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Time Keeps on Ticking

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Sam didn’t hit a dog that first night. He was in the car, white line fever clouding his brain. He hadn’t eaten, hadn’t slept, not since the moment he saw Dean disappear in a cloud of black goo. He wasn’t sure what had pulled him back to Kansas. Dean wouldn’t be there. He couldn’t exactly go home when he hadn’t called it that since he was 6 months old. To be honest, he was hoping a tree would pop out of nowhere, or an icy bridge would cause him to fishtail and slide over an embankment. Because then it wouldn’t be his fault. It could be an unavoidable accident and Dean couldn’t blame him for taking his own life to join him in death. He shook his head and tried to get his blurry eyes to focus, as much as he wanted to die, he didn’t want to hit another vehicle. With his luck, he would survive the crash and have to live with the guilt of yet another death he had caused and that he couldn’t prevent.
A flash of light lit up the side of the road and it blinded Sam, igniting the migraine he had barely been keeping at bay. He jerked the wheel hard and felt a lurch as he hit the soft shoulder.

He couldn’t stand the closeness of the vehicle anymore and he shoved the door open and vomited strings of bile into the dirt at his feet. When he finished throwing up, he cradled his head in his hands and tried so hard not to give into the sobs that were waiting like a lump in his throat that he couldn’t swallow.

“Why do you have my daddy’s car?” A small voice asked from a few feet away.

Sam shot upright in shock, his head protesting and threatening another wave of sickness at the quick movement. There, right beside him in the ditch, was a small boy, and one that seemed familiar. He was perhaps three or four years old. His face was black with soot and marked with tear tracks. and he practically reeked of smoke. He had a small baby, less than a year old, desperately clutched in his arms. The baby was asleep but as Sam watched, it screwed up its little face and its eyes began to flutter open.

“Shh, Sammy, you’re ok,” the little boy soothed although he sounded on the brink of tears himself. And suddenly Sam knew exactly who they were and when they were from.

“Dean?” He asked incredulously.

The little boy, Dean, he had to be, glared at Sam suspiciously. “How do you know my name?”

“I’m...uh, I’m your uncle. Your dad let me take your car because he wanted me to keep you safe,” Sam hurried to reassure him.

“Daddy tells me everything,” Dean’s glare grew deeper and Sam would have struggled not to laugh if he wasn’t so damn tired.

“He didn’t have time. He was really busy. And if he trusts me with the car, he must trust me to take care of you too,” Sam said softly, trying not to spook his brother.

“Did he save mommy? Did he take her to the hospital?” Dean asked quietly, new tears slipping down his face.

Sam breathed a sigh of relief that this Dean was from before John had told him about the evil things out there. Dean still trusted easily and quickly.

Suddenly, little Sammy woke up fully and started to cry and Sam found himself with an armful of...himself. He blinked down at the little squalling face in front of him and for a second, was worried that the universe would explode from the paradox. But nothing happened except for the child continuing to cry in his arms.

“You hafta feed him,” Dean said seriously. “Mommy gives him milk but Daddy says boys don’t have milk so we hafta go to a store. Unless Daddy gave you bottles. Did Daddy give you bottles?”

“No, Da….John didn’t give me bottles. I guess we’re going to the store.” He stood up, Sammy still in his arms, and opened the back door.

“Hey,” Dean said. “Why’d you take our seats out?”

Sam remembered belatedly that he was in no way prepared to transport an infant. “Someone stole them…” he said faintly.

“Maybe someone had a baby on the side of the road and they needed a baby seat in a hurry,” Dean mused. Sam relaxed again. This Dean was much easier to lie to.

“I’m gonna wrap you up in blankets and strap you in as tight as you can. You can hold Sammy. Just until we get to a store and can get you a better seat.” For a second, Sam wasn’t sure if he should keep going or turn around. He didn’t really want to take the kids back to Lawrence in case whatever force had brought them through time was a) evil and b) looking for them. So he decided to go back the way he came until he found a small town and he knew he shouldn’t have too much further to go. “I’ll drive really slowly and carefully.”

Sam strapped them in as best he could but he was still hyper vigilant while he drove. Finally, he saw the town up ahead and breathed a sigh of relief. It was the middle of the night so nothing was open so the car seats would have to wait. He looked back at little Sammy and wondered if he was eating solid food yet and if he could give him regular cow’s milk or if it had to be real baby formula. He looked at the lights of the only gas station that was open and knew he’d be lucky if the milk was fresh.

