Title: Standard Deviation
Summary: Preseries. June 2005. Dean struggles with a new concept of family, while his family struggles with a new Dean.
Disclaimer: Supernatural does not belong to me. Surprised? Me too. The Brotherhood belongs to its wonderful creator Ridley C. James.
A/N: After years of reading fanfic, I've decided to contribute a little to one of my absolute favorite 'verses. I adore Ridley's Brotherhood and I wanted to turn her AU on its side a little by throwing in one of my favorite kinks. No...not that kind of kink. It's not a totally original idea, but I hope that my version brings you all some entertainment.
I must thank LovinJackson for her speedy beta and thoughts. I feel so much better having had someone of her caliber look over this.
It doesn't start or end with a bang. There's no searing pain or all encompassing anguish. No one is there to sooth him through the transformation. There's no bright light or voice to guide him. There's no soft hands and comforting sounds. There's no feeling of confusion or misplacement. He doesn't feel like he's lost or gained anything. He doesn't feel different at all.
He hears the porch door slamming open and shut behind him as the dark blue of the pond comes into view, its soothing water calling to him. He wants to keep walking until he's surrounded by the water, entirely submerged and let the pressure and silence calm him.
"Dean, wait up!" Caleb's voice cuts through the thick afternoon heat as he jogs to catch up.
"Fuck Caleb, just leave me alone!" He shouts back over his shoulder.
"Hey! Language." Caleb shortens his stride as he catches up. He's already sweating just from the quick jog over, thanks to the sweltering day. Sweat gathers and beads at his dark hairline and Dean thinks that maybe his friend should take a dip in the pond too, but he doesn't think that the older hunter is in the mood, and he's not really in the sharing mood himself either.
He doesn't slow down for Caleb or look over, just keeps walking at his same quick pace. "You can stop pretending like you give a shit. I know that you're still working with my dad."
He'd gone along with the idea at first. When 'Project fix Dean' had gone into full swing, he hadn't fought it, confusion and fear clouding his judgment and, apparently, his sense of self preservation.
One botched hunt, of which the details are still a mystery to Dean, had left them all in a precarious situation. There's a witch involved somewhere, somehow, he's overheard enough to figure that much out, but beyond that he's effectively been left in the dark by both his best friend and the Triad. That had taken place over three weeks ago. Two weeks had been how long it had taken his sense of self preservation to finally kick in and take over.
He feels like an idiot. He thought he'd been able to deter his best friend from siding with his father. Caleb hadn't mentioned any potential remedies or solutions for nearly a week, until today, when Dean overheard the older hunter's conversation with his father about a contact with a possible solution to their "problem". And fuck if he isn't tired of being referred to as a problem.
Caleb moves in front of him, effectively cutting him off from going any further. He's close enough though. Twenty feet off from the pond, but it feels like he's standing right on it's shore. He feels empowered and validated. He's not a problem nor is he something that can be brushed aside. He's not some abstract idea to be discussed over the phone or in secrecy. He's real.
Caleb turns and faces him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He notices that Caleb's got that look on his face, the one where he's doing his damn best to placate him. He can already hear Caleb's voice, slow and gentle, trying to diffuse his ever-growing annoyance over this entire situation.
"Dean, man, come on. You've gotta stop this now. You're twenty-six," Caleb's head drops back and he closes his eyes. He's practicing his calming techniques, those ones that Mac used to make him learn. In through the nose, out through the mouth. A moment later they're eye to eye again. "You're supposed to be twenty-six. You know this and we've talked about this. We've talked about it ad nauseam. We're just trying to set things right."
He moves away from Caleb's touch and gives what he hopes is his best disgusted face. "By making me go away? Just say what you mean Caleb, you don't have to sugar coat it for me. You say that you want to set things right but what you really mean is that you don't want me here. Dad doesn't want me here. And neither does the rest of the Triad."
