The soft hum of the car as it drove down another winding road was a comfort, but even with the heat cranked up all the way Dean could feel Sam's little body shaking with each shallow breath he took. Dean sighed and pulled the blue cotton blanket more tightly over his brother. He pried the little fingers from his wrist and shrugged off his share of the blanket, wrapping Sam's little body up as best as he could. Once the shivering had subsided Dean smiled at his little brother and rested his head on his seatbelt, finally allowing himself to close his eyes. Just as the hum of the engine and the warmth of the encapsulated heat was lulling him into sleep a little voice startled him,
"Dean!" Sam was awake his big brown eyes searching out in the soft darkness for his brother, his little hand flailing,
"Here, Sammy, I'm here" Dean said, a little shocked by his brother's response,
"You let go" Sam breathed, he was calming down, Dean was there, it was okay. At first Dean didn't know what Sam was talking about, let go? No, he would never…then he saw his brother's little hand reaching out for him and a smile slowly spread across his features,
"I'm sorry" Dean said, Sam smiled and squeezing Dean's hand with a little sigh he snuggled back into the blanket. John watched with a proud eye as Dean took care of Sammy, wrapped his little brother up, and gave up his share of the blanket. They were safe and warm, in the car, together. For now. John rubbed his eyes tiredly, the road becoming blurred in front of him. He wouldn't be able to stop until morning; he reached with a shaking hand for his Styrofoam cup of coffee and brought the steaming liquid to his lips. He'd have to stay awake, at least until daybreak. He didn't like the situation they were in, he blamed himself for getting them into this mess, how could he not have seen it? It was a common mistake, the kind of mistake a rookie makes, he felt the crushing guilt that he had put his sons into danger, and it was tripled by the fact that he wasn't able to take care of them now, he had missed the transfer of parental responsibility from him to Dean. His son was a better protector then he was. His ten year old was a seasoned vet. He heaved a heavy sigh as he glanced back at his sons again. Sam's tiny hand was gripping Dean's with the force of an angry demon. John smiled, Mary would love to see her boys so close, Dean's hand ruffling his brother's mop of hair, although she would hate the circumstances that brought them together.
"You got the stake?" John asked his eldest son, the cold bursts of air whipping his cheeks, turning them and the tip of his nose red.
"Here you go" Dean said his breath appearing in front of him in little bursts of steam as he handed his father the pointy wooden stick,
"You got your brother?" Dean sighed glancing down at the little boy standing determinedly at his side,
"Can't I go with you?" Dean asked and his father sighed glancing at his son. So eager to be a hunter, so eager to join his father, he didn't understand that once he got into the game, he couldn't get out.
"I need you to watch Sammy" John said placing a heavy hand on Dean's shoulder, Dean sighed shooting an angry glare at his little brother, who looked up at him with a guilty gaze, "I'll only be gone for an hour or two…here" John thrust a shotgun into Dean's small hands. The boy looked up at his father a smirk tugging on the corner of his lips,
"Cool" he breathed and John couldn't help but smile a little,
"Only use it if you absolutely have to…and watch your brother" John crouched to Dean's level, "don't let anything touch him" he said staring into his wide eyes, "you stay in the truck" he said turning to his youngest, "you're going to have fun with Dean until I get back, okay?" The little boy nodded his eyes watering. John sighed and ruffled his son's hair, "you'll be okay Sammy, Dean will protect you" he said confidently with a nod towards his eldest who smiled in response and looked down at his little brother,
"I've got it covered, Dad" Dean said, John smiled,
"Okay, you boys get into the car, I'll be back, I promise" he said watching them climb into the back seat. Dean sat behind the drivers seat, the gun across his lap, Sam sat next to him, swinging his legs back and forth impatiently. John looked into the car for a few minutes; his boys were such polar opposites. Dean, the protector, weapon across his small body, a cold, determined look in his eyes. When had that look first appeared? John couldn't pinpoint it exactly, it seems as if Dean's eyes slowly froze since the fire, icing over little, by little each day until the light that used to occupy his eyes faded away. The last thing that brought light to Dean's eyes was Sammy. John saw it, even when Dean was angry with Sam, he needed him. Sammy was the last innocent light in their lives. He was the last thing that proved to Dean, and John that the dark was followed by light, that the shadows would fade, and the monsters would go away. Sammy, John saw him through the frosty window he was swinging his legs lazily, his little brain whirling, he never stopped thinking, even when he was asleep John swore he could hear the little boy's mind ticking away. Sometimes he was too smart for his own good. Like when he realized that not all families were like his. That, in fact no families were like his. It had been hard to explain to him why they were on the road, why he could fight things that most people didn't believe in. John had racked his brain, trying to come up with a reason for their lifestyle that a four year old could understand. In the end it was Dean who made Sammy understand.
