People Are Strange

Chapter Eight

Dean Winchester woke up slowly, having been knocked out by painkillers for the last several hours. He became aware of his surroundings in bits and bursts of knowledge. First off, he hurt. He hurt like he'd been attacked by... A spirit. Because he had.

Recalling the events of the past night, he became quickly scared. His father had disappeared some time ago to find Sam. His little brother had been missing since-

Then something next to him shifted and he realized there was a warm presence cuddled into his right side.

"Sammy?" He guessed automatically.

The little boy shifted again, groaned slightly then slowly opened his eyes.

"Hey, Dean." His voice was scratchy, making him sound older, more worn than he should have.

Dean shifted as much as he could without hurting himself, and positioned it so he could look at Sam directly. He thought about acting stern, but knew he wouldn't be able to muster the energy. So overwhelming relief won out and he spoke gently.

"Little brother," he greeted fondly. "Where ya been?"

Sam seemed to consider it for a moment before shrugging half-heartedly and yawning loudly. He snuggled more securely into Dean's side and the older boy could do little other than run a hand through his hair instinctively.

"What was that?" Dean inquired when Sam mumbled something against the fabric of his hospital issue shirt thing.

"Where's daddy?" Sam pulled away just enough to get the words out before snuggling again.

Dean's heart clenched painfully then. Sam must have been through a great deal tonight, because he couldn't recall the last time Sam had referred to their father as 'daddy.' Also, while the brothers were known to share a bed from time to time, Sam hadn't acted this clingy since the last time he'd had a really bad nightmare.

"I don't know." Dean admitted. "He went looking for you a while ago."

"Oh." Sam said, then, as if it would explain away the whole entire night, "The doctor

wouldn't let me see you."

"I know." Dean sighed, still petting the boy's hair. "He told us everything that happened before you ran away."

"I was just trying to find you." He sounded close to tears.

"I know." The older brother repeated, soothing automatically. "It's okay." And it was. As long as Sam was with him now, it was more than okay.

Dean was trying to decide what to do next; whether he should push and find out where his brother had been all this time, if he should use the little call button by his bed and ask a nurse to go find their dad, or if he should give into the heaviness of his eyelids and the serenity of having his little brother back at his side and just go back to sleep.

All seemed appealing in one way or another, but sleeping seemed most likely to win out, as he could already feel it consuming him.

Then with a shrill suddenness, an alarm started to sound. Loudly.

Sam jumped, "What's that?!" He all but shrieked, now upright and staring at Dean frightfully.

The elder brother shook his head. He wasn't sure, but he had a pretty good idea what it would lead to. He hopped out of bed and ruffled around the drawers of the small cabinet next to his bed. He couldn't find the clothes he had been wearing when he was brought in, but did discover a pair of gray sweatpants.

Tugging those on, he raced back to where Sam now stood on the other side of the bed, bare feet slapping against the cold hospital floor as he went. "C'mon!" He gestured to his brother and clamped Sam's hand in his, pulling him along.

"Where are we going?" Sam shouted, but followed him easily nonetheless.

"Wanna see what's going on." Dean explained making it to the door and pushing it open slowly. As soon as he did, the noise from the alarm got louder still, he wanted to stick his fingers in his ears, but was unwilling to let go of Sam's hand.

People were running up and down the length of the hallway, flying by their room, creating a scene of utter chaos.

"Where's dad?!" Sam desperately wanted to know.

"He's coming." Dean hollered back, and prayed he wasn't lying.

"What's going on?" Sam was beginning to panic, gripping Dena's hand tighter when a woman in an all white outfit ran by so fast they could feel a rush of wind from the flapping tail of her uniform.

"I don't know. But dad'll be here soon." Dean believed that; and forced himself not to think about all the things that might make John incapable of coming to find his sons.

"Dean!" Sam whined again, sounding like the scared little boy he was. "Dean! Where's dad?"

"I-" The older boy was at an absolute loss. He couldn't do this. Looking after Sammy in their apartment, even protecting him from the supernatural, that he could manage. But a hospital had rules and consequences, there were people here that didn't fit into their world and Dean had no idea how to deal with them.

Before he cold weigh his options anymore critically, the door burst open, causing both brothers to jump back in freight, the younger of the two letting out a startled cry as well.

"Sammy! Dean!" John Winchester had made it back to his sons, just as he promised he would.

"Dad!" Sam leapt into the eldest hunter's embrace, their dad easily lifting all his weight with one arm, while simultaneously bending down and wrapping the other one around Dean, who didn't protest one bit.

"Alright, boys," their father switched easily into self-preservation mode. "We have to get out of here, now."

Dean nodded agreeably, but Sam, who was back at his brother's side while John poked his head out of the door like his son had done just moments before, objected. "Dad, what's going on?"

"We have to get out of here." He repeated, like that was the answer he was looking for.

"But, isn't Dean hurt?" Sam looked confusedly at his brother.

"I'm fine, Sammy." Dean assured. "Just do what dad says."

