A/N So the Vancouver Convention was so amazingly awesome I'm going again next year! Never thought I'd be the kind of person who'd ever go to a convention until a certain little show about two brothers fighting supernatural nasites came along. I'll be sharing a few stories on my profile later on today I think for those who are interested as I don't have twitter or facebook to share that kind of stuff. Thanks to those who read "Every Morning" and my other stories. I'm evil about replying, mostly because I put the pro in procrastinate, so I apologise for not always getting back to you, but I treasure all feedback. Updates for my other stories are coming, please be patient. My muse has been AWOL for quite some time since my mother's death but she's slowly coming out of hiding and I'm starting to write again. Thanks to everyone who has been encouraging me through this rough year. Special shout out to PADavis and sensue who I had the honour of meeting at the convention.
"Supernatural" is not mine. If it was "Swan Song" would've ended much differently and season 6 would've never happened the way it did.
Anyway, I should stop babbling and get on with the story before this note becomes longer than the chapter!
The frantic, repetitive ringing of the doorbell wakes Jim up. He frowns and rolls over, glancing at the clock. It's three in the morning. He groans and rubs his eyes and plants his feet on the floor, yawns and wills himself to get out of bed.
"There'd better be a good reason why you're ringing my doorbell at this hour," Jim mutters as he makes his way down the stairs. When the doorbell ringing gives way to knocking, or more accurately banging on his door he hollers, "I'm coming, I'm coming." The knocking stops for a moment and he recants his earlier mutterings. If someone's at the door at this hour, it must be bad. Pastor Jim's place is a sort of refuge for hunters and they wouldn't be coming at this hour unless something is seriously wrong.
The knocking starts up again just as he reaches the door and he opens it to see John Winchester looking a little frantic and a lot pissed.
"John, what brings you here at this hour?"
He runs a hand down his face, his eyes betraying a deep weariness that's threatening to knock him off his feet, but Jim knows it'll take more than exhaustion to take John Winchester down. He motions vaguely to the Impala as he replies, "Shtriga in Fort Douglas…it went after my kids Jim."
Jim's jaw drops in alarm, "Are they all right?"
John nods, "Yeah, I…I got there in time. Dean…he…" he growls angrily, and then shakes his head and sighs, "Sammy thinks it was a dream. I want it to stay that way."
"Of course," Jim narrows his eyes and pushes past John to get a better look at the Impala.
"The hunt's not finished," John continues, "but I needed to get them away from there as soon as possible, I need you to watch them."
"Of course, you know the boys are always welcome."
John nods once and jogs back to the Impala as Jim puts on his coat, shivering from the cold late autumn night. Jim watches John open the back door and lean forward and as he makes his way to the classic car, he can see Sammy's sound asleep on Dean's lap and Dean looks pale and shell-shocked. John nudges Sammy's shoulder and the kid rouses slightly as John scoops him in his arms and hands him to Jim.
"Take him inside," John instructs, "it's cold out here." Jim nods as John hands the boy to him. Sammy murmurs Jim's name and snuggles his cheek against his shoulder, falling asleep in his arms immediately. Jim hesitates as John turns back to the car, an angry frown on his face. "Dean, come on, get yours and Sammy's things," he orders, his voice a stern staccato that has Dean startle in his seat and nod sullenly. He stiffly climbs out of the car as John moves around to unlock the trunk. "Dean!" he snaps, "Move it, soldier."
Dean hurries around to join his father and lets John load him with their two duffels and a smaller bag and two back packs. It's a lot for an adult to carry on his own, let alone a nine year old kid, but somehow Dean manages.
"John?" Jim asks questioningly, wondering why he's clearly so angry with his eldest.
"I'll explain later," John sighs, shoving Dean in his direction. The kid struggles to maintain his balance with all the stuff he's laden with, but he silently heads towards the house, head bowed, eyes downcast. "Right now I've got to go. Dean, you look after your brother this time and do whatever Pastor Jim tells you to. I'll see you boys in a few days," he says, his eyes flick towards Jim who nods in agreement knowing that a few days to John could mean a week or two. John rushes up and kisses Sammy's head and pats Jim on the shoulder, "Thanks. I owe you one."
