Second in my Kitsune AU series. Takes place five years after Changes.

Usual disclaimers-I only own my imagination and any OC I bring to the table. All else is owned by Eric Kripke. Thank you for letting me play with your toys!

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant. Horace (Roman poet 65 BC-8 BC)

Sam Winchester was not a happy camper by any length. In fact, he was downright upset but, like his father had told him, there was nothing he could do about it. His brother was just growing up and wanted his space but Sam didn't understand why Dean didn't want to play with him much anymore or even sleep in the same bed like they had been doing for most of Sam's short life. Words like puberty and teenager didn't mean much to the little boy who felt like he was being left behind. It hurt so much that Sam started to spend much of his time in his fox form and hiding in very small places only coming out when called for meals or time to get ready for bed. In fox form his depression was even more pronounced with dirty fur, dull eyes and tail between his legs at all time. Because both his brother and father had declared that Sam was too big to sleep in their beds, the smallest Winchester started to build a nest consisting of blankets, pillows, his family's dirty tee shirts and socks, by a heating duct to simulate the puppy pile he had slept in all his life but there just wasn't enough of his family's scent to comfort the kit at night. He kept stealing clothes from the hamper until Dean got upset when he couldn't find his favorite shirt. After searching the whole house for his missing shirt, Dean then tore Sam's nest apart and found his shirt along with other articles belonging to his dad and himself. Dean then grabbed all the clothes and yelled at Sam to keep his paws off of his (Dean's) stuff.

In his anger, Dean didn't notice how Sam was shattered by his ranting. After his brother left his bedroom, Sam stared at the mess that had been a comforting place for him, one that helped in keeping the nightmares at bay, and cried. Shifting into fox form again, Sam curled under his bed and cried himself to sleep. For a week after that incident, Sam was barely seen by the household. Caleb became very worried and tried to talk to Sam about it but the younger child just shook his head and limped back to his room. Caleb then tried to talk to Dean and was told, in a very loud voice, that it wasn't all right for Sam to steal his things just because he was still a baby and that Sam needed to grow up. What neither Dean nor Caleb knew was that Sam was close by enough to hear his brother's comments. What little was left of the young kit's heart shattered into powder. Quietly, he left the house and started to run.

Not quite knowing where he was going, Sam found himself at the Salvage Yard. He knew that Bobby was gone on a hunt and the dog, Sheba, was patrolling the yard which meant that Bobby's place was off limits to the young Kitsune. Sam sat on his haunches and started to whimper. The whimpers blossomed into full whines with tears running down his cheeks. Sheba, Bobby's full blood German Shepard, heard the young one's cries and came out to investigate. She was close to giving birth and her maternal instincts were running high. When she found the distressed kit, she easily cleared the fence and landed close by Sam. Sheba went to the kit and started to sniff him. She could smell the scent of the Fox Man who worked for her Human so she knew that the kit was part of her pack. Noticing that he was upset, she carefully picked him up in her mouth and jumped over the fence again. Trotting to her doghouse, she entered and laid down, putting the kit next to her. Holding him down, Sheba began to clean the baby. Sam didn't really like that but it was calming and before he knew it, he fell asleep to her ministrations. After she was finished, Sheba curled around Sam and fell asleep herself.

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John got back from a store run and began to make dinner. He heard Dean and Caleb outside as Caleb was teaching Dean how to shoot a gun. Grimacing, John decided to make a salad to go with dinner and called up to Sam to help him. He was worried about his youngest. John knew that Sam was having a very hard time with Dean's new independence but there was nothing he could do about it. He decided to call his parents for advice since Sam was getting very depressed. He hoped that they could tell him what to do since he was all out of ideas. When Sam didn't come down or even answer his father, John got worried since it wasn't like Sam to not even acknowledge him. John went upstairs to Sam's room and looked in. When he couldn't find Sam anywhere, John started to feel the first tendril of panic. Shaking his head, he went downstairs to see if the boy was with his brothers.

He went to the new shooting range where Caleb and Dean were cleaning their pistols. "Hey, guys. Have either of you seen Sammy?" John asked. Dean scowled at the question.

"No and I hope I don't see the little thief. He had no right, Dad! He didn't even ask if he could have our clothes and what's with them being dirty?" Dean ranted.

