Summary: Winchesters are tougher than thunder, tougher than the dark, and we definitely don't worry about closets. Five thunderstorms in the lives of the brothers Winchester, and one in Dean's.
Rating: PG, for language, monsters, and thunder.
Character(s): Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester
Spoilers and/or Warnings: None. Most of this is pre-series, and one is at any point early in the show. (Er, so maybe the pilot?)
Title, Author and URL of original story: The Calm... by mariana_oconnor at definewisdom
Before the Storm (The Roll of Thunder Remix)
Dean remembered that night sometimes, mostly when he was forced to pull off to the side of a dusty two-lane highway because the sky was too dark for three in the afternoon in Nebraska. As sheets of water killed his visibility and lightning crackled in the too-near distance, he would remember the way the duvet cover had felt against his hands, the way the air underneath the blanket had grown warm and humid with each panting breath, and the way the branches near the window had cast eerie shadows against the wall with each crack of lightning.
"Hey Deano, you okay in here?"
Dean recognized his father's voice, low and steady. He shook his head rapidly, hands clapped over his ears to muffle the sound of the thunder.
"Mind if I come in?"
Dean shook his head again, fingers loosening from the sides of his head. Dad was here. Dad would make it better.
The edge of the bed dipped slightly, and he crawled away slightly to avoid falling onto the floor.
"Did the duvet monster eat you?"
Dean shook his head, small hands fisting in the bedsheets.
"Oh no!" Dad sounded shocked, like he did when he was reading stories. "The duvet monster's got Dean! What am I going to do?" Dean pressed his hands to his mouth to muffle his laughter. "Well, I guess I’m going to have to do something about that. Can’t have duvet monsters going around eating people, can we?"
Dean shook his head, hands still pressed to his mouth.
“I guess asking nicely won’t do any good?”
Dean shook his head once more, curious to see where his father was going with the game.
"Oh well," Dad sighed, sounding a little disappointed. "The only way to get rid of a duvet monster, you know what that is Dean?"
Dean shook his head, fingers loosening from his mouth and a small laugh escaping. Daddy was funny.
Suddenly, the bed shook and Dean found himself in the midst of an epic battle, the covers pulled this way and that. Shrieking with laughter, he felt himself get shaken around. Above him, his father made grunting noises, occasionally sounding like he'd been hit in the face.
Suddenly, the thunder rumbled once more. Dean felt his laughter drain away, and he scrambled to cocoon himself in the blankets once more. He felt the solid presence of the bed against his side, and suddenly he saw his father smiling warmly down at him, pulling the blanket away.
"Huh, look at that. I guess the thunder scared off that big old duvet monster."
Dean gasped. "It did?"
"Sure did, buddy. All monsters are scared of thunder, didn’t you know that?"
"Uh-uh," he replied, shaking his head. He pulled himself up into a sitting position, legs crossed Indian-style.
"Well they are. All of 'em, even really scary ones. That’s why storms aren’t scary for you and me. 'Cause that’s when all the monsters run away."
Dean contemplated that for a moment, nodding his head as he mulled over this new piece of information. "Cool," he murmured, casting a quick glance at the water drops dribbling down his window.
"Now, let’s get you back in bed."
Dean rolled over, kicking off the tangled sheets, before lying down once more, pillow cool against his skin. His father carefully tucked him in, sneaking in tickles as he made sure the covers were snug around him.
"Night, Deano," he heard his father whisper. Dean felt the whiskery brush of a kiss to his forehead as his eyes fluttered closed, the rain a soothing tattoo against his window. The click of his bedroom door shutting was loud in the silence.
He heard his parents speaking in low, hushed tones through the door. Rolling onto his side, Dean watched as rivulets of water rolled down the panes of glass. Pillow cool and blankets warm, he counted dribbles until his eyes couldn't stay open anymore. He fell asleep dreaming of rivers and with the sound of thunder echoing in his ears and chest.
Years later, sitting in a car listening to the patter of the rain against the metal body of his Impala, Dean would scoff at the memory. If only thunder chased away monsters.
Sam's first memory was difficult to explain to other people.
His eyes snapped open at the sound of thunder crashing in the middle of the night. At three, the world seemed both large and small; many things were big, but his family was always within arms' reach. Dean was always in arms' reach.
