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An Unfortunate Sighting

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***

There is no escape,
Fight capture with deception.
“There he goes! That way!”

***


John Winchester listens quietly for exactly six and three-fourth minutes. He leans forward in his chair, rests one elbow on the table top and one chin in the heel of one palm. Not that he has two – chins, not palms. John Winchester keeps in excellent shape, after all. Running after supernatural villains and two teenage sons on a daily basis sort of ensures that.

So John Winchester listens. And when the squabbling finally ends, he speaks. Which is when the squabbling actually ends.

“So…”

The boys wait for it. Not like they have a choice.

“You ran into the woods, on your own, away from Dean, so far in that you got lost, and Dean couldn’t find you for three hours. Three. Hours.”

Sam Winchester does not much care for his father’s tone. It is that annoyingly annoying mix of sarcasm with admonishment, a dash of condescension and the promise of a full-blown lambasting soon to follow. Sam Winchester does not much care for the lambasting either. Course at thirteen, he’s the only one who cares about what he does or does not care for anyway. 

“Dad, I told you it was…”

“So I cut my hunting trip short, to rush back four hours from Casper, Wyoming to help your brother hunt you down instead.”

Dean Winchester does not much care for his father’s tone either. It is that dreaded combination he dreads with all his might, of accusation and disappointment, imagined or otherwise. The welfare of his little brother is supposed to be Dean Winchester’s primary responsibility. Course at seventeen, there isn’t much he does not feel responsible for anyway. 

“I found him myself, didn’t I?”

“With a plum-sized bruise on his forehead.”

Sam snorts. Dean winces. John sighs. 

“Dean,” he concedes, “it is not your fault. Give this boy fine Italian marble to walk on and he’ll still manage to trip himself up. I’m surprised all his bones are still intact.”

Sam shrieks. “It was not my fault!! I told you it was a…”

“Jackalope, yes. I heard.” John rubs his eyes, he’s tired. He’s hungry, he’s cold, and he’d never admit to it but he’s still scared, because he almost lost a son today. Again. 

Sam shrieks again. “You don’t believe me? Werewolves you believe, chimeras you believe, ghosts and demons you believe but you don’t believe me! Great, that’s just fucking fantastic.”

“Language, Sammy,” John drawls, at exactly the same time that Dean responds with a loud “Bullshit!”

To Sam, not to John, to John Dean wouldn’t dare. John winces and covers his eyes, here they go again. 

“I know you invented that dumb excuse just to get out of your chores, Sammy. I ask you to go wash the car and what do you do? After huffing and puffing about it for forty minutes you finally decide it’s Wabbit season!?! How stupid do you think I am?”

“Do you really want me to answer that?”

“Why you little…”

“Enough.”

John exhales and rubs his eyes, hiding behind the safety of his hand one last time before he looks up at his oldest. 

“Go wash the car. That’s your punishment for not watching Sammy.” 

For two minutes. Not watching Sammy for two minutes. John especially hates this part. He knows Dean would be right to protest, heck he wants Dean to protest but his oldest wouldn’t. He will wonder why John’s being so easy on him, walk away in silent acquiescence and do what he’s told. 

Dean looks at Sam for a second, then walks away and does what he’s told. 

Then John turns to his youngest, knowing silence and acquiescence would be the last two things he will find there, and he’s not disappointed. 

“It was a jackalope, Dad, I swear! It was ye high and had big horns, no wait, an-antlers! Like reindeer and it just sat there, outside our door and next to the Chevy and when I came at it with a bucket of water and a washcloth, the Chevy not the rabbit, Dad it laughed at me! The rabbit not the Chevy Dad, I swear, it cackled like Mrs. McConnaghy, back in Ohio, the one who lived next door and kept snooping about our backyard. You remember Mrs. McConnaghy, don’t you?”

