Title: Twelve Times Dad Threatened to Turn The Car Around (And Three Times Dean Almost Rode In The Trunk)
Characters: Sammy, Dean, John
Summary: Dean doesn't look at John when he steps on the gas and drives away.
Dean is five and has a brand new "big boy" booster seat that he is extraordinarily proud of. Sammy is one year and eight months old and has a car seat that was brand new when Mary bought it one year and eleven months ago.
Dean still doesn't talk much, but John's been assured that's normal for a child his age who's been through what he's been through. Sammy is sleeping and the soft suckling noises he makes on his bottle are oddly soothing. Dean is holding the bottle for him and he looks so tiny and grown-up and serious that John almost turns the van around and considers leaving the boys with his sister.
Sammy is four and he is already an evil genius. In his great knowledge of the world and everything in it, he has figured out that if Dean isn't riding in the front seat then he can ride in it. He has also figured out that he can get Dean to do absolutely anything he wants.
Which is how John came to spend four hours tracking his missing son, whom Sammy had said ran away to join the circus, and Dean spent four hours locked in the trunk in the worst game of hide and go seek in the history of the world.
Sammy is six and Dean is ten and John is about to lose his mind. Dean wont stop touching Sammy and Sammy wont stop breathing on Dean and Dean wont stop growing and Sammy wants McDonald's and Dean wants chicken and Sammy wont stop squawking and that's it.
"If you two don't stop fighting right now, I swear I'm turning this car around!"
For a few seconds there is blessed silence, both boys too afraid to even move. And then.
"Where are you gonna turn it?"
"Where will we go?"
"Are we going to Disneyland?"
"Disneyland? I wanna ride the teacups!"
"No! The pirates! I wanna ride the pirates dad!"
"No! Not pirates! Pirates are scary! I don't like pirates!"
"We can go on splash mountain! You can get wet and scream and everything!"
"Splash mountain! Disneyland!"
"Please, dad? Please?"
"Yeah, please dad? Please?"
Dean won't stop talking. He can't. He and John and Sammy were hot on the heels of some random, non-violent, but very inconvenient, demon and Dean tackled some witch-nun from the order of chattering something, they aren't exactly sure what because she was talking a mile a minute, all they really know is that she said something to Dean and he started speaking.
This happened five days ago. Since then Dean has spoken every single thought that has entered his brain without stopping. It took a few hours and a straw to figure out how to get him to drink anything, eating isn't a big problem, but watching him speak with a mouth full of hamburger is. Sleep doesn't even stop it and no father should ever get a play-by-play of their teenage son's dreams at night.
Sammy suggested stuffing Dean in the trunk on day two and Dean told him exactly how far to shove that thought, exactly what kind of brother he was, and then proceeded to repeat the word "reset" for seven straight minutes before listing off the lyrics to songs.
A pacifier and a roll of duct tape are the only things that prevented John from really considering Sammy's idea.
It's the same fight again, the same one they always have. Sammy doesn't want to leave because he has a test tomorrow and John's gotten wind of a small hospital full of people who don't seem to like staying dead in Alabama.
Sammy's yelling without raising his voice and John is matching him tone for tone. Dean, as ever always, is playing the mediator. Maybe Mrs. Kupswich can make a note that Sammy was un-enrolled before the test so that he doesn't have a failing grade? Maybe the hospital can wait just one more day?
They're plowing down the highway when Sammy declares his eternal hatred for his father and John almost does turn around and drive back into town, but he knows that if this thing gets out of the hospital, it'll spread like a plague.
Same fight, different night; Sammy has a school play in a week. He's been cast as the lead. Nine small children in as many days have been found in the middle of the roads in Hell, Louisiana without any skin.
This time the yelling is audible and Dean is on John's side and how can Sammy be so selfish and what a spoiled brat and don't talk to me like that and both of you be quiet now and when Sammy screams that he wishes Dad had died instead of Mom, John isn't quick enough to catch Dean's fist before it swings backwards and catches Sammy right in his face.
John has to pull onto the shoulder because now the boys are full on attacking each other over the seat and John's chest hurts so bad that for a split-second he thinks he's having a heart attack.
"You really hate this life so much then fine. Get out. I'll drive you back to your precious school; I'm sure your teacher wont have a problem taking you in."
Sammy has discovered a brand new way to wage this war. He just sits there passively in the back seat, quiet as the dead and a dozen times more still. He doesn't complain. He doesn't fight, he doesn't yell, he doesn't scream. He doesn't beg, he doesn't plead and he doesn't even ask anymore.
He just sits there and takes it.
Hours later when Sammy has fallen asleep, backpack for a pillow and stolen motel blankets wrapped around him, Dean and John talk. Dean tells him that Sammy just made the honor roll and that he has a presentation in class tomorrow. He tells him about the girl Sammy likes and the boys who always fight over who gets to pick him for kickball and all the kids who sit in the library with him at recess and play dominoes.
