“So, who’s going with whom in what?” John asked the next morning as they packed up their gear. He and Dean had looked over a map and picked out the town they would end up at that evening, so that if the two parties were separated then they would still end up in the same location.
“I’ll take Sammy, Xander and Willow, so you and Adam can spend some time together if you want,” Dean offered. Sam shrugged and Adam grinned at the prospect of having one-on-one time with John, rather than having his two younger siblings around. Xander nodded weakly. He hadn’t spent that much time with Dean and Sam and Willow had spent even less time with Dean. Neither of them had ridden in the Impala yet and although he was looking forward to it, Xander was still nervous about spending the full day with Dean and Sam. Willow too looked nervous but Xander saw the look she sent at Sam, who gave her a reassuring nod and a smile, which seemed to boost Willow’s confidence.
John nodded, happy that everyone was content with the travel arrangements. They quickly finished packing their bags, Dean and Sam finishing much quicker than their younger siblings, due to the fact they’d grown up moving in and out of motel rooms. Eventually they were all packed and the two cars were loaded. Adam got into his father’s truck while John went to return the room key. Willow and Xander cautiously approached the Impala. Sam had already gotten in, and Dean was watching them with a smirk on his face.
“Come on, I don’t bite and neither does the car,” he told them. Xander opened the car door and let Willow get in first, so she would be behind Sam. Then Xander got in and closed the door. Dean, still smirking and shaking his head at Willow and Xander’s cautious approach, got into the driver’s seat as Sam smiled reassuringly over his shoulder at his two youngest siblings.
“Don’t worry, he’s not an ass all the time,” he grinned.
“Shut up, bitch,” Dean sniped, turning the key in the ignition and revving the motor before he put the car out of reverse and drove from the motel parking lot.
“Okay, rules of riding in the Impala,” Dean began as he drove out of the small town where they were staying. “First rule, driver chooses the music, passengers shut their cake holes.” Willow and Xander nodded in unison – it made logical sense to them. Sammy, however, was rolling his eyes.
“Second rule, no back seat driving.”
“You’re not going to hear it from us,” Xander smiled.
“Why’s that?’ Dean asked.
“Neither of us can drive, we’ve never been taught.” Willow shrugged. Dean frowned. Willow he understood, she was only fifteen after all, but Xander he thought would have begun learning.
“Any reason why?” Dean asked curiously. Xander shrugged and ducked his head.
“I don’t have anyone to teach me,” Xander admitted. Dean focused on the road ahead of him, mentally cursing at his stupidity. He’d had the pleasure of meeting Jess Harris once and he’d gotten the impression that Tony Harris was a worse father than John. Of course, the kid wouldn’t have anyone to teach him to drive.
Dean’s thoughts flew back to the day they’d all left Sunnydale. Willow, Xander, and the Winchesters had all arranged to meet outside Willow’s parents’ house and yet, when Dean had parked the Impala behind his father’s truck in front of the house, Xander and Willow had been waiting there with a single other person, the librarian from their school who Dean had instinctively known cared about them more than any of the teenager’s stepfathers – or their mothers for that matter.
Xander and Willow had put their bags in the back of John’s truck before they’d hugged the librarian, a man by the name of Giles if Dean recalled correctly, goodbye, surprising the man, who had ducked his gaze and furiously polished his glasses, trying to hide his emotions as Willow and Xander had promised to look after themselves and one another and that if they needed something, they would call. Giles had waved as the teens had left before he’d walked to his own car and headed off in the opposite direction.
“Maybe we’ll do something about that this summer,” Dean said.
Xander coughed. “Seriously?”
“Why not? Between us, Dad and I have been driving for a long time. We know what we’re doing.” Dean grinned, glancing at his youngest brother’s face in the mirror. Xander was beaming.
“Cool, that would be kind of awesome.”
Willow was smiling too. It was a shame that she wouldn’t turn sixteen until after school was back, a downside of having started school early, but if this trip went well, then maybe there might be a repeat trip next summer when she could be taught how to drive. She knew her parents wouldn’t bother and there wasn’t anyone else she knew of that could teach her… Well, there was Giles but Willow didn’t know how that would go… Giles had only recently figured out driving on the right side of the road instead of the left, after all.
It was something that she could look forward to at least, assuming things went well during the current road trip.
Dean, however, was frowning and she saw him shuffle through a box of cassette tapes. He selected one and put it into the cassette player of the Impala, cranking up the volume.
“Learning to drive can wait, though. You guys need to learn about good music first,” he told them. As the first, very loud bars of Metallica began to emit from the speakers Sam groaned dramatically and face-palmed while Xander and Willow exchanged a significant look.
It was going to be an interesting ride.
