Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural, and I'm not making any money. -cries- Uhm... Yeah, I don't own the Bible either, but according to my sister, that's not copyrighted. -finds this weird-

- - -

"Heard"

Sammy Winchester wasn't sure if he was going to get any sleep tonight.

His older brother, Dean, their dad, and him had been out hunting that night. Well, Dad and Dean had been hunting--Sam had been told to stay put in the car. They'd all drug back into the apartment around midnight, both Dean and his father bloody and battered. Another ghost-hunt gone wrong, although John Winchester would have argued that point.

The ghost was dead after all, so for him, it'd gone the way it should. But Sam didn't like the way Dean was holding his ribs, and his daddy was having to hold onto Dean. Nope, didn't like it at all.

So he'd taken charge, well as much as an eight-year-old could, and gotten them cleaned up. John got cranky and told him to leave him alone, despite the hairline cut on his forehead that was making his eye look gory from the blood that had dribbled down over it, and told Sam to make sure his big brother was all right instead.

So Sam had pulled Dean off to their bedroom, despite protests of, "Sammy, I'm alright! Hey, stop it! Leave me alone. I know how to walk, doofus!" And he'd sat the big lunk-head on their queen-sized bed and pried the older boy's arm away from his stomach, checked to see if it was just bruised, or if his ribs were cracked or broken.

He poked around, and Dean hissed and tried to shove him away, but Sammy managed to figure out that his ribs were just really bruised and painful. "You're alright," he pronounced, and Dean gave him a narrow-eyed look, jerked down his t-shirt and declared, huffily, "I told you that."

Sam pouted, shrugged, then swallowed when he realized his eyes were about to start tearing up and his bottom lip was threatening to wobble. He hated it when his big brother got hurt. Hated it. So instead of making Dean feel bad, by letting him see the tears, he turned away and started ferociously rummaging through their dresser drawers.

"Hey..." Dean called, uncertainly, "What're'you doin?"

"I'm gonna take a shower!" Sam said a bit too sharply, then mumbled the rest defiantly, "I need clean clothes."

"I washed some yesterday," Dean said, "They're still in the basket..."

Sam slammed the drawers closed, went over to the clothes basket, which was falling to pieces and duct-taped in places, and threw clothes every which way until he found what he needed--a clean t-shirt, some underwear, and a pair of holey sweatpants. His shoulders were stiff, thinking that Dean was going to scold him for making a mess, but as he turned to go to the bathroom, his brother remained silent.

Sammy swallowed even harder, and hurried away to take that shower, where he could sob as loud as he wanted until the hot water washed away as much of his tears as it ever could.

- - -

When he got out again, swollen-eyed and red-nosed, but clean and warm, he found Dean curled up on his side of the bed, already. He sighed and went to pull off the big dork's boots, since he'd left them on again. He always had trouble taking the things off though, since they were so big, and he never could loosen the shoelaces enough for some reason.

He was probably going to wake Dean up, and then his brother was going to complain, and Sam was going to get all defensive again... "Oh, who cares," he grumbled to himself, under his breath and threw his dirty clothes in the hamper then went to struggle with Dean's boots.

"Wha'...?" Dean questioned, when Sam started to try and tug the first boot off, and Sam jumped and glanced up at him guiltily.

Dean was staring at him with bleary, green eyes, and Sam mumbled, "You forgot to take your shoes off again, dummy."

"Oh," Dean said, then started to sit up, groaned, and immediately lay back down, clutching his ribs. "God..." he groaned, and Sam wished that God was actually listening to him because then he would take away Dean's pain. No, he'd never have let it happen in the first place if he cared at all, would he?

Sam scowled and spoke gently, "Stay still. I'll do it." And he pulled the shoe off, tossed it to the carpet, started on the other shoe... repeated the process, nearly landing on his butt at the force with which he had to pull.

Dean chuckled half-heartedly. He'd been watching Sam the whole time, and Dean wasn't one to pass up a chance to tease. "You're so weak."

"Shuddup," Sam groused, then added, "If your stupid boots weren't so humongous."

"Dad says you're gonna be taller than me pretty soon," Dean said, eyes not focusing very well. Sam sighed and went around the bed and crawled in. He yanked the covers down, having to wrestle with them to get them out from under Dean, cussing under his breath the whole time over how heavy his brother was.

"Potty mouth," Dean said, faintly, "I'm gonna tell Dad..."

"Oh, be quiet," Sam snarked, and finished adjusting the covers so that they were up to Dean's armpits. Like Dean was one to talk anyway!

"Stop fussin'," Dean grumbled, trying to get Sam to stop fixing the comforter just right. Sam gave up and punched his pillow a little before leaning it against the headboard and scooting up to rest against it.

"Big baby," Sam retorted.

Dean rolled over with an effort and blinked up at Sam. "You were cryin," he stated, flatly.

Sam frowned and moved to switch off the lamp that he'd foolishly left on. "Was not," he lied.

