Sam was hidden beneath a bush holding the end of a tethered rope, still and silent despite all his urges to move and talk. He'd got a walkie talkie in his hand, in case he'd got a real problem, but he wasn't supposed to use it just because he was bored. He also knew that his brother and Jordan weren't that far away and both of them had got his back covered, literally and figuratively as the Pastor would say. They'd hear any sound he made, knowing Dean he'd be able to tell if Sam had even moved to make sure he didn't get cramp.
When Dean had suggested this it had sounded exciting and like he was doing something really important, but right now it was just plain old boring. He slowed his breathing down and tried to crane his ears in the hope of hearing something, anything, his brother. Nothing, there was absolutely nothing. Dean had promised he wouldn't have gone far away, he'd know if Sam needed him.
There was a sudden very quiet beep of the walkie talkie in front of him. Sam looked at it and heard Dean's voice, "You're okay, Sammy. Just keep still and keep watching. I'm pretty sure it won't be much longer now. Don't worry, I've got your back, dude." The radio fell silent again. Sam knew better than to respond if he didn't have a problem, but he found himself settling again, less worried by having to keep still. Dean was still looking out for him.
"On the way, Sammy," it was Jordan's voice this time a few minutes later. "Stay alert, buddy." Sam was half-inclined to sigh that Jordan would think he wouldn't be alert. Dean would know better, Sam wasn't going to just fall asleep on the job like Jordan seemed to expect.
He heard the crunch of footsteps approaching on the track, saw the flick-flick-flick of a flashlight being swung from side to side, back and forth illuminating the way. Brandon! It wasn't that difficult to work out. For a start neither Jordan nor Dean would make that much noise on the track and they'd both have a better flashlight, same as Sam did. Dad always said that there were some things you didn't buy cheap to try and save money and like weapons, a flashlight was one of them. Dad said you buy one with a good solid beam and you make sure the batteries are fresh any time you're going to be relying on it to see where you are going, then as you were walking at night, you kept it pointed down making sure where you were going to put your feet was clear and sound ground. You only raise it when you want to dazzle something coming out of the dark or when you want to illuminate something in particular.
Swinging your flashlight from side to side like Brandon was doing just made it easier for other people or whatever to see you. Prey to a clever predator. Although watching Brandon, Sam figured the predator didn't need to be that clever, he could just follow his brother's instructions and lie under a bush with a rope and hey. . . he yanked on the rope watching as the loop tightened round Brandon's ankle before suddenly whisking him up into the air, leaving him hanging upside down with . . . with . . . Sam flicked on his own flashlight now as he heard Dean and Jordan both approaching. . . Sam moved closer trying to see what the red stuff Brandon had down his chest and covering his hands and face was.
"Sammy, just watch yourself, okay? Don't get too close!" Dean said as he came to rest alongside Sam. "Good job!" Sam felt a wave of pride sweep over him with his brother's words.
He flicked his flashlight up into the air, half looking at the red stuff that was still spreading and dripping, half just wanting to dazzle Brandon. He saw as some sort of cup-like container dropped from Brandon's grasp to the floor and he flicked his flashlight to the floor before starting to step forward to see what it was. "No, Sam! Leave it!" Dean's voice was sharp and Sam looked up at his brother's face.
The shock over, Brandon was starting to shout out a stream of obscenities, which the three boys just stood and watched until he seemed to run out of breath. Then Jordan said, "What shall we do with him now?"
"Could poke him with a stick I guess," was Dean's answer. Sam looked at his brother this time in surprise, Dean hated being pushed around by bullies like Brandon and would always try and stand his ground even when they were bigger than him, thought little of knocking them out if he could, but Sam had never known him actually consider doing something like this. It was a little unsettling and Sam wasn't sure what to do about it.
"There's stones and stuff around," said Jordan, "We could throw them at him too."
"Fuck you both, bitches," Brandon gasped out.
Dean and Jordan just burst out laughing before Jordan said, "Where's the book, Brandon? You got it there with you?"
"We're not going anywhere . . . although you know what Dean, we could go and we could leave him here. . . Like that idea, fucker?" he finished with his attention back on Brandon. "Think you can get free before it's too late?"