The sound echoed in his ears and he sat up with a start, heart pounding in his ears as sheets of rain sprayed onto the window. Instinctively, he reached for Dean, who should have been asleep beside him. The sheets were cool and the space was empty; when another flash of lightning illuminated the room, Sam finally saw his brother.
Dean perched on the edge of the bed, eyes focused on the window. Thunder boomed once more, and Sam flinched. Dean sat perfectly still, not even twitching.
He turned his head slightly, peering over his shoulder. "Go back to sleep, Sammy." He straightened and turned back to face the window. "Nothing's gonna hurt you. Not while I'm here." His small hand clenched into a fist against the coverlet, and he didn't blink as a bolt of lightning lit the room in a sudden, brief flash.
Sam thought the expression on Dean's face was strange and frightening, and he pulled the covers over his head to muffle the noise and block out the light.
Later, he recognized the expression as determination. On seven year-old Dean, the expression was precious.
On twenty-seven year-old Dean, the expression was (and would be) ferocious.
Sam bounced into Dean's bed and scrambled to wriggle under the covers before the thunder boomed again, loud and echoing in the dingy motel room they called home temporarily. Lightning cracked in the sky, illuminating the whole room, but by then Sam was reduced to a shivering ball under the covers. When the rumble rolled through the room, Sam reached blindly for Dean, fingers curling into the soft cotton of his shirt.
Dean groaned and pushed the covers off roughly. "Sam?"
Sam had his face buried in the mattress, eyes squeezed shut.
Dean's expression softened, and he ran a hand through Sam's (slightly too-long) hair. "It's okay, he said softly, hand skimming across his little brother's shoulders. "It's just noise. It can't hurt you."
Sam's response was muffled in the mattress. It sounded suspiciously like, "But it's scary."
Dean smirked. "Winchesters aren't scared of anything. 'Specially not thunder."
Sam stopped shaking.
"Winchesters are tougher than thunder, tougher than the dark, and we definitely don't worry about closets."
Sam laughed at that, though his face was still buried in the mattress.
Dean pulled himself up to a seated position, then forcefully rolled Sam over. "It's a game. The lightning flashes first, right? And then the thunder rumbles?"
Sam nodded, expression serious.
"It's because they're chasing each other. Lightning flashes to tease thunder, and thunder rumbles to try and make lightning slow down so that he can catch him." In the back of his mind, Dean remembered fairytale stories about thunder and lightning of his own, of whiskery kisses brushing against his skin.
Sam's brow furrowed. "Like tag?"
Dean grinned. He had such a smart little brother. "Exactly like tag. Sometimes the thunder is really close, sometimes he's really far behind."
Sam appeared to contemplate this. "But why do they have to be noisy at night?"
"'Cause thunder can't see lightning during the daytime."
"Oh." His expression turned serious. (Dean had to stifle a laugh - the expression was too weird on a four-year-old.) Then, he fixed Dean with a probing gaze. "You mean it?"
Dean crossed his heart. "Cross my heart and hope to die."
Sam groaned. "Why was this a good idea, again?" At ten, Sam had begun to question everything around him, and foremost was Dean's qualifications as leader.
"Shut up, Sammy. The exercise will do you good." Dean rolled his eyes and made sure the sawed-off shotgun he'd stashed in his rucksack - hey, one never really knew - had its safety on.
Sam glared at the back of Dean's head. "Low blow, dude."
"Whatever, just keep moving." At fourteen, Dean's legs had become impossibly long. By contrast, Sam still had the roundness in his face and wore his baby fat like armor.
Sam cast a wary eye at the dark clouds overhead. "I'm pretty sure it's going to rain, you know."
"We'll be fine. Now shut your piehole and come on."
The pudgy ten-year-old sighed and walked a little faster. "If I get a cold and have to miss more school," he grumbled, clambering over a fallen log.
"What? You'll complain me to death?"
"Not funny, Dean."
"I dunno, it seemed pretty funny to me."
A loud clap of thunder interrupted whatever smart remark Sam had, and the rain began to come down hard on both of them.