"No problem," Jim replies, noting how John rushes back to the Impala without giving Dean any show of affection or even a good-bye and how Dean's lower lip trembles as he watches his father go. "Dean," Jim offers his free hand, "let me help you with that."
Dean shakes his head and Jim steps aside as he brushes past them into the warmth of the house. As soon as he's inside he kicks off his shoes and heads straight for their guest room without a word. He can hear Dean slam their duffels on the floor as he makes his way up the stairs.
"Dean?" Jim asks, "You OK?"
Ignoring him he lowers the covers on Sammy's bed and climbs into his own bed and rolls over, back turned to Jim and Sammy. With a tired sigh Jim gently places the sleeping child in his arms into the bed, whispering softly to him, coaxing him back to sleep when he rouses. After tucking him in he goes to Dean's bed and places a hand gently on his shoulder, "Dean?"
Dean doesn't answer, he just heaves a sigh and Jim can feel him trembling. He tucks the covers around him, "It's OK, Dean, you and Sammy are safe here," he gives the boy's shoulder a reassuring squeeze, "Everything will be all right now. Get some sleep and we can talk about it in the morning."
He watches Dean a moment and he can hear the boy sniff as he nods once. "OK, good-night, Dean." Jim gives him a gentle pat on the shoulder and heads back to bed, exhausted. He knows he's going to have a hard time falling back to sleep though. John didn't give him any useful information other than the fact that a shtriga went after the boys but John managed to get to them in time. He knows that the shtriga is a vile, terrible creature that sucked the life out of children, so the fact both boys are all right is a miracle.
What he can't figure out though is why John seems so angry with Dean and why the boy reminds him so much of the lost, silent child he met a few years ago. He could imagine that the shock of what happened would be a viable cause of Dean's quietness as the boy tended to withdraw into himself when dealing with such trauma, but still it wouldn't explain John's anger. Surely John didn't blame Dean for the shtriga's attempted attack.
Jim's eyes widen at the thought, "Oh John, you didn't." Pastor Jim knows that John wouldn't, but he can't think of any other reason.
The following morning Jim comes downstairs to see Sammy in the living room lying on the couch watching cartoons. "Hi there Sammy, sleep well?"
"Pastor Jim!" Sammy grins, jumping up to give the pastor a hug and he laughs, glad that the boy is clearly all right after his apparent ordeal. "Daddy said we were gonna come here for a while so he can go back to work!"
"I know," Jim hugs him back and motions for him to get back to what he was doing, "Dean still sleeping?"
"Yeah," Sammy shrugs flopping on the couch in a boisterous swan dive.
"Sammy," Jim frowns in warning. He had repeatedly reminded the boy not to jump on his furniture.
"Oh, sorry Pastor Jim," Sammy actually blushes a little bit, his eyes going wide in such a way that he can see why Dean calls that look the famous puppy dog eyes, and it's so cute Jim can't be angry at him and instead remembers what it was like to be Sammy's age when sometimes the world was your playground.
"It's OK, just don't forget next time," Jim sighs, "What do you want for breakfast kiddo?"
"Got any Lucky Charms?" Sammy asks.
Jim smiles, "Yeah, I'll see what I've got left in the cupboard."
Since he met John Winchester about four years ago, theWinchesterboys had acquired a permanent place in his home. Jim's place was a haven for hunters in need of first aid or rest, he had a guest house on the edge of his property where they could stay however long they needed, but the Winchesters were different, special. Ever since John first arrived on his doorstep about four years ago, bleeding on the verge of passing out with two small kids in tow, one in diapers the other so traumatized he couldn't, wouldn't speak, the broken family possessed a special place in his heart. His personal guest room became their room, and they stayed with him often while John went on his personal crusade. Jim never had children of his own, but theWinchesterboys easily filled that void.
