If you're happy don't worry, you'll soon get over it.

-Murphy's Miscellaneous Laws


It wasn't a stretch to imagine that in the beginning of anything, when Fate was handing out assignments, the Winchesters drew the short straw. Mary's straw was pretty damn short. John's was even shorter. Dean's was the shortest. Sam's metaphoric 'straw' was so dismally pathetic and unfathomably minuscule; it technically ceased to exist in the face of its own stature.

Simply put, Sam's life sucked.

But that was part of the gig… alright, being the devil's vessel and taking a nosedive right into the darkest corner of hell, all the while clinging to your little brother's dead/undead/possessed-by-Michael-o,yes-that-Michael body wasn't part of what he'd signed on for. And the whole trapped-in-The-Cage-with-moody-Michael-and-Lucifer-o,yes-that-Lucifer for upwards of a hundred and eighty years hadn't been part of the deal either. But he was back and he mostly got along by not thinking about it.

No, that was a lie. The only way he woke up every morning not vomiting up his intestines with pure self-disgust and the 'My-life-sucks' blues was by not thinking about any of it. Not his mother. Not his father. Not Jessica. Not Ruby. Not the demon blood. Not Lilith. Not the Apocalypse that he started and ended. Not Lucifer. Not his supposed time spent inside The Cage. Not his body's time spent roaming free. Not any of it.

He was home.

And he was… 'happy'… in the broadest 'I'm-alive-and-have-a-soul' sense of the word.

He had Dean. He had Bobby. He had Cas. He had the Impala. What else could he ask for?

Actually, some water sounded pretty good.

"Dean," he rasped, opening his bleary eyes in an attempt to find his brother through his fever-clouded daze.

"What's up, Sammy?" Dean called from the small couch he had relocated to the end of Sam's bed, turning bodily to get a clear visual of his younger brother.

"Wat'r?" Sam's voice cracked all over that 'e' as his throat pointedly informed him that speaking was a poor decision through the only medium available. Pain.

"You still sound like crap." Dean commented as he stood to collect a water bottle from the mini-fridge. "Sure you don't want some… hot coffee… or something?" By 'hot coffee' Dean meant tea, obviously. He just didn't like the visual of himself hunched over a flowered tea pot, spooning sugar cubes into a dainty cup, pinky up when he sipped delicately at the flower flavored water. Sam got the code. It was one of the things Dean loved about having him back. The other things he loved about having him back was everything.

"Jus'," Sam started to croak.

"Water." Dean finished with a small smile, twisting the cap of the bottle loose and waiting for Sam to find his hand under the volumes of motel blankets surrounding him before handing it over.

"Th'nks." A smile ghosted over Sam's lips before he swallowed such a small sip of water when he put the bottle down on the bedside table it looked almost full still.

" 'Welcome." Dean shot off a grin before settling back in on the couch, more turned towards Sam now that he knew that he was more up for conversation. "Ready to talk some business?" He pulled up a manila folder and flipped through it at a quick but even pace.

"Shoot." Sam nodded, taking another tentative sip from the cold bottle.

"Alright," Dean grinned, gathering up the fruits of his labor to present. In the day and a half Sam had been forcefully incapacitated Dean had set out on researching for something to do once Sam was back on his huge feet. "Here's how it goes," Dean cleared his throat professionally. "Dead," he held up two pictures of smiling men with bright eyes and dark hair. "Witch," he held up a picture of a blond woman wearing an inverted pentacle around her neck. "The end."

Sam blinked. And then he started choking.

"Whoah, Sam!" Dean leapt up, levering Sam into an upright position. It wasn't until the blind spark of panic faded that he realized Sam was laughing, taking deep, harsh gasps to compensate the constricting pain of his throat. "Calm down, it wasn't that funny." He was laughing a little bit now too.

"Funnier—" Sam gasped. "When—" Gasp. "Can'—" Gasp. "Breathe—"

"Drink," Dean chuckled, passing over the water bottle. Sam silently acquiesced, gasping in relief, the smile still tugging at the corners of his lips.

"Is there more, or am I s'posed to take your word she's a witch?" Sam coughed out after a few more swallows, voice scratchy and rough.

"My word is gold!" Dean huffed in mock offense. "But if you need more proof, it's all in here." He practically flung himself across the bed, and, in effect, Sam, to reach the abandoned folder, Sam choke-laughing and kicking weakly the whole time. Dean was still chuckling lightly when he settled next to Sam, folder open on his lap. "Scott MacGuilicudy and Victor Lamar both went missing in the last month from the same general area," he pointed out the two pictures he held up earlier, unfolding a map with the last know whereabouts of the two circled in red. "Our friendly neighborhood police officers found them on two different sacrificial officers in the woods, chests cracked open, hearts ripped out, eyes MIA, and, get this, all of their hair cut off." He pointed out the two red Xs on the map.

"What?" Sam sorted through the papers. That was just weird.

"I know, right?" Dean picked out the newspaper clippings and handed them over.

"Why the hair?" Sam scanned the short obituaries and then leafed through the police report Dean then passed over. The hearts he could understand. The eyes were practically common. But the hair?

"Dunno," Dean shrugged. "Called Bobby and asked him, but he had no idea either. Said he'd look into it, though, so there's that."

Sam nodded as he flipped professionally through the gruesome pictures of the two men splayed out over the wooden alters, the smoldering remains of a bon fire set directly behind them. "This looks like a cult, not just one witch." Sam rasped.

"That's what I thought, too," Dean picked the papers out of Sam's fingers, replacing them with older newspaper clippings. "Until I met Mallory Redwood," Mallory Redwood was a looker, plain and simple. Blond curls that tumbled past her shoulders, dark blue eyes that stormed with passion, full red lips, and a long, elegant neck. Of course, she would have been prettier if, in every picture Sam saw, she wasn't covered in blood. "Apparently weird shit's been going on in this town for a little over a year. Dogs going missing, snakes and frogs practically dying out in the area. I'm telling you, Sam, its friggin' weird around here."

"Cute," Sam grimaced at a picture of a disemboweled and strategically sacrificed cat with what he assumed to be Mallory Redwood's bloody hand prints surrounding it.

"Nobody's been able to get her for anything solid yet, just a whole lot of circumstantial nonsense," Dean pointed out a particular picture of Mallory's house. Simply put, it looked like a witch's house. "The chick practically advertises that she's a witch. She's branded spells into her front door. She keeps her book in a display case in the front window. That's not normal."

"Because witches always play by the rules." Sam scoffed groggily. "We should still look around her house; see if we can get any hard evidence before we do something."

Dean smirked, snapping the folder shut on Sam's fingers. "You still sound like absolute crap." He informed him as he rolled off the bed. Sam choke-laughed again and Dean was just happy to hear any laugh at all. "Alright, Sasquatch, get some more sleep and if your feeling better when you wake up we'll go check out this Redwood chick's digs."

"But-" Sam started to argue, impatient to do something other than sit around and wallow.

"Sleep." Dean intoned. "The world's still gonna be full of crap when you wake up, I promise."

Sam grumbled lightly under his breath but rolled over. And, even though he knew that Dean was right about the world still being full of crap when he would wake, he was blissfully unaware of just how much crap it was going to be.