"Betrayal is the only truth that sticks." - Arthur Miller
Chapter Seven - You Can Run But You Can't Hide
"So, Sammy, where'd your pretty boy brother go? He hiding? Pretending again?" Evil smirked and raised his brows, his voice slick like the slimy snake he was, again taunting and twisting what few facts he might be privy to and distorting them into something obscene and ugly, so not like Dean. "But, Sammy… it is soooo like Dean."
Sam looked up, the features of his face twisted in shock and disbelief… How can this demon know my thoughts? Know just what to say? How does he know the past… the secrets?
The demon continued on. "Don't be such a girl, hiding from the truth." He laughed, delighting in the pained expression on Sam's face. "Go ahead and spread 'em, sweetheart. Just open wide." He smirked and winked. "It only hurts for a second. Just a slight burn of the truth, then it will all be better. Trust me; it will feel so, so good." He leaned back to get comfy, his insidious grin overbearing and smug. "Just take it like a man and then you can help Dean… finally know him… save him. Isn't that what little Sammy wants? To fix Dean?"
"Just shut up!"
Leviathan looked hurt, blinking back his imaginary tears. "What? So now you don't want to hear the gory details? Now you want to do what big brother wants? A little late, don'tcha think? Pretty boy's already faced the music, already knows the jig is up." He smiled then, quietly observing how his words dug into the memories, conjuring up the images long buried, a shout from the past taunting and bringing then forward into now.
"Hey, pretty boy, you lookin' for some action?"
The memory swept over Sam in a rush of sheer panic as a teenage Dean tensed, his eyes flashing with an undefined pain before the familiar gritty determination took over. He pulled Sam back to his side squeezing his shoulders as he stepped between him and the older boys. His voice was distant but firm as he locked eyes with his kid brother.
"Sammy, go home."
"I said, go home… NOW!"
Sam shuffled away as Dean pushed him off. He started to run, his breath racing from his lungs, hoping, praying that Dad was home. Damn it, Dean, there're three of them and they're older… bigger. He turned the corner and John was leaning over the engine of the Impala, tools in hand as his son skidded to a stop before him.
Breathless he exclaimed, "Dad, Dean's fighting in the park."
John looked up and stared at his son with cold, dark eyes, no emotion registering.
"Dad… please, there're three of 'em… They're huge! They're gonna kill him."
John sucked in a deep breath and continued to stare, his brows furrowed in concentration. Finally his gaze left his son and moved in the direction of the park two blocks away.
"What started it?"
"What!?" Sam gasped. What the hell difference?
Calmly but firmly John repeated himself with a clear undertone of I-am-not-going-to-say-it-again, "How'd it start?"
"The guy called Dean a pretty boy."
John slunk back against the fender of the car as his hand massaged down his face.
"Dad… he's gonna get killed!"
John stayed pressed against the car, waiting.., too much time passing.
His fifteen-year-old son was getting beaten to death in the park and the great John Winchester stood indecisive and still.
Damn, I hate you… He's your son and you do nothing?
Sam's insides shook as the all too familiar feelings of hate and anger rose up just like they did back then. All the years that had passed between then and now doing nothing to dull the intense reaction: his worry for Dean and disgust over Dad's pitiful response mixing together in a bitter cocktail. His mind swam trying to understand the significance of this memory, how it fit in the puzzle that was Dean.
It wasn't the first fight Dean ever got in and it certainly wasn't the last, there was just something in Dean's eyes that day that made it stand out. That and the fact that Dad actually happened to be around, lot of good that did.
"SAM!?" Bobby was standing before him wildly snapping his fingers and looking inquisitively at the younger Winchester. Sam was dragged totally back to the present and he tried to focus on the intent gaze upon him as Bobby's words struggled to break through the thick shroud of memories he was buried within. "Sam, where the hell were ya?"
"What? Huh? Ah, yeah… Bobby."
"Where were you?"
Sam quickly stole a glance at the demon, the smug smirk and the glint of his eyes hinting that he knew. He shuddered from the sick feeling slinking through his insides, feeling like he was again defiling his brother, betraying him and playing into the demon's twisted plans. He felt on the cusp of a great discovery, some hidden insight into their past, desired but also dreaded.
The information he needed to reveal all teetering right there before him just waiting for him to grab hold and pull it in before it slipped backward into the abyss and disappeared forever.
He was seeing that long-ago time with fresh eyes, not blinded by hero-worship and his unwavering allegiance to his brother. It was almost like he was actually there again, only now an outsider standing on the sidelines quietly observing and for the first time noticing the subtle nuances behind the words and actions as they unfolded.
Bobby was in his face though, his insistent presence keeping him from his reflections.
Bobby pressed onward, demanding Sam's full attention. "You're a million miles away. What'cha thinkin'?"
Sam shifted uneasy and studied Bobby's face, the concern evident in his searching eyes, his brows arched in a lingering question as he battered the young hunter. Sam paused while his mind came to terms with the convergence of all his thoughts. Again trying to fill in the blanks, piece together the truth from the distant memories, desperate to understand all the fragments that littered his mind. So many disjointed images only now starting to make sense in the patchwork quilt that made up Dean's life.
