The Fix

Ellen H.

Author's Note: Insert regular disclaimer here as we all know I don't own anything recognizable. Also, to those who have written in their reviews (thanks for those by the way!) that they would rather read things in chapters so they can review each one: I just can't…I am one of those authors that just can't stand having someone read my stuff before it is done, and since I tend to write larger fanfics it would take a bit of time to post them all one chapter at a time, and while I would love more reviews, I just can't do it that way. Hopefully if the choice is between not having any of my stories and having to review the full story the majority of readers would choose the latter. I hope you understand. Anyways, this story is pre-series and is AU from the point where Sam has that last big argument with John and leaves. I am also going on a premise of my own that all the other "special children" of Sam's generation had their powers well before Sam's really kicked in on the show. They were all comfortable with what they could do, and had been using them for years. I am going to run with this premise. Also, a certain 'uninvolved' angel takes a slightly more 'proactive' stance. There are minor spoilers throughout, but really big spoilers near the end and I have posted an extra warning there. Also I would like to make you aware of the following: I do not a a rule use profanity in my everyday speech. However since the characters of this show often do, I have put some in this story to best capture the 'voice' of the characters. Not a lot, but it does pop up. If you are offended by this type of language you might want to give this a pass. Also I do not have a beta so there could be, and almost certainly are, spelling and grammar issues that my spell check did not catch. Please forgive them.

Chapter 1-

"If you walk out that door don't bother coming back. You walk out on your family, on what we do, and that's it. You don't want to hunt? Well that's what we do in this family, what your brother and I do, and if that's not good enough for you then evidently neither are we." The words echoed in Sam Winchester's head as they blended into the echoes of the door he had just slammed behind him. He stood for a moment in the empty courtyard of the cheap, as always, motel that the Winchester family was currently calling home, feeling the chill from the early autumn evening cutting through his old military jacket. He hiked the duffel that contained all of his worldly goods a little higher onto his shoulder. He knew where the bus station was, and that he had an hour to catch the bus that would take him to his destination. What he didn't know was if he was making the right decision. Not about leaving, but about where he was going. He looked down at his hand which still held the college letter he had prominently waived in his father's face only minutes before, the letter for the prestigious school in California which had offered him a full scholarship, the school he would never be attending. He crumpled the letter in his fist and tossed it into a nearby dumpster, trying not to visualize his hopes and dreams going with it. He looked over his shoulder at the door. He could hear deep male voices, familiar voices, talking at a level just below a yell, but he forced himself not to listen. He couldn't. This was right. He had to do this. It was just that it was so hard.

He clenched his jaw and with a determination he did not feel he started toward the street and the bus station a mile away. He sighed as the mist that had been falling all day turned into rain, and he pulled the collar of his jacket up to keep the water from running down his neck. His hair was already soaked and he pushed his bangs aside so they did not fall in his eyes. Just another hit on a day that seemed filled with them. Maybe he should just cut it. His hair length had begun as a calculated act of rebellion against his ex-Marine father, but had become a preference, and while it was a pain to deal with sometimes, he really didn't want to cut it off. He shrugged to himself. He would leave the little decisions until later. He was in the middle of dealing with the big ones right now, and he didn't have anything left to spare on the trivialities of life. Like for instance that his left boot seemed to be leaking. He stifled a sigh. He had gone about two hundred yards down the road when he heard the Impala start up. In moments the purr of the big engine was right behind him and he moved off the edge of the road and watched as the big black car pulled up along side him. He opened the door and leaned down to look at his brother.

Dean's face was white, a sure sign that he was angry beyond description, but there was no expression on it. Someone who didn't know him as well as Sam did would have thought him completely unmoved by what had happened, but Sam could see Dean's eyes, and he could see the agony that his brother held inside. He knew that Dean hated being stuck in the middle between Sam and their father, and that was one of the reasons that he was doing what he was doing, and had chosen to do it the way he had. It had to be a clean break. He had played the odds, and it looked like the game was going the way he had planned, he just wished it wasn't his brother that had to pay so very high a price.

"Get in." It was terse, and Dean's voice was deeper than usual. It was the voice he used when he was cursing out some fugly thing that he was sending to hell. Sam knew it was not aimed at him. Somehow he knew Dean was blaming himself for this.

"Dean…"

"No, just…..no. If you are doing this then at least let me take you to the damn bus. It's the least, and I do mean the very least that I can do for you." His brother growled out. Sam knew if he protested that his brother could and would get out and haul his ass into the car. He climbed in, balancing his duffel on his lap. He did not look at his brother as Dean pulled back out onto the road and headed toward the station. Even the radio was silent, a definite indication of how upset his brother was. They rode for a block and a half before Dean spoke again.

"You got any money?" Sam nodded.

"I've been saving up." Dean's jaw tightened at that proof he had been planning this for awhile. There was silence again. They pulled into the station parking lot. A bus sat at the side of the building. A man was putting bags inside the lower compartment. Dean parked and turned off the car. They both sat there staring out the window at the falling rain for several minutes. Finally Sam knew he had to get out and go get his ticket. He was starting to reach for the door when Dean jammed his hand into his pocket and pulled out a roll of bills. He thrust it in Sam's direction. Sam started to shake his head.

"Take it." Dean demanded.

"It's yours. You were saving up for a new tape deck and some new upholstery." He knew that was the only spare money that Dean had. Hunting didn't really provide for much in the way of savings, and most of their money went to the necessities; food, shelter, gas, salt, ammo, and silver with the odd purchase of lighter fluid, second hand clothing and strange herbs. The wad of money was thrust at him again.

"What I have is working just fine. Take it. No brother of mine is going to starve to death waiting for his full ride to kick in. When does school start anyway?"

"Two weeks"

"You have to eat until then, and there may be other expenses. You take this." Sam looked over at his brother. He was feeling worse and worse about this. First he had ripped his brother's heart out, and now he was taking his only savings, and all under false pretenses. He was really was a selfish little prick sometimes. He reluctantly raised his hand and took the roll of bills, slipping it into his pocket as Dean spoke again.

. "You got your Taurus, some ammo?" He nodded. He was at least that well trained. He knew what was out there, and that he was a target, probably even more so now. Through no effort of his own he had doubled his potential enemies. He had the gun tucked in his waistband under his coat and shirts. He looked away toward the station. He opened the door and climbed out, dragging his duffel with him. He leaned back down.

"Take care of yourself Dean and dad too. I didn't mean…" He stopped. He wasn't going to get back into that again, not here. "I'll call you, if that's all right." He wasn't how far John's influence was going to go with his older brother. John had made it clear that this was a clean break, and if Dean was behind him 100% like usual that meant…

"You damn well better call, bitch." Dean said with a shadow of his usual smile.

"Jerk" Sam replied automatically. The smile dropped from Dean's face. Sam could not take anymore so he straightened and closed the door. With a quick pat to the top of the car, the only constant home he had ever known, Sam started toward the station. He had only gone a few steps when he heard the driver's side door opening with the usual screech. He straightened his shoulders and kept going. He was almost to the station when Dean spoke from right behind him.

"Sammy." That was all, just his name. He turned. They stood there in the rain like a couple of idiots, staring at each other for a long moment. Sam had the impression that his brother was burning a picture of him into his mind at least that was what Sam was doing. Finally Dean surged forward and roughly pulled his little brother into his arms. As the strong arms closed around him and Sam instinctively closed his around Dean in return. He heard a whisper in his ear. "Take care of yourself Sammy. Don't forget me."

"I won't. I can't." Sam said in return at the same level. He breathed in deeply of the familiar scent of his brother; cheap cologne, leather, and gun oil. He would always recognize that smell. "I love you, Dean." He had to blink hard to keep the tears from falling from his eyes. Dean shoved away from him, with one last pat to his shoulder.

"Such a freaking girl, Sammy." There was water on Dean's cheeks. Sam was sure that he would say it was rain if anyone should say anything. Then he was gone, heading back toward the Impala. Without another look in Sam's direction he climbed into the car and was gone with a roar of the engine and a splash of the tires. Sam watched him pull away and felt as if most of his heart had gone along with him, probably because it had. The rest was still back in the hotel room with his dad. He turned back to the station and went to get his ticket. He wondered how long it would take to get to Lawrence, Kansas from here?

Chapter 2-

It had taken forever, or at least it seemed to. Of course his little scene at his second to last stop hadn't helped much. It was only through pure luck, and his lack of appetite, that the station master had seen the half eaten sandwich he had bought from the vending machine and assumed his sickness was from that. Evidently there had been several people made ill by food poisoning with the sandwiches being the most likely culprit. She had hastened to assure him that even though he had missed his connecting bus that she would change his ticket at no charge. She had been most relieved when he had refused any medical aid. It wasn't as if anyone could do anything about what was wrong with him anyway. He had swallowed about five Advil and the Pepto Bismal she had practically forced on him and simply climbed wearily aboard the bus and slumped into an open seat. He had slept the rest of the way. He should have perhaps been surprised when he was met at the station, but then given who it was that met him he wasn't.

Less than fifteen minutes later after a silent ride he was sitting on the old, but clean, couch, a cup of coffee in his hands and a small plate of cookies sat in front of him. The cookies looked good, but his stomach was still aching from the bout of sickness before, and he didn't care to start that up again. He sipped at the coffee and set the cup down next to the plate. He raised his eyes to meet the dark brown ones of the woman who sat in the chair across from him. He gave her a small smile that he knew was pretty sad looking.

"You want to tell me why you're here, Baby?" Missouri asked quietly. Sam had to blink rapidly to quell the tears that welled up at the sympathetic tone. He wasn't sure what he had expected, perhaps disapproval or censure, but not this obvious understanding. He looked away, unable to hold her gaze and not start crying like the girl his brother accused him of being.

"That boy don't understand that some of us don't need to hide our feelings behind a mask of silly posturing , macho B.S." Sam's eyes snapped back to hers. He should have known she would read his thoughts, his feelings. He almost wished she could just take everything from his mind and relieve him of the need to explain, but he knew her talents did not work that way. He forced his hands to release their hold on his thighs where he was pretty sure he had fingerprints imprinted on his jeans.

"It mostly started almost 7 months ago. We were in Louisiana, not far outside Baton Rouge. Dad and Dean were tracking what they thought was a rougarou. I thought it was a letiche, and dad got tired of me arguing and left me in town so I could "look for information in the library", try to narrow down who it was if it was a rougarou, he meant. There's a big difference between the two. The silver bullets won't kill the letiche, but take its head and it'll die. I talked Dean into taking his machete. So if they found it at least they'd be ready. I was at the library, around noon, in their historical books section. I was the only one there and the librarian was on the phone in her office. I remember reaching for a book and the next thing I knew I was out in the swamp. I was standing on a small hillock watching a man and a woman poling a pirouge through the water. It was almost dark, and I didn't recognize the place. It could have been anywhere in just about any swamp in the world, but somehow I knew it was there in Louisiana, and that what I was seeing hadn't happened yet. They were having a fight, I couldn't quite hear what about. They stopped poling to argue some more and that's when it happened. The Letiche rose up out of the water behind the man and dragged him in. The woman screamed and was looking over the edge for the man. I tried to call out to her, to tell her to pole toward the land that she wasn't safe, but either she couldn't hear me or she didn't listen. I didn't realize that to them I wasn't even there, at least not then. She was screaming for her boyfriend, looking over the side. About five minutes passed and the Litche came back and dragged her off the boat too. I couldn't move from where I was standing. Finally the water was quiet and the boat just floated away. Then I was back in the library, sitting at the table and it felt like my head was going to explode. My nose was bleeding and I almost fell out of the chair. I didn't know what it was.

"When did you find out what it was?"

"The day after that. Dad and Dean didn't find anything where they were looking. Dad was starting to think I might be right, I think Dean had talked it up a little. Anyway we were looking at the map and there was a place that just kept...drawing me. I pointed it out to dad and he said we'd check it out. When we got to that spot on the map we were standing in the exact place that I was standing before. It was full daylight then, Dad wanted to scout the place before it started to get dark. There...there was a boat tangled in some roots about 25 feet away from the little mound. It was the one I saw. There was no sign of the people, at least not at first. We had a boat, and Dean and I went over to the other one while dad kept watch. Dean was the first one to see her. The litche must have gotten full on the boyfriend, since it only ate about half of her." Sam had to stop and swallow as his stomach reminded him of the sight and smell of the body.

"Her...her face was unharmed and I could see it was the same woman. Dad looked over their boat and all around and he pretty much came up with the scenario as I saw it happen. He's good at that you know. Dean took its head the next night." He couldn't hide the pride he felt in his family's prowess. As much as he hated hunting, he could not deny that his father was one of the best, and so was Dean.

"I know, Baby. When did it happen next?"

"It was about a month later, when I had another...vision, but the dreams started almost immediately after that. I would see stuff before it happened. Stupid things like Dean spilling a coke all over the impala's front seat when he went to answer his cell phone while he was driving. Dad getting into a fight in a bar when someone figured out he'd hustled them at pool. Usually it was a day or two ahead of the actual event, and I could stop it if I caught the right hint it was coming, if I paid attention and changed something. Like with Dean and the coke. I took the phone out of his hand and he was able to catch the coke before it spilled. You know how he is about that car. He would have whined for a hundred miles if it spilled. Dad was harder. He doesn't listen to me much and he wouldn't let me go in the bars after 10 or so. I lifted his wallet when I knew he was going out. When I was sure he was gone I 'found' it and sent Dean after him. Dean stayed and when the guy protested dad wasn't alone."

"But you were alone, weren't you? You didn't tell them."

"I couldn't. I'm what they hunt, what they hate."

"Oh no Baby, never that, they could never hate you."

"You know how dad is, how Dean is becoming. There isn't any gray, there is good and there is evil. Any kind of supernatural is wrong, needs to be killed."

"You mean like psychics?" Sam felt his eyes widen almost comically and he was sure he looked like an idiot fish or something as he opened and closed his mouth several times trying to figure out how to take back what he had just said to the psychic woman.

"No! I mean...You know dad trusts you, that he's used you to help him hunt things before, like The Demon." Sam knew that Missouri would hear the capital letters and know what he meant, there was really only one that had stayed on the Winchester radar all of his life. "But you're not his son..."

"He would never hurt you, Sam. Even if he tried your brother would never let him. You have to know that." Sam did not appear convinced. His face scrunched up as he tried to find words to express his feelings.

"Maybe, I'll agree to disagree with you on that right now. But you can't say the same about other hunters. Once they find out I'll be a target, and if Dad and Dean don't...hate me, then that means that they'll be in the way, and that means that they could get hurt, that they will get hurt. I can't allow that to happen."

