I will post this story one chapter at a time some chapters are much longer than others.

Also please note that the last time I tried to post a very long story I had so much difficulty with uploading it I had to stop. The site essentially wouldn't accept my chapters so I may have to do this story in separate volumes if necessary as it is fairly lengthy. If it stops in an odd place please be sure to be on the look for the next volume with a slightly different name.

This story is set at some point in the future.

Some background information.

Both Dean and Sam have settled down and only occasionally hunt the supernatural.

Sam is married to a woman named Carrie and they have a daughter who is eight years old and named Katie. Sam managed to go back to school and has his own law office. He is known to never turn a client away for inability to pay. Carrie works at the local bank as a teller.

Dean was married to a woman named Allison, who tragically died of cancer five years earlier. They had one son Braden who is now nine. Allison had been the music teacher in the school system before she died. Dean is owner of a garage where he restores classic cars.

The brothers live next door to each other and continue to have a very close relationship.

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

Dean walked down the school hallway towards his son's room. He was filled with trepidation as to what had brought him here. Braden was a good kid, smart, funny and loved music. He and Dean would listen to all the classics together and Braden could remember a song after only hearing it a couple of times. He had his mother's musical talent and Dean loved to hear him sing as it would always make them both happy.

Mrs. Walker greeted him with a warm smile and told him to take a seat.

"How have you been Mr. Winchester? I just wanted to share some of Braden's work with you. We've been working on writing emotions and feelings. The exercises show how important the written word is. But some of the things that Braden has written have troubled me."

She pulled out several sheets of paper from a folder. "He is very bright and writes well, but this just makes me wonder if he is struggling with any problems at home? They were to write about whatever feelings came to mind. It didn't have to be in any kind of order or even in sentences, just feelings on paper. Take a look and let me know what you think." She stated as she pushed the papers over to Dean.

The further I go the less I know, where will I run, where will I hide

Lullabies to paralyze

I know the worlds going wrong for me, my mental wounds not healing, I'm mentally numb- who and what's to blame

I'm edgy all the time, there's someone just one step behind, there's demons in my head and it's more than I can take I just have to get away from me

The screams break the silence, waking me in the night, vengeance is boiling, he's returned to kill the light, will he find who he's looking for?

Miracles will have to save

"These are some very serious words. He has seemed a little preoccupied, but hasn't really shared anything with me. I guess we'll be having a talk tonight. Thank you for calling me please let me know if there is anything else that comes up and I will do the same." Dean said as he handed the papers back.

"Thank you Mr. Winchester, he and Katie are in the gym if you want to take them both home. I made a copy of his work so you could discuss it with him."

Dean nodded and headed off to the after school program that both kids were enrolled in. He entered the gym and saw Braden with Katie kicking a ball back in forth. The kids were nearly inseparable; Braden always looked out for his younger cousin reminding Dean of how he watched over Sam.

"Uncle Dean!" Katie squealed as she saw him walking their way. "Are you going to take us home?"

"You bet I am. Lets sign you out and then we'll go by and see your dad on the way home." Dean answered as he pulled out his driver's license to show the woman he affectionately called the gate keeper at the door. He signed on the line and raced his son and niece to the 1967 Impala he still drove every day.

"Well, hey there sweetie, what brings you here?" Sam asked of his daughter.

"Uncle Dean brought me here." She answered in all seriousness.

Dean pulled out a couple of bills and told the kids to go to the candy store next door and pick out something for after dinner. Braden looked at him strangely, but took the money and his cousin back out the door.

"What's up bro?" Sam inquired.

"This is, read what Braden wrote for a school project. I had to go in and talk to his teacher today. She hasn't noticed any serious behavior changes, but this stuff is scaring me."

Sam read over the short paragraphs in front of him.

"This does cause some concern. Have any of the EMF detectors gone off recently? Anything weird in the house he may be sensing?"

"No, well, I don't think so. To be honest I haven't checked anything in a while. Do you think something could be in the house? Maybe he is just going through another mourning cycle for Allison. They hit him hard, and he usually comes to me, but maybe this time he is trying to handle it on his own."

