Chapter 1: Chapter 1
The first real fight John remembered having with Dean was a few weeks after the fire. They had stayed with family, then with friends, but John hated being a burden and finally took a large motel room complete-with-kitchenette in downtown Lawrence. The aging hippie who ran the place provided a crib and gave John good weekly rates, and said they could stay until the insurance finished rebuilding the house. But the minifridge was empty, again, and after John picked up the boys from kindergarten and the nursery he swung by the supermarket.
Sam in the little shopping cart seat and Dean walking alongside him, John quickly walked through the aisles, collecting pasta, microwaveable dinners and other basic items. Dean had remained silent throughout, his eyes travelling from shelf to cart as John loaded items. But when he got to the baby aisle and started loading baby-wipes, the four year old spoke up.
"Mommy would get the blue ones," he whispered.
John's heart stopped, his breath stopped, time stopped. His son had only just begun to speak, and whenever he mentioned Mary it was with such resign, such an understanding of how gone she was, it broke his heart. He smiled down at his son.
"I know, Deano, but these are just the same, only the color's different."
Dean lowered his head, raised his eyes, and crossed his arms. "Mommy would get the blue ones. She said the red ones and the green ones and the yellow ones aren't good for Sammy's butt. She said only the blue ones are good."
John looked again at the wipes on the shelf. He hated to disappoint Dean, so soon after his mother died, and deny him even this small connection to her, but there was over a dollar difference between the brands and John just couldn't afford to pay more for a whim of Mary's he hadn't even noticed.
"Sorry kiddo, we're getting the red ones. It's red like a fire truck, that's neat, huh? Sammy'll love them, you'll see," he said, and tossed the red baby-wipes into the cart.
There was a moment of silence, and then Dean went berserk.
He started shoving at the cart, yanking it back and forth, screaming, "Mommy gets the blue ones! Only the blue ones, only the blue ones!" Sam's eyes locked with John's a moment before his face crumpled into frightened crying from being jostled, shocked stupor before his wailing joined his brother's.
John's mind went completely blank. He knew you were supposed to coolly ignore a child in a tantrum, but for a long minute all he could do was hover between the boys.
"Sam, shhh, shh, it's okay, you're okay— Dean, stop it!" he hissed as Dean shoved the cart again, this time causing it to bump into the shelves and knocking down several boxes of disposable bottles. John crouched to pick them up with one hand while the other remained on Sam, though his angry gaze stayed fixed on Dean. People around him began staring, some with sympathetic smiles, some with noses wrinkled at the disturbance.
John pulled himself together. He shoved the bottles back onto the shelf, grabbed Dean's arm from shaking and shoving the cart, and held both his arms down as he crouched in front of the child, whose face was red-nearing-purple. To enunciate each hissed word, John shook Dean as he spoke.
"Dean! We are getting these wipes because I said so! Stop it and calm yourself down, right now- I'm serious! If you keep this carrying on, so help me! Do you understand me?"
Dean glared at John. "Yes."
"Yes what?" John prompted. He was no Mary with the kids, but army discipline he knew. Army he could enforce.
"Yes, sir," he prompted Dean, then asked again, "yes what?"
This time Dean answered. "Yes, sir."
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The ride back to the motel was silent, except for the baby making noises in the back seat and Dean muttering each time he picked up a toy Sam threw from the car seat as soon as Dean handed it back to him.
When they arrived back at the motel, John handed the key to Dean, and with a quick, "go open the door," got up out of the driver's seat and headed to the trunk, to grab the groceries. He shifted all the bags to his right hand, and with his left undid Sam's belt and grabbed him out of the car seat.
John was still livid, with Dean for throwing that temper tantrum- he never did that to Mary, he was certain- and with himself for being angry with a four year old who was coping with the loss of a mother. But they boys had to eat, and anger management could wait till later.
Dean fed Sam from a jar of baby food while John put up the Sloppy Joe sauce. When Dean was done he bodily limped to the bathroom, holding Sam under his armpits like a sack of potatoes to wash off his face and hands. He lurched back to the kitchen and deposited his brother in John's lap, and went to pursue his own games.
