The long road stretched ahead for miles of unbroken wilderness as the black '67 Impala rumbled down the highway, the night sky lighting their way with an unobstructed, full moon. The rolling hills and sweeping grasslands beyond the windows were a black blur as they whizzed past. It had been hours since they'd stopped. John Winchester kept his eyes on the road, focusing on the job ahead, while his eldest son watched him from the passenger's seat. He could feel Dean's eyes on him.
"I said no," John said sternly but quietly, not wanting to wake Sam, who was sound asleep in the backseat. "And that's the end of this discussion."
Dean opened his mouth to speak, paused, and then shut it again. His frustration was apparent from the heavy, loud breathing, the constant turning of the head to look in John's direction, the flaring of his nostrils and the set of his jaw. John knew his son well enough to know that he wouldn't talk back – but the looks that he was getting were starting to set him on edge. He needed to be firm on this.
"Dean, stop your sulking and do as you're told," he warned.
"I didn't say anything!" Dean protested.
"And if you wake your brother, so help me, I will tear you a new one."
That had done it. Dean folded his arms across his chest and shifted in his seat, turning to face the window and staring out it solemnly. John sometimes forgot that he was still a kid, and smiled in spite of himself at the evidence of it now.
"I need you here," John explained patiently, firmly. "With Sam. Looking after him. And I can't do my job if I'm worrying about you two."
"But I just think that you're gonna need my help," Dean said, being careful to keep his voice very low. "If something big's going down, I wanna be part of it."
"This job is bigger than anything you've ever faced Dean," John reminded him. He had told him this before already, but it bore repeating. "And I might not be back for a while. You know I can't bring you and Sammy along for that – especially not Sammy."
"Couldn't we leave him with –"
"No," John insisted. "Sammy is your responsibility. Now you're going to get him ready for school, see that he gets his homework done, and you're going to be responsible for him because I said so."
Dean was silent. He stared ahead and huffed in frustration.
"Do we have an understanding, Dean?" John asked.
"Yes sir," Dean said.
It was a silent drive as the Impala rumbled onwards.
It was a hard line, and John knew that sometimes he was a little too hard on Dean. But God, he worried about the kid. Headstrong and cocky, and selfless to the point of foolish sometimes, if Dean didn't have structure at home he'd be lost. It was probably the only thing he could do for Dean that felt like being a real dad. Keep him in line, make sure he follows someone's rules. And if it meant keeping him safe, it was best that the rules Dean followed – even if they were the only rules Dean followed – were John's.
The early morning light was just creeping up on the horizon when they pulled into the familiar dirt road. Dean sat up in his seat, eager to get out of this car at last so he could take a leak and maybe even catch some sleep, his green eyes taking in the sight of the shadowy metal mounds – a headlight here, the rusted hood of a trunk there – of Bobby Singer's junkyard as they approached the house. Not much had changed since the last time they had been here, though Dean noticed that a few more hubcaps had been secured to the side of the house. And Bobby's old hound dog appeared to have been replaced by a chubby German Shepherd.
"Take your brother inside," John whispered as the car came to a stop. "I'll get your things from the trunk."
Dean slid out of the car, being careful to close the door as gingerly as possible so as not to wake Sam, and opened the door to the back seat. Crawling over the supine body of his kid brother, he placed his hands under Sam's shoulders and hefted him out of the backseat, glad that he was such a heavy sleeper in the metaphorical sense only. After Sam's latest growth spurt, he weighed a lot more, and Dean had to settle for slumping Sam's limp body over his shoulder, staggering under the weight as he made his way to the front door.
He knocked, but Bobby was already there waiting and opened the door with a warm smile.
"Hey kid," he whispered jovially. "Bring him on inside."
There was a small spare bedroom off of the kitchen, which would serve as a bedroom for Sam for the time-being, where Dean took Sam, laying his brother out on the bed and laughing to himself at how like a rock he could be when he was sleeping. Then he shut the door quietly behind him, joining Bobby in the kitchen.
"It's good to see you, Dean," Bobby said, pulling him into a tight hug. "Gosh, you must have been Sam's age the last time I saw you. Lookin' all grown up now."
A loud thunk on the floor as John Winchester plunked Sam and Dean's bags down announced that the car had been officially unpacked. Bobby clasped hands with John, each man giving the other a sturdy pat on the back.