"I don't know, but you better talk to him and see what's going on in his head," Sam recommended.

Sam was sitting at the kitchen table reading a file from work when his nephew slipped through the back door.

"Well, to what do I owe this visit?" Sam asked.

"Please, just be honest with me Uncle Sam. I found this book the other night and you need to tell me what it is all about," Braden pleaded.

Sam looked across the table and saw his father's journal in Braden's small hands. He must have looked alarmed because Braden gripped the book tighter and started biting his lip.

"Where did you get this?" Sam asked.

"Dad and I were playing hide and seek and I hid in his closet and as I stepped to the back of the closet the book fell and hit me on the head. See I still have the lump," he pointed to small bump on his head.

"Does your dad know you have this?"

"No sir. I didn't tell him, I hid the book and went back later and got it. I've read some of it and I know it was Grandpa John's. There are all kinds of weird stuff in here. Plus I've…."

But that's as far as he got before Dean walked in the door.

"What are you doing over here?" Dean asked.

Sam looked over and noticed the journal had vanished off the table.

"You were asleep and I just had a quick homework question," Braden said trying to sound convincing.

"Okay, but next time leave a note. I got worried when I couldn't find you. It's late lets go home and get ready to end the day partner."

Braden nodded and allowed his eyes to look down to the chair where he had placed his grandfather's journal. Sam saw the action and gave a barely perceptible nod. Thankfully Dean was still a little sleepy and missed the exchange.

The next evening Sam spied Braden climbing on his wooden play set that Dean had built him years ago. He stepped into his own backyard and could clearly hear Dean working in the garage. He headed over to his nephew to finish the conversation from the night before.

"Hey young man, what's going up there?" Sam asked while looking up the ladder to the platform above.

Braden's face appeared at the doorway in the floor and waved Sam up.

"This is quite a tight fit," Sam said as he squeezed his top half through the hole.

"What do you want to know?" Braden solemnly asked.

"What were you going to tell me last night, before your dad walked in? If you want me to help you have to be completely honest with me."

"I've been having dreams, dreams about evil things; dreams about you, Dad and Grandpa hunting these things. And the other night this creature seemed so real, I was so scared I was trying to make myself wake up and it reached out and grabbed me and look…" Braden said as he rolled his sleeve up to show two finger sized bruises on his right arm. "They appeared the next morning."

"We need to tell Dean, he has to know about this," Sam said as he exhaled.

"No, I don't want him to think I'm a freak. I can suck it up and pretend none of this is happening, just please don't tell him," Braden pleaded.

"I have to tell him, you can't shut this stuff out, believe me. Your dad won't think you're a freak, you know how important you are to him and how much he loves you. We can help you, there is nothing you can tell us that will be shocking," Sam explained.

Sam stepped back to the ground just in time to see his brother walk out of the garage wiping his hands on a rag as he headed towards his family. Sam looked back up to his nephew in time to see him wiping his tears away.

"What's with the pow wow guys?" Dean inquired.

Sam looked at his older brother and smiled. "We need to get together this weekend. I'll explain more then."

Saturday morning Carrie took both of the kids to the zoo while the Winchester brothers had one of the most difficult conversations ever. Sam filled Dean in on everything he knew and that Braden had found John's journal.

"Wow that explains the school work. He said the book fell on his head? I had the journal on the very back of that shelf underneath sweaters and an assortment of stuff I'll never wear again, but I find it very hard to believe that it could've just fallen off," Dean said as he paced the room.

"Maybe he didn't find it, maybe it found him," Sam offered.

"That's crazy man, books don't find people."

"How could he look for it, he wasn't even aware of its existence? Was there anything up there he would look for?" Sam asked with eyebrows raised.

"No, I've never put anything in my closet that would interest him. Sam this is starting to scare me. I wish Dad was here, he would know what to do. Why us? Why my little boy? Haven't we paid enough?" Dean said as he smacked the table with his hand.