"Shit," Dean swore. Sam didn't even have time to be outraged before Dean grabbed his arm and dragged him under the nearest tree, its branches high enough for them to stand under and wide enough to spare them the worst of the downpour.
When he caught his breath, Sam shook out his soaked-through t-shirt and glared at Dean. "This is totally your fault, you know."
Dean's jaw dropped. "My fault? How is this my fault?"
"You're the one who wanted to go for a hike when it was obviously going to storm." Sam rolled his eyes.
"Okay, first? Don't roll your eyes at me." He arched an eyebrow as Sam nearly rolled his eyes again before stopping himself. "Second, how was I supposed to know it was going to rain?"
"Whatever." Sam folded his arms against his chest and leaned against the tree trunk.
Dean sighed and dropped to his knees, hands clenched into fists on his thighs. The rucksack fell to the ground beside him, the items inside clacking together. Beyond the perimeter of the branches, the sky grew darker and the rain fell harder.
They stood under the tree in silence.
Suddenly, lightning arched across the sky, and Sam started. "Dean?"
"Yeah, I saw that." Dean's voice took on a harder edge, lips thinning into a line. He straightened, brow furrowed, and his eyes narrowed as they searched what little of the sky he could see. "We should move," he decided, hand curling around the strap of the bag.
"What? Shouldn't we just stay here?"
Dean shook his head. "We need to be on the move." When Sam opened his mouth to protest, Dean held up a hand. "Not now," he snapped, and stood, slinging the canvas bag onto his shoulder once more. Together, they scurried out from under the tree, heads ducked forward to keep the water out of their eyes.
They'd managed maybe a hundred feet when a sudden buzzing and cracking noise startled both of them. Pivoting smoothly on one heel, Dean wrestled out the sawed-off and pointed it at any would-be attackers in one fluid motion.
The tree they had just vacated groaned loudly, swaying in the wind, and a large lower branch came crashing down where they had stood, edges smoking slightly from the lightning. The tree groaned again but remained upright, though the crack in the center appeared ominous.
"Dean. Dean!" Sam pulled at the sleeve of his brother's shirt. "You're right, we have to get out of here." Dean surveyed the clearing once more, but Sam tugged even more insistently. "Come on!"
Dean stuffed the shotgun into his (soaked through) sack and grabbed hold of Sam's hand. "No complaining. And don't let go!"
Sam nodded. "I see the steeple over there." He pointed with his free hand. "It's on the other side of those trees."
"Okay. We're gonna have to run for it. Ready?" Sam dipped his chin in a curt nod, and Dean squinted through the rain to try and gauge the distance.
With a breath, they ran flat-out for Pastor Jim's.
"Remember that time in Minnesota when we almost got killed by the lightning and the tree?"
Dean gritted his teeth. "Shut up, Sam."
John looked their way. "What was that?"
"Uh, nothing." Dean realized a half-second too late that his response was too quick to be casual.
"Sam. Out with it." John always did win these negotiations.
Dean groaned silently, face buried in his hands. This was why he hated stakeouts. That, and the hurry-up-and-wait. And the crappy coffee. But mostly the fact that someone always brought up the worst stories at the wrong time.
Sam pushed his increasingly shaggy hair out of his eyes, some wet curls sticking to his forehead. "When I was ten, Dean and I were walking out in the woods by Pastor Jim's place and we almost got crushed by a tree that got struck by lightning." Sam shrugged. "Dean got us moving pretty quick, though."
John seemed to chew that over. "Good instincts."
Lightning flashed briefly in the distance, followed a good six seconds later by thunder rumbling. "Yeah, well, my instincts are telling me that the weather's about to get a lot worse a lot sooner than we'd like." Dean rolled his shoulders, shaking off little droplets that clung to the edges of his jacket, the brown leather squeaking as he moved.
"Watch it!" Sam grimaced, brushing off the drops from his face.
"Suck it up, you're not made of sugar." Dean leaned back and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Besides, it's only going to get worse."
"Yeah, well," Sam started, but was promptly interrupted by a loud keening noise.
"That's our cue," Dean muttered.
"Roll out," John commanded gruffly, and cocked his shotgun.
They pulled over to the side of the dusty Texas highway, the sky overcast and gray in every direction. Dark, ominous looking clouds rushed at them, and the pouring rain turned to sheets, killing visibility almost as soon as Dean cut the engine.
