Disclaimer: The boys aren't mine, which is really too bad.

Summary: A younger Sam reflects on his family's lifestyle as he rides in the Impala one early morning.


Rain or Shine

He'd seen more sunrises than sunsets. He didn't know why he was only realizing this now, at the not-so-tender age of thirteen. Why it would take a book (an eighth-grade novel study, at that) to make him objectively look at the hours his family kept.

He supposed it was the fact that those dawn hours were the best part of the hunt. If they were still up at sunrise, it meant that they'd been victorious. It meant that they'd fought the darkness and succeeded, and light was celebrating, rewarding them with glorious day.

And, he realized, the sunrises were fast becoming the only part—

"Are you reading back there?" his father demanded incredulously, squinting in the rear-view mirror.

He rolled his eyes, waved the thin paperback in his hands. "What's it look like."

"Don't use that tone with me," warned his father. "And you know you're not going to school today, right? We'll be lucky if we get back by noon and then there's all sorts of things to be done. Debriefing, cleaning the guns, doing laundry, getting groceries… Sleeping. Which is what you should be doing now."

"Right," he mumbled. "Sir," he added, as an afterthought, and his father sighed but didn't comment.

He watched as the golden orb rose in the perfect sky, lifting his mood with it—until he remembered, again, that these early, early mornings were fast becoming the only part of the hunt that he liked. Research was fine and all, but frankly, he'd rather learn about the Roman Empire and Pythagoras than banshees. It was knowledge that would get him somewhere, and not just to the cheapest motel in town. The surveillance? Mind-numbingly boring. At least his brother agreed with him on that. The battles, the exorcisms? Not quite his cup of tea (although he did like tea, despite his brother's constant indoctrination to the wonders of coffee). The never-ending training? Hand-to-hand combat, target practise? He could take it or leave it, really. Some of it was fun—or would be, if he ever managed to beat his brother. But there were a whole lot of other things that were more worthwhile, more agreeable, more satisfying, like soccer or drama or reading or even, sometimes, going to school.

xxxxx

If he'd thought about it (and he hadn't), he would have assumed that his friends, who were mostly Californian, had never been skiing or snowboarding, either.

Because, really. The Southern Californians freaked at rain, and they all freaked the day there was frost.

But no. As his friends began to make Christmas-break plans, the most common destination was not Cabo but Vail. When somebody asked if he'd been, he'd answered, reflexively, "Yeah. Maybe… five years ago?" He'd frowned and squinted at the middle distance, trying to summon the memory. There had been a poltergeist, that much he knew.

"So, whadja think? How'd it compare to, say, Aspen? Or Heavenly?"

He had stared, confused, for only a second before sputtering that he hadn't been there to ski—he'd been there in June.

And the friend had stared back in disbelief, before announcing that he would be going with them, because how can you get to be nineteen and never have been on a ski hill?

He'd mumbled something about having been born in Kansas, but the end result was one disastrous day on a snowboard (both his feet were strapped together! No control, no way to get his balance other than flinging his arms to and fro, which only seemed to make him go faster!), followed, extremely reluctantly, by one day on skis (the ability for independent movement of his limbs, combined with poles to keep him upright, because that apparently was their purpose, had appealed to him, until he fell for the first time and a pole thwacked him upside the head and the skis unbuckled and shot off downhill, quickly approaching escape velocity, leaving him with no choice but to half-stumble, half-toboggan down after them). He'd spent the rest of the holiday sitting in front of the fire, nursing a cup of hot chocolate, muscles he didn't know he had aching. And it was abundantly clear that his athletic ability did not extend to snow sports.

He was invited along on further ski trips, on long weekends and spring break, purely for the comedic value, he was convinced, because these were invitations he never accepted. He sometimes wondered if his dad had ever been skiing. Not that there was a lot of opportunity in Kansas, but—that time in Vail. Hadn't his dad ever thought about what they were missing?

