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“Finally, Roberts decided something. He said, "All right Westley, I've never had a valet, you can try it for tonight. I'll most likely kill you in the morning...'"

Everyone with any taste in classic 80's movies of any degree knows the story: The Dread Pirate Robert can never go home. That’s the whole point, and somewhere in the haze left behind from true love lost, all that remains is immense tragedy. Poetically, Constance Welch echoes that sentiment over and over as she tries to carve a hole through Sam's chest. I can never go home, no matter what that Kansas song promises. Maybe it was seared onto his heart from the beginning. There’s always one more job, one more mission. Given the nature of the job, it’s more than likely to end bloody before any semblance of a happily ever after.

"...Three years he said that…It was a fine time for me. I was learning to fence, fight, anything anyone would teach me..."

Sam’s wanted out of the hunting life ever since Dean broke out the truth in their father’s journal at their crappy Christmas-funion dinner when Sam was eight years old. It was never a happy life to him and John was stupid to try to raise a kid—let alone two—in countless shit motel rooms, countless states, between countless nightmares. Stupid, arrogant, brash...but hell, maybe it was necessary. There's a darkness running in the Winchester family tree. “When I told Dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45…I was nine years old! ...He was supposed to say, ‘Don’t be afraid of the dark.’”

Sam has no memory of his mother, who was the sole purpose behind his father’s crusade. She was just a faded picture folded in his dad’s wallet. His life is made of holy water, rock salt, Latin incantations, and the stuff of nightmares for no other reason than his father’s endless vendetta. Sam learns everything—to fight, to hunt, to melt silver into bullets—all the while counting down to his final hunt. When he could run away from his father and the ramshackle life he’d built, even though it meant leaving Dean behind. Even though that hurt like hell, and Sam's one of the leading experts on the subject. Just one more job, one more day of swabbing the deck.

"...Roberts and I eventually became friends. And then it happened…Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire..."

Then Jessica is burning on the ceiling, just like his mother, and he can’t breathe. There’s smoke in his lungs and her ghost seared behind his eyelids. He picks up a loaded shotgun and sinks into the seat of his brother’s car, comfortable for the first time in years. It’s not about finding their father. Maybe that’s what he tells Dean, but that’s not what it is. He’s seeing Jessica’s ghost at every turn and she’s haunting his nightmares. Each hunt is about revenge and maybe the blood on his hands feels a little too much like redemption.

Over and over again, it’s just one more job. One more hunt to find Dad, a bitter bullet to bite in order to find Jessica’s killer. Then there’s the visions and the silent oath of rotten blood flowing through his veins. The latter promises darkness and damnation, yet Sam’s got a brother that risked everything just to see him live. In between, in moments neither of them will ever admit happened, there’s talk of normal. Of picking up and settling down. Maybe not a happily ever after, but pretty damn close. But Sam can’t leave. Not when he owes Dean so much. Not when his brother is going to hell in his place.

"...So he took me to his cabin, and told me his secret. "I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts...'"

Maybe, after the hellhounds come and rip his brother and his sanity to shreds, it’s the first time Sam considers not going back at all. Before long, there’s Ruby and crossroads and revenge and demon blood by the gallon. Dean’s gone, so what the hell was the point? That is, of course, until he’s not and suddenly topside with an angelic mark seared on his shoulder. It's something that Sam might have trusted at one point, but not now. Not when he gets the sense that the angels want his head. That maybe they can't even fix his curse. Maybe that means angels don’t change a thing. Not for Sam. He’s got a craving in his blood and he’s no longer in control. Still…it’s just one more job. One after another after another.

"'My name is Ryan. I inherited the ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me…'"

Until the world is suddenly about to burn to pay for his crimes. He betrayed his brother, himself, and maybe his eyes flashed black for a second, but who the hell is keeping score these days? One more job becomes a desperate mission to save the world. Maybe if he was lucky enough, maybe if there was a God who gave a fuck about the world he's burning, his own soul too. But ever since he sprung the Cage, Lucifer’s perched on his shoulder and he can see Michael, across the way, closing in on Dean. This is so much bigger than anything Sam had ever seen. And hell, there's no God. God's corpse is hanging in that stupid cemetary between Sam's fist, the gleam of the Impala, and his brother's broken face.

That hole opens up and all he can see is his brother, beaten and bloody, prepared to die right next to him. Lucifer’s screaming and gnawing in the back of his mind, but Sam jumps anyway. After all, it’s not about him. This one, just this last one… Sam thinks he deserves it. Maybe he earned his eternity in hell and his time is long past due. But that’s not what this is about either. This ain't fate or destiny or the will of God. God is dead. Sam watched him die from behind Lucifer's eyes. This one is for Dean and Sam doesn’t plan on coming back.

