Hello, hello, and many happy returns of the day! I've had so much fun getting to know you and reading your lovely, amazing fic... You've given me many hours of pure enjoyment, so...here's my small contribution to your day. I hope your special day is full of fun and friends!
Not actually *finished* finished, but hey - that just means more in the future! What if Sam's powers were all there from the start - from day one? A look at an alternate 'verse...
Gen for now - of course spoilery for season one... Enjoy!
And darkhavens - thank you for the thrice-over and beta!
After Mary died and Dean stopped talking, John sometimes just sat and watched his boys. Dean wouldn't sleep unless he was tucked in with Sam and it was beyond John, just then, to fight him over it.
So he would sit in a chair, or on the side of the bed and watch Sam kick his little pajama-ed feet, gurgling. Watch Dean rub Sam's belly, slow little start-and-stop circles. Their eyes fixed on the mobile John had rigged over the army cot. The mobile that spun and spun and spun, battery long gone.
"Too high, Sammy," Dean said, looking up. And up. Up to nearly the top of the metal shelves that were crammed with stuffed animals. Of course Sam wanted the only rabbit in the whole place that looked real. He wouldn't settle for a green one or a blue one down where Dean could reach.
And Dad had said, loud and clear – 'No more climbing the shelves, Dean. I don't care what Sam wants.' So that was out.
"Deean..." Sam said, pointing, and Dean sighed. He should never have read him The Velveteen Rabbit.
"Sam, it's too high."
Sam stared at Dean, his lip all wobbly like he was going to cry. Then he turned his stare on the rabbit, his brows scrunching together and his eyes slitting almost closed. Staring so hard Dean looked up, too. Just in time to see the caramel-colored rabbit wobble and then topple slowly, falling end over end. Dean reached out and grabbed the toy just in time.
Sam took it with a gap-toothed grin.
John juggled two bulging bags of groceries through the door and onto the counter. One started to do a slow tumble and he grabbed it, cursing under his breath. Almost lost the eggs, there. He took his cap off and wiped his forehead with the back of his wrist. It was hot outside – hot and still, a line of black thunderclouds bulking rapidly across the western sky.
Sam was hunched over the kitchen table, book and notebook and dictionary spread across the top. Slowly translating one of the texts Jim had lent them, last time they were up. Making their own personal occult library out of countless Mead notebooks.
"I got about five more bags of stuff in the car – where's your brother?" John asked.
Sam lifted one shoulder, chewing his lip. "Coming across the last field." Sam always knew where Dean was. Always. "Was doing target practice."
"Guess you'll have to help me with the groceries then," John said, and Sam dragged himself upright, pencil in the groove between the pages to mark his place. Outside, rain began to patter down, fat drops that sounded like buckshot on the tin-roofed car port.
"Better shut the windows," John said and all over the house, the windows went down.
Dean woke between one breath and the next, blinking into darkness. Confused and then a little freaked when he heard the noise. A low, tearing sound – animal noise of pain and Dean was up and out of bed, fumbling for the switch on the lamp and getting his foot tangled in the sheet.
"Sam? Sam? Daad!" Sam was there, curled in a knot near the bathroom door and Dean went to his knees, gathering Sam up – dodging the weak punch aimed at his head and pinning Sam's arms to his sides, legs tangling. "Hey, it's okay, I got you – Dad!"
John pushed the bedroom door open, pajama bottoms and his hair flat to one side of his head, eyes puffy. "Dean, what -? Oh hell."
"Get the – the kit, get the pills –" But Johns was already gone, and Dean hugged Sam closer. "Sam, shhh..."
Sam twisted, panting – arched in Dean's arms, his entire body shuddering, bowstring tight. Making that noise and Dean gritted his teeth and held on, held on, his heart pounding behind his ribs so hard it hurt. And then Sam went limp, completely boneless, and Dean struggled to keep him from knocking his head on the floor.
A couple seconds later John was back, kneeling down – wet washcloth for Sam's eyes, glass of water and the first-aid kit and an oversized sketchpad. "Sam? Wake up, son." John's hand patted Sam's cheek, little stinging slaps.
"C'mon, buddy, c'mon Sam, help me out here –" Dean rubbed his fist in the middle of Sam's chest like he'd seen an EMT do, pressing down hard, and Sam twitched and gasped, curling away. "There we go..."
"D-d-d..." Sam struggled to say – something. Could be Dean, could be Dad. Could be disco, for all they knew. Fucking visions. Dean got his back to the wall – got Sam between his thighs, wrapping his arms around him. Sam had his eyes squeezed tight shut.
