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Part One – Missing
Sam Winchester is sitting at the table surrounded by books, in his element, but his game is off. The words aren't flowing like they usually do. He throws his pen down and stands up. He stretches and rolls his shoulders, like his older brother does. He paces from one end of the room to the other and back again. He flops down on his bed.
It's twenty past four and he's been home from school for twenty minutes and he's climbing the walls already. He hasn't spoken to anyone all day; well okay, he's spoken to people, he just hasn't talked to anyone. He sits up and then kneels down beside the bed, pulling a bag out from underneath. He unzips it and lets his fingers run through the contents. He swallows harshly and dashes tears from his eyes, re-zipping Dean's bag and shoving it back under his bed. If Dad sees him with it, he'll be pissed. If Dad sees him crying, he'll be pissed. In fact, just for good measure, Dad will probably be pissed anyway, just to be sure he's got all the bases covered on pissiness. As far as Sam is concerned Dad's the expert on that score.
But then he figures why worry, Dad's not here and he's not due back until the day after tomorrow. Dad's not here and nor is Dean and what's worse is only one of them has said he's coming back and as far as Sam is concerned, right now, it's the wrong one.
Sam looks up as the phone rings. Once, twice, then stops. He stands and moves over to it, ready to answer. He picks it up on the first ring. "Yeah?" he puts the full weight of his teenage angst into the word.
"Pastor Jim," he sighs. "Yeah, it's me. Dad's not here though."
"That's alright. I called to speak to you."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yeah . . . I am almost fourteen, you know, not a baby."
The Pastor laughs at the indignation. "I know son, I know. I just wanted to see how things were, if you needed anything."
"No, I'm good. Dad stocked up on food before he left and he's left me money and . . . and . . ."
"I've still got the money Dean gave me," Sam admits softly.
"Well you keep hanging onto that. I'm sure he'll be glad if you can give it back to him next time you see him."
"I don't think so."
"Why not? Do you intend investing it for your future?" the Pastor teases.
"He's not coming back, is he?"
"Sure he is, Sammy. He just needs some time."
"He doesn't know where we are, Dad's moved us since he went and he says we're only here until the end of the month and then we're going to move again. He's never going to be able to find us and he's missing classes and he needs to get good grades and . . . and . . . I miss him, Pastor Jim," Sam doesn't even attempt to hide the desolation and loneliness he's feeling right now. The one constant in his life has always been his older brother, at home and at school, Dean has always been the one to run interference and make sure that Sam's okay and Sam feels completely lost without him there.
"I know, Sam. I'm certain he's missing you too and trust me, when he's ready he'll be able to find you. He'll call me or Bobby or Caleb, won't he? Then he'll be back with you in a flash."
"Dad told him to go and not come back." Sam's current resentment of his father can be heard in every bitter word.
"Yeah, well he knows your Dad didn't mean it, trust me on that. I've known him a long time." Sam can recognize the Pastor's attempt to be reassuring and almost wishes that he didn't even try, that he would just tell the truth. As far as Sam can see, his dad is an asshole who meant every word he said when he threw his older brother out and Sam certainly doesn't feel like forgiving him or cutting him any slack at all.
"He wouldn't let him take his bag or anything. I sneaked him his knife though; you know the one he has under his pillow. That's when he gave me the money. What did he think I needed all that money for? Where did he get it? Doesn't he need it while he's gone?"
"Sam, what does Dean tell you about questions?"
"You mean curiosity killing the cat . . ."
"No, the other one . . ."
"Oh you mean the whole 'one question at a time, you gotta give people time to answer'," he mimics his brother's lecturing voice.
"That's the one."
"Sorry," he sounds utterly unrepentant, much as he does when his brother lectures him normally. "So what was it supposed to be for?"
"In case you run out while your Dad's away." Jim never ceases to be surprised at just how many of the realities of their life Dean has managed to hide from his younger brother.
"But . . . Dad left money and loads of food."
