Warning: Here's a side to Ellen no one's ever seen before… Now, the title of this story has the word 'mother' in it for a reason, so, consider yourself warned.
"NO!" Instinct took complete control over the younger Winchester, and despite the fact that Douglas's arm was still wrapped painfully tight around his neck, he somehow managed to grab the man's wrist with his left hand. Jerking it back towards him with all the strength he had left, Sam prayed to God he'd be fast enough. And sure enough… he somehow was.
The gun went off, but the bullet was not propelled in Ellen's direction, as Douglas had so maliciously intended. Rather, it shot towards Ash, who practically fell over in his haste to take cover, dropping the rifle as he went. Douglas cursed, looking down at Sam in surprise as the boy fought madly to protect those who meant the world to him. "Tommy!"
NO! That's not my name! Sam's headache was returning, but he didn't think it had anything to do with psychic abilities. Not this time. It had more to do with the arm that was choking him, and the memories that were torturing him, and the fear that he wouldn't be able to save his family!
"Sammy," his father's voice from so many years ago, when Sam had last been held in this position by Chet Douglas, echoed in his mind. "Whatever happens… You do what you have to do. Understand?"
Yeah, he understood. Sometimes he wished John Winchester hadn't forgotten about giving him that particular piece of advice, but he understood it now, and he'd practically been living his life by it all this time. He couldn't stop… Dean was always protecting him… It had to be his turn! This wasn't anyone's fight but his own.
"Get off me!" Twisting slightly inward towards Douglas, Sam violently smashed his elbow into the bastard's gut. He didn't know, or particularly care, where this sudden burst of adrenaline had come from, but it was enough to knock the man slightly forward. Twisting even further, Sam managed to swing his inner leg around and positioned it behind Douglas's. A heartbeat later, he rammed his fist into the man's groin, bringing them both down heavily to the ground. Douglas was gasping in pain, and for the moment quite unable to stop Sam as he untangled himself and grabbed the gun. Scrambling away, the youngest Winchester half ran half crawled towards his brother. "DEAN!"
"Sam, honey, give me that!" Ellen motioned for the gun, and he surrendered it without argument. As she got to her feet holding it, Sam reached for his brother, who had, by that point, lost a hell of a lot of blood and wasn't at all happy about it.
Ellen tried to ignore the two as Sam helped his brother sit up. Already Douglas seemed to be recovering, and she fixed the gun on him, stepping far enough away so that he wouldn't be able to lunge at her without getting shot first in the face. "You stay down, mister, you hear me?" He looked at her with fire blazing furiously in his eyes, but, for the moment at least, obeyed her nonetheless. Now was not the time for her to be getting careless! Without turning her eyes away from the maniac, she continued handing out instructions. "Sam, get your brother to the car and start driving! Take Jo with you. Ash, get inside and call the cops!"
The smart one didn't hesitate to obey, and neither would've Sam, but when he tried helping Dean to his feet, his brother pushed him back. "Nah, I'm good. I'm staying with Ellen."
"Dean!" Sam stared at his brother impatiently. He wasn't exactly comfortable with the idea of leaving the woman alone with Douglas either, but with the gun, she had the upper hand right now, while Dean was bleeding pretty badly. He needed to get his wound taken care of. But, sure enough, no one had reckoned with the eldest Winchester's obstinacy. And to make matters worse, he wasn't the only one.
"I'm not going anywhere!" Jo was standing slightly off to the side with her father's knife held firmly in hand, more than ready to use it at a moment's notice. The look on her face spoke of concern, fury, and obstinacy all mixed together into one giant combination of youthful rebellion.
It was all Ellen could do not swear loudly in exasperation. This was exactly why effective chains of command were in such high demand! Damn it, John Winchester! If he were here right now dishing out orders, no one would think twice about questioning him! It sure was lucky they were dealing with a freak show like this damn nut job and not the demon itself. Otherwise they'd be screwed over in so many ways simply because they couldn't seem to listen to or trust one another! "This isn't negotiable! If the three of you don't get inside that car right now, there'll be hell to pay!"
Dean was on his feet now, and seemed to have forgotten all about the hole in his shoulder. After all, it wasn't as if he hadn't ever been shot before, and right now he was still boiling over with such fury that he could barely even see straight. The only thing he was even remotely capable of focusing on was Chet Douglas. The jackass who had dared hurt his brother! "Whatever, mom. I'll be more than willing to pay it once I collect from this sorry bastard."
