Title: Many a Winding Turn
Warnings: Cursing, cruelty by the author in trying to make you love characters that you know horrible things will happen to.
Characters: Sam, Adam, Dean.
Word Count: 4515
Summary: On the side of a Nebraska road, two abandoned brothers bond. Later, Sam will understand; this is where it all began. Prequel to 'Bump in the Night.' AU Season 2 with Extra Added Adam.
Disclaimer: I once had a hermit crab. It died because I sucked at taking care of it. I'd imagine the Winchesters are much the same—good thing they belong to Eric Kripke and the CW, and not me. :P
Author's Notes: Do not be fooled. This looks like a warm, fuzzy little story about brothers and the bonds they forge. It is not. This story is a prequel to 'Bump in the Night' and 'Capstone' and was written specifically to make them more painful. I am a sadistic son of a bitch. You have been warned.
Background info: This is an AU Season 2, picking up shortly after John's death. The ghouls struck early, but this time, luck was not on their side. With the help of his brothers, Adam survived the incident, but not without consequence; everyone in his hometown (and the FBI, to boot) is convinced that he is a psychopath who murdered his own mother and a beloved community police officer. He now travels with Sam and Dean, mostly because there's nowhere else for him to go besides prison. Dean is not taking it well.
Please know that I am not trying to vilify or hate on Dean with these stories. He has his reasons for acting this way, and they will be explored, I promise. For now, this is a one-shot, but I have other ideas that I might build upon to better expand the 'Season.' Until then, all reviews are appreciated, as always. :P
It's early. Sam tells himself this over and over again. It's early in the morning, early in our relationship, everybody is bound to get a little cranky. Repeating this mantra is the only thing that keeps him from diving out of the Impala at 70 miles per hour to escape from…
"I already told you; we're going somewhere we can dump your ass so we can actually get some work done." Dean is having trouble adjusting. He's not used to having two little brothers, especially one that is so much younger than him; a full eleven years, by Sam's count. It'll pass. It'll pass.
"And I told you; I don't need a freakin' babysitter! You can leave me by myself. I promise I won't drink the stuff under the sink or stick my fingers into the sockets while you go shoot condiments at werewolves or whatever." And Adam… well, Adam isn't used to having anyone. From what Sam's been able to gather, Adam was pretty much a latch-key kid for most of his life, his mom off working ungodly hours at the hospital just to keep food on the table (or in the pantry, for Adam to cook and then put on the table).
"Oh, for God's—It's not condiments, you little twerp, it's rock salt and it doesn't even—have you opened the fuckin' diary?" Sam subtly bashes his forehead against the Impala's window, pretty much entirely certain that neither Dean nor Adam will register it over the sound of their incessant bickering. He and Dad were never this bad.
"Yeah. Riveting, really, but it'd be better if Dad's handwriting didn't look like he was drunk and holding the pen with his tongue…"
Sam hears the crackle of the leather as Dean's grip on the steering wheel reaches strangulation strength. "You don't get to… his name is—"
Sam cuts him off with a glare sharp enough to saw through iron. Dean hasn't accepted it yet, Sam knows, but Sam doesn't want Adam to know, not when their entire dynamic is so new and fragile to begin with. Dean gets pissed every time he hears Adam use the word 'Dad' to talk about John, and Sam's had just about enough of it. Get used to it, he thinks, silently wondering if he can start using telepathy or something send mental text messages to his older brother. Not that he needs it, but it'd be nice to be able to communicate the nuance of a message like 'the fact that Adam is just as much of a stubborn ass as you should be a clear indication of shared blood' instead of just the expressive equivalent of 'STFU DEAN }:O.'
Adam is deathly silent in the backseat, and Sam is almost afraid to look at him. "Fine," he suddenly says. "You don't want me to call him Dad? I won't. He didn't exactly live up to the name, anyway."
