Length: About 4000 words
Rating: PG for language and mild violence
Warnings: If you can handle the show, you can handle this
Characters: Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester, a tiny bit of John Winchester
Spoilers: Eh. Maybe a teeny one if you haven't watched all of season 2. Surely you've watched all of season 2 by now.
Synopsis: A pre-series fic that takes place right after Sam graduates from high school. It's hot, Sam's being weird, Dean's annoyed, and a little bit of Winchester family history is about to be made.
Artwork by the fabulous 2blueshoes, who was willing to hook up with me on quicky_bang! Check out the art post and then go drool at ALL OF THE ART! Do it!
Also on AO3
It's only the end of May, but south Texas is already hot as balls. The Gulf's not close enough to cool them off, but it's close enough to make the air humid and sticky and thick, like walking through warm Jello. Which is why Dean's surprised when Sam announces he's going to sit in the car instead of going into the bar with them. John stiffens, gives Dean the take care of this look, and trudges away from the car, and thanks, Dad. Because Dean can think of nothing he'd rather do than deal with Sam's shit right now, out here in this fucking swamp. He leans in the open window and peers into the back seat. Sam is slumped around a book, every single bit of body language radiating annoyance. And annoying.
"Come on, Sam. It's a billion degrees out here."
"The hell you are. I can smell you from here." Dean's voice dips a little. "Come on, man. Dad's gonna get pissed."
"Dad's always pissed. I don't know why I can't just stay at a hotel. There's a hotel right across the street."
"Yeah, and we don't have a room. We don't even know if we're staying here tonight. Stop being such a little bitch."
"Or I could have taken Dad's truck. There's no reason we had to leave it outside of town."
"The reason is that Dad doesn't want the truck seen at this guy's hangout. It's a small town and we might have to be here a while. We need one car that people don't recognize. You know this."
Sam silently flips him the bird and sticks his nose back in his book.
Okay, Winchester, think. Sam wouldn't sit out here in the car just because he's interested in a goddamn book. Something else is going on. Figure it out, slap some duct tape over it, and keep everything in one piece.
"What's going on?" he asks quietly. "You and Dad fighting?"
"No more than usual," Sam answers sullenly.
"Then what is it? Come on, Sam. You're acting weird, even for you. I'm starting to worry about you."
Sam slaps the book down on the seat next to him. "Worry?" he huffs. "You're worried about me, so you want me to go into a bar, even though I'm underage."
"What?" Dean pauses, tries to make some sense out of this, and fails miserably. "That's the problem? You're underage? What the fuck, Sam? You've got a fake ID."
"I know, Dean. That's the part that's a crime."
"So? You've never had a problem going into bars before."
"I was never 18 before."
Sam huffs again, his breath barely moving the sweaty bangs plastered to his forehead. "And I'm not a juvenile any more. Anything I do now goes on my record. Permanently."
"Your record?" Dean laughs, because seriously, what the fucking fuck? "You're worried about your criminal record? And you think underage drinking is gonna be the worst thing on there? We kill people, Sam. Monsters who were people, yeah, but as far as the law's concerned, they're people. Or did you not realize the werewolf we're looking for is a man most of the time? You really think at some point down the road, you're gonna get caught and the judge is gonna say well, young man, this string of murders and grave desecrations is concerning, not to mention the credit card fraud, but for the underage drinking, I'm going to have to give you the chair?"
"Go to hell," Sam sighs wearily. He sits silently, staring at his book, and Dean eyes the cover for the first time, twisting his head to read it.
"Waiting for Godot?"
"What about it?"
"I dunno. Just seems weird. Seems like something you'd read for school."
"Yeah, it was on a summer reading list."
"But you're done with school."
"Doesn't mean I'm done with reading."
"Still. Seems kinda dry. What's it about?"
"It's a play. Couple of guys waiting for someone who's never going to come. Waiting for something that's never going to happen."
"Well, I stand corrected. It sounds fascinating."
