Dean’s never been a fan of absolutes, all those trite sayings that only belong on drugstore greeting cards and at the end of chick flicks. Never believed in them either, always found more exceptions that made the rules crap, or a whole other mess of information that just rewrote the rules over and over until it was a whole tangle of ink and lies.
Doesn’t stop him from buying a stupid, sappy-as-shit cards for Sammy on his sixteenth birthday, though, mostly because then they sit in the back of the Impala, laughing like hyenas. Nothing can crack Sam up like one of those “you light up my soul” cards from Walmart, and him laughing means he isn't bitching at Dad or generally being a pain in the ass.
Dean had never believed the fake film of normalcy that stung like a crappy card paper cut, but it turned out Sam had.
“I just want a normal life, Dad. You know what normal is? Not moving every three months, having stories about your childhood that don’t start ‘so there’s a funny thing about shapeshifters.’ “
Sam is clenching his duffel bag in one hand, goofy floppy haired cut still too long and making him look twelve. A pissed-as-hell twelve, even though he's only a month from eighteen.
Dean closed his eyes, feeling the conversation rattle around in his head. It would be better, maybe, if he hadn’t been there, had only come in at the end to see the climax, Dad and Sammy screaming at each other until Dad gestured towards the door.
“Sam, you know our job, as well as I do. We know too much to have normal. We hunt. End of story.”
“So they’re allowed normal, but I’m not? Not exactly fucking fair, Dad.”
Life ain’t fair, Sammy, Dean had wanted to say, but even though he’d been there, been standing in the same damn room, the words would come out his mouth, just sat in his throat, stinging and hot. He could have stopped it, calmed Sam down. It was his job. Take care of Sammy. But instead-
”You want normal so much that others would die for it? Go ahead. But if you walk out that door, don’t think of coming back. You go? Stay gone.”
Dean wants to speak, fill the emptiness in his chest and the pounding in his head with words, but the spit dries in his mouth at the look on Sam’s face, the shocked whiteness of his cheeks, clenched fist twisting the door knob, slamming the door behind him.
After the night of the fire (a night that Dean thought of in capitals, That Night), Dean had wanted to say so many things, to ask his father so many questions. He remembers the clench of it in his chest, but the words never came out. He knew it had scared the crap out of his dad, that he’d gone from practically nonstop at the mouth to mute, so when Dean starts doing it again, John lasts through three days of silence before bolting.
Dean knew where he was, though he hadn’t said. Whenever things got hairy, they lit out for Pastor Jim’s. He could picture them, two old guys sitting at a kitchen table with plates of leftovers, drinking whiskey until Dad unbent enough to tell Jim about the problem.
Dean’s twelve, Sammy eight (and already bitching a bit at being called Sammy) and it’s supposed to be a normal hunt where they wait in the car (though if he’s lucky, Dean gets to be lookout with a shotgun, how kickass is that?) but there’s three banshees instead of one and Dad’s out of silver and shouting, “SAM! DEAN!”, more of an order than it ever was before, and Dean fires both barrels of the shotgun that Sam’s shoved into his hands, and there’s the sharp smell of cordite and ash and it’s done except for the bleeding.
Jim’s is close and after Sammy’s fallen asleep, Dean sits on the stairs and listens to the murmur of voices and the clink of glass on wood table.
“I could have lost them, Jim. I screwed up.”
“They’re alright, John.”
“Maybe I should leave them somewhere safer for a while. Except…”
There was a long pause, and Dean imagined his dad drinking long from his glass.
“Except that I can’t protect them if I’m not there. If they’re gone, I can’t keep them safe.”
Dean woke in the middle of the night with his cell phone in his hand, “Pastor Jim” on the screen. He almost pressed SEND, thinking of the smell of incense and candle wax, the crumble of religious texts under his fingers.
Jim probably told Dad some shit about how Sammy would snap out of it, that he was a Winchester and knew that family was important. It’d all work out.
Except Sam was a Winchester, and Winchesters followed orders.
It was Thursday.
Sam had been gone for four days, eight hours, and twenty-seven minutes.
”Dean, when you comin’ back?”
The summer after Dean graduates high school, they’re on the trail a coven of witches when Sam comes down with a nasty case of the chicken pox, so he’s shipped off to Pastor Jim for a month and a half.
“Soon, dude. Dad’s pretty sure they’re hiding in an abandoned house on the edge of the woods.”
“That’s not very original.”
“Hey, man, the myths gotta come from somewhere. How you feeling?” Dean leans back against the headboard of his crappy motel bed.
A soft noise that’s probably Sammy sighing.
“Well, you know what Dad said.”
“…don’t scratch,” Sam says tiredly.
“Exactly,” Dean laughed. “You been practicing your Latin?”
“Pastor Jim’s been helping me. I also found this book about the PSATs. Man, you should see my verbal score!”
“Geek, why are you worrying about that? Trust me, werewolves can gut you whether or not you know how to spell diaphanous.”
“No buts, Sammy. You better be working on your pronounciation or Dad’ll skin you. Poxs and all.”
Now he's sure Sam sighs.
“Can we just pretend you’re on a camping trip or something?”
“Just watch out for mosquitoes.”
Hell, Dean could tell that his dad had been proud that Sam had gotten into Stanford, pricey yuppie school like that letting in a Winchester. Sam’d probably do real good and become something that made a lot of money. If he didn’t get his ass killed first.
Dean closed his eyes, laid back against the headboard of his crappy motel bed, and was almost asleep when he heard the buzz of his cellphone.
He flipped his open without looking, tried to say hello, and only breathed when he heard Sam say, “Hey, Dean.”
Nothing. He hadn’t said anything when Sam walked away, and he couldn’t, acually couldn't, say anything now.
“You wouldn’t believe the idiot I’ve got as a roommate, man. Not that he’s here right now, I’m not that suicidal. And there’s a whole section in the bookstore about classic cars, I almost bought you this book and… you there?”
Dean breathed in, out.
“Look, I know it’s late, Dean, but I wanted to call and say hey.” There was a hurried rumble of noise and then Sam muttered, “shit, I have this party thing that I’m supposed to go to, but I’ll… talk to you, yeah?”
Dean opened his mouth. (He stopped talking. Like when his mother died.) Closed it.
The line clicked, and Dean hit END. Placed the phone next to him on the bed.
Sam was a Winchester. But more than that, he was Sam, which meant he’d follow Dad’s orders… sort of.
Dean closed his eyes, leaned back, and hummed Metallica under his breath until he fell asleep.