Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize belongs to me.

Beta'd: By the irreplaceable Wysawyg who helped make this story so much better than it might otherwise have been.

I played after she beta'd so as usual, any remaining errors are mine.

Time Line: Immediately following the original Shtriga encounter. Dean is nine and Sam is five.

Dedicated: To Banana4Dean. I know you were looking for a multi-chapter Wee!chester fic and I promise, that it's still on the way (that is, if you're still interested!). I hope this tides you over in the interim. Sorry it took so long.


"Get out of the way!"

Dean instinctively ducked and moved to the side, the loud shots from his dad's gun were not muffled by the hands on his ears. There was a crashing sound of breaking glass and the shots continued until Dean heard their dad calling Sammy's name. "Sammy, are you okay?"

Dean peered around the corner. Dad was sitting on the bed, holding Sammy in his arms. He set the rifle by the bedroom door and quietly entered the room. "Dad?" Sammy whispered.

"Sammy, are you alright?" their dad asked. He turned his head towards Dean. "What happened?"

"I, I just went out," Dean stumbled through an explanation. He continued walking towards his family.

"What?" His father's tone and eyes both hardened. The look in his dad's eyes burned deeply into Dean's soul.

"J-just for a second," Dean said. "I'm sorry."

"I told you not to leave this room. I told you not to let him out of your sight." Their father continued to hold Sammy for several long moments and then things happened so fast, Dean could barely keep up.

In a flurry of activity his dad barked orders on packing and within minutes they were in the Impala headed to Pastor Jim's. Dean sat in the back seat, Sammy's head cradled in his lap sleeping off the effects of the shtriga attack. The growl of the engine and the hum of the tires on the early morning pavement faded into the background as Dean concentrated on Sammy's ragged breathing.

"Will Sammy be okay?" Dean asked finally.

His dad made eye contact with him through the rear view mirror. "Sammy will be fine, son," John replied giving his oldest son a small hint of absolution before reinforcing the lesson, "I know you'll keep an eye on him at Pastor Jim's, and make sure he stays safe."

"Yes, sir," Dean replied breaking eye contact with his father. He watched the rise and fall of Sammy's chest, reassuring himself that his brother was okay. It had been so close this time and his dad was right to call him on it. It was his fault. Dean vowed silently to himself that he would do better next time. Nothing bad was going to happen to his little brother again. He'd make sure of it.

He shifted in the seat and fussed with the thin blanket wrapped around Sammy that their father had taken from the motel. Running fingers through Sammy's mop of brown hair, Dean had nothing but his own guilt to keep him company on the long ride to Pastor Jim's.

He fisted his fingers on the collar of Sam's flannel pajamas and wrapped his other arm around Sammy's chest. He leaned his head back against the seat and allowed himself to drift off to sleep. Dad was here right now and he'd keep them all safe.


Dean sat on the hardback wooden chair next to Sam's bed with his legs curled up to his chin. His arms were wrapped around his knees and his eyes didn't move from his brother. Not when Pastor Jim called him for breakfast or lunch, not when it had been suggested that Sammy would be asleep for awhile and he should go outside for fresh air, not even when Pastor Jim threatened to ban him from Sam's room if he didn't take care of himself. Dean had glared at the minister with minty-green sparks that met the pastor's ultimatum in a response offering no room for argument. Dean wasn't moving until Sammy did.

The door creaked open and Dean's eyes flicked briefly away from Sammy before returning. He took a deep shuddering breath and prepared to stand his ground against the minister again. Why couldn't Pastor Jim just leave him alone? He was fine.

A warm hand on his shoulder and Dean tensed. He didn't need sympathy nor did he want it. He wanted Sam to open his eyes. That wasn't asking so much, was it? Dean didn't care if he deserved to get what he wanted or not. Sammy didn't deserve to be lying here because of Dean's one stupid mistake, but he was.

Please, Sammy, please wake up.

"Dean, are you listening to me, son?" Pastor Jim's voice sounded sad and resigned. Dean had missed whatever the minister had said. He glanced up at Jim before returning his gaze to the bed.

Pastor Jim entered his field of vision and sat down on the bed beside Sammy. Dean's taut back muscles trembled and his stomach clenched in controlled anger. Jim wasn't checking on Sammy - that would be acceptable. He was purposely inserting himself in between Dean and Sammy and that was not.

