Supernatural Fanfiction: Glimpse
current location: Couch
current mood: amused
Category: Gen, Sam, Dean and John
Word Count: 4, 600~
Summary: John figures Dean got the idea from that Dr. Seuss book about eggs and ham. When they tell Dean he’ll be getting a little brother or sister, Dean immediately says, “Oh, let’s call him Sam.”
Author’s Note: Thank you to everyone who left feedback/made recs about my last story – I would have replied to all of you but I’ve just spent the last two weeks pretty much dying of the ‘flu! I'll do better this time around. Your comments were much appreciated and valued. Thank you again.
John Winchester decides not long after Sam’s twelfth birthday, after one too many nights listening to the furtive rustlings and stifled groans from Sam’s bed in shared motel rooms or apartments with paper-thin walls, that somebody better give the boy the birds and bees talk or at least wise him up about appropriate places to jack off.
He follows his usual pattern and delegates the awkward task to Dean with no little sense of relief. His only instruction to his eldest son is to avoid going into any specifics, because Sam is curious enough to give a biology professor a migraine.
John still ends up stumbling upon the tail end of Dean’s attempt at the facts of life talk when he finishes his shift early and returns to the latest in a long line of lousy apartments, feeling weary and stretched thin.
“…so it’s normal?” Sam is asking, in a strained voice.
John freezes in the hallway.
“Yeah,” comes Dean’s curt reply.
“So…you do it too?”
“Well, if you say it’s normal…”
“Okay, yes, I do. All guys do. Just don’t…look, no more than once a day, okay Sam? You don’t want it to fall off. And this conversation is done now.”
“Sam, you say another word about it I’ll kick your ass.”
John can’t help but smile at the fact that Dean has chosen to impose a limit on Sam’s self-exploration, as if that solves the problem. He waits until he hears the TV blare to life and noisily enters the living room.
“Oh, hey Dad,” Sam says, lounging indolently on the couch. Dean is cleaning weapons at the dining table. “How was work?”
“Hey, Sammy. Work was fine.” John rests his hand on Sam’s head and tousles the boy’s hair.
“Da-ad. Stop it.” Sam tries to duck away from John’s hand. “You’re messing up my hair.”
“How could anyone tell?” Dean deadpans. Sam makes a rude gesture and John, feeling generous (feeling guilty) lets it pass.
John nods once at Dean who nods confidently back, as if they are co-conspirators in the task to raise Sammy, when the truth is Dean’s been pulling more than a fair share of the weight for years.
“I got that stuff you wanted, Dad,” Dean says. “And Pastor Jim rang.” He handles their weapons efficiently and with a certain grace and finesse that John admires.
“I’ll call him back after dinner.”
“What are we having?” Sam asks, food of any and all descriptions being his second-favourite topic these days. His favourite is a song he’s been singing loud and clear for years: he thinks their lives are completely fucked up.
John doesn’t disagree. He just believes they should face the mess instead of papering over it with a white picket fence and Fourth of July barbecues.
“Steak,” Dean tells Sam. “It was on special,” he continues before John can say anything about the expense. “And some baked potatoes if I can be ass—bothered,” Dean adds.
“Can I have bacon with mine?”
“Do I look like Martha Stewart?” Dean grouses.
But John knows Dean will make Sam’s potato the way his little brother likes it. Sam knows it too.
“Time for some drills,” John orders. He’s never too tired to train his sons.
Dean’s talk obviously works. Instead of getting up early to wash his sheets at the local Laundromat, Sam starts taking epic showers.
Sam starts talking back to John almost as soon as he learns to string words together. Sam has an opinion about everything and he is rarely afraid to share it. When Sam isn’t questioning his authority John’s almost proud of the kid’s fearlessness.
The problem is actually that Sam can sulk like nobody John’s ever met before – human, superhuman and subhuman – so an argument that lasts twenty minutes has a shelf-life of at least twenty-four hours whilst Sam broods it out.
Dean’s an easy study in comparison. His anger blooms quick and brief, he lays it all out on the table and moves on. Sam slow burns, mopes for days, is moody and snappy and then morose and silent, nasty and vicious, sometimes all at the same time.
