George looked up from the paperwork on his desk when Sam stepped into his office. The warm smile on the man's lips was one of the things that Sam had already decided he liked about this guy. George seemed intent on making everyone feel at home and, from what Sam could tell, it was a success. Apart from a pale-looking girl who looked more like a living ghost than a person, he hadn't seen or heard anyone being uncomfortable here.

"Hi," he said and pushed one sleeve of his sweat-shirt up.

"Sam," George said. "Sit down," he suggested and waved at a chair in front of his desk. "I just need to put the finishing touches on this bill. It's amazing how much paperwork thirty-odd people in one place create," he added with a smirk.

Sam settled down and glanced around. "I can imagine," he said. The office was littered with books and papers and the walls were plastered with newspaper cuttings about fires and odd happenings. It was painfully obvious that George at least at some point had been a hunter.

"There's a lot of demons out there," George said out of the blue and Sam returned his attention to the older man, seeking for the accusation and thereby the knowledge of what had happened when the gate to Hell had opened. But George didn't look accusatory. He simply eyed Sam with open interest. "There always have been," he added.

"I guess," Sam agreed.

George studied him for a moment and Sam felt a bit edgy because of it. "You're uncomfortable," George stated. "That's understandable. I suppose you boys haven't trusted a lot of people in your lives, huh?" Sam shrugged, leaving it up to the other man to judge whether he was right or not. "I get that. I was that way myself once. Before I founded this place. Hell, on many levels I still don't trust a lot of people."

"Why did you found this place?" Sam suddenly asked and was a bit surprised himself that he asked a question like that this soon.

George smiled and leaned back on his seat, folding his big hands in front of him. "Because I met others like me, boys and girls like you, and I found that I could influence them in a positive direction. My ... abilities are subtle. I have a few of them, nothing big. I can sense moods among other things," he said. "I'm not a hundred percent sure, but it's my impression that I'm the first of the special kids. I was born in 1945, right before World War II ended. In my opinion, the – creation if you like – of special kids was fueled by the fact that evil lost that war. It was a ... I don't know ... desperate attempt to create a new Adolf Hitler who could unleash the minions of Hell onto the world."

Sam couldn't help the frown that furrowed his brow. "Are you saying ..."

"I'm not saying anything, Sam. I'm guessing. Without knowing the plans behind, all we can do is guess. But one thing I do know and that is that every human being on the face of this planet has the ability to tap into what we consider to be supernatural abilities. You and I and all the others here were born with the abilities we have. But the demon corrupted them. It opened them, made them accessible, but it didn't give them to us. Which in my book means that we can control them." George eyed him seriously for a second. "And I'm surrounded by thirty-odd people here that prove me right," he added.

"So, you don't know anything for sure?" Sam asked.

George shook his head lightly. "No, but then again, nothing in life is for sure. Now, why don't you tell me what you can do. What are your abilities?"

Sam blinked and glanced off to one side, thinking hard about what to do. Then he sighed lightly. "I have visions. They're painful and they've always been connected to the demon," he said. "Except ... I forced one when Dean was abducted and ... well ... with the demon gone and all ..."

George held up a hand. "Excused me. What?" he cut in. "What do you mean, the demon's gone?"

Sam made a face. "Well ... Dean shot it. And it's gone. Happened two months ago," he countered quietly. Apparently, what had happened in that graveyard that night was not common knowledge.

"It's dead?" George asked and leaned forward. "For good?"

Sam nodded. "Yeah, I guess so. Our dad found this colt, made by Samuel Colt, and ... well ... it was said to be able to kill demons. Not just send them back to hell, but kill them outright. And it did. Only problem is ..."

"... you've run out of bullets," George finished for him, his expression a bit intense right now. Sam nodded, guessing that one was obvious. For a moment, all George did was eye him. Then he leaned back again, his expression serious. "To be honest, Sam, there are two reasons for that I've been looking for you. The first is obvious. You're another special kid and I do believe it's in your and our best interest if we stick together and fight the negative influence that blasted demon has on us. But ... admittedly ... there is another reason. It has come to my attention that you were in possession of that colt. I know about it – we know about it. And ... well ... despite all our combined abilities, none of us have ever been able to kill a demon. So ... let me ask you this ... do you still have the colt?"

