Home Sweet Home
By: Ridley James
A/N: This little story kept calling to me, especially in light of the news about season 10 of the show. I had to get it down, because in my mind there were so many ways to give 'Dean' a story line, to highlight his strengths, than to twist every thing I think is great about him, his humanity, his love for his family, his loyalty to his friends. Alas, I do not run the show so I will step off my soap box. To combat my anxiety about just how bad this season is going to be, Tidia and I are starting to work on a new Triad story (I know quite of few of you have asked for one of those) We are very excited about the possibilities and we hope you all will like it just as much as we do. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this little jaunt with Dean Winchester.
"I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one's skin."- Maya Angelou
Dean Winchester was convinced there was nothing quite like coming home, especially for a man who had spent most of his life without a permanent roof over his head. Even if it was raining and he was getting soaked as he tried to weave his way past the two wet dogs seemingly determined to trip him up on his way to the covered porch. His own front door was chipped, peeling, and badly in need of painting, but still a sight for sore eyes, despite the soccer ball, shin guards and lacrosse equipment piled in front of it. He could even overlook the few bags of stinking garbage attracting a swarm of flies that should have been taken off by one of his teenage sons. In a rare moment of nostalgia Dean even let himself believe that coming home might have been made sweeter for the current mess.
"Home sweet home."
Dean didn't need to look at Sam to know he was smirking. His younger brother's tone always gave him away. Dean could read his thoughts almost as if he were the psychic in the family. Athos let out a yip, shaking the rain from his coat. D'Artagnan made a keening noise. The ten year old German Shepherd wanted out of the weather almost as much as Dean.
"At least it's not a sea of Barbies and a tea set." Dean met Sam's dark gaze. The younger Winchester's eyes were full of rare humor as he shook his long shaggy hair much like Athos had done. Dean was reminded he had always had a home even if it wasn't made of block and board.
"You should be so lucky." Sam chuckled, but Dean detected a hint of his brother's typical smugness. They both knew even at seven, Sam's daughter was way neater and much better behaved than any of Dean's kids would ever be.
"It's not my fault I had boys." Dean was convinced the difference in his and his brother's household environments was not impacted by any kind of great parenting gene Sam got on a fluke and he had missed out on, no matter what Sam might like to believe. It sure as hell wasn't from the self-help parenting books his brother devoured during his baby girl's formative years. Mary arrived on the scene pretty damn perfect. Not for the first time Dean frowned at the unfairness of it.
"Dad had boys," Sam pointed out.
"At least one." Dean grinned, loving that Sam's face flushed at the implication he might have been just as girly as his daughter.
"Jerk," Sam muttered.
Dean rolled his eyes at the lame comeback, but didn't bother to keep up the insults. It had been a great three days and pounding Sam would have ruined his good mood. Slipping into the role of hunter was surprisingly freeing. As glad as Dean was to be home, het recognized his mixed feelings about the gig being over. The days with Sam and him in the field on the road were good, like old times, only better because they were both such different men now, different brothers. Better brothers.
"Are we going in or are you going to stand out here all night making cow eyes at me?" Sam must have been of the same mind about the trip and their bonding. He kicked James's soccer ball out of the way, picked up Max's lacrosse gear so Dean could manage to actually open the screen door without dropping his duffel. Dean took it as a white flag.
"You missed them, didn't you?" Dean knew as much as Sam had been the one to resist the whole concept of having a real home, he'd thrived in the lives they'd built since the war.
"No," Sam denied. "I'm hungry."
Dean grunted, stumbling back a few steps as both Athos and D'Artagnan instantly wedged their lanky bodies between him and the opening to begin their favorite game of who's going to be first in the kitchen. The antics elicited another snort and a half laugh from Sam.
"What?" Dean glared at his brother, though they both knew there was no heat behind it. He couldn't be mad when it was so damn good to hear Sam laugh. Even now, with things going as well as they ever had, Dean thought Sam held on too tightly to the darkness of the past. If it wasn't a hunt, it was a case. If it wasn't a case, it was Triad business. If not The Brotherhood, then concerns about Mary.
The dogs barked and pawed at the door. Something they never did when Juliet was home because they knew it's was a surefire canine sin that would land them a night in their perfectly nice and dry doggy condos on the porch.
