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Fic: What Was and What Could Have Been

Title: What Was and What Could Have Been
Author: brightly_lit
Rating: PG for language
Genre: gen, angst, h/c, brotherly feels, wee!chesters, teen!chesters
Characters: Sam, Dean, OCs
Word Count: 5,500
Summary: When John doesn't return from a hunt, Sam and Dean, ages 10 and 14, have to find a way to live on their own.

Author's Notes:

I wrote this story to explore how Sam and Dean's dynamic, their lives, and the men they became, might be different without so much of John's influence. Much as I love John, I thought it would make an interesting subject. They may have the same sad future coming for them, but that's not the focus of this story. I hope you enjoy!

“It’s gonna be okay, Sammy,” but Dean’s voice sounded anxious in the black night as they picked their way around a woodpile outside the dark cabin.

“Whose house is this?” Sam’s voice definitely sounded anxious.

“Dunno.” Dean peered through the window, then tried to open it.

“Why did we have to leave our apartment?”

“’Cos the cops came. Here, help me with this.”

“Dean!” Sam hissed. “I’m not sure we should be doing this!”

“Just trust your brother, all right?” Dean barked, with a sharp edge that was only there, Sam knew, because he was afraid. Dean was afraid. Now Sam was, too.

He helped him with the window, but once it was open, Sam said, “Dean, why are we doing this?”

“Because we need a place to sleep. Hoist me in so I can see if anybody’s there.” Sam hoisted him in, keeping watch outside anxiously for anyone who might catch them, praying if anybody did, it would be Dad, having hunted them down, just like he always did, no matter what. There was no one around, though; nothing but owls and bats and maybe deer and other things that only came out at night. Sam started with a soft yell as Dean stuck his head out the window with a grim smile. “Nobody here! Come on.”

He handed Sam in and shut the window behind him. “I think this place is abandoned,” Dean announced, sounding pleased. “Careful of that hole in the floor. Come on. Let’s go to bed.”

“I’m hungry.”

“Me too. We’ll get some food in the morning.”

They came upon a bed. They could see by the light of the moon through the window that it was mussed, dusty, broken down. Both of them hesitated, looking at it. They were used to sleeping in all kinds of situations, but this was a step down from anything they’d ever had to do before. “I ... I dunno, Dean,” Sam said, a new kind of anxiety coloring his voice, but it wasn’t so much about the bed as that seeing it there, contemplating sleeping in someone else’s evidently long-abandoned bed, made this way more real. “Maybe there’s ... spiders in there, or--or moles, or something.”

Dean snatched the blankets off the bed, shook them out briskly, swept the fitted sheet with his hands, and put the blankets back on it. “Not anymore.”

Sam gingerly crawled under the sheets, and Dean followed. Sam was tensed against the possibility of feeling something moving against his legs, but the bed seemed as empty and abandoned as everything else around here. Once they were settled, Dean said, “We’ll be safe in here tonight, then tomorrow, we’ll see what’s what.”

Sam absorbed this silently, overcome by an unfamiliar feeling. From descriptions he’d read in books, he’d have to call it ‘homesickness’ ... but he’d never had a home to be sick for. Except Dad, he supposed. Just his family and their ubiquitous car. “Dean ... where’s Dad?”

“I don’t know,” Dean admitted. “Late, I guess. It happens.”

“Yeah, but it’s been weeks.”

“I know.”

“You paged him?”

“Of course I paged him. Like ten times! I tried calling Bobby, too, but there was no answer. They went on this hunt together.”

“Why hasn’t Dad called?”

Sam couldn’t see so much as feel the heaviness settle over Dean. Sam knew that as much as he missed Dad, Dean must miss him twice as bad. “I don’t know.”

Everything seemed a little less terrifying by the light of morning, especially with Dean so busy and take-charge--kind of put-on, Sam knew, because he wanted to be able to handle anything, like Dad could--and Dean also so pleased with the cabin, which seemed like a genuine feeling, which made Sam like the place more. It seemed like a broken-down mess to Sam, full of dust and cobwebs and useless junk, but Dean kept bragging about how no one would find them there and the roof was still sound along with most of the windows and it had obviously been abandoned for a long time so no one would come back to claim it. Dean let out a shout of delight when he was able to get a lightbulb to burn dimly after cranking on the old generator outside, and he was finding all kinds of stuff among the junk that made him happy, especially weapons and ammunition.

