Disclaimer, Summary & Rating: Please see Chapter 1.
MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP
The Rehab Therapy clinic was the on the ground floor of the hospital, facing the picturesque vista of the woods and overlooking a garden, with big windows that let in a lot of light and lots of space between the equipment. At the moment there weren't that many patients in, which was probably for the best since those that were present were watching the antics of the Winchester boys rather than doing much of their own therapy.
Sam stood about six feet in front of Dean. In one hand he held a typical glass pot of freshly filtered coffee and in the other a large white enamel mug. With an evil grin he had slowly poured the steaming, rich black liquid into the mug and uttered the drawn-out declaration. Now he took a slurping sip and smacked his lips together with exaggerated relish, "Haaaa-tm-tm-tm."
Though Mac the physiotherapist waited nearby with deceptive nonchalance just in case, Dean had excelled in his twelve days of physiotherapy. Due to the injuries being to both left side limbs, he regrettably had a tendency to still sort of shuffle-lurch, which made him resemble nothing so much as a zombie in one of those schlock-horror B-movies. However he was improving almost minute by minute, as demonstrated by the fairly fast way in which he moved towards his brother with clearly homicidal intent, baring his lips in a silent snarl as Sam tauntingly inched backwards to maintain distance whilst taking another slurping sip of the coffee and repeating the hyperbolic lip-sucking and sounds of gustatory delight.
John Winchester also watched from further away, seated with a cup of coffee near the windows (ruefully he had to admit that much of Dean's caffeine addiction came straight from his donation of DNA). Thanks to the doctors, but much more so to Sam's obsessive – ruthless – determination to help his brother, Dean would soon literally walk out of the hospital as 'good as new'.
That meant that at this stage, John was increasingly superfluous to requirements. His aim in coming had to been to provide a focal point for Sam's frustration, to ensure that the boy never consciously understood the sheer depth of his absolute dominion over his brother, which Dean would otherwise have unwittingly betrayed in a thousand ways because of his enforced helplessness. But Dean would kill himself in an attempt to never show 'weakness' in front of his father, and Sam had taken Dean's bullish attitude at face value.
And of course on top of that, it was simply too dangerous for all of them. John was acutely aware that he had survived Chicago only due to the resilience and resourcefulness of his sons and he'd never been as proud of them – or as filled with longing to stay. But Meg Masters and her ilk were on the prowl, temporarily down but far, far from out. It would take them time, but sooner rather than later they would light on the three men if he lingered here too long, and wackiness would ensue.
As a trio, the Winchesters were just too distinct and conspicuous, whereas separated they merely blended into the background; John was just one more middle-aged drifter, an itinerant-labourer hobo unremarkable amongst the hundreds who drifted across the continental United States. Likewise there was nothing to distinguish Sam and Dean from hundreds of other young Americans who did the 'road trip' thing before or after college, either as couples or siblings or buddies.
There was a soft 'clunk' sound. Sam had finally stopped shuffling backwards and had placed the coffee pot on a side table as Dean reached where he was standing. Changing his grip on the coffee mug so he was holding it by the rim and base with the handle facing away from him, Sam remained still and curved his left arm around the bottom of Dean's back, bracing himself so Dean could use him as a leaning post. Determinedly pretending Sam wasn't there even as he leaned into him, Dean reached up with both hands and as Sam held it steady he curled his fingers tightly round the mug handle, supporting the base lightly with his still weakened left hand. Once he had securely grasped the mug Sam released his own hold and Dean slowly brought the mug to his mouth, holding it in both hands, taking a sip and closing his eyes with an ecstatic sigh.
Sam carefully remained still, placing his right hand lightly just on the back of Dean's right shoulder as he kept his left arm around Dean's waist to help support him as necessary; Sam's tender actions were somewhat ruined by his wide, smirking grin as Dean, utterly ignoring him, continued his almost orgasmic communion with the coffee.
John watched them sombrely, knowing that nobody in the room, including Sam and Dean, was aware of just how much Sam was unconsciously using his telekinetic abilities to assist him physically in supporting his brother's bodyweight. Even a small child was heavier than he or she looked, and a person who, for whatever reason was unable to support their own bodyweight, for example by being unconscious, was very much like a sack of potatoes or a very heavy rag-doll. You tried to pick them up and they rolled and flopped and oozed and slid all over the place, like trying to carry Jello in your bare hands.
When he left here in a couple of days he would risk a visit to Lawrence to see Missouri. Of all the help his dear friend had provided him over the years, she had never done him a greater service than the straight talk and sage counsel she'd given him with the truth about his sons.
