Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural.

This is my first time writing a supernatural fanfic. Be as brutal as you like, I wasn't entirely pleased with the characterization when I finished it. I will try to get around to editing it a bit in a few weeks. But for now, I hope you enjoy!


Living Normal

The wind was whipping wildly outside, as the two boys hunched together under the thin woolen blanket they had gotten from Pastor Jim's box the last time they had seen him, more than six months ago. The season was just turning into winter, the occasional flurry drifting down from the sky, making itself known with the bone chilling wind that found its way through the broken windows and cracks between the wooden boards of the shabby motel they were currently living in.

"Dean?" a small voice questioned into the silence, "Is Daddy going to be home soon?"

The older boy rubbed his brother's shoulders in assurance. "Dad's going to be home as soon as he can. He promised he'd be home tonight by the latest. If he's not home in a few more hours, you're going to have to go to bed, though Sammy. There's school tomorrow."

Samuel Winchester let a mewling noise slip through his lips, before he curled back up under the blankets. "Daddy's not comin' back tonight, is he Dean?"

Dean sighed against his brother's hair. "I'm sure there's a good reason, Sammy. Go to sleep. It will be better in the morning."

"Mmm..." the younger boy mumbled as he snuggled against his brother's side.

Silence descended once more, and Dean felt himself relaxing as he watched the door. He knew his father had a good reason for not coming when he told them. When he promised. Dad was always telling him that their job saved people, people who had families like his mom had had, before she was killed by one of the very things they hunted. He couldn't, wouldn't let himself think for a minute that his father would abandon them.

Or Sam, at the least. Dad was almost as driven to protect Sammy as he was to kill the thing that murdered his mother.

No, at this moment John was protecting someone from a monster.

Dean was sure of it.

John set his beer down on the table, a storm of tightly controlled emotion that centered on shock and disbelief.

The glass made a gentle clanking sound when it tapped against the wood.

"You want me to what?" he repeated, his eyebrows raising up to his hairline.

Kate Milligan sat in front of him, her hands firmly set in her lap, and eyes steely with determination. "I want you to move in with Adam and me. Think about it, John. You've sworn to me that you aren't married, that you're always gone because of your job. If you get a steadier job, you can stay with us. Adam would love to spend more time with his father."

John had to fight the urge to flinch, her words bringing to mind two little boys who were alone right then, waiting for him. Dean was strong though, he told himself. Dean would makes sure Sammy was okay.

"I suppose..." he replied, though his voice was doubtful. If he moved in with Kate, he would have to do something about his other sons. He didn't want to tell Kate about Mary's boys. She would question why he hadn't told her when they first met, hadn't told her after Adam was born. And if he brought Sam to Kate's home he'd have to tell her about the supernatural, and about Sam being in danger. Kate wouldn't understand how dark the world really was. How many things were out to get them. She wouldn't be able to comprehend how dangerous it would be to take the boys with him... in how much danger they really were in.

"John..." her voice pulled him out of his darkening thoughts, and when he met her eyes he felt his heart melt at the love in them. The devotion. It brought feelings up in him that he hadn't felt since he had seen Mary pinned to the nursery ceiling. He could feel his resistance crumbling, even as she murmured, "I understand if you can't... don't force yourself..."

"No," he found himself saying before he could stop himself. "It's a good idea. A very good idea. Just give me a couple days to put everything in order."
He could have killed himself for saying those words.

It took two days to reach the motel where he had left his boys. Two days for him to realize that he was late. Two days for him to realize the level of hurt he was going to put Dean through. Two days to come to terms with the fact that if Sammy ever found out, he was going to break the last of the faith he put in him.

It was with a heavy heart he raised his fist to knock against the door. Three firm taps. Wait four seconds. Five more taps. Two seconds, and one more tap. If he listened carefully, he could hear Dean leaving the bed, telling Sammy to stay asleep, Daddy was home, and he'd see him in the morning, before he heard the twelve year old's footsteps coming toward the door, and he was greeted with a shotgun at groin level.

"That's great, squirt." John rumbled, his had reaching through the crack to ruffle his oldest son's hair. "Have you been holding down the fort, soldier?"

Dean glanced up at him through his lashes, his gaze guarded. "Yes sir." he answered, his voice trailing off, before he continued more confidently, "We almost ran out of food. There's only enough Lucky Charms for Sammy's breakfast. Dad, if you're going to be two days late, we need more food."

John's breath hitched, and he felt irritation itch at his mind even as he tried to squish it down. "I didn't mean for you two to be left on your own for so long."
He had to fight the urge to squirm beneath his son's knowing eyes, as they skimmed up and down his frame, and narrow at the lack of blood and grime that he would be covered with if he had just come back from a hard hunt. He saw the light in them dim.

"Dad, what's going on?"

When his father had come through the door, dressed in a freshly washed shirt, pants pressed, with his boots standing out with the mud caked around the edges. It was that moment his heart, and he knew his father was keeping a secret. It surprised him, the pain in his chest when he realized his father was hiding something from him.

"Dad, what's going on?" he asked.

John nearly wilted at the question, and guilt flashed across his face. "Dean, is your brother asleep?" John asked. Dean would have flinched at the question, if the resignation wasn't already setting in.

The boy wandered over to the bed, to run his hand through his brother's hair, the only response Sammy giving was curling deeper into the pillow. He looked over at his father. "He's sleeping. If you don't want him to hear, though, we should talk outside. There will be less of a chance of him waking up." Dean glanced out the window, before returning to rest on his brother's peaceful face. He didn't relish the idea of going outside, knowing what minimal protection his thin clothing would be against the cold, but the look on his father's face said he didn't want to go any more than Dean did. He knew his father had something important he needed to say, but didn't want Sammy to hear. So he steeled his resolve, and moved to the front door, cracking it open, and slipping through. He pulled his old, thin shirt closer to his body as he leaned against the wall and waited for his father to join him.

John watched his elder son's back disappear through the door, the wooden slab shutting behind him to keep what little heat they had in the room with the sleeping eight year old. He didn't immediately follow, but instead found himself sitting on the edge of the bed, watching Sammy sleep. It had been a long time since he had spent any father/son time with either of his sons.

