By: Karen B.
Summary: Short snippet. Teenchester. Sam's 1995 Division Championship soccer game…but where's dad? Angst Sam. Comforting Dean. Sam -- 12 Dean -- 16
Disclaimer: Not the owner! Not now -- not ever! Not even normal. Just not. Ha ha!
Rated: Angst and fluff
Rated: Young, angst Sam. Caring, but firm, Dean.
Author's note: Inspired by and dedicated to my 'soccer playing' niece. You know who you are, little monkey! Keep that passion close to your heart!
From high up on the steel bleachers, I watched number eight; wearing cleats, shinguards and a red jersey, race up and down the grassy field chasing a black and white ball and using all kinds of crazy, bitchin' footwork. Kid's face was sweaty and as red as his shirt, playing like his life depended on winning.
Soccer -- I wasn't a fan of the game. Didn't really understand the rules. I knew one thing, number eight, a.k.a. Sam, was good. I was almost jealous, but my pride got in the way of that. Sam was good at just about anything he tackled. Homework, bow hunting, scrubbing down the kitchen counter, tracking, smart-mouthing. Kid plastered his heart all over everything he did. Took all of Sam's smart-mouthing to convince Dad to let him play. Soccer took time and cost money -- money and time we almost never had. Sam could get a stubborn grizzly bear to drop his freshly caught fish to the ground with his arguments. Kid'd make a good lawyer someday. I still don't know how he talked Dad into saying 'yes', a rare word coming from the man who was the official Guinness World Record holder of stubborn. The rest fell on me. Carting Sam to the games. Stealing his cleats out of lost and found, playing a few hands of poker with one of his teammates for his shin guards and jersey. Not to mention, doing some fancy footwork of my own to get the coach to lower the registration fee -- a hundred bucks was a bit much -- under fifty, I could swing.
It was all worth the effort. Today Sam's team had just won the championship -- Sammy kicking in the winning goal. He deserved a little fatherly support, a show of pride -- from someone besides me.
As I wolfed down my chili-dog slathered with cheese, gotta love concessions, I glanced around. No Dad. Just a bunch of other kid's moms, dads, aunts and uncles, all whooping and cheering their son's victory. Most dads couldn't wait to see their kid play in a regular game, let alone play for the whole enchilada -- trophy and all. Our dad? Another supernatural circus was in town. So when asked the big 'chicken or the egg' question -- there was no doubt what came first. Shelter, food, weapons, survival gear, saving people, hunting things, not always in that order.
I'd cast Dad as a superhero, the non-flying kind, but a hero just the same. I wasn't stupid, I knew, even heroes could be bastards, although Dad was never a true blue bastard -- not in my book. He'd promised Sam to do his best, to try and make the game. I only hoped if Dad did show, it wasn't like the last time he showed -- at the end of the game.
"It's only a game, son,' Dad had told Sam. 'There's more important things in this world.'
I could still see Sam's face. Dad's words stung -- deadly -- like a scorpion.
I knew why Dad hadn't shown up to a single practice or game. Guy wasn't busy making a living, like most dads. He was busy trying to stay alive, keep us alive. And Sam. Sam was busy trying to grow up, busy bucking Dad, busy trying to be a normal boy. I understood -- both sides. Freak, I understood so much I got to play pickle every other day. Always in the middle. Always trying to keep the peace. Keep Dad from killing Sam. Keep Sam from --- from being hurt. But hurt was what Sam mostly got, and I felt that hurt just the same as he did.
It was weird, but from the day Sammy was born I could feel what he felt. I don't know how, but I did. Damn that kid, anyhow. I didn't like feeling things, feeling things hurts too damn much.
Down on the field, I felt Sam's eyes on me. I didn't want to look. Didn't want to see the disappointed frown on his face. Dad was a no show-- again. I had no choice, turning my attention back to the game. Our eyes met. Sam was standing center field, staring right at me with a lost look on his face. Even from up here, I could see his eyes were watery. I smiled, trying to tell him with my eyes what I wanted to say with words.
'The man loves you, Sam. He's proud of you. No matter what you think. No matter if he shows up to the friggin' game or not. He's doing the best he can.'
Sam, not one to hold a grudge, not for very long anyway, shrugged, shuffling his left foot through the grass. He gave me a half-smile, but I could see straight through that dimpled grin. Could see the disappointment and the emptiness -- kid was crushed. He was a twelve-year-old, forced to the brink of adulthood. Sam just wanted Dad to be proud. To be there -- just for once. I kept smiling, trying hard not to cringe as I watched Sam trot across the field to celebrate the win with his teammates. Kid looked like a puppy that knew he'd missed the newspaper. He was eating his guts out over the fact Dad was a no show, like it was his fault or something.
