A new sort of Christmas
Summary: It's Dean's first Christmas without Sam. With John drunk and unpredictable Dean leaves and ends up at Stanford, his emotions in conflict. Can Sam help him decide? Non-slash, different setting of events in series.
Warnings: Drunk! and Mean!John, mention of suggested molestion (I know, horrible, I didn't like writing it as much as people don't like reading it), angst, kind of different storyline. It doesn't go like the original storyline goes.
Disclaimers: I don't own Supernatural.
They had been without Sam for over six months when Christmas rolled around. Dean was careful not to mention previous years with Christmas, because they had Sam in it and John got angry hearing Sam's name nowadays.
When they got to a new town John bought a supply of good ol' Jack and Scotch. Some beers too. Dean didn't say anything about it but hoped it wouldn't end up too badly. John had been more or less good when he had both of his kids around, but with the youngest gone he had gotten more unpredictable. Dean hated that. That he steadily had begun to cower when John's voice or hand rose.
True, he had a black eye telling why he did it but that wasn't the point. The point was it was Christmas, Sam wasn't there and Dean didn't want to be there either. He didn't want to sit in some shit-ass motel room watch his father get drunk and hoping the man wouldn't get angry and take it out on the first available person; Dean. Being hit wasn't what hurt him, it was who hit him that pained Dean the most.
He was such a coward to not hit back. He moved away, clinging to the walls, getting out of the door, pretending to go to sleep or lock himself up in the bathroom but he never, ever hit back. He was such a loser.
The worst thing was when John became delirious due to the alcohol. Then he wouldn't hit, true, but he would touch. Or at least try to. Dean didn't let him get very far with that. He may be a coward and a loser but he wasn't gonna let his own father rape him just because John couldn't see the difference between Dean and Mary. He wasn't that pathetic just yet.
A hand grabbed his arm, hard, and Dean tore away. John dropped the first Jack Daniels to the floor and Dean scooped it up before the remaining liquid could run out.
"Go to bed, dad," he said quietly.
"Don't you order me around boy," John growled and began to stand. He took a staggering step and extended his hand. "Give me that bottle."
A fist. Dean was unprepared. He felt the taste of blood in his mouth and his head was turned to the side by the force. His cheek felt raw and tears fell down. He couldn't stay. He couldn't let John do this. He silently handed over the bottle and John collapsed back into the chair, turning dull eyes towards the television where there was something Christmas-related on. Dean went for the door after making a detour to his bed.
"Where are you going?"
"Just to get something to eat," Dean lied. He held his bag in his hand.
"Whatever." John hadn't even moved his eyes from the TV. If he had, he would've noticed the strange look on Dean's face.
But now he didn't, and Dean walked out of that life.
It hadn't been with meaning that Dean ended up driving to Stanford but here he was. He wasn't sure Sam would welcome him with open arms. Maybe he would punch Dean too. The man had begun to feel oddly detached to all that and figured it wasn't a good thing. His eyes had dried up and refused to let a single tear fall on the way to the city. That maybe wasn't a good thing either.
There he was. Sam. Dean looked at his little brother and saw he was alright. He looked happier. His smiles showed his dimples and that made Dean happy even if during these six months he had forgotten how to smile himself. He wasn't sure how to make it work. He had tried in front of a mirror several times. All he got was a grimace.
People approached Sam. Dean tensed for a moment but then realized it was Sam's friends. Strange thing. His little brother always strived to have friends whenever they came to a new school, a new place. Dean knew it was useless and never bothered. He had closed off his heart to such things. The only person he cared about was Sam.
And he saw Sam didn't need him anymore. Sam had a new life. Dean was just an unpleasant memory of the past. The man lowered his eyes, sighed and started the car before driving away.
"Whoa, check that ride, man!"
Sam looked around to see what his friends were looking at, and his eyes widened. The back of the Impale vanished behind a corner and he knew it was Dean who was driving. Their dad had given it to Dean when the teen had turned eighteen, and Dean didn't allow many people to sit behind the wheel. But Sam didn't get it. It was Christmas, so why wasn't the guy with their dad? He hadn't spoken to either of them since he left so he didn't know how they were dealing. Maybe they were just fine, and Dean was just swinging by to see how Sam was doing.
