12 April 2012 @ 02:46 pm
fic: Worth Saving Me [6/7]  



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Dean tucks his brother into the covers of his oversized bed. The soft, dimpled smile Sam gives him is almost enough to take away from red-rimmed eyes and splotchy, flushed cheeks and he doesn't care that his baby brother is too old to be tucked in and fawned over like a child. Dean hasn't had the chance to take care of his Sammy in far too long and he's going to take every opportunity he can get to do so now.


He gives into an urge he's had since he calmed Sam enough to lay down and curls a hand into Sam's hair. His brother lets out a little sigh, eyes drooping closed and tension easing off his skin, melting away until he's letting out little puffs of breath. Dean's lips tip up at the corners and even he isn't sure if it's a sad or happy smile. He wishes he'd been there, that he hadn't ever left that night and given John the opportunity to take Sam away from him.


But he's also so relieved that he's got Sam back. No matter what John thought or hoped, he can't keep them apart forever. Nothing can, and Dean feels something in his chest loosen in the knowledge that he and Sam will always find their way back to each other.


That doesn't make it easier knowing what his brother went through before he was adopted into this new family.


The door to Sam's room creaks. Dean looks over his shoulder and scoots around to face the door, his back to the headboard with Sam sleeping to the left of his hip, when he sees Jo poke her head in.


"How is he?"


"He's okay. Sleeping."


It feels awkward, talking to the girl who's obviously so protective of his brother. The girl who considers Sammy to be her brother. He's not sure how he feels about that, but Dean knows there's always going to be a grateful edge to any of his emotions regarding the Harvelles for how they've taken his little brother in when he didn't have anyone else.


She steps into the room, dressed down to a soft looking pair of navy blue pajama bottoms and a thinner, matching long-sleeved top. Her full lips quirk up and light worried lines creasing her forehead relax in relief when she walks around to the other side of the bed, eyes gliding over Sam's face and down as though she can see through the blankets and skin and muscles, straight to the soul underneath.


Before he can react, she's reaching for the blankets. Not wanting to wake Sam, Dean hisses, "Hey" as quietly as he can, but she quirks one thin eyebrow up. The expression looks so much like the one her mother gave Sam at dinner to make sure he ate the rest of the food on his plate that Dean pauses, mouth open until he blinks himself out of it and shrugs a little. She pulls the blankets up and slips onto the mattress beside Sam, wrapping long fingers around one of his bony wrists. Sam leans toward her in his sleep and Dean has a brief, insane thought that maybe there is something more between them, but he dismisses it just as quickly when he thinks about everything he's seen of the two of them. They're really not all that different to how he and Sam had been.


The quiet of the room is broken briefly by Jo's sleepy, "Night," and Dean finally lets his muscles relax. The blankets and their warmth are too tempting to resist for long and he soon finds himself underneath them, Sam bracketed safely between Jo and himself. As carefully as he can with the exhaustion from the revelations of today finally catching up with him, Dean reaches out and holds onto Sam's other wrist.


It's there, warm and comfortable and within reach of his brother, that Dean is finally able to succumb to sleep, hopeful for what the next day might bring.

*


"Did you call Rufus?"


Bobby nods, scratches at the scruff of his beard as he watches Ellen take out a third glass and set it on the bar top. She uses so much force that he almost expects it to shatter into pieces. Thankfully it doesn't, just makes a clink that's loud in the quiet of the bar. "He ain't far out. Shouldn't be more'n an hour to get here."


"Good," Ellen says with a determined nod of her own, fire in her eyes. The woman is fierce as he's ever seen. Angrier than she's been since she found out it was the kid's own father who got rid of him. "I'm gonna go check on Sam."


Bobby isn't the least bit surprised, but it's the first time the boys have had time to themselves after being separated for years. "You just saw him at dinner not two hours ago," he tries halfheartedly. Even though they've been up in Sam's room since they finished dinner and Ellen just sent Jo up after they finished re-stocking some of the bar, he knows there's nothing that'll stop a mama bear from checking her cubs and Ellen is as much a mama bear – to both Jo and Sam – as he's ever seen. He's not too keen to get on her bad side on a good day. To do anything now would be downright suicidal.


