Characters: Sam, John (Gen)
Summary: Knowing isn’t everything…
Author’s Notes: This is a spectacularly failed challenge, where I mistook the song “Sunny” from Lenore’s fabulous 1965 Birthday Song Challenge for the song included here (which immediately brought forth this story for me). So be it. I will blame it on the hair-trigger muse…
John Winchester is a mystery that never ends.
Sam knows his father, and yet he doesn’t. He can predict his father’s actions, his reactions, his anger… his obsessions.
But knowing the outcome is not the same as knowing the process. Underneath that well-traveled surface, there is a wealth of information John has hidden for as long as Sam can remember.
John told them stories when they were growing up, stories that rarely offered anything of himself. The ones about his childhood were usually aimed at making a point. A wistful memory might surface occasionally, but that was rare. The past was gone and it was not coming back; learn from it and put it aside.
Their mother was doled out in facts. So much of it was about her life before John met her, or how she loved her boys and would be so proud of them now. John could never talk about her for very long, his voice drying up even as his eyes got moist. There was too much, more than he could ever finish saying. The parts about how he had loved her-- how badly he missed her—fell into the silence time and again.
John’s war stories were as piecemeal as everything else. They got more detailed over time, more graphic as his sons got older. They were filled with warnings, soldier lore, the names of people Sam would never meet. But though there was pain— always pain— the stories never lasted much beyond that point.
All of John’s past was half-told, driven underground before anyone could see it.
John is as evasive now as ever. His directions are cryptic, his contact is scarce. They leave phone messages that languish for lack of attention, and he is always several states and twice as many leads away from joining them again. It’s aggravating—and so very John. Sam never knows whether to be pissed-off or relieved about it, given how the two of them get along.
It is months after leaving Stanford that Sam and Dean find themselves near Columbus in the rain. Tunes from an oldies station filter tinnily through the air while Dean plows through a downpour and Sam stares out the window.
A few melancholy notes catch Sam’s attention, and he leans forward to listen. He recognizes this song, even though he’s only ever heard the beginning of it. All those years growing up, it was aborted again and again when John would change the station or shut off the radio. Sam turns the sound up before he even knows he’s doing it.
“Don’t, Sam,” Dean says. “You know how Dad feels about that song.”
“Yeah, I know.” Sam keeps his hand on the volume, in case Dean tries to fight him for it. “But Dad’s not here now. I want to know why he won’t listen to it.”
Dean shrugs and looks away, and the words wind slowly through the air:
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone…
only darkness every day.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
and she’s always gone too long
any time she goes away.
Sudden memories of sunlit blonde hair flood Sam’s head, as bright as Jess’ laughter. He sees her eyes, so beautiful and warm, and the smile that would catch hold at just the sight of him. Her gentle scent, the softness of her hands-- it’s as vivid as if he held her just yesterday. But he didn’t, couldn’t… can’t. That yesterday is far behind him. Now he’s full of longing for something he’ll never have again.
This is not what that song was supposed to be. Not this aching simplicity of wanting and loss. It should have been stupid or hokey, even empty or poorly-written. He wasn’t expecting this haunting rendition of sadness, or the feeling settling into him now that he’s heard it.
“Happy now?” Dean mutters.
“No,” Sam chokes out, his voice straining against the presence of ghosts and sympathy.
Another question is laid to rest, but he found no solace in its answer.
There is no victory in this pain that is suddenly so clear.
-------- fin --------