What pisses John off the most is that Dean always knows how to handle Sam. He can cajole his little brother out of a bad mood with a quick joke or a game of catch in the front yard, which Dean pretends to hate, but John knows Dean enjoys. Sometimes, Dean just rests his hand on the nape of brother’s neck and Sam’s face clears and his body unclenches and he smiles at Dean with full, bright eyes and John has no fucking idea how Dean does it.
The real fights – battles really – begin when Sam is about ten. They start out on different roads, but all end up at the same place: Sam wants a normal life and he knows this is not it. John doesn’t lose the fights (at least not until the Stanford argument, which isn’t a loss so much as a devastation) but he sure as hell doesn’t win them, either.
Dean always goes after Sam. Even if he hasn’t witnessed the argument, Dean somehow knows the moment he walks through the door that Sam and John have been at it again. Dean never says a word to his father about it, but his choice to go after Sam says enough.
They’re deep in the middle of Illinois when they have one of their worst fights. They’re chasing down what turns out to be a false on the thing that killed Mary. Dean is somewhere: he’s fifteen and he keeps disappearing, and John doesn’t ask too many questions, far too aware of the distractions available to adolescent boys to assume Dean would even tell him.
Instead, John gets drunk on cheap whiskey.
When Sam picks a fight about – God, he has no idea – John ends up telling the boy he’s to blame for his mother’s death, the words falling out of him like hot, rushing vomit.
The broken look on Sam’s face drives John from the room and into the bar across the highway. He doesn’t get any drunker, no matter how hard he tries, and when he realises it’s just him and the other guys who drink for a living propping up the bar, he returns to the motel.
He discovers that Dean has beaten him to it. Their door is ajar (which he’ll reprimand Dean about later) and John hovers guiltily and eavesdrops. When he realises that Sam is crying he suddenly feels every drop of alcohol he’s consumed that night and the wall is not enough to hold him upright.
“…said it was all my fault.”
“What was your fault, Sam?”
He can see his youngest son, facedown on the bed, his shoulders shaking. Dean is sitting at Sam’s hip with a hand hovering above Sam’s back.
“No, he’s not.” Dean finally plants the hand on Sam’s back. “You were six months old – you couldn’t burp on your own.”
Sam has cried himself into hysteria and his voice breaks when he says, “I shouldn’t have been born. Nobody wanted me.”
“Don’t say that.” The change in Dean is immediate and almost terrifying – he flips Sam over with brute strength and grabs Sam’s face between his hands. “Don’t ever say that,” he repeats harshly.
Dean release’s Sam’s face and his voice softens. “Dad is just…he’s just tired, and angry about the false lead, that’s all.”
Sam’s swallows noisily. “Okay.”
Dean nudges Sam across the bed with his hip and lies down next to him. They’re silent long enough for Sam’s breathing to even out, but not nearly long enough for John to catalogue his mistakes as a father.
It’s Dean who breaks the quiet. “So, you remember the girl from the diner?”
“With the…” Sam makes a gesture that he probably shouldn’t know at eleven.
“Yeah. Man, she knows how to do things…”
John retreats before he gets an earful of Dean’s sexual conquests. Dean, as always, knows what he’s doing – Sam will be so embarrassed and distracted by his older brother’s explicit images that he’ll forget what John said, at least for a little while.
When John returns to the bar the drunks don’t even lift their heads. It’s that kind of carelessness that gets you killed, John thinks, even as he’s ordering another whiskey.
Dean’s intensity doesn’t surprise John; his eldest son approaches everything important in his life with a single-minded focus. The depth of Dean’s affection for Sam doesn’t surprise him either. Even if Dean can’t openly express it, even if Dean can’t tell Sam how much he wanted him, it’s clear to the world that being Sam’s brother gives Dean’s life purpose.
But what does surprise John is how he wants Dean to love him as much as he loves his younger brother.
Dean is bleeding, but the wound is shallow.
