When Mary wakes up, the first thing she notices is the ache in her throat when she tries to talk. It hurts in that scratchy way she's come to associate with having a breathing tube shoved down her throat. She tries to sit herself up, and the reason for the surgery she knows she's just had becomes apparent as pain stabs through her abdomen and stomach like she's being ripped apart from the inside out.
John's there in an instant, one of his big hands pushing her traitorously weak body back to the bed. She doesn't ask what happened. She remembers the demon, the useless gun that she thought would at least buy them some more time, and not being able to move until suddenly she could.
When she tries to talk, her muzzy brain betrays her; it's obviously in league with her body. She knows what she wants to ask, but doesn't have the ability to keep her thoughts in line, to turn them into words. Luckily for her, John knows her inside and out, and knows exactly what she wants to ask.
She makes it as far as John saying, "Sammy and Dean are okay," before she lets out a painful sigh of relief, letting her eyelids droop and her husband's calming voice carry her back to sleep.
The next time Mary wakes up, John's there, and he's got the boys with him. Dean's sitting in the comfortable chair, the one that's all padded with no gaps of space between the arms and the seat, which is good, because Dean's got Sammy in that same fierce, protective grip he's had since the fire. Ellen arrived the night of, before John even got released from the hospital, and Bill got there a day later, coming off a long drive from a quick hunt up north.
In theory, they are supposed to be there for their friends and to help take care of the boys, but Dean refuses to let anyone else hold Sammy and now is officially better at changing his diapers than John is. Given, John currently has one arm strapped to his chest and a doorknob branded into his other palm, so trying to grip anything is an exercise in futility.
Dean still isn't talking yet, but it's only been three days, and John hasn't really felt much of a need for words himself. He can't imagine what it's like for Dean, to be big enough to know something is going on but still small enough not to know what it is. Ellen seems to be helping, doling out apple juice and hot dogs and capturing Dean—and by default, Sam—in big hugs just when his face starts to get all pinched and he starts to shake with the effort not to cry.
"My throat hurts," Mary rasps from the bed, grabbing John's attention immediately. In seconds, he's by her side with ice shavings—Dean's still not big enough for cups without lids, so he's using the straw meant for Mary.
"Are they okay?" she asks. "Where are they?"
"Right here, Mary. They're fine, they're okay. Not even a scratch on them." He brushes away a tear from her eye.
"I want," she starts. She doesn't have to finish; John knows exactly what she needs. Dean's still curled around Sam in the chair, Sammy pulled close to him like Dean's own secret treasure. It takes some maneuvering with just one arm—a bad one at that—but John manages to get Sam into Mary's arms and Dean onto her bed.
"Hi, baby," she says, rubbing Dean's back. Dean burrows in close, hiding his face in his mother's side. "I bet you've been taking care of Daddy and Sammy for me, haven't you?" To John's surprise, Dean answers back.
"Yes, Mommy." He sniffs, squeezing her tight enough that John can see her wince. "I change Sammy's diapers, and I watched how Auntie Ellen makes Sammy his bottles, and I sleep in his crib, too, so he won't get hurt. I can help you, Mommy, I promise. You can come home now."
Mary shushes Dean, then rocks him until they both fall asleep.
Mary knew she had two boys. There was Dean, and then there was Sam, and that was it, she knew it. She was okay with that, and she never really thought about having more kids because she knew she had two.
If she's honest with herself, though, she kind of thought that if she lived, she might have had more. Maybe.
But she knew she was having Dean and Sam, and she had prepared herself for two boys, so she's perfectly fine with not having an option anymore. Clearly, there were only meant to be two Winchester children. And that's okay.
Really, it was a deep, deep wound, and she's lucky that that's all she lost. And she doesn't have to make John wander through the tampon aisle of the grocery store anymore, so that's another plus.
They never actually sit either of the boys down and say, "So, you keep having to learn new addresses because demons want us dead and angels want Mommy to burn."
That would be traumatizing, and no one should take advice from Tricksters—even if they're on your side.
John and Mary never actually sit down and decide on a course of action. They just didn't lie. They told Dean the fire was from a bad thing that wanted to hurt them, but that it was okay because Mommy and Daddy kept them safe and wouldn't let anything hurt him ever.
By first grade, Dean knows there was a him that came back in time, even if he isn't entirely sure what that means. John insists that in a couple of years, he'll show Dean Back to the Future again, and he'll understand it better.
Of course, this doesn't always work because when Dean's seven and Sam's four, Dean convinces Sam that the mall Santa is a demon. So when Mary gets them to the very front of the line, Sam climbs on his lap, shoves his fingers in the poor man's eye, and starts screaming, "Jesus Chris, Jesus Christ," over and over again.
No matter what John says, nothing about that was funny. Sam didn't even use the right language, which is just bad and has the added bonus of guaranteeing that no one in the Winchester household—or the Winchester car because now they have to leave town again for about six reasons—will be speaking anything but very, very old Latin for the next month.
