Your Sorrow for Another Coin

Winchesters always needed protecting, from themselves as much as anything else – so maybe it was no surprise that Mama added all that thyme and basil and oregano into spaghetti sauce every time a Winchester crossed their doorstep.

Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine but I'd make Dean wear his boots all the time if they were.

Overall Rating: M (This Chapter: T - Language)

Pairings: Dean/OFC, John/OFC (Het)

Warnings/Spoilers: None

A/N: This was supposed to be my Big Bang entry this year but life had other plans. This story was inspired by the spnxx prompt - #149, Spelling by Margaret Atwood; it was a prompt from last summer's challenge and I will be posting it there once it is complete. All things being equal, it is also my response to the This Woman's Work challenge on spnhetlove.

Beta: embroiderama, katelennon, quellefromage and quirkies

Chapter One: This bloodshot blue midnight

And will you take me as I am,
This bloodshot blue
Like a tattoo on my skin?

Mama always knew when the Winchesters were rolling back into town.

Alice would come home from school and smell the spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove and Mama would be standing near the cutting board, mincing garlic that she'd swirl into a bowl of fresh butter. The old radio would be playing Zeppelin, rough howls and tinny guitars that made Mama laugh and joke about getting a new one before telling Alice to put the extra leaf in the table and set it for five.

She asked Mama about it, how she could figure out who was showing up on their doorstep before they even rang the bell out in the store – whether it was that dusty old man chasing a ghost or the woman with the fresh scar and missing eye tracking down something that flayed skin just to get at sinew. Mama would smile and say the signs were there if you learned how to read them, in the songs the universe sent you and in the way grass felt underneath your bare feet.

Alice listened to the radio every waking minute after that, wondering how many people would believe that Robert Plant was actually an oracle, and spent so much time in bare feet that she'd probably never have to wear shoes. She'd even sit with her back against the oak tree just like Mama did every morning before school; trying to feel the roots, trying to tap into the power twirling underneath the grass that was a woman's to call same as a bright full moon let a woman dream true.

All she got for her trouble was the ugliest pair of feet east of the Mississippi and the occasional spark of something that buzzed under her fingers.

Just a flash of black eyes or a woman screaming. Nothing that was important. Nothing that helped people like Mama could, knowing the right charm to make or the right spell to inscribe days before someone showed up asking for help. Alice wasn't powerful enough to need training, not with something as quiet as a hum that barely made her hands twitch.

And the universe wasn't telling her jack that afternoon as she tromped up the dirt road after being left off at the bus stop. The store was closed, the old sign bumping in the wind against the red clapboard wall, but "Ramble On" was scratching its way out of the kitchen when Alice flung open the front door to the house and threw her backpack near the coat rack.

She should have brought the backpack up to her room instead of cluttering up the foyer but Alice wasn't cracking a book until Sunday morning.

"Got a 'B' on my algebra test," she bellowed, taking a deep breath full of tomatoes and spices. Her eyes narrowed, watching Mama brown meatballs in olive oil; turning them on their sides before they were dropped gently into the pot. "Winchesters coming?" Alice managed, breath catching in her throat. She could hear his voice, deep enough to rumble through her entire body when he laughed, and Alice blushed because Mama could see every goose bump springing up Alice's arms at the memory of his eyes.

But Mama just nodded and kissed her cheek.

She set the table in record time, not even needing Mama's help to put in the extra leaf, and bounded up the stairs to her room.

Alice Meeks was going to look perfect when he walked through the front door.

Well, as perfect as she was ever going to look with a sunburn so bad across her nose that all the skin was peeling off and tangled red hair thicker than a horse's tail and twice as stubborn. Not even Mama could do much with it but twist it into a braid; Alice split it in two and made loopy ponytails coming off her ears, like a girl on that dance show that Barbara Jean was always watching whenever Alice spent the night. She tied the loops off with yellow ribbons that matched her new sundress and swished the skirt back and forth in front of the mirror.

It was the best she was getting.

