Chapter 2

"What you doing?"

Dean flicked his eyes over to Sammy, sat on the other bed, short legs swinging impatiently over the side, before looking back down at his comic. "Reading."

"Reading?"

"Yeah, it's something us clever people do."

"I'm clever!"

"Not yet, squirt."

There's a few more minutes of silence where Dean could be immersed in the world of Marvel.

"Can we go to the park?"

Long-suffering sigh, and Dean looked back to Sam. "It's raining, genius. No, course we can't."

Sam made a little disappointed noise, lowered his head, and started kicking his heels against the side of the bed.

Dean rolled his eyes, reminds himself Dad told him the shotgun wasn't for Sam, yes even though the salt rounds wouldn't kill him, and turned his gaze back to the coloured pages.

Suddenly, something small, hot, and fidgety lands on the bed next to him, and a curious finger jabs at the page he's looking at. "What's that say?"

"Why should I tell you?" Dean asked, irritated and shoving the small hand to the side.

"Because."

And when you're kids, there's no arguing with that logic. "'I've got you now, Batman'," he reluctantly said.

"Batman?" Sam's head tilted, and his little forehead furrowed with confusion as he looked between Dean and the pictured in front of him. "So ... that one's Batman?" he asked, little finger pointing at the tall black figure.

"Yeah," Dean said, "and that one – the one with the weird face – is the Joker. He's the evil one."

"So Batman's the good guy?"

"He's the awesome guy!" Dean corrected, grinning, feeling so clever that he knew all this. Of course, it didn't actually make him clever ... but it made him clever to Sammy.

"But bats are scary."

"Yeah, that's why all the bad guys are scared of him. Normal people aren't scared of him because they know he only goes after the bad guys."

Sam stared at the comic for a while, taking in the pictures with wide eyes. "What's happening there?" he asked, pointing again.

Dean pursed his lips, and thought for a second. "Okay, I'll read you the comic," he offered slowly, "If you stop pointing."

Instantly, Sam shuffled so he was sat on his own hands. "Promise!"

"Right. Well, the Joker trapped the Batman, which is why he says 'Got you now' there, but Batman's too awesome for that, so he gets out here – look, that's so clever – but it hurts, so he says 'ow' there – yeah, those lines say 'ow' – and that says 'bang!' because the metal door hitting the floor make a bang, and that's him getting away and going back home in his Batmobile – that's like the Impala, but not as cool ..."


They weren't meant to leave the motel room when Dad was away. Dean, for food, sure. Sam, never. Not before he was five.

But ... Dean might have made exceptions a few times. Once or twice.

But, come on. It was snow.

He remembered it once before, when he was really young, on holiday ... somewhere. Mum had tucked him up, done up the zip on his jacket, slipped the gloves onto his hands, and held open the door as he ran out to where Dad was waiting, already standing near a small mound of snow that soon turned into a snowman even larger than Dean.

And this was Sammy's first snow. He wasn't going to let him miss out on that.

After looking out of the window, watching the flakes fall from the steadily lightening sky and watching the blanket build up on the ground for a while, he ran back to Sam's room, and shook him awake. "Sammy! Sam!"

A yawn, and groan, and a "Dean?"

"Yeah. C'mon, Sam, get up and dressed, got a surprise for you!"

Dean jumped back, and fidgeted from foot to foot with a huge grin on his face as Sam pulled on his jeans and a hoodie that was far too big for him. He might grow into it, if he grew at all. "Whutisit?" yawned Sam, rubbing his eyes as he turned to face Dean.

Dean didn't answer him. Instead, he grabbed the small hands, pulling them towards the door carefully, but as quickly as he could. Snow.

"Dean, it's dark, I wanna sleep ..."

"Stop moaning, and look!" With a flourish, Dean flung open the front door and shoved Sammy outside.

The gasp was perfect. Sam almost stumbled back with shock and awe. Dean danced around to Sam's side to see his expression, in time to watch the slack jaw tilt into an overjoyed, genuine Sammy smile. "It's – Dean, is this what snow is like?"

Dean laughed, and ruffled the short kid's hair. "Sammy, this is snow! Isn't it beautiful? C'mon, we gotta make snowmen!" He grabbed Sam's hand again, and began to run towards the park just around the corner. "And snow angels, and snowballs, perhaps even an igloo!"

