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A Thousand Touches

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My name is Sam Winchester.  Samuel, after my Grandfather, Sammy to my brother.  Just Sam.  Dean said I should write in my notebook because writing is how I express myself.  He also mumbled something about how it might help him understand me better which made me smile.  Dean knows me better than anyone.

I don't speak.  Dean tells me that I made noises when I was a baby and he's fairly certain he remembers me babbling when I was a toddler.  No one remembers when I stopped talking.  I think it just became easier to be silent.  Dad and Dean were always so focused on hunting, researching, arguing and challenging one another.  It was like there wasn't enough space, not enough air for a third Winchester's voice.  So - I stopped talking at some point.  I'm not insane, or living with some sort of mental disability and I haven't been hit in the head too many times.  (No matter what Dean might tell everyone).  I just don't speak.

Dean is the only person who knows me.  I can get his attention with a flick of my finger, make him pull over to the side of the road with the lightest touch to his arm, during a fight I can tell what direction he will need me to go simply by watching the movements of his body.  He speaks to me like I'm a normal person, even though he says he wonders sometimes what my voice sounds like.  I write Dean notes, we have some signs we use but mostly I communicate with him by touching him.  It's easy.  He knows me well and Dean is a good man.  (When he's had enough coffee and he's not bitchy)

There you have it, I know Dean wants me to write in here all the time, I'm just not sure what else there is to say.  I research, I hunt with my brother, I wish, sometimes, that things were different for Dean.  Sometimes, I wish things were different for me.

 

It was Dean who noticed that Sam had stopped speaking.  After dinner when Sam way lying on the floor in front of the TV watching cartoons, Dean went over to stand beside him.  It was his job as older brother to annoy Sammy whenever possible so his nudged Sam's hip with his foot until Sam looked up at him from under his bangs with a frown on his tiny face.  It wasn't that the frown was unusual, what was unusual was that it wasn't accompanied by Sammy's tiny voice whining out "Deeeean."  Dean plunked himself down on the floor beside his little brother.   

Leaning against Sam's side, Dean peppered his little brother with questions.  "Is it a good cartoon?"  Nod. 

"Are you tired?" Small frown.

"Do you want to go outside and try climbing the tree again?" Shaggy mess of hair shaken back and forth.  

"How old are you Sammy?" Small hand held up, palm out with five fingers up

"Am I the best brother in the world?"  Crooked grin, small brow furrowed, nod.

Shrugging.  Dean lay down on the floor beside Sam and watched TV.

It didn't occur to Dean at nine years old that there was something odd about Sam not speaking.  Sam was just Sam to him.  It took their father longer to notice but then Dean was speaking for both of them most of the time.  It wasn't really their father's fault.  From the very moment Dean first set eyes on his little brother he'd made it his mission in life to take care of Sammy.  If Dean had to speak for his brother, he would.  No questions asked.

 

There are some things Dean would always know and some things he would be forced to learn with time. Sam seemed to fit into both those categories. By the time he reached nine, it was pretty clear Sam had no intention of speaking again. Dean adjusted to this though, just like he adjusted to all the other things that changed in his life. He learned to read the little signs and touches just like he was learning another language. The Sam language. Dean could tell how Sam's day at school went just by the way he held his body, if he came home with his head dipped down, shoulders hunched, Dean knew it hadn't been a good day. And if he gave Dean a small smile he knew that things had been alright that day. Dean didn't really care how his day was; he was there for him either way.

There were times when it was annoying, but mostly because Dean was thirteen years old and it was hard to spend half your time trying to determine what was going on inside your little brother's head. With the passing years Dean had learned to decipher what some touches meant compared to others. Like when Sam would lay his fingers against Dean's forearm, generally it meant he wanted to know what was on Dean's mind. The first year or so Dean wouldn't answer, would just say, "You tell me and I'll tell you," but that game got old after awhile because it never worked. So now when Dean got that touch, he simply shrugged and told Sam whatever he was thinking.

And sometimes, after their dad left and Dean would stare out the window at the dirt path, Sam would come over and slip his hand in Dean's. The first few times it happened Dean simply squeezed the tiny fingers and let go until he learned that this was Sam's way of saying Don't worry, he'll be back. And though Dean could never be one hundred percent positive on the subject, he felt reassured.

