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Sam Winchester would have described his life as always having been marked with self-loathing. It probably started with appearance, as it does with most people. From the time he was old enough to understand the idea of body image, he would always feel a strong hatred for his appearance. He was around ten at the time it began, and he had a lot to critique.

He was too small, too skinny. His original plan was to bulk up on healthy foods, under the pretense of being better for hunting. It would’ve worked for his father, but John Winchester couldn’t be bothered getting food for his sons while he was on a hunt (and, let’s face it, when was John Winchester not hunting?), so food-shopping duty was usually delegated to Dean.  And it was no secret that the older Winchester brother ate like a pig, stuffing on nothing but crap from gas stations and fast-food joints. Sam could get away with ordering healthier options like salads when they were having fast food, but when shopping at a 7-11, everything had to go under Dean’s approval. His brother was not going to sacrifice his pie, twinkies, funions, and Coke for bottled Protein Shakes, Protein Bars, Granola, Yogurt, vegetables and fruit. Even when Sam explained he was trying to bulk up.

“Don’t worry, Sammy.” Dean had encouraged him between mouthfuls of pie. “You’re a hunter, and a Winchester. You’ll have a nice frame in no time.”

Sam couldn’t help but scowl inwardly. Easy for him to say.

Whenever they were introduced to or encountered Dad’s hunting friends, they would look at Dean and comment ‘What a handsome young man, you’ve got there, John.’ Then they’d look to Sammy and chuckle ‘Oh, you’re a cute little guy. Hope your daddy doesn’t let you hunt, half the things would have no trouble carrying you off.’ He had resorted to starving himself before doing exercises in the hotel bathroom. He would eat little portions of the food his brother bought, while constantly trying to convince his dad to force Dean into choosing healthier options.

Unfortunately, size wasn’t his only problem. His teeth were probably disgusting, despite the fact that he brushed and flossed every day till his mouth bled, because his father couldn’t give two fucks to go to the dentist. His hair was an overgrown mop that obscured most of his forehead. Of course, Dean could get regular haircuts. Since he actually hunted, John decided that was a privilege he deserved.

Then, there was hunting. Sure, Sam was more apt when it came to research. He could figure out what creature they were hunting very quickly, perhaps maybe after three days’ work, while it easily took Dean a full week, if not more. There wasn’t a real comparison, though, as Dean’s “research” was often interrupted by his local hookups, and hours of eating and watching Casa Erotica (at which he often threatened to break Sam’s arm if he told Dad). And hunting was much more than research.

The first time Sam had been hunting, he was around 14. He had been lured into a corner by one of the witches in the coven they’d been hunting. She had stared him down with her cold eyes, and before he knew it, he was crying. She had given a high laugh, and was ready to kill him, before John had stabbed her through the chest, splattering his younger son with blood.

To say the least, he had been unhappy.

“What the fuck are you thinking, Boy?” John growled. Sam couldn’t say anything, sniffling back the tears he was shedding. “Crying isn’t for a hunter, you fucking idiot!” And before Sam could open his mouth, he felt a sharp blow to his cheek. Dean had been watching, visibly upset, but never said anything to John.

Of course. Dean Winchester, never the one to question orders.


The rest of his years before he went to Stanford had been marked with a simple knowledge made known by the Winchester Patriarch. He was the Logical side of hunting, and Dean was the Instinctual side. Sam’s research was impeccable, his Latin and Greek (for the necessary exorcisms and summoning) were flawless, and he could recall practically any piece of information relevant to their hunting. Dean, however, was able to take down anything they encountered at a much faster rate than Sam, and he could run quicker, as his body was more adjusted than Sam’s to eating shitty food. He could think on his feet, not needing a plan to lure in whatever thing they were after. And John Winchester made it pretty damn clear that he valued instinct over logic.

 Dean, Dean, Dean.

God, how unoriginal that sounded.

It was true, though. Their family dynamic made him out to be Jan Fucking Brady of the Bunch.

Dean had been given driving lessons, Dean was able to be given a license (it was unnecessary for them both to be able to drive the Impala, as John had argued), Dean could pick out the food they bought, Dean could decide on the movie they watched, Dean could pick the music they listened to.

Dean was the better hunter, so Dean was the one their Dad would give more liberties to.  Maybe not their Dad’s favorite, because John would bark at Dean to always protect Sam, but still.

Sam resented Dean, despite reasoning that it was not his fault, but John’s.

This reasoning still didn’t really lessen the bitterness of it all, though.


Over the years, it didn’t get better.  He was originally so proud to have outgrown his brother in height, until he discovered with horror that he now not only towered over Dean, but over pretty much anyone else, except maybe basketball players and people afflicted with gigantism. The names he was called made him uncomfortably aware of it. Sasquatch. Giant. Titan. Gigantor. Long-Neck. Mount Everest. LeBron. It almost made him miss being short. Plus, he was pretty much arms and legs still.

He didn’t possess Dean’s natural charisma, and was rather awkward and shy. He would give a polite smile when someone introduced themselves at whatever school he was staying at, but he knew this was just a nicety to put the other person’s mind at ease.

He found, however, that the intellect he scoffed at was valued. In his junior year, when he had gotten his test results from the SAT back, he quietly showed one of his acquaintances his score, and asked if it was good. The stunned look they gave back answered the question.

So, he went to his guidance counselor (he had only been at the school for three weeks), and explained the situation of how his family didn’t possess a lot of money. The woman kindly explained that many colleges understood situations such as his, and the best would often leave no debt for students too poor to afford the full educational cost. Giving a look at his scores and classes, she recommended Duke, Harvard, Colombia, Brown, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford.


The next year, Sam had sent several applications to the schools she recommended, with others as well. He was glad that financial aid allowed him to send in these applications without money from his father. When he finally got the acceptance letter from Stanford, his heart soared. The others, which had been letters of rejection, were leading to his increasing fear that he was not worthy even academically. But the Congratulations had been a validation of his intelligence, proof he could be good in at least one field.

He had quickly hid the acceptance letter in one of his jackets, so his father could not suspect what his son was up to. His confirmation that he would be attending the school was sent out as quickly as possible. He soared through his senior year (he would have been valedictorian at all of his schools, but the paperwork was too much for them to process), spending the summer carefree, and planning to break the news to Dean and his father the day before he left. He felt that nothing could break his spirit.

