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Count On Me

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam grasped onto counting at four, being able to recite to ten but only successfully counting to five. And whenever he was nervous or fidgety, Sam always had his hand held up in front of his face, counting his fingers.

“One, two, thwee, fouw, five.”
Over and over and over again.

It was the only way Sammy could deal with the world, the way nothing ever stayed the same. He never had his own bed, his own room, and Dad never smiled at Sammy. Ever. Sometimes Dad was horribly patient with Sam, to the point that Dean wanted to shove him away- and then sometimes, he had to shove him away for the opposite reason.

And for whatever reason, numbers comforted Sammy. Dean figured it was probably the same reason Dean had started to find the counting comforting. Numbers were always the same. One is always one, five is always five. There are always 5 fingers on each hand, 5 toes on each foot, there were certain hands that Dean always had to watch out for and there was one hand that mattered, and that hand was always being counted.

“One, two, thwee, fouw, five…”

It didn’t matter where they were- if something was bothering or upsetting Sam, he’d count. It was so normal that the counting became Dean’s neutral. Something was always bothering Sam, it wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t old enough to realize that sometimes pain was good, that sometimes pain was all that reminded people that what was happening was really real and that they wouldn’t wake up in their bed to their Mommy and baby brother in the morning. Exhaustion, hunger pains, bruises, welts, cuts, headaches and popped ears and nosebleeds; they all made sure Dean knew he was awake.

But sometimes it scared Dean to remember that Sammy never knew anything but the pain.

Sammy would never remember Mommy kissing him one the head and stroking his soft baby hair. Sammy would never remember what it was like to be loved the way only Mommy could. All Sammy remembered was Dad’s hands and how loud he was, the way he’d glare and snarl. The way he’d just grab Sammy’s face roughly and hold him still, staring at his little face as Sammy softly whimpered, John muttering that he had Mary’s eyes and Mary’s smile and that was it, why couldn’t he look more like Dean, why couldn’t he look more like Mary. Sammy was just a baby, but Sammy didn’t know anything but the pain.

So, something was always bothering Sammy, and Dean never had the heart to lose patience with him.

“One, two, thwee, fouw, five fwench fwies, Dee.”
“Yeah, Sammy, five French fries.”
“One, two, thwee, fouw, five fwench fwies.”
“Sammy, what’s wrong?”
“Daddy mad.”
“Dad’s just tired, Sammy. Maybe you’re tired too. Are you tired?”
“One, two, thwee, fouw, five, Dee. Five fwench fwies.”
“Yeah, Sammy. You tired, baby?”
“One, two thwee, fouw, five. Five, Dee. Five fwench fwies.”

Sometimes, there was no reaching Sammy- especially when he was afraid. Sammy had to hide somewhere, so he hid in the numbers. He would count faster the more agitated he was; whether it was John yelling or being hungry or needing to go potty. Most of the time, the number one way to get Sam agitated into a counting frenzy was loud noises. Sammy hated loud noises, and before the counting he’d wrap his arms around his head or bury his head in whatever he could find and cry until it stopped. Now, it was the counting, trying to hear himself over the noise, as if the numbers would drown out the noise. Sometimes, the only thing that would calm a crying Sam down was if Dean held his hand in his and counted Sam’s fingers in a low, soothing voice, until the sobs and hiccups became stuttering counting as Sam tried to catch his breath.

It always irritated John, and Dean never understood why John couldn’t just understand that yelling and threatening him only made it worse. Loud noises hurt little Sammy’s ears, and when the loud noise was his father scaring him, it was even worse. The more afraid he was, the louder the yelling was, the faster he counted. Sam’s voice would become even higher pitched, almost to a whine, his breathing jerky as he frantically counted.

“Onetwothweefouwfiveonetwothweefouwfiveonetwothweefouwfive...”

Sammy thrived on silence. When they were lucky, they’d end up in a corner room, no squeaky pipes, no neighbors, no noisy fans. And in the dead of night, when Dad wasn’t home, he’d feel Sammy’s hands on his cheeks, Sammy’s little forehead pressed against his.

“What is it Sammy?”
“No huwt.”
“Use your words, baby.”
“Eaws. My eaws don’t huwt.”

He would roll over as Sammy laid back down, curling against Dean’s chest with one of the happiest smiles he’d ever seen, the smile that was like pure sunshine and summer breezes, the smile that was like pie and hugs, the smile that was everything good in the world; written on his baby brother’s little face.

Sammy never smiled like that when Dad was there.

Sam never threw temper tantrums, neither of them did. Sure, they had whined on occasion- but Dad had made it clear that he wasn’t going to put up with “any snot nosed sniveling”, with his hands or his belt. Whether it was fear or just not being prone to tantrums, neither of them knew, but Dean figured that it probably had something to do with the way Dad’s hand always went to his waist when one of them irritated him. But they both had their little ways of melting down, and some of them irritated John more than others.

Sam’s meltdown point usually had a blanket or a hood over his face, his hands pressed against his ears.
“Too loud too loud too loud too loud!” he’d wail, throwing his head back against whatever was behind him- a wall, a seat, a bed. And the only thing Dean could do was hold the front and back of Sammy’s head, wincing as his hands softened the blows from Sammy’s meltdown, praying that John was too tired to deal with it his way.

Dad hated the counting.

It only took 6 months to finally lose his temper, in a motel room of the highway in Montana. Sammy and Dean were sitting on the floor together, and the heater in the room was so god awful loud, Dean knew that he wasn’t getting any sleep until Sam passed out from sheer exhaustion.

“One, two, thwee, fouw, five awmy guys, Dee,” Sammy said loudly, trying to hear himself over the heater, “One, two, thwee, fouw, five awmy guys.”
“Shh, Sammy,” Dean whispered, looking up at the bed where their father was asleep, “Don’t wake up Dad, he’s always grumpy when he wakes up, okay?” Sam sniffled, twisting his fingers.
“Too loud, Dee,” he whimpered, “Too loud. Too loud!”
Dean frantically tried to quiet Sammy, but to no avail. He’d been in that motel room the whole day with that stupid heater, and Sammy had been trying so hard to deal with it, but it was too much.

“Onetwothweefouwfiveonetwothweefouwfiveonetwothweefouwfive!” he wailed, causing a grunt to come from John. Dean looked around, grabbing a shirt from his bag and throwing it over Sammy’s head, pulling him hard up against his side and hugging him hard. He pressed his lips to the side of Sammy’s head, rocking him.
“It’s okay baby, let’s count,” he whispered soothingly, “One, two, three, four, five.”

But there wasn’t any use- Sam was in a full meltdown and the only thing that would stop it was if he got away from the noise. Dean looked around for anywhere, anywhere in the room that would be further away from the heater and quieter. He thought about the bathroom, but the fan was loud and that would just agitate Sam more. He hushed Sam frantically, wishing that he could take Sammy outside just for a few minutes- but Dad had ordered them to stay in the room with the door locked. Sammy continued to wail and count, bouncing his head hard off of Dean’s chest. Dean had no idea what to do, and when a huge shadow fell over them, he felt his heart stop.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” he said quickly, “It’s just that the heater is so loud and it hurts Sammy’s ears…”
John didn’t pay any attention to his eldest, instead turning to Sam and yanking the shirt off his head.
“For God’s sake, Sam, would you stop?” John yelled, too close to Sammy’s head. Sammy’s wails only increased, the counting dissolving into wordless babble, only traces of vowels remaining. Dean could see John was losing his patience, and he tried to scoot between them.
“Dad, if you let me take him outside, it’ll help, it’s just too loud in here,” Dean pleaded, “I can just take him outside…”
“Dean, he needs to learn to deal with noise, life is noisy, life is loud, and coddling him ain’t gonna help!”
“Dad, not right now,” Dean pleaded, “Dad, please!”

John’s hand moved faster than Dean expected, the slap ringing in his ears as Sam’s crying reached new heights. John’s hand lifted again, the silver ring on his hand glinting dangerously. Dean knew just how badly that ring hurt him, and he was horrified at the thought of what it could do to the soft baby skin that was his brother’s cheek. Dean pulled Sammy in his arms, rushing over to the door.

“Dad, hittin Sammy ain’t gonna help,” he pleaded, “Please, just let me take him outside!”
John didn’t say anything as his oldest half carried, half dragged his wailing little brother outside. Sammy’s arms were wrapped around his head, wailing for pain and fear and whatever else until Dean managed to find a quiet little alcove near the broken-down ice machine.

“Lemme see, baby,” Dean said softly, prying Sam’s arms away from his head. He bit his lip, tipping Sam’s face up. The handprint went from the top of Sammy’s left eye, down across his face, his little lip and eye swelling. He was used to seeing the same marks on his face, but on Sammy’s, it scared him. Dad never hit Sammy the way he hit Dean, and now he did. Sammy wasn’t safe, because Dean knew- Dad never just hit once.
“Shhh, it’s okay Sammy,” he said softly, lifting his hand to brush Sammy’s hair out of his face, until he heard the tiniest, most pathetic whimper, Sam curling into himself in fear.
“No hitting Dee,” he whimpered, “Huwts.”
Dean cussed under his breath, hushing Sam.
“You wanna count?” he asked quietly. Sam nodded, touching each of the finger marks that splayed across his little face gingerly.

“One, two, thwee, fouw, five, Dee,” he whimpered, “Five ouches.”

In that moment, Dean hated the counting.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam was good at counting bullets, his eight year old voice soft as he counted each of the shining shells, lined up in perfectly even rows of ten, not a bullet out of place. Sam thought his father was a travelling salesman, and that he sold guns and bullets to law enforcement, but even after finding out the truth, he counted just as much. John had impressed upon him that it was imperative that he knew the exact number of bullets that he laid out before Sam, and that if he was gonna do “the counting”, he might as well be useful with it. John had also impressed upon him that mistakes were unacceptable, and Sam knew that mistakes wouldn’t just get his father angry- it could get Dean killed on a hunt.

Dean knew that the counting was the only way that Sam thought he could protect his big brother. If there were always the right number of bullets, the right number of things could be killed. And Dean would be safe and come home and not leave him all alone. Dean knew that the numbers were a way for Sam to never feel alone, and he always chuckled at the phrase “safety in numbers”. Unless people knew Sam, they had no idea how true that phrase was, especially for his brother- literally.

But the noises still scared him and hurt his ears, and when they were in another noisy motel room in another town, Dean would sit at the table across from him, watching the frantic look in his eyes as he counted, his voice high and breathy as he touched the tip of each one.

“Onetwothreefourfive…”

Over and over and over again, Dean sat and watched his brother count upwards of three hundred bullets with intense focus and shaking fingertips, only to start back to one when he finished. He had to be sure there were the exact same number of bullets every time- and even though Sam miscounted, if Dean ever interrupted, Sam would burst into tears and start over again, hyperventilating to the point that there were times that Dean was scared that Sam would pass out face first into the bullets. Dean learned to never interrupt the counting.

And sometimes, when the bullets weren’t enough, Dean would be there again. He’d pull his not-so-little little brother into his arms and press his lips against his ear comfortingly, touching the tip of each finger.
“One, two, three, four, five. Five fingers, Sammy. Everything is gonna be okay.”
“Again, Dee, please.”
“One, two, three, four, five fingers. It’s gonna be okay baby, breathe.”

The pain never went away, never eased, and Dean knew that the only thing that had really changed was that Sam learned how to hide it better. He didn’t throw his head the way he used to, not unless it was all just too much and he was too exhausted to stop himself- John had taught him the hard way to stop that.

Dean didn’t mean to be so loud during his spanking, but Dad was tired and angry and Dean couldn’t help but scream when the leather caught across his thighs. Sammy had already been sitting in the corner and counting loudly, rocking back and forth as his father “disciplined” Dean. But when Dean’s cries turned into that scream, Sammy screamed too, throwing himself at John.
“No!” he screeched, his little 7 year old head slamming off of John’s thigh, “No! No!”
“Shut up!”

Sam had curled up on the floor, his hands clapped on his ears and throwing his head back against the floor, the counting starting again at a high-pitched wail.
“Onetwothreefourfiveonetwothreefourfiveonetwothreefourfive!”
Dean was still laying over the bed, trying to catch his breath when he heard the numbers stop abruptly, a little squall from Sammy filling Dean’s ears before he was deposited on the bed next to him. He heard the stretch and tear of Sammy’s pajamas as John bared him, muttering.
“You wanna scream and cry? I’ll give you something to cry about, boy. Give you something to count.”
Dean lifted his chest off the bed, turning to his dad.
“No, don’t hit Sammy!”

The belt had descended upon Sam with terrible ferocity, a vicious line of red burning across his little bare bottom. He let out a strangled little wail, his head bobbing up and his hands scrabbling against his bottom, his body arched in pain. Dean’s hands darted out, yanking his brother’s hands away before the belt could snap down and them instead of his bottom.

“I don’t hear you counting,” John grunted, “Guess we’ll have to try that one again.”
“Dad he can’t!” Dean argued, trying to pull himself up and in between them, “I’ll take it Dad, I was the one who cried too loud, don’t hit Sammy!” John pushed him back down roughly, snapping the belt across his butt again and pulling a cry from him.
“I ain’t finished with your punishment for disobeying an order. You lay there and I’ll deal with you in a minute!”

It took John another three minutes worth of attempts to make Sam count before he gave up and decided that he’d done a good enough job, Sam heaving and wailing into the bedspread. He finished with Dean quickly after that, dropping his belt and turning to walk out the door.
“I got research to do,” he said sharply, “Get yourselves together by the time I get back- and don’t you leave this motel room. Am I clear?”
“Yes sir,” Dean sniffled, wincing as he pulled up his underwear.

The door slammed with finality and Dean breathed a sigh of relief, kicking off his jeans and laying on his stomach on the bed next to Sammy, his face turned towards his crying little brother.
“It’s gonna be okay, baby,” Dean whispered comfortingly, wiping the tears from Sammy’s face, “It hurts right now, but it’ll stop hurting soon.” Sammy didn’t say anything, his breathing punctuated with desperate sobs and hiccups. Dean sighed, sitting up and wincing as his butt hit the bedspread.

“Just breathe, Sammy,” he said gently, his hand running over his back, “One, two, three, four, five.”
He pulled off Sammy’s torn pajama bottoms, tossing them across the room, and running his hand over his little brother’s hot bottom. Sammy let out a little yelp, and Dean pulled his hand away, sighing. He pulled back the covers picking Sammy up and being careful to avoid his bottom. He laid him down on his stomach, turning off the lights save for one lamp, and laid down next to him, one hand holding Sam’s and the other stroking his brother’s sweat-soaked hair.
“One, two, three, four, five fingers, baby,” he said softly, leaning forward and kissing his brother’s forehead.

But even after the incident with the belt, even after the incident in Montana, Sam still counted- albeit quieter. He still counted in the car, his head on Dean’s shoulder as he stared listlessly out the window.

“Two hundred and fifty seven miles, Dee,” he mumbled, “Two-five-seven miles.” Dean stroked her hair, nodding.
“That’s right baby, Two hundred and fifty seven miles.”
“Two hundred and fifty seven point two miles, Dee. Two-five-seven-point-two.”
“What’s wrong, baby?”
“Legs hurt. Two hundred and fifty seven point four miles. Two-five-seven-point-four.”
“Why do your legs hurt?”
“Dunno. Two hundred and fifty seven point six miles. Two-five-seven-point-six.”

Dean caught the look in his father’s eyes in the rearview mirror, that tell-tale look of irritation. Sam was starting to count too loud, and Dad heard him. Dean wrapped his arm around Sam protectively, looking his Dad in the eye through the mirror. Sammy was growing quickly, and with all the training Dad had started him on after he found out the truth, he was prone to really horrible soreness in his legs and knees when evening rolled around, like it had now. Bobby had suggested bananas for some reason, he said that it had something to do with potassium and staying hydrated was important for growing boys. Dean didn’t care, as long as it made Sammy feel better- and it usually did.

“Two hundred and fifty seven point eight miles. Two-five-seven-point-eight.”
“We’ll get some bananas when we stop,” he said patiently, “Try and close your eyes for a while, baby.”

John looked away as Dean leaned his head down to kiss Sammy on the top of his head.

“Two hundred and fifty eight miles, Dee.”
Two hundred and fifty eight miles down, a million to go, Dean thought to himself.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam was obsessed with books, and he had a few that were staples for him, no matter how many times John tore them up. John would shred them in anger, in frustration, or to simply punish Sam when hitting him wasn’t enough- and inevitably, as his brother was picking up the torn pages, he could hear the soft counting.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

And inevitably, when he was enrolled in school in the next town, he’d lift a new copy from the library- just to see the joy in Sam’s eyes. Fairy tales, magic stories, all involving kids doing what they had to do to be true to themselves or protect themselves- these, like silence, were what Sam thrived on.

Dean laid on the bed next to Sam in the latest hotel room, their father having left about 15 minutes beforehand to go on a stakeout. The same 5 books, since he was six, lay on the bedspread. Matilda, Pippi Longstocking, Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, Hans Christen Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales, and James and the Giant Peach; all books that Sam would devour with such ferocity, that even Dean wouldn’t interrupt him unless it was completely necessary.

“One, two, three, four, five..”
“You know they’re all there, baby,” Dean said, looking up from his own book, The Outsiders, “I packed them myself.”
“I know,” Sam replied, looking back at him and making a face, “Don’t call me baby.”
“Why not?” Dean asked, dog-earing the well-worn page and closing the book. Sam sighed, his fingers running lovingly over the torn-away covers of the books- a precaution Dean took to after John had expressed his displeasure over the book Matilda.

“One, two, three, four, five,” Sam muttered as Dean slid behind him, pulling him into his lap. Dean rested his chin on Sam’s shoulder, his arms wrapped around his waist as he looked down at the books.
“What’s wrong?” Dean asked gently, his fingers playing with Sam’s. Sam’s tense body relaxed, pressing back against Dean’s chest.
“The new one,” he mumbled, lifting his newest copy of Pippi Longstocking, “The old one had twenty six thousand, five hundred and twenty two words. This one has twenty seven thousand and fifty three. That’s five hundred and thirty one words less. I don’t like it.”
“I’m sorry,” Dean replied, burying his nose in Sam’s neck, “I thought I got the right one.”
“It’s not your fault,” Sam said quietly, his shoulders twitching slightly, “It’s just…five hundred and thirty one words less. I don’t like it.”
“I know, baby,” Dean said comfortingly, touching each of Sam’s fingertips softly, “I know.”
“I don’t like it when the numbers change,” Sam said, his breath quickening, “I don’t like it, Dee.”

Dean could hear the ratcheting tension in Sam’s voice, his breathing becoming more labored, his voice keeling towards a whine. Sammy didn’t have the fits he used to have when he was four, but the numbers were still his hiding place, because numbers always stay the same. But this time, because of Dean- they weren’t.

“Shh,” Dean hushed him gently, his lips pressed against his ear, “Do you want to count?” Sam’s voice was still breathy, but not panicked- no, it was something different in the way his body had tightened when Dean pressed his lips to his ear as he always had.
“Yes,” Sam said softly, “Please.” Dean gently pinched each of Sam’s fingertips, his voice low and soft in his ear.
“One, two, three, four, five fingers.”
“Again, please Dee.”
“One, two, three, four, five. Always the same, Sammy. Never gonna change.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”

Sam turned and curled into Dean’s chest, tucking his head under Dean’s chin. He pulled Dean’s hand in his lap, palm up. He traced the lines on Dean’s palm, mumbling softly.
“One, two, three…” Sam began to count, his fingertips softly brushing over the lines, his voice and touch making Dean’s eyes flutter shut with comfort.
“…thirty seven, thirty eight, thirty nine. Thirty nine lines, Dee.” Dean smiled, kissing Sam’s cheek.
“Yeah, baby. Thirty nine lines.”

Sam looked up at him, his warm breath washing across Dean’s neck.
“You promise we’ll always be together?” Sam asked, his nose brushing against the underside of Dean’s chin. Dean closed his eyes, again, smiling.
“You and me, Sammy,” he said softly, “Dean and Sammy. Forever.”
“Promise,” Sam demanded, pulling away. Dean pressed Sammy to his chest, nodding.
“Yeah baby, I promise.”

But there were promises Dean couldn’t keep- he wasn’t a number. He was subjected to the power of others, to the need to make sure Sam was okay, to his father’s whims of ‘teaching him a lesson’.
His father’s whims of teaching Sam a lesson, too.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

But there were times that the numbers scared him. It had been forty eight hours since Dean said he was going to the store. The store was just under a half mile away, and Sam knew that it would only take Dean seven minutes to get there, if he was walking slowly. He knew it would only take Dean fifteen minutes at the store, then another seven minutes back. Dean should’ve only been gone twenty nine minutes.But he’d been gone two thousand eight hundred and eighty minutes, which was two thousand eight hundred and fifty one minutes too long.

His head jerked up when the door opened, his father stepping in looking worn and tired. Sam jumped off the bed, running over to him.

“Where’s Dean?” he asked, his breathing starting to constrict. He’d hoped that Dean had been with Dad, that Dad had picked him up from the store for whatever reason and took him on a hunt as backup, and that he’d be walking in behind Dad. But there was no one there- the door was closed, it was locked, and there were only two people in a room that should’ve had three.

“Dean’s missing.”

Sam felt the floor shift out from underneath him, his world stopped turning, and even the numbers were hollow as they started to spill out of his mouth in a frantic whisper.
“Onetwothreefourfive…”
“Don’t start that shit!” John snapped, walking over to the dresser where Dean had put away his clothes, just three days before.

(Three days, seventy two hours, four thousand three hundred and twenty minutes, and two thousand eight hundred and fifty one minutes longer than they should’ve been there without Dean.)

Sam couldn’t breathe. He felt the same way he did when John once threw him to the ground unexpectedly during an argument, the wind knocked out of him as he laid face down on the floor. Except this time, Dean wasn’t there to help him catch his breath again. Dean wasn’t there to hold him, to count with him and tell him it was gonna be okay. Dean wasn’t there to kiss his head and call him baby.

“We have to find him,” Sam said, staring at his father’s back, “Dad, we have to find him. We have to find him now.”
“What do you think I’ve been doing, boy?” John snapped again, tossing Dean’s clothes down on the duffle bag, “Get packed. You’re going to Bobby’s.”
“What?” Sam yelled, looking incredulous, “No, I’m gonna go with you, I gotta help!”
“No, you gotta go to Bobby’s so I can focus on finding him,” John yelled, stuffing Dean’s clothes into the duffle, “And I can’t do that with you there.”
“I have to!” Sam yelled back, “I have to help, Dad!”
“No, you don’t!” John bellowed, moving forward swiftly and towering over him, “You have to pack your shit and go to Bobby’s and just fucking listen for once, you got that? That’s an order!”
“He’s my brother!” Sam wailed, his hands clapped over his ears, “I can’t, I can’t, not without Dee, I want him back!”
“Well how does it feel to want and not get?” John yelled, slamming an empty duffle into his chest, “Pack your shit, now!”

Sam pressed his hands harder against his ears, trying to stop the pain from the yelling, trying to find something he could cling to, now that Dean was gone.
“Onetwothreefourfive,” he hissed, pulling his hands from his head. He knew that Dean would want him to follow Dad’s orders, to behave; but he couldn’t, he was trying so hard. He could barely see straight as he stumbled over to his duffle, shoving everything in it haphazardly. The faster he packed, the faster he was at Bobby’s.

They were in Binghamton, New York. Bobby was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was one thousand two hundred and seventy nine miles to Bobby’s, and if Dad drove the speed limit and they didn’t stop, it would take nineteen hours and fifteen minutes to get there. That was one thousand, one hundred and fifteen minutes. Dad also had to make the trip back and start looking for Dean. That meant that it would take at least thirty eight hours and thirty minutes to even start to look for Dean. That meant that for at least five thousand one hundred and fifty minutes, Dean would be alone, in danger and not with him.

And that was five thousand one hundred and twenty one minutes more than Sam thought he could bear.


Sam’s forehead was pressed against the edge of the widow frame, the window rolled down and blasting him in the face as they rolled down the highway. John hadn’t spoken the entire trip- and it had started eighteen hours and thirty eight minutes ago. And that was one thousand, one hundred and eighteen minutes that he was still without Dean, and he couldn’t shake the feeling of dread pooling in the pit of his stomach.

“You need to stop, boy?’ John said, looking over at Sam. Sam didn’t even lift his head. Why bother? Without Dean there, he had no energy to pretend to be alright for his father. He had no patience for it either.
“No,” he replied coolly, “Sooner we get there, sooner you get out, sooner I have Dean back.”
“Sam,” John began, only to be cut off by Sam’s flat, emotionless voice.
“The first 48 hours are critical in a missing person’s case. After 48 hours, the chances of finding the person are reduced to 50%. Any longer than a week, the chances are slim to none of finding the person alive.”

Forty eight hours. Two thousand, two hundred and eighty minutes. And they were already one thousand one hundred and eighteen minutes over that, and Sam was more than keenly aware of the numbers he relied on so heavily ticking away against him, against his brother.

“He’s a smart kid, Sam,” John sighed, running his fingers through his hair, “Strong too-“
“He was lost on a hunt,” Sam replied monotonously, “That means he is out there. With a monster.”
“Dean’s a hunter, Sam, since he was 7. He knows what he’s doing; he can handle himself.”
“Not alone,” Sam whispered, “Not against a monster. Monsters killed Mom, and you couldn’t stop it. They took her. And now they’re gonna take Dean too if we don’t hurry the fuck up.”

John’s hand lashed out faster than Sam could move, the back of his hand snapping Sam’s head to the side. Sam took the blow, not even whimpering- he couldn’t be weak now. Dean needed him to be brave, to be strong.

“Language, boy!” John snapped, “Don’t talk to me like you know something I don’t. Don’t talk to me like you know hunting better than me. I’ve been at this a hell of a lot longer than you.”
“And look at what that got you,” Sam hissed, suddenly finding his voice to fight with his father. As rare as it was, Sam never had the voice to argue with his father unless Dean was there- but Dean wasn’t here.

And it was Dad’s fault.

John’s hand snapped out again, Sam’s head bouncing off the window frame as he let out a yelp.
“Dean ain’t here to coddle you now, boy,” John snapped, “Keep running your mouth, and I’ll pull this car over and tan your ass before we get to Bobby’s.”
“Why, scared of what Bobby would do if he saw you hitting me?” Sam challenged, only to have his head bounced off of the window frame for a third time. Sam let out a loud cry, his head and face throbbing where he’d been hit three times in a row. Sam bit his lip, closing his eyes and leaning back against the seat.

He wanted Dean.
He wanted Dean to hold his hand and count with him, to kiss his head and call him baby and tell him that everything was gonna be okay, because without Dean, nothing was okay and nothing would be okay. He counted silently in his head, his lips moving and imagining Dean’s voice in his head.

One, two, three, four, five fingers, Sammy. Never gonna change. You and me, Sammy, together forever, everything’s gonna be okay baby…

“That got you to shut up, didn’t it?” John muttered, scanning the horizon, “We made good time, we should be at Bobby’s in ten minutes.”
“If you don’t find Dean,” Sam whispered, “Don’t come back.”
John looked over at him hard, his nostrils flaring with anger.
“What was that, boy?”

“I said,” Sam said loudly, “If you don’t find Dean, don’t. Come. Back.”

There’d be no point in coming back, because if he didn’t find Dean, if Dean was…then there’d be no point. Because Sam knew, even before this, in his 12 year old heart, that if there was no Dean, then there was no him.

The numbers kept him safe in his head. Dean was the one who kept him safe everywhere else.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

It had been exactly thirty six days, five hours and twenty four minutes since he last saw Dean, who had kissed his head and promised that he’d be back in thirty minutes. It had been fifty two thousand, one hundred and sixty four minutes that he’d been without Dean, and Sam knew that after someone was missing for a month, you weren’t looking for them.
You were looking for their dead body.

Sam had taken Dean’s duffle into Bobby’s with him, and every day he wore a piece of Dean- a shirt, his too-big jeans, his underwear, his socks. Every day Sam wore what he had of Dean and pressed his face into the fabric, crying alone and counting.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

He’d snuck around Bobby’s house after dark, leafing through ancient texts in different languages, thanking whatever god there was that he’d taken it upon himself to learn Latin after Dean had a run in with a witch when he was nine. He filled scraps of paper with notes, ideas, anything that could summon or locate Dean. He needed Dean back, he needed his brother more than anything, and he was sick of his father taking so long. He started with Bobby’s pendulum, filching ingredients from his stashes. He found a spell in an old, dusty tome that had been tucked underneath the corner of the couch to keep it from wobbling. He’d pulled it out in desperation, willing to read every book in the house if it’d help Dean.
He’d set out a map of the United States on the floor, setting the pendulum over it and sitting cross legged in front of it. He ground the ingredients with a mortar, looking down at the book.

“Set the spell ablaze and swing the pendulum, focusing on the crystal and the image of they whom you seek…”

He muttered the Latin incantation, lighting the spell and swinging the pendulum. He stared at it with grim determination, his lip caught between his teeth. It swung and swung and swung until finally, it landed on the map.

In New York. In Hurley, a town not far from where they had been staying. One thousand ,three hundred and four miles away. A 20 hour trip, one thousand two hundred minutes for him; but a mere twenty three minutes from where Dad was.
Dean could be home in less than 24 hours.

He ran to the phone, picking it up and dialing the motel number that his father had given to Bobby earlier that day when he called. He hopped from foot to foot, his heart leaping into his throat when he heard his father’s sleep-filled and angry voice on the other end.
“What the fuck do you want?”
“Dad, Dean’s in Hurley,” Sam said excitedly, “I have the coordinates, just-“
“How the fuck- Sam, what were you doing?” John demanded, his rage making Sam shake even though he was at least a thousand miles away. John had that effect on Sam when Dean wasn’t there- the few times that he dealt with his father on a one-on-one basis. With a sentence, he could have Sam shaking and counting.
“I…I used a location spell that I found in one of Bobby’s books,” Sam whispered, “I just wanted to help…I just want Dean home…”
“Go to bed. Stop trying to help. When I find Dean, I’ll find Dean- you’re just going to distract me. Now I’m gonna have Hurley stuck in my head…I thought I’d made some progress too. Good work, son. You just tainted my search.”

Sam fought the stuttering breaths that had started, the numbers on the tip of his tongue. This wasn’t his fault- if his dad was focusing, if his dad was really trying, he’d follow the lead that Sam gave him.

“I didn’t mean to,” Sam whispered again, on the edge of tears, “I just want Dean back…”

Sam had started to get the distinct feeling that John wasn’t even actually looking for Dean, that he was just pretending for Bobby’s and Sam’s sakes. He was starting to think that maybe Dean hadn’t actually gotten lost. Maybe Dad knew exactly where he was, but wouldn’t tell.

“This is gonna be good for you, Sam,” John said gruffly, “Your brother is always coddling you, always treating you like a baby. You ain’t a baby, and you need to grow up.”
“I’m his baby,” Sam whispered in response.
“Wha-“

Sam hung up the phone, dragging himself to bed. Dad wasn’t looking for Dean, not really. Not the way Sam would be, he thought miserably. It solidified in Sam’s mind that his father didn’t give a shit about him- he’d tossed him away like a bunch of old junk on Bobby’s doorstep, and maybe he’d done the same with Dean on this hunt. He clung to his pillow with Dean’s shirt on it, his face buried into the chest where it would be if Dean was wearing it.

It’s gonna be okay, baby. You and me, Dean and Sammy, forever.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

When he woke up the next morning, Bobby didn’t look very happy with him. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be reading Bobby’s books or doing spells, but didn’t anyone understand? He needed Dean back. He needed Dean back thirty three thousand, five hundred and thirteen minutes ago.

“You playin with my things, boy?” he demanded, “They ain’t toys.” Sammy shuffled in place in front of Bobby, an anxious look on his face. Bobby couldn’t help but feel irritated with the boy- he knew how his father was and Bobby was less than thrilled when he got the angry phone call from John that morning. But the longer he looked at the skinny little twelve year old in his sixteen year old brother’s clothes, looking lost and scared and so goddamn sad; the more angry he got at John for doing this.
“I know,” Sam mumbled, twisting his hands inside Dean’s large long sleeved shirt, “I just-“
Bobby’s hand slapped down on the tabletop, making Sam jump and clap his hands over his ears.
“Goddamnit, Sam when are you gonna learn that your Daddy don’t want help when he’s doing thing!” he yelled, pulling off his cap and rubbing his head. He looked apologetic though as Sam rocked on his heels, crying and counting.
“Onetwothreefourfive…”
“Sammy, look, I’m sorry for yelling. Just leave your Dad alone, okay?”

Bobby didn’t yell at him again, but he’d locked up everything Sam could use for a tracking spell- with locks that impressed even Sam, who’d picked just about every lock there was. And it started to click in Sam’s head. Dean was probably never coming back.


After the thirty first day after Dean’s disappearance, Sam stopped.

He stopped functioning, he stopped moving, talking, eating. He laid on the couch in Bobby’s living room study, wrapped up in Dean’s hooded sweatshirt and staring into space or crying. There was no point in doing anything to stay alive.
Sam knew that after that thirty first day, his father wasn’t looking for Dean.

His father was looking for Dean’s dead body.

He could hear Bobby’s frantic muttering into the phone, talking to his father.
“John, the kid hasn’t moved from that spot on the couch. I’m gonna assume he gets up to go to the bathroom when I ain’t lookin but…he hasn’t moved. No, he hasn’t moved, he won’t speak, he won’t eat, Christ, he only drinks when I make him.”

Bobby was right. Sam went to the bathroom when Bobby wasn’t there, only to spare Bobby the need to clean up a mess. He’d only drink when Bobby would pull him up and hold him there, a water bottle pressed to Sam’s lips as Bobby’s voice cracked.
“Dammit boy, drink for God’s sakes, quit trying to kill yourself Sam. Come on, drink.”
And in his elation when Sam finally drank after two days, he said, “There you go, baby. There’s a good boy.”
Baby.
Sam drank all of the water, and clung to Bobby for a good two hours and cried, the only sound coming from him was his sobs and the counting.
“One, two, three, four, five…”
But as soon as the sobs stopped, so did he, laying back down on the couch and curling into himself.

“No John, I ain’t gonna put him on the phone just for you to holler at the kid, it ain’t his fault he’s messed up ‘cause his brother is missing.”

There was something in the way that Bobby said missing, as if he didn’t believe Dean was actually missing. As if he thought John knew where he was, just like Sam thought. Bobby sighed, loudly, looking over at the couch.

“Sam, your father wants to talk to you.”

Sam didn’t move, didn’t even look at him. Unless his father was telling him that he found Dean, he didn’t care. Nothing really mattered unless it was about Dean.

“He ain’t movin, and I ain’t movin him.”

Sam laid there listlessly, curled inside Dean’s hooded sweatshirt, tears running down his face. Bobby argued with his father for a few more minutes before slamming the phone down and pulling up a chair next to the couch. He reached out, stroking Sam’s head gently.
“Sam, listen to me boy,” Bobby said gruffly, “Your brother is gonna be fine, you understand? But Dean…he’d be pretty mad if he found out you weren’t eatin and takin care of yourself, boy. You know how much he worries about you.”

Sam didn’t respond, continuing to cry as he laid there. Bobby sighed, pulling a bandana out of his back pocket and wiping off Sam’s face gently, the way Dean would’ve. He had a resolute look on his face, standing up and towering over Sam’s curled up form.

“Come on, let’s get you a bath,” Bobby sighed, scooping Sam up. Sam suddenly came to life, thrashing in his arms and wailing. He didn’t want anyone to carry him the way Dean did. He didn’t want Bobby to carry him into the bath the way Dean did when he was sick.

Dean wasn’t there to kiss his ear and stroke his hair. Dean wasn’t there to make sure the temperature was just right. Dean wasn’t there to get into the bath with him, to wash his shoulders and hair and Dean wasn’t there to sing in the tub with him as they washed each other.

The road is long with many a winding turns that leads us to who knows where…

“Leave me alone! I want Dean!” he wailed, “Let me go!”

Bobby dropped Sam back onto the couch, looking down on Sam as he pressed his hands against his ears again, counting loudly.
“Onetwothreefourfive…”
Bobby sighed, sitting down on the couch next to Sam and trying to remember how exactly Dean had always dealt with Sam when he was like this. He woulda given anything to have Dean back and safe, the boys together, but he couldn’t do that. Then it dawned on him, what he’d seen Dean do so many times in the middle of that same room when Sam was having one of his fits.

He pulled Sam into his lap, hugging him hard and rocking him gently. At first, Sam struggled in his arms, angry. Bobby couldn’t replace Dean, and he was trying to and he hated it. But as Bobby’s arms continued to hold him and rock him, Sam went limp, clinging to Bobby for dear life and crying, the counting dissolving into wordless babble.

“You wanna count?” Bobby asked awkwardly. He’d seen Dean do it a thousand times, and if it would snap Sam out of this long enough to bathe and eat, well, he was willing to try it.
After all…he couldn’t blame Sam. Dean was the only thing the kid really had, and he was just another victim in this situation.
Sam nodded, holding out his hand expectantly, his head pressed against Bobby’s shoulder. Bobby took a deep breath, touching the tips of each of Sam’s fingers.

“One, two, three, four, five,” he said gruffly, “You’re gonna be okay, boy. You and Dean.”
Sam nodded, pressing his face against Bobby’s chest, the crying starting to slow.
“Thank you,” Sam hiccuped, pulling back and wiping his face. Bobby smiled at him fondly, ruffling his hair gently.
“It’s nothing, boy,” he said warmly, “Get yourself upstairs and take a bath. You stink to high hell.”
Sammy nodded, standing and walking slowly to the stairs, leaving the soft whispers of numbers in his wake.
“One, two, three, four, five…”

Bobby hated the counting, because when the counting never stopped, that meant his boys weren't together. And if they weren't together, they were hurting.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And like Dean, Bobby had found a way to let Sammy count and still feel useful. He had boxes upon boxes of nuts and bolts, washers and sparkplugs and other bits and bobs for building and repairing cars; and every day, Sam would sit at the workbench and separate them out as Bobby tinkered away at whatever junker was waiting for his attention. They worked in relative silence, besides Sam’s soft counting.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

But there came a time, as the days grew longer and the call from John didn’t come, that Sam would talk.

“Bobby, it’s been 47 days,” he announced, staring up at the old clock on the wall.
“Has it?” Bobby grunted from the engine he was working on, glancing over at the young boy, looking just as young and scared as he did the first time Bobby met him. Of course he knew it’d been 47 days, but Bobby had tried to remember plays from Dean’s example. And Dean, when Sam seemed dead set on the numbers, tended to just affirm what Sam had said.
“That’s one thousand, one hundred and forty eight hours,” Sam said, looking at the clock intently, “Sixty seven thousand, six hundred and eighty minutes.”
“Yeah,” Bobby said distractedly.
“Do you believe in Heaven, Uncle Bobby?”
“Sure I do, I guess,” Bobby said, lifting his head out from under the hood, “Why?”
“Because,” Sam said quietly, twisting his hands, “Because Dean’s scared of the dark, and bein buried.”

Bobby’s wrench clattered to the ground, looking over at Sam with a pale face. He looked at Sam hard, trying to figure out what was going on inside his little twelve year old head, why he was starting to get a sick feeling in his stomach.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“If there wasn’t a heaven, Dean…Dean would be scared, he’s afraid of the dark and he’s afraid of being buried and that’s what you do with dead people and if there was no heaven he’d be trapped and scared and alone..”

Sam’s breath had become labored, tears rolling down his face as he touched the tip of each finger on his left hand. Bobby moved a little closer, unsure of what to say or do. He didn’t really have time to react before Sam asked his next question.

“How far away is Heaven, Uncle Bobby?”
“There ain’t a distance like from one house to another, Sam,” Bobby replied, feel anxious in a way that he hadn’t felt in years, “Why you ask, boy?” Sam’s fingers fluttered over the nuts he’d pulled out that day, counting loudly and quickly.

“Onetwothreefourfive…”

Bobby walked over, putting his hands on Sam’s shoulder and turning Sam to face him. This conversation was getting scary, but he needed to hear everything Sam had to say before jumping to any conclusions or making any rash decision.

“Sam…” Bobby said quietly, “Why do you ask?”
“Knowing the number will make me feel better.”

It was the first time Bobby had ever heard Sam talk directly about the numbers making him feel better. He figured Sam didn’t really know why he did what he did with the counting, or that he might’ve thought the counting was normal. But with the way Sam was looking at him, with all that pain and desperation, Bobby realized that he was giving Sam, and Dean, too little credit. They both knew how messed up their lives were, and Sam knew exactly how odd he was. And without Dean there to cushion the blow, it seemed like Sam couldn’t handle it. Sam took a deep, shaking breath, and Bobby was surprised by the empty, hollow look he saw in those once-lively green eyes as Sam looked him square in the face.

“What if you let yourself die? Can you still go to Heaven?”

“No, godamnit boy,” Bobby whispered roughly, dragging Sam into his chest and hugging him hard, “No. Don’t you ever even think that again, Samuel Winchester, or I’ll give you an ass beating to rival your father,” He said roughly, pulling away and holding Sam there firmly, “Ain’t no one going to Heaven, not for a long time, you understand?” Sam didn’t reply, looking down at the tips of his shoes. Bobby gave way to the fear and anger, shaking Sam sharply, “Do you understand me?”
“Yes sir!” Sam yelped, squirming in his grasp; his heavy breathing turning into stuttering sobs, counting yet again.

“Onetwothreeefourfive…”

Bobby released him quickly, rubbing his mouth hard. This was going too far, it was too much on Sam and he could only imagine the effect it was having on Dean. He turned to the junker he’d been working on and shut the hood with finality, looking over at Sam.

“Go in the house,” he said firmly, “Go upstairs and work on that airplane model you started a few days ago. I got some work to do, and I don’t want you under my feet.” Sam didn’t respond, rocking on his feet and still counting loudly. Bobby sighed; touching him gently and making Sam flinch hard.
“Sam,” Bobby said calmly, “Go inside. Find something to do in your room.”

Sam didn’t reply, bolting to the house and letting the door slam hard behind him. Bobby wasn’t a smart man, by his figuring- sure, he knew some stuff about some stuff, but he wasn’t exactly a genius. And when it came to people, to kids, and especially to kids like Sam and Dean, he felt he was always severely lacking. Even in the face of John’s idiocy, he still worried that they’d be better off if Bobby just dropped them off at the Sioux Falls police department and left them with that young new deputy, Mills. He liked her- she’d probably take good care of a kid like Sam, make sure he had everything he needed.

But as Bobby reached for his keys, he stopped. If he put Sam in the car and just dropped him off at the police department, he wouldn’t be any better than John. John may’ve abandoned one son in the system, but Bobby couldn’t help that- god, he’d tried. Sleepless nights pouring over law books- books that weren’t his usual flavor- to try and help Dean. He knew where Dean was, of course- he hadn’t accepted the original half-assed excuse that John had given him- that Dean had gotten “lost on a hunt”. Bobby was a lot smarter than that- he’d figured at first that Dean had hit the pavement and ran away from John; but Dean would never go anywhere without Sam, especially not if he was leaving for good. When he’d finally pulled it out of John, that he was “teaching his boys a lesson”, he was furious. What could he possibly be teaching two boys, who needed and loved each other more than life, by separating them? If Sam was this bad, asking if basically committing suicide would keep him from Heaven, then how fucking bad was Dean?And as bad as he wanted to give Sam to someone more qualified to take care of him, he couldn’t do it. He slammed his fist off the counter, going over to the phone and dialing John’s motel room.

“Hello?” John answered gruffly. Bobby got the sudden urge to punch something, specifically John’s nose, taking a breath.
“John, Bobby,” he said shortly. He heard the exhausted sigh on the other end, the sound haunting him. Was John so exhausted from hunting- or was he exhausted by the thought of Bobby calling about Sam?
“Is it Sam?” John asked, “Don’t tell me- you can’t stand to keep him there anymore. Counting get on your nerves too?”
“I haven’t noticed it,” Bobby snapped, “It’s time for you to get Dean.” John let out a loud snort.
“That’s bullshit. All that boy does is count,” John replied, “Anything he can get his hands on- useful sometimes, it’s been years since I had to count my bullets and shells-“ “John,” Bobby repeated, “It’s time to get Dean.” “What makes you think that?” John asked, his tone sounding distracted, “It’s be nice to have an extra set of hands, sure, but I’ve gotten more jobs done since-“
“Goddamnit, you selfish bastard!” Bobby yelled into the phone, “This has gotta end! You don’t want your boys, give’em to someone who does!” John laughed.
“Who, like you?” John replied, “Ain’t my fault you were too scared of fatherhood when you had the chance.”
“This ain’t about me, it’s about the boys!” Bobby snapped, “John, you better get your ass over to that fucking prison you shoved your son in and bring him here. You don’t want him, that’s just fine. You can leave ‘em both here. But don’t force my hand.”

“What are you gonna do, Bobby?” John replied, irritated amusement in his tone, “Give Sam over to the state?”

“If that’s what it takes, I’m willing to do it,” Bobby said, his tone icy, “You make a decision, John. You have 7 days to tell me what your choice is. You don’t call, you make the wrong choice, I drive Sam down to Sioux Falls and drop him off at the police station- and whatever they get out of Sam is all on you.” Bobby lowered his tone, “Your youngest son thinks his brother is dead, all because of what, John? Teaching him a lesson? What fucking lesson are you tryin to teach?”
“You aren’t a father,” John hissed, “I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
“There’s nothing to understand, John,” Bobby replied, “One week. One week and then it’s over.”

He hung up the phone, feeling the rage coursing through him. He smirked to himself as he remembered something that Karen would do when she was angry.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And nothing, nothing in the world felt better than when after fifty one days, six hours and forty nine minutes, John called and told Sam that he’d found Dean.
“You found him?” Sam screeched into the phone, bouncing up and down, “Is he okay? Where is he? Is he there, let me talk to him!”
“Calm down, he ain’t here yet,” John replied irritably, “He ended up on some man’s farm, livin there for a bit. We’re gonna go get him, I have a big hunt and I need some extra hands-“
“When are getting him?” Sam demanded, “When are you getting here? Did you talk to him?”
“Would you shut up and let me talk?” John snapped, silencing Sam. But Sam couldn’t help himself- after seventy eight thousand, two hundred and eighty nine minutes without Dean, after thinking he was dead and gone and left Sam all alone, nothing could curtail his excitement and joy.
“Sorry Dad,” he said cheerfully, as if he hadn’t been rebuked. Nothing could penetrate the happy haze that Sam was caught in at the promise of his brother’s return.
“I’m about halfway there. I’m gonna stop and get some rest and then we’ll make it a straight shot back to Dean. Sound good?”
“Yeah!” Sam said enthusiastically, “Thank you thank you thank you, Dad.”

Sam couldn’t understand why Bobby didn’t look happy as Sam zipped around the house, packing all of his things and chattering, not once feeling the need to count for the longest time since Dean disappeared. It was as if all the noise and fear had stopped.

“Onetwothreefourfive…”
Was replaced with
“Deandeandeandeandean…”

And even though he knew it would be a few hours (six hundred and thirty three minutes at least), Sam was packed and sitting on Bobby’s porch, eagerly awaiting the rumble of his father’s car. Eagerly awaiting the promise of Dean. He fell asleep on the porch, waiting, and when he woke up, he was in the back seat, curled up in Dean’s hoodie and well over halfway to Dean. He sat up, rubbing his eyes and yawning.

“Dad, how much longer?” he asked. John didn’t look at him.
“Bout six more hours. Try and get some more sleep,” he grunted. Sam nodded, the exhaustion of the month catching up with him as he slipped back under the waves of sleep. He slept peacefully for the first time since Dean had disappeared- his dreams not haunted with the image of Dean’s body, broken and bleeding. Or Dean in a pine box, alive and awake and screaming for help.
Instead, all he could dream about was Dean hugging him, holding him, touching his fingers and that soft , soothing voice in his ear.

“One, two, three, four, five fingers. It’s okay baby. I’m here now.”


 

When he woke again, they were rolling into a long driveway, surrounded on both sides by rolling farmland. Sam was nearly bursting out of his skin, wanting to fly out of the car and scream Dean’s name as they slowed to a stop. Sam looked around eagerly, squirming in his seat.

“Dad,” he said, his voice pitching towards a whine, “Where’s Dean? You said we were getting Dean.”
“Stay here,” John ordered, “Until Dean comes out, don’t leave the car.”
“Yessir,” Sam rushed, bouncing with nervous energy. He picked up his model plane that he’d built at Bobby’s grinning as he played with it. Dean was okay. Dean was alive, and Dean was going to be right there in just a few minutes to hold him and hug him and tell him everything was gonna be okay. He stared out the window after a few minutes, staring at the door with his hand on the door handle.

And that’s when Dean came out the door and down the stairs.

Sam flew out of the car, running as fast as he could across the grass as Dean ran towards him, throwing himself in his brother’s arms and clinging to him. That moment, the feeling of Dean’s heartbeat in his ear, his body in his arms, his arms holding him and lifting him; all of it was worth all the pain. He’d live it all a thousand times over if he had to, just for this moment of getting Dean back.

“Dean,” he cried, pressing his face into his chest, “Don’t ever leave again, I missed you so much, you can’t ever leave me, I love you, Dee, Dee, Deedeedeedeedee…”

Dean picked up Sam as if he were four years old again, Sam’s legs wrapping around Dean’s waist as he pressed his face into Dean’s neck, crying loudly. Dean stroked his back, carrying him to the Impala without casting one glance back, hushing Sam gently.
“It’s okay Sammy, I’m here now baby. Never gonna leave you again, everything is okay.”

Sam had waited so long to hear those words, to hear Dean’s voice in his ear and calling him baby, and he couldn’t let go of him. He’d been living on memories for so long, he was terrified to wake up and find it was all a dream, some horrible, cruel trick. Even when they slid into the back seat, Sam remained coiled tightly around Dean, his head under Dean’s chin, his legs wrapped around Dean’s waist and his arms curled into Dean’s chest, his hands clinging to his shirt. Dean stroked his hair gently, hushing him. But Dean was worried- Sam had been remarkably light, and even bonier than he’d ever been before. He listened as his father slid into the car, starting it.

“Didn’t you feed him?” Dean demanded, glaring at his father through the rearview mirror.
“No,” John replied, shrugging, “Bobby did.” Sam could feel Dean tightening beneath his grip, a low growl rumbling in his chest.
“So, you…lost…me, and then you abandon Sam?” he hissed.

John glanced up, a warning rage brewing behind his eyes. He couldn’t argue his point with Dean then because he’d have to tell Sam that Dean was never lost, and he could see the look in Dean’s eyes- he knew that too. The idea set his teeth on edge, glaring back at him.
“You have no one to blame but yourself,” John said casually, “For the whole situation. I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”

Dean was fuming, but Sam’s gentle breathing, his touch, the smell of him quieted the scream that was brewing inside him. He kissed Sam’s cheek tenderly, squeezing him. Sam. Sam was all that mattered now, Sam was all he needed. Yeah, Sonny’s had been okay, but Sam wasn’t there and anywhere without Sam wasn’t good enough for him to stay.
“Yes,” Dean said quietly, “I have.”

Dean knew the lesson Dad was trying to teach- he didn’t before, not really, but he knew it now. The lesson was that no matter what, if Dean displeased his father in any way, he was disposable.

And, he would rip Sam away from him.

Dean thought back on Sonny’s offer to go to bat for him, to keep him from going back with his father. He knew that Sonny saw right through his lies, his stories. Sonny saw right through Dean, and Dean sorely wished that he’d asked Sonny if he’d go to bat for Sam, too. Feeling Sam’s body in his arms, his clinging fingers and teary face, created a sense of urgency in Dean that he hadn’t felt before. It wasn’t like when Dad was going too far, when he was angry. It was the kind of urgency when you finally realize that something isn’t right and this huge gaping hole opens up inside you, twisting and turning and gnawing at your insides. But as bad as the twisting and gnawing was…he couldn’t help but feel perfectly content in that moment- despite his father’s thinly veiled blame and threats, despite losing the one place that made him feel like a real person. Because Sam, his baby, was curled up in his arms, safe and sound. Sam was okay.
Dean wouldn’t lie- part of him was beyond thrilled and relieved to know that Bobby had Sam nearly the whole time. That was something that kept Dean awake at night, something always lurking in the corner of his thoughts- what was his father doing to Sammy without him there to protect his little brother? What was John doing to his baby, his sweet, sensitive baby, while he was gone? Sure, Sammy rarely let him see the tears anymore; but Dean knew that Sam still cried, and that Sam still ached in ways that he could never understand. He was relieved to know that, while Bobby couldn’t give Sam what he could, Bobby would’ve at least tried.

He held Sam tightly throughout the short ride to the last motel room Dean had stayed at in the last 55 days, the one he “got lost” at. He fumed at the lie, but he accepted it- it was to protect Sammy, and he would lie like a rug if it was for Sam. It didn’t matter how big the lie was or how much it hurt him; Sam didn’t need another shattered illusion. His baby had enough ripped away from him, and Dean was determined to keep Sam from being like him- left with nothing, no illusions to protect him, no fantasies to hide away in.

They finally pulled in, John looking resolute as he turned off the car and went to unload the bags from the trunk, letting Dean and Sam linger in the back seat together. Dean figured his father wasn’t ready to deal with this, and that it wouldn’t be dealt with- life would return to normal, these agonizing 55 days placed in a box and locked away with every other painful memory.
His father opened up the passenger’s back door, reaching to take Sam from Dean, only to have Dean flinch away from him, his grip tightening. He wasn’t letting him touch Sam, let alone take him from his arms.

“Back off,” Dean said forcefully, his tone so serious it even threw John off-guard. He lifted Sam out of the car, carrying him into the motel room and helping him strip down for bed as John puttered around them.

John averted his eyes, uncomfortable with the way Sam’s bones poked through his thin skin, and even more so with the way Dean’s fingers ran over his knobby little spine and stroked over Sam’s collarbone, jutting out of his skin. He could feel Dean’s accusing eyes on him as his fingers traced over his little brother’s bare skin, Sam’s hands still gripping his shirt tight.

“We gotta get some meat back on those bones of yours, baby,” Dean whispered gently, pulling one of his shirts over Sam’s head, “You’re gonna get sick, being that skinny.” Sam nodded, looking up at Dean with wide, trusting eyes. John turned away again as Dean leaned down to kiss Sammy’s forehead, throwing back the blankets on the bed. Sammy needed comfort, love, attention that he hadn’t gotten in the last 55 days, not the way he needed it. He ignored his father’s presence, focusing on the only thing, to him, that mattered.
“Come on baby, let’s just lay down,” Dean said gently, guiding Sam under the blankets. John watched as his oldest stripped out of his jeans, replacing the button down shirt he’d been wearing with another oversized t-shirt, starting to climb into the small bed next to Sam.

“Dean, you take the couch,” John said roughly, “Sam will take the bed.”
Dean glared over at his father, shaking his head. He pulled Sammy into his arms, Sam’s head resting on his chest, his arms wrapped around Dean’s torso.
“No can do, sir,” he said sharply, “Sammy needs me, so I’m gonna be right here for him.”

He reached over, turning off the lamp next to their bed and laying down, holding Sam tightly. Sam yawned, moving his hand to tangle his fingers with Dean’s.
“Can you count for me?” Sam asked, his voice soft and sleepy. Dean nodded, kissing his head as he touched each fingertip on the only hand that really mattered.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And after Dean was found, it became clear to Dean that Sam wasn’t just counting his fingers or bullets anymore. After being without Sam for nearly two months, after feeling every bump and bone under his skin; Dean needed to touch Sam.
Constantly.
Brushing his knuckles across Sam’s knee, a hand pressing against his lower back, their fingers tangled together as he watched Sammy’s eyes close each night. And every time he touched Sam, he could hear the count go up.

Sammy was counting how many times he’d touched him.

They'd lay in bed together, their legs tangled together as Sam's fingers ghosted over Dean's bare arms, chest, and stomach, his fingertips resting on each scar and bump reverently; as if they were some mark of holiness that only Sam could appreciate.
"They're beautiful," Sam whispered, looking up at his brother with wide green eyes, the same green eyes that stared up at him from a baby's face when he would stumble into Dean's lap.
"They're ugly, Sam," Dean replied sadly, kissing his little brother's forehead. Sam's head strained up to press harder against Dean's lips, his eyelashes fluttering sweetly; in a way that Dean found supremely annoying on girls but completely endearing on Sam.
"They're yours, and they're beautiful like you," Sam replied, "My teacher says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think she's wrong. I don't know how anyone could look at you and not think you're beautiful." Dean laughed, stroking Sam's cheek.
"No more princess fairytales for you," he teased. Sam shrugged.
"Why can't the huntsman be beautiful too?" He asked seriously. Dean shrugged back, not really sure how to respond.
"He's supposed to be tough, not beautiful."
"You're tough," Sam replied, "And I think you're the most beautiful person in the entire world."
"You're in luck then," Dean teased, kissing the tip of his nose, "Because you're beautiful too. Because we look alike."
Sam only blushed, curling into Dean's chest with a happy hum.

It never occurred to Dean, until he was at Sonny’s, that his and Sam’s relationship may not have been…acceptable. He’d always just accepted it for what it was; Sam was the most important and being near him made Dean feel good. So why overthink a good thing?


“Having a hard time settling in?” Sonny asked, sitting on the bed that had once belonged to some other nobody who nobody wanted. Dean shrugged, folding up his scant laundry that had been assigned to him. Plain shirts, plain jeans, plain underwear; all plain and easy to forget, just like him.
“No, I’m fine.”
“Don’t look too fine, kid,” Sonny replied, “I know it’s a hard adjustment, y’know, and considering what your dad said-“
“This has nothing to do with him,” Dean snapped, slamming his drawer shut, “I don’t care what he does or says. He always does whatever he wants.” Sonny nodded, watching the 16 year old pace the room, tension in his whole body coiled tight. Sonny had seen his fair share of messed up kids, of course- kinda came with being a work farm for juvenile delinquents; but usually these kids were more concerned with good behavior and getting around the rules. Dean didn’t appear to be interested in…well, anything.
“Got a pet you’re worried about?” Sonny asked, “Maybe a kid sister?” “Brother,” Dean replied quietly, “I got a kid brother.”
“Miss him?”
“That’s not even close to how I feel,” Dean snapped, biting his lip. Sonny nodded.
“Sure your dad can take care of him while you’re here.”
“Yeah,” Dean said sarcastically, “He knows just what my baby needs.”
“Your baby?” Sonny asked, “Not many 16 year old boys call their little brothers baby.”
“There aren’t any little brothers like Sammy,” Dean snapped again, “I don’t see why it matters to you, you just want that government check for me and all the free labor you can squeeze out of me. You don’t give a shit and my little brother is out there alone!”
“He’s got your Dad.”
“He’d be better off completely alone,” Dean replied bitterly. Sonny knew that Dean’s father was a touchy subject, and as much as he wanted to dig deeper into that, he decided to take a different route.
“So, Sammy,” he said casually, “Why is he different than every other little brother?”
“He’s different from every other person,” Dean replied, “He’s not like anyone I’ve ever known. Ever. He’s special.”
“Why don’t you think anyone can take care of him?”
“He’s so…sensitive. He needs things, things that people don’t think about. He needs people to talk to him in a calm voice and he needs quiet and he needs someone who understands him. He needs to be touched and held and hugged and you are taking that away from him- you’re taking me away from him and he doesn’t stand a chance without me, not against the world. Not against my father. Without me, he’ll die!”
“If Sam isn’t safe, you need to tell me,” Sonny said, “I can’t let some kid be in danger.” Dean laughed bitterly.
“Dude, you can’t keep him safe. I can’t even keep him safe. No one can protect us.”

Dean turned away, looking out the window with his hands clenched in fists. He turned, slamming his fist into the wall in rage.
“I want Sammy,” he hissed, “He needs me, you don’t get it. You’d never get it- no one would.”
Sonny reached out to Dean, touching his shoulder gently.
“Dean, he’ll be okay-“
“No!” Dean screamed at him, “No, he won’t, you don’t get it! Who’s he gonna count on? Who’s gonna help him when he’s lost inside the numbers? No one- my dad hates the counting, he hates Sam, he hates the way Sammy is and he can’t help it! He’s just a baby!”
“Dean, calm down.”
“Don’t fucking tell me to calm down!” Dean raged, kicking the edge of his bed, “I’m the only one who understands him, I’m the only one who knows how to take care of him.”


It took a while for Sonny to calm him down, and after that Dean got the distinct feeling that there was something…unacceptable about him and Sam- about the way he touched his little brother, the way he watched him and loved him and kissed him even though he was 12, almost 13 now. Sonny was always bringing up his family, his Dad, and specifically Sammy. It made him feel like he’d done something wrong, like he’d done something bad to Sam.

And he could feel it in his father’s eyes when his lips lingered too long on Sam’s cheek, or when Sam would sit in his lap, reading. He could feel the accusation in his father’s eyes- that he was going soft, that he was making Sam go soft, that there was something wrong with them in his eyes. And he knew that Sam could feel their father’s eyes on them too; the counting becoming more frequent again.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

But the longer Dean felt his father’s eyes, the more his anger seethed and roiled. Why shouldn’t he touch and hold Sam? Why shouldn’t they hold and kiss each other? No one else was going to do it- the only thing Dad was good at was beating them when they messed up. He never had time to touch them without leaving a mark.
And as his own fury built, Sam’s started to as well.
He started to tell his father the wrong number of bullets, not cleaning his gun all the way, not folding his laundry the way their father told them to. Sam started these little hints of rebellion and no matter how Dean begged and pleaded, Sam wouldn’t stop. Even when John gave them both a hiding for it. Something had sparked inside of Sam that Dean had never seen before; these conscious silent rebellions that not even some of John’s most severe belt work would stop. These little rebellions brought life to his little brother and he could never find it in him to order him to stop- though he knew if he ordered Sam, he would-because they had so few victories, they would cling to what they could.

Until they were in the Cabin up in Glenwood Springs.

Sam hadn’t even actually done anything that day- they were training, and Sam never did deal well with the altitude changes, and he didn’t keep up to John’s satisfaction. John had been about halfway through his usual diatribe of Sam’s laziness and Dean’s insistence on coddling him when he suddenly stopped.

