For the Record

By: decemberist

Rated: T for language

Pairings: None

Summary: Dean takes Sam out for a drink. Pre-series. Written for the 'First Time' challenge chart.

"Alright, Sammy. Don't sip it, okay? Girls sip their shots. You gotta toss it straight back and just swallow it down."

Sam half-heartedly listened to his older brother as he bellowed instructions in Sam's ear, trying to make sure he was heard over the crunching chords and laughing people in the background. Dean, only half a year past twenty-one himself, had used his swagger and one of the countless fake IDs the Winchesters had kicking around to sneak Sam into the bar. It was cake, really, compared to what they'd had to pull for some of their hunts. That didn't stop Sam from being nervous however, and now he was wondering what on Earth had possessed him when he allowed Dean to talk him into this. Sam skeptically eyed the tiny twin glasses that sat on the bar in front of him. They were filled to the brim with a clear, amber liquid; an amount that Sam was sure would be too much for one mouthful. He shifted uncomfortably on the barstool.

"Whiskey's the best way to do shots. Tequila'll do you in a pinch, though. But don't bother with any of the salt and lime crap. Again, for girls."

Sam glanced at his brother, who was all wide-eyed and earnest as if he were explaining something complicated, like Einstein's theory of general relativity or some other weighty issue. Sam felt inexplicably embarrassed as he listened to Dean talk and he hunched over the bar, trying to minimize the space he occupied. It was a bit difficult, considering his last growth spurt had put him at about six-four.

"You don't have to do this, Dean."

The elder Winchester shot him an incredulous look. "Are you kidding me? I ain't sendin' my kid brother off to college without teaching him how to take a proper shot. I don't wanna risk you tarnishing the Winchester family name."

Sam rolled his eyes. "I'll do my best not to let you down."

Dean clapped him on the back, a wide, smug grin splitting his face. "Yeah, you'd better not. Just consider this your insurance policy, okay?"

"Look, I don't think-"

"Good," Dean interrupted. "Thinking and drinking don't go together anyway. You ready?"

Sam crossed his arms, frowning at the bar. "No."

"Yeah, you are."

"Dean, come on. This is totally unnecessary. I know you're easily confused, but I'm going to school to learn, not to drink."

Dean laughed. "Ah, the innocence of youth. Sammy, I'll eat demon shit if you make it through all four years without touching a drop."

The younger Winchester rolled his eyes. Why, why did Dean have to be so freaking immature? "That's not what I meant," he muttered. "I'm just saying that no one's gonna care. I don't care."

"Oh, someone will care. I care."

Sam ground his teeth together. "You know who else is going to care? Dad is. He's gonna be pissed if he finds out."

"Goddammit, Sammy." Dean's mood visibly deflated as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Is it that time of the month or what? Anything else you wanna bitch about?"

"Don't be stupid. I'm just saying-"

"Well, stop. You just lost all speaking privileges."

Sam could feel his blood pressure start to rise and he was certain that if it continued, his head would burst from the strain. Why was his brother so infuriatingly difficult? It had to be some weird genetic trait that had skipped over him, because Lord knew that he was the only sensible one in the family. "Dean, come on. Seriously."

The older Winchester sighed. "Look, Dad doesn't have to find out, right? He's gone for the night, probably won't be back until next morning. And since when have you been so concerned about pissing Dad off? I could have sworn it was your favorite hobby, the way you two go at each other." Dean's voice trailed off as he stared blankly at the bottles lining the back of the bar. A tiny frown marred his brow.

"It's not that!" Sam immediately went on the defensive, as he seemed to find himself doing more and more often lately. "I just mean there's no point in looking for trouble."

Dean sighed as he glanced at his younger brother. "You still haven't told him."

"Nope." Sam knew immediately what his brother was referring to. It was something that was never far from his mind these days.

"Jesus Christ." Dean shook his head as he looked down and fiddled with his ring. "You think this will piss him off? Multiply that by a hundred and that's how he's gonna be when he finds out. He's not going to be pleased, Sammy."

"That's the freakin' understatement of the year," Sam muttered under his breath. "You know what? I don't care," he said loudly. "This is what I want, and if Dad doesn't get that, then too bad." Sam tried to force as much bravado he could into his words, but his gut twisted into knots anyway. He was absolutely not looking forward to that confrontation.

"Yeah, well, as long as you get what you want," Dean replied quietly. "Screw everyone else, right?" With an awkward smile, he picked up his shot glass, threw back his head and downed the liquor. "Go for it."

Sam grasped his own glass. "This is illegal, you know," he said, irritated. Why the hell was Dean pushing this?

"Dude, will you fucking relax? That's half the fun. Now drink up. Remember, no sipping."

Seeing that Dean was determined to add the crime of underage drinking to the Winchester Laundry List of Broken Laws, Sam took a deep breath and took the shot. Fighting against his gag reflex, he forced down the fiery liquid all at once, coughing and gasping as the alcohol burned a raw path down towards his stomach. Tears came to his eyes as fumes from the liquor rose up from his throat.

"Oh God, that's vile," he choked out. "I can't believe you enjoy this."

"This isn't the part I enjoy, Sammy, it's the part that comes after. There's no quicker way to a nice buzz than this."

"Whatever. I'm done now. Can we go?"

