dean is thirteen when he comes out. it's late, and they're driving down the road somewhere between texas and bobby's place but dad got back early and he's been a good mood ever since so dean risks it. he plays with the map he's been given, sneaking glances at dad when he can. dad notices and shakes his head, a tired smile on his face. "whatever it is, just say it, dee." he says, reaching out to turn the radio down a couple of notches. dean licks his lips, swallows.
"dean." he says. "my name is dean. " he doesn't look at dad, crumples a corner of the map. "i'm a boy."
dad is quiet for a long moment, and then, low and soft, he asks “what did you just say?” and dean tenses. if they weren't in the impala, if they were anywhere else, he'd be off running, but he can’t. he stares down at his hands and says, softly. "i'm a boy."
dad pulls off at the side of the highway and gets out of the impala. he pulls dean by the arm with him, sends him stumbling. dean looks at him and dad is furious. dad doesn't say much, dragging dean away from the car so they won't wake sammy up, but what he says hurts. dean is a freak a bitch a dyke and no daughter of john's is going to be a freak like that.
dean doesn't say anything. he should, he should be yelling, but the beating he's getting hurts so much and he's struggling not to cry out when john's fists or boots land because if he does, it'll just get worse.
the beating hurts like hell, but what hurts the most is the that when he's done, dad just walks away.
dad walks away, gets in the car with sammy still in it fast asleep, and leaves. leaves dean crumpled on the ground by the side of the road like garbage tossed from the car window. dean knows he shouldn't cry. knows winchesters don't cry.
and then he stands up, and everything hurts and he thinks his nose might be broken this time, but he looks out where the impala's taillights can still be seen so he starts walking. and when the impala is gone from view, leaving him alone on the side of the road in the middle of the night he keeps walking.
it's the only thing he can do, stumbling over his feet in exhaustion. he eventually stops crying. keeps walking.
when sam wakes up, deanna isn't there. it's morning, early morning, the sun just barely rising and he's the only one in the car with dad. he looks in the rearview mirror and wants to hide. dad looks furious. but deanna is missing. "dad. dad!"
dad glares at him "don't." he says.
"dad, where's dee?" he needs dee, needs to have her sitting in the front seat, needs to know she’s there.
"don't." dad barks. "don't, or i swear to god i will tan your hide do you hear me?"
sammy nods, turns his head to look out the window so he doesn’t have to look at the empty front passenger seat. he remembers the last time dad said something like that, deanna stayed in bed half the day, didn’t go to school she was so bad. he’s scared, but he doesn’t want dad to hit him.
bobby's been expecting them. he's got the beds made and, even though he'll deny it if anyone ever asks, dee's favorite cereal is sitting in the pantry next to the maple syrup. he's been looking forward to getting the kids, giving them the chance to rest for a few days, or however long it takes for john to finish his next hunt. maybe he'll even get john to slow down for a day, see his kids as children, not soldiers in whatever damn war he thinks he's fighting.
when he wakes up to find sam sitting on his front steps, cold, alone, and looking scared as hell, bobby knows something’s gone wrong. he takes sam’s bag, sets the kid up in the kitchen with a glass of milk and the toast bobby was going to have for breakfast.
"where's dee?" he asks, praying to whatever might be out there that the answer isn't "dead."
sam shrugs, looking down at his plate of toast. “dad said she left.” he says, almost so quietly bobby can’t hear him. sam looks up, shaking his head “but dee wouldn’t leave me, not without saying goodbye but dad got so angry i couldn’t --”
“it’s okay.” bobby finds himself saying, ending up with a lapful of nine year old boy, sammy holding tight to him like he used to cling to dee when they were younger. “it’s okay.”
when sammy’s calmed down some, bobby sends him to bed. it’s not even noon, but the boy looks so goddamn tired and bobby needs him out of the room so he doesn’t hear the shit bobby is going to say to his daddy if he managed to fuck deanna over.
sam goes upstairs and bobby picks up the phone.
john finally picks up after the fifth time bobby calls him. “what?” he barks, and bobby wants to hit him.
“goddammit, john, where the hell is that girl?”
"whaddaya mean, she left?" sam had looked scared out of his goddamn mind when bobby had found him on the steps and deanna? deanna wouldn’t just up and leave.
"what did you do?"
"it's not my fault! i tried the best i could, it's not my fault.”
“and leaving sam on my doorstep, alone --”
“don’t tell me how to raise my kids, bobby singer. you do, and i swear, you will never see them again.” john hangs up, and bobby has to resist the urge to punch the wall. instead, he hangs up the phone and walks upstairs. sammy’s in bed, still fully dressed, but fast asleep.
dean eventually gets finds a highway gas station. he's dead on his feet, ready to collapse, but he can't. he has to keep walking, he has to keep going. he washes up in the gas station bathroom, flinches when he catches a glimpse of his reflection. dad got him good, and it shows, even when most of the blood is washed off. he hurts, and he has to adjust the ace bandages wrapped around his chest, they've been slipping and itching the last few miles, and he pulls them tight.
he's not the only one at the gas station. there are a couple truckers spending the night in their cabs packed in the parking lot a behind the gas station, and dean stands in sight of both trucks, leaning against the gas station wall. hands shoved into his pockets, he shivers, and starts humming in an attempt to stay awake. it's almost morning, and sooner or later, one of the truckers is going to head his way.
dean's thought about this before, when dad hadn't come home on time and dean had started to run out of money, to run out of food. he's never done it before, though, and he hopes to hell the trucker can't tell.
a trucker climbs out of the red cab, and dean watches as the man comes closer and closer. he follows the trucker into the bathroom, tries his best to look fuckable, tries his best to look older than the barely thirteen years he is. maybe he succeeds. the trucker looks him up and down, and dean finds the courage to say “fifty bucks and i’ll blow ya.”
the trucker shakes his head. “twenty five.”
