A/N: It is the chapter you all have been waiting for! Many many many thanks to my wonderful beta camelcircuit for her wonderful advice and editing. I wrote a good chapter, but she made it great!
Warnings: Big warning, I have decided to stop censoring my swearing, so if that kind of thing bothers you, let me know. I'm not opposed to going back to censoring, I just had someone review on one of my fics saying they felt the censoring was unnecessary especially considering the fic's subject matter. Obviously, some child abuse here.
"Samuel, wake up, your family is here!" Mark called loudly. The room was dark, so it must have been pretty early, which was strange, but Sam got up excitedly. He dressed quickly and ran downstairs, to find Dean and Dad waiting. He ran straight up to Dean, who pushed him off irritatedly.
"Really, Sam?" Dean looked disgusted. "Even after all of that training, you're still a wuss?" Tears stung at Sam's eyes, as he hung his head ashamedly.
"Sam, get in the car," Dad ordered. "I need to talk with Mark about how your week went." Shortly after going outside, Dad and Dean followed. Sam felt his stomach fill with dread. He could tell from the look on his Dad's face that Mark had told him everything.
"Turn around," his Dad commanded.
Sam heard his belt slide out of the loops and he slammed his eyes shut just as the belt hit him.
Sam gasped, sitting straight up in his bed. He tore his blankets off and walked to the bathroom, where he splashed his face with cold water. As droplets dripped down his chin, he stared at his reflection. Was Dean embarrassed to have a clingy little brother like him? Probably. Dean practically swore by the rule of 'no chick-flick moments.' He hated talking about feelings and stuff. As he put it once, in a phrase he definitely must have stolen from Bobby Singer, he didn't want to risk growing lady parts. He let Sam hug him, and even initiated some hugs, and he would let Sam talk about his feelings whenever he felt like he needed to, but that didn't necessarily mean he wanted to. Sam swallowed roughly, trying and failing to fight tears. He glared at himself in the mirror. He was disgusting. A weak, pathetic mess. Hunters have to be strong. They don't feel, they bottle up their pain, or use a bottle to wash it away until they can be busy enough to hide it. Weak hunters either die, or are ridiculed to death by other hunters. Sam wiped his face, and mentally gathered all of his emotion, sending it all to the back of his mind. He could be strong, just like his dad. He could be as strong as Dean, and then maybe they would be proud of him. For now, he had a few more hours that he could sleep, and he was going to take advantage of them.
At least, he tried to take advantage of them. Instead, he found himself tossing and turning for three hours, sleeping in thirty-minute intervals, and then Mark was calling up to him to come down for breakfast. On the plus side, Mark let him sleep until seven, giving him extra time to rest. Sam came down and stood at the table. The breakfast conversation was much different from many of the others over the week.
"Good morning, Sam." It was a morning. Whether or not it was a good one could be heavily debated.
"Good morning, sir."
"You're welcome to sit down." He didn't have to ask this morning. It's the little things, really.
"Thank you, sir."
"The plate there is yours. If you want more than that, I've got plenty here. A growing teenage boy needs to eat, you know." Was he not a growing teenage boy the rest of the week?
"Thank you, sir."
"Your father called. Said he and Dean are on their way and should be here by noon. I'm sure you'll be happy to see them." Hopefully, they would be just as happy to see him.
"You look a bit tired. Rough night?" Rough was an understatement.
"Just had a little trouble sleeping is all. Sir."
"How about some coffee? It'll wake you right up. Or I've got green tea if you're not a coffee person." The coffee, he's sure, is already brewed. The tea?
"Coffee will be fine, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Cream and sugar?" Real men drink their coffee straight black.
"No, thank you. Black is fine, sir."
"Huh, never would have taken you to be the black coffee type." Really he's a green tea type, but toe-may-toe tah-mah-toe. It's all caffeine.
"It's what I was raised on, sir."
"Ah, John and Dean are certainly black coffee people." They're real men.
"More bacon, Sam?" Meat, the staple of a hunter's diet. Unless they were eating boxed mac and cheese for the third night in a row because Dad was late coming home and the money had nearly run out and Dean was doing his best to keep me fed, even if it meant skimping on his own bowl-
"Sam?" Oh right, the question.