Missouri studied her house guest. She had no argument against what he had said. She knew she was right about Dean, maybe a bit less sure about John who was so driven, but she could not say the same for other hunters. She knew the breed. Oh, there were those who would side with the Winchesters against all comers, but they were few. The hunting world did not breed a lot of friends amongst the hunters. They tended to work solo or in pairs at most, with only the occasional hunt that required more than that. Any alliances were ephemeral and situation dependent. She herself had been the target of some serious threats from several hunters, her only saving grace was the fact that Pastor Jim Murphy vouched for her, as did several other of the senior hunters. Without their protection she knew she could have found herself on the business end of a hunter's gun or knife. She had little comfort for the boy on that front.

"What are you thinking, Samuel? What do you plan to do?"

"I have to separate myself from them. I can't be with them anymore, I'm...I'm a danger to them now, and not just with the other hunters. I...I think that I'm drawing the supernatural in to me. I have to be somewhere that they can't get to me, somewhere protected, warded. I told dad and Dean that I was going to Stanford. I got a scholarship, a full ride to one of the most prestigious pre-law programs in the US. They think I'm starting school in two weeks, or at least that's what I told Dean. Dad doesn't care."

"Baby..."

"Okay, we'll pretend he cares, but he still thinks I'm in Palo Alto for the next 4 years at least." Sam didn't want to argue about his father's caring, or lack there of. "I can't go there though. I'd be living in the dorms, I couldn't protect myself or the other students."

"So you came to me because...?"

"I have to learn to control it, like you do. Your...gift only works when you want it to, right? Maybe I can learn to turn it off." Missouri was shaking her head before he even finished.

"It don't work that way, Baby. If you have the power, you have to use it or it will drive you insane trying to get out. I will do my best to help you with it, but you can't just turn it off. First we are going to need to know what you can and can't do. Do you know what might have made this start? Did something touch you, or have a chance to get something of yours, like hair or blood?" It was Sam's turn to shake his head. His eyes nervously moved away from hers again, and she suspected she was not going to like what the boy had to say.

"I know why I can do this...that's part of why I couldn't stay. Why they'll hate me, despite what you say. I've seen the past, and I am a monster."

"Sam..."

"No, you don't know!" he nearly yelled, jumping to his feet. She didn't say anything as he started pacing since she could sense his need to move. Strangely for her that was all she could really sense from him. She had sensed his coming strongly, but not the reason for it. As they had talked his thoughts and feelings had gone from clear to having what she referred to as 'psychic static'. He was becoming harder and harder to read just in this short time. He paced back and forth for several minutes before he calmed enough to continue.

"I saw IT in my nursery. It was putting its blood in my mouth. I saw m-mom come in and see it leaning over my crib. I saw it push her up onto the ceiling and slit her stomach open with out so much as a twitch of effort and I saw her burst into flames. I was the reason IT was there. I am the result of that visit. I'm the curse that drove dad to the hunt; that ruined Dean's life."

"Sam, you were a baby, an innocent. Whatever that thing did to you, you are not responsible. You have done nothing wrong. Did you see anything else."

"I think that it's a possible future. Like all my dreams and visions. If I change something it might not happen, but oh...God. If I can't change it, I'm gonna s-shoot Dean."

"If that is what you saw, Samuel, then it has to be changeable, because I know that you would never hurt your brother."

"I wouldn't hurt him, but the thing I'm becoming would, without a thought. It's going to destroy the world. I'mgoing to destroy the world."

"You could, or you could change it all and save the world. You can make sure that whatever that thing wanted with you doesn't come to pass."

"There's something about that, something that went wrong I think. I don't think that I was supposed to be able to do this yet. I...I think someone, something, messed with the plan. I think it turned it on early."

"Something?"

"About 8 months ago we were in Arizona, near the Hopi reservation. Dad was hunting a skin walker. It had already taken four people and they couldn't figure out who the walker was. Dad was working with the elders of the tribe and a hunter that sort of specialized in Native American mythological creatures. His name was Ahote Makta. He kept telling dad that part of the problem with finding the skin walker was because Coyote didn't want them to, that he was amused by their confusion. He was sure that they needed to hunt and apease Coyote before they'd get anywhere, or at least drive it off, make it go play with one of the other tribes that believed in him. Dad just wanted to go after the walker, he knew that dealing with demigods was problematic, but the elders were behind Makta's idea." Sam's face scrunched up again as he recalled the occasion.

"They did a summoning, Hopi style and it showed up. It was a weird mix of man and coyote, and it was not amused. It also was not constrained by the summoning circle. It let Ahote and Dad talk to it for awhile then it said it was bored. It looked around and when it saw me it sort of stared and then it smiled. It just walked out of the circle as if it wasn't even there. It walked right up to me and patted me on the head. It said something in Hopi and then just disappeared. Mr. Makta said that it said that I would be a lot more amusing than some skin walker and for a longer time. And also it said something about seeing what its brothers would do when the tool became a weapon. Mr. Makta didn't know what it meant. Do you?" She shook her head.

"Demigods are not on my wavelength, Baby. Ain't on anyone's wavelength that I know of and as far as I can recall Coyote didn't have any brothers according to the various myths. But that don't mean that he doesn't have any. And they are notoriously mischievous when it comes to messin' with people."

"Great, something else wants to mess with me now. That's all I need."

"But don't you see Baby, as bad as it might seem to you now, I think this demi-god might have been doing you a favor. If the Demon meant for you to develop your power at some later time then you having it now may just be the thing that brings all his plans to a halt, or at least changes them. If this is what brought you to that future that you saw, then any change now has to change that future." She offered what comfort she could. She could see Sam was thinking about it. Finally the boy shrugged.

"I'll have to withhold judgment on that, until I can make heads or tails out of what I can do. For now I have to get a handle on these powers and find a place to stay. I can't ask any of the people that Dad regularly works with, like Pastor Jim, Bobby, or Caleb. Wherever I do go I'm going to have to be able to get a job so that I can afford to eat and have a place to live so that I can ward it. It's gonna be hard in any place that I can afford to rent, but maybe I can find somewhere to squat that I can fix up without anyone noticing, like and abandoned building or farmhouse."

"Of course you could just stay somewhere that your daddy and brother are never going to go and that is already as protected as it can be." Sam frowned at her.

"What do you mean, where they'll never go? Dad goes where the hunts are."

"Not everywhere, Baby. There is one place that your father has not gone in all the years that he has been hunting, and I know for a fact that there have been hunts there, hunts that he has turned over to other hunters."

"Why would he do that? Where is it?"

"Why, here, Sam. He won't come back to Lawrence, because of what he lost here. What you all lost here. He has turned over three hunts that I know of to other hunters in the last 18 years. Hunts that I know he could have taken." Sam was looking thoughtful.

"He never really liked to hunt in Kansas at all. I remember he was always really….sad when we were anywhere near here, and he never came through here even. I remember when I was little, six or something, that we were in Topeka and I asked Dean if we could go see the house where I was born. Dad overheard me and I thought he was going to pop a vein yelling about how he had better things to do than look at some old house. After that we never seemed to stop in Kansas at all. We drove through, but he would hardly even stop for gas if he didn't have to."

"This place has nothing but bad memories for him, Baby. It's like pouring acid on an open wound for him to even think of what he has lost." Sam knew that the psychic was speaking from direct knowledge. He had never really considered the impact of this place on his outwardly stoic father. He guessed they all had their secret pain.

"You think I should stay here in Lawrence? Where?"

"The best protected place in the whole town, Baby, right here with me."

"What! I can't stay here. That would be…" He couldn't finish the sentence as she was now watching him with a raised eyebrow. He didn't need to be a psychic to know that he needed to choose his words carefully. "I uh…I mean you don't want trouble like me moving in with you. You have clients and friends and other hunters stop in all the time…" he ran down as she just kept staring at him. "I mean it just wouldn't work out." He added faintly. She rose to her feet and came to pat him on the cheek.

"Baby, I have had nothing but trouble since the first time a hunter came and pounded on my door looking for answers, and that was more years ago then you been alive. I am a target for those things that would prefer no one know about what they are up to, and nothing that you can say or do would change that for the better or worse."

But The Demon…"

"You think that is the only demon that is walking around this planet with plans? You got another think comin' then. I am already a target, and your staying here with me won't make no difference. As to my clients, they come and go as they need, and if you don't want to be seen, then you simply don't be seen. It's not like I don't know who is coming and when. We'll have plenty of warning if some hardcore hunter is making an appearance, or even worse if one of your daddy's friends is coming. And before you say anything about paying rent, you will be paying me." She added.

"How…"

"I have friends in this town, Baby. Friends that need employees that will do them a good job and will not mind paying you under the table with cash. That way you don't show up on no social security or tax roles. You have a fake license, right?" He nodded. He had several as a matter of fact, and his actual license. "That's good. You pick out which ever one you want to be while you are here, and we'll get you settled in the guest house out back. That way no one has to be speculating about why I have a young man staying in my house, and you have somewhere to hide when people you don't want to see come by."

Sam's head was whirling with the realization that several of his biggest problems had just been solved in one fell swoop by this forceful woman. He felt a smile, the first real one he had given since before the fight with his father, spread over his face, and Missouri patted his cheek with a smile of her own.

"There's those dimples. The women in this town are going just eat you up, Baby."

Chapter 3-

Three hours later Sam was settling down in the small guest house that took up a small portion of the back yard of Missouri's house. It was really only two rooms, one of them a bathroom, but he had a small kitchen with a microwave and a queen size bed that while it was a little short if he laid full out was more than comfortable. There was a shower and like everything else of Missouri's while it was old it was spotlessly clean. After a lifetime of cheap not-quite-clean hotel rooms and rentals Sam knew the importance of such a thing. There was a small dresser that was more than sufficient for his small amount of possessions, and after unpacking, which took all of five minutes, he was sitting on the edge of the bed staring at the small TV set that was on top of the dresser. All the comforts of the home he had never had.

Before he had left the house to come out here Missouri had practically forced a bowl of stew on him and while he ate she had started calling around looking for a job for him. It had taken her ten minutes and she already had three jobs lined up for him. Evidently he would be doing yard work at a small estate on the edge of Lawrence every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then he would be working the lunch shift at a local diner, not one on the main roads, too much of a chance of a hunter coming through, on the weekends. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he was evidently going to be "Driving Miss Daisy", in the form of Ms. Emogene Rysbach, who could no longer drive herself, and who needed to go to the grocery, the doctor's office and various other places and who had a car that he could drive her in. He just hoped it wasn't some big old car like in the movie. All together he would make enough money to pay Missouri the paltry amount that she claimed was all she would take for his room and board, and have some left over for pocket money. He was determined that he would at least feed himself on a regular basis so that she was not put to the expense of his appetite, which while not the endless hunger of Dean, was at least much more than the lone woman had just for her self. It was dark outside now and he dragged himself up and grabbed the bag of salt that Missouri had handed him on his way out of the house. She had made sure he knew that her whole property was surrounded with iron, buried under the grass at her property boundaries and there were hex signs and wards everywhere, but she knew, as did he, that you could never take anything for granted.

He carefully laid out the salt lines, glad that there was only the one door and two windows that he would have to deal with. The one in the bathroom would be the most problematic as the moisture from the shower would cause it to degrade. Finally done with what he could do he shuffled to the bed and laid down, curling on his side and staring at the wall. He reached up and turned off the small bedside lamp that was all the lighting offered in the living space and he lay in the darkness, trying to tell himself that he had done the right thing. He was failing miserably when his cell phone, laying on the nightstand, rang. It was playing "Back in Black" his brother's current ringtone. He rolled over and took the phone and answered.

"Hi Dean, didn't expect to hear from you so soon."

'Well you know how it is, Sammy, even if it's just a pain in the ass you still miss something familiar it when it's gone.' His brother drawled. He could hear honky-tonk music in the background and knew that his brother must be in a bar. Of course he wouldn't be calling from their hotel room if their dad was there. Dean was taking a huge step, defying their father this far, and Sam appreciated it. He grinned.

"Well you would know about being a pain in the ass, jerk."

"Takes one to know one, Bitch. Where you at now?" Sam thought fast. If he were heading to California how far would he be by now? He took a shot at a likely spot.

"We're just outside Denver. I got a cheap room and I'm waiting for the bus in the morning. It's an express to Wendover, Nevada and it costs less than the regular run."

"I can see it now Sammy, you and 50 little old ladies headin' for the slots and bingo. Maybe you can pick up some pointers." Dean laughed. Even with the humor Sam could hear the loneliness in his brother's voice. They had seldom been apart his whole life, and as much as he was missing Dean his brother must have been missing him too. "You take precautions?" Sam knew he was talking about his "hotel room".

"Yeah. Salt is down."

"Good, good." Sam could hear his brother breathing over the line, but he didn't say anything else. When they were together there was always something to say, something to comment on, an insult to throw, but now they were a thousand miles apart and there seemed to be nothing to say. Sam faked a yawn.

"I gotta crash man. Couldn't sleep on the bus because of the crying kids, I'm kind trashed out. You take care of yourself Dean."

"Yeah you know it Sammy. There's a hot waitress here that's been giving me the eye all night. Think I'll go make her day. You take care of yourself Sammy. Don't make me come out there and kick your ass."

"Goodnight, Jerk."

"Night, Bitch."

Sam closed his phone and tossed it back on the nightstand he curled up again and pushed his face into the pillow. If the clean smelling pillowcase sopped up tears there was no one there to see.

Chapter 4-

Sam pushed open the back door of Missouri's house walking into the kitchen with out knocking. In the year he had been in Lawrence they had worked out a system. If she had a client and he should stay out of the house, she would lock the back door. If he should not even come on the property she would turn on the porch light, day or night. In the last 12 months she had turned on the light four times. Once she had turned on the back porch light when he was in his little house, and he had stood watching out the window for almost three house before it went out. That time it had been Caleb who had stopped by to get some information. That had been almost three months ago now.

There had been several changes in the last year, not least of which was another, and what he hoped was his last, growth spurt. He now stood just over 6'4". He was pretty sure that he was well over his father's height now, and Dean would be positively green. Of course in his changes one thing that had not changed was that he missed his family just as if he had just left. He regularly talked on the phone with Dean, making up stories about his time at Stanford. He was glad that Dean had been cowed by his father enough to not make any trips out to California for a little covert surveillance. The fat would really be in the fire then. His dad however had stuck by what he said and refused to call his son, or even ask any questions of Dean about what they talked about. Sam had the impression though that his father did listen with great interest when Dean just happened to drop news about him into the conversation. It was some consolation to know that his father had not shut him out of his heart, just his life. Sam was kept up to date on their movements as much as possible by Missouri who mined her various contacts for all the information she could without seeming too interested.

