Much thanks to Jenjoremy for signing up to work on another story with me. She beta's, she improves and she makes it all flow.
Welcome to my new story. This is something different for me. For one, I'm writing weechesters for the first couple chapters, and for another… Well, I'll let you read and see. Suffice to say it's been a challenge.
The original idea for this story came from a prompt roguishfeathers left on the Oh Sam comment meme. I can't find the original prompt — and it would give too much away about the plot anyway — but with a few additions and subtractions to her idea, this story was born. Thank you roguishfeathers for letting me run with it.
I'll stop blathering now and let you read.
Ellen was wiping down the bar, swiping nut shells to the floor and mopping up spilled beer, when she heard the rumble of a car coming along the track.
"Keep on driving," she muttered.
It was past midnight, and she'd only just managed to kick the last of the ornery patrons out the door. She didn't want some hunter stitching himself up on one of her clean tables, using the good liquor to sterilize and anesthetize, because he was too much of a damn fool to take himself to the ER after a hunt gone sour. It had happened before too many times to count. She wanted to finish her chores and go to bed so she could be halfway human when Jo woke her up at the crack of dawn, ready for a brand new day.
The rumble got closer and Ellen paused in her mopping to listen. There was something familiar about the sound, something that danced on the edges of her mind, teasing her. It came to her in a rush of understanding and anger. She knew that sound, that distinctive engine, and she knew the owner: John goddamn Winchester.
Before she knew it, she was behind the bar, grabbing the shotgun she kept in a spring clip there for any fool who was dumb enough to make trouble in her bar. She had shot it a dozen times, but never at a person. Was this the night that would change? She was a good shot. Bill had made sure of that. He'd had her training with guns even before they were married, determined that she would always be able to take care of herself. She was able. It was him that couldn't. He had been the one who had gotten himself gutted by some fugly because he was stupid enough to team up with John Winchester.
She didn't want to kill him, she didn't want to make two boys orphans, but the anger… it was so intense.
It had been less than a year since Bill took his last breath and Jo had just about stopped asking when he was going to come back. Maybe in time Ellen could think of John Winchester and not want to pull the trigger, but not yet. She took a deep breath and held it, summoning calm and thoughts of the boys. They didn't deserve Jo's fate—life without a father.
She found calm, but she didn't loosen her grip on the gun. She owed John a lot, least of all a damn good scare. He could look down the barrel and know how Bill had felt facing death.
He didn't knock on the door, he hammered, and she cursed him. If he woke Jo, she would pull the trigger and shoot him in the foot.
She took another deep breath to calm herself then drew back the bolt and opened the door. John stood a few feet back, his hands held up defensively, as if that would help him. His raised hands aside, he looked almost exactly as he had the last time she'd seen him, the day he'd come to her with news of Bill's death. His eyes were deeply shadowed and red rimmed. His face was an unhealthy grey and it was slack, as if he didn't even have the energy for an expression. He looked wrecked. Her first thought was who. Who had been hurt? Who had died this time?
"I know I shouldn't be here," he said, and even his voice was weaker than usual. A mere shadow of its usual gritty gravel. "I know I've got no right, but, Ellen, I need help."
He didn't look injured. She had seen John Winchester hurt. She'd seen him beaten and bleeding, even crying, but he didn't looked like that now. He looked broken.
"What do you think I can do for you?" she asked.
He shook his head dolefully. "I don't even know. I just knew I had to come somewhere. I don't know what to do with him."
Ellen frowned. "With who, John?" A horrible thought came to her. "Are the boys okay?"
John breathed a laugh. It was a tragic sound, devoid of all humor. It was all encompassing sadness. "They're not hurt."
"Then what is it?"
He didn't answer, he didn't seem capable, but it didn't matter. At that moment the rear right door of the Impala opened and a young boy almost fell out.
"Sammy, I told you to stay in there," John said, but there was no anger in his tone, just defeat.
"I wanted to see Dean," the boy said.
As he stepped into the light streaming from the open door, Ellen got a good look at Sam as her heart seemed to squeeze painfully in her chest. He looked so much like his father in a way no child had a right to. Not his features – they were all his mother; it was the fact this child was just as wrecked as his father.
"I told you," John said. "Dean's not coming back."
Sam began to cry. He made no noise; there were no sobs or gasping breaths, just silent tears that slipped down his cheeks.
Ellen's anger at John and desperation for answers was eclipsed by worry for this boy. She pushed past John and knelt in front of Sam. "Honey, what's happened?"
Sam wiped his face with the sleeve of his worn shirt. "I want Dean."
Ellen opened her arms and he fell into them as if he didn't have the will needed to resist the comfort offered. His small hands gripped the collar of the old flannel shirt that had once belonged to Bill, and he tucked his face in to her neck. She could feel his tears damping the cloth.
Ellen stood, scooping Sam up with her. He was too big for this really, he'd grown like a weed in the year since she'd last seen him, but it didn't matter to her. He needed loving on the way only a mother could, and as his mother was gone, she would do it in Mary Winchester's stead.
Without looking at John, she walked inside and through the bar, coming out in the small living quarters. She took Sam into the bedroom she and Bill had once shared and laid him down on the bed. He let himself be set down without fuss, and he curled into a small ball on the bedcovers, tears still creeping from his eyes.
"Okay, honey, I need to talk to your dad. Will you be okay in here?" she asked in a gentle voice.
