By: Ridley C. James
, July 2006 re-edited in 2007

Beta & contributor: Tidia

Disclaimer: Nothing Supernatural belongs to me.

A/N: This is a rework of an older story due to requests about The Brotherhood. Thanks to Tidia, who has helped with this tremendously, we’re updating this piece, which was actually the beginnings of The Brotherhood AU. Looking back over the original we decided it definitely needed to be tweaked…and tweaked…and tweaked. The characters had changed a great deal. So, we played, and I hope this story is better because of it. Let me know what you think.


Chapter 1/13

"As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but is sort of necessary."
-Ernest Hemmingway

Thirteen-year-old Sam Winchester was caught in a nightmare.

Red and orange waves washed across the blood splattered ceiling tiles above him, pulsating with the promise of pain and certain death.

A five-year-old Sam Winchester cowered in a tiny bed, unable to move or scream.

He didn’t want to be burned. He knew fire was the enemy. It had taken his mother and as much as he wanted to see her-he wanted to stay with his dad and brother more.

But he wasn’t given a choice.

Blazing arms reached for him, their fiery tendrils scorching his tender skin as they drew his body into their unforgiving embrace.

And he screamed.

Over and over again he screamed as the fire took him.

"Sam! Sammy? It's okay, buddy."

Sam felt Dean's hand on his shoulder. He awoke with a start. They had been watching television. Actually, Dean was watching TV while Sam was reading.

The teen inhaled a shaky breath to calm his racing heart. “Dreams aren’t real,” he whispered. “They can‘t hurt me.”

"That's right, Sammy." His brother rubbed a circle on his back.

Sam sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. Dean was always there willing to rush in and rescue his little brother from whatever thing was starring as the feature monster of the night. Every time Sam got caught in one of the nightmares, Dean’s voice would lead him away from the melee into the comfortable safety of their rundown apartment or cheap motel.

"Fire dream?" Dean gestured with his hand for Sam to make some room on the couch.

Sam nodded. The fire dreams started five years ago. Sam would awake to find himself in his brother’s arms. Dean would rock him; sing to him, anything to soothe the misery. As Sam got older the embraces were replaced by a hand on the shoulder or an arm casually draped across him

But no matter how condensed, Sam counted on it.

"This about the trip tomorrow, Sammy?" Dean questioned.

“Maybe.” It was embarrassing to admit. Sam was thirteen for cripes sake! He’d be a freshman in high school next year. Leaving home for four nights should not be the cause for nightmares.

In all fairness, Sam rarely did anything by himself. He could blame all of this on his father. John Winchester had strict rules about where his sons went, and who they went with. Sam had been protected and sheltered his entire life. If it wasn’t his father or brother, it was their adopted ‘hunting’ family. He was the baby. "But I can't wait to spend some time with my friends."

That was true. He didn’t have many opportunities to socialize. The invites from ‘normal’ kids were few; considering he rarely stayed in one school long enough to make many friends,

"Yeah, they going to chicken out of the panty raid?" Dean snorted.

"You're just jealous that I have friends." This year had been different since his family had remained in West Virginia after the Christmas break. Sam had the taken the chance to get close to a few kids; his brother had not. Even the guys on Dean’s baseball team were held at usual length.

"I have friends-the right kind." Dean raised his eyebrows up and down.

“Right.” Sam shook his head. “Caleb and his hardhat buddies. You’re just lucky Dad hasn’t seen that fake ID.”

"You're just lucky that the hunt got drawn out and Caleb had a project nearby. It’s the only reason Dad stuck around."

John had taken a real job working with TriCorp Construction. TriCorp was owned by Caleb Reaves, a member of their close hunting family. Dean and Sam attended Middlesburrow High, a small 7-12 comprehensive school, for the entire spring term.

Dean slapped Sam's leg and stood up. "You all packed up?"

Sam was leaving for Camp Cedar Creek in the morning. Cedar Creek was a camp built for experiential learning. There would be caving, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking and other camping stuff intertwined with lessons on geology, geography, astronomy and even math. "Yeah, pretty much."

"You bringing any contraband? Want a Playboy in case you're bored?" The seventeen year old asked.

"No, I'll be too busy."

"Hope it's worth it." Dean had convinced their father to allow Sam to go after a rare argument between the two. He had teased Sam mercilessly about the teachers tricking them with a reward trip which was actually more outside classroom than theme park. But, Dean had signed the permission slip on their way to school, and forked over the thirty dollar fee.

