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01 February 2009 @ 11:54 pm
Supernatural Gen Fiction: "The Soldier's Other Son" (PG-13)  
Title: The Soldier's Other Son
Author: HalfshellVenus
Characters: Sam, Dean, John (Gen, Drama)
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Summary: Five times Sam disagreed with John, and one time he finally didn't.
Author's Notes: Suggestions from my friends-list led to this one. It isn't any of the Sam stories we talked about, but they led to this all the same. Several of the events mentioned here are filled-in canon, and big thanks to the Supernatural Wiki people who transcribe episodes—much of what I needed here was in the Pilot and "IMTOD."

x-x-x-x-x

The thing in the water was dead, Dad told him. Sam couldn’t see much from the car, and the night was inky black, but he knew something was down there.

Something Dad and Dean had killed.

Sleep, Dad instructed him earlier, when he and Dean headed down to the river with the shine of metal and things Sam couldn't make out in the dark. Sam was never allowed to leave the car, but that didn't mean he slept now when Dad and Dean were gone. The feeling of danger was always in the air, and the threat of no-one coming back was too real to forget.

Nights where he could see them, he'd try to stay awake and sometimes drift off anyway, but it never lasted. If he closed his eyes too long, there was always the chance that Dad or Dean might be gone by the time he opened them again.

Last year Dean was in the car with him, or they both stayed behind at the motel. But now Dean went with Dad, out to the bad things Sam still had to be safe from even though Dean was just a kid too. It didn't makes sense.

When you're older, Dad kept saying, like Dean.

But what did that mean? When Sam was older, wouldn't Dad be tired of those things he was always doing in the dark, things that were too dangerous for other people, for Sam?

Wouldn't he finally be done by then?

~*~

Take this gun back to your room, Dad told him. Sam blinked, feet bound to the floor, body weighed down by the cold piece of metal in his hands.

But—

At school they said guns were dangerous, and Dad had said the same. It couldn't be right for a nine-year-old to have a gun, even if there might be monsters in the closet. What if he hurt Dad or Dean by mistake, or even himself? Sam had done target practice exactly twice, and both times had been loud and scary.

Dad turned off the lamp and rolled over in the dark. Goodnight, he said, and Sam knew that meant Goodbye.

He stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do next. Then he walked the gun to his room and laid it on the nightstand before going to the next room to crawl in bed beside Dean.

~*~

We have to get Dean to the hospital, Dad told him. Sam stood frozen at the sight of his brother twisting and groaning under the weak glow of moonlight, at the glimmering blackness of so much blood.

They dragged Dean to the car, pushing him into the back seat and settling his head in Sam's lap before Dad got into the front and gunned the engine. Gravel pinged underneath the chassis as they sped off into the night, fishtailing on the way to the access road.

Keep that pressure on his shoulder, Dad said, even though Dean cursed and coughed under the agony of Sam's obedient hands.

There had been rumors at a lot of the places they'd lived about kids who were beaten by their parents. The kids—usually boys—would be out of school for a few days before coming back with bruises and cuts, or sometimes even a broken arm.

It wasn't like that with their Dad, and what happened tonight wasn't the same at all. But looking at Dean's washed-out skin and the sticky red gashes under his hair, Sam couldn't help being angry. Putting your kids in danger again and again for the sake of your own obsessions wasn't entirely different either.

~*~

He was going out of town for a job, Dad told them. A poltergeist in Amherst, and it was too far for the boys to come when they both had school.

Dean was angry about staying, as if graduating in June would happen on its own even with him missing so much school. Sam didn't understand it. Was Dean seriously okay with screwing up his diploma? School was hard enough with all the moving around, but sticking around long enough for a G.E.D. would be even harder.

The fifth day in, Dean handed Sam a plate of pork and beans for dinner again when they'd already had it two times. Dean clearly wasn't even trying anymore.

I'll be back in a few days, Dad had said, but he wasn't. By the seventh day they were eating canned tuna and powdered milk, and Dean stared at the phone as he paced through the kitchen and living room like an animal in a cage. Sam spent the weekend in near silence, thanks to Dean practically biting his head off every time he spoke. It was like Dean blamed him for Dad being out there on his own.

