Sam (Blue Earth, Minnesota)
Sammy is ten years old. He loves crosswords, cheeseburgers, and books. He also loves soccer but wasn’t allowed by dad to join the school team. What’s the point anyway? Its not like they stayed in one school for more than six months.
He is small for his age, and it doesn’t help that Dean grew like a weed all of last year. Doesn’t help at all that big brother also likes to tease.
“Eat up Thumbelina.”
Sam pulls a face, angry and sulking and decidedly unhappy. One, he hates wheaties. Two, no way is he listening to Dean after that. And three, they were going to do it to him again.
“C’mon Sammy, don’t be yourself this early in the day. Pastor Jim’s going to be here any minute now.”
He bites back, gets up and walks away, to the couch by the window... the only one in their newest, claustrophobic motel room. Dean is too busy cleaning up for a minute to notice, when he does, he sighs. Dumps the dishrag and walks over. Kneels by the sofa so he and Sam are at eye level.
“Its only for a couple of days.”
Dean licks his lips, a habit Sam thinks isn’t about to go away easy. Gets up and walks to the dresser, pulls something out and comes back. Sam pretends not to be the least bit interested.
“I got these books for ya. From that shop with the closing sale? All seconds for a buck.”
He says with a grin on his face. Sam glares at him.
“I know. I told you about it. You said we couldn’t afford to spend any more bucks this week.”
Dean gets this… blank look on his face that makes Sam nervous. It’s the look he gets when he is trying very hard not to be angry, or worried or… scared? No. No way dude, Sam tells himself. Dean doesn’t do scared.
“Yeah well, figured we’d get by.”
Dean goes back to smiling at him so expectantly. Sam sighs, then gruffly takes the brown bag from Dean’s hands and pulls out three second-hand paperbacks. Looks at the titles briefly before Dean tries again.
“Thought you might like those. So you don’t have to sit through Jim’s boring sermons again huh?”
That reminds him, and the fury is back full flare. He throws the books aside carelessly.
“I’ve read all of ‘em.”
Dean frowns. He frowns a lot of late. His brother figured long ago that Sammy was at a very advanced level of reading but hey, still…
“You kidding me? I had Steinbeck this year in class and couldn’t finish it!”
Sam scowls back. “I know. I saw your grades.”
Now Dean is definitely pissed. He gets up, walking back to finish the dishes.
“Alright Mr. Smarty Pants. Return those books and get what you want. I’m sorry I tried.”
He has his back to Sam, and doesn’t see the pangs of guilt beginning to melt his baby brother’s displaced rage.
Day two. Funk.
Sam finds the remotest corner of the farthest pew in Pastor Jim’s church and reads. Words of the Lord stopped meaning too much to him ever since he was six and asked dad why they didn’t have a mother. Words of George Orwell… now that’s a different story. He feels miserably for the way he last spoke to Dean. He’s actually not read two of the three books Dean got for him.
He’s still upset of course. Getting left behind while his family goes hunting month after month after freakin month gets old fast you know. He wishes he wasn’t so midgety and didn’t suck so much at bow hunting. He wishes his dad believed him when he says he can follow orders, he can he can! He wishes he could be there to stop stupid ghosts scratchin’ his brother’s face, leaving scars that last for weeks.
He wishes he wasn’t so damn scared all the time.
Oh, what the he… heck. (Hello, church?) Two days. Chill, Sam tells himself, they’ll back tonight.
Day three. Anger.
Sam paces the length of Pastor Jim’s parish back and forth.
“Where are they?”
“It's okay Sammy.”
It's Sam and no it's not okay, he wants to yell. But he doesn’t. He refuses to believe Dean couldn’t find a single phone booth all along the way from Iowa to Minnesota. That kind of thoughtlessness is expected from John but not Dean, not his brother Dean.
He falls asleep reading 1984. Dreams of Big Brother who looks way too much like dad, and Dean is strapped to the torture device in Room 101 surrounded by stinkin, rotting corpses. He wakes up screaming but doesn’t let Pastor Jim anywhere near him.
Day four. Fear.
No word still. Sam sneaks into the church when he thinks Pastor Jim isn’t watching. He may not be much of a believer. But he is his father’s trustee research assistant. He speaks more Latin than Dean and John put together, and he’s the only one who knows where the library is in every new town. Sam kneels before the cross and whispers Pater Nostri in its original form over and over and over again.
