Dean smiled and sighed as he cruised through town, fingers tapping the steering wheel. Sam sat shotgun, hair falling in his face as he shuffled papers in his backpack. He was going to have to get Sam pinned down for a haircut soon - it was getting out of control. He also glanced down and noticed Sam's jeans looked a little short. Kid was growing like a weed these days. Dean was pretty sure even he wasn't that tall at fourteen, and he dwarfed most men he met.
"Tell me why again we are driving all the way across town to the library on a Sunday?" Dean asked and glanced over as the shaggy mop of hair shook to the side to reveal Sam's face underneath.
"I told you, I need another book to finish my report on the Byzantine empire."
"What is the bizzytime empire anyway?"
"Byzantine empire, and you can read my report when I am done with it, if you're really that curious," Sam smiled and rolled his eyes.
"I’m sure it will be a riveting read," Dean chuckled. He teased Sam about it but he actually always read all his reports before he handed them in. He would always much rather help Sam with his homework then do his own. Only a couple more months though and he would finally graduate.
"Can you get me at eight o'clock?" Sam asked as Dean pulled up to the curb.
"Dude, no! That is way too close to curfew. I'll come by around seven thirty, alright? So you better have your ass in gear by then." Dean never took any chances when it came to curfew with Sam. It was one thing if the cops caught him on the streets past nine o’clock, but it wasn't worth the risk with Sam.
"Fine, jerk," Sam grunted, stuffing his papers in his bag.
"Bye bitch!" Dean yelled after Sam who waved over his shoulder as he hurried up the library steps.
Dean idled in his Impala for a few minutes before deciding he would just head home and see if his dad needed anything. He passed two rover vans on the drive and they always gave Dean the chills. He hadn't yet been born when the second civil war had broken out in 2024, but he'd always wondered what life had been like before that. Before the curfews, the book burnings, the subjects cut from class lists. Before The Fist, with its economic reforms and strict identification policies. He rubbed self-consciously at the ID band, welded onto his wrist. Silver, at least it was silver, he thought.
Dean’s eyes caught on two men hunched and barefoot trailing behind a woman in a long white coat. The wretches shuffled behind her, their copper wrist bands caught in the sunlight. The Indentured Servitude Act had been one of the biggest changes brought in by The Fist regime, praised with saving the country from economic downfall. Looking at those men, he never thought the cost was worth the gain.
When he was young he would often stare at the slaves he saw in the streets, all wearing collars and many on leashes, led around like dogs. Always with the copper wrist bands. Every time John caught him staring he would smack him hard upside the head and make him face forward.
"Don't stare at the poor bastards, Dean," John would growl.
Very few slaves were brought out in public. Dean was surprised to see two out on the street like that - most were kept at personal homes or at the businesses that owned them. Most people spent their lives simply fighting to stay free from slavery, but it was harder than it sounded. Money and jobs were scarce, and anyone that fell too far behind on a government-backed loan would find themselves getting tossed into the back of a black van, paying back their loans through the proceeds of their sale at a slave auction. Dean had never been to one and John never let either of the boys within fifty miles of the closest training farm.
Dean never worried too much, but Sam, he would get nightmares sometimes and wake up in the middle of the night screaming not to take him. Dean always managed to calm him back down and would sit with him until he fell back asleep, promising him no one was gonna take him away. The older Sam got, though, the more questions he had, and he was sent home from school suspended on more than one occasion for voicing traitorous thoughts about the government. John had shook Sam so hard on the first of those nights he left bruises all along his arms.
Dean drove away from the collared wretches, a cold feeling down his back. He seriously hoped Sam’s new report had nothing to do with slavery. He would definitely insist on taking a read over it to make sure he didn’t catch a teacher’s attention again. Though if Dean were honest he swelled with pride a little at his brothers outspoken bravery, no matter how foolish.
Dean pulled up to the motel they had been staying at. They had lost their house a few years back and rented a trailer, but John had then injured his leg and now could just barely afford a single motel room for the three of them. Dean worked odd jobs if he could find them and planned to get the best full time job he could the second he was out of school to help ease the pressure on his dad.
The sour smell of cheap whiskey burned his nose the second Dean stepped in the door. John was slumped over the table with a glass in hand and an empty bottle on the table. His was tapping his cane on the floor almost absentmindedly and hadn't even looked up at Dean coming in.
"Hey, Dad. Starting early today? Thought you'd still be at work?" A lump started to form in Dean's throat at the idea of his dad losing his job. They only had another day or two of food left and really needed that next paycheck.
"Just dropped him at the library, I'll go get him at seven thirty though," Dean replied, watching the hunched form of his father.
"That's probably for the best then. Sit down, son," John grunted, kicking out the chair across from him. Dean hesitated a moment before slowly sitting down at the wobbly old table.
"What's up, Dad?"
"Dean, we gotta talk," John poured the last of the whiskey into his glass and took a long swig. "Feeding three people just ain't as easy as it used to be, especially with both of you growing boys. Sam... now Sammy, he's really bright, takes to those books just like your mother did. College will be around the bend for him before we know it, and I ain't gonna have the money to send him there." John took another swig of the whiskey.
"We still got a few years, Dad, and I’ll be getting a full time job soon so I can help save for Sammy's schooling." Dean would bust his ass seven days a week if he had to, but Sam was going to college.
