A/N: Hello all! Story is set in season 1. Please review!

"This is John, leave a message." The recorded voice on the other end of the phone answered. Dean huffed and flipped the phone shut.

"Still no answer?" Carmen asked.

"Nothing," he shook his head. "Where the hell could he be?"

"Dean," she glanced up at him. "We can't find him alone."

Dean hesitated, but after a moment he said, "looks like we're going to Stanford."

Dean pulled the Impala into the college parking lot and sighed. "He's not going to be happy to see us."

Carmen shrugged. "He'll be happy to see me," the side of her mouth curled up into her signature half smile.

"You know he has a girlfriend now."

Her smile vanished and she stared at him. "I know."

"Alright, I just don't want you to be caught off guard. I know you two used to…"

"Dean, it's fine," she said shortly.

He studied her face, and then nodded.

"You go first, I'll be up in a minute," she said.

"Come on, Sam, aren't you happy to see me?" Carmen heard Dean say jestingly. She walked into the dorm room to see the silhouettes of the two boys facing each other. Even though she couldn't see his face, she knew that Sam was scowling. They had obviously not had the warmest family reunion. She inconspicuously leaned against the dormitory wall and crossed her arms over her chest, observing the two brothers.

Dean glanced over at her, and Sam followed his gaze.

"Carmen?" He gasped in surprise.

"Hey, Sam." The side of her mouth curled up into her alluring half smile. She shrugged away from the wall and took her place next to Dean, who draped an arm around her shoulder. Sam stared.

"Yeah, grew up nice, didn't she?" Dean joked.

They both ignored him. "It's been a while," Sam stated. His eyes raked over her; her face had lost all traces of the round childlike qualities it had had when he'd last seen her. He couldn't help but notice that her body had matured just as much as her features. His eyes briefly rested on the long, familiar scar that resided just below her right eye.

"How's college life?" She asked.

"It's-" Sam began, but was interrupted by a stunning blond woman wearing nothing but a cut off t-shirt and panties walking into the room. She turned on the light.

"Sam?" She asked in confusion. "What's going on?" Her eyes found Dean and then traveled to Carmen, taking in his leather jacket with the flipped up collar and her all black attire. "Is everything okay?"

It was obvious by her puffy eyes that she had just awoken, however Carmen couldn't believe that she'd rolled out of bed looking the way she did. Thick, dark lashes framed her sparkling blue eyes and her perfectly shaped lips seemed to be painted red. The way her hair fell unkempt down her shoulders looked more like she was returning from a photo shoot rather than rolling unexpectedly out of bed.

Carmen's eyes went wide, but it was nothing compared to Dean's reaction: his jaw actually dropped.

"Jess, I'm sorry, we didn't mean to wake you. Everything's fine. This is my brother Dean, and my…friend…Carmen. They just came to…uh, visit."

Dean hadn't taken his eyes off of Jess once yet. He stepped forward and shook her perfectly manicured hand. "Jess, hi, I'm Dean. Very nice to meet you." He flashed her a charming grin. "Tell me, how did someone as stunning as yourself end up with my geek brother?"

Jess giggled. Carmen hated it when girls giggled. "I don't know, he must have cast a spell on me or something."

"Or something," Dean said under his breath. Carmen smirked.

"Ehem!" Sam cleared his throat loudly to cover up Dean's sly comment. "Dean, why don't you and Carmen just wait for me outside?"

"Wait, Sam. You're not going to introduce me to your…friend?" Jess asked innocently. Sam looked uncomfortably at Carmen.

"Hi Jess. It's nice to meet you," Carmen stepped forward with her hand extended. "Sam's told me all about you."

Jess shook her hand. "Oh, really? That's funny, he's never mentioned you," she replied with obvious venom in her voice. Her eyes narrowed.

Carmen sighed. So much for a friendly relationship. She wasn't surprised; girls tended not to like her anyway. Although she knew she could tear this girl apart with her eyes closed, she stepped back without another word. Cattiness was never her style. She was brought up with three guys; that slinky, 'mean girls' attitude just wasn't in her nature.

By accident, she caught Sam's eye; he was looking at her apologetically. She looked away.

"Listen, Jess, so sorry to steal your boyfriend away, but we need to speak to him privately," Dean said smoothly.

She looked at Sam, and then scowled at Carmen, her arms folded across her chest.