His heart clenched when he realized what he was going to tell Dean. That he would rather live with his youngest child then the two he had been with for the past twelve years.

He had to keep telling himself that Dean was strong. Dean would understand, and even if he didn't, he would listen. He wouldn't get that stubborn pout on his face that was so reminiscent of Mary that John felt his heart cry, like Sammy would.

He couldn't postpone it any longer. He got up and passed through the door like a man through the gallows, making sure it shut firmly behind him.

He looked at Dean, who was watching him through hooded eyes.

"What is it?" his son demanded without prelude.

John hesitated. "I don't know where to start." he finally sighed. Dean watched silently, and John finally gave up. "We're moving again."

Dean shrugged. "I knew that. What's going on, Dad?"

"I'm moving in with my girlfriend." John finally blurted out.

Dean blinked. "You're what?"

"I'm moving in with my girlfriend and my son, your half brother. I was thinking in putting you and Sammy in a house down the street. I'll make sure it's warded and safe, and Sammy could stay at one school for a whole year. You know how he doesn't like moving..." John rambled. He could feel his sons condemning gaze burning into his skin though he hadn't said anything yet.

"She doesn't know you have us."

The words fell like weights into water, sinking right to the bottom of John's heart. He couldn't lie though, not in the face of the son who knew more than he should. "No." he answered. "She doesn't know about you or Sammy. She doesn't know about the supernatural, either."

Dean's eyes narrowed, and John's breath halted in his lungs as he waited for his son's judgement. "So you want to play normal." The words were freezing, dropping from young lips like ice cubes.

John flinched, but nodded.

Dean stared at his father silently, as feelings of betrayal roared in his head. He had done everything his father had asked him to, since his mother died. He had trained to be proficient in firearms, in exorcisms, in hand to hand fighting. He watched Sam, made sure Sam was fed. He had long since given up any hope of having friends himself or a future outside of hunting. He had even put aside his own grief when he was younger, to keep John from going crazy.

And all he got in return was betrayal.

However, no matter how much it hurt, John was still his father, and he still loved the man, although god only knew why.

He let his breath go in a long exhale, giving into the final dregs of resignation. "Fine. Fine. I'll go along with it. As long as you make sure Sammy doesn't find out, and make sure that we have enough money for food and bills, I won't call Pastor Jim or Bobby. I assume that we're keeping up with training while your gone?" he waited for an affirmative, before going on, "I'll tell Sam your out hunting, but Dad? It's going to be up to you to make sure you stay out of sight."

John nodded, his shoulder's slumping slightly with a small release of tension.

"And Dad?" Dean continued, his voice cutting through the air, "If your girlfriend finds out about us on her own, I'm not going to lie to her. That is going to be your job as well."

John wilted, but agreed.

They were perfectly reasonable requests. "We'll leave in the morning then." John decided. "We have a long drive ahead of us."

Dean growled. "What else is new?"

Two days later found them pulling into a small suburban village, with houses lining the streets and children playing carefree in the yards. Sammy was asleep against Dean's side, with Dean slumping into the seat. In a rare move, he had refused the front seat. Dean just couldn't look his father in the eye, knowing that he would be abandoning him when they reached town. He could see the hurt in his father's eyes, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Maybe in a couple weeks, when they were settled, and Sam was thrilled with school, but not when they were in their home. Not in the impala.

"We're almost there. Kate's at work until six, so I'll help you boys get settled before I go over." he pulled into the drive way of a house much nicer than any of the motels they had stayed in for the past five years.

"Wake Sammy up, would you, Dean? I'll grab your bags from the back."

Dean nodded, already adjusting his brother in his grip. "Come on, Sammy, it's time to wake up. We're here."

Sammy grumbled, his hand clenching tighter on his older brother's shirt.

Dean sighed. "Sammy, wake up."

Sam whined again, but opened his eyes, his fist coming up to rub the sleep out of one. "Are we here?"

"Yah. Dad's bringing our bags in right now. Want to see where we're going to be living for the next year, Sammy?"

The eight year old's face lit up, dimples popping out in his glee. He grabbed Dean's hand, and dragged him towards the door. "Come on, Dean. I want to see my new room!"

Dean felt his lips tug into a grin for the first time since his father had told him the news. Even though his father was abandoning them, Sammy would be happy. Sammy would never leave him.

Sam's eyes glowed with wonder when he took in the completely plastered walls and uncracked windows, the homey sofa that the previous owners had left behind. "This's for us?"

Dean nodded. "Yup. We're gonna stay here for the entire year, remember, Sammy? We have to stay somewhere nice or the teachers will worry."

Sam nodded, but his attention was far more focused on the toy chest that had been left in the room. "Dean, can I play with them?"

Dean nodded again, a sad look in his eyes. He wished that Sammy could have toys all the time, that John would at least allow a couple toys to be kept in the back of the impala, but... that would never happen. Their lives were too dangerous to form attachments to frivolous items like toys. But for now... "Yes, Sammy, those are yours until we leave."

Sammy's smile made it all worth it.

John was refusing to look at the house that he had just settled his boys into, as he rummaged in his pocket and dug out his key, slipping inside. His eyes scanned the walls, covered in pictures of a young Adam, ranging from the time he was born to his current six years of age. Six years of happiness, and innocence. Six years of not knowing what hid in the dark, the dangers that hovered over his head every second of every day. Six years that John wasn't there.

He hoped that maybe he could have with Adam what he couldn't have with his own two.

Kate walked in, Adam tagging along behind her. His young face split into a grin at the sight of his father.

"Daddy!" he exclaimed.

A smile tugged Kate's lips. "Welcome home, John." she greeted.

The greeting was a balm on John's breaking heart.

Kate watched John as he moved around the kitchen cleaning up breakfast as she sipped her coffee. She couldn't help the nagging feeling that he wasn't completely happy here. Sometimes, when he thought that she wasn't looking, he'd get a faraway look in his eyes, like he wasn't seeing them.

Oh, she didn't doubt that he loved them. She knew he did.

But there was something he wasn't telling her.

She finally sighed. It didn't matter what he was hiding. He was here. "Adam!" she called, getting to her feet,

"It's time to go."