He almost left the boys in the car. Dean and Sammy had both fallen asleep in the back seat and they looked so peaceful. And Dean wasn’t wearing any shoes and the gas station manager would probably notice and maybe call the cops. But what if he noticed the kids in the car and the lack of proper seats and called the cops then? His hands started to shake on the wheel. He’d just gotten his smart, capable, grown-ass brother killed. How could he possibly think he could keep these two alive?

“Are we home yet?” Dean yawned from the back seat. And Sam felt his hands stop shaking. Dean needed him. Little Sammy needed him. And he was done with letting his family down.

“We need to get milk for Sammy,” he said softly. “But I can’t leave you in the car. I’m going to have to carry you both.”
Dean just reached out his arms and nestled into Sam. Sam scooped both of them up and cradled them in one arm. It was awkward but if Dean held onto Sammy, he could hold them both and still have an arm free for paying.

Sam ignored the stink eye from the guy sitting at the counter and headed straight to the back for the dairy coolers. He rooted around before he found the carton with the farthest due date and started to head back to the counter. He stopped when he realised Sammy couldn’t drink out of a cup. He wandered a little bit, was almost ready to buy a pair of rubber gloves and see if he could make a bottle, when he saw one shoved onto a shelf with a bunch of off brand painkillers. It was dusty and had obviously been there for months if not years and it was exorbitantly priced but Sam could almost weep with relief. He looked down at Dean, half dozing on his shoulder, and grabbed a couple boxes of Mac and Cheese and some cans of spaghettios. He set those things down on the counter before he spied a box of lucky charms. He grabbed those too and then stared down at the raised eyebrow of the pimply faced teen behind the counter.

“Will that be all?” the kid smirked at him.

“Yes,” Sam glared, “that will be all.”

The kid rolled his eyes but packed up Sam’s stuff and named a price that nearly had Sam gasping. But he paid without complaint, not wanting the kid to remember them.

He strapped the two back into the car quickly before driving to a motel on the edge of town. He again debated leaving the kids in the car just to run in to book a room but again, he was worried that someone might notice and call CPS on him. So he picked them up again for a few minutes. He booked a double room out of habit.

When he opened the door, Dean was awake again. “Where’s Sammy going to sleep? He’ll fall out of a big bed,” Dean scowled.

“Shi...I mean oops, sorry. We’ll all sleep in the big bed, like a sleepover. I’ll be on one side and you’ll be on the other so Sammy can’t roll out of bed.” Dean nodded, his eyes already closing again in exhaustion. He set them both down on the couch, Sammy clutched tight in Dean’s arms. Sam quickly grabbed a facecloth from the bathroom and wiped Dean’s face and helped him out of his clothes and gave him one of Sam’s giant t-shirts to sleep in. Sammy’s sleeper was filthy and stunk of smoke so Sam pulled it off him and wrapped the baby in one of his soft, worn flannel shirts. He deposited the both of them in the middle of the big bed. Dean was asleep instantly but Sammy was awake and looking at him, just whimpering softly, not really a full blown cry.

Sam picked him up again and cuddled him close while he cleaned the bottle and warmed it up a little in the microwave. Sammy snuggled in and watched his face. Sam was surprised to see a look of sorrow in the baby’s eyes.

“Do you know what you’ve lost?” Sam asked softly. “It’ll be ok. You’ve got Dad to protect you and Dean is the best big brother in the whole world.” The baby smiled at hearing the name of his favourite person in the whole wide world. Sam had to hold himself back from vomiting again as he saw the hint of red still staining the baby’s first four teeth and he remembered what else had changed that night.

He fed Sammy the bottle in grim silence. Sammy only got halfway through before his eyes started blinking slower and longer until he dropped off. Sam set him down beside a sleeping Dean and smiled fondly as his brother pulled the baby closer in his sleep. He went back into the bathroom and quickly hand-washed their smoky clothing so at least he would have something for them to wear when he took them shopping the next day. That done, he stripped down to a t-shirt and boxers and climbed into the bed, giving into his need to have them close. He had time to think to himself, “what the hell am I going to do?” before the exhaustion he had been fighting finally rose up like a wave and swallowed him whole.

Sam didn’t know where he was when he woke up in the morning. There was someone in the bed with him and he could hear an oddly familiar child’s voice trying and failing to whisper and a baby’s giggle. He opened his eyes and propped himself up carefully on his elbow to see little Dean with his arm engulfed in one of Sam’s huge socks leaning over his baby brother and laughing.

