This fic is a response to a fic challenge:
Prompt: #167 - Sam in the school play: his struggle to attend all the rehearsals, and Dean's struggle to get there on the night to see him in it.
I went a little outside the box on addressing the prompt, but who's surprised by that?
Dean missed the last few minutes of the play; not because he wasn't there – he was right there, standing behind the back row of seats next to the sound board and the guy running the spotlight. He missed the last few minutes because Sam was dead and that made it hard to concentrate on anything else.
"You want to do what, Sammy?" Dean arched an eyebrow at his younger, if taller, brother. Sam could see Dean bracing for an argument, but Sam had anticipated this; he never would've approached Dean without a plan. Sam tried not to let his tension show, but in the way that only an older brother could, Dean picked up on his nervousness and out of sheer perversity relaxed back into his chair. Ever since Sam's last growth spurt sent him shooting inches over Dean, Dean cultivated the attitude that though he might not have the height advantage, he always had the upper hand.
"Look," Sam began, "I already talked to Dad about this."
"You talked to Dad about being a Drama dork?"
"Yes. No." Sam's brows creased under his too-long bangs, already frustrated that Dean immediately started in on him. Dean didn't even bother to hide his smirk.
"We're going to be here for a while, as least through the end of my junior year… " Sam began again. "I talked to Dad about grabbing as many credits as I can for as long as we're here." Dean nodded; at least he was listening. Sam slid into the chair opposite Dean and rested his forearms on the table as he continued speaking. "My grades are fine, but my guidance counselor said I really need to add some extra curricular activities."
Dean put his chair back on the floor and leaned in toward Sam. "You have a pretty crappy guidance counselor if he's telling you that being a Drama dork will get you extra credits on your transcript."
Sam rolled his eyes. "The extra curricular stuff is really for college applications. They look for stuff like that, and it's not like I can put "bow hunting" or "weapon training" down on the list."
Dean's face took on that familiar tightness Sam noticed whenever the subject of college came up. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared, and Sam rapidly took the opportunity to regain control of the conversation because as far as Dean was concerned, college was a dead end topic.
"All I'm saying is that as long as Dad's willing to let me do more after school stuff, I want to give it a try."
"And you've given up on soccer?" Dean teased.
Sam rolled his eyes. Dean was just never going to let that go, so Sam ignored his comment completely. "My English teacher suggested joining the Drama Club. They always need boys so I'm sure to get some kind of part in the show." Sam shrugged a little trying to play down how much he wanted to be a part of the club.
Dean's eyes squinted with suspicion. "So how do I play into all of this?" His expression clearly read "pun intended" and he chuckled at his own joke.
Sam decided that in this situation honesty was the best policy. "Transportation." he stated flatly.
Dean's face took on a "you're kidding me" look and he crossed his arms over his chest waiting for Sam to explain.
"If, I get into the play, I've got to be able to make the rehearsals. In the beginning, most of the practices will be right after school, so I'll just stick around and catch a late bus home. But when we get closer to the production the rehearsals will start later in the afternoon and run later at night. That's when I might occasionally need a ride home." In his head, Sam vowed to make "occasionally" be more like "hardly ever".
Sam tried to read Dean's expression as Dean was processing, while mentally running down all the reasons why it sucked to be one of the youngest students in the junior class, unable to even take Driver's Ed until next semester, and even then it wouldn't matter because outside of an emergency there was no way Dad was letting him drive the car. It didn't help that Sam knew hunting came first, and that if Dad and Dean were on a hunt that required traveling, Sam would be out of luck catching a ride.
It also didn't help to have a hyper-protective father who strongly disapproved of Sam getting in the car with inexperienced drivers and insisted that if Sam was catching a ride home with anyone, a parent had to be in the driver's seat. But Sam had an unspoken rule that catching a ride home with anyone was only to be done out of desperation – and even then, he never asked to be dropped off at the house. Having people get a look at where he lived was never a good thing; it made an already difficult situation even more complicated. Dad didn't know about the rule; but Dean did. He was the one who made it.