Sam was stumbling, trying to keep up, and Dean could feel him squeezing his hand to make him slow down – he slowed down a bit. Didn't want to make it easy on the kid.

The park was empty, quiet, perfect, and all the metal frames shimmering with a layer of ice. The snow was untouched, and faultless –

Until Dean let go of Sam's hand, jumped over the fence, and went skidding into the 'untouched' white carpet. He whooped as loud as he could, snow falling into his mouth, the cold powder stinging his cheeks as it flew over him, and he could hear Sam laughing behind him. He lay on the snow, once he'd stopped rolling, and stared up at the grey sky, at the white specks falling towards him and landing on his skin. He stuck out his tongue, wanting to taste it, if it tasted as much like ice-cream as it looked.

Seconds later, a tidal-wave of snow covered him as a laughing ball of Sammy suddenly landed by his side. "It's so-"

"If you say 'cold', god help me, Sam-"

"Pretty!"

Dean turned his head, mouth limp as he stared at his younger brother in shock, before barking with laughter. "Aw, you're such a girl," he muttered, before turning back, straightening his arms and legs, and waving them in the snow.

"Whatcha doin?"

"Making a snow angel!" Dean said, waving his arms and legs desperately, trying to get his legs together, and arms as far as possible, pushing them so far up that his shoulders starts to ache. "Look, you do this, and it makes an angel!" He heard the swishing as Sammy curiously copied him, but he wasn't paying attention.

After he thought it was long enough, he jumped to his feet, careful to only stand where he'd scraped away the snow. He held a hand out to Sam, who grabbed it and clambered up beside him.

But Dean was looking at the angel.

It was beautiful. Its wings were huge, and were shining where the snow had melted so slightly beneath his arms. And they were brushing the top of Sam's angel's wings, that one half the side, lopsided, smaller wings, uneven dress bit – but that one was beautiful all the same.

"They're angels?"

"Yeah, Sammy, they're angels."

"Is it true? They watch over us?"

Dean's mouth opened, and closed. No. Of course not. Nothing watches over you whilst you sleep, and nothing protects you but me, and Dad. "Sure, Sammy, whatever."

He stepped back, leaving Sammy to admire their artwork. "Hey Sam," he said, calmly, crouching down.

"Yeah?" replied the kid, still smiling down at the angels.

"Do you know the other tradition with snow?"

"Hm?"

"It involves scraping the snow into perfect little balls ..." he stepped up to Sam, setting a hand on the back of his hoodie, "And shoving them down people's clothes!" and, with a warm feeling of success, pulled at the back of the hoodie and dropped the huge ball of melting snow down the back of Sam's jumper.

The screech Sam gave made him sound like such a girl. He jumped so high, almost as high as Dean's shoulder, if that can be believed, and wriggled to try and get the ice out of his clothes.

Dean just laughed, leaning back against the frame of the swings as he watched Sammy suffer. Times were good. He listened to the familiar, comforting threats heading his way, and leant his head against the cool metal, closing his eyes. Times like this were good.

Suddenly something slammed into his chest, winding him, and he groaned as he caved inwards. Mother of – he peeled his eyes open, to see flecks of white clinging to the fabric. "You little-" he looked up to see Sammy, innocent as ever, hands behind his back and whistling happily to the cotton-white sky. "Oooh," Dean breathed, legs bending almost on their own as he reached for more snow, "This is war..."

Dean was winning. He swears. Honest! Like Sam could beat him. The kid could only aim cos Dean had taught him how, anyway.

But somehow, it didn't seem to matter all that much when he heard Sam cry out.

Dean dropped the perfectly packed snow, and ran out from behind the bench he'd taken as his fort towards where Sammy was now crying his name.

"Deeeaan!"

Within seconds, Dean had reached the hedge and rounded the corner to see his kid brother, tears pouring from his face, curled up on the floor, the ice around him splattered with red...

The ice around his leg... his knee.

He'd slipped on the ice, and grazed his knee.

Dean could have laughed. He'd had images of Sammy with bone showing, like Dad has had a few times, or with cuts on his arms, or worse, in the claws of some creature, whatever it was Dad was hunting right then...

But it wasn't. Sammy was crying over a grazed knee. He was a kid. It was what they did. They fell over, got scabby knees, and got their mouths covered with chocolate.

