Into Every Life

Disclaimer: Not mine.

For Muffy. Chin up, girl. As Woody said to Buzz, "You got a friend in me."

Rain was coming down in a steady, misty sheet. It was the kind of rain that seemed light at first glance, but Dean's jeans and flannel shirt were soaked through within the first ten blocks of the long walk home. He'd left school late, detention for talking back to his sophomore Trig teacher, but the guy had deserved it. Dean had heard the way Mr. McClure had talked to Sadie, all but calling her stupid.

God he hated bullies and adult ones were the worst.

Still, late or not, he'd been hoping his Dad and Sammy would be there to pick him up from the high school. He knew his brother had been sick this morning, sick enough even their dad had agreed Sam needed to stay home, but it would've only taken them ten minutes to come and pick him up. Instead, he was walking through rain which was clearly changing to sleet, and trying to keep his mind off how he'd been forgotten.

Most of the houses were decorated with Christmas lights, and he'd admit, he had looked into the homes with open blinds. Families sitting down to dinner, or gathered around the television, but all of them looked warm and happy and well, together. Dean had no idea if his dad would even be there when he got home. The patriarch had made rumblings about leaving for a hunt and maybe that explained the lack of Impala parked outside the school tonight and not simply that they hadn't cared enough to come and get him.

Dean was so lost in his inner musings that he stepped in a puddle soaking his shoe, sock and jeans up to his ankle. "Son of a bitch!" he swore. Great. At least wet socks were better than walking in wet underwear, now that sucked.

The temperature was falling quickly as the sky changed from dark blue-gray to black. The thick clouds covered the moon completely and only the street and Christmas lights illuminated the way. This time of year the sun was elusive and both the walk to school and the way home had been dark, but that was perfect because it definitely matched his mood.

The longer he walked the more unappreciated Dean felt until he'd worked up a pretty good head of self-pity. As the rain changed to snow, Dean shivered and then stopped. He looked straight up into the night sky, watching the large, wet flakes falling. They blanketed the ground, melting immediately on the wet pavement, but sticking to grass, bushes, and naked tree branches. Snow muted the world and, somehow in that moment, muted his angry thoughts as well and brought peace.

If he was being honest with himself, Dean liked being responsible. His place in their family was the person whom Dad trusted as not only a hunting partner, but also with the safety of the family. Dad trusted him with Sam's life and Sammy, well, Dean knew, he wasn't completely oblivious to what his younger brother thought. Self-doubt blinded him at times, but he saw the way Sam looked to him when Dad gave an order, or asked them to pack up at a moment's notice. He saw how his brother trusted him to know what they were going to do when food ran low or Dad didn't come home when they expected him.

Dean's hand rested on the doorknob. With a quick twist and push, he'd be in the house and he wasn't sure he was ready yet. Now that he'd gotten over being forced to walk home, he found he had enjoyed the time to himself, the time to reflect and only be responsible for one person, himself. In less than thirty seconds he'd be Dean the big brother and dutiful son and the quiet solitude of his walk would change.

Through the thin door, Dean heard the television and he had a quick flare of annoyance again before it settled. Taking a deep breath, he walked inside. The air was warm, warmer than normal in fact and Dean couldn't help but notice first thing that Sam was lying on the couch, his cheek pressed against his Dad's leg. Dad, for his part, had one arm draped loosely over Sam's chest. He dropped the newspaper to his lap when the door opened.

"I was getting worried about you, son," Dad said, his brown eyes raking over Dean. "Something I need to know about?"

"Detention," Dean confessed. "Sorry."

His dad shook his head as he folded the paper. "No, I'm sorry. Sammy was pretty upset that we didn't pick you up. The poor kid hasn't been able to sleep at all, every ten minutes like clockwork." He gave the plastic-lined wastebasket at his feet a soft kick. "He tried to convince me to leave him here, but…" He gestured to the sleeping boy next to him.

Sammy was small for his age and he fit on the sofa with hardly any trouble at all for an eleven-year-old. What Dean had failed to notice was that he was buried under a mound of blankets and yet, even in his sleep, he was shivering. Poor kid.

"Worked himself up so much he puked again." His dad grimaced. "All over my boots."