John absently set Sam on the floor with a spoon to play with, and sat down at the small kitchen table. He leafed open the investigator's report to where he had left off, and continued reading, hoping desperately maybe the last few pages contained an explanation of air rushing out of a room, or of the heated wallpaper exuding some chemical or something, anything, to explain how his Mary had burned, alive, on the ceiling of Sam's nursery. He had been anxious to read the official Fire Marshall's report, but that turned out to be two pages of airflow charts and one page of a written incident report, concluded with a simple "Source: Unknown." Two days after receiving the report he hired two independent fire investigators, both reputed to be the best in the state. The first had been even more frustratingly vague than the Fire Marshalls'. The second did not seem to be more promising.
With a sign, John flipped the report shut and rose to turn off the fire. No answers in this one, either. But he knew what he had seen, and he was determined to find out how his wife had really died. He placed a couple hamburger buns on paper plates, ladled sauce onto them and set them at the table.
"Dean, dinner," he called.
Dean ignored him.
"Dean!" He called again, his voice low and sharp. "I said come eat dinner."
His son finally looked up, green eyes glaring and mouth pinched in what was essentially an adorable imitation of Mary's angry face. John's impatience melted and he struggled to keep a straight face.
"Dean, I know you're angry over the wipes but come and be angry while you eat, how's that?"
Dean whispered something swift and low to the nearest toy soldier, then walked moodily to the table and threw himself in a chair.
"Eat," John instructed. He lifted Sam from where he was playing on the floor and went to change him and put him to bed. All the while he smiled to himself. As long as Dean was around, Mary wouldn't really be far.
By the time Dean was ready for bed a couple of hours later John was exhausted. Although Dean hadn't fussed again, he had remained moody, and even though he obeyed all of John's brusque orders to collect his toys, to brush his teeth and to get into bed, the sheer belligerence radiating off him made John feel like the evening stretched on forever.
The baby kept waking up, too, and John had had to settle him, wind up the mobile (and each time the world seemed to get a little fucking smaller, after all), and caution Dean to keep it down, the baby is sleeping! three times so far. He suspected this would be another long night, and when Dean pouted a half-hearted "goodnight, dad," and climbed into bed without asking for a bedtime story. John didn't offer one.
It was three in the morning when John awoke, again, to the sound of Sam crying. "In the name of Jesus, baby, what is the matter?" John muttered as he got his feet under him and padded across the room to where the crib was nudged between Dean's bed and the wall. As he reached down he changed his tone, but he couldn’t help the frustrated words.
"Hey, kiddo," he whispered. "What's the matter? Is it the pacifier? Will you please just take the stupid thing and go to sleep?"
For a moment it seemed like that had done the trick. But the next moment the baby began howling even louder, as though affronted by the weak attempt at caring for his problems. John sighed, reminded himself that whatever the problem it wasn't Sam's fault, and leaned to picked up the baby so he could rock him back to sleep. He paced the length of the room twice before he realized that Dean wasn't in his bed and that the bathroom light was on.
"Hey, Buddy, everything okay in there?" John asked in a loud whisper, and then remembered that his four year old didn't really care about privacy yet, and that it was three in the morning, and stepped into the bathroom. For the second time that day John lost his words.
Dean was standing on the little stool that was supposed to help him reach the toilet. His toy soldiers were aligned on the edge of the sink and along the tank of the toilet, weapons raised. In one hand he held a mostly empty package of baby wipes, the red package, and the other was frozen over the toilet, a wipe dangling haphazardly between his fingers. John could only stare. Dean, his green eyes wide, stared back. The lone wipe fell from his raised hand and landed squarely in the toilet bowl. John still stared.