Sam, nine years old, obviously hasn’t heard a word John has said; he holds onto his brother tight enough to make Dean wince and babbles incoherently about how Dean’s gonna be okay, and Sam will look after him, which makes Dean laugh and wince again, until he sees Sam’s face, and he runs a blood-stained hand through Sam’s hair and says, “You always look after me, Sammy.”
John knows he’s only said it to appease Sam and it works, but the warmth in Dean’s eyes makes it true, too.
Sam sleeps in the backseat of the Impala when they’re on the road. He is forced to curl his body more tightly with every inch he grows, until, at his full height, Sam’s knees meet his chest and his spine curves impossibly. He is two, five, ten, thirteen, always with his head buried in Dean’s lap.
Dean masters the art of sleeping in a seated position, because Sam always gets to lie down, always gets the lion’s share of the tattered, thin blankets that pass for bedsheets as the country blurs past the windows. If his neck hurts, or he is uncomfortable, or cold, Dean never says anything about it, and every time Sam offers to swap, Dean makes a crack about Sam needing his beauty sleep.
And every time John says that Dean may as well sleep in the front seat Dean says something about the oncoming headlights annoying him or only having one blanket, and other things that John can’t really question without sounding paranoid, but he certainly doesn’t believe any of it.
Sam’s head is always in Dean’s lap, even when Sam is small enough to fit on the seat without touching any part of Dean’s body. Conversely, their sleeping positions only make John more uncomfortable the older the boys get, but he isn’t sure what to say. Don’t sleep with your head in your brother’s lap?
When it is dark, when he’s been driving too long, John cannot be certain of the shadowy reflection in the rear view mirror. He sometimes thinks he sees Dean looking at Sam in a way that makes him uneasy, although he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know what to say to Dean about it. Stop looking at your brother like he’s all you have?
Thankfully, the whole damn problem disappears when John buys a new truck and gifts the Impala to Dean.
The banshee bite gets infected, so they hole up in a motel halfway to nowhere while Dean sweats it out. Sam is furious: Dean put himself in front of Sam and took the bite, and John can smell the seventeen-year-old teenager’s fury like hot iron. It makes the motel room feel even smaller.
It doesn’t stop Sam from sitting with Dean, talking to him conversationally, cleaning the wound, dosing him on painkillers, forcing water down his throat. Sam barely eats or sleeps. John wishes he could find a way to reassure Sam that Dean will be okay, that it’s only a matter of letting Dean rest, but Sam stopped listening to him years ago.
On the fourth night, Sam finally crashes, falling onto the bed with Dean. John considers moving him, but Sam is taller than him now (and John has no idea when that happened) and Dean seems to be sleeping easier with his brother beside him.
John sleeps himself, waking briefly when the headlights of a passing car shine brightly into the room. It illuminates his sons: Sam has tangled himself into Dean, wrapped his legs and arms around him, and has laid his head on Dean’s chest.
The room fades back to darkness and John rolls over and sleeps again.
Not long after the sun rises, Dean opens his eyes. “Sammy?” he asks in a cracked, rusted voice.
“Dean?” Sam is awake immediately, lifting his head from Dean’s shoulder.
“You okay?” Dean blinks, obviously trying to get his eyes to focus on Sam’s anxious face, hovering a few inches above his own.
“Me?” Sam begins to laugh. “You’re the loser who threw himself at the banshee, and don’t think I’m not pissed at you about that.”
Dean releases his breath, relief relaxing across face. “You’re okay.”
“I’m fine, Dean. You?”
“Feel like I got stoned on cheap peyote. And you weigh a fucking ton, Sammy.”
But, John notices, Dean doesn’t ask his brother to move.
Sam’s ice cream is melting all over his chubby hands. Dean sighs with exasperation.
“Lick faster, Sam.”
Dean rolls his eyes impatiently, indulgently. “You’re hopeless, Sammy. Can’t take you anywhere.”
“But you love me anyways.”
Dean doesn’t answer.
When Sam wants to hold hands with Dean afterwards, Dean doesn’t protest, despite the fact that he’s recently started telling Sam that they can’t hold hands in public, because it’s not cool, and Sam is a big boy at five. Which, John figures, is Dean’s answer.
