-The Broken Road That Led Me Straight To You-
After pulling the bullet out of his flesh with a tweezer, cleaning the blood with an antiseptic and stitching the wound shut, Dean wrapped the roll of gauze over his father's shoulder, tying the ends into knots twice and then tightening it to ensure it doesn't loosen. He heard a low grunt emanate from his father as it pressurized the wound, but then the motel room quickly fell back into the prior silence.
Dean picked up the bottle of Tylenol from the first aid box, twisted the lid, and shook out two pills. He set them on his father's outstretched palm and stood up from the chair he was sitting on, heading towards the bathroom.
As he filled up a glass of water for John, he allowed his mind to drift towards him.
Even after he reassured the kid that everything was okay, he still looked afraid. Why?
Just about an hour ago, right outside their temporary residence, he watched that fear haunt his sad hazel eyes as they met his own for a brief moment; saw it linger on his face as he disappeared into his own room, while his older brother drove off somewhere else; possibly a bar.
But there was something more.
Acceptance. For what, Dean didn't know.
He closed his green eyes and rattled those thoughts out of his head. He didn't even know why he was giving so much consideration to this, didn't know why he even cared or why he was so concerned about him. He didn't know why he felt that rush of protectiveness when he saw those bruises on his face the first time he laid his eyes on him or why his laughter made his heart swell with warmth like it did with Adam's. He didn't know why his thoughts kept wandering to him while he was hunting that black dog; his mind flooding with the horrifying images of him getting hurt, and constantly worrying that they'll come true.
He didn't know why he had this horrible feeling that something was really wrong in that kid's life.
He didn't know why he wanted to make it better.
John watched as his son emerged from the bathroom, returning to his side on the chair and handing him the glass of water.
He took the glass in one hand and dropped the painkillers into his mouth with the other, then he began to drink the water slowly, eying Dean in wonder the whole time like he had been ever since they got into the car.
"What?" Dean asked, his eyebrow raising as he caught his father's eyes on him in his peripheral vision once again and he could no longer ignore it.
John retreated the glass away from his lips when he finished and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth as he shook his head. "Nothing." He answered as if he hadn't been staring at his son for the past two hours, setting the now empty glass on the night table and reclining back on his bed.
"You were thinking something." Dean pressed, staring at him warily.
"Forget it, Dean." John replied wearily, waving a hand dismissively.
But Dean's curiosity got the best of him this time, so he couldn't let this go. "Come on, Dad! Don't leave me hanging here."
John remained silent for a short while, contemplating whether he should tell him or not, before he sighed quietly in defeat. "Well, I was just thinking..." he ran off, stopping briefly to gather and phrase the words in his head. Then after a while, he started again,"...Do you remember that incident like four years ago or something, when we were hunting a chupacabra with Richard and Fred Davidson?"
At Dean's blank stare, John sighed again and added, "Wyoming, Cheyenne? Cousins?"
Recognition dawned on Dean's face. "Oh yeah, those guys. We separated on the hunt, them and us. We didn't find the monster on our side, so we decided to go back to them. But it was dark so they probably mistook us for the chupacabra, and Fred almost shot you because of it."
"Yeah. Remember how you tore his head off for it after we killed the monster?"
Most parts of that memory have faded in his mind, but he still remembered how terrified and angry he was, with almost perfect clarity. He remembered how the only thought that ran through his mind was that, this very day, he might just have lost the only family member he had left now if things had gone differently, and for the worse.
He nodded, his eyebrows lifting expectantly for further elaboration.
"So... what changed? I mean, don't get me wrong. It's not that I wanted you to threaten that kid on how 'you would've shot him dead before he even hit the ground if his stupidity led us somewhere even worse,' but, I'm just wondering," he voiced, sounding almost amused as he spoke.
Dean couldn't help but ask himself how his father still even remembered something that was said four years ago, word by word.
