By: Karen B.

Summary: One shot. Scrub,scrub, scrub. There's more than laundry Dean wants to rub-a-dub-dub. Now who could find trouble at a place called: Busy Bubbles Laundromat? Why our boys - but of course. Time set: just before Sam goes off to Stanford. Dean pov.

Disclaimer: Not the owner!

Now they show you how detergents take out bloodstains, a pretty violent image there. I think if you've got a T-shirt with a bloodstain all over it, maybe laundry isn't your biggest problem. Maybe you should get rid of the body before you do the wash."

~ Jerry Seinfeld


This had to be one of the coldest days I could remember, and I could remember a lot of cold days. It was late afternoon around three o'clock, but it felt more like nine. The sky was nothing but a blanket of dark gunpowder-gray clouds, so thick I swore I could walk on them. A few potted trees along the sidewalk swayed as the wind picked up and big flakes of snow began to fall.

I shivered and ducked my head walking faster. The sun had been out when I'd left the Busy Bubbles Laundromat just ten minutes ago to walk over to the Convince store a little way down the street. I'd left behind three machines stuffed full of faded Levis, bloody tees, my briefs, dad's boxers, and Sammy's panties, all agitating and clunking about in the beat-up washers.

Only three more loads left to go.

There was no need to do the sniff test. A two-week long hunt and Dad, Sammy, and I had worn just about every article of clothing at least three times over.

Laundry day was well and truly overdue.

I slipped on a patch of ice on the sidewalk. "Ha!" I quickly caught myself where most people would have fallen flat to their backs.

Didn't surprise me none, given the fact I am as amazing as Batman – even without the utility belt.

I fumbled to adjust my armload of assorted snacks: Nacho Cheese Doritos, a box of Ding Dongs, a large bag of Peanut M&M's, Little Debbie's delicious, flaky fruit pie filled with real cherries, and a six pack of Dr. Pepper.

Why I always got the case of the munchies during laundry detail was beyond me.

Better question? Why'd my gawky little nerd of a brother always get a case of the Public Library blues on laundry day?


Kid really knew how to live on the edge. Books, books, and more books, periodicals, journals, magazines, and newspapers all shelved nice and neat, alphabetically or by call number, and classified together by related subjects. There was a place for every book, and every book was in its place. Logical and structured and boring, just like Sammy's brain.

To say Sammy loved libraries was an understatement. He'd spend hours, correction, he'd spend entire weekends in them studying, reading, doing homework, writing papers, and taking footnotes of his footnotes. I only recently downgraded the kid from a triple-nerd to a double-geek because during one of his recent outings he'd stumbled across some research that helped Dad and I bag a very rare species of Chupacabra.

Sam always liked to think of himself as independent. He liked to make his own damn choices about everything and as his big brother, I let the kid keep thinking he was thinking for himself. I allowed him pick what brand of cereal he wanted, gave him his choice between Biggersons or Burger King, and once and a while I didn't even say a thing when he'd reach over and switch the channel from Black Sabbath to some soft rock station. But lately his usual independent quality had heighted twenty-fold. He wanted to be boss of him. He wouldn't let Dad or I do a thing for him, making his own damn choices about everything, his ideas on how life as a Winchester should be, growing bigger and bigger – like his friggin' head.

Normal and safe were the words flowing from Sam's smartass mouth these days. Where Dad and I kept to the old standard – kill or be killed.

Sam was bucking the life. That didn't set well with Dad, me much either. But Sam, he was a typical teen…okay he was more of an adult, but this wasn't a typical life and the past year and a half it'd all gotten way worse. Sam started examining Dad's motives, questioning his every move, challenging him, refusing to train, pissing Dad off on purpose. Dad had been working him hard hoping to leave Sammy with little energy for whatever else it was he was up to. Let him burn out whatever bug had crawled up his ass and was stuck there. Dad thought Sam was coming around, but I knew better. Kid was as stubborn as Dad. When they wanted something, they went after it - full throttle – like a bullet shot out of a gun. There was no stopping either of them.

And lately something was really weighing on Sam's dork brain.

I figured it had to do something with Sam wanting more than being a band of traveling gypsies that slayed the fugly that lived under other people's beds. I wanted more for him than that too. Sure. Kid was smart. But his career choices were limited here. There was the family business, and then there was the family business, and, oh yeah, the family business.

The three of us quitting the business – one of Sam's many big ideas – buying a white picket fenced home on a quiet street in suburbia, settling down, mowing the lawn, having normal conversations, Dad wearing a white 'don't bother me I'm cooking' apron while fussing over hotdogs out on the grill, getting regular jobs, a Golden Retriever, a goldfish, maybe even a hamster. Sure it all sounded nice but that'd be a big no go. Sam's other big idea, flying off on his own – another big idea that was out of the question, not to mention dangerous. We had to stick together. There was strength in numbers. And besides, I had to watch out for Sam. I'd always been my job and I wasn't quitting my job.

Saving people and hunting things, finding the bitch that killed mom that was all that mattered. Everything else was a big, fat waste of time – except for woman of course.

Speaking of woman, I didn't understand why Sam spent so much damn time in those dusty old book tombs. Sammy was a mystery. Didn't he know? He'd never put the jelly in the donut hanging out 24/7 at the Public Library.

Laundromats were the place to be, man. I picked up my pace just thinking about what was waiting for me back at Busy Bubbles. There was just something about a guy dropping a load of faded Levis and bloody t-shirts into coin operated machines and then skillfully turning them fluffy and clean and folded that really turned the chicks on.

Of course, it could just have easily been my charm and adorable freckles that made the girls – 'eh woman – fall head over heels for me every friggin' time.

I'd find out later what was eating at Sam's giant brain. Right now I had business to tend to. The snow fell faster and I hurried past a pet shop window, a tiny brown puppy barking and trying to get my attention.

"It's a bottomless pit of crazy out here, pal," I said, glancing at the sad eyes. "Best to stay where you are."

I thought about the last Laundromat I'd visited. I'd landed a beautiful blond with firm tits and legs that wouldn't quit. What was her name? Beth Rose. Betsy Ross? Something like that.

Busy Bubbles Laundromat in Shalersville Ohio was no different.

Sure it was a cubby-hole-of-a-room compared to some of the Laundromats we'd been to. Only eight washers and eight dryers all beat up, squeaking and clunking. A few bent-metal laundry baskets on wheels were strewn around and there was the usual soap vending machine full of tiny powered soap boxes of Tide. I never used those, always carried my own supply – Arm & Hammer – mostly just because I liked the name.

When I'd first arrived at Busy Bubbles, I wasn't too happy about my choices. Sitting in plastic multicolored chairs aranged agasint a cement block wall was my lineup. An old man reading a newspaper, a biker mama with a flying pig tattoo on her right shoulder, and a grandmotherly-looking Nun deep in thought or prayer sat in another.

Mighty slim pickings, Dean, mighty slim.

Just when I'd thought I was going to strike out, I'd seen her; a smoking hot redhead, wearing a tight pink turtle neck and even tighter dark-blue jeans. She was standing off in a corner at a long table folding her lacey whites. She'd obviously noticed me right off, and was staring. I probably could have walked right up to her, used the 'what's a nice girl like you doing in a dive like this' line, and gotten right in, but she looked like a classy chick. I decided to use my masculine wiles instead, going with my 'look, but don't make a move, move' gazing heatedly into one of her deep green eyes.

She was automatically trapped and drawn in by my laser beams, and couldn't glance away for a few seconds.

Man, I had powers.

I'd held the look.

Held it.

Held it.

Held it.

Then flicked my eyes away, releasing her.

She sighed, and out of my peripheral vision I'd watched her go back to folding her…intimate apparel.

I had her. Lock stock!

I'd smiled making sure not to look at her again. Skillfully, loading up three washing machines full of Winchester duds and suds, and started them agitating, then slowly and casually headed for the door. Just before exiting, I glanced briefly back over my shoulder.

She was watching, looking right into my eyes.

I was smooth, so friggin' smooth. And totally in.

I added the final touch, giving her a wink – assurance I'd be back – then I'd swaggered out, hurrying down the street to grab my snacks and get back ASAP to move in for the final kill.

