This story is dedicated to Swan, whose insight and guidance have been crucial as I try to decipher the complex nature of Dean Winchester. Her professional knowledge guided me on the mechanics of Dean's catharsis; but more importantly, her unwavering support gave me the courage to attempt this emotional journey for him. I hope this portrait of the Winchesters rings true. Legacy would never have been written without her gentle prodding and encouragement. Thanks Swan, it was scary as hell, but I'm glad we got 'er done!
The story is set sometime after Born Under a Bad Sign and is told in four parts.
"Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose." - K. Arnold
Chapter One – Memories
The gold case spun in the reflective light, shimmering from the afternoon sun bouncing off its glistening case; a round reflection dancing on the wall as John let it dangle on the sturdy gold chain. Like the tools of a hypnotist's trade the smooth, gold case was mesmerizing. On closer inspection, it was revealed to be intricately engraved with a detailed, swirling design on the case, front and back. John suddenly flicked his wrist and the antique pocket watch jumped up and landed in his open palm, appearing small and delicate surrounded by his large, calloused hand. He gently held it between his fingers and smoothly slid the opening mechanism on the bottom; as the cover popped open a beautiful, haunting melody played.
"Daddy, moosik!" Sammy squealed reaching out a chubby hand to touch the treasure.
Dean was stretched out on the floor practicing his letters and numbers in a wide-rule notebook, but he looked up from his first grade schoolwork, preferring to observe his family in this rare tranquil moment over studying the homework that was already three days late and would probably never be turned in. His baby brother was cradled in John's lap, giggling at the watch that held his rapt attention. The music a comforting reminder to Dean, bringing with it serene memories of a child being lulled to sleep as the tune softly played.
His father now used the watch to distract Sammy and silence his crying. It had always worked with Dean and it seemed to have the same effect on his baby brother, soothing away whatever agitation had caused this latest crying spell. It was the one thing John knew would comfort his son, the only item he possessed that could accomplish that not so simple task. Dean still found comfort in the sounds and peaceful memories they triggered, although he would never admit it; he was too old to be swayed by a flashy piece of metal and the sweet melody it played.
"Dad, where'd you get the watch?" Dean asked while reverently turning it in his hands, inspecting it once more, memorizing every detail. He scrutinized every aspect of it, even though he was already completely familiar with the patina of the old gold, the smooth outer rim contrasting with the intricate swirled engraving on both sides of the case, the clear glass inner cover over the porcelain watch face and the plain gold cover over the back mechanism, distinguished only by one word and a date engraved there: Winchester 1929. Dean always found that part fascinating; it was given to his great-grandfather on his twenty-first birthday, exactly fifty years before he himself was born.
"You know the story," John intoned in his raspy, velvety voice.
Dean smiled, basking in the attention it could garner from his dad, "Tell me again."
He pressed into the strong embrace, his dad's powerful arm wrapped around him as they sat on the motel bed, their backs pressed firm against the fabric tufted headboard. At eight years old he knew he was too old for bedtime stories, especially considering their life now, but John always made an exception for this particular story, perhaps finding his own comfort in the telling.
"My grandfather got this watch from his father on his twenty-first birthday, right around the time the stock market crashed and the country was thrown into the Great Depression. Our family wasn't rich enough to lose any money in the market, but my great-grandfather lost his job and the family lost their home and times were tough, real tough. The watch had been ordered and paid for before the crash. It wasn't a cheap watch back then, actually quite expensive, but I guess Great-Granddad thought he was doing pretty good and he wanted to give my grandpa something special. Something he could treasure and pass down in the family, a legacy, I guess."
"And I'm gonna get it?"
"Yep, that's the deal. On your twenty-first birthday, this watch will be yours, until you have a son and so on."
Dean smiled. With all the turmoil that had conspired against him in his young life, it felt comforting to know there was one snippet of normal left, one tradition that hadn't been disturbed by the evil Demon: one remembrance of a past that was good and pure, one symbol of hope for the future.
"Dad, tell me the rest."
"I think you should tell the story, you know it better than me."
"No, Daddy. You tell it." Dean shifted down into the bedding, snuggled in for the telling.
Dean had never been one for stories, at least not since the fire; rather he was the one who told the stories to Sammy, but this was different. This was the one story Dad told, the one connection Dean had to a family he didn't even know. Most of his family dying before he was even born, the rest estranged and lost through the years, the last remaining few shut out after the fire, leaving just the core of Dad, Sammy and Dean; but still he felt a connection, a connection to something and he felt a comfort.