It had been hard to accept – in some ways it still was. A part of him would always resent the fact that he couldn't have the strong, positive relationship he'd always wanted with Sam. But a good parent did what was best, not what was easiest. Besides, he'd had to start rectifying matters in short order; Missouri had given him that stern talking to a few weeks after the fire but at the time he'd been in no shape to deal with more revelations than those she'd already dropped on him from a great height regarding what really lurked out there in the shadows.
That little actions could have profound consequences was truism bordering on the cliché, but of course many people who said it didn't heed it, as John knew only too well. On that terrible night of Mary's murder he had given Sam to Dean…who had never given him back.
Although that wasn't quite accurate, was it, John? He could almost hear the tart question aloud, and after 22 years his mind could still conjure Mary's voice with perfect nuance – she would have folded her arms and looked at her husband and raised her eyebrows (one of his favourite goofy things about her was her secret yearning to be able to do the one-eyebrow-raising Vulcan thing but she could never manage it) and he would have caved in to her gentle yet inexorable expression of 'John Dean Winchester do you really think I'm buying your line of BS?'
At first he had simply been incapable…of pretty much anything. In those first forty-eight hours after That Night he had breathed and slept and walked only because the human brain had a neat autonomic function back-up, a biological 'autopilot' failsafe that carried someone at the ultimate edge through the maelstrom and afterwards they had no clear idea how they'd done it. He'd made catatonia look like hysteria.
And then he'd been…unwilling. He had been sucked down into despair and depression, an inky whirlpool of hopeless, rage and yes, resentment. Deep, deep down where he could barely acknowledge the hateful emotion, his pain had bubbled and festered. Why did it have to be Mary that died and not…Sam – or Dean. Mary was his world, Mary was his queen. Mary was irreplaceable, but we could always have had another baby, his grief had railed. He had been unable to even look at the two little boys without feeling the irrational urge to strike them…like the poem said, 'thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears'. Oh yes, John Winchester was intimately familiar with what Winston Churchill had called his 'Black Dog', when the world was nothing but grey and it hurt so much and you were so tired, all the time; when getting out of bed was a feat more arduous than climbing Everest, when it was so much easier to be finished, to be done, when that little voice in your head whispered that it would best to just stop…that if you pressed your foot down on that pedal instead of this one at that bad bend where the road was always greasy then there would be no more effort, no more struggle.
Back during John's own college days he'd had to take summer courses for extra credits due to a little too much Sophomore-year socialising, and out of vindictiveness on his college tutor's part had been dumped in a Classic English Lit class. He was going to be a Marine, for crying out loud…he had no interest in wandering clouds or daffodils. Adding insult to injury, the Lit class had been at 9:00am on a Monday, and he had spent two hours of his pre-Junior year summer dissecting the poetry of some woebegone chick named Edna St. Vincent Millay.
'Where you used to be there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in daytime, and falling into at night.' John had been thrown out of that class for suggesting what Edie needed was to get laid, but a few months after Mary's death, he'd left the boys with some neighbour and gone out into the countryside with the express purpose of unloading his service revolver into his skull, when that poem had suddenly popped into his head, and he had realised that Edna St. Vincent Millay was the brightest person on the planet bar none. Like him, her life had sucked, like Mary she had died young…but even after writing that poem, from somewhere she'd found the strength to go on, to stay in the world despite the unendurable pain of doing so. How could he do any less, especially when he had his boys depending on him?
He'd turned the car around and slunk back to Lawrence where he found Missouri Moseley waiting for him with blood in her eyes and fire on her tongue to drag him kicking and screaming back into the world. But by the time he'd crawled out of his fugue state, it had been too late to reclaim the position he'd effectively abrogated to Dean the night Mary was killed.
As he'd observed his young sons, Missouri's explanations and warnings had become clear and he'd put things together. Five weeks after the open gate incident, Dean was supposed to have gone on a week-long camping trip with his schoolmates. The trip had been organised for over a year and the little boy was eagerly looking forward to it, especially as Daddy had given him his cool Swiss Army knife from the Marines and helped him practice putting up tents and cooking sausages over a fire like they used to do at weekends together before Sammy was born, 'camping out' in the back yard while Mary firmly declined the invitation and remained asleep in the comfy centrally-heated bedroom of the house. Not that Dean had minded, 'cause Mommy was only a girl and camping with no toilets – but spiders - was cool boys' stuff.
As he did every night Dean had gone into the nursery and kissed the baby goodnight on the forehead, promising to tell Sammy all about what he'd done when he came back and promising he wouldn't forget Sammy, even though a week was 'ages and ages' of time. But as he left, he nursery door had swung shut too fast and trapped his hand against the doorjamb. Understandably, Dean had screamed the house down, so had Sam, even Mary had lost her cool as John hustled their quartet into the car and drove hell for leather to the ER.
