Thanks to everyone who's prayed for me and PM'ed to see how I'm doing. I'm finally starting to see some improvement in my health—please keep up the prayers, they're working! And thanks to everyone who's reviewed or favorited one of my stories, it means so much to me! Finally, thanks to Jeanne, and all those who made Blood Brothers 4 possible. Congrats on the win!
Five Jobs Dean Winchester Never Had
…But Kinda Did
"Dean!" Sam yelled in protest, trying to hold him back. His brother was intent, though, on running into the burning house and shook him off all too easily, disappearing into the flames before Sam had a chance to lunge for him again. Sam prayed it wasn't the suicide mission it seemed to be. He debated whether or not to run in after his stubborn, too-heroic big brother, and decided to give him five minutes. Then he was going in, whether Dean liked it or not. And Sam was sure his brother's reaction would fall into the latter category.
It wasn't that Sam didn't want people saved, but why couldn't it ever be someone else doing the saving? Why did it always have to be his big brother? They'd just barely gotten over the affair with the semi, and the terror Sam had felt at the thought of losing Dean still woke him sometimes from nightmares. Sam's chest burned and he suddenly realized he was holding his breath, waiting for his brother to come back out of the burning building.
When Dean emerged just shy of the five-minute mark, the small child tucked safely in his arms, there was no waiting throng to clap and cheer the hero, no paramedics to give him oxygen—only a grateful family who'd been through enough the past week, dealing with a nasty poltergeist, and a little brother whose relief made his legs tremble. Dean's face was dark with smoke and soot as he carried the trembling five-year-old over to deposit into his mother's arms.
He tried to play it off like it was no big deal, but Sam could see how Dean's eyes watered from the smoke. The hacking cough he finally gave in to almost brought him to his knees. Sam sped over and, with a smoothness born of practice, slid one shoulder below Dean's own, wrapping an arm firmly around his brother's waist, taking most of his weight and guiding him to the waiting Impala so he could get him to the hospital.
Once he finally got Dean settled, Sam ran around the car and slid in behind the wheel, preparing to speed all the way to the ER. He looked over at his brother, saw the look of peaceful satisfaction on his face that warred with the discomfort caused by his sporadic violent coughing. "What were you thinkin', man?" he admonished. "Runnin' in there like that?"
Dean shrugged, smiling tiredly, and when he spoke, his voice was smoke-roughened and raw, making Sam's own throat ache in sympathy. "Always wanted t' be…firem'n, S'mmy."
And Sam saw, clear as day, a four-year-old boy carrying his baby brother out of a burning house, saw Dean coming for him when his apartment at Stanford erupted in flames, pulling him to safety. Saw a hundred times Dean had put his life on the line for his little brother, for their dad, for strangers. He felt his eyes burn and looked at his big brother with a steady gaze. "Naw, you're already a hero, man," he affirmed quietly.
Dean rolled his eyes at that, embarrassment flushing his face, but beneath the blush, underneath the soot and ash, Sam could see he was pleased. It may not matter to Dean what the rest of the world thought, but his little brother thinking he was a hero? It was pretty much what he lived for. Not that he'd ever admit as much.
"Just drive, ya big girl," Dean deflected, his voice scratchy with tolerant affection.
And Sam did.
"He play?" The college baseball coach nodded his head in Dean's direction. Sam's brother was playing a game with the team they'd just helped out by ridding the stadium of the spirit that had been haunting it. "He's sure got the arm for it," the older man said approvingly as he gestured at the field where Dean had just hit a home run.
Sam thought of the week before when that same powerful swing had lopped off the head of a vampire that'd been trying to make Sam its lunch. One swing of the machete had been all it took to take the creature out. As he watched, Dean rounded the bases and slid into home, scoring the win for his team amidst cheers and raucous congratulations from players on both sides of the game. Sam was reminded of how Dean had slid into Angela's grave to stake her, saving his little brother's life. Seemed like he was always saving Sam from something.
"Bet he could go pro," the coach asserted, considering Dean with an assessing eye. "Be a professional athlete."
Sam had a moment to wonder ironically if even half of the professional athletes out there could keep up with the rigorous physical demands of their lifestyle. Running, jumping, fighting, climbing, swimming, shooting, digging—they did a little of it all. Whatever it took to get the job done.
"Nah," Sam answered, smiling wistfully. He wanted that for his brother: a normal life where his skills and talents would be admired and people would know what a hero he really was. But he knew how dedicated Dean had always been to the job, how much he'd always loved hunting things, saving people—saving his little brother. It was such a big part of who Dean was, almost as if he'd been born for it. It gave him purpose. "He's already got a job he loves," Sam said, knowing it was true despite how he himself might feel about the sacrifices Dean'd had to make for the job.
But then Sam grinned and cheered as the team lifted Dean up onto their shoulders, carrying him across the field toward his little brother. The beaming smile on his brother's face raised Sam's spirits. Things had been hard for them since their dad had passed away, but Dean was going to be fine. They both would be.
As long as they had each other, it would all work out. They were exactly where they were meant to be, where they belonged: together.