His first jobs here in Lawrence had worked out well for him. He had worked at the estate for almost three months before the regular gardener had returned from his surgical convalescence. He was still working lunches at the diner and he was working in the kitchen in the evenings on Tuesday and Thursday and on the weekends. He got a free meal when he did that. He was also learning some skills behind the stove. He could produce a mean burger and fries, and the gruff old man who cooked there was happy to pass on his knowledge to whomever would listen and do things his way. Sam was well used to older men who were in the 'my way or the highway' mode, and he got along well. He was leaning to make meatloaf now.

His favorite job was driving Ms. Emogene, as she had insisted he call her. The spry 85 year old lady was a hoot. She may be half blind, but she never missed a thing going on around her. She was a font of gossip about just about anyone in her neighborhood, and anyone who was anyone in Lawrence. She had taken an almost instant liking to Sam, and they had gotten along swimmingly right from the start. His fear that he would be driving some huge caddy or Lincoln had been put to rest as soon as she had led him to her garage where a mint condition 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible sat waiting for them. Sam had gaped at the beautiful red machine and looked from it to Ms. Emogene. She had smiled at him and patted his hand.

"It was my Bernie's. He bought it brand new in 1957, it was the first new car he had ever had and we had saved up for it years. We had had station wagons and old trucks, but the kids were almost gone, and he said this time we were getting something for us. We went everywhere in this car. All across America and most of Canada, Bernie wouldn't fly you see. When he died ten years ago I couldn't bear to sell her, so I just kept driving her. My kids wanted me to buy some old Buick sedan or something equally staid, but I told them no. Then three years ago my eyesight started going and I couldn't bear to think of her being scratched so I started getting someone to drive me, one of my grandkids or great grand kids, usually. But they have lives of their own and don't have time to be driving an old lady around town. It's too boring for them." Sam was running an admiring hand over the front fender. He might not be into cars like Dean and his dad were, but he could appreciate a beautiful car when he saw it.

"Who could be bored driving around in this?" he had asked. She had laughed delightedly.

"Oh good. I knew you were a kindred spirit when I first saw you coming up the walk. Missouri would never send me someone who didn't enjoy the simple things in life. Shall we go?"

That had been the first day of their adventures. Usually she only needed to go to the store or the doctor's office, or occasionally some event at the senior center or at a friend's house, but every couple of weeks they would "make a break for it" as she called it and they would put the top down and drive out of town and find a stretch of road and simply enjoy the wind in their hair and the roar of the big engine. If the occasional speed limit was broken there was no one to know but them. They had gone to see the world's largest ball of twine, the underground salt mines, and on one such trip Sam had surprised the old lady by taking her up to Kansas City and to a Chief's game. The woman was a rabid fan, and they had gorged themselves on hotdogs and popcorn and had a wonderful time cheering on the team. Sam had even learned a few new words when the Chiefs had fallen behind due to what Emogene had considered a bad call on the offensive coach's part. She had loudly let him know about her opinion. Sam had shrank down in his chair as most of the fans around their chairs had turned to look as the small woman in an expensive cashmere coat and wearing a small hat with some feathers, 'a lady never goes out without a hat dear', had turned the air blue.

But his life in Lawrence was not all fun or even work. He had immediately started what he mentally referred to as psychic boot camp, and Missouri was an able drill sergeant, though he would no more tell her that than he would be willing to cut off his own arm. Luckily they had come to realize that Sam's increasing powers had rendered him psychically invisible, at least to Missouri's talents. They had discussed what Sam had experienced, and it was decided that they would begin his training by trying to limit when the visions would come to him and their impact. As she had told him the harder he tried to stave them off, the worse it was for him when they did hit. His first lesson was how to recognize when he was about to get a vision. There were signs, even before the splitting headache and nose bleed. He felt a 'tingle' in the back of his head, what he laughingly referred to as his 'Spidy sense' kicking in. He had learned that when he felt that sensation that he needed to sit down if possible and that he needed to relax and just let it come, the more he fought it the worse it felt.

After practicing for two months he had been incredibly surprised when he had managed to master the relaxation to a point that he had actually gone through a vision with out the splitting headache or the nose bleed. The vision had been intense. A young man, along with a group of his friends-a gang, had been in a small grocery store and had been teasing a young woman about Sam's age. She had been dressed in goth attire and was wearing gloves and had her hair dyed a deep black. She had been ignoring them all pretty well until the young man in question had made a comment about the girl's father dying. She had turned on him with an angry look on her face and had told him to shut up. This had of course made the pack of boys all the worse and they had harried the young woman out of the grocery and into a dark parking lot. The taunts had continued right up until the girl was about to get into a car, and a police car drove by. The driver, obviously seeing what he had considered suspicious activity, had briefly sounded his siren and the boys scattered, all except the leader. As the policeman had gone after several of the other boys the girl had sprung into action. She had pulled off her left glove and wrapped her hand around the boy's wrist as he turned to go. He had tried to pull away, but somehow the slim girl had held him firmly, and he staggered and fell to his knees as if her touch was somehow draining him of his energy. In moments he had fallen to his side, the girl following him down. Sam had been able to feel the life force of the young man fading and as the final blackness had came for the boy the girl had leaned over him and whispered in his ear. Sam had heard her words as if he had been right there. "Say hello to my father for me. I hope he's rotting in hell." After the boy had stopped breathing the girl had calmly slipped her glove back on and had climbed into her car and drove off as if she had not just killed another human being. The vision had ended as her car had disappeared around the corner, but Sam had had time to see the license plate on her car and had made a mental note of the state and number.

He had searched the online news sources for that state and had found a small insignificant article about a local gang-banger who had died mysteriously two days after his vision. A series of small gang wars had followed as revenge was sought by his gang, but no mention was made of the girl. Obviously she had not been linked to the death. The coroner had not been able to pinpoint a cause of death beyond simply saying that the young man's heart had simply stopped.

That had been the first of the visions of what Sam was calling 'the cursed'. After the third similar vision in which a seemingly human person had killed or injured someone else he had started drawing some conclusions, and Missouri agreed that he was probably right. All of the aggressors in his visions were people his own age. All of them seemed to be comfortable with what they could do and in most cases did not seem to have any problem using what they could do to get their own way, even if that meant killing or harming others. Sam was witness to a young man forcing one of his cousins to kill himself by hanging himself from a ceiling fan by simply telling him to do it. In another instance he saw a young man use what Sam could only call super strength to tear the door off of a safe that held an old couple's savings. When the old man had protested a single casual back hand blow from the young man had broken the old man's neck and left the old woman sobbing over his body as their life savings had been calmly stuffed into a bag.

Sam's visions were not limited to 'the cursed' however. Once he got a handle on the signs of an incipient vision Missouri had started him on a plan to have the visions come when he wanted them, not spontaneously. She was not sure he would ever control them all, but she thought that he could control most of them by meditation. He had scoffed at first, earning him a whack across his butt with the wooden spoon that she kept close to hand. Once he had finished rubbing at the surprisingly painful spot she had introduced him to Master Shen Yeng and what had to be the most strenuous moving meditation ever. He had of course heard of Tai Chi being a moving meditation however he had not been prepared for Master Yeng's version. The oriental man had taken Tai chi's martial arts component and 'pumped it up'. Where in traditional tai chi the slower the better on most movements, in Master Yeng's version the emphasis was on speed and precision in following the forms. It reminded Sam of a karate kata set to music. The flow from form to form was indeed meditative once you got them down, and he was a very good pupil. His father who had despaired of Sam ever buckling down to the training with the same enthusiasm as his brother would have been surprised at his alacrity with learning the forms. Given that the forms could also be used as self-defense with only a small change of force, he would probably even approve.

As Sam became proficient at the movements, Master Yeng started teaching him how the meditation component came in. Once his body was occupied, flowing from one to the next of the positions, his mind became calmer, clearer, quieter. As his mind quieted he realized that his senses seemed to expand beyond himself, then beyond the room and the building in which they practiced. His consciousness took the opportunity to move out and 'sample the ether' as Missouri put it. He could easily remember the day, over a month after starting with Master Yeng, that he had his first vision during his meditation. As his body moved through the kata he had watched as a hunter, he was pretty sure his name was Harold Bloom, was attacked and killed by a werewolf while trying to save a young runner, who was also killed. They were in a small town just outside Seattle, and the full moon was shining over the wolf's shoulder as he killed first the hunter and then the terrified man. Sam's rational mind knew that the full moon was in three days, you learned to keep track of those things when you hunted. He had come out of the vision as he completed his final position, and had stood staring at the wall of mirrors that made up one side of Master Yeng's studio. The small man had been standing in front of him a concerned look on his face.

"You were gone for a long time, young Sam. I hope the journey was fruitful." Sam had blinked at him in confusion and then had caught sight of the clock. He had been 'meditating' for almost an hour. He suddenly had felt the ache in his muscles from the length of time he had been moving. Since Master Yeng had not been privy to exactly what it was that Sam was trying to do, the young man could not tell him about what he had seen, but he had nodded and bowed to the man with a new respect.

From that time one Sam had done his moving meditation daily, and had begun doing some simple static meditation as well. He had the most success with the movement, somehow the physical effort translating into a more likely vision, but he sometimes saw things while he was simply sat in the grass in Missouri's back yard, his mind floating. He didn't see things everyday. Sometimes he went weeks without anything, and sometimes he would get a series of visions building to an always violent end. He saw several different hunters, some he had never met, and he saw regular people, all of them on their way to a horrible death if he did not act. Missouri had used her contacts to leak out information that he gained from his visions, and he was somewhat happier knowing that he had helped keep some people alive.

It had been almost six months into his 'training' when he had first decided that he could not just sit it out while others did the dirty work. This realization came to him one day when he was mowing the lawn and he had had a vision of a young girl being taken by a Lamia. The child-eating demon was using a rest area on the interstate not far from Lincoln, Nebraska as a hunting ground, and she had taken three children already. The authorities were looking for some pedophile or a serial killer, and had no idea where to look for the hidden killer, and since the demon consumed the bodies completely there would be no traces found. Normally Sam would have told Missouri and she would have called Pastor Jim or Bobby to set some hunter on the trail, however Sam knew that the attack he had seen would happen in the next few hours, and the chances that anyone was close enough to get there in time were few. The problem was transportation.

He knew how to hotwire cars. That was not the problem. The problem was that he was no longer just a transient kid that no one had ever seen or would ever see again. He was a resident, and if someone saw him take a car, even if he brought it back, there could be big trouble. He could leave, but Missouri was set here, and he would never put her lifestyle in jeopardy. That meant he had to get a car another way, and that meant borrowing one. He could not ask Missouri, for the obvious reason that she would beat him silly if she knew he was going after a creature on his own. He had made a number of acquaintances while he had been living here, but not really anyone he would call friends. As much as he had always dreamed of staying in one place and making friends and being normal, he had abandoned that particular dream when he had made his choice to leave his family behind. They at least could protect themselves from the supernatural, the average person had no chance. Those who he was closest to were his boss at the café, Mr. Higgins and Ms. Emogene. Mr. Higgins had an old VW that Sam was pretty sure he could not get into with a shoe horn. That left Ms. Emogene. On the other side of the garage where the Thunderbird was stored was an old truck, once used by Bernie for yard work and things that you simply did not haul in a Thunderbird. Ms. Emogene had kept it tuned up and running, but never used it. It was not quite a beater, but it was not new or shiny or anywhere near a classic. He just needed a good reason.

With anyone else he might have claimed a date or some sort of appointment that he needed to get too faster than a bus could get him there, however the old woman for all her lack of eyesight was sharp as a tack, and she would catch him in the lies easy as a spider caught flies in a web. Not to mention she would know he was not dating anyone, despite a rather embarrassing amount of interest in him from the various young ladies of the area. That meant he would have to go with the truth, a carefully edited version of the truth. It helped that Missouri was off visiting some friends on the north side of town, a practice that she did regularly. He girded his loins, so to speak and went to Ms. Emogene's house.

"Samuel, I wasn't expecting you today. How very nice. I was just sitting down to a glass of ice tea and my afternoon talk show indulgence. Will you join me?" He shook his head, smiling as he realized form the smell of the tea that she was holding in her hand that her "iced tea" had a good shot of bourbon in it.

"I'm sorry Ms. Emogene, but I have something that I need to take care of and I am in a bit of a bind. Missouri is off on her visit and I have to make a trip up to Topeka right away. I know it sounds cliche, but it really is a matter of life and death, and I was wondering if I could impose upon you and borrow Mr. Bernie's truck. I promise to fill it up when I'm done and I'll take care of it as if it were my own. I would rent a car, but you have to have a credit card for that and I don't have one. I'll pay you the going rental rate though, on top of the gas." He knew he was using what Dean had always called the "puppy dog eyes" but he was desperate to save that little girl, and he wasn't even sure if the old woman could see them anyway.

"Is it something about your family, dear." She asked, moving to set down her glass on the hall table and opening a small drawer. "Missouri said you were estranged from them, but I know that even if you are apart that doesn't always mean that you don't care." Sam had to swallow a sudden lump in his throat.

"No, no it doesn't mean I don't care. And this is sort of connected to the family business. It's something that I have to take care of myself, and I can't wait for Missouri to come back, it will be too late. I don't have enough cash on me right now, but I can give you a deposit and get the rest tomorrow when the bank is open…" He broke off as she dangled a set of keys in front of his face.

"No deposit, no rental. You bring it back when you are done and fill it up with gas, that's all."

"Ms. Emogene…" it wasn't that he didn't appreciate the gesture, but she deserved something for trusting him with her property no questions asked.

"I said no. Now if it is as urgent as you say then you best get going and stop arguing with me. You should know by now that I am not going to change my mind." He had smiled at her obstinate look and took the keys.

"Thank you. I can not tell you how much I appreciate this." He made a mental promise to himself to make sure that they went on another of their little 'road trips" soon. Even if she did keep calling him 'Louise' when they were out blasting down the road at full speed.

He had left his duffel outside the garage before going up to the house and he picked it up and put it inside the truck. He drove slowly out of the yard and made quick time north and west. The truck was at least twice as old as he was, and it had few luxuries, however the old engine was strong and it ran like a top. Four hours later he was pulling to a stop at the far end of the rest stop, well away from the small picnic area where he knew the Lamia was hiding. He had to prepare before he went in. As he was pulling his machete out of his bag, beheading being the only way to kill the minor demon, he felt another vision coming. He sat back and let it flow over him, breathing deeply and letting the pictures fill his head.