"Were too," Dean growled. "What's wrong, Sammy? Come on, you can talk to me." His hand fumbled around until it made contact with Sam's cheek. He cupped it, and added, "What are you upset about?"

"Nothin'," Sam told him. He wasn't going to bother Dean with the truth. It just wouldn't be right to put that burden on him. Dean carried enough on his shoulders as it was.

"Liar, liar, pants on fire," Dean sing-songed, and Sam snorted.

"Go to sleep, Dean," he said, "You needa rest. You got all..." He trailed off, realizing that he probably should've kept going because his reluctance to talk about Dean's injuries was going to give away the reason he was upset.

"Oh," Dean said, already catching on. His big brother had to be the smartest person he knew, besides their dad. "Sammy, you know it's not that bad. We get hurt sometimes, it's just a part a the job, y'know?"

"No," Sammy retorted, angrily, "I don't know."

He heard Dean let out a frustrated breath, then the sharp intake when it troubled his ribs. "Stupid, it can't be any other way. You know that, Sammy." He patted Sam's cheek again, before dropping his hand to his brother's chest and letting it rest there. "Now go to sleep. You're up past your bedtime."

"What about you?" Sam demanded, "Don't you have a bedtime? Your just a kid too, Dean!"

Dean didn't reply, and Sam got the feeling he was pretending to be asleep to escape from answering that question. Sam growled to himself and scooted down, yanking his pillow down with him. He cuddled close to Dean, moving the arm that was already draped over him, just so, and tucking his head under Dean's chin.

Stupid idiot. Why couldn't Dean just admit that things weren't right like this. That their dad asked too much of him, that kids, even bigger kids like Dean, shouldn't get trashed on a regular basis. And God... where was he in all this? Did he just make them, put them on Earth, then forget that they all existed. What was he doing? Playing cosmic games out there, somewhere in the universe, oblivious to the horrors he'd left to run wild on Earth?

'God, if you're listening, why don't you help us? Why can't you just help Daddy find the Demon so this can all be over with? Why can't you just protect Dean and him when they're out huntin' at the least! You don't even do that, God! Don't you care? God, I hate you. You know that?'

And he left it like that, the feeling in his heart not equal to the words he declared in his thoughts, and he cried silently until his pillow and the front of Dean's shirt were soaked, and finally, he fell asleep.

- - -

Sometime in the middle of the night, Sam woke up to a voice calling his name. He thought it was his dad and wondered what John was calling him for in the middle of the night. Untangling himself from Dean's near-death-like grip, he turned over to squint at the alarm clock.

3:05 AM

Rubbing eye-boogers from his tear ducts, Sam climbed out of bed and wandered into the hall, then down to his dad's room, flipping the hall-light on as he went. Even Dean didn't tease him about his his justifiable fear of the dark... The door to his dad's room was open a crack and inside, it was dark, and he wondered if he'd just been dreaming the voice that had clearly said, "Samuel."

Pushing open the door and tiptoeing inside, he saw that John was sprawled on the bed, lightly snoring. It looked like he'd taken a shower of his own, and patched up the cut on his forehead with a butterfly bandage, Sam noticed. Then he edged nearer, blinking in confusion because he'd almost been sure it was his dad calling him, but John was definitely asleep. "Dad...?" he called out, not wanting to wake the man who'd obviously had a hard night, but now worried that it was some sort of demon that had been calling his name. "Dad?" he said a bit louder, and John sat up quickly, something glinting in his right hand.

Sam took a step back, realizing it was the knife he kept under his pillow. "Sammy!" John rebuked when his sleep-glazed eyes cleared a bit. "What have I told you about waking me up like that?"

Sam smirked a little. "Don't?"

John made a face at his son's inherited sarcasm, but didn't bother scolding him. He replaced the knife under his pillow and turned back to Sam, taking his arm and questioning, "What is it? Did you have a bad dream?"

Sam shook his head, glancing toward the open doorway. "I thought I heard you call me. Maybe I was dreaming, but I thought I should wake you up anyway... just in case it was..." He let his dad draw his own conclusions, and the man was on his feet in a second.

"Stay behind me," he ordered, as he snagged the knife out from under his pillow again and began stalking toward the door. Sam followed him out into the hall, keeping a hand up, lightly hanging onto the back of John's shirt.

John checked the house, starting with the boys' room, then the closet, bathroom, hall closet, kitchen, living room. There was nothing. It was quiet--peaceful--salt lines were all in place, in tact, nothing was going to trouble them, or had.

His father turned to him and crouched down, smiling reassuringly. "I think it was just a dream, Sammy, why don't you go back to bed, okay?" He ruffled Sam's hair, and Sam gave him a quick hug before murmuring, "Okay," and heading off to his room.

That had been strange, but at least it hadn't been a demon or something else.

He crawled in beside Dean, and Dean's arm found its usual place around his shoulders. "Wha' happened?" he asked, half-asleep.

"Nothin'," Sam answered, then thought to ask, "Hey, you didn't call me, did you?"

"Nope," Dean replied, then began to snore softly. Sam giggled, got comfortable and closed his eyes...