"I can't thank you enough for letting the boys stay here," John said. "I promise they won't be any trouble."
"These two?" Bobby scoffed. "They'll have the house burnt down in a week."
"Now the school's not too far from here," John explained. "About twenty minutes or so. I'm leaving you the Impala so you and Sam can get to school and back."
Dean's eyes lit up.
"Make sure Sammy gets his homework done, and keep him out of trouble, ok?"
"I'm counting on you Dean," John said solemnly. "Don't get in any fights. And watch that mouth of yours." He raised an admonitory finger when Dean made a move to protest. "Don't talk back to your teachers or go picking any fights on purpose. And no girl trouble!"
Dean grinned impishly.
It was hard for John to say goodbye like this. They had always been together, hunting as a family, and he knew that the separation would be hard, especially on Dean. This was likely to be the longest they would be apart, and John knew that Dean would worry about him. Dean had always worried about him. Gosh he's a good looking kid, John thought. Tall, lean, lithe, and fair. A man now, to all intents and purposes, though still a kid.
"Bobby has already got you both registered," John went on, sticking to business. "So you'll be starting today."
"Today?" Dean exclaimed. "You've gotta be kidding me."
"You've already missed enough school this year, Dean," John said. "Sam too. I want you both as caught up as possible. That means I expect you to at least pass."
"At least pass," Dean muttered to himself. "I'll try not to aim too high, then."
"What was that?" John asked sharply.
"Look Dean, the last thing I need is social services on my ass," John explained. "I know that school is not your thing, and that you'd rather be hunting with me. But let's make it look normal, ok son? Let's keep Sam on track so that we can keep on staying together as a family."
"Sure, Dad." It broke John's heart to see the sad smile on Dean's face.
John heaved a sigh. It was time to put on the brave face.
"All right," he said. "I'm taking off then. Say goodbye to Sammy for me."
"You should say goodbye to him yourself," Dean suggested. "Come on Dad, he's gonna hit the roof when he learns you took off on this job without saying goodbye."
"Nah," John replied, waving it off in spite of the heaviness in his heart. "Let him sleep. He'll have a long day ahead – new school and everything. I don't want to wake him." I don't want to fight with him.
John climbed into a shiny new black truck that, up until this point, Dean hadn't noticed was in the driveway, and closed the front door behind him. Showing its age, it swung silently closed without the slightest creak of protest.
"By the way," John said, tossing a set of keys to Dean through the open driver's side window. "The Impala's yours. Take good care of her."
"Rise and shine, Sammy!" Dean called, yanking the covers off of Sam's face so quickly that Sam gasped with a start, his heart pounding in his chest.
"You gave me a heart attack you jerk!" Sam growled, pulling the covers back up over himself and curling into a ball.
"I said 'up' bitch," Dean said. He pulled the covers off of Sam and stared down at him menacingly. "Get your ass ready for school or you're going to get an attack from the Wedgy Patrol."
"School?" Sam asked. He raised his head from his pillow and narrowed his eyes, visibly confused. It was then that he realized where he was. "Are we at Bobby's already? When did we get here?"
"Early this morning," Dean replied shortly. "Now get up."
He tugged Sam by the arm and dragged him out of bed.
"Dad wants us to go to school so we're going to school." He walked Sam to the kitchen table, his hands held firmly on his shoulders, and sat him down at one of the kitchen chairs. "Eat something. Get dressed. And then get in the car."
"Can I brush my teeth?" Sam snapped.
"Only if you haul ass!" Dean called over his shoulder as he left the room, his feet thumping loudly on the stairs as he climbed up to the guest room that was his for the time being.
Sam poured himself a bowl of cereal and ate as quickly as he could. His heart raced with excitement. School. He was going to get to go to school again. That must mean that they would be staying here for a little while. Sam wondered how long.
"Where's Dad?" he asked when Dean had returned.
"Job," was Dean's terse reply.
"How long will he be gone?" Sam pressed.
"I don't know." Dean leaned against the kitchen counter and watched Sam eating. "A few weeks at least. Probably longer."
"How come he didn't wake me?" Sam asked, his feelings hurt.
"Cos you have school in the morning," Dean snapped. "And he knows you're too delicate to go without sleep."
"Shut up," Sam muttered.
