Disclaimer: Don't own anything connected with Supernatural
Billy led them through a tiny hallway and then stepped into a big kitchen painted mostly in yellow. Dean's first thought was that it was crowded – crowded with kids. Kids in all ages, and he turned to Billy with raised eyebrows. "Are all these yours?"
Billy nodded proudly.
Dean grinned. "Man, you and I so need to have that talk your old man missed."
"Dean!" Sam hissed behind him.
"It's already too late, dude. You should been here twelve years ago."
Dean turned to the boy who had spoken and grinned. "Sean, man. It's good to see you, even though I think I had spared your old man a lot of grief if I had had that talk with him eighteen years ago."
Dean knew Sean pretty well. They have met four times the past two years before Sam came back. Twice when Billy came to rescue Dean's ass, and twice when he needed help with a hunt he couldn't do on his own. Dean really liked the kid. He was smart, funny and a divinely gifted hunter. Mostly because of foresight, but still…
Sean made a face. "Touché."
"What talk?" the little girl, who had been playing in the yard when they arrived, asked curiously, looking expectantly at her older brother.
Sean looked startled and Dean could tell that he had forgotten that his younger siblings were in the room, too.
"How about we continue this presentation on a little more child proof leave?" the black-haired woman by the sink said with a wink and a soft smile, and Dean realized he had just met Miriam for the first time in his life.
"Sure, Mom. Sorry," Sean replied with a sheepish smile.
"Okay, Sean and Dean, as we all noticed, you already know each other. So let's continue. Dean, this is Simon," Billy said with a smile, and pointed at a gangly boy, about twelve years old standing next to Sean, "and he happens to think you're the best and coolest hunter there is – almost a superhero."
The boy blushed furiously, and Dean felt sorry for him. "Aww, come on, Billy. Don't give the poor boy a hard time. You've always been an ass when it comes to those things. Don't worry," he said and gave the boy an encouraging look, "I think it's an excellent choice, but unfortunately it proves that you're a lot smarter than I was when I was in your age, because my hero was that dork over there." He glared at Billy. "Can you believe it?"
Billy just grinned and playfully whacked Dean over the head before continuing with the presentation, but Simon sent Dean an admiring and utterly grateful look, and Dean winked at him in return.
"This is Hannah."
"Hi," the girl said shyly and Dean met the too serious eyes of a girl, a couple of years younger than Simon and thought that this was a child that – in spite of Billy and Miriam's best efforts – definitely had lost her childhood to the hunt, because the look in her eyes reminded him about Sam. Sad Sam. The younger boy beside her – introduced as Jason – reminded him of Sam, too, but not sad Sam. More like rebelling teenage Sam, and he felt sorry for Billy. This one was sure to be a handful.
"And this is Ruthie," Billy said with an amused smile. "If you want the truth, or the latest news, she's the one you ask."
"Hi, you," Dean said gently and crouched down to her level. She giggled and shyly hided her head against her mothers legs.
"And then the pride and joy of my life, my wife Miriam, not to mention Joshua, the latest member of the pack."
Dean straightened up and met the kind gaze in the woman's green eyes. He extended his hand. "It's nice to finally meet you. I understand that you have saved my life more than once, so… thank you."
She took his hand and squeezed it with surprisingly strength. "You're very welcome."
Dean nodded and turned his eyes to the toddler, who greeted him with a bright smile that made his heart go all soft and mushy. He smiled back and gently patted the boys head. In the mean time, Billy had started to introduce Sam the same way he had with Dean.
"Sean, meet Sam Winchester," Billy said gravely and Dean frowned at his tone. It wasn't like Billy to be that formal and his frowned deepened when Sean straightened up, almost like a solider, and answered, "It's an honour to meet you, sir!"
"Don't call me sir," Sam said softly. "There's no reason. I'm not even a cool hunter. Just Sam, Dean's little brother."
Sean was about to reply, but Billy caught his gaze and shook his head and Sean nodded. "Okay, Sam it is."
