Summary: When Sam stumbles upon the old Winchester family videos in their father's vault, his enthusiasm unwittingly brings up painful memories for Dean.
The Winchesters in Technicolor
Dean Winchester was acting like a complete bastard and his brother Sam decided he didn't give a damn.
He could probably coax whatever was bothering Dean out of him (like pulling teeth) but his mind was racing too much to bother with it as they went down the road to the motel they had checked into earlier that day. His stomach was clenched and his heart was throbbing in his chest like it was going to burst.
Sam was going to see his mother.
Not literally of course but as close as he would ever get to seeing her again in his lifetime. His mother, who had been forced to the ceiling and burned to death trying to protect her infant son. The flickering burning ghost wandering their family's old house twenty years later who "died" again trying to protect him.
Sam tried to smile. He was going to see her in full color.
Dean had some memories at least, not many but some, that Sam would never have and honestly he would always be jealous of that. For having memories of their mother and of their father before the fire, a man who had been through wars before but had no knowledge yet of the evil he would be fighting the next 20 years. How his destiny was to die, still a soldier, and sell his soul for his firstborn son.
They only had a few pictures of both of their parents. Already his father's gruff voice, (the one who had pushed him his entire life, could make him snap in a minute to attention or anger, the voice that was a lot rougher but very similar to Dean's), was fading from Sam's mind.
Dean had the music blasting as the car slowed in the parking lot with its comforting growl. Sam wasn 't as in love (understatement) with the 67' Chevy Impala as Dean, but this was the only home Sam had had consistently as a child so he was rather fond of her too. "Hey! Wait. Dean. We gotta stop at the office remember?"
His brother grimaced and rubbed his face with his palm as he obediently pulled up outside the motel desk. "I doubt they got a VCR in there dude if they're not in the rooms. Don't sulk or cry or anything when you come out disappointed."
Sam rolled his eyes and slammed the door as he rushed into the office out of the drizzle, leaving his prize safely on the front seat.
It had been Sam's idea to go to the storage locker again.
Alright, so the last time they went he got some skinned knees, a lost shoe, and a bullet in the shoulder because of one of their Dad's curse boxes, but it wasn't anything fatal, right?
Okay. So it was a pretty transparent attempt at finding something for Dean. They were getting desperate at this point and if their father had something as rare as a rabbit's foot that could give someone enough luck to throw a pen into the barrel of a gun they could have found something that could at least help.
Dean only had months left to live before the hellhounds came for him and he left Sam as the last Winchester. Sam was starting to believe they really were cursed.
It ended up being a bust. Most of the other curse boxes contained fun things like… well… curses. Not much help there.
Dean was no help whatsoever either. He was busy entertaining himself with the school awards and things their father actually kept and that Sam had privately thought he'd thrown away when the boys weren't looking. It almost made him feel guilty. Almost. It's kind of sociopathic for Dean to have nostalgia for a gun he made when he was twelve. This family…
If Dean noticed the very visible disappointment in Sam's face and his slouching, he didn't comment. Didn't even say 'I told you so' although he had told Sam it wouldn't help. The trip to New York had been out of the way. They tried to keep their jobs within a few states of each other and work their way across the country with the rising gas prices and Dean not tolerating flying. They'd been close to California when Sam got the idea but he refused to wait. The pressure was on. They only had a few months left.
Of course it was when Sam was brooding against a wall fixating on how this was a monumental waste of time that Dean unintentionally struck gold. "What is this? 'Puff the Magic Dragon'? 'Bath time 83'?"
Sam raised an eyebrow and walked to where Dean was standing holding an old VHS tape loosely in his hand. It had a faded and coffee stained yellow label with their father's barely legible scrawl on it. Even Sam sometimes had trouble decoding it, so he had Dean deal with Dad's journal while Sam stuck to the internet research.
He snatched the tape out of his brother's hand to examine it. "Hey!" Dean gave him a light smack in the head before looking back where he found it. "Some more down here."
Sam leaned next to Dean and took a few more out. "'Sammy at the Hospital'… Dean. Do you know what these are?"
"Physical documentation of what an idiot you are to land yourself in the Hospital?"
"Stop joking around. I think these are Dad's."
Dean fixed him with a deadpan look. "Well we are in Dad's storage locker, surrounded by all his worldly possessions and random supernatural crap. Whose did you think they would be?"
Sam continued, like he always did when Dean interrupted him to make stupid comments. "Did Dad have a video camera?"
There must have been at least ten of the black VHS tapes stored in a thick birthday party bag that someone hadn't bothered to throw out. Their Dad was organized like that. Some were protected with the little cardboard sleeves and others went without, some of them didn't even have labels.