The paediatrician had been kind and jolly and reassured Dean in John's embrace as the little boy curled up with his hand clutched to his chest. X-rays had shown that there was no bone fracture and there seemed to be no nerve damage, but his hand was badly bruised and swelled up like a small black balloon. However, camping and a boy with a bandaged, immobile hand were mutually exclusive terms. Dean had never had the chance to go again, of course.
A few days before John would take the boys and finally leave Lawrence forever, Dean had chastised a naughty Sam, by then of an age where he could crawl, and as punishment had taken away from him the candy bar he'd given him. A little later a boiling hot pan of tomato soup had spilled off the stove, fortunately when Dean was several feet away from it.
At the time of each incident, they had simply been forgotten, but after his suicide decision and with Missouri's counsel echoing in his ears, John had looked with fresh eyes; those occurrences had taken on new, sinister significance. Like the germinating seeds of a poison tree he had seen the petulance and spite taking root in Sammy, the malice and selfishness like creeping, smothering vine, the toddler's increasing whining sulkiness and above all Sam's excessive possessiveness toward his brother and his jealousy of anything that took Dean's attention and time away from him.
There was a reason that spoiled children were called spoiled; like rotted fruit they were rancid and soft and fit only for the trash. Small children were utterly innocent, but they were also the most inherently egocentric creatures on the planet; they lived in a universe of one, inhabited by a solitary deity, 'I'. They greedily accepted unconditional love as a divine right, but wanted no truck with its responsibilities. It was known that you had to teach children racism and bigotry as you had to teach them to read and write, but not as widely accepted in today's liberal ideology that by the same token you had to teach them how to love and share and care as you taught them mathematics and how to tie their shoelaces.
And Dean had no defence. He was like open rural country to his brother. Against Sam he built no walls and raised no fences…he could be cherished or destroyed according to Sam's whim…and thanks to Missouri, John had recognised that in time. She had been clear: Sam's abilities would probably go dormant in his childhood for a time – but there was no guarantee that they would, and at any rate, he was so gifted that eventually he would come fully 'online', probably during puberty or his early twenties…
And I'm a candle next to a star compared to that boy, John Winchester, you hear me? For an instant Missouri was almost there with him in the Rehab room, hands on hips as she had stood when she'd torn a strip off him that night, her anger making her lyrical accent more pronounced with the vehemence of her rebuke:
An' unless yawl get your big ole' head outta that scrawny white ass o' yours, Dean is gonna be thuh one payin' thu' price. Sam's not just the F-18 o' psychics, he's gonna be a powerful telekinetic too! Probably even telepathy eventually! Yawl tell me right now, John Dean Winchester, how is Dean supposed ta protect hisself from a spoiled brat of a brother who can throw him into walls while standin' thuh other side o' the room, or a bullyin', merciless sibling who could beat him with a baseball bat just by thinkin' about it, or cut him with a knife yet stay beyond Dean's reach? Yawl think you're thuh only one who sees how devoted he is to that baby? Yawl think he's gonna fight back when Sam starts manipulatin' him 'n' a-hurtin' him? Dean loves that boy unconditionally, without reservation an' without hesitation an' eventually that's gonna get him dead – its called domestic violence and it ain't always a husband and wife deal.
While he might need the occasional slap upside the head, John was not dilatory once he 'got' it. He had grabbed the 'emotional Paraquat' and he had exterminated the blooming arrogance and pulled out spitefulness and truculence by the roots in his younger son. Fortunately out-plotting a toddler was not that hard for any reasonably bright adult and he had succeeded in his damage control.
Sam had won the war for Dean's love long before John opened the hostilities; all John had been able to do was fight a rearguard action on his elder son's behalf, but it had worked. He had made Sam fight for every victory, every extra ounce of further hold over Dean and he had succeeded in protecting one son from the other. The Sam Winchester not ten feet away from him was a compassionate, principled youth, a young man of morality and integrity, compassionate, honourable and decent.
Above all he was clueless. John hadn't been surprised when Sam's abilities activated fully following Jessica Moore's murder, but the thought that he could use his increasing power to subjugate Dean, to force his brother's submission to his wishes and whims had never once entered Sam's head – in fact, had never even come near to entering his head. Sam's dominion over Dean was absolute; his saving grace was that he was utterly unaware of the fact.
Not once had John ever hesitated, ever doubted, ever wavered, in his absolute faith that Dean would willingly and unhesitatingly kill to protect Sam and die to save him. John looked over to where Sam continued to tenderly torment Dean about the coffee, his demeanour that of a tigress with a wobbly cub. Pity the idiot that tried to hurt Dean with Sam on the same continent. Now for the first time, John found he had equal faith in that Sam would do the same for Dean.