"It'll be worth it." Sam had pretended not to notice Dean didn't eat lunch for the next two weeks.

Dean rolled his eyes."Yeah, a cabin with Cody Slagle and Shelton Ayers. That's my dream come true."

Sam was tired of the joking insults. He was already growing nervous, fearful of having a nightmare while he was away. The night was when bad things came. And even though Sam’s thirteen year old mind screamed at him that he was being ridiculous, he couldn’t easily dismiss the five-year-old inside who was terrified by the thoughts of going to sleep without Dean. "Whatever. Hand me the remote."

"Make me." Dean dangled the remote control above Sam's head. The thirteen year old tried to grasp it, and instead fell forward resulting in an impromptu wrestling match. Sam felt Dean's arm snake around his neck and tried to buck Dean off of him, but it was too late.

Sam tapped out, and Dean released him from the choke hold. The teen rolled away with more than his pride being hurt as Dean stood, cradling the remote control.

"I hate you." Sam meant he hated the invisible link that bound the brothers. It was an anchor marring him to a lifestyle stifling him more each day that passed. The younger Winchester saw the hurt flash through Dean's green eyes. "I wish I didn't have a brother. That you were never born."

Sam waited for the wisecracking comment. It never came. Dean dropped the remote in his brother's lap and left the room. And just like that Sam felt a give in the steel band. Maybe he could stand on his own.

The next morning Sam awoke late and scurried to gather all his things before Shelton's dad arrived. He slipped on his sneakers as he heard the car beeping outside.

Dean was waiting for him. "Take care of yourself, Sammy."

The thirteen-year-old ignored his older brother. He had found his independence however small and temporary and wasn’t willing to risk losing it. Sam closed the door between them without even so much as a goodbye.


Two nights later, Sam got his payback in the form of exactly what he was trying to escape-a nightmare. This nightmare wasn't about his familiar foe, the fire monster. It was about his hero. It was about Dean.

Sam ran through the forest, his tennis shoes striking the hard ground with such force he could feel the vibration in every taunt muscle in his body. It was dark out. The teen found himself wondering why he was alone in the night.

After all, his father had rules.

But quickly Sam found himself in familiar surrounding. He pulled to an abrupt halt at the cave he and his friends had explored on their first day at Cedar Creek.

Thankfully, a bright spring moon illuminated the teen's path as he was drawn towards the dark entrance. Sam was amazed to find himself magically transported inside the opening with a torch in hand.

His feet seemed to have a life of their own as they guided him deeper and deeper into the narrow passages. He was startled when the floor fell from beneath him and he plummeted into the cavernous darkness below.

The punishing end to the journey didn't come. The sudden sensation of falling halted and Sam found himself on his feet in a lighted room. Glancing around, he noticed the cages first.

Crude wooden constructed boxes of boards and tree limbs lined the walls and were stacked two high in some places. In the sparse light Sam could see the small bodies hunkered in the confines, staring at him like dogs at an animal shelter.

He made a move towards one cage where a little boy sat crying, but recoiled quickly when a voice spoke to him.

"Sammy? You with me?"


Sam whirled around holding the torch out in front of him. He took a step back when the flame illuminated the broken form of his brother.

"It's me. I'm here," the older teen whispered.

Dean was chained to a far wall, barely holding himself up. His face was bruised and bloodied. What was most disturbing was the massive bruising on one side of Dean's forehead.

"Dean?" Sam tried to take a step forward but found himself glued to the spot several feet from his brother. "Are you okay?"

"I thought you weren't talking to me anymore?"

Sam rolled his eyes at the stupid reply. "What are you doing here? What's wrong?"

"You tell me." Dean laughed, but then groaned in pain and closed his eyes as if he instantly regretted the action.

Sam struggled once more without success to reach his injured brother. "Dean, I can't move."

"Don't look at me, little brother. I'm kind of tied up at the moment."

"Are you hurt badly?"

"Words can't hurt me, Sammy."

Sam frowned, wishing like hell he could move an inch closer to get a better look at Dean. He obviously had a serious head wound. "Dean. I'm sorry. I can't help you."

"That's okay, Sammy. This works out better for you. Now you won't have a brother."

"What? That's not funny, Dean."

"Sure it is. You just don't know it yet."

Before Sam could reply he heard a noise in the distance-heavy footsteps coming from deeper within the room. Then he heard growling, rumbling or maybe laughter.