Dean looked thoughtful. "I don't know, Sam. But even if he did I don't think those are what you think they are. Everything we had got destroyed in the fire. Most of the pictures we still have were in Dad's wallet."
"So they could have been in the basement. That's where that woman Jenny found some of our old stuff. Why the hell would Dad have filmed me in the hospital, Dean? Seriously."
"Okay that was a joke. But this... They don't even look like they'll work. They've been in this place for who knows how long? Just leave em' and let's go back to the room." He clapped Sam on the back with a grin. "We'll go trolling at the bar tonight, huh? I'll even buy you a drink." Sam noticed the slight strain in his brother's good humored voice.
Sam frowned and picked up the bag.
These tapes... if any of them worked it would be a priceless treasure for him. Being nomads they hadn't really had any more than what could fit in a duffle bag. He'd never had anything compared to this. Jess' family had had extensive home movies on every occasion. Most of the kids he'd known at school had pictures of family and friends through all their years of life.
Sam had favored weapons and scars for his memories.
These were proof that the Winchesters had been a normal family once. Sam had wished so many times that if the fire had to happen that he had been old enough to remember the house like Dean did. His older brother had hardly talked about it but sometimes, very rarely, when Sam was little and inconsolable waking from nightmares about the things in the dark, Dean would quietly describe their golden haired mother who talked of angels and sang them to sleep. Of course whenever Sam asked about her during daylight Dean would tell him off violently which made little Sam wonder if those stories had been part of his dreams too.
The ride back to the hotel was tense although Sam didn't believe there was any reason for it to be. Dean drove the car with Quiet Riot turned up to the max as Sam clutched the bag in his hands protectively as though it were precious.
Sam came out of the office triumphantly with a large black box and a bunch of wires. The clerk had said they could rent it for fifty bucks additional a night. Sam must have smelled of desperation.
He managed to talk the guy down to thirty and didn't plan on telling Dean about the extra. They could afford it. They had a fresh credit card for D. Hasselhoff anyway. It was going to be so worth it, a welcome distraction from the uncertainty that always followed them around.
Sam could barely stand the wait. "Room 32's around the corner, Dean." He hopped back into the Impala without his seatbelt on and pointed the way. He felt Dean's eyes on him.
"So I take this to mean Geek-boy isn't going to be researching our current hunt this evening?" They had found a job pretty close to Buffalo so the trip wasn't completely useless. Dean looked irritated but Sam knew he was interested.
"No one's stopping you from doing it, Dean. I need a night off. "
"Right. Whatever. Like to see you try hooking up the damn thing…"
" Red wire, white wire, red wire, white wire. Time's ticking Sammy." Sam tried to ignore Dean, but it was hard. His brother was in an especially annoying perky mood tonight. The defense mechanism was definitely in place.
It took Sam all of fifteen minutes to put the VCR together. Sam and Dean had more experience with disabling high tech alarm systems than anything low tech like a tape player. Dean had more of a knack for it while Sam and John had trouble working the toaster when they had one at one of their crappy apartments.
So the older brother was a bit surprised when Sam managed with a triumphant look after fiddling with the AV wires and trying to figure out which went where.
The younger hunter smirked proudly. "We had a VCR/DVD player at Stanford. Don't ask why but we had to unhook it every time to get cable."
"Good for you, Sammy. Want a cookie?" Dean rolled his eyes and cracked a beer, lounging on one of the double beds to watch Sam work. "Never doubted ya. Hey you wanna watch the game or something?"
Sam grinned. "Nice try. What do you think?"
Dean's mask fell slightly as Sam picked out the earliest tape he could find and popped it into the machine. Sam tried to ignore the look on his brother's face. They were just old home movies. So what? He could handle it or leave.
There was a slight whir while Sam made sure there was a blue screen when the TV was on the right channel. The VCR protested as if it were going to spit the video back out before the static appeared on the screen.
"Shit. Was it rewound?"
"You got me, Sam." Dean chugged his beer.
Sam was about to eject the tape when the sound came on and a picture flipped and fuzzed into view.
Both boys' eyes were immediately glued to the screen.
Inspiration: Part of the inspiration for this story has to be credited to Crimson1 for a brotherly moment in one of the chapters of her fabulous story, "Incubus". This is completely unrelated to that universe but "Incubus" is a great read. So thank you Crimson!
Dedication: Not that he'll ever read this, but this fiction is dedicated to my father, my family's cameraman. It was only after finding a box of our old family movies that I realized how much time he spent documenting our early family life. My current pet project of transferring all the VHS tapes to DVD was another building block on this idea.