But looking at things now from a whole new level, he could really see what his father meant, and the slight similiarity between the events. Hell, if he could compare the two to see which one could've led them in deeper crap, he could honestly say that the recent one was much worse since his father actually did get shot, albeit not fatal but still, whereas with Fred, he almost did.
With Fred, he was furious. He was terrified of the alternative, of what might have happened instead. He spent days thinking, worrying, about it. With Sam, it was different. He didn't think much on it, but just let it go with a gratitude that things haven't gone worse than it could've been. He didn't know why, but he just couldn't bring himself to be mad at the kid.
He vaguely wondered if it had something to do with his puppy eyes.
He knew what his father wanted to know. He wanted to know why he didn't do the same with Sam; why he let him off so easily without even a single bad glance directed at him. But how could he answer him any of that, when he didn't really understand it himself?
So he just stayed silent, hoping that his dad would take pity on him and let him off.
But that didn't happen.
"Dean?" John pressed, staring at him questioningly, his expression curious.
Dean really wished those painkillers would take effect right now.
"Dean, you made me tell you what I was thinking. Now it's your turn to do the same," he persisted, still looking at him expectantly.
He closed his eyes, letting the quietness surround him for a moment before he opened them again and spoke lowly, "I... I honestly don't know it either," Dean answered truthfully, his eyebrows scrunched and mouth pursed in deep thought and confusion as he stared at his hands. Then he sighed heavily, slowly lifting a hand to drag it down his face and through his short dirty blonde hair. He searched for the right words. "I... I guess I just... when I saw how scared and guilty he felt, I guess I just... couldn't, you know? Be mad at him."
John nodded slightly, his ears listening and brown eyes understanding as he witnessed his son's puzzlement.
"Kind of like with your brother," he said quietly after a short while of silence, somewhat hesitant. It had been a long time since they've mentioned the youngest member of their family, aloud and sober, even though there has never been a day when they haven't thought of him.
Dean's heart jolted at the mention of his baby brother, the two words hanging in the air of the open distance between them, and for a moment, that was all he could hear ringing in his ears. But then the complete statement finally sunk into his mind, and he asked, his brows melding together, "What?"
John looked up from his hands, and straight into his son's bewildered green eyes. "You could barely get mad at... at Adam," He swallowed shakily as a thin line of unshed tears shone on the edges of his eyes, and he squeezed them shut as if it physically hurt (which it did) to even say his baby boy's name, knowing that he'll never be able to see his face again, or talk to him and hear his voice.
Sometimes he dreamed of him (he knew Dean did too. He would sometimes hear him whisper his brother's name in the cold, moon-lit room, his voice full of awe and love and hope). He dreamed of old memories, of a time when things were much lighter and easier than now, of laughter and joy. Of him and Dean and Adam, happy and smiling. Of a feeling, like there wasn't anything you needed more in life in that moment. Of feeling complete (Their life was never really perfect but it was moments like those that made it worth living). There were times when he'd realize that it was all a dream, so he'd hold his youngest and say all the things he should have said because he knew that when he'd wake up, he wouldn't be there anymore.
And they would feel so real, with his baby boy standing right in of him, palpable and alive and smiling and laughing with him. But then he'd open his eyes to the darkness of the room (of the painful reality), and it'd all fade away, and Adam would be gone again, his hopes shattered into a thousand pieces.
Even the temporary comfort and happiness in those dreams weren't enough. They could never be enough. It only left him longing and wishing more, hurting more. It only emphasized the feeling of his missing family member, the anguish of what he lost.
And sometimes, the pain got so bad that he'd reach for the whiskey bottle, even though he knew that not even a thousand gallons of alcohol in his system could ever wash away or fully numb the agony that came along with his son's death.
He didn't even know how he made it this far.
"When he did something wrong, when he'd make a mistake... all it took was one look at his guilty and sorry face, and you'd break down," John replied. "You seem to feel the same with that kid."
