Disclaimer: When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son, always be a good boy – don't ever play with guns."
Warnings: Profanity, violence, sexual situations, sensitive themes. Not necessarily in that order. Also, nothing happens in this chapter. But it's good that I posted something, right? . . . Right?
A/N: Oh my god! An update! It's like in those movies where there's a solar eclipse and all the peasants freak out. It's a strange thing never seen before. The world must be ending! Everybody panic!
So, Ixnay's had its first birthday. How did that happen? That's amazing, that is. Can't even wrap my head around it. Over a year. Over a year! Thanks so much for all of your support, I am totally, absolutely, completely thrilled that you all have enjoyed this little thing of mine. (Geez, that sounds dirty, doesn't it? Ahem. Anyways. . .) Thanks so much for sticking with me (Even when I take ages and ages and ages to sodding update). Your reviews are awesome, you're awesome, and you should feel awesome. I'm so sorry for the wait.
And thanks to nexus432 (and everyone else who reviewed/pm'd me) for getting my ass in gear, you can claim full responsibility for this update. 3
On the way to Stanford, Sam gets in an accident that causes him to have severe Hollywood Amnesia, losing all of his memories except for those of hunting. His only clue – a train ticket in his pocket from Rexford, Kansas – leads him to search the Mid-west for any family he may have and to start going by the name "Rex." His search proves fruitless, and after a hard month in the US he decides to get the hell out of dodge, catching the first plane he can get – which happens to be to London.
For the next two years "Rex" hunts assorted fugly bastards across Europe. During this time, he meets and falls in love with Jessica Moore in Paris. He also gets a tattoo, takes up smoking, becomes the reigning champ of snark, and generally gets the ever-loving snot beat out of him on a daily basis in interesting and creative ways. Eventually, he decides to go back to the states to visit Jess, but not before getting busted up by a pack of vampires and an ogre, resulting in a broken arm. His contacts get him a car (a sweet-ass '69 Camaro) and assorted weapons. He ends up in Lovette, Nevada, where he discovers some sort of monster is terrorizing the town. Rex/Sam uses his amazing powers of deduction to decide that said monster is a skin-walker, a human who can turn into an animal of their choosing at will.
Meanwhile, Dean and John Winchester are also in Lovette, Nevada, hunting the very same skin-walker. John, however, soon leaves in order to pursue a lead on The Demon. Dean goes out into the desert to hunt the skin-walker, which turns out to be a tiger, and ends up knocked unconscious and wounded. Luckily for him, there's a little deus ex Rex as his long-lost little brother shows up at the eleventh hour and kicks some kitty-cat ass (and also gets his ass kicked). Dean wakes up, and is severely surprised to see his brother – who he had thought was studying at Stanford – hooded in leather and sporting a rather nice semi-automatic. Rex/Sam and Dean go through the whole family reunion thing, which is severely lacking in warm fuzzy moments, at least at first. Rex/Sam only mostly believes Dean, but agrees to tag along and see what happens.
They both head towards Rex/Sam's original destination – Stanford, to see Jessica – and on the way there Rex/Sam challenges Dean to a car race. Rex/Sam wins, but at the finish line is blind-sided by a curiously driver-less semi-truck. We later get a brief shot of a mysterious figure lingering over Rex/Sam's crash-site. Meanwhile, when Rex/Sam wakes up at the hospital with Dean by his side, he's a little more convinced of their alleged brotherly bond. All the while, Dean has been attempting to contact John, but gets only radio silence. Dean also finds that a journal of Rex/Sam's has survived the crash, unlike his armament and beautiful car, but decides to not tell his brother that he has the journal. Instead, he intends to read it himself and find out more of his brother's mysterious past – as soon as he figures out how to open it, that is.
Bruised but alive and still snarky, the two brothers continue to Jessica's, learning a bit more about each other on the way. Jessica and Rex/Sam are positively dripping with love; however, Jess and Dean are a bit leery of each other. They settle their differences when they acknowledge one another's respective care for Sam. After a week hanging out at Jessica's, Rex/Sam goes out to pick up some dinner, where he notices someone tailing him. After a brief fight in which Rex/Sam subdues his stalker, said stalker claims to be none other than John Winchester. Rex/Sam verifies that the man isn't a monster in disguise, but is still more than a little angry at his absentee father. John and Rex/Sam head back to Jessica's, where John gets a few more face-fulls of water, courtesy of a suspicious brother and a pissed-off girlfriend. Whew. And here we are.
