This is a tag to "The kids are all right"…a one shot and unfortunately the usual disclaimers still apply…
I would like to dedicate this story to my little niece, who was born just two days ago on January 2nd, 2009.
So this is for the cutest, most adorable little creature on earth, the most perfect little human I have ever seen, ten fingers and toes, two beautiful eyes and a nose you just want to kiss every time you get your hands on her.
A new life like that truly is a miracle.
So, Tanya, this is for you!
Looking for a reason
The drive back to the motel was a quiet one.
Not that Sam had expected anything else, and at least it wasn't one of those Don't talk to me because I'm pissed kind of quiet. Wasn't an uncomfortable quiet at all, to be exact. There just was no talking, and that was something he could deal with, he thought. If there wasn't this nagging feeling at the back of his head, the sure knowledge that something was bothering his brother…
And that he couldn't deal with.
He didn't exactly know what the story with Dean and Lisa was, but he wasn't stupid, he thought he got it. Didn't take a genius to figure out.
But then, honestly, one look at Ben would have made everybody think the same thing, right? And if that wasn't enough, the facts added up, too…this was just too much of a coincidence, right?
Sam shot a cautious look over to his brother, who had taken over the wheel again and now sat outwardly relaxed, right hand casually on the wheel, his left elbow propped against the door. The only sign that he was indeed not quite as relaxed as he wanted to appear were the fingers of his left hand, which wouldn't hold still, drumming an unheard beat against the door, clenching and unclenching into a tight fist every once in a while.
The early morning light cast an unnatural gloom on Dean's features, accentuated the strong and somewhat determined set of his jaw. Sam thought that at some point, right after Dean had left the house, he had detected something remotely resembling a smile there, a somewhat sad one, though, and he could have sworn that there had been an ominous wetness in Dean's eyes, but maybe it had just been a trick of the light because whatever it had been, it was completely gone now.
Sam started as Dean suddenly turned his head towards him, catching him right in the act, so to speak. Yet, looking away now would have made it seem even more suspicious so Sam forced himself to keep looking straight at him.
Dean raised an eyebrow at him, quirked his lips into a crooked smile that didn't quite reach his tired eyes.
"Something wrong? I mean I know I'm one hell of a handsome guy but you staring at me like that kind of gives me creeps, you know…"
Sam snorted at that, taking Dean's smart-ass remark for what it was…an attempt at diverting the attention that was currently focused on him, avoiding questions he knew were to come. Well, he wasn't going to get his way.
Yet Sam decided to play it slowly this time.
"That mother changeling, she did quite a number on you…you'll have hell of a shiner there by tonight." Sam said nonchalantly, vaguely nodding towards Dean's face, casually turning his upper body, resting his back against the passenger door so he'd be able to face his brother without straining his neck.
Dean winced a little at the remark, all smugness gone from his face in an instant as he trained probing eyes on his little brother.
"Yeah…well. She didn't exactly go easy on you, too. You alright?"
Sam shrugged, probed a tender spot on his cheek automatically.
"Yeah, I'm good. Nothing we haven't dealt with before, right?"Well, besides this indeed kind of unique situation…
Dean nodded, apparently satisfied with Sam's answer, turning his attention back to the road.
Sam weighed his next words carefully, knowing that one wrong word could very well turn the whole situation in a direction he didn't want it to go right now.
"So, you and Lisa…did you, you know, hook up again? For old times sakes?"
Dean didn't react right away, his posture not changing visibly, only his fingers stopped moving, staying in the fist he had just made. Just when Sam thought that his brother wasn't going to answer, period, would try to pretend he hadn't heard, Dean finally spoke. His voice low but steady, yet Sam couldn't help but notice a slight tinge of sadness colouring his tone.
"Nah…you know, we've kind of both moved on…it's different now. Her having a kid and all…"
"Oh, OK. You know, it was just the way she looked at you…"
"Yeah, well, we've just got her kid back. You know how they tend to get all thankful for something like that… Even though she did ask me to stay for a while longer…but you know how it is…"
Sam drew his brows together, contemplating his next move. This just wasn't like his brother…passing on an opportunity like that. A thankful, hot woman, mom or not…. Besides, Dean really did seem to have a good connection to that kid, too. All the way back to Ben's house the two of them had been chatting about cars and music and whatnot. It had amused Sam to no end. Had made him feel a bit left out, but still. There had been something about Ben…
Sam hadn't thought he'd ever seen his brother so at ease with a kid, ever before. And he had seen Dean with other kids, like Lucas, for example, and had long ago come to realize that his older brother did get along well with them, after all. Something Sam had never thought possible, but, thinking about it now made him realize that he shouldn't be so surprised about. Still, with Ben it had seemed so…natural. And Dean seemed to have actually, honestly liked the kid. Well, it probably had helped that Ben was practically a Mini-Dean, right down to the core.