John grinned over at her as Adam hurried down the stairs. "Have a good day. Stay safe."

Kate smiled back as she pecked him on the cheek, and herded Adam out the door. "You too!" she called over her shoulder, "Love you."

"Love you, too." Came the answering reply before the door shut.

Everyday, Kate went to work at the same time, around eight o'clock, the same time the elementary students made their way to school. They lived close enough to the school that Kate would walk Adam to his kindergarten class every morning on her way to work.

And every morning, she saw the two boys down the street make their way to school by themselves. The oldest couldn't have been more than fourteen, and she never saw a parent with them. Normally, she wouldn't involve herself in any sort of situation, but she couldn't help the maternal side of her that had had noticed that in the three weeks since they had moved in, there had not been a single car in the driveway. Now, maybe in the city, having parents without a vehicle was common, but out in the suburbs, a car was all but a necessity. Even if the parents themselves did not have a car, it would be unimaginable that they didn't know someone who did.

This morning was no different. A pair of boys walked down the street, out far earlier than they should have been if one of their parents would have driven them. Adam only went to school this early because she passed the building on her way to work, and his teacher had been a childhood friend. But these two boys knew no one. No one knew them.

She had asked around the first time she had seen them, well worn clothes that had to be hand-me-downs, whether from the brother or the salvation army, shoes muddy and nearly worn through, the ties frazzled and knotted together. Only the younger child had a backpack, the elder with a cocksure grin that rivaled men twice his age. Sometimes, as they drove past, she would see the younger eating one of the prepackaged pastries from the grocery store.

She just had this feeling as she watched them, that something wasn't right. It might have been the watchful wary eyes the elder boy would scan up and down the street, or the way his arm would rest protectively over the other's shoulder reminiscent of a parents touch.

Kate frowned to herself. She would have to ask Sherry about them again when she dropped Adam off. Maybe she would be some answers that Kate found herself looking for.

"Hey Sherry!" Kate called as she stepped into the kindergarten classroom, Adam flinging himself towards the toys once they were past the doorstop.

Sherry grinned over at her friend, looking up from the plans she had spread across her desk. "Kate! Hi. Sorry, I was just looking over the plans for today. We're starting reading buddies with the older children, second graders. I wanted to make sure that I have everything I needed."

"Mmm... do you know who Adam's going to be paired with, yet?"

Sherry shook her head. "The kids get to choose. We tried assigning them last year, but we found there was more talking and less learning. They were all complaining about who they were paired with and that they didn't get who they want. It turned out to be a big mess, especially in such a small school as ours."
Kate hummed, glancing up at the clock. She had to get going or she would be late for work. "Hey," she asked, as she headed towards the door, "Did you find anything more about those two boys I was asking you about?"

Sherry laughed as she shook her head. "Not yet, but it looks like the younger one is in the class we're pairing with. Maybe he'll pair up with Adam!"

Kate laughed, but she knew such a thing wasn't likely. The world simply didn't work that way.

The wind blew their jackets back, and Dean could feel Sammy's hand trembling in his from the cold. It sucked, having to walk to school early so that Sammy could use the library for research, but Dean had to admit to himself that it wasn't the worst situation they had been. If he were being honest, they probably could have left later as well, but whenever he suggested it, Sammy's hackles would rise, and he'd say "Dean, we're going to be late for school. I can't be late! The teacher will ask why Dad didn't drive me."

Dean could only roll his eyes at his brother's whining and feel the twinge of regret that Sam was so used to the precarious predicament they were in, that he could even suggest that if they weren't early, a teacher might call CPS.

He sighed at the thought. Who was he kidding? In a town this small, he figured they were lucky no one was asking questions yet. He didn't know what his dad was thinking, leaving them in the house all alone... They would've been better off if they had been left at Pastor Jim's house.

But no. John wanted to play family with his girlfriend, but keep his oldest sons close by so that he could watch them but not acknowledge them.

It still hurt when he passed his father down the street and John didn't even say hello.

He sighed again. Sammy was still shivering from the cold, and it was stinging Dean's heart that he couldn't do anything about it. He shrugged his jacket off his own shoulders' to wrap it around the smaller one's. Sam let out a sigh of contentment at the extra warmth, but looked up at his older brother worriedly.

"Aren't you gonna be cold Dean?" he asked.

Dean smiled. "Of course not." he scoffed, ignoring the bitter wind that cut into his bones, "I'm the big brother, right? We never get cold."

Sammy giggled, but shook his head. "That's not true, Dean. You were cold when we were still in the motel. You were shivering!"

Dean shook his head right back. "You were just imagining it, Sammy. There was no way I was cold. I was just under that blanket to loan you some body heat so you wouldn't be."

Sammy smiled. He knew his brother was cold, but he also knew that Dean would never admit it. So he would have to be sneaky.

"Up." Sam demanded, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, holding his arms up to his brother, puppy dog eyes going full force. "I'm tired."

"Aren't you getting a little old for this?" Dean asked, as he obligingly lifted his brother into his arms. Sam was only eight, so he was still small.

Sam shrugged, as he snuggled into his brother, making sure that when he wrapped his little arms around his neck, the jacket covered most of Dean.

Dean let out a long breath of defeat. He could never stand up to Sam.

Ten minutes later, and Dean dropped Sammy to his feet in the warm school building. "You okay, Kiddo?" he asked.

Sam nodded, gripping his brother's hand as he pulled him towards his classroom. "Come on Dean, I want you to see what I made!" he exclaimed.

Dean laughed, as he followed along. "Okay, okay. But then we have to stop by the library, right? You said you needed to stop in their for some research."

Sam nodded. "Mmm... an ELA project. I've got to pick out a book, but I can't unless Dad signs a form. So you have to get it out for me."
"Alright. So where's this picture of yours?"

Sherry, or Ms. Campton as she was known to her students, sat at her desk as she watched the small kindergartners file in as the bell rang. Recess had just ended and it was time to go and meet their reading buddies.

"Alright everyone," she said, standing up. "Please file in front of the doors. It's time to go down to the second grade hall to meet our Reading Buddies!"