“You know what? This is going nowhere,” John yelled, slapping his hand hard enough on the table to make Sam jump in Dean’s arms, rocking and counting softly, “I think it’s high time Sam got in The Hole.”

Dean looked up at his father, his face pale and his lips trembling as he pulled his brother hard against his chest.
“Dad no,” he whispered, “Not The Hole, don’t do it, he doesn’t need to learn that-“
“You were 8 when you were in The Hole the first time,” John replied dismissively, “Did you a world of good. Taught you obedience, respect. Taught you how to survive. That’s what he needs- he’s soft, Dean, and that’s gonna get him killed.”
“Please, Dad,” Dean begged, cradling Sam, “Don’t, please don’t! A hiding would do it, he’d learn from getting his ass whipped again, don’t put him in The Hole, please-“

John moved faster than Dean expected, grabbing Sam by the back of his shirt and dragging him out of Dean’s arms. Sam threw himself towards Dean, crying and screaming as his father dragged him across the cabin and out the door. Dean scrambled after them, screaming and begging his father to let Sam go, to just give them both a beating and call it a day, that Sammy didn’t need to learn that, all while his brother’s scream and cries had quieted to frantic, terrified counting.

“Onetwothreefourfiveonetwothreefourfiveonetwothreefourfive…”

John finally released Sammy on the hard Colorado dirt, picking up a nearby discarded shovel from training earlier. He walked over to where Dean was curled protectively around Sam, looking up at him with fear.

“He’s just a baby,” Dean whispered. John snorted.
“He’s growing up, Dean. He has to learn, and I can’t have you going soft when it comes to him.”

He tossed the spade down at Dean’s feet.

“Get up,” he said roughly, “Get him up, let’s go, I haven’t got all day to impart this lesson, let’s move!”

Dean pulled Sammy to his feet, shaking his head as Sam’s lips part to ask him what’s happening. John nudged the shovel with the tip of his boot.
“Dig.”
Dean looked from Sam to his father, his body shaking.
“Dad-“ his voice cracked, “Please…”
“Sam. Dig.”
Sam bent down and picked up the shovel, holding it tightly in his hands as his whole body trembled. He knew about The Hole. He knew about the times Dad had trained Dean in The Hole, the way his big, strong brother would cry and whimper in the dark, in small dark spaces, the way he’d whisper, “Nonononononono” the same way Sam counted “onetwothreefourfive”. Sam looked at his father, before dropping the shovel.

“Sam, pick up that shovel and get digging, now!” his father bellowed, making him flinch. Dean picked up the shovel instead, digging the hole.
“Sam, you have to dig it like when we practice in the cemetery,” Dean said, his voice shaking, “86 inches by 32 inches.”
“Don’t make me,” Sammy cried desperately, “Please don’t put me in the hole, I’ll be good, please Daddy, please, Dee, don’t let him bury me.”
“Oh, I’m not gonna put you in the hole, Sam,” John said easily, “Dean is.”

Dean nearly dropped the shovel, tears streaming down his face.
“No, Dad, I can’t-“
“You can, and you will,” John said, shrugging, “You put Sam in the hole, or I put you both in the hole.”

Dean took a deep breath, looking from his brother to his father, steeling his resolve despite the fear coiling in his stomach.
“You’re gonna have to put us both in the hole then,” Dean said, his voice sounding much firmer than he felt, the dirt flying out of the hole as he dug, “Not gonna put my baby in the hole.” John shrugged, picking up another shovel and tossing it to Sam.
“Suit yourself, boy,” he replied, “Get digging.”

It took about five hours for them to dig the hole to a sufficient depth before John pointed in the hole.
“Well? Let’s go, took you long enough to dig it.”
Dean laid down, grabbing Sammy’s hand and pulling him down with him.

“Baby, listen to me carefully,” Den whispered in his ear, “Take off your shirt and wrap it around your head. As soon as Dad has your legs covered, curl them underneath your body. You can use them as leverage when you’re trying to push yourself up.” Sam nodded his eyes wide with fear as they both stripped off their shirts and wrapped them around their heads.
“Count to 5 100 times, that’s when we try to dig our way out. Count while you dig. Left hand even, right hand odd. If you get tired, it’s okay. I’m not gonna leave you. We’re both gonna get out of here. I have a lot of practice.”

Sam’s fingers tangled in his as the dirt fell down on them, and the last thing Dean heard besides the sound of dirt falling over him was

“Onetwothreefourfiveonetwothreefourfive…”-

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And as Dean tore at the dirt that surrounded his brother’s body, watching those hands scramble in panic, he grabbed those hands and drug him from the dirt. Those hands that he’d held since they were tiny, those fingers that he had counted so many times, reaching for him out of a mound of dirt would be an image that would haunt Dean for the rest of his life.

“Sammy, Sammy!” He screamed, tearing the shirt from his brother’s head and cradling him close to his chest. His brother’s sputtering coughs turned to rough sobs as his hands scrambled to cling to his brother, Dean’s hands trying to wipe the dirt from his face.
“Dean,” Sam whispered, his voice raspy as he struggled for air. Dean hadn’t considered how much harder this would be on Sam- he already had a hard time breathing in the thinner mountain air when they had just been nearly at sea-level 2 days before, down in Louisiana gathering intel.
“It’s gonna be okay, baby,” he whispered, stroking Sam’s hair, “Everything is okay. We made it, I told you we’d make it.”

Sam nodded weakly, his arms around Dean’s neck as he gasped for air. Dean’s shaking arms clung to his brother, the terror from being buried and not knowing if Sammy was going to be okay turning his insides to liquid ice. Dean shook his head, ignoring the screaming pain and weakness in his body as he lifted Sammy, carrying him back into the cabin. Their father was gone, and Dean was thankful for that- he didn’t think he could handle dealing with him right then.

He’d probably shoot him in the head.

“We’re gonna take a shower, okay?” Dean said soothingly, sitting Sam down gently on the toilet. Sam nodded, his expression oddly blank.

Dean knew that their lives were fucked up, even to Sammy who didn’t know any better, and this would be yet another experience that would scar his little brother for the rest of his life. Hell, with both of them afraid of the dark, they’d probably never sleep with the lights off again. Dean bit his lip, turning on the cold water first so there was some noise to fill up the space. He couldn’t stand any sort of quiet, not after being in The Hole. He turned back to Sam, pulling him to his feet.

“I know that was horrible,” Dean said gently as he unbuttoned Sam’s jeans, working the dirt-caked denim down over his hips and legs, “I know it’s scary, but you’re gonna be okay-“
“I hate him,” Sam whispered harshly, looking down at Dean, “I hate him. I hate him so much.” Dean froze, looking at Sam’s tear streaked face, his hands squeezing his brother’s thin hips.
“Oh baby,” he whispered softly, kissing his chest, “I know. I know…goddamnit, I fucking hate him too.”

Sam ran his fingers through Dean’s hair as Dean knelt in front of him, shaking his head. He looked down at his strong big brother, the one who was always mean and tough and didn’t take crap from anyone, covered in dirt and grime and looking like he was going to cry right along with him. Sam hated that. Sam hated that his father made Dean cry, that he hurt Dean, that he hurt both of them. He hated his father for being the way he was. And in some secret part of him that he’d never share with anyone, he hated himself…because he knew that Dean got in trouble all the time because there was something so wrong with him, his own father wanted to hurt him.
He could feel Dean’s hands on his hips, stroking him gently, making him feel safe and warm, the way that only Dean could. He wanted to shove him away before Dad got back and saw him touching him, because as much as he loved it when Dean touched him, he knew that their father hated it. He knew that his father hated when anyone was nice to him, but especially when it was Dean being nice to him. Especially when Dean was being nice to him instead of being nice to his father.
But even as he hesitantly moved to push Dean’s hands away, he couldn’t. He didn’t want to push Dean away. He hated that his father was always this huge shadow looming over them, deciding everything for them. He decided, in that moment, that he didn’t care. He didn’t care what Dad said or wanted.

“I know that he gets mad that you kiss me,” Sam said softly, “I know he thinks there’s something wrong with us, that we’re bad. But I don’t care. You’re…Dean…” Sam stopped, trying to find the words that he wanted to use. He could feel the numbers coming, the nervous fear that his brother would reject him, push him away in favor of their father’s good thinking.
“I don’t care, Dean,” Sam finally managed, “I don’t care what anyone says. You’re the only one who loves me, and I love you, and that’s all that matters.”

Dean looked up at his little brother, his sweet, intuitive, gentle baby, in awe. He nodded, biting his lip as Sam’s fingers ran over his face, brushing away the dirt that would never really come clean, the memory that would never really go away.

“I’m sorry, Sammy,” he whispered, “Oh…fuck, baby, I’m so fucking sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.”
“Why?” Sam asked, fear flashing in his eyes, “I didn’t…if you don’t…don’t leave me, Dee. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset…don’t leave. Don’t leave.”

Dean pressed his face against Sam’s soft stomach, clinging to him for dear life as the tears came. Sam threw his arms around Dean, his body draping over his older brother’s, the same way that Dean’s draped over him to protect him from his father. Sam wasn’t big enough, or strong enough, to protect Dean from Dad. But he was gonna at least try to protect Dean from whatever hurt he could.

“I’m sorry you didn’t know Mom,” Dean sobbed, “I’m not the only one who loves you. Mom loved you so fucking much, baby. She loved both of us, so fucking much, don’t ever forget that, okay? Dad may be fucked up, but Mom loved us, Mom woulda never let this happen, you gotta know that Sammy, you gotta.”

Sam let out a loud sob, clinging to Dean as hard as Dean was clinging to him. No one ever talked about Mom, not the way Dean did- his father would sometimes comment that Dean looked like Mary, sometimes accusingly, as if Dean had done something wrong by looking like his mother. And then there were the times that had happened as far back as Sam could remember, when his father would grab him and shake him hard and demand to know why he didn’t look like Dean, why he didn’t look like his mother. But no one ever talked about his mother as a person, and Dean had just told him more than he’d ever heard about the woman.

“Mom…loved me?” Sammy asked softly, “But I killed her.”

Dean pulled away from Sam, looking up at him in horror. Sam thought…he killed Mom?

“What are you talking about?” Dean asked roughly, grabbing Sam’s arms hard, “Why would you think that?” But Sam was lost, his chest heaving as he sobbed out the numbers.

“Onetwothreefourfive…”

Dean pulled Sam into his lap on the floor, kissing his face lightly and pressing his forehead against Sam’s.
“Baby, it’s okay,” he hushed him, “You didn’t kill Mom. That thing did, it’s not your fault, Mom loved you and she still loves you. It’s okay, Sammy.”
“I’m sorry!” Sam wailed, “I’m sorry I’m so bad, I’m sorry Dad hates me, I’m sorry I killed Mom, don’t hate me, don’t hate me Dee, I’m sorry…”

Dean took Sam’s hand in his, pinching each fingertip softly.

“One,” he said, “Mom loves you.”
Sam let out a stuttering sob as Dean moved to his next finger.
“Two, I love you.”
Sam bounced his head off of Dean’s chest.
“Three, you are not bad. You are the most wonderfully good person that I’ve ever known.”
Sam wordlessly moaned into Dean’s bare chest.
“Four, I will never hate you, hurt you, or leave you.”
Sam sniffled, his crying finally coming under control as Dean touched the tip of his pinky.
“Five, he doesn’t matter. No one matters. We’re the only ones who matter.”

Sam pulled back, scrubbing his face into a muddy mess as he attempted to wipe away his tears. Dean laughed a little, kissing his head and pulling him to his feet, opening the shower curtain. He leaned over, turning on the hot water and adjusting it so the temperature was just right before pulling the plug on the top of the tub fixture, starting the shower.

“After you, baby,” Dean said gently, kissing Sam’s cheek before shucking off his disgusting jeans and underwear. Sam stripped off his own underwear, groaning a little under the hot spray washing over him. He didn’t move as Dean stepped in, smiling a little when Dean gently slapped his hip.

“Come on, don’t hog the water,” he teased, pushing Sam forward so they were both standing under the spray, sharing the tight space. He listened as Dean lathered up a washcloth, his hand and the rag on his back and wiping away the dirt. Sam arched his body under Dean’s touch, humming quietly as Dean cleaned him. Dean started humming along, until they were both singing ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’, just like they had since they were little. Sam turned to face Dean, taking the washcloth out of his hand and lathering it again with soap.

“Sammy, you don’t-“
“I know,” Sam replied, washing Dean’s chest, “I want to, okay?”

Dean nodded, closing his eyes as Sam washed away the dirt from the hole and replaced it with his warm hand and the washcloth, cleaning away all the stress and the terror the same way he had done for him. Sam washed his shoulders, his arms, his back and then his stomach, but as his hand reached lower, Dean’s own shot out and grabbed his wrist.

“No,” he said firmly, “I…I got it, okay?” Sam nodded, biting his lip.
“Okay,” he replied quietly, pulling back and turning away as Dean took the washcloth.

He’d never been embarrassed by his brother cleaning himself before, they’d seen each other do it loads of times and it didn’t really bother either of them, but for some reason, in that moment, it felt…odd. Forbidden. Like it wasn’t…right.
Sam didn’t like the feeling.
He didn’t have time to think about it, though, as Dean sat down on the floor of the tub and patted his legs.

“Sit,” he commanded, “I gotta wash your hair and I’m tired of standing.”

Sam smiled, sitting down and scooting between Dean’s legs as his brother poured some of the liquid hotel soap he’d swiped from one of the few decent places they’d stayed at into his hand, lathering it up and scrubbing away at Sammy’s head.

“Hey,” Dean said, breaking the silence, “I’m not mad at you for trying to wash me, baby,” he began, “I just…I don’t want you to touch me there, okay? Anywhere else is fine, but not there.” Sam wrinkled his nose, huffing.
“You’ve touched me there,” he snapped.

He felt Dean’s hands leave his scalp, suddenly their skin not touching at all. Sammy looked back over his shoulder, one eye squeezed closed to avoid the soap running down his face.

“Dean?”
“I’m sorry,” Dean said quietly, “I never… I never meant to touch you if you didn’t want me to...”
Sam was confused, turning to face Dean as he rinsed his hair.
“You didn’t,” Sam replied, wiping his face and looking at Dean with a curious expression, “You never touch me in a bad way.” Dean didn’t look convinced, so Sam reached out and started to trace the line of Dean’s leg, “You never touch me in a bad way, not the way Dad does. You only touch me to help me or clean me or make me feel good, and I like that,” he paused, biting his lip, “You’re not gonna stop touching me now, are you?” Dean shook his head, moving a little closer, their bare legs touching.
“No…no, not if you like it,” Dean replied,” I just don’t want you to be scared of me.”

Sam looked absolutely scandalized. He was never afraid of Dean- Dean was the only person in the world he was never afraid of. He knew his brother wouldn’t ever hurt him, not on purpose.

“I’m never scared of you,” Sam said, “And especially not when you touch me. I feel safe when you touch me. Like when I count.”
“Really?”
“Yeah,” Sam said, nodding, “I don’t want you to stop.”

Dean reached out, stroking his brother’s cheek softly. His mommy always said that angels were watching over him, but she never told him that he’d be watching over his own angel.

The spray started to cool, and he could see the goosebumps rising on Sammy’s skin. He smiled, leaning over Sam to turn off the water, when he felt Sam’s lips against his cheek, close to his lips.
“I love you, Dee.”
Dean pulled back, kissing Sam’s cheek.
“I love you too, baby.”

They both stood, groaning at the stiffness in their muscles. They limped back into their bedroom, arms wrapped around each other for support, and simply collapsed on the bed, barely throwing the blanket over their wet, naked bodies. Sam pressed himself against Dean, their fingers weaving together as they both dozed.

“Dean,” Sam whispered, “I’m scared. What if Dad comes back and buries us again?”
“Not gonna happen, baby,” Dean replied.
“He’s gonna kill us someday,” Sam whispered, his voice filled with terror. Dean looked Sam in the eye, shaking his head.

“I’ll kill him first, Sam,” Dean said seriously, “I won’t let that happen.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And as he heard the cabin door open, he frantically counted each clump of his father’s boots against the wood floor in his mind; his eyes squeezed shut against the dark quiet that surrounded him and Dean in their room.

One…two…three…four…five…

He heard their door creak open, his heart racing as he squeezed Dean’s hand. Dean was sound asleep, not even squeezing his hand back.
Sam was alone.

One…two…three…four…five…

He squeezed Dean’s hand again, trying to even out his breathing as he felt their father looming over them. He could smell the distinct stink that was their father; dirt, gun oil, sweat, whiskey and some cheap dollar store deodorant; scents that made his stomach turn and his flesh crawl.
He felt the rustle of air as his father’s hand rested on Dean’s head, his voice low and quiet in the dark.

“I know I’m hard on you boy,” he mumbled, “But it’s the only way, you understand? Can’t have you going soft. Not for…him.” He spat, “Can’t lose Mary again for him. And you’re all I got left of her, aren’t you? Those lips, those eyes, that skin…all Mary, always looking back at me. Don’t you understand?”

Sam held his breath, fighting the tears.

“You’re always telling me he’s just a baby, just a little boy, but why can’t you see it? He’s poisoning you against me. Those big eyes and those pretty little lips, they’ve got you fooled, Dean. When a man has children, it’s so hard, so hard Dean- you lose your wife to your child, she hasn’t got the time for you, she’s more interested in the kids than she is in anything else. When I married her, I married her- not you kids. That wasn’t the plan, not at first. But I could accept that with you, how much you needed her, it wasn’t hard at all. It was just a tiny Mary running around, this small little Mary who still wanted to hug and cuddle and kiss, even after the bed was cold between us. And you listened so well, I never had to argue with you, not really. Not the way she and I argued.

But then he came along, and suddenly it was “Sammy this”, and “Sammy needs me”, and “If you don’t like sharing the bed with the baby, maybe you should sleep on the couch”. She was always too tired, too busy, too wrapped up in him- and he wasn’t even like you. Oh no, he wouldn’t let me hold him without screaming his head off, never wanted to be held or cuddled, always squirming and trying to get away. Even as a baby, he was different. And she didn’t have the time of day or night for me- the night she died, we hadn’t even slept in the same bed in a week.”

Sam was trying desperately to fight back the sobs in his throat, the shaking that his body was threatening to give way to as his father’s cruel words washed over them in the softest tone he’d ever heard the man use. Such a kind, soothing tone, but the words rotten and biting.

“That’s why we’ve gotta train him up, Dean. I’m not gonna let Mary die in vain. She wanted to save him for some reason, and I’m not gonna let him drag us all down. We lost Mary for him and I’ll be damned if we lose anyone else. Your mother thought he was important for a reason, some reason. That’s the only reason he’s still here, Dean, that’s the only reason. He poisoned her against me; always making her think that he needed her more than I did. And now he’s poisoned you too. You always have to be there to take care of him, but what about me, Dean?”

Sam felt the blankets move, like his father’s hand was under the blanket, a soft, moan coming from Dean as the blanket rose along with his hips. His father’s hand was on his naked brother’s skin, and for some reason Sam felt like he was going to be sick.

Was that why Dean didn’t want him to wash him?

“What about my needs? I need you too, son. I need someone to help me, but you never do it anymore. You never take care of me. You’re too busy with him, just like Mary was."

"I didn’t get a choice when your mother died; I couldn’t make a deal or compromise to keep her. I ain’t giving him a choice. He’s gonna do what I say, when I say it. He’s gonna be where I want him and do what I want- because he owes me that much, Dean. He owes us both that much.“

Sam listened as he rose from his kneeling position, stroking Dean’s hair.

“You’ll understand some day,” John said roughly, “You’ll see it.”

He listened to the sound of his father’s footsteps against the floor, the door closing before he sat up, breathing hard and sweating. He grabbed Dean’s shoulder, shaking him hard.

“Dean, Dean, wake up, please wake up…”

Dean shot bolt upright, gun in his hand cocked and his finger around the trigger. But as soon as he saw Sam, he let out the breath he was holding, his body shaking.
“What is it, Sam?” He asked, sliding the safety back on and putting the gun back under his pillow, “What is it?”
“He touched…” Sam whispered, terrified, “He touched…there…he touched…” Sam’s words dissolved into frantic counting, his breathing erratic. “Onetwothreefourfive…

Dean grabbed Sam’s arm hard, shaking him.
“Did he touch you, Sam?” he demanded roughly, “Did he touch you?”
“He touched you,” Sam stuttered, “He touched you and you didn’t wake up.”

Dean sighed a breath of relief, pulling Sam down into his arms.
“Shhh, it’s okay,” Dean whispered, stroking his hair, “It was just a bad dream. You know that no one can touch me without me waking up, right? Dad couldn’t have touched me; you know that, I woulda put a bullet in his head if he did. Try to go back to sleep.”

Sam knew Dean was lying, his ear pressed against his brother’s chest, listening to the erratic beat of his heart. But while Dean would always protect Sam from their father’s hands, Sam would protect Dean from remembering their father’s hands when he didn’t want to. He nuzzled his face against Dean’s chest, kissing the skin softly.

“I love you.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And exactly five hundred and eighty three days after that horrible day in The Hole, and that terrible night that he learned Dean’s darkest secret, Sam Winchester kissed his brother the way he always wanted to.

After that day, it seemed like more than anything, John wanted to be as far away from them as possible- not that Dean or Sam minded. The beatings still came and went, the screaming and yelling still present, but more often than not, it seemed that John waltzed through the door to knock them around and leave again.

(Sam didn’t think Dean knew, but a few times he’d picked up his brother’s gun when he’d crawled away from his father’s fists, pointing it at him as his fists wailed down on Dean. But he couldn’t do it- he couldn’t pull the trigger. He was too scared.)

And after that night, the line between brothers had begun to blur and fade. Kisses on the cheek became pecks on the lips, fingers stroking sides became grips on hips, and the bodies that had slotted together so naturally began to shift and move against one another, soft gasps and moans filling the space that once held silence.

And when each other’s touch wasn’t enough to dull the pain, Dean turned to weed to snuff it out. Sam didn’t mind it- he kinda liked the spicy-thick smell of Dean’s joints, and he loved how easy going and relaxed it made his big brother. Dean could smoke a joint, and then lounge across the bed, begging Sam to read to him.

“Come on, Sam,” he begged, rolling over with a goofy smile on his face, “Read my favorite part. You know the one.” Sam grinned at him, rolling his eyes.
“What will you give me if I do?” Sam asked, his voice teasing. Dean looked up at him, a calculating flicker in his eyes.
“Whatever you want.”
“I want a kiss.”

Dean grabbed Sam’s waist, pulling his brother down on top of him so they were face to face.
“You sure?” Dean asked hesitantly. Sam had wanted to kiss him, really, truly kiss him, but the hesitance in Dean’s face made him stop. He leaned down, kissing his older brother’s lips softly, before pulling away and flipping open his book.
“There,” Sam said, pulling up the dog-eared page he was looking for, “Now I’ll read to you.” Dean grinned, his arms winding around Sam’s waist, his head resting on his little brother’s shoulder as he began to read.

“The children came to a perfume shop. In the show window was a large jar of freckle salve, and beside the jar was a sign, which read: DO YOU SUFFER FROM FRECKLES? ‘What does the sign say?’ ask Pippi. She couldn’t read very well because she didn’t want to go to school as other children did. ‘It says, ‘Do you suffer from freckles?’’ said Annika. ‘Does it indeed?’ said Pippi thoughtfully. ‘Well, a civil question deserves a civil answer. Let’s go in.’,” Sam read out loud, Dean let out a loud giggle at that pressing his face against Sam’s neck as Sam laughed.
“Dean! You’re tickling me- we haven’t even gotten to your favorite part!”
Dean chuckled, pulling away.
“Okay, Okay, I’ll behave,” Dean teased, pointing at the page, “Keep going.” Sam sighed happily, picking up where he left off.

"‘She opened the door and entered the shop, closely followed by Tommy and Annika. An elderly lady stood back of the counter. Pippi went right up to her. ‘No!’ she said decidedly. ‘What is it you want?’ asked the lady. ‘No,’ said Pippi once more. ‘I don’t understand what you mean,’ said the lady. ‘No, I don’t suffer from freckles,’ said Pippi. Then the lady understood, but she took one look at Pippi and burst out, ‘But, my dear child, your whole face is covered with freckles!’ ‘I know it,’ said Pippi, ‘but I don’t suffer from them. I love them. Good morning.’ She turned to leave, but when she got to the door she looked back and cried, ‘But if you should happen to get in any salve that gives people more freckles, then you can send me seven or eight jars.’”

Dean gave out a loud roar of laughter, something about that passage always making him grin and laugh. Sam never understood, but as Dean hugged him hard and laughed loudly, he couldn’t help but not care, as long as he heard his brother’s laugh. There were times that it felt all too rare.

When Dean’s laughter finally died down, they sat in comfortable silence before Dean spoke again.

“How come you like those books so much?’ He asked, “Like, I get the fairytales. I get James and the Giant Peach. But what’s up with Matilda and Pippi Longstocking?”
Sam shrugged.
“Pippi reminds me of you, I guess,” Sam replied, setting aside the book and looking at his brother, “She’s smart and strong and she does things her own way. She loves her dad but she does just find without him, and she looks after Tommy and Annika because she loves them.” He reached out, running his finger over Dean’s cheek, “And, of course, the freckles.”
Dean laughed, taking Sam’s wrist and kissing his fingertip softly.
“And Matilda?”

Sam blushed hard, looking down.
“I kinda…I kinda feel like Matilda,” Sam replied shyly, “Like I’m different, and not in the way most people…appreciate, and like I can see all these different worlds in these books and I want them to be real. I want to take those adventures and be somewhere else…and Dad doesn’t know anything about those different worlds. He doesn’t even know about the real world…and he hates us. He’s just like the Trunchbull and Mr. Wormwood. He thinks that just because he’s an adult, that just because he’s in charge of us, he’s better than us and he knows more than us. He thinks that being bigger means he can control us and hurt us and I hate it so much.”
“I guess I never thought of it that way,” Dean replied, his fingers stroking up and down Sam’s spine, “You’re too smart.”

Sam pulled his knees to his chest, sighing at the sad tone in his brother’s voice. Dean had always told him he was too smart for his own good and Sam couldn’t help but think he was right. He laid down, curling up under Dean’s arm and tracing his fingers across his brother’s chest. Sam was trying to work up the courage to ask the question that had weighed on him for months since Dean’s birthday, the question that had haunted him every time things got bad with their father.

“Hey Dean?” Sam asked quietly.
“Yeah, baby?”
“Since you’re 18 now... when are you gonna leave?”

Dean sat up, looking at Sam questioningly.

“I’m not leaving you,” Dean said, cocking his head to the side. Sam sat up too, nodding as his finger traced the pattern of the bedspread.
“I know,” Sam said quietly, “I guess…I meant…maybe we could both leave, now that you’re an adult.”
Dean bit his lip, tipping Sam’s chin up.
“You wanna leave?” he asked quietly. Sam nodded rapidly.
“It’s all I want,” he said quietly, “I don’t wanna stay here and wait for the day he kills us- on a hunt or with his own hands, Dean. I don’t wanna be afraid of being buried alive again. I don’t wanna be afraid of him hurting you anymore.”

He leaned forward, his lips slotted against Dean’s eagerly, his lips parting to taste Dean. Dean let out a surprised gasp and Sam clumsily stuck his tongue in his mouth, trying to emulate what he’d seen on tv and read in books. He could feel Dean’s hands on his hips again, squeezing them as Sam pressed his body against his older brother’s. Dean let out a low moan, his hands moving from Sam’s sides and skim over his bare chest, calloused thumbs grazing over Sam’s nipples and making him gasp softly. Sam’s hand wandered lower, tracing the hem of Dean’s sweatpants and the raised line of Dean’s erect cock, as Dean’s hand closed around his wrist.

“No,” Dean said, his breathing heavy, “No. Not yet. You’re still too young.”
“When, then?” Sam asked, looking put out. Dean shrugged, looking unsure as he bit his lip.
“When you’re older.”
“Yeah, but when is that?”
“Not now.”
“Dean-“

Dean cut him off with a hard kiss, pulling away and stroking Sam’s hair.
“Don’t be in such a rush, baby,” Dean said, squeezing Sam’s hand gently, “We have all the time in the world. Don’t be so eager to grow up, Sam. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”
“It’s not about growing up,” Sam huffed, “It’s about you.”
“But it is about growing up,” Dean said patiently, “If we go there…we can never go back. You’re too young to make that decision.”
“Who says?” Sam demanded, “Why can’t I just have this, Dean? Why can’t we just have this? We both want it, we never get what we want and it’s just not fai-“

Dean covered Sam’s mouth gently with his hand, hushing him.

“I didn’t say no, baby,” Dean said, a bemused smile on his face, “I said not yet. Patience is a virtue, kiddo.”
“I know,” Sam mumbled against Dean’s hand, pushing it away, “I just…don’t wanna be patient.”
“Sucks, don’t it?” Dean teased gently, his thumb running over Sam’s lower lip, “I just want you to be sure, okay? And being a horny 14 year old doesn’t make for good decision making skills- trust me, I was one, once upon a time.” Sam sighed, nipping Dean’s thumb gently, his tongue flicking out and licking it.
“Fine,” Sam said, still looking mutinous, “What is okay, then?” Dean smiled, shrugging.
“Let’s keep it above the belt, okay?” Dean said, kissing Sam’s forehead. Sam’s scowl broke into a wide smile, scooting closer to Dean and slotting against his chest perfectly.
“Okay.”

They were silent for a few moments, Sam’s fingers playing with the amulet he’d given him for Christmas so long ago.

“Dean?”
“Yeah, baby?”
“I love you.”

Dean chuckled, kissing Sam tenderly.

“I love you more.”

Chapter Text

Sammy liked to count.

And he found some new uses for his counting, laying on the hood of the Impala next to Dean, his lanky 15 year old legs laying over Dean’s lap, staring up at the setting sun.

“You know, Stairway to Heaven is the most overrated Led Zepplin song ever, right?” Sam teased, nudging Dean as he took a hit of his joint. Dean grinned, the smoke curling out from his teeth and nose.
“Shut up, I like it,” Dean replied, shrugging. Sam laughed, looking up at the setting sun with a satisfied expression. He knew their father wanted them at his motel tonight, but he knew that Dean was in no hurry- they’d both heard John’s tone on the phone- he was looking for a fight and he was looking for someone to take his rage out on, and they both weren’t ready for that, not yet. Not after the last month tangled up in each other, taking just enough salt and burns to keep John off their asses, just enjoying each other and life. It was summer, and even Sam got lazy in the summer. It was beautiful and warm, and after so many cold winters as a kid, there was nothing Sam liked more than the sun and the balmy air that curled between him and Dean, lulling them into the sense of comfort and happiness on the hot hood of the car. Sam looked curiously at the joint dangling between Dean’s fingers, licking his lips. He wanted to try it. Dean glanced over at Sammy, a smile lighting his face.

“You wanna try it?” Dean asked, holding it out. Sam looked at it hesitantly, looking back at Dean.
“Am I allowed?” Sam asked. Dean laughed, nodding.
“Yeah baby, if you wanna try it that’s okay,” he chuckled, “Don’t feel like ya gotta, though.” Sam shook his head, reaching out for it.
“I want to.”

Dean watched as Sam’s lips pursed around the narrow end of the joint, sucking in the smoke and exhaling it quickly. Dean laughed, shaking his head.
“No, baby, you gotta hold it in,” he said, “Here, count to five on the inhale, hold it in for five and then exhale for five. Come on, you’ll like it better that way.” Sam nodded, closing his eyes as he dragged on the joint.

One, two, three, four, five…

He held in the burning and yet smooth smoke, counting in his head as he started to feel lightheaded.

One, two, three, four, five…

He exhaled sharply, not counting the way Dean had wanted him to, but grinning goofily.
“I feel…funny,” Sam said, giggling. Dean laughed to, kissing him gently.
“Yeah, that’s called being stoned, baby.”

They passed the joint back and forth, and the more Sam smoked, the looser his tongue became, spilling out exactly what he was thinking about.

“I hate multiples of three,” Sam said, his nose wrinkled, “That's where cellular respiration and photosynthesis get me. All the atoms are multiples of three. Multiples of four, I get those just fine, but I can't keep six and nine and eighteen straight, man. Drives me crazy. Eighteen is worst in the Calvin Cycle. I don't know if it’s two going around three times, times three, or if it’s three going around twice, times three, or if it’s three going around three times, times two.”

Dean looked up at his little brother’s animated face as he talked about the numbers in a way he’d never heard, his mouth lulled open in awe. Sam was not like anyone he’d ever met- he was the most beautiful and sweet and sensitive person he’d ever known, but it was other things. The way he talked about something so meaningless to Dean, but made it sound like it was the most important thing in the world. He’d sit and listen to Sam say anything, just to hear him talk. If it mattered to Sam, it mattered to Dean. The idea of Sam actually thinking so deeply about the numbers he relied on made Dean’s heart stop in fascination and awe. It was so…amazing, in a way he couldn’t put into words.

“Nine is shitty too. It's never quite ten, always manages to avoid it by just one. So close, but never actually there. Except when you have two nines, then it actually eludes twenty by two. It keeps getting further and further away from ten, except when it gets to a hundred, then it is actually ten away from a hundred, and it is a multiple of ten, even though ten is what it's been appearing to shy away from the whole time. Sneaky. I don't like it.”

Dean grabbed Sammy’s hand, stroking it gently.
“What’s a good number?” Dean asked, biting his lip. Sam grinned, laying back against the windshield.
“Two.”
“Two, huh? Why?”

Sam shrugged, sitting up and playing with the tearing tip of his boot, the tip of his toe poking through the hole. Dean looked at it closely, reminding himself to look for a new pair of boots for Sammy- they were small anyways, and Sam needed a new pair for school. He’d have to go out for the night sometimes soon- as much as Sammy hated it.

“Well, I ah, I always liked the number two,” Sam replied, “I liked it cause two is how many of us there is, and two a.m. is when I wake up when it’s nice and quiet and I just listen to you breathe. It’s my birthday, and it’s a multiple of your birthday. And, and on my 2nd birthday, you gave me my meeno.”

Dean smiled at the memory of Sam’s meeno, what he called the stupid little stuffed rabbit that he’d managed to jimmy outta the claw machine for Sam’s birthday. Sam loved that rabbit so much, it broke both of their hearts when John had taken it from him when he was 7, yelling, “You’re too old for a damn stuffed animal, Sam! You gotta man up- why can’t you be like Dean?” He set the little rabbit on fire and threw it into the parking lot. Dean couldn’t salvage it.

"Yeah, that’s true,” Dean replied.
“And, ah, I read this book on numerology,” Sam continued, “And, ah, two is the number of resilience. And being underestimated. And I just…kinda felt like it was meant to be. I mean, that being my favorite number.” Sam looked over at Dean, a curious expression flitting across his features.
“What’s your favorite number?”
“Six.”
“Why?”
“Cause, when I was six, you said I love you to me for the first time, and when you were six you told me that you weren’t like the other kids in kindergarten, cause they had a mommy and a daddy, but you like your family better because you had a Dean. And six packs,” he added teasingly, but the weight of the confession was still there. Sam nodded, his cheeks flushing. He didn’t know what to say.
“Six is the number of protectors and ah, healers,” Sam said quietly, “Like, ah, Moms and stuff.”
Dean nodded quietly, laying back.
“No kidding?”
“Nope.”

They sat in silence as Dean lit another joint, sucking in the smoke and thinking to himself. He exhaled slowly, holding the joint out to Sammy. Sam took it, taking a deep drag and holding it as Dean watched him, his cheeks still flushed. But Dean had known Sam long enough to know how fast he counted, leaning over and kissing him just as he exhaled, inhaling the smoke. He held it in for a moment, exhaling as Sam looked at him with a stunned and bashful expression.

“What…what was that?”
“It’s called shotgunning,” Dean replied, “Here, you try it on me.”

Sam nodded, watching as Dean inhaled, pressing his lips against Dean’s. But all too soon, he forgot why his lips were on Dean’s, kissing him hard. He climbed into Dean’s lap, straddling his lap as he pressed his older brother’s pliant body against the windshield, his curious fingers sliding up under his ratty old band shirt. Dean let out a soft gasp as Sam’s fingers slid over his super-heated skin, tracing over the same places he had for years, but new fire lighting under his touch. He slid his hands into Sam’s back pockets, pulling him harder against his hips, rolling them gently against Sam’s. Sam bit his lip, letting out the softest gasp he’d ever heard, a look of intense concentration flitting across his features.

The song had changed ages ago, and suddenly they were both intensely aware of the pulsing thump of the drums of When The Levee breaks, Sam’s hips moving in time to the music. He could see the numbers rolling off the tips of his lips like a waterfall, but he couldn’t stop Sam. He looked gorgeous, his shaggy hair falling in front of his eyes, his pretty lips shaping the numbers, despite the breathy little sighs and moans he let out as their hips were grinding.
He reached up, tearing away Sammy’s shirt and tossing it on the gravel, his mouth wandering over his little brother’s lithe body. His mouth closed around Sam’s nipple, grazing his teeth over it gently as Sam bucked in his lap.
“Dean!” he cried, “Please…”

Dean hushed him gently, sliding off the hood of the car and carrying Sam with him. He’d decided that he was old enough- he couldn’t wait any longer. “Backseat,” Dean said, opening the door as Sam nearly dove in. Dean laughed, sliding his jeans off and helping Sam out of his, so they were sitting in the back, pantsless and shirtless. Dean never expected this to feel so awkward, but Sam didn't seem to have any interest in the awkwardness. He stradled Dean's lap again, grinding against him just as he had been doing on the hood of the car, his arms around Dean's neck.

"Show me," Sam said firmly, lifting his brother's chin, "Show me what to do."

Dean gave him a wide smile, slipping his hand into Sam's briefs and stroking him gently. Sam's face pressed into his neck, the moans and soft pants returning as he moved against Dean's hand. Sam dropped one hand to imitate Dean, his hand sliding inside Dean's briefs and cupping him firmly, his fingers curious as he touched it hesitantly. Dean's head tipped back, his eyes fluttering closed as Sam's feather light touches changed, his hand wrapping around his cock and jerking it slowly, firmly. Dean let out a low moan, making Sam pull back.
"Am I doing it wrong?" he asked breathlessly. Dean shook his head.
"No baby, it's perfect, fuck...don't stop, okay?" Dean panted, using his free hand to clamp around the back of Sam's neck, dragging him down into a burning kiss. Their hands moved together, the pace moving faster as they both panted and moaned into each other's mouths. Sam finished first, letting out a bleat like a wounded animal, collapsing hard against Dean. But, to his credit, as he panted breathlessly against Dean's neck and shoulder, his hand kept up it's pace until Deab came, his breath stifled and stuttered, much quieter than Sam was. Dean and Sam rested for a moment, before Dean bent down to pick up some discarded fast food napkins, cleaning them both off.

"How was that?" he whispered in Sam's ear. Sam hummed happily, curling up in Dean's lap, his head tucked under Dean's chin.
"'Mazing," He said quietly. Dean chuckled a little, lifting Sam's chin to look at the blissful and dazed look on his face.

"Baby," he began slowly, "Is this the first time you...y'know, came?" Sam looked up at him, a burning flush spreading across his cheeks.
"Yeah..." he admitted quietly, "I never really...y'know. I was saving myself." Dean laughed, cutting himself off when he saw the hurt look on Sam's face.
"I'm not laughing at you, baby," Dean said, grinning, "I just think you're the first 15 year old in history who didn't jerk off because he was saving himself."
"I just thought...." Sam began, biting his lip, "I thought that since...you do everything for me and give me everything...that you should have every part of me. You deserve it and I owe it to you."

Dean was stunned into silence. His brother hadn't touched himself, never came, because he wanted to give all of himself to Dean. It was misguided, and part of Dean was a little worried about the way Sam looked at himself, but it could've brought him to tears. Sam saved himself. His baby saved his very first pleasure like that...just for him.

Dean wrapped his arms Around Sam, laying down across the back seat and cuddling him close.
"You're so beautiful, baby," he said softly, stroking the hair out of Sam's face, "Do you know that?"
"No," Sam admitted, "But if you say I am, then I must be." Dean smiled, kissing his head.
"Yeah baby, you really are."

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He’d counted many things in his life- bullets, sparkplugs, books and miles and punches and baby teeth; but there was one counting endeavor that he had begun recently that was occupying him constantly. His eyes were constantly roaming the familiar cheekbones and the bridge of his brother’s nose, the peeks of his stomach as his shirt rucked up as he stretched, and the strong forearms and biceps that flex as he lifted the packs that held all of their worldly possessions; always counting.

He laid draped across Dean’s back, his cheek pressed against his older brother’s shoulder, his fingers ghosting over Dean’s spine and trailing between the freckles that dotted his skin. Dean had been tense for the past three days, and it only seemed to get worse and worse until John had left.
They’d just finished a hunt and John had gone ahead to the next town so that Dean could patch up Sam before catching up the next day. It had been a rough hunt, and Sam had been thrown through a wall and fucked up his leg while John was using him for bait- as usual; he had a nasty habit of letting Sam go in first and distract whatever it was when he was around. But God forbid Dean ever let Sam run out in front of him when they were paired off. He could never understand Dad’s reasoning, but it was fine with him. As long as Sammy was with him, he wouldn’t get killed or crippled- even if it seemed like there were times when Dad was doing his damndest to make that happen. It was nice though, having the actual order to rest and recoup.
And lying in bed with Sam was the best way to rest and recoup, in his opinion.

“What are you doing, baby?” Dean murmured, sighing happily as Sam’s fingers stroked his skin, finding its own pattern to draw.
“I’m trying to count,” Sam whispered back, shuffling a little as he felt Dean’s arm move to hook around his waist, stroking his hip.
“Count what?”
“Your freckles.”

Dean knew that Sam had an obsession with mapping out his body, the same obsession he had with Sam, but it made him laugh to think that something that caused him such turmoil, his stupid, ugly freckles, was the cause of such fascination in his little brother. He felt Sam’s lips pressed against the nape of his neck, the hot, moist heat of his mouth raising goosebumps on his skin.

“Right here,” he whispered, tracing his finger in the same pattern over Dean’s skin, “This one looks like the constellation Aquarius. And here…” Sam’s fingers skimmed down to Dean’s hip, over the wide smattering of freckles there, “That kinda looks like Taurus.”
Dean hummed softly, enjoying Sam’s soft and curious fingers.
“Oh yeah? I never noticed,” he commented, squeezing Sam’s waist gently. Sam’s fingers traced over the waistband of Dean’s briefs, just over the dip in his spine just above his ass, finding another cluster of freckles he’d decided looked like God knew what.
“And here is Cassiopeia,” he said, “Right here.”

He lifted his hand away, moving off of Dean’s back and lying next to him, their noses brushing. Dean could smell the minty sweet of his toothpaste mingled with the strong smell of the whiskey Dad had left to clean the wound on Sam’s leg with, polished off by both of them for recreation.

“You have the night sky on your body, Dean,” Sam whispered, “It’s so beautiful.”
“It’s not beautiful, Sam,” Dean replied, “They’re ugly.”
“My moles are ugly. Your freckles are beautiful.”
“No, your moles are the cutest damn things I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“And your freckles are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life,” Sam replied. Dean leaned forward, kissing Sam softly, his fingers sliding up to tangle in his hair Sam pressing against him like a magnet. He pulled back a little, laughing as his fingers curling in Sam’s hair.

“Getting a little shaggy,” he teased, nipping Sam’s lip.
“You like it.”
“Hell yeah I do,” he replied, pulling on it gently, “I like having plenty to grab onto.” Sam let out a soft moan, his hips pressing against Dean’s firmly, the gauze of the bandage around his leg brushing against Dean’s bare thigh. Dean’s nails scraped against Sam’s scalp as he pulled again, pulling Sam’s head back and nipping at his neck as Sam’s hands scrabbled against his chest. Dean rolled over on top of Sam, kissing a trail down Sam’s neck and chest, his teeth grazing over Sam’s nipple.

“Seventy three!” Sam gasped, his nails digging into Dean’s shoulders as Dean’s mouth moved lower across his stomach. Dean lifted his head, smiling.
“What’s that?” He asked, his fingers tracing over the raised line of Sam’s cock through his underwear. Sam gasped again, his hips lifting to get more friction.
“Seventy three,” he repeated, “Seventy three on your back.” Dean grinned, hooking his fingers in the waistband of Sam’s briefs.
“How many on my chest?” he asked, running his tongue over Sam’s hip.
“Dean,” he moaned, “Please…”
“Answer,” he commanded. Sam writhed on the sheets.
“One hundred and thirty six,” Sam whined, “One hundred and thirty six, please Dean!”

Dean moved backup to kiss Sam hard, his hand wrapping around his cock and jacking it slowly.
“Talk to me baby,” he whispered against Sam’s mouth, “Tell me what you want.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Sam moaned, holding Dean’s face between his hands. Dean moved his hand faster, biting Sam’s lip as he started breathing harder.
“Don’t think baby,” he whispered, “Just talk.”
“I…I want…” he was searching his mind for anything, but Dean didn’t want him to think. Dean just wanted him to talk.
“I want it to just be us, all the time,” he gasped as Dean’s hand moved, “I want you to be able to touch me, I want to be able to do this every day, whenever we want, I want you to kiss me, I want you, all I want is you..”
“You’ve got me Baby,” he whispered as Sam started to buck and moan, not even having to move his hand as Sam fucked his fist, “Every bit of me.”
Sam let out a strangled cry, his whole body tightening as he came, clinging to Dean. He barely caught his breath as Dean cleaned off Sam and his hand, looking up at Dean with a dazed expression.

“Your turn,” he said, reaching for Dean’s waist, only to be stopped.
“Don’t,” Dean commanded sharply, “Don’t touch me there. Not tonight. Just…let me hold you.” Sam nodded slowly, biting his lip as he curled against Dean’s chest, watching his face closely. Dean looked down at him, a soft smile crossing his face.

“Why do you look at me like that?” he asked quietly. Sam cocked his head, frowning.
“Like what?”
“Like…like every time you look at me, you find something new. Even though you’ve been looking at me for the past 16 years.”

The smile that lit Sam’s face was a smile that Dean hadn’t seen since Sammy was 6 years old.
“What?” Dean demanded. Sam laughed, reaching out and stroking Dean’s face.
“Why don’t you see it?” Sam asked, softly, the pads of his thumbs swiping over his cheeks, “You’re so beautiful and perfect, you’re everything to me, don’t you know that?”
“Sam-“
“No, you listen to me,” Sam said firmly, “You always tell me how beautiful you think I am, and how smart I am and how I’m not a freak…let me tell you now, okay? You don’t get it, I don’t think…you’ll ever get it. You’re everything to me, Dean. I mean everything. I can’t remember a single day in my life that you weren’t with me from the minute I opened my eyes till the minute I closed them-“
“When I was lost-“
“I don’t think about that,” Sam whispered, “In fact, I’m doing everything I can to forget that. The thing is…nothing is constant, Dean. Nothing but the numbers…and you. And when I look at you, I see everything that I’ve ever loved and everything I will ever love. Your eyes, your lips…” he reached down, tangling his fingers in Dean’s, “Your hands. They love me, take care of me, hold me when I’m scared and patch me up when I’m hurt. And when I look at your face, every time, it’s like…there’s a light that comes off of you, and it makes all the bad things disappear.”

Dean kissed Sam, his free hand stroking Sam’s hair.
“Really?” he asked, his voice slightly stifled.
“Really, Dean.”

They cuddled closer, Sam’s fingers tracing over Dean’s brow, cheek, lips as his eyes started to flutter close.
“One hundred and ninety one,” Sam whispered.
“What?”
“One hundred and ninety one on your face, Dean,” Sam whispered.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And he was on the edge of his seat, counting quietly as their father ran through his list of commands before leaving, the usual commands of “Do the research and call me as soon as you have something” and “This should only take you two three days, so I expect you to be where I am in four.” But, recently, a new command slid in at the end, just as John’s hand was on the doorknob.

“I can track you. Wherever you go, whatever you do. Don’t think I won’t find out.”

Dean watched as Sam’s face paled every time he said that, the way his body started rocking and the numbers started to fill the space between the command and Dean’s whispered, “Yes sir.”
He knew that it was terrifying, the idea that no matter what they did, no matter where they might try to run, their father was sure to follow and find them. And God only knew what he would do if he found them.
Dean had thought about that quite a bit, as he was now, what it would be like to just stuff Sammy in the Impala and drive in the opposite direction of their father until he hit the coast, whatever coast it was. He imagined finding a little house on the beach, somewhere warm for Sammy.

(Sam hated winter with a passion, they’d spent too many years shivering through hunts in the north in the dead of December with threadbare clothes and light jackets, lest they be slowed down, and no gloves, which could make the grip on their guns less firm. Sam was always a thin child and he never seemed to be able to stay warm, no matter what they did. It always struck Dean as odd- he always loved sleeping in the same bed as Sam in the winter because he was like a human heater, to the point that Dean would start to sweat even though he could see his breath when he poked his head out from under the covers- that Sam had so much heat to share, but it never seemed to benefit him.)

He thought about some tiny little cabin on the beach, where he could fill the walls with shelves for Sam (he’d picked up carpentry at Sonny’s, it was weird to think he might actually be good at something other than killing things) and Sam could fill the shelves with books about everything and anything he wanted. A perfect little house with a kitchen that Dean could really sink his teeth into and cook, with a real stove and oven and a fridge that didn’t reach only as high as his thigh. A kitchen that he could fill with all the fresh foods that Sam loved and he did too, and he could cook real food while Sam sat at a table and read his books, or sat on the counter watching him. A place with matching plates and cups and mugs and silverware, with a set of salt and pepper shakers made of glass and a napkin holder and a tablecloth where they could sit and eat and talk about anything without keeping their voices low or speaking in code.
He imagined this perfect little house with one bedroom and one bed, the sheets and the blankets and the pillows personally picked by them and only slept in by them, and a mattress that wouldn’t have strange stains or a funky smell that no amount of air freshener or cologne could mask. He imagined a bathtub that could comfortably accommodate two, where they could keep full sized shampoo bottles and a toilet that was only theirs (Dean had a thing about public toilets and toilets that he knew were used by other people. Sam had watched him carefully cover the seat of a gas station toilet with a mountain of thin toilet paper before he felt comfortable enough to sit.) with real toilet paper that came in a jumbo value pack. He imagined the feeling of never having to go further than the drive to the supermarket if he chose not to, and savored the idea of road trips becoming a vacation rather than being a living. A house where he could put his things in the dresser as he liked them and only take them out to wear them; a place where Sam could have his favorite books, covers and all, proudly laying on a bedside table with a bookmark carefully slid between the pages without fear of them being destroyed.
He imagined a place where he could sleep and not be afraid of phantom hands and shadowy lips touching his body; never sure if they were real.

There was a good chance that he would’ve never really entertained the possibility that escaping was a real, that there was a chance that they could survive without their father, if he hadn’t decided one day after Dean turned 18 to start saying it.

“Dean!”

Dean’s head shot up as John stood at the door, his jaw twitching. He could tell what that twitch meant- it meant he’d better say what John wanted to hear, or things could get ugly before he left. Sam’s leg was bouncing up and down as he twisted his fingers nervously, his eyes darting from Dean to John. Dean could see the tenseness in his brother’s body, the fight or flight reflex already kicking in. He was ready to run at any moment as he frantically whispered,
“Onetwothreefourfive…”

“Yes sir,” Dean replied through gritted teeth, his knuckles white as he clenched his hands into fists. John’s eyes flicked down at Dean’s hands and back to his face, an eyebrow rising.
“Is there a problem?”
“No sir.”
“You look like you’re a little tense, boy,” John replied conversationally, setting down his bag and sitting down on one of the beds, “You can talk to me.” Dean shifted uncomfortably, looking at Sam and blinking twice. It was their silent way of communicating when things were about to get dicey- three for steady, two for get ready, and one for bolt. Sam rubbed his nose quickly, his signal for okay. Dean looked back at John, shrugging.
“I just don’t think the lecture is necessary anymore, sir,” Dean replied, looking his father dead in the eye, “I am 20 now.”
“You’re still 19, and you’re still a boy.”
“No, I’m 20. My birthday was three days ago.”

John paused, looking down at his hands as he appeared to ponder the date. He nodded to himself, shrugging half-heartedly.
“Sorry boy. Guess the hunt distracted me. Happy birthday.”
“Better late than never.”
The room seemed to go deathly quiet at Dean’s response, John’s expression giving away that he hadn’t taken too kindly to Dean’s comment. John rose to his feet and Sam flinched so hard, he almost fell to the floor. Dean, however, rose easily, his movements mirroring John’s exactly, in a way that somewhat scared Sam.

“Bit jumpy, boy,” John commented to Sam, still staring at Dean. Sam shrugged.
“Sorry sir,” he whispered.
He bit his lip as Dean and John stared at each other, the tension thick in the air until Dean looked down. Sam let out a soft sigh of relief as John smirked, turning to the door once again and picking up his bag.
“You,” he said, pointing at Sam, “Research for this hunt I’m going on. I want an update by noon tomorrow, and it had better be a good one. You,” he said, turning to Dean, “Scope out the situation at the house. The address is written down on the pad on the table. You got it?”
“Yes, sir,” the responded in unison, Dean’s voiced laced with anger as Sam’s shook as hard as his hands were. John nodded, slamming the door with finality as they both let out a loud sigh of relief. Dean turned to Sam, smiling a little.
“Well, that went great, right?” Dean said, rolling his shoulders. Sam nodded, standing and walking over to the window, peeking through the blinds.
“Eighteen days,” Sam muttered, looking over his shoulder at Dean, “You need to be careful.” Dean walked over to Sam, wrapping his arms around Sam’s waist and kissing his neck.
“What?” he asked. Sam pulled away, rubbing his arms.
“It’s been eighteen days since…since the last bad one,” Sam said, looking at the pad on the table, “We need to be careful.” Dean nodded, laying down on the bed.
“Funny, you lecturing me about being careful,” he said, watching Sam as he sat down on their father’s now-abandoned bed, “Seeing as the last time, you were the one who set him off.”
“It wasn’t on purpose,” Sam whispered, “It was an accident.”
“Yeah, an accident that got both our asses tore up,” Dean snorted. Sam looked at Dean with wide eyes, biting his lip.
“Is that why you haven’t been touching me? Why you started sleeping on the couch?” he asked quietly, “Because you’re mad at me?”
Dean glanced at Sam’s face, looking away quickly. He felt horribly guilty- part of it was that he was mad, hell yeah. Both of them could barely limp their way through training the morning after that, and Dean was fucking pissed. It was the fucking counting again- John was pissed and raving as usual, but Sam couldn’t take how loud he was being. And so, the counting started, and of course, that just pissed Dad off more. He’d grabbed the sides of Sam’s face, yelling and shaking him hard and of course, Dean wasn’t just gonna stand there and watch it. If it wasn’t for Sam’s fucking counting, it wouldn’t have happened.
But he knew it wasn’t fair to blame Sam.
Half of it was fear. Fear that if he was in the same bed with Sam, that John would start turning on Sam. Because Dean had perfected the art of pretending to be asleep, and not giving his father the satisfaction of opening his eyes anymore, of pleading. Shame, that he was letting John touch him when he was in the same bed as Sam, that he was lying to his baby brother, that he was making Sam think that he’d dreamt it. He didn’t want to, but he couldn’t tell Sam, he couldn’t.

“I’m sorry, Sammy,” he muttered, “I’m not mad. Not anymore.” Sam had a pained look on his face as he chewed his lip, his hands twisting. Dean sighed, opening his arms wide.
“Come here, baby,” he said gently. Sam was in his arms in a moment, cuddled tightly against his chest and squeezing him.
“It was an accident,” he whispered into Dean’s neck, “I didn’t mean it.”
“I know you didn’t, baby,” he said soothingly, kissing Sam’s forehead, “Let’s forget it, okay?” Sam nodded, his fingers playing with the amulet.
“I have a surprise for you,” Sam said, looking up at him, “But…ah, we’re gonna have to take a little drive for it.” Dean looked down at Sam, a smile lighting his face. Sam had, of course, wished him a happy birthday and had even made a point of getting him his favorite birthday meal. But Sam always had a habit of making a big deal out of Dean’s birthday, and this year had been rather quiet compared to past years.
“What is it?” Dean asked, feeling excited already. Sam laughed, scooting up to kiss him.
“Tomorrow you’ll find out,” Sam replied, “But you’re gonna love it.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And while they were sitting in the car, on their way to Dean’s birthday surprise, he couldn’t help but count down the miles until they were there.

“Only ten more miles,” Sam said excitedly, “You’re gonna love it.”
“Come on, give me one little hint?” Dean begged. Sam grinned, shaking his head.
“Nope,” he replied, “You’re just gonna have to wait for it. Patience is a virtue.” Dean grinned, reaching over and sliding his hand up Sam’s thigh.
“Yeah, but you know I ain’t very virtuous, baby,” he teased, jerking his hand away as Sam smacked the back of his hand hard. Sam laughed, shaking his head.
“Focus on the road,” he said, leaning over and grazing his lips over Dean’s ear, “Or I’m gonna make it very hard for you to focus…and then you’ll have to wait even longer.”
“I think I could stand to wait,” Dean said, licking his lips. Sam laughed softly, pulling away.
“Oh no, I’ve been waiting a lot longer than you for this,” he said, “We’re gonna do this first.”

Sam was on the edge of his seat with excitement. It had taken him years to really get together the money for this gift; every time he thought he was close to having enough he would have to dip into his savings to get them out of a jam, or to ease Dean’s worrying about money. Dean was always worried about money, but since he was gone for those horrible 2 months, he seemed more concerned than ever about it. Sam figured it must’ve had something to do with the way he looked when Dad had found Dean- he had to admit, he did look like a walking corpse at that point. He really had barely eaten enough to survive and get Bobby off his back; and Dean wanted to make sure the money never ran out so that he’d never look like that again.
Well, that’s what he figured.
It wasn’t as if he’d purchased the gift in full- it had come as a whim one day when they were working a cursed object case. They were at an auction and when he’d seen it on the billing, he knew he had to have it. He’d made up some phony excuse about being hungry (which, to be fair, wasn’t exactly a masterful lie- Sam indeed was always hungry, and Dean was always prepared to go as far as he needed to in order to feed him, especially considering his habit of not eating when he was stressed or upset) so that he could bid with the meager savings in his boot. He didn’t dare use the credit card stashed in his wallet- he didn’t know if their father would check on it, and he’d never put anything past John. He got it at a steal, as Bobby was quick to tell him over the phone, and it was worth every cent.

They slowly rolled into the small town of Jamestown, taking in the quaintness of the place. Dean passed a large sign with a doe on it, a grin on his face.
“Hey baby, look!” he said, pointing at the sign, “A Deer Park! Too bad it’s winter. Maybe we’ll come back this summer, check out the deer?” Sam laughed, shaking his head. They drove through the main street through town, parking against the curb at Sam’s behest.
“This is it!” He yelled, his voice cracking girlishly high. Dean laughed, leaning over and kissing his cheek.
“Calm down,” he said, opening the door, “Now let’s see this amazing gift of mine."

Sam walked in the shop ahead of Dean, bounding over to the counter with an enthusiasm that Dean didn’t think he had in him anymore. He looked like a giant puppy, shuffling excitedly as the man behind the counter turned to him.

“How can I help you, son?” The man asked, smiling, “Looking for something in particular, or you just wanna browse for a bit?”
“No, I, ah, placed a special order,” Sam said, beckoning the man closer. The man leaned over the counter, the jolly smile on his face spreading as he nodded.
“Oh, yeah! I know exactly the order you’re lookin’ for. You don’t look like the older man I spoke to on the phone,” he said, “You his son?”
“Yeah,” Sam replied, nodding rapidly, “We both were trying to get around him,” he said, pointing to Dean, “My big brother. It’s his birthday and it’s a big surprise.”
The man nodded to Dean before turning back to Sam.
“Well son, your brother is gonna be damn please with this. I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done- had half a mind to tell you I lost it,” the man joked, “Name’s Addison, Jeremy Addison. And if you ever have any more work you want done, you just give me a call. Hold on a minute, I’ll get my son to bring it out. He’s in the shop, givin’ it one more spit shine before we were gonna put it away.”

Jeremy leaned over the phone on the counter, picking up the phone and waiting for a moment.
“Bring her on out, Brady,” Jeremy said, “They’re here.” He paused a moment, chuckling, “Come on boy, you know exactly the one I’m talkin’ bout. Yeah, that one! The guys are here for it- I’m sure it looks fine. Well if you’re so worried about, wipe it down one more time while you’re bringing it out. I know, I already took a picture of it. I know you want one, I want one too- I ain’t got time for this, move it or lose it boy!”

He set the phone down in the cradle once more, turning to them and smiling.
“As you can tell, this has been a pet project. We’re mighty fond of that piece, so be sure to take good care of her. “

Dean looked like he was just as excited as Sam was now, the both of them pressed against the counter as the small shop buzzed with the tension. Finally, a young boy about the Sam age as Sam came in, a case clutched tightly in his hands. He looked from Jeremy to Sam and Dean, looking pretty unwilling to hand over the case.
“This them?” he asked.
Jeremy nodded, taking the case and setting it gently on the counter. He looked at Sam and Dean thoughtfully, rubbing his chin.
“You know, I got some stuff to do out back with my boy here- you two can look at her, and maybe just give a holler if anyone comes on in. You mind?” he asked.

He could tell that the younger kid wasn’t exaggerating- this was a pretty damn big gift, and by the looks of the two of them, this would probably be the most expensive thing either of them would ever own. He took Brady by the arm and led him out as Sam stared at Dean.

“Open it,” he whispered, “Open it up.”

Dean took a deep breath, clicking open the plastic case with his eyes closed. When he opened them, he let out a loud gasp, his face twisted in shock.

In the case laid the most beautiful gun he’d ever seen. It was a nickel-plated Colt 1911 A1 .45 caliber semi-automatic, with 7-round magazine capacity. The perfect tired old warhorse of a gun; restored to brilliance. Gorgeous filigree that looked rather familiar decorated the barrel, delicate and yet masculine; reminiscent of the guns that Dean loved on the covers of his old-west novellas. He ran his hand over the ivory grips, polished to a beautiful sheen, looking up at Sam who was looking at him hopefully.

