This story takes place during the years that Sam went to Stanford. I always felt that Sam and John needed to talk but they were both afraid that the other wouldn't forgive them. This is one way they could have talked and resolved their differences without exposing themselves. The Epilogue takes place after Swan Song.

The usual disclaimers-I don't own Supernatural or any of it's characters…I just take them out of the toy box every so often.

The Chatroom

November 2000-

John was looking at the computer on Jim's desk with worry and trepidation. He had finally gone to Jim when his sorrow and guilt about Sam had gotten too much for him. When Jim suggested he talk to his youngest son, John looked down at the floor and mumbled how he didn't think Sam would even answer his phone if he knew who was calling. Jim saw that John was hurting over what happened between him and his youngest so he offered to call Sam himself and hand the phone over to John but the other hunter just hung his head and shook it. He was afraid that Sam would just hang up on him and he really felt as though he would have deserved it after throwing his baby out just for wanting to go to college.

John wanted to tell Sam how proud he was of his son for getting into Stanford, for keeping his grades up despite the frequent moves, and for getting a full-ride scholarship. But his mouth decided to speak the words of a marine sergeant, not of a proud father. Behind those words spoken was worry for his baby's safety, especially after John discovered that the demon that had killed his wife had plans for Sam. But it didn't come out right and the argument that followed was volatile and ended only when Sam slammed the door on his way to Stanford.

John spent two weeks at Jim's before discovering a website that was dedicated to people who needed to talk. This website, because many of the clients were underaged, was strictly policed. There were restrictions on setting up face to face meetings, no. There were restrictions on propositioning someone, no. There were restrictions on any kind of porn talk, hell no! After reading the conditions and agreeing to them, John logged in under the name Marine. He looked around the "room" and found an avatar of a young man in need of a partner so he decided to introduce himself.

MARINE: Hi, how're you doing?

NGE82: Okay, I guess…maybe…I don't know.

MARINE: Why, what's wrong?

NGE82: Had a big fight with someone and it still hurts, mostly since I could have handled it better.

MARINE: I feel the same way. Had a huge fight myself a few months ago and we haven't spoken since.

NGE82: Us either. I just wish…

MARINE: Yeah, me too. So, what do you do?

NGE82: LOL, that's a line one of my family members uses all the time! Um, I go to school.

MARINE: How do you like it?

NGE82: Love it but it can be lonely without my family.

MARINE: I remember when I went into the military. The first few months were killer since I was all alone. Then I started to make friends and it wasn't so lonely after that. Maybe after you make friends?

NGE82: Maybe…I don't make friends that easily, though.

MARINE: Why not?

NGE82: We moved a lot when I was a kid, I stopped getting close to people after a few schools.

MARINE: I'm sorry. I know lots of moves can be hard on a kid…

NGE82: Yeah, I guess.

MARINE: What does your dad do?

NGE82: Um, he's in pest control. Usually the kind of pest that can't be gotten rid of by normal means.

MARINE: Sounds like he helps a lot of people who have problems.

NGE82: I guess. Don't get me wrong, I think what he's doing is great, I really do but it seems like he always put his job before us. I never really got to know the real him…

MARINE: What does your mom say?

NGE82: She's not with us…hasn't been since I was a baby.

MARINE: I'm sorry. My wife died a long time ago. It was hard on my kids and every time they would ask a question about their mom, I felt as if my heart would shatter.

NGE82: Must be a dad thing. My dad used to growl, yell or just ignore my questions. It got so I didn't even know her. I still don't…wish I did. Uh, I have to get back to studying. Maybe we'll meet again.

MARINE: How about in a week? If I'm busy, I'll leave you a message.

NGE82: Okay, same here. Bye.



December 23rd, 2000-

John was worried about his cyber friend. The last time they talked, NGE82 seemed very depressed. Apparently, he wasn't able to be with his family during Christmas. John knew the pain the young person felt since he had the same piercing pain in his heart every time he thought of Sammy at Stanford, all alone during the Holidays. With Bobby's help, he set it up that Dean would go on a salt and burn near Palo Alto. John knew that Dean wouldn't be able to not stop and see his brother, hopefully. Dean had been very angry at Sam leaving for college but Jim had talked to the young man about letting his brother go on his own. In anticipation of the visit, John had put a package in the trunk of the Impala for Sam. He had Jim sign it since he didn't want to take the chance that Sam would just arbitrarily throw it out. Now, he wanted to bring a little light to his friend. Logging into the website, he looked at the message board, hoping that NGE82 would have left a message saying that he/she was going to be gone, having went back to their family for the holidays but John's heart sank as he realized that there was no such message.

Finally, he saw the now familiar avatar and moved his closer.

MARINE: Hey kid, thought you went to a friend's place for the holidays.

NGE82: No, like I said, I don't make friends easily.

MARINE: Did you get in touch with your family?

NGE82: Couple of my uncles sent packages and a cousin came to see me. Was okay I guess but he couldn't stay.

MARINE: Anyone else?

NGE82: No. Why should they? They hate me. That was made clear during our last argument.

MARINE: Why would they hate you?

NGE82: I wanted something different than what they wanted. I guess I'm lucky only being tossed out, in some countries I could have been jailed or worse because of that.

MARINE: If you are going to college, you probably are eighteen years old or more which means you are an adult and can make up your own mind. Sorry it had come with such a high price tag.