Generally, Dean was more than protective regarding his brother. Which was why, on more than one occasion, he found himself waiting outside the principal's office, listening to the distant sounds of the kid he'd just beaten up on the playground - crying for their parents like a little baby. It was what they deserved. Sam never did anything to harm anyone, he didn't deserve being teased. And whenever the Principal - whoever it was this time around - said things about mentally challenged and slow, it took all of Dean's self control to not beat up the man as well. Dean was fairly certain he could too. Though he was pretty sure his dad wouldn't be too happy about it.

Whenever those days happened, Dean would come out of the school building kicking and swearing, but Sam would always be there, waiting to walk home with him. And Dean would fume for awhile until Sam would bump their shoulders together and give him a small smile that said thank you. Dean knew during those times that he'd always be there for Sam. No matter the circumstances. 

 

By the time Sam was twelve no one expected him to speak anymore.  He was no longer sent to speech therapists so they could sit and stare at one another for a silent hour.  There were no more special classes for Sam – it was just assumed that he would do all his assignments on paper.  Sam had a few friends, other kids like himself who didn't fit in with the norm but if he had his way, Sam would spend all his time with Dean. 

Sam was like Dean's shadow.  The Winchester's were like a wagon train when they left the house, John would leave first with his duffel, Dean would follow behind him with his backpack then Sam would trail out, lock the door and they would all pile in the car.  If Dean was flipping through a magazine on the couch, Sam would sit on the floor beside his brother's feet and read.  When Dean was outside doing chores around the yard, Sam would help when he could and watch when he couldn't.

Things went smoothly until Dean got his first girlfriend.  Dean had to tell Sam no less than five times that he couldn't come with him on his first Friday night date.  Sam tugged on Dean's sleeve, hooked his fingers through his brother's belt loops, slipped in between him and the door then resorted to writing in his notepad; but I always go with you.  Dean had simply replied "not always, Sammy," and left.  Sam spent the entire evening sitting on the front porch watching down the road.  No matter what John tried to get Sam to come inside, it didn't work so eventually he just brought his son a blanket and a hot chocolate and left him there.  When Dean finally came home, Sam slipped inside before Dean saw him and managed to get into bed before his brother ever knew he'd been waiting.

The night of that first date, the first time Sam realized that he was truly alone in the world was the night he had his first nightmare.  He could never remember what terrorized him in his sleep, just the vaguest notion of voices and fear, running and then he would be awake staring at his brother's pale, startled face.  It was the nightmares that startled Dean it was the fact that Sam cried out in his sleep.  It was the only time Dean heard his brother's voice; no words but heart-wrenching cries that made Dean shoot across the room to gather his brother in his arms and smooth back his sleep tousled hair.  At sixteen Dean wasn't much in the way of a nurturer, hell, he wasn't sure he knew what to do with his brother sometimes, but at night when Sam's face was damp with sweat and he smelled of fear and Sam, Dean would crawl into bed behind his brother and hold him until he stopped trembling and fell back into an exhausted sleep.

Sam was independent enough.  He took care of his share of the chores around the house, got great grades in school and filled up any time he had away from Dean with trips to the Library.  He was the first person in the family to learn the basics of using a computer and had the best handwriting.  Dean was proud of his little brother and Sam smiled more than he frowned.  All things considered, their lives moved forward much like other people, one day at a time.

 

Dean left school before he graduated to work full time in between helping his father with hunts. It was hard to work all the time, but mostly because Sam gave him this look that said something like you're always gone now and Dean felt bad about that. More often than not he tried to arrange his schedule around the time Sam was in school but inevitably the time came when he just couldn't be home. Like when Dad needed him on a weeklong hunt and Sam had to stay behind or risk missing important school work. That practically killed Dean, though he preferred to think Sam was big enough to handle himself. He just didn't understand what Sam would do if something should happen. If there were a fire in the house, how would he call 911? He knew Sam could handle any one at the door but that didn't make Dean's worry lessen in the slightest.

