Dean Winchester has three phases.
Angry, angrier, and deadly silent. And the third is equivalent to the aftermaths of World War III.
Phase number one comes with screaming, fuming, and locking himself into any room with a lockable door.
Phase number two comes with ripping apart anything with mass, interminable cursing, and Sam hiding all of the guns on Dean's bed underneath his mattress just in case something twists in a Very Bad direction, even worse than the direction everything is already tumbling down at two hundred and fourteen miles per hour.
Phase number three comes with Dean unlocking himself from the bathroom, his face flushed and carmine from all the huffing, but lips fused together in absolute silence. And then he stalks off to the Impala without even acknowledging Sam's existence as he stands innocuously in the corner making Dean orange chicken.
The orange chicken is then found by Dean when he returns two and a half hours later, which thus proceeds into stage four, replacing words with food in the mouth and all together unintelligible mumbles.
Sam is used to his brother's temper, and John, who is barely even home to witness such outbursts, is equally used to Dean's raging teenage hormones that exhibit themselves in the type of emotional rage that is always helpful in aggressive hunts against resilient demons but unfortunate for anything potentially breakable that Dean might run into during his time of wrath.
And so far, Dean has proven that practically everything ever made with cells and fibers is breakable in his fingers.
It isn't the mildly pestiferous temper and brooding that is the crisis. It's not being able to make it past phase two that is the issue.
Like a runaway truck hitting a billboard sign in the middle of a forlorn road windshield wiper first, if Dean's process of letting out his steam and rumbling through his three phases is halted, Sam knows that doomsday is coming early for the Winchesters.
Dean has already torn up paper so it's nothing but a fragment of what confetti should be ground into the motel carpet. He's already kicked the wall and nearly broken his toe into four even pieces. He's already locked himself into the bathroom and flushed the toilet seventeen times just because he can.
And that's all he can do.
The Impala is driven away from harm and possibly lethal fingers by their father, and Dean has no outlet to his remaining rage anymore. He can yell his lungs dry, shred apart the upholstery on the back of the couch cushions, and he can punch a pillow with pallid knuckles until wool comes pooling out of a hole in the corner.
And that's all.
The worst part is that there is no solution to this freakishly normal problem that Dean can't fix himself. The issue itself is almost too freakishly normal, which is partly why Dean's mouth is in a default u-turn and his tongue is ranting in a language that Sam's innocent ears can't completely understand anymore.
They're used to running out of rocksalt in the middle of a hunt, almost being caught by snooping cops on guard while they salt and burn corpses in cemeteries, or even tribulations as problematic as playing hide and seek with the reaper while they bleed from every orifice and try to find a way to safety.
They are not used, however, to practically anything else.
"–fuckin' school, we have too many actual problems to worry about shit like this–"
Sam stirs fecklessly at the bowl of fleshy chicken lumps, hoping that if he skips a few steps and just hastens to distract Dean with the scent of his traditional after-temper-food being seared, he won't have to deal with his brother's irrational temper.
"Dad'll be home soon," says Sam, because that's his answer to everything, mostly because Dean accepts it practically one hundred percent of the time.
Dean growls and manages to mince one of the few pieces of paper that is still viewable to the human eye underneath his fingernail.
"Already called him, Sammy," he retorts gruffly, and sniffs the air, "s'that orange juice?"
Sam meekly shakes the carton under Dean's nose and nods, his eyebrows bent in a shape that suggests a hint of youthful fear under Dean's intimidating roar and desperation to finish combining the ingredients in time before Dean's lid flies off and is catapulted to someplace irretrievable, like Russia or Uranus.
"Dad won't be home for a while?"
"Hunt's got him busy. So we're stuck in school for a few weeks. Hear that, Sammy? A few weeks. Not a few days, not a few hours, a few weeks. Hell if I'll survive that."
Sam thinks he might possibly be in the clear as far as Dean's easily-provoked temper goes. His face has returned to its regular complexion and his cheeks aren't tinged with blotches of anger-induced rubicund anymore. Now all that's left is the remainder of the still yet-to-be-spoken cuss words and endless chatter that is balancing precariously on the line separating ordinary talking from bemoaning.
