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Winchester Household, 1983

"Take your brother outside as fast as you can! Don’t look back. Now Dean! Go!" John Winchester turned back to the nursery, frantically looking around. "Milly? Mildred!" 
His eyes searched the space. Everywhere he looked, flames were licking at the furniture and curtains. A moment later he’d found his three-year-old pressed into the far corner of the room, her eyes locked on the burning body of her mother. Without thinking, he snatched up the little girl and turned his back on his wife. There was no way he could save her now. 

Just outside the house, he found his two sons. "It’s okay, Sammy" he heard Dean whisper. At any other moment, those words would have made him smile, but right now John didn’t have the time. All he could think was to get his children away from the house, as far as possible. Still running he scooped up Dean and Sammy. "I gotcha." He’d barely set a few steps before the windows burst. In a reflex, the man bent forward protecting his children’s bodies with his own. It was only when they’d reached the other side of the road that he carefully put them down. 

"Shhh" John rubbed the back of his little girl, keeping a close eye on his other kids even while feeling her tiny body tremble under his fingers. He was relieved to see that Dean was quietly talking to his brother, calming him down. His eyes locked with the little boy’s. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Dean did well. Only then he looked down at the child that was still clinging to his neck.

Confused, he realised that the little girl was looking at something behind him. The man snapped his head around, following her gaze. Against the backdrop of their burning house, he searched for threats, coming up empty. Then he noticed that his daughter’s eyes were locked on the nursery's window, or perhaps something beyond. It was almost as if she were still looking at the spot where her mother’s body had been stuck to the ceiling. 

John manoeuvred the child in his arms until his body blocked the view. Two deep blue eyes looked up to his, eyes he knew would forever be haunted by what they’d seen. Eyes just like her mum's. Suddenly he couldn’t bear to look into them anymore. He pressed the girl's head against his chest, fingers entangled in the thin hair. A whisper escaped. "Oh, Mary…" She was gone.

John Winchester's Motel Room, 2005

"All right. Jerk." Sam smiled, glad to have been forgiven for his perceived thoughtlessness earlier in suggesting that there was no point in hunting down the thing that killed their mother. "Bitch." Dean’s predictable answer followed instantly. It was weird how somehow everything seemed to slip right into place at those words. Like nothing had changed at all since that night he’d left for Stanford, sure that he’d never go back. 

A little distracted, Sam scanned the walls, overlaid with pictures, articles, texts, all of it covered in his dad’s neat writing.
Something caught his eye. He crossed the room to take a closer look. Slowly, he pulled a picture out of the large mirror’s edge. 


Dean’s call pulled him out of his thoughts. "Yeah coming." Sam shoved the picture into his pocket and turned to catch up to his brother.

Chapter Text

Fort Douglas Motel Room, 1989

"You know the drill, Milly." John locked eyes with his daughter. "Anybody calls: you don’t pick up. If it’s me, I’ll ring once and then call back. You got that?" A solemn nod was the only reply he got. Even after all these years he still had to fight the urge to demand a verbal answer, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good. Milly hadn’t spoken a single word since that night, now almost six years ago. At Jim’s request, he had considered getting her therapy, but then, what shrink would take the crap the kid had seen serious. No one would believe her. So John just told the schools or anyone asking questions that his daughter had suffered an injury to her vocal cords and was physically unable to speak. Problem solved.

Initially, John had hoped the girl would start talking again in her own time, but six years later nothing suggested that time would come soon. Sometimes, he wondered whether he'd ever hear his daughter's voice again. Communicating with the kid wasn’t much of an issue. A few years ago when he’d returned to Jim’s to pick up his kids after a particularly tough hunt, he’d been surprised to find the pastor engaged in a study session with the little girl, bent over a large book on American Sign Language. Milly must have been about five or six at the time. John had never really gotten the hang of it, but Mils was pretty good at making clear what she meant through additional gestures, so they made do. 

Still, the man didn’t like leaving her alone with Sammy. If anything went wrong, she couldn't call for help. Phones weren’t much use when you didn't speak. The kid was trained though, just like Dean. He glanced at the clock again. Dean should be home from his errant any second now and John was itching to go. A movement to his right caught his eye. He turned back to the little girl at his side. Through gestures, she repeated his earlier instruction about picking up the phone. "Good," he responded as he finally heard his son's voice outside. The man swung his bag over his shoulder. "Tell Dean to call Jim if I’m not there by Sunday…" The girl finished his sentence in sign language - lock doors and windows, close the shades, listen to Dean. "And most important…" She eyed her little brother, then made her gesture for protection, a hunched-over hug. John smiled but his heart ached, knowing where she’d done up the inspiration for that particular gesture. 

"That’s my girl. Tell Dean to stay here and when something tries to bust in…" The little girl gestured as if firing a gun, making a point of pausing and only then pointing at her head. Shoot first, ask questions later. John ruffled her hair, gave Sammy a kiss on the head and exchanged a brief goodbye with his eldest who entered as he left the room and closed the door behind him. Time to hunt.

John Winchester's Motel Room, 2005

In the bathroom of their father’s motel room, Dean quickly took out his phone. There was only one text: 

Call me. Or I swear I will hunt you down and make you hurt like you've never hurt before.

Dean smiled and quickly texted back. 

Sounds fun. Sammy’s safe. No need to get worked up. 

He wished he could see her face when she received it.

Fort Douglas Motel Room, 1989

Mildred watched her father leave, eyes meeting her brother's as he stepped through the door. Her stomach was knotted up in anticipation, but that didn't hinder the smile that found its way to her lips. It was rare for Dad to go over the rules without Dean there. The man must've been in a rush or something, to show some actual trust. She knew he was worried that she wouldn’t be able to protect Sammy the way Dean could, and she knew it was because she didn’t talk. She hated it.

Only Pastor Jim didn't seem too bothered by her silence. Well, and Dean of course, but Dean wasn’t a grown-up. Uncle Bobby was nice enough, and he was pretty good at understanding her body language, but he just didn't have the patience for her signs and gestures. Dean usually had to play mediator between the two of them, because whenever she tried to take part in a conversation with him, either he or she would lose their temper. So usually he just let her be, and she did the same. Pastor Jim, on the other hand, didn't shy away from her at all. He let her help, answered her questions; he took her serious.

While her big brother was saying hi to Sammy, Mildred slipped the small note Dad had left for Dean into her pocket. It was time to set her plan into motion, and it wouldn't do to have evidence lying around.

 It wasn’t exactly a safe plan. Yes she’d been trained just as well as Dean, and she knew what was out there; maybe she knew even better than her brother. Sammy was in no more danger with her than with the eldest Winchester child. Still, her dad would go ballistic when he found out what she'd done, and well, he had to find out, that was part of the point of doing it in the first place. Milly was prepared to risk her father’s wrath if she’d gain his respect and trust as well. The way things were looking at the moment, he would never allow her to hunt, and that was what she wanted more than anything.

"Hey Red, what's up." Milly rolled her eyes. A finger flicked against her head. "What? Cat’s got your tongue?" She looked up to narrow her eyes at her brother. "Aww, come on Reddy, not even a smile?" Dean flashed her a quick grin as if to demonstrate his intentions. It was the sort of smile that he undoubtedly thought would get all the girls at school to giggle and smile back at him, but it barely got more than an exasperated expression from his little sister. Leaning back against the wall, she hesitated a moment before going ahead and plunging into phase two of her plan, signing her brother a casual question. "What are you talking about Red, nothing's happening on Saturday. Not with Dad away." The guilt and nerves made her hands shake even as she kept her face straight. Milly hated the thought of lying to her brother, but today, it was a necessary evil.

With a shrug, she turned back to her notebooks, which were lying crisscross on the kitchen table. Just as she was about to sit down she threw Dean some signs about Dad wanting to reward his good behaviour and let him go to the movies this Saturday, nothing else, he just thought Mildred was ready to look after Sammy for just a couple hours. As if. She didn't need to see her brother's face to know that it reflected the same disbelief she felt at the thought of her dad ever trusting her alone with Sam.. that was okay though. She had three more days to work on him, and she'd never lied to Dean before. He'd trust her. That knowledge made her stomach ache, but the little girl strengthened her resolve. It would be worth it.

Chapter Text

Fort Douglas Motel Room, 1989

The next three days were nothing out of the ordinary: Sammy was being whiny but generally good; Mildred went her own way, doing her share of the chores and entertaining the youngest Winchester; and Dean, well, Dean didn’t take too well to being stuck indoors for three days. He just wasn’t one to stay cooped up. Saturday afternoon found Milly working on her homework at the table, with Sammy happily doodling on the back of her assignment. Hopefully, the teacher would appreciate the artistic attempts of a first grader. Not that Milly cared much; all she wanted was for the teachers to ignore her and leave her be. It left more time for her own projects. 

Life was rarely particularly exciting when Dad wasn’t there. Of course, there’d be the regular sibling squabbles, especially now that Sammy was getting old enough to realise the difference between the way his brother and sister always took care of him and the way his friends were treated by their siblings. Sam knew that there was tons of wriggle room around the rules when Dad was away. Already antsy because they were stuck in a room together 24/7, Dean would mostly give him his way just to keep him happy and calm, even when it irritated the hell out of him, and Milly felt much the same, having far less patience with their brother when he was being difficult. 

Dean appeared at his sister's side, wet hair sticking to his forehead. "Your turn, sis!" Milly grinned at him. No matter how much of a pain in the ass he could be, she loved her big brother more than anything. Sammy would always be special to both of them, but they also knew that at least until Sam found out about what their father really did, he would never quite understand the sort of worries that ruled his siblings’ lives. 

It sometimes made her sad to think that Sam would never remember their mother, or really know what it was like to be normal. Not that she remembered all that much. Other than some impressions, feelings, she only really ever remembered parts of That Night, and that wasn’t really a memory she cared to revisit. Still, Dean had always been there, through every nightmare, all those months when she hadn't communicated with anyone at all. Dean was the one who had run back to Pastor Jim’s house to ask for the book on sign language, even though Milly had already given up on it after seeing her father’s discomfort. They used to pour over it, every night their father was gone, practising until he could understand her signs as well as she could his speech. The result might be less than perfect, but it worked for them. Dean knew her so well that he often seemed the only person she could ever really talk to. On her side, Mildred had listened to Dean’s fears, his occasional venting, and tried to help him out where she could.

"Hey, Red!" Turning her focus back to him, Milly elbowed her brother hard in the stomach. "Aw Reddy, love you too!" Idiot. A short scuffle later, she found herself pinned to the floor, her big brother's grinning down at her. "You stink!" he said, pretending to have to turn his head away due to the smell. "Come on," he helped her to her feet. "Shower’s all yours…" Dean pushed her into the tiny bathroom. Just as he closed the door behind her, she kicked backwards. From the other side of the door, she could hear her sibling's whining, and Milly couldn't help but grin.

California Motel, 2005

It’d been a long day. 

All Sam really wanted right now was to be home with Jess, prepping for his interview in two days and getting the peace of mind that only being with his girl would bring. Dean, however, had insisted they make a proper stop at the motel, reasoning he’d only be waking Jess up if he’d wait to shower till he was home. Sam didn’t mind it that much really, spending time with Dean had its own charms, but he couldn't help longing to get back to his normal life.

