Sam was the one who sought Jacob out. He was Amy’s son, and Amy had been his friend, until Dean killed her. So in a twisted way, that made Jacob Sam’s responsibility.
If he had left things alone, maybe Amy wouldn’t have turned up on Dean’s radar. Or maybe she would have anyway, and he’d never have found out about Jacob until Dean killed Amy. Sam had no use for what-ifs, though, and keeping a pre-teen kitsune off hunter radar was job enough.
Jacob was a quick study. Angry, smart, and stubborn - just like Sam at the same age. He learned the tricks Sam taught him - digging graves, breaking into the morgue, hustling, keeping his head down and his temper in check - and swore with every other breath that one day he would kill Dean.
Sam didn’t bother to counter him. He knew revenge, and that somehow, their lives had gone so off-kilter that Dean had become Jacob’s Azazel.
A few scant weeks after Amy’s death was not the time to say anything.
Sam kept an eye on Jacob in between hunts, sending him money, making sure he wasn’t making a terrible mess out of his life. Jacob deciding to become a hunter definitely came close, but Jacob was stubborn, and Sam figured it would be better if he taught Jacob to protect himself and others, instead of letting him charge in blind.
And that was how Sam found himself e-mailing Jacob tips and tricks and long lectures about lore from the bunker.
Sam kept an eye on Lisa and Ben.
He kept an eye on a lot of people at the end of the day, old friends and acquaintances, just to make sure they were alright. He never contacted them, never let them know he was checking in, and sometimes felt like a total creeper, but it was the least he could do, a way of remotely protecting them.
So he knew Lisa and Ben had been struggling after Dean had Castiel wipe their minds. He knew about the therapy sessions. He knew when Lisa was checked into the hospital and didn’t check back out.
He shouldn’t have gone to the hospital.
But with Dean busy being “poison” God only knew where, it wasn’t like there was anyone to stop him.
He shouldn’t have gone to the hospital. But, like with Jacob a few years ago, he felt responsible.
In hindsight, he was glad he did.
Lisa lay still and small amidst the white sheets of the hospital bed, wires and tubes attached all over. Ben stood at his mother’s bedside with his fists clenched, and looked remarkably unsurprised to see Sam there.
“I was wondering if one of you would show up. Sam, right?”
Sam’s eyebrows rose slightly and he inclined his head. “Ben.”
Ben looked back at his mother. “I was kinda hoping Dean would come. But I guess I know where Mom and I stand with him.”
Oh, this was going to end well.
“You, uh, you remember?”
Ben snorted bitterly. “Bits and pieces. The memories started coming back a couple months ago. I had nightmares. Mom had hallucinations. And then -“
Ben broke off, rubbing furiously at his eyes. Sam could fill in the blanks. Lisa’s mind hadn’t been able to take the strain of her returning memories, and she’d slipped into a coma.
“How could he do this to us?” Ben hissed, “I thought he -“
“Dean loved you,” Sam found himself saying, almost by rote, “He wanted to protect you and your Mom.”
“Protect?! This isn’t protection!” Ben gestured between himself and Lisa, “This isn’t love! You don’t - you don’t mind-wipe the people you love! He left us defenseless!”
“That was never his intention, Ben,” Sam responded gently.
Ben telegraphed his punch really loudly, but Sam didn’t block it. The kid was fourteen and untrained, he didn’t even have the same force behind his punch as Sam had at twelve.
“Fuck his intentions!” Ben seethed, massaging his hand, because, fuck, Sam was made of granite. ”His intentions don’t help my Mom, or me! His intentions are what did this to her!”
Ben looked up at Sam, eyes blazing. “I’m going to make him pay. I’m going to make him pay for what he did to us.”
It was like Jacob all over again. “Don’t go down this road, Ben. It’s not worth it.”
Ben’s expression hardened, and Sam could see why Dean wondered about his paternity. “It is worth it. Because Dean doesn’t get a free pass for - for violating us like this, just because he thought he was being hero. He didn’t have the right. And I’m gonna make sure he answers for what he’s done.”
And because Sam got it, because he had nightmares about Gadreel and Kevin and chunks of time he still hadn’t recovered, he blurted out, “Not with a punch like that, you’re not.”
And that was how he found himself training Ben to fight and not get himself killed when he decided to channel his rage into hunting.
Jesse was the one who sought Sam out.
Well, it was less ’sought out’ and more ‘cried out for help while running from Abaddon and hunters alike on a case Sam happened to be working while Dean was buried at the bottom of a whiskey bottle.’
Jesse appeared in Sam’s motel room, halfway through a meltdown over his demonic powers and Abaddon’s servants hunting him.
“Please help me,” the boy sobbed as he pitched forward, “I’m not a demon, I’m not!”
Sam’s eyes widened as he caught him, his mind racing. What was he supposed to do with a crying child?!
Later, he amended his statement to ‘what was he supposed to do with a child that had imprinted on him like a baby duckling?’
Because Jesse had.
He’d cried himself to sleep his Sam’s hold, and wound up gripping his shirt too tight for Sam to extricate himself. Sam ended up sitting in his motel room trying to go over his research one-handed, absently trying to make sure Jesse wasn’t jostled too much.
Kid slept like the dead, anyway.
Kid also killed demons with brutal efficiency, only stopping from adding the hunters to his body count because Sam asked.
“They hunted me!” Jesse seethed, knocking the hunters unconscious with a flick of his wrist, “They think I’m a monster!”
“So you’re gonna prove them right by murdering them?” Sam demanded, forcing himself to keep his hands where Jesse could see them.
