Pre-AU Timestamp: Sam's first night as a single parent, roughly eight hours after taking Liam away from his group home.
JULY 31st, 2008
Sam heaved a sigh and shut the door to Room 58, letting his head fall against the wood as he asked himself for the millionth time what he was doing. Surprisingly, he didn't have an answer, even after eight hours of driving and thinking while Liam sang along to every song that came on the radio. Including, of course, the ones he didn't know the words to.
"Can you lock it?"
Sam lifted his head and turned around, brow slightly creased. "Huh?"
"The door." Liam pointed, shuffling nervously. "Can you lock it?"
"Oh." Sam turned back around and twisted the deadbolt. "There."
Liam smiled fleetingly. "Thanks, Sam."
Sam tousled Liam's hair with a smile. "You're welcome, buddy."
Sam crossed the room to the window and closed the blinds, trying to recreate the darkness of the night he had lost driving away from Aberdeen. He didn't want to sleep too long, or he would be stuck on a backwards circadian rhythm, and while Dean didn't mind living that life, Sam needed to rise with the sun. Not to mention, it would be best for Liam to have a relatively normal sleep cycle.
Sam looked at the door when he heard a rattling noise and found Liam standing on his tip-toes and putting the door chain in place.
It must make him feel safer. Sam didn't have a problem with that. Better to be over-cautious than under-cautious, especially when traveling with a Winchester. I'll have to keep that in mind.
Liam fixed the chain how he wanted it and turned around, looking away when he saw Sam watching him. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, as if he had been caught doing something wrong.
Sam simply smiled and gestured to the queen-sized bed. "Pick a side, get in your PJs, and…" he pressed his lips together with a slight shrug, "…go to bed, I guess." He was pretty sure kids had to be told when to go to bed, but it seemed like such an obvious next step that it felt weird to say it out loud.
Liam nodded and plopped his backpack on the nearby bed, pulling out his pajamas to follow the directions Sam had given.
Sam watched Liam for another moment, and then he walked into the bathroom, flicked on the light, and shut the door. He turned on the cool water and splashed his face, looking at his reflection with an expression of self-judgment with just a little panic hidden underneath.
Are you out of your mind? You can't raise a kid!
Sure, Sam had been trained, and he had worked cases with kids like Liam back at Stanford, but there was a massive difference between visiting a child in their placement a couple times a month and being their placement. Sam knew statistics, child psychology, and child therapy techniques, but when it came to actual parenting—the ins and outs of the daily life of a child—Sam was clueless.
So? Lots of parents are clueless. They make it work.
As long as he could meet the Minimum Sufficient Level of Care, he could justify having Liam with him. Sam could give Liam clothes, food, shelter, love, and an education. He could provide. He could keep Liam from wanting to die, which was more than the group home managed.
No. Seriously. What are you doing?
Sam splashed his face again and ran his hands through his hair, shaking off the doubt and stepping back into the room. "Hey, you ready for—?"
Sam stopped, and then a smile softened his features.
Liam's backpack was discarded on the floor by the foot of the bed, and the little boy in question was already sound asleep.
Sam walked over to the righthand side of the bed and pulled the blankets a little higher, tucking Liam in. He leaned down and brushed the auburn bangs out Liam's sleeping face, holding them aside as he planted a chaste kiss on Liam's forehead.
Sam then blinked in utter confusion, slowly pulling away. Why did I do that? He frowned as he walked over to the door so he could turn off the lights, and he continued to frown as he felt his way back in the dark.
Maybe that's why I asked him to come with me. Maybe it's some kind of… platonic chemistry. Sam crawled under the covers and settled down, hoping to get some sleep with as few nightmares as possible. I mean, what draws people to make certain friends and not others? What makes certain siblings and cousins more compatible? He fluffed his pillow a little and huffed a sigh, closing his eyes. Maybe there's just… something in me that says he's supposed to be mine.
And with that thought in mind, Sam drifted off to sleep.
Sam woke up to the sounds of little footsteps and harsh light streaming onto his face. He inhaled and jerked to life, and it said a lot about how tired he was that he wasn't immediately on his feet with a gun in his hands.
"Hmm…?" Sam shielded his eyes and squinted into the light of the bathroom, watching Liam shuffle out with a towel in his arms. "Liam?"
Liam froze on the spot, holding the towel close to himself. "Sorry I woke you."
Sam blinked and shook his head, sitting up a little more. "It's fine. Why are you up? Do you feel okay?"
It was difficult to see Liam with the light behind him, but Sam could still make out the rapid headshaking. "Everything's fine."