"I’m gonna fix us some food, you take a shower." Dean motioned in the direction of the bathroom. "You stink." 

It was only after his shower when Sam threw his clothes into his bag, that he remembered about the picture. He took it out of his jeans’ pocket and sat back on the bed. Dean looked up from the table where he was studying their dad’s journal. "What you got there, Sammy?"

Sam shrugged. He wasn’t really sure why he’d taken the picture. It was an old one of them as kids with their Dad. Him and Dean, and their sister.

"You remember her?" Dean’s voice sounded suddenly behind him. A moment later Sam felt the bed dip. "Of course I do," he said, not taking his eyes off the picture. Dean didn't look at him either, instead busying himself with untying his shoes. "You were pretty young, Sammy. And it’s been a long time." 
He turned away from Dean. "Yeah, well, it’s pretty hard to forget when someone decides to just abandon their family like that." Dean's eye roll was hard to miss. "It’s not like you didn’t leave to go to Stanford, Sammy, it’s no different."

That made Sam turn back to face his brother. "Really?" he asked, his voice reflecting his scepticism. "Because I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave without a word. Besides," he looked back at his hands. "I was eighteen, Dean, an adult. You and Dad didn’t need me." 

Dean shrugged. "We managed fine without Red." 

Fort Douglas Motel Room, 1989

Milly tossed her big brother a grilled cheese sandwich. It was still early in the evening but Sammy had been in a mood earlier, and neither she nor Dean had felt like preparing food, so she figured he could do with a treat. "What am I supposed to do with this." Her eye roll was accompanied by his laughter. As he took a bite, Milly carefully asked about his plans for the evening. This was a crucial part of her scheme. Everything depended on whether Dean had believed her two days ago.

"Nah, not going to the movies," Dean said, sandwich rolling around between his teeth. She pulled a face. Gross. "Just don’t feel quite comfortable leaving you two here alone that long." It took some serious effort to keep her body language unchanged. There went her only chance.

"Don’t take it personal, Red. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but normally we’d fight the bad guys with the two of us. I wouldn’t like to stay alone with Sammy either. Besides," he tried his damndest to look charming, knowing that it only made her want to roll her eyes more. "Besides, you’re my little sis, I gotta look after you too." She thumped her brother. "Okay, okay" he grinned. "How about instead, I go for a walk, play a couple of games, maybe. Get some air. I’ll just be a few doors down, okay? Back before you know it." 

"Dean's leaving?" Sammy looked up from his colouring in alarm. He was already in his pyjamas, ready for bed, but his concern for his brother seemed to have chased any drowsiness away. "But Daddy says it's dangerous!" Dean sighed and smiled at his little brother. He knelt down to get on the kid's level. 

"It is dangerous," Dean patiently explained. "For little brothers. But Dad said I could go for a little while. Big brother privileges and all." Sammy looked at his brother thoughtfully. "So… you aren’t going to get into trouble? And you will come back?" "Of course I will!" Her brother's reassuring smile was contagious, even if she knew it was mostly just for their baby brother's sake, and Milly couldn't help smiling along. His expression soon turned more serious, though, as Dean made sure to look his little brother in the eye.

"Sammy?" The child looked up. "I’m going to make you a promise, Sammy, but then I need you to promise me something as well. Can you do that?" Sam gave him a little nod. "Good." Milly could see it was taking Dean some real effort to keep his face straight. "I promise you, that I will come home safe tonight." Sammy gave a solemn nod. "Now, can you promise me to listen to Red, and not give her any trouble whatsoever?" Sam gave another nod. "I’d like a verbal response, Sammy." "I promise, Dean." 

A large smile broke open Dean’s face. "That’s my big baby brother." He ruffled Sammy’s hair. "See you in a bit, Red?" His sister returned his grin and gestured for him to leave already. "Okay, okay, I’m going." He laughed as he closed and locked the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Fort Douglas Motel Room, 1989

As soon as Dean left, Milly made sure all the doors and windows were locked. It wouldn’t do to mess up now. "Can we play a game, Reddy?" Her little brother tugged at her t-shirt. Smiling, she gave him a thumbs up. 

A short while later the two were engrossed in a most exciting game of Pictionary. Sam and Milly both liked to draw, and drawing had often turned out to be the easiest way to communicate with the littlest Winchester. "It’s a treehouse!" The little boy explained in an exasperated tone. To be fair, once someone had pointed out to you what the different figures were meant to be, it was actually a pretty good drawing… For a six-year-old. She just laughed and softly squeezed his neck. Then she hinted with her eyes at the clock. 

Sammy would know what that meant: time to get into bed. It was already fifteen minutes past his bedtime, but Milly had wanted to stretch it as late as she could. Maybe she was a little nervous about being the only one awake in the house after all. "Will you come and draw me a story?" She snorted. Sammy looked utterly pathetic begging like that, and utterly adorable. She wasn't going to say no to an excuse to keep her baby brother up a little longer. 
The girl offered an indulgent smile and nodded before nudging Sam in the direction of the bedroom. Soon, the little boy was safely tucked in below the covers, giggling at his sister's sketches. She had a notebook full of them, adding a new story every once in a while, and rather than tell them to him through sign, she let Sammy make up his own narrative as they 'read' together. Before too long, his voice started drifting off, mumbling about witches and wolves and happy endings.

Satisfied with the smooth proceedings so far, Mildred went back to her own reading on religious symbols and runes, Sammy's rhythmic breathing reassuringly in the background. Everything was going precisely according to plan. All she had to do now was wait up until Dean came home, and keep an eye on sleeping Sammy in the meantime. The nervous knot in her stomach was not quite gone yet, and the girl couldn't help glancing at the clock. Dean would probably be back in half an hour or so. Milly double-checked the gun against the wall. Loaded and ready. She was going to be just fine. 

California Motel, 2005

"We managed fine without Red."

Sam felt a wave of old familiar anger rise up in him at those words, but with some effort, he managed to keep his mouth shut. He was tired and he missed Jess. The last thing he wanted right now was another fight with his brother.
Still, the picture in his hands filled him with dissatisfaction. He hated the feeling of ignorance, the sense that people were keeping him out of the loop. His family had more than one topic that was just not talked about. Too messy, too emotional, too much frustration... His father and brother simply refused to talk about Mildred. Didn’t mean he hadn’t tried of course. Still, although Sam had spoken the truth when he told Dean he remembered Mildred, Dean had also been right. Sam had been young, and it had been a long time. 

"Hey, are you going to sleep or what?" Sam shook his head at his brother’s obtrusion of his thoughts. God, it was weird to be staying somewhere with Dean once again. The crappy motel room, the friendly jibes, the overall annoyance at everything his brother did or said. It was all too familiar. Once again, it called up feelings and memories Sam had been trying to forget. 

When he’d applied to Stanford, Sam had never meant to cut ties with his family the way he did. Off course he’d known Dad would fly off the handle when hearing that his son had applied behind his back, but teenage Sam had never really taken the time to consider what would happen if he actually got in. Still, whatever he’d been thinking, he'd definitely not anticipated a fight of the proportions of the one they had the night he left. 
Dad had been yelling his head off, and of course, as always, the man had managed to say exactly the wrong things. Maybe if his dad would have given him decent arguments, rather than just ordering him around, telling him what he could and couldn’t do, Sam would have listened, wouldn’t have stormed out the way he did. But then, he had already run through every argument his dad could have possibly given, and beyond the safety thing and ‘family belongs with family’ there wasn’t all that much to say. Of course, Sam hadn’t wanted to leave Dean or his dad behind like that. But he’d needed some air. Have a chance on actual normal life, go to college, make friends, fuck, stay in the same place for a couple of years in a row! 

He’d missed Dean though. How many times had he stood there, holding his phone, about to dial the familiar numbers? Or even just to pick up when Dean called. But somehow he never could. Not after the way he left. Besides, Sam had been scared. Scared that somehow if he tried to hold on to anything from his previous life, even if it was only his brother, it would mess up the life he’d built for himself there.

Or maybe he’d just been scared he couldn’t turn his back on them again…

Fort Douglas Motel Room, 1989

Milly peered passed the cracked open bedroom door, making sure everything was still kosher with Sammy before getting up to use the bathroom and grab herself a snack.
She hadn't been all that long, but something felt off when she got back. Carefully she listened for a sound. Something was wrong. Keeping her movements slow and quiet, Mildred picked up the gun and inched toward the door opening. Then she saw it. 

The dark shape was easy to make out. It made her blood run cold. Memories bubbled up unwanted, of a dark shape in the nursery, Sammy… She blinked, trying to regain her focus. This time was different, it had to be. When she looked again, Milly realised she was right. Not a man, but a large creature was hovering above Sammy and seemed to be sucking something out of him. 

Trying very hard not to panic and to stay undetected, the little girl lifted up the gun, shaking just a little as she took aim. Calm your breathing, blink, aim, shoot. The loud bang of the gun firing in the quiet room and the recoil from the gun made her jump. Then she fired again, three more times, before the creature had disappeared out the window. She didn't think it was gone, but at least it wasn't here anymore.

Sprinting into the bedroom, she hopped onto the bed and shook the limp body of her little brother. No change. As fear weighed down on her chest, Milly tried to do something she hadn't for six whole years. "Sammy? Sam!"  Although she mouthed the words, no sound would come out. "Sammy wake up, please !" There was a rushing sensation in her ears and spots were dancing before her eyes, getting wilder with every word she tried to force out of her mouth. Frantically looking around, she grabbed a cup with water from the nightstand and splashed a bit of it in her little brother's face. "Sammy you gotta wake up."

"Red?" She jerked around as someone touched her shoulder. There was Dean, ghostly pale, his face reflecting rising panic and confusion as he took stock of the scene. Sammy's eyes opened. Relief washed over her, so sudden and overwhelming that it left her head spinning. Some leftover tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes, but Milly didn't even register it. 

Dean looked around a little unsure, focussing on his little brother to give Milly the chance to catch her breath. "Dean, you’re back!" The six-year-old graced his brother with a drowsy smile. Dean picked up the kid, checking him over before wrapping him in a tight hug. "It’s okay, Sammy." He whispered, just like he had done that terrible night six years ago. "You’re safe." Over his little brother’s head, Dean locked eyes with his sister, whose face had become ominously blank.

Chapter Text

Fort Douglas Motel Room, 1989

Their dad returned not too long after Dean. As soon as John entered the room, he knew something was wrong. Despite the late hour, all the lights were on, and the kids' gun wasn't where he'd left it. Through the wide-open door to the bedroom, he could see his children sitting all together on their bed. Dean had looked up the moment he entered but was now awkwardly avoiding his eyes, looking at Sammy - who appeared to be either asleep in his brother's arms, or at least close to it - instead. Mildred was sitting a little away from them, her demeanor tense and closed off. Strange. 

Without saying anything just yet, John walked into the bedroom. He noticed the gun lying at the foot of the bed and picked it up. "What happened." 