"Well, we could have stayed, you know. I mean, we came all the way to Cicero, Indiana for you to see her, right? I mean, besides the job, which we didn't know would be there. If you want to stay for a couple of days…"
Dean's jaw clenched, then unclenched again, eyes glued to the road.
"That's not…I don't know. It wouldn't be fair, you know. Wouldn't want to make them get used to me being around and then…"
A quick sweep of his hand, waving away into the distance and Sam felt his heart seize up suddenly, do a sickening salto in his chest. He swallowed, looking away and out of the windshield for a moment before he had himself under control again.
"Has never stopped you before…" he added, very quietly, despite his better judgement. Because he knew what Dean was talking about, that it wasn't just about him simply leaving again… Sam knew it wasn't fair, and it tore at his heart, yet maybe, just maybe he thought he could finally get something out of his brother with the challenge. Would maybe get him to say something, anything besides some smart-ass remarks and sick and out of place jokes for once.
Sure enough, Dean's face hardened momentarily before he finally uncurled his fist, running weary fingers over his face and through his hair.
"Yeah, well. Things are different now, aren't they?" he added softly, and Sam was more than just a little surprised that he hadn't snapped at him. He certainly would have had every right to do so.
"So…Ben. Cool kid. You two got along pretty well…" He phrased the sentence carefully, let the end hang in the air, making it sound like both a question and a statement, letting Dean decide how to take it in.
His brother smiled faintly, looked over at Sam with this slightly amused yet still pained expression in his eyes. An expression that clearly said: I'm not stupid Sam, I know what you're trying to do but please, please don't make me go there.
But Sam didn't plan on backing down. Not now. Not enough time left to let things hang in the open anymore. He planned on making Dean talk, about anything and everything. Planned to know and find out as much as he could about his brother.
"He's turned eight, yesterday, right?"
No, not letting Dean get off so easily. Even though it sure as hell wasn't easy on his big brother, he could see that clear as day. Feel it, too, Dean's every atom screaming at him to Stop, please just stop and give it a rest.
Dean nodded tiredly, knuckles rubbing at his eyes again.
"And you and Lisa…that was how long ago?"
Oh yeah, very subtle, Sam. You would have made a great lawyer…your way of interrogation amazingly smooth.
Dean actually laughed, not heartfelt, more like an annoyed huff, fingers pinching his heavy eye-lids, then the bridge of his nose before fastening a raw gaze on his little brother. The look he gave him made Sam flinch.
"He's not mine."
His voice was so soft, Sam almost missed it. Pained and rough and Sam could have sworn there was more regret in those three words than he had ever heard his brother utter, ever before.
What else could he say to that?
They drove another mile or so in silence. Dean radiating so much misery and pain, it was close to unbearable and Sam had to physically restrain himself from reaching out to comfort his brother.
He didn't get it. Not really, didn't know what to do with the situation. Was he sad that he had to leave Lisa behind, that he couldn't stay with her, or was it actually the fact that Ben wasn't his son? Shouldn't he be relieved, then?
A kid was a responsibility they couldn't afford, especially now, right?
"It's for the best, really."
How come he didn't sound convinced then, made the sentence sound more like a question than a statement? Sam didn't know what to respond to that, his mind reeling as to what to say, if he should say anything at all.
"It's not as if I could stay and stick around…not even under normal circumstances. Normal for us, at least. I mean, whatever would I have to offer to a kid, right? It's not like I could really be there for him…not even if I'd have more time…"
Dean's voice finally broke, the last words almost swallowed by a terrible choking sound that the hunter tried to cover with a strained cough. He had himself under control again pretty quickly, but not quickly enough for Sam to miss the fast sweep at his eyes when Dean thought Sam couldn't see it.
The Impala sweared precariously as Dean's grip on the wheel loosened up a bit and Sam steadied himself with a hand on the dashboard while Dean regained his grip, suddenly pulled the car over to the side of the road, letting the motor idle. Not releasing his hold on the wheel, tough, not turning off the engine, either. Needing the familiar rumble of the engine to stay focused, to keep him centered, however frail the hold on his sanity seemed to be at the moment.
"It is for the best…right?"
Definitely a question now, and a desperate one at that. He needed an answer, needed Sam to back him up on this. The pain now radiation openly, evident in his voice and eyes and posture. So strong, it took Sam's breath away. Literally.
Dean never allowed himself to show this kind of weakness. Ever.