"Look, Sammy, we save people…we're heroes" Dean said sitting in the back of the car smirking at his little brother. Sam didn't look moved, and he still refused to meet Dean's eyes. Dean sighed raking his hand through his hair, "like Superman" Sam giggled.
"Even me?" He asked and Dean nodded,
"Even you, little man" he said and Sam grinned, "but I can still beat you up" he added with a sly smile punching Sam's shoulder lightly. Sam rubbed his shoulder and giggled,
"But I'm a superhero" Sam squealed and Dean laughed pulling Sam into a headlock,
"Yeah, well I'm your big brother."
John hated to admit it but to an extent he counted on Dean. Counted on him to make everything alright with Sammy, Dean was straightforward, black and white, he was easy to understand. It was Sammy that was difficult, he was complex, always asking questions, he was constantly asking John "why?" But he worshiped Dean, and when his big brother gave him the answer…that was it. Sam held onto Dean, he followed him like a puppy. Dean pretended to be annoyed, but John knew he liked it. Dean needed Sam, and Sam needed Dean, and John needed both of them to hold him together. That was what John thought as he walked into the blackness.
"Dean?" Sam asked after a few minutes. He had watched his daddy disappear into the shadows, like he always did, but he knew that he'd be back, he always was. All they had to do was wait.
"What?" Dean asked snapping. He was still a little miffed that his father hadn't let him go with him. Instead he had to baby sit his kid brother. He was tough enough, he had fought as many things as his father has, yet he still had to watch out for Sammy.
"Are you mad at me?" The little boy asked, sticking out his bottom lip his big eyes filling with tears. Dean sighed and looked over at his brother,
"No, Sammy" he said glancing at Sam who instantly perked up. They sat in silence for a while. Dean kept his eyes out the window; they were in the woods somewhere, in the back middle-of-nowhere woods, the shadows of the trees leaping out at them, the headlights their only source of light, every rustle of the leaves made Dean's hair stand on end. Their father was no where to be seen, the gun in Dean's lap growing heavier with every ticking moment. Sam wasn't worried, Dean was there, Dean would keep him safe. The only thing that made his stomach flip was when he saw the hairs on the back of Dean's neck stand up, if Dean was scared, it had to be bad.
"Are you scared?" Sam asked his brother in a whisper. Dean tore his eyes from the darkness that engulfed their car and stared at his little brother,
"What? No, I never get scared, Sammy" he said steadily and Sam nodded the concern leaving his eyes. Dean let out a silent sigh of relief that he had been able to shield his fear from his little brother. Sammy didn't need to be afraid…not yet.
John caught his breath, carefully stepping around the twigs and rocks, anything that would make noise. This creature was devious, and swift, if John could just get it pinned down, but he just couldn't find it. Well, it wasn't an it…it was a her. John heard a branch snap behind him he whipped his head around, nothing.
"Dean?" Sam asked again. Dean let out a frustrated breath,
"What?" He asked, as nicely as he could manage,
"What's taking Daddy so long?" Dean rolled his eyes,
"He's fighting the bad guys" he explained, it's not like their father had been gone that long, it had only been a half an hour Sam's eyes grew wider,
"Oh, is he winning?" Dean almost laughed,
"Yeah, Sammy, he's winning."