He was finally opening his eyes to the unbiased reality that had been waiting all these years for him to grow into the knowledge, at last ready to question everything he thought he knew about his family. Old enough now to hear the truth of their lives and help bear the pain.
He turned and walked away from the demon, drawing Bobby with him so they could talk out of earshot of Evil.
Sam hesitated, all the thoughts swirling about him overwhelming and he only needed to clearly see them, to take the time to finally digest the truth and find the answers locked deep inside his own head. He turned to their old friend, the only one who might hold a clue besides Dean; because Dad was gone and Dean wasn't talking, not now… maybe not ever. "Bobby, how often was Dean called a pretty boy?"
Bobby grunted and looked away, checking the door to insure they were still alone. The last thing Dean needed was to come upon another betrayal, another frank discussion of the messy details of his life. Disappointment and concern crept into his voice as he replied, "Sam… what the hell you doin'?"
"Bobby, please, just answer me."
"Sam, just let it be, will ya?"
"Why? Why'd it upset him so?" Sam was always persistent, like a pit bull fighting for a bone, a family trait. His eyes pleaded as he questioned everything he'd ever known about his brother. Desperately trying to reach past all the nasty, perverse lies Leviathan told and uncover the real truth, whatever that might be. Even if it turned out to be uncomfortable or painful, knowing the truth could only truly hurt them if they refused to face it. Knowing that together they could conquer anything and that Dean would only be stronger with him by his side.
Bobby's voice was gruff and matter-of-fact, "He's a guy, Sam. Dean always was good-looking, but no guy wants to be called pretty.., especially your brother."
"But why'd it make him fight?"
The anger and disgust in Bobby's voice was evident, simmering within the words, threatening to erupt. "What're you talkin' about?" he grunted.
Sam was more determined than ever. Once he embarked on this journey he was determined to finish it, searching out any answers to piece together the puzzle. "I remember when we were kids; some jerk called Dean a pretty boy and he took on three guys, older and bigger. Bobby, he almost got killed."
Bobby released a huff while his eyes narrowed. "Well, I guess he didn't, right? That's Dean, son. Don't you know your brother by now? He ain't gonna back down from a fight."
"No, Bobby… That's just it… I don't know him. At least not the part he hides. But I want to. Bobby… I need to before it's… " Sam's voice broke off, his eyes drowning in tears, his lips quivering from need. "Why won't he talk to me? Tell me what's going on in there?"
Bobby faced Sam down, straight on, steely eyes offering up their own misty tears threatening to break free. "Maybe 'cause he don't want to think about those days. Why can't you just let it be?" The anger was filling out the words, the glare of his eyes reinforcing the painful emotions.
Sam looked up, tender eyes broken and pleading, his brows quirking as his mouth twitched up nervously. "'Cause he's my brother."
Bobby looked sad and defeated before shaking it off. Bobby wasn't one to give up and let circumstances get the better of him. He harshly commanded him, "Drop it, Sam. No good will come of it." He clamped a huge paw of a hand on Sam's shoulder and offered him a quick shake before he walked past him and exited the room.
Sam stared after him, his mind still trying to come to terms. He couldn't just drop it. It wasn't in his nature, not when Dean's future hung in the balance.
With time still on hold as they waited for the other demons to attack, his mind had further room to explore his thoughts, time to drag up the flickering images and study them in more detail. He concentrated on that hot afternoon in the park, drawing out the memories. He was older then, not like the other memories when he was just a kid. These memories were clearer, more defined, although he still hadn't realized the significance at the time, what it all meant in the grand puzzle of Dean.
It was sweltering hot in the Deep South. Atlanta, he thought. Dad had come home early from a hunt the day before, the Impala had been running a little rough and he was doing routine maintenance, fine-tuning her to keep her at peak performance. He'd been in and out all day, picking up parts at the AutoZone when he wasn't buried under the hood. John's devotion to the car legendary, always maintaining the Impala in tip-top shape, giving her whatever attention she needed to keep her running smooth.
Sam remembered how angry that had always made him. How he felt like he and Dean were ignored while the car and hunting seemed to place higher on the charts than the man's own flesh and blood. Dean never acknowledged a hint of a problem, instead working tirelessly by his dad's side; always acquiescing to whatever John wanted him to do, be it working on the car or cleaning the weapons or training for hours upon hours in the grueling sun. Sam remembered countless nights of Dean falling into bed exhausted from the relentless training and maneuvers.
And Dean never complained. In fact, by his teens it seemed like he relished the physical demands Dad placed on him, devoting more and more time to his training, becoming almost obsessive about it. His days filled to capacity with chores and training and watching over his kid brother. Schoolwork getting short-shifted as his rare spare time began to focus on a steady stream of girls.
Even in his early teens Dean pursued women with the same fervent desire he'd always reserved for hunting, plunging in with abandon and passion, determined to experience it all. While still relatively young, he took to staying out late and dragging in early; a glint in his eye, a smirk on his lips, and the hint of a wild tale that was too X-rated for the delicate ears of his kid brother.
