Usual disclaimers apply. Again all mistakes are mine!
This is a follow up to 'Effects of Gravity' which doesn't necessarily have to be read to follow this story. The relationship between John and his youngest son is fractured and this opening chapter starts the ball rolling for the full breakdown to come. This in turn leads to a difficult road trip across America for Sam in his quest to get to Stanford.
Chapter 1 - Breaking orbit
"Well that didn't exactly go to plan," bitched Dean traipsing back to the car soaked from head to toe. His jeans clung uncomfortably to him and he felt himself walking even more bowlegged than normal as the now too tight clothing pinched in delicate places.
Casting a quick eye over at his brother he hissed in annoyance at the dry state he had managed to keep himself in and muttered tersely, "Trust Princess Samantha to come away smelling like a freaking rose."
Sam just smirked, staying a good few feet away from his foul smelling brother, "It was lavender actually, helped soften the fall a bit," he drawled.
Dean sniffed again, not happy that his brother had been right about the spirit being water based and that he had run head long into the one place where it could draw power other than the lake.
Sam for his part kept his judgement in check, just wanting for this tiresome hunt and night to be finally over and done with. Besides he realised as he tried to shrug out the growing knot of pain in his shoulder and left forearm, the lavender hadn't been a soft enough cushion to stop his body from starting to ache. He couldn't feel any breaks, just another collection of bruises and aches, which in its way was a good thing, especially after being thrown high into a brick wall at god knows how many miles an hour.
"You okay there?" asked Dean with a slight note of concern on his face at watching his brother stretch out his tall lanky frame in a grimace.
"Nothing a couple of Advil and a few weeks in Hawaii won't fix," murmured Sam already desperate for an escape from the monotony of playing a redundant third wheel to the older Winchesters two-wheeled act. Fingering his broken cell phone he showed it to Dean with a rueful half smile. "Still I don't think a couple of Advil are going to fix this."
"You sure know how to make Dad love you, don't you kiddo." responded Dean tongue in cheek. "How many phones have you managed to destroy this year?"
"Three," answered Sam with a shrug of indifference, stuffing the broken phone into his jean pocket. Two busted on stupid hunts and the third via the local laundrette. Oh, yeah he knew too well just how pissed his dad would be again at another screw up and could already hear him moaning about responsibility and money. But then again when wasn't he pissed with him?
The wind shifted again and Sam couldn't help but groan out loud as the foul stuff that covered his brother assaulted his nostrils once more. "Jesus Dude, you smell really bad. You've gotta strip off or your going to stink out the car for months."
Dean knew that he had to get out of his rank smelling clothes, but it still was hard to swallow down a stream of expletives when it came to taking advice from his little brother. This whole lets 'dump Dean in an exploding water closest' was really getting old fast.
After the initial confrontation with the spirit he had chased it back to the nearest source of power shotgun pellets exploding in the closed confines of the Outhouse, and when that did not have the desired outcome he followed it up with a liberal spraying of consecrated iron rods.
Who knew that the spirit would react to so violently to such exposure literally blowing itself up and the Outhouse with a mesmerising geyser effect. Putrid water had gushed upwards lifting the rickety roof right off and sprayed the surrounding area, and Dean, accordingly.
At least the little shit had been vaporised and he could hold his head up a little bit higher with that knowledge, thought Dean a little smugger.
On reaching the impala he shucked slowly out of his slimy clothing to shiver in the cold night air pour pulling out an old grey blanket from the trunk and wrapped it around his waist to afford himself at least some modesty.
He could hear Sam snickering around the other side of the car and his bad humour just kept on rising along with his embarrassment. Then the moment he had dreaded became a reality as the deep voice of their father cut through the darkness.
"What the hell happened Dean?" demanded John Winchester as he marched into view, his eyes widening in surprise at seeing his semi-naked son. His initial question was quickly followed by another, "On my god what's that awful smell?"
"Dean." Sam answered simply, a look of angelic innocence on his face that made his older brother want to reach across the trunk of his beloved car and smack him. Hard.
John Winchester slowly circled around the car, noting the pile of sodden clothing with a disdainful sniff, assessing his oldest with a practiced eye. Never a man to beat around the bush he asked. "You finished the job at least I hope?"
"Yes sir," responded Dean automatically whilst pushing his dirty clothes into a large holdall, "Though it didn't quite go to plan," he admitted, and glowered at his brother daring him to add anything further and Sam just smiled sweetly in return.
John though wasn't fooled by the silence between the two and turned his attention back to his youngest, "Where were you when all of this happened? You're supposed to cover his back." snapped John irritably, annoyed that things had not gone as he had directed.