It was Dean who recovered first. Without breaking eye-contact with John he shouted, "abort!" and made to flush the toilet. John would later recall the events in slow motion: His left arm reaching out to stop Dean, because he knows that there's more than one wipe down there, and he also knows the septic system can't handle it; Dean jumps off the stool, and begins collecting the soldiers from the rim of the sink; John reaches the toilet as the flush handle jingles back into place, and he looks down as an impossible number of baby wipes try to go down the drain, fail, and are pushed back up as the water level rises.
Time snaps back to normality as the water crests above the rim of the toilet bowl, and John is able to react. He grabbed Dean off the floor as he tried to run past, small hands gushing little green soldiers. Dean squirmed in his hands, shouting "man down!" as soldiers fell from between his fingers. John walked into the bedroom in two long strides, and roughly deposited Dean on the bed. He thrust Sam in Dean's arms, and with a harsh, "you hold your brother!" turned back to the bathroom.
It took forty minutes to clean up the mess, and all their clean towels. By the time John finished he wasn't even angry anymore. He sent Dean back to bed, with a warning not to dare get out before John came to wake him. Sam, though thankfully calm while being held, began bickering again as soon as John even drew near the crib, so John prepared him a bottle and let him drink it while he changed his diaper, hoping the bedtime routine would fool the baby into actually sleeping.
John mechanically removed the sweatpants, unsnapped the onesie, undid the side bands of the diaper. He was about to replace the damp diaper with a new one when he registered the angry red splotches on his son's behind. He sighed, slathered on liberal amounts of butt-paste, and dressed the baby.
"Hey, Dean," he whispered after he settled the baby into his crib.
Dean flipped in bed to face John.
"Tomorrow we'll go back to the store and get the blue wipes, how's that sound?"
"The red ones aren't good for Sammy's butt," Dean reproached.
"I know. From now on we'll get blue ones. You'll help me pick them out? The good ones, like Mommy used?"
"Yes, Sir,'' Dean said, and smiled, his excruciating, beautiful Mary smile, and John had to look away.
"You're a good boy. Goodnight, kiddo. Get to sleep."
Dean was already up, though lying perfectly and patiently still, when John came to wake him the next morning.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
To the best of Sam's recollection, which was rather good, Dean and dad have never fought. When they were driving Dean would sometimes disagree with dad's directions, or dad would think Dean was driving too fast, but those minor differences were handled with a gentle question suggesting a new direction, or a quiet, "Deano, speed."
Dean wouldn't even argue with dad when they moved from a place Dean really liked, or when dad told him to just drop out and take his GED's so he could hunt full time, even though Dean was all set, limo and all, for taking Shauna Plitter to prom. He certainly never fought with dad over the things dad told Sam.
Except for once, the summer after Sam turned fourteen. It could barely be called a fight, but he figured it was the most that could be expected of Dad's perfect son.
The last day of eighth grade was thankfully over, and Dean was waiting for him when he got out of class.
"How was school?" Dean asked, as he backed the car out of the parking space and joined the queue of minivans waiting for the yellow school buses to clear out.
"It was fine," Sam shrugged. "Didn't do much."
Then his eyes lit up, and he lunged for his backpack. "Oh! I forgot to tell you! We got materials for next year- it's so cool! The books on the, ha, I meant to show you, the name of the reading list is, 'Summer Bummer? No, Summer Fun-er!'" He and Dean shared a laugh.
"Jeez, it's worse than last year's ''Reading for Fun-ease," Dean said, and inched the car forward. Two more buses turned out of the parking lot.
"Yeah, it's so lame. But anyway, the books on the reading list are finally not arranged by reading level this year! It's way kick-butt. I mean, Lord of the Flies I read, like, two years ago, and To Kill a Mocking Bird was actually required reading for last year, but Dean, they've finally included pre-Victorian English authors, and honest, I've been meaning to read Jane Eyre. It's supposed to be about the relationship between men and women in a time when they were hardly supposed to, like, talk, even. How cool is that?" As soon as he said it he heard it, and regretted it.