What was that all about? Dean thought, feeling totally bewildered. Sean didn't usually act that way and Billy definitely didn't raise his kids to behave like soldiers, or to call people sir. But the presentation went on and Dean got distracted from his thoughts when Sam was introduced to Miriam and Joshua. The toddler reached his arms toward Sam, his eyes big and curious. Sam looked at Miriam, like to ask for permission, and then took the toddler and awkwardly held him on his arm. Joshua happily grabbed Sam's hair and Sam let out a yelp of surprise and pain.
Miriam quickly saved Sam by taking the little boy back. "Sorry, he loves long hair."
Everybody in the room laughed – even Sam – and for the first time in a long time Dean felt that things might be okay again eventually.
"Okay," Billy said. "Let's sit down and eat."
Dean's eyes worriedly went to Sam, because lately eating hadn't been one of Sam's favourite things, but Sam gave him a soft, reassuring smile and Dean relaxed.
The food was great, and Dean enjoyed both the light conversation around the table and the home cooked meal more than he thought he ever would. It was something about the atmosphere in the room that made him relax. He felt safe, and from the look of it, so did Sam, because he both talked and smiled, not to mention actually ate some, even if it wasn't much.
Eventually, the meal came to an end and Miriam started to collect the plates, putting them in the sink. When she took Sam's half eaten one, Ruthie leaned closer to him and whispered, "You really should have eaten your food. You're gonna be in so much trouble!"
Sam looked at her, his expression somewhere between bewildered and amused and whispered back, "I am?"
"Yes, you are. You can't have any dessert and Daddy's gonna give you the lecture about being grateful about having food at all," the girl said gravely and the look on her face told Sam just how dreadful that lecture was.
Sam was just about to reply, but Miriam's gentle voice interrupted him.
"Ruthie. Leave Sam alone. You remember what I told you about why he's here, right?"
Ruthie nodded. "Because he needs help and rest because the crystal bowl in his head isn't working properly."
"And if it isn't working properly the visions hurts."
Ruthie's eyes grew wide. "Oh!" She turned to Sam and hugged his waist. "Don't worry, Mom or Hannah will make it go away. They can fix everything that hurts, and Daddy never gets angry if you're not eating because you're sick or hurting."
Again, everybody laughed, but Sam carefully hugged the little girl back and his voice was thick with emotions when he answered, "Thank you. I'm already feeling better."
Simon stood up and helped his mother collect the plates and put out new ones for the dessert, and suddenly Joshua stood up in his high chair, reaching his arms toward his brother.
"Joshua! Sit down!" Hannah said in a frightened voice and Dean, experienced after years of looking after Sam, immediately realized the danger and quickly stood up, trying to reach the boy across the table. At the same time, Billy turned around and tried to catch the toddler's arm, but it was too late. The movement made the little boy lose his balance and he fell out of the chair before any of them could reach him. Dean prepared himself for the loud wailing he prayed would be the result of the fall, because the alternative – silence – was no good. He heard the sound of a chair against the floor and suddenly, the boy stopped mid-air and slowly floated toward the floor where he landed softly on his butt.
Simon quickly scoped him up in his arms, burying his face in the boy's curly hair and whispered. "You know you need to sit still in the chair, you little moron."
"What the hell...," Dean murmured softly and stared at Joshua, safe and unharmed in his brother's arms.
"Thank you, Sean." Dean watched Billy eye is oldest son fondly, and suddenly he realized what had happened. Sean had the same physic powers that Max had had. But instead of killing someone with them, he had just used them to save his brother. Maybe there was hope for Sam. He looked over at his brother, and when their eyes met, he knew Sam was thinking the same.
"Yeah, Sam. Psychic powers don't necessarily have to be evil. It's a choice we make," Miriam said softly from where she stood at the kitchen sink, and for the first time since they met Max, Dean saw a glimmer of hope in Sam's eyes.
