Full Summary: What if Sam hadn't really intended to leave for college, and was in fact sent there by an angry John? What if Jess hadn't died that night, Dean had never returned, Dean and John killed yellow eyes whilst Sam lived his apple pie life. What if Sam married Jessica and had a child? what if Sam pissed off a psycho? Plenty of hurt/angsty/distraught Sam and eventual big bro/caring Dean and caring John. D/F (ie death fic).

I know Jess probably features more than Dean in the story, but I am making Dean a main character in the info bit, as it mainly leads to brotherly schmoop :P

Hello! Well I'm back at university now, just trudging through Fresher's week just now. I don't really know anyone yet so while some are heading out this fine evening, I decided to write a little something before delving into work. I don't know if I will have much time to write so I thought I would write this while I had time. It's just a little something I dreamed about once (I dream stories, I feel slightly sad...). I hope the time changes don't get too confusing, it's basically just building up to the present day, highlighting the key events in Sam's life from 18 onwards. I would just like to point out that I don't actually know what the Hell Jess was studying at Stanford, but I figured a doctor would be cool (I got the idea from her Halloween costume in the pilot... nurse, doctor, same difference...). I feel a little sad that I couldn't fit Bobby into the story, but I generally just wanted some family love. Oh and plenty distressed Sam. Me and my Sam whumpage, poor baby. He never catches a break with me he he! I assure you any SPN story in the future will have hurt Sam.

There may be more I could have added to the story, but at 3am I decided to call it a night. I hope nothing is too cheesy for you. I hope it is too sad for you though, kind of the point :P Anyhoo, enough from me! Enjoy the Winchesters!


PAST

"Hey Sam, mind if I borrow your silver polishing kit? Mine's run out and this knife is getting pretty dull."

"Sure Dad, go ahead." Sam called back from the motel bathroom. As Sam washed his hands, a horrid thought crossed his mind. To find the kit, he has to look through my duffel. If he looks there he might find…

"Sam! What the Hell is this?" Shit. He found it. Sam cautiously came out of the bathroom.

"What is it? Something wrong with the kit?" May as well play the innocent card.

"Funny. A letter that reads: 'Dear Sam, I am writing to inform you that we have considered your application and am delighted to be able to offer you a place to study pre-law here at Stanford.' So, when were you planning to tell us? Or were you just going to sneak off in the middle of the night and hope we wouldn't notice?"

"No, it's not like that…"

"Huh, then what is it like?" John had started shouting at his youngest, which in turn alarmed the eldest who had just walked into the room after a coffee run.

"What's going on? Dad? Sam?" Dean asked, dreading having to face another argument between his father and brother.

"Well Dean, it seems your brother has decided to leave us and go to college. Here, read the letter." John thrust the sheet of paper into Dean's hand. Dean had to read it several times, not wanting to believe it. "Sam…"

"Look, I swear, I don't have any intention of going!" Sam protested. "Everyone at school was making applications, so I thought I would send one to Stanfordejust to see if I would have gotten in. I was just curious; I'm not planning to leave…"

"You expect us to believe that pitiful excuse?" John spat. "After everything this family has gone through, you want to just abandon us for a so-called normal life?"

"No Dad! Please! I don't want to abandon you two –"

"It sure as Hell looks that way Sam," Dean grumbled, completely stunned by this news.

"I know it does, but trust me –"

"Trust you? You hid this from us, how are we supposed to trust anything you say?" Sam couldn't answer that. Dean made a fair point.

"It's getting late. We'll talk about this in the morning. Bed. Now." John could not face Sam. After eighteen years, Sam was just going to leave them. Well, if he hates this life that much, then I guess I should just help him on his way.

John and Dean climbed into their respective beds after shutting off the light, not even bothering to change into sleepwear. Neither man would talk to Sam, and Sam was on the verge of tears. He didn't know how to convince them that it was purely curiosity that caused him to apply for college. He had worked so hard at school, so he wanted to see if his grades would have been good enough to get him into a prestigious college had a life of hunting not beckoned.

Things went from bad to worse. The next day, John had packed all their things and threw Sam's duffel at him, telling him to get into the car. The three men drove for hours in complete silence. When they reached Stanford, John asked Sam to step out of the car. Tentatively, Sam obeyed his father. As soon as the door shut, Dean rolled down the passenger side window to allow his dad to speak to Sam. "Enjoy normal Sam. Don't bother following us. And remember, you brought this on yourself." And with that, the Impala sped off into the distance, leaving a shocked eighteen year old hunter standing alone on the sidewalk.