"So much for King of the Castle." Sam shifted the lacrosse gear so he could grab Athos's collar. He gave the excited Golden Retriever pup a tug back out of the way with a grin. "If those newbie hunters could see the legendary Dean Winchester now. I don't think they'd be falling over themselves at The Guardian's feet."
"It's easy for you to judge, Little Brother." Sam's only pets were two girly guinea pigs named Sprinkles and Glitter and a goldfish named Ramona the Third because the first two Ramonas had long since been flushed out to sea. "I happen to have everything under control."
Dean made a grand show of shoving the door open. The dogs gracefully hurdled in, disappearing into the living room. Dean wasn't so lucky. He immediately tripped over an impressive barricade of discarded tennis shoes and muddied cowboy boots, nearly going down with the weight of his hunting duffel.
"Son of a…"
"Sure you do." Sam waded in, dropping his bag and the boys' gear next to two discarded jackets and a suitcase.
"Hey, Dad. Uncle Sam."
Dean's building ire was momentarily doused by his oldest son's voice. Ben was grinning. Dean had the forthrightness to at least manage a paternal scowl of disapproval. "What the hell, Ace?"
"Don't look at me." Ben lifted his hands from the peanut butter sandwich in front of him, gesturing his innocence. "I just got here like ten minutes ago. The bomb had already gone off."
Ben didn't make it home much now that he was in residency. A whole weekend was rare so Dean took a breath and tried to see the bright side. Even though the kitchen was a disaster, Pastor Jim came to mind. There was no greeting smell of warm cinnamon or coffee, but Dean couldn't help but to think of the man who welcomed him and Sam into this very spot on so many rainy, battle-weary nights all in the name of family. Family was sometimes messy, he'd say. But like Pastor Jim used to proclaim, Dean wouldn't have his any other way. Most of the time.
"Where are your brothers?"
Instead of answering, Ben yelled at the top of his lungs, his voice echoing through the old farmhouse like a crack of lighting. "JT! James!"
The two wet dogs returned plus one more. Porthos, the three legged Boston Terrier, greeted Dean then Sam with his happy wagging body, before scurrying under the table in hopes of crumbs from Ben's snack.
"I could have done that, Genius." Dean cuffed his oldest on the back of the head as he made his way towards the counter where the coffee pot awaited. Maybe he could dig up some Jack Daniels to take the edge off. It was one habit of his father's that Dean embraced wholeheartedly. Parenting went down better with a chaser of alcohol. The thought of his father brought an echo of pain. Dean was quick to shake off the sudden sadness like he did the rain. "What the hell happened to your inside voice?"
"Do your kids actually have those?" Sam grabbed a seat and half of Ben's sandwich. "I thought Mac decided it was highly improbable considering their genetics. Something about shouting and hard heads being dominant traits."
Dean knew his brother was gloating. He was reveling in the mounting signs that Dean had indeed actually lost all control. "Keep it up and I'm not sharing my coffee, Sammy."
Thunder rumbled overhead, preceding footfalls on the back stairway into the kitchen. Dean looked up just as Maxim Sawyer jumped the last three steps, all six feet of him landing on the tiled floor with a grunt. JT appeared right behind him, the loser in their boy version of 'who can make it to the kitchen first'. When Juliet was home they walked down the stairs like sane human beings.
"Where's the pizza?" Max asked looking from Ben to Dean, not so much as a hello cast in his godfather's direction.
"Excuse me?" Dean shot back, not missing a beat. He was not surprised to see the seventeen year old, who seemed to live at the farm almost as much as he did at his home in Louisville. Dean had long ago stopped asking Joshua and Carolyn to sign over guardianship of the kid so Dean could at least claim the extra mouth to feed on his taxes.
"Where is the pizza, Sir?" Max swiped at his too long bangs, giving Dean a familiar cocky grin.
"Better." Dean grunted, learning long ago he had to choose his battles with his Advisor's son. "Now, what pizza?"
"The pizza I called in from Gino's," Ben explained, around the last bite of his half of the sandwich. "My buddy, Paul is going to deliver."
"I'm so glad you're home, Dad." JT made his way around Max, at least looking happy to see his father. "I was afraid we were going to starve before Ben showed up. There's like nothing here to eat."
Sam coughed to cover another laugh. Dean knew exactly what his brother was thinking. Bastard. Even Dean's good son wasn't so great tonight. Maybe there was still time to go back on the road, take that gig he'd assigned to Riley and Bradley.