Because if Sammy's going to try to exorcise a demon from the Macy's Santa, he better fucking do it right.
When Sammy is five, they're in New York, and Sam attempts to exorcise a Santa again. He was the only one who hadn't forgotten about Dean's little they're demons who want to eat children thing.
It's a Salvation Army Santa this time. But you better fucking believe his Latin is impeccable, if oddly accented.
Sammy gets his first girlfriend at eight, when they're in Illinois.
He and Ava "date" for three days, which means they sit next to each other at lunch and share their food.
On the fourth day, Sammy gives her half of his peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich—Daddy's on lunch duty this week, so Sammy gets to pick his own sandwiches after Daddy ruins them—and she shares her Pop Rocks with him.
She dares him to eat them while drinking her Coke, and he says no because he knows that's how the one kid on TV's stomach exploded, so he dares her to do it. But then she cheats and triple dog dares him, and you can't say no to a triple dog dare, so he dumps the entire packet of Pop Rocks into his mouth and takes a big gulp of Mountain Dew because he doesn't like Coke.
He can feel them popping and fizzing in his mouth, and he starts to panic because he doesn't want to die, but he can't breathe. But then he has to, and the fizz goes up his nose and in his lungs, and he starts choking, and he's crying, and he doesn't want to die, and he hates dumb, stupid, ugly, Ava.
And then it goes black.
Mommy says he's not allowed to be Ava's boyfriend anymore because she's a bad influence.
Daddy laughs at her and says that Dean snorted a Pixie Stick last week.
"What color was it?" Sammy asks.
"Blue," Dean says excitedly. "But it burned really bad, and Dad says I can't do it again."
Sam doesn't get to say goodbye to Ava because later that night, he wakes up to Mommy carrying him out to the car, and next week he's in school in Mississippi.
On Sam's third first day of freshman year, this time in Chicago, he has some kind of seizure and gets taken to the hospital. Gym has just finished for Dean when word hits his half of the school about the new kid stroking out in the middle of Herschmer's class.
Dean only just remembers shorts on his way out, and he rides with Sam in the back of the ambulance without his shirt or shoes, but with a half-soggy towel. Sam keeps insisting that he's completely fine; he's fine and okay, his head just hurts, is all. That's it. The paramedics don't seem to care what Sam thinks and keep him in the neck collar while they do whatever the hell it is paramedics do.
Dean's worried, and he doesn't think Sam's okay—people don't fall over and start seizing up if they're okay—but he knows Sammy needs him, so he runs a hand through his hair, brushing his choppy bangs off his face. "It's okay, Sammy. I'm here, I'm not gonna leave you. It's okay."
Mom's already at the hospital when they pull up—she's a candy striper or whatever they call it now for this place's cover, and Dean won't ever stop thinking that's hilarious. She can't stand sick people, and whining pisses her off.
Dad's over in South Dakota and hasn't been answering the car phone, so he has no idea what's going on. The nearest person they know is Pastor Jim in Blue Earth, and that is way more than two hours away, so Dean's been stuck in the waiting room by himself with nothing to keep his mind off of Sam and no news about anything. It's the longest two hours of Dean's entire life before he sees his mom again.
The first words out of her mouth are, "Sam's okay," because his mom is a smart woman. Dean lets out a sigh of relief because Sam isn't dying, he's not in a coma, he didn't choke to death on his own vomit or anything.
"The doctors did an MRI—you remember what that is, right? It's where you lie real still and they take pictures of inside your head." Dean wants to snap at her for talking to him like he's five, but he doesn't because she's Mom and she knows him, and she knows he needs small words when Sammy's hurt. "They don't see any tumors or bruises, and they can't find any bleeding. They asked if Sam got into any fights recently, and I told them no. I wasn't lying, was I? Were you and Sam screwing around last night?"
"No, I swear," he says. "We watched TV, and he bitched—complained about school, and, I mean, I kicked him a little, but he kicked first, and it was only the leg, I swear. I didn't hit him in the head or anything."
"It's okay. Dean, it's okay, I believe you. I know you wouldn't lie about this."
"He's been having a lot of headaches lately. Late at night," Dean remembers suddenly.
"He has?" she prompts him.
"Yeah. They're really bad nightmares, and when he wakes up, his head hurts sometimes."
"Why didn't he say anything?"
"He's thirteen." Dean rolls his eyes. "He doesn't want his mom to know he still pisses the bed sometimes."
She just stares at him for a moment, and Dean squirms. He doesn't have anything to hide, but no one can stay still under that stare. It's the one that says I know where your dirty magazines are, and what you keep in your wallet, and why you want fourth period gym. It's a scary stare.
"Dean, why don't you come and talk to the doctors with me?" she finally says. "I think they'll want to know about this, and you seem to know more about it than me."
"Why can't I see Sammy?" Dean asks.
"Sammy's sleeping right now, honey, but as soon as you're done talking to the doctors, you can see him, okay?"
