Chapter Thirty-Six: Running Out Of Time

This chapter is dedicated to SPN Mum, who has been with me the very beginning.

Janine Daniels rolled her eyes as the drivers in the other cars around her honked their horns.

As if that'll get everyone moving faster, she thought glumly and checked the time on the dashboard clock.

It was nearing five o'clock and Janine just hoped Brad had fed the kids.

While she waited in the traffic jam, Janine took out her cell phone and dialed her home number. It rang and rang and rang until the answering machine came on: 'This is the Daniels family! We can't come to phone right now but if you leave a message we'll get back to you!'

Racking her brain, Janine tried to remember if Olivia had ballet that night or if Trevor had soccer practice.

She was never this late coming home and Janine wondered if Brad would be worried.

He'll call if he needs to; Janine told herself and turned up the radio.

W

Janine pulled her purse strap over her shoulder and stepped over her son's bike as she got out of the car.

"I thought I told him to put that thing back when he's finished with it," Janine muttered to herself.

She had had a long day of work and all she wanted to do was watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta and have a big glass of wine.

Opening the door, Janine peered inside the oddly quiet house.

"Brad? You home, honey?" She called and slipped off her high heel shoes.

"Olivia? Trevor?" Janine said and looked around the living room. Trevor's soccer bag was sitting on top of the couch, ready to go.

"Did soccer get canceled?" Janine called out again and jumped when her husband, Brad, appeared from deeper inside the house.

"Yeah; last minute thing, you know," Brad shrugged.

Janine stared at her husband of fourteen years and realized that something was off.

"Where's the kids?" She asked, "I told Olivia she couldn't go to her friends' houses until dinner. Did you make them dinner?"

Brad was holding something behind his back as he walked forward, a strange glint in his eyes.

"I'm glad you're home, Janine," Brad said, "I've been waiting for you."

Janine was suddenly confused, "What-"

She began to speak but the words died in her throat as a scream tore from her. Janine didn't stop screaming even as she was slammed into the living room wall, her back smashing into a picture frame and shattering the glass. Janine didn't stop screaming even as Brad's eyes turned pitch black and he held up a large, gleaming butcher's knife.

Janine only stopped screaming when, hours later, the thing that used to be her husband snapped her neck without even touching her.

SPN

"Daddy! Daddy, wake up!" I groaned and opened my eyes to see Faith peering at me, her small hands on my shoulder.

"Okay," I mumbled and sat up, "I'm awake. Where's Mom?"

"Downstairs with Aaron," Faith replied and I turned my head to see that Sarah's side of the bed was empty.

I sighed and fell back against the mattress.

"C'mon Daddy," Faith pulled herself up onto the bed and sat cross-legged by my head.

"Are you sick?" My daughter asked, her blue eyes becoming worried.

"No, I'm tired," I answered. I had trouble sleeping the night before and once I did get some rest it was interrupted by nightmares.

Faith brightened up, "Mommy said we're gonna go to the park today!"

I smiled when I heard Sarah call up to our daughter, "Faith, I hope you're not bothering your father!"

Faith's dark blue eyes sparkled mischievously as she slid off the bed and tiptoed out of the room and down the hall. I heard the gurgle of water coming from the bathroom sink and smiled.

I climbed out of bed and closed the bedroom door. I stretched, fingertips pointing toward the ceiling, and turned toward the chest of drawers to find clean clothes.

I paused as I rifled through my t-shirts, pulling out a black one as I straightened up.

Five years, I thought, I can't believe it's been five years.

Five years of living the American Dream. Literally. Seemed almost too good to be true, eh? Five years of living in a normal house, going to a normal job, doing normal parent things, etc. The most interesting thing to happen in five years was Faith's bout of chicken pox.

I sometimes missed Petit- I think Sarah did too- I missed the quiet nights and friendly rural folk. I missed the friends I'd made there; Coombs and Leo and Ralph, the Meyers and the Addisons, the girls at the library… I still sent the Sheriff of Petit letters every month- he still didn't have a home computer but I didn't mind writing.

Coombs made sure to let me know what was happening in Petit and every month I'd get an envelope in the mail. The man was dedicated, I'll give him that. I was sure he'd get bored of hearing about the city but he always wrote back.

Making friends in Sheridan was a little more difficult. I've always been shy and anyone who came over for dinner or drinks or a barbeque (except Dean and the boys) I considered 'Sarah's friends'.

I still felt like the outsider, the stranger, and sometimes that feeling became overwhelming, overpowering and I wondered if I should just leave. I sometimes thought that Sarah and the kids would be better off without me.

I never did go. I always managed to tell myself I was just acting paranoid and that the feeling came from years of hunting. While Dean would be antsy and restless as hell, I would feel like a stranger in a strange land. I told myself it would break Sarah's heart if I left her. I told myself Dean would be disappointed- he had managed to integrate back into civilian society after being a hunter- so why couldn't I?

SPN

Time flies, yeah?

It was hard for me to believe that S.J. was eight-years-old already. Little guy grew like a weed. He had my sense of humour and my awesome good looks.

Kid was a sports wiz too. He loved playing baseball and soccer. I came to as many of S.J.'s games as I could.

As the years went by it slowly became just S.J. and me… Ben grew older and I guess it wasn't cool anymore to hang out with his divorced step-father. We still got along, don't get me wrong, but Ben was a young man, eighteen and getting ready to go to college.

I loved having Sammy live so close. A half-hour was nothing compared to the long, long plane ride to Montana. Sam and Sarah's place ended up being like a second home- I spent as much time as possible with my brother and his family.

I think that I sometimes annoyed my little brother with my unannounced visits but he never said anything.

W

Our two resident angels had apparently gone AWOL on us. Not that I was complaining, not really. Sam was worried about Cas and Abdiel. I figured that they'd show up when something important was about to go down and didn't dwell on their absence.

Besides, I was kind of glad Cas wasn't stopping in for a visit, him being the bearer of doom and gloom recently.

The only heavenly creature we had any contact with was Furfur and she didn't really count.

Speaking of, Sam was shocked when I told him about the ex-angel now living at Bobby's. I had to stop my overzealous brother from bombarding Furfur with questions the first time they met one another. I actually felt bad for the girl; she remembered everything about being an angel but she seemed permanently cut off from Heaven. Bobby didn't complain about having another mouth to feed though (I was worried he'd go on about how he was too old for that sort of shit) and I think he secretly liked the company.

Furfur was a wealth of information as well. We learned more about what was going on up in Heaven than Cas and Abdiel had been willing to tell. Bobby had started writing down all of the information on Heaven Furfur had for his collection.

I actually wasn't surprised to learn that Michael had decided that he was now the Big Cheese. He had been an asshole from the very beginning.

At first Furfur hated it at Bobby's… I think she was homesick- she just stayed in the bedroom Bobby had made up for her and refused to come downstairs or eat or anything- but after a couple of days (according to the old hunter) she was drawn by the smell of scrambled eggs Bobby was having for breakfast and after that the ex-angel warmed up to him.

Now it seemed as if Furfur had always been with Bobby. She went everywhere with him and was very protective- I guess that aspect of her nature hadn't been torn out with her Grace.

W

Pulling into the parking lot of the elementary school, I couldn't help but grin when I caught sight of S.J. peel away from his group of friends and come running at the truck.

"Hey buddy," I greeted as my son flung open the passenger door and scrambled inside.

"Hi Dad!" S.J. beamed up at me, the freckles across his nose very noticeable.

"What do ya say we do pizza and a movie?" The question was merely a formality. Every weekend I treated S.J. to pizza and a move.

"What do you want to watch?" I asked as I started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot, careful to avoid the young students traveling to their own parents' cars.

"The Avengers!" We had watched that same movie for the past three weekends and although it was pretty entertaining, I was ready for something new.

"Okay bud, you got it," I didn't betray anything.

The drive to the condo didn't take very long, as soon S.J. was jumping out of the truck and over to the elevator that would take us from the underground parking lot to my floor.

"C'mon Dad, hurry up!" S.J. whined, hopping up and down, his backpack bouncing with the movement.

I smirked and shook my head as I locked the truck. Sometimes I forget just how much energy eight-year-old boys have.

"Dad," S.J. called out with more emphasis and pulled open the metal door that led to the elevators.

