Chapter One: Childhood's End

Warning: This story contains physical and verbal abuse of a child. If you feel uncomfortable with that subject, please don't read this.

Sam shuffled through all the notes he'd written and the photocopies he'd made. He pulled out the one he was looking for and showed it to his father.

"Iron… that's good," John muttered, speaking more to himself than to his youngest son.

Sam smiled wanly; at least his Dad was happy that he'd done the research. Sam had missed an entire day of school in lieu of searching for a way to kill the baobhan sith that were killing young male hikers and campers who ventured into the Chequamegon National Forest. During the last hunt, Sam had studied for an important Geometry test instead of doing research like he'd been told. Needless to say, John had not been impressed and had spent a good three hours yelling at Sam before keeping him home from school so he missed the test anyway. John insisted that his sons go to classes so they wouldn't rouse suspicion with CPS but sometimes Sam thought he forgot that.

John raised his eyebrows at Sam, "What's a cairn?"

"A man-made pile of stones," Sam answered and pulled out a photocopied picture of one.

John nodded his head and set that paper aside. He didn't care about some pile of old rocks.

"I don't think it matters what type of stones you use-" Sam continued but stopped speaking when he saw the look on John's face.

Sam fiddled with the stack of papers he was holding, biting his lower lip hard. He should be used to this by now; he knew that his father wasn't going to give him a pat on the back and say 'Good work, Sammy!' but it still hurt anyway.

The motel room door opened and Dean stepped inside, take-out bags of food and a drink tray in his hands.

"Who's hungry?" He said brightly and set the food on the slightly grimy table.

John grunted an unintelligible answer, still reading over the notes Sam had given him as he moved over to the table and sat down.

Sam took his own seat, the papers sitting beside him as though he didn't want them out of his sight. Dean peered at the topmost page- it was the photo of the cairn that John had discarded- and picked it up curiously.

"Hey, is this one of those what-do-ya-call-'ems up in Canada?" Dean asked, looking at his brother "Is this for a History project or something 'cause you know we're probably not going to be staying here much longer?"

Sam shook his head, "It's called a cairn. One source says that to stop the baobhan sith you can put one of those on its grave."

Dean blinked, "But we don't even know where they're buried."

"We're not using it anyway, Dean," John spoke up from behind his paper, "Iron rounds should take care of them."

Dean gave an excited whoop, "All right! I love a good, old-fashioned shoot-out!"

Sam said nothing but took the Sprite his brother offered him from the tray.

When Dean pulled out the paper-wrapped bundles from the take-out bag, Sam couldn't suppress a groan.

"Burgers again! This is the third day in a row," Sam complained as his brother shoved a hamburger at him.

"I like burgers," Dean said as he unwrapped his cheeseburger and took a large bite.

John eyed his youngest son.

"If they're not good enough for you, Sam, than feel free to go to bed," John suggested in a tone that said he wasn't giving friendly advice, but an order.

Sam looked at his father, trying to decide if his Dad really wanted him to go to bed or not.

Chair scraping across the floor, Sam stood and swiped his cup of Sprite from the table, taking it with him as he made his way over to the beds. He set the drink on the bedside dresser and climbed under the covers, back turned so he wouldn't have to look at his father.

Dean raised an eyebrow at his father, "Sam's gonna have to eat something before we take out the baobhan sith."

John didn't reply he just took a sip of his own drink and a bite of his burger.


They didn't go after the baobhan sith that night. John wanted to get a second opinion about the research Sam had done and called Bobby.

"Why?" Dean spoke up as he crumpled Sam's burger wrapper, having eaten it himself.

'Waste not, want not' was Dean's motto. He peered at his younger brother who appeared to be sleeping, the slow rise and fall of his chest was a telltale sign.

"We want to get the jump on the baobhan sith, not the other way around," John explained.

"So, what you're saying is, you don't trust Sammy's judgment when it comes to research," Dean filled in the blanks.

John shook his head, "I don't mean it like that… I just wish the boy would spend more time helping us out then having his nose stuck in a textbook. He needs to set his priorities straight."
"Sam always comes through for us," Dean defended his younger brother, "You know that."

John scowled. Dean was wrong, most of the time Sam was daydreaming when he should be working. He really didn't know what he was going to do with his youngest. John really needed the kid to smarten up.

"I'd still like to call Bobby, pick his brain," John had never come up against a baobhan sith and he wanted the older hunter's experience.

John told Dean to get Sam something to eat and left the room, headed next door to his own.

Dean stretched, burped and stood, making his way over to his brother.

"Hey Sammy, d'you want pizza?" Dean asked as he simultaneously shook his brother's shoulder.

Sam sat up and rubbed his eyes, "Dad's gone?"

"Yeah, went back to his room. Wanted to talk to Bobby, see if the old man's got another job for us," Dean lied about his father's reason for calling their surrogate uncle.

"Okay," Sam said and followed his brother to the door, pausing to pull on his shoes.

"Hey Dean?" Sam asked as they stepped outside and Dean locked the motel door.

"Yeah, Sammy?" Dean turned and strode toward the Impala.

"Thanks for that… telling Dad I do a good job on the research," Sam muttered.

Dean stopped. He'd thought Sam had been sleeping, hoped Sam had been sleeping so he wouldn't have to hear John say that about him.

"But Sammy, Dad's right; yah gotta get your head outta the clouds and knuckle-down when we need yah to," Dean told his brother.

"I know," Sam said quietly.