Pastor Jim carefully picks up the sleeping child in his arms and tucks him into bed. Sam would later surmise this to be a very bad move altogether because the nightmares return with vengeance.
This time it's him strapped to the chair, and the rats… oh God they’re everywhere. War is peace. Ignorance is strength. Freedom is slavery. Words so profound and… twisted… no ten year old is expected to comprehend and yet he does. But it's Sam screaming “Do it to Dean!” that wakes him up thrashing and clawing for dear life.
Pastor Jim is not allowed to touch him of course.
Day five. Remorse.
Samuel Winchester. You’re such a fucking selfish bastard, he tells himself over and over again. To hell with Pastor Jim and his church.
Sam hasn’t slept in two days.
Guilt eats away at his very core and his heart beats so hard he thinks it would explode from the inside out. There is the familiar tightening in his chest and throat he’s been pushing down for days. And there is something new as well… a relentless, desperate need… no, craving, to punch something. And to keep punching and kicking and hitting hard so hard until something is dead… until the physical pain becomes so huge it dwarfs the terrible ache he feels inside.
He needs to see his big brother again. So he can say he’s sorry. That he didn’t mean to snap at him. That he loves him. And he needs him and dad to be safe, oh God. He is sorry he swore. He needs his family back, God please.
Sam doesn’t remember when or how he manages it. A deep, dark sleep or unconsciousness overcomes him with thankfully no more nightmares… one he wishes he never ever has to wake up from again.
Dean (Newton, Iowa)
Dean’s been hunting since he turned ten. Well, technically not hunting hunting since he didn’t personally kill anything supernatural before. But Dean’s been patient, he knew his time would come. And when it did, it was the second most horrific moment of his young life.
They went in prepared to kill one zombie, not a whole pack of them. A schoolbus with the local high school hockey team had crashed, killing all but one. The lone survivor lost it and resurrected his best friend through some voodoo craft he found in his dead grandma’s closet. Eventually the zombie guy killed the kid (some gratitude) and dug up more of his undead friends who’d been having a bloodfest ever since.
Dean wasn’t even supposed to leave the car, all he had to do was wait. Wait… for his dad to finish the job and return so they could drive back to the parish and pick up Sammy. For once, Dean did not follow a direct order.
He paces the length of the waiting room while doctors work to stitch up his damaged father. A kind orderly tries to talk to him but at fourteen years of age, Dean’s already perfected the art of freezing people out.
“That was a mean shot you took back there.”
It’s the first thing dad says when he wakes up at last.
Dean appreciates the rare praise but feels no elation. Tries hard to not look away from John’s pale face, and not burst out wailing like he was four. This is why he hates hospitals. He swallows down a giant lump of terror of what could have happened (but didn’t damn it!), and nods. Dad’s alright, dad’s still here, that’s all that matters.
“We’ll talk about your insubordination later.”
That’s just great. Dean needs a change of topic, now.
“Doctors say they’ll let you go in a couple of days.”
John scowls and sits up. “Screw that. Lets get out of here now.”
Dean stands up worried. “But dad…”
“You call up Sammy?”
“Uhh with everything that happened, I…”
“It's okay son. Find my clothes and then go make the call. Your brother must be climbing the walls by now.”
It's after midnight when Pastor Jim picks up the phone and tells Dean he doesn’t want to disturb Sammy. Seems the kid was sleeping peacefully for the first time since they left him behind. Alarm bells go off in the back of his mind but there’s nothing he can do sitting in another state.
Dean is allowed to drive his dad’s shiny new Impala and man is it a sweet ride or what. Ordinarily John would worry about cops and such but its dark and he’s wrecked and in no position to drive himself.
It's early morning when they reach the parish and Dean heads straight to Sammy’s room. The dark circles under his eyes and beads of cold sweat signify more than any words possibly could.
“Sammy, hey, wake up.”
Dean pushes the unruly bangs back from Sammy’s forehead and lightly scratches behind an ear.
Dean knows this resistance to come around, hell it runs in the family. So thick he could fire a consecrated iron round through it and nothing would budge. He sighs and decides to let him sleep. Just as he straightens up and turns toward the door, Sam stirs.
He turns back around and sits back down beside Sammy on the bed.
Sammy opens his eyes, squints because even the subtle light of dawn hurts.
Sam sighs, averts his eyes, not ready to face his brother yet.
“How did it go?”
“The usual. Buck shots meet zombies, happy ending for one and all.”