The rest of the meal went by without any further incidents, but the exhaustion was back on Sam's face and – once again – Dean found it hard to enjoy his own meal when all Sam did was poke at his. He was trying to come up with an excuse to get Sam into a bed somewhere when Miriam saved him the trouble.
"Billy, it's time to get the little ones in bed. And...," she turned and smiled at Sam, "…judging from the look on your face, some of the bigger ones, too."
Simon quickly stood up. "I'll take Joshua and Ruthie."
Billy nodded approvingly. "Good. Hannah and Jason, help your Mom with the dishes. Sean, take a look outside, makes sure everything is okay."
Dean heard all the kids murmur something along the lines with, "Okay, Dad," and thought that Billy might not have believed in giving orders, but did anyway, and he couldn't help but wonder what had happened if one of the kids had disobeyed him.
As the kitchen quiet down and the only sound to be heard was the soft click of dishes and water running, Sam put his head in his hands and sighed.
"How you feeling?" Dean asked and tried to keep the fear out of his voice, knowing all too well that Sam needed him strong now.
Sam looked up again. "Honestly?"
Dean made a face. "I'd prefer that, yeah."
"Like I could sleep for a year or so, that said if my head wasn't about to explode."
"That bad, huh?"
"Yeah," Sam said with a sigh and wearily rubbed his face.
Dean sighed, too, silently wondering if Sam would actually try to go to sleep tonight or if he would fight it like he usually did.
Dean looked over at Billy, fear and desperation making him sound hash and demanding, and said, "Now what? You said you could help."
Billy looked over at Miriam, who abandoned the dishes and sat down at the table. "First we're all gonna have a good nights sleep, and tomorrow we're gonna talk and then, when you both know everything that you need to know, we will make a plan on how to get Sam in charge of his powers. How does that sound?"
"Sounds great, except that Sam here kind of have been ditching the whole sleeping concept lately," Dean said sarcastically.
He knew he was being rude and unfair. They were trying to help and all he was doing was giving them shit. But he couldn't help it. He was tired and scared for Sam, and all he wanted was for this to end.
But neither Miriam nor Billy seemed offended, and if they were, they didn't show it. Instead Miriam smiled and looked sympathetically at Sam. "I know, but tonight you don't have to be afraid of the nightmares or visions. I'll take them away from you."
"You can do that?" Dean asked sceptically.
"Yes, I can."
Miriam smiled sadly at the hope in Dean's voice. "Sorry, that's not how it works."
"Then how does it work?" Sam asked quietly.
"I'll sit by your bed when you sleep, and when I see or feel signs of a nightmare or vision coming, I'll take them away from you."
"So you will live through my nightmares and visions for me?"
Miriam nodded. "Yeah."
"Doesn't sound like much fun."
"No, it isn't. Usually I have enough of my own visions and nightmares."
Sam swallowed hard. "Then why are you doing this for me?"
"Because you need and deserve it. Just remember, it's only a temporary thing. I can't always be around, so you'll have to learn how to deal with them on your own."
"Can't you teach me how to do it? I'll be happy to take that vision thing away from him."
"Dean! No!" Sam said in horror. "I can't let you do that. You have no idea how it is. Believe me, man. You don't want to go through that."
Dean set his jaw. "Yes, I would. If that meant you'd finally be able to eat and sleep again, I'd be happy to."
"Dean...," Sam's voice was merely a broken whisper and the look the brothers shared held a whole conversation.
Billy cleared his throat. "Yeah, well, that's not really an option, right, Miriam?"
Miriam looked apologetically at Dean. "Sorry, you have to be a psychic."
Dean made a face. "Why aren't I surprised?"
Billy chuckled slightly. "So, are you guys okay with the plan?"
Sam smiled weakly. "I guess."
Billy stood up. "Good. Come on. I'll show your bedroom. Miriam will stay with Sam tonight and Dean will sleep in the main bedroom with me and Joshua."
Dean quickly stood up, looking at Billy in alarm. "Whoa! Wait a second. I'm staying with Sam."
