Family: the word that Sam Winchester hated the most. Maybe it was just because he was bitter and selfish, but he hated the word because he could never have it. Sure, he had relatives, people he was related to by blood, but they weren't family... The monsters of the world saw to it that they never would be.
And wasn't that just funny when even the monsters had family when he didn't? Taking on a nest of vamps, Sam could still hear the leader's screaming, begging, and crying to not kill his children- his family. Dad called him soft when his eyes watered. What would it feel like to have someone care so much for you? To lower themselves to their knees and beg for your life with tears and snot running down their face? Sam wouldn't know.
He was supposed to though, that was the promise that Dad had made to his mother when they split. She was the hunter, she was the one that would find the monster that had almost killed him and her. Dad was supposed to just... be a dad. He promised her he wouldn't get involved and raise Sam like a normal kid. That didn't last long. Not when they had moved to a new town and Sam's soul had almost become food for a monster there. Dad swore it was by pure chance, Sam wasn't so sure... But all he knew was that he was now a hunter with his dad at the nice age of fifteen.
Too young... He was far too young for this. He didn't want any of this. Why had his mother let Dad take him away? Why couldn't he grow up with Dean and her, safe and happy?
The word that Sam hated the most was what he wanted more than anything.
"Sam!" Dad called, snapping Sam out of his thoughts and tearing his eyes away from the flames where the vamps were burning to his dad. "Stop getting lost in your head, I told you that's a good way to get killed."
"Sorry... I just thought it was strange how that vampire begged us not to kill the others."
Sam could see the way that his dad's shoulders dropped slightly with an inaudible sigh. "It was just a tactic he was using to get you to lower your guard. Another second and he would have killed you, bled you dry or worse, turn you into a monster."
Sam doubted being a vamp could be worse than dying... He would have been alive, he probably could have controlled the instincts. Uncle Bobby had told him rumors of vampires who got their blood from blood banks or animals and never attacked humans. He probably would've been a better hunter as a vamp too, the speed and strength would make a world of a difference; not to mention how most hunts were at night. It truly couldn't have been that bad if he had been-
A rough hand cuffed him on the back of the head, sending him stumbling forward a few steps and a dull throb against his skull. He shot a look back at his dad, who raised a threatening brow at him in return. Sam took a breath in and shoved his anger down, as well as his thoughts.
Waiting for the rest of the fire to burn out in silence was almost as excruciating as the time he had torn his ACL, being forced to just stand there with an empty head and watch the flames burn the flesh of the monsters. He wanted so badly to be able to think, to daydream, to let his mind wander to anything other than just standing there.
Unfortunately it took another hour before everything was burnt to a point that John was satisfied with. Then began their drive to the nearest backwater motel where Dad would drink himself to sleep and Sam would hide in the car until he knew it was safe to enter the room.
While Sam didn't have a family and never would, he did have friends. All but one were adults and much older than him, but they were friends. And if he closed his eyes on the special occasions they were all together, he could just imagine them as family. That never lasted long however, because Dad did not have good relations with any of them, and as soon as their usefulness was through, he would drink his fill then grab Sam by the arm and pull him away from the happiness his friends threatened to give him.
John especially seemed upset with Ellen Harvelle, who, according to John, mothered Sam too much. Sam suspected the real reason he didn't like Ellen was because he felt guilty about what happened with her husband. Couple that with the fact that Ellen also talked to his mom and brother... Yeah, Sam could see why John didn't like her. But he didn't stop Sam from calling or going to the Roadhouse in search of new cases, or on rare occasions dropping him off with her while he went on a case alone or with another hunter.
Sam normally stayed with Bobby when Dad needed time away from him, but the man was on a case of his own and on the opposite side on the country. And while John would have loved to leave him in a dumpy motel, Sam threatened to call the police on him for child neglect after the last time he was left behind and John was gone for a month longer than he said he would be and leaving Sam with no money and no way to get work. And while John had thoroughly... disciplined him for that stunt, Sam had never been left in a motel on his own again.
Which was how Sam found himself with his duffle over his shoulder, walking through the heat for the mile it took to get from the turn off that John took to the Roadhouse. Sam couldn't help himself from cursing the man out for not wanting to drive him for a mile closer... He was tempted to lay on the side of the road and let himself get heatstroke just to spite his dad. But that was too much work and the bar was just in view.
So he pushed on, a flannel over his head to offer some protection from the sun as he trudged the last stretch to the Roadhouse, then up the steps into the shade of the porch and finally, inside the cool building.
"Sam...!" Ellen shouted in surprise once she saw him, rushing out from behind the bar. "What the hell happened to you? Did John make you walk all the way here?"
