The Learning Curve

By Tidia



James was enjoying JT’s popularity on the baseball field.  He was also enjoying that they were together in high school at the same time. James was not struggling like JT did in Ben’s shadow.  Ben was smart, and left a long legacy of scholastic awards that JT could not live up to. He did excel in sports, especially baseball.   He admired James for his distinct, ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude.  James was going to leave a mark, one way or another, and didn’t care if it was through academics or athletics. James preferred the social aspects of school.


JT was confident he was going to go to college at LSU. The scouts had been at his last game, the coach talking him up. Scoring the county championship that would take them to sub state had not hurt his case.  His father was thrilled, and Uncle Caleb had told him how he was following in his dad’s footsteps.  James was already making plans, against their mother’s wishes, to convert JT’s room into a game room.   


Right now James was kissing up to him, meaning he needed something from his brother. When they were younger, he was told by his parents to give in to keep the peace in the house. As they got older, James would wear him down until JT gave in due to frustration or a sense of needing to protect James from himself.


“There’s going to be a party at the Roberts’ farm with a bonfire in the back forty. . .”


JT already knew about the party. It was to celebrate his team’s latest win and the end of the baseball season. “And you want me to go? I wasn’t planning on it.”  JT knew his brother had an ulterior motive.  He was happy not to go, with Max off at college JT had gotten used to staying at home more on the weekends. The only plan he had for this Saturday was to talk to Sydney Matthews over the phone until they could see each other.  “Aren’t you grounded?”


“If you go, then Dad will let me go, too.”  James sat on JT’s bed and bounced up and down a few times. “I really want to go. Don’t be a jerk, JT.  Do you really want to graduate high school in a couple of months without actually having any fun?”


He had fun, he did, just his fun wasn’t to excess so that his privileges were taken away.  Someone had to be responsible, especially with James around.  It was his job to watch over his brother.  If he said no, then his brother would find a way to get to the party. James blinked and used his puppy dog look to his advantage. “Okay,” JT sighed.  It would be fun to see his teammates.


“Dad!  I’m going to a party with JT!  Okay?” James bellowed.  Their parents were downstairs with Uncle Caleb, who had moved nearby after completing his custom built home.  Architectural Digest wanted to do an article about the amazing home.


“Come down here!” Their father, equally as loud, answered.  Their mom hated when they yelled.


JT pointed to the door and then gave his brother a push.  Their family was relaxing in the living room. 


“Isn’t this a senior party?” Dad asked.  “Because James is not a senior and if I remember from my days in high school, geeky freshmen aren’t usually welcome anywhere.”


“Dad, I’m not just any freshman. I’m not geeky,” James interjected. “Besides I’m almost a sophomore.”


Their father was still looking at JT, who glanced away with a shrug of his shoulders.   His brother was great at attracting trouble, and pushing his boundaries.  JT didn’t know how much had to do with his brother’s psychic ability versus a want of adventure, maybe it was a combination of both. “He can come since he’s with me.”


“Be home early.” It was a warning geared to James.  He had been grounded for blowing past curfew many times before.  “I don’t care that you don’t have school tomorrow.”


“We can get some training in,” Uncle Caleb mentioned.  With him closer to the farm, it would be easier for him to train them.  The move was great for their father, but bad for them physically. 


“Training, great.  I’m not the one who had second helpings of pie,” James mumbled under his breath.


“What was that?” Uncle Caleb stood up.


“Bright and early in the morning,” James said with false chirpiness and enthusiasm.


Caleb took his sear once more and patted his stomach. He had understood the mumbling or had picked it up from James’s mind.  “That’s what I thought.”


“I’ll keep an eye on him.” JT pulled his brother out of the room, grabbed his jacket and the keys to his car while stuffing a jacket at James.  The sooner they left, the better for James.