"Well, Grandpa felt so guilty about receiving such a grand gift, especially under the circumstances, what with his dad being out of work and all, that he pawned the watch for cash to help out his dad. He got twenty dollars for it, which was a lot back then. He had thirty days to pay back the pawn shop or lose the watch for good, only he didn't plan on retrieving the watch; he gave the twenty bucks to his dad and tossed the pawn ticket in the trash."
"Then what happened?" Dean again looked with longing at his dad, as John smiled at the memory, a good memory that signified the bond of family, the continuity of life.
"Well, my great-grandma found the pawn ticket and knew what her son had done. Now mind you, she was so proud of him, how he sacrificed his own happiness for his family; but her heart broke too, cause she knew how proud and pleased he was to get that watch and how much it must have hurt to let it go."
Dean burrowed in deeper within the scratchy motel comforter, this was the good part. "And then what happened?"
"Well, she sold her mother's handmade quilt to the richest family in town to raise the money to get the watch back from the pawn shop."
"And it meant a lot to her, right?"
"Yeah, it meant everything. It was all she had left of her mom. Her mom spent hours making that quilt and it meant the world to her, but her son's happiness meant more. When it came down to a choice, she knew what she needed to do."
"Family comes first."
John had been gone on a hunt for almost a full week now. Stir crazy from sitting around the house, Dean was antsy hoping he would return so they could both head out on the next job together. His irritation with his dad for leaving him behind was eating at him, not like a few bruised ribs were going to prevent him from doing his job. All right…, maybe one or two were cracked, still….he'd learned a long time ago to ignore the pain and just soldier through it, not like he'd never been on a hunt while injured. The way he saw it the pain was going to be there regardless, he might as well back up his dad and take out some evil bastard instead of lying around the house acting like a freakin' invalid.
Besides, watching over Sammy was no picnic these days, what with the constant complaining he was prone to: griping about the life, the danger, the inconvenience to how he wanted his life to play out. At sixteen, Sam was your typical teenager, angry and belligerent. Luckily most of his venom was reserved for Dad; Dean still seemed to hold some sway over his mouth and actions, unless he made a stand and defended Dad. That was enough to unleash Sam's fury toward him.
As the mediator in their little war of wills, Dean had learned to lay low. He had grown weary of trying to understand and defend either of them. He loved his brother more than anything, more than Sammy would ever realize; he just found himself not liking him on so many occasions now. It hurt to resent Sammy for what he said and did, but he saw the hurt in his dad's eyes when his brother talked back and he felt his dad's pain at losing the respect of the younger Winchester.
He simply couldn't see Sam's side of this issue. He knew why they hunted. He knew the evil that lurked in the shadows and prowled the streets needing to be killed. He knew how many innocents they had already saved over the years of hunting, and how many more still needed to be saved. Why couldn't Sam realize that? Why couldn't his brother recognize the worth of what they do? Why couldn't Sammy for once in his life put his own concerns aside and act for the good of mankind? He was simply being selfish, a self-centered brat, but then that's what most teenagers are.
Dean just couldn't relate. He'd never been a typical teenager, never had that luxury. He'd never allowed himself to be selfish, to put his own needs first. The only need he had was his family and keeping them alive and together. That had been his only desire his entire life and success was predicated on keeping Sammy safe, even if it meant locking him in his room until he was twenty, or forty.
All things considered, he would rather be on a hunt. At least when he was hunting, life made sense. He could compartmentalize the pieces and when taken out one at a time, he could handle them. You search out evil, you hunt it down and you waste it. Perfect order in an imperfect world.
Dad promised to be back by the end of the week. Dean knew it was crazy, hell, just plain stupid, but he couldn't get the hope out of his mind. I mean, I haven't seen it in years. Maybe he lost it, or maybe he finally pawned it. It was after all just a trinket…, he probably doesn't even remember. It's not like in the grand scheme of things it even matters. Just a broken family heirloom, so why do I even care?
"Dean, I'm going to the movies with Jake. You wanna come?" Sam stood there chugging the milk straight from the container. Not asking, telling. Typical sixteen year old.
"Your homework done?"
Yeah, I know, stupid question. I guess I'm just being stupid all over the place now. Dad's considered me a man since I was sixteen, but in a few days it will finally be official. Twenty-one, a legal drinker. A man in the eyes of the law, like that ever mattered to us.
"Sammy, you armed?"
Another huff and a roll of the eyes, "Dean, it's the movies."
"Just answer the damn question, smartass."