"Jane Air? Sounds like a b-rate rival of Nike. He turned his eyes from the "honk if you love the Highland Junior Jets!" sedan ahead of him and smiled crookedly at Sam. "Or is that your autobiography? Jane?"
Sam's mood was too good to be spoiled by Dean and his girly name calling. "Shut up, Dean," he laughed, and gathered his papers. He lowered his voice as deeply as he could, and continued in his best impersonation of John, "eyes on the road, Deano. You crash this car I'll rip you a brand new one, so wide you ain't gonna sit for a week!"
Both boys laughed at John's favorite picturesque threat. After a moment, Sam continued.
"But seriously, it's so cool that I finally can read in advance, you know? And not just in English class. The list has also the math books, and science, and history topics we'll cover next year. It'll be good, for once, to have a freakin' idea what the class is supposed to be covering, and not always trying to catch up."
He paused for a moment, as Dean eased the car out of the school's parking lot and headed west toward their apartment.
"We also got next year's curriculum at the high-school and text books for the ninth grade," Sam added.
"Sammy, you ever consider that we won't be here next school year? It's a miracle we've been here since April. Not too likely we'll be spending the summer here, let alone the ninth grade." Dean sneaked another look at Sam, but Sam pointedly pretended not to see. He hated moving, and Dean knew it, but he had to bring it up, anyway. And continue rubbing it in.
"And speaking of which, why not deal with school when you don't have to? It's only just let out, and you'll finally have a couple of months where you can focus on helping dad and me without missing material. Summer, dude. You don't have to keep to stupid curriculums, either. You can technically read whatever you want."
"It's curricula, idiot." Sam snapped. He turned in the front seat of the car and faced Dean.
"And did it ever occur to you that maybe I like going to school? Maybe I like having friends who don't hunt ghosts or monsters with their families?"
Sam could feel his cheeks reddening, and his bangs hung low over his eyes, but he went on. "And not to mention, it's not like Dad even lets me get out of the car when we go hunting, what kind of help am I? I'm just Dad's little librarian monkey, good for looking stuff up on demand, and even then, it's books he already chose for me! It's not like he needs me in the field, and half the so-called research I do dad already knows.
"And also," he continued, stopping for breath, "I know we'll probably move twenty more times before I graduate high-school! You don't have to remind me! But it's nice to be able to pretend, for at least two minutes, that we're normal!"
By the end Sam was shouting, and when he finished he flung his weight back against the passenger seat and crossed his arms and looked out the window. He wished it was raining, so he'd have something to focus his glare on, but it was June in Texas, so instead he tried to calculate the area of a water stain on the window.
^*^ ^*^ ^*^ ^*^ ^*^ ^*^
At the apartment, Dean let him sulk for a while, for which Sam was grateful, at first. But after about an hour he began to feel like a six year old who was being indulged in a temper tantrum, so he came out of the bedroom and sat on the couch next to Dean.
"It's just," he began, but Dean help up a hand to shush him. "Shh, just a sec."
Sam rolled his eyes and sat back on the couch, and waited for Dean to finish his scene.
"You can stick your well-laid plan up your well-laid ass," Dean and Samuel Jackson said together, and Dean paused the tape. "This movie is awesome," he said appreciatively, and turned to face Sam on the couch.
"Well, yeah, it's okay, but you've seen it, like a hundred times in the month since you bought the tape." Sam shook his head. "It's not that good."
"Remember when you said the same thing about shows that weren't cartoons, and girls, and root beer? And beer-beer, come to think of it? When will you learn, I'm always right, Sammy." Dean said, and pinched Sam's check patronizingly.
Sam shoved him away. "Get arff," he said, but couldn't help laughing a little.
"But listen. About the school stuff. I--" He hesitated for a moment, but then decided to plough ahead. "I know we're gonna move. I'm not stupid." Sam began again.
"Yes, you are," Dean quickly interjected in a loud whisper.