NGE82: Sometimes, I wonder if it's all worth it. It's not fair that I have to choose between what I want for my future and my family. Other people don't have to choose that but I do and it's not fair.

MARINE: I hate to say it but life's not fair. I know that isn't what you want to hear but that's what it is. Maybe they'll come around.

NGE82: You don't know my family. Once they get something stuck in their heads, they won't change their opinion. They are probably at a bar or one of my uncles' having a good time because I'm not there. They never even liked celebrating the holidays because they say it's a waste time and not important. People needed their help more than it being worth having a day with me. So I kinda doubt that they will come around.

MARINE: I'm so sorry. When my wife died, I just couldn't handle celebrating or even the thought of the holidays. It hurt too much because I would want her there to see my kids opening their presents, hearing their laughter. I couldn't even get my kids a present, it hurt so much. Even so many years after it happened, I still listen for her voice, still try to catch a whiff of her perfume. I know that it was unfair to my kids and if I had it to do all over again, I would give them the best Christmas I possibly could.

NGE82: I wish your wife was still alive to know how much you love her. My dad would be gone on Christmas or so totally immersed in whatever he was doing that he would ignore us. Not even a Merry Christmas or an I love you. There were some Christmases where dad was gone that all we had to eat was Macaroni and Cheese. Once, we didn't have anything since the rent had been due and the apartment manager wouldn't wait an extra day for dad to come home.

MARINE: God, kid. I can't even imagine what you went through. It's a miracle you want anything to do with your dad anymore.

NGE82: What can I say? I still love him no matter what. Can I tell you something and you won't get mad?

MARINE: Sure kid. I promise not to get mad.

NGE82: Well…it's like…there was one time when I was growing up…well, more than one time really…that I had to do something to keep the bills paid when my family was on an extermination job. Um…I had to make money somehow and…I…uh…found a way to…uh…make a lot of money in a real short period of time.

John was astounded when he read what the kid had implied. The job the kid was talking about could have been one of three things. The first that came to mind was selling drugs but he thought that was the least plausible of the possibilities. For one thing, you had to know people who would trust you on both the selling and the purchasing ends. The kid already said he didn't make friends easily. The second was theft but again John didn't think it too plausible. NGE82, from all their correspondence, was someone who didn't want to hurt people in any way, shape or form if at all possible. So that just left option three and it wasn't pretty. NGE82, at some points in his life, had to sell himself for money to pay the bills and put food on the table. All for the love of his family when he could have walked away.

MARINE: Have you gotten checked for any STD's?

NGE82: Yeah, I kept going to free clinics and Health Departments to get checked every week when I was doing that. I also kept my six month appointments even if I had to go to another doctor to do it. Even though I made sure they used condoms I also knew that those things could break. My brother had a scare once about a girl because that happened. The worst month of his life! LOL

MARINE: I hope that kept his nose clean for a while. He sounds as if he could give my son a run for his money! I'm glad you kept up with the appointments, kiddo. It sounds as if you got a good head on your shoulder.

NGE82: If you heard my father some days, you wouldn't think so. I'm just a failure to him. It never mattered how good I was in school or that I could score goals at our games or that I could read five different languages at the time with two of those being dead languages. I never figured out why he hated me so much. Why I was so different from the family. I couldn't figure out why he never left me with CPS or a church since I was such a disappointment to him.

John's throat clogged with tears he couldn't shed. This young person was hurting so badly that he wished he could reach through the screen and give him/her a hug and tell them it would be all right but he knew that he couldn't. He couldn't even arrange for a meeting since the website was designed against it. All John could do now was to talk to the distraught younger person.

MARINE: I know what you mean but from your dad's perspective. You see, when my kids were growing up, I was terrified that they would get hurt or killed so I tried to teach them how to defend themselves but I didn't realize that I was becoming less than a dad to them. Now, I'm afraid to see them because I don't know if they hate me. I never told them that I was proud of their schoolwork or that I wanted to give them the world. It just was never part of who I was. My own dad wasn't very demonstrative and that rubbed off on me until I got married. Then when my wife died, I went back to keeping my emotions packed away. Not a very good thing to happen when you're raising children.

NGE82: Have you ever told them that? They might understand you better then.

MARINE: I don't know how.

NGE82: I know what you mean. I don't know how to tell my family that I love them either. Not that it would matter to them.

MARINE: It might not look like it but I bet they would like to know.

NGE82: Maybe. Hey, I know it's early but I'm going to go get something to eat then head to bed. Thanks for talking to me and have a Merry Christmas.

MARINE: You too, kiddo, you too.

Dean had decided to drop in on his little brother for Christmas. He gave Sam the package from their dad and, while Sam was unwrapping it, Dean looked around the room. He was surprised to see books written in Spanish, French and Italian as well as Latin and Ancient Aramaic.

"Dude, whose books are these?" he asked pointing at the strange material.

"Mine," Sam said looking up.

"Since when do you know Aramaic, ancient or otherwise?" Dean questioned.

Sam had to think a minute then he said, "Um, since I was about seven. I remember Rufus reading some book written in the language and I thought it was pretty. He laughed then asked if I wanted to learn it and I said yeah. Because we moved around so much, it took about two years, many letters and phone calls with a couple of face to face meetings before I could read the same book he had out that first night. Rufus said it was scary how quickly I picked the language up."

Dean grinned then said, "Yeah, you even scared Jim a bit about how fast you learned Latin, but when did you learn the others?"