I caught the door before it swung close, "The movie will still be there in a few minutes, S.J. don't worry."

My son pushed the round button for the elevator and slipped his backpack off, setting it on the floor between his feet.

"But I wanna watch the movie now," S.J. informed me.

I ran a hand through his short, blondish hair- a colour I had a feeling he'd inherited from my Mom's side of the family- and gently pushed him forward as the elevator beeped and its doors slid open.

Hooking his backpack, S.J. hurried into the lift and pressed the button that would take us to the correct floor.

"Do you have homework this weekend?" I asked and S.J. nodded, a pout forming on his face.

"Mrs. Jones always gives homework on the weekends," He huffed, sounding remarkably like Sam did whenever he was annoyed.

Mrs. Jones was S.J.'s substitute teacher because his regular one, Mrs. Cochrane, was on maternity leave.

"How about we make a deal," I offered, "We watch the Avengers tonight and tomorrow morning you do your homework, okay? I'll even help you out if you get stuck."

S.J. perked up a bit. He seemed to have inherited my dislike of school and would gladly play games and watch movies all weekend instead of his school work.

"Okay," S.J. answered and his hazel eyes crinkling in excitement.

Stepping out of the elevator when it reached the right floor, I was surprised when S.J. took my hand. He normally liked to rush ahead and try and do things by himself.

"What's up, kiddo?" I asked even as I wrapped my fingers around my son's small hand.

"Nuthin'," S.J. answered and gave my hand a squeeze before shooting forward to the door of my condo.

My brow furrowed in concern- S.J. wasn't normally clingy or prone to spontaneous moments of affection- and decided I'd ask him about it later.

As soon as I unlocked the door S.J. slipped inside and pulled off his sneakers, threw his backpack on the floor and ran and jumped on the couch facing the TV.

"C'mon Dad!" He called from the living room as I shut the door behind myself and unlaced my boots.

"Can we have pizza now?" S.J. continued.

"Are you hungry? It's only three-thirty," I answered and peered into the tiny kitchen, looking at the wall phone to see if I had any messages.

"Uh huh," S.J. didn't sound very convinced about his own request and I smiled.

"Why don't we have a snack and I'll order the pizza for around, say, five," I said and opened the fridge to see if there was anything in there S.J. would like to eat.

I heard him leave the couch and pad across the floor to the kitchen. He poked his head into the fridge beside me.

"How about some Jell-O?" I asked and pulled one of those pre-portioned gelatin cups from the fridge.

"We have… strawberry," I checked the flavour, "that sound good to you?"

"Yeah!" S.J. took the Jell-O cup from me and pulled off the tab, licking it to get all the gelatin off.

I grabbed a second one from the fridge and took two spoons from the drawer.

"Sit down at the table, buddy," I told S.J. and he moved over to the tiny, glass topped table, scooping up large spoonfuls of Jell-O as he moved.

Once we had finished with the snack I took S.J. into the living room and turned off the TV.

"Dad, I thought we were gonna watch the Avengers," S.J. whined as I found a news station.

"We will, I just want to check out what's happening," I answered and turned up the volume.

S.J. slumped against the couch cushions and his eyes glazed over with boredom as he stared at the pictures flashing across the screen.

I still liked to watch the nation-wide news stations, keeping an eye out for anything odd that could be attributed to a supernatural creature. I was retired of course, but if I did notice something, I would call up Bobby and he'd call someone in his large network of active hunters. It never hurt to have another pair of eyes out there. Hunters couldn't be everywhere at once and certainly didn't know everything that was going on in the country.

After a mind numbing ten minutes of news from Boston, S.J. slipped off the couch and fell bonelessly to the floor.

I pretended not to notice and continued watching the TV.

S.J. picked himself up only to flop onto the floor again with a grunt of annoyance.

"Dad," he whined, "Are you done yet? The news is so boring."

Finding nothing interesting in the news anyway, I peered down at S.J. lying between the couch and coffee table.

"Do you want to watch Avengers now or while we have pizza?" I asked, "There's still an hour until dinner."

S.J. picked his head up and appeared to be giving my question serious thought.

"Hmm, now," He informed me, "S'two hours long so we can still watch it and have pizza."

I nodded and chuckled at the boy's reasoning.

SPN

Bobby Singer grumbled to himself as he rifled through the pile of papers on his desk.

"Where the hell did I put those papers?" Bobby muttered under his breath, pushing his reading glasses farther up his nose as he searched.

He didn't even hear the soft footsteps moving toward him until a small, pale hand dug a sheet of paper out from underneath the mound on the desk.

Chagrinned, Bobby took the paper from Furfur and grumbled a 'thank you'.

"Perhaps you should rest, Robert," the ex-angel suggested in a neutral voice.

"What? Nah," Bobby muttered, "I'm fine."

Furfur's amber eyes searched the old hunter's face for a moment before she nodded.

"What is that paper for?" Furfur asked and began braiding her long, brown hair unconsciously.

"Oh, this is for Rufus… he thinks he's got a Lamia out in Rexville, New York," Bobby explained and scratched his head beneath his baseball cap.

Furfur tilted her head to one side, birdlike and watched the aging hunter for a long moment.

"Have you heard from Samuel or Dean Winchester lately?" The former angel asked in a soft voice.

"Uh, Dean called me a couple a' days ago," Bobby shrugged, "Sam and I talked about the family comin' up for a visit soon."

"You miss them," Furfur stated.

""Course I miss them! They're my boys! Practically sons to me," Bobby grumbled, a little irritated even though he knew the young woman was just trying to understand.

"Are you going to tell them about the murder in Miami?" Furfur asked, amber eyes piercing into Bobby's grey ones.

Bobby bit his lip. It wasn't only the murder in Florida that concerned him; there was the one in Arkansas, the two in California, the one in Alaska.

Even though the killings had been all over the map, the M.O. was the same. A family was found butchered in their homes and the only witnesses (and suspects) were the husbands, found by police in a state of shock a few hours after the crimes had been committed.

As far as Bobby could tell, each husband stood by his claim of innocence. A couple of them had even said that something had made them kill their loved ones. Now if that didn't set a hunter's alarm bells off, nothing would.

Bobby, of course, had called up all his contacts in the hunting community to keep their eyes sharp for electrical storms, cattle deaths and crop failures. Easier said than done- there were more creatures than just demons to watch out for- but everyone Bobby had talked to said he or she would let him know if they saw any demon signs.

But Bobby was reluctant to tell the boys. Five years had passed without so much as a werewolf hiccup in their direction and Bobby wanted to keep it that way.

Sam and Dean were retired, Bobby knew, and although retired was not always permanent for a hunter (unless said hunter was six feet under) the last thing he wanted was to disturb their peace.

God knows the boys had earned some peace and quiet and normal.

Bobby looked away from Furfur's steady gaze.

"I can't… not yet," He knew he was being weak, selfish, but he didn't want to see those boys dragged into the hunting life they'd only just managed to escape.

SPN

I stared around at the other parents taking advantage of the nice weather as I pushed Aaron on the swing.

"Higher, Daddy! I wanna go higher!" The little boy shrieked with delight as I started pushing him higher.

His black hair blew back from his smiling face with the wind and his small feet kicked with every upward motion.

Looking across the park, I saw Sarah sitting on one of the wooden benches, talking to another mom… but I didn't see Faith anywhere.

As Aaron came swinging downwards I grabbed my son and lifted him off the plaything.

"Daddy!" He squawked in surprise and annoyance.

"Go see Mommy," I told Aaron, "Maybe she'll give you a snack."

I watched as Aaron ran towards Sarah, hoping my wife would placate the boy with some graham crackers or something.

Taking my gaze off my son, my hunter instincts rushed to the surface as I scanned the sandbox and jungle gym for a glimpse of curly, dark brown hair and brilliant violet eyes.

Where did I last see Faith? I thought, trying to scour my memory. I had been paying more attention to Aaron…

I turned and looked at a group of older kids in soccer uniforms playing a game across the field.

Where? Where? Where!

My heart began to pound in my chest as I still couldn't see my daughter.

My stomach twisted into a cold knot as I caught sight of a pink dress and curly brown hair.

"Hey! Hey, you!" I was running before I knew it and skidded to a stop at the copse of trees that stood at the far side of the park.