She gives him a small nod and a stern, "Keep an eye out," before she's breezing through the door to the back.

*


Ellen is proud she's able to keep her voice from shaking when talking to Bobby. There's a fire in her blood, coursing through her and pounding in her ears. Her hands are shaking with it, the fury she feels building up and up and up. But this ain't the time to let it out. Not before they get a chance to discuss just what the hell they can do about that monster, John Winchester. She's not far gone enough to think punching a wall can help. All it'd do is hurt her hand, piss her off worse when it sinks in that she's acted like some drunken patron, angry at the world with no one better to take out her anger on. Especially when, if she gets the chance, she'd rather take all this fire, fierce and livid as it is, and channel it into one good blow to John Winchester's face.


The first room she passes is empty but Ellen hadn't expected her daughter to be sleeping in there. Jo's made a habit of sleeping in Sam's room since the kid first came around. Back before he'd realized they weren't going to just kick him out after a couple of nights. Back before he'd understood he could take the comfort they were trying to offer.


Back then her daughter would wait until the boy was sleeping and slip into the room, swift and stealthy as her Daddy had been on a hunt, only to sit on a chair Ellen had set up in there and keep watch. The poor kid hadn't known how to take it at first, seemed to think they were making sure he wouldn't steal anything or slip out into the night without so much as a by-your-leave, but Jo kept at it. Chased his frequent nightmares away with a simple touch to his wrist; younger than him and still somehow taking up the position of protector. One he'd finally gotten used to, that he appreciated. They've been like siblings for years now and Ellen is so proud because she must have done something right when raising her little girl if that same little girl – the one who'd come to her clutching a stuffed dog, all quivering lips and tear-tracked cheeks asking to stay with her after a nightmare more times than she can count – could handle Sam better than the rest of them.


Since Dean showed up making them realize he's innocent in everything John did nine years ago, she's a little more floored at how familiar his actions are because she's seen them in Jo for four years now. Somehow without any of them noticing – except maybe Sam but he's never said anything – Jo had managed to step up as the protector Sam used to have in his big brother. Not replaced him, even Ellen can see there's no replacing the young man she'd seen at dinner who looked too old for his age already. But Jo had been exactly what Sam needed and she's overcome with the urge to hug her daughter close and drag Sam and Dean in with her.


Her eyes sweep the empty room one last time before she steps back, closing the door behind her.


There's only a dim sliver of light coming from the bottom of the door at the end of the hallway. Ellen pauses in front of it with her hand held just above the knob for a long moment before shaking herself and gripping the cool metal. The door slides open easily and she pokes her head in only to pause again.


The image of Jo sleeping on Sam's left side, probably clutching his wrist in a loose grip beneath the blankets piled on top of them, doesn't surprise her in the least. What's halted her where she stands, bent with her head in the room and the rest of her body still in the hallway, is the extra person sleeping on Sam's other side. Dean is curled on his side, back to the door, and practically wrapped around Sam, protecting him even in sleep; even after eight years apart.


She eases the door open just a bit further, steps fully into the doorway. Leaning against the frame, she tilts her head to the side and feels the last of her tension melt away, at least for the moment. The fire in her veins has simmered down, sure to boil over in less than an hour when Rufus comes in and they get down to business. But there's something like hope swelling in her chest at the picture presented to her right now; Dean and Sam and Jo huddled together on Sam's oversized bed that she first bought to ensure there would always be room for the three of them on those nights he needs the company, needs to forget for a while what his life had been before he'd come here.


Sam's growing up. He'd already been too old for his age when Rufus saved him; after what his life had been, even before John had sold him. Now he's eighteen and he's staying over the summer to help her out at the bar but he'll be heading off to college in the fall and Jo still has another year to go before she can follow him there. Something Ellen really wants her daughter to do, selfishly hoping Jo's need to watch over her older brother will encourage her to try out a life of academia before trying to follow in her father's footsteps.


