Title: Music to Live to.
Summary: Without realizing it, Dean's music had become a soundtrack to Sam's life.
Characters: Sam, Dean, Jess, John
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to the demonic forces that be. Ditto on the lyrics.
Beta read by the peerless Szans, who demanded the scene with Jess, and naturally got her own way. All errors remaining are my own.
On a final note, Sam's psyche likes to elude me- I think it is a game to him- so all feedback would be greatly appreciated. Hit him? Miss him? Let me know what you think.
Sam hated Dean's music. With a passion. He could find nothing remotely enjoyable in eight and a half minutes of sensory torture- despite Dean's protests that James Hetfield was, like, a total genius, dude.
Still, even the armor plating that hatred provided failed to protect him from the mother of all annoyances. Despite, or perhaps because of the headphones plugged into his battered cassette player, Dean played his music loud enough to wake the dead in Tokyo. And he repeated. Consecutively. The seventh time through Some Kind of Monster, and to Sam's eternal horror, he not only knew all the damn words, but caught himself singing along.
It had to be some new variation on an ancient Chinese interrogation technique. Back in Black, Until It Sleeps, Run for the Hills- Dean's music had become the soundtrack to his life. The words reverberated around his head, morning, noon and night. He'd started singing Smoke on the Water In. The. Frickin. Shower.
When he and his brother were younger, Pastor Jim had once threatened to scrub Dean's mouth out with soap. Sam had seriously considered finding a mental alternative. Anything to rid himself of the endless cycle of Pearl Jam and Hendrix.
He felt a bit like that now.
All lies and jest; still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. - Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer
The words resonating in his skull were no longer the mildly annoying lyrics blaring out of his brother's headphones.
They hurt. And don't ever…
They burned. …think of coming back again.
John Winchester's mouth had quickly snapped shut, sealing off his final ultimatum with a grim frown. A part of Sam that could still hope imagined there was something other than anger burning in his father's dark eyes. For a second he saw desperation, anguish, but it was gone so quickly Sam knew it was only an embodiment of his own desire for something more
He was a pretty smart guy. Years of intense study had developed a fluent linguistic understanding of the world's most complex ancient languages. Yet for all his eloquence and vernacular mastery, the words that hung between father and son might well have been written in a heretofore-undiscovered dialect. They didn't quite make sense. The context was all wrong.
He turned to Dean for a translation, but it seemed his brother was no longer reading the same book as his family, let alone the right page. Dean looked at their father as if he were a particularly nasty spirit, and Sam as if he were an ill tempered water-wraith, and there was a thirty second pause in which Dean might just have shot them both and been done with it.
If we were blind and had no choice, would we hate each other by the tone of our voice? - Anthrax, Schism
Genesis belted out a rocking drum solo, the parodied portrayal of mysticism and the supernatural in Home by the Sea no less ironic as Sam packed his bags with the military efficiency he had practiced all his life. The bedroom door crashed open as Phil Collins slammed the snare. For a second, he wasn't sure of his father was back for round two, or to recant his earlier order. Dean stepped across the threshold on the final beat of the song.
Am I made of glass? 'Cause you see right through me. - Trapt, Made of Glass
"So..." Dean broke the uncomfortable silence first, hands stuffed in pockets and feet angled towards each other- an awkward child not sure how to speak his mind.
Jeans in one hand, crucifix in the other, Sam simply echoed, "So."
Iron Maiden kicked in. Bruce Dickinson sang a song about strength, perseverance and spitting in the faces of those who held you back. When Dean offered to drive him to the bus station, Sam snapped.
"Damnit, Dean. Why do you never fight for what you want?" He screamed over the music, neither brother making a move to turn the volume down. Sam could barely think over it, but he knew his father hated it when their music was played loud. "Isn't there something you want outside of this?"
Dean's AC/DC shirt was three sizes too big-a prize find at the bottom of the Salvation Army charity drive, and his hands were still stuffed in his pockets. When he looked at his brother, Sam felt as though he was seeing straight through him, deep into a core where he locked everything away.