A keg had been set up along with a bonfire in the back forty of the Roberts’ farm. JT was welcomed by his teammates, as was James who soon left his side to venture out on his own. JT kept an eye on James, noticing his propensity to repeatedly visit the keg.  JT was driving, and not drinking, but wanted to remind James he lacked control of his abilities when drinking and under stress.  It did not help that James’s favorite old movie was The Hangover, since Max let him watch it 2 years ago.  He was trying to create a wild Las Vegas bachelor night.  JT tried to catch his brother’s attention and failed.


“I think it’s time we headed home,” JT said, interrupting a conversation James was having with Ryan, the captain of the football team while ogling his girlfriend.  


James pulled his arm away. “Marisa was going to show me around the place.  This is her house.”


“Yeah, her brother, Tyler is my teammate.” JT gave Marisa a nod, but was picking up on the fact the football captain did not like his girlfriend getting the attention of a freshman.


James smiled.  “So we have a lot in common.”


Marisa patted her large boyfriend’s arm. "You're cute, but way too young for me. I do have a cousin-Ashley. She’s here at the party."


"Does she look like you?"  James leaned in and gave her a wink.


"James!"  JT pulled his brother back from Ryan’s striking distance.


"I'm just asking..."


"Your brother has a big mouth, JT,” Ryan growled, but JT knew he had a reputation as being a decent guy, one who wouldn’t beat up a freshman, a brother of a senior.


"You don't know the half of it."  James had a lot of confidence. “He’s planning to run as student body president as a freshman.”


“I’m also on the varsity soccer team,” James said proudly.


Ryan snorted, and shook his head.  “Marisa and I were going to go to the school field so I could show her how I made my play. She missed it.”


“I could find Ashley and invite her. . .” Marisa tempted.


“We really should get going home,” JT started until he was pulled aside by his brother as the twosome headed towards Ryan’s extended cab truck.


Although JT had watched the proceedings, and knew that Ryan had been nursing the same beer, he still thought James needed to go home. “They’re upperclassmen, you’re not.”


James followed Ryan and JT kept up. “I know.  Did you see how hot Marissa is?  She has a cousin, bro. I want to meet her. I have it on some good authority that Ashley is hot, too.”


The authority could have been an apparition that was in the background right now.  JT had stopped pressing his brother on his abilities because they made James feel different, but James did use them to his advantage when he wanted to. “James, I’ve seen the brochures. Dad will send you to military school for sure if you get in any more trouble.”


“Are you going to tell him that I’ve been drinking?”  James asked in a whispered tone.


JT hated when James put him in the middle of a situation, but if he went then there was a likelihood he could keep James in one piece and back before curfew.  “Fine, I’ll go, but it is under protest.”


“It always is.” James slapped him on the back and they got into Ryan’s truck while Marisa called her cousin over to join them.


**********************The Brotherhood *  Legacy ************************


Dean wasn’t exactly asleep when the call came in.  He still kept late hours, but Juliet and he had the house to themselves once Caleb had left.  He also kept his ears open waiting for the boys to come back home.  It was already past curfew, and he didn’t worry as much when JT was with James.  He was sure there would be some sort of story or reason for their tardiness.


The phone call changed his lazy thoughts.  “This is Dean Winchester.”


The officer told him about the car accident, said the boys were at the hospital and there were no serious injuries.  Juliet was out of bed in a minute, putting back on the clothes she had worn earlier. 


“Tell me they’re alright, Dean, please,” she asked him for reassurances.


“They’re fine, Juliet,” he said, as he dialed Caleb’s phone number.  “Did you get any visions about the boys?” he asked without preamble.


Caleb answered on the first ring. “No,” Caleb paused, “James is upset, and JT is confused, but they seem to be in one piece.  What’s going on?”


Dean wiped a hand down his face, trying to rid himself of the horrible visions he had in his mind. “They were in a car accident and are at the hospital.”


“I’ll meet you there,” Caleb replied.


Dean followed Juliet out, pausing only long enough to grab the keys to the Impala and his jacket. The dogs barked, but remained where they were when they weren’t given attention.

