It had been three weeks since the Demon told him to enjoy his life. Three weeks since his dad and his mom and Uncle Bobby and Pastor Jim had started preparing for an attack. Three weeks since Dean apparently took some kind of oath to never leave his side. Three weeks since he felt like himself.

Ellen had been warned about what was going on, the Demon had gone after the Roadhouse last time. She and Jo wanted to drive over to help them, but Mary talked them out of it. They didn't want to be caught on the road if they were attacked, and Ellen reluctantly agreed. But they were sworn to make a trip to see her after everything brushed over or Ellen would send Ash after them with his airsoft gun. The memories of hide and seek with Jo behind the Roadhouse as Ash hunted them brought a smile to Sam's face, as well as phantom pains from those pellets.

His parents, Pastor Jim, and Uncle Bobby all took turns to stand to watch around the clock, so they'd have some warning when the Demon decided to attack them. Whoever wasn't on watch was instead either researching powerful sigils and symbols to ward off Yellow Eyes or making food for everyone. Sam assumed that Dean would help cook dinner, he always disappeared around that time and came back with two plates of food for them to eat in bed.

During that time, Sam did not leave his room unless he absolutely had to. He was getting worse and they all knew it. The visions, while slowing down in number, were getting worse in every other way. The Demon had stayed with Max for a week, teaching him how to control his powers and torment his uncle and stepmom before taking the boy away somewhere and moving on to another boy named Ansem in Oklahoma. Ansem was like Max, with just a little encouragement from the Demon, the boy swore his allegiance as well. His power seemed just as dangerous as Max's, if not worse… All Ansem had to do was speak, and people did whatever he said.

During that week, Sam had the misfortune of being mentally locked in the minds of the people under Ansem's control and had to witness firsthand as they killed people and then themselves. It took Dean a long time to talk him down from those visions… It was weird to say the least, feeling himself die but then waking up with no injuries like it never happened. But he knew it happened somewhere…

In the third week, the next teenager that the Demon targeted was a girl. Sam saw the moment that her power manifested. She had been on a date with her girlfriend, they looked like they had been having so much fun. The girlfriend called her Summer Lily as they were eating ice cream at a fair. The wind blew hair into the girlfriend's face, and Lily went to push it out of the way, her fingers brushing against her cheek in what was supposed to be a sweet way. But the girlfriend's eyes widened, and panic spread over her face as she dropped her ice cream and grabbed at her chest. The Demon appeared behind Lily then, smiling, watching the scene. Lily screamed as her girlfriend dropped to the ground, her eyes losing life.

A nurse had been at the fair with her family, rushing to help the girl. The nurse's husband pulled Lily away from the body so that his wife could examine her, but Lily grabbed his arm to break away. The husband soon fell to the ground as well. The Demon laughed.

Sam gasped awake after that, violently pulling away when Dean tried to touch him. He dared not touch anyone after that, especially not letting Dean brush shoulders with him. He had even locked Dean out of his room after he almost fell asleep on his shoulder, fearing that he would accidentally touch him. Of course, his brother couldn't be stopped so easily and found a way inside through the window. Sam stayed in bed and under the safety of the blankets all that day.

It wasn't until his quietness was disturbed by laughter from the kitchen that Sam realized what had happened. He remembered how much he hated family and how much power they had over him. The Demon had isolated him, taken them away from him. Sure, they weren't dead, but Sam had barely any contact with them now that they might as well be. The one thing he wanted most, given to him and then taken away.

Sam sat with his back to his door and eyes closed, alone in his room, and listened as Dean and his mom laughed at something Uncle Bobby said. They sounded happy, if not just a little tired. They were pouring over research books and keeping watch constantly, all for him. Some sort of familial duty… It had to be exhausting. A part of Sam wanted the Demon to attack them already just so that they could all leave here. It was suffocating… A house full of people and he's never felt more alone, more outcasted, more tainted.