Ellen flinched, and against her better judgment glanced towards the boy. He was practically foaming at the mouth, and the only reason he hadn't lunged towards Douglas already was because Sam was clutching his uninjured arm as tightly as he would a life float in the middle of the ocean. "Dean, it's not worth it! Sam isn't going to go anywhere without you, and the longer he's here, the more of a chance you have at losing him! Now I won't say it again!"
Dean was shaking in fury. There was nothing he would have liked better than to kick the crap out of Douglas, but Ellen had a point. Besides… He glanced from her to Sam, and then finally back to Douglas, who appeared to be every bit as livid as he felt. A small smile lit his face. "Fine." He clearly wasn't speaking to Ellen. His attention was directed entirely towards his old neighbor. "I guess I'll just have to take satisfaction in the fact that you get to watch me driving away with precious little Tommy." Douglas's face twisted into unimaginable rage as Dean wrapped his good arm around his brother and started towards the impala. "Coming, Jo?"
The blonde was about to shake her head again, when Ellen interrupted. "Joanna Beth Harvelle, if you ever want to hunt again, than on occasion you are going to have to do as I tell you! Now go with Sam and Dean!"
"Oh, so this morning you wouldn't trust me with them and now you do?" Jo demanded accusatorily, causing her mother to turn away huffing in frustration. She glared at Douglas angrily, as if he were to blame for all of this. He didn't return her glare, however, for he was staring at Dean almost feverishly. Now he was the one breaking out in sweat, panting like a rabid dog.
Jo shook her head in disgust, but nevertheless turned towards the impala and started after the Winchesters. Dean definitely seemed to want to make as much of a show out of it as possible, and so instead of allowing Sam to help him climb into the backseat of the car, he motioned for his brother to get in.
Sam stared at his brother in disbelief. "Dean, you're bleeding! Can you even use that arm?"
"Shut up, Sam, and get in the car," Dean replied stiffly, leaning against the driver's door. The two of them stared at each other for several seconds before Jo managed to catch up.
"Sorry, Sam, but I'm with Dean on this one," she grumbled, batting the youngest Winchester into the back. "We might as well make the most of this, and the look on that bastard's face is priceless." She glanced back at Douglas and offered him a mocking wave before climbing in after Sam. Dean slammed the door shut once she was in.
And that was all it took. Douglas couldn't stomach the sight of that door closing, hiding his boy from sight. Just thinking about having to watch that car driving off with his son was unendurable! He wouldn't allow it! He'd kill Dean first. Enraged, he pushed up to his feet and charged like tidal wave. He'd kill him! He'd kill him! He'd kill him! He'd kill him!
Ellen shot the gun.
She shot it again.
And then she emptied it.
Dean turned his head in astonishment. The car's two backdoors both flung open up as Jo got out and as Sam ran around to the front of the vehicle. Chet Douglas was on the ground… He had three ugly holes in his chest… from which blood was overflowing…
"Oh my God…" Jo was not fainthearted. She did not have a weak stomach. The sight of the bastard's body lying there would have been more of a curiosity to her than anything else… had her mother not been the one holding the gun. She started struggling to breathe, walking forward as if irresistibly drawn towards the corpse. When she passed by Dean, however, he reached his good arm out and grabbed hers, holding her back.
Ellen herself was trembling. She had never killed a man before… and though there wasn't even a single scrap of her being that regretted pulling the trigger… just the very shock that came from having done so was enough to rip out her heart. She dropped the weapon and stood there for about an eternity in absolute silence.
"Is he…?" Sam could hardly breathe himself. There was no way… After all this… It couldn't be… over…?
"Yeah, nice aim!" Dean commented, shaking his head in incredulity. He hadn't seen this coming. But he knew he wouldn't forget it. It was just another display of one timeless law of nature he had learned back in Lawrence a year ago when he, Sam, and Missouri had banded together to get rid of a poltergeist. Heaven help the thing – whether it was a man or a demon – that threatened a child in front of a righteously pissed off mother.
The cops came and went. All the experts came and went. The body was removed. An ambulance came for Dean, but he refused medical attention, and so that went as well. After all, he'd much rather keep an eye out for Sammy while tending to his own wounds than being stuck in some crummy hospital all over again. God, he hated hospitals with every fiber of his soul! If it were up to him, he would never step foot inside one again, for as long as he lived!