“See, ah, the filigree, it’s like the one on Dad’s lighter from Vietnam, the one he gave you. Take it out and look,” he said excitedly. Dean nodded, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the old, beat up lighter. It was worn and faded from all of its use, but the filigree still remained over the empty spaces, around the script that always felt like it fit their father a little too well:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I fear no evil for I am the evilest son of a bitch in the valley...

He glanced at the gun and realized Sam was right; the filigree was nearly the same but not quite. He smiled at his little brother, pocketing the lighter before picking up the gun and feeling its weight in his hands.

“The, ah, ivory was a hard sell,” he explained, “Bobby had some from a, ah, personal project he was planning on, but I bought it off of him and Jeremy, he was nice enough to use it. It ain’t exactly legal, but, ah, I thought it would make the gun kinda look like Wyatt Earp’s; like in my history book, the one you liked so much.”
“It’s beautiful, Sammy,” he whispered, “It’s fucking perfect…how did you even afford this?” Sam blushed.
“You’re not the only one who knows how to make money,” he said jokingly, “It took a long while, but I managed it.” Dean looked over at Sam, a look of concern flitting across his features.
“No seriously,” he said, “How much.”
“About 1,500 bucks,” he said quietly, “But I wanted this to be special, you know? I wanted you to have something to make up for all the letters.”

Dean’s face blanched, setting the gun back down in the case quickly.
“Letters? What letters?” he asked quickly. Sam looked down at the tips of his shoes, biting his lip.
“I might’ve…gone through your box when you were out the one night,” he said quietly, “I didn’t mean to find them- they were just there.”
“How many?” Dean asked, biting his lip, “How many did you find?”
“All of them,” Sam whispered, “You never told me-“
“You shouldn’t go through my stuff.”
“I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong-“
“-But you did, and you looked through my private things, Sam!”
“It was a mistake-“
“And now, you’re trying to make up for something that had nothing to do with you with a gaudy, expensive gun?”

“No!” Sam exploded, slamming the case shut and cradling it against his chest, “I got the gun because it’s your birthday and you never get anything special for your birthday and I wanted to make it special! And yeah maybe it was partially about the letters but I found the letters a few days ago- the gun was already finished by then!”
He pushed past Dean, stomping out of the shop and letting the door slam behind him. Dean watched as his brother climbed into the car, the gun pressed against his chest as he scrubbed his eyes with his carhart jacket.

“Not what I expected to hear,” Jeremy said quietly, having returned to his place at the counter, “You didn’t like the gun?” Dean sighed, running his fingers through his hair.
“No- I mean, of course I liked the gun. It was perfect and beautiful and just…everything I’d ever want. He put so much thought into it. But he didn’t need to waste all that money.”
“Seems to me this ain’t about the gun,” Jeremy said, stroking his chin, “Seems like this is about a whole different sorta thing. Pardon me for sayin this, but you boys don’t come from money.”
“No, we don’t,” Dean replied bitterly. Jeremy leaned over the counter, looking at the Impala parked out front.
“Nice car,” he remarked before continuing, “But it sounds to me like your little brother out there busted his narrow ass in order to get you this gun. Meant a lot to him.”
Dean looked at him, confused.
“But the gun was for me,” he said.

Jeremy let out a low chuckle, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a pack of cigarettes. He pulled on out, sticking it between his teeth and holding out the pack to offer Dean one. He took it and the both lit up, quiet for a moment.

“Gifts ain’t all about the person they’re for,” he said simply, “Especially not a gift like that. You gettin’ all pissy over the cost of the gun is makin’ him feel like you don’t care. All that work he must’ve done for that gun? Shit, I’d be pretty mad too, if my brother was gonna yell at me about money when I earned it to get him a nice gift.”
Dean mulled over Jeremy’s words for a moment, sucking down the cigarette quickly.
“I guess I didn’t think of it like that.”
“You kids don’t, usually,” Jeremy said with a laugh, “And you know- that’s what little brothers do.”
“What?”
“Go through your shit when you ain’t lookin’,” he replied, stubbing his cigarette out in the crystal dish on the counter, “They don’t do it to be little shits. Usually the do it ‘cause they think you’re hidin’ somethin’. And it sounds like he was right.”
He stood up, stretching a bit before jerking his head towards the door.
“You ever need another gun, you look me up,” he said with a smile, “But you got a little brother and a damn expensive gun sittin’ out there, waitin’ for you. Better go make it right, before the kid keeps it for himself.”
Dean laughed, stubbing out his own cigarette in the dish and shaking Jeremy’s hand.
“Thanks for the gun,” he said appreciatively, and the advice.”
“Hell, don’t thank me for the gun, I got a pretty penny outta it. But you’re damn welcome for the advice.”

Jeremy turned and went through the small doorway to the back room as Dean walked out the door, sliding into the driver’s seat of the Impala.

He looked over at Sam and winced, his brother had been crying and he could hear the counting spilling from his lips. He sighed, reaching out and stroking Sam’s face.
“Baby,” he said gently, “I love the gun. I’m sorry for yelling at you.” Sam sniffled, his grip on the case loosening as he looked over at Dean.
“I just wanted to make your birthday special,” he whispered, “I didn’t mean to spend all that money just to make you mad.” Dean shook his head, pulling his brother into a tight embrace.
“You didn’t make me mad, baby,” he said softly, his fingers running through Sam’s hair, “I just get worried about that sort of stuff. And…I am kinda mad that you went through my stuff, but I get it. And I should’ve told you that I’d applied for college.”
Sam pulled away, looking at him as if he’d been struck by lightning.
“Dean,” Sam said seriously, “You didn’t just…apply for college. You got into MIT. Don’t you know how amazing that is?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Dean said, starting the Impala, “MIT wouldn’t have had you there, and I couldn’t take you with me. So that’s all there is to it. It’s the past.”

Sam bit his lip as Dean pulled away from the sidewalk, twisting his hands. It wasn’t the past, not really, not if Dean had saved the piles of acceptance letters he’d received. But he decided that he wouldn’t push it.
He leaned over, kissing Dean softly on the cheek.
“I love you, Dee.”
Dean smiled, glancing over at Sam.
“I love you more than you could ever know, Baby.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam was keenly aware of numbers in everything. He knew that Dean had applied to six colleges and he was accepted to six colleges and that he had applied to them all exactly six hundred days ago and there were too many sixes for his comfort.
Sam knew that Dean could’ve gone to college; that he really thought about it too- there were financial aid papers under the letters, dozens of copies, all filled out until Dean got to the social security number. Then, inevitably, he messed up and had to start with a new one.

They’d had a thousand different identities, and they’d memorized the social security numbers for each; drilled for hours by John when they were old enough to start being asked for it; over and over and over again. Sam remembered every number and name.

Joe Pickford, 392-69-0471
Andrew Johnson, 180-41-6672
Keith Lyons, 856-32-8891
Donald Franklin, 643-27-4587

He was terrified of forgetting his name the way Dean did sometimes. After being pushed so hard to remember his fake identity, there were times that Dean would introduce himself by the wrong name; times when he’d look at old identification cards and his real identification card with a terrified expression. Like he didn’t know who he was anymore.

Sam always sat in bed after being quizzed, his knees pulled to his chest with his hands over his face, rocking. “My name is Sam Winchester. My name is Sam Winchester. My real name is Sam Winchester.”

Every morning, he’d stand in front of the sink in the bathroom, staring at his reflection as he whispered his name over and over again.
“Sam Winchester, Sam Winchester, Sam Winchester, SamWinchesterSamwinchestersamwinchestersamwinchestersamwinchester…”

And inevitably, when he’d come out, Dean would look at him with a worried expression, biting his lip as Sam blushed and mumbled, “I don’t want to forget.”

Sam imagined the frustration and pain Dean must’ve felt, filling out those forms, even just the college applications.


Dean sat staring at the form in front of him, the fifth one since he’d started- that evening.

Last name: Andrews-no, Peterson, No, fuck, Winchester. I am a Winchester.
First name: Boy. Soldier. Worthless piece of shit, can’t you do your fucking job you lazy little bitch- fuck, no, my name is Dean.
My name is Dean.
Middle Initial: I don’t remember, I know I have one but I can’t fucking remember, fuck, fuck!
It started with an H, I think.
I don’t remember.
Fuck.
Address (street and number): I don’t have one. I never had one, not since it burnt to the ground with my mom inside it, fuck, what do I write, fuck me, fuck! Whose address did I use originally? Did I use Bobby’s?
No, I used Pastor Jim’s.
No, I used Bobby’s.
I don’t fucking know, fuck.
City: Fuck
State: FUCK
Zip Code: FUCKING FUCK
Social Security Number: Fuck, I don’t remember my actual number, fuck fuck fuck.
Where the fuck did I put that piece of paper, fuck!
Date of Birth: Oh thank god, I know this one.
05-02-1984.
Fuck! That’s Sam.
Shit.
01-24-1979.
Permanent Phone Number: Jesus Fucking Christ.
Driver’s License Number: Fuck it, it’s optional.
Are You A U.S. Citizen: In a manner of speaking, sure.
Marital Status: You're all I have left of her, Dean, I need you, what about my needs....
Married.

Single.
Married.
Single.
No, definitely single.
Jesus fucking Christ, I’m fucked up.
Legal State of Residence: Fuck
Did you become a legal resident of this state before January 1st of this year: No, what does that even mean???
Are you Male or Female: Stop crying like a girl, man up, stop acting like a little bitch, quit whining- Male.
Male.
Male.
In order to receive financial aid, you must register with the Selective Service. If you have not already registered, we will register you: No no no fuck that, fuck that so hard.
Have you ever been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs while you were receiving federal student aid: No, but I can see this being a yes in the near future.
Highest School your father completed: I didn’t finish high school and I’m just fine. I had to fight a war, just like you do, you understand me, boy? You don’t have time to fuck around in school.
Drop out, so I guess jr. High.
Highest School your mother completed: I don’t know.
I don’t even know if she graduated High school.
She probably did.
I don’t know.
Fuck it, unknown.
Fuck this.
Fuck it.
I didn’t really want to go to college anyways.

He picked up the paper, crumpling it in fury. He tore open the motel door, sitting heavily on the curb outside. He flipped open the lighter, setting the crumpled page on fire and flipping it out into the parking lot.
“I don’t really wanna go anyways,” he muttered, “Bunch of douche bags there, I bet.”


“Dean?”

Dean shook his head, pulling himself out of the memory and looking over at Sam with a tired smile.
“Yeah?” he said, “What’s up?”
Sam set down his fork, looking at Dean with a concerned expression.
“Bunch of douche bags where?” he asked gently.
Dean shrugged, swiping a fry through the ketchup spattered on his plate and biting it.
“Ah, nowhere,” he replied nonchalantly, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“I saw the look on your face Dean,” Sam said seriously, biting his lip, “It’s not nothing.”
“Go back to grazing, twiggy,” he snapped, “It’s not your problem.”

Sam quietly went back to eating, finally getting it, or so he thought. Dean wasn’t angry about him making Dad mad; well, he wasn’t about just that. Dean was mad because he’d given up a chance to get out…and how did Sam show his appreciation? Causing fights. Getting them both in trouble.
Sam pushed his plate away, staring down at his hands in his lap, counting quietly.
It was just a matter of time before Dean got sick of taking care of him and taking Dad’s shit. And then he’d leave.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

Dean sighed loudly, wiping his mouth and throwing his napkin down on the table, looking irritable.
“What?’ he demanded, “For God’s sakes, we were having a nice time- what could’ve possibly upset you now? Let’s hear it so I don’t have to deal with you pouting all day.”

Sam twisted his napkin, his brow furrowed as he huffed, blowing his bangs out of his face.
“Why are you talking to me like that?” he demanded.
“Like what?” Dean snapped back.
“Like the way Dad talks to me,” Sam said, looking down, “Like I’m doing it on purpose.”
“Are you?”

Sam looked up at Dean, his eyes narrowed and his jaw twitching.
“You think I like being this way?” Sam demanded, “You think I like making Dad mad and upsetting you? What, you think I get my kicks by being myself and having it infuriate everyone around me?”
“Sam-“
“It’s not a choice, Dean. I have to, I have to or I feel like I’m suffocating, I feel like I did when we were in the hole. Don’t you get it? I’d give anything to not be such a freak! I don’t wanna be a burden, but I don’t know how to stop!”
“You’re not a freak, or a burden!” Dean snapped, “I’m just tired, okay?”
“That doesn’t mean you’re not right,” Sam said quietly, sinking down in his seat, “Like Uncle Bobby says, you see what people are really like when they’re drunk or tired.”
“Bobby’s a drunk,” Dean replied, glaring at his plate.
“So is Dad,” Sam mumbled.
“I don’t wanna talk about this right now, Sam,” Dean said, rubbing his face, “I just wanna finish eating, go back to the motel, take a hot shower and get some sleep. Can we save the deep discussion until after that?”
“Why? It’s not like you’re gonna wanna talk about it then, either,” Sam said, playing with the zipper on his jacket, “You’ll just tell me you don’t wanna talk about it for some other reason, and that’ll be the end of it. I mean, doesn’t it bother you? He made you drop out of school, and he’s making you stay and hunt, and you don’t want to.”

Dean stood, throwing the money down on the table and grabbing his jacket.

“He’s not making me stay. You are.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And right then, the only thing keeping him from having a full blown meltdown was the counting, ragged and rushed as he hugged himself, rocking at the table where Dean had left him.
He could feel all the eyes on him; harsh, judgmental, irritated with the sixteen year old boy who was making a scene like a five year old, and no matter how aware he was of the eyes, he couldn’t stop. He wanted the ground to swallow him up.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt the waitress’s gentle hand on his shoulder, concern written on her face.
“Hey sugar, you okay?” she asked kindly. He looked at her, gulping for air like an idiot, trying to speak. Eventually he gave up, just nodding quickly.

I’m fine, don’t pay attention to me, you don’t have to stay because of me, whatever happens to me is my fault, I’m not your problem, I don't want to be the one holding you back, oh god, I'm so sorry…

“Okay,” he croaked, “Thanks.”

He grabbed his bag quickly, scurrying out the door to see Dean leaning against the Impala, a cigarette dangling between his fingers and a guilty expression on his face.

“Sam-“
“Let’s go back to the room,” Sam said quickly, getting into the Impala and pressing his pack to his chest. Dean got in, still looking at Sam guiltily.
“I didn’t mean it that way…” Dean began, only to be cut off by Sam giving him a bright smile; one of the fakest, cheesiest smiles Dean had ever seen, and it made his stomach twist painfully to see it.
“I know, it’s okay,” Sam replied, his voice shaking despite the desperately happy expression on his face, “Like you said, you’re tired, and I shouldn’t have been such a pain. So let’s just go back to the room and get some sleep.”

Dean knew that Sam was putting up an act, but he was too exhausted to argue. They’d talk about it in the morning- things would be fine.
That’s how things worked- Dean said something stupid, Sam pretended it was fine, they’d go to sleep in separate beds and when he woke up Sam would be curled against his side and he’d apologize and Sam would tell him he understands. Sam knew he never actually meant the things he said when he was tired; he lacked a filter between his mouth and his brain when he was tired and things came out all wrong. He never meant that Sam was making him stay in a negative way; he was staying for Sam- just until he could figure out a way to get them both out.
But he’d been angry, angry that Sam didn’t realize he was staying for him, that he was busting his balls to provide and care for his little brother because he’d seen the results of Sam without him- half starved, apparently suicidal, and terrified to be away from Dean for more than five minutes for the first few months after he came back.
If he’d gone to college, what would it have done to Sam?
And better yet- what would Dad have done to Sam? Without Dean there, he could imagine some of the things that John would do.
Things that he did to Dean.

Dean looked over at Sam who was staring out the window, his forehead pressed against the window as his body rocked slightly. He knew that what he said had hurt Sam in a big way, but things would be okay. Things were always okay, as long as they had each other.

He pulled into the old motel, reaching over and rubbing Sam’s knee gently.
“Come on, let’s go in and relax,” Dean said quietly. Sam didn’t respond and Dean sighed, pulling his hand away, “Come, Sam. Don’t make me drag you in.”
“I’m coming,” Sam said softly, “Gimme a sec.”
Dean nodded, opening the door and heading inside.

Sam had made a decision, and he needed a minute to steel his resolve. If he was making Dean stay, then there was no reason for Dean to stay if he left. So that was what he was gonna do. There was a good deal of woods throughout Flagstaff, and when they had been driving, he’d seen a tiny little road, so overgrown that it looked like a bike trail, that led directly into the woods. He would head out there, it wasn’t more than a 20 minute run from the motel by his figuring, and he’d camp out in the woods. He’d grab some supplies with the money he had left over from Dean’s gun, and just stay out of town for a month or so. By then, Dean should be gone, and Dad would be on the next hunt. And then Dean could be free, and he could search him out and they could finally be happy. Together.

He got out of the car and walked into the motel room, listening to the rush of water as Dean showered, laying back against the bed, his eyes closed.
“That you, Sammy?” Dean yelled from the bathroom. Sam nodded until he realized that Dean couldn’t see him.
“Yeah,” he yelled, rolling on his side and watching the steam escaping from under the door. He was aware that this would be the last time he would do this; steam rolling out from under the door that held his brother, the only person he’d ever loved that way, the only one he liked touching him and kissing him. This was the last time he’d sleep in a motel bed with Dean next to him.

Dean strolled out of the bathroom with the too small towel clutched in one hand, a joint in the other. He pinched the joint between his lips as he ran his fingers through his hair, shaking the water away in a spray, like a dog. Sam quietly watched him, memorizing his big brother. His hero.

“Baby, grab my duffel for me, would ya,” he muttered, taking a deep hit off the joint and flicking the ashes into the ashtray. Sam nodded, bringing it over and setting it on the bed, unzipping the bag carefully. Dean set down the joint, walking over as kissing Sam’s ear.
“Thanks. You want a shower?” he asked, letting the towel fall to the floor as he rummaged through the bag, looking for something comfortable to wear to bed.
“I’m good,” Sam whispered, his hands running over Dean’s back gently. Dean let out a soft moan, his back arching into Sam’s hands.
“You’re not mad at me?” Dean asked softly as Sam’s fingers traced over the constellations on his skin; Aquarius and Taurus and Cassiopeia, his fingers knowing the trails by heart.
“No,” Sam replied, kissing Dean’s shoulder, “You were right.”
“What?” Dean asked, turning to face him, “What do you mean?”
“I just mean that….you’re right. I know that I’m the one keeping you here,” Sam said, shrugging as Dean dressed himself, suddenly uncomfortable with his nakedness in the light of the new conversation topic.
“I’m here because I can’t just leave you,” Dean replied, pulling his shirt on, “I’m staying because I love you.”
“I know,” Sam said, lying on the bed, fully dressed, “I’m not mad. I can’t stay mad at you.” Dean smiled, picking up the joint again and taking a drag of it.
“So, everything’s good?” Dean asked, reclining on the bed next to him, his eyes starting to feel heavy.
“Yeah Dean, everything’s good,” Sam said soothingly, his fingers running lightly over Dean’s face. Sam took the joint from him, stubbing it out in the ashtray as he ran his fingers through Dean’s hair and stroked his face.

“Tell me…tell me the numbers,” Dean murmured sleepily, “Tell me the numbers on my body.” Sam smiled sadly, fighting the tears that were bubbling up.
“Seventy three freckles on your back,” he whispered, “One hundred and thirty six on your chest. One hundred and ninety one on your face. Thirty nine lines on your left palm. Thirty eight lines on your right palm. Fourteen scars. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Two arms. Two legs. Two eyes. One heart.”
“Not one,” Dean mumbled on the edge of sleep, “Two. You and me.”

Sam let the tears come as Dean’s breathing slowed to a calm, even rise and fall, pressing his lips to his big brother’s forehead.
“I love you.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Dean heard Sam, the quiet one, two, three, four, five filling his dream as he ran from a dark shadow, a dark shadow that reached with huge palms and long, spindly fingers, curled into claws.
One, two, three, four, five.
He was suddenly freefalling and landed on a bed, a bed too small in a house that wasn’t his anymore.
One, two, three, four, five.
He looked up to see Sammy pinned to the ceiling, like Jesus on the crucifix in Pastor Jim’s church, his eyes filled with terror.
One, two, three, four, five.
Sam's lips parted to speak, as Dean willed his body to move, to reach up, to no avail.
“It’s all my fault.”
One, two, three, four, five.
And then, the ceiling burst into flames.

“No!”

Dean sat bolt upright, his body covered in a thin sheen of cold sweat and his heart pounding in his chest. He breathed a sigh of relief- he was in a shitty motel in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Sam was asleep next to him. He reached out to run his hand over Sam’s side, only to hit cold bedspread.
“Sam?” he called out, “Sam, you in the bathroom?”
No answer.
Dean threw the blankets off of him, walking slowly to the bathroom with his eyes closed. He knew he was standing in front of the doorway, but his eyes were still squeezed shut.

Please let the door be closed, please let there be a light on under the door.

He opened them up to see his reflection in the dark mirror, the bathroom empty.
“Sam!”


Sam perused the shelves, his basket already starting to get heavy. This was gonna be a bitch to run with, but he needed to get enough to last a month on rations. What he wouldn’t give to know where an Army Surplus Store was right about then- as much as he fucking despised MRE’s, they would make all of this a shit ton easier. Wait- there was a military surplus store in Flagstaff, Dad said that he’d stop and pick up some things after he was finished with his hunt. Thank fucking god- that’d make the load a lot lighter.
He grabbed a few bags of funions and as many water bottles as he figured he’d be able to carry in his pack. He could stuff about 2 cases of MREs into the space left in his duffel. He’d left anything that wasn’t important; most of his weapons that he didn’t regularly use and his notebooks, which took up a considerable amount of space.

Sam had his arms loaded with the food and water, ignoring the looks from the dude behind the counter, snapping his gum obnoxiously loud.
“Really loadin up, huh?” he asked as he scanned each item. Sam shrugged, opening his pack and loading the water into it as the kid continued to chew loudly.
“Ya a drifter?” he asked as he continued scanning. Sam didn’t reply, instead loading his pack up.
“Yeah, well, if ya are, there’s a lil shack out in tha boonies, ya know? Ah, just offa South 4th street. Kids used ta hang out there, and it has a water pump that still works, I think. Ya could probably crash there for a bit, ain’t no one goes poking round out there anymore. Only ones out that way are tha hillbilly families, but I ain’t heard of them buggin’ anyone who crashes out there.”
“Yeah?” Sam asked, nodding, “Thanks for the tip.”
He handed the cashier the money, hefting his bag up on his back and heading out the door in the direction of the surplus store. It had been an early night for Dean, it was only four thirty or so, and Sam figured if he moved fast enough, he could get what he needed without having to risk a second trip into town.
He’d gotten everything he needed from the surplus store, no questions asked, and he was getting ready for the 10 mile trek to South 4th street, where he figured the shack was. What he wouldn’t give for a car, or a bike…

He saw a few kids with their bikes coming up to the convenience store, an idea popping into his head. He jogged back to the shop, intercepting the kids.
“Hey, can I buy one of your bike?” he asked. The oldest of the kids eyed him up and down, squinting.
“How much?” he asked, tapping his palm on his bike, “For the right price, you can have mine.”
“Ah…” Sam rubbed the back of his neck, looking at the thing. It was clearly a few years old, but it’d work, “How much you want for it?”
“70 bucks,” the kid said, “Take it or leave it.”
“Done,” he replied, reaching in his pockets for his wallet. He’d left it in his back, so he set it down and opened it up, bending over and rummaging through it for it. He finally found it, standing up and turning to the now wide-eyed kids.
“Dude, why you got a piece?” the oldest asked. Sam blushed- he’d forgotten about his gun, tucked in the back of his jeans.
“Keeps me safe,” he said, shrugging, “You want the money or not?”
“Yeah dude, whatever,” the kid replied, shrugging. He took the money from Sam and stuffed it in his pocket, pushing the bike towards Sam.
“Thanks,” Sam said, tying his duffel to the bottom of his back and climbing on. The kid wasn’t interested in talking anymore, taking his little posse and his 70 bucks inside the store.

Sam shrugged, pedaling hard and fast towards South 4th street. But as he pedaled, he could feel the doubts cascading over him.

I can go back, no big deal. I can go back and take a shower and climb into bed with Dean and pretend this was all a bad dream.

He shook his head, pedaling harder. He couldn’t do that. Dean deserved to be free. Dean deserved to get out, and Sam was giving him that out.


“I don’t know where he is,” Dean said softly into the phone receiver, “We both went to bed, and then I woke up and…he was gone. He just left.” Dean had waited a week before gathering the courage (more like the sheer terror for Sam’s safety) to call John. He’d walked around town, flashing Sam’s picture at every person he could make stop and look, begging them for information. He knew that Cashier at the convenience store knew something, but he was keeping his mouth shut. Finally, he’d broken down and gave into his fate.

“What the fuck do you mean, he just fucking left?” John roared, making Dean jump, “God fucking damnit, Dean, I give you one fucking job and as usual, you manage to fuck up. I can’t fucking believe this- yes I can. I shouldn’t be surprised. You, stay right fucking there, you hear me? I’ll be there in a few days.”

Dean hung up the phone with trembling hands, looking up at the ceiling of the motel room, imagining just what was waiting for him when John got there, imagining what could possibly be happening to Sam without him there to protect him.

“Where are you, baby?” he whispered to the empty bed that should’ve been occupied by the most important person in his world.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

For the first time in his life, though, he didn’t need to count.
Well, there were times, but the onetwothreefourfive on an endless loop in his mind had silenced. In this tiny little shack in the middle of the woods, Sam had found the quiet he so desperately needed.
He walked around in the serene silence of the woods, the sounds of cars distant and the sound of his father’s voice even more distant. He wasn’t afraid- he didn’t flinch at loud sounds, he didn’t have to jump to hide his books, he didn’t have to eat like a wild animal because he wasn’t sure if his father would take it away from him for “eating too much.”
He was able to sleep, really sleep. Of course- it took ages for him to fall asleep; unaccustomed to the lack of Dean’s breathing and the feeling of his arms around him; but that was when the counting helped, “Onetwothreefourfiveonetwothreefourfive…”

On the third day, he found a dog. He always loved animals, and he was never able to have one. Some people would think that it was because of their lifestyle, but it was more a case of terror for the animal- If John was capable of nearly killing him and his brother, what would he do to a dog, or a cat? But Dad wasn’t there, and the dog was sweet.

Sam knelt down, holding out some of his lunch out to the dog, his voice hushed.
“Here, here dog, c’mere doggy,” Sam said gently, biting his lip. The dog looked like he didn’t trust him, but the temptation of food was enough to bring him just shy of his fingertips. "
You like that, huh?” Sam said softly, scooping some more of his food onto the spoon and holding it out, “Have some more. You look hungry, and I know I hate being hungry.” The dog didn’t seem as skittish now, coming forward and licking the spoon clean, his tail wagging.
"You really like it that much? Here, you have it,” Sam said with a grin, setting the tin down on the ground. The dog started eating loudly, and Sam found the courage to reach out and pet him gently. He became bolder as the dog didn’t run or snap at him, scratching behind his ear gently. “

You’re a good dog, aren’t you?” Sam asked, “Nobody wants you either, even though you’re a good dog? Maybe some nice little boy or girl wanted you, but their parents wouldn’t let you stay. Maybe cause you’re different. But that’s okay, I know how that feels. I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me. You need a name. How about…Bones? You like that?” The dog had finished eating and sat down hard, looking at Sam with his tongue hanging out and his tail beating a loud whump whump whump on the dirt in front of the shack. Sam smiled, petting his head again.
“I’ll take that as a yes, Bones,” he said with a grin, standing up and pushing open the door to the shack, “Come on in, buddy. Welcome to the island of misfit toys.”

Sam spent the next two weeks laying on the couch reading, wandering through the woods as far as he dared, and talking to Bones; who had the benefit of not making smartass remarks or calling him stupid.
“Dean would love you,” Sam said as Bones flopped down happily on the floor next to him. He scratched Bones absent mindedly, rambling.
“Dean likes animals. Not cats though- he’s allergic to cats, but you know, he said dogs are okay when I was little and he couldn’t let me keep the cat I found. When I go out to find him, you can come with me.”

Bones rolled over on his back, waiting for his tummy rub. Sam obliged, laughing.
“You and Dean are a lot alike,” he said with a sad sigh, “I bet Dean is already in another state. Probably Louisiana. He likes Louisiana, New Orleans especially. He likes the food, and the way the people talk there. That’d be the first place he’d go to.” He looked down to see Bones was fast asleep, turning over on the couch and looking up at the roof of the shack. “I bet he’s there now.”


 

Dean jumped out of his skin as his father returned home after the second long day of scoping out information on where Sam was. He was still in bad condition after John had expressed his displeasure, and every loud sound or quick movement had him jumping out of his skin. John hadn’t spoken to him since he’d returned other than to say, “Tell me everything”, and “I’ll finish dealing with you when I find out where he is.”

He’d given him the whole story, his body stiff and tense as he waited for the first blow, and he wasn’t disappointed. He thought it would never end, fists and feet and the sound of his own stifled screams making it feel like an eternity. By the time John lost his steam, he felt as if he was floating, a giant mass of throbbing pain. He could barely breathe, and as his father bent over him to make sure he was still breathing, Dean whispered, “Please, find Sammy…”

That was yesterday morning, and now Dean could feel the storm brewing around his father as he slammed the door closed.
“That fucking cashier kid was a pain in the fucking ass,” John yelled, pitching his keys on the small table next to the door angrily, “Stared at my badge for 10 minutes, as if he’d know the difference between a real and a fake. Did find out what you couldn’t- apparently there’s some old shack out in the woods that local drifters squat in. Which brings me to the next thing we have to deal with.”
“What’s that?” Dean asked timidly.
“You, and your complete failure to follow orders.”

Dean wasn’t ready for the first swing, falling off of the bed and hitting the floor with a loud thud. He threw his arms over his head as John’s foot came at him, trying to roll away from the worst of the blow.
And then, nothing.

He dared to look up at his father, only to see the man kneel down next to him with his hand out.
“Come on, Dean, you can get up,” he said gruffly. Dean looked from his father’s hand to his face, suspicious until he sighed and sat down in front of him.
“I can’t blame you for this, not entirely,” John said, “You were stupid, and naive. And I taught you a lesson for that, didn’t I?”
“Yes sir,” Dean wheezed, his ribs and lungs screaming in pain from the kick, renewing all the pain from the day before.
“I can’t be mad at you for believing in the best of Sam, can I? Your mother was like that, always seeing the best in people, especially people who didn’t deserve it. And you…you’re so much like her,” he said gently, reaching out and stroking his son’s bruised face, “But, you have to be smarter than her, don’t you?”
“Y-y-yes, sir,” he stuttered, unsure of what John was trying to say. John was staring at him like he usually stared at a case, like he had to save him from something. But was he really implying that he had to save him from Sam?
“You have to understand that no matter how much you want to see the best, you have to see the way things are. Sam…Sam will always do what’s best for him. No matter how hard you try, he will never put you first; and he will never care about you the way you care about him.”

Dean tried to shut himself down, to just take this lecture and not listen. But it was something his father said next that made him listen.

“He’s always doing that, isn’t he? Drawing you in, making you think everything is okay, and then, what- he causes trouble? Gets you in trouble with me? Runs away, knowing how much trouble you’ll get in?” John shook his head, “He’s been playing us, Dean. I don’t want to punish you like this- but you have to learn, and it’s taken me so long to realize…it’s not you. It’s him.”
“What are you talking about, Dad?” Dean asked, “Sam…Sam doesn’t do that. He’s just a kid, he wouldn’t do that to me.”
“He wouldn’t do that? He left you. He always lets you take the brunt of the punishment. Come on, Dean- open your eyes, son. See what he’s doing for what it really is. He’s only trying to take care of himself. He doesn’t care what happens to you.”

Dean could feel the tears rushing down his face as his father’s words stung him. But they made sense. Where was Sam? Not here, not even a note to tell him where he was so that they could escape together. Nothing, even after knowing what Dean had given up for him. He just fucking left. Sam had to have a reason. Sam would never just leave him for no reason. He must’ve thought that Dean would leave or find him, Sam wouldn’t just throw him away.

“Find him, Dad,” Dean said, looking up at his father, “I don’t care, just bring him back.”
“I’m doing it for you, Dean,” John replied, “But you have to promise me something.”
"Anything, whatever you want Dad, just bring him back,” Dean pleaded.

“You can’t leave. Not now, not ever. You understand that, right? Promise me.”

“I promise, I’ll never leave, I swear, just bring Sammy back.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And for someone who could count things until the cows came home, there was one thing he didn’t count on.

Sam decided to take a hike through the woods alone, having left Bones in the cabin- he needed some time to think, to be alone for a while, and while Bones was a wonderful companion, sometimes he just needed to feel nothing but the woods around him in order to get his thoughts straight. He was trying to decide his next move- had he waited long enough for Dean to be on the road? Had he waited long enough for his father to have given up on finding him? He knew that his Dad hadn’t really looked for Dean when he was gone before. He didn’t know if it was because his father knew where Dean was, or if he simply didn’t care, but he figured if his father had put so little effort into trying to find Dean, he probably wouldn’t put any effort into finding him. He’d probably be overjoyed at the thought of him being gone, not being there to slow him down.

The sun had already set, and the woods were growing dark. He needed to get back to the cabin as soon as possible, lighting one of the lanterns that he’d found in the shack. He let out a sigh of relief- he was only a few yards away from the shack, and he jogged up to the door.
He opened the door to the shack, only to find a dark, imposing figure sitting there and waiting for him.

“Where’ve you been?”

Sam felt his heart leap into his throat, his whole arm shaking as he lifted the lantern to see his Dad sitting in the old, beat up armchair of the shack, smiling easily.
How the hell did he find him? Why was he even looking?
Sam’s gaze scanned his father’s face and body, trying to assess how angry he was. His eyes were dull and glazed and his knuckles were bruised and swollen, his wedding ring looking like it was squeezed onto an overly-stuffed sausage.
Dean wasn’t in New Orleans, like he’d hoped.
Dean was right where he left him.
Fuck.

His eyes flicked to his feet where Bones laid, quiet and unmoving.
“Bones?” he said softly, feeling his knees go weak when the dog didn’t respond. What did he do to Bones? What was he gonna do to him? The counting started again, slow and measured, a way for him to keep his breathing and his heart under control. He wanted Dean, now more than ever.

“Oh, don’t worry about the mutt,” John said nonchalantly, “He’s just drugged. He’ll be fine in a few hours. But you and I need to have a talk. You got some candles or something? It’s pretty damn dark in here.”
Sam nodded, counting softly as he walked over to the few lanterns he’d found around, lighting them so the shack was filled light. He could see his father’s face more clearly now, the subtle twitching in his jaw, the way his lips were set in a thin line. His father was furious, and he realized how stupid he’d been to think that he could get away so easily.
“Where’s…where’s Dean?” Sam asked, rubbing his arms nervously as he stood in front of his father, still sitting easily in the chair, looking calm and controlled- for the moment. He knew that could change with one wrong word or move.
Why wasn’t Dean with him? He couldn’t imagine Dean being okay and letting his father come for him alone…Dean wouldn’t do that.
“He’s taking care of some things,” he replied, “Sent me to get you- you did get him into a lot of trouble.”
“What did you do to him?” Sam demanded, “What did you do to Dean?”
“Taught him a lesson,” John said, standing up and making Sam back up quickly, hitting the wall, “Should’ve been watching you better, but I can’t completely blame him, can I, Sam?’ he asked, smirking at him, “You look guilty, boy.”

Sam slid along the wall, trying to get away from John, but he tripped over a small footstool and hit the floor, his head smacking off the ground hard. He let out a strangled yelp as he tried to crawl away, feeling dizzy. John knelt down next to him, the same cruel smirk on his face.

“See, Dean is honest. Always has been, to a fault. Couldn’t tell me a lie to save his life. But you were always a great pretender, huh? Bet you hugged him, kissed him, gave him that innocent look, told him goodnight Dean, see you in the morning,” John said softly, “Knowing the whole time you were gonna just…run out the door. And Dean fell for it, because he only wants to see the best in people. Because he’s stupid enough to trust you.”

Sam started to inch his way across the floor, trying not to move fast enough to make John snap. But he only made it about 6 inches before John grabbed the back of his shirt, dragging him back to where he fell.
“Bet you think I’m stupid,” John continued conversationally, “Bet you think I can’t see through you, huh?”
Sam bit his lip, staring at the floor and praying that John would just keep talking. John grabbed the crown of his hair, pulling his head back so that he could see Sam’s face.
“Dean’s got a bad habit of seeing the best in you, boy,” John said, the light tone gone and replaced with a growl, “I don’t think he’s gonna have that problem anymore. But I still have to deal with you. Because if there’s anything...”
He stood, yanking Sam up with him by his hair, still bent over as he tried to ease the pulling, “I hate more than people who run away from their responsibilities…”
He threw Sam into the chair he had been sitting in, making it flip with Sam in it, “It’s little boys who will lie and manipulate to get their way.”

Sam leapt to his feet, his back pressed against the wall, trying to find an escape, but finding none.

“Dean isn’t the smartest guy, and you take advantage of that. He’s a damn good hunter, deadly and efficient. But you just can’t teach that boy a damn thing that doesn’t have to do with weapons. He’s a grunt. And you take advantage of that in him. You take advantage of the fact that you’re his weak spot. But as smart as you are, you didn’t think of one thing.”
Sam moved forward, his body tense as he looked at the overturned chair. It wasn’t heavy, and if he hooked his foot under it properly, he could kick it at John and distract him enough to get out the door. But he needed John to be distracted by his rant. And he knew that feeding into it was the only way to get him distracted enough.
“What’s that?” he asked.

Before John could open his mouth, Sam took his shot and kicked the chair at him, turning and dashing for the door. He had his hands on the doorknob as John’s hands were on him, slamming him hard against the door.

“I told you I’d always find you.”

He picked Sam up roughly as he thrashed his body, screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Get the fuck off of me, get away from me!” Sam screamed, kicking his heels back into John’s shins hard, his hands reaching back and scratching at him. John threw him down hard into the coffee table, making it buckle and break under the force of Sam’s body being slammed into it, leaving Sam gasping for air. Sam rolled over quickly, curling his feet into his chest as John bent over him, his fist swinging on him. Sam’s head was knocked to the side by the blow, but he still vaulted John off of him. He jumped to his feet, smiling with satisfaction as John lay on the floor, a surprised look on his face.

“Don’t fucking touch me,” he said slowly, his chest heaving.
“I’m gonna do more than touch you, boy,” he said harshly, his leg lashing out and sweeping Sam’s legs out from underneath him. Sam hit the floor, rolling over quickly and trying to crawl away, only to be stopped by John’s weight on top of him. John roughly turned him over, punching him hard once, twice, three times…Sam lost count as his hands searched John’s waistband. His hands finally felt out the gun nestled against his spine as his hand curled around it, his knuckles brushing against John’s back.

“That won’t work for you,” John said, grabbing Sam’s face roughly, “Only works for Dean.”
“Yeah,” Sam moaned, sliding off the safety and pressing the gun against John’s side, “But this will.”

Sam spat some blood from his mouth on John’s shirt, staring up at him through his right eye, the other swollen shut.
“You gonna shoot me?” John demanded.
“Get off me,” Sam said harshly, “Slowly.”
“Go ahead Sam,” John said with a laugh, “Go ahead. Fucking shoot me. Then you can explain to Dean why you killed his mother and his father.”
Sam pressed the gun harder against his side, glaring.
“I didn’t kill Mom,” he hissed, “I was a baby, it wasn’t my fault!”
“She died trying to save you!” John growled moving off of Sam as he realized that Sam wasn’t kidding.

Sam scrambled out from underneath him, holding the gun in both hands, pointed right at John’s chest.

“Why do you hate me?’ he yelled, his body shaking as John stared him down, “I never did anything wrong, I’ve tried to do what you want, but you hate me, no matter what I do- it doesn’t matter if I’m quiet and obedient like a dog or fighting with you! You hate me no matter what I try to be!”
“I don’t hate you, Sam,” John said, looking confused.
“Then why can’t you just…god, why do you have to be this way?” Sam cried, his grip on the gun loosening, “We just want a dad who loves us, don’t you get that? We just want someone who we aren’t afraid of, someone who makes sure we’re safe and that we have enough food and…and who doesn’t abandon us! You left Dean all alone out there- I don’t know why, I don’t know the details, but I know you left him alone, I knew it from the minute Dean yelled at you in the car! You left him, and you left me, and then you just kept leaving us and leaving us and leaving us. Why can’t you see…we’re right here! We’re not Mom…but, but we’re part of her! Why don’t you love us enough to stay with us?”

John moved forward, his hands out in surrender, his tone soft and gentle.
“Sam…Sam, put down the gun,” John said calmly, “Look, we’ve both messed up, right? So, we can work together to make things good again, can’t we?”
He reached out to take the gun from Sam, only to have him point it at his head.

“Get the fuck back!” Sam screamed, “I can’t trust you, Dad! Every time, I try to trust you, we both do; you beat us and starve us and leave us alone, fuck, you buried us alive! How do I know you won’t just beat me again? How do I know you won’t kill me and tell Dean that you found me this way? How do I know?”
“I wouldn’t do that, Sam..”
“Like hell you wouldn’t!” Sam screeched, shaking the gun at him, “I heard you say it to Dean! That no one would look for him, no one would care, that you’d tell me he died on a hunt and I’d just move on! Well guess what? You’d have to kill both of us, because we will never stop looking for each other. Because we love each other, something that you wouldn’t know shit about!”

He stopped yelling, his chest heaving and tears running down his face, staring at his father. John looked so lost, so…forlorn, he didn’t know what to say. Sam regretted everything he said, lowering the gun and moving forward.

“Dad…” He whispered, “Dad, I’m sorry…please, Dad, I didn’t mean it…I’m sorry…”
“No…you were right,” John said quietly, “I’ve been a pisspoor excuse for a father.”

Sam dropped the gun, throwing himself into his father’s arms.

“I’m sorry Daddy,” he whispered, “Please, let’s just go home, let’s be a family, please…”
John pulled away, holding Sam at arm’s length.
“Look at you,” he said softly, shaking his shoulder gently, “Just…look at you.”
Sam smiled a little, basking in the slight bit of praise from his father.
“Look at you…manipulating me.”
“Wha-“

Sam’s head snapped to the side, and the world went black.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

When his father beat him, sometimes he'd lock himself in the bathroom and strip down to his bare skin, counting every cut and bruise and welt, pressing his fingers against them until his eyes watered. He made himself remember every mark and bruise, he'd force himself to dig his fingertips into the healing marks after they'd stopped hurting just by existing. He always did it to remind himself that any illusions he had about his father were just that- illusions. 12 bruises. 5 cuts. Too many welts to really count- they'd all blended together. Dean would press his head against the door, listening to the soft count, saying the same thing he'd said when they were children- "It's okay baby. I know it hurts right now, but it’ll stop hurting soon.” But it never stop hurting. Even after the marks had faded or were covered with new ones, the dull, thudding ache of fists and leather never stopped.

Sam had always prayed that somehow, someway, his father would be cured of whatever made him so angry and violent; that maybe one day he'd go out on a hunt and vent all his violence on evil and then be at peace with his sons. There were times that he'd softly ask his father why, and what would make him happy. But usually he just rolled over and continued softly snoring. Sam never had the courage to ask him when he was awake- he didn't want to risk making him angrier than he always was already. But after his plea in the cabin, hearing his father finally say those words, "I don't hate you", the closest Sam would ever get to an admission of love from his father, he thoughit maybe things would change. He thought, for the first time, that he’d gotten through to his father, that maybe, this time, things would be different.
But they weren’t.
They never would be.

The first blow had knocked him out for only a moment, but the rest was a blur. His father’s foot flying at him, his mouth being wrenched open, his body being bent into a painful position, the burn of rope around his wrists and ankles. He wasn't aware of much other than his body and the dull, throbbing pain, the sick twist in his stomach and the rotten taste in his mouth. He didn't see anything, not really, even though he was sure his eyes were open. But when he started counting and no more blows came he finally realized- his eyes weren;'t open. He wasn't speaking. In fact, he wasn't even moving his own body. He was being dragged.
He willed his body with all his power to move anything, anything at all, but it felt like nothing was responding- not that it would've been much use, being hogtied the way he was. He was so sure that his father had thrown him into a hole; he was so certain that he was being buried. He was almost positive he was dead, and this must’ve been what happened when you died. Nothing but a black void.
He never got to apologize to Dean.
In fact, that last thing he ever did to Dean was the worst thing he could ever do. The last thing he did to Dean was abandon him.

“Sam…”

He could feel himself rising up and suddenly, there was nothing but pain as someone shook him hard. Not again. Just let me die..I know it's selfish, but I can't take it anymore...

“Sam…Sam…Sammy!”

He gasped hard, his eyes flying open and his hands flying up to cover his head. Don't hit me anymore. Don't touch me. Please, just let it end…

“I’m sorry!” he screamed, trying to writhe out of the hands that were holding him there. He knew it was his fault- she should've never said or did any of those things. What the fuck was the matter with him? Was he just a glutton for punishment? He didn’t mean it, any of it, he just wanted to be normal. He just…wanted to be loved by his father. Maybe that was too much to ask.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry I’m sorryI’msorryimsorry please don’t! No more!” he screamed, his whole body shaking. Just kill me, kill me now…just get it over with.

“Sammy, baby, open your eyes!” Dean cried, holding Sam’s face in his hands, “Please, come on, just open your eyes for me! Look at me!”
Sam looked at him with wide, unseeing, terrified eyes as he hyperventilated painfully, his whole body shaking. It was Dean; Dean was the one shaking him. He was with Dean. Maybe this was heaven- maybe he was good enough to go to heaven. But Dean's face wouldn't be all marked up in heaven. Maybe this was hell, and they were both dead.

“Dean?” he whispered, “Am I…are you...”
“Oh my god, you’re okay,” Dean said, his voice shaking with relief, “Oh my fucking god, you’re fucking okay, thank god.”
Sam pressed his head against Dean’s shoulder as his brother hugged him hard, making him cry out in pain.
No, he was alive. He sort of preferred hell at this point.
Dean loosened his grip on him, pulling back.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Dean said, holding his face gently in his hands, “I was just…you were really out of it, and I was scared that…that…”
“’m fine,” Sam mumbled, trying to sit up but slumping back against Dean, his hands coming up to cling to Dean’s shirt. Dean shook his head.
“You’re not fine, Sammy. This…this is bad,” Dean whispered, the terror evident in his voice, “What were you thinking? Why the fuck would you- fuck it. I’m taking you to the hospital.”
“Don’t!” Sam yelped, yanking Dean back down, “We’ll get in trouble, you can’t, okay?”
“Sam, You look like you’ve been put through a fucking meat grinder!” Dean yelled, “Fuck, this is bad. Fuck.” Sam looked at Dean’s own battered face, cracking a smile.
“You don’t look much better,” He replied, “And you didn’t go to the hospital.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t get K.O.’ed by Dad,” Dean said, biting his lip, “He said you only lost consciousness for about 3 minutes, but you’re really out of it.”
“I’m fine,” Sam said again, trying to sit up on his own, but letting out a scream of pain. Dean laid him down on the bed, picking up a pair of scissors by the bedside table.
“You are not fine,” Dean hissed through gritted teeth, “That’s the shock talking. Lay still. I have to see how bad it is.”
“I’m not in shock,” Sam insisted, but obeyed his brother. He could feel his heart rate speeding up as Dean cut away the remains of his torn and dirty t-shirt, terrified that Dean would take the opportunity to cut him, hurt him for what he did. But he didn’t. He was all gentle touches and slow movements, trying not to spook Sammy.

He could see how terrified his baby was, and he absolutely hated himself for letting John go and get him by himself.
“I should’ve known this was gonna happen,” Dean muttered, his hands running over the horrible bruises on Sam’s chest and stomach, “I should’ve been there.”
“’S not your fault,” Sam mumbled, “My fault.”

Dean froze for a moment, his nightmare from the night Sam left flashing before his eyes.
Sam pinned to the ceiling.
It’s my fault.

“Don’t you ever, ever say that again,” Dean said harshly, “It’s his fault. He did this. He shouldn’t have gone this far. He should’ve never gone this far.”
“I antagonized him, I ran away,” Sam sobbed, “I…I held a gun to him. I said things I shouldn’t say.”
“I don’t give a shit if you fucking set him on fire,” Dean replied, leaning over to pick up a rag from the table, “You didn’t deserve this. There’s nothing you could ever do to deserve this.” He lifted the rag to wipe off his brother’s face, but before he could, Sam’s hands had flown up to protect his face.
“Don’t hit me,” he whimpered, “It hurts too much, please Dee!”

Dean’s heart ached, seeing his brother so terrified, and terrified of him. He remembered vividly the first time his father had hit Sammy, the way he’d cowered as Dean had lifted his hand just to check him, his frightened whimper then sounding the same as it did now- “No hitting Dee, huwts.

“I’m not going to hit you,” Dean said calmly, his voice low and soothing, “Baby, I’m not gonna hurt you. I just want to clean off your face, okay? Just gonna wipe off your face. It’ll make you feel better, I promise.”
Sam slowly lowered his arms, lying stiff and rigid as Dean began cleaning off his face, flinching every now and again. Dean could feel the tears in his eyes as he cleaned his poor baby’s face, biting his lip.

“Baby,” he said softly, “I’m not mad, okay? I just want to know why you ran away.”
“You said…you said that I was making you stay,” he whispered, “I thought…if I wasn’t here, you’d have nothing to stay for. You keep staying for me, but he…he keeps hurting you. So I thought…I thought I’d make it easier for you to leave. I’m so sorry, Dean. I’m so sorry. I know better now. I won’t ever try to leave again. We can’t, he’ll…he’ll…” Sam’s explanation dissolved into sobbing counting, “Onetwothreefourfive…”

Dean cursed himself a thousand times, his fists clenching and releasing at the sight of Sam’s terror. He knew Sammy had a good reason for leaving- it was stupid, misguided, and totally wrong, but he understood. He should’ve known that was why. His stupid fucking mouth at the diner.
“Baby, calm down,” he said softly, stroking Sam’s hair, “It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay, I promise. I never meant that, you aren’t keeping me here. I stay because I love you, and I can’t be without you, and I knew that I couldn’t get you away from him without it ending badly…and it did anyways.” He leaned down, kissing Sam’s forehead softly, “I’m gonna get you out of here, Baby. One way or another, you’re gonna be safe. I will never, ever let him do this to you again.”
“I asked him why it had to be like this,” Sam whispered, looking up at Dean through his good eye, “And I thought…just for a minute, that maybe he was gonna change. Like I got through to him.”

Dean shook his head, his fury with his father building. He knew that this wasn’t just the results of John teaching Sam a lesson for running away. Apparently, Sam asking him why he had to do what he did to them was what set him off, and it made Dean’s stomach turn. Deep down, he’d never given up hope that one day, John would return from a hunt and be a changed man; that he’d realize all the things he’d done wrong and just…be a father. But obviously, that hope was in vain.

“Some men you just can’t reach,” Dean muttered, “It’s not your fault. No one can change him, Sammy. It’s no one’s fault but his.” Sam nodded, hot tears rolling down his face, stinging the few cuts that marred his face with the bruises. Dean sighed, standing and unlacing Sam’s boots and gently working off Sam’s jeans. He could hear the stifled whimper come from Sam as he reached for his button and fly, worried that he was hurting him until he felt his jeans.
They were wet at the crotch.
Sam was ashamed because he’d pissed himself while their father beat him.
A whole new flare of fury rushed through Dean at this discovery, but he tried to mask it with indifference on his face. He smiled at Sam reassuringly, carefully putting his jeans into a plastic bag along with his boxers.

“Baby, you think we can get you into the tub?” Dean asked gently, “I think this might go a lot quicker that way.”
“I’m sorry,” Sam cried, covering his face, “I’m so sorry.” Dean leaned down, kissing Sam gently.
“Don’t be, it’s not your fault. I’m gonna start running the water, and then I’ll bring you in.”

Dean grabbed an old takeout cup from the table as he headed into the bathroom, turning on the tub and cleaning out the cup. He wanted to kill his father, beat him to a bloody pulp, but that wasn’t gonna happen. One of two things would happen- he’d go to jail for murdering his father, or he and Sam would get killed. He’d have to bide his time.
He had a thousand snippets of plans running through his mind as he turned off the water, going out to Sam. He scooped him up gently, carrying him to the bathroom and setting him down in the tub slowly. Sam laid back, his knees completely bent as Dean started to pour the warm water over his body.

“There, that probably feels good, huh?” Dean said gently, “Looks like a bunch of bruises and a few cuts, maybe some cracked ribs, but it’s gonna be okay. Gonna take care of you, baby.”
“You shouldn’t,” Sam said softly, I’m not worth it.” Dean gently took Sam’s hand, looking at him.
“Why would you think that?” he demanded, amending his tone when Sam flinched, “Baby, you’re worth it.”
“I’m a monster, I’m not…I’m dirty, there’s something wrong with me,” Sam cried, pulling his hand away to cover his face again, “I make him like this, I did this, I don’t know how but there has to be something wrong with me. I’m a monster. I make him like this.”

Dean felt a rush of terror, hearing Sam call himself dirty. It was the same name he called himself in the mirror the morning after, trying to scrub the feeling of his father’s hands off his body. What had happened in that shack? Was there more than what he could see?

“No,” Dean said firmly, “It’s him. Not you.”
“But it’s always me,” Sam wailed, “It’s always me who starts it. I don’t even mean to, he hates me and I don’t know why, I try to be good, I do, I just can’t be good enough no matter how hard I try…” he started counting again, and Dean’s heart broke again for his little brother. He couldn’t fix this, this wasn’t like his body- he could help heal Sam’s body, but he couldn’t take back what his father had done to his mind.
“Baby, you are good,” Dean said, his voice thick with tears, “Trust me. You are good. You’re not a monster, you’re not dirty. He did this because he’s the fucked up one, not you.” Sam looked at Dean, his face pinched with pain, his eyes showing how broken and vulnerable he was at that moment. Those weren’t the eyes of a 16 year old boy, they were the eyes of a child who’d been hurt unimaginably.

“Can…can you count for me?” he asked softly, “I don’t deserve it, but…”
“Of course I will,” Dean replied hurriedly, taking Sam’s hand again. He tried to ignore the rope burn that cut into his brother’s wrists as he touched the tip of each finger.

“One, two, three, four, five…everything is gonna be okay, baby. I promise.”

Chapter Text

Sam Winchester liked to count.

And there were certain things he could always count on- he always had ten fingers, Dean would always be there, and John would always come back. He'd happily accepted that short of someone or something cutting off his fingers, they would always be there to comfort him in his time of need. Unlike anything else in his life, ten fingers splayed out on the rough denim of his jeans were always there, waiting to be counted and appreciated, waiting to protect Sam from everything around him when he couldn't handle the outside world.
And then there was Dean, to count those fingers, to hold them, to protect him from everything bad in the world- but he'd taken away Dean's ability to protect him this time. He'd never make that mistake again.
And then...there was John. Sam understood that he knew very little about his father as a person- he knew his father was a vietnam vet, a mechanic. He knew he married his mother and had Dean about a year and a ahlf after their wedding, and when his mother died, something in him broke- if it broke for the first time or broke more, he didn't know. But he did know that his father would stop at nothing to get what he wanted- and he always wanted Dean nad Sam under his thumb and in his control, and that he would never let them escape.

Sam lived in terror of John’s return. He swore he could hear his father's breathing, smell him behind him; his shadow was on the wall and under the door and no matter how many times Sam counted, it never stopped, and he didn't feel safe. He didn’t sleep, staring at the door, cradling a pillow to his body as he shook any time a car came into the parking lot, any time there was a loud noise, any time they heard another door open and close. He stared, his whole body rocking as his frantic whispers filled up the quiet motel room.
“Onetwothreefourfiveonetwothreefourfive…”

Dean had tried to coax out of Sam what exactly had happened, but all Sam ever did in response was whisper, “I don’t know, I don’t remember, I don’t remember, I can’t, I can’t tell.”
And Dean would just hold him tight, rocking with his brother, counting his fingers softly in his ear as he did when they were children.
“One, two, three, four, five fingers, Baby. You’re safe. One, Two, Three, Four, Five fingers. I won’t let him hurt you,” he said soothingly, over and over as he used his other hand to smooth Sam’s hair and kissed his forehead.

He made the mistake once of trying to kiss him on the lips. Sam flinched so hard; he slammed his head off the wall behind him. He didn’t make that mistake twice. Sam felt guilty, but he didn't want Deabn to kiss him. He felt dirty, dirtier than he had before; and he didn't want Dean to kiss him and taste that filth. He didn't want Dean to know how filthy he was.
Dean was worried about Sam, worried that he was going to make himself worse by refusing to sleep and barely eating. He knew why, and he couldn't blame him; but Dean needed Sam to give him just a little trust so that he could get better from what his father did. But Dean faced what Sam did, they both faced the truth.

It was inevitable, John would come back. He always did- it was just a matter of when.

They got their answer when Dean heard the familiar rumble of his Father’s truck, shaking Sam awake from his first sleep in three days. Sam was upright instantly, his head whipping around and already hyperventilating. He knew the sound of that truck too well- his father was back to finish the job.
Dean grabbed his face, making Sam look at him.

“Baby, Baby look at me,” he said seriously, “Sammy, Sam, look…look at me, look at Dean.” Sam’s eyes finally focused on him, clutching at his shirt as he shook.
“It’s him,” Sam whispered, terrified. Dean nodded, smoothing Sam’s hair down as he spoke in the calmest tone he could manage.
“Sam, listen to me,” he said, “I know it’ s gonna hurt, but you gotta go out the bathroom window, okay? The Impala isn’t out there; I parked it behind that diner up the street, maybe a block away. Do you remember where the diner is?”
Sam nodded, the blood draining from his face.
“Okay. You’re gonna go out the window and go to that diner. You’re gonna go inside and sit as far away from any windows as possible, and I will be right behind you. Ten minutes tops. You understand?”
“I can’t,” Sam sobbed, “I can’t, not without you, he’ll find me…”
“Sam, he’s not gonna find you, that’s why I’m staying here. Come on baby, I need you to be brave, okay?”
Both of them nearly jumped out of their skin as they heard pounding on the door of the room next door.
“Dean!” Sam cried, Dean’s hand clapping over his mouth.
“Now,” he commanded, pushing Sam towards the bathroom, “Go, now.”

Sam limped across the room to the bathroom window, pushing it open. Dean boosted Sam up as he shimmied through the window, listening to the soft, pained wince as Sam hit the ground. He closed the window, running over to the door and pulling his gun from its place in the waistband of his jeans. He opened the door to John still pounding on the other door, his jaw set as his father turned to face him.

“You changed rooms,” John said shortly, coming over and shoving his way through the door, “Where’s your brother?”
“Not here,” Dean answered, his gun still in his hand, “And you shouldn’t be either.”
John walked in and sat down on the bed where Sam was clinging to him in terror only moments before, raising an eyebrow.
“Wanna run that by me again, boy?” John demanded. Dean felt like his whole body was turning into jelly, his hands shaking.
“You can’t be here,” Dean said again, his voice sounding a lot more resolute than he felt, “You gotta go. For a while.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because of what you did to him!” Dean yelled, “I don’t know what you did, but you gotta go. You gotta get the fuck out of here.”
“Come on, Dean,” John said with an easy smile on his face, “It was just-“
“Don’t you fucking dare,” Dean hissed, “Don’t. It wasn’t “just” anything. Do you know how terrified he is?”
“He should be,” John said, shrugging, “I taught him a lesson, Dean. No more, no less.”
“You didn’t teach him shit!” Dean bellowed, “You didn’t want to teach him anything, you wanted to hurt him and scare him- how could you do that to him? How the fuck could you do that?”
“Dean,” John said gently, standing up, “I know you don’t understand right now-“
“I’m never gonna understand,” Dean said, backing up and shaking his head, “I don’t know what all you did to him, but I swear to fucking god-“
“Is that what this is about?” John asked, chuckling, “You don’t have to be jealous.”
“Get out,” Dean demanded, his eyes red and stinging from unshed tears, “Get the fuck out. Just let us go. We won’t be your problem anymore.”

John moved closer, towering over Dean. He reached out and patted the side of his face, making Dean flinch as his hand made contact with his skin.
“Okay, you boys need some time, that’s fine,” John said, shrugging, “I can give you some time. Let Sam rest up.” He grabbed Dean’s chin, tilting his head to the side as he whispered, “Just remember- wherever you, go, no matter who you run to, I’ll know where you are.”
Dean kept his head tilted to the side as John let go of his face, still extremely close. Dean could smell his father's breath, his stomach turning at the smell. How many times had John been this close to him, his breath washing over his bare skin? How many times would he feel that same sensation? He squeezed his eyes shut, biting his lip hard as he fely John's calloused fingers run over the curve of his neck, shivering.

“Think about it Dean,” John explained, “Who do you know that I don’t? Who would take you in without telling me? I know all your habits; I know all the places you’ll go. It’s not gonna matter which direction you run. I’m your father.”
John reached out, rubbing Dean’s head a little too hard to be affectionate.
“You boys need a break, I get that. But we’ll be back together before you know it,” he said confidently, “We’re family.”

John headed to the door, stopping for a moment in the doorway to look back at Dean.
“I’m gonna miss you,” he said, “Don’t stay away too long. I’ll have to come and find you.”

Dean closed his eyes, listening to John get in and slam the door, the truck rumbling to life and pulling away. He could feel hot tears sliding down his face as he realized how hopeless it all was.
They’d never get away.


Sam limped all the way to the diner and through the door, looking around desperately for a seat, any seat that was not next to a window, but he had no such luck. He tried to keep his head down as the waitress came over, snapping her gum.

“What can I get ya, hon?” she asked, her pencil poised to write.
“Water,” Sam whispered, not looking at her.
“And?”
“Just water.”
The woman sighed, her hand going to her hip.
“Look hon, you gotta order something,” she said, “This is a diner, not a park bench.”
“Pie,” he said, tilting his face up to meet her gaze, “I’ll have some pie. Whatever kind.”
The woman let out a slightly horrified gasp at the state of his face, trying to collect herself.
“I-um-we have-um-cherry. You like cherry hun?” she asked, her tone going from irritable to syrupy sweet.
“That’s fine,” he said softly, “Thank you.”

