Challenge fic two
The Day After
Disclaimer: Not mine. No offense or infringement is intended.
Beta'd: Carocali who graciously agreed to beta for me on this one! Her suggestions and corrections made this so much better than it would have been.
Thanks also to Carocali and Jen B who helped me get inside Sam's head.
I played after she beta'd so any and all remaining errors are my own.
The Challenge Issued: Write a one-shot using the three prompts of no less than 2,000 words and no more than 8,000. This is the second week's writing challenge Wysawyg and I did.
I posted the prompts at the end so as not to spoil the plot.
Sunlight streamed through the thin curtains in his bedroom. Dean cracked an eye open and moaned. Turning twenty-one had had its perks: pizza with Sammy and Dad to celebrate his birthday, followed by a free night hanging out with his friends from the garage. Dad stayed home from hunting to be with Sam so Dean had felt no need to hurry home last night. Although he had been in bars and drinking beer for several years, this was his first time out using his real driver's license. Dean Winchester was officially a man…and he had celebrated like one.
He ran a tongue over hairy teeth and attempted to prop himself onto his elbows. The movement jarred his sensitive head and he groaned. Today was not going to be fun; the day after rarely was. A door slammed down the hallway. Sam was up, no surprise there. His little brother was a disgustingly early riser considering all the late night hunting they did.
The door did not even begin to muffle the yelling once it started. "The test is in two weeks, Dad, two weeks!" Sam had being studying for months now for his first crack at the SATs. Dean didn't know why Sam was bothering to take the test, he still had a year left of high school and it wasn't as if their lives included higher education. Dean also knew for a fact their Dad had no idea what test Sam was referring to.
"Which leaves you plenty of time to study, Sammy," John replied. "I need your help with research. I want to head after this thing tonight and we'll be lucky if Dean is up to much of anything today."
A slight jiggling of the doorknob alerted Dean to Sam's presence right outside his door. "He wasn't back by two. I bet he doesn't get up until dinner time."
A deep laugh sounded in the hallway, one of those rare, honest laughs from their dad when he was genuinely amused. Dean couldn't quite remember the last time he'd heard it. "Son, I know you're itching to get in there, but let your brother sleep for awhile. I need Dean ready to hunt tonight."
"I'm just going to see if he's okay," Sam insisted, the doorknob jiggling again. "I won't wake him up."
"In and out, Sammy," John replied. His voice moved further down the hall. "I still need your help."
"I'll be right there, Dad." A sliver of light entered Dean's room from the hallway and his little brother's tall shadowed form entered the room. "And it's Sam." A whisper behind the now closed door.
Dean smirked. You'll always be Sammy to us, little brother. The shadow loomed closer and Dean closed his eyes. Maybe if he played opossum, Sam would let him sleep. The bed dipped slightly when Sam sat down and he could feel his brother staring at him.
The soft rustle of a curtain being moved and bright light penetrated his closed lids. Dean huffed and threw an arm over his face. "Go away, Sam. I'm tired."
"I bet you are." The amusement in Sam's voice conveyed his true meaning.
Dean's lips curled in a smile. "The things she could do with her…"
"Don't finish that thought," Sam said, punching Dean lightly on the arm. "I really don't want to hear it."
"Maybe you should go away and let me sleep then," Dean suggested. He flopped his arm onto the bed and squinted up at Sam. "Close the curtain at least. My head feels like there's an elephant dancing on it."
Sam laughed, but pulled the curtain closed. "A dancing elephant? I hope it was worth it."
"Hell yeah," Dean said. He shifted on the bed and turned on his side. Sam stood to leave, but Dean's next question stopped him in his tracks. "What were you and Dad fighting about?"
Sam whirled back around, his knitted brow in confusion. "We weren't fighting."
"You were shouting," Dean pressed. He propped himself up on one elbow and rested his head in his hand.
"A little," Sam admitted. "But, we weren't fighting."
Dean rolled his eyes in a gesture usually sported by his brother. He wished Sam would cut him a break for once and just spit out what he was thinking instead of making Dean weasel it out of him. His head was pounding and all he really wanted to do was go back to sleep.
Sam sighed. "A little fight, that's it. Dad needs my help with some research for the hunt he wants you to go on tonight. It's nothing."
"Because you want to study for a test?" Dean watched Sam's reaction carefully. Often what Sam did not say was as important to the truth as what he did say. Sam had a hard time lying to him or Dad and omission was sometimes the only defense he had.
Sam's gaze dipped to the floor before meeting Dean's. "It's just a test."
"What class?" Dean pressed the palm of his hand to the bed for balance. Nausea whirled around in his stomach, but a few more hours of sleep and it would go away. The silence lengthened and he cleared his throat to let Sam know he was still waiting. Come on, little brother. If you tell me the truth, I'll know it's no big deal.
"Advanced English," Sam replied finally. "Math too."
Good one, Sammy, that's the truth from a certain point of view. Dean resisted a sigh of frustration. When did I become Obi Wan Kenobi? "An important one?"
