Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Note: I know you guys want tags to S8, and I promise they're coming. But, in the meantime, here's something light and silly to take your mind off the angst from the show.

Summary: Dean Winchester has just turned eighteen. The Impala is now – and newly – his, and he's looking forward to the first long drive with just him and Sam and the open road. What could go wrong?


Gifts

John Winchester gave his son Dean the Impala on his eighteenth birthday. Dean thought it was the most important gift anyone had ever given him.

Well, unless you counted his baby brother. But Dean didn't, really, because he didn't need anybody to give him Sammy. He had claimed Sammy as his big-brother birthright from the moment he'd found out his mom was expecting.

So, yeah, Sammy didn't count, and the Impala was the most important gift anyone had ever given Dean.

The day after his eighteenth birthday, Dean dropped out of high school. Sam was horrified, the little geek. But, honestly, what did Dean need school for? It wasn't like a ghost was going to care if he knew the chief imports and exports of Canada.

He spent the week after that tuning up and polishing and waxing his baby – his baby now. Sam, amused by Dean's obsession, said he'd take the bus to and from school for a few days. Dean felt a little uneasy at the thought of Sam going to school alone, but Sam was thirteen, and Dean could see the bus stop from the yard.

The result was that Dean spent his first eight days as an adult elbow-deep in grease and loving every moment of it.

On the ninth day his father announced that the job was done and he'd found a new hunt in Utah. It was time for the Winchesters to move on.


Sam, for once, wasn't really going to regret leaving this town behind. Although he'd never admit it to Dean – especially because he didn't want to pressure Dean into doing something he didn't want – it wasn't as much fun going to school without his big brother to drop him off and pick him up.

So, when he came downstairs the morning after John said they were leaving, he was dressed, ready to go, and pulling his two duffels behind him.

John smiled, looking pleasantly surprised, and pushed a box of cereal and an empty bowl in Sam's direction.

"Where's Dean?" Sam asked, plopping himself down in one of the rickety kitchen chairs.

"Where do you think?" John gestured towards the window.

Sam looked. He could see Dean – or, to be specific, he could see a pair of legs wearing Dean's jeans. The rest of his brother was hidden by the Impala's raised hood. Sam wasn't sure, but he thought he could hear Dean crooning softly as he gave his baby one last check.

Sam snickered. "So that's why he was out so early this morning."

"Yeah. I think he'd sleep in the car if I let him." John got up and rinsed out his bowl. "You set to go after breakfast, Sam?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Finish up and we can get out of here. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll get to Richmond." He paused in the kitchen doorway. "You decided who you're riding with today?"

"What?" Sam asked, caught off-guard.

"Me or Dean? You can do either."

Sam's instinctive response was to say he was going with Dean, obviously, like there was any doubt of that. But he caught a hint of hope in his father's eyes and he didn't have the heart to reject what was obviously John Winchester's way of asking to have some company for at least the first part of the drive, and of making the most of a move that Sam didn't resent.

Besides…

Sam glanced out the window. Dean was standing up straight now, stroking the Impala's hood like it was a pet cat. Maybe it was best to give Dean his moment.

"I think we should let Dean have some alone time with his car," Sam said.

John laughed and agreed.


Dean wiped his hands with a rag and tossed it in the direction of the windowsill.

He was done. He'd been at it for days and now his baby – his baby – was purring like a kitten and growling like a tiger. He couldn't wait to show her off to Sammy.

He and Sammy had driven places together before, of course, but only to the arcade or the nearest diner or grocery store. Dean wasn't even counting the two occasions on which he'd had to drive Sam to the hospital because Sammy hurt and bleeding and sobbing silently into his big brother's sleeve was just wrong.

So this was going to be the first time it was just him and Sam and the open road, and Dean was looking forward to it.

His bags were in the trunk with the hunting arsenal, much smaller now that most of the weapons had been relocated to his father's truck. His jacket was in the back and the passenger seat – Sam's now, just like the driver's seat was now Dean's – was waiting.

The door opened and John came out.

"Ready to go?" he asked, nodding in satisfaction when Dean said he was. "Good. We have some time, there's no need to cover the distance in one day. Drive carefully. Remember it's a car and not a plane. We'll stop for lunch at the first place we see after one and figure out what to do after that."

"Yes, sir."

"Stay within sight, and if you get ahead of me and don't see me in your rear view, wait. I'll do the same."

"Yes, sir… Where's Sam?"

"Finishing breakfast. He'll be out in a minute." John shook his head. "Not arguing, for once… I don't know why, but I'm not going to question it." He clapped Dean on the shoulder. "I'll see you in a few hours."

John got into his truck, but he didn't start it.

Dean was surprised – he'd have expected his father to leave, knowing Dean would be able to catch up – but he didn't think too much about it. He slid behind the Impala's wheel, patting the dash, and waited for Sam.