“Is that the tickle monster?” Sam smiled softly, thinking that maybe he has a blurry memory of Dean doing the same thing to him.

“Yeah,” Dean sat back and blushed. “Sorry I used one of your socks. I couldn’t find anything else and I didn’t want Sammy to cry and wake you up.”

As if on cue, Sammy’s little face scrunched up tight and he started to wail. “It’s ok,” said Sam. “You were very resourceful. I’m up now. Let’s get Sammy some food.”

“Sammy is stinky too. Did Daddy give you nappies?” Dean held his nose.

Sam took a careful sniff close to the baby to find that yes indeed, he very badly needed to be changed.

“Shi...crap. I guess we’re giving Sammy a bath before food.” Sam sighed. He picked up Sammy, cringing as he could feel the heavy wetness of the baby’s diaper. The bathtub was too big. So that left the sink. Sam was glad he had had the presence of mind to get a room with a kitchenette. He started the water running and then realized he didn’t know what temperature it should be. He ran his fingers under the water. Was it too hot?

“Mommy uses her elbow,” Dean piped up from behind him. Sam jumped.

“Jeez kid, you’re quiet.”

“Daddy says I’m too loud,” Dean pouted.

“Well, it’s ok if you’re a little bit loud. Then I always know where you are,” Sam said, taking Dean’s advice and testing the water with his elbow. It was definitely too hot. He added a little more cold before turning the water off and turning his attention to the hazardous part of the job, undressing baby Sammy.

The first layer came off just fine. Sammy kicked his legs and gurgled, enjoying his unclothed state. He held his breath and reached for the first adhesive strap holding that disposable diaper together.

“You’ll hafta get something to wipe him,” Dean offered, dragging one of the kitchen chairs over to the sink to supervise. “If you don’t, poop will get in the water and Sammy will still be stinky. And he might try to eat it. Sammy always puts gross stuff in his mouth.”

Sam sighed and rolled his eyes, but he was really glad that Dean had apparently been paying attention to how his mom took care of the baby. He bet Dad probably had been thankful too. “You’ll have to grab the toilet paper from the bathroom. I’ll buy something better later.”

Dean hopped down and was back in a flash and Sam psyched himself up again to open the “gift” little Sammy had deposited. It was so much worse than he could have imagined. He choked and gasped.

“Wait, you gotta be careful,” Dean reached toward the diaper. But he was too late as Sam felt a warm sprinkling on his chest. His first instinct was to jump back and freak out and rip his shirt off but Dean calmly moved the diaper back over little Sammy until he was finished peeing.

“Sammy always does that. Once he got me in the face!” Dean confided, eyes huge.

Sam sighed, suddenly too tired to care about a little baby pee. It could have been worse, He disposed of the diaper quickly, wiping Sammy’s butt quickly, eventually wetting some of the toilet paper to get the last bit off before he slid the baby into the water. Sammy immediately squealed and laughed and slapped both his hands down on the surface of the water, drenching both Sam and Dean.

“Sammy, you shouldn’t do that. You already got him dirty. You don’t need to get him wet too,” Dean lectured. Sammy just squealed at him again, splashing harder and screaming with laughter. Sam felt himself smiling suddenly, It surprised him. But apparently Dean hadn’t been joking when he had called him a cute kid who could get whatever he wanted with a look. Looks like he wasn’t even immune to his own charms. The smile froze and dimmed as he remembered that his brother, his grown-up brother, was still gone.

Young Dean took the washcloth from Sam’s hand and started up another game with Sammy, this time imitating a sea monster, one that apparently loves hugs. Sammy loved it. The squeals were deafening and, if Sam hadn’t needed to change all his clothes before, he certainly did now. At least the copious amounts of soapy water were diluting the baby pee.

“Hey, Mister,” Dean asked suddenly.

“Yes, Dean?” Sam asked as he rubbed soap carefully into Sammy’s hair.

“What’s your name?” Dean looked up.

Sam wasn’t sure what he should answer but eventually decided to tell his brother the truth. “It’’s Sam.”

“Really? Did Mommy and Daddy name Sammy after you?” Dean gasped, eyes wide.

“No,” Sam chuckled. “But we were named after the same person, your mom’s dad, grandpa Samuel.”

“Whoa, cool!” Dean said, letting go of Sammy for just a second to quickly hug Sam with his soapy hands. “I like that name! But I can’t call you both Sam, that will be too confusing. Can I call you Uncle Sam?”

“Sure, kid,” Sam managed to speak around the lump in his throat.

