1991


"Sammy, what are you doing in here?" Dean hissed from the doorway to their dad's office. Sam knew, he effin' well knew, he wasn't allowed in the office. And how had he gotten in? The door was supposed to be locked. Okay, so maybe teaching Sam how to pick a lock hadn't been one of his brightest ideas. But last summer had been so boring....

"Dean, is Dad crazy?" his eight-year-old brother asked as if he wasn't violating the Prime Directive: Do NOT enter Dad's Inner Sanctum. And not only was he in the Inner Sanctum, he had made himself at home--feet tucked under him as he sat in Dad's leather chair, Coke can on the desk. At least he was using a piece of paper as a coaster.

"What? No, Dad's not crazy, Sam. What's crawled up your ass about him now? And get your dirty feet out of the chair." He'd heard the whispers of advice from his dad's friends, that twelve and beyond were the difficult years for boys. But, hell, at eight, Sam was twice the pain in the ass than he could ever be. Sam questioned everything, from the type of toothpaste they used to his current bedtime to the color of paint on the wall.

alt="Well, according to his diary," Sam held up a battered leather book, "he goes out on the weekends chasing ghosts and vampires and witches. So, yeah, I'm asking if he's nuts."

Dean wanted to scream, but screaming wasn't cool. Dad was going to be so pissed, and he was going to blame Dean. The situation had "Oh, Dean, how could you" written all over it. Baby brothers were a bitch! "No, Sam. Dad's not nuts." It was too late to lie.

"But--" Sam shook the journal as evidence.

"He's not nuts--because ghosts and vampires and witches exist, dude." Dean slumped onto the corner of the desk, readying himself for the questions his brother was bound to ask.

"I hope this isn't hereditary."

Hereditary? "Been studying your vocabulary words I see," Dean said dryly.

"Cut the crap, Dean. You know these things aren't real."

"Strange things are happening all over, Sammy. I mean, look, the Atlanta Braves made it to the World Series. Dark times are upon the earth," he joked.

"Dean," Sam whined.

"It's all real, I swear." Dean picked up a rosary from the desk and fingered the beads. "The supernatural--it's out there, everywhere. It's a mind game. People won't see what they don't want to see, and the dark things love that."

"But Dad sees?"

"Yeah. He and others, like Uncle Bobby and Pastor Jim, they see the supernatural and they fight it. That's what they hunt on the weekends. That's why Dad comes back messed up sometimes." Pastor Jim had taught him how to put in stitches. He hated it and all the first aid crap he'd had to learn.

"How come Dad sees it?"

Dean sighed. Sammy and his questions. At least Dad wasn't going to have to answer them. Dad didn't take well to talking about Mom. "You know about the fire that killed Mom?" It was never spoken about directly, but Sam was a smart kid and he nodded. "A demon caused the fire."

"What? No, Dean. I looked it up in the library. The paper said it was an electrical fire."

"That's fire department speak for 'we don't know what the hell happened.' Learn to read between the lines, baby brother." Especially if you're gonna be looking at stuff you weren't supposed to.

"I'm not a baby!"

"Well, you're whining like one." Dean wondered how mad Dad would be if he came home to find Sam duct-taped in a corner. He'd feed and water him regularly. Bathroom breaks too, because he'd cleaned that ass enough for one lifetime.

"Jerk!"

Definitely tape over the mouth. "Bitch!"

Sam sighed, like Dean couldn't tell it was just another whine. "So, you really believe this stuff is out there?"

"Yeah."

"Just because Dad believes?"

Dean shrugged. "I've seen the damage it's left on him and the others. I--I think I might've seen an outline in the window just before your nursery exploded."

"My nursery? Mom--Mom died in my nursery?"

Oh, shit. There'd probably be nightmares now. And the waking of Dad. And questions. And answers. And lots of laps. Mom hadn't liked corporal punishment, and Dad liked to think they were both still raising the kids, so he'd taken a page out of the Corps manual. KP duty and training. Makes a boy strong and highly unlikely to ever commit the same sin twice.