Dean took a step back away from Brandon, pulling Sam with him as Brandon attempted to lash out at any of them. He slid his arms over Sam's shoulders, clasping his own hands together over his brother's chest as if to keep him safe. He dragged Sam back another few paces, leaving Jordan to deal with Brandon now.
Sam twisted slightly, mouth already open to object to the threats. He hated Brandon, but this wasn't right. They should tell the Pastor that he was still here, even though the Pastor had said he had to go. "Sssh a minute, Sammy, trust me," Dean said before Sam could say anything.
"It's Sam, not Sammy," he said to say something and try and feel in control of some part of the situation. Dean grinned at him affectionately and ruffled his brother's hair.
"There's the fucking book, now let me down!" Brandon let a book drop from the bag that was entangled round him. "Let me the fuck down or I'll have your nuts on a plate, Jordan!"
"Nope, but hey, thanks for the book," was Jordan's response, before he turned his back and walked over to join Dean and Sam. "Good job, Sam! We couldn't have caught him without you. Need you to do something else though, I need you to go get the Pastor and call the police, fucker's going down for what he's done to the Pastor."
"What's he done?" Sam asked nervously.
"All that shit that we thought was vandals, it was Brandon, the paint and stuff, the tires."
"Seriously! He did that to the Pastor?!" When his brother agreed, Sam turned his attention back to the boy suspended in the air. "You are a fucking moron, Brandon. The Pastor's good, he doesn't deserve what you did, monkey breath."
Dean and Jordan only just managed to hide their snorts of laughter at Sam's indignant insult behind their hands before Sam's attention was back on them. "You want me to go back to the house and get the Pastor, right? On my own?"
"Only if you're okay with it, Sam," Dean assured him. "I'll come with you if you want though."
"No, I can do it and call the police."
Just as Sam headed off down the track, Dean called softly, "Sammy, flashlight down and steady, make sure you don't go off the track!"
He looked back at his brother, ready to retort and remind his brother he was ten now and not a baby, when he saw how anxious Dean looked about letting him go at all and so instead he said, "Sure, I remember. You taught me so I won't forget." Dean bit his lip but didn't reply so Sam just gave a smile, wave and then turned back and started a steady jog along the track towards the house.
"Let me down, fuckers! You think the Pastor is going to do anything, he's just a feeble-minded old man who forgives everyone everything so whatever you think might be about to happen. . . you're going to be wrong!"
"Shut up, Brandon!" Jordan said, his tone bored as if he wasn't interested in Brandon at all. He turned his back on the suspended young man and focused instead on Dean, "Sam will be fine, it won't take him long to get back and then the Pastor will be with him on the way back." Dean nodded and then silence fell as they waited on Sam's return broken only by intermittent outbursts from Brandon.
Jordan and Dean didn't have to wait long for the Pastor to return led by Sam. "Boys! What exactly is going on?" the Pastor demanded as soon as he caught sight of Brandon, still hanging from the tree.
"They're fucking bastards that's what they are," Brandon spat out.
"Get him down. Now!" the Pastor said calmly but firmly. Neither of the teens would have dreamt of objecting and they worked swiftly to get Brandon down, but they made sure that he couldn't run away. Even as he reached forward to start undoing the ropes around his ankles, Jordan slapped his hands away, instead starting to wrap one of the ropes around Brandon's torso. "Jordan! You'd better have a really good explanation for this. Stop!"
"Told you," Brandon muttered with a sneer barely audible even to the two boys beside him.
Jordan held him still as best as he could, while turning to speak to the Pastor. "He's to blame for the paint and the tires . . ."
"And the potatoes in the garden and the dead animals . . ." Dean added urgently.
"Dean . . ." Dean turned his attention back to Jordan. "Give the Pastor the book. I've got him, he's not going anywhere."
Dean stood up, crossed the track to the other side before bending and picking up the book in question and heading back to give it to the Pastor, who looked down with interest. His eyes suddenly snapped back up to Dean, who just gave a nod. He then looked at the book and realized exactly which book it is. "How did you get this, Brandon?"
"Who said it was mine?" he asked sullenly.
