Xander was instantly alert when he spotted the unfamiliar cars parked outside his house as he walked around the corner. They weren’t police cars, which was always good, but at the same time Xander found himself hoping that Tony hadn’t brought one of his friends home.
“Do you know whose car that is?” Willow asked curiously as she walked beside him, her hands tucked into her pockets.
Xander shook his head. “No, maybe we should postpone the study session, Wills. If it’s one of my dad’s friends, it might not be pretty.”
“Xander, three days ago I was almost dragged into the Hellmouth by a tentacled-thing. I can handle a couple of boozed-up guys,” Willow said. “Besides, we get this little bit of holiday homework done and then you don’t even have to look at a schoolbook until school starts up again.” Willow stared at Xander with a hint of the resolve face.
Xander caved, “Fine, but if things get bad, we climb out the window and head to your house, alright?”
“Alright, but my parents are home at the moment.”
Xander couldn’t keep from groaning.
“That means I’m going to have to go home tonight,” he pouted.
“You could always visit Mrs. Summers. I’m sure she’ll let you sleep on the couch or something.”
“Well, that’s an idea,” Xander conceded, as they crossed the front lawn. Interestingly, Tony Harris’ car was not present.
“Maybe it broke down or something. Let’s just go, if something’s already gone wrong for him today, he’s going to be in one of his moods,” Xander commented. Willow swatted him gently in the arm.
“You said things were getting better,” she whispered. Xander sighed. Ever since Jesse had died and the hyena possession that followed shortly after, Xander hadn’t gotten many beatings from his father or any at all, in fact. Xander attributed it towards having had a growth spurt and now being almost as tall as Tony and to the fact that he’d begun to fight back. Tony Harris was strong but vampires were much stronger and Xander had learned to fight against vampires, making fending off Tony without injuring him relatively easy.
The two teenagers stepped up onto the front porch of the house and Xander pushed the screen door open, heading into the house with Willow close on his heels. The door softly closed behind her as the pair of teenagers took in the scene. Jess Harris stood at one end of the living room, glass of alcohol in hand, spare hand on hip, glaring at a group of men standing at the opposite end of the room. An older man, about his mother’s age, or a bit older, stood to the front, flanked by two men in their twenties. One wore a leather jacket, the other was incredibly tall. Behind them a blonde-haired boy about the same age as Xander watched them, apprehension on his face. Everyone was looking at them or rather, at Xander. Xander coughed slightly.
“Um, what’s going on?” he asked.
John stopped his truck outside the shabby-looking house where Jess had lived all those years ago, the day he had last seen Alexander. Sam had pulled up some local records on his laptop and found that she was still living there with her husband, Tony, and Alexander.
Compared to the other homes on this street, the house looked shabby. The grass was long and the garden was overgrown and choked with weeds. The paint was peeling and there were thick cobwebs on the porch. It reminded John of many of the houses that he had seen while hunting things of darkness. The fact that his youngest son lived there sent a shiver down his spine.
“This place looks creepy,” Adam commented from beside him. John couldn’t help but chuckle that Adam, who knew nothing of the supernatural, could feel how wrong the house was. John opened the truck door and climbed out and Adam followed his example as the Impala pulled up behind the truck, Dean and Sam climbing out. John had initially wanted to make the first trip to see Alexander by himself but Dean, Sam, and Adam had ganged up on him. Individually, John could handle his three elder sons with ease and when Dean and Sam both pleaded with him he was more likely to yield, but it didn’t work every time, but all three of them… John hadn’t stood a chance, not when they were all doing puppy dog eyes at him.
Of course, it might have made a difference that it had been the first time that the three of them really connected. Dean had kept his distance from Adam, perhaps unsure how to connect to the outsider. Sam had taken Adam in under his wing, happy to have a younger brother who shared his interest in schoolwork. During the long drive, Adam had spent two days in the Impala with the older two, leaving John in the truck by himself. Those days, however, had been broken up with a day in between of Adam being in the truck with John. It was slow progress but the three boys were getting used to the idea of spending time together.
Now it was time to throw another brother into the mix.
John strode up a path to the front porch, stepping up the few steps and ignoring the twinge of pain in his leg, before knocking on the door. He knew Dean, Sam, and Adam were at his back, flanking him as if they were some sort of guard. Remembering the last time he had been at that house, perhaps it wasn’t that much of a stupid idea on the boys’ behalf.
After a few minutes there was a rustling sound from the other side of the door before the handle turned and Jess Harris opened the door. Time had not been kind to her. Her skin was pale and wrinkled and her hair was streaked with gray. She’d put on weight and her fingers were cigarette-stained. John wrinkled his nose instinctively when he caught the smell of alcohol wafting from her baggy clothes.
“John Winchester. You never listen, do you? I told you I didn’t want you in my life anymore.”
“I wanted to see Alexander.”
“He’s out with his friends.”
“I can wait till he’s back.”
“Whatever, I don’t care. I don’t know what you see in the brat.”
“He’s still my son, even if you told me to stay away.”
“Why don’t you keep him? Take his ungrateful ass with you when you leave town.”
“Jess, what do you mean?’