It was an exciting day for Sam Winchester. The butterflies in his stomach as he shut himself in the car several minutes later couldn't compare with the feeling of exhilaration and satisfaction at knowing that he would be going to a real school, with other kids his age, to do real work and learn real things. To be around normal people who didn't talk about hunting or ghosts or demons. There would be girls here – not that he would ever be brave enough to talk to them. And there would be sports teams and chess clubs and school plays and… And he was getting ahead of himself.
Part of him was almost glad that their dad was gone. It meant that he could be normal for a while. He and Dean could be like normal kids, doing normal kid things. And it was even better that they were staying at Bobby's because it meant that they would have some kind of stability. But Bobby being a hunter meant that they would also have a fair amount of privacy, as he would most likely be away for days at a time on hunting gigs.
"Do you think Bobby will join Dad on this hunt?" Sam asked, staring intently out the window to watch the streets as they passed, making a point of noting all the landmarks on the route to school.
"Most likely," Dean replied, his eyes looking straight ahead without actually seeming to pay attention to the traffic. He was gripping the steering wheel a little more tightly than usual.
"You ok?" Sam asked.
"Just be quiet, Sam."
The principal's office was busier than they had expected. A secretary at the reception desk was deep in conversation with someone about a busted water mane in the school basement, and two teachers down the hall, a man and a woman, appeared to be arguing about parking spaces. Sam and Dean waited in the reception area while students, teachers, and delivery men, custodians, and various other characters popped in and out, making a point of sizing up the two brothers as they sat and waited.
"Dean and Samuel Winchester?" the secretary said at last. "Principal Boomer will see you now."
Dean looked at Sam with suppressed laughter at the name 'Boomer' as they followed the secretary to the principal's office. When they got there they found a rather tall man sitting behind a desk. He was a thick sort of fellow, with wide shoulders and a heavy frame, giving him the appearance of a football player lately gone to seed. He was balding, a shiny peach scalp gleaming through dark greying hair. His face was stern and square, and he had a thick dark handlebar moustache.
"Have a seat," he said peremptorily.
The boys silently complied.
"Welcome to Harbatkan High," he said. "I am Principal Boomer."
Dean and Sam smiled and nodded politely, each muttering a half-hearted 'hi.'
"I have taken the liberty of going through each of your permanent records," he said. "Samuel –" turning to look at Sam. "This is your first time at a real High School, I see? You have recently been homeschooled?"
"And before that you were two months at Midview Middle School?"
Sam nodded again.
"Well then, this should be a big change for you," Principal Boomer went on. "Grade nine is a tough year. There are a lot of challenges. A great deal will be asked of you. But I see that you have an excellent academic record. Straight A student." He raised an appreciative eyebrow. "Here at Harbatkin we have a strong work ethic. We demand academic excellence and personal decorum."
Dean rolled his eyes.
"I have also taken a sobering look at your record," he said pointedly to Dean. "Constant absanteeism. Fights. Two suspensions. C student. No doubt there's a juvenile criminal record to go with your long list of accomplishments."
"Those are sealed," Dean said with a grin.
"Yes, well… Let me be frank."
"Sure thing, Frank," Dean said baldly. Sam gave him an inconspicuous kick in the leg.
Principal Boomer leaned forward across his desk, looking Dean in the eye.
"I am looking for a reason to throw you out of this school," he warned. "Give me a reason, and you will be expelled before you can call out for your parole officer."
Dean did not reply, but thought to himself that this was definitely not a good start. He wondered how much of an ass kicking he would get if he were actually expelled. The phrase 'beaten to a new shade of purple' came to mind.
"Behave yourself," Boomer went on, "stay out of trouble, keep your nose clean… It's your senior year – graduate. You do all that, and we won't have a problem here." He smiled widely, revealing a mouth full of crooked teeth. "We're not going to have a problem here, are we Dean?"
"No sir," Dean promised, adopting his most sober voice. "We are not going to have a problem. Consider this nose squeaky clean, shined, and polished."
"Now, since it's already October," the principal explained, "you'll both have a bit of catching up to do. I trust you will both apply yourselves to the best of your ability?"
They nodded that they would.
"All right then," the principal said. "Now off to class."
Sam gave a tentative knock on the door to room 225. When a voice called "come in" he opened it a crack, peeking his head in.
