Summary: Dean and Melanie's paths kept leading them back to one another but there always seemed to be something in their way. Monsters, secrets, family, demon deals, even blondes … always something. This is the story of the five times their lives intersected. Was it just coincidence each of these meetings occurred at a time of great loss, pain, or hardship? Or was fate simply steering them towards one another when they needed each other the most?

Set pre-series right up to season six so spoilers for all. Mostly cannon. Usually the Dean and Sam servings are close to even in my multi-chaps but this one is definitely more Dean. Also some Adam, Cas, and Bobby thrown in there.

A/N: This is a romance – though definitely NOT a cheerful, sappy, or particularly romantic one (after all, this IS Supernatural, not some Katherine Heigl rom-com). It's not my usual style - usually I avoid writing in an OC's POV so that the story stays focused on the Winchesters but for this one, I decided to let the OC in this one have a little bit bigger role so I'll be switching back and forth as the story dictates. I hope you like it!

Disclaimer: I don't own anything – I just love the show. All for fun.



December 1991

It was two weeks before Christmas when John Winchester left this time. He told Dean he'd be back before the big day, promised him that he wouldn't disappoint Sam. Dean knew every time his father walked out that door he was going to fight monsters - a real life superhero – but that he'd always be back because he was John Winchester, the toughest man on the planet. It meant a lot to Dean that his dad knew he could 'hold down the fort' while he was gone, that he could keep Sam safe. Dean was a still month shy of his twelfth birthday and he was proud of the trust his father laid in him and was determined to never let him down.

Even if that meant he couldn't hang out at the arcade with the local kids. Or that he would be eating Alphagetti for supper every night. Or that he had to sleep with a loaded .45 under his pillow.

Even if.

He shivered and pulled his thin jean jacket collar up around his neck as he carried the modest bag of groceries back to the motel room he and Sam were currently calling home in Butterfield, Minnesota. He had taken longer than he had wanted to at the gas station store, held up by the old lady in front of him arguing with the teller over the price of frigging prune juice, and it was now dark. Anxious to get back to Sammy, he ignored both his gut and his dad's teachings and decided to cut through an alley that came out at the back of the motel.

He regretted his decision about half way down when he heard a ruckus from the far side of a large dumpster up ahead. He stopped in his tracks when two men appeared, one of them yelling and tugging at something behind the dumpster. For an instant Dean debated turning around and high-tailing it back the other way. It was the appearance of the third person that changed his mind.

A small figure in a hoodie suddenly appeared, trying to wrestle a small backpack out of the larger man's hands. "Let go!" a child's voice shrieked. "It's mine!"

The man snarled and shot a fist forward, landing it hard on the kid's shoulder. The kid tumbled to the ground but never let go of the pack and the man drew his foot back in preparation to kick.

"Hey!" Dean yelled instinctively, still standing frozen with the paper grocery bag in his arms forty feet away.

Both men looked up sharply and, upon seeing Dean, turned back towards their prey, one jeering while the other planted that kick in the downed kid's side. A sharp scream of pain rang out but the little hands didn't let go of the bag. The man kicked the figure again and growled a stream of curse words, lifting the kid into the air as he tugged and tugged at the backpack. The second man stood back laughing.

Dean finally willed his muscles to move and dropped the groceries, flinching as the cans clattered loudly on the ground. His hands were shaking as he reached in his jacket and curled his fingers around the .45 he had tucked in there. His dad always told him to leave it hidden in the room but this neighborhood was even worse than their usual and he had decided at the last moment to take it with him. He moved forward, clicking off the safety as he walked.

"Hey Mister!" he yelled, though his voice came out raspy and hoarse and not nearly as loud as he had intended.

Neither man even acknowledged him and a hard punch was dealt to the kid on the ground still clutching onto the handle straps. The next punch was dodged, somehow, and Dean saw a small boot shoot upwards and land squarely in the guy's crotch. The man released the bag as he doubled over, howling in pain.

"You little bitch!" he spat.

"Hey!" Dean repeated, much louder this time. He was striding quickly forward now, gun held outstretched in both hands in front of him and his heart pounding in his chest.

The first guy didn't even glance his way but instead lunged forward and kicked the kid in the stomach. Dean watched the poor kid curl in on himself, or maybe that was herself, he realized with a start. Luckily for her, the second man noticed him approaching.