Sam fidgeted in his chair, trying to get comfortable despite the injuries he'd sustained on their last hunt. Injuries that kept him from helping Dean fulfill the promise they'd made to the Boy Scout troop leader. Still, it looked like his big brother had it well under control, so Sam tried to relax in his seat near all the parents waiting to pick up their sons.
Sam observed as Dean patiently showed a young boy how to hold a pocketknife properly and use the whetstone to sharpen it. Dean watched until he was satisfied the scout wouldn't hurt himself, correcting him with a couple of soft words near the ear when he came dangerously close to cutting himself. The boy easily made the adjustment Dean suggested, and continued on much more confidently.
Dean moved on to the next boy and began showing him how to tie the knot they'd need for the wilderness survival test. The small, tow-headed boy was clearly frustrated with the piece of rope he held, which his awkward fingers couldn't seem to form into the right shape. Dean had already shown him twice, but he was just as patient this time, movements slow and face solemn as he explained each step. The boy listened earnestly and nodded, then tried it again. Dean's head was close to his as he murmured encouragement and directions, and his hand stayed on the boy's shoulder in silent support.
When the boy managed to tie the complicated knot successfully this time around, Dean squeezed his shoulder in congratulations. The scout beamed up at him as if he'd just won a prize. Dean nodded approvingly and moved on to help another boy who was struggling to start a fire with just two sticks and a small piece of string.
"He's so good with the boys," the woman sitting next to Sam said, leaning over to speak to him confidentially.
"Yeah, he is," Sam concurred, surprised to find it was true. Sometimes he wondered just how well he knew his brother—there were hidden layers to Dean that Sam continually discovered, and those discoveries made him see his brother in an entirely new light.
"My Billy's been working on that knot for weeks with no luck. It's just amazing that your brother was able to help him get it down so quickly. And he's so patient with them, a real natural. Is he a teacher?" she asked curiously.
As Sam pondered how to reply, he thought back to Dean answering his endless questions when they were growing up, to Dean teaching him how to read using the only tools he'd had—brightly-colored comic books and an endless supply of patience for his little brother. He thought of Dean showing him time and time again how to tie his shoes, how to throw a knife, how to adjust his shooting stance so he could hit the target. His big brother had been unwearying, no matter how long it took Sam to get it down. He thought of late-night driving sessions in random motel parking lots, thought of Dean buying him his first razor and teaching him how to shave, of all the times Dean had helped him with his homework when he was little.
In all the ways that mattered, Dean had been his most important teacher, had taught him everything—had taught him how to be a man. He'd taught him the importance of family and about caring for others more than yourself, and about the satisfaction that comes from saving people. He'd taught Sam how to shoot a crossbow, how to properly clean a gun and, just recently, how to fix an out-of-tune carburetor. How to ask a girl out, how to get rid of an evil spirit, how to hold a baseball bat so he could hit a home run. He'd taught him how to make a flamethrower out of everyday items, how to stitch a man up when he'd been injured, how to ride a bike. In most every way, Dean had taught him everything that mattered.
So when she asked if Dean was a teacher? "Yeah. Yeah, he is."
"Shouldn't we call an ambulance for him?" the white-haired man asked, worry in his face as he looked at the unconscious young man whose blood was steadily soaking into the dirt.
"It'd take too long for them to get here," Dean grunted, applying pressure to the wound in Sam's leg. "It's Tom, right?" He waited for the nod of confirmation. "He'd bleed out before they ever got close, Tom. That's if you can even get a cell signal out here." Dean looked over at the old farmhouse, surrounded by acres of corn, bordered beyond that by trees that swayed gently in the dusk. "Phone inside workin'?" he asked, already knowing the answer—Winchester luck was nothing if not persistent.
"'Fraid not," Tom answered, grimacing. "Whatever that…thing…was, it took out the phone lines early on." The older man glanced around nervously. He'd been there to see the boys take the creature down, but it would be a long while before he felt safe on his own land again. He risked a peek at the pile of smoldering flesh nearby that Dean had carelessly ignited before diving for his brother. He was very lucky these boys had come along when they had. Owed them his life, way he figured it.
"No phones—sounds about right," Dean replied sardonically. He applied more pressure to the cloth he was holding against Sam's thigh. "Here, hold this. Press down hard," he instructed sternly. He showed the older man how to position his hands, then reached to unbuckle the belt at his own waist. He efficiently turned the strip of leather into a tourniquet for Sam's leg, fastened it tight. Quickly, he stripped off his jacket and outer shirt and used them to elevate Sam's legs. Then he sprinted to the Impala, coming back a moment later with the battered med kit.
The bleeding had begun to slow, finally. Thank God. Relieved to see that the tourniquet and pressure had done their job, Dean cleaned the wound in Sam's leg. Then he pulled out the suture kit and began to stitch the wound closed, hands sure and steady as he made neat, tiny stitches, piecing his brother back together.
Tom watched quietly, admiring the young man's efficiency despite the worry evident on his face. It smacked of professionalism, and he suddenly wondered what Dean did when not rescuing old men from monsters straight out of a nightmare. Finally, he ventured a guess. "You a paramedic, boy?"