"Damn you, Dad," I muttered under my breath, knowing there never was a ghost of a chance of him showing up. Hard truths sucked. I stood up with the rest of the crowd, the last bite of my awesome chili-dog falling between the opening, adding to the growing pile of crap far below. Too bad. Didn't care. All I cared about was Sam. Cupping my hands around my mouth, so I could be heard over the roar of the crowd, I yelled, "Way to score the winning touchdown, Sam…mmmm…yyyyy!"
"It's called a goal, get a brain idiot." The heavy set guy next to me snarled.
"Name's Dean." I half-turned, holding out my hand -- he didn't offer his in return -- or his name.
No-name guy dismissed me, going back to his dog. I frowned, guy had a single expression plastered on his face, like one of those giant helium balloons floating over New York on Thanksgiving Day.
"Get a personality," I muttered.
I don't know how I kept my head in the game. Most my attention was focused on the fact Dad was a no show, not to mention Dean's comments from the bleachers. My big brother was cool, and I was beyond happy, he, at least was here, but the jerk didn't know a thing about soccer. Kept calling out football plays -- so lame.
"Your brother's a real douche," Jimmy McPherson nudged me in the side with an elbow.
"Shut up or I'll pound your real-ugly face in," I growled. Nobody got to call Dean a douche, but me.
"Whatever, man." Jimmy went left, I went right.
We were tied, with only a minute remaining on the clock. I was totally out of position when I picked up Jimmy's pass, and made my way down field. We were nearly out of time. What did it matter if we won anyway. Dad wasn't here to see, and Dean -- Dean was proud of me already. I could fall in a muddy pigsty and come up smelling like pig, and big brother would still be proud. Up in the stands, I could hear Dean yelling -- no surprise there.
"Hail Mary, Sammy, go for it!"
"Wrong game, dude, " I mumbled, but decided Dean might have a point.
I gave the ball a swift kick, shocked and stunned when the ball squeaked past the goalkeeper and blasted into the net. The whistle blew -- we'd won the game -- the whole burrito. My teammates hoisted me up on their shoulders, carrying me off in a victory parade. Everyone was cheering -- pretty damn happy -- I was pretty damn crappy. Normally a kid's dad would break an arm and a leg, stop traffic, stop time, stop the world, just to get to their kid's championship game. Not my, no sir, yes sir, no sir, whip cracking, dad. Nothing normal about him. Nothing normal about me. For us Winchester's, family togetherness was standing around a grave watching bones burn. A soccer game didn't hold a matchstick to the supernatural monsters out there. Still, it would have been great to see Dad up there in the stands next to Dean, with a proud look on his face. That proud look I still sometimes dreamed about. But he was Dad. Out wadding in the dark mist of evil, and I never gave the man much reason to want be proud. Obviously straight A's didn't matter. Only thing that mattered to Dad was finding the thing that killed mom. Dean didn't think I understood. I got it. Cat's in the Cradle -- I got it.
Someday, I wanted to be a dad. A different kind of dad. The kind of dad who was around when his kid won or lost a game. I wasn't going to continue to let supernatural stuff kick the shit out of my life. If I couldn't be a normal boy -- I'd be a normal dad. I'd be there for my family. Go to every damn game. Watch every play. Put a quarter under their pillow for every tooth they lost, not a silver bullet. My kids wouldn't hide under the covers, scared 'cause a bunch of zombies were trying to bust down the motel room door -- eat them alive -- eyeballs and all.
My kids weren't going to watch their dad play poker or blackjack, in a sleazy bar, in the middle of the night just to make a few bucks because they hadn't eaten in three days. And they were not going to smell whiskey on their dad's breath when sitting around the breakfast table. They were going to take lessons in violin, not lessons in pulling punches. Every rule, every move, every piece of information would not be geared toward finding the thing that killed their mom. Because their mom wasn't going to get killed. Because everything about my family -- was going to be normal. I was going to stomp the crap out of this Winchester life. Go to college. Maybe even change my name -- for real.
Finally wiggling away from my teammates, I walked off to be alone. Didn't need to be bringing everyone else down. Didn't need Dean calling me a whiny bitch. And if Dad did show up -- I didn't need him either -- game over.
I made my way across the field, shouldering through the mob of hyped-up players, overexcited, smooching families swollen with pride and coaches basking in the glow of their win. I cringed dodging a crushed group-hug.
"Eww," I groaned in disgust, positioning myself center field, and looking around. Sweeping the area, the thrum and hum of the crowd seemed to fade as I concentrated on finding my geek brother.