"Woah!" the guy exclaimed, tapping his friend to get his attention off their helpless victim and instead at the boy with the gun advancing quickly.

Another booted foot struck the kid and Dean felt anger boiling up inside him, overriding his fear.

"Back off!" he shouted when he got close, planting his feet solidly on the ground and raising the gun to shoulder level. He couldn't help but notice the barrel was trembling and he made an extra effort to keep his hands still.

Finally the second man noticed him also. His eyes widened at the sight of the gun and he stepped back quickly. "What the Hell?" he stammered.

"Get out of here." Dean was heartened by the fear he was now seeing in the men's eyes and this time his voice held strong. He jerked the .45 at them. "I said get lost."

"Frigging Bud Bundy with a gun," the man who had been doing the kicking sneered, though his demeanour was unmistakably jittery and he was now slowly backing away, his friend tugging on his sleeve to speed him up.

Dean held the gun steady and the two moved away, keeping their eyes trained on him until they reached the mouth of the alley. "Better watch it, kid," one guy threatened with a snarl, jabbing his index finger at Dean before they both disappeared around the corner.

Dean let out a deep breath he hadn't realized he was holding and glanced down at the kid on the ground, who was curled up in a ball coughing and wheezing, one small hand still clutching the backpack strap. "You okay?" he asked hesitantly.

The kid struggled to get into the seated position and Dean watched as the hood of the dirty sweater dropped to shoulder level to reveal long, straight brown hair and decidedly delicate features. Yep, definitely a girl. She made it to her knees, still clutching the back pack, and looked up at Dean, sharp blue eyes brimming with unshed tears.

"You okay?" he repeated. She wasn't much bigger than Sammy, probably not much older either, and he could tell her clothes and face were filthy even in the dim light of the alley. When she just stared at him with a silent look of fear, he realized he was still holding the big gun out in front of him. He dropped it quickly, flicking the safety back on and tucking it back inside his jeans as he had seen his father do a few times when the hunter didn't know he had an audience.

He stepped forward and extended his hand slowly towards her. "I'm Dean," he said simply.

She reached out gingerly and wrapped her cold fingers around his, accepting his help to her feet, though she was clearly in some pain. "I'm Mellie," she whispered, never keeping eye contact with him for more than a second at a time. He could tell the tears had broken loose for there were now wet streaks down her cheeks.

"You're safe now," Dean assured her, growing bolder with the sudden realization that he had just saved somebody. He too, was a hero. Just like his dad. "You, uh ... can you walk?"

She nodded.

"You live around here?" he asked, not sure what to do with her now that the threat was gone and the adrenaline rush was subsiding.

She just shrugged.

What was that supposed to mean? "Can I walk you home or something?" he offered.

"I don't have a home," she blurted, shaking her head.

"What do you mean you don't have a home? You staying in the motel?"

Another shake of the head. "No. I didn't have enough money."

"What about your parents? You got parents don't ya? We can call your Mom or Dad to come get you."

Even at not-quite-twelve, Dean was able to recognize terror when he saw it. She clutched her pack more tightly in front of her and shook her head. "No," she said adamantly. "I'll just stay here."

"Here?" Dean glanced around him at the piles of cardboard and garbage next to the dumpster and grew alarmed. "In the alley? Were you planning on sleeping here?"

She nodded. "Please don't call my dad," she whispered.

"Why not?"

"Coz I can't go back there. Please don't make me go back there."

The young boy frowned. "You'd rather stay in the alley and get beat up than go home?" he asked, incredulously.

She nodded again.

Dean swallowed. It was winter and cold out, especially at nights. "Listen," he said finally, his voice softening. "I'm staying in the motel right there. Why don't you come stay with me and my brother for the night?" He knew it broke every rule in John Winchester's book but he couldn't leave this girl out here in the alley and something told him her home life was a helluva lot worse than his.

"No," she shook her head again. "Your parents will call my dad. My dad's drunk. He's always drunk and he'll be mad that I ran away. So mad."

"My dad's out of town for a few days," Dean assured her, a rush of gratitude hitting him that he had a cool dad and not a dickwad like Mellie's must be. "It's just me and my little brother."

She didn't look convinced and jerked back slightly when he moved his hand forward. Even that small motion on her part made her wince and she hunched over slightly in obvious pain, an involuntary whimper escaping her lips.