Sam squinted in the bright sunlight streaming through the eastern windows, very tired. Neither of them had slept well. It was a Tuesday. Yesterday morning, he’d been in school like any other day, then last night the cops came. It was probably because Dean had been shoplifting food from the local store, but whatever the reason, he and Dean had managed to climb out the back window and escape before the cops got in. Dean had hot-wired a car and they drove until it ran out of gas in the forest not long later, and then they found this place. Yesterday, he’d figured he would be sitting in Mrs. Alton’s fourth-grade class today like any other day. He gazed blearily at the angle of the sun. It was probably almost time for gym. Tears came into his eyes, imagining being able to be there playing kickball or basketball or gymnastics or anything, instead of in this weird-smelling creepy cabin full of old guns.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t found himself in an unexpected situation many times in his life, but at least Dad had always been there and known what to do and been able to get them food. He worried about Dad. Would he be able to find them?

Dean was loading guns. “I’m goin’ huntin’!” he announced.

Sam sighed, very troubled. “Can’t we just steal like we have been?”

“I don’t know how far it is to a town. We drove here, remember?”

Sam frowned. “I don’t want to eat just meat.”

“Well, we have to eat something before we try to walk to town. Get our strength up.”

“Hunting will take strength,” Sam countered. “You’ll be at it all day, and you probably won’t be able to get anything bigger than a squirrel, and we’ll end up hungrier than we are now.”

“Fine, genius!” Dean suddenly yelled, throwing down the gun. Sam flinched, but understood: Despite appearances, Dean was just barely holding it together, too. “Then what do you suggest?”

“Let’s go back to the road and see if we can find a sign that says how far it is to town. Maybe there’s even a little store around here somewhere. Maybe they’d let us work for food!”

“You’re ten!” Dean scoffed.

“You’re old enough to work.”

“You have to have your parents’ permission until you’re sixteen.”

“You can lie.” Dean rolled his eyes, but Sam could see he was at least contemplating the idea. Once his unfounded optimism was questioned, he could usually see logic. He knew Sam was right, that he might not have success hunting. They didn’t have a working refrigerator, anyway, so even if he killed something big, it would be rotten in a couple of days, now that the weather was getting warm. Dean didn’t want to just eat meat for however long, either.

“All right,” Dean said at last, grabbing a gun, tossing it to Sam, and picking up another. “But we hunt while we walk, and if we get enough for dinner, we come home and cook it up. I’m starving.” Sam nodded eagerly, and they set out.

Along the way, they came up with contingency plans. Dad had taught them to do this from the youngest age, giving them the rundown of the roles he assigned them and how they were supposed to act as they entered into a new situation, but Dean was a natural at it, anyway; he loved scheming and figuring out how to charm people into getting what he wanted. Even Sam liked part of it, the planning aspect, solving problems logically.

“If anyone asks, I’m sixteen,” Dean said, flipping his pistol and pointing it at a few trees before holstering it in the back of his jeans. “And I have Dad’s permission to work and whatever.”

“Why aren’t you in school?”

“Uh ... uh ... we’re ... homeschooled. Yeah.”

“So why are you working?”

A relaxed grin spread across Dean’s face, getting into the fantasy. “Summer vacation, baby!” Dean had had spring fever since February. He probably didn’t miss school at all. He probably had already mentally started his summer vacation the first of May, two weeks ago. “I need money for ... ’cos I want to buy my first car! My dad’s making me work for it, teaching me the value of an honest day’s work.” Dean chortled at the idea. Even Sam did. If there was one thing credit-card-fraud-expert Dad never planned to teach them ....

Sam giggled and skipped, also getting into the idea. If Dean could just get a job, if they could just get money, they’d be all right until Dad came back. He looked up at his older brother with a sort of awe as Dean swaggered down the dirt road, looking perfectly relaxed at the idea of lying his way into a job. Sam didn’t have that easy charm, he knew, and he hated lying; he would probably choke if it were up to him ... but he knew Dean could do it.

