“I don't like it here.“
These are the first words that come out of his brother's mouth since they arrived two hours ago. Dean looks up from where he is sitting on the floor, surrounded by a few moving boxes and holding a flannel shirt in his hands, and he sees Sam, standing in the doorway to his room. Dean has kept the door open. Sam is worrying his lower lip between his teeth and there is an unsure expression in his eyes. He looks at him and repeats his words, emphatically now. “I don't like it here.“
He keeps his voice low so their father can't hear them, but it's more than obvious that he's tired and sad. Dean returns his look for a moment before glancing past his brother into his room. Sam's room is just as chaotic as Dean's room. There are boxes and bags, scattered on the floor and the bed, and he knows that it will take a while to clear out everything. And the other rooms are also full of boxes and things that need to find a place yet. Moving is just a hell of a lot of work.
And Dean lost the interest in packing and unpacking after the third time they moved into a new town. Now, it's just exhausting and annoying. He's so sick of putting things into bags and boxes and of having to uncrate everything again. He barely remembers what it felt like to be excited about it.
“Dean, I don't want to stay here. I want to go back to Bobby.“ Sam stares at him pleadingly and Dean can just stare back for a moment. Sam looks miserable. He's tired and sad, and his hair and his sweatshirt are too long. He's barefoot and he taps his toes against the wood floor. His feet have to be cold and Dean wonders why he isn't wearing socks at least. He looks back up at Sam's face.
“I know, man,” Dean says, fiddling with the shirt in his lap. “I know. But we can't. This is our home now.“ He tries to sound optimistic for his little brother, but Sam snorts. “Yeah, for how long? Two months? Or three? Or maybe four months this time?“
Dean can't blame Sam for thinking like that. He scratches his neck. “Maybe. Or maybe we're staying longer this time. We don't know that yet, but let's make the most of it.“ Dean has said these words before, every time they arrived at a new house. Let's make the most of it. He's tired of these words and Sam is probably too, but what else is there to say? What else are they supposed to do, what else is he supposed to do? As the big brother he has to keep on smiling and thinking positive and being optimistic, even though he doesn't feel like it.
“Yeah, sure,“ Sam says unconvinced, looking at his bare feet. Of course, Sam doesn't believe him. He has heard those words too often. And words can lose their meaning, when they're said too many times. Dean licks his lips, he wants to say something else – anything that will cheer his little brother up, if only for a while, because that's his job – but their father's voice interrupts them.
Sam looks up, grimacing. Dean sighs, closing his eyes for a moment before shaking his head, putting the shirt back into a bag and getting up. Sam still has his puppy eyes fixated on Dean, he's even curling his lips, and Dean would give him what he wants, if he was able to. He just can't resist this look on Sam's face, he can't say no to his little brother – he's physically unable to do so. But there is nothing he can do. He can't give Sam what he wants and it pisses him off. It pisses him off that Sam isn't happy and that he hasn't smiled for a week. He hasn't smiled since their dad has entered Bobby's house and announced with a sour voice that he got fired. If he is honest, Dean has seen it coming and so did Bobby. They've even talked about it, when John has started to come back home late again, day after day after day, and it only got later and later every night. One day, he still came back before midnight and the next he came back around 3 am, reeking of alcohol and passing out on the couch. Dean already knew this procedure, but he hoped for Sammy – and also for himself – that they would have more time. He shouldn't be surprised anymore that he doesn't get what he wants.
But it just makes him angry. Because the next morning, they had breakfast and John stumbled into Bobby's kitchen, hungover, and just grumbled in Bobby's direction that they were going to move out. That was the moment, when Sam stopped smiling. Dean followed John into the living room, asking what happened, although he already knew it. John didn't answer him, he just repeated that they were going to move out. Bobby stepped into the living room as well and Dean glanced back to the kitchen. Sam sat there, staring at the table with sloping shoulders. He gritted his teeth and practically begged John to stay, but his father merely shook his head. Bobby tried to convince his old friend to stay, offering him a job at his garage. The glare John shot Bobby was full of rage and Dean backed away, although the anger wasn't directed towards him right now. He just did it out of habit. But Bobby held John's gaze until John shrugged his shoulders and went to his room. The following days were filled with either tense silence or raging voices. The discussion about staying or leaving ended with a beer bottle thrown against the wall, Sam crying in his room and a punch to Dean's jaw.
Bobby apologized to Dean when they sat in the kitchen together later, some time after John had gone out again. But Dean stopped him with a wave of his hand and just pressed the ice pack to his face, accepting the beer Bobby handed to him. That was two days ago.