"Oh, my God!" Dean shouted, laughter building higher as the other adults joined in. Sam swore he even heard his dad's laugh mixed in as well, and it only made him hate himself more. Dean was getting to know his dad again, getting to spend time with him and share stories from hunts, and Sam wanted it to end. He was so selfish.

The laughter built once more from the kitchen and Sam decided that if he didn't get out of there then he would scream. He shoved himself off the floor and threw the window open. The drop to the ground was a little high but he faced worse. So, without even putting his shoes on, he climbed on the ledge and jumped.

He knew it would freak Dean out when he went back to the room, but he'd find Sam around the property eventually. Probably. Maybe Dean would get so carried away with talking with their dad that Sam would go back to his room before Dean.

Doubtful but wishful.

Sam walked along the tree line, letting the sound of the wind through the trees and the feeling of the grass under his bare feet calm him. It was a warm day for February in Minnesota, though that really wasn't saying a lot… His feet would be in pain with each step if it was any colder, but he was thankful that there wasn't any snow at least. It had melted a few days ago as they went through a weird 'heat wave' but it was predicted to drop again in a few days.

And didn't it feel nice to worry about the weather after everything he's seen the last few weeks? It was such a normal thing to think about. Sure, he's had to think about the weather while on hunts before, but that was always about if he'd be able to go after the monster before the snowstorm hit, or if the rain would wash tracks away. There was no hunt or monster attached to this thought though, just him thinking about the weather in a completely normal way. He would take his normalcy wherever he could get it these days.

His walk took him along the side of the church, and he thought about going in there. He had listened to Pastor Jim's preaching more often than his dad liked, prayed more than anyone would've guessed, and held a reverence about the tales from the Bible that others would laugh at in their line of work. It made sense to Sam though… If there were demons and Hell, then there had to be angels and Heaven. Even if Sam had never seen one of his prayers answered yet.

He hesitated near the church before deciding to keep walking. He didn't feel like he belonged there, as tainted as he was. Perhaps that was why his prayers were never answered. The angels must have known about the darkness in him, about the Demon in his head and these powers he had, and they deemed him too dirty to be saved.

He could always go to the barn; Pastor Jim had a flock of sheep in there that he kept for his teachings. Sam loved to sit with them, run his fingers over their fleece and pet their ears. They would keep him warm as well. But again, he thought better of it and kept walking.

No, he came out here to be alone. If he wanted to be warm and surrounded, then he could have just gone back inside and sat with the others in the kitchen.

There was a place not too far into the woods, a clearing that had a fallen tree in it. Pastor Jim knew about it, and if his absence was noticed and they couldn't find him among the other buildings, then he would surely tell the others about the spot. Maybe even Dean knew about it, had gone there himself when he was visiting and needed to get away.

So he trudged through the woods, starting to regret not putting his shoes on as he spotted patches of snow still lining the trees. Wouldn't it be funny if he lost his feet to frostbite and the Demon couldn't use him? That would be one way to stop the Demon's plans.

He chuckled to himself at the image as the trees started to disperse, the clearing not far ahead. His own little sanctuary, guarded by trees and lit by the sun. During the summer, he liked to think of it as a cathedral with the sunbeams filtering though the leaves like it would a stained-glass window and a choir of songbirds. If he was lucky and sat still long enough, a rabbit would come to eat the clover in the middle of the clearing, with the sun reflecting against its fur. But in these winter months, it would only be him and the peace he needed.

The fallen tree that he liked to sit on wouldn't be good for much longer, years' worth of rain and bugs rotting the wood and making it soft. And with the melted snow, he had no doubt that the tree would be wet… With how cold it was, he didn't really want to get wet and risk being sick. He's had enough of that already, and he didn't want to burden his family any more than he already was.

