Disclaimer: Ain't mine.
A/N: A short piece that answers that nagging question. What if Sam and Dean did have Max's childhood?
Spoilers for Nightmare!
Also, deals with child abuse. Consider yourself warned.
The whisper came from the darkness.
Sitting up in bed, Dean rubbed sleep from his eyes, staring blearily at the small figure in the doorway.
"Dean?" the voice pleaded again, small and scared.
"Sammy?" Dean asked, keeping his voice hushed. "What's wrong?"
"Daddy left," Sam's voice came.
Flicking on the small light next to his bed, Dean blinked rapidly.
His brother nodded, clutching his pillow at by one fist like a stuffed animal.
Their Dad didn't allow them stuffed animals. He said they were for babies, and the Winchester boys were not babies.
But they were, part of Dean raged. Sam was barely five, and he'd only just turned nine. They were only kids, and if Sammy wanted a teddy bear, he should be allowed to have one! But they were to terrified to disobey their father's orders, so Sam had taken to carrying his pillow around with him like a security blanket when he was scared. When their father wasn't home to see such a display of weakness. Now, when Dean checked on his brother before he went to bed himself, it was commonplace to find Sam curled around that dirty pillow like it was all that was good and safe in the world.
Dean heaved a sigh and shrugged. "Okay. C'mere."
Like lightning, Sam was across the room, vaulting on to the bed with the pillow dragging on the floor behind him.
Dean grabbed Sam by the shoulders, helping him up onto the bed, alarmed when Sam let out a tiny cry.
"What?" Dean asked, letting go, his brother safely on the bed. "What hurts?"
"My back," Sam said, biting his lip.
"Turn around," Dean said quietly, his stomach churning.
Sam did as he was told and Dean slowly lifted the shirt of Sammy's PJ's.
Sucking in a breath, Dean immediately saw the cause of his brother's pain. A large bruise spread out from shoulder blade to shoulder blade.
"What happened?" he asked softly.
"I was bad," Sam said mournfully, hanging his head.
"Sammy..." Dean started, then trailed off.
"I went in his room," Sam continued without prodding. "I wanted to see it just once, Dean, I wasn't gonna touch anything!"
"I know," Dean said soothingly.
"Daddy found me in there, and he got mad," Sam said, tears springing to his dark eyes. "He said I was a bad boy."
"When?" was all Dean could ask.
"When you were at school," Sam said, sniffling.
Dean nodded, taking this in.
"He hit me with his shoe," Sam said, sounding confused. "He took it off and threw it."
Dean pulled the shirt down, colorful dinosaurs smiling up at him, and took a deep breath.
"Don't go in there anymore, Sammy," he said softly. "Just stay in your room."
"But I get booored," Sam whined.
"Tell you what," Dean said, getting up and going to his shabby desk.
Sam sat on the bed watching him carefully.
"As soon as I leave, you come to my room," he said, digging through his desk. "And you stay in here, okay?"
"But, Dean -" Sam started.
"And I'll let you have these," Dean said, coming up triumphantly with a stack of comic books.
Sammy's eyes widened. "Really?"
"Yeah," Dean nodded. "You stay in here and read, okay? Every one you read all the way through you can keep."
Sam grinned. "Okay!"
Dean left the stack of comics on the desk and came back to the bed, settling in beneath the covers.
"Can we leave the light on?" Sam asked tentatively.
Dean eyed the lamp warily. "I don't think so. You know Dad doesn't like that."
"But... what if there's monsters in the closet?" Sam asked slowly, his eyes on the closet door.
"Don't worry, Sammy," Dean said, wrapping and arm around his brother's skinny shoulders. "I'll protect you."
"Promise?" Sam asked, looking up at his older brother with hope written in his eyes.
"Always," Dean swore.
The sound of the front door slamming woke him up again. His eyes shot open, staring at the ceiling in the dark, heart racing.
Beside him his brother slept on, snugly under the covers.
Dean prayed silently that his father was just drunk enough to pass by the room and go on to his own. Drunk enough to pass out and wake up and go to work in the morning. Too drunk to even contemplate checking on the boys.
If wishes were fishes, Dean thought as he heard the door across the hall creak open.
A sudden light spilled across the hallway and he heard his father's voice shout his brother's name in something between fear and anger.
"Sam!" John cried again, the name so slurred it became a growl.
Dean didn't know whether to alert his father to his brother's whereabouts or to just shut up.
His father decided for him.
The door flew open, hitting the wall with a crash that woke Sam up, and the light switched on, blindingly.
Sam hid behind his brother as their father stood in the doorway, his height and build menacing.
"What the fuck is this?" John Winchester spat.
"Dad...Sammy had a bad dream," Dean stammered. "He -"
Their father's bloodshot eyes blazed angrily.
"You weak little bastard," he said, rushing toward the bed.
He reached out to grab Sammy, knocking Dean out of the way.
Dean hit the floor hard, the wind knocked out of him, and rolled on to his back, wheezing. Through teared up eyes, he saw John grabbing Sam by the arm, shaking him.
"Dad, stop!" Dean cried, struggling to his feet, holding on to the bed clothes and reaching out for his Dad's arm.
Roughly, John lashed out, grabbing Dean around the collar.
"You little bastard," John seethed again, this time focusing on Dean.
He let go of Sam, who scurried as far away as he could, pressing against the wall at the head of the bed.
"You think you're so tough?" John asked, slapping Dean. "You think you're the man in this family? You couldn't do half the shit I do!"
Dean cried out as his father rained blows upon him. "Stop! Dad!"
"Dad," John mimicked, lip curling back. "You're no son of mine. You're the reason she's gone!"
Tears streaming down his face, Dean tried to pull away from his father's grasp.
"Cry, baby, cry!" Jhn shouted. "You'll never be a man!"
He let go of Dean abruptly, barely noticing as his son hit the bed and rolled to the floor.
"Dean!" Sammy wailed, clutching his pillow in front of him like a sheild.
"You're so worried about each other, but neither of you gives a shit about your mother, and you pay me no respect," John raged, pacing back and forth. "I'm the one who matters! ME! I loved her!"
Lying on the floor, face pressed to the dirty carpet, Dean could only listen.
"Daddy, stop!" Sam cried, choking sobs wracking his little body.
Abruptly his father stopped screaming, and a momentary relief flooding him.
Was it over?
"Daddy!" Sam's strangled cry came. "You're hurting me!"
Getting to his feet, he blindly reached out for his father's arms.
"Let go of my brother!" he cried, beating on his father's arms with his own small fists.
"Your brother," John sneered. "Fine."
Grabbing Dean's arm in a vise grip, he dragged the two sons to the closet.
"You want two want to be together? Fine." John said, opening the door and shoving the pair unceremoniously inside. "Sleep here."
The door slammed shut and outside there was a scraping noise as their father pulled Dean's chair over, then a thud as he wedged it underneath the doorknob.
Inside the tiny closet, the only noise was the harsh sound of their breathing.
Silently the boys tried to maneuver into a more comfortable position, but no matter how they sat, the walls touched them on every side.
Finally, pressed against the wall and into each other, they settled in for what could be a very long night.
"See, Sammy," Dean said softly, trying to lighten the dire mood. "No monsters in the closet."
His brother was shaking against him.
"The monsters are out there," Sam said fearfully.
Without another word, Dean wrapped his arm around his brother's shoulder and pulled him closer, letting Sam rest his head on his chest.
"Sleep," he said. "I'll protect you from the monsters."