They left Bobby's house this morning and arrived at their new house sometime in the afternoon. And Dean can understand Sam, when he says he wants to go back to Bobby's place. Dean wants to go back as well. But they can't. So he puts his hands on Sam's shoulders and turns him around, ignoring the glare he gets. He gives his brother a little push towards the stairs.
John Winchester is standing in the small kitchen and right now he's putting plates in one of the cupboards. Sam hesitates before he slumps down on one of the chairs around the kitchen table and Dean leans against the door frame, watching John carefully. But he seems to be in a good mood right now so Dean allows himself to relax a bit. There is a moment of silence and Dean wonders why their father called for them. Sam shoots him a questioning look. Dean shrugs and winks at Sam; he doesn't want him to worry. It seems that they don't have anything to worry about at the moment, but you never know with John Winchester.
“What do you say?“ John asks them, breaking the silence, and Dean just looks at him, not knowing what he means. “The house,” John clarifies, waving his hand in an all-embracing movement and making clear what he means.
Sam mumbles something, looking at the old wooden table. Dean didn't understand what he said. Though, he is sure that Sam didn't say something nice about the house. John turns around. Either he didn't hear Sam's words as well or he did. Dean swallows. He's not really sure what he's supposed to say, but he already sees the anger flaring up in John's eyes, because of Sam. “It's okay, I guess,” he says hurriedly and John looks at him. For a moment, they just look at each other and then John nods, seeming pleased.
“Yeah, I suppose it is,” he says, looking around once before uncrating some cups out of a box next to his feet. Dean bites his lip, wondering for a few seconds if their dad has actually seen the house. But he supposes that it doesn't really matter. John looks relaxed again and that is what matters.
Dean looks over to Sam, who rolls his eyes. His eyebrows shoot up in surprise, but Sam already looked away again. Dean frowns. It's more than obvious that something's wrong with Sam and he knows already what it is, but normally it is Sam who tries to calm John down again. Normally, it's Dean who lets the words slip out of his mouth without thinking about it. He can feel worry settling in his guts, while he's looking at his little brother.
He glances at John who doesn't pay them any attention anymore, what is probably a good thing. Dean clicks his tongue once to get Sam's attention. Sam looks up, seeing Dean nodding towards the stairs, and he gets the hint. He gets up and walks over to Dean quietly. With one last look at their father, they slip into the hallway, go back upstairs and into Sam's room. Dean decides that he's going to help his little brother with the unpacking. He sits down on the floor just like he did in his own room, pulling one of the boxes closer and having a look what's inside of it. He looks up and Sam is lying on the bed. He's just staring at the ceiling and his brow is furrowed.
“Come on, man. You'll feel better when your room isn't a mess anymore,” Dean says, knowing how squeamish Sam is when it comes to the neatness of his room. But Sam doesn't even listen to him, as if he doesn't care about how his room looks right now. That's definitely not a good sign.
“Why did you say the house is okay?“ Sam asks, pressing his eyebrows even more together.
“What was I supposed to say?“ Dean asks back, taking some books out of the box and putting them on the floor. He looks at the naked walls. They have to get Sam some shelves for all his books. He takes another book into his hands, pondering where to put them for now. He can't just put them in the middle of the room. Biting his lip, he thinks he should just leave them in the box for now, but then he eyes the corner next to Sam's closet. Dean sighs. Well, the floor has to be good enough for the books, at least for a while.
“I don't know, the truth?“ Sam scoffs and watches Dean going to the wall next to his closet, dragging the box with the books behind him and flopping down on the floor again.
Dean rolls his eyes, starting to stack up the books against the wall. “You know how dad would have reacted, if I told him the truth.“
“Does he actually thinks the house is okay? I mean, it seems like he likes it.“
“I don't know. Maybe he does. And maybe it's really not that bad,” Dean mutters, staring at some books that belong clearly to Bobby. But he doesn't say something about it and just puts them on the floor next to the others. Bobby will let them know, when he wants to have them back – if he'll ever notice that six of his hundreds of books are missing. And maybe he even gave them to Sam as a parting gift, because he knows how much Sam wanted to stay.
Sam huffs a small humorless laugh. “Have you actually seen the house?“
“We're here for like two hours. Don't you think it's a little bit early to say that everything is bad?“ Dean points out. Sam has a lot of books and it takes him a few minutes to stack them all up properly, but eventually he's done. Sam doesn't answer him and Dean glances up at his little brother again, feeling worry digging its claws into his stomach like an aggressive cat. Sam is chewing on his lower lip, still glaring at the ceiling as if it was to blame for everything. He looks so angry.