Smiling with relief, Dean crouched by Sam's side, looking at the graze. It had torn the jeans, and the skin behind it was steadily bleeding, but not badly. It must have stung badly, though. "Hey, it's okay, Sammy," Dean said confidently, reaching over and ruffling Sammy's hair, before looping his arm around the kid's shoulders. "It's just a graze, everyone grazes their knees."

The kid was quieting now, snuffling snot and wiping his wet eyes on the sleeve of Dean's jacket. Dean didn't mind. "You grazed your knees?" Sammy asked.

"Oh yeah," Dean boasted, "loads of times. I cried the first time, too," he added. He couldn't remember if he had, not really, but he knew it'd make Sammy feel better. "C'mon, let's get you back to the hotel room, and clean you up."

That's what they did. Dean helped Sammy to his feet, and helped him walk back. He didn't carry him, because big strong boys didn't need carrying, and all for being the size of a squirrel, Sammy was a big strong boy. He didn't even whimper as he walked back, either.

When they got back to the motel room, Dean first told Sam to remove his jeans, and when his kid brother was in his boxers, got a chair and gave Sammy a hand with climbing up to sit next to the sink. Sammy wasn't crying any more, wasn't even sad, but was curiously poking at the two red scrapes on his knees, swinging his legs to see when it hurt.

"Hey, don't do that," Dean said loudly as he came back from the bathroom with the first aid kit, "You'll make it worse. Sit still now – this might hurt a bit, but that means it's making it better." He set the kit down, and pulled from it cotton wool and the brown bottle of antiseptics. He couldn't remember – did you wash it with water first, or with the stinging stuff? He didn't know, and hoped it didn't matter as he ran the cotton wool under the hot water of the tap.

When their Dad entered the motel room ten minutes later, Dean only turned his head to check who it was before turned back to where Sammy sat, now sleepy and leaning against the wall, and pressing down the plaster, sticking it into place. "It's okay, Dad," he said, "I got this."


Dean thought the awkward years were meant to be the teenage years.

So how come Sam was being so damn awkward at the age of six. So many damn questions.

It was because he wasn't just living in a motel any more. He spent time at the local school and the park too, with Dean, of course. Dad was hunting things most of the time. Dean didn't know if he was any nearer to finding what killed Mum, because Dad never mentioned her any more, or it. Now it was all about wendigos and demons and black dogs and other things that go bump in the night.

Dean only had himself to blame, he supposed. He'd been the one persuading Dad to let Sam see the real world a bit more. He wouldn't, if he'd known it would have these consequences. Now, it was all why why why. Sammy was such a whiny bitch. Too clever for his own good.

Questions like 'why can't I eat grass if I can eat lettuce' and 'why does the sky have diamonds at night' he could deal with. They were fun to answer (though he might have to tell Sammy the truth some time). No, it was ones like 'why do we live in a motel' and 'Why is Dad never here' and 'Why don't we have a Mom' that pissed Dean off. But purely because he knew he couldn't answer them, not really. Sam just had to be satisfied with 'We don't – we live in the Impala' and 'Dad's busy a lot, that's all' and 'shut your pie hole, baby'.

He missed the young Sammy. The young Sammy who'd curl up in his arms, and looked innocently and naively from his cot. The one who'd used his huge mouth to hold Dean's fingers in, not ask questions that terrified Dean.

It took a day in mid-winter for Dean to realise how better he had it.

The sky was grey, and Dean had no clue where Dad was or when he'd be back. He just knew that if he wasn't back by Friday, he had to call Uncle Bobby. He had spaghetti hoops, cereals, bread and a can of corned beef, not to mention money and a drinks machine just outside. He also had a shotgun to practise dismantling, cleaning and re-assembling. He was entertained enough – and could always pick on Sam when he got bored.

He was timing himself with the shotgun a fifth time when he realised how quiet the room was. Sam, not pestering him? Only one explanation.

Setting the shotgun down carefully, he called out, "You'd better not be eating my chips, Sammy."

No response. Not even a guilty rustling of packets.

Dean frowned. "Sam?"

He didn't wait for a response. He would have got one the first time if Sam could reply. He picked up the shotgun again, carefully, and two rounds, before taking quiet steps towards the bedroom. He pushed the door open – to see Sammy curled up on the bed, back to him. He was shivering.