Dean agrees. As much as he hates doctors, he wants to help Sammy, and Sam doesn't tell Mom and Dad half the stuff Dean knows.
It takes about a week for the doctors to diagnose Sam. They think it's some kind of epilepsy right from the start, but there are apparently over thirty kinds of epilepsy, which is news to John because he always thought there was just the one.
They test Dean, too, put electrodes on him and check to see if anything happens when he sleeps. It doesn't, and John can't describe how relieved he is, but it takes four days to find out because apparently Dean is a delicate little girl and can't relax enough to sleep because he knows the electrodes are "gumming up his hair."
John gets to learn about anticonvulsants, like Phenobarbital and Clonazepam, and there's a new sleeping ritual when he and Mary are home. As much as he's sure Sam must hate having to sleep with a fucking baby monitor, Mary is just not okay with not knowing Sam's been having seizures while she was just a couple of dozen feet away.
Sam tries to explain to her that Dean hears him and wakes up, but it doesn't exactly help his cause. In fact, it's the opening shot that triggers the war. It's Franz Ferdinand.
John and Mary have a loud, long discussion over the weekend that involve words like "coddling" and "smothering" and phrases such as "he's a teenage boy, Mary," and "Dean is not Sam's mother."
That last one leads to one of the best and worst week and a halves of John's life to this point, even beating out his first week at basic. When Dean and Mary fight, it's always the highlight of John's year, but there is something a little uncomfortable about his sixteen-year-old son fighting over how to get his thirteen-year-old son back to sleep the fastest.
Sam, for his part, seems to barely notice the fights and arguments surrounding him. The doctors say it'll take a little while for him to adjust to the medicine and to just bear with it until then. John really wishes they had mentioned how very off Sam would act until then. He hates the phrase with a passion, but Sam really is acting like a ghost of himself. His eyes seem to be stuck at half-lidded, giving off the impression that Sam is just one warm blanket away from sleep, no matter what time it is.
Mary and Dean are having a discussion behind Sam—loudly, John might add—and the only thing that shows Sam even has a clue of what's going on is the slight tightness around his mouth. Of course, that might not have anything to do with the fighting. Sam's new hatred and frustration with everything is apparently yet another side effect of the new pills.
The discussion has turned to yelling, with Mary telling Dean that Sam doesn't need two mothers, and Dean yelling back that Sam needs at least one person looking out for him. Dean deserves the smack that Mary gives him, as well as the bright red handprint that will likely decorate his face for the next hour or so.
"I'm going to let that one go," Mary tells him, straightening her back and standing tall. "Because I know that you're worried about your brother and because I know that you aren't stupid enough to think that we pick up and move every three months because I want a pretty new garden."
"I don't," Dean starts. He wisely snaps his mouth shut when Mary holds up her hand in a stopping motion.
"Did I give you the impression that I was done talking? I know that you don't like what the medicine does to him; we don't, either. But I would rather him be exhausted and confused for a couple of weeks than have a cluster of seizures and not wake up."
"I'll wake up," Dean interrupts her again.
Mary stays strong and doesn't waver or back down or let even the slightest bit of what John knows she's feeling show on her face.
"But Sam might not," she says.
Dean struggles, but keeps his back just as strong, jaw clenched tight even though his eyes are clearly watering. "If you keep him on these pills, he's going to hurt himself because he can't tell if he's awake or not."
"What do you mean?" John asks. Sam's sitting next to him at the table and, aside from the way he keeps tiredly poking at his oatmeal, he doesn't seem to look too different from normal.
"I mean he doesn't know," Dean says. "He's been having the same nightmare when he's awake, and now he keeps asking if Max's dad is dead yet."
"He died last night," Sam says. His voice is all monotone and flat, no inflection at all. "Max's uncle is gonna die tonight."
He meets Mary's eyes and doesn't have to say anything. "Sam, who's Max?"
Sam shrugs. "I don't know. He did it, though. They think his dad did it, but he didn't; it was Max."
"Did what, baby?" Mary asks him, taking the seat across from John. "What do they think Max's dad did?"
"Kill himself. Max killed him in the dream. His uncle, too. Thump, drip, drip, drip. His mom's gonna die tomorrow. A knife through her eye into her brain. I'm tired."
The eleven o'clock news leads with the "tragic story" of Roger Miller, who was killed in a freak accident at his home just a day after his brother Jim took his own life in his family's garage. Roger will be dearly missed by his sister-in-law and nephew.
Mary takes just one look at John and says, "No."
"What?" he asks.
"You are not wearing that."
"We need a foot in the door."
"I am not wearing a habit."
"The last time I impersonated a member of the Catholic Church, things ended badly. We are not going down that road again."
"Come on," he cajoles, sidling up closer.
"If you kiss me with that collar on, I'm demanding a divorce."
"I think you'd look hot all dressed up like a nun."
"I am not, I repeat, not wearing a habit, John. This is why our boys are never going to Catholic school; there is something deeply wrong inside your head."