John saw the flash of white in front of his eyes, truth be told it had taken him by surprise, her eyes lacked pupils, her white lips open in a gasp as her skeletal finger dug into his cheek,
"Love me, John" she whispered in his ear, her sour breath smelt of mold and dirt, her icy fingers massaging his shoulders in an unyielding grip. He whipped around and sliced the stake through the air, narrowly missing her nearly transparent shoulder, "naughty John" she cackled circling his head, her narrow feet high off of the ground. Her bare toes were rotting and nearly falling off. Her neck had a giant gash that was clotted with dried blood and filled with maggots, her blood shot eyes begged for the attention, the love that she always lacked; but all John Winchester had for her was a stake soaked in salt and holy water.
"You're not wanted here….be gone!" He shouted at her levitating form. She stopped whirling around him and dropped to the ground dejectedly,
"Fine, I'll go where I'm wanted" she spat, her voice filled with sadness and venom. He lunged to sink the repellent stake in her chest but she wavered and disappeared.
"Dean?" Sam asked for the billionth time,
"What?" Dean replied his little brother getting on his last nerve. Why couldn't Sammy sit still? Why was he always asking questions?
"I'm cold?" Dean nodded, it was cold, the engine was on, so the headlights could provide light, but the heat wasn't on, and neither of the boys knew how to turn it on. Dean let out a sigh and realized he could see his breath.
"Okay, Sammy" Dean said, Sam bit his bottom lip, shivering slightly, his face was very pale, Dean sighed shifting uncomfortably. They had been sitting in the car for far longer then he had expected and Dean was cold too, though not as cold as Sammy seemed to be, his little body shaking violently. "You want a blanket?" Dean asked and Sam looked at him with a small smile,
"Uh-huh" he said nodding his head. Dean looked into the forest where their father was and back at his shivering little brother. The darkness around them was scary, but the blanket was just in the trunk, it wasn't that far, and Sammy was cold. Plus, Dean wasn't afraid of anything.
"Okay" he said smiling at Sam, "there is one in the trunk." Sam's eyes got very wide and fearful,
"Are you leaving me?" He asked, his high pitched voice ringing out in Dean's ears, he smirked and shook his head,
"Nah" he said ruffling his hair, "I'll be right back, the blanket is just in the trunk" Sam nodded his little hands trembling as Dean unlocked his door and stepped out. He slung the gun over his shoulder like a deer hunter, "I'll be right back" Dean said again closing the door softly. Sam pressed his little face against the window and watched every step his big brother took. He walked just like their daddy. He opened the trunk and smiled at Sammy triumphantly holding up the blue cotton blanket for him to see through the window. Sam giggled gleefully as Dean pulled the blanket around his neck like a cape and zoomed around the car like a superhero. Dean laughed finished playing, and walked back towards the car, but just as he was halfway back a shiver went up his spine. Something wasn't right, he could feel it. That's when he saw the face in the car window. It was a horrible, blotched, corpse face, with white-blonde hair that was half missing, and cracked, white lips. She winked a bloodshot eye at the boy and disappeared.
"Sammy!" He yelled, running to the car, he was at the door in a flash, but it was locked. He banged on the window yelling at Sam to open the door. Sammy just looked at him, confused, what was the matter? Why did Dean look so scared? The woman oozed her way into the car; sitting in the driver's seat she turned her head around and looked at the scared little boy.
"Shhh, baby" she cooed, reaching out an emaciated hand towards Sam. He slunk away from her pushing himself into the seat cushion as far as he could go. He turned his terrified head towards the window, he saw Dean pounding on the car, begging Sam to open the door, but he couldn't, he couldn't even move. "Don't be afraid, Sammy" the corpse clucked, she extended her finger and ran it down the side of Sam's cheek. He gasped and turned his head away from her, and let out a horrible, wretched scream.
"SAMMY!" Dean cried out when he heard the scream. I'm so stupid Dean thought, I left him alone in there, I shouldn't have, I should've just let him be cold. It was then that Dean remembered the gun; he raised it with a shaky hand, "SAMMY GET DOWN!" He screamed, Sam obediently ducked and Dean pulled the trigger. Sam watched as the bullet sailed through the window, the glass falling onto his tiny head. He screamed as the bullet contacted her shoulder, sending blood spattering all over his face. He covered his features with his hands, curling up into a ball, shaking with sobs.
