Title: Brotherly Love, A Brotherhood Legacy Story
Beta: Ridley C. James
Notes: Thank you for Ridley for making this better. I had some JT thoughts and will hopefully post some more of these stories.
FYI: The $50,000 fundraiser for Hats Off To Cancer was a success! Check out the other campaign at the hunter's tomb.
James could not stop looking at the trophy he had won; well his soccer team had won with a lot of his help as a forward. They each got one of the small blue statutes with a gold soccer player on the top. Both of his parents had come to the away game, since James was on the A squad travel team. "We are the champions!" He sang out as they pulled closer to the drive. Caleb was waiting on the front steps for them. James had called all his Uncles, Ben, his grandparents and even Max to share in the good news.
"Hey, congratulations!" Caleb clapped his hands as James exited the Impala, the dogs gathered around him in greeting.
"It was great, Uncle Caleb." James lifted his statute so that it could be appreciated. "I wish you could have been there. JT said he could have gotten a ride from a teammate."
"Someone has to embarrass your brother at his games," Caleb replied, letting James lead the way back into the house as he waited to help Dean and Juliet. James had truly just wanted his parents to go to the game, as much as he loved his uncles, it was rare to get both parents to go to a game.
"How did they do?" Dean took the cooler from Juliet, and entered into the house, placing the cooler on the kitchen table. James was placing his trophy on the mantle. Juliet started to unpack the cooler, putting the melted ice packs in the freezer.
"They lost. JT did fine, ran himself ragged, and said he wants to work with his old man on something to make it perfect. . ." Caleb rolled his eyes. To him his nephew was the best person on the team, but JT only saw room for improvement. "He went to clean up; shower's off so he should be down in a second."
Caleb barely finished the sentence as JT came running down the stairs. "You won!" JT's hair was wet. "Awesome!" He admired the trophy, then bumped his brother's shoulder. "I can't wait to hear all about it."
For at least the tenth time that day Dean and Juliet sat through another rendition of the soccer game. James even added sound effects when possible to his captive audience as they ate dinner.
JT gave his brother his full attention, pushing most of the food around his plate instead of eating it. He cleared his throat a couple of times before speaking, asking about specific teammates that JT knew.
James though, was not satisfied with the retelling of his victory match. He wanted to relive it. "Can we go outside so I can show you what I did? How about a soccer match? Dad and me versus Uncle Caleb and JT."
"It's been a busy day, Jimmy. . ." Juliet tried to dissuade her son.
"Just a quick game. It's still light outside…" He whined a bit at the end.
Caleb stood up. "Well, I know I've got game. I'm willing to put my skills to the test with my man JT." He reached out and bumped fists with the teenager.
Dean shook his head with a smile. "Okay, me and the soccer god versus you two." He turned to Juliet and gave her a wink. "We should be in back inside in 20 minutes tops."
James beamed a large smile of cockiness. "Maybe fifteen."
"Oh, those two are going down," Caleb said to Juliet, ushering JT out the door, but not before he grabbed his baseball hat from the hook at the door.
As usual they used orange cones as the goal posts. The game was going well, allowing James to show off as he cut and move the ball along. He quickly scored a goal. Caleb got the ball away from Dean, then passed it to JT with a strong kick. JT made it to the goal area, but James made sure he cut him off with a strong shouldering tactic that JT did not resist, therefore stealing the ball from JT.
JT went to follow, then stopped and bent over, dry heaving, then spitting. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, tenderly straightening up.
James only turned around when he noticed the lack of pursuit, and that his father and uncle were walking away from him towards JT.
"Let's call it a game," Dean said as he reached JT. "Are you okay, Bud?"
Caleb was taking quick strides to his other nephew in order to check out the situation.
JT's answer was cut off by James, who kicked the ball towards them. "That's not fair. JT is jealous because I finally won something." James added another accusation, "He did that on purpose."
