Discl. I don't own nuffin
Beta: Thank you to the fabulous loracj2 and roseintexas for all the help with the grammar, spelling, commas and vocabulary!
Of ghosts and big brothers
The door closed silently behind John Winchester; his words of caution and safety, underlined with worry for his two boys, still hanging in the air. He waited patiently outside, nodding as he heard the lock click shut behind him. His face grim and determined as he took off.
Inside the motel room, Dean's face was set with the same determination, the warnings of his father still ringing in his ears. He glanced over to his kid brother, who was sitting at the small kitchen table, supposedly studying his books, but now watching him, tears glistening in the corner of his eyes.
Dean felt a slight pang of sorrow about the distance his brother kept since he had started school. Sam had stayed close to Dean every time their father left, feeling the safety in his presence, but apparently those days were over. Now it wasn't cool to need his big brother close.
"Are you hungry, kiddo?"
Sam nodded, his eyes leaving Dean and skipping to the door, then on to the shotgun on the floor.
"When will daddy be back?"
Dean walked over to his little brother, practicing the routine he had mastered to shield Sam from the reality of the situation, and to keep things as normal as possible. He reached for a red crayon in Sam's little case and handed it to his brother, before pointing at the calendar hanging at the wall.
"Dad will be gone for five days…."
"Five days!" Sam interrupted, then adding a tearful "Why?" sounding very much like the four year old little brother Dean remembered from such a short time ago.
"Uncle Caleb and Uncle Bobby are in trouble, kiddo. They need dad's help." Ruffling Sam's hair resulted in a glare and a punch to his arm, but Dean could see that Sam was grateful for the touch, the underlying affection calming him down. They weren't used to being alone for a whole week. Dad usually never left for more than two days at a time.
Grinning, Dean directed Sam back to the task.
"So, if dad will return in five days – at the latest – where do you have to draw the cross?" Dean inquired.
Sam huffed, "I'm not a child anymore."
"I got news for you, buddy, officially you're a child until you turn twenty-one, and with the speed you're growing it might even take forever."
Glaring at Dean, Sam went back to concentrating on the plain numbered calendar, his fingers tracing the days, silently counting. Finally he reached a conclusion and set the crayon to Friday, but didn't draw the cross before throwing Dean a questioning look. His big brother nodded with a proud smile.
"OK, that's settled. What do you want for dinner?"
"Pizza! Can we have pizza, Dean, please? Daddy never lets us have pizza, except on holidays… and birthdays! Can we have pizza on my birthday, it's only….," staring at the ceiling he mumbled and counted the days on his fingers, "it's only 22 days away!"
Chuckling, Dean rolled his eyes and headed for the kitchen counter to check the money his dad had left for the week. He counted it twice, the second time with a slight frown. Sighing, he turned around.
"OK, pizza. You get the menu and I'll call. But you need to finish your homework by the time it arrives."
Sam huffed again and rolled his eyes.
"Deeeaan! It's Sunday night, I finished my homework on Friday! It was really cool. We had to draw a picture of our favorite place in the whole wide world and I drew Pastor Jim's barn where we spent last year's summer holiday. Do you remember the dogs? And the horses? Maybe we can go again this year… For tomorrow I hope we get math homework. Math is cool, too."
Snorting and shaking his head, Dean was once more reminded how different they were. Dad always had to threaten and pressure him into doing at least the minimum of his homework. Sam, on the other hand, usually didn't have much homework left when he returned from school or finished it with a happy smile the moment he arrived home.
Half an hour later, now changed into their pajamas, they were spread out on the sofa in front of the TV, munching on a Cheese & Onion pizza – with extra onions – as Dean had insisted. Although Dean seemed outwardly relaxed, his senses were on high alert and he unconsciously analyzed every suspicious noise or movement past their door, as he had been trained by his father. When he noticed that Sam's eyelids remained closed for longer periods of time, he bent over and started tickling his baby brother's side, which instantly resulted in a giggling fit and a counterattack from the laughing boy.
"Time for bed, kiddo."
Jumping off the sofa, Sam ran to the bathroom, grabbed his toothbrush and turned on the water. Dean enjoyed the few moments Sam was incapable of speaking while he was brushing his teeth, knowing a tirade of questions would follow before Sam would finally fall asleep. Another routine he had not enforced, but been pushed into by the sheer insatiable inquisitiveness of his little brother.