Not breathing out quite yet, Dean set down the shotgun and hurried to where Sam lay. "Hey, what's wrong?" he asked, climbing beside him and holding Sam's arm. He was shaking violently beneath the covers. "Sammy? Sammy?"

"I - I don't feel good, Dean . . ."

Dean set his hand to Sammy's forehead. It was hot. As in, hot. Shit.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean murmured in promise. "It's gonna be fine. You're just sick, everyone gets sick..." Dad hadn't told him what to do if Sammy got ill. What does he do?

Breathe. Stay calm. Think. Remember what Dad did when he got sick.

Pills. Tylenol. That might help. That might work.

Rubbing Sam's arm gently, lightly, not wanting to make him warmer than he already is, Dean tried to comfort him slightly before climbing off the bed and sprinting to the kitchen as fast as he could in the small space. He flung open all the doors to all the cupboards, all the draws until he found the small box of white pills. He grabbed a cup from the side – one he used earlier – and filled it with water from the tap, before running back to Sam. He got water on his shirt from where it spilled, but like that matters. He climbed back onto the bed, and pulled Sam upright beside him.

"C'mon Sam," he muttered, setting the glass on the bed between his legs and getting a pill from the packets. "I need you to swallow this for me, yeah?"

"It's big," Sam whispers back.

Dean went cold from how quiet his baby brother's voice was. "If it's not big, how is it gonna hold all the things that're gonna fix you?" he asked, random logic spilling from his mouth. "Put it in your mouth and wash it down with water. Think you can do that for me, Sammy?"

Sam nodded. Dean handed him the pill, and Sam dutifully put it in his mouth. Dean held the glass to his lips and tipped it back as Sam swallowed repeatedly, trying to get the pill down. He spluttered, head falling forwards and Dean moved the glass out of the way, almost flinging it onto the nearby table. "Okay?"

"Yeah," Sammy whispered, rolling into Dean's side, head resting on Dean's chest, just below his shoulder. Thin, hot, weak arms fell across his stomach. "Will I feel better now?"

"In a while, Sammy," Dean promised. For a second he sat there awkwardly, but then, with a wry smile, draped his arms across Sam, holding him gently. "Why didn't you tell me you weren't feeling well?"

"I did."

"Earlier, smart-ass."

Sam breathed slowly for a while before replying. "I want to be brave, like you and Dad."

For a second, Dean was sure his heart had stopped. He certainly turned into a fish for a while, as his mouth opened and closed a few times. "You are brave, Sammy," he said eventually. "You are. Sleep now."

Sam's breathing got softer over time. He stopped shaking so much. And Dean, tentatively, started to hum under his breath. He wasn't sure if Sammy could hear him, or if he was asleep – but when he thought back, he wasn't sure who he was singing for, anyway.

Hey Jude, Don't make it bad,

Take a sad song and make it better,

Remember to let her into your heart

Then you can start to make it better...


"Why can't I learn in the Impala?"

Dean snorted. "Yeah, because you'll be perfect first try. Nah, this crappy thing, and then, if you're lucky, in a few years... we might let you touch the Impala's steering wheel."

Sam didn't even bitch face that one. Eh, maybe he was getting used to it. Instead, he frowned as he probably tried to remember all those genius tips Dean had been muttering to him since they'd left the motel room. Sam had better have remembered them. Dean wasn't gonna say them all over again.

The kid was mouthing to himself, as he checked where the indicators were on the crappy little car, the speed gauge, that his feet were resting on the clutch and accelerator, that he was out of gear, and that the mirrors were in the right place...

"Don't forget to check that you can see over the steering wheel, too," Dean couldn't stop himself from pointing out helpfully.

"Dean-"

"Seriously, d'you want a booster-seat or something? I'm sure they had them in that store back there, could get one if ya want..."

A long-weary sigh, and a mutter of "Jerk."

Dean chuckled, leaning back in the seat and looked out of the window. "Bitch."

Sam didn't reply to that. Instead, he moved the mirrors into position, and turned the key he'd stolen – without anyone noticing, Dean was so proud – in the ignition. Not before straightening his back. Dean turned his head away, making sure Sam didn't see him smile at that. "Okay," he said calmly, looking back at the road, checking both ways, "When you're ready."

There was the slightest pause, before Sam pressed down slowly on the accelerator. "Now, carefully release the clutch and turn the steering wheel to the right, quickly," Dean muttered carefully, trying to keep a careful eye on both the road and Sam's feet.