"Sam's my- he is our best shot at getting out of this shit hole. If he can get an education and get one of them fancy jobs at one of those big city companies, we wouldn't have to worry anymore." John let out a sad sigh and stared off into space a moment before rubbing his hands over his face. It was then that Dean saw how glossy eyed his dad was and for the first time in his life Dean felt genuinely scared. His dad had cried once on the day Dean's mom had died and he never saw the man shed a tear since, not even when he got his right pinky finger chopped off on the job.
"What’s wrong, Dad? Spit it out." Dean said this a little gruffer than he meant to, but his dad was acting so strange and it had him on edge.
"You turn eighteen in ten days, Dean."
"Yeah, so what?"
"So time is running out, that's what!" John yelled, and Dean had no idea what he was trying to tell him.
"I've been putting this off as long as I can, but bottom line Dean, this is the only way out and I had to do it before your birthday-"
Dean bolted up out his chair, his heart threatening to pound right out of his chest.
"What the fuck are you saying, Dad?!" Dean yelled, feeling tears come to his eyes. John was silent a moment hanging his head. "Answer me, you son of a bitch!" Dean yelled again and John cringed back at the harsh words.
"You are still seventeen and you are still my boy."
"You didn't- Dad you wouldn't do that to me, you couldn't do that to me," Dean felt the bile rise in his throat and barely made it to the bathroom in time to puke his guts out in the toilet. His body heaved and retched, clammy hands clinging to the side of the tub. That's when he heard it, the knock on the motel door. The blood drained out of his face. He was trapped. Why hadn't he bolted out the door the second his dad started talking like that? Why had he run in here? He heard the sound of his dad’s chair scrape along the motel carpet and his heavy boots and cane slowly walking to the door.
Dean did the only thing he could think of and ran to stop his dad from opening that door. "Stop! Don't do this!" he yelled, grabbing onto his dad’s shirt, but John, in one mighty throw, tossed Dean backwards against the motel bed. This was all happening too fast. John opened the door. Three men stood outside. The man in front wore a finely pressed grey suit and had a leering salesman’s grin stretched across his face. Behind him stood two enormous rover guards dressed all in black with utility belts holding all kinds of terrifying items.
"Mr. Winchester, I presume?" The man grinned at John who was standing, chest puffed out, as proud as he could be.
"You Azazel, right?" John asked in a gruff voice.
"The one and only. Do you have all the boy's paperwork ready? I’d like to get on the road soon - I have two other acquisitions tonight." There was a long slithery drawl to the man's voice and Dean willed his legs to start working, but he felt paralyzed sprawled out on the floor.
"Here, it’s all set." John pulled out a stack of papers from behind his back that were crinkled and folded and but handed them over to the slimey man.
"Good, good, these all seem to be in order." Azazel's eyes looked up from the paperwork and honed in on Dean. Dean slowly managed to get to his feet. He balled his hands into fists and dug his nails into his palms. "Is this him, then?" Azazel asked, eyes scanning over Dean's body. John just nodded. "Oh, he is a pretty one isn't he? Those green eyes and tight lean body... Oh yes, he will fetch a good price, believe me."
"Fuck you, you asshole!" Dean spat, pushing his fear toward anger since that would likely be a much more useful emotion.
"Hmm, temper on him though. Not to worry, they will get that out of him at the farm in no time." Azazel gave Dean a wink, an actual fucking wink. He knew he couldn't make a run through the front door but his eyes darted to the side window. As he tried to gauge and see if he had enough time, the suited man snapped his fingers and the two brutes pushed through the doorway headed straight for Dean.
Fight or flight right? Those were the options a prey animal had, and while flight seemed preferable, fight was really his only option. Dean swung, punched and kicked with everything he had, even landed a few solid hits to one of the guys’ jaws. Still it only took the men a matter of minutes to get Dean pinned to the floor, arms twisted painfully behind his back and the sound of cuffs getting locked.
"Don't fight it, son, that will only make it worse." John tried to throw some authority behind his voice but even Dean could hear the fear in it.
"Dad, you can still stop this, okay? I'll get a job, I'll get three jobs, I promise I'll quit school right now and I'll make you money," Dean was pleading now as the two men manhandled him up to his feet.
"No, Dean, this is the only way. I sell you and I get enough money to feed Sam and I for the next few years and pay for his schoolin’. It won't be forever, alright Dean? As soon as Sam and I get enough money we will come buy you back, okay? I promise, son." John's voice was cracking and Dean pulled against the painful grip on his arms.
"Load him in the truck. We’re already late for our next pick up," Azazel said, snapping his fingers at the two thugs.
"Dad, what about Sam? I didn't even get to say goodbye to Sammy!" Dean felt the tears coming again no matter how hard he fought them down, and he dug his heels into the carpet, pulling against his captors with all the strength he had left.
"I’ll tell him, Dean, don't you worry about Sammy. I will take care of him. You take care of yourself now, you hear?"
How could this be happening? This couldn't be happening, not to him.
"Dad! Dad!" Dean yelled repeatedly as they dragged him outside where the black rover van stood idling.
"Come on princess, up you go," one of the men chuckled and with a push Dean crashed onto the hard metal floor of the van. The steel doors slammed before Dean could scramble to his feet to the barred window. He knelt and watched the silhouette of his father standing in the doorway as the van began to pull away. Dean felt the deep hole in his chest as everything he held dear was ripped away from him. He slowly slid to the floor, back against the doors, arms still painfully pinned behind his back. His aching heart could only produce one thought over and over again. "Sammy, who's gonna take care of Sammy?" Dean closed his eyes, and alone in the dark, he let the tears fall silently down his face.