Typical Sam --while everyone else was celebrating, he'd traipsed off. Not many places to hide around here. I stared up into the bleachers - vacant -- except for a few paper cups, and a forgotten backpack. I made my way across the field, checking out the museum of outhouses. Should have known that'd be a bust. Sam just assume use a tree, river, bucket or bush. I checked out the school, all the doors were locked. Standing on the front steps at the entrance of the school, I checked out Mrs. Valentine the art teacher. Susan, I think her first name was. She always had a stern look on her face and kept her long, brown hair tied tightly back. The old-fashion, black-rimmed glasses she wore added to that old schoolmarm look. But underneath her bad vision and frumpy clothes, I'd bet to hell Mrs. Susan Valentine had some damn near dangerous curves -- she could beat me with a ruler any day.
I shook the hormones from my head -- both heads -- and made my way back toward the parking lot. Finding the Impala empty, there was only one other place to check out. A place I knew well. Was the space kids went to ditch school, drink vodka, smoke their first smoke, have sex, feel sorry for themselves. Should have been my first guess.
I made my way under the slotted aluminum bleachers. The temperature shifted and I shivered even though my leather was zipped all the way up. I'd forgotten how dimly lit, stone-cold and filthy it could be under these things. This was the one place everyone dumped their leftover crap -- not that Sam was leftover crap, but I knew that was how he was feeling. Left over and left out of Dad's mind. So here I was again, stepping in. Playing pickle, playing father instead of big brother. Picking up the pieces -- picking up Sam.
Sam's back was to me, he was just standing there. Shutdown. His shoulders were hunched, and he stared longingly out at the field, at the rejoicing normal families. The view was a hard one on Sam -- a field of dreams sending arrows his way.
I felt bad for the kid, I really did. It's a tough ride being a Winchester. Not easy being in the middle of the fight between good and evil. It's a fight worth fighting, however. And Sam had to toughen up -- it was only going to get tougher. Having that sort of daisy-white life baby brother wanted would be nice -- sure it would be. But that'd also be like saying it's okay to let all those people Dad saved, or was going to save, die. Our life wasn't so bad. We had each other. We were saving people. Sam needed to snap out of this cheesy, drama school frame of mind.
I didn't make an effort to be quiet. Crunching over gritty gravel, shuffling my way through the cafeteria of gross.
Sam sighed long and hard, "He didn't show, Dean," Sam said without so much as flinching, still staring out at the field.
I wasn't surprised by his dull tone or even by the fact that the kid didn't even bother to turn around to make sure who it was doing the crunching.
"You don't say."
"He doesn't care."
"How can you say that, Sam!" I growled. "Dad cares, he cares a lot."
"He never cares! He never shows! Never!" Sam hissed like a wildcat.
I sighed, shaking my head in frustration. Sam was Sam, and Dad was Dad. Two friggin' bulls always facing off, heads lowered to the ground, pawing dust, snorting, locking horns -- full of rage. Me? I was the gay rodeo clown. With my painted face, torn up Wrangler jeans, dancing around with colored handkerchiefs. Dancing around Dad. Dancing around Sam. Ankle deep in their shit and most times getting T-boned -- dangerous job.
"This is dumb, just dumb, Sam."
"Yeah it is!" Sam agreed. "Check it out, Dean!" He whirled on me, angrily, arm sweeping the area in a 'where is he' gesture.
"So, uncheck it out, Sam! I yelled. "He couldn't make it. He has his reasons. This hiding out, getting pissed, the whole 'poor me' thing you got going on…it's not cool and it's not going to help anything, Sam!" I stepped closer, laying a hand to his shoulder. "Just take some dirt and rub it on their white picket fence..." I waved an angry hand toward Sam's field of dreams. "Sammy, their lives aren't any better. They have their problems, too."
"And their dads still showed up to the game." Sam tried to pull away, I clamped down on his shoulder and held Sam in place. "I mean, does the man even exist, Dean?"
"Enough of the sad, 'daddy doesn't love his little girl' shit." I gave Sam a hard shake. "Listen up, man." A manuscript of words lingered in my head, but I knew spending a lot of words trying to get the point across would ultimately fall on Sam's deaf ears. "There is no secret formula to family, bro. No better dad out there. The man is who he is. Mom didn't just die, she was killed right under his nose. She was the best part of him. So, he's forgotten how to play catch, kiss a skinned knee, come to a game. Hell, the man has forgotten how to laugh, how to cry, even forgets to eat half the time. I'm not saying it's the way things should be, Sam. Or that it doesn't hurt like hell. I'm just sayin'…" I glanced away from Sam's sad watering eyes searching for the right words. "Sammy…" I turned back "He hasn't forgotten how to back down. Hasn't forgotten he has two sons he's desperate to protect." A breeze swept through Sam's hair, his child-like eyes moist, trying not to cry. "Any dad can show up to a game, Sam," I softened my tone. "Do you think any dad can stand up to what's right? Never back down from a fight. Keep going when what he really wants to do is lay down and die. He's Dad, Sammy, and he's doing the best he can." I shrugged. "We all are." I waited for Sam to contemplate his next move say something smartassed -- he didn't budge. I continued, "All these thoughts tearing through your head -- they've got to stop. You've got Dad Sam. Maybe not the way you want him. But you have him. And you have me. Your awesome big brother." I gave a gentle squeeze of his shoulder before I let my hand fall away.