Whenever their dad said things about Sam's silence it made Dean bristle. He knew the man couldn't see things the way that Dean did, though that really wasn't his fault. Most of the time. Sam was pretty complicated and if you didn't see things on his level, then you couldn't comprehend how his world worked. Dean had tried to explain it to him, what this touch or that touch meant. And then Dean realized that Sam didn't do those things with their dad. Whenever there were brief touches or something along those lines it was only for necessity. Like if he was in front of the fridge when Sam needed to put the milk back, or if Sam wanted the remote and it happened to be on the other side of the couch.

Dean hadn't given it much thought before but soon after he realized it he became aware of the frequency. Sam was always there by Dean's side, his eyes lit up when they came home but only when they landed on Dean. He figured it probably had a lot to do with his level of patience for his younger brother. Their dad got frustrated with Sam's silence, snapping on more than one occasion and demanding Sam say something, but Dean never did. Maybe it had to do with Dean seeing Sam in ways their dad never could. Like at night, when the nightmares came and Dean had to be the one there to comfort him. Which he really didn't mind.

In the end Dean just settled on the fact that there were some things their dad just wasn't prepared to understand, this amused Dean really because of all the things their Dad accepted without hesitation, Sam just wasn't one of them. And maybe Dean had always known that things were heading for an inevitable breaking point, and maybe that was why those years when he started working full time, he never admitted to how much money he really made, always tucking some away, just in case.

 

Usually it took sixteen year old Sam's coltish legs about half an hour to carry him home but this day he strode home with a crumpled letter grasped in his fist it took him a little over fifteen minutes.  Storming up the front steps and shoving the door open Sam looked around the living room and finally noticed his brother sitting at the dining room table with a beer and a sandwich.  Throwing his backpack at the wall Sam walked straight to Dean's side and shoved the letter in front of his face.  Sam's hand was shaking and he kept thinking that any second he was going to have to punch something, or just start running and running and never stop.  When Dean didn't drop his sandwich immediately Sam shook the letter and hit his fingers against the table.

"Jesus Sammy," Dean glanced sharply up at him. "What the hell is the matter?" He snatched at the shaking piece of paper, setting his sandwich aside and smoothing out the crumbled paper to read. "Dear Mr. Winchester..." he mumbled aloud as he read, "We're pleased to inform you... your son Samuel Winchester... accepted to Wilson's school for the..." Dean's eyes widened and he shoved up, heat flaring through him. "Developmentally Challenged?!" He hissed the words, hand slamming the letter down on the table. He pulled in a deep breath to try and calm the anger rising in him before turning to his brother and laying a hand across the young man's arm. "Sammy, I had no idea he did this. I'll talk to him the minute he gets home. It's not happening. You won't be going anywhere."

Sam's mind was spinning.  He couldn't be sent away to school.  Not only would it mean leaving home, sure they hadn't been there a great deal of time but it was still home.  And Dean, Sam didn't want to be away from Dean.  He had adapted to Dean needing friends, needing time with girlfriends, his car and everything but the thing was, living here - he could spend time with his brother when his brother had time for him.  The idea of living so far away, sleeping somewhere else made the panic start to well up in Sam's chest all over again.   He pulled his notebook from his pocket and slumped down into the chair beside Dean scribbling away.  He tossed the book so it slid across and clinked against Dean's plate.  Why?  I've been getting great marks.  Leave you alone when you need time.  Stay out of Dad's way. Can't. It's a residence school.  Nightmares!!!!!  Sam watched his brother read the note then touched two fingers to the back of Dean's hand, please.

"You're not going Sammy, I promise you that," Dean turned his hand, capturing Sam's fingers in his grasp and squeezing them comfortingly. "We'll leave here before I allow that to happen, so don't worry. I'm here to make sure it doesn't happen," Dean was still fuming at the whole possibility and he already knew the upcoming conversation between him and their dad wasn't going to be pleasant. A long, suffering sigh fell from his lips and he lifted the paper once more, scanning the rest so he'd be fully aware and prepared for the discussion. He kept Sam's hand in his, drawing comfort from him. "I want you to go get your duffel bag ready, full of everything you want to bring with us, just in case this gets ugly okay?"