"You want me to fight for what I want?" Dean clarified softly, his voice low and smooth where their father's could have drowned out the sounds of Ozzfest without a mic. Sam nodded mutely, and within a heartbeat he was back against the wall and his head rang in time with the music. Too late, he recognized the signs for what they were. Dean's pockets had concealed fists. His voice was the type of quiet that promised a messy death.
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Nothing ain't nothing, but it's free. - Kris Kristofferson; Janis Joplin, Me And Bobby McGee
"What I want," Dean hissed, low and wretchedly, "I don't want anything, little brother. I already got what I want. The music wailed on around them, and a deep voice called out to run for the hills. Sam might have done, but Dean had him anchored, his own body a solid wall between Sam and freedom. "Leave, Sam. Go to college. Be normal, but by god, if you ask me to fight for what I want, you won't walk out of this room."
Dean took a step back, and with the same ease Clapton swung from rock to ballads, the older hunter shed his sudden anger and looked back at Sam with pride in his eyes.
His clothing forgotten, they remained locked in silence until Dean's music had played through two more songs. Then Def Leppard took up the mike, jolting Sam into a frenzied packing spree. Socks were stuffed into every small space-half of them Dean's, who had taken it upon himself to help, though for entirely different reasons.
I don't know how to leave you, but I don't know how to stay. - Def Leppard, All I Want Is Everything
If Sam stayed a second longer than he needed to, he might never leave, so he picked up the pace. Dean, he suspected, simply wanted something to do, and needed to feel useful.
Working together in silence, their fingers occasionally collided as they would when they prepared for a hunt. He knew he would never know anything like the life he was leaving behind. Including his brother. Dean's expression was carefully guarded, but Sam's heart was running around in circles, not quite knowing what to do with itself.
It was breaking.
It was being reborn. Exploding with hope and excitement. He didn't know which emotion to embrace, so he shut them all away until he had the time and the privacy to sort through them in his own head.
By the time the track had come to a close, there was nothing left to be done.
Unconsciously, he echoed Dean's earlier stance. The time was nigh, but even his father's foot couldn't have propelled him through the door. Dean reached under his mattress- identical to Sam's own, and withdrew a large brown envelope. Not meeting Sam's eyes, he thrust the package out between them. The corners were banged and bent, and the seal had obviously been torn more than once.
Dean had opened and closed it numerous times before applying the tape across the seal.
No eye contact- Dean was fascinated with the doorframe. "Whatever. Don't open it now. Just, you know…consider it a parting gift, since I doubt there is time for me to take you out and get you drunk."
Sam closed his eyes. "Come with me."
He opened them again. Dean was looking at him, his own gaze open and honest. "You know I wont. I don't get you, Sammy, I try Goddamnit, but I just don't get you. It's like we're speaking two different languages, and someone forgot to pack the dictionaries."
"You get me more than dad does." The words were awkward to force out around the lump in his throat. He didn't even notice the use of his hated nickname.
"Bobby gets you more than dad does. It is nothing to brag about."
Sam nodded, short and sharp. There was nothing left to say. Both brothers shuffled, and Dean's fingers were twitching as of he were squeezing an imaginary trigger. "You'd better be off."
"Yeah." Sam echoed. "Look, Dean-I."
Dean looked away, pained, only to look back a second later, bright grin in place and cracking at the corners. "No chick flick moments, Samantha." He closes the conversation and doesn't follow Sam to the door.
Sam had been walking for ten minutes before he realized he was singing the second verse of Bite the Bullet over and over again as if his life depended on it.
I can't believe this moment's come. It's so incredible that we're alone -Bryan Adams. Don't Let Go
The thing was, Sam had been out of High School now for a few months, and the hunting had gone from being a weekend sport to a full time commitment. The house they were using for summer base was in the middle of North Dakota, and someone had forgotten to tell the weather gods that summer was supposed to equate sunshine. A mile into his walk, and the heavens opened.
"Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'; I don't know where I'll be tomorrow. Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'."
Sam liked his music with a touch of irony, and Journey was one of Dean's latest discoveries. Singing to himself, he must have looked crazy, but the miles passed more quickly, and before he knew it, the sun had set.
