Title: I Am Come Into My Garden

Summary: Six-year-old Dean brings home a mangy old alley cat, much to the dismay of Sam and Lisa, who are having a hard enough time coping with everything else that's happened already.

Characters: Dean, Sam, Lisa, Ben

Rating: PG-13

Wordcount: 5,944

Disclaimer: Playing in Sera's sandbox. Not mine, please don't sue.

Warnings: spoilers up to Season 6, swearing, angst, de-aged!Dean, and there is sort-of-maybe background Sam/Lisa, but mostly it's just awkward and they're not really together (Yet. Ish.).

Neurotic Author's Note #1: Written for the Writing Between the Lines challenge at hoodie_time, for Prompt # 73 by rainylemons, whose prompts I apparently cannot resist.

Neurotic Author's Note #2: Oh my God, this STORY. I don't even know, okay? It was supposed to be about wee!Dean and a cat, with maybe a little side of Sam and Lisa and All Things Awkward™, except that's not exactly what happened. I don't even know what to make of this weird, meandering thing, except that that's how it turned out.

Neurotic Author's Note #3: It's unbeta'd, but at least it has a happy ending, right? Please don't hate me for the ending…


It's the sound of arguing that takes Sam outside first thing on a Saturday morning. Lisa keeps telling him that it's his day off, that there's no reason for him to be up at the crack of dawn along with Dean and Ben, that Saturday cartoons will keep the average boy occupied well enough until the grown-ups are ready to get up. He appreciates the sentiment, but Sam honestly doesn't remember the last time he was able to sleep for more than a handful of hours when it wasn't the result of chemical intervention and he hates taking sleeping pills. He can't wake up when he takes them, stays trapped in his dreams.

So he gets up, often just before the sun, always before his alarm, carefully puts the sofa bed back so that there's no sign at all that anyone's been there. He still can't bring himself to take Lisa up on her offer of the guest bedroom, but he tries to be a good guest, makes coffee every morning, lays out the breakfast table, makes sure that breakfast is always ready and waiting for the rest of them when they finally get up –cereal and toast during the week, pancakes and sometimes eggs or French toast on the weekend. He's gotten good at breakfast, even if cooking other, more complicated meals is still beyond him some of the time.

This morning he's thinking pancakes –inasmuch as he does any kind of complex thinking at this hour in the morning, still halfway buried in a mostly unremembered nightmare– when he hears voices from the backyard. More specifically it's Ben's voice, high and shrill with indignation. It's not difficult to figure out that Dean is probably the reason for this latest outburst. Ben hasn't exactly adjusted well to this latest Winchester-related upheaval in his life, not that Sam can blame him. With a sigh Sam abandons his attempt at coffee and slides open the door to the backyard, intent on breaking up whatever newest fight has broken out between Dean and Ben, and instead nearly trips over his brother, who's standing right outside the door. He's hugging a large yellow cat tightly to his chest with his arms holding it under its front legs, hind legs dangling almost all the way down to Dean's feet, butt swinging from side to side like a big mustard-coloured pendulum.

"Sammy, look what I found," Dean looks up at him with pleading eyes. "Can we keep him?"

The cat's pretty gross, all things considered. Both of its eyes are gummy, leaking pus from God only knows what sort of infection, it has several worn spots on its fur that Sam figures probably came from gnawing and scratching at fleas, and the left ear is little more than a ragged nub. But, it's purring like it's found nirvana, rumbling in a throaty, congested and thoroughly contented sound and Dean's clutching it happily while staring up at him so damned hopefully that Sam's already thinking about vets, shots, litter boxes, collars and cat toys.

It's just that Dean rarely asks for anything. In the last year since Sam found him, finally, after months of agonized searching, Dean –all of six years old physically and mentally– still hasn't asked for much of anything. Just takes whatever Sam gives him like it's more than he could have expected or hoped for and still needs to be asked if he wouldn't like ice cream or pie or a turn on Ben's PlayStation.

So, Dean asking for something –even if it's a mangy, homeless cat– it's kind of significant and Sam knows already that he's not going to deny him, even if it's maybe not his sole decision to make.