"You forget how to get to the store, Son?"
"Kind of hard when there's no money." JT shrugged, leaned against the counter. "You were due back this morning."
Guilt spiked through Dean, spurning more anger than it should. His dad was the king of returning from hunts long after supplies were gone. Dean had made sure his sons had a life so radically different than his and Sam's that the idea they might have gone hungry even for an afternoon caught him off guard, rendering him momentarily speechless.
"We got held up by the weather." Sam was at his brother's side now, obviously sensing the shift in Dean's mood. He took the coffee pot and filled it with water. "And just so you know, it's impossible to starve when you have cabinets full of food."
Dean was pretty sure his brother made the last point for his benefit. Sam even opened the cabinets in question, digging for the coffee, but making sure to note the boxes of macaroni, cans of Beanie Weenies. Not to mention the packs of cookies and quick fix meals they would have killed for as a kid.
"What the hell happened to the money your mom left you?" Dean was only slightly appeased. Juliet had just left for her conference the day before, meaning the boys shouldn't have been anywhere near dire straits.
JT looked down at his shoes, a sure sign Dean was not going to like the answer he was holding back. Max had no such compunction. "Jimmy blew it all on junk food at my game this afternoon. He's being a bigger brat than usual by the way."
JT shoved Max. Max shoved him back. Sam shoved in between them with a sigh.
"James!" Dean yelled louder than Ben had earlier. Athos barked and grabbed his baseball from the floor thinking some sort of game was bound to be starting. Dean caught Sam's muttered, 'like father like son.' Dean wasn't sure if his brother was referring to Dean and his oldest son or John Winchester and Dean.
Before his youngest arrived Dean turned searching eyes to JT once more. "Where the hell is your uncle?"
Dean realized it was the question he should have started with. It hadn't even crossed his mind when he pulled in and one vehicle was blatantly missing. Maybe Dean hadn't lost complete control after all. Maybe this was all Caleb Reaves's fault.
"We haven't seen him since this morning when he and Jimmy went to train."
"That's weird." Sam turned on the coffee pot, glancing at Dean before looking to Max. "He didn't go to your game?"
"James told us that Caleb had a headache and said for us to go without him." Max toyed with the silver dragon pendant at his neck, doing his best to cover any disappointment under a shrug of teenage indifference. "I figured he might show later, but he never did. It's no big deal."
Only Dean knew it was a big deal. Caleb made it a point to go to the boy's games. Whether it was JT's baseball, Jimmy's soccer or Max and lacrosse, Caleb showed up when he could. Hell, Damien even went to Mary's ballet recitals, torturous three hour events that even Dean sometimes ducked out on. Dean was about to yell for James again when the kid of the hour appeared from the living room. He slumped against the door panel, looking extremely put upon, like a rock star asked for his autograph one too many times.
"Hey, you're back." All three dogs gathered around their favored human of the pack, Athos pushing the ball towards James as Porthos pawed at his master's legs with a whine.
"James." Dean folded his arms over his chest.
"Dad." James reached down and rubbed Athos's broad head, scratched Porthos behind the ears.
"Where's your uncle?"
James straightened, pointing to Sam. "Right beside you."
"The other one," Dean said through bared teeth. He was truly trying to be happy he was home. He even resorted to silently repeating Dorothy's mantra. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. "You know, not as tall, or smart as Sammy, but good looking with better people skills."
"Hey." Sam shoved him. Dean shoved him back.
James stepped further into the kitchen, crossing his arms over his chest. "I only have one uncle."
The tone struck Dean first. Smart assed and condescending. James at thirteen. He clenched his hands, breathed in and out through his nose, just like Mac had coached. It was something he was still working on with the doctor. The not killing James, that is. Then the actual words sunk in. "What did you just say?"
"You heard me."
Dean didn't even realize he had started forward until Sam gripped his arm, keeping him in place. "Check the attitude, James."
It was unlike Dean's brother to correct the boys, at least not when Dean was around. Dean figured he must have been afraid for James's safety, proving Sam really was a damn good psychic.
