“True North” by Ridley C. James

There must always be a struggle between a father and son, while one aims at power and the other at independence. –Samuel Johnson

Chapter 1.

Cedar Springs, NC June 1998

Sam Winchester hated hospitals. In fact, he couldn’t think of any place that he hated more, well except for maybe really creepy graveyards. But even those seemed to smell better. And then of course there weren’t people at the graveyards enforcing stupid rules that made no sense either. For instance, Sam could visit a cemetery any old time he felt like it, and if he wanted to spend the night there, then he could do that too.

Of course, hospitals did have their good points. For one, people were usually alive if they were in a hospital, compared to the alternative found in most graveyards. And Sam was completely and totally thankful that he was visiting his brother in the current establishment instead of the other. Because a few nights ago, it could have gone either way.

As it was, Dean had been in ICU for twenty-four hours and then in his current room of F350 for the last two days, where Sam had spent all his time after school, until one of the staff would finally kick him out-sending him to the cafeteria or back to the waiting room until his father would eventually show up to collect him.

“He’s doing much better today,” Maria , one of the nicer nurses broke Sam from his brooding, as she approached the teen from the opposite direction. “Even requested a sponge bath with Kelly.”

Sam hinted at a grin. “And he said he’d never go near water again.”

“Don’t you worry, I guarantee you if there was a girl anywhere in the vicinity that brother of yours would dive right in.” She patted the fifteen year-old on the shoulder as she strolled by with a stack of charts in her hand. Maria paused, one hand on her hip. “And guess what, I think the doctor is going to let him go home tomorrow.”

A full smile blossomed, revealing dimples and a flash of white teeth that Maria had been fishing for. “That’s great. Does he know yet?”

“No, sir,” she shook her head. “I thought I’d give you the honors.”

“Thanks,” he said and picked up his pace.

“And, Sam?” Maria called, causing the boy to skid to a stop and face her once more.

“I wouldn’t let Nurse Collins catch you sneaking that fast food in here, or she’ll have your hide.” She laughed, when the boy’s face took on a completely innocent expression. “Don’t’ even try it, son. I can smell Mickey D’s fries from a mile a way-especially when I‘m on a diet. And I‘m always on a diet.”

The teen merely shrugged. “I promised him.”

“Unh-huh, just so you promise to bring me some the next time, I’ll let this little broken rule slide.”

Sam nodded. “Sure thing.”

“Dude? Where have you been?” Dean asked as soon as Sam made it through the door.

“School.” Sam arched a brow, tossing his backpack on a chair near his brother’s bed. “Ring a bell, or did you really go too long with out oxygen. The doctor was concerned about brain damage, you know.”

“Cute, smart ass,” Dean replied, glancing from his kid brother to the backpack. “So…”

Sam leaned against the rails of the bed in a bored fashion. “So…what’d you do today?”

Dean snorted. “Did you bring me food or not?”

Sam grinned. “No conversation, no small talk…just straight to the goods. No wonder you don’t ever have any second dates.”

“At least I have dates.”

Sam walked over to his bag and pulled out the coveted meal. He tossed his brother the white paper sac, which Dean caught with his left, considering his right one was in a cast nearly to his elbow. “Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a large fry-super-sized, just the way you like it.”

Dean lifted the bag to his face and inhaled, a euphoric smile crossing his bruised features. “Have I told you lately how much I love you, Sammy?”

“Spare me. I’m not going to fall for your cheap, sappy lines.”

His older brother grinned at him and tore into the burger. “So, how was school, dear?” He asked around a mouthful of the ambrosia.

Sam hooked one of his long legs around the chair and drug it closer to Dean’s bed, before collapsing into it. He chose to ignore the sarcastic tone of the question and reply. “Finished two of my finals. I’m just glad it’s almost over.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Who are you and what have you done with my geeky little brother?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Hey, I like summer break as much as the next guy.”

“Speaking of summer,” Dean shoved some fries in his mouth. “Do you know what Sunday is?”

The younger teen shrugged, knowing exactly what the day was.

“Father’s Day.” Dean looked at him expectantly.

“And?” Sam picked up the remote to the T.V. and started clicking through channels, even though he had no interest whatsoever in what was playing.

“And we need to get Dad something.”

Sam met his brother’s gaze, slightly dumbfounded at the suggestion. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No,” Dean took another bite of his sandwich, relishing in the artery-clogging grease that one would have thought he’d been denied for at least a year, instead of the three days that he’d been in Stranton Memorial. “I told you to save some money.”

“I did save some money, but I’m not spending it on Dad.” Not now.

“Why not?” Dean paused from inhaling more fries. “Are you pissed at Dad?”

Sam stared at him, incredulously. Pissed wasn’t exactly the word. He hadn’t spoken to their father since the accident that had nearly gotten Dean killed. If the fifteen-year-old closed his eyes he could still see Dean fall from the cliff into the icy cold water below them, hear his own screams as he watched his brother go under and not resurface. “I don’t want to talk about Dad.”

“Come on, Sammy,” Dean growled, putting the burger down, his appetite suddenly waning. “This wasn’t his fault. Hunting is a dangerous gig, you know that.”

“I know how dangerous it is,” Sam snapped. “I researched this particular gig. Remember?”

“Is that what’s got your shorts in a bunch? The fact that Dad didn’t listen to you?”

