Attachment Theory

Summary: 10-yr-old Sam wanted to be rid of his rival for his brother's attention but he never meant for Dean to get hurt; and thanks to his little brother's meddling Dean finds out the hard way why hunters should never fall in love. One-shot. Pre Series.

A/N: Just before I finished writing this fic I read "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's", a story by Jedi Sapphire, one of my favourite authors. That fic is set at a Supernatural convention and one of the panel discussions was entitled "Supernatural and Girls: Why does Dean Winchester want to sleep with every woman in America?". Coincidentally I think this fic may well pose a plausible answer to that question.

So this one is dedicated to Jedi Sapphire whose fics always hit the spot.

A/N: Once again, beta services were provided by Ericka Jane.


"Attachment - a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings,"

- John Bowlby, Psychologist

"Attachment theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans."

- Wikipedia


Arguments with his father tended to leave Dean bent out of shape but this one had him storming away from John red-faced and fighting back tears.

The quarrel had been raging in the parking lot of the dingy hotel the Winchesters were calling home for the next week.

A stunned, Sam had been watching through the window of the room he and Dean had just been told they would be sharing. He couldn't hear what his father and his big brother were saying, but he knew what they were fighting about.

Julie.

As the yelling escalated, Dean couldn't believe the rotten turn his luck had taken. He'd been having the best summer of his life at Pastor Jim's house where his Dad had left him and Sammy saying they needed "a normal vacation". For more than six weeks they had been in the same house, sleeping in the same beds and playing with the same kids.

John had spent most of that time away, calling in every few days to check up on them. Then he had shown up, told them to pack and now they were on the road again; where to, Dean wasn't sure. But he knew one thing, his dream summer was over.

The tension had been rife in the car as they had driven away from Pastor Jim's place. Dean sat in the passenger seat, sulking for a good two hundred miles of interstate road. He'd ignored his father when John had tried to make conversation, snapped when Sam tried to get him play road games and refused to eat when John pulled over for a lunch stop.

When the Impala pulled into the parking lot of the dilapidated motel just before dusk, Dean had exploded. The detonator had been John's announcement that they would be staying at the rest stop for the remaining two weeks of summer.

"Why couldn't we have just stayed at Pastor Jim's until it was time for school to start," Dean wanted to know.

"There are jobs to work in this area," John said calmly, his unaffected tone causing his elder son even more aggravation. "I'll be linking up with some other hunters and I'll need your help as well. The holiday's over."

"But I liked staying at Pastor Jim's," Dean protested. At fourteen his breaking voice still had a tendency to get high pitched when he was complaining.

"I'm glad you had a good time Dean," John said evenly. "I sent you and Sammy to Jim's because you both needed a break from the road. But your summer is over now and it's time to go back to work."

"But I made friends," Dean protested as if that alone would be enough to make his father take him back to the clergyman's house. "I didn't even get to say goodbye."

"I know this isn't about friends Dean. I know this is about that girl."

Dean's face reddened.

Not just any girl.

Julie.

The girl with the long dark hair, innocent eyes and small, slim maturing body. The girl who had instantly stood out from the rest of giggly, adolescent females who gathered at the ball park daily to scope out the guys, although they feigned disinterest. The girl who had been trembling the first time he kissed her but was sweet enough to pretend that he hadn't been shaking too. The girl who had invaded his thoughts and stolen his heart and made him wish that the summer would go on forever.

"Pastor Jim told you didn't he?" Dean was caught between anger and embarrassment.

"Jim didn't tell me anything but I know that he caught the two of you in the church of all places?"

"He promised he wouldn't tell! And we weren't doing anything," Dean said pointedly. Then under his father's penetrating gaze he faltered and looked away. "Well ... we weren't doing that Dad, I swear to you."

"It's not a matter of what you were or weren't doing with that girl Dean. It's that you broke the rules. What is it I keep telling you?"

"No attachments," Dean recited automatically.

"No attachments," John repeated. "In our line of work, if you get attached it makes it difficult to hit the road and keep moving. When you start getting caught up with what you're leaving behind it makes it difficult to focus on the job."

Dean felt his eyes filling up and blinked rapidly to arrest the tears before they fell.

"No attachments Dean," his father repeated. "Am I clear?"

Dean glared at his father, eyes laced with anger and defiance.

"Dean," John put a little more force behind it. "Am. I. Clear?"

"Yes sir," Dean said.

Before John could say anything else Dean turned and rushed away. Sam could tell from the way he hurried off, that Dean was upset. Quickly, Sam let himself out of the room and went after his brother. He followed at a distance as his older sibling walked across the street to a small park that was all but deserted. Dean dropped dejectedly onto the nearest bench, slumped forward and covered his eyes with his hands.

"Dean?" Sam said, approaching cautiously.