He was riding in a car, in the back seat, and as he looked around he realized he was seeing the backseat from the perspective of someone much smaller, someone who was holding a small doll on her lap and was dressed in a pink dress, white tights and incredibly small tennis shoes. The little girl in his dreams had been wearing a pink dress, white tights and white tennis shoes with lights in the heels. He remembered that the only thing left of her after the Lamia had taken her was one forlorn shoe, blinking all alone in the grass of the picnic area. As he looked out the little girls eyes she looked out the window of the car, and he could read the road sign as the car passed it-Rest Area 5 miles. The vision faded out. They were almost here!

Sam hastily dug in his bag for his Indonesian knife. The strange looking curved knife had a silver blade inscribed with ancient blessings. If he didn't get it with the machete, he might have to go in closer with the scythe-like blade. His father had given him the blade on his 16th birthday, and while Sam had not been as enthused as his family thought he should have been, he did still appreciate the workmanship, and it was a hell of a weapon. He had practiced with it for almost 3 years now, and he was at the very least proficient with it. It would be all the back up he was going to have. He hung the blade and its sheath from a cord around his neck, hanging it down his back under his jacket. The machete he had in its sheath on his belt. It hung down along his leg and he hoped no one would really notice it.

He got out of the truck and started walking toward the picnic area. It was late in the day, almost seven and the sun was starting to set. There were only three cars in the rest area and a few large trucks. All the other vehicles were parked near the bathrooms. As Sam approached the picnic area a car pulled into a parking spot nearby and he felt a sudden surge of recognition. That was the car. He walked faster toward the area, wanting to be in position before the child even approached the area where the attack would happen. There was a large tree, right next to the area where his vision told him he needed to be. He moved behind it and as he did so he could hear a woman's voice calling out.

"Stacy you do not go off the grass, do you hear me. If I catch you anywhere but on the grass I will beat your little behind. Mommy and daddy are going to get the cooler and picnic basket so we can have some dinner and I need you to stay right here." The picnic area was the only grassed area, comprising about a thousand square feet of the rest area, and it edged against a small area of trees, not quite a forest, but evidently enough for the lamia to hide in even with the searches that must have been made. He pulled the machete from the sheath, holding it ready in his hand as he heard the little girl call back an affirmation to her mother. She was close to Sam's position.

He smelt it before he saw it, a moldy, dessicated smell that came over him in a wave, wafted on the wind from his left. He raised the machete and prepared to jump. He heard it next, a crinkling of the leaves as something slide over them, He remembered what he had read about lamia in the past. Supposedly they were once human, and could still appear as human, almost always as a beautiful woman. But when they hunted they reverted to their normal form, still a woman's head and torso, but the lower body became serpentine. They also were known to 'hypnotize' their victims. As they were not built for speed in their natural form they had to have some advantage and that ability to freeze their victim was it. He peeked around the tree and saw the small form of the girl standing about ten feet away. She was looking into the woods, her hands at her side. Her big blue eyes were blank. He looked in the direction she was looking and saw it.

Moving slowly toward the child was the monster. It was pulling itself out of a hole beneath a fallen tree that looked to have been covered by fallen leaves and branches. The searchers had probably not even seen it. The woman's face was beautiful, like something you would see on a model or actress, strangely her eyes were closed, but the snake-body that was following behind made Sam's stomach turn. He swallowed his bile and sprang toward her, machete coming up in preparation for the killing blow.

As he moved his foot hit a hidden stick and the snap of it breaking caused the lamia to jerk her head toward him, eyelids flying open. He could see the eyeless sockets then, another confirmation of what she was, though it did not slow her down any as she moved toward him with surprising speed with a nearly soundless hiss. They collided and the machete went flying from his hand as the evil being grappled with him. Despite their comparative sizes she was incredibly strong, and it took all he could put into it to force her jagged teeth away from his throat. He had to get to his knife!

He heard the child's mother calling for her, evidently they could not see what was happening in this small grove like area since there was no real alarm in her voice. The child did not move, still under the lamia's spell. Sam managed to get one leg up between them and kicked her off him. As he rolled to his feet his hand swept back and grabbed the knife. He brought it around as the lamia rushed him again, and he felt the blade cut into her throat. The razor-sharp blessed silver blade passed completely through her neck like it was passing through water. He was barely able to dodge to the side as the now headless body crashed by him, falling by some coincidence into the same hole that she had emerged from. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the little girl blink once as if she had just woken, and he hastily stepped forward and with a kick that would have made his junior year soccer coach proud kicked the head in to the hole after the body. He turned quickly, holding his bloody blade behind him. He was just in time as the little girl blink again and he could see that this time she was actually seeing him. He gave his best smile.

"You're mom is calling you. I think your dinner is ready." He said quickly before the child could decide if she was frightened or not by what must appear to her as his sudden appearance. His words were backed up by her mother calling for her again. He almost thought she was going to scream, but then she turned and ran toward her parents and the picnic table where they were setting out food. He breathed out a sigh of relief. He hastily kicked leaves over the hole, trying to keep an eye out in case the girl brought someone back to see the strange man, however she didn't. She was evidently young enough not to be too bothered by a strange man and strange circumstances. He was thankful for that in one way, but he regretted that the evil things took such advantage of it. He retreated back to his tree where he had set his bag. He would need to wait until the rest stop was as empty as possible before he salted and burned the body. If he was careful and swept the dried leaves away from the hole he should be able to contain the fire. He sat down next to the duffel, and looked down at his hands that were still shaking with the adrenaline surge. He let out a gust of air that he didn't even know he had been holding in. That had been much more intense than he had thought it would be.

He had driven back to Lawrence, dropping the truck at Ms. Emogene's just after one in the morning. He had filled the gas tank and parked the truck back in the garage. He would give her the keys when he next went to drive her to her appointments. He walked back to Missouri's house and his little guest house, strangely energized despite the late hour and the fight. It had felt good to make an actual difference.

That had been the first of many times he had gone out. Missouri had noted that the incidence of supernatural occurrences had risen in the states around Kansas, and Sam knew that it was somehow down to his being there. He was a beacon for the things that stalked humans like cattle. Unfortunately for everyone else the things could not find Sam, so they settled for whomever they could take. Between Missouri's wards and Sam's natural shield he was invisible. But he could not live with that safety at such a price.

He had been at it almost 6 months when Missouri had caught him coming back in from a hunt with a still bleeding cut on his upper arm from a harpy claw. He had managed to kill the thing, but she had gotten in a slash before he could do it. He had put on a field dressing from his first aid kit, but the blood had soaked it and he had been dripping blood as he snuck across the yard toward his house. He had been almost to his door when the back porch light had come on and the door had opened. Missouri had stepped out of the kitchen and looked at him searchingly. He had quickly turned his injured side away, painfully holding the duffel with it. He put on what he hoped was an innocent look.

"Samuel Winchester you best not be giving me that look." She said sternly and dropped her eyes to the ground. He followed her line of sight and saw the blood drops on the ground; busted. He grimaced and shrugged his good shoulder, trying for shamefaced.

"I uh I got into a fight at the bar. They thought that I was hustling them at pool. It's just a cut. I'll get it taken care of as soon as I get inside. And I'll clean up the yard." He knew he was done for when she started shaking her head almost as soon as he started talking. She might not be able to read his mind anymore, but she evidently could still read him like a book.

"You get your skinny butt in this kitchen and let me look at that arm. While I do that you can tell me why you have been sneaking off and hunting on your own." She demanded. He was pretty sure that he probably looked like a deer in the headlights of an on coming semi. Finally when she started tapping her foot at his delay he dropped his bag on the small doorstep of his house and headed toward what he was sure was his doom.

She had quickly and efficiently, though not particularly gently, cleaned and then stitched the arm wound, in complete silence except for some tsking sounds under her breath. Sam was not sure which he preferred more, her just letting him have it, or having to wait through the silence knowing what was coming. When she had finished she closed up her first aid kit and pulled out the chair opposite him at the table. She sat down and stared at him with her arms crossed on her chest. He didn't have to be brilliant to read that body language. He took a lungful of air and let it out all at once. He could not meet her eyes.

"I couldn't just sit by and let someone else take care of these things that I see, not if they are close enough for me to get to. I haven't gone on any of hunts for the others like me, the 'cursed', it seems too hypocritical of me to go after them even given what they are doing with their powers since I have the potential to be so much worse, but the other ones, the 'things', those I can do. It's maybe not best that I am doing it alone, but I can't get anyone else involved."

"First off, you are NOTHING like those others. You would no more hurt someone for your own benefit then you would hurt your brother or your daddy, and that is what they all have in common, they are using their powers for evil purposes." Sam had told Missouri about the visions he had of the 'cursed'. Once he had revealed their connection they had decided that despite the fact that they were human that they had to be stopped, and she had contacted hunters in the areas in which he indicated there were problems. The hardest had been the one that could order people to kill themselves. He had made sure that Missouri had told the hunter to go in with earplugs, and it had worked. So far they had stopped six of the 'cursed'. Sam wished he knew how many others there were.

"This power comes from an evil source, from his blood. I'm not sure that there is any way to use them without it furthering his plan. I told you what I saw in my future. I DID shoot Dean. I couldn't see how, but somehow I think I get Dad killed. There's something on the edge of it all that I can't quite get a handle on, even in the dreams…." His stopped himself, his head snapping up to look at Missouri with big eyes. Her left brow rose. Oh boy, he should not have mentioned the dreams.

"Ohhh don't you stop now, boy. You are on a roll. Looks like there are a lot of things that you have been keeping from me for 'my own good', and I think it is time that you shared those things with me-for your own good." Sam did not miss her glance at the jar of wooden spoons that sat beside the stove. He had faced down harpies and lamia and one nasty rawhead on his own. He should not be so afraid of one woman and a spoon, but he was. Sam bit his lip then revealed what he had been keeping from her since the dreams had started almost 7 months ago.

Chapter 5 ***WARNING-excessive amounts of spoilers from here on out********

"He tries to talk to me in my sleep, The Demon. But he can't find me. It's like he's on the dream equivalent of a CB, broadcasting on the public channel in the hopes that I hear him, and he knows that I can now, and he is not too happy about that." Sam had to fight the urge to get up and pace. He settled for locking his hands together and squeezing. "It started out with him just calling for me, telling me that even though it was too early for his plan that he could work with me, 'take me under his wing', now that I had gotten out from under my family's thumb. That's how he put it, like that's why I ran away. He said all I had to do was call out for him, and he would come. I never did, so he just kept talking." Sam felt a pain in his hands and he looked down to find his knuckles were white from the pressure he was exerting as he talked about the dreams.

"Once I started having visions about the others his 'broadcasts' changed. I think he figured out pretty quick how the hunters were finding out about his 'chosen'. First he was almost pleased, happy that I was using my power. Started congratulating me on 'taking care of the competition' without any danger to myself, but then after the first two or three he got angry and demanded that I stop fingering the others. He said that I was skewing the results by quashing the potential pool. I wasn't sure what he was talking about until he, or someone, sent a…dream vision." Sam could not stand it anymore he had to move. He stood and started pacing around the small kitchen.

"I was older, maybe twenty three, dad was dead, and I was hunting with Dean. Then suddenly I was in this ghost town, and some of the others were there. A few that have already been killed, and some I haven't seen yet. We were being held there in some kind of game to see who was the last one standing. He wanted to see who was the most worthy."

"Worthy of what?"

"I couldn't 'see' that! Not then." Sam cried. He had almost, almost, spoke out to The Demon right then and there to demand what it was that they were supposed to be worthy of, what his master plan was, but he had managed to remain quiet as he watched the 'game'. His father would have been proud of his restraint. When it had reached the end he had woken up shaking and crying. It did that to a man to see himself stabbed in the back and die in his brother's arms. As he relayed the details to Missouri he found himself shaking again. He could almost feel the knife being buried in his back. Missouri started to speak, but Sam cut her off.

"But that's not all. Like I said before there's someone, something, else involved in all this. It's like my head is some sort of battleground. The next night, after I dreamed about d-dying," He had to stop for a moment, "I dreamed again, but this time it wasn't me in the dream. It was Dean. He was older too and he was so…devastated. It was like he had nothing left to live for, and I guess that was because both dad and I were gone. He was all alone. I watched him go to a crossroad and call a demon, not THE demon, just one of the regular deal making demons, and he…he bargained his soul for my life, for ME. He sold himself to that bitch in a year's time so that she would bring me back." He had to stop and wipe the tears that were running down his face. Even the possibility that Dean could do such a thing tore his guts out.

"He…he went to hell for me and they made him…they made him…" He could not talk about the horrors he had seen in hell, the horrors that his brother had gone through, that he had been driven to repeat on other souls. "He broke a seal, the first seal, and the demons broke the rest, except for the last one, and I broke that one and let Lucifer out. Because of me the apocalypse was started." He could hear the despair in his own voice, could not stop the tears that were pouring down his face. He dragged his sleeve over his face, ignoring the pain it caused in his wound. He deserved any amount of pain for what he was going to do to the world, to DEAN. He glanced at Missouri and while he could see compassion on her face there as no judgment, and it allowed him to go on with his story.

"I couldn't see what it was but something pulled Dean out of hell. It was so bright, so….good. It was an angel. We tried to stop the seals breaking, but I was…so stupid, so bent on vengeance even with Dean back, and I was so gullible, I let myself be used, and in the end Dean couldn't stop me from letting Lucifer loose on the planet. The bright being was helping us, I think, and Bobby Singer, and a few other hunters. So many people died trying. We tried to get Lucifer back in the pit, but it was like everyone was against us, even though it was the fu…" He could 'feel' Missouri's eyebrow rising in disapproval. "Freaking apocalypse." He stopped, not quite ready to reveal the last of it, the images he had seen of those last bits of time were confusing and scary and he had deserved what had happened. He still had a hard time wrapping his mind around it all. "Turns out Lucifer wanted me for his meat suit, something about dad's bloodline being the chosen one, and Dean was the meat suit for the other side, the GOOD side, and we were supposed to fight it out for dominion over the whole ball game. Of course that kinda meant that we would be gone, and the humans wouldn't survive, but they didn't seem to care about that too much. The only way to get Lucifer back into the pit was to form a door back into the pit, and we could only do that one way, with the rings from the four horsemen. We didn't think too much about how we were gonna get Lucifer to go through until right at the end, when we had them all, and there was only one choice, the right choice." He said the last in his most persuasively logical voice. Even though these visions were of the future she needed to understand that what he was, what he was going to do, meant that this ending was what was necessary. Missouri knew him too well, however, and he saw her face become sorrowful.