"Dad," Faith looked surprised and I pushed her behind me so that I alone was facing the creep she'd been talking to.

"Get the fuck out of here before I call the police!" I growled, not caring that I was swearing.

"Hey man, chill out," the guy held his hands up. He was shorter than me and skinny, with messy blond hair and shrewd colourless eyes.

I grabbed the pervert's shirt, "We were just talkin'! Weren't we, sweetie?"

That comment got my blood boiling.

"Go to your mother," I told Faith.

"Dad," Faith answered unsurely.

"Go!" I snapped. I wasn't mad at her but I didn't want her to see while I pummeled this asshole.

I heard Faith's footsteps disappear into the background noise of the park and turned my attention back to the creep.

"If I ever see you near this park again or my daughter again," I threatened, leaning close to the man, "I won't even call the police… I'll deal with you myself and believe me when I tell you I know things that will make you wish you were in Hell after I'm done with you."

I don't know if it was my words or the fact that I towered over the guy but his face paled and sweat began to bead on his forehead.

"Understand me?" I asked and shook the man for emphasis.

"Y-yeah," the man squeaked out, "S-sure wh-whatever you say."

I let go of the creep's shirt and patted his shoulder. Apparently he thought I was finished because he slumped.

He didn't see my fist coming until it connected with his nose, breaking it with a satisfying crunch. He stumbled backwards and fled through the trees, sparing one look back at me, his eyes as wide as saucers.

I shook my hand out, checking the knuckled and was pleased to see that they weren't split.

As I approached the park, Sarah met me half way, cooler bag dangling from one shoulder and Faith and Aaron in tow.

"Sam, what happened?" She asked and raised my chin with a hand- not an easy task since she's shorter than I am- and peered at me in concern.

"Faith came running over and said you were mad at the man she was talking to," Sarah continued, "What man?"

"Don't worry," I assured my wife, "I don't think he'll be showing his face around here anytime soon."

"You didn't hurt him, did you?" Sarah asked and I grimaced.

"Can we discuss this at home?" I begged, giving Sarah the puppy-eyes because I didn't feel like talking about the pervert in the middle of the park with kids and moms within hearing distance.

"And I also want to have a talk with Faith, too," I concluded and led my family toward the car.

W

Okay, maybe I had overreacted with the guy in the park but I was not taking any chances. Sarah's expression turned from one of shock to anger as I told her what had happened when I went in search of our daughter.

"You can't go around knocking people out, Sam! You're not a hunter anymore and you'll only get yourself in trouble," my wife scolded me as we stood in the kitchen. Faith had been sent to her room and Aaron was watching a movie in the living room.

I took a deep breath. I knew Sarah wasn't stupid and she was wary of strangers- probably even more so than I was because of maternal instincts or something- but I didn't like the way she was talking to me like I didn't know any better.

"I didn't knock him out, I just broke his nose," I muttered.

"What if he calls the police? What if he calls it assault?" Sarah folded her arms.

I shook my head, "If he's some perv he's not going to want to draw attention to himself by whining to the police."

That didn't make Sarah feel any better.

"Sam," Sarah sighed as if tired. Tired of me?

"I had to protect our daughter," I spoke before my wife could say anything else.

"I get that," Sarah continued, "I really do. But you have to remember that you're not a hunter anymore."

I scowled at my wife.

For most of my life I hunted every supernatural badass out there with my father and brother and that wasn't something I was going to forget. I wasn't going to pretend to be Average Joe and call the cops when I could take care of things my way.

"I'm not apologizing, if that's what you're waiting for," I told Sarah stubbornly.

"I don't want an apology, Sam!" Sarah threw up her hands in exasperation, "I want to know that you're not going to get yourself into trouble and leave us all alone!"

I froze.

"Why would I do that, Sarah? Huh?" I snapped.

"You won't be able to help yourself!" Sarah snarled back.

"Jesus Christ, Sarah! I can control myself, you know!" I continued and ran a hand through my hair.

Sarah's eyes grew large and wet although I could still see anger reflected in their grey depths.

"You didn't show me that today at the park," Sarah accused.

I paced across the kitchen for a moment, glowering at my wife.

"I know what I'm doing Sarah! I'm not a child!" I growled, irritated that my wife was treating me like I had no idea what I was doing.

Sarah though, ended the argument before it could get any worse.

She waved her hands in the air, "I can't talk to you right now."

I watched as Sarah walked out of the kitchen without looking back.

I ran my hands through my hair and sighed. I sat down heavily at the kitchen table and watched as the hour hand on the clock moved in one full circle before standing up again.

I went to the fridge and grabbed a soda- Mountain Dew- and gulped down half the contents before turning around.

Faith was standing in the kitchen doorway, a sheepish look on her face that looked oddly familiar. She scuffed the toe of her pink sneaker on the floor.

"M'sorry I was talkin' to that man in the park," She said, eyes cast downwards.

I set the can of Mountain Dew on the counter and knelt in front of Faith so that we were eye level.

"Do you know why you shouldn't have done that?" I asked. Sarah must have gone upstairs to give Faith a lecture on talking to strangers after our argument.

Faith nodded slowly, "'Cause you and Mommy weren't with me."

"That's right," I said and held my arms out. Faith stepped forward for the hug.

"I'm sorry if you thought I was mad at you," I whispered over the top of my daughter's head as she buried her face into my shoulder.

"I was just worried about you," I continued and I hear Faith sniffle a couple of times, "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you or Aaron."

"Won't do it again," Faith muttered against my shirt.

"That's a good girl," I said and squeezed Faith one more time before letting go.

I know I've always been one for 'chick-flick moments' as Dean has deemed them and it seemed to get even worse now that I have little kids in my life. They are not shy about showing affection and are unabashedly emotional. Not that I mind at all. I just make sure to keep them to a minimum. I'm the father after all; girly, sensitive moments are Sarah's job.

Faith pulled away and smiled, "Can we play in the backyard, Daddy?"

"Sure thing, Sweetheart," I stood and swiped my soda from the counter, following my daughter out through the living room to the sliding glass doors that led to the backyard.

"Where's Mom and Aaron?" I asked as I opened the door and Faith slipped through, stepping onto the flagstone patio.

The backyard wasn't huge but it was pretty big. The flagstone part was large enough to hold an outdoors table and four chairs and a barbeque.

The yard was fenced-in which was nice with the young kids. Flower gardens ran along three sides and a vegetable patch took up the fourth.

There was a small storage shed in one corner of the yard for the two extra chairs that went with the patio set, a lawnmower, some tools and the kid's outside toys.

Faith grabbed a soccer ball that sat at the edge of the patio and kicked it towards me.

Soon we had a one-on-one game underway, Faith laughing as she got the ball past me. Every time. What can I say? I can't win all the time, can I?

I didn't even notice that Sarah was standing on the patio, watching until she started clapping, "And Faith Winchester wins the world cup for the United States!"

I sat down at the table as Faith continued to play by herself.

"Where's Aaron?" I asked Sarah. She had her arms crossed over her chest but didn't look angry any longer.

"Taking a nap," Sarah answered, "He's tired from all the excitement at the park."

Sarah spoke lightly and since I didn't want to start another fight I just nodded and decided to change the subject.

"You want steak for dinner tonight?" I asked, eyeing the barbeque. The weather had been so nice that I ended up standing over the appliance almost every evening.

Sarah's eyebrows scrunched up in mock concentration, "What about the kids?"

"I think there's a couple of those pounded steak things in the freezer… Faith and Aaron seem to like those," I commented.

Sarah smiled, "Steak it is then."

SPN

"So, you gonna tell me what's up?" I asked S.J. over a slice of cheese and pepperoni pizza. The Avengers was playing in the background but the boy was now more interested in his dinner than watching the movie.

S.J. took a huge bite of pizza so he wouldn't have to talk right away and stared at the TV screen instead.

"C'mon buddy, what's up? You can tell me, you know you can," I pressed. I may not be all for touchy-feely moments like Sam is but I have learned over the years that sometimes I have to man-up and take one for the team if it comes to S.J. The kid could be just as stubborn as his mother (or his uncle, for that matter) and he wasn't just gonna spit out whatever was bothering him. Besides, I knew from the experience of watching Sam and our Dad go at for years that you needed to talk to your kids or else your relationship with them was going to go down the crapper real fast.

