face, the square set of his shoulders.

"I guess we forgot to mention something," Dean says, offering something of a sheepish grin.

John's eyebrows lift.

Dean glances at his brother, who still hasn't moved and seems to be breathing purposefully thought his mouth, as if any movement could set him off and over the edge.

"Sam, um, sort of has these visions," Dean says finally.

John's expression remains neutral, but guardedly so. "Visions?"

Dean's smile falls and he surrenders this as a loss. He can only hope the response will be good, that his father won't blow this, that his dad will understand that black and white is good for hunting, but not for Sam. For Sam, they need to break the rules, because if they don't, they might just break Sam and that's not something Dean can risk. Now, or ever. Not after he's worked so hard to get him back, to get them all back.

The words come out, and Dean's hedging his bets, letting it ride on the only option he has left: "Sam can see the future."

Because it's true, but it doesn't change anything. At least, nothing that matters.

-o-

Sam can see the future.

Damn it.

John has seen this coming-he has-but it still hits him like a ton of bricks. John's been on the tail of the demon that started this for long enough, he's studied its habits and its after effects. He knows about the other children, the things that they could do. The things that have happened to them. The other children like Sam have been changed, and John has always understood the implications.

But still. Part of him, the part of him that's a father, not a drill sergeant, has held out hope that maybe Sam would be different. Maybe Sam could be spared this fate. Because this thing took his wife, and the thought of losing his son to it-

Is almost too much to bear.

But is getting harder and harder to ignore.

He doesn't know how the demon marked Sam. He doesn't even completely know why. He gets the idea that it's building some kind of army, picking children who could be some kind of superhuman soldiers, twisting and tainting them until they'd give in to anything it wanted. That's why so many of the other children have died. That's the best John can figure.

For what, though, John doesn't know. The endgame he can't quite discern.

And to hell with it-the endgame doesn't matter. Sam matters. Keeping his son from becoming a pawn in this thing-he'd kill Sam before he let his son suffer like that.

And now Sam's sitting on the bed, head in his hands, and Dean's standing there looking like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and it's all John can do to keep from panicking.

Is he too late? Has the switched already been flipped? Is the end of this story already written?

He wants to keep his boys out of this. It's why he pushed them away. It's why he kept them apart. But he let Dean talk him into this, he let them convince him to do this together, and John's agreed to keep them safe.

But they're not safe. Not with their protective wards and their guns and their exorcisms. Nothing is safe. They're going to hunt the demon that killed Mary and Sam can see the future and John can't help but think this isn't going to go well. There are too many variables, too many unknowns. John's accounted for so much, but now John doesn't even know if he can count on his own sons. Not with Sam having visions and Dean starting to lie.

They've never been safe. Not even with all the measures John's taken. And for the first time, John wonders if that's been his greatest self-deception, his most monstrous act of arrogance. To think that he could ever keep them safe. That they had any chance of making this right.

Because John can put together the clues. He can track the signs all across the country. He can do his research, put the name Azazel to the son of a bitch who started this, but part of him knows, part of him just knows, that he's only one human in the face of supernatural forces he can only begin to understand.

This isn't just the run-of-the-mill ghost hunt. This isn't even a normal exorcism. This is a demon that taints children and turns them into monsters without any warning whatsoever, and it's done it in the past and it's doing it again, and John's got a gun and a wayward hope that he can stop this.

But even if he stops the demon, will that save Sam? Is there a possibility that Sam may turn anyway? That he'll have to save one bullet for his youngest before this is all said and done?

John's teeth grind and he looks from Dean to Sam, Sam to Dean. His boys. They're strong. They're smart. They're capable.

And damn it all, they're good. They love each other and they love him. They're here with him until the end.

But how does he trust this? How does he trust visions of the future from the thing that killed Mary? How does he trust the lies?

But can he afford not to?

Sam's back is bowed under the weight and Dean's expression is barely poised. John doesn't know what the fate will hold for his boys, but he's not ready to resign himself to losing them just yet.

Collecting a breath, John lets it out, slow and even. He closes his eyes for a moment, and pulls back his anger and his fear, and tempers himself to something that won't explode. Because part of him still wants to make this better. Wants to go to Sam, look into his eyes, and make sure his boy isn't still feeling the pain. Part of him wants to clap Dean on the shoulder, offering something of a reassuring smile, and tell him there's no need to worry.

But the pain won't go away. And there's plenty of reason to worry. Now, more than ever.

"Visions," John repeats, looking at Dean again. "And when were you going to tell me this?"

Because John needs to know. He needs to know everything.

Dean shrugs, but his demeanor relaxes slightly. "It just didn't come up."

John snorts, seeing the lie for what it is. His boys are playing with fire, just the same as he is, but at least John understands how combustible this is. The boys have no idea that it can all go up in flames at any given moment.

Because Sam can see the future. But John can see it better.