It's been a growing worry, though. That her Sam will be alone again for months, even if it's at school doing something he wants to be doing. He won't have his big bed and an overprotective sister and mother every night to get him through the odd nightmare or panic attack the way he does here. But now Dean is back in Sam's life, slotting himself in even in one night almost like he'd never been gone. Dinner hadn't been as awkward as it should have been, and he's even taken up the side of the bed that leaves him closest to the door like Sam had told her once in one of his extremely rare stories about his life back before he'd learned how horrible his father really was.


Dean had been inseparable from Sam all through dinner, close enough their arms had touched the entire time and the image in front of her suggests he'd been just as unwilling to leave Sam even when they're sleeping. That hope inside of her grows. Maybe Dean will be willing to follow his brother to school.


She knows a thing or two about hunters after all these years, knows even after finding out how far off the reservation their father is – has been for longer than Dean has probably had time to process yet – that he won't be able to stop that itch for a hunt. Not yet, at least. But maybe he'll make a temporary home base in Lincoln, go hunting every couple of weekends and settle down just enough to get a job. Make some legitimate money that Sam won't feel guilty about his brother using.


After another moment of self-indulgence, eyes sweeping over the trio, Ellen backs out of the doorway and shuts the door. They've got time to decide what Dean will do later. Right now she has a human monster that needs dealing with.

*


"Want a plan? I got a three part plan. Bullet. Brain. Salvage yard. We'll go for some drinks after."


Rufus's voice filters into the back and Ellen shifts the case of beer in her arms with a huff, barely resisting the urge to roll her eyes. She'd had Jo bring a case out after dinner, busy work to make sure Dean and Sam got enough time to themselves before she went upstairs to undoubtedly join them. But she'd needed to get away from the two hunters bickering at each other like an old married couple and unable to come up with a solution between them, Ash sitting quietly in the background.


Figuring out what to do about John Winchester should require something a lot stronger than the case she's got in her hands, she knows, but at least one of them has got to keep a clear mind. She's already had a glass of the whiskey she keeps in stock for Rufus and while her tolerance is high she's going to stick with a cold beer for the rest of the discussion.


Bobby's voice comes through, just as frustrated as he'd been when she walked out for some air, "Evil as he is, the man is still human. We ain't in the murdering business, Rufus."


Rufus snorts, shifts enough that his stool scrapes against the ground. He sucks in a breath, ready to give his idea of a plan again no doubt, and Ellen pushes back into the room. Bottles clink together shrilly when she drops them onto the bar top harder than necessary. But it gets the men's attention just fine, both turning around to face her. Only Ash doesn't react at all, too busy typing away on the laptop he brought with him when he showed up at her bar in March. It's a monster of a machine, taken apart only to be put back together with some of the kid's additions she can't even hope to understand. Bobby's forehead is crinkled a little, eyebrows raised in silent question while Rufus looks at her expectantly, leaving her with the impression that he's got better things to do than wait for what she has to say.


Grabbing one of the bottles, she's got it popped open in a quick move made familiar after years of owning her bar and crosses the floor to join them at their table. "Okay gentlemen, here's how this is gonna play out." She gestures to Ash with her beer, "Ash here is gonna work his magic, ain'tcha hon?"


"Yes, ma'am," he answers with a smug smirk, turning the clunky computer around. "Been working on these since Dean-o showed up."


The screen, bright in the dim lighting, boasts one of the most authentic looking fake passports she's seen. It's quite the feat. Owning a hunter's bar, she's had more occasion than most to see all sorts of fake identification. She doesn't know where Ash managed to get a picture of John, but the kid has been full of surprises since he somehow succeeded in adopting them for his own. He's sure hiding a lot of smarts in that mullet-covered head of his.