Chapter Nineteen: Conversations and More Conversations
"I'll, uh, get you a towel," Jessica stuttered as John glared at her, water dripping down his face. Rex shifted slightly, angling his body between his girlfriend and John's angry gaze.
Jessica slipped out into the kitchen, cheeks flushed, leaving the Winchester family alone.
"Where have you been?" Rex asked quietly, staring evenly at John.
John met his gaze. "I was chasing a lead on the demon."
"The one that killed my mother?" Rex asked.
John nodded. "Yeah, kiddo."
Rex flinched lightly at the endearment, and he felt Dean shift next to him.
"Why didn't you come sooner?" Dean spoke up, voice tensely quiet.
John's eyes flicked to him. "Like I said, Dean, I was hunting the demon."
"Sam was hurt," Dean said, voice flat. "Sam was hurt and you didn't come. He's. . . jesus, dad."
"I knew you were in control of the situation," John said.
Dean gaped. "You knew I was. . . you think I had any control over this? Dammit, dad. You should've come. Sam needed you, and you should've come."
Rex could see John's jaw clenching tightly. "This was a once-in-a-lifetime lead, Dean. I had to make a decision."
Dean's hands balled into fists. "Goddammit, dad, you put the demon over Sam. You-"
"It's okay," Rex cut him off quietly.
The two elder Winchesters froze, turning slowly to stare at Rex.
"It's okay. I get it. Hunting takes priority over things like this."
John watched him appraisingly.
"You wouldn't have said that two years ago," He said slowly.
"Yeah, well, I don't think I'm the same person I was two years ago. I'm not some fucking kid. I'm not selfish enough to think I'm more important than stopping a demon." Rex said calmly. "Maybe my priorities are different than the Sam you knew. But I've lived the last two years dedicating my life to hunting. So I understand. There's nothing more important than this."
"No," Dean said angrily. He stood up. "No, that's not right. This isn't about being selfish or any of that crap. This is about family."
"And you, dad," He spun around to face John. "You taught me that family was the most important thing. That it was all we've got. And that we have to put it before anything else. Even hunting."
"Sammy," He said, turning back around to Rex and crouching in front of him. He hesitated a moment, than rested a hand firmly on Rex's shoulder. "There isn't a demon on hell or earth that's more important than you. Than us. Than this family. Understand?"
Rex sat quietly beneath Dean's touch, thinking. Huh. This was different. The fervor in Dean's tone surprised him. He glanced up and met Dean's sharp green eyes.
Rex shrugged, Dean's hand shifting on his shoulder.
Dean sighed, running a hand through his hair. He stared at Rex with determination but didn't say anything else, sitting back down on the couch.
John was watching the two silently.
"Dad? Anything you wanna add?" Dean asked, voice holding just the hint of a challenge.
John looked at him evenly. Eventually, he said, "I made a decision. I expect you boys to respect that."
In the corner of his vision Rex could see Dean's muscles stiffen as he dug his fingernails into his palms.
"Um" Jess spoke up from the door. An orange dish-cloth was twisted in her hands. "Hey. Got that towel. Yeah. . . Who wants scones?"
"So, Jess said hesitantly. "The couch is taken, but I can set something up on the floor for you. . ."
"I'll take the floor," Dean said. "You can have the couch, dad."
Rex glanced between the two. The tension was still denser than lead, but Dean seemed more than willing to sleep on the floor for his dad. Weird.
John shook his head, though. "No, it's fine, Dean. Floor's closer to the door anyway."
"Is that relevant?" Rex asked, curiously.
"Closer to the door means closer to the most-obvious entrance of attack, Sam," Dean explained.
"And you really want to be closer to an attack?" Rex asked, eyebrow raised.
John looked at him. "It's my job, kid."
He turned and walked out.
Rex blinked. He turned to Dean and asked, "And what job would that be?"
Dean gave him a tight, lopsided smile. "He's our dad, Sammy."
Once Jess and Sam were safely sequestered in their own little world, Dean slipped out the door after his dad.
