Disclaimer: Do these things really work?

Notes: Spawned from Devil's Trap and the idea of "the things I'm willing to do or kill..." Some timeline-jumping, though hopefully it all makes sense. Comments/concrit always appreciated (and helpful!).


Redefining


i.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, there's a list of lines Dean wouldn't cross. No matter what, he believes at the time, every time, and he's never less than surprised after he crosses one thing after another off it.

Don't hurt Sammy was the first to go, when he was almost eight and his brother three, and six hours in the car with endless variations of why why why ended in a shoving match in the backseat while Dad threatened them with everything from time out, to extended drills, to leaving them on the side of the road, ghosts and monsters be damned.

Well, no. It ended with Sammy banging his head on the window so hard he started to bawl, and it took some good, angry yelling directed at Dean and a stop for ice cream before he calmed down again, and another hour after that before he stopped sniffling.

Wasn't the last time, either. half the scars on his body are from Sam, and for all the good that padding and shin guards did, his brother bears the same gift. Happy goddamn birthday, Sammy. Wish you were here — hot sorority chicks have nothing on trawling for unmarked graves in a dozen cemeteries.

"Unmarked" had meant unmarked this time — no trace of names etched into a cross, nothing resembling a vague marker. Hell, there hadn't been a headstone at all, or a plaque, or even some shitty piece of rock halfway covered by weeds and dirt telling him that something was underneath. He'd had to go back three days in a row with a faked death certificate and a bullshit story about finding some long-lost relative. The guy at the gate pinched his eyes but nodded, waved him in and went back to his cheap horror novel.

He found the grave by stepping on the thing, foot curving up where the hill should have dipped down. The moon was thin that night and the ground half rock, and he'd had to turn back to get the salt from the trunk, lifting it with a grunt by the hand that wasn't already loaded with lighter fluid.

Dad was 300 miles away in Wellsburg, looking into their mysterious disappearances. We gotta take care of this, Dean. You stay here, finish the job. We'll meet up after

and Sam was —

and so he had to double back when he remembered the salt.

- -

Sam never hid the fact that he was leaving; he paraded it, used it as a weapon whenever he and Dad got into one of their epic shouting matches. The minute I turn eighteen would be lobbed as some kind of threat, followed always by some version of getting the hell out of here.

He didn't really want to ask who Sam meant by here.

- -

They were in Indiana following another dead end, third in a month, in a crap motel room half the size of their last. Sammy was made of elbows and awkward angles and kicked defensively in his sleep; by the third week, they were all sick as hell of climbing over each other to get out the door. The air was thick, August heat in May, and Dad and Sam decided to keep themselves occupied by hollering at each other every other night. We shouldn't have come here; we should've stayed in Texas. This is what we do, Sammy; this is how it has to be. Both simmering dark with anger, each too damn stubborn to take a good look at himself in the other.

Sam asked to swing by the post office on the first. No one asked what for; they all knew anyway.

There was cake the next day, store-bought and misspelled (who the hell names their kid "same"?), and as many candles as were in a pack (fifteen, close enough) and a round or four of illicit drinks, and somehow this combination ended the night in You walk away, Sam, you don't come back. Ever.

Sam and Dad tearing at each other's throats, expecting him to step in as usual. Waiting for him to smooth over the spit-out words, to push each back to his respective corner for a time-fucking-out as usual.

Sam, fever-eyed and wild, waiting for Dean to take his side for once.

He looked away.

The next morning, all that was left of his brother was a hollow space in their trunk and a short scribble of Guess I should have known.


ii.

He'd never told Sam, but there was a one-way bus ticket pressed in the back of his own journal, good from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Columbus, Ohio on June 21st, 1996. The coach at OSU had been interested, had invited him up, had waited almost two hours at the station before finally crossing Dean Winchester off his roster.