"Johnny boy is gonna find a hunt somewhere down in Mexico or, hell, Tibet for all I care. Shouldn't be too hard with Ash's connections to find someone willin' to… persuade John across a border or two. " She turns to look at Ash again, nodding. A quick click across the keyboard and there's a birth certificate with John's name on it. "Ash is makin' it so he won't be able to find his way back over here anytime soon. It ain't gonna be easy with this proof here that he ain't from the US, don't you think?"


Bobby is looking at the screen, wide eyed and awed. Even Rufus looks impressed, though he's hiding it behind his Johnny Walker easy enough. "This is the plan boys," she continues, unable to hold back her smirk any longer. "We toast to it tonight and tomorrow we'll do what needs doin'. When the boys ask, last we heard, John left the country on some hunt he couldn't resist. And hell, we'll only be lyin' a little."


They're silent for a moment, mulling it over but Ellen's still got enough patience to wait them out. Rufus rolls his eyes but occupies himself with another swig of his drink while Bobby nods. "Sounds like we got a plan."


The men raise their glasses, clink them with each other's and then Ellen's bottle. Ash salutes his own beer before getting up and helping out with the customers just walking in. Most of her regulars haven't been in tonight after she closed up shop early the night before. But she made sure to keep the lights on out front in case some of them did try to come in for a drink tonight.


Bobby and Rufus spend another hour in the bar drinking and Ellen takes over for Ash with a few more late night customers that show up, sending him into his room at the back. It feels good to lose herself in the work for a little while, even if it's a slow night.


Just before she goes to bed herself, she can't resist one last peek into Sam's room. When Dean blinks blearily over at her, body tense until his eyes adjust just enough to see who's in the doorway, she sends him a relieved, thankful smile and gets a nod in return.


Sleep comes just a bit easier than she thought it would after that.

*


Sam blinks awake slowly, pillow blurry in front of him. The bed is warm, warmer than usual. There's a hand wrapped around one of his wrists and a sleepy smile tugs at his lips as he closes his eyes again. Another night without any nightmares is always going to be something to smile about, Sam thinks. Even if his sister in the room is a big part of that.


But when he opens his eyes and looks up, he realizes there's someone lying beside him. And that person isn't Jo, doesn't have a halo of messy blonde curls flared out across one of the extra pillows. Blinking to clear away the sleepy blur, Sam's breath catches at the sight of squinting green eyes – still familiar after all these years – starting back at him. Dean smirks and ruffles his hair until Sam wrinkles his nose and backs up with a laugh, knocking into the warm body on his other side.


Jo wakes with a disgruntled huff of surprise, pushing back against him before curling around her pillow and falling back asleep with a short snuffle that will make excellent blackmail material later.


Sam's still laughing when he's being pulled forward by Dean's arms wrapping around him and pulling him close. He closes his eyes and returns the hug, laughter dying down until all that's left to show for it is an aching gut and a smile on his face. As well as he can recall, his brother had never been quite as tactile as a ten year old Sam but it still feels familiar and right and he doesn't mind making up for the years lost between them little by little.


"God, it's good to hear you laugh, Sam."


He chuckles again, breathy and quiet. "It's all just good, I think."


"Such a girl," Dean teases into his hair. "Always knew you should'a been named Samantha."


Sam pulls back and shoves at Dean's chest. "Jerk."


"Bitch," comes the familiar retort and Sam thinks that nothing could wipe his smile away today. Especially when Jo shoulders him over with more sleepy frustration and Dean chuckles at the both of them.


His stomach grumbles, reminding him that while he'd eaten the night before it wasn't as much as he's become accustomed to. He can't bring himself to feel embarrassed over it, though. Then Dean's stomach echoes the plea for food and Sam smirks.


"Guess we should head downstairs."


"Yeah," Dean sighs, flopping onto his back and stretching until his back pops. Sam follows him off the bed and lets Dean have first dibs on the bathroom while he grabs some clothes from his dresser. There's another fake spider in one of the drawers and he contemplates pulling the same prank on Jo, but he can already picture her conspiring with Uncle Bobby to get him back. He shuts the drawer with a shudder and turns, shoving past his brother into the bathroom, laughing when Dean just reaches up and ruffles his sleep mussed hair.