It didn't seem possible that all the official business with the state and the inevitable investigation could be wrapped up so completely in just a couple of hours. Dean swore that such matters generally took weeks… or at least longer than a day. But Ellen had her own connections – Ash being one of them – and everything was taken care of before her usual customers arrived for dinner. Not that they'd be having dinner there on that particular night… Ellen hadn't lied when she told Douglas that the saloon would be closing early. After everything that had happened, she knew without a doubt that there wasn't anyway in Hell she'd be able to tolerate business of any sort whatsoever. She was just too damned tired.
Jo was in her room, pretty much hiding from the world. She had been put through a lot in the past several days, and right now just needed to be alone. Ash was outside, ready to fend off anymore straggling cops and reporters – who were harder to get rid of than cockroaches. Sam was sitting at the bar with his head down. Dean was sitting at a small corner table, cleaning one of his guns – despite his injured arm. Ellen herself was pouring several large glasses of whiskey. She had no idea whether or not she'd be sharing them with anyone. More than likely, she'd just end up drinking it all herself.
"Tommy," Dean suddenly dropped the gun on the table, looking up towards Ellen. She and Sam both turned their heads around in surprise. Whatever they had been expecting to have break the silence, this sure as hell wasn't it.
"Dude," the younger Winchester stared at his brother in open confusion and slight offense. "My name's Sam."
"I know, I know," Dean waved that remark aside almost carelessly. "I'm talking about Tommy Douglas. The real one. You think he's still alive? He was just a kid when he ran away. I was absolutely sure he wouldn't make it out on the streets."
"Well," Ellen shrugged. "The kid in the newspaper article your friend, Douglas, showed me was named Thomas. He might have changed his last name to fend off his father, but then again, his father was crazier than Norman Bates, so…" She took a small sip of her drink. "Who knows."
"Someone should find him," Dean said glumly, picking his gun up again. "Let him know he doesn't have to keep looking over his shoulder." Ellen nodded. She'd have Ash look into it later. Right now, however… it wasn't exactly the first thing on her list of priorities.
"It doesn't seem right," Sam whispered. Dean glanced up in time to watch his brother massage the side of his head again. He looked like he was in more pain than Dean was himself, and he hadn't even been shot at once!
"What?" he asked, and Sam looked back at him.
"Any of it," he confessed. "First we find out that dad…" He stopped short and glanced apologetically at Ellen, who turned away from him and took another sip of her drink. Sam bit his lip before looking back at his brother. "And now this? Dad promised we'd never see the guy again! That we'd be safe from him!"
"Well, we're safe from him now," Dean shot back irritably. "And you did real good out there, Sam. Kicked the crap out of him. Don't get me wrong. I wish I'd gotten that chance. But dad trained us well, and he didn't have to worry about either one of us getting beat by a freak like Douglas."
"He really wasn't perfect…" Sam whispered. Of course, he and his father had had their fair share of disagreements on so many different levels, but when it came to hunting… when it came to actually protecting his children… and keeping safe his friends and allies… Sam had always believed that their dad truly was completely and utterly infallible! But now this…? How was he supposed to cherish John Winchester's memory when the truth of it was that his father…?
The boy glanced up at his brother in increasing despair. Dean saw it and glowered. "Forget it, okay? I don't want to hear any of that coming from you. Understand?"
He couldn't help it. "I'm just saying-"
Sam sighed and allowed his head to sink back down onto the table, covering it with his arms. There wouldn't be any escaping this. When his family had rescued him from Douglas the first time, they had been able to pile into the impala and leave. They had driven through miles and miles of darkness, the whole night long. Sam had been able to recover. He… he didn't know whether or not he could do that a second time. It just… hurt… so much.
Things weren't ever going to be the same again. Only the hard and brutal truth could open wounds like this, and the truth of the matter was… John Winchester had not been the man Sam thought he was. Dean was still in denial, and probably would be for an incredibly long time. He just couldn't accept the possibility that his father held any sort of responsibility whatsoever for William Harvelle's death. It was… too much to ask for.
"Your father was a good man," Ellen finally turned around to look at them both. And they met her gaze, surprised and helplessly curious. The woman looked so tired – which was understandable – and also heartbroken – which was possibly even more so. It was all she could do not to start crying again. "I don't expect you boys to understand… We've all lost people we love, but in your cases… it was the demon's fault… which, believe it or not, doesn't hurt even half as much because you actually expect it to be cruel… I'm sorry you think I don't trust you, Dean, because I do. I just… I can't afford to have faith in anyone. Because, more than anything else, it was my faith that betrayed me, and I won't feel that way again. The truth is, John Winchester was like a brother to me, once. And when he left, I had no one but a tiny little girl who just couldn't understand where her papa was. I felt like I'd been abandoned."