Of course Sam would use his powers against Dean. It was inevitable. Not because he was that spoiled bully that he could have ended up as but because his abilities were a natural extension of him, like his brown hair and his sweet grin. It was a fact that siblings squabbled; brothers fought with brothers, sisters argued with sisters, there was yelling and finger-wagging and prodding and hair-tugging and occasionally fisticuffs.
John wouldn't be there when the fight happened, would probably never be told about it, but he knew his boys and he could see it as clear as crystal without any precognitive predilection on his part. They would be having some snarky rant about some petty triviality – McDonald's® versus Taco Bell® or something. Sam was too much like John in that when mad he yelled and stomped and waved his arms like he was conducting some invisible orchestra; probably why their fights over the years had been so spectacular. Dean was pure Mary; when mad she would not engage, she would softly hiss for John to get the hell out of her face and just walk away, slamming the door and marching off to cool down and mutter sotto voce invective (the chief epithet of which seemed to be 'men!') even as he tended to follow and hover and try to put over his (i.e., the right) side of the argument. Just like his mom, when furious Dean sought space, sought control, he disengaged from the jerk yelling in his face.
But Sam wouldn't allow that. Sure, Sam had abandoned Dean when he'd gone to college, determined to assuage his craving for a normal life, there was no sauce for the gander as for the goose here. While Sam had left Dean, he would not tolerate Dean leaving him, even just to stomp out into a motel parking lot. The two of them would be arguing in some crappy motel room about what to have for dinner and finally Dean would get to the 'hit Sam or get out' stage and he would turn on his heel to storm out, to spend the night in the back seat of his car if he had to so as to avoid strangling his infuriating jerk of a baby brother.
And Sam would stop him. He'd use his telekinetic abilities to keep the door tightly shut or just hold Dean in place so he couldn't move. The exact instance was irrelevant, what was important was that Sam's actions would be followed by immediate, and most vitally of all, sincere contrition, acknowledgement that to abuse his gift and his brother in such a way was unconscionable.
Dean would forgive him, because there was nothing that Sam could do to Dean that he wouldn't forgive, and that would make Sam realise that the great power he possessed, the greatest gift he had was not clairvoyance, or telekinesis, or even telepathy, but that he was fortunate enough to be the recipient of unconditional love. There was one person in the world who would do anything and everything for him, who would place his life, his welfare and his safety above any other consideration including self-preservation. It was a priceless treasure and a sacred trust, and God help you, boy, if you should ever betray it.
John glanced at the wall clock, seeing how it was incredibly nearly lunch time. "It's a long, long road, my love…and there're miles to go before I sleep," he said softly to himself and to Mary, since he'd never stopped conversing with his wife in twenty-two years; it was the least of his eccentricities.
"…and I got the mechanics to take out that crappy cassette deck and put in a CD player, so now we get to ditch the mullet rock…" Sam was teasing, even as he still embraced his brother.
But not right now…Evil and its manic minions like Meg Masters could wait a while. Now John Winchester was going to have another cup of that very fine coffee and savour this day with his boys.
© 2006, Catherine D Stewart
Author's Note: I know I said that Living La Vida Loca was a one-off, but I got the idea for this…there may be more, there may not. What if John Winchester wasn't a feckless, inadequate, abusive or emotionally crippled father but a loving parent who like all such sacrificed his own chance to be Sam's favourite in order to protect both his children? In many TV shows around now, dads are dummies (if present at all), moms are smart saints and kids have the Wisdom of Solomon. But reality isn't like that. Children/teenagers, even 20-somethings, don't have the intellect and life experience to be that shrewd.
I think I understand the 'Dean' character. My 'Sam' came within a whisker of being stillborn and hurtled through life secure in the big sister that stood between him and the world. Small kids are egocentric and inherently selfish. They take but do not instinctively give. What would I have done with a sibling who could pin me against a wall without coming near me, or who could throw heavy objects at me from far across the room where I could not reach him? My baby brother was jealous of anything other than him that had my time or attention. My parents did not allow their cherished son to become spoiled and a bully because they knew nobody was more vulnerable to such tyranny than I. So this story was born with the idea that John Winchester was as smart as my dad was. I can't speculate on where the season(s) will go plot wise, but until now Supernatural has always focussed on the danger to 'Sam' whereas I have always seen 'Dean' as the truly vulnerable one. As a final note, some of the 'baby' escapades mentioned are taken from my childhood, for instance I was born as and continue to be an insomniac – sorry if they are overly sentimental. I also suffer from depression, which is a hugely not-fun deal.