While his eldest's eyes snapped up, Mildred seemed to turn in on herself even more. Before John could demand an explanation, Dean opened his mouth. "Something almost got Sammy." That shifted his attention. In an instant, John had lifted the tiny body of his youngest son onto his lap, lightly shaking him awake. "Sammy?" Two sleepy eyes met his. "Daddy?" 

"He seems okay, Dad. Red shot it." Despite his son's reassurance, John felt the need to check over Sammy himself. Only then, his focus moved back to his other kids, his youngest still safe in his arms. "Mildred?" He eyed the two questioningly. Milly's hands flashed briefly, moving too quick for John to follow.
Trying to keep a lid on his building frustration, John turned to his eldest who appeared to have caught his sister's words. "She thinks it got away, sir, but she did shoot at it."

John rubbed his face with his hand cursing inwardly, before narrowing his eyes at his kids. "Where were you, Dean." Something wasn't adding up. The boy's eyes shifted over to his sister, a slight tinge of confusion entering his voice. "I… I just went out." He couldn't believe his ears. " What ." 

"Just for a second! Red.." John looked over at his daughter, but if she had moved, he'd missed it while his other idiot kid kept talking. "Mildred, and I , we thought it'd be okay. I'm sorry-." John's voice was low and heavy with anger as he cut Dean off. "I told you not to leave this room. I told you not to let him out of your sight ." Milly finally looked up to meet his eye, if only for a brief moment. Her expression was impossible to read. 

"We're leaving. Now."

On the road, California, 2005

The ride back to Stanford was quiet. Dean kept glancing over at his little brother, wondering whether his mind was so absorbed in his girlfriend or interview, or if Red's picture had really gotten to him that much. He had hoped Sam would have let those questions go by now. But then, when did Sam ever do anything that would be convenient for his older brother.

His phone rang.

The ringtone told Dean he shouldn’t pick up. She wouldn’t appreciate it. 
Looking back at Sammy he decided that taking some extra time to get him home might be to his brother's benefit as well. Carefully he slowed down a bit. Sammy seemed to be too caught up in whatever was going on in his mind to notice. 

Driving nice and calm, Dean allowed his mind to drift back to the picture. He missed her.
Being on the road always calmed him down, gave him some space to think. Sometimes a bit too much space. Dean started tapping on the steering wheel along with the music, humming as he tried to let the music fill his mind, and drive those messy thoughts away. 
But the tapping reminded him of little fingers tapping morse. On the door or the table, the walls and the side of the bed. It had been their 'secret language' until she'd gotten more comfortable signing. Suddenly he found himself trying to remember what those fingers had felt like, softly tapping in his hand, and he wondered whether Sammy remembered.

Get a grip, Dean. 

Looking over at his little brother, Dean realised he might just as well prolong the trip some more: the kid was completely spaced out. 
It was only when he’d already stopped and gotten out at the gas station that Sam seemed to notice.

"What are you doing?" 
"Just filled up the tank," Dean lied easily. "I gotta take a leak, be back in a second." 

He swaggered in the direction of the little toilet block, but as soon as he was out of Sammy’s line of sight, Dean pulled out his phone. 

Shut your face, or I might be tempted to do it for you. Are you okay? Where are you? How’s Sammy? If I don't have an answer by 10.00, I’m coming after you guys. 

Dean sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. It was now a quarter past ten. 

It didn’t take long before the phone was picked up on the other side. "Hey, we’re on our way back. No injuries. I’ve got Dad’s journal, it has coordinates in it, addressed to me. I’m going after him as soon as I’ve dropped Sammy off."
"Take care" he added after a few seconds. She hung up.

As he started to walk back to the car his phone buzzed. 

You too, jerk.

He smiled.

Jim Murphy's Place, 1989

The drive to Pastor Jim's only took three hours.
It was a quiet ride. Sammy was asleep, and the other three occupants of the Impala weren't talking. 

The tension still hung thick in the air when they turned onto Pastor Jim’s driveway. Without a word, Dean and Mildred got out of the car, followed by a groggy but cheerful Sammy. The kid ran ahead and hugged the pastor’s legs. "Hello to you too, Samuel." The pastor smiled gently as he picked Sammy up. 

Just as Dean and Milly were about to follow their little brother into the house, John held them back. "I'm going back to Fort Douglas. I lost six hours already, I do not want to get called back here because you two can't follow orders. Understood?" He received two very subdued affirmations. Good. 
"There are kids in the hospital, dying . That could have been your brother." He let that statement hang between them for a while. Then, without another word, he got into the car and drove away.

Dean turned to his sister, unsure what to say. He was shaking, feeling confused and guilty, and more than a little angry. "Red?" No response. She just stared down the road their father had already disappeared from. Her face seemed empty, expression unreadable. Dean wasn't in the mood to deal with it. He turned on his heel to go find Sammy.

Milly stayed on that road until Pastor Jim ordered her inside.

Chapter Text

Jim Murphy's Kitchen, 1989

"What is the matter, Mildred?" Milly was sitting at the dinner table, notebooks in front of her, but she hadn’t written down a thing for the past hour. Jim Murphy was worried. Something wasn't right. He hadn't forgotten her earlier lack of response until he flat-out ordered the child to come inside rather than catch her death by being out in the middle of the night. When he'd asked her if she wasn't tired like her brothers, the girl had simply responded by going to their room, but an hour later he'd found her reading, as awake as ever. Jim hadn't thought it necessary to force the child, assuming she would sleep when she could, but if the rings under her eyes this morning were anything to go by, she couldn't have gotten much rest.

Her brothers didn't seem to take much notice of their sibling's unusual behaviour, though in Dean's case, that was unusual in and of itself. Milly had even ignored Sammy, something that was pretty much unheard of between these kids. Tell him to stop talking or to go away, sure, but never that kind of solemn silence that made you wonder whether she’d even realised it was her little brother who was talking to her. 

"Mildred, communicate." Although Jim made sure to keep his voice non-threatening, he slipped some steel in there. Milly would know an order when she heard one, and it had done the trick yesterday. Kneeling in front of her, the pastor tried to catch the child's eye. He could have forced her, lifted her head, but Jim would rather see her choose to do so by herself. Not even once since the kids had arrived had she faced him directly. It was easy to guess that she was keeping something in, and it was eating her alive.

Upon hearing Jim’s order, Mildred grabbed his hand and seemed to consider telling him by tapping in morse. It was pretty rare for her to use it nowadays unless she felt extremely uncomfortable, as it was harder to read for others and took a lot more time than signing. The fact that she even considered using it was a very bad sign. "Milly?" Slowly she signed a reply, her hands moving as if through molasses. 

"Everyone messes up once in awhile Mildred, that is nothing to be ashamed of. It is what we do to rectify our mistakes that really matters." Guilt wasn't a surprising emotion. John might not have gone into detail, but Dean had given him a brief summary of events. The boy hadn't seemed to want to talk about it any more than his sister, but Jim had gotten the gist. 

"This is about yesterday?" He received a small nod. "From what I heard, regardless of any mistakes, you shot a monster. That is pretty brave, Milly." In a softer tone, he added: "I imagine you must have been quite scared."
The little girl’s body stilled. Not your normal ‘I’m thinking’ or ‘I just realised something’ kind of still, but so still that she didn’t even seem to breathe. "Milly? Mildred
look at me!" As soon as the order left Jim's mouth, he almost wished he could take it back. Milly did look up, and he gently met her eyes. They appeared completely glazed over, empty.

Jim had to force himself not to take a step back. 'It can’t be' was the only thought running through his mind. Please, dear God, let it not be true. But everything about the little girl in front of him, from her posture and her expression to her response, it confirmed his worries.

On the road, California, 2005

"What took you so long?" 

Dean ignored the question as he got back behind the wheel.
"Dean?"  Hearing the worried undertone in his brother’s voice, Dean forced himself to smirk. "What Sammy? Can't even go five minutes without my company?"
Sam turned away with a huff, just as Dean had hoped he would.

The moment of peace didn’t last long. 

"Say, Dean…?" Sam started. "Hmm?" Dean kept his eyes on the road. He couldn’t think of a lot of conversational topics Sam might be about to bring up that wouldn’t at the very least annoy him, and at the worst get him seriously pissed off.
"Mildred didn’t leave because Dad kicked her out, right?"

Eyes. on. the. road. "Well considering he didn’t throw you out when you were that age, what are you imagining an eleven-year-old could do to piss off Dad that bad." He raised an eyebrow at his brother, forcing a brief smirk.

"Ha. Ha. Very funny." Sam rolled his eyes. "So she really ran away? Why ?"

"What’s with the questions, Sam? Am I getting too boring for you? Want to do sibling swapsies?" Dean was praying to every deity he could think off that Sam would get the message. This really wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have. Not now, not when he was tired, Dad had disappeared, and they were stuck together in a fucking car for at least the next few hours.

"I just want to know."

That was probably one of the worst answers Sam could have given. That little phrase had lost its charm quite quickly and managed to annoy the hell out of Dean when they were kids. It hadn’t gotten any better with age.

His reply was curt. "Well, I just don’t want to talk about it." Take a hint for fuck's sake.

Jim Murphy's Kitchen, 1989

Faced with a barely responsive child and the unanswered questions heaping up, Jim's mind retreated to a different time. 

When Milly wouldn’t respond to any form of interaction right after Mary died, her father had been afraid the creature responsible had harmed the child somehow, made it so she couldn’t speak anymore. But Milly's silence had gone beyond just not talking. It had been almost like she was empty, a hollow shell. The little three-year-old child that had always been so excited and talkative had changed from one moment to the other into a child that would only cry silent tears, no sobbing, no whining. A child who wouldn’t scream or complain or make even the slightest sound the way other little children do. She had seemed completely closed off from the world around her, watching it pass with those impassive, empty eyes. 

Then one day, John had been over to stay for a while to rest and spend some time with the kids. Preschool-aged Dean had walked into the room, holding his sister’s hand and plainly stated that Reddy was asking how long Daddy was going to stay. It turned out that Dean had been showing his sister possible gestures for weeks now, 'just in case she wanted to say something, but didn’t know how.' To say John and Jim had been surprised would be an understatement. After just sitting there for a moment flabbergasted, John had looked at his little girl with a serious face and told her he was going to stay at least two weeks, and they’d see after that. Slowly a small smile had crept up on the five-year-old’s face. It had been a beautiful sight, that tiny smile changing the solemn face. And for the first time in over a year when she looked them in the eye, her eyes had been sparkling. 

After that first smile, Mildred had slowly opened up to the world more and more, though it took a long time before she would communicate with anyone directly, rather than solely through her brother. Dean and Milly had been utterly inseparable, always together watching out for Sammy. It was more than half a year later that he had found the child looking lost in his study. He'd asked her how he could help, trying not to sound too surprised or eager for a response. The little girl had looked at her feet, biting her lip for a long time. And then she’d suddenly looked up and gestured at his books and herself. "You want to learn how to read?" She emphatically shook her head, but changed her mind a moment later, nodding hesitantly. Looking him in the eye as if urging him to understand, she repeated her gestures one by one You-talk-me-books. And then she’d added one more, pulling a snarling face and curling her fingers like she had claws and was about to tear something apart. 