There were bills on the counter for the phone and electricity. Dad hadn't said whether they were staying into the next month, and the boys were down to five dollars between them. On Monday, Sam caught Dean bumming a cigarette at school, and he knew Dean only smoked when he was nervous.

Tuesday morning the power went out. Sam hoped it was a neighborhood problem, but the sign at the corner liquor store was still lit. When he and Dean got back from school, they dug up leftover candles to use after it got dark. Dinner was Cream of Wheat and a couple of sour apples Dean had swiped from someone's yard. They made a collect call to Pastor Jim, but he hadn't heard any news. Then the boys argued about what they would do if Dad didn't come back. Two more days, Sam said, and Dean countered with seven, though it wouldn't be long before grass and notebook paper were all they had to eat.

Sam was asleep when the front door banged open, and he drew his gun against the heavy stumbling outside the room he shared with Dean. The bedroom door creaked, and their father was there at last, moonlight falling on the crutches bunched in his left hand.

"You could have called," Sam said, anger sharper than relief.

"Got hung up," Dad answered flatly, and stumped away.

Sam rolled over and let out a measured breath. Through the darkness he could hear Dean's muffled sniffling. Even though it had been years since the last time, that was a sound a brother didn't forget.

~*~

You're not going anywhere, Dad told him, the Stanford acceptance letter clenched in his fist.

Sam had hoped the fact that he'd gotten a full scholarship would make a difference. He knew they couldn't afford college—could barely afford the car sometimes—and he'd been so proud to have that problem taken care of.

But he'd forgotten how his father was about everything outside the John Winchester set of personal goals and values. Real-world dreams and achievements meant nothing.

Maybe it was a lifetime of that bullshit that made Sam determined to forge his own path, or maybe it was the rise of the same stubbornness running in his father's veins. Either way, Sam wasn't about to give up on Stanford.

If you leave, don't come back, Dad threatened, and the agony on Dean's face was almost enough to change Sam's mind, almost.

Sam left in the middle of the night, an act of rebellion that for once would not be a secret to his father or anyone else.

~*~

Get these supplies from Bobby, Dad told him. The list contained a few herbs Sam had never used before and the usual chalk and candles that were staples of their work.

Sam hoped whatever Dad was planning would finally bring Dean around again. It had been days since the accident, and Dean was still in a coma, his face nearly bloodless against the white of the hospital bed.

There was no way to tell how much of that was the car wreck and how much was what happened before. Dean was already choking on his own blood when the demon fled Dad's body, so close to death Sam and Dad had carried him to the car and sped off in search of a hospital. The doctors weren't optimistic about Dean's chances, and what if a spell couldn't fix the damage inside him either?

It wasn't until later that Sam understood why his father had been so reluctant to try to save Dean. Sam was so glad to have Dean back that he didn’t put it together, the fact that Dean revived and Dad died within minutes of each other. It was Dean that hit upon it, weeks later while they were still at Bobby's trying to piece their lives together. Dean knew the price their father had paid.

I just don't want to fight anymore, Dad had said. He'd sent Sam for coffee, and was gone by the time Sam came back, and Sam hadn't even gotten to say goodbye.

Dean hadn't really gotten the chance either, from what he'd said. Their father hadn't wanted either one of them to know just how final the decision he'd made actually was.

Watching Dean from the corner of Bobby's shed—Dean who wasn't talking to Sam just then, Dean who was angry and closed-off and bitter but still breathing, still here—Sam wished Dad had told them.

It was more than wanting to say goodbye, though the thought of that still stung. It was for the one thing Sam had rarely meant when he'd said it, the thing that came to him every day as he marveled at Dean grousing and raging his way through the living world again.

Thank you, Sam would have told him. Thank you for sacrificing yourself instead of Dean.