It took longer than they expected--a few days. They had to dig in people’s trash cans and hunt rabbits (they found setting traps worked better) to get by until Dean was able to get a job in a different town, but on the plus side it wasn’t far to this other town and Dean was able to get an old motorcycle that had rusted outside their cabin working again, so he was able to get to work without any trouble. Not to mention that Dean was happy, because he’d always wanted a motorcycle, and Dad, of all people, forbade it, saying they were too dangerous. So this was probably the only time Dean would ever get to have and ride a motorcycle, and he was making the most of it.

While Dean was at work, Sam would do other things that needed to be done: cleaning out the cabin, repairing useful objects and weapons, trying to get things working again. He was handy that way, which Dean seemed to appreciate the way Sam appreciated Dean’s easy ability to lie and charm his way into anything.

Once they had enough food and a cooler to keep it in, Dean spent a paycheck on a mini-fridge so they didn’t have to worry about it so much. Then cranking the old generator proved to be such a pain in the ass that Dean saved up for a better one, that ran on propane. They spent one of Dean’s days off working together to hook it into the wiring and get it running. Once they did, they spent the whole rest of the night cheering, whooping, laughing, and generally celebrating in the bright electric light. Sam had never felt such a sense of accomplishment. He could tell Dean never had, either. Everything they’d ever done had been under Dad’s orders, following in his wake on his hunts. They’d never had a chance to build something for themselves, something that would last. It had been hard, but it was ultimately so satisfying.

The summer passed this way, Dean saving up for things that would make their lives easier, Sam working on improving things around the cabin. It was only when Dean mentioned it was already August that Sam realized just how much time had passed. All their focus had been on living day to day, Dean keeping his job and no one finding out he wasn’t who he said he was, Sam making their house livable. Succeeding at that had seemed like a little victory every single day. It had kept them occupied, kept their minds off bigger, much worse things--things beyond their control. “Dad’s been gone for four months?!” Sam said.

The grin melted right off of Dean’s face, which made Sam realize idly that he’d never seen Dean smile so much in his whole life, but he came home from work every single day smiling. He liked talking to people, charming customers, making money. He liked everything about it. “Guess so.”

“Where is he, Dean??”

“I don’t know, Sam.” His voice had that weary, muted edge that said he was even more afraid than Sam to have a good look at what this meant.

“Well, have you heard anything about him in town? Does it sound like he came back looking for us?”

“Don’t you think I would have done something about it if he had??” Dean exploded. “Don’t you think I’ve been paging him?? No, there’s been nothing! No sign of him anywhere!”

“Dean, do you--do you think--”

“DON’T SAY IT, SAM!” Dean roared, and stormed into another room, slamming one of the doors they’d repaired.

Sam wondered if Dean was mad enough to make him sleep on the hard wood floor that night, since they only had the one bed to share, but when it got late, Dean finally opened the door and gruffly told him to come to bed. Lying there in the dark, Dean abruptly said, as if Sam had asked the question, “I don’t know what to do. Just keep on like we have been until ... until he comes back, I guess.”

Sam nodded quickly, anxious to smooth things over with Dean, because it suddenly seemed clear maybe Dean was the only thing in this whole world he still had.

A few days later, Sam hesitantly brought up school. “If you think we should keep on as we have been,” he said carefully, “... do you think maybe I should go back to school when it starts?”

Dean contemplated. Sam had anticipated resistance; he wasn’t sure why. Maybe because Dean hated school, so now that he had an excuse to do something else, no way he was going back. In any case, Sam could tell Dean was now thinking not of what he wanted, but of what Dad would say, if he ever came home. “Yeah, maybe,” he hedged anxiously. “If you can. Would Dad have to be there to register you?”

“You registered me once.”

“Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I guess you better.”

Sam started fifth grade with all the other students. Dean drove him to school on the back of the motorcycle every day on his way to work. Even Sam liked riding it. Maybe because Dad wouldn’t let him do it if he were here, but it wasn’t just that. He liked the wind in his face, his clothes flapping against him, Dean’s huge grin, the way it made them both feel ... free. He missed Dad, but there were good things about his being gone, too, just as long as he never let himself think the worst.