"I'll be right in," Sam assured her as he nodded to the bedroom. She turned on her heel and went in obediently, closing the door behind her.

Sam turned to Dean, annoyed. "You couldn't have called or something first?"

"What fun would that have been?" Dean smirked. "Look, Sam, we came because we need your help. Dad's on a hunting trip, and he hasn't been home in a few days."

Sam's expression went from vexed to concerned to impassive so quickly that Carmen wasn't sure she had actually seen each one of them pass his face.

"So, he's always on a hunting trip. Why is this time different?"

"We can't get ahold of him." Carmen said. "We've been checking in with each other every week or so for months and-"

"Checking in?" Sam asked, perplexed.

"Yeah, checking in. Carmen and I have been hunting on our own."

"Dean, shhh!" Sam scolded. He glanced back to the bedroom door. "Can we take this outside please?"

They took the long staircase and headed for the Impala parked outside. "So, Carmen and I have been on our own for a while now, and we check in with dad once a week, but he hasn't been answering his phone!"

"How long?" Sam questioned.

"Three weeks," Carmen replied.

Sam raised his eyebrows. "That's not like Dad."

"Yeah, no shit Sherlock," said Dean. "We can't find him by ourselves, Sammy."

"Yes you can," Sam countered.

Carmen looked at him, hard. Something about him seemed different to her. "We don't want to," she said with a little bit of attitude.

Sam and Carmen locked eyes for a moment, but Sam broke the gaze. He sighed deeply. "What do you want me to do, exactly?"

"Well, we think we have a clue as to where Dad might be," Dean started as he opened the Impala's passenger side door, "so we figured we'd start looking for him there."

"You want me to come with you? To just ditch my whole life; everything I've built here and go?"

"You've done it before," Dean said venomously, referring to the way Sam had left them to go to college.

"We just want you for the weekend," Carmen said quickly, hoping to avoid conflict. She stepped in between the two brothers, who were staring each other down. Sam finally glanced at Carmen. He sighed again.

"Let me go pack some things," he said. "I'll be down in a bit. Only for the weekend."

He turned and took the giant staircase back up to his dorm.

"So," Dean said to Carmen as they waited for Sam, "Jess seems nice."

Carmen rolled her eyes. "Yes, Dean, I could see that you were very inclined to her. What color were he eyes again?"

"Uh, they were, uh, ya know…" His faced cracked into a smile and they both laughed.


"Well, she really seemed to love you!" He said sarcastically.

Carmen let out a small chuckle. "Yeah, she was being real warm. I don't get girls, Dean. They're just so bitchy."

"Oh, and you never get like that, right?"

"Shut up," she smirked and looked out in to the deserted parking lot. "I just don't get why she was being so…so territorial."

Dean shrugged. "Maybe she could feel all that sexual tension going on between you and her boyfriend."

"Dean," Carmen shook her head, "it's not like that."

"Come on," Dean prompted. "The looks you guys were trying to stifle in there? I think the entire building was feeling the tension."

"Oh, you saw those, huh? I'm surprised you saw anything besides the Smurfs on Jess's T-shirt."

They both cracked up laughing as Sam brought his bag down from the dorm.

"What's so funny?" Sam asked with a bitter expression. He obviously wasn't thrilled about his impromptu weekend vacation.

Dean and Carmen just laughed again, and they piled into the Impala and drove off.

A few hours later, the sun was beginning to rise in front of the trio. Dean was at the wheel, with Sam sleeping in the passenger's seat and Carmen gazing out the back window. She was lost in thought. It had been so nice seeing Sam again; she had almost forgotten how much she had been missing him until she looked into his perfect green eyes. Carmen wasn't the type to wear her heart on her sleeve, but Sam always knew exactly what she was feeling. From the time John brought her back to their motel, she and Sam had had a special relationship, but she couldn't forget how much it hurt when he decided to leave them all for college.

"Hey, you guys want to stop for breakfast or something?" Dean asked. Carmen didn't hear him. He glanced over at Sam, and back at Carmen. "Food? Anyone?" Sam slept on, and Carmen didn't move.

Then Dean interrupted her musings by suddenly blasting the radio to full capacity. Sam jolted awake and looked around wildly, and Carmen jumped.

"Dean!" He exclaimed.

"Good morning sunshine, how was your beauty rest?" Dean laughed.