"...Then he explained that the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley..."

Except…suddenly he’s topside again and maybe in the recesses of his mind, he knows something is very wrong. There’s more blood lust and anger, ambiguity and pride than he ever bargained for. Maybe it’s better to forget, to wall it up and move on. To swallow whatever bitter pill Death has for him. But first, he has to make it right. Atone for all the things that should have ended when he jumped in the Cage. On and on…just one more time. Forget and move on. It's so much easier that way. But…Dean’s out there. Sam can’t leave him alone. One more damn job.

There’s monsters and mayhem and somewhere along the way Lucifer broke Sammy’s brain. It’s “Good morning, Vietnam!” and maybe the devil’s got a point. Sam’s tired. He’ll never stop blaming himself. But he knows exactly why he can’t let go: there’s still that faint echo of a pretty blonde ghost behind his eyelids and he’s never stopped hearing the howl of the hellhounds that took his brother away. There's a scar on his hand and Sam knows he can't let go now. One more fucking job.

"...So we sailed ashore, took on an entirely new crew, and he stayed aboard for a while as first mate, all the time calling me Roberts..."

Suddenly, through the grace of a God that Sam watched die in front of him, he’s handed the key to everything. He can shut the gates of hell, make everything right. Just one more job. He can remove the bastards that screwed with his life from day one and replace it with something good. Happily ever after’s suddenly in the cards again and Dean pretends he doesn’t see the college applications or Sam’s last, fatal grasp at a normal life. This is it. Sam’s ready to give it all, because, hell, there’s no one on this earth who wants redemption more than the likes of Sam Winchester. Maybe it’s the last time he gets to dream about another life, but it’s okay. Sam pays his dues and knows his soul is worth far less than the ransom price of the world.

Maybe this is where the song ends.

Then Dean cuts a deal that Sam never wanted. There’s another angel in his head and breath again in his lungs that he never asked for. This time, his brother betrayed his trust and he prayed it wasn’t the final straw. That somehow they could find a way to be brothers again. Just once. One more time, because now Dean’s sporting a brand new, tribal tattoo. A curse from the dawn of time. It turns Dean into a type of monster Sam has never seen.

And maybe his soul breaks in two when his brother wakes up with demon eyes. Then, it’s no longer about saving himself. About making up for his own mistakes. Now their roles are reversed. This time, Sam has to save his brother. Maybe they end up saving each other. Maybe when those girls start that tragic lullaby, Sam realizes “Carry On My Wayward Son” was about him all along.

"...Once the crew believed, he left the ship, and I have been Roberts ever since."

When Charlie, who knows his life backwards and forwards novels that stole his life, asks, he sighs and is surprised to find himself telling the truth. The Dread Pirate Roberts, she said, and maybe he agreed. That’s who he was, but maybe not anymore. Somewhere in the mix of all things—between each promise of one more job, maybe before the Cage, or maybe just last week—Sam discovered that he loved this life. It was all he’d ever known. He loved the blood under his nails, the graveyard dirt, and the permanently bruised ribs. He loved every minute of it, as long as his brother is next to him.

It’s no longer about one more job, before he can find a place he calls home. Somewhere between the infinity of American blacktop, Sam found his perfect home in the passenger seat of his brother’s 1967 Chevy Impala. He doesn’t know when he stopped dreaming of running away and began singing along to his brother’s music, but he’s never been more content. The world is still full of monsters and fallen angels, and Lucifer’s slowly trying to climb out of his Cage, but all is right with the world. As long as the song remains the same: Sam and Dean in the Impala, with the stars and angels watching over them.

That might not be philosophy, but it’s the story, and somewhere along the lonely backwoods, the two became the same.

Born to Follow

Words: ~6200
Rating: Gen, R for language and violence and John Winchester
Spoilers: Through “Just My Imagination”
Disclaimer: Man, this show owns me, not the other way around.
Summary: It was the same old story, ad eternum: Sam Winchester was plagued by visions from an unknown source. This time, however, it’s not the future that haunts his nightmares; it’s the months leading up to the time when he first betrayed his brother.
After the Mark of Cain is removed, Sam and Dean are closer than they’ve been in…what seems like eons. However, angels, necromancers, and ravens have a tendency to dredge up the past at the most inopportune times. With the Darkness running amuck, Sam, Dean, and Castiel all have to come to terms with consequences of the past in order to renew their faith in each other.
Ongoing fic, updated weekly.

We Weren't Born to Follow

Author: SeraM
Words: ~3500
Rating: Gen, R for language and violence and John Winchester

Spoilers: Through “Just My Imagination”

Disclaimer: Man, this show owns me, not the other way around.