It was a tense moment, but JT broke the impasse, setting his ball cap further back on his head. "I'm not jealous. I'm happy you won." He wiped down his face with the bottom of his shirt. "That's okay, Dad. Just the day catching up with me. I'm fine. I can play."
Yet, James wanted more. "You're not going to throw it, right? I know this is my sport, but you can't just let us win."
"I get it," JT gritted out with some heat behind the words. He moved his hat so that it had returned to a lower position, shadowing his eyes. "I'll do my best."
Satisfied James went to the other side of the field to commence the game again.
"You sure?" Caleb squeezed the back of his nephew's neck.
"Yeah, Dad would never let you live it down if we quit now." JT grinned. "He'd question your training."
"Damn straight," Dean stated, then backed away to join his other son. "Winchesters aren't wusses."
"Let's show them how it's done," Caleb announced, then whispered to JT, "If you don't feel up to it, let me know." Caleb tapped his head.
Whatever had affected JT earlier was no longer in evidence as he pressed on and challenged his brother for the ball at each opportunity JT, eventually tying the score.
Dean passed the ball to James, and James relished that they were playing on the same side. He headed to the goal, and took his shot. JT dove to stop the ball from going into the net, but was only able to tap it, not enough to change its trajectory, and it went in.
"Yes!" James lifted his hands up, running in a circle.
He didn't hear his brother gag, then vomit as he made it to his knees after diving to stop the ball.
Dean came running to his son with Caleb right behind him. Dean pulled off JT's cap, resting his hand on his son's forehead. "You okay?" Dean didn't wait for an answer. "He's warm."
"I just need a second," JT replied, rubbing his throat.
"Throat hurt?" Caleb asked.
JT nodded. "Yeah."
"Okay, this is more than just being worn down. Let's get you inside," Dean said. He and Caleb helped JT get to his feet. "Come on Jimmy. Go tell your mom that JT isn't feeling well."
"Tell her the other parents at the game said that strep was going around," Caleb called out as James went ahead of them.
James lifted his hand that he had heard.
They kept it a slow walk back. Juliet was waiting at the door. "Get to bed, JT. I'll bring you some tea and Tylenol. Then you and I can make a trip to the clinic tomorrow." She placed her hand on his forehead, then let it fall to his cheek.
"Good job, Jimmy." JT gave a nod to his brother who was getting a glass of water at the refrigerator dispenser.
"Help me take in the cones." Caleb pulled James outside with him so that Dean and Juliet could deal with JT.
James took a gulp of the water and left it on the table, going with his uncle as he took a quick glance up the stairs. "Is he really sick?"
"Probably has strep throat, but are you going to want to see the test results to believe him?" Caleb clamped a hand on his nephew's shoulder. "Hopefully, you don't get it."
James shrugged off the hand and raced to one set of the cones, placing one on top of the other. Caleb got the other cones.
"He didn't have to play," James said as he encircled his arms around the cones.
Caleb snorted. "You didn't give him much of a choice, Dude. What's up with the 'play thru the pain' routine?"
"I wanted it to be about just me for once because I won, and he ruined it by getting sick." James stopped walking back to the barn where the cones were kept. "Once more, JT gets exactly what he wants."
"Yes." Caleb snapped his fingers. "All part of JT's master plan, first, to get sick and then. .."
"Be Mister Perfect," James quickly replied. "To be doted on by mom and dad."
Caleb started walking, then turned his head around. "You know he hates that whole 'Eagle Scout' shit you and Max tease him about."
James kicked at the dirt as he caught up with his uncle. "Well, it's true. He's stinking perfect, or at least Mom and Dad think so."
They walked in silence to the barn, and put the cones away on the shelf for another day. When they were finished James caught his uncle's eye. "I got a new game last week. Want to help me kill some zombies or are you anxious to play nursemaid, too?"
Caleb shook his head. "Cut the martyr routine, Jimmy."
"It's James." The pre-teen rolled his eyes. "And you've obviously mistaken me for my brother."
Caleb caught the boy's shirt before he could head out of the barn. "What if I told you that JT was jealous of you?"