“Hey,” Dean says softly, pushing himself onto his feet and going over to Sam's bed. He sits down on the edge and smiles at his little brother. Sam doesn't return the smile. They look at each other for a moment, then Sam looks away. “Sammy, come on,” Dean tries, but Sam just shakes his head.
“I don't want to be here,” he whispers and swallows hard.
“I know.“ Dean doesn't know what else to say. And he knows how much this all sucks.
During the following hour, he puts Sam's clothes into the closet and he has to get a screwdriver, because one of the doors almost falls off. Sam regards that with a resigned stare, but he doesn't say anything. While Dean repairs the closet, he darts glances at his brother every now and then, but Sam doesn't really move. With every passing minute, his worry grows and grows. He feels anger boiling in his veins, but he shakes his hands and puts the screwdriver back into the tool box. He can't show his anger in front of Sam, because Sam will think that he's angry with him – for being angry. And that couldn't be further from the truth.
Dean could never be actually angry with Sam. He's angry with their dad. He's angry at the world. He's angry with himself. He's so fucking angry all the time. He doesn't want to be here as well and he's so furious that John made them pack their things and just leave once again. He's angry at the world, because if things weren't the way they are, everything would be different. And he fucking hates himself for not being able to talk John out of leaving.
He feels Sam staring at his back and closes his eyes for a second. Then he turns around and looks into another box. He kneels down and stares at the photo albums, the notebooks and several photos in different kinds of frames. He gulps, taking one of the framed photos into his hands. A small smile touches the corners of his mouth. This photograph is a happy memory. He doesn't know who took it, but his whole family stands in front of their old house in Kansas, smiling at the camera because life was good back then. He looks at the younger version of his dad in the photograph, at the big smile on his face, and he knows he hasn't seen him this happy since...
He looks at Sam. Little Sammy who is just a bundle of blankets and a patch of brown hair in the photo. He doesn't look at himself, how he's waving in the arms of his father. And he also doesn't look at the fourth person in the photo. Because although it's a happy memory, it still makes him sad. He wants to think about it, he wants to remember the good times. But he always feels so hollow after it. Maybe because he knows that they can't go back and that things will never be like they once were. He holds the photo tightly in his hands and stands, walking over to Sam's bed. Dean places the photo on the nightstand.
Sam cocks his head and looks at his brother's face questioningly before he has a look at the photo. He sits up and takes it into his hands. This way Dean can't see Sam's face anymore. But when Sam looks back up again, his eyes are wet, though he doesn't start crying. He nods to Dean. When he puts the photo back on the nightstand, a small smile is playing on his lips. Dean takes that as an equally small victory.
He feels even better when Sam actually gets up and goes over to a particular box. Dean doesn't know what's in there, but then Sam pulls it towards his desk and gets his pencil case out of the box. His school supplies. Dean sighs in relief. That is a good sign. He joins Sam next to the box and helps him to put his heavy textbooks on the desk and on the window sill. Sam gets his notebooks, some empty and some with drawings and little texts on the white paper, and puts them in a drawer. Dean is pleased with how much better Sam's room already looks, even though it still looks kind of empty. But it's tidier than before and that's a start. They will put some shelves on the walls for Sam's books and maybe also some color. A few posters would look nice, too. Dean thinks about getting Star Wars posters and maybe Harry Potter posters, but just because Sam likes it. It's Sam's room. He is supposed to feel content in here. And Dean knows that is something he can do for his little brother – he can make his room look nice. Maybe then Sam will accept this house as a temporary home.
At some point, John calls them again. This time, Sam doesn't need to be pushed. Dean follows him downstairs and into the kitchen. John is already sitting at the table. They have a late dinner together that just consists of canned ravioli that stuck to the root of Dean's mouth. But he doesn't complain and neither does Sam. He has the feeling that there are moments when John doesn't even realize he's eating or that his sons are also in the room. They don't talk and Dean focuses on the food and his surroundings, in order not to let the heavy thoughts that are crawling in the back of his mind come to the front.
Their new kitchen is really small. The cupboards look crammed together and the white paint is peeling off the wood. Dean knows they need a repaint and he also knows that he's probably the one who has to do it. But as soon as he gets some wall color for Sam's room, he can also get some paint for the cupboards. Maybe Sam will help him with the paint. The fridge is an old thing that buzzes loudly, which is the only sound right now besides them eating and the scratching of their forks on the plates. The stove and the counter seem like they have seen better days. To be honest, the entire house seems like it has seen better days. They're going to know after a few days how much of a problem this will be. But when Dean glances at his dad, he looks pleased.
