Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, but a girl can dream. No money was made, I live on scraps and reviews.
Author's notes: Yes I have a work already in process and that lovely little collaboration with Will, but dang it, my muse is just limbering up. Really. I thought it was going to be a free association paragraph brought up by that little 'Geek Boy ' comment. Shows what I get for thinking. One shot. Utter rambling and fluff warning with hurt comfort tossed in for good measure. Pure candy.Past Flashback Fic from Where We Find God. PS. Updates for Negative Effect and Where We Find God will be posted by the end of the weekend-hopefully.
If he'd been completely honest with himself, it had always been a game to him.
Even if he did understand what drove his father to do it-and that part he revered- a part of him had embraced their work as fun.
Dean Winchester loved the idea of being a superhero. And what other fourteen year old kid got to play that kick-ass part in real life-saving people, destroying evil. No lucky bastards that he knew of.
Dean knew how to use swords, a bow, knives and anything that had a bullet to go with it. Hand to hand combat came as easy to him as riding a bike and he was one hell of a runner. Forget Uno and Monopoly, Dean could play poker and pool like a pro. Lying came natural too him also, and how many people got encouraged to use that skill.
Even when he got hurt, and sometimes that was quite frequently, he just brushed it off as a sports injury of sorts.
After all, kids got hurt playing football and soccer all the time. They got bumps and bruises and broken bones. So what if they didn't get stabbed or slashed or electrocuted. Hey- life wasn't all victory and glory. Those kids got participation trophies- Dean got the satisfaction of saving the world.
Hunting had made Dean tough too. He could take anything the baddies dished out. Or at least he had thought so.
But one night changed all that.
In one moment the exhilarating game, became a frightening battle.
In one instant Dean went from willing player to determined defender.
Play had become work. Fun became Responsibility. And being a hero didn't seem quite so glamorous. It seemed costly. And Dean wasn't sure if he could pay the penalty fee.
Sam's scream had almost caused him to lose his grip on the gun in his hands as he stopped abruptly and looked back over his shoulder in the direction he had just come from.
The thrill of the chase was forgotten as Dean realized that the thing they were pursuing was smart.
Smart enough to elude he and his father and to double back for an easier attack.
It had recognized the chink in their armor-the weakness in their playbook.
Even before Dean had.
"Sammy!" He took off running, his heart pounding louder and faster than his Nikes hitting the ground. He was so afraid he wouldn't make it in time.
As he tore through the thick forest, bobbing and weaving against the branches lashing out at him, he lost all feeling of bravery.
His cocky confidence dwindled until he felt like that four year old little boy he'd been the night the Evil had taken his mom. Where was his dad?
When he rounded the next bend, amazed he'd let himself go so far away from his little brother, his heart leapt into his throat and all sense of purpose fled him.
In that second between heartbeats, he didn't give a shit about saving people or ridding the world of all things bad, or- God forgive him- even finding the thing that had taken Mom. All he cared about was that Sam was in the hands of something that looked like a cross between a ravenous wolf and a man-eating bear.
One of it's grizzly like claws was wrapped around Sam's small body and it's head and extremely large teeth were way too close to the little boy's throat.
One look in Sam's terrified and pain-filled face and Dean did the only thing he could.
He shoved the brother in him aside and let the cold-blooded hunter take over.
It almost seemed like a dream as he lifted the gun filled with silver bullets and unloaded one shot after another into the heart of the beast and then put one in it's head just for good measure. Nothing fucked with Sammy.
The monster dropped Sam after the third shot, and he screamed as soon as he was free, his momentum mercifully rolling him away from the lumbering beast as it swaggered only once before falling at Dean's feet.
As soon as the hunter in him sensed the threat was gone, it was once again overpowered by the stronger instincts of a horrified big brother.
"Sammy," Dean dropped the gun and scampered towards the ten year old. Oh no, he's bleeding.
