Dean is taken by the Norsemen, leaving Sam to grieve for him.
The choppy seas of the north held no obstacles for the longships as they kept their prows pointed towards the still distant shore.
They had been at sea for days but now their journey was almost over and there would be bounty and honour for all; many tales would be told around the blazing camp-fires during the long cold winter nights.
The inhabitants of the green isle went about their daily chores oblivious to the impending catastrophe about to befall them.
News had spread of Viking attacks to the North but none of these invaders had ever ventured as far south as this, and so when the first ships appeared like tiny black dots on the far horizon, no-one noticed anything until it was too late to organise adequate defences of any kind.
At the front of the humble cottage, two beautiful healthy children played unconcernedly together, the elder allowing the younger to straddle him as he pretended to let him win the friendly tussle they'd been engaged in.
"You win, Sammy," the eight-year old announced with the most serious of voices. "You're just too strong for me, little brother! I surrender."
"See, told you I could beat you," the younger squealed in his childishly high voice as he grinned down at his brother, delighting in his victory.
A victory that was short-lived as Dean flipped him over and warned. "Careful, Sammy, don't get too carried away when you get the upper hand. It doesn't take much for the winner to find himself the loser again."
Another child would probably have cried out in frustration at having the tables turned on him so easily, but Sammy just looked up and absorbed what his big brother had said as if it was gospel.
He nodded as Dean pulled him up, his curly brown hair bobbing with the motion.
"When you win, you've got to make sure that the loser has really lost," Sam considered in that adult way he had sometimes had.
Dean smiled indulgently.
His Sammy was intelligent, not like the other four-year olds in the village. Sometimes it seemed the age difference between them didn't exist.
Dean adored his little brother and knew there was nothing he wouldn't do to keep him safe.
He was well aware Sammy loved him back just as intensely, always trailing behind him like the tail on a dog and never letting him out of his sight. On the rare occasion it happened, the smile on his brother's face at their reunion filled his heart with joy.
Dean never thought to question why he preferred spending his time with Sammy instead of with boys of his own age; he was at his happiest alongside his brother; it just felt so right.
At first Dean paid no heed to the shouting he heard in the distance, but when the first spirals of black smoke began to elevate into the powder-blue sky, he began to feel uneasy. His parents were due back soon; the height of the sun indicated that it was around midday.
His unease became stronger as he caught the high-pitched screams threaded among the shouting.
He scooped Sam up, all his big brother instincts yelling at him to take him to safety.
"Come on Sammy We're going to play hide and seek," Dean said, keeping his voice calm.
"But Dean, I'm hungry, it's nearly time to eat" Sam protested.
"We can still have one more game. It'll pass the time more quickly until mother and father get home," Dean smiled, trying not to transmit his fear to the child.
He hauled his younger brother piggy-back onto his shoulders, headed towards the little cave-like indenture in the hill-side where they often went to play and deposited him inside.
"Listen Sammy, we're going to play a new version. You're going to hide in here and then guess which of us is going to come for you, Mother, Father or me, and if you guess correctly you'll get three extra pieces of apple pie; but don't come out for anyone else, whatever you may hear. Okay?"
Sam nodded eagerly.
He loved his mother's apple pie, but as Dean loved it even more, there was always a fight over the last slice.
Dean turned to go when he felt a small grubby hand gripping his arm. Sam looked up into his big brother's eyes and whispered in a small voice. "Promise you'll come back for me, Deannie."
Dean pushed down the emotion that was welling up inside him.
"I promise, Sammy. I'd come to the ends of the Earth and beyond to get you. You're never going to get rid of me little brother. "
They broke eye contact. The four year old and the eight year old had forged their unbreakable bond.
Promises are made to be broken, but Winchester promises live on through time and space.
Sammy settled down behind the rocks, secure in that of his big brother.
Having ensured Sammy's safety, Dean made his way back to the cottage; he could have stayed hidden with Sam, but he wanted to know exactly what was going on.
If there was some kind of danger he would go back for his baby brother and take him deep into the forest.
He'd barely set out past his home towards the town where the screams had been echoing from, when he found himself grabbed by a muscular arm and he looked up into the face of tall bearded stranger.
He tried to pull away, kicking and writhing like a wildcat to free himself from the iron hold.
"Well, well, well, Look what we have here, a true little wolf-cub."
Dean stared up at the warrior, his eyes full of challenge.
"Let me go," he yelled as he struggled ineffectually against the superior strength of the Norseman.
"You show great courage for a little whippet. It's a pity you were not born to us, but that can be remedied." he affirmed, hoisting the terrified boy over his shoulder like a side of bacon, and carrying him back to his ship.
The pillaging went on all day and it was night-fall when the Vikings took to their ships again, leaving a smouldering village and a few surviving townsfolk who'd managed to escape the savage raid,
No one paid any attention to the sobbing of the frightened little boy curled up into the corner of one of the boats.
Sam wiped the sweat from his brow as he cut the last of the corn and expertly bundled it into a sheaf.
The sun was at its lowest, ready to set for the night and there was nothing more he could do that day.
The eighteen year old picked up his scythe and the cloth that had been used to wrap his midday meal of bread and cheese, and headed for home where his father would be waiting for him.
John Winchester had been injured all those years ago when the last Viking invasion had taken place and he'd been reduced to doing light chores around the house.
Sam's mother had been raped and left for dead and though she'd recovered, the loss of her first-born had preyed on her mind, undermining her will to live.
With the passing of the years she'd just wasted away, leaving twelve year old Sammy alone with his crippled father.
Life hadn't been easy but they'd managed to survive by pooling their forces with the few other villagers left alive.
No-one ever had ever known what had become of his big brother Dean, but Sam thought about him every day and prayed for his safety.
He didn't ever want to forget his brother's face and when he was alone he brought up the image in his mind, keeping it fresh and actual.
As he walked home, he saw a figure on the road making its way towards him. He frowned, usually he never met anyone at this hour and he watched curiously as it got nearer.
It was a man, tall and dark-haired, his muscles those of a trained soldier.
His hair looked strange, spikely uneven, as if he had just cut it carelessly with a knife He was dressed in a simple green tunic, although he had a short broad-sword tucked in at his waist.
The stranger stopped in front of Sam, coming right up into his personal space, surprising the eighteen-year old and causing him to take a step back.
The man had a rueful smile on his face. "Hello, Sammy," he said.
"Do I know you?" Sam asked, wondering how this stranger could possible know his name.
"You've grown real tall, taller than me even."
He just stood there immobile, waiting; looking at Sam as if he was something important, sacred even.
Sam studied the man before him and he finally looked into his eyes, really looked.
He remembered those eyes. He remembered the last time he had seen them. He superimposed the image he always carried in his mind. The eyes were the same.
No, it couldn't be!
He swallowed nervously before he tentatively uttered the one word h'd never spoken aloud since that terrible day.
It felt rusty on his lips; rusty with disuse.
"Dean?" he whispered, wanting to believe but afraid to.
He didn't have to wait for an answer, his heart had already told him what he needed to know.
He wanted to throw his arms around his long-lost brother, but he felt shy and awkward.
He didn't have to worry, for Dean enfolded him in a back-breaking hug, whispering in his ear. "I promised I would come back for you Sammy and I always keep my promises."
Dean felt the shoulder of his tunic becoming damp as his little brother's tears rolled down his cheeks.
"Dean, is it really you? I never thought I'd see you again" he cried brokenly.
"You should have believed me when I told you that you were never going to get rid of me, baby brother," Dean said, as he held on tight to the other half of his soul.