Title: We're Marchin' On.
Warnings: Bad swearing at stages, but nothing worse than that, really.
A/N: #1 – All this can fit in with the canon, up to where we are now, so a few spoilers.
A/N: #2 – Yeah, this has kinda just been chillin' on my laptop for a while, and I've been meaning to finish and upload for about a month now. Thought I'd go ahead and upload the first chapter, anyway!
Psychologists have found that attachments between the parent and child are formed around at around the age of seven months. They say the child will orient their behaviour to the parent, will show distress when they leave, and that the parents will develop automatic responses to the infant's behaviours. Dean didn't know about that, but he knew for certain that when Sammy cried, or fell silent for the last time, he'd do whatever it took to make him smile again.
When you're a kid, 'danger' and 'pain' is drinking your cocoa before it's cooled. Home is the safe place you return to, parents the people who give you food and toys, and your baby brother is the intriguing small person who squeezes your finger when you reach out to him.
But Dean Winchester discovered all this goes flying out of the window when your house explodes before your four-year-old eyes.
Suddenly danger is fire, home is on the passenger seat in a car beneath your Dad's oversized leather jacket, your parent is the man who leaves you for days and your baby brother is who you held and comforted as it all fell down around you.
Dean can remember precisely how it felt that first night, his confusion when Dad had placed the bundle of blankets into his arms. The blankets were heavier than he'd expected. It's a second before he realises where the blankets are from – that they're from Sammy's bed. They're Sammy's blankets. And the weight makes sense as he realises that his Dad has just handed him his baby brother. He's telling him to take his baby brother and go, as quick as he can. Dad's face says 'danger', more than Dean's ever seen before, even when the fox got into the house. Dad was worried about Sammy then, Dean remembers, and is worried about Sammy now.
But one message gets through to Dean before any of those: he has to keep Sammy safe.
There's smoke everywhere, and he doesn't know where Mom is, doesn't know where Dad has gone and doesn't know why he has to leave, but leave he does, holding the bundle of blankets close to his chest, like it's his teddy when he's scared. Not too tight. Bears can be made flat and still be okay, but Sammy can't. Sammy cries.
It's cold outside, and Dean's only wearing his pyjamas, and the grass is wet on his feet. A few times he feels like he's going to slip, but he's careful and he doesn't. Out of the house, he thinks he's far enough, so turns, seeing if Mum or Dad is following him. They're not. He really wishes they were. There's fire in the top window – but fire usually stays behind the grate in the front room. He doesn't understand why it's there, it's not meant to be there. It's loud and hot, and lots of smoke is coming from it. Sammy wriggles in his arms, so Dean tries to copy Mum, what Mum does when Sam's upset. He tells him everything's okay. He doesn't know if it is, but that doesn't matter.
And then Dad is there, and scooping up him and Sammy in his blankets and taking them further away. As they move Dean can just about see the fire getting bigger. It's not just in the top room any more, it's outside, on the roof too. The fire is eating his home. But Sammy is slipping in his arms, so he turns his view from the fire to his brother to make sure he's still holding him tightly. He can't drop Sammy. When they stop, when Dad lets him down and holds his arms out, Dean carefully shifts Sammy in his arms, and lets Dad take him. Knowing Sammy's safe, Dean lets himself shake for the first time, with cold and what he thinks is fear. He doesn't like it. He tried not to before, because he knew Dad would be proud that he was being brave and strong and a man's man, like Dad was in the war.
But now, with Sam in Dad's arms, with the cold making his skin go all pimply, with Mum not there and the house vanishing inside the fire, it was too hard not to.
He held Dad's arm, and shook with fear.
Mum wasn't around after that. Dean couldn't quite understand that she wasn't coming back. It didn't feel right.
Dad wasn't around much either. He'd started off going for the odd hour in a day – then whole days at a time – and after that, it became everyday too quickly. He'd be around in the morning, and leave by the afternoon – for work, he said, and not come back until late. When he returned, he'd act differently, and smelled bad. Like when he used to have a drink on a Friday night, but ten times stronger.
Sometimes he'd remember to help Dean with breakfast before he left, but he'd often forget, and Dean would have to climb carefully onto a chair, and then onto the worktop to reach the cupboard that had the bowls in it. When up there, he could jump down with ease, but climbing up was risky. The chair wasn't stable – it always wobbled beneath him. Often, he'd just lose balance when he was half on, but once he lost balance as he was trying to move from the chair to the worktop. As he fell, he caught his knees on the counter. It started bleeding, a lot.