"Dean. We have to get out of here. Something's coming."

"It's something bad, Sammy." Dean's face took on a serious look. "You need to get away from me."

"I'm not leaving you."

"You already did."

"No!" Sam shook his head, furious at his uncooperative body. "Dean!" he screamed. The hulking shadow moved along the edges of the darkness, drawing nearer to his brother. "Dean! Please." Sam could feel panic taking hold of him.

Dean looked up, blood glistening on his face in the firelight. "Don't cry, Sammy. It's just a dream."


Dean smiled sadly as Sam watched the blackness creep closer to his helpless brother. "Wake up, Sammy. Just wake up. And this will all be over."

"Dean! I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

A massive claw inched into the flickering light, slowly reaching for Dean. "You'll be okay. Dreams can't hurt you. I promise."

"Please! Dean-don't leave me."

Hideous fingers curled around Dean's throat, tightening menacingly and tearing his last words from him. "Wake up, Sam!"

"Wake up, Sam!" Cody Slagle shook the unresponsive teen on the bottom bunk and tried not to panic as his friend continued to struggle against the confines of the blanket. "Come on, man. You're dreaming."

Sam shot up in the middle of the bed, nearly banging his head on the top bunk.

"Dude, relax!" Shelton Ayers groaned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes as he hung over from above the other two boys. "Normal people are trying to sleep."

"Shut up, Shelton." Cody growled and placed a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Sam? You okay?"

"Dean?" Sam whispered, disoriented. He desperately needed to hear his brother's voice, or feel his touch to reassure himself it had been a nightmare.

"It's Cody."

Sam turned his head, blinked rapidly and struggled to put the pieces together. He sighed when he made out the concerned blue eyes and sleep tousled dark curls of his friend and classmate. "Cody?"

"Yeah. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, the freak's fine." Shelton grumbled from above them. "Now stop your yakking and go the fuck to bed."

Cody ignored the other teen and looked at Sam. "You were screaming."

Great. Sam ran a hand through his hair and nodded. "Sorry. Bad dream."

"That was some dream." Cody frowned and pushed his glassed from their skewed position. "I couldn't get you to wake up."

"Dang it, Cody!" Shelton hung off the top bunk again. "So Winchester has nightmares like a girl. Give it a rest and let me get some sleep."

"You were calling out for your brother." Cody continued to watch Sam in the intense way that had earned him the nickname of Owl.

Sam groaned. It was very uncool to wake up needing your big brother, but calling out his name was so far into geek territory Sam would never register on the coolness meter again. "Really?"

"Yes, really." Shelton glared at him. "Sounds like somebody wants his mommy."

"Fuck you, Ayers!" Sam snarled. The other boy laughed; obviously pleased he'd pushed Sam's buttons.

"Wait until I tell Kelley. She won't be drooling all over you tomorrow."

"And wait until I tell her that you had to sleep in plastic shorts until you were ten," Cody shot back. He glanced at Sam. "Nobody would invite him to sleepovers."

"Shut up, Owl!"

Cody grinned and sat down on Sam's bed. "I used to have nightmares. Awful ones about huge bugs and grotesque spiders."

Sam swallowed hard, wishing he'd dream about such things. "Yeah?"

Cody nodded. "Was your brother being eaten by a zombie or something?"

The boys had been discussing the movie Dawn of the Dead before going to bed. "No. I don't really remember what it was about."

"It must have been pretty bad."

Bad didn't begin to describe it. Sam needed only to close his eyes to recapture the terrifying scene. His brother looked hurt and in so much pain. Just thinking about it made Sam sick. "I need to call home." He needed to hear Dean's voice-had to, in fact.

"What?" Cody frowned. "It's like two in the morning, Sam."

"I don't care." Sam tossed the covers aside, and slung his legs over the bunk. "I need to find Mr. Taylor."

"Oh that should be fun to watch." Shelton laughed. "Taylor will put you in detention for a week if you wake him up because little Sammy had a bad dream."

Cody stood and allowed room for Sam to do the same. "I think he's in Cabin Hemlock. It's about two down from us."

Shelton rose up on one elbow and peered down at Sam. "Seriously, Winchester, you need to get a grip. He's a cool guy, but he's still a teacher."

"As much as I hate to admit that Shelton is right, Sam, he is. Mr. Taylor won't like you waking him up. We're not supposed to leave the cabins after lights out."