"Don't be scared," Dean said reassuringly. "I'm not gonna hurt you and I'm not gonna rat you out. You're hurt and you should come get cleaned up. I fix my dad all the time when he gets hurt. I know what I'm doing. You'll be fine, I promise."

He reached forward again and took her hand, tugging it gently. He felt a little uncomfortable at the tears now streaming freely down her face but didn't let it show. "Come on," he urged. "We gotta go before those guys come back."

That seemed to work for she took a few stiff steps forward with him before her grip on his hand tightened and she sped up to walk beside him, pressing against his arm. He smiled and led her towards the motel, slowing at the mouth of the alley to peer around the corner for any signs of the two men. When he saw the coast was clear he walked her across the motel parking lot towards room number seven.

"So what's in the bag?" he asked curiously when they got near.

She shrugged. "Nothing. Just some clothes and a bit of sandwich."

His eyebrows shot up. "Why were you fighting those guys so hard for it then?" he demanded. "Why didn't you just give it to them?"

She frowned at him. "Coz it's mine and they had no right to take it," was her matter-of-fact reply.

Dean couldn't help but laugh. "Good for you, Mellie," he said admiringly, dropping her hand quickly as they stepped up to the door. No way was he gonna let Sammy see him holding hands with a girl.


Mellie's spare clothes were filthy also so Dean gave her some of Sam's and she disappeared into the bathroom. Upon introduction, Sam had asked a million questions as usual and Dean had to tell him the story of his alleyway rescue three times while she was in there, each re-telling describing the men as bigger and rougher than the last and Dean more and more the brazen hero.

"You know Dad's gonna kill you when he finds out you told her she could stay here," Sam warned him.

"Dad's not here and if you keep your big trap shut, he'll never know," Dean retorted. "Besides, it's just for one night."

Mellie finally emerged from the bathroom looking a lot cleaner. Sam's clothes were a fairly good fit, if just a little snug. She sat down on the end of the couch and gave them both a shy smile.

"You okay?" Dean asked for the third time since they had met. She had taken a number of kicks from that guy in the alley and he knew she must be sporting some serious bruises, maybe even cracked ribs. She didn't seem to be bleeding though and her pupils weren't overly dilated so, according to his dad's hurt scale, Dean didn't need to worry.

"Fine, thanks," she said politley.

"What's for supper?" Sam blurted, directing the question at his big brother.

Dean's face fell as he realized he had forgotten the Alphagetti in the alley. "We got any cereal left?" he asked sheepishly.

Sam groaned. "Yeah but we don't have any milk."

"Then we eat it without milk, Doofus" Dean groused. "I'll go get some more food tomorrow." He turned to Mellie. "You hungry? You like Cocoa Puffs?"

Her face brightened. "I love Cocoa Puffs. And I don't need any milk."

Dean shot Sam a smug smirk and grabbed three bowls from the small cupboard in the kitchenette along with the box of cereal. He sat himself down on the other end of the couch from Mellie and a minute later, Sam squeezed himself in between them, taking the bowl his brother offered him with a sigh. Dean started channel surfing and after a few minutes, the three children were laughing at a guy getting cracked in the nuts on America's Funniest Home Videos, the ordeal from the alley all but forgotten.


One day turned into two, two turned into three and a week later Mellie was still with the Winchester brothers. She hadn't spoken much about her home or why she had run away despite Sam's constant barrage of questions. Dean never shared the tidbits of information that she had divulged in the alley with his annoyingly nosey brother, figuring that might just get Sam blabbing about their Mom, a subject Dean avoided like the plague. They did find out that she was ten years old, an only child, and was from the nearby town of Windom. She had run away from home over a week before running into Dean, slipping out with just ten bucks and a change of clothes, hence sleeping in the alley.

They spent most of the days chilling in the room, watching TV, and hanging out at the park half a block away. Dean was a master at cards and patiently taught Mellie every game he knew. Both he and Sam were enjoying the new company; it often got boring with just the two of them. On the seventh day, after their dad had called to say he would be a while longer, Sam expressed his concern about their money and food running out before dad got back since they had lost the groceries in the alley and there were now three people living on what was left. Dean brushed it off quickly.

"You don't gotta worry about that Sammy," he told him. "I'll figure something out. I'm not gonna let you go hungry." But Dean was worried. Usually when they ended up running low on food, he just went without or shoplifted a few things from a nearby store, always managing to hide these things from his little brother. Stealing for three was going to be harder to do.