"You want me to teach you about monsters." 

He’d been utterly flabbergasted. That was the last thing he’d thought the tiny, sweet-looking little girl in front of him would want to learn about. He had suggested she ask her daddy, or perhaps Uncle Bobby, only to receive another emphatic no. On the one hand, Jim had been scared to push too hard, that anything he said or did could cause her to lose the little trust she apparently had in him. But on the other hand, he’d just wanted so badly to help her and her family. He wanted John to come home and finally have his little girl greet him herself, to see her laugh and play with Sammy the way she used to. Looking into those big, questioning eyes Jim had made a decision. 

"Alright, I’ll teach you." The child had never looked more shocked. "But I need you to promise me some things first, okay?"

Chapter Text

Jim Murphy's Kitchen, 1989

"Pastor Jim?" Dean's hesitant words from behind him shook Jim out of his contemplations. 

He gave the quiet girl at the table a last glance, before turning in the direction of the voice. "Yes, Dean, what is it? Is Sammy alright?" Dean nodded. "Playing in the living room, sir." Then he paused, frowning as if caught in an internal argument. "I just…" A deep sigh. "What about Mildred? Is she…" The child tried to look passed the pastor at his sister.

Jim Murphy smiled. He had been wondering how long it would take for Dean to check up on his little sister. As sad as the circumstances that forged it were, the Winchester sibling bond was a truly special thing. "I'm not sure, Dean." He replied, knowing that the boy would not be placated by false assurances. The inner battle in the boy's eyes intensified for a moment, and the next thing he knew, the eldest Winchester had positioned himself opposite his sister.

"Reddy?" As far as Jim could detect, the boy wasn't getting any more of a response than he got. The kid reached out and held his sister's hands tightly in his. "Just squeeze if you hear me okay? You don’t have to say anything, just let me know you’re alright?" 

The pastor’s heart was breaking seeing Dean’s shoulders tense up at the apparent lack of reaction. "Could you leave us for a while, Pastor Jim?" Dean’s face was so serious, but his eyes spoke for him and the adult got the hint. "I’ll be in my study if you need me." 

On the road, California, 2005

Not wholly unexpected, Dean had the pleasure of discovering that Sammy still couldn’t take a hint. "I have a right to know, Dean! She was my sister as well!" 

There was the easily combustible temper he remembered from Sammy as a teenager. Good to know that his little brother really had barely changed at all in the past three years. Any other day, Dean might have had the patience to deal with it (or at least a little more patience), but tonight it was just not going to happen.

"Just drop it okay?" "No!" Sam was glaring at him with that determined gleam in his eyes that convinced Dean his brother wasn’t going to let go of this topic any time soon. Maybe slowing down the ride hadn't been such a stellar plan after all. They had way too much time left in this car, and Dean was anything but eager to spend all that time in broody silence or getting interrogated.
Still, silence was the preferable option over an all-out fight.

"Sammy, just let it go. Please. Just, I don’t know, start practising your interview in your head or something."
A glance over at his little brother crushed any fantasies Dean might have left that they were not going to spend the rest of this drive in nice, pleasant, peaceful silence.

Just fucking perfect.

Jim Murphy's Kitchen, 1989

As soon as the pastor was out of sight, Dean knelt in front of his little sister. "Hey Red." The silence felt tense, and the boy didn't bother suppressing a grimace. He did so not want to deal with this right now. Still, he was the oldest, his siblings were his responsibility, and hell, having his sister there to help rather than needing help would sure make the job a lot easier.  So he held on to his shredded patience as best he could and squeezed her hands.
"Don’t worry, it’s fine. If you don’t want to talk, that’s really fine. But you know I’ll listen, right? If something's wrong. I won’t tell, I won’t lie, I won’t ask questions." He quoted their usual promise, mantra almost considering how often he'd repeated it over the years. It didn't come up quite as often now that Mildred was mostly okay, but back when Red would only talk to him, moments like this had been par for the course. 

The first time they’d talked, he’d been alone with Reddy and promised her that whatever she said to him, he wouldn’t tell on her, he wouldn’t let the grown-ups know unless she wanted him to. She’d responded to that by expressing concern regarding the questions that might follow. So he added that to his promise. It had only been months later that 'no lying' became part of it as well because Red wouldn’t believe him when he said he thought she was brave. He’d hoped that reciting the promise now would spark at least some sort of reaction from his sister. 

Patiently Dean waited, itching to demand an answer, to argue, or scream, or anything but this awful silence. But he knew it wouldn't do any good. If anything, it would just make everything last longer. So he waited, not looking at Red directly, holding her hands loosely in his. 

Almost ten minutes passed before he felt a weak squeeze. That was all he needed to know. 

It wasn’t nearly the first time Mildred had shut down since she'd first started communicating again, though Dean wasn’t sure any of the adults knew that. Most of the time, it would be in the aftermath of a nightmare, or if Sammy had done something “scary”, like running ahead and crossing the street without them. Mildred would freeze up, go still, following only direct instructions. Luckily, those triggering scenarios weren't likely to happen when there were grown-ups around at least.
In the beginning, these periods of silence had Dean really worried, but after a while, it became clear that it was just a temporary thing. Red never wanted to describe what it was like for her, what was going on in her head, so Dean figured it was just her way for dealing with stress. 
Red's meltdowns had never lasted more than a couple hours at most, though, and this one had been going on unusually long already. But, Dean figured, yesterday had been a little more stressful than usual. Watching their kid brother almost get his life force or whatever sucked out, shooting a monster for the first time, and then dealing with their dad's reaction? Not to mention the tension wrought by the elephant in the room when it came to the two of them. Dean couldn't fault her for wanting to hide. 

With a sigh, he got to his feet. "Is there anything you need me to know right now, Red?" No answer. "Alright, in that case, you are going to get some sleep. Come along." Dean tugged at his sister’s hand. Sleep often helped snap her out of it, and somehow the boy suspected his kid sister hadn't gotten much of it last night. At least it was easy enough to get her to do what he wanted in this state. The girl allowed herself to be nudged along up the stairs to the bedroom the three kids always shared when staying at Pastor Jim’s step by step. 
Thankfully Red didn’t need any help to get changed, and a few minutes later Dean was ready to leave the room. As he turned towards the door, a hand grabbed his elbow. "Do you want me to stay?" Dean knew that the faster he could get her to start talking again, the faster she’d get over it; so rather than acting on what he knew she meant with the gesture, he asked her to give him a small response. Tiny nails dug into his palm. Then, the difference ever so subtle, he could discern some nails pressing harder than others. Morse. He hadn’t paid enough attention to know exactly what she said, but considering the context, he was pretty sure it was a 'yes'. "I'll let the pastor know, be right back."

Chapter Text

Jim Murphy's Guestroom, 1989

"Stay ‘way from Sammy!" 

Dean's head shot up. It took him a second to identify the source of the unfamiliar, hoarse voice, but the moment he did, he was at his sister's bedside. "Red? Reddy, wake up!" She’d never talked during a nightmare. Never.  
"What’s happening?" His head swivelled back to the bedroom door, where a confused Sammy stared back at him. Bile rose up in his throat. Dean wasn’t sure what to do. If Red woke up and found out that she'd spoken, that Sammy had heard her speak, it was likely she’d only shut down more. Mildred hated questions, especially about that.

"Sammy, it’s fine, Red was just having a bad dream, I’ll help her. Why don't you go back downstairs and colour?" But Sam was already at his side. "Reddy talked!" 

It took all Dean had to not lose his patience with both of his siblings right this second. He took a slow breath, preparing to tell his idiotic little brother to get the heck out, when the stupid kid decided to make things even worse. "I’ll get Pastor Jim, he can help!" Before he could say anything, the kid was almost out the door "Reddy can talk, Dean!" Giddy with excitement, the little boy stormed down the stairs.


Dean was sure this wouldn’t end well. Why was he always the one who had to keep everything from falling apart? "Red, come on. Wake up!" He shook his sister desperately. Finally, Mildred sat up, staring at him with wide eyes, gasping for air, just as Pastor Jim appeared at the doorstep with Sammy in his wake. "Is everything okay?" 

No, everything was anything but freaking okay, but Dean knew he could hardly say that to the kind man who’d tried to help them so much over the years. "Red just had a bit of a bad dream, it’s no big deal." He moved to sit in front of his little sister, hiding her from the pastor’s view. 

From the way his eyes immediately looked up at Dean it was clear Pastor Jim hadn’t missed the protective gesture. 

"But Reddy was talking!" Sammy apparently had totally missed the tense mood hanging in the room. Behind him, Dean heard a sharp intake of breath. The older boy was highly tempted to just snap at his little brother to keep his big mouth shut. But it wasn’t Sammy’s fault, the kid couldn’t know... "Come on Sammy, let's give Red some space, yeah? Why don't you go make a drawing to help her feel better or something?" he pleaded with his little brother. 

The child looked ready to protest, his eyes moved between Dean and the pastor, who’d so far been silently observing the interaction. Finally, Pastor Jim stepped in. "Your brother is right, Samuel." He smiled kindly and offered a hand which Sammy reluctantly accepted. "And if I recall correctly, I promised you we could bake cookies the next time you visited, didn't I? Wouldn't that be a nice surprise for your sister?" 

Dean didn’t think he’d ever been quite so grateful for the pastor’s insight. "Oh, yes, I'm sure she'd love that, Sammy." Seeing that he was outnumbered, the youngest Winchester finally gave in. Dean sighed with relief. That could've ended a lot worse. Sammy had a stubborn streak a mile wide, and he did not have the patience to deal with it right now.

The boy got up to close the bedroom door and open the curtains, daylight flooding the room. He turned to his little sister. "We need to talk."

On the road, California, 2005

Sam had done his best to just keep quiet. He really had. But… "Why won’t you ever talk about it?" The question sounded grumpy and accusing far more than he'd intended, but oh well. From the corner of his eye, Sam could see Dean tense and very carefully regulate his breathing. "Sam listen. For once in your life, just listen. I. Don’t. Want to talk about it. How clear do I have to be?" 

"Well, I do!" Sam glared at his brother. He tried to remember when he’d last tried to talk to Dean about Mildred. It had been a long time back. "I want to know why a little girl would just leave when she had a family that cared for her and needed her."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Sure, Sammy. I bet your life was far too empty without another older sibling to boss you around. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. We were fine, she was fine. There’s nothing to talk about."

"You weren't fine, Dean, don't fucking lie to me." His big brother's death glare might have been effective when Sam was a little kid, hell, it still could be, but not when he was this worked up already. These questions had been festering for far too long, and he was just aching for some answers. "You needed her, Dean! You needed someone to help care for me, to share-"
The car pulled over, and suddenly Dean was only inches from his face. "What, Sammy? Share my emotions? Share my 'burden'? I was fine! I don’t need all this-" He gestured wildly with his hands. "All this emotional crap. Didn’t need it then, don’t need it now. So just drop it okay? Mildred did what she had to do." 

" She was eleven years old, Dean! What in the world could she have had to do that wasn’t staying with her family!" 