Maybe it's just because they managed to be here in time or because he got them some food or because they have a house at least. Dean doesn't know. But John is actually smiling and Dean won't complain. As long as there is no fight, no shouting, no punches – it's okay. John is sober and in a good mood. They will see for how long it will last this time.
Sam doesn't eat a lot, but Dean doesn't mention it and neither does John. Though, Dean doubts that he even notices it. But Sam does eat a little bit and for now that's enough. Dean just has to keep an eye on his little brother and ensure that he eats more the next days.
When they finish eating, John leaves the kitchen without saying a word. Dean blinks at his father as he walks over into the living room. Sam looks after their dad as well and then at Dean. He is clearly annoyed but Dean just shrugs. They can hear John rummaging around through the boxes in the living room. At least, he helps unpacking this time. At least, he's here. At least, there wasn't a fight since they entered the house. At least, John is sober.
Dean does the dishes and Sam helps him. Sam still looks not even remotely content and Dean darts a glance at him every now and then. He tries to convince himself that they just need some time. They just need some time to adjust in this new house, in this new town. They just need some time. Dean needs some time. And Sammy also just needs some time. He just doesn't know how much time. But he hopes it won't be too long. He doesn't like seeing his brother sad or angry. It makes him feeling sad and angry as well, especially if there's nothing he can do to help Sammy.
John however doesn't notice Sam's mood – or he ignores it or he just doesn't care. Sometimes, he is hard to read, especially when he's sober. Even though that doesn't happen so often.
When they are done with the dishes, the clock on the microwave shows that it's 9:28 pm and John comes back into the kitchen. He doesn't say anything about the dishes or that he just left after dinner without helping to clean up. Neither Dean nor Sam mentions it. Their father just calls it a night, because tomorrow is Monday – his first day at the new job and Sam's and Dean's first day at the new school. John disappears into his bedroom that is downstairs. They aren't allowed to go into John's bedroom, no matter where they are. Dean doesn't question it anymore. He thinks it's just one of John Winchester's habits that he adopted after the incident that changed their lives. John adopted quite a few habits after it, if Dean thinks about it – like drowning his feelings and thoughts in alcohol and hitting his children and not keeping a job longer than for a few months.
Dean follows Sam upstairs and into his room again. His eyes dart over the two remaining boxes and he sighs. “We'll finish this over the next days, okay?“ he says tiredly. Sam just nods and they brush their teeth quickly in the tiny bathroom before they go back to Sam's room. All the rooms are kind of small but they will have to do it. And the bathroom may be tiny, but they have a shower, a sink, a cabinet and a toilet, so they can't really complain. It was only the first day and although Sam doesn't like it here – yet –, they already had worse 'homes'. Dean remembers the four months when they lived in the car most of the time or for a couple of nights in a very cheap motel. At least they have a roof over their heads that doesn't belong to a car, but rather to an actual house.
But he can understand Sam. After the last three months, this is a royally degradation. The last three months at Bobby's house were like heaven. Sam and he shared a room and Dean already misses it. He misses Bobby and the comfort of his house. It felt like home. And now, they have... this. So yes, he can absolutely understand Sam when he says he wants to go back to Bobby. Dean wants the same. But the day John Winchester accepts help like financial support is the day hell is going to freeze. Dean still wonders how they managed to convince him to move into Bobby's house, when John got a job in Sioux Falls.
Sam lies down onto his bed and Dean tucks the blanket around his brother and ruffles his hair. Sam grumbles and smooths his hair back down. It's going to be a mess anyway when he wakes up tomorrow. The kid really needs a haircut, but Dean's afraid they won't have the money for it. He will have to reach for the scissors, but it won't be the first time. Hopefully, Sam won't mind.
“Hey, tomorrow is another day,” Dean reminds his little brother who yawns and rubs at his eyes, blinking up at him.
“I don't want to go to school tomorrow,” Sam says quietly. Dean's eyebrows shoot up in surprise, but then he sees how sad Sam looks once again. “Who are you and what have you done with my brother?“ he jokes, because Sam loves learning and going to school. But Sam doesn't smile and Dean sighs, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He ignores that the worry inside of him is on its way up, starting to chew at his heart slowly.
“Listen, I know how you feel. I'm not saying that I'm happy with this, but we can't change it. And we just have to make the most out of the situation.“ He tries again to sound as optimistic as possible, smiling down at Sam.