"I know it isn't yours. I said how did you get this?" Brandon struggled against Jordan trying to get free, but ignored the Pastor's question. The Pastor frowned. "You broke into my house and stole from me. What did you want with this?"
Jim put a hand on Dean's shoulder moving him round to stand beside his brother. "What – did – you – want – with – this – book – Brandon?" he asked again.
Brandon sneered at the Pastor, "What would you know about anything?"
Jordan jerked his arms tighter, reminding the older boy that he was not in a position of strength. Dean moved Sam further away, biting his own lip as he watched what was happening.
"Do you want me to call the police, Brandon?"
The young man laughed, "Yeah, fine, Jim. You do that and I'll tell them about how a Pastor has a load of books about demons and spells and crap, oh and how about I tell them about all the guns and knives and shit? They'd love that!"
The Pastor just nodded, "Maybe. So you understand that in that case, I can't let you go. What happens from here on is a direct result of your choices, Brandon. You have been given chances, offered support, given alternatives. You have persistently ignored the help offered. Your father is already on his way, he'll be here in a few hours."
"Fuck you! You don't know what it's like to be the son of a hunter!"
"No? I wouldn't be too sure about that if I were you and don't think that you can use that as an excuse. There are three examples of hunters' sons right here in front of you and every single one of them makes me proud to know them. You don't." The Pastor looked at Jordan, "You have hold of him? I'm going to tie his wrists. Then we'll take him back to the house and wait for his father." Jordan nodded.
As the Pastor began to tie Brandon's wrists, he felt the slip of something moist and sticky on the young man's wrists and hands. "Dean, shine that flashlight this way." As Dean started to step forward, he spoke more sharply, "No! You stay there with Sammy. Just shine your light this way."
The Pastor sighed as he took in the expression on Dean's face, seeing his arm tighten protectively around his brother, lip already swollen from where he'd been chewing on it. He looked down at Brandon's hands for confirmation of what he'd really hoped wasn't true. "Idiot!" he muttered. The last thing the younger boys and Jordan needed was this. He tied off the rope and hauled Brandon to his feet. "Jordan, undo his feet, so he can walk."
As soon as Brandon's feet were untied, Jordan straightened up and the Pastor could see the detached expression on his face. Without preamble, Jim tugged at Brandon's tied arms setting him in motion along the track towards the house. He was tempted to send Jordan back with Sam and Dean and leaving him to deal with Brandon alone but he couldn't risk Brandon getting away. "Dean, you and Sam walk ahead back to the house. I want you both to go and get washed up quickly and get ready for bed. Dean, carry the book for me. When you get back, please put it on my desk in the study."
He felt as Brandon stumbled against him, looking at the expression on Jordan's face he was pretty sure that Jordan had deliberately jostled against Brandon. What he wanted to do right now was deal with Jordan and the memories and emotions that this would be roiling up inside him but he couldn't deal with that until he'd finished with Brandon.
It didn't take them long to get back and as they entered the house, Jim could hear the sounds of the younger boys upstairs. He led the way to the cellar, dragging Brandon with him. He shoved Brandon through the door, closing and locking it behind him before turning his attention to Jordan and seeing the blood that coated his hands, face and the front of his clothes. "I think you should go and take a shower and get clean, then come down and I'll see you in the kitchen."
Jordan nodded abruptly and turned away but not before Jim had seen the barely held back emotions. "I'll be fine," the teenager said, "I'll just clean up and then I'll get some sleep."
"Jordan . . ." the Pastor started only to be cut off.
"Please . . . I – I don't want to talk about it, I don't."
Jim crossed the room, putting an arm round Jordan's shoulder and squeezing gently, "You know where I am, any time, come and get me, Jordan. You don't have to bottle this inside, when you're ready, I'm here. I know how difficult this will have been."
"I – I don't want to know about spell-casting, I don't want you to teach me that!" Jordan suddenly blurted out.
"Then I won't, now isn't the time if you don't want it," Jim reassured. "It was an option, Jordan, never an obligation. You have made me proud today, you could have told me earlier and I'd have helped but you've made me proud."
"He'd have run, we had to trap him or he'd have run! Then we'd have had to start again and he'd have had the book and I - I couldn't let him have the book, I couldn't."