He squinted in the sudden darkness of the night, the stars barely visible above the glow of the city. After a few seconds his pupils adjusted and he spotted the yellow light coming from the inside of the Impala.
He smirked a little. Figures. His dad did have a spare key to the car, after all.
Dean walked over, tugging open the passenger side door and sliding onto the bench seat.
Inside the car, Johnny Cash lamented quietly about a man he once shot in Reno. His dad was holding a bottle of Jack loosely by its neck, his other hand tapping out a beat on the steering wheel.
He tilted his head back as he took a swig, throat pulsing slightly in the dull moonlight.
"Hey," Dean said quietly. He stared out the window at the quiet street, breath coating the glass lightly in silver.
"Hey, kid," John answered, sounding tired. He held the bottle out to Dean silently, and Dean knocked back a shot. The whiskey burned hot and sharp across his tongue and all the way down his throat.
"Where'd this tape come from, anyway?" Dean asked suspiciously after a moment, pretty sure he hadn't had any Cash cassettes. By now Johnny was singing about places dark as dungeons where the rain never fell.
John only smirked, taking the Jack back from Dean's unresisting grip.
"You were right, you know," John said after a while in silence, Dean watching the pulse of his breath ebb and flow in fog on the glass. "When you said about this family being more important than the hunt."
Dean shrugged but didn't say anything.
"I forget that, sometimes," John continued. "I lose sight of what's really important. I've lost sight of that more and more, lately."
Lately. . . Dean thought. Lately, that Sam's been gone.
He wondered how he was supposed to feel, hearing that.
Dean gestured for the whiskey back and took another shot. Johnny Cash sang about getting high on cocaine and shooting a bad bitch down.
But Sam was back now.
"What are we going to do, Dad?" Dean asked. "I mean, with Sam and his memory. I can't fix this. I don't know how."
He laughed hollowly. "Jesus Christ, Sam was supposed to be safe and some fucking accident -"
"Was it?" John interrupted, eyes dark and shiny in the dim light. "The doctors didn't know what caused the amnesia, right?"
"He was hit by a car. . ." Dean began hesitantly.
"It looked like he was hit by a car." John corrected. "The hospital assumed he was hit by a car. But you and me both know, kid, that injuries aren't always what they seem to be."
"You're saying something supernatural caused Sam's memory loss?" Dean surmised. He wondered casually, certainly not for the first time in his life, where the line was drawn at paranoia.
"I'm saying it's a possibility. Something we should look into." John said. He ran his fingers down the smooth glass curves of the bottle of Jack.
"Shit," Dean breathed. "What would do that? What could do that?"
John shrugged. "We'll find out."
Dean closed his eyes briefly, letting his head fall back against the top of the seat.
"Sam's different, now," He said after awhile. "He's so. . . jaded. I think something happened to him. Something bad. Hell, a lot of somethings probably happened to him. He was on his own. In fucking Europe."
He dragged his fingers across the cool seats of the Impala, feeling his dad's eyes on him.
"He's got this whole life and I don't know about it. And all he cares about now is hunting. It's so. . . it's so un-Sammy. But he's damn good at it, you know? Christ, dad, he's better than all the other hunters I've ever come across. He's almost better than me. And I know he should be able to take care of himself just fine but. . . Half the time it seems like he's got some freakin' deathwish. There's something so. . . messed up with him. And I just. . . I don't know what to do."
"We'll fix him, Dean," John said, voice low.
"See dad, that's the thing. I'm not even sure what's wrong with him," Dean sighed. "Or if he wants to be fixed."
His dad took another mouthful of alcohol, and Johnny Cash sang roughly about a woman crying over his bones.
Dean stared at Jessica's living room ceiling in the darkness, halogen mirages swimming across the empty surface. His dad's easy breathing filled the silence from the floor a few feet away.
Dean sighed and rolled into sitting, the floor cool beneath his bare feet. He crept quietly towards the door.
His dad shifted, the sound of his sleeping breath halting.
"I'm just going to get some air," Dean assured in a whisper. John's silence was as good as permission, and Dean quietly opened the front door, creaking on un-oiled hinges, and slipped out.
The air was abruptly chilly, the world outside softly blue in the nighttime. He sat down on Jessica's front step, elbows on knees, eyes slowly adjusting to the dim.