"It obviously worked since he woke up prettier than you," Carmen mumbled. Sam chuckled.

"I'm starving," Dean announced, "let's stop for grub."

They pulled into a shabby diner off the highway and trudged through the pouring rain to the two-way door. A frumpy waitress seated them, then took their orders. Dean ordered the 'hungry hiker' – two pancakes, bacon, sausage, and two eggs – and Carmen went for classic scrambled eggs with cheese.

"I'll have a glass of orange juice and three egg whites please," Sam smiled as the frumpy waitress took their menus. He glanced at Carmen and saw that her eyes were glassed over: she was lost in a memory.

"You didn't have to do this," Sam said, grinning, as Carmen set down a plate on the shabby motel table. She simply shrugged and looked at him fondly. He was shirtless, and she could see traces of muscle beginning to blossom on his young body. Sam ate the egg whites that she had prepared for him as she picked at a bagel. She was wearing nothing but his white button down shirt, which covered her like a dress to her mid-thigh. She was no more than sixteen.

"Carmen, last night was amazing," he said with a look she'd never forget. Her mouth curled up into that perfect half smile, and she left her perch on the kitchen counter and eased herself into Sam's lap instead. He forgot about the egg whites, and they made love for the third time.

"Still in your own world, huh?" Sam's deep voice broke into her stupor. Her eyes focused on his.

"What?" She said, dazed. He chuckled and shook his head at her.

"You used to do this thing, where you would stare into space and no one could get your attention. I see it's still happening. Dean just got up to go to the bathroom with a crude comment and you didn't even blink."

She studied his face. She didn't realize anyone had ever caught her in her musings. Sometimes, her mind just wandered, and she wandered with it. She looked down with a sheepish half smile.

"I always used to wonder what you were thinking about," he half-whispered. "I guess that hasn't changed either." She met his gaze hesitantly. Most of the time when she mentally checked out, she was thinking about him. She wanted to tell him, but she held her tongue. "You know, when Dean showed up last night, I wasn't even surprised to see him. He's the same smartass Dean," Sam grinned in spite of himself. "But when you walked through that door…" He trailed off. She watched him half with expectancy, half with fear. But he said no more. Maybe he knew that confessing his excitement at seeing her was wrong, just like she did. She thought of Jess, and apparently he did too, because he said, "you know, Jess asked me if you and Dean were together?" He chuckled. "How ridiculous would that be?"

Carmen's face went hot instantly, and she prayed that she wasn't blushing like mad. "Yeah," she chuckled, trying to cover up her sudden discomfort. "That would be…crazy."

"Hey, I'm sorry about the way she treated you," he said. "She's not usually like that."

Carmen shook her head. "I'm sure," she said. She meant it to come out with sincerity, but it sounded sarcastic instead.

"I'm serious! She probably just saw you and felt threatened and-"

"Threatened?" Carmen interrupted him. "Why would she feel threatened? She looks like a freakin' Victoria's Secret model."

Sam laughed, but Carmen was completely serious. "Maybe," he admitted, "but, I mean, look at you." This time, she knew she was blushing. "You look like you could kick the crap out of her."

Carmen shook her head, but she knew Sam was right. While she had a very girlish figure in some ways, she had a lot more muscle tone than the average female. Her shoulders were broad from carrying shotguns all her life, and her muscular legs and abs made it obvious that she was tough.

"Hmm, maybe that's why I was never able to make any girl-friends," she thought aloud.

"Right, it had nothing to do with the fact that you traded lip gloss and short skirts for rock-salt and combat boots at the age of 7." Sam smirked. Carmen's mouth lifted into her signature half smile. "I missed you, Carmen." Her smile vanished. She didn't want to open up this particular can of worms.

Just then, Dean returned from the bathroom. "Damn, food's not out yet?"

"Dude, you were in there for, like, a minute." Sam answered, annoyed at his return. Dean's disappointment about the food vanished when he saw the waitress arrive with three plates.

"So, what have you guys been hunting, alone, anyway?" Sam asked, sipping his orange juice.

"Nothing too big, a few malevolent spirits here and there…we hunted a pretty nasty poltergeist right before we decided to come get you," Dean explained.

"And Dad just let you go? He didn't fight with you about it or anything?"

Dean shrugged. "You know just as well as we do that we've been trained long enough."

"Yeah, but it just doesn't seem like Dad to want to split up," Sam mused.