Sam just shrugged his shoulders and mumbled, "Since I started middle school. With the background that I had in Latin, I found that learning the Romance Languages were the easiest. Most libraries had the Berlitz lessons and I was able to check them out. You and Dad were gone a lot so I had to do something."

"If I remember right, I wasn't going on hunts then. I was right there with you," Dean said puzzled.

"Um, you had discovered girls, dude. You were as far from me like Dad was," Sam started to pull out the items in the package. The first item was a hoodie. Sam loved hoodies ever since his brother had given him his old one. In the hoodie was wrapped a silver hunting knife. It was beautifully made and came with a leather sheath that could be hooked onto his belt. Then came the usual hunter care package of salt, Holy Water, iron rounds for his shotgun that was also brought by Dean, the first aid kit and a large stack of money. The next thing Sam found was a book he had been reading when he was younger. He had to leave the town before he finished it. Ever since then, he had been looking for a copy but no other library had it. When he opened the book, he found photographs of his dad, mom, Dean and himself. Sam looked up at Dean who was shocked at the gifts. Picking up the photos, Sam held them out to Dean. "Take them, Dean."

"No, Sammy. Jim sent them to you besides I already got copies. You keep them," then Dean turned his back to hide the tears that started to well up in his eyes. Jim sent Sam a gift that Dean himself should have given him years ago, when Sam had been asking about their mother. He stopped around the age of eight, the same year that he had given Dean his amulet. "Do you want to look through them?"

Sam reverently put them back in the book and shook his head. At one time, he would have been happy, ecstatic even about getting something so precious but now it just seemed like a slap in the face. It was just something to remind him about why they hunted, not a memorial for the woman who had given him birth and died over his crib. He knew that he would be putting the pictures in a safety deposit box that he had put all his treasures when he got to Stanford.

Dean saw the sheen of tears in Sam's eyes and wondered why his brother didn't want to look at the pictures of his family, especially the ones that had his mom in it. Then he realized that Sam hadn't asked about their mom in years, ever since the night that Dean had yelled at him that he didn't need to know her since he had only been six months old at the time that she was killed. Dean had been having a hard time remembering her himself and he didn't want to give away the few precious memories he had of her to his baby brother. Now, he felt guilty about being so selfish. Sam didn't have any memories of their mother and he hadn't wanted to share. Dean wondered if he could share with Sam now but watching his brother put the pictures away, he knew that he had missed his chance and his brother wouldn't like or appreciate his trying to make it up to him now. That bridge had been burned a very long time ago.


January 30, 2001-

John had not been on-line in a couple of weeks since he had been hunting a witch. Posting the message on the board for NGE82 to let the young person know that he wouldn't be available for a while, John went on the hunt feeling good about how he had left the situation. When he finally got back, he looked at the message board but didn't see anything from his friend though he didn't see the familiar avatar in the Chatroom. He grew concerned when the avatar didn't show up for a few days. Then, as he was getting very worried, the avatar had appeared.

MARINE: Hey kiddo, I was getting worried. I thought we were supposed to post on the message board if we weren't going to be available.

NGE82: Sorry about that. I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks.

MARINE: Are you okay? What happened?

NGE82: I got jumped by six guys a couple of weeks ago. I tried to fight them off, even got a few good punches in but they still got the upper hand with me. God, my father would hate me for that. I mean, they were just…

MARINE: Your dad sounds like a hardass if he would think it was your fault you couldn't fight off six men. I wouldn't even be able to do that and I was in the marines. You shouldn't be ashamed of losing to six guys.

NGE82: Um, they didn't just stop with beating me up…I just don't know what dad would think if he found out that they…uh…

MARINE: What happened, kiddo. You know that you can tell me anything and I won't be mad.

NGE82: They…raped me. That's why I was in the hospital.

John froze when he read what his friend had revealed. His heart hurt badly as if NGE82 was his youngest. He wondered where the kid's family was and what happened.

MARINE: Do you want to talk about it?

NGE82: Not really but I need to. Do you really want to hear this?

MARINE: No, I'll be honest with you but you sound like you need a friendly ear. Did you tell your family?

NGE82: No. Dad would have said it was my fault for going to college in the first place and everyone else? I just can't take it thinking how they would look at me then. The failure who let six guys…

MARINE: Stop right there. You did not let them rape you or beat you up. You tried to fight them off. You did well, you survived what could have killed you. I'm proud of you for surviving and if your family thinks that you are at fault, then they don't deserve you.

NGE82: Thanks. I really needed to hear that.

MARINE: You are very welcome.

NGE82: So, anyway…I was coming home from a part-time job. I just started there, it was okay you know, just a coffee shop but it got me out and earning some money for the summer. Anyway, I was working with a girl whose boyfriend was unfaithful but the jealous type and she decided to get him jealous by pretending to date me. Hell, I didn't even know that anything was going on until her boyfriend and five of his buddies surrounded me. I was able to send the asshole into la-la land and I think I broke a couple of noses, one arm and a jaw before…

MARINE: You're doing good kid, before what?

NGE82: One of the assholes brought me down with a Taser, and then it was all over from there. I don't really remember all of it, apparently I got hit in the head a few times and now I have a real nice concussion. Not to mention a whole host of bruises, rips, broken ribs, a busted lip and cuts. I guess someone found me in the alley where I was attacked and called the ambulance. The doctors said that if I hadn't been found then I would have bled to death since one of them tried to gut me after they had their fun.