- -

He told Dad he was going out, going to ask around and see if the locals had any theories about the railway accidents. It was dark when he slid into the auditorium, and he stepped on several variously-sized feet fumbling for a seat, but it was worth it to see Sammy goof around onstage, calling himself "George" and flirting with some (cute, for high school,) chick they agreed to name "Emily."

Sam was already half a foot taller than everyone else, unmistakable even in the chaos of backstage. Wanna go celebrate?I'll buy, even. Sam darkened, stammered something about after-parties and got a smirk and a Yeah, go get 'em for the effort.

He made it home just after one, lip bleeding and praying vaguely to anything and everything that Dad had gone to sleep, that Dad wouldn't notice the slight — the possibly larger-than-slight — scratches under the driver's window. Wasn't my fault; she didn't say anything about a boyfriend probably wouldn't go over too well, not when it came to the car.

Sam caught him trying to steal (borrow, damn it) a Sharpie, then took over temporary scratch-hiding duties when Dean kept smashing the pen tips too hard against the door. It took an hour and a half of Dude, what the hell were you thinking and You're such an idiot and You really think I did okay? before they were both satisfied with the job, and when Dad shook them awake the next morning, I won't tell if you don't (with a few extra chore-related bribes) was already a done deal.

- -

He never told Sammy about the Shtriga, not when it became obvious that he didn't remember that night. Between leverage and insults, he'd give Sam the latter a hundred times over.

- -

Dad's vulnerable with us around. We're stronger as a family. C'mon, Dean, make up your damn mind already.

He didn't know why it was that "best course of action" these days pretty much always meant the opposite of Dad's orders.

He especially didn't know what made him feel like he needed to voice this fact.

Spending too much time with Sam, probably.


iii.

She was hard and bright, lusted for truth but didn't always want it, after.

She was dark hair and changing eyes and a smile so giving it made him stupid with want.

She was never quite, but she was close enough — enough for him to keep.

She was his, until. And really, he should have seen it coming.

- -

Winchester, Kentucky had a population of 16,724. It had a glut of churches and graveyards, nothing to hunt, and two entire streets of open-doored pubs.

Winchester, Kentucky was 368 miles from Cape Girardeau, half a day's road at best. But Sam was tired of driving and the town was full of cheap vacancies, and the girls at the bars were pretty enough to forget.

- -

"Let me buy you a drink there."

She turned; her smirk dropped. Not uninterested, then.

"I'm Bill. Bill Wyman."

He waited; she smiled.

"Tiffany. Hi." Not a classic rock fan, either.

Don't get attached. That was the one that always came back.


iv.

Once, in Oklahoma, they stopped for gas and Sammy wandered up to a tree, read the sign underneath it out loud. Remember the past, it said. Let it serve as a warning. Sam asked, as Sam tends to do, and both of them learned a new word that day: vigilante.

- -

"I knew."

They had found the Impala unscathed (thank god), and Hibbing County Sheriff's Department was disappearing in the rearview mirror. A squad car pulled past them; they didn't bother to duck. Sammy was too damn tall for it to work anyway.

"I knew," Sam said again, swerving slightly as they left the street lights behind. Dean had been hoping to pass out as soon as they hit the road and grimaced as the car bumped over uneven gravel, but he grunted and played along.

"Knew what?"

Sam's voice tightened. "That cop — Officer Hudak — I knew that she didn't — that she was going to — "

Damn it. They had both startled when the gunshots rang, Sam's fingers going still against the rope for a second, and he knew Sam bought Kathleen's story about as much as he did. But he'd thought (too easily) that Sam had left already, that maybe psychic boy had been too distracted to —

Guess not. Goddamn it.

"Sam."

They found the highway, drifted onto it.

"Sammy, look — "

"No, I — Dean, I knew. And I get it. I get why."

Either of them would have done the same and never looked back, and they both knew it. Didn't mean they had to talk about it —

"And I don't — it doesn't bother me," Sam continued, clearly bothered. Great. Sam wanted to talk about it. Fan-fucking-tastic.