"Dean, I'm very serious. I promise you if Sammy doesn't wake up by tomorrow morning, I'll take him to a doctor. In the meantime, you have to take care of you. As you seem disinclined to join me at the table, I'll bring a tray up to you. But if you don't eat and drink something this time, I'll be forced to make you leave this room for awhile," Pastor Jim asserted in a reasonable voice.

The glare Dean directed at Jim burned hot from his green eyes. He wrapped his hands tighter around his knees and tilted in the chair just a little so he could see Sammy again. He didn't acknowledge Jim's statement and the minister sighed. "I'll be back, Dean."

A blur of black out of his peripheral vision, another squeeze on his shoulder and the minister was gone. Dean settled back against the chair and allowed the strain on his back to ease. The fire pit in his stomach burned hot with guilt and responsibility, but he did nothing to soothe that ache. That one would keep him company while he waited for Sammy to return.

Sammy lay completely still on the bed. His normally wandering hands and feet, the ones that sought out Dean as relentlessly as tiny heat seeking missiles were quiet. His eyes didn't flutter behind his closed lids and he wasn't making the tiny occasional puffs of laughter or muted sobs he did while he dreamt. It couldn't be a good thing that he looked so pale and slept so quietly.

The door squeaked open again and Dean started slightly at the noise. Time had ceased to have meaning and he didn't realize how long the minister had been gone. Once again, Jim walked between Sammy and Dean, but this time he placed a tray on the small table beside Sammy. The homey scent of hot soup wafted up to Dean's nose and his stomach clenched impossibly tighter. The soup was definitely out.

"I'll be back in an hour, Dean," Pastor Jim informed him. "Try to eat, please?"

It was the please that struck Dean. His dad ordered, Uncle Bobby barked gruffly and Pastor Jim instructed. Not a single one of them requested his cooperation and certainly never in that pleading tone of voice. He felt his head nod before he realized he was agreeing to anything and Jim's face lit in a grateful smile. It only compounded the guilt eating at Dean that Jim was busy worrying about him when he should be focused on Sammy.

He waited until the minister's soft footfalls faded down the hall before bypassing the soup and picking up the sandwich. He took a bite. It tasted like sawdust in his mouth, but he forced himself to eat half of it and drink all of the juice. As long as Pastor Jim was mollified he'd leave Dean alone with his brother which was all he wanted.

Shadows played off the far wall as the sun set. But it was his bladder that finally drove him from his sentinel position, not the dark. He checked on Sammy, hoping for a sign that Sammy was getting better but nothing had changed. He padded out into the hall and he could hear Pastor Jim talking to someone in his study.

Dean crept down the hall and listened at the door. If Jim was talking to someone about Sammy he wanted the undiluted adult version, not whatever sugar-coated pill Jim wanted him to swallow. "John, I'm really worried about him," Jim said, his concern easily discernable through the partially closed door.

He froze, the blood in his veins turning to ice as his heart beat sluggishly in his chest. Oh God, maybe he didn't want to hear the hard truth. "He isn't talking."

Fear turned to fury and warmed his insides. He was fine and Jim was supposed to be focusing on Sammy. "I understand he talked to you in the car, but he hasn't said a word since he's been here. He doesn't leave Sammy's side and he barely eats. He's going to get sick."

Dean clenched his hands into tight fists. There was nothing to say or at least nothing he wanted to say. It didn't mean he was incapable. His dad already didn't trust him the same way. He had seen the truth in the way his father had looked at him and he'd never forget it. If Jim kept it up, he'd never be trusted to watch out for his little brother again. "I'm not saying that, John."

Pastor Jim sighed loudly and Dean could almost make out his father's words through the phone. "No, I don't think so. As I said, Sam isn't showing any signs of waking up. John, I promised Dean I'd take Sammy to a doctor if he didn't wake up tomorrow."

His father's low rumble spoke clearly of his anger. "John, be reasonable. If Sammy doesn't wake up, he'll need a doctor or he'll die. A boy that size can only go without fluids for so long before dehydration sets in. You'll lose them both if something happens to Sammy."

Dean backed away, unable to listen any longer. He'd been wrong. He didn't want the adult version after all. A short trip to the restroom and he was back at Sammy's side. He stood beside the bed, watching the slow, rhythmic rise and fall of his brother's chest. Sammy was alive. He'd have to hang on to that for now.

Very carefully Dean crept over Sammy and lay down beside his brother. He rested one hand on Sammy's chest and used the other as a pillow. He knew he should sleep in his own bed, but he wanted to be there for Sammy if he woke up. Truth be told, Dean needed his baby brother right now too.