That evening he headed back to the store with the last of their meagre supply of cash. Mellie joined him and her eyes widened when she caught him tucking a packet of Mac and Cheese into his jacket. Dean just shrugged, embarrassed but determined not to let Sam go hungry. "Don't stare," he whispered. "You'll attract attention."

She nodded her understanding and headed away from him down the aisle. Dean stocked up as much as he could, filling his pockets and stuffing some chocolate bars down his pants too. He walked up to the counter, coolly paid for a loaf of bread and a soda and asked for an extra bag before he called over to Mellie and they left together.

As soon as they were around the corner, Dean started hauling stuff out of his clothes and putting it in the spare bag. Mellie was looking at him curiously. "What are you doing that for?"

He shrugged. "I don't want Sammy to know," he told her.

"Oh. In that case…" She reached inside her hoodie and pulled out three bags of microwave popcorn and a few packets of noodles. Dean grinned. "What?" she shrugged, pulling chocolate bars out of her sleeve. "You were doing it."

They crammed all the stolen goods into the bag and headed back to the motel. Dean cooked supper and afterwards they all sprawled on the brothers' bed to play a board game they had borrowed from the motel office. Sam eventually fell fast asleep, curled up next to his big brother under the blanket they were all sharing, unable to stay awake as long as the bigger kids despite his best efforts.

"I think it's nice how you look out for your brother." Mellie smiled, watching as Dean grabbed the pillows from the top of the bed and dragged them down to the bottom where they were all lying, gently slipping one under Sam's head.

"It's my job." Dean gave her the line his dad had been drilling into his head for years.

"I wish I had a big brother," she said quietly, sounding almost wistful.

"Your dad…" Dean started but hesitated, not sure if he should ask. He decided to go for it. "Does he hit you?" He had a girl in his class last year who always had bruises and broken bones and even though she always insisted she had fallen, word around the classroom was her old man used to hit her and her Mom.

She gave him a long look before she averted her eyes without answering him. Dean took that as a 'yes'.

"How 'bout your mom?" he pressed.

She shook her head. "My mom died. My dad says it was an accident and that she took too many pills but …but he lies when he's drinking so I dunno what happened to her." Her blue eyes came to a rest on his. "Does your dad drink?"

"Sometimes," Dean admitted, folding the gameboard away and placing it on the floor. "But he doesn't really get mean when he does. He mostly gets quiet."

"He's gonna come home soon," she said in a forlorn voice. "And he's gonna call the police on me. He's gonna make me go home."

"No," Dean assured her quickly, confident he was right. He was lying on his stomach and had his chin in his hands, propped up by his elbows. He peered down at her lying next to him. "Can you keep a secret?"

She nodded, her eyes going wide with anticipation.

"My dad's a hero," he divulged. "He saves people like, all the time. When he gets back here, he's gonna help you too. "

"A hero? Like a fireman?"

"Not really, well… sorta." Dean figured that was close enough. "But he won't let your dad hurt you anymore. Maybe you can even stay with us." Deep down he knew that was a long shot but he let himself hope and voiced the words anyway. He liked Mellie - more than he had liked any of the kids from his twenty classrooms over the past five years. She was quiet and reserved yet tough and stubborn, something she had proved by refusing to give up that worthless bag in the alley. He liked having her around. He knew he always had Sam, but he couldn't deny he felt less lonely with her here too. And after saving her in the alley, he somehow felt responsible for her.

"Howcome your dad's gone so long?" she asked. "And howcome you and Sam don't have a babysitter?"

He snorted indignantly. "Coz we don't need one. I take care of us." He pulled the end of Sam's pillow towards him a little and turned to face her as he lay his head down on the free corner. "I can take care of you too," he added sincerely.

She smiled and wriggled her way closer under the blanket until she was snuggled up against him. "Okay," was all she said in a whisper before closing her eyes to go to sleep.

Dean lay awake for a long while afterward, enjoying the comforting feeling of Mellie sleeping on one side and Sam on the other. Ever since he had found out what his dad did, that there were monsters out there that people needed protecting from, he had been in awe of John Winchester. He remembered feeling relief that day, relief to know his dad was doing something important because now there was a good reason that he left Dean and Sam alone all the time, a good reason he couldn't take Dean to ball games or teach him how to ride a bike, a good reason he missed almost all of Dean's birthdays and had to be reminded about Sam's. It was that moment right there, with both Sam and Mellie warm and fed and safe, that he came to the realization that he wanted to be a hero too. He wanted to protect people and save people. That was what he was meant to do.