“I don't want to be the new kid again,” Sam complains.
“Me neither,” Dean tells him earnestly. And that's it. There is nothing he can say right now to cheer his little brother up and he knows that. But he lets him know that he feels the same and that he's not alone. It pisses him off that that's the only thing he is able to do for Sammy right now.
He gives his brother another small smile. “Try to sleep now.“
Sam sighs but he closes his eyes, and Dean gets up and walks over to the door, switching the light off. With one last look at his brother, he closes the door behind him and enters his own room. He ignores the mess and just pulls some sweatpants and a t-shirt out of a bag. He started to sort through his own boxes, but mostly he helped Sam with his stuff today.
Dean shrugs. He's tired. Because of having to say goodbye to Bobby. Because of the long drive. Because of being careful around his father. Because of trying to make Sammy feel better. Because of sifting through boxes yet again. He just wants to sleep. Tomorrow is their first day at the new school and he is so not looking forward to it.
He changes his clothes and slumps onto his bed. While he's slowly falling asleep, he thinks that he should do something nice with his room as well. But first he has to take care of Sammy's room.
Dean is almost over that edge, he is on the brim of falling asleep, when he remembers it. Fuck. Before they left, he promised Bobby to call him when they have arrived. He groans and contemplates doing that in the morning, but he knows Bobby wouldn't be so keen about that. He's probably already pissed that he hasn't heard anything from him yet. Therefore, he opens his eyes again and grabs his phone.
Bobby answers the call after the second ringing. “They say the short-term memory gets worse when you're older, so can you imagine yourself in like 60 years? You will forget something before you even thought about it.“
Dean huffs a small laugh. “I'm sorry, Bobby. It was kind of a stressful afternoon.“
“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” Bobby grumbles, but Dean can hear the smile in his voice.
“You know me, Bobby.“
“Yeah, that's why I wanted you to call me.“
“Ah, so not just because you wanted to know if we arrived safely?“
“As if I cared about that,” Bobby snorts, but then his voice gets serious. “How are you?“
“I'm fine,” Dean replies without hesitation. I'm fine – his standard answer to the infamous question how are you?, no matter who's asking it.
“Sure,” Bobby says. He doesn't push Dean but he knows exactly that he's lying. And Dean knows that Bobby knows. “How's your dad?“
“Sober,” Dean answers and Bobby grunts. “Well, that's something.“
“Yep,” Dean agrees, trying to stifle a yawn.
“And how's Sam?“
“He needs some time, I guess, but he'll be fine,” Dean says, trying to convince himself more than to convince Bobby.
“You guess, huh? Alright, and tomorrow is your first day at school? I promise this is the last question,” he chuckles, when Dean stifles another yawn.
“Yeah, tomorrow is our first day,” Dean affirms.
“Dean, it may be not my business and I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life,” Bobby starts after a moment of silence and Dean frowns. He can imagine what Bobby is going to say and he doesn't want to hear it. “But try to be... not like you were at the other schools.“
Dean grits his teeth. Yeah, he so didn't want to hear that. Of course, he knows what Bobby is talking about, but he doesn't know what to tell him.
“For Sam?“ Bobby adds now and Dean feels guilt pooling in the pit of his stomach. He swallows. He can't promise Bobby this. He knows that he will break this promise so where's the point in disappointing him even more?
“I have to sleep now,” he mumbles, pressing his phone to his ear. He hears Bobby sighing.
“Okay. But call me every now and then, just to let me know how things are going.“
“Yeah, of course, Bobby.“
“And hey, Dean?“
“Yes?“ Dean asks, biting his lip.
“Be careful. And take care of yourself.“
“Always. Good night,” Dean says, closing his eyes. He waits until Bobby said good night as well before ending the call and tossing his phone to the side. Another yawn climbs up his throat and he tries to muffle all the thoughts in his head. He rolls over, facing the wall.
He knows that Bobby is right. And 'For Sam' is a pretty, pretty good reason why he should try it at least. But he doesn't know if he'll be able to change. He's just so fucked up and he knows that. He's actually sorry for Sam because he has him as a brother. So, he won't ever promise anyone that he will change because he doesn't want to see the sadness, disappointment and anger that come along with broken promises.
How often has John Winchester promised that he will change? That he will stop drinking? That he will keep a job longer than for a few months? That they won't have to move again? Dean lost count. And at some point, John just stopped to promise these things.
Dean doesn't want to think about that right now, though. He really just wants to sleep. But it takes hours for his mind to calm down enough to get some rest.