The kindergartners cheered, rushing to line up. Sherry shook her head as she moved to the front of the line, and led them down the hall.

It was only two halls to reach the second grade rooms and three doors to the second grade classroom, and the kids that would be her small children's buddies.

Mrs. Flint smiled as she opened the doors. "Welcome!" she exclaimed, exaggerating the cheer in her voice, "we've been waiting for you."

The little kids crowded eagerly around the door, fighting to see into the older kids' classroom.

Sherry smiled as she saw their eagerness. "Let's go in." she told her kids, stepping into the classroom. The children followed her like a line of ducklings.

It was chaos once they made it past the door.

Sam watched quietly in the corner as the children both older and younger swarmed together, separating into pairs and gravitating into different areas of the room. He didn't really want to do this. According to his teacher there would be times that they would have to get together outside of class, and he knew that Dean wouldn't be happy with bringing a kid into their house, especially when the parents would follow and ask bad questions. It was a good thing the teacher had mentioned it when Dean dropped him off or he would have had to deal with Dean's disapproval when he couldn't get out of it. But Dean had convinced the teacher...

"Hi." a quiet voice greeted next to him. Sam jumped. He hadn't noticed the boy come up to him.

"Hey." Sam said back. He didn't say anything more. He didn't want to keep talking to the boy.

"Can you be my reading buddy?" the younger boy asked.

Sam frowned. "I don't want to."


Sam shook his head mutely. He didn't want to be anyone's reading buddy. His chin set mulishly, even as the kindergartner's eyes filled with tears, summoning the teacher over to see what was the matter.

Sherry's eyes paused when she saw Adam's eyes fill with tears when he was talking to one of the boys that Kate was so interested in. She tapped Mrs. Flint on the shoulder and tilted her head over towards the pair. Mrs. Flint's eyebrows when she took in the scene between the two, but one of her students demanded her attention, so she nodded at Sherry to take care of it.

Sherry rolled her eyes as she made her way over to the pair. She was sure that as soon as Mrs. Flint could get away, the older woman would join her.

"What's going on?" she asked the two. Adam turned teary eyes at her as he pointed at the second grader.

"He doesn't want to be my reading buddy!" he wailed.

The second grader stared at her, daring her to complain.

Sherry sighed. "Alright sweetie." She turned to Sam. "What's your name, sweetheart?"

The boys frown deepened. "Sam."

"Okay, Sam, why don't you want Adam to be your reading buddy?"

"I don't want a reading buddy at all."

Sherry shook her head at the blatant refusal. "Sam, you have to have a reading buddy. It's a required assignment. You don't have a choice."

Sam shook his head. "Mrs. Flint said I didn't have to. Dean talked to her." he said it like it explained everything.

Sherry let out a sigh. "Let me go speak to Mrs. Flint, alright? I'm sure we can figure this out."

The kindergarten teacher couldn't help the growing resentment towards her senior. She couldn't believe that her colleague had excused one her of students without letting her know.

"Mrs. Flint?" she asked, breaking into the conversation she was having with one of her students. "Can I speak with you outside for a minute?"

The other teacher let her eyes scan the room before acquiescing and following Sherry out into the hall. She didn't speak until the door closed behind them. "What's the matter, Sherry?" she questioned.

Sherry let out a huge sigh. "I can't believe that you didn't tell me you excused Sam from being a reading buddy without telling me! We agreed that this was a required assignment. That meant that all the children would be part of it. Without Sam participating, the numbers will be uneven."

Mrs. Flint shrugged, her grey haired bun bobbing on the back of her head. "That's too bad Sherry. One of the pairs will just have to be a trio. I talked to Dean this morning, and they just can't take on the even limited responsibility. Sam's doing a separate project to makeup the credit."

Sherry shook in anger. "It wasn't only your decision! It affects my class too."

"The reading buddies aren't only benefiting your class. My students well-being is important too, and no less important than yours."

"I didn't say that!"

"You implied it. You leave Samuel alone. Unless your boy convinces Sam otherwise, I'm not forcing him to participate." Mrs. Flint turned to leave, and as Sherry opened her mouth to protest, the old teacher turned around. "That's final Sherry."

Ms. Campton closed her mouth, but couldn't help but feel like a chastised puppy.

The two went back into the classroom, tension steely between them.

Sam glanced up when the two teachers came back, and his spirits rose when he saw the disgruntled look on the kindergartner teacher's face. That meant that Mrs. Flint had stood by her decision to allow him to stay out of the assignment.

Ms. Campton made her way over to the pair, kneeling next to Adam who had quickly gotten over his tears, and was staring at the second grader with an unwavering intensity.

"Adam, sweetie," she started, trying to pull his attention from the other boy, "Mrs. Flint told Sam he didn't want to be a reading buddy unless he wants to. And he doesn't."

Adam frowned and nodded, but as soon as the teacher was out of sight, his mouth was open and asking another question. "Why are your parents never home?"

Sam flinched. "Why would you ask that?" He asked back, trying to sound uninterested. He never found it as easy as Dean did to pretend he didn't care.

Adam shrugged. "Mommy says that she hasn't seen your Mommy or Daddy in the house at all since you moved in. I heard her talking about it to Ms. Campton. Why isn't your Mommy and Daddy home?"

"My mom is dead." Sam answered quietly hoping that the answer would stop the kid from asking anything else.

"What about your Daddy?" the little boy asked with the blunt tactlessness curiosity of little children.

Sam flinched again. "If I agree to be your buddy, will you stop asking questions?"

Adam frowned as he considered the offer, before nodding.

"And you won't tell your mother?"

Adam nodded again, as he started to smile. However, the nonverbal answer wasn't enough for Sam. "You have to pinkie swear that you won't tell."

Adam outright grinned as he stuck his pinkie out to wrap around Sam's.

Sam let out a sigh when the promise was sealed. "So what kind of books do you like?"

Dean had a bad feeling as he approached Sam's classroom at the end of the day. The same bad feeling he got whenever Sam made a rash decision. Like when he decided to see if he could fly from the top of the jungle gym. Or hid a kitten in his backpack while he was in school.

He braced himself as he stuck his head inside the door. "Sammy?" he called.