The waitress scurried away, looking relieved to be away from him. He began to rock nervously, still trying to keep his head down and look as inconspicuous as possible. The waitress didn’t speak to him again, only sliding the slice of pie in front of him and heading off to attend her not-so-startling guests. Sam cursed himself silently, rocking back and forth. He was so tired of getting those looks from people- shock, fear, pity, none of those things ever did anything for him but make him feel like dirty- less than dirt. It made him feel like people were eager to get rid of him, to make him go away because he made them uncomfrtable. Dean reveled in making people uncomfortable, he seemed to do things just to make it worse, but Sam couldn;'t stand it. He wante dto be normal. he wanted to make people comfortable, and if he couldn't do that, he'd rather they just didn't see him at all.

He tensed up as someone brushed against him and slid into the booth seat next to him.

“You look pretty rough still, boy.”

Sam began to hyperventilate, not daring to look over at the man beside him. Sam started to reach back for his gun, only to have John twist his arm up behind his back, forcing him to bend forward as if they were having a private conversation. He wasn't safe anywhere, even in plain sight. No one would come over and see what was going on- John was too frightening and Sam was too odd- people would just think, "It's none of my business, best stay out of it." Sam cursed himself as he began to cry, his breathing turning into wheezing as his heart raced.

“Listen to me very carefully, Sam,” John hissed, twisting Sam’s arm harder, “Are you listening?”
“Y-y-ye-es s-s-s-sir,” Sam stuttered, his chest heaving. He looked up at the people eating right in front of him, making eye contact with the older woman who was just moments before scolding her children for playing wioth their food. He looked at her pleadingly, his fear and helplessness written on his face-please help me! But she looked away, ignoring him. His father jerked his arm, bring his face back down as he spoke.
“Seems Dean thinks we need some time apart,” he said softly, “Since I’m in a good mood, I’m gonna let you both have a little time to yourselves.” He leaned into Sam’s ear and whispered, “But if I find out you so much as think about making this permanent… this will seem like a slap on the wrist.”
“H-h-how di-did you kn-kn-know…” he stuttered, looking back up at someone, anyone, trying to find help- but every person who looked his way quickly looked away. It wasn't any of their bussiness. Best stay out of it.
“Shut up,” John hissed, “I know Dean better than anyone, Sam. It wasn’t hard to figure out where he sent you. Don’t worry, He’s probably on his way now. But let me make myself clear: you do anything I don’t like, you set a toe out of line, and I will make you very, very sorry. “

He reached out with his free hand, swiping a finger through the cherry pie filling that had spilled out onto the plate. He stuck his finger in his mouth, sucking away the pie filling and twisting Sam’s arm again.
“Are we clear? Nod.”
Sam nodded, staying as still as possible as John released his arm.
“Good.”

He stood, throwing a twenty on the table as Sam shook hard in the seat, his eyes squeezed shut as he counted under his breath.

YouI’ll be back with me soon,” he said simply, “You can count on that.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Dean knew that Sam was counting on him now more than ever to protect him, and he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. He thought through the list of names that once filled his father’s journal, all scratched away as one by one he ostracized the whole hunting community. Counting John's friends was easier than counting his enemies- older hunters started figuring out pretty quick that while John was a damn good hunter, he was not a good man. If it was a choice between him and someone else, usually he'd save himself. Hell, if it was a choice between a friend and a successful hunt, it was usually the success of the hunt that won.

The unfortunate thing was that as John made hunters hate him, he also closed doors for his sons to get any kind of help. Reaching out to a stranger was too dangerous- they could get put in the system, separated; they could end up with someone who just wasn't able to protect them from something like their father, and the fact remained that the supernatural was still a very real threat, and if they were with a stranger, they probably couldn't be able to protect themselves. But the few friends John had left were dangerous too.

At first, he thought of Pastor Jim- Pastor Jim had been there long before anyone else, and he probably would still be there long after everyone else left. But then he realized- Pastor Jim had always told Dean, every time he’d ask if he could tell the older man a secret, that if he thought his father needed to know, he would have to tell. It wasn't like Dean hated Jim Murphy- the guy probably had no idea the extent of what their father put them through. But he certainly didn't trust him, either. He figured Pastor Jim would call John up the instant he saw the Impala in front of the church, no questions asked. And that was very dangerous.

So, he turned to the only person left, the only person he knew he could trust to help them. Bobby Singer was a gruff man, no nonsense and strict; but Dean knew that if Bobby had any idea of all the things his father had done, he would've killed him in a minute, no questions asked. Bobby had his own sense of right and wrong and he stuck to those guns like superglue. And he'd made it quite clear that though he approved a good swat on the ass every now and again for things, he certainly wasn't okay with anyone, let alone a kid, getting beat from here to kingdom come. Bobby always said if he and Sam needed anything, anything at all, that he was just a phonecall away, and Dean decided that now more than ever was the best time to put that promise to the test.

The Impala rumbled into Singer’s Junk and Salvage yard as Dean reached over to stroke Sam’s hair gently. Sam's body flinched hard, despite how deeply asleep he was, making Dean's heart ache.
“We’re here, baby,” he said, kissing Sam's cheek as he let out a soft moan.

Sam had slept nearly the whole trip, and had been sleeping a lot since they'd left. Dean was worried that he shouldn’t have been letting Sam sleep so much after how many hits he took to the head, but staying awake for days on end out of fear of John coming back when they were asleep exhausted him. And really, he couldn’t refuse those eyes.

But Sam asleep was painful.

He cried and moaned in his sleep, jerking awake at the strangest things- Dean had stopped at a gas station and realized he’d forgotten his wallet in his other pair of jeans. He unzipped his duffel and suddenly Sam was bolt upright and wide awake, his whole body shaking. Dean had managed to calm him down enough to run into the store and pay and do nothing else. Sam didn’t want to be out of Dean’s eyeshot for more than a minute- someone at the diner spooked him (and Dean figured out who it was) but Sam refused to actually tell him.

Dean finally realized how frustrating it must’ve been to the people all around him, his refusal to tell the truth no matter how many hints he dropped on purpose and on accident. He winced to himself, thinking of all the people that had been in his life for just a moment it seemed, who wanted to help him. Now, he suddenly understood how they felt. They weren’t angry with him. They were frustrated because they knew something was wrong with him and his little brother- but he’d never let anyone close enough to help.
Well, now he had to let someone in. He couldn't do it on his own. He'd realized, after John left him in the motel room, that if he had to face his father on his own, he'd give in. His father had that effect on him, total an d complete control over him in so many ways, and it made him feel sick knowing that he couldn't stop it. It was carefully honed control that John weilded over him, 17 years of abuse, manipulation, and psychological conditioning that Dean just couldn't break overnight- he was looking over his shoulder or in the rearview mirror every second of the day as he rushed to Bobby's, certain that the moment he didn't look the rumble of that truck would be in his ears and his father's hot breath would be on his neck. He couldn't risk trying to protect himself and Sam alone, it just wasn't an option.


He had called Bobby from a payphone outside a gas station, just outside of Windsor, Colorado. He knew Bobby would be there, Bobby was one of the few home based hunters that didn't run a roadhouse or a bar, so he was usually there whenever anyone needed him. Dean didn't want to admit defeat or weakness, but he really did need Bobby.He almost cried with relief when he heard the older man’s gruff voice on the other end.
"Singer Auto and Salvage, Singer."
“Bobby, it’s Dean.”
“Dean?” Bobby said, sounding thrilled to hear from him, “It’s been a while, boy.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry…things have…” his voice trailed off as he let out a half-sob, half-laugh, “You remember a while back, how you told me you always had a room for us?”
“Yeah,” Bobby said slowly, “Dean…what’s going on?”
Dean swallowed hard. How could he describe what was happening in the 5 minutes that his lone quarter had given him?
“You’ll see when we get there.”


That had been almost a day ago, and now he watched as the man barreled down the stairs at the sight of Dean’s still bruised face, looking fit to murder. He grabbed Dean's chin, turning his face this way and that, but pulled away when he saw the way Dean jumped at his touch. Bobby couldn't have known that his father always grabbed him by the chin like that- dragging him around by the face, screaming at him. Bobby would never do that, but it still spooked Dean, brought back all sorts of memories he wasn't up for dealing with at the moment. 
"Went to town on you, didn't he?" Bobby asked through gritted teeth.
"S'not so bad," Dean said, looking down automatically. Bobby's reaction to Dean was bad, especially considering Bobby's impressive pokerface in most bad situations, but it was nothing compared to the reaction he had to Sam.
He looked down at the younger Winchester, curled up in a ball in the front seat, still sleeping.
“What the hell,” he muttered, looking at Dean, “What…”
“He ran away,” Dean said quietly, hefting his still sleeping brother into his arms and groaning, “And Dad was the one who found him.”
“I’m gonna kill him. I'm gonna put a bullet right between his eyes.”

He knew what was coming. He knew he'd have to explain what happened, tell Bobby the truth- that it was his fault, he upset Sam and then he lost Sam and then he let his father be with Sam alone and...he could feel his shoulders sagging under the weight of the guilt.

“You wanna tell me why you both look like you’ve been put through a woodchipper?” Bobby demanded, setting a beer down in front of Dean. Dean popped the cap off with his ring, flicking it into the trash can.
“I said something stupid to Sam,” he admitted, looking completely shamefaced, “And he took it literally. And he ran away. And I didn’t know where he was.”
“Sam ran off somewhere without telling you?” Bobby asked, raising an eyebrow as he took a swig from his flask, “What the hell did you say to him?”
“I…told him that Dad wasn't keeping me there…that it was him. I..I didn't mean it, I swear, not the way he took it- I just meant that it wasn't like Dad had me chained to the heater at every motel to keep me from bolting out the door. I just meant that...yknow, Dad wasn't keeping me prisoner. I was there because I couldn't leave without Sam, you know?”
Bobby let out a low whistle, shaking his head.
“He ran away. So why…” he gestured to Dean’s face, leaning back.
“I lost Sam,” he said simply. Bobby nodded.
“And Sam?”

Dean picked at the label of his beer, biting his lip. He didn't want to say it.
“Dean,” Bobby said firmly, “And Sam?”
“I let Dad go get him without me there...I left them alone together. I…I don’t know much,” Dean admitted, “Sam won’t tell me. He says he doesn’t remember, but I know he does. He doesn’t wanna tell me. All I’ve gotten out of him was that he said some stuff to Dad that he didn’t like, they fought, he pulled a gun on Dad. Dad made him think that things were gonna change somehow and then…after that he won’t say. “

Bobby nodded, taking another long drink from the flask. He figured this showdown would happen someday…but he never figured that it would’ve been John and Sam. He didn’t think Sam had it in him- Sam was always a jumpy kid, shy, quiet. But the idea that Sam fought back, tried to stand up for himself comforted him. He knew what it was like, what Sam and Dean were going through. And it made him sick to his stomach, knowing how unimaginable fighting back seemed against a father; but it also made him cheer for the beaten down boy on his couch. It took guts to stand up. But that didn’t change the fact that their father was a dangerous man. A dangerous man who could- and in Bobby’s honest belief, would - kill them.

“You ain’t goin back with him,” Bobby said with finality, “You better just settle on down here, because I ain’t watchin you two drive off with him again.”
“Bobby-“
“I ain’t askin,” Bobby said, standing, “If things keep on goin this way, someday you’re gonna drive away from me and I ain’t gonna see you again. Because one of you-or both of you-will be dead.”
“It’s not-“
“He could’ve killed Sam, Dean,” Bobby said seriously, leaning forward, “You hit a rib, break it the wrong way and it goes straight into a lung. And no amount of pain pills, whiskey and stitches can fix that. Coulda snapped his neck. Dean- look at his face. He could’ve done some really serious damage to his brain. He could’ve put him in a coma.”
"I know,” Dean said softly, “I never thought it’d be Sam. I always thought it’d be me.”
“John has always had problems with your brother,” Bobby said, “Mostly because of his…y’know. ”

Dean looked over at Bobby, strongly angry all of the sudden. He was blaming Sam for the way John treated him? What- because he was different?

“His what, Bobby?’ he demanded, “What, because he’s different? Because his brain works differently than yours? Why the fuck does everyone do that?” he exploded, leaping to his feet and pitching the table across the room, “I’m fucking sick of it! I’m fucking sick of every single one of you fucking people treating him like this, blaming him, using the fact that he’s not the way you think he should be as an excuse to treat him like shit!”
“Dean,” Bobby said calmly, “That wasn’t what I meant.”
“Like hell it wasn’t!” Dean snapped, whipping his beer bottle at the wall.

If it were any other situation, Bobby would’ve probably lost his temper already- but he understood Dean’s rage. It was hard enough for Sam to be, well, Sam, and deal with everything else. He just didn’t know what to call it- it was just who he was. Always had been.

“Fact remains,” he said carefully, “You go back, one or both of you is gonna end up dead.”
Dean seemed to run out of steam, sinking down onto the kitchen floor.
“What am I supposed to do?” Dean asked, “I can’t get away from him. Neither of us can- he’ll just keep looking and looking. He’ll never leave us alone.”
“Well, what am I, chopped liver?” Bobby demanded, “I think I can handle your pops. I’ve shot bigger and badder before,” he said softly, thinking of his own father. Bobby leaned over, resting a hand on Dean’s shoulder.

“You boy’s ain’t alone as long as I’m around.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

The counting wasn't strictly relegated to him being upset or nervous, quiet the contrary- counting was an escape for anything and everything, and that included boredom.

Bobby wouldn’t hear of him getting off the couch for the first week of their stay, ordering him to lay still and heal up. Bobby told him that he had a concussion- there was no doubt about it, and what he needed to do was lie still and rest.
So, he counted.

He counted exactly 437 books in the living room/study where he laid, 3 windows, 7 window panes, 11 stains on the old, dingy wood floor, and a whopping 23 cracks in the plaster ceiling. And once he got bored with that, he started sneaking out from the comfort of the couch to filch some books from Bobby’s shelves to keep him occupied. The funny thing was, there was an equal chance of him snatching a lore book and a fiction book. He spent as much time reading the books as he did counting the words in them.

He missed his books.
He missed the familiarity of the pages between his fingers, the even, unchanging weight of them, and the fact that he already knew all of them. He missed that he knew exactly how many words were tuked inside them, he missed the comfort of counting those words and always ending up with the same number. He missed his childhood companions, the ones that kept him company when he couldn’t explain to Dean what was wrong, when words and numbers failed him and all he could do was curl up inside himself.

It hadn’t gone unnoticed by Bobby that suddenly his books had started moving around. His house looked like chaos to the unsuspecting eye, but everything had a place and everything was in its place in Bobby’s mind. He knew what Sam was up to, and though he didn’t mind him reading his books, he didn’t think the subject matter was really…appropriate at that point in time.
So, he decided to send Dean to the library.

“Go pick him up all the books you’d think he’d like,” Bobby said, “Tell the old biddy behind the counter, Marge, that Bobby Singer sent you. Here- take my card too.” Dean took the card, looking at it.
“Ah, maybe before I go, I could take Sammy outside for a walk? He’s been cooped up inside and I thought he might like to get some sun.” Bobby thought to himself, scratching at his chin.
“Why don’t you both go?” Bobby suggested hesitantly.

He was worried about letting Dean go anywhere with Sam. It was a fact that he faced, that there would come a time when John would show up or Dean would try to go back to his father, and he sat in silent worry of that. He knew Dean didn’t mean any bad by it, but he was so trained to go right back that it would happen eventually.

“Is that okay?” Dean asked.
“I ain’t keepin you prisoner,” Bobby replied, “Just come back, would ya?”
“I’m gonna come back!” Dean snapped, “I’m not just gonna take Sammy and run back to Dad. Not after what he did.” Bobby nodded slowly, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his wallet.
“Well, if you boys are goin into town, take some money,” he said, handing Dean his whole wallet, “Grab some groceries while you’re out. Get something Sam will eat- he doesn’t seem too fond of my cookin.” Dean grinned, taking the wallet.
“Yeah, cause your cookin involves opening a can and heating it up,” Dean teased, “I’ll get some groceries and make us some real food.”
“Good. Now, if anyone gets nosy, just tell ‘em you boys are my nephews and you’re stayin with me. People around her love gossip, so seein you two would get them all riled up. They yap about me enough so it’ll be no harm done.”
“You sure?” Dean asked. Bobby waved him off.
“Yeah. Don’t worry about it,” Bobby said, “Now get going. Library closes in about 3 hours, and I know you two will wanna browse.”

Dean grinned, bounding into the living room and running his fingers through Sam’s hair.
“Hey baby,” Dean said softly, “You wanna go to a library?” Sam looked up from the book in his lap, grinning at first and then starting to look worried.
“Are we allowed?” he asked hesitantly, “I don’t wanna make Bobby mad…”
“Yeah, we’re allowed,” Dean replied, “He wants us to do some shopping while we’re down there too. So it’s a win-win for everyone. Come on, you wanna go?”

Sam nodded eagerly, swinging his legs off the couch and yanking on his boots. He stretched out with a loud wince, rubbing his still bruised muscles gently. He waved to Bobby as he headed out the door, climbing into the car and waiting eagerly. Dean opened the door up and looked over at Bobby, an appreciative smile on his face.
“Thanks, Bobby,” Dean said softly, heading out. Bobby nodded, staring out the window as Dean patted Rumsfeld on the head and slid into the car, cranking it to life and fishtailing out of the drive.

Sam rolled down his window all the way, his eyes closed as the wind rushed through his hair and whipped against his still-marred face. Dean looked over at his little brother, the unimaginable guilt starting to shrink and fade as his brother started to smile that serene smile, the one he used to smile when they were children and the whole world was quiet and for once, Sam’s ears and head and heart didn’t hurt. The smile like sunshine and pie and hugs. The smile that was everything good in the world, painted on his little brother’s gorgeous face.

They were silent the whole way, save for Sam’s occasional humming. When they pulled into the library, Dean looked over at Sam, with a smile on his face.

“You ready to go, Ba-“

Sam surged forward, his arms thrown around Dean’s neck as he kissed him punch drunk, his lips soft and warm, stealing the breath out of Dean’s lungs. Dean kissed him back insistently, his hand carding through Sam’s shaggy hair. Finally, the broke apart, Sam blushing and Dean licking his lips.
“Thank you,” Sam whispered, reaching out and touching Dean’s face, “Thank you.” “
"You’re welcome,’ Dean replied just as softly, his thumb grazing over Sam’s lower lip.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Everyone who knew Sam knew that he had a particular fixation on books and libraries. Dean had found out when they were relatively young, when a kindergarten aged Sam had run across the playground at the end of the school day, sticking his hand happily in Dean's and bouncing with excitement.
"Dee, did you know thewe's a whole woom fiwwed with books hewe?" Sam asked excitedly, wiggling. Dean laughed, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah Sammy, that's called a library."
"Yi-bwawy," he repeated. He stopped walking, pursing his lips hard as his face screwed up in concentration. 
"Llllll," he mumbled, making the L sound, "Lllllllllie-burrrrarry."
"Why you doing that?" Dean asked, looking confused. Sam never corrected himself before.
"Miss Chamberrrrrrrlin says I say my lllllletterrrrrs wong," he said, "I gotta prrrrrrrrrractice." Dean nodded, remembering when a few schools tried to send him to special help classes when they found out he did things weird. Sometimes words got confused, or he'd read things all out of order when he had to popcon read, and his teachers always got mad that he wrote with both his hands- he always figured they were just jealous that he could do something they couldn't, but then they said he was "dyslexic" and tried to make him go to special classes. But he didn't like those classes, and he stopped going. And when they made him, he just sat definatly, his arms folded across his chest. He didn't need their help. He could do things on his own. It made him feel worried for Sammy, if they were making him go to classes like that.
"You don't say 'em wrong, you say 'em different," Dean said.
"But I don't wanna be diffewent," Sam said, kicking a rock with his toe, "I wanna say em the way evewyone else does."
Dean started to feel uncomfortable, deciding to change the subject.
"So, you like the Library?" he asked. Sam nodded quickly, giving Dean a toothy grin.
"I counted seven one hundweds and one thirwy fouw. How many is that?"
"That's seven hundred and thirty four."
"Okay! That's how many books thewe awe."
"That's a lot of books, Sammy," Dean said, "You counted them all?"
"Yup," Sam said, jumping over a crack in the sidewalk, "I'm gonna wead them all."
"All of them? That's a lot of reading, Sammy."
"I know, but I can do it!" Sam said, looking up at Dean, "I'm a big boy and I aweady know all my yetters and yots of wowds."
"Okay Sammy, and I'll help," Dean said with a smile, "I'm the best reader in my class."

After that, Sam was always lugging a backpack full of books home every day, all of his textbooks and whatever he'd borrowed from the library. Every time they'd leave one town for the next, they both try to sneak along as many books as possible, until Sam finally settled on five books that he couldn't do without. But every new school they went to, Sam made a point of exploring the whole thing from top to bottom, counting every single book in the damn place and trying to read as many books as possible before they moved on. Which wasn't hard for him- by third grade, he was able to devour books meant for 8th graders like they were kindergarten books.

Dean watched with a serene smile on his face as he watched Sam stand on the threshold of the library, just looking around in a daze, counting. “Onetwothreefourfive…”
Sam nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt Dean’s hand on his shoulder, a reassuring smile on his face.

“Go ahead, baby,” he said gently, “Go pick some out. As many as you want.”
“As many as I want?” Sam repeated, his eyes blown wide in awe. Dean laughed, kissing his cheek.
“Yeah baby. As many as you want,” he said, pushing Sam forward, “Go ahead, have fun.”

Sam was off like a shot and Dean laughed, turning and suddenly noticing the older woman behind the counter, huge coke-bottle glasses slipping down her nose and a shock of long, bushy white hair standing from her head as if she’d stuck her finger in an electrical socket. She was observing him carefully, like she was putting together a puzzle before touching any of the pieces. He smiled awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Ah, hi,” he said hesitantly, “Are you, ah, Miss Marge?” The woman nodded, slipping a bookmark in her book and setting it aside.
“That’s me. Marjorie Fischer, at your service young man,” she said, scrambling down from the apparently high stool she was previously sitting on. The woman barely met Dean’s chest. “And you are?”
“Ah, Dean Singer,” he said. The woman sniffed, looking at him closely.
“You aren’t Robert’s boy,” she said, looking him over, “Too pretty to be Robert’s and Karen’s. Karen was a handsome woman, you know, but not what one would call pretty.” Dean nodded uncomfortably, not really sure how to respond.

He knew Bobby had been married before and that she’d died, but Bobby was always real tight lipped about it. Dad said it was cancer when he asked as a kid, the kind of cancer that, according to his dad, Bobby had no one but himself to blame for.

“I’m his nephew. Me and my brother are spending some time with him,” Dean replied, “I never really knew my Aunt Karen. Bobby doesn’t talk about her much.” Marjorie nodded, starting to walk into the recesses of the library.
“Sad business, all that. I know it still haunts Robert- you know, when someone goes like that, you just think, what could I have done?” she chattered as Dean tagged along behind her, looking around for a glimpse of Sam, “But having someone other than that smelly old bloodhound will do him so good by my figuring.”
“Yeah, we’ll be doing each other good,” Dean said, looking around.

Marjorie turned abruptly around the corner and let out a little grunt as she slammed right into Sam. Sam had reached out and grabbed her, apologizing as quickly as he tongue would let him.

“I’m so sorry ma’am, I didn’t realize…oh god, this is all my fault, I am so so sorry, I’ll just…oh god..”
Marjorie batted his hands away, adjusting her glasses as she looked up at him.
“Bit jumpy aren’t…”

Her voice trailed off when she got a good look at Sam’s face, her thin mouth pinched in a line. She looked back at Dean and then back to Sam, seemingly regaining steam.

“Don’t worry about it, dear,” she said kindly, patting his arm, “These old bones aren’t made of glass. They can take a little wear and tear.” Sam nodded, his hands shaking the pile of books in his hand. She looked at the books, smiling broadly.
“A reader, I see,” she said conversationally, “Well, come along then, don’t be shy.” Dean followed her up front again as Sam scurried along behind him, almost stepping on his heels. His nervousness died away though, when he realized that this lady wasn’t mad at him, and was willing to give him books. She hopped up onto her stool, opening a few drawers and extracting two papers and pens.
“I’m sure Robert sent you with his card, but I run a tight ship around here,” she said, pushing the papers forward, “So, you’ll need to have your own cards.”
She pointed at the lines on both of their pages and she continued, “Top line, name. Second line, address. Third line, phone number if you have one. I’ll just list you both with Robert’s address and phone number since you’re staying with him, yes? Perfect. Now you two do that and I’ll start ringing out your books."

She began to pick up the books lovingly, her fingers stroking over the spines as she murmured their names out loud.
“Grimm Brothers, third edition- oh yes, this one is fantastic, it has a few stories that weren’t in the second edition, like Godfather Death. Terrific story, that. And…oh, Hans Christen Andersen; the illustrations in this one are marvelous, simply marvelous. Pippi Longstocking, good, good, James and the Giant Peach and- oh! Matilda, what a fantastic one. You know, I have Roald Dahl’s entire collection. Have you ever read BFG?”
Sam looked up at Marjorie, shaking his head.
“No…ah, what is it?’ he asked as Dean took his paper and began to fill it out for him. Marjorie lifted a finger , bending over and digging around under her desk.
“Aha!” she exclaimed, sitting up with a dingy book in her hands, “The BFG- or, the Big Friendly Giant. You see, the BFG is the only giant who doesn’t eat humans, instead he collects good dreams and gives them to the children of earth, and he destroys nightmares and gives them to the other giants. BFG and his friend, a human child named Sophie, must work together to alert the earth’s rulers that the giants are real and eating people. It’s a lovely story- here, this is my copy,” she said with a soft smile, “I used to read it to my children and my grandchildren, before they decided they were too old for fairytales.”
“I couldn’t,” Sam said softly, before reaching out and taking it. She laughed, taking the papers from Dean.
“You keep it, dear,” she said as she scribbled across two small cards, “Never let anyone take your dreams from you, not even yourself.” She pushed the cards forward, smiling at the pair.
“You boys take care, now. The books are due back next Tuesday. And don’t be strangers!”

They waved as they walked out, Dean noticing with a tinge of worry that Marjorie had picked up the phone and was talking animatedly into the receiver.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He sat in the living room with his newly borrowed books, counting them over and over with excitement. Dean was seated on the couch, having taken Sam’s newest book, BFG, and started reading it, a beer in his hand as Sam leaned back against his chest. It was comfortable and sweet, this newfound peace.
Bobby had caught them kissing shortly after they had walked through the door, a quick peck on the lips- but he hadn’t said anything about it, much to their relief.

The timer in the kitchen went off and Dean nudged Sam gently with his leg.

“Gotta go get dinner out of the oven, baby,” Dean said, setting down the book and the beer, kissing the side of Sam’s head. Sam nodded, focused on his books as Dean got up and headed to the kitchen.
“Smells good, boy,” Bobby said, from his book, pen moving at lightning speed as he read.
“Thanks old man,” Dean replied.

Suddenly, the tranquility was interrupted by the sound of someone knocking on the door. Dean opened the over and turned it off, looking at Bobby.

“Who…?”
“You boys go upstairs,” Bobby said sharply, “Now.”
Dean nodded, grabbing Sam from the floor and rushing him upstairs as quietly as possible. Bobby picked up his shotgun, checking that it was loaded as another insistent knock came from the door. He peeked through the peephole and sighed with relief- it wasn’t John like he expected, it was just that nosy new deputy lady. He set the shotgun down, opening the door.

“Can I help you?” he asked gruffly, folding his arms. The woman smiled cordially at him, a clipboard in hand.
“Hi, Mister Singer?” she asked. Bobby nodded, and she continued, “I’m Deputy Jody Mills, Sioux Falls PD. I’m just following up on a report I received earlier today. Are your nephews home?”
“No, they ain’t, “Bobby said, “They get into trouble or something?”
“Oh no, nothing like that,” Jody said, clicking open her pen and scribbling something quickly, “Just someone called concerned about their well-being. May I come in?”
“Sure,” Bobby said, letting her in and closing the door. Jody’s eyes spied the shotgun leaning next to the door.
“Sure hope that wasn’t for me,” she joked.
“Thought you were someone else,” Bobby said, “Sorry. Take a seat in the kitchen.”

Bobby moved ahead of her, slamming his books shut and whisking them away, sitting across from the young deputy.

“So, like I said, someone called in concerned for the boy’s well-being; they said that they looked pretty banged up.”
“Don’t see how that’s a police matter,” Bobby said, “Back in my day, police weren’t too concerned about what was goin on behind closed doors.”
“Children are our future, Mr. Singer,” Jody said seriously, “And if there’s kids in harm’s way, it’s my duty to make sure they’re safe. Now, can I have their names, please?”
“I thought you knew their names,” Bobby replied.
“Well, they used those names on their library card files- Sam and Dean Singer.”
“Ah, I see why they’d so that,” Bobby said quietly, “Their real last name is Winchester.”
“Sam and Dean Winchester?” Jody repeated, “Well, not to alarm you, but I got an APB earlier this week for two young boys named Sam and Dean Winchester. Seems they’re runaways.”

Bobby rubbed his face, his fury rising. Would John stop at nothing to destroy his children?

“They ain’t runaways,” Bobby growled, “They came to me for help.”
“Help for what?” Jody asked, “Look, I’m not here to drag the boys away from you. But before I tell everyone in our station to ignore that APB, I need to know why I’m doing it. Are they in some sort of danger? Are they running away from someone who is trying to hurt them?”
“Yeah,” Bobby said dejectedly, “Yeah. They’re running away from their father.” Jody nodded, flipping the page on her report.
“Okay, Mr. Singer. Where is the boys' mother?”
“She died, long time ago,” Bobby said.
“And what is their father’s name?”
“Not that it’ll do you much good,” bobby said, “But John Winchester.”
“Okay. Now, do you know if Mr. Winchester has a history of violence?”
“You got no idea, lady,” Bobby snorted, “Ah, nothing on the books that I know of. But he’s been knocking the boys around since they were real little.”
“Can you explain the situation that led the boys to run away to here?”
“Not really,” Bobby admitted, “Sam- ah, the younger one- he ran away from home. John knocked the shit outta Dean and went to go find Sam, and when he did, apparently things got real bad.”
“How bad?”
“I can’t really put into words,” Bobby said, “I only know what little Dean told me. Apparently Sam’s been real tight lipped about it.”

Jody nodded sympathetically.

“Male victims are usually like that,” she replied, “I know that you may be very defensive of the boys, but I have to ask if there’s any way for me to talk to them.”
“You can talk to Dean,” Bobby said, “But…Sam’s a bit of a tough call.”
“Why’s that?” Jody asked, “If he’d feel more comfortable with a male officer, I can-“
“No, it ain’t that,” Bobby said, “He’s…I don’t know what kind of word would suit Sam. For lack of a better term, he’s a bit challenged.”
“Sam is mentally handicapped?” Jody asked delicately. Bobby shook his head.
“No, not like that…ah, kid’s real fidgety, nervous. Kinda fixates on numbers. He’s smart as all hell, but he’s got certain needs.”
“Ah,” Jody said, writing, “Has Sam been tested?”
“Tested for what?”
“Oh,” Jody said, “Has he been tested for pervasive developmental disorders?”
“I don’t even know what that is,” Bobby admitted, “Their father isn’t the type of man who would take his children to a doctor.”

Jody nodded slowly, pushing the pen cap between her lips. The situation was getting complicated.

“Well, I need to talk to Dean, at least.”
Bobby nodded, standing and walking over to the bottom the stairs. She heard as Bobby called up to Dean, but she couldn’t make out the low voice that replied.

“…No, she ain’t gonna tell him where you are. She just needs to find out what happened.”

She heard a loud cry from the top of the stairs and was on her feet, almost knocking Bobby out of the way as she rushed over.

“What’s going on?” she demanded, looking up at the two boys. The older one was wrapped around his shaking, crying brother, stroking his hair and rocking him gently, as the younger one counted quickly. She let out a sigh of relief, tucking her gun back in its holster before ascending the stairs.
She knelt down a few steps before the top, smiling.

“Hi,” she said warmly, “I’m Jody. What’s your names?”
Sam had seemed to calm down a little, still counting but not seeming as frantic.
“I’m Dean,” the older one said, still holding and rocking his brother, “And this is Sammy.”
Jody leaned forward a little, getting closer to Sam. She noted how Dean’s arms tightened around his brother protectively. He was a good brother.

“Hi, Sammy,” she said calmly, “Can I talk to you and your brother for a little bit? About who hurt you?”
“I’m…I’m not a child,” Sam hiccupped, “I’m a freak but I’m not a child.” Jody sighed in relief, nodding.
“Didn’t think you were, kiddo. You just seemed pretty upset,” Jody said, “See, someone thought that you guys were being hurt by someone, so I came by to check on you. I just want to know what happened, so I can make sure you two are safe.”
“Why would you do that?” Dean snapped, “No one gave a shit before.”
“They weren’t me,” she said firmly, looking at Dean, “I know you boys have been through some crazy stuff, but I want to help you, okay? I can’t help if you don’t talk to me.”

Dean looked down at Bobby who nodded, standing and pulling Sam up with him.
“Give it to use straight,” Dean said seriously, “Why are you here?”
Jody let out a slow breath, trying to be as calm as possible.
“You two were seen in town yesterday and someone called because of how bad you two look,” she said seriously, “You two look like you’ve been seriously assaulted. I have to follow up on all reports concerning minors, so I came. When I got here, Mr. Singer informed me that you two had used an alias on your library cards, and it seems your real names or on an APB that I got earlier this week stating that you two are runaways.”
“I can’t run away,” Dean said as Sam started to go limp in his arms, “I’m 21. I’m of legal age, he can’t do anything to me.”
Jody nodded.
“But Sam is a legal minor, therefore the AVB on him is still in effect..and a lot of bad things could come of you being a legal adult, Dean.”

Sam’s face was pale as tears spurng to his eyes.

“You’re gonna make me go back,” he whispered, starting to breathe hard, “You’re…you’re gonna make me go back and you’re gonna put Dean in jail…I can’t…I can’t…onetwothreefourfive…” his words dissolved into the counting, his chest heaving as he edged closer and closer to hyperventilating.

Dean shoved her out of the way, sweeping Sam into his arms and carrying him downstairs, laying him on the couch. He stroked Sam’s hair and face, trying to calm him as Bobby and Jody stood in the doorway.

“Y’see what I mean now,” Bobby said quietly. Jody nodded.
“What did that man do to him?” she asked softly.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He laid on the couch hyperventilating, clinging to Dean as his brother counted his fingers slowly, is other hand stroking his face.
“One, two, three, four, five. No one is gonna make you go back. One, two, three, four, five. I’m not gonna go to jail. One, two, three, four, five. Everything is gonna be okay, baby.”
Sam was in a full panic, one that Dean hadn’t seen since Sam was much younger. He ripped his hand from Dean’s hand, clapping his hands on his ears and curling into the fetal position, rocking.
“Too loud, too loud,” he cried, rocking, “Too loud, too much, don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” he shrieked as Dean reached out, kicking Dean hard enough to knock him off the couch. Dean leapt to his feet, looking hurt and scared. Sam continued to clutch his head, crying loudly, “Too loud, too loud, don’t, too loud…”
He threw his back hard, slamming it off of the arm of the couch, again and again.

Jody moved to assist, but Bobby threw out his arm.
“Don’t,” he said quietly, “When Sam gets like this, no one but Dean can reach him.”

“Baby, it’s me, it’s Dean, I’m not gonna hurt you,” Dean said gently, bending over Sam, “Oh, god, look at you…”
Sam suddenly froze; his whole body stock still as he cried louder, the repetitious cries of ‘Too Loud’ forming into new words. Those words triggered something in him, and overwhelming fear, his father saying the same thing before...

“Don’t!” he cried, “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry! Don’t do it again, don’t do it, don’t do it! I won’t tell, I won’t tell anyone, I won’t ever tell…”
Dean grabbed Sam firmly, holding him against his chest. Sam thrashed at first, screaming bloody murder until he seemed to realize who was holding him. Then, he pressed his face against Dean’s chest, grabbing Dean’s shirt in a stranglehold.

“I’m bad,’ he wailed loudly, Dean’s chest not muffling his words completely, “I’m bad, I’m bad, I’m a freak, I’m bad…”
“No,” Dean said firmly, rocking Sam, “You’re not bad. He’s bad. He hurt us. He’s the bad one, baby. You wanna count? Here, let’s count. That always makes you feel better, baby. That’s it, let Dean have your hand,” he said patiently, gently prying Sam’s hand from his shirt, “Okay, there, see? Dean’s not gonna let anything bad happen. Let’s count. One…two…three…four…five. Breathe, baby. You gotta breathe. That’s it.”
Jody watched through tears as Dean comforted Sam, holding him and counting with him, whispering in his ear softly from time to time, saying words they couldn’t hear. Finally, Sam seemed to fall asleep with Dean’s lips pressed against his ear, rocking him gently. Carefully, Dean untangled himself from Sam’s grip, covering him with a blanket and kissing his cheek softly.
“I’m not going anywhere, baby,” he whispered before standing, turning to face Jody.

“I’m guessing the charge is kidnapping,” Dean said, “So…what happens now?”
Jody raised an eyebrow, looking confused.
“What are you talking about?” she asked, “What- you think I’m here to arrest you? Just…Sit down for a second, kid. No one is getting arrested. No one in this house, at least.”

Dean eyed her suspiciously, going into the kitchen and sitting in the third seat, Bobby and Jody sitting side by side.

“Thanks for keeping your trap shut, Bobby,” Dean snapped. Bobby glared at Dean, folding his arms.
“Boy, I ain’t about to go to jail because of your daddy. I coulda gotten my ass hauled in for kidnapping myself. Chose the lesser of two evils. Anyways- how the fuck was I supposed to prove to the nice lady here that your last names are Singer? You ain’t got any ID with that last name on it.”
“Bobby’s right, Dean,” Jody said, “I understand the desire for secrecy in these types of situations, but-“
“You ain’t gonna get into her pants by cooperating,” Dean snapped viciously.
“I need to take a walk,” Bobby growled, standing up, “Good luck with him, Deputy.”

Dean watched as Bobby left the house, leaving him alone with the Deputy.

“I ain’t telling you shit,” Dean hissed.
“Dean,” Jody said seriously, “I’m gonna tell the guys at the station to ignore that APB, okay? But I need you to come clean. I need you to tell me everything, so I can deal with this. I know how scary it can be-”
“You have no idea,” Dean said, “You have no idea what it’s like, so don’t you fucking sit there with your shiny fucking badge and police issue gun that you’ve never shot outside the range and tell me that you fucking understand.”
“You’re right,” Jody said, “I don’t understand. But I’m trying to. And I’m trying to help. You’re not alone- Mr. Singer cares about you. I’ve heard from just about everyone at the station that trying to talk to him is like trying to get a cat in the bath. If he came clean that fast, he’s worried for your safety, and he doesn’t know if he can handle it on his own. And if he can’t handle it, what makes you think you can?”
“Because I always have,” Dean grunted.
“I don’t wanna be cruel,” Jody said gently, “But If you’re handling it, then how did Sam get hurt the way he did? Dean, you’re just a kid. You can’t do it on your own, and you don’t have to.”

“Are you gonna arrest him?” Dean asked, “My Dad- if I tell you what I know, are you gonna arrest him?”
Jody bit her lip. This was a tough situation- as much as this motherfucker deserved to be caught and arrested, she really didn’t have jurisdiction unless the abuse occurred in Sioux Falls. And putting out a counter AVB would just give away their location.

“Not unless you want me to,” she said. Dean shook his head hard.
“No,” Dean said, No, I don’t want you to.”
“Then I won’t,” she said, “Now, I’m gonna ask you some questions to get the ball rolling.” She opened up the clipboard, pulling out a few papers and laying them out on the table, “We’ll start real easy. Where were you born?”
“Lawrence, Kansas,” Dean replied.
“And where was your last place of residence?”
“As, something like the Sleep Easy inn or something. Out in Flagstaff, Arizona.”
“Dean, do you usually live in motels?”
“Motels, inns, camping cabins, that sort of thing,” Dean said, “My dad, ah, he sells stuff for a living.”
“Okay,” she said, “Now, I know this may be hard…but can you explain what happened to you and Sam most recently? Where it took place, the situation, all that.”

Dean took a deep breath, closing his eyes.

“Me and Sam were in Flagstaff,” Dean said, “I…I was trying to apply for colleges a while ago, and I didn’t tell him. We’d been arguing a bit about it for a while. Well, Sam said that Dad was the one making me stay and I…I got mad, I was tired and I wasn’t thinking and I…I told him he was making me stay. So he, he figured that if he wasn’t there, that I’d leave, you know? Like, typical kid thinking. He didn’t get that I didn’t leave because…I mean, I couldn’t leave him alone with Dad. I know it don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but when I’m there, I usually get the worst of it, you know? I mean, it’s basically the difference between a broken bone and a fractured bone- it still hurts like fucking hell, but one is kinda better than the other, right? So Sam, he ran away in the middle of the night. Didn’t tell me where he was going, and I’m not supposed to lose him, I’m supposed to always watch him, but he left. I tried to find him on my own but I was so scared…you know, like all those horror stories you hear on the news running in your head, someone picked him up and killed him or hurt him. So I told my dad and he really…really tore into me when he got back and kept looking for Sam. He found him and…I guess Sam said some stuff he didn’t like. You know, like asking him why it had to be this way. Dad knocked him around and after that…Sam won’t tell me. So I packed him up when he was well enough to drive and I ran here.”

Jody nodded, biting her lip. It was heartbreaking, the amount of guilt and shame that was in Dean’s voice, and she just wanted to take away his pain. Sioux Falls had their fair share of tragedy and sadness that she had to deal with, but nothing like this. She reached out, touching Dean’s arm gently.

“It wasn’t your fault, Dean,” she said gently, “But this is gonna help me keep him away from you, okay? I’m gonna make sure he never bothers you two again, if I can help it. We can petition for a PFA order if you wanted.”
“What’s a PFA?”
“It’s a Protection From Abuse order,” she said, “It’s a paper that will make sure he can’t come near you or hurt you. But it would require us to serve him with the papers and tell him where you are so he can…not be there.”
“That’s stupid,” Dean said, “What the hell am I supposed to do, hold up that piece of paper when he tries to beat me again? Pretty sure a punch hurts just as much with a piece of paper between my face and his fist.”
“Okay,” she said, “So you don’t want that.”
“No, I don’t,” Dean said, “I just want me and Sammy to be left alone. I just want us to live our lives…I mean, Sam has a real good chance of having a good life, you know, college education and all that. He’s real smart, straight A’s even through all this shit. If you can just… help me make sure I have that for him, that’s all I want.”
“I can do that,” Jody said softly.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

And by the fourth week at Bobby’s, he and Dean settled into a routine, something that Sam always loved. Sam loved routine. He loved knowing exactly what was gonna happen and when it was gonna happen, like clockwork. Like re-reading a favorite book. Like the counting.

It was true, since they'd come to Bobby's, that the counting had waned, at least verbally. Sam hadn't felt the compulsion to count out loud for a while, but that didn't mean that the counting inside his head had stopped. There were times that he'd just wander around a room in the house, mentally counting an cataloging everything in the room.
256 tiles in the bathroom floor. 133 of them were cracked. Three stains on the bathtub- one under the faucet, one around the drain, one around the shower head. Two stains in the sink, one around the faucet, one around the drain. Seventeen towels, three black towels, two green and white striped towels, two blue towels, ten white towels. One washcloth. Two hand towels. One rug.

Bobby wasn't exactly thrilled when Sam had informed him of all the cracked tiles and stains, but Sam hadn't done it to be criticizing. He'd only done it to tell someone the numbers, and Dean had tried to make it clear to Bobby that while Sam wasn't counting out loud anymore, he was still counting and they should generally accept it when he told them the number of anything in the house- he was still trying to cope with the counting, but it seemed like he was trying to find new ways to do it; ways that weren't as noticeable.

Dean wouldn't say anything to Sam, but part of him was extremely worried that Sam was trying to hide it because of what their father did to him- like he thought if he could've controlled his counting, what happened wouldn't have happened. He was worried if he said anything to Sam about it, that things might get worse- so he just let it pass. But still, there were times that he caught Sam counting out loud, and if Sam noticed, he'd immediately stop doing it out loud, but his lips would still be moving.

Every two days or so, Same and Dean would get up early and head into town and spend the whole day in their new sanctuary, the Sioux Falls Public Library. Sometimes they’d help Miss Marjorie, who Dean had nicknamed “Fisch”( he said it was because of how big her eyes looked in her glasses) with putting books away or moving heavy things, but they spent much of the time curled up in one of the aisles, reading and cuddling.
They were regular fixtures there, and Fisch had figured out a system for working around them, smiling down on them fondly every time she passed. When they weren’t at the library, Dean was working for Bobby in the Junkyard, fixing anything he could get his hands on; while Sam usually sat inside whatever vehicle he was working on, reading out loud to him.

The day before, however, Sam had finished his book before Dean was done with the GTO he was working on, and when he got tired of being under the stupid thing, he slid out and stood, brushing his hands against his coveralls.
He looked over to see Sam sitting in the driver's seat, his eyes darting around and whispering the numbers softly.
"Fifty one, fifty two, fifty three," he whispered, "Fifty four, fifty five, fifty six..."
Dean leaned against the driver's side door where Sam was sitting, smiling gently.
"You okay, baby?" Dean asked, looking at hium curiously. Sam jumped as if Dean had just jumped out from behind a door and screamed 'boo', nodding quickly.
"I'm fine," he said softly.
"You sure?" Dean asked, "You were counting the cars."
"No I wasn't," he said quickly, looking down. Dean frowned and shrugged, deciding not to push it, but just before he knelt down to go back under the car, he could see Sam's lips moving as his eyes moved again, back to counting.

Generally, Dean didn't mind the fact that Sam was attached to him at the hip. In fact, he liked it- not only having Sam with him, but always having Sam within eye shot. It made him feel better, always knowing where Sam was, since he ran away. He couldn't help but feel responsible for what had happened, at least partially.

But even Dean needed some quiet sometimes, and it was one day that he got up in the morning, kissing Sam awake gently, that he realized he just needed one day of silence and space. As guilty as he felt about it, he thought that maybe it would do Sam some good too- it seemed like more and more, Sam was censoring himself around him, and maybe a day out would help Sam relax a bit. It would certainly help him relax.

Dean stretched under the sheets, trying to think of a way to suggest it to Sam without him think that he was trying to get rid of him. That was the last thing he wanted Sam to think, especially considering that making Sam feel that way was what got him hurt so badly in the first place.

“Hey baby?” he said softly as Sam’s arms wound around his waist, “Would you mind if I asked Jody to take you to the library today?”
“Are you mad at me?” Sam asked, looking nervous. Dean laughed, kissing his head.
“No, I’m not mad,” Dean said, “But I think I need a day by myself to think about some stuff, you know? And I thought you might have some fun with Fisch today- it is story time day, I know you love seeing all the kids and listening to the stories.”
“Yeah, I guess that’d be fun,” Sam said, his fingers tracing over Dean’s chest, “But…I kinda wanna talk to you about something.”
“Yeah, okay,” Dean said, “What is it?”

Sam bit his lip, sitting up. Dean still winced when he saw Sam’s still-fading bruises, finding it completely shocking that the brownish-green and yellow marks still hadn’t disappeared yet. He ran his fingers along Sam’s back encouragingly.

“Are we…” Sam began, pausing, “Do you still love me?”

Dean sat up quickly, cocking his head to the side. Why would Sam ask something like that? Of course he still loved him- that's why they were doing this, staying at Bobby's and away from John, because he loved his little brother so much. In fact, Sam was the only reason he had enough strength to even leave. He would've never had the strength if he was the one that John had beaten so badly, but it being Sam had given him that kick in the ass he needed.

“What are you talking about, baby?” Dean asked, “Of course I still love you. I always love you. I never stopped.”
“I know,” Sam said softly, pulling his knees to his chest, “But do you still love me…that way?”
“Yes,” Dean answered firmly, taking Sam’s face in his hands, “Sam, what happened…whatever happened, I don’t care. I still love you. Nothing will ever change that.”
“Then why haven’t you touched me?” Sam asked, “It’s it because…”

Dean couldn’t stand to hear what was about to come next, instead kissing Sam.

“I haven’t touched you because I was worried,” Dean said softly, “I wasn’t sure of what you wanted. If you want me to touch you, then I’ll touch you.”
“I don’t…not right now,” Sam said, his fingers grazing over Dean’s chest, “Not now. But soon, please? Soon, just you and me, like it used to be. Please.”

Dean nodded, kissing Sam as his fingers slid through his hair. He was worried about doing anything after what Sam went through…especially when at first, He wouldn’t even let him kiss him on the lips. He was worried about triggering Sam’s panic, or giving him an attack, but if Sam wanted to slowly work their physical relationship back in, he could do that.
This was a new beginning. For both of them.

He called Jody to ask her if she minded taking Sam into town to go the library, and she seemed more than eager to do so. While he might not have been crazy about Jody (she was a cop and no matter whose side she said she was on, she was still a cop), he knew that if Sam was with her, he'd be safe. Besides, Jody seemed to get how Sam was, and she didn't freak out or try to make him stop like most people would. He decided that she was the best option to get Sam out of the house and to give him a day just to himself.


“Actually, I have a day off today,” She said, “I’m taking Owen down to the story time anyways, so we’ll just drive out and pick Sam up. About a half hour or so, is that alright?”
“Who’s Owen?” Dean asked, sounding confused.
“My son,” she said, laughing, “He just turned one.”
“Damn, well, okay then,” Dean said, at a loss for words, “A half hour sounds fine with me.”

Sam was excited to go into town- they both loved kids, and Sam with kids and books was sure to make his day. In fact, the only thing that would make him happier was if puppies and a salad were somehow involved- and knowing Jody, he had a feeling that if Sam brought up either, he’d end up with it.
Jody had taken to Sam quickly after the incident, brushing off his apologies and telling him it was all perfectly understandable. After that, it seemed like Sam saw her ever few days, at the library, or just stopping by to say hi to him or recommend a book she’d just read. Dean liked the way Sam seemed drawn to her, the way he just relaxed in her presence, the way he did around him and Bobby and Fisch.

It seemed like Sam was making friends everywhere in Sioux Falls, and getting Bobby a better reputation every day, which he hated.
Jody and Bobby still weren’t more than cordially friendly with each other, which was fine with Dean. He liked Jody, for sure- but he didn’t want to have to share Bobby and Sam with her. If Sam didn’t like her so much, he wouldn’t even like sharing Sam with her.

Jody showed up on the doorstep with Owen in her arms, looking happy to see them.
“Hi boys!” she chirped, “This is my little man, Owen.”

Dean had scooped up Owen faster than Sam or Jody expected, grinning at him. Dean always had a soft spot for children, but particularly babies. It always brought him back to when Sam was a baby and a toddler, a time that was intensely special to Dean. Sam was never really affectionate as a baby and a toddler with anyone but him, and it had made him feel so special...especially with dealing with his father. The fact that baby Sammy didn't care what Dean had done wrong or what his father said, the fact that baby Sammy wanted to be held and hugged and cuddled by Dean only, helped him cope with all the things that he was struggling with on his own. It made all of the bad things disappear, and it made dealing with all the horrible parts of his life worth it, when Sam cuddled against him or held his hand. And holding other babies reminded him of that special time with Sammy, reminded him that the baby and toddler that he'd raised was still in there, and still the one reaching for his hand.That innocent, sweet little baby was still there, he'd just gotten a lot taller. He smiled at Owen's face a little sadly- Owen was a round baby, all chub and cute little rolls, with pudgy, rosy cheeks,unlike Sam was as a baby. Sam was a thin baby, compared to most of the children Dean saw. He still had the baby chub around his face and tummy, and he was still a heavy baby, but otherwise, he wasn't as chubby as other babies. Sam also wasn't as rosy cheeked as Owen was. Dean realize that was probably because his father had no idea how to feed a baby when his mother died, and after that, food was always tight. He wished that Sammy could've been like Owen- a fat, happy baby.

“Hey there little guy,” Dean said with wide grin, “Boy, you’re a heavy one. Sammy was a heavy baby too- that means you’re gonna end up being a BFG like him.”

Since Fisch had given Sam the BFG, it’d become Jody and Dean’s endearment for Sam. Sam was, in all senses, a Big Friendly Giant- tall and lanky and sweet, and much to Sam’s chagrin, with big ears. Sam insisted his ears weren’t that big, but poking out from under his shaggy hair, they seemed a lot bigger than they were. Sam blushed a little, scraping the toe of his boot against the floor and rocking a little. He knew when he was a baby, he never looked like Owen did. There were very few pictures of him after his mother died when he was little, but the few that there were showed a solemn faced, thin little boy with round cheeks, clinging to his older brother. He wasn't smiling, he wasn't round like other kids. As far as Sam was concerned, he was an ugly child, and he'd grown up to be an ugly teenager. At least Owen was a good looking kid and had the benefit of enough food to sustain his growing body.

Jody laughed, rubbing Owen’s head affectionately, a gesture that made Dean flinch a little.


“Yup, gonna be a big man, just like his daddy,” she said, turning to Sam, “You got all your stuff, kiddo? I figured we’d make a day out of it- go to the library, maybe grab some lunch, that sorta thing.”
“That’d be great!” Sam exclaimed, glancing over at Dean, “Can-“
“You don’t even have to ask, Baby,” Dean said with a wide smile, “Me and Bobby can hold down the fort. But one rule- no bringing home anything but books. Got it?”
“Yeah, I know,” Sam said, a huge smile lighting his face. Dean handed Owen to Sam, nodding to Jody.
“Take good care of him,” he said, making Jody laugh.
“Oh don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll have him home before curfew, and no kissing on the first date.”

Sam looked a bit nervous until Dean laughed.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he teased, “I’ll be out in the yard with Bobby for most of the day, so if anything comes up- you’ll have to ring the garage. You know the number, right Sammy?”
“Yeah Dean,” Sam said, fidgeting impatiently as he bounced Owen, “I know I know. Can we go now?”
“Yeah, go on,” he said, kissing Sam’s cheek, “I love you.”
“Love you too,” Sam said, bouncing out the door with Owen. Jody looked after him, turning to Dean.
“Don’t worry, I’m a police officer. What could go wrong?” She asked, laughing.

Dean laughed too, waving at them as Jody loaded them all in the car and drove off, her question lingering in his head.

What could go wrong?

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

When Sam was upset, Dean would always count his fingers for him, low and soothing, helping the panic and nervousness subside into a sense of safety. But when Sam just needed cheering up when he was little, Dean counted then, too. Dean was never fond of the "piggies" rhyme that people usually used. So he'd sit at Sammy's feet on the bed, pinching the tips of Sam's wiggling toes as he giggled.

"One piggy, two piggy, three piggy four," he said, suddenly clapping his hands together over Sam's toes, "Five little piggies caught in the door!"
"Nooo!" Sam usually giggled, wiggling his foot, trying to get free of Dean's hands.
"Should we let the piggies go?" Dean would always asked teasingly.
"Yeah Dee, let the piggies go!"
"But piggies taste so good..." he'd say, parting his hands a little to peek down at them, "And these ones look REALLY tasty."
And by then, Sam was usually squealing and trying to get his foot away before Dean pretended to eat them, tickling his foot.

Owen was getting fussy during the car ride and he could hear Jody sigh, looking unsure of what she could do other than pulling over and checking on him. So Sam turned around in his seat, pulling off Owen's sock and touching his toes.
"One piggy, two piggy, three piggy four," he began, gently clapping his hand over Owen's toes, "Five little piggies caught in the door!"
Owen looked like he didn't know what to think of it at first, so Sam did it a few more times. Soon Owen was gurgling happily, kicking his feet and giggling as Sam tickled his feet and played with his little toes.

After a while, Owen finally started to fall asleep, snuggled down in his seat as Sam turned around, smirking a little.

“You got a knack with kids,” Jody said quietly when Own had fallen asleep, just 10 minutes away from the library.
“Dean’s better with kids than I am,” Sam said, blushing, “He used to do that when I was little. I just thought he might like the counting too.”
“He certainly did,” Jody replied, glancing up into the rearview mirror, “So, how’d you figure out counting was your thing?”
“Dean taught me how to count when I was little,” Sam said, “And I just liked the way the numbers felt in my mouth. I know that sounds stupid, but I liked it. And when I counted, it made me feel calm. Like I was okay, even when things were bad.”

Jody nodded.

“That’s kinda how I feel when I crochet,” she said, “I had post-partum depression after Owen was born, and I just couldn’t shake that feeling of hopelessness. I had everything to be hopeful about! I had Owen, a loving husband, all that, but I just felt so terrible. Almost useless. And there was this…weird feeling of shame. I was ashamed that I wasn’t like other mothers, who were just so overjoyed that they had children. I thought there was something wrong with me. So, I started crocheting when it got to be too much. It was calming, counting the stitches and making something beautiful out of that negativity.”
“Really?” Sam asked.
“Oh yeah,” Jody replied, “See, counting isn’t so odd. I do it too, when I get really upset. I count until I feel calm again. It really helps me. It helps you too.”
“I guess I never thought that anyone else would ever feel like this,” Sam said quietly.
“Like what?”
“Ashamed even though they should be happy,” Sam replied.
Jody nodded.
“Why do you feel ashamed, Sam?” she asked. Sam shrugged, picking at his jeans.
“Because…it’s my fault that we had to leave. I think my Dad wouldn’t be the way he is if…if I wasn’t the way I am. And Dean always tells me that there’s nothing wrong with me, but I still feel ashamed.”
“You know,” Jody said, “I haven’t know Dean for a very long time, but I think that he left because he was tired of seeing you hurt, and being hurt. I think that your father is the one who should be ashamed, not you.”
“I know,” Sam said, biting his lip, “I know that in the…the logical side of my brain. But in the emotional side, it feels all…messy. Complicated.”
“Feelings are really complicated,” she said gently, “I know how bad that can feel, all those messy feelings when you know that logically, you don’t need to feel that way.”
“And I don’t want to tell Dean because he’ll blame himself,” Sam continued, “He’ll blame himself, and I don’t want him to do that. Because it isn’t his fault.”
“Nope,” Jody said as they pulled in, “It’s not his fault either.” She smiled at Sam warmly, patting his arm.
Sam smiled back, feeling relieved.
He’d told Jody about how he felt, and she didn’t get mad or blame herself, she just comforted him.
Sam liked that.

They woke up Owen and headed into the library, the usually quiet space filled with the chatter and excited laughs of children. Fisch smiled widely, hopping down off her stool to hug Sam and Jody warmly, placing a kiss on Owen’s cheek.
“I just couldn’t start without you all,” Fisch said happily, “And we just can’t decide what we want to read. The kids are all going crazy! Samuel, can you think of anything these little monsters might wanna hear? And if you suggest Dr. Seuss, I’m gonna smack you upside the shoulder!”
Sam laughed, thinking.
“There was one story I really liked when I was little that they might like,” he said, “But it’s a chapter book..”
“Oh, that’s fine. Just pick something out!” Fisch said, “I trust your judgment, BFG.”
Sam grinned, walking over to a shelf and picking out a book stealthily.

He sat down in Fisch’s big armchair, and said loudly, “There are five children in this story.”

Suddenly, all the noise stopped, all of the children coming to sit down around the chair where Sam was sitting, excited for the story.

“There are five children in this story,” Sam said again, opening the book, “Augustus Gloop- a greedy boy...”
A collective laugh rose from the children at the name.
“Veruca Salt, a girl who is spoiled by her parents, Violet Beauregard, a girl who chews gum all day long, Mike Teavee, a boy who does nothing but watch television, and Charlie bucket, our hero.”

The children all sat, transfixed as Sam read the first chapter to them, his voice bringing life to the story the way Fisch did- introducing the Buckets as if they were sitting right there with them, his voice rising and falling with the mood. And when he announced the end of the chapter (as short as it was) there was a rousing chorus of moans and groans and the promise of the next chapter next week.

“That was perfect, Samuel,” Fisch said with a happy glint in her eye, “You know, I could use a bit more help around here. Reading books, moving books, putting books away, occasionally using books as step-stools. Telling people what books are very good and what books are only slightly good. Lots of bookish things. Do you think Robert would care very much if you came down and helped me every day this summer?”
“I don’t think so,” Sam said, “But I’d have to make sure it was okay with him and Dean…”
“Don’t be silly,” Jody said, coming up next to him with Owen in tow, “Bobby and Dean wouldn’t mind at all, and I’ll give you a ride whenever they can’t. You need something that’s all your own Sam, and while Dean tinkers away at cars, you can plow through these books. He’ll take the job, Marge.”
“Simply marvelous,” Fisch said with a huge grin, “I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow then.”
“What time should I get here?” Sam asked, feeling slightly overwhelmed.
“Oh, whenever you get here will be good enough,” Marge said, waving him off, “Being a librarian is an art, and you can’t schedule art. You come when the time seems right.”
Sam grinned as Fisch bid them goodbye, shoving a tin of something or another in his hand along with a book. She beckoned him down close so she could whisper in his ear.
“These are called Turkish Delights,” she said, “Like in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. You see, Edmund’s downfall is sweets, these sweets in fact. Too sticky for me, but you would like them.”
“Thank you, Fisch,” he said, hugging the tiny woman. Fisch laughed, pushing him away and holding up a finger.
“And before I forget!” she said, bustling around under her desk, “That brother of yours, he’s fond of Stephen King. I see him rummaging around the shelves. Well, I thought to myself, ‘Marjorie, that Dean boy sure does love Stephen King, so what on earth would he enjoy reading?’ And it just so happens that I found the perfect selection for him,” she straightened up, a book in hand and a triumphant smile on her face, “Aha, here’s the nasty little bugger. The Exorcist. Most people don’t realize that Mr. Blatty wrote a book which that movie was based upon. Scared the bejeezus out of me when I read it; and if you ask me, Mr. Blatty makes Mr. Kings work seem pathetic.”
Sam grinned.
“Don’t let Dean hear you say that, he’d think you were committing blasphemy.”
“It’s blasphemy for him to even consider King better than Blatty- just read it! Good words. Very gripping. Plenty to count.”