"Sorry, Dean, not tonight," Billy said firmly.
Dean smiled at him but it wasn't a nice smile. It was his dangerous "don't mess with me smile." And his hands unconsciously curled to fists at his side. "I don't think you understand. It's my job to protect my brother. I'm staying with Sam. End of discussion."
Billy met Dean's gaze, calm and totally unfazed by his anger. "I know it is. But not tonight. Tonight, he needs a kind of protection you can't provide."
All fight left Dean and he just looked tried and broken. "But what if something comes for him?"
"Don't worry. This is a well protected house. Sean and you and I are close by, and if needed, Miriam is a hunter, too – an excellent one. I promise you'd have to be on your best to beat her in combat."
"It will be okay, Dean," Sam said softly.
Dean took a deep, calming breath and ran his hand through his hair. "Okay."
"Good, now come on," Billy said, and Sam and Dean quietly followed him down the hall.
The house was kind of funny looking and felt a bit like a labyrinth. Billy had probably just added more room after the need of more space for his growing family.
"Nice place," Sam said politely.
Billy grinned. "No, it isn't. It's ugly as hell, but it fills its purpose – to put roof over my kids' heads – and it's...," he shrugged, "...home."
"Yeah," Sam replied distantly, "home."
Dean felt his heart ache for Sam, wondering for like the millionth time if he should have let Sam go with Billy ten years ago.
"Okay, so here it's," Billy said and turned on the light in a small room in the end of a short hallway. "It's gonna be Simon's room when Joshua gets old enough to have his own room. We try to keep the small kids closest...," His voice trailed off, like he realized he was talking too much about stuff most people wasn't interested in, but Sam and Dean wasn't most people.
"It sounds like a good plan," Sam offered quietly.
"Yeah, you can never be too careful," Dean agreed and Billy smiled warmly.
"Anyway, I'll leave you here to get ready. The bathroom is just down the hall to the right."
The beds were the cheep kind that people used for overnight guests, but neither of them was picky, and as soon as Billy left, Sam flopped down on one of them and closed his eyes.
Dean watched him worriedly, but before he could say anything, the sound of approaching footsteps made him look up. Miriam stood in the doorway with her hands full of blankets. Hannah was close behind her holding a glass of water and a bottle of Advil.
Miriam dumped the blankets on the unoccupied bed and said, "It gets kind of cold in here at night so I brought some extra blankets. And I thought I'd leave you alone until you feel ready or until Sam falls asleep. Just come and get me when you're done – or if you need me."
"Okay. Thanks," Dean said, shifting uneasily and sent her a grateful look, feeling bad for the way he had acted earlier.
Miriam smiled warmly in return, her eyes telling him she understood and forgave. In the meantime, Hannah had sat down on Sam's bed and was now offering him a couple of Advil and a glass of water. Sam smiled his thanks and winced as he sat up.
"I'm sorry. Here, let me take some of it away," Hannah said compassionately and reached for Sam's face.
"No! Hannah! Don't touch him!" Miriam said sharply and Hannah jerked away like she had been burned, looking wide-eyed at her mother.
"I'm sorry. I was just trying to help."
"I know, sweetheart. But he's too powerful for you. His pain would hurt you too much, plus that most of it is emotional and you can only cure pain that's physical, remember?"
"Sorry," the little girl said again.
Miriam smiled reassuringly. "It's okay. You didn't know. Why don't you go and get ready for bed. I'll be there in a minute to tuck you in."
"Okay," Hanna answered obediently and turned to leave the room, but before she disappeared, Sam said, "Thank you, Hannah. I appreciate the offer."
Hannah gave him a bright smile and left.
There was a brief silence before Miriam ran her hand over her hair. "Okay, just call me when you're done."
Dean and Sam nodded in unison and Miriam left.
Dean starred at Sam for a moment and then he said, "Man, and you think our family is weird..."
Sam smiled and shook his head. "Dean, you're impossible!"