MARINE: Aren't you out of the hospital too soon?

NGE82: I hate hospitals so I checked myself out AMA.

MARINE: I bet the doctors weren't real happy.

NGE82: Yeah, they didn't want to let me go until I called one of my Uncles to stay with me.

MARINE: I'm glad you have someone there.

NGE82: Me too. My Uncle is actually trained to deal with people like me.

MARINE: Is he helping?

NGE82: Yeah, actually he is. Not the first time unfortunately.

MARINE: This happened before?

NGE82: Yeah, when I was a kid. I got attacked walking home from school and my brother was pissed, so pissed at me for being late that he didn't even ask why I was late. He didn't see the bruises or the cuts, just stood there and yelled at me so I decided that, if I was such a bad person, such a waste of space I was going to leave. It took two weeks but my brother and father found me. I got punished for six months because of that. By the time they found me, the bruises had faded and the cuts had started to heal.

MARINE: Did you ever go to the doctor's? It sounds like you got hurt badly.

NGE82: I found a free clinic in a town I passed through. Got help there but they warned me that I would probably develop a form of PTSD because of the trauma. After I went back to my family, I called my Uncle and told him what happened. He helped me through my nightmares and other problems that I had.

MARINE: You ever tell your family what happened?

NGE82: No, they wouldn't have believed me anyway. By that time, me and dad were fighting all the time. Puberty, what a wonderful time in anyone's life.

MARINE: I've talked to other people about it once when my oldest was going through it. I was told that each child reacts differently to the hormones rushing in their system. Some get real horny, some get angry, and some get quiet. All the adults agreed to one thing, though, when kids go through puberty, it's hell on earth for everyone involved. Your worries go through the roof, worse than when your kid was a baby. What I failed to realize is that my boys were different from each other to the point that when they went through puberty, they reacted differently. My oldest turned into a hound dog and my youngest became Perry Mason.

NGE82: Who?

MARINE: Perry Mason, the T.V. lawyer played by Raymond Burr?

NGE82: Who?

MARINE: Didn't you ever watch television, kid?

NGE82: Yeah but I don't know who Perry Mason is, probably before my time.

MARINE: Now you're just making me feel real old.

NGE82: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to.

MARINE: I'm just joking with you! Don't worry about hurting my feelings, okay? I'm made of Teflon when it comes to that kind of thing.

NGE82: It's kind of an automatic thing, saying I'm sorry. I actually have a sorry jar that I make myself pay a quarter every time I say I'm sorry.

MARINE: Is that why you got the job? To pay all those 'sorry' fines?

NGE82: No, just needed some money for the summer. My grant doesn't cover summer months, ya know.

MARINE: Well, just be careful. I don't want you to get hurt, okay?

NGE82: I'll try. Gotta go, need to study.

MARINE: Ok, kid. Take care of yourself. Bye.

NGE82: You too. Bye.

When Dean got back from visiting Sam, he was fuming. Not only did he find out that his brother had been in the hospital but he wouldn't tell Dean why. Neither would Pastor Jim who was also visiting but from what Dean could find out, Sam actually called the good Pastor from his hospital bed to be there. When John found out his youngest had been in the hospital, he called Jim to find out what happened. All Jim would say was that it had been taken care of and Sam was doing okay. After talking to NGE82, John had a nagging feeling that he should go to Palo Alto and stay with his son. Just stay there to protect the last gift Mary had given to him but in the end, he didn't.


May 30, 2001-

Message on the board for MARINE from NGE82-

I'm going to be unavailable until September since I decided to go on a road trip and work the family business until school starts again. Be careful out there and I'll talk to you later. If you want, you can leave messages for me since I'll be checking every so often. Thanks!

After reading the message, John became a bit concerned for the kid. Ever since Dean came back in January after visiting Sam, John had a very uneasy feeling in his heart. There were too many things that were similar in NGE82's life and his that made him think that he knew the kid he was talking to. Also, his father radar was pinging off the charts and warning him that he needed to see Sam before anything could happen to his son. He decided to treat this as a hunt and started by interviewing Dean about his childhood.

As they were cleaning weapons, John casually asked Dean, "You know, when you and your brother were growing up, I missed out on a lot. Like the time he ran away. You never told me why."

Dean's face grew red when he remembered Sam at sixteen running away to Flagstaff. He waited until he could speak without crying then Dean said, "Uh, actually, Sammy came home late. I told him that I had a hot date at seven and he needed to come home right after school so I could feed him before I left. The kid walked in around nine that night and I was so angry, I didn't even give him a chance to explain. Just yelled at him then I told him to go to bed. I went to the bar and stayed out late but when I got back to the room, he wasn't there and all his stuff was gone." John paled and his hands stopped moving. Dean looked at his father in concern and asked, "Dad? What's going on?"

Before breaking a confidence, John asked a completely unrelated question, "Do you know if Sam can speak other languages than English and Latin?"

"Yeah, found out at Christmas. He learned how to speak Ancient Aramaic from Rufus and learned a couple of other Romance Languages on his own. I think he said he can speak five different languages now. Why?" Dean asked again.

"Just humor me son, I'll explain everything later. Um, when you were growing up, did I leave enough money for the two of you to survive?" John asked, his heart breaking as Dean answered the way he knew he would.

