Writer's Note: Woohoo! 8K in one day, bitches! It's just that I really wanted to get a bro-love moment banged out. It's chapters like these that I look forward to writing when I'm done plotting and expositioning you all to death - Rest assured, the Cult&Lucidan&YED back story will come around to a legit final climax, I think (hope & pray, lol), but this is a nice digression that should lend itself to the rest of the story quite easily & reasonably. Happy reading!


Previously...

The drive back was eerily silent. Neither of them wanted to broach the concept that Dean had been slated as a sacrifice. Or that the cult itself had catered to Sam's visions.

They got back into the motel room around four pm. Things felt cold and the two of them were thoroughly disturbed and isolated in their own thoughts.

Nothing seemed worth it anymore and Dean, for one, wanted to get out of dodge as fast as possible. When he watched Sam slump down onto the farthest bed to rest, he reconsidered about when to bring the idea up. Sam could sleep things off and they'd discuss it later.


Clean Slate

Chapter 14


The first sense that came to him in the darkness were whispered words rasping directly into his ear.

"I'll get you back, I promise, Sammy - I promise..."

Sam's body shuddered and a strong arm gripped him around the back.

"Please... please," Sam surprised himself by crying, his voice a higher pitch than what he was used to. He realized it was dark because his eyes were pushed up against someone's chest and he was being held tightly. A split-second later he realized he was holding on for dear life too.

"It's gonna be okay, I promise you. A few days and you'll be out. Ya just gotta hold on, okay, Sammy? I'm gonna get you back," came the same voice, but now Sam could recognize it. It was a higher pitch too, but it was unmistakably the voice of his brother. Understanding flooded in: CPS had found them. Dad was out of town.

"De- Dean," Sam gasped, tears streaming down his face, "Please... please don't leave me, please," he begged and felt Dean's hand rubbing his back and cupping his head.

"I... I can't," Dean choked, "I can't come with you right now but don't worry. Shh, don't worry, Sammy, I'm gonna get you back."

"But what if you don't?!" Sam yelled into his brother's chest, panicking. Sam felt Dean grab him tighter, holding him securely.

"I promise you, I will," Dean replied, but Sam had already started keening with despair, terrified.

"No, you're going to lose me," Sam cried. "You're going to lose me, Dean, you're going to lose me..."

"I'm not gonna lose you, Sammy. I'll never lose you. You gotta go with them right now though - I'll see you so soon, Sammy," Dean's voice cracked and Sam started sobbing as Dean started extracting himself from their embrace.

"Dean, please, NO!" he wept, reaching for Dean again, but Dean had stepped away to pull him up to stand. He wrapped his arms around Sam's chest from behind and squeezed.

"Come on man, pull it together," he whispered, "I'm not gonna leave you. You'll be fine, I promise."

"You're lying!" Sam yelled back, devastated, and Dean gripped his shoulder sharply, making Sam release a whimper of pain. He tugged his shoulder away and blinked the tears out of his eyes. They were standing in the middle of a stereotypical motel room, the lighting dim and the sun about to set. CPS had knocked on their door in the late afternoon after the brothers had walked home together.

Sam was being taken away. He was twelve years old. He zeroed in on the sympathetic face of the social worker and his face screwed back into tears. He tried to turn around, back into Dean, but Dean held him to face forward.

"Dean," Sam cried, drawing the word out miserably, and Dean held him tighter. "You won't find me again, Dean, you won't," he sobbed, knowing that was he was saying was true.

The adult Sam, the one both watching and feeling the scene playing out, didn't understand where his certainty came from but he sure as hell felt the innate terror relentlessly battering him at the thought that Dean would never be able to find him again.

"C'mere, sweetie, it's okay," the social worker said kindly and Sam was hyperventilating, shaking his head and cringing against her outstretched hand.

"You'll never find me! Dean! You'll... you'll... you'll nev-never find me again!" Sam cried loudly, then nearly screamed as Dean pushed him forward towards the social worker and she grabbed his wrist.

"DEAN! DEAN! NO!" Sam's yelled at the top of his lungs. The social worker pulled him towards the motel room door. Sam looked behind him to stare at big brother with wide, panicked eyes. Dean's tear tracks had dried and his arms were folded against his chest as he watched Sam get dragged to the door. Sam couldn't get Dean to look at him no matter how much he yelled but he stopped calling out for him when the social worker pulled him out of the room. Dean took a few steps forward and Sam looked up, hoping Dean would call it off, grab him, pull him back inside and slam the door closed after telling the social worker to fuck off.

