Pairing: None because GEN
Word Count or Media: 2,758
Summary: Sam gets his own damn car. Rowena approves, but Dean has issues.
Read it below the cut or on A03
Author's Notes: This was written for verucasalt123 for this year’s spn_summergen. The title is a song by The Who. I think Sam would like it. Many thanks to wetsammy for the beta! This story was originally posted here.
“What the hell is that?” Dean stares.
“I bought a car.” Sam shrugs.
It’s not the ugliest thing ever, really. It’s green, a perfectly respectable color back in 2002 when it was made. It’s big enough for Sam’s oversized frame and it’s got all-wheel drive, which could be damned helpful in the Kansas winters. Sam figures he made a practical choice.
“You bought this?” Dean still can’t get over the idea. “Why?”
Sam shrugs again. “I wanted my own car,” he says. “You never let me drive the Impala, which guzzles gas and isn’t good for the environment, by the way.”
“Oh, you are not allowed to insult my baby,” Dean growls, index finger raised.
Sam rolls his eyes. “I just want something I can use to run into town for groceries,” he says. “Or as a backup in case you’re out with the Impala and I need to go somewhere before you get back.”
“How often does that happen?” Dean looks shocked. “When do I ever leave you here while I’m on a hunt?”
Sam’s not getting into that argument. “Not necessarily on a hunt,” he says. “More like when you’re off at a bar, for example. You just expect me to stay home by myself while you’re out getting laid, but sometimes I need a night off, too.”
“Oh.” Dean raises his eyebrows. ”You” need a night off,” he mocks. “I always offer when I go out, Sam! You’re always welcome to come with me!”
“Yeah, I know.” Sam nods. “That’s not what I mean. Sometimes, I just need to go out by myself.”
“By yourself?” Dean’s incredulous, like the idea had just never occurred to him, which of course is Sam’s point.
“Yeah. You know. Without you.”
He leaves Dean standing in the garage, staring at Sam’s new (very used) car like it’s some kind of puzzle that needs solving, like Sam’s just done something too impossible to understand.
It’s just a car, for gods sake.
That night, as Rowena helps Sam with some tricky spellwork in the library, Dean announces that he’s “going out.”
Sam barely looks up, nods.
“You wanna come?” Dean asks, tapping the tips of his fingers on the table for emphasis.
Sam looks up, purses his lips. “No,” he says. “We’re good.”
“Well, if you change your mind, I’ll be at Sal’s,” Dean says. “You can drive on over in your car.”
Sam blinks. “Yeah. Okay. But I think I’ll stay here tonight. Rowena and I have work to do.”
“Sure you do.” Dean smirks, wiggling his eyebrows.
Sam rolls his eyes. “Idiot.”
Dean grins, winks at Rowena, and heads toward the garage. “Don’t wait up!” He calls over his shoulder.
“What was that about?” Rowena asks after Dean’s gone.
Sam shakes his head. “I bought a car.”
“You did what?”
Rowena’s surprise pisses Sam off.
“Why not?” he protests defensively. “Why does everybody act like it’s such a big deal? I wanted my own damn car, that’s all.”
“Well, it’s just that...” Rowena hesitates, obviously having difficulty understanding her own response. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just... you always ride with Dean.”
“And that’s not changing,” Sam insists. “When we’ve got a job to do, I’ll still ride with Dean.”
“So, why do you need your own car?”
Sam sighs. “Sometimes I just need to run an errand or go somewhere while Dean’s gone. The Impala has an arsenal in the trunk and it gets five miles to the gallon. It feels like overkill to take it to the convenience store for a gallon of milk, you know?”
“Well, of course,” Rowena agrees. “Sounds very practical. I’m just surprised is all. It’s funny to think of you in any other car.”
Sam frowns. “I’ve had a car of my own before,” he says defensively.
“Before I met you.” Sam nods. “Dean and I were separated for about a year, and I bought a Dodge Charger.”
“What happened to it?”
Sam winces. “A couple of angels fell on it and crushed it.”
“Ah.” Rowena reaches across the table and pats his hand, then leaves her hand on top of his. “You know, I believe it’s a good thing for you to have a car of your own.”
Rowena nods. “Seems to me you have a right to your own space,” she says, “your own escape vehicle, so to speak. Automobiles are symbols of freedom and self-determination, in this country, at least. I can understand you need some of that.”
“Thanks, Rowena.” Sam turns his hand over, squeezes hers before letting it go. “I just wish Dean would understand. He takes offense at the notion of me having my own car, like it’s a personal insult, the idea that I might want to go somewhere without him.”