Until he came back to the motel they were staying at one night, to meet a livid John Winchester, who held the letter from Stanford in hand. 

“What the hell is this?” John demanded, holding the letter up for Sam. Swallowing hard, Sam answered.

“A letter. From Stanford.” He could see John’s hand shaking.

“I can see that.” His Dad spat. “Why was it buried in your jacket, and why is it addressed to you?”

“Because I applied, Dad.” Sam said. Dean, who was sitting on the farther bed, scoffed.

“Why the hell would you apply to Stanford, Sammy?” His older brother asked. Sam gave a snort, glaring at him.

“Maybe it’s because I want to go to Stanford, Dean. Ever think of that?” There was a silent pause.

“You’re not going.” John said finally. “I won’t pay for it.”

“Don't worry, you won't have to.” Sam responded cooly. The Winchester Patriarch gave a chuckle.

“Stanford is a hell of a pricey school, boy. Don't know where you'd get that money from, because you can't get a hand on the credit cards. So unless you've been sellin’ drugs or turning tricks on the side, you couldn't even cover a week of tuition.”

“They offer need-based scholarships. You may be running your credit card scams, but they’re not under the name Winchester. Because the federal government recognizes us as poor, I can go for free.” There was another pause.

“You’re not going.”

“You can’t stop me.”

Sam was on the ground in the next second, his face stinging from his father's hand. He looked up to pitiless eyes.

“You’re a fucking hunter, boy. You don’t get to go off to college. You’re in this life, not another.” The youngest Winchester huffed.

“Yeah, thanks to you.” He responded. “We’ve been on the run since Mom died, and you started this hunting crap. Dean and I had no choice in the matter. You dragged us into this.” Dean coughed, interrupting his younger brother.

“No one chooses to be a hunter, Sammy.” He pointed out. Sam gave another angry look.

“The kids dragged into this life don’t. The adults, however, are fully capable of making that choice.” John Winchester gave a strange combination of a snarl and a scream.

“Your mother died, Sam-”

“Exactly! And you’re no closer to finding the thing that killed her than when you started!” He spat.

Before he could blink, his father was choking him. Gasping, Sam saw stars, feeling his head grow lighter as John delivered repeated blows to his face and chest. After five minutes, with Dean’s insistent efforts to pull John off him, Sam could breathe.

The damage, however, was done. Sam's nose was broken, he was fairly certain several of his bones were as well. He had what was sure to be a pair of black eyes, and his mouth and nose streamed blood freely. He felt his blood pounding in his head, as he met John’s furious eyes. Pushing past his father, Sam took his suitcase (already packed, since all the Winchesters’ possessions were in their suitcases) from off his bed, stuffing any used clothes into it, before walking back towards the door he had just entered.

“If you leave,” John said slowly. “Don’t bother coming back.” The words punctured his heart like a knife. Sam had stopped, turning around and looking his father right in the eye.

“I didn’t plan on it.” Sam responded, slamming the door just in time to hear his father drive a fist through the wall.

Crossing the parking lot, Sam opened his wallet to observe what he had in hard cash. Twenty dollars in cash. Maybe enough to use a payphone and take a bus to Bobby’s. The older hunter, while fond of the boys, was less than sympathetic towards John for wanting to make his sons hunters. He would be more than willing to help Sam get access to money. Not a lot of it, but just enough to use over the semester at Stanford.

“Sammy, wait.” Turning around, he felt his spirits rise as he heard Dean’s voice. Seeing his brother’s stoic face, however, his smile quickly dissipated. He was not coming with Sam. He was saying goodbye. Standing in front of each other, they were quiet for a minute, before Dean handed him another fifty dollars, and one of their many fake credit cards. “I don’t suppose I can talk you out of leaving, can I?” Dean asked. Sam shook his head.

“No more than I can talk you out of staying.” He responded. Sighing, Dean shook his head.

“You should stay, Sam. We’re hunters, we help people.”

“That’s just it, Dean. I’m a crap hunter. I can do research, and that’s about it. Dad doesn’t really want me hunting, but he doesn’t really want me to try something else. Can you see the holes in that logic?” Dean shrugged.

“You’re in this life already. There isn’t really a way out.” Sam sighed.

“How? All the people we save usually find out about what’s really out there, and they can easily just walk away.” Dean opened his mouth to argue, but Sam just shut him down. “It doesn’t matter, Dean. I’m useless at helping people this way, especially when there are already people like Bobby.  So maybe I can help in the other way. Hunters fail to realize what the world might be like if they had someone with legitimate authority on their side, and not just someone with a fake FBI badge.” Dean chuckled.

“Right, like you’re gonna be some bigwig politician.” Sam said nothing. He couldn’t make Dean understand. So, instead, he just gave his brother a big hug.

“I’m sorry, Dean.” He responded. “I’m just not a hunter. I’ll call you when I get to California, and I’ll try to keep in touch. Can’t promise anything, though.”


 Stanford, to his shock, did not increase his idea of self-worth. In fact, the pressure exacerbated. He was still the gawky, geeky, lanky boy with too-long hair that swooped around his head, and with practically two weeks’ worth of clothing. Being at a school of mostly privileged people, from a poor family who couldn’t afford the tuition, and who effectively disowned him for going, Sam felt he had more to prove. So, he tried his hardest, working to pass every class with flying colors.

His closest friends, Brady, Luis, and Zack, would tease him when he studied diligently (which was almost every night). They tried to convince him to go out. He, of course, usually refused, explaining that he didn’t feel prepared.

One night the week before their first set of exams, Zack, his roommate, (Brady and Luis were in the room next to them), had come home at 2 in the morning from partying with their other friends to find him still studying. He had gone to sleep, and woke up at around 7 to find Sam slumping over his desk.

“Dude, seriously, you need to not put so much pressure on yourself.” Zack had said, a look of concern in his usually humored face. Sam, who was struggling to stay awake, shrugged it off.