Sam wondered how George knew about them having the colt and more so what he might want with it, but he figured that both issues were fairly harmless. "Yeah, but it's useless. It's nothing more than a normal colt now. There are no bullets left. Dean spent the last one on killing the demon."

George nodded and smiled vaguely. "Well, that's good news," he said. "Not that the last bullet is spent, of course, but that you still have it. I think it's important in more ways than one."

"Yeah, it's a key," Sam agreed. "To a gateway to Hell. One that was opened two months ago. It let ... a couple of hundred demons out before we managed to close it again."

The expression on the older man's face wasn't a happy one. "That, on the other hand, is not good news," he said. "Care to tell me what happened?"

Sam grimaced and decided to keep the information to a minimum. "The demon wanted one of us to open the gate. Why it had to be one of us I don't know. It corrupted the others one by one, turning them bad. It pitted us against each other, probably to find out who was the strongest. And this guy, Jake, won the prize. He used the colt to open the gate. We only barely managed to close it again."

For a moment, George did and said nothing. Then he pursed his lips in a contemplative manner. "Well, that's ... different," he muttered. "I've always wondered what that damned demon wanted with us in the first place. Guess it was all leading up to this." He sighed deeply. "Well, at least you two managed to put a cramp in its style," he added and smiled again. "That ... is good news."

"Yeah, we may have gotten rid of one, though, but now there are two hundred more out there," Sam countered and suddenly felt overwhelmed by the prospect. It had taken them all their lives to track this bastard down and kill it. How long would it take to track over two hundred down and do the same if it was even possible?

"Don't worry about it, Sam. If for nothing else, I have always been of the firm belief that there is a meaning to everything that happens around us. There's a bigger plan somewhere. I don't know who's holding the reins or making the rules, but I don't think we're in this alone," he said.

Sam met his eyes and couldn't help feeling a little depressed. All his life he had clung to the belief that there had to be more to life than just living and dying. But lately he had started to doubt it, because of what he had seen, of what he had done, of what Dean had been forced to do, and it made him feel tired and old before his time. "No offence, but I do," Sam said with a joyless little smirk. "If there are any good forces out there, any ... opposition to the evil we've seen, then they don't care about us. That much is obvious," he said.

"I think it all comes down to free will, Sam. If there is a God and he has given us free will ... then we should exercise the right to use it. But we obviously can't expect an intervention from above if we're supposed to handle this ourselves. And I think we are. I think that's our purpose. That my abilities are what they are means that we can turn this around and become champions of good. None of us asked for this, Sam, but someone has to do it. And I have the feeling that we're being called upon to save the world."

George sounded serious and Sam didn't have the heart to oppose him right now. He didn't believe that at all and all he felt at the thought of God right now was resentment. He felt much like a little kid who had been dropped into a lake by a careless parent and was expected to learn how to swim on his own if he didn't want to drown, but that his arms and legs were useless and that he had no earthly chance of ever learning how to swim before fatigue and the cold water dragged him under and killed him.

"Anyway," George continued, "I think that's enough talk for today. There are barracks out back that are empty. If you boys decide to stay, feel free to choose one of them for your own. There's plenty of space here." George got up. "If you do decide to stay, there are a few rules I'd like you to stick by. First and foremost we have to teach you how to control your ability and maybe learn a new one. Most of the kids have one ability that they can easily use and a few that come into play during stress or excitement. Yours is the most common of abilities, which leads me to believe that you may have the potential for others as well. But in order to co-exist with the others here, you have to be able to control them. Everybody helps out here in whatever mode or fashion they can. We stand by each other and help each other out. That's how we can live this closely together and not kill each other." He smirked lightly. "If you're okay with those rules, you're welcome to stay as long as you want."

