Chapter 20

Sam was officially having the best time ever. Like seriously. They'd ordered pizzas and eaten them on the bed watching TV. He'd jumped on the bed like a trampoline and there was no Dad to yell at him. Dean lay spread-eagled on the bed after taking a warm shower for the first time in years. He was still sore but looked happier than Sam could remember seeing him like…ever.

Sam had told Dean in the elevator that he was happy. And he was happy. Really, really happy. And he didn't want to spoil that happiness by thinking about Dad and what they should do next but…he just wished they could stay in this motel forever, eating good food and watching TV and not having to worry about school or hunting or beatings or anything like that ever again.

"We should get some sleep soon, Sam," Dean says and Sam rolls his eyes at Dean pretending to act all adult.

"Dude, we can stay up as long as we want. That's the awesome thing."

"We have to leave early in the morning."

They did? "But why? The more you sleep, the quicker your ribs will heal."

"I wanna put another town between us and John by lunchtime."

Sam sighed as he listlessly picked the pepperoni off the top of his pizza. It had all sounded like it was gonna be loads fun in his head. Every time he'd put another dollar bill in his stash he'd imagined road tripping with Dean, all the cool places they'd go and all the fun they'd have. And he was having fun right now but…getting up early, sitting on smelly coaches surrounded by wierdos, probably sleeping in the cheapest motel they could find. He…kind of hadn't thought of all that stuff.

"How long before he stops looking do you think?" Sam asked, wondering when they'd be able to stop moving around. Where would they pick to stay? Maybe somewhere warm with a beach. After living in motels for so long, Sam thought it would be nice to live near nature, maybe near a park or…hell anywhere as long as they were away from Dad and his sick abuse.

Dean shrugged and then winced as if the movement had hurt his chest. "I dunno, Sam. I dunno if he ever will."

"Ever?" Sam's eyes were wide and Dean shrugged again, gingerly this time.

"Not for you anyway. You are his son after all."

Sam turned his nose up at the unpleasant fact. "Yeah but I wish I wasn't."

Dean smiled a fraction at that. "You know, when I first came to live with John, I worried you might turn out like him. Like he'd brainwash you into believing the stuff he said and you might start to act like him."

It was weird to hear Dean talking so openly. Especially about the abuse or his childhood which he'd spent his whole life trying to keep completely secret from Sam. To hear him just talking about it…that was gonna take some getting used to.

"I'd never believe any of that shit he said about you!"

"I do, sometimes." Sam opened his mouth to protest but Dean interrupted him before he could. "All day, every day, it's all I hear from him. Some of it's gotta sink in. But…anyway, what I meant was, it's a good thing that you hate him. It shows you're not a sicko like him."

Sam nodded thoughtfully. "I don't want to be anything like him. When I've got a wife, we're gonna adopt kids and we're gonna give them the best life ever." It was like, if he could do that, it would make up for him not being able to help Dean…he hoped.

"And does your 'wife' get any say in this?" Dean smirked and Sam blushed, suddenly feeling embarrassed for blurting out his future dreams like a girl. "Is it that girl from the school in Virginia, what was her name…Penny…Penelope…"

"Patricia!" Sam yelled back, feeling his face blush bright red. Then he realised what he'd done as Dean burst into laughter.

"See! I knew you had a crush on someone back there! I knew…" the older Winchester trailed off as he wrapped his arms tightly around his ribs, groaning quietly.

Sam just smirked. "See? That serves you right for teasing me when I'm being nice."

"Listen Casanova, I mean it. There's a town about 30 miles South. There's a hunter's bar there. I thought we could see if there's any jobs going, try and make a little cash to tide us over for a bit. First bus leaves at 7 and you'd better be ready to catch it."

Sam had stopped listening at the word 'hunting'. "Dean you can't hunt. A few hours ago you could hardly even stand up."

"I'm-"

"You're not fine, Dean, so what's the point in saying it? If you go hunting you'll probably die. We have enough money to last for another few days and anyway, why does it have to be hunting? Why can't you just get a normal type job?"

"Sam, get real," Dean scowled and Sam sensed he'd hit a sore spot. But what the hell? Dean was being stupid talking about hunting and Sam wasn't in the mood to listen to it.

"I'm being 'real', Dean. Reality is having a normal job and a normal wage. Hunting ghosts and monsters isn't 'real' to normal people, Dean. It's not what people in the real world do."

"It's what I do," Dean answered back and Sam shook his head, getting more frustrated with every stupid answer his brother was saying. Was it too much to ask that Dean just thought like a normal person and not a hunter for once? He didn't even like Dad so why the hell was he talking like him.

"No, Dean," he replied through gritted teeth. "It's what Dad forced you to do. There's a difference. You didn't have a choice before but now you do."

"But that's just it Sam, I don't have a choice because…"

If Sam hadn't been so wound up he probably would have cared that Dean sounded upset. But he was pissed off and instead of being concerned about why his brother's sentence had trailed off into nothing Sam took it as a victory. For once, his smart ass big brother didn't have an answer to something.

"There's always a choice. Dad just made it seem like hunting was the only choice but it isn't. You don't have to hunt. You can just be a normal person and live a normal life, Dean."

"Normal people don't look like they've just walked out of a car crash, Sam. Normal people go to school. Normal people get their GEDs and their driving licence and go to college. I didn't do all that, Sam, I can't do all that. And now, neither can you. So no, we can't just 'live a normal life'. All I can do is hunt, and that's what I'm gonna do."

"But don't you get it? You can't! Your ribs and your head…you should be in the hospital!"

"You know why I can't go to-"

"So Dad doesn't find out," Sam interrupted, rolling his eyes. "I know. But what's the difference between living with Dad and not living with him if you're just gonna keep putting yourself through the same stuff he used to put you through?"

Dean looked surprised at that. Sam knew he'd hit a nerve as he watched his brother's expression change, becoming angry and defensive. "What the hell do you know about it? You don't know a fucking thing about what he put me through so shut up."

And for once, Sam did.


Bobby Singer yawned and rubbed the grit from his eyes as he dragged the curtains open. Opening his barren fridge, the hunter reached between the bottles of Jack Daniels and Buddweiser for a carton of milk that's only a day or so out of date. As he mixes it with the instant coffee, he half considers emptying the whiskey into the mix as well.

He didn't know what it was that made him look twice at the carton. Maybe he was just considering whether to throw it in the trash, maybe it was just an accident, or maybe it was his hunter's instinct which gave him a killer eye for detail. Whatever it was, Bobby Singer did look twice and when he did he saw one tiny picture and three words. MISSING: Samuel Winchester.

The carton tumbled from Bobby's hands as he took in a sharp intake of breath. And that was how Bobby Singer found himself standing in his kitchen, milk pouring in a puddle around his feet and a paradoxical mixture of hope and anxiety that made his stomach churn. And alongside that, there was another feeling, worse than all the others combined - guilt. He'd looked for the boys, of course he had, used every contact at his disposal to try and track them down – legal and illegal. But it turned out John Winchester was more cunning and devious than any demon Bobby had hunted before. Probably a damned sight more evil as well.

And now, in some fucked up way, the boys had found him. Or at least one of them had. Bobby grit his teeth and tried not to panic. He tried to tell himself it didn't mean anything that Dean's face wasn't there too. It didn't mean Dean was dead, just that John didn't give a shit. Dean was tough and…and last time Bobby saw him he'd been unconscious and bleeding to death…. Bobby shook his head and gulped down his still-scorching coffee. He had hunting to do, and this time he'd either find the boys or die trying.