Dean shook his head. "You don’t get it, Sammy. You don't know what it was like…" "Know what what was like, Dean? When? Because I don't recall you leaving if it was that bad." He frowned at his brother, but Dean just clenched his jaw in frustration.

The silence stretched, uncomfortable, heavy, until Dean finally shook his head and got the Impala moving again. "I'm not doing this, Sammy. Not now, not today, not ever. So just drop it." He focussed his eyes back on the road, expression as closed off as ever. 

Jim Murphy's Guestroom, 1989

"We are doing this today."

Red's head turned away, the stubborn set of her jaw making it perfectly clear what she thought of her brother's declaration. You could cut the tension with a knife. Dean grabbed the chair he'd been reading in while Mildred napped, and placed it next to her bedside. He wasn't sure where to start.

"Red, tell me, what the hell is going on?" She looked at him incredulously. Strangely enough, although she hadn’t actually signed anything yet, her general demeanour had been far more open since waking up than Dean would have expected considering her state before she went to bed and the current circumstances. It seemed that despite the nightmare, sleeping at least had helped a little bit. "Look, I’m not going to ask you what the nightmare was about. You’d tell me if you wanted to. But I think you owe me some kind of explanation, Red."

Silence hung between them.

"You lied to me."
The accusation was soft, but, more than he liked, it reflected the hurt and anger Dean had felt when he'd come to that realisation last night, facing their father. 
Mildred looked away from him, still stubbornly refusing to communicate, and all of a sudden, it just became too much. Dean snapped. 

"Red, I swear, I know you are aware enough to sign, and if you don’t start doing so soon I…" Well, there wasn’t really much he could do. "I'm on your side, Mildred! I already told you, I'm not going to tell on you. I covered for you already. So the least you could do is give me some explanation of why."
Maybe he wasn’t doing the nice or patient thing, but there was a big difference between not talking because you can’t, and not talking because you just don’t feel like it. Red knew that. And frankly, right now she was being a brat about it.

His little sister bit her lip. Her hands lifted as if she were about to sign, but they were just left there, hovering in the air. 


I'm sorry.

"Well, you've got a shit way of showing it." That got her to glare at him. It felt good, finally getting a rise out of her. Dean knew that pre-nap, his sister had been too lost in her own mind to help him out, but fuck it, she still hadn't answered his question, and he was tired of dancing around the topic. "I asked you why." A brief pause. "We made a promise, Red."

Just drop it, okay? I don't. Want. To Talk.  


Chapter Text

Jim Murphy's Kitchen, 1989

By the time they came downstairs, Milly was feeling like she'd been run through a car wash front to back and back to front - without the car - and she still had to face Sammy and Pastor Jim. Her brother smirked at her, probably guessing what she was thinking. He looked entirely too pleased with himself for managing to get her to talk, and extracting an extra promise from her in return for having helped her out. This was going to suck. 

Jerk. He had the gall to giggle at her sign, and maybe, just a tiny bit, it pulled the slightest of smiles out of Milly too. Maybe it did feel a little good to have cleared the air between them. 
Before her mind could even properly settle on that thought, she had a six-year-old clinging to her waist. Hiya Sammy. She gave him a bit of a hug. The girl was feeling more than a little apprehensive about the questions she figured were coming, and the disappointment that would ultimately follow. Still, Mildred supposed it couldn't be helped, and it wasn't her little brother's fault. He should never have heard her speak in the first place.

Resigned, she let herself get dragged into the kitchen, where the pastor was waiting with a sheet of freshly baked cookies. He caught her eye but didn't speak. Milly's stomach felt knotted up, discomfort building as she waited, unsure of how to start the conversation. Just like Sammy, she was sure Pastor Jim would have questions. Questions that might not be any easier to answer than her little brother's, but that, unlike those of her brother, she couldn't avoid or deflect either. 

She glanced over at Dean, who gave her a little nudge in the back. Stupid brothers and their stupid promises. Her brain replayed the earlier sentiment: this was going to suck. A deep breath.
Hi, Pastor Jim. Milly signed hesitantly. Have you heard from Dad yet? His answer was somewhat reassuring. She'd have at least a couple of days to sort herself out, and some time to spend with her brothers before shit hit the fan, so she supposed she should make the best of it. 

Hey, Sammy, which cookie can I try? 

On the road, California, 2005

Sam huffed and glared out of the window. He knew he probably shouldn't push Dean any further. Hell, he'd probably already overstepped. But that picture had clearly been a pandora's box for both of them, and he'd never been good at keeping quiet about the multitudes of questions milling about in his mind. 

He sighed. 
His breath formed condense on the car window. For a moment, Sam was tempted to draw a grumpy face in it as he might have as a kid, but reconsidered. Dean would only bitch about him leaving stripes on the windows of his precious baby. 

It made him think though… back to all of the time he'd spent as a bored kid on the backseat of the Impala. One of them driving shotgun with their dad, the other two trying not to kill each other in the back. Sam vaguely recalled his sister drawing in the car, not on the window, but in a notebook, trying to entertain him. 

Despite the sense that it was supposed to be a happy memory, it didn't feel that way. Instead, it felt nervous, tense, like they had been doing something forbidden. In fact, most of his memories of Mildred seemed tainted by that vague sense of apprehension and secrecy. Perhaps it was just because his dad and brother hadn't ever wanted to talk about her. His sister felt like a 'forbidden topic' and that might affect the little he did remember as well. But still... He just couldn't shake the feeling that there was something more to it. 

Jim Murphy's Kitchen, 1989

Dad showed up earlier than expected. It had been less than two days since he had dropped off the kids at Pastor Jim's place, and Milly was just helping the pastor prepare lunch when they heard the low rumble of the impala’s motor approaching the house. "Daddy!" Sammy ran towards the door.
Dean threw her a hard-to-read look. Pastor Jim noticed, judging by his face, but the man kindly decided not to remark on it. He had been pretty great about that the last couple days, holding off on pushing any questions, as long as all the children seemed to be doing okay. He had even helped out with distracting Sammy. 

It hadn't been easy, explaining to her little brother that she simply couldn't talk, at least not yet, regardless of what he'd heard. But, with some help from Dean and the pastor, they had managed to distract him and point out the upsides of Milly's silence. Sammy had somewhat reluctantly let the issue go for now. 

Somehow, Milly didn't think that her father would be as easily placated. Watching him enter and brush off Sammy with a quick hug hair ruffle, the knot in her stomach tightened. Dean greeted his father next, his lips moving fast, but they were too far away from her to hear what they were saying. As their dad's heavy gaze landed on her, though, she could guess. Mildred swallowed with some difficulty and quickly returned her attention to the table settings, adding an extra spot for her father.

Pastor Jim gave her shoulder a squeeze and went to go talk to his friend. 

Dean. She signed for her brother's attention as soon as he was close enough and the adults were out of their line of sight. Her brother send her a wry smile and brought Sammy along to go wash his hands in the sink. 
What did you say?
His expression wasn't any less tense than hers. "Just that you wanted to talk to him and Pastor Jim, when he has a moment." He didn't ask what about? "Nah," her brother replied, reaching out to hand Sammy the soap, before lifting Sammy up to reach the tap. Closing the tap and handing the kid a towel to dry off his hands, Dean bent a bit closer to his sister to give her a look of warning. "I don't think the hunt went well. Please don't do anything stupid." 

Well, that was reassuring.

Lunch was something of a tense affair. Even Sammy seemed to pick up on the mood and picked at his beans in silence. The moment they were done, Milly tried to hurry and start washing up, but her father's gruff voice stopped her in her tracks. "Mildred." She eyed the man a little warily, before signing a careful 'yes sir?'. "To the study, please." 
Dean locked eyes with her, his expression mirroring her thoughts. Dad wasn't sounding too happy. "Go on, Sammy and I can take care of all this." His grin was probably supposed to be reassuring, but it wasn't particularly effective. Milly offered an undoubtedly equally un-reassuring grin in return.

"Nothing. Stupid." Her brother's eyes almost begged her, as she was about to leave the room. The best she could do was a wry apology. Sorry, not sorry. She was out the door before he could protest.

Chapter Text

Jim Murphy's Study, 1989

"You did what?

It took all Mildred's willpower not to shrink away at her father's tone. She didn't think she'd seen him this angry ever, and she hadn't even gotten to the stuff she had actually promised Dean she would talk about. Maybe she should have predicted that the first confession wouldn't go over well. Well, she'd kind of assumed it wouldn't. Her brother had literally told her not to tell Dad about what had actually happened with Dean leaving the house, claiming it was a suicidal endeavour, and he'd already covered for her regardless. No need to seek out their father's wrath.

Naturally, like a good younger sister, Milly had completely disregarded that advice. In part because confessing had been part of her plan from the start. Of course, that had been with the idea that nothing could go wrong, and her Dad needed to know so he could trust her… not so that he could lose every bit of faith he might have had. Regardless, a plan was a plan. And besides, maybe she'd sort of thought somewhere that the knot in her stomach might unwind a little if she fessed up.
If so, she had been thoroughly wrong.

" Look at me, Mildred." Much as she'd like to, Milly knew she couldn't disobey a direct order, not if she wanted to get out of this room in one piece. Her father's eyes were frightening, smoldering with fury, his voice low, growling at her almost. "What did I tell you, before leaving."  

She swallowed hard, but, despite her reluctance, started recounting the instructions one by one.
Don't pick up the phone unless it rings once first.
Tell Dean to call Pastor Jim if Dad wasn't back by Sunday.
Lock the doors and windows, close the shades.
Listen to Dean.
Tell Dean to stay in the room.
When something tries to bust in, shoot first, ask questions later.
And most important… watch out for Sammy. 
There were seven instructions in total. This time, Milly didn't bother suppressing the urge to cringe as her dad lifted a finger in the air to tally up every order she had disobeyed. It started out okay, but by the time they reached Sammy and the third finger popped into the air, the girl was ready to cry. "Do you even know…" Her father's voice trailed off, dripping in disapproval and anger. He rubbed his nose in a visible attempt to stay calm. It failed. "You know what? I can't do this right now." The man stormed out the study, leaving Milly alone with Pastor Jim.

Eyes full of apprehension, she glanced up at the man who had been silent throughout the entire ordeal so far. I wasn't… Her hands stilled, unsure of what to say.
The pastor let out a sigh as he walked around and knelt to get on her eye level. The disappointment was easy to read on his face, but there was also a sadness there that Milly didn't understand.
She looked away.

On the road, California, 2005

"What did she do, Dean?" He ignored the question. Even knowing that it would only get his brother more annoyed, he'd already said he wasn't going to talk about it anymore, and he definitely wasn't going to go there. 

"Did she kill someone?"

That one he couldn't ignore. Dean stared at his brother with an incredulous look in his eyes. The car nearly swerved before he was shaken out of his state of astonishment and remembered to focus on the road. "No?! What the hell, Sammy." 

From his headstrong expression, it was clear that Sam wasn't going to give up. "Like you said, she must have done something seriously fucked up for Dad to let her go, even if he didn't kick her out in the first place." "I didn't say she fucking murdered someone, Sam. She was eleven ." Dean spotted a sign for an upcoming gas station and pulled over. Moments later, he was out of the car and at Sam's door. "What is your problem, dude? I thought I said we weren't doing this today." His little brother pulled his bitchiest face to date. "Yeah, you did. And I said we were ." 