He shivered slightly, wishing fruitlessly for his jacket, curling his toes on the rough cold concrete. He thought about his dad and his brother and what the hell he was going to do with his life, the night acquiescing happily to his brooding.
"I'd offer you a cigarette, but you'd probably just yell at me. Still, you look like you could use one."
Dean craned his neck around to look up at Sam, standing quietly behind him.
"Hey," Sam answered easily, handing Dean his jacket. "It's bloody cold out."
"That's what happens when it's night, Sammy. The sun sets, so it gets all dark and the temperature drops." Still, Dean shrugged on his jacket. "And this is America. Things are only bloody when we stab them."
Sam snorted. "Hey, big fan of mediterranean weather here. Besides, we're in California, it should be warm, shouldn't it? And don't mock my profanity."
"Profanity. Sheesh. That isn't profanity. I can show you profanity -"
"Thanks, but I'll pass." Sam interrupted. He lowered himself into sitting next to Dean, drawing in a deep breath and surveying the night. "So, why exactly are you out here brooding? Besides the obvious, that is."
"I'm not brooding," Dean sulked. "Brooding is something people like you do, Sam. I, on the other hand, don't brood."
Sam scoffed. "People like me? What, smart-assed ex-patriate amnesiac hunters of evil? Are there a lot of us, then?"
"Don't think I'm going to forget you just admitted to being a smart-ass," Dean wagged a finger. "Cos I'm not."
"Fair enough," Sam shrugged. "But you are brooding."
"Am not," Dean disagreed.
"How'd you know I was out here, anyway?" Dean asked.
"Maybe I just wanted some fresh air. And stop changing the subject." Sam said.
"You stop changing the subject," Dean countered.
"I – what? That doesn't even make any sense."
"Your face doesn't make sense."
"Don't. Just, don't." Sam shook his head. "And you haven't gotten me off track completely. What's wrong?"
Dean sighed. "What does it matter?"
Sam shot him a strange look. "Um, isn't that how this whole family thing works? Correct me if I'm wrong. You wander out in the middle of the night looking like someone shot your puppy, I pester you until you tell me what's wrong, we work together to fix whatever it is. Right?"
Dean laughed roughly. "What are we, the Cleavers? I mean, yeah, Sammy, I guess that's all technically right, but when you put it like that. . ."
Sam sighed, craning his head up to look at the dark sky. "Look, Dean. You don't have to tell me, okay? But. . . I'm trying here. I want to help you. You look like. . . you look like something's wrong, and I think you should. . . talk about it. I guess. Dean, I don't really expect some big revelation or for us to uncover the root of all your problems or whatever. I just thought that maybe we could just talk. Just talk. Like brothers."
"Now, there's the Sammy I know." Dean said softly. "Trying to get me to talk. About my feelings."
He looked up at the sharply white moon, phosphorescing softly in the blackened sky. His fingernails scraped against the concrete a little.
"It fucking hurts," Sam said abruptly.
". . . What?" Dean asked, taken aback.
"You obviously have some serious problems with talking about stuff. Okay, I get it. So I figured I might as well go first. Tell you a little something about. . . me. Then maybe you'll tell me the truth. Quid pro quo, and all that shit." Sam explained quietly. "So, what I said was, it fucking hurts."
"My dad. Our dad. Showing up here. Knowing he was out there, when I needed him with me. Knowing he didn't even realize I was missing. And now. . . and now, the way he doesn't even look at me like I'm his son." Sam looked away. "But what do I know about fathers and sons, anyway? But this. . . all I know is it fucking hurts."
"So there," Sam said. "I don't usually tell people when things hurt. I guess I probably learned that from you, huh? But at any rate, I've spilt my guts. Your turn."
Dean looked at his brother quietly.
"I'm sorry, you know," He said.
"Yeah," Sam sighed. "I think I do know that. And it's not. . . it's not really your fault, Dean."
Dean was inclined to disagree, but he let the matter drop in favour of pointing out, "It's not really Dad's fault, either."
Sam's smile twisted slightly, bitterly.
"He's just doing the best he can, Sam."
Sam turned to look at him, brow drawn and eyes melancholy.
"Is that good enough?" He asked quietly. "Was that ever good enough?"
"It is for me," He lied.
Sam sighed again, turning away.