Sam's scowl breaks into a tiny smile and he picks up the book again. "You can stop now," he says.
"Whatever it is you're trying to do. Cheer me up, talk me into going into the bar, whatever. I'm fine, everything's awesome, and I'm staying out here." Sam clearly isn't reading, but he doesn't look up from the book. "Dad's waiting for you. Don't piss him off any more than he already is."
"Oh, hell, like that's my fault, you little shit."
"No, I know. It's all my fault; it's always my fault. I'm just saying, don't make it worse."
"Fine." Dean's giving in on this one - it's too damn hot to stand out here, leaning against a black car. "You sure you're gonna be okay? It's gonna be too dark to read out here before long."
"Got this." Sam waves his flashlight without looking up.
"All right then. Have a good time, youngster." Dean ignores whatever bitchy expression Sam is surely pointing at him and heads into the bar, which is ridiculously loud, and when a 22-year-old thinks your bar is too loud, that's a bad sign, people. Or maybe it only seems too loud because apparently tonight is "Crappy 80s Disco Night." But there's a silver lining, because either Dad's even less interested in family time than Sam is, or he's decided to wait for a more opportune time and place to bitch about it. So after a minute of Sam is Sam, whaddya gonna do? the subject is dropped and he subtly nods at the group playing pool in the corner, mouthing red shirt, and it's time to go to work.
Turns out staying sober and watching Red Shirt drink beer and play pool is fairly boring work, so when Dad suggests he take a burger out to his brother, Dean jumps at the opportunity. The music, which really isn't that bad after the couple of beers Dad allowed him (and the shots he surreptitiously downed at the bar), follows him out into the parking lot, and it's not until he sees Sam's surprised eyebrows that he realizes he's actually been caught singing along to Funkytown.
Sam's stretched out sideways in the seat, slumped against the door, but he sits up and tucks his long legs into the footwell as Dean slides into the back seat next to him. "Burger and Coke for you, youngster," Dean says, "on account of you being too young to drink."
"Funkytown." Sam smiles, putting the book on his lap. "You're singing Funkytown."
"Funkytown is an awesome song." Dean plasters on his best shit-eating grin as he hands Sam the bag. "You know you love it. I bet you listen to it all the time."
"Yeah, maybe, if someone held a gun to my head." Sam holds the cold drink against his sweaty neck, and Dean wonders again what's really keeping him out here in the car, but decides not to pursue it.
"Hell, it could even be the Winchester theme song."
"Gotta move on," Dean sings. "Gotta move on."
Sam pins him with one of those expressions he's been wearing lately, the ones Dean can't read, and it makes him long for the days when he could tell by the look on Sammy's face whether he was grumpy because he was hungry or tired or waking up from a nightmare because damn, god only knows what the boy's thinking these days.
"The song's not about constantly moving, you know." Sam says. "I mean, the verse is gotta make a move to the town that's right for me."
"See! I knew you liked it."
"I'm just saying, it's not exactly the Winchester theme song."
"Whatever." If stopping this conversation means admitting he's not as familiar with Funkytown as Sam is, it's a loss he's happy to accept.
But Sam keeps looking at him. "You know, maybe there is a town that's right for me. Right for us. Ever thought about it?"
Fuck. Dean thought Sam's obsession with staying in one place would end when he wasn't transferring from school to school, but he's still chewing on that bone. At least he's got enough sense not to bring it up in front of Dad. "Nope. Cause I've decided you're right. Funkytown is not our theme song. I'm gonna go with Ramblin' Man."
Sam looks down at the book in his lap, running his finger along the edge of the folded sheet of thick paper he's using as a bookmark. "I'm serious, Dean. Maybe there's a place we could settle down. You and me. Dad, if he wants to. Maybe we could have kind of a home base. You could still hunt if you want to, but we wouldn't have to live out of the goddamn car."
"Dude. Don't insult the car."