"It's okay, we're here, we've got you," John said helplessly, his hand smoothing Sam's sweaty hair back from his forehead – shooting Dean a look of mingled fury and fear.
"D-dogs, little d-dogs and...red rocking chair and she has r-red hair, she – there was blood, there was blood, all over the baby, so much blood, pleeeease –" Sam's voice went high and desperate and thin and his nails dug into Dean's arm – into his thigh.
"Ow, okay, okay Sammy, we got it –"
"Sign, sign, water t-tower – where –?"
"Here, Sam, here." John pressed the pencil into Sam's hand – put the sketchpad across his knees and Sam hunched forward, smoothing the paper with a shaking hand. He began to blindly sketch, his eyes still shut tight against the pain – against the light. Five minutes of nothing but the hissing slide of graphite over sixty-pound cold press and Sam's hitching, rasping breath. And then he was done and the pencil fell from his hand and he slumped back against Dean, head to Dean's shoulder.
"Up – up on the ceiling, Dad, up over – over the baby, all the blood –"
"God damnit," John muttered. He took the pad and shoved it aside – opened the first-aid kit and pulled out the pills. Illegally bought codeine, the bottle half full. John twisted the cap off the bottle and shook a pill out into Dean's waiting palm.
"C'mon Sam, take this, okay? Take this and we'll go back to bed."
Sam rolled his head back and forth on Dean's shoulder, pushing ineffectually at his arm. Dean just held on tighter. "We gotta go, Dean, we gotta go, we can't – can't wait!"
"Just slow down, now," John murmured, patting Sam's knee. "I gotta make some calls, Sam – figure out where this is." He folded the washcloth and lay it over Sam's eyes and Sam flinched a little. "There's time to rest, I promise."
Sam pressed both his hands to the washcloth for a moment and then he nodded, his mouth drawn into a tight little grimace. "Okay, okay..." John guided the glass into Sam's hands and stood up, taking the pencil and pad with him. Stood there while Sam drank some water and coughed – drank more and took the pill and then lay in Dean's arms, exhausted and shaking.
"You gonna be sick?" Dean asked.
"M'okay," Sam muttered, and John gave Dean a little nod and went quietly out the door, pad and kit in hand. To make phone calls, to pull books – to do his slow, two-finger research on the year-old computer in the livingroom. "Dean?"
"Yeah?" Dean asked, letting Sam twist around – letting Sam push into his shoulder, nose just brushing Dean's neck and the washcloth dampening the collar of Dean's t-shirt.
"I don't...don't wanna ss-see stuff like that. It's really...really scary, Dean." Sam's voice cracked a little and Dean hugged him close, unconsciously rocking them both in a gentle side to side.
"I'm know, Sam. I'm sorry... Wish they'd come to me, wish –"
"No, no, I don't – don't want – not to you," Sam said, and his fist curled into Dean's shirt, twisting. He sniffled, rubbing his nose on his wrist. "I just want it to stop, I just..."
"I know you do."
"We never get there in time," Sam whispered, crying now and Dean wanted to cry, too – just hugged Sam closer instead, blinking hard.
"We – we do the best we can. You know we do."
"Yeah." Sam shifted, whimpering softly. He pressed his knuckles to his eyes again, grinding the washcloth into his face and Dean stopped him, rubbing his fingertips over Sam's temple. Silently pleading for the pain pill to work faster.
"It hurts, Dean, it hurts, it hurtsss..."
Dean bit his lip, hard. Anything to keep himself from losing it – from breaking down right along with his little brother who should never – ever – have to see the things he saw. "I know, honey, I know," he whispered, knot of anger and fear in his belly that made his voice too rough – too cracked. "It'll be better soon, I promise, be better soon, shhh, shhh, shhh..."
By the time John had puzzled out Sam's sketches – found where the demon was going to strike next – they were both fast asleep.
The brick wall was cool under Dean's fingertips. Cool and rough and he idly rubbed his index finger back and forth, wondering how long it would take to wear off the callus from knife-sharpening and gun-cleaning. He wondered why calluses were only external, because he sure could use some internal ones.
"You really wanna do this, man?" he asked, and Sam sighed and twisted his fists down deeper into his pockets, hiding behind his bangs. Leaning on the same wall, one foot propped up and his shoulders all hunched. "I mean, just 'cause Dad said...what he said... He doesn't really mean it."
"No? Could'a fooled me," Sam muttered and it was Dean's turn to sigh.
"Sam, you know –"
"I really don't, Dean." Sam's eyes flashed up to stare at Dean and then away, skipping over the parking lot. "I can't...hear him. At all. I never know what he's thinking."