-------- fin --------

 
 
 
happy is as happy does: Sam (Hollywood Babylon) - SPNhappywriter06 on February 2nd, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
It's too early in the morning to be tearing up. I love John but he makes me crazy.

Thank you, Sam would have told him. Thank you for sacrificing yourself instead of Dean.
That hurts on so many levels. His brother shouldn't be more important than his father but John has no one to blame but himself. And no one should be in the position of sacrificing themselves.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
I love John but he makes me crazy.

This whole story is so much how Sam saw his choices, almost a 180 from how Dean saw them. Most of the events are taken right out of the Pilot, where Sam was still angry at John and at the life he'd led while John was running the show. And I really understand why Sam resented that so much.

His brother shouldn't be more important than his father but John has no one to blame but himself.
Exactly. Ideally, your parents come first, but John ruined that for Sam so long ago that it's too late to hope for anything different. And I'm sure a part of Sam would not overlook that all of John's continuing obsession at the end was what put Dean at death's door. I think at the end, even John realized that, and that he really could not let Dean take the place he always thought might be his own but always hoped would never be one of his children.

So frustrating, so fascinating, and so very much the force that drove the first two seasons of the show-- even after he was gone.
(no subject) - happywriter06 on February 3rd, 2009 04:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
cindy: spn - dad and boys (by kiraboshi)tsuki_no_bara on February 2nd, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)
that last sentence is heartbreaking, that sam is glad his brother is alive at his father's expense, and that he even has to weigh one life against the other. in the first section, sam wondering if john would ever be finished hunting is a nice echo of the realization in criss angel is a douchebag that sam sees an end to it, that there's a point past which he and dean can kick back and put the guns away and do something else into old age.

for all that sam kicked against the way he was raised, he's a lot like his dad. (i think john saw an end point to hunting too - they'd kill the yed, they'd hang up their guns, his sons could have normal lives. not that that ever would've happened, but i think that's what he was planning on.)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: weechestershalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
and that he even has to weigh one life against the other.
To even be in that position is such an emotional nightmare, but we can't deny that Sam would choose Dean over John every time. Or that, knowing how serious a choice his father was making in saving Dean, that Sam wouldn't be grateful to him.

for all that sam kicked against the way he was raised, he's a lot like his dad.
His temperament was very much like John's, which is usually a curse when you're strong-minded and stubborn. No-one likes that coming back at them in opposition!

I'm sure, especially at the beginning, that John thought he would avenge Mary and then be done with it all. But he was so blinded by his purpose that it consumed every step along the way, and he never did step back and ask himself the question of whether he and his sons would want that life if it turned out they never did defeat the YED.
smilla: sammyfreshbloodsmilla02 on February 2nd, 2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is beautiful. Each section is hard to read, but it's so true Sam in many ways.

Thank you, Sam would have told him. Thank you for sacrificing yourself instead of Dean.
This last line kind of stole my breath. I think Sam did think it - felt guilty as hell for it, too - but it was a thought he entertained many times. Great story.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
Each section is hard to read, but it's so true Sam in many ways.
That was definitely the goal. Sam has such an entirely different viewpoint that Dean and John on their past together, so much more of an outsider's perspective and so unforgiving. But it's who he is,and why he left-- he couldn't be what his father wanted, he could only be who he was. How sad that the rest of the world would have thought he was wonderful just as is!

I think Sam did think it - felt guilty as hell for it, too - but it was a thought he entertained many times.
Guilty in so many ways-- for even thinking it, and for knowing how harshly he criticized his Dad for not "saving Dean" earlier when his father knew exactly what that would take and wanted to make sure it was necessary. I imagine Sam has replayed those arguments at the end over and over in his head, always thinking that he should have known what it would take to save Dean.

Thanks so much for reading and leaving such thoughtful comments. :)
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you got some inspiration for Sam!
All of those bunnies you and happywriter06 led to this, even though it wasn't exactly any of them. But it got me thinking in a Sam frame of mind, and about the contrasts between him and the rest of his family, John in particular.