Sam was the only kid left in the room, and the it wrenched Dean's gut to see it. The never ending reminders of what his brother didn't have killed him. He didn't care about what he didn't have for himself, but when it came to Sammy, he wished his little brother could have the world... sometimes. When Sammy had that guilty look on his face though, where he scrunched up his eyebrows and pouted, as though he were losing the battle of convincing himself he had done the right thing, Dean knew that he was going to have to say 'No' to yet another thing his brother couldn't have.

He let out a long sigh, as he waved to the teacher and slouched over Sam's desk, making the younger boy look up. "What is it, Sam?"
Sam chewed on his bottom lip as he debated the best way to answer his brother. "I... have a reading buddy?"

Dean couldn't help the growl that grew in his chest. "Sammy! I told you yesterday we don't have the time or mean to take on another kid after school. Dad's at work, remember? And I'm sure this kindergartner's parents won't want them over without supervision."

Sam's pout grew more prominent. "Dean. I had to. Please? Everyone else is doing it. I don't want to stand out."

Dean sighed again, a long exhale. "Alright, I hear ya kid. Okay. I'm going to talk to your teacher for a minute. Hang tight for a minute. I'm going to talk to your teacher, see if I can get your brat's phone number, and talk to their parents. What's the kid's name?"

"Adam Milligan."

Dean's heart stopped for a moment after he heard those two words, and the only way he stopped himself from swearing was to bite his tongue so hard it bled. He swallowed convulsively, before he managed to squeeze out, "Okay, let me talk to your teacher."

He saw his brother stare at him with concern, but at the moment he couldn't bring himself to care.

Dean was quiet as he waited in front of the desk for Mrs. Flint to look up. He didn't want to disturb the old teacher. She had been very understanding when he had explained their 'situation' to her. He only hoped that she would be as understanding about the new arrangements.

"Mrs. Flint." he finally ventured, being sure to keep his voice low and respectful. "Do you think I could get a parent contact number for Sam's buddy? If he's set on having one, I need to talk to the kid's parents about the best times to get together out of school."

Mrs. Flint nodded, flipping though the various sheets on her desk before pulling out a yellow packet. "Here you go, Dear. Mrs. Milligan's number should be somewhere in the middle. Do you need to use my phone, or are you just going to take the number home with you?"

Dean smiled at the woman, hiding his unease over the entire situation. "I'll just take the number home with me. I'm sure Sammy wants to eat, and anyway, the kid's parents might not even be home. I'll just call her after dinner."

Mrs. Flint smiled at him, and turned back to her computer.

Dean rolled his eyes. He loved when Sam got the old teachers. They didn't push him for information like the new ones. "Alright Sammy." he told his little brother, knocking him lightly on the head as he passed, "time to get going home."

Sam scrambled after him, yanking his backpack up his shoulders. "Wait for me Dean!"

Dean tossed a smile over his shoulder. "What do you want for dinner?" was the only reply, called over his shoulder.

Sam couldn't help the smile that spread over his face. His brother wasn't mad at him for the reading thing. "Macaroni and Cheese!" he answered as he stepped into line next to his brother and gripping his hand.

Everything seemed to be working out.

Kate smiled as she opened the door. Through the wood she could hear Adam's delighted squeals and John's deep laugh. That was what she had been missing when it had just been her and Adam.

"I'm home!" she called, as she stepped through the door, setting her bags to the side and slipping off her coat to hang on a wire.

Adam came bursting down the hall to meet her, sliding into her legs and wrapping his arms around them. Kate laughed as he grinned up at her, green eyes sparkling with joy.

"What have you two been up to?" she asked teasingly, bending down to kiss his nose. Adam squealed and twisted away, to take refuge behind his father.

Kate smiled at John "Has he been good today?"

John nodded. "We played with some finger paint when he got home, and then had a snack. We were just gonna put on a movie now."

Kate smiled wider. She glanced down at six year old Adam. "And how was your day? Did you get a reading buddy like Ms. Campton was telling me?"

Adam nodded frantic in excitement. "Yup. His name's Sam and he didn't really want to be my buddy at first but then I asked and asked and he said yes!"

Kate smiled at her son's enthusiasm, but that smile faded when she saw the pallor on her boyfriend's face. "John," she asked, "is something wrong?"

John was already shaking his head before the words were out of her mouth. He forced a smile on his lips as he told her, "Of course not."

He was lying, of course, but she didn't push. Not directly. There had been something about Adam's reading buddy that had put John on edge and she was determined to figure out what it was.

The next few days passed with little excitement, but it was Friday night, and Adam was jumping with excitement over the assigned sleepover with his buddy.
Kate, on the other hand, was not so pleased. How was she supposed to hand her baby over to a family she didn't know? He could be hurt. Injured. Get sick.

There were a thousand possibilities of how things could go wrong.

But every time she opened her mouth to say so, Adam's bright, shining with excitement eyes stilled the words in her throat. She couldn't do that to him. Sherry had promised her that all the second graders had known that there would be overnights involved when they chose their buddy. The teachers had checked with every house to make sure that it was safe for the smaller children. Kate, Sherry had promised her friend. There isn't anything to be worried about.

"Adam," she asked her son, "What time did your buddy say he'd be here?"


She glanced at the clock. 5:54. "Adam, you've got six minutes until they said they'd be here. Why don't you sit down while you wait?"
Adam shook his head sullenly, but his face brightened as he heard the knock on the door. "He's here! Mommy, he's here!" he repeated as he tugged her shirt.

Kate smiled as she opened the door, but it slowly shifted into a frown when the two people on her doorsteps turned to be children. She forced the smile back on and looked at the Kindergartener. "Hello." she greeted, and the hopeful, wide eyes that glanced at her made her eyes curl up into a more sincere smile. "Are you Sam?"

The younger boy nodded, glancing up at the elder that Kate could only assume was his brother, as he shrunk behind the slightly bigger form.

Said brother smiled charmingly, holding his hand out for her to shake. "Hello," he greeted back, "my name's Dean Winchester. I'm going to be watching the Munchkins tonight, so I figured I'd come over and introduce myself."