"Well you don't have to worry about that happening again," Dean told her haughtily; haughtily because he couldn't stand all this vulnerability. It was yet another chick-flick moment, and he would do or say absolutely anything to escape it. There had just been… too many of those recently. A guy could only be expected to take so much pain in such a short amount of time! And so… he looked up at Ellen brazenly. "I'm not losing anymore of my family. That demon's heading straight back to hell, and then that'll be that."
Ellen shook her head. "Don't expect me to buy that one. You're not half as confident as you sound, and I don't blame you for it." She looked away from him then and focused on Sam. "Look, let's just forget about that last hunt you boys went on. I want you spending the night here, and if your head still hurts in the morning, I'll see what I can do about finding someone who can-"
"We've already tried," Dean interrupted, concentrating on the gun he was cleaning. "There's no one, lady. No one."
Ellen glanced at him in exasperation before looking back at the younger brother. "Does it always hurt so much?"
"Yeah," Sam admitted, staring at the countertop. "Honestly, it's been worse in the past. And Dean's right. I don't think there's anyone out there who can do anything about it." Dean glanced up at the two soberly. He didn't like being reminded of his own helplessness when Sam's visions were kicking in.
"We'll figure something out," Ellen told him, reaching for his hand and giving it a comforting squeeze. Sam smiled softly, but it was a humorless, desolate kind of smile.
"Thanks," he whispered. "But I can't afford that kind of faith, either." Ellen nodded.
At that moment, they were all interrupted by the opening and closing of a door in background. Seconds later, Jo was storming into the barroom, where she then proceeded to take an indignant seat next to Dean, crossed her arms, and stared at her mother with a set jaw and blazing eyes. "What did you mean when you told Chet Douglas that Sam was your son?"
"Excuse me?" Ellen asked, painfully startled, as both boys tensed and glanced back and forth between the two in inevitable alarm. Neither could deny that they were both also being haunted by the exact same question themselves, and had been for the past several hours.
"You heard me," Jo snapped. "You said Sam was your son. I want to know what you meant."
For one incredibly long second, Ellen just stared at the three of them in bleak dismay. They were all quite obviously waiting for her answer, and in all honesty, she was rather surprised they hadn't brought it up before now. She was past the point of fearing that the boys never forgive her for making such a claim – otherwise they would have fled a long time ago. But… it hadn't occurred to the woman that her daughter might also be insulted by it. That was just her luck.
Sighing, she shook her head. "I didn't mean anything by it. The man was delusional. I just wanted to throw him off his guard." She eyed the eldest Winchester. "Unless, of course, you're willing to be adopted."
Dean coughed, loudly, glanced at Jo, and got to his feet. "You know something, I think it's best we took off." He glanced at his brother. "What do you say, Sammy? Road trip?"
Sam seemed to consider that for a moment, but, in all honesty, there wasn't anyway in hell he'd object to a long ride in the car. "Yeah, I think so." He gave Ellen one last glance. "I am sorry. For all the trouble I caused."
"Don't lose any sleep over it, Sam," she told him solemnly. Little did she knew, Sam hardly ever got any sleep as it was. And he'd probably not sleep the whole night through again for several weeks to come. It was just… yet another part of his little brother that Dean couldn't help… couldn't protect… couldn't save… He felt like he was failing… His father had told him to look out for Sammy… Dean only wished that he could.
Together, the brothers walked out of the Roadhouse. They made for the impala. And they headed out towards the countryside. In the past few days, they had gone through so, so much… And despite everything… despite any understandings they might have made with Ellen… despite any ties that might have been either cemented or destroyed… they didn't know when they'd be coming back.
Like father, like sons… Ellen had offered them shelter. But sometimes it was easier to camp out in the snow and rain. Or in the impala. It was the closest thing either Winchester had to a real home… It felt like it had been their home for so long… Sometimes it was just easier… to avoid the people who cared about them. Because they didn't want to hurt anyone anymore than they already had. And so they drove on into the distance… into the blanket of darkness… where they would have to find comfort in their own individual solitude.
A/N: I had to end it in four chapters so that it would match its prequel. Besides, my sister's yelling at me to start working on another one of my projects. But I hope you all enjoyed it, and I'm definitely looking forward to your reviews. Thanks so much!