“Awesome,” Dean grinned. “I always wanted to have an uncle!” Sammy squealed and splashed more water, trying to pull the attention back onto himself. Sam grinned down at the little one and laughed and continued washing him.

The next wrinkle occurred when it was time to get Sammy out of the bath water. Sam definitely did not have anything resembling a diaper and Sammy was much too young to go without. He looked around before finally grabbing the paper towel. He put a couple layers of it against Sammy’s skin for absorption before swaddling him up in an old t-shirt. Hopefully they could pick up something before Sammy started to soak through all the layers.

“He’s going to get all red and ouchy,” Dean glared up at Sam. “He needs a real nappy.”

“I know, but I don’t have any,” Sam said. “We’ll just have to hurry.”

“Daddy always keeps one in the ‘pala’s glove box,” Dean said.

Sam closed his eyes, not wanting to figure out how to explain to Dean that while yes, that was his Daddy’s car, there had not been any diapers in the glove box for many years.

“I already checked last night after you fell asleep,” Sam lied. “We’ll change him into a real one right after we go to the store.”

“Alright,” Dean said seriously before running to pull on his slightly cleaner pajamas from the night before. “We better get going.”

They were out in the car in record time. Sam strapped them into the back seat and gave Dean Sammy’s bottle. He drove to the store carefully, watching for cops all the while. The last thing he needed was to get pulled over.

Sam was surprised at how painless the shopping trip was. The boys sizes were on the tags in their old clothes and Dean was actually a big help when it came for finding stuff for Sammy. Apparently Mary had been teaching him to read all the packages when she was doing stuff for Sammy so that he could feel like he was helping. Sam felt such a rush of love for the woman that he had barely gotten a chance to know, just for loving him and taking care of him so well, and for allowing Dean to be a part of everything. It’s entirely likely that that had saved his life.

They were checked out in record time. Sam helped Dean on with his new shoes and instructed him to stick tight as he picked up all the bags of things he had bought them, Sammy still cradled tight in his left arm. “Can you open the door, kiddo?” Sam asked. “I don’t think I can manage.”

“I’m a big boy, Uncle Sam. I can do it,” Dean scoffed before pushing the door open.

“Thanks, Dean,” Sam said, making sure that Sammy was held tight in his arms. Sammy looked up at him, a quizzical look on his face. The baby looked over Sam’s shoulder and screamed. Sam nearly panicked. This was unlike any cry he had heard thus far. This wasn’t a hungry cry or a dirty cry or even a tired cry. This sounded like pure terror to Sam. Dean was crowded right up against Sam’s knees and for a second, Sam thought he might trip over Dean. What exactly would happen if he squashed his infant self, Sam wondered, a little hysterically.

Thankfully, he didn’t have to find out. He managed to keep his feet, even with his vision obscured by the giant bags he was carrying and the infant, screaming like a banshee in his ear. Finally, he reached the car and set down the bags. He packed them into the trunk as quickly as he could, worried that Sammy had still not stopped screaming. The baby’s face was purple and his little fists pounded against Sam’s chest. He wasn’t trying to squirm away, it was more like he was trying to dig a hole into Sam’s chest and hide there.

“It’s ok, Sammy,” Dean piped up. And it was at that moment that Sam noticed what had gotten Sammy so worked up. A man stood there, too close, not acting, just watching.

“Who the hell are you?” Sam asked.

The man grinned, sharklike, and his eyes flickered to black. “Hand over the baby and no one needs to get hurt,” he snarled.

Sam gulped, realizing his vulnerable position. The demon killing knife was in the trunk he had just closed and the gun tucked into the back of his waistband wouldn’t do much good against a demon. He felt Dean’s hand pulling the keys from his fingers and heard him unlock the door. Sam quickly handed the baby down to his brother. “Strap in as tight as you can.”

And then Sam turned to face the demon. “What do you want with the kid?”

“Sammy Winchester, you of all people should know how important you are,” the demon grinned.

“”Yeah, and I also know how much I don’t want my past self to be in the hands of demons,” Sam stood between the demon and the impala and refused to move an inch.

“I would have prefered to do this the easy way but I should have known better. The Winchester’s never do anything the easy way,” the demon growled and threw himself at Sam. Sam blocked the first punch but the second threw him back against the door of the impala, denting it and shattering the window. Sammy’s frightened wailing started anew.