As was always the case with Dean everything seemed to hinge on Dad; the older son always hyper aware of Dad's expectations and surrendering all else to second place. Sam the only one who ever threatened to compete for first place in Dean's heart. Dean forever torn between the two of them.
He never groveled for Dad's approval, but he certainly always sought it, subtly and covertly, pushing his body beyond its limits, refusing to accept that he couldn't do everything Dad expected perfectly. And Dad always pushed, demanding more and more at every training session until Dean appeared to be the perfect fighting machine, but in spite of everything he was still a boy… and there were three of them in the park that day.
Sam knew without question what Dean's response would be when he was inevitably beaten to a bloody pulp. Sam had witnessed it before on too many occasions, how all Dean would see was the shame of letting Dad down; never the truth that it might be the opposite, that Dad had let him down. That maybe three older, bigger boys were more than he could be expected to handle. After all, he was barely fifteen that day.
Dad, I'm sorry, I'm sorry… Daddy, please don't hate me.
The words hit hard and fast, twisting his gut, and making him gasp from the impact. Too many memories now, crowding together in his mind, grinding against each other and he couldn't sort through them. That previous dark night in the car as they raced towards Bobby's replaying on a loop. Stark and real emotions of fear and sadness assaulting him as he witnessed his big brother growing ever smaller as he folded in on himself in the backseat of the car.
In the days and weeks that came after, those sad, expressive eyes followed every move Dad made, gauging what he wanted. For the longest amount of time Dean seemed to be seeking out whatever response could possibly bring about forgiveness. For what, Sam had no clue. The tension at Bobby's was thick and suffocating, heavy like an iron sheet pressing down on them, welded in place and stifling hot from the lack of fresh air.
Dean finally buckled under the intense pressure, acting out like a typical disaffected teenager around his brother and Bobby, moody and sullen, but never with Dad. Always the obedient soldier with Dad. Still trying to garner acceptance… forgiveness… something; whatever it was, that only Dad could provide.
Dean barely spoke unless directly questioned and then he only responded with any interest to his dad, snapping to attention with a sharp 'yes, sir' or 'no, sir' and then expectantly waiting for a morsel of a response in turn. Constantly watching his dad with wary eyes. Listless and uninterested in anything except his training; only coming alive within the physical exertion.
At night as the day wound down and they all congregated inside Bobby's house Dean was again quiet and unengaged, playing with his food at the supper table and barely eating. When questioned he typically responded his stomach hurt and he wasn't hungry, while his eyes betrayed his contempt at being subjected to any scrutiny. Again shrinking down ever smaller, almost like he wished he could simply disappear.
He would nervously twist in his seat, uncomfortable with the silence that greeted them at the dinner table on the rare days when they all met up at the same time to eat. Dean looking down, Bobby and John looking away; Sam the only one looking at all the parties present and trying to understand what this silence was that entombed them. It didn't last long each night before Dean would excuse himself to wander in the salvage yard, alone and bitter.
Sam found him there on several occasions with a stolen bottle of beer or even whiskey, curled up on the bench seat of an old junker, near drunk and muttering things that didn't make any sense. His heart bleeding out through soulful eyes.
At the time Sam was partly relieved Dean wasn't just Dad's mindless soldier and appeared to have some teenage rebellion left in him after all, but then the main part of him worried that it was so not like Dean and he hated to see him like that, depressed and angry all the time.
That's when the extra training really started in full force. After the first tense week with little to no activity, Dean started running every morning and night, and lifting weights at all hours of the day and night with swollen hands, bruised from long practice sessions with the punching bag. He should have been physically bulking up, and he was more defined and muscular, but with him not eating he was still far too lean. Each day his eyes seemed to sink further into dark circles on his face, and sharing a bed like the brothers did made Sam acutely aware that he wasn't sleeping… tossing and turning, violently jarring him awake in the depths of the night as nightmares rocked the darkness.
Whenever Sam tried to talk to him, he shut down, moving away, distancing himself and going more and more inward. Sam didn't know how to respond to Dean withdrawing from him so he silently followed him around, watching and hoping the old Dean would soon return. A shocking part of him actually wished Dad would come back from his damn hunts and do something to fix Dean. Wondering how he could leave them at Bobby's for so long unattended when it was obvious that something was wrong.
Sam just didn't know what. Or how to make it right.
It didn't take much for his wish for the old Dean's return to be granted. He was initially so relieved to have his protective big brother back it took a few minutes of terror for the reality to intrude into his perfect fantasy. The fierce tone of Dean's voice and the wild look in his eyes that afternoon showed a side of his brother he'd never before witnessed and it shocked him.
It was the first time Dean ever scared him, although it certainly wouldn't be the last. His deal with the crossroads demon the last in a long line of terrors Dean had imposed on their relationship.
"What the hell you doing? Get away from him."
Dean appeared out of nowhere, grabbing Sam and whirling him around behind him; his arms protectively holding him away from this man on Bobby's porch. The stranger was an average-looking man, work shirt hanging open over a black t-shirt and faded jeans, actually rather short and slight and hardly threatening. The man smiled and raised up his hands in a friendly protest.
"Hey, look, kid… "
"I'm not a kid," Dean snarled. And at all of thirteen, Dean believed it.