“I told him that water spirits were different-especially ones found in cold, still or slow moving water. They can hold and absorb etheric patterns. They have more energy.” The teen’s brows knitted closer together. “Water has a complex and unsettling effect on the dead.” He looked pointedly at Dean. “And they almost always seek company-drawing others to their death by freak accidents-like yours.”

Dean sighed. “Sam, Dad knew all that. You told us both about a hundred times, although I’m still not sure of the whole etheric patterns stuff you were babbling on about.” When Sam opened his mouth to explain, Dean cut him off with a raise of his hand. “And I don’t want to know. Okay? I get it, water spirits are bad. Believe me. I understand. That bitch convinced me.”

Sam leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. This last brush with death had scared his brother almost as much as it had scared Sam. Dean would never admit it, but Sam knew his brother better than anyone and he’d seen it when the other boy had woken up in the ambulance. Dean had broken every rule of his self-enforced no Chick-flick moments by clinging to Sam like he was a life preserver. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen that look on his brother’s face. But he’d never want to see it again. “I just don’t understand how you can forgive him so quickly. He nearly got you killed. You weren’t breathing, Dean! You were blue.” We almost lost you.

Dean bit his lip to keep from snapping back. He had discovered a whole new, amazing reserve of patience within himself as Sam had started his struggle through adolescence. And he also knew how shaken up his brother had been by his brush with death. Caleb had recounted the harrowing rescue that saved his life in gory detail-like only Caleb could.

He even described how Sam had fought with the men who were trying to hold him back as the paramedics worked on him, and the fight between Sam and his father after John made it to the hospital. “Sammy, look, I know the whole drowning thing wasn’t easy on either of us, okay. But I’m fine. No lasting effects.” He proclaimed, waving his broken arm towards his bruised face. “You all saved me in time and this work of art will mend in not time.”

“Caleb and I saved you. Dad was off saying that stupid binding spell-which is probably what pissed the spirit off in the first place. You can’t bind a water spirit! He didn‘t even get there until after the ambulance had taken you away.”

Dean shoved his uninjured hand through his hair. “Dad screwed up. It happens. Just let it go, man.”

Sam sat up straighter. “Could you have let it go so easily if it had been the other way around?” Sam demanded, knowing he was delivering a low blow. “What if I had drowned?”

When Dean‘s face paled, Sam leaned back in the chair and lowered his voice. “Look, Dad’s screw ups aren’t the little kind I can just let go, Dean. It’s one thing to miss a parent teacher meeting or a soccer game, or to forget to bring milk or bread home. But he treats your life-our lives-like they’re just as inconsequential.”

Dean frowned. “Inconsequential?” he forced a grin. “Dude, you’ve got to take that dictionary out of the bathroom.”

“I’m being serious, Dean.” Sam hated it when Dean turned everything into a joke.

“Yeah, and you’re seriously beginning to get on my nerves.” Dean wadded up the wrapper and what was left of his burger and tossed it in the trash.

“It’s not just your accident either, Dean. Really-what has Dad done for us that we should dote on him about.”

“He’s kept us alive for one!” Dean snapped. “How can you even ask that, Sammy? He’s given us a home. Took care of us.”

“A home?” Sam felt all the old hurts surge to the surface as he tried to wrap his mind around the idea of home. “Motels and rat-infested apartments are not what I consider a home, Dean.”

The older boy shook his head. “That’s not what I was talking about, and you know it.” Dean glared at him. “Just forget it. If you don’t want to get Dad something then I’ll just get it myself.”

“And how do you plan on doing that?” Sam raised a brow. “You’re stuck in the hospital.”

Dean looked around the room and then glanced at the phone by the bed. “Then I’ll just have Caleb do it.”

Sam snorted. “Do you honestly think he’d do that? Kill something for you- yes. Take a bullet for you-maybe. But shop? I don’t think so.”

“Damn it, Sam.” Dean shook his head slightly. “This is important.”

“Why? Why is it important, Dean? It’s not like Dad is going to remember what Sunday is. He barely remembers Christmas or our birthdays. And the dates he does remember, I’d just as soon he forget.”

They both new what Sam was talking about. Their mother’s birthday, their parent’s wedding anniversary, the day his wife died. Those days- their dad recalled just fine. And he was unbearable.

When they were younger, Dean had always found ways to make sure he and his little brother were out of sight, and as far away from the man as possible. Since they were older, John would usually disappear on his own, leaving Dean in charge, and that suited Sam just fine.

“He’s still our Dad,” Dean said forcefully, and Sam threw his hands in the air. He could not believe he was having this conversation with his brother.

But then the nineteen-year-old‘s voice softened, and took on a faintly familiar edge. “Look, Sammy. Mom always made a big deal of it, all right.” He admitted finally, averting his eyes to somewhere over Sam’s shoulder. “It was important to her. She‘d make Dad‘s favorite breakfast. We’d all eat it in bed, and then she’d make this big presentation of the gift.” His brother shrugged. “At least that’s how I remember it. It made her happy.”

And it all suddenly made sense to Sam. And despite the fact he didn’t think his father deserved one damn thing, he knew he’d now search to the ends of the Earth to find whatever it was that his brother wanted to get. Because Dean deserved so much more than he ever got. “So what do you have in mind?”

Dean looked up. “You‘ll do it?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “I guess I fell for your cheap, sappy line after all.”

His brother laughed. “Don’t feel bad, Samantha. I‘ll still respect you in the morning.


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