"What did you do, Baby?"

"I said 'yes'. I said 'yes' to Lucifer and I dragged his ass back down to the pit where he belonged." He said it firmly, defiantly, as if daring her to chastise him for the action or the cursing.

"And you went with him didn't you Baby?" she said calmly.

"Yeah, I went with him." He said.

"And for some reason you think you deserved that?"

"After what I did…or will do? Yeah. I deserved it. I made Dean's life a literal living hell, and almost dragged the rest of the planet along with him. I'm beginning to think that it would be better if we just let one of the hunters find me, maybe one of the ones that Dad doesn't know so well. Maybe then you can have a chance to tell them why before they go and do something stupid."

"Like take vengeance on the person that killed their son, their brother?'

"Once you tell them what I am, what I am going to be, they'll probably give the guy a slap on the back."

"And what would I tell them Samuel?" She said as she got to her feet and came to stand in front of him. She was tiny compared to his recently lengthened frame, but he still felt like a small child standing in front of the principal.

"Would I tell them that some hunter had come and killed their baby boy? Would I tell them that that same boy had helped keep them and other hunters alive for a year without any recognition? That that same baby had been hunting on his own to make sure innocent people didn't die because no one else was there?" He started to turn away, she just didn't understand. She grabbed his arm and held him in place with a surprising strength.

"Would I tell them that because of what he might have done, what he might have become before he got the warning he did, he deserved to die? That I just abandoned him to some dyed-in-the-wool, prejudiced, bigot of a hunter willing to kill anyone that is different? Is that what you want me to tell your family; those two men that love you more than anything else on this planet? One of whom is willing to evidently sell his soul to the devil for your supposedly worthless behind? How long do you think it would take before both me and the hunter that killed you would be gone? I think it would take about as long as it took or Dean to realize that his baby brother was really gone and there was no way to get him back. And your daddy….if you think that he is cold now, 18 years after his wife was killed by a demon, then you have no idea how cold he would become if you were killed. You do not want to meet that man. No one does. They would never survive it, baby, no matter how much longer their bodies might go on after that. Right now, even though you all are apart, they think that you are happy and mostly safe, that the large piece of their hearts that you represent, are safe and alive. Without that assurance…there won't be anything left that you would recognize." They stood staring at each other for several minutes before she tugged him back to the table and pushed him down in the chair.

"Now, is there anything else about these dreams that you haven't shared?" Sam huffed and looked away from her as she settled back down across from him. She just wouldn't see things his way, didn't understand. She twisted it around, made it seem like his family would understand, that they wouldn't care that he was a…monster. He owed her the last of the story however.

"After I…fell, the visions just went to black. I was just floating there, listening to the two…entities argue in my head. The Demon said something about advancing his plan since I had proven myself to be the most worthy by getting rid of the competition early, that things would still work out the way he planned, but the other one, he said that because of the 'covenant' that things could only be done when they were ordained to take place. Those are the words he used, covenant and ordained, like it was some holy agreement. Like my whole life, like Dean's whole life, was all planned out and agreed to like we were just some pawns in some cosmic chess game. White against black, good against evil…heaven against hell, and we were in the middle, the whole human race was just an inconvenience, not even worth considering except as something to use. The Demon was pissed. He wanted to take my powers away until later, but the other said no, that once they were active they could not be taken away, and that if I as meant to be the chosen then it shouldn't matter should it. The Demon kinda left in a huff. I got the impression that he couldn't do anything about the other, that whatever it is that it's too powerful. For a long time I thought it was gone too, then I….felt it move closer, like it somehow it merged itself to me. And it talked directly to me, like we were just sitting around having a chat, like friends." He stopped and stared down at the table for a moment then continued, replaying that conversation in his mind.

"Did you enjoy what you have been shown, Samuel? And the little tweak I did to your little demon powers?"

Sam would have laughed in its face if he could have seen it, if it even had one that is. The other seemed to sense that and laughter rang through their shared space.

"Oh you are a pithy one, though a little stuck on yourself. That's why I like about you, all of you really, and it's probably why my brother likes you too. That's also why I tried to head this off in the future, show you what it was going to be like, help you change things, but you wouldn't listen. Free will is both a wonderful and an awful thing, Samuel, remember that. It is something that even we can not contravene, not with any covenant or plan. Always remember that, because if you do, in the end the joke just may be on all of us…"

Sam contemplated for a moment the mixed tenses that were involved in that sentence. It was as if the other was somehow present in all times at the same time, but that would it mean it was…no, he was not going to contemplate what that meant.

"You are smart Samuel. You know what I have to be, even if you won't admit it to yourself. And yes, I can if I want be in all possible timelines, or call them alternate universes, at any given moment. It's rather mind blowing to someone of your limited time perception, I realize that. And before you remember it and think this is all self-motivated, I'm not doing this because I die if you go darkside."

"How can I remember something that's never happened to me?" Sam found himself asking.

"It happens to me all the time. I have shared that little gift with you in the vision. Think of it as having a really good memory of something that never needs to happen, if you get my drift."

"So if I change it…it won't happen. If I die..."

'Wait, wait, wait. What is it with you Winchesters? Why is that always the first thing out of your mouths when it comes to this kind of thing? Are you all so lazy that you can't stand to stick around and do it the hard way? You all look for what seems to be the easy out. 'If you can't save your brother you may have to kill him', 'I'll trade my life for his', times 2, 'If I can't stop myself promise you'll kill me', and my personal favorite, 'I'll just say yes to Lucifer'. Jeez, it's like pulling teeth to get you people to just…live already!"

"So you're saying that I can stay alive and not end up being worn around by the devil like some weird prom dress as he destroys the world?" There, the question was out. Would he get a straight answer?

"Maybe." Evidently the answer was 'no' on the straight answer. "Oh, come on Sam-Can I call you Sam? Cause I feel as if we have spent a lot of time together, get it, time together.-I can't say that if you do any one thing that the whole apocalypse thing will just go away and never come round again. It doesn't work that way. I can say that by doing what you are already doing you have changed what was going to be, though you may not have changed what will be."

"What in hell does that mean!"

"Oh, it's not just in hell, Sam. It's everywhere, everywhen. You are what you are. You have free will, but you have been molded by the life you have led up till now. Daddy Dearest's hunt for our yellow-eyed friend has bent your little human psyche into the pretzel that it is. With that kind of example of 'vengence is mine' who can blame you for getting a little uppity when Lilith lets loose the hell hounds on big brother? Once he's puppy chow you go careening off the boards, ala John Winchester at his best, and whammo, we have the apocalypse. But it don't have to be that way."

"So it's all up to me? If I'm strong enough not to let the demon blood change me into a monster?

"It is not a question of being strong or not strong Sam. It is in being what you are. Those other kids, the other ones you've handed off to that pack of hounds that call themselves hunters, and yes, that is a bit hypocritical by the way, they didn't 'change'. They are and were what they had always been. In every created thing there is the seed of good and evil. Nothing is all good or all evil, no matter what anyone tells you. Lucifer himself can be incredibly merciful; loves cats for some reason, sorta explains that nine-lives thing, I think he put in a good word. I'm more of a dog guy myself, but no accounting for taste."

"Could we stick to the point?"

"That is the point Sam! Those others were evil because they allowed themselves to be evil. They had the same choice you do. Use it or don't use it. Use it to help or use it to harm. Just like the little gift of vision beyond the other 'chosen' that I have given you. It is all about choice. MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE."

"And that was it. He was gone and I haven't had any other dreams quite like that since then. I still don't know who or what he is or why he got in on this whole thing. He seemed to think that I will 'remember' him at some point, though I'm still kinda vague on how I can remember something that might never happen. Maybe if I change it enough then I won't be able to remember because it never could that's how I know if I'm doing something right. If I 'remember' then I haven't changed the future enough. But I still think the whole thing would be easier if…"

"I will whack you with a spoon, Samuel." Sam sat up straight and took a big breath of air into lungs that felt starved of oxygen. He raised his eyes and met hers head on.

"All right, Winchesters never take the easy way anyway, no matter what that dick said. What do I do now? I have to hunt. I have to. It's the right thing to do. I can save people's lives, and that is never wrong."

"No, it's not wrong, Baby. But you can't do it alone, and my talents don't run to chasin' no werewolf through the woods."

"I don't know I can see you telling it to sit and it would, then we could just shoot it, easy."

"I'm goin' to put that down as you being a little giddy from talking with some powerful beings that have been messin' with things that they got no business messin' in and not whack you this time. Do not let it happen again. And also, watch your mouth; don't think you got away with that a moment ago." Sam hid his smile.

"Yes ma'am."

"Now, as to your little side activities. I mean what I say. You can not hunt alone. That means one of two things is going to happen. Either we find you a partner that you can hunt with or, and before you just say no I want you to THINK about what I am saying, we tell your family where you are and what is going on."

Sam started to protest, still not certain that his father and brother would not see him as the enemy, especially once they found out about everything that he had seen, and they would need to know everything if he let them know where he was. No partial truths would satisfy them. He could never lie to Dean, not even by omission, at least he hadn't been able to before that big scene, and that had only been because he had channeled his worry for his family into the words and feelings he had projected. And a careful review of his words would have shown that he had never actually said he was going to Stanford, just that he had been accepted and that he wanted to go. It was splitting hairs, but it had worked. He pondered his choices.

Missouri knew a lot of hunters, some of whom had never worked with his dad, and he could conceivably hook up with someone and once they got some hunts under their belt together figure out just how much he wanted to share about his talents and the future. But he had never worked with anyone but his family, at least not without John and Dean being there too. And even then his dad had been careful to work only with men he trusted, Pastor Jim Murphy, Bobby Singer, Caleb Reeves, and a few others. Some he had refused to work with outright because of how they handled themselves. His dad had never been shy about speaking his mind, even right to the other hunter's face. He had made a lot of enemies that way. Sam was sure Missouri would hook him up with someone that was not bigoted against someone who was different, but still, it was a big burden to share.

And then there was the grapevine. As soon as he started hunting with someone else it would be known. He knew he had been lucky that his activities had stayed under the radar this long. And the only thing faster than gossip on the hunter grapevine was, well, he wasn't sure there was anything faster. It was odd for a whole society that was pretty much off the grid, but he had seen it happen again and again. Word got around.. He could use a different name, but that would only work until they ran into someone that knew him, and while John had done his best to keep his boys away from other hunters, especially the ones he pissed off, they were known. And Sam was not exactly someone that blended into the crowd. His family would know about three seconds after Bobby, Pastor Jim, or Caleb found out. It would be incredibly hurtful for them to know he had left them under false pretenses and that he had chosen to hunt with a stranger instead of coming back to them. He could not do that to them, not on top of everything else.

That left only the one choice. He had to tell them, but how? What if Missouri was wrong about them, or even just about dad. He could easily see Dean forgiving him anything, in his vision of the future he had seen that his brother had been able to hunt with him in spite of everything, and that depth of love was simply inconceivable. Though, despite that love he knew he was in for some series ass-beating when he met his brother again. But dad….his dad had done some terrible things in the name of saving people. Things that looked at in a certain way could be construed as completely ruthless, that could be viewed as just as bad as what the things they hunted did. He had read all of dad's journal, had read between the lines on some of the entry's and had done a little research on a few. What he had found had shocked him, shocked him so badly that he had been unable to mention it even to Dean. In the end he had decided that Dean did not need the burden of knowing exactly what his father was capable of. He knew Dean worshipped John, and he would not take that away from him. For himself he had been deeply saddened to find out what his father had been brought to in his search for vengeance, and in a strange way it had made his father more human, instead of the marine drill sergeant that he often seemed to be. But even with that knowledge he knew his father loved him.

If his father saw him a threat what would he do? Would he view it as a kindness both to Sam and to Dean to 'take care of him' so that he didn't go darkside? Would he wait and see, just holding his fire until the moment came when he considered that Sam had taken one too many steps down what he considered the wrong path, and then there was a sudden regrettable 'hunting accident'? Could he bear to live with that uncertainty? But maybe that would be a good thing, having that watchful presence always there. His own Jimminy Cricket. Dad would not be afraid to tell him he was going wrong. Maybe he needed that second voice, someone beyond his own obviously poor decision making self, to keep him on the straight and narrow. It all came down to choice, just like the being had said. It wasn't the easy way out, in fact it would be damn hard, starting with the telling. He nodded to himself.

Missouri had been watching him, and obviously had been able to follow his train of thought pretty accurately, even without being able to read him. She reached over and patted his hand.

"I think you made the right choice, Baby, and I think you should know something. I was going to tell you in the morning, and help you any way I could, but now it don't matter quite so much." Sam frowned in puzzlement. What was she talking about?

"Your family, Baby. They know you are not in Stanford, and that you never were."

"What? How would they find out? I've been feeding Dean a line for months and he was buying it, I was sure of it. All I had to do was mention classes and co-eds and a messy roommate and he was off, putting his own spin on things."

'Oh your brother believed you honey. So much so that when he and your daddy went out to do a hunt in California he took a little time out and went up to Palo Alto on his own with out telling your daddy. Told him he was chasing some surf bunny. Of course it turns out that your daddy had much the same idea, thinkin'' that since Dean was busy that he would drop by and make sure that you were doin' okay. Neither one was going to let you see them or anything, but that changed when Dean couldn't find you in any of the dorms. He charmed his way into the housing authority and sweet talked some young college thing into checking for your dorm assignment. When he couldn't find you he thought maybe you had got some off campus apartment, or were shacking up with some girl, but he couldn't find anything anywhere about you. Then he ran into your daddy when he tried to break into the admissions building to verify that you were even enrolled since his charm didn't work on the male clerk who was in that office. Seems John had gotten much the same results when he went lookin' for you in his own way. Must have been kinda funny them two bumpin' into each other that night. Doubt they was laughin much later though when a certain Samuel Winchester didn't show up anywhere in the computer except under a file for declined scholarships. I bet you could hear them cursing from here was you listenin' close enough." Sam couldn't help the smile of amusement as he imagined his father and brother, both in full stealth mode, bumping into each other in the hollowed halls of Stanford, looking for their lost sheep. At least some Winchesters had gone.