Dean slams on the breaks with a force that he will apologize for later. The Impala slides to a halt in a cloud of dust and scorched rubber. His jaw is clenched in that certain way that makes Sam worry his head is going to literally blast off of his shoulders like a gore-filled rocket from his soaring blood pressure. His eyes are trained on the road, his knuckles white from clenching the steering wheel like it's a snake he is trying to crush. "Out," he seethes.
To Hell with his headache. Sam can't let him do this. "Dean…"
"Fine," Adam spits, and reaches for the door.
"Adam, no. He didn't mean that. Dean, just… enough, okay?" Sam is so very tired of this. Was this what Dean had to do for him? It's exhausting.
"No, Sam," Dean says, voice coiled and low like a cobra preparing to strike. "You heard him yourself. He said our Dad wasn't his Dad. He ain't my brother. I got no reason to put up with his shit."
"Look, we're all kind of pissed off, okay? Just… nobody say anything until we get to the next motel." Silence is golden. It is platinum, gold, diamonds and rubies encrusted on a magical box that holds the secret of Life.
Dean shrugs and takes his hand off the wheel. "This car ain't going nowhere with him in it. I'll kick his ass to the curb myself if I have to."
The door swings open with a speed and force that skirts just under blatant disregard for the safety of The Car. "Fuck it, fine. I don't care. Nice knowing you."
"Adam, wait…" Sam says, turning around, but Adam slams the door, and Dean slams the gas, peeling out at full throttle and doing even more damage to the tires. Sam grabs his hair for a second and pulls. "Stop the car."
"No way, Sammy—"
"STOP THE DAMN CAR."
Dean flinches. Sam hasn't yelled like that in years, he knows. The last time he can remember doing it was the last night before he left for Stanford, and he can see from the minute, almost imperceptible way that Dean flinches that he is thinking the same thing. The Impala rolls to a much gentler stop.
Sam makes a visible effort to calm himself. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Breathe, Sam. "You leave two brothers on the side of the road, or you leave none. Take your pick."
The hardened obsidian shell of Dean's anger cracks just long enough for Sam to see the superheated glow of the molten grief underneath, but it doesn't last long. Dean shrugs, sealing up the cracks and looking at Sam like a traitor. "You want to disrespect a dead man? Fine. Get out. I'm sure you two 'll have a great time talking trash about our father together."
The newly-appointed middle Winchester just sighs and shakes his head. "I'll see you soon, Dean," he says as he exits the Impala, pausing only to grab his bag from the back. As soon as he closes the door, Dean is off again, driving loud and loose to a point where Sam genuinely worries he'll crash if he keeps going like that. And he never worries about Dean crashing the car. Not really.
Looking back, he sees Adam walking slowly towards him, partially obscured by the early morning fog. The weather isn't the most pleasant—a wet chill that makes him feel violated, like being watched by a creepy stalker, with overcast skies and a low-hanging cloud of mist that is both ubiquitous and patchy at the same time. Adam is determinedly staring at the ground as he walks, dragging his feet like he wants to leave nothing alive in his wake—not even the grass. Fortunately, Sam doesn't quite fit under his foot, and he practically bumps into him before he realizes he's there.
"What are you doing here?" Adam asks. His face is still closed, still guarded, but the question is honest.
Sam shrugs. "Thought you could use some help."
Adam bristles and straightens up. He can't quite equal Sam's height (though he's probably got another year or two of growing to look forward to), but the change in posture adds inches and makes it obvious that he is prepared for a stand-off. "I don't need your help."
Sam smiles, shoving his hands in his pockets and shifting his posture to submissive. Body language means a lot, especially when it comes to the males in a pack and the things they butt heads over. Sam knows they aren't animals, but Adam has a pretty clear need to feel like he's in control, and Sam's willing to give him that, for now. "Never said you did. Like I said, I thought you could use my help. I'm just here if you want me."