He stared at the fallen tree, then at the patch of grass in front of it that had a perfectly placed sunbeam. He guessed his decision was made for him, moving to sit on the grass with his back to the tree and bringing his knees to his chest. The sun was warm, causing the feeling to start to return to his feet. If he were being honest, he could imagine himself falling asleep out here… He would sleep much better here than in his room, for sure. The peace of nature covered him completely and he fought to keep his eyes open. He had always loved the outdoors, the calm of the wild when it didn't involve a hunt. Sam could remember a couple of years ago when he had stayed with Uncle Bobby for a weekend, the man had tried to take him deer hunting. Just sitting in a deer stand for a few hours was peaceful to him. But Bobby had quickly learned to never do it again; the thought of shooting an innocent deer had caused Sam to tear up and instead, Bobby had to watch an eight-point buck walk by.

Sam smiled at the memory, remembering how spoiled Uncle Bobby and the others had made him. He was sure it killed Uncle Bobby inside to watch that buck walk past them. He hoped that they could do that again, just the two of them sitting in a hunter's hideout watching nature.

Though, if he was free, Sam wouldn't mind Dean joining them-

A sharp pain shot through his head like lightning; Sam had the half mind to wonder if he had just been shot before his vision went dark.






"Hey, get up." A voice called. It was cold and unfamiliar, but somehow Sam knew it.

Slowly, almost painfully, Sam's eyes opened. They felt dry and crusty, like he got too much and too little sleep at the same time. His head echoed the pain he last remembered feeling, pulsing in time with his heart and every little noise in the… wherever he was.

He was somewhere dark, a vast contrast to the brightness of the snow and woods he was just in. The ground felt hard, solid like stone, and the coldness of it seeped through his jeans. There was no light in the room, but Sam could see a light flickering outside of a doorway and casting orange shadows over everything.

Standing in front of him, Sam could just barely make out the forms of two boys. His eyes squinted in the darkness, trying to make out features. They seemed familiar to him…

With a gasp, Sam was on his feet, eyes wide as he stared at them. Max and Ansem. He hadn't seen them in weeks…

"I thought it was about time we met," Max smiled, his unnaturally white teeth standing out in the darkness. "Master talks about you quite often."

"We wanted to know how special you really are to get Azazel's praise without even being here." Ansem snipped, his head tilting minutely. "Tell me, how great are you, Sam Winchester?"

Sam looked between them both, his stance widening and shoulders hunching. While Max was smiling, it was easy to tell that the two of them were hostile. And while Sam knew he could take them if it came down to a fistfight, he wasn't so sure about if they decided to use their powers on him… "Where am I?" He asked instead. "How did I get here?"

Something that almost sounded like a growl came from Ansem as Max started to laugh. "Huh. I guess you really are immune like Master said."


Max took a step forward -he was about an inch taller than Sam was- and studied him closely before answering. "Master tells us that you are his favorite, that you will be the 'Boy-King' of Hell instead of one of us. He makes sure we know how much better you are than us, he says that you're immune to our powers. We can't look in on you, Ansem can't control you, Lily can't kill you, I can't force you against the wall… We always believe what Master tells us, but we just wanted to make sure."

Sam watched him warily, shifting so his back pressed against a stone wall. "Is he here? Your master?"

"No." Max turned away, his body relaxed and easy. "He doesn't even know that you're here. We wanted to test you ourselves. See what's so great about you."

"I still don't understand," Ansem started. "Why are you his favorite? Why promise the throne to you when you aren't even here with him?" His voice hardened, back stiffening, "Why aren't you here with him?"

"I don't want to be his favorite." Sam let his own back straighten, giving him a little extra height but still being smaller than them. "The Demon ruined my life, he took away my chance of being a normal kid! I hate him! And the first chance that I get, I'm going to kill him."

There was a flash of silver near the door, Sam barely having enough time to raise his hand in defense before a large knife was hovering in front of him. There was a pressure against his raised palm, like there was something shoving into it. It didn't take him long to realize that he was stopping the knife, keeping it away from him with his own mind.