Of course, if it's the right sin, you only need to do it once.

Since the damage couldn't get any worse, he put down the rosary, pulled up a chair and told the whole story to Sam. It was the day after Thanksgiving, so he knew Dad would be at the shop forever. The men in town dropped their women off at the mall, or were left home on their own while their women drove themselves to the mall, so naturally they took their cars to the auto shop and watched football on Dad's thirteen-inch (yeah, if you squinted and turned your head) TV. Good times.

"So, a demon killed our mom." Dean nodded. "And Aunt Missouri told Dad and sent him to see Pastor Jim and that's why we got all these aunts and uncles who aren't kin to us in the least bit?"

Dean took the last sip from Sam's Coke. "Right. What did you think? Grandpa Winchester got around a lot?"

Sam looked down, drawing invisible figures on the desktop with his finger. "No, but...Tony Holloway's mama's divorced and whenever she gets a new boyfriend, Tony has to call him uncle."

"Sam, no! Gag! Eww! You can't--" Dean looked at Sam in horror, then noticed his brother's giggling.

"Gotcha!"

"Excuse me while I go get the Drano to clean out my brain." Dean shuddered one last time for good measure. Then he focused on the situation at hand. You start something, you better be ready to finish it Dad always said. "You okay with this? I mean, I know it's a lot to handle. Dad didn't want you finding out for a while."

"Why? Why is it okay for you to know and not me? And don't say it's because you're older. I bet you knew before you were eight."

Dean nodded. "Yeah, I did. But I needed to know, Sam, so that I could protect us when Dad was gone. It was fine if Pastor Jim or Aunt Missouri babysat us, but when it was someone else, or we stayed with Uncle Mike and Aunt Kate, I needed to do--stuff."

"Stuff like what?"

"Put salt across all the entryways to the house, the room where we sleep, that kinda stuff."

"Salt? What's that for?"

Dean spent the rest of the afternoon teaching Sam all he knew about the supernatural. By the time their dad made it home, the journal was back in the desk, the office was locked.

And Sam, thankfully, did not dream.

*****

Sam glanced over the top of his book at Dean, who was sprawled on the sofa with a comic book. "What's a suck up, Dean?" he asked tentatively.

Dean didn't even bother to look across the room at him. "Who called you a suck up, Sammy?"

"Davy Allen."

"And why did this Davy Allen call you a suck up?"

"Because I was asking the teacher questions in the class."

Dean flipped to the next page. "And why were you asking questions?"

"Because I wanted to know!"

"Then you weren't being a suck up and Davy Allen is a dickhead."

"Oh." Sam tried to get back into his story, but was still confused. "Huh?"

"Remember last summer? We were at Pastor Jim's and you let Mrs. Hanson's bratty grandson bother you all day at the picnic because you knew Mrs. Hanson had made a chocolate cake."

"Yeah?"

"You were being a suck up."

Sam fingered the pages of his book. "Because I did it to get something I wanted?"

"Yeah."

"But how could asking the teacher questions be sucking up?" He slumped back into Dad's recliner, wondering when he'd be old enough not to have to ask Dean these questions.

"Because she'd like you and give you good grades."

"But I already get good grades."

"Which is proof you weren't sucking up. By the way, if I catch you saying dickhead, I'm gonna beat your ass."

"Yeah, yeah." Boy, he couldn't wait until he was old enough to use the words Dean used. And he'd love to tell Davy that he was a dickhead, but-- Wait a minute, Dean said not to let him catch him using the word... Before he could plan exactly what he was going to say to Davy when he got back to school, the phone rang. He wasn't surprised when Dean jumped up to answer it in the kitchen. It was always for Dean and usually it was some dumb girl, which was why he went into the other room. It was a short conversation, followed by Dean stomping back into the room and flopping on the sofa.

"Your girlfriend of the week break up with you early?" Sam asked with a giggle.