"I'm pleased to hear it." Jim is thankful for that. It's good to see that at least some things are improving. It's certainly more than John has the decency to do more often than not when his eldest is there.
"So why would Dean give me money then?"
"In case something happened and you needed it. An emergency. That's why he said not to just spend it."
"You'd think he was expecting Dad not to leave me any." The comment is met by silence, Jim has always been adamant about not lying to the boys. At times, he's refused to answer questions, or deflected the boys' attention from what he hasn't wanted to tell them, but he won't lie, and maybe now Sam is old enough that he should be aware of just how much his brother does. Jim can tell exactly when the jolt of realization suddenly runs through Sam. "He wasn't expecting Dad to leave me any, was he?"
"He wanted to be sure you'd be alright."
"Does . . . Normally . . . When . . ."
"What, Sam? What do you want to know?" The Pastor gives the youngest Winchester time to frame the question he needs answered.
"Does Dad give Dean money when he goes away?"
"Usually yes, if he's got some."
"But not enough." Sam's logical enough, aware enough to draw the conclusions from what Jim is telling him. The Pastor knows that, figures in the world the boys have been forced to live in that it's time Dean's burden was shared with his younger brother. Jim may well have preferred that Sam wasn't aware of it, but clearly, Dean's limit has been reached and he's carried the weight alone for far too long. Sam's had a childhood and Jim won't be the first to think that in this respect he's been a darn sight luckier than his brother, however hard it's been at times.
"Not always, no, sometimes he's away longer than he expects. Has he been coming back on time?"
"Yeah. Even came back early from one!" Sam's voice expresses exactly how unusual that is.
"I'm glad to hear it. Your Daddy's trying his best right now."
"That's a matter of opinion." The comment is cynical for such a young mouth.
"He's not out looking for Dean, is he? He's not making sure he's safe? He won't even mention his name. You'd think I never had a brother."
"Your Dad's just upset, Sam."
"So you say! I'm upset, I want my brother and he's thrown him out, told him not to come back ever!" Sam's voice rises theatrically.
"Sam, that's a bit melodramatic even for you. Dean wouldn't be impressed with that sort of exaggeration now, would he?"
"I'm not exaggerating. That's what he said. He said if Dean couldn't do ias/i he was told iwhen/i he was told, there was no point in him being here and he should get his lazy ass out because he was just a useless mouth to feed."
The conviction and the utter 'John-ness' of his tone is chilling and Jim finds that no matter what he wants to believe, he has to ask the question, "Sam, is this the truth?"
"Yes! It is!" Jim's eyes close in despair as Sam's words come down the line to him. It explains Dean's reaction and Sam's. What had John be thinking to say that to the lad?
"Okay ,Sam. I'm sorry. Look don't worry too much, Dean knows how to look after himself, so I'm sure he's fine, but I'll check, okay?"
"You know where he is?"
"No, but he phoned earlier today, about lunchtime, he asked me to call you after school was out and check you were okay. He said he would call again to see what you said."
"Can I come up to yours? Maybe I could talk to him if I got there in time?" Sam pleads.
"Not this time, Sam, sorry."
"But . . . maybe if I spoke with Dean, maybe he'd come back . . ."
"Sam, no. Listen I need you to stay where you are. I will let you know as soon as I've spoken to him, but Sam, if you come here, then your Dad will come too and maybe Dean needs a bit more time and space before he has to deal with the argument. Okay?"
"Yeah, I guess. I'm just worried about him," Sam finally relents.
"Sam, I'll look out for him and I promise I'll try and talk him into calling you as soon as I can."
"Tell him . . . tell him . . . I hope he's okay."
"I'll tell him, and I'll say that you miss him and would like him to come home."
"He's doesn't like chick flicks."
"I know, Sammy. I know. I'll look out for him, I promise. Now what are you doing for food this evening?"
"Dunno, probably mac and cheese. I've got loads of it."
"Okay, I'll call again later. Make sure you eat before then."