"Just the last mile," He swallowed dryly, his voice hoarse, "from the turn off. Saves gas and all..."
Ellen let out a string of curses as Jo came up to him with a glass of water. Sam smiled at her gratefully as he gulped it down in just a few seconds. He pretended not to see the shared look of concern from Ellen and Jo, letting the older woman take the glass back and lead him to a seat at the bar.
Movement caught Sam's attention from the corner of his eye, turning to see Ash passed out on the pool table. Again. Sam didn't bother hiding his smile, already hearing the hunters trying to wake him up later in the day, knowing that it would be Ellen's voice that would wake him up in the end. Sam hoped Ash would teach him more about computers and researching techniques later.
Seated on the stool, Sam let the flannel fall from his head before laying his cheek against the cool wood of the bar. His duffel soon joined the flannel on the ground, his school books thunking loudly but Sam was unable to bring himself to care. He was too tired to even attempt at being quiet; it was like the heat had sucked out all the energy that he had.
Ellen pushed his sweaty bangs away from his face, placing a refilled glass of water in front of him. "What was John thinking, letting you walk a mile in this heat... He's lucky he's already gone, or I'd have shot him for even thinking it."
"Just another part of training," Sam muttered, not meeting her eyes by letting his slip closed. He would never dare admit it out loud, but having her hand in his hair was one of the best comforts Sam had ever had. Eyes closed, mind wandering, family.
The shrill ring of the phone cut through his fantasy, Ellen moving to get it with a sigh. He listened to her for a moment before deeming it a hunting call and tuned her out as Jo hopped onto the chair next to his.
"I've been practicing with my knife like you showed me."
Sam turned his head, still resting against the bar, to look at her with a smile. "Yeah?"
"Yeah, I think I'm really getting the hang of it. Though I can't really switch positions too good."
"I'll show you again how I do it again later. It's a bit tricky, especially if you're trying to rush through it."
A pout started to form on her face, but she nodded in agreement. Sam chuckled at her before he heard Ellen starting to hang up with the person on the phone.
"You take care of yourselves, you hear me, Mary? That goes for your boy too."
Sam lifted his head, eyes on Ellen as she placed the phone back on the receiver. She caught his eyes and nodded slowly, "That was your mom. Her and Dean were in here a few days ago looking for a case, I sent them to Minnesota for a Wendigo. She just let me know that they finished the hunt."
Sam nodded slowly, letting his eyes drift away. He hadn't seen his mom or brother in five years... Not since they found out that his dad was hunting with him in this very bar. That had been a fight of epic proportions, taking numerous hunters to separate them. Sam remembered being frozen to the spot, eyes wide, staring at his father's rage when Dean wrapped his arms around Sam and pulled him behind the bar to hide. He put his headphones over Sam's ears and played Bon Jovi, drowning out their screaming parents. Dean stayed there with him, holding him and rubbing his back and talking to him even if Sam couldn't hear him. Dean stayed with him until Dad had decided to throw a bottle that broke on the bar and sent beer raining down on him and Dean. Ellen's husband had thrown Dad out, but not before he reached over the bar and snatched Sam up, all but ripping the headphones off his head and tossing them back at Dean before storming out.
Sam clutched to that memory of Dean for so long... A part of him hoped that Dean would come in and save him, take him away from dad and let him live with them. Dean seemed nice. His eyes were kind. But as the weeks turned into months turned into years, Sam buried that hope beneath his father's words. Dean was only acting on Mary's orders, he didn't really care about Sam. How could he? The brothers hardly knew each other.
"They finish the hunt alright?" Sam asked quietly, staring at the far wall. He hadn't seen Dean or his mother since that fight, but Ellen and Jo would tell him a bit about them when it came up. Sam was glad to know that they were still alive at least. He was sure that Ellen did the same for them.
"Dean took a nasty hit to the head, Mary said," Sam flinched, "but he'll be just fine in a few days according to a doctor."
Sam just nodded, going to lay back down against the bar again. The wendigo had hurt Dean enough for him to go to the hospital... Even if that moment between them had been fake, it was Sam's only memory of Dean. It was cherished. He could still feel the soothing hands rubbing circles in his back...
"C'mon, Sam," Ellen sighed, her hand going to his shoulder. "Let's get you settled into your room so you can rest properly."