Sam grabbed his jeans from the footlocker that was at the bottom of the bed and quickly slipped them on. "I'll tell him I'm sick."

"Maybe if you just go back to sleep, you'll forget about it. We have the kayak race tomorrow. Remember?"

Sam considered it, but then shook his head, the pain written on Dean's face still too fresh in his memory. He didn't give a shit about how he looked to his friends. "I have to talk to my brother."

Cody studied him for a moment, nodded and went to his bunk across the way to retrieve a flashlight. "Then I'll come with you."

"You guys are so busted," Shelton mumbled from the top bunk again before surprising both boys by jumping down, and shaking himself like a wet dog just done with a bath. "But if anyone is getting in trouble," he raked his hands through his shaggy blond hair, "it's at least going to be the cool kid in the cabin." He grabbed the flashlight from Cody and turned it on. "Try not to trip over your own feet, Slagle."

Sam watched the other two boys lead the way out of the cabin. He said a quick prayer he'd end up not only being ridiculed by Shelton for the rest of the year, but being teased mercilessly by his big brother for calling home. Then Sam's nightmare was just that-a nightmare. All of this worry would be the teen's unconscious way of dealing with the guilt of being a dick to his brother for his own selfish reasons. And Sam could live with that.

But as he stepped out into the dark forest, and noticed the bright hunter's moon hanging above him, he knew things wouldn't work out the way he wanted them to. And he might end up getting the wish he'd so viciously tossed at Dean. Sam was terrified he would lose his brother. Maybe, he'd already lost him.


Shelton had been right. Mr. Taylor wasn't happy to see the three boys when one of the other campers finally managed to rouse him. He was less enthused when he discovered the time.

But he'd taken one look at the pale and shaky form of the thirteen-year-old practically begging to call home and had taken pity on him. Taylor White still hadn't quite figured out Sam Winchester. The boy was brilliant, obviously gifted, but slow to express himself in class. He had been hesitant about the trip in the beginning and Taylor had pushed slightly, encouraging the teen to come, even eliciting the boy's older brother to help. It seemed to be a good idea after watching Sam come out of his shell over the last two days, but now Taylor was worried he'd misjudged the situation.

He liked Sam and something about his quiet nature and unsure vulnerability had the educator's protective instincts kicking in. And seeing the boy so upset now only increased his desire to help.

"This is it, Sam." Taylor unlocked the camp director's office and fought off a wide yawn. "I know there's a phone in here somewhere."

The teacher had sent Cody and Shelton back to their own cabin much to the teens dislike. But, he'd gotten the idea Sam was relieved not to be on the receiving end of Cody's genuine concern and Shelton's snide comments about being homesick.

"Let's just hope it works, unlike the hot water in the showers."

Sam entered the small building, blinking as the older man turned on the lights. "Thanks for letting me call, Mr. Taylor. I know it's really late."

Taylor shut the door behind them. "No problem, Sam." The teacher motioned to a large oak desk in the corner. "The phone's probably on the desk. I'll just wait over there," he pointed to a leather chair by the fireplace, "in case your family needs to speak to me."

Sam nodded; thankful the man was trying to offer him some privacy. "Okay."

Taylor moved to the recliner, sank down in its worn softness and watched the teen hesitantly pick up the phone. Taylor had met only one member of Sam's family- his brother, Dean. The older boy was a junior at Middlesboro. Well known for his ability on the baseball field. He registered Sam and had attended the one and only meeting about Sam's progress. It was unusual, but Dean seemed genuinely interested in Sam's work. Kids could accomplish amazing things with just one person in their corner.

When Sam did mention his life outside of school, it usually involved his brother. Although Dean seemed to be Sam's only engaged parental unit, he'd heard talk in the teacher's lounge of a father no one had seemed to have met. So it was surprising enough to draw Taylor's interest when the teen's soft voice carried across the room.

"Dad?" Sam swallowed the lump in his throat as his father answered the phone on the first ring. "It's Sam."

"Sam? What's wrong?"

The teen easily picked up on his father’s tell-tale sigh-could imagine he wasn’t happy by the surprise call. "Where's Dean?"

"Why are you calling, kiddo?"

The use of 'kiddo' was Sam's first indication something was wrong. He could almost see his father, raking his hand through his hair and rubbing his eyes. "I had a dream, Dad."

"What kind of dream, Sammy?"

"A nightmare." The fact that his father wasn't chewing him out for the outrageous hour or condemning the trace of fear Sam knew damn well the man could hear in his voice only confirmed his dire dread.