"Most of the time we didn't have a problem but there were a few times we didn't have much to eat. There was a Christmas when the motel manager came and said if we didn't pay the rent, we would have to leave so I gave him the last of our cash. I decided to go to a bar and hustle some pool to get some money so we could at least have some macaroni and cheese to eat but there wasn't anyone there. They were all at home, getting ready for the next day. Hell, Dad, I felt so bad that I was crying by the time I got back to our room thinking that Sammy wouldn't have anything to eat on Christmas but when I opened the door, I found a big surprise. Somehow that little shit managed to not only come up with money for food but also for a present for me. When I asked him how he did it, he just shook his head and never said a word," Dean revealed.

John gulped as he felt the bile rising in his throat. He was sure that was the first time that Sam had resorted to selling his body for his family. Taking a couple of deep breaths to get his stomach under control, he asked Dean, "How old were you at the time?"

Dean looked up again from his work, "Um, I think I was sixteen at the time. I looked old enough to get into the bars so it would have to be when I was sixteen."

John's eyes watered. Twelve. His baby lost his innocence when he was twelve just to get enough money to put food on the table and to give his brother a Christmas present. John felt like he was two inches tall but he kept pushing forward. He needed to know. "You've kept the Impala in great shape son. I guess your hustling paid off in car parts."

"Not all the time. Sometimes I had to take money that you left us and put it into the car, either parts or gas, you know? Especially if we had a hunt to do. Sammy was a whiz in stretching a dollar, though. He never let the utilities be shut off and he always made sure there was coffee when we got back. I asked him a couple of times how he managed and all he said was that he had gotten a part-time job to help out. I didn't tell you at the time because you guys were always at each other's throats and I just didn't want to be the cause of another argument."

The gun John was cleaning fell out of his nerveless hands and he got up. Walking around the table, he pulled his startled son into a bear hug, then bowing his head, he started to cry. "I'm so sorry, son. God, I'm so sorry," John cried over and over. Dean started to become afraid.


John just shook his head and kept crying. He held Dean like that for an hour.

June 21, 2001-

Message from MARINE to NGE82-

Hey kiddo, just wondering how you are doing. Me and my oldest went to Wyoming this month and found some pretty nasty pests. Got rid of them but ended up with a couple of nasty scratches, nothing to get worried about. Are you still keeping up with your Uncle?

Message from NGE82 to MARINE-

Hi! Doing just fine. Had a couple of problems with some stray wolves and a house had a rat infestation that I took care of. Yeah, keeping up with Uncle. He's helped out a lot but talking to you keeps me going. Be safe. I hope you don't mind me saying this but Happy Father's Day.

July 4, 2001-

Message from MARINE to NGE 82-

What are you doing for the Fourth? Going to see some fireworks? I really missed out not seeing them with my sons when they were growing up but sometimes they would remind me of shells exploding near my foxhole. Another thing that my kids missed out on because of me. Anyway, took care of a mole problem in a cemetery in Florida. My oldest found a real cute girl on his second day there and I almost had to dump a bucket of ice water on him. Anyone new in your life?

Message from NGE82 to MARINE-

Not doing anything, don't really feel like it. I haven't seen fireworks since I was a kid and my brother bought a bunch of them. He set them off in a farmer's field and it was Heaven until the field started on fire. No new person in my life yet. I don't know if that would be the wisest thing for me to have anyway, especially with my history, you know? As for your son, just say these words: church, late, father-in-law, shotgun. He may keep it in his pants for a few days at least.

John read the message and laughed his ass off. Sam was good, real good and John decided to take his advice about Dean…after he hugged him for giving Sam a taste of Heaven when he couldn't.

August 20, 2001-

Message from NGE82 to MARINE-

Sorry I hadn't written anything in a while but an extermination got out of hand. My cousin and a couple of Uncles helped me out with this one since it involved a pack of wild dogs. Unfortunately, one of the fuglys got through and ended up mauling my cousin and me pretty badly. Just got out of the hospital a couple of days ago. Stupid thing is I did the research, I set the whole job up and my cousin still got hurt. My dad was right, I am dangerous to everyone around me.

Message from MARINE to NGE82-

Kiddo, there are always unknown variables in every job that gives them the potential of going bad. Not your fault. I'm sure your research was good but what happened? Not your fault. Get that out of your head now. You are not a danger to everyone around you, no matter what you were told when you were growing up. Your father is a fool for telling you that.

It was all John could do to stop himself from jumping into his truck and tracking Caleb down to find out if Sam really was okay after the "wild dog extermination". He also wanted to know what kind of canine they had been hunting: black dog or hellhound but he knew that he would never be told the whole story. At least not now.


John found that he had a very good relationship with Sam but unfortunately, it was all one sided. Yeah, he figured out that he was talking to his son but Sam still was talking like he was a stranger. John decided to ask Jim for advice so he packed up the truck and told Dean to meet him in Blue Earth. As he drove, he went through a bundle of scenarios that he could present to Jim without the pastor any the wiser but, in the end, he decided to just come out truthfully with the man. Jim was cagey as it was when it came to his family, especially Sam, that if John even tried to lie, the man would see through it and clam up faster and tighter than a miser locks his safe. He also wanted Dean there so he could explain his strange actions of a few months ago when he asked about Dean's childhood.