His eyes closed and his breathing slowed to match Sammy's. Dean fell asleep to dreams of a witch sucking the soul right out of his little brother while he stood by helplessly, frozen by his own fear.


Dean woke from a sound sleep. Something had changed. He lifted his head and looked at his little brother. Sammy's hazel eyes were open and he stared at the ceiling unblinkingly. Dean shook Sammy, his relief palpable. Sammy didn't respond, but continued to stare at the ceiling. Dean's relief quickly faded to fear. His little brother's body was up and running, but his mind wasn't.

As if on cue Pastor Jim entered the room. "Dean, is everything okay?" Dean didn't answer. He was focused on Sammy. Jim followed Dean's line of sight down to Sammy. "Samuel?" Sammy didn't move. "Sammy?"

Sammy blinked lazily, but otherwise did not acknowledge Jim or Dean. Dean brushed Sammy's bangs out of his eyes. He moved to rest his hand on his brother's chest and coaxed him onto his side to face him. Sammy's hazel eyes gazed into Dean's green ones, but Dean did not see recognition in his brother's expression.

Dean's breathing hitched. He had done this. He had condemned Sammy to a life where his body functioned, but his soul was gone, taken by that thing that had come into their room while he was out playing stupid video games. Dad was right. It only took one mistake.

Pastor Jim's hand was on his shoulder again, but Dean didn't look up at the minister. He couldn't bear to see the accusation that would be gleaming in Pastor Jim's eyes. "Dean, he'll be fine."

Dean shook his head. Sammy wouldn't be fine. Anybody could see that. He felt the hot tears welling up in his eyes and he angrily brushed them away. This wasn't about him, no matter Pastor Jim seemed to think and he wouldn't give the minister a reason to think otherwise.

"Let get him sitting up a little and see if we can get him to drink," Jim suggested. He helped Pastor Jim place several pillows under Sammy's head. "I'm going to get him a glass of water, Dean. I'll be right back."

Dean sat cross-legged on the bed next to Sammy watching for a sign of recognition on his little brother's face. Sammy didn't respond to Dean patting him on the leg or to Pastor Jim asking him if he was thirsty. However, when Dean held the cup to Sammy's lips he swallowed obediently in thirsty gulps. Dean held the glass out for Pastor Jim who understood the unspoken request and left to fill the cup again.

Sammy's eyelids fluttered closed and Dean carefully eased the extra pillows out from under Sammy until he lay slightly propped up in a comfortable position. Pastor Jim entered the room with two glasses, one filled with water and the other with juice. He set them down on the small table and sat in Dean's watchman chair.

Dean kept one eye on Sammy and the other on Pastor Jim. Jim ran a hand through his hair and sighed deeply. "Dean, your father told me what happened." Dean dropped his gaze, shame coloring his neck and face.

"Dean, look at me." The pastor's normal soft and kindly tone was gone, replaced by a hard insistence that caused Dean's head to immediately jerk in the minister's direction. His tone may have been harsh, but the soft wrinkles around his concerned brown eyes remained the same.

"Your father explained what when on in Fort Douglass," Pastor John continued. He leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees, closing the space between him and Dean. "What happened to Samuel wasn't your fault. That shtriga would have come into the room even if you had been there. That's what they do."

Dean felt his shame flare once more to anger. He wasn't looking for absolution. He glared at Pastor Jim, carefully crawled over Sammy and stomped out the door to the bathroom. He slammed the door shut and flopped onto the toilet. Maybe he could get a little peace and quiet in the bathroom for a few minutes. He just needed some time to get control of his emotions and then he'd go back to Sammy.

His chest heaved in near sobs, but he wouldn't break down, he wouldn't cry. He had already failed his dad once, his little brother in the worst way possible and he wouldn't fail at something as simple as not crying. An audible whimper escaped dry vocal chords, dusty from disuse and he listened carefully for sounds outside the door that Pastor Jim had heard him. When the hallway remained quiet, Dean drew in a shuddering breath of relief.

Deciding to stall and remain alone with his thoughts awhile longer, Dean started the shower and climbed in. The hot water felt unbelievably good and the minister's musky soap washed away traveling grime. He didn't know how long he'd been in the shower and he jumped at the knock on the door.

"Dean, I found some clean clothes for you," Pastor Jim's voice sounded through the wooden barrier. There was a pause before Jim continued. "I'll leave them right outside the door. Breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes."

Dean sighed and turned off the water. Apparently he had been in the bathroom long enough if Pastor Jim was trying to lure him out with promises of food. Food Dean didn't want to take the time to eat nor did he have the appetite for it.