"Looks like we're stuck for a little while," he commented mildly, drumming his hands on the steering wheel lightly.
"Think the storm'll turn into a tornado?" Sam squinted as if trying to see through the blur of water on the window.
Dean shrugged. "Maybe, but the wind hasn't really picked up." Dean slid forward in his seat, eyes falling closed as he relaxed. The car was silent save for the drum of the rain against the body of the Impala.
After a few moments, Sam took a breath. "You've always liked the rain, haven't you?"
Dean cracked one eye open to look at Sam. "What do you mean?" The eye promptly fell shut once more.
"As long as I can remember, you sleep better when it rains. You like the sound of rain, the way lightning looks in the sky." He huffed a laugh. "You even got more reckless when we had hunts in the middle of thunderstorms. Like nothing could touch you."
"Dunno about lightning, but rain's white noise. Makes me relax."
"Mmm." Sam was silent for a few more moments.
Dean breathed a long, heavy sigh and felt every muscle in his body relax.
"I remember when I was four, I came running into your room in that motel that were were staying that and hid under your covers 'cause of the rain."
Dean smiled, eyes still closed. "You were freaked out by the thunder."
Sam nodded. "Yeah. Do you remember what you told me?"
"They were, uh, they were chasing each other."
Sam smiled. "Exactly." His tone turned wistful. "I told Jess that, once." He paused and chuckled softly. "She thought it was just the sweetest thing."
Dean watched Sam, gaze steady for a long moment. "When I was about four, thunder and lightning freaked me out, too."
Sam's eyebrow rose.
"What? I was a kid, okay?"
"So what, did Dad tell you that Winchesters aren't afraid of anything, least of all thunder?" A ghost of a smile skittered across his face.
Dean cleared his throat. "Nah, it was before. You were like a month old maybe." He shifted in his seat, the upholstery groaning as he moved. "So anyway, I'm hiding under my covers, right? And Dad comes in and asks if I'm okay." He smiled a little. "He picks me up, blankets and all, and shakes me, pretending to fight with the, oh what'd he call it. Duvet-monster."
Sam snorted and Dean punched him in the arm. "Shut up and let me finish, butthead. So Dad's winning, right, and then the thunder sounds again. I freak out and Dad sets me down." Dean swallowed, throat a little tight and tongue a little heavy. "He tells me..." He licked his lips and listened to the rain pound against the roof of the car, against the windows.
"What'd he say?" Sam asked quietly, voice oddly soft. Dean guessed he had his "I'm here for you" face on.
He avoided meeting Sam's eyes. "He said monsters are afraid of thunder, which is why people don't have to be. The monsters run away." He stared fixedly out the windshield, watching rivers of water cascade down from the roof. Sam blew out a long breath beside him but didn't say anything.
They sat in silence until the storm let up and the sky cleared. Dean keyed the ignition, rolled down the windows, and turned the volume up higher than he usually did.
"We're stopping at the next gas station," Sam stated, no room for argument in his voice.
"What?" Dean glared at him. "We stopped at the last one."
"The last one didn't have Red Vines."
"Get Twizzlers. They're the same thing."
"They so are not."
"You're right. Twizzlers are much better than Red Vines."
"How are we related?"
"Genetics and environmental factors."
Sam gaped. "You were the one who ripped my Scientific American!"
Dean raised an eyebrow. "That's what you're taking away from this conversation?"
"I can't even look at you."
"Saves me the trouble of having to look at your ugly mug."
"Pssh, whatever. And turn that down."
Dean smirked and turned the volume knob higher.
"Jerk!" Sam called over Hendrix's guitar solo. No respect at all, Dean thought, and shook his head.
"Bitch," Dean tossed back, grinning, and floored the accelerator.
1. Pastor Jim, as per the Supernatural Wiki and the S1 finale, lived in Blue Earth, Minnesota. According to Google Maps, Blue Earth is a tiny town with (inconsistent) satellite images and lots of forest-y areas. I expect nothing less from The Land of 10,000 Lakes.
2. Many thanks to my beta readers. You'll get your full due on reveal day, but for now: thank you very, very much for everything.
3. Wordcount: 3,075.