“I need to work.” He insisted. “I’ve been dozing in Economics, and if I fail this next test-”

“You won’t fail this next test, Sam.” His friend insisted. “Economics is what I want to major in, and you’re doing better than I am. You’ve been pulling at least a 90 for every test we’ve taken-”

“That’s too low.” Sam growled sleepily, turning back to the flashcards he’d made. Frowning, Zack sat in the chair next to his friend.

“What’s your deal? Why are you trying so hard, Sam? You’ve gotten straight As in all our classes so far, and you’ve got a heavier load of courses than I do. So why push yourself when you already have the highest level. It isn’t a competitive thing, because you’re not like the snotty people who have to outshine everyone. You’re not the bragging type, you don’t act bitchy when you have better grades than someone (which, let’s face it, is most of the time)….is it, you know, your family?” The taller boy chuckled.

“My family doesn’t care.” Zack raised an eyebrow. Seeing the puzzled look, Sam explained. “They didn’t want me to go to any college, much less Stanford. They didn’t even care if I graduated High School. They just wanted me to….” Sam paused, trying to think of a cover for hunting. “..to join the military, like they all had. I didn’t tell them when I applied, not even when I got accepted. My Dad just found the letter a week before school started, and told me that I was going to stay, because he wouldn’t pay for it. I told him that I got a full ride, and flat-out insisted that I was leaving.” Sam’s roommate let the silence punctuate the room.

“What did he do?” Smiling humorlessly, Sam turned to his friend.

“You know how you and your family was a little intimidated when we met on the day before term started, because I looked like I lost a fight?” Zack’s jaw dropped.

“Please, man. Fucking tell me you’re kidding.” Another chuckle left Sam, as he shook his head. “Well, they close the housing for Winter break. Are you sure you can go home?”

“Don’t know what I can do for Christmas, because my Dad told me not to come back, and my older brother doesn’t have the balls to stand up to him. I’m hoping I can go to my uncle’s house in Sioux Falls. Haven’t seen him in years, because he and my Dad had a falling out ‘cause of how Dad was raising us. Maybe he’ll let me spend Christmas with him. If not, I’ll try to find a motel where I can stay for the month off, hope I have enough money to pay for it.” Zack seemed hardly able to believe his friend.

“And if that doesn’t work, what? You’ll spend every break from school in a homeless shelter?” Sam shrugged sleepily.

“First time for everything, right?” He joked, smiling lazily. Sighing, Zack grabbed his ginormous friend by the elbows, pulling him out of his chair. “Hey…what are you doing?...” Sam protested. Shaking his head, Zack dragged Sam slowly towards his bed.

“Making sure you get some sleep, idiot. You spent all night studying, taking a break from classes for one day won’t kill you.” Sam whined, trying to protest, but he was too tired to argue. Falling onto the bed, he let darkness embrace him.


 When he came too, Sam could tell he had pretty much spent much of the morning and most of the afternoon sleeping. He had only been woken up by the sound of the door slamming, and blinked to see Zack enter the room, stowing his phone in his jacket pocket.

“Who were you on the phone with?” He asked, yawning slightly. Zack shrugged.

“Well, thought you would do better on the finals if you weren’t stressing on where to go. So I asked my parents if you could stay for Winter break with us in St. Louis.” Opening his mouth to protest, he was treated with a look essentially reading ‘shut up, Sam’.  “I didn’t explain your entire situation, but I essentially said you had nowhere to go.”

“I can’t afford a plane ticket.” Sam protested. Zack grinned.

“My family’s too cheap, even for rich people. We’re driving.”

“I definitely can’t cover the cost of gas.” Zack’s grin widened.

“Consider it a Christmas present.” Groaning in frustration, Sam fell back on his bed.

“Fine.” He relented, rolling his eyes when Zack shouted ‘Victory!’.


 

Winter break was a first for Sam.

Sitting down for Christmas Eve dinner with the Warrens was awkward. Sam had accidentally began eating before Zack nudged him, and explained that they needed to say grace. Blushing, Sam began apologizing profusely, explaining how he’d never been used to this before, but thankfully it was quickly brushed off by the Warrens.

Then there was a hilarious moment when Zack’s grandma cornered him and kindly explained that she loved and accepted Zack, regardless of his life choices, and that Sam didn’t need to cover by saying they were just roomates. Laughing, Sam had to then explain to her that he and Zack were really just roommates, and that he just didn’t have family to go to. Recounting that same story to Zack and his little sister Becky resulted in Zack becoming a profuse shade of red, with Sam and Becky laughing their asses off.

When it was time for him and Zack to leave and drive back, Sam had thanked the Warrens for letting him spend the month, and also apologized for not being able to cover his expenses.

“Trust me, Sam.” Mr. Warren brushed it off. “Your attempts to be a positive influence on Zack are more than enough.” Blushing, Sam murmured his thanks.

“We expect you back here every summer and winter break, and even on thanksgivings.” Mrs. Warren ordered, before pulling him into a hug.

Having the Warrens welcome him into their circle was a confidence builder, but it still didn’t deter Sam’s efforts to go above and beyond for trying in school. He still piled on the work, and attempted more often than not to convince his friends to study with him, as opposed to try to get him to go out. So long as he wasn’t alone, he guessed. His self-esteem wasn’t really that good, but he didn’t think it was bad, either.

Then he met her, at a social after Thanksgiving break in sophomore year.

“Hey man,” Brady grinned widely. “I’ve got someone to introduce to you.” Rolling his eyes, Sam groaned as his friend pulled him through the party (with oddly inhuman strength). Tapping a girl on the shoulder, Brady  spun her around. “Jess, this is my buddy Sam.” Blinking, Sam felt himself freeze.

She was stunning, from head to toe. Tan skin, piercing blue eyes, tumbling blond hair. A perfect eyebrow curved, as Jess began to inspect Sam. He vaguely remember seeing her before, but he could not recall seeing her the same way he was seeing her now. After a few seconds of silence, the girl smiled.

“Jess Moore, Psychology.” She said, extended her hand. Though his brain was refusing to cooperate, he was able to awkwardly force his hand to grab hers, shaking it slowly.

“Sam Winchester, Pre-law.” Jess laughed.

“I thought they didn’t have a pre-law major here.” She said. Shrugging, Sam shook his head.

