This story is inspired by River Tam's character and story from the show Firefly.

I wrote while I've had writer's block for another story.

Warnings: Torture, mental health issues, blood and violence.


Prologue

June 14th, 2000

Dean sat, staring at his little brother sleeping on Bobby's couch. Sam had been gone for two years, taken when he was only fifteen. They'd all changed but Sam was different.

It was late; pushing into the early hours of the morning and the moonlight fell through the windows and illuminated Sam's face. It was the first time in the two weeks since he'd been back that Sam was sleeping peacefully, naturally, silently.

Some nights they'd had to knock the kid out with the strong drugs they reserved for messy hunts because Sam seemed to have an endless reserve of energy and unpredictable behaviour. Other nights he would scream and scream, crying out incoherently when he was gripped in a nightmare.

Tonight Dean wouldn't sleep. He rarely took his eyes off his brother, fearful that he would vanish if he so much as looked away for a moment, besides, he didn't trust Sam to be by himself anymore, not the way he was now.

No, Dean wouldn't sleep. He would sit and watch Sam curled up under the blankets their father had draped over him when he'd fallen asleep on the couch, his face twitching every so often as he dreamed. He kept watch because he didn't trust that Sam wouldn't disappear any second, he didn't trust that Sam wouldn't hurt himself and he didn't trust that they had the mercy of a peaceful night for Sam.

Bobby's wooden desk chair was not built for all-nighters; Dean figured that's why the old guy was so gruff, and Dean's ass was beginning to go numb, his legs were stiff and most of all he just needed some air and a cigarette.

He wasn't proud of the habit but he'd picked it up not many months after they realised Sam was truly missing, growing up he'd known his father to smoke now and then; to deal with the stress of the hunt. The two of them were regulars now; they avoided doing it in front of Sam, though they weren't sure if Sam would even understand what it meant.

He remembered once when they were kids and Sam found their dad smoking outside the motel room, the look on the kid's face was one of complete and utter betrayal then he started spouting out some gruesome facts about the dangers of cigarettes until John stubbed it and tossed away his packet.

Dean felt a small smile tug at the corner of his mouth but he never let it work its way into a grin. Remembering Sam the way he used to be was bitter sweet. He had to remember that his little brother wasn't the same anymore and might never be but he also had to be thankful that he had his brother back. He also really had to have a cigarette.

He carefully lifted himself from Bobby's desk chair, wincing when the floorboard creaked under his weight, he flicked a glance towards Sam who only muttered in his sleep and nuzzled further into the pillow. He crept around the desk and stopped to stare at his little brother.

Sam looked peaceful, normal. His hair was a little shorter than he remembered, all the same length and health looking as though it had been growing back out. He was healthy physically, as far as they could tell; a little skinny but in good shape, in fact his muscles were toned and his physique was lean and strong. But Sam had always been a small kid and his obvious growth spurt made him look lanky.

Dean's face tightened with grief, Sam had grown in the two years they'd been without him and they'd missed that major growth spurt which matched him to Dean's height. They'd had that taken away from them.

Resisting the urge to stroke Sam's hair, Sam did not like his head being touch nowadays, Dean crept through the kitchen to the back door and let himself out, making sure his back was touching the doorway and that Sam could still be in his line of vision. He was respectful enough of Bobby not to smoke in his house but he would never smoke near Sam, not even now. He wondered what this Sam would make of it.

Dean fingered through his pocket and pulled out his pack, slipping a cigarette between his fingers he spent a moment fiddling with it as he retrieved his lighter. He put it to his lips and lit the end, taking a long inhale as he watched it glow, the orange embers fluttering to the ground as he tapped it against the ash stray which sat on the porch table. He held the smoke in his lungs and closed his eyes before he released it through slightly parted lips.

He glanced back into the house to find Sam still in the same position, curled up on his side with his face pushed into the couch cushion, the blanket gripped tight in his hand and pulled all the way up to his shoulders. It was such a beautiful sight to see him really sleep, almost unbelievable but then again, this Sam is unpredictable.