"Look, Sam — "

Sam finally turned to look at him, expectant. Shit. "Look," what? If you hurt my brother, I'll kill you all. He'd said it; he'd meant it. He still did.

"You can't let it get to you, all right?" Lame, and they both knew it. Hey, why don't we do the "thirteen-year-old girl" bit some more? That was fun.

Sam allowed him a "yeah," focus back on the road, and shifted in the opposite direction.

There's the law, and then there's right and wrong. Years of both, and he's learned to tell the difference. Mostly.


v.

Sam was wrong. Their number one rule had never been Do not talk about fight club.

- -

Girls' Soccer: Junior Jennifer Hayes scores a goal against the Chelmsford Lions, assisted by seniors Meg Masters and Lynn Herrera. An experienced team led the Warriors to a second-place finish in the Merrimack Valley Conference.

Seniors Scott McLaughry and Meg Masters take the stage as George Gibbs and Emily Webb in the Drama Guild's spring production of Our Town.

Dearest Meg — From the shy, thoughtful girl you were to the beautiful, confident young woman you have become, each day with you has been an absolute blessing. We are so proud of your accomplishments and eagerly await what you have planned for your future. Love, Mom, Dad, and Molly.

M/Kbff 3uRobThxMom&Daddy

"With each sunrise, we start anew."

- -

It was instinct, mostly. We do what we do and we shut up —

we do what we do and —

we do what we —

have to do.

Sam took a week to wake up, a whole damn week after Dean first did. Doctors said something about concussions and force of impact and resting, but the bills needed to be paid (cards needed to be forged), and the car needed to be fixed, and there were jobs to —

One fight at a time.

- -

JEFFERSON CITY, MO — The body of a man found murdered on Friday has been identified as Thomas Sullivan, 28, of Oakesdale, WA. Sullivan, who at the time of his death had been reported missing for 11 months, died of a single bullet wound to the head. His body was discovered after authorities responded to a false fire alarm at the nearby Sunrise Apartments. The investigation is ongoing. No suspects have been named.

Sullivan is survived by parents Jim and Kathleen Sullivan of Oakesdale, wife Julie, and son Michael, sixteen months old.

- -

Dad wasn't there.

He'd asked the nurses. Then the patients. Then the doctors. Then the custodians, the security guards, the maintenance crews, and every goddamn person in the building. Dad wasn't there, had never been. He'd hitched a ride into town, asked around, too worn to hide who he was and what he was doing. He'd asked everyone he'd seen — kids on the playground, gas station attendants, even the goddamn police (was how much none of it mattered anymore) — for a dark-haired man, brown jacket, injured leg.

Yeah, I seen 'im, someone finally said. 'Wired a car and got the hell out of town.

Where? Where did he go?

Hell if I know. The man shrugged. Don't know if it's the same guy, though — his leg warn't hurt.

It was nearing night, street lights turning on next block over. Cold. His eyes, he wanted to ask. Did you see his eyes?

He didn't.

Dad wasn't there anymore.

If someone says stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is —

wait. It's not over.

- -

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Police are investigating the deaths of Patricia White, 28, and daughter Lauren, six months, in a fire on the outskirts of Scottsdale. Husband James White, 29, called 911 after he arrived home to find his residence in flames. The source of the fire is under question; arson has not been ruled out as a possibility. There have been no arrests. No recognizable remains have been found inside the home.

- -

Sam woke up on a Tuesday, seven minutes after nine. It took two minutes to convince him that he hadn't gone to hell, another four to show him that Dean, also, was alive and in one piece.

And then came: Where's Dad?

And: He's not here, Sammy.

Is he —

No. But he's not here.

They couldn't fix the car; he'd hired a towing company to drag it back to Bobby's. Sammy had a bandage around his head and a cast on his leg and wasn't saying much. By the time they found a way to Arizona, the clipped article had begun to curl around the edges, and there was nothing left to find.

Fights will go on as long as they have to.

Thirteen minutes after nine on Tuesday, they were back to nothing.