Sam refused to move from that spot for several hours, expecting his dad - or brother at least – to come back for him. He figured that this was a scare tactic, as punishment for going behind their backs. But no one came. When darkness fell, Sam realised he couldn't sleep by the road, so he walked in search of a cheap motel. He found a few hundred dollars in his duffel, obviously from his father. This worried Sam more – maybe his dad was serious. Finally, he found one and checked into a room. There he waited. All night. For two nights afterwards. Yet still no one came for him. He decided he needed to call Dean. After a few times, his brother answered.

"We told you to leave us alone Sam. You wanted normal – go ahead and have normal. We're serious. Go to college and live some apple pie life, without us. Delete our numbers and never call us again. Goodbye Sam." Dean swiftly hung up, leaving Sam speechless. He collapsed onto his bed and sobbed. This was real – his dad and brother had truly left him and were never coming back. He was alone. He had heard the phrase "curiosity killed the cat." Well, curiosity not only killed the cat, but it was brutally tortured, mutilated, dragged through Hell, and its litter slaughtered for good measure. Sam had royally screwed up this time, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do. Except for living the normal life he desperately did not want.

xxx

Stanford was an amazing place, Sam couldn't deny that. After finding a part-time job and securing a tiny apartment with the little money he had, he had studied for over a year there. He had to confess, he enjoyed the work. Academia had always been his strong point, so this was definitely an ideal place for him. Despite this, he was thoroughly miserable. He didn't attempt to socialise, and people tended to avoid him as he was too "quiet and weird." This was never what he wanted. Sure, if his mother hadn't been killed by a demon and he had never encountered hunting, he would have chosen this life. But hunting was his calling, and he wanted to continue alongside his father and brother. After the incident with the acceptance letter, his world had turned upside down. That was until he met a young female student. She was stunningly beautiful – long, glamorous, blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes and a dazzling smile. Sam could not fail to notice her as she walked up to his table in the small café where he was studying and asked "is this seat taken?"

"Uh… n-no. Go ahead." Sam didn't know why he was nervous. The other students had no impact on him, but there was something about this girl.

"Thanks!" She beamed a perfect set of white teeth at him and sat down. That shocked Sam – he thought she just wanted to take the chair and sit with the group of giggling girls at the other end of the room.

"Sorry, you just looked lonely. Thought you could use the company. My name's Jessica. Jessica Moore. I'm a second year pre-med. You?"

Sam just stared for a minute, before finally finding his voice. "I'm… Sam. Sam Winchester. Pre-law. Second year. Thanks."

"Huh?"

"For offering to keep me company. You didn't have to. I'm used to it. I don't really have friends here."

"Why not? You seem such a nice guy."

"I guess I didn't see the point in making friends. To be honest, I don't want to be here."

"In this café?"

"No, Stanford."

"The work too much for you?"

"No, it's not that. I'm quite enjoying my studies actually. It's just… oh, it's a long story. I don't want to bore you."

"Sam. I may have only just met you, but I'm a pretty good judge of character. And, if I may be so bold as to say, I don't think ANYTHING you say could bore me." She smiled at him again, urging him to talk. And Sam did. It was stupid – it went against every instinct he had as a hunter. Don't trust anyone you have only just met, Sam had always told himself. But there was something about this Jessica. He felt like he could really talk to her, despite only knowing here for about two minutes.

Sam spilled his entire distressing story (omitting all hunting details), not able to stop himself. It felt so good to let it all out. The whole time, Jessica listened, never once removing her gaze from the handsome stranger. She would touch his arm whenever he got to a particularly difficult time, offering some comfort. When he had finished, he laughed nervously and apologized.

"Sorry. We have just met and here I am reeling off my entire life story."

"It's all right, I think you needed that. I'm sorry you had to go through so much."

"Thanks. Look, to make up for my ranting, how about I… buy you dinner?" His face turned red. He had just bored a poor girl to death and was now asking her out on a date. He half expected her to make some lame excuse and run out of there, making mental notes never to speak to depressed strangers again.

Instead, she smiled. "I'd love that."

xxx

Jessica's graduation from medical school had been amazing, much better than his own graduation from law school a couple of weeks before. She was so happy, saying fond farewells and enjoying her last night with friends, even though most were joining her for training at the local hospital.

As the night went on, Sam had taken Jessica to the beach, not far from the beach front marquee where all her friends were dancing together.