Sam choked and gasped for breath before throwing himself back into the fray, cracking the demon’s jaw and driving the air from his lungs with a quick combination. It barely needed any time to recuperate and Sam knew that time was absolutely not on his side. It got in a quick jab to the ribs before Sam decided to go for broke. He drew his gun and shot several times in quick succession at point blank range, throwing the demon back. He threw open the driver’s door and was immediately thankful that Dean had put the keys in the ignition after opening the door. He revved the engine and squealed out of the parking lot as the demon straightened up and took a step toward the car.

Sammy went blessedly silent as Dean squeezed him tightly in his arms. Sam wanted to heave a sigh of relief but knew that if there was one demon that knew that Sammy and Dean were in the future and vulnerable, there were probably already more demons gunning for them. He drove for as many hours as he could before Sammy started fussing and Dean could no longer keep him entertained. Truth to be told, Dean was rapidly reaching the end of his rope too. Sam could see him wiping away tears as he tried to sooth Sammy’s increasingly desperate cries. He pulled over into the first hotel he saw upon entering Lebanon and was nearly overwhelmed by the smell when he reached to pull Sammy out of Dean’s arms.

“I’m sorry, Uncle Sam. Sammy got your stuff all dirty. He’s just a baby,” Dean sobbed when Sam wrinkled his nose, remembering that Sammy was still wrapped in paper towel and one of his t-shirts and had been going sans diaper for all the hours of their escape.

“It’s ok,” Sam said softly, pulling them both out of the car and into his arms again. Dean clung to the both of them, still trying so very hard to be brave. It just about broke Sam’s heart. Thankfully, the motel was so seedy that the disinterested clerk didn’t bat an eye at the frazzled giant checking in with two sobbing children that smelled strongly of urine.

He piled them into the room as quickly as possible, setting Sam and Dean in the empty bathtub and spilling a thick line of salt across the bathroom door before he rushed out to bring in the clean clothes and diapers and other necessities. He put up every protection rune he could come up with and spread more thick salt lines at every opening until he was satisfied that they were as secure as they could be.

Sam stripped the children out of their soaking clothing and put them in the bath together. Sammy refused to let go of Dean so Sam was not worried that he’d drown. There was none of the fun of the morning bath. Sammy was quieter but tears still threatened. Sam just felt numb. His brain isn’t quite sure how to cope with it all. Dean is still gone, disappeared in a rain of black leviathan goo, but his brother is here, young and innocent, only just experiencing his first brush with true evil. And Sam isn’t alone but he really really is. He puts a diaper on Sammy and puts him in one of the sleepers before warming up another bottle and feeding it to him. Sam had also picked up some snacks and things, potato chips and the like. He had been planning to take the boys to a diner for a proper meal after the shopping trip but he didn’t really want to take them out now where they might be exposed and hunted again. He gave those to Dean and Dean practically inhaled them, leaving nothing but crumbs. Then he sits on the couch, wavering, eyes almost closing of their own volition. They end up huddled together on the bed, Sammy falling asleep in his arms, Dean a warm lump under his arm. Sam sighs as Sammy’s eyes fall shut and his even breathing suggests he is finally asleep.

“Uncle Sam,” Dean whispers. Sam managed not to jump but he was a little surprised that Dean hadn’t fallen asleep too. The kid was exhausted.

“What is it, kiddo?” he asked softly.

Dean struggled to hold back the tears. “Can we call my mommy?”

And Sam’s heart shattered. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I can’t.”

“Will I ever see her again?” A big fat tear rolled down Dean’s cheek.

And Sam wanted to lie to his brother and tell him that everything would be alright but he couldn’t. He couldn’t make a promise that would make the kid resent him later, even if Dean didn’t know who he really was. “I don’t know,” He said eventually.

And Dean broke down. “I miss her so much,” he sobbed.

“I know, I know,” Sam tried to sooth him. But he was tired and on edge and holding his brother but not and he cried too. And they clung to each other and cried like their hearts are breaking until Dean fell asleep and Sam pulled himself together and promised the Dean that he has lost that he will be stronger.

They got a few hours of respite and Sam was nearly ready to drift off to sleep himself when a knock came at the door. The sound startled Sammy awake and he started up again with the screaming from outside the store.

Sam was instantly wary. He placed Sammy into Dean’s arms and grabbed the demon killing knife from the bedside table before going to the window and trying to see who was at the door.

“I know you’re in there, Winchester,” a woman’s voice called. “I can hear you screaming...well one of you anyway.”