Sam nodded and squeezed Dean's fingers, thanks.  Sighing, Sam pushed up from the table and moved down the hallway to their bedroom.  His duffel back was stuffed under his bed, he didn't travel much, and Sam was always the one staying at home.  After tugging and wrestling with the bag for a while Sam managed to get it out and shook it open.  It was easy to pack; Sam didn't have a lot, he didn't need a lot of things - most of his world was inside his head.  He packed his clothes, two drawers full then put his small collection of books into the end of the duffel.  His laptop was still packed up from school and it had extra blank notebooks and pens in it.  Kicking the duffel over to the corner of the room Sam went back to his bed and kneeled down.  He reached under the mattress and pulled out a small envelope.  When he flipped the envelope open he pulled out the first of a pile of old photographs; the first one was a picture of Sam as a baby, being held by his brother, Mom and Dad behind them.  Pressing his lips together Sam tucked the photo back in the envelope and stood.  Just before he left the room he tucked the photos in the outside pocket of his duffel. 

The sound of their father's truck pulling into the driveway had Sam racing back down the hallway to the kitchen and tugging on Dean's arm.  He wasn't sure if he wanted Dean to be the one to confront his father or he just wanted them to go right away.  Either way, he didn't want Dean sitting down when their father came in the door.  Sam paused long enough to bump his fist gently against his brother's chest, be careful.

"Don't worry, I will be," Dean said, automatically wrapping his fingers around Sam's wrist and squeezing comfortingly. He braced himself for what was to come, rising up and tensing his shoulders. Dean reached out and grabbed the paper, holding it tightly as the screen door banged open, their dad entering in the wake, duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Dean momentarily wished he'd thought to get his own duffel bag ready, he was fairly confident that there was no logical way out of this. It was going to come down to Dean taking Sam from this place, away from all these people who just didn't seem to understand him. Their father didn't get much more of a greeting besides a nod of his head and Dean laid his hand across Sam's hip, pushing him slightly behind him and folding his arms across his chest. "Dad. What the fuck is this?" He held up the paper. Might as well get it over with.

John looked up briefly at his sons they shrugged out of his jacket and hauled his duffel up on to the couch. "You'd better have a damn good reason for speaking to me like that, son." He unzipped his duffel and started pulling out some weapons.

Sam stiffened, stepping closer to Dean and hooking his fingers through his brother's belt loops. The tension between the two older Winchesters was thick and made Sam's fingers twitch restlessly against his jeans.

"You'd better have a damn good reason for thinkin' you could just ship Sam off to some school," Dean snapped back, leaning his shoulders back into Sam for a moment to reassure him. "What sort of person are you? Even entertaining the idea of getting rid of your son just because you don't understand him!" Dean practically hissed the words, though he was fairly certain they weren't the best ones to sprout out, his dad was going to kill him if he kept up this attitude.

John stood up slowly and shifted his weight to his back foot. "Sam is my son, Dean. I don't have to discuss his well-being with you." John's eyes were blazing; this wasn't the first time he and his oldest had gone toe to toe over Sam.

Writing furiously in his notebook for a few moments Sam held it over Dean's shoulder; Don't let him talk like I'm not here. Sam slapped his hand hard against his thigh and raised his eyebrows at his father.

"Sam is standing right here, and if anything I think you owe him an explanation as to why you thought sending him to some school without even asking him if he wanted to go was a good idea," Dean tightened his hands across his arms, eyebrows narrowing in on his father. "He's not developmentally challenged! I know this, you should know this too."

"Sam has issues that need to be dealt with by professionals. What happens to you Sam if something happens to Dean?" John didn't wait for Sam or his brother to answer."You rely on your brother for almost everything. It's not fair to either of you." John stepped back so he could see Sam more clearly, "Dean needs to have his own life. This isn't an open discussion. I've made up my mind."

Sam was writing furiously, pen tearing into the paper until he handed the notebook to Dean. I can take care of myself. Can get job working on computers. Get good marks at school. Can give Dean more space.

Dean's eyes flickered back to Sam for a moment before he glared at their dad, "You may think you can speak for Sam but you don't get to speak for me. I have my own life, and that includes Sam. You don't get to take that away from me." Dean stepped away from Sam and laid his hand on his arm. "Go throw my clothes in my duffel, I'll be there in a few," when Sam didn't move, Dean repeated. "Go Sam." Dean waited until Sam had stormed off before he spun back to John, taking several quick steps until he was standing in the space a few feet before him. "I'm taking Sam with me and there's nothing you can do to stop that. You don't want him as part of your life? Fine. But he sure as hell is gonna remain part of mine."