A month into his stay at the Roadhouse, Sam was finally starting to feel like his age. He went to school with Jo in the mornings, actually enjoying his time there, then spent the rest of his day with everyone at the Roadhouse. Hunters would show him some fighting techniques or rare weapons Sam had never seen before, some would challenge him to pool (and end up losing their money to him), one man had even asked if Sam wanted to go on a hunt with him. Ellen made sure after that to let them all know that Sam was resting from hunts and would not be anyone's bait... But the man had been nice enough, Sam wouldn't have minded honestly.
Jo had talked him into playing tag with her and Ash too, under the disguise of it being training. Sam hadn't thought of it as training when she first brought him the idea, but Ash was surprisingly lethal at the game and really had Sam grasping for ways to escape him. Especially when he brought in his homemade airsoft gun.
It was during one such game, Sam and Jo were hiding outside in some bushes a ways from the Roadhouse, ears and eyes searching for their opponent. Sam was vaguely aware of the car pulling into the parking lot, put pushed it away. He couldn't let himself be distracted. Ash could strike at any moment.
"Do you see him anywhere?" He asked, voice lowered as much as he could.
"If I did, I would've told you."
He stuck his tongue at her before a branch creaked behind them. Both kids froze, backs stiffening as they turned as one to look. There weren't many trees around, but the branches and leaves were low and thick enough to offer more than enough cover. Or- almost enough.
Sam spotted the yellow sleeve of a shirt peeking through the branches ahead of them a few yards. His breath caught in his throat; did he risk them both by pointing it out to Jo? Or did he just grab her hand and run?
The decision was taken from him as Jo spotted Ash a moment later, latching onto his hand and the two taking off together. He could hear Ash dashing out of the leaves behind them, hollering like a banshee.
Jo's scream bubbled into a laugh as she ran, Sam soon joining her as they dodged the pellets and ran for the Roadhouse. If they could just make it to the bar, they'd be safe. They would win. Nevermind that they hadn't one a single game yet, but this would be it.
The car that had pulled in briefly came to Sam's mind as they rounded the corner, a few feet away from the door. Ellen wouldn't be happy with them for bringing their games inside while there were customers, but they couldn't be worried about that now. Victory was so close...!
They both stumbled through the door, Ash almost right behind them, all three laughing and screaming and scrambling for their targets.
So close, so close, so close-
Sam and Jo slammed into the bar, knocking the air from their lungs and ricocheting them back onto the floor, Ash just barely dodging them before he slammed into the bar and went over it.
It was quiet except for their harsh, panting breaths. Victory soaking into Sam's being in the form of a most likely epic bruise. But then Jo started giggling, then laughing, and Sam couldn't help but join her, even more when Ash's head poked over the bar and grinned down at them. Sam's arms curled around his stomach, trying to dull the aching as he laughed, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"We won...!" Jo cheered, jumping up to her feet. Sam admired her energy after that mad dash they did... "We did it! We finally won! Sam, we won!"
"After that ruckus, you better have won." Ellen called from the other side of the room, walking over to them. "Or I'd have let Ash use you both as target practice for running in here like that."
Sam turned to look at her, the smile evident in her voice, but his eyes caught on the two people behind her. Staring at him with wide eyes, mouths open-
Sam shot up, his own eyes widening before folding in on himself with a groan, arms wrapping tighter around himself.
"Sam?" Jo asked, worry clear in her voice.
He peeked open an eye at her, noticing that the others had come closer to him as well. "I uh..." He tried to laugh, but it hurt too much, "I think I may have hit the bar a bit too hard..."
Ellen let out a sigh, her hand on his shoulder and helping him up on a stool. He was lucky he didn't run into one of those... that would have been nasty.
Still, even with the pain in his ribs, his eyes kept going over to the pair watching him. It had been years, they had both aged, but it was definitely them...
Mom and Dean.
"Ash, go get the kid an aspirin." Ellen instructed, hand still on Sam. "Jo, make sure that's all he gets."
And just like that, the room just held the blood relatives and friend.
Sam hated family.
He was selfish and bitter.
He hated it.
Why didn't they rescue him?
They left him to Dad.
They left him.
"I didn't know you were letting John back in here, Ellen." Mary started, her voice careful but kind. "We would have given you a heads up if we'd known."
"He's not." Ellen's eyes were on Sam, gauging his reaction. "I've just been watching Sam for him for the last month while he's on a hunt."
"For a month?" Dean asked, his eyes widening more. "Is he okay?"
Sam swallowed deeply, his eyes going to the floor. "He called last week, he's fine."
Dean apparently wasn't expecting him to answer, having to take a moment to collect himself before responding. "But that was last week-"
"He normally checks in every two weeks." His voice was clipped and short, aggravated sounding. He didn't mean that. Or did he? He hated family.