Summary: It was the same old story, ad eternum: Sam Winchester was plagued by visions from an unknown source. This time, however, it’s not the future that haunts his nightmares; it’s the months leading up to the time when he first betrayed his brother.

After the Mark of Cain is removed, Sam and Dean are closer than they’ve been in…what seems like eons. However, angels, necromancers, and ravens have a tendency to dredge up the past at the most inopportune times. With the Darkness running amuck, Sam, Dean, and Castiel all have to come to terms with consequences of the past in order to renew their faith in each other.

Ongoing fic, updated weekly.
Supernatural seems to have a sort of scale when it comes to determining the inherent nature of a thing. At eye level is humanity. Everything else seems to stem from there. Monsters are creatures that were born or transformed into a perverted form of humanity. They are physical entities--werewolves, vampires, Leviathan, etc.--and can usually be killed by something like silver. Spirits and derivatives of ghosts are human souls that died a violent death, ditched their reaper, and are typically driven mad with revenge of one degree or another. They're entirely non-corporeal and they're severely allergic to iron and salt. On the bottom of the scale are demons, who are either fallen angels (Biblically speaking, and all. Lucifer took one-third of the host of heaven with him when he fell. Read Revelation, which is certainly canon in the show.) or human souls that have been perverted by the pits of hell. The demonic “soul” comes in the form of black smoke on earth and they can possess a person without their consent. Angels are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum and seem to transcend humanity by design. They're certainly more powerful, with their fancy metaphysical wings and halos. However, angels seem to lack a fundamental aspect of DNA that runs rampant in humanity; that is, the ability to choose one's own actions and avoid the claws of destiny.

When one takes a look at the show as a whole, all down the line of 200+ episodes, one is foced to the conclusion that there is something so incredibly fundamental about human nature. It appears to be either everything's base code or everyone's drug of choice (I'm looking at you, Castiel). In every case, human nature seems to be the end goal in mind for everyone. Castiel falls in love with it and its accompanying free will while Sam and Dean fight so desperately to maintain it within themselves. Every monster they fight is either some perversion of humanity itself or attempting to decimate human nature all together, such as the Leviathan or Michael and the God Squad.

Conclusion: Human nature is inherently good. From there, each individual has the freedom to make his own choices.

That raises the question: are only humans good? Surely the show itself alludes to the possibility that monsters can be good as well. Is a monster "damned" simply because it's a monster and no longer human?

That's not entirely fair either. In “Heart”, the brothers stumble upon a number of werewolf kills in the suburbs of San Francisco: “a human by day and a freak-animal, killing machine by night,” as Dean phrases it. Werewolves are particularly dangerous. They have incredible instinct, sharp teeth, and carve the beating hearts out of their victims and devour it. Nasty stuff. Werewolves themselves, as Dean says, are incredibly rare and can only be killed with a silver bullet to the heart.
The hiccup comes when the brothers discover that Madison, an independent and innocent secretary, has absolutely no idea that she transforms into a werewolf and kills people each night. Right away, Dean is ready to shoot her, believing that it’s an open and shut case. Sam, on the other hand, has a better grasp of the human side of Madison.

       SAM: I’m not putting a bullet through some girl’s chest who has no idea what’s happening.
     DEAN: Sam, she’s a monster, and you’re feeling sorry for her?
     SAM: Maybe I understand her.

Not only does Sam understand what it’s like to be considered a monster and have no control over it, but he also is not willing to condemn another for it. Sam was going to be a lawyer before Jessica died; he knows the basic principles of justice and he calls Dean on it. The philosophy goes like this: If a monster is corrupted by what they become after their transformation (i.e. they succumb to their nature), the principles of self-defense and just war apply. In that, the damage wrought by the aggressor must be lasting, grave, and certain, all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be ineffective, there's a reasonable prospect for success, and the use of weapons must not produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated. Simple right? Most monsters in Supernatural fall into that category, with notible exceptions of Benny, Garth, and the like. It is morally acceptable to kill the kind of monster that falls victim to its nature and starts killing people. Should the monster resist its monster-ness, however, then the principles of just war do not apply. Those can be considered “moral monsters” and to kill one would be the equivalent of murder.

Sam always knows and tries to abide by the principles. Here, he calls Dean on it, saying he's not just going to waste an innocent. Besides, he reasons, if Dean can’t kill him, the boy with the demon blood whose nature is certainly not quite human, he has no right to waste Madison. She is, for all intents and purposes, innocent in her human form and not freely choosing to kill. She is resisting her nature and clinging to her humanity.
Sam and Dean exhaust every possible method to enable Madison to control the animal side of herself or to cure her of it completely. For a moment, they believe she’s free, but the song ends and she Hulks out again. Despite everything, it reaches a point when Madison is more of a threat to herself and everyone around her. She simply cannot control the monster side of her nature. Madison begs Sam to kill her, much like Sam later begs Dean to kill him because he does not want to live as a monster. Reluctantly, Sam takes the gun with the silver bullet and the screen fades to black as the shot is fired.