Sam immediately bristled under the bare veiled accusation that he had screwed things up and looked to his brother for support but Dean was still seething at the ridiculous situation he found himself to want to step in between the two perpetually warring Winchesters.
Snorting out his disgust Sam snapped back, "Oh yeah, like I said earlier when you chose to ignore me this was a water spirit and the fact that Dean went barging after it head first into a frigging Outhouse of course has to be all my fault."
"Watch your mouth," hissed out John, feeling that all too familiar charge of static being generated between them The fact was that Dean was lucky to walk away from this one relatively unscathed and it unsettled him. "You should have stopped him going in there in the first place if you knew it was a damned water spirit."
"Yeah well that's kind of hard to do that when your ass is being thrown twenty yards into the air. It sort of makes it difficult to keep both eyes on watching his back!"
Dean ears pricked up on that last statement more than a little annoyed at the inference that he needed his little brother to keep his back safe. He had been on enough hunts without him to know that he could hold his own, on his own.
Tersely he moved in between the two fighting Winchesters with an out stretch of his arms. "Hey you guys, you can stop the pissing competition because I do believe it was me that got that bitching spirits ass kicked in the end. I don't need little Samantha here to watch my back. Period. I'm the guy that won the gold medal here."
Sam looked at him, and any anger he might have wanted to hold onto instantly evaporated at the picture his brother presented.
The woollen blanket was wrapped haphazardly around his waist, his short hair stuck to his scalp with rust-brown gunk and his pale skin was peppered with goose-bumps so large they were visible in the cold night air, all of which leant an absurd air to his macho posturing. He looked anything but like a victorious gold medal winner.
A small chuckle escaped and he knew that he pay for that later on after Dean had enough time to think of a plan of revenge yet still he couldn't stop himself. "Dude your right. You really must take all the credit here. It was a masterful execution," waving a hand over at him. "Go, please and bask in the glory that is all you….stench and all."
"Bitch" snapped back Dean, pulling the blanket tighter as it threatened to slip off his hips. "At least I got the damn thing while you went butt first into a flower bed."
"Yeah and I smell so much better than you for it." smirked Sam again, sliding into the back of the car as his brother rearranged his blanket before slipping into the front passenger seat.
John Winchester shook his head as the brothers teased each other regretting yet again that he hadn't driven his own vehicle to the hunt. His face wrinkled in disgust as he sidled into the drivers seat, the odour drifting off his oldest was enough to make his eyes water, making it nigh impossible to breathe let alone talk.
The miserable look on Dean's face summed it all up perfectly and he knew that if anything was learnt on this hunt it was not to rush blindly into things so recklessly as his oldest had done.
As he drove back to the main highway he caught sight of his youngest in the rear view mirror and he sighed. He knew that he had been too hard on him again, but it just seemed that whenever he opened his mouth conflict immediately arose. It was, no had never been this difficult with Dean. Dean accepted his authority, did what was expected of him and never argued the toss like Sam seemed intent on. Why didn't the boy just know when to keep his mouth shut and just listen.
Studying him closer he could see the boy changing into the man. Subtle changes, his face was thinner, longer, his shoulders a little broader. With all the windows down the wind was lifting his way too long wavy hair away from his face. No matter how many times he had told him to get it cut it still stayed impossibly long. Deliberately so he guessed, another act of defiance to his authority he reasoned.
Watching his youngest profile despite all the changes he still seemed so much younger than his years, still affecting an air of naivety that scared him at times. Not for the first time he wondered just how on earth had that boy had grown up to be such a sensitive creature, when for his entire life he had been surrounded by demons, monsters and darkness. The boy was a complete puzzle to him.
At least now with the end of school he could keep a closer eye on him. The last year he had been gone more often than not and each time he returned Sam seemed more distant, more argumentative, more freaking independent and down right stubborn.
"Yep" thought John positively. 'Sam would soon buckle down into the Winchester way of life.' Give him a few months permanently in their world, under his rule, and all those silly daydreams of his will have melted away and he could become the hunter he was supposed to be and they would all be better off for it.
The lavender bushes really had not been a soft enough cushion realised Sam as his left forearm and shoulder ached a dull throb all the way home. The water spirit had had a powerful punch to it, he thought ruefully, as he massaged his arm gently and felt thankful that Dean had been able to dispatch it when he did. He didn't think going a second round with the spirit would have been any fun at all.
As they pulled up to the small wooden framed house they had rented for the last four months he pulled himself tiredly out of the car, head hung low to avoid catching another disparaging look from his still pissed off father.
