: To Whom It May ConcernAuthor
: PG-13 for languageAuthor's Notes
: 2600 words.Summary
: Sometimes the Impala is the only place a Winchester can speak his mind.
He wasn’t sure when he’d started thinking of the car as home. He spent more time in it than anywhere else, but that on its own wasn’t enough to trigger the sentiment. There was more to it than that.
He didn’t remember the first time he’d done it. There were a lot of firsts he had been careful not to mark, since November of 1983. Many things that he would have once considered odd or as a sign of impending instability no longer held much weight. There were few he could discuss anything with, fewer still that he thought he could trust. He had learned early on to keep his own council, and when that became impossible, he had only one place to turn.
At first, he’d simply been talking to Mary. Three years down the line, he no longer put a specific name to the recipient of his spoken worries and concerns; it felt like his Mary was still listening, but it was also like speaking to an empty house, in a way, to an attentive home.
“It can’t be true," he said, hands resting heavy on the steering wheel, cold from a rapidly darkening November afternoon. Ice was gathering on the edges of the windows, but he didn’t start it up to dispel the chill. Hearing the car would startle Dean, who had developed an unspoken terror of being alone after dark without first hearing the words I’ll be right back, I’m just going to the store.
Despite all his assertions that he was big enough to do anything, Dean was still just a little boy, and John knew he already depended on his oldest a little too much as it was.
“There’s no way that thing marked him. There’s no way it wants him for anything. He’s just...he’s just Sammy."
Demons did not go around picking out babies for who knew what. Even if they did, it wouldn’t be random, and the idea that Sammy was something that could get a demon’s special attention was not tolerable to John.
“She’s wrong," John said. “That’s all there is to it. She’s been right about a lot of things, but she’s not infallible. She’s just assuming something because it happened in the nursery. It doesn’t make sense."
Missouri was not going to steer him wrong on purpose. But she’d felt something when holding little Sam, when he’d brought the boys by.
He couldn’t believe, even for an instant, that it was little Sam that had brought demonic attention down on them all. It wasn’t fair. He couldn’t stand the idea that Sammy might be –
He saw a slice of warm amber light as the door to their room opened a little. Then a small figure ventured out into the charcoal gloom, using both hands to pull the door closed behind, small boots crunching along in the snow.
Three year old Sammy fumbled with the passenger door for a moment, then pulled it open in stages. John knew from experience that attempting to help the toddler would result in a frustrated howl of outrage, so he waited. Sammy crawled into the footwell and then hefted himself onto the seat. He grinned, little cheeks red from cold and exertion, dimples as wide as his grin. “Hi Daddy!"
“Hello, Bugbear," John said with a smile. “You getting ready for bed?"
“In a bit," Sammy said. It was his new favorite phrase. “Dean said leave you ‘lone ‘cause you’re thinking. But he fell ‘sleep, so I came to help."
Sammy’s other favorite phrase was anything that began with ‘Dean said’.
John reached over and pulled Sammy onto his lap, snuggling his littlest boy against his chest. Sammy fit just so over his heart, a warm weight that spoke of all the best things he’d ever fought for in life.
“Am I helpin’?" Sammy said in a sleepy voice.
“Yeah," John said, patting the little boy’s back. “You are."
. What the hell do I have to do?"
He could have taken off, anytime.
“Shit, I could do it right now. I could go anywhere, and figure stuff out, do whatever I wanted. I can pass for older, I can con anybody, I can live off nothin’
. He knows it, too. What’m I even here for? I’m nothin’ but a servant to them, half the time. Might as well be a dog
Dean sat in the driver’s seat of the Impala, twisted to the side so that his back was mostly to the door with his feet up on the dash. His legs had been long enough to do that for a while. He wasn’t really talking to the car, because that was crazy, and he wasn’t really talking to himself, either. He was just airing his grievances because if he didn’t get a few things said, he was going to explode.