“Guess it’s well hidden.” The girl gave another chuckle, making Sam’s heart do flip-flops.

“I’ll bet.”


They had spent the glorious second half of sophomore year, and most of the first half of junior year, as close friends. They studied together, they would go to the movies, played games with their other friends (Luis, Zack, Brady, and Becky, who had also joined Stanford), before Jess finally surprised him by kissing him. He, of course, was shocked beyond belief. He thought she wanted a guy that was more attractive. Someone like Zack, or Luis, or Brady.

Or Dean.

But he nervously asked her if she wanted to go on a date.

Date? She had said, eyebrow raised.  Sam Winchester, I expect to be your full-time girlfriend from now on.

He was overjoyed that Jess had begun dating him, but he was still confused. He still saw himself as the overgrown tumbleweed mop that couldn’t afford a haircut. The guy with as much charisma as a cadaver. He knew his kissing was not on par, as was his flirting. But to Jess, a girl who could have any guy (disregarding those with no sexual interest in women or those who had religious or racial pre-obligations), none of that mattered.

There were, of course, some bumps they faced. Mainly Sam's.

“Happy 21st, Baby.” She purred, leaning in to kiss him. Her lips melding against his, Sam let out a moan, which sent vibrations into Jess’ mouth, causing a ripple effect of moaning. Jess then gave a growl, grabbing Sam’s front and beginning to unbutton his jacket. Backing away slightly, Sam gave a scared look.

“Jess, what are you-?” Instantly, his girlfriend’s face turned red, as she stammered out an apology.

“I thought you wanted..” She trailed off, unsure of what to say. There was a brief pause, before Sam shrugged, and resumed kissing Jess passionately.

It had been about five minutes, and they had already migrated into the bedroom and onto the bed, when Jess’ hand began sliding up the back of Sam’s shirt. Instantly, like before, Sam pushed her away, sitting up on the bed turned away from her.

“Sam?” Jess inquired, scooting towards her boyfriend. “What’s wrong?” Laughing slightly, Sam shook his head.

“Nothing’s wrong, Jess.” This, of course, was so obvious a lie that he was given the treatment of the Jess Moore I-can-right-through-your-bullshit face. Moving so that she was sitting down next to him, Sam’s girlfriend grabbed him by the chin and forced his face to meet hers when he tried to turn away.

“Sam.” She repeated, more firmly this time. “Tell me what’s wrong.” There was a pause, as Sam’s eyes wandered from her view. He gave a sigh, shrugging his shoulders.

“I don’t know…I guess I’m just…..scared, is all?” Another pause punctuated the air, before Sam heard Jess give a deep breath.

“Okay, Sam. I’m going to ask you something, and keep in mind I won’t get mad, however you answer.” Frowning and turning to face a nervous Jess, Sam quirked an eyebrow.

“What?” He inquired. Jess sighed, looking at the floor for a second, before looking back to Sam.

“Are you gay?” Choking slightly, Sam turned back to her in shock.

“What? Jess, we’ve been dating for months, how could you possibly-”

“You might have been scared to be out, or confused. I don’t know.” Jess argued. “How about Asexual?” Sam frowned.

“If I didn’t have sexual attraction, why would I be dating?” His girlfriend gave him a look.

“It just means a lack of sexual desire, not a lack of romantic desire. You can be Asexual, and still want a relationship with me. You’d be called Ace Heteroromantic, or Ace Biromantic, or Panromantic or Polyromantic or something else. Gosh, you need to brush up on your LGBT terms. You live in California, for God's sake.” Frowning, Sam shook his head.

“No, I definitely don’t have a problem with the idea of sex.” Sam confirmed. Jess frowned.

“Then what’s the problem?” Shrugging, Sam turned away again, only to yelp in shock when Jess literally pushed him onto the bed and pinned him down, looking him straight in the eye. “Sam Winchester, I’m about three seconds away from choking you.”

And, like that, Sam was crying.

God, he was supposed to be having his first time with Jess, and instead, he was blubbering like a baby. If this didn’t convince her that he was a freak, nothing would.

“Baby,” Jess whispered, stroking his hair as he cried. “What’s wrong?” Trying to breathe, Sam inhaled huge gulps of air, willing himself to stop crying, willing himself to calm down.

“I don’t deserve you.” Sam said finally. They lay in silence for another moment, and he turned to see Jess’ shocked face. “You deserve a normal guy, from a normal family. One who doesn’t have all my baggage.” And fuck, he was crying again. “I’m too ugly, too broken. I’m too tall, too skinny, too scarred, and too damaged. Fuck, my own family didn’t want me. And you’re the nicest, most caring person in the world, and you haven’t done anything in your life that makes it necessary to saddle yourself to me. I love you Jess, and I need you, but I’m scared, and I don’t want you to pretend to love me, when I can’t even love myself.”

They sat in silence for what felt like hours. Sam’s throat was raw from the crying. Without warning, Jess sat on top of him, looking down into his eyes with a mixture of hurt and pity.

“I love you, Sam.” She said softly, leaning in for a kiss, much gentler than before. “My feelings aren’t faked. I love everything about you. I love your smile” She gave him another kiss. “And your laugh.” And another. “Your cute little dimples.” She kissed him on each cheek for that one. “And your brains.” Pressing her nose against his, she stared him down with her dazzling blue eyes. “The one thing I think I hate, is how you hate yourself.” Slowly, she pulled up his shirt, looking at him pointedly when he tried to stop her, as if saying, trust me.

Sam felt exposed, as Jess inspected every single injury on his front. He saw the pain flash in her eyes, as if the fact that someone would hurt him was too much for her. She cleared her throat.

“Did your dad do these?” She asked. Sam shook his head.

“The ones my Dad left were gone around a month after he put them there. When I was here. These are just…..accidents, I’d suppose you’d say.” They were the reason why his Dad was uncomfortable with letting Sam hunt. With less experience than both his Dad and Dean, Sam had still acquired a decent amount of scars to put Dean’s to shame. Jess’ face turned into one of anger.

“Accidents..” She huffed. “Right.” Sighing, Sam looked at his girlfriend.