"I think I'll skip school."
Sam pales, "There's a kid," he rambles, and for a moment he feels like a seven-year-old again, flummoxed and jumbled at everything that shows a sign of trouble, "I think he saw one of my knives fall out of my bag. I… I'm a little scared."
For a moment, Dean's fury is forgotten, and his eyebrows raise up to heaven in surprise.
"You're the one with the ammo and the blades and you're afraid of him?"
"What if," Sam worries his lip and drags the heel of his foot across the scratchy floorboards, "he tells someone?"
"Then he tells someone."
Sam plunges on, "If… if we're going to be at school here for a while I don't really… want to be the school freak." He mumbles the last part through sad lips so it comes out as a hopeless afterthought. Sam trails off into a drawn out pregnant pause and continues stirring at his bowl.
Dean frowns, "No one would call my Sammy the school freak."
"You say that like they haven't already, Dean."
The older hunter crosses his arms and his lips curl into a dissatisfied scowl.
"Then it'll be the last time," he grunts, and peers into the bowl of chicken.
Sam stares at a piece of battered chicken, orange zest sticking to its left and a clump of damp brown sugar plastered on its right, as though it has all the answers in the world. He parts his lips and a soft sigh works its way through his mouth.
"But you don't want to be in any classes with me."
This time, Dean is the one to sigh. And as Sam peeks through the curtain of his bangs to examine his brother's expression, he isn't surprised to find his mouth in a crooked line and his mind in the midst of battling options. Protecting Sammy always comes with a price; not going out after eight to buy soda, not staying later after school to chat with the cheerleaders, not getting the last of the takeout.
And in a really unfortunate, almost womanly manner, this is just another sacrifice that Dean has to make for his dweeb of a brother who just happens to attract effeminate magnetism as though it's gravity or blood to a shark.
Dean wavers in his chair and squirms a bit, sitting on his palms. And there comes Sam's notorious pout, his bottom lip furling out and eyes drooping in a manner that screams youthful adorableness with flashing neon signs. Dean grumbles, because playing the puppy card was downright unfair.
"Dammit, Sammy," he mutters, raking a hand through his hair, "we should've come in August or somethin', when classes were still open."
Dean grinds more bits of paper into the carpet, Sam watching wordlessly as Dean's torn apart school schedule melds onto the ground.
"So you won't skip school?" Sam queries, his mouth spread into a full-blown grin that makes the whole room brighter without contributing to global warming.
"Yeah, I'll go. But I sure as hell won't try my hardest or any shit like that."
The lack of enthusiasm doesn't seem to dampen Sam's bliss at all. He shakes more sugar into his bowl of poultry and tosses around its contents.
"We're not going to tell dad about this damn class." Dean barks.
"I mean, you could, you're already a girl," Dean shrugs, "but not me."
"I don't think he'd be surprised."
After a two second's pause to comprehend Sam's indirect insinuation at his masculinity, or lack thereof, Dean whirls around in his chair and frowns.
"I'm not the one with doll collections."
Sam dumps the sugary meat into a pan and glances over his shoulder.
"I'm not the one with an obsession with purses."
"I'm not the one who wears make-up."
"I'm not the one who spends two hours in the bathroom in the morning."
"Shut your face, bitch."
Dean Winchester has been torn apart from waist up and waist down, whether the predator was a werewolf's claws, vampire's teeth, demon's unstoppable strength, or a misfiring gun from a fellow hunter. At the ripe age of eighteen, Dean has already experienced the pain of a bullet penetrating his muscles, fire licking at the flesh of his ankles, knuckles slammed at his bloodied face, and even the agony of not being able to catch a wink of sleep for four days straight.
He's more than proud of his accomplishments of suffering from fatal wounds and still managing to kill the bastards that scarred him in the first place, and there's a part of Dean, just like there's a similar part of every boy, that likes raving about his experiences and showing off the nasty scars on his hips and kneecaps.