Adam looks a little surprised, staring at him for a few seconds like he's trying to discern if Sam is speaking a language that only sounds like English, with a completely different definition for every word. Frustrated, he looks beyond Sam to the road, staring at the point where the Impala disappeared behind an outcropping of trees. "…is he always such a dick?"
Sam shakes his head. "Not always. Dad's death… he's not taking it well, at all. It's killing him." Literally, Sam nearly adds, because Dean seems less alive, less Dean with each passing day. There has always been a kind of 'glow,' a light that Dean possesses that seems dimmer with new each sunrise lately.
Adam shrugs, looking down and fiddling awkwardly with the shoulder strap on his duffle. "Yeah, well… he's not the only one missing somebody. I mean… he wasn't Father of the Year or anything, but he showed up sometimes. That's more than some people get."
Dad, Sam thinks, is not the one you are missing. But Adam won't talk about his mom, refuses to even broach the subject, and it is Sam's educated opinion that this is much more out of Adam's own need not to shatter like a dropped snowglobe than it is about Sam and Dean not having had a mother. "Dad always tried," Sam agrees. "He didn't always succeed, but he always tried."
The two of them stand in the stillness of the morning. Adam won't look at Sam, face pinched, and Sam recognizes the grief that's pressing against it, constantly increasing the pressure and begging for release. The thought blindsides him, and he cannot believe he didn't realize it sooner; Adam is a newly-minted orphan. They all are, technically, but Adam is the only one who is still a child, and the only one who, until recently, was a stranger to loss. Sixteen years old, lost his father and mother within a month of each other, had his mother for his whole life and his father barely at all and Sam doesn't know if that makes it better or worse. He won't cry in front of Sam—somehow having developed the macho sensibilities of his Father's side of the family without even having met them—but he clearly needs someone right now, no matter how much he denies it. Dean needs him too, but… at this precise moment, Adam is a 16-year-old orphan with no one to look out for him and Dean is a 27-year-old ass-hat who only acts like he's 16. Adam needs him more, and for Sam, the decision is as simple as greater-than-less-than. The scale tips towards the youngest.
It'd be nice if he didn't have to choose between them, though. Just saying.
Adam breaks the silence. "He's not coming back, is he?"
Sam ruefully shakes his head. "Not today. Tomorrow, maybe, he'll have cooled off enough to think about it."
Adam nods, still not meeting his eyes, and more silence stretches to fill the gap.
"So, I guess we're walking for a while, huh?" Sam says.
When Adam looks up, his eyes are utterly open and completely honest for just a second. The image lasts just long enough for Sam to memorize it. "Thanks, Sam."
He smiles. "What are brothers for?"
Adam snorts. "Hell if I know. Target practice?"
"Only on Tuesdays," Sam grins, and they start walking together. Completely on impulse, Sam swings an arm around Adam's comparatively scrawny shoulders and is kind of shocked when Adam doesn't immediately shrug him off (though he doesn't put up with it for too long).
He doesn't know it now, but later, Sam will look back at this moment and understand that this is where it all began. This is where he picked up the mantle of Big Brother and swore to do his family proud. This is where Adam went from a sharp, smart-mouthed kid that happened to share his blood, to his sharp, smart-mouthed little brother. This is where Adam became family.
He doesn't know it now, but later, Sam will look back at this moment and understand. And he will wonder if all of them would have been better off if he'd just stayed in the car.
They talk. Frivolous stuff, at first, of course. Adam's still feeling him out. "You play videogames?"
"Not as much now, but yeah, I've played a few."
That earns a grin. "Which one's your favorite?"
Sam has to think about this one. He was necessarily partial to portable games. Those, he could play in the car, even if the beeping and blooping occasionally drove his family batty. "Uhhh… the Game Boy one. Link's Awakening?"
There is approval in Adam's eyes. "Definitely a classic. Mine is Majora's Mask."
Sam thinks for a second, trying to remember which one that was. "…the one with the freaky-looking moon? And the three day time loop?"