Sam thanked her as Jody ushered them out the door and into the car, looking back at Owen.

“Let’s find somewhere quiet to eat,” she whispered, pointing at Owen, who had fallen asleep. Sam nodded, whispering, “What about that little diner downtown? Since it’s a weekday and it’s nowhere near lunch hour, I bet it’ll be empty.”
“Great idea,” she whispered emphatically, pulling out a driving down town.

They got to the diner and Sam was right- it was basically dead inside, the air thick and heavy with the pre-summer heat and moisture. Jody was worried about Owen overheating, stripping off his little socks and pulling the blanket away from him.
“There,” she cooed softly as Owen half woke up and yawned, going right back to sleep, “You go ahead and order whatever you like, Sammy. My treat.”
“Next time I have money, I’ll buy you lunch,” Sam said with a grin, “I’ll have a cobb salad.”
“That actually sounds great- two, and two sweat teas.”

They sat in silence for a moment, Jody gently pushing the stroller with Owen tucked inside it gently.

Sam stared out the window into the busy street quietly, just enjoying this moment of peace. He hadn’t been in a restaurant since the incident with John a month before hand, and being out again felt nice. Especially with Jody. He felt safe around her, in a way that he couldn’t around Dean. As much as he trusted Dean, if Dad hurt either of them, chances were that he’d keep the secret and let it happen. Or at least, he would’ve before. But now, he wasn’t so sure.
Jody, however, owed him nothing and didn’t know his father at all. She was objective. She wasn’t clouded by emotions.

As he continued to watch the street, a familiar black truck rolled by. He jumped, gasping hard and blinking. It’s not possible. It’s not his truck. There are tons of black trucks. Millions, probably. He needed to stay rational.

“Sam?” Jody said, bringing him out of a counting fit he didn’t even realize he was having, “Sam, hey…did you see something?” Sam shook his head hard, his face pale.
“You sure honey?”
“Yeah…” Sam said softly, looking over at Owen.

He wondered what it was like, to look at someone so small and want to hurt them. Dean told him that Dad was always rough with him, even when he was a baby. Not the way he was now, but rough. Apparently, when he was really little, around two according to Dean, he was having one of his fits in the middle of a busy store. Dean said his Dad grabbed him by the wrist and yanked him to his feet, and they heard a loud pop and suddenly Sam stopped crying. In fact, he just fell right down. John carried him into the men’s room and too Sam into a stall alone, making Dean wait outside. Dean said all he heard was a little scream and then Dad carried him back out, and that was that. Dean figured out later on that Dad had pulled Sam’s arm out of its socket, because Dad did it to Dean just a year later.

Owen started whining and Sam immediately reached for him, picking him up and setting the baby in his lap, bouncing him gently on his knees.
“You would’ve been a great big brother, Sam,” Jody said with a smile.

Sam stroked the soft downy hair on the baby’s head, wondering what that would’ve been like.

“I’m glad I wasn’t,” he mumbled.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

They never had a word for it before, only what their father spat at him every time he did it since he was little- “the counting.”

“Enough with the counting, Sam! Quit with the fucking counting, it’s driving me insane. Just shut up! Dean, make him stop with the counting, it’s driving me crazy!”

But early in his first week working for Fisch, he learned the proper word for it.

“It’s a compulsion,” Fisch explained to him as he put the books on the high shelves she couldn’t reach, “No, Samuel, don’t place them in alphabetical order- place them in chronological order. We aren’t soulless heathens here. I have compulsions too. Compulsions are things that feel very very important, like you have to do them or something bad will happen. Or they help you feel in control. You found the things that help and you don’t like changing them. That’s why you count. The counting helps you feel sure, feel in control in a world that is very uncomfortable and foreign to you. ”
“So, you know how I feel?” Sam asked, looking down at her.
“Not in the slightest,” Fisch said honestly, “I-careful, you’re going to wrinkle the covers! I don’t know people. I know books. That’s why I have a library.”
“But you do the children’s story times,” Sam replied, carefully rearranging the books.
“I like children,” Fisch replied, “I understand children. Children are selfish. Children like rituals. They like repetition. If a child asks you to play, it isn’t because they want you to feel included- it’s because they want to show you what they can do. If a child gives you something, it isn’t because they actually wanted to give it to you; they want praise, to feel good for doing a good thing. Children get attached to certain people and they like it when those people are attached to them. Children don’t like all the useless chatter that adults do. They hate the how-do-you-dos, the I’m-good-how-are-yous. Children don’t lie about important things, not until they learn how to lie from their parents. Children ask why, and they really want to know why.”

“You really think kids are like that?” Sam asked.
“Yes. Because they are. It has taken me a very long time to become personable, Samuel. I absolutely despise people. Adults in particular.”
“You don’t hate me or Dean, and you seem to like Jody and Bobby okay.”
“I don’t mind Dean, he isn’t annoying and he doesn’t bother me when I’m busy. I’ve known Jodelle since she was a child, and I liked her as a child. She hasn’t changed very much. Robert and I share a passion, as do you and I.”
“Oh,” Sam said, setting down his book and looking at his feet, “Fisch?”
“Yes, Samuel?”
“Why did you invite me to start working here?” he asked.
“I like you,” She said simply, “I like the way you talk. I like the books you read. I like your hair.”
“My hair?”
“Yes, your hair.”
“Oh.”

Fisch turned back to walk to her desk, leaving Sam to finish the shelves on his own, thinking about her words. She was completely right- he’d just never heard a person put into words for him, without him struggling to explain it. It made him feel better; knowing that at least someone had some idea what it was like in his head.

But he was still anxious- he had seen the black truck another 17 times in the past five days since he’d gone to lunch with Jody. He was sure, at first, that he was imagining things. He was just letting his fear take over, the logical part of him said. Stop thinking so much. There are lots of black trucks. But he’d seen it again that morning, when he went outside to sweep the sidewalk in front of the Library. It had rolled past slowly, and Sam couldn’t muster the courage to look up and see who was driving it. Instead, he fled back inside the library, hiding behind one of the children’s books shelves.

Fisch had followed him curiously, seating herself across from him as he clutched his head and rocked himself back and forth, counting. That was actually what had inspired the conversation. Unlike Dean or Bobby or Jody or even his father, Fisch didn’t seem bothered by his rocking and counting. In fact, as she sat across from him, she began to rock with him, silent, just staring at him. She just let him go, not trying to stop him in any way until he finally stopped himself. For a moment, they simply stared at each other.

“Why didn’t you stop me?” Sam asked quietly.
“Did it help?” Fisch asked.
“Yes,” Sam mumbled, looking down at his hands.
“It doesn’t make much sense to stop you from doing what helps, then, does it?”


He was too afraid to tell Dean that the truck had gotten closer, that he was too afraid to actually look at the driver. In fact, Sam was afraid to even bring up their father anymore. Dean never wanted to talk about it. He couldn’t even talk about his fears and feelings because of what had happened in Flagstaff, because Dean seemed so desperate to just shut him up in any way he could think of.

“Come on baby, let’s not talk about that,” Dean whispered in his ear that night, his fingers tracing the waistband of Sam’s briefs, “Just you and me, remember? Fresh start.”
Sam felt Dean’s lips press against his ear, nipping his earlobe and he shoved him away.

“I can’t,” Sam said, his voice shaking, “I can’t do this until we talk about it, okay?”
“What do we have to talk about?” Dean demanded, “Dad hurt us both. He hurt you really bad. We left. We have a new start. Why can’t that just be the end of it?”
“Because it’s not!” Sam snapped.

Dean reached out to touch Sam, only to have him slap his hand away.

“Don’t touch me!” he yelled, “You only touch me when you want me to shut up now, I’m not Dad!”

Dean froze, staring at Sam.

“Why the fuck would you say that?” Dean whispered.
“Because…because that’s what you’ve been doing,” Sam said nervously, twisting his hands, “I don’t want you to touch me to get me to shut up. I don’t want you to use…that…to get me to do what you want. You keep saying this is about a fresh start, but you aren’t forgetting either. You just don’t wanna talk about it.”
“You’re right, I don’t!” Dean said angrily, “Why would I?”
“I don’t know!” Sam cried, his whole body rocking, “Just say that! Just say I don’t wanna talk about it! Don’t touch me just because you want me to stop making you think about it, because the whole time…when you touch me when you say those things…I…”

Dean leaned forward, holding Sam’s face in his hands.
“Sammy, baby,” he said gently, stroking his hair out of his face, “I wasn’t thinking. I don’t want to talk about it, okay? I just want to be with you. I just want things to be the way they were with us. I don’t want to think about his hands on either of us. I just want to erase that part of the past.”
“But you can’t,” Sam whispered, “We can’t pretend that those…things…never happened. That’s not how it works.”
“Okay, fine, so they did happen. And they were horrible and terrible and I don’t ever want to think about them. So how do we do this?”

Sam leaned forward, his forehead pressed against Dean’s as his fingers traced over his cheeks.
“I love you, Dean,” Sam whispered softly, kissing him softly, before kissing over his jaw, “Slow. We have to go slow. You remember before, when I wanted to go too fast? You said we needed to go slow, because I wasn’t ready to make that decision. You were taking care of me, and now I’m gonna take care of you. You’re not ready to go so fast, not yet.”
Dean laughed, his fingers running across Sam’s collarbone.
“So, what are the rules?” Dean asked.
“Above the belt,” Sam replied.
“Don’t you trust me?” Dean asked quietly.
“I trust you with me. I don’t trust you with you.”

Sam laid back down, pulling Dean down next to him so they were face to face. He hooked his legs around Dean’s, pressing their bodies together as his kissed him softly at first, his arms wrapped around Dean’s neck. Dean leaned into the kiss, his tongue pressing insistently to taste Sam’s mouth. Sam parted his lips as Dean deepened the kiss, Dean’s hands firm on his hips as he rubbed against him. Sam moaned softly as Dean’s hips pressed against his, his fingers scratching over Dean’s scalp as he let out a soft moan.

Dean rolled over on top of Sam, kissing his neck as he rolled his hips against Sam’s, grinding against him as Sam whimpered and moaned, his hands covering his face.
“Baby,” Dean whispered in his ear softly, “Sam, look at me.”
Sam hesitantly pulled his hands away, looking up at Dean as he leaned down to kiss him. Dean didn’t kiss him though, his mouth hovering just above his lips, both of them panting As Sam reached back and grabbed Dean’s ass, pulling him harder against him. Dean let out a low groan, their lips barely brushing as their hard cocks pressed against one another. Sam could feel himself coming close to the edge, bucking slightly under the insistent roll of Dean’s hips.

“Kiss me,” Sam moaned, “Please, Dee.”

Dean kissed him hard, Sam’s soft cry drowned out by Dean’s lips and tongue, his body going limp. As Dean broke the kiss, Sam reached down and fisted Dean’s cock, looking up at him.
“It’s okay Dean,” Sam whispered in his ear, his hand moving up and down rapidly, “You’re in control.”

Dean’s head tipped back as his hips thrust into Sam’s hand, his mouth lulled open in please. He clamped his mouth shut as he climaxed, biting his lip hard as he came over Sam’s hand and stomach. He rolled off of Sam, breathing hard as blood dripped down his lip, throwing his arm over his eyes.

“It’s okay, Dean,” Sam repeated, kissing his bloodied lip, “It’s okay.”

Sam carefully cleaned them both up with the towel from Dean’s shower, his touch gentle as Dean tried to catch his breath. Finally, Dean looked at him, smiling. He pulled Sam down into his arms, cuddling him close as they laid in the quiet.

“What about staying above the belt?” Dean asked, chuckling softly. Sam shrugged, biting his lip.
“It felt right,” Sam replied quietly, “I needed to take care of you.”
“Mom used to tell me to take good care of you,” he said softly, looking at Sam and stroking his face, “Now you’re taking care of me.” Sam snuggled against his chest, tangling his fingers in Dean’s.

“We’re taking care of each other,” Sam said quietly, “It’s my turn to make sure you’re okay.”

Sam decided not to tell him about the truck.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

When he was younger, he'd kept track of the minutes Dean was gone on hunts with father went on. It wasn't comforting, and it wasn't intended for comfort- Sam counted the minutes to remind himself how long Dean had been gone out into a dangerous situation, in anticipation of his return. He did it to remind himself that one day, Dean wouldn't come home- it already happened once, and it could happen again. He did it to remind himself that one day, he'd be on his own, and he would never stop counting the minutes until he died too.

Sam had found it odd that Bobby, despite being a hunter, hadn't gone out on any hunts since they'd been there. He knew when they were younger, Bobby usually asked John to cover hunts that he was going to do before they had gotten there, but John didn't know they were there. So who was covering Bobby's absence? It wasn't something he really concerned himself with, but it was a question that lingered in the back of his mind on occasion.

Sam walked in the door after his day at the library, he realized that he was walking into a conversation that no one counted on him hearing, and the answer to his question.

“I already called and talked to Mills,” Bobby said, taking off his cap, “Dean, my life can’t stop because of what happened to you boys. Those idjits need me, and no one else is gonna be any help.”

Sam’s heart stopped. Bobby was leaving them alone? What about the truck? He cursed himself for not telling them sooner, but what could he do now? Bobby was sure to think that he was making it up, to get him to stay; but that wasn’t the case at all. He was afraid to tell them the truth of what had happened earlier that day now. They wouldn’t believe him.

“We need you!” Dean yelled, “We need you here with us, you can’t just…up and leave!”
“I ain’t leaving, I’m goin on a damn hunt. If you don’t wanna be alone, you boys can come help. But I’m goin.”
“Sam can’t go on a hunt, not right now. Just…let someone else go. Give ‘em what they need over the phone- hell, I’ll fucking go. But don’t leave.”
“Dean, I told you, this ain’t up for discussion,” Bobby said firmly, “I’ll tell Sam when he gets home- I won’t make you be the one to tell him. But I’m goin. And that’s that.”
“But what if he comes back? What if he does something, what if Sammy has one of his attacks, what if-“
“Dean, you did just fine on your own before,” Bobby said, “I ain’t a lick of help when Sam gets all wound up, and your Dad hasn’t made a peep since you got here- so I doubt that the few days that I’m gone he’ll show up.”
“But you don’t know that!” Dean cried, “He could, and…”

Bobby turned to leave, only to have Dean trail after him.

“So that’s it, huh? You’re just gonna leave us? We need you! Sam needs you, fuck, I need you! I can’t fight him if he shows up, Bobby. Would you just stop walking away from me? I trusted you to help us, and now you’re just gonna fucking walk out on us? What the fuck is wrong with you?” he demanded.
Bobby stopped on the stairs, taking off his ball cap and scratching his head, a low rumble of a chuckle coming from him.
“Boy, you are your daddy’s son sometimes, ain’t you?” he murmured.

Sam watched Dean run up the stairs, getting in Bobby’s face. Sam was terrified- he’d never seen Dean get violent with anyone but monsters and a few rare times with their father. Seeing him turn on Bobby made his whole body shake. Would Dean ever turn on him?

“Don’t say that to me!” Dean hissed, “Don’t ever say that to me.”
Bobby shrugged, looking uninterested. Sam couldn’t understand it- Bobby was acting so…cold. Maybe he was feeling the way Dean was before- like he just needed to have some space. Sam bit his lip. Were they really so much of a burden? Was he that much of a burden? Dean earned his keep- he worked for Bobby, never caused problems. It was always him that was the trouble child, the one who messed everything up. Because he was bad. Because he was a freak.

“Why not? Sure seems like you’re acting like him,” Bobby said, “I’m not leaving you. I have to hunt still. It’s rare, but it has to happen. I won’t even be gone for more than a week- you guys can handle that right?”
“Don’t leave mad at me…I don’t want you to go at all…but don’t leave mad at me. I’m sorry Bobby, I just..”

Bobby looked at Dean apologetically, hugging him gently.

“I’m sorry boy. I didn’t mean to hurt you, but you can’t go running around saying that stuff to people. Not everyone is your father. I kinda pride myself on not being like him, and you talking to me like that really just…it bugged me. But I was wrong for saying that.”
Dean nodded, his sobs muffled in Bobby’s shoulder as he clung to the older man.
“I saw him,” Dean sobbed, clinging to Bobby, “I saw the truck, I saw the truck when I took Sammy to the library this morning… just sitting there, watching. The first time I saw it, I thought I was imagining it, but it’s been there for three days, every time in a different spot. Bobby, it’s him. I don’t know why he hasn’t done anything but I know it’s him.”
“I’m used to Sam getting hysterical, not you,” Bobby said gently, holding Dean at arm’s length, “Dean, there are plenty of black trucks in the world.”
“But I could feel it, Bobby,” Dean said softly, wiping his face, “I could feel him there. I know it was him.”
“Well, why hasn’t Sam said something? It’s always at the library, so Sam should’ve seen him. You know Sam- boy’s scared of his own shadow, why wouldn’t he say something? And then there’s the fact that, well, he knows where you are if he’s at the library. He would’ve figured out where you two were staying.”

Sam finally walked into their sight, playing with his hands. He had to tell the truth, even if they didn’t believe him.

“Because…I didn’t want to upset Dean,” Sam said quietly, biting his lip, “I thought I was imagining things…but it’s not just at the library. I see the truck in other places.”

Dean’s face went pale, grabbing Bobby’s arm. It was rare for Dean to look afraid, genuinely afraid. Dean was all bravado; he’d rather chew glass than show weakness in front of anyone but Sam. Seeing Dean that scared, in front of Bobby no less, made him feel terrified.
“Please, don’t go,” Dean begged, “Bobby, please.”

Bobby sighed, pulling away from Dean’s grip and walking down the stairs. Both boys scurried after him, Sam’s hand clutching Dean’s for comfort, numbers spilling from him as Dean hummed Metallica. Bobby reached into his desk, pulling out a ring of keys and dropping them on the desktop.

“Here’s the keys to everything in this place. Every car, every cabinet, everything. Take the old beater in the yard that we just got running and use that while I’m gone. If it’s him, which I don’t think it is, he would’ve been following the Impala, right? Well, if you keep seeing the truck when you drive the beater, then that means someone in Sioux Falls bought a new truck that looks like your daddy’s. If you two get too freaked out, you can always just drive down and stay with Mills. I gotta go, but I promise you boys- you’ll be fine.”

Bobby picked up his duffel bag, pulling each of them into an awkward, one-armed hug. Both of them clung to him, starting to cry as he pried himself out of their grip. Sam reached out and grabbed Bobby again, clinging to him hard.

“I’m scared,” Sam whispered, “I don’t wanna be alone.”
“Dean’s gonna be right here,” Bobby said, pulling away from Sam and tousling his hair, “Don’t be afraid, kiddo.”
“I’m always afraid,” Sam mumbled as Dean pulled him into a tight hug. Bobby frowned, his eyes looking red as he opened the door.
“You boys will be just fine. It’s only a few days, a week at most. Mills is a few miles out, and if you really needed, I’m sure Fisch would let you stay with her,” he said firmly, “I left you two 300 bucks to last you- don’t go spending it all if you don’t need it. Don’t go out at night, don’t go out alone, Dean- carry your gun just in case. Feed the dog, and don’t answer the door unless it’s Mills. And don’t get into the liquor cabinet.”

They both chuckled a little, despite the tears that were all read flowing. Sam and Dean followed Bobby out, sitting on the porch with their arms wrapped around each other, Rumsfeld at their feet as he started his car. Bobby stared straight ahead, shaking his head.

“Don’t fucking look,” he muttered, shifting the truck into gear, “You look, you ain’t goin. They’ll be fine.”

He pulled out and gave in, looking in his side mirror at the boys, clinging to each other and crying, looking scared and so alone.

He kept driving.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

When Dean had disappeared when he was 12, Sam had kept track of the minutes from the time he last saw Dean until nearly a month and a half later, when Dean finally came back. It wasn't a comfort then- it merely served as a reminder that Dean was gone and no one was there to make it better- not even the counting made it better, if anything, it made it worse. But Sam had started counting the minutes again after Bobby left, frantically keeping track of every passing minute, praying that the next minute Bobby would walk in the door, announce that it had all been a cruel joke, and that he was sorry for being so unkind. But 15 hours and 20 minutes passed, and Bobby didn't return. 934 minutes, and the situation had not turned out to be a joke, and Sam slowly surrendered himself to the fact that it wasn't a joke, that Bobby was gone, and he and Dean were on their own until he returned.

That morning was silent as they both roamed the house preparing for their day, save for Sam's quiet counting. They'd barely slept - the idea of being alone while they'd both seen that truck had put the damper on a situation that Dean normally would've taken hearty advantage of. It was frustrating to him- would their father always be the dark raincloud hanging over their head? Dean was wrapped up in his thoughts and made no real attempt to talk, and it seemed like Sam had picked up on it. 
It was during breakfast, however, that Sam finally spoke to Dean. 

"853 minutes," he announced, looking back down into his bowl of cereal. Dean set down his coffee mug, his brow furrowed.
"What?"
"853 minutes since Bobby left," Sam said, glancing up at the clock on the wall, "854, now."
"You're counting the minutes?" Dean asked.
"I always count the minutes," he said softly. Dean cocked his head to the side. He knew Sam counted all the time, but he'd never realized that Sam counted time too- that must've been exhausting.
"All the time? Dean asked curiously. Sam shook his head.
"No. Just when you or Bobby leave," he said, pushing the pieces of sugary cereal around in the milk, having barely eaten.

Dean's heart felt like it had just dropped out of his chest. Sam counted the minutes when he left? Did that mean he'd counted the entire time he was at Sonny's? He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, lifting the cup of coffee to his lips as Sam spoke again.

"78,265 minutes."
"What?" Dean said, sputtering on his coffee and staring at Sam wide eyed.
"78,265 minutes. You left on September 19th, 1995 at 4:24 in the afternoon. You were only supposed to be gone 29 minutes. I saw you again on November 14th, 1995 at 7:49 pm. That's 53 days, 8 hours and 25 minutes. That's how long you were gone."
"You...you actually counted?" Dean asked, looking shocked. He had no idea that it was really that long- he knew he'd been gone nearly two months, but having numbers like that laid out made it seem all the longer...and for Sam to have been counting? God, it must've seemed like an eternity.
"I'm so sorry, Sammy," he said softly. Sam shrugged, rocking gently in his chair.
"You didn't mean to get lost."

Dean felt his whole body go stiff at Sam's reply, a wave of guilt washing over him. Yeah, fuckhead, you and Dad told him you got lost on a hunt, he mentally berated himself. He hated lying to Sam, especially about something that had caused him so much pain, but he couldn't bring himself to correct the story. Why should he? It'd only hurt Sam more.
"We gotta get going," he mumbled, draining his coffee, "Finish your breakfast."
"I'm not hungry," Sam whispered, dumping his bowl in the sink and down the disposal, setting it on the counter.


They drove quietly for a while, until Dean broke the silence, giving Sam a wide and cheesy grin.
"Hey, no Bobby means we can do whatever we want!" Dean said, trying to force as much cheer into his voice as possible, "I still have some Mary Jane left- we could grab some junk food after work, toke up, and watch bad horror movies all night."
"I guess," Sam said, shrugging. Dean set his mouth in a firm line, trying to figure out something that would make Sam feel a bit better.
"You could pick the movie if you wanted, since I'm in a good mood."
"How can you be?" Sam demanded, biting his lip and rocking, "The truck is gonna be there. He's watching us and he's gonna know Bobby isn't there. I...I..." he started rocking harder, his back bouncing off the seat with a soft and rhythmic whump. Dean reached out, grabbing Sam's hand.
"Baby, stop," he said gently, still looking at the road, "It's gonna be okay."
"How do you know?" Sam asked, his voice sounding high and strangled, "What if something happens to him?"
"Bobby is one of the best hunters out there Sammy, he taught us half of what we know- it's gonna be okay. He can handle himself."
"I'm not worried about him handling himself. I'm worried about him handling whatever else happens."

Dean pulled over, turning to Sam and holding his chin gently in his hand.
"Sammy, listen to me," Dean said firmly, "Sam- listen. Look at me."
Sam lifted his eyes, biting his lip.
"Bobby is the best hunter there is other than Dad. He knows what he's doing, and he's not reckless. He'll be fine, and he'll be home in a few days, just like he said he would. Bobby never breaks promises, and you know that. So worrying about him is useless, right? Because he can handle whatever anyone throws at him. Anyways, like he said- that truck probably is just someone in town that we don't know who got a new truck that looks like Dad's. We're just freaking out over nothing, right? Besides, it won't even be there today, I got a good feeling about it," Dean lied through his teeth, hoping that it'd get past his intuitive little brother, "So we just gotta focus on keeping our heads on straight until he gets home, right? Because that's what he wants. He wants us to just cool our heels and take it easy until he gets home."
"Okay," Sam said softly, slumping against the seat, "I guess you're right." Dean smiled, leaning over and kissing Sam's cheek, his lips lingering.
"I'm the big brother, I'm always right," he teased, kissing down his cheek to his lips, "And if you get through today with minimal freakouts, I'll make it worth your while tonight. House is empty, we got it all to ourselves..." he said, nipping Sam's lip. Sam broke into a smile, kissing Dean back.
"I'm gonna hold you to that," Sam joked as Dean pulled away, starting the car again, but he leaned his head against the edge of the window frame, counting softly under his breath, his body still rocking gently.


 

They finally arrived at the library, a few minutes late for opening, but Fisch was never strict with Sam on when he should and shouldn't show up. He'd just decided one day that he liked being there by 9:15. They sat in silence, both of them staring at the ominous black truck that was parked at one end of the parking lot, the same truck they'd been seeing for weeks. Dean took a deep breath, trying not to freak out, prepared with a million lies to help Sam feel better and get through the day. They both slid out of the car, dragging their feet as they approached the front of the building, as if they were about to go to their execution rather than to their respective jobs.

“It’s gonna be okay baby,” Dean whispered reassuringly.
“It can’t be Dad, right? Someone else had to have bought a black truck. Right Dean?” Sam said frantically, his face pressed against Dean’s neck and his hands clinging to his older brother's jacket. Dean played with Sam’s hair absentmindedly, frowning. All the placating lies he'd thought of had suddenly disappeared at the sound of Sam's quivering voice, his body shaking gently as he clung to him.
"Right...?" Sam repeated, pulling back and looking at Dean with thinly veiled fear in his face.
"It's not Dad,” Dean said firmly.
Sam nodded, his fingers tracing over a scar on Dean’s side. He didn’t want to think about that, but it had been on his mind since he saw the truck when he was out with Jody.
Dean almost flinched away as Sam's fingers traced over the scar on his side, remembering when he got it and trying hard not to.The truck business had put his nerves on edge, and it seemed like everything was just a trigger waiting to go off and have him climbing the walls.
“If it was Dad, it wouldn’t matter what car we were driving. He’d already have figured out our routine,” Sam said softly, "You know he would."
“Don’t think about that,” Dean said sharply, “I’m gonna be in town today, okay? Jody said that the patrol cars could use a tune-up, so I’m gonna be down there all day working on them. If you need me for anything, anything at all, you call me, okay?”
“Okay,” Sam said, nodding. Dean smiled again, pulling him into another kiss and slipping his hand in Sam’s back pocket. Sam giggled and pushed away, blushing. While Dean had never been exactly shy about PDA, with Fisch around, inside the building in front of them, they could get caught. And getting caught at this point by anyone was the last thing they really needed.

“Dean,” he moaned, “What if Fisch saw?”
“It ain’t nothing she hasn’t seen before,” Dean teased.
“What do you mean?”
“I thought you noticed by now,” Dean said, chuckling, “She watches out the window when we get here and when we leave. I don’t think she is today- usually it’s the Impala that tips her off to us.”

Sam rubbed his face, blushing harder. He knew that Fisch usually turned her nose up at public displays of affection, and the thought of her watching him and Dean kiss made his stomach turn. And then, it dawned on him- kissing your brother isn’t exactly normal. It wouldn’t be the public displays of affection, or the fact that Dean was a boy that people would object to- it would be the fact that they were brothers.

Sam rarely took the time to consider that part of their relationship; to consider that what seemed like the most natural thing in the world to him would be abhorrent to others. He realized that it was probably odd that it had never occurred to him that something may be wrong with the fact that he considered loving his brother “that” way to be so natural, but really, it wasn’t the worst thing in his life. Considering the things he’d lived through and watched, he couldn’t even fathom anything about Dean being bad, harmful, taboo. Dean was his safe haven, his shelter. Dean was the only person who he could take refuge with without fear, without suspicion. In fact, Dean was the only thing that made his life worth living in his eyes.

He closed his eyes as he pressed his forehead against Dean’s, biting his lip. The trouble with everyone around them was that they didn’t understand. They couldn’t. Their relationship wasn’t just brothers, wasn’t just lovers. They’d grown up in the same war zone, gun-toting child soldiers in an invisible war that no one knew or cared to know about. The daily war to survive not only the monsters and the cruel realities of an uncaring world for the smallest people who inhabit it, but the daily struggle to survive the rage and illness of their own father.
They grew up in the trenches together, they were all they had in the world, and when everyone else inevitably disappeared, they were always there. Together. People came and went- but they were forever. Comrades. Friends. Brothers. Lovers.

But the fact remained- as hopeful as they wanted to believe, as much as they acted like they weren’t afraid, as much as they told each other that “logically” it wasn’t their father- Sam knew. He knew, deep in his gut.

Sam tangled his fingers in Dean’s as they pressed together on the sidewalk, the thought of anyone seeing them disappearing with the need to be close to him, to feel his breath on his face and feel his hands, keeping him from slipping over the edge of the cliff, into the abyss of himself.

“In case I don’t get to tell you…” Sam began, only to be cut off by Dean’s curious look.
“What do you mean, if you don’t get to tell me?” Dean asked, “Why wouldn’t you get to tell me?”
“If Dad-“
“It’s not him.”
“But if it is-“
“And even if it is, he can’t get near you without everyone knowing. “
“I know. But if he does, if it’s him, if I don’t get to tell you-“
“Don’t,” Dean whispered, kissing Sam tenderly. Sam could feel wet tears on his face, for once not his own. Dean didn't cry- of course he did, all people do, but he rarely did, and when he did, Sam knew he was seriously in distress. He rocked on his feet, biting his lip as he started blaming himself- If he wasn't the way he was, if he wasn't so messed up...
"I'm sorry, Sam whispered.
"Don't ever be sorry. For anything."
"But-"
“Just…have a good day, please?” Dean asked. Sam nodded, grabbing Dean’s hand one more time. He felt the numbers rolling out, still rocking on his feet, panic building inside him. He needed Dean- at least for one more moment.
“Can you count for me?” He asked desperately, “Just one time, before you go.”
Dean smiled, taking Sam’s hand gently, turning it so it was palm side up. He dropped his head, kissing his palm and smiling against Sam’s skin.
“Sure baby,” he said softly, picking up his head and touching the tip of each of Sam’s fingers, “One, two, three, four, five. I love you baby, never gonna change.”
“You and me,” Sam whispered, looking Dean in the eye, “Promise.”
“I promise,” Dean said, lifting Sam’s fingertips to his lips, “Sam and Dean. Always.”

Sam smiled with relief, the panic starting to subside. He began backing up towards the library door as Dean slowly backed away to the car, neither one taking their eyes off each other. As if they thought the other would leave their sight and never come back. Finally, Dean got in and started the car and pulled out, Sam waving vigorously as he turned to enter the library.

Dean is right. Everything is gonna be okay. Everything is fine.

He repeated that mantra to himself as he opened the door, and suddenly he couldn't anymore. He stood still as the grave as he looked around, none of the lights on in the front as they usually were. He was late- everything should've been up and running, ready for another day, but it wasn't.

He felt the panic resurface.

“Fisch?” he called out, looking around worriedly, “Fisch, you here?”

He felt his hands and feet go numb, his stomach swirling with icy apprehension. Something wasn't right. In fact- something was very, very wrong. Fisch liked to keep herself on a schedule; she found comfort in her routines, just as he did, and to break routine for either of them was a sign that something wasn't right. He softly counted under his breath, trying to control his panic.

Calm down. You're not useful to anyone if you're freaking out like an idiot.

He peered around the corner, his whole body starting to shake uncontrollably. Standing in front Fisch with his back turned to Sam was exactly who Bobby had claimed it couldn’t possibly be.

His father.

Fisch had caught Sam’s eye, and as his father bent his head down to write, she mouthed “desk”. Sam nodded, retreating round the corner and crawling beneath Fisch’s front desk, a maze of books and half-knit blankets, tucking himself into the farthest corner and trying to make himself as small as possible. His whole body kept shaking, but he couldn’t count or rock- doing either could draw attention. He tried to breathe as quietly as possible, catching a bit of Fisch’s conversation.

“So, you haven’t seen a boy who looks like this around here?” John asked, “Like I said, the boy has certain medical needs. His father is worried about him and his brother.”
“No,” Fisch replied uninterestedly, “I would remember a child like that.”
“What about the other boy in the picture? They would’ve been together.”
“Looks like a young man to me- but no, I haven’t seen either of them.”
“Well, take a second look.”
“Don’t need to,” she snapped, “I’m old, not blind. I haven’t seen either of those people. “

Sam could hear the familiar scuffle of Fisch’s cowboy boots against the carpeted floor, followed by the heavy clump of his father’s boots. He closed his eyes, tears streaming down his face. He clapped his hands over his mouth, his whole body aching to self-soothe, but any movement would give him away. 

Please, God, make it stop. Make the ache stop.

His father was here, he was looking for them, and he was angry.

Please, God, help me. You never helped me before, help me now.

The steps drew closer, and Fisch stepped behind the desk, climbing up onto her stool. His whole body was trembling, the world spinning around him as he fought of the urges.

Make it stop. Make it stop. Don't be weak! Don't give in! You make a move and you're as good as dead. You make a sound and he'll tear you apart.

He could tell, unless this ended soon, he was going to go into a full blow episode. He wasn't going to be able to control it- he was barely controlling it now.
“Perhaps there are certain things that would be better suited lost,” she said, “I find that when something is lost, there’s often a reason for it.”

Please God, Please, make it stop. Just for five minutes. Just until he leaves. I swear I'll never do anything wrong again. I'll be a good person, the best person. Please, protect me. Protect me while my brother can't.

He looked down to see the shadow of his father's boots in front of the desk, his resolve almost cracking at this sight. He squeezed his hands over his mouth harder, willing himself to sit still.

You're a statue. Hear nothing. See nothing. Cold, hard stone. Don't give in.

“Whatever the reason, children need to be with their parents,” John said gruffly. Sam could feel his resolve crumbling at the sound of his father's voice, the shaking turning into a barely there rock.

Please God. Have mercy on me, just this once.

“I wouldn’t say that with such certainty,” Fisch replied, “There are a great deal of parents who simply don’t deserve their children. Maybe the boys’ father should ruminate on that for a bit.”
The stool creaked as she leaned forward, and Sam could hear the dripping venom in her voice.
“I hope that everyone in this case meets the end that they so richly deserve,” she said, “Have a wonderful day.”

Sam squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for a cry of pain, a gun shot, anything, his whole body shaking harder now and the blood roaring in his ears. No one got away with talking to his father like that- no one.
But he opened his eyes just a crack to see the shadow of his father's feet grow wider as he walked away, the soft woosh of the door opening and slowly closing breaking his resolve completely.

He let out a loud cry, his body thrashing as Fisch grabbed him roughly, dragging him out from under the desk as he wailed and cried, his whole body bucking wildly.
"Samuel!" She yelled loudly, "Samuel, stop! You're going to hurt yourself!"
Sam didn't stop, only crying louder as his body thrashed, his leg shooting out and hitting Fisch's hip hard. She let out a loud yelp, one hand grabbing her hip hard as she crawled back. She reached up on her stool, dragging the shawl she had been wearing earlier down off of it and throwing it over Sam's head.
She was breathing hard as pain radiated through her hip, trying to make her voice as low and soothing as possible.

"It's okay Samuel, just take it easy. Count, just count and calm down. I'll do it with you. One...two...three...four...five..."

Between the cover on his face and Fisch counting evenly and calmly, Sam felt the chaos and noise start to fade, his body not thrashing as much anymore- instead, curling his knees to his chest as he rocked on the floor gently.Fisch moved a bit closer, still speaking gently over his sobs.
"There, good boy Samuel. One....two...three...four...five. Good boy."

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Bobby had become keenly aware of this since Sam’s stay when he was 12, and it honestly surprised him as he barreled down the road how often he was glancing at the clock, counting the time he was away, trying to figure out how long it would take in his head so Sam wouldn’t worry. It wasn't as if he was surprised that he was trying to make sure Sam wouldn't worry- it just struck him as odd, how much Sam's compulsion had become a part of all of them. He figured he could just zip up to Montana to help Boyd with this Vamp nest and head home. He did find it a little odd that Boyd called him of all people- the guy knew he wasn’t big into Vamps but a job was a job was a job and Bobby wasn’t gonna let some idiot young hunters get turned or killed, not if he could help it. He kept telling himself that that, trying to make him feel better about what he'd done. He knew that he probably shouldn't have left Sam and Dean alone, for no other reason than they probably were worrying out of their minds. He honestly didn't think John would actually pull anything- he had highly doubted mind that the truck was John's, but even if it was, John was smarter than that. John would know that Sam and Dean had generally made themselves known to a good deal of people around Sioux Falls, and if the two boys just up and went missing, someone was bound to bring it up. That'd draw too much attention, and Bobby knew that there was nothing John hated more than drawing attention to himself.

He ran through his check-in information, trying to get the numbers and names straight in his head as a distraction. Boyd had been nice enough to reserve him a room, all paid for in advanced. He’d explained to Boyd that he had two pups at home that needed his attention, and that this all needed done as fast as possible. Bobby had just neglected to clarify that his pups were actually two teenaged sons of another hunter, the hunter that everyone feared and respected.

Bobby chuckled as he found himself counting again, trying to keep track of Sam’s counting even though he was hundreds of miles away.
“Dean would be so proud,” Bobby mumbled. Part of him was irritated that he was thinking about it so much- he never signed up to have his life center around Sam’s compulsive behavior. But then again, he thought ruefully, neither did Sam. He tried to remind himself of that as often as he could- Sam couldn't help himself, he couldn't help being born the way he was. He couldn't help that everyone ended up getting drawn into his compulsions. He was just trying to get by. Bobby reminded himself as often as possible of this fact for a simple reason- if he didn't, he'd end up getting angry. That's what happened when people forget that sometimes, the irritating things that other people do aren't just done for the sake of pissing them off. Sometimes, people can't help it.

He sighed to himself, mulling over how complicated the situation was. As it was, Sam would need to be enrolled in school in the next two months or so for the start of the school year. He’d heard Dean desperately trying to convince him to just get a G.E.D. like he did, but Sam was frighteningly adamant about getting a diploma.

“No!” Sam yelled, “I’m gonna get my diploma!”
“That’s what this is, it’s a diploma except faster.”
“No, it isn’t. A G.E.D. is a G.E.D. A diploma is a diploma. They’re totally different.”
“How so?”
“They just are!” Sam exploded, “I need to do this, just let me do this, okay?”

And it was made clear that was the end of it. Sam would be going to high school- it was up to him and Dean to figure out the how. He couldn’t hold it against him- the kid didn’t ask for very much and rarely demanded anything. If the kid wanted to go to a damn high school, he damn well was gonna go to a high school. Of course, he didn't exactly see what the big hoopla was about high school- as he remembered it, it was stuffy, crowded, and full of shitty people he would've liked to have set on fire- but if that's what Sam wanted, fuck it. It didn't matter if he understood it. All that matter is that it would make Sam happy, and let Sam have a chance at a normal life. He may not have been able to get to Dean in time, but he could help Sam. The boy didn't make a lick of sense to him, but he loved the kid, and he'd do anything for him.

And then there was Dean. Dean was the one that Bobby understood. And he knew that Dean needed to keep his hands and mind as busy as possible- that’s why he’d had the boy start working for him. But he could tell Dean was getting bored, restless. He needed something else to occupy him. That was the trouble with Dean- he was the human embodiment of the proverb, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." If he wasn't up to his neck in something that interested him, there were a multitude of things that he'd get himself into that'd be nothing but trouble: drinking, shooting things, letting himself think too much. It wasn't that Bobby thought Dean couldn't think, or shouldn't, it was just the opposite- once Dean's mind started gnawing on a bone, he didn't stop until the marrow had been sucked out and the thing had been snapped to pieces. It was the equivalent of watching a windup car run straight into a wall and bounce back, only to run straight into it again. If Dean was thinking about engines, or electronics, or just about any technical thing; he'd chew at it until he had the solution he wanted, and then he'd go and do it. He remembered watching Dean pouring over technical manuals that he'd gone and picked up from the Library, the guts of about ten different electronics splayed out over the table in front of him. He watched as he'd put two things together, then tear them apart, and back together again, swearing under his breath every now and again as Sam sat across from him, swept up in whatever book he was devouring that day. And three days later, he came out with a boxy looking contraption, grinning from ear to ear. He announced that it was a combination EMF detector, EVP recorder, radio and cassette deck; and Bobby couldn't help but be damn impressed with the thing, even if they hadn't completely tested it yet. When Dean got his mind working on things like that, it was perfectly okay. But when he got his mind working on other things, things that he couldn't hold in his hand and take apart, things that he couldn't read up about; that's when Dean got dangerous.
He remembered one of those times when Dean had gotten his gears going, sitting on top of one of the cars and shooting cans with deadly accuracy, a half- finished fifth of Jack on the hood next to him. Even drunk as a skunk, he was a better shot than most.
Bobby called out to him to get down, but Dean ignored him, taking  long pull from the bottle and demanding, "So if those yuppie religious types think that God made everything, and he's got a plan for everyone and he made every human just the way they should be, then how the fuck come every one of those types treat my baby brother like shit, huh? Why'd they think something's wrong with him? If God does everything right, how come they act like he fucked up when it came to my brother?"
Bobby didn't have an answer, and Dean just went back to shooting cans and drinking, and he didn't bother to drag himself back in until Sam got home from the library.

After that, Bobby had started teach him about hunting on the sly, just dropping a few facts and tactics here and there. He figured that there wasn't much he could teach Dean about cars that he didn't already know, and there was little he could teach him about guns, so he went with the only thing he knew for a fact that he knew more about. He tried to be really subtle about it- he knew that as much as Dean used to seem like he enjoyed hunting, these days he seemed like he'd rather chew on glass than even consider going on a hunt. Dean seemed pretty receptive to Bobby's tutelage as long as he kept it casual. But as he noticed Dean’s mind wandering, he’d become more clear about it, until Dean finally realized what was happening.

"I'm not a hunter anymore," Dean yelled out from under the truck, "Not until Sam's better or at college. Prefer him be at college if I start again."
"You know that stubborn lil brother of yours ain't gonna let you start hunting on your own."
"I know that."
"So, I'm teaching you for when you go back out in the field."
"“I don’t see why you bother teaching me,” Dean said, sliding out from under the truck they were working on, “I’m a grunt, remember? You should teach Sammy, he’s the smart one.”
“You’re smart too,” he snapped, “You’re both smart.”
“Sure,” Dean mumbled, sliding back under the car.

Bobby’s attention was drawn back to the road as the motel appeared in his vision. Thank god- he hadn't stopped driving since he'd gotten in when he left home, for fear of taking too long and giving the teenagers sleeping in his house and eating his food ulcers- and his ass was so far beyond numb. All he wanted was a shower, a drink, and a nap. He pulled in quickly, gathering his things and heading to the front desk. A young man with long greasy hair and bright yellow Walkman headphones glanced up at him, popping on of them off his ears. Bobby wrinkled his nose at the kid, squinting. He made a personal vow that if Sam ever suddenly lost his penchant for good hygiene, he'd do the world a favor and whack off all his hair so no one would be subjected to what he was being subjected to.

“Can I help you, man?” he asked.
“Gibes, Robbin,” Bobby grunted, slapping his palm over the roomkey.
“Have a good night, dude,” the kid said before popping his headphones back in.

He wanted to inform the kid that he was in mother fucking Montana, not California, so he could stick his 'dude' up his 'man' and get with the program. It wasn't that Bobby had a particular problem with people calling him "dude" or "man", hell, Dean did it on a daily basis, but it seemed like more and more that sort of slang was leaving California and creeping a bit too close to home for him. Tasted like hippies. Never did like hippies.
Bobby grumbled to himself as he drug his bags to his room, tossing everything down. This was definitely something he never stopped hating about hunting, always hauling half his life around in a pair of duffel bags. That wasn't any way to live, if you asked him; and he thought about Sam and Dean with a twinge of guilt. They'd been raised this way, hell, he was surprised that they even slept in the house now that he thought about it. He knew John wasn't one for staying in one place too long, they'd probably spent most of their natural born lives in that Impala. Probably was the closest thing they had to a home; maybe that's why Dean was so adamant about keeping it. It was shit on gas and even more shit when it came to fixing the damn thing; getting parts for it was a gamble unless you went out and found another one and stripped it for parts. His sighed a little, nudging the duffel with the tip of his boot. It wasn't the nicest place, but he'd definitely stayed in worse digs before. 

He looked down on one of the double beds and noticed a note left there.
"Now what in hellfire is this?" he mused to himself softly. It didn't look like anyone had been in here yet, but maybe Boyd had reserved him a specific room and dropped it off before he got there. Who knew? Boyd was a weird ass kid..Bobby considered it a blessing that Dean and Sam didn't turn out like that one. He probably would've knocked their heads off if they were. He picked it up, squinting at the sloppy handwriting.

B,
Got some other boys to help me out, wiped out the nest. Motel's on me.
Yung B

Bobby rolled his eyes at the signature “Yung B”- it was an annoying habit that Boyd had picked up, since Bobby despised being called “Robert” or “Rob” and Boyd never wanted to sign his name on anything. That always struck Bobby as stupid about hunters- they were all so damn paranoid about putting their names on anything that they'd come up with ridiculous aliases or just slap their initials on shit- but how the hell are you supposed to know who the fuck EH is when there are about 15 different hunters of different genders who have those goddamn initials? And the aliases...god, those were a joke. He used to have a whole box stuffed with notes signed "Captain Howdy" from Rufus. He liked horror movies too much for a guy who knew that shit was real.

But something bothered him- there was no way Boyd found someone else to help him wipe out that Vamp nest, not that fast. Montana wasn't exactly a hunter's hotspot; it was generally quiet and didn't really have too high of a population to keep an eye on, not compared to other places. Getting a hunter out to Montana quicker than he could get there would've required a magic carpet.
Something wasn't right.

He pulled out his journal, flipping through to his contacts page. He skimmed over the names and locations listed, confirming his suspicions. It was the same distance, if not a bit further, from this place to any one of the Hunter Haunts that dotted I-80. No one, unless they just so happened to be in the area, could've just showed up to help Boyd...so who the hell helped him? Bobby found the page he was looking for, his brow furrowed. Boyd’s usual haunt was Harvelle’s roadhouse- he’d see what Ellen had heard.

Harvelle's Roadhouse was a particularly popular hunter's spot in the Midwest; serving as a makeshift hub of information and a place to get just about anything you could want or need for a hunt. Ammo, weapons, spell ingredients, ancient grimoires of unknown uses; if you needed it, Ellen and her "kids" could get it. Plus, she was cheap as hell- anywhere that only a quarter for a can of beer, 50 cents for a whole bottle was a treasure to the hunter- and, for a nominal fee, she'd let anyone sleep on one of the many cots she had set up in her storage room. She was always one of the few other "home-based" hunters in the business, and short of a busy night at the bar, you knew you'd always get a hold of her- if not by her directly answering, then by one of her kids running off to get her. The phone only rang once before Ellen answered, never to disappoint.

“Harvelle Roadhouse.”
“Ellen,” Bobby began, only to be cut off by Ellen.
“Bobby Singer,” she said, “What can I do for ya, hon?”
“Ain’t your place Boyd’s haunt?” Bobby asked. He heard Ellen hum on the other end.
“Well that depends, you mean old Boyd or Fingers Boyd or Little Boyd,” She ticked off.
“Who the hell is- never mind. The one that signs everything young B, that Boyd.”
“Oh yeah, you mean Little Boyd,” she said, “Actually, my boy Ash usually runs with him. What are you askin for anyways? I thought you were taking off a few months to take care of your sister’s boys?”
“What? Oh, yeah, I am, I just was s’pposed to help Boyd on a hunt up here in Montana, and he ain’t showin.”
“Well, let me see if Ash knows what’s going on for ya, Bobby,” she said, setting down the receiver with a clatter.

Bobby rubbed his face irritably- if Boyd made him leave the boys alone and drive 17 hours for nothing, he was gonna beat that boy’s ass. He'd tol Ellen to tell everyone who was poking their nose around looking for him to tell them that he was on vacation in Japan again- usually that got people off his ass for a while, but obviously no one had told Boyd and everyone else probably thought he was home now. He did feel a bit guilty about telling Ellen a lie about Sam and Dean, but the way he saw it, he had no choice. Ellen hadn't seen dean since he was 6, and Sam since he was barely walking. He found it irritating that she didn't find it weird that John was always schmoozing around her place, trying to weasel money, information, or jobs out of other hunters with his kids nowhere to be found. She probably figured it wasn't any of her business. Then again, he knew after Bill had died on that hunt with John, John had kinda made a point of only going to the Roadhouse when he had to, and not sticking around too long. Some people thought it was a case of survivor's guilt. If you asked Bobby, it was a case of avoiding a shotgun pointed at him when Ellen finally got wise. 
Suddenly the receiver picked up, and he heard a giggle on the on the other end, a young girl's voice saying something unintelligible to someone else before speaking to him.

“Hi, Uncle Bobby,” Jo said cheerfully, “What’s up?” Bobby sighed- he liked Ellen's daughter Jo well enough, but he wasn't in the mood to deal with her.
“Oh, hey Jo,” he said politely, “Not much. Your Mom back yet?”
“Nah, she’s tryin to talk to Ash right now,” she replied, “Uncle John was just talkin about you a couple weeks ago.”
“Uncle John?” Bobby asked. Did wonders never cease? He wondered if Jo would still be calling John "Uncle John" if she knew what kind of man he was. Hell, if Jo were just a few years older and her mother wasn't always hovering over her like a satellite, John probably would've tried to fuck her. Uncle John. 
Jo laughed on the other end.
“Yeah, you know, John Winchester,” she said, “He was askin Mom if she’d heard from you. I told him that you were takin a break for a few months to take care of your nephews or something. He was real worried about you.”

Bobby cursed himself silently- he knew he shouldn’t have told Ellen a lie that was so close to the truth. It was just a matter of time before someone found out what was really going on, and Jo seemed like it was a good idea to tell the one person he didn’t want to know his bullshit story. It wasn't her fault, but goddamnit did it make him wanna holler at her. Damn kid.

“I bet he was,” Bobby grumbled. Jo seemed unperturbed, continuing.
“Yeah, Mom said that was on a need to know basis but I figured since you and John are friends that you wouldn’t be too mad about me telling him. He told me that reminded him he needed to go and visit his boys.”
“He said he was gonna visit his sons? Did he say where he was going?” Bobby asked forcefully.
“Nah,” Jo replied, “But I figure he must be heading up to Pastor Jim’s, seeing as that’s who his kids live with.”
“What?” Bobby asked, completely confused. Pastor Jim- did she mean Jim Murphy?
“Oh, didn’t you know? That’s where his kids have been staying so that his youngest can finish school,” Jo explained, "Yeah, I didn't know he had kids for ages, not till he asked me to go get his journal out of his truck so he could show me some stuff while my Mom was busy dealing with Andy Bennet, that hunter from Tuscon. A picture fell out of it of him with these two little kids so I asked him about them and he said he left them with Jim Murphy while he was hunting the thing that killed their Mom so that they were safe." Bobby wanted to laugh. That was some bullshit story John had fed to Ellen and Jo- left his kids with Jim so they'd be safe; meanwhile he was beating them from one end of the motel room to the other. Don't that just beat all, he thought to himself, Guess nothing's easier to believe than a John Winchester lie, just the right blend of complete bullshit and tearjerker sympathy.
“Still covering his ass, huh Jim?’ Bobby muttered, “Some fucking pastor you are.”
“What?” Jo asked, only to have Ellen butt her off the phone.
“Joanna Beth, I told you to stop taking the phone when I walk away! Bobby, you still there?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Bobby replied, “I haven’t gone anywhere.”

“Well, according to Ash,” she began, “Boyd said that he was fixing to make some good money on a job in Montana, last time he was in. That was about 2 days ago. Somethin about workin for the biggest bad of the big bads, whatever that means.”
Bobby felt his heart drop. Hunters had their own sort of slang that they'd all picked up- when you had a bunch of people from all over the country and all walks of life, you tended to get a pretty ecclectic mix of dialects that blended together to make one distinct dialect- a hunter could always tell if someone else was a hunter just by the way they talked. One of the things about hunters, especially the younger ones, was that after you've done enough terrifying feats of inhumane torture and murder, you got your own nickname. And the moment he heard "biggest bad of the big bads", he knew who Boyd was talking about.
“Ain’t that what them young hunter boys call John?” Bobby asked quietly.
“Yeah, come to think of it,” Ellen replied, “But John said he was heading to visit his boys. That’s not in Montana, that’s in Michigan.”
“No, it’s in South Dakota,” he said, the whole truth dawning on him in a rush, “John paid Boyd to lure me out here. It is John in the truck.”

He rubbed his face in exhaustion. What a fine fucking bucket of shit this situation was turning out to be. He couldn’t make the drive back right then- he’d fall asleep at the wheel. But he was furious. And fucking thankful for the fact that there was a 90% chance that the boys had taken up with Jody or Fisch in his absence.
John wouldn’t risk witnesses.

“You ain’t making any sense,” Ellen replied, sounding confused.
“Suppose I wouldn’t, since you’ve been snowed by him,” Bobby hissed, “Thanks for letting me know, Ellen.”
“Wha-“

Bobby hung up the phone with a clatter, ripping off his cap and pitching it at the wall.

He should’ve listened to his boys.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam was terrible at hiding his counting, but he still tried. And while he might be able to fake it past a lot of people, he couldn't fake it past Jody. Since the first day she'd met Sam, she'd started taking in his behavior, trying to find the pattern in case she ever needed to use that knowledge to protect him. What she found was that while Sam had a variety of subtle self-soothing tactics, he saved counting for when he was the most overwhelmed. About five minutes with Sam Winchester was enough for a midly observant person to become familiar with his methods of self-soothing. Any time she noticed that Sam was starting to feel stressed or uncomfortable, it would start with little things- he'd rub his palms on his jeans, rock gently, touch his mouth, or pull a little on his ears. The more "overloaded" he got, the more noticable it was. He'd rockharder and faster, scrape his nails over his jeans, rub his mouth until it started to get visibly red, or tug on his ears hard enough to jerk his head to the side. Then came the counting when he simply couldn't handle what was going on anymore.
She noted, however, that Sam didn't wait to get completely "overloaded" to count when he was with Dean. In fact, he usually seemed content to go straight to counting then, The way Jody figured, people in general must've made him feel uncomfortable about counting in public, and when Dean was around, he felt safe enough to go straight to counting without trying less... intrusive forms of self soothing. Whatever could be said about Dean (and as much as she liked him, a lot could be said), no one could deny that he had a special kind of effect on his younger brother.

She was fond of both of them, from the moment she met them. It was easy to like someone like Sam- he was cute as the dickens, even for a 16 year old- all floppy hair and big eyes and dimples- sweet and shy and quiet.  Dean was no stiff himself- the only thing that could possibly rival Sam's dimples were Dean's freckles, spattered across his nose and cheeks, and a smile that could light up a room and melt any unsuspecting woman's heart. Dean had his own way about him of sweetness, the kind of sweetness that you had to wait around and see crack open. If ever there was a boy that fit the term "heart of gold", it was Dean.

She had a lot of respect for Dean that she rarely afforded even other adults. Even at such a young age and younger, Dean was prepared to do anything for his little brother; and Jody knew Dean was no fool. He knew the danger they were all in in this particular situation.

She sighed softly, shuffling the papers on her desk aimlessly. The situation was dangerous for everyone involved, and the danger was not just from their father. If they were caught, Dean would be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, interfering with custody, and moving a minor across state lines, a felony that would destroy him.  But Dean wasn't the only one who would be in trouble- Bobby would face aiding and abetting charges, cotributing to the delinquency of a minor, and if a particularly bloodthirsty DA got ahold of him, god knows what else. And her? Between telling her officers to ignore the AVB, not reporting them, and helping them get by without trouble from the police- fuck, she was even paying Dean to work for the police department- well, the luckiest she could get was losing her job. The worst? She wouldn't see her son until he was in 4th grade without wearing a prison jumpsuit.

She tapped her pen against the smooth wood of her desk thoughtfully, for a moment questioning her decision to help them.  She immediately put that thought out of her mind, replacing it with the image of the last child she lost due to her inaction.

Tom Waters was a good kid. He'd been dealt a shitty hand in life though- there wasn't a day that went by that their neighbor wasn't calling up and complaining about the "god-awful racket" from next door- the results of Tom's mother's drinking and inability to handle anything without beating her son. Tom was a walking bruise, and everyone knew he couldn't hear too well because of the way his mother was always hitting his ears with whatever she had in hand. But it was a rural community, and even the police force then thought that it was best to let such matters be in the hands of the parent.
That was, until the neighbor called up genuinely afraid, yelling that they heard a woman screaming. Tom Waters, at 15 years old, had bludgeoned his mother to death with a frying pan in their kitchen, after he claimed she attempted to shove his head in the gas stove. Jody didn't doubt for a moment that Tom was telling the truth, he'd been hospitalized more than once for his mother's psychotic behavior; but the sheriff said that they didn't get to decide who was innocent and who was guilty. Their job was to pick them up, gather evidence, and ship it all to the DA. She never forgot the haunted look in Tom's eyes as she sat at the interrogation table, dirty, spattered in his mother's blood, his arms alive with bruises and cuts.

"Are they gonna give me the needle, Miss Jody?"
She tried to be as calm as possible in the face of that question. Jody honestly didn't know. South Dakota did have the death penalty in place, and a few inmates on Death Row, but she hardly thought that they'd put a 15 year old boy on death row for killing his mother in self defense. But, she thought with growing worry, stranger things have happened.
"Why don't you just tell me what happened."
"It don't matter. I killed my ma. That's what happened."

That was two years ago, and Tom was now facing five years imprisonment for second degree manslaughter, due to a deal his lawyer encouraged him to cut. Jody wanted to beat that lawyer from one county line to the other- if it had gone to trial, there was a good chance he would've been acquitted. But that was public attorneys for you.

She wasn't letting another Tom Waters slip through her fingers- not if she had a choice. And if that choice put her in a line of fire...well, she'd just burn that bridge when she got to it.

Jody looked up as the phone rang up front, not really paying attention. They got plenty of calls throughout the day, it was probably one of the officer's checking their schedule because they hadn't had the common sense to write it down. But when she heard the officer up front talking, she got interested.

“E-excuse me, Ma’am? If you’re having an emergency you need to call 911- uh, I can, but….is the young man okay? No no, I’ll put you through right away.”

She looked down at the blinking light, observing the tense hunch of the officer’s shoulders nervously.  It was probably another complaint by some parent that their kid had been traumatized by grabbing one of the electric fences that dotted the further out farm lands. She had touched those fences plenty of times- of course it hurt, but it wasn't anything that would cause real damage. She sighed, feeling her irritation grow.  She picked up the receiver, sighing.

“Deputy Jody Mills, Sioux Falls PD,” she said, her ear ringing from the noise on the other end. Her blood pressure skyrocketed- Sam was crying, “What happened? Sam? Is Sam alright?”
“Samuel is fine,” Fish said patiently, “He’s crying because he’s afraid which is perfectly understandable- No Samuel, don’t try to stop yourself, you’ll only make yourself sick- seeing as his father has just left.”
“What?” Jody demanded, “Marge, you’re telling me that-“
“Yes, Samuel’s and Dean’s father just left. I did send him your way. I told him that a police station would be a better place to lodge questioning about missing boys,” Fisch said, “I suggest you do something about him.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Jody demanded, “I have no legal grounds whatsoever to make him leave or stop! He hasn’t broken any laws I can prove!”
“Calm yourself, Jodelle,” Fisch said patiently, “He has a badge. It’s a fake- a good one, but fake nevertheless. Tell him to leave or you will arrest him for impersonating a law enforcement official- Samuel, breathe through your mouth.”

Jody winced, sweeping her hair back into a bun as she tried to think. Good job, Bobby. Fucking skipping town for a few days and leaving her to deal with everything? Was she the only one who took this situation seriously? She huffed, tucking a few stray strands of hair over her ear. Sam was still clearly upset, but she needed to talk to Sam before his father got there. She didn't need to accuse a man of having a false badge just to find out it was real and she had to hand over any information she had on the Winchester Boys to him. But then again, she thought with a twinge of worry, if he came down just as a parent looking for his son, she'd have no real choice but to comply.  She snapped her fingers at the officer up front, scribbling a note on a scrap of paper as she tried to talk to Fisch.

“Marge, are you sure?” she asked, “Can you get Sam on the phone?”
“He’s very upset.”
“I can tell,” Jody said testily, “I am good at understanding little boys crying. I am a mother, after all.”
“Suit yourself.”

Jody handed the note to the officer who was looking at her curiously, listening to Fisch on the other end, talking to Sam. Well, this was a fine kettle of fish.
The cop looked down at the note, reading it quickly and eying her questioningly. She gave him her most menacing look, waving her arm and mouthing, "GO" before returning her attention to the call.

“Samuel, now calm down, here, that’s it, good. Now, talk to Jodelle- calmly, Slowly.”