Embarrassed, Dean looked away not wanting his little brother to see the tears that had flowed freely once he had been out of his father's presence. But Dean wasn't quick enough to fool Sam who saw his brother's tears and panicked.

Without waiting for an invitation, the ten-year-old launched himself at his older sibling.

"I'm sorry Dean," Sam said, grasping desperately at his brother's T-shirt. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen. Please don't cry."

"I'm not crying," Dean insisted frantically trying to dry his eyes. But he was too overwhelmed by the day's events to put on a convincing show. And when he realised his mop up job was a flop, he got up and tried to talk away.

"Don't go," Sam insisted, holding on to Dean's arm.

"I wanna be alone," Dean tried to disentangle himself without applying too much force.

"Please," Sam begged, tightening his grip.

Unable to resist the pleading tone or the even more devastating pleading eyes, Dean plopped back down on the bench. But he still wasn't ready to face anyone, not even his brother, so he stared at the ground.

Sam had no clue what to do with an upset big brother. But he did know what Dean always did for him when he cried and so he put his arms around his sibling and tried to hold him.

"It's OK," Sam whispered, wishing with all his heart that the magic words had the same impact on his brother that they generally had on him.

But somehow nothing felt the same.

It may have been that his arms weren't big enough to wrap all the way around Dean the way his big brother's arms always encircled him whenever he needed a hug. Or it could have been that Sam's chest just wasn't broad enough for Dean to snuggle up against, the way Sam could always huddle against Dean and the closeness to his brother made him feel better instantly. And Sam just wasn't big enough to rock Dean, the way Dean would rock him when he cried and the gentle motion always soothed Sam's nerves.

But Sam's efforts were not lost on Dean, who immediately recognised his own actions mirrored in his little brother's gestures and quickly got the picture. The fact that Sam was trying so hard to comfort him was comfort in itself. Dean took a few deep breaths for composure and then easily shifted position to wrap his arms around Sam and pull him in close.

"I'm O.K. Sammy, don't worry," he said softly.

Sam found himself nestled against his brother and held on tight. "I'm sorry Dean," he said again.

"It's not your fault Sammy. You haven't done anything wrong."

"I did. I told Daddy about you and Julie."

"What?" Dean's arms instantly released their hold.

"I heard Pastor Jim talking to you about what happened at the church and the next time Daddy called I told him."

"Why?" Dean demanded pushing Sam off of him and then seizing his brother's shoulders.

Sam could never handle being on the receiving end of Dean's anger. When his brother was mad at him somehow, it felt like the end of the world.

"How could you rat me out like that?" Dean shook Sam hard.

"Because you only wanted see Julie and you didn't want to hang with me," Sam wailed.

"That's a big lie we were always together."

"No. You were always running off and sneaking out. It wasn't like before."

"Sam I'm 14 years old, I can't play kid games with you forever."

"You didn't see anything wrong until you met Julie."

"So you ratted me out to Dad because you were jealous?"

Sam's silence coupled with the look of abject distress on his face was admission enough for Dean.

"I don't believe you!" Dean shouted. "How could you do that to me?"

Sam stared at his brother, speechless.

How could he explain it?

The most fun thing about summer was having his big brother all to himself. And when they first got to Pastor Jim's they'd spent hours together every day. Even though Dean was bigger now he hadn't complained about playing kids games and Sam had been so happy.

Then Julie came around and all of sudden Dean was talking about having to "divide his time" and brushing Sam off and telling him "when he got older he would understand."

Some kids had awesome toys and books; some had cool things like bikes and video games. The best thing Sam had was his big brother and he could barely stand to share Dean much less lose him altogether to some girl just because she was pretty and liked to kiss.

So when he had heard Pastor Jim chastising Dean about catching him and Julie in the church together he got his weapon. And the next time his Dad called, he used it. Then when John turned up unexpectedly and told them to get ready to move, Sam had packed his things willingly. The sooner they hit the road, the sooner he'd have his big brother back.

But it had gone all wrong, because now Dean was hurt and Sam didn't know how to make it better. And he didn't know how to say any of this to Dean who was sitting here looking like he was about to take his head off.

Totally out of options, Sam started to cry.

"I'm sorry Dean," was all he could manage in between gasps and sobs.

Dean's anger could never withstand his younger sibling's tears. No matter how mad he got, the sight of Sam crying always sent him into big brother mode.

"It's OK Sammy," he said reaching out.

Sam hesitated briefly, feeling like he didn't deserve forgiveness but really wanting to be close to his big brother. Dean saw the reticence and pulled him in.

"It's alright," he reassured and let Sam lean against him. This time, Dean needed the closeness too. "You probably did me a favour."

"Why?"

"Because I shouldn't have gotten so caught up with Julie in the first place."

"Why not?"

"It's the first rule of hunting little brother. No attachments."

"What do you mean by that?"

"It means a good soldier never gets close to anybody, that way when you have to move on you don't have to worry about leaving anybody behind."

