Title: Cockroach Motels and All

Author: Reiko K.

Characters: Dean, Sam, hints of John

Genres: Gen, pre-series, Sammy!pov

Rating: PG

Word Count: ~2,670

Warnings: Child neglect

Summary: Dad had that wild look in his eyes before he left like he didn't really want to go and abandon the two of you to this literal hellhole with nothing but the roaches and dust mites for company. Unsurprisingly, he left anyway.

Disclaimer: This is non-profitable fan work. NCII.

Notes: I have never written anything like this before. For that reason, I'm terribly afraid that the tenses in certain sections may be off. I apologize in advance if this reads weirdly, and ask that you tell me if it does.

Um. I had fun with this, though, not gonna lie. I'm completely fascinated by how Sam and Dean lived pre-series. :) Anyway, please enjoy!

cockroach motels and all

"It's a waterbug."

"It's a cockroach!"

"It's a waterbug."

"It's a cockroach!"

That's how bored the two of you are.

Dad's gone, off on another one of those "salesman trips" (finger quotes intentional), and it's just you and Dean, as usual, holed up in a dirty apartment you're too afraid to even sit down in. There are cockroaches…waterbugs…whatever, crawling around like they own the place, so secure in their belonging, superiority, they don't even scatter when you flick on the flimsy lights, let alone run when you try and scare 'em away with the heel of your boot.

It made the cockier ones easier to kill, sure, but it was still nasty as anything. And they're endless, like floating dust particles beneath the grimier motel windows; the moment you start to think that you've cleaned them out a few hundred more sprout up to take their place. You're sort of convinced they're going to launch a coup while you're sleeping. You tell this to Dean who smacks you on the back of the head with a snort but looks like the idea has crossed his mind, too.

You've been here a whole week already and the both of you still sleep on the same bed, the extra one across the room a little too close to the wall for comfort. Your duffels remain unpacked, zipped up and secure in the middle of the bed neither of you are willing to use. Dean spent extra money you don't really have on a box of Ziploc bags to protect the food in the fridge and on the counter. You both still walk around in your shoes, afraid to walk on the floor with bare feet.

The apartment belongs to a six story building in South Brooklyn, right by the forever bustling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. You were ecstatic, at first, when Dad told ya you were going to stay in New York City of all places for a few days. The NYC. The excitement went and disappeared like the sun out in the Washington peninsula when you realized how shady the neighborhood you were staying in was, how dark and gloomy and loud and tawdry. The moment you saw Dad sidestep an obvious druggie who'd looked at your brother a little too long for comfort, and then hand over money to a seedy man who flicked his tongue out like a snake and smelled a bit like some of your motel sheets before the cleaners got to washing out the stains, you knew Dad wasn't going to let you out, not even to the library you passed just a block or two away.

Dad had that wild look in his eyes before he left like he didn't really want to go and abandon the two of you to this literal hellhole with nothing but the roaches and dust mites for company. Unsurprisingly he left anyway, though not before lining the doors and windows with salt and painting protective runes on each wall. He even took the time to install a deadbolt on the door to protect the two of you from the very human dangers living right next door. He left with his usual instructions—"Dean, take care of Sammy"; "Sammy, do whatever your brother says"; "Boys, keep your arsenal close, protect the fort, and for fuck's sake, don't do anything stupid"—and then he was gone, the Impala purring to life on the side street below your gated window and driving off without so much as a hesitant hitch. You and Dean follow it as it disappears past your line of sight, taillights blinking out like a dying flashlight, and then it's just the two of you. You don't tell Dad or Dean this, but sometimes, like right now, you prefer it this way.

Sometimes. Sometimes Dad makes it hard to breathe, makes you feel like you've got asthma when you know you don't. You love Dad, you do, but being around him too long is bad for your health. Your sanity. Dean is better, more comfortable, even at his most annoying which is often. You can relax around your brother, let down your guard. He doesn't inspect you for tenderness or spoil like you're a slab of raw meat, not like Dad does. When it's just you and Dean, you can breathe a little bit better. There are times when you feel like you're drowning, and it's always Dean who pulls you out, lifts you out of the water and onto the safety of the shore with his big hands and firm grip. It's a babyish thing to think, a little too close to sounding like hero-worship for your personal liking, so you don't tell anyone this. Ever. Besides, Dean will never let you live it down if he knew. He'll call you 'Samantha' for the rest of your life, or until you finally give in and commit fratricide. You could probably do it, too.

