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Cardinals in Their Nest

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Dean could remember what the fire smelled like. He knew the difference between the smell of a fire in the fireplace, one on a grill in the backyard and the smell when the neighbors were burning leaves. The fire that killed mom smelled like bad eggs. He only knew what bad eggs smelled like was because mom found some dyed eggs in the back of the fridge in the summer and the stench had hung in the air of the kitchen for hours after she shoved them down the disposal. Every time he tried to explain that the fire had smelled wrong he was ignored. Dad was so busy these days and none of Dad's new friends knew sign language except for a few words, most of which Dean had a feeling he'd get his hands scrubbed in strong soap if he repeated.

Dad also had his hands full with taking care of Sammy – though somehow, Dean was finding himself being given more and more responsibilities with the care of his baby brother. It must have started when Dad put Baby Sammy in his arms and yelled – he'd seen his mouth move in the shadowy hallway – pointing to the stairs. He'd understood. Take Sammy and get out of the house. The house was on fire and they had to get out. For some reason, Sammy hadn't seemed so heavy when he ran down the stairs and somehow got the front door open and barefooted, ran into the yard.

He was used to people not looking at him – people looked at him even less. Dad's new friends kept giving him this look like Mrs Ungashick who used to be their next door neighbor gave the dogs who came and went to the bathroom in her yard. Well, not all of Dad's new friends were like that. There was the man with the beard who lived in a house full of pictures of angels – who was making an effort to learn how to talk with his hands. Dean liked him the best – Pastor Jim. Mister Singer was nice too, his house was comfortable and warm – and smelled of something amazing he couldn't quite place. But he didn't talk with his hands. No one seemed to care about talking to him anymore.

The world was a scary enough place when the Winchesters had a home – now it was twice as scary – because Mom was gone.

Mom had gone to Heaven.

That was were people went when they died. Mom had been Dean's favorite person in the whole world and Mom wasn't coming back. Someone bad had killed her – that someone had been in their house and started the fire that smelled of bad eggs. That bad person had put Mom on the ceiling – Dean had seen her up there, screaming as the flames roared around her and -

A shake on the shoulder caused Dean to jump and he looked up into his father's face. Was something wrong? He wasn't making any nose curled up in the corner where he was, he was sure of it. Maybe he'd been crying again – he knew he had to have an awful sounding cry. Worse than whatever Sammy's sounded like. He sniffled and watched as Dad made a motion with his hands for 'help' and then jerked his head towards the other side of the room. That was where Sammy was lying in his crib.

Dean stood up, sniffling and crossed the room over to the crib. Dad wanted him to help Sammy. What did his little brother want? He'd eaten and gotten changed – Dean had been watching Dad the whole time he did it, mainly because his brother kept moving his mouth in funny ways. He looked into the crib and saw his brother's face, red with rage as he howled. Dad must want him to make Sammy be quiet.

Since Dad hadn't handed Sammy to him, there was only one way he could reach his brother. He pushed the latch to let the side of the borrowed crib down and then he climbed into the bed with his brother and picked him up, holding him against him. Sammy was squirming and was screaming so hard, Dean could feel the sounds against his chest. No wonder Dad had wanted him to try and make him quiet – Sammy was probably hurting dad's ears. He leaned back against the other side of the crib and started rubbing his brother's back in circles. That's what mom always did for him – and had started doing for Sammy.

He watched as Dad went into the bathroom and he let out a sigh and kept rubbing his brother's back, feeling the difference when the wails gave way to sobs. Since Sammy didn't smell bad, he didn't need a diaper change – Dean had already done that once and didn't want to do it again any time soon. Maybe he was tired and just couldn't sleep. Dean wanted to sleep. He'd been almost asleep in his corner when Dad came and got him. He rocked slowly, feeling his brother start to whimper. Dean sniffled and had a feeling he knew exactly what was wrong with Sammy and exactly what he wanted.

Because Dean wanted the same thing.

They wanted their Mom.

He bent his head to rest it against Sammy's, feeling the tears start to trickle down his cheeks. Dad was good, but he wasn't Mom.

*

John came out of the bathroom after a much needed shower. The motel room was blessedly quiet as he sat back down at the table to work some more on writing things down, like Daniel Elkins had told him to do. He was about to pick up his pen when he realized just how quiet it was. He got back up and went over to the crib, just to make sure things were okay. A quick glance told him that Dean wasn't back in his corner. He turned back to the railed bed and he nearly cried.

Lying with his back towards the open side was Dean, asleep, his arm over Sammy in a hug like fashion. The baby was also asleep, breathing peacefully. Letting out a sigh of relief, John gathered the blanket from the foot of the bed and draped it over his two sleeping boys, leaving the side down in case Dean had to get up and use the bathroom. He managed a very weak smile and touched each of their foreheads before retreating back to the table to write.