It was eleven miles to the nearest town. Occasionally, when their father dropped to a particularly sadistic level, he and Dean ran into town as part of PT. Most of the time, John would drive down to pick them up. When he didn't Dean hitched them a ride home.
He was half way there when lights pooled at his feet-headlights from a fast approaching car. Sam didn't need to think twice. He recognized the furious rumble of the Impala, but steadfastly refused to turn around. Here was his father to drag him back. The fact that John Winchester hadn't lifted a finger to stop him from walking out the door bothered him. His father had never been afraid to physically dump Sam in the car before.
Unconsciously he picked up the pace, a droplet of water dripping from his nose to his chin.
"Get in the fucking car, Sam!"
It was Dean, bellowing through the open window, Black Sabbath his faithful companion.
"No." The car was creeping along side him. Even over the engine and the rain, Sam thought he could hear Dean's growl.
"What good is this new life of yours if you die of pneumonia before you get there?" Dean snapped, impatient big brother radiating off him in waves. Sam didn't stop walking, but he looked wistfully at his brother as he went. Trying to remember everything hurt, but even a mad Dean was more than he would have soon.
Sam ignored the order.
Swearing, Dean sped up slightly before swerving off the road and across Sam's path. The younger hunter would have to climb a sharp and muddy incline to go around the car. He stopped, ready to reverse, and didn't even realize he had been stood still for so long until he back straight into Dean.
Sam might have been taller, but Dean was stronger, and he used every ounce of that strength to frog march his brother into the passenger seat of the car.
I'm tired of words and I'm too hoarse to shout. - Meat Loaf, Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad
Once in, Sam deflated. It was over. If John had been the one to fetch him, Sam would have kicked and screamed. Somehow, he couldn't work up the energy to do the same with his brother.
Dean said nothing as he climbed back into the driver's seat.
Lost in his own world, nearly five minutes had past before Sam realized they weren't headed in the direction of the house.
Confused, he frowned. "Dean, what the hell?"
Dean's jaw clenched. He was angry again.
"Shut up." Dean's voice caught. He didn't take his eyes off the road to reach into the back of the car. A fresh sweater was thrust under Sam's nose along with a small towel. "Dry off." He ordered, sounding like John Winchester at his most sullen.
Sam obeyed, his sense of self-preservation forbidding otherwise. "De-"
"Quiet!" Dean's grip on the steering wheel must have been painful. "Just-why?"
"Why what?" Sam said, uncharacteristically meek, and afraid Dean would shout him down again.
Instead, Dean shook his head. "No, it's okay. I get why."
"Damnit, what part of quiet don't you get?"
They drove straight through town without stopping. The bus stop whizzed by in a blur of dimly lit colors.
"Idiot." Dean muttered to himself over the thrum of the radio. "What were you gonna do, huh Sammy? Sleep at the bus depot?" Dean looked appalled at the idea, as if Sam had no real clue as to the workings of the real world.
"I've slept in worse." Sam felt the need to point out. Dealing with Dean was like a day in Tartarus. Navigating the winding roads of this brother's idiosyncrasies was a near impossible task. He'd push the boulder up the hill, them bam, it'd roll down the other damn side.
Dean slapped the steering wheel in anger, then immediately rubbed the spot with his thumbs, as if soothing away a bruise. "Damnit, I know we've slept in worse." He emphasized the 'we'. "But I was with you. Or dad was. Or both of us. You have any idea what could happen to a kid like you all by yourself?"
The truth was, Sam did have an idea. He did, and it was thanks to Dean. They'd been forced to spend the night in depots and shelters before many times, and he knew Dean had worked hard to shield his brother from the reality of what often took place. Dean, with his rose tinted Sammy Specks, stubbornly clung to the delusion that Sam was still twelve, and thus was incapable of putting two and two together and coming up with four.
If he let on that he knew humans were often as bad, if not worse, than the creepy caspers they hunted, Dean would do a 180 and Sam might see daylight again when he was seventy.
Instead, he adopted the same wry smile Dean himself used. "It's not like I'm completely defenseless."
Dean grunted and turned up the music. To Sam's immense amusement, Ten Past Seven took over from Sting and Dean's own music told him to 'Shut up your face'.