"Come again?" Dean pulled away from his brother and stalked towards his youngest son. He was caught once more by the thought that James was truly a beautiful child. It happened to parents sometimes. They could be momentarily star struck or dazed depending on the situation, by the fact that they had actually brought something so completely incredible or completely incorrigible into the world. James often inspired the latter but in moments, Dean was awed by him. He had his mother's black hair, and John Winchester's eyes, the color of sunlit whiskey. His skin was flawless, unmarred by the freckles Dean had, the ones he'd passed to JT and Ben. To top it off, James had deep dimples that framed a mouth just as wide and open's as Sam's when the kid smiled. He was not smiling now. He was scowling. Dean found it almost funny how the boy could physically look nothing like him, yet at times, for Dean, looking at James was like staring into a mirror.
"I said Sam Winchester is my uncle. Not Caleb. He's not even related to us. I'm no longer going to pretend like he is and you can't make me."
It was an irrefutable fact, technically true. Dean couldn't argue the logic, but the way James pronounced it was almost like the kid had punched Dean, or maybe spit in his face. Dean stopped, shook his head and made sure he stayed just out of arms reach for James protection. Porthos sat on his boy's feet. D'Artagnan started keening again and Athos dropped his ball in favor of nervously chomping on the ancient gray squirrel squeaky toy that no longer squeaked because it was older than any of Dean Winchester's children.
"What the hell has gotten in to you?"
"The truth, Dad. That's what's gotten into me. Maybe you should try it sometime."
"Jimmy, cut it out." Ben quickly stood up from the table. Dean realized Sam was not the only one afraid for the kid's immediate safety.
"Don't Jimmy me." James thrust a hand out, punching the air between him and his older brother. "My name is James. I'm thirteen not three and I'm sick and tired of everyone lying to me about everything."
"Is this about your abilities?" Sam moved once more to Dean's side. Dean would have been lying if he didn't admit it was a comfort having his brother there to stop him just in case he was struck by a John Winchester moment, and decided to beat some sense into his son .
"Turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg of what you all have been hiding."
"We were not hiding your abilities," Dean growled. He had been having this discussion with his son in some form or another for the last six months since James started showing signs of his psychic gift, which just happened to be seeing and hearing anything beyond the grave. Dean was beginning to understand why his father never attempted to explain Sam's abilities to him. At first, Dean had taken the lashing out in stride. James was never one to hold things back and Dean could admire that. But add disappointment, an influx of adolescent hormones and anger to the mix, not to mention the fact James was hurt and disillusioned by the hand he'd been dealt, and you had a virtual powder keg. Dean wished, not for the first time, that they could go back in time and somehow do it all over again, or maybe find a way to prevent it all from happening so fast. "We were only holding off until you were older and…"
"And when was I going to be old enough to know about Caleb, Dad? When exactly is the right age to tell me that my godfather, my teacher, my good old Uncle Damien is really a demon?"
If it had been anyone else, Dean might have snapped, might have yelled and screamed or worse, came out swinging, but this was his child. Dean had never loved anyone or anything like he loved his children. Not even his brother. Not even his best friend. But still, there were lines no one crossed with Dean. No one. They were lines his children had to understand, no matter how much Dean loved them.
"Shut your mouth." He pointed a finger at James, took a step closer, keeping his voice low.
"That's bullshit!" Max snarled. Dean wasn't sure if Joshua's son had moved closer to help JT protect James from a perceived threat, or just to be closer to the action he thrived on, but he was now toe to toe with James. "Take it back before I pound you, Brat."
"I'm not going to take it back," James snapped, getting in the older teen's face. "It's the truth, and you can pound me all you like, it's not going to change the fact that our supposed uncle, The Knight of the Brotherhood is from freaking demon kind, and not just any demon, the demon that killed my grandmother."
"It's not like that Jimmy," Ben started now.
"So you knew?" James turned on Ben, then glared at JT. "What about you, Golden Boy? Have you been keeping his dirty little secret too?"
"I said to shut the hell up!" Dean roared. The two bigger dogs scampered out of the room, ears back, tails between their legs. Porthos stood his ground, backing up against James who looked on the verge of angry tears now and growled low in his throat. Dean stomped his foot at the terrier and pointed to the living room. "Go, Porthos. OUT."
The dog gave a little yelp as if Dean had kicked him and tore off after his larger counterparts. Dean turned his wrath on the humans left standing in the room.
Sam's voice was too gentle, too full of understanding. The mockery was better. It made Dean want to punch something. So much for coming home to a perfectly peaceful boy's night.