"Actually, he was the one who suggested it," Carmen said. "A lot has changed since you've been away, Sam."

"Yeah, and not just on our side, apparently. Got yourself quite a girlfriend there, didn't ya?" Dean winked at Sam over his forkful of pancake.

Sam chanced a glance at Carmen, who was now staring into her plate. He thought he saw a faint blush in her cheeks.

"She's really somethin', Sammy. How long you guys been together?"

"I'll be right back," Carmen said as she hastily got up from the table. She really didn't want to hear anything more about Sam's girlfriend. She slipped out the front door and leaned against the side of the deserted diner. She barely had time to light a cigarette when Sam came out and spotted her.

"You're smoking now?" He asked, disappointment in his voice. She flashed him a look that said obviously, don't you see the lit cigarette in my hand? She flicked the ashes and took a long drag, purposefully not meeting his gaze. "When did this start?"

"I don't know, few months after you left? Why do you care, anyway?"

"I don't," he said defensively.

"Fine, then go back inside and let me smoke in peace, please." She turned away from him.

"Look, I'm sorry. I know that hearing about Jess is the last thing you want to do, but-"

"Sam, you left two freaking years ago. I've had plenty of time to accept it and move on. I don't care about you and your girlfriend, it's none of my business." She didn't see how her words cut Sam because her back was to him, but she could feel it in the following silence.

Dean emerged from the diner doors and before he could say anything, Sam started on him.

"She's smoking?" He said, outraged. "You let her smoke?"

"He doesn't have to let me do anything, Sasquatch. What's your problem; just let it go."

"I fought with her hand and foot, but she's not quitting," Dean said, completely ignoring her. They made their way to the Impala.

"Yeah, we'll see," Sam said under his breath.

"Excuse me?" Carmen challenged. She grabbed his hand and whirled him around to face her. "I just told you that you and your girlfriend are none of my business, because, if you recall, you left! That means you're no longer allowed to have an opinion on what I will or will not do. Butt. Out."

"I'm not going to just let you keep doing something that'll one day kill you!"

"Oh, please, Sam, the job's going to kill me a lot sooner than a cigarette."

"Hey, can you two stop it, please?" Dean yelled over their row. "We haven't been back together a day and already we're all butting heads. Just cool down, alright?"

Carmen sighed. "He's right," she said. "Let's just get on the road."

Sam nodded, but when Dean turned his back, he plucked the cigarette from between Carmen's lips and stomped on it.

"So, where we headed to anyway?" Sam asked as they got back on the road. After Carmen practically gave Sam a black eye, Dean was able to cool them down enough to at least get back in the same car together.

"Floyd, Indiana." Dean responded. "It's where Dad was headed the last time we checked with him. Carmen and I hunted a spirit there a few years back, so we know the area."

"It was our first hunt without John," Carmen reflected. Dean nodded.

"What was Dad heading to Indiana for? A hunt?"

"Well, that's the interesting part. He never told us. We didn't think anything of at the time, but-"

"Now you think it has something to do with The Demon." Sam finished.

"I think it might," Dean said.

"I don't." Carmen interjected. Sam turned in his seat to look at her. "This thing has been dormant for over 20 years. Why would it suddenly come out of hiding now?"

"We don't know that it was dormant, and we don't know it was in hiding," Dean corrected.

"Then where has it been?" Carmen retaliated. "Why hasn't it been attacking people all these years? No, I don't think that thing will ever be found. It's something else that tripped up John."

"Well…we'll see in a few hours."

It was twilight when they arrived at the first motel they could find in Floyd. They checked in, but got right back on the road, looking for clues as to where John might be. Dean rolled towards the lake in town. A man they helped on their hunt a few months back worked there, and they thought that he might have information to John's whereabouts. Dean pulled into the parking lot, and they piled out.

"Can I help you kids?" A gruff man with a thick straggly beard yelled to them as his eyes raked skeptically over the Impala. They walked toward him.

"Yeah, hi, we're looking for a man named Weber?" Dean said back. "Alexander Weber, you know him?"

"What do you want with him," the gruff man questioned.

"We just want to speak to him, sir." Sam explained.

"Well, sorry to be bear'r bad news," the man said, "but Alex Weber passed away 'bout a month ago."

"Oh, we're sorry," Sam said sympathetically.

"How did it happen?" Carmen asked with zero sympathy. Sam shot her a glare.