"Dean…" Sam swallowed. "I just want him to be proud. I want to stop seeing the cold hate in his eyes. I just…" Sam glanced down at the ground, biting his lip.
"Just what, Sam?"
Sam shook his head, obviously not wanting to say.
"Bro!" I reached out a hand, placing my palm flat to his chest and shoving hard --physically pushing baby brother to spill what.
Sam stumbled back a step and said, "I just…it'd be nice…" Sam scuffed at an empty box with the toe of his cleat. "I just wonder what it would be like to be normal," he said, head still bowed. "Don't you ever think that?"
I stood silent, with not much else to say, watching my brother's pain -- feeling my own. I could lie to Sam, but I couldn't lie to myself. Sure I thought that. I'd lived it. I missed the man I knew as a kid. The dad he was before mom was killed. Before Sam was born. The hugs. The storybooks. Walking hand in hand. Playing ball. Cradled in his arms when I had a bad dream. Sam never knew that man. John Winchester wasn't that father anymore. I understood Sam's pain, his want. But I couldn't let him bind into it. Dad wasn't there for the kid in the 'normal' way Sam needed him to be, but I was here, and I could try to give my brother a little bit of normal.
"Ice cream's normal," I spoke up. "What do you say, short stuff?"
Sam didn't budge.
"Ladies, first." I waved a hand before me.
He still didn't move.
"Let's go," I ordered.
Sam was unmovable -- the Rock of Gibraltar.
"I was here first, Dean, you go."
"Kids these days," I garbled. "You just want to stand there all day in your bunny slippers?" I eyed his shoes.
"Jerk," Sam bristled.
"Come on. I'll buy you some. Any flavor you want." I took a step forward, punching Sam hard in the arm.
"Ow!" He looked up, rubbing the area.
"Want a double scoop, whiny bitch?"
"No, thanks, Dean. Let's just go home."
Gibraltar decided to move, and we walked out from under the bleachers side-by-side back into the warm sunlight. Back toward the car and the crappy trailer park we were living in.
"How 'bout a beer instead?" I laughed.
"Hell… no!" Sam sounded shocked.
"Kick in the ass?" I nudged Sam playfully with an elbow.
"Dean." Sam gave a little laugh, nudging me back. Gibraltar had cracked under my awesome brotherliness.
"I'll beat you in a game of Yahtzee, short stuff," I challenged.
"Why Yahtzee?" he asked. "Why not poker?"
"Classic, normal family game."
"We're not your classic, normal family, Dean, and one day I'll be taller than you."
"Never happen," I growled. "So…" Change of tactics. "That game of yours was like a no-hitter, man. You guys slaughtered the other team." I ruffled his hair knowingly.
"Dean…in soccer we don't call it…ah never mind," Sam dismissed.
"Ice cream it is." I decided for captain stubborn number two. "With sprinkles or without?"
"Dad's still an ass," Sam whispered, inching a step closer to me.
"You're still short," I whispered back.
"With," Sam smiled.
"You got it!" I gave Sam a hearty slap to his back as we reached the car.
Sam wasn't alone in this crazy life, and this crazy life kept me just sane enough. Sane enough to hope that one day my little brother could have that normal life. Maybe I could even ride on the kid's coattails when he did. If anyone could find the pot of gold surrounded by a white picket fence, Sam could. Like I said, Sam plastered his heart all over everything -- just like dad.
Years later:: John's lockup. Episode: BDABR
"No way! That's my Division Championship soccer trophy. I can't believe he kept this."
"Probably the closest you ever got to being a boy," Dean said fondly.
I took the brief moment to wipe the dust of the token of my youth. Holding the old trophy in shaky hands, my flashlight spotlighting the engraving. Wasn't my real last name, but I didn't care. At the time, all those years ago, it seemed so damn important, Dad being there for me. I shook my head, only half-aware of Dean rummaging around behind me. I'd misunderstood Dad, and Dad had misunderstood me.
"Huh," I mumbled.
Finding the trophy after all these years, debunked any leftover childhood theories about the man. Dad was more normal than I'd ever thought. A man, not a superhero. Caught up in extraordinary, if not horrifying, events. He'd kept the damn trophy because he wanted to, not because he'd had to.
I shivered almost feeling Dad's presence here in this room.
I choked back a sob. Dad trained us hard. Taught us that losing and giving up were never an option
I could hold on to that as I tried to hold onto Dean.