“Sammy…”

“And I think to myself, Dad, imagine if it can cackle like Mrs. McConnaghy, maybe it could mimic other human voices too, like legend says it could! And maybe, it does drink whiskey and maybe it does breed only when lightning flashes and maybe…”

Sam Winchester knows he is nervous, it’s why he can’t stop rambling. But then why should he be this nervous when he did nothing wrong? Okay so maybe he shouldn’t have run after the damn thing, and maybe he shouldn’t have followed when it scrambled into the woods and maybe he should’ve answered when he heard Dean yelling his name and maybe he should’ve paid attention to his whereabouts and set markers on trees like his Dad taught him to, and he sure shouldn’t have been looking left while walking right and…

Oh boy.

“Will you come over yourself, or do I have to drag you kicking and screaming?”

Sam pouts and sulks and tries to wheedle out of what’s coming to him, again, but it doesn’t help, not like it ever does. 

John waits. That’s the advantage of being your own boss, possibly the only one, not boss but advantage – and even though it’s not what he tells his sons – John’s got all day. Really. 

Unfortunately for Sam, that is how John spanks as well – like he has all day. 

It bugs him to no end how effortlessly his father and brother can manhandle him. One moment he is standing upright, the next he’s hanging off his father’s knee with his pants around his ankles and his arms flailing all over the place. Sam hates it, hates that his family won’t believe him, hates that he’s the youngest and they get to do this to him. But most of all he hates knowing that even if they did believe him, given his actions that followed he’d still have ended up face down over John’s lap, his bottom now pink and going on red within a matter of minutes. 

The spanking soon ends, but Sam’s ordeal continues. John refuses to let Sam go anywhere or do anything, setting the boy upright, pulling up his clothes back in place and wiping the tear tracks off his face still adorably plump with baby fat. As for being carried upstairs to his room, his limbs wrapped around John’s torso like vines to a sturdy oak, surely Sam must have protested, as he did on the inside. Surely.

Perhaps if he weren't so busy sniveling and burrowing deep into John’s chest. 

 

***

Boy dreams, runs amok.
In a cabin by the woods,
Dad is not amused.

***


Dean Winchester is fuming, like he’s never fumed before. He storms into the living room, Sam follows dragging his feet and a tired old man trudges in slowly after them last. Even John keeps a low profile when his oldest is in a fuming mood. Not that it happens all that often, which is precisely what makes it particularly dangerous… to be caught in the cross-wires of a Dean-mood

“What the eff were you thinking??”

John rubs his eyes tiredly, pretty sure that’s technically cursing. Maybe once they’re done here he ought to lay out another rule – abbreviated curse words still count as curse words.

Sam tries to answer the question, even though he too is pretty sure it’s technically rhetoric. “Dean, you have to believe me, it was a…”

Dean snaps, again, “If you say jackalope one more time Sammy, I’m gonna make sure you don’t sit right for a year so help me God…”

“But it was! Right there across the interstate…” 

“Oh that explains it! So that’s why you grabbed the wheel out of my hands and swerved us into the next lane and into oncoming traffic! Why didn’t I get it before?”

John doesn’t much care for Dean’s tone, and clearly neither does Sam. That mean streak of sarcasm sure runs in the family and with a vengeance. 

“I didn’t think. I’m sorry, alright?” Sammy implores, hell he practically whines, and John wonders not for the first time what is it about pissing, really pissing Dean off that upsets Sam so much. John never gets this reaction – sure he gets all the melodrama, the exasperated sighs and the limpid tortured guilt-inducing eyes. Maybe even a slight smugness like it was an achievement to rattle the old man’s nerves. But not this, never this outright… panic. 

Dean stares the younger boy down as he puts his fists on his hips and paces. Back and forth and back again, to calm himself down. 

“That’s not nearly enough. I don’t really care what you saw, Sammy. What if something had happened to…”

“…”

“… to my baby out there, huh?”

John turns away to hide his smile. Good save, kid. Although technically it's still John's car, he hasn't gifted it to Dean yet. Perhaps soon, if he's lucky.

“You’re just lucky she didn’t get scratched or I woulda scratched you off the effin’ map, asshat.”

Lucky? Sam wouldn’t describe what he feels as lucky. He was so sure of what he saw, that damn jackalope that’s been taunting him (haunting him?) since yesterday… it sat right there, by the side of the road, preening itself!