"Sorry I dragged you away from all your friends, but I needed to talk to you."

"Don't worry about it. What's wrong?" Sam was clearly wracked with nerves, and Jessica was concerned. He hadn't been as nervous as this since the first day they met.

"We've been together for a while now. I think our feelings are pretty obvious, but I need to be open. Jessica, I love you. I love you more than anything in this world. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about you. I can't imagine not having you in my life. So, I have something to ask you." Sam got down on one knee and pulled a small box from his pocket. He opened it to reveal a beautiful platinum and diamond engagement ring. "Jessica Moore, will you marry me?"

Jess just stared at him, completely dumbfounded. Tears welled up in her eyes. Sam was proposing. This is what she has dreamed of for some time now, and she feared he would never ask. Her silence worried Sam, and he looked down, convinced she was going to say no. Instead, she picked up the ring from the box and placed it on her finger. "Of course I'll marry you. Dumbass!" Despite the insult, the words were uttered with such love that Sam had to choke back a sob. He stood up and embraced her, and both wept silently with pure joy.

xxx

Sam stood nervously at the altar. This was it. After months of planning, the big day was finally here. He had hoped that his best man would be offering him moral support, keeping him calm. Thing is, Sam had no best man. He had left his father and brother messages about the wedding, hoping that they could end the whole animosity between them. But neither man showed up. Sam had always known that should he ever get married, Dean was going to be his best man. So, if Dean wasn't going to be there, then he wouldn't have a best man. It just wouldn't feel right. Sadness engulfed him for a brief moment as he thought of his missing relatives, but glee was soon restored as the wedding march blared from the organ and he turned to see his beautiful fiancée walking towards him. Her parents had passed years before, so there was no one to take her down the aisle ("Well, technically the central passageway", Sam had pointed out many times, always receiving an annoyed huff from Jess). But she didn't let it bother her. Both of them had important people missing from their special day, but they refused to let that sadness destroy the most important time in their lives to date.

xxx

"Congratulations young Winchesters. It's a girl." The midwife brought the tiny new-born to Sam and Jess and placed her in her mother's awaiting arms. They had wanted the sex to be a surprise so they wouldn't argue over names, allowing it to be more spontaneous.

Despite her exhaustion from labour, Jessica cradled her daughter in her arms and Sam sat next to them, arms draped around his wife as he stared lovingly at both of them. His family.

"Hi there," cooed Jessica. "I'm your mommy, and this is your daddy. Welcome to the world… Mary."

Sam looked at Jess and she at him. "I know we should really discuss it, but I think we both know it's the right choice. I love the name anyway, and I could tell you wanted to name her after your mother."

"You know me far too well." He laughed, and smiled at her, eyes brimming with emotion. "Thank you. Hi Mary!" He stroked his girl's tiny hand with his index finger, and nearly cried when she instantly clung onto it. He couldn't be any more content with his life at that moment. Even though he had hoped his brother and father would respond to his messages about the birth, he was too happy to let himself feel down about the fact they weren't there.

xxx

PRESENT

"In other news, serial killer Fred Bundy, more colourfully referred to as 'the LA slasher' was found guilty earlier today and sentenced to death, despite protesting that his killings of other criminals was 'just' and not deserving of punishment. His lawyer, a rookie who blundered his way into the state's most prestigious law firm, unsurprisingly lost the case and slumped out of the courtroom, his first defeat in his short career. He refused an interview – if you ask me, he's probably embarrassed by agreeing to take on the case in the first place. I mean it was a lose-lose situation – either the dude would be found guilty and his record would be shattered and his bosses pissed, or the dude would be released and he would be slaughtered by an infuriated public. What WAS he thinking?"

Sam angrily shut off the radio. Idiot DJs and their opinions, what the Hell do they know about anything? Sam was exhausted and thoroughly pissed off. The DJ had been right in that his boss would not be wholly impressed. He lectured Sam for a good few hours about how it doesn't matter what a lawyer thinks about a client, it's their job to defend them. He had watched Sam and felt that he had made a half-assed job. Sam had protested, saying that the guy was a psycho, one hundred percent guilty and deserving of his punishment; he made the point that he had always maintained that he became a lawyer to help innocent people fight for justice, not let mass murderers walk the streets to claim more victims. That made his boss more infuriated.