Dean feels the urge to let loose, pour his heart out to someone about everything – the fear, the horror of seeing dad hurt… both the thrill and the numbness he felt towards his very first kill. But he doesn’t. If John has his way, Sammy would know it all himself soon enough. Too soon, if you ask Dean. But for now, he is not prepared to burden his ten year old brother with the bizarre brutalities of their abnormal lives.
Instead he looks away too, at the book lying open, stem up on the floor. He smirks.
“So what did you think?”
Dean picks up the book and shows it to Sammy. “1984?”
Nothing… absolutely nothing could have possibly prepared him for what follows next. Dean watches helplessly as something snaps, no, shatters inside his baby brother and the jade of his eyes turns into pitch black before overfilling with hot water.
“You're a jerk, Dean!”
Stubborn fists crash into his chest over and over again as Dean grabs the trembling shoulders trying to calm Sammy down.
“Get away from me! I hate you! I hate you!”
“Sammy? Hey hey… what's wrong?”
“What's wrong? WHAT’S WRONG?”
And Sammy is kicking and squirming to get off the bed but Dean is in the way and no way is he letting go. He pulls the boy up against his chest and holds on tight, freaking out beyond reason himself.
“I hate you! How could you…??”
“Shhh… Sammy, shhhh….”
Dean knows what to do. It's not often he’s needed to do this, but he’s been practically raising the boy all these years. He envelopes Sammy into himself tight and rocks.
Back and forth, back and forth.
“It's okay, it's okay… I’m here now, it's okay.”
He feels the sobs reverberating right through him, Sam hasn’t been this hysterical since… shit, since he was four and thought Dean and dad were going to leave him behind in Nebraska.
His chest tightens, twice in 24 hours damnit! His family is driving him out of his freakin mind. Buries his face, his quivering lip in the soft chestnut hair and shuts his eyes tight. Maybe this was the curse of their family… not the thing that killed their mom, and not dad’s obsession with the supernatural. It is this… this willingness to wrecklessly endanger one’s life without thinking what it would do to the people left behind.
Sammy is still crying hard, too hard, and Dean can only hold him and rock harder.
“I’m sorry Sammy. I should have called. I messed up.”
He feels Sammy twisting to rest his right cheek on his chest and Dean wipes at the tear tracks on the left one.
“Please forgive me?”
A small hand yanking at the lapel of his jacket now settles, playing with the buttons instead. Sammy tries to control the sobs by biting his lower lip.
“Don’t do that. It's okay.” Dean rubs a thumb across the abused lip and Sam blushes, turns his head the other way.
“I just… want you to… to stop ditching me.”
Dean sighs, just glad at least Sammy is talking amid the hiccups and the tears. He rubs the small back and the curled up figure in his lap slowly relaxes.
“This gig was too dangerous Sammy.”
“Yeah, and I’m a liability.”
Dean shakes him a little. The bitterness in the young boy’s voice is heartbreaking.
“Don’t use big words you don’t completely understand.”
Sammy huffs, rolls his eyes thinking Dean wouldn’t see it. Dean smiles.
“Okay, don’t use big words that I don’t understand.”
Sammy tries to hide his little smile in Dean’s jacket again. But his face is still wet.
“If only… if I was bigger…”
Dean pulls him off his chest so he can look him in the eye.
“You will be Sam. You’ll be bigger and stronger and smarter than me and dad, just gotta have patience okay?”
Sammy nods, not convinced and buries his head back in Dean’s chest. Wipes at the new tears in his eyes.
“Then… then I won't be such a wuss right?”
“You’re not a wuss. You’re the bravest kid I know.”
“I’m the only kid you know.”
Dean laughs his short, abrupt laugh.
“You know being scared… it's not such a bad thing.”
Sammy doesn’t even know what to say to that, but to Dean his body language is conveying a clear ‘Huh?’
“I get scared too Sammy. All the time. Think its what keeps me sharp. It’s the fear that makes us plan and prepare before going into a hunt. The fear keeps us alive.”
“So… it's okay to have fears?”
“Yep. So long as you’re not afraid to face ‘em.”
Sammy looks up at that with a broken look on his face Dean doesn’t recognize… doesn’t want to recognize.
“I don’t know if I can do it Dean…”
Dean knows what’s coming and wants him to not say it, wants to shut Sam up.
“I don’t know if I can live like this… wondering if today’s the last day I’m ever gonna see you and dad alive.”