He was about to fall asleep, when he heard the voice again. "Samuel..."

"The heck...?" Sam questioned, and sat up, dislodging Dean's arm.

Dean grumbled, "Wha's wrong with your bladder?"

"Nothing, Dean," Sam retorted, "Go back to sleep." He got out of bed, went out into the hall and down to his dad's room again.

John was still awake--no surprise there. He was probably worried that what Sam had heard was something, after all--only something that was being cunning and hiding from them until the last moment. He turned with a questioningly look to Sam, as his son entered the room.

Sammy said, uncertainly, "You didn't just call me?"

Bemused, John gazed at his youngest and shook his head. "Are you all right, Sam? Is something bothering you?" He held out his arms, and Sam came to him and crawled up into his lap. It'd been awhile since John had offered him this comfort. Usually, it was Dean giving him attention, even if it was in the way that only big brothers could--by teasing and picking on him. So Sam welcomed the warm feeling that seeped into him at the rare display of affection, leaning into his dad's chest and shaking his head.

"No... not really," he lied. His heart hammered in his chest because it was easier to lie to Dean than it was to lie to his father. He was scared that if his father found out, he'd tan his hide for it. Dean would be angry, but he was more forgiving than he liked people to think, especially toward Sam.

"Are you sure?" John questioned, "Because if something's bothering you, and it's important, if it can get you hurt if you don't tell me--"

"Dad!" Sam complained. "I know," he said, more quietly because he knew his father didn't like him using that tone of voice. "It's not important."

"Then something is bothering you?" John asked, knowing blue eyes fixed on Sammy's.

Sam shook his head. He felt sick with guilt from the accusing thoughts he'd had toward the man earlier. And not just earlier but almost all the time lately. Was he a bad son for thinking like that, for wishing that his dad would just let them be normal kids, instead of knowing about all this stuff, instead of making Dean hunt even though he was only a few years older than Sam?

He ducked his head, unable to keep eye-contact anymore. John tilted his chin back up, and Sam's lower lip decided it wanted to tremble again. "Whatever it is, you know you can talk to me about it, right?"

Sam nodded, but he knew he couldn't. "I'm okay, Dad," he promised. "I should go to bed now."

John let out a long sigh, closed his eyes, tilted his head up. His broad shoulders sagged wearily, then he drew in a breath, straightened them and forced a smile for his son's sake. "Okay, Sammy. I love you." He gave Sam another hug, then kissed his cheek, ran a large hand over his son's permanently shaggy hair, and set him on the floor.

"I love you too, Dad," Sam said, "Good night." And he started for the door.

"G'night, son," John called after him.

Sam used the bathroom, this time, before going back to bed, and Dean was so conked out by now that he didn't wrap his arm around Sam this time. Sam burrowed close anyway, and started to drift off to sleep again.

"Samuel... Samuel..."

Sam sat up in bed, slowly this time. He looked around the room, rubbed his eyes for good measure, but there was nothing there. So he got out of bed and headed down to his father's room. "Dad?"

John sat up right away, switching on his lamp. "Sam?" He was frowning now, as he asked, "Did you hear it again?"

Sam nodded, and said, "It was really clear, Dad. It said, 'Samuel' twice. It sounded like you but..." He shrugged, and John's frown turned into a scowl. Then, as he nibbled on his bottom lip, a look, like the look he got sometimes when he figured out what was going on with a hunting job, came over his face, and his said softly, his voice cracking a little, "Sammy, come here, son." He held out his hands.

Sam came forward, fearfully. Had he done something wrong? Was it a demon, and his father had figured out which kind?

John took his arms and looked him in the eye, so serious it scared Sam into wanting to cry. "Sammy, listen carefully. Next time it calls you, you say, 'I'm here,' and you listen real close, son. Understand?"

"B-But, Dad!" Sam protested, "I-Is it something bad?"

His father smiled. "No, son. I think you'll understand when he talks to you again. Now go back to bed." He grinned and ruffled Sam's hair.

Sam went off, looking over his shoulder back to his father, uncertainly, and John offered him an encourging smile that was somewhat clouded by concern. Sam went to bed, got in, snuggled close to Dean, and closed his eyes...

"Samuel."

Sam sat up in bed, swallowed, whispered, his voice shaking, "I-I'm here."

"Samuel, I know you're afraid, but I'm with you, and I won't ever leave you alone. I know you're hurting, and you're afraid for your brother and father, but I have a plan. And it's not to hurt you, son, I promise. I made you, and I love you, and I haven't forgotten you. I never will. Trust me."

Tears streamed down Sam's cheeks, and he realized who the voice belonged to and why it had called him, in the first place. It was only answering the questions that Sam had so desperately sent out earlier that night.

Something like love, and warmth, and peace came over him, almost the same as when Dean or his dad gave him a hug, but stronger, way stronger, and he sat there, crying, and knowing that he wouldn't ever doubt that God cared again, and he wouldn't ever stop praying.

Because now he knew that there was Someone there to answer him.