"You used to be more adventurous when we were kids."
"I'm not making out in any confessionals, either," she says.
Mary has no idea how she lets John talk her into these things. It is a damn good thing she can't have any more kids. Mary's certain that if she could, they would need a bus to get around, which is not actually the best line of thought to be having while dressed like a freaking nun. She wouldn't be surprised if an angel leapt out to attack her right now.
The door is closed but unlocked when they get there. They give it a good half a minute of knocking before they make their way in. The only good thing about John's insanely stupid idea is that if anyone sees them, they won't believe that a nun and a priest were breaking into a house.
Sometimes, Mary wonders exactly how she got to this point in her life.
They've got their guns at the ready, John taking point with Mary watching his six. The living room is empty, but there's music coming from the kitchen, something new and bouncy, turned up loud, and they follow it.
John stops short in the kitchen with a low, "Damn."
Mary leans around John to see what's stopped him and flinches back with a shout of, "Oh my God," that she can't hold in. It's the eyes; she's always had a weak spot for anything happening to the eyes, and that woman, Alice, has a knife sticking out of her head, jammed through her right eye and pinning her upright to the wall.
"What the hell did that?" John asks, even though they both know. She's dead just the way Sam said she'd be. Max is nowhere in sight, and a check of the house shows no hint of him. Mary can't help but be a little bit relieved. She has no idea how or what to do if they found him.
The butcher knife is jammed so far into Alice's skull that it's supporting her bodyweight. Mary doesn't know how Max did that, but she's pretty sure her and John and their guns wouldn't exactly be a match for him.
They hurry home. Missouri is no doubt already expecting their call.
Sam likes it in Oklahoma.
It's a K-12 school, so Sam actually gets to see kids who are his own age without dropping back grades, having to be weird and pathetic and go stalk strip malls like some weirdo, or relying on Dean. If Sam could go the rest of his life without Dean bringing home thirteen-year-olds for Sam to make friends with, it would be a good life. Dean just doesn't really get how weird and creepy he is sometimes or that Sam is not a preschooler in need of a play date.
Given, even at the K-12 schools, most of the kids his age don't really want to talk to him, but there's the chance that someone might. He doesn't have recess, but he shares a lunch with some of the seventh graders, and it's kind of neat because every once in a while, he can sit at a table with other kids who aren't a foot and a half taller than him and halfway through puberty. And, if he's really lucky, he can pretend he's in a different class, and some of them will even talk to him.
That happens less often after the first couple of days, but it's still pretty cool. Guthrie isn't nearly as much of a colossal shit hole as he thought it was going to be.
There's this one kid that doesn't seem to care that Sam is basically a semi-professional nerd, which is pretty cool because Sam has never actually had a friend his age by choice—theirs, of course. Andy's cool, though, and he actually wants to come over when Sam invites him. He doesn't even care that Dean is Dean and doesn't really know how to act like a normal person.
Also, Andy is pretty much the coolest person Sam has ever met—besides Dean—and doesn't get made fun of for being the captain of the debate team, even though it's the debate team. Come to think of it, it's kind of weird how he's the captain because he doesn't really seem to do a lot of work. Sam figures maybe he just has dyslexia or something and doesn't have to write papers.
And Andy even invites Sam home sometimes.
Sam has never actually been over to one of his friends' houses before. It's new, and strange, and weird. Andy doesn't have to ask to bring someone home, which makes sense, Sam figures, because Andy probably doesn't have to make sure his parents don't have their guns disassembled on the table or giant mattress needles and antiseptic ointment everywhere. But, still. Weird.
Andy's dad has dark skin, and his mom is a picture on the mantle, blonde hair and green eyes smiling back from a puffy white dress that even Sam knows is a fashion mistake.
"I know," Andy says, grinning wide. "It's freaky, right? I look just like them. You'd never even know I was adopted."
Sam's eyes automatically dart to Andy's almost sickly pale skin and dark curls. He smiles back a little, not as big because he doesn't think anyone can smile as big and wide as Andy can, except for maybe Dean. "Practically identical," he says.
"You wanna play Super Mario?" Andy asks, his brain jumping topics like it's playing a particularly odd game of leap frog with itself. "My dad just got me the 64; the graphics on it are amazing, man."
"The 64?" Sam asks. There's a niggling at the back of his mind, but he can't quite place it.
"Yeah, the N-64? Nintendo?" Andy's got this look on his face that tells Sam this is probably something most kids his age know. "It came out like a month ago?"
Sam can feel his smile twist into this embarrassed half-grimace look Dean makes fun of him for and he can't help. "We don't really play video games in my family," Sam admits.
"Man, you don't know what you're missing. Come on," Andy insists, tugging Sam's arm and dragging him. "I'm gonna teach you about Mario."
"If it's so new, how did you get it?" Sam asks. Andy's family isn't exactly rolling in money, and even Sam knows that video game systems are expensive.
"Dude, I have no idea." He laughs. "I begged and begged and begged, and he just gave in. I'm pretty sure I'm not getting another present until I turn twenty-three."