He dug up his phone. Well, if Dean wanted to know how Sam was doing, he would pick up. He excused himself and jogged away from campus, towards his new albeit cramp apartment. He didn't care it was small, it was his and he loved it.
It took Dean four signals to pick up.
"Hey, Dean," Sam said hesitantly. He could hear the engine of the Impala even through the speaker.
"Oh… Sam. Hi."
Dean's voice sounded kind of weird. Sam frowned and said:
"You okay, man?"
"Yeah, I'm fine…" It got quiet and Sam heard the car slow to a stop. He waited and grew worried as he heard a sort of choked breathing. "No. No, Sammy, I'm not okay."
"Where are you?" Sam's brain was running overtime and the moment Dean managed to say the address the tall man was running down the street.
The Impala sat parked to the side and he could see the silhouette of his brother inside. He came to a stop next to the car, panting a little before he knocked on the window. Dean whirled his head around and Sam's eyes widened.
Dean opened the door carefully and stepped out. He held himself gingerly, cowering back as if not wanting Sam to get too close, and his cheek was swollen, bruised and he had a black eye.
"Hey," he said. His voice was quiet. Subdued. Not like the brother Sam had left behind six months prior.
"Did dad do that?" Sam asked flatly. "Did dad do that to your face?"
Dean didn't answer. But he didn't reject the idea either. And that made Sam's blood run cold.
"He did, didn't he? He hit you." Sam touched the bruised cheek, gently, like a feathery touch and Dean just looked at him. "Dean, don't tell me you're going back there."
"He didn't even look at me," Dean said. "I picked up my bag and left, and he didn't even look at me. He probably doesn't even know I'm gone."
"Dean, I want you to come with me to my apartment, okay? I want to lay some ice on your eye and cheek. Okay?"
Dean nodded but didn't move.
"Want me to drive?" Sam asked. He had a driver's licence. But he also knew Dean was possessive over the car and didn't want to push.
"Sure," the older man said and Sam knew Dean was far from fine.
Dean looked around the place. It was small but kind of comfy. There was a Christmas tree standing in one of the corners of the living room.
"I got it cheap," Sam said as he set down the bag. He turned back to Dean. "I'm not expecting any gifts but I just wanted a tree."
"Mom loved Christmas."
It hurt every time Dean talked about their mother because his voice would sound so lost. Sam took Dean's arm and replied:
"Yeah. I know. She wouldn't love your face right now though. Let me put some ice on. Sit."
Dean sat down on the chair in the small kitchen and figured it wasn't good he couldn't feel any throbbing in his face. It was like he had detached all pain too. He wanted to feel joyful around Christmas. This was far from joyful. This was just pathetic, even for him.
Sam came back with an icepack. Dean wasn't sure what good it would do. He felt numb and he didn't want to feel numb. He wanted to laugh and tell rude jokes, make fun of Sam's Christmas tree before going out and secretly buying his little brother a gift. Yet he didn't move from the chair.
Meanwhile Sam was worried too. Outside the fact their father had apparently beaten Dean his big brother was in an awful state. His short hair was ruffled and greased, telling Sam next thing Dean was getting was a shower. He looked very tired and sad, and his clothes hung on him. Had Dean lost weight? It wasn't like he ate a lot before Sam left. He saved the scrapes of their money buying everything Sam needed. He felt a little guilty expecting so much from Dean and then just leave.
"I'm gonna put the ice on," he warned. "Tell me if it hurts."
"It doesn't hurt," Dean said and looked at him. "Everything stopped hurting a long time ago. Or maybe it hurts, I just don't feel it."
It made Sam's blood run cold. He pressed the icepack to Dean's eye and said:
"Hold that, okay? I'll go get your bag."
"Because you're staying here."
And it wasn't up for argument.
Dean looked a little better when he had showered and changed, but he was still appearing empty and lost. The man Sam had left six months ago was not the shell sitting in front of him.