Dean's throat bobbed as he swallowed, burning holes into the floor as he thought. What his father said seemed much closer to the truth than far. Sure, the connection wasn't as deep as the kind you'd feel for family. You can never feel that way for some mere stranger that you only met today.
But that didn't mean it wasn't there.
He hoped that it had nothing to do with the desperation he felt to fill that empty hole in his chest ever since the day his baby brother left him.
"The kid isn't that much different from him either," John began. "I mean, he's got those puppy eyes that could melt any stone-hearted person, just like Adam did. He loves books and learning, from what Bobby told us. He's really shy and timid around strangers..."
"What are you trying to say, Dad?" Dean cut him off, his curiosity covered by the slight bit of exasperation in his rough voice.
John fell silent at that for a few seconds, but then sighed heavily. "I'm saying that... that I think Sam reminds you of...of Adam," he paused and swallowed hard, whether because of the weight that formed in his throat at the name or the hesitance he felt at saying what he was going to say, he didn't know.
"I think you see your brother in him."
As soon as his father went to sleep, with the pills in his system making him feel drowsy and sleepy, Dean left the room.
He needed a bar, and he needed one fast.
It had been such a long time since they've talked about... about Adam. Years passed, and they never spoke a word about him until now. They came close on a few occasions, when something would remind them of past moments, and it'd almost slip out. But it never really happened.
Dean preferred to keep it that way. Because talking about his little brother... it hurts.
He wondered if what his Dad told him was true. Could that really be the reason why he felt so drawn to that kid? Now that he actually think about it, Sam was quite similiar with Adam in almost everything but his appearance, what with his personality traits; polite and shy and quiet around people he didn't know very well. And his interests; reading things and learning new stuff. Bobby told him quite a few things about him, and the old man seemed quite fond of him too. He was intelligent and smart, a straight As kid, and definitely someone who could make it into a big university like Harvard or Stanford and live a great life. Too bad his hunting life would never allow that. He was kind-hearted and he had a strong fondness for dogs (he thought about how Adam always wanted a dog); Bobby told him about a time when he was staying at his house for a few days while his father and brother went off to hunt, when they were on their way back from a grocery store and he saw a hungry stray dog searching for food in the garbage, he gave it most of his snacks without a second thought. He was only seven at the time.
He wondered if his father also saw Adam in him.
He halted in his steps, every one of his muscles stilled, his breaths held as he heard those words, that sound.
The sound between a strangled whimper and a pained, shaky sob, in a voice that almost resembled...
It was the same pitiful sound again, but much more shakier and strained, and it gripped at Dean's heart tightly as the plea entered his ears. He could only think about how wrong it felt to hear it. That voice should've been shy and polite and sweet and young.
Not so small and choked and hurt and scared.
It was then that he moved again, when he released that shuddery breath that spoke of fear for a boy that he barely even knew. He looked up in the direction the voice was emanating from, and he found himself staring at the number plate of the room Sam and Rick were residing in. His heart began to pound rapidly against his sternum.
Dean headed towards the building, hoping against hope that what his mind was telling him wasn't true. That it was a simple misunderstanding, nothing more. Rick couldn't be like that...
Until he heard the next words.
Author's Note: Wow! I'm on a roll here! Okay, so not exactly in terms of fast updates, but in longer-than-my-usual chapters. I'm so, so, so sorry about my delays. My computer has been broken for over a year now, and my Dad isn't very willing to fix it. Plus, school and life has been in the way and there has barely been any inspiration for me lately, and if there has been, then I've decided to wait until I finish at least one story before I write them because seeing over three stories of mine without a complete sign makes me feel really guilty for not finishing them.
Thank you all so much for the support. I know I'm becoming worse at updating early nowadays and yet you've still stuck with me, and you have no idea how much that loyalty means to me. Thank you for still sparing the time to read or review my stories. You people are awesome; every one of you!
No flamers. Constructive advice is welcome though, but be nice.