Behind him, Sam hears Lisa and his stomach does that flutter, rumble and drop thing that it does. He blatantly ignores and refuses to acknowledge the significance of it because, God damn, it's not like everyone isn't fucked up enough already.

He turns and uses every trick he knows to keep his expression calm and neutral. Given the chinks in the wall that keeps the Devil at bay, Sam knows he's gotten pretty good at it. Lisa, on the other hand, fails spectacularly. She looks like she often does – frustrated, confused, and heartbroken. And if there's been something else there in the last month or two when they've accidentally brushed up against each other or found themselves uncomfortably close, Sam does his best to ignore it.

Lisa looks like she's going to break, looks like she's finally going to say to him what he's heard her practice in the mirror a couple of times – 'look, Sam, I just can't do this.'

He wouldn't blame her. This, all of this, bringing Dean to her house after he'd been turned into a boy of about six, it hadn't been his plan, hadn't been fair, but she'd called. She'd called and Sam had a small terrified boy on his hands without clothes and when she'd said "bring him home to me," he'd been stupid enough to do it.

Sam waits for it, but Lisa doesn't say anything. Just looks at him with an agonized wanting expression and then goes to Dean.

"Baby, that cat's gross."

"His name's Tom," Dean says solemnly, "and he's sorry he's gross, but he wants to live with us."

"I told him he can't have it!" Ben pipes up, startling Sam. He'd almost forgotten the boy was even there, and it makes him feel weirdly guilty. "You said I had to wait until I was old enough to be responsible!"

"I did say that," Lisa agrees, and Dean wilts visibly. The cat keeps purring. "But Tom here obviously needs a home, so we're going to help, right Dean?"

It's fucking heartbreaking, is what it is, to watch the faint glimmer of hope spark again in Dean's eyes, at the thought that maybe he's not going to have this snatched away from him too. "You mean it?"

Lisa gives him the sad smile she reserves just for Dean. "He looks pretty sick, baby. You know what happens to animals when they're too sick for us to take care of, right?"

Dean nods. "We hafta put 'em out of their misery, like Dad said."

Sam swallows a lump in his throat. "We can take him to the vet, see what they have to say." It occurs to him that Lisa probably doesn't want anything that filthy in her house. "Why don't you and I make him a bed in the garage so he'll be comfortable until the vet opens?"

"But he'll be lonely," Dean objects, lip jutting out.

"It's not fair," Ben objects. "How come he gets a cat and he's, like, six? I'm way older and you said I wasn't allowed!"

Lisa's face hasn't lost that expression that makes her look like she's about to come apart entirely. She turns the look on Sam, who tries not to squirm. "Why don't you and Dean take Tom to the garage and get him set up there? Ben and I are going to have a talk."

"If this is another talk about how I'm supposed to be nice to Dean, you can save it," Ben snaps. "I'm sick of being nice to him just because you say I have to be! Why do they even live here, anyway?"

Sam yanks Dean unceremoniously into his arms, cat and all. "Come on, time to go. We'll be in the garage if you need us," he says to Lisa, and beats a hasty retreat before he's treated to the mother of all temper tantrums.

In the garage he finds an old milk crate and folds up a blanket to put inside, but the nasty old yellow cat definitely prefers the comfort of Dean's arms to the unknown smell of the milk crate and the old blanket. Dean sits cross-legged on the cement, petting the cat's head and occasionally rubbing behind the nub that used to be its ear. He bites his lip, eyes firmly locked on the cat.

"Why does Ben hate me?"

Sam sighs, lowers himself carefully to the floor, reminded ever more forcefully that a lifetime of hunting hasn't done him any favours. There isn't a good way of explaining this to Dean, not without going into a whole lot of history and details that won't make any sense to a six-year-old and will likely only confuse him. At six Dean has only a dim comprehension that, eventually, men and women fall in love and sometimes get married and have kids, and sometimes they don't get married and still have kids and that sometimes only one parent gets to keep the kid. Add into that the notion that Dean himself used to be a grown-up and isn't anymore, and, well, you have a recipe for disaster. So Sam does what he does best, and gives his brother a half-truth.