Alice wrinkled her nose, wishing she had something sexier to wear than her school shoes and white ankle socks. She didn't want to look like she was ten when he walked through the door, all because she wasn't wearing something slinky like nylons, but the only other option was a pair of sandals that'd show enough of the calluses on her feet to make Alice look like she was eighty.

At least she'd lost the rest of her baby fat. That had to count for something, even if her hips were fuller than the other girls at school and her breasts pushed together more than she'd like, cleavage as deep as Mama's.

Alice slicked on some lip gloss when the door bell rang and ran halfway down the stairs before slowing down, hoping to make a dignified entrance when Mama opened the door and the Winchesters stepped into the foyer.

He was the first one through, his eyes lighting up when they settled on Mama's face. She touched his scruff of a beard, three days worth of stubble that made Alice bite her lip, and suddenly his big hands were spread wide on Mama's arms as he leaned down to kiss her cheek. But Mama was quick and his lips came down on hers instead, both of them standing there long enough for Alice to blush all over again.

A sharp cough from the porch ricocheted into the room.

"Been almost five months this time, John." Mama's mouth quirked up in a smile as she pulled back. "Not even a phone call for six weeks," she added. Mama didn't say anything else – it wasn't like she couldn't have figured out for herself what was going on, between the music she was always hearing in the way the birds sang and the answers she could see in a bowl of cake batter just by folding it the right way.

"Man's got work to do, Jane." His grin lit up the entire hallway and both of them laughed. "That spaghetti I smell?"

It was the waltz they'd been dancing since Alice was ten, two years after her papa passed on helping a man named Caleb. A whole slew of people showed up for Papa's funeral, grim-faced men and women that stood stiff and straight when the casket got lowered into the ground. John Winchester was one of them, his face just as stiff and white as anyone else's but he knelt down and smiled at Alice during the reception, the ice in his eyes melting when she threw her arms around his neck.

Alice fell in love with John Winchester that very afternoon.

Mama was the one who needed a couple of years to catch up.

The air parted with the thick shock of the arrow whirring towards the target.

Alice took a deep breath, watching the arrow stab into the foam six inches off the mark, and made a face that had Dean Winchester laughing. He was leaning against the fence, thumbs hooked into belt loops on his jeans and one boot resting on a lower rung, watching her miss for over an hour. It wasn't her fault that she'd aim and he'd make a farting noise or some dumb joke about Sam right when she was letting the arrow fly.

But it was probably her fault that she laughed.

She'd only been practicing with a bow for a couple of months and she was nowhere near as disciplined about it as Richard Running Bear, a friend of Papa's who stopped by the store every couple of months to check in on Mama. Papa had a lot of old friends who did that, even tried to get Mama to buy a gun to defend herself from scavengers who wanted to steal relics and spells from the shop. Mama would smile and rub her upper arms with both hands and tell them that the store was protected from thieves the same way it was protected from dark things, salt in the paint on the window sills and sigils passed down for generations that were burned into the floor boards and woven into throw rugs.

Her mama didn't believe in guns and there was no way she was letting one into the house but Mama didn't have a problem with Alice's bow and arrows so long as Alice kept the bow oiled and the arrows out in the shed. Alice pretended she was one of those old warriors in Japan using Kyudo to center herself, an archery master becoming one with every arrow she sent speeding towards its destination instead of a scatterbrain itching to learn every little thing until something new came along two weeks later.

Mama said that being centered was no bad thing, that you couldn't dream true if you weren't centered.

Every night after dinner, Alice finished up the dishes and ran outside to practice with her recurve until the sun went down – but the way things were going, she was growing up to be the only woman in her family with blood so thin and a sight so weak that Alice Meeks wouldn't sense a mosquito until it bit her on the ass.

And Dean wasn't exactly being helpful with his running commentary.

"Your boobs ever get hit by the string?" he asked.

Her arrow didn't even make it to the target, thumping into the ground.

Alice frowned, whirling to stare into his shit-eating grin. "Your dick ever get caught in a zipper?" she retorted.