"C'mon kiddo," I bumped S.J.'s shoulder like I would do with Sam if something was bugging him and my son gulped down his mouthful before sighing.

"Mom's thinking about marrying Wayne," S.J. said and I just about choked on my own bite of pizza.

You remember Wayne? The asshole who was taking Lisa out for dinner and drinks? Well apparently it got a little more serious than just friendly meals together because four months later I found out from S.J. and Ben that Wayne was moving in with Lisa.

Other than being common-law for the past few years, nothing monumental had happened between my ex-wife and Wayne. Until this new revelation.

"That's what's bothering you?" I asked and S.J. nodded.

Apparently Lisa liked the normal Wayne the Accountant brought to their relationship. I'd met his a few times when I went to pick up the boys. Okay, maybe Wayne wasn't really an accountant but he sure acted like one. From what I could tell, Wayne had the personality of a bar of soap. Everything about him was bland and boring: his clothes, his features, and his voice.

Just what Lisa needed after the insanity named Dean Winchester she'd married.

I set my pizza aside and looked into my son's distraught face. Clearly there was more on his mind than the possibility one boring step-parent.

"Is that everything?" I continued and S.J. shook his head, biting his lower lip.

"What if Wayne wants to be my new Dad?" My son asked in a worried voice, "What if I'm not allowed to see you no more?"

I sighed, "I'll still be your Dad, kiddo. Even if your Mom marries Wayne. You'll just have a step-Dad. That doesn't mean that I'll stop seeing you though."

S.J. looked a little better, "Promise?"

"I promise," I said, "Nothing will ever stop me from being your Dad, okay?"

S.J. nodded, "I don't like Wayne so much."

I smirked but resisted the urge to say something nasty about the absent accountant.

"I'm sure he's not as bad as you think," I said, trying to keep a straight face.

"He's soooo boring, Dad! Wayne doesn't do anything fun… he collects stamps for Cripes sake!" S.J. complained.

I snorted laughter, imagining the guy drooling over some old stamps.

"He's nuthin' like you," S.J. pouted.

I smiled at that.

"That's because I'm one of the kind," I announced and reached forward to ruffle S.J.'s short hair.

SPN

Bobby's lips formed a thin white line as his eyes moved across the computer screen. Another murder had occurred in Toledo, Ohio and that was just a little too close to home for the aging hunter.

Bobby knew he may not be able to do a whole lot to protect his boys but he could still investigate the crimes for himself. Something about them just screamed DEMON and although Sam and Dean had assured him that they and Crowley had some kind of truce… old Bobby Singer trusted that Hell spawn as far as he could throw him.

W

Bobby strolled down the sidewalk toward Toledo's Police Department. He fussed with his tie and patted his breast pocket, making sure- for the hundredth time- that he had his fake FBI badge and ID.

It was a hot, dry summer day and Bobby wished he was back in Sioux Falls working on an old Buick he'd been tinkering. Instead he was about to interview the latest victim of a particularly sadistic demon.

Huh, Bobby smoothed his flyaway hair, since when are demons anything but sadistic?

Stepping into the redbrick, air-conditioned building, Bobby put on his professional face and turned to the nearest officer.

"Excuse me," Bobby reached out a hand and caught the young policewoman by her arm, just above the elbow, "I'm with the FBI. I'm here to talk to Mr. Ngugi about the murder committed yesterday."

The policewoman's brow furrowed, "I didn't know the Feds were involved in this… we were told it was an isolated incident."

Bobby nodded sagely, "There have been similar murders committed in other states over the past three weeks and we're just trying to establish if they are in face connected."

The old hunter's words seemed to convince the policewoman and she nodded, "Mr. Ngugi is in one of our interrogation rooms right now."

She led Bobby through whitewashed hallways until she stopped before a door with a window of one-way glass to one side.

An African American man sitting at the large table was the room's only occupant.

"His lawyer is coming to see him," the policewoman explained with a shrug.

"May I?" Bobby gestured toward the door and the policewoman, looking slightly sheepish, unlocked it and pushed it open slightly.

"Thank you," Bobby murmured and slipped inside, closing the door behind him.

Mr. Ngugi peered up at the fake FBI agent with bloodshot, shadowed eyes. Bobby couldn't help the sympathetic expression that crossed his face as he reached into his pocket. As he grabbed his ID, his fingers pushed down on the ON button of a tape recorder.

"I'm Agent Carlin with the FBI," Bobby flashed his badge; "I'd like to ask you a few questions about the events of Saturday, June 13th if you don't mind."

The man looked uncertain for a moment, "Don't I need my lawyer?"

"This'll be unofficial," Bobby said, "No one will know about this conversation 'cept me and you."

Still, Mr. Ngugi looked at the FBI agent with trepidation.

Bobby sat down across from the man, "I know what the police report says, alright? I know everyone thinks you killed your family but I want to know what happened to you. What really happened?"

The man leaned back in his chair and ran one hand- the other was handcuffed to the table- through his short hair.

"You wanna know the truth? You won't think I'm crazy?" Mr. Ngugi asked.

Bobby shook his head, "With the things I've seen it'd take a hell of a lot to make me think you were off your rocker."

"Okay," the man consented. The agent wasn't like the police officers he had contact with so far. Agent Carlin did not insinuate that he'd murdered his family in cold blood as the other law enforcement personnel had done.

"Start from the beginning," Bobby suggested.

W

Damn it all to Hell!

Bobby Singer slipped his grimy baseball cap on as he climbed into the cab of an old, junky pickup truck he'd driven in from his Salvage Yard.

The murders were definitely the work of a demon, he was sure of it. Mr. Ngugi hadn't made it to work the day his family had been murdered. He remembered getting up and getting ready, having breakfast with his wife and two daughters before he got in his car to go to his job at a local insurance firm. Mr. Ngugi lost time after that. He didn't remember anything except waking up to see the mutilated bodies of his wife and daughters spread out before him and their blood on his hands.

The man had not recalled the smell of sulfur or seeing any black smoke at all during the morning and that was what troubled Bobby the most. If it was indeed the work of a demon, surely it would leave the telltale signs.

The only thing Bobby could gather from the lack of demonic evidence was that it had to be one sneaky son of a bitch. Most likely it didn't stay around long enough to cause electrical storms or cattle deaths and crop failures.

Bobby called his home number while he drove and instructed Furfur to gather all the books he had on demons.

"It's gonna be a long night," he commented to the young woman.

"Would you like me to start researching for you, Robert?" Furfur offered.

After only a moment's hesitation Bobby decided they'd do better to get a head start while he was still on the road.

Bobby ran a hand over his face, eyeing his phone and trying to decide if he should call his boys. He just didn't want to send them into unnecessary panic.

When I get home and have some idea of what this bastard is, Bobby promised himself, I'll give Sam and Dean a head's up.

SPN

I'll admit that I got nervous when Bobby called me up Monday evening, warning me to keep an eye out for demon signs.

"You think there's one nearby?" I asked over the phone, standing in the kitchen and trying to keep the conversation on the down-low.

"Maybe," Bobby confessed, "Now I'm not saying you should worry. You've heard about those murders in the news? Well, it seems that this thing has only goes after the men but you and Dean have those tattoos so if I were you I wouldn't spend much sleepless nights on this… just keep your eyes peeled for anything hinky."

"Thank you Bobby," I murmured sarcastically, "That makes me feel so much better."

I heard the old hunter sigh. Of course he'd know I'd worry and not sleep over this new information.

"Did you tell Dean yet?" I asked and ran a hand through my hair.

"Just gonna call him as soon as I'm done with you," Bobby assured me.

I shrugged before speaking into the receiver, "Sure. But you know he'll probably be hopping mad about it."

Bobby chuckled, "Just as long as it's not me he's ready to tear a new one."

W

Dean became the mother hen when he heard what Bobby had to say apparently. Forty minutes after I'd hung up on Bobby, a knock on the front door announced my brother's arrival.

I frowned when I saw that Dean had his old hunting duffle with him.

He gave me what he must have thought was a charming smile and led me down into the basement.

"Dean, what's in there?" I asked, pointing at the bag that clunked onto the coffee table when he set it down.

