Summary: As Dean's time grows short, Sam notices a change in his brother's behavior. When he finally investigates, he finds something that even a seasoned hunter would never expect. His own brother has been keeping a secret from him, a secret that could change both their lives, and save his own…
A/N: Another one of those stories that started with one scene that I loved (the prologue, actually) and just expanded from there.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are not mine. I'm simply throwing my hat into the "let's come up with crazy ways to save Dean from Hell" ring :)
July 22, 1990
John turned toward the hallway, where his youngest stood rubbing at tired eyes. Sammy sniffled, wiping at his nose, looking up at his father through a haze of confusion and fear. "Yeah, kiddo?"
"I had a nightmare."
John sighed, shutting the text he'd been pouring over since before Dean had put Sam to bed. He scooted over on the couch and motioned for the boy to join him. Sammy smiled wide and obeyed, padding across grimy carpet to slide up beside his father.
"You changed your PJs," John noted as the boy snuggled up next to him.
"You were wearing the brown ones before. Now they're Superman."
"Oh." Sammy shrugged. "I like Superman."
His father nodded and wrapped an arm around the boy, a little surprised at the way the kid still fell into the embrace. He hadn't been taught life's hard lessons yet, hadn't been told that he'd almost been killed the year before, hadn't been told that in reality a simple arm can't protect you, even if it does make you feel safe for a short time. "So, what did you dream about?"
Sam looked up at him with wide eyes, haunted eyes. "Everyone left."
"We were at home, and we were all together, and mommy was even there. I walked downstairs to eat breakfast and you were all in the kitchen and when you saw me…" He gulped. "You saw me and then mommy walked away. She just went out the door and never came back. And you looked at me and you said it was my fault and you left, too. And then it was just me and," he paused, "and Dean. And he said he didn't want me anymore and he left, too. And I was all alone."
John sighed, tightening his grip around the boy's small shoulders. "Well, we're not going anywhere. You don't have to worry, Sammy. We're not gonna leave you alone."
Sam looked up at him with those wide, accusing eyes. "You leave all the time."
"But I always come back." John shook his head, a small, comforting smile forming on his lips. "I will always come back for you, son. No matter what."
The boy bit his lip, looking down at the floor, snuggling a little closer to the older man. "Because you love me?" he asked, his voice small, scared.
"Because I love you."
"More than anything?" He turned his eyes up to John, his whole face lighting up with hope.
"In the whole wide world," John replied, the response triggering memories of happier times, times before fires and demons and shtrigas. Times when he and Dean had the whole conversation worked out, every question and response perfected.
Sam smiled, apparently pleased with the answer, and buried his head in his father's shirt, startling the older man. "I love you, too, daddy," he whispered, and John felt his heart clench.
It was too much. Too much running, too much hunting, too much pain. The little boy was too innocent for this job, too innocent to be pulled into it like his brother had been. There had been no saving Dean, no way to fight it. He had seen the fire, had probably seen his mother. Sam was young. Sam had forgotten. So they fought for Sam, they kept him in the dark, just as long as they could.
He sighed, his fingers absently lacing through his youngest boy's hair. He'd almost lost the kid, almost been too late. And where had Dean been? Dean had been at an arcade. He just couldn't trust the kid anymore, couldn't look at him the same way. It was a hard lesson to learn, but it had to be taught. Life was cruel, and it wouldn't cut them any slack. They'd both learned the hard way.
He sat there, staring into space, rubbing the boy's back, until Sam's breathing evened out and he fell back to sleep, his fingers curled into his father's shirt. Smiling, John lifted the boy into his arms and carried him back to the room that he was sharing with his brother.
He nudged the door open with his foot and walked in, heading toward Sammy's bed. The covers had been pulled up to hide a lump. Upon closer inspection, John found that the lump had dark, curly hair.
The hunter spun to look at Dean's bed. The covers had been pulled down and it was empty. He looked back at Sam, the Sam in the bed. He looked down at the boy in his arms. "Dean?" he whispered.
The child he was holding stirred, but didn't wake. He moved closer to John's chest, muttering something about love and abandonment. His father swallowed hard, his throat producing a dry clicking sound as he laid the boy out on his rightful bed and pulled the covers up.
He leaned close, looking over his son. He was a flawless impersonation, perfect in every way. Curly hair, chubby cheeks, large eyes.
Goosebumps broke out on the hunter's skin as he backed from the room, closing the door. He leaned against the thin wooden slab and felt every muscle in his body weaken. He slumped to the floor.
A perfect imposter. For the past three months, Sam had been having nightmares whenever John was home. He'd been coming out of his room, had been snuggling close on the couch, or bed, or whatever, had been asking the same questions. Did John love him? Would he ever leave? Was he, Sam, the favorite? Why had Dean been acting so funny lately? Didn't John love him, too?
Sighing heavily, he leaned his head back against the door. It couldn't go on, couldn't continue. Dean had to know that what he was doing was wrong, that what he had somehow become was wrong.
He pushed himself slowly up off of the floor, bones creaking, joints aching, face determined. He headed back into the living room, where he'd left his papers. He had research to do. He was going to have to teach his oldest boy about the evils of shape-shifters.
Well, there you have it. The prologue. If you like it, if you're interested, if you want sing unending praises to me, feel free to review. If not, hey I still like constructive criticism.