Only when he huddled in the lee of Dean’s sheltering back against the whipping snow that November on their way to town did Sam secretly in his heart decide Dad was never coming back. Maybe he wasn’t dead, he told himself. Maybe he was wounded, or had encountered some kind of monster that made him lose all his memories and forget he had two boys to go home to. Maybe he was imprisoned, by some monster, or even by the law, and he would get out someday. Or maybe ... maybe he’d decided Sam and Dean were just too much trouble, that they were old enough to survive on their own. Maybe that was why he spent their childhoods teaching them survival skills. Maybe that had been his plan all along. It stabbed him in the heart whenever he thought this, but still, it would be better than if Dad were dead.

He knew better than to ever say any of this to Dean. Dean was happy these days, pretty much all the time. He was nicer to Sam than he’d ever been. He treated him respectfully, appreciating Sam’s contributions, assuring him that they were just as valuable as the money Dean made. Dean tried to be fair and almost never ordered him around, now that Dad wasn’t around doing the same thing. It wasn’t really in Dean to be a drill sergeant, though he’d been doing his best to model Dad’s behavior that way. Dean even talked about his feelings sometimes, which he’d stopped doing sometime in the last couple of years. Still, now and then, when they were talking over dinner or working on something together and laughing, Dean would suddenly get really quiet, and Sam would know he was thinking the same sorts of things about Dad that Sam did, but they never said any of it out loud, because that would make it real.

Dean came home one night two years later, freaked out. “I think they’re onto me,” he told Sam. “They got some kind of notice saying I never paid my taxes.”

“Maybe you should pay your taxes,” Sam teased, making dinner. It only made sense for him to make dinner, since he had more free time, but Dean cooked on his days off, especially if it was summer and he could barbecue dogs and burgers.

“I was fucking fourteen and working illegally!” Dean shouted. Dean looked around their cabin that they’d worked so hard to get just right. “I don’t want to have to pick up and leave!”

Sam really didn’t, either. He wasn’t actually that worried. If Dean just paid his taxes, everything would probably be fine, and if they had to move, they knew how to do that now, too. In fact, this turn of events conveniently brought up a subject he’d been meaning to broach with Dean for a while. “Well, it’s legal now, right? And if you’d had your parents’ permission, it even would have been legal then. So just come clean about your age. They won’t fire you now even if they know, right? They just promoted you to assistant manager.”

Dean might have let a few things slip at work over the years about how he didn’t know where his dad was and he was supporting himself and his little brother. Anyway, two years living in a small town, it’s kind of hard to keep secrets. Most people seemed to have gathered that they were on their own, and people only seemed to feel sorry for them; no one bothered them about it. “What, just admit I’m sixteen with an eighth-grade education?! Someone’ll bust me, and--I don’t know, try to make me go to school or something!”

Sam shrugged, flipping the meat. “You could get your GED. Then you wouldn’t ever have to go to school.”

“What are you saying, Sam? Go legit? Is that seriously what you’re saying?? Dad would roll over in his--” Dean stopped abruptly, gulped.

Sam spoke quickly, to kill the horrible silence that would grow otherwise. “I don’t think he would, Dean. We only lived that way because ... you know, because he was always breaking the law, and because we moved around too much for him to hold down a regular job. He had a regular job, you know, before Mom died. He believed in that. I don’t think he’d be mad.”

“It’s not the way he taught us! I mean, what happens if you start putting your real name on things, creating a paper trail ...?”

“I don’t know, but if you’re not a hunter, maybe nothing bad, you know? That’s how most people live. If it went bad, we could leave then, but I think it’s worth a shot, ’cos I don’t wanna leave, either.” He really, really didn’t. He loved getting to stay in the same place for two whole years.

“I haven’t even been to school in years,” Dean groused, kicking off his shoes and slumping on an easy chair they’d found on someone’s curb and brought home via a trailer they hooked up to the motorcycle for big things. “I don’t know that shit. And I’m not about to go back!”

“You can just study for it and then take the test.”