"Ben doesn't hate you. He's just not used to having another kid sharing his mom's attention, that's all. It's a big change, having us here. Before, it was just the two of them, and we all have to get used to living together."

"Like it was just the two of us before?" Dean turns big eyes up at Sam, and damn if it isn't the cutest thing Sam has ever seen in his life. It's been nearly a year, and he still gets caught off-guard every single time.

"Not exactly the same, but yeah."

"Why can't we be just the two of us, then? And Tom?" he adds hastily. "Is it because you're going to marry Lisa?"

"What? No!" Sam sputters, guilt and anxiety twisting his stomach.

While it's probably a blessing that Dean only seems to remember his previous life in tiny bits and snatches, it also makes conversations like this extraordinarily awkward. Sam has never tried to explain to his now six-year-old brother that he used to be a grown man and that, while he was an adult, he had a three-day tryst with Lisa that somehow turned into a long-term friendship of sorts. Now, whatever this weird thing is that keeps trying to spark between him and Lisa, though, he's not letting it see the light of day, giving the spark any chance at all to ignite into something larger. It would be too awful for everyone, he thinks. Dean's train of thought has already moved on to more important subjects, though.

"Are we gonna have to put Tom outta his misery?"

It's John Winchester's words, phrased in a way only Dean could manage to sound both pathetic and hopeful at the same time. Dean has always had a soft spot for small, broken things, and regressing mentally and physically apparently hasn't changed that in the slightest.

"Let's just see what the vet has to say first, all right?"

The vet, it turns out, has a lot to say. The gist of it seems to be that it's all going to cost a lot of money. So Sam dutifully forks over a good-sized chunk of his paycheque for the cat to get all its vaccinations, a flea treatment, two different kinds of pills and nasty-smelling ointment to put on its bald patches. The only good side is that the cat is already neutered –is probably someone's lost or abandoned pet, though Sam's money is on abandoned, given the state of the creature– which is one less thing they have to pay for. The flea treatment is also shockingly easy, just a capsule of clear stuff to smear on the skin under the cat's ruff. Sam had been harbouring nightmare visions of trying to give Tom a bath and getting mauled to death in the attempt, thus going down in history as Most Humiliating Hunter Death Ever.

Dean takes Tom home triumphantly in a brand-new purple plastic cat carrier. Contrary to his adult self, Dean in no way, shape or form believes purple to be a girly or douchey colour, has in fact declared it his favourite ever except for black like the Impala. He also likes silver sparkles, so Sam agrees that they'll find some non-toxic glitter to decorate the carrier, so that Tom's cage will look 'cool.' They set up the litter box in a corner of the basement, let Tom sniff and dig around in it for a while, getting used to the placement, and then Sam puts up a three-level cat tree in Lisa's guest bedroom, which has now pretty much become Dean's room, even though all of the furniture is still the plain stuff Lisa furnished it with from IKEA years ago.

"Dean, don't encourage Tom to climb on the beds," he says, unwrapping a catnip mouse, when he catches sight of Dean curling up on his bed with the cat in his arms.

"But where is he supposed to sleep?"

"He can sleep in the nice –and expensive, I might add– cat bed that we bought him," Sam says, already knowing this particular battle is lost when Tom promptly wraps himself around Dean's neck and starts up again with that rusty-sounding purr. "Got it?"

"Okay, Sammy."

After that, the cat sleeps on Dean's bed, curled up on the pillow next to his head.

Sam drags himself home a few days later from work, worn out by too many interrupted nights of sleep and overly long days of hauling heavy construction supplies around. He finds Lisa out in the front yard, very deliberately weeding the front flower bed, her hair tied back in a ponytail and covered with a blue bandana that brings out her eyes. She gives him the briefest of glances, but it's enough for him to know that he might not like what's behind the front door. It's too early for Ben to be home from school.

"Everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," she lies. It comes easily to both of them now. Dimly Sam remembers a time when he found lying like this hard. It was a long, long time ago for him, not so long ago for Lisa. "I just thought that you guys might like a little alone time this afternoon."

She wouldn't leave Dean alone in there under pain of death, so Sam just nods, isn't surprised when he goes into the house to find Castiel sitting cross-legged on the floor in the living room. He has the cat draped across his lap, yellow cat hair clinging to his pants and trench coat, and Dean is in the middle of what sounds like the very convoluted story of how Tom was found and rescued and brought home. To his credit, Cas is paying very close attention to the story with none of the patronising bullshit most people think children can't see through. Even like this, it seems, Cas has eyes and ears only for Dean.

"And now Tom sleeps on my bed even though Sammy says he's not supposed to because he gets fur on the bed, but I think it's okay because he doesn't make me close my door at night and it's dark and Tom keeps me company."

"I see," Cas carefully pulls the cat's claws out of his pants leg and rearranges him more comfortably on his laps, scratching behind his ears. The cat begins to purr lustily, eyes closing in contentment, and Dean shuffles closer until he's pressed up against Cas' knee in order to pet the cat as well.

"He likes you."

Cas looks down in apparent surprise, then uses his free hand to smooth the hair away from Dean's forehead, and Sam can't help but smile when Dean leans into the touch much the same way as Tom is doing.

"Hey, Cas," he says quietly. "You here for a visit?"

Castiel's gaze flicks to him, then back to Dean. "Hello, Sam. Yes, I thought I would come by to... check on you."

"We're okay, thanks. Can you stay for dinner? I don't know if Lisa planned anything, but we can improvise."

Cas shakes his head. "I would not want to impose."

"It's fine," Lisa says from the doorway, and Sam jumps. "I made chilli, so there's plenty for everyone, if you want to stay."

"Please, Cas?" Dean tugs on his sleeve, and Sam can see the exact moment he relents.

"Very well. Thank you," he adds, looking at Lisa.

Dinner is awkward. Dinner is always a little awkward, but never more so than when Cas is around, because his presence always serves to bring to the fore exactly how screwed up everything is. Cas sits next to Dean and across from Ben at the table in the dining room table, while Lisa and Sam each take up a position at either end. Ben is sulking, still upset at the unfairness of Dean's getting a pet at a much younger age than he was ever allowed, looking up only long enough to direct a glare at Cas –yet another intruder in the private one-on-one world he used to share with his mother– until finally Lisa takes him into the kitchen for 'a word' and quietly delivers the fiercest lecture Sam has ever heard on the importance of being polite to guests. Ben slouches back to his chair, but at least this time he keeps his gaze on his food while Dean talks to Cas, and Lisa and Sam exchange slightly anguished looks.

By the time Cas is gone Dean is crashing hard, worn out by all the excitement of having his 'special friend' as Lisa calls him come to visit. He barely resists when Sam carries him up the stairs and puts him into his pajamas, grumbling a bit when Sam insists that he brush his teeth. The cat twines around Sam's ankles, purring and doing its level best to send Sam sprawling –why it feels the need to be constantly underfoot is beyond him– but he works his way around the animal and tucks Dean into bed with a quick kiss to his forehead, trying not to think too hard about the fact that the old Dean would have put him in a headlock and given him a noogie for even contemplating giving him a goodnight kiss.

"Is it my turn yet?" Lisa asks from the door.

Sam automatically steps back so she can come sit on the bed, doesn't quite move away fast enough to avoid brushing against her in the small room. She puts out her hands to avoid a collision they'd both regret, and if her hand lingers for a moment at the small of his back, well, he's definitely not going to be the one to bring it up later.

"Do I get a story?" Dean asks, obediently tilting his face so she can wrap him in her arms and give him a kiss. His eyes are drooping already, though, and Sam knows there won't be time for a story. Tom is already settling in his accustomed spot next to Dean's head, paws tucked under his chest, his rusty purr rumbling through the room.

"Sure," Lisa lies smoothly. "You just close your eyes, and I'll go find a book."