Kate felt her eyes scan up and down the figure of the boy. He couldn't have been more than fourteen at the most. "What about your parents?"

Dean shrugged, a cool indifference on his face that Kate would bet money was fake. "My mother's dead, and my dad's out of town. I told Sammy's teacher that we couldn't do this buddy thing, but for some reason, that kid of yours convinced Sam to pair up with him."

At that moment he looked down at his brother, and sticking his finger up in the universal one moment sign, bent down to hear what his brother had to say.

Sam stared up at the woman. He was in awe of the woman who represented everything that he didn't remember about his own. He glanced behind her, and saw the Brat peeking at him over the couch. He stuck his tongue out. He didn't want him coming over to his house and stealing Dean from him.

The brat smiled and stuck his out back.

Sam tugged Dean's shirt. Dean stopped his conversation with the women to listen to Sam.

"Do we have to take him? I wanted to spend Friday night with you."

Dean shook his head, and sat back on his heels. "Sammy, you were the one who said yes. If you had just said no, I would have handled the rest, but you agreed. But I promise we'll have our Friday night together. We can do it Saturday instead, okay?"

It wasn't but Sammy could see that his big brother was trying. He had that tired look that he got when his Daddy was gone for days without any word, and Dean didn't know when he was getting back.

"Okay, Dean. We can do it Saturday."

He could see some of the weight leave Dean's eyes as he said the words, but he still couldn't help but glare at the women for not seeing how much Dean needed help.
But he wouldn't say anything, because Dean would be sad. He didn't want to give Dean another reason for being sad. He was always sad about Daddy now, as it was.

Dean stood back up, and smiled at the woman again. This was the woman that his Dad had left them for. It was all he could do to stay cordial, when all he wanted was to scream at her about unfair it was that she had John, when Dean couldn't keep him in one place for more than a month.

He only hoped that John's wonder-lust kicked back up in a couple more weeks. If it didn't, Dean was going to leave, because, he admitted to himself, it was breaking him.

"So, ma'am, is your son ready to go?"

Kate frowned. This boy in front of her had blatantly told her that he would be the only supervision at the house, and now he was asking if she would let her son go with him, like it was not a big deal? It was not a good sign.

"How old are you?" she finally asked. It was a routine enough question, one she had asked babysitters all the time before John had moved back in with her. She hadn't expected the wary look that crashed on to his face, or his carefully blank eyes as he shrugged.


It was just old enough, Kate knew, to be allowed to stay home. Barely old enough to be alone with a younger child. But she didn't think he was telling the truth. His reaction had been far too practiced.

She knew that he knew she had understood. The raised eyebrow told her that he was leaving the ball in her court; he wouldn't have a problem with not taking Adam with him. He had already told her that the only reason he was doing it was because her baby had convinced his brother to pair up. And he was willing to make the sacrifice.

"Fine." She sighed. Sherry had promised her it would be safe. "Adam!" She called into the room. "Get your things. I'm going to walk you over to the boy's home." She heard Adam's feet hurry to the other room to grab his bags.

Dean knocked his brother on the shoulder. "Go and help the munchkin, squirt. I'll be here when you get back."

He leveled his gaze back on her when his brother was out of sight. "So what do you want to ask?"

"Do you two need anything?"

Dean's shoulder's tightened defensively. "I can take care of Sammy."

Kate shook her head. "I'm not blind." she told him. "I haven't seen one adult pass through your house since you've moved in. Are you sure everything's okay?"

Dean smiled genially at her. "Of course it is ma'am. My father just keeps odd hours. You probably keep missing him."

At that moment the boys returned, and she lost her chance to ask him anything else. Dean made sure that Adam and Sam were never far enough out of earshot for her to ask anything else, and when he had reached his doorway, he had pressed a piece of paper with their home number with a charming smile, had dismissed her .

When Adam came home the following afternoon, he was all smiles and stories and "Dean says..." that Kate knew had won him over to his Buddy. No matter how she pressed or asked she wasn't able to get Adam to say anything more about the boys' home situation. Any question she asked was met with "Dean said..."

Adam went over to their house a few more times over the weeks. He always came back with smiles, and ready to go again. But she couldn't help but notice that the father was never mentioned. Adam never mentioned Mr. Winchester. No "but Mr. Winchester said..." or "But Sam said his Daddy..." It was always Dean. Even when he talked about dinner, or who went through the large mountain of envelopes Adam insisted was always there. According to Adam, Dean was the one who made sure that they had dinner on time, decided when they had to go to bed, picked up what they left out. Dean who never left the house or had any friends over, and who, he would whisper in her ear before he slept, had a gun in his room that "Dean said no one could touch. Not even Sam."

Kate finally had to ask, "Adam, honey, have you ever met Sam's parents?"

Adam chewed his lip. "Dean said that his mommy is in heaven."

"What about his father?"

"Dean said that his Father was just busy. He's working!"

Kate sighed. "What does Sam say about his father?"

The frown between the boy's brows became more pronounced. "Dean says that Sammy just doesn't understand. His father's really working! He saves people."

Kate felt a stone form in her belly. "Adam," she said seriously, "What does Sammy say about his father?"

It took Adam a while to answer, and it pained her to know she was asking him to betray the friends he had made these past few weeks. She had raised her boy right, and even though he was too young to understand what she was asking, he knew that it was wrong. But this was a matter that was too important to edge around. "Sam says his Daddy's never home anymore, ever since they moved here. Sammy says even Dean doesn't know when his father's coming back."

Kate felt her heart break.

The next few days she watched silently. The two brothers went to school in the morning, and Sam never left until Dean picked him up. Never his parents or the family friend Sherry had told her was taking care of them. On every Wednesday, Dean would arrive at four o'clock sharp to pick up Adam for the study date, and dropped him off at six just as promptly. The only unusual thing she noticed about the boys routine was that Dean would not come near her house if John's car was in the driveway.
The first time she had seen Dean back slowly away from her driveway when he had seen the black muscle car she had dismissed it as a coincidence. The second time, the feeling was harder to bury, but with a single minded tenacity she had managed. But he did it again.

And again.

And again.

