Happy New Year everyone!
"Life is a kind of Chess, with struggle, competition, good and ill events"
"Now there is something you don't see everyday." Jefferson hit the nail right on its proverbial head, and Sam nodded in mute amazement.
"You guys are a riot." Dean said darkly. He didn't look up from the board, and scowled when Pastor Jim's white Bishop seized one of his pawns.
Sam laughed and shook his head in amazement. It really wasn't everyday he walked into the cosy sitting room at Jim Murphy's to find the pastor and Dean squaring off over a chessboard. The fire was crackling behind them, and by the half-empty mugs of coco and plate of cookie crumbs, it looked as if they had been at it for some time.
"When did you learn how to play chess?" Sam was stunned to see that not only did Dean seem to know what he was doing, but he was on the offensive.
Dean still didn't look away. "If you spent more time working on your drills instead of with your head in a book, you'd have a little more downtime to learn." The level of reprimand was low enough for Sam to ignore.
Dean's black Knight vaulted a square and ambushed Jim's Rook. "Very nice." The Pastor praised. "You remembered that move I showed you."
It was easy for Sam to blame the close proximity to the fire for the sudden flush that rose to Dean's cheeks, his brother's happy smile quickly growing rueful as he lost his Bishop to Jim's Boudicca-like Queen.
"Forgot that one, though." He chastised himself.
"You won't again." Jim promised him. Sam was the first to agree. Dean was far from perfect -Sam was old enough to recognise that now- but in all Sam's life, he had never known his brother to make the same mistake twice.
The scent of fresh hot coco filled his nose. Sam nodded gratefully at Jefferson and allowed the warm mug to ease the chill from his fingers.
"How'd he do?" Dean asked once Jefferson had settled himself into on of the armchairs around the fireplace. With John Winchester out hunting beasties with Caleb and Joshua, Dean was Commander-in-Chief Sammy's Training. He took his job as seriously as the old man did.
Sam bit back a groan. Dean hovering somewhere between soldier-boy and brother was annoying, and the tactical game he played did not help matters. He wanted a report-responded to disciplined and organised environments. Jefferson, having spent years dealing with their father, knew just how to give one. He wouldn't pull his punches, either.
John Winchester was damned near impossible to please, and more than once Dean, Jefferson and Caleb had sugar coated a few of Sam's short comings to spare the boy his father' unreasonable wrath. With Dean, it was all or nothing, scars bared, stand up and face it. Dean never got angry, no matter how long it might take Sam to pick something up- which somehow made things worse. Sam had grown used to disappointing John. He hated the thought that he might disappoint his brother.
The chess was momentarily abandoned; both Jim and Dean giving Sam and his tutor their undivided attention.
"Relax, Captain Winchester." Jefferson laughed at the flicker of worry on Sam's face. Sam gave him the finger in response, which earned him a snigger of approval from Dean, and a half-hearted glare from Jim. "He's coming on fine." Jefferson promised. "His aim with his right is going to be as good as yours someday real soon. Just needs to work on his left. You're still a little shaky, kiddo."
Dean nodded thoughtfully. No doubt he was thinking ahead to tomorrow, seeing where he could fit another few hours of brother-on-brother shooting in between his own training, his chores, and the work he was doing for his father.
"Looks like we've got an early start tomorrow, Sammy."
Sam refrained from rolling his eyes, knowing that Dean would make him crawl through every damn mud puddle for miles if he saw it.
Instead, he tried a more subtle approach.
"Didn't dad say you had to study tonight?" He asked cheekily.
"What do you think I am doing, moron?"
"I'm organising my time in a manner that fulfils the evening's object in an enjoyable manner." Dean announced in his best mini-soldier boy voice. "It's called improvisation."
"It's called cheating."
"I beg to differ." Jim cut in. Both he and Sam ignored Dean's 'I told you so' expression. "Dean is expected to study history and tactics tonight, yes." Both boys nodded. Military history was the only history Dean had any time for, and that was more due to wanting to please his father than any real love for the subject. The boy was more practically minded than his younger brother was. "Well, that is what he is doing. A good general knows where his troops are at all times. He knows their strengths, their weaknesses- how to get the best from them as a team."