There was a slight judder, and Dean winced at the poor engine (even uglies like this deserved some sympathy), but Sam managed to sort it out and the car pulled away.

"Good... good," Dean continued, almost as a mantra as Sam didn't crash... and continued not to crash... and didn't crash then either...

"I'm driving," Sam said suddenly, as if just realising what pushing all those pedals meant. "I'm driving!"

It was so cute. He was almost bouncing in his seat with excitement. Dean couldn't help but grin at him. "Yeah, kid, you're driving," he chuckled, shaking his head at his brother's enthusiasm. "Now, let's pull over and st- squirrel!"

"What – shit!"

And, looking at the small, very small, tiny, tiny little thing in the middle of the road, Sam did the most stupid-ass thing he'd ever done. Instead of pressing the brake, or, yanno, driving over the stupid furry thing, he decided to dry and drive around it.

"No – Sam-"

The reply might have sounded something like an "Arrrrghh!" if it could've been heard over the sound of the wheels screeching, the engine complaining, Dean himself swearing as the car swung around, skidded, and Sammy crashing into him as the car tipped sideways into a ditch.

The silence felt like such a contrast to the sudden seconds of ear-splitting noise, it almost felt wrong in the air. It felt as if Dean moved a finger it would shatter to leave screaming behind. He didn't risk it, just breathed, until the world stopped spinning around him, until he could think, remember and realise what the fuck just happened.

He could move then.

First thing he did was look to his right, check Sammy was okay. "Hey, you good?" he asked, fiddling blindly with his seatbelt. Hearing it click in release he climbed through it, leaning over to grab Sam's shoulders. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," Sam muttered, blinking, shaking his head. Strands of hair were covering his face, and Dean impatiently shoved them behind his baby brother's ears. He needed a haircut. "A bit – dizzy-" but he was grinning, moving his legs, his arms, and focusing on Dean's face.

Thank God.

Dean breathed out and fell back into his seat. "Dude," he breathed, "What the fuck was that?"

"A squirrel!"

And that, for some reason, was the best and most logical answer the twelve-year old could have given. Dean blinked, and laughed. "Fuck," he breathed out between spasms of laughter, "the damn – squirrel!"

Sam was laughing back. "I'll remember that for next time!"

And that was it. Dean was off again.

It must have been a good five minutes before either of them could breath properly again. "I'm going to kill you one day," Dean muttered, still grinning, as he pushed Sam's head to the side playfully. Sam chuckled, punching the hand weakly.

"Go ahead," the kid said, the trademark lopsided grin back in place, "But – do me a favour?"

"Yeah?"

"Don't tell Dad?"

Dean laughed.


Dean was staying out of it this time.

He could hear the yells, the roars and the thuds, and he knew what they were about. He knew he wouldn't be able to help them, not this time. They both just had to get it out of their system.

Besides, if he wanted to he could tell you everything they were saying. He could tell you exactly when Dad would slam his fist against the wall, when Sam would swing his arms wide, how Dad would take a step forwards, as if to grab Sam, how Sam would stare at him, almost wanting an excuse to run -

Dean sighed, and rested his forehead against the rim of his beer bottle. Why couldn't they both just agree. On something, anything. Or at least until after tonight. Wait until the hunt was over. Dad would be willing to listen a bit more then, he'd be calmer.

But no, Sam had to be the stubborn bitch he was, and pick this fight here and now, not giving a shit that somewhere in this town, right now, something with some nice big claws might be ripping its way into someone …

Oh, and out of nowhere, here it came again, just a helpful little reminder – you started it this time, Dean.

He hadn't. Not really. But he had, too. Stupidly. When Sam had asked why Dean wasn't going to sit an exam – completely forgetting that Dean hadn't even learnt anything to take an exam in - rather than saying 'Cos I can't be arsed, bitch', he'd gone and said 'Cos Dad thinks there's no point'.

It was true – technically – but only cos he knew Dean wouldn't want to take the academic route in the first place. But now the angry fourteen-year-old was slugging it out against Dad in defence of, to begin with, Dean's academia. But as it always had, it turned into an argument over Sam's and his supposed complete and utter lack of free will.

