Great Men

"I mean it, Sammy. You better quit asking."

He'll probably burn in hell for this, but Dean hopes Pastor Jim slips on holy water for filling Sam's head with that crap. The world's a scary enough place without making it worse by telling a little kid stories that are friggin inappropriate.

You'd think a man of God would have some common sense.

Dean's twelve years old and has seen a lot of the evil that the world has to offer, but up to now, child sacrifice hasn't been part of it. Dean knows Dad's dealt with it before – seriously scary gigs involving pagan gods and altars in high places in the desert, but he never talks about it, never brings those stories home. Even Dad, who's always trying to toughen them up, knows that there are things that are better left in the dark.

"Dean, why did God ask him to do it?"

"Do what, freak? I can't read your mind."

"You know…Abraham and Isaac. Why would God ask Abraham to kill his own son?"

"Oh God, not again. Sammy, it's just a story. Forget about it."

"I tried, but I can't stop thinking about it."

"Well, try harder. Think of something else instead. Think about that nest of ghouls Dad wasted last month."

"I hate ghouls."

"I know. That'll keep your mind off it."

"But why would God ask a dad to do something like that? Isaac must have been scared. I would've been..."

Sam's up again, and he's screaming bloody murder. The room's freezing, but when Dean tries to shake him out of it, Sam's tee shirt is soaked through with sweat and is sticking to his skin. Sam's scared out of his wits, and there's nothing Dean can do but hold onto him through the worst of it.

Dean hates this. It shouldn't be like this, Sammy all hot and terrified, drenched with sweat and tears, and it's not fair because the kid's only eight years old. The bed's soaking wet and Sam's kicked off all the blankets, so Dean picks him up and drops Sam onto his own bed. Slinging an arm over his little brother's chest, Dean pulls him close, knowing it won't be long before he's soaked too. It takes time, but eventually Sam settles down again. Dean can feel him breathing easy and knows he's asleep. Dean can't drop off so easy. Sammy's nightmares always give him a rush of fear and nervous energy, like he's on a job with Dad. He can keep watch. He doesn't need as much sleep as Sam.

But it's the middle of the night, and Dean really wants his dad.

They've been at Pastor Jim's for going on a week now, even though it was supposed to be two days. Dean tries not to complain. Hunting is the most important job in the word, and plenty of lives depend on Dad doing it well. When he's not helping Dad on a hunt, Dean needs to focus on his own responsibility, taking care of Sam. If Dean does his job, then Dad can focus on his – it's as simple as that. There's more at stake than a little kid's bad dreams.

But this is Sam, and Dean doesn't know what to say when he asks his awful questions and wakes up screaming and out of his head. Selfishly, sometimes Dean wishes it didn't have to be like this. But he knows better, he really does. Most of the time, he feels like he's doing okay, but tonight Dean stays awake, listening to Sammy breathe, and he prays like hell that he doesn't screw up the second most important job in the world.

"Do you think Abraham was scared?"

"Sammy, I can't answer that. It's just a story. How the hell do I know if Abraham was scared? The guy was a dick for going along with it in the first place. What kind of asshole is willing to kill his own kid?"

"Abraham must have loved God the best."

"Whatever. It's a messed up story, dude."

"Did Isaac know that his dad was gonna kill him?"

"Shut up and conjugate your Latin."

"But Dean-"

"I don't want to talk about it."

Dean's been poking around the rectory library, doing some research on child sacrifice. The books are dusty and filled with tiny print that hurts his eyes, but all Sam's worrying is starting to get to him.

Pastor Jim's library goes on and on, shelf after shelf of leather bound books. It's no wonder Dad likes it so much. Dean finds a book on ancient cultures and starts reading. Child sacrifice dates back to the beginning of everything but when it comes to evil, not a lot changes - pagan rituals, blood magic, and tiny bones in dark places. The story of Abraham and Isaac hardly rates a footnote. But the story's there, quoted from the Bible, and Dean reads it all the way through.

He can see why Sam's upset. He thought the Bible was supposed to be nicer than this. Pastor Jim's always quoting from it - don't lie, don't swear, and don't steal other people's wives… holy stuff like that. Dean has no idea why Pastor Jim decided that this was the story to tell Sam.

It's pretty ugly. God tells Abraham to take his kid into the mountains so he can butcher him as an offering. Abraham has the kid carry the wood for the altar. It's a sacrifice, some kind of a test, but what pisses Dean off is the fact that Abraham is supposed to be this great dad. If he was some kind of a monster, Dean could understand it. But Abraham is this guy who loves his son but is willing to slaughter him just because someone tells him to.

Abraham gets the poor kid tied down, he's got the knife raised in the air and is just about to bring it down, when at the last possible second, the angel swoops in to save the day. The good guys win, but as far as Dean's concerned, it's one helluva dirty trick. He doesn't want to believe in angels who pull this sort of crap. Even demons know how to play by the rules.

"I won't keep asking, I promise."

"You're lying."

"I won't. I swear it."

"Okay, Sammy. I'll answer one more question, but that's it. Ask me again, and I swear I'll kick your ass."

"If Dad was Abraham and I was Isaac and God told Dad to sacrifice me, do you think he would do it?"