It's true. Jim's never looked so distraught before, at least never while looking at him. The Pastor is doing his best to put on a brave face, but Dean can see through the façade. The act is being put on for his benefit alone, to help protect his feelings. Jim's always trying to protect Dean's feelings, but when Jim doesn't know that he's looking, the Pastor's sadness is unmistakable.
It's Caleb's turn to look indignant. "It's not like that kid. Really. It's not as if we don't want to you here. We just miss our Dean too."
"I am your Dean!" His teenage pubescent voice cracks. Thirteen fucking sucks out loud. Caleb tries to conceal a surprised laugh with a badly imitated cough, but he's not letting his friend off the hook so he keeps going. "Just different. And I know you want me to be him, but I can't. I'm not him yet. So what happens if you never find something to set this right? Do I get to spend the rest of my life playing second best to a different version of myself? What happens if you find a way to reverse this four years from now? Will you off me then? What about in ten years? How about if I have a wife and family? What then Caleb?"
A part of him knows that he's being utterly unfair to the older man, that this isn't his friend's fault. But that part is dwarfed by an even larger part of him that is scared and frustrated. And since the real target of his frustration isn't around, hasn't been around for more than one day at a time since this happened, Caleb gets to serve as a scapegoat once again.
Caleb looks out over the pond, not meeting Dean's eyes as he begins to speak.
"Fuck, Deuce, I know this isn't fair to you. I get that. It's not fair for any of us. But when have our lives ever been fair right? Truthfully, yeah, I want him back. I miss him like hell. I know you're him, different, but him…but at the same time you're not. And it kills me when I consider the possibility that I've lost him for good. And that's not fair to you, but it's as if everything from his life from thirteen on never happened and that was a huge part of my life too."
And Dean does get that. Because he'll never get those years back with Caleb or his family either. They will all have memories that he's not apart of. Events that have shaped and directed their lives that he's not connected to. Inside jokes that he's on the outside of. His best friend is here and present, but at the same time, not. And he's always been able to confide in Caleb. Sometimes he didn't even need to explain what was going on, Caleb just knew. But he's out of sync with this older version of his best friend. He's an outsider all around.
"I miss you too. You're not the only one who's lost someone here. I've lost my best friend, my little brother, my dad and my home."
The loss of Sammy hurts the most. His entire life revolves around looking out for his younger brother, or at least it did before, but this Sam left him and was, as he's been told, more than capable of taking care of himself. The loss of his Caleb and Sammy has left him feeling adrift. No purpose and no support, his mind screams.
Finally, Caleb looks up, meeting Dean's gaze. "I'm so sorry kiddo. But that's just more of a reason to get you changed back."
Dean sits down and leans back against one of Emma's willow trees. The fight leaves him as quickly as it had come on inside the house. He imagines the pond water lapping up his rage, dragging it further away from him until it's been completely diluted. He misses the anger immediately, wants it back desperately so it'll mask the sorrow and loneliness that he feels now instead.
"I can at least help Caleb. I'm not useless, but you and dad keep leaving me at the farm while you take off. I hate being left behind."
Caleb's answer comes quick and leaves no room for argument. "No Deuce. There's a lot going on, stuff that I don't understand yet. Stuff that adult you didn't understand either. Demonic activity has gone through the roof and no way am I letting you get involved with anything more than a well supervised salt and burn."
Dean stays silent for a moment, and stares out over the pond. Maybe Caleb's right. Maybe he doesn't belong here. Maybe he should stop fighting. He's already adrift, maybe just…go with the flow.
"Fine." He says quietly.
"Yeah. Fine. Go." Giving in hurts. But he's got no one on his side, no one who wants to keep him around and willing to stick up for him. His family will be relieved once he's gone and that's probably the worst feeling he's ever had.
Caleb looks unsure of how to answer. Speechless it seems. He'd find it funny but… "Dean-"
"Listen, I said you could go Caleb. Go find a way to set things right. No hard feelings. I probably won't even remember that this happened so it's almost like I don't even exist. You won't have to worry about this weighing on you conscious."
Caleb looks hurt and he's a little glad that at least one other person gets to feel as shitty as he does. "I'll be back in less than a week. You think you can handle yourself until then?"
