Damn, this one got long. The original posting for those who haven't read this before.
Title: Twelve Times Dad Threatened to Turn The Car Around (And Three Times Dean Almost Rode In The Trunk)
Characters: Sammy, Dean, John
Disclaimer: Not mine, Kripke is still love.
Summary: Dean doesn't look at John when he steps on the gas and drives away.
Look, comments before the fic even starts! Okay, this fic? Came from the title. I usually spend a large amount of time freaking out over my titles and having trouble trying to think them up. This one was easy though, it was a random idea that popped into my head and then fic came from it. It's also all the summary the fic needs, really.
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.
The van was a conscious decision right here because this takes place before his hunting. Right before it, he hasn't learned the truth yet but he knows there's something wrong. When I first wrote this I hadn't seen the pilot and threw the van in because I figured he would have one. Before it got posted though I was corrected and decided to keep the van anyway. This is after the fire but before he takes off; at this point he can't make himself get in that car again because all it does is remind him of his dead wife and bringing her and his babies home from the hospital in it.
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.
If we could figure out Sam completely owned Dean before the first half hour of the pilot was over Sam could figure it out by four. And to a four-year-old running away to join the circus is a perfectly good excuse.
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.
I have actually, several times, used the excuse, "Mom! Joey's breathing!" when he was bugging me. I also need to point out that all little brothers have mild Tourette's, the squawking is the least annoying thing Sammy could've done.
"If you two don't stop fighting right now, I swear I'm turning this car around!"
My parents have never actually said this but I'm sure lots have. And either way it doesn't matter; John said it because every parent in TV and movies says it and the kids immediately shut up. Poor John does not actually have that luck.
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!"
Just for reference Sammy is afraid of the pirates. Dean of course immediately backs down from the pirates ride and suggests something Sammy will like better. Because he's Dean and he doesn't really understand the concept of "selfish" except as something you call little brothers when you're mad at them.
"Splash mountain! Disneyland!"
"Please, dad? Please?"
"Yeah, please dad? Please?"
I just love the idea of Sammy parroting Dean right there. He's still at the age where John and Dean can do no wrong in his eyes.
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.
Yep, Good Omens reference. Neal Gaiman and Terry Pratchet FTW. And I just think the idea of Dean, with his already mildly broken filters no having zero ability to censor himself. Apparently, judging by all the "Dean gets cursed to tell the truth" fics out there I'm not the only one.
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.
The "reset" thing come from the Young Justice trade A World Without Grown-ups. At one point there is a villain who is torturing the heroes with images from their own minds. A character (very aptly named "Impulse") saves the day by thinking the word "reset" over and over again.
A pacifier and a roll of duct tape are the only things that prevented John from really considering Sammy's idea.
I just think it's a funny image. John driving up front, Sammy in back relaxing and Dean sitting up front with half a roll of duct tape wrapped around his head to hold a fucking pacifier in place.
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?
Dean is the Mommy. Since Sam could first say "No!" Dean has been the one stepping in between him and John and solving all the problems, he's the one who told Sam to go stand in the corner and
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.
I don't have kids but I know this choice. Do what you have to do and piss someone off or do what you want to do and suffer the consequences. John doesn't like his son being mad at him, doesn't like being told he's hated but he can live with it. If people died because he could prevent it and just decided not to though I don't know that he could've lived with that. He's a Marine. Semper Fi.
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.
Hell, Louisiana is a real place. I had to hunt for something appropriate for this part.
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.
For those of you who haven't had the pleasure? Fighting over a seat is hard work. It's real easy to punch a window or slam into a headrest with your face. The fact that Dean can hit from the front seat to the back and actually catch Sam says a lot for his aim and their training. And yeah, I think that's one of the only fist fights they've had in their entire lives. Dean was pissed off already because Sam was bitching about saving little kids and then he went and crossed The Line and Dean was just through with him.
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.
That hurt John a lot right there. It's bad enough when his baby (because Sammy will always be John's baby--no matter how old he is) tell him he hates him--he gets that, it's normal. He said it to his father, Dean said it to him (just once) and it's a standard of fathers and sons. His baby boy telling him he wished he were dead though hits him right where it counts--in part because he wishes he had died and Mary had lived too and in part because his own death is a very real thing to them. Every time he leaves them he knows he may not come back and to hear Sammy say that he wants that to happen is just too much for him.
This whole part right here by the way comes straight from my intense hatred of how many fics make John out to be a bad guy because he misses Sam's play or something and Sam whines about what a bad dad John is. It's not like John's just going sight-seeing or anything; he's saving people's lives. I always equate those fics with some snotty brat teen getting pissed off because their firefighter Dad is busy putting out a forest fire in another state instead of coming to see his baseball game. We never get to see it from John's POV and it's always implied that John just doesn't care about the "little" things in Sam or Dean's lives like their graduations. It's not that he doesn't care: it's that if he wants to make Sammy happy people have to die.