The last time I wrote John fic, it was a bit like being slammed in the head with a clue-by-four out of nowhere and I got this fic which... I still don't even know.
Haha! I've never hear the term "clue-by-four," but it makes complete sense to me!

Thanks for participating in that earlier discussion! Something very real came of it. :)
kunju: dean is lovelyinnie_darling on February 2nd, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
I really like these views of Sam. It's so easy to see how he became the man he is today.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, Innie. I've always liked the sense of normalcy Sam brings in how he views his own family. It destined him to be an outsider, but in many ways Sam is us. We would never see all the facets of the family without all three viewpoints, which just makes the show all the richer to me.
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)
That last was such a heartbreaking situation, but I think Sam always knew getting there was a possibility even if his father had always hoped it wasn't.

There's something impossible, too, in knowing about yourself that you would choose your brother over your father. It just makes everything worse.
Not all those who wander are lost.: johnmizzykitty on February 3rd, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
Aww at the last line! I enjoyed this very much, thank you! I just love explorations of Sam and John's relationship in all its multilayered complexity.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2009 08:01 am (UTC)
Thank you, mizzykitty!

I just love explorations of Sam and John's relationship in all its multilayered complexity.
There's such a sense of wanting to believe but not being able to, on Sam's part-- you know he must have been pressured constantly to "agree" to John's view of things, what with John and Dean both at him about it. But he just couldn't, and he finally stopped trying, even though it isolated him from the only family he had left. So heartbreaking, and so relentlessly fascinating at the same time.
Ruth: Grim Samjust_ruth on February 3rd, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
Wonderful - and heartbreaking. Nice build-up to the final break and then the last sorrow.

Thank you.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2009 08:02 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, Ruth. I'm so glad you liked this one!
layne: spn weaknesslayne67 on February 3rd, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
That last line. It goes straight right into my heart. You couldn't have said it any better.

Thank you for sacrificing yourself instead of Dean.

*THUD*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2009 08:05 am (UTC)
It's terrible to be in a situation where you even find yourself thinking that, and yet after all the things the Winchesters have been through (so much of it by John's choice) I can't imagine Sam not being absurdly grateful that his father changed that final outcome.

And then diving intermittently into incredible guilt for thinking it, as well. *sigh*
aubergineautumn on February 3rd, 2009 06:28 am (UTC)
Winchester family tension at its best
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2009 08:06 am (UTC)
I love how you phrased that-- the tension, the pulling in different directions, is part of what makes this family and show so endlessly fascinating. The Winchesters just can't help being who they are, all three of them.
cutedevil666: Winchesteroncarcutedevil666 on February 3rd, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
Amazing last line!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 4th, 2009 12:11 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
brigid_tanner: Sam-sadbrigid_tanner on February 4th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
It's not nice to make me cry when I've got a cold and sinus crap going on. Painful, beautiful, and true to our Winchesters.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 4th, 2009 02:27 am (UTC)
Sorry! But I'm glad you liked the story all the same. ♥
labseraphlabseraph on February 4th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
The last line?

*topples over*

*iz ded*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 4th, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
It's so tragic and Winchester-like that they come to a meeting of the minds when it's too late, and when it's a decision involving the lesser of evils. *sniffle*
(no subject) - labseraph on February 5th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
landrewslandrews on February 6th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
Oh! I REALLY enjoyed this but that last line? The thread running through it pulled up tight and yanked just right. Thank you.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 6th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
Whee! What a wonderfully phrased comment!

Thank you so much. :D
battle plans on sale: ackles grassiniq on February 7th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
That last line's an absolute killer. Yeah, thanks, John.
I love the way you put in words what everyone should know but doesn't want to think about. :)

♥ Lots of love for this one.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on February 7th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
I think this one is a little too painful for a lot of John-lovers, but that's the nature of the Winchesters. So much of what John did he probably didn't intend to come off this way, but that's absolutely how Sam saw it.

I think Sam always knew this pursuit would end in death for one or more of them, while his father always hoped it wouldn't. But their arrival at that final denouement was entirely as a result of John's choices. At least Dean didn't pay the final price for that.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!