"Yeah, sure. When will Jim and dad be gracing me with their presence again?" The Pastor and his father had gone out of town to get some hunting supplies from a contact.
"They're about a day out, maybe less. Are you going to be okay alone?"
"Aren't I always?" He says as his attention is again drawn to the water. He doesn't hear Caleb's response, if he has one. He only hears Caleb's footsteps as he walks away.
The remainder of his afternoon is spent under the willow tree and he doesn't rise when he hears Caleb getting ready to leave. Caleb packs his Jeep up and says a quick goodbye before taking off. He can't find it in himself to be angry at the older hunter's hasty exit. If Dean could find a way to change all of his family back to their younger selves, he would be leaving in a hurry too.
After the afternoon has faded to evening, he gets up and walks back to the farmhouse. The house itself has always been nearly as much of a safety net as the Impala, but now he finds that even it has an unfamiliar feel to it.
He prefers sticking to the main level of the house since it's changed the least, only venturing to the upstairs when it's absolutely necessary. Their childhood rooms have changed and it makes him feel like an intruder when he's in them. Walls are bare where there used to be posters. Sammy's childhood toys have been replaced by bulky books. It's just another reminder of how little he knows his own brother now.
He misses his brother so badly that it feels as though there's an actual physical ache within him. Calling Sammy had been one of the first things he'd wanted to do, but the Triad and Caleb refused to give him the number. Dean had snooped around, looking through Jim's office and his dad's journal. He'd tried appealing to Mackland from a psychological standpoint, that it hurt him emotionally to be apart from his brother, but even the Scholar refused. Sam's number was unlisted in the Stanford student directory and none of the school offices would give him the number either. He'd taken Caleb's phone and looked through his contacts, and when that hadn't worked he yelled and pouted. He figured that if he was going to be treated like a child, then he could very well act like one.
His father's anger had been so swift and unexpected that he'd been caught completely off guard. Caleb and Jim had quickly intervened and separated them. He and Caleb had gone outside, allowing Jim to calm his enraged father down within the confine of the house. John Winchester's temper is well known throughout the Brotherhood and outside hunting community and he's seen his dad pissed as hell before, even at him. But he'd never been on the receiving end of his father's anger like this, not to this magnitude. His father had been irate with him and he'd been scared. Once they had moved far enough away from the from the house, Caleb finally told him why they didn't call Sam. Sammy hadn't just left, like he'd been told. His brother and father had fought and Sam had been driven away by their father's caustic attitude and his unwillingness to reason or compromise. His dad's words had pushed Sam away with a finality that not even his adult self had been able to overcome.
He sighs heavily as he sits on the couch and pulls his thoughts back to the present. Thinking of Sam won't help anything. Nothing can help him now, not with his family so torn apart and scattered. Stretching out along the couch he wonders if his dad and Jim had any luck. He could call Jim, but he's completely mentally exhausted and he doesn't want to know the answer. He doesn't want to think about what tomorrow may bring, so instead he settles into his self imposed ignorance for the night and drifts off to sleep.
He's not supposed to sleep overnight on the couch. It's one of Jim's rules, which is a real shame since it's by far the most comfortable couch in existence. It may have been Emma's couch, which is why they've never been allowed to sleep on it, but he doesn't think that she'd mind, just this once. He sleeps late into the morning and then goes out for a run during the afternoon. The air hasn't cooled any overnight, if anything, it's even more blistering than the day before. But the stinging in his legs and lungs dulls the ache in his chest.
While he's out his dad and Jim arrive home, just as Caleb had said. A good night's sleep and the long run helped clear his mind and he's looking forward to seeing his dad. Jim is standing at the kitchen counter making sandwiches as he comes through the back door of the farmhouse.
"Hey Jim. How was your trip? Where's dad at?" He asks as he walks up beside the Pastor.
Jim turns, smiling as he hands him a sandwich, which he takes gratefully. Jim's sandwiches are almost as good as the one's his mother made him as a child.