"If you even think about calling me for a ride when I'm in the middle of a hot date…" Dean left the threat hanging while he stood up to get himself a beer from the fridge. Sam smiled at his brother's back knowing he'd won this particular battle. He made sure he wasn't smiling when Dean turned back to him – no need to give his big brother any more ammunition than he'd already have. After all, Shakespeare lent itself to all sorts of teasing involving tights and…well, mostly involving tights.
And that was the end of the discussion.
Dean's body was thrumming with tension; his muscles were aching with unspent adrenaline. It took all of his considerable self-control not to run up to the stage and check Sam for a pulse. It didn't matter that it was just a play. It didn't matter that intellectually Dean knew Sam was acting. What mattered was Sam's seemingly lifeless body was sprawled out on the stage with a bloodstain growing on his white shirt and no one was doing a damn thing to help him.
At first it really was as simple as Sam had outlined it for Dean. Rehearsals were after school, usually running until somewhere between 5 and 6 o'clock. Many other clubs ran just as late, and the school provided busses for students participating in after school activities. It was easy for Sam to stay for rehearsal and get some homework done in the downtime when scenes he wasn't in were being blocked - as "Soldier 1" and "random tall guy in the background", Sam didn't have much to do in the very early rehearsals. He actually found himself enjoying the atmosphere of the theater; it was a good place to study, much more inviting than the postage stamp of a kitchen where he usually work at home. He didn't have to call Dean for a ride once.
Yep, it was all very easy until Jordan broke his leg.
Jordan was one of those kids who lived for Drama Club. Even though he was only a freshman, he was cast in every play; not just because he was good-looking, but because he had talent. He scored fairly big roles, and you just knew that by the time his senior year rolled around, he'd have the lead in everything. In spite of all of this, Jordon was not arrogant or obnoxious, so the upper classmen didn't hold his being cast as Laertes against him. Unfortunately for the mental health of the director, Mrs. Ford, Jordan also enjoyed skateboarding. But he wasn't very good at it.
This left the director with a lame Laertes who had no hope of being off crutches by the time of the performance, and a very small pool of understudies to choose from. Sam felt very bad for Mrs. Ford when she got the news that Jordan would not be able to be in the play; she looked like she might cry right there in front of everyone. So Sam volunteered to fill in for Jordan; that way Mrs. Ford could give everyone else their blocking cues. And he wrote down on his script all the cues for Laertes so he could pass them on to whoever she picked to step in for him. He did the same thing the next day. And somehow, by the end of the week, the role was sort of his.
It made things complicated. There was a much greater time commitment involved in learning Laertes' lines; though, to be honest, memorizing Shakespeare was far easier than most of the counter spells Dad made him learn. Instead of sitting around and getting homework done after school, Sam had to run lines or learn blocking, pushing homework off to later in the evening. That was to say nothing about all the training he still had to do with Dad and Dean.
In spite of the serious time crunch, Sam found himself really enjoying being part of the show. He'd always had a good ear for languages, and once he understood the cadence of the lines, the delivery came much easier to him. It made him proud that Mrs. Ford never once had to prompt him to speak up to be heard; she couldn't know that Sam had been trained to speak over angry poltergeists to make his incantations heard. Who knew that would come in handy?
Sam also liked the analysis Mrs. Ford asked them to do, about their characters and about the play. She tried really hard to impress upon all of the actors that they were not just standing up on a stage spewing lines (though that's what most of them sounded like); they had to connect to the story, make it mean something to them, so they could make it mean something to the audience. Sam didn't quite get that until they were running Act 1, scene 3 – Laertes' departure from Denmark. It kind of hit him all of the sudden – Laertes was a big brother, and a loyal son; dispensing grand, if somewhat annoying advice to the younger sibling yet absorbing all of the pompous advice handed down by the father. Laertes was obedient, loyal, and brash. He was a scholar though he preferred to be a soldier. He would let nothing impinge the honor of his family. Laertes was Dean.
