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."
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.
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 --------