Leather Jacket and Vinyl Seats
Disclaimer: They aren't mine. If they were, I'd be wearing the leather coat and driving the muscle car!
Beta'd: By Muffy Morrigan and Carocali: Two wonderfully talented ladies with their own projects and stories brewing. My gratitude isn't enough to pay you back – unfortunately, it's all I have!
Thanks, too, to Charlie Girl for proof-reading.
Dedicated: To Bhoney.
Dean sat huddled against his Daddy's side. The cold, metal hood of the Impala ate through his pajamas, freezing his legs and bottom. Their house was on fire, burning up. Orange flames licked the night sky. Mommy.
He sniffed, burrowing his fingers tightly into his father's coat. He peered around his Dad at his baby brother. Sammy wasn't crying anymore. A tiny fist was shoved into his mouth and he gazed at Dean with large, soft eyes.
Dean sniffed again, the scent of leather filling his nose. He wanted his mommy. At least Daddy was here. He'd kept them safe from the fire that took Mommy. A single tear slipped down his cheek. His chest ached with a feeling he couldn't identify. It hurt.
He never wanted to lose anyone else in his family ever again.
Sammy knelt down behind the row of parked cars. He knew his Daddy was inside, he just couldn't figure out how to get in without Dean. Dean. Sammy stifled a whimper, a fist pressed firmly against his lips. He had to get to his Daddy right now, his big brother needed him.
The door opened casting a splinter of light on the gravel lot. Loud music pounded from the building. Sammy put his hands over his ears and edged closer. "I have to go in," Sammy whispered, coaching himself. The trouble with that plan was that he was scared. Sammy didn't go anywhere without Dean or his Daddy and certainly not in the dead of night.
People spilled out the open door. Men, big men, with leather coats like his Daddy's and heavy boots. Laughing women with funny colored hair hung on a few of the men. The women looked like they were dressed in their underwear.
Sammy scrunched his face in disgust, his fear forgotten. These people weren't keeping him from getting help for his brother. He marched up to the door, his fists clenched tightly – right past the noisy throng of people. It was almost too easy. He squinted against the light, peering around the corner, looking for his daddy.
Sammy spotted him standing next to a table with a big stick in his hand. He remembered Dean had explained what the game was before and why Daddy played, but he couldn't remember what it was called. "Daddy!"
Several people turned to look, noticing him for the first time. They scowled at him, but Sammy didn't care. He had eyes only for his father. "Daddy!" John turned around, a puzzled look on his face, until his eyes landed on Sammy.
"Sammy?" He knelt down, opening his arms wide to scoop Sammy up. Brown eyes went from surprised to flashing amber as they narrowed. "Where's your brother?"
"Daddy," Sammy hiccupped. "Dean needs help."
The big stick dropped to the ground. His Daddy didn't say a word, just held him tighter and walked away from the game. "Hey, Winchester! Thought you were going to give me a chance to earn back my money?"
Sam held tight to his Daddy's jacket, burying his nose in the leather. He was still scared, but not for himself anymore. Now, it was all for his big brother. "Hurry, Daddy," he said, his words muffled by the heavy collar. "Dean needs us."
A big hand cupped his head, pressing him tighter against his father's chest. Everything would be alright now, his Daddy was here. Dean says Dad always knows what to do. He could take care of anything.
John held his four-year-old close, trying to warm his trembling son. Sammy's skin felt like ice through his thin pajamas. For his youngest to walk nearly a mile wearing nothing except his pajamas and boots on a crisp autumn night meant something was very wrong with Dean. Sammy didn't stray far without his brother.
He opened the passenger door, placing Sammy inside on the cold, vinyl seat. He pulled the lap belt over his young son. John moved to stand, but small hands gripped tight to his jacket, not relinquishing their hold. He pried one set of fingers from his collar and slipped out of his coat. "Here, Sammy, cover up with this."
Sammy nodded, his mop of brown hair covering his face, but not before John saw the wide, tear-filled eyes. "Dean's sick, Daddy."
"We'll take care of him, Sammy," John said, reassuringly. "It'll be okay."
He shut the door on any further conversation, hurrying around to the driver's side. Gravel spit off the back tires as John pealed out of the parking lot. It was only a mile back to the motel, but it was one of the longest miles of John's life. Sammy sat quietly in the seat, his big eyes dark with unshed tears. Every bend in the road, the one-lane bridge, and the towering black trees spoke to John about the danger Sammy had been in on his long walk to find him.
John glanced over at Sammy. A few tears had escaped, leaving white tracks down his already pale face. Sammy was scared. "Hey, kiddo, it'll be okay."