Andy's friends don't like Sam. He knows it, and he's okay with it. Most kids Sam's age don't like him; it's just a fact. He's used to it by now. It doesn't bother him.
Okay, so maybe he's protesting a little bit too much. But he's having a bad night, and it kind of sucks to be in a room full of people and know that only one person actually wants you there.
Tracy's there, though. That kinda sucks.
Tracy doesn't seem to like Sam very much, and the feeling is mutual. It might be because she keeps asking him things like if Andy talks about her and if Sam thinks he likes her, and Sam can only just barely care less about whether Andy likes her.
The night could be worse, though. There's only general awkwardness, for the most part, plus the guy with the mohawk and the kid with the weird bug eyes glaring at him and snickering to each other all night.
He likes Andy, but Sam is nothing less than ecstatic when Dean finally comes to pick him up and take him home.
A month later, it all goes to hell. That nightmare that didn't feel like a nightmare comes true.
It starts with a baseball bat to the back of his head.
By the end of the night, Sam has a skull fracture, six cracked ribs, his jaw wired shut, and a shattered cheekbone.
Dean has a dislocated shoulder, a black eye, and a bullet lodged into his jaw.
Mom and Dad don't share details with Sam, but he knows that Andy's bug-eyed friend—who is apparently his twin brother, what the fuck—tried to kill him. Dad's bootprint across Dean's face is the only reason Sam still has a big brother, but it's also one of the reasons they're sneaking out of the hospital and the state.
Sam stops trying to make friends after that.
Sam has been pretty depressed lately; Dean can tell. Mom and Dad might not be able to see it, but Dean can. He's been off lately, not smiling for real, just that stupid fake one he puts on when Child Services come out to check on his latest black eye—and that last one was all Sam's fault because he slugged Dean first.
Besides, Dean got punished for it; ten fucking miles before the sun rises is more than enough punishment in Dean's opinion.
But that's not the point. The point is that there's something wrong with Sam, and he won't tell Dean. He just goes to school and comes home and goes to sleep. Dean would think it was mono or something, but, well. That's how the last black eye started, so he's pretty sure it's not that.
He's going to figure out what it is, though, because he can't stand it when Sam's all messed up. It makes him feel like he's fucking up.
Dean knows it's not a succubus, at least. They've shared rooms in the last couple of houses, and there haven't been any creepy noises at night except for the occasional bout of awkward sniffling coming from Sam's side of the room. Dean doesn't think it's growing pains, either, because Sam doesn't seem to be in pain. Except for his eye, of course.
Dean's gotten so damn desperate that he actually tried to talk to Sam, asked him what got his panties in a knot and everything. Not that he got an answer, but still. Dean will be fucking damned if he lets Sam go on like this another second longer.
"Rise and shine, fuck-face," Dean calls, throwing himself down on Sam's bed and, by default, on Sam. "It's four in the afternoon, dude. I know teenagers are supposed to be lazy little asses, but you're gonna start growing roots here in a minute."
"Get off of me, you asshole!" Sam yells, shoving Dean off the bed.
"Hey, watch it, Sammy! You break it, you bought it," Dean complains.
"That doesn't even make any sense, Dean." Sam sneers at him. "Leave me alone. I'm sleeping."
"No, you aren't. You're moping over something," Dean argues. "What is it?"
"I'm not moping." Sammy burrows further down under the covers, curling himself into a tight little ball like a potato bug.
"Are, too. Come on, Sammy. Sam. Sam. Sam. Sammy. Sammy. Saaaaaaaammmy," Dean whines, poking at Sam's back.
"Leave me alone," Sam roars, kicking out at Dean and catching him right in the chest. Dean uses it to his advantage, grabbing Sammy's ankle and yanking it towards him. Sam tries to kick his foot loose again, grasping at the edge of the mattress to secure his position on the bed. Mom always said Dean got his thick skull from their dad, though, and he's not about to give up that easily.
"Sammy, I swear—man, you fucker—let go," Dean yanks hard one more time with his feet planted against the frame of the bed for leverage. The mattress slips and dislodges Sam, and Dean takes advantage of it and Sam's complete and utter lack of anything to hold on to in order to grab him around the waist, pulling him off the bed—and the mattress off the box spring—and tackling him to the floor.
"Okay, listen up," Dean tells him. Sam's pinned underneath Dean, but he's still got an arm and both legs free, and he's using that to his advantage, digging a thumb right into the hinge on Dean's jaw—motherfucking pressure points, fuck—and trying to get a leg free enough to kick him or knee him somewhere. Probably somewhere soft that will hurt a lot, knowing Sam, the fucking cheater. "Stop!" Dean yells. "Sam, quit it!"
And Sam does. Dean has no fucking clue what Sam sees, but Dean's taking it as a really good sign that he's not trying to escape or fucking use any of his lame-ass pressure points on him again. "Sammy, come on," Dean pleads. "You gotta tell me what's up with you, man. And don't say it's nothing because you've fucking always hated sleeping, and now it's all you do."