“Guess it’s too late to head for Wyoming now.” John shrugs out of his leather jacket and goes to hang it up. He sighs, his hunting expedition curtailed once more and this time before it even started. Maybe it’s best to take that much needed break at this time after all. 

“I’m too tired to deal with this jackalope business anymore, Sammy. Don’t get why you think it’s funny – I think it’s getting really old. And besides,” John looks up at Dean with a knowing smirk on his face as he picks up his jacket again and starts to walk out of the house. “I believe this is your business today, more than mine?”

Sam’s eyes go wide, wider, well, as wide as those almond-shaped slits could possibly get. 

It’s not like Dean enjoys disciplining his little brother any more than Sam enjoys getting, uh, disciplined. But Sam especially hates it even more, more than Dad and his heavy spanking hand because Dean isn’t supposed to be the bad cop in this jailhouse. No, he’s the good cop, damn it! The one who supports Sam, sides with Sam against Dad and the rest of the world no matter what. Sure they have their share of tiffs and arguments like all brothers do, but mostly never this serious. Sam hates it when serious comes in between him and Dean. 

Too bad he can’t voice any of it to Dean. The eighteen-year old would just call him gay or a baby or both (gay baby?) and laugh it off. Worse, he’d put on his dumb “himbo” act again that strangers fall for easily (and sometimes John does too) but Sam can see right through every time. 

“Right, let’s go Sammy.”

Man, this really sucks, Sam thinks. It couldn’t suck more if it tried. It couldn’t suck more if it were a two-bit whore with a doctorate in sucking on national cock-sucking day.

Least Dean doesn’t believe in depantsing before he spanks. But he hits hard enough over the protective cover of Sammy’s jeans and long enough for it to be neither cover nor protection after all. Besides, given the session he’d had just yesterday with Dad, it doesn’t take much to break Sam’s obstinance and have him squirming desperately in Dean’s iron grip and over Dean’s muscled thighs. 

Dean doesn’t believe in post-discipline cuddling nonsense either. The best he manages is a quick ruffle of Sam’s hair and a wink from afar that assures the very sorry fourteen-year old of his forgiveness. It doesn’t make Sam ache to be held and comforted by his big brother at all. 

Nope. No sir. Not at all.

 

***

Patience stretches thin,
The world’s weight on young shoulders.
Big bro loves his car.

***


Sam Winchester lies on his stomach feeling mildly sorry for himself. He hears his brother scurrying about downstairs, as usual busy with one thing or another. He makes no attempt to pull back his lower lip jutting out petulantly. Serves Dean right, he sulks, to do Sam’s share of the chores too while Sam’s in forced time-out. Ah, chores. Guess Sam Winchester doesn’t feel so sorry for himself after all.

A cursory knock on the door crashes his pseudo pity party but Sam doesn’t respond, instead pretends to be fast asleep. Not that it ever works, of course. John walks in but Dean hangs back, leans against the door crossing his legs. Sam can clearly picture his family in his mind even though his eyes are closed and his face turned away. 

“Jig’s up, Sammy. Come on, up and at ‘em!”

Sam sighs and turns over, grimacing a little at the residual ache in his tanned rear. Hoisting himself up on his elbows he gives his Dad his classic wronged puppy eyes of doom. That’s when he notices the plastic cup being held out to him enthusedly. 

“What’s this?”

“Eggnog. Minus the kick of course. And before you say it, no, Dean isn’t having any alcohol tonight either.”

Dean snorts where he stands and watches their father trying (and hard at that) to woo his youngest son out of his funk, and into a little holiday spirit. It’s been awhile since John played the role he was intended to in this family. Feels nice, and almost reassuring to Dean, to see that Dad’s skills may be rusty, but they aren’t completely gone yet. 

John reaches out with a thumb to softly brush against Sam’s lower lip that’s still pouting hard, before curling around the back of his neck. “Tuck it back in, kiddo. It’s Christmas! Come on down and check out this awesome spread Deano put together for us, huh?”

Sam cannot believe his ears – Christmas? Did Dad really say what he thinks he heard him say?

“But, we haven’t… not since… it’s been…”

Years. It’s been years. 