"G-go a-away" he cried, the cadaver frowned and whipped her head around,
"I will not go away" she fumed, starting the car. "I WANT A FAMILY" she howled pushing the gas pedal and pulling away with a screech.
"SAMMY, SAMMY, NO!" Dean shouted running as fast as his little legs could carry him after the car, he didn't get far.
"Dean, wait" a gruff voice said halting the boy and grabbing him roughly by the shoulders, John's eyes were full of rage and worry, he saw the car pulling away and looked around frantically for his youngest son. His eyes grew wilder as he realized that Sam wasn't there. "Where's your brother?" John asked his voice rumbling with anger,
"In the car" and it's all my fault Dean gulped,
"Stay here" John said grabbing the shotgun from his eldest and cocking it, a fierce look in his eyes. Dean stayed where his father told him to stay and watched as the man raced after his ghost driven car. Be okay, Sammy, be okay…please, please. Dean pleaded with whatever would listen to save his little brother; it was the first time he could remember not being absolutely certain that his daddy could get them out of whatever situation they were in. Sammy, don't you die, Sammy, don't you leave me. He was angry now, how could that lady take his brother? No one was going to hurt Sammy. He looked into the empty space that his father had raced off into, and into the darkness around him. He shook his head. This wasn't right, his little brother needed him. The cement that held his feet in place as soon as his father said, "stay" came unglued and he ran. Stopping only to pick something up out of the grass.
Go away, go away, go away. Sammy begged, covering his eyes with his miniature fingers, but no matter how much he wished it the bad lady was still there. She wouldn't go away, and he couldn't see Dean or his daddy anymore…they couldn't have left him Dean was a superhero, like Superman, Superman always wins.
"We're going to be very happy" the bad lady whispered, her voice sounded like gravel, she scared Sammy and he wouldn't look at her,
"You're not my mommy" Sam cried blocking out her scary voice. He wanted Dean, he wanted his daddy, he wanted the bad lady to go away! She kept talking with a toothless grin, about how they would be a family, how they would live happily. He didn't want to go with her; he wanted his daddy, his big brother, his superhero.
John kept running long after his calves were burning, he was too old for this, but that was his son in the car. He was not going to leave Sammy, how could he have been so stupid? Why did he leave them for so long? I should have come back sooner, should've left them at the motel. John shoved his guilty thoughts out of his head and focused on getting his son back. He had been running for ten minutes when he heard the rumble of the car engine. The stiff must have slowed; she was going five miles an hour, thank god. He raised the gun and shot out the tire. It blew out with a deafening POP. Sammy cried louder at the sound of the explosion. The car spun in a slow circle and came to a screeching halt. The cadaver woman hissed like a snake. She twisted her limbs around and flung open the door. Her motions were jerky her left arm hanging limp and practically falling off of her body as she advanced upon John. He shot her three more times. Each time she was halted for only a moment before continuing her determined trek. She could not be deterred; she was reaching out to him with her one good arm. He reached into his pocket and his heart stopped. The steak was gone; he had nothing else that would stop her for good. He backed away from her, cocking the gun again, he had two bullets left, he let a little bit of panic enter his brain as he fumbled with his gun, trying to organize his thoughts so that he could come up with a plan. One good enough to save his youngest son. The head. He held his breath and pulled the trigger. It was a nice shot, directly into the forehead; she looked dazed for a moment before slumping to the ground with a sickening thud. John let out the breath he had been holding in and stepped over her, with one bullet left too. He unlocked the door and within a second Sammy had his arms wrapped around his daddy,
"Daddy" he sobbed, John sighed and squeezed his son tightly, so relieved that it was over. Sammy would be alright, all they'd have to do was go back for Dean, and John's fractured family would be as okay as they get.