At any rate, he had learned his lesson: ski hills were not for him.

xxxxx

He flipped through his English binder until he came to a fresh sheet of paper. For each chapter, they were required to write a half-page summary and a half-page journal entry, and they were to complete one chapter per class. He'd missed Friday (chapter three) and he would miss Monday (chapter four) in a few hours, too. But he supposed it wouldn't matter, because he'd already finished the book.

He jotted down a summary for the final chapter—his handwriting, while never neat, was always worse in the car (despite years of practise), so he'd copy it out that night, at home.

He began his journal entry—a reader's response, his teacher called it. She'd even said, if they headed it "Private", she wouldn't read it. He'd never bothered, until now.

He started off, I will be used to the sun. He blinked at his sentence on the page, wondered what it meant and where it had come from, and before he had an answer, he was compelled by the urge to write and to write now, to scribble furiously whatever came to mind. Absently, he recalled that this was called stream of consciousness, and his brain supplied his brother's jibe—trickle of consciousness, more like—but really, it was a tidal wave and his hand couldn't keep up and he wrote, I will live in a place where the sun shines, to remind me of what is good in the world. He wrote, I will watch the sun rise, I will watch it dawn a new day. He thought, I will become used to the sun because familiarity with the weather is a sign you belong, a sign that you are home. The line from the book ran through his head—things are rough all over—but if you were accustomed to the day, the night did not seem so long.

If he stopped and watched the sun set, maybe he would finally get rest and respite. Maybe he would finally wake up refreshed. Maybe he would feel the peace inherent in the coloured sky, sense the tranquility of the dusk that is so solemn and steady and yet ever changing, from blue to pink to orange to night.

So rapt was he that he didn't notice the car slow and pull off the highway, didn't notice the halt of motion or his dad get out to pump gas, didn't notice his brother wake and mumble coffee, didn't notice when the back door opened to reveal his brother and two Styrofoam cups.

"Whatcha writing?"

"Hmm?" And only then was he roused from his reverie (red sky at night, sailors' delight) and he hurriedly—embarrassedly, and he didn't know why—closed his book and tucked it in his backpack before taking the proffered cup. "Oh, just something for school. English class," he stuttered.

His brother raised an eyebrow. "It's seven o'clock in the morning, kid. Have you slept at all? Bet you won't be able to read that"—he motioned to the school bag—"by the light of day."

"It is day." He removed the plastic lid and blew at the light brown liquid.

"Lotsa cream, lotsa sugar," his brother assured him. "Just the way you like it. And it's decaf. So sleep, okay?"

A smile crept to his lips and the expression on his face was beatific. "I'll sleep, don't worry." And he would, too. He would dream of day and light and serenity.

xxxxx

The rain is still steadily coming down. The wipers are tracing hypnotic arcs on the windshield, and sleep beckons. Slowly, he slouches against the door, because swift movements will rouse him and the wipers still singsong, "Sleep now, sleep now, sleep now."

He rests the side of his head on the window. His shaggy hair insulates his scalp against the cold seeping through the glass, but he still wraps his arms around himself snugly. His brother has always slept with outward abandon, arms and legs akimbo, but he prefers the security of heavy blankets tucked tightly in. Restricting movement so a nightmare's flailings won't cause him to fall out of bed. The firm pressure a nightlong embrace.

He feels the tendrils of sleep curl around him, and he welcomes them. He grows less and less conscious of the car, of his brother, of the rain, of the—

"Aaaghk!" he cries incoherently, as the car slews violently left and his brother's arm is slung across his chest, since the seatbelt isn't sufficient to keep him safe.

"Squirrel came outta nowhere," his brother says shortly, as he blinks in confusion at the empty, wet road.

He nods and shuts his eyes and slumps against the car door, but sleep is no longer eager to reclaim him. Suddenly impatient, he declares the exercise futile after only a few seconds and stares at the wipers vacantly. His life is like this attempt at a nap, he muses to himself. He is enticed by the promising possibilities and as soon as he gets a taste, disaster strikes.