Sam wanting to leave the life was never a surprise to Deanna. He’d taken up the training, sure, but he never wanted to shoulder that burden; he never wanted to be his father’s good little soldier. Sam liked school and safety. Sam liked the security found in permanence. Keeping a knife under the pillow out of habit was not something that pointed toward a safe, secure, normal life. It wasn’t a surprise, then, when Sam wanted to go to college.

Deanna saw it coming, she really did, and maybe she’d tried to crush those possibilities every time they surfaced in her mind. As it turned out, denial wasn’t the best preparation, because his announcement about Stanford still stung like hell.

They’d argued about it, screamed themselves hoarse at each other, and stalked off to fume silently (and separately) by way of recovering. Sam had waited to bring it up until John was out on a solo hunt, and Deanna had been insulted. If he thought he would have an easier time convincing her than John, he had another thing coming. He said he wanted a normal life, a good life, and even if part of Deanna knew what he meant, she was still furious.

“We do the best we can, Sammy!” she’d hollered, kept her expression one of fury to mask the hurt and resisted the urge to throw her arms up in exaggerated exasperation. They’d had this conversation before.

“Don’t I get a say in my own life, Deanna?” Sam had bellowed back, his own face much easier to read; he’d always felt everything so deeply. “Shouldn’t I get to choose what I do with it?”

“You should choose family, dammit! You should choose not to abandon us!”

A hard, disbelieving laugh punched out of Sam’s throat. “Choose family? You mean the family that taught me so much about killing that I don’t even know how to live anymore? No, Dee, I don’t think so.”

“It’s kept you alive, hasn’t it?” Deanna’s voice rose, but there was a fraction of a second where she felt her mask slip, the slightest crumpling of her face, something dangerously close to resignation threatening to overtake her. She’d steeled herself against it, set her mouth in a hard line and her eyes in a harsh glare.

“Only because Dad drags us into his supernatural shit all the time! Do you think I’d need to know how to behead a vampire if he didn’t put me in that situation in the first place?” The resentment dripped from the words, thick and venomous, but his stare had turned flat; he was shutting her out. “I can’t play soldier anymore, Dee. I’m not you.”

She had seen that he was flagging, that he was tired of fighting. His shoulders drooped slightly as he stepped back and away from her, removing himself physically to make it easier emotionally. His arms folded against his chest, but the posture looked less like it was meant to keep her out and more to hold himself together. Protect Sammy echoed in her mind, a knee-jerk reflex whenever Sam was distressed, but Deanna had never been the cause of that look. She realized dimly that protecting Sammy this time would mean backing off, because it was her doing the harm. The revelation froze the remaining words in her throat, and then she had fled the room.

John’s response wasn’t explosive. In the wake of Deanna’s tantrum, it had seemed rather anticlimactic; he didn’t even raise his voice. It was only a few hours after John’s return that Sam made his announcement for a second time, with John sifting through his journal and sipping his whiskey. Sam’s bag was already packed. Deanna looked on from the back of the room, watching the line of her little brother’s shoulders becoming tighter with agitation the longer John went without reacting before Sam’s composure broke completely.

“Say something!” he barked, the challenge hanging in the air between the two men. It was another minute before John even turned to face his son.

“If you walk out that door, don’t bother coming back,” John replied, his voice all frosty detachment, before turning back to his journal. Sam grabbed his bag, had almost made it to the door before Deanna jumped in.

“You can’t be serious!” she protested, but she wasn’t sure who she was disagreeing with. Sam was still angry with her and John had completely ignored her outburst. “That can’t be it. You wouldn’t just turn out your own son like that!”

“If he wants out, he’s out, but it’s for life. He doesn’t get to come back,” John returned, tone just as chilly as it had been with Sam. For his part, Sam looked livid. He adjusted the bag on his shoulder and took another step toward the door, but he spared his sister a glance. She stared back at him, trying to convey in a look what they both knew she was dying to say out loud: don’t leave us. Don’t leave me.

“Sammy,” she started, searching for the words, but they wouldn’t come. As she made to begin again, John’s voice cut across her own sharply.

“Enough, Deanna.”



She knew that if she didn’t pick her next words carefully, that would really be it; Sam would be out the door and gone for good. There were so many jumbled, half-formed thoughts guttering around in her skull that instinct kicked in. “Yes, sir.”

It was the wrong choice. She saw the hardening in Sam’s eyes just before he turned his back on her and walked out the door, slamming it pointedly behind him. Silence filled the room, heavy and oppressive, until the muted clink of glass on wood drew her attention to her father. He’d decided to forego the cup and drink straight from the bottle, still skimming through that damn journal. She had hazy memories of a similar scene from long ago, after the fire and her mother’s death; there’d been no journal then, but the bottle had been something of a constant companion of John’s for a long while.

Deanna had always tried hard to earn her father’s approval. She didn’t know for sure whether she’d like classic rock and cars if she hadn’t picked up the interests from her father first. Half an hour after Sam’s departure, she wound up in a bar down the street, nursing a glass of whiskey; an old friend of her father’s, a new friend of hers. It was really no surprise.