Sam stood nervously in front of the mirror that sat atop the old dresser he and Dean shared. He pulled the black vest that had come with his tuxedo on over the freshly pressed white dress shirt he had just donned and the black tuxedo jacket over both the vest and shirt. He stood back and scrutinized his appearance. He startled when he heard someone clear their throat from behind him.
He turned around; his cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and saw his older sibling casually leaning against the doorframe. Dean's arms were crossed loosely over his chest and a smile that promised teasing adorned his lips, but it was the look in his eyes that garnered Sam's attention. Dean's eyes sparkled with happiness and pride; like he was watching his son, not his kid brother, getting ready for one of the biggest nights of his life.
"You look good Sammy," Dean stopped and corrected himself, "Sam. You look good Sam. When did you say the limo would be here to get you? It's getting late and I would have thought they would have been here by now; you still have to get Allison. I'm sure her mom will want to take lots and lots of pictures of her little her girl and her date."
Dean pushed off the wall and walked into the room. He had to admit to himself that Sam did in fact look real good. Where a boy had once stood dressed in holey jeans and a thread worn t-shirt, a man now stood dressed in a sleek black tux his once unruly hair having allowed itself to be tamed if only for this night.
Sam's cheeks flushed even redder and he looked at the carpet. "It's not," he whispered.
"Come again," Dean asked not sure if he heard Sam right.
"It's not," Sam repeated louder, "I never called for one. Allison said she would drive us. I'm going to meet her at the corner store, she'll take me back to her house so her mom can take her pictures then she'll drive us to the dance."
"Sam, why didn't you call and arrange for a limo. I know I gave you enough for that," Dean asked already knowing the answer.
Sam shook his head, "Its fine Dean. Really it is. You've already done so much. I can't believe that you had been saving up for months to pay for this night. Seriously, dude how many games of pool did you have to hustle and how many towns over did you have to drive just to get the money around for this suit? I wasn't going to use all the money you gave me. I couldn't. I thought you could use what was left to get yourself something for once."
Dean listened to Sam his heart swelling with pride at the man his brother had become, "Sam, this night is for me. I know I've teased you mercilessly about tonight, but, to be honest I want you to have this. I didn't get to go to mine, hell, I didn't even graduate, so I'm living vicariously through you. You can't let the girl drive. That's not how's it's done, at least not by a Winchester anyway. I tell you what," Dean walked over to where his favorite leather coat sat in a heap on the bed and dug the keys to his precious Impala out of one of the jackets pockets and tossed them to Sam, "take her. I insist. I'm riding with Dad and Caleb tonight and she'll just sit here feeling left out. Think of it as a personal favor. You'll be keeping my favorite girl from feeling neglected."
Sam's eyes lit up and he gave Dean one of his famous dimpled grins, "Thanks, Dean. You're the greatest."
"I know," Dean replied returning his brother's smile, "I hope you remember that when I'm old and instead of a nursing home for retired hunters you take me in and take care of me."
"Thanks, Dean. I mean it man. Thank you," Sam said as he pulled Dean in for a hug, "I guess I should get going. Could you call Allison and tell her I'm on my way?"
"Yeah," Dean answered Sam while he followed him out to the living room. He grabbed Sam's arm and the mood went from light to heavy in a flash, "Sam promise me you'll be careful tonight. I know you can look after yourself, but the wolves were hunting aren't that far from the old cabin you're heading to, they're about five or so miles away. Promise me you'll be vigilant."
"Of course, Dean, I promise," Sam's hazel eyes bore into his brother's green eyes, "Promise me that you'll be careful tonight. Promise me you won't do anything stupid and go and get yourself killed or something like that."
Dean let his hand slide off Sam's arm. "Aww, it's good to know you care", he replied his eyes sparkling as he teased his brother, "when have I ever done anything stupid?"
Sam rolled his eyes and just like that the tension of the past week that had been between he and Dean disappeared like it had never been there. It never ceased to amaze Sam just how strong the bond between he and Dean really was.
Sure the rest of the ride home had been quiet and the week following had been rough, but the bond was always there. He knew that Dean had been hurt deeply both physically and emotionally and needed some time to work through what had happened; for Dean this meant keeping to himself, shutting everyone out until the hurt had been healed over.
Sam had seen the healing begin on that Monday when Dean had picked him up from school and had taken him to the local tailors where Dean had surprised him with the tux and the money he had saved so that Sam could hire a limo. The second sign of healing was that Wednesday when Dean had taken him back to the tailors so they could pick up the tux after the alterations had been completed. And, tonight, well Dean was back to joking with him and even offered to let him use his car, healing complete.
Sam opened the door and stepped out on their apartment's balcony and right into his father. Dean's heart sank as he felt the night's magic dissipate. 'Should have known it was too good to be true,' he thought as he pushed his way outside and in between his dad and brother.