Sammy and Dean spend two months with Pastor Jim and Dean only complains until John pulls the low blow and tells him to take care of his little brother. John spends a day and a half getting drunk and another day getting past the hangover.
This time it's Dean who doesn't want to leave. He doesn't complain or make any faces or anything because he's Dean and so he just bottles it up inside, but John knows.
One of Dean's friends has a daughter; a tiny little six-year-old with no front teeth who worships Dean, the ground he walks on, the air he breathes, and everything else about him. The first week they came in to town she wore frilly pink dresses and ribbons and resembled a dainty little porcelain doll come to life. After meeting Dean, everything quickly changed and she started wearing little boy's jeans and black t-shirts and coming over to ask Dean to come play with her.
Not for the first time, John considered stopping the car and making his sons stay behind.
John isn't entirely sure what makes this time so different from any of the other times they've left people behind. When he remembers watching Dean and Emily playing dress up, and how Dean doted on her like he dotes on Sammy, he thinks about his son and realizes that Emily may very well be the closest Dean will ever come to having a family of his own.
John knows that Sammy will leave one day because he doesn't want this kind of life. He also knows that Dean loves the hunt and lives for saving others, and that in another life he would probably be an EMT or a firefighter or something equally noble.
John knows that in this life Dean's only chance at a normal life depends on whether or not John can trust the universe to take care of Dean by himself. He knows that if he were to turn around now and drop Dean off and tell him not to follow that he wouldn't, that Dean would just stay right where he was told.
But John can't do that. He is a father and he is selfish and he is still and will always be afraid for his little boys.
It's ridiculous really. Being run out of town because Dean can't keep his hands off the sheriff's daughter doesn't only make John angry it annoys him too.
Sammy thinks it's the funniest thing on the face of the Earth and he keeps snickering randomly and making awful jokes.
John will never admit it, but the thought of leaving Dean for the wolves back there crossed his mind for a minute. But only after Dean suggested that it was John's fault for picking a place with so few people under the age of "a million" to begin with.
It's four in the afternoon on a bright and sunny day when they leave Window Pane. Dean's in the backseat holding the icy-gel pack to Sammy's throat while he sleeps. John knows Dean blames himself for what happened to Sammy and the little boy, but John knows who's really to blame.
It's times like these, when they're down and out and one of his boys has come too close to the end, when he wishes The Impala were a DeLorean so he could go back and do the right thing and leave his boys with someone else.
John's behind the wheel again. Sammy has shotgun for the first and, if Dean has any say about it, the last time ever.
Dean is on the floor in the backseat, hands and knees over the middle bump with blankets and books and dirty clothes and garbage bags weighing him down and hiding him.
John pulls up to the roadblock and kicks on an accent and lays it on thick; Yes sir, no sir, just me and m' boy cleaning out th' ol' house, a whole ton o' old junk don't no one want much less need, all right sir, you too sir, have a nice night, hope you catch whoever you're lookin' for.
An hour and another roadblock away John pulls over and Dean takes his place back up front and Sammy spends the next state and a half rearranging his makeshift room until it's back the way he likes it.
John flips the car around on 35th Ave and starts driving back to The E-Z-Inn. It's early enough in the morning, or late enough at night, that John has no fear of police or other drivers when he sits idling in the middle of the road in front of the motel.
John wants to go in and tell Sammy that he's sorry, tell him he can come back whenever he wants, tell him he still loves him and that nothing he can ever do will change that.
But he can't.
John knows that if Sammy leaves right now with things the way they are he wont come back; he'll go to college, get a degree, maybe find a wife, have a kid, settle down and, god willing, put this all behind him. John also knows that if he walks through that door right now and apologizes, Sammy will go to college, get his degree and then come back. John wants to keep Sammy safe and he knows the easiest way to do that is to keep him with him, but he also wants Sammy to have that white picket fence he wants so badly.
Dean doesn't look at John when he steps on the gas and drives away.
John hears his phone ring and his stomach churns with guilt. It's all he can do not to pick it up and tell Dean that he's okay and that he doesn't have to worry. But John isn't okay and Dean should worry.
John knows that Dean will go and find Sammy once he's been "missing" for a few days and that's what he's counting on. His boys are in danger, big danger, and as much as he wants them to have what they want he needs them to be safe even more.
His phone trills with the notice of a new voicemail and rings again.
John drives the truck straight out of Chicago. He drives until his truck slows and sputters with the need for gas and then he fills her up and keeps driving.
Eight states away he runs over Yoda in the middle of the road and thinks that maybe he's far enough away that he can trust himself to stop.
John's dreams are filled with images of his boys, bloody and mangled and dead and he hopes those dreams Sam doesn't think he knows about aren't contagious.
~ ~ ~ ~
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