Dean drummed his hands on the steering wheel in time with the music, keeping one eye on the road and the other eye on the two teenagers in the back seat. Xander and Willow didn’t look at all alike. Willow had inherited most of her looks from her mother with the exception of her eyes, which were very similar to Dean’s own eyes. Xander, on the other hand, strongly resembled John. Dean knew that at first he had commented on the resemblance between Sammy and Xander but now that time had passed and he’d spent more time taking in the younger teenaged boy, he thought that Xander was far more like John than he was like Sam.
Speaking of Sam, Dean glanced over at the eldest of his little brothers. Sam was gazing thoughtfully out of the car, his eyes unfocused and far away. Dean frowned. While it wasn’t unusual for his brother to be quiet during road trips, he would have thought Sam would have been a bit more talkative, especially since Sam had been the one to whisper to him that morning that they should try to get to know Xander and Willow better and give Adam and their father one-on-one time. Dean had reasoned that Sam had a point and that had been why he’d offered to take the youngest two Winchesters for the day.
Dean was willing to bet that Sam’s sudden desire to get to know Willow and Xander stemmed from Sam and Willow’s little talk the previous night. After they had come back inside to eat, Sam had been very quiet and thoughtful but he and Dean hadn’t had the opportunity to talk about it, not without their father with John and the teenagers overhearing what they were saying.
Glancing in the rear vision mirror, Dean looked at the pair in the back seat again, unable to get over how young and innocent they looked. While it was true that by the time he and Sammy reached their age they’d both been hunting for quite some time and, in Dean’s case, were in no way innocent, Xander and Willow had grown up untouched by the life that Dean and Sam had lived since their early childhood.
Dean knew that he should do more with the younger members of the family but the truth was he didn’t know how to do that without involving the hunt for the supernatural. Sure, he could interact with adults normally but these were kids… and not just kids, they were his younger siblings, his younger brothers and his baby sister. He had no idea what to do and frankly, it peeved him off.
Not for the first time, Dean wondered what would happen if the Yellow-Eyed Demon came back while they had the teenagers with them or even just an ordinary supernatural threat. John, Dean, and Sam were all well-known by the demonic community after all. By involving the younger kids, by taking them away from the security of their hometowns and bringing them out, openly recognizing them as members of the Winchester clan, by blood if not by name, Dean couldn’t help but feel that they had been made targets. He wasn’t about to say anything to John, knowing that it would be seen as questioning orders, but Dean figured it was only going to be a matter of time before the shit hit the fan and one or more of the teenagers were attacked. He only hoped that one of the senior Winchesters was around at that time to prevent a tragedy. John had already lost his wife; Dean didn’t want to find out how his father would react to the loss of one of his children.
Losing one of them had always been a risk, especially with Dean and Sam involved in hunting, but Adam, Xander, and Willow hadn’t been completely safe either. It would only take a car accident, an illness, an accident, or a random attack from a demon – or hell, a human – and the life of one of the teenagers would have been snuffed out before they’d had the chance to meet their older siblings.
Dean sobered at that thought. Human life was so fragile. Who knew how long any of them would have left? Dean knew that if he wanted to have a chance at getting to know his younger siblings, this could well be his only chance.
“So, what was growing up in Sunnydale like?”
“It was fine, you know, typical Californian town,” Willow replied.
“School, parks, playgrounds, the movie theater, the mall, the Bronze once we were old enough.” Xander listed the places he and Willow frequented.
“Aw, hey, Sammy, can’t you imagine these guys playing in a sandbox together?” Dean grinned. Sam snorted at that, drawn from his brooding.
“Yeah, cute,” Sam agreed.
“Hey, I’m sure we aren’t the only ones that played in sandboxes,” Xander protested.
“Yeah, I’d bet John has a story or two about you two growing up and doing cute things,” Willow added. Dean and Sam couldn’t contain their snorts of laughter at that.
“I doubt it,” Sam muttered, not meaning for Xander and Willow to be able to hear him but they did, although they said nothing about it, sensing that there was a sensitive issue underlying the comment.
“Ah, none that you’re going to hear. It’s the privilege of being the eldest,” Dean teased the pair in the backseat.
“Aww,” Xander whined, pouting his lips.
Willow giggled in amusement at the banter between Dean and Xander. Dean was the kind of person she would have avoided at all costs in Sunnydale but with him being her brother and them being on this road trip together, Willow realized that although Dean projected a ‘I’m very dangerous and badass’ type of vibe, he was still very funny… and, Willow was willing to bet, he would be highly overprotective of the rest of his family. She had seen it already with Sam but, given time, she figured that the over-protectiveness would extend to Adam, Xander, and herself.
Which wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing if they encountered a vampire or something like that, since Willow was pretty sure that Dean would jump in and try to protect Willow and Xander if they went and tried to stake it.