Meanwhile at the zoo the kids were having a good time visiting all the animals. Katie loved the monkeys and Braden always favored the big cats. Allison had been allergic to cats, but for Braden's sixth birthday when a stray became quite attached to the boy, Dean agreed to keep it. They ended up naming the little black creature Hunter and he followed his little boy everywhere, until lately.

They were standing at the rails looking at the elephants when Katie bumped into a friend from school and began a rapid conversation. Carrie put her hand on Braden's shoulder and asked how he was doing. She had seen his papers from school and knew something had preoccupying him.

"Did you know that skin walkers can turn into different animals, but wolves seem to be the favorite? One minute they are a man and the poof, an animal. Shape shifters tend to mimic people. It's kinda weird," he said very casually.

Carrie stood there not quite sure how to respond so she just offered a smile and the word really. She knew of her husband and brother-in-laws previous life, but it was rarely spoken of. Now her nine year old nephew seemed to be drawing it back to the surface and it was sending cold chills down her spine.

That night Sam, Dean and Braden sat at the kitchen table pushing their various drinks around and avoiding eye contact.

"Carrie told me what you said about the skin walkers and shape shifters. Do you think you've seen any?" Sam asked.

"How would I know, isn't that the point, you don't know, well at least for the shape shifters," Braden spit out.

"Hey watch your attitude," Dean snapped sounding so much like his own father.

"Dad, I'm just really freaked out, I'm scared to death all the time. I don't know what to do or what's going to happen," Braden said as tears began to race down his cheeks.

Dean stepped over to his son and got down on a knee and looked into his young's son's terrified face.

"Nothing and I repeat nothing, will ever happen to you as long as I'm around. I can promise you that." Dean said nearly choking on the words.

Sam put his hand on top of Braden's head and gave a guarded smile.

"I think we need to go away next weekend, the three of us. We can go camping and try and figure out what is going on. We will explain everything as best we can and well figure out what we can do with these new set of circumstances," Dean suggested as he stood up.

"Those times when you guys have gone off hunting for the weekend not once have you brought home your prey, and I believe I'm understanding why. You still hunt evil don't you? You still track down the supernatural," Braden spouted.

"Your right we do, it isn't very often and only locally and only in cases that we are sure we can accomplish in a timely manner. People still need help and we can't turn our backs on that," Dean explained.

"Did Mom know? What about Aunt Carrie? Will you do this forever?" Braden asked clearly agitated.

"Relax son, we pick and choose carefully and have lots of experience. We know what were doing."

"I hope so," Braden said with a sigh.

Braden shoved the last sleeping bag into the back of his uncle's SUV.

"Is that the last of it?" Dean asked as he closed the door.

Braden nodded and looked over and watched his uncle say goodbye to his family. He climbed into the backseat with a slight sense of apprehension; he looked up one more time at his aunt and cousin as he buckled his seatbelt.

The drive took a little less than an hour and the group got everything out and set up quickly. They decided to take a walk around the area to get a sense of what was out there. They found a small stream that seemed to bring back Braden's childhood immediately. He investigated the rocks at the bottom saw a few small fish and splashed his fellow campers. They finally continued on their walk with Braden attempting to lead the way with his new compass that Dean had presented to him upon arrival. They were walking at a good clip when all of a sudden Braden stopped dead in his tracks. Both Sam and Dean practically crashed into the boy.

"Why did you stop?" Sam questioned.

"Look at my compass, the arrow is spinning," Braden said in disbelief.

Both the men looked at the device held in the young shaking hand. They then looked at each other and Dean grabbed his son and they ran towards the campsite.

They arrived back at their encampment and stopped to catch their breath. The needle on the compass had returned to normal.

"What was that, what did it mean?" Braden said struggling through his labored breathing.

"Give me a minute and we'll explain it to you," Sam answered finding his way to a lawn chair.

After catching their breath and downing a beer the men regained their composure and tried to give explanation to what had just happened.