Sammy heard her and hiccoughed into silence. But it was too late. Sam could feel a spell building up like pressure behind his eardrums. And suddenly the door burst apart into matchsticks and a woman stood there, hand outstretched and hair rippling from the backlash of the power she just unleashed. She stepped forward, unconcerned with the salt she stepped over and easily walking through the devil’s trap under the doormat.

Sam cursed as he realized that she was in fact human, probably a witch.

“Look at you, the formidable Sam Winchester. I think you’ve lost weight. You look tired, sick. Losing your brother must really be taking it’s toll on you,” She laughed.

“Shut up,” Sam snarled. “You don’t get to talk about him.”

“Touchy touchy,” she winked at him before taking a few steps toward the bed.

Sam maneuvered himself in between her and the two children in the bed and he brandished the knife at her.

“I love that you think that will stop me,” she giggled before she waved her hand and her power ripped the knife from his. “This could be very useful. I can feel the power in this blade. We’ll have a lot of years waiting for this little munchkin to grow big enough to hold the Morning Star and it might be helpful to have something that keeps the demons from deciding that I’m expendable.”

“You can’t take him.” Sam stood firm between her and the two on the bed.

“I’d like to see you try and stop me,” she waved her hand again but Sam was too fast, striking out at her hand before she could put real power into her spell. He gripped her hand and pulled her in close. She fought to pull away from him but her strength was no match for his. He twisted her wrist and the demon killing knife clattered to the floor.

“Cast a spell at this proximity and you’ll get caught in the backlash,” Sam growled at her. “Try to throw me away from you and I swear I will rip your arms off as I go.”

She frowned, finally taking him seriously. She whispered a few words under her breath. It wasn’t much but the knife rose from the ground and lunged for Dean where he gripped Sammy tightly and wailed.

Sam couldn’t stop it but he released the witch and threw himself onto the bed to cover the two. He grunted as the knife plunged deep into his muscled shoulder. He forced himself to relax, pretending to be unconscious until the witch was lulled into a false sense of security and came to shove him off of Sammy and Dean.

The moment she touched him, he exploded into action, ripping the knife out where it was imbedded in his shoulder and ramming it into her heart. She looked up at him, surprised, choked once, and collapsed to the ground.

Sam stood, blood loss already making him a little dizzy. He balled up one of his shirts and pressed it hard to his bleeding shoulder and grabbed a hand towel from the bathroom, tying it around the whole thing. “Dean,” he barked. “We have to go.”

Dean could only clutch Sammy to his chest and cry and Sam remembered that this Dean wasn’t a soldier. He had only just barely been given the mandate that would drive every sacrificial act and so many bad decisions in the future. He still had no idea what it would mean to look after Sammy.

“Dean,” he spoke softer. “I have a better place for us to go. I know someone who can help us. And she has ways to help you get back home to But you need to carry Sammy for me. I need to grab the heavy bags and my arm is hurt. I don’t want to drop your brother. Can you do that?”

Dean nodded.

Sam grabbed only what couldn’t be replaced and hustled them out to the car. The witch was dead but he didn’t know who else might be on their tail. He cursed when he remembered that he still hadn’t installed the carseats but he really couldn’t afford to get pulled over in this state and it wasn’t safe to keep wrapping them up in one seat belt. Thankfully, he had the foresight to get seats that could be easily installed and, though his shoulder was quickly screaming at him and he could still feel the blood dripping down his arm and hand, it wasn’t as much of a delay as he thought. Sammy was sleeping by the time he finished and he thought Dean might follow him after they got on the road. He sent off a quick text announcing their intent to visit and advising a supernatural lockdown and then got on the road.

Sioux Falls was only about 6 hours away and normally, Sam would have no trouble driving that distance. But it felt like a red hot metal rod had been shoved through his shoulder and the road in front of him was barely visible through the heat haze that descended not long after he got on the road. Later, he thinks the only reason he didn’t get lost is because they’ve driven this road so many times. The blood from his shoulder had slowed but not stopped entirely. He knew he was in trouble, that he was in no fit state to be driving. But he needed to be safe, he needed to save Dean. He needed to make sure Dean doesn’t lose his brother. He never wanted Dean to have to suffer grief because of Sam.