"Hello?" a middle-aged woman with salt-and-pepper hair and overly large glasses said. "Can I help you?"
"Um, I'm Sam," Sam said weakly. "I'm supposed to uh… I'm looking for Mrs. Harper?"
"Oh, you're Sam Winchester," she said warmly. "Of course. Come on in. I'm Mrs. Harper."
Sam shuffled awkwardly inside and sat himself in the nearest empty desk, conscious of the eyes that followed his every move as he made his way down the aisle. He could see them taking in the sight of his tattered jeans, his overlarge plaid shirt, his old scuffed boots, and most obviously, his excessive height. Even at age thirteen, Sam Winchester was easily a full head taller than most of the other kids in his class.
"Sam and his brother have just moved here from Kansas," Mrs. Harper announced to the class. "Can we all say 'hi' to Sam – make him feel welcome?"
"Hi, Sam," the class droned.
Sam was only slightly mortified at the odd introduction. He forced a smile and gave a half-hearted wave, wishing everyone would stop looking at him. It was always like this on the first day at a new school, being the new kid. Everyone sizing you up, figuring out how much you were worth, what kind of house you lived in, what kinds of things you did for fun, how cool you were. His only hope of making any real friends was to be as secretive about his real life as possible. He wondered how horrified they would be to see the state of Bobby Singer's house.
"Here's your textbook," Mrs. Harper said, laying a heavy red book with the words MATH NINE on the front in large letters. "We've just started the section on trinomials."
Sam sighed with relief.
"Thanks," he said, feeling his worries beginning to melt away already. "I'm pretty sure I can follow along with the class." He had had a tutor about a month ago who had taught him all about trinomials, but she had quit after starting up some kind of fling with Dean.
He groaned inwardly at the thought of the trouble Dean was going to get him into.
It was peaceful where he was. The music was blaring, the windows were rolled down, and the wind was blowing through the hair of an extremely hot chick in the passenger seat of the Impala. Dean smiled dreamily as he coasted along the open highway, his hands loosely gripping the steering wheel, his foot pushing the petal to the metal. This was freedom.
"Maybe Mr. Winchester can help us out," he heard a voice saying. Definitely not the voice of the hot chick.
An eruption of laughter.
He woke with a start, his head snapping up. He was not in the Impala. This was not freedom. He was in class.
The classroom erupted in a second bout of laughter at his sudden return to consciousness. He shifted in his seat, rousing himself from the dream – damn he was tired – and cast a hesitant glance at the teacher standing over him. Miss Miller? Muller? The name started with an 'M.'
She was young for a teacher. Dean guessed late 20s, early 30s at the oldest. She was also quite pretty, with a slender though shapely frame that was currently tucked away into a very flattering pencil skirt and button-up blouse. She eyed Dean quizzically, as if deciding if he was a sad case or a head-case.
"Sorry," he muttered. He had fallen asleep with his copy of "Romeo and Juliet" still open in his hand.
"I think Mr. Shakespeare would be offended," she said lightly. "Does anyone else think this play is putting them to sleep?"
A number of hands were raised. Dean's tension eased somewhat.
"All right then." She sat on the edge of her desk and crossed her legs – long legs, Dean noticed, trying not to look like he noticed. "Why don't we just get down to basics, then? What do you guys think about the characters?"
No one replied. Dean thought of the teacher from Peanuts, how she would drone on in a non-language while Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty listened in a comatose kind of stupor.
"What do you guys think of Romeo?" she pressed. "Is he a nice guy? Is he the romantic lover that history has painted him as?"
"Sure," a jocky-looking guy at the back of the class said. He was wearing a letterman jacket, Dean noticed. So helpful of them to advertise. "Cos, like, he says things like wherefore and thou."
Several of his friends laughed.
"Does he love Juliet?" teacher asked.
"Yeah," the jock said.
"All right, Todd. Why? What makes him romantic?"
Dean tried not to smirk at the name Todd. It seemed so 80s heartthrob. Todd. Chad.
"Well he marries Juliet," Todd supplied. "And he kills himself when he thinks she's dead."
"Uh-huh," the teacher said, pondering it. "So what do you make of Rosaline, then?"
"In the beginning of the play Romeo is all heartsick over Rosaline," she reminded them. "Let's take a look at Act 1, scene 1."