"Shut up, you jerk," Sam said and smiled, thankful for Dean's attempt to lighten the mood. "I know we don't stay anywhere long, and I know it's a there-must-be-a-God- miracle that were still here, but I really, really wanted to get through that reading list. And I know that helping dad is important, and that learning to set salt lines might keep us alive one day, but… I don't know. I just want to have one part of my life squared away, you know? And getting to follow through on a reading list seems like such a harmless way of doing that."
Dean looked at him then, and it seemed like he saw right through him. Like he had no secrets. Which was fine, because he was being perfectly honest about this.
"Listen, kiddo, you know that if it were up to me you'd get all the library time you could possibly ask for, no hunting or training or anything. Well, not nothing," he amended.
"You'd have to know how to defend yourself, obviously. But anyway, you should be talking to dad. And I don't mean fighting with him." He sat up straighter as he made eye contact. "Seriously. Just present him with the facts, and convince him that you should be allowed to read your way through the summer instead of hunting or researching." He turned back to face the television, the image on the screen bouncing from the extended pause.
"Go think about what you're gonna say to dad. And remember, don't be emotional about it, he hates that." He hit play on the remote.
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"It's not fair!" Sam screamed, his voice cracking through his painfully teenage outrage. "I hate hunting!"
John barely looked up from his weapons. He selected a small brush and began cleaning the inside of the cylinder of his handgun.
"Lucky you don't have to like it, then. My job is to keep you alive, not happy." He put the brush gently down and turned his full attention to Sam.
"There is a war out there, Sammy. In a war it's a commander's job to keep his troops alive, and do what he's gotta do based on the big picture. Trust me, you don't see the big picture."
Sam's lower jaw jutted out at the familiar trope, and John's look became a glare. "And a piss-low private doesn't question the orders of the general, Sammy. There's no second-guessing in real battle. Remember that. It's late. Go to bed."
Sam lingered a moment longer, his eyes burning at the unfairness of the dismissal. He hated his dad, no his father, because he was no dad, and he hated his stupid, no, his fucking rules about going hunting, when all he wanted was to read ahead in his classes.
His head buzzed with comebacks and profanities he would never say out loud, but he took pleasure in just thinking them. His dad couldn't control that. Sam turned to leave and nearly bumped straight into Dean, who was on his way to the fridge.
"Stay here and shut up,” Dean muttered, and bodily pushed past Sam back into the kitchen. He grabbed a paper cup and filled it with water, and leaned back on the counter.
"Dad, Sam's being a whiny baby," he said, and gave Sam an angry glare. "But he may be right."
John was shaking his head before Dean finished speaking, but Dean was quicker.
"Wait, hear me out before you say 'yes'," he said, and when John smiled at the quip and motioned to Dean that the floor was his, Dean continued.
"I've actually been thinking about this for a while. Sam's too little— and I don't mean young— to be physically helpful on a hunt. He's a good shot, but you know he can barely handle the shotgun. You said it yourself, with that spirit possession, that he'd better stay in the car than risk getting killed by a flying whatever-it-was in that lab."
Sam opened his mouth to add that the what-it-was was the Auto Digital Pigment Muller, but shut it again at a warning look from Dean. His brother continued.
"And while he's not doing anything in the car, he could be researching in the library. And I don't mean backing up information you already had, Dad." John raised both eyebrows in surprise.
"Of course I noticed. Sammy's really smart, Dad, but we're wasting an asset by not letting him research things on his own, new things. He doesn't really know how to dig, to find new information, hit on hot librarians," another smile from John, "and stuff. How many times did we think we had the right bones, and needed a quick reresearch? How many broken ribs could we have saved ourselves if we had a… library monkey," he looked at Sammy with a triumphant smile, "ready to look through records and newspapers and stuff? And when you're not using him for an SOS search session, he'll occupy himself at the library till we get back. I mean, he'll still train, obviously, but as long as he's sitting in the car he's a liability in the field. I'm telling you, having him sit in the car instead of getting up close and personal with library stacks is committing your reserves, Dad."
Dean shrugged and drank his cup of water in a single gulp, walked around the kitchen table to throw it in the trash can.