That ten minutes ago seemed like forever. I licked my lips in anticipation of my prize and crossed the street.


I plastered on my best 'hello-sweetheart 'smile, and turned on the Dean Winchester awesomeness. Pushing through the door, I stomped the snow from my boots, and blinked the flakes from my eyelashes as I stepped out of the thick veil of white, and back into the gunpowder-gray walls of the Busy Bubbles Laundromat.

The moment I stepped back inside Busy Bubbles, I was totally prepared to move in for the final kill, but I noted things had changed drastically.

The clunking washers still clunked and the tumbling dryers still squeaked, but the Nun was gone, and so was the pig tattoo wearing biker mama, and sadly, so was the smokin' hot redhead. Only person left in the joint was the old man who'd been reading the paper. Now he was kneeling in a puddle of water near one of the washing machines.

"Oh, son of a bitch," I growled my disappointment.

"Bejesus," the old man grouched, trying to gather up a mound of completely sopping wet clothes off the floor.

I scuffed across the dirty-white titles as the old guy continued to grouch gibberish under his breath, and set my snacks down on the folding table.

Walking over to the old guy, I looked at him more closely this time. He was short and pudgy, probably around seventy-six-ish. He had a lot of hair for an old guy, thick and white, even his eyebrows were bushy and white. He sported a short-trimmed grizzled beard that was also white, except for a few strands of dark-brown that refused to die. He clenched an unlit cigar between his teeth and was wearing a clean white button down shirt. His sharp creased dark blue trousers were held up by a shined-to-perfection black belt and he wore an even shiner pair of black, pointy toed shoes. Only a military man armed with lots of starch and a hot iron could get his clothes to look that crisp.

I bent at the waist, and placed my hands on my knees. "Need some help there, old man?"

He didn't look at me, leathery skinned hands shaking as he sloshed through the pool of wet clothing on the dirty floor.

"The hell's the difference now, Picklepuss," he boomed angrily, the cigar in his mouth moving with expertise over his tongue and into the pouch of his cheek as if it were a body part.

I drew back up straight, shocked by his outburst. Recuperating quickly, I dipped back down until I caught his eye. "You know those are supposed to go in the machines to be washed," I chuckled wondering if the poor old fellow had Aliztimers.

The old man stopped what he was doing. "You think I got Aliztimers, boy!" He read my mind, looking me dead in the eye and straight into my soul. "Sharp as a plate of hash browns aren't you, Picklepuss?" he asked in a voice harsh enough to spit iron pellets.

I felt myself shrink a little. This old man had a presence about him that triggered something inside me. He demanded I answer his question. And not just with any old answer. He required an answer full of respect. If I answered wrong, old or not, I sensed this guy would tie my ears in a knot so tight I wouldn't ever be able to undo them.

"No sir… I mean yes, sir" I tripped over my tongue.

"Namby-pamby. You think I don't know they belong in the machine!" He waved me off with a hand, bowing forward and going back to trying to gather up his laundry. "I wrote the book on washing," he said with pride. "Remember helping my grandmother with her clothes. Didn't have no nifty thrifty Whirlpools neither, washed our duds with cold water from a rain barrel using a stone for soap."

Poor old guy must have had really bad arthritis; his crooked fingers just couldn't seem to get a hold of anything, his clothes slopping along the floor like a mop.

Without another word I crouched down and started to pick up his clothes.

The grumbly old man slapped my hand, but not hard, it had more of a playful air about it. "Back off, Picklepuss. Go on back to trying to sack-up with Mustang Sally. I got this," he said, his tone softening just a bit.

"Mustang who?" I backed off.

"Pretty sure you botched up your dog and pony show, with Red." He winked at me. But never give up, son. You know Laundromats are the second best place to find yourself a woman." He clutched at a pair of pants but they slipped out of his fingers. "Fiddlesticks!"

I grinned. Finally a believer. "And what's number one?" I asked knowing the answer, reaching again to help him.

"Why, libraries, of course."

I froze mid-reach, felt my eyes bulge and my mouth dropped open. Sammy, you sly dog.

The old man laughed loudly at what I was sure had to be a dumbfounded look on my face. He sat back on his haunches, giving up on the wet clothing and gave me the universal 'go-ahead nod.

"You didn't think number one was a bar or street corner, did yeah? Ha!" He chewed on end of his cigar like it was a stick of gum.

I frowned deeply picking up the articles of wet clothing.

"You did," he laughed again but not as loud. "Picklepuss, you have a lot to learn, still."

Cringing, I wondered how I'd earned the nickname. "Dean," I decided to introduce myself, offering a soapy wet hand.

The old man eyed my hand for a moment, but didn't take it, instead struggling up to his feet.

Gathering the last of the dripping wet batch I came to stand in front of him. "Where do you want these?" I asked, the arm load saturating the front of my jacket.

"How about back in the washer where I had them in the first dag-nab place."


"By George, boy, there you go again with the hash browns for brains," the old man tisked, standing before a noisy washing machine and shaking his head.

"Dean," I offered again, moving over to a nearby rolling cart and plopping the heavy, sudsy duds into the basket, large droplets of water pattering like a rainstorm to form a puddle on the floor. "So what happened here?" I rolled the cart over to him.

"I had to," he muttered, eyes lowering.

"You had to what?" I shuddered feeling awkward.

"You should take a lesson, Jimminey Cricket. Never pass up the opportunity to take a piss," he smirked, breaking the unspoken rule and looking where no man should ever look at another.

"Dean," I huffed, glancing down briefly noting the wet spot on the front of my crotch. "Peachy," I muttered, glancing back up. "So what happened? How'd your clothes end up half-washed on the floor?"

"Nit-wit," he yelled at me.

"Dean," I stated calmly.

"Hooligan's!" The old man waved a hand toward the door. "While I was 'not passing by opportunity' the cotton-pickin' asshats came in here like they owned the world. Stopped the washer in the middle of my wash cycle and tossed my dungarees on the floor so's in they could wash their own." He gave a swift angry kick to the machine as if it was the Whirlpools fault. "Happens all the time."

"Look." I smiled at the feisty old guy. "Maybe –"

"Horse-puckey!" he yelled louder, completely frazzled and obviously not caring about maybes.

"Okay. Easy." I drew back, hands held up in front of me. "Calm down, old man."

"Calm down my ass, ragamuffin ." He kicked the machine again.

"Dean," I sighed. "My name is Dean." At least ragamuffin seemed to be one of the nicer names he'd called me. Maybe he was warming up.

The old man ignored me, glaring at the machine. "Happened to me last month, too, anytime all the washers are full-up they dump our laundry on the floor and head to the bar down the road to drink it up, and they don't come back for hours on end. Poor Sister Mary Margarita –"

"Sister Mary Margaret?" I corrected, assuming they weren't naming nuns after drinks just yet.

"Smartass." He nodded at the empty chair the nun had been sitting in. "She hasn't been the same since," he sighed, clenching his cigar tighter between his teeth and shuffling away from me, plucking heavily into her chair. "Gonna take me all night now to finish the wash." He stared miserably at the basket of dripping laundry.

I didn't want to ask what happent to Sister Margaret. I could only imagine. "So why don't you complain to management? Call the police? Press charges?" I asked the no brainer question.

"Management is a guy older than me and more than half-deaf. He never comes out until five minutes to close. And as for the heat?" he screeched angrily. "Been there and done that." He rolled his eyes at me. "You do unto them…they do unto you harder. Hoodlums get a slap on the hand then after things cool down they come back for more. So we keep our mouths shut. Was a time I could spiff my shoes with the likes of those bums," he muttered softly, staring at his wrinkled, leathery-skinned hands, knobby knuckles, and bent fingers all crippled by age and trembling in his lap.

I nodded. I really liked this old guy. He had spirit, bravery and heart, just like my dad. Only difference was arthritis had taken up where his firepower used to be. It lit a fire in my own gut to see him so defeated, the way I often saw dad defeated; the bitter truth of life staring back at him in the morning mirror every day. I imagined at one time this old man was the sort of tough guy who caught bullets with his teeth, not only lead horses to water, but made them friggin' drink it, take a bath in it too.

