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Saving People

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Sam's phone started ringing before his tyres hit Route 281. He blindly jabbed the call button, left hand fisted on the steering wheel and squinting into headlights through the rain. "What?"

"Sammy, come on, this isn't going to fix anything," Dean's tinny voice said. Sam grit his teeth and stomped on the gas.

"I deserved to know– we deserved to know," he bit out. "You should've told us!"

A disgusted grunt came through the speaker. "I'm not future me, dumbass!"

Sam glanced down at the screen – it just said 'Dean', not 'Future Dean' – and scowled harder. Usually he could tell them apart. "Sorry," he said. Dean sighed.

"Just come back, okay? Jesus. Dad says–"

"Fuck Dad. He lied to us."

"It's not like there was any good way to say it," Dean replied, and Sam almost took out a Honda as he changed lanes.

"Why are you defending him?" he demanded.

"Someone's got to!" said Dean. "Look, calm down, it's not that big a deal."

"We have a brother and he never told us," Sam snapped. "It's a huge deal."

He hung up.

 

It'd just been a bad, bad day.

Dean had gone with Dad and his future self on a hunt to Carthage to take out a rugaru and it... it hadn't gone wrong, exactly, they got the– thing. Guy. Jack Montgomery, his name was. They got him, burned him alive, and he'd had no idea why. He hadn't started turning yet.

That was tough. Dad had hunted one before back in '95, but that one was already eating people. Jack Montgomery had been buying roses for his fiancé when they met him, grinning all goofy and blushing. Dean had been edgy and Dad had been tenser than a spring. How the hell were they supposed to set this guy on fire?

When future Dean stabbed him through the heart and he didn't die, it got a bit easier. But Dean could still hear the screams, and see the fiancé's face when she ran in to find her guy char-broiling on the kitchen floor.

Yeah. Bad day.

He and Dad had driven back in silence, future Dean's taillights disappearing now and then ahead of them. He wanted to ask Dad... something. Couldn't put it in words even in his head. So he didn't. Dad didn't take his eyes off the road the whole time.

Sam and Jess were fighting when they got to the bunker. A whole lot of "that's not fair!" and "could at least try!" and "what do you want me to do about it?" Dean edged his way past, too wiped to listen to another round (Jess wanted to visit her family, said she had the right and they'd wonder why she didn't come home over summer; Sam thought it was too dangerous with the demons still out there, for her and for them. Had a point. Two days of two would-be lawyers making cases at each other was enough to make him wish for a good old fashioned beat-down), so of course today they dragged him into it. And Dad, because that was a brilliant idea.

Dad had looked at her, at Sam, and over his shoulder at future Dean, coming down the stairs behind them. "You want to go, go," he said to Jess, eyes on future Dean. "Not like we know any reason you shouldn't."

Dean closed his eyes.

Future Dean walked up, stiff and dull-eyed, and said, "Too dangerous" without breaking stride.

"Not fucking good enough," said Jess, blocking his way to the kitchen. "Why?"

"I told you, I can't tell you," future Dean said wearily, "but trust me–"

"No," said Dad, and moved to box him in from the other side. "You've been keeping us in the dark for months and we're not one step closer to finding the yellow-eyed demon."

Future Dean turned slowly over his shoulder, eyes narrowed and that same dull blank look on his face he'd had when he stabbed Jack Montgomery just to prove it wouldn't kill him. That face gave Dean chills.

Dad ignored the look. "So tell me, Dean," he said, "why the hell should we keep trusting you if you don't tell us the truth?"

"Oh, you wanna talk about truth?" said future Dean, low and mild, and alarms went off in Dean's head. From the corner of his eye he saw Sam tense. "I'm not the one who lied to his sons, gave the shittiest warning ever and then died without explaining a damn thing."

"That wasn't me." Dad's eyes were flicking back and forth over future Dean's face. "And you obviously made it out just fine. Didn't you. Both of you."

Jess looked between them, then met Dean's eyes, then looked at Sam. Future Dean was totally still. "It was you. It is you. You never trusted us; you didn't even tell us about Adam."

Dad jerked, horror creeping into his eyes. "What happened?"

"Who's Adam?" asked Sam.

"What happened?"

A sinking feeling settled in Dean's gut. Future him lifted his chin, looking like he had an 'I told you so' and was hating it. "Same thing that happened to the rest of his family."

"Who's Adam?" demanded Sam, getting between them. "Dad? What's going on?"

Future Dean stepped back, shouldering his duffle. "You tell them," he said to Dad. "Or I will."

Yeah. A bad, bad, fucked up day.

 

"We have a brother and he never told us," Sam snapped. "It's a huge deal."

He hung up. Dean threw the phone at the wall– and jumped. "Jess."

She was standing in his doorway, flinching and wide eyes stuck on the spot three inches from here face where the phone had hit. She pointed. "Aim better."

"Sorry." He sighed and bent down to pick it up. "You okay?"