Sam held his breath. His dad was looking down at his dismantled weapon, considering what Dean had said. How could his brother basically say the same thing Sam had said, but make it sound so reasonable to Dad? It wasn't fair. Dad wasn't biting his head off.
John's attention snapped back the boys. "Maybe. I'll think about it. Sam, I said go to bed."
Sam went to his room, and Dean followed him. "You're welcome, you emotional little girl," Dean said, smiling winningly at Sam.
"For what? He said 'maybe'. Dad hates me, he'll decide some reason why I can't spend the summer at the library."
"Gimme a break. You know that 'maybe' meant a yes." Dean said. "You're welcome, Jane Air," he said again, and ducked out of the room before Sam's baseball glove could hit him in the face.
Sam watched the door close. "Thanks, Dean."
I have a hard time believing that Sam and Dean could be so close if Sam really felt deep down that Dean was always John's puppet. I also don't buy that Dean, who shouts at John and makes him back down in Dean Man's Blood (1x20), with the terribly rude "that means you, too," had never talked back to his father before where Sam was concerned.
So this is my take on how Sam's perceptions could be skewed but not wrong, while still allowing Dean's character some dignity...
Comments (including language correction's...) are most welcome.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Dean and his dad usually got along great. On a hunt, there was no question of not getting along. Dad would give an order, Dean would follow it. Even if the order didn't make sense to him, it was far better to trust his dad's experience and instincts than to try and second guess the man. Besides, now that he was twenty-two years old, most of dad's orders made a lot of sense. And when they weren't on a hunt? Dean must have been six when he realized it makes dad instantly happy to hear "yessir", probably the Marine Corps training. Ever since that day it was "yes, Sir" to his father, and "No, Ma'am" to his teachers, and then he'd go ahead and stay up two hours longer and cut the lunch line at school. It was the simplest form of manipulation, which is why it was so damn frustrating that Sam couldn't fathom how it was done.
Dean continued flipping through his magazine, trying his best to pretend he wasn't eavesdropping on Sam's half of the argument in the kitchen.
"But dad, it's not a big deal. Like, half the kids are going up to Six Flags, so those who are staying just want to get together and hang out." A pause. "No, I don't know at whose house." Another pause, and then Sam raised his voice. "What does it matter? We're going to watch the Matrix. No, not in the theatre, on TV—we're not even renting anything, it's on cable this weekend." A pause. "It's on every weekend!"
Dean could practically hear Sam pursing his lips and tilting his head. "Yes. Yes. Yes Sir. No. No Sir." The longest pause yet, and then the most grudging, laden "bye," Dean had ever heard. The call was terminated with a beep that was obviously not expressive enough for Sam, because he slammed the phone onto the table twice before smashing it into the cradle on the wall.
Sam was talking even before the door to the bedroom was fully open. "—is wrong with that man? What the hell kind of problem should he have with me going to hang out with my friends? It's graduation in a week, we have no more classes, and finals are done except for Spanish, which is a joke!"
Dean sighed. "Sam—"
Sam sat on the other bed, undeterred. "And you know what else, like it matters if we're going to Brad's or to Ethan? And he asked me how we knew the Matrix would be on this weekend. Like I'd be lying about that. And even if it wasn't on every single goddamned weekend for the last year, did it occur to him that there are TV Guides in the world? What dark truth did he hope to uncover with that little gem of an inquiry? 'Oh, you got us, dad, I guess doing alternate lines of heroin and cocaine is now out of the question, you goddamned sleuth!'" Sam waved his hands dramatically, then leaned back on the bed, deflated.