The cry for 'Mom' came out of his mouth before he had time to remember what Dad had said. Mom wasn't coming again. The only answer Dean got was Sammy starting to cry. So Dean climbed back up onto the counter, put his leg under the tap and washed it like Mom had done. He pulled some kitchen towel and held that against the cut, to dry it. Then he climbed down, not bothering about breakfast, put the chair back by the table, and went to check Sammy was okay.
It wasn't until a month later that Dean learnt why Dad was different – worse – in the evenings.
They'd moved into a small bungalow on the edge of Kansas. It was different. The roads were too quiet – Dean couldn't sleep at night. Sometimes he'd turn on the torch he had and play with his toys until he felt so tired the quiet didn't matter. Sometimes he'd go over to the cot and watch Sammy. He was funny when he slept. He moved weirdly. His feet twitched.
The new neighbours were nice. The woman – Mrs Miller – would bring them food sometimes. Dean liked her – it meant he didn't have to make baked beans himself. He could never get them right, like Mom had. They were always either just too hot, or too cold.
It was Mrs Miller who yelled at Dad for being a drunk. He'd come home late, and couldn't talk, and she'd yelled at him and called him 'drunk'. Dad was drinking. Dean knew drinking was bad, it made you ill. Dad had told him that. He couldn't decide why Dad wanted to be ill.
Mrs Miller had yelled at Dad, and waved at Dean, and Sammy had started crying and Dean wanted to go check on Sammy but he daren't leave as Dad started to yell too, at Mrs Miller, and pushed her from the house. He'd told Dean not to talk to her again, rubbed his face as he tried to calm down, then had almost ran to where Sammy was crying. Dean followed. Dad loved Sammy, he knew that, but he didn't love him enough in the day. He needed to be around more to love him in the day.
Dean waited by the doorway and watched as Dad rocked Sammy in his arms, muttering to him. Dean listened to Dad so he'd know what to say next time – but it was everything he said already anyway. And besides, Sam wasn't crying because he was tired, or wanted attention.
Dean headed into the kitchen, and fetched a bottle of milk from the cupboard. He put it in the microwave, then returned to Dad and Sammy, holding the bottle carefully in his hands. Sammy was still crying really loudly, and Dad was starting to look worried, nervous.
Dean walked over, and tugged on Dad's sleeve. "Dad, he's hungry," he said, holding out the warm bottle.
Dad just stared at him for a while, then took the bottle and started to feed Sammy. Sammy went quiet immediately, and Dad began to smile again as he rocked Sammy back and forwards.
Dean touched Sammy's hand, shaking it slightly, before turning away and heading to his room, leaving Dad alone with Sammy.
Dad got better after that. He didn't drink as much. He still went out, but instead of the smell of drink he would bring back all these old books, and hole himself away in his room, reading. Three months after the fire, whilst Dad was out, Dean managed to make bacon crispy for the first time. He felt so proud that he immediately did it with all the rashers they had left. Only afterwards did he realise that Sammy couldn't eat rashers for lunch yet. He wanted to boast that he could easily eat all of that himself – he wanted to, as well – but, secretly, he didn't think he would.
He went to the cupboard to find the box of Sammy's mushy food. The box was there, but there was nothing in it. Dad had put back an empty box.
Dean left the pile of bacon he'd made on a plate, and went to check on Sammy. "Are you hungry, Sam?" he asked, as he stood on tiptoes and leant over the bar. "Do you want food?"
He'd just finished speaking when Sammy's face crunched up and he started crying. Dean watched him for a second, frowning, thinking. He held Sammy's hand through the bars for a second, and then whispered to him, "It's okay, Sammy, I'll be right back." Sammy's fingers uncurled from his.
Dean went to the front door, picked the spare keys from the side and unlocked the door. He left the house, shut and locked the door behind him before walking across the small front garden and to Mrs Miller's house. He knocked the door and waited. When Mrs Miller opened the door, he smiled up at her and asked as politely as he could, "Mrs Miller, do you have food for Sam?"
She didn't ask why he needed it, didn't ask why they'd ran out. "Wait here," was all she said, before vanishing inside for a second and reappearing with a can of mushy peas. "Think you can open the tin?"