Sam could still hear the words ringing in his ear, "Oh give it up Winchester! We don't all live in your ideal world of candyfloss and bunnies where good things happen only to good people and the bad guys get what they deserve. Even the most hated criminal has the right to a fair trial, and it is us lawyers who have to do that job. Yes, the public may hate us, and sometimes we may hate ourselves, but it's our responsibility. You don't like it, tough – either suck it up or get the Hell out of my office! I mean honestly, what did you expect?"

At that stage, Sam lost it. "Fine. You know what? Maybe I was too naïve. I accidentally fell into college life and didn't put too much thought into what I was doing. I now see that law was a serious mistake. So I will take you up on your offer and I'll get the Hell out of your office. I'm done. Give the job to someone who is happy to let psychos walk the streets." He stormed out of his boss's office, swiftly cleared the meagre contents of his desk into his briefcase and left for home. He was never returning to that job.

So here he was, driving the 45 minute journey home, trying to figure out how to explain to his wife that he had just left a very well paid job in the heat of the moment. He thought the radio would calm him, but that so-called news report just made everything worse.

Finally, he pulled up into the driveway of his suburban house in the outskirts of California. It couldn't be any more stereotypical – white boarding on the exterior walls, beautifully manicured lawn, white picket fence, and a long sweeping driveway big enough for about ten cars. Sam thought it a little sickly, but Jess fell in love and insisted that they move in. So that was there they had lived for the past few years, and he was still getting used to the place.

He slumped through the front door and discarded his briefcase under the table next to the door. He slipped his shoes off and threw his suit jacket and tie to the floor. He would deal with the mess in the morning.

"You better deal with that mess in the morning." Jess called from the top of the stairs. Sam could have sworn she was telepathic sometimes.

"I will, I just can't do it now. I need to go to bed."

"It's only nine, Mary fell asleep about a half hour ago. I heard about the case, I'm sorry. Is that what's bothering you?"

"Yeah, just stress." But Jess could see that something else was wrong.

"What aren't you telling me?" The way she could read him so easily reminded him of how Dean used to be.

"You're going to be mad, so I'll apologize now."

"What did you do?"

"I was just so annoyed that I had to defend this guy. I mean he was a mass murderer, how am I meant to defend that? I tried to get him to plead guilty and get an extended sentence as opposed to death, but he was adamant. He wasn't innocent, but he didn't see what he did as worthy of punishment. I then tried convincing his son and mother – the family were too poor for the quite frankly outrageous legal fees for our firm's help and I didn't want them to go into debt on a case that would never be won. No one would listen though. After the case the boss and I had a row, and I told him I wasn't happy about the moral implications of defending people like that. He then told me to either suck it up or leave. So I chose the latter. I quit my job Jess. I'm so sorry. I was so selfish. I didn't think of you or Mary's needs, just my own stupid conscience." Before Sam could continue his guilt-trip, Jess gently placed a finger on Sam's mouth to shush him.

"Baby, stop apologizing. I knew you weren't happy in that job, so I'm glad you left. Ok, you could have been a bit less spontaneous but what's done is done. When my parents passed they left me a lot of money, so we don't need to worry about our finances. You can find another job I'm sure. In a couple of days you can go into your office and apologize to your boss for your behaviour. Never know, he might give you a good reference. But don't worry about us Sam, I'm not mad. I love you just as much." She pulled her distressed husband into a warm and loving embrace, needing to assure him that she meant every word.

"Thank you Jess. You always know how to make everything better."

"Don't mention it. Now that we both have the day off tomorrow, we can afford to stay up late. You know, Mary has been babbling recently about wanting a brother or sister. I know they say you shouldn't spoil a child, but maybe we could try and grant her this wish…" Jess hungrily glanced at Sam.

Sam returned the look. "Can't hurt to try, can it?" Instantly, he lifted Jess into his arms and carried her into their bedroom for a heated (yet quiet) night of passion.

xxx

A week later, Sam was ready for a job interview. Jess needed the car that day so she offered to drop him off and take Mary to day care. She had a long shift at work so would be coming home late and didn't want to bother Sam by making him pick her up late at night. As the three sat in the car, the young two year old started crying from the back. "Admiral! Want Admiral! Daaaaaadddddyyyyyyyy!" She whined.

"Mary sweetheart, you need to stop this. You can't take that bear everywhere, you might lose him." Sam obviously failed at convincing his daughter to leave her precious teddy behind. She'd had that toy since birth – a gift from Sam – and refused to go anywhere without it. Sam really couldn't see why. It was something he found in the hospital gift shop. It was a scruffy thing with a naval uniform (hence the name Admiral) and it really needed a wash. He figured Mary was immune to her own germs but was scared about infecting other children. Mary also tended to turn aggressive when other children tried to play with it. Honestly, he wished she would grow out of the obsession.