Sammy screamed suddenly, piercing and frantic. And Sam jerked the wheel to get the Impala back in its lane in the nick of time. Dean had been asleep but he jerked awake and started crying. Sammy laughed and grinned at Sam, completely content now that their lives were no longer in imminent danger. Sam looked around for landmarks and noted with relief that they were less than an hour from Sioux Falls. He crawled into the back to console Dean and feed the two again. He slowly worked on draining a bottle of water, trying to keep it from coming back up. And he also bandaged his shoulder. But he also glared suspiciously at every car that passed and he was too jumpy to properly rest. He wasn’t ready to start driving again when he did, but at least he felt alert enough to get them the rest of the way without killing them all.

Jody was there at the door when he pulled up. She immediately took baby Sammy from him, cooing down at the infant. And Sammy immediately worked his magic and stole her heart. Dean was a little harder to coax. He clung to Sam’s leg and watched the woman holding his baby brother like a hawk.

“I baked cookies,” she admitted sheepishly. “Once I finished the lockdown I had time to kill and I didn’t want to sit around worrying. Do you like cookies, sweetheart?” She directed the last at Dean. Dean nodded slowly and let his trusting nature back out and followed her happily to the house. Jody didn’t say anything until they both were up to the table, Dean sitting on a big book and happily munching away on fresh chocolate cookies with milk, and Sammy ensconced in an old high chair wiping mashed banana all over his face.

She sidled up to Sam where he stood guard at the door, watching over them. “What happened, Sam? You look like hell. Where is Dean?”

Sam closed his eyes against a fresh rush of grief. “Dean...didn’t make it out of SucroCorp.”

“Oh Sam, honey, I’m sorry.” Jody reached out to him but he kept her at arm’s length.

“I can’t break down, not yet. I need to fix this first,” Sam vowed.

“What is this? They look familiar. Are they...Dean’s?” Jody asked.

Sam laughed, trying to hide the note of hysteria in his voice. “They’re not Dean’s children. Jody, meet Sammy and Dean, formerly of November 2, 1983.”

“They’” Jody asked. “Oh my god, Sam, you were so adorable.”

Sam laughed again and then grabbed the door frame as the blood loss threatened to take him to his knees.

“Alright,” Jody ordered. “I guess it’s mom voice time. Sam Winchester, you get a shower and clean that shoulder wound immediately. Then you are sitting down and having a home cooked meal while I fix you up and then you are definitely going down for a nap.”

“Jody…” Sam protested.

“No, don’t you talk back to me, young man. I have warded against everything you mentioned and several things you didn’t. I have a good security system and I am a cop. I have a gun and I know how to use it. You are no good to these kids if you fall over. I know you want to take care of them but you need to take care of yourself too,” Jody said firmly as she ushered him to the bathroom and shoved his duffel bag in after him.

He felt better after the shower and cleaned the plate she set in front of him. Dean didn’t stop chattering the whole way through the meal and Jody listened to every single one of his stories with rapt attention. Sammy gurgled and cooed every time Dean stopped to take a breath. Sam wondered if this is what it would have been like to grow up with a mom.

It was an early night for the two children. Sam managed to get in a couple hours too but before long he was wandering down to Jody’s basement to look at the collection of Bobby’s books that she had been keeping down there. Jody was already there, reading through a gigantic tome.

“You sure you don’t want to get a little more sleep,” she murmured.

“I can’t Jody. I won’t be able to until I solve this,” Sam admitted.

Jody nodded. “I thought as much, I’ll do my best to help you research. We’ll figure it out. I have every faith in you.”

Sam ducked his head and blushed. “I don’t know why. I think I fuck up everything I touch.”

“Sam Winchester, you stop that,” Jody said firmly. “If you hadn’t been here for these kids, they would be dead now, or worse, raised by demons. The apocalypse would be happening right now. Maybe every single person on earth would be dead. You haven’t fucked this up. Those kids are healthy and happy as they can be considering the circumstances and that is thanks to you. If you can’t believe in yourself, at least listen to me when I do.”

Sam smiled sadly. “Thanks, Jody.”

“Anytime, kiddo.” She gently rubbed his arm and led him to the largest overstuffed armchair in the room. “Let’s get to work.”

Sam was exhausted, His eyes were gritty and swollen and every time he shifted, he felt fire in his wounded shoulder. But he knew what to do. If he wanted to transport himself in time, he would have been out of luck, but he found a spell for undoing the magic of time travel that would return the children to the moment they had left and it wouldn’t take much more preparation than an average summoning. Sam had most of the ingredients in the trunk of the car and anything else was in Bobby’s stash. He could do it. He could send them home and this whole thing would be over.