"Jordan, I know. Now are you okay? Did you get hurt at all?" The teen shook his head before looking down at the bloodstains on his front and hands. He gave a full-body shiver before starting to pluck at the fabric as if he'd be able to lift the bloodstains off and it would be all over.
Jim sighed and guided Jordan up the stairs and into the bathroom, where he turned on the shower and let it start to warm up. "Jordan I'm going to get you some of your clothes, then I want you to shower and change. Let me have these and I'll get rid of them." Jordan gave a shaky nod as he began to undo the buttons on his shirt cautiously.
The Pastor crossed the hall swiftly to Jordan's room to fetch clothes, all the time contemplating the life that these boys were leading, a life that meant they knew about spells and rituals and blood sacrifices, that they knew how to lay a trap and secure someone so they couldn't escape. He'd seen the way Jordan had tied Brandon and knew that Brandon had stood no chance of escape, even in the flashlight he'd been able to tell that until the boys had been willing to let him down Brandon would have remained suspended from the tree, and yet these were not bad boys, they were not trouble makers. They owned far more knives between them and knew how to handle them, than Jim could ever want them to, yet he knew not one of them had chosen to be like this. They were good boys and they were paying a price that should never have been demanded of them.
He set the clothes inside the bathroom with another reassurance for Jordan who was pulling off his shoes by that time, looking younger than Jim had seen in a long time. "I'm going to check on Dean and Sammy, just call if you need anything," he reminded the teen.
As he opened the door to the other bedroom, he found Dean sitting beside his brother who was already tucked back into bed and Dean was reading to him, some adventure book or other they'd found at the library. It wasn't something that Dean did as often now as he had when Sam had been younger, but there were still times when he would, seemingly without thinking about it, do something which would surround his younger brother in a world which was almost normal, almost right. Nights when Sam couldn't sleep or was anxious about John being away too long or when settling in at yet another new school and trying not to stand out was proving too hard, then Dean would spend extra time with him, sacrificing his own homework or free time to support his brother. They were good boys.
Jim crossed the room and sat down on the edge of Dean's bed to watch the two boys for a few minutes. Dean stopped reading at the end of the chapter and said, "We only wanted to stop him doing all that stuff to you. He shouldn't have been doing it. We didn't know about the . . . the blood and stuff before. When you said about the book this morning, we didn't know and we'd only just seen the car." There was a pause before he said, "I'm sorry if I let us do the wrong thing."
Jim saw as Sam's hand sneaked out from below the covers to grasp his brother's as if to say that they were in it together. They were good boys, Jim said to himself again. "You have nothing to worry about. I'm proud of you all and I'm grateful to you all for your loyalty and your sense of wanting to help. . . Are the two of you alright?"
"We didn't get hurt, I wouldn't . . ."
"Dean, it's fine. I just wanted to check that you were both okay. If there's anything you need or anything you want to talk about, come and talk to me. Once Jordan's in bed, then I'm going to head to bed myself, but if you want anything come and get me."
"We're fine." The Pastor was surprised but also pleased when it was Sam that spoke. "We'll look out for each other."
"That's good and it doesn't stop you coming for me too." He wasn't sure whether the night's events would cause either of these boys nightmares. As far as he knew they had no experience of spell-craft, which was a good thing. They had plenty of nightmares of their own without adding the kinds of thing that Jordan had seen to them.
As he left the room, he saw Jordan had put his clothes outside the bathroom so he picked them up and took them downstairs, checking them over, he decided to wash through the jeans and sneakers but to throw away the shirt and t-shirt which were blood-soaked. He wasn't sure that he would ever get the blood out completely and he wasn't going to have Jordan reminded of his brothers' deaths every time he saw the clothes. Tomorrow he would go and buy replacements.
Finally unable to put it off any longer, he went to check on Brandon. Opening the cellar cautiously, he walked down the stairs and found Brandon sat on a broken chair on the far side of the room, hands still tied behind him. "You want to talk to me now?" he asked.
Brandon looked at him and shrugged.
"Why, Brandon? Why did you do that?"
"Why not?" the young man sneered. "You're weak, old man. Pathetic. You thought you could throw me out, so you needed to be taught a lesson."