Rowena sighs. “Well, he is a bit of a control freak,” she says. “I’m sure he’ll get used to it, eventually.”
“I hope so.”
“So, I’m thinking we should take separate cars.”
Jodi’s invited them for Thanksgiving dinner for the third year in a row. It’s becoming a ritual, one that Sam looks forward to at least as much as Dean does.
Sam stops packing the box containing their contributions to the meal—wine, beer, salad, and pie—and looks up with a frown.
Dean puts the last of the dishes away from breakfast and shrugs as he wipes his hands on a dishtowel.
“Well, I was just thinking, what if one of us wants to leave early?”
“Uh—then we leave early,” Sam says.
Dean’s not looking at him. “Yeah, but what if one of us wants a little me-time? It’s a six-hour drive, after all. Plenty of time for getting in some good me-time.”
Sam rolls his eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. Of course we’re not gonna take two cars to the same place and back. That’s insane, Dean.”
“You’re insane,” Dean mumbles as he leaves the room.
Sam sighs. It’s gonna be a long day.
The following week, Sam’s in the library, working with Rowena on another spell, when Dean saunters in. He’s covered in grease, and Sam vaguely recalls that Dean mentioned that he’d be working on the Impala today.
“Hey, Sammy. You need your oil changed on that old tank of yours?”
Sam shakes his head. “Nah. The guy I bought it from said it didn’t need a change for another five thousand miles.”
“And you believed him?” Dean wipes his hands on his grease rag. “You better let me do it, Sam. You’ll kill your engine if you don’t get regular oil changes.”
Sam looks up, considering, then frowns. “Dude, I’m good. I can get Jiffy Lube to do it when I need to.”
“Jiffy Lube? Really?” Dean’s offended. “I wouldn’t let those hacks touch my baby with a ten-foot pole!”
Sam rolls his eyes. “My car isn’t your baby, is it?”
“Well, that’s for damn sure,” Dean says.
“You don’t need to worry about it,” Sam says. “I know how to take care of a car.”
“Yeah?” Dean challenges. “You know you’ve had that thing sitting in the garage for more than a week without driving it.”
“So, the battery could be dead,” Dean says. “Did you think of that, genius? You need to run a car at least once a week for twenty minutes or more to keep the battery charged, remember?”
Okay, so maybe Sam didn’t thank of that. He’s been a little busy with their latest hunt and the spells that he’s been learning have been taking up more and more of his time lately. He’s been a little distracted.
Dean reads his expression, nods. “I thought so. Why don’t you let me jump the battery, take the car out for a little spin to juice her up?”
Sam’s hackles go up. “I can take care of my own damn car, Dean!” he growls.
Dean puts his hands up, backs away. “Fine. Whatever. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
After he leaves, Sam huffs out a frustrated sigh.
Rowena wrinkles her nose delicately. “Cars are nasty things, aren’t they? All that engine oil and grease. Ugh!”
Sam shakes his head. “I just forgot about how much maintenance they need,” he says.
“You know, I could teach you a couple of easy spells to get your car started,” Rowena offers. “You wouldn’t even need to pop the hood.”
Sam considers this, shrugs. “Yeah, okay.”
The next morning, after his run and shower, Sam heads into the kitchen for breakfast, only to discover that they’re out of soy milk. Again. Sam has a habit of adding the last of the soy milk to his coffee, then putting the empty carton back into the icebox. Dean scolds him for it, but he can’t seem to break the habit.
Sam sighs and puts soy milk on the grocery list for the next time they’re passing through town. He’ll just have to take his coffee black for a while.
Then he remembers. He’s got a car. He can run into town, get the milk along with whatever other groceries they need, and be back before Dean even wakes up.
When he gets back, Dean’s in the kitchen making breakfast. He’s got pancakes on the grill, bacon in a pan, fresh coffee in the pot. It smells a little like Heaven, or at least the Heaven Sam hopes he ends up in someday. The way Dean cooks breakfast in the bunker kitchen will forever be one of Sam’s favorite memories.
“Hey,” Dean greets him, then does a double-take when he sees the grocery bags. “Did you take my baby out without asking?”
“What? No!” Sam sets the grocery bags on the table, pulls out the soy milk. “I have my own car, remember?”
“And it started?” Dean makes his skeptical face.
“Well, yeah.” Sam shrugs. “Guess you don’t know as much about cars as you thought you did.”