Dean snorted at that, but his hands never faltered in their appointed task. "Not quite."
The man studied him for a moment more, took in the lines on his face, the ease with which he jury-rigged supplies when he didn't have what he needed to treat the kid before him. He nodded to himself in confirmation. "Combat medic, right? Dunno why I didn't see it before."
Dean did pause at that, seeming bemused. "Yeah, somethin' like that." Then he returned to caring for his brother—bandaging the wound, removing the tourniquet, and holding his breath until he saw the stitches would hold, trying to make Sam comfortable and keep him from going into shock. Sam really hadn't lost too much blood, all things considered. They'd gotten to him fast, and the cold had probably helped slow the bleeding, too, though now it would make Sam more susceptible to shock.
Dean tossed his keys at Tom, directing him to get the blankets from the trunk. The older man was back quickly, and together they worked to tuck the blankets all around Sam, getting him as warm as they could. Finally satisfied, Dean sat back on his heels, sighing wearily and wiping his brow. He'd done all he could for Sam at the moment.
The older man thought he recognized the world-weary look on the younger man's face. He'd seen it dozens of times on friends who'd come home from the war. "Seen much action, have you?"
"More than I can even count," Dean replied tonelessly, not even needing to lie.
Tom thought Dean was starting to look a little shell-shocked himself as he sat staring intently at the man on the ground, as if he could will him to wake up with just the desperate force of his stare. And maybe he could, because the younger man chose that moment to groan and stir. "De'n?"
Dean scooted closer to his brother, putting a hand on his shoulder and leaning into his sightline. "I'm here, Sammy. You're gonna be okay. Just take it easy, don't try to sit up." He carefully lifted Sam's head enough to give him a sip from the bottle of Gatorade sitting nearby and to get some painkillers from the med kit in him.
Sam grumbled, and it was the best sound Dean had heard all night. "We get it?"
Dean's relief had him breaking out in a cheeky grin. "'Course we got it, bro. Thing never knew what hit it."
Sam smiled weakly. "We get the old man out?"
Tom huffed from where he sat nearby. "Not sure I like being referred to as 'the old man,'" he groused.
Dean grinned wider. "Yep, we got 'im, Sammy. Everything's taken care of, man. Just relax."
And, trusting his brother, Sam did just that. He let the world go and gratefully sank back down into unconsciousness.
It started off as just a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some grub since their motel was pretty far off the beaten track. Dean found himself in the box dinners aisle, trying to decide between something cheap and something quick when he heard the baby wailing. He looked up to see a man partway down the aisle, looking awkward and helpless, leaning over a cart that held a newborn in a baby seat. The baby continued crying and the man glanced around desperately, clearly hoping to find someone who could help him, since the baby's mother was nowhere to be seen.
Dean waited a minute, but it became clear that either man or baby would begin to hyperventilate soon, so he finally took pity on the guy and strolled over. "New father?" he ventured a guess.
The young man, about Dean's age, wore a sheepish expression. "Yeah. Is it that obvious?" he asked wryly.
Dean shrugged, giving him a sympathetic smile. "Why don'tcha pick her up?"
"Uh, no, that's all right." The man held up a hand as if to ward off the suggestion and backed up a step, looking petrified at the very idea. "I might hurt her. I don't know much about babies. Even, apparently, my own," he confessed dryly.
The baby wailed louder. Dean considered the small, wrinkled face, then set down the box of mac and cheese he'd been contemplating. He started to unbuckle the child from her seat, then paused with his hand still hovering over the clasp and looked to the anxious father standing nearby. "May I?"
"Please do." The man's answer was immediate and fervent.
Dean chuckled at that, but gently reached in to extricate the precious burden, being careful to support the small head that sported a little pink barrette attached to the lone strand of hair. He lifted her up to cradle in his arms, hands startlingly big in contrast to the tiny body. The last time he'd held a baby like this, it had been Sammy, but he felt it all come rushing back to him. He settled her close to his chest as he rocked her back and forth gently, crooning softly.
Her tiny fist, which had been flailing in the air, opened to wrap around his finger, gripping tight. As he swayed and spoke softly to her, she started to quiet, gaze fixed intently on his face. Her wails quieted into sniffles with an occasional hiccupping sob. After a few minutes, the sniffles died down entirely and the rosy pink mouth opened wide in a big yawn. Moments later, she was fast asleep.
"How did you do that?" the man asked, astonished.
Dean smiled down at the little girl he cradled, then gently placed her back in her seat. He held his breath, but she stayed asleep. He patted her once more, feeling a pang at how innocent, how trusting, she was, then turned back to her father. "They just wanna know someone cares, that they're not alone," he said softly. He knew that feeling all too well. He suddenly got a flash of himself in a lonely motel room when Sam was off at college and his dad had ditched him for a hunt somewhere, but he shook off the melancholy the memory brought. He wasn't alone anymore.
Meanwhile, the other man looked at him in awe. "You're going to be a great father someday," he predicted.
"He already is," came a voice from behind him. Sam had clearly been watching for some time, and his eyes were soft with gratitude and affection. When he spoke again, his voice was filled with conviction. "Best father a kid could ask for."