Sammy shook his head. "No, Daddy, Dean's sick. He wouldn't wake up."
Two more tears slid down chubby cheeks and John understood. Sammy was afraid for Dean. John pulled into the motel lot. He turned off the engine, and then twisted to undo his son's seat belt. "Let's go, Sammy. I'm going to need your help to take care of Dean."
Sammy straightened in the seat. He brushed the errant tears from his face. "Yes, sir." John had to scramble to keep up with his son as Sammy ran to the motel room.
He could hear Sammy calling for his brother before he entered the room. "Dean! Dean, I found, Daddy."
John entered the room. It felt like a sauna. "What the hell?" he muttered, striding over to the thermostat. It was set at ninety-two degrees. He pushed the knob back down to sixty-eight.
"Daddy, no!" Sam said, his voice scolding. "Dean's cold."
"That's because he's sick," John replied, not thinking about the impact those words would have on his son.
Sammy's face fell, his bottom lip quivered. "But he'll be okay?"
John nodded, his eyes moving to his eldest. Dean's face was pale, covered in a fine sheen of perspiration. His chest rose and fell in shallow breaths. He moved fitfully on the bed, his legs and arms jerking in response to his discomfort. Dean moaned low in his throat, forcing a whimper from his little brother. "Sammy, go wet a facecloth and bring it to me."
Sammy nodded, running at top speed to the bathroom. John sat down on the edge of Dean's bed, placing a hand on his son's clammy forehead. Sammy returned and stood beside his brother. He gently wiped the sweat from Dean's face. "This is how Dean does it," he whispered, more to himself than to John.
"Dean, wake up," John commanded. Dean's head jerked once in John's direction, but he gave no signs of waking. "Now, Dean, up and at 'em."
Sammy shook his head. "Won't work, Daddy. He won't wake up."
John furrowed his brow. "Sammy, I need you to tell me everything that happened after I left." Sammy bit his lip, frowning. "It's okay, son, you're not going to get in trouble, I need to know what happened."
"Dean said we shouldn't tell because you'd feel bad." Sammy looked at his big brother, then up to John, the hesitancy clearly visible in the hazel orbs.
John scrubbed a hand down his face, his anxiety rising. He couldn't fail his boys. They were all he had left. "Sammy, I need to know, so we can help Dean."
All indecision fled Sam's face, the look replaced by one so earnest that John may have chuckled had the situation been different. "I'll tell." He nodded his agreement. One hand slipped over to knot in Dean's t-shirt. "Mr. Colpitts is mean."
"The office manager?" John frowned. Why would the office manager have interacted with his sons?
Sammy nodded again. "Uh-huh, he kicked a doggy. It was just lost and didn't have no home."
John held his patience. Sammy could only tell the story from the beginning. If he tried to rush him along to the point he needed, his youngest son would get frustrated and confused. "What happened after he kicked the dog?"
Little fingers fisted tighter into Dean's sweaty t-shirt. "I, I got mad," Sam stuttered, his emotions replaying on his face. "I yelled at Mr. Colpitts."
John's leg jumped in agitation. He didn't like where this story was headed. "And?"
"He hit me." Sammy's eyes were huge with fear in spite of the time lapse. "Then Dean got mad."
"I bet," John said through gritted teeth. Four and eight, that's too young. What the hell was I thinking? He noticed then, for the first time, a small red mark high on Sammy's cheek.
"He hit Dean!" Sammy said, his voice hiccupping in anger. "And Dean fell on the baby fence around the flowers."
John nodded at Sammy's description of the two-foot high wrought iron fencing surrounding the flower beds at the motel. "I don't understand, Sammy. How did that make Dean sick? Did he hit his head?" John leaned forward, running his hands through Dean's short hair. A concussion might explain Dean's condition.
"No, Daddy," Sammy said, shaking his head. "He hit his tummy."
That was worse, much worse. He peeled back the blankets and pushed Dean's t-shirt up. His hand pressed softly against the hot, distended lump on his eldest son's stomach. The effect was immediate. "Aaaargh," Dean groaned, half-sitting before slumping back to the pillow. "Dad?"
"Yeah, Dean," John said, gripping his son's arms in reassurance. "I'm here. You're gonna be fine. I'm here."
"Sammy?" Dean's glassy eyes roved wildly about the room, not focusing on any point.
"He's here, we've got ya." Dean barely nodded, his eyes sliding shut. John twisted to face Sammy. "Put on your coat, son. We have to take Dean to the hospital."
Sammy's face wrinkled in disgust. "I can't, Daddy, Dean threw up on it."