"You guys usurped my argument," she said, folding her arms. "I'm not letting it go, you know. I'm going to go see them. But yeah. How's Sam?"

Dean shrugged. "Pissed. Haven't heard him yell like that since the day he left for college."

"And you?" she asked.

His mouth opened and spilled, "I don't know if he'll come back." He clamped it shut and busied himself checking if the phone still worked.

"Where is he?"

"Didn't say."

She frowned tightly and nodded, and made for the door. "Give him two or three hours, then call again. Let me know soon as he tells you."

"Go ask 'future me'," Dean muttered, studying the fractures in the plastic shell. "He knows eeeeeeeverything."

Jess groaned and turned back. "I'm not going to be your fucking counsellor just cause I'm the only woman here, okay? Your dad's the one you're mad at. Talk to him."

The phone cracked in his hand. "This isn't on Dad."

"Uh, yeah, it is. And if I've gotten to know you guys at all, you're going to keep being stupid about this till you sort it out. I don't know why he didn't tell you. It's not my problem. Deal with it. Talk to your dad."

"Can't." Dean opened his hand and dropped the bits of phone into the trash. "He took off too."

 

His brother was blond. For some reason that struck Sam the hardest. He looked a lot like his mom, who looked a lot like Mom, and he'd gotten way less of John Winchester in him than Sam had, or Dean. Sam wouldn't have looked twice at the kid if they'd passed on the street, and honestly, he still wasn't sure. Adam Milligan was just a normal kid, hanging out with his friends after school and laughing about something Sam couldn't make out. He sank lower on the park bench and tugged his baseball cap down so he could tilt his ear towards them. Adam's friend was saying something about going to the mall, and Adam was shaking his head. "I've got homework."

His friend groaned. "You're no fun anymore," he teased, and Adam mimed shoving him. His friend ducked and they tussled (badly, Sam noticed; neither of them would last a second in a real fight), and stumbled into the grass, laughing. It was like a movie montage. Sam couldn't look away.

"You barely knew him–" Sam jumped and whirled, hand flying to his pistol – but it was Castiel, sitting on the bench beside him. He smiled slightly, in the corner of his mouth. "Sorry."

Sam breathed hard, forcing it to slow to normal. "What are you doing here?"

Castiel looked out at the playground. "Dean said you'd need help hunting the ghouls that were going to kill Adam and his mother, and he was sure you wouldn't want to see him."

"I never said I was going after them," said Sam. Down the path, Adam waved goodbye to his friends and started walked their way. Sam ducked deeper into his baseball cap.

Castiel gave him a dry look that said, I'm not an idiot. "The ghouls live in a series of tunnels accessible from the Millsap family tomb; Dean described them to me before I left. If we leave now we can be finished before sunset."

"Oh." Sam glanced down the path at his little brother, who was almost on them. "All right."

"Good." Castiel stood up suddenly, onto the path, and slammed straight into Adam. They both went sprawling. Sam stared.

"Watch it, man!" cried Adam, cradling his ribs. He winced as he tried to sit up. "Geez."

"I'm so sorry; let me help you," said Castiel, already rolling to his feet. He hauled Adam to his feet, hard, and Adam yelped and swayed a little. Castiel immediately started checking him over, turning his head side to side and studying him intently. "Are you hurt?"

His prodding was embarrassing to look at, and Sam was about to step in when the angel swiped his fingers across Adam's face, right across the eyes, and Adam ripped himself free.

"What the hell's wrong with you? That's not how you check for a concussion!" he shouldered his bag and skittered around them, hurrying away a few feet before turning his back and speed walking away.

"Great, now he's never going to want to talk to me," muttered Sam, kicking the grass. "Typical." Castiel watched him sadly.

"You should know," he said softly, "Dean is sorry about all this."

Sam snorted and started walking, in the other direction, toward his car and the cemetery. "Sure he is."

"Sam." Castiel stepped in front of him, got right in his face. "This is the reason we decided not to tell you and the others anything that wasn't necessary. A lot of terrible things happened in the future we came from, and we were responsible for many of them. Dean had to leave Adam's soul to suffer in Hell, for eternity, in order to save yours."

"He..." Sam shook his head and kept going. "You know, I'm not surprised by anything anymore."

"Good. You'll need to be resilient," said Castiel. He looked around the park slowly as they walked, then up at the sky and asked, "Have you talked to Jessica?"

"Yeah," he sighed, "she called a few hours ago. She's invited me to go with her to Santa Cruz to see her family, so I can make sure they're safe from the demons. Ward their house, that sort of thing."

"Are you going?"

Kicking a pebble, he said, "Haven't got a choice. She'll take off alone if I don't, and she can't fight off a demon if they turn up."

Castiel nodded. "If you like, I'd be happy to follow you. I can keep watch for demons from a distance far better than you'll be able to from inside the house."

Sam looked up. "You'd do that?"

"Of course. You're my friend."