It doesn’t occur to John until days later that Sam wasn’t inquiring at all.
Dean asks John for money for presents, for a cake, reminds him that Sam’s birthday is approaching, puts a card in front of John to sign, starts signing it for him, hustles pool for the money to pay for Sam’s gifts, stops writing cards, and has enough sense to remain quiet when Sam says to Dean, on his 16th birthday (new shoes because the kid won’t stop growing, a new knife, and some books and CDs Sam had been looking at wistfully a few weeks before), “I know they’re all from you. Thanks.”
“I got an A,” Sam is saying in the kitchen.
John should be asleep after a night shift, but something – maybe a cupboard door slamming – woke him up.
“’Course you did,” Dean says in an easy, unsurprised voice. “One day you’re gonna bring home a D and I’ll get mad, promise.”
John can hear packets being opened, plates rattling, the faucet running. His boys have a well-oiled system for meals (and everything else for that matter), and he can picture them working in tandem at the bench, piling up mountains of food for their afternoon feast, Sam getting the drinks organised, Dean making sandwiches, Sam dumping Oreos on a plate.
“Yeah, but you helped me on this one.”
John can practically hear Dean’s shrug. “Nah, not really.”
“Dean, I’d have fucked this paper up completely if you hadn’t helped.”
“Language like that is gonna wake Dad up. You know he’s got a sixth sense for cussing.”
Their voices drift closer, into what passes for their dining room in this apartment: a wobbly table in the entrance hall with three mismatching chairs.
“But I’ve seen army films – those Marines spend the entire time swearing.” Sam’s words are muffled through his mouthful of food, but John smiles anyway. The boy is right.
“Don’t tell Dad that.”
“Hey, I’m no idiot – straight-A student over here.”
“Don’t get cocky.”
“Yeah, whatever, Dean. What did you do today?”
Dean tells Sam about the research he’s been doing on a series of local kidnappings. Seven-year-old boys go missing every few months, are gone for five and a half days exactly and always show up back in their beds, fast asleep, with no memory of their ordeal.
John listens to them talk. Not so much the words, but what lies beneath them. They’re checking on each other, sharing information, keeping track of the other’s movements and thoughts. It’s the way he and Mary would talk at the end of each day to make sure they were on the same page, to make sure they were doing things together.
He’s glad (and a little envious) that his boys have that.
Sam makes a few suggestions about the kidnappings, things that John wouldn’t have thought about. Dean takes them on board; asks Sam if he wants to help him out in the library on Saturday; Sam agrees, reminds Dean they’re almost out of toilet paper; Dean says he’s got to do laundry tomorrow so he’ll pick some up then; Sam bitches about some kids in his AP Maths class; Dean teases him about some blonde girl he’s seen Sam hanging out with at lunchtimes; Sam ribs Dean about checking up on him during the day, and Dean doesn’t deny it; Dean slaps Sam on the wrist and tells him to keep his hands off the last sandwich, and the conversation devolves into a tussle that Dean clearly wins, when Sam, half-laughing, says, “I surrender, I surrender.”
“Damn right you do, bitch.”
“I didn’t want the sandwich anyway.”
“I’ll go halves with you?”
There’s silence for a few moments and then Dean says, “Sammy?”
“Every A you get…every good mark…you know that I’m…” Dean trails off.
“Yeah, I know, Dean.”
“What, you’re not going to let me say it?” Dean growls.
“I know you’re proud of me, Dean.” Sam’s voice is patient and affectionate.
Even from another room John can tell that the silence between the boys is comfortable from Sam’s part and awkward from Dean’s, but Sam’s smart enough not to push any further and eventually Dean says, “Let’s go do some drills. It’s good for you to have your ass kicked – keeps your ego in check.”
John rolls over and listens to the clatter of their exit out into the tiny square of dust that passes for a yard behind their apartment. Sleep claims him a few minutes later, but he knows he’ll wake up again same time tomorrow.
After Sam decamps for Stanford, John and Dean travel constantly, moving from town to town in a way they’ve never been able to before. John feels the freedom of it like good liquor in his veins, like the adrenaline of the perfect kill.