"No, thank you, sir. I've had enough to eat."
"I noticed yesterday you were in the middle of Prince Caspian. If you're finished eating, why don't you take your coffee into the study and read some more. I'll take care of the dishes." He might not be able to focus, but it was worth a try. If anything makes time fly, it's getting lost in another world.
"Thank you, sir."
He curled up in the comfiest chair in the study and searched for his spot in the novel. Where was he? That's right. Chapter10: The Return of the Lion…
Falling in love with Narnia was easy. He didn't have to find the evil in every magical creature, some were just, well, magical. And if he was being honest with himself, he saw a lot of similarities between him and Lucy Pevensie. She believed in things and refused to let others dissuade her from her truth. She faced skepticism from her family, even when she brought valuable information to discussions. Not to mention, her unwavering faith in Aslan.
Sam prayed every night before he went to bed. He hadn't told anyone. Not his dad, not even Dean knew. Sam shuddered to think of the ridicule he would face if either of them knew. If they knew that even with his deep knowledge of how much evil crap the world was full of, he still believed in angels. That he still believed in God.
He could relate to Lucy, who was willing to see the good in people before jumping to the conclusion that they were murderous sons of bitches. If only Dad and Dean would listen to him once and awhile. 'Unless someone asks for your opinion, they don't need to hear it. Your father and brother will be able to find the best course of action together. If they want your opinion, they will ask for it.'
Sam shook himself free of his wandering thoughts and refocused on the book in his hands. Narnia was a fictitious world. Just like every other fictitious world. Real life was different. Eventually, he would have to face the real world, but for now, he allowed himself to be drawn in, through his mind's door. Into the world of talking beasts and magic. Good magic. Friendly beasts. And best of all, Aslan was tangible; so real, Lucy could embrace him. Maybe that's why she believed so easily. She could rely on more than just faith.
Sam was so engrossed in his reading, he didn't notice the front door open and shut. He did notice the strong baritone of his father's voice greeting Mark, and Dean's equally deep timbre enquiring as to the whereabouts of 'Sammy'.
"Samuel! Come on in to the kitchen," Mark called. "Your family is here." Sam carefully closed the book and returned it to its proper place on the bookshelf before stretching and heading out to the kitchen. Once there, he stood stiffly.
"At ease, Samuel," Mark laughed a little, as if Sam was crazy for standing at attention. He relaxed a little. Sam looked over his family. Dad looked the same as always. Dean too, except two of the fingers on his left hand were taped together. He must have noticed Sam looking, because he smirked.
"You should've seen the other guy," Dean remarked.
"What, you mean the tree you jammed your finger in trying to pitch a tent?" Dad quipped lightly.
"Oh, come on, Dad, it was supposed to be cool," Dean whined, though he was still smiling.
"Are you saying that you would blatantly lie to your own brother just so that he thinks you're cool?" Sam stood silently, letting the light banter fill his ears. Honestly, they could have been talking about car engines and he would have loved listening to it. He had missed their voices so much.
"Sammy doesn't think I'm cool, he knows I'm cool," Dean retorted smoothly. "Isn't that right Sammy?"
"Yes, sir," Sam responded automatically.
"Hey, Dad, listen to that," Dean's smile grew larger. "He's even calling me 'sir' now."
"Don't let it go to your head, son," Dad shook his head fondly.
"Samuel, why don't you take your brother out to the shooting range and show him some of the work we did with your archery while I talk to your father about your week here."
"Yes, sir," Sam obeyed immediately. Dean followed him out to the range, neither of them speaking along the way. Once they arrived, though, Dean looked at Sam.
"Really, Sam?" Even after all of that training, you're still a wuss? "We've been with each other for at least ten minutes, and you have yet to hug me. Did you really have so much fun here that you didn't even miss me?"
"Wh-what? N-no. Of course not," Sam stammered. "I just wasn't sure if-"
"What, if I wanted a hug from you?" Dean saved him from having to finish. "Aw, come on little bro, get in here." He opened his arms, and despite everything Sam had told himself about being a man and controlling his emotions, he found himself slamming into his brother's chest with tears already beginning to well in his eyes. Dean's strong embrace grounded him, and broke his already cracking wall against a tide of emotion. Soon, he was openly sobbing against his brother.