The stranger lowered his hands, all the while grinning like an idiot who had no idea the danger lurking within this boy as he again moved forward while reaching into his back pocket pulling out a mechanic's rag and a wrench. That slight movement was all it took and Dean attacked him, knocking him off the porch and onto the ground, landing hard on top of him and wrestling the wrench from his hand before drawing it up and holding it poised in the air threatening to come crashing down into the man's terrified face. "No!" the man cried out in shock, his forearms desperately trying to shield his face from the coming blow.
Dean froze, his raised arm shaking, his entire body trembling, stretched taut and ready to snap. The sweat on his face glistened and he heaved, gasping for breath… for control. His eyes flickered and he suddenly glanced about like he only then realized where he was and what he was about to do. He suddenly appeared uncomfortable sitting on top of the man like this and shifted back quickly onto his outstretched legs, his voice grunting out, "Don't move… just don't move."
The screen door squeaked as Bobby opened it, slamming against the front of the house as he rushed past Sam and down the stairs as soon as he assessed the scene. He grabbed hold of Dean's upraised arm holding the wrench and jerked the boy up and off the stranger. Dean fought him, breaking free and scrambling back toward the stairs of the porch.
"What kind of a freak you got there? All I did… "
"Just git… NOW!" Bobby cut off the man. One glowering look was all it took and the man got up, dusting off his already dirty and worn clothes and staggering away.
"Better put a leash on your dog, Singer," he scowled as he back-stepped towards his car.
Leviathan was whistling in the other room, a familiar tune but Sam couldn't quite place it. Something Dean would recognize, he was sure of that. Sam staggered over to a faded, upholstered easy chair and sank down into the cushions, running his hand down his face in a nervous swipe. His mind was overloaded with the feelings and the memories, bringing on more doubts. Each new memory building upon the last and making him wonder how he could have ignored all the signs over the years. Why hadn't he seen the patterns, recognized the stress that wore at Dean? How he'd acted out back then, not always the steady presence his kid brother remembered.
Why had he been content all these years to be the protected? The pampered little brother? Why had he never before seen the toll on Dean that was so clear now?
Hindsight is 20/20, especially when grown-up eyes replace the innocent eyes of a hero-worshipping child.
He forced his mind to focus on the fight in Atlanta. He remembered the terror racing through his body that sweltering day as he glared at his dad as precious minutes slipped by before John finally slammed the hood of the car down and eased into the driver's seat.
His voice was gravelly and terse as he gruffly commanded his son, "You comin'?"
Sam raced to the passenger side and hopped in as John started the powerful engine, revving it for a few seconds before throwing it into gear.
Instead of peeling out of the driveway and racing to his son's rescue, he drove cautiously, every traffic rule followed to the letter of the law as he traveled at the speed limit of 25 MPH around the park. He was deliberate and controlled, the car purring beneath them as the barren, inner-city slums out the window slowly rolled by. Sam was bouncing in the seat beside him, his face stretched thin with worry. I could run faster than you're driving!
The fight was almost over by the time they pulled up to the curb. Two of the older boys were already down on the pavement while the third was landing blow after blow to Dean's battered body. Dean turned to protect his kidneys, taking the blows head-on in his stomach before twisting slightly and landing his own upper-cut to the glass jaw of this bully. The older boy wavered and stepped back and Dean went for the kill. He followed through with another fist to the face and three more blows to the gut in quick succession and the bully went down in a heap.
Dean teetered for a moment before he collapsed to his knees, panting for breath with his entire body spasming. He stilled on the pavement, his body bent over, shuddering through the aftershocks of the severe beating he'd taken. Sam started to jump out of the car to go to him when a strong hand gripped his forearm holding him back.
"No. Let him be."
"Dammit, he's hurt."
"WAIT? For what? He's hurt. Dad, please… "
"Sam, I said no."
They sat in the car watching. Dean hunched over on crumpled legs, his head down and even from where they were Sam could see the blood streaming from his nose and mouth. Blood mixing with the dirt and the grime on his white t-shirt, stained and torn. The lean muscles in his chest and arms tense and glistening with sweat that drenched through his thin t-shirt and caused it to stick to his back, his arms wrapped tight around his middle as he heaved and shuddered.
It seemed like an eternity before he put out a shaky hand to the pavement to steady himself and he slowly started to rise. His mouth contorting from the pain and Sam swore he heard the grunt that surely was wrenched from his lips.
He finally was standing, swaying slightly from side to side as he took small, deliberate steps toward home, each foot dragging along the pavement causing him to stumble over the smallest pebble. It was agonizing to watch this young, broken boy barely able to move one foot in front of the other, but that was all Sam was allowed to do… watch. He turned to shoot daggers at his cruel, insensitive, drill sergeant of a father and was startled by the sight of his tough dad shaking, his bottom lip trembling, and Sam swore he saw a tear roll down his cheek before he quickly turned away to check for traffic as he pulled away from the curb.
If Sam thought the drive to the park was slow, it was nothing compared to the agonizingly slow drive home. Dad kept the car behind Dean's staggering trek. Several times Dean stopped to catch his breath, leaning precariously against a trash can or chain-link fence before summoning the strength to trudge on. He was almost home when he stopped the final time, the wait interminable as he slumped against a withered old tree and didn't move.