He glanced down at the little brunette. He was meant to save her.


The next week passed quickly and Sam was clearly growing more and more anxious that their dad wouldn't make it home in time for Christmas. Dean insisted that their father hadn't missed one yet but was inwardly starting to doubt the man also. Sam, in his infuriating little brother way, complained continually about not having a tree this year. Mellie tried to comfort him by telling him she hadn't had a tree since her mom had died and she barely remembered her last one, but Sam still seemed bitter. Dean finally decided he needed a break from the constant griping about Dad and headed out alone to score some M&M's for Christmas morning tomorrow.

He came back to find Mellie and Sam reading John Winchester's journal. He slammed the door and raced over to them, snatching the book and its dark secrets away from his little brother. "Where'd you get that? That's Dad's. He's gonna kick your ass for reading that."

"Are monsters real?" Sam demanded.

"What? You're crazy."

"Tell me."

Dean's stomach tied itself in a knot when he realized he couldn't hide the truth this time. He sank down onto the bed across from Sam and Mellie and told them what he knew. He told them yes, monsters were real and that John Winchester fought them; that he was fighting them right now. He admitted Santa wasn't real, though he was fairly certain that one didn't come as a big surprise to either of them.

Mellie remained quiet next to the younger boy, taking in his questions and Dean's answers in unreadable silence. Dean's heart broke for the both of them as he spoke. He hadn't wanted them to know these things. He figured Mellie knew a little something about monsters already, at least the human variety, but he had wanted to keep Sam from ever feeling scared and unsafe and that was exactly what the kid was feeling right now.

"If monsters are real, they could get us, they could get me," Sam's young voice said quietly.

"Dad's not gonna let them get you," his brother assured him.

"But what if they get him?"

"They aren't gonna get Dad. Dad's like … the best."

"I read in Dad's book that they got Mom. And if they got Mom, they can get Dad. And if they can get Dad, they can get us."

It took some doing to convince the too-smart-for-his-own-good seven-year-old that monsters wouldn't get them and to please just trust his big brother that he would make sure they would be okay. "Everything's gonna be fine," Dean promised.

"But it's Christmas and Dad's not here," Sam persisted, his fear clearly reverting back to resentment. "And we're all alone because he's out saving someone else's family."

Dean sighed, unable to argue the statement even though every fiber of his being wanted to. He got up to hide the hurt on his face and headed towards the door. "Go to sleep, Sammy," he told his brother. "It'll all be fine in the morning. You'll see."

"Where you going?" Mellie asked, still sitting on the bed next to Sam and looking every bit as upset as he did.

"Just out. I'll be back soon. Don't go anywhere and keep the door salted." He sighed. "Now you know why we do it," he added. He was grateful when Mellie nodded and he slipped out into the darkness, regretting instantly that he had left the gun under the pillow. He debated going back inside to get it but his urgency stopped him. He had work to do.


He was awoken just past dawn by his brother's startled cry and a small hand tapping his leg. "Dean! Dean look!"

He sat up immediately, the events of the night falling into place in his memory as his bleary vision cleared and he saw the Christmas tree he had picked up last night. Well, it was more like a Christmas branch or even a Christmas twig, but he had managed to string the stolen lights on it without waking either of the other two up and was now grinning at his brother's surprised face.

"Did Dad come home?" Sam asked, jumping off the bed and racing towards the tree. Mellie was climbing off the other bed and gave Dean a worried glance at the question.

Dean debated lying but figured they'd see right through it when their Dad did really come home and had no idea Mellie was there. "Uh, no," he admitted. "He couldn't make it but he called and he sent this stuff for us." He joined the younger two on the couch next to the tree. "He wanted me to tell you Merry Christmas, Sammy. Look, there's presents, too."

Sam's face lit up and he knelt on the floor to pick one up and read the scrawled writing on the paper. "Sam," he read aloud, ripping the paper off instantly. "A toy rocket launcher! Wow!"

A grin lit up Dean's face. "Let's shoot that thing off today before he gets back though, huh?" he urged, knowing his dad wouldn't have approved at all.