"I don't hate sleeping," Sam denies.
"You were the only eleven-year-old in the world who was afraid he wouldn't wake up if he went to sleep." Dean brushes Sam's bangs back off his face. They're getting too long again; Mom's gonna have to trim them soon before Dad gets out the buzzers while Sam's sleeping. "You gotta tell me what's wrong with you, Sammy. I can't fix it if I don't know what to fix, okay?"
Dean can feel Sam's chest rising and falling below his, his breath coming harsh and fast. "Sam?" he tries again.
Sam's face scrunches up, and before Dean knows what's happening, Sam's crying, big, broken, messy sobs with tears and snot. Then he's hyperventilating, his breath hitching in and in and in and nothing going out. Dean's off him in an instant, shoving at the mattress and pulling Sam up till he's halfway between lying and sitting. He wraps his arms around Sam, pulling him close like he used to when Mom and Dad had to go on a hunt and Sam would get scared.
Sam wraps his arms around Dean's stomach, pressing his face close to Dean's neck, tears and spit wetting the shoulder of Dean's shirt—not that he cares—and sobbing against Dean.
Dean doesn't know what to say. He still doesn't know what's wrong, but he feels this small, kind of disgusting bit of pride that he was right, that he knew something was wrong with Sammy when Mom and Dad didn't notice. He runs a hand through Sam's hair, trying to be as soothing as he can, like Mom used to do when he was little. The other hand is smoothing down Sam's back, shoulder to hips, over and over in a repetitive motion that helps calm Dean as much as it helps Sam. Dean can only be patient, just sit and wait for Sam.
"Sam, come on," Dean begs quietly. "You're scaring me, kiddo." Sam can't seem to pull himself together, though; it's like Dean flipped the release lever on the dam, or whatever it is that controls the water in there, and now that Sam's started, he doesn't seem to be able to stop. "Sammy, come on, breathe for me."
"I-I-I am," Sam stutters. Dean can't help but laugh at that a little. Sam still being a stubborn ass means that whatever's going on isn't completely hopeless.
"Okay, well, then breathe deep breaths for me, smartass," Dean says. "If you pass out like a girl, I will never let you hear the end of this ever. I fucking promise, got me?"
Dean can feel Sam nod against his chest and try to breathe—three quick inhalations and a hold, followed by a quick, shuddering exhale. It's slower after that, like Sam's making a conscious effort to do what Dean says.
"Better?" Dean asks him. Sam nods again, hums an 'mmhm' against his chest and nothing else. "Sam, you gotta tell me, okay? You have to. I'm not gonna rat you out to Mom or Dad or anything."
"Pinkie swear?" Sam asks, holding up his hand, pinkie extended. Dean's pretty sure Sam isn't still five, but if it matters that much to him it's not like it will kill Dean.
"I pinkie swear," Dean says, wrapping his pinkie around Sam's and shaking on it. "But," Dean adds, "if I think you're gonna do something stupid like hurt yourself, you better believe I will snitch you out so fast your fucking head is gonna spin, you get me?"
"Dean—" Sam starts.
"No," Dean cuts him off. "Sam, I am not kidding. I want you to know this: I would rather you hate me for your long, long life than trust me until you shoot yourself in the head, okay?"
"I'm not gonna hurt myself, Dean," Sam tells him.
"Yeah, well, I'm sure that you can understand why I'm not jumping to believe that, can't you?" Dean asks. Sam doesn't say anything, doesn't do anything. He just sits there, leaning against Dean's chest, the fingers of his right hand idly playing with the hem of Dean's flannel. "Sammy, come on. You know you can trust me; I'm too fucking stubborn to go rat you out to Mom and Dad without trying to fix it myself, you know that. You can't deny it; you're the one who keeps telling me I'm so stubborn."
"I think..." Sam trails off. Dean tries hard not to say anything. He knows he's got to play a waiting game with Sam here. "I-I don't think. I don't think I like girls," Sam whispers. The words are so rushed and mumbled together that it takes Dean a minute to make sense of it.
"What do you mean you think?" Dean asks before he can stop himself. Sam starts crying again—not nearly as much as before, but enough that Dean aches—and he pushes away from Dean. Dean has to stop him, pulls him close again because that's not it, he doesn't mean it like that. "No, Sammy—Sammy, stop it. I didn't—not that. Not that, okay, Sammy? I just—how don't you know?"
"I don't know, okay?" Sam says, exasperated. He's trying to push Dean away again, but Dean's not about to let that happen.
"Knock it off, bitch, I'm not letting go!" Dean tells him, pinching at his neck. He can do this, he can. Sam needs him, and Dean's gonna be there for him because fuck knows, no one else is going to. "Quit trying to escape."
Sam's crying still, or maybe again. He might have stopped while they were shoving at each other—Dean's not really sure. It's not sobbing, though; it's quiet tears, and Dean can only tell he's crying because Sam keeps reaching an arm between them to swipe at his face. "I'm not escaping."