"Yeah, okay. It's your turn, by the way," He reminded Dean.
"I'm just. . ." Dean hesitated, but Sam looked at him expectantly. "All those things you just said, about it hurting and all? Yeah, me too."
"And I feel like. . . like I've failed. I did fail. I fucked-up, Sammy. I feel like shit because you got hurt and I wasn't there for you."
Because my dad wasn't there for me.
"It's like someone kicked me in the stomach." Dean had been kicked in the stomach quite literally before, more than once, been down on his knees with sharp tears in his eyes from the shock and pain of a well-placed hit that just managed to slip past his defenses, choking and nearly vomiting. Barely was so much worse. "It's my job to protect you, Sam, and I. Fucking. Failed."
Guilt made his throat ache and his stomach coil into knots. He closed his eyes, shutting out the image of the darkened street but not the feeling of Sam's eyes burning holes into him.
"Dean. . ." Sam started. Dean said nothing more, listening to his own rough breathing.
And then Sam was up and moving.
There was a hand on his shoulder, the contact warm. Dean blinked his eyes open to see Sam kneeling in front of him, eyes searching his face, worrying his lower lip with his teeth.
"Dean. . . you didn't. . . it wasn't. . ." He stumbled over the words, and then hesitantly his arms went up around Dean, tugging him into a hug.
Dean froze, and then the terribly familiar feeling of Sam's warmth and Sam's heartbeat washed over him, and God, he hadn't realized he'd missed this so much. He hugged his little brother tightly.
"It's not your fault," Sam whispered, and yeah, alright, but it was, and Dean had to disagree because Sam had been hurt and he hadn't been there and now his brother was broken and. . .
"It's okay," Sam said. And maybe it would be.
The floor was hard, but John had slept on a hell of a lot worse. He woke up quietly when his eldest son crept outside, letting him go without a word.
A while passed, and he drifted in an almost-sleep. Then, there were cat-like footsteps resonating across the floor to where he lay, and he stirred.
He let Sam go by, pretending to be asleep. But he was pretty sure Sam was only pretending to fall for it.
Eventually, both of his boys came back inside near silently, giving him quiet good-nights.
Hours later, morning slipped past the Venetian blinds in gray and silver, the dawn starkly clouded. John woke with it, glancing over to the couch and seeing Dean tangled in his blankets, hair tousled against his pillow and mouth hanging open.
He felt his lips twitch in a half-smile and silently rose to his feet.
Letting Dean sleep, he made his way to the Moore girl's kitchen. She had extended an open-invitation to her supplies last night, and John intended to take full advantage of her coffee maker.
The Moore girl. Jessica. Sam's girlfriend, and wasn't that weird?
He set up the machine and then rested the heels of his hands on the counter-top, breathing in the rich smell of brewing coffee, listening to the familiar dribble.
He turned, and inclined his head to the blonde girl in flannel pants standing in the doorway. "Morning."
"How do you like your eggs?" Jess asked, opening up a cupboard and pulling out a large black skillet. "Figured I'd make something with protein, god knows it can be hard enough to get Rex to eat, might as well give him something substantial right from the start. That man just doesn't appreciate food."
John shrugged. "Over-easy."
"Ah," Jess said, pulling open the fridge. "I would've figured you for a hard-boiled kind of guy, myself."
He made a non-commital noise, watching her move about the kitchen. "Sam still asleep?"
She laughed not quite happily. "Not for long, I'd wager, he's been refusing to take his pills. God, sometimes I think being a hunter's girlfriend must be the hardest job. . . I look at my friends, and all they're worrying about is drunken sorority girls coming onto their boyfriends. Even those girls who date army guys. . . at least they know the only thing that's going to kill their boyfriend is something human."
John poured himself a cup of coffee, letting it sit hot in his hands, listening and watching.
Jess cracked an egg and it sizzled as it hit the skillet. "Did your wife have it this hard, Mr. Winchester?"
He started slightly. "I wasn't a hunter back then."
"Mm," Jess said, nudging the edge of the egg with a spatula. "What happened to her, if you don't mind me asking?"
John did mind, quite a lot, actually. He paused, considering what to tell this girl.
"She was killed. By a demon." He said flatly.
"Oh," Jess said. She left the stove to pop a few pieces of bread in the toaster, not quite looking at him. "I'm sorry."