Sam rose too and nodded. "I'm okay with it, but I have to talk it over with Dean. It's not just my decision," he said and hoped desperately that Dean would agree to stay. Sam had the impression that maybe George could help them find a way out of this damned predicament. The man had been around for a lot of years, after all.

"Sure thing. Take your time. You can always go and come back later if you want to. There are no restrictions here. All I ask is that you boys inform me of your decision when you've reached one," George countered.

Sam nodded. "We will. Thanks," he said and left the office again to find Dean. They needed to talk about this, preferably right now.

***

Dean was sitting on the steps leading up the porch of the main building, watching the commotion of people milling around, doing whatever needed to be done. There was something so calming and relaxing about this scene despite the fact that many of the guys and some of the girls were doing hard labor.

There was a lot of moving and repairing and painting going on. Some were trimming trees, some were mowing lawns, and all in all it just seemed like people were having fun doing ordinary things. It reminded him painfully of what that blasted Djinn had shown him and it made him ache with longing. This reality did not include his mother, nor his father, but Sam was here and these people seemed damned friendly. It felt like family, felt like home, and he wouldn't mind living out what remained of his existence in this place. It wouldn't be half bad.

"Hey, Dean." Lisa waved at him. "Could you give us a hand here?"

She and three others were trying to move a broken branch and were struggling with it. "Yeah, sure," he called back, got up and joined them. With a combined effort they managed to drag the rather hefty branch over to one of the barracks, which turned out to contain a work shed among other things.

He wiped the back of one hand over his brow, actually enjoying the physical labor, and lingered when the others released the branch. "Now what?"

Lisa wiped her hands on the seat of her pants and eyed the branch critically. "Well, usually Tony deals with it, but he's off somewhere with Jenn and ..." She glanced at Dean. "Do you know how to handle an axe?"

Dean grinned. "Do I ever," he agreed. The thought of doing something meaningful that did not include chopping some half-assed monster to bits really made him feel energetic.

Lisa retrieved the axe from the work shed and handed it to him. He eyed it for a moment, weighing it appreciatively in one hand, then inspected the branch. Within seconds, he was busy chopping it to bits and the fact that Lisa was watching him appreciatively helped him do the best job of it he could. It also felt damned good to be able to move without pain and the thought that he would probably have spent months being encumbered by the injuries those hunters had given him made him push himself a little extra. As it were, he had never appreciated being alive more than he did this very moment.

By the time the branch had been reduced to fire-place worthy chunks of wood, Sam turned up. And the look in his brother's eyes was easy enough to read. He looked surprised and a tad concerned when Dean lowered the axe and wiped the sweat off his brow with his sleeve before giving Sam a wide grin.

"What are you doing?" Sam asked.

"Manual labor. You should try it sometime. It's liberating," Dean countered and turned his enthusiasm toward more appreciating quarters; like Lisa.

"Dean, can we talk?" Sam asked and sent a brief glance toward Lisa. Others might not be able to read Sam that easily, but Dean knew what that tone and that specific look meant.

"You need any more help?" he asked Lisa. He could tell she was trying hard to come up with something and couldn't help a smirk. Eventually, she shook her head though, her expression a bit unhappy. "Okay then. Let me know if you need any more help later on. I'd be happy to pitch in."

"Sure thing. Thanks for helping out. Our best axe-wielder is usually Tony, but you're giving him a run for his money," she said, her tone almost dripping with admiration.

Sam's expression tightened a little. For some reason he always seemed to think that Dean disrespected women and was always a bit uptight about his behavior. Dean once again chose to ignore his brother and instead gave Lisa his best smile.

Sam sighed audibly, grabbed his arm and forcefully hauled him away from the girl. "Hey, easy there, Speedy," Dean snapped and pulled his arm out of Sam's grip. "What's up with you? You seem more cranky than usual."

"I am not cranky," Sam snapped back, then stopped, drew in a deep breath and visibly tried to steady himself.