"Put on your brother's, he won't need it." John carefully lifted his eldest son, blankets and all. Dean panted brokenly against his neck. "Now, Sammy, let's go."
As before, the four-year-old ran ahead of him, this time opening the back door of the Impala and climbing in. John leaned into the interior. "Sammy, you'll have to sit up front. Dean needs to lie down."
"There's room," Sammy insisted, patting his leg. "His head goes here."
John swallowed hard, fighting against tears for both his sons. How had this happened? How had their lives become this? I'm so sorry, Mary. He laid Dean down carefully, adjusting the blankets to keep him warm. The temperature had dropped several degrees since he and Sammy had arrived. Or maybe it was the fear flowing through his veins that leached the warmth from the air.
He closed the door with a soft click. He took sixty long seconds to search the motel room, gathering all their belongings and shoving them into the three duffels. He found Sammy's soiled coat in the shower where the boys had obviously left it. He grabbed the plastic liner from the garbage, finding three bloody tissues inside.
John's chest constricted. Dean had coughed up blood. He tossed the tissues into the toilet and stuffed the little jacket into the now empty bag. Grabbing the bags on the way out, he jogged to the trunk, tossing them in. Seconds later, he was squealing out of the motel parking lot on his way to the hospital.
"Daddy?" Sammy's voice sounded even younger to his ears than he had just this morning.
"What, Sammy?" He adjusted the rearview mirror so he could see his boys. Sammy had one arm wrapped around Dean's chest, the other stroked his brother's hair with chubby fingers. He had covered his brother with John's jacket.
"Why'd you get our stuff?" Sammy asked, his tone clearly conveyed disapproval. "You said Dean needs the hospital."
"He does, Sammy," John said. "But, we won't be coming back here." Sammy nodded, seeming to accept John's answer. He bent forward, whispering something in Dean's ear that John couldn't hear. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel. They couldn't come back here. If they did, John would kill the bastard. He glanced at his sons. He couldn't go through this again. Something had to change.
Teeth, fur, claws, ripping, tearing at his chest. "Gah!" The gasp was torn from Sam's lips as he jolted to awareness. He struggled to sit, his chest on fire.
"Easy, easy there, Sammy," his Dad's rumble soothed. Leather squeaked in his ear as his father's arms adjusted under his head.
"Dad?" He opened reluctant eyes, blinking up at his father's face.
"You're gonna be okay, kiddo." A smile across his face, but his eyes reflected brown worry. "Just try to lie still."
"D-Dean?" Sam hated the crack in his voice. Thirteen sucked.
"He's getting the first aid kit." His Dad stumbled, jarring Sam's injuries.
Sam moaned, clutching at his chest. Until that moment, he hadn't realized he was being carried by his father. He flushed with the heat of shame. He remembered now. There were two werewolves. Dad and Dean had one surrounded, their weapons trained on it. Sam had seen the other, looping around the hunters in the cover of the trees.
He'd shouted a warning, realizing his mistake too late as the werewolf abruptly changed direction and descended on him instead. A flash of brown fur and white teeth before sharp claws ripped into his chest. After the gunshots, he didn't remember anything else.
"Dad, I can walk," Sam said. He wasn't all that sure he could, but he didn't want to appear weak. Dean wouldn't have needed to be carried out. Hell, Dean wouldn't have been stupid enough to get clawed in the first place.
"No, Sam, you can't," John replied gruffly, pulling Sam tighter against his chest. "Your ankle is badly sprained."
Previously, Sam hadn't felt anything, but now his ankle ached with an intensity that nearly stole his breath away. "How?"
"Gopher hole." His dad sounded a little out of breath.
Sam nodded, not trusting his voice for more. His eyes slipped closed as the darkness took him again.
Dean climbed into the back seat with his little brother. The life-threatening bleeding had been contained, but he still needed stitches and time. They were taking Sam to the hospital, an almost unheard of event unless their Dad didn't think he could handle the first aid. That meant Sammy was really hurt.
They were safe now inside the Impala, but adrenaline propelled anxiety to the surface. He wrapped one arm gently around Sam's middle, carefully avoiding the gashes. Sam was shaking from shock and blood loss. He pulled their dad's leather coat up and over his little brother.
"Dean?" Sam's voice soft, barely over a whisper. Weak fingers pulled at his shirt.
"Yeah, Sammy," Dean replied, fingers dragging through Sam's hair. "You're gonna be okay." The vinyl squeaked when Dean shifted, allowing Sam's head to rest more comfortably on his leg. "I got ya."