Jim finds the Lucky Charms easily and calls the boy into the kitchen as he pours him a bowl and gives him a glass of milk. "You can watch more TV when you're done eating," Jim says before heading upstairs to check on Dean.
The nine year old is still sleeping when he peers into their room. He looks exhausted and sad, even while sleeping. The tangle of sheets wrapped around his ankles and comforter on the floor suggest that the boy's sleep had been restless. Careful not to rouse him, Jim gingerly untangles the sheet and drapes it and the comforter over him.
He's about to leave when Dean moans softly, shifting in his sleep. His eyes scrunch tightly closed with a whimper before he blinks them open.
"Good morning Dean," Jim smiles gently.
Dean's cheeks flush from apparent embarrassment and as he glances past him towards Sammy's bed his eyes widen, almost in panic and he pushes himself up, throwing the covers off and rising to his feet suddenly before he sways and practically falls back onto his bed.
"It's OK Dean, Sammy's fine. He's downstairs having breakfast and watching cartoons."
The relief is palpable as Dean relaxes, shoulders sagging as he puts his head in his hands. He tries to get up again but Jim gently pushes him back down, the exhaustion Dean radiates is so pure and complete that it's almost contagious.
"Relax Dean, you had a rough night. You don't have to get up yet if you don't want to," Jim says, "Sorry if I woke you."
Smiling wanly, his eyes sad and bright Dean nods and lies back down, rolling away from him and curling into a foetal position. Jim hears him heave a long, heavy sigh and he tilts his head so his face is in the pillow. In a mirrored gesture of the night before Jim puts his hand on Dean's shoulder, but this time he sits on the bed beside him, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Dean shakes his head.
"Your father didn't tell me much," Jim says anyway, "but I imagine it must've been scary for you and Sammy both. But you're both OK, and that's what matters."
Dean rolls over to face him, his lower lip trembling like he's on the verge of tears.
"I don't know what happened, Dean, but I know that whatever went down last night, it wasn't your fault," Jim adds, taking a guess on what's going on in Dean's head.
Dean blinks back tears, but one escapes and drips down his cheek, his chin quivering as he fervently shakes his head in disagreement. Jim has a strong, sudden urge to pull the boy into his arms and let him cry it out, whatever he needs to do to get that look of despair off the boy's face. But he knows that Dean wouldn't allow it because John's somehow got it in the boy's head that there's something wrong with the release of tears. Instead, Jim rubs his shoulder comfortingly and rises to his feet, even as Dean struggles to reel in his emotions. "Go back to sleep if you need to. If you want to talk later, I'm here, you know that Dean. And even if you don't, that's OK too."
Dean gives him a grateful smile before rolling over again. Jim rustles his hair as he leaves, quietly closing the door behind him.
Sammy's bored. Cartoons ended what felt like forever ago and nothing good is on TV anymore and Dean's still asleep and Pastor Jim's busy working on his sermon. He likes it at Pastor Jim's because he has toys there, but what's the point of having them if he can't play with them since Dean's still sleeping and he's not supposed to disturb him? And he's not allowed to go outside to play without Dean there to watch him. He looks on the shelf for a video to watch and finds one with a cartoon drawing of a boy and a giant on the cover.
"Pastor Jim?" Sammy carefully enters Jim's study and hesitates just inside the door, "Can I watch a movie?" he holds up the video, "I'm bored."
"Why don't you and Dean play a board game?" Jim suggests, "Or play outside? I'm busy and you've watched a lot of TV already today."
"Dean's still asleep," Sammy shrugs.
Pastor Jim frowns, raising an eyebrow, "Still?" He looks at the clock and sees that it's almost four in the afternoon. Concern flashes in his eyes and he smiles gently, "I think you can wake him up now."
Sammy grins, "OK!"
"But don't pounce on him," Jim calls after him, knowing how the brothers tended to wake each other up. "I don't think Dean's feeling well today, so be nice."
But Sammy's already on his way upstairs. He bursts in their room but stops short at the sight of Dean, lying on his side, his skin pale, his hair mussed up, his eyes puffy. He's clearly wide awake, but he looks sad. "Dean? Pastor Jim says you hafta get up now."