Sam was ready to scream at his dad to do something, when John pulled past his son and parked in the driveway. Before Sam could get his door open, John had piled out and was by Dean's side, pulling his arm up over his shoulders as his legs buckled finally offering to drop him hard to the ground. John gripped his side and eased him back up. Leaning on his dad's strong frame, Dean found the strength to keep walking, his legs half dragged along as John slowly led him into the house, laying him on the sofa as he yelled at Sam to get the first aid box.
Time flashed forward and back in the present, Sam's eyes teared up; the memory so fresh and vivid. It was the first time he'd seen Dean truly hurt and he remembered it all, the tension that filled the room as Dad tended to Dean's injuries, the muffled moans his brother tried so hard to hold back. Even then Dean was determined to hide his pain, deny his hurts, be the strong soldier his dad expected him to be; while the totality of his anguish screamed out through shattered eyes each time they opened and drew wide.
There had been a real concern about internal injuries. Dean gasping from the sharp stabs that radiated through his body as Dad worked his fingers over the mottled bruising on his ribs checking for breaks, finally determining they were only cracked and a good taping would allow them to heal. The expanse of tape that eventually covered his chest made him resemble a mummy, while his slow and stilted gait whenever he tried to move mostly mimicked Frankenstein's monster.
To complete the horror, Dean's face looked like the creature in a monster flick, swollen and distorted with one eye completely closed off, his nose broken with a river of blood cascading from it to soak through his t-shirt. Sam remembered the efficient way Dad snapped it back into place and the black bruising that lasted weeks. And he remembered the days after… Dean's sullen attitude, distant and withdrawn, while Dad was angry and tense and drinking too much, leaving soon after for another hunt.
That first night after Dad left, Dean got loaded on beer and became loud and belligerent, cursing that Dad couldn't even wait until he was fully healed before taking off again. Then the pain of his ribs caught up with him and he ended up curled up on the couch whimpering through muffled groans. That was shocking enough but later he actually cried when Sam finally maneuvered him into the bedroom and tucked him in. He was so drunk he didn't even try to hide the tears. Tears that didn't seem to stem from any physical pain. He looked up into his kid brother's face with eyes so open and hurt and defeated while he kept repeating, "I'm sorry, don't hate me."
Young Sam not understanding any of it. He could never hate his brother.
Hate was reserved for his dad.
Morning came and Dean didn't seem to remember any of it. He popped too many aspirin and guzzled a gallon of coffee and went about the business of taking care of his kid brother.
"You ready? I'll drop you at school."
"Aren't you going?" Sam quietly asked, tentative and unsure, warily observing his big brother.
"Not today. My head's killin' me. Think I'll take it easy… but you better get movin'."
Sam studied him, like he often did; only this time he really wasn't sure what he was seeing. Dean was obviously hung over but there was more… an underlying sadness. It was so not Dean. It reminded him of two years prior… at Bobby's when he'd first realized that Dean wasn't always in control. He didn't like to think in those terms 'cause it made everything seem worse than it already was. And it was already plenty bad enough.
Dean looked up from the coffee cup cradled in both his hands. His eyes distant and clouded over; and Sam wasn't sure if it was the liquor from the night before or something else. "What? You better move it, dude. Bell's in half an hour."
"Dean?" Sam started again then hesitated, knowing this was a loaded question and honestly not sure if he really wanted to hear the answer. "What are you sorry for?" He solemnly took another breath, his eyes never wavering from his big brother as his trembling voice continued, "Why would you think I'd hate you?"
The air sucked from the room in a whoosh and Dean froze. Sam swore he saw his hands shake as he immediately set the cup of coffee down on the kitchen table in a clatter and the cup almost tipped over. Dean's eyes slowly rose and that little boy was back, sad and terrified and so very, very lost. He cleared his throat. "What're you talkin' about?" His brows quirked and he glanced with hooded eyes at his kid brother… waiting.
Sam shifted on his feet. He wondered why he'd asked the question when a part of him knew it would hurt Dean, instinctively knowing that he should have just let it be, ignored it like the Winchesters tended to do. Maybe I don't belong in this family, maybe I am like the blond chick in the Munsters? He'd already gone this far and he wasn't one to back down. Not now, not when it concerned his brother. "Last night… when you were drinking, you got really sad… Dean… you were… "
"What?" Dean softly asked, his eyes pleading for this conversation to end right now, but he knew his brother, knew once Sam latched hold of something he always wanted his answers. "What, Sam?"
Sam took in a deep breath. "You started to cry and you said you were sorry and to please don't hate you. Why, Dean? What happened? What are you afraid of? Why would you think I'd ever hate you?" He managed to get all the questions out in one go, just a brisk run of questions.
He then waited for the answers.
The conversation never progressed any further.
Dean made some risqué sex comment and Sam, seeing the pain in his brother's eyes, the unspoken desperate plea, let it drop. At eleven he really wasn't looking to rock his world and how he viewed his brother. He still needed Dean to be his protector, his knight in shining armor.., his hero. His Dean.