He remembers that one. He always found it kind of frustrating. "You liked that one?" he asks honestly. If he wants Adam to trust him, he has to earn his trust with the truth.
If Adam is offended by Sam's tone, he doesn't show it. "Yeah. It was really… I don't know. Cool. Different."
"True enough, I guess, but I hated the whole 'three days' thing. I always felt rushed, and you had to remember what stuff went where on what days…"
"Yeah, but when you did it right, it really paid off, you know? Like, you could see the good stuff you were doing on Day 1 have an effect on Day 3."
"But then you just had to reset everything back to Day 1 again, right? So it was all moot anyway."
"Nah. Well, I guess some of it could be, but the big thing was stopping the freakin' moon-pocalypse so everybody would have more than three days to sort out their problems anyway."
"Huh. I guess you're right… still, though; I just couldn't get into it. It's probably just me, but… man. If I ever got stuck in a time loop like that, I'd go nuts…"
"Oh, come on, dude. Everybody wants to be the Green Ranger."
"Not everybody. Dean wanted to be the Black Ranger."
"Dean wanted to be a black guy?"
"No, I'm pretty sure he just wanted the costume. Said it'd match the Impala better."
"Can't argue with that logic. Though… wow. Now that I'm thinking about it, how racist was that show?"
"It wasn't that bad. I mean, black guy, Black Ranger, that's not exactly PC, but…"
"Asian chick? Yellow Ranger?"
"Stereotypical valley girl? Pink Ranger?"
"'Valley girl' is not a race, Adam."
"Fine. But I'm pretty sure it was mentioned somewhere that Jason was part Native American. Jason, the Red Ranger."
"No way, man. Tommy was the one who was part Native American."
"Oh. Well… uh. Wait, he eventually became the Red Ranger anyway. So, ha!"
"Touché. Still, I'm pretty sure they didn't do it on purpose."
"Dude, that's the worst kind of racism…"
"…that's kind of… disappointing."
"When you compare it with the modern Hollywood depiction of werewolves, I guess it kind of is, isn't it? Still pretty nasty, though. Not something you'd want to run across."
"And silver kills them?"
"Silver, and nothing else we know of."
"That's so weird, man. I mean… I was studying anatomy, and it just seems like anything that could make a hole big enough would do the job."
"You'd think so, but I've seen things that can walk off point-blank shotgun blast to the face. These same things get just a little dose of the right stuff, and they drop like flies."
"Man… I kind of wish I could study something like that."
"Yeah. Think about it—you get one of those things on an operating table, do some experiments, learn what makes it tick, how it works… there's no telling what you could find."
"Would it be alive while you operated on it?"
"Well, yeah. Much more informative that way."
"Dude! That's twisted! I mean, a lot of these things can talk."
"Hey, I never said they'd be awake. I'm not a sadist."
"But you'd experiment on them like animals? Strap 'em to the operating table whether they wanted to go or not?"
"…nah, I guess not. They'd have to be willing, give consent, whatever. Or maybe just do something to really deserve it."
"In that case, you might need to sharpen your scalpel, because some of these things really do deserve it."
"Being dissected alive?"
"All that and more."
"Cruel and unusual punishment, man."
"Cruel and unusual creatures, buddy. The punishment fits the crime..."
"…what if you took its head off?"
"That's vampires, dude. And certain kinds of zombies. And—"
"No, I mean, have people tried it with anything else? From what I can tell, these are mostly flesh-and-blood creatures. Or... flesh-and-blood-and-some-other-stuff… either way, hard to do much without a head."
"I don't know. I mean, it seems like it might work, but there's got to be a reason no one really recommends it. Surely someone has tried it at some point."
"So do most of these things just have invincible necks? Or do they grow new heads? Or reattach the old ones?"
"…I don't know. I've never seen anyone try it. Usually, people just stick with the tried-and-true methods. Hunters pretty much rely on the predictability of what they're hunting. Experimentation in the heat of battle is a good way to wind up dinner."
