AN: Because I needed to.

Summary: "Dad's on one side of the room and Sammy's on the other, and they look like they're about one wrong word away from killing each other, and the only thing stopping that from happening is you, standing in the middle. Where you always are." No spoilers.

Stuck in the Middle

(Without you)

It's lonely, being the one who's always in the middle.

You feel like you're standing in the middle of a battlefield, screaming at the fighters on either side of you to stop – to just stop fighting, because it didn't need to get to this, didn't need to turn into this blood-strewn war – but the soldiers can't hear you because their own voices are too loud.

You don't even know what it is they're arguing about this time. And does it matter, really? Whatever the fight's about at the start won't necessarily be what it's about at the end as past grievances and misinterpreted words are thrown back into the air to be shouted about all over again.

All that matters is that Dad is on one side of the room and Sammy's on the other, and they look like they're about one wrong word away from killing each other, and the only thing stopping that from happening is you, standing in the middle.

Where you always are.

And it's frustrating (oh, for so many reasons), because when you talk to them both (separately, after they've nearly blown the roof off the walls and they've both thrown out some vicious parting comment before storming off to their separate rooms to brood or fume or sulk), you can see where it is that they're coming from.

Why is that? Why can you see it and they can't? With both of them, you can see why they're arguing the way they are – can understand the reasoning behind their anger. But all either of them can see is that it's the other's fault; that they've done nothing wrong, and the other person needs to apologise. And you know neither of them is willing enough to swallow their pride to do that. Not when they're not wrong.

You try to barter out a compromise (you've tried it every time before too, and it's never worked, but you're the middle man, and it's the only thing you can do, so you try anyway). Talk reasonably to both of them and try to get them to see the other's point of view.

And that achieves one of two things.

One, neither of them listen to you, and all that happens is that you spend another stretch of your life listening to one of the people you love most in the world verbally abuse the only other person that you would willingly give your life for.

Or, as has happened on more than one occasion, it simply makes Sam think you're on Dad's side and Dad think you're on Sam's side, and then they're both angry at you as well as each other, and you wonder why you even tried.

You're tired of it. Of the whole damn saga. It feels like some stupid kind of angsty high school play that's been rehearsed too many freaking times. You want out, but every time the fighting stops there's only peace for a little while before the swords and daggers are picked up once again.

Because Sam and Dad… they're so damn similar. So similar in so many ways, but the few things that they differ on are the things that they argue about. And they're both just as stubborn as each other, and you know that neither of them is going to give any ground.

And the thing you're most worried about? You worry that one day you'll loose one of them – for good this time, not just for a couple of hours as Dad disappears to the local bar or Sammy spends the night at a friend's. You're worried that one day one of them will say something too harsh – something that hits a little too close to home and that can't be taken back – and one of them will leave.

And two, yeah, that's ok. But three – three's a family, and you don't do well without your family.

So you need them to stick together. To stop fighting, damn it, and stop forcing you into the middle. Because if it came down to it, who would you choose? How would you choose who to stay with, if one of them decides to leave?

Sammy – it's always been your job to protect him, and you don't know what you'd do with your life if you aren't using it to protect Sammy. And he's your little brother, and no one else knows you quite as well as he does, and you don't think you've ever had a closer friend (not that you really ever had the chance to grow that close to anyone else, between all the motels and schools-changes, but even if you'd had a stable childhood, you still think you'd be closest to him).

But Dad… Dad's not as tough as he'd have everyone believe, and he needs more protection than he lets on. And Dad was a family man once, no matter how much he pretends to be a solo-flyer now, and it wouldn't do well for him to be on his own.

You hope with all your being that it won't come to that (you might have prayed once, and you will again in the future, but not right now). That you won't have to choose.

But you know it's a false hope.

Because one day, one of them will get too fed up with the other and he'll leave, and you'll have to choose, and then you'll be just one of two, and the third will be somewhere else, somewhere away from you, fighting monsters all on his own and with no one to watch his back.

You don't know how you'll cope if it ever comes to that.

So, for now, you don't complain when they pick it up again and start hurling insults and angry words through the air. You step into the middle – just like always – and attempt to reason with them and bring each of them down from their high cliff of fury and try to keep things from getting physical (you're good at that, at least, because you're always physically between them, and they're never pissed enough to hit through you to get at the other).

Because yeah, they're fighting. But they're both here. You're all together.

And for now, that has to be enough.

AN: I started this a while ago, when I was in a particularly angsty mood. Because, far out, my family is like Dean's family way too often. Dean and Gabriel, my two favourite characters in this show. Wonder why that is.