Dean looks at him from where he's lying and nods.
"Are you sick?" Sammy asks. Dean shakes his head but Sammy doesn't believe him and he approaches the bed and puts his hand on Dean's forehead like Dean does for him when he's sick. He's not sure what Dean's forehead is supposed to feel like, it feels warm, but he doesn't think it's fever warm but he says anyway, "You're warm. Does your tummy hurt?"
Dean grins and shakes his head, lightly shoving Sammy's hand away as he pushes himself up to a sitting position.
"Pastor Jim says you're not feeling well. You look sad. Are you sad?" Sammy asks. Dean shrugs. "Then what's wrong?" he persists. Dean shakes his head and pats Sammy on the back as he slowly climbs to his feet and reaches into his duffel and digs out a t-shirt and some jeans. "Why won't you talk to me? Say something Dean! What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Dean says finally, his voice hoarse from disuse. He pushes Sammy out of the room and Sammy waits by the door for Dean to change, alarmed and a little worried because usually Dean's teasing him by now and he only said that one word that Sammy knows is a lie.
When Dean comes out he walks past Sammy without a word. "Dean! Wait up! Are you mad at me?"
Dean pauses to look at him and shakes his head and keeps walking. By the time he's at the bottom of the stairs, Jim's there.
"Dean? You feeling OK?" Jim asks. Dean only nods and tries to brush past him but Jim stops him, "Are you sure? You look a little pale." He reaches for Dean's forehead.
Heaving a sigh Dean squirms out of reach and nods again, slightly irritated, walking away.
"Dean!" Sammy calls after him, "Wait up!"
Jim plants a hand on Sammy's shoulder, "Leave him be," he murmurs. "He's had a rough night so just give him some space and he'll come around."
"Why is he sad?"
"I'm not sure," Jim sighs, "Sammy, do you remember what happened last night, before your dad brought you here?"
Sammy shakes his head.
Jim nods, looking a little sad himself, "OK." He gives Sammy a warm smile, "Come on, why don't we play a game? I can use a break from work and maybe later the three of us can go out for pizza, would you like that?"
"Yeah!" Sammy exclaims, though he lacks the energy he'd normally have at the idea. But how can he be so happy about something when his big brother's so sad?
Dean hardly touches his pizza. He picks at it so it looks like he ate some of it, but it's easy for Sammy and Pastor Jim both to notice that he hasn't eaten anything since he got out of bed. He's upgraded from not speaking to one or two word sentences, but only if it's necessary and Sammy's on the verge of losing patience with the whole 'give your brother some space' thing. Looking at Pastor Jim as Dean silently gather's his plate and starts to clean the kitchen, Sammy can see that the Pastor's losing patience too. But how can they not when Dean is so sad and they have no idea why or how they can make him feel better?
Sammy finishes his pizza and follows Jim into the kitchen.
"Dean, don't worry about that right now, I've got it," Jim says and Dean shakes his head as he fills the sink with soapy water. "You're a guest, you don't have to clean."
Dean rolls his eyes and looks pointedly at him, "Exactly." John always made them promise to help out when they were staying with either Jim or Bobby because they were guests and it was polite to do so and Dean was always good about helping out, but since he climbed out of bed, all Dean had done was clean. Both bathrooms in his house were spotless. While the gesture is nice, it worries Jim all the same because he went to work with purpose, as though cleaning the house for the sake of helping out isn't his primary goal.
"Sammy's been bored all day, why don't you two play a game instead?"
"And why not?" Jim asks, "You've been a great help already, I think you deserve a break, don't you think so Sammy?" He turns to the five year old for help and Sammy nods with enthusiasm.
Dean turns around, looking exasperated, "Later. OK?" He pushes past them into the dining room, "Guys done?"
Jim sighs, closing his eyes and saying a quick prayer for patience and wisdom. "Yes."