*


"Rufus!"


Dean looks over at the man sitting at the table. He looks up when Sam calls his name, dark eyes squinting the way Dean's do the morning after he's had too much to drink. He winces a little at Sam's voice but gives his little brother a tight smile and a nod. "Hey there, shorty."


Raising an eyebrow, Dean watches as Sam only shakes his head and rolls his eyes at the nickname. "What're you doin' here?"


They sit at the same table they'd had dinner at the night before and Dean barely pays attention to his little brother's conversation when he catches a whiff of whatever Ellen is cooking in the next room over.


"Stopped over for a drink last night, figured I might as well stay to check on the trouble magnet."


"Whatever. You bring trouble 'round way more than I ever have," his little brother retorts, throwing a crumpled paper towel at the man sitting across from them. Rufus dodges with what looks like barely any effort. It's a little impressive given that he still looks like he had one too many drinks last night.


Ellen comes in just as the paper missile flies by the hunter and flicks Sam's ear with a huff after setting down a pan of scrambled eggs on the table. "No throwing things at the table, mister."


"Yes, ma'am," Sam says, eyes scrunched up as he rubs his ear. Dean's snort turns to a full blown laugh when his little brother sends him a glare that could peel paint. Rufus chuckles a little and only raises his eyebrow, apparently unimpressed, when Ellen turns stern eyes on him.


"Dig in boys," she says after a moment. Dean startles, eyes widening while the rest of him remains stiff, when Ellen's squeezes his shoulder gently. It's almost as surprising as when he'd seen her just inside the door last night. He expected her to kick him off into the chair or at least give him an annoyed look. He definitely hadn't expected her to smile at him and leave the room as though it was completely normal to see other people sleeping in the room with his little brother. She walks back through the door to the kitchen, calling over her shoulder to save room for the bacon she's taking off the stove now.


"Where's your sister?" she asks Sam when she comes back in. It's still weird to hear them refer to Jo as Sam's sister, but Dean thinks he can get used to it easily enough when he thinks about how Sam reacted to her the night before, even in his sleep. And the way his little brother smiles at the mention of her now. Dean's only been there for a day. Less than. He doesn't plan on letting Sam out of his sight for awhile, so he'll have some time to adjust to his little brother considering someone other than him family.


"You know her, she needs all the beauty sleep she can get," Sam answers with a smirk that's immediately wiped away when Jo walks in and sneaks up behind him, silent as a cat, and flicks his ear in the exact same spot he'd seen Ellen get before. "Ow!"


Rufus smirks behind his glass of water and Ellen chuckles across from them. Dean laughs into his hand, trying and failing at the wide-eyed innocent look he adopts when Sam turns to him, mouth agape and glaring in mock betrayal. "You're supposed to be on my side here." He rubs his now pink ear again, lip sticking out in a pout sad and pathetic enough to melt lesser men.


"You think I want to go up against those two?" Dean shrugs his shoulder in the girls' direction. He shakes his head, shuddering exaggeratedly. "No thank you."


"Put those puppy eyes away, squirt," Bobby gruffs. He ruffles Sam's hair as he walks past them to the end of the table at their left. Sam huffs a laugh, lips turning up at the edges and smacks Bobby's hand away.


"What is it with you guys and my hair?"


"Maybe if you'd get a haircut," Dean cuts in, grin splitting his face.


"Shut up, jerk," Sam grumbles, knocking Dean with his elbow. But he's still smiling, eyes bright and happy and Dean feels his heart swell, threatening to burst and clog his throat.


"Bitch," he retorts dutifully, elbowing his little brother right back.


Everyone has a smile on their face, except Rufus who's lip is only half turned up in a smirk like he's amused with how ridiculous they all are, when they start filling their plates and dig in. They've still got things they need to discuss, but Dean is happy to wait until they're all full before they do.