John cleared his throat after watching the exchange, eyes clouded for a moment when he saw that Sam was doing as he asked. "Right." He broke through the trance rather easily. "Now, we have to get to the Impala. Just follow me and act casual. Dean." The elder boy looked up. "Do you have normal clothes?"

"None that I could find." He answered, slightly put off at disappointing him.

"Alright, that's fine, then." He opened the door completely, wasting no time and barely masking his frantic efforts to get them away from this place. "Let's get going."

Dad was speeding. Dean knew more about cars than most kids; could change a tire, put gas in the Impala or even drive her if he absolutely had to, and he knew the speed dad was going right now was way over the speed limit.

"Are we going back to the motel?" He inquired, holding on tight to Sam as they whizzed around a particularly sharp curve. Both brothers were curled up in the spacious back seat of their family's classic Impala.

"No." Their dad answered briskly.

"What about all our stuff?" Too much had been left out of his control tonight, he needed to take some of it back, some way.

"The weapons are in the trunk. So are some of our clothes. The rest of it we can get replaced."

And Dean didn't argue, didn't want to argue. He just wanted to know what was going on. "Where are we going?"

"Caleb's." The older man answered again with all the gentleness of a stranger off the street, and Dean recoiled slightly. That was all he wanted to know, anyway.

"Dean," he heard his little brother mumble and was quick to respond.

"Yeah, kiddo?" He was well aware that the young child was more than half-asleep, and he blamed that, and his obviously exhausting night - and early morning - for the reason behind his next mumbled words.

"I wanna pet monkey."

Two Weeks Later

After recouping at Caleb's place for a while - restocking their supplies and working some kinks out of his beloved car - John decided it was time to hit the road again.

And while he wouldn't be taking Sam - or Dean, by extension, given that the two had been more fused together than normal since the incident at the hospital - on any hunts anytime soon, he would be sure to enroll them in a school as soon as they got settled.

He knew, as long as he stayed out of the Newbury district, where he was sure that insipid social worker was keeping an eye out for him, there was virtually no danger of him being recognized. Still, he planned on keeping his sons out of any hospitals for the next eight years, at least.

"Hey, Dean," He greeted his eldest son late one afternoon, taking a seat next to him on the picnic table in Caleb's backyard.

"Hey, dad." The eleven-year-old said casually, and if he was still annoyed or angry about how distant John had been in the past week or so, it didn't show.

"How you doin'?" He inquired lightly, picking at the splintering wood of the table.

"Good." He saw Dean shrug. "Caleb took me and Sam fishing at that stream."

"Yeah, he mentioned that." John admitted, then looked around, a little confused, "Where's your brother?"

"Inside bugging Marilee about what we're gonna have for dinner." He said nonchalantly.

Marilee was the girlfriend Caleb currently had living with him. The young woman had taken quite quickly to her sons, and them to her - even Dean's natural defenses around woman authority figures seemed to recede slightly as he saw how much Sam liked her.

It broke his heart a little that he would have to take them away from that so soon. But, he decided, that was a discussion for tomorrow.

"Dean?" John initiated a conversation despite being able to see how much his oldest son longed to retreat back into the house with his brother.

"Huh?" He answered distractedly.

"Did you ever figure out where Sam was that night?" Both knew to what he was referring.

Dean half-smiled and smirked John's smirk. "No. He never told me. But he decided he wants to be a vegetarian."

The eldest Winchester snorted a laugh. "So you don't think anything bad happened, right?"

"I know nothing bad happened." Dean said with almost frightening amounts of certainty.

"It's strange though, isn't it? That Sam won't tell us?" John spoke, not realizing that he was talking to Dean almost as if he were another adult, with whom he was sharing the responsibility of raising Sam with.

His little soldier took it in stride, shrugging absently, eyes locked on the one-story ranch house a few yards away. "Well, people can be strange," he shrugged again. "Sam's no exception."

"I guess." John decided, and when he said nothing more, Dean took that as his cue that the conversation was over.

"I'll see you inside."

John waited a long time before removing himself from that picnic table, and when he finally did, it was only to walk onto Caleb's porch and stay there. Staring at the scene playing out behind the window.

Dean was hovering behind Sam as the younger boy stood on a wooden chair, stirring something in a big pot on the stove. Marilee's blonde hair flapped around as she dished out instructions to all the males in the room, Caleb set the table, only to have his girlfriend come over and reset everything as soon as he turned around.

Laughter filtered through the small kitchen and dim light from the fading sun illuminated it warmly. John Winchester stood on the outside, looking in on a happy family, knowing in his heart that as true as this seemed, they were all just playing parts. There was no such thing as a happy family, and that be believed.

The Winchesters were jaded, broken, strange people that chased after shadows and nightmarish monsters. John knew it was his destiny to be a hunter, knew in that moment that he would die a hunter.

He prayed then, too, that his sons might find a path that would lead them out of the darkness of their family legacy. He didn't doubt that it was a possibility for them. If there was one thing he'd learned from raising his two sons on his own for the last seven years it was that people can - and almost always do - surprise you.

The End