He likes to believe that being a hunter has desensitized his nerves when it comes to soreness and aching, so while kids in his class puled about paper cuts and eye infections, he could waltz in with half of his thigh missing without a flinch in his features.
Not only does it give him a sense of unbeatable pride that he could smash anyone of his classmates' noses in, but it also reaffirms the dwindling manliness he still possesses that Sam is rapidly snatching away.
Which is why it's a small issue when his narcissism and jaunty ego is smashed when Dean Winchester finds himself mildly frightened by a needle.
It's small and lithe and not all that sharp and isn't big enough to do any damage that Dean hasn't already experienced by multiples of ten, but needles are still needles, and this one just happens to be going at two hundred miles an hour.
It goes rack tack tack tack tack and the way it's zipping up and down so it's nothing but a blur of metallic shine is like a shark's molar impaled onto a stick while a conveyer belt feeds everything in the vicinity to its hungry teeth.
Dean stares. And stares some more. The racking and tacking of everyone else's machines is haunting his mind like a broken record. A long swallow slides down his throat as Dean shifts in his seat and stares at Sam's work two feet behind him.
It doesn't help that he and Sam are the only boys in the whole class. There's the homely girls in the corner with thick-rimmed glasses and plaid flannel while there's a few giggly girls in the middle of the room donning fishnet stockings and have strips of badly-sown neon sleeves hanging off their shoulders.
Dean has strips of denim in his fabric basket, which isn't actually cloth from a hand-me-down store – the lie he fed to his teacher – but rather an old pair of John's jeans in the back of his father's suitcase that he tore up four minutes before Sam and him had to go to school.
And as he looks over Sam's sowing machine to examine his work, he's a little astonished to see pretty blue fabric, not a single wrinkle or stray-away thread, cut into clean squares.
"Dude," Dean hisses, and plucks one of the meticulously measured squares up from Sam's pile, feeling it with his thumb, "where did this even come from?"
Sam looks up from his machine. The way his back is straight and the way his machine is infallibly threaded gives Sam the aura of a middle-aged wife straight from a detergent commercial, dainty apron and fingernail polish and all.
Sam opens his mouth to explain where the mysterious azure fabric came from, but Dean cuts him off.
"You've turned into a Stepford wife, Sammy," he drops the fabric as though it burns him to touch it and examines the rest of Sam's work table. The extreme organization is bordering on womanly, and Sam's comfort with working with sewing machines and pinking shears is frightening Dean a little bit.
And for a moment, the running needle comes to a stop behind him and Sam sticks his head over his machine to stare at the mayhem and kerfuffle that is the epitome of Dean's workspace.
"How's it – oh." Sam stops mid-sentence and Dean can sense a stifled snicker lingering on Sam's tongue. He whirls around and glares at his brother.
"Shut your piehole," he says gruffly, tossing a spool of thread at Sam's forehead and returning to his machine.
It's not so much the concept of sewing itself that Dean can't seem to grasp as well as he does topics like how to fire off a shotgun or where a vampire's pressure points were. It's the needle, the fabric, and the machine itself. Dean has never seen so many buttons and switches before in his life. He's fiddled with every single one of them, accidentally pressed the reverse knob and even had to inquire as to what the pressure foot did. Housework is not his forte, and for a moment Dean wonders if he'd even be better off next door in cooking class, because then he can throw whatever he wants in a pot and if it smells good, he knows he did something right.
He fiddles with the on and off button. He messes with the various levers on the left and right of the machine. Behind him, Sam's needle is thumping again, faster still, and Dean knows he doesn't even have to turn around to realize that Sam's in the midst of creating an intricate dress with straps here and lace there and flummoxing patterns to follow as well.
Dean grumbles, and kisses his A goodbye.
A second later his thread bunches up at the spool, and Dean hasn't even touched the machine yet.