"Here, Sam," Dean said as he handed Sam some money, "Take Allison out for a nice breakfast in the morning. Don't do anything I wouldn't do, which is just about nothing. Have a good time Sam. Be careful. Keep your phone on you and I'll see you in the morning."
"Sam," John began and he felt the tension grew between him and his sons, "you look good, son. Have a good time."
"Thanks," Sam replied and not trusting himself to remain civil if he stuck around, pushed past his dad and headed for the car. When he got down to the parking lot he looked up and noticed that his dad had gone inside but Dean was still standing on the balcony watching him. 'That's my brother,' Sam thought, 'always looking out for me.' He gave Dean a quick wave and jumped into the car.
Turning her over he felt the engine roar to life, he backed her out of the parking space and smiled as he shifted her into drive. He marveled at how it felt like she was gliding over the blacktop of the parking lot and found himself understanding, for the first time, his brother's love for her.
Dean watched as his brother pulled out and headed off in the direction of Allison's house. He went back inside, called Allison, let her know that Sam would be picking her up and headed into the living room where his dad and Caleb had begun the final plans for their upcoming hunt that was to take place later that night.
His stomach clenched as he found himself ripped from the dream
like state he had been in while watching Sam doing something as normal as
getting ready for the Prom and thrust back into the gritty nightmare that was
the reality of his life, hunting evil.
"Son," John queried as he took in the expression that his oldest was wearing, "everything ok?"
"Yeah," Dean answered after clearing his throat, "all's good. So what's the plan for tonight?" He shuffled over to the table and looked at the papers his dad and Caleb had scattered about.
John stared at Dean for a few more minutes, not inclined to believe all's good and yet not wanting to push, before he answered, "We figured we'd start at the park, where the last attacks occurred and work our way outward. Caleb's going to cover the north side, I'll cover the center and you'll cover the south side. The park's huge and there's a lot of area to cover so we need to really stay focused.
We think there are probably two or maybe even three wolves that are using this as their feeding grounds. It's unusual but not unheard of for there to be more than one. This is another reason we need to be completely focused on the task at hand, no distractions," John shook his head he could tell that Dean had only been half listening to what he had been saying.
"Dean," John said firmly, "I said we need to stay focused, no distractions while we are out tonight." John sighed, "I get the feeling you're already distracted. What's going on, son?"
"Nothing, dad, really," Dean tried than relented when John gave him the 'I know better' stare, "Alright, you want to know the truth? I'm thinking that maybe Sam has a point sometimes. I mean, look at us, here we are planning a hunting trip, but it's not the usual father/son hunting excursions most go on. No, instead of hunting deer or squirrel we're hunting wolves and not the canine type of wolf; the supernatural kind.
He's right; you know? We are messed up. I can't blame him for wanting something different. And, I don't. I just wish that you two could find some common ground and try to understand each other. It's really hard being stuck in the middle all the time." Dean blew out a breath and waited for the blow-up he was sure was forth-coming. What happened surprised him.
John gently placed a finger under his eldest boys chin and raised his face until he could look him square in the eye. His dark eyes softened and a smile ghosted over his lips. His words when he spoke were firm yet void reprimand. "Dean, I'm sorry. I really am," John said, "This past week I've had plenty of time to think and I understand what you are saying. I know I get caught up in the job and I tend to forget what's really important and that's you boys. I'm hard and unforgiving most of the time and without making excuses I want to let you know it's because I'm afraid of what's out there.
I'm afraid of what's waiting in the dark, just itching to take you boys from me. I had toyed with the idea of leaving you both with relatives or close family friends but I couldn't. They didn't believe me about what's out there and I couldn't bear the thought of you both growing up unprepared to face the realities of what lie beneath the surface. I've made mistakes and I'm sure to make more, but I promise that I'll try.
You did a good job with Sam. I really want to thank you for stepping up and doing what I should have. I know you love your brother and want him to have everything he wants and I appreciate how hard you fight for that; how hard you fight to give him that 'normal' he craves.
It's just I know that it can't/won't last and I don't want him to suffer the pain of having and then losing it. This life is hard enough without that added to it. Then, again he is still young and should enjoy as much of life as he can while he can.
I wish I had given you the opportunities you fight so hard to give Sam. I regret you not having the chance to be a kid, to go to your Prom, hell for you even to graduate. It's hard to admit but, watching you succeed with Sam where I failed with you, well that's a big blow to my ego. You've managed to give Sam things I couldn't give you, and for that I am sorry."
"Dad I-I-I," Dean stammered, "it's alright. I know you're doing/have done the best you can. I get it." Dean took a step back and squared his shoulders, "I'm sorry, sir, we have a hunt to get to. You were saying?"
John sighed. The moment had traveled too far into what Dean liked to call 'chick-flick territory' and, as he had so many times before, Dean had shut down. John's heart ached at the way his son had become so efficient at closing off his emotions. He knew he had himself to blame for it, emotions were something that could cloud your judgment and get you killed; so he had insisted his son learn how to cap them, but it didn't change the fact that John had wanted, still wanted more for his son.