"That was last week. Evidently they decided to do some investigating there in Palo Alto before they set off the general alarm. Of course they couldn't find any evidence that you had ever been there. They then started backward on the route that the bus you said you were on took. They stopped in every podunk little town on the route, showing your picture and asking question in their own way. It was almost a year ago though, and no one remembered anything. They got all the way back to where it all started and there was nothing. That's when they started makin' calls. Pastor Murphy was first, and he started spreading the word. I hear tell that Dean called Bobby since he would have most likely hung up on your daddy first word out of his mouth. Between the two of them there aren't many hunters that they couldn't contact and they did. They spread the word to look out for you, to ask around. As careful as we have been it is only a matter of time before someone finds out that you are here."

"I didn't think about that. There's no way that I am getting you in trouble because you helped me out. And I can't make them come here. It means so much more to them then it does me."

"Don't you worry about me, Baby. They'll be mad at me to start, but then they'll be happy that you had a safe place to go. But I see where you are going with the rest. Your daddy turned his back on this place because it hurts too bad for him to see it without your momma here. I think maybe it would be best if you went to Pastor Murphy's he'll at least keep your family civil if nothing else. Though given what I am feeling from both of them, it will be a challenge for even that good man."

Sam gave it some thought and agreed with the idea. Yes, Pastor Jim's place would be a really good idea. He could get there in less than a day, and he could take the bus into Blue Earth and then walk out to Jim's place. That way he had less chance of being spotted. He did not want the reunion with his family to take place out in public or even in some anonymous no-tell motel somewhere. And having a calming presence like the pastor would be a blessing. He nodded.

"I need to say goodbye to a few people, and let Ms Emogene and Mr. Higgins at the Cafe know I'm leaving." He paused with a frown. "Who'll drive Ms. Emogene? She has to get around to her appointments and things, I'd hate to think of her just sitting out there alone. I think if she doesn't have someone to have fun with every now and then she'd just kind of fade away." Missouri patted his arm.

"Don't you worry about her. I got me someone in mind to be taking her around. And I'll make sure that it's not just to her appointments. You done perked up that woman's life, and we ain't gonna let her fade away no how. As to Fred Higgins he'll understand. He was estranged from his boy Harry for a lot of years before Harry made the first move. He'll be happy for you."

Sam spent the next day going from person to person saying good bye. The last thing he did before he returned to Missouri's to finish packing and for a goodbye dinner was stop by the house where everything had begun for him. The family living there was sitting in the living room with the shades open and Sam could look into the house, seeing the family of five setting around the room watching TV, and he ached for that for his own family. What he wouldn't give to be there with his mother, father, and brother, watching TV after having a regular sit down dinner, worrying about regular things like jobs and girlfriends and what teams were playing this weekend. Before he could get too morose he turned away. He could not dwell on what he didn't have, could not ever have. He had to learn to be happy with what he did have. Most of his life he had resented his lot in life, wanting the normal life he saw everyone else enjoying, and that resentment had fed his anger and dissatisfaction. He could not help but think that those feelings were a doorway through which evil could find a way to lead him down that dark path he had seen. How had he had been so blind to where his anger could lead him? So much for him being the smart one in the family.

He walked back to Missouri's and they had a really good ham dinner with redeye gravy and mashed potatoes. Sam really had no idea how he could thank her for everything she had done for him. There was no way to repay the debt he owed her. He tried to stammer out his thanks, his eloquence deserting him in his earnest need to express his gratitude and she shushed him and patted his shoulder as she took their plates to the sink. She even refused his help with the dishes.

'It's gonna be back to just me after you go, and it's nice to be cooking and doing for someone besides myself. You let me enjoy it while I can. Now that bus leaves mighty early in the morning and we both got to be up and at the station so why don't you go and finish your packing and leave me to clean this up and get some beauty sleep. And don't you be worrying. It isn't gonna be easy, and it sure ain't gonna be calm, but it will be what you have needed."

Sam started for the door, but then he went back to the sink and touched her shoulder. When she turned to look at him he wrapped his arms around her and held her close for a long moment. She quickly wrapped her arms around his back and hugged him in return. When he stepped back he knew his own face was slightly red in embarrassment, and he swore that Missouri's own dark complexion was just a tinge rosier than usual.

"You go on now before you make me start crying." She said and swung at him with a handy dish towel. He gave her a fully dimpled grin and went out to his little house.

He would miss this little place. It had been the first place that had really been his and his alone. Missouri had not set foot in the place since he moved in, and he appreciated her allowing him that freedom. It had been an eye opening experience on many levels. He liked having that freedom, but he found himself lonely for someone else. After a lifetime spent in the company of his brother he missed that other presence. He was not meant to be alone, and he suspected that being alone was one of the reasons that his future self had gone so far off the rails. Yet another thing to be aware of. Isolation was not for him.

He finished packing all but his essentials and set his alarm for the early hour that he would need to be up to make the morning bus headed toward Blue Earth. He could have left later in the day, but he would have been getting into Minnesota after dark and he did not want to get to Jim's in the middle of the night. In their business very few good things appeared in the darkness. By taking the early bus he would be there by the early afternoon and he could easily walk the last few miles before dark. He laid down on the bed for the last time and closed his eyes. He slipped into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter 6

Sam's plan to arrive in Blue Earth in the afternoon worked as planned. He still had a good two hours of sun left to cover the three miles to Jim's place from the bus stop. He shouldered his two duffels. His worldly goods had increased when he settled down, though Missouri had still shaken her head at the amount he had

"Boy I couldn't even go somewhere for the weekend with that little bit of stuff. How can that be your whole life in those two little bags?" she had complained as they had dropped his luggage on the line where his bus would load. They were almost the only customers at the station and they stood out near the loading area as the bus driver stowed his bags on the already waiting bus. There was only about ten minutes left before the bus went and Sam was having a hard time saying good bye. Missouri had no such trouble as she motioned him to lean down and gave him a kiss on his cheek. He felt the blush traveling up his cheeks as he straightened back up, but he smiled at her in spite of it. She reached up and patted that same cheek.

'Oh with that blushing and those dimples some girl is gonna eat you up, Baby. She will not know what hit her. You take care of yourself and that family of yours. Some day when you can get them to come you all visit me, even if they won't come, you come by yourself, you hear. You are always welcome in my home." He smiled at her again and looked around as the bus driver called out for those boarding.

He gave her a nod and boarded the bus. Finding an aisle seat so he could stretch his legs. There were only three or four other people on the bus, travelers from previous stops, and they were all sleeping. Since no one could see he waved like a little kid as the bus pulled out of the station and she waved back at him with an indulgent smile.

The trip was long and tedious. He tried to sleep for awhile, and managed to nod off a few times, only to be woken as the bus made several stops more before hitting the highway east. Once it was light enough he read a book he had brought along, and then spent some time on his laptop, finishing up a few entries in his own hunting journal which he had begun keeping in the last year.

By the time they pulled into Blue Earth he was bored out of his skull and hungry. Missouri had packed him a sandwich made from that delicious ham from last night's dinner and he had polished that off mid-morning. Shouldering his bags he headed toward a small diner that was across the street from the station and he took a seat in one of the open booths. By chance it was the booth at the end of the row of windows where he could look out the window but he could not been seen by anyone not standing at just the right angle. He ordered a chicken sandwich and some coffee and thought about what he was going to tell Jim. His family deserved to be told about his powers first, but he could not just stonewall the pastor until they got there. He had just about decided on the tack he would take when he almost dropped his coffee cup in surprise. Pastor Jim's old station wagon was pulling up in front of the market next door to the diner.

As Sam watched their old family friend got out of the car and started into the market, being stopped almost every other step by parishioners and friends saying hello. Sam smiled as the hunter helped an old lady into the store, and wondered how many other hunters of the supernatural would have taken the time to do such a thing. He was even more sure now that he had made the right decision coming here. He motioned to the waitress for his check and after paying and leaving her a good tip he took his bags and went out to Pastor Jim's car. As he knew it would be the car was unlocked and he put the two bags in the back seat. He went around and leaned against the driver's side of the car, waiting patiently, head down, contemplating what was to come. Pastor Jim was never quick on his trips to the store. Too many people wanted to chat and he was too kind to cut them off.

He was contemplating what form the dire vengeance of his brother would take when a pair of clean but worn dress shoes appeared in his range of vision and a gasp of surprise echoed across the short distance between them. He raised his eyes to meet those of Jim Murphy and tried a small smile.

"Hi Pastor Jim." The graying head was shaking before he finished.

"Don't you 'hi' me Samuel Winchester, or give me that same scapegrace smile you used to beg off of trouble like when you and your brother broke my cookie jar." The pastor hastily tossed his two bags of groceries on top of the car and grabbed Sam by both shoulders, shaking him a little. "Do you have any idea how many people are looking for you? And the things that we have all imagined having happened to you? Do you?" Sam nodded, smile gone.

"Yeah. I know what you could have imagined, and I know that a lot have people have gone to a lot of trouble for me. Could you maybe call off the search and get word to my Dad and Dean? I thought maybe I could stay at your place just until they can get here and meet me. After that I'll go with them, or if not make some other arrangements." He could not completely ignore the possibility that after what he had done, after he told them what he still could do, that they wouldn't even want him anymore. Jim's face was puzzled, and Sam knew he didn't understand. "I know it is asking a lot, but my family deserves to hear it first, maybe you could wait for an explanation until they get here?" he asked. Jim searched his eyes and then nodded, never loosing his grip on Sam's shoulders as if he was afraid he would disappear if he let go.

"You are always welcome in my home Samuel. You know that, for as long as you wish, and with no explanation needed. I am simply so very glad that you have come to me. You will forgive me if I do have to insist on a few precautions before…" Even as he spoke he was pulling a small silver flask from his pocket. Sam knew the silver was etched with holy signs and sigils and that it contained holy water. He understood completely and took the flask from Jim's hand and took a hearty swig. Jim sighed in relief, it paid to be cautious in their business, even when you wanted something so much as he wanted this to be the real Sam. He swung away from Sam and swept the two bags of groceries he had bought into the back of the car, seeing Sam's bags there as he did so. He nodded back toward the store.

"If I am going to have to feed you and your bottomless pit of a brother along with your father and who knows how many others that will come out of concern and curiosity, then we need to do some more shopping." He transferred his grip to Sam's left arm and led him toward the store. "Are you still eating vegetables and chicken, and salads? Not your usual hunters fare, I will have to stock up. I admit I tend to eat out of my freezer when I am not being fed by one of my parishioners. Perhaps we can even figure out a way to make your brother and father eat something green…" Sam smiled and allowed himself to be dragged into the store.

An hour and a half later they were finishing putting away the huge amount of food that Jim had bought. Sam had insisted on paying for half of it, knowing that the pastor's stipend rarely covered all of his expenses, especially those associated with hunting. There had been a bit of an argument over that at the checkout stand, making the eyes of the young clerk grow big as the local pastor had argued so adamantly against it with the handsome young stranger, but after banging his head against the wall of stubbornness that was Sam Winchester he had given up more or less gracefully.

"You could have inherited your stubbornness from your mother you know, instead of from your father." He quipped as they lugged the massive amounts of bags out of the store. Sam gave him a dimpled grin.

"According to dad, I did."

"Oh my good Lord, you got a double dose then. No wonder no one has won an argument with you since you were three."

Sam put the last box of cereal into the cabinet and turned to find Jim standing in front of the old style phone that hung on the wall of the kitchen. He was staring at it in a way that Sam knew meant he was mentally composing what he wanted to say, and he was quiet as the man finished ordering his thoughts. Finally Jim reached out and grabbed the phone and dialed the first of what was probably going to be a good many calls. He was strangely happy when it was obvious that the pastor had reached his father's voice mail. He was not looking forward to that conversation.

"Jonathan, why can you never answer your phone? I know for a fact that you are not hunting right now and it is early evening so you should not yet be haunting the local bar. In any event please call me as soon as you get this message, and make sure that Dean is with you when you do. God Bless." Sam had to smile at the Pastor normal sign off. He knew how much it irritated his agnostic father, and he knew that Jim did too. Jim caught his smile out of the side of his eye and smiled at him, as if he knew what had caused it. He shrugged and started dialing again.

"Robert, it's Jim Murphy. How are you my friend?" Sam listened as Bobby evidently told Jim just how he was, and Sam could tell that the language used was not particularly civil.

"Well, yes, I do admit that Dean can be a bit like his father when he is stressed or worried, and he is both at this time. However I have good news on that front. You can let everyone know that the search is off. I have left a message for Jonathan and Dean already, and I wanted to let you know as well." Even across the room he could hear Bobby's voice squawking through the phone as Jim held the phone away from his ear. Once the sounds stopped he put it back to his ear and spoke "If you will calm down I will answer all of your questions. And that kind of language is not necessary Robert. Sam is here with me."

"No, I decided not to take any precautions and just let him in the house with no test whatsoever. Even as we speak I am letting him handle all of my weapons and have tossed all of my holy water down the drain." There was another outburst which Jim ignored.

"Of course I tested him. He passed everything with flying colors, silver, holy water, and he passed the threshold just fine along with all of my wards and sigils. I am not new to this game we play Robert. I have done what needs to be done. Now, will you make the calls necessary to let everyone know that Sam is here and safe? And no, I don't think that it's necessary that you…" There was some more squawking and Jim finally nodded as if Bobby had worn him down.

"Fine, I am sure we can find some place for you to sleep. I am expecting a rather full house. What?" More squawking. "You'll sleep where I put you, and if I hear much more of that, I will be sure it is out in the barn with Mrs. Wilson's sick goat that I am housing for her. You two should get a long fine. We will see you when you get here Robert." He hung up as the sound level rose once again. Jim winked at Sam.

"Looks like we will be at least five. I would be surprised if Caleb does not join us as well if he is not on a hunt now. I will call him next and let him contact his friends. Then there are only a few more to contact. Why don't you go make up your room. I am sure that you will want to share with Dean. You know where the linens are. We can put Caleb, if he comes, in with your father, so make up both beds in your father's regular room as well. Bobby will take the couch. It would be best if he and your father were not allowed alone in the same room." Sam smiled and nodded in agreement and headed upstairs to do a little maid work. It was the least he could do for Pastor Jim given what he was doing for Sam.

Chapter 7-

Dean Winchester slammed the empty beer mug down on the bar and when the barkeep looked around motioned for another refill. It was his sixth, or maybe his seventh, but then who was counting? It certainly wasn't his little brother because they didn't know where he was. Some hunters they were, couldn't find a stretched out geek-boy that they had raised from a baby. It was a wonder that they could find their ass with both hands and a flashlight. The bartender was reaching for his glass to get the refill when a scarred brown hand appeared and grasped it.