Dean wrapped the towel around his waist and cracked open the door to retrieve his clean clothes. Jim had laid out everything right down to his sneakers. He emerged from the bathroom feeling cleaner and marginally better about Sammy. Maybe Pastor Jim was right and Sammy just needed to sleep awhile longer.

He padded across the hall and twisted the doorknob. The door remained steadfastly closed. Pastor Jim had locked the door. Panic twisted in Dean's chest. He couldn't protect Sammy if he couldn't be with him or at least see him. Please, please, please, he begged the door to open, frantically turning the knob.

Jim must have decided that Dean couldn't protect Sammy after all and had locked him away to keep him safe. Or maybe he thought Dean needed to be taught a lesson about leaving Sammy alone again. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a rational voice whispered that Pastor Jim would never punish him or Sammy by keeping them apart. The louder primal side screamed at him to get in the room to his brother right now.

Pastor Jim appeared at the top of the stairs. "Breakfast is ready," he announced. "Let's let Sammy sleep and eat together downstairs."

Dean pounded on the door with an open palm while the other continued to work the doorknob. A gentle squeeze on his shoulder and then Pastor Jim grabbed his wrists, turning Dean to face the minister. "Dean, Sammy is sleeping and you need a break. Just a little one, that's it. Come down to breakfast."

He felt the pain of tears forming behind his eyes and he pushed all other emotions back and down with the strength of new found anger. Dean's muscles shook with the effort of restraining his feet from flight and his fists from flying. He remained rooted to the spot and simply glared at Pastor Jim, not trusting the words that would fly out of his mouth if he let them.

Pastor Jim released Dean's arms and Dean saw tears forming in Pastor Jim's brown eyes before his head bowed. Jim took a deep breath and placed one hand on Dean's shoulder that was promptly shrugged off. "Dean, this isn't a punishment. I just wanted you to listen to reason. It isn't healthy to sit in that room all day, not eating and barely sleeping. Let me take care of Samuel for a few hours."

The cap came off Dean's control as white hot fury escaped. He pushed the minister away from him, spared a final look at the closed door, and ran down the stairs, not stopping at the front door and continuing down the path towards the woods.

The dirt path into the woods was well worn and easy to see. As long as he stayed on the path, he'd be fine and he could run. He didn't go far before the instinct to go back kicked in. He had no business running wild through the trees when Sammy needed him. Sammy did need him, no matter what his dad or Pastor Jim thought. He could feel it.

A heavy weight settled in his chest and made it difficult to breathe. He stooped over, placed his hands on his knees and took in great gulps of air. He didn't know how to take care of this. Sammy wasn't in danger, he wasn't sick; the problem was Sammy was only half alive. How could he fix that?

He dropped to sit on a fallen log beside the path. The mossy log was damp and after several minutes the dampness spread to Dean's jeans. He tried to come up with ways he could get through to his little brother. Books, candy and cartoons all held possibility, but none of them seemed likely.

He grew frustrated as he discarded one idea after another. He thought about what things made Sammy happy, but most of them were simply things they did together. If Sammy didn't recognize him, he couldn't imagine that would work, nor did Sammy seem capable of doing anything on his own.

A hug from his little brother or a pat on the back from his dad always made Dean feel better. However, he had been there, right next to Sammy and it hadn't helped at all. The more Dean thought about it, the more he realized he hadn't tried the one thing that always seemed to work.

Sammy expressed himself by talking. He liked to talk about how he felt or what he was thinking and he especially liked when Dean did the same. He had learned long ago that the best way to punish Sammy when he was being annoying was to ignore him.

Upstairs in the shared bedroom, he had watched over Sammy, laid next to him, been there for him, but he hadn't said a word. Disheartened by another perceived failure, Dean stood and trudged back to the house, his legs tired from running after hours of sitting in a hard chair. He hoped it was not too late to make a difference. Sammy had to come back to him, he just had to.

He was surprised to hear the grandfather clock chime three times. He had been gone far longer than he realized. He toed off his muddy shoes at the door and climbed the wooden stairs up to Sammy's room.

Standing at the door, he took a deep breath and tried the knob. It turned easily and the door swung open with a slight creaking noise. Pastor Jim sat in the chair beside Sammy, cradling his head in his hands. He looked up and twisted towards Dean when he entered the room.

"Dean, thank God," Jim said, relief evident in his voice. "I'm sorry." He held out his arm and invited Dean in for a hug, but Dean wasn't ready to forgive Pastor Jim yet. The hurts were too many and he couldn't afford to allow one of them to go for fear the dam would burst and let them all spill out.