"Why would we want to settle down now?" Dean throws up his hands. "You're out of school. We're free. We can go wherever we need to go now."
Sam turns to stare out the back window, still fingering his bookmark, and the reflection off the glass makes his eyes glitter. "So you wouldn't ever want to do that. You wouldn't ever want to stop driving and just park somewhere for a while. Not for any reason."
"C'mon, Sam. What's the point? What's the benefit of parking anywhere? It just means we'd do that much more driving to get to where we're going. Not like we're gonna move back to Kansas and only hunt the fuglies between South Dakota and Texas."
"Yeah," says Sam, still looking out the back window. "Okay."
Dean's pretty sure it's not actually even close to okay, but, whatever. It's not like there's anything he can do about it. He pats Sam's shoulder and edges out of the car, singing Lord, I was born a ramblin' man, trying to make a living and doing the best I can. And when it's time for leaving, I hope you'll understand, that I was born a ramblin' man. Yeah, that's the Winchester theme song. Doing the best I can is all they ever do.
Technically, the hunt is a success, because the werewolf ends up dead and the Winchesters don't. But Dean and Dad are possibly spotted by the werewolf's buddies, and Dad's annoyed enough that he decides Dean and Sam can be the ones who come back a month later for clean-up, make sure their werewolf didn't turn any of his biker club. Of course, "clean-up" means they park their butts at the hotel across from the bar for a few days, while Dad takes off for a more interesting hunt. The worst part is that because the Impala might be recognized, Dad takes it and leaves Sam and Dean with his truck. No, the worst part is that Dean has to lay low during the day, and by day two he's bored, aggravated, hot, and tired of peanut butter sandwiches. Sam's free to go but he stays in the hotel room with his nose stuck in a book again. Still. Always. The folded paper bookmark doesn't change, but the book covers do, as Sam plows through them like he's on a mission. Dean's not going to bother to ask about this one. He knows enough about Moby Dick (because yeah, he reads, just not all the goddamn time like some people) to know who Sam's thinking about when he reads it.
He's laying on the bed bouncing a small rubber ball against the wall, thinking of making an executive decision to leave a day earlier than Dad ordered because waiting three nights is ridiculous (bounce), any self-respecting werewolf is going to turn on day one (bounce), and why the hell does Dad think they're all so tight (bounce), in each other's pockets like they're the werewolf mafia (bounce), just because they're in the same biker club (bounce), and it's pointless to wait this long (bounce), he's obviously just being punished - and Sam suddenly snatches the ball out of mid air.
"Stop it," he snaps. "You're driving me crazy."
"Sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities, princess." Dean cracks his neck and ponders again how ridiculously bored he is. And hungry. "Hey, Sammy? Think you could risk jail and head across the street and get me a burger?"
"I can't, man. Werewolf's biker club hangs out there, remember? Don't want them to see me. Please. I'm starving. Nobody's gonna be trolling for minors in the middle of the day. You'll be fine."
Sam heaves a giant put-upon sigh. "Fine. But you don't get extra onions. Not if I'm stuck in this room with you."
Dean's still bored and burgerless thirty minutes later, and that's way too long for a damn burger. He picks up the phone and dials Sam's number, but it rings forever and goes to voicemail. That must mean he's walking back across the street to the hotel with his hands full, right? He doesn't look out the window - doesn't want to give the twerp the satisfaction of knowing he's waiting on him - but a few minutes later, there's still no sign of Sam. He calls him again, and this time he gets an answer.
"Dude. What's taking so long?"
"They, uh." Sam's voice sounds strained, but maybe that's because he's obviously got Dean on speakerphone. "They don't do carry-out. You need to come over here and eat it."
Well, he knows that's bullshit, because he got Sam a burger to go the last time they were there. "Sam, you fucker. Are you over there playing video games? Is that why you don't want to bring it?"
Sam laughs weakly. "Yeah, you caught me. Just, uh, just come on over, okay?"