Jim was a bit shocked when the Winchesters drove up to his door. He hadn't been expecting them, hadn't even heard from them since he saw Dean at Sam's place in January. Watching John's body language, he wondered if something happened to the youngest Winchester since John was walking as if he was badly hurt. He didn't think that Sam and John had been in touch since the elder Winchester wouldn't have let anything stand in his way to get to Sam if he had known what happened in January. Jim himself had been almost sick to his stomach when he realized how close they came to losing the youngest member of the family. The stab wound ended up slashing intestines and nicking a kidney. Sam had been in the hospital for the resulting infection and ended up coding a couple of times on the operating table and once in the ER itself. It was just luck that Sam hadn't been raped by the girl's boyfriend since he had been found to have syphilis from having unprotected sex with his hookups. Jim was able to alert the girl so she could get checked out but Sam dodged that particular bullet.

Jim had gotten the call from Sam when the hospital refused to let him check out, stating that they would give his state of mind a reason why they went against the wishes of an adult. His doctor even went so far as to filling out paperwork that would have put Sam under 72 hour psychiatric assessment unless he could come up with someone to help him. Jim was the best choice for Sam to call since he made sure that the young man took his medication, stayed off his feet and talked about what happened. Especially since he didn't want his father or brother knowing what happened. Sam had been afraid that his father would have pulled him physically out of school while Dean would have gone after Sam's attackers. Very real fears when you considered how protective the older Winchesters were with their baby.

"Hey, Jimmy, how they hanging?" John asked his usual question for the cleric.

Jim smiled and said, "Just fine, John. You?"

Now that he was there, John felt like chickening out but he took a deep breath and said, "Just wondered if you heard from Sam lately."

"Caleb was out there over the summer. You could ask him," Jim said puzzled that John would come all the way to Blue Earth to ask him a question that he could have asked over the phone. Jim looked at Dean and knew he was equally puzzled.

"Uh, can we come in and sit down. Had a long drive from North Carolina and I know that Dean's a bit tired," John deflected.

"Sure, John. Come on in, both of you," Jim said and stepped inside the Rectory. He waited until the Winchesters were sitting on the couch then asked, "What's going on John?"

John fidgeted, something that he never did then said, "I know what happened in January, Jimmy. I just don't know the extent of it. Sam really okay?"

Jim sighed. He didn't know how John found out but he wasn't surprised. "Yeah. He had his six month appointment and checked out clean. The wounds healed nicely. John? How did you figure this all out?"

"I've been talking to him on-line in a chatroom but he doesn't know it's me," John came clean.

"John, you know why Sam didn't want you to know, don't you?" Jim asked his friend.

John ran his hands through his hair before answering, "Yeah I do. He's right, you know. I would have dragged his ass out of school because of what happened. Hell, I may even have thought he was weak from not fighting off six guys but, like I told him, his daddy is a fool for even thinking that."

Jim's jaw dropped open in shock. He never thought that John would saw something like that about himself to his son. "Did he tell you who they were?" Jim asked. John did know but keeping Sam's faith meant more to him than the need for retribution, so he shook his head.

"Not really and I didn't ask him for details," John elaborated then he turned to Dean, "I don't want you to bug Sam about this, Dean. What he told me was said in confidence since he didn't even know it was me. Sammy got jumped by six guys who had hurt him badly. That's why he was in the hospital when he called Jim. Sam needs to handle this on his own, baby boy. As much as I wanted to rush out to California, I decided to respect his wishes. It hurt to do that but I did and I want you to respect his wishes also."

"Dad, did Sam tell you who did it?" Dean asked with a growl.

"Sort of but don't worry. They won't hurt our baby anymore," John said cryptically.

"What did you do John?" Jim asked in a horrified voice.

"Nothing. I found out that during the summer the guy that started the whole thing ended up in a car accident. He had been screwing a girl and when he was coming home, his brake line broke. He's in a wheelchair now. One of the other guys was in a surfing accident. Three were arrested, one on drug charges, another on sex crimes and the third was a B&E. The last guy went into the military. He ended up in the stockade on a vehicular manslaughter charge since he caused a fatal car accident and killed the passengers of the other car. I looked into all of them and found the three guys had a dime dropped on them by the girlfriend of asshole number one. The surfer was on the news as being attacked by a Great White Shark off Monterey, the charges for the grunt is through the State of California and the asshole himself never had his car serviced in years." John smiled like the cat that ate the cream.

Dean finally broke his silence, "You mean my baby brother was beaten up and didn't even call me to let me know what happened? Why? Does he hate us that much?"

"No Dean, he doesn't. I asked him the same question and he said that he was afraid that I would use the incident to pull him out of school and he was worried that you would go after the bastards who had hurt him. Sam never wanted to hurt us or to be the cause of us being hurt. That's why we never got the call and Jim did. I've never been so proud of him as I was when he told me that but I also was scared that I was losing my baby. He's growing up and I just wish he was still that little boy who liked to ask questions with every breath he took," John confessed. "I guess that's actually every parent's nightmare, their children growing up and leaving them."

Dean thought about what his father revealed and one thing that had been said really bugged him, "Um, Dad?"

"Yes, Dean?"

"Why did Sammy need a six month follow-up? Last time I heard someone having that was when Caleb had a blood transfusion and the doctors were worried that it had been tainted with AIDS or something. Then there was the time that Joshua had a run-in with a skank who had an STD. What happened that Sammy would need something like that?" Dean was praying that it was just the worry of an overprotective doctor but Jim's next words dashed his hopes.