Turning off the TV, he followed Sam into the tiny bathroom to brush his teeth as well. When they were both finished, he herded his eight year old brother into the bedroom and helped him into bed, tucking him in by carefully adjusting the sheets around Sam's form.
"Dean, will you tell me a story?"
"What story do you want to hear?"
Sam's eyes lit up in anticipation of one of his brother's wonderful stories.
"The one with the ghost! You know, the one daddy told us about a few weeks ago; where he salted and burned it. That was so cool! Have you ever seen a ghost, Dean? Daddy says that one day he might show me one!"
Shaking his head, Dean sighed softly. He wished Sam would stop pestering their dad with questions each time he returned from a hunt. He wanted Sam to be a child and grow up as normal as possible, away from the life their dad had chosen for them, at least for another few years.
"And when I'm done, you'll be scared and crawl into my bed again!" Dean teased.
"I will not be scared, Dean, I promise! I'm not five anymore and I haven't crawled into your bed for at least… 2 months!" Sam replied triumphantly.
"Fine, the ghost story it is - again. But you have to promise me to sleep after this one."
Nodding his head earnestly, Sam leaned back, closed his eyes and waited for Dean to begin. As Dean had predicted, Sam fell asleep 10 minutes into the story. Dean smoothed out the sheets around his body, softly smiling at the peaceful look on Sam's face. Then he got up and circled their motel room once, checking on the alarm, the salt lines, the shotgun and the entrance lock. Satisfied that they were in for the night, he returned to the bedroom and got into bed himself, falling asleep within minutes.
As arranged and ordered by dad, Dean picked Sam up at the library half an hour after his brother's lessons had ended. Approaching the building, Dean saw Sam standing outside, his head hanging low, waiting. He gave a short whistle, and was startled when Sam looked up at him. Immediately Dean noticed Sam's pallor and the haunted look on his face, which quickly changed into relief when he caught sight of Dean.
"Sammy, dad told you to wait inside the library!" Dean scolded sternly.
Surprised when Sam reached out for his hand, Dean remained momentarily speechless. Sam hadn't shown much affection outside of the privacy of their room for months. But Sam gave no reply or explanation, only turned around and started trotting towards the motel, towing his big brother behind him. Worry bloomed in Dean's gut; something was off.
"Are you all right, kiddo?"
Sam just nodded and continued on the way home. It only took them 15 minutes to get there, but it was enough time to have Dean worked up about every possible cause to his brother's strange behavior. Sam's hand was cool in his, but not cold and clammy as it had been when Sam had the flu. His face was still rather pale, but no sweat pearls were visible. His eyes were clear and not glazed. Running through the list of children's diseases that he had stored in his head, he subtracted the ones that Sam had encountered already, and was unable to come up with an answer.
Exhaling with relief when they arrived at their motel room, Dean unlocked the door, letting his brother enter before following him in, locking the door behind them. Turning around, he noticed that Sam had already thrown his bag into a corner of the room and settled in front of the TV. Frowning, Dean picked up Sam's coat and hung it on the hook at the door together with his own. Walking over to the sofa, he bent forward, placing his hand on Sam's forehead to check for fever. Sam didn't say anything, but his jaw tightened and he swatted Dean's hand away with a glare.
Sighing, Dean stepped back and asked,
"Do you have homework?"
Sam shook his head.
Again, Sam only shook his head, his eyes not leaving the flickering screen. Dean decided to play along. He knew the grumpy behavior was a sign that Sam could be on the brink of the flu, so he would monitor his little brother closely, but leave him be for the moment. Dean headed for the fridge and got two bottles of juice. After preparing sandwiches for both of them, he returned to the couch and plopped down next to Sam, handing him the juice and offering a sandwich. Sam ignored the food, but went straight for the beverage, giving Dean some peace of mind. At least he was thirsty.
They sat silently watching a re-run marathon of 'TJ Hooker' until Dean decided it was bedtime. He realized that he hadn't done his own homework, but wasn't worried. One of his sources in his class would help him out tomorrow. Poking Sam he ordered,
"Bed time, tiger."