It sort of stopped Sam in his tracks. And from that point on, he never sounded like he was just saying lines.
Dean couldn't remember all of the lines from the end of the play although he'd heard them enough times. He was pretty sure Hamlet's death followed closely behind Laertes'; he hoped he was right because he wouldn't be able to stand there much longer with Sam bleeding out on stage.
The first time Sam missed a rehearsal it was because Dad needed him for a three man job. That one wasn't such a big deal; other kids had missed rehearsals for various reasons. Mrs. Ford was pretty okay with it as long as she was given some notice.
The second time Sam missed rehearsal was because Dad needed him for a weekend hunt and they had to leave on Friday. Dad had called Sam out sick, so the other kids reported to Mrs. Ford that Sam was out of school that day. Other kids had been absent because of illness – the flu was going around.
The third time Sam missed a rehearsal he didn't exactly miss it, he was pulled out. Dean suddenly arrived in the theater looking urgent and making vague explanations of a "family emergency" to Mrs. Ford. That one might have fallen below the radar except for the fact that Sam had been in school the next day walking awkwardly to baby his very sore hip and shoulder, and was unable to clarify explain the nature of the "family emergency".
It's not like Sam could explain that often around Halloween and into November evil spirits just acted up. He couldn't explain that a previously dormant curse was kicked into activity when a family heirloom was passed on. And he certainly couldn't explain the cult that Dad had been tracking that landed them in this town in the first place. So he tried to keep his head down, make sure he got to rehearsal on time and not draw any extra attention to himself.
In the end, it was Dean who saved him from any further inquiries. A poltergeist with surprisingly good aim nailed Sam with a book giving him a really good shiner. There was no way Sam would be able to stay out of sight long enough for it to heal, and he knew his "I fell down the basement steps" excuse was weak. Sam was surprised when Dean didn't just drop him off at school, but found a place to park and walked him in.
"What are ya doin', Dean?" Sam asked as he unfolded himself from the Impala's passenger seat.
"Headin' off your problems at the pass, Sammy boy. Take me to your leader, Drama dork…and play along." Dean replied as he gestured grandly, but offered no further explanation.
At this time of the school day, Mrs. Ford would be preparing to teach class, not in the theatre. Sam led Dean up to the English department offices. He tried to keep his head down and avoided making eye-contact with students in the hallway, but inquiring looks followed them down the corridor. In the English department's front office, Mrs. Ford was copying papers when they entered. She was surprised to see them.
"Sam!" A familiar series of emotions raced across her face when she saw Sam's black eye: surprise, concern, suspicion.
Sam smiled trying to ease her anxiety. "Mrs. Ford…this is my brother, Dean."
Dean had slipped into "work" mode somewhere between the car and the office. Sam had a brief moment of panic wondering if Dean would be able to work his magic on a woman who taught people to act. He shouldn't have worried.
Dean approached Mrs. Ford with his hand extended. "Hi, Mrs. Ford. It's nice to meet you." Dean had a genuine smile on his face making him look younger than his twenty years. When Mrs. Ford released his hand, he ran it through his hair as he ducked his head. Sam had to control his own facial expression to not give away his astonishment – Dean actually looked sheepish. He was literally shuffling his feet and looked sheepish!
"I just wanted to come in here myself to talk to you about that shiner of Sam's." Dean made quick eye-contact with Mrs. Ford and then looked away. "It's sort of my fault."
Mrs. Ford was reeled in by Dean's performance. "What do you mean, Dean?"
"Well," now Dean did look up to make eye-contact, "I've been helping Sammy out running lines and stuff at home, and we got to the part where Hamlet and Laertes are fighting in Ophelia's grave. I thought, you know, we should do some "method" acting so I took a swing at him." Dean ducked his head again and Sam bit the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from laughing out loud. "I guess I should've warned him first."
"Oh." Mrs. Ford didn't seem to know what to do with this information. Dean continued talking while she was off-guard.