Dean crawled over his little brother and lay down beside him, resting his hand on Sammy's chest. Sammy smelled fresh, like he had when he was a baby straight out of the bath. Dean fingered the collar on Sammy's favorite ducky pajamas and realized they had been changed. Pastor Jim had taken care of Sammy while Dean was gone and he was grateful.

He smiled a thank you at Pastor Jim and the lines of tension creasing the minister's brow smoothed out a bit. "Dean, I know you're angry with me and I'm sorry. I know you want to take care of your brother and you are perfectly capable of doing so. It's just…" Pastor Jim sighed and ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair. "You need to take care of yourself too or how can you possibly help Sammy?"

Dean looked away from Jim and at his little brother. That had been the question he had struggled with out in the woods. Jim's voice broke through his thoughts. "He needs you because you're his brother and he loves you, not because you're his protector. All you have to do to help Sammy is be his brother."

He looked up at Jim again and saw tears sparkling in the minister's eyes. "I just thought – well, it doesn't matter what I thought. I was wrong. I'll bring supper up to you later unless you're hungry now."

Dean shook his head and flashed the minister another smile. Jim did understand and that meant a lot to him. It wasn't often anyone besides Sammy looked hard enough to really see him. Pastor Jim returned his smile and quietly exited the room leaving the brothers alone.

He breathed in time to Sammy's even cadence and rested his head on the same pillow as his brother. Now that he was back with Sammy he couldn't think of what to say. I'm sorry I almost got you killed, didn't seem to be the best place to start.

He took a deep breath. "Sammy?" He hesitated. Nothing in his heart was making it to his head with the right words. He sighed. Or maybe he was just afraid. "Sammy, it's time to wake up. I kind of miss having you around." Sammy puffed a breath and opened his eyes. Dean froze and waited.

Sammy blinked slowly and turned his head to look around the room. His hazel eyes settled on Dean and a wide smile broke his face, deepening the dimples on his cheeks. Sammy turned on his side and rested his forehead on Dean's chest. One hand fingered the buttons on Dean's flannel shirt and the other curled up under Sammy's head.

"Dean," Sammy said, his voice soft and breathy from so many hours of sleep. Dean heard the need in Sammy's voice and he responded.

He curled a hand around Sammy's shoulders and rested his head on top of his brother's. "Shshshsh, Sammy, I'm here."

Sammy nuzzled closer and in that pocket of time Dean knew that everything would be alright. Sammy would be fine. They both would.


Jim walked into his kitchen, the scent of coffee, bacon and smoke had drawn him from a sound sleep. The sight that greeted him surprised him and filled his heart with joy. Sammy was sitting at the table, swinging his legs in rhythm to his talking. Dean had opened the window over the sink and was fanning the smoke outside.

"Do you think there're any animals in the barn?" Sam asked.

"There always is, Sammy," Dean replied. He poured two orange juices and carried them to the table.

"Last time we were here, there weren't any chickens," Sammy contradicted.

"They, ah, all flew south for the winter," Dean said, picking up a slice of bacon and shoving the entire piece in his mouth at once.

Jim knew he should discourage Dean from lying, but he really couldn't blame him. Explaining to Sammy exactly where the fried chicken had come from last fall wouldn't be on the top of his list either. "Did you boys save any for me?" he asked from the doorway.

"Pastor Jim!" Sammy exclaimed. He leapt from his chair and crossed the distance to Jim in a flash. Sammy hugged the minister's leg. Jim wrapped an arm around the young boy. Sammy flashed him a bright smile and Jim found himself returning it.

Sammy's small hand found his and led him towards the table. "Dean made breakfast, it's really good. Are there animals in the barn right now? Dean said the chickens flew south for the winter. I didn't know they flew. How do you keep them in the coop?"

Jim caught Dean's look and knew in an instant how he felt. It felt good and such a relief to have Sammy back with them. "Excellent question, Samuel, we can discuss it after breakfast." Sammy nodded in agreement and climbed back into his chair.

A scrape of chair legs on tile and Jim sat down at the table. Dean stood and poured a steaming cup of coffee. He set it down in front of Jim and pointed at the burnt offerings of bacon and toast. "I don't know how you like your coffee so I made it the way my dad likes it."

"Thank you, I'm sure it is wonderful," Jim assured him. He took a small sip of coffee and felt his heart explode as the caffeine hit. The brew in front of him was strong enough to walk out and hunt for itself. No wonder John was always so surly. He caught Dean watching him for a reaction and forced a smile. "It's good."