I would bet that when life handed this old man a plate full of bullshit, he shoved that bullshit down life's throat and didn't stop shoving until life choked to death on it.

I slammed a hand down on the timing dial of the washing machine, stopping whatever friggin' cycle it was in and flipped open the lid. Payback was…well…payback.

"Boy, I wouldn't do that," the old man warned. "They're an ornery bunch."

Without taking my eyes off the soapy water and soggy clothes I growled, "Yeah, unfortunately for them I eat ornery for breakfast. When those sons of bitches come back they can find their clothes frozen outside in the snow." I pointed at another empty basket. "Shove that over here," I instructed, a huge smile plastered on my face.

This was going to be loads of fun! Pun intended.

"Willy-nilly-willikers," the old man said, excitedly getting up with a spring in his step and rolling the cart over. "Youngin', I like where your mindset is," he said, bouncing up and down a little on his feet.

I quickly scooped their slop out of the machine and dropped the heavy wet bundle into the basket. Water drops dripped to the floor. Management wouldn't have to worry about mopping the joint tonight.

"Let's put out the garbage," I said.

"Jim Dandy." The old man excitedly clasped his crippled hands together.

"Dean," I puffed in frustration.

Looking like a child who was off to Disneyland, the old guy shuffled over to hold the door open for me. I wheeled the basket out into the cold, making sure to dump the clothing in the blackest snow bank I could find near the street.

"These babies are going to freeze like my brother's laptop after I've been surfing porn," I waggled my brows at the old man, rolling the cart back toward the Laundromate.

"Why take tiny nibbles holdin' your downstairs brain in your hand, boy, when you can have the whole enchilada," the old man said waggling his thick, gray eyebrows.

"Dude." I shivered, and not from the cold wind that was blowing snow in my face either.

"Elmo," he said smiling at me, still standing in the doorway and blocking my way back inside. "My name's Elmo."

I bit hard into my lip, holding back a grin, envisioning a goggly-eyed, furry red puppet who talked like Sam when he was drunk. Speaking of Sam…I glanced at my watch. Kid should be showing back up from his bookworm feast any minute now.

"Elmo," I said his name correctly through chattering teeth, "Mind moving so I can come back in now."

Distracted, Elmo looked past me and gave a low whistle. "Cast an eyeball on her."

I turned about. Through the swirling snow across the street I saw what had grabbed his attention.

"The whole enchilada," he said. "You better get a move on it, Dino. Smokin' red doesn't wait forever."

"Dean." I winced, not taking my eyes off the prize standing on the other side of the street and looking so 'not' the girl next door.

"Go, boy. Skedaddle. That fry pan won't stay hot forever."

I sighed, "Not this time." I had laundry to finish and what if the laundry bandits showed back up while I was gone. They'd be pissed.

"Rubbish." Elmo took the empty cart from me and started to pull it back inside. "I'll watch over your Calvin Kline's," he said as if reading my mind.

"Hanes," I said, keeping one hand on the cart and cringing at the image of me wearing sissy jeans.

"Told yeah before, Hash Brown for Brains, sons of bitches are sponges. They won't be back until they soak up all the whiskey at the bar down the road. You, me, and our dungarees will be long gone by then, and their clothes a solid block of ice," he snickered, chomping on his cigar that he obviously never lit.

I mulled the idea over, staring longingly at Red, who stared seductively back through the blowing snow.

"Never pass up a chance to get laid, Dan."

"That's always been my motto," I said, not bothering to correct the poor, old fellow and letting him take control of the cart.

I took two unsure steps away. "Look," I shot over my shoulder. "My little brother, Sam," I said the name knowing old Elmo probably wouldn't remember it. "He should be showing up here soon anyway. Tall, gawky, geek-of-a-kid with shaggy hair and –"

"I'll let the Whippersnapper know what went down. Now go before that pony show joins a circus." He sucked on his cigar in a way that made me uncomfortable. "Don't want to miss the ultimate sexual encounter now, do you?" Elmo grinned like the Cheshire cat that disemboweled the family dog and blamed it on the canary.

"Right. " I frowned suppressing my instinct to be suspicious. "I won't be that long." I said, looking both ways and stepping off the curb to head across the street.

"They never are," I heard Elmo laugh hysterically, and then the laundry room door banged shut.


Man I was pissed off. How old was Elmo anyway? His humor wasn't humorous. Made me understand more how Sam felt when I pulled stupid prank crap on him. Still, the prank the old man pulled was just plan nuts. A good prank is one thing; raw eggs in baby brother's shoes, red food coloring and Alka Seltzer in his toothpaste, exploding Coke bottles, water pistols full of warm piss, salt instead of sugar… were hysterical pranks.

Being decorated with all the accessories needed for the ride, yet, missing the important parts was so not funny.

I stormed back across the snow-covered street, back toward Busy Bubbles, pausing in the middle for a snowplow truck to push a small ski resort-sized mountain of white on by.

"Would have been the ultimate sexual encounter all right," I grumbled, then shivered, knowing for damn certain the chill that went up my spin wasn't from the blizzard-like conditions.

The snowfall had really gotten heavy, gusts of wind whipping snowflakes every which way. I could hardly see my hands in front of my face. I was wet and cold and I was cranky because I didn't get laid. And thank someone, thank anyone, everyone… I didn't. Arthritic or not, Elmo was going to get a piece of Dean Winchester.

The snowplow passed and I trudged the rest of the way across the street and through a mound of the white crap because the walkway was not cleared. Finally reaching the building, I grabbed hold of the handle and brutally yanked the door open.

I irritably stepped inside the Laundromat, a wave of flakes blowing in with me and dusting across the floor. "Old man," I yelled, the winter wind slamming the door shut behind me. "You are so going down for not telling me –"

It took several long seconds to understand everything that I was seeing.

To my right was a muscular man - hard-core type- wearing a black tee-shirt and black leather pants. He had the old man in a vice-like grip around the neck. Elmo was clearly upset, spouting and choking off obscenities that would make a sailor's face flush – an untamed tiger, captured by the tail.

In the center of the room stood a tall man who would have looked just like Eastwood's Filo Beddoe character in the 'monkey' movie if it weren't for his Mic Jagger lips. He roughly held onto a squirming, gangly body that he kept wedged up against a washing machine, his head shoved down inside under the water. Familiar hands flailed, grasping for any straw.

"Teach you to touch my load," Filo growled, pulling the dripping wet head above the water.

The kid made a wet gurgling sound in the back of his throat, long, dark hair slicked over his face. A face I didn't have to see to know.

Shit. What had I been thinking?

I'd been thinking with my downstairs brain, again, that's what I'd been thinking. And it cost me. Or more like it cost Sam. Now I really felt like a Picklepuss with hash browns for brains. I knew I should never have left. Always go with your gut, dad was always telling us.

A fire burned beneath my feet, but I resisted the urge to charge in, instead glancing over at Elmo. He looked at me sorrowfully. I could see he'd taken a few shots, but he also gave a few too as the guy in black had one hell of a black eye.

"We got company," Leather Pants announced, tightening the bear hug he had on Elmo. "Stay where you are," he ordered me.

The old man chocked, his face turning red.

"I suggest you mind your own business and get the hell out of here, macho man," Filo snapped at me threateningly.

I directed my attention back at Sam. He looked like shit, could barely keep his eyelids open, sucking in huge amounts of oxygen.

"Sam?" I strained to keep calm. "You hurt bad?"

Filo snickered evilly, peering at my half-drowned brother. "He's fine."

"Bite me," Sam coughed harshly, spitting water and blood to the ground. Weakly tossing his head back, he tried to use his thick skull as a weapon to knock Filo out.

That was my boy.

But Sam was slow and sluggish and Filo locked a foot around the kid's ankle and tugged hard. Sam went down with a heavy wet plop, chin landing right at Filo's snake-skinned boots. "Bite that instead," he laughed.

I stiffened, still holding myself back. "Sam?" I demanded he answer.

Sam spoke out of breath, "Had worse," he said and sat up.

Lifting his head, he pushed long, wet strands of hair out of his eyes with a trembling hand.

That's when I saw the deep-purple bruise along his hairline.