Dean snorted. Angry Sam always made him laugh. "Sam, calm down. He's far away, he's on a hunt, he's stressed—"
Sam sat right back up, his back straight as an ironing board. "Don't you defend him, Dean. There's no good reason for him being such an asshole over this! Do you know that he actually made me repeat, yes sir, no sir, like I was eight? He doesn't actually think anything is wrong with me hanging out with my friends, he just can't bear to relinquish any control. Big surprise, there. Because, you know, he was a Marine for a whole eight months or something like that, and poof—"
Dean couldn't take it anymore. His brother was derailing, fast, and if allowed to continue this would blow up to a full scale pissing contest, which was a bad idea considering Sam's high-school graduation was at the end of next week. With Sam officially done with school, there was nothing stopping him from joining the hunt full time; except for Sam, of course. Dean knew Sam well enough to know he wouldn't be happy hunting all day, every day, and he was not looking forward to that fight. But now, he had a stupid little fire to put out.
"Sam, you're an idiot. As usual. First of all, you know he was in the corps for 4 or 5 years. But what I was going to say, dad's somewhere in the north-east, he's hunting a pack of ghosts—a group of ghosts? A gaggle?"
Sam pursed his lips. "That's geese, Dean. A group of ghosts is just multiple ghosts."
Know It All Diversion. Always works. Always will.
"It should be gaggle. Or ghogle. Or something. Anyway, he's hunting a bunch of ghosts with several other hunters, which always makes him high-strung. Do you really think he's gonna take the time off the hunt to call all the parents of all the kids in your class and ask if you'd been over during the weekend to watch a movie? No, honestly, take a minute and think that through."
Sam rolled his eyes, like Dean was being stupid. "Of course he's not gonna call them, Dean, but that's not the poi—oh. Ohhh."
Realization dawned on him quickly, and he grabbed his pillow and hid his face beneath it. "I'm so stupid. It's like it's my first day in this family," he said, the re-buried his face in the pillow.
"Yeah," Dean said pointedly. "Stop whining, and just go. And when he comes back, just distract him with something else, about graduation, maybe, and he'll forget about this weekend. He's not coming home for another two days, anyway."
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But two days later dad called and said he'd be three days late, since apparently there were more graves than there were ghosts, and every remain had to be salted and burned.
Three days after that there was another phone call, and his dad caught another case on the road home, a big one by the sound of it, something about a dead woman who was floating in the air, quite literally. When Sam got off the phone with dad, he was so pissed he was calm.
"Dad won't be home. He's not sure how long. Some… thing in Georgia. He says he's gonna be at least a week."
He opened his mouth as if to add something, shut it again and made to leave the kitchen. Then he turned back. Shoulders slumped, head bowed, he spoke without making eye contact.
"Um, I guess it's just you for graduation, so…" He inhaled deeply, sounding to Dean like he was trying to forestall a hitch in his breath. Sam's eyes closed and his face scrunched, as though he was trying hard to concentrate.
"So, um, I guess you can bring someone Friday, if you want. There's an empty seat. I'm gonna go out for a bit, yeah?" And Sam left the kitchen, running his hands through his hair, still taking deliberately deep breaths. Dean heard the front door close gently behind him a few seconds later.
Dean rushed to window and watched Sam until he turned the corner. He was probably headed toward the playground- abandoned at this hour- where he could mope for a while, undisturbed. That was the one good thing about his brother's moodiness, he could always count on at least thirty minutes of sulking.
Dean went back to the kitchen table where Sam, in his distress, had forgotten to place the phone back in its cradle. That alone would have told Dean how upset his pedantic brother was. The only problem was, as far as Dean was concerned, Sam had earned this hissy-fit.
He dialed his father's number without planning what he was going to say. He'd always thought of himself as a off-the-cuff kind of guy, and his heart was pounding too loudly in his own ears to really plan out what he intended to say, anyway.
Dad picked up on the third ring, with a terse, "Sam, this had better not be about graduation again."
"Dad, it's Dean." He took a deep breath. "And it is about graduation."
When his dad made an impatient tsk noise, Dean spoke over him. "And I need you to listen to me very carefully. You know I'm not a drama-queen like Sam, and that no one knows like me how ridiculous he can be. But, Dad, you cannot miss his graduation. He's been working hard, for years, Dad, to keep up his grades. You know how important it was for him to actually graduate a school. And now he's done it, with honors, and he's goddamned valedictorian, and his father, his only living parent, refuses to come to the ceremony?