Jesse’s expression crumpled and Sam found himself with an armful of crying preteen again. “Why can’t they just leave me alone?!”
Sam swallowed, remembering Tim and Reggie and a bar in the middle of nowhere, wondering the same thing.
“I don’t want to be a monster.”
“You don’t have to be. Listen to me, Jesse, you can be more than your blood, more than your powers.”
Jesse looked up at him with wide, dark eyes.
“I’ve been there,” Sam admitted, “You don’t have to let the bad inside you define you. You can choose to be more.”
When Sam got an email two weeks later asking about an Enochian sigil, he buried his face in his hands and groaned. Of course Jesse would take his advice to mean he should become a hunter.
Claire came with Jacob, and Sam was no longer sure how this became his life.
“Sam! Sam, oh God, shit - I think I’m in trouble.”
Sam’s brow furrowed as he pressed his phone closer to his ear. “Jacob? Slow down, I can barely understand a word you’re saying.”
“I don’t know what do to, Sam, there’s - there was this guy following us, harassing Claire, and he got all glowy and shit and then Claire flipped out -“
“Like, I’m talking sudden ninja blood mage and the glowy dude outed me as a kitsune and I bolted when Claire pulled out a knife like a fucking coward - I mean, I could have taken her, but I really like her -“
Jacob fell silent. Sam huffed softly. “Okay, try again, slowly. What’s going on?
“There’s a glowy dude harassing me and my girlfriend, and I think my girlfriend might actually be a hunter.”
Sam bit back a sigh. Of course. This would happen to him, of all people. He found Jacob fighting off an angel alongside blonde Claire Novak in the middle of a park one city over. Somehow, he should have seen that coming.
“You know, picking on kids is a new low for your kind,” he said by way of greeting.
“Stay out of this, Abomination,” the angel snarled, rounding on him.
“Sure.” Sam threw his angel blade forward with a twist of his wrist. It sank deep into the angel’s chest, lighting him up like a firework. Sam could see where Jacob got the nickname from.
“So I totally need one of those,” Jacob said enviously, as Sam retrieved his weapon.
“How about you make it to your next birthday first.”
“Did you kill him?” Claire demanded. “How? I banished him, but he just came back.”
“Angel blade,” Sam replied, “It’s the only thing that can kill an angel. Angel banishing is only as permanent as your medium - once your blood dries, you’re back on their radar.”
Claire swore, and Sam’s expression softened. “What did he want with you, Claire?”
The blonde laughed bitterly. “He said I was his true vessel. He kept asking me to let him in, or he’d die.”
Shit. “I’m so sorry.”
“Guess it runs in the family, right?” Sam could see the tears and hysteria building in Claire’s eyes.
“We should get you home, Claire. Jacob, help me get the body into the trunk.”
Claire watched as Sam and Jacob loaded the body into the trunk of Sam’s car and demanded, “Teach me to hunt.”
Jacob slammed the trunk shut harder than necessary as he and Sam whirled around. “What?! No!”
“Why not?” Claire demanded.
Sam shook his head. “You’re a kid, Claire, you don’t know what you’re asking.”
“Jacob’s a kid, too!”
“Yeah, but I have poison claws and super strength,” Jacob replied bluntly, looking between Sam and Claire.
Sam shot him a look and turned back to Claire. “Claire, Jacob and I are in the life because we have to be. There’s no getting out for us. You’re different - you have a Mom waiting for you at home, friends, a life. Once you go down this road, you lose all that.”
“I have been on this road for five years, Sam Winchester! Five years, since Castiel came and took my father away. My Mom’s too hopped up on antidepressants to notice what’s going on in her life, and Jacob’s the first person I’ve opened up in years! Don’t tell me about what I can lose - I already have.”
Sam’s expression was pained. “Claire -“
“They won’t leave me alone, Sam,” Claire continued, eyes dark, two spots of color on her cheeks, “That meteor shower a year ago - that was angels falling, wasn’t it? I’ve read all the lore I can get my hands on - Ansiel wasn’t even the first. My bloodline makes me an attractive vessel, even to the angels I wasn’t made for.”
Oh, God, really? It was like Gadreel all over again.
“You already know how to protect yourself,” Sam pointed out.
“Not well enough. Not well enough to make sure others don’t suffer the way my family did.”
“So that’s your plan? Go out and hunt rogue angels?”
Claire jutted her chin forward. “Maybe. I’ll do it with or without you, Sam.”
Sam narrowed his eyes. “This is about Castiel, isn’t it?”
“So what if it is?” It was Jacob who asked, not Claire.
When Sam and Claire turned to him, the kitsune shrugged. “Come on, man. You trained me to hunt knowing that one day, I’m going to try and kill your brother. The way I see it, Claire’s reasons are just the same as mine.”
Sam’s lips thinned. “What’s your GPA?”
Claire looked nonplussed. “3.8, why?”
Sam huffed. He was so going to end up regretting this. “Alright, here’s what’s going to happen. I live twenty minutes away, so I will train you the way I trained Jacob. I will teach you angelic lore, and I will teach you to hunt - on the condition that you keep your grades up.”
Claire’s eyes widened. “… Why?”
“Because one day, you’re going to realize that hunting is a cold and empty life, and I want you to have something to fall back on. One day, you’re going to want out, and I don’t want you trapped.”
Claire looked at Sam for a long moment, as if she was seeing through him, and nodded.
“Alright, get in the car. First lesson: how to properly dispose of a body.”