Dean drinks more than he should. He often stumbles in just as the sun is rising, reeking of cheap perfume and tobacco. John thinks Dean will get past it soon enough, just like he’s managed to get over every bad thing that’s ever come the Winchester’s way.
And he doesn’t worry too much: Dean’s hunting is unaffected. He’s never seen his son fight so well, so brilliantly, with such strength. The pride almost strangles him.
They kill a pack of werewolves outside of Wichita, and stop for pizza and beer.
“Sam would have liked this,” John idly comments. He isn’t sure quite how to do it, but he’d like to make Dean feel better about Sam abandoning them.
Dean eyeballs his father. “Sam’s allergic to mushrooms.”
“Oh, of course. I meant…I forgot.”
“No you didn’t. You just didn’t know.”
“Hey, you made him a good soldier.” Dean shoves his plate away, slides out of the booth and heads for the bar.
Dean is a study of things of unsaid and John hears Dean’s remonstration clearly: you made him a good soldier – I made him a good man.
And just like that, as if he took two steps to the right and can now see his eldest son from a different angle, from an entirely different country, he sees that Dean’s fighting hasn’t improved, he’s just not bothering to protect himself.
John hears the argument halfway down the hall and sighs. Sam is fifteen, sullen, mad at John and Dean and everybody he meets. John tries not to show how satisfying it is that Sam is finally aiming his anger at his brother and Dean can’t seem to fix it anymore.
“…can’t make me!” Sam yells.
“Oh, yes I fucking can.”
“Sure, Dean. What does it matter? School – that’s for normal people, right? I won’t need calculus in my long life of fighting demons.”
“Sam, you’re too damn smart to use that argument. Stop cutting class.”
Dean’s voice drops to the pitch he uses when he’s either going to kill something or be killed. “Samuel, you don’t go to school, you’re never going to get out of here. Away from this. And we all know that’s what you want.”
Dean almost never calls Sam by his full name.
“Shut your mouth. This argument is done. Go do the dishes. And stop cutting class, or I’ll put you on your ass.”
Dean is almost out of the door when Sam says quietly, almost desperately, “You could leave too.”
“Sam, you took all the brains allotted to this family. Which doesn’t bother me anyway – girls don’t like walking dictionaries.”
“Yeah, Sam. I could leave.” Dean sounds weary and defeated, as if Sam has finally used up all of Dean’s affection and love. “And then who would you come back to?”
“We could leave together. When I start college, and…”
“Do the damn dishes, Sam,” Dean reiterates as he sweeps out the door.
He doesn’t even look at John as he passes.
Sam is four, heartbroken about the loss of his favourite toy, crying in the backseat in Dean’s lap. Dean squirms, trying to wrestle Sam into a comfortable position.
Eventually, Dean gets Sam’s head under his chin. He rubs slow circles against Sam’s back and rocks him carefully.
“Sam, Sammy, I’ll get you another toy.”
“I wan’ Keepsie.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Sam’s chest eventually stops heaving after long miles, and he clings tightly to Dean, pushing his face into Dean’s neck. “I wan’ Keepsie,” he says again.
Dean presses a kiss to Sam’s forehead. “Yeah, baby, I know.”
John can hear the lilt in Dean’s voice: he’s trying to say it the way Mary used to.
Sam is feverish, and goes to bed as soon they check in. Dean sits next to him and Sam sighs contently, automatically rolling towards the familiarity and comfort of Dean’s body, and says, “Dean.”
For a moment, it sounds like he said Dad.
John figures Dean got the idea from that Dr. Seuss book about eggs and ham that John occasionally – and Mary frequently – reads to the boy.
When they tell Dean he’ll be getting a little brother or sister, Dean immediately says, “Oh, let’s call him Sam.”
Dean doesn’t let go of the idea, and takes to addressing Mary’s burgeoning stomach as Sam. So when John takes Dean to see his two-and-half-hour old brother, Dean carefully touches the baby’s red nose and says, “Hey Sam.”