Dean didn't like how easily Sam lost his temper these days, but figured if Sam had something on his mind, he would talk about it. Sam was incapable of not talking about stuff like that. He liked to torture Dean with all that emo-crap. "Whatever," he growled.

"Dean, we need to talk about this place," Sam said and started walking again, heading away from the others.

Dean sighed and followed him. "What's there to talk about? Unless you think we can wing it on our own, I say we stay. Because I sure as hell have no freaking clue how to fight an army of demons. We can barely handle one, let alone two hundred."

Sam stopped abruptly, glanced back toward the main building, then pursed his lips in a thoughtful manner. "If we stay here," he said and turned to face Dean, "there are a few things we need to agree on."

"Like what?" Dean asked, slightly confused about Sam's attitude.

"I talked to George and he told me a few things. Among others that they know we have the colt. I told him it's useless now, but he still seems interested in it," Sam said. "We're invited to stay here, but we have to help out if we do. He said we could leave and come back later if we wanted to."

"Okay, the fact that he knows about the colt is probably nothing to worry about. Dad wasn't the only one who knew about it, after all," Dean countered. "That there are rules for staying here is understandable too. So far you haven't told me anything that worries me, Sam. What's the problem?"

Sam sighed and scuffed the ground with the tip of his shoe for a moment. "I don't know. I just ... in part it feels like the place to be, this, but a part of me wants to get the hell out too before we get sucked in. I don't know which part to listen to."

"What does your gut tell you?" Dean asked.

For a moment Sam just stood there and stared down at the ground. Then he glanced at Dean and for a split second, the look in his eyes was anything but nice. Then he blinked and glanced out over the area. "We should stay," he said.

Dean had the immediate impression that Sam said so because he could sense that Dean wanted to stay. Dean figured he'd have a better chance at helping Sam with whatever bug was up his ass right now if they stuck around this place. George and his gang probably knew more about Sam's shifting moods than Dean ever would. "Fine, so we stay," he said.

Sam nodded. "One more thing," he said, stopping Dean from turning around and heading back to what he had secretly dubbed La-La-Land. "What about ... the deal?"

Dean made a face. "What about it?" he countered. His hope for that they would find a solution was not very high and never really had been, but that wasn't something he would let Sam in on.

"Maybe George can help?" Sam asked.

"And maybe not. This is family business, Sam. And that's where it stays. In the family. We don't involve them unless we have no other choice." Dean knew he was being stubborn about this, but he couldn't help feeling the need to make sure he was the only one who went down when time ran out. And if Sam had grown used to these people by then and they could protect him, Dean would have an easier time letting go.

"But ..." Sam tried, but Dean cut him off.

"No buts about it, Sammy. I don't want anyone else involved. It's bad enough that Bobby and Ellen know about this," he shot back almost angrily. "Unless you come up with something spectacular, you stay mum about it, got it?"

Sam sighed deeply, then nodded curtly. He got the message. Whether he stuck to it was a different matter, but at least he knew Dean would be pissed if Sam involved George in this. "Fine," Sam muttered. "Be that way."

"You're the one who doesn't want to stay here," Dean countered a little aggressively.

"Not true. I said we should stay," Sam countered just as heatedly.

Dean stopped himself before he started yelling. Sam's attitude was getting to him on so many levels that it was tough to keep it under wraps, but he had to. If for nothing other than his own peace of mind and there wasn't much of that these days. "Okay, let's keep this civil. I'm not getting into a shouting match with you over this. I say we stay and see how it turns out. If we figure they're too much like a freaking cult, we blow this popsicle stand and put some distance between them and us. Not that it'll do much good, of course. That Jennifer-chick can probably track us down no matter where we hide."

"We don't need to hide from these people," Sam countered a little morosely. "George made it very clear that we were free to leave whenever we wanted to."

"Yeah, and no cult leader in the history of mankind has ever said something like that to his disciples," Dean countered sarcastically. "Get real, man."