“Honest, Jess.” Grabbing her hand, he dragged her finger to a collection around his stomach. “Here is where I accidentally scraped my skin really bad playing in the Junkyard at my Uncle Bobby’s.” A lie. The truth was that it had happened while they had been tracking a Trio of Pagan Goddesses in Athens, Georgia, who were commonly known as the Furies. Dean had lured the first one, Megaera, into a trap. Thanks to Sam’s research, they identified her as a goddess who punished adultery, and they decided Dean was the perfect bait. Once in the trap, Sam had stabbed and killed her. Unfortunately, her sister Tisiphone, who punishes Murder, was quick to snatch him away. She spent about an hour cutting around that exact same spot on the stomach, before John and Dean showed up and killed her, too. The eldest, their sister Alecto, had fled long before they could track her. John, instead of patching Sam up, had smacked him upside the head for making them lose the last one. Dean was more sympathetic.

“What about this one?” She asked, pointing to a vicious bite mark on his shoulder. Smiling softly, Sam propped himself up so she could see it better.

“Went hunting with my Dad, Brother and a few friends. Took a bathroom break, and a wolf got the jump on me.” Semi-true. They had thought originally that it was a kind of Werewolf, and when Sam had managed to escape from the creature, the other hunters were ready to shoot Sam (that is, until John and Dean drew guns on them and threatened them within an inch of their life.)

So, Sam had been tied to a tree with Dean and John watching him to verified he had turned, while the other Hunters apprehended the creature. Which was all well and good, considering once the Moon had made it clear that Sam wasn’t a werewolf, the Winchesters couldn’t find their fellow hunters, nor any bodies. Sam had checked the calendar later, and confirmed it fell in line with a local Native American festival celebrating the wolf, which was usually celebrated every 10 years. They realized their good fortune, and that their other hunter friends weren’t coming back. Ever.

His girlfriend continued her inspection of his body.

“This?” Jess pointed to his throat. Sam swallowed.

It was kind of hard to make up a clever half-lie for something that looked suspiciously like a rope mark.

The truth was, that wasn’t from hunting. It was from about three months after he met Amy. John had left them at Bobby’s for at least a month with no contact, and Dean soon followed his father. After three days of no contact, Sam assumed the worst, and got a rope and a chair. He loved his uncle Bobby, but in a world alone with no resources and no family, with Hunting as his only outlook, Sam saw no alternative. Bobby had found him and stopped him, and when an enraged John returned with Dean, the older hunter was so livid at John Winchester that he ran them off the property with a gun, shooting after the Impala. They had never spoken to him since. Dean never knew the real reason, and neither did John. Bobby Singer would probably take that secret with him to the grave, but Sam wasn’t so sure he could hide it.

“That….was less of an accident.” He admitted. “I was 16, and miserable. I had no friends, no life, no future. My Dad had dropped me and my brother off at my uncle’s house a month before, and we hadn’t heard from him in a month. My brother left to check on him, and it was turning into weeks. I assumed the worst. My uncle…” Sam stopped. Goddamnit. Why the fuck was he crying again? “He stopped me.” Jess’ face turned back to concern. Putting a hand underneath his neck, she dragged it across his back and down over his arm, before leaning in to kiss his neck.

And froze when she felt the cut marks.

“Oh,” Sam laughed half-heartedly. “Those are..no, Jess, they’re-” But Jess Moore was, irritatingly, not stupid, and she could see through Sam’s bullshit as she pulled his arm up to the light, so she could inspect.

If it was just a single mark, it would have probably been dismissed as nothing. But it wasn't. Another Hunter would dismiss them as battle scars, not carrying to inspect further. However, Sam knew that no normal person, especially not his super-smart, intuitive, Stanford undergrad Psych-Major girlfriend, would believe that Sam had received a series of almost identical cut marks running down the back of his arm, on accident.

Sam could see Jess holding back tears. Awkwardly trying to console her, he reached up and brought her down against his chest, letting her cry silently onto him. As they sat in the darkness, their desire long forgotten, Jess finally let out a sigh.

“I love you, Sam Winchester.” She informed him. “You’re a beautiful human being, let no one tell you different. And no one, repeat, no one, is ever allowed to harm you again. Especially not you.”

If only it had ever been that simple.


 

Jess insisted he get therapy. She originally wanted to do it, but Sam pointed out he was unlikely to believe her, given the obvious bias of her being his girlfriend. So, every Sunday morning, they would drive to downtown Palo Alto, where Sam got an hour of counseling while Jess did homework in the nearby café. It didn’t help, much. Sam couldn’t reveal any deep memories, at least not without coming off as completely insane, so he had to brilliantly craft the memories, removing any and all sense of the Supernatural, yet still making it somewhat true.

Kind of the same thing that Tim O’Brien did in his shitty Vietnam War novel, but the opposite.

Sorry, off-tangent. Sam really just hated that fucking book.

Anyways, the therapist had been able to identify that Sam and Dean had an unbalanced relationship, because while Sam obviously recognized Dean as his brother, it sounded like Dean had essentially occupied the space of parental authority for Sam, and saw him more as a fragile child than an adult. The therapist recommended bringing others into his life, and not just let it be dominated by Dean. She recommended that Sam not shy away from the truth, or reality. She told him that he carried anger and hate, especially for himself, and that it would destroy him.

In Hindsight, given all that’s happened, Sam really should have listened.

He should have heeded the visions of Jess dying.

He should have brought her along for the hunting trip, and filled her in on their world.

He should have listened to his friends when they urged him to stay at school.

He should have yelled at Dean for not letting him stay dead.

He should have searched harder for a way out of the deal behind Dean’s back, regardless if it meant dying, regardless if it even meant going to hell.

He should have tried to not spiral into depression and self-blame after Dean’s death.

He should have even tried to find a way out of hunting when Dean died.

He should have stopped trying to take revenge on Lilith.

He should have not trusted Ruby.

But it was too late for that.


 So here he was. In Bobby’s Panic Room.

Demon proof, Ghost proof, and, thanks to the Enochian wards installed with Cass’ assistance, recently Angel-proof.

Dean was planning a head-on assault against Lucifer, with the recently retrieved Colt. They were planning to head out to Carthage, Missouri tomorrow.