"Just precautions, Sammy," my brother tried to assure me.

I narrowed my eyes, "If you haven't noticed, I have two small children running around who like to get their hands on everything."

"That's why you don't leave stuff sitting out," Dean countered, "Haven't you and Sarah ever heard of child-proofing?"

"Not funny," I snarked.

Dean raised an eyebrow, "I know it's not funny. That's why I'm here. You have nothing to fight off this demon Bobby's so worked up about."

I sighed, "Dean, I'm sure Bobby told you this too… it attacks guys and we're protected against possession, remember?"

My brother didn't look convinced, "I'd still feel better if you had something."

Still I refused, "Crowley's called us off-limits. I don't think anyone would want to mess with him, he's a pretty powerful demon."

Something flashed across my brother's face and I blanched.

"What?" I asked, worried Dean was about to say something important.

It was Dean's turn to sigh and he gazed at me sheepishly before rubbing the back of a neck. He was nervous, then.

"Oh Hell," Dean muttered, "I guess I should have told you long ago."

"Told me what?" I demanded, "Dean, what is going on?"

My brother looked at my expression for a moment and then laughed, "Don't you look like you're waiting for test results back! Chill out… it's not that big of a deal."

I clenched my jaw tight, "Than what is it, Dean?"

Dean hesitated, "No need to get angry, little bro. Okay, well, Crowley isn't just a demon anymore, alright? Let's say he moved up the food chain."

"What does that mean exactly? You know, if I wanted someone to give me cryptic answers I'd call up Cas," I really wasn't in the mood to play games with my brother.

"After you sent Lucifer back to Hell," Dean paused when he saw me flinch. Yes, it had been years since I'd taken that nose dive into the Cage but some days the memories were as fresh as though I had escaped only yesterday.

"After… that… Crowley became the head honcho. I don't know how; I don't follow demon politics but that's what happened. I guess with Lilith and Alistair out of the picture and with Daddy Demon back in his box, Crowley weaseled his way in… guess he was stronger than the competition anyhow," Dean explained.

"Oh…Kay," I said slowly, absorbing this new information.

Dean waited for me.

"So do you think Crowley's pulling this demon's strings," I asked.

Dean shrugged, "He is the boss now. I mean, we may be a no go but that doesn't include the rest of the male population."

"But you've still brought weapons," I pointed out, "So you think maybe Crowley would go back on his word?"

"Hell yeah! Sure he said he was grateful to you for putting Lucifer back in the Cage and all that shit but we didn't exactly seal the deal with a kiss or anything," Dean exclaimed.

I knew what Dean was talking about. We could not trust demons. No matter how many times they claimed to be our pals. Just look at Meg and Ruby.

"What's in the bag?" I asked and stepped forward.

"I thought you'd never ask," Dean grinned and unzipped the duffle.

I leaned forward as my brother made a big production of rummaging through his duffle.

Dean pulled out the demon killing knife and smiled. He held it out, the handle toward me.

"Dean," I shook my head and he frowned.

"What?" my brother asked.

"I'm not taking that," I told him.

Dean lowered the blade, "Why not? You need something to defend yourself with and you were always better with knives than firearms."

I didn't respond.

"Look, do you want the Colt?" he asked, "'Cause I'll give you that instead if you really want it."

I sighed and wiped a hand over my face, "Fine, give me the knife."

Dean's serious expression did not change as he handed me Ruby's knife.

"See, it wasn't that hard, now was it?" Dean smirked.

"Shut up," I snapped.

SPN

A couple of months passed, school let out and there was no sign of the murderous demon. Both Sam and I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe Crowley had reined his dog in. Or maybe it hadn't been a demon at all, maybe it had just been some weird phenomenon- I know I'm no psychologist but strange shit happens all the time that has nothing to do with the supernatural, right?

Right.

I spent a lot of time at work- summer being construction season- and making friendly jibes at my brother for getting two months off.

Sam did take a teaching position- a local high school History retired just in time for Sammy to take the job- despite his reluctance- thanks to some less-than-light prodding from Sarah and yours truly.

I liked to think that my brother was happy living in suburbia. I mean, I was and I had always been the brother who wanted to hunt.

But sometimes though, I think Sam missed Montana. I never asked him about it- you know me and talking about feelings- but it was still evident that city life stressed him out a bit.

Although I did see Sam more often, we both had our own lives- our own families and jobs and friends (well, at least I had friends. I don't think Sam had made a single friend since moving to Indiana) and sometimes a couple of weeks would go by before we saw each other.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I knew Sam was stressed, even if it was on a low simmer most of the time.

Sam never talked about it though- which was unusual for him- and I never asked. As long as Sammy had things under control than I didn't see a point in bringing it up.

The move to Indiana was hard on everyone. Sam and Sarah didn't really want to move but they'd both decided- and Bobby and I agreed with them- that it would be safer for everyone if they left the state.

The hardest decision about the move had been what to do with their horses. There was no way my brother and his wife were going to sell them to strangers. Luckily, their neighbours, you know the ones with the dairy cows? Well, they offered to take the horses and give them a good home and even I was happy to see they weren't going to be sold for glue or leather or something.

Sam and I became rarities. Retired hunters who weren't batshit insane or drowning ourselves in booze.

It was actually nice to have a family… see my boys grow up and not have to worry about whether I'd be eaten by a werewolf or drained by a vampire tomorrow.

Most of the time.

I still thought about the narrowly averted Apocalypse, the angels (especially Cas and Abdiel), what might still be in store for our family, etc. but I had to remember that it was not my job anymore. There were more and more hunters everyday and Goddamnit if anyone needed to retire it was Sam and I. After everything that we'd been through, it was about time we passed the torch.

W

I grinned at my brother sitting in the pickup's passenger seat. He didn't look all that comfortable.

"Now I know what a sardine feels like," Sam grumbled good-naturedly.

"This can't be that bad," I argued, "I can't imagine how you manage to fit into Sarah's Audi."

Sam chuckled.

We were almost home, having spent a weekend up at Bobby's place for a 'Guy's Weekend'. It had really been Sarah's idea. She thought the Sam, Bobby and I should get to spend some time together without her and a bunch of kids running around (Lisa had never met Bobby but I liked to take S.J. and Ben up to meet their 'grandpa' from my side).

Sam was exhausted. We had stayed up until three o'clock in the morning telling each other stories- I told ones about hunts Dad and I had gone on when Sammy was at college and Bobby told us ones he'd been on in his youth. Sam also told a few, most of them from when I had been in Hell, but he'd mostly preferred to listen to Bobby and I.

I don't even know why we started talking about old hunts; it wasn't like we missed those days. Maybe it was just with the threat of the demon only a handful of weeks ago that got us thinking.

"So, you're sure it's okay if I stay for dinner?" I asked Sam even though I knew the answer.

My brother huffed, "Of course, Dean. I think you'd insult Sarah if you refused to stay."

I grinned. Anything to get a free meal.

W

I grimaced when I slipped from the pickup's cab and onto the asphalt of Sam's driveway. It had taken us almost twelve and a half hours to get from Bobby' place and my back was giving me crap for the non-stop ride. I saw Sam lean over and rub at his left knee and cursed myself silently for not realizing that we should have stopped to stretch our legs.

Not that Sam suggested we take a pit-stop either, stubborn idiot that he is.

Sam limped around the front of the truck, trying to hide the fact that he was hurting and gestured at me to go ahead.

"You should take some Tylenol or something for that, eh?" I suggested as casually as possible.

"It's fine, Dean," Sam told me tiredly.

I shrugged. Whatever. Sam could take care of himself.

My brother opened the front door and stepped into the little entranceway.

It was quiet in the house, not even the radio or television was playing.

"They're probably out in the backyard," Sam muttered and unlaced his shoes.

I nodded and felt reassured by the cold steel of the Colt hidden beneath my long-sleeved shirt in the waistband of my jeans. Ever since I had come over to my brother's house a couple of months ago to give him the demon killing knife I had taken to carrying the gun with me, if for comfort more so than actual protection.

I hadn't told Sam that I still had the gun.

We stepped forward and went into the living room. I could see the patio doors from where we stood and clearly saw that the backyard is empty.

"Sam?" I reached out to grab my brother's arm, my hunter senses tingling when we both nearly jumped out of our skin when Sarah appeared from the kitchen.