"'kay," Dean murmurs, cuddling up to the cat, hands curled by his chest. Lisa doesn't even have time to reach the door before he's asleep, the cat's nose pressed to the side of his head.

Sam is too transfixed by the sight to notice at first that Lisa has moved to stand right by him, tucked in by his side in the doorway. She fits comfortably under his shoulder, and he realizes with a start that his arm has moved automatically to wrap itself around her waist, like they've been doing this forever. It takes all his willower not to snatch his hand away like it's been burned, because he's not that much of an asshole and she hasn't exactly made any movement that suggests the attention is unwanted in any way.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" she asks quietly, and if Sam understands the sudden, quiet desperation in her voice all too well, he doesn't have an answer for her.

"I'm gonna go to bed," he says instead, and flees for the sofa downstairs.

Sam strips to his boxers and undershirt, settles on the sofa that's not quite long enough to accommodate him with one of Lisa's blankets over his shoulders. He clutches his bottle of prescription sleeping pills to his chest in both hands and resolutely staring at the ceiling as if ignoring it for a while will somehow cancel out the fact that he needs to just man up and take his damn dose. It's been almost a week since he got more than a couple of hours of sleep at best, and unless he wants to seriously put someone at work at risk, or else be completely useless here and leave Lisa to take care of the house and both Dean and Ben, then he damned well needs to sleep, nightmares or no. He checks the clock –if he takes the pills after midnight then he's completely dysfunctional for half the morning, which isn't much better– and sighs when he sees that it's barely ten thirty. No getting out of it, then. He dry-swallows the pill, drops the bottle onto the coffee table, closes his eyes and tells himself that if he doesn't want nightmares, then all he has to do is think nice thoughts before going to sleep.

Sam never remembers his nightmares when he awakens. When he's entirely lucid he tells himself that this is a good thing, that it's probably what's keeping the wall in his mind intact, so long as he doesn't try to remember them. Before that, though, when he's still halfway under the pull of sleep, it's all he can do not to try to physically claw at himself in order to get rid of the remnants of terror that cling to him like leaves to a dying tree. He doesn't know what time it is, only that it's dark, and he clamps down on his tongue with his teeth until he tastes copper, swallows the strangled moan that he can feel building somewhere near his sternum. He's floating, coming untethered from his precarious position on the sofa, knows that it would take nothing, a simple puff of air, to make him fly apart into a million pieces that would simply scatter into nothingness.

"Mrrp?"

He can't scream, bites his tongue so hard he's worried he might sever it, but there's a sudden weight on his chest, anchoring him in place. Something cold and wet nudges his jaw and suddenly he's able to suck a shuddering breath into lungs that are aching from the strain, brings up a hand to bury itself in warm fur. Tom settles comfortably against his breastbone, purring so loudly that Sam can feel the vibrations all the way down to his toes. He pulls in another breath, feels the last dregs of terror drain away under the cat's solid presence, tears of relief pricking at his eyes. He wraps both arms around the cat like it's a teddy bear, is a little surprised and more than a little relieved when Tom puts up with the treatment with good grace, purring even more loudly. They stay like that in the dark for what feels like hours until Sam's heart stops racing, until he stops feeling like he's going to float away and, for the first time since Death shoved his soul back into him without so much as a by-your-leave, gradually sinks back into a mercifully dreamless sleep.

Sam wakes up to Lisa shaking him gently by the shoulder. "I'm sorry to wake you, but you're going to be late if you don't get up now," she says softly.

He sits up, scrubbing at his face with one hand, noting that the cat is long gone. "No, no it's fine. Sorry I overslept."

She pulls her robe a little closer and makes a wry face at him. "You didn't oversleep. I hated to do it, you looked like you were sleeping well for once."

He starts guiltily, wonders how many times he's woken her up without realizing it.. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was loud…"

She gives him a wry smile. "You're not. Mommy ears –I just hear things. I made coffee, you want some?"

"Uh, yeah. I just… gimme a sec to wake up, okay? You seen Tom anywhere?"

"Sleeping with Dean, last I checked, same as usual. Why?"