"What the hell? What kind of dumbass question is that?"

"You said you'd answer it, Dean."

"It's a stupid question. Dad loves you. He'd never do something like that."

"But Abraham loved his son too."

"It's a story, dickface.

"I know. I wish I'd never heard it."

Dad is a hero. Dean can breathe in that truth like air. Nobody is braver than Dad, nobody does more good for so many people. Nobody. And Dad loves them. He would do anything for him and Sam. But Dean's got to admit that the story's freaking him out too, and he's not sure what to do about it.

Most of the time, Dean just teaches Sammy how to defend himself against whatever's scaring him. Sam's already learned the basics, and he's getting pretty good. Salt and burn any random bones – better safe than sorry. Kick the thing in the balls if the thing's got balls to kick. Always shoot to kill the first time because it might be the only chance you get.

But this is different. It's not like Dean is gonna hand Sammy a .45 to keep under his pillow just in case Dad comes at him with a knife.

"I need to sleep, Sam."

"But I have another question."

"Your questions suck, dude."

"Please, Dean, it's really bugging me."

"Okay, but it better not be about Dad killing you."

"It's not."

"Okay. Ask."

"So if you were Abraham and I was Isaac, would you kill me…if God asked you to?"

"Sam, I swear I'm gonna kick your ass."

"Would you?"

"No, I wouldn't. What the hell's wrong with you?"

"Do you swear it?"

"No, I'm not gonna swear it. It's too stupid."

"What if someone made you?"

"I'd never hurt you. Nobody could make me, not ever."

"God could. He can do anything."

"Damnit Sam, nobody even knows if God's real. And even if he is, there's no way he'd tell me to kill you."

"He told Abraham."

"I'm not Abraham, and Abraham was a sonofabitch for going along with something like that."

"Do you swear you wouldn't?"

"Yeah sure, I swear it."

"Then swear it. For real, Dean."

"Shit, Sammy. This is stupid. Okay, okay. I swear that I, Dean Winchester, will never kill my pain in the ass little brother unless he keeps asking me the same damn question over and over again. Are you happy? Or do you need me to pinkie swear or something?"

"No, it's okay. I feel better."

"You're welcome. Now will you shut the hell up before I get out of bed and beat the crap out of you?"

"Do you want to sleep in my bed?"

"No, Sam, I really don't."

"Okay. G'night, Dean."

If there's one thing Dad has drilled into them, it's that they're Winchesters, which makes them different than everyone else. Other people don't have responsibilities, not the way that they do. When you're a Winchester, family comes first but so does the job. Dean's not always clear on how both can be true at the same time.

Dean knows one thing for sure. He loves Sammy more than the job, maybe more than anything. He would never hurt Sam, not ever, not even if a legion of angels stood in front of him and ordered him to do it. It's the same for Dad. It's got to be the same for Dad.

Sam's just a little kid. He's confused, that's all. He can't be expected to understand things the way Dean does.

"Pastor Jim, can I talk to you about something?"

"Sure Dean, you know you can."

"You won't tell Dad?"

"Not if you don't want me to."

"It's just that Sammy's been driving me crazy. You know that story you told him, the one where God told Abraham to kill his son?"

"The sacrifice of Isaac."

"Yeah, that's the one. Sammy keeps asking, and I'm trying to answer but I'm just not sure I'm saying it right."

"It's okay, Dean. Just tell me what you want to know."

"Does God ever tell anyone to do that kind of thing now? If there's a God, that is… would he tell anyone to kill their own kid?"

"Of course, there's a God, Dean."

"Yeah maybe, whatever. But if there is, would he ask someone to do that?"

"No, of course not. God had something important planned for Abraham, and he wanted to know if Abraham was up for it. God wanted to see if he was willing to sacrifice the thing he loved the most."

"But why would Abraham do something like that?"

"Abraham was a great man, a man of faith. I think he knew that God would provide a way out."

"But it was wrong."

"You're absolutely right. Child sacrifice is an abomination. If Abraham did it without being told to, that would have been wrong. Because God asked him to do it, it was a sacrifice. It proved that Abraham wasn't going to hold anything back."

"Even his son?"

"Especially his son. A sacrifice isn't a sacrifice if it comes easy. Is this really what you wanted to ask me, Dean?"

"I don't know. It's just that Sammy keeps asking, and I keep telling him it's stupid… but… Do you think… would Dad ever do something like that to me or Sam? You know…if God or somebody important like that told him he had to."

"You're right, Dean. That is a stupid question. Your father loves you boys more than anything. You know that."

"Yeah but wasn't it the same with Abraham?"

"No, it's not the same. It's hard to explain, Dean… I wish your father was here to speak for himself."

"Are you mad at me?"

"No, I'm not angry with you. It's just that you're a boy. You shouldn't be worrying about things like this…"

"Just tell me, and I won't bug you any more. Do you think Dad would sacrifice me or Sam?"

"Oh Dean."

"Please tell me."

"No I don't think he ever would. But…"

"But what? What were you gonna say?"

"I was going to say that great men don't always make for great fathers."

"Pastor Jim? Can I ask you something else?"

"Of course, Dean, anything."

"Don't tell Sammy."

The End

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