He didn't have to wait long. Sam was outside in a couple of minutes.

Dean started to open his door so he could help Sam get his bags in the trunk – the kid was still scrawny. And short. Sometimes Dean worried about that. Sam was so little – well, yeah, he was thirteen, but he was a very small thirteen. Dean at thirteen had been several inches taller than Sam was now.

And it wasn't like Dean minded, but being small made Sam more of a target. He wasn't weak, but monsters thought he was.

Of course Sam had plenty of growing left to do. And he had big hands and feet, so that probably meant he'd reach a respectable height. Dean didn't want to spend the rest of his life having to duck to look his brother in the eye.

Dean was jolted out of his thoughts when he saw Sam shove his bags in the back of John's truck.

He frowned. It was weird, but he supposed it made sense. Not like Dean's baby couldn't take the load, but the truck was big and it was meant to transport stuff, so that explained –

That explained jack squat, because now Sam was getting into the truck, and what the hell?

"C'mon, Dean!" John said, leaning out the driver's side window.


Dean couldn't figure it out.

It couldn't be that Sam was pissed about having to move. If that were the problem, he'd be sitting with Dean and complaining about their father's unfairness all the way from Virginia to Utah.

It wasn't that he and Sam were fighting, because they weren't. The last time they'd spoken had been the previous night, when Dean had gone through Sam's reports from his teachers and glowed with silent pride. He'd tried to hide it, but Sam had known because the little bitch always knew, and he'd gone all dewy-eyed.

So, no. Sam couldn't be mad at him.

It wasn't like they were joined at the hip, of course. They left each other alone. They were both teenagers; they needed their privacy. At least, Dean did; Sam was such a geek that his private time probably involved him and a book and a dictionary and nothing remotely fun.

If they'd been driving home from a diner, Dean would have understood. Sam tended to decamp when Dean started flirting. You'd have thought he'd stay and pick up some pointers from his awesome older brother, but he never did. He always flushed scarlet and mumbled something about homework and bolted out the nearest exit.

That couldn't be it either. Sam had to know that Dean couldn't get lucky while driving across state lines.

Dean scowled. It wasn't like he was possessive about Sam or anything. You only got possessive when you weren't sure you had something, and Dean had always been pretty damn sure that Sam was his little brother.

No. Definitely not possessive. Just…

Curious.

That was it. He was curious. Sam liked hanging out with him. Not as much now as he'd done when he was a kid, but that was normal. Thirteen-year-olds didn't follow their big brother around the house the way eight-year-olds did. And eighteen-year-old brothers didn't want to be followed around by pesky kids.

But that didn't mean eighteen-year-old brothers didn't like pesky kids. Or that they didn't want them –

Could that be it? Had he said something to give Sam the impression that he didn't want him around on this drive? After all, Sam hadn't looked like he even realized Dean was waiting for him.

Dean didn't think so. Sam would've gone all hurt and quiet if he'd thought Dean didn't want him around.

Was Sam just pissed that Dean hadn't driven him to school for a week? But that had been Sam's idea. And Sam hadn't seemed pissed. He'd just seemed amused by the whole thing. He'd even stopped by the auto shop a couple of times to get Dean some of the parts he needed.

The… car?

Dean banished the thought right away. It wasn't possible. Sam couldn't possibly like Dad's new truck better than the Impala. The truck was OK, Dean supposed, and it had fancy new features and a car phone and other douche crap, but the Impala was Sam's home.

Sam couldn't

But what if Sam did?

Almost as though sensing Dean's thoughts, the Impala's easy thrum started to get a little rough.

"It's OK, baby," Dean soothed, patting the dash. "It's OK. Sammy didn't mean it. He's just being a little bitch."


Sam was relieved – more than relieved – when John finally decided to stop for lunch.

Sure, it was nice to be with his dad and when they weren't arguing they actually managed to have some fun together, but it wasn't the same without Dean. Sam hadn't realized just how much he needed Dean's presence to make long drives bearable.

Sam got out of the car, glad for the chance to stretch.

He wasn't quite sure what he wanted to stretch. His legs were fine – the truck was actually roomier than the Impala, and it had only been a few hours. He'd just been feeling… confined.

Tomorrow, he decided, as the Impala pulled up next to John's truck. Tomorrow he was going with Dean. One day was more than enough alone time to give Dean and the Impala. Sam didn't think his sanity could take any more than that.

"Hey, Sam," John said suddenly. "We haven't taught you to drive yet, have we?"

"No, sir," Sam replied, a little startled by the question.

"About time you learnt. I can teach you when… Hey, Dean. Ready for lunch?"


"Impala's going like a dream," Dean announced. Ostensibly he was speaking to his father, but he had one eye on Sam.