"You could ask."
"Yeah, well, he never gives me a straight answer." Sam arched his back a little, flexing up off the wall and then dropped back down with a soft thump. "I just think...I just really need to do this, Dean. I need to just – get out."
*Get away. Away from us. Stronger together, we're stronger together...* Dean cut that thought off as fast as it surfaced – shot a glance at Sam, hoping he hadn't heard. He didn't always. Just to make sure, Dean started reciting AC/DC lyrics in his head.
Sam let out a little explosive snort of a laugh, grinning crookedly. "Jesus, Dean! I won't – I'm not listening, okay? You can cuss me out all you want in your head, just stop thinking TNT lyrics at me!"
"Like I'd cuss you out in my head." Dean pushed off the wall and stepped around directly in front of Sam – stood there with his feet a little apart and his hands loose at his sides. Ready for anything. "Why do you always gotta fight him, Sam? He knows what he's doing, you know?" Sam snorted, looking away, and Dean punched him in the arm.
"Knock it off. You know he's damn good."
"Yeah, I know. But he's so damn secretive all the time! It's like he – doesn't trust us! Like he thinks we'll fuck up if he's not riding our asses twenty-four seven."
"He's kept us alive, Sam – what more do you want?" Dean snapped, finally letting his anger – his hurt – well up and over and Sam let his sneakered foot drop – stood up, shaking his hair back and glaring.
"A life, Dean. I want a life, okay? I want to know what it's like to – to –"
"Not to be a freak? Too late for that, Sammy. We're both a few Sunday pot roast dinners short of Beaver Cleaver."
"Not to have to watch you and Dad do your fucking hoo-rah Marine impression all the fucking time, okay? You both act like I'm made outta glass, you both do stupid shit, all the time to keep me safe! Maybe if I'm gone...." Sam cut himself off, biting his lip – reached down and jerkily picked up his duffel, hitching it up onto his shoulder.
"Maybe if you're gone, what?" Dean kept his hands from making fists by an effort of will. "What the fuck does that mean?"
"Means maybe you and Dad'll stop being so damn reckless! Maybe things'll...quiet down." Sam adjusted the strap of the duffel and Dean just stared at him, too confused to muster a decent reply.
*That's all he's got. Whole life in one fucking bag, that's...*
Sam shot him a fast, fading grin. "It's not a big deal, Dean. I don't need much."
"God damnit, Sam!" Dean grabbed the edges of Sam's jacket and button-up, pushing his brother back hard, right into the wall. Hard enough to make his teeth snap shut. "It's what we do! Not like all the evil shit in the world's gonna stop crawling outta the woodwork just 'cause you decided to be Joe fucking College!" Dean lifted Sam a hand-span away from the wall and thumped him back again. "And you know you're good. It's just –"
"Just that you don’t think I'm good enough." Sam's eyes seemed a little too bright, sparkling in the shadows and Dean felt his stomach clench tight. "Dad sure doesn't. I mean, I know I'm not perfect like you are –"
"Shut up, just...just shut up, Sam." Dean let his head drop down for a minute, forcing himself to just...stop. He wanted to shake his little brother until his brains scrambled or unscrambled or something. Until Sam was thinking straight and not... *Not leaving, can't leave, for fuck's sake, it's not safe, Sam, you can't...you'll be alone...don't...need you...*
Sam took in a sharp, surprised little breath, like Dean had punched him. "That's not fair. Dean, that's not fucking fair." Sam's hands came up and wrapped around Dean's wrists – tugged just a little. "Dean? I'm not...it's not like I'm never gonna...see you again. Okay? We're still – still gonna talk -" Sam's voice cracked, wobbling into silence and Dean took a hard breath.
*Can't tie him up and make him stay. God damnit, Sammy, why do you gotta...* Dean let go of Sam's clothes – slipped his wrists free of Sam's weakening grip, smoothing the wrinkled cloth under his fingertips. "You damn betcha we're gonna talk. You're gonna call me every week. You get me? Every – Wednesday. First one you miss, I'm gonna be back out here so fast your head'll spin."
Sam blinked at Dean – looked down at the hand still rubbing in slow circles over his chest and Dean didn't stop. Didn't pull away, didn't grab Sam by the ear and drag him to the car. "Don't fucking touch my ears, man."
"I'll kick your ass." Dean finally stopped his hand – let it drop away from Sam and Sam grabbed it – used it to jerk Dean into a hard, hard hug.
"I'm not not coming back. I promise."