Sam flopped onto the foot of Dean's bed. "Kind of."
"What's it about?" Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. His brain pushed against the confines of his skull and the counter pressure seemed to help.
"Ah, English and math," Sam quipped. He ran a hand through his hair, pushing his bangs back. The brown strands fell haphazardly back onto his forehead. Dean tossed him a look of disgust and Sam caved. "Vocabulary – I've worked my way up to gewgaw."
Dean quirked an eyebrow in Sam's direction. "I know you're the baby of the family, Sammy, but…"
"It means a bauble or trinket," Sam defended. "If you cracked a book once in awhile."
"Hey, I read," Dean protested, flicking Sam on the knee in mock annoyance.
"Sure," Sam said with a smirk. "I forget. You buy skin mags for the articles."
"Doesn't everybody?" Dean laughed, but the chuckle quickly died away. Sam was still hiding the truth and the real question was why. Dean had always known that Sam was not as passionate about hunting as he and his dad were, but surely he was not thinking of trying to fit college classes into their hunting schedule? He wanted Sam to talk to him about it, but he wanted it to be Sam's idea. With rare exception, he and Sam had very few secrets from each other.
"I better go help Dad before he goes ballistic." Sam twisted to stand again, but Dean pulled on his shirt sleeve to stop him before Sam could make his getaway. Sam's bottom side landed back on the bed and he turned back to Dean with a questioning look.
"You know if you," Dean paused. "If you need help studying, all you have to do is ask."
Sam picked polyester pills off Dean's blanket and averted his gaze. Dean knew he was weighing everything that had been said and not said. When his little brother looked up, Dean could tell that Sam understood what test they were really talking about. Emotions flitted through Sam's eyes so quickly that Dean could not process them all. In the end, guilt seemed to hang on the longest and it literally weighed Sam's shoulders down.
"Thanks," Sam said quietly. "But, it's just a stupid test. I want to take it, but it doesn't really mean anything."
Dean nodded. "You sure?" Sam bowed his head and mumbled something that Dean couldn't quite make out. Dean's heart dropped. Sam wasn't really thinking about trying to take a few classes after high school, was he? He and Dad butted heads enough now over class work and studying and Dean was certain that Dad would not understand. "Sam, are you sure it doesn't mean anything?"
Sam looked up and met Dean's gaze. He felt guilty about almost lying to Dean. It didn't mean anything other than reassurance that he could have had a different life. That he was capable of accomplishing something normal people would be proud of. That he was as good as the other guys in his class who came from a better background and had more money and less hunting in their lives.
Sam averted his gaze and concentrated on the paisley pattern of the curtains. They swirled and weaved together in a complicated, intricate pattern and it felt fitting somehow. He fingered the hem and bounced his leg. He wanted to get up and pace or run from the room, but neither of those options would be a good idea. Dean would be sure to follow and the discussion would then take place in front of their dad instead of in Dean's room.
The test didn't really mean anything because he wasn't going to do anything with it. At least, he didn't think he was. If things had been different, if the family business wasn't all-encompassing, if he was actually free to do what he wanted to do with his life, he probably would have gone to college.
As it was, the pull, the appeal of going on to school tugged at Sam so hard at times he didn't know how he would be able to resist. So far, the heavy weight of family responsibility kept him grounded, but if anything like acing this test gave wings to his need and his craving for individuality he was afraid he wouldn't be able to resist.
It was different for him, he understood that.
Dad and Dean had known mom, loved her in a way that Sam couldn't. He had a special love for his mother, but it was more of affection for the idea of the woman who had been his mom and loved him the way Dean said she had. Sam had never really known her and if it wasn't for her picture and his brother, he never would have. She was the driving force behind Dad's obsession and Dean's willingness to follow in their father's footsteps.
And it was a direction Sam wasn't quite sure he could follow.
For now, however, his dad needed him and more importantly, Dean needed him. He questioned his ability to help, if he really protected Dean's back, if what he provided to his brother was enough, but he did try. And contrary to what his father seemed to think at times, he gave it his all. He just didn't have the same passion for the hunt that Dean and Dad did. He told himself that he didn't have the same natural ability and strength as his brother, but he wasn't sure that was true or something he told himself to ease his own mind.
Most of all, he didn't want to hurt his brother, but he wasn't sure how it could be avoided. Either he stayed in the family business and risked Dean getting hurt, like Dad had during the banshee hunt because he hadn't been fast enough. Or he went to school, stayed safe, kept Dad and Dean safe and hurt his brother by leaving.
It's hopeless. No matter what I decide, Dean's in danger of getting hurt and I hate that I'm going to be the one that causes it.
He realized Dean was still waiting for an answer and that he intended to wait him out. His big brother was good at that. The strategic maneuver paid off for Dean more often than not, so Sam couldn't find it in his heart to be annoyed by it. When Dean bumped his knee with his knuckles, Sam knew it was time to talk.
"I'm sure," Sam replied, finally. "I still have a year of high school left, Dean. I, I just want to see how I would do if things were different. I want to prove to myself that I'm as good as those other guys who lead normal lives."
Dean's chest ballooned in anger. "Sam, why would you ever, ever think you aren't as good as everyone else? You hunt evil for Christ's sake. You face things every day that would make those other guys shit their pants. You save people's lives."
Sam sighed and looked away. When he turned back to face Dean, he blinked back the water welling in his eyes. "Dean, that's you."
"It's you too, little brother," Dean insisted. "How can you not see that?"
Sam shook his head. Dean was wrong. "You're the one that jumped out of a tree and shot that werewolf that was threatening the Gunderson family last week. You're the one that used a can of hairspray and your lighter to hold off a swarm of rats in the cellar of that old house where we were hunting Sir Raymond's spirit…."
"Now you're confusing style with function," Dean interrupted with a smirk. "No one's denying I have more style than you do, Sammy." Sam snorted. "But, you're the one who figured out that it was the spirit of Sir Raymond so we could find the bones and you're the one who figured out where the werewolf pack's den was. It's all the same fight."
A half-smile appeared on Sam's face and a warm feeling of pride rushed through him at the words from his big brother. "Yeah, maybe. That's not exactly what I meant though, Dean."
"I know." The smile dropped off Dean's face and his eyes took on a serious glint. "And you don't have anything to prove, Sam. You're smarter than anyone I know. You get straight A's for crying out loud. If our lives had been different, you'd have been one of those Wall Street hotshots for sure."
Sam's smile widened before his mouth opened to protest and Dean cut him off. "Guess you'll have to settle for being a hero. They get all the hot chicks, so it's not too bad of a gig, Sammy."
Sam rolled his eyes. Dean could be so single-minded at times. The door to the bedroom opened and their dad appeared in the doorway, backlit from the hall light. "Sam, breakfast is ready."
"Yes, sir, I'll be right there." Sam offered Dean an apologetic smile and stood to leave. "Thanks, Dean."
"Anytime, Sammy," Dean replied with a sincere smile on his face.
John stepped further into the room. "Dean, you need to sleep in longer, we're going after that thing tonight."
"Yes, sir," Dean replied. He flipped onto his back and crossed his arms behind his head. "I could sleep for a week."
"I'll give you two hours," John said, a smile leaking into his voice. "Let's go, Sam. Cold coffee and bacon aren't fit to eat or drink."
"I agree," Sam said with a grimace. Dean gagged and Sam's lips quirked in response. Sam turned and started to follow their dad out the door.
"Wait a sec, Sam," Dean called. He waited until Sam poked his head back inside the door. "What are we hunting tonight?"
"The guy who called Dad asking for help, thought it was a Michabo," Sam replied from the doorway.
"You don't sound convinced." Dean lifted his head to get a better look at his brother.
"Not really," Sam said. "I mean seriously, an ancient trickster god?"
Dean laughed and laid his head back down on the bed. "You got a point there, Sammy. It's amazing what some people are willing to believe and others aren't."
"Get some sleep," Sam said. The door closed softly leaving him in relative darkness. Dean could have sworn he heard a muffled, 'It's Sam,' before Sam's footfalls moved down the hall.
The sunbeam that had been catching Dean directly in the eye had moved on to a patch on the far wall. He closed his eyes and settled in to sleep, but his mind kept replaying the conversation he had just had with Sam. Dean banished all doubts to an uncharted region of his brain. Sam knew this life would not leave time to attend classes of any kind. Hunting evil was a strict mistress and she demanded their full attention. Sam knew he was important to the family, that he and Dad needed him.
When the time comes, Sam will make the right decision.
Dean sank deeper into the mattress and tried to fall asleep. If he could just get some more rest, it would help. Dean knew, sometimes the day after brought clarity; sometimes it dulled the edges of pain. But one thing was for certain - the day after always brought change.
He yawned deeply and allowed his mind to empty as he drifted back into the welcoming arms of slumber.
AN: Wysawyg and I were trading writer's block back and forth and thus sprang the idea of a weekly challenge. A short story, three prompts and a one week deadline to first give the muses something to work with and secondly, force us to focus. :)
It is amazing to me how the same prompts generated completely different stories (brother biases aside). This challenge more than any other one has demonstrated that. Wysawyg's story was longer, filled with humor, fun and delightful moments while mine was a short, angsty, quiet piece.
If you haven't done so yet, be sure to check out Wysawyg's responses to our challenges on her profile. Her story using the below prompts is titled, A Tricky Hunt.
As always - thanks for reading!
Gewgaw: Word of the Day at :
Dancing Elephant: Yeah, that would be the fluffy coffee drink I had on Sunday: vanilla ice cream, espresso and tiramisu flavoring. Yummy.
And the Supernatural Entity of the Week: Michabo: Among the Algonquin Indians the Great Hare or Michabo was the great creator, trickster and original hunter.