"Sam honey, we're going to be late and I can't deal with this tantrum. Can you please just get her the bear? We'll deal with it another day."

Sam sighed. "All right, just hang on a minute." Sam ran out of the car, into the house and up to his daughter's bedroom. Sure enough, the disgusting thing was lying on the bed. He picked it up and shuddered as he felt the wetness on its mangy fur – Mary had clearly been chewing on it again. He ran back downstairs and began to lock up. Jess spotted him from the car and started the ignition. That was when it happened. Sam fell hard into the door as an almighty explosion erupted from the convertible. Dazed, Sam turned and tried to go to the car, but it was engulfed in a ball of flames. He called out to Jess but there was no response. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get close enough to the car to find his family. Some neighbours left their houses to find out what had happened, whilst others cowered inside, fearing the onslaught of terrorists. At some point, someone had called 911, as within minutes several fire engines, police cars and ambulances rushed into the neighbourhood. Sam heard someone screaming about Jessica and Mary being trapped in the car, but it wasn't until a fireman dragged him away from the flames that he realised the screams were his own.

A while later, the fire was out and the fire crew were able to get into the charred remains of the vehicle. The driver and young passenger were no longer in one piece, fragments of bone and burnt flesh scattered in the vicinity – including all over Sam. He had either not noticed or was too shocked to allow the truth to sink in (the latter being the more likely) as he kept asking if they were Ok. A paramedic sat Sam down into the back of an awaiting ambulance and a policeman muttered his condolences whilst trying to learn from Sam what had happened.

xxx

To Sam, the next two weeks were a blur. The investigation into the fire was short lived as a young man had handed himself in to the police, delightfully confessing his planting of a simple yet deadly bomb into Sam Winchester's car, the man who he claimed had ruined his life. The young man was the son of Fred Bundy. After his trial, he and his mother lost their home and had to live in sheltered accommodation, whilst being hated by everyone they knew. Despite their problems, Sam felt nothing but hatred towards the man. He chose not to blame his father, for murdering people and not pleading guilty, the prosecution, judge or jury, or even the boss of the law firm for charging them so much money. No, he chose to blame Sam, the lawyer who went against his better judgement to try and defend the man. To top it all off, he had failed to kill Sam, instead murdering Jess and Mary. The man didn't mind – in fact, it made him happier. It meant that Sam would spend the rest of his life suffering, plagued by guilt over the death of his loved ones. Sam would have gladly gone into the prison and shot him had another inmate not beaten him to it by "accidentally" bludgeoning him to death in a fight.

Sam knew he had to organize the funeral, but he could not face it. He just wanted to crawl into bed, hoping that this was all a terrible nightmare and he would wake up next to his beloved, hearing his little girl crying for breakfast and attention. Jessica's best friend and colleague Sophie had helped Sam as much as she could, and even offered to make arrangements for the funeral. But Sam refused, saying it was his responsibility, he just wasn't ready yet. Instead, she would just sit with him whenever she was off work, occasionally making him dinner which he merely picked at. One night when she was over, Sam had passed out from exhaustion on the sofa, and Sophie had an idea. She carefully searched Sam's pockets for his cell, and made a note of the number highlighted under the name "Dean." Jessica had confided in her about Sam's estranged sibling – and father – and knew Sam still longed for them to be in his life. She and Jess both knew that they were hunters after Sam had to save them from a rather nasty demon that wanted revenge on Sam for John and Dean killing his father, the yellow-eyed demon. Sam was able to kill the monster easily, but had to explain his full past. Jessica stood by him, and wasn't even angry that he had kept it a secret from her. Honestly, what is it with people wanting revenge on Sam for something he didn't do? She thought. Once she had obtained the number, she quietly snuck out of the house to make the phone call.

"Yes?" a gruff voice answered after a few rings.

"Um, hi. Is this… Dean Winchester?"

"Depends who's asking."

"My name's Sophie. I'm a friend of Sam."

The line was silent for a while, then the man on the other end of the phone gave an agitated sigh. "I don't believe it. Now he's getting someone else to call us? What part of his perfect life is he trying to gloat about now?"

Sophie was shocked at the apparent hatred in the man's voice. From what Jess had told her, Sam hadn't done anything so awful to warrant that much spite.