"Damn right you aren't," Dean agrees. "Because I'm not going to let you." They sit there for a moment, neither one of them talking. Dean's not exactly sure what to say. He's really bad at the sharing and caring shit that Sam seems to love so fucking much, but he knows he's got to suck it up for Sam because Sam needs him now, and he doesn't seem to have anyone else to talk to about this. "So," Dean starts awkwardly. "You think you're gay?"
"I'm not a fag," Sam says, and Dean socks him right in the arm, hard. "Ow, Dean—"
"I know you don't talk like that about other people, so you sure as fuck aren't allowed to talk about yourself like that," Dean says. "Do it again, and I swear I'm gonna give you another black eye. And this one is gonna hurt twice as much."
"I'm not," Sam insists.
"I don't care if you want to fuck fucking... flashlights or something weird like that. It doesn't matter," Dean tells him sincerely. "You're still my little brother, you're still my Sammy, and nothing you can ever do is gonna change that."
"God, you're such a girl," Sam sniffs, laughing weakly.
"Yeah, well, what can I say? I'm one hell of a wicked hot lesbian," Dean jokes, laying on the thickest Boston accent he can.
"Boston was three schools ago, Dean," Sam tells him, rolling his eyes and smiling a little bit.
"That doesn't mean I'm not still wicked hot," Dean argues.
"I think you mean wicked lame," Sam says.
"Oh, yeah, because that was such a killer insult, wasn't it?" Dean teases him.
They bicker back and forth for a few minutes before calming down and trailing off, neither one of them mentioning the elephant in the room, the soaked shoulder of Dean's shirt, or the way Dean's hand hasn't left Sam's back yet.
"I—there's this guy in one of my classes," Sam starts. Dean can hear the shame in his voice—he's really damn familiar with that particular emotion—and gives Sammy's shoulder a squeeze, making sure he lets Sam know he's still there. "He's got blond hair and these... his eyes..." Sam trails off. He clears his throat and starts again. "He's got really nice eyes."
"Yeah?" Dean asks him.
Sam sniffs, chokes a little and starts coughing, and sniffs again. "Yeah. They're blue, but like, this... really. Uh, really pretty kind of blue," Sam's fumbling over his words, and Dean can tell he's embarrassed; it doesn't exactly take a fucking rocket scientist to figure it out.
"Hey, if chicks can have pretty eyes, so can dudes," Dean tells him. "Gotta admit, I'm a little ashamed that you're checking out his eyes, if you know what I mean, but I guess gay dudes got it tougher. There ain't exactly a dude equivalent of a Wonder Bra, if you get my drift."
"You're so fucking gross, Dean," Sam says, but he's laughing anyway.
"Whatever, bitch, you love me for it." Dean rolls his eyes. "Come on, tell me more about this dude. What's his name?"
"It's... his name's Jeremy," Sam says, still leaning into Dean. "But everyone calls him Captain America because of, like... I don't know, he looks like him or something. I don't get it. He's really nice, and he's on the basketball team, and he just... I don't know. I-I think about him sometimes. And I know I shouldn't, but I do. I can't help it, I don't—"
"Hey. Hey, Sammy." Dean cups Sam's face in his hand and pulls him closer. "Quit it. As long as you aren't jerking it in class—"
"God, Dean," Sam groans. "You're disgusting."
"Hey, I'm just saying," Dean continues. "There's nothing wrong with a little bit of five finger shuffle. Don't matter who you're thinking about when you do it, just so long as it isn't anything creepy like dead animals or something."
"I hate you so much," Sam groans.
"Yeah, you do, 'cause you know I'm right," Dean says. "You're just being a big ol' girl about nothing, and you know it. No one cares whether you like tits or not."
Sam scoffs, and that easiness between them is gone again in an instant. "Somehow, I think Dad isn't gonna react exactly like you did."
"Dad won't care, Sammy," Dean says. "As long as you're not fucking some siren or something, he's not gonna care."
"Yeah, okay," Sam says. Dean knows Sam doesn't believe him, and not just because that was about the most sarcastic thing he's heard from Sam since puberty hit and he finally got mouthy. "I'm sure he's gonna be thrilled that his failure of a soldier doesn't wanna make out under the bleachers with cheerleaders. That he'd rather be under there with the fucking captain of the football team."
"I'm telling you, Sammy, you're having this big, huge freakout over fucking nothing. Dad isn't gonna give half a shit about it, and Mom's just gonna be fucking relieved that she won't have to worry about you knocking up any chicks. Hell, they might already know."
"That's not funny, Dean," Sam tells him.
"What makes you think I'm joking? Between Miss Mosley and Pastor Jim and their psychic angels, I wouldn't put it past them to already know."
As it turns out, that was pretty much the wrong fucking thing to say.