Dean wrinkled his nose and looked down. Well, that explained the smell. He chuckled, picked up his dad's boots and tossed them out onto the front stoop. One of them would get to it later. "I'm starving," he announced after shutting the door. "Want me to make us something?"

"There's mac n' cheese with spam on the stove," Dad said, jerking a thumb towards the kitchen. A gourmet chef his dad wasn't, but it didn't matter. "I'll wait. Go help yourself."

Dean nodded and was about to go dish up when Sam's eyes popped open, fear reflecting in the hazel depths. He tried frantically to untangle himself from the blankets knocking himself to the floor and tripping on the wastebasket on his way down the hall. Even from the living room Dean could hear his brother retching and he winced.

"Go eat," Dad said, his tone tired but commanding. "You need to put on dry clothes and warm up, too. I don't need both of you down sick."

"You eat first," Dean said, clapping his dad on the shoulder. He gestured down the hall. "I got this."

"You sure?" Dad asked, frowning.

"Yeah, I'll change and help Sammy. You've been at this all day."

"Thanks, son," John said, relief in voice. "I'll hurry."

"Don't worry about it, Dad."

Dean stopped in his bedroom first and changed into dry clothes before continuing on to the bathroom. He rapped on the door, unwilling to interrupt if Sam was on the toilet instead of puking into it. "Sammy?"

The distinctive sound of vomiting was the only answer. Dean opened the door and put a hand on his brother's bowed back. "Hey, kiddo, crappy day?"

Sam looked up, his face screwed up in abject misery, but his eyes lit up when he noticed who had joined him in the bathroom. "Dean!"

Two seconds later, Dean had his arms full of little brother, skinny arms wrapped around his waist. "I'm sorry."

Dean frowned, pulling Sam away from him, which was no easy feat considering the kid had an octopus grip on him. "For what?"

"That you had to walk home in the rain. I told Dad to leave, but he said no, and…" Sam burped and Dean bodily whirled him around to face the toilet, then wrapped his arms around him, his chin resting on the top of his brother's head.

"You gonna puke again?"

Sam shook his head no, but moaned.

"'Cause I gotta tell ya, you puke on my shoes, and it's on."

Sam hiccupped a small laugh. "Dad was pissed."

"I bet." Dean draped an arm around Sam's shoulders and led him to the sink. "Wash up."

Sammy looked up at Dean and, in his sickness, Sam's every emotion played across his face. "Thanks."

How had he ever thought his brother didn't appreciate him? He grimaced as a sour scent reached his nose. Sammy definitely needed a Tic Tac. "And brush your teeth."

Sam frowned, but nodded his head. Dean turned to flush the toilet then joined his brother at the sink. Soon they were headed down the hall again. He tried to steer Sam into the bedroom, but his brother resisted. "I don't want to go to bed," Sam all but whined. "Please? I want to be with you and Dad."

"Yeah, okay."

Dad was in the easy chair when they came out. "Boys," he said with a nod.

"Hey, Dad," Dean said, tugging his suddenly reluctant brother toward the couch. "We're going to stay out here, okay?"

Their dad offered a rare and genuine smile as he reached up to pat Dean on the shoulder. "Sounds good."

Dean sat down on the sofa and pulled Sam to join him, not even protesting as he normally would when his younger brother curled up and rested his head on his leg. Dean covered Sam with the blankets and couldn't help but smile affectionately when he felt fingers curl in his shirt hem. At one time it was a nightly occurrence, but it had been years since Sam had done it.

Moments later a bowl of mac n' cheese appeared under his nose and he looked up. "Thanks, Dad."

His dad ruffled his hair and then plopped back into his chair. The two of them leaned back in their seats, Dad with a beer in his hand, Dean with a soda, to enjoy the rest of the game. So what if he had to walk home in the rain one time or even ten? His brother and father trusted him and, Dean was sappy enough to admit, loved him. Both of them counted on him when it really mattered.

That's what made days like this okay. Because when push came to shove, he had to believe his family needed him – just like he needed them.

Oh yeah, Dean knew what place he held with his family and some days, like today, it totally rocked.



AN: Hug someone you love today!