A/N – This story contains implications of a dubcon relationship between a teenager who is obviously conflicted about the situation and an adult outside the family. There is no detail, (it's not even confirmed in the story that anything actually happened) but someone for whom this could be triggering will recognize certain aspects of the story. But that's not meant to be the focus of the story.

November 1994

It was almost dark when the phone rang.

One ring, then nothing for a full minute, and then it rang again.

"Hello?" Sam asked hesitantly.

"It's me, Sammy." Dean responded. "Adrienne is going to take me by Biggerson's to pick us up something to eat. What do you want?"

"We need veggies." Sam frowned. "We've been eating hot dogs and ramen noodles all week."

"You need protein too." Dean grumbled back. "Real meat, something not made out of pig lips and chicken toes. Now what do you want? Meat and three."

"Fish dinner," Sam answered. "Mac and che, cole slaw, and broccoli if they have it, green beans if not."

"Ok, see ya in a few." Dean replied before hanging up.

Twelve minutes later, a car door slammed outside. Sam didn't look out the window, stayed on the far side of the room, waiting for the signal to alert him whether he should grab a gun when someone tried to open the door.

Two knocks, a pause, then two more knocks. It was Dean.

Sam scrambled off the bed to unlatch the chain while Dean opened the door with the key. He turned to wave at someone before coming into the room, two Styrofoam takeout boxes and a six pack of beer in hand.

"Oh, this is going to be so good," Sam grinned.

Dean didn't smile, didn't meet his eyes even, just shoved the food into Sam's hands and stomped across the room, slinging the beer into the mini-fridge and slamming the door.

"I'm gonna take a shower first." He called over his shoulder.

Sam ate his macaroni and fish and had started on his slaw by the time he realized Dean was still in the shower. He set his food aside and walked over to the bathroom.

The door was locked, which was weird. He and Dean never locked the door, in case one of them needed to get in (or out of) there fast.

"Dean?" he asked, tapping on the door gently. "You ok?"

"Yeah," Dean answered, sounding very tired. "I'll be out in a few."

Sam went back to his dinner, finishing off the slaw before Dean came out and teased him about eating one thing at a time.

Dean finally came out, wrapped in a towel, grabbed his whole duffle, and slammed the bathroom door again.

That was definitely weird.

Dean came out, dressed in a tee shirt, a long sleeved shirt over, and sweatpants.

"Are you cold?" Sam frowned. "We could turn the heat up."

"No, it's fine." Dean shook his head as he finally sat down and reached for his food.

He pushed around his roast beef and mashed potatoes, which were normally his favorite, eating only a few bites here and there.

"Dad called." Sam told him. "He finally figured out what the spirit was attached to. There was a scrapbook with a lock of hair in it. He burned it, and he's going to stay over tonight just to make sure it's gone. If it is, then he'll head back in the morning."

Dean didn't answer.

"It's only two days drive. He'll be back by the end of the week." Sam prattled on. "So how much did Miss Newman pay you?"

Dean shoved his food aside and bolted to the bathroom. By the time Sam reached the doorway, he could hear Dean retching.

"Dean?" He frowned, coming up behind his brother to place his hand on Dean's shoulder.

It was quickly shoved off. "Don't touch me." Dean growled.

Dean was always grumpy when he didn't feel well.

Sam got a washcloth and wet it, handing it to his brother, then filled a disposable cup halfway with water so Dean could rinse his mouth.

Dean sat back against the tub, staring at his hands.

"Maybe you just got overheated." Sam suggested. "You know, working at Miss Newman's house, and then coming back here taking a hot shower and all. I'll put your food in the fridge and maybe you can finish it later."

Dean nodded, so Sam left the room to do so.

Dean came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, fishing a beer out of the fridge, flopping on the bed by the door and flipping on the tv. He scrolled through channels until he found The Blues Brothers.

"She gave me $40, plus bought our dinner tonight. I figured we can go get some tv dinners or something after school tomorrow. Won't be able to buy much because we don't have room to keep it." Dean said, staring blankly at the tv.

"I wish this room had a stove so we could cook bacon and eggs. The school's breakfasts suck." Sam grumbled.

"Maybe when Dad gets back we can move on." Dean shrugged.

"Nah, he said we would be here a little longer. Money's always tight around Christmas." Sam came over to sit on the edge of the same bed.