"Son of a bitch," I growled.

The whole right side of my brother's face had taken multiple blows. It was red and raw and swollen and turning deeper purple by the second.

"You do realize that you interrupted our little beat down party," Filo said angrily, lacing his fingers and cracking his knuckles.

"You do realize…" I raised my eyes to him, pausing to let them fill with the fiery fury that was building in my gut. "That." I pointed a stern finger at Sam, but kept my eyes locked on Filo. "Is my little brother you were trying to drown?"

"Yeah?" Filo shrugged nonchalantly. "Well, little bro was having a little problem with the washing machine. Lid kept smashing down on his face," he snickered. "He passed out cold. You walked in right as I was trying to revive him." He gestured with a chin tip toward the open machine filled with water. "Isn't that right, Blackie?"

"That's right."

I glanced over at Leather Pants – Blackie – still holding Elmo secure around the throat. "Make a move and I crush the old man's windpipe," he threatened me.

Elmo flashed me a determine gaze as if to read my mind, again. "Cut the crap," he choked. "And deal with these lamebrains appropriately."

I balled my fists and grit my teeth readying to smash some faces, break some bones, and rip out a few hearts.

Don't let your emotions get the best of you, Dean. I heard Dad's voice in my head.

I took in a deep breath. Very slowly and very calmly and ever so very aggressively I hissed, "I. Am. Going. To. Kill. You. Right where you stand."

Filo rolled his eyes, obviously not believing me. "So, where should we do this killing? Inside or outside?"

I didn't answer at first; directing my attention back at Sam. He was a big, sloppy mess, and seemed really out of it, sitting in a sudsy puddle of water. I could tell by his puppy-dog expression he had been trying to neutralize the situation with words and not brawn.

Have I taught you nothing?

Sam flashed me his bitch-face, awkwardly trying to scramble to his feet, but fatigue or an explosive headache, or more likely a concussion kept him down.

That fire beneath my feet bubbled up into my chest like molten lava. "Inside, outside, both sides," I grit my teeth, "You two are in for one hell of a beating," I said, shoulders rising and falling rapidly, the angry heat bursting at the seams like Banner just before he turned Hulk.

"Dean, no."

My gaze shifted to Sam, his eyes where wide, scared almost, knowing what was about to happen.

We didn't kill humans, didn't draw attention to ourselves. That was a Winchester rule. Right now I didn't care about rules.

Nobody gives Sammy a beat down, but me.

No more time for thought. Filo lunged toward me and the slugging began. I landed a round punch to his chin that would have sent his head spinning off his shoulders if it were a top. Filo went down fast and dazed.

Before Blackie could make a move, I slammed into him, knocking poor Elmo off to one side. Lifting the man in black up off his feet, I whirled him around and then rammed his head into the soap machine, breaking the glass and spilling tiny boxes of laundry soap to the floor. He flopped to his back, laying on a bed of glass and staring vacantly at the ceiling.

I decided to wash his mouth out with Tide and reached for a broken open box.

Just as I was about to pour the soap into his mouth, the sound of metal wheels clattering stopped me as I was ambushed from behind. I was just in time to see the laundry basket before it slammed down against the back of my neck.


My breath was knocked out of me and my eyes bulged as I found myself restrained against the floor, struggling for air.

Not content to just keep me pinned down, Filo laughed, "Going to squash you like a bug," he said.

How creative.

I watched out of my peripheral vision as he straddled the overturned basket, using his body weight to keep me bully-pinned in place.

He laughed louder and harder, bouncing up and down, pressing me further against the dirty tile that smelled suspiciously like Pine Sol and tobacco spit.

"Sonuva –" I sucked in small breaths, trying to look around.

I couldn't turn my head. My field of vision limited and awareness quickly fading, tiny black fishes swimming in to steal my thunder. I didn't see Blackie or Sam, and could just barely see that Elmo was still down on the floor, relaxing with his back against the wall, face still red.

I called out to him but he didn't look my way. Using my right hand, I groped the floor searching for something I could use.

There was nothing.

Lack of oxygen really began to take its toll, the school of black fishes taking over my eyesight. I was aware enough to hear an animal-like grow, blinking hard, I was surprised when I saw the pudgy gray blur that was Elmo, fly my way.

The moment I realized the weight was off my neck I was up on my feet, drawing in huge gulps of air. My vision cleared quickly and I zeroed in on Sam. He was still sitting in a puddle, surrounded by wet socks and shirts, head hung low, and hair once again hiding his face.

"Sam," I called worriedly.

He moaned in response, but otherwise didn't move.


"Little help, Picklepuss."

My attention was drawn across the room. Elmo clawed with his crooked fingers at Filo's face to no avail, his head forcefully rammed down inside an open-lidded washer; the same one Sam had been stuffed into.

I charged forward, using my own momentum and the wet floor to my advantage, gliding across the tiles as if my boots were ice-skates.

I slid right past Filo, grabbing his wrist as I went, twisting and breaking the hold he had on Elmo at the same time snapping bone.

Filo screamed in pain.

Still using my boots as skates, I continued our slide across the laundry room, and using Filo's back, pushed through the door. We flew out into the cold, landing in a snow bank, me on top of him.

"Hot-dang," I muttered thinking I sounded like Elmo. Old guy was rubbing off on me already. I grinned down at Filo's pain-filled face. "My turn to be on top."

Filo gave me a look cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass money. "Screw you," he said, then made a disgusting noise in his throat and spit in my face.

I didn't bother to wipe the loogie off my face as I totally lost it.

"Yeah, I think not." My knuckles hit his Jagger lips, splitting the lower one like a piece of sausage and painting the fresh fallen snow bright-red with tiny drops of his blood. I raised my arm and bent it, the pointy part of my elbow directed right above Filo's nose. "I am going to drive your nose like a nail…straight out the back of your friggin' head." I raised my arm higher. I'd need to put a lot of power behind the hit if I was going to –

"Dadgummit, Dean, stupid move!"

I froze mid-strike. Huh. The old man sounded almost like dad, but more than that, he'd actually used my real name.

I turned to see Elmo roughly tugging Leather Pants, out the door by his shirt collar. "That's enough walloping," he said, dragging Blackie over and dropping him in the snow next to Filo.

Blackie fell into the snow bank with a loud groan of pain, but didn't make a move, staring up at the sky dazed and confused and gasping.

My eyes widened at the heel-shaped bruise across the center of the guy's neck. I looked back up at Elmo, and frowned deeply. He didn't look any worse than before. Old man was one hearty dude.

I cocked my head curiously. "How'd you –"

"Now see here," Elmo continued. "If I had my druthers I'd help you bury these two hooligan's sorry asses in the snow along with their clothes. Would be loads of fun," he snorted. "But mark my words, Dean, you don't want that on your conscience."

"But how'd you – "

"I may be old, boy, but I still have my good days. And on my good days I can boink like Casanova and brawl like Muhammad Ali. Never pass up a shot to the jewels," he gave more unsolicited advice, chomping down on his cigar.

"Yipes," I squeaked, instinct directing me to cup my own jewels protectively.

"Now like I said. Be loads of fun to ice these two after all the trouble they've caused. Specially what they done to Sister Mary Margarita."

"Margret," I muttered.

"But it t'aint legal and it t'aint right ." Elmo took me by my hand and pulled me up to my feet. "The cavalry is coming, and these bitches are going to jail. This time I won't stop until I see to it. You've reminded this plum-tuckered parched, old man if I'm not too old to bleed, I'm not too old to kick some ass. "

I gave the old dude the thumbs up only dropping them when I heard sirens blaring in the distance. The cavalry was indeed coming and they would have lots of questions for all of us. They'd want to take my beat to shit little brother to the hospital to be checked out. Publicity and attention was Winchester public enemy number two.

"The cops –"

"Don't whack out on me now, kid. I know the cops, and they know me, and this time the charges against these guys are going to stick. You just go tend to your brother. I'll tend to the boys in blue."

I hesitated. Unsure.

"Trust me, Dean. It's a small town with a small police force, on a snowy night. They won't be here long. Now fast. Back inside. Now, Dean, go!"

"Yes, sir."