Dean had already hot-tailed into house cussing all the way as his bare feet protested at the icy ground underfoot and he trailed silently behind his father into the house. He threw his backpack on the floor by the front door and shrugged out of his jacket heading straight away for his room stiffly. The mailbox for the first time in over a month forgotten by the youngest Winchester.
As he sank on to his bed he reasoned that a couple of painkillers would get him sorted out for tonight at least. Tomorrow he would get Dean to look at his arm and shoulder. See just how bad the damage was. It was better to have his brother inspect the harm than dad who'd only tear strips off him again for getting banged up in the first place.
'Yeah', thought Sam, 'nothing like a little bit of an acidic tongue lashing to make you feel even better about another freaking hunt gone wrong – again.'
Dad it seemed had got that ability down to an art form with him on a way too regular basis lately. He could just imagine the fireworks exploding when he had to fess up to another broken phone.
After what had seemed an age Dean had emerged from his shower decidedly pinker and a little happier than before.
Now fresh and clean again his mood had lifted and dressed in his usual attire of jeans and dark tee shirt he was looking forward to a few beers and a game of pool. Hell he might even let Sammy drag along with him tonight and help lift that air of gloom he seemed to have adopted since his graduation. The graduation he had been forced to miss with a hunt in Wisconsin.
With inward sigh he knew he should have stepped in when dad snapped at his brother for not watching his back. It wasn't Sam's fault that he hadn't listened and yet it had been his brother who had borne the brunt of their dad's sharp tongue. So, yeah, a few good beers might just soften them all up and let the indignities of the day slide away.
He breezed back into the kitchen with a bright smile only for it to vanish at hearing the anger in his father's angry voice yelling clearly through the house. "Sam, what the hell is this? "
"Dad?" he asked as his father strode past him, his lips thinning to a tight slash as he flung open the bedroom door.
Sam had struggled up to his feet at hearing his dad yell and looked more than a little startled as the door burst open with a large crack to hit the wall. He had seen his dad mad as hell before, more times often than not directed at him, but never with this level of intensity. The man looked ready to explode.
"Just what the hell is this?" demanded John again of his youngest waving a large envelope at him.
Sam eyes were drawn to the large envelope with the Stanford college logo stamped at the top still fisted in his dad's large hand. Whatever fear he might have felt at hearing the anger in his dad's voice mutated into joy at seeing the Stanford logo. "Is that what I think it is?"
"You tell me?" snarled John, waiving the envelope under his nose again before ripping it open, glancing over the contents quickly with dark eyes he shoved the letter and its contents against Sam's chest with a flat emphatic. "No."
Sam lifted the letter off his chest and pointedly ignoring his dad's remark carefully read its. Slowly a wide smile broke across his face, his dimples deepening as he realised that one of his favoured colleges was giving him a full scholarship.
Life truly could get no sweeter than this he thought, affirming that all his hard work for the last eighteen months had been worth it. Hoping for the same reaction from his brother he spun round to share his good news. "I did it Dean, I got into Stanford on a full ride."
Dean face fell open; he looked to Sam and then to his dad and felt a sudden coldness hit him. The kid was fooling himself if he thought for one second that Dad would let this happen. What was the idiot thinking applying for college when they had been waiting for him to finish school and join them in full-time hunting.
"You've got to be kidding me Sammy. College?" he asked huskily, a bitter taste forming in his mouth. The kid couldn't just run out on him like this. He just couldn't.
Sam grinned at him expectantly not yet sensing the negative vibes being generated by his brother. "This is freaking awesome, it's a full scholarship to Stanford. I really did it."
Waiting for a positive reaction he frowned as his brother locked eyes over his shoulder to share an agreeing nod with his father. Suddenly he felt sick to his stomach, realising that there would be no slap on the back of 'Well done little brother'. They both meant to stop him.
John for his part was desperate to put an end to his youngest son's wayward dreams to leave the family and he spat out forcibly. "You're not going."
Letting Sam go off to college had never been part of his agenda. He had allowed him to finish school, why couldn't that be enough for him? This nonsense had to stop now and he added. "College is just not gonna happen."
Sam shook his head, and took a step backwards away from his family, already feeling the distance growing between them. Blinking back his tears of frustration he kept the letter tight in his hand and shook his head again. "It's Stanford dad. One of the best colleges in the country and you don't want me to go? Why?"
"If you have to ask that then you're more thick-headed than I could ever give you credit for. How the hell is four years of some fancy college gonna help you hunt?" cursed John, drawing himself up to his full height imposing his presence on his slighter built son. "You can't go and that's final."