It takes another twenty minutes or so before Dean can actually calm Sam down again. Dean should probably just learn to keep his fucking mouth shut. He really thought that might be kind of comforting and not anything that might induce a fucking panic attack of epic fucking proportions. He's pretty sure that Sam faked it, though, just so Dean would do that fucking begging thing he does where he promises Sam anything, just so long as Sam fucking stops. Crying. Now.
Which is exactly how Dean finds himself telling their parents about Sam. Sam is a whiny, crying, sneaky, underhanded little bitch, and Dean wouldn't put it past him for a fucking second to have planned that stupid little funk of his specifically so Dean could do this. The fucker.
This is not a conversation Dean wants to be having with his parents. It doesn't even involve him, but maybe if he tells Mom, he can get her to tell Dad for him. Well, for Sam. Something.
Sometimes, Dean fucking hates his life. But he has a plan.
"What's for dinner?" he asks, lifting up the lid of the pot on the stove. Ooh, spaghetti, yum.
A hand smacks the back of his head; at the same time, a spoon raps across his knuckles. "Don't you dare think about it, Dean. You'll eat the whole thing, and then I'll have to cut you up and use you as dinner. And you're too stringy to get anything good."
"Wow, Mom." Dean rolls his eyes. "Thanks so much for that. Glad to see how much I'm worth to you. Did it ever cross your mind that maybe I'm so stringy because you starve me?"
"Raising two growing boys is expensive; that's why we decided you had to fend for yourself. Don't know how you keep finding your way back here, though." His mom smiles at him.
Dean gives her his best baleful look, as sad and pathetic as he can get.
"Oh, please," she scoffs, laughing and shaking her head. "You are nowhere near as good at that as your brother is, and I'm immune to his, too. If you are really, absolutely, one hundred and ten percent, about to gnaw off your arm starving, you can eat an apple."
"But I don't like apples," Dean complains. All they have are the gross green ones, and they don't taste as good as the red ones.
"Well, then I guess you aren't that hungry then, are you?" she points out.
"You're a mean mom," Dean tells her, still trying his best pout.
"The meanest," she agrees. She grabs his face in her hand and squeezing, turning his pout into an over-exaggerated fish face.
Dean yanks his head back, a little embarrassed even though there's no one else around. "Mom," he groans. "I'm not a little kid anymore."
"And yet, you keep acting like you're that little five-year-old who kept insisting that the cookies tasted much, much better if he ate them before they were cooked." She smiles.
"They do," Dean insists.
"Until you eat so many you throw up," she reminds him.
"I was five," Dean points out. "And you shouldn't have let me eat that many."
"How else was my little cookie monster ever gonna learn, huh?" She coos at him, petting his face.
"You do know that I could legally get drafted now, right?" Dean asks.
"I went through nineteen hours of labor and then changed your diaper for two and a half years; I'm allowed to call you anything I want."
"Isn't it bad enough that I'm named after Grandma?" Dean asks.
"Just think, if the you from the future had thought that through, it might've been Sam that was named after my mom."
"Oh." Dean rolls his eyes. "So I get punished because the other me is an idiot?"
"I could've named you Deanna," Mom points out in that helpful way she has.
"Thanks," he says flatly. "That's a great big help. And I've heard the story before. You did not go through nineteen hours of labor with me."
"We condensed it," she says. "So you wouldn't know that all those chores we made you do were reparations."
"Cute," he says. "When is dinner going to be done?"
"About ten minutes before I put it on the table," she tells him.
"You aren't nearly as funny as you think you are," Dean says.
"I'm even funnier," she insists. "And dinner should be done in a couple of hours, so eat an apple, go bother your brother, and don't you dare even think about touching the garlic bread."
"Fine, I'll go find something else to eat." Dean pouts again. "Oh, almost forgot, Sam's gay, tag," he says, smacking her arm lightly as he hurries out the door. "You get to tell Dad."
John will not care even half of an iota that Sam is gay, Mary knows this. He loves his boys with every last fiber of his being to the point of near-smothering.
He will, however, have an issue with being told last. And by his wife.
John has a thing about secrets. He considers them lies, and he believes that lies have no place in the family, not when they have to lie so consistently to everyone else in the world. He's very black and white when it comes to this, and he won't understand how Sam hiding it is any different than, say, Dean hiding the bruised spleen he had last year or the ribs he swore weren't cracked last week.
And because Mary knows her husband better than he wishes most of the time, she also knows that he's going to be hurt that Sam didn't want to tell him himself. She understands only because Dean explained it to her, and she will admit that even with knowing why, it still stings. She aches for her baby boy, that someone out there made Sam hate himself so much that he's sure everyone else will, too.
Just as soon as she can—as soon as Dean gives her the all-clear that Sam isn't going to try an pull his stubborn "Mom, I'm not a baby" crap—Mary is going to sit Sam down, hug him close, and make sure he remembers that there is not a single thing at all in the entire world that can make any of them stop loving him, even if he doesn't love himself.
Well, except maybe if he started rooting for the Missouri Tigers.