Leaning against the car, Dean turned his eyes to the heavens. "Alright." He gestured for Sammy to get out of the car. "Alright?" It seemed that that was not the answer his younger brother had been expecting. Dean nodded with the fakest smile he could manage. "Yes, alright. What do you want me to say, Sammy? Because I'll say it if it means you'll shut up and move the fuck on." 

With a pissy expression, the younger boy placed himself opposite his brother. " 'Alright' then. So…" Before he could complete his sentence, Dean held up a hand and interrupted. "Do keep in mind that you're talking about your sister, here. Someone who watched out for you just as much as I did as a kid." "Yeah, except that she didn't."

God, he was getting tired of this. "She did, Sammy." 

"Then why," his annoying little brother continued, properly fired up now that he apparently felt he that was getting somewhere. "Why do I not recall that, Dean? I've been trying to remember, really, and I recall plenty of things to do with you. Arguments, school, Christmasses, anything, I remember you being there, looking out for me. But not her, not the same way even before she left. Mostly, I just recall her avoiding me or outright ignoring me. I have barely any recollection of us ever doing anything together without you there, and the times I do recall, I was feeling scared ." " Sammy- " "No!" 

Sammy had started pacing now. "No, Dean. If you're not going to tell me what happened, then you've got to at least let me draw my own conclusions. Did she just, I don't know, hate me? Was Dad scared she was going to hurt me or something? Stop defending her, for just… one moment and be honest with me." 
Dean closed his eyes. "Sammy, just stop, okay?" He stepped in front of his brother, making eye contact. "It wasn't like that. Mildred was doing the best she could." 

"The best she could?" The unbelieving tone in Sammy's voice did not help. "What does that even mean, Dean." 

"It means she was following orders." 

His phone rang.

Jim Murphy's Study, 1989

"Do you understand why your father got so angry?" Pastor Jim tilted his head, trying to catch her eye. Milly nodded. I disobeyed an order. Orders, she corrected after a moment's thought. 

The man in front of her slowly nodded his head, considering her reply. "That is part of it, yes, but not all. Your father is scared, Mildred. For you, and Sammy, and Dean. Those orders are there to keep all three of you safe. Saturday…" His voice trailed off as the pastor gently placed a hand on her knee. "Saturday any of you could have gotten badly hurt. Sammy could have died, Milly." He hesitated, as if he had intended to say more, but changed his mind. "Your father got a big scare. And sometimes, when people get scared like that, they act angry instead." 

She'd tried so hard to hold them in and swallow them while her father was in the room, but big, silent tears came rolling down her cheeks now. Milly furiously tried to wipe them away, hide her face to cover up the evidence. She didn't want Pastor Jim to see. But the man put his hands on hers and placed a finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him. "Do you understand, Mildred?" She signed a shaky affirmation. That seemed to be enough for the pastor.

That's not all, though

More shaky signs, nervous, and perhaps a little angry more than upset this time. She'd made a promise.
"It isn't?" The man looked surprised, frowning in worry as he scrutinised her. Milly felt the strong urge to start fidgeting, but since she needed her hands to talk, she limited it to curling up her toes inside her shoes. That isn't what Dean wanted me to tell you.

The pastor got up again and sat himself behind his desk. "It did seem unusual that your brother would have let you face your father's wrath alone. In fact, didn't you say he had already lied to your father about his involvement?" She nodded miserably. "So what did you and Dean decide you needed to tell us?" 
Milly bit her lip. She wondered if she might be able to postpone this chat a little bit longer on the grounds of her dad not being there, but then, did she really want to do this with Dad right now? Maybe it would be good to talk it through with Pastor Jim first. The man was a good listener, and her dad, well… she wasn't really sure how he'd react, especially now. 

So, she steeled herself for another unpleasant chat, inhaling a deep breath before taking the plunge. 

It's about why I did it. 

That got her a raised eyebrow, and an encouraging nod to go on. It didn't help. Her hands hovered a little uncertainly. She didn't want to do this. The questions, the fear, the very thought of intentionally thinking about it… But she couldn't back down now. She'd promised Dean. 

It's my nightmares... about the yellow-eyed man.

Chapter Text

Winchester Household, Lawrence, Texas, 1983

"Goodnight, Mildred." Soft lips brushed her forehead. The toddler giggled. "Night night, Mummy." She snuggled a little deeper below the blankets, watching her mother and big brother kiss Sammy goodnight from her big girl bed on the side of the nursery. A tall shape blocked the hallway light. 

"Hey Dean." Her brother squealed and threw himself into their daddy's arms. "Daddy!" Milly was sitting straight up in bed already, reaching out her arms for her own hug. The blankets that her mother had just tucked in were already undone. "Hey Princess." Daddy sat down on the side of the bed, Dean still on one hip as he kissed the same spot her mother had just moments ago. "Am not a princess today, Daddy." She pouted accusingly at their father, making her older sibling giggle. "Oh no?" The little girl stubbornly shook her head. "No. I'm a pirate. Arrr." Dean happily joined her in their well-practised pirate sounds. 

"Well, in that case…" Daddy held up the blanket with a gesture to lay back down so he could tuck her in. "I feel much assured, knowing Sammy has two brave pirate siblings to watch over him." He leaned over again and gave her another kiss. "Now sleep tight, Madam Pirate." He turned to the side so Dean could give her his own sloppy goodnight kiss. "Night night, Reddy." "Night night Daddy, night night Dean." 

Her brother waved as he and Daddy left the room, leaving her and Sammy alone with the soft ticking of the clock and soothing melodies coming from Sammy's music box. Within moments, the little girl was fast asleep.

It was a bad dream that woke her up. With a gasp, Milly sat up in her bed, the sheets already a wrapped up mess around her feet. In the moonlight, she saw a tall shape standing over Sammy. She smiled. "Daddy!" Tiny feet pattered across the floor, but when she looked up. It wasn't her daddy's face at all. Daddy didn't have yellow eyes. 

Milly's breathing sped up. "G-go 'way from Sammy." She tried to yell, but her throat felt closed off and the words came out as barely a whisper. The yellow-eyed man tilted his head and raised a single finger. 


Panicking, Milly looked over at her baby brother. Daddy said she was 'sposed to protect him. Watch over him. But Mildred didn't feel much like a brave pirate right now. 
The yellow-eyed man approached.
The little girl took a step back, and another, and before she knew it, she was pressed with her back against the wall in the corner of the nursery, the strange man kneeling in front of her. 

Milly's lip started to wobble. She wanted to cry for help, for Daddy or Mummy or Dean, but she couldn't seem to remember how. Staring into those bright yellow eyes, she held her breath. It wasn't easy to see, but it almost seemed like the man was smiling at her. 

It wasn't a nice smile. 

"We are going to play a little game. It's called 'don't say a word, or someone dies.' Doesn't that sound fun?" Milly didn't quite understand what was going on or what the man meant. All she knew was that she was scared, and definitely not in the mood for games. Yet the man took her silence for consent and smiled even wider. A terrible, terrible smile. "Good girl. You wouldn't want to wake up Mummy or Daddy and see them burn, now would you?" Wide-eyed, she shook her head. 

That didn't seem to be enough. The man leaned even closer and the toddler started shivering, silent tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. She pressed her hands over her mouth to keep from making a sound. "Yes, I see we understand each other. That is the first rule. Now for the second …" If he grinned any wider, his face was going to split, Milly thought. "I wouldn't tell anyone about what you see tonight, if you like your little brother alive" His tone was almost friendly now. "No one likes a tattletale."

Finally, the scary man retreated, but the little girl daren't move yet. He went back to Sammy's crib. She tried to look and see what he was doing. She had to keep her baby brother safe! Then, Sammy started crying. The sound made her cringe, though the yellow-eyed man didn't seem to get cross with Sammy for not being quiet at least. And crying meant that help would come. Her eyes locked on the door. 
Indeed, it wasn't long before her mummy appeared, but much to Milly's dismay, she didn't come in to help. Mildred glanced over at the scary man and Sammy, and she couldn't help herself. She cried out. "Mummy!" 

It wasn't loud, but apparently, it was loud enough. The yellow-eyed man turned to her, as her mother came back running in. "What did I say?" He clucked his tongue as if scolding her.
Mummy smacked into the wall, without him even touching her, and like a magnet on the fridge, she seemed to get dragged up the wall, and then the ceiling. She screamed.  And then she was quiet, her mouth frozen open in a silent plea for help. Milly couldn't move, couldn't take her eyes off her, as a red stain started spreading on her mother's stomach.

"I warned you." The scary man sent her one last smile while she could hear her daddy's heavy footsteps on the stairs, calling Mummy's name. "Now are you ready to be a good girl and stay quiet ?" She silently nodded, eyes locked with her mother's even as those bright yellow eyes were still burning in her mind. 

She didn't even hear her father burst through the door, couldn't move, or speak to warn him as he moved over to her baby brother. Then Mummy burst into flames. 

This was all her fault.

Chapter Text

Jim Murphy's Study, 1989

Milly bit her lip, hands finally falling still. She tried to not to guess at what the pastor might be thinking.
Her story hadn't been the most coherent, she knew. It was in part because her nightmare, well, it just wasn't very coherent. Just bits and pieces all mashed up. But at the thought of sharing even that much, waves of fear and panic crashed over her, and pictures flashed before her eyes. Those big yellow eyes staring her down, a smile so scary it turned her blood into ice every night, and her mother on the ceiling. It was her fault. 

Even through the garbled recollection, that message was communicated loud and clear, together with some others. To speak was to kill. And Sammy would die because of her. 

She didn't want them to be true. 

The pastor took forever to start speaking. Milly stared at her hands. She wasn't sure she wanted to see his reaction, didn't want the man to laugh at her for having bad dreams like a little kid, or worse… to tell her he thought they might be real. 

"Mildred..." The child glanced up. Pastor Jim looked tired more than anything. And sad. There was something else there, something Milly couldn't put her finger on, but she tried to shrug it off. "I'm not sure what to say." He rubbed his chin. "You have this dream often?"
She nodded, and he nodded along. "When did it start?" After. She signed the single word, knowing Pastor Jim would understand. She was right, as he nodded again. 

"Alright." He put his hands on the table and stretched his back. Her eyes followed his every movement. "So, now... what does this have to do with Fort Douglas and disobeying your father's orders." The girl shifted a little in her chair, looking at the floor as she tried to find the right words. Something that somehow didn't make it all sound like a stupid, reckless, harebrained thing to do.  

Dean says bad dreams aren't real. "Does Dean know what these ones are about?" She shook her head emphatically before peeking up at the pastor's face, not even really sure what she was hoping to see there. His expression was impossible to read, and he simply gestured for her to go on. I thought that… her hands hesitated. Maybe, if I could prove to… everyone, that I could look after Sammy, and nothing was going to happen, maybe… She shrugged, a small sigh escaping her lips. Maybe it would all go away and then Dad-
Her signs had started to speed up, tumbling from one to the other as the words poured out. They came to an abrupt stop, as she found herself lost in her own words and thoughts.