Dean knows that Sam is proud of the work he finishes and brings home, and even though Sam keeps on modestly insisting that it's sloppy and the seams are easily detected, Dean has yet to find a flaw or even a stray thread hanging off of his work. Sam's successfully completed a pillowcase, a pair of mittens, and fuchsia woolly socks.
Dean has completed a sock puppet.
And its beady eyes are already hanging off by poorly-sown threads.
Dean's almost ashamed to admit that he has tried to destroy Sam's mittens, and found it impossible for lack of even finding a thread to pull on.
"Look, Dean, looook."
Dean hitches his backpack up his shoulder and watches as Sam pulls a periwinkle sleeve out of his back pocket and swings it like a pendulum as the two of them slide through the hustle and bustle of students running through the hallways after the bell.
"I did it in under three minutes." Sam beams.
Dean thinks back to the three yards of fabric he ruined today. If there's anything he's learned in sewing class that Sam hasn't already, it's how to use a stitch ripper.
"Such a woman, Samantha."
Sam frowns, his shoulders slumping.
The older brother rolls his eyes and tuts incredulously, "Mmhmm."
Sam rolls his sleeve up around his thumb and pockets it again, "You know I hate it when you mmhmm."
"…sometimes people are just better at things than others." Sam exhales through his nose and rocks back and forth on the balls on his feet. Dean is not at all amused by his brother's attempt at consoling Dean's failure in class.
Dean has always said beginner's luck is a bitch.
He remembers when his father first took him shooting at a barren forest outside of one of their grimier and less popular motels. There was a tree stump, mimicking the height of several humans as its leaves brushed against the sun. And surrounded by a canopy of shady branches and crunchy twigs embedded into the soil beneath his feet, a seven-year-old Dean Winchester had been handed a shotgun the size of his torso that practically made his knees buckle just holding it.
John had drawn a gauche circle on the bark and pointed straight to the middle with a large thumb, saying nothing but shoot.
And so Dean did.
It was bull's eye at first fire. The sound of the bullet being forced from the gun might have deafened his young ears and the force of the shotgun backfiring onto his shoulder blade might have given him a healthy bruise for the whole week to come, but the sound of his father clapping as he burrowed a bullet out of the tree and pointed at a clean hole in the exact center of the circle was enough to distract Dean from his ringing eardrums and throbbing shoulder.
For the next four attempts, Dean shaved by the bull's eye with millimeters to spare. His mouth hurt from grinning in smugness so much and the tree was already badly battered in the middle by the impact of the bullets, but at Dean's sixth attempt, his smile vanished instantly.
The gun felt awkward in his grasp after the bullet shot out and hit the exterior of the circle, missing the chalk line by three inches at least. John was silent, his jaw set.
"Try again." He said gruffly, and Dean dutifully did.
The swell of pride he had felt in his chest for the first five shots had promptly been reduced back to regular size, and by the time he and his father were wandering back to the motel in complete silence, he felt the deep consternation of disappointing his father plaguing his stomach.
It took him two years until Dean hit the bull's eye again.
He should've known that Sam Winchester's uncanny luck with a sewing machine would be the same.
A few feet behind him, Dean hears Sam's busy needle whirr to a tired stop. Sam lets out a puff of exasperated frustration and whines under his breath. Dean practically hears his arm shooting up into the air impatiently.
"I think something's wrong with my machine, ma'am." Sam announces, and points accusingly at his needle, where the fabric is bunched up and the thread is pooled about in chaos.
"Or maybe," Dean tells Sam over his shoulder, and bites his tongue to keep from sing-songing the words, "you did it wrong."
Sam snarls, "Nuh uh," he refuses childishly, and taps his feet against the ground, tugging fruitlessly on the fabric stuck under the machine.
"Maybeee," Dean drawls, drawing out the e with a smirk splitting apart his lips, "you didn't follow directions."
"Shut up, Dean!" Sam hisses, and tugs harder.
But a loud snap interrupts Dean's smug speech, accompanied a second later by a small sob escaping Sam's lips. Dean turns around in his chair and watches as Sam stares despondently at his needle, snapped in half and now effectively sharp at both ends, his mouth curled into a small 'o' out of shock.