"Like us?" Teamwork. With a capital T. A Marine thing, according to Jefferson, and something their father was big on.
"Exactly like us, kiddo." Dean had that look in his eyes, the one he got whenever he was planning on making one of their father's lesson into something fun that Sam could relate to. Unconsciously, Sam shifted forwards towards his brother.
Dean plucked his Queen from the board.
"See this beauty? The queen isn't the most important piece on the board-but she is the most powerful." Dean's other hand hovered over his King. "This guy here, he's the one to protect, he's the one you need to take out to end the game. But Queenie, she's the one everybody fears. She can flatten anyone, anything. Go wherever she wants. She attracts a lot of attention, and often travels far across the board, away from her King, in order to kick a little enemy ass."
Sam's throat felt dry. He understood what Dean was trying to explain. "Like Dad." He whispered. Dean nodded, his smile for their often wayward father was sad and proud and one hundred things in between.
"Bingo." The Queen was returned to her position and Jim grimaced, she was only three moves from taking his King.
On a roll, with Jim and Sam watching intently, and Jefferson refraining from sniggering, Dean continued. "Now the Rook-" He seized one of Jim's taken pieces, a funny little castle shaped object, and held it up for Sam to see. "When threatened, the King can retreat to safety. Just like we do to Pastor Jim. He represents sanctuary. "
The youngest Winchester wondered if Dean could see the way Jim looked at him then in the way everyone else obviously could. Jim adored Dean, but being as bull-headed and- as Sam was starting to notice- completely unaware of his own worth, Dean would probably blame the sparkle in Jim's eyes on the reflection of the fire.
"What about the Bishop?" Sam encouraged, enjoying what was the closest thing to a confession of affection Dean would ever give.
The soft smile on Dean's face turned wicked. "Jefferson." He said without a moment of hesitation.
"Why?" Sam asked before Jefferson could.
"Cos he's ugly as-"
Jim cleared his throat.
"-sin and he likes to kick people when they don't expect it. Besides, the Bishops were considered only second to the royals, and we all know what a pompous ass he is."
"Guess whose ass he's going to kick next." Jefferson threatened, though he looked too damned comfortable to reach out and smack Dean- a fact Dean was all too aware of.
Dean continued, ignoring Jefferson completely. "You, Sammy, are our King."
Sam wasn't so sure he wanted to be the King. He didn't want to be more important than anyone else, and he certainly didn't want life to imitate art. The taken pieces of his brother's game were the fallen solders in a war to protect their King. Sam didn't want anyone to die for him. Ever.
His voice was rough, and he gulped down the coco to hide it. "Why?"
Dean snorted incredulously. "Cos if Dad's the Queen, then you're the only person he'd go all caveman over, idiot."
That was a lie, though Dean didn't seem to realise it.
"Besides, the King is often the tallest piece, and the way you're growing, Beanstalk, you'll be able to join the NBA in a year or two."
"You first, princess."
"So what about you?"
Dean frowned, thinking for a moment. "A Pawn, naturally." Then his smile was so blindingly brilliant Sam was momentarily distracted by the uncharacteristic vocalisation of Dean's self-image. Arrogance was a cloak the teen wore like a favourite sweater; he was rarely seen without it. "We're the suckers who get our asses beat in the name of Sammy and the Impala. And dad, naturally. Maybe Jefferson."
Jefferson snorted. "And Caleb and Joshua?"
"Depends if they bring me back something cool from their hunt. Danvers promised me a new switch blade."
"You're not a pawn." Sam said, speaking up against the well of silence he had momentarily fallen into. "You're a…" Sam wanted to tell his brother that he was the King on Sam's board. Dean was the most important piece. Instead he met Dean's grin with one of his own. "You're a Knight."
"What? Brave and handsome?" The idea obviously appealed to the teen.
"I mean you prance around in the Impala and you never play by the rules." Sam recalled the way the Knight had been moved in a different style to the other pieces, jumping out from behind the lines and turning corners where others moved only in straight lines.
Dean shrugged. "I can live with that."