She bit her lip, her eyes following the officer as he dashed out of the room. She tapped her pen on the desk nervously, trying to ask the question she had as simply as possible, so she could get a straight answer.
“Okay, Sammy?” she said calmly, “I know you’re scared. But I need to know if your father is any sort of officer- police, FBI, fire brigade, I don’t care. Is he any sort of certified public official?”
“N-n-no,” Sam stuttered, “H-he’s ju-ju-just a…I'm s-s-sorry!”
He dissolved into loud sobbing again and Jody’s heart broke for him. This was entirely too fucked up and unfair, but she'd made her bed with these boys, and she was gonna lie in it- even if it was in preparation for a dirt nap.
“No, it’s okay Sam, that’s what I needed. You and Fisch should stay put until I call back. Lock the doors and turn off the lights. I’ll call back soon.”


Dean had worked himself into a sweat, doing the tune-ups on the patrol cars, smiling to himself as he whistled. It was soothing, this work that was mindless to him. That was what he needed more than anything at that moment, something to distract him from his worries- about Bobby, his father, Sam. He needed something to help him decompress, Jody didn't need two people freaking the hell out on her hands. He couldn't help but let his mind wander around to all sorts of memories and thoughts, things he'd been burying for ages in order to take care of his brother, to survive.
'Boys love sex- and you said yes.'
He started to breathe harder, his knuckles white as he gripped the sides of the car tightly, his body shaking.
'They'll know you wanted it.'
He shook his head hard, swallowing shallowly as waves of nausea rolled through him. Stop thinking about that. Stop thinking about him. Think about Sam. But as he tried to think of Sam, his mind became stuck on an endless loop of Sam’s earlier words; ‘In case I don’t get to tell you…

That was his greatest fear, as a child, and even now. That one day he would leave Sam and never come back, that he’d be dead and gone and there would be no ‘later’, no ‘tomorrow’. He was always afraid when he went on hunts after he and Sam had argued that he would die, and the last thing that Sam would remember was them arguing, them fighting. It seemed funny that now, Sam was afraid of the same thing.
It was usually Dean that was the one in danger from the outside world- dangerous hunts, seedy ways of making money, and Dean was well aware of the fact that a kid like him was every scumbag's wet dream. Monster's weren't just things that lurked under the bed and in uninhabited woods. Monsters were human, and they were everywhere. Kids like him and Sam were easy targets- always alone, no one to answer to for days on end. He'd almost fallen for a few traps himself and was diligent about warning Sam against going anywhere private with any adult. There were bad people in the world, just like his father- and he didn't want to let Sam fall for their tricks. When Sammy was little...he was a little too trusting of adults.
He remembered Sam's first grade teacher, the way the woman was always touching Sam- patting his head, rubbing his arm, looming over him- and Sam seemed to be soaking it up like a plant does water. Dean knew how dangerous things like that were- one day it was nice, and the next day, they'd be pawing at you until your skin crawled. Dean insisted shortly after he saw Sam's teacher looking him over like a side of meat that he and Sammy stay home from school until their father got back. He told Sam that his teacher was a bad lady and when Sam finally learned about monsters, Dean told him that his teacher was a monster, and Sam never asked again. He wasn't lying, really. He could tell there was a monster hiding inside that woman, and he wasn't willing to risk his little brother.
And then of course, there were real, literal monsters, monsters that hunted and hurt children specifically because they were children. Monsters who fed off of the smallest humans, the scum of the earth in his eyes. After the Shritga had touched Sam, he threw himself into hunting wholeheartedly. No monster would ever get their filthy fucking hands on his baby, never again. Of course, his new found vigor for hunting had almost gotten him killed multiple times- he was reckless, and he forgot on occasion that these bad guys weren't like the ones on TV. They wouldn't show restraint because he was a child- they would maim him, kill him, and never think twice. He lived in eternal fear of getting too injured to save and his father leaving him out there to die. He lived in eternal fear of leaving one day and never coming back.

That was why he'd decided that until Sammy was in college, he wouldn't be hunting. If he died on a hunt when Sammy was an adult, when no one could touch him, that was fine- but not until then. He had to make sure that Sammy made it out of this hellhole alive, and he couldn't guarantee that unless he was alive.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when one of the officers cleared his throat behind him. He wiggled out from under the car, squinting at him.
“Dean, right?” he said, rubbing his neck. Dean pulled himself upright, nodding.
“Yeah, Dean Singer, that’s me,” He replied, wiping his hands off on the pants of the coveralls tied around his waist, “What can I do ya for?”
He looked over the young cop for a moment, the side of his mouth twitching up in amusement. The kid looked like a total greenback- couldn't be any more than two years older than him, with a regulation haircut and a stiff posture. He resisted the urge to tell the guy to pull the stick out of his ass, that he wouldn't tell anyone.
“Deputy Mills told me to come down and get you,” the officer said, “Your brother, his name is Sam, right?”
“Is Sam okay?” Dean demanded, moving forward quickly and getting into the young officer’s face, “What the fuck is going on? I’ll break your fucking arm if you don’t answer me now!” he roared.

The officer’s face paled at Dean’s threat, looking over the younger man hesitantly. Dean definitely looked like he was capable of breaking an arm, and without tense his body was, it would be faster than the officer could hope react. Dean realized a moment too late that he was more than likely slightly overreacting, but he didn't care. This was about Sam.

“He was crying on the phone with Deputy Mills,” the officer said quickly, “That’s why she wanted you, I don’t know anything else, I swear.”

Dean shoved the officer out of the way, running back into the station. Sam was crying, which could only mean Sam was in danger. Sam didn't just cry for nothing- he knew better than that. He was about to fly around the corner when one of the secretaries grabbed his wrist and stopped him.
“Deputy Mills wants you to stay back here for the moment,” she said firmly.
"Get the fuck off me, lady," he snapped, pulling his arm out of her grasp and looking around the corner.

His father was looming over Jody and the counter, looking irritable. So that's what Sam was crying about. Dean could see his father's jaw twitching as he regarded Jody with thinly veiled disgust- he knew his father had a low opinion of the law, and an even lower opinion of female officers of the law. According to him, they were nothing more than ornaments, basically useless besides looking pretty. Jody’s hand was on her taser, tapping it softly as he stared dead at his father. He could tell by her tense posture that she was probably giving him the coldest look she could muster, using all her self control to stop herself from tasering him right then and there.
He found himself overwhelmed with a new found fondness for the deputy.

John slid forward two pictures, his brow furrowed.
“Have you seen these boys?” he asked gruffly.
“I already told you, I need to see some identification before we proceed here,” she said politely, “Them’s the breaks. Higher ups are cracking down real hard on it.”
“Sure,” he replied, handing her his phony FBI badge. Dean’s heart leapt into his throat- FBI had jurisdiction anywhere, and unless Jody could prove it was fake, she’d have to give him what he wanted. And if what he wanted was Dean and Sam...well, then they were really fucked.  He could feel his knees going weak as he held his breath, staring at them.
Don’t stay away too long. I’ll have to come and find you.
Dean bit his lip hard, breaking the skin as Jody scrutinized the badge in front of her. She turned it this way and that, scribbling down what Dean only assumed was the badge number and the name. She folded it and slid it back across the desk, her back straightening.

“I’m sorry, but that badge is invalid,” she said in a steely tone, “You need to contact your supervisor," She paused, squinting at the badge, "Mr. Dale Jones.”
“Of course,” John said, holding out a small business card. She took it, walking over to a phone and punching it in. She stood still for a moment, smirking to herself. There was no answer- of course there wasn't, Bobby wasn't fucking home, and John always used Bobby to pretend to be his supervisor.
“It seems that the number you’ve given me isn’t working,” she responded, holding her arms, “Which leads me to believe that you’re impersonating a government official. “
John looked angry, his jaw twitching harder and making Dean start to breathe hard. His dad looked like he was about to jump over the barrier and throttle Jody- to the naked eye, he didn't look any more than irritated, but Dean knew what to look for when he felt the storm brewing. His knuckles were white, his moth set in a thin line, his eyes narrowed. He was angry.
“Excuse me?”
“But, I’m in a charitable mood,” Jody said brightly, “So, if you go out to that ugly truck of yours, get in it, drive out of my jurisdiction and never come the fuck back, then we can chalk this all up to a bad day.”

If Dean wasn't terrified of being caught, he would've screamed for joy. That's right you mother fucker, fuck you!
It was the first time in ages that he'd seen anyone stand up to his father, and she was the first who had done it so calmly. She was all diamonds and steel and ice, staring him down without a single shake in her bones. She wasn't afraid of him.

John glared at her, but before Dean could move, his eyes locked with John’s and the world felt as if it had stopped spinning. He watched as John’s lips quirked up in a smirk, suddenly feeling like he couldn’t breathe.

Don’t stay away too long. I’ll have to come and find you.

John winked at him, and the floor rushed up to meet him as stars burst in front of his eyes, his whole body feeling cold and numb.

Well, he found us. The jig is up.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He thought about this in the hazy fog that was his mind as he collapsed, trying to use it to cling to conciousness. Count. Count, you fucking moron. Stay focused, stay awake, stay responsive. He could be over here in a second, picking your weak ass up and carrying you away. Count! Count for Sam!
Dean could hear everyone around him rushing over; he could feel Jody’s hand on his face as she yelled his name. He tried to move his head but there was nothing- it was as if all the joints in his body had turned into glue that was slowly hardening, freezing him in place. He felt like everything around him was going in slow motion.
Count. Your life depends on it. Use the counting to make you focus. It works for Sam, it'll work for you. 
He felt icy cold and burning hot all at the same time, and he didn’t like it. Everything felt too small, his chest squeezing painfully like it had when he was in The Hole, like he couldn’t breathe.
One. Move your toes.
He tried to speak, tried to tell Jody stop worrying about him and get to Sam, god damn it- but he couldn’t make the words come out.
Two. Move your mother fucking toes.
Jody’s voice sounded so far away as she yelled orders at everyone around her.
Three. Move your toes, goddamn it!
He started to feel panicked as he couldn’t take control of his numb limbs, screaming inside.
Keep counting. Four. Count to calm down, idiot. You’re only making yourself worse right now, he thought to himself, tears running down his face.
He felt Jody prying his eyes open, flashing a pen light in each of his eyes.
Four. Move your toes, for the love of god, you fucking nimrod.

“Dilated pupils, sweating, elevated heart rate,” she muttered.
“Is he Diabetic? Hypoglycemic?” the secretary asked.
“His uncle never mentioned it, shit,” she hissed, “Get me some water, now! Dean, come on honey, talk to me. Where the fuck is that water! Dean, sweetheart, at least blink for me. Two blinks if you can hear me, come on honey,” she said frantically, wiping the tears away from his face, “He’s gone, you’re safe, but I need you to blink, say something, anything!”

Five. Blink.

Dean managed to blink as Jody stroked his face comfortingly, sighing. He could feel his body unlocking and slowly, he could move his toes, his feet, then his legs, then his fingers and hands. He parted his lips, mumbling, “Sammy…”

“Oh thank god, he’s responsive,” she said as Dean’s muscles began to unlock, his breathing starting to return to normal. She snatched the cup of water out of the officer’s hand, glaring at him.
“I’ve seen you eat faster than that,” she snapped, turning back to Dean, holding the cup to his lips, “Drink.” Dean drank the water obediently, still feeling weak and shaky, but able to sit up. Holy fucking shit...was he losing it?
Sammy. Where is Sammy?
“Sam,” he said, grabbing Jody’s arm, “We have to get Sammy. We have to get him now.” Jody nodded, brushing her hand through his hair comfortingly, a gesture he shook off with such ferocity, Jody almost fell back on her ass.
“I’m gonna call him, okay? I’ll have an officer over and escort them back here.”
“You go,” Dean said firmly, “You’re the only one I trust with him.”

Jody smiled, nodding at him. He may have rebuffed her for touching him, but she couldn't blame him. It was a stupid move- he'd just passed out. But it was a big compliment in her book, being trusted with Sam. She knew that Dean rarely trusted anyone with himself, let alone Sam.

“Okay, I’ll go. Do you mind if I bring another officer though, just in case?”
Dean shook his head, slumping against the wall as Jody stood up. He could move, but he still felt incredibly sluggish, like his body was heavier than normal. He usually only felt like this after getting decked in the face or slamming his head off of something.
“Get him something to eat,” she said, “It may have been a panic attack, but we don’t know if it could be low blood sugar.”
“I don’t have diabetes or that other thing either,” Dean replied. Nope, I'm just a fucking weakling.  Jody looked down at him, folding her arms.
“Well, you and your brother don’t eat very much when you get caught up in things. What have you eaten today?”

Dean winced, rubbing the back of his neck. That was something he and Sam had a real problem with- eating. Sometimes, they just forgot to. When you get so used to be hungry and not having food whenever you need it, you just end up ignoring thos eblaring hungry signals. Why bother paying attention to them when you know that you're not gonna be able to make it go away?

“Does coffee count?” he asked. Jody’s eyes narrowed to slits, folding her arms.
“No, coffee doesn’t count,” she said, sighing, “Just…stay put, okay? I’m gonna go and get Sam and some food.”
“Okay,” he said quietly, rubbing the back of his head, “Did I hit my head or something?”
“Yeah, you knocked your fat head off the floor,” Jody teased, “Does it hurt?”
“Yeah, like a bitch,” he winced, looking up at her apologetically, “Sorry.”
“I bet it does hurt like a bitch,” Jody replied, laughing, “Give him some aspirin too. He’s gotta have a hell of a headache,” she said to the secretary standing with them. The secretary nodded, helping him to his feet as Jody pointed at one of the officers.
“You, Lynch, you’re with me,” She said, “We’re heading over to the library, picking up Miss Fischer and Sam. There should only be two people inside that building, anyone else should be detained.”
“But it’s a public library,” Lynch protested as he grabbed his things, “Public implies that other people will be there.”
“No, I told them to close and lock all the doors and turn off the lights. As far as anyone around here would guess, Fischer has another bad case of pneumonia.”

She jogged towards the door, pointing at the secretary.

“Maggie, you take care of him,” she then pointed at Dean, “You, do as Maggie says or I swear to God I will ground you for a month.”
They both nodded as Maggie pulled him back towards the break room, sitting him down as Jody left. Maggie pushed him down in his seat, handing him a handful of Hershey’s kisses. He looked down at the foil wrapped candy, confused. What the fuck was this supposed to do?

“Eat that,” she said, “It’ll help you feel better.” He looked down at his hand again, raising an eyebrow.
“Chocolate?”
“Yeah,” she said, smiling and sliding a can of soda across the table, “It releases endorphins, you know, the feel-good hormone. It’ll help.”
“That sounds like something my little brother would say,” he said, smiling to himself, unwrapping the chocolate and popping it in his mouth. He closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the sugary smooth taste of the chocolate.
“Your little brother is a smart kid then,” she replied, sitting down across from him, “How old is he?”
“16,” he replied, “He works at the library.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, looking a bit surprised, “I…oh. That’s your little brother?”
“Yeah,” he replied, cracking open the can, “You sound surprised.”
“Oh, uh, yeah,” she said, blushing, “I just…I thought your brother was...younger, for some reason.”
“I get that a lot,” he replied, grinning, “I guess it’s because I kinda baby him, you know?” She smiled knowingly, nodding.
“I’m the same way- well, I was,” she replied, “I was the little sister, and my brother really babied me. But your brother, he’s not so little,” she joked, “Actually, he’s like, the tallest guy I’ve ever seen. Other than you.”
“It’s these Singer genes,” he joked back, “Haven’t you seen Bobby? That man’s a giant.”
“Giant pain in the neck,” she replied, “And the hands. Do you know how many drunk and disorderlies that I’ve had to type up for him?”
“He’s not a bad guy,” Dean said defensively, “Things are hard for him since Karen-Aunt Karen died.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said, biting her lip, “I guess I just…” she stood up, tucking her hair behind her ear, “I…I should get back to work. Deputy Mills should be back in a few minutes so….just stay here.”

Dean played with the can, frowning a little. What was it with people and looking down on them? So what if Bobby had a few drunk and disorderlies? So what if they were different? It infuriated him to no end that people were so quick to look down on them, that everyone was so willing to condemn people for their problems that they don’t like instead of actually trying to understand. 'Problem Child' rang out clear as a ebell in the back of his head, teacher's favorite term for him. Gifted, but a problem child. Always misbehaving. Always acting out. Problem. Something that needed to be fixed, but no one knew how, so they just ignored him and shoved him off on the next unlucky sap to be stuck with him.
Maybe if people were less interested in shoving the problem people out of their lives, his life wouldn’t be as fucked up as it was.

He picked up the soda can, pitching it across the room.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

There were times his counting was an advantage to him- on hunts, when doing weapons checks, and when playing cards.

Jody needed to finish her shift, and Sam and Dean were happy as clams to just stay in the interrogation room with Fisch, where they knew they were safe. They’d eaten their lunches already, and Jody had left them with a deck of cards. After two games of poker (in which Dean and Sam had been thoroughly whomped in), Fisch dug a second deck out of her purse and they decided to play Bullshit.

“Two fives,” Dean announced triumphantly, slapping two cards down on the table.
“Bullshit,” Sam replied, smirking. Dean scowled, scooping the rather large pile of cards into his hand.
“Card counting should be cheating,” he mumbled.
“It’s not cheating, it’s strategy,” Sam replied.
Fisch let out a small snort, watching as Dean tried to shuffle all of the cards in his hand into some semblance of order.
“I think it’s time we up the stakes,” she said, smirking, “After all, what good is a card game if there’s nothing to win or lose?” Dean’s eyes lit up, a wide grin spreading on his face.
“So, what are we betting?” Dean asked, “Can’t bet pretzels, we ate them all after the poker games.”
“If someone calls Bullshit and you bullshitted, you take all the cards in the pile and you have to answer a question completely honestly. If you told the truth, the person who called has to take the deck and answer a question.”
“Those are pretty high stakes,” Dean said, raising an eyebrow, “Okay, I’ll bite. How about you, Sammy?”
Sam grinned, his hair falling in front of his eyes.
“You guys aren’t getting shit out of me, then,” he replied, handing his cards to Dean, “You shuffle and cut the deck.”

Dean dealt out their hands, and the first few rounds, no one was calling. Finally, Dean had enough of the tension, and he slapped his hand down on the table as Fisch announce five queens.

“Bullshit!” he yelled. She smirked, turning over each of the cards slowly.
“Read ‘em and weep, kiddo,” she said, pushing the pile towards him, “And now you have to answer my question.”
“Yeah yeah, I know,” he replied taking up the relatively small pile that had accumulated, “Shoot, Old Maid.”
Fisch smirked, folding her arms over her chest.
“Where’d you get the necklace?” she asked, pointing at it, “It’s special.” Dean looked up, surprised as his hand went up to wrap around his amulet.

“Oh, ah, Sammy gave it to me for Christmas when we were kids. Bobby gave it to him, and when Dad never came home…well.”
“I gave it to Dean because he was the one who deserved a gift,” Sam said quietly, “At first it was because Dad never came home and you were the one there, but it was more than that. He broke into a house down the street and stole Christmas presents so I wouldn’t stop believing that Dad had some good parts still. And I started to realize that all the small things that I thought Dad did were actually Dean. Dean is the only good thing that ever came from him.”
“You too,” Dean insisted, blushing.
“Not really,” Sam muttered, taking his cards and laying them down, “Four kings.”
“Bullshit,” Fisch snapped, “Explain.” Sam took his cards back, sighing.
“I’m a freak,” he said, tapping his cards on the table, “I’m different. Too different. And that’s part of the reason why our Dad is the way he is- even Bobby said it. I know you guys don’t agree…but it just seems like it’s the truth.”
Fisch nodded, laying down her cards.
“7 aces.”
“Bullshit,” Dean said, grinning, “What’s up with the cowboy boots?”
“I like them,” she replied, “They feel nice on my feet, and I like how heavy they are. And they are very good for kicking nosy little boys in the ass when they try to poke around my filing cabinets,” she teased, glaring jokingly at Dean. Dean laughed, and took his turn, then Sam, and it came back to Fisch.
“6 Jacks.”
“Bullshit!” Dean and Sam crowed at the same time, grinning at each other. She flipped over her cards, grinning back at them.
“You two are no good at this, are you?” she teased, “How long have you been together?”

It was as if the air had been sucked out of the room, silence taking over. The blood drained from Dean’s face, and suddenly, Sam decided a hole in the knee of his jeans was very very interesting. Fisch sighed, setting down her cards.

“I was in love with my cousin,” she said calmly, reaching into her purse and pulling out a pack of cigarettes, lighting one, “She was perfection. Intelligent, kind, beautiful. When we were teenagers, we used to kiss behind the barn at my uncle’s house, and we’d lie out under the stars in the fields and hold each other. I hated romance, but when it came to Lucille, I would’ve sang her every love song I knew, brought her flowers and chocolates, all of it. We…we used to swing dance together. We were the best swing dancers in three counties; we had a few awards and trophies too. Lucille was the type of love that I read about in books; that once in a lifetime love for someone like me. But then one day she left, and she never came back.” She blew the smoke across the room, flicking the ashes into the empty soda can next to her hand, “I loved my husband Andrew, but not the way I loved her. Andrew and I were in a mutual agreement. You see, we were both expected to start families, but he wanted nothing to do with romance or sex. It was a marriage of convenience and friendship. I was deeply and utterly in love with him- platonically. But Lucille…she was the only person who could make me feel that way.” She took another drag, smiling, “I’ve seen you two kissing, the way you touch and hold each other. I knew it from the moment you walked into my library. You had what Lucille and I had. You shouldn’t be ashamed. Shame is weakness, fear of happiness.”
“That picture on your desk, of the two young girls. That’s you and her?” Dean asked. Fisch nodded, smiling.
“She’s the blonde one, I’m the redhead with the freckles,” she replied, chuckling.
“Shit,” Dean said, whistling lowly, “You were a babe, Fisch.”
“Damn right,” she said with a grin, “Now, answer my question.”

“Three years,” Sam replied softly, “We’ve been together romantically for three years. And I initiated it.”
She nodded, leaning back.
“Does Robert know?” she asked. Dean shook his head.
“We’re afraid to tell him,” Dean answered quietly, “If he throws us out…we’ll be alone. It’s twice as horrible as anything else. I mean, we’re not…y’know, straight…and we’re brothers.”

“I never understood the human need to destroy happiness,” she replied, “I’ve seen it everywhere. I saw it in your father’s eyes- the desire to destroy any happiness in his path, if it helped him get what he wanted. The trouble with people like that though is that there’s a big gaping hole inside them. And no matter how much they kill and steal and hurt others, it’ll never be enough to fill up that missing part.”

“Why are some people monsters?” Dean asked quietly, “Why are some people like…that?”
“They hate themselves,” Fisch replied, “And they want other people to hurt as bad as they do. And then the people they hurt hate themselves, and the cycle goes on and on. A never-ending ring of self-hatred.”

“When Mom died,” Dean said quietly, his voice choked, “I stopped talking, for almost two years. I was too scared to talk- Dad used to sit up late at night, drinking, and he’d pull me onto his lap and just stroke my hair and tell me I looked like Mom. That was the first time I remember hating myself.”
He took a deep breath, looking down at his hands.
“I used to like it, when he’d touch my hair and stroke my back, when he’d put me in his bed with him. And now...I hate myself for that. But then…it all changed. He’d touch my legs, slide his hands under my shirt, and one day I got scared and I jumped out of bed and I grabbed you and I hid under the bed. That’s when he started hitting me, like…really hitting me. And it was terrifying when he beat me, but at least he wasn’t touching me like that.”
He covered his face, struggling on.
“When you…you were 4, I was in school and Dad…he beat you so bad...and I was so scared of what he was gonna do when I wasn’t there. So I…I promised him if he didn’t hurt you like that again, I’d let him…”
Sam threw his arms around Dean, cradling him in his arms as Dean sobbed; the way Dean always held him. His face was blank, his eyes glazed as Dean sobbed out the story.

“Samuel?” Fisch said softly, making him jump. Sam hadn't been there, at that moment. He'd been remembering that big, amorphous black blob that was that night in the cabin. H e didn't remember, and hearing Dean's confession had triggered it to come flooding back, his chest heaving as his heart racing. He remembered.
For so long, he didn't remember what exactly it was that he was never supposed to tell...only that it was something like what Dad had done to Dean, but he didn't remember anything more than that. But now he remembered.

“I’m fine,” he whispered breathlessly.
“Are you hiding something?” she prodded gently. Sam bit his lip as Dean pulled away, scrubbing his red face.
“Sammy…what is it?” Dean asked, stroking his little brother’s cheek, "Talk to us, baby."
“In the cabin,” he whispered, “He just kept hitting me. He just kept punching and kicking me...and I cried and screamed and begged him to stop, but he didn’t. He drug me across the floor by my hair and I did the only thing I could think of to stop him.”
Dean closed his eyes, tears sliding down his cheeks.
“God, no…Sammy, baby…”
“I didn’t really know what I was offering,” Sam whispered, “I couldn’t take anymore, Dean. I thought he was gonna kill me. I told him I could do what you do. And he punched me again, but he let go of my hair and he...I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I just wanted it to stop…”
Sam clutched the sides of his head, rocking gently, “I couldn’t breathe, I was choking and he just kept going…and I scraped him with my teeth on accident, and he…he just went crazy. I can’t remember after that.”

Dean and Sam clung to each other, crying into each other.
“Sammy, fuck, I’m so sorry, you could’ve told me sooner…” Dean sobbed, “You could’ve... I should’ve told you the truth about what all Dad did. Then you would’ve been able to tell me.”
“I knew,” Sam said, wiping his face, “I knew. I just…I wanted to protect you from thinking about that, if you didn’t want to.”
They smiled at each other through the pain and the tears, wiping each other’s faces before looking back at Fisch.
“You probably think we’re both fucked up freaks,” Dean said, laughing sadly. Fisch rose to her feet, wrapping her arms around both of them.

“No,” she said simply, kissing the tops of their heads, “No. I don’t.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Jody had discovered that the longer you were around Sam, the more you understood the counting. In fact, it made her start to count when she was angry or too upset to deal with things.
She rested her head in her hands, biting her lip. She could see that John Winchester was dangerous- that much was clear. But seeing the look of sheer terror on Dean’s face, watching his body crumple and fold and fall to the floor in complete and total fear and helplessness; just as she would never forget seeing Sam thrash and scream like a wild animal at the thought of being given back to his father, she knew she would never be able to erase this event from her memory.

She had never seen someone that afraid before.

She could feel the tears rushing forth, rolling down her cheeks as she sobbed. She didn’t know what to do. They had never trained her on how to deal with situations like this. There was the cursory training; what to ask, what to write down, what charges to file and the few that would stick, but they never told her how to handle looking into the eyes of children so terrified of the person who had given them life. They never told her that guilt would wrack her whole body with the knowledge that if the man had simply used a real name and demanded to have Sam returned to his custody, that she would have to comply. They never told her that her heart would freeze in terror for her own son.
They also never told her that she would want to shoot someone. The overwhelming desire to shoot John Winchester had almost crippled her mouth, the sheer willpower it took to play the friendly local yokel in the face of a monster.
They never told her that monsters like him could look so normal. Every time she imagined a monster like him, they were ugly, foul smelling, with rotten teeth and black eyes; their wretchedness on the inside manifesting on the outside. But John Winchester was handsome, clean, with a million watt smile and clean smelling cologne. If she hadn’t been warned by Fisch, she would’ve fallen for his tricks and lies.

She nearly jumped out of her skin as the phone rang, snatching it from the cradle.

“Sioux Falls Police Department, Deputy Mills speaking,” she mumbled.
“Where are the boys?” came Bobby’s gruff voice on the other end. Jody let out a sobbing laugh, the tears springing to life again as her blood boiled.
“Robert Singer,” she hissed, “Get your ass back here, now.”
“Goddamnit Jody, where the fuck are Sam and Dean?” he yelled.
“They’re here and they’re safe,” she snapped, “No thanks to you!”
“Did John come around? Did they tell you if they’d seen their father?” he demanded. Jody let out a strangled laugh, pushing her hair out of her face.
“I can do you one better. He showed up at the library- and here.”
“Fuck.”
She could hear Bobby cursing loudly, his fist pounding against whatever surface was closest to the phone. Finally, he picked the phone back up, his voice sounding tight and unnatural.
“Did…did he see them?” Bobby asked.
“I don’t know about Sam,” Jody said, “But yeah, he saw Dean. Made the kid pass out, scared him so bad.”
“I can’t get back there for another 24 hours,” Bobby said quickly, “Someone fucked with my car and I gotta get it fixed, but I’m gonna be there as soon as possible. I know this is too much to ask…”
“Never stopped you before,” she quipped. Bobby sighed.
“Can they stay with you until I get back?” Bobby asked, “ They don’t do well alone, and especially not with John coming around. Dean could bolt or worse, they may go back with him.”
“You didn’t even have to ask,” Jody replied, “Check in tonight with them though- I can tell they’re worried about you.”
“Thanks, Mills.”
“Shut up,” she replied, hanging up the phone and rubbing her temples.

She took a deep breath, dialing her husband’s work phone.

“Hey babe,” he said happily, “Miss me?”
“Yeah,” she replied distractedly, “Listen, Greg-“
“Don’t tell me,” he sighed, “I need to call my sister and ask her to stay late.”
“No,” she replied, “But we might have a full house tonight…”
“Jesus Jody,” Greg moaned, “You remember when you promised to stop bringing your work home after Owen was born?”
“This isn’t just work-“
“They aren’t your children, Jody! You already have one son!” he yelled, “You know, one you gave birth to, with your nose and my hair color?”
“They have nowhere safe to go,” Jody said slowly, her voice filled with venom, “I just watched the older one pass out in sheer terror at the sight of his father, and I’ve seen the other one basically go into seizures at the mere thought of his father. So yeah, I know they aren’t my sons. But there isn’t one other fucking person in this world that’s going to give a shit about them and goddamn it, if I can protect them, I’m sure as hell gonna do it!” she yelled back, “Do you know how many other cops must’ve said the same fucking thing? They aren’t my kids, I said I wouldn’t bring my work home, I’ve already got a kid at home? Kids like them turn into murder statistics, Greg. I’ve never seen anyone that scared before. The ony time I’ve seen anything that scared is a few years ago when we got a report of these people abusing a dog. That dog was so scared It was rabid, I had to put him down for biting Deaton when we rescued him, if II didn’t, it would’ve killed him. What do you think that’d be like for a kid? What if that was Owen? Wouldn’t you want someone, anyone, to look at him and say, ‘There’s something wrong here, this kid needs help’? What if one of us died and the other was hurting him? Wouldn’t you want someone to help him?”
“Of course I would!” Greg sighed, “But why does it have to be you? Why do you have to be the one that swoops in and saves these kids?”
“Because I’m the one that’s here,” she said, “Because it’s the right thing to do, because I can’t go home and look at my son without imagining those boys that small and being hurt! Take your pick.”
“Jody…”
“Forget it. I’ll pick up Owen and we’ll spend the night at their house,” Jody replied, “I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Greg replied.
“Yes it was,” Jody replied, “It’s really easy to look the other way. It’s hard to do the right thing and stare it right in the face and do something. This is why I became a cop- to help people. And no one deserves help more than two kids. They’re innocent and defenseless.”
“One of them is a teenager, and the other one is a goddamn adult, Jody. They should be able to take care of themselves by now.”
“They can,” she replied, “But not in this case. I’m not gonna argue with you about this. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

She hung up the phone, covering her face. She had to help them. This wasn’t a case file that she was reading in bed. These were two living, breathing people, people who may have looked like adults, but were still defenseless children. She wasn’t trying to bring her work home. She was trying to bring two motherless children somewhere they’d be safe from the one person who should love and protect them above all else.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He counted all of the people packed into Bobby’s small living room, bouncing Owen on his lap. He could never recall in his life a time when Bobby had this many people in his house, let alone in one rooom. He'd always felt a little sad for Bobby in that way- he had to get lonely sometimes, with just Rumsfeild for company. But if he were to be completely honest with himself, this was the closest thing he'd ever had to having a family, especially in one room. Fisch and Dean argued heavily about the merits of mixing Iron and Silver together in bullets when hunting, paying no attention to anyone else, they were so wrapped up in their conversation.  Jody snored in Bobby’s armchair, her mouth hanging open. Sam felt bad for Jody- he knew that she had a busy life already; being the only female officer and the deputy, having a baby, and trying to keep her husband happy, but she still made time to take care of them. She was a mother through and through, like the ones he’d read about in books.

Sometimes, when he was putting away the books on the shelves Fisch couldn’t reach, he let himself daydream. He’d imagine Jody as their mother and Bobby as their father and Fisch as the old grandmother who always said what was on her mind and snuck him and his brother treats when they were little. He imagined little Owen as his baby brother, and being the best big brother ever to him, the way Dean was. He imagined him and Dean protecting Owen from bumps and scrapes, teaching him how to toss a football around and how to play the best pranks. He imagined Dean, ever the big brother, sneaking Owen's vegetables off his plate and trying to feed them to Rumsfield. He imagined Jody being there and tucking him and his brother in at night and patching them up when they fell. He imagined always having a full belly, and never being in pain caused by the hands that were supposed to hold him. He imagined that there were never hands on his or Dean’s bare skin, never burning secrets deep into their bones that they would never be able to get out. He imagined a different and better life that would never belong to them; and in this moment, it was the closest he would ever come to that dream.

Owen’s little voice making funny noises as he bounced him brought him back to the present, finally tuning into Dean and Fisch’s conversation. He'd figured out long ago that Fisch was at the very least aware of the supernatural, despite her never having said so straight out. The only passions he could think of that Bobby and Fisch could share were a love of the japanese language or hunting, and with all the ancient grimoires and tomes lining Fisch's personal shelves, he figured she had been Bobby's connection in getting some of his collection. Then, one day had brought up the conversation of what his father did, and without thinking, he'd said that he was a hunter. Fisch nodded sagely and simply remarked, "That's why you never put down roots, then."
He listened with amusement as Fisch became a little louder and more impassioned in her explanation to Dean, smacking her hand on the arm of the chair she was sitting in.

“You can’t mix them together and expect the same effect on a hunt,” Fish said firmly, “All that would happen is you made impure silver. It’s not a standard alloy and therefore wouldn’t work.”
“But we can mix salt and holy water-“
“That’s a completely different situation. The water is the solvent and the salt is soluble. Holy water is just water that has been blessed, and the salt is just salt. Mixing salt and water normally makes saline, a common solution, and the blessing on the water does not change its physical or chemical properties. But you cannot mix two pure metals and expect them to have the same effect, they’d taint each other.”
“Just take the wind outta my sails, why don’t ya,” Dean huffed, folding his arms. Fisch laughed at him, throwing her head back.
“Don’t be sour grapes about it, Dean,” she replied. Dean grinned, sticking his tongue out at Fisch playfully. Sam laughed at the two of them, rolling his eyes as Owen started to whine a little, trying to slide off his lap. He wiggled his way out of Sam’s grip, toddling across the floor about halfway across the room before Dean reached out and snagged him around the waist, pulling him back.

“Where you running off to, Tiger?” he teased, lifting Owen’s shirt and blowing raspberries on his belly, making Owen giggle. Sam smiled, remembering that there was a time when Dean would say and do the same thing to him, when they were children. Happy memories, the ones he clung to. Dean set Owen on his feet again and he was off, this time heading for the kitchen. Fisch reached out and grabbed the back of his pajama pants and Owen plopped down on his butt as Fisch drug him back across the floor. They went on like that for a while, until Owen had run himself ragged, ready for sleep. He let out a huge yawn, reaching out to Dean.

“Up!” he whined, his hands making a grabbing motion, “Up! Up!”
“Alright Tiger, I hear ya,” Dean said, picking Owen up. He tossed him into the air a little, catching him and grinning as Owen giggled, pressing his head against Dean’s shoulder. Dean stroked his back gently, smiling.
“You all tuckered out, lil man?” he asked softly, “You had a big day, huh? Running around with the big guys with those little legs, that’s a lot of work for a little guy. I gotcha, I gotcha.”

Dean started to sway and bounce, humming quietly. Sam closed his eyes, listening to the tune and recognizing it, but he didn’t know where. He started to hum along, rocking gently in his seat in time with Dean, watching him and the baby closely. Owen’s eyes started to droop, his little body going limp as he drifted off to sleep to the bouncing sway of Dean’s body. Sam grabbed a bunch of pillows and blankets, making Owen a makeshift bed for him on the floor next to where they had drug their mattress down to. Sam was worried about putting Owen somewhere on the couch- he could roll off in the middle of the night and hurt himself. Dean nodded appreciatively, kneeling down next to Sam and laying the baby down gently. Owen started to whine, his eyes starting to open before Dean stroked his head, hushing him softly.
“Shhhh, you’re okay big guy,” he said gently, watching as Owen settled down and curled up. Dean sat down completely, reaching down and pulling off his pajama bottoms gently.
“You used to get too hot when I left your PJs on,” Dean whispered to Sam, who was watching him curiously, “So I always took ‘em off and tucked the blanket under your legs, but you were a real squirmer so I usually didn’t matter.” He tucked the blanket gently around Owen, smiling at Sam.

“He’s an easy baby,” He said, rising up and straightening his back, “You were a hard baby. You’d get yourself so tired you couldn’t go to sleep until you passed out from sheer exhaustion. Once, you spent the whole night bouncing your head off the couch cushions until you fell asleep, your cheek pressed against the cushion and your ass in the air. I wish I had a picture of that, it was the cutest damn thing.”
“Sorry,” Sam mumbled, his cheeks flushing red. Dean chuckled, bending down and kissing his cheek.
“It’s okay baby, that’s my job,” he said, “Let’s get Jody on the couch, she looks cramped on that armchair.”

They walked over to Jody, Sam gently shaking her shoulder.
“Jody, hey, wake up,” he said softly. Jody grunted, her eyes half opening.
“Huh? Wha?” she mumbled.
“We’re gonna move you onto the couch,” Sam explained. Jody wasn’t really awake though, brushing them off.
“Uhuh,” she moaned, “Five more minuns Greg…”

Dean rolled his eyes, scooping her up out of the chair and carrying her over to the couch, setting her down gently. Sam pulled one of Bobby’s blankets over her as she rolled over, groaning again and throwing her arms over her eyes.
“She’s heavier than she looks,” Dean said with a grin, “But you’re still heavier.”

Sam rolled his eyes, bouncing down onto their mattress in the middle of the floor and looking up at Dean, putting on his best puppy eyes. Dean chuckled, turning to Fisch as she spoke.
“You’ve got quite a touch with children, Dean,” Fisch said. Dean looked over at Sam, his smile gentle.
“I had a lot of practice,” he said, sitting down on the mattress, “Me and Sammy had quite a few restless nights when he was little. Well, he doesn’t remember, but I do.”
“I remember some of them,” Sam replied, flopping down in Dean’s lap, “You sang me to sleep until I was like, 7. That same song you were humming to Owen.”
“Oh, yeah,” Dean said, looking a bit surprised, “I didn’t think you’d remember that.”
“What song is it?” Sam asked, biting his lip, “I feel like I heard it somewhere else.”
“You did,” Dean said quietly, looking away, “Ah, Dad used to whistle it sometimes.”
“Oh…” Sam said quietly, looking down, “But yeah, you used to sing to me, and then you stopped.”
“Then you made me read to you,” Dean teased, his fingers carding through Sam’s hair.
“Nuh uh,” Sam said, smiling as his eyes closed, “I made you listen to me read, and then I made you finish the story when I got too tired.” Dean laughed, nodding.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he said, “You took fucking forever to read, too, longer than I did. You’d read the same word 5 times. Even more if you decided you liked it.” Sam smirked, looking up at Dean.
“You mean like the word ‘curious’?” Sam asked. Dean groaned, throwing his head back. He remembered the endless nights, reading with Sam, forcing himself to read out loud despite hating it. It made Sammy happy, and Sam never said anything about him reading the words out of order.
“I will always hate Alice in Wonderland because of that,” Dean replied, “The word is in there about a thousand times, but Sam had to say it like a thousand times every damn time it showed up!”

Fisch laughed quietly, shaking her head at them. There was so much pain and suffering in their short lives, but somehow it had only brought them closer, stitched them together tighter with steel thread. Fisch had half a mind to compare them to loves from times long past, but she realized that there was never a love story she could compare to the two boys in front of her; both with bright green eyes and gentle smiles; staring at each other as if they had all the riches and wonders of the world in front of them. She wasn’t a romantic. She was a cynic, in her opinion. But Sam and Dean made her believe that maybe there was still a little love, still a little romance left in the world, even if it was between two brothers who shouldn't have ever been in love like that in the first place.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam usually woke up in the dead of night, just to enjoy the silence, and to enjoy being alone. Night time was one of the few times that everything was quiet and still, and Sam didn't feel like he was constantly surrounded by noise and action and on the edge of a meltdown. In fact, night was usually one of the few times when Sam didn't have to count anything. He could sit in the silence and feel perfectly calm and at peace, like he supposed normal people felt all the time. Night was his time to just be Sam, to just exist without having to hide any part of himself, without having to retreat into his protective shell. Night was when the counting stopped and he was able to just...think, without everything else crowding his thoughts, including Dean. It wasn’t that Sam didn’t love his brother with every atom of his being, but sometimes he needed a few moments to process all the things in his head. Things that whizzed by during the day, filed away to be thought about later.

He laid in the dark, his fingers tracing over Dean’s back, thinking about Dean’s confession in the interrogation room earlier that day. He thought about his own confession. Their father was always a monster to him, but hearing Dean say it out loud, hearing him say how young he was when it all started…it made Sam’s blood run cold.
And it made Sam remember more than he ever wanted to.

When it all first started coming back to him, after Dean’s confession, he thought it was just his mind going into overdrive. But it wasn’t- the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he’d seen more than he’d ever thought he had.


He remembered when he was six and Dad came home in the middle of the night and Dean slipped out of bed and never came back. He remembered being half awake and hearing whimpers and gasps in the dark, only to pull the covers over his head to hide because he knew every time those noises happened, something bad was happening and he was too scared to do anything but squeeze his eyes shut and press his hands to his ears, praying it would go away.

He remembered the old hunting cabin in Montana when he was 12. He remembered hearing Dean let out a strangled cry and got up, tip-toeing to the door of their room and peeking through the crack. He remembered seeing Dean’s naked body facing him, his face scrunched in pain, his hands balled in fists as his father hovered over him.

“Tell me you want it,” John grunted. Tears rolled down Dean’s cheeks as his eyes looked upwards, as if he were praying.
“I…I want it,” he barely whispered. John reached out and slapped Dean’s leg hard, making his body jerk.
“Say it like you mean it, boy,” he said, “No one’s here to watch your little act. I know you like it.”
“I want it,” he sobbed loudly, his forehead pressing against his arms, his shoulders shaking.

He remembered how broken his strong big brother looked, his face blank but the pain in his eyes unmasked. He watched as his father reached between Dean’s legs, touching his cock and making it spring to life despite his tears.

“See? You fucking love it, already bursting out of your skin,” John grunted, his whole body moving over Dean’s. Dean had dissolved into wordless moans and sobs as his body jerked in time with John, John’s hand grabbing the crown of Dean’s hair roughly and pressing his face against the floor.

“You missed this, didn’t you boy?” John whispered roughly, “Missed me when you were gone, didn’t you?”

He remembered something in Dean coming to life at that remark, how he thrashed and fought back, throwing his head back and slamming his head into John’s nose. His brother’s lean naked body shaking as he stood, tense and ready to pounce.

“No,” he hissed, “No, I fucking didn’t!” John rose to his feet, wiping blood away from his nose.
“You wanna play rough? I can play rough,” John replied, grabbing Dean’s arm and slamming him against the wall. Dean bucked and thrashed, his breath coming out in short snorts as John’s hands wandered over his body.
“I don’t have to do this,” Dean grunted, “I could turn you in for the sick fuck that you are.”
“No you couldn’t,” John replied, grinning, “Is that what he told you, at that farm? That you could turn me in? You didn’t tell him that you said yes, did you? You didn’t tell him that you told me you wanted this…you didn’t tell him that you get hard when we do this, and that you always have. Because you knew he’d see you for what you really are, a pathetic little whore. Right? You can’t turn me in for anything- you said yes.”
“I was just a kid!” Dean cried out, “I didn’t know what I was saying-“
“But you still said it,” John replied, turning Dean around to face him, “No one would believe you…and even if they did, they’d look at you as disgusting. They’d want to know why you came back, why you didn’t run away, why you didn’t fight harder. You’re a boy. Boy’s love sex, and you said yes. They’ll know you’re lying, they’ll know you wanted it.”

Dean looked away and John grabbed his chin roughly.

“You wanna fuck…him…and you wanna get all teary eyed about me fucking you? You’re a sick little boy, you’re no better than I am. Would you like it better if I went and got him for you? Made him suck you off while I fuck you? Bet you’d like that. We could do it, you know. You could have him, I’d make him do what you want.”
“Leave him out of this,” Dean yelled, thrashing against his father’s grip, “That was the deal- you leave him the fuck out of this!”
“Dean,” his father said gently, stroking Dean’s face, “I just want you to enjoy this. And if he’d help you enjoy it, I’m willing to let you have him. Don’t you think that’s fair?”
“No, I don’t want that,” Dean sobbed, “Please, just leave him out of it.”
“Or I could just use him,” John said, “He’d be a poor substitute for you, but it’d get the job done. What do you think? You’d be off the hook.”
“Leave him alone,” Dean cried, “Just leave him alone, please. I’ll do whatever you want, but leave Sammy alone.”

He remembered running back into the bed, curling into a ball and praying Dean’s pain would be over soon.
He remembered Dean limping back into the room, collapsing onto the bed and crying, sobbing into his pillow.
He remembered curling himself around Dean, only to be shoved away with the hoarse whisper, “Don’t touch me. Go back to sleep.” 


Sam shuddered at the memory, biting his lip.
He should’ve done something. He should’ve spoken up. But he was too weak- that was the start of the whole problem. He was too weak to defend himself, and then he was too weak to defend Dean. It haunted him, and he hated himself for it. He started to breathe hard, the walls feeling as if they were closing in.
He asked for it too. Dean was too little to know what he was saying, but Sam…Sam was old enough. Sam knew about sex, and about right and wrong, and he still offered it to his father. Even if he didn’t know what exactly it was, he still initiated it. He deserved what he got.
Dean didn’t, but he did.

He cuddled closer to Dean in the dark and Dean rolled over, holding him close and stroking his hair.
“Hey baby,” Dean mumbled sleepily, “Couldn’t sleep?”
“I was thinking,” Sam whispered shakily, tapping his fingers on Dean’s chest and counting in his head. Dean took his hand gently, kissing his fingers.
“Whatcha thinking about?” Dean asked gently, “You’re upset, I can tell.” Sam sighed softly, resting his head on Dean’s chest and hugging him hard.
“I remember a lot,” he whispered softly, “I never helped you and you were…protecting me…” Sam started to cry, whispering the numbers quickly.
“Hey, shhhh,” Dean cooed gently, lifting Sam’s chin, “Hey. I made a choice to protect you from that side of Dad, okay? It wasn’t your fault; you were too little to do anything. It’s…It’s not even Dad’s fault. He’s sick. If I had a chance to do it over, I would still do it the same way.”
“But-“
“No buts,” Dean said firmly, “I’m the big brother. I take care of you, that’s my job. Don’t you feel sorry about it, because I don’t.”
“I asked for it,” Sam whispered, “I asked for him to…I was old enough. I knew better. I knew it hurt you and I still asked for it because I was too weak.”

Dean sat up, pulling Sam into his lap and rocking him gently.
“Baby,” he said gently, kissing Sam’s forehead, “You didn’t ask for it.”
“You think that you asked for it,” Sam sobbed, his arms around Dean’s neck, “If you asked for it…I did too.”

Dean froze for a moment. Sam was right- he did think he asked for it. He did, technically. And he hated himself every day for it. But Sam never did, even if he said those words- he was just trying to make John stop hurting him. Was that any different from what he did?
Dean finally had a sort-of epiphany.
If he wanted to help his baby heal from everything, if he wanted Sammy not to blame himself, then Dean needed to stop blaming himself too. And even if he didn’t believe it at first…he had to at least fake it.

“I…I didn’t ask for it,” Dean said firmly, “Neither of us did. I was a kid, you’re a kid. He's the adult. He should’ve known better, but he’s too messed up. It’s not our fault. None of it is our fault. Dad drinking, Dad beating us and leaving us alone, Dad…doing that. It wasn’t our fault.”
“R-r-really?” Sam hiccupped, looking up at Dean.
“Yeah baby, really,” Dean said, “It’s not us. It’s him.”
“But-“
“It’s him,” Dean repeated, “But that’s over now. He’s never gonna hurt us again. Bobby said so, and look, we’ve got Jody and Fisch here protecting us. They didn’t have to do that, you know. They chose to help us. And if it was our fault…then why would they help us? They aren’t getting anything out of us.”
“I guess I n-n-never thought about th-th-that,” Sammy said, cuddling against Dean’s chest, “I’m s-s-s-sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Dean said, “Come on, lay down and I’ll count.”

Dean held onto Sam as he laid back down, stroking his hair gently with one hand and touching the tips of Sam’s fingers with the other.
“One, two, three, four, five,” Dean whispered soothingly, over and over until Sam’s breathing evened out and his body went limp, finally drifting off to sleep. Dean laid there for a bit, finally extricating himself from Sam’s grip and grabbing his cigarettes.

He needed a smoke, he needed some air, he needed to think.

His bare feet padded gently across the old wood floor, trying not to make enough noise to rouse any of them- but especially not Sam. He finally managed to get to the back door, opening it up and stepping shirtless into the cool night air. He sighed, sitting down heavily on the steps and sticking the cigarette between his teeth, brushing past the two joints he had tucked to the side. He was saving those for another time. He lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply, staring up at the glittering night sky.

It’s not our fault. It’s not us, it’s him. I didn’t ask for it.

He shook his head, exhaling and trying to shake those thoughts out of his head. He didn’t want to think about it, whose fault it was or why it happened. He’d tried thinking about it for years, and all it ever did was tear up his insides, making him feel even more rotten on the inside.

He closed his eyes, just letting the quiet still air of the night hold him and comfort him, until he felt the barrel of a gun pressed against his temple. His whole body felt like it was turning to jello, his voice stronger than he felt as he turned towards the barrel and opened his eyes, looking up.

“Hey Dad.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam always counted when he was scared or in pain when he was little, and as he got older he started counting when he was nervous. Counting centered him, reminded him that not everything was a swirling pit of chaos. And growing up with Sam, beng so keenly aware of this fact, rubbed off on Dean. Dean's first thought when he needed to calm down was to use the number. While numbers soothed Sam, they anchored Dean in reality, when his own fear and uncertainty was about to send him over the edge. One is always one. There are always five fingers on each hand. There was one hand that mattered, and that was Sam's. And there was one hand he always had to be wary of, to watch out for. And that hand belonged to his father.
It was these facts that Dean clung to as he sat sit as a statue on the back stairs, looking away from his father.

“It’s been a while, Dad,” Dean said quietly. John lowered the gun, smirking.
“You said you needed a while,” John replied, “It’s been a while.”
“And here you are,” Dean said, taking a drag off his cigarette.

And here he was, standing there, pointing a gun to his head. Here he was, outside watching them like a hawk, waiting for them to let down their guard. And here he was, just like he always had been.

“Bobby ain’t here,” John said conversationally. Dean nodded, taking another drag off his cigarette. He was strangely at peace in this moment- not like at the police department. He knew this day was gonna come. He knew their father was watching them. And somewhere, deep down inside, he knew that Bobby had been sent off on a wild goose chase.
And here he was.
Maybe there was more than just Sam’s fingers that they could count on.
“Bobby ain’t here,” Dean repeated, holding out his pack of cigarettes, “You want a smoke?” John laughed, shaking his head.

It seemed so strange, so foreign in that moment that they were having a peaceable conversation. Like John wasn’t a monster. Like Dean had just been caught smoking. Like they were normal. Like John didn’t have a gun trained on his head.

“I don’t smoke, boy,” John replied. Dean shrugged, setting the pack back down. He'd forgotten that fact- his father was never a smoker, not really. There were a few times he'd seen his father smoke in the bar, or after a particularly stressful hunt, but he didn't smoke regularly. He'd smoked before Vietnam, but when he came back, he'd apparently quit. That's why he had the lighter, the one that John had given him. One of the few things that John had actually given him that was worth anything. A car, a leather jackect, a lighter, and a little brother. The only decent things that John had ever given him.

For some reason, nothing felt urgent at this moment. It was like everything had come to a head, and there was nothing left to fear. What else could John do to them? To him?

“Get any leads on the demon?” Dean asked. It was John’s turn to shrug.
“As many as I usually get. I’d ask what you’ve been doing…but then again, I know.”
“Of course you do,” Dean said quietly, “And here you are.”
“Here I am,” John replied.

Dean finished his first cigarette, stubbing it out against the dirt and pulling out another one. He could feel John’s eyes on him, watching him as if he were going to pull out a weapon or pop a cyanide cap in his mouth. Dean laughed softly to himself, shaking his head as he lit the cigarette. Was this all they were ever going to do? Run and hide and pray that their father didn’t come for them, just to end up back in his web? He looked up at the sky, chuckling again.

“Something funny, boy?” John asked.
“Yeah, actually. I realized something,” Dean said, still looking up at the sky, “I realized something really important, just a few minutes ago, actually.”

John sat down next to him, looking at him with hawkish brown eyes that almost looked black in Dean’s peripheral vision.

“What’s that, son?” John asked, his voice gentle as he stroked the barrel of the gun down Dean’s temple and across his lips. The sensual nature of the way John stroked the gun over his face made Dean cringe. He was starting to learn, as slow as it was, that touches like that weren't supposed to make his guts turn. Touches like that weren't supposed to make him flinch in disgust. He steeled his resolve again, swearing not to react to anything else John did, his jaw set firmly. John was taken aback, seeing this physical menifestation of Dean's will.  Something had changed in his boy, in just a few hours.
“This is how it’s gonna be,” Dean said, exhaling, “Forever. Until I die or you die, this is how it’s gonna be. We’re gonna run away, and you’re gonna come find us. You’re always gonna be what you are. And it’s not my fault, and it ain’t Sam’s fault either.”
“How do you figure?” John asked curiously.
“When Mom died-“

John inhaled sharply, the gun barrel pressing a little harder against Dean’s cheek.

“-Something inside you died too. And no matter what, it’s never coming back. And I wanted to fix that, to make you stop hurting us. I thought if I was Mom, then maybe you’d stop being what you are now. I was wrong.”
“You’re gonna come back with me, one way or another,” John said firmly.
“I know,” Dean replied, his voice sounding resigned, “But we’re not going back with you now.”
“I’ve got a gun pressed to your head, and you’re telling me how this is gonna go?” John asked, “I raised you with balls, I’ll give you that.”
“There’s a police officer in there.”
“A woman. Who’s asleep, and has her kid here. You think she’ll choose you over her kid?” John asked, “And a feeble old woman. Some backup you’ve got.”
“You gonna shoot ‘em both?” Dean asked.
“Yeah, I’ll shoot ‘em both,” John hissed. Dean laughed a little, rolling his eyes. Maybe that was another thing he'd gotten from his father- that flair for the dramatic.
"Kill 'em all, right?" he asked. John chuckled too.
"Basically."
“Go ahead,” Dean replied monotonously, “I don’t care. What does it matter anyways, Dad? We all gotta die sometime.”
“I’ll shoot Sam.”

Dean’s heart leapt into his throat, but he swallowed harshly. Would that really be so terrible, compared to the things John had done-would do- when they were together? He tought about it, biting his lip. He didn’t know what it was, but something about Sam set John off. It wasn’t Sam’s fault, it was John’s fault. He couldn’t even fucking love his own son.

“You’d be doing him a favor, after everything he’s seen,” Dean said softly, “After all, that’s what you almost did. You almost killed him, but something stopped you.”
“If I killed him, there ain’t nothing to keep you around.”
“I wish you had killed him, instead of what you did,” Dean hissed, “Dead doesn’t hurt. What you did does. It never stops hurting.”
“You’ve gotten cold, Dean,” John said, “I like it.”

Dean ignored his father's words, taking another drag off his cigarette.

“I used to want to kill myself,” He said, “I thought about it a lot. Thought about killing Sammy too, when you’re out on a hunt. Shooting him while he’s asleep, and turning the gun on myself. But then I realized something. I don’t wanna die. I don’t want Sam to die. I wanna live.”
“Do you?” John asked, “Then you should come back with me, because no one is walking out of here alive unless you do.”
“You sure you want me to come back with you?” Dean asked, smirking at him, “Because some day, I’m gonna fucking kill you.”
“Big talk,” John replied.

“I’m gonna do it. Someday, I’m gonna kill you, and the last thing you’re gonna see is gonna be mine and Sammy’s faces. And you’re gonna be sorry for all the shit you’ve done.”
“You gonna shoot me?” John asked, “Here.”

He held out the gun to Dean.

“Go ahead, take it,” John said, a cruel smile on his face, “Kill me. If you have the guts.”

Dean looked down at the gun and back at John, contemplating every time he thought of killing his father. Every scheme, every plan went rushing through his brain at that moment, but his hand didn’t move. This wasn't how he wanted to do it.

“Just as I thought,” John said, sounding somewhat disappointed.
“Not for the reasons you think,” Dean said harshly. John nodded, sighing.
“I think the only way we’re gonna work this out is if we make a deal,” John said, “So, here’s what we’re gonna do. You go wake up Sam and bring him out here, and we’ll decide together how this is gonna work, like a real family.”

Dean and John both heard the door open, looking back to see Sam standing there, looking terrified, but there was something else in his eyes, in his body, that only Dean could read.

It was rage.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Normally, in a situation like this, Sam would be a mess- shaking, rocking on his feet, tugging at his hair and counting loudly. This was his worse fear- both their worst fear- their father coming back for them. Sam was always counting, even when no one could see it.

But as Dean stared up at his little brother, even with the terror on his face, there was no hint of his lips moving, no rocking in his stance. For a moment, Sam seemed totally still. As if he’d never needed the counting at all- and that terrified Dean more than their father did at that moment.

John rose to his feet, staring down his younger son, and Sam never once looked away. He stepped down the stairs, staring at John the whole time. He was moving with purpose, with a destination in mind, breathing deeply. Dean had no idea what the destination was, but he recognized the look in Sam’s eyes. It was the way Sam always looked at a particularly difficult math problem or translation, when he could feel the answer within his reach, but it was just out of his grasp. It was rage-filled determination.

Sam refused to let himself show a hint of weakness. The numbers may have been flying through his mind at lightning speed, reciting the number of everything in that stupid junkyard that he'd ever counted, an endless loop of numbers, but he wouldn't say them out loud. His body felt like it was about to fly apart at the seams, but he didn't let the desperate counting break forth. Not this time. He wasn't showing his father anything this time- he wasn't giving him any more power. He was sick of feeling powerless to his father, his brother, to his own damn mind. He was tired of being a slave to the numbers and his fear. and for one single, shining moment, even if the numbers hadn't stopped in his head, he was able to keep them in.

Dean could feel it in the tense atmosphere- something had changed for both of them. Everything had changed, and he had no idea what had changed. They were still afraid, he still was, but for some reason it stopped mattering. It seemed like, in the cool air of that summer night, they were at an impasse. Everything was at the breaking point- him, Sam, his father. They’d all been bent in different ways. It was time to see who broke.

“Fine,” Sam said simply. Dean’s eyes darted between Sam and John. What the fuck was this? John seemed to share Dean’s sentiment, his expression darkening.
“Fine?” John demanded.
“Fine,” Sam repeated, “You said either we go with you or everyone dies tonight. Fine. Shoot me.”

Dean jumped to his feet, ready to throw himself between his father and brother. What the fuck was Sam playing at? This wasn’t what he expected. Dean was more than a little ashamed to admit that he thought Sam would hide behind him like he usually did. He was ashamed to admit that he’d forgotten that there were many times that Sam had stood on his own and fought his own battles- Sam was gentle, and he was weak at times, but when he felt that the situation called for it, his little brother could show immeasurable amounts of strength and determination.

Sam spread his arms out, leaving his chest open as the perfect target, and Dean felt like the world had stopped spinning.

“Go ahead, shoot me!” Sam yelled, moving forward, “Fucking shoot me! Do it, come on, you need my help?”
“Sam, don’t!” Dean yelled, grabbing his younger brother’s wrist, only to have it torn out of his grasp.
“No!” Sam yelled, shoving Dean away, “I’m fucking sick of this. He wants to kill me, go the fuck ahead, shoot me, Dad! Fucking shoot me!”
“Back off,” John yelled, waving the gun and looking shaken. Sam seemed to feed off of this, an odd smile breaking out on his face.
“What, you can’t actually look me in the face when you kill me?” he demanded, “Don’t wanna kill me because then you can’t toy with me anymore, because if I’m dead your only leverage against Dean is gone? Because if you kill me, you can't control me anymore? What, Dad? I’m done. I’m done hiding. I’m done running. You wanna kill me? Fine. Do it. I’m ready.”
“That’s a lot of bravado for a scared little boy,” John said, regaining his composure. Sam shrugged.
“I’m still scared of you, yeah. But I’m not scared of dying. Not when I know what you could do to me when I’m alive,” he said, “I’m scared of you. But I’m done letting you use that to control us.”

Dean’s eyes widened as he saw Sam reach into his waistband and whip out a .22 hidden under his shirt faster than either of them could even register what was happening.

It looked like this time, it was Sam who was at his breaking point.

“You’re gonna get in that fucking truck and leave. Whether you walk there or crawl there is your choice,” Sam said firmly. Dean reached out to his little brother, trying to calm him down.
“Sam-“
“Shut up, Dean,” Sam hissed, staring at John, “I’m not playing this fucking game anymore.”
“You can’t shoot him!” Dean said, his voice panicked. He wanted John dead. He wanted his eyes closed for good- but he didn’t want Sam to do it. He didn’t want Sam to have a human’s blood on his hands, and especially not his father’s. Dean knew that something like that, weighing down on his conscience, would tear Sam apart. Let alone the fact that Sam would be throwing everything they both fought for, struggled for, away. Dean had tossed his future in the trash because of John. He wasn’t gonna let Sam make the same mistake.
“Why not?” Sam demanded, “You’ve said it before. He’s better off dead, and we’re better off with him dead.”
“You’d be throwing your life away, Sam,” Dean said cautiously, “Just give me the gun.”