"Someone attacked him. It was pretty gruesome. He was walkin' home from a night workin' late on the lake, an' someone slit his throat." Dean caught Carmen's eye. That sounded more like a demonic MO than a human one.

"That's horrible," Sam said.

"Yeah, he was a decent man. Got a lot o' people lookin' for him after he passed. Few weeks back, had another guy come through here askin' 'bout Alex, too."

The trio exchanged looks.

"This guy," Dean asked, "he a little taller than me? Black hair, scruffy beard…"

"Yeah, that's him. You know him?"

"Did he have a name?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, John somethin' I think."

"So Dad was here!" Dean said as soon as they were back in the safety of the Impala.

"Yeah, three weeks ago. He could be anywhere in the country by now!" Sam shook his head in disappointment.

"So we'll catch the trail. That guy said he saw Dad's truck in the parking lot of the same motel we're staying at now. We just have to ask around." Sam looked skeptically over at his brother. "What? Don't you wanna find Dad?"

"Of course, Dean, but-"

"But what?"

"Look, there's no way we're going to find him by tomorrow night, and I need to get back to Stanford."

"So you're just going to ditch Dad for school, is that it?"

"Dean, my entire future is riding on this interview!"

They pulled into the motel parking lot. Sam wrenched his door open and heatedly stepped out. He turned and walked away from the motel.

"Where the hell are you going?" Dean shouted as he and Carmen got out of the car.

"For a walk," Sam answered, his back still turned. Dean turned to Carmen.

"I'll go, you ask around for news on John." Dean nodded, and she went to catch up with Sam.

His long legs carried him swiftly down the road, but Carmen caught up quickly. She said nothing, but fell into stride beside him. He sighed, and also said nothing, but grabbed her hand and laced his fingers through hers. An electric shock traveled through her, originating from the place where he touched her skin. It made her heart beat faster, and she prayed that Sam didn't notice. She wondered why he was doing this. She went to pull her hand away, but something made her hesitate. Her mind went to Jess once more.

"You know why I have to go," he stated, but it sounded like a question to Carmen. "This isn't the life that I wanted…I never wanted to leave you and Dean, but…"

"I understand," she replied. "It sucks, but I understand. And so does Dean. He's just worried about John…and you."

"Me? Why?"

"Come on, Sam. He truly believes that the reason John isn't calling is because of The Demon. And he's betting it's not just after John…you're a lot harder to protect when you're miles away from us."

"Us?" Sam asked. He looked over at her.

She nodded. "I've been worried too." She looked up at him; he was over a foot taller than her, even with her black combat boots on.

"You're worried about me?" He scoffed. "That's a new one."

"What, I'm not allowed to think about you?"

"No, you are, it's just…I've been worrying about you for ten years. It's weird that it's the other way around now." Her face went hot.

"Why would you worry about me, Sam," she rolled her eyes.

He stopped walking and turned to her. "You know why," he said softly, but with a fire in his eyes. His sudden intensity caught her off guard. She stared up into his eyes, mesmerized. She waited with bated breath.

"Because this job is dangerous…and you know that I couldn't handle it if anything ever happened to you."

She swallowed hard. She studied his face and felt as if his deep-set green eyes were ex-raying her. She'd forgotten how those eyes could practically stop her heart.

"Look, I'm sorry I gave you a hard time before." He said, resuming their walk. "I guess I was just…"

"I'm sorry, too." He held her hand a bit tighter, and they trudged on in comfortable silence until Carmen's phone buzzed.

"Yeah," she said into the receiver. She listened for a beat, and then her eyes snapped up to Sam's. "Be right there."

"The front desk guy said Dad rented the room for the whole month," Dean explained when Sam and Carmen reached him. He was holding a room key and leading them around the motel. "I swiped the master key from the desk; we gotta see what's in there."

Carmen looked over her shoulder as Dean unlocked the door and they step inside. The smell of something rotten hit her immediately. Dingy curtains were drawn over the windows, allowing an opaque light to filter through them. The walls were covered with papers ripped from books, napkins with doodles and motel paper with various numbers scrolled in a feverish manner. The trio scanned the room; Sam examined a half eaten burger while Dean and Carmen studied the artificial wallpaper.

"He didn't want to leave," Carmen said quietly. "He was rushed out. He never would have left all this."