"Seriously? I told you I can't go to the damn bar, in case the guy's friends see me."
"No, it's, uh, there's nobody in there. No one's in the bar."
"Fine," Dean huffs. "But you owe me big time."
"Hey, Dean?" Sam interjects. "Bring quarters."
"Hell no. You can pay for your own video game habit."
"No, for the jukebox," Sam replies quickly. "They've got my favorite song, remember? Funkytown? I want to listen to it."
"God," Dean sighs. "You are so weird. I'll be over there in a second."
"Okay. Don't forget. Funkytown."
Jesus. Dean hangs up the phone. Why is Sam yanking his chain about Funkytown? And come to think of it, that whole conversation was weird. Why would Sam put him on speakerphone in a noisy bar? Except the bar wasn't noisy at all, like a bar should be, and why was that? Why couldn't he hear bar noises or video game sounds?
Why would Sam say there's nobody in there if he meant there was nobody in here, in the bar with him?
Why is he making a big deal about listening to Funkytown? He doesn't even like that song.
Maybe if someone held a gun to my head.
It hits him like a punch to the gut. A gun to my head. Sam's trying to tell him he's not in the bar, and someone has a fucking gun to his head, and goddammit, that someone's about to get hurt. Bad.
He sticks his gun in the waistband of his jeans and climbs out through the back window in case his room is being watched. He slips behind buildings and goes to the end of the block, then crosses the street and creeps silently through the alley until he's at the back of the bar. A handful of motorcycles are parked at the corner of the parking lot, hidden by cars and the building itself, and dammit, that's why he couldn't see them from the hotel. It's no excuse; he should have checked. He knew better and he got lazy and fucked up and sent his little brother straight into a trap - but he can wallow in guilt later. Right now he's got to fix it.
The windows at the rear of the bar are painted over, but the paint is scratched and worn away enough that he can see into a storeroom. Can see Sam tied to a chair, hands behind his back, bloody nose and bleeding lip, and dammit all to hell, Dean wants to run in there right now but he can't; he has to see what he's up against. He watches long enough to determine there are two guys in the storeroom with Sam. One definitely has a gun and the other probably does too. And he figures there's at least one guy, possibly two, waiting in the bar for him.
(And then he has to stop looking, because the way Sam is sneering at the asshole looming over him, he knows his brother's about to get punched again, and he can't guarantee he'll be able to keep his cool if he has to watch that.)
He knows how to flush them out, and he can do it without breaking his cover. All it takes is a bullet in the gas tank of one of the motorcycles. It's a gorgeous black and ivory Indian, and it's a damn shame to waste it, but those dicks don't deserve anything this nice anyway. Then a greasy rag from the bar's dumpster gets wrapped around a rock, set on fire with his ever-present lighter, and tossed into the puddle of leaking gas. He hides behind the dumpster for about a minute while the first curious bar patron comes to check out the gunshot and runs back inside; then the door to the back room is flung open and the asshole with the gun flies out, yelling about his bike.
The other asshole is still in the back room with Sam. Dean slips quietly inside and sees that Sam apparently got that punch he was anticipating, because his chair has been knocked over and he's on the floor, still tied, completely defenseless as the guy heaves a kick right into his ribcage. Or not so defenseless after all, because even as he cries out in pain, he works a leg loose and lashes out, hooking the asshole's legs and pulling him to the floor. Dean is on top of the guy before he can get up, cracking him in the head with the butt of his gun, and he's down for the count.
"Sam!" He yanks a knife out of his boot and saws at the ropes holding his brother to the chair. "You okay?" he asks, as he pulls him to his feet.
Sam gasps and clamps a hand against his side. "Yeah, I'm okay. We need to get the fuck out of here. They know who you are."
"No shit." Dean peeks out the door. There's a small crowd, but they're all focused on the burning motorcycles; no one will notice them. He yanks Sam back into the alley, taking the same circuitous path back to the hotel. He keeps a firm hand on his brother's arm as he drags him along. "Did they see us at the hotel? Do they know we're there?"