"I'm sorry," she chuckled good-naturedly, "I didn't mean to scare you. I didn't hear you come two come in."

I relaxed, "Hey Sarah."

Sarah smiled, "Dean."

She stepped toward her husband, "Sammy."

Sarah never calls Sam 'Sammy'; I had an instant to think before I was flying through the air to slam into the bookcase on the other side of the room. Instead of sliding down, I remained pinned in a spread-eagle position against the shelves.

Seconds later I heard Sam grunt and felt the bookcase shudder as my brother was likewise thrown against it.

"Who the fuck are you?" I snapped and struggled to get free of the invisible force holding me tight.

"What, you didn't see my work on the news?" Sarah put a hand on her hip and wagged a finger at me.

I looked at my brother from the corner of my eye and saw his face was pasty white and his eyes were narrowed into slits. I wasn't sure if he was in pain or scared or just downright furious.

Sarah's grey eyes turned pitch black and I gulped as she sashayed her way toward Sam and I.

"I know this isn't my usual M.O. but unfortunately I can't possess you," the demon inside Sarah pouted like a kid who didn't get the toy she'd asked Santa Claus for. She moved close to Sam and unbuttoned his shirt so that the tattoo on his chest was visible.

My brother's response was to start reciting an exorcism.

The demon just laughed, "Save your breath, Sammy."

Sam's voice immediately choked off and I swore silently.

"Where are the kids you son of a bitch?" I snarled at the demon.

Coal-black eyes shot my way. Sarah frowned, "You weren't invited, Dean. This was just supposed to be between me and Sam."

"Sorry to ruin your plans," I muttered mutinously.

"Don't worry; I always have a Plan B," the demon announced as though we really cared.

"I'll just have to make you watch like that as I kill your brats and your pretty little wife and big brother Dean-o," the demon smiled up at Sam with a grin that did not look right at all on Sarah's face.

With the demon so focused on Sam I realized that it wasn't extending as much power to keep me in place. Its primary target was my brother and I was more of an afterthought.

I knew what I had to do… it was the only thing I could do but God damn it!

My Dad's voice spoke suddenly in my head, reciting one of the first lessons about hunting he'd ever told me:

Save as many people as possible, Dean. You may not be able to save everyone and when it comes to that it's not your fault. Remember to stay focused on who you can save.

I averted my eyes from my brother and the demon and stared at the opposite side of the room. There was a gas fireplace there, with a wooden mantle where framed pictures of Sam's family were displayed.

God forgive me for what I am about to do, I thought and snuck my hand behind me, fingers wrapping around the handle of the Colt. My motions were slow as though I was moving through corn syrup and I held my breath, not daring to make the slightest sound.

I stopped thinking, shut my mind down and let my body go through the motions that had been engrained in it since I was a little kid.

Slowly, far too slowly, I pulled the Colt out and pointed it at the demon.

Sarah's head snapped in my direction and she opened her mouth to speak, raised a hand to rip the gun from my grasp but I was ready.

BANG!

The gunshot was loud in the small house but I didn't react. I had been around guns long enough that I no longer even closed my eyes when they discharged.

The bullet hit Sarah in the forehead, just above her right eye and she went rigid. Orange light shone throughout my sister-in-law's body and I heard the crackle of electricity as the demon inside her died and she crumpled to the living room floor, unmoving.

Immediately, Sam and I were released from the demon's power and we both landed heavily, knocking books off the shelves on the way down.

I landed in a haphazard crouch, hissing as I twisted my ankle the wrong way and looked over at Sam who was on his hands and knees, fists bunched in the grey area rug on the floor.

I jumped up and dashed across the room toward the stairs, "I'll get the kids!"

I rushed up the stairs, my feet slipping on the carpeting a couple of times in my hurry.

"Faith! Aaron!" I shouted- there seemed no need to be quiet- and peered into the first bedroom I came to.

"Faith?" I called into the little girl's bedroom, "Aaron?

I turned away and stomped down the hall. I checked in Aaron's room quickly but they weren't there either.

I noticed that the door to the master bedroom was closed so I opened it and crept inside.

"Aaron? Faith, are you in here?" I called softly, not wanting to scare the children.

I didn't get a response and was just about to turn around when I heard a shuffling sound coming from the closet.

I purposefully stepped loudly, letting the kids know I was there. I crouched down and put a hand on the door handle.

Pulling open the closet door, I saw the boy and girl crouched far in the back. Faith had one hand over her brother's mouth; the other was on top of his head, her fingers tangled in his black hair. Aaron had his hands wrapped in his sister's shirt. Both children had tearstained faces and large, round eyes full of fear.

As soon as the kids say me they scrambled into my arms.

"It's okay," I soothed, "You're safe now."

Aaron just cried, clinging to me as though for dear life.

"Where's Daddy?" Faith asked, sniffing ever so often. She wiped her nose on her sleeve and her dark blue eyes searched my face.

"He's here," I muttered, "don't you worry."

"W-what happened?" Faith asked and hugged her body close to mine.

I just shook my head and picked the two children up. They snuggled their faces into my shoulders and I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God they were safe.

SPN

I heard Dean stomping down the stairs but made no indication that I actually heard him. All I could do was sit and stare at Sarah's lifeless body and pray that I was just having a nightmare.

"Sam!" Dean barked in the same tone Dad would use if I wasn't moving fast enough. I reacted unconsciously and stood.

"Let's wait outside," my brother said in a softer voice. I saw his hazel eyes were glistening with moisture and he had my son and daughter cradled in his arms. My gaze traveled to the bookcase and I stared at the Colt for a moment as though seeing it for the first time. Dean had forgotten to grab it when he ran for the kids. As though it had a mind of its own, my hand reached out and I picked up the weapon.

I didn't bother asking what we were waiting for. I just followed my brother out into the front yard. I could hear my own heart pounding in my ears, drowning out the sound of approaching sirens.

I looked up when Dean nudged me and Faith practically leapt into my arms.

"Daddy," she mumbled and buried her head into my shoulder. In seconds my shirt was soaked through.

Dean took the Colt from me and slipped it into the waistband of his jeans, covering it with his shirt.

I heard my brother talking to me but I didn't pay attention. The only thing I was thinking about was waking up from this nightmare.

SPN

Sam was on autopilot for the entire day. It kind of worked to our advantage though because the police were sympathetic toward him.

I don't think any of those cops even thought Sam might be guilty after seeing the look on his face- it reminded me of a kicked puppy- and how zoned-out he was.

The ambulance attendants even wanted to take Sam to the hospital to treat him for shock.

I did most of the talking. Sam providing one word answers to confirm my story.

As far as everyone was concerned, Sam and I had just returned from a fishing trip in South Dakota to find some desperate asshole threatening Sarah with a gun and demanding money. I told the cops that when Sam and I went inside the guy panicked and shot Sarah before fleeing.

I knew the story was flimsy but it was corroborated by the fact that there had been a string of B & E's on the other side of the city- not something I knew about- and the cops seemed to believe it might have been the same person.

I never spoke directly to Sam, afraid of his reaction. Even though Sam is the most forgiving person I'll ever meet, I was sure he wasn't ready to talk to me just yet.

Hell, I hoped that Sam would forgive me because I knew I'd never forgive myself. I knew I'd regret what I'd done for the rest of my life.

W

I drove Sam and the kids to my place- their house was still a crime scene- and made some Kraft Dinner for Aaron and Faith.

The kids ate the macaroni and cheese as if they hadn't eaten in days. I offered a bowl to Sam but he just shook his head and muttered that he wasn't hungry.

Once the kids had finished eating they seemed to perk up and began asking questions.

Where's Mommy?

Why aren't we at home?

What's wrong with Daddy?

I sighed and looked at Sam, hoping he would take over but he just kind of stared off into the distance.

"Sam!" He jumped when I said his name and blinked as though he'd been daydreaming or something sappy like that.

"You with us?" I asked and Sam nodded, rubbing a hand over his face.

"Come here," Sam said softly and held out a hand for each of his children and led them in the direction of the guest bedroom.

I gathered up the dirty dishes and dumped them into the sink. Leaning against the counter I ran both hands through my hair.

Jesus Christ, what have I done?