It was then that it clicked for John. The nest built with their clothes that had strong scent of his family. John then realized that Sammy had been trying to recreate what gave him comfort. How lonely his baby must have felt when both John and Dean said that Sammy was too old to sleep in their beds. John's eyes filled with tears as his oldest watched. "Dad? What's going on? Dad?" Dean asked with a tremor in his voice.

"Oh, God, Dean. Why didn't I see it before?" John said tearfully. Seeing Dean's question in his eyes, John went on to say, "The reason he was doing that, building a nest with our clothes is that he was lonely. We told him that he was too old to sleep with either one of us when I should have remembered that he's only ten, still a kit. He needed our scent to sleep and we denied that to him so he tried to recreate that comfort. He must feel as though we don't want him around anymore. Dean, what have I done to my baby?"

"What do you mean, Dad? You didn't do anything, I did when I tore that nest apart," Dean's eyes sheened with tears.

"It's still on me, Dean. I forgot that kits need their family when you started to go through puberty. I started to think like a human, of all things. Not that that's a bad thing but some things are still uniquely ours and sleeping with family is one of them," John tried to explain.

"Dad? What do you mean? You were only giving me space that I asked for," Dean asked a bit tearily.

"Babies, like Sammy, need lots of touch and warmth. It makes them feel safe and secure as does our scents around him at night. If…if they don't get what they need, they get very depressed. If I remember correctly, my father told me that some kits, when ignored like that will try to build a nest like Sam did, to recreate that sense of security. He said that, if that didn't work, the kit may try to find a substitution or, at the very worst, will die. Wild foxes take extraordinary care for their kits but if the adults were killed or in some way couldn't get back to their babies, then the kits would die. Dean, we need to find our baby. Not only is he in danger from my forgetfulness but Bobby had told me there were other Hunters in the area. He said that they held a grudge against him because one of their hunts went south and a couple of the dogs they were using ended up gutted. Bobby warned them not to use the dogs against a Wendigo but they didn't listen. Not only did the dogs die but also one of their friends did too," John revealed.

Both Dean and Caleb, who had trailed after him, paled. Neither one of the boys had really understood the implications of Sam building his nest but at least Caleb had thought about Sam's growing depression and tried to talk to Dean about it. Dean just felt awful. Not only had he decided to sleep alone, not only had he destroyed the only comfort that Sam now felt he had, Dean had also yelled that Sam needed to grow up. He had totally disregarded his baby brother's feelings and now Sammy was gone.

Caleb started to search the house and outbuildings while both Dean and John turned into their fox forms to try to catch their youngest's scent. Because Sam hadn't wanted to be found, he used his natural instincts to cover his scent. Swimming was one way to cover it and Sammy was an excellent swimmer. It took quite a while before John caught the faintest whiff of Sam's scent. Communicating his location, he took off towards the Salvage Yard. Dean ran back to the house to let Caleb know. He changed into his human form while Caleb got the jeep out of the garage then they also took off for the Yard. When they got there, they found John sniffing around the doghouse. John knew that Sheba was ready to give birth so Bobby had left her home but she wasn't in there. Neither was his own child, whose scent was mixed in with Sheba's. He also scented three strange men who had gun powder, gun oil and blood on them. Hunters were here, he knew, and had taken the dog and his baby.

While John was checking out the doghouse, Caleb noticed wide tracks of tires that were normally seen on monster trucks. Dean found a couple of tranquilizer darts and his heart started to rapidly beat as he realized someone had stolen his brother. While they were searching the area for clues, Bobby and Rufus came driving up, back from their own Hunt.

Bobby got out of Rufus' truck and was immediately ambushed by two very worried young men and a naked man. "What's going on, John?" he asked.

"We think a couple of Hunters took off with Sheba and Sammy," John said sadly.

"Damn! Hank and his idiot brother Billy were in the area. I think I told you about that?" John nodded. "I bet they're the ones who stole my dog and kidnapped your boy. By the way, why was Sammy here? Didn't he know I was gone?" Bobby asked wonderingly. He knew that John and Dean were highly protective of their youngest, especially after the Samuel Campbell incident.

John just nodded again then told his friend what had happened. Bobby listened carefully then said, "I know some of the idiots' hidey-holes. They think I don't like I'm as dumb as they are. They have a farm not too far from here where they train their hunting dogs. We need to get there fast because they use the same kind of techniques that dog fighters use to train theirs. I don't want Sammy to be their bait animal or Sheba to be used as a breeder. What that does to gals like her, I don't like to think of." Bobby shuddered at the thought of what could be happening to both of the missing family members. John, Dean, Caleb and Rufus looked at each other in horror then, grabbing Bobby's arms, they loaded up in Rufus' truck to rescue Sam and Sheba.