John's hands clenched to fists at his sides.  "Dean, you are twenty years old and if you don't wanna live under my roof that's just fine.  You are not taking my son with you.  Sam is sixteen years old and you might think you know everything, Dean but you don't.  You don't.  You hear me?  Sam is NOT leaving this house."  John returned to his duffel back and pulled some dirty clothes out heaving them into a pile on the floor.

Folding his arms across his chest, Dean widened his stance, preparing himself for the worse. "I don't know everything. But I know Sam and that's far more then you can say. If you send him to that place you might as well be killing him. I won't allow it. I don't care what you do to me but you don't get to hurt him."

John's answer was a yell, "do NOT speak to me like that Dean!"  He hurled the handful of clothes he was holding onto the floor.  "This is about making sure that you and Sam get to have real lives.  You want to hunt, fine, Dean - I get that.  Sam's smarter than both of us but he can't talk, Dean.  He can't function like a regular kid now and he's only sixteen.  What's going to happen when he's your age?  What are you gonna do if you meet a woman, Dean?  Tell her you're single father?  You gonna drag Sam around with you while you hunt and make sure he doesn't have any choice about what he does?"  John dragged a hand down his face, "now you need to back the hell off and sleep on this son -before you do something stupid."

Sam appeared in the doorway, both duffels were packed and sitting in the corner of their bedroom.  He walked over and stood behind Dean holding out his notepad to his father.

Swearing under his breath, John took the notepad and read it out loud.  I can get a job part-time, Will make sure I don't rely on Dean.  Get good marks Dad.  Don't need special school.  Please - don't send me away. Sam's fingers slipped back through Dean's belt loop and his eyes pleaded with his father. 

John shook his head and handed the notebook back to his son.  "Sam, this isn't about you it's about me and Dean not being able to take care of you.  You don't even know how to sign.  There are schools that can teach you that - and then you can get a job and work and maybe have your own place one day.  You don't need to live in Dean's shadow."

Sam shook his head furiously and scratched out another note he handed to Dean.  Don't NEED you... WANT to be with you." Sam's eyes were wide and from where he was standing he could feel the anger rolling off his brother in waves.

"Ditto Sam," Dean said softly. "Get the bags, we're out of here." He turned his eyes back to their father and scowled. "It's never been a chore to look after Sam dad, no matter how you feel on the subject. And Sam is not an idiot. He can make it in the world." He rounded on his heels and crossed the room to the far part of the living room dropping down and shoving the arm chair out of the way. There was a loose floorboard there that he used as a secret hiding place. Pulling it up hard, he snatched at the tin there, clutching it between his fingers and tugging out his favorite handgun. He didn't raise the weapon but he kept it in his hands, daring his father silently to push the limits. When Sam appeared in the room with the bags he fixed his eyes on their dad once more. "Don't you dare follow us."

John eyes moved over the gun and back up to his oldest son's face.  "Dean, you're making a big mistake.  What's going to happen to Sam if you get hurt, or... worse."  John's brow furrowed.  "You know he can't call the police, even if he could talk to them he can't tell anyone our real names ... what happens to my son then?"  John turned from Dean and took a step toward Sam holding out his hand.  "C'mon Sam, you don't need to do this.  Just come with me to the school and check it out - you might really like it.  They have a computer lab and... each student gets their own room."  He tilted his head and looked at his son.

Sam's gaze held his father's for a few moments, and then he shook his head and hiked the duffels up onto his shoulders.

"There you have it, he's made up his mind," Dean said and lifted his chin to gesture to the door with a quick look at Sam. He kept his eyes on their dad as Sam headed forward, adding quietly to the man, "And give us a break John. We both know you don't care what happens to Sam. Otherwise you never would have thought of the school in the first place." Dean headed for the door, pulling the keys from his pocket. His body shook with anger and he sucked in deep breaths, focusing on getting calm and ignoring the fear and panic that was crawling up in him.