This time, Sam moved slowly off the couch to the bedroom to change into his pajamas. Dean gathered the empty juice bottles and the untouched sandwich and brought them to the kitchen. He worked in silence straightening the kitchen, missing his brother's ramblings, questions and nagging for a change. When he entered the bedroom, Sam was already in bed, back to Dean, appearing to be asleep. Furrowing his brow, Dean went into the bathroom and checked Sam's toothbrush. It was wet, so he assumed it had been used. He quickly brushed his teeth before joining his brother in the bedroom.
Apparently, Sam didn't want a story tonight, so Dean circled the room to check the precautionary measures as he had learned. Then he turned off the lights and slid into bed, intently listening to his brother's breathing to determine if he was asleep.
"Good night, Sammy."
Relief washed over Dean and he cracked a smile at the familiar reply. So normal Sam was still in there somewhere.
"Does dad hunt all kinds of ghosts?"
Admittedly, this was not a question Dean had expected. He thought for a few seconds, pondering a safe answer.
"Only if they hurt innocent people."
"Where do ghosts come from?"
Oh, dear. Dean wasn't ready to discuss death and the afterlife with Sam. Not yet, anyway, especially since it was likely that Sam would ask about their mom. But what could he say? Sometimes he didn't even understand why their mother had died and gone to heaven, while others remained on earth as spirits. Dean swallowed away the sadness that settled in his heart every time he thought of her, hoping his voice wouldn't break when he answered the question of his little brother.
"They are created out of anger or pain."
It wasn't the whole truth, but his dad had once explained that emotions usually determine why some became spirits and others didn't. Not that Dean understood what dad meant by that. He had angry emotions or pain sometimes. Would he become a spirit when he died?
Sam seemed satisfied with the answer as he remained quiet. Dean closed his eyes and hoped Sam would feel better in the morning. He didn't want to deal with a sick, grumpy little brother when dad was out of town and they needed to go in school.
He must've dozed off when he was rudely awakened by an ear piercing scream from Sam's bed. Wrestling with the sheets, he jumped off the mattress and nearly tumbled to the ground before steadying himself, all while repeating in a low voice,
"Sam! It's all right, Sam, I'm here."
He climbed into bed with his little brother and this time wasn't surprised when Sam turned around and buried his head in Dean's pajamas, his face wet from tears and his entire body trembling. Wrapping his arms around his brother's small body, Dean tried to calm him down, whispering soothingly into his ear.
"It was just a nightmare, Sam, it's OK now. I'm here."
Silent sobs emerged from Sam's lips and Dean briefly wondered what he had dreamt about that had him so worked up. Small fingers gripped into his shirt and he felt Sam's hot breath on his chest, pressing harder into him. After a small eternity, Sam's breathing evened out and he stopped shaking. Glancing at the clock, Dean noticed that they had only two more hours of sleep left until they had to get up for school, so he was grateful when Sam started snoring softly, indicating that he was asleep. Releasing a breath he hadn't been aware of holding, Dean closed his eyes as well and sent a quick prayer to his dad, wishing he would come home sooner than expected.
Sam's behavior didn't improve or change when morning came. Breakfast was silent, except for Dean's raised voice when he insisted that Sam eat some pudding when he flat out refused Lucky Charms.
This time when Dean came to pick him up after school, Sam was at least inside the library, sitting restlessly on a chair, nervously glancing around the room, his lips pressed together in a grim expression. He only relaxed when his big brother entered the hall and he jumped down from his chair, racing towards Dean, clutching his brother's hand tightly and glancing up with a relieved smile on his face.
Dean had a hard time getting Sam to eat the oatmeal he had prepared, although Sam had insisted on Dean cooking it – by writing it down on a piece of paper. Sitting at the kitchen table, Sam pigheaded sipped on his juice, choosing to ignore Dean's worry entirely. Again the older brother checked for any traces of fever, asked Sam whether something hurt, if he felt OK, if he'd been coughing in school. But Sam refrained from speaking, only shaking his head yes or no when asked a direct question. At least he sat down and did his homework, although it seemed he wasn't all that interested in it.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dean observed Sam forlornly staring at the calendar at the wall and wrestling his fingers in a nervous twist. Furrowing his brow, Dean watched his little brother for a few seconds before returning to his own homework, more confused than ever.