"I promise, Sammy," Dean replied. The fingers tightened in his shirt, then fell away. Sam's chest rose and fell in the even rhythm of sleep. Dean made eye contact with his father in the rearview mirror.
"Next time, we have to be more careful," John said, his tone firm. "This shouldn't have happened."
"No," Dean said. "It shouldn't have." He looked out the window, unable to endure the scrutiny from his father any longer. There won't be a next time, Dean vowed silently. Not if I can help it.
"Why, Sam?" Blue flames licked the tendrils of Jess's beautiful hair. "Why?" Blood dripped from her torn abdomen, her face grimaced in pain.
The flames spread, engulfing the entire ceiling in fire.
"Gah!" the gasp was torn from his throat as he bolted upright in bed. Sam's chest heaved. He looked around, but it was dark and he was the room's only occupant. Dean had gone to the bar to hustle pool. He was supposed to tag along, be his brother's back-up. The last thing he clearly remembered was sitting down on the bed, his exhausted body demanding rest.
Nausea curled in his gut, forcing him from the bed. He staggered to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before he vomited. His back arched from the effort of expelling his stomach's contents. Out of breath, emotionally spent, he sagged against the cool porcelain.
Guilt and grief warred for equal billing in his heart, pushing tight against his chest. A sob escaped, unchecked in the privacy of the moment. It was followed quickly by another. Before long, tears flowed in a luxury Sam seldom gave himself. He knew he should talk to Dean about Jess, but a part of him didn't want to burden his brother with his mourning. The other part didn't want to share it.
The room door creaked open. Sam tried to stop crying, but it was too late, the pain too front and center to deny. A strong arm wrapped around his shoulders. Dean smelled of smoke and cheap perfume. He puffed a laugh that turned into a sob. Dean pulled him closer. He twisted on the tiled floor, tangling his fingers in Dean's jacket.
"It'll be okay," Dean said, quietly, pulling him impossibly closer. "It'll be okay."
Sam nodded, burying his face in Dean's shirt, fisting his brother's jacket tighter. Somewhere deep down he knew Dean was right, and that his brother would be here to make sure of it.
"Son of a bitch!" Dean tossed his jacket into the back seat of the Impala. Dad had left him here with a secret so big, so awful, he thought he would implode from the internal pressure. "How could you, Dad?"
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. It was worse than that. Saving Sam from some undefined evil was one thing, killing him? Never. To top it off, Dean was pretty damn sure that his father had sold his soul to save him. And Dean had never wanted that, ever.
He slid into the driver's seat, the comfortable vinyl contouring to his familiar shape. He rubbed the palms of his hands on the steering wheel, hoping to glean some inner wisdom by holding onto something his father had touched. There was no epiphany, no sounding trumpets, nothing. He had no more idea of what to do than before.
He glanced to the station mini-mart. Sam was inside paying for gas, snacks and pain killers. Last Dean remembered they'd run out and the cut on Sam's arm from Gordon had to be throbbing. Sam shot him a glance, smiled and nodded his head. He tried to return it, but he was just too damn tired.
Sam's face fell, but he turned quickly to mask it. Dean sighed, scrubbing a hand down his face. He didn't mean to hurt Sam. He just didn't have the energy, the emotional fortitude, left to fix his brother either. He barely had enough to hold himself together. I'm sorry, Sammy. I just can't…
The passenger door opened. Sam slid inside, shutting the door quietly. Dean caught Sam looking at him out of the corner of his eye. His stomach churned. He didn't want his little brother to be afraid of him, he just didn't want to have some heart-felt, well-meaning discussion about things Dean couldn't, or wouldn't, share.
"Here," Sam said, handing him a bottle of water.
Dean took the water. He caught a glimpse of the make-shift bandage on Sam's right arm. They hadn't stopped yet so he could take a look at the injury, and Sam hadn't been very forth-coming. Anger burned in his gut at the memory of Gordon with a knife to his little brother's throat. He'd come so close to pulling the trigger.
Gordon. Just another symptom of what was terribly screwed with their lives right now. He'd been so ready to accept Gordon, but not for the reasons Sam thought. He was a hunter, black and white, no gray, no emotions to deal with. No guilt. Just someone he could knock a few beers back with, behead a couple of vampires, and forget all about his Dad and the secrets he carried.
He loved his brother, but every time he looked at Sam right now, it reminded him of how much this job had cost him, how much it could cost him. It was just him and Sam now. He couldn't afford another failure.
Dean flicked on the music. He could drive for a few hours yet before dinner and a motel room became a necessity. Sam glanced over, a wan smile on his face. He managed to return it with a half-grin this time, some of the weight seemed to disappear off his shoulders. It felt good to be on the road with his brother.