"That's a good point, but… I mean, say you don't have any silver. You're ambushed by a werewolf or shapeshifter or something, and you need to kill it. Taking off its head seems like it'd be a pretty good idea."
"If you're ambushed and unprepared, you run, Adam. I'm dead serious. Never fight something you're not ready for."
"Whoa, easy, I was just shooting the shit with you, Sam."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you, I just… I don't want you to get killed because I gave you bad advice. Or, you know, for any reason. I know this is all new and it probably doesn't even seem real yet, but you can't mess around with these things. They will kill you, and they won't think twice about it."
"I'm just trying to look out for you, man. And if it makes you feel better, maybe one day when you're older, we'll take a road trip or something, crossing the country, lopping the heads off of as many monsters as we can and recording the results. Maybe we can get them published in a medical journal."
"That sounds gloriously fucked up. Mad Science at its best!"
"They called me mad. They laughed at me! Well, WHO'S LAUGHING NOW? MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!"
"Crap! Dean always gets me with those."
"Probably because you keep staring off into space. One must be attuned to one's surroundings at all time, Samuel-san."
"Alright, grasshopper. You wanna play? Let's play…"
"Oh, shit! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, fine… just… might not want to do any two-armed tasks for the next few days…"
"Wow. I didn't think I hit you that hard."
"Sam, you're twenty feet tall and you hunt monsters for a living. You hit hard."
"You're right. I'm sorry."
"I hope I didn't bruise your delicate flesh."
"Seriously! You're just so soft and squishy."
"Look at that baby fat. I could just pinch your cheeks!"
"Paws off, pedo bear."
"Come here, you adorable little…"
"Help! Child molester! Stranger danger! Bad touch, bad tou—owww."
"See? Soft as a baby's bottom."
"You suck. Friggin' jerk…"
"Little bitch—holy shit."
"What? What is it?"
"Nothing, I just… wow. Nothing..."
"…okay… fine. I admit it... I am delicate… I am a soft, delicate little flower and I am wilting like Hell. Can we… please just… call a cab… or something?"
"Sorry, buddy, I don't think we can afford the fare. This probably isn't anywhere close to a place with an actual cab service."
"Can we… uhhh… catch a bus? What about Greyhound? They go everywhere, don't they?"
"Not everywhere, unfortunately."
"Well… shit. Fuckin'… Dean. Asshole. Hate that guy."
"Yeah… sometimes, he is kind of a jerk. But only sometimes."
"'Asshole' is pretty much the only mode I've seen him in so far."
"He's not all bad. In fact, he's pretty damn awesome most of the time. He practically raised me. Dad was off hunting so much that most of the time, it was just me and Dean. He always took care of me."
"I guess Dad wasn't really there for you, either, was he?"
"…you know, we could always steal a car."
"You're tired of walking, right? I'm sure there's a car somewhere around here we can get into. It'd be a good thing for you to learn."
"Uhhh, no! No it wouldn't!"
"You never know…"
"I do. I totally know. Stealing is… wrong. Against the law. Bad, naughty, no-no."
"Dude, you're such a Boy Scout."
"Yeah, actually, I am."
"Huh. That's… actually kind of cool, but beside the point. I don't know if you've really thought about this, but you're pretty much a wanted criminal already. You confessed to the murder."
"I killed the thing. How was I supposed to know it was an it?"
"You weren't. You know that, and I know that, but it's gonna be really hard to explain 'shapeshifting ghouls' to the cops. We operate outside of the law because that's the only way we can survive. Like it or not, man, we're pretty much a family of criminals, and sooner or later, you're gonna have to do something illegal."
"…hey, you okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I just… I'm… I'm done, aren't I? My old life… 's gone. There's no going back. Ever."
"Oh, shit. I'm sorry. Shit, I wasn't even thinking, I didn't mean to bring that up."