"Sam-Dean-what the hell?" John had heard the screams and made it to his boys in time to watch his oldest son kill the thing they'd been chasing- the same thing that had been terrorizing farms in the hills of West Virginia for the last several months. The very same monster that was responsible for countless cattle death, as well as the slayings of two grown men.
"Jesus," he swore as he kicked the huge animal-like demon over and made sure it was truly dead before making to where Dean and Sam were. They both could have been killed.
"Sammy?" Dean had his hands on Sam's face, trying to get the younger boy to look at him. "Take it easy. You're okay. Just breathe. Okay?" Dean wasn't sure if the were words were more for Sam or himself.
No matter. Sam wasn't listening. His eyes were clenched shut and his breath was coming in harsh pants. Tears were leaking from beneath his lids and he was holding his side. Blood was seeping between his fingers. The little boy was shaking.
"Sam-open your eyes." Dean ran his hand through the little boy's hair and down his body searching for other injuries, mesmerized that he couldn't stop his own self from trembling. A hunt had never scared him before-not like this.
"Dean?" His father's deep voice brought his eyes to the older mans. "Let me look at him."
Dean relinquished his position at Sam's side, but kept his hand on the dark blond hair. His dad would fix everything. He had to.
"Samuel! Look at me. Now."
Scared brown eyes finally popped open and Sam took a sharp breath, as his father gave him a slight shake. "Calm down."
"Dad?" Dean looked at his father as if the older man were a stranger. He never talked to Sam that way-to him, yeah-but Sam was just a kid.
"Dean?" Sam whimpered, apparently not liking the treatment either. John ignored him andpulled upthe shirt that was ripped and soiled with Sam's blood so he could get a look at the damage.
"It's okay, little brother. You're fine."
Without another word, John scooped his youngest son into his arms and started for the car. "Get the guns, Dean. I'll come back for the body later."
Dean opened the door of the car and watched as his dad bundled Sam into the back. John pulled his jacket off and bunched it against his youngest son's bleeding side.
Turning to Dean, he said, "Keep him warm and keep pressure on that wound."
Dean nodded and wordlessly slid into the back seat next to Sam and did what his father said.
Sam's eyes were closed again and his jaw and fists were clenched. The fourteen year old instantly recognized the tactic reminiscent of John Winchester and sudden sense of loss overcame him.
The car roared to life and Dean scooted closer- keeping his brother from being jostled around as his father tore off towards the hotel.
Once they were on the main road, Dean slipped out of his jacket and tucked it around the younger Winchester. "How you doing, kid?"
Glassy brown eyes opened and locked with Dean's concerned gaze. "I'm sorry."
"I messed up."
"No, Sammy. You did fine." Dean forced a brave smile. "You tricked the monster into coming out of hiding so I could get a good shot at it."
The little boy closed his eyes again and shook his head, not buying the lame spin on things. "Daddy's mad."
Dean swallowed hard. Sam sounded entirely too young to be bleeding on the leather seats of their father's car. "No, he's just worried."
He opened his eyes again and sought Dean's face. "Am I going to die?"
"What?" The question was like being hit by that first cold wave at the beach. "No. No way, Sam." Dean fought to control his pounding heart as the very sound of the words sent a feeling of panic and dread crashing over him. "Don't be a dufus, okay?"He hoped Sam couldn't detect the slight tremble in his voice. "You just got a little scratch-that's all. I've had worse shaving."
That brought a slight smile to Sam's face. "Shaving what-your legs?"
"Shut-up, Shrimp," he growled, relieved to see some of the worry fade.
It was short lived though as their dad hit a pot hole and Sam couldn't stop himself from crying out.
Dean kept up the pressure with one hand, shifting his other so that it was around Sam's shoulders. He pulled his kid brother closer, something he hadn't done in a while. Sam was growing up so fast. They both were. "Just breathe, Sammy."
The teen could feel the tremors moving through his little brother, remembering all too well how he'd felt the first time one of their hunts had gotten the best of him.
The feel of warm blood on his fingers and the coppery smell of it caused him to close his eyes as he felt Sam lean into him more-seeking comfort that Dean couldn't promise. After all, this wasn't a stupid banged knee or scraped palm. Something had done this to Sam on purpose in attempt to kill him.
