The Taste

"Aww come on Dad. Look if we hurry we can still make it. Everything I need is in the trunk. We're done here... I want to do it." Dean begged, looking at his father with such expectations John knew he couldn't say no. John knew his oldest son was right. The job was finished and the reason for staying was over. He stood there looking at his two sons, bloodied and bruised from the hunt that at times got a little too hairy.

"You can't go looking like that." John smiled as he watched Dean's eyes light up.

"I'll use the left over holy water to clean up." he said as he rifled through the duffel bag looking for the flask.

John drove, breaking most land speed records to get Dean there on time. They pulled into the crowded parking lot and couldn't find an open space. John stopped long enough to let Dean out and Dean grabbed his gown and raced into the school. The ceremony had already started but sometimes being a Winchester had its advantages. The line had already formed, so breathless and a little disheveled, Dean ran up and took his place earning more than a few annoyed looks from his teachers. He didn't care, he made it, and that was all that mattered. When he got to the stage he shook his Principal's hand and took hold of his prize, his high school diploma, and exited the stage with a huge grin.

In the back of the gym, John and Sam stood away from the other parents watching to see Dean walk across the stage. John beamed with pride and a little sadness that this was one of the few times his son was ever going to do what 'normal' kids did. A short while later after the ceremony ended, John watched as Dean hung out with his 'friends'. He listened as Dean declined a couple of invitations to graduation parties, knowing they had too much to do back at the house as they got ready to leave town. Dean understood… of course he understood, but that didn't mean Dean didn't want to go to a few of the parties. Dean said his goodbyes, walked away and never looked back.

The next morning John got up early to wake his sons and discovered his oldest was already out of bed. He knocked on Sammy's door, assuming Dean to be in the bathroom, and headed back down to the kitchen where he was cooking breakfast.

"Where's your brother?" John asked as Sam came down the stairs.

"I don't know, I thought he was down here." Sam said as he yawned and stretched.

"Isn't he in the bathroom?" John asked as he set a plate down for his youngest.

"No I was just in there." Sam answered eating a forkful of eggs. Not really concerned yet, John nodded but headed up to Dean's bedroom. Inside everything was packed and ready to go. All his weapons, all his clothes, neatly packed in his duffle bags and left on top of his bed. John came back down stairs and headed straight out the front door.

"Son of a bitch!" he yelled as he got to the porch. Scared, Sam ran up behind him and together they looked at the empty space in the driveway where Dean's car had been.

"Where'd Dean go, Dad?" Sam asked as he saw his father's reaction to his brother's disappearance.

"I don't know. He didn't have permission to go anywhere. He knew we were leaving first thing this morning. When he gets back, I'm gonna rip him a new one." John said before whipping around and heading back inside the house. Hours later when Dean hadn't returned John and Sam drove around town looking for him. A black 1967 Chevy Impala was not likely to be unnoticed. They talked to some of Dean's classmates they found hanging out at the local fast food joints, but none of them had seen nor heard from him.

Fuming John returned to the house and went directly upstairs to Dean's room. He pulled all Dean's clothes out of the duffle bag and went through the weapons as well. Sam watched his father with a growing fear.

"It's gone." John exclaimed as he check through the weapons. "Dean's .45, it's gone." Sam leaned over and noticed the Sam thing his father did. "Some of his clothes are missing as well."

"Where did you think he went Dad?" Sam asked his eyes wide with worry.

"I don't know son, but at least he took protection." John's anger simmered before slowly changing to worry of his own. Where the hell did his son go and why the hell didn't he let his family know he was leaving? They put the new hunt on hold as they waited for Dean to return. One day, a week later, John opened his journal and found a short note from his oldest son.

"I'll be back, I promise."

It would be almost two months before he was.


Dean, having been taught by the best, was able to sneak out of the house without waking either his father or his brother. He put the Impala in neutral and thanked god the driveway was on an incline as he pushed it down the driveway and into the street. He nervously turned the motor over hoping his father would not hear the distinctive sound of the engine. An hour later he was cruising the interstate anxiously looking in the rearview mirror convinced that his father would be tailing him. 48 hrs later he knew his father wasn't.

He didn't yet have a destination. He had spent his whole life on the road but hadn't really had a chance to enjoy what America had to offer. He had few hundred bucks, a credit card he knew his father didn't know about, and a lifeline if he got into a bind. For weeks he had been secretly corresponding with Pastor Jim and he alone knew Dean's plan to leave.

Jim had reluctantly agreed to Dean roaming around the country knowing full well how John would feel about it. Still he knew Dean would never get another chance to do some of things 'normal' kids his age got to do. He had given up so much of his life already to the 'family business'. Jim felt it was only fair to give Dean this one summer, even if it meant lying to his old friend. Jim felt like a Judas the first time John called after Dean left. He could hear the worry and fear in John's voice as he tried to consol the anxious man. Jim convinced John that Dean knew how to take care of himself and would call if he needed anything. John knew his friend was right but that didn't stop him from worrying. He sensed Jim knew more than he was saying, but didn't press it. If Dean had asked for Jim's confidence then John was grateful that at least Dean had the good judgment to keep in touch with someone 'safe.'

Two weeks on the road and Dean came upon a local county fair. He spent hours on the rides, screaming and laughing and wishing his little brother was with him to enjoy it. Walking through the midway he spotted a gorgeous brunette and followed her as she walked among the crowd. She surprised him by pulling him beside a game shed and kissing him fiercely. Dean returned the kiss willingly before stopping to introduce himself. Her name was Cheyenne, after the name of the town she was born in, and she told Dean most people just called her "Chey."

