Summary: He is royally, epically screwed, and it's all because of a stupid fifty-dollar bet he's never gonna get to collect anyway.
Spoilers and/or Warnings: None.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Part Three of Five Times Dean Didn't Say Goodbye to Sam by embroiderama
Many, many thanks to my betas, joans23 and elaeazeph for their handholding, cheerleading, and all-around awesomeness.
The American Dream (The Johnny Cougar Improv)
It arrives on a Wednesday in a thick white envelope with the Georgia Tech insignia in the upper lefthand corner. Their old address from Alabama has been stamped with FORWARDED in bold, red letters. Dean shoves the package under his shirt before he walks back inside the house.
Sam's at the kitchen table, already doing his homework, the geek, so Dean tosses the remaining mail on the counter and walks purposefully down the hall, where he shuts himself in the bathroom. It's the only place he's guaranteed any privacy; ever since that one time Sam walked in on him jacking off, the two of them have had an unspoken agreement that the bathroom is safe space.
He lowers the lid of the toilet and sits, pulling the envelope out of his shirt slowly. After a moment of staring at it, he slides a finger under the flap and tears the seal. He dumps the contents onto his lap: a letter, a white folder with gold embossing, and a second envelope, marked "Financial Aid."
He picks up the letter with shaking hands.
The Admissions Committee recently reviewed your application to Georgia Institute of Technology. It gives us great pleasure to offer you admission to Georgia Tech beginning with the fall 1997 semester.
Dean drops it like it burns his hands.
It was supposed to be a joke, a bet he made while they were in Alabama, with the guys in Dean's physics class. He bet Gary Coolidge fifty bucks that he could send in an application to any school he wanted on the very last day and get in. He didn't even bother to send along the application fee, sure that he'd be long gone before the rejection letter ever arrived.
He was right, but apparently, the letter found him anyway.
He skims over the rest of the letter. It mostly just tells him what's in the folder and the other envelope - housing information, available courses, academic calendar, and, of course, tuition information. He steadfastly refuses to get excited about any of it; after all, they can barely afford the dump they live in, forget about a top university. Not that he's going to go; Dad'll strangle him if he even suggests it.
He opens the financial aid envelope simply out of curiousity.
There's a plethora of papers in garishly bright colors, advertising Stafford Loans and Pell Grants and a whole lot of other things that Dean is pretty sure come with strings attached. There's also another letter with the school insignia at the top of it and a list of numbers toward the bottom of the page. If he's reading it right (and one thing he's always been pretty good at is numbers), they're offering him a full ride, even without the government-funded loans.
It's about this time that Sam comes banging on the bathroom door. "Dean? Are you still in there? I need to pee," shrills the whiny brat.
"Just a second, Sammy," and if his voice sounds a little strained, well, it'll just make Sammy think he's interrupting something.
"God, Dean! It's Sam! And gross!"
He hears Sammy stomping back down the hall as he stuffs the papers back into the big envelope. Dean makes a big to-do about flushing the toilet and letting the tap run for a moment while he shoves the envelope back under his shirt.
He scuttles out of the bathroom and into their shared bedroom, slamming the door behind him to let Sammy know that it's safe for him to go piss now. He sits on his bed with the envelope in his hands, listening for the tell-tale signs that Sam's coming down the hallway again.
Dean doesn't know what to do with it now. He probably should have thrown it away the moment he laid his hands on it. Definitely shouldn't have opened it, should have known the can of worms that came with such a thing. Dad will throw a fit, Sammy just might disown him for leaving him, and Dean doesn't think he can justify leaving his family, even if it's only temporary.
But then he remembers why he chose Georgia Tech, how their engineering program promises hands-on lessons in physics and chemistry, how he'll have access to labs and equipment that he can use to build weapons to fight ghosts and demons and maybe even the thing that killed Mom. He might be able to find a way to destroy ghosts without digging up their bones (though that's admittedly a long-shot).
The draw of a place where he can learn to keep his family safe, safer, is a strong one. Dean pulls out the acceptance letter and reads it again. He has two weeks to fill out the forms and send them in if he wants to make this real. Two weeks.
He is royally, epically screwed, and it's all because of a stupid fifty-dollar bet he's never gonna get to collect anyway.
He takes the papers to school with him, fills them out during study hall. In a moment of either brilliance or stupidity, he puts Bobby Singer's address on the contact form. Bobby won't ask questions, not like Pastor Jim, knows when to keep his mouth shut around Dad. As a precaution, he makes a phone call to Bobby, too, says there's some stuff might be coming his way that belongs to Dean.
"What sort of stuff?" Bobby asks, his voice gruff over the phone.
"Just... some things. You can open 'em if you're curious, but Dad doesn't need to know."
"This gonna get one or the both of us in trouble with your daddy, boy?"