Dean nods and grabs their plates and the box of uneaten pizza and continues to clean with purpose. He throws the plates in the sink and scrubs them as though they had three day old food caked to them and roughly puts them in the drainer.
"Dean," Jim grabs his wrist, "take it easy. What did my plates ever do to you?" he give a teasing grin and then quickly sobers as Dean looks like he's almost in tears. He's breathing rapidly through his nose, and reminds Jim of a pressure cooker about to explode. "What are you doing?"
"D-dishes," he grunts, trying to pull away but Jim's grip is firm.
"I see that, but you don't have to do them."
"Yes I do," he insists.
"Not if I say you don't. My house, my rules."
With a frustrated growl, Dean tries and tries to pull away from Jim's grip but he doesn't let go, instead he wraps his arms around the struggling boy as Dean's breathing is quickly bordering on hyperventilation. Dean fights him a bit but as wiry and strong as Dean is, Jim's bigger and stronger and as soon as it seems to register that Jim's not going to let go and he's not goring to break free, Dean gives in, melting in his arms and starts to shake, and it takes a moment for Jim to realize he's sobbing.
"Shhh," he soothes, "It's all right."
Dean shakes his head in firm disagreement.
He gently rubs Dean's back as he glances over Dean's trembling shoulder to look at Sammy who's watching in shock, his eyes watery.
"Sammy," Jim murmurs, "Give us a moment, OK?"
Sammy shakes his head, "Dean? Whazza matter?"
"Go away!" Dean yells, his voice muffled because of the way his face is pressed against Jim's chest.
"Sammy," Jim scolds gently and Sammy frowns and gives him those irresistible puppy eyes before slinking out of the room, dragging his feet. Jim suspects that Sammy's waiting and listening around the corner but he's OK with that as he rocks the sobbing boy gently back and forth. "It's OK Dean, just get it out," he murmurs softly.
"Screwed up," Dean sobs, his muffled voice barely audible. He sniffs and tilts his head and says the words again, clearly this time, "I screwed up bad, Pastor Jim."
"Why do you say that?" Jim asks.
"Cuz it's true," he grunts, pulling away to wipe at his eyes. He looks at Jim with glistening red, puffy eyes, "Sorry."
Dean shakes his head and shrugs, darting his eyes to fix on a spot on the floor, "Actin' like a stupid girl."
"Don't worry about it," Jim smirks.
"Promise you won't…you won't tell Dad?"
"What? That you screwed up? Dean, I don't even know what you allegedly did," Jim states.
Dean turns away, pensive, "That I cried like a baby."
Saying a quick prayer for strength Jim closes his eyes and shakes his head, "Your secrets safe with me."
"Thanks," Dean murmurs softly.
"Now why do you think you screwed up?" Jim asks again, his tone gentle and without judgement.
Dean lifts his eyes to meet his for a moment and then looks away, "Nearly got my brother killed."
Jim kind of reels at that bold statement, doubting its truth no matter how much Dean might believe it, though it makes his initial hunch as to why Dean was so upset to begin with right, "What? You? Dean, I know you, protecting your brother comes as naturally to you as breathing. What, you think the shtriga was your fault?"
Dean doesn't answer, he just stares at a spot on the floor like it's the most fascinating thing he's ever seen.
"I don't know what happened Dean, but I doubt…"
"Dad thinks so," he says quietly, "and…he's right." His soulful green eyes are sparkling with unshed tears and there are tear tracks running up and down his cheeks and snot is dripping from his nose. He rubs the back of his hand across his face and quietly excuses himself. Jim watches him go, his heart heavy at the thought of the burden Dean's carrying. He may be a young hunter in training who knows more about guns and vanquishing a spirit than baseball, but he's just a kid and he knows that Dean can't be to blame for what happened.
Oh John, Jim thinks sadly, angrily, I don't know what he did to make you so angry with him, but how dare you let him believe it's his fault!
Later he seeks Dean out and finds that he's gone to bed, but when Jim quietly peers into the boys' room, he knows that he's only feigning sleep.
A/N Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think!