Sam though was just as tall as him now and eyed him back with a less than fearful impression on his face. If anything his words had triggered an even more defiant look in his youngest eyes, now almost black with anger. "You're one screwed up father, you know that. Right?"
John growled a warning, and Dean winced visibly, wondering at just how ugly this might get as his dad moved menacingly towards his brother. "You watch your mouth boy. You don't get to speak to me like that."
Sam wasn't going to be intimidated and almost seemed to laugh as he answered. "You know most normal dad's would be over the moon if their son got into college on a free ride. They'd see this an achievement to be proud of."
John shook his head in answer, crushing Sam's hopes in the process. "Achievement? Its not gonna make you a better hunter is it? Like it or not we hunt - that's what we do."
Still Sam wasn't ready to back down, the word 'hunt' a trigger to his general unhappiness as a Winchester. "Oh yeah the eternal hunt. Funny thing is that you keep telling me at just how crappy I'm at it,"
Waving his letter at his dad he added. "Thought this might have been the perfect opportunity to off load me, that way you two could continue with your perfect hunting world without me dragging you down."
John looked hard at his youngest a little shocked at the bitterness that could be heard in his voice, but the anger wouldn't die down enough for him to keep any restraint and he heard himself once again shouting at the boy. "Yeah well may be that's why you need to get your head out of your butt and focus more on the hunting. May be then you wouldn't be such a fucking screw up all the time."
Sam blinked hard for a second obviously stung by his dad's comments and then the rage took over. "Well this Screw Up got himself a full ride into college despite being your sorry assed son. So guess what I'm doing next dad - and no it doesn't start with the fucking letter 'H'."
"You little shit…" snarled John reaching to grab his son before Dean blocked his way.
"Hey, that's enough," warned Dean to his brother, pushing him back a step away from his dad's reach, before locking eyes with him. "Dad's right. It's time for you to grow up and give this college stuff a rest. Okay?"
"No its not okay." snapped Sam pulling away from his brother's touch. "You know you and dad have the wonderful little hunters club going on here were you go out and blow the brains out of something bad and get your jollies."
"And that's a bad thing? broke in Dean with a small shrug of confusion. He couldn't understand why his brother resented their life so much. "Its what we do best, and yeah me and dad have got it down pretty pat now. In a few months you'll feel the same."
Sam shook his head, desperately trying to keep himself in check. Dean saw the struggle on his brother's face and playfully punched his arm and smiled some encouragement, "Come on, just think of it as you being lucky enough to be joining a very exclusive men's club here."
Sam couldn't keep the bitter laugh from escaping as he confessed. "You really think that's what I want? To be some screwed up second rate gopher for you guys."
Dean looked puzzled and shot a quick glance back at his dad to see how he was reacting, not expecting his brother to be so implacable but Sam wasn't finished.
"You still don't get it, do you? My best is never going to be good enough for him," he whispered harshly, stabbing a finger over at their father. "So you can stick that membership where the sun don't shine."
Dean felt himself pushed aside as his dad barrelled past him and slam the slighter built boy up hard against the wall. "I've had enough of your mouth boy. You do as I say or so god help me… "
Sam swallowed back a yelp of pain at being thumped so hard into the wall, his bruised arm and shoulder protesting as his father continued the pressure, but he knew it was now or never for him to make his stand. Pushing off hard against his father's heavy arm that pressed across his chest he staggered free.
His eyes were bright with unshed tears as he hollowed out a response. "Or what? You'll beat the crap out of me? Its not that I got into college that you're pissed about is it? Must be really galling for a control freak like you not being able to keep me under your thumb anymore."
John sucked in an angry retort and started long and hard at his son aware that he was about to lose his baby boy if he didn't try to guilt him into staying. With a coldness to his voice he answered. "I'm done with this. You want to go then go, but you go now. And you stay gone."
"Dad?" interjected Dean alarmed at where this was heading. He couldn't really mean to just let Sam go like that. It was insane. College was months away. They had time to persuade Sam from going, but if he left now things would never get fixed.
John shook his head at his oldest son, his voice frighteningly level. "No Dean. Your brother wants out of this family then out he goes." He was rewarded by a flicker of fear in his youngest eyes, the notion that he would lose his family, more importantly his brother, hopefully starting to tip the balance back to his parental control.
Sam's startled face was an open book to read and he went in for the kill confident that using Dean as his leverage it would deal with this problem once and for all. "You want to go to college then go, but if you do then you walk away from this family, me, your brother, forever. You hear me. You walk out that door tonight and you can never come back."