"Oh and Sam, make sure you get back to that homework. Stop worrying about your brother, let me take care of him for a while."
Jim sits back. The two Winchester boys are so alike and so different in the same breath. It is odd to see them. In all the situations where Dean is loud, Sam is quiet, more likely to be found in his brother's shadow and wherever Dean is quiet, Sam doesn't shut up. Jim loves the boys like family , would do anything for them. The problem is he can't always do what they need most; John doesn't make it easy for any of them on that score. What both boys need right now is to be together and Jim can't do that because if he lets Sam come up to his place, John would be hot up after him and if he has done as Sam says, then Dean doesn't need to see his father just yet. In fact, it might go a long way to explaining the depressed and down-hearted boy he'd spoken to at lunch-time. It must have been a real ball-buster of an argument for Dean to stay gone for more than two weeks, no wonder Sam is so upset by the whole thing.
He'd never known Dean to leave his brother for so long under any circumstances. Even when Sam had been in hospital getting his tonsils out, Dean had camped out at the hospital the whole time and that was only eight months ago. Even Sam had found his attentiveness too much, telling him to 'at least go home and shower, dude!' And here they are, just shy of the three week mark and Dean hasn't even phoned Sam, hasn't even asked where they are staying. John has really done the damage this time. For now though, Jim's priority needs to be on putting it right for the boys, he can have words with John later. To start with he needs to work out where exactly Dean is and either get to him or get him to come to Blue Earth.
It's three and a half hours after he spoke to Sam when the phone rings. Jim answers it on the second ring, "Hello?" and is met with silence. He sighs, "Dean . . ." still nothing but he doesn't need anything to know, he can almost feel the pain made tangible by the silence. Dean's the only person he knows who can do that and he would swear the boy doesn't know he does it.
"Dean, I spoke to Sam, he's okay, missing you but apart from that he's fine. He's worried about you, so am I, Dean. He's on his own if you want to call him, I could give you his number if you like."
"No," it whispers down the line, pain-filled but final.
"You know you don't have to be on your own. You could come to me. You want me to come get you?"
He could almost swear he hears Dean sniff back tears, but he'll never call him on it. The boy has earnt the right to more tears than he's ever shed and right now, as far as Jim can tell, his world is in pieces, but he's not talking and Jim is just hoping he can keep him on the line long enough to convince him to say where he is.
"Is Sam really alright?" Jim can barely hear him.
"Yes, Dean, Sam's fine. He's having mac and cheese for dinner. He's got food in the cupboard and your Dad left him money. In fact it took him quite a while to fathom why you thought he might need money. I think your Dad might be in for a piece of young Sammy's mind when he gets back."
"Tell him I said no."
"If you took his number you could tell him yourself."
"I can't. I . . . I've got to go."
"Dean, don't . . ."
"I'm sorry . . . can . . . can I call you later?"
"You don't ever need to ask that, Dean. I'm always here any time." He can't be sure but Jim thinks he hears a sigh of relief just before the connection is cut.
The conversation hasn't made him any less concerned in fact he's even more worried about Dean but first he needs to speak to Sam and try his best to reassure him, even though he's far from reassured himself. "Sammy?"
"Yeah, it's me. Have you spoken to him? Is he alright? Where is he? When's he coming back? What's he doing? Is he alright?"
"Questions, Sam! And you asked the last one twice!" Jim chides gently.
"Yes, I've spoken to him but he wouldn't tell me where he was or what he was doing. He's missing you; he asked me if you were okay. He wants you to take care of yourself."
"I'm not the one who . . . Pastor Jim, has he run away for good? Will he ever come back?"
"I'm working on it, Sammy. I'm working on it."
"This is all Dad's fault, if he'd been fair to Dean, this would never have happened. I'm not going to . . ." Sam's voice is rising in anger again as he speaks.
"Yes sir," sullenness replaces the anger.
"I will be talking to your Dad when he gets back. Dean asked me to say to you that you're not to talk to your Dad about what happened."
"But . . ."