Dean snorted, pushing off of the fence with his foot and sauntering over to where she was standing. He leaned down and pulled an arrow out of the quiver on its stand, holding it out to her with a gleam in his eyes that made Alice want to kick his shin.

"Why are you doing this anyway? Gonna become a hunter and sneak into the back of the Impala when your mom's not watching? It's not like my dad's gonna notice that you're there until he looks up into the rearview mirror and sees all those freckles."

Alice snatched the arrow from his hand and slipped it into the shelf, settling it into the nok and pulling it back choppy instead of with the smooth motion Richard had spent three nights teaching her. Alice's hands were trembling and she spared Dean a glance. His hands were in his pockets and he was watching the target.

He was still grinning.

"Screw you, Dean!" Alice snapped. "It's not like you've ever had to work to get someone to notice you a day in your life, even if it's just for five whole seconds. Not with that goddamn pretty face of yours and all those girls from town shucking their clothes off in my mama's shed whenever you smile." She sucked in a breath, jaw clenching hard as she stared down the sight, and let the arrow fly.

It sank right into the center of the target.

"Bulls-eye," Alice whispered, and suddenly she was returning Dean's smile with one of her own because he was winking at her, knocking into her shoulder and laughing when she knocked him back.

"So you noticed all those girls, huh?" Dean's voice was light when he asked the question.

It was impossible not to notice Dean and his girls, the way he paraded them past her bedroom window with a 'come on, baby, it's not far' and a smile that made Alice's hands shake as she peered through her curtain even if she was bitch pissy about that grumble of a voice waking her up out of a sound sleep. A different girl every night the Winchesters' big black car was parked next to Mama's old VW van and how Dean managed to sneak out on foot and find one was always a mystery because it's not like they lived anywhere near the main drag in town.

Recognizing the girls was even worse – the cheerleader with the bright blue eyes or the quiet girl who sat in the back of the library during lunch. Dean didn't seem to care who she was so long as she was pretty and willing to buck under his body while her bow-shaped mouth made a little 'oh' and he whispered into her neck about how close she was to coming for him, 'do you like that' and 'you can push harder' falling out of his mouth like reassurances.

Alice was still ashamed about that, not leaving well enough alone. Sneaking out after him that one time had been a mistake, watching the muscles in his back move and the way Dean's ass tightened when his whole body twitched and he moaned into the curve of the girl's shoulder. Alice had tripped backwards, bare foot snapping onto a twig, and run back into the house taking care not to slam the door just in case he had heard the wood crack.

And she was just as itchy as she'd been that night, storming into the shower and trying to wash off and her fingers slick from the soap had only made it worse until Alice was leaning against wet tiles making her own little 'oh' and wishing she had just stayed in bed because there was no way in hell Dean should have made her feel like that just by watching him through a dusty old window.

"Hard not to when you sleep with your window open," Alice replied softly.

Dean looked away from Alice when she answered, scratching underneath his ear, and the back of his neck was turning just as red as her cheeks; like she'd opened a book somehow and could read Dean Winchester as easy as she breathed. Alice didn't try to hide her ragged swallow, either, for all that she wanted to – she was the stupid girl who finally figured out that Dean was the one she was really wrapping her hair up in yellow ribbons for.

"You want some help picking up your arrows?"

Alice blinked and nodded. Dean's hands were jammed in his pockets but he was looking her right in the eyes, shiny little diamonds that glittered in the setting sun and the muscles in his throat worked so hard that Alice wanted to touch his arm but her hand was shaking too much – a little bird fluttering just as fast as the space filling up inside of her rib cage.

"You gonna make nice and pick up the ones on the ground?"

"Nope." Dean's mouth quirked up. "I was gonna watch you bend over and do it yourself." Alice smacked his arm. "Hey," he managed between cackles and big deep breaths. "It's not my fault you grew up overnight and got stacked." Dean winked at her again. "And you wouldn't have worn that dress if you didn't want anyone to look."

His grin was full of teeth and Alice shivered – all because Dean Winchester was staring at her like he was the Big Bad Wolf and she was Little Red Riding Hood and if anyone was eating her right up it might as well have been him.