Dean stooped to pick something up from the ground. When Carmen saw what it was, her eyes went wide. "Oh, my God," she whispered. Sam came up behind her and looked over her shoulder at what Dean had in his hands.

"Dad's journal." He exchanged a look with Dean, who began flipping through the pages.

"There's a page marked," Dean said. He opened to the flagged page and revealed a five-digit code. "Coordinates?"

"Looks like it." Carmen answered.

"Well let's go! We have to catch the trail while it's still hot."

"You call this hot?" Sam mumbled.

"Excuse me?" Dean narrowed his eyes at Sam. "Got something to say smartass?"

"Dean," Carmen cautioned.

"Dean, I can't just go, and you know that! I have to get back-"

"Back to Stanford, yeah, I know! So, you know what? We'll drop you off, you can go back to your cookie cutter life and your pretty blond girlfriend, and Carmen and I will get back to rescuing Dad!"



Sam stalked past Dean and left the motel room, slamming the door behind him. Carmen sighed.

"Dean, yelling at him isn't going to do any good."

"How can you be so calm about this? He walked out on you, too!"

"Yes, and I missed him, but he's right; he has the right to choose his life. We can't choose for him."

Dean sighed. "Alright, well, I guess we've got a stop to make before we can see about those coordinates. Better get on the road."

"Dean, relax. Let's stay the night. We already paid for the room."

"Yeah, okay," he sighed. He made to leave the motel room, but Carmen stopped him.

"We've got one more thing to do before we leave," Carmen said. Her eyes looked around at the papers plastered on the walls, and Dean caught on. They ransacked the walls, stuffing the papers into Carmen's duffel bag. They cleaned John's prints from everything he could have touched, threw away the old food and cleared out the few clothing items John had left behind. If anyone checked the place, they would never know that a hunter had stayed there.

When they got back to their motel room, Sam was in the shower.

"Try not to fight," Carmen warned as they heard the water shut off. Dean scowled at her.

"We decided to stay the nig-" she stopped mid sentence as she turned and saw Sam come out of the bathroom with nothing but a towel around his waist. Her mouth dropped open for a moment as she gawked at Sam's perfectly chiseled stomach and his bulging chest. Her heart skipped a beat, but she recovered herself almost immediately.

"Ehem, the night, since we already paid for the room," she finished, her voice a bit more breathy than when she started. She felt her face grow hot.

"Sounds good," Sam said as he reached over her to grab his duffel bag. She swallowed hard, and prayed Sam couldn't hear her heart pounding beneath her chest. He retreated to the bathroom once more, and Carmen looked up to see Dean smirking like a complete jerk.

She punched him in the arm, quickly changed into sleepwear, and got into bed.

Sam awoke with a start that night from a very vivid nightmare. He was breathing hard, and sweat drenched the sheets around him. It took him a moment after he awoke to remember where he was, and why he was not swimming in a sea of blond locks like he normally was.

As he got his bearings, his breathing evened out and his heart rate slowed. He swallowed hard, and tilted his head to look at the clock: 4:35am. He caught a glimpse of Dean, mouth ajar, sleeping peacefully in the bed next to him. Between his and Dean's beds was Carmen's cot. He looked down at her, and was surprised to see her eyes wide open. The faint light coming from the moon outside the window threw a shadow on the scar below her eye.

"You okay?" She whispered, staring up at the ceiling.

Sam took a deep, steadying breath. He wished she hadn't heard him in the midst of his nightmare. "Yeah," he muttered, "just a bad dream. What are you doing awake? It's almost 5am."

Carmen didn't answer, just continued staring at the ceiling. Sam exhaled a tiny laugh. "Oh, that's right, I almost forgot. You don't sleep."

She clenched her jaw, and her face flooded with anger. Thankfully, Sam couldn't see through the darkness. She had to remind herself that he didn't know the reason she could never willingly let herself sleep, and that if he did, he would never joke about it.

When she was calm enough again, she said, "go back to sleep, Sam."

"I don't think I can," he muttered. Carmen finally tore her eye from the ceiling to look at him. "I haven't slept in weeks, Carmen."

"Why not?" She asked in a whisper.

"Nightmares. Every single night, the same nightmares." He sighed. "I can't get them to stop."

"When did they start?" She whispered.

"The night I left," he said without hesitation. "The last night we…" He trialed off, lost in the memory of their last night together. He looked over at her with sad eyes, and she held his gaze.