Dean's cooking macaroni and cheese in the small corner with a stove, counter, and sink that tries to pass off as a kitchen. You're perched on the end of the couch in the sitting area not ten feet away, careful not to lean too far back and watchful of any overenthusiastic critters. Dad just called twenty minutes ago to say that he'll be gone another six or seven days, which is three to four days more than he initially planned. Dean gives his usual "yessir" response and you roll your eyes a few inches away, ear close to Dean and the phone so you can hear, too. You're not really surprised. Not really angry, either. Dad always does this, and Dean never argues with him. You stopped trying to fight some sense into the both of them when you were eight.

You watch as Dean spoons mac'n'cheese onto two separate chipped plates (that you smartly keep in the fridge, along with all the other utensils). He walks over to you, hands you your steaming plate and a rusty metal fork, and takes the seat beside you. The TV's busted despite all Dean's efforts, and there's nothing to really talk about so you just eat. The quiet is nice, and the silence is comfortable. When the both of you are finished you take your dishes to the sink, wash them, and return them to the fridge where they'll hopefully be safe from determined pests. From the corner of your eye you see something far too large to be an insect flash across the floor and escape into a hole on the bottom of the wall you hadn't even noticed was there. You wash your hands in the kitchen sink with cheap dishsoap and resolutely pretend you didn't see anything.

Fifteen minutes later and you're stomach's full but you're still bored out of your mind.

When you ask, tentatively, if you can go outside for a little bit, maybe check out that library you saw first coming in, you're surprised when Dean says yes. You know it's in part because of you and in part because Dean's been crawling the walls with boredom, too. He's even worse at staying still than you are.

You get dressed, tuck your knife in the strap of your boot and another switchblade in the back of your pocket, and you wait for Dean. He doesn't carry a gun, not here, but like you he wears two knives, both of which are pure steel. He also packs some salt, a flask of holy water, and his wallet in the overly large army jacket Dad bought from the Salvation Army a few months back. You know he has other knickknacks on him, but you don't ask. You don't really want to know.

Dean steps outside first and you follow close behind him. While he locks the door and pockets the keys, you scan your eyes over the hall to make sure no one's around. You don't move more than a foot away as you walk down the stairs and out of the building.

The sun is bright, like reflecting light right in your eye. You squint against it. It does nothing to make the neighborhood any less depressing, but it could be worse. Yesterday it rained and it looked like one of those apocalyptic movies Uncle Bobby likes to watch. The people here look a bit like zombies, too, dressed in threadbare, dirty clothing and stumbling around from things you're better off not knowing. Like that guy across the street whose swaying like he just might fall off the stoop he's on. You wonder if he will. Dean whispers tersely to stop staring, and you do. It's hard to keep your eyes straight ahead.

Yours and Dean's arms brush as you walk, but you don't really think anything of it. Dean likes it when you stay close, and you, if you're being honest, feel safer that way, anyway. You're nine now and it should be weird to be so close to your brother, barely half an inch apart, but Dean never seems to mind—at least when you're outside— so you don't bother minding, either. Besides, Dean's been getting distant with you in other ways lately, so you don't think it's going to last. You should feel elated about that, but you don't.

The walk to the Brooklyn Public Library takes less than ten minutes. It's three blocks, one block further than you calculated. Dean follows you while you flitter around the shelves picking out anything that so much as looks interesting. By the time you're done (though only for the moment) you have a stack of books blocking your sight. From the corner of your eye you see Dean huff and roll his eyes at you, but he takes at least half the stack so you don't make a fuss. It's your turn to follow Dean now, anyway, and you aren't surprised when he tosses your books on the long table in front of the comic section. You plop down in a chair and grab the first book on the top of the second pile. There's a young boy on the cover holding a small green dragon in his hand, fire breathing and everything, and you excitedly flip it open and begin to read.