"And what lesson have I learnt from this, Brandon?" Jim asked calmly.
"That I won't be dictated to by some poxy priest!"
"Right . . . Actually, I've learnt that you can't be trusted, that you are a thief, a vandal and above all else an idiot. You are a hunter's son, whether you like it or not, that is a fact. Any hunter's son should know better than you. You do not mess with spells and rituals; there is no excuse for it, Brandon. You are not that stupid."
"I don't care what you think!"
"Fine. It doesn't actually change anything. You're staying here in the cellar until your father gets back and then you're going with him." As the Pastor stood and started to move away, he looked back sadly, "You had so many opportunities, Brandon and you threw them all away because you are idle, selfish and you lack self-motivation to achieve something with your life. You were fortunate, your father kept you in one school for your whole school career, you had a home, you had opportunities to not be a hunter. You have always treated the boys badly, bullied them. You have never appreciated how little they had by comparison with you, you have always been obsessed by the things you didn't get. They did not have any of those things; no home; continually moving school; the clothes on their back are about their only possessions, yet everyone of them is a better person than you, every one of them has made more of their life, their opportunities. You are a sad excuse for a human being, Brandon and I hope for your sake that you change." With that he walked back to the stairs, climbed them and locked the door behind him as he left, hoping for the boys' sake as much as his own that Brandon didn't decide to create a racket and keep them all awake all night.
He climbed the stairs back up to the bedrooms, relieved to see the bathroom door open. He looked down at his own clothes, deciding to shower and change quickly before heading into check on Jordan.
Three days had passed, Brandon was long gone with his father and things were settling into the usual routine again. The Pastor was relieved to see that the three boys still in his care were getting along well. The older two were running together daily and both were finding the time to shoot hoops and play ball with Sam.
Dean was still going up with Sam each night when he got ready for bed and reading to him, although once Sam was asleep, he would come back down for a while. Jim was sure that it was Dean's way of reassuring his brother that they were safe and all was well.
Jim hadn't failed to notice that Jordan's appetite was less and that he had bags below his eyes. He'd caught Dean watching his friend as well as if he too was worrying but wasn't sure how to fix it.
It was late . . . or early depending on how you looked at it, Jordan supposed. He was lying in bed, chilled from the cooling sweat of yet another nightmare. It had been so close, Brandon had been willing to risk everything, just like his brother. The thought of Sam or Dean dead because of Brandon's stupidity and Jordan's inability to protect them properly had woken him every night since, left him lying in the dark alone and frightened.
Dean and Sam were like brothers, but this time rather than being the youngest and not expected to do anything, he was the eldest, he was supposed to be responsible, to keep them safe. He rolled over, freeing a hand to wipe the tears that threatened from his eyes. Brandon . . . he could have cost Jordan everything.
He shot up at the sound of the door opening, heard the soft pad of bare feet across the floor, recognized it as Dean before he could even make out his shadowy outline in the dark. "Dean?" he said quietly.
"Yeah, it's me. You okay?" Dean whispered back.
Jordan leant over to flick on the light beside the bed, blinking rapidly in the sudden light before he could focus on Dean. "Course I'm okay, dude, why wouldn't I be?"
"You're awake and you shouldn't be. You should be asleep now, dude," Dean replied simply.
"Could say the same to you, Deano," Jordan gave a half smile.
Dean flopped down on the end of the bed, before shifting over to lean back against the wall, crossing his legs in front of him. "You're not sleeping well. You having nightmares?"
Jordan smiled. How often had he asked Dean the same? How often had he sat in the semi-dark and listened as Dean talked about the nightmares that kept him awake after he'd spent weeks alone with his brother with no adult to take care of them. "You channelling someone there, Dean?"
"If you want it to be that, then sure. Otherwise, I'm just looking out for my friend, like he looks out for me." Dean looked down at his hands resting on his knees. Even in the dim light, Jordan could see the flush of embarrassment on Dean's cheeks.
"Thanks dude. You're right, I guess I'm not sleeping so well." Jordan looked away towards the window for a few moments, appreciating Dean's silence, his willingness to wait. "The Pastor's book was a spell-casting book," he said, his eyes intent on Dean waiting for some sort of reaction. Dean just nodded. "Okay, so spells and shit, that's um . . ." Jordan swallowed, closing his eyes for a moment trying to gather the strength to tell Dean the rest. "That's what my brother got mixed up in, that's why both my brothers are dead."