That was the last time Dean ever got drunk to the point of losing his faculties. He always drank, sometimes to excess, but he always knew the point to stop. He never again bared his soul in a drunken stupor, never again allowed himself the refuge of the bottle. One more restraint was placed upon his soul, one more line he refused to cross over, thereafter always maintaining that necessary firm grip on control.
Two years prior on that first night they'd arrived at Bobby's everything seemed skewed and off-center, veering dangerously close to out of control. Bobby gave Sam a hug as the young boy flew into his arms, and stared with curiosity at Dean, who stood sullenly at the opposite side of the room, his arms wrapped around his middle.
"Hey there, Dean. Man, you're getting tall, boy." Bobby tried his best to break the ice, with Dean not giving a frosty inch. Dean was never as overtly demonstrative as Sam, but he'd taken to Bobby like family once they'd settled in and gotten to know each other. Bobby's home often serving as a retreat from the chaos of their lives. It wasn't unusual for John to leave his sons there for days or even weeks at a time while he was off hunting. Once they'd even stayed the entire summer.
That was Sam's fondest memory of their youth, the lazy days of summer when they almost appeared normal. It was the summer before Dean changed and embraced his training, before he whole-heartedly embarked on his journey to becoming Dad's perfect soldier. The summer before he became a teenager.
The tension in the kitchen that night hung like a persistent gnat buzzing your head until John joined them after putting the Impala to bed in the garage. He immediately helped himself to a beer out of the fridge.
"Make yourself t' home, Winchester," Bobby joked, his eyes never leaving the older boy still standing at the far end of the room. "Dean, how 'bout you? You want somethin'? A pop? Milk?"
Sam piped up, "Can I have a pop? We've been driving for hours." He turned to his brother and hopefully asked, "Dean, you wanna share?"
Dean shook his head no and moved closer to the backdoor, away from everyone.
"Make it a water, Bobby." John walked over to where he was standing directly in front of his oldest. He placed his hand on his shoulder and Dean tensed at the touch. "Dean, son… you ready for bed?"
Dean looked up, red eyes sad and lost and searching… locked in a silent moment with his dad. "Yes, sir," he barely uttered.
"Water it is." Bobby pulled down a mug from the cupboard and poured some cold water from the pitcher in the fridge. "Here ya go, Sammy."
Sam drank down a huge gulp of the liquid and offered what remained to his brother. Dean took a small sip and handed the mug back, before pulling his brother to his side and retreating with him up the stairs to the bedroom the boys always shared when they stayed at Bobby's.
As the boys were walking from the room, Bobby pulled out a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue and two glasses. He roughly placed them on the kitchen table and sat down with a huff.
John raised an eyebrow. "The good stuff?" he quizzed.
Bobby poured out two shots, sliding one towards John as he sat down opposite him and downing the other in a quick swallow, slamming his empty glass down on the table. "What the hell happened, John?"
Dean sighed as he shuffled out of his jeans, climbing into the double bed in his t-shirt and briefs and scrunching down under the covers. Sam closed the door and sloughed off his own outer clothing before sliding in beside him.
"Dean, what's wrong?" Sam softly asked, his eyes searching for signs, indications of what was bothering his brother.
"Nothin', Sammy. Go to sleep," Dean curtly replied, turning away from him and pulling the covers up tight under his chin. They silently laid there in bed, only their shallow breathing indicating any life existed within the four walls.
They'd been in bed for nearly an hour when the voices from downstairs pierced the still.
Bobby and John were arguing, loud voices rising up the stairs, muffled but intense, some of the words making it past the plaster and penetrating the bedroom above.
"John, goddammit, he made a mistake. You can't keep punishing him like this."
"Punishing him? You think this is punishment? For him? He's my boy, Bobby! You didn't see him. You didn't see that bastard… his hands wrapped around…" There was a pause and then the loud clank of a bottle hitting the table. "Every damn time I look at him, I see it… " A chair pushed across the floor and then it sounded like it tipped over. "I can't get it out of my head!" Another loud crash indicated John had hit something… the wall? Bobby? It was hard to tell, the sounds just told of the anguish and with no pictures to match up it was left to both brothers to fill in the blanks.
Sam opened his eyes and stared at the back of his brother. Dean was curled up with his legs drawn up, the pillow pulled tight around his ears as he tried to get as small as he could. His breathing was louder, hitching unexpectedly before a muffled sniffle broke through. Sam scooted across the bed and reached out his hand and lightly touched his shoulder. The touch registered like a branding iron with Dean bolting from it, crashing off the side of the bed, banging his shoulder on the nightstand and landing in a heap on the floor.
"God, Dean, I'm sorry. Dean, what is it?"
Dean scrambled back up, wrapping his arms around his middle, the tears forming in his eyes visible from the barest light streaming in the window from the full moon. His voice sounding broken, but defiant, "It's nothin', ya hear me? Go to sleep, Sam." He backed away, grabbing his jeans off the floor and turning toward the doorway, disappearing down the hallway into the bathroom. The door slammed shut and after a few minutes Sam heard the shower turn on.