She finally had to admit it was the car. Wednesdays John had to work late at the garage, the only day of the week he couldn't pick up Adam. Which was, of course, the reason she had suggested it in the first place. And the first few times Dean had dropped her son off at home, John had been still at work.

She shook her head. Honestly, the whole thing was getting to the point where she felt like there was no other choice but talk to the boys.

She released her breath in a long stream of moist air. She would do it tomorrow, and she would take John with her.

Dean looked capable of protecting himself if he felt threatened.

John had not been happy when he was told that she intended to speak to some of their neighbors, and she needed him there with her. He had tried to make some vague excuse about having some paperwork left over from the office, but Kate had steamrolled over any and every excuse he had tired to make.

So there he found himself, trailing along behind his diminutive girlfriend, to act as intimidation and protection if she should need it.

He didn't, though, think that she would. They were living in the suburbs for god's sake.

What could happen?

He shook the thought away as soon as it rose to the top of his mind. He knew what could happen even in the most peaceful of towns. People ripped apart. Killed. Lost. Possessed. Sick, dying, wounded... The list went on and on and on.

It was the reason he had been so dedicated to his job in the first place, he thought regretfully as guilt tore through him. He knew that he shouldn't be here, enjoying home life with his girlfriend. He shouldn't be leaving his two older boys to look after themselves in the house that Dean had picked, and Dean had had furnished, mimicking his father's voice over the phone as he ordered everything to be delivered weeks before they were to arrive. Dean who had made excuses to Bobby and Jim about why John wasn't taking hunts.

Dean who was looking out for Sam and him. Who steered the baby of the family away each time he saw John out alone, running errands and working.
He was so lost in thought that when Kate stopped in front of him, he almost kept walking. He would have, if her hand hadn't reached out to snatch the back of his shirt in a grip stronger than a man would expect from a woman of her size.

"We're here." She told him, her eyes sparkling with mirth at his lack of attention.

John winced, before he gazed up at the house before him. His heart sank.

His boys.

Kate watched as John's face paled as he looked at the house. There was definitely something there. He was hiding something.

Just like when he found out who Adam's buddy was.

And she had a feeling that she was going to find out what he was hiding in only a few moments.

She turned her head forward, and started up the steps towards the front door while John was still distracted. She could hear him behind her, as he cursed, and broke into an easy lope to catch up, but he couldn't reach her before she punched the bell.


The pair waited with bated breath. Through the wood, they could hear the patter of feet down steps before it broke off.

The glass panes on either side of the door were covered by thick drapes. One side slowly peeled away to show the chocolate eyes of one Sammy Winchester.
The door flew open. "Daddy!" the little boy cried, flying into John's arms, which he had opened instinctively when he heard the cry.

Kate was speechless.

"Damn it." came a similarly astonished curse right behind her.

Dean growled as he waited in the grocery line, his foot tapping with impatience as his items were checked out. He nervously flipped the small wad of cash through his fingers rapidly, the small green rectangle flipping around like he wished to do with a knife. He hated leaving Sammy home.

Hated it.

As smart as Sammy was, Dean couldn't help but worry he would turn on the stove, jump off the stairs, or open the door.

Sammy didn't know about hunting. Dean didn't want him to know.

But he couldn't take the small boy with him when he shopped either. Than Sammy would have to see how much Dean had to struggle to make sure they had enough to eat.

Finally, everything was in bags, and Dean had handed the cashier the correct amount of cash and he was flying out the door.

When he felt his stomach twist, he knew something was wrong.

He had prepared for the worst. A supernatural attack. Sammy starting a fire. Getting hurt.

But not this.

Not the sight of his Dad and Kate on his step, Sam clinging to his Dad's form, and Kate's shocked eyes and speechless mouth.
He would have appreciated it a lot more if he wasn't aware of how badly everything had to have gone.

"Damn it." he swore.

Kate couldn't process what had happened. Within a few moments everything she thought she knew had turned out to be a lie constructed by the man she loved.

John was Sammy's Daddy.

The Daddy who had been missing.

The Daddy who had abandoned his kids.

The Daddy who was living at her house.

Looking at the three together, Kate had no doubt John had left the boys alone at her request for him to move in with her. She felt the guilt even though she didn't knew he had children when she asked him.

She didn't know why John just hadn't been honest with her about having older kids. Kate would have taken in those two boys in heart beat if she had known.

"So..." She broke the tense silence. "What is going on?"

John flinched at her voice, and his arms tightened around Sam. Sam hadn't let go of his father since he first saw him, though she knew by the boy's flickering brown eyes he was aware of something wrong. Dean hadn't left his father out of his sight either, although he had put away the groceries and brought his brother a sandwich.

John let out a heavy sigh. "Sorry." Was all he could say.

At this Dean scoffed, and Kate whirled her head to stare at him. It was the first real reaction the fourteen year old had made since he had seen the three of them gathered on the desk.

John sighed again. "Say what you want, Dean. Get it out before you burst"

"I told you this was gonna happen." Dean announced. "This was a stupid idea from the beginning. Living some apple pie life while you left us here. But I took care of it all. I made sure Sammy didn't know, the teachers... just like I always do. I just didn't think that you would be the one to blow your own cover."

"I know, Dean. I know. I shouldn't have left you guys."

Kate finally felt the fire light up in her at those words. Her maternal instinct roared to life. "That's right you shouldn't have! How dare you leave those boys alone? Neither of them are old enough to live alone. They didn't have to! I would have taken them in. They didn't have to be alone, John."

John wilted under her verbal assault. "Don't you think I know that?" he growled back. "There's more to this than I've told you!"

"I highly doubt that anything you could say would be able to convince me that leaving these two boys on their own would be a better choice then letting them live with me."

"If I were willing to let someone else raise my children I would have left them in Lawrence, or even at one of my own friends, Kate. But I'm not. God forgive me, but those two are the two most important things in my life. I love you and Adam. But when I leave, you aren't going to follow me. You are going to stay here, safe and innocent, and those kids are going to be the ones who will keep it that way."

Kate shook her head. "I don't understand this. Dean's only fourteen, for god's sake. What do you mean that he's going to keep Adam and I safe and innocent? He's innocent himself."