"Yeah, I know." Dean hugged back – let his eyes go closed for one moment, taking a long breath. Smell of gun oil and smoke – of sage and clean cotton and the faint citrus of Sam's shampoo. Smell of Sam, that was warm and a little spicy and a little sweet. Another moment – a handful of heartbeats and Dean let go – stepped back.
"Tell Dad..." Sam sniffed and rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes – pushed his hair back and let out a hitching little breath. "Tell Dad I –"
"I know," Dean said again, and Sam gave him a watery little smile – jerked at the strap of his duffel and edged one hesitant step away.
"You gonna be okay?"
"You know me. I'm good, Sammy. Don't..." *Don't forget me, don't forget us, don't get hurt, Jesus, please...* "Don't study too hard. You'll strain your brain."
"Yeah. You'd know all about that." Sam halfheartedly ducked the light slap Dean aimed at his head and then he was moving away, walking backwards down the sidewalk, the sky that particular shade of porcelain blue that only came in autumn. "Bye, Dean."
"Every Wednesday, Sam!" Dean called – fended off the little storm of leaves that swirled up from the sidewalk and danced around his head for a moment.
"I won't forget!" Sam yelled, and then he was gone and Dean made his way back to the car, wondering how long it would take Sam to notice the envelope full of twenties in his pocket.
Sam hadn't had a vision in years. When he'd turned fifteen, in fact, they'd just...stopped. That had made his Dad and Dean go tight-lipped and grim, as if it was some sort of terrible omen. Sam had taken it as a gift – thought that maybe some other hunter had lucked out and exorcised that demon. Maybe no more families were being baptized in blood and fire – torn apart by gleeful malice.
But he'd never forgotten how they felt. A sick sort of vertigo – a swimmy, twisting feeling, as if everything around him was being warped by a vast, unseen pressure. A velvet paw that sank its claws into his brain and pulled. Sam doubled over among his books and papers, laptop beeping indignantly as his elbow crushed several keys at once.
Glistening spatter of rain across a half-opened window, curtain belling and falling in the breeze. Stuttering flash of a digital clock racing forward – backward – flickering out. Music skipping and faltering, cd caught in a loop – degenerating to static. Figure in the window, figure on the bed...blood...shadows...fire...
"No, no, no –" Sam twisted, fingers digging into his skull – books hitting the floor, cascade of papers like the dry rustle of winter-killed grass.
"Sam? Hey – you okay?"
Sam jerked up and back from the tentative hand on his shoulder, pain scratching across his eyes as he looked up into light. "Ah, God, yeah – just – m-migraine, I –"
"Oh wow, okay. My aunt gets those. You need to go lay down –" Hand again, on his arm, and Sam took a deep, metal-edged breath and stood up – caught himself on the table-edge as he very nearly went right back down.
"I need – in my room –" *Jesus, fuck, gotta move -* He knew that room. His room – his house – someone in his room, caught in a web of blood and fire and he had to stop it, stop it. *Has to be Pen...she's the only one...God...* He scrabbled at his books for a moment, coordination gone – confused. That hand again and finally the bee-hive drone faded – the pressure eased enough for him to see.
Carlie – Carrie – something. She was in a class... His brain wouldn't clear enough for him to place her but he could stand straight now – could run if he had to. *Have to, have to run -*
"Look – I'll get your stuff for you, okay? You just go. You're an RA at Xanadu, right?"
"Yeah, I – look –"
The dark-haired girl patted his arm again, tugging lightly at his sleeve. "No, seriously – do you need help getting there? My aunt, if she got her pills in time she could kind of head them off, so –"
"Okay. Yeah, okay, I can get there. Third floor. Thanks."
"It's cool," she said – crouched down and started gathering up the spilled papers. Sam stood there for one more moment, breathing past the nausea that threatened. Then he stepped over a book and started walking. The first three strides were shaky – his head pounded and everything swung around, smearing and jittering. Fourth step and it was settling – fifth and it was almost normal, just the fire-hot claws that flexed and stabbed, deep in his brain.
By the time he got to the stairs, he was running. *Pen, I'm coming...God, I'm sorry, I'm coming, I'm coming...* Pen's eyes, in the sick half-light of the vision. Wide and terrified, brimming with tears. Tall, round, Pen, who loved Frank Capra movies and red hots and who called Sam big brother. *I'm coming, hold on, hold on...* He ran, ran as fast as he could. But some things are faster.
"...leave a message, I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
"Dean? Hey, it's...it's me. Dean..." Sam turned his head a little, coughing. Fending off the oxygen mask the EMT was pushing at him, holding the phone up so the woman would just back off. For just a damn minute. His mouth tasted of burning and blood – failure like sour ashes. "It's back, Dean. It's back. I need you here...soon as you can." Sam clicked the phone off and the EMT snugged the mask back over his mouth, giving him a stern look.
