Title: Five Things Most Kids Do That Sam and Dean Never Did
Characters: John Winchester, Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester
Category: Gen, Pre-Series, Character Study
Summary: John sees the differences between his boys and other kids, normal kids.
Word Count: 1880
Disclaimer: If you offer to pay me in love and hugs, I will not object. Otherwise, 'm good.
Author's Note: I have about five fics in my head that want to be written this weekend. Here's a sweet little one to start off with.
Five Things Most Kids Do That Sam and Dean Never Did
"All right, boys, who did this?" John kept his voice stern, his eyes hard, as he watched his children from the other side of the mess made by the broken motel lamp. The boys stared back at him, solemn, a sameness in their eyes, their expressions, the way they stood. One unit, battle-ready before the enemy.
In some ways this was a fine thing, a good thing, and it made his soldier-heart swell with pride. His boys were growing up strong, only eight and four and already so strong and capable, able to stand even against the stern gaze of a disappointed father. It some ways, it was all right that he was the enemy, if it taught his children to stand like this when they needed to. They would need this often in the years to come, and it was good that they already knew how to do it.
But he also hated being the enemy, even when it was necessary. And it shouldn't be necessary now. It was just a lamp.
"You know that I always demand truth from you," he said. "You know this. I'm sure it was just an accident, and I'm not mad, but I will have to pay for the lamp and I don't like doing it. I want to know what happened."
Dean opened his mouth, and John lifted a finger. "Don't say it's your fault if it isn't. I want the truth, Dean, not just someone to blame. Tell me the truth."
Sammy shuffled his feet and nudged his shaggy head against Dean's side like a lamb butting close to an ewe for warmth in the wind, but he didn't say anything. John sighed. "Same goes for you, Sammy. I just want the truth."
They looked at each other, then back at him, still close-mouthed and silent. John felt his shoulders slump a little, and settled in for a long haul. It was going to take a while to get the truth out of this situation.
At least there was one thing he could count on. Dean and Sam never, ever tattled on each other.
A ghost at a daycare. John couldn't think of many things that could be worse. He had made the right call, leaving the boys with Jim for the duration.
He had managed to work up the right credentials and got hired as kitchen help, able to watch but not interact. Fine with him. These rugrats were dirty and grabby and selfish, and John wanted nowhere near them.
All these toys, all over the place, rooms and rooms of them. Buckets of blocks and Duplos, puzzles, board books, riding toys, even little teeter-totters. Trucks and cars, dolls, wooden trains, marble runs, play food, finger paints and dough used under supervision. And that was just inside—the playground outside was a veritable wonderland.
This embarrassment of riches, and still the little monkeys constantly fought over who got to play with what. No sooner did one grubby little three-year-old decide that a certain toy was fun than two others decided the same thing and descended, snatching and yelling and crying, pulling hair and hitting. They could never work it out on their own, either—always a staff member stepped in as soon possible, scolding, taking away the toy, assigning timeouts. It was nauseating to watch.
Sammy and Dean had never had many toys, constantly moving as they were, but the few they had were treasured. Taken care of, put away, tucked carefully in a cardboard box in the corner or under the blanket at bed time. Everything was shared, not even a question about it—a present for one was a present for both, and they were equally excited and thankful. Even Sammy's precious stuffed rabbit, usually assigned to the younger boy's care alone, sometimes appeared tucked in Dean's elbow when big brother was sick, until Dean reached the ripe age of ten and declared that Bun belonged just to Sammy now.
John finished setting the carrot sticks out on the tray in front of him—the kids never ate them all, but state law required a certain number be provided anyway—and listened to yet another screeching fit begin in the room next door. Tonight. He'd go after the ghost tonight, never mind that he still wasn't sure about the particulars of the case. It would be an utter relief to finish this job and get back to his boys.
"Dad, I'm gonna go down to the park, baseball with the neighborhood kids. That okay?"
John didn't even look up from his notes. "Sure. Look after your brother."
Silence without movement, and John finally glanced up to see Dean still standing in the doorway of the tiny apartment kitchen, uncomfortable but stubborn, chin jutting. Thirteen now, the neck of his t-shirt getting ragged, jeans too short for a month now, but he hadn't yet been subjected to the embarrassment of a squeaky voice. John thought maybe he wouldn't…maybe his voice would just deepen with no fanfare. Dean seemed to do everything gracefully, including grow. Never uncomfortable with his body, always controlled and smooth, muscles working in perfect harmony.
"Something wrong with my orders, Dean?"