Sam put down the hand he had been using to shield his eyes, and it landed in a wet spot on the bed. He jerked his hand away, his still-sleeping brain taking a few moments to connect the dots.
Sam's first thought after that was, gross, but it wasn't like he hadn't known about the bedwetting from Liam's files. He should have expected it, really, especially after such an emotionally charged night and the adrenaline of running away.
"I'm really sorry." Liam lifted the towel to his chin, almost as if he were trying to hide behind it. "I didn't mean to."
Sam waved it off and tossed the blankets off himself. "Don't worry about it." He stood up, cracking his back in the process, and walked over to where Liam was standing. He reached out to take the towel. "Here, let me—"
Liam flinched back violently, lifting his arms to shield his face.
There was no slow-motion moment, and there was no slow and steady realization. It was a sudden but simple shift in body language—one that took less than a second to achieve—but Sam felt his heart break in two when he saw it.
Sam kept his hand midair and slowly lowered himself into a crouch, speaking as tenderly as he could. "Liam, I wasn't going to hit you. I just wanted to take the towel from you so I could clean up your accident. Okay? I wasn't going to hit you."
Wide, strikingly blue eyes stared back at him, full of fear and distrust. Little hands shakily extended the towel, and those eyes never left Sam's face, scanning his every expression, his every breath, for any sign of incoming violence.
Sam moved slowly and kept himself low to the ground, taking the towel by the bottom half and letting the rest drop over his hand when Liam let go. "Thanks, buddy." He smiled warmly and then slowly got up. "I'm gonna try and clean this up. Why don't you clean yourself up and get some clean clothes on?"
Liam nodded slightly and took a step sideways, not turning away from Sam.
Sam was fine with that, and he gave Liam his back first, walking over to the bed without so much as a backward glance. He didn't want Liam thinking Sam was watching, waiting for the right moment to attack.
Sam used the towel to soak up a fair amount of the urine, and then he tossed it into the tub, exchanging the occasional smile with Liam as they passed each other. Then Sam took another towel and laid it overtop of the damp spot, washing his hands when it was all said and done.
"Did you wash your hands?" Sam asked, flicking the residual water from his own.
Liam nodded, hovering near the wall across from the bed, a couple yards away from the bathroom door.
"Good." Sam smiled again and turned the bathroom light off, using the light that came in around the blinds to find his way back to bed. "Come on, let's try and get a little more sleep before we do any more driving."
Liam slowly approached the bed, crawling in on his side without a word.
Sam laid down on his own side and pulled the blankets up over the both of them, letting out a contended sigh as he settled onto the mattress.
Sam looked over at Liam and reached out to boop him on the nose. "You can always wake me up and ask for help. I don't mind cleaning up accidents."
"I can do it," Liam said softly, hesitant and still somewhat frightened.
Sam rolled onto his left side and faced Liam, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "You know, I used to wet the bed when I was little."
Liam's eyes widened slightly, and he rolled onto his right side so he was facing Sam. "Really?"
Sam nodded with a small smile. "Yeah. I used to wake up my older brother, Dean, and he would help me clean it up. He'd let me sleep in his bed afterward, if I asked." He felt a little embarrassed sharing the story, but if it helped Liam feel better, it was worth it. "One time, I had a really bad dream, and I actually wet his bed after already having an accident in my own. And Dean still didn't get mad at me."
"Wow…" Liam bit his lip and dropped his eyes down to the mattress, trailing his finger over the cotton sheets. "What, uh… what would you do if I did that? Had two accidents, I mean?"
"I would help you clean it up," Sam replied simply.
"You… wouldn't be mad?" Liam questioned, peering up at Sam with big, blue eyes.
Sam shook his head. "No, Liam, I wouldn't be mad."
"Oh." Liam nodded a few times, smiled to himself, and then nodded again. "Goodnight, Sam."
Sam chuckled and reached out to tousle Liam's hair, moving gradually in light of recent events. "Goodnight, Liam. Wake me if you need anything." Then, after a pause, he added, "I love you."
Liam didn't say anything, but he gave a serious little nod.
Sam was fine with Liam not reciprocating. It would take time, and Sam was willing to be patient.
What am I doing?
What he wanted. For the first time since Stanford, Sam Winchester was doing what he wanted. Maybe it wasn't smart, maybe it wasn't perfect, maybe it wasn't easy… maybe it wasn't even right, though he still wasn't sure… but it was what he wanted. He was pretty sure, it was what Liam wanted, too. He was pretty sure it was what Liam needed.
And that was enough.