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Sam woke up slowly, his head fuzzy from the after effects of the drug used on him. He could smell Sheba close by but couldn't see her. From the sounds in her direction, she too was coming out of the drugged sleep. Groggily, he started to look around but everything was still fuzzy. What bothered him was the sound of dogs far away, almost as though they were in another room. Every so often, there would be a yelp of pain, a whine, a scream, and, most terrifying, a gurgling coming from that direction. There was a metallic tang in the air as though blood was being spilled. Then a door opened and slammed shut. Three pairs of feet sounded, coming closer to where the kit was.

"Can't believe that Singer had that fox kit with his bitch. Wonder why?" one of the men chortled.

"Don't really care. Now, we don't have to go out for some more bait animals. Got one right here," a second voice responded. "Do you have the clippers and duct tape?"

A third voice answered deeply, "Yeah. Got a knife too so we can cut it for the blood scent. Drive them dogs nuts, let me tell you." Sam shook his head to clear it more and shivered at what was being said.

Sam had researched fighting dogs after hearing a dog ring had been busted in Detroit. One of the things that the newscaster had said was that the SPCA officers found a training area with a trench in the back of the building that was full of small animal bones. One thing he found out was that it was common to cut the nails off the bait animals so they couldn't defend themselves. It was the same for tape to be put around the muzzles of those animals. It was common for the bait animals to be stolen, wild or feral animals were captured, sometimes the owners would even adopt small animals from the pound. The best way to get a bait animal, the report said, was for the owners of the fighting dogs to scan the newspapers for free pets. Now, because he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, Sam was going to find out first hand what those poor animals go through. It was a good bet he wouldn't survive the encounter, either. Sheba was the only dog that he actually liked, all others scared him silly. John had been trying to work with him on that problem, but he never was able to get past the fear.

When the three men finally got up to them, he saw that two were brothers while the third, a grey haired, dirty smelling older man, had the features of the other two. Analytically, Sam's mind catalogued him as an uncle or cousin to the other two. The first man, who had reached the stall where Sam was, opened the door and the other two walked in. Cowering, Sam tried to find a hiding place but he was caught since he still was slow from the tranquilizer. The second man, who had entered the stall, had the duct tape and proceeded to unroll some of the tape and tore the piece off. Sam started to go ballistic and began to fight and howl. The man holding him struggled to keep his grip. Sam kept slashing and biting. He may die but he wasn't going to make it easy.

The third man came into the stall to help his friends and took the knife, slashing Sam's side causing the kit to yowl. At that sound, the door to the barn slammed open and there stood a furious John, Bobby, Dean, Caleb and Rufus, all holding guns. "Put that kit down gently and move away from him," John growled menacingly.

"Nope, we got him fair and square. Singer owed us and this is our payment," the older man grinned wickedly. He took the knife and plunged it into Sam's right hind quarter, causing him to scream. While his family's attention was on him, man number two reached around for his pistol which was in his waistband. Sam saw what was going on but couldn't warn his family. He knew that if he didn't do anything, someone in his family would be hurt and may die.

Sam was still a one tail Kitsune and shouldn't have been able to do what he did but he was driven to it by pain and fear. Reaching within himself, he found and released his Spirit Fox form. The three men who had him blanched in fear as he grew from a tiny kit to a five foot Spirit Fox. Sam growled at the men, causing them to back up. The one with the gun swung in Sam's direction only to hear another growl, this one deeper and angrier. Whipping around, the men saw a seven foot, four tailed Spirit Fox growling at them.

"Kitsune!" the older man whispered. Then he yelled at his nephews, "Silver! Use silver to kill them!"

Sam heard the older man and took a leap at him, scattering the other men. The older man was able to duck, sending Sam into the stall wall. Hitting it, Sam shook his head, dazed by the encounter with the wall. He didn't see the gun pointing his way nor did he really see what happened next.