"Are there any guards at the entrance?" Sam asked and waved a hand toward the driveway. "Do you see anyone standing around protecting anything? This is not a cult. These guys are for real."

Dean eyed him and grinned inwardly. Reverse psychology always got Sam in the end and most of the time the kid didn't even realize that Dean was pulling one over on him. "Yeah, fine, whatever," he said and waved a dismissive hand at his brother.

"Jerk," Sam snorted angrily.

"Bitch," Dean countered casually. "Stop wrecking your brain over this, Sam. Let's just kick back and relax for a bit. Heaven knows we deserve it."

"There are two hundred odd demons out there on the loose because of us, Dean. I can't kick back and relax until they're back where they belong," Sam countered.

The fact that Sam maintained his anger worried Dean a little and he eyed his brother darkly for a moment. "And what are you going to do about it? Single-handedly expedite them back to Hell? Sam, in the span of two months we've found two freaking demons and neither of them were easy kills. If this keeps up, we need two hundred months and then some to track them all down and send them all back to Hell. And I very much doubt we have the strength or the knowledge to do that alone." He paused, well aware that what he was about to say was a cheap blow, but he couldn't stop himself either. "Besides, I don't have two hundred months, Sam. I have ten. I'd rather try to make the best of it than ram my damned head against a brick wall every turn of the road and that's what this hunt feels like to me. We're not getting anywhere. We need help."

Sam winced, as expected, and Dean almost felt sorry for saying that. But it had the intended result. Sam calmed down. "I will find a way to get you out of that deal, Dean. Even if I have to die trying."

"Don't say that! Don't you even dare think that," Dean countered sternly. "I did not sell my freaking soul so you could get yourself killed again. You're coming out of this one alive, no matter what." He held up a hand, stopping Sam from replying to that one. "Not another word, dude. We're gonna go back to the others and we're gonna play nice for the duration. In a week, we can consider if we want to stay or go. Until then, I want some peace."

That said, he pushed past Sam and strode back toward the main building, fully intending to let Sam have it with both barrels if he tried to bring this topic up again over the next week. They could discuss it later when they had both settled in a little.

***

While Dean walked away, Sam remained where he was. He watched his brother go for a second, then turned his back on him and eyed the area without really seeing it. Dean was obviously intent on ignoring the Damocles' sword hanging over his head and Sam decided right there and then that he was going to do whatever he could to save his brother from a fate Sam considered worse than death. And if talking to George about this was the only option he had, then he would do that. Dean could be pissed about it all he wanted. If it meant he would survive this blasted deal in the end, then that was all that mattered to Sam.

At that point he realized he hadn't called Bobby or Ellen yet and figured both of them had to be going out of their heads with concern. He fished his cell phone out of one pocket and dialed Bobby's number first.

"Hey, Bobby," Sam said the second the connection was established.

"Where the hell are you? I've called you about a dozen times. Did you find Dean? Is he okay?" Bobby's agitation was almost touchable and Sam couldn't help a vague smile. It was always nice to know that others cared.

"We're both fine," he said. "Someone else found Dean and helped him out. We're both in Texas right now."

"Texas?" Bobby asked, stunned. "How the hell did you end up in Texas?"

"Long story. Listen, Bobby, can you help me out? I'm trying to find out something about a guy named George, who's the leader of this ... community inside Big Bend National Park in Texas. The place is called Perdition of all things," Sam said.

"Perdition?" Bobby asked, sounding a bit concerned. "What the hell kind of name is that for a community?"

"Don't know. I guess it's meant to be a joke or something," Sam countered. "Anyway, could you look into it? See if you can find something on this guy? I don't know his last name, but he claims to have been the first of the special kids."

"Sure, Sam. I'll see what I can dig up. Are you sure Dean's okay?" Bobby countered.

"Yeah, he's fine. He feels right at home here," Sam replied and glanced back toward the main building. "I just need to know if it's safe to stay here."

"Stay? Are you telling me you're at this community right now?" Bobby asked, his tone tense.