"No, it's not that. He doesn't know I'm calling. I swear."

Dean seemed to accept this fact. The girl had an honest voice.

"Well, what exactly do you want? How do you know about me?"

"Jess mentioned you a few times. Oh Jess is –"

"I know, his wife. I know about his marriage and kid."

"Oh, right, sorry. Anyway, I just… I didn't know what else to do. I'm kind of desperate. Sam doesn't really have friends – to be honest I was Jessica's friend, purely Sam's by default. I don't know anyone who can get through to him. Look, I know you guys have issues so I'm not expecting you to come or anything, I just need advice."

"What's the problem? Is Sam trying a… um… job?"

"No, no hunts." Dean gasped. "Jess and I found out a few years ago when Sam saved us from some demon. Son of that one you killed, apparently, wanted revenge on Sam. Anyway, it's not a supernatural problem. Before I say, did you ever meet Jess or Mary?"

"No. Part of me wants to though."

"Oh. Well… this is going to be harder than I thought."

"What is it?"

"I'm sorry to tell you, but… they died two weeks ago. Murdered." Dean gasped once again.

"WHAT?"

"Sorry. But I had to call you. I just can't get through to Sam. He won't eat. He hardly speaks or sleeps, and he can't arrange the funeral because of his grief. I'm trying to help him, but I think he's still traumatized. He was there when it happened."

"What did happen?" Dean sounded upset.

"A rather evil SOB planted a bomb in Sam's car. Jess and Mary were in the car and Sam was about to join them when Jess turned the ignition, setting it off. Poor Sam not only witnessed this, but pieces –" there was a hitch in her breath as she tried to explain the horrific details – "pieces of… of them… he was covered. In their flesh. Even then he thought there was a chance they could survive. He still can't accept they're gone…" Sophie couldn't hold the tears in any longer. It may not have been her family, but she was very close to Jessica and was herself struggling to cope with her passing. "Please Dean." She sobbed. "How do I help him?"

Dean was silent for a while, reeling from all the information he had received. Even though he acted like it, he never once hated Sam. To be perfectly honest, he believed Sam when he had told him all those years before that he wasn't going to leave for college. But Dean had thought Sam truly longed for a normal life, so decided to let him go. He thought if he feigned hatred, Sam wouldn't try to find him and he could be happy for once. It hurt Dean to do that to his baby brother – he saw how hurt Sam was when he spoke to him that night, and could hear the pain in his voice during that first phone call after their separation. But he thought it was for Sam's own good. Over the years he did wonder if he should apologize and find him – Hell, even John had similar thoughts (he finally forgave Sam after a lot of convincing from Dean). But when Dean received the message about Sam's wedding, he knew it was too late. He was starting his own family now, and he couldn't interfere. He couldn't bring hunting back into Sam's now normal life. He hadn't realised about the demon coming after Sam, and that story hit him hard – it seems you can never truly leave the life of a hunter. Now, Sam had lost his family and wasn't dealing. If he knew Sam – which he certainly did – then he had to get to his brother fast, worried he might do something stupid. After all, in Sam's eyes, he had no one. No family. Dean planned on changing that, even if it was ten years too late. "You want to help him Sophie? You tell me where he lives. I think it's about time Dad and I removed our heads from our asses and realised that Sam is family and he needs us. He's needed us for ten years. We will be there as soon as we can. Just be with him in the mean-time. Thank you for being there." He hung up, after she gave him the address. John had listened to everything Dean said, and couldn't figure out why they had to go to Sam.

"Dean, what's going on?"

"Jess and Mary were killed. Sam needs us." Dean didn't have to explain further. Both men grabbed their belongings from the filthy motel room and prepared for the long drive to California, where Dean planned to tell John every detail of the phone call.

xxx

Sophie regained her composure before returning to Sam's house. It didn't matter how much she was hurting, she couldn't let Sam see her being upset. She was worried it could push him over the edge. She had to be strong, if she was ever going to be able to help him.

When she entered the living room, Sam was still asleep. This was the only time Sophie thought he looked peaceful. Clearly, his dreams were of happier times and he wasn't facing the grief of his loss. Sophie was thankful that, at least for a while, he wasn't tormented.