He was saved from anymore awkward conversation with them by Jo and Ash coming back in with a bottle of pain killers. Jo moved to get a glass of water for him, but as soon as the bottle was in his hands, he took two pills dry. They tasted like acid on the back of his tongue, and he could feel them all the way down his throat, but he let the uncomfortableness of it take up space in his mind than his mom and brother standing near him.
"What were you guys even doing?" Dean asked, a smile playing on his lips as he looked at the three of them.
"Tag," Jo answered, her smile brightening. "It's training but the fun way. Ash chases us with his gun-"
"And if we get hit, then we're either dead or wounded depending where you get hit. Last time I got hit in my leg and Sam carried me all the way to the porch before Ash got him too."
"This was the first time they won," Ash smiled, ruffling both of their hair. Sam fought down a smile.
"If you wouldn't cheat half the time, then we'd win more often." Jo snarked, arms crossing. Sam snorted, the image of Ash sitting at the bar with his gun aimed at the door when they walked in still fresh in his mind too.
"Monsters don't hunt fair either," Sam told her. "Especially the ones in groups, there's always one that stays near the exit so you can't get away."
"Okay, okay," Ellen sighed, she never liked it when he told Jo about monsters... "All three of you smell. Go wash up before you start scaring the customers away."
"But, mom...!" Jo's eyes flickered to Dean, Ellen smiling and giving her a gentle push to the door.
"Go, they'll still be here when you get back. We have business to discuss anyway." Ellen glanced at Sam then, but he ignored it and went with Jo and Ash to the back. How long were they planning on staying? What business did they need to talk about that couldn't be done over the phone? The way that Ellen was looking at him, could they be talking about him? Or Dad? Or did they have a lead on the monster that tried to kill him and Mom?
"Hey, Sammy...!" Dean suddenly called out right before Sam left the room. He turned back, seeing his brother take a step closer to him. "Later on, let's catch up. Get to know each other."
All eyes were on him. What was he supposed to say to that? What could he say? It was basically phrased like a statement, that they would do that. Sam had no room to decline. Did he want to decline? Of course he did, he hated family. Family didn't exist for him. But the earnest look in Dean's eyes...
He managed a weak smile and nodded. "Okay." His voice was much smaller than what he wanted it to be, but he quickly ducked out the door to his room.
Dad was not going to be happy when he found out about this.
After washing up, Sam stayed for a few minutes more in his room. He wasn't scared to go out there... He was just... preparing himself. Dean would most likely play nice with him from Mom's orders or to make himself look good to the others. Just like last time, he would build Sam up, make himself seem reliable, then disappear and leave Sam longing for him.
There were more voices coming from the bar now, more laughter. The night crowd must have started coming in already. More people was good... Maybe Dean would be distracted by someone else and not bother with getting to know him.
Sam took a breath before slipping out of his room, head held high and face blank. Just like Dad taught him.
He hesitated by the doorway, peeking his head in. A good number of hunters had shown up, providing a constant chatter that Sam had grown to love. His mom was sitting at a table with Jo, talking about... something. And Dean... Dean was at the pool table with two other hunters. Ellen was behind the bar serving drinks and laughing at something that Ash said. It was just like a normal day. That's all it was. Just two extra hunters, but it made no difference.
Sam stepped into the room, planning to go sit next to Ash at the bar, but Dean spotted him before he took a second step.
"Sam, there you are...!" Dean waved him over, smiling wide as the hunters with him perked up at his name. Sam forced a smile on, an air of normalcy as he walked over.
"Sam Winchester," One of the hunters started, a tall man with broad shoulders and a scar on his chin. Sam had seen him a few times, played pool with him too. "You have my money ready, punk?"
He saw Dean tense, eyes wide at the exchange. But Sam's smirk came much easier. "You mean my money, Davis. I kicked your ass fair and square."
"You're a lying little cheat."
"I learned from the best. You're just upset I got better than you."
They stared each other down for a second more before breaking off into grins, Davis slinging an arm around Sam's shoulder and rubbing a knuckle into his head, ignoring Sam's squawks of protest.
"Your mouth was always too big for you, punk." He let Sam go, patting his shoulder as he looked at Dean. "Your brother is damn good at pool, picked up on it faster than I expected. Many a good man has lost too much money to him."
The light that shone in Dean's eyes at that was something that Sam tried not to notice, but was drawn to. So he just gave an awkward shrug and smile. "Not my fault you idiots keep putting money down."
"Hey," The second hunter started, eyes shifting between Sam and Dean, "ya'll don't hunt together, do you? So this is a rare meeting for ya'll."