A sound filled the air, like a flock of pigeons taking off and a man appeared. He was slight, with golden hair and honey colored eyes. Looking around, he scowled at the three thieves and waved his hand at them. The three went flying themselves into the wall and stuck there as though they had been encased in glue. Then he turned his attention to the injured kit. Without fear, he approached Sam and knelt down next to him. "I was visiting a good friend of mine when she said that you guys were in trouble. As a favor, she asked me to look in and help you out." Putting his hand on the Spirit Fox Kit, he healed the slashes and cleared the drugs out of Sam's system. "Can you change back?" he asked Sam kindly. Sam tried but was stuck in the form so the stranger put his hand on Sam's head and said, "Okay. I'm going to help you but pay attention to what I'm doing so you can do it yourself." Going slowly, the stranger mentally pushed Sam into relaxing to trigger the change to his human form. Sam followed and was able to take over once he was shown what to do. When the stranger backed up, Sam was laying on the floor with a blanket that the man snapped up from thin air. There was a shuffling sound as John also turned back to his human form. Unsteadily, he got to his feet and, with Dean following closely behind, he went to his baby.

"Who are you?" John asked in a whisper, running a hand on Sam's flanks. He was shaking with the fact he had come very close to losing his baby. Dean also started to touch his brother, making sure that Sam was indeed okay.

The golden haired man looked at John and said in a very quiet voice, "Publically, I'm known as Loki but very few friends know my real name, Gabriel. I was visiting Inari when she felt your distress. She asked me to help you out as a favor to her. You can call me whichever you want."

"Gabriel, as in the Archangel?" John wondered aloud.

"Yes. I left Heaven a long time ago because of all the fighting. I became Loki as a way to fulfill my duties and met up with Inari around the time that your ancestor rescued all those kids. Inari asked me to keep an eye on you and help you with your kids," Gabriel said with a grin.

"Why?" John wanted to know. "Why is Inari doing this for us?"

"She has kept an eye on your family for a very long time," Gabriel began. "You have a habit of protecting those who are being persecuted or hurt. Like you did in Viet Nam, like Mary did for her children and now those who you call family have the same kind of tendencies. She asked that I take a hand in your protection and education. I agreed and here I am. Now," he growled looking at the pinned men, "what are we going to do about them? John, your call since they hurt your baby."

John looked thoughtfully at the men then turned towards his sons. Sam was out, he had been exhausted by the change, but Dean had fire in his eyes. "Dean, since Sam is out it's your call," John told his oldest son.

Dean thought about it. He knew that, since the men hadn't killed any of them, the punishment couldn't be fatal. After thinking about it for a few minutes, he hit on the perfect punishment. Seeing John nod, Dean stood up and turned to the men. Concentrating, he pointed at each of them. A glow surrounded the men as they shrunk and changed form. When the glow died down, three small dogs stood shivering on the floor. Gabriel and John grinned at Dean for his inventiveness.

"I'll take these three to the ASPCA for adoption," Gabriel said. "Will you clean up here?" John nodded as Gabriel gathered the three dogs up. Grinning, the Angel disappeared.

John went over to the others and explained what happened. He also said that they needed to clean up the mess here before leaving. Bobby and Rufus volunteered to take care of the fighting dogs while Caleb looked for other bait animals. The fighters would need to be put down, everyone knew, since they could not be adopted out. They were too dangerous to do so and even John didn't have the power to fix that kind of damage. The bait animals, if any still survived, would be also taken to the ASPCA for treatment and, hopefully, be reunited with their owners if not adopted out. John carried Sheba to the truck while Dean carried his brother. Both dog and boy were laid out in the cab while father and brother checked them over for injury and covered them up. Caleb came out bearing a couple of carriers full of cats and small dogs. These were put in the bed of the truck and covered with another blanket. Then they waited and, after an hour, Bobby and Rufus emerged from the barn. They had found some medicine they used to give each fighter an overdose. They had waited until the dogs died then they salted and burned the bones in respect for each animal. The animals, they knew, didn't ask to be turned into killers so they tried to honor them.

The five got into the truck. Caleb stayed in the bed of the truck with the bait animals but neither John nor Dean could be separated from Sam so they scrunched in the backseat with their youngest and Sheba. Bobby and Rufus sat up front, driving the family away from the scene of a tragedy. It was after dark when the group got back to John's home. Sheba and Sam had started to move more and the group was very happy for that. There was some worry about the puppies' health since the kidnappers had drugged the expectant mother. Bobby had talked to John about keeping her at his place so that she could settle in a place that had no connection to anything bad. John agreed. He knew Bobby was giving Sheba to the family but there was no problem with that since both boys got along very well with her. Sheba being with them would help Sam with his canine fear and also be there to "mother" the kit when the others were busy.