Sam stood, wavering, head pounding, and wandered into Jody’s spare room, half expecting the children to be asleep again. But when he reached out to touch the doorknob, he could hear the sound of giggling from inside. Jody had managed to find an old stuffed bear somewhere, probably a toy her own son had owned. Dean had it in his arms and was telling Sammy a wildly imaginative story and Sammy was completely enthralled, eyes wide and feet kicking wildly in excitement.

“Uncle Sammy!” Dean shouted when he saw him. “I need you to roar. This bear has a really deep voice but I can’t do it as good as you.”

Sam smiled and lowered himself carefully to the floor beside the boys. He growled obligingly.

“No, Uncle Sammy, a really loud roar!” Dean shouted.

So Sam gave it his all. He half expected the baby to scream but Sammy just laughed and reached for his face. Sam grinned and picked up the baby, cuddling him close. Dean would not be left out and tackled the two of them onto the ground.

Sam let out a pained grunt but managed to keep his injured shoulder from hitting the ground too hard.

“Oh no! The bear has us, Sammy,” Dean squealed.

Sam growled again, this time pretending to eat Sammy’s tummy. “I’ve got you now,” he rumbled.

Sammy shrieked with laughter and grabbed Sam’s ears tightly. Sam was laughing, the tight knot of worry clenched in his chest finally loosening. When he looked up, Jody was standing in the door, smiling fondly.

“I think we can start now,” she said softly. “Unless you need a little more time.”

“No,” Sam said. “We should get it over with. These two need to be with their father.”

“We get to see Daddy?” Dean interrupted.

“Yeah, kiddo, I can get you back to your Daddy,” Sam smiled.

“Yay!” Dean shouted. “And mommy too?”

Sam froze, not sure how to answer that question, but Dean was already running around the room, throwing dirty clothes into the duffel Sam had been using for them and he didn’t seem to need an answer. Suddenly Dean was running back to him and giving him another tackle hug.

“I love you, Uncle Sammy,” Dean said, nuzzling his face into Sam’s chest.

“I love you too, Dean,” Sam tried valiantly to choke back the tears. He suddenly wished that he could have done more, given them a truly bright memory to hold against the dark days he knew were coming. Kids liked the fair, didn’t they? He liked to think that if demons and witches hadn’t been chasing them, that he would have given them at least one good day.

“Are you going to come visit us? Sammy wants you to play with him,” Dean asked.

“I think I’ll be around, kiddo,” Sam smiled, giving a couple of those tears up as lost causes.

Jody offered to carry Sammy down to the basement where they had everything set up. But Sam wasn’t quite willing to let the two go now that there was an end date in sight.

But it was still too short a time before the two children were sitting the circle, Dean solemnly executing his task of keeping Sammy from crawling away. And the candles were lit, the chants were spoken, a rush of flame hit the ceiling, and Sam had to look away as a bright light flashed. The circle was empty. Sammy and Dean were gone.

“Did it work?” Jody asked.

“I’m still here,” Sam said hoarsely. “I suppose it might have changed the timeline but I probably wouldn’t know. I still remember growing up with my dad. And I wouldn’t remember this anyway. It had to have worked.”

“Good,” Jody said. “And now it’s time for you to get some rest. No one needs you right now. You can take some time for yourself.”

Sam just looked at her, eyes blinking slowly. Then he collapsed, sobbing to the floor. When he came back to himself, Jody had curled herself around him on the floor and he was sobbing into her stomach.

“Ssh,” she whispered. “Just let it out, Sam. Let it out. I’ve got you.”

“What if Dean needs me? Right now? And I can’t help him,” Sam sobbed.

“Sam, I know you. I know how much you love your brother and I know you would do anything for him.” She rubbed his arm, carefully avoiding his injured shoulder.

“I’m letting him down. I can’t figure this out. I’m not strong enough or smart enough. Dean needs me to save him and I’m too weak,” Sam whispered.

“Sam, you listen to me. I’ve used my mom voice a lot on you these last few days but I’m going to use it again because you need a mom right now. What happened to Dean is not your fault. And Dean would hate to watch you kill yourself in an attempt to save him. I know I cannot tell you to give up on Dean, but I can tell you that you need to make an effort to live without him. I will help you solve this problem but I refuse to watch you kill yourself to do it,” she brushed his hair from his forehead.

“What do I do? How do I just...stop?” Sam whispered.

“I don’t have all the answers, Honey,” Jody soothed. “You find another way to keep living.”

And Sam tried. He hit a dog. He met a girl. He tried so hard to be happy. But the truth was, the moment he saw Dean again was the moment his heart began to beat once more.