Dean’s face hardens, he wishes he could turn his heart to stone as well. How many times have those exact words almost escaped his lips… almost, but never did?
They came this close to losing dad today. The pain he went through, he doesn’t want Sam to ever have to experience that. He’s just glad Sammy doesn’t really know what it feels like to lose a mom… not the way Dean feels her loss, not the way Dean misses her.
And that’s why, Dean knows there is absolutely nothing left to say.
It's six years later, and he can't promise Sammy he would never leave him.
Sammy leans against him once again and Dean keeps rubbing his baby brother’s back rhythmically until he hears a soft small sigh.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you.”
Dean smiles. “You had good reason. Dad got hurt and I just stopped thinking strai…”
“Dad got hurt?”
Sammy is stunned and worried and tries to get off his lap.
“Nothing serious, don’t worry. But he needs to rest right now, you can see him when he wakes up okay?”
“No I wanna see him now.”
So Dean lets him go, regretting the decision immediately. It's been like, forever since Sammy let Dean hold him close. Honestly Dean didn’t know himself that he’d missed this so much, up until fifteen minutes ago. He quickly shakes himself out of the disgustingly girly moment he’s just had and follows Sammy as he runs out to find John.
John (Blue Earth, Minnesota)
John Winchester doesn’t say much. Like, ever. But its not because he doesn’t want to, its because he doesn’t know how to. No words could possibly do justice to the darkness of his thoughts… the gravity of his pain. He worries his boys would hate their father once they grow up.
He worries his boys wouldn’t understand why he does what he does.
Dean probably would, John tells himself. Dean was there. Dean saw his father break, and tries so very hard to put him back together, every single day.
But Sammy is different, not like Dean. Don’t get John wrong, he loves Sammy. More than he could ever convey to the little boy. And he is sure he loves his dad back as well. But he wonders if Sammy would ever be able to forgive him. If he would ever understand that once you’ve been touched by true evil, you can never really escape it. You could either let it win – and slowly wither away and die, marred by grief and loss for eternity. Or you could stand up and fight, fight for your dignity and your sanity.
John Winchester has made his choice. And he knows that while he may not eventually win, but he sure isn’t gonna make it easy for them sons of bitches.
It is with a heavy heart but definite sense of accomplishment (clearing out a bunch of nasty zombies is no minor feat) that John finally closes his eyes. Falls into a medicated sleep so deep he doesn’t hear Sammy sniveling miserably, hesitantly holding on to his unbroken hand. Doesn’t see Dean quietly embracing him from behind and pulling him away from his side.
Evening comes and John finally pulls himself out of bed, there’s work to be done, he reminds himself. Things to take care of. He cannot afford the luxury of rest any longer.
“Jimmy, where are the boys?”
Jim looks up from his book, shakes his head and takes his glasses off.
“What did you do to deserve kids like that John, I wonder.”
John smirks. “I know an insult when I get one.”
Pastor Jim stands up and surreptitiously checks his friend out for red flags health-wise.
“Sammy’s had a rough couple of days. Thank God for Dean though…”
And the men smile. John is sure he couldn’t possibly be prouder.
“Yeah, thank God for Dean.”
John scours the length and breath of the parish with no success. Just when he’s starting to get a little worried, he hears a sound not necessarily common even for an American religious establishment.
Smiling, he limps out to the garage where they parked the Impala, but stays out of sight.
The car doors are open and Mary’s tape of greatest hits blares out of the stereo.
There’s Dean and there’s Sammy wearing their two bucks apiece sunglasses, strumming the imaginary guitars in their hands with extreme seriousness.
“Ta da dum! Tum tum tum tum…”
“Ta da dum! Tum tum tum tum…”
Sammy is laughing. He is wearing Dean’s leather jacket three sizes too big, headbanging and rocking back on one foot behind then one in front. John thinks he totally looks the classic rockstar in every way except, well, the being ten part.
The music’s too loud, the boys are louder and as Pastor, Jim should be doing more than just pretending to be entirely deaf and blind.
“Play it Sammy!”
“Ta da dum! Tum tum tum tum…”
John smiles, actually chuckles, but tries to hold it in not wanting to interrupt his boys. One more day couldn’t possibly hurt. The warm bed seems to get more and more enticing with every step that he gets closer to it.
At night prowling sifting sand.
Hiding around on the ground.
He'll be found when you're around.
Everything’s okay. Dean’s got it.
That cat's something I can't explain!
**Next Chapter >>