"Yeah, but don't worry. We've got it covered. I don't think this is a cult or anything. I'd just like to know more about who this George guy is. He said he was born in 1945 right before the war ended," Sam said.

For a moment Bobby remained silent. Then he sighed audibly. "Alright, Sam. I'll look into it and call you back once I know more."

"Could you do me another favor?" Sam asked. "Could you call Ellen and let her know we're okay?"

"Uh ... sure. I'll .. do that," Bobby replied a little hesitantly.

Sam frowned lightly. "Is she there?" he asked, latching onto the first thing that came to mind.

For a moment Bobby didn't answer. Then he cleared his throat like an embarrassed teenager. "Yeah. It's not like she has a place to stay at the moment," Bobby finally replied. "Anyway, I'll call you as soon as I know more," he added and hung up.

Sam pulled the phone away from his ear and eyed it for a moment. "Who'd have thought?" he muttered, flipped it shut and stuffed it back into his pocket.

Then he turned back toward the main building, intent on catching up to Dean, but nearly ran full force into Jennifer, who had turned up out of nowhere. "Jeez!" he gasped and reeled a step back.

Jennifer grinned. "Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you," she said.

"You didn't. I just don't like being surprised," Sam countered, unable to ignore the intent hammering of his heart in his chest and the smoky fingers of anger rising in him. He squashed the anger back down and managed a somewhat tight smile.

"What are you up to?" Jennifer asked.

"Not much. Just trying to figure out if we're staying or going," Sam countered.

"Well, let me convince you to stay, then. This is a great place and George is a great guy," she said, hooked her arm under his and pulled him along back to the main building. "Anything you wanna know, you just ask. There are no secrets here."

Sam made a face and gently disengaged himself from her. "Jennifer, take it easy, okay?" he suggested. "You can't blame us for being a bit ..." He trailed off when he caught sight of his brother, who was talking to Lisa again. The girl was leaning against one of the support posts of the porch roof and Dean was standing damned close to her, one hand braced against the post next to her head. Sam rolled his eyes and sighed.

Jennifer glanced that way too and chuckled. "Looks like your brother is settling in already," she said.

"No, he just hits on anything with a skirt," Sam countered morosely, changed direction and strode past the main building instead. To his slight annoyance, Jennifer followed him.

"Are you saying he's a player?" she asked when she caught up to him.

"Yeah. He is. And he's not going to stop with Lisa either," Sam countered angrily.

Jennifer grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Why are you getting so upset about that? You're not your brother's keeper, are you?" she asked, her expression suddenly serious.

"No, he doesn't need a damned keeper," Sam countered aggressively and wished she would just go away and leave him alone. He had no idea why he was getting so worked up about Dean's antics. Dean always did this and he somehow always managed to handle the situation. He stopped himself and took a second to regroup. "Look, Jennifer, I appreciate that you guys are so open and welcoming, but I'm really not in the mood for company right now, okay? Just ... give me some space."

The girl eyed him seriously, then nodded. She didn't look offended, only a bit concerned. "Sure. Sorry. Didn't mean to crowd you," she said and took a step back.

"You weren't," Sam said and felt himself calming down again. "I'm just ... I'm still tired from this whole deal with Dean and ... there's a lot of other stuff playing in. I'm sorry, okay? I just need a little time on my own right now."

"No sweat," Jennifer said and smiled vaguely. "Let me know if you want to talk. Dinner's at eight." With that she turned around and left him behind.

Sam sighed, turned around too and continued onward in search of solitude and a place to think. Something was wrong with him, something serious, and he was beginning to think that being around a lot of people might not be the best course for him to take right now. Actually, being around Dean might not be a good idea. The image of the chair suspended in the motel bathroom door hit him again. What if another attack of such rage hit him while Dean was around? He had already nearly hit Dean with another chair and the look in Dean's eyes hadn't exactly been uplifting. The last thing he wanted – a thought that kept popping into his mind – was for Dean to look at him differently. He didn't want his brother to fear him.

***