Dean didn't say anything, but he moved one hand from his own knee to rest over Jordan's. It took Jordan a little while before he was able to continue. "I keep dreaming that I fucked up that you or Sam got hurt."
"We didn't. We're fine." Dean said simply. "You're the one who got hurt."
Jordan shook his head, not meeting Dean's eyes this time. "You got hurt here," Dean said calmly, pointing at Jordan's heart. "You're worrying about something that didn't happen, you always tell me that once something's in the past, I might be able to learn from it but I can't change it. You can't change what happened; you can't make it any better than it already is. Brandon fucked up, you didn't."
"Dean. . ." Jordan's voice choked up. "I keep dreaming that you got hurt, like my brother and I wake up and I can't get rid of that image in my head."
Dean seemed to think for a beat or two before, he said, "Then you should come and sleep next door with us again. Every time you dream something bad, you can open your eyes and see, we're fine, nobody fucked up, nobody got hurt." With that Dean stood and turned to pull Jordan up from the bed, dragging him back into the room they had shared before.
He dragged his friend to Sam's bed first, whispering, "See, Sammy's fine, sleeping like a baby." He smiled at Jordan before adding, "or better than a baby actually, 'cause when he was a baby he didn't sleep for shit!"
Then he pushed Jordan over to the empty bed below the window, "There ya go and I'll be right over there. You have another nightmare and you check on us and you see we're good."
It sounded so simple, so plausible, Jordan wanted life to still be that simple. He shifted round so he could pull the covers over himself and lay down. He saw Dean settle on his side facing Jordan. Dean grinned then closed his eyes, leaving the light beside him on, so that the room was dimly lit, enough for Jordan to be able to check on them both easily.
Jordan closed his eyes and for the first time since the night with Brandon, he didn't see his brothers dead or Dean and Sammy dying, he saw Dean grinning at him from the other bed and Sammy asleep, curled round his pillow, looking as innocent and unmarked as a ten year old should.
Jordan woke with a jerk, the familiar nightmare encroaching onto his sleep again. He cast his eyes over to the other beds and saw Dean and Sammy still sleeping soundly and found his heartbeat easing, himself already drifting back to sleep now he knew they were safe.
Jim got up early. The house was still quiet. He rose and took a walk along to Jordan's room. He was worried about how little the eighteen year old had been sleeping. He pushed the door cautiously to find the bed empty and sighed, wishing it was easier to help.
He walked along to the second room, edging the door open to see inside. Sam looked up at him and grinned from where he was sat on his bed reading. Sam put his finger to his lips for quiet as the Pastor took another step forward and saw that the other two beds were filled and that both Dean and Jordan were sleeping soundly.
As he felt himself relaxing at the view before him, movement caught his eye as Sam slid silently from his bed and padded across the room to him. They left the room and headed downstairs together.
Heading into the kitchen, Sam sat at his usual place, putting his book on the table in front of him as the Pastor poured two glasses of juice from the fridge. "Dean talked Jordan into moving back in with us. He said he thought it might help Jordan sleep better."
"It looks like he was right, Sammy."
"Sam, not Sammy anymore, remember. Things are going to be better now, aren't they?"
"They are Sam, they are," Jim agreed. "Your Dad and Jordan's are both due back in two weeks', so that leaves us enough time to rest, relax and finish that vegetable garden."
"Urgh! I hate gardening."
By the time the two older boys appeared downstairs, the Pastor had already started breakfast. He was pleased to see them both looking more rested and relaxed, watched as Jordan ruffled Sam's hair on the way to his seat, while Dean jogged Sam's elbow as he sat down, making him drop his book. Sam frowned at his brother, the frown turning to laughter as Dean pulled a face.
Jim watched them all with affection, reflecting that these boys were the hope for the future, the real hope of staving off the evil that was coming. His role now was to protect and prepare them for that future as best he could.
Author's Note: So that is the story completed. I hope you enjoyed it. Constructive feedback would be appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read this.