"He not staying. Get his tab." Dean recognized his father's gruff voice even without turning. He was pretty sure he would recognize it anywhere, anytime regardless. However he felt no current urge to do what that voice said. As far as he was concerned John's edict about Sam staying gone was the reason they now had no idea where his brother was, or if he was even alive. It had been almost a month since he had last spoken with Sam. The lying little shit had fed him a bunch of lines about a girlfriend, even went so far as to give him a name, Jane or Jill or something with a J, and how well he was doing in classes, a 4.0 at an Ivy-League university, yeah like even Sammy was that smart. He should have copped to it right there, but he had wanted that normal life for his brother so much he was willing to suspend his disbelief and go with it. Sammy had never been able to lie to him, not until a year ago that was. Reaching out he pushed the glass out from under John's hand and toward the bartender.

"I said fill 'er up. I'm paying the piper, so I get to call the tune."

"Dean…"

"I thought you were calling some friends, oh wait you don't have any friends, do you, only acquaintances. Ran all your friends off, like you ran Sam off, right?" He interrupted. The bartender cast wary eyes over his shoulder at the formidable form of John Winchester and then back at Dean. There must have been something in his eyes because the bartender nodded and took the mug and started pulling another draft. Dean heard John swear under his breath. A huge hand clamped down on his shoulder and Dean allowed it to spin him around to face his father. The confrontation had been building since they had found out that Sam had never gotten to Stanford, had in fact never even planned to go there, having turned down the scholarship a week before he left. They had searched everywhere along the route that Sam's bus should have taken, if he had in fact gone that way, and there had been less than nothing. Not that they really expected there to be any signs after a year. The tension had gotten so bad that Dean had started requesting a separate room when they finally stopped somewhere to catch a few hours sleep before starting again. John had evidently felt the same tension as he had gotten the second single with no complaint. Now with enough beer in him Dean was ready for the blow-up that had been coming. He was just this side of drunk, and he was hoping to be the rest of the way as soon as his father left him alone. He was willing to do whatever was necessary to get to that point as soon as possible.

"Dean I got a call from Jim Murphy…"

"Got a hunt that you need to go on? Well have at it. I'll keep looking for my brother on my own, probably better that way. Don't let me and Sammy stand in your way, you never have up to now." He knew it was hurtful, and unfair, but he just didn't care right now. John's face darkened, and he saw the anger rise in the dark eyes, and it struck him again just how much like their dad Sam had been when he was angry. That had been one reason the two didn't get along, they were too much alike. Dean was sober enough to see the act of will that his father made to hold the anger in check as he stepped closer, into Dean personal space and leaned in close to speak only for his ears.

"I am going to ignore the fact that you are acting like an asshole for now, and put it down to too much beer. But do not push it any more, or I will hand you your ass and then drag it and you out of here like a 16 year old with a fake license. If you don't think I can do it, you just give it your best shot, boy. If you want to be reasonable and listen to what I have to say, then you keep that attitude to yourself until another time and place when we can work it out without people watching." Dean considered for a moment, but he was not quite drunk enough to believe that he could take his dad when he was three sheets to the wind. If he was going to have a chance he needed to be at his best, and like John said that needed to be somewhere where no one else would interfere. He stretched his neck and defiantly reached around to grab the full beer that the barkeep had put down near his elbow. He took a drink, barely able to tip the mug up with his father still in his space. He licked the foam off his upper lip all without breaking gaze with his father. He shrugged.

"Fine. What do you have to say to me that is so important? I got a busy night planned." He winked at a passing waitress that he had been keeping an eye on since he had gotten here. She shot a nervous look at John, but gave him a small smile in return anyway. Yeah, he had her on the line. He was contemplating where that might lead when John spoke.

"Jim Murphy wants me to call him back. He specifically said he wanted you to be there when I called."

"What for? Why can't he just talk to you, or call me?"

"I don't know Dean. Why don't you haul your ass and we'll go find out." John hadn't backed away, and his voice was still low. Dean was definitely not drunk enough to not know that that was a hell of a good indication of just how angry his father was. He was however drunk enough that he finished off his beer before he called for the tab. He threw down enough bills to cover it, along with a tip to make up for the show they had put on, and followed his father out of the bar, giving the waitress a gleaming smile, sure he would be back as soon as they dealt with whatever it was that Pastor Murphy had to talk to them about.

He followed his dad's truck back to the hole in the wall motel they were staying in, glad they were in separate vehicles, but feeling the emptiness in the passenger seat all the more. He parked next to the truck and followed his father into his room. John was already dialing and as soon as he finished he put the phone on speaker and set it on the table. Dean perched on the edge of the single bed and listened as the phone rang. It was picked up on the fifth ring.

"Jim Murphy."

"John Winchester. Dean 's here too." John said gruffly. Pastor Jim seemed un-phased by John's brusqueness and sounded genuinely happy to hear from them.

"Oh thank the good Lord you've gotten back to me so quickly, John. I know you tend to answer my calls only when you feel you have to. I was afraid I would have to have Caleb stop by the last town I knew you were in and drag you here personally."

"I'd like to see his skinny ass give it a shot." John growled. "Why do we need to come there?" Jim ignored the cursing, which gave Dean some indication of just how important whatever Jim had say must be. He sat up a little straighter on the bed.

"I need you here because what you are looking for is here, Jonathan."

Dean swore he could hear the dust settling onto all of the flat surfaces in the room after the final word was said. It was as if the entire planet had stopped in its tracks as the importance of those words sunk into the two men in the room. Dean was on his feet and snatching up the phone in one motion, as if by doing so it made him closer to Blue Earth.

"Sammy! Sammy is there, with you, in Blue Earth?" He needed to know, now. John was also on his feet, having risen to his feet as Dean had. His eyes were locked on the phone in Dean's hand as if he could look through the machine and see Jim Murphy's home. Dean was counting the milliseconds as they waited for the answer.

"Yes, he's here. You need to come as soon as possible." Dean's legs suddenly could not support him, and it was only because of John's strong hand on his arm that he did not end up on the carpet. Instead he was guided back down onto the bed. Despite the sudden weakness of his lower limbs he had not let go of the phone however.

"Is he okay?" John asked, his voice husky with something that Dean could not identify right then.

"Yes. He's all right. Anxious to see you and Dean, but otherwise he's fine."

"You did the checks?" Dean's eyes snapped to his father's face as he asked the question in a cold tone so unlike the last one.

"Yes, Jonathan, I did. As I told Robert when he asked the same question, this is not my first go-around. Now, when can you be here?"

"Wait a minute. Forget that, let me talk to Sam." Dean demanded. He needed to talk to his brother, now. He wanted some answers.

"He's asleep now. It is after midnight here if you recall the time difference. I won't wake him up for you to play 20 questions over the phone. Whatever he has to say needs to be said to your faces."

"Whatever he has to say? You mean he hasn't told you where he's been?" John asked. His voice was back to normal now.

"No, he says that is for you and Dean to hear first, or at least at the same time if you allow the rest of us to be included. As I told him, he is always welcome here, with or without explanation. Now, when can I expect you?' John looked at Dean, and he could feel his father analyzing his capability to drive hard and fast. He didn't wait for the results he simply slapped the phone on the table and headed for the door to grab his still unpacked bag out of the other room. As the door swung closed behind him he heard his father reply.

"We're leaving now. We should be there in about…" the door cut off the rest and he had the key to his room in his hand. He was going to get his brother. And then he was going to kill him.

Chapter 8

They had made good time, fueled by coffee and the occasional greasy drive through, and were pulling into Blue Earth just after noon the next day. Many speed limits had been ignored, and not a word had been spoken between the two since they had left the motel. Both were sunk into their own thoughts, and Dean was sure they were both focused on just what it was that their long lost son and brother had to share with them.

John's truck was in the lead as they headed down the driveway into the rectory. He parked next to an obvious rental car, and Dean assumed that Bobby had gotten there first, and had driven down from the nearest airport. Given how the two older hunters got along recently he was sure that his dad was grinding his teeth in joy at that revelation. He pulled up next to John and was out of the car almost before the engine had died. His father was at his side and matching him step for step as they approached the porch. The door sung open and Jim Murphy stepped out and closed the door behind him, standing in front of it like he was defending it. He probably was as Dean started to go around him, seeing his father dodging in the other direction, he held up a hand, halting their progress.

"Before you go in there are some ground rules." He said. John started to protest but Murphy simply continued. "There will be no violence in this house. Not from anyone, to anyone. I know it is asking too much for you to watch your language, but I will not tolerate any kind of physical violence. If you can not behave like adults and listen to what your son and brother has to say, then you can leave, and don't think that I can't make you leave if you make that mistake. I am sure Robert would be happy to help me." He eyed both of them sternly.

"Secondly, I understand that you, Jonathan, and Robert do not get along. But you will remember that he is also guest in this house, and if Sam wishes to include him in whatever explanation he is going to give, then that is Samuel's choice. I will not tolerate your petty arguments here."

"It's not…" Again Murphy ignored him.

"I don't care what the argument is about. It does not matter here and I will not allow it to confuse what is already an emotional time. Do you both understand?" He waited until both Winchester men nodded, then reached out and patted them on their chests.

"Welcome then. Come see Samuel. He's in the living room. We heard you coming and I asked him to wait while I made a few things clear." He held off the charge long enough to lead the way inside. He could practically feel the hot breath on the back of his neck as he led them into the living room. Sam was standing by the window, obviously having been watching the confrontation on the porch. Bobby was seated in one of the arm chairs. For a long moment no one moved, then Dean was across the room and had his brother in his arms.

"My god, Sammy." He gasped into his brother's ear as he hugged the tall body to him with all of his strength. "If you ever do anything like this again I will fucking kill you myself. I don't care why." His voice was hoarse, no doubt from all of the bad coffee, and his nose seemed to have started running. Must be something blooming around here. Frigging allergies. Sam's long arms were twined around his back and holding on just as hard, and the shaggy head was buried against his neck, even though his brother seemed to have to curl down to do it. Finally getting himself under control, and mindful of the chick flick potential of the moment he pushed back from his brother, keeping hold of the t-shirt on either shoulder. He looked his brother up and down. The hair was much the same, long and floppy, with bangs hanging in the puppy dog eyes that were suspiciously bright. What was not familiar was that those eyes were at least another inch higher than they had already been. "What the hell, Sasquatch, you weren't happy with just a couple of inches on your big brother, you had to go and grow some more?" He taunted. Sam smiled at him, a watery version of his usual dimpled smile. Then the hazel eyes shifted over Dean's shoulder and he could see the anxiety grow in the depths. He looked over his shoulder at his father who was standing a few feet away. He gave Sam a slight shake and stepped away, though not too far. He was not sure how this was going to go. He knew that he and Sam had some serious talking to do, beyond whatever the kid had to say, but he was not sure what his father would do now.

The two men stared at each other for several minutes, and Dean was amused to notice that the extra inch that Sam had grown in the last year had put him that much over their father. After a minute Sam's chin wobbled, like it used to when he was getting ready to let loose with a wail of need when he was a baby, and John responded, as he had so long ago, by stepping forward and sweeping his not so baby boy into his arms. He grabbed hold of his boy and just held on. He felt the dark head burying into his shoulder and felt the long arms around him. It had been a long time he realized since he had simply held his boy, either of his boys, but especially Sam. With sudden shame he realized that while he had comfortably thrown an arm around Dean's shoulder, he had almost never touched Sam beyond training in the last five years. Hardly even a clap on the shoulder in encouragement or pride. His heart ached. How much had that distance been a factor in whatever had caused his boy to disappear? He pushed back and raised a hand to cup Sam's chin. He was surprised to feel the rough stubble of an emerging beard, something that the Sam of a year ago had not had. This man standing before him was just that, a man. No longer the boy that had taken himself from their family. He could also see the effects of something else, something that he would understand soon, in those changeable eyes. Sam had always had old eyes, filled with a knowledge he was too young to have, even more so after he had learned the truth of their family business, but now they were ancient, and wounded in a way that made John's heart hurt. What had happened to his baby?

Jim chose the silence to move everyone to a seat, and left to bring in an urn of coffee and some cups. Once everyone was served that wanted it he looked at Sam who was sitting on the sofa with Dean, shoulders rubbing despite the size of the sofa. John was seated in the arm chair closest to Sam. Jim settled into a rocker across from the sofa. Dean could not stand any more waiting.

"Well if everyone is all comfortable now, I would sure as hell like to know what the hell has been going on. Where the hell have you been, Sammy?" Sam sat forward a little, elbows on his knees, hands clasped. He shook his head.

"I won't talk about where exactly, not yet. The where doesn't really matter, just the why. Just know that I was in a safe place, most of the time at least, protected in all the ways possible."

"So why won't you tell us where?" Dean asked, only to get an evil look from Jim. He shot the pastor a "what" look and a shrug. It seemed a logical question.

"I want you to hear the whole thing before you get sidetracked by where I was. In fact I would appreciate it if you would just listen and then ask your questions when I'm done. It'll be easier to get out all at once, and I think I'll do better just saying it rather than stopping and starting." Sam stopped for a moment and Dean could see his jaw working. And he was surprised to see tears in the expressive eyes before his brother hid them behind his hair. "What you are going to hear is not pretty, and I ...I wish I could just have been strong enough to do what...what I have been told is taking the easy way out, but I wasn't, and now I will be dragging you all in with me. By the time I'm done you may not want anything to do with this, or me, and I want you to know that I understand that, and I won't blame any of you if that is what you choose." He took a deep breath.

"It started over a year and a half ago when we were down in Arizona, the hunt for that skin walker, where we ended up calling the Coyote god..." He started.

Chapter 9-

Sam's voice was hoarse from talking almost three hours non-stop. He had covered it all, everything from the first vision of the letiche to the words of the mysterious being in his vision/dreams. He had told them about his jobs and his solo hunt, his moving meditation, even his prowess with breakfast and burgers. He did not spare himself by hiding any of the details of his visions of the future. Even when it felt like his heart was being ripped out as he told of Dean's death by the hell hounds, or the horrible depths of his shame as he admitted his own culpability in freeing Lucifer upon the world. He did not stint to mention how he had seen angels and demons of the highest level, how he and Dean had been pawns in the cosmic game that they had been playing, chosen by dint of their bloodline. He spoke of friends and family dying, of dying himself, of deals made and actions taken. He ended it with his dream conversation with whatever it had been that had started this whole thing. About how it was all down to the choices he made if it would still happen or not.

Then he was finished, and he just sat there, staring at the carpet as the silence lengthened. Typically, it was his brother that broke the silence.