"No, Dorkface, that was Dylan. The crew's putting together a pick-up game down at the school."

Sam nodded. During the Christmas break, the high school had decided to open up its gymnasium as a "beneficial distraction" and a "place of safety" for the neighborhood kids. Of course, they hadn't heard of the kids being forced into lockers in the locker rooms or what took place under the bleachers. "What's the problem?" Dean never worried about the lockers--he had a reputation for being a mean bastard when pushed, and as far as under the bleachers went, he had another reputation for that.

"I have to do research for one of Dad's hunts."

"You do research?"

"Yes, and I can even tie my shoes."

"Wow, I guess that's why you were tripping on them the other day."

"You better remember who taught you how to tie your own."

There was nothing Sam could say to that. He'd been so confused after his dad had shown him that Dean had worked with him that night, teaching him the way Mom had taught Dean. The next morning he'd tied his shoes confidently and had thanked Dad for the lesson. Hmm. Was that a case of being a suck up? "I've never seen you do research. Is there stuff in the encyclopedias?"

"No, I have to go over to KU." The main campus of the University of Kansas was right there in Lawrence. "They have a lot of old books and I can use their computers, too. They're pretty kick ass."

"Can you teach me how to use them? Then you can go to the game." The computers in the elementary school library were pieces of dog crap.

"We have to ride the bus." Sam nodded. "And you have to pretend it's for a school project." Another nod. "And you have to wait for me to come get you. Dad'll kick my ass if I let you ride the public bus by yourself."

"But he's not going to know anyway, is he?" Sam reasoned. It wouldn't be the first nor the last thing they kept from Dad. Dean said it was honorable for kids to gang up on their parents, that nature had designed it that way. And since Dad's last words every time he left the house were "listen to your brother..."

"Yeah, but knowing you, your bus will have an accident and you'll be on the six o'clock news on a stretcher, waving to the crowds, and Dad'll be here kicking my ass before he goes to see you at the hospital."

Sam rolled his eyes, but knew better than to push his luck. He was going to a college library and going to use college computers. This was the best holiday ever! "I promise to wait for you to come get me. Why didn't I know about any of this?"

"You were probably on playdates with the geekatrons."

"We're not babies!"

"Yeah, whatever." Dean frowned, pulled out his wallet, and flipped a bus pass into his top pocket. Wow. He had his own pass. "This is really a bad idea. I can feel it in my gut."

"Come on, Dean. Besides, you gonna leave me here at home by myself?" Sam made himself look sad, but if it wasn't for the library, he would've been happy to stay home.

"Dad said to send you across the street to Mrs. Hastings."

"Mrs. Hastings like to give me fruitcake. It isn't really cake."

"Yeah, I know. Okay, get your jacket. And some money because I ain't paying your bus fare."

*

"Hi, Angeline." Sam shook his head. Of course Dean was on first name basis with the library staff--the female staff. "It's empty in here today."

"Christmas break. Only grad students and foreign visa kids are around. Who's your buddy?" She bent over the counter and even at his tender years, Sam knew her boobs were impressive. He didn't have to glance to know where his brother's gaze was.

"This is my brother, Sam."

"Hey, Sam, aren't you adorable? You Winchesters certainly are cute. Too bad you're either too old or too young."

Dean stretched to his full height. "They say the young are eager learners. We retain knowledge better. And I'm sure you have a lot you could teach me."

"Tell me that again in six years," Angeline said with a grin. "So, your dad's working on a new script?"

Dean had told him on the way over that they'd come up with the story that Dad was a scriptwriter when the librarians started noticing they were researching the supernatural. It was better than having them think he was part of a cult or something. Nobody ever reported scriptwriters to the cops. "Yeah, he sold the last one. Still can't convince him to pack up and move to Hollywood, though. But today, we're here because Sammy has a paper to do for school."