"What?" Dean asked and the innocent smile he shot his brother made Sam laugh.
Dean made his way though the eerily quiet house. Sam hadn't fallen asleep yet, but he seemed relaxed and content, and Dean had decided Sam would be okay on his own for a while. The quietness and the inactivity were starting to get to him and he needed to move around, maybe get some air. He reached the kitchen where Miriam was busy finishing cleaning up before she went to bed.
"Hi," he said softly.
"Hi. Sam's asleep?"
"Okay. I'll go to him in a minute. Coffee?" Dean nodded.
She reached into the cabinet and handed him a mug. "Here, help yourself," she said with a smile, and Dean thought that she smiled an awful lot for someone dealing with supernatural things and visions all day.
He leaned against the kitchen counter trying to relax, but felt oddly uncomfortable, like someone was in his head.
He cleared his throat. "Um… are you reading my mind or something?"
Miriam turned around and smiled again, apologetically this time. "No. I don't have that kind of gift, but I can feel people's emotional pain and fears and the strength of yours kind of overwhelmed me before I could block you. Sorry. I didn't mean to violate you. It won't happen again."
Dean smiled back. "It's okay. Since you saved my life and all I guess I can cut you some slack – this time."
Miriam laughed. "Thanks a lot."
Dean grinned. "You're welcome."
There was another brief silence. A lot more comfortable this time.
"So, where's Billy?"
Miriam put the dishrag on the tap and poured herself a cup of coffee before sitting down at the table. "He went down to the shop to finish some paperwork, but he will be back any minute now."
"Okay. I think I'll wait for him outside. If that's okay with you?"
"Just go on."
Billy rounded the corner of the house and immediately spotted the shadow of a man sitting on the front step. He sighed lightly, knowing it was Dean and praying he wouldn't ask too many or too difficult questions just yet.
"Hi," he said and sat down beside Dean.
"Hi," Dean answered and looked up. "It's coffee in the kitchen if you want some."
Billy shook his head. "Nah, I'm good. So... how are you? You feeling okay? No after-effects from the electrocution or anything?"
"No," Dean replied bitterly. "The faith healer put that on someone else, remember? That someone didn't make it, though."
Billy sighed. This was definitely a scar and a guilt that Dean could do without, but Miriam said it was all part of bigger plan and necessary for the things about to come. Dean couldn't die yet, so actions had been taken to make sure he'd survive, but he couldn't tell Dean that, not right now and probably never. All he could do was to hope that Dean would understand and accept the whole thing eventually, although he seriously doubted it. John, and some of Sam's actions over the years, had taught Dean that he was replaceable and that wasn't a lesson Dean was going to forget anytime soon. Despite Billy's best efforts.
"I wanted to come... Just to... I don't know... offer support or something... but Miriam said there was no need, that you would be fine and that it was better that I stayed... She's usually right so..."
Dean looked up at him, a sea of emotions flickering over his face. "But you would have come to get Sam, right? I mean, if things hadn't worked out. You would have taken care of him, right?"
"Of course I had, and if Miriam had had just the slightest doubt you wouldn't make it, I'd have been there, all the way."
Dean nodded slowly. "Thanks."
Billy didn't answer, just nodded mutely in return.
The sat in silence for a while, and although Billy was convinced that Dean was physically okay, he seriously started to worry about his mental state. He looked just as desperate and tired as Sam, and Billy knew he needed to get Dean to talk, to voice his fears, but before he could think of a way to approach the subject, Dean spoke. "How do you do it?"
"Watch them suffer through these damn visions day out and day in without going insane? I mean, Sammy, he's my brother and I'm barely sane. I can't imagine how it would feel if it was my kid."
Billy sighed. "I don't know. It's a part of my life, you know? Kind of always have been. Miriam has had them since she was twelve and so has Sean. It's just another thing to deal with. I try not to dwell too much about it. Trying to take things in stride, offer Miriam some strength if she needs, trying to fix the things she sees."
"You can ease Miriam's pain with your strength? How?"
