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It's true, what they say. About dogs. Sam'd gone out this one time with some of Bobby's friends--Cheryl, or Maril, or something. Dean was in Cicero, Indiana, or so he said, and Dad was God knows where. So Sam was with Bobby until Bobby got tired of playing at John's goddamn babysitter (or something; no offense, Sam, says Bobby. It's just that he's got some business with...someone or another, and a fifteen-year old's morose tirades ain't exactly mood music).

Thing about hunters, see, is there's two kinds of crazy: there's foaming, slackjaw crazy, and then there's the neurotic kind of skeleton-crazy, which is more of a Winchester flavor (and maybe a Pastor Jim flavor). Fifteen-year old Sammy knows this. So even if fifteen-year old Sammy didn't really know what he was getting into, jumping up into Cheryl Maril's pick-up on a lazy Tuesday, he had a fair idea. He was ready to weather anything.

Because he sure as hell wasn't gonna let the opportunity slip by, because Cheryl let him sit up front and let him pick the music and even sang along to the station Sam ended up on, like he'd made the right choice and she wasn't just humoring him. So when Cheryl putters the truck into an I-90 turnout some five hundred miles out of the salvage yard, lets it roll to a stop against the metal siding 'cause the brakes really don't work all that good, and starts liberating the remnants of a dog from the sticky-hot asphalt with a hunting knife, Sam really doesn't have a choice but to go along with it.

"Fresh," Cheryl explains.

Sam nods, as though that makes everything clear. And if he throws up in the rushes that first time, when Cheryl's cooking Lassie, newly de-boned and dripping fat into their campfire with hiss and a crackle, Cheryl doesn't fault him for it. They've got a helluva long way to go before they hit Albright; they got more meals coming.

Snake, sometimes. Mostly possum. A deer, once (felt like Cheryl was picking the sinews out of her teeth for a week after that one; she'd pick at them with her thumb and forefinger as she drove, lie them all out on a napkin on the dash 'til they stopped again. Sam tried to keep his eyes on the road, avoid looking at the half-cooked worm strings sitting just outside his peripheral).

"Dog's probably best," Sam admits, when the banshee's gone from Albright and they're back on I-90. They took a detour that spanned seven states, though Cheryl wouldn't say why. Her truck's about to slam its way through Cicero, Indiana and Sam's hunched low in his seat; he doesn't say why either. But dog's probably best.

Cheryl doesn't pry. "You remember that, kid. Never know when it'll serve you good." They're stuck behind a Pizza Hut sedan at what feels like their fiftieth red light. Sam's not used to suburb traffic anymore. He can smell baked cheese and crust and tomato basil.

Cheryl's nose twists, and she frowns. "Nothing fresher than the open road. None of this red light shit." And Sam offers his amen: "Nothing fresher than a good dog on the spit."

By the end of August Dean's back, tongue-lollingly jazzed about something or another and inexplicably interested in yoga; Dad's back, decidedly not jazzed or lolling--got a werewolf report Caleb wants them to follow up. Come hunting night, Sam begs off sick; stomach flu.

He listens to his stomach growl, tries his damndest to refrain from licking his lips. All night long.