**********************The Brotherhood * Legacy *******************


JT woke with a start. He remembered the deer jumping in front of the car, and the contact with the large animal.  He recalled getting out, looking at the damage at his brother, and making a decision. He glanced around, noticing he was in a hospital bed with a blazing headache, no longer at the scene of the accident.  His brother was holding his hand, sniffling.  “Jimmy, are you hurt?”


James looked up, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “No, you are, you jerk. Are you okay?”


“Yeah, just a headache.” JT rubbed his forehead, saw the installed IV, “Are you crying?”


“No, I got something in my eye,” James dismissed him with a grimace.  “You were fine at the accident and then passed out.  Scared the hell out of me.”


”Sorry.” JT started to recall how the blackness encroached on him.  “Did you call Mom and Dad? Tell them we’re okay?” His parents would have heard about the accident and then thought the worse.


“The police did.”


“Jimmy!” JT pulled himself up, looked for the bed remote, the phone, his cell phone, all at the same time.  “You got to tell them we’re all right!  They’re going to freak.”


“I didn’t think.  I’ll call them. Okay?” He started patting his pockets. 


JT looked away as his brother searched for his phone.  His parents would be worried sick, and it could have been prevented. “You never think, that’s the problem.  Your actions have consequences.”


“You’re not my dad, and I didn’t ask you to be all noble and self-sacrificing,” James retorted.


JT moved so he was lying on his side to face his disheveled brother.  He took a deep breath as the movement caused him to see stars.  “I did it because you would have gotten into a lot of trouble and ruined your future.  The other kids, too. The school would make an example of you and those guys, It doesn’t matter that its away from school because alcohol was involved. Principal Connoly already has you on his list.”


“Yeah, well, like I said, I didn’t think.  It won’t happen again.”  His brother exhaled, sat back in his chair with the phone in his hand.


“Can you just stop all this crap you are putting Mom and Dad through? You can’t always have your way, Jimmy. ” JT sighed.  As far as concussions went, this was not too bad, but he did have a bitch of a headache. Facing his parent’s disappointment in him would be much worse.


 “I can try.” James bit his lip. “I’m gonna tell Mom and Dad the truth, okay?”


JT was surprised. “Okay.”  JT didn’t want to incite the situation further.

James seemed about to say something, but then frowned. “Mom and Dad are here.” James announced.  With his abilities he was in tuned to their family. “I’m going to catch them at the door.”


“You should make sure you don’t smell like beer,” JT commented. “It’ll help your case.”


“Good point.  Thanks, bro,” James said as he sniffed his clothes while walking out the door.


“Someone’s got to keep you out of military school,” JT said to his brother’s retreating back.  He threw an arm over his eyes, trying to get a few more moments of rest before he had to deal with how upset his dad was going to be at him.


************************* The Brotherhood***Legacy ***********************


Juliet was waiting with James.  She had seen JT, and was less worried, especially after the doctor said he would release JT to their care as long as they watched out for side effects of the concussion.  In another hour JT would be going home.


Dean had talked to Jimmy, and was still simmering.  Caleb had walked him towards his other son’s room.   “You said boys would be easier,” Dean commented to his best friend.   “Mary and Josie look really good.”


“They haven’t hit puberty yet,” Caleb quipped.  “Jimmy learned his lesson, Dean. I think you scared him straight.”


Caleb was quick to defend the kids, in contrast to what Dean and Sam had put him through, most of what Dean’s sons did paled in comparison.  Caleb was also helping James figure out his abilities, building another connection.  “So we’re going to get a new and improved version of Jimmy? That’s what you said the last time.”  He had started a brawl between the opposing soccer teams over a bad call that involved insulting another player’s issue using public bathrooms.


“He was scared. Mac and I will work with him. He’s still getting used to being psychic. I remember what that’s like,” Caleb replied. “He’s just being a kid, Dean, testing his boundaries.”