Billy shrugged. "Don't really know. I just know that sometimes it helps her if she can touch me. She says she borrows some strength from me." He shrugged again. "I really don't know. But it doesn't matter as long as she's okay."
Dean nodded knowingly. "So taking things in stride and let them touch you if they need to?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
"I can do that," Dean said determinately.
Billy nodded. "Of course you can. But, Dean...," Dean looked up at him, "...they don't usually hurt as bad as Sam's does. And for the record, I think he's more your kid than your brother."
"Why does everything have to be worse for him?" Dean asked angrily, totally ignoring Billy's last statement.
Billy eyed him carefully. "They hurt everybody in the beginning. It gets better once they learn to handle them, and Miriam says that the reason Sam is hurting so bad, and getting sick, is because he's fighting his abilities. It will get a lot better when he learns to accept them and deal with them, and Miriam and Sean will help him with that."
"God, I hope so," Dean murmured.
There was another silence and then Dean asked, "So... why all those kids?"
Billy smiled. "They are my pride and joy. My reason. The reason to be careful and keep fighting. The reason to get up in the morning. The reason to everything – them and Miriam."
Dean nodded again, like he could totally understand what Billy meant, and Billy knew he did. Sam was to Dean what Miriam and the kids were to Billy. "I get that, but why so many?"
Billy grinned. "What can I say? If you're a real man..."
Dean laughed. "You keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel good."
They sat in comfortable silence for a couple of minutes before Dean asked, "Can Hannah really take away physical pain?"
Billy looked surprised. "How did you know?"
"She tried to do it for Sam earlier, but Miriam didn't let her. She said he was too powerful for her, that he would hurt her. Why would he hurt her?"
Billy rubbed his face. "Yes, she can. And I don't know, but if Miriam says so, it's true. She knows those things, but my guess is that it's the force in his pain that would hurt her, not Sam himself."
Dean nodded. It made sense. "So... is she a psychic, too?"
"No, at least not like Miriam, Sam and Sean."
"How can you be so sure?"
"The fire demon didn't come for her."
"Has he come for any of the other kids?"
Billy shook his head. "No, only Sean."
"So where do Hannah's powers come from?"
Billy sighed wearily. "No one knows. Not even Miriam. But she was very sick when she was little. We didn't think she'd make it. Miriam thinks she might have developed them then..."
"Like some reversed curse, or something?"
"So basically you have three freaks in your family?"
Billy laughed. "That I know of, yeah."
Dean patted Billy's shoulder and said mockingly, "I'm so sorry, man."
Billy looked amused. "Well, freaks or not, they're not half as annoying as some of my friends."
Dean didn't answer, just grinned. But he looked slightly more relaxed, and Billy could tell that the light-hearted teasing made him feel better. But Billy wasn't exactly surprised. Humor had always been Dean's way to deal with scary situations or things that didn't make sense or threaten to overwhelm him.
Billy yawned, and he realized it was getting late. He patted Dean's shoulder and said, "I'm gonna hit the sack. It's getting late and it's gonna be a long day tomorrow."
Dean nodded and stood up as well. "Okay, but I need to ask you one more thing."
"Sean getting all stiff and formal, calling Sam sir. What was that all about?
Billy took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He had hoped that Dean wouldn't have asked that just yet since the answer would only lead to more questions, questions he couldn't answer just yet, not until Miriam had talked to them all tomorrow. But he knew Dean would take it as mistrust if he refused to answer. So he took a deep breath and looked seriously at Dean.
"That was a soldier meeting his commander for the first time."
Dean just stared at him. "Come again?"
"You heard me, and I know it doesn't make sense and that you have a thousand questions to ask, but that will have to wait. Miriam will explain it all to you tomorrow. But now we all need some sleep."
"You expect me to sleep after you drop shit like this on me? Damn it, Billy. Sammy didn't even want to be a solider, how the hell could he be a commander?"
"Tomorrow," Billy repeated firmly and went inside the house.