"It hurts." The words were soft, unsure, and fear-filled.
They tore at everything Dean had once held true. He opened his eyes and glanced to the front of the car, catching a glimpse of his father's stoic face in the rearview mirror.
How many times had Dean himself thought that very same thing and swallowed those words back down to please his father-to protect his kid brother.
There was no one else for him to lean on, but that wasn't true for Sam.
"I know, Sammy." He leaned his head over and rested his cheek against Sam's hair. "Just hang in there, pal. It'll be okay." Dean pulled his jacket tighter around his brother. "You're safe now. I promise."
Sam listened to his older brother's voice, letting his head rest on Dean's chest. He closed his eyes against the burning agony in his side. Hunting wasn't half as fun as he thought it was going to be.
Dean had reluctantly let his father take the now sleeping Sam from him and ran ahead to unlock their motel room.
Maybe -if they were lucky- Sam would stay unconscious through the whole patching up part of this latest hunt.
It had always been Dean's least favorite inning in the game-no matter if he was the one still standing or the one being carried from the field on a stretcher.
The emotional pain of treating his father's injuries was almost as bad as the physical torture of having said injuries himself.
Unfortunately, this wasn't to be one of those easy lessons for Dean Winchester-superhero extraordinaire. No-someone wanted to make sure he was paying damn good attention.
Sam came to as soon as his father started cutting away his shirt-protesting the destruction of his lucky blue Timber Wolves tee.
He'd had it since last Winter when their father, in an uncharacteristic move, had treated them to a hockey game-sparking Sam's latest desire to be a goalie.
Dean, suspicious by nature, had half expected the abominable snow creature to emerge from the frozen rink and eat a couple of players before his dad destroyed it, but the whole night had been painfully normal. Right down to his father buying them hot dogs and cokes and Sam the T-shirt.
The same shirt that was now in bloody shreds on the motel floor.
"Be still, Sam." John instructed sternly, not seeming to find his son's attachment to the article of clothing amusing or appropriate.
Sam did as he said but Dean didn't miss the flash of hurt in his eyes. "Don't worry, Sammy. It was getting too small anyway. We'll get you another one this year."
John shot the older boy a look but kept working to remove the pieces of cloth sticking to the wound.
The teen winked at Sam and then moved his eyes from his brother's scrunched face to the now visible cuts on the little boy's side. He felt that invisible vice tighten around his heart and he could feel beads of sweat pop out on his forehead.
Three deep gashes ran horizontally across the younger boy's ribs, revealing deep tissue, muscle, and what Dean prayed wasn't a glimpse of bone. It was nasty and it had been done to Sam on Dean's watch. He hadn't protected him and now nothing Dean did could undue it. They would both have to live with the scars.
His stomach rebelled and the teenjumped up from the bed and barely made it to the small dimly lit bathroom before he was violently sick.
"Dean?" Sam tried to raise up. "Dad, what's wrong?"
Dean could hear the uncertainty in his brother's scared voice as it wafted in from the other room. He hated himself for being so weak when Sam needed him.
"It's alright, son." John's voice was calm, cool, and amazingly detached-as if he treated his barely ten year old child for demonic wounds on a daily basis.
The teen wretched again. This shouldn't be happening.
"Don't be moving around, Sam."
The youngest Winchester had a penchant for not listening. If something scared Dean then it must be really bad. He struggled against his father and looked down at his own side and panic swept through him. Blood was everywhere-his blood-real blood. It was warm and sticky on his skin and he could smell it, almost taste it's twanginess on his tongue.
The ten year old part of his brain locked onto every terrifying thing it could mean and for some unknown reason the pain he was feeling before doubled in intensity. "Oh no. Oh no." Sam's breath quickened. "Oh no."
"Sam-stop it!" John recognized the building anxiety and knew that a full blown panic attack was the last thing that his youngest son needed. Shock was already an all too real problem. He had to keep Sam calm. "Dean. Get your ass back in here. Now!"