He shakes his head. "Nothing, not important. I'll be right there. You want anything special for breakfast?"

Lisa bites her lip, looks at him like he might be the most tragic thing she's laid eyes on in her whole life, drops to a crouch next to the sofa and grabs hold of his hand. "Sam, you know you don't have to earn your place in this house, right? I mean, don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about waking up to breakfast already made, or having everything that I didn't have time to fix before fixed, or having help with the housecleaning. It's great, and I mean that, but I need to know that you know that your staying here isn't dependent on that, okay?"

Sam swallows hard so he doesn't choke on the sudden lump that's formed in his throat. "Right," he manages a little hoarsely. Lisa's still looking at him, her expression caught between wistful and worried and just a little longing. Her fingers warm against his hand, sending tiny little sparks shooting through him, and he pulls away as gently as he can manage before he does something they'll both regret. "I, uh… I should check on Dean, make sure he's up."

She lets go of his hand. "I'll finish making breakfast. You're getting cereal, just so you know."

He staggers up the stairs, finds Dean already awake and playing with the cat, stumbles half-blindly into the bathroom and runs the shower as cold as he can, letting the frigid spray shock him back into full awareness. The fact that it takes care of whatever beginnings of a hard-on Lisa inspired is a bonus as far as he's concerned. He steps out of the stall after nearly fifteen minutes, shivering, teeth chattering so hard that he almost slits his throat trying to shave, but at least by the time he takes Dean down to breakfast he's regained all of his composure.

Tom takes to sleeping half the night with Sam after that. He'll go to bed with Dean, then creep down the stairs around one in the morning in order to settle on Sam's chest, kneading his paws contentedly into Sam's collarbone and purring for several minutes before tucking them under his chest and closing his eyes. It's not a cure for the nightmares, but Sam finds the cat's presence reassuring, grounding him when the nightmares make him feel like he's about to come apart at the seams. As a result he starts sleeping just that much better, finds that he's less likely to start at shadows during the day, doesn't have to concentrate quite as hard on not scratching at the damned wall, and suddenly the whole atmosphere in the house seems to loosen up, the tension in the air fading gradually.

"It's nice to see you relaxing a little," Lisa confides over coffee one Saturday morning as Ben engages Dean in some kind of very complicated game of tag in the backyard, making him shriek with hysterical laughter. It's a good sound, one that Sam never tires of hearing.

Sam winces a little bit at Lisa's words, because it's obvious now that if things were tense and weird before, it was ninety per cent his fault and all the trouble he was going to in order to keep things as normal as possible –to cause as little disruption to Lisa and Ben's life as he could– was in fact making everything a hundred times worse. He doesn't know how to begin apologizing for that, though.

"Yeah," he says instead. "Helps that I've been sleeping a little better."

"Mom!"

It's Ben's voice, high and a little panicky. He's already running toward them when Sam looks up to see Dean sitting on the grass at the far end of the garden, and his heart skips several very unpleasant beats as he jumps to his feet. He lets Ben run to his mother, babbling explanations that he doesn't bother listening to, and is across the yard in seconds, long legs easily crossing the short distance. Dean looks up at him as he drops to a crouch in front of him, eyes so wide they seem to swallow his whole face, and his lower lip wobbles.

"Sammy?"

"What happened, Dean?" Sam tries to keep his voice level.

"I tripped," Dean's cradling his left arm in his right. "My arm hurts."

Sam nods slowly, puts out a hand. "Let me see." Dean's whole arm practically fits in his palm, he can't help but note. The wrist is already puffy and beginning to turn red, and there's a definite bump where there shouldn't be one. "Looks like you broke it, buddy."

Dean's breath hitches a little. "Will you fix it?"

Sam smiles even as his chest feels like it's being ripped open. "'Course I will. Come on, we're going to take a little trip to the ER, and I bet you they'll let you pick out whatever colour you want for your cast," he says, carefully lifting Dean into his arms just as Lisa comes running over. "What do you think?"

Dean leans against his chest. "Can I have a purple one?"