The cassette was abruptly switched for twenty-one solid metal, guitar screeching, mullet rocking tracks. Sam made a great show of shuddering and whined for five minutes as his fingers tapped along out of Dean's line of vision.
"Go for the nuts." Dean said thirty miles later. "Or the knees. Yeah. Straight for the knees. I ever tell you about the time dad and I were on a hunt in New Mexico and we came across this nasty ass skin-walker…"
Dean had. Many times. The details varying with each re-telling. Another ten miles flew past, then twenty, Dean's voice loosing itself amongst the music until Sam could no longer tell them apart.
Our own freewill, to choose the paths we take, no greater deed could ever be done than for another's sake. - Dolly Parton, Shine On
Sam's bed was too small for him to lie out flat, and the curtains didn't block out the sun that rose between the two tall office blocks across the street. The carpet was the same color beige as the Impala's leather. One wall was covered with a cork notice board, and even with the few personal items he had in his possession, Sam found there was very little space to move around in.
Whilst he wouldn't be so bold as to say he loved his new dorm room, he'd certainly lived in worse. What was more, this space was all his. No fighting with Dean over the pull out- no sharing with Dean when there was no pull out. The draws were all his own, he wouldn't have to fish through Dean's socks just to find his own clothing.
There was a few days left before Fresher's Week, and Sam had no plans. He had nothing to do at all.
That, he did love. He had his own time, his own rules, and no John Winchester breathing down his neck, demanding he jumpjumpjump.
Smiling like a fool, he dropped back on the bed, his head pillowed in his arms.
Something rustled under him, so he slowly twisted to pull it free, too comfortable to be hasty about it.
The brown envelope Dean had given him looked no more worse for wear after spending several hours stuffed between Sam's toiletries.
Thoughts of his brother rose and fell in his mind like the audio bars on a bass player. He tore the seal with his teeth and emptied the contents into his lap.
His first thought was Jesus, Dean. Who'd you kill?
Several stacks of battered notes, neatly bound in groups of fifties and hundreds landed in a pile like a small bonfire waiting to be lit. Without counting, Sam estimated there was enough money to pay his rent for a year. Hands shaking, he counted out nine and a half thousand dollars.
He wasn't lying to himself when he said he really, really didn't want to know where Dean had gotten the money. A few hundred he could account to hustling, poker, ripping off a credit card company-
-and on that note, two small plastic cards lay under one of the bundles of cash.
Sam's name, his full name at that, was stamped on the shinny plastic. A yellow post-it was stuck to the back of one. $2000 dollar max. Try not to get into debt, little brother. That's why I taught you to play poker.
The third item was a passport. Again, in his name. The signature inside was a forgery of his own. "Dean…" He growled. God, his brother was too much. Another post-it. For academic trips across the boarder. If you pass Meko's, say hi to Messandra for me. Make sure she gives you the full show.
That was his brother. Nothing said 'I love you' better than the recommendation of a good stripper.
There was also a fake I.D. Because, dude, Sam Winchester is still only a baby, and underage drinking is illegal. If it were possible to put a smirk to paper, Dean might just have added a post-script.
The last item was worse than all the others put together.
When Dean turned eighteen, Sam had bought him a knife, a modified Kriss dagger that Caleb had chased down in central Europe. Smooth, curved blade and a flat, slender, leather wrapped grip, Dean had practically salivated at the sight of it. Wrapped in a clean AC/DC shirt, and laying on Sam's new bed, Dean might as well have sent his brother one of his index fingers.
Tears that had wanted to flow since the arrival of his acceptance letter so many months ago spilled from behind tightly closed lashes. Surrounded by the abstract evidence of his brother's love and concern, Sam had never felt so alone in his life. He was stuck once again between feeling the best and the worst he has ever felt. His father's voice spoke the Marine maxim in time with his heartbeat. Semper Fi. Semper Fidelis. Always faithful. Dean's favorite, potius mori, quam foedare, and his own, Scientia sol mentis. He had always known his path lay outside the park of hunting and violence John Winchester had constructed. It had simply never occurred to him that one day he might actually be free from it. His dreams had come to fruition, but he had been forced to dishonor the one family value he actually cared for in order to break free.