Mary smoothes Dean’s hair down. “Dean, honey, we haven’t picked a name for your brother yet. Daddy thought maybe Michael.”
“But I’ve picked a name,” Dean sensibly points out. He turns back to the crib. “You’re all red, Sam. You better not stay that way. I’ll teach you to play football.”
Mary looks helplessly at John.
“Samuel is a fine name,” John finally says.
Dean nods. “Yep. But I’ll call him Sammy.”
Sam is losing blood like sweat and he’s blue by the time they hit the motel room. Dean forces Sam onto his stomach on the bed and rips his brother’s T-shirt up the back in one fast, savage jerk.
“Dean…” Sam is reaching around, trying to touch Dean.
“Sammy…” Dean’s straddles Sam’s thighs and sits on them. “Stop moving.”
“He needs stiches,” John says, already pulling the needle and thread from their well-stocked emergency kit.
Sam twists his neck. “Dean, can you do it?”
John is unaccountably stung.
Dean bites his lip. “Let Dad do it.”
“But I want…”
“Sammy, my hands aren’t steady enough.” And Dean rests one of his shaking hands on Sam’s shoulder and says, almost inaudibly, “Sorry.”
John makes short work of the gash, and Sam stays still and quiet while Dean grips his hands and talks softly into Sam’s ear.
Afterwards Dean helps Sam shrug into one of Dad’s large shirts, forces painkillers down his throat and sits on the end of the bed with one hand on Sam’s bare ankle. When Sam begins to lightly snore, Dean grabs his jacket, his wallet and a knife that he tucks into his left boot, because Dean doesn’t go anywhere without a weapon.
“He’s too young,” Dean says, looking at his laces. “Sir.”
John watches Dean stalk away. Sam is older than Dean was when he first started fighting.
They fight about music, about who gets to shower first and which bed they get and whose turn it is to sit in the front seat and how Sam is a girl and Dean is a jerk, and Coke is better than Pepsi, and if Dean takes Sam’s walkman one more time, and the thousand other random things John remembers fighting with his own siblings about.
The arguments occasionally turn violent, which highlights the only downside to training his boys his hand-to-hand combat: they can actually hurt each other. John earns more than a few bruises – and on one famous occasion a broken nose – from his efforts to break those fights up.
They do not ever fight about who is Dad’s favourite.
Sam is flat on his ass, and he’ll have a bitch of a bruise on his shoulder tomorrow, but ten feet away a rusted, dented can is a fallen soldier on the muddy ground.
“Well done, Sam,” John says. He offers his hand to help his younger son stand. “We’ll keep practising tomorrow, until you get used to the recoil.”
“Yes, sir.” Sam’s whole body is shinning, humming: John can feel the young boy’s satisfaction. “Did you see, Dean?” There’s something almost pathetic about how badly Sam wants Dean’s approval.
Dean pushes away from the oak tree he’s been leaning against. “I saw, Sammy.”
Later that night, Dean puts an icepack on Sam’s shoulder and allows him to choose their TV show for the evening, and when Sam falls asleep against Dean’s shoulder Dean lets him and half-carries Sam to bed rather than wake him, although he does protest under his breath the whole way.
John claps Dean on the shoulder as they pass in the hall. “He did good.”
“Better than I did, when I started,” Dean acknowledges.
In the morning, Dean makes breakfast for them, and rubs Lamosil on Sam’s shoulder before saying, “Don’t tell anyone at school.”
“Good. I’ll meet you this afternoon.”
Sam practises religiously for weeks. He seems to stand taller after every target practice. And every time he shoots one of the targets, he turns to Dean with bright, expectant eyes. Dean never disappoints his brother: he compliments him, massages his shoulder, helps him work on his stance, and once, when Dean thinks John isn’t looking, he hugs Sam briefly after the ten-year-old manages to hit all five cans.
When they are in different rooms, when his back is turned, or Sam is asleep, even when they’re fighting or giving each other the silent treatment, Dean can always sees Sam.
They’re giggling in the backseat: three and seven years old, laughing at something John doesn’t understand. He worries that Sam may not grow up to speak English, but may only be able to speak Dean.