Hours passed, and Sophie still sat patiently next to Sam as he continued to sleep. He began to get restless, occasionally tossing and muttering incoherently. On closer inspection, she saw beads of sweat glistening on his forehead. She gently laid a hand there and he felt a little warm. Not feverish, but still warm. She decided all she could to was to put a cool cloth on his head. She made her way up to the bathroom to retrieve a damp cloth. When she returned, Sam was awake. He was sitting upright and breathing slowly. He was staring blankly ahead, looking like death warmed up.

"Sam? Everything Ok?" She approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder, but he didn't respond. He didn't even blink. She discarded the cloth and crouched in front of the man.

"Hey. You with me? Say something. Blink, even. Just let me know you're still there." Nothing. Sophie was incredibly concerned and felt ready to call Dean, when she was interrupted by a knock at the door. Please let it be them, she thought as she raced to the door.

Sure enough, when she opened the door, two bedraggled looking men were standing in front of her. "Dean? John?" She questioned.

"Yup." Dean responded. "Where is he?"

"Sitting room. I warn you though, he just woke up from what I think was a nightmare and he's in shock. He's totally unresponsive no. I have no idea what to do."

Dean barged past Sophie and ran into the room to his brother. John nodded his thanks to the girl and suggested she return home, promising to call if Sam got better. Reluctantly, she agreed, allowing the family to reunite. Despite being apart for so long she was convinced Sam's family would get him through this. Grudgingly, she returned to her own home, now needing her husband for some comfort.

Dean froze as soon as he saw Sam. He looked seriously ill – he was thin from having practically starved himself, and a thin layer of stubble had developed on his normally clean shaven face. Sure, Dean hadn't seen his brother face to face for about a decade, but had spied on him during his Stanford years and later saw his picture in the paper from his successes as a lawyer. He didn't know how he had missed the story about the bombing, otherwise he would have come much sooner.

"Sam?" He called. Gradually, he approached his sibling and pulled a chair over so he could sit and face him. "Sam?" He repeated. "Hey, uh, it's Dean. Dad's here too. Sophie called me. Told me everything. I'm… I'm so sorry. Both for your loss and for my absence in your life. I honestly though leaving you was for the best but – can you forgive me? Oh what the Hell am I doing, you're grieving and I'm making this about me. Sorry. I – uh… Dad?" Dean was not doing well. Sam hadn't seemed to acknowledge his presence and appeared to stare straight through him. He just didn't know what to do.

John approached and pulled a chair up beside Dean. "Hey kiddo." John spoke so softly, more than Dean had ever noticed before. "I'm sorry too. I can't even begin to imagine what you are going through. We've been absent from your life for so long, and I realise that wasn't what you needed. But we're here now. If you want us. Sam?" Still no response. Sam remained fixated on an invisible point at the other side of the room. John looked at Dean, and Dean looked at John, neither knowing what to do. They were in such a rush to come to Sam that neither had thought about how to handle him. They weren't even sure what state he would be in, and turns out it was worse than both had expected. Suddenly, Dean had an idea. He turned Sam's head so that it was facing him and then clasped his brother's hands tightly in his own. He then said one word. "Sammy." Nothing else, just Sammy. The tone of voice he used was enough. It was so full of love, regret, sympathy, comfort, and even some happiness for returning to his brother. The word itself was one Dean had not uttered in the whole decade the boys had been separated, not even to John. If they ever mentioned him, it was always just Sam. Dean had figured he didn't deserve to use the affectionate nickname that Sam only allowed him to use, as it was a reflection of the close bond between the siblings, and Dean had effectively ruined that.

John didn't expect much when Dean uttered Sam's nickname, but even John Winchester could be rendered speechless. Dean's idea worked. By simply calling him Sammy, Dean had managed to pull Sam out of his emotional turmoil. Sam's eyes began to focus and his hands clasped tighter around Dean's. Sam looked at his hands, then back at Dean, then at John, then back at Dean. Finally, he spoke. "Dean?" It was merely a whisper, and had Dean not been listening for it he would have missed it.

"The one and only." He smiled at Sam, and Sam smiled back. But the smile soon disappeared.

"It wasn't a dream, Dean. It was real. Wasn't it?"

Dean was confused briefly, but the look in Sam's moist, puppy eyes allowed him to understand. He moved from the chair and next to Sam on the sofa, and placed a comforting hand on his back. "Yeah, it's real."