Sam, the little bitch, was looking out the window not even listening to him. He was watching a couple with a Labrador on a leash. They'd just pulled up outside the diner – it was a family-friendly place. He and Dad always picked family-friendly places when Sam was with them. The kid might be thirteen but he was short and skinny and with those big emo eyes of his he usually looked a lot younger.

But Dad said Sam would get taller and he was probably right. After all, he and Dean both were.

And once Sam was taller – and older, because it was one thing for Dean to have snuck his first beer at the age of twelve (something Sam would never know about) and a whole different thing for Sam to think about drinking when he was still a kid – Dean could take him to bars and nightclubs, get him drunk, show him how to make nice with the ladies…

Unless of course Sam decided some new-and-improved friend of his was better company.

Dean's happy thoughts soured. He knew he hadn't misheard and he hadn't imagined it. When he'd got out of the car, Dad had been talking about teaching Sam to drive. Probably in the truck.

Of course newer cars did have more responsive steering, probably easier for beginners –

Huh. Well, that was a problem Dean could solve. He might now know the names of all Henry VIII's wives but he did know how to fix up a car.

"I think maybe I'll work on the steering at our next stop," he said aloud. "She's good now, but she'll be responding to what you think by the time I'm done with her."

"Sounds good, Dean," his father said. "You've done a great job with the car."

A part of Dean was thrilled, as always, at the praise from his father, but the bigger part of him was watching Sam, who'd finally torn his eyes away from the window and was looking down at his plate of… Dean wasn't sure what it was. It looked like a diorama of a forest; there was a lot of green stuff and some tomatoes and olives and… That was it.

Seriously? This was what Sam was going to eat for lunch?

"Dude," Dean protested. "You're never even going to hit five feet if you eat like that."

Sam glared at him, but it didn't have much heat.

And when they left after lunch, Sam got in Dad's truck again.

"Don't worry, baby," Dean murmured as he slid into the Impala. "I don't know what's wrong with him, but I'm going to find out. And don't you worry about what Dad said. Nobody but you is teaching Sammy to drive." He pulled out of the rest stop. "Hey, baby, you think maybe the truck's possessed? Or got a curse on it or something?"

His eyes narrowed speculatively. When they stopped for coffee, he was going to find out.


EMF? Nothing. There was a little low-level static, but Dean was pretty sure that was coming from the guy two cars over talking on his cell phone. Not nearly enough to be a possession.

He glanced over his shoulder at the roadhouse door. It was a small, seedy-looking place where the coffee probably tasted like gasoline. They definitely wouldn't serve anything that would pass muster with Sam's finicky taste buds. Dad and Sam had just gone in. Dean didn't like leaving Sam alone in a place like that, but he needed to figure out what was up with the truck.

He flicked holy water and salt on the fender.

No sizzle. No scream of a ghost in pain. Nothing.

He tapped the side of the truck with the blade of a silver knife. It left a scratch in the paint that Dean was going to claim he knew nothing about if it ever came up in conversation, but otherwise the truck was unaffected.

Huh. Maybe Sam was possessed?

Dean thrust his equipment into his jacket pocket and went inside.

Dad and Sam were sitting in a booth. Just as always, Sam scooted over to make place as soon as he saw Dean. Just as always, Dean slid in next to him, letting his shoulder bump Sam's companionably.

Then, in a break from tradition, Dean said, "Christo."

His companions stared at him.

Dean shrugged uncomfortably. "Hey, it never hurts to be sure. Samantha's sitting there with something that looks like it's full of bad cholesterol."

Sam made a face. "They didn't have anything else. It was either this or the triple-decker burger special –"

"They have those?"

John laughed. "Order what you want, Dean. I'll be right back."

Dean waited for the bathroom door to shut behind his father before he said, "Hey, Sam… Check out the tree over there." When Sam turned his head, he quickly shook salt and poured holy water into Sam's Coke.

"Dude, what?" Sam asked, looking back at Dean. "It's a tree."

"Creepy-ass tree," Dean said. "Weirdest tree I've ever seen. I think it might be a ghost in disguise."

"Dean, are you sure you're OK?"

"I'm…" Dean watched Sam grab his soda and raise it to his lips. "Fine."

Sam sipped.

Sam choked.

"Dean, what the hell? Did you salt my drink?"

"There's holy water, too. Drink some more, Sam."

"What the hell is wrong with you? I'm not possessed."

"Drink some more."

"I will if you'll just tell me what the hell made you think –"

"I am not joking about this, Sam. Drink some more."

Sam glared furiously at him before snatching his soda and choking down a large swallow. "There," he got out. "You happy now? You going to tell me why you're being weird or you want to cut me with silver next?" Sam looked at him for a moment before his eyes went wide. "You want to cut me with silver."

"Let me see your hand."

"Dean –"

"Now."