The teen pushed himself up from his knees, his shaky legs almost refusing his order to bare his weight. He made it to the sink and let the cold water he splashed on his face force him back to reality.
Dean jumped at the sound of his father's sharp order, but it was Sam's plea for help that had him pulling it together and moving quickly back into the room.
John's disappointed glare left no room for argument. "I need you in here."
Dean heard the underlying message-'You need to hold it together.'
"I need you to hold him down while I take care of this."
What? He couldn't hold Sammy down. No fucking way.
"No." Apparently Sam agreed because his voice held a trace of defiance. "Let me go." He was fighting his father now and managed to escape the blood slicked hands. "Dean can bandage it."
The ten year old would have made it off the bed if Dean hadn't caught him. "Sammy-chill." The teen squatted in front of his brother and put his hands on the trembling shoulders. "Take it easy."
"I'm bleeding." Sam lifted his hands as if he was sure it had somehow escaped his brother's attention. Dean always took care of things like this.
His older brother swallowed hard and pushed Sam back down on the bed. "I know, little brother. Dad's going to have to fix that. You don't want me doing it. You'd end up looking like Frankenstein."
The ten year old still looked scared but now that Dean seemed to be fine with the idea, the little boy relaxed some. "I'm cold."
Dean looked at his dad. "I know. Dad will get you patched up and then we'll get you warmed up-okay."
"Sammy-I need you to look at me."
The stern quality of John's voice pulled Sam's gaze back to him, and he blinked owlishly at his father. "This is going to hurt, but it has to be done. Do you understand me?"
Sam nodded. "Yes sir."
"Good boy." John smiled and ruffled the boy's hair. He took a deep breath to calm his frayed nerves and tore open a package of sterile gauze and a new needle. The oldest Winchester spared Dean a glance before grabbing the alcohol. "You're a tough kid, Sammy. Just like your big brother."
Dean felt sick again. A part of him realized what his dad was doing. He was manipulating his little brother-using him no less- and Dean hated him for it. He'd heard the same type of words directed at him. 'You're a good soldier, Dean. Just like your old man.'
And Dean had bought into them. Hook. Line. And sinker.
But this was Sam.
Sam looked unsure as he glanced back up at his brother's pale face and Dean forced a smile as he picked up the little boy's hand and squeezed it. "Just keep looking at me, Sammy. It'll be over before you know it."
When his little brother's lip began to tremble Dean continued to ramble on about nothing. "Think of the cool scar that you're going to have. Just like a real hero."
To the kid's credit, he only jerked a few times and squeezed Dean's hand harder as his dad poured the alcohol over the wounds in his side. Before it was over, fat tears had escaped the big brown eyes and a small whimper made it past the clinched teeth. Dean could have sworn that he felt every drop of the burning solution as it splashed against his brother's skin.
The fourteen year old ignored the irritated look on John's face as he leaned closer to his brother, running his hand over Sam's hair. "Shhh, Sammy. You're okay. I'm here."
He knew the older hunter wanted to say something, but he didn't. The vein on the side of his head was bulging in anger, but he ignored his sons and started sewing up the deepest cut on Sam's side.
Dean could have cared less about what his father thought at that moment. In fact, to him, it seemed if he and Sam were the only ones in the room. The only important thing was that he helped Sam in the only way he could. Dean was nothing if not a good distraction.
"You were really brave." Dean's deep voice wafted into the bathroom and John leaned against the door before opening it slightly.
He could hear the boys talking in the other room. Well, mostly Dean was talking, but he could picture the look on Sam's face, just the same.
"I'm proud of you, Sammy. You are officially my new sidekick."
Sam sighed and tried to keep his eyes open. "Why do I have to be the sidekick?"
"Cause I'm the one with the gun. I shot the baddie, remember?"
" My hero," Sam snorted.
Sam was just about to give into the pain medication when he forced his eyes open once more. "Hey, Dean?"
"Are you sure I did okay?"