A tear fell from Sam's eye. "They're really gone. Jessica and Mary… they're really dead. I prayed that this was all some horrible dream, and I would wake up to find them safe and alive. But… but…" Another tear fell. He swallowed several times, trying to clear the lump in his throat. He managed to control his emotions a little as he reached to the floor, where Admiral had been lying for some time. "See this? This disgusting, tattered bear? Admiral. This is what saved my life. This pathetic mess saved me. Mary wanted her bear. I had wanted her to lose the stupid obsession, but her obsession saved my life. If she'd forgotten about it, I'd be dead too. Now, I can't get rid of it. I hated it, but now it's all I have. How stupid is that?"

Dean and John both listened to Sam's rant about the bear, and even though he was being less than polite about it, he clung to it for dear life. It was his baby's most prized possession, and thus it was now Sam's; even though it also made him feel more guilty about their death. Dean moved his hand to Sam's furthest shoulder and wrapped his other around his brother. "I'm so sorry," he muttered, as finally, after two weeks of strain, Sam broke. He curled into Dean, still slinging to the bear, and sobbed uncontrollably. As each heart-wrenching sob wracked Sam's body, Dean held tighter and gently rocked his brother, as John moved closer and stroked his distraught son's hair. Both cooed words of comfort to Sam, mentally kicking themselves for being out of his life for so long. If they had been in his life they could have helped him from the beginning. Instead, they had to try their best to mend the broken man, and make up for the years of abandonment.

It took well over an hour for Sam to vaguely calm down, but Dean and John didn't care. Sam had been bottling his emotions to a dangerous point, and he needed this. So they didn't try to shush him, or tell him to snap out of it, they just let him cry until there were only a few hiccups and the occasional tear.

Dean was first to speak. "Hey Sammy, you must be exhausted. Let's lean back and you can fall asleep against me, Ok? I'm not going anywhere, I promise." Sam said nothing, but Dean could feel his head nodding slightly against his chest. "All right, here we go." He gently pulled Sam back into a more comfortable position with their backs against the back of the sofa, allowing for a better sleeping position. John removed his hand from Sam's hair and nodded to Dean. It meant I'll leave you to it. You rest with him. I'll be nearby if you need me. He really wanted to stay with his son, but he knew that Dean was who he needed. The brothers always had a close bond, closer than the bond between John and either son, and they needed that back. Dean had needed it for ten years, and John realised that Sam did too. He felt responsible – it was he who had overreacted and thrown Sam out of the family, he who had destroyed the bond between the brothers. He hoped that if Sam felt any anger about the past then it would be directed solely at him. He could bare that, if it meant he and Dean could build their relationship back to the closeness there had been before.

After John moved to the nearby armchair to rest (or more accurately to keep an eye on his boys), Dean took over the role of stroking Sam's hair, a motion that had often provided comfort when Sam was upset. Dean then bowed his head so that his mouth was near to Sam's ear, and, making sure John couldn't hear, wanting to keep the moment private, whispered, "I love you Sammy. No matter how hard things get, always remember that." For a moment, the tears stopped and Sam looked up at Dean. His throat was too sore from crying, so he had to mouth his reply. "Thanks. I love you too." He then removed his gaze and returned to his position, with his head lying in the crook of Dean's neck. Dean could feel the tension leaving him, even if more tears did fall, if the increasing wetness on his shirt was anything to go by. Soon, he felt Sam completely relax, his even breathing indicating that he had fallen asleep. Only then did Dean allow himself to relax, eventually joining his brother in a peaceful slumber.

xxx

Sam improved over the next few days. The three men eventually spoke about the past, and each got their feelings out into the open ("Chick-flick moments be damned!" Dean had exclaimed in all seriousness) and to the surprise of the older men, Sam had forgiven them. He made the point that had Jess and Mary still been alive, he may have found it harder to forgive them. Now, however, they were the only ones left, and he was not going to waste any more time holding pointless grudges.

With help from his dad and brother, Sam had finally arranged a funeral. The day was almost unbearable for Sam, but Dean had been with him the whole time, a firm hand on his shoulder throughout both the service and the burial. He had held him as he cried once again, and only let him go once as he gave his thanks to Sophie for everything. Sam also spent some time with his father, allowing Dean a chance to properly thank the girl who had the idea to bring him back into Sam's life. As the day ended, the three hunters made their way back to Sam's house. They had all agreed that when Sam was up for it, they would return to the hunting life, picking up where they had left off all those years ago, as it were. In the meantime, they had some serious catching up to do, the world be damned. No demon, spirit, vampire, or even the apocalypse could take John and Dean away from Sam before he was ready to join them. They had Bobby to take care of the world. They just needed to be a family again. And being a family was how it was going to be from then until the day they died.