Tonight, however, was supposed to be a celebration. Or a last hoorah. Whichever.

Dean and Bobby had left to get a boatload of beers, snacks, and whatnot, to commemorate the last time they might all see each other (Bobby was kind of dragged along, since with his wheelchair, he didn’t really get out anymore) Cass had gone to investigate the area around Carthage, and Jo and Ellen were on their way to the house, and would probably be there within an hour. It was all fine and grand.

Except Sam had serious doubts that the Colt would work against Lucifer.

Sure, it killed demons and vampires, but they had never even tested it on angels. And on an archangel?

To say the least, Sam was not overly optimistic.

And, despite the fact that none of his friends were really willing to say it to his face, Sam knew it was all his fault. The angels and demons alike had deceived him, but ultimately, it was his choice.

And it was made out of anger against Lilith, and desire to not be Dean’s weak little baby brother.

And now, he was going to have to become the Devil’s vessel.

Once Lucifer had made it clear that Sam would become his vessel, Sam made it clear that he would rather die.

So, he did.


The first time was literally five minutes after Lucifer came to him in a dream. He had slit his wrists, legs, and sides in his hotel tub, and remembered passing out.

He woke up, completely fine sometime later, albeit in a tub of water stained red with his own blood, and Lindsey, the girl he had saved from Reggie and Tim earlier, screaming hysterically how she was worried about him, and how she came to check on him, and how he was cold and pale and sliced open and dead five seconds ago. How she wasn’t running away from Sam after all that crazy she had just witnessed was beyond him, but seeing a suicidal naked dead man who had bled out into a tub come back to life before her very eyes had evidently been the nail in the coffin for her, and she simply informed Sam that this was just a bit too crazy for her.


The second time was in another hotel room. Sam still hadn’t been on a hunt. In fact, he was being hunted. Bobby and Ellen had called to tip him off that most of the community was on his trail in return for starting the apocalypse, as Tim and Reggie had evidently spread the news like Wildfire. While Sam was more than happy to die, he would not die by the hands of hunters. Most of them were sick, self-righteous, delusional bastards who were all too happy to get carried away when confronting things in control of their actions. Werewolves, Ghosts, Wendigo and others like them would be mercifully put down like the animals Hunters saw them to be. Demons, Vampires, Witches and the like? Hunters would put them under hours of torture, just to get off.

Especially when they made it personal.

And to everyone, Sam had made it personal.

So, instead of letting them catch up to him, he stopped in an abandoned shed in the woods, pulled a chair and strung a rope, and fell.

Sam thought it was pretty clever, because thanks to the Enochian carvings in his ribs, neither angel nor demon could find him magically and cut him down, thus trapping him in a limbo between life and Death, as every time they resurrected him, he’d just hang on the same rope.

It worked, for a while. He died, and then came back to life, only to die right after, because the rope was still strangling him, and on and on and on.

Except eventually his weight and continued thrashing broke the rope, and he was woken by a phone call from Dean, asking him to meet him.


 

Sam was praying (ironically, to God, who was evidently absent from this whole mess) that it worked this time. It had to.

He was out of options.

Lying on the bed in the panic room, he looked to the note he had left Dean on the dresser, with strict instructions to let him die. Withdrawing the Colt from his pocket, Sam put the pistol in his mouth. Closing his eyes, he sighed softly as a single thought passed his mind.

I’m sorry, Dean.

And then, he pulled the trigger.


Jo had had Sam Winchester on her mind. Of course, she didn’t have a crush on him or anything. That was kinda reserved for his older brother, Dean. She shivered in disgust, remembering the time Sam hit on her.

It was also the time he had also knocked her out, tied her up and taunted her about her crush on Dean, and how his Dad had killed hers. Plus, turns out, not really Sam. A demon decided to play with his mind, for vengeance after the Winchesters exorcised it from a girl named Meg.

Sam, sweet little puppy that he was, called Jo repeatedly after to apologize for everything. It got to the point of overbearing, with Jo telling him if he called and apologized one more time, especially at five in the morning, she'd track him, have Dean hold him down, stuff a shotgun up his ass, and pull the trigger.

Dean, sarcastic sexy asshole that he was, all but volunteered after overhearing it on Sam's side (Jo had kinda been shouting).

Anyways, her concern for Sam had started ever since River Pass, Colorado.

The whole town had fallen into chaos.  People were getting killed left and right, their eyes turning black.

Jo had gotten separated from her mom in a fight, and the next time she saw her, it was with Sam Winchester (who'd filled out rather generously since she last saw him), both of them bearing the black eyes of the common demons.

Sam had been captured, while Ellen had made an escape. She and Rufus had him tied up, in a Devil's trap and everything. The holy water and salt and exorcisms all failed to do anything other than startle Sam, or crack away at the facade of innocence.

Honestly, it should have been a clue.

She and Rufus eventually took turns cracking at Sam.

“Talk!” Jo spat, dousing Sam with holy water. Sputtering, the black-eyed creature shook his head.

“Jo, just listen! I'm not a demon! It's all-” He was cut off by a punch. Jo just felt pure rage, seeing Sam's face of innocence coupled with those black heartless eyes. Eyebrows raised in concern the way Sam's usually were. It made her sick.

“Don’t give me that shit. You bastards want free range, now that it's apparently the end-times. You started this genocidal shit, you sick twisted freak. Now you're gonna fess up and help us end it.” There was a pause. Sam's face scrunched up, as he looked down at his feet.

Jess had to blink more than a couple times to confirm that tears were indeed streaming out of those black eyes.

“It's my fault.” Sam admitted “Everyone in this town is killing each other, and it's my fault. People are gonna die, and it's all my fault. I was so. Fucking. Stupid!!” Jo was speechless. Demons didn't ever express remorse, and they definitely didn't cry. “I should have fucking listened to Dean. I should have trusted him. But I listened to a fucking demon over my own brother.” Pausing for a minute, Jo turned away, walking out the door.

Thankfully, she ran into Rufus on the way down to the ground floor of the house.

“Hey, Rufus, can I ask you a question?” The black hunter looked down at her, nodding. “Can Demons cry? Like, legitimately cry?” Rufus paused for a minute, thinking on his answer. However, he eventually just shook his head.