"Take care of him, Sharon," Dean said evenly, shattering Sam. The social worker smiled and nodded honorably. Sam burst into tears, nearly crumpling to the ground but for Sharon's fast grip to hold him up.

The last words he'd hear out of his big brother would be a lackluster request for someone else to take care of him.

"Dean - Dean please," he pleaded, more now to himself than anyone else as he stumbled and fell into the backseat of a sedan. The door shut closed and Sam turned his tear-stained face to look out the window, searching for one last look of his hero.

Dean had already closed the door to the motel.

Sam's tears flowed until he launched back into denial and shouted for his brother through the car's window.

"Please... please let this be a joke, please let this be one of YOUR SICK JOKES, DEAN!" Sam screamed, anger and pure fear mixing together as the car's engine started.

Sam watched through tears as the car pulled out of the spot and moved out of the parking lot.

"You'll never find me, you'll never find me, Dean," Sam repeated over and over again in whispered sobs, rocking back and forth, traumatized and abandoned.

Suddenly Sam was shunted against the backseat of the car, his heart stopping its beats, his hands flailing and head jerking backwards. A milisecond later he was thrown forward harshly, the breath getting knocked out of him as shrill pitched metal grinded and blinding lights shredded through his mind. Sam managed to scream, his body bucking in spasms, as the pain split him in half.

"DEAN!" Sam called out frantically, disoriented and terrified.

All at once, Sam got slammed down against something cushioned and bounced before he rolled over and threw up all over an already stained burnt orange carpet. Sam gagged, his breath ragged and his stomach still roiling and churning. He realized he was still crying, his sobs loud in the relative quiet of wherever he was now.

Sam broke into exhausted whimpers, limp against the mattress, utterly hopeless. He closed his eyes, choking back tears and gasping in breaths. He wanted to die in that moment - just vanish into sweet, uncomplicated nothingness...

Sam felt something cool - a wash cloth - sweep across his mouth. At the same time, he felt a hand rest itself on his back and a soothing voice trail through to his head.

"I'm right here, Sam," it said, "I didn't lose you. I found you," it reassured. "Whatever just happened, I obviously found you, Sammy," Dean explained softly, rubbing Sam's back.

Dean felt Sam start to shake under his hand.

"Sam-?" Dean asked, worried, and reached to move Sam around to face him. Sam turned at Dean's touch but covered his face with his hands, trying to get himself under control and failing. Dean cringed with sympathy and tilted his head.

"You... you..." Sam tried to explain what he'd seen, "you l-left me," Sam got out, a quick inhale getting the better of him and a tear rolling its way down his cheek. Sam's heart felt like it was still breaking, every piece of him having gotten beaten: he was worthless. Worse than worthless: he was a burden and truly unloved by-

"Sammy, that doesn't sound like me," Dean whispered gently. Sam's face screwed into what he knew would be more tears.

"I-I know..." he cried, then fell into sobs again.

Dean gave another true grimace and edged forward, starting to pull at Sam's waist and moving up.

"C'mere, man," he said as he inched Sam up slowly, "C'mon," he said, his voice strong and steady, as he gripped Sam under the arms and pulled.

Sam was sluggish but automatically fit into Dean's embrace. For someone so tall, Dean was surprised by how little Sam felt when Dean held him, curling in and against Dean like he was so much younger. Sam shook and trembled against him as Dean rubbed his back and carded his fingers through his hair.

"Sam, Sam whatever memory played out, I obviously found you. I got you back," Dean started, thinking maybe he could drill this one home. Sam started moving, started pawing his hands around Dean and actively hugging him. Dean, somewhat surprised, decided to go with it.

"I... You gave me away," Sam said weakly, still shivering in his brother's arms and trying to get closer - get the sense of security he knew Dean could provide back.

"No, I didn't," Dean blurted, suddenly angry - but not at Sam. Sam tensed for a second before Dean leaned in and hugged Sam. "Sorry - sorry - but I didn't, Sam. I obviously didn't give you away, bud, you're right here with me," he argued reasonably, replacing his hands around the kid's back more securely. He quirked his head to the side, trying to see Sam's face which he'd buried in the crook of Dean's shoulder. "Right? You're right here with me, right?" Dean said comfortingly, putting his hand against Sam's head and ruffling his little brother's hair.

"Uh huh," Sam whimpered, his voice nearly cracking even in that one vocalization. He worked on breathing correctly, trying to swallow down any more sobs.