"When working in the spirit world we use a device called an EMF meter, its short for electromagnetic field detector. An EMF picks up spirit activity." Dean told his son.

"So what does that have to do with my compass?" Braden asked eyes wide with fear.

"Compass' are magnetic; they too can pick up spirits," Sam said.

"So you're saying there was an evil spirit out there with us?" Braden's voice was reaching a higher pitch with every word.

"Not necessarily evil, but definitely supernatural," Dean said setting down his beer to go comfort his son.

"If it wasn't evil why did we run?" The boy questioned.

"Because we didn't know its objective, and we didn't have any weapons with us," Sam replied.

"Better safe than sorry then huh?" The youngster asked.

"Exactly." The brothers said in unison.

The rest of the day went by without incident and after stowing everything for the night they climbed into their sleeping bags that were arranged in a row inside the large tent. Braden felt safe lying between his father and uncle, probably the safest he had felt in weeks. Of course he had no idea that the last several nights his father had been sleeping on his floor in an effort to watch over him. He slipped in after Braden was asleep and was out before the alarm went off.

The night was peaceful and both Braden and Dean woke up at 7:30 to loudly chirping birds.

"I had no idea birds could be so loud," Braden said yawning. "Where's Uncle Sam, I don't see him outside?"

"He probably headed over to the showers already," Dean answered.

The two began to get things together to make breakfast. Dean was waiting for Sam to return so he could get his own shower. Camping was great, but it was so much nicer knowing the necessities were nearby, and he considered a daily shower a necessity. Tired of waiting for his uncle, Braden decided to take a walk to the bathrooms.

"I'll be back in a few minutes," he called to his father.

"If you don't see him come right back, do not wander anywhere else. You have no more than 5 minutes, understand? Am I making myself clear?" Dean yelled at his rapidly departing son.

"Yes sir." Was the distant reply.

Meanwhile back at home Carrie and Katie were toddling around the kitchen still shaking the sleep from their eyes. They too were preparing to make some breakfast. Carrie walked to the pantry next to the deep freezer in the utility room and thought she heard a noise coming from the other side of the door where the house was attached to the garage.

In the woods Braden slowed as he neared the bathhouse hearing a noise on the other side of the door.

Carrie's heart sped up as she reached for the door with uncertainty.

Braden looked back towards the campsite as his heart began to pound wondering if his dad would be able to hear him.

Carrie was unsure what to do; full of concern for her daughter in the next room she took a step back.

Braden clung to the building peaking around the corner to the door.

Both doors flew open and both revealed Sam standing there.

"Honey, you're back early, how come?" Carrie said as she hugged her husband.

"Uncle Sam you scared me," Braden said trying to catch his breath.

"Daddy, you're back!" Katie said with short lived enthusiasm as she suddenly became pale and vomited.

Braden fell to his knees and his world became black. His thoughts rushed at him, like dreaming in fast forward.

Both children took several minutes to recover and both were steadied by Sam.

Sam picked up Braden and ran with him to the campsite and Dean.

Sam picked up Katie and walked her to the couch.

Something was very, very wrong.

Sam set Braden on the picnic table as a very concerned Dean looked on.

"What happened son what is it?"

"We need to go home now! Something is very wrong, I'm so scared, we just, we need to go, now," Braden said clearly upset.

Nobody moved.

"I'm not kidding, Sam please, it's Katie and Carrie," Braden pleaded at the top of his lungs.

The brothers looked at each other and jumped into the SUV and tore off down the road.

They came to a screeching halt in front of the house less than 45 minutes later. Braden was pale and his breathing labored. Both men reached into the hidden area of the SUV and pulled out their weapons. Dean's held silver bullets and Sam's wrought iron rounds. They both pointed for Braden to get down on the floorboards as they headed for the unknown inside the house.

The look alike inside the house was enjoying the company of his newfound family. Carrie oblivious of the imposter was caring for her daughter with a wet rag and sips of ginger ale. Katie wasn't sure why but she didn't want her daddy near her.