"Definitely!" Sam grabbed the next present and, seeing his name again, went to open it. "It's already been opened," he pointed out, seeing the white marks where the tape had been stuck originally.

Dean winced. He had hoped Sam wouldn't notice. "Just open it."

Sam did so. "It's a book," he smiled for a moment before a puzzled look spread across his face. "How to Build Model Trains?"

Dean just shrugged. He had been running out of time and all the other presents he had opened had been little girl presents like Barbies and My Little Ponies. "Well, Dad knows you're a nerd," he teased.

Sam frowned at Dean. "Dad didn't send these, did he?"

"Of course he did." Dean was far more desperate for Sam to think his father cared than he was to take the credit for himself.

"Then howcome there's one for Mellie?" Sam challenged, picking up a small, prettily wrapped box with 'MELLY' written across the top. He handed it to her. "Dad doesn't even know she's here, Dean."

Mellie took the package, turning it a few times in her hand before giving Dean an awed look. "You got me a present?"

Okay, now Dean was uncomfortable. He just shrugged, both busted and embarrassed.

She opened it eagerly, peeling away the re-stuck paper and lifting the lid off the little box inside to find a small, silver locket on a silver chain. She dropped the box and held up the locket, wide eyes watching it spin in the air as it dangled from her fingers.

Any guilt Dean had been feeling about the family that would be waking up to unwrapped and missing presents in their giant living room disappeared when he saw the look on Mellie's face.

"It's nice," she breathed. "Thank-you, Dean." With that she lunged towards him and planted a kiss on his cheek before wrapping her arms around his neck.

She didn't pull away until Sam started snickering behind them. "Dean and Mellie, up a tree," he sang. "K~I~S~S~I~N~G!"

"Shut up or I'll end you!" Dean warned, feeling a hot flush in his face. Mellie just stuck her tongue out at the younger Winchester.

Sam was still chuckling when he dug in his school bag to pull out a small object wrapped in a newspaper comics page. He handed the package to Dean. "Here. Take this."

Dean recognized it as the present Sam had received from Bobby to give John and hook his head. "No. No, that's for Dad."

Sam's smile faded. "Dad lied to me," he said. "You didn't. Dad's not here on Christmas Day. You are." He shoved the parcel towards Dean. "I want you to have it."

Dean still hesitated. "You sure?"

Sam nodded, looking certain. "I'm sure. Merry Christmas, Dean."

Dean tore the paper open carefully to find a horned amulet on a leather string. He pulled it over his head, his heart thumping in his chest. "Thank-you, Sam. I love it," he said honestly, smiling at his little brother. "Merry Christmas."

Sam smiled back and looked over to Mellie, who had put her new necklace on too and was now tilting her head to try and read the inscription.

"Forever yours," she read aloud, getting a full on giggle fit out of Sam. Dean blushed furiously. It had been dark in the big house's living room and he hadn't noticed any writing.

"Shut up," he hissed at his brother. "Shut up or I'll fricking pulverize you."

"Not if I get him first," Mellie laughed, thumping Sam on the head with a nearby cushion. Within seconds, the three were running around the room in a massive pillow-fight, laughing and giggling.


It was the middle of the night two days later when John Winchester came home. To say he was displeased about finding a third kid in his motel room would be an understatement. Within two minutes he had all three children sitting on the edge of one of the beds as he paced back and forth in front of them, demanding answers. Most of those were given by Dean who, in turn, received the brunt of John's anger.

"What the Hell were you thinking?" he seethed. "She's on the back of the damn milk cartons, Dean! Are you trying to break up this family? Do you want Children's Services to take Sammy away?"

"No sir," Dean answered, his head hung low.

"I'll deal with you in the morning," the grown-up growled. "I'm taking her home right now."

"No, Dad," Dean argued, surprising himself and his brother.

He got a raised eyebrow in response. "Excuse me?"

"Please, " Dean continued, his voice practically trembling. "You can't send her back. Her dad's mean and he hits her." He could feel Mellie cowering beside him, leaning into him and not having said a word since the angry bear that was Dean's father had walked through the door.

John turned to Mellie. "Is that true?" he demanded, oblivious to just how intimidating he could be and how an abused child would surely react to his demeanour.