Side of the road, California, 2005

Sam jammed his hands into his pockets as he watched his brother on the phone in the distance. He didn't really get why Dean felt the need to walk away to make a call, but his thoughts were far too occupied with his other problems to be too concerned about it. She'd been following orders… that raised more questions than it answered. He might not always agree with his father, but he couldn't imagine the man intentionally alienating one of his kids from the other two. Dad cared about family, even when he had a shit way of showing it. 
"Everything okay?"
Dean returned from his mystery phone call. Sam scanned his big brother's face. Maybe it was just a trick of the light, but the guy seemed a little less tense than before. Not relaxed by any means, but not quite so ready to snap at him for the first word that left his mouth. 

His brother offered a distracted nod. "Where were we?" A huff escaped Sam's mouth. He was surprised that Dean hadn't tried to get into the car and shrug off their previous conversation. Hell, he'd half suspected that that phone call was a fake to give him an excuse to bow out. "You said she was following orders? But that doesn't make sense, Dean." His brother shrugged. 

"It's complicated, Sammy. Complicated, and messy, and I really don't know..."
'Complicated and messy' summed up their family pretty neatly, Sam thought. "Just try, please. I know that you and Dad know more about why she left. I may not be the man's biggest champion, but I know that Dad would have torn apart half the states if he had to, to track us down and drag us back if we had tried to run away like that as a kid." He frowned. "I just can't shake this feeling that some of her behaviour… it had to do with me." 

Although he wasn't exactly doing it intentionally, Sam figured it wouldn't hurt to throw his best confused-sad face into the mix. His brother sighed. "It wasn't your fault, Sammy. I swear. She'd kill me if I let you think that."
"So whose was it."
Sam begged with his eyes as best he could. "Please, Dean, I just want to know the truth."

Outside Jim Murphy's Study, 1989

"John, slow down, we don't know anything for certain yet." 

An elbow pricked in her back as Milly tried to lean closer to the door. It earned her brother a glare. "I really don't think this is a good idea, Red." That earned him an eye roll.
You can go, no one's making you listen. Dean clenched his jaw in frustration. "I'm not going to leave you alone like this. Did you see Dad? He's ramped up to kick your ass as it is." I wasn't gonna let you take the blame! "I told you I didn't mind!" 

Milly stilled her hands. There was a pause at the other side of the wooden door and even her brother ceased in his furious hissing. The sound of heavy footsteps filled the silence. Someone was pacing inside. Slowly, bits and pieces of the heated conversation taking place on the other side of the door started coming through again, quieter than before. Mildred could only make out a word here and there. Her dad still sounded pissed off, while Pastor Jim seemed to be listing names now. Mostly ones Milly didn't recognise, but some that she did. She looked at Dean. What if Dad wants to get rid of me? Maybe he's going to leave me with another hunter, or Uncle Bobby, or, or...  

Her brother threw her a sceptical look. "Dad isn't just going to 'get rid' of you, Red, you're his kid." The uncertainty must have been visible on her face, because her brother sighed. "You know what? Screw this." Before she could stop him, he'd knocked on the door.

The talking stopped. 

What are you- Milly started to sign, but before she could finish, the door swung open. John Winchester sighed as he took in the sight of his two eldest children who had clearly been listening at the door, their younger brother unconcerned and occupied with one of Milly's notebooks not too far behind them. The girl lifted up her hands to try and explain, but Dean was quicker. "Dad, please tell Mildred you're not about to leave her by the side of the road. She's getting on my nerves." 

If looks could kill, the older Winchester boy would be dead on the floor.

Their father's eyes moved between the two kids. He didn't look too impressed either. Finally, he gestured with his head. "In."
"I will keep an eye on Samuel while you talk." Pastor Jim offered the two children a reassuring smile before throwing their father a look and stepping into the hall. Dean nudged his sister to get moving. Soon, the door fell closed behind them. 

Their dad placed himself before them, his face serious. The traces of his earlier fury had not quite left yet. Milly swallowed, very interested with the wooden flooring all of a sudden. "Eyes up." With considerable effort, the girl dragged her attention away from the floorboards. Next to her, she could sense Dean stiffen in an obvious attempt to hide the urge to squirm. Their father stared them down for what felt like an eternity, before finally opening his mouth. 

He sighed.

It seemed that was going around a lot with the grown-ups currently, and Milly didn't think it a particularly good sign. She steeled herself for whatever was coming next. 

"Mildred, you are not going anywhere." Her chest relaxed marginally, only to tighten right back up at the next words. "But I'd hold off on the celebration."

Dad squatted down to get to their eye level, taking his time to take in both his kids. "The Shtriga, the thing I was hunting, that put kids into comas and nearly got Sammy? It's gone." For a moment, Milly was confused. If it was gone, that must mean Dad had killed it, but if he killed it, wouldn't he be- "It got away." Her brother interrupted that train of thought. Dad nodded. She looked at him. Then at Dean, and back again. 

The children…  
Her father nodded in response to the sign. "They're dead ." 

Mildred felt like she was going to throw up. This was all her fault. She hadn't killed it. Maybe it went and hid, or it found some other town. Maybe it was out there, killing more children somewhere where Dad couldn't find it. No wonder he had been so angry earlier. If she'd messed up any worse, if the Shtriga had gotten Sammy too… A firm finger pushed her chin back up, forcing her to look straight into her father's eyes. There was plenty of anger still lingering there. It was hard not to look away. 

"Jim says you talked the other day." Her whole body stilled, mind taking a moment to process the connection. Her brother seemed confused by the statement, but Milly understood. I… Two big, strong hands wrapped themselves around hers, stopping her from signing any more. "It's possible that it was just a coincidence." Her father's words seemed to be coming from miles and miles away, just barely getting through the rushing in her ears. "But it will not happen again."

Chapter Text

Bobby Singer's Place, 1990

John leaned against the window sill, watching the kids load up the car outside. "I don't know what you want me to say."
He shifted his attention back to the other man in the room. "There is nothing about this that suggests possession. Other than the thing from her nightmares there's no evidence of any demonic evolvement at all , heck, of any supernatural involvement even." 

His eyes drifted back to the window. From the looks of it, his children had finished putting their stuff away. Milly was sitting with her back against the Impala, a notebook in front of her nose, and his boys were nowhere to be seen. Probably went back in or something. 


Bobby Singer was glaring at him. John shook his head. "I won't take the risk, Bobby." The sound of a heavy book getting closed none too gently echoed through the room. He didn't bother looking up, just keeping his eyes on the little girl outside. The unknowing subject of their conversation.
A ball rolled against her leg, and it wasn't long before Sammy appeared, apparently trying to strike up a conversation with his sister. 

John's eyes narrowed. Bobby kept talking in the background, but he ignored it in favour of opening the window and having a look around. If Dean was outside, he wasn't anywhere where he could see him.
"Hey!" Both children looked up.
Instantly, Milly shoved her little brother away, making Sammy smack against the ground. The guilty look on the kid's face told him that the child knew exactly what was wrong, and it wasn't that she'd just hurt her brother. Though the girl looked torn about it, she didn't reach over to help her the other child. Again, he called from the window. "Sammy, go find your brother!" His youngest pulled a face and looked ready to start talking back, but something Mildred signed must have stopped him. The boy trudged off, and John closed the window, turning back to Bobby, who had watched the whole exchange.

"What was the last time you smiled at her?" He scoffed. "I'm serious!" The other man walked around his desk to come to stand next to John, looking at the kid in question. "Your little girl doesn't need an exorcism or more isolation. She's a kid. She needs her brothers and she needs her daddy, John."
"What she and her brothers need, is to be safe."
"Bullshit." Bobby shook his head. 

"Excuse me?" He appreciated the man's help with the research, but this wasn't what he'd come for. Bobby didn't seem to take the hint, continuing like he hadn't said a thing. "That child would not hurt a hair on her brother's head, any more than Dean would." "Not willingly, no." The smaller man's fist landed heavy on the window sill, frustration clear on his face. "You are pushing that little girl away, John, and you are making her do the same with everyone she cares about. I don't think it has anything to do with keeping any of you safe." 

"Oh yeah?" John was started to get fired up as well, now. He didn't appreciate getting told what to do with his kids, and he definitely didn't need anyone to insinuate that he was being a bad father. "She's you, John. If you pulled your head out of your ass for one second you'd see that. Except that after she watched her mummy burn on the ceiling, she couldn't go hunt, so guess what, she found herself another monster to control." "You are talking out of your ass, Bobby."

He walked over to the desk and started gathering his stuff. "She's my kid, and I will do what's best for her." Shoving his notes into his bag, John turned towards the door. He didn't bother thanking the man for his help. It wasn't like it had actually gotten him anywhere. "We're done here." 

Side of the road, California, 2005

Dean nodded, mulling over Sammy's demand for honesty. Maybe he should just give him what he asked for.
"Mildred was fucked in the head." The words were blunt, though Dean tried to soften them up with a bit of a wry smile. "She still, is, probably." There were undoubtedly better ways of saying it, but he didn't feel like dancing around the issue anymore. This whole conversation had already lasted far too long, racking up too many shitty memories. He just wanted to get it over with. 

Sam was staring at him like he'd gone 'round the bend himself. "What?" "She used to talk, you know, before Mum died? I don't know exactly what she saw, what she heard that night. She never said, and I never asked her. But it fucked her up, Sammy." Dean shook his head. "For a while, I thought it was getting better. She started communicating and helping, and while it lasted, man, it was nice, tag-teaming to keep an eye on you and on Dad. You really don't remember any of that? Her drawings at bedtime, the imaginary adventures…" 

"So what changed?" Dean blinked at Sam's question. "Huh?" "What changed, why did she stop all of that, when did she…" He nodded, pursing his lips as the less awesome stuff punched its way to the surface. "She did something stupid, fucked up big. You must've been six or something? Gave us all a scare, and it brought some stuff to the light. Dad… I'd never seen him that angry before." Dean shook his head, trying to make sense of the memories. "After that, things were different. Dad made her sleep on the couch near him instead of with us, kept her away, busy. She wasn't allowed to be alone with you, ever. I was supposed to have you two in sight at all times. Dad said it was safer that way, and I don't think Red disagreed with him, not really. Followed instructions to the letter, usually. She wasn't happy about it either though…" 

Both brothers were lost in thought for a second, one trying to remember, while the other just wanted to forget. " No one was happy about it, I guess. Everything felt on edge, all the time. It wasn't healthy, Sammy, for no one. And it was never going to last." "So she left?" Dean nodded in affirmation. "So she left."

Some Motel, 1991

She'd just wanted to make sure Sammy was alright. Her little brother had been sick for a couple of days now. Dean said it was just the flu, that there was nothing to worry about, but even so, she could see he was just as concerned as she was, and Dad wasn't any better. Every day that Sammy's fever stayed, the man seemed to get more agitated. 