Sam slumped back against the ambulance door, the blanket drooping off his shoulder. His hands stung and throbbed, burned by the heat. His face did – his shoulder, where a piece of the ceiling had fallen onto him. Pen had fallen too, red-and-black, smoking and shriveling and dying. Dead before Sam had even gotten up the stairs. Silly little-sister Pen who'd half-way made up for the gaping holes that were Dean and Dad.
Sam squeezed his hand around his phone and watched the water arc up from the hoses, silver fountains against the seething flame.
"I think...got...something..." John's voice over the phone, half drowned in static and the ambient noises of the diner. A sudden pop as the line abruptly cleared. "...got a lead on this thing. Dean? You hear me?"
"I hear you. A lead on – on the demon? Our demon?" Dean hunched over the phone a little, ignoring Sam's 'What'd he say?'
"Yeah. I think I'm getting close. Dean –"
"Where are you? Dad – we'll meet up, take this son of a bitch out." There was a long silence – a hiss of static like a passing car on the highway. "Dad? You there?"
"I'm here. I need you to take this down."
John's voice was rough and exhausted sounding and Dean swallowed his objections and his questions and dragged a pen out of his coat-pocket. There were printouts scattered over the table and Dean shoved his chicken-fried steak aside and pulled one close, pen ready. "Yeah, okay – go ahead."
John gave Dean a series of numbers – a quick outline of the job. "The cycle's come around again, Dean. Need to stop this thing."
"We will. Dad –"
"I need to go. You give me a call when you're done there, okay?"
"Yessir. But –" And Dean was talking to air as Sam snatched the phone away from him.
"Dad, what's going on? What about the demon?"
"Damnit, Sammy –" Sam eluded Dean's lunge – leaned way back in the vinyl booth, scowling.
"If you know something you need to tell us! We can help –" Dean could very faintly hear John's voice, and Sam's scowl went even darker. The salt and pepper shakers started to jitter in place and the sugar packets were crinkling in the little square holder.
"Sam, I swear, if you don't –"
"What the hell, Dad? Do you want to get killed? You have to – Fuck!" Sam looked like he might throw the phone right across the diner and Dean leaned up and snatched it fast – put it to his ear. Dead air. Dean wanted to give Sam a nice, hard, kick.
"God damnit, Sam, what the fuck is your problem?"
"What the fuck is yours?"
The print out Dean had written on crushed itself into a ball and Dean grabbed for it – hissed in frustration when Sam wouldn't let go. The shakers were spinning in tight little circles now, and the sugar packs were being squashed down tighter and tighter. "Sam."
"We're supposed to be doing this together, or did you forget? We're stronger as a family, Dean!"
"Look, Dad said he just had a lead, okay? He wouldn't take on the demon by himself. Sam, stop it." The sugars exploded with a little puff and then everything – stopped. Dean pulled his hand back, the balled up paper in his fist and Sam slumped down, staring at the tabletop. There was sugar dusted across the knuckles of his hand.
"You don't know that. You don't know what he'd do, and neither do I. He keeps sending us these jobs – sending us all over the place –"
"We can cover more ground like this, Sam, that's all. We waste twice the fuckers this way." Dean heard the note of pleading in his voice and winced a little, glad Sam wasn't looking at him. "You know Dad wouldn't keep stuff from us..."
"He keeps stuff from us all the time, Dean," Sam muttered, and Dean really couldn't argue. It was just...how it was. Need-to-know.
*Don't be mad, Sam, don't be mad at him, don't fight, I hate that, don't fight...*
Sam shot Dean a fierce look, mouth coming open like he was going to say something bitchy but then he just sighed, kicking at Dean's foot under the table. "Knock it off. That's totally unfair."
"Not my fault you're such a freak," Dean smirked. Sometimes having a psychic for a brother was so worth it. He pulled his plate back close and cut a bite of steak. "Eat up – we gotta get going. Indiana's at least two days away."
"Not the way you drive." Sam poked at his meatloaf. "There's sugar all over this."
"Your own damn fault," Dean said around a mouthful of mashed potatoes – fended off the pepper shaker that tried to dive-bomb his carrots. "Knock it off, Kreskin."
"So..." Sam took a gulp of his tea – started scraping the spilled sugar into a little heap. "What's the job?"
"Every year, a couple traveling across country goes missing in Burkitsville. Dad says..."
Birthday fic! Two Roads Diverged... - raise your glass and toast.
to the glory of...