"John" a low sing-song voice called out, a wet hand squeezing his shoulder, "why do you hurt me, John?" She asked, she was standing behind him, blood pouring from the wound in her forehead, seeping into her nose and mouth,
"Sammy, get back in the car" John whispered placing his son back down on the seat slowly reaching down to pick up the gun he had put down. Stupid mistake, I should have known better John thought as he led the slow-moving woman away from his son,
"Why won't you love me, John?" She asked her soggy skin sagging in her despair. One shot, one, shot. He cocked the gun and led her as far away from the car as he could manage, she grew angrier with every step she took, "love me John" it was an order now. He aimed at her heart and pulled the trigger. As soon as the bullet met with her chest her good hand flew to the wound. She looked confused and naseous as her bony fingers reached into the bleeding wound. With a grunt she pulled out the bullet and held it up in the pale moonlight, "you shouldn't have done that, John" she said throwing the bloody bullet over her shoulder, her lifeless eyes becoming enraged.
"DAD" John heard the cry from a distance; it was too far away to be Sammy,
"Dean!" John cried out in response. What is he doing here, I told him to stay!
"Catch" Dean was running as fast as he could, blue blanket billowing out behind him, wooden stake in his hand. He tossed the stake to his father but kept running. He ran passed the dead woman and reached the car red in the face. Sam saw Dean coming before he called out he had his cape on, and he gave their daddy what he needed to beat the bad lady. Sammy couldn't speak as Dean opened the door. He heard the scream of the bad lady but he couldn't rip his eyes off his brother, who was kneeling by the car looking up at him,
"Sammy, you okay?" Dean panted grasping his little brother by the shoulders. Sam couldn't say anything and Dean was worried, "did she hurt you?" Dean tried again, and Sam just shook his head. Dean heaved a heavy sigh of relief and pulled his brother into a tight hug. Closing his eyes as he felt Sam's heartbeat against his own, his little brother was okay. He hadn't failed. There was still guilt visible behind the ice of Dean's eyes though. He'd never let Sammy out of his sight again…never. He promised his dad that he wouldn't let anything happen to Sammy, and that's exactly what he's going to do.
"You are a superhero" Sam said gesturing towards the blanket. Dean grinned and reluctantly let go of Sam,
"You bet, little bro, and this is my super cape." He said draping the blanket across Sam's tiny shoulders. Sam giggled and wrapped the blanket tightly around himself, "and when you're wearing it, nothing can hurt you" Dean said in a professional tone of voice,
"What if something gets me?" Sam asked sniffling. Dean sighed and tipped Sammy's chin up, staring right into his eyes he smiled,
"I will never let that happen" he said and Sam smiled,
"Promise?" Dean grinned and pulled him close once more,
"Promise." Dean had stayed by Sam's side as John patched up the window and repaired the tire. He had tickled his little brother until Sam could barley hold his eyelids open. And finally they were on the road again, one more evil defeated, they were in their car, warm and happy. John was still afraid though; he hurried his boys along and scolded Dean for leaving when John had told him to stay. But he silently thanked God for making Dean rebellious enough to chase after him. He drove on into the night, even as his blurred vision compromised him he kept drinking coffee and kept driving. Dean didn't ask why they couldn't stop.
Sam was finally asleep, wrapped in the blanket, his hand wrapped firmly around Dean's. Dean tried to close his eyes again but something told him to keep them open. To keep watching out for Sam, at least until the sun was up. As soon as the sun did come up John let himself smile for the first time all night. They were out of the woods, literally, it would be alright. He drove for another fifty miles until he found a motel to pull into. Dean gently shook Sam awake and they climbed out of the car. Dean shut his door and started to follow his father into the motel until he realized Sammy wasn't behind him,
"Get your brother" John told Dean, he sat on the bench outside the motel and watched as Dean, the protector took over the parenting once again.
"Sammy?" Dean called out, he realized that the small boy was still in the parking lot staring at the door he had just gotten out of, the door he had been soundly sleeping behind all night, "Sammy, what's up?" Dean asked running up behind him. He caught his breath when he saw it, there were hundreds of deep scratch marks on the door, something had tried to claw its way in. Something had tried to get Sammy. Dean swallowed, trying to dissolve the lump in his throat and he shook himself out of it, "we probably drove too close to a bush, or something" he said, even though he didn't believe it. "Come on Sammy" Dean said and Sammy grabbed his hand.
"They didn't get me" Sammy said, his bright eyes shining in triumph, Dean laughed and led him to the motel door where John was waiting for them,
"Of course they didn't" Dean said squeezing his little brother's hand tightly, " I'm a superhero."