"If you're gonna look, then you're gonna play a game tonight with me and Sam before you sneak out."

Dean's eyes widened right along with his grin. "Just as long as you don't let Sam play fucking Trivial Pursuit," he said. "You don't know how much crap that kid's got stuck in his head."


The sun started going down fast but there was enough light left to see the glimmer off the metal tips of her arrows laying on the ground, peeking through the grass. They both decided without a word to leave the ones on the target for last, each of them walking through the grass, and Dean laughed when Alice shuffled her bare feet but the only thing she felt coming up through the ground was a worm; no secret messages or promises about what was coming.

She stopped in her tracks, one hand on her hip and her mouth going dry, when Dean leaned over and his t-shirt hitched up, showing off his hips and the muscles at the small of his back.

"Alice," Dean yelled when he stood up, staring at her over his shoulder with narrowed eyes. "Were you just looking at my ass?"

She wanted to tell Dean that he wouldn't have worn tight jeans if he didn't want anyone looking at his ass but Alice just laughed, swinging up onto the tips of her toes with her hands behind her back and her yellow skirt swishing around her knees before bending down to pick up the arrow near her foot.

Mama always said that turnabout was fair play.

The three of them didn't say a word when John announced that he and Mama were going into town to see a movie but Sam's eyes bugged out of his head.

He might as well have made a sign against the evil eye, as subtle as he was about it, because Mama laughed and ruffled his hair before kissing Sam on the cheek. Sam didn't scrunch up his nose like he did whenever his papa used to touch his hair and John had stopped doing it completely unless Sam was sacked out snoring on the couch with a book propped up on his belly, the soft benediction he'd been performing for years; the same way he'd smile at his sons when they were running in circles around the pasture, screaming at each other to see who could run the fastest.

His boys never saw those soft edges. John Winchester saved them for the times when Dean and Sam were too busy to notice but Alice always saw the way his body would relax when Dean was yelling at Sam about not being able to catch him, how Mama would slip underneath his arm whenever John lowered his head. John looked just as shocked as Sam whenever Mama did it, a ghost passing across his face until he tightened his arm and pulled Mama in close to his chest.

A Winchester always looked like something was wrong in the world when a woman touched him tender and didn't expect anything back in return – Sam's entire body stiffened and Dean's eyes were suddenly bugging out of his head when Mama looped her arms across both of their shoulders with a mother's laugh.

Even those girls Dean snuck into the shed with pretty promises wanted something in return.

"There's pie and ice cream in the fridge," Mama said. She smelled like rosewater when she kissed Alice on the forehead, smiling in John's direction. "You ready to go?"

"Thought you'd never ask." John's laugh rumbled through the room and Mama took a step backwards, her arm sliding through John's like they were in the middle of a promenade. John's eyes were bright when he led her into the foyer. "You're in charge, Dean," he said over his shoulder.

"Yes, sir."

Dean's body snapped to attention, a soldier with the same grim eyes as his papa and all those stone-faced men and women in black at the funeral, and she sucked in a breath. Alice was going to high school, and maybe she was playing at becoming whatever her mama was, but Dean should have been taking classes and flirting with girls instead of being a soldier in any army – least of all the one that stood between the world and the darkness.

And Sam wasn't much better. His eyes had that same severe sheen in them when he thought Alice wasn't watching and she had felt the calluses on his palms for the first time when he was ten and she was dragging him out to play in the front yard, rough patches of thick skin built up in all the same places where her papa used to have them from using his guns.

They all held their breath until they heard the latch click into place but they still didn't say anything until the Impala screamed its way down to the county road.

"That's just fucking weird." Dean frowned. "Dad doesn't even take us to the movies."

"And Mama doesn't watch movies unless she's doing something else at the same time." Alice walked across the kitchen and started pulling out bowls, Sam pulling the potato chips and the M&Ms and the Little Debbie snack cakes from all the places they were kept. "She says they steal the hours when you could be living," Alice added, handing bowls to Sam. "She wouldn't let me near a movie unless my homework's finished and I'm helping her sew charm bags."