Sam shook his head stubbornly, still staring John down. His body was drawn taught like a bow, the way he was on a hunt. There was no doubt found in Sam’s posture, no hint of weakness in his stony expression. For a moment, Dean felt like he was looking at someone else inside his brother’s skin.

Sam closed his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply through his nose. Ten rounds. Four people to protect. One enemy.

“No,” Sam said, his voice low, “I’m not gonna kill him, anyways. I said he could walk or crawl. If he dies after that, it’s not our problem. I can do this.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about, baby…” Dean said gently, coming closer, “Come on…put down the gun. Dad’s gonna leave, right Dad?” Dean asked, looking at John. John didn’t respond, still standing his ground, his own gun pointed at Dean.
“Put down the gun, or I swear to fucking god, I’ll fucking cover you in your brother’s blood,” John threatened.
Sam snorted.
“No, you won’t,” Sam said, “Two reasons. One, you’re here for Dean, not me. You ain’t gonna shoot him. Two, you shoot him, you die. And you know that,” Sam smiled, the expression hollow, "Remember, I'm good at 'the counting'," he spat.

John stepped forward and Sam shot a warning round just a few inches from his feet, making Dean and John jump. Dean’s heart was hammering a tattoo into his ribcage- this was real.
This was actually fucking happening.
Sam just fucking shot at their father.

Sam's heart was pounding as he stared down at the chunk of dirt that was torn up by the bullet he'd just fired. He fought the instinct to bolt, grinding his teeth hard and fighting the shaking in his hands. Nine bullets, four people to protect, one enemy.

“Wrong way,” Sam said coldly, “That cop inside the house? She just heard that gunshot. You wanna go to jail and get shot in the leg?”
“You made your point, boy,” John said, starting to move towards them again. Sam shot a second time at his feet, glaring. His nostrils were flaring, his breathing coming in short snorts. His whole body had flinched at the loud crack of the gun, but he could handle it. He forced himself to handle it, no matter how bad the burn was to soothe himself, to count out loud.  Eight bullets, four people to protect, one enemy.

He was gonna shoot John- Dean could tell.
 

“Take another step towards us and I take off your fucking foot,” Sam said through gritted teeth, “Get in the truck, Dad. Don’t fucking test me, now is really not a good time to test me.”
“Sam-“ Dean tried, only to be cut off.
“Stay out of it, Dean,” Sam snapped, “I’ve got it.”

They heard Jody and Fisch bolting out of the door, shotguns in their hands.

Jody looked at the scene, completely stunned. She expected to come out to see the gun in Dean’s hands. She figured she could talk Dean down, even get Sam to help. But it wasn’t Dean holding the gun. It was Sam- the last person she would ever expect to be holding a gun on anyone, let alone his father.

“Sam…” Jody said cautiously, only to be ignored. She looked over at John, raising her shotgun when she saw the gun in his own hand. She could feel her finger itching to pull the trigger- but she took a deep breath, calming herself and focusing. Be a cop first, and a mother later, Jody.
Fisch, on the other hand, was grinning like Christmas came early. Naturally, she was shocked to see Sam holding the gun- but she was glad, in a way, that it was Sam. Sam had finally taken the control that he was always desperately searching for. She trained her barrel on John’s chest, but she knew she would never get a chance to fire. If anyone was gonna shoot him, it was gonna be his own son. And it was gonna be true justice.

“Get in the truck,” Sam said again, “I get to three and you aren’t walking away, you’re gonna start crawling. One.”
John pointed the gun at Sam, smirking.
“Think you can shoot me faster than I can shoot you, boy?” John asked, smirking, “I taught you everything you know.”
"Two."

Jody moved forward, her gun still trained on John. This was gonna get bad fast- she could tell. The tension in the air was the same as a bar fight that had turned deadly downtown- someone was gonna get hurt.

“Everyone put down your goddamn guns!” Jody yelled, “Now!”

John didn’t, Sam didn’t, and John made a wrong move.
He turned towards Jody.

The shot went off like a sonic boom to Sam’s ears, his face screwed up in concentration not to give in to the compulsive urge to clap his hands over his ears and hide. For some reason, the gunshot sounded louder, more piercing this time. He stared at John as he hit the ground, clutching his shin. He shot him in the leg.

“Fuck!” He screamed, struggling to his feet, “Fuck!”
Sam felt a sudden rush of power, one that overtook the numbers, the compulsions; one that erased every semblance of his old need for control. He was in control this time. And it felt good.
“You actually fucking shot him,” Dean whispered, looking at Sam, “You…you actually fucking shot him!”
Yes, he actually shot him. He'd taken control. He was the one who decided the way things were going to go. He was the one with the power, and he was reveling in it.
“Crawl,” Sam hissed, walking over and kicking the gun away from John’s reach, “Fucking crawl like the worm you are.”

John reached out, grabbing weakly at Sam, but he just stepped back. Sam could feel the rush starting to ebb away, replaced with fear and numbers,  starting to rock slightly where he stood. John crawled across the ground, pulling himself to his feet on one of the old junkers, keeping his weight off his leg.

“You’re gonna regret that,” John barked, wincing in pain. Sam lifted the gun again, his hand shaking this time as he pointed it at the right side of his chest.
“Keep it up and you’ll leave in a body bag,” he whispered, “Go.”

John looked over at Jody, then back down at his bleeding leg with a smirk.
“Ain’t you gonna arrest him?” John asked, “He just shot me.”
Jody’s expression darkened, her shotgun still pointed at him.
“You’re just lucky he shot you in the leg with a .22,” she said, “I wanted to use my shotgun.”
John let out a pained laugh, looking back at Sam and Dean.
“See, what’ve I always told you?” he said, “Useless pigs, every one of them.”

He began to limp away backwards, still staring his sons down. Sam’s arm didn’t lower, even as his father turned his back and retreated; but he did start to rock harder.

There was a collective sigh of relief when they heard the truck start, swerving out of the driveway.

Sam dropped the gun to the ground and ran inside the house.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam couldn't think of a time when the numbers failed to calm him down, failed to make him feel better, but this was one of those times. He dashed inside the house, counting frantically as he pulled on his hair, pacing. Why wasn't it working? Numbers always helped. Numbers were always what protected him, made him feel better. 4 people to protect.
He froze in the hallway, turning quickly to face the living room. 4 people to protect, only three were outside. Owen. He needed to make sure Owen was okay.

He walked over to the little pillow nest where Dean had tucked Owen in, lifting him up into his arms. He held Owen tight, closing his eyes as he felt the warmth radiating off his little body. He sat down heavily on the couch, holding Owen, rocking. This was what he needed. He needed Owen, he needed something good. Owen would always be good.
He Sat Owen on his lap, gently taking his tiny hand in his own as his eyes fluttered open.
"You wanna count?" he whispered softly, his lips pressed against the baby's head, "One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. I made him go away. I protected you. You don't have to be afraid. One, two, three, four, five."

-

Dean, Jody and Fisch watched as Sam dashed inside the house, the gun dropped and forgotten in the dirt of the junkyard.

“What the fuck just happened?” Jody demanded, “What the…”
“Dad showed up,” Dean said, bending down and picking the gun up off the ground, “Said we were gonna go with him, and Sam had enough, I guess.”

Dean looked at the gun in his hands, still a little shell-shocked himself. He’d just watched his little brother, the most gentle and sensitive person he knew, shoot someone. And not just anyone- he shot their own father.

Crawl. Crawl like the fucking worm you are.

Something about seeing Sam holding that gun so still, something about being told to shut up and stay out of it, had rattled Dean to his core. That wasn’t the little boy he raised. That wasn’t the boy he’d held and kissed just an hour earlier. That wasn’t the Sam he knew.
But then again, maybe it was. Maybe all that built up anger and hurt was finally coming out- Dean just shoved everyone away, made himself an island and drove people away with his words. Maybe this was what Sam was deep inside, under all the counting and crying and sweet reassurances, maybe this was what his father had turned him into.

“I’ll go talk to him,” Dean said quietly, turning and walking inside the house. He could hear Sam counting loudly, and he walked in to see his brother holding Owen tightly in his arms, rocking back and for on the couch.

“It’s okay,” he said gently to the baby, stroking his hair, “It’s okay. I made him go away. One, two, three, four, five," he counted, his other hand holding Owen's, touching his splayed, chubby little fingers, "You don’t have to be scared any more, I promise. Everything is okay One, two, three, four, five."

The counting started again, and Dean approached slowly. Part of him was scared that something in Sam had snapped- he was ashamed to admit that he was scared that his brother would hurt the squirming little boy in his arms. He knew that Sam never would, but it still scared him to think that, well, he just shot their father, what else was he capable of?

“Hey baby,” Dean said gently, “Owen looks a little scared there. Why don’t you let me take him to Jody, huh?”
Sam jerked away, clinging to Owen. Dean looked down at the baby who didn’t honestly seem frightened at all, his head resting against Sam’s chest. Owen wasn’t afraid, but Dean felt like maybe he should be.
“I need him,” Sam said desperately, looking up at Dean, “I need him. I need him.”
“Okay,” Dean said, kneeling in front of Sam, “I get it.”
“No,” Sam said, his voice getting high and airy, “I need him. Look at him. He’s so perfect, Dean. He’s clean. He’s pure. I need him.”
“But you’re scaring him, Sammy,” Dean said, reaching out for Owen, “You don’t wanna scare him, right?”
“No,” Sam said, looking down at Owen and then at Dean, “He shouldn’t be afraid of anything.”
“That’s right,” Dean said gently, “So let’s get him to his mom, okay? Dad’s gone, and everyone’s okay, so let’s get him to Jody.”

Dean reached out to Owen again, just for Sam to jerk him away.

“You were gonna give up,” Sam said accusingly, “You were gonna make us go with him.”
“No,” Dean said shaking his head, “I was telling him what he wanted to hear.”
“How do I know you’re not telling me what I wanna hear?” Sam asked, his voice sounding strangled, “You’re scared of me. You think I’m gonna hurt him,” he looked down at Owen again, biting his lip, “I’m not like him, Dean. I’m not like Dad. I’m not gonna hurt him. I just need him.”
“I know, but he needs his mom,” Dean said, “And what he needs is most important, right?”
“What if you’re lying?” Sam whispered, “How do I know? You were gonna go with Dad. You were gonna make me go with Dad. Even though…you know! How could you do that?”

“Sam, give me the baby,” Dean said firmly, “Now.”

Sam looked at him with wide eyes, his lips set in a stubborn line. But when Dean reached out to Owen, his grip on loosened and Dean lifted the baby out of his arms. Dean carried Owen to Jody, who was standing in the hallway, looking shaken. She took Owen in her arms and covered him with kisses, looking him over.

“He didn’t hurt him,” Dean said seriously, “He was never going to. He just…needed him.”
“What does that mean?” Jody asked, looking confused. They all glanced into the living room where Sam was pacing, kicking things over and counting loudly.
“He needed something completely good for a little bit,” Dean said, “I…I used to do that with him. When I had to do things in order to survive, I’d kinda cling to him. To remind myself that there are good things in the world. I think that’s what he was trying to do. Owen was the best thing he could think of, so he went to him.”
Jody nodded slowly, looking down at her son. He seemed no worse for wear, if anything, he just looked like he wanted to go back to sleep.
“Ah, why don’t you guys take him upstairs into Bobby’s room,” Dean said, “I need to be alone with Sam.”
“We have to talk about this,” Jody said seriously, “What Sam did-“
“I know,” Dean said, biting his lip, “But I need to be with him alone right now. We’ll deal with that in the morning, please?”

A loud crash and shatter echoed in the hallway, along with a few sputtered curses from Sam. Jody nodded slowly, heading up the stairs.
“Don’t you dare try and disappear with him, Dean,” Jody said seriously, “He’s not in any legal trouble, but we have to talk about it.”

Dean nodded, turning to stand in the wide doorway of the living room, watching his brother pace like a caged animal. He’d kicked over god knew how many piles of books, and Dean looked down at the shattered whiskey bottles on the floor with a wince- he was gonna have to replace those. Sam turned and slammed his fist into the wall, over and over again, like he was boxing with the damn thing. Just as abruptly as he started, he stopped, turning and pressing his back against the wall and sliding down to the floor. He put his face in his now-bleeding hands, sobbing softly.
Dean walked over, kneeling down and taking his hands, only for Sam to start swinging again, lashing out at him.

“Don’t touch me!” he yelled, “Don’t fucking touch me!”

Dean wrestled with Sam for a moment, managing to restrain his brother by pinning his arms and legs against his body with his own limbs wrapped around him. He pressed his lips against the side of Sam’s head, holding him tightly.
“Stop,” Dean said in the calmest tone he could muster, “Sammy, stop. It’s over, you don't have to fight anymore.”
“Let me go!” Sam yelled, still bucking in Dean’s grip. Dean didn’t let go, holding him there until Sam’s thrashing stopped, giving in to his brother’s embrace. He slumped against Dean, his head resting against his chest, crying silently. Dean loosened the bruising grip slightly, and when Sam didn’t bolt, he released him. Sam didn’t move or try to get away, he just laid there in his brother’s arms, staring at the ceiling and crying.

“Baby,” Dean said gently, stroking his hair, “It’s gonna be okay.”
“I shot him,” he whispered, “I shot him in the leg.”
“You told him that if he came any closer, you would,” Dean said soothingly, “You warned him.”
“I wanted to shoot him in the head,” Sam said, closing his eyes and taking a shaky breath, “I wanted to hurt him.”
“You were scared, he was threatening us.”

Sam pulled away, standing up.
“No, Dean. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to make him bleed- I wanted to hear him scream. I...I wanted that. How could I want something like that?” Sam’s hands pressed against his ears and he squeezed his eyes shut.
“I’m just like him,” he moaned.

Dean stood up, leading Sam into the kitchen and sitting him down in the chair, grabbing the first aid kit out of the cabinet. They were both silent as Dean cleaned the cuts on his hand, except for the occasional since from Sam. But as he gently wrapped the gauze bandage around his brother’s hands, Dean finally found the words.

“No, you aren’t,” He said, taping the gauze down, “You’re not like him. You wanna know why?”
Sam nodded, his chin still pressed to his chest.
“Because if you were like him, you wouldn’t have stopped,” Dean said, “I’ve seen Dad hunt before, seen him get into bar brawls. He doesn’t stop. I’ve seen him beat a guy’s ass, and just keep going until someone drags him away. I’ve seen him unload a clip into some fucking monster when it was already dead. He can’t stop- he doesn’t stop, not until he’s been satisfied. But you stopped. And you came in here, and you picked up that baby, and you promised him that he was safe. Dad would never do that. He’d just go find something else to destroy.”
Sam sniffled softly, lifting his tear streaked face.
“I had to protect you,” Sam said, “You said you were gonna go with him. You said we were gonna go with him…and I couldn’t let that happen. I’m not gonna watch anyone hurt you ever again.”
Dean nodded as Sam continued.
“I remembered in the cabin in Montana, the night I cuddled with you and you told me to go back to sleep,” he said, “And I couldn’t…I can’t stand even imagining that ever happening again. I won’t let it happen again. I had to be strong this time, Dean. I had to be strong for you. I had to stop him.”
“Baby,” Dean said gently, cupping Sam’s face in his hands, “You are strong, you always have been. You’re just a kid, you were just a baby then. What the hell were you supposed to do? Wave a gun at him? Stab him? Tell someone and just get us both in more trouble?” Dean shook his head, “You saved my ass this time. But you’ve been saving my ass since I was a kid, in your own way. You were the only thing that was good in my life. You made me keep fighting. So what if you weren’t waving a gun around, or trying to take the heat off me- you’re a fucking kid. You need to get that through that thick Sammy skull of yours. You’ve been taking care of me and protecting me in your own damn way.”
Sam looked down, only to have Dean lift his chin again.
“We all have our roles, Sam. Sometimes the only way to survive is to play our roles, even when they kill us inside. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of that. You should be proud that you were strong enough to do that and to keep me going. God, you were strong enough most of our lives to smile and laugh when there wasn’t a damn fucking thing worth smiling about. That’s your strength.”

He gave Sam a teasing smile, leaning forward and kissing him gently.
“Your biggest muscle is your heart.”
Sam let out a loud laugh, grinning at his brother as his gauze wrapped hands pressed against the sides of Dean’s face.
“That was just about the corniest thing I think you could’ve said,” Sam teased, his voice still rough from his crying spell. Dean laughed, leaning out and nipping Sam’s lip gently.
“Nah, I could’ve said ‘A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength — but by the strength of his heart.’ “
“You were gonna quote Hercules to me?” Sam teased.
“Hell yeah I was,” Dean replied, “Always figured you were like Herc. Cute, nerdy, no luck with the ladies.”
“Does that make your Meg?” Sam joked, his hands sliding down to rest on Dean’s shoulders.
“Nah, I’m Hades,” Dean said, “Filled with bullshit and bad one-liners.”
“Shut up,” Sam mumbled, pressing his forehead against Dean’s, “You’re not mad?”
“Fuck no,” Dean said, “I’m so fucking proud of you, and I fucking love you. And not just for that great threat. ‘You can walk away, or you can crawl away’. You sounded like Clint Eastwood in one of those westerns.”
“I was going for John Wayne,” Sam joked, relaxing for the first time in hours.

Dean pulled Sam down into his lap on the floor, hugging him. “We’re gonna be okay, little brother,” He said softly, “And it’s because of you.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Much of the time, as much as the counting was used to help Sam calm down, he also used it to unwind the coiled tension under his skin and in his mind, to let him relax enough to ley himself sleep. Sam would count ceiling tiles, cracks, stains, and once he had counted every single speckle on the plasterboard ceiling stiles in a motel- but it still wasn't enough for him to fall asleep. And when he couldn't fall asleep, and the walls were closing in, the only thing that helped was Dean, and a smoke. And no amount of counting at the moment was going to be enough to help him sleep.

Too wired to sleep, Sam and Dean snuck as quietly as they could to the front porch, huddling together under the blanket Dean had brought down to share in the chill of the night. Dean reached into his pocket, pulling out his cigarette pack.

“Come on Dean,” Sam moaned, “Those are menthols. Do you know how bad menthol cigarettes are for you?”
“Nope, but I’m sure you’re gonna tell me anyways, for the billionth time,” Dean joked, rooting around in his pockets for his lighter.  Sam pursed his lips together in a thin line, a worried expression on his face.
“Menthols aren’t chemically different from full flavor cigarettes, but menthol is used to soothe minor irritation and pain. That means that a regular cigarette will burn and make your throat feel rough but menthols mask that effect and could theoretically lead to you smoking mo-“
Dean leaned over, kissing Sam and abruptly ending his sentence. Sam leaned into it, kissing Dean back with a bit of ferocity, nipping and pulling on his lip as Dean leaned back.  
“Okay okay, I get it, ” Dean said, licking his lips, “But that’s not what I’m lighting up.”
“Dean you can’t!” Sam whispered as Dean pulled a joint out of the back, unraveling the saran wrap wrapped around it, “Jody’s a cop-“
“And she’s asleep,” he replied, lifting the joint to his nose and sniffing it, groaning, “Come on, man. We haven’t had any since we got here, and I was saving them. Don’t be such a wuss.”
Sam looked around, biting his lip.
“You don’t think she’ll wake up and catch us?” Sam asked.
“Nah. She’s out like a light,” Dean replied, waving the pungent joint under Sam’s nose, “Come on baby, I know you want to. It makes you feel better, helps you relax.”
“But if she does-“
“Come on,” Dean said, sticking the joint between his lips, “She didn’t throw your ass in the clink when you popped a cap in Dad’s leg, I don’t think she’s gonna throw the book at you for getting stoned.”
“Oh no,” Sam groaned, burying his face in his hands, “Oh, fuck…”
Dean sighed, pulling the joint from between his teeth and setting it aside. He reached out, lifting Sammy’s chin.
“Relax baby,” Dean said reassuringly, “She said you’re not in any trouble. She’ll probably just lecture you about, fuck, who knows. Gun safety or something equally stupid. I mean, she did tell Dad she wanted to use her shotgun. You’re in the clear, kid.” Dean chuckled a little, shaking his head, “Anyways, you give her that innocent puppy look and Jody melts like a Popsicle in the sun. She’d never be able to actually go thru with it.”

Sam frowned a little harder, his eyebrows knitting together as he licked his lip. Dean cupped Sam’s cheek in his hand, his thumb running over his cheek.
“You keep frowning like that and you’re gonna get wrinkles,” Dean teased, kissing the tip of Sam’s nose, “Gimme a smile, baby. Please?”
Sam tried to keep frowning, but when he looked at Dean, giving him the best wide-eyed pout he could muster, he burst out giggling, a grin spreading across his face.
“I hate it when you do that,” he mumbled, peeking over at Dean. Dean had his fingers hooked in the sides of him mouth, dragging his lips apart and crossing his eyes.
“What face are ya talking about?” Dean said, the words sounding weird. Sam laughed again, resting his head against Dean’s shoulder as Dean released his mouth, picking up the joint again. Dean flicked open his lighter, lighting the joint and snapping the zippo closed with a flourish. Sam grinned as he watched the familiar ritual, his fingers already reaching for the joint as Dean began to pass it over. He took a long drag off the joint, closing his eyes as he counted. He exhaled slowly, until he started to couch, sputtering against Dean’s shoulder.
“You still cough like a newbie,” Dean teased, “You ought to be a seasoned pro by now.” Sam giggled a little, pressing his face against Dean’s chest and talking. Dean laughed at Sam’s unintelligible words, garbled by his chest.
“Babe, can’t understand ya when you’re eating my chest.”
Sam sat up, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“I said,” he said loudly, “I do that on purpose.”
“Oh yeah?” Dean asked, smirking, “Why’s that?”
“Cause science.”
“Science, huh? What a detailed explanation,” Dean said, passing him the joint, “Mensa, here he comes.”
Sam took the joint, taking another hit and repeating the process, sputtering again. His eyes were already getting glassy as he leaned in close to Dean.
“It makes it work faster,” he whispered, his lips barely brushing against Dean’s, “I get the high from the weed, and then by holding my breath and coughing, I’m restricting oxygen access to the brain, which intensifies the high.”
“Tell me more,” Dean whispered, breathing heavier. Sam slid over, straddling Dean’s lap and cupping his hands behind Dean’s head, running his nails over his scalp.
“You know when you feel like you can’t breathe, and you get that feeling like you’re floating?” Sam whispered, pressing his body against Dean’s, “Same idea. Here, gimme that.”

Sam’s hand slid down the back of Dean’s neck, over his shoulder and down his arm, plucking the joint from between his fingers. He took a hard hit, holding it and pressing his lips against Dean’s. Dean parted his lips, shot gunning hit and holding his breath.
“Hold it as long as you can, until you feel like you’re chest is squeezing,” Sam whispered, his lips pressed against Dean’s ear, “And then…let it out as slowly as you can.”
Dean followed Sam’s instructions, already feeling the head rush as he slowly exhaled, starting to cough loudly. He could feel Sam’s lips turn up in a smirk against his ear, sliding down to nip his ear lobe. Dean moaned softly, stubbing the half-smoked joint out against the rough wood of the porch, his hands sliding down Sam’s back to cup his ass, pulling him roughly against him.
“You trying to get me in bed, Sammy?” he asked, biting his lip as Sam rolled his hips against his. Sam smiled, brushing his lips over Dean’s.
“Is it working?” he asked.
“Like a charm.”
“Then it isn’t trying.”

Dean tipped his chin up, catching hold of Sam’s lips and kissing him hard, his hand sliding up Sam’s back and back down, slipping in the waist of his sweatpants. Sam moaned into Dean’s mouth as they shared breath, his long fingers digging into Dean’s shoulders. Dean let out a low growl, both his hands in Sam’s sweatpants, gripping his hips as Sam continued to grind against him.
“No underwear?” Dean teased, his lips sliding down Sam’s neck, “That’s hot as fuck.”
“You never wear underwear,” Sam groaned, his hands running down Dean’s waist, one slipping inside his shorts and running his fingers deftly over Dean’s hard cock, eliciting a rough sigh from him. Dean grinned, tipping his head back as Sam sucked a hard bruise into his neck.
“Easy access,” he said with a chuckle. Sam bit his neck gently, his hand wrapping around Dean’s cock and jerking slowly.
“Like it that way,” Sam mumbled, biting his lip. Dean grinned, his fingers just brushing Sam’s dick and making him shudder.
“Already close, huh baby?” He teased, one hand sliding under Sam’s shirt and pinching his nipple gently, “Fucking gorgeous.”
Sam whined softly, biting his lip hard as his hips and hand moved, trying to get more friction from Dean.  Dean wasn’t giving him an inch, keeping his touches feather light.
“Oh my god, just fucking touch me,” Sam moaned, pressing his forehead against Dean’s. Dean pulled away completely, leaving Sam breathless. Something about this didn't exactly feel right at that moment- he wanted too, sure, but something was holding him back. He decided to play it off.

“Nope,” he said with a smirk, “You gotta wait.”
“For what?” he demanded, his voice keeling towards a whine. Dean laughed, standing up. Sam didn’t let go, wrapping his legs around Dean’s hips and his arms around his neck, forcing Dean to carry him inside.
“You gotta wait for tomorrow,” he said, kissing Sam as he bent over the mattress on the floor, crawling onto the bed with Sam hanging off of him.
“I don’t wanna wait,” Sam pouted a little, a playful look in his eyes. Dean shook his head, pulling the blanket over them and cuddling Sam close to his chest.
“Been too busy of a day,” Dean said quietly, stroking Sam’s hair, “Tomorrow, I promise. It’ll be worth the wait.”
“Fine,” Sam said, tipping his heap up and kissing the bottom of Dean’s chin, “I love you.”
Dean looked down at him, smiling.
“I love you too, baby,” he said softly, kissing his forehead, “Get some sleep. We got a lot of ‘splainin to do tomorrow; I need your brain at its best to get our asses out of trouble with Bobby."
Sam closed his eyes, cuddling closer and sighing softly.

It was the best end to this crazy, fucked up night that he could’ve hoped for.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam and Dean lay on the mattress together; Sam’s body flung over Dean’s back, his face pressed against Dean’s shoulder. Jody had sighed and cooed at them, throwing a blanket over them as she puttered around the kitchen, trying to scrounge a breakfast together from the bits of food left in the fridge, but it was enough to wake up Sam. He was content with laying quietly, his eyes closed as he traced the familiar planes of Dean's body, counting every bump and ridge as he always had. He let the warmth from Dean's skin soak into him, making him feel safe, even if he was still fast asleep. That was the thing about Dean- Sam could draw strength from him no matter what, as long as he was close, close enough to touch.
"Mornin Baby," he said, turning his head to face Sam and smiling sleepily, his eyes still shut.
"Mornin Dee," he whispered back, stroking his brother's face.

They laid there together in the silence, punctuated only by the sound of Jody opening and closing cabinet doors, swearing to herself. Fisch and Owen were obviously still asleep when they heard Bobby’ struck rumble in, his heavy steps up the stairs shaking the floor.
Both of them weren’t exactly excited at the prospect of explaining the previous night’s events to Bobby now that he was back, but they both had their reasons.

Sam didn’t want to talk about it because to him, it was done. Nothing good could come out of talking about it anymore- he shot his father in the leg. He left. It was over.
However, Dean had a different reason.  While he was truly incredibly proud of Sam, and not at all angry at him, he was still scared of what he saw in Sam last night. He was afraid of what Sam could be capable of if it came down to it. He was afraid that beneath his little brother’s sweet and timid exterior, something dangerous was lurking. Something that came from their father.

“Bobby’s home,” Sam whispered, his eyes still squeezed shut. Dean groaned, not moving.
“I can hear that,” Dean replied, still laying still.  
“He’s probably mad,” Sam said, rubbing his cheek against Dean’s shoulder. They both heard Jody talking in unintelligible low tones, only to be followed by Bobby loudly yelling, “Fucking hell!”
“Make that definitely mad,” Sam said, both of them sighing.
“You run left and I run right?” Dean asked, his eye opening a slit. Sam shook his head.
“We should probably just face it.”
“I don’t want to,” Dean said, turning his face into the mattress. They’d done enough facing things- more than he’d ever wanted to. Couldn’t Bobby just wait? Couldn’t everyone just wait?

They felt the blanket being yanked away, both of them flinching hard. The last time they’d had the blankets yanked away from them like that was when their father was in a particularly foul mood a few years ago, when their father was in one of his rages. But when they both opened their eyes, it wasn’t their father towering over them with his belt in his hand- it was just Bobby and Jody. They both sighed in relief, smiling sheepishly up at them.

“Hey Bobby,” Dean said, “You have a good hunt?” Bobby didn’t look amused, and Jody had already headed off to god knew where, trying to avoid the conflict, probably confident that he’d do little more than yell at them.
“I ain’t in the mood for your lip, boy,” Bobby said, his arms folded across his chest, “What the hell is this?” He gestured to the state of his living room and Sam rolled off of Dean’s back. Both boys blushed, rubbing the backs of their necks. Dean could tell that Sam was already getting tense and nervous, twisting his hands.
“Ah, we’ll clean it up,” Dean said, glancing at Sam, “Right Sammy?”
Bobby nodded.
“You’re damn right you will! And what the hell are you doing leaving the house at night?” Bobby demanded.
“I wanted a smoke,” Dean replied, sitting up, “You told me you didn’t care if I smoked.”  Sam coiled his arm around Dean’s, squeezing gently. They’d both dealt with Bobby angry before, but it was getting to Sam a lot quicker than it usually did.
“I didn’t! I don’t- but that was stupid boy, you knew your daddy was around and you went out unarmed, what the hell were-“
“Stop yelling at him,” Sam demanded, standing up, “He just wanted to have a smoke, he shouldn’t have to be afraid of going outside!”
Bobby turned and pointed at Sam.
“I’ll get to you in a minute,” Bobby said, “So you just wait your turn! I wanna know what the hell you two did.”

“Why do people do that?” Sam demanded, the entire room falling silent, “Why do you say it like that?”
A heavy silence filled the room as Bobby refused to look Sam in the eye. Sam’s eyes were hard, but the sadness was there, the shame. Shame that they both carried deep inside, the shame of blame that no amount of affirmations from each other or others could assuage. The shame that maybe it was them. What the hell did they do?
“Like what?” Bobby demanded, still not looking them in the eye.
“Like…it’s our fault?” he asked, his voice growing soft, timid, “Like we did something wrong? Everyone keeps telling us we never did anything wrong, but then you say things like that….like you’re blaming us! Half the time…we just woke up. That was what we did. We existed. So that’s what we did, Bobby. We…we’re alive, and Mom’s not.”
“Sam,” Dean said gently, standing up next to him, “I think he’s talking about you shooting Dad and freaking out last night.”
“So?” Sam said, shoving Dean away, “Who cares! Why was he even here, huh? Why can’t he ask that? Why didn’t he ask what he did?”
“Now, let’s all just calm down and listen,” Bobby said calmly, looking a bit shamefaced.
“No, you listen!” Sam said, turning to face him, “Every time he does something, everyone asks about us. What did we do, why didn’t we do this, why did we do that. Why is it never his fault, huh? How is me shooting him in the leg any different than a hunt?”
“Because-“
“What, because he’s a human? Because we know him? I didn’t even shoot him to kill. I shot to immobilize. So why is that a problem?”
“You can’t just go around shooting people, boy!” Bobby exclaimed. Sam looked at him coldly.
“I didn’t shoot a person, Bobby. I shot him.”

The room was dead silent again, the burden of Sam’s words hanging heavy around them. Dean looked at Bobby, watching the older man’s eyes on his little brother. Sam’s chin was tucked against his chest, his arms wrapped around himself and rocking gently on his feet. He didn’t think of their father as a person. He thought of him as a monster, and now they all knew it.

“Where were you?” Sam asked, lifting his chin to reveal red eyes, “Why…why didn’t you stay? We begged you, Dean begged you…why did you leave us?”
“I didn’t know,” Bobby said defensively, “Hell, how could I know? I sure as hell didn’t think you’d shoot the man!”
“What was I supposed to do?” Sam cried, “He was gonna hurt Dean. He had a gun pointed at him…You would’ve done the same thing!”
Dean slid his hand into Sam’s his thumb stroking gently over his skin comfortingly.
“I had to,” Sam whispered, “He was dangerous. He was gonna hurt us again. I wasn’t gonna let that happen. You would’ve done it too, wouldn’t you?”
“Sam-“
“Wouldn’t you?” Sam demanded, “I just want to be left alone. I just wanted him to leave. I warned him, I warned him three times and he still wouldn’t leave.  He threatened us, he threatened Jody…and Fisch…he threatened us all. I didn’t kill him. I coulda though. I coulda killed him. I wanted…but I didn’t I didn’t. I just shot his leg…he’s gotten worse on a hunt. We’ve gotten worse from him.”

Sam pulled out of Dean’s grip, looking between them as if he were a deer caught in the headlights.

“I…I gotta. I can’t. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

He turned and ran.

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Normally, when Sam was distressed, he'd count and rock and pull his hair, and Dean knew how to handle that. The Counting had become so ingrained in him that he automatically assumed that when Sam got upset, that was exactly what he would do; and Sam rarely failed to meet that exepectation. But neither Bobby nor Dean knew what to say in that moment as Sam bolted for the door, the sound of his bare feet slapping against the hardwood floor and across the porch the only sound other than Jody calling his name and running after him. Dean turned to run after him, but he felt Bobby’s hand catch his arm.

“Let him go,” he said gruffly, “Sometime, you gotta just let him go.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Dean demanded, yanking against Bobby’s grip, “Come on, fucking let go!”
Bobby shook his head, pulling Dean back.

“Dean, I know it don’t seem like it, but right now you ain’t what Sam needs,” Bobby said gruffly.
“Like hell I’m not!” Dean yelled back, “You know who gets that kid? Me. I’m the one who was always there for him, always!” He pointed in Bobby’s face, “While you and Pastor Jim were out circle jerkin with my dad, I was the one who was making sure that kid got fed! I was the one who was making he was okay. So don’t stand there and tell me what he needs, because you don’t fucking know!”
“Don’t you yell at me, boy!” Bobby yelled back, “You got screwed over by your pisspoor excuse for a father, and believe it or not, I know what that’s like. But what you don’t know is what Sam is dealin with right now, and for once, I do know better than you when it comes to this. So sit your ass down and let him deal with it on his own!”

Bobby let go of Dean’s arm as Dean winced, rubbing it.
“Goddamn, I keep forgetting what a kung-fu grip you got, old man,” Dean muttered, rubbing furiously. He walked into the kitchen, grabbing a beer for each of them and sitting down at the kitchen table. He popped the cap off the top of his beer with his ring, his finger stroking over it thoughtfully. Bobby walked over and sat across from him, frowning.
“Bit early to start drinkin, don’t you think boy?” he asked gruffly, watching Dean take a long pull from the bottle.
“Is it after noon?” Dean asked, glancing around the kitchen and seeing the clock on the wall.
“Why?” Bobby asked, looking confused. Dean smirked.
“Everyone knows you ain’t an alcoholic as long as you don’t start drinking until after noon,” Dean replied.
“Don’t think time’s got much to do with it, kid.”
“You an expert?” Dean said teasingly, but it hit Bobby in a tender spot.
“It’s 10:30 in the morning,” Bobby said gruffly. Dean shrugged, taking another drink.
“It’s after noon somewhere,” Dean replied. Bobby reached across the table, yanking the beer out of his hand. He stood up, walking over to the sink and dumping the bottle out. He pitched the empty bottle in the trash and grabbed the unopened one off the table, putting it back in the fridge. Dean watched him angrily, his lips pressed together in a tight line.
“You’re 20 goddamn years old,” Bobby snapped, sitting back down, “You don’t need a beer at 10:30 in the goddamn morning. You shouldn’t be drinkin at all. You’re a goddamn minor.”
“We both know I ain’t 20,” Dean said, flicking the cap across the table, “So. You don’t want me to drink? Fine, let’s do what Sammy always wants to do. Let’s talk about it. Swap a few yarns, huh? Maybe I’ll gently lay my head on your shoulder and sob a little.”
“That shit don’t work on me, kid,” Bobby said, smirking, “Cause you already laid that fat head of yours gently on my shoulder and sobbed. You been doin that since you were fuckin 8 years old.”
“But you still fucking left us here alone, ain’t that just the damndest thing?” Dean snapped.
“I fucked up, I’m sorry. But it won’t happen again.”

Dean laughed to himself, looking out the window next to them with a bitter expression on his face.

“You know how many times I’ve heard that in my life?” Dean said quietly, “Not the sorry part, but the rest of it.  It won’t happen again. I fucked up. I hear that a lot.”
“I mean it.”
“He did too.”

Bobby was taken aback by Dean’s cool response, watching the young man’s profile carefully. He always felt like he could understand Dean better than he could Sam, he could see himself in Dean easily. But with the newest development, he began to think maybe he hadn’t looked close enough at Sam.

Dean had a great deal of excellent qualities that were easily admired. He was brave, stoic, strong. They both were intelligent, smater than Bobby figured he could ever hope to be. But in Sam there were less visible but equally admirable traits as he’d come to find: Sam was quick, cunning, and in a bind, it seemed he could be quite ruthless.

Dean didn’t look at him, continuing.

“I meant it, when I told Sam last night that I was proud of him for shooting Dad in the leg,” Dean said, “But I ain’t gonna lie, it spooked the shit outta me. Sam warned him, just like he said. He warned him three times- but shit Bobby, I knew the minute I saw him holdin that gun that someone was gonna get shot. And he was so fucking cold about it. Like he said- Dad ain’t a person to him anymore. Hell, I don’t think he’s even a monster to Sam anymore. He’s in a league of his own. Hell, after what he did to him, to both of us, I can't blame him. But for some reason it's still bothering me.”
“Dean…” Bobby began as Dean turned to look at him.
“How the fuck would you know what it’s like?” Dean demanded, looking confused, “That's what you said earlier. You said you know what it's like. How the fuck would you know what it feels like to go through that, huh? How the fuck could you…even fathom the shit we go through?”
“You ain’t the first kid to have a shitty father, Dean.”
“Don’t,” Dean said, “You have no idea-“
“I got my ass beat for spilling milk as a kid, so don’t you tell me I have no idea. I got a better idea than you think. I don’t know everything he did to you, but I know enough. I’m just better at hiding what’s goin on in my head than you are. Takes a bit of experience.”
“Yeah? And what the hell would you know about shootin your own father?” Dean asked.
“Slightly different circumstances, slightly different results, same feeling,” Bobby replied.
“So there’s an old Mr. Singer somewhere, limpin around cause you shot him in the leg?” Dean asked.
“Something like that,” Bobby replied, making sure his face was a mask of placid indifference. He didn’t want to reveal too much to anyone, let alone Dean. Dean nodded, biting his lip.
“And you didn’t…y’know. Go after anyone else after that? After shootin your dad?”
“No. Not until I started hunting.”
“So…what does Sam need right now?” Dean asked. Bobby rubbed his face, sighing.
“He needs to be alone right now. He needs to deal with this in his own way,” Bobby said, “Let him go. You can’t protect him from himself, no matter how hard you try.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He could hear Jody’s voice calling out to him as his feet pounded against the gravel drive, his teeth gritted as he turned and ran down the road. He didn’t know where he was running to, but he couldn’t be there anymore. Not with Dean and his suffocating fear, not with Bobby and Jody and their silent judgment. He could hear the sound of Jody running behind him, but he didn’t care. He just put his head down and ran harder, each foot fall the rhythm to which he counted.
“One, two, three, four, five.”

Jody was running for all she was worth, her lung bursting as she finally managed to catch up to Sam and grab him, pulling him to a halt.

“Sam!” She half yelled, half gasped, “Wait!”

“Why?” he demanded, still breathing heavily himself, “Wait for what? Someone to rescue me? Someone to make it all better?” He started to jog again, but he turned around and came back to her, running his fingers through his hair.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to feel so weak and small, like there’s nothing you will ever be able to do to change things?” he demanded, “All my life, since the day I could remember, there was this huge, scary man with hands that looked like shovels, smacking me from one end of the hotel room to the other. And no matter what I did, no matter how loud I cried and begged and pleaded, no matter how fast I ran, no matter how far I ran, he always came for me. And then there was my big brother, the only person in my life who ever showed me any sort of affection. And he made me feel weak too! He was always bigger and stronger and he didn’t cry like I did, he was the only one who ever protected me,  and all I ever learned was that I was small, and I was weak, and no matter what happened I would never be strong enough to stand up for myself or anyone else!” He pulled at his hair, pacing on the hot pavement.
“No matter what I do, I’m the weak one, don’t you get it? And everyone thinks that because I’m a…a…a freak, I’m always gonna depend on Dean to save me, because I can’t do it myself! I wasn’t going back, I wasn’t! Not after what he did to me. You saw what I looked like 3 days later. You saw the aftermath, but you don’t know what he did to me, what he’s done to Dean, you never watched him beat your brother for things that you did! You never had to choose between letting your brother take the blame and watching him get beat and hurt or getting beat right along with him! You never had to make that choice that wasn’t a choice at all! I did what I had to in order to survive, and no one thinks about that!”

Sam pounded his fists against his legs, screaming wordlessly.

“It’s not fair!” he screamed, “I’m just a fucking kid! I didn’t know, I was just trying to fucking survive!”

Sam clutched the sides of his head, sitting down heavily on the ground, sobbing.

“Oh God,” Jody whispered, moving forward, “Sam-“
“God?” He demanded, looking up at her, “You think God has something to do with this? What kind of God lets this shit happen? What kind of God sits silently by while little kids are beaten, while little boys are raped? What kind of God makes a kid so fucked up and broken…and then just makes it even worse, huh? What kind of God makes freaks like me?”

“You’re not a freak,” Jody said shakily.  Sam looked up at her, an empty, hollow smile on his face.
“If Dean had been holding that gun…if Dean had shot him in the leg, fuck, if Dean shot him in the head, no one would’ve blinked! If it was you or Fisch or Bobby who shot him, no one would care! But I was the one who did it. And now it’s suddenly something we have to talk about. We have to talk about this, Sam. We have to talk about what you did,” he said in a mocking tone, “The first time…the first time I really have the courage to stand up and say enough…everyone tells me I did something wrong! I’m not wrong! If I had to do it again, I would shoot him in the head instead!” He yelled, jumping to his feet, “I’d shoot him right in the fucking face and splatter his fucking brains all over those shitty junkers behind him! I don’t feel bad about fucking shooting him! I won’t let anyone make me feel bad for it!”

Jody came closer, gently touching his shoulder.

“For the first time in my life, holding that gun, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t feel like the 4 year old boy, shivering in a bathtub of cold water for hours because he was too scared to get out and get beat again. I didn’t feel like the scared 5 year old boy, trying to block out his big brother’s screams as his Dad beat him like an animal! I didn’t feel like the terrified 12 year old boy crawling across a nasty motel carpet, trying to escape his father’s rage," Sam covered his face, sobbing into his hands, "I felt like a man. I felt like a person! I was in control of everything for once in my miserable life! I was the one who held the power- I was the one who decided who walked and who crawled. I was the one who could kill someone.”

He closed his eyes, tears sliding down his face.

“When I was 8 years old, he shoved my face in a toilet, and I thought he was gonna drown me. And when he dragged me out and I was trying to breathe, I heard Dean pounding against the bathroom door, screaming. And Dad...he grabbed my face and said, ‘You’re mine, little boy. I could kill you if I wanted to.’  And when I held that gun…I finally understood why he said that to me. When I was a kid, it seemed like such a stupid, obvious thing to say. It scared me, but even before he said it, I knew that he could kill me. And that he probably would. But I was standing there, holding that gun, and I could feel those words inside me. I wanted to scream those words at him. I could’ve killed him if I wanted to, he knew it, we all knew it, but I still wanted to say it. But I’m better than he’ll ever be, I’m not a piece of shit like him!”

He pushed past Jody, heading back in the direction of the house. Jody turned and followed him, listening quietly as he continued to ramble.

“Everyone is always asking why it’s us, what did we do, what did I do,” Sam muttered, “Everyone wants to know why I never stood up, why we always came back, why we never left. You wanna know why? Because we were afraid. Because when you spend your whole fucking existence being broken down and twisted and playing these…these fucking mind games, you don’t know anything else. And you’re ashamed. You’re so fucking shamed. You’re ashamed of yourself, and then you’re ashamed of them. People aren’t supposed to act like that. Parents aren’t supposed to act like that. And you just can’t stop thinking that it was you, somehow, you did something that made them so furious because they make you feel so tiny and small and worthless. “

Jody nodded, patting his arm gently. He shrugged off her hand, the words pouring out of him like a cleansing wave, everything finally being laid bare.

“I didn’t think that people could see me for the longest time. I still feel like that. Our lives were like living in a…a purgatory. We could see everyone around us, but they couldn’t see us. They never knew who we were, they never were able to see us and when they finally did we disappeared. You get trained to believe all sorts of crazy things. You have no idea the things I believed for most of my life. I believed that what Dad was doing was normal, that there was no way to stop him. I was terrified of the police for most of my life- police, hospitals, doctors, teachers. My Dad would tell me these horrible stories that they’d take me away and they’d never let me see Dean, that they’d throw us both in jail.  He said that if we ever told, no one would believe us, and if they did, we’d be in trouble for causing so much trouble. I believed that, God, for so long.”  

Sam stopped walking, looking at her with teary eyes.

“Did you know that I…I’d never heard of Santa Claus, the Toothfairy, or the Easter Bunny until I went to school?” he asked, “I never ever heard of those things before. And when I didn’t know what they were, the other kids looked at me like I was a freak and told me I must’ve been the worst kid in the entire world. That scared me…I still think about that. It seems like such a stupid little thing, but it meant so much to all the other kids. I guess…by the time I was 6, I’d kinda gotten over the fact that my Dad was a monster who beat us and abandoned us and didn’t feed us. I was used to always moving around. But I wasn’t used to the idea that to people outside I was a freak too. Not just to my Dad. And for some reason…that always stuck with me. The other kids yelling “bad boy, bad boy” at me until I cried. Well, then Dean told them all that Santa Claus wasn’t real and neither were the rest of them and they all ended up crying, but we got in trouble. But... it was so hard to go into school and learn about what was normal. It felt like a whole different world than the one I’d been raised in. It was already hard because of the counting and stuff. But it was like…learning how to be a person. It was like being in a whole different world, where everyone speaks a different language.”

“Sam, I’m so sorry,” Jody said gently as they began walking again. Sam shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“Sometimes…I think, I get madder about the little things he took away from us, than the big horrible things. The little things that no one cares about, things that people take for granted. Like…I’ve only ever seen two pictures of my mom, and I never actually decorated a Christmas tree. I…I didn’t have a real thanksgiving until my friend invited me to her house when I was 14 and I think I almost had a heart attack. I was never tucked into bed by my father. I never had my own room…I mean, most of my life I never even had my own bed. I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a comfortably full stomach. I’m either too full or too hungry, because I never know when I’m gonna get to eat again. I mean, I didn’t stop wetting the bed until I was 8 or 9. Or, maybe I did, or would’ve. Dean wet the bed until he was almost 13.”

“Oh my god,” Jody whispered. Sam looked down at his shoes, his face red.
“And it’s, ah, it’s a special kind of shame when you wet the bed when you’re 16.”
“Oh god, Sam,” Jody said gently, “Did you…?”
“A couple weeks ago, when we first showed up at Bobby’s. I didn’t tell Dean. I told him I spilled water in the bed. I know he didn’t believe me, but he didn’t say anything.”

They were finally coming up on the house, standing on the side of the road, looking across at the old, battered house.

“Can you understand now?” he whispered, “Do you get why I had to do it? He didn’t just take our innocence, our childhoods. He took…everything. And he was gonna take more from us. Dean…he’s tried. He’s tried so hard to protect me…to protect us both. But he was gonna just give up this time, and I couldn’t let that happen. It was my job to protect him this time. I…I couldn’t protect Dean in a lot of ways, I was too little, too weak, but I’ve always protected him in my own way, you know? I always tried to make him forget; make him happy when I could. I tried to make it seem a bit more bearable. But this time, I really was the protector. The way he always was. You can never imagine the things that we’ve been through, and I can never make you understand why. I couldn’t let him get hurt anymore.. I can't get hurt anymore. Wouldn’t you have done the same thing if it was Owen?”

Jody shut her eyes tightly, trying to force away the images that had haunted her since she had met Sam and Dean, images of her own sweet little boy going through what they had. If it had been Owen? She would’ve unloaded everything she had flat into his face, without hesitation. And having Sam put it in perspective like that made her realize that they were all being pretty unfair about the whole situation. He was right- if it had been anyone else, they probably wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But because they had all been so accustomed to Dean being the protector, the aggressor, and Sam usually hiding behind him; they were all reacting as if Sam had somehow crossed a line or flown off the handle, when he had handled it better than she really expected, considering.

“I would’ve killed him if it was Owen,” Jody said seriously, looking up at him, “I wouldn’t have restrained myself the way you did.”
Sam bit his lip, looking unsure if he should take it as a positive or negative comment. She smiled at him reassuringly.
“I meant that as a compliment,” she said gently, “I realize that I’ll never understand…but I think I can empathize. I’m sorry we’ve all been so hard on you about this. We just never expected that sort of action out of you.”
“Neither did I,” Sam said honestly, “I guess enough was enough.”
“I guess so,” she said, putting her hands on her hips, “You hungry? I’m starving. Let’s go get some breakfast. “
Sam’s stomach growled and he grinned.
“Breakfast sounds good to me.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam was starting to find that the counting that he'd so heavily depended on all of his life were starting to lose their magic. He couldn't calm down just with counting anymore- not the way he used to be able to. Part of him supposed that was because his problems when he was younger were a great deal less complicated. That wasn't exactly true, he just hadn't understood how complicated they were. And another part of him was terrified that maybe...maybe he was getting worse. Maybe the counting would stop helping, and he'd never be able to deal with anything.

He appreciated the fact that when the counting wasn't working, though, Jody had been there. She had been there to help him purge a lot of what was inside him, helped him to release a different kind of counting- the counting of the feeling he'd locked away deep inside himself, the ones he'd never let see the light of day. It wasn't numbers, but it was a list, and when he screamed and shouted them at her, she didn't turn away. She stayed and she listened, and that meant something.

Jody and Sam walked through the door together, earning questioning looks from both Bobby and Dean, but Sam ignored them.
After talking to Jody, he didn’t feel the need to keep explaining himself. If one person understood, that was all he really needed. He just needed an ally against all of the judgment. It wasn’t that Bobby and Dean meant to make him feel so badly, he really believed that, but Bobby was worried and Dean…well, it was hard to put his finger on what Dean was feeling, a talent that was usually sharp enough to describe the exact emotion he was feeling at the exact moment he felt it. For the first time in a very long time, Sam really didn’t have any idea what Dean was feeling.
A juvenile, petty part of him thought that maybe Dean was upset with him because Dean wanted to be the hero. Yes, a small, very immature part of him fumed a little at his older brother, because it didn’t feel fair that the first time he got to be the hero, everyone was making him feel rotten. Didn’t he deserve to be the hero for once? Didn’t he deserve to have his moment of triumph?

But his rational mind shoved that away quickly. That wasn’t what this was about; it was about him doing something that Dean wasn’t really used to seeing. He could admit, when Dean was there, he let Dean stand up to their father- not only because he was cripplingly afraid, but because as they got older, Dean needed a way to lash back at their father- and Sam was more than willing to let Dean have that.

But Sam was a bit angry with himself for not showing his brother the kind of strength he had in himself when he had the chance- Dean didn’t get a chance to see Sam fight back against their father, or against other people who treated them like shit; because Dean needed him to be the gentle soft one.  He catered to Dean’s needs more than he thought people realized and more than he ever realized- he buried parts of himself deep inside to help Dean, to give Dean what he so desperately needed.

But he’d shared more with Jody than just about anyone other than Dean on the road, when she was the only person who came after him. He always knew whenever he’d turn around that Dean would be there, and that was always a source of great comfort to him, but seeing someone else there for once lifted him in a way he couldn’t describe. It made him feel less invisible.

He didn’t really look at Bobby or Dean as he ran his fingers through his sweaty hair- even the early morning was burning hot in the summers of South Dakota, at least to him, and paired with the burning asphalt and gravel he’d dashed away on, he was sweating like crazy. He wanted to talk to Bobby and Dean, but not right then. He wanted to scrub the past 36 hours off his skin.

“I’m gonna take a quick shower before breakfast, that okay with you?” he said, looking at Jody rather than Bobby. He didn’t feel he needed to ask Bobby’s permission- Jody was the one who came after him, not Bobby, not Dean. He owed her his consideration at that moment more than he owed them, and he wanted her to stay happy with him. It was nice having someone who cared that didn’t know every one of his secrets from firsthand knowledge. It was nice to have someone’s opinion biased towards him for no other reason than she decided she liked him.
Jody smiled and nodded, putting around the kitchen once more.
“Of course,” she replied, “But don’t take too long- breakfast should only take me about 15 minutes.”
Sam took a moment take in the scene, of Jody moving around the kitchen sure and stead and Bobby and Dean sitting at the table calmly. If he squinted, he could almost see his childhood daydream come to life before his eyes.
“Don’t worry,” Sam said, grinning at Bobby, “The water heater is going, so anything longer than 5 minutes gets pretty cold pretty fast.”
Dean smirked as Bobby scowled, snorting.  They all playfully made fun of the house that Bobby called home, but the truth was that even with its weak water heater and rickety stairs and leaky roof, it was home. And everyone knew there was nowhere else they’d rather be.
“Maybe the damn thing wouldn’t be going if I didn’t have two boys using it all the damn time,” he said gruffly, making everyone in the room smile. But Sam was already gone, heading up the stairs. He just wanted to clean himself up, and he hoped that Jody would talk some sense into Dean and Bobby- but mostly Dean. Bobby would let Sam walk away and he’d drop the subject, but Dean never would. Not unless someone made him understand.

Jody turned and watched Sam retreat up the stairs. She could feel the tension in the room, sighing and waiting for the inevitable barrage of questions. She knew Dean would be nothing but questions, but she was rather surprised to see Bobby stand up.
“Well, I got some work to do. Someone wanna get me after you two have your little heart to heart?” he said, already heading out of the room. Neither of them answered, Dean looking pensive as Jody started opening cabinets, pulling out bowls and pans. D
Finally, Dean spoke.

“So…he okay?’ Dean asked, looking worried as Jody glanced at him. She pulled eggs out of the fridge, shrugging. How do you answer a question like that?
“He’s as okay as he can be, considering,” she replied, breaking them in the bowl and scrambling them with a fork. Dean stood up, folding his arms across his chest, and Jody felt her heart sink. This wasn’t going to be easy.
“Did he talk to you?” he asked. Jody pointed to the fridge, still moving the fork through the eggs.
“Get me the milk,” she said, not answering his question. He did as she asked, setting it down next to her hand and sighing.
“Did he?” Dean pressed as she poured the milk in. She moved it further back on the counter, trying to choose her words.
“I heard you the first time you asked,” she replied, “Yes, he talked to me.”
“And?”
“And what, Dean?” she asked, looking at him exasperatedly. And what? Did he expect her to tell him everything just because he was Sam’s brother? Was it really his business to hear everything Sam ever said?
“And what did he say?”
“That’s not really your business, is it?” she said, whipping the eggs. Dean snorted, bouncing his shoulder off the fridge and glowering at her. He didn’t like this new game everyone seemed to be playing, the ‘keep Dean in the dark about Sam’ game. He’d taken care of Sammy as long as the kid had been alive, basically. If something was going on with him, he deserved- no, needed- to know.
“If it’s about Sam, then it’s my business,” Dean said seriously, picking at the flaking paint on the edge of the refrigerator door.  Jody set down the fork, placing the pan on the stove and dropping a chunk of butter in the pan. She moved the pat of butter around as it melted, biting her lip.
“Dean, I get it. I get the whole protective big brother thing, I get that you had to be a parent to him. But you don’t have to do that anymore- and more importantly, what Sam says to me stays between us. Unless I think he’s gonna hurt himself, I’m not gonna tell you what he says. So don’t keep trying,” she said, “Sam needs someone to talk to that isn’t part of this situation the way you and Bobby are. Sometimes people need an outsider to talk to, who won’t judge them.”  
“I just want to know that he’s okay,” Dean said softly, “I need to know he’s okay.”  
“Let me ask you something, Dean,” she said, pouring the eggs into the pan, “What makes you think he’s not okay?”
Dean grunted angrily, gesturing wildly.
“Are you kidding me? Didn’t you see what happened yesterday?” he demanded, “Didn’t you see what he did?”
“Yeah, I did,” she replied, “And I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Now that she had talked to Sam, she really didn’t see what the big deal was. Her, Bobby, Fisch- them seeing this act as worrisome made sense to her. They were outside parties; they didn’t know everything that Sam and Dean went through. But Dean being this judgmental threw her for a loop. What was up with this sudden attitude?
“What do you mean you don’t see what the big deal is? He shot our dad in the leg. He had one of his meltdowns afterwards, and then he just bolted out of the house this morning. How the hell do you NOT see what the big deal is?”
“Because if it was anyone else, it wouldn’t be a big deal,” she said, turning the eggs in the pan, “If you shot your father, or I did, or Bobby did, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Maybe Sam freaked out last night and ran off this morning because everyone is making him feel like he did a bad thing.”
“He didn’t do something bad. He did something out of character.”
“Maybe he just needed a chance to be the strong one for once.”
“What are you saying?”

Jody sighed, turning off the heat and setting down the spatula, her hands on her hips.

“I’m saying you coddle him. And that’s perfectly fine- hell, I want to coddle him, and Bobby coddles him. Sam is just one of those people that brings out the protective side in everyone, and I get that. But the problem is, you don’t know when to step back. You cross the line from coddling to stifling. Sam has the ability to be strong in himself and stand alone without you throwing yourself in front of him or bear hugging him through every situation. I’m not trying to upset you. But you have to understand that sometimes you aren’t helping as much as you think you are. He doesn’t just need independence, he wants it. And when you don’t give him that, it makes him feel weak.”
“You don’t get it, do you? God, none of you do.”
“What’s there to get?” Jody said, taking the eggs off the heat, “Dean, you aren’t his father.”
“Don’t fucking talk to me like that!” Dean exploded, pointing at her, “I’ve been more of a father to him than anyone else ever has! I’ve done everything I possibly could for him, so don’t sit there and tell me that now that you and everyone else suddenly waltzed into our lives that I’m supposed to just pretend to be some shitty big brother who doesn’t have the time for him!”
“That’s not what I’m saying, Dean,” she said calmly, “I’m saying you need to let him alone about this and you need to drop it. You and Bobby both need to. It’s not gonna do either of you any good, and it just keeps making him feel worse and worse. ”
“But-“
“What’s done is done,” she said, popping some bread in the rickety old toaster, “Talking about it is gonna do nothing but upset him and drive a wedge between you two. You just said that you’ve done everything you could for him, and I respect you a lot for that. This time, he needs you to stop harassing him about this situation. Do that for him.  Let it go, Dean.”
“You said it yourself. We have to talk about it.”
“No, you don’t!” Jody snapped, slamming her palm off the counter, “This is not what you need to talk about with him. You have a thousand other things you two need to talk about! You need to stop focusing on what Sam did and start focusing on what he did. Your father doesn’t need you to defend him!”
“I’m not defending him!”
“Yes, you are. By sitting here and questioning Sam, you’re defending what your father did to Sam and everyone else. You don’t see it like that, but that’s what you’re doing. Stop making this about blame, Dean. You can’t blame things like this on anyone but your father. Sam did what he had to and that is the end of this story. If I find out you keep pushing this issue, I am not gonna be happy, and with that joint in your cigarette pack I don’t think you really want to piss me off.”
“That’s cheating,” Dean said with a small smile. Jody was right. It wasn’t like he was mad at Sam for what he did or that he was blaming him for doing it. His problem with what happened had everything to do with his own feelings and his father and very little to do with Sam. How did Jody get so good at making things make sense?
“I’m a mother. Cheating is just another strategy to me,” she replied, pulling the toast from the toaster and buttering it quickly, “Go get your brother.”
Dean got up eagerly, heading to the stairs when her voice stopped him.
“And remember- drop it.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He stepped into the warm stream, tilting his head back as the water rushed over his head, his eyes closed. He let the water wash away all the sweat and dirt, his hands braced against the wall in front of him.
He opened his eyes as the water ran down his face, counting the cracked tiles of the wall. It wasn't as if he didn't know the number- seventeen of the thirty-eight tiles on the wall were cracked or chipped. One hundred and thirty four of the tiles on the floor were cracked or broken. Three stains in the shower- one around the shower head in the wall, over around the tub spigot, and one around the drain. Two stains in the sink- one around the faucet, one around the drain. One crack in the top of the cover of the toilet tank. Two boxes of bar soap, one bottle of aftershave, one bottle of cologne, three tubes of deodorant, two cans of shaving cream, three razors, and four pill bottles were inside the cabinet over the sink, two shelves packed full. The sink had two cups and three toothbrushes, one tube of toothpaste, and one bottle of aloe strewn across the surface. Underneath the sink there was one six pack of toilet paper missing two rolls, a plunger, a can of Comet, a spray bottle of pine-sol, two shotguns loaded with salt rounds, a jug of holy water, a silver knife, a bottle of lotion and three vintage Playboy magazines. It was comforting, now that he'd calmed himself down from what had happened the previous night, to count the objects he was so familiar with. It may not have been enough before, but it was enough now.
He picked up the fresh smelling bar of soap, rubbing it across the lone washcloth in the shower. At first he was gentle in washing himself, but suddenly, he felt dirty. He couldn’t stop the feeling of grime on his skin, and he started scrubbing wildly.
“Get off,” he whispered frantically, “Get off get off get off!”
No matter how hard he scrubbed, he suddenly couldn't get that scum off his skin, that filth that suddenly became apparent to him. He counted frantically as he continued to scrub, his skin starting to sting.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when the door opened, slamming his back against the wall and holding his breath.

“Baby?” Dean called out, “It’s just me.”