The only sound in the car was AC/DC singing "Who Made Who" as Dean drove into the tiny town that was overshadowed by the girth of Chequamegon National Forest. Dean pulled the Impala into the parking lot of a walk-in pizzeria.

Dean forked out a fistful of money and bought Sam a couple of slices of cheese pizza. He got himself a slice of deluxe.

The brothers sat side-by-side on bars stools at a counter that faced the window. Dean munched away on his slice, watching the townsfolk walk past the shop.

"I think Dad hates me," Sam muttered suddenly, through a mouthful of cheese and tomato sauce.

Dean almost choked on his pizza. He stared at his younger brother as though seeing him for the first time.

"What?" Dean asked, "Don't be stupid, Sam. Why would Dad hate you? What are you talking about?"

Sam looked up at his brother and Dean saw his eyes were pinched, dark green and knew something was seriously bothering the kid.

"Sam. Spill," Dean ordered, "What's the matter? Is it this case, huh? Is it because you missed class yester-"

Sam interrupted, "NO!"

Dean's brother peered surreptitiously over his shoulder before continuing in a quieter tone.

"Dad never takes you out of school to do research," Sam pointed out.

Dean smiled, "So this is about the other day-"

"Shut up an' let me talk!" Sam hissed and Dean shut up.

"This isn't just about the research; it's about… about… everything!" Sam exclaimed, unable to articulate his feelings.

"Dad treats me like I'm a kid," Sam began at square-one.

Dean scoffed, "That's because you are a kid, Sammy; you're only thirteen."

"I'm a hunter, Dean. The same as you and Dad. I stopped being a kid the second Dad put a gun in my hand," Sam leveled his gaze at his brother.

Dean sighed.

"I do all the research and I never get a thank you or anything," Sam continued, "I might as well be invisible."

"Sam, we don't get thanked for our job. Not everyone gives us hugs and gift baskets and shit like that for saving their lives," Dean argued.

"But Dad doesn't say anything," Sam protested.

Dean raised an eyebrow, "I don't say anything to you either."

Sam looked away from his brother.

"I'm not as good a hunter as you and Dad always reminds me… whenever we're training its always 'Don't you see what Dean's doing?' or 'Why can't you be more like Dean?' and I'm tired of it," Sam revealed.

"I've never heard Dad say those things to you," Dean commented and stuffed the last bit of pizza into his mouth.

Sam scowled. That's because Dean never listened. He only heard what he wanted to hear- Dad's praise toward him so he missed when John admonished Sam.

"Dad's hard on me too, you know," Dean said, "He has to be. Like it or not, he's not going to be here forever and he wants to make sure we can take care of ourselves."

Sam shook his head. He thought John's rough parenting skills were a little more than training for the day when he'd be gone.

Sam looked at his brother and saw anger in Dean's hazel eyes, "I don't think Dad's the problem Sam, I think it's you."

Sam opened his mouth to protest but Dean interrupted before he had a chance to speak, "Don't think I don't hear you two arguing. You and Dad fight almost constantly and more often than not it's you who starts it. I think you're just looking for a fight, Sam. I think you're just looking for problems, trying to push Dad's buttons to see how much you can get away with."

"That's not true, Dean, and you know it!" Sam spat vehemently, hurt that his brother didn't believe him.

Dean couldn't believe that Sam would try and make Dad out to be the bad guy. If Sam tried a little harder than maybe Dad would notice him, Dean thought. But John Winchester wasn't about to give credit unless it was due.

"Just focus on your work," Dean grumbled, "I balance schoolwork and cases so why can't you do the same?"

Dean knew that while he could go to school during the day and help their father out with hunts at night; it was a little more difficult for Sam who had, by default, become the researcher and needed to be at a computer or amongst a stack of books while the library was open. Sam didn't really have much of choice when it came to school or hunting- John had already made the decision for him that work came before education.

Secretly Dean felt just a little smug that he had the chance to go to school. He hadn't been able to forget what life had been like before his mother died, how normal life had been before the fire and he would do anything for a taste of that white-picket life again, even if it meant taking that same chance away from his brother.

Sam lowered his head. He knew Dean had won. His brother wasn't going to hear him out. Dean didn't believe him.

"Are you finished?" Dean asked and Sam nodded, he'd lost his appetite anyway.

The drive back to the motel was even worse than the drive to the restaurant. Dean didn't even put music on. Both Winchester boys just sat without speaking, listening to the sound of the Impala's engine growl and the rumble of her tires on the pavement.

Sam doesn't understand, Dean thought. He was practically born a hunter. He was only six months old when Mom died and he doesn't remember anything- this is the only life he knows. He'll take to it like a duck to water, eventually. Sure he complains that Dad's tough on him but it wasn't a cake-walk for me when I was that age either. Sam will just have to learn to suck it up and stick with it because if he doesn't have this, he doesn't have anything.

Dean doesn't understand, Sam thought. He wasn't born a hunter. He was four years old when Mom died and he has to remember stuff from before- this isn't the only life he knows. He'll realize this is what we're meant to do, eventually. Sure he likes all the recognition Dad gives him but he doesn't see how far from a cake-walk this is for me. Dean will just have to learn to suck it up and stick with it because if he doesn't have this, he doesn't have anything.

Author's Note:

1. Edited by BerserkerHellHound

2. Thanks to Alex Megan and BerserkerHellHound for helping me out with the idea for this story!

3. The monsters that John and the boys are hunting are vampires from Scotland, the word is pronounced baa'-van shee.

4. The Inuksuit (singular: Inukshuk) are the 'what-do-ya-call-'ems' in Canada.

5. Please review!