"Hey, Sammy, hey, what's wrong?" Dean gently questioned, his arms tightening around Sam. "You're kinda scaring me here."
"I-I just- I really missed you," Sam spoke in between shuddering breaths.
"I missed you too bud," Dean never broke his hold.
"A-and I wanted so badly to be strong, but now I went and made an ass of myself, and you probably think I'm a pathetic mess. Gah, I'm such an idiot. I'm just embarrassing myself and-"
"Hey!" Dean's voice was just loud enough to be heard over Sam's rambling, and held no bite or malice in its tone, but was effective in shutting Sam up. "I told you, I missed you too."
"No. Let me finish first, okay? Just 'cause I don't cry or whatever doesn't make you weak 'cause you do, alright? So if someone tried to tell you that, give me their name and I'll kick the crap outta them. Seriously, though. It's okay to have emotions. Crying's probably healthier than bottling it all up anyway." Dean broke apart their hug to push Sam back and look in his eyes. "You cry all you need to, okay?"
"Okay," Sam sniffed.
"I'm serious," Dean reiterated. "Cry on my shoulder, 'cause that's what I'm here for. Got it, bitch?"
"Sure, Jerk," Sam laughed a little. Dean pulled him back in to draw their hug out a little longer. Sam inhaled deeply and sighed. Leather, car oil, gunpowder, and a hint of that cologne Dad got him when he turned 18. He smelled like, like Dean, and Sam was enjoying every moment of it. True to his word, Dean held Sam until he had stopped crying completely, and pulled away to dry his face off.
"You gonna show me some of your sharpshooting skills or not?" Dean poked his side playfully. Sam shot five arrows, all of them into the center of the target, and Dean praised him for it. He cared that Sam could shoot accurately, and precisely, and saw all of the hard work Sam had put into improving his aim.
"I bet you could outshoot Dad and me combined!" Dean spoke with pride. "How far away is that target, anyway?"
"Twenty feet," Came Mark's voice from behind them, startling Sam, who turned to see his dad standing next to Mark.
"That's pretty good, Sam," Dad commented, in a rare moment of pride. "Looks like this trip wasn't a total waste. I guess you learned something after all." The trip wasn't a total waste? Did he mean that it was mostly a waste then? Had Mark told him everything, despite his promise?
"Of course, John," Mark smiled. "It's like I told you inside, Samuel here has made significant progress. He's of course much better behaved, but I think you'll find he's also got some honed skills up his sleeve."
"Well, thank you, Mark," he responded, holding his hand out for the other hunter to shake. The gesture was reciprocated. "I really appreciate the time you've taken with my boy here. I'm indebted to you. If you ever need anything, feel free to give me a call. I'll be out here in no time."
"I appreciate that," Mark nodded. "And as for you, Sam's always welcome to come by for more training. Dean too." Sam tensed minutely.
"Thanks for the offer," Dad replied. "I'm sure we won't have any reason for more training, especially in the near future. Isn't that right, Sam?
"Yes, sir," Sam responded promptly.
"That's what I like to hear," John nodded. "I suppose we ought to head on out of here."
"I figured you all would be pretty anxious to get out on the road," Mark spoke as they all headed back toward the house. "I went ahead and packed some sandwiches and such for your journey. I've been on the road enough to know how mundane greasy spoon diner food can get. Thought something fresh would be a nice change." He and John continued to trade dialogue, but Sam allowed the noise to fade into the background. He was ready to leave, and honestly? If he never heard Mark Reed's voice another day of his life, he would just be that much happier for it.
In no time at all, Sam was sitting in the backseat of the Impala as it drove down the road. It was interesting, he mused to himself. His position mirrored the position he had been in just a week ago, save a couple of key details. One: he was heading away from what he now knew for sure was the worst week of his life. And two: he was prepared to hold himself precariously on a tightrope. One where he was careful not to do or say the wrong thing.
After a bit of begging, Dean finally convinced Dad to let him put in his favorite tape. Sam closed his eyes, leaning against the window as the music filled the space of the car.
Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better
As the familiar vocals washed over Sam, he found himself succumbing to his utter exhaustion stemming from a combination of the week, and his most recent restless night. In no time at all, everything began to fade away, and Sam entered the sweet bliss of nothing.