Mellie was terrified. She wrung her hands in her lap and kept her eyes glued to the floor. Her father's voice rang in her head, warning her never to tell anyone or he'd make sure she regretted it. Days on end locked into the closet came to mind, or a beating so bad she couldn't move for a week.

"Melanie, I need you to answer me," John Winchester said sternly. "Does your dad hit you?"

She shook her head. "No," she said, falling into her old habit of lying and denying as she had been taught.

"No? Why'd you run away then?"

He was going to send her home anyway; she knew it. "Coz he wouldn't let me get a dog," she lied. The less she said against her dad, the less mad he would be.

John practically growled. "Get in the car," he commanded sharply before turning back to his sons. "I'll deal with you two later. Get packed and ready to go by the time I get back."

Mellie shuffled to the door, her head still down.

"Dad, wait." Dean stood up, hesitating when his father glowered at him but not backing down. "Please, Dad. Don't send her back."

Mellie suddenly turned around and ran back to him, wrapping her thin arms around his neck and squeezing him in a tight hug. "It's okay," she whispered, not wanting him to get in any more trouble because of her. She pulled away, her blue eyes glistening with tears. "Bye, Dean."

John sighed as he watched but didn't say anything more to his son and Mellie came back over to the door. He ushered her out and she followed him to his big, black car, sinking into the passenger seat when he opened the door. He got behind the wheel and started the engine with a rumble, ordering her to put on her seat belt as he pulled out of the motel parking lot.

It was a half hour drive from Butterfield to Windom and the man seemed to know the way. He didn't speak until they were almost there, turning to her and studying her face for a long moment. "Your dad's worried about you," he said. "It's all over Windom's newspapers that you went missing and he's been looking for you like crazy."

She didn't respond. Dean's dad wasn't anything like the rescuing hero Dean had described. He didn't want her to stay with them and he certainly wasn't going to save her.

"You know," he continued, "I love my boys and would never hurt them. But some people don't understand that Dean can take care of himself and if they found out that he was alone…" He let the sentence trail off. Mellie kept her head down, wringing her hands in her lap. "Melanie," he said in an authoritative tone. "Melanie, look at me."

She looked up at him, blinking fearfully.

"Can I trust you not to tell anyone about Sam and Dean; about any of us?" he asked, his voice growing gentle. "See, if you say anything, my boys could be taken away. Put in foster homes, separated even. If Sammy was taken away, that would hurt Dean more than anything. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

She nodded. She understood exactly what he was saying. Dean would be devastated if he lost his little brother and she certainly didn't want that to happen. "I won't say anything, I promise," she answered him finally, meaning it sincerely.

He seemed pleased and nodded but kept throwing concerned glances her way as they neared the block she lived on. Finally he pulled the car over at the playpark half a block away. "Okay, you can get out here," he announced. "I'll watch you to make sure you're safe until you reach your house, okay?"

She nodded and reached for the door handle but he stopped her. "Wait," he said with a sigh. "Hang on." He rummaged through the glove compartment until he found a small notepad and a pen and scribbled something on one of the pages before tearing it out and handing it to her. "You keep this," he told her. "This is the name and number of a friend of mine who lives here in Windom. Her name's Kate Milligan and she's a real nice lady, okay?"

Mellie took the paper and nodded.

"Now if you need anything … I mean anything, you just call her, okay?"

Another silent nod.

"Melanie, listen to me." He waited until she looked up at him. "If you're in trouble of any sort or if you need help, you call this lady. Tell her I gave you her number. She'll help you, I know she will."

The little girl nodded again, tucking the paper into her back jeans pocket as she stepped slowly out of the car, her heart pounding with dread. She pushed the door closed and started towards her house, only glancing around once to find the dark-haired man still watching her from the black car in the shadows.


A/N: FYI, I have toyed a little with the cannon details concerning Adam (I adjusted the dates a little bit – he's a couple of years younger in my fic; born Sept.1992 instead of Sept.1990). Just to give you a head's up so you know I didn't screw up by accident, lol. Oh, and I went slightly AU with some other bits, too ~ I'm sure you noticed.

Also, I've never written from a kid's POV before and that was really hard! I hope you enjoyed it anyway. I know I was rough on John in this chap but he does have some redeeming qualities in the next one. The next chap is the second time Mellie runs into a Winchester and takes place over ten years later so they're all grown ups. I'm nervous about this one so please review and let me know what you think :-)