The man snapped to attention and turned his head to Sam. The taller smiled a bit, reaching out and was glad Dean didn't move back. He stroke back the wet hair and down the bruised side, just brushing over the cheek with the tips of his fingers and then letting his hand drop.
"What happened between you and dad?" he asked.
"What didn't happen?" Dean replied. He looked over at Sam. "He… I don't know, Sam, he changed. He's drinking."
"It doesn't happen that often."
"But often enough to cause you discomfort."
Dean looked down at his hands. "I don't know why I can't hit back," he whispered.
"You're not thinking about going back there, are you?"
"I can't do it," the man said and shook his head. He looked up at Sam again. "Unless you want me to leave—"
"No! no, I want you here," Sam reassured and grasped his brother's hands without thinking. "I like school, and I got friends but… it's not the same thing without you, dude. No one to wake me up in the mornings singing at the top of his lungs, no one calling me 'geek boy' and no one who's there anytime I need him to be there."
Dean felt his muscles in his face shift. Sam's eyes glittered the same way they did whenever Dean smiled at him. The man relished in the different muscle-shifting.
So this is how you smile. Good to know. He felt Sam squeeze his hands and focused back on his brother.
"I haven't been the most helpful brother," he stated. Dean opened his mouth. "No, Dean, let me finish. I haven't been a good brother. You did everything for me and I demanded more. The moment I could, I left you behind. I kept nagging on and on about things such as Christmas, and I'd get angry when you couldn't get a tree into the motel room. I was a spoiled brat."
"No, you weren't."
"Yes, I was. I want to make up for it." Sam didn't release Dean's hands. He liked holding them, knowing Dean was by his side. "Let me take care of you for a change."
Dean couldn't find it in him to protest.
Sam left a note next to his sleeping brother as he prepared going to the last day of school before Christmas. He didn't want to wake the man and hoped Dean wouldn't panic when he woke up.
Before he went home after classes he would hunt down a gift for his brother, and some cheap Christmas food. Not too much, but just something to get them into the mood. While he was thinking over this, taking the stairs down two steps at the time, he hoped John wouldn't call Dean's cell. Or his own.
For both of their sakes.
To his surprise he found Dean right where he left the man; on the couch but it quickly became apparent the man had been up at some point of the day. The note was lying on the kitchen table instead and a few things had been used and then rinsed. Dean was asleep once more, his bruised side of the face looking quite horrible. Sam wondered how his neighbours would react if they saw him.
The tall man put down the bags and looked over at the couch. Dean touched his black eye gingerly, left it alone and yawned. That aggravated his cheek and he sat up instead. He looked tired, even in his eyes. Tired and weary of the world, and he wasn't even twenty-five. Sam felt like crying but instead he smiled and said:
"Hey. You alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. You've had classes this long?"
"Yeah, you know, collage isn't that easy as you think," Sam said and started unpacking into the fridge. "Stopped by the store on the way home though."
"I could've gone with you."
"And I would've been crowned the 'big, mean boyfriend' and you the 'scared, petite abused man' of said boyfriend."
Dean grimaced but knew it was probably what some would think. Saying 'You should have seen the other guy' thirty times for one shopping trip was not appealing to him. So he got up and walked over to the kitchen. He peered around his brother to see what was there but Sam shut the door before he could get a decent look.
"I don't want you to look in there," Sam said.
"Why not?" Dean asked.
"What if I want something?"
"I'll take it out for you."
"Dean. We can do this all day."
Dean gave up and sat down.
"So…" he said. He looked down at the table and his clasped hands. "You… you're okay with me staying here?"
"Yeah, of course. I wouldn't let you leave."
"Missed my singing that much?" the man asked with a grin. The muscles worked faster now, and the grinning already felt natural to do.
Sam didn't fall for the humour. He sat down and said:
"Don't joke this away. This is serious, Dean. If dad calls I'll ignore him. If he comes here I'll kick him out. I'm not letting him getting close to us anymore."
The worst part was when Dean didn't complain about it.