He didn't speak but he nodded. She ran a hand through his hair and then, without thinking of what she was about to do, she bent and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"I'll be right back," she said, then turned and left the room.
John was sitting at a table, a full glass and a bottle of whiskey in front of him.
"Help yourself," she said dryly.
He looked up at her with those red eyes and she almost apologized. She withheld the urge though; she had nothing to apologize to John Winchester for.
He leaned slightly and rooted in his pocket for something. He pulled out a bill and laid it on the table. "This should cover it."
She shook her head. She didn't want his money. She didn't want him in her bar at all. What she wanted, in her most secret of hearts, was for him to leave now, alone. She wanted him to give her that broken boy to protect and take care of and get his presence, his damned memory drawing face, out of her life again.
She leaned over the bar and took a glass for herself from the shelf and then went to his table. She swung a chair around and sat down, leaning her arms on the back. She couldn't sit down with him directly. That seemed too intimate given everything that he had done to her and her family. The chair acted as a barrier, a message that she was here because she had to be and for no other reason. She wanted it clear that she forgave nothing. She was only here for his boys, the one on her bed and the one who was missing.
"Where's Dean?" she asked
John raised his head slowly, it seemed to take a great deal of effort for him to make the movement, and said, "Gone," in a cracked voice.
"He's okay?" she asked, heart beating madly in her chest. He had said they weren't hurt, but he had lied. Sam was hurting. Was Dean dead?
"He's not hurt. He's apparently winning prizes and acing school and dating," John said bitterly.
Ellen rubbed at her temples. She was getting a headache and John's cryptic answers weren't helping a damn. "Tell me everything."
John seemed to brace himself. He straightened and gripped the edge of the table. "Dean got caught shoplifting a couple months back. Stupid kid was ripping off a Gas-N-Sip for some crap or other. He'd lost the money I'd given him in a poker game. Who even lets a sixteen year old play poker?" He shook his head. "They took him in and the damn fool beat on the deputy. I've told him a hundred times, don't fight if you can't win. They took him in and called me…" He scraped a hand over his forehead hard as if hoping to wound himself. "I thought he needed to be taught a lesson, so I told them to keep him. I swung by and picked up Sam and we booked it."
Ellen was horrified by what she was hearing. John had willingly left Dean in lockup to teach him a lesson. What kind of parent did that? She couldn't ever imagine doing that to Jo.
John wasn't finished though. He went on, "A hunt came up, so I took Sam somewhere safe and went after it. Things came up, I never meant to leave him so long, but…"
"Are you telling me, John Winchester, that you left Dean in lockup for two months?"
"No," he said dolefully. "They took him to a correctional home; a place run by some guy named Sonny who takes in kids. It wasn't lockup. I thought it would teach him a lesson, that's all. I never imagined it could end like this."
"Like what?" Ellen asked. "What have you done, John?"
"I went to pick him up a couple days ago," he said. "I found the place he was staying, but he wasn't there…" He laughed that humorless laugh again. "He was at a damn school dance. He'd taken up with some girl and they were out at a social together. This guy Sonny, real piece of work, told me… Well, he told me all kinds of things. How I was a lunatic for one—seems Dean's been spilling the secrets to him like it was story time around a campfire. He said I was dangerous and I shouldn't have my boys. He… I had to do it, Ellen," he said imploringly. "I couldn't lose them both. I had to save Sam."
"Save him from what?" Ellen asked, her anger strong in her tone. "A good, normal life?"
John's face flushed with color, but when he spoke his voice wasn't angry, it was lifeless. "I had to keep Sam with me. I need to take care of him. Look out for him. Dean's sixteen. He can take care of himself; Sam can't yet. He needs me with him."
Ellen marshaled herself so she could speak without her voice shaking. "You're telling me you abandoned Dean in a correctional home so you could keep Sam?"
"Not just for that. He's doing so well, Ellen. I told you—acing school and kicking ass in contests. I just thought if I had to lose one them, surely it was better that it was Dean, knowing he'd have a good life. He's never had the chance for any of that; he wasn't even in school when Mary died. He's been a hunter since he was four years old. The best thing I can do for him now is let him go so he can have some kind of chance for a normal life."
"He's your son, John. How can you just leave your own son behind?"
John bowed his head and Ellen thought she saw a tear drop to his lap. "I love him, that's how. I love him enough to let him go."
Ellen looked at his bowed head and the tears that were now falling freely. He was a broken man, she could see. He hadn't made this decision lightly; no matter how screwed up the logic seemed to her, it was obvious he thought he was doing the right thing for Dean.
On the heels of that thought came another: Sam. That devastated boy, hopefully sleeping now, needed her more than anything. The poor kid had just lost his brother.
So… Who wants John's head on a stick?
When I was outlining this story with Gredelina1 we both agreed that John shouldn't be a villain. He was doing what he thought was best for both of his boys. I thought I'd done a good job of writing that until I came back to edit this prologue and found myself cursing his name for what he did. When it came to not villainizing him, I failed spectacularly apparently.
Anyway… I know this is a very different story to anything you've read from me before, but I'm hoping some of you are prepared to come on the journey anyway. There is a little weechesters in the next chapter and then we'll be back to the adult Sam and Dean that I love to write—I'm not good with the young ones.
Hoping to see you next time…
Clowns or Midgets xxx