Dean sighed, his breath clouding the green glass of the bottle, and lifted his head up until it was resting against the cold bricks of the motel walls. It was getting quieter now. They weren't just joking around. They were both actually angry. Which meant someone was going to come storming out of the door to Dean's left some point soon …

To pass the time until he had to play therapist – God help him – Dean tried to shut his ears down and see if how many cigarette tips he could see through the hedges that separated the motel rooms from the car park.

He got into the low thirties when the door beside him finally almost flew off its hinges. He could tell it was Sam instantly, from the way he actually bothered to close the door – admittedly with a slam louder than you'd've expected from a kid his size – before running off across the parking lot.

Dean pushed himself off from the wall, and yelled "Hey, Sam!"

The short kid halted in his tracks, and slowly, most probably unwillingly turning back around. "You back from the store, then?" Sam asked monotonously. "Actually buy anything useful?"

Dean's lips twitched. "Yeah, course," he scoffed, and he leant down, picked up and waved at Sam the box of beers and now empty box of pie. "Essentials, yanno."

Sam didn't even smile. Shit, this was bad.

Dean licked his lips, and looking over his shoulder at the window to the motel, and the closed curtains. "Just don't run so fast, kid. Us old men can't keep up with you when your long legs sprint like that."

That got a twitch in the lips. "Sure, grandpa," Sam replied, "I'll go slower."

Dean grinned, and followed Sam as his kid brother now walked towards the Impala. He didn't say anything more until they were sat side-by-side on the hood. He didn't say anything then either, not to begin with. He didn't even look at Sam, but tilted his head back, looking at the stars, and sipped his beer.

He could hear Sam breathing, god, he was almost panting with fury. He needed to chill-

There was a second of thought, before Dean moved. Just a second, before he reached down to the side, and pulled up a new bottle of beer. He thought again, vaguely watching the possible consequences as they passed though his thoughts, and chose to ignore them quite happily. He handed the bottle to Sam.

The kid looked at the bottle in his hands liek he'd never seen one before. Dean reached over and pulled off the lid, then held out the neck of his bottle. Carefully, as if wary of a trick, Sam clinked the neck of his – his first – beer bottle against Dean's. Content, Dean returned to looking at the stars.

He listened carefully to Sam taking his first sip, to the carefully disguised cough. Dean smirked behind his bottle.

He thought carefully, and moved just as carefully, pausing to lick his lips before he spoke. "Look," he said, starting slowly, "I don't want to go to college. I'm not academical or whatever. Even if we had normal, apple-pie lives, you know I'd still be a mechanic, or a fireman, or something. Dad knows this too. Man, I'm gonna be a hunter. I just am. But you," he continued, when no objection immediately came flying from the kid's mouth, "You're a freakin' genius kid. You are. Dad's proud of it, he is. Y'know that he'd boast about you to his mates – if he had them. If he worked in his old garage. If he went to the bar with mates every Friday to watch the game. But he doesn't. We don't have that life. We have our shitty one. Which leaves you two options, rather than the ones normal folk get. I guess that you can either use your geek skills in the way Dad wants you to, hunting and saving, or you can go off and do something else, something new. I guess it's up to you. But don't hate Dad for wanting you to stay safe with us, kay? He's Dad. You know how protective he gets. He just wants you where he can see you."

He could almost feel Sam's smouldering die down as he spoke. "He's being stubborn and controlling, not protective," Sam muttered, apparently directing the last of his anger at the bottle cradled in his hands.

"Yeah, maybe," Dean replied, vague on purpose, sipping from his bottle again. "He thinks it's for the best."

"It's not," Sam muttered, still glaring at that bottle.

Dean didn't reply to that, but emptied his bottle and set it on the asphalt by the wheel. He straightened up, and looked from Sam's furious face to the bottle. "Hey, if you don't like the beer, I won't give you it again – no point in wasting good drinks," he said, gesturing at the offending bottle with a careless wave of his hand.

Finally, Sam smiled. "Nah, it's – it's good, I guess. Thanks."

"Yeah, well, don't tell Dad I gave you the beer," Dean muttered. "It'd be my head on a pike if you did."

"Still thinks I'm just a little kid," Sam nodded in agreement, hesitating, before taking another taste of beer.

Dean laughed at that. Laughed and laughed, head thrown back and tears falling from his eyes. "Just a little kid?" he crowed, laughing down at his baby brother. He reached over, and pushed the boy's head to the side. "Oh you are, Sammy," he chuckled, another smile breaking out at the smile Sam was clearly desperate to hide, "You so are."