Sam barely stopped moving once he was through the front door.  He tossed the duffels in the back seat of the car and then slid into the passenger seat.  Looking out the passenger window he watched his father move to stand on the porch and watch his sons leaving.  Sam pressed his hand to the window and leaned his face against it.  He didn't hate his father, he loved him; it was just an impossible circumstance.    Sam couldn't go away to school; he didn't know how but he knew it wouldn't work, that it would crush whatever spirit he had.  He didn't have anything against people who lived with disabilities but he didn't put himself in that category.  Finally turning away from the window when he couldn't stand the look on his father's face a moment longer, Sam pulled out his notebook and started writing.  He handed it to Dean as soon as he was behind the wheel.

You don't have to do this.  I can be okay at the school.  What about your job? Hunting?  It's not fair.

"You won't be okay at the school and I won't be okay without you," Dean shook his head, jamming his key into the ignition and turning quickly. He didn't look up at his father as he backed out of the driveway, speeding off down the road. "I've been saving up some money. We'll keep hunting. We'll see the country. And we'll figure out a way for you to finish school online or something," Dean handed the tin over to Sam, along with the gun. "Put the gun in the dash. Divide up the money and stash it."

Reaching out Sam grabbed the tin and opened it.  He pulled the gun out and put it in the glove box then picked up the bundle of money.  He separated the money into piles and put it in the different compartments he knew of around Dean's car.  His fingers dipped in Dean's pocket and he pulled his brother's wallet out and slipped a few hundred dollar bills in there. 

Sam tapped lightly on his brother's arm, made a fist and circled it on the front of his own chest signing sorry.  Contrary to what his father thought, Sam actually had learned some American Sign Language over the years.  The only person he used it with was Dean; there wasn't really anyone else he needed to talk to.

"Don't be sorry Sammy, it's not your fault, you didn't do anything wrong," Dean smiled at him for a moment, adjusting his sunglasses before looking back at the road. "I've always known I'd go someday, kind of always thought you'd come with me. Just wish it wasn't under those circumstances," he shrugged softly and reached out to squeeze Sam's arm comfortingly. "We'll be okay."

Reaching out to squeeze Dean's arm Sam sank back onto the seat and let out a long sigh.  He was exhausted.  Being around his brother and his Dad when they were fighting always sent bursts of adrenaline running through Sam's system.  Then when it was over he always felt like he'd been run over by something.  Turning his head to the side he stared over at Dean's profile.  Dean would put up a brave front for Sam's sake but Sam knew his brother.  Sam knew that their father's opinion meant a great deal to his older brother. He knew that leaving and defying his father couldn't have been easy for Dean.  Leaning forward Sam put his finger on the dial of the stereo and glanced over at Dean to see if he wanted it on.

"Sure Sam, whatever you want," Dean nodded and adjusted back in the seat. Things were kind of a fuzzy blur right now. He knew it would take some time to really sink in, to understand the full weight of what had just happened. There was a very real possibility that Dean had just completely severed all communications with his father and that... was pretty major.

That first night Dean drove until he couldn't keep his eyes opened. He knew it wasn't like that their dad was going to be calling cops on them but that didn't mean he wouldn't call up some of his hunter buddies and have them search for both him and Sam. So Dean spent a good deal of the time randomly making turns, heading north for awhile before turning west, then south, south east, blindly heading nowhere. Finally, when Sam was completely passed out against his side, snoring softly, Dean pulled into a motel in the middle of nowhere that offered back lot parking. He left the Impala across the lot from their actual room and hooked both duffel bags over his shoulders before shaking his brother awake.

Sam followed him sleepily to their room and collapsed on the closest bed the moment they were inside. Dean didn't turn on any lights, didn't really think it mattered. He simply toed off his boots - pulled off Sam's - before ridding them both of their jeans and sliding his brother under the blanket before climbing in his own bed. Halfway through the night he woke to cries falling from his brother's lips. It was almost second nature to crawl into bed beside Sam and pull him close. On some nights, Dean drifted right back to sleep and he didn't hear it - if it was spoken - this night though, he forced himself to stay awake until it came.

"Dean..."

Just the softest whisper tonight. Sometimes it was more but Dean's heart clenched regardless. He pulled Sam tightly into his side and whispered into his ear, "It's okay Sammy. I got you. Ain't going anywhere," he rocked him gently back and forth until Sam's noises quieted down and then Dean allowed himself to drift back to sleep. It didn't matter what his dad thought, Sam didn't ruin his life, Sam was his life.