Me, or future me? Uncomfortable, Sam glanced away. "If it's not too much trouble, yeah, thanks. That'll help a lot."

"You're welcome."

They reached the road. Castiel's car was the 50s Ford that had been parked closest to the door. Sam's car was Dad's truck, and he smirked as he unlocked the trunk to check the weapons bag. "Dean said there's two of them?"

From behind the trunk of his own car, Castiel said, "Yes. Siblings." He hesitated, probably realising the weight of that, and a moment later the trunk shut and he walked to Sam's side. He stood awkwardly, as if he'd be shuffling his feet if he weren't totally still. "I know something about what you're going through," he said. "Many of my brothers and sisters were killed in the future we came back to prevent. Some of them by my own hand," he added shamefully, and Sam blinked. "Right now they're in Heaven, and I can't risk telling them anything about that future because I don't know what they'll do with that information. Some of them made terrible choices last time. Some of them killed a lot of people. Some of them tried to kill you."

"Wha–? But– they're angels. Why–?"

"It's a long story. The point is, some of them are far more powerful than I am, and the only way I can protect you from them is to make sure they don't have the knowledge that led them to make those choices last time."

Sam's fingers tightened on the duffle bag he was zipping up. "I had a right to know. He's my brother."

"Maybe someday your father will introduce you. That's up to him. For what it's worth, I'm sorry you found out this way."

Sam reached up and slammed the trunk shut. "Yeah. Me too." He sighed and looked back over the park, down the path. Adam was long gone. "Do you think he'll be safe?"

"The demons aren't after him," Castiel promised. "He and his mother should be left in peace once we eliminate the ghouls."

"At least one of us gets to be." Sam sighed and flipped the car keys in his hand. "Okay. Let's get to work."

 

Hours later, when their tools were clean of blood and Sam was sleeping through the accelerated healing of his tibia, Cas finished a circuit of the motel grounds and, satisfied, took out his phone. Dean answered on the first ring. "You okay?"

"Yes, we both are. The ghouls are dead and Sam and I will be heading home in the morning."

Through the weak speaker, Dean sighed heavily. "Thanks, man. I owe you. How's Adam?"

Castiel tilted his head to better see the few faint stars visible above the city. "The ache in his ribs will have faded by now. He should be sleeping."

Dean chuckled. "Poor kid. Some days I still swear I can feel those sigils scraping around inside me. He doesn't suspect anything, right?"

"No, I 'bumped' into him. His mother too; she was on a lunch break outside the hospital."

"Better hope they don't swap stories," Dean said, but he didn't sound worried. "Where'd you put the devil's trap? Their skulls?"

"No, it has to be on the body's outer surface. I drew it on the inside of their eyelids."

Dean laughed. "Awesome."

Cas frowned – that wasn't the adjective he would have chosen – and let it go. "I doubt Michael will think to track him down by mundane means. They'll assume your father has hidden him, if they feel the need to look for him at all."

"It's not going to come to that," Dean said firmly. There was a sound of movement; Cas couldn't make out the fine details through the phone line but he was fairly sure Dean had shaken his head. "All right, I've got to get some shut-eye. See you tomorrow?"

"We'll be there, Dean."

"Right. Yeah. Goodnight, Cas."

"Goodnight, Dean."

 

Somewhere behind him a clock must have ticked over midnight: the bartender called, "Last round!" and John winced as the sound hammered through his head. He waited while everyone else shouted orders and grumbled as they paid up tabs, then raised a hand. "Can I get another one?"

The bartender frowned at him but refilled the glass – just a finger, but John was still sober enough to realise that anything more was a bad idea. He watched the liquid splash around. "I should've told 'em," he mumbled.

"Yup."

"I wanted them to be safe. Adam still had his mother. He daydreamed about us being a normal family. I couldn'– I couldn' wreck his world too."

"Considerate of you."

"Dean's never goin' to forgive me," he said, nose almost on the bar. "He'll say he does, but he won't. Not ever."

A heavy sigh and the slam of a bottle by his ear jerked John out of his slump. Behind the bar, Ellen glared. "You listen here, John Winchester," she said, barely keeping her voice low enough not to carry. "Just 'cause your time-travelling forty-odd-year-old future son ain't forgiven you for not telling him that time 'round doesn't mean it's gotta be the same now."

John shook his head slowly. "I know my son."

"And I know my daughter, but that doesn't mean our kids can't surprise us sometimes. You never would've come here if your future boy hadn't told you I'd forgiven you, 'cause you never would've imagined I could. And believe me, part of me wishes I hadn't or I wouldn't be stuck playing agony aunt to a stubborn old drunk who can't get his head out of his ass long enough to be honest with his kids."

"Ellen–"

"Shut up. I forgave you, 'cause I decided to. You've gotta give Sam and Dean the same choice." She took the glass away, tequila still swirling inside, and knocked it back. "Get your ass to a motel, sleep it off, and get the hell home."

John was halfway into bed before he realised he hadn't thought twice about what 'home' meant.