Her father was one of the carnies, and by the end of the night Dean had a job sweeping the grounds and pulling down rides when it came time for the fair to end. Dean felt at ease with the carnies. They lived the nomadic life he was used to and they didn't ask questions which he appreciated. At the end of the week they paid him in cash which he stuck deep inside his boot. He and Chey spent the better part of that week together until it was time for her to leave. Dean watched them drive off knowing he didn't want to follow but with a sad ache none the less. In later years Dean would remember Chey fondly, the ride lights twinkling, the smell of cotton candy in the air, and the last 'night' they had together.

4th of July found Dean on the east coast near Myrtle Beach. He mingled with the crowds watching the fireworks shoot over the ocean. He thought of his Dad and brother, and wondered if they were watching fireworks or watching each others back on a hunt. He managed to score some ribs and a couple beers from a group of college kids soaking up their vacations before going back to their 'academic worlds'. He listened to their plans for the future knowing how different his own would be. A few of them stayed up until dawn and watched the sunrise come up over the Atlantic Ocean. Of all the sunrises Dean had seen in his life, none was more beautiful than the one he saw that morning.

Some of them had rented a house by the beach and Dean was invited to stay with them. He gladly accepted and was soon a regular at the beach. He spent days sleeping in, nights partying, bonfires and beers at the beach with hot chicks in bikini's and touch football games with the guys. When he started enjoying himself too much, he quietly packed his stuff and left his new friends behind. It was almost all too easy to forget who he really was and that he had a different destiny than those he was leaving.

A few days later he was in Niagara Falls getting sprayed by the raging waters of the Niagara River as he road the Maid of the Mist. He bought postcards and kept a scrap of his poncho from the ride to show his brother when he got back. Stopping in Buffalo at the Anchor Bar, he stuffed himself full of chicken wings before heading out of town on his continued journey.

In Chicago, he snuck into pool halls with his fake ID and hustled pool with some old timers. A couple of them took him under their wings and he learned a trick or two those nights he spent in the smoky bar rooms. As good as he was at his age he wasn't near as good as some of the sharks he watched. He sat quietly to the side and watched, as the pros made it look easy. A couple of times they even let him play when an easy mark came into the pool hall. Dean, always a good student, left his opponents easily lightened of cash but not enough to think he was playing unfairly. The trick was to never let them know they'd been hustled, and it was a trick Dean learned very competently.

In Colorado, he somehow ended up in Boulder near CU. A few times he snuck on to campus and dropped in on some of the summer time classes. Lectures mostly, places where he knew he could blend as just another student. He marveled that he could sometimes understand what the Professors were talking about. Sometimes obscure scientific discoveries, sometimes convoluted mathematic equations. He fell asleep in a lecture about 18th century romantic literature but woke up in time for the class to end, much to his chagrin. Mostly he hung out up at the UMC or crashed a frat party or two up on the Hill. When he found he was starting to have fun again he knew it was time to hit the road.

From time to time he placed a collect call to Pastor Jim to let him know he was alive and alright. He always waited for the inevitable question but Jim never asked him…When are you coming home? During one phone call, Jim let slip that his father and brother were up visiting him. They had since moved several times while Dean was gone, always leaving their current address or the name of the motel with Jim just incase Dean should call. The thought of his father and brother sitting around with Pastor Jim made him miss them terribly. Without telling Jim his plans, he started off for Minnesota that evening arriving late the next afternoon. His fathers truck was parked next to the rectory and he drove up and parked next to it. He thought he would slip in quietly but his plans were ruined when his brother jumped him as he walked in the door.

"Dean you're back!" Sam screamed as he wrestled Dean to the floor. John came up a stern look on his face that melted when he pulled Dean into a big hug. John passed no words of judgment just happy his oldest son was back where he was suppose to be. There would be conversations later but now the Winchesters were just happy to be together again.

Jim watched them, sharing in their happiness. He knew these times were few and far between for his friends and not likely to happen to often in the future. The life of a hunter was hard. He was glad Dean had a chance to have a taste of 'normal' even if it was a brief one.

A few days later after they all left, Jim was changing the sheets in the bedroom the boys stayed in. Tucked under one of the beds, Jim found a small cardboard box. Inside were souvenirs of Dean's adventure that summer. Polaroid's of Dean with several kids his own age near a bonfire along with a small bottle of sand. A cotton candy cone with a small stuffed animal tied with a ribbon around it. Post cards from all over the country. A small scrap of a blue poncho from the Maid of the Mist. Menus from various restaurants and a couple of match books from well know pool halls as well. But the one that made him the saddest was the report card he found tucked inside the catalog of classes from the University of Colorado. He knew Dean was smart, so to see he had gotten straight A's was not a surprise. For a moment Jim mourned the loss of a dream Dean was never suppose to haveand never allowed to have. Jim packed the box back up and stored for safe keeping. He hoped someday Dean might visit again and want to see his souvenirs, to remember the fun he had that summer even if he could never enjoy those times again.

But Dean never intended to open that box again, because above all else Dean knew he was a hunter. A hunter was how he lived and a hunter was how he would die someday. Dreams of anything else were set aside permanently when he finally embraced the life he was destined for.

The End

Authors note. Please drop me a line and let me know if you liked it. The response to one of my other stories has been so disappointing I'm not sure if I'm even going to finish it. I'm taking one last chance……

On a side note, it's been over 20 yrs since the last time I set foot on the CU campus or up on the Hill in Boulder. I imagine there have been quite a few changes since then but I hear the frat parties still occur. 10 yrs since the last time I was at Niagara Falls but the ponchos were blue at the time I rode the Maid of the Mist and 6 years since I've walked the beaches of Myrtle Beach. Not quite at nomadic as the Winchesters but I've criss crossed the country more than a couple of times with various moves. It really gives you a different view of America.

Thanks again for reading.