Dean scoffed, halting her words. "I'm not innocent. I haven't been innocent since I saw my mother burning alive in Sammy's room when I was four years old. Dad was right not to take us into your home. You wouldn't be able to handle the truth."

"Dean!" John exclaimed, while Kate's eyes narrowed.

"What truth?" Kate's words overrode John's exclamation.

Dean's eyes met hers, and for the first time, Kate saw him. The heavy weight be bore for his age. The look of an adult in a child's body.

"Dean..." John warned.

Dean's eyes only met his father's for an instant. "I warned you, Dad, that I wouldn't lie for you. I still won't." he turned back to Kate. "The truth about what's out there. About what Dad really does."

Sam murmured, tucking his head more securely under his father's chin. At some point throughout the argument the boy had fallen asleep, and she knew Dean had spoken up because of it. His eyes had flickered briefly over his brother's sleeping form, before he had spoke.

"What does your father do?"

Dean shook his head.

"Dean." Kate growled. "Don't under estimate me. I can handle it. I'm a strong woman. What does your father do?"

Dean shrugged in surrender. "He hunts monsters." He smirked when he saw the disbelieving look in her eyes. "Ghosts, werewolves, you name it, we gank it."

Kate resisted the urge to faint for the second time in only hours and spluttered. "You're children!"

"We're hunters." Dean corrected her.

Kate sat down, feeling faint. "So where do we go from here?" She asked helplessly. "I would love to forgive you John, I really would. I love you, but right now, I can't stand to look at you and know how you're raising your boys."

John shrugged. "I'll leave. I'll start hunting again, and maybe, if you feel like you're up to it, we can stop by in a couple months and see how we feel. It will be slow, but I do love you, Kate. I never would have stayed here so long if I didn't."

Kate flicked her eyes towards Dean who was nodding along with his father. "What do you think of that?" she asked him.

"I think that you make Dad happy." he told her seriously, "there are very few things nowadays that do that. I think that if you can find yourself to forgive Dad, Sammy will be better off. I'm already a hunter, but Sammy... he wasn't made for this crap. In a couple years, he'll start talking about college," here, Dean sent a cutting look to his father, cutting off his response before it left his lips, "and if we have someone "normal" to help temper Dad, then maybe, I won't lose my brother. You make Dad happy, and Sam likes Adam. Hell, even I'm coming to like the brat. So yes, I hope that you and dad repair your relationship."

Kate's eyebrows rose at his speech. " This is something you've thought about." She observed. A look at John showed that the boy's father was just as astonished as her on Dean's thoughts on the matter.

Dean shrugged. "I want them to be happy." was all he would say on the matter.

Kate felt a smile tug her lips. "Alright. Let's take a few months for ourselves, then see how I, at least, am feeling after that. Deal?"
John smiled back. "Deal."

The next morning, Dean was shoving the final bags into the impala while John and Sam were saying goodbye to the Milligan's. Adam had tears in his eyes as he clung to his Daddy's leg, and Sam was looking at Kate with wide eyes.

"So the next time we see you," he asked the woman eagerly, "you're going to be my mommy?"

Kate smiled at his question. "I am going to try." she answered.

Sam's face scrunched up in thought. "I guess that's okay. I've never had a mommy."

Kate smiled wider. "Well, I hope I live up to your expectations then."

Sam grinned as Kate hugged him, squeezing her back. She was just about to let go when she felt his shoulder's shaking under arms.

"What's the matter?" she asked, alarmed.

"Why do we have to go? Why can't we stay? I want you to be my mommy now!" He forced the words through his tears.

Kate sighed, kneeling next to him, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Dean shift towards them, though she was thankful he let her finish. "I want to be your mommy too. I love your Daddy, but sometimes, even though you love a person, you need sometime alone. That's what me and your Daddy are like right now. When you come back in a few months, we won't be so angry at each other anymore."

"Like when I'm mad at Dean for not letting me go outside?" Sam asked, sniffling.

She nodded. "Exactly like that."

The eight year old sniffled again. "Okay. I'll wait." he hugged her again, before turning around and darting to Dean's side and gluing himself there.

Dean smiled at her, and Kate couldn't help but feel like it was going to be okay.

Dean was a strong boy, and he'd be looking out for the two of them. "Call me, okay?" she asked him, pulling him into a one armed hug. "Even if your father doesn't, I'm always here to talk. Even if it is," here she gave a light shudder, "talking about killing monsters."

Dean smiled at her. "Thanks, Kate." he tested the name out, and Kate was internally thrilled at the small gesture of acceptance. "We'll be back in a couple of months. I'll make sure of it."

Kate smiled at his determination. "I trust you to do so." she replied.

And then there was John.

He stood awkwardly before her, one hand running through his hair, while the other patted Adam's head. "I guess this is goodbye." he muttered, glancing at her before looking away.

"I guess it is."

"Well..." John's voice trailed off. "Goodbye."

Kate raised her hand. "Bye."

I love you.

"I love you." John echoed her thoughts. "Stay safe."

Kate nodded, feeling tears fill her eyes.

John reached down and gently detached Adam from his leg. "Hey, sport," he told the six year old, "I have to go now. I'll be back in a couple months, and you can tell me all about your new reading buddy."

Adam shook his head. "I don't want you to go!" He wailed.

John winced. "Hey, hey, you know I love you, right?"

Adam nodded tearfully. "Love you, too."

"I don't want to leave you, but your momma needs time to get used to the idea of your brothers, okay? We'll be back, but we want to give her times so she'll be happy about it, and not sad."

Adam nodded, his eyes still flooded.

John gave his youngest one last hug. "Look out for your mother, okay? I'll miss you. I'll call you tonight when we stop, okay?"

Adam nodded. He didn't speak another word as John gently guided him to his mother's side.

Kate's throat clenched as she saw him turn around.

"John, wait!" She exclaimed. She popped a kiss onto his cheek as he was turning. "I love you, you horrible man. You better come back in a few months, or I'll find a way to raise the dead myself to kill you for it."

John smiled. "See you." he repeated.

Kate smiled. There was a little more life in him as he walked away.

She would wait for him.

She always did.