I rushed back into the Laundromat. Sam was slumped forward, his head nearly touching the floor.

"Sam!" I raced over, crouched in front of him and firmly but gently sat him up, keeping hold of his arms.

"Nu," Sam slumped forward again.

"Sam. Hey." I eased him back up, dipping my head to catch his uncontrolled gaze that bounced about the room. "You see me?" I wanted to be sure I had his attention before I tried to get him to move.

"Yeah." Sam took a deep breath, trying to keep his fluttering eyes open. "You're not much to look at," Sam grunted sarcastically.

"What are you talking about? I'm a sculpted work of art." I palmed his cheek, using my thumb to swipe away the blood that oozed out of his left nostril.

"Yeah, a real piece," Sam ground his teeth together and hissed.

"Geez, Sammy." I grimaced. "Your nose looks broken, bro."

"I'm all right." He tried to bat my hand away, but his motor skills were slow and shaky at best.

"Dude, Humpty Dumpty had it better."

Sam glared at me. "Dean," he made a gagging sound, doubling forward and retching up more soapy water.

"Easy." I pounded his back and Sam gasped for air. "Take it easy," I hit him on the back some more.

Sam flopped further forward, his forehead nearly touching the floor as he struggled to puke up suds and duds.

"Whoa, Sam." I looped an arm around his stomach and he hung over it like it was a ship's rail, spitting and choking. "Bro, are you going to up-chuck a stranger's dirty sock?"

"It's okay," he said sucking in air. "I'm oh – " He took a jagged breath and leaned back against me, weak and depleted. "Okay."

"Tell the truth, Sam." I wrapped my other arm around him holding him to me. "How are you feeling? Dizzy? Nauseous? Pounding headache?"

"Feeling in a lot of pain, Dean. Is that a good enough answer for you?" He winced.

"It's a sucky answer! Why the hell didn't you kick those two chuckleheads off the map? You've managed more with less!" I yelled pissed off Sam got hurt and worried and guilty all at the same friggin' time.

"There were two of them and my only backup was an old man gumming on a cigar like it was a pacifier. Why was he folding our underwear," Sam gurgled.

"Batman or Wonder Woman? Because, dude, I'm Batman," I badgered with a wide smile on my face, trying to lighten the situation.

"Whatever." Sam's whole body trembled, his Adams apple bobbing as he took slow and small swallows.

Dad was going to be pissed. Sam was hurt. We'd made a public scene. The police were involved. And the laundry still hadn't gotten done. This was my entire fault, if I hadn't been zeroing in on Mustang Sally. I shivered, taking small swallows of my own wanting to forget all about my 'almost' rondevue with disaster.

The sirens were nearly on top of us now.

I leaned Sam upward. "Can you stand?"

Sam squeezed his eyes shut tight, deeply considering that for a moment "No. Not really," he finally said in a hoarse voice, reopening his eyes.

"We got to go, Sam. Put your arm around my shoulder," I ordered.

Sam looked at me with a complete lack of interest.

I sighed, picking up a floppy arm and slinging it across the back of my shoulders, being sure to hold tight to his wrist. "Use your feet, Sasquatch," I grunted, pulling him up.

Sam moaned loudly, but at least this time responded to my request, planting both feet to the floor.

"Sorry, buddy, can't sit here all night."

Baby brother had been pummeled – but good – and was sinking into the red fast, barely treading water, but I managed to get him moving.

"Crap." Sam teetered sideways, white-knuckling my jacket to steady himself.

"There's no rush," I snarked, inching us slowly along, Sam's legs barely willing to hold his weight. "Cops are just right outside."

Sam picked up the pace though his legs were shaky. Seemed like a lifetime, but I finally got him out the back door and down a side alley, settling him on an overturned orange crate.

"Better?" I asked.

"I'm going to be sick," Sam promptly announced then gagged, dropping his head down between his knees and panting heavily.

I quickly grabbed onto one of his biceps and placed a hand to his bowed back to keep him from slipping to the concrete.

"I got ya," I mumbled feeling the tension straining his muscles as he fought not to be sick. "You're okay."

"Kid took a lot of licks."

I glanced over my shoulder at Elmo. "Cops took them down to the station," he said quickly answering my unspoken question. "I'm heading there to make a statement again and I'm not leavin' until I see them put away this go round."

I nodded, then asked suspiciously. "You don't look like you took very many licks," I commented. "Seriously, how'd you manage big leather guy?" I asked, not believeing his earlier claim.

"I ducked out of the way. Unlike your brother," Elmo muttered. "I'm shorter than he is." He tipped his chin at Sam.

"Everyone's shorter than he is," I snorted.

Elmo bent over, hands on his knees peering into Sam's face. "He always look that way?" He cocked an eyebrow at me, taking his cigar out of his mouth for the first time.

"Like what?"

"Like he t'aint got the foggiest," Elmo said snidely.

I turned back to Sam. "Sam?"

Sam squinted at me like he was having trouble focusing and had a dazed sort of look on his face.

"Sammy?" I examined him closer.

Sam teetered a little as if simply sitting was far too much like work. "Yeah," he slurred, slow to answer.

"You still with me?"

Sam cocked his head off to one side blinking slowly. "Huh?"

"Hey! Sam!" I gave him a little shake.

Sam blinked at me a moment more, then said, "Yeah. I used the dryer sheets like you told me too, Dean."

"He's definitely related to you, Hash Brown for brains," Elmo chuckled, going back to not using my real name and bending over further still staring at Sam.

"Sam's smarter than all of us put together." I flashed Elmo an annoyed look. "He has a concussion."

Elmo grimaced popping his wet fat boy back in his mouth and biting down hard. "Suppose he does. Came in talking fast and pretty, and when that didn't work he took the hits hard."

"And." I glared at the old man as if I didn't know. Just wanting to hear it for myself.

Elmo humphed, straightening back up slowly, old bones creaking like old furniture."What are you? Effing blind, boy? Deaf too? You was there, Helen Keller." He smirked.

I could hardly pay attention to what Elmo was saying, watching that damn cigar of his do some sort of dirty dancing routine in his mouth while he talked.

"Guess they had enough swimming in the whiskey. Came back early and started up all their nonsense again, yanking other folk's clothes from the washers and splatting them to the floor." The cigar rolled about on his tongue. "But the shit really hit the pooper when they found out their own dungarees was outside…frozen in a dirty snow bank. Young whippersnapper –"

I shook my head. "Sam."

"Fine, Sam," Elmo grouched, the half-chewed cigar nearly falling out of his mouth. "Youngin'…he come racing in. Doing some sort of Lone Ranger on a white stallion number – "

"Seriously," I interrupted, not able to take my eyes off the rolling brown sausag in his mouth and wondering if he actually lit it would it blow up. "What do you do? Eat those things?" I frowned, not recalling ever seeing him spit anything out, he obviously never lit them.

Elmo waved a hand at me shutting me up as he continued with his story. "Like I was saying, for you rudely butted in. Young whippersnapper…right there." He pointed a boney finger at Sam. "He starts talking all fancy like a lawyer or something, and demanding where the hell his brother is and threatening us all with the death penalty if we so much as touched a hair on your head."

I turned back to Sam. He seemed to have gotten his nausea under control for a second and straightened himself, staring at me all lackadaisical. "You were worried about me?"

Sam nodded.

I smiled fondly. I didn't realize he worried that much about me as I was always so damn busy doing my job, worrying about him. It felt good. I almost wanted to give Sam a hug, something I didn't do often, and I might have done now if the old man was staring down his cigar at me like I was some sort of a freak.

"Youngin's and their chick flicks," Elmo griped. "You going to kiss him or what?"

"We're brothers," I reminded the old guy, totally disgusted. "And besides I don't swing that way."

"Bologna," Elmo squawked. "Why'd you go off chasin' after Mustang Sally then?"

"Who?" Sam asked, seeming to rouse.

"Nobody," I wrapped an arm around Sam's back and got him off the crate. "Let's get you out of here."

"Who's Mustang Sally?" Sam pressured, leaning against me heavily.