He'd been getting more and more on her case recently too, as they were starting to run out of ideas to try and fix whatever was wrong with her. Milly had her own suspicions, ones that she'd say were pretty damn clear from two years' worth of evidence, but whenever she tried to talk to her father about it, the man just shut her up. It was getting more on her nerves every day. Their arguments had grown frequent, if you could call them 'arguments' when Milly couldn't actually get a word in edgewise - it's easy to talk over someone who cannot make a sound.
All he seemed to do these days was blame her. Anything that went wrong, any hunt, the smallest thing, could set him off. And now her little brother was ill, and despite following every single goddamn order the man had given her to the best of her abilities for the last two years, no matter how unreasonable or unfair, he wouldn't even let her be in the same room as him. As if he really thought it was somehow her fault that Sammy was sick. 

So, for the first time since the Shtriga incident, she'd directly disobeyed an order and snuck into Sammy's room once everyone was asleep. Considering that he rarely even let her out of his sight these days, she should have expected her father to realise when she got out of bed. 

He'd caught her red-handed, sitting on Sammy's bedside.

He father had grabbed her arm and pulled her away. She didn't think that he'd intended to be so rough. Her dad had never intentionally hurt her, not physically. But regardless, she stumbled trying to get up and knocked her head hard against the wall. Unintentionally, her mouth had opened, though not a sound escaped. It hadn't mattered.

Still holding onto her arm so tight that she was fairly sure there'd be bruises tomorrow, her dad had pulled her out of the bedroom, ignoring the sounds of her confused brothers who had woken up. Rather than check whether she was okay, he tore into her right there, calling her reckless, irresponsible, demanding to know whether there was any chance she'd made a sound. 

Everything she had been holding back just pored out. How fed up she was with the restrictions, the endless tests and visits to hunters, spiritual folk, anyone who might be able to detect anything wrong with her and then some. And none of it ever led anywhere. She was sick and tired of her father's blind denial of the possibility that nothing was wrong with her at all. Completely losing her temper, Mildred made a stupid, stupid mistake. 
She admitted that she'd tried to talk last week. On her own, no one around to even hear her, she'd tried to make a sound, but couldn't do it. The anxiety and fear associated with it, it was just far too much to manage.

Despite the fact that nothing had happened, he'd been fuming. He'd sent her to bed, said they would discuss it the next day, but Milly knew her father. She knew he was beyond mad and she knew what he would do, the things he would be saying in the morning and the even further restrictions he'd try to place on her. She just couldn't do it anymore. 

Pretending to grudgingly obey and go to bed, she'd waited until things were quiet again to grab her stuff. It was easy, with most of her stuff still packed in her duffle bag anyway. All she really needed was her jacket and some money. She didn't even feel guilty ruffling through her dad's wallet and pulling out as much as she figured Dad and the boys could afford. Dean and Sammy shouldn't suffer because she couldn't handle things anymore.
Then she'd left.

It hadn't been far to the nearest phone booth. She called Pastor Jim, and, using a beeping thing to more easily 'call' using morse the way they'd practised, she updated him on the situation and passed on her location. Now all she had left to do was wait and contemplate the fact that her father had to know what she had done - she couldn't go into Sammy's bedroom without him finding out, there was no way she could pack up and steal his money without the man's knowledge. He'd just chosen to let her go.

Chapter Text

Palo Alto, California, 2005

The rest of their drive was quiet. Dean just felt worn out by the conversation, and Sammy seemed to be taking his time to process all the new information. They were getting close to Sam's place when the kid finally spoke up again. 
"Do you think we could find her?"

Dean glanced over at his brother, trying to judge just how serious he was. "Who, Red?" Sam nodded. "I don't know, probably?" He could sense that Sammy was scrutinising him, looking him over in a way that always made Dean itch, like the kid was trying to look through him instead of at him. "You know where she is."
It wasn't a question. Dean clenched his jaw in thought. "Why'd you think that?" His little brother didn't waste any time to reply in that annoying bordering-smartass tone. "It's obvious, Dean. You're fighting me the whole way, and then you get one phone call, and you suddenly start spilling your guts? I bet there's exactly two people who could be responsible for that, and it wasn't Dad calling. You're in touch with her."

Sammy wasn't sounding accusatory per se… at least not yet, but Dean suspected there was only so far he could push this before his younger brother started to get impatient again. He tried to shrug it off. "Maybe." The twenty-two-year-old smirked at him. "Dean, that's as good as a 'yes'." The older boy pulled a face. "Even if I'm in touch, that doesn't mean I know her location, Sammy." "Oh come on ." The car drew to a smooth stop in front of Sam's door. "Sorry Sam, I guess you will have to stay in touch if you want to continue this little chat."

"Seriously Dean?" Little brother didn't seem so eager to get out of the car now. "Can't you ask her if she wants to meet me at least?" Something in Sam's tone made Dean pause. He glanced at his brother, not missing the insecurity reflected in his body. "Sammy, it's not that easy." "Why not!" There was the bitchy note he'd been waiting for. "It's not up to me, dude. I don't know the details, but I've asked her before. Mildred seems to be under the impression that Dad would… kick her ass, if he found out she's gone anywhere near you." 

Her exact words had been more in the realm of killing than kicking, and Dean had to admit, he wasn't entirely certain just how serious his sister had been. Considering the grounds on which she'd left, he figured it better not to test it out, and besides, it wasn't his choice to make. Sammy didn't seem to agree though. "What kind of reason is that. " The disappointed kicked-puppy look on the kid's face said it all.
Dean sighed. "I'll ask her again, okay? I guess since Dad's not around right now anyway, maybe she'll be willing to give it a shot." He didn't really want to get Sam's hopes up. The fact that Red had asked him to just tell Sammy the truth earlier had been a surprise already, he didn't think he could push it much further, but who knew... 

Jim Murphy's Guestroom, 1991

Milly stared at the bedroom ceiling.

She'd slept more nights in this bed than she was able to count, and yet tonight it felt different. Emptier. The room was too big without her brothers. Dean and Sammy...

Much to her own disgust, tears started welling up in her eyes again, but the girl blinked them away. She swallowed. There was no point in getting upset about it now, she'd made her choice. Even if she hadn't been the one on the phone telling her father, she'd heard the words as Pastor Jim said them for her, which was almost the same. She couldn't do it anymore the way things were. 

When the pastor had turned to her moments later, covering the horn with his hand, she'd already known her father's response. It was silly, maybe, to be hurt by what was probably the best outcome she could have hoped for. But maybe, somewhere, the little girl inside her had wished that her dad would at least have fought for her. Would have tried to bargain, argue, drive here to drag her ass back whether she liked it or not. Instead, all she got was agreement and a line drawn in the sand: if she wanted to go, fine, but she'd stay away from Sammy. Forever. So Milly had issued her own ultimatum in return. If she couldn't see Sammy, she never wanted to have to see their father again either. 

Although her big brother's involvement was left unstated, Milly was well aware of the consequences of that decision. Dean went where Sammy went. That was the way she wanted it, too. She'd never intended to break up her own family, that wasn't the point of all this. She just wanted to stop hurting. At least this way, she knew her brothers would have each other. They would be fine without her. 

Ripping off the bandaid might be for the best. And yet... Staring at the ceiling, the eleven-year-old couldn't help her wondering. Would it ever stop?

Palo Alto, California, 2005

It was with a bittersweet feeling that Sam crossed the doorstep to his apartment, the sounds of the Impala's motor speeding away behind him. 

"Jess! You home?!" His voice rang a bit hollow in the dark and quiet house, but as soon as he got to their bedroom, the sounds of the shower reassured him. Home. Sammy grinned. Much as he'd enjoyed spending the time with his brother, it was good to have an actual place to get back to, a life of his own. 

Tired, he let himself relax onto the bed. A sigh that came from the tips of his toes escaped. He was home. The relief lasted for all of two seconds.
Then, the first drip came, right on his forehead. Then a second. 

Sam opened his eyes.

There she was, pinned to the ceiling, a large red stain at her stomach, dripping slowly.
Horror filled his body, rising up from his stomach and fighting it's way out in the form of a terrible gasp for air. Jessica. "NO!" 
The word had barely left his mouth when flames engulfed his girlfriend's body. 

Terror, disbelieve, and dismay were fighting for primacy, freezing the boy in place as he could only stare at the ceiling, at Jess' pale face. "Jess." The word almost sounded pleading as it pried itself out of his mouth. A gust of heat was the only reply.

Sam threw up his arms to protect himself, to shield him from the sickening realisation of what was happening as much as from the flames.
Suddenly a pair of strong arms surrounded his chest, pulling him away from the fire. Sam screamed and pleaded all the way, his eyes still locked at the spot where his girlfriend had been pinned to the ceiling, 

Shell shocked, he eventually let himself get dragged out of the house. Jess. He wanted to run back in, to fix this to do something at least to try and save her, but the arms wouldn't let go. 

He didn't know how long it took, but eventually, his wits caught up with him. Sam stopped struggling and turned around, expecting to find Dean's steady eyes, only to find a wholly different pair. He stepped back in confusion. The person in front of him reacted similarly. Avoiding his eyes now and looking away up the street. Sam blinked in confusion, but before he could try to formulate a coherent thought the familiar rumble of the Impala's motor reached his ears. His brother stepped out. 

"Sammy!" This time when strong arms tried to steady him, Sam was certain who they belonged to. He took a deep breath. "Dean." He followed his brother's gaze to the house he'd called home not too long ago. It was gone. Not the building, at least, not completely, but everything that had made it home. Glancing sideways at Dean, Sam could guess what his brother must be thinking. He might not have the memories himself, but…

The shorter man turned his head, and again, Sam followed. His eyes came to rest on the person who had saved him earlier. A young woman. 
Sam didn't recognise her from college, but he figured she must have been another student since she'd apparently been close enough to notice the fire. She couldn't be much smaller than Dean, with the build and stance of an athlete. It made sense, considering that she'd managed to get a much taller Sam out of a burning house despite his resistance. The boy figured he ought to go and thank her for saving his ass at least.

"Thanks, for helping me out, there." Once again, he found her eyes somewhat startling as the woman cocked her head and glanced between him and his brother without saying a word. Sam hesitated, feeling a little awkward as the silence stretched. He tried to offer his hand. "My name's Sam." Swallowing took some effort. "I… well, thanks, just. I guess." He couldn't put his finger on what, his introduction had brought about some change in the woman's expression. There was a sadness there, compassion, mixed with a wry sort of humour. It was almost like her eyes were mocking him now as she silently gripped his hand. A short, firm handshake. Then she looked at Dean, again. 

Sam was about to start introducing his brother when the woman's hands started moving. He stared at them, dumbfounded. Those gestures… Dean coughed, his throat sounding a little tight as he begged his younger brother's attention. "Uhm, Sammy? Mildred says she's sorry." He blinked, swivelling his head back and forth. Dean kept talking, presumably translating the rest of the woman's signed statement, but Sam didn't really hear it as the reality of the situation started to sink in.  

"Sammy?" Dean's hand on his shoulder shook Sam out of his thoughts. With firm steps, he found his way back to the Impala. His brother obligingly opened the trunk. For a moment, all Sam could do was stare at those weapons, his mind still reeling from everything that had just happened. Jessica was gone. He closed his eyes for a moment, then turned back to his brother. No, to his siblings. "We've got work to do." The trunk of the Impala slammed closed.