AU Universe: Medieval
Disclaimer: I neither own nor profit off of SPN (or Merlin, to which this is clearly some kind of hybrid, like one of a coydogs or a cama)
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Warnings: dreferences to child abuse/family fighting
Word count: 1846
Summary: Sam and Dean keep each other's secrets.
Author notes: This whole medieval world spawned out of "Sir Dean vs. the Griffin". There's at least one more story in this 'verse rattling in my head. lavinialavender read this story over, but then I changed things, so, as far as typos and forgotten verbs, proceed at own risk...
Dean, as a knight and heir to all of Lawrence, has never much worried about the privacy and possessions of others. This is especially true when it comes to his little brother. If it’s Sam’s, it’s Dean’s. Just like Dean would give Sam anything he had.
Of course, he can be a pain in the ass about it too, because where’s the fun in being oldest otherwise?
Dean burst through Sam’s door and raises his arms to the heavens dramatically, ignoring Sam’s lighting fast—though not quite fast enough—move to stuff his current book under his pillow.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned!” Dean crows. “God’s earhairs, Sam, you will not believe how I have sinned. Two girls!”
Sam rolls his eyes and flops down on the bed, carefully still on top of the book. Sam will spot Dean his shirts (that don’t fit) and his weaponry (that is never quite balanced for Dean’s hand; they have different styles) but he gets downright rabid about his books. “Dean, I don’t need to hear about your amorous exploits.”
Dean tumbles down beside him. “Oooo, big words, Father Winchester. Does that mean conqueror of women? King of seduction? Master of the hard—?”
Sam hits him. “Great deeds in love, you ignoramus.”
“And indeed they were, Sam,” Dean says. “This first one, Celia, she said, ‘How about you and me talk over by the hay bales’, so I said—“
“I really don’t need to hear this, Dean.”
“Sure you do!” Dean punches him—lightly—in the arm. He’s not quite sure what’s up with his brother. When Dean was fourteen he’d already been making eyes at every new chambermaid—and doing more that that when they’d let him. Sam’s interested, but not active, and Dean sees it as his duty to help (and shamelessly tease) Sam at every opportunity. “You’ve got to save up these experiences, Sammy, even vicariously.” Dean does listen when Sam talks, and he’s stored up a lot more fancy words that he’ll ever admit “for when you take your vows.”
Dean takes a breath and waits for Sam’s burst of outrage so that he can keep talking over the top of him like a proper pain-in-the-ass older brother. Sam’s been complaining and fighting Father about going to seminary for as long as he’s been able to talk. Sam says he doesn’t have a calling and that he likes girls too much. Father says that Sam’s a second son and he’ll do whatever the hell the Lawrence estate can pay for and be grateful for it. The argument tends to go downhill from there. Once, memorably, Sam threatened to run away to beg on the streets, and Lord John threatened to throw him in the stocks if he tried.
So Sam is understandably twitchy any time anyone mentions the priesthood. But this time he doesn’t say anything at all, and Dean, expecting resistance, trips over his own thoughts when it’s just…gone.
“Sam?” he says.
Sam has his legs pulled up to his chest and won’t look at him. “I’m going,” he answers, almost too softly to hear.
Dean’s world shivers a little bit, like Jericho right before the walls came down. He’s always been there for Sam, and Sam has always been there, and he thought…
“But you’re always fighting about it,” Dean says. “You’re practically at his throat every day.” He notes the fresh bruise around Sam’s left eye—Father’s got a strong right—and wonders if something worse happened than the usual knocks on both sides. They usually just shout at each other but sometimes they both loose their temper and then they brawl like drunks. Except Dean can’t stop them by knocking their heads together and throwing them in gaol, because Father wouldn’t go and Sam wouldn’t stop. But now, Sam hasn’t gotten up, hasn’t put any weight on his legs, oh God, what if…
“Used to be. Used to hate the idea. But now…” Sam puts his hands over his face. “I just want to get away, Dean. Somewhere with books and thought and people who…”
Dean doesn’t want to know how that sentence ends. People who read. People who understand me. People I don’t hate.
Sam’s too smart for Lawrence. Anyone who can read and write Latin (and Greek, and that funny northern language) and speak five languages shouldn’t be stuck in a place where the only use Sam gets out of his brains is teaching Dean words he pretends not to remember, and never using the same insult twice when he’s blaspheming Father’s name, personal habits, and ancestry.
Dean swallows, and then puts on his best smile. “That’s great, Sam,” he says. “You’ll have a great time, you know, reading stuff.”
“Yeah,” Sam says. “Don’t tell Father?”
“Isn’t this what he wants?” Dean ask, but even as the words leave his mouth he knows what Sam means. He’s getting a horrible feeling.
“Yes, but if it’s what I want, he’ll change his mind,” Sam says.
“You fought,” Dean says. “What did you do?”