"Red. Mustang Sally. She…he's a professional performer," Elmo snorted. "A real class act. Entertains at a bar on East 9th," he laughed in a victorious sort of way that was way too close to how Sam laughed when he pranked me good. "She…I mean he comes to the Laundromat to wash her…his wardrobe every other day," he chuckled, following behind us.

Ignoring the old guy's remarks, I helped Sam along down the alley, slow and gentle.

"A drag Queen, Dean? You hit that?" Sam's laugh quickly turned into a whimper. "Ow," He winced, "My head."

"Shut up, Sam," I held him firmer. "And you," I shot daggers at Elmo. "You are an annoying, old man. You could have told me," I sulked as we rounded the corner to the Impala.

Elmo shrugged. "Where's all the fun in that," he laughed louder. "Not my fault you're in such a rush to sing with the birds and buzz with the bees,' he tisked, opening the car door and holding it for me as I manhandled Sam into the passenger seat.

"There's plenty of pleasures to be had when a man goes a courtin' a lady proper, Dean, without having the sex."

"A courtin'?"

"Darn tootin'." Elmo winked. "You need to be more careful too. Don't want to go getting' yourself 'the itch' now do you?"

"What?" I pulled back in shock, shaking my head and staring at the old guys' smiling face as he worked that damn cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. Elmo sure had a funny way of talking and of teaching lessons.

"He means venereal disease, Dean," Sam butted in.

"Dude, I know. I'm not an idiot."

"Sure you are" Sam sniffed, using his index finger to wipe at his nosebleed, and then wiping the blood on his shirt.

The sight of blood on Sam always made me queasy and when I get queasy I get pissed.

"Damn it, Sam, do you know how hard I have to work to get protein stains out of our clothes?" I dug inside my jacket pocket and handed him a napkin.

"Guess about as hard as it is for you to get all those freckles off your face." Sam sneezed into the napkin.

"Hey, you keep my freckles out of this, bro. They're one of my best features."

"Which is?" Sam sniffled, whipped his nose one more time and clenched the napkin in his fist.

"Adorable and sexy," I declared.

"That what Mustang Sally said too."

I rolled my eyes wanting to slam the door in his face but quietly clicked it shut rounding the front to the driver side. "Crap," I muttered before opening my door. "Our laundry."

"Get the boy out of here. I'll take care of your britches. Where you staying?" Elmo asked, chewing on his cigar like it was a piece of hard candy.

"Just down the road at The Crazy Horse Motel."

Elmo cringed. "That tobacco spitting hell hole?"

I rolled my eyes. "First floor, Northwest corner. Room nine."

Elmo nodded and did an about face going back down the alley toward Busy Bubbles.

I jumped inside the Impala and glanced over at Sam. He looked drunkenly at me, nostrils still dripping a little blood.

"Pal, I'm sorry I wasn't there. "Didn't get to you on time, man."

"I'm sorry you didn't get laid, Dean." Sam said a little to seriously, then turned toward the window and plastered his face to the glass.

"You toss your cookies all over Baby," I chastised, using my best big brother don't screw with me tone, "And you'll be the one who's sorry."



By the time we got back to the motel room Sam was as floppy as a puppet whose strings had been cut. I'd managed to wrangle Stretch Armstrong over to the bed and put him on his back as gently as I could.

Sam lay there a second, panting hard and staring up at me all glassy-eyed.

I dug around in the duffle and pulled out a pill bottle and some water. "Here." I emptied one tiny pink pill into the palm of my hand and unscrewed to top to the water. "You're looking really pale." I pressed the bottle into Sam's hand holding out the pill to him. "Take this."

"What is it?" Sam inched up just a little, and took a small sip of water.

"Your birth control," I said sarcastically.

Sam gave me an odd look. He hated taking pills of any kind.

"Bro, just take it, man," I said in exhaustion. "You don't want to get pregnant," I said seriously. "Believe me. I know. I watched you being born. Giving birth is no fun. There's lots of pushing and grunting and screaming and a fair amount of blood squirting all over and some veiny blob-like thing that comes out afterwards that looks like a cow's brain."

Sam bolted upright his pale face turned frog-green. "Oh, Gaw." He surged up off the bed and the next thing I knew he was in the bathroom, the door slammed shut.

"Stupid, Dean." I felt really bad. I didn't mean to make him sick, but the stubborn kid needed some pain relief.

Listening to Sam barf for the next ten minutes sucked. After I heard the toilet flush, I walked over to the door, the sharp smell of vomit floating into the room from under the crack. "Hey." I knocked.

"I hate you," Sam said in a weak voice.

I nodded, hating me too. "How you doing in there?"

"I can take care of myself, Dean," he grunted. "I'm not a kid anymore."

"Wrong answer, bitch," I hissed.

Kid or not, Sam was always my responsibility, and whether he liked it or not he would always be my responsibility. I had to keep him safe. Keep him from dying bloody like most hunters seemed to.

I heard more grunts followed by groans and moans and one really pathetic puppyish-whimper. I leaned in closer, pressing my ear to the door. The medical pack was unzipped, Sam obviously fumbling around inside. Then something fell to the floor and Sam dropped the f-bomb. Sam never drops the f-bomb.

I drew back, putting my hand on the doorknob. "Sam, I'm coming in."

I waited for him to protest, but the protest never came so I opened the door slowly.

My skyscraper of a brother was barely standing upright, dressed only in his wet tee-shirt and boxers, hands braced on the sink, facing the mirror with his eyes closed, his half-dried hair all tangled.

"Love the Jimmy Hendrix look you got going on there, bro."

"Shut up."

"You look like shit." I left the door open and stepped inside.

"Feeling like shit would be a vast improvement," he said, one eye peeking open to look at me through the mirror.

I bent over, picking up the peroxide bottle Sam had dropped and set it on the sink top. "Sit down," I ordered, taking him by an arm and directing him to the closed toilet seat.

"Stop clucking over me, Dean. I said I can take care of myself," Sam protested.

"Come on, Jolly Green." I took one of his arms out of his shirt then the other, tossing the Tee to the floor alongside his jacket and wet jeans.

"You can take care of yourself," I eased him down, "But you don't have to," I reprimanded, taking a piece of gauze out of the med kit, soaking it in peroxide and dabbing at the tiny cut just above his eyebrow. "How's your head?" I dropped the gauze into the wastebasket near the toilet, satisfied the cut didn't require stitching.

Sam shrugged, going back to being a puppet on a string and allowing me to cluck…I mean examine him.

I searched through his hair finding a squishy, egg-sized bump at the back of his head, but no blood.

Sam hissed.

"Easy now, little brother." I ran my hand over his forehead, his skin a bit sweaty and clammy.

Sam squinted up at me, flashing me his sad unwanted-pet store- puppy in the window- eyes.

I winced. I hated seeing Sammy hurt, emotional or otherwise. "Stop that!" I snarled. "You know I hate when you do that crap."

"What crap?"

"That 'adopt me I'm a sweet little puppy,' crap."

"I'm not a dog, Dean."

"Fine, you're not a dog. But you are a bitch," I deadpanned.

Sam glanced away, obviously hurt. "I pictured this going down so differently," he muttered sadly.

"What?" I shook my head. Sam wasn't talking about the laundry incident. I knew that much.

Sam was quiet a second, and then turned to face me again. He opened his mouth but before any words could come, there came a horrible dry grinding growl outside.

"Dad's home," I said, cocking an ear, listening to the engine idle, and shaking my head at the unhealthy sound two words coming to mind. Water pump. "He's going to be royally pissed," I muttered to myself.

"I know." Sam fidgeted under my touch. "He's always royally pissed at me."

I blew out a long breath. Sam expected so much. So did dad. They were drowning in each other's anger. And I was always the one left trying to swim us all to shore.

"Dad's not going to be pissed at you, Sammy," I said. "He's going to be pissed because we just replaced the upper and lower ball joints, tie rod ends, and put a new u-joint on the passenger side of his truck and it still needs more work."

The horrible grinding growl stopped as the engine shut off.

The truck door opened with a squeak.

"No, no, no." Sam tried to duck under my arm. "Shut the door, Dean. He's going to be pissed at me."

"Sammy, he'll understand about the whole Laundry room bit," I said with certainty I didn't really feel.