Was Madison a monster? Certainly, but one who had absolutely no control over the darker half that was obstructing her human nature. Was it right for Sam to kill her? Or for her to ask that of Sam? To some extent, yes. She was a viable and uncontrollable threat to the people around her. That falls in line with the self-defense part of the equation. There was no doubt that Madison would one day kill another innocent if she was allowed to live. Further, Sam and Dean explored every possible option to save her or cure her. There was simply no way for Madison to control the beast inside her without completely destroying everything that made her human. Putting her down was a last resort. There was no way to guarantee the safety of everyone around her and there was absolutely no way of saving her from the monster inside her. Tragically, Sam did the right thing.

On the other end of the spectrum, in “The Girl Next Door”, Dean is asked to make a moral call (which is always a dangerous thing to ask Dean Winchester to do) in regards to killing another seemingly moral monster. This episode is set five years down the road, after the averted apocalypse, and after Lucifer broke Sam’s brain. Theoretically, the brothers should be operating on the same level at this point. However, Dean’s base code is fundamentally different than Sam’s; killing the monster of the week has always been his prerogative. Unless that monster of the week just so happens to be his younger brother, Dean is content with saving the morality questions to Sam.

In the episode, Sam leaves an injured Dean behind to go hunt a kitsune, a Japanese monster that feasts on human pituitary glands. After following the trail of several murdered drug dealers, Sam comes face to face with his childhood friend, Amy. Naturally, she’s the monster. Amy readily admits to the murders of the dealers and then gives Sam a valid reason why: her son was dying and he needed fresh meat to survive. In every other instance since Sam last saw her, she gets the food she needs by taking the pituitary glands of cadavers at the morgue where she works as a mortician. Outside of extraordinary circumstances, Amy doesn’t kill anyone. In fact, Sam credits her with saving his life when they were kids.

Moral? Well, she's trying to be.

Nonetheless, without Sam’s knowledge, Dean tracks Amy and her son to a motel room.  “But people... They are who they are. No matter how hard you try, you are what you are. You will kill again. Trust me, I'm an expert. Maybe in a year, maybe ten. But eventually, the other shoe will drop. It always does.” Then he stabs her through the heart.

Was Dean justified in killing Amy? To an extent, most certainly not. Amy was a moral monster; she didn’t kill humans under normal circumstances and was working day and night to overcome her nature as a monster. For Amy, killing humans was a moral wrong and was only done as a last resort. Though it doesn’t completely excuse the murder of any human, even when she was forced to kill, she killed the worst of humanity. In her mind, she was trying to minimize the damage. Plus, Sam begged Dean to trust his judgment of Amy and to let her go. Even with Lucifer screaming in his brother’s head, Dean is supposed to trust Sam implicitly and their relationship bore the weight of Amy’s murder for a long time down the road.

On the other hand (and the only way Dean is capable of perceiving the situation), Amy had a body count. Even if they were despicable people, they were still human and they were gratitously made into monster food. The worst part of killing even the most terrible people is that it eliminates the possibility of future change. Future choices, moral or otherwise, that could drastically change the course of many lives. It's a crime to cut any life short; to rob someone of all the days that never came and what could have been. By killing them or any human, Amy was deliberately ending a life and thus nullifying their potential change. That is morally wrong. Although they were drug dealers and presumably the scum of the earth, they were still human and possessed a human nature. On a scale of inherent moral goodness, that gives the drug dealers a leg up on Amy, who was born a monster. Maybe that adds to the argument.

The reason she killed those people was to save her son, and if there's one thing Dean knows, it's how far someone is willing to go to save someone they love. Amy might promise not to kill again, but Dean knows that, if her son's life is in danger again, she'd do absolutely anything to protect him the same way Dean would do anything to protect his brother. Love is the greatest motivator on Supernatural. Sam and Dean have both sacrificed themselves to save each other on more than one occasion. Dean's justification for killing Amy wasn't just about her potential to kill, it was about the inevitability of a bad outcome.

I'll leave actual morality of the act to the jury, but the ramifications when Sam finds out are horrendous. It becomes the stake, along with Sam’s hallucinations of Lucifer, that drives the brothers apart for the season. Not only did Dean fail to trust his brother again, but he also murdered Sam’s friend, who was doing the best she could to both overcome her nature and saved the one thing that she loved most in this world.