“Dumbfuck like me won’t pass it,” he muttered, kicking up the footrest. “You’d probably pass it right now, you little asshole, but I never would.”

Sam turned away from the stove to frown at Dean. “That’s bullshit. You’re smart, Dean. Really smart. Smart enough to figure out exactly how to keep us alive since you were fourteen! I know you can do it.”

Dean sighed heavily, plainly already feeling defeated. “Maybe if you taught me.”

“Fine, then, I will,” Sam retorted.

“Fine, then, you better,” Dean retorted in return. Sam grinned to himself to hear a smile back in Dean’s voice.

Dean got his GED. Hesitantly, counter to everything their dad had ever taught them, they started doing things legally, legitimately, the way other people did them. If they didn’t know how, they just asked, and found that despite their dad’s pervasive paranoia, most people were actually nice and helpful. Dean came clean about his age and paid his taxes and no one was mad; no one even seemed that surprised to learn these things that Sam and Dean had thought were such big secrets.

They started making friends--real friends, who knew real things about them. This was, after all, the first time they’d ever lived for so long in one place, and they found that putting down roots and making deeper connections was natural. Any time they took a new risk this way, they were nervous, but they were careful, and it always seemed to work out okay. Sam liked not having to lie so much to teachers and his friends at school. In fact, it all seemed 100% good until one day, when his art teacher held him up after class, saying she needed to talk to him.

Once all the other students were out of the classroom, she sat down and gazed at him with a look on her face he didn’t understand. “Sam,” she said gently, “I heard that you’re ... on your own, just you and your brother. The boy who works at Dairy Queen, right?” Sam shifted nervously and nodded. Crap, the other shoe was dropping. Dean was right. Dad was right. They should have kept lying. “Where do you boys live?”

Sam gestured vaguely outside of town. “We ... we have a place,” he said, heart quickening. Oh, no. They didn’t even have a real address, just a p.o. box. They sure didn’t legally own the place; they were squatting. Dean sometimes had parties out there with his friends, so people knew where they lived; were they about to get kicked out?

“All by yourselves? Are you okay? Do you have enough to eat?”

“Yeah; that’s why Dean ... works.”

“And Dean doesn’t go to school.”

“He has his GED!” Sam insisted defensively.

“It’s okay, Sam,” she said, a kind grin lighting her face. “You’re not in trouble. I just want to see if there’s anything I can do.”

“No, no, we’re good!” Sam insisted, and fled to Dairy Queen, where he told Dean all about it. Dean seemed a little troubled, but he said people had said similar things to him and nothing bad had come of it, so he thought it would probably be okay. Sam was incredibly relieved. He even let the manager give him a free cone to eat while he sat outside waiting for Dean to get off work while he did his homework, even though he usually declined. He came here almost every day after school to wait for Dean, and the manager almost always offered him a free cone. Sam paused, doing his homework, remembering the look on the teacher’s face, on the manager’s face, on other people’s faces. It was sympathy. They knew the truth, and they weren’t mad, they just ... cared. Some people cared, and they would help you if they could. If this hadn’t happened, if they hadn’t had to live on their own and get to know people here, how would they ever have come to know that anyone but hunters would help you if you asked?

That teacher had them over to her house for dinner sometimes. So did Dean’s manager, and some of his friends’ parents, and some of Sam’s other teachers. In time, they grew used to the kindness of strangers. (Dean, of course, even found ways to make it work to his advantage, particularly with some of the high-school girls who flirted with him at work.) Some of the things Dad taught them, they still used every day, but others fell away, skills for a life they no longer had to live. They learned new skills, things Dad would never have thought to teach them, about becoming part of a community, and trusting other people, and figuring out the lawful way to do things.

Still, it all seemed like a temporary arrangement, something they were doing just to get by, until Sam was 17 and all his teachers started talking to him about his future and what he wanted to do with his life and how he should go to college. Dean, now the manager at Dairy Queen, seemed perfectly content--more than content. Compared to the life he thought he had to look forward to, free now of Dad’s perpetual dissatisfaction that used to so torment him, Dean was about the happiest man on earth, like he’d gotten an indefinite reprieve, so that everything he had now seemed like an unimaginable gift he was still afraid might be taken away from him at any second. Sam knew Dean would work at Dairy Queen for the rest of his life if nothing came along to change his trajectory. So that night, he broached what he knew would be the most difficult subject since he tried to talk to him about Dad: He told him he wanted to go to college.