She smiled. "Well, you've come to the right place, little guy. And listen, your dad's a smart man. I wouldn't want my kids, when I have them, anywhere near Hollywood--especially if they're as cute as you two." She glanced down at a sheet. "You can have your choice of computers and because no one's here, no time limit."

"Thanks, Ange." Dean shoved Sam in the right direction.

After grilling Sam for fifteen minutes, Dean was satisfied that Sam could handle the job and left. Sam sighed in satisfaction. He had two hours on his own. This was great!

Finding the information wasn't too hard. Dean had figured out how to access some bulletin boards of "the weird" and they had lots of stuff. Soon, he was cruising along, horrified at some things and laughing at others. He really couldn't understand why Dean wanted to go play basketball instead of doing something cool like this.

*

"Sam."

Sam froze without turning around. That wasn't Dean's voice. That was Dad's voice. And Dad wasn't supposed to be here. He glanced quickly at his watch. If Dean caught the bus he said he was going to catch, then he should be getting off the bus just about now...unless there was traffic or the stupid-head had lost track of time. And did it really matter, because they were screwed, screwed, screwed.

He forced himself to smile and turn around. "Dad! What are you doing here?"

Dad didn't return his smile. "I think that's supposed to be my line. Where's your brother, Sam?"

"Bathroom," Sam blurted out. Dad looked like he didn't believe him. Crap.

"Okay. So Dean is in the bathroom, and you're here researching--" he looked over Sam's shoulder to read the screen-- "Ogres. Why are you researching ogres, Sam?"

"Um, Dean mentioned them and I was curious?"

"And why did he mention them to you?"

"Because he knows, Dad."

They both twisted around to see Dean standing behind them, panting softly and a backpack gripped tightly in his hand.

"He knows what, Dean?"

Sam hated it when his father's voice dropped to that oh, so soft tone. It meant he was beyond angry. It meant there was an explosion coming really, really soon.

"He knows what you hunt, sir."

Sam couldn't help but be proud of his brother at that moment. He wasn't stuttering out some lie or trying to hide behind the stacks. It was obvious he was scared. But it was also obvious he was brave.

"I suggest we take this discussion home where we can have some privacy."

"Yes, sir. Let me just take a moment to wipe out the history on the computer."

"You can--?" Dad asked hesitantly.

"A search can leave a trail, but if you--" Dean showed them both how to clear the history and the cache.

"Interesting," Dad said.

Dean just nodded and pushed Sam out in front of him. "Let's go, runt."

"By the way, Dean," Dad said, "You smell less like a bathroom and more like a gym."

Dean nor Sam gave a reply.

*

John shut the door to his office, firmly leaving Sam in the hallway, and looked at Dean who stood before him. "I don't think I've ever been as disappointed in you as I am now," he said, saying exactly what he thought. "I thought you and me were a team, that we had a plan for raising Sammy. You let me down, son." Dean didn't move an inch. "Nothing to say in your own defense?"

"No, sir."

John paced the short width of the room. "Why did you tell Sammy about hunting?"

"He found your journal, sir. It was either tell him the truth or let him believe you were crazy."

"My journal? Damn it, Dean, you know this door is supposed to stay locked! You left it open after you researched something for me?"

"Maybe, sir."

"What's the matter with you? You let him find out about the supernatural. You let him do your research. You left him in a college library alone. Researching ogres, ogres who like to crack open little kids' bones and suck out the marrow. That's what Sammy was reading, Dean. That's what Sammy was taking notes on, Dean. What is it, boy? Now that you're twelve you know better than I do?"

"No, sir."

John raked his fingers through his hair. "Then explain this to me, Dean. Explain why anything you did today was right."

"It wasn't," Dean mumbled.

John stopped in front of his son. "Speak up, boy!"

"It wasn't, sir. Nothing I did today was right."

"Damn straight. I hope you know that CD player you wanted for Christmas is going right back to the store."

"Yes, sir."

"And I really hope you like your room because you're going to be seeing a lot of it."

"Yes, sir."