Sam smacks the machine and rips out the rest of his now ruined sweater, holding it up to examine the damage. It looks much less shirt-like and much more robe-like, and Dean can't help but roar out in laughter as he sees the mess that Sam holds up to the light.
"Guess you're not that much of a girl after all."
"Hnn," Sam whines, shaking the sweater, "I think I broke it."
"That's an F for you, knowledge boy."
"Shut up, don't make fun." He tosses the sweater, pins and all, into the trash can and despondently threads his machine again, the curve to his shoulder suspiciously slouchier.
"Didn't know you wanted to be a girl."
Sam grumbles, "Didn't want to be," he says, "it just didn't bother me that I was good at it."
"I know, Sammy, I know." And Dean starts laughing again, louder than any of the racking and tacking needles.
Dean Winchester can hold his breath for two minutes and six seconds. He can chug a can of instant soup in fifty-one seconds. He can take out three vampires with one machete. He can exorcise a demon by pure memory, not misspeaking a single Latin word. He can unhook a bra in point nine seconds. He can scale a gate as high as twelve feet.
And he'll be damned if he can't work a needle pretty well too.
He's stabbed himself in the thumb and palm approximately sixteen times and ruined two pin cushions just to see their interiors. He's ironed the back of his elbow and sewed a pillow backward, but the end justifies the means, and what it all comes down to is that Dean Winchester is a pretty good housewife.
"Dammit, I hate this class!"
"Having trouble, Sammy?" Dean murmurs through unsuppressed chortles.
Sam snarls, "I'm sure dad would love to hear about how well his oldest son can sew an apron." He picks up an olive apron resting innocuously on Dean's table and gives it his signature I-will-have-your-skull-on-a-plate glare. Dean snatches it out from under Sam's fingers.
"It's not my fault you suck ass."
Sam is too busy admitting defeat to his machine to create a comeback to Dean's remark as the needle swerves and deviates dangerously off course, disfiguring yet another blighted piece of fabric.
"You like this class." Sam accuses heatedly.
"You're just jealous."
"No no no, you actually enjoy messing with satin and lace and spools, don't you?" Sam plunges on recklessly, peering over Dean's shoulder as he continues to hem the end of his current project.
"See what you want to, Dean Winchester's too manly to be so girly."
"And?" Dean pipes up innocently, fluffing up the polyester on his apron with his free hand, his eyes still focused on the running needle in his machine.
"You're hemming." Sam tautologically repeats, and pins his lip in between his teeth.
Dean pauses, the needle slowing to an abrupt stop and hanging in mid air. He glowers at Sam and folds his arms over his chest.
"Don't tell dad."
"He'd love to know that his sons are the best in the whole sewing class."
"We're not the best–"
"Dean, you're working on pantyhose. Everyone else is still finishing up pillows." Sam cocks his head over to the group of girls stuffing their flowery fabric with handfuls of cotton. Both brothers stare, slightly horrified.
Dean clears his throat.
"…it's a shame there's not a shooting class."
"Yeah," Sam grunts, "real shame."
Within the cumbersome tension, the brothers meet gazes.
"You wanna… skip class?" Dean ventures apprehensively, glancing guiltily at his unfinished work stuck underneath the sewing machine.
Sam wavers undecidedly in his chair before shrugging, "Sure," he says, "just lemme finish my scarf."
Dean shrugs as well in reply and turns back around to face his machine, looping crimson thread into the needle, "Right, Sammy. I wanna finish my stockings anyway."
John Winchester, a man gifted with mediocre parenting skills at best, had never been referred to as the most loving father a family could be blessed with, nor the most attentive.
But perhaps if he had taken the time to set down his shotguns after a hunt, take off his coat when he returned home to his sons, and snoop in their rooms like any average parent would out of paranoia or concern, he would have come across a stash of homemade creations complete with frill on one end and lacelike detail on the other, and realized all too shamefully that Sam and Dean weren't the most prideful sons a family could be blessed with either.