"I've got it, Sam."
Sam didn't look so sure but he took a step back. Dean raked both hands through his hair and huffed out a long puff of air. "All of you just shut up and sit down. That's an order!"
The boys complied, JT taking a seat by Ben. After a brief shoving match, Max and James followed suit on the other side of the table. Sam remained standing next to The Guardian.
"Dad, is this some kind of joke?" JT looked from his father to James. "Is this why you've been holed up in your room all afternoon sulking?"
Dean ignored his middle son, leaning his hands on the table he stared right at James. "Who told you that Caleb was a demon?"
"And you fucking believed it?" Max snorted. "Shows how smart you are, Genius. Demons lie, James. How many times has Uncle Caleb drilled that in our heads?"
"Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, or better yet how about that old saying 'it takes one to know one'?" James shot back. "Caleb is the biggest liar of all!"
"Not another word about Caleb, James!" Sam pounded his fist on the table before Dean could react. Miss Emma's tea kettle rattled, the sugar dish jumped around. "He's The Knight and you will show him some respect."
Dean took a breath and tried to channel Pastor Jim, to resurrect some of the former Guardian's calm and serenity as he placed a hand on Sam's arm and pushed his brother into one of the empty seats.
"What demon, James?" Dean asked, calmer than he thought possible.
"A demon at the old Wakefield house."
Dean shared a look with Sam. The Wakefield house was a condemned mansion about thirty miles outside of New Haven. It had once been a makeshift hospital in the Civil War, a constant hot bed of spiritual activity. It had been around since Pastor Jim's time and was often used as a place to let new hunters cut their teeth.
"Where you and Caleb have been practicing your defensive techniques?" Caleb had proposed the idea to Dean about a month ago. He felt his nephew was progressing swiftly in controlling his abilities and was ready for a field test. Caleb pointed out that James wasn't going to learn to build a stronger defense against spiritual attacks until he actually encountered them in a controlled environment. It was ghosts, poltergeists at the worst. Dean conceded. He trusted Caleb completely.
James glared at his father. "I guess I learned more than you all expected."
Dean met his son's gaze, trying like hell to see past the kid's anger to what lay at the heart of the issue. James might have insisted he was mostly grown, but he was still a kid-a kid who was dealing with a hell of a blow. Dean willed his own anger to stay in check and felt a wave of patience he didn't expect. Maybe Pastor Jim was with them after all. He could almost feel the former Guardian's hand on his shoulder, his assuring presence. "Tell me what happened."
By the time the tale was finished, Dean had taken the chair by Sam, his legs gone boneless with not only the nasty details of what the monster had said to James, but what James had said in turn to Caleb, along with the realization that his youngest son and best friend had been in the company of powerful demons. They could have been killed.
"That can't be true, Jimmy," Max's voice was not as certain as before. It was laced with some of the old heat, but also held a bit of something else which Dean took as concern for James.
"Dad?" JT's tone was all pain and hurt. He sounded like he was five again. Dean didn't even look at him as he stood up from the table. His sons deserved a response, an explanation, but there was somebody else Dean was certain needed him more.
"It's not like it sounds, guys," Ben was trying to take up the slack in his gentle way. "Trust me. Uncle Caleb will explain everything, just like he did with me. Nothing is what it seems."
"I've got to go." Dean made a move for the door, but Sam caught his arm to stop him.
"Do you want me to come with you?"
"No." Dean waved his brother off. "Stay with the boys. Make sure they don't starve."
"You should have been the one to tell us." James's voice was as hollow as Dean felt. "I blame you for this, Dad. You!"
'Dad' had invoked many emotions in Dean Winchester over the years, but it had never quite felt like an accusation, or so much like a blade through his heart. "Go to your room, James."
When James stayed where he was, defiance radiating from every pore, Dean slammed both his hands on to the table, nearly flipping it. "GO!" He roared.
James darted from the table, knocking his chair over in the process. He tore up the stairs in a streak. JT, Max and Ben stayed where they were, silent, exchanging unsure, wary glances.
"I've got this." Sam now nudged Dean towards the door, opened it for him even.
Dean briefly met his brother's gaze, fighting past the lump in his throat to speak. "I'm beginning to rethink the sea of Barbies and tea parties."
Sam clasped his brother's shoulder, squeezed. "Go bring him home."
To be continued...