“Not that I can think of. Then again, with the Apocalypse startin’ up, I wouldn’t put anything past them. Considerin’ they found a way to avoid getting harmed by salt and holy water.”


Later, of course, she had found out the truth. The town had never been possessed. War was just screwing with them, convincing everyone that everyone was demons. The Harvelles were all packed up, and ready to go, but Jo was still thinking hard about what Sam had admitted to when interrogating him. Before she left with her mom, she had to share a few words with him.

“Hey, Sam. This seat taken?” She asked, pointing to the bench across from Sam on the picnic table he was sitting at. Smiling slightly, Sam shook his head, gesturing for her to sit.

“Thought you and your mom were heading out.” Jo shrugged.

“We are, just wanted to check in on you.” The Winchester frowned.

“Why? Is everything okay?” Sighing, Jo gave him a pointed look.

“The illusion made me see black eyes, Sam, it didn’t make me hear things that weren’t already being said.” Instantly, Sam stiffens, his jaw clenching. “Want to tell me anything?”

“Doesn’t matter, does it?” Sam said with a snort, looking at his hands. “You already heard everything.”

“I heard what you think, Sam.” Jo countered. “That’s never usually all that happens.” The man gave a huff.

“Doesn’t matter, it’s what everyone thinks. The angel that’s so buddy-buddy with us is bitching about how I broke the world, or whatever. Demons are sneering at me, telling me how much they want to thank me. My own brother won’t look at me the same way.” The younger hunter shook her head.

“Let’s get one thing straight, Sammy: Dean’s protective and caring and compassionate, but he’s self-righteous as fuck. It’s his way or the highway, always has been. And you should know better than most how small-minded he is.” Sam scoffed, looking at her with those friggen’ sad eyes. God, she doesn’t know whether to hug him or rip his eyes out, he’s so pitiful it makes her sick.

“This mess got started from me getting hooked on demon blood, Jo. That didn’t send up any red flags for me, when it seriously should have. I got hooked, in a bad way. It still isn’t really even gone, and Dean has every right to not trust me for it. Today, when I was fetching supplies, I got attacked and had to kill two black-eyed sons of bitches. I had their blood on my knife, and I was about to drink it…” Sam paused for a minute. “Guess it was useless, seeing as they weren’t really………….” He trailed off for a while, before giving a startled choke. Looking up, Jo had little warning before she saw Sam Winchester fall off his seat, and get sick on the ground beside the table.

“Sam??!!” Jo said, slightly panicked. Jumping up and rushing to his side, she patted him as he vomited again, just as violently this time. When he stopped, Jess became acutely aware of the sound of sniffling.

“I killed two people.” Sam whimpered, putting a hand to his mouth. “My God, they weren’t older than twenty-five. Fuck, Jo, I killed two kids.” And he began to sob, softly, leaning into her jacket.

The girl was speechless. She didn’t think Sam would be so sensitive. Hell, she didn’t think any hunter would be so sensitive. People died all the time, it was just part of the job. If it was a close friend, Jo might’ve understood. But Sam Winchester, a big, beefy guy who she’d never seen shed a tear, was legit bawling over two random teenagers.

Unsure of what to do, she just let him cry awhile. Thankfully, it was not too long, because Jo was super-uncomfortable with feelings. When Sam finished, he just wiped his eyes and apologized.

“Sorry,” He said, getting up. “That normally doesn’t happen.” Trying to make light of the situation, she chuckled, patting him on the back.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, Big Guy, just keep in touch.” Smiling softly, Sam nodded, pulling her in for a hug.

“I sure will.”

She texted Sam several times, to stimulate conversation, or at least pretend that she was doing it for a reason other than concern, but it soon was made clear that texting was not a good method for keeping in touch with the younger Winchester, because he pretty much gave short responses to each text she sent, and never once left a question for her to respond to.

So, to say that Jo was glad when she heard that she and her mom would be meeting with the Winchesters and Bobby face-to-face was an understatement.


As the pick-up truck parked in front of Singer Salvage, Jo hopped out and walked to the garage (For reasons unknown, Bobby always left it open). Without giving her mom time to catch up, she entered into Bobby’s house. Looking around, Jo frowned slightly, as it was seemingly empty.

“Hello?” She called. No answer.

“Bobby?” She tried again, walking into the kitchen and seeing Bobby’s (disaster of a) study. Pacing further, she entered the living room where the TV was situated.

“Dean?” The only response was her echo. Her brow furrowed.

“Where are those idiots?” Her mom asked behind her, as she entered the kitchen carrying the beer they brought. Jo shrugged, looking back over her shoulder.

“Dunno. Maybe a supply run?” Ellen raised an eyebrow.

“Since when’s it take two built young guys and a crippled crotchety ol’ grouch to go to the supermarket?” She asked skeptically. “Hope they aren’t plannin’ on gettin’ that  drunk tonight.”

“It might be because if we all die Bobby’s gonna shut himself in.” Jo said carelessly, wincing when the words slipped her mouth. Sighing, Ellen gave a nod.

“Probably right. Bobby’s miserable now that he can’t hunt. Even though he hasn’t really hunted in a while.” There was an odd silence, and Jo felt a furthering in her suspicions that perhaps Bobby and her mom might like each other.

“I’m gonna check the basement.” Jo said after the silence had taken it’s time to fill the room.

Making her way over to the basement door, Jo opened it squinted down into the dimly-lit room to see if she could identify any of her closest allies. It seemed empty. Frowning, she descended the stairs quietly, in case she could overhear any conversations (yes, it was eavesdropping, sue her.) Stepping onto the floor of the basement, she looked around for anyone. It was abandoned, and it was quiet.

Looking past the staircase to the Panic Room, she saw that it had been closed shut. Frowning, she walked over to it and opened the door.

Just in time to see Sam Winchester blow his brains out. 


Ellen Harvelle had a lotta shit happen to her in the many years she’d been alive. Being raised in the hunting life, there were only a few times she had felt truly terrified, outside of on a hunt.