"Was your brother in the dream?"

Sam's grip tightened on the phone as his fear increased. Why would his father ask him that? John rarely ever asked about his son's dreams, choosing to pretend they didn't exist, or even worse that they were normal. "Dad-where's Dean?"

There was a long, painful silence before he heard the defeated exhale of breath.

"I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know? Isn't he with you? Why isn't he home?"

"Your brother disappeared while we were on a hunt tonight."

"What?" Sam's raised voice had Mr. Taylor glancing his way. The teen turned his back to the teacher, closed his eyes and willed himself to stay calm. "Why aren't you out looking for him? Where’s Caleb?"

"Damn it, Sammy. Caleb and I have been searching the area for hours. We had to regroup and come up with a plan."

"Regroup?" Sam said the word like it was a slur. "Dean's hurt," he whispered harshly into the phone.

“How do you know that, son? What did you see?"

"Come get me, Dad."

"Samuel? What the hell did you dream about?"

"I'll tell you everything when you get here."

"Sam-you need to stay where you are. I don't need to worry about you on top of all this. You know how many kids have disappeared in this area."

Of course Sam knew. And so did Dean. His brother had been particularly interested in this hunt. "I have to help."

"Listen to me, Sammy…"

"No. You listen to me, Dad. Come and get me. Now. Or I'll start walking. I swear I will." Sam knew the threat of him alone in the woods that had claimed a disproportionate amount of young children would sway things in his favor.

There was a long silence and Sam suddenly got the meaning of ‘pregnant pause’. "I don't even know where you are."

It sounded like his father was in confessional at Pastor Jim’s church, confessing his latest sin. The lump returned to Sam's throat and his eyes stung. John didn’t know where his son was. Dean had signed the permission slip. Dean had listened to him talk about the trip for weeks. He had even written down instructions for Sam and Shelton on the proper way to perform a stupid panty raid on the girl's cabin. Dean, his older brother, who Sam had been horrible to, was missing.


John's voice was full of emotion, although Sam didn't recognize the specific feeling. He hoped it was guilt for having the audacity to not know the location of his children.

"Did you hear me?"

"Caleb knows where I am. Dean left the directions and the other information on the refrigerator door." Sam hoped his father picked up on the sarcasm in his voice.

"I'll be there as soon as I can."

Sam continued to hold the phone long after his father hung up, the empty silence blocked out the little reprimanding voice in the teen's head. The hand on his shoulder caused him to jump and he nearly dropped the receiver.

"Hey? Is everything okay?"

The teen hadn't heard the teacher cross the room. Taylor was right beside him, looking at Sam with a familiar concern. The usually well-groomed man was in a ratty Metallica T-shirt and sweats. Sam was filled with the overwhelming desire to cry. It wasn't the first time the young teacher had reminded the teen of Dean. But the man's typical refined dress and love of mathematic equations usually kept the comparisons at bay.

"Yeah," Sam forced the word out. He carefully replaced the phone, quickly rubbed his eyes, hoping there were no traces of the emotions raging through him.

"Are you sure?" Mr. Taylor smiled. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

Sam shook his head. "I don't believe in ghosts."

"Maybe I should have stayed in your cabin, then. The boys that I'm rooming with had me pretty freaked out with their tales of spectral encounters. Seems these woods are famous for disappearances."

Sam licked his dry lips and wondered how the teacher would respond if he told him some of the facts he knew about Middlesboro, West Virginia. Sam had done most of the research for Caleb and his father. He imagined how the man would look at him as he told him his seventeen-year-old brother had vanished into thin air while out hunting a Raw head with their ghost busting father. "My group likes zombies," he offered.

Mr. Taylor shivered. "The walking dead flesh eaters? I think I was better off with the Hookman and Big Foot theories."

When Sam glanced up at the clock, Taylor got the impression a change in subject was due. "So, is Dean coming to get you?"

"No. He's not."

The pain that flashed through the teen's eyes was unmistakable. The teacher had to resist the urge to reach out and put a hand on the boy's thin shoulder. Some boys, kids in general, didn't like to be touched especially when they were at the cruel age where the lines between childhood and the struggle to be adult blurred.

"I just assumed he'd be the one, seeing as how he seems to look out for you."

"Yeah." Sam could feel the stinging again and wished the man wasn't looking at him with such understanding. "He takes care of me."