James snorted. He had said JT was jealous because his younger brother was getting attention, but he hadn't really meant it, not really. "What planet are you on? JT doesn't have any reason to be jealous of anyone."
"No?" Caleb raised a brow. "JT works his butt off for good grades; feels like he has to because Ben was so good at school that he has to make A's because he thinks your father will be disappointed in him." Caleb leaned against one of the supporting beams.
James bounced the soccer ball on his knee. . "Pl-ease. They both have baseball. He's a freak on the field and everyone knows how Dad feels about that game."
"Your brother practices to be as good as he is." Caleb snatched the soccer ball from James and held it. He gestured to the equipment in the barn, sports stuff, a heavy bag and a weight set. "He's out here most days honing his skills."
"So, someone I know doesn't have to lift a finger, and yet manages to score winning goals and bring home championship trophies." Still don't get why he's jealous." James, without the ball to occupy him, went to see Fideist. Sam's old horse gave a soft whinny, nuzzling the boy's shoulder.
"Because like your report card says, you never work to your full potential. School bores you, hell; everything bores you because it's all so easy for you.." James was really like Sam at this age, inquisitive and smart with a stubborn streak that reminded Caleb far too much of John Winchester.
"A little monetary incentive seems to help my motivation." James had an arrangement with his Grandfather that every A brought with it a ten dollar bill.
Caleb shook his head. His father doted on the kids as only a grandfather could. "And your mom and dad went to your game today, not his. Although he did get his awesome uncle as a consolation." Caleb pushed away from the pole he was leaning against.
"I guess so."
"Your brother seems to have decided to only see the good in people." Caleb found that part of his nephew difficult to understand, but on the other hand Caleb had grown up in different circumstances and witnessed too much not to be jaded by thirteen. "And he sees only the good in you, Jimmy, even when you are being a total brat. Cut him some slack."
"Now I feel like a jerk." James frowned. Guilt was a foreign concept to the youngest Winchester boy.
"Good, then my work is done." Caleb bumped his godson's shoulder. "You're smart, kid and with a little effort you can be a good person."
"Maybe I don't want to be the good son."
Caleb sighed. "Look, Kiddo, I can understand the whole trying to mark yourself as being different than your brothers, but make sure you don't go down the road as the prodigal son in the process. I happen to know you're not as bad-ass as you like people to think."
"So, I guess you think I should apologize to JT."
Caleb tossed an arm over his shoulder. "See, I knew you were smart."
James found his mom and dad talking in the kitchen so he climbed the stairs and went to his brother's room. The light was on; JT was on his side with a cup of tea on his nightstand. JT's room wasn't like James's room. JT had taken over Ben's old room, and where Ben had been messy, JT was anything but with all his stuff- baseballs, awards, photography materials all having a place.
"How do you feel?"
"Like shit." He gave his brother a lopsided grin; James loved it when his brother swore because it was so out of character and rare. "I'll survive."
James sat on the end of the bed. "What are you reading?"
"The Outsiders, but I've been on the same page for 15 minutes. Can't concentrate." He took a sip of the tea that Max's father had made, which was supposed to help sore throats and be a general cold and flu remedy.
"Is it good?"
JT nodded, he was waiting for the Tylenol or the tea to kick in to ease his inflamed throat.
After a few moments of silence where JT thought about dozing off while his brother stared at him, James finally spoke, "I guess I'm sorry."
JT cleared his throat. "Did Uncle Caleb tell you to say that?"
"It was kind of a condition of killing zombies." James shrugged. "But, I really am sorry you got sick."
JT shifted on his pillows. "Apology accepted."
Although James did not usually have a guilty conscience, he was still surprised being let off the hook so easily. "Wait a minute; you aren't going to blackmail me into doing your chores or something? Not that I would. I don't feel that bad. . ."
"You're my annoying little brother, it goes with the territory." JT closed the book. "Ben thinks we're both annoying."
"He does?" James was four when Ben went away to college, and they saw him a lot, but he never thought about him being annoyed by his little brothers.