“See how they do, then," he said, voice low and as close to sullen as he had ever been capable of. “See how they get along, without me. See how far he gets tryin’ to get Sam to fall in line 24/7. Good luck on that."
He had no idea where his father was. Just said he’d be gone a few days. Didn’t even give him a choice to come along, just gave him the same old orders. Watch Sam, take care of stuff, don’t go anywhere besides school. Like he wasn’t good enough for anything else. Didn’t even look
at him, just took off in a hurry, with somebody Dean had never seen before. And he’d had that look on his face, the one Dean knew too well, the look he got when something big was going on.
“When’s he gonna trust me with that stuff?" Dean said to the steering wheel. “Shit, I can handle myself. The family business. Bullshit."
He glared through the passenger window at the dim light coming from the upstairs windows of the small house they were renting. Shadows, of Sammy wandering around up there, not going to bed like Dean had told him to. Pain in the ass. Stubborn little whiny jerk.
“It’s not like I make a hell of a lot of friends anywhere," Dean said. “So when I get invited to a party, shit, why can’t I go? What’s the big deal? He’s old enough to take care of himself, now. He doesn’t need me."
He could go. He’d known how to drive for years. Just start the car, and go. Anywhere away from there.
His arms stayed folded across his chest because the idea of disappointing his father was too foreign, too hard to contemplate with any seriousness. And the last time he’d gone off out of boredom and left Sam by himself, something had tried to suck the life out of his little brother. Their father had never looked at him the same after that, never really forgiven him for nearly losing Sam.
There were things out there, everywhere, and they could attack at any time. More than once...they had. Sam was like a little magnet for the world’s starving evil.
He could leave, but the idea of leaving Sam alone was a sharp stab of pain in his throat. Keeping Sam safe was like an epistle imprinted on his bones, carved there before he was even born.
Maybe they wouldn’t even notice he was gone.
They didn’t really need him, either of them, and they kept proving it.
He was huddled up against the driver’s side door and sobbing before he could stop, before he could jam it back down.What am I going to do?
Lying in the backseat with his feet out the window seemed to be the most comfortable way to wait.
Plus, it made it obvious that there was someone in the car, and people were less likely to come mess with it. He wondered if that made him sort of like a bookmark, holding the place.
The hazard lights were on and clicked in time with his heart.
Traffic pelted by, and the occasional semi rocked the car in a backwash of wind, but not by much. It was one hell of a solid car. He’d never really gained an appreciation for cars in general, and he didn’t think often about the one that was theirs. It was less a car than a member of the family, in a way, since they spent so much time in it. Kind of like a pet.
The car never broke down. So being there, finding himself on the side of the road while his dad went for help and his brother went off into the trees in a snit, was pretty damn odd.
Those two had put their heads under the hood and commiserated for a long handful of minutes, declared it to be the radiator, further declared it a bitch of a thing to happen, then huffed in annoyance when neither of them could get a signal out there on their cell phones. Peas in a big whacked-out pod. You think waaaaaay too much.
Dean, jeering at him in his head like a really horrible version of his conscience.
“Someone’s got to," he said aloud. “You guys drive me nuts, you know that? I could have gone, but no, can’t hardly go anywhere by myself. Dean wanted to go, but no, Dean gets distracted too easily. It’s true, but I can’t believe dad said that anyway. And neither of you wanted to leave me here alone. What the hell’s gonna happen? It’s broad daylight, I’m armed, and there’re cars everywhere. You guys drive me nuts."
He yawned and thought about having a nap. There was a warm breeze coming in the window and his dad wouldn’t be back for at least an hour, based on the map. Unless he got a better signal first.
“Not a kid anymore," he said. He shifted against the leather of the seat and crossed his ankles. He had to have his feet out the window if he wanted to lie down back there and be comfortable in any way. Sometimes he felt like a sardine, cramped in that car for hour after hour, but it felt safe and welcome, too. Home. Leather and gun oil and Dean’s favorite cologne.