"So, Sam, you done? Can we exorcise this worthless piece of shit back to Hell now, or you got more questions?"
Sam startled, his head rising up from his pensive thoughts to stare into Dean's piercing green eyes. A man standing before him, bold and sure, the child from so long ago again buried, hidden away beneath layers of determination.
"You listenin'?" The tone of Dean's voice was pure annoyance, defiant and combative. "We need to send this bastard packin' before the others show up… that is unless you still feel the need to chat." His response quickly changing to one of cocky bravado as the snide words slipped into his familiar smartass attitude.
Sam studied his brother, needing to confront him once and for all and get his answers, yet not wanting to hurt him any further. Knowing pressing the matter now would do precisely that. His heart ached for what he now suspected… feared… knowing the truth could no longer be denied and was destined to come out, understanding it would be painful for both of them, but most especially for Dean and he regretted that with every fiber of his being.
"SAM! Don't got all day… seven deadly sins… the apocalypse… night comin'. Ya with me here?"
"Yeah, right," Sam meekly replied, all passion drained from him. "Go ahead. I won't stop you."
Dean snickered, his lips curling into a sneer. "You won't, huh? Good to know. Guess you can follow orders… on occasion." Dean seemed to be itching for a fight, a response he was comfortable with. Always ready to answer a problem with his fists or scathing repartee.
"Dean… " Sam rose up, ready to defend his stance, ready to again go at it.
"WHAT?" Dean immediately bracing against his brother's pleas; pushing him away with his words. "I don't have time for your issues, Sam. We've got six demons coming for us. You think maybe we should concentrate on that? Leave your little drama for later… that is if we're still alive?" The words were cold and cutting and cruel, only Dean's eyes denying the chill, eyes filled with hurt and love and regret, buried beneath all the pain but lingering there in the depths.
Sam couldn't help himself, when Dean attacked he answered with his own attack. The brothers being typical brothers, going head to head against each other; hashing out their issues with words that cut to the bone, threatening to undo them.
"Dean, I just want to know the truth. For once, just tell me the truth."
"Or what? You gonna hold your breath? Turn blue and pass out?"
"WHAT?" Sam blurted out, his eyes wide and wild, disbelieving. "What are you talking about, Dean? Turn blue?"
"Yeah, like when you were a kid and you didn't get your way. Throw yourself a little temper tantrum?"
"I never heard that before. What the hell, Dean?"
"What? Now you're gonna get upset about some stupid secret? Huh, Sammy? It don't matter… what difference? You were a kid."
"But it did happen? It is true?"
Disgusted Dean raised his brows and scowled in puzzlement, "What?"
"Holding my breath… turning blue?"
"Yeah, Sam. God, what difference? You've always had a temper. If you didn't get your way you'd hold your breath and turn blue." Dean scoffed at the shocked look on his brother's face. "What? It's what kids do. Dad said you'd come to and you did. It didn't take long for you to figure out it wasn't gonna work. You always were a smart kid, Sammy. You learned your little fits were a bust."
Leviathan smiled as the brothers engaged in their verbal exchange, his heart soaring at the misery it brought the Winchesters. Each brother locked into their boyhood responses, each lashing out with uncensored words. He always seemed to have his way with humans… they were so very weak, so ready to fall apart at the first hint of anguish. So very delicious!
"Boys… BOYS!" he interrupted, no longer able to stand being ignored.
Turning in disgust both brothers simultaneously exclaimed, "SHUT UP!"
The tension seemed to fracture apart and the brothers each paused before shifting to study the other. Dean's lips quickly turning up into a smirk, like he'd just thought of a funny story and was eager to share it with his best friend, his brother; his ability to turn on a dime again evident as he buried the hurt and focused on the demon and the job still left to be done… and the pleasure of seeing this evil get what he deserved.
Sam as usual more stubborn, holding on to the guilt and anger, but wishing he could make it right for Dean. Watching with fascination as his brother again plastered on his confident, cocky game face and for a moment grateful Dean could recover so quickly from the pain… just like he'd always managed to do.
Dean smiled at the bastard beneath the devil's trap, his eyes shining at the thought of sending him back to Hell. "Oh, I'm sorry… we making you wait?" He laughed in the demon's face. "Didn't mean to ignore you, buddy boy, but you're right. Time's up."
"You exorcise me back to Hell and I'll be waiting for you, Dean. We all will… I gotta say, you were all the buzz… back when you made that deal. The line started forming straight away. Everyone wants a piece of Dean Winchester. Your dance card's already full. You're going to be the most popular girl at the prom."
Dean smirked as he opened his arms in a mock bow, "Hell, can't help it if I'm adorable. I think it's the dazzling personality." He popped the collar of his leather coat and preened before the demon, his eyes shining with glee. "Or could be the wardrobe." He turned to his brother, drawing him into the conversation. "What'cha think, Sammy?"
Sam looked on in awe. Dean again seamlessly morphing into the bold, cocky hero. Nothing fazing him, no worries or fear. Everything little Sammy had admired about his brother right there on display before him, but now he knew there was more… the hidden Dean that was lingering in the shadows. He forced himself to smile, to offer his brother this moment of denial before their world came crashing down around them.