Dean used to be so in synch with Sam; they could get what the other was thinking with one look, they knew the meaning of every habit and exhale and wrinkle. It had been like their own language, one that didn't need words. Now, Dean didn't understand one thing about his little brother.

When he finished his cigarette he pulled out another and used the first to light it. He'd held back with his habit ever since they found Sam, mostly because he didn't have a moment to himself, Sam was a full time occupation for Dean and he was going to take this peaceful night for everything it was worth.

Dean scrubbed a hand through his spiky hair when he came to the end of the smoke and put it out in the ashtray. He ought to go back in, sit with Sam in case he wakes up, be there to calm him down if he has a nightmare, remind him where he is if he's forgotten.

Dean loves his brother, no matter what, no matter what state Sam is in Dean will always love him, but sometimes he can't help but wish he could have some time away from the screaming, the yelling, the monologues in foreign languages, the hyperactive episodes, the rocking back and forth, the cryptic words. He just wanted some time away from the insanity.

He pressed his lips together to stop them from trembling and sucked in a breath, blinking back the tears. He tried to push the memories away, the ones from the day they found Sam.

He didn't want to see it, he didn't want to see the image of Sam strapped into that chair as white-coated men injected him. He didn't want to remember that thing they'd strapped onto his head, the screams Sam made when they did. He didn't want to see it but he did, every damn day.

Dean sat down, back against the inside of the door frame, his knees bent as his feet rested on the other side. He stayed there, watching the night sky turn from dark blue to purple then pink. The sun crept up over the fence of the salvage yards, hitting the metal of scrapped vehicles with warm light. Dean figured it was around 5.30 am, which meant Bobby and their dad would be up soon.

"You didn't sleep," Dean turned around at the sound of Sam's voice. Sam stood in the kitchen, eyes on the sunrise, his hair was scruffy from sleep and he wore one of Dean's old Metallica shirts and some old pyjama pants which were too short for his legs.

"Sure I did," Dean answered, watching as his brother moved forward to sit cross-legged next to him, the whole time Sam's gaze was fixed on the early sun.

"Liar," Sam replied vaguely, though there was a small smile on his lips, "You're wearing yesterday's clothes."

"Well, I got up and dressed early," Dean quipped, raising an eyebrow curiously when Sam's eyes flicked to Dean's face.

"Still lying," Sam observed, "I know you didn't sleep, I can see it, and your brain is tired."

Dean gave a small laugh, "You were always too observant, Sammy. What're you doing up so early?"

Sam's eyes wandered back to the rising sun, "She's awake, so are we. She brings the day. I missed her for a long time."

Dean's smile faded. He should be glad that Sam is having a good day, he seems calm and coherent, not making much sense but he never usually does. But Dean understood what he was saying. Sam had taken to avoiding the word 'it'; everything was given a pronoun of either 'he', 'she' or 'they'.

This morning, Dean learned that the sun was female, along with the Impala and Bobby's house. It was a good day so far, he was happy for that, but when Sam mentioned his captivity Dean always felt his heart constrict.

Sam dropped his gaze from the sunset, his expression was sad as he hunched his shoulders. Dean clambered out of his space between the doorway and over to Sam, sitting himself by his brothers side he placed a hand comfortingly on Sam's shoulder. He began to rub soothing circles on Sam's back when, to his surprise, Sam leaned forward and rested his head against Dean's chest. He froze for a moment before resuming the soft motions up between Sam's shoulder blades.

Sam hadn't allowed much contact since they got back, unless it was on his terms but he never let anyone touch his head, yet here he was, nuzzling into Dean's chest.

"You're okay, Sammy," Dean whispered, "You're not there anymore, you won't ever go back. You don't have to miss her anymore."

It was an attempt at speaking his brother's language and he wasn't sure how it would be received.

"Don't have to miss you anymore," Sam said quietly as he snaked his arms around Dean's waist and pulled himself in tighter.

"No, Sammy, never again."


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