He wondered what college would be like, now that he’d decided to go. Would he be in one place long enough to think of it as home? Probably. Even with a roommate or two, it would still seem like more room than he’d ever had.
“Might be good for them to quit worrying about me so much," he said. “Give them something else to do, right? If I’m...somewhere else. I mean, it’s not like we were gonna do this forever. You can’t. Nobody can. Not even dad. They might finally get that."
Dean had to dream of other things; Sam knew he did. He just never wanted to talk about it. Maybe it would jostle him loose of the whole endless loop if Sam finally shook himself free.
He was rarely left alone in the car long enough to be bored, so he decided talking to it was no big deal.
“He could be good at anything," he said, beginning to drift off. “But man, he loves this, I think. My family’s crazy."
Something rocked the car on its tires, and Sam snapped his eyes open.
Then Dean was leaning in the window, smacking Sam’s feet down. “Dude, out."
“What?" Sam said. “C’mon, lemme alone."
“Sometimes people are dipshits and don’t look where they’re goin’, and they hit cars on the shoulder," Dean said. “Out. Now."
Sam groaned. Paranoia, another awesome family trait.
“Never really thought it’d come to this."
He wondered if he’d ever see the car again. His boys, yes. That was a given. He just didn’t want them to be part of this, yet. Not yet. Not with all the signs that were in place.
Still, he’d never imagined this. He wasn’t sure what he’d imagined, exactly, had never been able to put a solid face to the thing he’d been hunting for a good portion of his life at that point. Hard to imagine victory after everything else he’d been through.
He ran his hands along the outside of the steering wheel. Good old car; still had miles enough in her. Dean would take care of it.
“Sammy means to stay in school, and they haven’t found him there yet," he said. “If I keep ‘em distracted, they won’t. And if I finish what I mean to, they never will."
Somewhere out there was a gun that killed demons. One in particular, by the time he was done. The bastard was active again, and he finally had a name to put to the thing, one that stayed in the forefront of his mind day and night but went unwritten and unspoken.
He took the keys out of the ignition, feeling the weight of them – as comfortable and familiar as the hands of his children. He would hand them over to Dean and tell him the car was his. By the time the shock wore off a little, his explanation that he wanted to travel differently while they split up to handle separate cases would be enough.
If things got bad, he could count on Dean to head straight for Sam. He could hand Dean the reins and know that the backside of things would be kept in order while he headed for what had to be the front lines, this time.
“Gotta be over, sooner or later," he said. “I’m partial to sooner. If I go, right along with the damn thing, so be it. I can’t see clear to doing this another year, another five. Something has to give."
He slid the keys into his jacket pocket, then ran an appreciative hand over the leather of the front seat.
“You take care of my boys," he said, and opened the door.
“This isn’t that bad," he said. “We’ve gotten out of worse. Right? Yeah."
Sam was in the minimart while Dean filled the tank. Five minutes alone with his girl.
“I mean, I got Sam back from the dead. I bought him back, which is only right since I’m the one who lost him in the first place. There, I said it. Demon’s dead, Sam’s not, everything else works itself out. If I gotta go, I gotta go. Dad did it, and he got back out. Went off...wherever we go when we die. But he wasn’t unhappy about it, wherever that is. He was down there a year and didn’t come up a demon. Guy like dad, he’d never become one a’them. I can do this. Sam’ll get me back out somewhere, someday, and I’ll go on somewhere else."
He topped off the tank simply because the sticker on the pump told him not to.
“Either way, you take care of my boy," he said.
He sat behind the wheel and stared out the windshield. His now, everything.
“See, I promised him not to develop my powers and start using them while he was alive," he said. “All bets are off. Now we do this my way."
He started the car.
He’d open every gate on the planet, if he had to. He’d create new ones. There was one thing that demonics forgot, aside from the fact that Winchesters were impossible to deal with:
“Family comes first."