"I think it's definitely the fashion sense, backed up by the 'tude."
Dean quirked his head in a nod; his eyes twinkling in appreciation that Sam would support him on this. So hard to tell how Sam was going to react now, everything twisted and off-kilter… bent out of shape and both were just trying to hold on. It was a hard-fought battle, but as brothers they were out to win.
Pushing on, Leviathan refused to surrender to the force of the Winchesters. "Sammy, you think poor Dean had a rough life? You ain't seen nothin' yet. You can't imagine Hell… but Dean, you've thought about it… right? It's all you think about… All the nightmares… the terror filled nights when you wake up in a cold sweat… " He smiled as he twisted his double-edged knife, slicing into both of the Winchesters in one swift move. "Don't worry about it, Dean… you'll be warm soon enough. Nice and toasty… Don't forget the marshmallows."
"Oh, right… But it looks like you're gonna have to do without. Sorry, they weren't on the shopping list. Guess you're just shit outta luck. No s'mores for you." Dean turned to his brother with a wink. "Have at it, Sam. Hell's a' waitin'." He leaned in toward the demon bound to the chair before him. "Enjoy the ride."
Leviathan's voice increased in volume, his growing terror evident as he struggled against his restraints trying to get at the hunters. "Go ahead, Dean… play it cool." He turned toward Sam, again trying to drag him into his web. "That's why he acts so cavalier, Sammy. Denial… he's desperately trying to pretend he's cool with dying… with traipsing off to Hell, but the truth is he's terrified… and rightly so."
Dean smirked, again leaning in and taunting the demon, "I think you're the one who's terrified… and rightly so." He raised his eyes back up to his brother. "SAM!" He nodded in the direction of the demon, his eyes telling him to proceed.
The demon hastily cut in, trying to have his say before he vacated the premises. "Always with the cocky smartass response. Sammy, your brother is Joan of Arc, y'know… always the martyr; ready to die for his family… for justice and right… or whatever. Maybe he just wants to die? Ya think? End his suffering… call it quits." The demon stared at Dean, silently challenging him with his look. He licked his lips before turning them up into a familiar sneer. "Just.. give.. up.. "
Dean smirked in response, his eyes glistening with defiance.
Sam immediately jumped in to defend Dean. "He's not a quitter."
"No? You sure about that? He's tired, Sammy. Hasn't he told you that? Back with that whole Croatoan virus? Wasn't he ready to hold hands with you and drive off that cliff? Have himself a little Thelma and Louise?"
Dean rolled his eyes and scoffed. "Chick flicks? Are you fucking serious? Mighta known that'd be your style. Y'know, I'm thinking those ugly-ass green shoes were more what you were looking for. Huh, Lucille? You into the whole cross-dressing scene? How about some fishnets? That do it for ya?"
Evil turned toward Dean and smirked. "Hilarious…. You're just a bundle of funny, aren'tcha, Dean?"
"Funnier than you." Dean clapped his hands together and rubbed his palms with relish, his eyebrows arching over expectant eyes. "Alrighty then, good times are over. Someone send this clown packing."
Tamara stepped forward; she'd walked up with Bobby at just the right moment as all the hunters united against the demon. "My pleasure."
Dean nodded in agreement; after all, she'd just lost her husband to these demons. It could never replace her loss, but he could give her this small satisfaction. Revenge could be sweet when you had nothing else.
Tamara started reading the Latin exorcism as the Winchesters and Bobby left the room. It didn't take long before a gust of air and an explosion of sound extinguished all the candles in close proximity to the demon.
"Demon's out of the guy."
"And the guy?"
"He didn't make it."
The last lines of salt were laid and the hunters waited for the demons to come. It wouldn't be long now. Dean was again avoiding Sam while Sam seemed to be stalking him, following just outside his field of vision, hoping for an in to apologize again. Hoping for some form of absolution, even though he knew it wasn't deserved. Hoping against hope that Dean would relent and tell him the truth, fill in the missing blanks and end this dance they were playing at.
The amber glow of the candles cast the room in an eerie light as Dean sat on the floor intently loading his shotgun. Against a rustic backdrop of shadow and light Sam was filling bottles with holy water and the brothers locked their gaze upon each other. This might be the end of everything, their final battle. The odds were staggering. Sam offered his brother one last, hopeful look and was met by solemn recognition, Dean at least giving him that much. The tension between them was strong, but the brotherly bond was still there, battered and bruised, but forever beating out their love and devotion in a steady rhythm. Sam had to believe they'd get past this… that Dean would release his anger and reveal his hurts. It was all he hoped for… that and a way out of Dean's demon deal. That is if they survived the night.
The music on the radio flipped on and Dean rose, a look of solidarity in the coming battle on his face as he spoke, "Here we go."
I know your time is precious and you have hundreds of choices in stories to read so thank you for reading mine. And I know it takes even more time to click that little review box, but any and all comments are always welcome.
Thanks so much to the ones who have reviewed… it is so appreciated. I spend entirely too much of my time on these stories and the pressures of the outside world are constantly trying to sidetrack me. It's nice to know my efforts are worth it.
Take care, B.J.