John was hoping that Dean wouldn't ask that question but since he did, John was determined to be as honest with his eldest son as possible. Jim, fortunately, was the one who answered and saved John the trouble, "Dean, Sam was ra-"

"Nooo! Don't tell me my baby brother was raped. God! Please don't tell me that!" Dean lost it and started to scream. All his life he had been told to watch out for Sammy, keep Sammy safe and now he found that he couldn't do that. John put his arms around his distraught son and just held him until the screams mutated into sobs.

"Shh, Dean. It's okay, shh," John whispered in Dean's ears.

"Dad, how can any of this be okay?" Dean choked out.

"I'm not going to kid you, baby, it's going to be very hard, doing what your brother wants. I still want to be out there with him, going to his classes with him like a fucking bodyguard but that won't work with your brother. He is growing into his own and learning how to handle what comes his way. You and I? We kept him isolated and in bubble wrap for most of his life, not really conducive for growing up, don't you think?" Dean shook his head sullenly as John went on, "I am learning to do something very hard and you have to do it too, we need to trust Sam to do the right thing. We also need to let him stumble and stub his toes. We need to step back and let him live his life, no matter how hard it is on us."

As John talked to his oldest child, Jim sat back in amazement. He had prayed that one day John would see that keeping Sam isolated like he did was detrimental to the younger's mental health and it seemed that being able to talk anonymously to his son was just the catalyst for John's own healing to begin as well as Sam's. Both Winchesters were growing beyond the death of Mary, now what they had to do was to get Dean on board. Then he heard something that totally astounded him.

"Dean, I'm not going to order you not to confront your brother. I'm asking you not to. Give him some privacy and let him grow up. He's an amazing man and I have a feeling that he will be even more amazing when he's older. That demon? The one who's been after Sam? Honestly, I don't think he even had a chance with our baby and he has less of one now," John said while hugging his oldest son. Then looking at Dean closely, John noticed his son was exhausted. "If it's okay, Jim, can Dean go lay down for a bit. Like I said before, we are really tired."

"Sure, John, no problem. Dean, why don't you go to your bedroom and take a nap. I'll call you for dinner," Jim said firmly. He watched as Dean nodded then got up and left the room. As soon as the two hunters heard Dean's footsteps on the stairs, Jim turned to John and said, "You know everything, don't you?"

John looked at the floor and replied, "You mean that my baby had to sell himself to keep food on the table and the bills paid when I wasn't around? Also about the real reason he ran away to Flagstaff? Yeah, I know. Sam told me but I don't want Dean to know. He's still feeling very guilty about Sammy running away and he doesn't need to know why. It would crush him. It would also hurt him to find out about Sam's part-time jobs. I can't, I won't put that burden on him. I don't want to lose him to something he can't change."

"You've changed John. All these years that I've watched you being a drill sergeant to your boys instead of a father and now you've changed into the father they really need. Miracles do happen," Jim said in awe.

John turned red and mumbled, "I still don't believe in God, Jim."

"It's okay, He believes in you," Jim answered with a genuine smile. For the rest of the afternoon the two men talked and joked together. John felt better than he had in years after that, ready to face the world again.



Dean was cleaning out the Impala. It had been three weeks since Sam had leapt into the Cage with Lucifer and Michael and Dean was having a hard time dealing with the fact that, once again, his brother was somewhere he couldn't be. Like Stanford…

Dean knew his father kept in touch with Sam through the chatroom the years that Sam was going to school. John had even sent, with Dean's blessing, Mary's engagement ring to his brother after Sam started to talk about Jessica, . Both men were happy their baby was growing up into a fine young man. It was because of that that John started to let Dean go on his own hunts, letting Dean grow up also. The whole thing was winding into Sam's dream of an apple pie life then their father went missing and Dean got Sam to help him look for John. Unfortunately, when Sam got home, Jessica was killed by Brady acting under Azazel's orders. Because Marine was no longer in the chatroom, Dean became his brother's confidante and lifeline.

Their father's death then Dean's deal had hurt Sam very much. He had lost everything that he had fought for and, when the Angels finally showed themselves, he lost his faith also. It really didn't help Sam that Dean was also doling out his own share of guilt-trip, bringing up everything that had happened in their lives that he knew about. The only thing that he never brought up was January 2001 since his dad had asked him never to talk to Sam about what happened. Even at his worst, Dean never brought it up.

Dean watched helplessly as Sam sank deeper and deeper in depression. There was nothing he could do about it except to talk to Sam but he was like John in that, he couldn't really talk face to face with someone about feelings. It was a miracle that Sam pulled himself together towards the end and, exceeding everyone's expectations, ended the Apocalypse with a simple sacrifice.

Now, it was Dean who was left alone and hurting. Cleaning his baby actually helped since he could still smell Sam's scent lingering on the upholstery. As he emptied the glove box, he found a bag with a tag marked 'Dean'. Dean sat up in the passenger side and opened the bag. In it, he found a letter and a small box. When he opened the box, he found two rings that he recognized. One was his mom's engagement ring. The only reason it survived the fire was that his dad had it at the jeweler's where he had his sons' birthstones added to it. The other ring was one that Dean never saw off his father's hand, John's wedding ring. Dean had thought that it had been burned along with their dad but Sam, it appeared, had taken it off and kept it. The third item in the box was Dean's amulet, the one he had thrown away after their trip to Heaven.

Tears welled in his eyes as he opened the letter with shaky hands.