"I understand that. I have an older brother." Taylor grinned. "He's usually a pain in my a…side, thinks he knows everything, and just had to one up me by becoming a doctor of all things. The M.D. kind, to beat it all. But most of the time, he's not too bad to have around. Actually, I miss him when he's not."

"Do you ever hate that?"

Taylor tilted his head slightly and frowned at the teen's soft-spoken inquiry. "What? That I like him? Or that I completely idolize the stupid jerk even though I wish like heck that I didn't?"

Sam's brown eyes widened almost comically in the way any teenagers did when an adult came remotely close to voicing what they were thinking or feeling.

The thirteen-year-old nodded, stunned speechless, so Taylor continued. "You bet. Sometimes I even wished that I never had a brother, especially one that cast such a long shadow."

"Did you ever…" Sam bit his lip, fighting hard to keep it together. "You know? Do something you wish that you hadn't because of it?"

"Like what?" Taylor crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the desk.

The teen hesitated. "Like…telling him you hated him?" Sam glanced down at his shoes and then back up. "Like you wished he would leave and never come back?"

"Maybe only a hundred times." Taylor felt bad when Sam didn't smile at his joke, but rather looked even more distraught.

"I didn't mean it." Sam's breath hitched. He clenched his fists in anger, trying to control the torrent of remorse bubbling up from inside him. "I didn't want anything bad to happen to him."

"Hey," Taylor said softly, completely surprised the boy was getting upset. "Of course you didn't mean it. Sam, people say things they don't mean all of the time. That's just human nature. That's why God invented Hallmark."

Again, the joke went bust.

"But he didn't deserve it. He's never done anything to me except take care of me, and watch out for me. I was just so pissed at him…or at myself…for needing him so much."

"Brother's fight, Sam. Sometimes it's a love/hate thing, you know." Taylor took a chance, reached out and squeezed the teen's shoulder. "Just wait until your first girlfriend falls in love with him. You'll probably even end up decking him a few times before one of you leaves the house. Trust me."

Sam sniffed. "We don't usually fight. Not me and Dean, anyway."

Taylor took that to mean maybe Sam and other members of his family didn't fair so well. "Parents can be a whole other story at your age."

"There's just my dad. And Dean. Besides a few uncles, they're the only family that I have."

Taylor had suspected there wasn't a Mrs. Winchester in the picture. Kids missing that influence weren't hard to spot. "Was your dad upset with you for calling home?" The teacher wondered if that was the reason Sam was worked up.

Sam didn't appear the typical abused child. Taylor had seen enough of those in his short career to pick up on clues. Even though Sam could be quiet and withdrawn, the teacher had no reason to think badly about the kid's parent. Sam's stress only increased after talking to his father on the phone.

"He was just in the middle of something." Sam decided not to mention that his dad hadn't wanted him to come on the stupid trip in the first place. "He doesn't like to be disturbed."

"Was he sleeping?" Taylor smiled again. "Because I can understand not liking to lose out on that precious commodity. We old folks need our eight hours."

"He wasn't sleeping."

Drinking? Taylor hoped like hell the man wasn't a drunk. It would fit the whole absent parent scenario, but for Sam and Dean's sake he prayed for a better explanation. "Sam, I'll have to talk to your dad in person before you can leave. Alright?" The boy wasn't going anywhere if his old man wasn't sober.


Taylor took a deep breath and tried to let go of some of his own worry. "So, Dean isn't coming to get you because of the fight you two had. Right?"

Sam shook his head. "No. He's not home. Dean would come and get me if he could."

"He's out late." Taylor noted with a raised brow.

Sam nodded, his eyes filling. "I'm afraid he's in trouble." He wasn't sure why the words tumbled out. He wasn't supposed to talk to strangers about family stuff.

Taylor frowned. "What makes you think that, Sam?"

The boy shrugged. "It's just a feeling."

"Could be that you're just feeling a little guilty about what you said."

Sam stared at him, wishing that was all it was. He had desperately hoped the dream was just another nightmare, but it had felt different than the usual ones. The disconnected feeling was his first clue. The experience was like watching a terrible movie he couldn't turn off. "No. I just know something's wrong."

"Like what?"

"I can't explain it."

"Dean seems like the type to handle himself pretty well."

"Most of the time."

"Then I'm sure he's fine. He's not the first seventeen-year-old to pull a late-nighter."

Sam looked at him.