Later, Dean didn't even try to hide his surprise when Sam settled on the sofa, resting his head against Dean's chest, feet dangling over the armrest. Treasuring the closeness he had missed over the past few months, he glanced down, hoping that only nightmares were the cause for Sam's weirdness. Besides, Dean had to admit that he still felt a little bit guilty for mixing Sam's drink with holy water – just to be safe.
Slowly and steadily, Dean's worries escalated. Their only conversations now were during the night when the lights were off. Sadness and anxiety colored Sam's words, deep sighs commenting Dean's answers to his little brother's persistent questions regarding ghosts. He cursed the day dad had told Sammy about the hunts, wishing that their father had waited and granted the kid a few more years of innocence.
The routine of Sam not talking and only eating yogurt, pudding and oatmeal remained, steadily pushing Dean toward desperate measures. He had never dealt with anything like this before. He had tried reasoning, threatening, bargaining, even sweet talking and begging, but Sam wouldn't give a clue as to what was going on.
When Sammy moved to sit in Dean's lap, pressing himself hard into his big brother's body when they settled on the sofa for TV, Dean's heart stopped beating for a second. He wondered how much more of this he could take before exploding.
He called dad's cell from the kitchen the moment Sam had disappeared into the bedroom to change for bed. He reached the mailbox and left a breathless message, hating how frightened his voice sounded, but nonetheless desperate for dad to return and make everything all right.
At least tonight he didn't have to worry about finding the way to Sam's bed in the darkness when the nightmares would startle his little brother out of his restless sleep. Sam had climbed directly into Dean's bed, waiting for the older boy to join him.
Dean saw the dark circles he had noticed under his own eyes mirrored in his brother, exhaustion painted onto both their faces, the lack of sleep wearing them down. The worry pressed down hard on Dean. His concentration in school had dropped to non-existent, while he wracked his brain for ways to help Sam. He considered skipping classes to observe Sam in class, hoping to spot some indication as to whether Sam's silence was created there.
Dean knew that dad would hold him responsible, would want to know what was going on with Sam and he was worried that if he didn't find a solution fast, his father would be disappointed in him. On top of everything on his mind, a frown from his dad was something he wanted to avoid.
Bailing out of school at noon, Dean hurried over to Lincoln Elementary School. Using the shadows, trees and cars as cover, he closely watched the yard. The sun was shining and many students were outside, enjoying a few minutes off until lessons started again. Dean spotted Sam sitting on a bench close to the library, writing on a piece of paper. So far nothing out of the ordinary, although Sam's figure appeared tense, his face crumpled with sadness. Dean could swear he saw tears glistening on his cheeks.
The urge to run over and take his brother into his arms became unbearable and he turned around, focusing his gaze on the nearby church tower, waiting for the ache in his heart to subside. When he felt stable enough to risk another glance, he caught Sam walking over to the school's entrance, head hanging low and defeat emanating from his body. Biting down on his lip, Dean turned and started walking back to Middle School, fully aware that he wouldn't make it to the first lesson in time, but he couldn't have cared less.
What the hell was going on?!
Seconds after the bell stopped ringing loudly through the quiet school building, the noises rose, doors banging open as the students emerged, all of them chattering rapidly about the previous classes or the rest of the day.
Sam Winchester moved slowly behind the others, silently packing his small bag, his eyes dark and his jaw set determinedly as he pondered the lesson he'd just had. Not that he remembered much or had been paying much attention. He had heard most of what the teacher had lectured about already. The Lincoln Elementary School in Wadsworth, Ohio wasn't as up-to-date as his previous school had been. Besides, there was something else consuming all his thoughts since Monday, pushing everything else out. So far it had made him lose sleep as well as appetite and still scared the living crap out of him, especially with Friday approaching.
Finally snapping his bag closed, Sam made his way out of the classroom and followed the hall down to the library. Once more he was lightheaded as he shuffled to the table at the end of the room, his position enabling him to overlook the other students. He slid onto the chair and dropped his books on the wooden surface. The books remained closed; Sam placed his arms on the table and settled his throbbing head on them with a sigh. He fought a few seconds to keep his eyes open, but finally gave in when his eyelids became too heavy, paying tribute to the lack of sleep.
As usual, Dean was one of the first out of the dark halls of Wadsworth Middle School, choosing to skip his detention entirely. He was on his way over to pick Sam up only minutes after his lesson had ended. Ignoring the blooming flowers and the birds singing announcing spring, he kept his head down, walking quickly and purposefully.