"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."
Dean and Sam had to get their mouths from someone.
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.
It's Sammy's utter defeat that makes John cave. He feels like he broke his son's spirit--he wasn't even trying to fight back anymore, just sat there and took it. And he had in a way, this wasn't come tactile move from Sam, it was just him not even bothering to try anymore.
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.
John knows because he is a good father and because he knows Dean. I just had to say that because I am constantly amazed by how many people don't seem to realize that.
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.
In my first draft this was where this section ended. And then my beta said, "Well why would he do that? What makes it so different from all the other times?" So I told her and she said "Now put that in there."
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.
Because Dean is amazing with kids even though he claims not to like them. And a tiny little girl who think the sun rises and sets with Dean? He clearly had no chance at all, he was done for within minutes.
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.
See? Firefighter. It's always awesome when something gets Kripked. Now where's that story where Sam and Dean stop hunting and instead of becoming a mechanic Dean becomes a firefighter?
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.
I kinda love that last line. I'm really conscious of how Sam and Dean and John think of and refer to each other in my fics, and when John thinks about their safety they're his little boys; six months old and for years old again, helpless and in danger from the whole wide world. Bonus piece of canon: This is a big part of why Sam left. I am of the firm belief that John (and to a lesser severity, Dean) essentially treated Sam like a little kid up until he left. He could shoot a gun at six and helped with hunts at 11 but he's walked home from school by himself only time in his life that Dean wasn't gone on a hunt with John. He's never spent the night at someone's house without Dean there to protect him but he's stayed awake alone waiting to see if his family would make it back alive.
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.
Heh. John's a patient dude but you know he entertained thoughts of maiming every once in a while. Mostly whenever Dean let his downstairs brain overrule his upstairs one.
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.
Even if pre-series fic Sammy still always the one getting choked. This was a hunt gone bad, they won in the end but only barely and mostly by pure luck. Dean's Mommying Sammy while John rethinks his life (again).
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.
The real tragedy here is that if he could go back and do it again he would. Safe trumps happy any day and besides that he still has no idea at this point if that thing was after Mary or Sam or all of them. He's fairly certain it was trying to take Sam--hence Sam being treated like a baby for most of his life.
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.
And no, he isn't happy about that either.
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.
Dean, Dean, Dean. Dumb fuck has this habit of getting caught--he thinks he's so much smarter than the cops that he barely even bothers trying to hide (that's totally why they never wear gloves, y'know?) and is honestly a little shocked when he gets nabbed.
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.
The thought of having the backseat of their car set up like a room--motel pillow and blankets and his books and duffle making a fake little wall and a picture taped to the back of the bench--is just so heartbreaking to me.
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.
This is how I see Sam leaving for Stanford. A few of the details have changed in my canon but it's basically the same. The only real difference is that instead of John and Dean leaving Sam in the room now Sam leaves and John and Dean drive to the bus station where this happens. Aside from that everything is the same. This is John trying to give Sam what he wants instead of what he needs--he's trying to show Sammy that he trusts him. The fact that he still refers to him as "Sammy" at this point tells you just how scared he is. He trusts him in theory but he still thinks of him as the little boy who cried at the McDonald's commercials.
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.
There is no way that John didn't know how bad it would fuck up Dean to be completely alone like that. They have a protocol for if he goes missing--Dean heads to Pastor Jim and the search part is sent out--and John knows that Dean will ignore it and go straight to Sammy.
Sam is still "Sammy" at this point because John's been keeping tabs on him and he doesn't know if Sammy can handle everything yet. From what John can see he hasn't been hunting or training or anything. He's soft and vulnerable and small and young.
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.
The Yoda thing comes from my Dad. He was a trucker and thus could stay up for literally an entire week with no sleep and still drive better than most people who just slept for nine hours. Mom used to tell a story about her and Dad driving through Wisconsin one night on the way to visit one of my Aunts (and my Cheesehead uncle) and that Mom didn't even realize Dad was tired until he suddenly slammed on the breaks and proclaimed, "I just hit Yoda!"
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.
The most important part of this bit is not that John knew about the visions (Jossed on that one, damn) it's that Sammy is now Sam. This is right after Shadows--right after Sam and Dean put up with mild torture and escape intact and Sam saves all three of their asses. He's not Sammy anymore. He's capable. Strong. Safe. John still worries like hell about them but he worries a little less now.