John sipped his coffee. It scalded his tongue.
"That was. . . that was your first brush with the supernatural then?" Jess asked.
"So, I guess her death sort of started all this, then? The first domino tipping over. The pebble at the top of a landslide. The butterfly, beating its wings. And so on and so forth. Everything that's happened is because she died." She cracked another egg.
John stiffened, slightly. Jessica continued. "This one event, and you shaped your entire life around it, didn't you? Every move you made. Where you lived and what you did and how you raised your children. All because this woman died. Everything that's happened to you, and happened to Dean, and happened Rex. . . it all comes back to that."
Jess glanced at him with blue eyes and then looked away. "Guess some of us just have a bigger impact dead than we do alive."
John set his mug down on the counter with a dull ceramic clink. He moved towards her. "Now listen here, you-"
There was a noise from the doorway.
John turned and saw his youngest son standing there, eyes dark.
"If you touch her," Sam said quietly, "I will make you hurt."
"Step away from her," Sam's voice was flat.
"T.," Jess said softly. "It's okay."
At his sides, Sam's fingers twitched, half-curling into fists.
John put his hands up and stepped back. "Easy, Sam."
His voice was low, the kind of tone he'd used on shell-shocked kids in green fatigues lifetimes and lifetimes ago. Sam's eyes followed him in a familiar way, haunted and wary. No one moved.
"Oh, shit," Jess exclaimed suddenly, breaking the taunt silence and spinning around. Smoke curled upwards, grey and thick, from the mess of what used to be eggs.
She yanked the pan off the stove and dumped the smoldering brown mess into the sink, swearing softly.
"Sam," John said, neither of them breaking eye contact amid the commotion. "I think it's time you and me talked, kid."
Sam nodded, "Yeah. I guess so."
On quiet feet he crossed the kitchen, fingertips trailing over Jess's arm as he passed her. John followed him out.
Dean padded into the kitchen, yawning. He scrubbed a hand through his hair and glanced over at the disaster in the sink as he sought out the coffee pot.
"Morning," He chirped. "Something smells terrible."
"Oh, shut up," Jess snapped.
He shrugged, pouring himself a cup and hunting for cream and sugar.
"So, eventful day so far, eh?"
"Yeah," Jess said, shoving a curl of blonde hair behind her ear. "We're off to a great start."
"Mm," Dean agreed, sipping his coffee. He settled back against the counter. "I find things go smoother when you don't act like a colossal bitch."
"What?" Jess asked, startled.
Dean took another sip. "That conversation you were attempting with my dad wasn't exactly kosher, Jess."
"You heard that, huh?" She asked, tapping a spatula agitatedly against the countertop.
"I was in the living room. That's like ten feet away. Come on." Dean eyed her. "Look, Jess, I don't know if you just get off on pushing people's buttons or what, but some things you should really just leave the hell alone. We don't need you coming in here and. . . kicking the sleeping dogs in the face."
"I was just trying to-"
"Jess. What, you were trying to provoke a reaction, get him to "see the light?" You think you can do that? You've known my brother for what, a little over a year? Okay, you're his girlfriend, sure. Maybe you get some say in that. But you've known me for a week. My dad for less than a day. You think you know our lives? You think you know what's best for us? Do you think you'll just come in and find out what's the cause of all our problems and just magically make it all better with a few words?"
Jess bit her lip and looked away.
Dean sighed. "My dad's wife is dead, Jess. My mom is dead. She died, and she's never coming back, and that's the kind of thing that fucks people up, alright? But even after that, my dad stuck around. He kept us safe. He taught us how to stay alive. You're worried hunting might get Sam killed? Our dad's the only reason Sam's survived this long. And you don't get to come in here with your judgements and a couple of psychology classes and talk shit about my dead mother, alright?"
Jess squeezed her eyes shut beneath Dean's gaze. "Yeah. Alright."
"Good." Dean nodded.
"Dean. . . I. . . I'm sorry," Jess said hesitantly.
Dean dragged a hand down the side of his face. "Okay. Fine. Now that that's settled, I think it's time I go check and make sure no one's committed homicide out there." He gestured at the door John and Sam had walked out of.
"Which one are you worried about?" Jess asked, eyebrow raised.
Dean shook his head. "I have no idea."