And now that he actually did let down the walls to allow his brother a tiny glimpse inside, Sam was completely at a loss. All those occasions that he had prayed, hoped, fought for his brother to open up, and now what? What to say to make it better? He doubted that there was anything to actually make it better now. Not anymore. Still, he owed his brother. If nothing else, he owed him this.
Sam struggled for words, for something to say that would come even close to expressing the way he really felt about this. Because he just couldn't get himself to give his brother the absolution he so obviously craved. Not the way Dean apparently wanted it.
"I mean, even if he was my son…what kind of father would I be? It's not like I have a whole lot of experience in playing family, right? It's not like I could give him something, teach him something…not the things a father should teach a son. Not that it matters now…only…you know, for a moment there I thought…I don't know. I thought I would have a shot at this…that there would be something for me to leave behind…some kind of…legacy, I guess. Someone to make it all worth it, you know, to give this life some meaning, at least."
Again his voice trailed off and he looked at Sam, pleading with him to say something, anything. To make it alright.
"I think your life has plenty of meaning as it is…I can't believe you don't see it."
Sam fought to keep his voice even, to keep the tremor out of it, the anger. Because he knew how important this was for his brother, how important it was for himself to say the things he wanted to. Because it did matter. And he needed Dean to see that.
Dean huffed a strangled laugh, but for once he didn't shoot anything back, kept his eyes trained on a point behind the windshield, but didn't turn away, didn't push Sam away. Waiting.
"Don't you see it? I mean come on, you've made a difference in so many people's lives. Sure, not all of them actually know it, but people are alive because of you. We've been over all of this, after the Djinn… Just…look at Ben. He wouldn't be here, Lisa would have lost him if it wasn't for you. And all the other kids that changeling had gotten a hold of. And there are plenty more out there. So yeah…I mean…you definitely touched so many people's lives…"
"Nothing you or dad couldn't have done. Nothing every single other hunter couldn't have taken care of, Sam. That doesn't make me special. I mean, once I'm gone…who is even going to know? Who is going to care?"
Wow, that actually hurt. And Sam knew that it showed on his face from the way Dean shrank back from him as if he'd been hit.
"What the hell do you mean, who cares? You stupid… I care, Dean, isn't that enough? And what about Bobby, and Ellen, and Jo…"
Sam wasn't yelling, not yet, his voice dangerously low and composed. Just short of exploding. Yet Dean, even though he should know how to read the signs, remained oblivious.
"Yeah…you guys will make one hell of a funeral party!"
Lighting the fuse…
"Stop fucking with me Dean. You can't be serious. You think that nobody is gong to miss you? That you haven't given enough? Well, think again, because I know…I know you did give enough, more than you should have, as a matter of fact. You've made a difference. How many people can say that about themselves? How many people can say that they've saved someone's life, for example?"
Sam had to stop there, take a breath, lower his voice again. Dean looked at him with this incredulous look, as if he'd heard all of this before but hadn't bought it then and wasn't going to buy it now. And he sure as hell did look as if he might jump from the car and make a run for it in the very near future. Sam leaned forward then, closing in on his brother, most definitely invading private space here, but he didn't care. And for once Sam didn't want for Dean to talk, not now, not yet. For now he wanted him to listen, actually listen.
"And if that, for whatever reason, isn't enough for you, then how about this: if nothing else, you've got me, right? If it wasn't for you…Dean, you practically raised me. As far back as I can think, you were always there for me. My first goddamn memories are not about dad, but about you. You putting me to bed, singing me songs, getting me meals, reading me a story, you name it. You know, I think you'd make a great father…no, I know you would. You want to know why I know that? Well, for starters, because you were like a father to me. And I might not have turned out perfect, but I don't think that it's because of anything you did or failed to do. So, how about, for once, you stop beating yourself up, stop thinking of yourself as worthless, because quite frankly, I'm sick of it. You fucking gave everything, Dean, everything for me. More than I ever wanted you to give, long after I stopped being a little kid. Damn it, you actually gave your life for mine…and I'd do everything, everything Dean, to make that right again, to save you. Because you are my brother and my best friend and because I need you, alright? Because I don't want to imagine life without you, I simply can't imagine life without you… Now, how dare you tell me that I don't care? How dare you…"
Sam angrily set his jaw, stubbornly refused to wipe away the tear that had slipped past his composure and trailed down his cheek. Refusing to give his stunned into silence brother a way out, keeping his eyes locked onto his'.
Dean swallowed hard, his body pressed against the door at his back, not able to retreat any farther. And damn, did he actually look scared right there? Sure as hell ready to bolt. He wasn't the only one stunned by his brother's outbreak though, both boys needing to recharge their batteries for a minute, both needing to think about what the other had just said.