"Tell me about the memory, Sam," Dean asked softly, "How old were we?"

Sam cringed and squeezed Dean tighter. Dean returned the gesture and sighed just before pulling Sam up closer. Sam gave a pitched grunt as Dean rearranged them, soon finding himself practically in Dean's lap as Dean leaned against the bed's headboard. Sam gulped and settled, trying his best to focus so he could answer his big brother.

And that was when he realized it. When it finally clicked.

Sam closed his eyes and turned his face against Dean's chest, barely suppressing one last sob.

"Sam-?" Dean asked worriedly, starting to rub Sam's back again. "You okay? Come on, man, I'm right here. Didn't lose you, I promise."

Sam sniffled a chuckle against Dean's shirt.

"S-sorry," Sam whispered, his voice muffled against Dean's shirt, "I'm just... I'm starting to... to get why... how y-you're all I have..." He murmured. He felt Dean's chest expand and the easy, long exhale that followed.

"Yeah me too," he whispered tiredly, stroking Sam's hair as he reached for his cell phone in his back pocket. He jostled Sam and Sam looked up, his face blotched and tear-streaked, eyes still watering, to see what Dean was doing.

Dean dialed a number and put the phone to his ear. He looked down into his brother's wide brown eyes and gave a small reassuring smile before starting to rub his back again.

"Who're you calling?" Sam croaked.

"Bobby," Dean whispered. Sam's face was apparently expressive enough because Dean followed up quickly, "It's okay. I'm not going to ask him to come over or anything," he murmured, pressing his hand over Sam's head protectively.

"Okay," Sam whispered.

"Relax, it's okay," Dean said softly before perking up as the line picked up. "Hey- Bobby?"

"Yeah?" Sam heard the gruff, tinny voice through the receiver.

"Hey man, uh... This is gonna sound like a weird question, but did I ever, like, abandon Sam?"

Dean shifted his arm to around Sam's hunched shoulders.

"Huh?" Bobby retorted glibly.

"Did I ever abandon Sam?" Dean repeated seriously. Sam wriggled a little under Dean's arm and Dean looked down at his brother, mouthing, "what?"

"Um," Sam coughed, "it... it was when we were little. I... was young. It was like... a child protective services thing," Sam explained, his voice crackling, his throat raw.

"Bobby it had to do with CPS when Sam was young-? Ring a bell?" Dean relayed.

"Oh... shit, yeah," Bobby replied slowly, "yeah I remember that. Did the kid have another memory vision?"

Dean hugged Sam to him when he answered.

"Sure did. Apparently I abandoned him-?" Dean asked, secretly hoping - and not fully knowing why he was hoping - that this vision was wrong. "I... Bobby, I wouldn't have done that, right?" He asked, allowing himself to sound worried.

"He there with you?"

"Sam? Yeah he's like right here," Dean smiled and Sam huffed a small laugh against him.

"Hey Bobby," Sam sniffed.

"Put me on speaker, will you, Dean?" Bobby requested.

"Sure," Dean murmured, looking down at his phone and touching the option, "okay you're on speaker."

"Okay. Sam, were you like... eleven, twelve years old?"

"Yes, yeah," Sam answered promptly, nodding against Dean's chest and staring at the phone in front of them.

"Okay kiddo, so yeah you were pretty traumatized after that," Bobby acknowledged solemnly. "CPS got wind of you two staying in a motel without a guardian - your daddy was on a hunt - and while Dean had his paperwork faked and passed as eighteen, you didn't."

"Okay," Dean said, waiting. It took a couple beats of silence before Dean couldn't take it anymore. "So what happened? I got him back, right?" Dean asked anxiously, his own sense of discomfort leaking into his voice. He wouldn't have just left his little brother, would he have?

"Yeah Dean, ya got him back," Bobby answered, his smile coming through loud and clear over the phone.

"Bobby... I was, like, positive, Dean would never find me again," Sam said, his voice teetering. He heard Bobby sigh over the phone.

"That's because Dean's a great actor, kid. He had to pretend a lot of shit growing up. You should've known Dean would never have turned you over to CPS if he didn't already have a plan to get you out, but... you know... you were young... and I think John had scared the crap out of you once about CPS, so that kind of blurred your perception of what was really going on."

Dean couldn't hide his relieved sigh.

"So... so how'd I get him out?" Dean asked, resettling himself more comfortably against the headboard. Sam took notice and angled his back against Dean's chest so he could hear Bobby better. At that, Dean took an unthinking second to wrap his arms around his little brother. Sam nestled in as Dean rested his wrist against Sam's chest and held the phone out.