"But...?"

"No buts Sam. If I'm gonna be a good hunter it means I shouldn't get attached to anybody."

"Not even me?" Sam suddenly felt very afraid. His Dad was always telling him and Dean to make him proud by being good soldiers. But if that meant he was going to lose his big brother Sam knew Dad would never be happy with him.

Dean looked closely at his little brother and saw the absolute terror on his face at the thought that something could somehow come between them.

"No Sam. Not you."

But a fresh round of crying started anyway.

"Sam look at me," Dean said tilting his little brother's chin so their eyes met. "Not you O.K."

"But you said not anybody."

"That doesn't mean you," Dean sighed tiredly. How the heck did they get here? He was the one who'd had his heart wrenched today but Sam was the one doing most of the crying. "Everybody else Sammy, but never you."

They'd stayed in the deserted park, huddled on the bench until Sam's tears subsided. When the crying fit was over, they'd gone back to the motel together. John ordered a pizza for dinner and they'd picked at it disinterestedly and then decided to turn in early.

It didn't surprise Dean when a yawning Sam ignored his own bed and approached Dean's when they had both showered and changed into their night sweats. Sam never liked to sleep alone when he was tired or upset so Dean moved over to make room and Sam stole under the covers to join him. As usual, Sam wiggled around a bit before settling in his favourite position; on his side with his head on his big brother's chest and one arm clutching whatever part of Dean it could grasp.

Secure and content, Sam fell asleep within a few moments, but Dean lay on his back unable to escape into slumber.

Two brisk raps on the room door had him easing out from under Sam. He knew his father's signature knock and wondered, wearily, if John was coming to deliver part two of the lecture.

"Everything O.K. here?" John asked, stepping into the room when Dean opened the door.

"We're fine Dad," Dean shrugged.

"Tough day today," John conceded.

Dean shrugged again. "A good soldier doesn't complain."

John looked at his little boy who was crossing into manhood probably too fast.

"Dean, I know you might not believe this, but I didn't come and get you today because I wanted to spoil your fun. I did it to protect you."

Unconvinced, Dean remained silent.

"Son, this is why I've always told you no attachments, because I didn't want you to have a day like today. I didn't want you to see how hard it is to walk away once you've gotten really close to someone, especially a woman."

Dean's stomach clenched, mortification rising at the thought of discussing girls with his father.

"Dean once you fall for a woman, you see the road differently, you see everyone around you differently. And when it's time to move on, the choice is almost impossible and you'll start to resent the hell out of everything and everyone. To be a good hunter you have to be able to keep moving and the only way to do that is not to get attached."

Dean looked at his father, searchingly. "Can I ask you something?"

"Yes."

"If a good soldier has no attachments and you're the best soldier I know, does that mean that you don't … that Sam and I aren't…"

John studied Dean. He may have been getting a man's body but in so many ways he still had a little boy's heart; even if he only let it show in times of deep distress. And although John knew he needed to train strong, tough soldiers when his son looked at him with so much need in his eyes the drill sergeant in him took a backseat to the father.

"If you want to know if I consider you and your brother a liability the answer is yes. You two are my greatest weakness and the only way that anything or anyone can ever really get to me. If you want to know if I would change that the answer is no. Not for anything. You and Sam are all that matters and nothing will ever be as important to me as the two of you. Got that?

Speechless, but reassured, Dean nodded.

And because he knew Dean needed it, John reached out and ruffled his hair. When that produced a faint and uncertain smile, he pulled his son to him and held him briefly.

"You're gonna have your weaknesses son, God knows you and Sam are mine, but if you're gonna survive the less you have the better."

Dean didn't respond, he just closed his eyes and absorbed the comfort he got from being so close to his father.

"Travel light son; apart from your family, there shouldn't be anyone you can't walk away from."

"Yes sir," Dean nodded against his father's shoulder.

"Get some rest," John said releasing Dean and gently pushing him towards his bed before letting himself out of the room.

Back under the covers, Dean yawned as Sam stirred awake and immediately shifted position to get back into his preferred spot. Dean kissed the top of his little brother's head and settled him back down. Within moments Sam was sleeping again and in the silence Dean poured through his own thoughts.

Dean had long ago accepted that he, his Dad and Sam would never be a regular family and days like today were a painful reminder of why. It was the first time in their lives he and Sam had anything close to a regular summer holiday and it had ended in disaster. Worse than that, it was the first in his life he'd had anything close to a girlfriend and it caused his father disappointment and his brother grief. Normal and the Winchesters just didn't belong in the same ball park.

No attachments.

It seemed harsh on the surface, but now that he'd had to deal with the bitter consequences of breaking the first rule of hunting, it all suddenly made a lot of sense.

He was never going to let his heart feel like this again.

Yes, there would be more girls but none that he would have any trouble leaving behind.

He would find a way to experience all the pleasure with none of this pain.

THE END