John and Dean got their two seat companions out of the back and into the house. John made Sam take a shower and get ready for bed. While Sam was in the bathroom, Dean went to his own room and got his pillow. Grabbing his sleep clothes, he went to Sam's room where he got ready for bed. When Sam got to the room, he saw his brother waiting in bed for him and started to cry. Dean, seeing his brother's tears, jumped out of bed and rushed to his baby. Picking up the smaller boy, he cuddled and carried him to the bed. Settling the still weeping child down, Dean then got in behind his brother. He pulled Sam to him, crooning soft, soothing words. Sam's crying died down as he started to relax and fall asleep. Dean's own eyes closed and the room was filled with soft breathing. On his way to his own room, John stopped at the door to his youngest's sanctuary. He opened the door and looked in to see his boys sleeping, curled together. Before he could close the door, Sheba bumped into his legs on her way to the boys. Jumping on the bed, she curled close to her charges and closed her eyes. It was on the tip of John's tongue to tell her to get out of the room but then he thought the better of that idea. Grinning, he closed the door and went to bed. Tomorrow, he would have to go and buy a larger bed for Sam if he was going to join his boys. Like he told Dean, it was time to remember that he wasn't human but Kitsune. Part of being a Kitsune, especially in his family, it was a requirement for their health that the family sleep together.

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2 months later-

John came home from a hard day at Bobby's. He was tired, hungry and very dirty so all he really wanted to do was to take a shower, eat and go to bed. He just stepped up to the door when he was bowled over by Sheba's four puppies, two fox kits and a grinning Caleb.

"Is that right?" John growled playfully. Stripping quickly, he changed into his own fox form and pounced, playing with all the youngsters. It was good training for the six youngsters since it would teach them how to fight and protect later in their lives. John sat on Dean with his tongue hanging out of his mouth in a laugh. Sam snuck up on his father and pounced on him, causing John to turn and go after his youngest. Caleb, watching the antics, laughed so hard, he fell down which caused the puppies to be interested in him. Suddenly, Caleb found himself covered by the dogs. Sam, Dean and John froze in their own play to watch. Then, with a mischievous grin to his boys, John joined the puppies followed very closely by Sam and Dean. Sheba, who had been sleeping in the living room, heard the commotion and went to investigate. She watched for a minute while the canine covered human was drenched in drool before she called the game to a halt with a soft but commanding woof. Even John paid attention to her when he was in his fox form. The one and only time he didn't listen to her, Sheba knocked him off his feet then sat on him. She proceeded to wash him as his own sons laughed at the sight.

As they finally allowed Caleb up, the Winchesters changed into their human forms. They picked up the pups and went into the house to clean up and get ready for dinner. John thought about his life. It was full of dogs, Hunters, Angels (Gabriel and his brother, Castiel, liked to visit all the time), and his own children. Even Inari watched over the small family. He smiled and knew he was blessed. He also knew that there were going to be misunderstandings, arguments, hurt feelings and tears with the boys growing up. Puberty, for any species, was traumatic for all involved since it said that, soon, the chicks were going to leave the nest.

His boys were already growing faster than he liked. After Sam was able to shift into his Spirit Fox form at the Hunters' farm, Dean had begun to try to do it also. It took a couple of days before he achieved the new form and now both boys could change smoothly. John was a little sad, it meant his babies were growing up. In their world, once a child achieved their Spirit form, they were thought of as adults. John, because of their physical ages, refused to grant Sam and Dean that status just yet but he started to give them more leeway and more responsibilities.

Now, if he could just convince Sheba that he didn't need a face wash!

A/N-I found all the information about dog fighting and bait animals that I used in this story on the internet. If you wish to find out how to help fight against this blood sport, please contact your local Animal Control Officer or the ASPCA. If you know or suspect of a dog fighting ring, please contact your Animal Control Officer, the police or the ASPCA. Do not attempt to apprehend or break up the ring yourself. It is a very dangerous situation and should be handled by the professionals. The naming of Detroit as a city where dogfighting occurs came from watching Animal Cops-Detroit where one episode dealt with finding a training area for fighting dogs. The agents had been looking for the dog fights to break them up. The reason that I had Bobby and Rufus put the dogs down was just like I said. Most SPCA agencies will put the dogs down stating that they are too dangerous to adopt out. There may be some that do adopt them out, I don't know.