"Hello Dean. It was just fine and I believe your father is outside by that monstrosity of a truck of his. I'm sure he'll be most happy to see you."
His smile widens as he turns and walks outside through the front door, finishing his sandwich as he moves towards his father's truck. His dad is unloading weapons out of the stowage compartments and into a duffle bag. He hopes that Jim is right and his dad will be happy to see him.
Dad turns at the sound of his voice, but his face morphs into disappointment when he looks at him. The look only lingers for a moment, but it's long enough to catch. Unmistakable, unequivocal, plain as day disappointment. To him, it's the worst look in the world.
"Dean." Dad says as he turns back to the truck.
He battles the urge to turn away and run. He feels a little like throwing up. Maybe a lot. With some effort, he controls his breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, and regains control over his features. He's learned that from the best after all and he's not willing to give up on this relationship, no matter how short-lived. He's already lost Sammy by no fault of his own, he won't let his father push him away. He takes a couple of steps forward, closing the gap between them.
"Can I help clean and organize the weapons?" Say yes, he thinks, please say yes.
His dad takes a deep breath before turning to face him. He knows it's a 'no' before he hears it. "I don't think so Dean. I'm sure that Jim can find something for you to help out with around here if you're bored. This is something that I need to concentrate on. Alone. I can't afford any distractions right now."
His father turns back to the truck without another word. His heart sinks and takes all of his good intentions and determination with it. He feels the burn of tears in his eyes and he quickly turns away before his dad can see him cry. No need to give him more ammunition. He makes his way back to the farmhouse, only to remember that Jim is inside, and he just cannot handle whatever excuse the Pastor will come up with for his father. He changes direction and heads back towards the pond. He doesn't understand what he's done to deserve being treated like this or why his father will barely talk to him or even look at him.
He stares out over the pond once again. It's water has always been a refuge for him, somewhere he can go when he needs time to think. And he really does need time to think because this shit, is not working for him. He understands that they want their Dean back, but they can at the very least try to treat him like a person. The anger that had left the day before finds him again and he welcomes it back. He'll gladly take it back from the pond. Maybe it was just being held safe until he needed it again.
It takes a bit of time until he's regained his composure and ready to face his father and Jim. He needs to lay down the law and create some boundaries for whatever time he has left here. He turns away from the pond and moves back to the farmhouse again. Dad is no longer outside and as he moves into the house he can hear his father and the Pastor deep in conversation. He moves closer so he can hear better.
"Fuck Jim, I just don't know what to do with the kid." His dad says.
"He's your child Jonathan. He needs you to be here for him." Jim responds.
"No. He's not my child." His father responds. The words are dark and harsh and they hit him hard. The air leaves his lungs and he's not sure how he can draw another breath. Maybe he won't. Maybe his father's words will crush the spell like they've crushed his spirit and he'll just cease to be. He doesn't know how his father could say that. He doesn't understand how his father could possibly mean that.
"My child Jim? My child is twenty-six years old. I already raised my child. I don't have time for this…for him. He's of no use to me like this. He can't look out for Sam. He can't hunt without a babysitter. We'll have to train him all over again, which is going to cost us time, energy and resources that we don't have. If you hadn't noticed, things are going to complete shit out there. Hell Jim, he's of no use to you like this either, and you know it."
He's heard enough. There's blood rushing through his ears, washing out Jim's denial. He's always been about family, but this wasn't his family. Not like they were before. They didn't want him, couldn't use him. He'd known that deep down. But it had sounded so much better coming from Caleb.
Well, fuck them, he thinks. He's done. If he's of no use to them, then there's really no reason for him to stick around. He's done making everyone else out to be a priority in his life when all along he's only just been an option in theirs. An option that his father has apparently opted out of. He bites the inside of his cheek as more tears threaten to fall as he heads upstairs to their Dean's room. He has plans to make.
End Note: Try not to hate on John (or me if you're a John lover) too much. He'll be redeemed later on. Thanks for taking the time to read.