This book was such shit.

Some shit about a little person who liked to smoke – that was cool – with about twelve other little people who were burly and liked food, going to a mountain under orders of a wizard with a big poky stick –

Yeah, it was shit.

He'd put it down soon.

After he finished this chapter.

Possibly.

What else was he gonna do anyway? Dad was out, Black Dog pretty much dead, and Sam... well, young Sammy was out with a girl. His first ickle girlfriend. And, if that wasn't good enough, Dean had seen him pilching condoms from Dean's bag before he left.

Heheheh.

Dean had spent the last three years coming up with ways of torturing Sam after his first time. If he fell asleep, or was out when Sam came back, he'd never be able to live with himself.

So, with a bullet hole in the T.V (don't ask), Dean had resorted to reading. And, of course, the only books in the motel room were ones Sam had brought with them. So hobbits, wizards and dwarves it was.

...Okay, and if he might go on to the second book with different hobbits but the same wizard (and elves this time too), no one would judge him, because no one would ever know. Ever. Nope. Not even with ten litres of alcohol in his system. Reputation, dude.

A key in the lock, and the book was thrown over the back of the sofa, and Dean's hands were behind his head like they'd been there all his life. He left one eye open to watch Sammy as he entered the room.

The guy couldn't have been redder if he'd dunked himself in strawberry jello. Beautiful.

Dean closed his last eye, turned his head up to the ceiling and smiled. "3.30 a.m? Love 'em and leave 'em, kiddo, eh? That's ma boy."

Now, redness was reaching tomato levels. "Go away, Dean," he mumbled quietly, and Dean's ears followed scuffled footsteps as they made their way to the bedroom they shared.

Dean chuckled. "Nope. So, did ya get the dirty deed done? Make a woman out of her? Or man, I'm not to judge."

"God – Dean!"

Dean opened his eyes, and swung himself upright. "What?" he asked, raising eyebrows at Sam's back, "I'm just being an understanding brother!"

"No, you're being a dick!" Sam muttered in reply, passing by the door to head straight for the fridge. As Dean watched, frowning, Sam pulled out a beer, snapping off the lid using the work surface.

Dean licked his lips, and tried – muscles tensed to dive under the sofa – "Did ya try a little missionary?"

Sam looked at the floor, and grimaced in pain for a second before downing almost half the beer in one go.

Well, shit, that bad?

Okay. Two paths now lay ahead of Dean (he really needed to stop reading Sam's books). Either continue mocking Sam, and quite possibly lose his friendship and brotherly love forever, or actually be ... supportive.

Either way, he was going to preserve his reputation...

Dean clambered to his feet, and walked around to the back of the sofa. Leaning against it, he placed a sly foot on top of the book and slid it behind, into the realm of the dust-bunnies beneath the furniture. "D'you," he tried, then stumbled over his tongue. He cleared his through, swallowed, and repeated, "Do you... want to... talk¸ about-?"

Sam snorted, which was something. Not sure if it was really laughter, though. "You, actually talk? Don't strain yourself, Dean, wouldn't want you to hurt something."

Dean threw up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, I was just asking. Don't expect it ever again, though!"

"Oh don't worry, I won't!"

What a stroppy bitch! Dean rolled his eyes, and pushed off from the couch. "Well, I'm gonna get some shut-eye."

"I didn't stop you," came a snarky reply before Sam started to drown himself in beer again. Whatever. Everyone was allowed to forget the world sometimes.

Dean strode from the room, trying not to flip Sam the finger as he left.

But he paused in the doorway.

He had an idea.

He walked over to his bed, and picked up a pile of magazines dotted around the floor beside it, swinging around to head back into the main room. Ignore the evils Sam was giving him, he threw the skin mags onto the work surface beside his sulking brother from a distance. "One," he said, brandishing a finger, making sure he had Sam's full attention, "everyone screws up the first time, two, do your research, and three-" he sighed, dropped the finger and pleaded, "never, ever bring this up again!"

Sam was blushing again, but a smile was starting to twitch. "You're such a jerk, d'you know that?"

Dean snorted. "Says you, bitch!" He turned, and his smile grew when he knew Sam couldn't see it.

"I hate you!" Dean could hear the grin in his voice.