"Maybe they just wanted a night alone," Sam said. "You're gonna wish you could leave when Dean starts talking about chicks." He rolled his eyes.

"I know where you hide your skin mags, Sammy," Dean shot back. He grinned. "And you're gonna make it so you can't shoot your wad unless there's a picture of a girl with big tits."

Sam snorted. "I'm not the one who wants to rub his head in Alice's boobs."

Alice was laughing, doubled over as she pulled open a bag of Fritos, because watching to the two of them go at it was like watching one of those cable comedy shows before dinner at Barbara Jean's house – until the words registered. She froze when Sam smirked up at Dean, her fingers clutching the edge of the bag so tight that her knuckles were white and Fritos were spraying up into her face.

But that wasn't the worst part.

The worst part was that Alice Meeks would let Dean Winchester do it if he asked nice enough. She'd let him do whatever he wanted after helping her pick up arrows and pushing her into her very first bulls-eye, even if Sam threatened to tell on them like he did the day when they were kids and she and Dean went skinny dipping and tracked muddy little footprints all over the place.

It wasn't like they were brother and sister just because their parents were screwing each other and going out on dates.

"You little prick," Dean said through grit teeth. Sam saw the fire on Dean's face and scooted into the living room with two bowls of snacks as fast as his gangly legs would take him, not ducking quickly enough when Dean's hand smacked into the back of his head. Alice was already flinging open the door to the pantry when Dean twisted to look at her, the wooden handle of the broom shaking in one hand and the dust pan twitching in the other.

She swallowed when their eyes met. "Well…" Alice slapped a smile on her face, her cheeks feeling the ache when neither of them looked away from each other. "That kinda serves me right for looking at your ass, huh?"

His lips curved up into a smile and Dean's boots crunched across the floor, breaking up Fritos until he was standing next to her. He didn't even ask Alice if she wanted help, yanking the broom and dust pan out of her hands and sweeping up the Fritos like it was his fault they were all over the floor instead of hers. Alice took a deep breath and started finishing up with the rest of the snacks, her head so dizzy that she knew what it was to be a sheet dancing its way through a tornado.

"Are you gonna stop me if I kill Sammy?"

"He did make me throw Fritos all over the floor and Mama hates it when I mess up the kitchen. It's bad enough when dirt gets into her candles. I don't even wanna know what a Frito's gonna do."

Dean laughed, pealing out like a bell, and the bird in her chest was fluttering all over again. If anyone had told her that things would turn out the way they did when she was slapping the snooze button on her alarm clock that morning, Alice would have laughed at them – but there she was, staring at the broom swishing back and forth and her eyes were blinking because the lights in the kitchen were too bright. Alice shivered when Dean helped her with the rest of the snacks, standing close enough to her that he bumped into her hip as they walked through the archway into the living room.

Things were a hell of a lot less complicated when all that was supposed to be going on was a stupid crush on Dean Winchester's papa.

Sam had the game board set up on the coffee table, biting his lip when they both set down their bowls of snacks in empty places.

It was hard staying mad at Sam, especially when he looked up at you from underneath his eyelashes with those puppy-dog eyes of his, but Alice was the sucker who couldn't resist chocolate – and Sam Winchester knew it.

There were different-colored piles of M&Ms waiting for her on the coffee table right in front of the pillow Alice used every time she and Sam spent all night playing games. "Are you trying to butter me up with candy, Sam?" she asked, sliding into the space across from him and popping three red ones into her mouth.

"Did it work?"

His grin was genetic, the same one Dean flashed when he was being a smart-ass or the one Alice saw on John's face when his boys were wrestling on the floor over something dumb like the last piece of pepperoni pizza, but Sam's eyes stayed serious.

"You know it did or else you wouldn't be smiling at me like that," Alice retorted. She poked his shin with her toe and Sam's grin reached his eyes before he flicked a brown M&M at her. That was usually her cue to flick one back at Sam. Dean was watching them both like they were crazy but game nights had always been just the two of them – even before Dean was old enough to come back with a girl – so the only thing to do was choose a color and watch it arc towards Sam.