Dean had hoped she wouldn't – but of course she did – make them each read a line from the latter portion of Act 1, scene 1. When they had finished she paused and waited for someone to react.
"So?" she asked. "What do we make of that?"
"Well she turned him down," a girl to Dean's left replied. "He was heartbroken because she turned him down. I don't think that makes him any less romantic."
"Yeah," Todd said. "If anything, that makes him more romantic. It's like he's so romantic that he falls in love easily." He gave a meaningful leer to a very pretty girl at the front of the class.
Dean shook his head in disbelief.
"You disagree?" the teacher asked him. "You have a different interpretation."
"Not really," Dean lied.
"Tell us," Miss M prodded. "What do you think of Romeo as a romantic hero? Was he in love with Juliet? Was he in love with Rosaline?"
Dean shook his head.
"No?" the teacher pressed.
"Then what is it? What motivates him?" She was searching his face, daring him to answer – and she knew that he did have an answer.
Dean shifted in his seat again, feeling all eyes on him, waiting to see if he was going to say something idiotic or insightful. The seconds ticked by, a chair leg squeaked against the floor as someone moved in his or her seat, and still Dean didn't answer.
"He doesn't have a clue," Todd muttered smugly. That decided it.
"Romeo just wants to get laid," Dean said.
The class erupted in uproarious laughter. The teacher's cheeks flushed a bit, and at first she looked upset, unsure if Dean was being serious or was just being shocking to get a laugh out of the class. But she made a visible effort to recover herself.
"How so," she asked archly.
"Come on," she urged.
"Yeah, come on," Todd goaded. "You're real smart, huh? Some kind of Shakespeare scholar."
"Eat me," Dean snapped.
"That's enough!" the teacher announced loudly. "Settle down." She turned her attention back to Dean.
"Why do you think Romeo.." she coughed uncomfortably. "Why do you think he's only interested in sex?"
"Because he's a scholar," Todd taunted.
"No," Dean replied sharply, turning his head to face the cocky jock in the back row. "Because I know what the word chaste means you stupid dick."
They were laughing at Todd's expense now.
"Settle down!" the teacher shouted, sharply this time. She walked down the aisle and paused at Dean's desk. "Dean, can I see you after class?"
He sighed loudly and slumped lower into his seat. Miss M resumed her stroll down the aisle.
"Chastity," she said to the room at large. "Dean, what were you going to say about chastity?"
It was like a slow, cruel exercise in torture. Dean fantasized that a vengeful spirit had flown through the window to tear his lungs out of his chest and smiled wistfully. He would prefer it right now to discussing "Romeo and Juliet."
"Come on, Dean, be a good sport," the teacher said.
"God," Dean growled. "Fine." He scanned the last page of the act until he found the passages that he was looking for. "Here. Romeo says," Dean read off of the page. "O, she is rich in beauty, only poor, That when she dies with beauty dies her store. And then Benvolio asks if Rosaline has sworn to remain chaste. And Romeo says, She hath and in that sparing makes huge waste."
"Guy's a skin dog."
Miss M eyed Dean appraisingly, eventually nodding her head in approval. He had passed some kind of test with her, which was a big mistake in his opinion. Now he would have to pay attention and actually do the work if he didn't want to see that look of disappointment he so often got from teachers who actually gave a crap about him. He made a mental note to keep his yap shut the next time a teacher asked him a question, whether he knew the answer or not.
"Impressive," she conceded, giving him a light pat on the shoulder as she walked past his desk. "Does anyone want to counter that?"
A lame and half-hearted debate broke out among a few of the more literary-minded students in the class, but Dean remained decidedly silent. He emphatically did not want to participate in the class discussion any more than he already had. And by the murderous looks he was getting from Todd, who did not appreciate being upstaged by some shabby-looking new kid, speaking up and revealing that he actually had a brain had been a bigger mistake than he thought.
Could he help that he had several years' experience reading through and poring over the meaning of ancient texts – most of them involving witchcraft and spiritual lore – and thus had a better understanding of archaic English than most kids his age? Either way, it wasn't like he could explain it to them.