"No, don't tell me about a hunt. There's always another hunter who can take the job, and if not, so what? Drive back to Georgia or wherever it is you are after the ceremony. Sam doesn't need a lot, but this is maybe the most important day of his life, and he deserves for a parent to be there.
"And maybe you're willing to disappoint Sam like that, but I remember. I remember what it's like to have a parent who would drop everything to come to a pre-school Christmas party. Damn, I remember having two parents who would do that. And now you're making it that Sam basically has none.
"Mom… Mom would be so… Mortified."
Dean stopped talking abruptly. Bringing Mom up in an argument? He's never done that before, and for good reason. He hadn't planned to say so much, and definitely not to sound so… lecture-ish. He was certain dad would tear him a new one, and frankly, he deserved it.
But dad was quiet on the other end, and the longer it lasted the more determined Dean was not to break it. Or to apologize. Nothing he'd said had been wrong, and if it was already out in the open, let it stay out there. Finally, his dad spoke, but it was only to say, "Goodbye, Dean," and hang up the phone.
Dean carefully hit the end button on the phone, then carefully placed it back on the table. Then he picked it up and dialed the local pizza place, just in case Sam accidentally redialed. If Sam knew that he'd spoken to dad, he'd just be angry that Dean had tried to step in on his behalf. Mostly because he liked being angry, Dean suspected.
^*^ ^*^ ^*^ ^*^ ^*^ ^*^
The next day Sam went over his speech, Dean made fun of him, Sam sulked for a short while, and then returned to practicing. Secretly, Dean thought the speech wasn't half-bad. Sam had certainly made the most of the "time of our lives" theme he had been given to work with.
But the teasing gave Sam something to sulk about, and Dean was happy to oblige.
They were just finishing up Greek takeout ("because you finished benedictus cum dominus,” "it's magna cum laude and it's Latin, not Greek, you Neanderthal,") and a Bring it On, on pay-per-view ("graduation's tomorrow, Sammy; it's the closest you'll ever get to high-school babes," "I've been, close to… shut up."), when the front door slammed open. Dean was on his feet and reaching for his gun, but Sam had already registered who was stalking through the hallway toward the back-rooms, and waved Dean's arm away.
"Dad?" His eyes were large, blinking rapidly as he shifted his gaze from his father to Dean. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "What are you doing here? I thought…"
Their father was brusque as usual. "Don't talk to me. I've been on the road for sixteen hours and I have got to hit the head so bad it may hit me back." He went into his room and shut the door.
Sam was breathing heavily again, but his smile was wide. "I can't believe he came. I-" he shook his head in disbelief. "I can't believe he came."
Dad's voice cut through the small living area. "We all have to be up early tomorrow and it's almost 2 am! Get your asses to bed!"
Sam and Dean looked at the clock, which read 12:35, and rolled their eyes. With a simultaneous cry of "Goodnight, Dad," they both turned to their bedroom, and Dean released a breath he felt like he'd been holding for days. As he lay in bed, the thought came to him that he would probably never tell Sam what had gotten Dad to his graduation, and he'd certainly never dare talk to the man like that again. But damn, if it was destined to happen once, it was well worth the occasion.
* I have a hard time believing that Sam and Dean could be so close if Sam really felt deep down that Dean was always John's puppet. I also don't buy that Dean, who shouts at John and makes him back down in Dean Man's Blood (1x20), with the terribly rude "that means you, too," had never talked back to his father before where Sam was concerned.
So this is my take on how Sam's perceptions could be skewed but not wrong, while still allowing Dean's character some dignity...
** The hunting parts are kept vague on purpose. In Season 1 Sam and Dean barely know anything about hunting- they even have to learn some new facts about ghosts. This leads me to conclude they weren't super-well-versed in the intricacies of the supernatural elements when they were younger.
Comments (including language correction's...) are most welcome.