“He and Tony have never got along. He aggravates Tony, he always has, crying all through the night and keeping Tony and me awake. I should have packed him off with you when I had the chance,” she spat, drinking from a flask. John could barely contain his outrage. He didn’t get what Jess was being so callous about her son.
“That boy ruined my life. Tony’s life. You just couldn’t keep it in your pants. You couldn’t just be the man and say no. Well, John, well done. If you aim to screw up the lives of others, you’ve certainly achieved your goal here.”
John simply stared at Jess as she took another swig. He could practically feel Dean tensing up behind him, ready to jump the woman speaking so badly of his little brother. Sam was probably bracing himself to hold Dean back, or maybe would join his brother. John was pretty sure that Adam would just be shocked at what he’d just heard.
Jess was at the opposite side of the living room to the Winchesters when they heard soft voices approaching the house. Adam glanced out the front window, his breath hitching as the door opened and John saw Alexander for the first time in twelve years. He’d grown a lot since then. Alexander was about the same height as Adam, his slightly shaggy dark brown hair mirroring Sam’s perfectly. He had the same eyes as Sam too. John couldn’t help but think it was amusing that Adam could pass for a younger Dean and Xander looked exactly like a sixteen-year-old Sam (except maybe not as tall).
Alexander looked from the group of Winchesters to his mother and back at the Winchesters before shooting a quick glance at the slight red-haired girl who had followed him into the house.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Dean’s eyebrows rose in the air as he looked at his youngest brother for the first time. Apparently it was Sammy’s turn to have a mini-me running around. The poor kid was looking around, from his mother to the Winchesters to the girl who was with him and back at his mother, clearly not knowing what was going on.
“Xander, go to your room,” Jess ordered. Xander moved to the center of the room, in between John and Jess.
“Mom, who are these guys? Are they friends of Tony’s?”
“No, they aren’t, Xander. Go to your room.”
Xander sighed and nodded, casting a suspicious look over the Winchesters, before he and his friend left the room. They waited until they heard a door close before Dean spoke in an undertone.
“Your turn to have a mini-me running around, Sam. Looks like Alexander hasn’t grown into a Sasquatch yet, though.”
Sam and Adam both glared at Dean, while John ignored the boys standing behind him.
“I’m serious, John, take him with you when you leave. I don’t want him back, sneaking back at all hours of the night, probably picking fights, failing school if it weren’t for that Rosenberg girl dragging his ass through school.” Jess scowled, swigging from her flask again before turning her back to the Winchesters, walking into the kitchen and taking a bottle of alcohol from the shelf before she unscrewed the lid of her flask and topped up the small bottle with the amber liquid. Once the flask was full again, she took a swig straight from the bottle before putting the lid back on it and putting it up on the shelf again. She glared at John over the bench before she turned her head towards the back of the house.
“Xander!” she called loudly. A minute later, Xander appeared in the doorway leading to the passageway that lead to his room.
“What’s up, Mom?” Xander asked softly, cautiously. John knew that Xander could sense how drunk his mother was and knew that caution was needed to avoid aggravating her. It was obvious proof that Xander was familiar with his mother’s drinking habits.
“This is your biological father, John Winchester,” Jess said, pointing at John. Xander paused, looking at John, a mixture of curiosity and fear.
“Hi?” Xander smiled weakly, the girl that he had arrived with clutching his hand supportively.
“Hi, how are you doing, Alexander? You’ve grown up a lot since the last time I saw you,” John said, keeping his voice friendly, despite the anger he felt towards Jess for her attitude towards their son.
“It’s just Xander.” Alexander shrugged. “How long has it been...since i saw you?”
“Twelve years,” John answered.
“I’ve always known I had a dad out there somewhere, you know, that wasn’t Tony. Mom told me that she banned you from seeing me. I know it’s not your fault that you stayed away,” Xander said calmly.
John nodded. “That’s good, this is Dean, Sam, and Adam, your half-brothers.”
“Cool.” Xander smiled, not knowing what else to say. Brothers… he had three brothers and at least two of them were older than him by a fair way. That was awesome… really awesome. Xander had always wanted a sibling, up until he’d figured out that having a sibling would mean that the other child would also have to deal with Tony and Jessica as parents and Xander didn’t want to put anyone through that, so the desire had stopped and he’d accepted Willow as his replacement sibling.
“How’s it going?” the eldest of the trio, Dean, asked. Xander weakly smiled.
“Um, kind of trying to take it all in,” he honestly replied. It was a bit much all of a sudden. For his dad to arrive… to finally get to meet him after sixteen years and to discover that he had three older half-brothers and to meet them as well, it was all making Xander’s head spin a little.
“Let’s, er, go for a walk,” Sam suggested, eying Jessica wearily. John and Xander both nodded, so Sam, Dean, Adam, and John lead the way out, while Xander and Willow followed them, glancing briefly at Jessica as they left. Jessica said nothing as her son walked out, but she gave a brief, encouraging nod. Xander and Willow both knew what she’d done… try to portray herself as a unfit mother to make John more happy to take Xander away with him and in doing so getting Xander away from Tony Harris.
Xander knew that he would never forget the gesture.