And then he moved, and it was like they had both been expecting it all along. He scooted to the end of his bed and eased himself down into the cot next to her. She laid her head on his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her. He had almost forgotten how perfectly her tiny form fit beside him.

Carmen's mind screamed at her, warned her against the intimacy. But every fiber of her body wanted nothing more than to stay next to him, wedged in this tiny cot, forever.

When Carmen awoke the next morning (after grudgingly telling herself she needed to get at least an hours worth of sleep) she was alone. At first she felt a pang of regret that Sam hadn't lingered in bed, but then Dean snored loudly and she remembered his presence. She heard the shower running; Sam must have gotten up early.

She climbed quickly out of bed, dressed, and hopped playfully on Dean's bed. He groaned in protest.

"Rise and shine, sleeping beauty," she teased.

"Son of a bitch," he muttered, pulling the covers up over his head. Carmen ripped them away, and planted a kiss right on his cheek.

"Get up," she whispered with authority in his ear.

It took awhile, but they were on the road by that afternoon, and reached Stanford by nightfall.

Sam and Carmen got out of the Impala, but Dean didn't move from the drivers seat.

"So…if Dean starts to bug you too much, feel free to call," Sam said as he lifted his bag from the trunk. Carmen looked up at him through her lashes, and allowed him to catch that half smile that he loved.

"Don't say that; I'd be calling you every five minutes," she joked. Sam chuckled. "I'll keep you posted on John, though."

He nodded. "I should get back…Jess is excepting me."

"Yeah. Bye, Sam." And then he was gone.

Carmen sat on the trunk of the Impala, staring at the door he had disappeared through. She hugged her knees to her chest, and wished he didn't have to go.

She heard the engine of the Impala cut, and observed, from the corner of her eye, Dean coming to lean on the trunk with her. She didn't take her eyes off the last place she saw Sam. Dean put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but she pushed it off.

"Come on, Carmen, don't torture yourself. Like you said; we can't choose his life for him." She said nothing, but maneuvered off of the Impala and made her way to the passenger's seat. Dean followed, but as they opened their doors to leave, everything changed.

Suddenly, the streetlights began to flicker. Carmen took a deep, cold breath, and her exhale was visible in the night air. The warm May evening became wickedly cold in an instant, and the light from the stars and moon above them disappeared. Carmen looked at Dean with terror in her eyes, and then they heard a woman's blood-curdling scream emit from the college building.

They sprang into action, slamming the Impala doors shut simultaneously. Dean opened the trunk to grab a rock-salt loaded shotgun, but Carmen wasted no time. She kicked open the door to the dorm building and sprinted up the winding stairs to Sam's room.

Flames licked at the ceiling and walls, but Carmen busted through the half opened door anyway. The heat was almost unbearable, but she forgot about it when she looked around the charring room and encountered the disturbing sight.

"Jess!" Sam screamed in desperation. She was pinned to the ceiling in a gruesome tableau, burning with the rest of the room. "Jess, NO!"

Dean burst through the door behind Carmen, and attempted to drag Sam out of the room.

"Come on, Sam let's go! NOW!" Sam fought him, but Dean forced him out.

Carmen climbed on the bed, barely finding a flameless place to put her feet. She reached as far as she could to grab Jess's hand, hoping that by some miracle she could rescue her, but at that moment an eruption of flames engulfed her body. Carmen threw her arms up in protection, and there was nothing she could do but retreat from the room.

When she got out of the building, the city had already responded. Frantic firemen rushed past her, hoses in hand, but she knew it was no use now. Jess would be nothing but ash. As the cool air hit her skin, Carmen realized that her arms had been badly burned where she had protected her face from the malevolent flames. She looked down at her forearms; they were an angry red, with blood oozing from spots where the skin was completely gone. Before she knew it, Dean had grabbed her and led her to where the Impala was hidden from the sirens and commotion.

Dean was speaking to her, but she didn't hear him; all of her attention was focused on Sam. He was sitting on the curb, partially hidden from her view by the Impala. The expression on his face hurt Carmen more than the peroxide Dean was pouring into her wounds.

"I'm sorry," she whispered so low that Dean, who was standing right in front of her with her arms in his hands, couldn't hear. She knew Sam couldn't hear either, but at that moment, he looked up at her, and the sadness in his look was more than she could bear.