Dear Dean (the letter started)

If you are reading this, then the plan had worked and Lucifer is back in the Cage. Since he will have taken me as his vessel that means that I'm there too. I'm so sorry big brother. I never meant to hurt you like that. I know how it feels to be the last of our family but I'm sending you to Lisa so you will never be alone like I was. You never liked me keeping secrets but, trust me, there are just some things you don't need to know. Before you get mad at me, I did let dad know them. We had been talking on a chatroom when I was in Stanford. At first, I really didn't know who I was talking to until the pictures came at Christmas. I figured it out then but I decided that since he didn't know who I was, I could keep talking to him honestly. It was the first time we talked in a very long time without any shouting, arguing or recriminations. Dad helped me get through a very hard patch when I had gotten attacked by six guys my first January away from you two. Honestly, I was kind of expecting him to burst through my door and drag me away but he didn't. You don't know how much that meant to me.

I want you to have something to remember mom and dad by so here are their rings. If you decide to marry Lisa, you can give her mom's ring and use dad's for your wedding. I also want you to have your amulet back. I took it out of the garbage can since Cas was wrong, it's not worthless. There are photo albums in the Impala's trunk that have the pictures that dad sent me. They are yours also. Thank you, big brother, for being there for me after Jess and Madison died, after Dad. Thank you for just being you.

We never say it often but I want you to know that I love you and will keep loving you even in Hell. You have been the rock that I clung to when times have gotten rough and you will be what I remember forever. Take care and live your life for me if not for yourself.

Be happy big brother.

Your Sammy

Dean just sat and cried after reading the letter, the last bit of communication he would ever have with his baby brother. That evening, he sat in front of his computer cruising the web. Then he spotted a chatroom that was set up for adults and underaged people to talk to each other. Dean read the rules and regulations that were strict since the site dealt with children. There was no setting up face-to-face meetings, no porn of any kind, and so on. At first, Dean was going to leave the site but something stopped him and he agreed to the terms. Going on the site, he looked around and found the bulletin board. Curious, he clicked on that icon and read some of the postings. There was a couple that stood out.

MARINE to NGE82 (November 2001)-

Thanks to you, I actually grew up and decided to let my kids do the same. You are a miracle worker when it comes to this crusty, sour old person. Thank you very much for the gift you have given to me.

NGE82 to MARINE (November 2001)-

You are very welcome but I don't know what I did. You have listened when I needed someone to talk to. That is a gift I can never repay. You told me once you didn't do Holidays because of your wife's death but I think that she would want you to try to enjoy them with your kids. Do me a favor then and spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family. It's something I can't do but I want you to do it. By the way, I took your advice and made a friend. His name is Brady and he's my roommate. He told me that I was going to his parents place for Thanksgiving. Not the same as being with my family but at least this year I won't be sitting in my room alone.

MARINE to NGE82 (January 2002)

Took your advice for the Holidays. Hope yours was as good as mine was. I spent them with my brothers and one of my kids though I really wished my youngest had been there. Can't say I blame him for staying away with all the awful things I said to him. I just wish I could apologize and hold him once more. Maybe that will be in the future. I just got to swallow my stupid pride but that is a very large and prickly thing to eat. I hope he will forgive me one day.

NGE82 to MARINE (January 2002)

I'm sure he already did but is probably too scared to say anything. I know that I have forgiven my family everything that happened before I came to school but I still have to buck up my own courage to tell them. My friend Brady is acting weird lately. Really partying and not going to classes. I think he's on drugs so I'm going to try to help him. Not what I was planning to do for my Spring Break but my dad taught me that people come first before anything else.

There were other messages but Dean stopped reading. He couldn't go on, knowing that Brady had been possessed by a demon who would ultimately introduce Sam to Jess. The best thing he took away from the board was that John and Sam had forgiven each other even if they were afraid to say it. After getting off the bulletin board, he started to look around at the other avatars. He saw one alone in the "corner" and moved his avatar towards it.

BB2SAM: Hey kiddo, how are you doing?

CONFUSED: Not too well. I just lost a brother a few weeks ago.

BB2SAM: So did I. My brother died saving my life and I wish I told him how much he meant to me and that I loved him.

CONFUSED: I feel the same way. How do you get over the guilt of being the one to survive?

BB2SAM: My brother would say, one day at a time. Kiddo, you may stumble, even make bad decisions because you are hurting but remember, you are loved by your brother now and forever. He will never forget you, no matter what.

CONFUSED: I hurt him so badly before he died. Do you think he forgave me?

BB2SAM: If he's anything like my brother, yeah. He forgave you a long time ago.

Castiel smiled when he read what BB2SAM had said. Of everything he had done and said to Sam Winchester, he knew now that the person he called an abomination, that he didn't think had deserved the gift of life, had forgiven him.

CONFUSED: Would you mind talking to me every so often? My family really doesn't understand what I'm going through and I could use a friend.

BB2SAM: Sure kiddo, I would really like that. Maybe you can help me too just by being there for me.

CONFUSED: Thank you, I'd like that too.


Two big thank yous-One is to my wonderful beta, Daiyu Amaya for reading my stories. You're the greatest. The other is to Jensen, Jared, Misha and Jeffery for their wonderful characters on the show. Without these actors, the characters would not be as well done as they are. Thanks guys!

A/N-NGE means Not Good Enough and BB2SAM means Big Brother To Sam. Just a friendly explanation.