Dean seized Sam's hand, ignored how it was trembling in his grasp, and made sure nobody was close enough to see. He nicked Sam's palm with the silver knife. Blood welled up.

"Dean?" Sam's voice had gone all quiet and soft, like he was more hurt than angry, and blood from where Dean had cut him was sliding down his hand and dripping into Dean's palm and that was just so many different kinds of wrong

And that meant Sammy was Sammy. Sammy was Sammy, because no monster would be able to pull off that hushed, sad little voice, and Dean had hurt him and this was going to make Sammy want to ride with Dean and his baby even less and –

"Here." Dean grabbed a wad of napkins of the table and pressed them down on the cut in Sam's hand. "It'll stop bleeding in a minute. I'm sorry, kiddo."

"What the hell is wrong, Dean?" Sam demanded.

Deciding that, at the very least, he owed Sam an answer to that question, Dean said, "Why'd you go with Dad?"

"Why'd I… what?"

"Today. You didn't want to ride with my baby. She…" Dean cleared his throat before his voice could get shaky. "I mean, it's not like I care who you ride with, man. Doesn't make a difference to me. But my baby, she's a lady. You've got to treat her right. You can't dump her for the first piece of fancy wheels that comes along."

"Dean," Sam said carefully, like he was afraid Dean was going to go berserk on him, "It's a car."

"She has been looking forward to this for days. All set to have you riding shotgun. And, man, it's bad enough you want to dump her –"

"I don't want to dump anyone, and it's a car, Dean."

"Shut up." Sam's hand was still bleeding. Dean pressed down harder, trying to get it to stop. "Bad enough you want to dump her for some shiny new model, but you're not even going to talk to her about it? Didn't I raise you better?"

"Dean, you can't talk to an inanimate –"

"And you're letting some shiny new model teach you how to drive? Really, Sam?"

"Boys?" Dean looked up to see their father watching them with something very like alarm. "What happened? How did you get hurt, Sam?"

"It's nothing, Dad," Sam said, before Dean could start thinking of an explanation. "I just forgot I had my knife in my pocket. Nicked myself."

"You cut yourself on a knife in your pocket?" John Winchester raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "Can I see the knife? No, never mind. Don't show me Dean's knife and don't bother trying to come up with a different cover story. I don't want to know. You boys both OK?"

"Fine, Dad," Dean said, making sure Sam was pressing down on the tissues before releasing his hand.


"Hey, Dean?" Sam said softly as they got to their feet.

"What?" Dean snapped as their Dad turned.

"I… I just… Is it OK if I ride with you?"

Dean scowled. "Oh, don't do me any favours. Me and my baby, we're just fine on our own. Not like you suddenly decided to abandon us the second something new and shiny showed up."

John's brow furrowed and then smoothed as he understood.

"Actually, Sam," he said carefully, and with just the barest hint of regret in his voice, "I think that's a good idea. I could use some peace and quiet. Maybe you should ride with Dean for the rest of the day."

"Yeah, well, who says I want him riding with me?" Dean muttered, striding towards the door. "I don't need anyone. I'm having a great time."

Sam and John exchanged a glance and followed him out.

Dean marched to the Impala without looking at either of them, unlocked it, and opened the driver's-side door. Then he paused, turned his head a fraction and sneaked a glance over his shoulder at his little brother, like he was trying to keep an eye on a stray cat without letting it know it was being watched.

Seeing Sam still standing with their father by the roadhouse door, he reached into the backseat and took something out.

When he turned, Sam could see the outline of a hardbound book through a cheap plastic bag.

"There was a place selling antique books a couple of miles back," Dean announced to the world at large. "Didn't look like much, but I got some great stuff. I bet people driving past in fancy trucks didn't see it. Bet the seats are too high to let them see anything useful."

Sam rolled his eyes, exchanged another glance with his father, and slid into the passenger side of the Impala.

Dean got in a second later and slammed the door. Sam pretended he didn't hear the whispered, "See, baby? I told you we'd get him back. Stupid truck doesn't even know to slow down near bookstores."

"You know," Sam said, not looking at Dean, "you could have said something earlier. I thought you'd enjoy driving on your own."

Dean glared out the windscreen. "Baby, Sammy's an idiot."


That night, John booked his sons their own motel room for the first time. At Dean's startled look, he shrugged and said, "You're an adult. Sam's legal guardian, if anything happens to me. You can take care of your brother."

Dean nodded and went to the Impala. He woke Sam, who'd fallen asleep against the window, helped him out, and grabbed his duffel from the trunk and Sam's duffel from the back of the truck. He slung them over one shoulder, wrapped his free arm around Sam, and walked them both to the motel room door.

"Get some sleep, kiddo," he said, opening the room and pushing Sam inside. "I'll take care of the lockdown."


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