"Sammy, for Dean's sake . . ." Jim hopes that Sam can put aside his own thoughts for long enough to see that this time, they need to go with what Dean wants.
"Alright, but I still think . . ."
"I get it, Sam, really I do. Now did you eat that mac and cheese?"
"And finished your homework?"
"Yeah." Jim smiles, certain he can hear Sam's eyes rolling.
"So what's the plan until lights out then?"
"Well, we've got the History Channel on the TV and they're doing a special on the history of the constitution. I thought I could watch it."
"You do that but make sure you don't stay up too late. You've got my number if you need anything."
"Yes sir. Good night."
"Good night, Sammy."
Jim is getting ready for bed when the phone rings again. He picks up the extension at the bottom of the stairs, "Hello?"
He doesn't get an answer. He waits, counting to 30 in his head, moves to sit down on the steps and still not a sound comes down the phone-line that actually tells him anything more useful than the caller is near a road. "I spoke to Sammy, Dean," he says to break the silence, knowing the boy calling can't. "He's worried about you, wants to know where you are, when you're coming home. He wants to know why you don't call him."
"I can't." It's barely a whisper, but Jim knows he's got him for the minute; he's just got to strengthen the hold.
"Where are you, Dean?"
Pastor Jim sighs, "How far away are you?"
"Few hours maybe."
"Are you near Bobby's?"
"No." The conversation is hard going but Jim figures at least Dean hasn't hung up and he is beginning to get a little information out of him.
"Okay, that's fine. What about here? Could you come here? Whatever it is, Dean, I'll help you figure it out." He hears a definite sob. "Dean, let me help you."
"You can't . . . Dad . . ."
"Dean, let me try . . . let me come and get you."
"No, it's too far . . . too late . . ."
"What about you coming here?" It's a cautious dance, he's stepping. Of all the children who've passed through his house, their lives and families in pieces, Dean's the one who pulled his heart strings the most, for he's the one who has always demanded the least, expected the least but given the most. Whenever Jim looks at him, he still sees the wide-eyed almost mute six year old he met twelve years ago.
"I want to . . . but Dad . . ."
'Got him' flashes through his mind, but he just keeps his voice calm and quiet, careful not to overload the boy. "Your Dad's not here, Dean. This is my house and you're welcome in it, whatever has happened between you and John. So come, please . . ."
"Pastor Jim . . ." he sounds desperate, "I've been selfish and ungrateful and . . ."
"And Dean, you don't need to confess anything to come here. None of it matters if you need some help, if you want me to help you with whatever you need."
"He'll never forgive me."
"Dean, come here and let me help you. Whatever has happened, you can still come to me." If it were Sammy, his job would be so much easier and not just because of his youth. With Sam, all he'd need to imply would be sympathy toward the situation with John and the boy would come to him like a shot, but it has never been that easy with Dean. Dean's too used to being let down and disappointed, too accepting that things are not going to go well for him and he's fiercely protective of his brother and father in their usual situations. Right now Jim feels as unsure of Dean's relationship with his father as the teenager probably is himself.
"I don't know what to do. It's all too hard."
"Come here and talk, let me help you," Jim offers softly.
"I . . ."
"Sammy would feel better if I could tell him you were here and safe."
There is a snort of almost laughter and the tears are sniffed back, "That's a low blow."
Jim Murphy smiles. He has timed it right, "Bringing out the big guns, lad, the big guns. I don't want to upset you, but I'm not going to lie to you, Samuel is worried about you and so am I."
"Will you come and at least let me see that you're okay? I won't make you do anything you don't want to."
"It'll take me a while to get to you."
"Thank you. I'll see you here in a while." The line is dead even as he finishes speaking, but Jim just counts on Dean to keep his word.
Author's Notes :- This story was written for the supernatural big bang challenge on Livejournal. There it is accompanied by an awesome collection of art created by a dear friend to illustrate the story. I'd highly recommend visiting there to see the art. A link can be found from my homepage.