Sam jammed his key into the lock and stepped into the entryway. He and Dean stuffed their guns into the waistband of their jeans as to not scare the girls. As they came around the corner their jaws dropped as the scene in front of them revealed the entire Winchester family complete with Sam. Katie screamed, Carrie rushed to her side and the imposter only stood and smiled.

"I was going to take you by surprise, but this is priceless." The pretender said with a smile.

Both boys whipped out their weapons and Sam rushed to his family and as Dean covered him, he got them out of the room yelling for them to go next door.

Braden snuck a look out of the window of the vehicle when he heard the door to the house slam shut. He saw his aunt and cousin run over to his house. Carrie was hysterical and wildly looking for the spare key. With dismay Braden realized he had failed to put it back the last time he used it. Katie was growing impatient and Braden's eyes grew wide as he watched his younger cousin dash back across the lawn to her house. His aunt remained fixed in the search for the missing key.

Braden quietly slipped out of the SUV and followed Katie into her house. She stood transfixed as the two Sams were in deep hand to hand combat in the living room. They were completely identical, wearing the same boots, jeans and long sleeve shirts. There was absolutely no way to tell them apart. Dean stood helpless, gun drawn, watching the battle proceed.

Braden took his cousin by the hand and tucked her in the corner near the front door. As he walked back towards embittered conflict he had another wave of the vision he had experienced earlier. But this time he was able to stay on his feet. The men were still locked in their struggle and Dean pointed the gun at the floor having no idea what to do. Finally exhaustion seemed to take hold and the two breathless men slowed for a momentary break.

Dean was firing questions but both challengers had all the right answers. Dean found himself in the hardest situation he had ever encountered and he had no idea what to do. He looked back at his son who was walking his direction.

"Braden John Winchester get out of the house, NOW!" Dean yelled with as much authority as he could muster.

Braden turned and went to a sobbing Katie, he gently took her hand and went through the door and had her sit on the front step. He then took two giant steps backwards and slammed the door and twisted the lock closing himself back into the house.

Dean heard the door slam and released a small sigh of relief. His focus returned to the dilemma taking place directly in front of him. Both of his hands were wrapped tightly around the gun as he pointed it to the Sam on the left and then to the Sam on right. What should he do? Once Sam had tossed his gun to him Dean had lost track of his rightful brother. He again swung the gun back and forth and at a total loss of a resolution. Then out of nowhere he felt a small hand on his arm. He looked down with alarm at his young son guiding his arm to the right. Braden looked up at his father with the dark brown eyes that he inherited from his mother and gave a slight nod. At that moment Dean was never surer of anything in his life and he opened fire hitting the creature three times in the heart.

"Finally," Sam said collapsing. "I kept trying to peel his skin off, but it was as sturdy as mine. These things must have evolved since our last encounter."

Dean just stood there a breath away from going into shock. He wouldn't be comfortable until there was 100% proof that Sam was his real brother. Braden seemed to feel his fathers stress as he stepped over to the body lying on the floor. He reached down and ever so gently pulled off the shape shifters right ear.

"I guess once they die they don't stay together as well," he calmly stated as he studied the trophy in his hand.

"Oh thank God!" Dean said as he had his final proof that the decision had been the right one.

There was screaming and pounding at the front door reminding them of poor Carrie and Katie stuck outside unaware of the events outcome.

As Dean stood up he looked at Braden; "son, that was amazing, but umm, put the ear back and help me drag this thing into the garage while your uncle lets his family in."

Katie knew instantly that it was her true daddy that held her in her arms as the family was reunited.

As Dean stood there beaming with his son he had to know how Braden figured out Sam's true identity.

"The images I had at the campground slowed down so I could finally see them," Braden explained.

"How long have you had these dreams? What are they?" Dean asked cautiously.

Braden leaned over and in barely a whisper he asked his father; "Do you want to know where the dreams come from?"

Dean his eyes wide, nodded his head up and down.

Braden looked over his shoulder and then back to his father, blinked his eyes, took a deep breath and whispered into Dean's ear. "So do I."