Dean didn't sit down until he gave Sam a noogie, Sam's legs flailing against the floor until he was screaming 'stop it' and laughing as hard as Dean was. He sat at the far edge of the table and stared down at the brightly colored game board with its numbered dial and winding path and three-dimensional white houses, and his mouth worked when Sam told him to choose a color for his car – holding them out so Dean could take first pick.

"You two are kidding me, right?" Alice snorted and Dean sighed, picking up the black car. He passed it back and forth between his hands before there was a glint in his eye. "Hey, Sammy. Don't suppose you wanna play Trivial Pursuit? Only time you're ever gonna kick my ass."

"No way." Sam wrinkled his nose. "All they've got is the Junior Edition. I stopped playing that when I was ten."

Dean's mouth pursed and he was looking at Alice like she was still the little girl he used to make mud pies with. Alice coughed, handing him a little blue figure. Dean rolled it around on his palm, staring hard at it with a deep crease between his eyebrows.

"That goes in the driver's seat," Sam said.

Dean's eyes flashed when he pushed the tiny piece of plastic right where it was supposed to go and he mouthed 'you owe me' at Alice when Sam started explaining the rules. Dean managed to keep his mouth shut until Sam mentioned getting married.

"You mean I can't just drive the hell on through? What kind of game is this?" Dean demanded.

"My favorite," Sam answered, back as stiff as one of the old planks out in the shed. He folded his arms across his belly and waited, glaring at Dean.

Dean rolled his eyes, staring down at the game board – not seeing Sam's dreams mapped out in colored squares, a winding road where Sam could pick up every stolen thing and bring them with him in a car big enough to carry it all. A normal life for a normal boy.

There was no use telling Sam Winchester that his life was as far from normal as a life could be. It didn't seem right. Her life wasn't normal, either; not with all those folks coming to see Mama for a charm bag or a blessing and living on an old rambling farm stuck in eastern Kentucky.

But the Meeks had won the lottery compared to the Winchesters, who never had more than what could be packed in a duffel bag.

Dean sighed, eyes flickering at Alice without seeing her smile. "Well, just don't expect me to go easy on you 'cause you're a kid," he drawled suddenly, twirling the spinner with a twist of his wrist and chuckling when it stopped. "So if I get a ten, that means I go first, right?"

Sam's eyes were already stormy when 'kid' slipped out of Dean's mouth and his older brother's spin only made it worse, leading to a frown full of questions about how in the hell Dean managed to get a ten when he'd never played the game before. It didn't help that Dean cackled after Sam leaned over and spun a two. Dean and Sam both chanted 'one one one' when it was her turn to spin the wheel but it didn't work and she felt like a jerk for ending up with a four.

Being the last person to take a turn only made Sam want it harder, his mouth a thin line once all three of their game pieces were on the board.

Sam Winchester played The Game of Life to win.

Watching him play made Alice's chest ache, how anxious he would get when it was time to get his job and how he always went to college and how happy he looked when it was time to stop and get married. Dean saw it, too – the way Sam's lanky frame would shake whenever he landed on a bad space, Dean's fists clenching underneath the table right along with Sam's jaw when Sam thought he was losing.

Alice bent over and pretended to study the board, her hand slipping to Dean's fist and squeezing as tight as she could. She smiled right at him, breath catching in her throat and daring Dean to jerk his hand away with a raise of her eyebrows, waiting for the joke about her being that weird girl in Kentucky with freckles and pigtails, but Dean's fist stopped shaking and he didn't bring his hand back up onto the table until Alice pulled hers back into her lap and leaned back against her pillow.

Sam threw his arms up in the air at the end of the game.

"I did it," he yelped, a self-satisfied smile lighting up his face for the first time since Dean had spun his ten. Alice threw a handful of M&M's at him, giggling when he picked them right back up and chucked them at Dean.

"You didn't just…" Dean's voice trailed off.