"Nah, you don't," Dean replied, smirking. "Night, Sammy." And without anything further, without any more genius ideas, he turned off the light, and fell onto his bed.


He didn't know what would have happened if Dad had found it first. But Dad was off hunting something, something Dean didn't really want to or need to know about. It could be killed and someone was killing it. For once, that was all Dean cared about.

Instead, he was tidying up the room, trying to get his thoughts in order. They hadn't been making sense for two weeks now. 16 days, to be exact. He felt – hell, he felt lost. He didn't know where he was meant to be going. What he was meant to do any more. Dad seemed happy hunting by himself. Hell, he'd been doing that for years before Dean had grown up.

And that now Dean had grown up that bit more, he thought – some part of him – one thought in the hundreds yelling in his mind – that Dad might be hunting alone again.

Strangely, it was finding the hoodie that made up his mind for it.

It was under his bed. Not even Sammy's – or the one that had used to be Sam's, rather. Dusty as hell. It had taken a while for Dean's brain to compute, for him to realise it wasn't meant to be there anymore. But when he realised it couldn't have been Dad's, or his (far too big), he was kicking himself not for recognizing it before. Light brown hoodie, Sam wore it all the time. Must have been one of his favourites, or something.

He couldn't have left it behind on purpose. He probably would want it at Stanford.

And like that, it was decided.

Dad hadn't even given Dean a speech. Had fallen silent for a while, yeah, and boy had that been awkward, but – he'd given Dean the Impala. Made up some cockabull story about seeing a pick-up truck in town he wouldn't mind, and had given Dean the keys to the Impala. The damn Impala!

As he'd packed after he'd found the hoodie, he didn't waste time saying a very long goodbye. Dad told him to keep him informed, to come back and check in every few days, tell him what he was hunting, and all the rest. Dean promised he would. Dad had walked him to the car, taken weapons he wanted, then told him to get gone.

And that was it.

The street lamp was flickering. Not anything supernatural, no EMF. It had flickered twenty-seven times in the last minute, and yes, Dean had been counting, yes he was that bored, and gods help him if it got to thirty he was shooting it, civilians be damned –

The porch light of a house down the road flicked on, and suddenly the street lamp became irrelevant. Dean straightened up, feet moving to the pedals and fingers flicking the key, turning the ignition.

But he didn't leave. Not just yet. He wanted to see, first. Needed to check.

The door swung open, and Sam stepped outside. He looked good. Hadn't changed much – well, obviously, it hadn't been that long. Only a fortnight, no matter how long it felt. Hair was still too long, though. Such a girl. He looked around first, checking the shadows, before noticing the cardboard box by his feet. He frowned, and Dean grinned. He'd known Sam would pull that face. So, so predictable.

Before the kid opened the box, though, a hand appeared on his shoulder. Sam turned, laughing, and for some reason Dean felt his heart shake. The friend, girl, room-mate, whoever left, and Sam was left with a residual grin, staring down at the cardboard box.

He finally crouched beside it, and flicked the unsealed flaps open. He frowned, and Dean's heart thudded. Licking his lips, bobbing on the balls of his feet, Sam picked something small up from on top of the hoodie folded inside. For a second he didn't move, frozen in position, crouched and staring intently at a post-it note. But then what he was reading must have triggered, finally made sense in that Cro-Magnon skull, and Sam's eyes shot wide.

As Sam rose to his feet in seconds, looking around, Dean shoved the car into reverse and got out of there as quick as possible.

Stupid, stupid. Sam had probably seen him, he shouldn't have stayed that long, had planned to drop the box and go, he didn't want Sam to think-

Didn't want Sam to think what? That he'd been missing him? That Dean was worrying about him? That Dean actually cared about him?

No, that wasn't it. Dean was worried that Sam wasn't missing him, wasn't worrying about him – that his baby brother didn't care about him.

Not knowing, he thought, as he headed for the nearest bar and nearest thing in a miniskirt, not knowing must be better. It must be.

Dean found the post it in Sam's notebook, after the apocalypse. It was casually shoved, crumpled, at the beginning.

'Keep safe, Sammy, and enjoy yourself. Bitch.'

We'll have the days we break
And we'll have the scars to prove it
We'll have the bombs that we saved
And we'll have the heart
Not to lose it

From learning about monsters, to Sam leaving for uni. To be continued, slipping into canon scenes. Thanks for reading, please review!