Disclaimer: I own nothing and no one. Not for profit.
Summary: GEN. Weechesters (Sam is 10, Dean nearly 15) and a cat. Sometimes, tough decisions have to be made. Enter Dad - the designated punching bag.
Author's Notes: For Vincent (sammynce). Hope you like this, I love you sweetie *hugs*
Word Count: 2135
It was the middle of winter, and he dug his hands in his jacket that once belonged to his big brother. He gazed at the moonlit snowscape and sighed deeply, breath exploding in a burst of steam that clouded his vision for a bit, then vanished into the dry air of Blue Earth, Minnesota. His tears had stopped falling some time ago, though it took awhile. He’d also screamed and stomped and thrown stuff about, and at his Dad, before dissolving into a fit of helpless sobs. But nothing worked.
Nothing he did could move the old man enough to change his mind.
Inside the house, John Winchester stood by the window, watching over his younger boy sulking in the bitter cold outside. He looked so desolate, and yet there was nothing John could do to help him. Not with this.
When another half hour passed and his boy still refused to budge, John steeled his heart, donned his duster and stepped outside. Sam heard the door open behind him, felt the footsteps on the creaking wooden boards but he didn’t care. He had no words left to say to his father.
John sighed, quietly made it to Sam’s side and gingerly took a seat beside him. Debated for a second whether touching Sam would just make him bolt, but in the end he remembered that he was, well, bigger. And the little boy was still young enough for John to manhandle if that’s what was needed. So he put an arm around Sam’s young shoulders careful not to lean too much of his weight on the ten-year old.
The boy didn’t flinch, did not react at all.
“I’m sorry, Sammy.”
Sam exhaled a mouthful of steam once again. “No, you’re not.”
He turned and looked up into John’s face, young eyes reflecting so much hurt and betrayal it tugged at the ex-marine’s broken heart.
“You never wanted me to keep him in the first place. You brought us here to Pastor Jim so you could drop him off. You lied to me, Daddy.”
John swallowed, looked down at his combat boots, mostly to hide the frown on his face because he didn’t want his younger son to think he was upset with him. John was upset with himself, because what Sammy said was true.
He’d caved, back in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, when Sam came home one day with a little kitten in his arms, wrapped up in his jacket. A stray, barely two weeks old from the looks of it, abandoned by the side of a road behind a dumpster. Sam recounted seeing a couple of other kittens besides this one but they weren’t moving, and John winced at the thought of his little boy finding the corpses like that.
The little thing was battered and weak, but with all the tender caring both his sons showered on it, the cat was soon well on it’s way to recovery. It steadily gained weight, the shine of its glorious golden coat returned and the eyes, it turned out, were an intense sea-green just like his sons. Just like Mary.
So yeah, he’d caved. And he shouldn’t have. He’d let Sammy give it a name. Webster. And he’d let both his boys get attached to the little wretch until Sam wasn’t excited about going to school anymore, and Dean was shirking his chores to play with it when he thought no one was looking. If John had just put his foot down then…
But now the kitten had to go, there was simply no way around it. It couldn’t possibly live in the Impala every time they hit the road. The argument was met with a steely glance from both his boys. And then Sammy had said something that ripped his heart out.
“We live in the Impala.”
John rubbed his chin with a palm, unconsciously rubbing Sammy’s back with his other one, and pondered what to do. He hated seeing Sam so miserable, and he could only blame himself.
“Look, Sammy, Jimmy will take good care of Webster. And I’ll try to bring you guys over as much as possible so you can see him, okay?”
Not okay, came the loud and clear, but unspoken reply. Sam’s face scrunched up like he was going to cry again and John couldn’t take it anymore. He picked his son up by his sides and even though Sam resisted, he placed him on his own lap. Hugged him to his chest with all the love and desperation of a single father, he always missed Mary more than ever in situations like these.
Sam tried to pull away at first, whimpering because he didn’t want to forgive his father, not yet. He pummeled his little fists against John’s chest and sobbed a little more until he tired himself out, which was only a matter of seconds. At last he gave in, melted into his father’s warm embrace and let the last of his tears flow out of his eyes.
Quietly, Sam resolved to make John drive to Minnesota as much as he could, guilt-trip him if that’s what it took. He wasn’t going to forget Webster ever, ever, ever! He was going to keep his little friend in his heart wherever he went. And he’d send him postcards, with pictures. Pastor Jim would surely show them to Webster, that old man he could trust.
John stood up, carried his son back into the protection of the parish. He hoped for morning to come soon. The sooner they left all of this behind them, the sooner Sam would get over this latest letdown at the hands of his no-good Dad.
Dean stood slumped against the dresser in the bedroom he and Sammy shared at Pastor Jim’s. His thoughts were scattered, and filled with a dull gloom he tried his best to suppress but it wasn’t working.
“Stupid cat.” He softly grumbled.
Oh, who was he kidding? Dean was as fond of their little pet as Sammy, well maybe not as much, but enough. Enough to understand why his brother was so broken up about leaving Webster behind. He had not been aware of John’s intentions behind coming to Blue Earth himself. And he could easily see how Sam would feel betrayed when he figured it out.