Someone taps on your shoulder a little later and you look up to see Dean watching you with a cocked brow. He points to his watch and you glance at it. It reads five forty-six. You don't know where the time went.

"The library's closing in fourteen minutes, Sammy," Dean reminds you, like you can't count.

"Can't we stay 'til then?" you ask.

"No," Dean says, and he has his 'don't argue with me' face so you don't.

You look down at the half-finished book in your hands and at the pile of books you still haven't gotten around to reading, and your shoulders slump. You know Dean won't take you again, won't risk Dad's anger more than he already has. This will be your last trip until Dad comes back, and you're never even going to find out if Jack and his Dad get reunited.

Your life really sucks.

You snap the book shut and push your chair back and stand, give a final wistful look to the books, then step away. Dean grabs your books, all of them, and you momentarily envy him for being tall enough to see over the pile. But then he's disappearing into the aisles, probably to dump them all the first place he finds, out of place or not, and you're too busy being disappointed to feel much else.

You stay where you are, ignoring the hurly-burly around you, and wait for Dean to come back. He does a few moments later, then the two of you are leaving the library and returning to your rundown apartment building with its diabolical cockroaches and suspicious brown stains. You want to ask if you can maybe just hang outside for a bit, at least until the sun goes fully down, but you don't push your luck. Dad is always telling you you're too greedy. You're trying not to be.

The creepy man who likes to stare at Dean is there on the porch when you reach the building. Dean pulls you to him, on the side opposite the man, and the two of you are practically squished together as you walk through the door, bodies bended like Frisbees and feet stumbling. Once the door closes behind you the both of you bolt up the stairs. The man's wheezing cackle follows you as you climb. It makes the skin behind your neck prickle uncomfortably. Dean lifts his hand and softly grips your nape like he can tell.

You never thought you'd ever be relieved to see your grubby apartment, but you are. Once the door's behind you and the locks are slid in place, you allow yourself to breathe better. Dean pats your shoulder and disappears into the single bedroom.

You take a moment to just breathe before you follow him in. Dean is placing his weapons on the bed when you get there, and you follow suit. You're in the process of tugging off your boots (only to get your jeans off; you'll be putting them back on right after) when Dean taps you on the shoulder. You look behind you, then down.

Dean's holding the book you were reading at the library. There are two other books from what you can see just beneath them, and you don't have to be a genius to know that half their back covers have been torn out from where Dean ripped off the sticker to sneak them out.

You should feel upset. You should feel disgusted by the fact that Dean had stolen. But the sight of the books in his hands just make you feel warm all over, like when Dean used to hug you when you were still little.

He doesn't anymore, grew out of it about two years ago, but sometimes Dean does things like this that feel just as good as. So maybe Dean isn't as affectionate with you as he used to be… but you're starting to realize that that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

You smile at your brother, big and wide until your cheeks are aching from it, and Dean just scoffs and smacks you over the head. His cheeks are a little pink as he shoves the books into your hands and stalks away, though, so you don't really mind. Still smiling, you close your eyes and think.

Your life sucks. Dad is never around, and when he is it's really not all that fun. You hop from town to town more often than you change your socks (that's not entirely true, but the point stands). You have no real friends, graduating elementary school seems an impossible dream, and you're hungry more often than not. You're poor and you sleep in shady places and your Dad's black car is the only real home you have. Your dad fights monsters for a living, and half the time you're not sure if you should be more afraid of your creepy motel neighbor or the boogey man.

Your life, to be perfectly honest, is crap—but you have Dean. Dean, your annoying older brother who puts your socks in the freezer and flushes the toilet when you're taking a bath. Dean, who calls you Samantha and pushes you off the bed and gives you disgusting wet-whirlies, even if he hasn't brushed his teeth. Dean, who'll give you the food off his plate if he thinks you haven't eaten enough and lets you climb into his bed if you're feeling scared and steals books from libraries just so can find out an ending of a story.

So yeah, you're life's a bust. But if you have to choose between living a "normal" life and having Dean, you really wouldn't have things any other way.

Cockroach motels and all.