Heading straight to the library entrance, his mind was occupied with the current crisis, so much so that he didn't notice the girls passing by, each shyly looking at him hopefully. Glancing at the wide open gates of the school building, he caught the eye of a teacher figure that was intently scanning the yard. A mild feeling of panic filled his body when the teacher acknowledged him, and headed in his direction.
Nervously nodding, Dean unconsciously straightened his appearance, his heart rate rising when he felt a knot forming in his gut.
"Sam? Is he all right?"
The teacher noticed the panic in the young boy's voice and answered quickly, "He's fine, don't worry."
Dean relaxed slightly, but his body was still on alert, indicating his wariness toward the older man.
"I'm Mr. Butterworth, your brother's science teacher. I tried calling your father a few times this week; do you know where I can reach him?"
"He's out of town… for business. I can give him a message?"
"Well, Dean… It does concern your brother and I would very much like to talk to your father about it."
Immediately, Dean felt his pulse raise again, different scenarios racing through his head, wondering what Sam might have done or said to spark the interest of the teacher.
"As I said, he's out of town, but you can tell me."
The seriousness in the boy's voice and the panic swimming in his deep, green eyes startled the teacher, setting off warning signals in his head. Deciding to tread lightly, Mark Butterworth squatted in front of the boy, keeping his voice light as he asked,
"Dean, have you noticed anything unusual with Sam? Has he been sleeping normally? Any nightmares? Does he eat regularly?"
The questions felt like a punch to Dean's gut. He hadn't done a good job this past week. He was the one that was supposed to make sure that Sam got a good night's sleep; he hadn't been able to prevent his brother's nightmares. He was in charge of all the meals, and to make sure that their diet was balanced. In the last few days, he had just been relieved that Sam would eat a yogurt for breakfast and oatmeal for dinner.
Still, the initial warnings of his dad and their previous run-ins with Social Services were still fresh in his mind, so he immediately sensed the teacher's concern.
Eyeing the man carefully, Dean composed himself, fully aware of where Mr. Butterworth was heading. Dean knew the type from past experience. They had Social Services on speed dial.
"Nope, he's been fine, perfectly normal" he answered, shaking his head forcefully.
Mr. Butterworth noticed the change in Dean's demeanor. The initial panic had been replaced by a tight jaw and eyes that were determined and guarded.
Sighing, the teacher rose and straightened his aching back before patting Dean on the shoulder.
"Fine. You need to catch your brother in the library, though. He's fallen asleep."
Avoiding the man's reproachful glare, Dean muttered a low "thanks" and moved towards the building, his posture carefully relaxed. Inside the library, he immediately spotted Sam's slumped figure in the back of the room, his soft snoring lingering in the air. Although he was relieved that Sam seemed to finally get some sleep, he was determined to get him home.
Touching Sam's shoulder, he gave a little squeeze, trying to wake his brother as gently as possible. Nevertheless, Sam's head jerked up in panic when he woke up, his eyes darting around the room, trying to determine the interruption of his sleep.
Briskly turning around, Sam stared at Dean with wide open eyes, fear and confusion speaking from his face.
"You're still in school, buddy. You fell asleep. It's time to go home."
Dean's voice was low and soft, hoping no one else in the room was listening. He noticed that Sam gritted his teeth before nodding and jumping off the chair. Gathering his belongings, he didn't look at Dean's worried face as he walked out of the crowded room, knowing that his brother would follow him.
Once outside, they walked in silence toward the motel. Same as during the previous days, Sam took Dean's hand and leaned into him, seeking the closeness he had previously shunned since he had entered school and decided that needing it was un-cool. As they walked, Dean again scoured his mind for hints, trying to determine if he had missed some sign of the cause of Sam's change in behavior, but once again came up empty.
That night, Sam again crawled into his lap, pressing his trembling body close to Dean's, his hands wrapped tightly onto his older brother's shirt. Dean was barely holding himself together, his mind set on tomorrow, on dad's return, praying that the mystery would be solved and they could get back to the way things used to be. He needed his geeky, rambling, pain-in-the-ass little brother back.
The older boy woke from a restless sleep, roused by the sound of his name in his brother's soft voice. Rubbing his tired eyes, he noticed by the clock that it was already 4 am. At least he had logged three hours of sleep, he thought.