“On my salary?” Dean scoffed. “You wish.”

“I can get loans that’ll pay for everything. Maybe I can even get a scholarship.”

“But ... the nearest college is like fifty miles away,” Dean hedged anxiously. “I could only come see you on weekends.”

“I know,” Sam said evenly. “That’s why I ... want you to come with me.”

“What, and work at DQ there?! They wouldn’t promote me to manager straight off, Sammy,” he informed Sam condescendingly. “I’d have to work my way up to the top all over again!”

“No, I mean, Dean--I want you to come with me to college, and go to college, too.”

Dean stared at him uncomprehendingly for a long moment, then turned away, shaking his head, disbelieving. Still, he saw Sam’s absolute certainty in his eyes, knew it was what he wanted, more than anything. Once upon a time, what they wanted hadn’t seemed to matter in the shadow of all of Dad’s demands, but nowadays, they’d found that the other’s happiness was about the most important thing in the world. “You want to leave everything we’ve built here?” Dean said imploringly. “Our house, our friends, and everything? Our town, Sammy? You’re ready to leave it all behind?”

“Probably someday someone’ll start asking whose name is on the deed, but if not, it’ll still be here whenever we want to come home. Maybe someday (if we go to college), we’ll even have enough money to buy it, for real, if we have to. But it’s a big world, Dean.”

“A big, BAD world, Sammy!”

“That’s what we thought, but ... maybe not. This town didn’t turn out to be bad. Just because Dad thought the world is bad doesn’t mean it really is. Dean ... I have to find out.”

“But our home,” Dean pled. “We finally have a home, Sammy,” he whispered.

“We always had a home, Dean,” Sam said, just as softly. “You, man. You’re my home. I don’t want to hide here forever, scared of what’s out there. But I can’t do it without you. If you say the word, I guess we’ll stay. But I really, really believe you could be happy there. If not, we’ll come right back, how’s that? Whaddya say?”

Dean stared at him a long moment, then turned away, shaking his head hopelessly. “I can’t do it, Sam. I could barely graduate middle school! How could I cut it at college?”

“You were able to get your GED, right? After you only studied like three weeks! You can do it. I’ll help you,” Sam said firmly.

Dean glanced back at him hauntedly. “Dad ... you know this is not what he wanted. He would’ve wanted us to be hunters.”

“Yeah? Well, Dad doesn’t get to say anymore, Dean. He doesn’t get to say.”

Dean stared around the room for a long time, looking at the furniture they’d collected, the holes they’d repaired, the refrigerator they’d bought new. “I love this place, Sam,” he murmured, and his voice quavered. Sam knew why Dean kept his back to him.

“Me, too.” Sam’s eyes filled with tears, too, thinking of all his friends, his school, the Dairy Queen, the dinky storefronts in their tiny town that had become as familiar to him as Dean’s freckles.

“This is what you have to do?” Dean asked heavily. Dean glanced at him long enough to see Sam nod. “Then I guess we better start packin’. I couldn’t enjoy it anymore if I had to live with you moping around here all the time.” He tried for a jovial tone, but he sounded so sad.

Sam got up and touched his shoulder. Dean immediately turned and buried his face in Sam’s shoulder (although Sam did hear Dean mutter irritably, “Sasquatch,” which he did now every time he was reminded how Sam had shot past him in height). Dad hadn’t been big on hugging, but once he was gone, it had come to seem natural to Sam and Dean. Especially when things were hard, at least if your brother was there to hold you up, it made everything else seem so much lighter. “You’re gonna love it, Dean,” Sam insisted, squeezing him tight. “Because if there’s one thing you love better than high-school girls ....”

“... It’s college girls!” Dean finished, brightening already. He drew away and looked Sam in the eyes, his own eyes wet. “Out in the big bad world all on our own, huh?” Dean said, pushing away from Sam, giving him a playful punch on the shoulder as he did. Already, he started putting things he couldn’t do without in a pile. A long-ago memory of having to do this all the time welled up in Sam, of every time Dad came home and abruptly told them they had to go again, that so-familiar process of grabbing only what you couldn’t live without. The number of items on that list had grown considerably in the intervening years.