"Not that I'm condoning it, mind you. But I'm not so far removed from that age that I can't remember what it was like. Does Dean have a girlfriend?"

Sam snorted, despite himself. "To hear him tell it-lots."

Taylor grinned. "That's probably it then, Sam. Women can make us guys do some pretty stupid things. Trust me."

"I guess." Sam had seen his brother act like an idiot because of a girl on several occasions. Sometimes it was all he and Caleb talked about. But unless the Raw head had a mate, Sam was pretty sure no female influence was involved in this latest disaster.

"He might even beat you and your dad back home."

"Yeah." God, Sam wished that would be true.

"And then you guys can work things out."

"I hope so."

The kid sounded so doubtful and downhearted that Taylor would have said almost anything to make things right. "I bet Dean understands where you're coming from. He's been your age."

Sam shook his head, remembering the look on his brother's face when they had argued, and the way Dean had been broken and bloodied in his nightmare. "I was horrible to him."

"Sometimes we hurt people, Sam. Sometimes it's the people we love the most."

Sam recalled the moments leading up to his and Dean's fight. "But I wanted to hurt him. I was glad I did." A hot tear escaped his lashes and slipped down his cheek. He wanted to crawl under the table and hide. "I just wanted him to go away."

"I get that, Sam." Taylor nodded. "Big brother's can have a way of forgetting that their baby brothers aren't actual babies. Sometimes it can be smothering."

"Sometimes I feel like I can't even breathe on my own." Sam wiped at his eyes. "I just want to do my own thing. To be able to take care of myself."

"That's not a crime, son."

"In my family it is."

"Your family probably wants to protect you. To keep you safe."

"The only time I feel safe is with Dean." And that was the real problem. "And I don't know how to change that."

"I don't think you can change that, Sam." Taylor sighed and shoved his hands through his sleep-tousled wavy hair. "I mean, sure, you'll get older and you won't need your big brother as much, but I can tell you from experience, there are times when I still need my big brother to protect me from whatever terrible thing life is throwing at me. Sometimes, he's the only one who can make me feel right again."

"But I pushed him away, and now it's too late."

"Sam, I don't know what's going on that makes you think that something's happened to Dean, but I've seen how he is around you. I'm willing to bet that it will never be too late to fix things with him. I'm guessing he'd pretty much forgive you for anything, whether you felt you deserved it or not."

"I don't know what I'd do without him."

Taylor nodded. "The feeling is probably mutual."

Sam took a shaky breath and let it out. "Not lately."

"I don't know about that." Taylor smiled. "I'm pretty sure Dean could probably have taken you out if he'd really wanted to. I hear he's got one hell of a swing."

Sam's brow furrowed. Taylor made a swinging motion with his arms as if he were wielding an invisible baseball bat. "Coach Miller has bragged about his prowess on the field."

"They're in the regional tournament," Sam said softly, thinking about how he'd totally forgotten. He'd been so proud of Dean for making the team, for becoming one of the standouts. But he'd never told him.

"So I've heard."

Sam only hoped his brother would get the chance to play. "You really think Dean will understand why I've been such a pain?"

Taylor nodded. "Even if he doesn't totally get it, he'll still let you get away with it. That's pretty much how it is with older brothers. I think it's in their DNA or something. They have to love us kid brothers, no matter how bratty we are."

"Lucky for us."

The teacher sighed. "Yeah. Lucky for us."

Sam glanced at the clock on the wall again. "Is it okay if I go to the cabin and get my things? Dad should be here soon." The only thing Sam wanted to do now was find his big brother. The rest could be taken care of after Dean was safe.

"Yeah, okay. I'll take you over." Taylor motioned towards the door. "I'm pretty sure Dean would never forgive me if I let you get taken by some dead thing wandering about."

Sam tried to ignore the irony and stepped out into the cool night air.

Taylor joined him, pushing the screened door closed behind them. He glanced at Sam, and raised a brow. "Besides, I heard talk that a massive panty raid took place last night, and I wouldn't want an innocent to get caught in the crossfire when the girls seek their revenge." He shook his head in resigned pity. "I hear they are going to strike right before dawn and that your buddy Shelton is in big trouble."

Sam's face registered his surprise but he quickly tried to cover, and in his best Dean Winchester voice said, "What's a panty raid?"

Mr. Taylor clasped him on the shoulder and laughed. "Oh, yeah. I do like your style, Sam Winchester. I like it a lot."


Onto Chapter 2


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