"But you know, I was thinking…" Dean stood up a little straighter, "if you need someone to work out the fight scene…I've got a little martial arts training."
Mrs. Ford's eyebrows lifted at the suggestion. "I actually have someone coming in to choreograph the sword fight for the final scene. But he won't be able to work with the boys for two or three weeks. It would be wonderful to work out the fight in the graveyard before that." She tipped her head and gave Dean a measuring look. "You'd be willing to do that?"
Dean answered with his most endearing grin, "Long as I'm not the one wearing the tights."
The command "take up the bodies…" was given and random kids dressed as soldiers started gathering the "dead". Dean had to admit, Sam was always good at playing possum. Dean was impressed with the way Sammy's head lolled on his shoulders. No one else looked as dead as Sammy; the girl who was the dead queen was stiff as a board. It might have had something to do with the fact that one of the soldiers looked like he was trying to cop a feel while she was in a compromising position. That was so wrong. And…Jesus! They almost dropped Hamlet on his head; the guy in the front row who jumped out of his seat was definitely that kid's dad.
Watching the audience reactions and the movement on stage helped Dean remain calm. Most reassuring was the moment when the soldiers carrying Sam thought they were clear of the audience sight lines and put him down and Sam stood on his own grinning at the boys who'd been carrying him. That was when Dean started breathing again.
Of all the things that might have prevented Dean from attending the play, he wasn't expecting this.
As the weekend of the January performance drew closer Dean felt increasingly on edge. Though he had made sure to mention to Dad, repeatedly, that Sam would be unavailable to hunt that week and particularly that weekend, he didn't make the same claims for himself. As much as he wanted to make sure he was home to see Sam's show he would never put himself above a hunt if Dad needed him.
Dad didn't exactly state that he had no intention to hunt, and Dean knew plans could change in an instant if the cult made a move. But it seemed that the cult had caught wind of Dad on their trail and had gone to ground. It put Dad in a foul mood, and Dean tread lightly around the subject of the play. For over two weeks Dean had thrown himself into making sure Sam could make it to and from rehearsals without needing assistance from Dad; he worked double shifts at the dock to make up for the work Dad was missing while he researched, so they'd make the rent and be able to eat. Once he hounded Sam into getting to bed at a reasonable hour each night, Dean would turn his attention to helping Dad in whatever way he could.
And that's how he ended up here – in bed. Diagnosis: bronchitis bordering on pneumonia. Doctor's orders: stay in bed or end up in the hospital. John Winchester's orders: stay in bed or I'll handcuff you to it.
It made Dean crazy with frustration. It wasn't like he could actually admit wanting to see Sam in the play. At this point, he knew all of the play just as well as Sam; did he actually need to go see all the emo brooding? And the play was like, eight hours long - did he really want to sit through all that? He'd been to enough rehearsals to get the jist of things, so it wasn't like he was missing anything.
Dean scrunched himself up wearily against the pile of pillows at his back and looked at the clock. It was about 10:00 pm. He'd slept most of the day away, and he felt like he could go right back to sleep if he just let himself relax into the pillows. The cough medicine and decongestants he was taking made him dopey and sluggish. Putting any kind of thought together was difficult; putting thoughts into actions was even harder. It took Dean three tries before he could lever himself out of the bed. Getting dressed was an adventure because anything involving bending over included a nasty head rush and a tendency to fall over.
Dean determinedly made his way into the dimly lit kitchen where John was sitting pouring over a mountain of photocopied newspaper articles. John looked up like he'd been expecting him.
"Dad, I need a ride to the high school."
Sam had never anticipated how much fun this could be. Listening to the audience roar its approval as each curtain call was taken gave him a thrill. Then it was his turn to take a bow with his "family" – he and "Polonius" flanked "Ophelia" on either side. He and Mike bowed together then took a step back to let Julia take a bow on her own. Sam's head snapped up when he heard a familiar whistle carry over the applause. It was a call he and Dean used when they were hunting – it meant "I'm here, all is well".
The grin didn't leave Sam's face for the rest of the night.