Dean's eyes went impossibly brighter, nodding his head. "Yeah. This is our first time together in five years."
Sam flinched at the memory; screaming, throwing, gentle hands, Bon Jovi, warm arms... beer dripping on his head, harsh hands, pulling, yanking, stuck in a memory, wake up, don't lose your head. Blinking hard, Sam pulled himself out of his mind, thankful that the others hadn't noticed his slip. Against his will though, his eyes wandered to Dean's hands, holding a pool stick. He wondered if he'd be just as gentle if Sam broke down in front of him again...?
"You wanna play, Sammy?" Dean asked, smiling, welcoming, warm. "We could give these guys a run for their money, what do you say?"
He wanted to. He really wanted to... But then pool would be associated with the memory of his brother and he couldn't have that. So he shook his head. "Not tonight. I still kinda hurt from where I hit the bar, I don't think I'll be able to lean over the table."
Concern flashed through Dean's eyes, quickly quelling the light. "Still?"
"Why'd you run into the bar?" Davis asked, eyebrows pushed together.
Sam winced, but held a smile. "Jo and I were playing tag with Ash... Or more like were being hunted by him. We won, but at the price of a cracked rib."
"You cracked your rib?" Dean's voice went up an octave, slightly louder as he moved in closer.
"Yeah, it's not a big deal though, I know the drill." His face blanked for a moment before frowning. "Oh, my coach isn't going to be happy about this..." He had a game this Friday too. Maybe he could get away with not telling anyone.
Dean looked like he wanted to say something more, but he just let out a sigh instead. He looked at the table, aimed up a shot, and sank his last ball into the hole. He grabbed the wad of cash on the edge as he hung the que back up. "If you gentlemen would excuse me, I promised my brother some quality time."
Sam swallowed hard as Dean approached him, clapping him on the shoulder and starting to walk towards the exit, nicking a pretzel bowl on the way.
It was comfortable outside, the sun almost set, leaving the sky a golden orange, and every leaf of the trees discernable.
"You don't mind being outside, right?" Dean asked, "I just figured it'd be better to hear you."
"No... It's fine with me." He watched as Dean went to sit down, struggling with an internal debate before looking off. "Though, the bar is still pretty loud. If you want... it's quieter out back. You can see the sunset better from there too. And there's a bench."
Dean looked at him, half crouched, and smiled. He stood up, still holding the pretzel bowl, and gestured forward. "Lead the way, Sammy-boy."
A flash of a memory filtered to Sam's mind as he walked, the nickname that Dean seemed to give him pulling at something in his head. "We've... before that fight five years ago... we've met before...?"
Dean's eyes widened, eyebrows shooting up before nodding. "Uh, yeah. I can't believe you'd remember that, you were like... four? I think? Mom and I came to visit you and Dad."
"I don't really remember it," He sat on the edge of the bench, staring at the setting sun. "It's just that name... It's like I've heard it before."
Dean sat beside him, placing the pretzels between them. "That's what we all called you, even before you were born. Dad... doesn't call you that anymore?"
"No, I don't remember him ever calling me that."
Dean nodded slowly, shoving a handful of pretzels in his mouth. "Huh... And he thought it was the funniest thing when I started calling you Sammy instead of Sam."
A part of him wanted to ask what Dad had been like before. But the logical side of him knew that he wouldn't be able to deal with the man he was now if he knew what he was like before. He grabbed a handful of pretzels, holding them in his hand as he ate them one at a time. Dean seemed to pick up on his thoughts and put on a smile, shifting to look at him.
"Earlier you mentioned you have a coach. You play sports?"
Sam brightened a bit at the new topic, nodding. "Yeah, soccer. I'm a defensive midfielder in the starting lineup. We played our first game of the season last week and won ten-to-three."
"That's awesome...! I played soccer in high school too but we never had a score like that for the first game of the season! Hey, once your rib heals up, we should play sometime!"
"Really?" He looked up at his brother, a bubble of hope daring to inflate in his chest. "You'd play with me?"
"Of course!" Dean nudged his shoulder with his, grinning. "I'd love to see how good my baby brother is."
Warmth spread through Sam, filling him completely. Maybe... Maybe. Dare he even hope, maybe he didn't hate family as much as he thought. If it felt like this, this warmth that had nothing to do with the temperature, then he desperately wanted it to be true.
And if he stayed outside talking with Dean well past midnight, only going in for bed when he started to yawn and Dean checked the time, well... Who could blame him? He was happy.
He went to bed that night with a smile on his face and dreams of him and Dean playing soccer together. Maybe family was a good thing, something that he could have here.