The first time, she had been on a park bench, with her boyfriend of six months, William Harvelle. They crossed paths before, because it was what hunters did. But their relationship had been rocky.  There had been fights, often violent (What could she say? She had a temper), and disagreements on cases. The date was mainly forced, so they could “work through their problems” or some shit like that.

So when William put his arm around her and said that he needed to confess something, her stomach fell through. The ring he pulled out quickly dissipated all that fear, and she practically tackled him to the ground with kisses.

The second was when she had a phone call from John, with “some bad news”. The phone call she always suspected might come. Her suspicions were right, and the minute John hung up, she ripped the phone, cord and all, from the wall and screamed, until Jo (all of four years old) found her mom and held onto her, because damnit, she was scared, too.

The third time was when she found out Jo was picking up hunting. And really never ever left her. She carried that fear in her heart and her womb, every single day she was breathing, and Jo was hunting, even when she was beside her.


She had been in the kitchen, prepping for her seven-layer dip. It was unhealthy as anything, but they were taking on the devil tomorrow morning. Who gave two fucks?

Humming You are My Sunshine to herself, she couldn’t help but wonder where the guys had gone. Maybe a last walk? (Or roll, in Bobby’s case). Grocery run wouldn’t need that much man power. Well, boy power. Doesn’t matter how old they are, doesn’t matter that she met them less than four years ago, doesn’t matter she’s probably had less than fifty run-ins with them. The Winchesters were her boys, and nothing would sway her mind about that.

Maybe they were planning something in the basement? Jo’d probably find ‘em.

Without warning, she heard a gunshot.

“SAM!!!!” Jo’s scream activated her mother instinct, as she felt a distinct pain shoot through her body.

Through her womb.


Running as fast as possible to the basement, Ellen stormed into the panic room to see a hysterical Jo cradling the bloody body of Sam Winchester.

“Sam…” Jo begged, shoving his body. “Sam, please. Please don’t joke like this….. Sammy….please wake up.” Turning to her mom, the girl let her fear show in her eyes. “Mom…” She whimpered pathetically. “I don’t know what to do…I just walked in and he pulled the trigger……” Looking back down his body, she nudged him again, trying to illicit a response. “There’s so much blood, Mom. Why is there so much blood?”

Though she was ashamed to admit it, Ellen was frozen. Seeing her daughter cradling the body of a boy who was practically their family made her want to die. Her blood ran cold with the realization that Sam was dead. He was gone, and probably never waking-

A violent fit of coughing pulled her away from her thoughts, and Ellen was pretty sure she had a coronary when Sam sat himself up. Looking at both the Harvelles, the younger Winchester had tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Damnit.” He growled, slamming his fist on the floor. “Was supposed to fucking work.” Holding out his palm in front of his mouth, he spat, and a bloody bullet landed in it. There was another pause, before Ellen felt fury shoot through her, almost as quickly as the fear had.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” She spat, slapping him across the cheek. “Are you trying to give me a heart-attack, you idiot?” Sam, who was rubbing his cheek, had the good grace to appear ashamed.

“Lucifer needs me to be a vessel.” He explained. “I thought if I could end it right here, right now, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

“You thought…? You thought there wouldn’t be a problem?” Ellen snarled, hauling him to his feet by his collar. “You think you eating a bullet helps us fight the devil that you unleashed?” Sam looked at her, and she knew she was fucked the minute she saw those puppy-dog eyes.

“Without any hope of getting his proper vessel, I thought he’d be easier for you guys to take down.” He answered. “Of course, the angels have powers of resurrection. So, any simple means wouldn’t do.” Sam pointed tiredly to the Enochian sigils on the walls. “With proper angel warding, I thought they couldn’t get me.” He then hefted the Colt in one hand. “This kills demons, even though demons are just perverted corruptions of human souls. So, I figured that if I use it on a human, like me….”

“It destroys your soul,” Jo whispered softly. “Making resurrection impossible, because there’s no soul for the angels to put into a body.” Sam nodded weakly.

“And I thought it would work.” He croaked weakly. “It was a better plan than the last two..” Instantly, Sam was quiet, realizing he said too much. Ellen practically felt her heart drop.

“Oh, please tell me.” She sighed. “Please tell me I didn’t hear you say that.” Sam didn’t respond, glancing downward at his feet. Feeling a similar feeling of anger surge in her like it had before, Ellen slapped him again. “And you thought it was a good idea to leave your brother alone why?” Sam shook his head.

“You don’t understand.”

“The hell I don’t.” Ellen growled. “You think that suicide’s the best option to fix your mess? To hell with Dean and his feelings?” Sam gave a sigh.

“This all started with me, Ellen.”

“Exactly, and isn’t it your job to fix it?”

“No, not just the apocalypse, Ellen.” Sam stopped her. “My mom was out of the hunting business for ten years, and she only died because she came into my room the night she died.” There was a pause, and Ellen frowned.

“That it?”

“It got my father into hunting, to avenge my Mom. Me trying to live a normal life that led to my girlfriend being killed. The hunt for the demon which led to Dean’s accident and my Dad’s death. My death that made Dean only went to hell after making a demon deal.” More tears flowed down his cheeks. “I made the choice to help Ruby. I killed Lilith, for revenge. I killed vessels for demon blood. I set Lucifer free. I used my powers when Dean warned me not to.” There was a pause, and Sam exhaled softly. “I thought I could maybe make up for all my fuck-ups.”

“Do you really think that lowly of yourself?” Jo growled. “Your brother loves and cares about you-” Sam snorted

“He’s got a funny way of showing it.” Sighing, Ellen resisted the urge to slap him for being stupid and self-pitying and just all-around Sam Winchester.

“Want to see if he disagrees?” She threatened. Instantly, Sam turned pale, shaking his head in fear

“No, please, you cannot tell Dean.”

“Then you have to promise you won’t try this again.” There was a pause, and Sam sighed, nodding.

“Alright. Fine.” He relented, albeit bitterly. “Guess I should make the most of being alive, then.” Ellen gave a nod.

“You’re goddamn right.” Looking at his shamed face, she felt herself weaken even more. This kid had everything taken from him, for no good reason. Patting him on the back, she gave a small, sad smile.

“Always Keep Fighting.”


And, true to his word, Sam did.