"Bobby?" Dean prompted.

"Yeah... Well, I probably don't know most of it," Bobby lied.

"Will you tell us anyway?" Sam asked.

"Okay sure. You two were based in, ah, I want to say Colorado. You two enrolled in school - Dean was in high school and Sam, I think you were junior high or middle school or something..."

"Okay, first question," Dean spoke up.

"Shoot."

"Everyone thought I was eighteen?"

"Yeah."

"...But at most I had to have been sixteen."

"Yeah."

"So, did no one think an eighteen year old sophomore in high school was weird?"

"Nah, Dean, you were a senior."

"What?" Dean asked, confused.

"Dean, you got your G.E.D. because you didn't give a shit about keeping track of your transcripts."

"What, so I was a sixteen year old senior?"

"Yeah, ya idjit," Bobby quipped, his smile making its way through his voice again. Dean felt Sam tilt his head to speak to him.

"See, Dean? You're not dumb," Sam said, his voice still slightly strangled but unquestionably playful.

"Shut up," Dean huffed, cuffing Sam's face lightly. "Okay, whatever, keep going, Bobby."

"Okay. So you guys moved into your new schools and Sam started havin' some trouble with his peers almost right off the bat."

"What, like, bullies?" Dean clarified, curious.

"Yep. Sam didn't like to fight back - felt it was unfair given his training."

"Eh, seriously?" Dean quirked the shoulder Sam's head was resting against.

"No, no that does sound like me," Sam acknowledged casually. Dean rolled his eyes.

"Okay, so Sam got bullied because he bought into bullshit pacifism," Dean summarized.

"It's not bullshit, Dean-"

"Hey!" Bobby groused. "Am I telling this story or what?"

"No continue."

"Please yeah, go on, Bobby."

"Okay," Bobby established, "Okay so Sam had some issues with his class mates. One of them knocked him pretty hard in the eye - got a good shiner off it, and that's when shit hit the fan. The school wanted to speak to your Daddy and, since John was out on a hunt, Dean you were the only one that showed."

"That sounds normal," Dean shrugged.

"It wasn't. In fact, the school was so pissed that you showed up 'stead of your Daddy that they tried real damn hard to get a hold of him. He was out for the count though - werewolf a few counties north had done 'im in good. He was recouping, his cell smashed to shit."

"Ah, so that's when-"

"Yeah that's when CPS got called in. I got a call from you, Dean, when it happened. You were pretty worried, scared as hell and scrambling to forge docs saying that you were Sam's primary guardian," Bobby explained. Dean pursed his lips, unconsciously tightening his hold around Sam.

"I tried to help you - worked my ass off to get what you needed in time, but the services there were way too fast in mobilizing. You thought you had the end of the week before they'd even think about taking Sam... but a couple days later I got your call right after they'd dragged 'im out," Bobby said sadly. His tone was soft, pained, as if remembering that call was straining his emotions.

"You were, uh, you were pretty upset. You told me that you had to fake a peaceful separation even though Sam had no idea what was going on..."

"Yeah, Bobby, that's... that's what I saw," Sam confirmed, giving an involuntary shudder. Dean moved his free hand to Sam's wrist and gave it a small squeeze.

"Yeah well, it wasn't real, Sam. Dean had to do it in order to make sure they weren't going to perceive him as a threat to your welfare."

"What? How would that-"

"-Because if Dean had refused to let you go, they would've taken you from him anyway and to a more secure location. If they'd perceived him as a potential kidnapper, they woulda put you in any number of childcare facilities in a hundred mile radius... Dean wasn't gonna make it easier for them to take you from him."

Sam nodded slowly, coming to terms.

"So..." Dean prompted, but Bobby didn't continue. "So how'd I get him back?"

"Well Dean you were set and ready to kidnap the kid that night..."

Sam smiled and Dean snorted a laugh.

"But when you called me, I told you to hold off. I promised I could fast track the forged docs and then you'd be able to get him out legally - well - you know... Not legally but legally."

"Okay. How long did we have to wait? How long was Sam stuck in guardianship limbo?"

"Well I fast-tracked the docs and cracked open the yellow pages to call every motel around where I knew that werewolf was prowlin'. Finally got your Daddy through the motel's in-room phone."

"And?"

"He was hurt pretty bad. Not dyin' bad, but he couldn't make it back to ya. I gave 'im the run down and offered to stand in as your daddy for the sake of appearances when you arrived to pick up Sam with the documentation."