JT nodded. "I used to follow him around a lot. Dad even made him take me on a couple of his dates."
"Wow, maybe when you actually get old enough to date you can take me on one with Sydney."
"No." JT folded his arms over his chest. "Not on your life."
"I knew you were threatened by my superiority."
"Annoyed and threatened are two totally different things, genius."
James bounced on the edge of the bed. "I guess there are advantages to being the youngest."
"Maybe Josie and Mary will annoy you?" JT coughed.
The girls were closer in age to him, and so he understood them a little more. "Nah, they worship me."
JT hunkered down in his bed. "So you're not going to change-right?"
"No, Grandpa Mac says by my age I've already formed my moral compass and character traits, but Uncle Caleb thinks with some hard work and discipline I might still turn out okay."
"Now we know why Dad teases Uncle Caleb about being the only optimist in the group." JT closed his eyes.
"You really think there's no hope for me?"
"I think you're my brother." JT opened his eyes and held James's gaze. "That's all that matters."
"So, in other words, you're stuck with me."
"And you with me." JT closed his eyes again. "That's how family works, how it is being brothers."
James waited until his brother's breath evened out, placing a hand on the older boy's brow for just a moment. "I'm really glad we're brothers."
Caleb sat on the front porch steps with a beer in hand waiting for Dean to come out of the house after sending James on his mission to speak to his brother. He didn't have to wait long. Dean also had a beer, but leaned against the railing. "I had a talk with Jimmy."
"About what?" Dean asked, enjoying the momentary quietness of home.
"What do you mean about what?" Caleb turned to look up at Dean. "You want to tell me what happened out there?" Caleb jutted his chin to the field.
"We had a soccer game, JT tossed his cookies. What are you getting at, Damien?" Dean narrowed his eyes, obtuse on what he had done in Caleb's eyes to be questioned. "Boys will be boys. It was just some healthy competition. Have you forgotten Sunday flag football? There's almost always bloodshed."
Caleb snorted. "That was way more than just a game, man." Caleb waited for Dean to reply, was surprised when his friend glared at him. "I have to explain it to you?"
"I guess you do."
"Healthy competition? Are you taking a page from the John Winchester parenting manual?" Caleb lifted his beer to the sky in a mock toast towards his deceased mentor.
"That manual got burned, Damien."
"Not the whole book. You don't see it? Really, Deuce?" Caleb used his bottle to gesture, first to Dean then to the second level of the house. "In your mind JT is you and Jimmy is Sam."
Dean took a draw of beer, swallowed before taking a seat near the Knight. "They are not growing up like Sam and I did. Two parents, a freaking farm, one school. . .I'm not seeing the similarity."
"You're making JT responsible for Jimmy, just like you always took care of Sam."
"The older brother takes responsibility for the younger brother. How is that bad? Ben watches over his brothers." Dean pushed himself to standing, his ire up.
"Then Ben is me and you are trying to repeat history." Caleb stood up, also angry.
"It's all about you? Pick a side, Damien."
It was unfair to place any of the kids in the position of accepting responsibility for the other. Times had changed, and Caleb did not to pass that down in his training—you had to own your bad decisions. "How far are you going to let this go? We took the blame for Sam when he shot me, Deuce. Remember Ruby? I just don't want to see that happen again this time with James."
"They're not me and Sam. There is no impending apocalypse. No one is going to Hell. Don't be so dramatic, Damien." Dean drained his beer, tossed his empty in the recycling bin they kept on the porch. "They are just being brothers, and if I haven't said it before, it's not really any of your business."
Caleb took a step back. "You sure John Winchester isn't alive and breathing? Because I'm pretty sure he said that very same thing to me about a hundred times. He was wrong and so are you."
"Damn it, Caleb," Dean swore, running a hand thru his hair. "I'm doing the best I can."
"I'm not saying you're doing a bad job, Deuce. You know I think you're a hell of a father. I'm only pointing out that you need to be careful. You can't let JT make the same sacrifices you made for Sam." Caleb could see in an instant how it could all change.