Stunned Sam watched his father turn away from him without another word. He looked for support to his brother but just like his dad he turned and walked away. The silence was deafening.
A feeling akin to when his father had left him behind in Farnborough washed over him once more. It was of utter rejection, that no matter what he did next he was never ever going to be the son his father wanted.
He knew that putting in his college applications behind his dad's back had been a risky thing to do, but secretly he had hoped that if he did get this longed for scholarship, a full ride, that his dad might just this once be proud of him. Just this once.
Crushed he could hardly breathe, the emotions so thick that drawing in air was a struggle.
Clumsily he sat back down on is bed, his hands shaking as he tried to reread his letter from Stanford but his watery eyes just made all the text blur. For this one chance of freedom he would have to trade in everything, including his brother.
Not since Farnborough did Sam Winchester feel so utterly alone.
Dean tugged at his father's arm as they returned to the living room pulling him tiredly to a stop. "Dad you really can't mean this. Sam can't go…"
Shaking his head his father answered. "It's his choice now Dean. What do you want me to do here? Tie him down to a chair and exorcise this rebellious streak from him."
"If you have to," demanded Dean.
John headed over to the fridge, taking out two beers, one of which he tossed over to his oldest, before he sunk dejectedly down onto the well used sofa, trying desperately to ignore how his heart beat painfully in his chest. "Just give the boy a day or two and he'll come around."
"God I hope so dad. You can't let him go." demonstrated Dean, frightened that his way too smart little brother would just up and do that, leave them, leave him just as his dad had told him to do. Chewing on his bottom lip he looked over at his dad and saw the worry frown creasing his brow. "Just how did he manage to let this whole college slip by us?"
"The kid has always been way too smart," acknowledged John Winchester, his guts starting to churn in sudden dread as he added, "And way too goddam stubborn. Bet you anything Jennings has had his hand in this. He's always been desperate to get his hooks into Sammy."
Swallowing a long gulp of beer to drown the thoughts screaming in his head he knew that he might have made a big mistake in giving the boy such a confrontational ultimatum. Sam seemed to thrive on them lately.
Taking another long swig of beer he shook his head, afraid of what was to come next. He had been faltering with the boy ever since California. Something had broken inside him when he had failed his youngest, something he should have tried fixing back in the hospital those eighteen months ago but didn't. The silence between them about Farnborough and that damn house was covered over by their constant bickering, their constant fighting. It was a disguise to hide behind and now Sam was readying to run away from the silence, and run away from him. Readying to go because of his mistakes in dealing with the boy.
Still he couldn't believe that his little boy would really leave them now, especially not his brother. Surely the kid knew just how much they needed him, just how much he was the cement that kept their family together.
Stuffing as much as he could of his meagre possessions into a canvas holdall he finally folded in half the acceptance letter to Stanford and shoved it into a side pocket before he zipped up the bag. Standing on shaky legs he flung it over his right shoulder, and studied the room for a brief second readying himself to leave. It was time to leave Michigan behind and head back to California.
After his dad's final words he knew couldn't stay. There was no way to reason with him or Dean, as they would never see things through his eyes. They would just see him as disloyal, not a true Winchester like they patently were for him daring to be different from their ideals and goals.
Dad's words had stung hard, driving fresh salt into wounds that had failed to heal since Farnborough. He knew he was the screw up in this family, but was it really that easy for his dad to push him away, out of the family? But then again he had made that decision before for him, why should he be so surprised by him doing the same now.
Struggling to keep back the threat of tears the choice was made. Stanford wanted him, saw something in him that his dad failed or didn't want to see. To stay even one more night would mean buckling down to his father's will, not just this once but for as long as he dared to draw breath.
Bit by bit, day and night, they would chip away at him till he gave up his dreams, till he gave up any hope of having any self worth.
Sam Winchester was anything but a coward and he took the first step away from his life as a brother and son when he walked out of the bedroom, bag over his shoulder his young head held high in bitter determination.
He dared to lock eyes briefly with his brother and saw the shock on his face turning into open anger. Not a chance there he knew of his big brother suddenly standing by his side and supporting him against their dad. After reading the look in his brother's face he didn't bother looking at his dad, not want to see the condemning stare that he would see.
To an overwhelming condemning silence he walked out of the small house and out of their lives. There really hadn't been a need for words, because there was too much to say that couldn't be spoken of.
Perhaps I should have really titled this 'The Road trip from hell," as Sam starts his long and difficult journey back to California.
Feed back would be nice!