Sam really shouldn't have been so surprised; he had moved things with his mind before. Given, they had all been on accident and never intentional, but he knew that he possessed the power. It seemed like Max and Ansem did not expect it though… The pressure behind the knife disappeared and Sam shoved it back at the two, both jumping out of the way to dodge it and watching as the knife clattered to the ground.

"I want to go back," Sam said, bringing their eyes back to him. "I've proven myself or whatever, now tell me how to get back to where I was. Or tell me where I am and I'll figure it out on my own."

It was silent for a time, the two boys taking in his words before Max let out a chuckle. "I bet you could leave here on your own… You're not really here after all, you're just in a dream state. We can't look in on you like you do to us, but we can pull your subconscious here to talk."

"And where is here?"

Ansem smirked. "Hell."

Sam felt his breath leave him, his eyes widening as he looked to the doorway with the flickering light. He couldn't be in Hell… There was no fire, no screaming, no demons torturing the poor human souls that were trapped here. And he wasn't dead! They were lying, he couldn't be in Hell!

"Shocking, isn't it? We weren't expecting it to be like this either." Max waved his hand and torches lit up around the room. There was a bed in the far corner, it looked soft… A dresser was next to the bed, and a bookcase in the corner that had a coffee table and a plush sofa in front of it. "But this is only the housing section for important demons and us. If you wander too far, you'll start to hear the screaming."

"Azazel already has your room ready," Ansem commented. "It was ready before ours were. Do you want to see it?"

"No, I want to go back. Now."

Max groaned, his shoulders going slack. "Fine, but we do have some advice to give you first. One Special Child to another, if you will. Master has about a dozen other kids to collect before he can come for you. It'll take him three months, and then he's going to come after you with an army of demons. We know you've been hiding out, wasting your time. Don't. You're not safe there anyway, there are demons watching you even as your body sleeps in those woods. Go enjoy your freedom while you can."

Something in Max's voice led Sam to believe him, almost making Sam offer his hand in a promise to help him escape. He recalled Pastor Jim's words, about how no one was beyond help and hope wasn't lost. Max sounded almost sad… Perhaps if someone else showed pride in him, could he switch sides…?

But Sam kept his arms against his sides, nodding to them both. "…Thank you."

They didn't say anything as they stared back, the pulsing in Sam's head growing stronger and harder, his vision soon whitening out.






The first thing he felt was the cold. It soothed his head yet numbed his legs. His feet tingled with the sensation of thousands of needles poking him, and the warmth he remembered of the sunbeam was long gone. Had he actually fallen asleep?

His eyes started to open his eyes when a blast of cold hit him square in the face. Sam let out a yell of alarm, quickly jumping to his feet and brushing the snow off his face.

"You ass!" An angry voice shouted, snow crunching under heavy boots. Sam looked up, snow still clinging to his lashes, to see Dean marching to him with a red face and another snowball in hand. "Do you have any idea how worried we've all been? We've been tearing this whole place apart looking for you, and you're just out here sleeping? You couldn't have done that in your own room? And you didn't even bring your damn boots! Are you trying to give yourself frostbite, moron?" Dean threw the next snowball, hitting Sam in the shoulder as he ducked.

Sam smiled to himself, a part of him warming inside to know how worried Dean was. That he wasn't tired of having Sam around. He rolled his shoulder and let the snow fall off as he sighed. "I'm sorry, Dean… I didn't mean to worry everyone; I was planning to go back before anyone noticed I left. I just… I needed to get out. I felt like I was suffocating in there."

Dean's demeanor softened, a quiet sigh leaving him as well. "Well, just don't let it happen again. Next time you want to go out, tell me. And I'll tell you how much of an idiot you are and force you to put shoes on."

Sam's toes wiggled in the ground, partly because of the attention on them and partly to make sure he could still move them. He laughed lightly and smiled up at Dean. "Alright. I'll make sure to drag you with me to the frozen woods and force you to watch me sleep next time I want to go."

Dean's eyebrows rose, his mouth opening slightly in surprise. He stared at Sam as if he had never seen him before, as if he was some holy creature coming to grace Dean with his presence. It made Sam feel self-conscious.