By now, Dean would be back across the boarder, driving like a madman to avoid their father's wrath. "I'll drive you to a bigger bus depot" somehow translated to, "It's not that far to Stanford, quit bitching. Impala needs a decent run, don't you baby?" Soon, he would be a hundred, two hundred, a thousand miles away. Chocking back tears that were slowly threatening to turn into a torrential flood to match the weather back home, Sam snatched his walkman from the inside of his bag. Dean would freak when he found his favorite compellation cassette missing.
Jamming the lid shut and spinning the volume to full, the pounding in Sam's head grew ever stronger with the encouragement of Jimi Hendrix. Dean's knife was slid between pillow and sheet, and his shirt found its way into Sam's fist.
One day he would live in a world where his dreams did not cost him his reality, but until then, he had the memories of a brother who would die for him, and a father who would kill for him, and a love for them both that sometimes hurt more than it should.
It takes two to tango, only one to let go. - The Wallflowers, Letters from the Wasteland
"Okay," Jess smiled brightly from behind a tower of cardboard boxes. "Explain how we go from Tosca and OMD, to Metallica and BOC?" She held up two handfuls of CDs, the cases spread out between her fingers like playing cards.
Unpacking the kitchen utensils Jess' mother had provided, Sam shrugged haplessly. He'd found them both in a garage sale and bought them without thinking. "Eclectic taste?" He offered.
She rolled her eyes and tugged on a loose strand of hair that had escaped her messy ponytail. "You've been holding out on me, Winchester." Jess laughed and navigated the way to his side. "A genius," she reached up to press a light kiss to his chin, "an all-star basketball king," another kiss and a giggle as Sam turned red at the memory of his buddies' attempts to get him on court, "and now I find out you're a closet rocker. One day you're going to tell me that your name is not actually Sam Winchester, but Rocco, and you're on the run from the circus."
All the world's for living when love is what you find. Despair and loneliness, you've got to leave them far behind. - Kansas, All The World
A beat of silence, and then he laughed, full and enthusiastically. She squeaked as he drew her up for a full kiss, her laughter lost against his. Finally, he lowered her back to her toes and drew back with a wry smile. "The circus?"
Blushing, Jess smacked him on the arm and headed for the next pile of boxes. They were labeled 'Miscellaneous'. With a toss of blond hair, Sam was met with a cheeky gaze. "Either that, or you have a wife and three kids in Mexico."
He snorted. "Just Messandra, but she knows you're the only girl for me." Last summer he and his buddies actually made it across the boarder, and Sam had found the exotic dancer, more out of infantile curiosity than anything else. The feisty woman had pegged the family resemblance instantly, kissing him hard and fast before slapping him across the cheek. Both gifts for Dean, apparently.
Music suddenly filled the small apartment. Jess had dropped one of Sam's CDs into the player and the evidence of Dean's sick taste in music took the form of Fire of Unknown Origin. After a few minutes of the track, Jess was bobbing her head along with the chorus. Arms full of bubble bath bottles and trinket cases, she headed for the bathroom. "You know, I could get used to this." She called back. Sam grunted in response, afraid he had lost yet another loved one to the curse of the Winchester culture crisis.
He propped two pictures up on the bookshelf between bedroom and bathroom. His mom and dad smiled serenely out from one frame. Dean grinned cheekily over Sam's shoulder in the other.
In his mind, Dean and their father were bickering lightheartedly in the front of the car whilst Sam strained his eyes trying to finish his latest essay. John Winchester looked at his youngest through the rear-view mirror.
"How ya doing, Sammy?" He almost smiled. Sam did smile back, enjoying John just being John, and not 'sir'.
"Last hundred words." He reported. From the front, Dean snorted.
"Boys." John cut off the bickering before it started.
"Sorry dad." They chorused, before sniggering together. John made a good show of groaning when Dean selected a new tape to play, and Sam cursed loudly.
With a goofy smile on his face, Dean played air guitar and sang along with the Eagles. "Freedom, well, that's just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone."