Usual disclaimers apply. This is a loose follow-up to 'A Very Supernatural Christmas'. This story will involve religious overtones, bad language and WeeWinchester whumpage in later chapters! Feedback as always warmly welcomed.
Also big, big thanks to my incredibly gifted Beta, Carocali, who has the patience of a saint in tackling the confusing mess that is my mind at work! That being said I still managed to fiddle with the opening of this chapter so my apologies to Carocali but I was too impatient to send it back to her to work her magic and smooth away all those pesky mistakes I seem (sic) infamous for!!
SPARE THE ROD, SPOIL THE CHILD.
Chapter 1 Family history
John looked at the pathetic remnants of a Christmas tree tilting lopsided in the corner of the shabby motel room and his forehead creased in disbelief. 'Holy shit! Is it really that time of year already?'
Rubbing a calloused hand over too long stubble, he mentally counted back the days in his head and a groan escaped. Despite all his promises to do otherwise, he'd once again left his boys high and dry when it came to any type of season cheer or interaction. Christmas had come and gone three days ago.
Dropping his bag of dirty clothes on the floor by the first empty bed - Dean's by the look of the mess - he sat down and tried to think of a reasonable excuse to give them. They didn't expect much of him, just for him to be there for one day of the year and he couldn't even give them that. Hadn't, in fact, managed to do that for the last few years it seemed.
Recalling a time when Christmas had meant so much to him - to his beloved Mary - his eyes stung at the memory. Before the fire, there'd been happier times when presents lay welcoming under an ornately decorated tree and the sound of a child's laughter filled the house in excitement before the tearing frenzy of opening gifts began. Now, that day was a hollow reminder of what he and Dean had lost, and what his baby boy Sammy had never known.
Thinking on his youngest, his lips thinned in regret. He knew Sam had given up on Christmas after his first year at school. Innocently believing the hype; that if he was a good kid, a special present from Santa would magically appear Christmas morning for him to open. When that didn't happen, he knew better than to believe in it again. Sam had always been a fast learner.
John knew he should have done something about it that year, listened to Dean's endless nagging not to forget to get something for the boy. Hell, even a 50-cent coloring book would have done the trick, but he had forgotten too wrapped in research to give it any weight. Still it had near broke his heart when his baby boy looked at him, tears falling in confusion and regret, as he asked if Santa hadn't come because he was bad?
After that, the magic was lost on his youngest, and though he might ask at times for the odd comic book or second-hand book in the end-of-bin sale, Christmas was a topic he never raised again.
John sourly sucked in an unhappy breath at the memory, 'Ah man just for one freaking day of the year why couldn't I put my boys first?"
Once again he looked at the forlorn tree shed bare of all its needles. It pricked away at his conscience as a reminder of what he had missed out with his boys again. Unable to bear the sight of it any longer he wanted rid of it and it took just four long strides to reach it, pick it up, and ten more strides to march it outside and drop it up against an overflowing dumpster.
As he walked back to the room he hoped it would be a case of 'out of sight, out of mind' for both him and his boys of his bad parent status. Maybe next year he could make it up to them. Make the day special again.
Half way back to the room he caught sight of his boys turning the corner, take-out in their hands and his mouth went dry wondering how to greet them after missing out on the seasonal festivities once again.
Dean though caught sight of him before he could get his tongue off the roof of his mouth and threw him a bright smile in greeting, "Hey dad, good to see you back. You finish the job okay?"
"Yeah," answered John, looking for some welcome from Sam but saw only hesitancy in his eyes. "You boys doing okay?"
"We're fine," answered Dean for the both of them as they headed back inside. "Sorry, didn't expect you back. Wanna share my quarter-pounder and fries?"
John just shrugged a denial, having already eaten in a rundown diner an hour ago. He looked back at Sam wondering what was going on in his head to keep his tongue so unnaturally still but his boy kept his head ducked low, his gaze anywhere but on him.
Dean stalled in the doorway his eyes narrowing on noticing that his adeptly acquired Christmas tree was now gone. Huffing out his annoyance he muttered sourly, "Guess the holiday season is definitely at an end seeing how the tree's gone to the great paper sanctuary in the sky …"
John sucked back a response, too tired to want to banter words with his eldest and risk alienating him further. Instead he watched as Sam sidled past him into the room, noting how he didn't even bother glancing at the now empty corner of the room; as if the tree really had no meaning to him, like it had for Dean.
John felt more than a little redundant as his boys shrugged out of their jackets and sat on their respective beds to eat. He found himself asking, "So you guys stay out of trouble when I was away?"
"Yes Sir," voiced both his sons without adding anything else.
John turned his attention to Dean wanting to ask more detailed questions but his eyes widened in surprise at catching sight of the golden amulet around his neck.
"Santa came after all I see then," remarked John sarcastically, fully aware that Bobby had given it to Sam to give to him.
Dean gave up a hollow laugh, catching his brother's eye before he answered, "Fairs fair dad. I gave Sammy his heart's desire, a Malibu Barbie, and he gave me this."
Sam snorted back his disgust but held his tongue, and John knew better than to ask anything more about the exchange of gifts that had taken place in his absence. Still, as he eyed the necklace, the sting of rejection from his youngest surprisingly rankled.
He guessed he deserved it, being sidelined like this, as the boys would always look out for each other first. It was what he expected of them, after all.
Trying to mask his hurt, John switched his attention to the question that had been nagging at him on the long drive back, "Dean, you seen my journal? I thought I'd packed it but the damn thing has gone awol."
Dean paused in mid-bite of his burger and John once again couldn't ignore the look he threw his brother's way. As for Sam, the boy hadn't even started on his food. Something definitely was up and he was forced to ask, "Sam, you know anything about this?"
John watched open mouth as Sam reluctantly reached from under his pillow and handed him back his journal offering up a simple explanation, "I know Sir."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? You know what exactly?" demanded John, snatching back his journal.
Sam felt his cheeks coloring under his dad's questioning stare, "The truth."
John shook his head in denial. The fact that Sam had taken his journal meant the end of any pretence of normal and he felt the flutter of panic beat in his chest. Turning to Dean he demanded, "What the hell were you playing at letting him take this?"
"I didn't. He snaked it out of your bag without me knowing," responded Dean, throwing a daggered look at his brother, distancing himself from the crime.
"You had no right to touch this," snapped back John flicking anxiously through to the back of the journal to make sure everything was still there.
His fingers lingered on the few photos left of Mary, relief at having them back counterbalanced by his growing temper with his son. "I ought to tan your back side with the leather of my belt."
"Come on Dad he didn't do any damage," interjected Dean, afraid that his dad in his temper would follow through with his threat.
"Don't Dad me," snarled John in return, dark with anger as he turned back to his youngest and yanked him to his feet by the front of his shirt, "You ever touch my stuff again you won't sit down for a month. You hear me boy?"
Sam swallowed back his fear and blinked back the threat of tears. "I'm sorry sir."
"You don't know the meaning of sorry," spat back John, shaking Sam with enough force to clack his teeth together. "I could throttle you for all the worry you put me through thinking it was lost."
Fear drove Dean to his feet, that his dad's temper would make him do something beyond just manhandling his brother, "Stop it Dad, what's done is done."
John heard Dean's plea, felt him tug on his arm and he let go of his youngest child with a small shove, suddenly afraid of what his anger might do if he held him any longer.
Dean had taken up a protective stance in front of his brother and John could see real panic in his son's eyes. Looking over his shoulder worse though was the fear radiating from his youngest. Fear of him.
Instantly John's temper fizzled out to be replaced with instant remorse, appalled at how come close he had come to laying hands on his youngest and he weakly protested, "Goddamit to hell .. the kid never make things easy for himself? Who does he think he is pulling a stunt like this on me?"
Dean let out a shaken breath as his dad slowly calmed down, all the while left wondering what he would have done if he had actually struck his brother. Dad was intimidating at the best of times but when his temper sky rocketed like it just had he was simply terrifying. So much that his knees felt like jelly and he could only guess at what his brother was feeling right now. Scared shitless no doubt.
Daring a look at his brother he whispered softly, "You okay?"
A mute nod was his answer as Sam struggled to keep his tears from flowing. Trembling he sat down on the bed, hunching into himself, as if to make himself invisible and untouchable from his dad's fury.
John heard Dean's question and stopped his pacing as the chill of disbelief swept over him. He had come close to hitting his boy, not because he had dared find out the truth of his dark world of hunting but because he had kept from him the precious mementos held inside the journal.
Sinking onto the tatty sofa John shook his head, tiredness hitting him hard as the anger drained out of him. He pulled out a bottle of bourbon from his holdall and took a long slug before swivelling around to face his youngest. "You know this changes everything, that there's no going back now son."
Sam lifted his head and dared to look him in the eye, a mixture of defiance and fear on his face. "Yes Sir. I know."
John recorked the bottle and slipped it back into his bag. "You think you know but let me tell you boy you've only scraped the tip of the iceberg. Remind yourself down the line that you forced this on yourself. From now on no more kid gloves, you get with the programme double quick speed."
Dean closed his eyes in defeat on hearing his Dad's words. The lies they had weaved around Sam to keep him safe were well and truly gone. Sighing he knew that whatever made up normal in their lives was well and truly over and done with.
4 months later – downtown Detroit.
Thankful that it was the end of the week and the start of spring break, Sam snatched up his backpack and headed out of the classroom, determined to get out of Mrs. Swanson's eye line. He had seen her looking his way before the bell rung and he hurried away, anxious to avoid questions that he had no truthful answers to.
As he walked down the corridor, Sam's face screwed up in annoyance thinking sourly on the stupid 'Family History' project his teacher had assigned the class. It could go screw itself, along with his perfect grade.
There was about as much chance of finding a snowball in hell than him finishing the project with any degree of truth. After all, his family's past was a taboo subject in the Winchester household.
Any doubts he might have had about just how off limits the past was had been made crystal clear last Christmas by his brother. He had asked one question to many about mom and it had triggered a reaction from Dean that still made Sam feel sick to the stomach.
Even now he wondered what might have happened if Dean hadn't taken off for the rest of the day to cool off, and guessed he had missed a thump or two by the smallest of margins.
So, no, he wasn't in any hurry to ask any more questions about his family any time soon. Especially when Dean had told him that he had no right whatsoever to ask about the woman with the beautiful smile that he only knew ever existed from a few faded photographs.
Dad too had made it clear that whatever was in the journal was off limits, rattling the bones in his body for touching it in the first place.
Sometimes, Sam wished that he had never given into temptation and left the damn journal well alone. But that would have been the coward's way out, and his brother hadn't raised him to be a coward.
It wasn't as if he could ignore the fact their lives were in anyway normal. That
The facts had spoken for themselves. That their lives were more than downright quirky strange at times, especially when Dad's so-called travelling salesman job had him coming home battered and bloodied more often than not.
And how on earth could it be considered normal the discipline of leaving lines of salt on window ledges and in doorways?
Sam smirked to himself at the memory of the first time he asked why they did that chore so religiously, chuckling softly at his brother's throwaway remark that it was to keep killer slugs from sliming him to death in his sleep.
Killer slugs his ass! Dean really did know how to yank his chain at times and have fun at his expense.
For Sam the reality was that by the time he was seven he had already worked out in his own head what his dad really did. Besides he had ears that took in conversations at night between his dad and brother that seeped through paper-thin walls. Their words were enough at times to make his blood run cold and fuel his nightmares for nights on end.
Still the hardest part in knowing all of this had been to play dumb. Each morning he'd wake up wondering if this was the day his dad would sit him down to have that 'little talk' about what he really did. In the end he had to take things into his own hands, take his Dad's stupid journal and expose the truth as the lies were starting to make him look stupid. And stupid was something Sam Winchester never did well.
With his thoughts swirling in his head, Sam stepped outside of the dilapidated concrete building into the still-chilly spring air and he instinctively zipped up his jacket to offset the cold.
Remembering the first time he had fired a gun he wondered just how many other eight year old dads gave them a .45 to deal with the spook that had taken up resident in his closet. Not many I bet.
Sam shuddered at the memory before taking a long breath, schooled his face into neutral, and put his thoughts on the back burner, knowing that his focus had to be on the late afternoon training program his brother would have planned for him. Again.
Ignoring the unwanted jostles from the flood of exiting students, Sam stood firm and scanned the street ahead for signs of his brother. When there were none, a small smile ghosted across his face guessing that Dean would be late again, no doubt a little preoccupied in sucking off the face of his latest girlfriend.
Deep down, Sam was pleased that his big brother was doing something as ordinary as sneaking the odd fifteen minutes to hook up with some girl after school. It was akin to his big brother enacting a mini rebellion against their Dad's endless list of rules and regulations, and he couldn't help but secretly admire him for it.
It helped keep his mouth shut about Dean's extra curricular activities when dad was around, because he guessed if he ever found out, he would put a stop to it so fast he reckoned his brother would end up with whiplash.
"Hey Sam…" a voice called out.
Breaking out of his reverie, Sam whipped his head around to see his friend Colin sidling up to him. "Wanna head off to soccer practice? The coach would love you to take it up again, said you were a natural. My mom could drop you off home later."
A sad smile flashed across Sam's face knowing that since his Dad had found out that he had read his journal, the kid gloves had come off, and all after school activities had gradually been dumped to be replaced with weapons training and the learning of dead languages.
Offering his friend a hapless shrug Sam said, "Sorry I can't, Col, my brother will be here soon and we've got things to do."
Colin swallowed back his disappointment. "Well, don't forget to ask your Dad if you can come to the fair on Wednesday."
"I'll ask him tonight," lied Sam, knowing full well that his own Dad's plans for him didn't involve anything as childish going to the county fair.
"Great, see ya on Wednesday, Sam," beamed back Colin.
"Sure," answered Sam trying to quell the twinge of jealousy at seeing the carefree smile on his friend's face as he headed off to meet his mom at the foot of the stairs. "Bye, Colin."
The smaller boy threw him a final grin over his shoulder. "Maybe if we eat enough hotdogs and candy we can puke up on the rollercoaster in style! It will be totally gross, dude."
"Yeah, totally gross," murmured Sam softly, all the while wondering if by the end of the school holiday they would have moved them on again, and if this would be the last time he would see his friend. "See ya later."
After waiting for the crowd to thin out, Sam traipsed down to the bottom step and sat down. He pulled out his dog-eared book to wile away the time before his escort home arrived.
The mere fact that he needed an escort still rankled with him. By the time Dean was eight he had been allowed out on his own to do all sorts of stuff but still his Dad wouldn't even let him to walk the few blocks home from school. It just sucked at times to the baby of the family.
Dad's attitude was a total contradiction to him, one moment telling him he had to grow up and learn all about hunting and then in the next breath telling him he was too young to even dare put a toe outside of the door without his permanent shadow of big brother by his side.
Watching as the long hand on the clock reach the top of the hour, Dean snarled out his relief, "Finally!"
Scooping his books and pens into his bag in a broad sweep, he quickly stood up, daring his teacher to challenge him again. He was done with freaking Math detention and Mr. Booker and his need to stick to the archaic school rules. It had meant he couldn't hook up with Sophie after the last period and worse that he had left Sammy hanging around far too long on his own.
The bespectacled slightly built teacher hissed out his own frustration at seeing his bright-but-lazy student readying to leave. "Winchester, make sure that after the break you come back with a better attitude or I might be seeing a whole lot more of you than either of us would like to, if you get my drift."
"Yeah, whatever!" mouthed back Dean sweeping past his clearly exasperated teacher with a telling sneer on his face.
The truth was homework just didn't register high enough on his list of things to do. Most nights, he had his hands full in just looking after Sam, keeping up with their training schedule and doing research for Dad's next gig. So, yeah, math homework and whatever else the school expected of him stayed decidedly low on his list of priorities.
Now, his only priority, as he dashed out of the school grounds, was on hot-legging it back to his brother, praying that he wouldn't make real the threat to walk home on his own a reality. Not today, at least.
As he ran at full throttle the two blocks to Sam's school, he knew that if his Dad ever found that he had been slacking off in looking after his brother he would enact some sort of ritualistic killing on his sorry ass. After all, it was his responsibility at the end of the day to make sure that the little runt stayed safe.
"Sammy, you little squirt," Dean muttered under his breath as his long stride tore up the pavement. "You better have not left without me, dude, or where both gonna be in the dog house."
Silently, he offered up a prayer to whatever deity that might be listening that his brother had enough sense and fear of Dad's commands not to do something as reckless as to tackle the walk home on his own.
The back streets of downtown Detroit weren't safe at the best of times, but for a naïve eight-year-old boy like Sam to attempt that just scared the crap out of Dean.
Sam sat on the bottom step corner, trying his best to remain invisible as the afternoon wore on. Elbows on his knees, his hands cupped his chin, he huffed out a resigned sigh, still irritated that he was still thought too young to walk the few short backs to their apartment. Wasn't as if he didn't know to keep to the main streets and avoid the alleyways, or to ignore nut-jobs and stray mangy dogs that might want to chew down on him.
Daring another glance down the empty street, he guessed that something even more important than Soapy Sophie had cropped up for Dean; more than likely another detention.
Resigning himself to a longer wait than usual, Sam picked up his book again, a long held favourite read, and slowly the world of the Little Grey Men took his attention away from his missing brother, and the minutes ticked away unnoticed.
It wasn't until a feminine pair of legs blocked his light and he glanced upwards to see the six-month pregnant Mrs. Swanson staring down at him, that he realised just how much time had passed. The sun had dipped low in the sky and he guessed it had to be a good hour that he had been left sitting on the steps.
"Sam, I take it that brother of yours is running late again?" queried the teacher, her normally easy going demeanour marred by a concerned frown on her face. "This really is becoming a bit of a habit, isn't it?"
Playing for time, Sam carefully folded down the corner of the page before closing the book and lied. "Dean said something about running an errand and that I might have to wait a bit. He should be here soon though Miss."
Mrs. Swanson pursed her lips, not happy to leave the boy unattended any longer, "Come on, Sam its cold and it's getting late. You'll have to wait for your brother in the school office."
Sam nodded before swallowing back his own unease, aware that he couldn't argue with his teacher without raising her suspicions. He allowed himself to be pulled upright but quickly took his hand away on standing. Dean after all would think him such a girl if he caught him holding hands with his teacher.
As he was ushered back inside, Mrs. Swanson started up with the dreaded questions that he had been trying to avoid all week long. "Well, Sam did you chat with your parents about the Family Tree project like I asked?"
Mutely, Sam shook his head, eyes fixed on the floor as he was led towards the school office, silently cursing his Dad and brother for not letting him walk home on his own like some of his classmates did.
Not expecting such a negative reaction, Mrs. Swanson tried again to garner some enthusiasm from him. "You know, some of my previous students discovered some famous people to brag about in their family history. Some were inventors, actors and even daredevil stunt riders. It can be a real buzz tracing your family roots."
"I bet…" murmured back Sam flatly.
Mrs. Swanson frowned again, surprised at his tone. "Trust me it can, especially if you have any old family letters and photographs to sort your way through. When my grandmother passed, we found a trunk load of stuff in the attic. I discovered that my great-grandfather stowed way on ship from Scotland to come to America – how exciting is that?"
She waited for a flicker of interest from Sam but his face remained unreadable. But she wasn't one to give up easy and continued. "Seems that later, my great-grandfather Jebediah Entwistle became a horse wrangler, breaking in wild mustangs for a living. In some of the photographs, he looked just like one of those Wild West cowboys you see in the Westerns."
"Sounds like he was a real cool dude…" agreed Sam, wishing that his family tree could be so readily available to him.
"Well, he fired up my imagination," answered his teacher with a happy smile. "Maybe when you talk to your parents, you'll hear some great stories too. Perhaps you and your mom could start a timeline using some old family photographs and letters. If you like, I could call her and help give her some pointers on where to start."
Sam drew to a halt, shaking his head. "No don't, you can't. It's just Dad and my brother. Mom died in a fire when I was a baby."
Mrs. Swanson felt her heart flutter on hearing his confession and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Sam…I really didn't know about your mom."
Throwing a measured look at his teacher Sam admitted, "You see that's why I can't do this project for you, Mrs. Swanson. There aren't any boxes in any attics lying around for me to go through."
Mrs. Swanson sucked in a guilty breath, finally appreciating his reluctance all week to participate in class. "Maybe if I had a little chat with your Dad, we can see a way round this for you?"
"No, please don't. It will just make him sad. It makes them both sad," pleaded Sam, his face coloring in anxiety.
Before Mrs. Swanson could respond, a loud voice boomed down the corridor, "Sammy! There the hell you are!"
Sam turned at his brother's voice, not sure if he was relieved at making his escape from Mrs. Swanson when he caught the fury in his brother's eyes.
"You scared the crap out of me," returned Dean. "Thought that you'd gone off and done something dumb like walking home alone."
"Excuse me, young man, but the only dumb thing Sam has done is sit outside in the cold for so long," interjected Mrs. Swanson, bristling at the older Winchester boy's brusque demeanour. "You do realise that your brother has been waiting over an hour now for you to make an appearance."
Dean flipped on the charm and threw his patented smile, guaranteed to melt even the steeliest of hearts. "Sorry, ma'am, found myself with an unexpected problem at school myself today and couldn't get away."
"Yeah, I can guess why," muttered Sam discretely under his breath, wondering what his brother's latest detention had been for.
Despite her initial anger with the older boy, Mrs. Swanson felt her guard lowering under the winning smile aimed in her direction, "Well, just make sure these so-called problems are fixed by the time you come back after the holidays. Seems that you're late picking up your brother most days."
Dean threw his brother a furious look and mouthed the word 'snitch' but when he turned back to Mrs. Swanson, he was all smiles again. "Don't worry, I'll make sure I'm on time in the future. I promise."
Mrs. Swanson relaxed slightly but added a soft warning, "Let's hope so or I may have to talk to your father about making alternative arrangements for your brother at the end of the school day."
"Yes, Ma'am," agreed Dean before grabbing his brother's arm and making a hurried dash for the exit.
He hated it when his brother was mad at him, especially when it wasn't his fault. Loping after Dean, more at a jog than a walk, Sam tried to reason with him. "What was I supposed to do? Not as if I could have told my teacher to get lost because you were late."
"Why do you always have to play the teacher's pet?" growled back Dean, trying to deflect his own guilt at not being there for his brother. "All you had to do was just keep your head ducked low and you couldn't even do that right."
Sam slowed up and muttered back sarcastically under his breath. "It's not my fault I've got an idiot for a brother."
Spinning around, Dean pinned him with a withering look. "Me, the idiot? You've got shit for brains and about as much sense to match if you think Dad isn't going to ground our butts if Mrs. Goody-Two-Shoes calls him. You know we have to fly under the radar, it's what he expects of us, you little twerp."
"So, it's my fault you got a freaking detention?" growled back Sam, not willing to take the blame for something beyond his control. "You know, if you had just backed me up with dad in letting me walk a few crummy blocks home on my own then Mrs. Swanson wouldn't have a reason to get her panties in a twist."
"Oh, that would be fun to see!" snapped back Dean, his anger energized more by his own annoyance with himself and he found himself blurting out hotly, "You're just stupid enough to fall down the first open manhole you come across and get eaten up by an alligator."
Blinking back his hurt Sam voiced a denial, "Now whose stupid much? There's no such thing as alligators in the sewers."
"Yeah, there are, and they've all got a taste for wet-behind-the-ears freakoids named Sammy," smirked Dean before giving vent to his frustrations by giving his brother a shove that staggered him backwards a few steps.
"You're such a jerk," snapped back Sam unable to disguise the pain he felt at his brother's cruel jibes. "A big, mean, ugly frigging jerk."
"Yeah, and your just a little she-bitch whose getting on my last nerve," growled Dean in warning. "It's bad enough I have to nursemaid your stupid ass twenty four-seven but if I have to listen your pathetic whining too, I swear I'm gonna swing for you one day soon."
Dean saw his brother's eyes go large under his attack and regret kicked in, forcing him to spin away, needing some distance from him before he said something even more hurtful.
As Dean power-walked away, he could admit to himself that none of what happened today had been down to anything Sam had done. He was just too easy a target at times when the world seemed intent on suffocating the last drop of freedom out of him.
God knew he'd die first rather than let any harm come to his little brother. Dad's command to keep him safe had been burned like a tattoo into every fibre in his body, but did that really mean he couldn't have a life of his own? Not even one measly hour a day?
Realising that his brother had gone too silent, Dean looked over his shoulder to make sure that he was following and felt the guilt building up again. Head bowed, Sammy seemed unnaturally heavy-footed as he trailed behind him, no doubt smarting at being at the sharp end of his tongue once again.
Remorse melted away Dean's inner rage and he slowed his step, hoping his brother would catch him up in time and maybe he would have a chance to say sorry in the usual Winchester round about way.
Sam for his part sucked in a tremulous breath as he watched his brother's retreating back, left wondering why yet again he'd blown up at him like that.
Lately, he couldn't say a thing right to him without getting either the disdainful rolling of the eyes or some biting put down marking his status as a third-rate Winchester. Things were bad enough having his Dad tell him time and time again how slow and stupid he was but to have his brother thinking the same hurt ten times worse.
"Go on, you dumb ass, prove your brother right," he admonished himself as a tear dared to escape, "Show him just how weak and stupid you are, crying like a some pansy sissy girl."
Determinedly, he drew the cuff of his sleeve across his face getting rid of the evidence as quickly as he could. He didn't know why his brother's outburst had upset him so badly. After all, he had heard far worse from his Dad lately, but it had touched a raw nerve that just throbbed inside of him.
"Heads up, dude. Come and get it before it gets cold," called Dean out from the kitchen. He was trying to make up for his fit of temper earlier by serving up spaghetti, a staple favourite of his little brother, but it didn't seem to be working as Sam was yet to make an appearance.
Unable to mask his irritation, Dean called out again, "Get your ass in here, Sam. Now."
Sam appeared a few seconds later as commanded and sat down at the small rickety table without a word his eyes unreadable under the heavy curtain of brown hair.
Dean squashed down his disappointment that he didn't get the familiar flash of dimples from Sam at seeing his favorite food and instead started to eat. As the seconds ticked by, Dean's eyes kept darting back to his brother expectantly, hoping that at some point that the pasta would work its usual magic and offset the damage done earlier by his hurtful words.
After a few minutes of painful silence, noting how little his brother was actually eating, Dean could stand it no longer. "Come on, dude, you seriously gonna give me the silent treatment all night long? Not as if I haven't said half the stuff I said to you today before is it?"
There was a barely visible shrug of the shoulders from Sam in response to his question and Dean knew that not even a bowl of pasta was going to undo the damage done by his sharp words of earlier. Sometimes, not even food was the be-all cure that he hoped it to be.
Drinking in long steadying breaths, Dean's fingers found their way to rest on the comforting presence of the solid-gold weight hanging around his neck. The amulet was now such a familiar weight he found it hard to recall never having it there.
It had been given to him by Sam as an expression of his faith in him, acknowledging the belief that he was the only one he fully trusted in his life. Lately though, Dean knew that his only reward for the gift was to keep on tearing strips off him as his inner frustrations kept swimming to the surface.
His heart ached suddenly with a need to have that trust back, to witness back in his brother's too expressive eyes. "Come on, kiddo you really never going to speak to me again all because I had a little bitch fest at you? It's what idiot big brother do… right?"
Again, the small shrug of shoulders from Sam was his answer. "I get why you're pissed at me. I shouldn't have taken it out on you 'cos of some stupid detention or because your sour-faced teacher put me on the spot like that."
Slowly, Sam looked up guardedly through his bangs and mutely nodded his agreement.
Dean swallowed back a sigh of relief at his brother's response. "So we cool again, Sammy?"
On hearing his name drawled out in affection, Sam quickly capitulated, relief flooding through him that his brother was no longer mad at him. "Yeah, we're cool."
Dean grinned back happy at the truce, and started to eat again whilst Sam's smile faltered as he offered up his own apology. "I'm…um sorry, too. That I got you all mad again Dean, I didn't mean too."
Guilt dampened his appetite and Dean dropped his fork back into the bowl shaking his head in denial. "Wasn't you, Sammy. I was being an ass and was taking it out on you is all. Sometimes, things get to me and I just get so mad that I don't think clear."
Sam studied his brother for a moment, wondering how he could let him know just how much he appreciated what he gave up every single day because of him. "I know I drag you down. I just wish I was older to help so you'd stop having to look after my dumb ass twenty-four-seven. Maybe then you wouldn't need to get so mad…"
Remembering what he had said earlier to his brother, Dean felt his mouth go dry. "It's my job to look after you, little brother, always has been, always will be."
"Even if it means you never get to do things you want to do? That just plain sucks, Dean, just really sucks."
Sighing, Dean knew that his brother was too astute to swallow a lie. "Yeah, I guess that's why I get a little gnarly with things. It's frustrating watching dad leave me behind all the time, when I know I can be helping him, that I'm old enough to carry my own weight out there. But here I am again, stuck on the sidelines twiddling my thumbs. Waiting."
Sam shifted awkwardly in his chair at the confession, hating the thought of his brother stuck with the chore of looking after him just because dad demanded it of him
Dean sensing his discomfort added, "I'm not saying this to make you feel bad, kiddo. Just that there's stuff I need to do but can't. Just like you wanna do stuff but Dad doesn't think you're ready for yet. You understand me here, little brother?"
"Yeah, I do," answered Sam truthfully, reminded of his attempts with their dad to have the reins loosened a little and failing miserably.
Hearing his brother's tired voice of understanding, Dean added tellingly, "I just want the chance to prove to Dad that I'm all grown up now. That I'm more than ready to back him up out there on a job."
A flash of dimples greeted his confession as Sam mischievously commented, "He'd see just how grown up you were if he caught you locking tongues behind the bleachers with that Soapy girl…"
A wet noodle hit Sam on the cheek. "Best keep that zipped when Dad's around you little brat. I don't need another heart-to-heart from him on sex and condoms ever again!"
Wiping the smudge of sauce off his face with the palm of his hand, Sam laughed easily, "Ugh, enough Dean. I think I'm gonna go blind thinking of you and Soapy doing that."
"You wait until you're my age, dude, and that's all you're gonna be thinking about," grinned back Dean, happy to be in his little brother's good books again.
On seeing both their plates empty, he stood up and nodded at Sam. "Look, you go finish reading that book or watch some TV. I'll dump these in the sink and then I can tell you all about that little thing called sex that your missing out on."
Laughing despite himself, Sam shook his head. His Dad had given him specific responsibilities that meant TV would have to wait a little longer. "I have to finish that translation and recheck the salt lines. If Dad turns up, it's the first thing he's gonna notice."
"Dude, chill. I've got that covered." He glanced over to the TV and saw the opening credits of Baywatch and waggled an eyebrow suggestively. "Do as I command little one. Go ogle some girl flesh so that you might finally take in the mysteries of the female of the species on this little backwater planet."
On following his brother's directive, Sam's eyes grew large as he took in the sight of scantly attired girls jiggling their bits on the screen. A blush crept up his neck as he was propelled over to the couch by Dean. "Watch and learn, watch and learn, little brother, as there will be a lengthy in-depth quiz later."
"But I wanna watch the repeat of Matlock," muttered Sam in disagreement, not ready to fall under the hormonal needs that kept his brother's eyes riveted to the screen, any thoughts of doing any chores relegated for a while as his downstairs brain took over.
"Screw freaking Matlock, " drawled Dean as he loitered by the back of the sofa, his attention latching onto one particularly busty blonde in danger of falling out of her swimming suit anytime soon, "Sweet Jesus, there is a god after all, Sammy boy."
I know it's a slow start and all but as is the way with those Winchester boys the battering and whumpage will follow soon enough!