W

I left the steam-filled bathroom and walked into the living room to see Sam sitting on the couch, beer in hand, staring at the blank TV screen.

I cleared my throat and my brother turned to me.

"You should take a shower," I suggested, "It'll make you feel better."

It was around eight o'clock at night. Aaron and Faith were asleep in the guest bedroom reserved for S.J. whenever he came over. Sam had not said more than two words to me since dinner and I really starting to worry about him.

Sam shrugged and turned away.

I stepped into the room and sat down on the other side of the couch.

"Sam… we need to talk man," I sighed.

"Dean," Sam said warningly, hackles raised.

I wasn't going to back down. I needed Sam to talk to me.

"Please, Dean," Sam muttered, "Drop it."

"No way!" I argued, "I know it hurts but-"

Sam rounded on me, grabbing the front of my shirt in his hands. I was taken aback by his action.

"She's gone Dean! Sarah's dead… and it's my fault," Sam's voice was somewhere between a snarl and a sob.

I shook my head, "Sam, c'mon, don't blame yourself. You didn't do anything."

"I married her. I practically signed her death warrant," Sam muttered, hands still fisted in my shirt.

"What are you talking about?" I demanded and grabbed my brother's wrists.

"Don't you see the pattern, Dean? First it was Jessica and then Madison and then Ruby and now Sarah… every woman I ever loved died because of me!" Sam cried and I tried to shush him so that his kids wouldn't wake up.

I wanted to say that Ruby was a conniving demonic slut but held my tongue. Sam's wife had just died and he wasn't in a good place right now.

"Sam, it wasn't your fault… none of their deaths were your fault," I tried to reason with him.

Sam shook his shaggy head, tears welling up in his green eyes, "How could I have been so stupid? Why didn't I just tell her to stay away from me?"

I took my hands off Sam's wrists and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him.

"What am I going to do, Dean?" Sam asked me, "How am I going to take care of Aaron and Faith? Can't even take care of m'self…"

"You know what I think?" I asked my brother.

Sam sniffed, "What?"

"I think you need a good night's sleep," I told him, "I think you just need to try and relax."

Sniffing some more, Sam nodded.

"You wanna sleep here?" I indicated the couch and Sam nodded.

I reached over and grabbed the beer bottle he'd set on the coffee table before deciding to manhandle me.

Standing I stared my brother down until he laid down and then turned to put the bottle in the recycling.

"Dean?" Sam's small voice asked.

"Yeah, Sammy?" I answered without turning to look at him.

"Why'd you have the Colt with you?"

I wiped a hand over my face, "Go to sleep Sam. We can talk in the morning."

Thankfully Sam didn't reply. I was afraid Sam would blame me for Sarah's death and although blaming himself wasn't better, the last thing I wanted was for my brother to hate me.

SPN

It was incredibly difficult to breathe around my broken heart. Every time I closed my eyes I saw Sarah's face and a fresh wave of pain washed over me. I couldn't seem to think. My mind just seemed stuck and wouldn't move forward.

I could not get over the extreme feeling of guilt I had over Sarah's death. I should have known better, I had lost enough loved ones over the years to know that my relationship with Sarah wouldn't last. I should have known that my hunting life would one day catch up with me.

I tried not to blame Dean for Sarah's death. If Dean hadn't had the Colt with him… we all might be dead right now.

But I couldn't stop seeing Sarah die. Over and over it replayed in my head. Relentless.

I was exhausted but I couldn't sleep. I didn't want to sleep. All I wanted was Sarah back.

W

The hardest part was explaining to Faith and Aaron that their mother wasn't coming back.

Faith, already seven years old, grasped the concept of death well and didn't ask too many questions. She did cry though, but refused to be comforted when I tried.

Just leave her be, Sam, I told myself, she just needs some time.

Aaron on the other hand thought that Sarah was just out for a while and followed me around Dean's condo asking when she would return.

I didn't want to take the kids back home. I didn't think I'd be able to go back to the house and live there as though nothing had happened. Dean said that he'd come by with me later and pack up some stuff and get the house ready to sell when the police were finished. I could tell that my brother didn't like the idea of me moving again, by the expression on his face when I told him that's what I wanted, but he didn't say anything.

I sat Aaron down on the couch and crouched in front of him. Sighing, I tried a second time to explain that his mother was gone.

"Aaron, Mommy's not coming back," I told my son, trying to keep my own emotions in check.

"Why not, Daddy? Doesn't Mommy love us anymore?" Aaron's small, sad voice made my heart clench in my chest.

"Of course she loves us," I told him, "She loves you and Faith very, very much but she couldn't stay with us."

"Why?" Aaron asked- his favourite new word- and scooted forward on the couch cushion.

"Because…" I paused for a moment, "Because she had to go to Heaven."

"Okay," Aaron said, "Can we go visit Mommy?"

Blinking furiously I got up and sat down on the couch, pulling Aaron into my lap. He stared up at me, waiting for an answer.

"I'm sorry buddy," I apologized, "we can't go and see Mommy. But I'll tell you something. If you're good and kind than one day you'll go to Heaven too and you'll see Mommy there."

Aaron looked excited at the prospect.

"Can you promise me you'll be a good boy?" I asked and Aaron nodded his head eagerly.

My son wrapped his arms around my abdomen and hugged me, "I'll be good, Daddy. I'll be really, really good."

I nodded, "Why don't you go play with your sister, okay?"

Aaron jumped down from my lap and ran down the hall into the guest bedroom where Faith was.

Dean came out of the bathroom, fully dressed and looked at me quizzically.

"No one ever tells you how you're supposed to tell them about death," I muttered.

"I'm sure you did a good job," Dean encouraged.

"What did Dad say to you after Mom's death?" I asked, suddenly curious.

Dean's face clouded over for a moment, "He never really talked about her… just vowed to get the S.O.B who killed her."

I nodded, "Dad didn't really have to explain with me… I was there you know, I saw the fire…"

"Yeah," I agreed.

"You want a beer?" Dean asked to change the subject.

"Dean, its nine thirty in the morning," I stared at him.

"Hey, it's four o'clock somewhere in the world," Dean raised an eyebrow, "Besides, you deserve it. You went through hell yesterday."

I shrugged, not caring either way and Dean returned with a bottle in hand.

"Thanks," I muttered.

Dean sat down on a chair across from me and cleared his throat. I waited for him to speak.

"We should, ah, think about preparing for a funeral," Dean said awkwardly.

I nodded and felt my stomach clench painfully. The last thing I wanted to do was organize a funeral for my wife.

Before I knew what he was doing, Dean was sitting beside me and had one hand on my brow like he used to do when I was a child.

"I'm not sick, Dean," I scolded but didn't pull away.

"Maybe we should get someone else to deal with the funeral stuff," Dean suggested, "You are kind of pale, Sammy."

I let out a watery sigh, my eyes filling with tears.

"Yeah," I answered, "Yeah, maybe we should do that."

Dean nodded and took his hand away.

"I think Sarah has some friends in New York still…" I started but trailed off.

Dean's sharp hazel eyes met mine, "Where's your meds, Sam?"

"Uh…" I shook my head, "In my bag… but Dean-"

"Shut up," Dean snapped and stood, "You need to take your pills."

I watched numbly as Dean stalked down to the guest bedroom where I had left the duffle bag I had packed the day before.

My brother returned with the orange pill bottles, "You take these every day?"

I shrugged, "Mostly."

Dean nodded but made no other comment. I was glad he didn't say anything.

"How're Faith and Aaron doing?" I asked as I opened the bottles and dumped the correct amount of meds into my palm.

"They're playing," Dean said, "They'll be okay Sam. Kids bounce back a lot easier than adults do."

I washed the pills down with the beer Dean had given to me, not caring that I probably shouldn't be mixing them.

Once Dean was satisfied that I wasn't going to flip out of whatever he was worried about, he sat back down on his chair.

"I can call up Lisa, get her to look after Faith and Aaron," Dean suggested.

For a second I dreaded the thought of my children not being close by but then realized that they didn't need to be around when I was trying to arrange their mother's funeral.

"Thanks," I said and leaned back against the couch, closing my eyes.

SPN

I couldn't help but think about the seven stages of grief. Sam seemed to still be in the 'shock and denial' stage and I waited on pins and needles for him to become angry… at me.