Dean was already looking more cheerful. He loved an adventure. “Well, ain’t like we’ve never done it before.”

Sam smiled and started helping him. “If we could do it once, we can do it again.”

Dean grabbed the picture of their father Sam had drawn in art class from memory that they’d framed and put on the wall--the only image they had of him. “What do you think, Dad?” Dean said to the picture, adding it to the pile. “If you find out Sammy up and went to college, you’ll come back for sure just to whip his ass, right?”

“You’re going, too,” Sam reminded him.

“Yeah, but he’ll know it was your idea,” Dean countered, and they grinned at each other across the pile for a moment.

Sam sobered. “Dean ... you know Dad’s never coming back, right?”

“I know,” Dean said easily, and hearing the ease with which he said it right out like that, a weight lifted from Sam that had been making his heart heavy for seven years. He came to terms with it long ago, but he was never sure about Dean. “And you know, Sammy, wherever he is, even if he’s mad--I bet he’s proud, too. Son of a bitch better be--we were just kids, and we made it!”

“Yeah, you did it,” Sam agreed, getting out some old army gear that had always been in the closet. “You kept us going.”

“We did it,” Dean insisted. “Together. I guess I can live without Dad, but I can’t live without you.”

“Back atcha.”

Dean got another duffle out and started stuffing it. “So, Sammy, holder of all worldly knowledge, tell me: is there a better method to use for picking up college chicks than high-school chicks? ’Cos most of my information comes from Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds, and I’m not sure it’s all that reliable ....”

~ The End ~


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 25th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
Brightly, I'm not sure if this fic makes me feel happy or sad for the boys! Maybe both. :-/
Feb. 26th, 2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
Me too! :-}
Feb. 25th, 2014 09:46 pm (UTC)
Wow! I really enjoyed this.

It's funny how Sam and Dean actually have a happier childhood with John gone, when all John was trying to do was protect them. I can't help thinking about what will happen when the Yellow Eyed Demon comes for Sam though ... Sam's happy childhood may ultimately doom him. It's hard to see him surviving the battle when he's not been training since he was 10.

So I guess, the fic is about the question: is it better for them to live happier lives or is it better for them to be safe, even at the expense of their happiness? It's obvious what John chose, so this is a really interesting view of what could have happened.
I'm not actually sure what I think. Because John's way may have kept them alive but their childhood was pretty terrible (for Sam at least) and their adult lives are really difficult too. They've never really caught a break. In extremely generalised terms: Happy but short life, or long but unhappy life?

Heh. This fic has really made me think. Great job! :)
Feb. 26th, 2014 10:48 pm (UTC)
That's funny--I wrote the story thinking of the question of family and the boys' relationship, leaving the question of their destinies out of the equation, but I knew people would think of it in those terms, too, so last night my friend and I discussed whether they would really have been better off with more training, only to realize--Sam died anyway at the end of S2, so his training didn't save him there! And it was their love for each other that allowed him to overpower Lucifer, which would only have been stronger in this story's scenario! So, much as I love John for doing everything he thought he had to to protect and train his children to face any eventuality, maybe it didn't do them that much good in the end .... Fun to talk about it and consider, in any case. :-)

Glad you liked the fic!
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 26th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
Aww, that's so cute! I hope they're tears of joy.
Feb. 25th, 2014 11:35 pm (UTC)
brightly-lit pre-series 5.5k
Apr. 12th, 2014 02:57 am (UTC)
Re: brightly-lit pre-series 5.5k
[lol literally months later - thank god for Gmail bookmarking!]

I really love that first image of the alien bed. It's this motif and sensory memory-experience that seems very tied to moments of adolescent transience--whether that transience can be owed to something as charmed as summer camp, or as loaded as very different kinds of familial disruption. Or being a Winchester, which is a whole 'nother beast. The way that Sam first registers this bed, and then goes on to consider it in terms of the fact that it's not like there's a familiar home to contrast it with, and yet, is really effective.