"If they have purple, then I don't see why not." It's the second time in a month that Dean has asked for something all on his own, so if the hospital doesn't have purple, then Sam will figure out a way to make the cast purple if he has to. He gives Lisa what he hopes is a reassuring smile. "You guys okay here, or do you want to come with?"

"I'll come with you," Lisa says firmly. "Let me just get a few things to keep Dean entertained while we're there, and I'll send Ben to Jeremy's house for the day."

Dean as it turns out is perfectly content to stay curled up in Sam's lap while they wait, his arm hurting too much to allow him much interest in anything else. He sits with his head nestled just above Sam's heart, arm in a makeshift sling given to them by the nurse in triage to give him a bit of extra support. Sam isn't sure whether to be proud or heartbroken that he hasn't shed a single tear, stays dry-eyed all through x-rays and even point-blank asks the doctor who helps to set his arm if he can get a purple cast.

The doctor laughs. "Sure thing, kiddo. You like purple?"

"It's my favourite colour," Dean tells her seriously, watching intently as she works. "We got a purple cage for Tom. He's my cat. Sammy says we can decorate the cage with silver sparkles but we haven't done that yet. Can I put silver sparkles on my cast?"

"Yes, but you should wait a little while to make sure it's really dry before you do that, and you'll probably find that they won't stay very well," she warns him. "Don't be too disappointed, okay?"

"Okay," Dean agrees easily.

It's quite possibly the easiest and least nerve-wracking experience of Sam's life, not least because Lisa keeps an arm around his waist the whole time, warm and solid next to him. She drives them home so that Dean can sit in his lap, for once ignoring the seatbelt laws entirely. It's late in the afternoon by then, so that there's barely enough time to put dinner together while Dean rests on the sofa, Tom perched on the arm of the sofa and apparently keeping watch once a few careful sniffs have established that the new smells clinging to Dean are nothing permanent or harmful.

"Is Cas going to come visit?" Dean asks as Sam puts a movie in the DVD player for him to watch (or, more likely, sleep in front of). "I want to show him my new cast."

"I'm sure he will. You could always try asking him, and he'll come as soon as he can."

Ben is going to be sleeping over at his friend Jeremy's house, so dinner is a quiet affair eaten on their laps in the living room in front of yet another viewing of Wall*E, which always makes Lisa cry (and maybe Sam too, but he will never, ever confess to it). Dean is tired and more than a little cranky after everything that's happened, listing tiredly against Sam until carries him up to bed and tucks him in, giving him two children's Tylenol even though Dean hasn't made so much as a peep about his arm hurting. Nearly thirty years of watching Dean white-knuckle his way through most pain have taught him never to take his brother's word for anything on that score.

"Good night," Sam brushes the hair off his forehead, plants a kiss on the top of his head. "Sleep tight."

He steps back to let Lisa take her turn, nearly tripping over the cat in the process. Lisa laughs silently at him as he flails, kisses Dean goodnight, pauses long enough to stroke the cat from head to tail. Tom purrs and rubs against her wrist, tail lashing. He's already filling out, the missing patches of fur growing back, the infection gone thanks to a round of very strong antibiotics. His ear is still chewed off, and he's still got more than his fair share of scars, but he looks happy the way only a loved pet can as he curls up around Dean's head. He blinks slowly at Sam, wrapping his tail around himself, and Sam finds himself smiling back at this stupid cat that feels like it's been here forever instead of only a few weeks.

He's about to turn and head back down the stairs when a hand on his wrist stops him. He turns back to Lisa, a little startled, to find her smiling at him.

"I think it's time you stopped acting like a guest in your own home, don't you?" she asks softly.

This time, his heart beats perfectly normally in his chest. Sam glances at his brother, sleeping with his purple cast just visible above the blankets under Tom's watchful eye. The cat purrs loudly from his perch on the bed, the sound familiar and comforting, and for the first time in his entire life Sam thinks that they might finally have found that safety that their father always wanted for them.

Lisa tugs gently on his wrist, and Sam just nods and lets her lead him toward the bedroom.

(2024)