"What'd... what'd he say when he found out I'd been taken?" Sam asked, curious. Bobby gave a quiet chuckle.

"John was more on board with Dean's plan of action. Woulda given the kid the go-ahead to straight out kidnap you that night, Sam," Bobby replied easily. Dean quirked a smile, willing to recognize that detail as indicative of how much he cared.

"Anyway," Bobby continued of his own volition now, "John 'n I hashed out the plan - I was gonna drive down to Dean with the docs and we'd go through the bureaucratic bullshit together in order to make sure that Dean was registered as your legal guardian, Sam."

"How long did it take?" Dean asked seriously.

"Sam was taken on a Tuesday. We got 'im back the following week," Bobby said. He breathed a deep sigh before continuing. Dean bristled with anticipation, something nagging at him that he couldn't quite place. He swallowed nervously and decided to throw it out there.

"Was... was everything okay? When I got him back, I mean?" Dean asked, again unconsciously pulling his little brother closer.

"Yeah..." Bobby trailed off, sounding like he was holding something back.

"Bobby-?" Dean prompted, annoyed.

"Once everything was squared away, they presented Sam in the offices of the facility he'd been staying in. Sam had kind of checked out by then though."

"What do you mean, 'checked out'?" Dean asked through gritted teeth. He was getting less and less surprised by the intensity of his emotions whenre Sam was concerned and right now he was just free forming.

"You were livid, Dean. I don't think I've ever seen you as furious as you were that day."

"Mmhm," Dean grunted.

"So... what happened?" Sam asked.

"Dean realized you'd clocked out soon enough after seein' ya. Had a few choice words to say to the social workers, then pulled you out. I stayed behind to give my own rendition while Dean got you in the car and ready to go."

"When... How long did it take for Sam to check back in?" Dean asked gently, hoping it hadn't been too long.

"Soon. It was quick," Bobby replied immediately. "I got into the car - the two of you were in the backseat. A few hours in, I heard Sam in the backseat."

"Was he okay?"

"Cryin'... But happy, y'know? Dean, y'just held him all the way up there, lettin' 'im know it wouldn't ever happen again," Bobby explained kindly. Sam rubbed his eyes and Dean realized his own had gotten a little watery.

"Your daddy met up with us back at my place. Sam didn't leave your side for weeks, Dean, and you likewise didn't want 'im outta your sight for a minute... We had a great Thanksgiving that year too actually," Bobby added thoughtfully, making Sam and Dean laugh weakly. Dean coughed his voice clear.

"Okay. Thanks, Bobby," he said genuinely.

"'Course."

Sam twisted against Dean for a second and whispered.

"D'you wanna tell 'im...?"

"Tell me what?" Bobby interrupted.

"You know the deaths we were investigating here?"

"Yeah - they're linked to the Vestal cult," Bobby replied.

"Oh, you knew about that?" Sam asked, taken off guard.

"Yeah. I know how to research, you idjits, what do you think I been doin' all day?"

"Well. Okay," Dean said, shrugging.

"How do you know about them?" Bobby returned.

"We met a couple of them on the road. One almost strangled Dean with his mind," Sam supplied nervously.

"What?!"

"The dude strangled me with his mind," Dean repeated loudly.

"I heard you-"

"Oh," Dean murmured, shrugging. Sam gave a light huff of laughter.

"-I mean to say what the hell are you boys doin' to get into this shit so easy?!" Bobby yelled into the phone.

"I-What?! We didn't even do anything-" Dean replied defensively.

"We were up north finding a place to shoot guns," Sam informed. There was a pause on the line. "Bobby-?"

"Tell me again why you boys were out in the woods not five miles from the compound of the cult you two had brought down?" Bobby asked, his voice dripping with contempt.

"Oh sweet so we actually did bring it down, huh?" Dean asked, satisfied and totally unfazed by Bobby's tone of voice.

"-We, uh, we wanted to see if we were good shots, Bobby," Sam responded.

"-And you couldn't'a asked me?"

"Oh yeah. So, Bobby, are we good shots with guns?"

"YES, you god damned FOOLS!" Bobby yelled back into the phone and hearing the boys' snickering laughter travel back through the line. Bobby rolled his eyes in exasperation, his heart thudding with the implications of what they'd just told him. Still, he couldn't help but crack a small smile. It was nice to hear the two of them on the same page and laughing.


Writer's Note: Thank you so much for reading! Please comment/review if you can spare the time!