"What?" Dean gave him a look that clearly said hell no. "Why, so you can return to moping around the apartment? Come on Sammy. Loosen up. Just think of it as celebrating, okay? Acceptance to Stanford is worth celebrating, right?" Dean nudged Sam with his elbow. "So drink up. Besides, I'm doing you a favor here. Your first drink should never be in the company of strangers. They won't hold your hair back when you puke everything back up."

That awkward half-smile was back, and Sam hated seeing it on his brother's face. It made Sam feel strangely guilty, and for a moment, he hated Dean for making him feel that way. Who the hell gave Dean the right to make him feel like he'd something wrong? That he'd somehow let them down by deciding to go off to college? What the hell was so bad about wanting a little normality and routine in his life? Anger and frustration tightened Sam's chest, threatening to choke him the way the alcohol had.

"Celebrate?" The word exploded out of his mouth, its volume amplified by all the anxiety he'd carried around with him since he got his acceptance letter two weeks ago. "What's wrong with you? Celebrate what? Celebrate the fact that Dad's gonna tear me a fucking new one when he finds out? Celebrate the fact that you think it's some sort of crime to try and be normal? To go to college? For Christ's sake, Dean! And don't fucking sit there and pretend that you're all happy for me. You don't have it in you, Dean. You never have. You're just as bad as Dad is!"

The instant his last words tumbled off his tongue, Sam wished he could take them back. Dean's face paled the slightest bit and the corners of his mouth tightened as he frowned again, the eyebrows drawing together. He's going to get a wrinkle there if he keeps doing that, Sam thought stupidly as he waited for his brother to react.

A moment of silence reigned before the elder Winchester spoke. "Fine," Dean said quietly. "You obviously think I'm an asshole and you know what? Maybe you're right. I'm not happy. I'm not happy that you're parading off to college when you know, you know that me and Dad need you to watch our backs. I'm fucking pissed, Sam. What did you expect?"

Sam snorted, trying to hold onto his anger as he swallowed around a giant lump that had decided to take up residence in his throat. Figures, Sam thought bitterly. I knew he'd take Dad's side. I knew it was a mistake to let him see that letter. He turned away from Dean's steady stare, his fingers tightening around his empty shot glass. His brother continued in the same quiet, restrained voice.

"And I have no goddamn clue why you'd do it, Sammy. I think you're making a big fucking mistake. But if that's really what you want, I'm not going to get in your way. I'm not going to help you, but I'm not going to stand between you and what you want, either." The last words came heavily, as if they had faced some great struggle before being allowed out of Dean's mouth.

Sam squinted, ashamed that the bar was blurring in his vision. He took in a deep breath and released it slowly, willing his head to clear.

Dean motioned to the bartender, who had been keeping a surreptitious eye on the two brothers as they'd argued. "You know what else, Sammy?" He watched as the glasses filled back up with amber liquid and then gulped his drink down without waiting for Sam. His expression stayed as smooth as if he'd taken a sip of water., his eyes blankly fixed on the space before him. "I wish you could have what you want without having to fight for it. I wish I could give you a normal life. But I can't."

Sam was struck with the funny feeling that this was a conversation he should be having with his father. Sam knew that he was probably taking his frustration out on the wrong person, but Dean's judgment felt more like betrayal than his father's ever would. In the end, Dean was as powerless as he was in the face of their father's unbending will - only difference was that Dean had learned to wholeheartedly embrace John's mission. The younger Winchester brother honestly couldn't say that he understood the mysterious forces that drove Dean with such single-minded loyalty. To Dean, normality was the nomadic life, the danger, the shadiness, the hunt. Sam was suddenly flooded with a memory of a particular hunt from about seven or eight years ago when they'd holed up in the woods of Michigan to investigate a creature that was supposedly snatching hikers off of trails and leaving their gnawed limbs strewn up in the trees. Looking back, Sam was at a loss as to why they'd followed up on the lead in the first place. The hunt had ended in a hazy nightmare of screams and blood and torn flesh when Dean had fallen into the grip of what ended up being a mountain lion crazed with hunger. Without any heavy-duty painkillers stocked in the cabin they had 'rented', John had forced mouthful after mouthful of some vodka he'd found in a locked liquor cabinet down Dean's throat. It had been enough to knock his brother out so that their father could clean and stitch up the raw gashes, and it had been enough so that Dean had woken up the next morning groggy and hung over and in pain. Sam winced at the memory. Dean had never been so grumpy as he had been that day.

And suddenly, the anger and frustration left him, seeping out with a single breath and leaving a queasy, shame-colored void where it had been. He couldn't claim to understand his brother entirely, but this he did get. He didn't have the heart to tell Dean that technically, this wasn't his first drink anyway. Not even he was that much of a straight edge.

Sam turned and met his brother's troubled gaze. "I know you can't," Sam said softly. "I'm not asking you to." He knew that whatever ended up happening after he told John about Stanford would remain between the two of them. Sam wasn't going to force Dean to choose between him and their father. He'd make sure of it. He looked down at the newly filled glass sitting in front of him and he drew it towards him. Scrunching up his nose, Sam gingerly lifted the glass and rested it against his lips, preparing himself for the inevitable torture that would follow.

But I appreciate you trying.