Sam hunches farther over his knees and almost stops his eyes from flickering to his book-hiding spot. But not quite.
Dean mimes grabbing Sam by the hair and Sam jerks back—he hasn’t been slow enough to catch for years—and Dean sneaks the book out from under the blanket while his brother is distracted.
Sam’s not an idiot, he noticed right away. “Give that back!” He tries to slug his brother in the face, and Dean is glad he blocked when the punch carries a lot more force than expected.
Dean flips the book open one-handed and holds Sam off with the other. He still has several inches and a stone or two of extra muscle, though the way Sam’s growing that might not last that long.
“Let me see, what may I divine from this text?” Dean does his best imitation of their first tutor, the one that convinced him Latin was full of shit. The stuffed-shirt had made everyone miserable until Sam poisoned him—to this day he claims the mushroom soup was an honest mistake—and the tutor ran back to Arcansau. Dean squints dramatically at the unintelligible squiggles and the stylized pictures of monsters. “I see great things in store for you, young Father Winchester. Heaps and heaps of Latin homework and—what the hell, Sam?” Dean has just seen the first page, and he doesn’t need to understand the little squiggles when he sees the Campbell family crest on the front page. “This is one of Mother’s books!”
Sam is so angry he’s shaking. He jumps for the book again, and almost pushes Dean over. Dean pushes back, maybe harder than he wanted to, and Sam thumps into the headboard of the bed. “Give it back,” Sam snaps, but his eyes are wet, almost crying he’s so angry.
Dean closes the book carefully and weighs it in his hand. “Sam, this is from the forbidden library.”
“Not like he ever checks.”
“Sam, Father would—“
“Please don’t burn it.”
There Sam goes again, speaking so quietly Dean almost doesn’t hear. But when he does, he stares. “Why would I do that?”
“You do what Father says, Dean. And that’s what he told me, today, that he was going to burn her library because the knowledge in it was from the Devil.”
Dean doesn’t read, but the idea is almost as horrifying to him as it clearly is for Sam. How horrible, to send up that much knowledge, history and art, practically someone’s soul up, like it was just another monster to be burned.
Dean hands the book—years, if not decades of transcription and illustration, carefully wrought to convey information down the ages—back to Sam. It’s like how he teaches things to Sam, how Father shows him how to hunt or be a good liege, except books aren’t just about family and the community that you’re living in. Each book is like someone miles and miles away whispering in your ear, sharing the things that they thought mattered enough to write down in the mysterious, complex scratches that make up words. People caring enough to write, copy, illustrate, and bind books is the closest analogy Dean has ever found for the love Sam talks about when he reads the New Testament. Here’s someone Dean has never met, and will never know, caring so deeply about something —and about the stranger that will read the book eventually—to devote a lifetime to painstakingly copy every word.
Sam smooths a hand over the leather cover and then hides the book somewhere Dean doesn’t pay attention to. He’s sullen, face red from the slowly subsiding anger, and he won’t look Dean in the eye. Sam’s hooked into that universal connection, that tenuous link of human thought and reflection, but every day all he really has is Father and Dean, two idiots good at nothing but killing things. No wonder he feels trapped. No wonder he fights.
“What’s it about?” Dean asks.
“It’s one of the bestiaries,” Sam says. “The one that had the griffin in it.”
“I won’t let him burn her books, Sam.”
“Yes, you will, Dean.”
“What!” Dean rears back. “Sammy, I said I wouldn’t, so why would you say I would?”
“You do what he says,” Sam whispers, rubbing his eyes. “Always have, always will. Just…don’t tell him, okay? For me?”
Dean says nothing because it’s mostly true. He has almost always done what Father said. But he finds it vaguely insulting that Sam doesn’t think he could change for him. And of course he won’t tell. Telling on his baby brother stopped being fun the first time Lord John gave his second son a black eye for talking back—and the first time Dean threatened to break his skull if he hurt Sam.
“You put the love of God into them at priest-school, Sammy,” Dean says. “You knock the sin straight out of them.”
“It’s never worked on you.” Sam grins.
Dean spreads his hands. “Think how licentious I’ll be when you’re not here, Father Winchester. Hey, I might get up to three girls!”
Sam punches him, Dean pins Sam down and tickles him—because nothing can be so embarrassing when you’re fourteen—and by the time they go down to dinner, they’re okay again.
“I’d do anything for you, Sammy.”
“Even tell Father to sodomize a hedgehog?”
Dean knows what the first word means, and he can guess that the second isn’t pretty. “Yeah.”
Sam thinks about that. “Even stop calling me ‘Father Winchester’?”
“Well, maybe not.”
Which is good, because at dinner, Father is drunk, and he announces that his son Samuel will be leaving for the monastery at Stanford-upon-Avon with the spring thaws.
Dean knows that Sam will be okay. And he knows that someday, he’ll tell Lord John where to shove it. But until he finds the right moment, he will keep both confessions to himself.