The air was filled with M&Ms and it crossed Alice's mind that she should probably put a stop to it but they both looked so happy that Alice figured she wouldn't mind cleaning up after Sam had gone to bed and Dean went to town to pick up his girl from wherever he found them. She didn't have anything else to do anyway but homework and it was something to keep her mind off of whatever would be going on in the shed when Dean got back, from wishing that it was her.

Alice shook her head sharply.

Dean stood up and stretched. He scrubbed his knuckles down his cheek and looked at the clock, his entire body wrapping into itself like a coil getting ready to spring. She sucked in a breath, knowing where it was leading, and grabbed a handful of sour cream and onion potato chips. "Wanna play again, Sam?" she asked.

Sam nodded eagerly and started picking up the money.

Dean watched her chew, eyes narrowed. "You kicking me out of your house?"

"I just thought you'd wanna…"

"I wanna stay here," Dean said, deliberately sitting down right next to her. "Someone's gotta keep you from flashing Sam whenever you bend over and I'm volunteering for the job." He bumped her knee with his own and took some of the chips out of her hand, laughing when her mouth dropped. "You got a problem with that?" he added, sticking a chip into Alice's mouth and handing her a glass of soda pop when she started choking on it.

"I don't," Sam crowed. "You're both going down!"

Alice elbowed Dean in the chest when he snorted but it didn't matter.

Sam was so caught up in the game that he didn't notice a thing. He didn't see the way Dean's eyes shifted towards the foyer every time they reset the board, head cocked like he was listening for noises she and Sam weren't able to hear. Sam just wanted to play and they kept playing, even when Sam's chin was falling down onto his chest, eyes closing before his head shot back up with an 'I'm awake' or an 'is it my turn' until Dean touched her knee and pointed towards Mama's old grandfather clock.

It was almost one in the morning and there was no sign of their parents.

They both slipped out from behind the coffee table, Dean pulling Sam up into a stand while Alice slid her arm around Sam's waist. "You won again, Sam," she whispered into his ear.

Dean didn't need her help getting Sam up the stairs and into the bedroom they shared whenever the Winchesters came to visit but Alice followed them all the same, even though Dean knew where the linen closet was and she doubted that Sam was waking up and asking for an extra blanket. She didn't want to be the one sitting alone in the living room when Sheriff Tompkins called, asking her to wait until someone picked her up so she could go identify two broken bodies at County General, and blood pounded through her ears like a drum when Sam's body slumped to the bed.

Sam mumbled something and curled onto his side, a sleepy little smile on his face.

"He took my mama out hunting, didn't he?" Alice hissed, glancing sideways at Dean.

"I think so," he whispered back. And he looked angry, his fists clenching at his side.

She turned on her heel and pushed past him towards the door.

Alice didn't need his help cleaning up the living room but Dean followed her back down the stairs anyway. It didn't take her long to find the M&Ms since most of them were scattered around the coffee table and the ones that weren't would show up in the morning or a week later or some time when it didn't matter that their parents had been out hunting while their kids stayed home, whooping it up like idiots and throwing M&Ms at each other.

Mama could be laying in some old house ripped apart by someone else's nightmare, blood pooling out of her mouth while John was screaming and shooting rock salt all over the place, and all she could do was take bowls of potato chips and snack cakes back into the kitchen. All she could do was wait, grabbing one of the old washcloths that Mama used for dusting, and the only thing standing between Alice Meeks and the nearest bookcase was Dean Winchester, his fists still clenching and his mouth working just as hard as hers.

Alice watched him for all of five seconds before she started crossing the room, the rag fluttering to the worn carpet, and Dean met her halfway. His body was rigid wherever it touched a part of hers, arms bent at an angle so he could hold her at arm's length, and it probably should have pissed her off when Dean began patting her head like she was a puppy – but he was breathing just as tattered as she was until Alice made the decision for both of them and pulled him in close, arms tightening around his waist as she rested her forehead on his chest.

He didn't laugh at her once when she started crying, not even making a crack about his wet t-shirt.


The title of this story is a song lyric from "I Dream an Old Lover" by Jeffrey Foucault and is entirely embroiderama's fault. The chapter title is also a quote from one of his songs - "Appeline."