Sam feels his throat choke up a little, but he gulps it down, hard, acutely conscious of Dean still watching him from a distance. Unfortunately, so is John, who puts Sam’s drink on the side table, gathers the reluctant and still small for his age boy into his arms, pulling him away from the bed so he’s seated in John’s lap instead. Mortified, Sam tries to slither away but John won’t let him. 

“Daaaad!”

By the time John deems it acceptable to let him go, Sam is rolling his eyes and biting back his own little grins. All aches and complaints are forgotten, giving way instead to hunger. John chuckles when he hears Sam’s stomach rumbling and gets up. Sam finally accepts the cup of eggnog and gulps it down in one go. 

“Come on down, boys. Dinner’s in twenty, gifts in ten.”

Sure can’t take the corp out of the marine, like they say. 

Despite the bark though, there is a strange heaviness in John’s voice as he leaves his sons’ bedroom. Dean hears it loud and clear, but Sam is too excited to pay attention. Even if he did, he’s too young to understand. There are some losses in life that the holidays only serve to accentuate. 

“Did he say gifts? I can’t believe Dad got us gifts!” Sam practically bounces on the mattress, pulling his sneakers on in a hurry.

Dean smirks, digs his hands into his pockets as he comes into the room at last. “I hope you’re happy Sammy, you got what you wanted.”

“What do you mean?”

“Dad and I scouted as much of the woods as we could this morning, we didn’t find anything. No trails, no nests. Zip. Nada.”

Sam exhales unhappily. “I know the jackalope’s supposed to be an urban legend or hoax or whatever, but I saw what I saw.”

Dean crosses his arms. “Let’s put that aside for a second, okay? Yesterday, thanks to your little adventure in the woods, you got Dad to quit his hunting trip and rush back home, on the eve of Christmas.”

Sam doesn’t know where this is going, yet. 

“And today, your second stunt stops him from dragging us all back out and so here we are,” Dean spreads his arms to illustrate their surroundings – a quaint little winter cabin by the woods – fully furnished, a woman’s touch clearly evident in the décor. It’s the first house they’ve leased in ages that Sammy actually likes. 

“Together on Christmas for the first time in, what, five? No… six years.” 

Sam is quiet for a really long time, all his indignation now gone, and his thoughts warped with shock and wonder. Is he starting to lose his mind? Dementia at the ripe young age of fourteen? Or just a supernaturally hyperactive subconscious longing for a not so supernatural Christmas?

Dean watches his baby brother’s face morph from one expression into the next, finally halting at a blankness he neither expects nor likes. He walks up to Sammy’s bed and sits down next to him, gently placing an arm around the boy’s bony shoulders. 

“I don’t know what you saw, Sammy. And I don’t know if you planned this or not, but… have to say I like how it turned out. I really do.”

Sam looks up at his brother at last, finding that soft Dean-smile beaming down at him that’s impossible to not reciprocate. He leans in, cautiously, cherishing his brother’s body heat but ready to spring back in case Dean switches gears again. Dean doesn’t though, just sits there, relaxed, yakking about eggnog recipes and ruing the lack of alcohol in theirs.

"A quart of whiskey, mm…" Dean sighs, "what I wouldn't give for a quart of whiskey."  

“You know Dean, that legend also says you can lure a jackalope with a flask of whiskey.”

Dean starts to roll his eyes, and Sam rushes to explain. “I know, I know but… I don’t know! Maybe that's what I shoulda done to prove it to you guys once and for all…”

Dean’s stupendously annoyed retort is interrupted by a loud and lot more annoyed “BOYS!”

John’s voice floats up from the den below, and he doesn’t seem quite in the same holiday spirit that he was minutes ago. Dean straightens up immediately, and so does Sam. 

“Who the hell’s been raiding my liquor cabinet?”

Dean narrows his eyes and turns to Sam. Sam widens his eyes and shakes his head fervently. John yells again and they both wince in unison. 

“Why is all the effin’ whiskey gone?”

 

***

Man, heed this advice—
Beware the antlered rabbit.
He wants your whiskey.

 

*** fin ***