Led Zeppelin wafted up from the speakers, filling the interior with uncompromised guitar strains. Sam smiled wider, then turned and rested his head on the back of the seat. This song was always one all three of the Winchesters could agree upon. During long car rides with a stubborn father and an equally stubborn brother, Zeppelin had served as a temporary treaty. Dean had used it to fill an uncomfortable silence on more than one occasion.
A fresh breeze whistled through both windows, blowing Sam's too-long hair in several directions. Dean relaxed; the beat of the music, the hum of the tires, the rumble of the engine, and his brother in the passenger seat. Some things were still okay in his world.
Sam had no idea how much time had elapsed when he blinked open his eyes, the throbbing in his arm had forced him awake. The sun was low on the horizon, the air had cooled. It had to be close to six, maybe even seven. He shifted in the seat, self-consciously wiping away moisture from his chin with the back of his hand. That's when he noticed Dean had covered him with his leather coat.
"So, Cinderella awakens," Dean said, a lop-sided grin tugging at his lips.
"Sleeping Beauty," Sam corrected, in a sleep-scratchy voice. He tugged the jacket further up towards his chin. "Thanks."
"You looked cold," Dean replied, not taking his eyes from the road. "Just don't drool on it."
Sam opened his mouth to protest, but he'd kind of proven Dean had a reason to be afraid of that only moments before. "I'll try not to." He smiled, letting Dean have the win.
Dean glanced at Sam, chuckled softly, then refocused on the road. "There's a town about thirty miles from here. Thought we could grab a bite, maybe a room?"
It was a suggestion, not an order, not a statement, and Sam appreciated the difference. Dean was trying to meet him half-way, trying to take a step closer to him without opening the door for conversation. "Sounds good."
The car fell silent again, but this time, the air didn't feel as oppressive with unspoken grief, or pain. It was comfortable, at least for this pocket of time. He took a deep breath. It hurt that Dean didn't want to share what was going on inside his head, but this wasn't about him. Sam simply wanted to be here for him – the way Dean had been there for him after Jess. It was almost as if he had lost his big brother and his dad. He missed them both.
Sam pulled the coat a little higher, the breeze carrying the scent of leather past his nose. Dean might be holding himself back, hiding from Sam, but his jacket held no grudges. Sam inconspicuously sniffed the leather. Dean was still here, he still cared, and if Sam waited long enough, Dean would be okay. Sam sank back against the seat, the leather jacket following. He'd be here to make sure of it.
Sam reached into the trunk of the Impala. The unfamiliar pendant tapped against his chest, feeling heavy despite its size. He rested his forehead on the trunk lid. The cool metal of the early morning burned his skin, but Sam didn't care. He barely felt it.
He craned his neck far enough that he could see Bobby's house without having to lift his head. Am I doing the right thing? I should stay. But he couldn't. Bobby seemed content living in grief and Sam couldn't allow himself to go there. Grief was paralyzing, anger was galvanizing.
His chin dipped to his tightening chest, the ache inside threatening to overwhelm him, and send him to his knees. He nearly lost his resolve until the distinctive aroma of leather and gun oil registered in his brain. Dean. Achoked sob made it past Sam's throat. He was wrong, he couldn't do this.
Rays from the rising sun found their way through the maze of tangled metal in the scrap-yard. Chirping birds joined in the chorus of Sam's muffled, jerky breaths. He lifted his head, took a deep breath, and tried to regain his composure. If he didn't leave soon, Bobby would find him. He'd look at Sam with the same mixture of pity and shared grief that had plagued the older hunter's face for two weeks. That look had kept Sam here too long already.
The leather crinkled when he lifted his arm to close the trunk, all memory of what he had opened it for in the first place was gone. He hesitated, then brought shaking fingers down to feel the leather. He shrank into the coat, accepting one last hug from his brother.
He stood for a moment, then took off the jacket. He folded it carefully, tucking it neatly into Dean's duffel bag. The leather no longer offered any real comfort, any security. The magic of the jacket apparently belonged to the man who filled it. Sam slammed the lid closed. It was time to bring his brother home.
AN: This story started as a 'Ready, set, go!' timed event with Muffy Morrigan. She gave me thirty minutes to write something, anything, and the first two pages of young Sammy just popped out of nowhere.
It morphed into a semblance of a request from bhoney who asked for a series of vignettes and wrapped up in two more timed sessions with Muffy. In this case, I focused on John/Dean's leather coat and the vinyl seats of the Impala.
I'm hoping that despite the unusual conception, the story flowed alright. Thanks for reading!