I also really enjoyed this idea that even though their lives take a very different exit in this fic, there are certain moments and milestones that seem almost locked in history: College/the big world's draw for Sam, versus Dean's reluctance to alter or leave whatever it is they have (however disparate these circumstances might be--hunting into adulthood with John vs. this alternative, small town life without him). And, of course, even as these things are locked into history, this doesn't preclude them from playing out against expectation, perhaps, or precedence, destiny/fate, etc.

Feb. 26th, 2014 12:34 am (UTC)
Ohh, this is great. I have no coherency for a better comment right now, but just... aww. My heart.
Feb. 26th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, yay! :-D I feel like we can all really stand to see a little healing between Sam and Dean these days ...
Feb. 26th, 2014 01:38 am (UTC)
great fic! thanks for posting!
Feb. 26th, 2014 10:42 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it!
Feb. 26th, 2014 02:36 am (UTC)
I think the saddest thing about this story is how plausible it is that the boys would ultimately be happier without John's influence in their childhood.
Feb. 26th, 2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
Yeeeahhh, that gets me, too. God love him, but it must have been hard growing up as that man's son.
Feb. 27th, 2014 03:15 am (UTC)
This was a really interesting take on what might have been, and raised some thought-provoking questions about John's influence over their lives.
Feb. 27th, 2014 04:32 am (UTC)
Ah, thank you very much! It made me rethink some things I didn't expect to, too. Glad you liked.
Feb. 28th, 2014 11:13 pm (UTC)
I really, really love this story. I keep returning to it in my mind and wanting to read parts of it again, and when I do, the simple beauty of this concept, its sadness but the feeling of rightness to it, the ring of truth... John did his best, but it was a terrible obsession that cost him, and Sam and Dean, horribly. I truly thing things could have been different, as they are here. I don't know that the YED would even be interested in Sam after this, and if he was, I think Sam and Dean could still figure out how to defeat him-- even better perhaps, because of their love for each other, as you say above.

Though I too love John, I feel like the brothers' entire future, whatever it is, would have to be better if their later childhood had happened this way. I'm filled with longing for it to be real. So GREAT JOB. I can hardly think of a fic that's affected me this much.
Mar. 5th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
Ah, what a great comment!! I'm with you with the idea that maybe the YED wouldn't have been interested in Sam after this, like John's obsession perpetuated a lot of that, but in any case, I don't think it HELPED them much if at all. I wish it could have been real, too! :-}

I can hardly think of a fic that's affected me this much.

Oh, wow, what a compliment!! The greatest of compliments. *glows* Thank you!
Mar. 1st, 2014 01:06 am (UTC)
Wow, this was such a powerful story. I came here on a rec from spn_bunker. Poor boys. I believe they would have been much happier without their father. The way you set up that everything was temporary, then less temporary, then permanent was great. It sits in my gut with sadness that they were never able to be happy.

To quote septembers_coda:
I'm filled with longing for it to be real. So GREAT JOB.
Mar. 5th, 2014 03:31 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you so much. It kills me, too, that they were never able to be happy, and now I just wrote another story today that's even sadder ... but yeah, I agree with you; I can only see them having had happier lives without John, unfortunately. So glad you liked it, dear!
Sep. 5th, 2014 08:12 am (UTC)
A thought provoking what might have been - made even worse in that you appear to have killed off Bobby too! Or at the very least removed him as a possible surrogate father later when they might need him... A very interesting premise, well written.
Sep. 7th, 2014 11:14 pm (UTC)
Yeeeah, had to kill Bobby or they wouldn't be entirely left to their own devices. So glad you liked it! :-)
Sep. 29th, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC)
What a lovely alternative for the boys. To think of Dean being happy always -- that would be something. The only thing that would have made this better for me is if the boys started making out, but that's just my filthy wincestial mind. :)
Apr. 26th, 2017 01:25 pm (UTC)
Such an awesome fic, this is the third time I have read it and I am finally commenting!!!

Love how their personalities ring so true, and sad that the boys were happy with so little, for so long, that Dean would have stayed and been content forever..
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brightly lit, princess tutu

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