Winchester Christmas had been as far away as Christmas as possible. Sam even remembered one time they just finished a Wendigo on Christmas morning. He had been fourteen, Dean eighteen. Their dad didn't even know it was Christmas. He wanted to move on, and so they did. Even if Dean had turned eighteen Sam knew his brother was careful just exactly what to say to the man. Even back then Dean had been careful around their father. And he never mentioned Christmas around John just as the man preferred to ignore its existence.
Sam therefore expected too much of Dean when it came to holidays. Dean had done his best over the years. The younger brother figured it was his time now.
He had managed to talk Dean into taking the bed in the small bedroom so now he could get up (with a few more knots than usual, damn couch) without disturbing his brother. It was a wonder he managed to sneak around in this place with all the squeaking floorboards. Somehow he made it and soon he had a few gifts under the tree and some breakfast going. He was starving and he was sure Dean did too.
A couple of minutes went by, then a floorboard squeaked. Loudly. Sam turned around. Dean was scowling at said floorboard, apparently the noise was too much this morning and then he looked up. The two brothers stared at each other. Dean rubbed his eye, leaving the black eye alone and said:
"Real mature, Dean. Want something to eat?"
"Hell yes…" He was looking at the tree. Or rather underneath the tree. "You bought presents, or am I hallucinating?"
"You're not hallucinating."
"Sure I didn't get dad's Jack Daniels and downed it?"
"I'm quite sure."
"Oh… okay. Presents then. Why?"
"Because," Sam said and shrugged. "Come on, food's over here."
Dean's stomach growled.
"Listen to your stomach," the man continued with and grinned at Dean.
"Shut up." But he did come. After he had seated himself he glanced over at Sam and smiled. "Bitch."
Sam didn't miss a beat. "Jerk."
That was better than any gifts ever.
A couple of car magazines, candies and some oil for the Impala later Dean looked over at him.
"Sorry I didn't get you anything," he said. "It wasn't exactly on my mind when I started driving."
"You don't have to give me anything," Sam said.
"No. That was before, when I was a brat."
"You still are, bitch, and don't deny it."
"Alright, I still am one," the younger laughed and flopped down on the couch next to his brother. "You know something?"
"I'm not the all-knower here."
"Fine, fine. I just want you to know I like this. Just you and me. Celebrating Christmas or whatever. Just us."
Dean's phone vibrated where it lay on the coffee table. He reached out and grabbed it.
"It's dad," he said.
The Christmas lights lost their colour to Sam. He sat up and looked at his brother. He didn't want Dean to pick up. He didn't want dad in their life ever again.
Now he watched as his big brother turned the phone around, removed the shell and then the battery. The vibration stopped. He took out the card and replaced the battery, then put down the phone. He fell back and held up the small card to the light.
"I got an idea," he stated.
"Why don't we go and get ourselves new numbers?" Dean asked. "And cancel these?" He waved around with the little card. "That's my gift to you. Our first step away from dad. He'll probably come here but we don't have to go with him this time."
"I never thought you would ever say that." Sam flew up and got his phone. "I have to tell my teachers and friends about my new number but I don't mind. You're staying here, right? We can tell you were in a bar fight if a friend comes over, and I'm sure you can get a job around here-"
Dean stood up. "Breathe, dude, breathe. First rule of life; to maintain it, you gotta breathe." Sam stopped rambling. "Alright. Listen up. Yes, I'm staying unless you kick me out. No, hear me out." The younger man closed his mouth. "And fine, we'll tell them I was in bar fight. But just because the other guy started. And about a job… you know I can handle myself."
Sam knew that all too well.
"And if dad comes?" he asked.
"Calling the cops won't do much," Dean said. "So I guess we just have to tell him to leave."
"And if he doesn't?"
"Then we punch him once each and tell him to go to hell. It's up to him to figure out if we meant it literally."
Oh, this was Sam's best Christmas ever.
Judging by his brother's grin, it was probably Dean's too.
A bit different Christmas-tale. Hope you guys still enjoyed it. And sorry for those who like John, he just needed to be mean in this one.
Until another time,