Dean didn't answer, just put the remote on the nightstand and wrapped his arms around himself.

Sam waited until the next commercial break before he spoke again.

"Hey Dean," he began, waiting for his brother to look at him.

Dean barely glanced his way, then looked away again.

"Maybe I can do some stuff for one of my teachers." Sam offered. "I mean, you … "

Dean bounded across the bed and grabbed a handful of Sam's shirt.

"No, Sammy," he snapped. "You don't ever go off anywhere alone with a teacher, do you understand me? Promise me you won't. Say it right now."

"I promise, Dean." Sam's eyes went wide.

Dean relaxed his hold on Sam's shirt and sat back, looking down at the half drunk beer in his hand. "Not all teachers are nice people, Sam."

"But Miss Newman is cool!" Sam argued. "She lets you call her Adrienne when you're away from school, she buys you beer, she lets you drive her car, and she pays you for doing work at her house."

Dean drained the beer and put the bottle on the nightstand with an unsteady hand. "Yeah. She's pretty cool. I guess. But there's some teachers … some of them would call Child Protective Services if they found out how much Dad leaves us alone. And some of them ... just ... I mean it Sam, you stay away from teachers, you don't tell them anything, if they ask you anything, you deny it, and you don't ever go off alone with them."

"I already promised." Sam scrunched his face.

"Good." Dean huffed. "Now talk about something else."

Sam started trying to tell Dean about the book he was reading, but he figured out pretty quickly that Dean was paying more attention to the stupid movie he'd seen a thousand times. When he trailed off in mid-sentence, Dean didn't even respond.

Dean had another beer, and called lights out at 10.

Sometime later, Sam woke to the sound of Dean moving around in the room. He rolled over squinting in the dark, to see Dean digging in the bottom drawer of the dresser.

He was into the whiskey stash.

Sam didn't speak, just watched as Dean poured a splash of liquid into a plastic cup with shaking hands, then raised it to his lips. He sipped the whiskey, coughing at the first taste, and followed it with a few sips out of the beer bottle sitting on the dresser.

Dean exhaled, the sound overwhelming in the silence of the room, and Sam realized that he'd been holding his own breath.

Dean tiptoed back to the bed. He sat down on the edge, looking over at Sam, but he didn't speak, just laid down, facing away.

The room fell silent again. Sam continued to watch Dean, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong. Within a few minutes, he noticed that Dean's shoulders were trembling.

Sam slipped out of his bed, and into the other with Dean, putting a hand on his brother's back. Dean stiffened, but did not pull away. He didn't turn over to look at Sam, either.

"Go back to sleep, Sammy," Dean whispered.

"I'm sorry," Sam whispered back. "I'm sorry you have to take care of me all the time."

"No, Sammy," Dean sighed. "It's not that. I'd do anything for you. You know that."

"I do know." Sam answered. "But it's Dad's job. You shouldn't have to. You shouldn't have to worry about whether we have enough food or go work for somebody to get enough money to take care of us until Dad comes back."

"But Dad has an important job." Dean answered. "He saves people. And he didn't know he would be gone this long. He thought he was just going to salt and burn some bones and he would be back in 5 days."

"He almost never gets back when he says he's going to," Sam grumbled.

"And besides, I'll be 16 in two months. I'll be old enough to go out and get a job." Dean insisted. "It's fine. I mean, it's not like Miss Newman is asking be to do anything really hard or whatever."

"You don't like going over there." Sam said knowingly.

"Just forget about it, Sam." Dean huffed.

"Do you think she's going to call the police?" Sam asked. "And tell them Dad leaves us alone?"

"No," Dean sighed. "She won't ever call the police."

"She might," Sam argued. "If she got mad at you or something."

"No," Dean snorted. "She can't ever call the police about us. I can get her in more trouble than we would be in."

"Because she knew and didn't tell right away?" Sam pressed.

"Just go to sleep, Sam," Dean groaned.

"I'm going to get a good job one day." Sam continued. "I'm going to make a lot of money and I'm going to take care of you, and I'm going to buy us a house where we can stay all the time. I'll do whatever I have to, so I can take care of you like you take care of me. I promise."

Dean didn't answer, but he didn't pull away when Sam snuggled up against his back, threw an arm over his waist, and went back to sleep.

A/N - this story now has a sequel, called Could Have Been Worse, in which Sam figures things out years later and confronts Dean. You can find the link from my profile.