"No he won't. Dad will never understand."

The truck door slammed shut.

"Sam – "

"Dean, please."

"Look." I reached behind me and pushed the bathroom door and it shut with a soft click. "You've had other things on your mind, Sammy," I said softly. "And whatever those things are you have to come clean. The sooner the better."

Sam's eyes went impossibly wide.

I smirked. "Yeah, I noticed, dude. You think I can't get inside your head anytime I want? I know something's going on with you."

Sam looked away, worrying his bottom lip.

"Bro? Talk to me," I huffed, having a sneaking suspicion what 'what' we were about to talk about.

Sam stiffened. "I ca-can't," he stuttered.

I heard the hood of the truck's engine pop open, and a lot of banging metal on metal. "Uh-oh." I nodded to myself. "Dad knows."

Sam's eyes went wide and pleading "How? How could Dad know? Nobody knows," he said, his head whipping around to stare at the closed door. "Guh," he moaned, tilting sideways off the toilet seat

"Sam! Hey!" I grabbed him by the arm and muscled him back upright. "You can't move around like that, man. I'm pretty sure you have a concussion. You move fast like that your whole world's going to roll over and dump you on your ass end."

"Dad can't know. Nobody can. Not yet," Sam said, staring up at me with a pained sadness shining bright in his eyes and cheeks flushed red.

"Sam." I dropped to a crouch in front of him, gripping both his knees in case he toppled again. "I was talking about the truck again."

Sam cocked his head slightly to one side.

"Dad's truck," I explained. "Told him two days ago, it needs a new water pump." I gestured with a tip of my chin toward the bathroom door. "Hear all that cursing. He knows now I was right." I smiled proudly.

As if on cue, the hood slammed shut with a clatter and dad dropped the f-bomb. I wasn't shocked. Not like when Sammy dropped the bomb. Dad dropped the bomb about as often as normal people used their lungs to breathe. Pretty sure it goes back to his military days.

Sam knotted his fingers into my jacket, dizzily staring into my eyes. "Don't let Dad see me like this."

"Sammy, just tell me what's going on."

"I can't. Not yet. Not until I know for sure."

I contemplated that a second, then asked, "Know what for sure? If your pregnant?"

I'd hoped for a laugh, but all I got was more misty-eyed Sam.

"I haven't seen you this upset since that time you lost Sparkle Barbie out the car window," I said sadly.

"Jerk," Sam mumbled, not taking my bait; which told me how serious this was. "I know you believe you know what you think you know about me, Dean, and I know you want to, and I hope you do. But I am not sure what to do and you…you can't tell Dad yet... you know?"

"I know you have a slight concussion and you're talking out your backside."

Sam looked stunned and hurt and sick. "Dean. Please." He let go of my jacket, instead clasping the sides of my face between both his hands. "Please don't. Okay?" His breath was coming in puffs of hot air, chugging freight train trying to make it up huge hill.

"Sam!" I pulled his hands away from my face and held them down at his sides. "Just calm down, will you?"

Sam was really upset and his breathing picked up faster, body quivering, eyes fluttering. "Dizzy," he said, and then groaned looking like he was going to pass out.

"Hey! Not so fast." I gave him a quick shake so he wouldn't. "Breathe easy…deep, slow, easy breathing, Sammy."

I wasn't sure if it was the concussion or his dirty secret that was freaking him out or maybe both. I could see it took real effort on Sam's part not to bolt out the tiny window that wasn't even big enough for a midget to make his great escape. Sam gulped several times, his Adam's apple poking out more prominent as he started taking in slow deep breaths and blowing them back out.

"That a boy," I encouraged, still crouched before him and keeping hold of his knees, waiting for his lightheadedness to disappear.

That wasn't the only thing I'd been waiting to disappear. It hit me hard and I finally knew, how could I not know. It was my job to know, to watch out for him, day and night and everything in-between.

Sam was truly going to bolt.

I knew the cues.

Kid was a runner.

During training he was always the first to finish Dad's five-mile marathons through the roughest terrains. And whenever Dad was drunk, sad, pissed off, or having a one-sided argument, Sam would just turn away and run off. My guess was it was just easier for him than trying to face all of Dad's pain and inner rage.

Sam, he'd mastered the art of bolting.

And, me, I'd mastered the art of knowing when he was bolting. He never seemed to run-off far. I always knew where to find him. In the woods behind a cabin we'd rented in Montana, sitting under a 200 year-old Oak tree in the pouring rain, inside the haul of a rusted 59' Chevy Station Wagon at Singer Salvage Yard under the 103 degree summer sun, one time I found him huddled in an Oregon ice house in the dead of winter in the center of Loon Lake, freezing his loon ass off. I'd poked fun at him about that hiding spot for months.

But this time wasn't funny. Looking at Sam now gave me a strange butterfly feeling in my gut. He was going to bolt – this time for good.

Sam had been more brooding than usual. The slight tremble in his hands turned to clenched fists, the hunch of his shoulders always there, his Sasquatch feet turned to incessant pacing. Kid let his hair grow so long he had to tuck it back behind his ears all the time like a girl and his left eye twitched day and night.

Yep. Sam was going to bolt. No doubt.

To where? That was the question.

Was he going to beat a path to the dirty streets of Tijuana? Get drunk in the all-night shady bars, topless joints and donkey shows, lose all his money betting on illegal dog /cock fights and get his manhood greased at some bug infested massage parlor.

Or maybe Sammy would rather join the friggin' circus than stay in the family business. Cotton candy, loud music, twinkling lights, acrobats on the flying trapeze, jumping through hoops of fire, strapped down to a spinning wheel and blindfolded while some performing clown throws knives at him. Or maybe he'd prefer shoveling elephant shit to this hunter's life.

"I'm okay now, Dean." Sam drew me from my thoughts, his breathing now under control and body relaxing.

"Okay, desperately seeking Susan…think you can keep your ass on the toilet seat while I finish cleaning you up now?" I asked.

"I'm good," Sam proclaimed drowsily, squeezing his eyes shut.

I stood and turned the faucet on, dropping a cloth under the cold running water. "So where to this time, bro? Australia?" I shut the faucet and wrung out the cloth and pressed it against Sam's scrunched forehead.

He didn't answer, and I could tell he was thinking long and hard about something.

"You going to be sick again?"

Still no answer.

Carful as I could be, I wiped away the dried blood under his nose, and crust of vomit around his mouth.

Sam winced a little but didn't make a peep.

"Sammy, just spill it already before I – "

"Dean," he opened his eyes and stared up at me all misty and sappy. "You're not going to like what I'm about to tell you," he said. "I'm going – "

I heard the motel door opened and then slam shut. "Dean. Sam," Dad called.

Sam jolted, nearly jumping out of his skin, eyes flashing up at me full of nervousness and worry.

He opened his mouth to say something.

"Shh," I stopped him. "Let me handle Dad."

Sam's brow knit as he thought about that a split second then snapped his mouth closed.

"Boys!" Dad called his tone deep and militant. "

I watched whatever color Sam had leave his cheeks.

"Trust me," I whispered and gave his shoulder a soft punch.

"Caleb, grab that duffle under the bed," Dad instructed. "And set those laundry bags on the bed. Asshat left them outside the door."

Heavy boots thumped incredibly fast across the floor.

Sam and I looked at each other in surprise as we heard the muffled, dull sounds of firearms being checked, the click and clack and clatter of chambers being reloaded with fresh ammo: dad's double-action pistol, twelve-gauge, his nine and AK47.

Hunting for Dad was like drinking, eating, sleeping and breathing. He hardly ever stopped. This day was no different. From the sound of it, Caleb and Dad were in a huge hurry and probably heading out after a really big badass.

Something crashed to the floor.

"Goddamn it, Caleb."

"Sorry," Caleb mumbled.

"Never mind. Just get the gear to the truck," Dad ordered, now pounding on the bathroom door. "Hey!" he burst loudly. "What's going on in there?"

Sam pressed his back against the toilet tank looking green again, like he might pass out.

"Just washing up, Dad," I answered calmly, turning on the water faucet full blast, wetting my fingers, and flicking water at Sam's face.