"Yeah, I got the knife you gave me, and don't forget these hands are registered lethal weapons." He grinned as he assumed the position of Jet Li.
"Registered, my ass."
"Hey, you and dad are the ones that don't want any attention drawn to us. Won't let me enter any matches."
"Why? So you can hurt some unsuspecting black belt? Don't think so, little brother."
Sam flashed a diabolical grin, figuring if he had to study all this martial arts crap he might as well get some enjoyment and recognition for it. "I wouldn't hurt them, just kick their butts."
"Save it for the bad guys."
Sam's demeanor immediately shifted, their playful banter cast aside as his distaste for the life and the harsh realities imposed by their dad once more reared its ugly head.
"What other choice I got?" He sneered at his brother.
The sudden bitter silence between them again revealing their opposing outlooks, reminding Dean how much he wished he were on a hunt dealing with an evil son of a bitch, instead of an inconsiderate SOB who shared his same blood. Yeah, the evil ones were easier to deal with; you just drill 'em through the heart and salt and burn 'em. Dealing with Sammy, not so simple.
Sam quickly retreated from his words upon seeing the hurt flash in Dean's eyes, instantly regretting his sharp tone, again realizing he didn't want to hurt Dean…, the one he wanted to hurt wasn't even there. Save it for another day, Winchester. An amused grin spread across his face as he put his best moves on his brother attempting to throw him to the floor, trying to diffuse the tense atmosphere with some roughhousing. His attempt to tackle Dean failing as he was spun around by his brother's quick reflexes and pinned against the opposite wall.
"Looks like someone needs more practice." Dean laughed as he easily bested his sibling.
Sam's smart mouth couldn't resist one more gentle jab, "Just don't want you to look bad, your tender psyche can't handle being beat by younger bro."
Dean smirked at his brother; relieved they could slip back into their familiar routine and still have fun sometimes, mostly when Dad was out of the picture. He released his hold and slapped an open hand on his brother's chest, "Have fun. Back here as soon as the movie's over. And you're welcome, little brother."
Sam grinned knowing Dean was breaking the rules to let him go and his ass would be roadkill if Dad found out. He liked when Dean disobeyed the rules. He only did it for minor infractions and only for him. Dean never broke the rules for his own pleasure, always the good little soldier.
"Sure you don't wanna come?" Sam felt a slight twinge of guilt for cutting out and having fun and leaving his brother behind, but that's how it always played out. Sam played hooky while Dean covered for him and held down the fort.
"Dad might call, gotta be here. Just don't go letting anything happen, all right? I ain't covering your ass if you screw up again."
Sam smiled cause he knew better. Dean always covered for him, always….
"Dad, I'm all right, quit worrying."
"Dean, if you ever do that again…."
"Dad, I'm sorry…. I thought it was a simple salt and burn, I didn't know."
"That's why you don't go off on your own. Do you hear me?" John's hands were trembling as he dressed his son's wounds. Damn, that was close, Dean. Too close. If you ever…. "Dean, promise me you'll never take off on your own like that again. Promise me."
Dean looked sideways at his dad. Distressed he had screwed up like this and worried him. Ashamed he had been fooled by a spirit, fooled and almost killed by it. Just dumb luck, I made it out alive.
"It won't happen again, Sir."
"You see to it, son."
Dean focused his thoughts on the ugly ass wallpaper in the room, concentrating all his energy on the bizarre geometric print. Anything to divert his attention from the pain of his chest and the terror in his dad's eyes, a fear he put there by his careless actions.
"Fine way to spend your birthday, getting slashed up by a spirit."
Startled, Dean looked back at his dad, searching deeper into his eyes, trying to see past the pain and concern, looking for more. "You remembered my birthday?" He softly asked in wonder, still searching with a foolish heart for ….more.
"Not every day a man's firstborn turns twenty-one." John muttered, his gaze still fixed on the wounds he was finishing bandaging. "Happy Birthday, son."
He seemed to pause, like he was on the verge of saying something, but nothing came. The silence was staggering as John struggled with what he wanted to say, but couldn't find the words, this last scare demanding all his attention and focus. Unwilling to say what he wanted to, unable to give his son what he knew he was waiting for, he said nothing and retreated to the other room.
Dean sighed and lay back on his bed, the bandages on his bruised and mangled chest hiding the severity of his injuries, his stoic hunter determination already working past the pain of the lacerations on his body, while the hurt in his eyes barely concealed the pain in his heart. The evening hardly holding forth the promise he had dreamed of. It's stupid, Winchester. Just a trinket, it's long gone, forget it.