Dean stopped outside JT’s room. “I was scared, too, for both of them.” Taking his kids on hunts was nerve wracking.  He did not know how his father had done it.  There was a constant worry of injury or worse, and for Dean to get a phone call about something like a car accident, made his kids seem all the more fragile.  “It’s the lying and JT covering for him.”


Caleb cleared his throat. “Are you going to give JT his ring?” He leaned against the wall.  “Seems like what JT did was sorta Guardian like. He’ll be going off to college soon.”


“It was a stupid move that could have gotten him into a lot of trouble, blown his scholarship.” He was still digesting what James had told him.


Caleb smiled. “You would have done the same thing for Sammy.”


“Yep,” Dean agreed, because he would have protected his brother, too. “Sometimes I don’t know where he comes from.”


“Three kids later and you still don’t know the birds and the bees.” Caleb snorted. 


Dean looked at the closed door to JT’s room. “James I get`, but JT always seems innocent.”  


Caleb shook his head; put a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “Dude, Ben and Max took him to the Caboose.”


Dean shrugged off the hand. “There are some things that should stay between brothers.” Like when his father had guessed when he lost his virginity, Dean had guessed about JT and Ben.


Caleb turned his head toward the door before continuing, “And you’re mistaking innocence for being a perfectionist.  I’ve seen what that kid has done to photographs that he doesn’t think are good enough.” Caleb rubbed his hands together. “Everything has to be right, if he messes up in the slightest, it's all ruined.”


Dean knew how hard his son was on himself.  He had seen it in baseball; he took criticism well, and practiced until he fixed the issue. “Juliet and I never put pressure on him. He’s the one who’s given us the least grief.  With Ben I felt like I needed to make up what I missed and James thinks he shits ice cream.” James thought very highly about himself.


“His grandfather was hard on himself, especially on a hunt.” Alluding to the times John had ripped up his notes on a frustrating hunt.


“He’s not ready for his ring, Damien.” Dean exhaled, closing his eyes for a moment.  “I’m not going to give him a ring to make sure he sticks around.” JT was great at baseball, and who knows where it would take him, maybe away from The Brotherhood. “I know what this job is like, and he’s not ready.”


“He’ll make a good Guardian,” Caleb said in a hushed tone with the same confidence he used when Dean had his doubts about his abilities. “When his time comes, which is like twenty years away, maybe more, he’ll be great. He wants to be a hunter, Dean, he wants this maybe more than baseball.”


This time it was Dean shaking his head.  Caleb insisted that they be the longest running Triad ever, even if it meant they stayed in the jobs passed their primes. He knew his son wanted to be a hunter, but he knew the sacrifices and demands of being The Guardian and a hunter.  It took a bit of your soul, and JT’s soul was innocent, no matter what Caleb said.  “Go keep an eye on the prisoner, because Juliet wants to call Ben.  Then can you call Sam for me, and let him know what’s going on?”


Caleb saluted before turning to return to Juliet and James. 


Dean took a deep breath before pushing the door open.  The light was dim in the room, just a glow near the hospital bed, and JT was turned away from it.  “Hey kiddo, after that IV runs its course you are free to go home.”


“Yeah, the doctor told me. Are you mad at me?”  His son rambled a bit, “Dad, I’m really sorry. I should have watched Jimmy better.  We should have come home.”


“Slow down. I’m not mad, exactly.” Dean pulled up a chair. “James told us what you did. He also said he really wanted to go to the extended party at the ball field, not you.” James had wanted to go because the girl he liked was going, and JT wanted to head back home. “You can say no to him.”


JT sighed and shifted. “It’s easier to say yes, and deal with the fallout.”


Dean understood being worn down by a younger brother. “It’s time that your brother dealt with the fallout.” Dean narrowed his eyes. “Why did you say you were driving that truck?” His son had taken the blame for the entire accident, although he had not been driving. 


JT rubbed a hand down his face.  His hair was matted and he looked less like the adult he was becoming. JT would be eighteen in a few weeks. “Dad, there was underage drinking and the school comes down hard on students, even away from school.”


James had admitted to it, and that the others, except for JT, had been drinking, too.  He swore none of them were drunk, just a beer or two, but it would have been enough to get them into trouble at school. James would be grounded for life at home and Caleb was taking him for extra training. “Your brother knows he shouldn’t be drinking.”


JT raised his brows, but went no further.  His kids had experimented, and he had allowed some of it, but he thought he was clear about appropriate behavior away from the farm.


“Since I didn’t drink, then saying that I was driving protected everyone. The police wouldn’t push the issue.” JT pressed further, “Dad, Ryan had one drink.  Anyone could have hit that deer –“


Dean put his hand up to silence his son.  He understood why his son took the blame, to disperse any sense of wrongdoing on the others, especially his brother. “They owe you.”  


“You would have done the same,” JT replied softly. “I’m sorry all this happened.”


“I know, Kiddo,” Dean put a hand on JT’s head, trying to understand the earnestness his son seemed to have ingrained in him.  “And you’re right.  I probably would have done the same thing because he’s your younger brother, and you need to protect him.” 


JT gave a grim smile. “Like you and Uncle Sam.”


“Like me and Uncle Sam.” Dean covered up for Sam when they were growing up.  He thought that was part of his job as older brother, his responsibility. “Your uncle thought it was a good idea to be Lucifer, and I let him do it.” He wanted to spare JT and James the hard learning curve.  “That wasn’t a good idea.”


JT blinked.  It wasn’t often Dean admitted to doing something wrong. “Yeah,” he agreed.


“I was thirty years old before I figured out that I had to let Sam make some mistakes, own up to what he’s done, and see things through.”  Dean pulled his hand away from his son’s head.  “Maybe if I had let Sam take some knocks earlier, not protected him so much, he would have seen there were problems with that plan.”


“But you didn’t want Uncle Sam to get hurt. I don’t want Jimmy to get hurt,” JT admitted. 


“That’s the hard part.” Dean took a breath to compose himself.  All those times he took the blame for Sam, so Sam could have normal. It is what a brother would do, but it had its repercussions for Sam. Sam had chosen to not listen to his brother, drink demon blood, follow Ruby, and all the consequences that followed. Dean had allowed that by overprotecting his brother, and although James was not Sam, and would not have to face the apocalypse, there would still be consequences if JT covered his brother’s errors in judgment. “But I have to know that you are going to be able to do it, JT.  It’s what a Guardian has to do.”


JT shifted on the bed, the plastic under the sheets making a creaking noise. “I’m not The Guardian, Dad. I don’t even have a ring.”


Dean didn’t answer his son, and it was confirmation enough. 


“Me? Dad, I don’t think-“ JT started to push himself from the bed, searching for the remote to lift his bed.


Dean placed a hand on his son’s chest. “Don’t get excited.  The job does not come with benefits,” he joked, then thought twice, “Okay, some benefits, but-“


JT interrupted his father’s attempt at levity, “Max is The Knight, isn’t he?”


“Yeah, you noticed?” Dean asked, knowing that Max was keeping a watchful eye. He would be upset that JT had gotten injured, would come down on James for being involved.    


“It explains a lot,” JT snorted, but sobered quickly. “Is Jimmy the next Scholar?”


James had the requisite psychic ability, and if Dean survived his son’s rebellion, then James would make a great Scholar, “Yes.”


“Dad, are you sure about this?” His son’s green eyes held steadfast. “I disappointed you.”


“You’ve never disappointed me, Kiddo. Ever. I’m proud of you, of the person you are, not just because of the baseball.  I am proud that you’re my son, whether you choose to be The Guardian or not.”


“I want to be The Guardian, Dad. I want to be like you.”


Dean ran a hand through his son’s hair. “Kiddo, you’re going to be so much better than me.”   Before his son could deny his father’s statement, Dean pointed out that the IV had finished.  “Let’s call a nurse and get you home.”