Dean smiled and turned his attention back to his brother. "So, which did you want to do first, the barn or the woods?"

Sammy tilted his head in concentration. "The barn!"

"Okay, Sammy, we'll start in the barn after I clean the mess in here." Dean picked up his orange juice and gulped it down in one breath.

"Don't worry about the mess, Dean," Jim insisted, dishing a plate of the least burnt bacon and toast he could find. "I'll take care of it. You and Sammy go outside and enjoy the weather while it holds."

Sammy bounced a little in his chair and hummed a song under his breath that Jim could not identify. The brothers shared a look and Sammy started to giggle. "Stop it," he demanded, pointing at Dean.

Dean laughed and Jim had the distinct impression he was intruding on a private joke. The front door opened and a deep voice boomed from the entryway. "Are you burning the house down, Jim?"

"Daddy!" Sammy bounded out of his chair and into John Winchester's waiting arms. John walked to the table and sat down with Sammy wrapped around his waist and hanging off his neck.

"Dad," Dean said. Jim noticed the pinched look on Dean's face and realized John's eldest son was scared. Not of John, but of what John might say. A wordless look passed between them and the expression on Dean's face faded from anxiety to relief.

"Dean," John said at last. "You boys didn't cause any trouble for Pastor Jim, did you?"

Jim opened his mouth to protest, but Dean was faster. "No sir, not much anyway." Dean paused and made eye contact with John. "Sammy doesn't remember anything. He remembers going to bed in the motel and waking up here, that's all."

Another message flew from green eyes to brown and back again. "That happens sometimes."

Sammy, apparently tired of being left out of the conversation, chimed in. "I do remember lots of stuff. I know my alphabet, my numbers from zero to one hundred and seventeen and I know how to read some words."

John ruffled Sammy's hair. "Do you think you remember how to get dressed?"

Sammy laughed. "Don't be silly, Daddy."

"Good. Because I need you boys to be ready to go within three hours." John looked over the top of Sammy's hair at Dean. "That should give you some time to play in the barn because I'm sure you want to."

Sammy bounded off John's lap and over to Dean. "Come on, Dean. Let's go."

"Right behind you, Sammy," Dean said. He waited for a nod from John and headed out the door to follow his brother.

Jim stood and searched the cupboard for another coffee mug. He filled the cup and handed the steaming coffee to John. "Did you get it?"

John took a swig of coffee and set the mug down with a sigh. "Nope. Damn thing was gone by the time I got back and I couldn't pick up the trail." He took another gulp of hot coffee and picked up a slice of blackened bacon. "I really wanted that son of a bitch after what it did to my baby."

"I thought he wasn't coming back to us, John," Jim said softly. "You should have been here."

"I couldn't let that thing get away," John growled, taking a bite of bacon.

"And yet, it did get away," Jim replied. He took a sip of coffee and grimace at the bitter taste. "And you almost lost both those boys, too. I was afraid for both your boys."

"It was that bad?" John asked. "He talked to me right after it happened."

"It was that bad," Jim said, his mind recalling all the details. "When Sammy finally did wake up, he was practically catatonic. And then Dean…"

"What about Dean?" John interrupted, snapping to attention.

Jim carefully considered his words. If Dean had proven anything to him in the last two days it was that he didn't appreciate Jim's interference in his role as Sammy's big brother or John's oldest son. "John, he's just a boy. This lesson that you're teaching him, he's not old enough for that kind of burden."

John nodded and his brown eyes reflected regret, but his words came out firm and unwavering. "He has to be."

Jim nodded in understanding, not agreement. He reflected on the boys he could hear thumping upstairs as they rushed to get dressed. He prayed that they would stay safe from evil, know the love of family and that each of them would have the opportunity to experience all life had to offer. Because hunting evil and responsibility was not all there was to life as John seemed to believe.

John's boys came tearing through the kitchen on the way outside. Dean ran by first sharing a smile with John. He glanced back quickly to make sure Sammy was behind him and continued out the door. Sammy ran closely behind, mimicking his big brother's every move. Jim reflected on his own prejudices and short comings and in a quiet silence offered John his support. Both Winchester boys had a full life after all.


AN: For the first time ever – a story popped into my head fully formed in an instant. This story came out of nowhere and jumped to the front of the line demanding to be written. LOL. Darn muses anyway, even THEY have llama moments.

As always – feedback welcome and appreciated!