The years passed, and life never seemed to get easier for the Little family.
"Is Mom gone again?" Dean demanded angrily as she stormed into the house to find her brothers getting ready for bed. "She's never home these days!"
"Geez, Dean, it's like you never realized Mom works nights," Sammy replied tersely. "There's no way around it, so you might as well just get used to it."
"I shouldn't have to!" Dean shouted. "Noelle's mom works nights, too, and she still sees her more often than we see our mom! This is stupid! I'm going to complain to No Sim Left Behind - she obviously doesn't care about us at all!"
Sammy clenched his fists tightly to avoid hitting his sister. She was always blurting out stupid things like this - things that he was sure that their mother would've no doubt slapped her silly for if she knew Dean was saying stuff like this.
But the truth was, Sammy was just as upset at their mother's long and bizarre hours as his sister was. He was a teenager, not an adult, and he wasn't thrilled with having to spend most of his out-of-school hours caring for two younger siblings who were so very demanding in their own ways.
Dean was loud-mouthed, opinionated and constantly pushing the boundaries of what their mother laid down. Deep down, Sammy knew that whatever work it was that their mother did, it wasn't exactly on the level - and Dean had that horrible knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Baby Cass was fussy, always wanting to be held and tended to, and he didn't take kindly to the handover that happened every night at 7:00 as their mother walked out the door and Sammy walked in from his tutoring lessons and computer club meetings.
That was the night that Sammy had finally had enough: when Dean had burst out with that threat of NSLB, and he'd realized just how serious things could become. It really could take as little as one miscommunication and their entire family could crumble apart.
When Catherine came home in the early hours of the morning, Sammy and Dean called a family meeting. It was timely, any way: Sammy did have to ask about permission for that school trip to the programming convention in San Myshuno.
He should've known that she would flat-out refuse to let him go.
"It's out of the question, Sammy! I need you -"
"You always need me!" Sammy protested, despite every logical part of him screaming at him to shut up and stop fighting. "It isn't fair, Mom! We've been planning this trip for months, and it wouldn't even cost a thing because Mr. Simpson got funding and a grant to cover our expenses..."
"You're not going, Samuel, and that's the final word."
Dean burst out in the silence that followed, "I can't believe you, Mom! It's like you just want Sammy and I to become criminals just like you!" Then she stormed off into the garage, muttering under her breath,
"No Sim Left Behind, that's all I'm saying."
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