Dean sighed, ran a shaking hand through his hair. “I’m so sorry, Sammy,” he whispered to no one.
He softly sneezed once as he stood up and resumed packing up Sammy’s things into the smallest duffel bag they owned. Soon after that he’d start packing up his own bag and be ready to leave at o-five hundred sharp next morning. He heard his father’s footsteps outside the door, and turned to greet him before he could even walk in.
John smiled, came into the room and sat down on a bunk bed with his elbows resting on his knees. It was a gesture his oldest son was quickly picking up, along with a hundred other things of course. Some John was mighty proud of, others, not so much.
“He’ll be fine. Think I’ll let him sleep with me tonight. Webster's there too.”
The fifteen-year old nodded gravely, bit his lip and turned back to his packing.
“How are you doing?”
Dean swallowed. “I’m fine.”
“How about the rashes? Still buggin’ ya?”
A short, tepid shake of the head was his only response as he continued to not face his father.
“Are you mad at me too?”
Dean sighed, turned around and leaned against the dresser again. Bit his lip and looked here and there, not really sure what to say.
“I’m mad at me, Dad. If only I wasn’t…”
“It’s not your fault you’re allergic, Deano. Fact if anything, it’s my fault. I should have seen the signs two weeks ago.”
Dean looked down at his shoes, the frayed laces of utmost interest to him at the moment. “Yeah well, I thought it was just a cold. And maybe…”
John frowned, “What is it, son?”
Dean swallowed. “After the first week, I think I started to figure it out myself. You know with the rash and, and how my eyes burned every time I touched Webster. But…”
“You grew fond of the little tyke yourself, I know Dean. It’s alright.”
“It’s just…” Dean struggled to put it in words, “Webster’s such a champ, you know?”
John smiled, yeah he knew. Dean grew up faster than anyone had ever expected or even hoped for him. He was a mature adult in so many ways, stubbornly defying the young years of his life. If he was falling for the little kitten, he’d hidden it well. But no doubt he was in awe of the thing that had fought to survive and come out triumphant, when even John had thought he couldn’t possibly last the night.
There were so many things John wanted to give his sons, and there was so much he couldn’t. Webster was a delightful piece of normal, a welcome addition to the family that had given up hope of ever making any long-lasting bonds with anyone outside their unusual, far from socially acceptable setup. Hell, why do you think John agreed to let the boys keep him in the first place? He loved the damn thing too, you know.
But he loved his sons more. He couldn’t possibly let Dean suffer quietly, his so-called “cold” keeping him up nights and weakening the hunter reflexes he’d worked so hard to hone and perfect over the past few years. It was also futile, not to mention detrimental in the long run, to keep him permanently doped up on drugs just so Sam could have a pet to play with.
“Thank you for… for taking the fall for me.”
John smiled curbing the instinctive need to open his arms and hug the boy to himself, he knew Dean wouldn’t appreciate it very much. Teenagers.
“If you don’t want him to know then he won’t, that’s a promise, kiddo. Me, I’m the designated punching bag, it’s my job as a Dad, so don’t worry about it.”
John knew how much Dean doted on Sam, and for that reason alone he’d been hiding his allergic reactions so Sammy wouldn’t be disappointed. A tiny part of him almost envied Dean for the blind devotion Sammy had towards him. And yet another, greater part of him was as proud as a Dad could ever be. John kept Sam safe, but Dean kept Sam fed, and clean and warm and rested, and happy.
But Dean needed to take care of Sam just as much as Sam needed Dean to take care of him.
Everyone needs a purpose to live for, a reason to exist. In absence of one, they wander lost and directionless, disappointed with themselves, distraught with the world in general. People spend years struggling to find the meaning of their lives. They turn to drugs, or booze or the freaking Himalayas in search of it, but Dean was one of the fortunate ones. Or unfortunate, however you’d want to see it. Dean has known since he was four years old what the purpose of his life was.
Now it may be a less than necessary need on Dean’s part to always look and be strong in Sammy’s eyes, but John understood it, hell could relate to it. And if that was what Dean needed, then John would give it to him in a heartbeat. No questions asked.
“Do you need help here?”
Dean looked around. “Nah, I’m almost done.”
John stood up, debated with himself for a second before deciding, to hell with it. Took a step closer to his son who now stood nearly as tall as himself. Dean straightened up when he saw John approach. His eyes slowly tracked the movement of his father’s hand as it lifted off of his side to land heavily on his shoulder. A short squeeze, and a nod, and that was enough for the boy. At least, Dean told himself that it was.
“I’ll see ya in the morning, son.”
John turned and started to walk out of the bedroom.
He stopped at the door and threw a look behind his shoulder. “Yeah.”
“Maybe we could get a dog?”
John blinked, once. Twice. Looked at the smug little grin playing on his smart-assed son’s face, then up towards the ceiling, and prayed for patience and grace, and the strength to survive the adolescence of two Winchester sons, before heavily dragging his feet back to his room.
Dean bit back a soft chuckling fit and returned to finish his packing.
*** END ***