“forty.” dean just wants to go home, wants to curl up in bed and fall asleep knowing that sam is safe. dad’s not so great at looking after sam and after the stunt dean pulled, he might decide not to leave sammy at bobby’s and he’s too young to leave alone and --
“thirty.” the trucker’s looking at him like he knows what dean is thinking. dean shakes his head.
“done.” thirty five is better than nothing, dean thinks, getting down on his knees, the tile cold beneath him. thirty five can get him a bus ticket, thirty five can get him to sam, he repeats this to himself over and over again. this is worth it.
while dean’s washing the taste of cock from his mouth after puking his guts out, the trucker long gone, another man comes into the restroom and asks “you a runaway?”
dean shakes his head. “nosir.”
the man looks him up and down, leaving dean feeling filthy, like the man knows what he’s done. “we got a complaint, you’re gonna have to move along.” that fucking bastard. happy to shove his cock down my throat and then call the fucking manager on my ass. dean nods, runs a hand through his hair.
dean leaves. starts walking down the highway again, thumb out. he’s young enough, small enough, someone should give him a lift.
an old woman in a pickup truck is the first to stop for him. apparently, dean reminds her enough of her granddaughter -- and don’t that sting -- that she’s willing to take him a few miles. he tells her a story, lies through his teeth, no ma’am, not a runaway. she drops him off in a small town somewhere in oklahoma half an hour later, refuses the money he tries to give her, and he starts walking again.
he makes it back to a highway and in an hour, or maybe it was two, he’s not sure, a trucker pulls over and stops long enough that dean can get in. the guy takes him all the way to nebraska, and when they stop for gas, dean blows him in the cab of the truck as payment. he feels sick afterwards, throws up again in the gas station bathroom, but he’s a little closer to sam, a little closer to bobby, and that makes it worth it, right?
it has to make this worth it.
bobby’s called just about everyone he knows who lives anywhere close to where dean might be. no one can tell him anything. pastor jim offers to drive out but bobby turns him down, just asks him to call if he hears anything.
god, if he could get john winchester back from wherever he ran to, bobby would strangle the idjit.
dean stops walking two towns after the trucker left him at the gas station. he’s exhausted and hungry and he can’t --
there’s a pay phone on the street corner, and dean has enough change left from when he stopped and bought breakfast to make a call. he rests his head against the glass of the phone booth as he punches in the numbers he memorized years ago.
dean slumps against the booth wall in relief when bobby picks up. “hello?”
“deanna, is that you?”
dean flinches at the name, but nods before he remembers bobby can’t see him. “yeah, bobby, it’s me.”
“where the hell are you?”
“how the -- no, don’t answer that. stay there.”
“bobby, i didn’t mean --”
“you stay there, you hear me?”
bobby winces when he sees dean, and dean understands why -- the black eye, the bruises, the blood stains on his clothes that he couldn’t get out no matter how hard he tried. he knows he's not a pretty picture. dean can see sammy sitting in the back seat of the truck, peering at dean through the window. bobby sits on the curb next to dean, close enough that dean could reach out to him if he wanted to, but not close enough that dean feels trapped. “kid, what the hell happened?” he asks.
dean looks down, pulls his knees in towards his chest and wraps his arms around his legs. “it was my fault.”
“but what happened?”
“nothin’. doesn’t matter, i deserved it.”
“i’m a boy, bobby.” dean says, staring down at the cracks in the pavement so he doesn’t have to look at bobby. “i’mma boy.” he tenses, ready to run again if he has to but he doesn’t.
“okay.” dean glances up at that, and bobby looks back at him. “what, you think you’re the first or the only, boy?”
bobby nods. “yeah. your, uh, your old man don’t know, though, so -- let’s keep it between the two of us, yeah?”
“bobby?” dean feels like a weight has been lifted off his chest and he can breathe again.
“now, did your daddy do this to you?”
dean shakes his head. he hates lying to bobby, but dean knows he deserved every moment of the beating dad gave him and bobby won’t see it that way and he’s so tired. “nosir.” he says. “happened on the road.”
bobby looks at him for a long, hard moment, and dean can’t meet his eyes. “okay.” bobby says, finally. he reaches out and rests his hand on dean’s shoulder. “now why don’t you go and say hi to your brother, huh kid?”
dean stops half way between the curb and the truck, turns around. “hey bobby?” he asks. bobby looks up, eyebrows raised.
bobby grins at that. “go see your brother, you idjit.”
dean nods and starts walking again. when he gets to the truck, sammy jumps down and clings to him.
“i’m okay.” dean says, pulling sammy close despite the pain of his bruised ribs. running a hand through sammy’s hair, he looks over at bobby still sitting on the curb. “it’s gonna be okay.”