"Yes Miss," Dean replied, smiling as he took the can from her. He'd have had to go to the local grocers otherwise, and that would have taken a long time. He waved goodbye to Mrs Miller, and made his way back to his house. He unlocked the door, entered and relocked. Sammy was crying still, so Dean picked up the tin opener and a spoon from the kitchen and went right to Sammy. He decided he didn't like his bacon when it was so hot anyway. He opened the can and opened one side of the cot so he could sit next to Sammy as he fed him. He set the can and opener down for a second to make Sammy sit upright, then filled the spoon with the peas, and carefully fed Sammy.
When Dad got home, Dean hurried towards the door, proudly bearing a plate with half of the pile of bacon on it, hidden in between two heavily buttered pieces of bread.
He couldn't tell if Dad looked proud or scared.
"It's good," Dean promised, "I had twice as much for lunch and I'm fine!" he grinned. Dad took the sandwich. Dean went back to play with Sammy.
It was nine months after Mum died that Dad sat Dean down, and told him.
It wasn't stupid to Dean. Hearing monsters exist when you're older, that's when it's hard to believe. You've been brought up to not to believe in them. But as a kid, you know they exist. So when Dad told him, calmly, that a monster killed his mum, Dean didn't think twice about it.
That they had to leave the house – that they weren't going to stay in another – that Dean thought twice about.
He liked Mrs Miller. He wanted to go to the local nursery that the boy across the street went to. He liked the colour of his bedroom. He liked Kansas, he knew Kansas. And Sammy still didn't like new places, new people.
But then Dad told him of how he'd killed a monster. A big thing with teeth. And that if they went on the road, he'd kill more monsters, kill more evil things with big teeth.
"Like a superhero?"
". . . Yeah, Dean, I guess. Like a superhero."
"Will . . . will it be dangerous?"
"Yeah, it might be dangerous. And you'll have to look after Sammy. But you can handle that, right, Dean? I can trust you to do that. You're a brave strong boy now. Big and independent."
Dean's chest puffed out with pride. Brave and strong and independent.
So they'd packed their favourite things, food for Sammy, and left in Dad's car. Dean curled up on the front seat, Sammy silent beside him. He drifted asleep.
He'd been right about Sammy.
They got to the motel long after dark. Dean woke to Dad shaking his shoulder, and was given the keys to go and take Sammy into their rooms. It stank, and was a horrible colour, reminding Dean of carrot soup. He set Sammy onto one of the beds, carefully covering his small body with the duvet, and sat on another himself. Dad came in not much later, and gave Dean his bag, telling him to get changed and get some sleep. He was going to check something.
The bed wasn't comfortable, either, but Dean was so tired he would have slept on a park bench. At least his pyjamas still smelled of home, at that point.
Sammy wouldn't sleep. He didn't – hadn't cried much, before, but now he was crying again. Looking so small in the other bed, under the covers and crying.
Dean couldn't sleep when Sammy was crying.
He thought for a second, on what would make him feel better, what Mum or Dad had done to make him sleep easier when he was scared, when he'd had a nightmare. And he looked down at his open bag, beside him, and saw a patch of tattered fur. He didn't want Dad to know he'd brought it – he was meant to be being big and strong – but...
Dean pushed back his covers, sat up and pulled the bear from the bag, before moving over to Sammy's bed. He climbed onto the covers, up to where Sammy was, and whispered his name. "It's okay, Sammy," he said quietly, pulling down the covers so he could stroke his head, and so Sammy could see him smile. "Here," he said, carefully pushing the teddy into Sammy's arms. Sammy pulled his arms tight around the bear, and rolled onto his back, starting to chew on the already worn ears as he turned to face Dean. He didn't look at Dean. Just turned his way. Dean smiled, his hand patting the side of Sammy's face carefully. Sammy's face was getting big now, he couldn't fit it in his palm any more.
Sammy fell asleep quickly then. Dean climbed off the bed carefully, not wanting to nudge Sammy awake, and got to his own bed in time to curl up as Dad entered. He heard Dad walk over to the couch, and fall onto that, before he closed his own eyes and focused on falling asleep.
There's so many wars we fought
There's so many things we're not
But with what we have
I promise you that
We're marching on
For all of the plans we've made
There isn't a flag I'd wave
Don't care where we've been
I'd sink us to swim
We're marching on
FIN! The months before John ups roots and leaves on the Great Hunt... Next, toddler Sam and young kid Dean.
Some R&R would be lovely, yanno! Will make me update faster...