Hi, everyone! I'm back with another story. This was actually supposed to be a semi-long one-shot posted before Christmas, but kind of grew into a life of its own. For me personally, it's just using SPN as a way to answer some pretty tough questions about what's happening in the world right now, questions that there really aren't answers to.

Please mind the warnings. This briefly story mentions the aftermath of a fictional school shooting. This is in no way meant to be offensive.

Please let me know what you think.

Chapter 1

The sunlight was a searing, cutting deterrent, that almost sent Sam retreating back into the motel room, after days of recluseness and alcohol.

But Winchesters were steadfastly stubborn, so Sam slid his aviators over his eyes and ventured into the town's thriving center, Dean's last word's the scorched earth of his betrayal throbbing with every step.

He'd spent the past four days in a purgatory of his own making, wondering if after Ruby and Lucifer and even their father's death, if he had deserved Dean's wraith or manipulations-the one that had dredged up the old pain of Jess's death and intensified the new loss of Amelia to Don. Even after days of mulling it over, of working it out in his head, of trying to rationalize Dean's behavior and resentment and tallying up just how awful and heartless Dean could be towards him, the pain was still there, bigger and stronger now that he'd given it life.

Homeless and family-less, Sam had to nurse himself through a raging hangover before he could even begin to contemplate his next steps. To hunt or not to hunt…

The coffee shop was more eclectic and homey than the thriving national chain, boasting big, overstuffed chairs, a warm fire and organic muffins.

The barista eyed his rumpled clothes and concealed eyes with a knowing smile. "Rough night?" She asked while tamping the beans for his three expresso shots that would go into his Triple Red-Eye. She smiled, her own cheeks dimpling in a way that was much cuter than Sam's.

Sam cleared his throat, absorbing her kindness like the dessert soil did a sudden rain. "Rough week," he admitted hoarsely.

Her face softened in genuine empathy, and Sam felt his eyes sting. She plucked a muffin out of case—the chocolate chip one Sam had been eyeing before he found less than $4 in his wallet-and offered to him. "Chocolate makes everything better. Take it, on the house...Merry Christmas…."

"Oh...wow, thank you. S-Sam, my name is Sam."

The woman with the cinnamon eyes and heart-shaped face lit up. "My sister's a Sam! Well, Samantha. She teaches art at the middle school down the road. I'm Willow."

Sam locked everything down and willed himself not to think of Dean.

"Benny's never let me down, ever."

And failed spectacularly.

"That's great!" he intoned a little too brightly. "I mean, that sounds like a cool job."

Willow nodded. "Probably pays a little better than glorified latte maker."

"Maybe," Sam agreed, "but you're the best part of most people's mornings."

She blushed, apparently victim of Sam's flirting. With the line of people growing behind him, Sam headed to one of the overstuffed armchairs by the fireplace. The muffin quelled his trembling hands and quieted the rumbling in his stomach; the coffee lessened the ache in his head; and the free wi-fi helped him occupy his whirring mind. After the morning rush, Willow joined him at the table for some harmless conversation, and the simple companionship eased the pain in his heart. Willow was nothing like Amelia and certainly not like Dean. She was young and idealistic. She still dreamed of traveling the world, of falling in love. She was passionate about everything from her hatred of barista-dom to her favorite movies and bands. Although she had her sister's artistic talent, she didn't have the same academic abilities, so she designed vintage-style tee-shirts while working her way through business school part-time. Sam listened and laughed and offered a bit of his own insights, relishing in talking about anything that didn't have to do with fraternal betrayal and demons and the end of the mankind.

Suddenly, it swept through the sparsely inhabited coffee shop. A buzz that was so chilling, he shivered. His head snapped up as the gasps turned to whispers and the whispers snowballed into outright panic. A man, gazing at the muted flat screen mounted above the evergreen-draped mantle dropped his cup and bolted out of the building and up the street, leaving an overturned chair, his wallet, and laptop in his wake. Sam watching him, noting the five ambulances, lights only, speeding off in the same direction.

Willow made a sound, some stricken amalgamation of a scream and a sob that curdled Sam's blood, and her face drained to white. "Sam," she gasped.

It took him a minute to realize that she wasn't speaking to him, but crying out for her sister. Sam followed her tear-filled gaze to the television, and he saw why people were panicking, fleeing, crying. Why they were leaving their possessions and running as if the sky was falling.

Because it was.

The local news had cut into daytime talk shows to with breaking news. The headline, "Mass Shooting At Madison Middle School," scrolled against the bottom of the screen in a distasteful red font.

The shaky footage of a man strolling from building to building, automatic weapons clearly visible, was even more grotesque.

"Car," Willow gasped. "Do you h-have a car?" She was shaking, and hand gripping his arm.