"Hmmphhh?" he mumbled, his throat rough from lack of sleep.
"Is Mommy in heaven?"
Dean audibly sucked in air, the shock of the unexpected question sending his thoughts tumbling. Focusing on the vulnerability he detected in Sam's voice, the trembling body beside him and Sam's finger which was nervously tracing a circle on his chest, Dean ordered his mind to calm down.
"Sure she is, Sammy."
"Is she waiting for us?"
The thought of losing Sam was so intense and painful that it stole Dean's breath. A sick feeling rose in his throat and his heartbeat increased uncontrollably. He kept his voice low, hoping to hide his fears from Sam.
"I know she is. Even if it takes years before..." Dean trailed off, not able to say the words.
"Do you think she will remember me?"
"Of course she will, silly."
"I will wait for you, too, Dean."
Sam's voice was earnest and deeply serious. The underlying fear and hopelessness cut deep into Dean's heart. He approached the topic carefully, still clueless what Sam was getting at, but relieved that finally the younger boy was talking.
"Why do you think you have to wait for me, Sammy?"
Dean could feel his brother's gulp before he spoke, the motion of his head indicating that Sam was looking right at him.
"Because… daddy and I will go away today and… I will not come back."
Confusion spread over Dean's face.
"And where do you think you're going, kiddo?"
Dean's mind raced. Where had Sam gotten the impression from that he was about to die? Why did he believe dad would take him away?
"Sammy, what's going on?"
A few seconds passed in silence before Sam's broken voice could be heard close to Dean's neck.
"I don't want you to be sad, Dean… daddy will take care of you, but… I have to go away… I don't want the ghost to hurt you."
Sobs wracked his brother's small body and Dean soothingly caressed his back with his hand, still not grasping what Sam meant.
"The ghost in my mouth."
Dean wanted to punch something in frustration. He was angry at himself for not being able to figure out why Sam was so freaked.
"Why would you have a ghost in your mouth, Sammy?"
"Because… because Mr. Butterworth said so."
"Mr. Butterworth told you, Samuel Winchester, that you have a ghost in your mouth?"
"No! He said we all have ghosts in our mouth… they're called ghost teeth. I guess it isn't a problem for the other children, but one of my teeth was loose and… I tried to stop talking and brushing my teeth and eating, to stop it from falling out, so-maybe-it-would-grow-back-on."
Sam was speaking faster now, trying to get out in a hurry why he was so scared and restless and unable to sleep. Stopping for a deep breath, he continued, the sadness returning to his voice.
"But it didn't work… it fell out today. And now… now the ghost is free and daddy has to kill it, because I don't want you to get hurt."
Dean bit down on his lip hard to hold a sob. He didn't want to show Sammy how relieved he was, how the weight of Ohio had just been lifted off his shoulders. At the same time he cursed their life, their inability to live normally and the damn teacher for… just for the sake of cursing.
Snuggling closer, Sam pressed his head against Dean's neck and wrapped his small arms around the older boy's body.
"It's ok, Dean. I will wait for you, I promise. Me and Mommy will wait for you and daddy together… Just…. don't take too long, because I will miss you so much, you're the bestest big brother in the world! "
A fresh wave of tears wet Dean's shoulder as he tried to hold back his own tears. One week of worry for a stupid loose tooth. What other family had these problems? Taking a few deep breaths, he attempted to slow his heart rate before speaking again.
"Sammy, there is no ghost in your mouth."
"Yes there is!" the little boy insisted.
"Nope. Do you want me to check?"
Dean could hear Sam's mouth close tightly, his head shaking vigorously.
"Sammy, listen. A ghost tooth is simply a new tooth growing below the loose one. I have them too. Even dad had them when he was a child. Once you have lost the loose tooth, the other one will grow out. They are called ghost teeth because you can't see them although they're already there – invisible, like a ghost."
Sam didn't react at first, but Dean felt him relax, his breathing slowing as he listened carefully to his brother's explanation. He knew that Sam was considering what he had said.
"Do you understand, kiddo?"
Sam sniffed loudly before his hopeful voice peeped,
"Are you sure, Dean?"
The room was silent, the only sound coming from the two brothers' breathing, both thinking things through, letting their tired bodies relax for the first time in days, safe in the knowledge that their world was OK again, at least for the moment.
A/N: Feedback is love...