There was no denying that I was the one who had killed Sarah. I hated the very thought of it but couldn't run from the truth. I was the one who had pulled the trigger. I knew what I was doing when I had pointed the Colt at Sarah. I knew that if I took the shot I would be killing the demon and Sarah.

Sam has forgiven me for a lot of shit over the years, but I was sure that this would be the last straw.

Instead, Sam continued to feel guilty about Sarah's death and none of the blame landed on me.

A few days passed. Lisa came by to take Aaron and Faith to her place.

Over the years when my ex-wife and I encountered one another we were cold, but civil because we didn't want to make a scene.

When Lisa stepped into the little entranceway of my condo she gave me a hug- something she hadn't done since before we were divorced- and told Sam that she was sorry for his loss. I knew that Lisa had always been wary of Sam ever since his return from Hell but she let the wall down this time and took one of Sam's hands in hers and asked if there was anything she could do for him.

Sam looked as shocked as I felt about Lisa's reaction.

"You're already doing more than enough taking care of Aaron and Faith," Sam had answered quietly.

Lisa had nodded and spread her arms wide for a hug from her niece and nephew.

When Lisa left I turned to Sam and commented, "That's the friendliest she's been to me in six years."

Sam gave a wan smile, "I guess death does that to people."

W

The funeral was really nice… as far as funerals go- I'd never really use the word 'nice' to describe them- and even the day seemed to reflect our mood. It was unusually cold and cloudy, although the rain held off.

A lot of Sarah's friends from Albany and New York City and some of Sam and Sarah's friends from Petite had come down.

There were lots of roses- Sarah's favourite flower, according to Sam- and everyone was sickly sweet and kind.

I think Sam drifted through the funeral and the reception in a daze… he shook the guests' hands and nodded courteously as they expressed their sympathy but I'm pretty sure he was out of it.

Faith and Aaron were not there. Ben had offered to look after them and S.J. and I didn't make a big deal about it… the kids didn't need to be at the funeral.

W

I think that seeing Sarah's coffin being lowering into the ground and buried really made everything sink in for Sam. After the funeral he seemed more lucid, less dazed and distracted. He seemed even more intent on moving away from Sheridan and the house.

I didn't blame Sam for wanting to leave but I hoped he wouldn't go far. I liked having him close by.

"Dean," Sam snapped when I told him so, "Just let me think, okay?"

"Sure," I backed off, "Sure, whatever."

There was the anger I'd been waiting for.

"Look Sam," I began, "I did what I had to do to save us… believe me I hated doing it but-"

Sam glared daggers at me, "Shut up, Dean. I don't want to talk about it, okay? Just drop it."

Just like Sam though when he hits a nerve, I didn't stop. I needed to know what Sam was feeling.

"I don't care if you blame me… I know what I did but I just wanna know if you'll forgive me," I asked.

Sam stood up from the kitchen table where he'd been seated, knocking the chair over as he got up, "Dean. I'm trying not to make this your fault… so please, please don't talk about it. I don't want you to talk about it."

I opened my mouth and then closed it again. Sam's expression turned from one of anger to one of sadness.

"Please, Dean," Sam whispered, "Please don't make me blame you… if I do I won't be able to forgive you… not this time."

I didn't speak about Sarah or what had happened anymore. Like I've said before, I wouldn't be able to handle it if Sam didn't forgive me for Sarah's death.

W

I grinned sardonically as Crowley appeared in the Devil's Trap, unable to resist the pull of the summons.

The black-clad demon King of Hell raised an eyebrow.

"Really, Dean? This is how you treat your friends?" He asked as he stared at the trap sealing him to the spot.

It was just past midnight in the basement of one of my current construction jobs. No one was around and it was a convenient place I knew of to have a little chat with my 'friend'.

"Did you know that one of your demons possessed Sarah Winchester?" I asked, pacing back and forth like a caged lion.

"I don't keep tabs on such things," Crowley said in a bored voice, "I'm sure you cleared that all up though, sent the chap back Downstairs."

I shook my head, "No, I killed him. And Sarah."

"Uh huh and why is that my problem?" The British demon asked, eyes searching his surroundings, looking for a weak spot he could escape through.

"It's your problem because Sarah was Sam's wife!" I snarled and Crowley actually took a step back.

"Well than, send him my deepest sympathies," Crowley recovered and smirked.

"I'm glad someone finds this amusing," I muttered in a sarcastic tone.

Crowley paused and stared at me for a moment, "Dean, I am not stupid. I made a deal with you and I'm going to keep it. The demons all know you and your family is off-limits. I know what you'd do to me if I went behind your back."

I crossed my arms over my chest, "So what if one of your little buddies went rogue?"

Crowley shook his head, "I would have heard about it. Nothing happens unless I orchestrate it."

The king demon must have seen the skeptical look on my face because he sighed and pointed a pudgy finger at me, "I've not laid a finger on you or your brother ever so why would I start now?"

"Beats me," I shrugged.

"If you want to know what happened, why don't you ask one of your angel friends, hm? They seem to have all the answers," Crowley suggested.

I wiped a hand over my face, "You swear you didn't send that demon?"

Crowley mimicked a saintly expression, "Cross my heart and hope to die."

"If I find you that you had anything to do with it-" I began but Crowley cut me off.

"I know, I know, you'll send me back to where I belong," the demon waved a bored hand.

"Wrong," I pulled the Colt out from my waistband and cocked it, "Next time I won't be in the mood for a nice talk."

For once Crowley didn't have something smarmy to say.

I turned and grabbed my duffle bag.

"Hold on! Where are you going?" Crowley called out.

"Home," I answered casually.

"Aren't you going to release me?" the king of demons asked in a stuffy voice.

"Let's just say this is a warning," I looked over my shoulder, "My guys will come in around seven… I'm sure you can convince one of them to let you out."

"Dean," the demon bristled, "I haven't hurt you. Let me go."

"Sorry, Crowley," I apologized insincerely, "No can do."

"Dean!" the demon gave one last shout and then I just tuned him out.

If it had been any other demon I would have send its ass straight back to Hell but because it was Crowley I played by different rules. I knew that however the demon king might hate me right now he wouldn't come after me or my family. He knew I wasn't joking when I threatened to shoot him with the Colt.

I got into the cab of my pickup truck, thinking.

If Crowley didn't send the demon had someone else? Meg was still around and surely she still had Sam and I on her hit list. Maybe the demon was just working on his own, having shits and giggles destroying families and had by coincidence spied Sam's.

As a hunter though, I didn't believe in coincidence.

Crowley had suggested that maybe the angels had something to do with Sarah's death. But why? Seemed kind of pointless to me if they were trying to get some sort of message across or something. Angels usually liked to do their own dirty work and I didn't know an angel who would willingly work with demons.

"Cas, I know we haven't talked in a while," I spoke out loud as I drove down the street and back home.

"I'm not even sure if you're listening to me right now but… I need to hear from you. Sarah's dead… maybe you know and well, Sam and I aren't sure what happened… I just want to know the truth… Crowley said he didn't have a hand in it and even though he's a demon… I believe him… I do… I know you probably think I'm an idiot and a hypocrite for trusting a demon but he's never tried to hurt Sam or me…"

I took one hand off the steering wheel and wiped my face.

"What's happening, Cas? Are Sam and I in danger? Are our families in danger? I know everyone up there is so sure that old Lucy's making a comeback and I just wanna know how long its gonna be… God damn it, Cas! Answer me! We need help down here, we need answers.

I received no reply and turned on the radio to drown out the silence in the truck.

I sighed. The only thing Sam and I could do was be ready. We would be ready to fight whatever they threw at us, like always. There was no way we would let them win. Sam and I would always go down fighting.

I smiled and turned up the radio as 'Eye of the Tiger' began to play. Tapping my hands on the steering wheel, I felt more confident than I had in a while.

Sam and I might be fathers now, husbands, average guys on the outside but inside we would always be hunters at heart. We would always be Winchesters.

Author's Note:

1. Thanks to everyone who has Reviewed, Favourited and/or Alerted this story.

2. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

3. I will be writing a sequel but not right away. I have other stories I want to publish but please keep checking in.

4. I know the ending is slightly sappy but I was in the mood for it.

5. Please review… I'd love to hear your final thoughts on the story.