Sam could see about a hundred different emotions running over his brother's features, colliding with and blending into each other. Sam wanted to go on, he really did, wanted to force his brother to acknowledge the truth of his words, wanted him to goddamn accept what Sam had just told him, hold onto it, believe it. But, truth be told, he didn't know what he expected Dean to do or say, really. What did he think he was going to do? Fold in on himself, admit to being hurt, to being scared? Wanted for him to admit that he regretted making the deal, maybe?
Would he feel better if Dean did all that? Tell him, that he actually wanted the life he'd just left behind, wanted to have a wife and a kid and a house with a white picket fence and a nine to five job? Truth was, Sam didn't. He didn't want to hear this. He needed his brother to be who he was, be strong and stubborn and annoying as hell. He needed him to be his anchor and the counterweight to his own dark moods, needed him to be his brother, goddamn it. But being a brother meant taking on the other's pain as well. He'd learned that from the master himself. And he really wanted Dean to know how he felt. Not that Sam was usually very withholding in expressing his own feelings…
God, why was this so damn hard? Shouldn't they be able to talk about things like that? Dean shouldn't be afraid to tell his little brother how he really felt… and he sure as hell shouldn't be surprised by the revelation that he fucking meant something to his own brother…
"Wow…that was quite some speech there, Matlock…"
Right, fucking back in the game, even though his voice betrayed him right there, rough and raw and clogged up. And for once his eyes didn't manage to hide the emotions like they usually did.
Not mimicking his tone, though. Honestly trying to placate him, calm him down again. Always trying to protect him, even now, when he was the one needing the help, apparently.
"I don't even know what to say..."
Was he ashamed? Definitely seemed to feel highly uneasy, insecure…if Sam had ever seen those things on his brother before and would know what to look for, that was.
"Just say that you know that I'm right… Just say that you don't really think what you said before…because Dean, if you really did…"
Dean shook his head then, finally breaking eye-contact if only for a second, but this one second enough to help him gain back some of his usual composure. Somehow Sam was almost glad about that. Vulnerable-Dean he just couldn't deal with. Not like this. Not when he felt like being the one that had caused it.
Still Dean's voice was honest, warm, heartfelt. And his smile was sincere now, not trying to cover up his real feelings. Still far from Ok, Sam knew that. Doubted that it ever would be OK again, ever. Not unless they did find a way out of this deal, for both of them. Probably not even then.
"Thanks, man…for, you know…just thanks…"
And for some reason, that was all Sam ever wanted to hear.
Finally, Sam wiped away the dried trails of treacherous tears on his cheeks, forcing himself to smile back. Not all that hard, really, just not all that easy, either. Nothing seemed to be anymore, lately.
Another shared look, both of them out of words to say. No words needed anymore.
After a minute, Dean straightened again, rolling his shoulders and cracking his fingers before gently pulling the Impala back onto the road again. Soon they settled into their oh so familiar rhythm again, the rumble and vibrations of the engine easing both their minds and their muscles and Sam could feel himself relax with it, too. The car as much his home now as it had always been his brothers. Their home now, for the past two-plus years. And for the first time in years Sam wished for it to stay that way indefinitely.
And then, because Sam knew Dean would appreciate the attempt more than anything Sam could have said or done, he decided to defuse the clearly still slightly awkward situation to help both of them move on and beyond this.
"Just so you know..."
Sam cleared his throat before going on, waiting to make sure he had Dean's full attention, smiling at himself when he felt Dean slightly tensing up again, bracing himself for another confrontation he feared to come.
"I actually am kind of surprised that it took you so long to run across an alleged offspring of yours… With your record, I would have figured there were more than just a couple of paternity suits charged against you…"
"Awww, Sammy, you are hilarious, you know that?"
But he smiled, laughed for real this time and that felt as good to Sam as it wasn't going to get nowadays.
"But you know…why ever do you think I worked my ass off to let you study to become a lawyer, huh? All that education could have been put to good use, after all. Just imagine my disappointment when you came back on your knees, begging to become a partner in the family business instead!"
Sam chuckled in mock annoyance and sank lower into the seat as Dean reached out to turn the volume of the radio up to an ear-splitting level, grinning from one ear to the other.
Effectively declaring the conversation to be over.
So this story apparently works under the assumption that Dean never told Sam about him suspecting Ben to be his son…which in the episode he doesn't, not in so many words, but of course Sam would know… if anyone sees this differently…this is just my take on this!
As usual, thanks for reading and please take the time to drop a review if you like!
And if anyone was wondering, the title is from a CCR-song!