"Like I said, Dad doesn't need to know," Dean repeats, and then he hangs up.
He tries to ignore the slip-slide of guilt at keeping things from both Dad and Sammy. Rationalizes that saying something now will only bring it all crashing down around him, that Sammy can't keep a secret, no matter how hard he tries.
Truth is, he doesn't know what Dad's gonna do when he tells him. Some days, he thinks Dad's gonna ship them both out, send them to Pastor Jim or to Bobby, anywhere they might have a life that's kind of normal, but other days, he's sure Dad's never gonna let them out of his sight. He's hoping for a day like the former to come along soon, but the older he gets, the more of the latter there are.
The next time he calls Bobby, there's a lot of swearing on the other end of the line. "I hope you know what you're doing, boy, because your daddy ain't gonna be happy. Have you told him yet?"
Dean shakes his head, even though he knows Bobby can't see him. "Not yet. I will, though." He pauses. "Thanks, Bobby."
"Yeah, yeah." Bobby promises to forward the academic calendar and Dean's course catalogue to him. "The bill's arrived, and you got a positive balance."
"Yeah, they gave me a full ride."
"Shit, kid. Tell your daddy. Call me when you get the stuff in the mail." He hangs up before Dean can thank him again.
School ends and the summer rushes by in a familiar dream of ghosts and ghouls, Dean's class schedule folded into his pocket, the only evidence of the brave new world he's about to enter. With just a couple weeks left before he has to be in Georgia, Dean knows he can't keep quiet any longer.
He buys a bus ticket to South Dakota, just in case Dad really does kick him out like he's afraid he might. It's just a precaution, he tells himself, Dad's not actually going to kick him out for wanting to go to school. It doesn't stop his hands from shaking when he tucks it in his pocket alongside the class schedule.
They come home from a successful hunt - a routine salt and burn - so late that it's really early morning. Sam's supposed to be in bed already, left behind because school starts in less than a week, so Dean checks on him. He's unsurprised to find Sammy's breathing is just a little too steady for him to actually be asleep.
"Go to sleep, fart face," Dean says without heat.
Sammy doesn't respond, but Dean figures it's good enough that he knows they're back safe.
He's too wired from the hunt to go to sleep himself, and besides, he's gotta tell Dad about Georgia. It's to the point where it's now or never, and he's not about to take off without a word. Sammy would never forgive him, and Dad would probably track him down and drag him back kicking and screaming.
Dad's settling down in front of the television to unwind when Dean comes into the living room. He stands in the doorway and fidgets until the old man looks at him, and he finally says, "Dad. I need to tell you something."
Dad blinks up at him with slow, appraising eyes, and Dean looks away.
"This involve a girl, Dean?"
"Good. What is it?"
Dean keeps his eyes down and his hands in his pockets as he says, "I have to be in Atlanta on the twenty-ninth."
Dad raises his eyebrows. "Atlanta, Georgia? Why?"
Slowly, he pulls the class schedule out of his pocket. "Classes start the day after Labor Day."
"At Georgia Tech."
"What are you talking about?" Dad's voice is steady, but it's rising in volume ever so slightly.
"I applied, Dad, and they've given me a full ride. I... I sent my acceptance in April."
"You did what?"
"I'm going to school," Dean says, trying not to let his voice waver. "I'll go with you on all my breaks, I'll watch out for local hunts. I'm going to take engineering classes and I'm gonna learn how to build stuff, how to make weapons that can--"
"You are not going anywhere, son."
Dean falters for a moment, but soldiers on. "--Weapons that can keep you and me and Sammy safe, help us find and kill the thing that killed Mom. I've sent in the forms, and they've sent me my schedule, and I'm going. I've got the bus ticket already."
"I said, no, Dean."
"No buts. You're not going. I need you here to watch Sammy."
It's a low blow that usually knocks him to the ground, but this time, Dean sees right through it. "No you don't, Dad. Sam's fourteen, he can take care of himself. Hell knows I was taking care of both of us at his age. He's old enough you can take him on hunts instead of leaving him here to worry about us."
At that, Dad stands, levels his glare at Dean. "And what do you think he's going to do when you're off at college, Dean? You think it's gonna be all sunshine and roses while you're away? I need you here to watch out for your brother."
"Bullshit," Dean snaps, suddenly, inordinately angry. "You just want me to stay under your thumb for the rest of my life. Newsflash, Dad, I'm eighteen, I can do whatever the fuck I want."
"Dean Michael Winchester, I am ordering you to stand down. You are not going."
He clenches his fists and grinds out, "You can't stop me, Dad." He turns and starts to head down the hall.
"If you walk out that door, don't you ever come back."
Dean stills, his back rigid. He thinks about spitting back that that's fine with him, but he knows it will only make things worse. Right now, he has to go pack and hope Sammy will forgive him for leaving.
Lyrics to "American Dream" are here.