He can feel Dean staring at him as he empties the bags, puts the groceries away, then pours himself a cup of coffee. As he pours in some of the soy milk he can practically feel Dean’s brain working, trying to make sense of what Sam’s just told him.
“It didn’t need a jump?” he asks finally.
“Nope.” Sam shakes his head, takes a sip of his coffee. “Started right up.”
“Huh. That’s—unexpected,” Dean says. He flips the pancake onto the top of a short stack and sets it on the table in front of Sam, along with a plate of bacon. “Must be a helluva car.”
Sam shrugs. “Oh, she is,” he agrees.
“She.” Dean frowns, sits down opposite his brother with his own plate and coffee. Black, of course.
“Well, yeah,” Sam says. “I mean, ships and cars tend to get female pronouns, am I right?”
Dean frowns. “Mind if I take a look at her after breakfast?”
Sam shrugs. “Knock yourself out.”
After breakfast clean-up, Dean heads to the garage while Sam joins Rowena in the library to work on a complicated new protection spell. The bunker has become far too easy to infiltrate, and Rowena promised to help come up with better warding. It’s about time, in Sam’s opinion.
Their heads are bent together over one of many of the bunker’s oldest spell books when Dean stalks in from the garage, a confused frown planted firmly on his face.
“Needed a jump just to get her started,” he announces.
Sam and Rowena look up expectantly.
Dean goes on. “I don’t know what you did, but you could not have driven that car this morning.”
“But I did,” Sam assures him.
“It was as dead as a doornail, Sam,” Dean insists. “There’s just no way you could’ve got her started without a jump.”
Sam shrugs. “I don’t know what to tell you, Dean. I drove her to the grocery store this morning. She started right up for me.”
“She started right up for you?” Dean repeats. “How is that even possible, Sam?”
Sam shrugs again. “Maybe she likes me better,” he suggests innocently.
He doesn’t dare look at Rowena; he’ll lose his shit if he does. She’s caught on, though. He can feel the look of disbelief on her face as she stares from one to the other of the Winchesters, and Sam can hear it coming before she opens her mouth.
“I must say I don’t know how two grown men can behave like such helpless little boys.”
Dean tilts his head. “Excuse me?”
“I’ll deal with you in a moment,” Rowena tells him. “Samuel, how could you lie to your brother about your mechanical spell-work?”
Dean blinks. “Your mechanical what?” He stares at Sam.
“Because it’s none of his business,” Sam snaps. “That car is mine, and if I choose to use magic to fix her, that’s my right because she’s mine. End of story.”
“Magic?” Dean repeats. “You magicked your car? What, so now you’re driving all over the Midwest in freakin’ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?”
“And you,” Rowena admonishes Dean. “Your brother has the right to own and operate his own motor vehicle. Sometimes he needs a little freedom, or the illusion of it, anyway. You would do well to stow your misplaced jealousy and let him have it.”
“My jealousy?” Dean’s aghast. “You think I’m jealous?”
“Oh, I know you are,” Rowena nods sagely. “You’d rather have Sam depend on you when he wants to go somewhere. But don’t you see how that might make him feel a wee bit trapped?”
“I’m not holding him here!” Dean barks. “He’s free to go whenever he likes!”
Dean’s on the verge of a panic attack, and Sam finally gets it. He understands. This isn’t about the car. It’s about Dean’s age-old fear of abandonment, his self-loathing conviction that Sam would leave him if he had the chance.
“Now hold on, Dean.” He gets up, puts a hand out to his brother. “This isn’t about me needing freedom from you.” He might be lying just a tiny bit, but the sentiment’s right.
“Oh yeah?” Dean turns his wild-eyed gaze on Sam. “You sure about that? Cuz it sure sounds like you’d rather be anywhere else!”
Sam shakes his head. “No way. I’m not trying to leave you or this life. I’m way past that.”
“Are you?” Dean growls, accusation barely masking the desperation in his voice.
Sam nods, taking another step forward, hands out, soothing, giving Dean his most earnest look.
“You have to trust me,” Sam insists. “I just need to take a drive once in a while in my own car. You of all people should understand that. Remember how you felt when Dad gave you the Impala?”
Dean blinks, looking away as the memories flood his mind.
Sam nods again. “Right? The freedom of the open road? Wind in your hair?”
Dean looks sharply at his brother. “Wind in your hair, princess,” he smirks, his anger dissipated.
Sam gives a sigh of relief as he rolls his eyes.
Rowena looks from one to the other, shaking her head. “Boys.”
The next time Sam goes for a drive, he finds a mixtape labeled “Driving Songs” in the car’s tape deck.
It makes him smile.