"Sam is right." Jim smiled. "A Knight belongs in the midst of battle. A Knight at the edge of the fight is restricted in the squares he can attack or defend. In the centre, he has limitless potential. A well developed Knight is a chess player's secret weapon."
"There you go sport," Jefferson said humorously, "who needs unlimited backup when you have Dean Winchester as your wing man?"
Dean, in his usual manner of dealing with praise, grinned and stroked his chin like an evil villain in a Bond movie. "I hear chicks totally dig the whole title thing."
"So to summarise," Sam shook his head in wry amusement. "You're a horse, Pastor Jim is a castle, and Jefferson is a cleric." Sam chuckled and Jefferson shuddered. "Dad is psychotic, and I am really royalty."
Dean paused for a beat, thinking. Then he nodded, "Yeah, that about sums it up."
Dean's logic left a great deal to be desired, and Sam directed his next question to the pastor. "Is he on drugs? Concussed? Possessed?"
"All of the above?" Jefferson quipped.
"I see extra laps in someone's future." Dean said in a singsong voice.
"You gonna make me run laps, sport?" Jefferson scoffed.
Dean smirked. "I was thinking more on the lines of telling dad about our little trip to Vegas. I'm sure he'd love to know how you led his impressionable young son astray in Sin City."
"Do, and your ass will never see daylight again."
The pastor cleared his throat. "Are you sure you want to be having this discussion in my presence?"
Dean shrugged. "Isn't there some kind of church law about repeating what you are told. The Seal of Confession, or something?"
"Yes," Jim nodded, making use of Dean's distraction to move his Queen, then smiling when Dean glared back. "However, since you have never come to confession, nor seem likely to in the near future, I think I am safe from the 'lightning bolt of vengeance'." Both Winchesters smiled at the playful reference to the smiting hand of the Almighty Sam had feared after being read some of the more colourful stories from the Old Testament. It had take John sometime to convince the kid that the world wasn't going o flood anytime soon, a task not aided by Dean's helpful recounts of the global warming bull that scientists had started hectoring people about on television.
"The day Dean confesses to anything is the day he paints the Impala pink."
Dean looked too horrified by the very idea to form a suitable comeback. Instead his Queen tackled Jim's Rook, leaving the King defenceless. Jim's fighting defence was decimated, the Queen and a Knight captured and held in a neat row behind Dean's fortified line.
"Check." The older Winchester boy said, with a nasty glare to Jefferson for good measure. Curious, Sam leaned down to get a better view of the battlefield.
Jim deftly evaded the final attack.
"Shouldn't you just give up?" Sam asked the pastor. "He's got you dead to rights."
Jim chuckled. "If great generals gave up simply because victory had looked unobtainable, then the world would undoubtedly be a very different place."
"We'd be speaking French." Dean expanded.
"Or German." Sam concurred with a nod.
"Or English." Jefferson added.
"We do speak English." Sam pointed out before glancing at Dean. "Or at least most of us do."
Innocence filled every line of Dean's face. His Queen moved in again.
"My point," Jim directed the line back onto the tracks. "Is that the King, whilst unable to mount a strong attack, can effectively evade capture for some time, if the enemy is not careful to blockade him." Instead of moving his King further away from attack, Jim's second Knight moved from behind Dean's pawn. "Check Mate."
Dean answered with a string of mumbled curses, and then demanded to know how the counterattack was so well covered.
Jim set about re-enacting the last few moves.
"Never trust a man of the cloth." Dean said, sounding somewhere between awed and disgusted. "They're sneaky." All at once it became obvious where Dean had picked up his façade of innocence; Jim's smile was the antonym of sin.
"You Winchester's don't have the patent on subterfuge, you know."
"Well we should."
Both Sam and Jefferson sniggered. Dean was by nature a magnanimous person, but if the fault were his own, he hated to loose. Jim's second attack should have been accounted for; it was a move Dean had pulled off himself in the past. His King was taken, and if life really did imitate art, he could kiss good-bye to happily ever after. There was no ever after without the King.
But Sam knew something Dean didn't.
He knew something that everyone but Dean knew.
He knew that Dean Winchester never made the same mistake twice.