"You couldn't have just shacked up with some older woman that you met in some library somewhere, and had to run when her ex-wrestler husband found you and wanted to beat you to a pulp?" He asked. Sam could see the disquiet in his eyes despite the frivolity of the question. It had to be hard to hear that you were going to be killed by hell hounds after making a deal with a demon for your soul to save your brother who was stabbed in the back by some 'chosen' half-demon-blooded kid who was trying to be the next meat suit for Lucifer himself in order to bring on the apocalypse. That he would be saved from hell by an angel and then fight the devil himself to save the world. And the best one of it all? His kid brother, the one he had sacrificed so much for was the one that caused it all, and the one that would end it by jumping into the pit with the devil himself literally riding his ass. Sam looked away, only to meet his father's dark eyes. What must John think of this all?

John was hardly thinking at all. It was all swirling around in his head. He had been hearing things about the chosen children for the last several years. Had hunted several himself, had seen the damage that they had done. He had also seen the similarities between them and his own younger son. All of them had been partially or completely orphaned at 6 months. All had been touched by evil. He had suspected that Sam was one of them, but with no evidence of the powers that the others wielded he had partially convinced himself that his son had been spared. That maybe Mary's sacrifice had not been completely in vein and her intervention had managed to spare their child. Now that hope was gone. As he looked into his son's eyes he could see that no one was more worried about what power lurked inside that familiar form then Sam himself. His son had had a chance to see the consequences and was prepared to take whatever steps necessary to stop that version of the future from happening. It broke his heart to think of the decision Sam had almost made to end his life. He was incredibly thankful that he had not taken the "easy" way out. He shook his head to clear it. Now was not the time for that. Now was the time for some hard questions.

"Why didn't you tell us about the...visions when they started?" He suspected he already knew, but he had to ask, had to hear it from Sam directly. Sam grimaced and looked from him to Dean and then returned his gaze to the floor. John could see that he did not want to answer, and he knew that the boy that had left them over a year ago would probably not have, at least not honestly, but this was no longer a boy. This was a man in his own right, and he was made of sterner stuff. John could see when the decision to speak the truth was made. The long back, and just when had it become all right for a son to top his father by a full inch, anyway, straightened and Sam met first Dean's and then his own eyes.

"For the last 19 years your whole life has been about hunting evil. You have dragged Dean and I across the entire continent in your hunt to find and destroy the demon that killed mom and on the way you have killed EVERY thing that you have deemed to be evil. It is not just what you do, it is what you are. And it is what Dean is becoming. There are few shades of gray in your world. It either is good or it needs to be destroyed. You suffer a few psychics and mediums because they help you, but even then you watch them for any sign that they've turned, I doubt if you've ever trusted one again as much as you trusted Missouri Mosley all those years ago. If you had heard on the grapevine about a psychic that could see the future, that seemed to have a channel to the 'chosen' children, that knew where and when evil things were going to attack, what would your first thought have been? Tell the truth, dad. Your FIRST thought." It was a challenge, and John accepted it.

"I would have thought he or she was connected with the demon somehow." It was the truth. It was what he would have thought. "I...would have used the information but kept a close eye on the psychic waiting for them to make some sort of slip up, to contact the demon." He knew it was what Sam expected to hear, and his supposition about why Sam had run rather than reveal his power had been confirmed. But Dean... He looked at his older son. Dean was slumped forward, elbows on his knees and head hung low in much the same way the Sam had been before. As John looked at him he turned his head and looked at his brother.

"You thought that I would...that I would hurt you in any way? That somehow this demon blood would make you less my brother in my eyes and that I would...How the fuck could you think that?" He was on his feet with one swift move. Jim was willing to be tolerant, but there was only so much he could allow, and he snapped at the younger hunter.

"That's enough of that young man!"

"No, leave him alone, he's right." Sam said and rose to his feet so he was more or less eye to eye with his angry brother. He met those eyes head on. "I owe you the biggest apology, Dean. Even before I ...saw what you would sacrifice for me I knew what you had sacrificed for me. Your whole life you have had to drag me along. It never got to be just about you. It was always about me, or about dad, or about what one or the other of us wanted from you. You made the best you could of it, and you've become the hunter that dad wanted. I've never been sure if that is what you really wanted or if it's what dad wanted for you so you just went along. But for all that, I should have known that it wouldn't have mattered to you that I had visions. You would have been worried, sure, but you would have helped me deal. I am so sorry that I did not trust you. But that was my fault, not yours. If it is any consolation to you I punished us both, and in the end when I had to make a decision about what I would do I knew that if I was going to hunt, then there was no one that I could trust like you to watch my back. And...and one of the reasons that I couldn't...'take the easy way out' was because I knew that it would be negating everything you had ever done for me."

John had to blink several times to clear the moisture that had gathered in his eyes at Sam's speech. It was not aimed at him, even peripherally, he knew that, but he felt the blow none the less. He was well aware of the burden he had placed on his oldest's shoulders. But his son had taken to it with a will, and he was an incredible hunter, and if the truth was said a better 'father' to his younger brother then John had ever been. If it had ever crossed John's mind that Dean might want something else out of life then hunting, it was a notion that he had squashed mercilessly. There was no other option. To know of the supernatural meant that you had to deal with it somehow, and what Dean knew could not be unknown. John also noticed that he had not been included in the 'trusted to watch my back'. He had sown this crop, and now he was harvesting the bitter fruit of it in his son's distrust, and he did not fool himself that it was not deserved.

Dean had been forcing himself to remain silent for the last several hours. He had only kept from stopping Sam's recitation of the events of the last year by clenching his hands together so hard that he was sure that he had bent a couple of finger bones, especially when Sam spoke of hunting alone and when he talked about killing himself. When Sam had finally stopped, and John had asked the question that had been burning in his own mind since the whole story had begun he had held his breath waiting for the answer, even though he suspected that he knew it already. When it had come, and it was the one he knew was coming, and when John responded to Sam's question the way Dean knew he would, he had felt his heart tearing open. What had he done that his brother had thought that of him? What had he not done in the years... He couldn't not ask. He surged to his feet and asked the question.

He almost turned on Jim when he snapped at him about his language, but stopped as Sam was on his feet and in his personal space, hazel eyes locked on his own, and defending his right to ask the question. He could not look away as Sam spoke, and he saw the sincerity in those eyes that he had missed so much. The words both soothed his aching heart and tore a new hole in it as he could see the changes that the last year had wrought on his brother. Gone was that last spark of innocence that Sam had managed to hang onto since he had learned the existence of the supernatural. That spark that Dean had tried so very hard to preserve in his baby brother, not just for Sam's sake but for his own as well. It was as if by keeping it alive in Sam he somehow kept it alive in himself as well, despite it having been ripped from him when he was four. He mourned it's loss, but something in him could not help but thrill to the thought of hunting with his brother.

As much as he loved and respected John, he knew that his father preferred to work alone most of the time unless the hunt called for a second hunter. In the last year they had been apart almost as much as they had been together. It was mere chance that they had been together out in California. They had been after a pair of spirits haunting some old actor's hospital. Two different bodies, partners in a former life that had evidently had a falling out in their later years and who were taking it out on the current residents of the hospital where they had spent the last years of their lives, had to be dug up and burned at the same time. At least they had been in the same cemetery, though not in the same section. But as much as John was solitary, Dean, alone for the first time in his life for any significant span, had hated hunting alone. He had missed his father, and he had missed his brother like he would have missed an arm or leg. The very idea that he could now have both of those things that made his life meaningful, hunting and his brother, made him almost giddy. Even given the circumstances.

Yes he was a bit...freaked out about what Sam had seen. He wasn't sure what bothered him most. The fact that his father was willing to sacrifice his soul, to make a deal with the thing that had killed Mary, to save him; the fact that he had somehow allowed his brother to be killed in some ghost town in the middle of nowhere; that he had evidently made such a bad deal with some demon skank that he only had a year to get Sam set up to live without any family to watch his back before he went to hell, courtesy of queen demon-bitch Lilith and her hell puppies; that he was was rescued from same by some angel, or that after fighting Lucifer and some dick angels for over a year he had had to watch his brother, the one he had sacrificed more than his life for, drag the evil son of a bitch back down to hell, sealing his own fate as he did so.

It was a lot to take in, and he was sure there would be a lot of questions to be asked over the next few hours, days, weeks. But as he looked into his brother's eyes he knew that the questions would be answered. Whatever they had to do to keep all that shit from happening they would do, and they would be hunting while they did it. Let the Yellow-eyed bastard and his evil boss, and those dick angels and their AWOL creator fight their own battles. The Winchesters were going to be busy doing something else. For now Sam seemed to be waiting for some response and he reached out and slapped his brother on his cheek, not all that gently.

"You keep anything like that from me again and I will find your ass and kick it so hard that Lucifer will feel it in the pit, you get me? We are stronger together, and the rest of them can all go to hell, or back to heaven or wherever they came from." Sam nodded, his eyes showing his gratitude that Dean had forgiven him, and also some moisture. Dean knew he would have to take steps to make sure that there would be no more chick-flick moments and turned toward Pastor Murphy.

"I am starving. Is that chili that I have been smelling for the last three hours? I could eat the entire pot." He heard Sam give a snort and his father sighed. Bobby burst out laughing and Jim stood, shaking his head. Dean was sure that they all knew what he was doing, but he had reached his limit for awhile, and he might as well get a bowl of chili out of it while they took a break from all of the drama. Looking around he saw that all of them looked relieved at the thought of a break. He led the way toward the kitchen.

Chapter 10-

Sam sat on the top step of Jim Murphy's porch, a cup of coffee in his hand as he watched the sun rise over the small copse of trees that stood to the east. They had stayed up late into the night talking about what he had revealed, but he had found himself unable to sleep past his usual early time. By now back in Lawrence he had been at the diner cooking eggs and pancakes, or was out for a run along the quiet streets. The rest of the house was still sleeping when he had risen from his bed and went down to make coffee. He figured his father would be up next, usually John was up and around by six no matter how late he got to bed the night before, and Bobby was always saying that he slept less as he got older, and tended to be an early riser. Jim Murphy, who tended to receive calls at all hours of the day and night had learned to sleep as long as he could when he could, and would probably take advantage of the quiet to sleep in . Dean would sleep till noon if their father would let him. Though how he could sleep so long and heavily with the amount of chili he had eaten was beyond Sam.

He sipped at the coffee and reflected on what had happened yesterday. Being back among his family and friends had brought him a peace that he had not expected. Yes there had been some hard and embarrassing questions. There had been recriminations and accusations. There had been hurt feelings on all sides and some bitter realizations as well. Sam could tell that his father was hurt by his lack of trust, but he couldn't help how he had felt a year ago, how he still felt now. Sam knew that if Dean had been out of the picture, if his only option had been to come back to John alone, then he would have chosen the easy way out. And he knew that his father knew it too. He didn't think that Dean did. His brother had not been shy about telling him how he felt about this whole thing, and he would have mentioned it. If only to try to convince Sam that John was trustworthy. Sam was willing to believe that his father would do his best to trust that Sam was fighting with everything he had to change what he had seen, but he knew in the back of his mind that John would not hesitate to act at the first sign that Sam had stepped across the line. He might regret it, but he would act. He shook his head. He had to stop thinking about that. It was counterproductive.

He had to think positively. If he kept his feet firmly on the side of good then his father would have no call to doubt him. He had friends and a brother who were willing to help him do that, and he was going to let them help. As Dean had said, they were stronger together. He was suddenly aware that someone was approaching from the kitchen. He could hear the footsteps on the old linoleum, light and quick. He looked around in surprise.

"I didn't think you'd be up for another couple of hours at least. Don't tell me, the heartburn finally drove you out of bed. Nothing could handle that much of Pastor Jim's chili with extra hot sauce. The Pepto is in the cabinet by the refrigerator I think." Dean smirked at him as he sat down beside Sam, a cup of coffee in his hand. He patted his stomach with his free hand.

"Gut of iron here, Sammy. Look upon it with awe and wonder. The chili that can phase this baby has not yet been made." Sam smiled back.

"That wasn't what you said when you were stuck in the bathroom in that little town in New Mexico after you had the chili in that place called The Buzzards Nest."

"That was not chili, Sam. That was some noxious devil's brew that some witch was putting out to try to take down passing hunters." Dean ranted with a grimace of remembrance.

"Funny you should mention the word passing. What was it, three days, four?"

"Don't remind me. I couldn't even see the TV from in there. It was three days of reading the same magazines over and over since you wouldn't go get me anything else."

"There wasn't anything else to get, Dean. The local store was hardly more than a 'stop and rob'. They had a total of four magazines and a two day old copy of the paper from Santa Fe. You're lucky that the Kaopectate finally kicked in or we would have had to make a run for the nearest hospital which was over three hours away, and I use the word 'run' in every sense of the term." he swayed to the side as Dean's fist hit him in the shoulder. He had missed this so much. The simple give and take, the simply being with his brother. Never again.

They sat in silence for a long time as the sun finished it's climb above the trees, simply enjoying the silence and the chance to be together alone. They both heard a familiar step in the kitchen, and knew that John was up and getting some coffee, a muffled curse also revealed that Bobby was up too, and had evidently bumped into John on the way into the kitchen. They both smiled as they listened to the two older hunters bitching at each other. Dean got to his feet and looked at the kitchen and then down at Sam. He jerked his chin toward the kitchen.

"Guess we better get in there and act as referee's before someone takes a swing or a shotgun to the other. Pastor Jim would get rally pissed off then and throw us all out before I can get some more of that chili." He reached his free hand down to Sam and he took it, letting Dean help him to his feet.

"I seem to recall someone bragging about how he could make some damn good pancakes and eggs. What say we try that out, huh? I'm a little bit hungry." Dean added with a grin. Sam threw back his head and laughed, his heart suddenly lighter. He had made the right decision, the first of what he hoped would be many more. He followed his brother into the kitchen.

After the door had closed behind them the rocking chair in the corner of the porch started rocking, seemingly by itself. Undetectable by any eyes currently watching a being sat in the bentwood chair and contemplated what had been done and what was yet to possibly be. Changes were already underway and consternation among the players was great. This was an unforeseen game changer. This was like playing a game of chess and then having your pieces suddenly start wondering around the board of their own volition. He had always been a big fan of free will, even if he himself was unable to benefit from it. He nodded to himself. He thought this particular set of pieces were going to be off the board for the most part, though he sensed that they would be making an appearance in one form or another through-out the game, whatever future form it took. He was satisfied for now. Maybe it wasn't so bad getting involved in the family feud. This way it was at least amusing.

The rocker slowly stopped moving and all that was left was the sound of the voices in the kitchen as a family reconnected and an apocalypse was ever so slightly rerouted.

The End