"We've made plans to visit people the next few days, but the day after Christmas, we'll see about your punishment."

"Yes, sir."

John shook his head, not knowing if any of it had gotten through to Dean. "Go to your room and send your brother in here."

Dean nodded and quietly left the room.

This wasn't supposed to happen now, John groused. They had planned on keeping Sammy innocent to the darker side of the real world for as long as possible. He was supposed to stay a little boy for a lot longer--a little boy who slammed the door as he entered the room. "Watch yourself," John warned. "I think you're in enough trouble."

Sam almost rolled his eyes but apparently thought better of it. "You shouldn't have said that to Dean," he began.

"Said what?" John demanded, letting go of the fact that Sam had apparently been eavesdropping. "That I was taking away his Christmas present?"

"No. Who cares about stupid Christmas presents? You can take mine back, too. I don't want them. I don't want anything from you!"

John took a deep breath. Getting into a screaming match with an eight-year-old just wasn't an adult thing to do. "Listen, son, I admire you for sticking up for your brother. I know you think--"

"You don't know anything! Dean didn't do anything wrong. I picked the lock and read your stupid diary because I wanted to! Dean had nothing to do with it! And today Dean wanted to play basketball with his friends instead of doing your work! I talked him into doing what he wanted to do instead of what you ordered. I was fine at the library by myself."

"Did you even know what bus to take to get home?"

"No, but Dean was coming back."

Sam was pouting and John thought he better put a stop to that. "And what about if something had happened before Dean got back? Remember what you were researching?" Sam paled and John felt like a piece of shit. "I'm not saying that anything like that would happen, son. Lawrence is safe with me and your Aunt Missouri around. But there are other things--humans who are bad, or just plain mean, who could cause you harm. It's why you need your big brother with you."

Sam looked up at him with big, liquid eyes. "Maybe it was a stupid idea, but we're kids, Dad. We're supposed to do stupid stuff every now and again. Dean says so! And he never tells me he's disappointed in me. Ever!"

John was floundering in the flood of information he was receiving and he knew the best thing to do was to get out of the water. "Go to your room, Sam. And you'll start weapons training after Christmas. If you want to know it all, then you'll know it."

"Fine! And, Dad, if Dean screwed up because he told an eight-year-old about the supernatural, then what does that make you for telling a five-year-old?"

Thankfully, the door was slamming shut as John's knees gave out and his son didn't see him crash against the desktop. He laughed nervously. Damn, Sammy had balls. And a wicked, mean possession of logic. Maybe the boy should go into law because he'd have the jury eating out of his hands with one short diatribe.

Because he was right. What Dean had done was no worse than what he'd done. No, he thought honestly, what he'd done was worse. The fire had taken away most of Dean's innocence, and he'd taken the rest. He'd begun co-parenting with a five-year-old. And apparently he was an abusive co-parent, his tongue a little too quick against an opponent who couldn't (or wouldn't) stand up against him--a subordinate, a junior officer. He'd seen it happen in the Corps, a lieutenant berating a corporal just because he could. It sucked. And he was guilty of it.

"Dear God, Mary. Do you see how wrong this is going without you? How am I supposed to do this without completely fucking up your sons? Maybe I should've left them with someone, given them away." But he knew if he'd done that, he wouldn't have lasted a year. Hunting would've killed him. Hurting would've killed him. He laughed. "I hear you, Mary. 'Suck it up, soldier.' You liked telling me that when I whined about something. You could really be a bitch when you wanted to be," he said to the empty room. "Yeah, I'll suck it up and straighten out this mess. Just for you, babe."

*

The day after Christmas, Sam learned to shoot a gun, Dean ran lap after lap around the school's track (wearing an amulet Sam gave to him, not knowing he had it because Dad was an ass), and John snuck into the boys' room and placed a CD player on each of their beds.

Onward to Infrangible Road 1993

U-Turn to 1984 or Infrangible Road On-Ramp

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