"What…? What's that look for?"

"Nothing… Nothing, just, I haven't seen you smile in weeks." Dean's eyes flickered around the clearing, searching for something before flashing back to him. "You seem… lighter. Did something happen? Or is all the cold finally affecting you?"

In the distance, a bird whistled a tune and Sam felt his smile grow. "I had another vision. I think things are finally going to start looking up."

"Really? What did you see? Did you find a way to beat Yellow-Eyes?"

Sam's eyes drifted past his brother to the trail that lead back to Pastor Jim's house. He could hear his name echoing off the trees as his parents called for him. "Let's go back, I'll tell you all what happened."

Dean nodded, turning his back to Sam, and starting to hurry along the trail, eager to find out what happened. Sam followed close behind, but his eyes caught on a pile of snow near one of the trees and a wicked smirk spread across his face.

He quickly bent down to scoop a handful of the snow up, patting it into a ball before letting it fly and hitting Dean in the back of his exposed neck. The shriek that came from him nearly made Sam collapse into laughter, but instead, he took off running. It took Dean a moment to recover but he was soon chasing after his little brother, shouting and yelling threats of revenge.

Sam laughed, letting the excitement and adrenaline fill him while he could. He let Dean make a new memory to cherish.

Now, Sam had a countdown. He had a deadline he could work towards. He would not let the Demon, Azazel, take him no matter what. He would protect his family (Dean wrapped his arms around Sam's waist and tossed him over his shoulder, carrying him while Sam thrashed around, both of their laughter echoing through the woods) even if it meant fighting Azazel and his army of demons alone.

A/N: If you see any writing errors, no you didn't. It's currently 3am and this is the only time I've been able to write in a long time. I've tried proofing it as much as I could, but I'm going cross-eyed and I will be sick if I read this chapter one more time.

Also, I hate to say it, but it might be a while before the next story is posted. I know I'm leaving you on a cliffhanger and I hate myself for that, and the next book is the one I've been anticipating the most. But life is crazy right now and I need things to settle a little first (just watch though, I'm going to get stressed and start writing as a stress relief and have the next book ready sooner than anyone thought).

For the last few weeks I've been helping take care of my grandma. It was an on-again-off-again thing, we are a large family so we all did rotating shifts to help out. She was 93. Her health has been declining since last Thanksgiving, and it seemed to be worse each time I went there. She died peacefully yesterday morning in her sleep. I was never close with her... I don't have all the memories that my siblings and cousins do. My mom was the black sheep and therefore so was I, even my uncles who I love dearly agree that my grandma had a bias against me. But I did have good times with her... We were both night owls, and during visits, when my mom would go to bed at a normal time, I would stay up with my grandma and talk. Sometimes we talked in the living room, sometimes on the back porch, most of the times we talked in the kitchen and ate ice cream or cookies together. We told stories to each other and laughed until 4am. She traveled the world and loved to remember her trips, lamenting how she didn't get to take a trip with all her grandkids (there's 19 of us).

While I have those late night talks, I also have 24 years of rejection and hateful words and disappointed silence. I feel as if I'm going to be comforting my mom and nephews and nieces more than I will actually be mourning her. Which leads into a downward spiral of how awful of a person that makes me. It's a complicated situation all around.

Sorry, I ended up venting. The point being, it'll be a while before the next book is posted so that my feelings don't end up interfering with the storyline I have planned. But when I do come back, it shouldn't be too long because the next book is already more than halfway finished (has been since the first book). I hope you all look forward to reading it as much as I look forward to writing it.

And a huge thank you to everyone who reads my stories. 3 3 I really couldn't have written all this without everyone's support. I know what it's like to have a favorite story, to eagerly await updates and comment how much I love the latest chapter. But it's still so hard for me to believe others feel that way about my stories, even when I get comments very similar to the ones I post to my favorite stories. It always makes my days so much better. ^_^ Thank you so much 3 3 3