"I can get you to the school," Sam said.

They both stumbled out into the street that was flooded with panicking parents, all running towards the school. Behind him, he heard the screeching of tires, and the wail of a mother.

Having prevented the end of the world a few times, Sam was pretty useful in a crisis. He didn't even covertly hide the fact that he was stealing a car, tugging on the handles of the few on the street. A mini-van was miraculously open and he popped the locks. Willow climbed in and dropped her head in her hands, muttering desperate prayers.

A man with a tear-stained face wearing a bathrobe and one shoe climbed in without a word and motioned for an older woman clutching a picture of a little boy to do the same.

By the time Sam had reached the school, even his eyes were streaming from the outpouring of grief and terror and violence, and they'd picked up three more panicked parents. He followed Willow, catching snatches of details from swarming law enforcement and maudlin paramedics, who weren't preparing triage kits but unrolling body bags.

He waited with her for hours, knowing he wasn't really a comfort but unable to tear himself away. She hadn't let go of his arm since the coffee shop. The parents were all corralled in a windowless tent, one that kept the prying eyes of the media out, but seemed to exile all heat and sound. Sam draped his jacket around Willow's shoulders and tried not about what a community had lost that day. His chest ached as the law enforcement began calling out names, drawing the families away from the tent and into another. Sam dropped his head and waited for the screams.

Willow took the news far better than a poor father who'd collapsed. She held her head up high as a gravel-voiced police officer informed her that her sister had been cut down barricading the door to her classroom, a jolt whiplashed through her body so fierce that Sam felt it in his own gut and she cried harsh, loud agonizing sobs that Sam would never forget. And then she let go.

He strode away from the ugliness of it all, and wishing he knew where Dean was. The world wasn't ending, he reminded himself, but somehow it still felt like it was.


Sam climbed back into the bottle, only he went far deeper than he had before. Drinking until it felt like Johnny Walker Blue ran into his veins instead of blood. The snowy little town had that had cradled Sam during one of the lowest and loneliest points in his life with its holiday cheer, kind and generous people, had all but shutdown. Even the media kept a respectful distance. The Christmas lights were turned off. The stores were closed. The flags were at half-mast. A blizzard moved in a few days after, trapping Sam there with foot-high snows and shellacking of ice.

The snow filtered in through the cracked bathroom window, allowing much needed ventilation as Sam lurched over the toilet and vomited so violently his eyes streamed and his stomach burned. "Never again," he groaned, glaring at the empty bottles in the trash can.

After splashing his face with water, Sam stumbled out the bathroom, hissing as his bare feet shuffled against the motel's freezing cold floor. He crawled into the mattress and huddled under the blankets. The television fizzed with pixelated static when he turned it on—the reception was crap thanks to the storm. The only channel that worked was the news, and even the reporters appeared as emotionally wrecked as everyone else. He turned the volume down, and settled into the beds, trying to sleep. The storm was supposed to fizzle out by morning, and Sam's stolen junker might be able to make it out of this town, and away from the devastation so pervasive, it bled into his nightmares.

Willow's visceral sobs echoed into the quiet, and he turned up the television with an economy of movement, thinking about Dean's many demises, and knowing exactly what she was feeling.

Except, he was pretty sure Willow's sister and the children she died trying to protect, wouldn't be resurrected again and again.

As angry has he'd been, as real as their problems were, Sam didn't care. He wanted his brother.

He retrieved his charging cell phone, head in his hands, trying to not to think of dead children and Christmas presents that would go unopened, trying not to cry. His hands trembled as he scrolled down the contacts. His stared at Dean's name, remembering his treachery and manipulation. "Stop it, Sam," he muttered.

The only thing worse and more insurmountable than Winchester pride was Winchester stubbornness. He rubbed his face, warring with himself.

The room was illuminated by same video of the Madison Middle School shooter appeared again. The news had flogged the same thirteen seconds of footage. Sam had almost had it memorized, but yet he stalled his decision for a few moments to watch the most infamous man in America with two automatic weapons moving between buildings. The footage was grainy and shaky, taken from an iced-over security camera. But there was a disturbance in the film, a subtle flare of brightness near the gunman's head that last of a sliver of a second. It was how Sam had missed it. He focused as the news station played it again. The gunman took two steps and just as he entered the second building, and there was the flare again, just near the gunman's face, and in the middle of it, the eyes were beetle black.

"Son of a bitch!"

Sam's blood ran colder than the snowstorm raging outside and he was dizzy from the realization. One that he'd missed for two days because he was blindsided by his own selfish problems. He grabbed his phone, scrolling past Dean's name and made another call. As the phone rang, Sam dug some protein bars out and checked his stores of guns, holy water and rock salt.

He was going hunting.