Caleb raised his eyebrows in doubt. "I think your kids and Juliet would have something to say about that. I know I sure as hell would."
Dean rolled his eyes. "I mean looking back; I would still do everything I could to save Sam. I wanted to believe the best of him, and he turned out fine."
Sam was fine after earning his degree, working, marrying Lidia and having Mary. The divorce had been difficult, but Sam had thrust himself into his father role, which made him a better Scholar and educator. "Sam's great, but those two up there haven't grown up yet."
"Maybe it isn't a good idea, but it's what I know." Dean sat on the porch swing, using its momentum to think. "I want them to watch each other's back. Be there for each other when I can't. It's how we grew up. You really going to say you would change how we watch out for each other?"
"Dude, they have each other's backs. That's the least of your worries." Caleb snorted. "Puberty is quickly approaching.
Dean had barely survived Ben's heydays, and had enjoyed the break he had between Ben and JT. "Thanks for that reminder."
"No problem." Caleb shrugged his shoulders. "It's what uncles do."
"Only the good ones with no life of their own." Dean collected the empty bottle from Caleb, tossed it with the others.
"I have a life," Caleb called after him as Dean went inside. "I just like meddling in yours."
Dean lifted his hand that he had heard, but his mission was to see to his son. Dean checked on Jimmy first, who was setting up his system to play the new game they'd gotten last week. His youngest son didn't look up.
The lights were off in JT's room, but Dean could see his son's form clearly in the dark. He thought of moments when he was hurt or sick as a child and would swear that his father was checking on him.
On the nightstand was the remains of the tea Joshua had concocted once the kids started getting sick. Dean placed his hand on JT's forehead, which seemed cooler to the touch.
JT shifted and opened his eyes. He swallowed first, but the moisture in his mouth was still not enough to help his sore throat. "Dad?"
Suddenly, Dean felt like a coward. "Go back to sleep."
"Sorry I got sick." JT sat up.
Dean sat down on the bed, gestured for JT to lie back down. "Stuff happens, Kiddo. I didn't mean to push you to play."
"You didn't do anything-"
"I did, though and there's something I need to make clear."
"You're not me and Jimmy isn't Sam." Dean tucked the blanket around his son.
"Dad?" JT scrunched his face in puzzlement.
"Just be brothers," Dean said in explanation, already devising ways to make Caleb pay for guilting him into this conversation, although a part of him understood his best friend's concerns. Dean had lived his life for a long time for his brother, taken responsibility when Sam should have been accountable for his own actions. He didn't want that for his sons.
"Like you and Uncle Sam?"
"No, better. Long before you were born, anything Uncle Sam did that was wrong, I thought I had to fix. It was the only way I thought I could be a brother, but I think you three can show your old man there's a better way." He stood up to leave, his eyes accustomed to the lack of light.
"I think I'm going to leave soccer to Jimmy and stick with baseball."
"That sounds like a plan." Dean lowered his voice to encourage JT to go back to sleep.
"Dad, can I go with Max to the coven next weekend?"
This had been a topic of conversation for two weeks. Usually when JT went to the coven it was in the company of Joshua, but Max and JT had been asking permission to go on their own for a weekend. Dean had encouraged the boys' bond, wanting JT to have a best friend, even if Dean's best friend could sometimes make him crazy. He'd learned a long time ago that there were things Caleb brought to his life that went beyond brotherhood. Dean had only been resistant to the trip because he knew that Jimmy would feel left out. He had thought about the times that Sam was too young, and had been left out of the equation. James, no matter how much he looked like Sam, was not Sammy. "Sure, as long as you are up to it."
"I'll be fine." JT nodded, holding his father's gaze. "So will Jimmy."
Dean snorted at his son's assurance, recognizing the complete faith in JT's tone. Caleb was right. His boys already understood brotherly love. "Good to hear, Kiddo. Now get some sleep while I go show your uncle and brother how to kick some zombie ass."