"On patrol." Sam raised an eyebrow. Dad never went on patrol first thing in the morning. "Eat up and then I'm taking you to school." Dean turned back to the sink and the dish washing. His shoulders slowly inched upward as Sam stared at him in confusion. Dean couldn't possibly take him to a school that floated above the city. "You're going to Maxville High now," Dean finally mumbled. "Dad already called them. He doesn't want you hanging out with the superfriends anymore."
"Dean!" Sam put his food down on the table and moved over to stand next to Dean, who didn't look at him. Sam leaned forward over the counter, tilting in, trying to get Dean to focus on him. "He's not here. Just let me get on the bus, you don't have to-"
"Dad's orders." Dean sloshed the water around, viciously sudsing up a glass. His voice sounded brittle.
Sam wrinkled his nose. "Look where we'd all be if Warren thought like that."
"Don't you dare, Sam," Dean hissed, his fingers tightening until the knuckles went white, and Sam thought for a second that the glass would break.
Sam didn't know what to say to convince him. He'd never had to convince Dean before, never had Dean stonewall him like this when he really wanted something. Sam's heart raced. "Please. Dean, they switched me to the hero track. You know the vision I had that you saw? My powers got stronger. I can see people's plans. I can do this now." He sent Dean an image of himself getting on the Sky High bus, Dean waving goodbye to him from the door.
Dean finally looked over at him, but his eyes were still cold. "What does it matter? You don't really want to be a superhero anyway. You hate what we do."
"I don't- I don't hate it." Dean shook his head at that and Sam continued, leaning in closer. "I've got these powers no matter what, I have to learn how to use them and control them." Dean kept frowning. Sam knew he was on the wrong track. "I think- I think I want to be a politician or a lawyer. Really be able to change things, help people, not just stand by if the FBI comes for you and Dad."
"Help people, huh?" Dean was looking down at the dishwater again, but Sam nodded anyway. Dean sighed. "Finish your breakfast. Then I'm driving you to Maxville High."
The food was an uncomfortable lump in Sam's belly all the way there. He'd left Warren's essay on the table, telling Dean to read it and to show it to Dad, but he wasn't sure if that would do any good.
"Meet me back here right after school!" Dean yelled as Sam got out of the car and joined the throng of kids streaming in the school gates. Sam hunched his shoulders and didn't wave or say anything in return.
As soon as he was through the gate and out of Dean's sight Sam wandered away from the crowd, quickly cutting around the corner of the huge brick building and jogging to the back of it. He stared up at the roof, flexing his bandaged fingers and beginning to climb, ignoring how much it hurt. Once at the top he sank down to sit on the gravel that covered the roof, leaning against the low surrounding wall and kicking his backpack in front of him.
He sent a message to Warren, made sure it was received, and then waited. The next ten minutes ticked by painful and slow, with nothing for Sam to think about but the stinging in his hands and the way Dean had looked at him.
Finally a speck appeared in the sky, resolving into Will and Warren as it swooped down.
"Hurry up," Will said, hovering just above the gravel. "I can't be late for second period math again."
Sam looped his backpack over both his shoulders and threw an arm around Will's neck, wrapping his fingers around Warren's arm, as Will grabbed his waist and took off. The school dropped away below them, the whole city quickly spreading out in miniature. It should have been exhilarating but Sam couldn't appreciate it. The wind was harsh and abrasive against his face.
"So what's going on?" Will asked, yelling past the wind.
"My dad doesn't want me going to Sky High anymore," Sam answered. "He thinks it's too dangerous."
Will shrugged. "Well, I'm glad you're back. It's where you belong."
"How, uh, how are your parents?" As soon as he asked Sam somehow felt guilty about them as well, even though he couldn't see how it was at all his fault.
"They'll be fine." Will tried to laugh, but it didn't come out right. "Dad's pretty hard-headed, and he kinda cushioned Mom's fall."
"What about your mom?" Sam rubbed at Warren's arm.
"Furious. I think she might remarry my father just so she could divorce him all over again."
"I like your mom," Will said, and Sam nodded.
They burst through a last layer of cloud and the school platform floated just ahead. Will dropped Warren and Sam off on the front lawn and zipped inside. Sam stood there awkwardly, tugging the straps of his backpack and staring at Warren, just a few feet away.
"You okay?" Warren asked.
That made it better, somehow, but Sam still didn't know what to do or say next.
Warren jerked his head. "I should get to class."
It was probably the most inappropriate thing in the world to think of right now, but Sam pushed Warren back against the stone pillar of the school sign and kissed him. Warren's chest felt warm under Sam's palms, even through the layers of bandages and clothing, and he opened his mouth to the kiss. Sam was suddenly glad that they'd been interrupted at the dance, because this, this made him feel right rather than nervous, and he didn't want that to change. He might want to do more eventually, but draw it out, make it good. They ought to talk about it.
Warren's arms wrapped around his shoulders, and Sam left off sucking on his tongue and moved down to nip at his neck. "Whatever." Warren's throat rumbled under Sam's teeth. "It's just history. They're all dead already, nothing I can do for them."
Sam pulled back, giddy-light with relief, flashing his best evil smirk. "I should go, I have mad science. I like that one." He started walking backward.
"You better run, at that," Warren called after him, and a fireball splattered on the path, nowhere near Sam. Sam turned and sprinted up the steps to the school, laughing.