"Positive. Better than me on my first hunt."
"Oh yeah. See this scar," Dean pointed to the barely invisible pale line near his eyebrow, "I took out a fully grown tree with out any weapons."
Sam smiled. "Maybe a hard head is your secret power."
"Maybe." Dean looked at the younger Winchester. "But what might Geek Boy's secret weapon be?"
Sam rolled his eyes and yawned, but Dean wasn't dissuaded. "Could it be his enormously large brain that gives him the ability to read ten books in one week, or his freaky high IQ that allows him to knock out twenty math problems quicker than a speeding bullet, or is it his uncanny knack to look irresistibly cute and innocent on command."
"Nah," Sam mumbled around a sleepy smile. He let his head drop to Dean's shoulder and the older boy barely caught the next sentence as the ten year old succumbed to the drug induced sleep. "It's his brother."
John opened the bathroom door the rest of the way and Dean looked up from staring at Sam.
His father shook his head. "Dean-we need to talk."
Dean sat up straighter against the headboard of the bed where he had been sitting with Sam. "What about?"
"This," John motioned to the scattered medical supplies and the blood soaked towels and finally to Sammy who was fast asleep, leaning against Dean. "It can't happen again."
Dean was surprised. He'd expected more of a fight from his father.
"No shit, Dad."
"Language," John growled, pointing a finger at him. He sat down on the other bed. "So it's understood that you can't encourage this behavior."
Excuse me? Dean blinked. "Dad, you're the one who told him that he could go on the hunt." I never wanted him to go.
John shook his head, realizing that he and his son were on two different pages of the same old book. "I'm talking about how you handled your brother after the hunt. I know it was a hard first time out but…"
First and last time. "Hard?" Dean's voice rose slightly and Sam shifted, mumbling something but not waking up. "You put thirty some stitches in his side. He could have died."
"He didn't. And you coddling him isn't going to make the next time any easier. Are you still going to be holding his hand when he's seventeen?"
If he needs me to. "He's too young for this, Dad."
"He's the same age that you were."
"Sam's not like me."
"Because you pet his ass. You have since he was a little kid. I should have stopped it a long time ago."
What? "Dad, he's still just a kid. He only turned ten."
"No, Dean. He's not just a kid. He's a Winchester. One of us. A hunter. His life will always be in danger and you might as well accept that now." John softened his voice some as Sam stirred again, and Dean put a protective arm across his shoulders. "I swear I will do my best to protect you and your brother-but you know that bad things happen."
An image of his mother sprung unbidden to Dean's mind, and he tightened his hold on Sam. He thought about how he felt when she was gone-what it had done to him. The hole it had left. A hole that Sam had filled.
His father had just changed the rules. Just like that. He'd changed everything. Damn him.
They were no longer playing.
Everything seemed far too real now and Dean wished for the buzzer to signal the end of it all. He didn't care about the final score. He just wanted it to be over.
"I can't lose Sammy, Dad." Didn't the man get that. He'd lost so much already. Dean shook his head, unable to keep the tears out of his eyes-the down hill slide from the adrenaline packed night catching up with him. "I just can't."
John nodded, understanding his son's pain all too well, but unable to deal with both their fears. "Then I suggestyou make sure that you don't." It was the best advice he could offer.
He stood slowly and gathered his coat and the car keys. A drink with his name on it was waiting for him at the bar across the street. "I'll be back later. Watch your brother."
Dean sighed and stared at the door his father had just exited through. He let his chin drop until it was resting on top of Sam's head and closed his eyes- listening to his brother's slow steady breathing. The fourteen year old could smell the baby shampoo that Sam still used and his heart suddenly ached for the years to fall away. Dean wanted the days backwhen he could still hide Sam in the car while he and their dad hunted.
He wanted Sam safe. Out of bounds. On the bench.
Dean wanted hunting to be just a game again.
But that was over-it ended when Sam's blood had been spilled on the battlefield.
"I'm so sorry, baby brother," Dean whispered into the little boy's hair. "Game over."
Now-it was War.