It was the best day ever. Sam gazed fondly at the face of the prettiest girl he had ever seen in the world as she prattled on about something or other. Andrea Calder. She had offered, he thought with a skipping beat of his heart, to get him up to speed on what he had missed so far this year, and was now walking next to him amid the throng of teens making a mad rush for the door in the post-bell fervour to haul ass home for the day. A neat-looking pink backpack slung tidily over her shoulder, her blonde hair pulled back at the temples by two dragonfly clips, her lips smelling of vanilla Lipsmackers, she held the sun in her hand. And Sam found that he hadn't heard a word that she said.
"So I can meet you after school tomorrow?" she finished.
"Yeah," Sam replied, hoping he could fake knowing the reason they would be meeting up after school tomorrow. Probably to study.
"And I'll bring all my notes and stuff," she assured him. "And then maybe we can stop on the way home and uh… get a soda?"
Sam smiled dreamily.
"Yeah," he said, realizing that he hadn't actually answered, his cheeks flushing with mortification. "That sounds great. We can… go for a soda. And study… And you smell nice." Had he actually just said that?
She blushed, smiling shyly, but the compliment was well taken. Sam sighed in relief.
"So I'll see you tomorrow?" she said, stopping before the nearest school bus and preparing to step aboard.
"Yeah," Sam said. "Tomorrow." He tripped on his own foot.
When he had finally made his way to the student parking lot, he could see that Dean was already there waiting for him, leaning against the Impala with his arms crossed and wearing a serious scowl. Dean's pissed. Sam quickened his pace, not wanting to give Dean any reason to growl at him – it might ruin the perfect moment that he had just shared with the perfect girl.
"God, Sammy," Dean barked. "I've been waiting here forever."
So much for that.
"How can you have been waiting forever?" Sam asked. "The bell only rang five minutes ago."
"Yeah, try ten."
Sam looked at his watch. It had been ten minutes.
"Sorry," Sam said lamely. "I kind of got caught up in something."
"Uh-huh," Dean said, opening the front door and sliding into the front seat. Sam followed suit.
"And that something wouldn't be cute and blonde and waving at you through the window of that bus over there, would she?" he asked archly.
Sam zipped toward the window to look outside, bumping his forehead against the window and realizing too late that the student parking lot was way too far away from the bus loading zone for Dean to have possibly seen Andrea waving at him.
"You're such a jerk!" Sam shouted, sulking.
Dean laughed even harder.
"Suck it up, bitch," he said, his mood visibly improved by Sam's misery.
It was a good thing that Dean was used to sleeping in strange beds, because the mattress in the spare bedroom at Bobby's house sucked. Dean had tossed and turned for a full ten minutes, trying to find a position he could lie in that didn't feel like a sadistic version of acupuncture, before finally crashing into a comatose state. He hadn't slept since they had left the motel two days ago, and fatigue and exhaustion took him like a heavy sack of potatoes to Never Neverland.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end when Dean realized that he was not alone. He didn't know how long he had been asleep, but something in him – his instincts – had alerted him to the strange presence in his room. He opened his eyes, suddenly wide awake, and lay quite still. He listened for a sound of movement but heard nothing. Carefully, quietly, he rolled to his side, his hand gripping the blankets and pulling them off. He smelled flowers.
"Dean," a voice whispered in his ear, so close he jumped, looking up to see a heart-stopping sight.
A woman was hovering over his bed, long red hair flowing about her face as one floating in water. Her skin was pale, white, flawless, her lips red and full. She tilted her head to the side and eyed Dean with an appraising look, tentative, searching, tempting. Striking green eyes – eyes greener than emeralds – bore into his. She was completely naked.
"I want you," she said, laying a warm hand on his face, stroking his jaw with a delicate finger. The touch sent shivers of delightful sensation coursing through him.
"I want you," she said again, lowering her face close to his, her lips brushing against his. They tasted like strawberries.
Her body was close to his now, so close he could feel the warmth radiating from her skin through the thin cotton of his T-shirt and boxers. She ran the tips of her fingers along his chest, igniting tingling fires along its trail. Dean swallowed hard, trying to make his mind work, but the hot floating chick was not making it easy. Heat coursed through his body, pounding a steady, increasingly urgent beat. Give in, a voice in his head said. Give in.
He woke with a start, finding himself lying sprawled on his stomach, one arm tucked under the pillow under his head. A dark patch of wet on his pillow let him know that he'd been drooling. The covers, as he had left them, were still tucked up around his torso. It had been a dream.