The rest of the day was weirdly normal, for the most part. Dad apparently hadn't bothered to tell the school that he was pulling Sam out, so the only thing Sam got in trouble for was missing first period. No one but Warren knew that Sam had been there to catch the Baron. The attack at Homecoming was the talk of the school, except when Warren was around. A little bubble of silence followed him through the halls as he scowled at everyone.
At lunch everyone fussed over Sam's burns. Magenta asked him how much they hurt, Zach asked him if he'd had a cute nurse at the hospital, and Layla offered to give him a bunch of aloe plants. Warren climbed on Sam's lap and tried to spoon-feed him until Sam pushed him off onto the floor and the rest of the gang cracked up.
On his way to catch the bus a flyer on the bulletin board caught Sam's eyes and he pulled it down and folded it up to stuff in his pocket.
Dean was sitting on the front stoop when Sam got home. It was entirely possible that his face was just stuck in that scowl now and Sam would never see him with another expression again. He didn't move as Sam walked up and stepped past him, didn't speak until Sam's hand was on the doorknob.
"Where were you all day?" Dean asked quietly.
"At school." Sam ducked inside and Dean followed him in. Sam dropped his backpack on the floor by the sofa. "At Sky High." Not that it hadn't already been obvious, what with getting off the school bus just now. "Where I study a rigorous curriculum of the arts and sciences as well as my superpowers."
"You disobeyed Dad's orders." Dean's voice was still too quiet.
Sam spun around, pushing right up in Dean's face, pulsing hot with anger. "Is that all you ever talk about?"
"What do you want me to talk about?"
"I took down the Baron!" Sam threw up his hands in exasperation and Dean caught him around the wrists, gentle but firm.
"I know, I saw. You were great." The scowl was slipping off Dean's face, replaced by a soft smile, but his green eyes were still distant. "Probably working that psychic mojo, combining it with our techniques, pushing through the injury. It was a good job. But you shouldn't have been in the middle of it. And you shouldn't have told anyone about the family business."
Sam could have argued that Warren had figured it out for himself, but that wouldn't help. There were lessons to be learned from that security breach. They could wait. Best to let Dean think for now that Sam had actually made a decision about it. His anger was deflating, leaving him unsure how to respond.
The door to Dad's room opened and closed, and Sam's anger flared again.
"Dean," Dad said. "Don't encourage him."
Dean let go and Sam turned to face Dad.
Dad still looked cold and blank with fury. "Sam, Dean's told me everything he knows about what you've been up to recently." He held up a sheaf of papers. "And I read this. It doesn't make any difference." Dad ripped Warren's essay in two, dropping the pieces to the ground. "I knew it was a mistake to let you go to that school. It's too dangerous. You're not attending it anymore and I don't want you associating with any heroes again. Or villains."
Drawing himself up to his full height, Sam tried to look as cold and unmoving as Dad did. "You can't stop me. They haven't rescinded either my admission or my financial aid and according to school policy they won't unless I get kicked out."
"If you won't agree to obey my rules, we'll be moving again."
Technically Sam could attend Sky High from anywhere in the country, but that wasn't the point at all. The point was that he was sick and tired of Dad acting as if he owned Sam's life, as if Sam were just another version of him or an item in his tool belt. Move here, move there, go on patrol, wear this costume, follow orders. "Feel free. I'm not going with you. I've got friends who'll let me stay with them." He wasn't actually completely sure about that, but he said it anyway. This wasn't about his friends, or his powers. This was about having the freedom to make his own choices and control his own life.
Dad's grimace was darker than his beard. "Dean, start packing. Just stick Sammy's stuff in with yours."
Sam's stomach twisted up. He wasn't actually sure if he could go through with this.
Dean just stood there.
"No, sir," Dean said.
"What?" Dad sounded as shocked as Sam felt. Sam didn't remember ever hearing Dean say that before.
"No, sir," Dean repeated. He was staring at his feet, hands clenched together in front of him. "You're not gonna win this one. You're gonna drive Sam away. I can't- I can't let that happen." Sam reached out to touch Dean's shoulder and Dean flinched back, head dropping even lower.
The unexpected motion was like a cold spike through Sam's belly. He bit his lip as his heart pounded, looking up at Dad, who was staring at Dean as if he'd never seen him before, weighing him like the criminals they caught.
"I'll think about it," Dad finally said. He paused for a moment with his mouth still slightly open, then closed it, shook his head, and disappeared back into his room. Dean's shoulders slumped like he'd just been released from bonds that were holding him upright. He walked into the kitchenette and leaned forward against the counter. Sam went and stood next to him, facing the other way, the edge of the counter biting into the backs of his thighs.
Pulling the flyer from school out of his pocket, Sam unfolded it and reread it before handing it to Dean. Wanted: assistant bus driver and mechanic, it said.
"For your flying buses?" Dean asked, his voice rough, eyeing it suspiciously. Sam nodded. Dean snorted and set the paper down to open the cupboard. "What do you want for dinner? Your options are spaghetti or spaghetti."
Sam tilted in a little closer, his shoulder touching Dean's. "Actually, what I'd really like is some spaghetti."
"Always so demanding, Sammy," Dean grumbled. Then he laughed. The sound of it made Sam grin with relief. The cold, twisted feeling in his chest smoothed out. He leaned into Dean more firmly, resting his head against the soft spikes of Dean's hair. "Get off me, you freak," Dean complained, but he didn't move away.
Sam was perfectly content not to go anywhere.