"No sir. Just…I thought maybe Sammy could stay home this time. He doesn't have to come with me every time I go out."
"He doesn't have to, but he likes it. You know I don't want him going out on his own."
"Yes sir. He's happy with his books, though." Dean rolled his eyes at this, as he always did at more evidence of the total geek his little brother was growing into.
"All the more reason to get him out in the sunlight when there's an opportunity."
Dean stood in the doorway a moment longer, and John made a shooing motion with the fingers of one hand. "Go on. Take your brother and get out of here. It's a nice day."
John listened with one ear to the conversation in the next room, Dean badgering his brother into digging himself out of whatever world he'd found, talking about baseball and sun and green grass and the cool kids from next door. Sam whined, but gave in, and there was a slamming of books and a thundering of sneakers on the cheap floor, vibrating through John's feet. After a few minutes, he went to the window and looked down to the street, angling his head to keep an eye on his boys as they walked toward the park, jostling each other, shoving, talking loudly and gesticulating. Their strides were matched without effort, without thought, seeming to move in unison despite the size difference between them, Dean's compact grace, Sammy's all-arms-and-legs gangle.
Dean might object to his brother tagging along once in a blue moon, but he never resented it. Not really.
Hand-me-downs had always been a fact of life in their family. It wasn't even worth talking about. Sometimes John was glad that he hadn't had a boy and a girl instead of two boys for the simple fact that it cut the cost and trouble of clothing in half. They got hand-me-downs from outside the family, too, the charity bin at Jim's church, Goodwills and Salvation Army stores all over the country. No big deal. Just life.
When Sam passed Dean in height, though, there was a rumble of discontent. The first time Dean had to wear a shirt that had belonged to Sam first, he sighed a long slow sigh of true sorrow and unease. Sam smirked, for the first time in his life truly having something over on his older brother. John waited for the teasing, the insults, but they didn't come. Dean accepted the way it was and Sam, thankfully, didn't pick at the wound. It could have been a true bone of contention between the two, but as with many small difficulties in their life, Sam and Dean simply smoothed over it.
This was a bit different though.
Sam stared mournfully at the pair of jeans his father held out to him, not reaching forward to take them. John gave the waistband in his hands a little shake, letting the denim legs slide together, a quiet rustle, soft from much wear. "C'mon, son, there's just a couple of little holes in the knees. I can't wear them on the job anymore, but they're fine for you. You can even patch them if you want."
Sam continued to stare, hazel-brown eyes wide and sad. "I just…I never thought that I would be getting hand-me-downs from you."
"Well, the day had to come eventually. You're growing like a weed. Give it another year and I might be getting yours. How's that?"
The kid lifted a hand to scrub through his hair, and John saw the way his wrist jutted, too wide for the narrow arm, the spread of the broad palm, the thick, sensitive fingers. A puppy with paws too big for his body yet. Yeah, there was definitely some growth left on this boy.
"Sam. Take them. Are you going to complain?"
Sam narrowed his eyes at this. "No sir."
He took the jeans.
John sat with his back to the motel door, sick, mind spinning. Couldn't think, couldn't let himself remember what had just been said. What he had said to his son. Too terrible even to let the words into his head. So he sat there, unmoving. Let the boys think he had gone to a bar, driven wildly off somewhere, stomped into the night, still furious. He just needed a few minutes to gather himself, to stop feeling ill, and then maybe he would do that.
The door was paper-thin, and he could hear every word that passed between his sons, Dean's voice, muffled and sad, Sam's voice, louder, insistent, trying to make his brother understand. Dean would never understand this, but John could. He did understand. It just made him even sicker.
"I just…I don't get why you feel like you have to go. Is this life so bad, so horrible? We save people. We get rid of evil. Is that not good enough for you?"
"Of course it's a good life. I never said it wasn't. I never said I wanted to leave forever. I just wanted to go to college. But with what Dad said, well, I guess I won't be coming back."
"You don't have to go at all."
"No, I do! I need this. I need to learn about this. I need to make friends that I can keep, have teachers who know what I need. Maybe even have a girlfriend for more than a few months. I know you never needed or wanted anything like that, but I do."
"No, Dean. I'm not going to let you talk me out of this. I'm sorry, okay? I didn't want it to go this way. But I want to get out there and try to live on my own. I want to see what it's like to live in the same place for more than one year. We never did that, not once."
John dragged himself to his feet and stumbled away. Yes, he understood. That didn't make it any better, though. Understanding only made it worse.