"No," Sam pants, holding his free hand over his ribs. "They didn't know where you were. That's why they wanted me to call you."
Once they get to the hotel, Dean helps Sam through the window and climbs in after him. He quickly steers Sam into the bathroom, backing him up against the sink. He wets a washcloth and pushes it into Sam's hand. "Wipe your face," he says. "What the fuck was going on over there? Why'd they grab you?"
"Hell, they didn't want me." Sam accepts the washcloth and dabs tentatively at his still-bleeding lip. "They knew I was with you. Saw us together last time we were here, I guess, out in the parking lot. They were just trying to get me to call you."
"And why didn't you? Why'd you wait until I called you? Twice?" Dean pulls Sam's shirt up and gently probes for injuries.
"What, call you to come over and get ambushed?" Sam hisses as Dean presses against his ribs. "An asshole with a gun wants my brother and I'm supposed to just hand you over?"
Dean palpates again. Bruised, maybe cracked, probably not broken. "Yes, exactly. Instead of letting someone beat the crap out of you and maybe shoot you in the fucking head while they're at it."
"I was okay," Sam mumbles, pushing Dean away from his injured ribs. "I didn't want to drag you into it."
"Drag me into it? I was already part of it! I was the reason you were even on their radar!" He grabs Sam's shoulders. "Look, we're a team, okay? I've always got your back. Don't try to handle this shit on your own."
Sam won't meet his eyes. "Dean, I'm not going to lure you into a goddamn trap, okay? I've gotta stand on my own two feet sometime. You're not always going to be following me around, picking up the pieces."
"The fuck I'm not!" Dean says, fists clenched tight in Sam's t-shirt, because dammit, Sam. "I'm always gonna be there. I'm always gonna have your six. You understand?" He resists the urge to shake some sense into his brother's so-smart-and-yet-so-stupid brain, and instead heads into the room to start tossing clothes into his duffel. When he looks up, Sam's still leaning against the sink, curled in on himself like something's broken inside. "Sammy? You okay? Ribs hurt?" Goddammit, that son of a bitch kicked his little brother while he was on the floor, tied to a fucking chair, and he should go back over there and break a few bones in return, maybe a skull while he's at it, just on principle.
"I'm okay," Sam says, which is Winchester-speak for I'm injured or terrified or otherwise emotionally traumatized but I don't require assistance right now; it can wait until a more opportune time and place. Dean should know; he's the one who taught him how to speak Winchester in the first place. He'll check Sam more carefully for injuries when they stop, but right now they need to get the hell out of Dodge.
He returns to gather the few items left in the bathroom. "You know, that was pretty smart, what you said. About Funkytown. You're a smart kid, Sam."
"Yeah. Sometimes I am."
"Of course, I was freaking brilliant for figuring out what you meant."
Sam smiles as he gingerly hoists his own duffel onto the bed and starts gathering his belongings. Moby Dick is the first item he picks up. He traces a finger along the folded paper bookmark like it's a treasured possession, like he has to reassure himself it's still there, then gently places it in the bag. He winces in pain as he bends to pick up his clothes left on the floor.
"Dude? You sure you don't need me to tape up those ribs?"
"I told you, I'm okay." Sam smiles at him, a tight little smile that's as fake as his words, but that's all right. Whatever's wrong, Dean's going to fix it. Doing the best I can, just like the song says.
Probably not canon-compliant. But then, I'm not gonna hold myself to higher standards than the show itself does.
Dedicated to kalliel and amberdreams because they encouraged me to do it. (Also, if you haven't read Poughkeepsie, go remedy that situation right now.
Songs from this fic:
Funkytown by Lipps Inc (if you've never heard this song, you need to go listen and then imagine young Dean Winchester bopping through a dusty Texas bar parking lot singing along).
Ramblin' Man by the Allman Brothers