Sam blinked away the water drops, taking in slow breaths.

"Where's your brother?"

"Still at the library," I lied, keeping my eyes on Sam. Giving him the 'keep your mouth shut' stare.

"Still? Jesus!" Dad muttered something else I didn't understand. "Caleb and I have to go. Get this place on lockdown. Stay here 'till we get back," he ordered. "Should only be a day at most."

"Yes, sir," I snapped, knowing better than to ask questions when dad was in hunter mode.

He didn't say anything more and I scanned the door hoping like hell he didn't open it as I hadn't locked the bitch.

There was a few more seconds of hustle and bustle, then the sound of dad's footsteps crossing the room, gathering supplies, and then whipping open the front door.

"Dean," he called out.

I flicked a few more drops at my fading brother and shut the faucet off and cleared my throat. "Yes, sir?"

I could smell wood burning, feel dad's laser eyes boring a hole straight through the friggin' bathroom door. I swore the man had x-ray vision, among other superhuman powers.

"You did an A-1 job on the laundry. All the buttons are snapped and zippers zipped, creases sharp and not a wrinkle in anything," he said suspiciously.

I swallowed nervously. "Uh-thanks, Da – "

"Don't," he ordered, using a quiet but deadly tone that made me envision blood-splatter on white. "Your smartass may know about water pumps, but I know about everything else. When I get back you will be telling me the truth, Dean, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me, me!" he snapped. "I know damn well you didn't do this laundry."

"Crap," I whispered, it was my turn to be stunned.

I sucked in a breath and held it, staring at Sam. His right knee started to bounce up and down doing the jitterbug and he bit into his lower lip staring at the bathroom door as if dad would bust it down any second.

He didn't.

I blew out a breath. At least Sammy was in the clear. I'd take the heat.

"That means you too, Sammy," Dad hissed harshly.

My mouth dropped open and I drew up straight. The man really did have x-ray vision. But then again, I shouldn't be stunned. Dad is the smartest man alive."

Sam opened his mouth, probably to say something pansy assed, but I clamped a firm hand over it shutting him up.

"Dad?" I called out, playing dumb. "What are you talking – "

"You think I was born in the back of a trailer, boys?"

I kept Sam's mouth covered and spoke for both of us, "No, sir, but-"

"Shut it now, Dean. Now! If I had time I'd have busted down that door already. You have your orders."

We both jolted when dad left, the entire room shaking in his wake.

"5.3," I muttered, measuring the magnitude of his anger.

"More like a 5.8," Sam corrected.

We listened some more. The motel walls super thin per usual.

Dad swore loudly, dropping more bombs, and I heard him punch the truck – probably putting a dent in the body – before getting into the cab. He revved up the engine, the radio blasting Meatloaf's 'Bat Out Of Hell'. I had my own brand of x-ray vision and didn't need to see to know; Dad had peeled out crazily, parking lot snow mixed with gravel spitting against the thin-walled motel.

I waited until I couldn't hear the music anymore, and then drew my attention back to Sam.

"You dizzy?"

"A little," Sam admitted, his knee still bouncing.

I gripped his shoulder. "Gonna be sick some more?"

"Not so far."

"Good," I groaned, pulling Sam up off the toilet seat. "Because I think I'm gonna be."

Sam rocked unsteadily back and forth in front of me.

"Sammy? Did I ever mention you dance like a two legged drunk giraffe, man," I laughed, swaying back and forth in time with him.

Sam took a few deep breaths, gathering his feet under him and gave me a lippy smile. "Least I don't go running off after Drag –"

"Don't go there, Sam." I cut him off.

"Yeah. Okay." Sam drew away from me and stumbled out of the bathroom.

"Where you going?" I followed close behind his all loose and gangly ass.

"If I can't go there…I'm going to bed." He flopped down on the mattress looking all twisted and uncomfortable and strangely enough falling right to sleep snoring.

"No, no, no," I laid a hand on his chest and jiggled him about.

Sam moaned, but didn't wake up.

"Dude. No sleeping just yet." I jostled him again.

"Go way." Sam moaned deeper.

"Come on, Sam. Wake up." I patted his chest.

"Leave me alone." Sam rubbed his eyes in annoyance.

"I will in a bit. For a couple hours only. You know the routine with concussions."

"Yeah, yeah," Sam said, voice harsh and frustrated.

"How's your head?" I asked, grabbing pillows from my bed and stuffing them against the headboard.

Sam mumbled something.

"How's your stomach?" I lifted Sam up, nesting him against the fluffy pile.

Sam made a disgusting face.

"That good, huh?" I leaned forward peering at his distorted eyes and holding up an index finger moving it in front of Sam's face, left to right.

Sam's sluggish eyes struggled along to follow my movements.

I dropped my hand away, reaching behind me for the comforter off my bed.

"Did I pass?" Sam slurred.

"Your right pupil is enlarged and you have a three-second delay time."

"Mild concussion."

" Sam's eyes fluttered sleepily, wanting to close. This time I let them.

"I'll be waking you every two hours."

Sam gave a small nod. "What are you going to tell Dad when he gets back?"

"The truth," I said, dragging the comforter off my bed and tucking it around Sam. "And what about you, Sam? Are you going to tell Dad the truth?"

"Don't know why? Our entire life is a lie, "Sam croaked.

The truth suddenly hit me in the middle of my gut. The days and weeks and nights and hours at the library. All the books. Eating books. Living in books. My stomach butterflies turned into one big-ass wrecking ball. Sam really was leaving. But not to the circus or another far-off land, he was going to college. To live a real life, with a real name, like a real boy, in the real world, away from his family.

I shivered. Only problem was our world was the one that was real. And everything out there scary... would still be clawing at his back or hiding in the shadows under his bed.

"Which college?" I asked point blank, trying to shake my fear for my brother.

"Can't hide anything from you," he grouched opening his eyes. "Stanford. Ninety-eight percent sure I made the cut…a full-ride."

"Way out west," I whispered.

"I know. Pretty great. Right?" He beamed hopeful, yet unsure.

The wrecking ball had slammed all my earlier snacks up into my throat and all I could do was look at him and nod because if I tried to talk I was going to puke.

"You mad?" Sam asked.

I kept nodding.

"You're mad," he concluded.

I licked my lips, but didn't answer.

"You can visit," he lamely offered.

We both knew I wouldn't.

"I'm going to miss your face." Was all I could muster still nodding my head.

This was Sam's chance, a chance to escape, a chance at having a normal life. I never wanted Sammy to know about the evil, slobbering, talon racking, razor sharp fanged monsters out there in the first damn place. I sighed. Chances were meant to be taken, and I'd let him. Even if I was pissed off. Even if I was afraid for him. Even if it did hurt like hell – and it did – I'd back his play. Even if that meant…even though that meant I'd lose the best job I ever had.

Sammy would have to watch out for Sammy from now on.

I swallowed down a sob, along with my half-digested food. "When Dad gets back we'll tell him everything. Together," I assured, hoping if I stood next to Sam, I could keep Dad's anger in check.

But we both knew what was coming. Easily predicting Dad's next earthquake would probably be the big one… hitting 9.5 on the Richter.

"Dean?" Sam lifted his head up off the pillows.

"Yeah, pal?"

"Thanks for always trying to save my ass," he mumbled.

"Some asses are just worth saving, Sammy. Go to sleep. I'll be here."

"'Kay." His head fell back limp, and his eyes closed.

I watched Sam a moment more than got up to unpack the laundry. Opening the bag I found a note pinned to one of the shirts at the very bottom of the last bag.

It read:

Shoot low, they're riding Shetlands.

"What the hell is he – "Realizing there was something written on the back, I flipped the paper over.

Means be careful, hash brown for brains, it's a bottomless pit of crazy out there.

The end


AN: Old man Elmo's language was researched on line.

Inspiration: Passive/aggressive note tapped to a wall using a smiley face band aid. Found on the net:

To the person who stopped the washer in the middle of my wash cycle and took my clothes out just to wash yours…you're an- a-hole.

Unfortunately for you, so am I. You can find your wet clothes frozen outside in the snow. Any problems come see me in 301.

Thank you, Marianna! Smiles!