Sam let out a long sigh, his body relaxing. It was just Dean. He stuck his head out from behind the curtain, smiling weakly.
“Hey Dean,” he said softly, “So…ah, you gonna read me the riot act?” Dean snorted, putting down the seat on the toilet seat and sitting down.
“Nah,” he said, shrugging, “I just wanna know that you’re okay.”
“I’m fine,” Sam said quickly, pulling his head back into the shower. He could hear Dean huff loudly, knowing that answer wasn’t enough for him.
“No Sam, I mean…are you actually okay? Not even about the whole thing yesterday…I mean in general. Are you doing okay?” Dean asked, leaning forward and bracing his forearms on his knees.
Sam let the water run down his face as he tried to figure out a way to answer his brother. Was he okay? Well…he didn’t know. ‘Not okay’ had generally been their ‘okay’ for as long as he could remember. They’d been living in chaos for as long as he could remember, and now suddenly, other than yesterday, they’d been living in relative peace. It felt odd. It felt…uncomfortable, like his skin was too tight. Sure, he was definitely fond of not having to worry that his father was gonna do something crazy that would probably traumatize them or possibly kill them…but it still felt weird, not always being on his toes.
Plus, though he'd never say it out loud...he wasn't exactly crazy about the whole answering to someone other than Dean thing. After spending most of his life devoid of adults, he started to...resent being told what to do by anyone that wasn't Dean. And he wasn't crazy about doing what Dean told him to do either- but at least he was used to Dean being in charge. Dean knew more than them, Dean had always been there- but these people just showed up in his life for three months and two days and suddenly they were supposed to do everything they told them to do.

“Are you okay?” Sam asked quietly.
“I asked you first.”
“I don’t know…I mean, you’re gonna think I’m fucking crazy if I tell you,” Sam said, scrubbing his skin hard again.
“C’mon, we’re both fucking crazy. So what if there’s a little more crazy on top?” Dean said. Sam stopped scrubbing for a moment.
“True,” Sam said, smiling to himself, “Okay…ah, just promise you won’t freak out.”
“Do I usually freak out?” Dean asked.
“A little, yeah,” Sam said sheepishly. He heard Dean chuckle.
“Okay, then I promise I won’t freak out,” Dean said, his amusement clear in his voice.
“Well…yesterday was the most normal I’ve felt since we left Dad,” Sam said quietly.
“Wanna run that by me again?” Dean asked, “Not judging, not freaking out, just not sure how yesterday was normal.”

Sam sighed, grabbing his shampoo and scrubbing his hair. He tried to find the words to explain it in a way that Dean would understand.
“Well…I guess it’s like, we’ve spent so much time being on our toes that yesterday felt normal, you know?” He explained, “Come on, haven’t you felt kinda…stagnant since we’ve been here?”
“God, yeah,” Dean replied, “I mean…I love Bobby, and I love this stupid piece of shit house…but yeah, I’ve been feeling trapped.”
Sam let out a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t him being a freak, feeling the way he was- Dean felt it too.
“I feel the same way,” Sam replied, “And it kinda felt normal and a little good…you know, finally being thrown a curve ball. I wish it wasn’t Dad, but I mean…it made me feel normal, having to be alert and on my toes. I’m not gonna lie, I feel so bored here. I love Fisch and I love my job at the library, but I don’t like it…it’s too quiet.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say that it’s too quiet,” Dean joked.
“I just can’t stand this feeling. I know you’re kinda upset about what I did yesterday, and I guess I am too. But I did what I had to. I’m okay with it…I mean, it’s not why I’m feeling the way I am.”
“I’m not upset with you,” Dean said sharply.
“Coulda fooled me.”
“Dude, I’m not upset with you. I’m a little freaked out about it because I didn’t think you’d ever do that, but I’m not upset with you. I’m upset about other shit,” Dean said sharply, rubbing his head.
“You wanna talk about it?” Sam asked.
“Not really,” Dean said, shrugging, “I don’t even know what to say about it.”

Sam knew what that was like, all too well. Not having the words to explain what he was feeling or how it felt. He knew what it was like to be pushed to talk when he didn’t know what to say, and it always made him feel stupid and broken. He wasn’t gonna push Dean- that wouldn’t be fair.

“Okay,” Sam said, opening the curtain and grabbing a towel, “We don’t have to talk about it.”
Dean cocked his head to the side, looking confused. Like he didn’t get why Sam wasn’t jumping down his throat. Sam smirked a little, shaking the water out of his hair. Sure, he wanted to talk about it and be there for Dean, but if he didn’t know what to say, then there wasn’t a point in pushing it.
“Jody thinks we do,” Dean said, looking at the chipped tile floor.
“I like Jody, and I respect her a lot, but this isn’t about her or what she thinks we need to do,” Sam replied, picking up his toothbrush, “I appreciate everything that everyone has done for us, but I’m kinda sick of everyone acting like they know what’s best for us.”

Dean chuckled, standing up and winding his arms around Sam’s waist, kissing his bare, wet shoulder. Just as Sam was glad to hear that Dean was feeling trapped too, Dean was relieved to hear that Sam wasn’t too crazy about the new condition to them staying at Bobby’s- the condition that they had to act like they all knew everything. But Dean was still thinking about what Jody said, about him making Sam feel weak. He was genuinely concerned that Sam felt weak- he never wanted him to feel weak…he just wanted to protect his little brother as much as he could.

“Do I make you feel weak?” Dean asked gently.
“Sometimes,” Sam said quietly, shrugging.
“I don’t mean to.”
“I know. That’s why I never said anything about it to you. It’d just make you feel bad. Did Jody tell you that?”
“She might’ve mentioned it,” Dean mumbled against Sam’s shoulder.
“She shouldn’t have,” Sam snapped, looking irritable. Dean almost laughed at the pinched look of irritation on his face. Sam’s face still looked like he did when he was little in a lot of ways- and right now, Dean felt like he’d traveled back in time and Sam was five again, refusing to go to sleep without Dean laying down with him.
“You still look like you did when you were five,” Dean said softly, “Sometimes it makes me forget how old you really are. She should’ve told me. I shouldn’t be making you feel so shitty.”
Sam turned around quickly, grabbing the front of Dean’s shirt and pushing him against the wall.
“Don’t,” he said seriously, “Don’t do that. Yeah, so you make me feel shitty sometimes. I make you feel shitty sometimes too…that’s normal, fuck, that’s the only normal thing about us. So what if you make me feel weak sometimes? You make me feel strong too. What do they know about us? What the fuck do they know about us other than what we’ve told them? Don’t feel bad for being the one who takes care of and protects me. You’re the jerk, I’m the bitch. That’s who we are. And just because Bobby gave us a place to live and Jody plays watchdog doesn’t mean that somehow you’re not the one who takes care of me.”
“Sammy…”
“You’re the one who makes me okay. You’ve always been the one.”

Dean surged forward, pulling Sam into a crushing kiss. Sam’s hands stayed knotted in Dean’s shirt as Dean held Sam’s face, pulling back from the kiss with a fiery look in his eyes.
“Tell me what you want,” Dean said softly, the way he had when they were laying alone in motel rooms on the road.
“I want it to be just us again,” Sam said, biting his lip, “I want to go.”
Dean grinned, dragging Sam’s lip out from between his lips with his thump.
“I can do that.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He could count on one hand the times he and Dean had the money to go wherever they wanted, do whatever they wanted, and he was eager to seize the opportunity. After three months (107 days, actually) of behaving, doing what everyone told him to do, and trying to play normal; he was eager to get out, and the prospect of doing it without having to hustle or find a shit odd job to support them through their trip was exciting. He had 739 dollars sitting in a jar stuffed in his duffel bag, and he knew Dean had just as much, if not more- they could get by, and knowing Bobby, they could come back with no fight when Sam needed to start school in the fall.  He smiled a little to himself, turning to face himself in the full-sized mirror that hung on the wall in their bedroom for the first time since they’d gotten there. He slid his hands across his lean chest, touching the unblemished skin with a sense of wonder. He couldn’t remember a time in his life that his skin wasn’t some shade of purple or blue or black, a time that it wasn’t tender or raised. He slid his fingers down his protruding hipbones, turning this way and that, scrutinizing his appearance. He’d always been self-conscious about his body, that he was too skinny and lanky. He reached back up to trace his fingers over his collar bone, frowning. Dean wasn’t angular like him- he was muscled and lean, but he was soft. Sam huffed, trying to push out his stomach, letting out a loud huff when it did nothing but make him look like a dork.

“Scrawny, skinny Sammy,” he muttered, “All arms and legs. How the hell does Dean even find you remotely attractive?”

He frowned again, trying to flex his muscles in the mirror. He had some, but he was compact, and even flexing didn’t do much. He tried flexing his bicep the way Dean did in front of the mirror on occasion, willing his own army to show definition and bulk that was impossible. He sighed, dropping his arm down. Maybe he was just cursed to be the thin one forever- but he didn’t want Dean to settle for him just…being a twig. He started to count softly, rocking on his feet. What a disgusting, knobby, scrawny…filthy….
He buried his hands in his hair, crouching down and counting loudly. He squeezed his eyes shut as the insults kept running through his mind, paying no heed to his counting.

Counting alone was doing nothing for him, the cycle of one through five not helping. He squeezed his eyes shut tighter, breathing hard through his nose.

“Seventy three freckles on his back,” he gasped, rocking on his heels, “One hundred and thirty six on his chest. One hundred and ninety one on his face. Thirty nine lines on his left palm. Thirty eight lines on his right palm. Fourteen scars. Ten fingers. He loves me. He loves me. He loves skinny, scrawny, knobby Sammy.”

He finally had calmed down, his breathing evening out. He turned his back to the mirror and hurriedly threw on his clothes, bolting out of the room. He didn’t want to face the mirror again.

He bounded downstairs to eat breakfast, his stomach growling loudly despite the fact that his appetite had disappeared with his reflection. Dean gave him a knowing smile, pushing a plate in front of him.
“Eat anyway,” he said firmly, pushing a fork in his hand. Sam nodded, pushing the food around his plate before taking a bite to appease Dean. That one bite had sparked his hunger though, and he started to tear at the food on his plate with gusto, much to Dean’s satisfaction.  Jody, Fisch, and the baby had already left while Sam and Dean were upstairs and were replaced by Bobby in the kitchen, cleaning up after the mess of breakfast.

“So, what are you boys up to today?” Bobby asked. Dean gave Sam a smirk as he ate, shrugging.
“Gotta give Baby a tune-up so she’s ready to drive,” Dean said around his mouthful of food, “And Sam’s probably gonna spend all day packing things up.” Sam felt a shiver of excitement- Dean was serious. They were gonna get out.
“You boys goin somewhere?” Bobby asked, his brow furrowed. Dean shrugged again, looking unconcerned with the tone of Bobby’s voice.
“Yeah.”
“Where?”
“Haven’t decided yet, have we Sammy?” Dean asked, looking over at Sam Sam shrugged, unsure of how to respond at first. He was worried that Dean would think where he wanted to go was lame…but they’d never actually been to the ocean. Sure, they’d been close to the ocean and driven past it, but he’d never actually gone swimming in it, and he wanted to do that more than anything.
“I thought Florida might be nice,” Sam suggested, “Or Coney Island.”
“Florida is expensive as shit and has serial killers. Coney Island sounds like fun- we’ve never been there before.”
“Like a serial killer could get the best of us,” Sam teased, taking another bite of his breakfast.
“Dunno man, not really in the mood to test it though,” Dean replied with a shrug.
“So, Coney Island?”
“Hell yeah. Food, Beer, hit up the beach and the boardwalk…sounds like heaven to me.”

Bobby sighed, facing them with his arms folded over his chest and his typical “you boys and your fool ideas” look on his face, making Dean cringe a little. But Sam must not have noticed it, because he looked happy as a clam in a bucket of water.
“You boys heading out on a road trip?” he asked.
“Yup,” Sam said brightly, “Might catch a few hunts while we’re at it.”

Dean cringed again when he heard Sam suggest hunting. He swore to himself that they weren’t going within 20 miles of a potential hunt- this was about relaxing and having fun. Some other hunter could handle it.  Bobby went from looking casual to completely unamused, the lines in his face deepening as he scowled.
“When you coming back?” he demanded.
“Dunno,” Dean said, chugging down his orange juice and burping loudly, “Haven’t decided. Its concert season- anyone you might wanna go see?”
“Not really,” Sam said, “But maybe something will come up.”
“How you boys gonna support yourselves?” Bobby demanded again, his tone harsh. Sam looked up, his eyes wide- he didn’t think Bobby would care. After all, they were eating his food, using his water, taking up his space. He thought he might like to have a bit of time to himself.
“You think we’ve been working for free? We’ve both been hoarding the money from our jobs. Force of habit, I guess. I got about a grand saved up, how about you?” Dean said, turning to Sam. Sam looked confused for a moment, his brain trying to catch up with what Dean had said after he’d gotten lost in his head.  
“Oh-I’ve got 700 and change,” Sam said softly, his stomach twisting as Bobby fixed a good glare on the both of them. If this was gonna cause trouble…maybe they shouldn’t do it, he thought to himself.
“See? We’re good. Plus, we’ve got our credit cards,” Dean said cheerily, “So, no problem, hombre.”
Bobby didn’t look convinced.
“I don’t think you boys should head out, not so shortly after-“
“That’s exactly why we’re going. We need something fun to do and Sioux Falls is boring as fuck,” Dean said, rolling his eyes, “It might be just find for you and the rest of the old biddies, but we’re freaking dying of boredom and a distinct lack of MJ.”
“Okay, let me rephrase it then- you boys ain’t goin anywhere,” Bobby snapped, looming over Dean. Dean looked up at him as he took Sam’s juice glass and drank half of it, smirking.
“Really? We’re not going anywhere?” Dean asked, “Cause I’m pretty sure we just told you we we’re going to Coney Island. You wanna go to Coney Island, right Sammy?”
Sam’s face burned with nervousness and shame. It was his fault that Dean was about to butt heads with Bobby…him and his big mouth.
“Yeah…but-“
“That settles it then,” he said, “We’re going to Coney Island.”
“Dean,” Sam said cautiously, “Maybe we should put it off.”
“No,” Dean said, “You wanna go to Coney Island. So we’re going to Coney Island.”

Bobby huffed, rolling his eyes as he leaned back against the doorway again.
“Stop acting like such a kid,” Bobby muttered. A wide grin spread across Dean’s face.
“I am a kid at heart,” Dean said, “And anyways, if you didn’t want me to act like a kid, you shouldn’t treat me like a kid.”
“You are a kid, that’s why you shouldn’t just go running out the damn door!”
“I think everyone keeps forgetting that I’m 20,” Dean said, “Listen, Bobby, no disrespect. But short of you chaining us up in your basement, we’re gonna go on this road trip. And even if you chain us up, I’d gnaw off my own leg to get us out.”
“Always had a flair for the dramatic, boy.”
“Sure have.”
“Besides Bobby,” Sam added hesitantly, “I still wanna go to school in the fall, so we have to be back by September.”
Bobby sat quietly, taking his cap off and scratching his head. All the sudden they wanted to hit the road? Even if it was just for a few months until Sam started school, Bobby was a bit concerned. They were probably running scared from their encounter with their father, but two kids being out on the road was no way to get safe. That was like jumping from the frying pan and into the fire. But he could tell they were both fixed hard on this idea of going to Coney Island. Why Coney Island? He shrugged it off, sighing.
“I’m not gonna get this idea out of your head, am I?” Bobby asked. Dean and Sam grinned excitedly at each other, shaking their heads. Nope, he wasn’t gonna talk them out of it. And it’s be easier if he just agreed, he figured.
“I guess you boys will need a bit more cash then,” Bobby said, sighing, “How about you put it off for just two days, help me clean up the junkyard, and I’ll pay ya each 200 bucks. Maybe you could see if you could squeeze some cash outta Fisch, too. Best to avoid your credit cards, being they’re illegal and all.”
Dean looked at Sam, who was nodding enthusiastically. Well, if it was a ploy to keep them there, Bobby was gonna be really disappointed and 400 bucks short. But he figured there wouldn’t be any harm in it. But now it was time for the hard question, the one he was pretty sure Bobby was gonna kick his ass for. The question that he’d already been thinking about, but with Sam’s little confession, he’d decided he was gonna ask.
“Oh, and ah, Bobby,” Dean said, “You know any places for rent around here on the cheap?”

The silence was palpable, Bobby and Dean’s eyes locked on one another in that moment. Neither of them were glaring, and Dean looked as friendly as he always did, but Sam could tell- Dean was worried that he was hurting Bobby. And he was right- he was hurting Bobby.
“You boys don’t wanna live here?” Bobby asked gruffly, trying to disguise his hurt. He knew the place wasn’t exactly the Hilton, and he wasn’t much of a father, but he wanted to think that he was better than John was. But Sam and Dean wanted to run out the door and when they got back, they wanted to leave for good. Bobby was a tough man, but even for him that was a blow that struck hard and hurt deep.
“No no, it’s not that!” Sam said quickly, “I think Dean just wants to get us on our feet, you know? It can’t be a whole lot of fun having us here…I mean, we don’t wanna be a burden.” Bobby snorted hard. Burden? Those boys were the only thing that was keeping him sane the last few months. Hell, he’d gotten so used to always having them around that he didn’t know if he’d be able to go back to having a quiet house with no one else there. They had a way of livening things up…if not always in the best way. They were his boys.
“You’re family,” Bobby said gruffly, “You ain’t a burden.”
“We know we’re family. But –“
“I wanna be able to bring home a babe without trying to get past two people,” Dean interrupted bluntly, winking at Sam, “Anyways, wouldn’t wanna have sex in this house. It’d be weird.”

Bobby found his face burning at Dean’s blunt response, trying to look unbothered. It wasn’t that Bobby was a prude- God, the furthest thing from it- but hearing Dean talk about bringing home a woman and having sex was like hearing a 4 year old say fuck. It was adorable, and slightly embarrassing. Bobby never found the time to really talk to Dean, but he’d seen the way Dean would eye up anything hot that walked past him. And he’d noticed that it didn’t matter if they were a boy or a girl. In fact, Bobby hazarded a guess that about 80% of the time, they were boys. Who all, weirdly enough, resembled Sam. Even the girls did. Nothing could make Dean’s head whip around faster than a willowy brunette with big eyes. But if that was Dean’s excuse, that was fine with him. Best not press the issue.


“I guess I can put my ear to the ground,” Bobby said, shrugging, “If not, we can figure something out. You gonna get a job in town?”
“Dunno,” Dean said, “Thought maybe I could still work here with you. I mean, you already pay me and I live here, so what would be the difference? But if you don’t wanna do that, I can look somewhere else.”
“No,” Bobby said quickly, “You always got a job with me. You’re a damn fine mechanic, boy.”  Bobby didn’t want Dean going off and finding a different job- not only would it kill his business, but he still wanted the promise of one of them still being around for a good portion of the day.

Sam smiled up at Bobby appreciatively.
“Maybe…if you find a trailer, or a camper that we could put out back, you’d feel a bit better about it,” he suggested, noting with a jolt of happiness that Bobby grinned.
“Yeah, maybe I could look into something like that. Let you boys have your own space. Good idea, Sam,” Bobby replied, smiling fondly at him and touselling his hair. Sam leaned into his hand a little, grinning widely.
“Thanks.’

Dean let out a loud sigh, standing up and stretching.
“Well, if you two are done hugging, let’s get some work done,” he said with a grin, “I hear Beer, Beaches and Babes calling my name so the quicker we get this shit done, the quicker they won’t have to miss me.”

Sam rolled his eyes, standing up.
“Whatever jerk,” he said with a secret smile, “Let’s get to work.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

He’d kept careful track of how long each task took them to do- moving a tire usually took 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Dragging bumpers and scrap metal took 3 minutes to move. Moving a car took 15 minutes and 47 seconds on average. There were 176 tires to move and too many pieces of scrap metal for Sam to count without it interfering with his work. Plus, there were 22 cars that needed moved. Raking the dirty gravel and replacing it with fresh stuff would take at least 4 hours, and pulling all the weeds and mowing would take another 4 hours. As they both worked, he calculated how long the junkyard would take to clean. The cars would take 304 minutes and 34 seconds to move. The tires would take 508 minutes and 27 seconds. The metal would take just as long at the very least, plus the gravel and the weeding. 1322 minutes and 38 seconds- that meant that they might be lucky to get the whole junkyard done in 22 hours and 3 minutes- and there was no way they could work the whole day and immediately hit the road.

He sighed a bit to himself- while he was the one who insisted that they stayed and worked, he was more than a bit eager to get on the road. He didn’t want to upset Bobby, and he figured it was better to make him happy before they left, so he wouldn’t cut them off. If he knew a lot about people, and even though he never quite understood why they did the things they did, he knew that if you pissed them off and didn’t do what they wanted, they hurt you. Bobby would never beat them, or starve them, or bury them alive, but he would cut them off. And as much bravado as Dean had, even he knew that they were in a bad position. They couldn’t piss Bobby off, even if they wanted to believe he wouldn’t hurt them. Hell, all he had to do was make a single phone call and it all would be over, and they might as well dig their graves out here and call it a day.
Sam sighed, kicking a bumper at his feet. Even when they were in a good spot, they were in a bad spot. It was the story of their lives.
He glanced over at Dean, rolling a tire towards the burn pile, getting a bit lost in watching him.
At least there was a hell of a view.

Dean had long ago taken off his shirt, discarded in the seat of one of the broken down cars, the sun beating down on his back. Sam watched the way his muscles rippled and moved as he rolled the tire, cussing to himself before just picking it up. Sam resisted the urge to laugh- Dean had told him that rolling the tires was quicker and easier, but he’d finally figured out that it really wasn’t. Dean was all about being lazy at times- to the point that he worked harder trying to be lazy than he would if he just did the work. Sam figured it was just Dean being rebellious; no one could work harder than Dean could when he put his mind to something, but maybe defying all laws of logic just to come across as prodigiously lazy made him feel like he was getting back at whoever it was he was getting back at. He’d say he was getting back at their father, but saying that Dean’s insistence on rolling tires instead of carrying them was caused by his father seemed a bit…stupid. He laughed to himself, folding his arms as he watched Dean mutter to himself irritably. The tires weren’t heavy at all, only 22 pounds usually and Sam had watched his brother pick their father up off the floor easily and toss him into bed when he was drunk. Sam knew that Dean was bitching about the tires instead of bitching about what he was actually pissed about-being stuck here for another few days. It wasn’t like he didn’t love Bobby, but Sam knew that Dean was suffering from the same itch he was- the itch to get the fuck out of there, even just for a few weeks- and unless it was Sam he was dealing with, he wasn’t good at being patient. He watched sweat roll down Dean’s back, soaking the waistband of his jeans.
“Fuck you, fuck your mother, and fuck your kids too,” Dean muttered, “Oh, Dean, why don’t you and Sam stay and clean up the junkyard and I’ll pay ya each 200 bucks for it! Everyone wins!’ Yeah old man, seems like YOU’RE the one making out in this deal. ‘Trust me, I’m family’. I wouldn’t trust anyone who had the same blood as me as far as I can throw ‘em. Good thing he don’t have Winchester blood.”

He watched as Dean pitched the tire into the pile, cocking his hips and lacing his hands behind his head. Sam bit his lip and blushed, a little ashamed of watching Dean so openly.

He looked gorgeous.

Sam turned away quickly, picking up the bumper at his feet and carrying it over the pickup truck, tossing it in the bed. Bobby had agreed that if they cleaned up all the junk metal and took it to the scrapyard that they could keep half the money.  Sam sighed, turning back and scooping up a few hubcaps and tossing them in. He was sweating like crazy, but seeing how Dean looked made him feel self conscious. He nearly jumped out of his skin when Dean spoke from behind him, swatting his ass playfully.

“Come on Sammy, you’re sweating buckets. Lose the shirt,” he said grinning. Sam turned around, twitsing the hem of his shirt in his hands.

“I’m fine,” he mumbled, rocking on his feet.
“Come on, that thing is huge on you- shit, it’d be huge on me. It’s not like anyone cares,” Dean said carelessly, shrugging.
“I’m good,” he said quietly, turning around and bending over. He felt Dean grab his shirt, the sound of his switchblade tearing through the fabric making him leap up before Dean could finish. Dean let out a loud bark of a laugh, twirling the knife in his hand.
“It’s half off now, might as well just accept it,” he teased. Sam glared at him, yanking the shirt over his head and tossing it on the ground in a puff of dust. Dean looked him over, whistling.
“And I thought I’d have to wait for the beach to see that gorgeous body of yours,” he said, reaching around and sliding his hand in Sam’s back pocket, “You look good, baby.”
“I’m scrawny,” Sam muttered, leaning forward and kissing Dean’s hot neck. Dean let out a low laugh that Sam could feel against his lips.
“You grew like, 2 feet in a month,” he said gently, “Your body’s gonna catch up- but you look fine.”

He squeezed Sam’s ass firmly before pulling away, his hands on his hips.
“This is gonna take forever to get done,” he muttered, “But you got about half the scrap done, it looks like.”

Sam smirked, rolling his eyes.

“It’s not gonna take forever. It’s gonna take another 16 hours and 45 minutes, just about,” Sam replied, giggling a little, “Besides- we are getting paid.”
“I also get paid for hustling pool and playing poker, and I like those a lot better.”
“Yeah, but that’s not exactly safe.”
“Oh don’t lecture me about cheating at cards,” Dean said, rolling his eyes, “You’re worse than I am. You’re a regular Rain Man.”
“That’s not cheating, that’s being smarter than the system.”

Dean grinned.

“I love it when you talk smart to me baby,” he teased, “Makes me all gooey at the knees.” Sam kicked some gravel at him, rolling his eyes.
“Shut up. Anyways, you told Bobby we’d do this before we go.”
“Yeeeaaaah,” Dean said, “Buuuut, maybe we get all the scrap out today, take the money and go tonight?”
“You promised.”
“I also promise people I’m bad at pool,” Dean said shrugging, “I lie.”
“Not to me.”
“Well, I didn’t promise you that we’d do the junkyard before we left.”
“Oh yeah, you’re totally innocent then.”
“Hell no,” Dean said, smirking as he put his hands on the truck bed on either side of Sam, pressing him against the hot metal with his hips, “I’m just not a liar when it comes to you.” Sam squirmed uncomfortably, his eyes darting to see if Bobby was anywhere close. Dean grabbed his chin, turning his face gently so he was looking at Dean.
“Hey,” Dean said softy, “Come on. Normal teenagers do that.”
“What?” Sam asked breathlessly.
“Lie to their parents, run away in the middle of the night, steal money out of Mom’s purse. Come on,” he said, leaning forward and dragging Sam into a hard, burning kiss. Sam’s fingers traced Dean’s arms gently, falling harder into the kiss as their tongues pressed against each other, tasting him in a heady mix of menthol, lemonade, and Dean. He couldn’t say no when Dean was sucking all of his willpower out through his mouth. Dean pulled back a little, biting Sam’s lip hard as one hand traced over Sam’s stomach, making him whimper softly.

“Please, Sammy?” he asked softly, “You said you wanted to go.”
“Dean…” Sam gasped as Dean’s palm pressed against his half-hard cock in his jeans, “This isn’t fair!”
“You want me to stop?” Dean asked, looking punch drunk.
“Fuck no.”

Dean grabbed Sam’s hand, pulling him through the now considerably cleaner junkyard, pulling him behind the garage. Sam’s lips were on his again in an instant, throwing Dean off kilter as the both stumbled and fell. Dean was suddenly very thankful for the grass behind the garage as he and Sam rolled on the ground, kissing hard and heavy in the sun, their hot, sweat slicked skin pressed together.

“Sam! Dean!”

Dean groaned, pushing himself up on his elbows with a scowl on his face. Sam scrambled up quickly, darting around the other side of the garage as Dean stayed on the ground, fuming. When Sam knew they were alone, the kid wasn’t shy at all- hell, he was more open than Dean was about what he wanted and how good Dean was making him feel, to the point that it made Dean jealous. Sam could be whimpering and moaning at a moment’s notice if he touched the right places or if he said the right things. One of Dean’s favorite games to play when other people were around was “How long can Sammy handle dirty talk before he runs to the bathroom?” The current record was 7 minutes and 32 seconds, a number Dean wouldn’t know if it hadn’t been for Sam’s moist lips on his ear panting breathlessly as he bent down like he had a secret; and Dean almost caved right then and there and ran for the bathroom himself.

But as soon as people were around, especially Bobby, Sam was wound tighter than a spring, ready to shoot off in the opposite direction of Dean. Like an awkward cross between Piglet and Tigger.  
“Hoo-Hoo-Who’s gonna catch us?” Dean muttered, imitating Tigger’s voice, “B-O-Double-B-Y, that spells cockblock.”

He could hear Bobby yelling their names again, rolling over on his chest. Yeah, the naggy parent routine was officially on his last nerve.
“Yeah yeah, I hear ya old man,” he grunted, “Don’t get your granny gutchies in a twist.”
Obviously, muttering at the ground wasn’t helping, because he could hear Bobby still yelling for them.
“What do ya want, Bobby?” He yelled, pulling himself up to his feet. Bobby came around the corner with an odd expression on his face, looking Dean over.  Dean could feel his skin starting to itch from rolling around in the dry grass shirtless, his skin flushing red.
“Couldn’t see you boys, got worried,” Bobby said, his arms folded over his chest. Dean rolled his eyes- their Dad was long gone, and they were in a fucking fenced in salvage yard. What, did he think they suddenly sprouted wings and flew to Disneyland?
“We aren’t two,” Dean snapped. Bobby nodded, leaning against the metal siding of the garage.
“What were you two doing back here?” Bobby asked, trying to sound casual and failing miserably. Dean snorted, rolling his eyes again. Did people lose the ability to fucking lie and con the older they got? But as bad as Bobby was at covering up his interest, Dean couldn’t figure out why he was prying. Was he looking for another reason to keep them there?
“Making friendship bracelets and using the old washers we found on the ground as beads,” Dean replied smarmily.
“I’m serious, Dean,” Bobby sighed.
“Me too! Super-duper serious. Top secret ops here- these bracelets aren’t ready for public viewing.”

It was Bobby’s turn to roll his eyes, and Dean followed his eyes as they scanned the area, looking for something incriminating, as far as Dean could guess.
“I don’t smell reefer, which is usually what you two are into when you think I ain’t paying attention.”
“Hey, it’s called self-medicating- some people use liquor, some people use Mary Jane. Why, you pissed about that?”
“Can’t be pissed at you for doin what I used to do- well, still do, when the occasion arises. But if you weren’t smoking a jay back here, what were you doing?”
“I told you,” Dean said, smirking as he pulled out a cigarette from the pack in his back pocket, “Making friendship bracelets.”  He stuck the cigarette between his teeth, lighting it before tucking it between his fingers, “They’re gonna be real nice when we finish them. Maybe we’ll make you one too.”
“Looks to me like you two were wrestling,” Bobby replied. The blood drained from Dean’s face as he sputtered a bit on his drag.
“What?’ Dean choked out, dropping his cigarette. Bobby gestured to the wide berth of flattened grass, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, one of three things happened there- world’s smallest cow came over and rolled around, universe’s stupidest aliens failed to make a tiny crop circle, or you and Sam were rollin around on the ground.”
“We might’ve been wrestling a little,” Dean said non-chalantly, regaining his composure. Bobby nodded, rubbing his chin.
“You know Dean, you’re right. You are an adult.”
“Exactly,” Dean said, grinning and puffing out his chest. Bobby shook his head, looking a bit sad.
“And Sammy…he’s still just a kid. Mentally, emotionally…legally.”
“You’re not givin me any new information here, Bobby.”
“I ain’t one to judge anyone-“
“What would you have to judge?” Dean asked, laughing nervously, “God Bobby, is this what the birds and the bees talk is like for normal kids? Jesus Christ.”
“Be careful,” Bobby said in a low tone, “You never know who’s watchin.”
“What would they be watchin?” Dean asked softly. Bobby shrugged.
“Just…keep your nose clean, Dean. When it comes to Sam, at least.”
“What are you saying?” Dean demanded. Bobby shrugged again.
“Nothin. Just a piece of advice from someone who cares about you. Both of you idjits.” Bobby turned and started walking away, his hands stuffed in his pockets. He turned on his heel though, tossing his keys to Dean.

“Better get that scrap down to the scrap yard and exchange it before they close. I know you wanna pocket that money so you can head out tonight.”

Dean swung the keyring on his finger, grinning.
“I would never do such a thing!” He yelled.
“Yeah, and you were just makin friendship bracelets,” Bobby yelled back, “Get a move-on, boy. And pick up some dinner on the way back!”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

Sam looked up with irritation as he noticed Dean scream out of the yard with the scrap loaded in the back of his truck, ACDC playing loudly as he sped away. Figures.
He took stock of what was left in the yard, counting under his breath. There were still 85 tires to move, and 17 cars to move, but all the scrap metal was gone- they had made good time on that.  Sam went to work on the tires, focusing on the work, instead of Dean’s lips on his, his hands down the front of his jeans…
“Sam!”

Sam nearly jumped out of his skin, whirling around to face Bobby.
“Oh, uh, yeah, Bobby?” Sam said quickly, stuttering hard. Bobby raised an eyebrow at Sam, pressing his lips in a thin line. Kid was jumpier than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
“You want some help, boy?” he asked, gesturing to the large mountain of tires. Sam nodded quickly, his mouth going dry. He was terrified that Bobby had caught them, that he knew their secret, but he hadn’t tried to shoot him or beat him yet, so obviously things were off to a decent start.
“Ah, yeah, okay,” Sam said, nodding, “Sure.”
Bobby nodded back, walking over to the pile and slinging one tire over each shoulder. Sam was a bit surprised to see him do it so easily, until he reminded himself that Bobby probably did stuff like that on a daily basis, fixing cars.
“Your twit brother don’t seem to realize it, but doin it this way makes it go faster. Wastes less energy, too.”
“Oh,” Sam said softly, imitating Bobby. He slung the tires over his shoulders, almost falling over the first time- 22 pounds was a big weight change if he wasn’t prepared. Sam scurried after Bobby, trying to match his impressive speed. They worked in silence for a few minutes, until Bobby stopped at the burn pile, looking contemplative.
“Something wrong, Bobby?” Sam asked hesitantly.
“Been wantin to talk to you bout something,” Bobby said, “Just ain’t sure how I wanna say it.”

Sam felt his throat closing, rocking on his feet. Shit. Shit shit shit.

“Well, um, you can just…y’know, say it if you want,” Sam said, rubbing the back of his neck. Bobby nodded, rubbing his chin quietly.
“Y’know, you boys are like my own,” he began, his voice a bit softer than Sam expected. His head bobbed up and down in agreement with his statement. Bobby treated them better than anyone ever had. If there was a father in his life, Bobby was it.
“Yeah…”
“And you always got a place with me.”
Sam’s head bobbed up and down again, overly eager.
“We know that, Bobby. I mean, we don’t really show it, but we do appreciate it.”
Bobby snorted loudly, looking at him with an amused expression.
“Ain’t a kid’s job to show when they appreciate shit. They’re s’pposed to eat your food, use your shit, break your heart.”
“Bobby?”
Bobby paused, rubbing his mouth again, trying to find the words.

“Listen, I ain’t one to judge anyone. Hell, I done things you and your brother could never wrap your head around. But I’m worried, kid.”  Sam pushed his sweaty hair out of his face, cocking his head to the side.
“Worried about what?”
“Shit, everything. Your daddy, you, Dean…”
“Why are you worried about us?” Sam asked, starting to rock again, “I mean, I know we’re not great, but …we’re okay.”
“Then why you two running?”


Sam pressed his lips together, trying to explain what he was feeling, the why.  He closed his eyes, finding comfort in the numbers of their travels, and then it dawned on him. That’s how he’d explain it- Bobby always seemed to understand when he used the numbers.


“Did you know that since I was 7 years old, we’ve driven 313,523 miles in the Impala?” Sam asked.  Bobby shook his head.
“No. Didn’t know that.”
“That’s 52,746 hours that we spent in that car.”
“Wow.”
“2,197 days and 18 hours.”
“Okay…”
“6 years, 6 days, 4 hours, and 48 minutes.”
“What are you getting at?”
“From 7 years old till now, being 17, I have 10 years of living memory. Of 10 years of memory, I spent 6 years, 6 days, 4 hours, and 48 minutes of it driving. That’s 60.17% of my life spent in a car, moving. Going places.”

Bobby looked at Sam hard, feeling as if he was watching the kid grow up in a matter of seconds. He remembered him at 5, bright eyed and shy, hiding behind his brother no matter what they were doing. He remembered Sammy at 8, front teeth missing, reading his books on the floor of the garage as Dean learned how to fix cars. Sam at 12, suicidal and rail thin, worried sick about missing Dean. Sam at 14, shot up 6 inches almost overnight, awkwardly trying to keep control of his body. And now, 17. 6 years of his life on the road. God, if that wasn’t fucked up. Kid lived most of his life homeless, both of them did. In fact, one of them was standing in front of him, telling him that they were so used to being homeless that having a home literally felt wrong.


“So, you don’t feel comfortable being still this long,” Bobby said quietly. Sam nodded.
“No,” Sam said honestly, “It just doesn’t feel right. Especially not with that.”

Bobby followed where Sam was silently pointing, nodding. He was pointing at the two bullet holes still visible in the dirt, from his altercation with John. He knew he reacted badly, hell, everyone did. Especially that first day. But he’d thought about it long and hard, and he decided that he wanted Sam to know that it was okay, that he did the right thing.

“You had to do that,” Bobby said gruffly.
“I know,” Sam replied quickly, “I’m glad I did it, too. But that doesn’t mean I want to be reminded of it every day…” Sam took a deep breath, his hands lifting to tangle in his hair, tugging firmly, “…I don’t like being reminded of…of shooting my father. I don’t like being reminded of being…like that.”
“I get it.”
“How can you? How can you get what it feels like looking at the exact spot that you shot your father every day?”

Bobby put his hand firmly on Sam’s shoulder, jerking his head back towards the house. He’d also thought long and hard about this, even though he hadn’t reached a decision until a moment ago. It was time that someone knew. And he honestly thought that it might help Sam deal with…this.
“Wanna show you something, boy. Follow me.”

Sam followed him curiously back into the house, all the way to the kitchen, wondering what it was that Bobby wanted to show him. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Bobby, of course he did. But Sam always sort-of felt like…Bobby and Dean were closer. That Dean was Bobby’s favorite.
That’s because he’s easy to love. Unlike you, freak.

Sam shook his head hard, banishing that nasty voice in his head as he stared at Bobby.
“Right here,” Bobby said.
Sam looked around, his brow furrowing. Right here? What…the kitchen? What about it? What did it have to do with him shooting John? Sam was confused and it was written all over his face as he bit his lip hard. Bobby chuckled a little- Sam was so goddamn easy to read sometimes. He walked over to the kitchen doorway that was closest to the door, waving Sam over.  
“Stand there.”
Sam obeyed him, standing in the doorway with his head cocked to the side. He watched as Bobby walked back across the room to the far wall, standing and staring at him. It was starting to get a bit unnerving, and Sam began to rock on his feet when Bobby finally spoke again.


“That’s where I did it. Right where you’re standing.”

Sam looked around, still confused.
“Did…did what, Bobby?”
“Shot my father.”

Sam felt like he’d miscounted the stairs and tried to step down where there was nothing there- a heart stopping drop, frightening, but still, thrilling. Bobby had done it too.

“You…you shot your father? Why?” Sam asked hesitantly. Bobby shrugged.
“Same reason you shot yours. He was threatening me. Hurting someone I loved. Had to do something. Couldn’t watch it anymore, couldn’t take it.”
“So…he’s, ah, somewhere out there? Like my dad?”
“I’ll show you right where he is.”

Sam felt the same drop in his stomach that he felt last time, but this time, it wasn’t thrilling. It was frightening. If Bobby was going to show him where his father was…it was probably a grave. They walked in silence through the back field, towards an old, decrepit shed that looked like it hadn’t seen use in decades. Bobby led Sam around behind it, where a large Azalea bush was planted.

“There he is.”
“…under the bush?”
“Yup. My mother, she always liked Azaleas. When she died, I planted it out here for her. Figured his rotting corpse might as well bring some beauty and happiness in this world, since he couldn’t do it when he was alive.”
“I’m sorry,” Sam whispered. He really was. He could only imagine how awful Bobby felt…he felt so horrible about shooting his father in the leg, let alone killing him. Of course, he wasn’t sorry he did it…but still.

“Why?” Bobby asked, raising an eyebrow, “He was the scum of the earth. I ain’t sorry for blowin him to kingdom come.”

They were silent for a moment, Bobby pulling off his cap and mopping his brow. He had never shared this much about what happened with anyone. Not even Karen.

“Ma,” Bobby began, “She, ah, she said to me, ‘Bobby, what did you do? God is gonna punish you.’ At first, she was terrified.  I could see it in her eyes. Thought I was gonna shoot her next, for letting it happen or some shit.”
“Were you?” Sam asked curiously.
“Hell no. Woman had herself beat from one end of the house to the other every damn day of her life for 13 years.  What the hell was she supposed to do? She didn’t have any more power than I did. Thought never even crossed my mind. But I knew right then…I had to do what needed doin, and that I did it. Learned then that they never say thank you when you save ‘em.  Like your brother.”

Sam’s mind was spinning, trying to fully comprehend everything Bobby had just told him. But then, he caught onto the last thing he said. Like…Dean?

“What do you mean?”
“The way he was actin. Like you did something bad. You didn’t, Sam. You did what needed doin.”
“Did Dean…think I was gonna hurt him?”
“Never said it. Might’ve, though.”
“I would never-“
“I know, boy. I know.”

They stood in silence for another few minutes, just staring at the bush, both lost in their thoughts. Sam, lost in the thought that his father almost ended up buried next to old Mr. Singer. Bobby, praying to whatever entity there was for forgiveness, for understanding. Praying to his mother that she finally could understand.

“Who…who knows about…” Sam began, only to trail off. Bobby a hand on Sam’s shoulder, the touch gentle.
“Me, my dead mother and wife, God rest their souls, him, and now…you.”
“Wait…not Dean?”
“Nope,” Bobby replied, shaking his head.
“Why?”
“Didn’t wanna share this with him.”
“Bobby, I…”

Bobby turned to him fully, grabbing his shoulders hard.


“Listen, boy. There are bad people in the world, I ain’t gonna pretend otherwise. Your dad? He’s one of ‘em. I don’t know everything, but I know it was bad. And when people do shit like that, you don’t hesitate, you understand me, Sam? You blow them the fuck away. You don’t ask. You don’t wait. You shoot any mother fucker who touches you.”
“I…”Sam began, only to be cut off.
“No one, Sam, I mean no one, has a right to lay their hands on your or your brother. You never let anyone hurt you. You never let a single mother fucker on this planet think they can hurt you and get away with it. They take an ounce, you take a pound. I learned that. You never turn the other cheek.”
“I don’t know if I could do it again.”
“You could, Sam. You’re stronger than we give ya credit for,” Bobby said quietly, looking at the bush again, “Never thought a bush of flowers would make me feel so damn good and bad all at once.”
“I think…” Sam began, pausing and biting his lip, “I think your mom knew, you know? Knew that you had to. Like Dean does. I guess they, ah, just loved them a lot. Like, ah, Dean. Dean hates Dad, I know he does…but he also kinda loves him still. I do too. I guess a bunch of wires got crossed in our heads…like, we kinda think that when someone hurts us…that they’re showing us love. But I think your mom, she got it. She did.”
“What do ya mean, being hurt feels like love?” Bobby asked, it being his turn to be curious. Sam shrugged a little.
“I mean…well, Dad never really was around, you know? And when he was…we couldn’t wait for him to leave. But like…bad attention is better than no attention. If he was…ah, doing the things he did…I guess I kinda felt like he was finally acknowledging that I existed. Like, he had accepted that I was a real thing…not a person, but a thing. He spent time, you know, doing the things he did. So, in some way, I kinda felt like…in those moments, anyways, that I mattered to him. Not in the right way, but you know. I wasn’t invisible. He cared enough…to do those things.It felt like that was the closest to love that he could get, you know?”
“That’s fucked up,” Bobby muttered.
“I know. I know it makes me a…ah, freak.” Bobby looked at him shaking his head.
“That ain’t what I said, boy.”
“You don’t have to, though. I know I’m fucked up. I mean…I’ve always been messed up in the head. Like, my brain doesn’t work right.”
“Your brain works fine,” Bobby snapped. Sam began to rock on his feet.
“But not…normal.”

Bobby grabbed his shoulders again, shaking him slightly.
“Look at me, boy,” he demanded. Sam’s face snapped up, even though his eyes stayed down, and Bobby continued.
“You ain’t messed up.”
“Okay.”
“Sam.”
“Yeah?”
“You ain’t a freak. And you ain’t bad.”

Sam felt tears pressing in his eyes, his throat closing up. Those words meant so much to him.
“Thanks, Bobby,” he whispered. Bobby nodded, tousling his hair gently.

“That’s enough of that,” he said gruffly, “Let’s get back to work.”

Chapter Text

Sam liked to count.

As Sam got older, the counting began to evolve, become more complex.  Of course, his stalwart companion of onetwothreefourfive was ever present, but other things began to slip in interestingly.  Sam had an affinity for equations, he came to find- they were comforting. If you plugged the numbers into the equation, you could find the answer to the question. A2 plus B2 always equaled C2, and that led to other equations that were just as safe- Cminus Awould equal B2. Equations were a cheat sheet that he could carry in his head for any number he ran across, a cheat sheet that people are rarely afforded in life.  

Bobby was an equation.

It had been so simple with Bobby. That deep conversation, the things they both revealed- it was said, and then it was done. He gave Sam two of the numbers and let Sam work out the rest on his own, helped him get to the answer just by being there. Bobby gave things to Sam, and let him work out the meaning, come to his own conclusion without giving him more than he needed, without expecting anything but Sam to arrive at the answer. Bobby was, in his eyes, the Pythagorean Theorem. Without Bobby, figuring out their situation would’ve been nearly impossible. They just would’ve been a bunch of facts and numbers, floating around, a jumbled mass of letters and numbers and question marks. But Bobby set them all in order, and waited for Sam to figure it out. The older man was order; he made sense of the chaos, and never changed. Bobby today was Bobby yesterday and Bobby three years ago and Bobby ten years ago. Bobby, like equations, was definite. Rational.  Bobby was always in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was always grumpy and gruff, he was always there to help. Consistent. Steady. Like an equation.

But then, there was Dean- irrational, beautiful Dean. Golden Ratio Dean.

The Golden Ratio was an irrational number, but in its every application, it is agreed that it is the most beautiful and pleasing ratio. Artists, Architects, Mathematicians, even Nature herself had agreed upon this fact.
Sam agreed upon this fact as well, despite his vehement dislike of irrational numbers.

The Golden ratio is when a line is divided in such a way that the length of the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. In art, most frames for canvases are created by the use of the Golden Ratio to create the most “eye pleasing” shape. Leonardo Da Vinci, Luca Pacioli, even Salvador Dalí used and praised the Golden Ratio in their works. The Golden Ratio can be found in every piece and part of the majesty of existence. And Dean was the most beautiful, pleasing part of Sam’s very existence.

But, the Golden Ratio-like Dean- was the most irrational number. It can be defined in terms of itself, and if turned into a fraction, it becomes a continued fraction- one that repeats forever and ever. Dean could only be defined in terms of himself, Sam found- there was no person he’d ever met that he could ever compare Dean to. No words that defined others could accurately describe Dean. Sam could define a person in a word, most times: Bobby was consistent. Jody was kind. Fisch was intelligent. But Dean…a word couldn’t define him. He was kind, but he could be cruel, so unbelievably cruel. He was intelligent, but there were times where even the simplest of concepts could stump him. He was consistent in Sam’s life, but to anyone else, he was a drifting, ever changing creature.

Dean was not a person who could be described by simple adjectives. Dean could only be accurately expressed in relation to himself. Beautiful and perfect in his irrationality. A continued fraction, repeating himself into the end of space- perfect in his simplicity and yet perplexing in his complexity.

Irrational.  

Most people thought that Dean was the way Bobby was. An equation, a definable thing, unchanging. They thought that Dean was like Bobby, talking about what needed talked about and then letting it go. But truth be told, he was awful when it came to those sorts of things. Of course he was, in his perfect irrationality- he would say the conversation was over, but Sam could feel his eyes following him, trying to figure out what he was thinking, wanting to ask more questions.
And the conversation or the problem would repeat.

The irrational number that looked at problems in repeating decimals.

Dean could divide one by three all the live-long day; but in the end, he would always get .33333…on and on, a never-ending line of threes into the abyss.
And he could talk about their problems, the things that happened, all the live-long day; but in the end, it always came back to the same problem- the fact that the problem could not be solved unless they changed the way they expressed the problem, the way they looked at it.  But Dean, as the irrational number with an affinity for the repeating decimal, didn’t want to look at the conversation in a different way, because the repeating decimal was safe, comfortable. What he was used to, and honestly, what Sam was used to as well.

And then the world got turned upside down when Bobby, Fish, and Jody presented a new equation- the way to solve the problem.

X equaled the repeating decimal: .3333…
10x equaled 3.3333 minus x which equaled .3333…
Which meant that 9x equaled 3.
Inverse the operation, 3 over 9 equals x, and 3/9 simplifies to 1/3.

The answer was 1/3, and suddenly the repeating decimal was countable, and the problem solved- but that wasn’t how they ever did things before. They had never dealt with the concept of fractions; they had never done their numbers in anything but decimals. Dean, at his core, was a decimal. The answer, though clearly correct and logical, made no sense.  It went against his very nature.

Bobby and Jody and Fisch’s equation had turned the decimal into a fraction with an equation that was unfamiliar- they were turning the dark of their past into a clear and bright future with love and trust and parenting. And while he and Dean loved and trusted each other, while they knew that in his own (albeit messed up) way their father loved them; the concept of love and trust without a price tag was profoundly foreign. It didn’t make sense.

And when things didn’t make sense, the best thing to do in their minds was to get away from the thing as fast as they possibly could- instead of trying to solve it, to understand it. Because, the last time they had tried to comprehend something like this that they didn’t understand, the equation of their father had tried to kill them.

And suddenly, Sam had a better sense of what the hell Dean wanted so badly, what he wanted so badly. This new place, this new information, was too much to process. After a life of looking at numbers as decimals, people who were supposed to care as enemies; suddenly having their greatest problem laid out and solved so easily in a way they didn’t understand wasn’t just confusing- it was terrifying.

Sam loved equations. But he didn’t understand this equation quite yet.

He was just thankful that Bobby had gone straight back to work, and had expected him to do the same. They were just clearing out the entire pile of tires, talking about this and that, and never strayed towards the subject of their fathers again, much to Sam’s relief. In fact, it seemed to go in the complete opposite direction.

“Got some old westerns hidin’ somewhere in there if ya get bored enough,” He grumbled at one point, “Finished ‘em years ago.”

Bobby felt a bit guilty when he realized that Sam thought that he was closer to Dean. Bobby had never felt that way himself- he’d only ever felt like he could connect to Dean a bit easier than he could to Sam.  He still loved the sweet Dickens outta the kid, would do anything for him, but he realized that much of the “quality time” he’d expended over the years seemed to be in favor of Dean. It was never intentional- Sam was just a bit of a solitary creature, and seemed to like being on his own, and Bobby had always just given into that because he didn’t want to make the younger Winchester to feel uncomfortable around him. He started to realize that maybe Sam had isolated himself out of fear of judgment, or rejection. Bobby wasn’t exactly a genius when it came to people and definitely not when it came to kids, but he realized that Sam needed someone other than Dean to push through those coping mechanisms and reach out to him.

“Just…if you wanted,” he added on after a few moments of silence.

Sam looked up, a little confused. The comment seemed to come out of nowhere.
“You like westerns?” Sam asked curiously. Bobby smirked a little to himself- no, he really didn’t like westerns much. In fact, the huge box of them basically rotting away in his attic had been an impulse buy. He’d been at a rummage sale and felt awkward not purchasing anything, so he’d pointed to the box of books and bought them for 5 bucks. It took him weeks to even crack one open, and he’d plowed through the simplistic writing and recycled plots of all of them in short time. And then he just had a box filled with books that he didn’t much like and didn’t plan on reading again.
“Not really,” Bobby replied, shrugging, “I mean, I love me a good John Wayne movie every now and again, but the Old West books never really suited me too much.”
“Oh,” Sam said, “Well, what do you like?”
“Ancient grimoires written in dead languages,” he said seriously, giving Sam a blank look before snorting, “I’m kidding, boy. I don’t really have a preference. Just know that I don’t like westerns. Like war books a lot. Civil war, mostly. “
“Why?”
“Dunno. Just find it interesting. What about you, kid? Figure your tastes have changed a bit since you were twelve.”
“Oh, ah, not really,” Sam replied, rubbing the back of his neck, “I mean, I still really like…you know. Pansy stuff.”
“Pansy stuff?” Bobby asked curiously.
“Y’know. Fairytales, kids’ books. Fantasy.”
“That ain’t pansy shit,” Bobby replied, “Nothin’ wrong with that. But I gotta say, didn’t know that there were law fairytales.”
“What?”
“That big ass law textbook. Saw you bring it in the other day, like you were trying to hide it.”
“Oh,” Sam said sheepishly, “That.”
“Yeah, that.”
“It’s nothing really.”
“That’s a whole lotta book for a whole lotta nothing.”
“Okay, so it isn’t nothing exactly,” Sam said exasperatedly, “I just…been thinking about the future.”
“What exactly about the future?”
“Mostly what I’m gonna do with my life.”
“Did ya figure it out?”
“I think I did.”
“And? Am I gonna be the uncle of a doctor?”
“Come on, you know Dean’s the one whose good with the medical stuff,” Sam said with a smile, “Maybe you could convince him to be the doctor. But, ah, no. I’m not doing medicine. I’m kinda thinking about…well, you’ll think it’s dumb.”
“I think that you boys goin to Coney Island for whatever reason is dumb. I ain’t gonna think this is dumb, unless you’re planning on runnin away to Coney Island and usin that book to start fires on the beach.”
“I wanna go into law,” Sam mumbled. 
“You wanna be a police officer?” Bobby asked, his eyebrows hitting his fading hairline.
“No…I wanna be a lawyer.”

The silence was heavy between them, and Sam felt completely ashamed. Of course being a lawyer of all things was the stupidest thing he’d ever come up with. Come on, he was a criminal, his family lived on the very edge of society- he couldn’t possibly be smart enough for that, and he’d probably make a stuttering fool of himself in front of a jury and judge, and how the hell was he going to afford something as expensive as law school, for Christ’s sake?

“Lawyer, huh?” Bobby said, “Why?”
“Lawyers help people,” Sam said quietly, “I mean, not always the right people, but they do help. I figured…I could never be a cop, but I’d be good at talking and stuff. Helping people who’re in trouble and stuff. Plus, I kinda thought that, y’know, being a lawyer would get me and Dean into places that other hunters can’t get into and stuff. I’d know all the loopholes and jargon and all that, we could help more people a lot easier.”

Bobby nodded slowly, digesting what Sam had said. Of course, that was very logical, as Sam usually was, but he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of worry at Sam’s pronouncement that his chosen career would help them with hunting.

“Dean don’t want you hunting,” Bobby said softly.
“I know. But I figure…even if he doesn’t want it, we’ll end up doing it anyways. You know how he is. He wants things, but his nature…it just kinda gets in the way.”
“His nature?”
“Yeah. I mean, we both wanted a home, wanted parents who cared and were alive, wanted to be safe. But here we are, leaving. Because it’s just kinda…in our nature. We don’t know how to deal with…this, you know?”
“They sicken of the calm, who know the storm.”
“What?”
“They sicken of the calm, who know the storm,” Bobby repeated, “Dorothy Parker. I like her poetry. It basically means that people who are so used to chaos and panic and fear and storms don’t know how to handle peace. They can’t deal with not fighting, not being on their toes. Like a soldier who comes home from combat- they don’t know how to adapt to sudden peace. And it comes out. For you two, you’re running off into the sunset to find something to do with yourselves. Cleaning up a junkyard and hanging around with old geezers like me and Fisch isn’t enough.”

“It’s not exactly like that,” Sam said sheepishly. It really wasn’t. It wasn’t as if they were honestly bored- they’d been bored all their life with staying still, that was a given. But it was more like the fact that they didn’t know how to be still, be normal. They didn’t know how to be parented and loved and expected to trust someone to have their best interests in mind. Not knowing how to do something that everyone else knew how to do was terrifying. Sam would know- it was a terror he’d felt all his life.
“I’m old, not stupid,” Bobby replied, “I was like that when I was young too, especially when I was hunting. The downtime between hunts wasn’t welcome- I needed another one right fucking then or I felt like I was going out of my mind. Even when I settled down, for a while I couldn’t stand it. But I made myself adapt.”

Sam was quiet, weighing what Bobby said in his mind. It was true- they had no idea what to do with themselves when they weren’t looking over their shoulders for John or a monster; they felt that all the menial parts of life were just that- menial. After the novelty of a new situation wore off, they just wanted to move on, and Sam worried that was the worst way that they were broken. That they were so broken, they couldn’t even enjoy not having to fight and fear for their lives.

“You like poetry?” Sam asked, rather than the other things that had swirled around his lips. Bobby chuckled a little and nodded.
“I might,” he said, “I said I liked Dorothy Parker.”
“Why?”
“She reminds me of Karen,” Bobby replied honestly, “Karen was a whole lot of spitfire. Never much liked the idea that people thought she was just some boring housewife. She was a hell of a lot more than that.”
“Yeah?” Sam asked, sitting down on the pile of tires and looking up at Bobby. Bobby laughed, nodding.
“We had some little spat about something or another once,” he said, smiling fondly, “And she was so damn angry. I can’t even remember what it was about. But I went out and pouted in the shop, and when I came in for dinner, there was a pie sittin on the table. And wouldn’t ya know it, written on top with pie crust, was “fuck you”. I about died laughing, and so did she.” Bobby was quiet for a moment as pain clouded his previously amused expression, “I always forget to tell them stories. The good ones. The ones where she wasn’t covered in blood.”
“Sorry,” Sam said quickly, “I didn’t mean-“
“No, it’s fine,” Bobby said softly, “She woulda loved you boys.”
Sam didn’t know what to say to that. He’d never seen Karen, never met her, in fact- he knew about as much about Karen Singer now as he knew about his own mother.
“Did you know my mom, Bobby?” Sam asked.
“No,” Bobby said, rubbing his head, “Sorry Sam. I wasn’t even a hunter when your Mom died.”
“It’s fine. I just was curious.”

Bobby could see the disappointment written clearly on his face, leaping to change the subject, “So, lawman, huh?”
Sam nodded, playing with a hole in the knee of his jeans.
“I know it sounds dumb.”
“You don’t know much then, do ya?” Bobby responded, “Cause it don’t sound dumb.”
“Really?” Sam asked, looking up hopefully.
“Yeah,” Bobby said, smirking, “Best give me a discount when I get myself in trouble and need a lawyer.”
Sam laughed, rolling his eyes.
“Like I’d charge you.”
“Like you could stop me from payin you.”

The sound of the truck pulling in drew them both from the pile of tires they had just been on, Bobby squinting in the dusky light to see better.

“Well, if ain’t the prodigal son,” Bobby yelled as Dean cut the engine, his arms laden with food.
“What?” Dean demanded, shrugging, “You told me to take the scrap in and get dinner.”
“Yeah, dinner- not all of that. What the hell did you get?”
“Well, I wanted a pizza with every meat known to man and beast and I didn’t wanna share it. And then I wanted one with olives and peppers. And I got Sammy Hawaiian and you your stupid pepperoni. And then I saw they had salads, so I got Sam a chicken salad and a steak salad since I didn’t know which one he’d want. And then they had hoagies and dude, you know I can’t say no to hoagies-“
“So you basically bought the whole damn menu?”
“Yes. I basically bought the whole damn menu.”

Sam and Bobby looked at each other and busted out laughing, Sammy hugging himself hard while Bobby slapped his leg.
“What, what?!” Dean demanded, “What’s so freaking funny?”

Sam wasn’t sure if Bobby was laughing for the same reason that he was, but he was laughing because it was so…Dean. So irrational, the most irrational of the numbers, and of people. He couldn’t decide, so he just bought everything and called it good; no other solution in his mind.

“You are,” Sam said, grinning. Perfect, irrational, Golden Ratio Dean. Dean stuck his tongue out at Sam, holding out the food.
“Here, take this shit. I gotta take a leak - but I have no idea where I’m gonna do it. This place is so far cleared out that I’m actually gonna have to walk to the tree line.”
“Dude, gross,” Sam said, grimacing as he took the food from Dean. Bobby smacked the back of his head, rolling his eyes.
“Don’t be crude, boy,” Bobby admonished with a grin, “There’s a perfectly good bathroom in the house for you to use.”
“Yeah, but I’m markin my territory,” Dean said cheekily.
“We’re leaving, so what’s the point in that?” Sam said before he could stop himself.  

Dean glared at him as Bobby visibly flinched, the air heavy.  Bobby sighed, taking the food from Sam’s hands and heading inside the house. Both Dean and Sam jumped a bit when he slammed the door.

“Jesus Christ, why the fuck would you say that?” Dean demanded, whirling around to Sam and folding his arms. Sam stepped back a bit, rubbing his palms on his jeans and rocking on his heels.
“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that…I just…”

Dean didn’t look at him as the words died in his mouth, his calloused fingers running through his short hair as he shook his head.
“We are coming back, you know that right?” Dean asked, “I didn’t just say that for the fun of saying it.”
“You can’t promise that.”
“Yes, I can.”
“You know just as well as I do that the thought of settling down for good makes your skin crawl.”
“Who said it was for good?” Dean said, shrugging, “Until you finish school, until you’re an adult. Until we know for a fact that no one can just take you away from me. That’s not for good.”
“That’s a long time, though.”
“I can do that.”
“Can you?” Sam asked, looking at Dean through his bangs. Dean looked away, his lips pressed together in a thin line.
“Yes,” he spat at the ground, still not looking Sam in the eye, “Come on. Food’s getting cold and Bobby’s gonna wonder if I’m using your face to spread the gravel out here.”

Dean pushed past Sam towards the back door, pausing before he reached the stairs and turning around.
“Yes, I can,” he said evenly, staring Sam in the eye, before opening the door and going in.

Sam smiled to himself, heading back into the house.
Perfect, Irrational, Golden Ratio Dean.