"It's okay, Sam, I just…"
"…let's stop and rest for a little while. I see a shed over there that I bet we can hide in for a few hours."
Sam can hear Adam's labored breathing as they walk to the shed, and it's fairly clear that there's more to it than simple fatigue. When they arrive, Adam drops his duffle immediately and walks hurriedly out the door, saying he needs to piss. If his eyes are bloodshot and red-rimmed when he returns 15 minutes later, Sam figures there's no need to comment on them. The bleeding knuckles, however, are not something he can ignore.
"What happened to your hands?"
"Punched out a bear on my way back," he replies without looking up, sitting on a small workbench.
Taking another look at his hands, Sam sees bits of bark stuck between long fingers. "I'm guessing your 'bear' had leaves and a trunk?"
"Maybe," is Adam's sullen reply. Upon looking at his hands, however, even he seems a little shocked at the damage he caused. "…should probably disinfect this."
Sam gets the first aid kit from his own duffle, but when he tries to actually do anything with it, Adam snatches the kit out of his hands and mutters "I can do it myself."
He presses down the irrational surge of anger at Adam's blatant rudeness. He can't blame him for being a little raw right now—he just went through his very own Ceiling Fire, had his eyes opened to the horror that lies just underneath the skin of society and will never again be able to close them, not completely. "Alright. I'm gonna make a phone call. Yell if you want anything," he says, and steps outside.
Calling Dean goes straight to voicemail, and as understanding as Sam tries to be, Dean is really starting to piss him off, so he leaves a brief message about being attacked by a bear, ending with "but it's okay, Adam punched it out."
He considers calling Bobby or Ellen and attempting a long-distance puppy act to get them to send a ride, but he quickly scraps the idea when he realizes he doesn't exactly know how to tell them his location. He winds up staring off into the distance, contemplating the color yellow as the sun begins to set.
When Sam gets back, Adam's hands are expertly bandaged, the first aid kit is put away neatly, and Adam is sitting against the wall, head tilted to the side, snoring and dribbling a thin stream of drool onto his jacket, and… oh boy. His eyes dart around the room as Sam follows Adam's advice to 'attune' himself to his surroundings because there is a small, extremely irrational part of his brain that expects Dean to materialize from the very æther to chide him for even thinking this but… fuck.
It's adorable. Damn it.
Of course, then he remembers that Adam hates being thought of as adorable, and this pushes him to capture the moment in digital memory to be preserved and used as blackmail material for the rest of his life. And that is his only motive behind taking the picture. He will stick by that story to his grave.
Sitting down right next to him, Sam thinks only for a moment about waking Adam up, and the idea leaves him quicker than it came. The little guy (but then, who isn't little standing next to him? Ha-ha) has had a tough day, a tough couple of weeks, actually, and now he has fallen into a tough life, one that will only get tougher from here on out. And as much as every cell in his body is demanding he protect Adam from everything, he knows that's not possible—he will have to make sure Adam toughens up as fast as his circumstances, or Adam will be the one to pay for it.
But that comes later. Later, Dean will cool off enough to realize that he just abandoned his little brothers in the middle of Nebraska, will hate and guilt himself over it and probably lash out worse than ever because of it. Later, they will find the Demon and face him down in a battle they aren't likely to win. Later, Sam will investigate the mystery of his supposed 'destiny' and the plans Yellow-Eyes has for him. Later, he will try to understand his Father, the reasons he gave and the reasons he really had for raising them the way he did, the darkness that hounds them and the curse that seems to run in their blood. Later.
Now, Adam is unarmed, exhausted, and alone in the world. Now, he has someone who needs him. Now, Sam has a job to do, and he intends, for once in his life, to follow his Father's orders without question. Now, Sam will stand as a sentinel, protecting his little brother from anything he needs to be protected from, watching over him while he sleeps and rests in preparation for the long, bumpy road ahead.
It won't be easy for any of them, but Sam has faith. They'll be alright.
He's sure of it.