*


The swing creaks a little under their combined weight but Sam finds the sound welcome and familiar; it's done that for as long as he's been here, but has never broken. Birds fly overhead in calculated loops and lines, chirping, squawking after each other and he watches them in silence for a little while. Dean is warm at his side. His brother really hasn't let him out of his sight, beyond going to the bathroom, since the day before. Sam can't say that he minds. He's become used to people being overprotective with him, though he still has his moments where he doesn't believe he's worth all the worry. But it's different when it's Dean. Better. A little scarier.


He's afraid he won't be able to stop himself from getting used to it.


"College, huh?"


Dean's voice breaks the thick silence. Sam can't tell whether it had been a tense silence. His brother feels relaxed enough beside him, but he learned even before he'd been on his own after the demon bought him that he can't let himself be fooled by anyone's seemingly relaxed stance. Either way, it's Sam who tenses now. He can't help it.


"Yeah," he says around the tightness of his throat. Because there's nothing else he can say right now, but it isn't any easier when he knows this is when Dean's going to leave.


His brother's arm is heavy and warm when it wraps around his shoulder. Fingers curl into his shirt and Sam's breath catches a little when Dean tugs him closer but he lets himself relax into his brother's side. "Always knew you were the smart one, Sammy."


"What?"


There's a faint buzzing in Sam's ears because this isn't right. Dean isn't supposed to be giving him a soft, wistful smile and holding onto him like he isn't willing to let Sam go just yet. He should be nodding and telling Sam that he's glad he's okay but he's got a life that doesn't include tainted little brothers who are going off to college and don't hunt.


But Dean just stares down at him, a little sad and a lot knowing and Sam holds his breath when his brother speaks. "You know, you still wear your heart on your sleeve."


Sam winces, remembers how much of liability that had always been. How weak that always made him to John. He hadn't realized he'd been showing everything he was feeling on his face but he isn't as surprised as he should be. Dean will probably always be the person he can't hide anything from, no matter how long they've been apart or how short they've been back together.


"Sorry," he starts, but Dean's hand tightening over his shoulder stops him from saying more.


"You've got nothing to be sorry about. And I'm not going anywhere," he assures when Sam looks over at him again. "I've finally got you back. There's no way in Hell I'll be letting you go anytime soon. If that means I'm following you to some nerd school, then I'll be there."


The swing creaks to a slow stop when Dean sets the flat of his foot on the patio. He turns until they're facing each other and Sam feels himself relax just a little more at the soft look on his brother's face. Dean's always looked older than he is, even when they were kids and his brother wasn't a teenager yet. But now he looks a little how Sam thinks he might have looked if they hadn't grown up the way they did; raised into hunting and then losing his younger brother and dealing with a father that probably hadn't ever been able to pull off the act of caring father rather than drill sergeant.


"Have you set up a dorm or anything yet?"


Shaking his head, Sam briefly chews at his lip. He tries to get a hold on the hope building inside him. "Not yet. I've mostly been focusing on helping out here, saving up for when I'm out on my own."


"Good," his brother says with a sharp nod. "It'd be a hassle trying to figure out the paperwork for living off campus if you were already signed on for a dorm room."


"What are you – "


"It'll be good to have a home base, somewhere to come back to after a hunt. Maybe I could find some legitimate work. I've always been pretty good with cars."


"You want to…?"


Dean smiles, eyes crinkling at the corners and making his freckles stand out in the summer sun. "Told you, Sammy. Couldn't get rid of me if you tried. You'll get sick of me."


Sam sits back against the swing with a relieved sigh, kicking the ground to get them moving again. "Not possible," he breathes, looking out at the birds in the sky again. Dean doesn't move his arm off of Sam's shoulder and Sam feels his smile grow into something wide and genuine and happy.


That's how Jo finds them when she pokes her head out the screen door a couple minutes later announcing that lunch is ready and Sam needs to come in to set the table. Sam gets up and ignoring his brother's teasing digs about how domesticated he's become.


It's looking to be a good day. Suddenly, he can't wait for the day when school starts.


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