AU where John Winchester loved his boys just a little bit less and put them up for adoption and they were raised in a healthy, functional home.
They’re good boys. Mischievous, too smart for their own good, scrappy, practically attached at the hip, but good boys. Dean had a hard time adjusting at first, nonverbal and nightmare-ridden from post-traumatic stress, prone to panic attacks when alone, but their adopted parents found the best child psychiatrist they could afford and in time he began to heal, began to break out of his shell. Even when he wasn’t talking his empathy was remarkable, and as he’s grown a whip-smart analytical intellect developed to supplement it.
Dean remembers their birth parents like looming figures seen through smoke, but Sam, Sam grew up in this life, and their adoptive family is the only one he’s ever known. He has a rebellious streak a mile wide and it frustrates no one in the world more than it does Dean (still prone to hovering over or trailing behind him with a dreamlike missive ringing in his ears like the last audible echoes of a scream – Look out for Sammy), but he’s smart and strong and driven, independent and devoted all at once. He has these fits at times, though, and Dr Margaret (now the family psychiatrist) calls them rage attacks but they feel like blisters of thick oil growing and bursting inside him from gut to teeth. Over time he learns to swallow them down til he can go somewhere quiet, like the creek where the brothers chased frogs barefoot and shot BBs at old cans, to give in to the festering dark where he can’t hurt anyone else. Everyone knows sweet, sweet Sammy is the one with the temper. It gets chalked up to adolescence but he knows damned well it’s always been this way and probably always will.
They love to spar. Dean’s fondness of sports shooting tapers off in favour of wrestling and team sports (he loves the rush and competition but not so much the hurting-people part), while Sam is kind of scary good at Krav Maga once he finds a trainer for it (the discipline does him good).
At eighteen Dean is buried in scholarship offers – engineering, business, sports, he has heart and brains and beauty enough that the sky’s the limit – but passes up the Big Important Offers for the chance to stay in town close to home. Maybe he’ll do MIT later on but he just wants to stretch out his time close to family as long as he can. That’s where he’s happy. That’s where he’s safe.
(And, Sam suspects, it might also have something to do with wanting to stay near that one friend he’s been so close to since junior high. He’s been placing bets with himself on when his brother will nut up and ask the guy out for years.)
He takes a summer job as a volunteer firefighter. He has a panic attack the first time he has to go in. Even though Dean’s too old to see Dr Margaret as a patient she helps him through it, helps him overcome, but he decides discretion is the better part of valour. The family supports him in quitting as much as they did when he took the job: “You already saved me from the fire,” Sam tells him, “you don’t have to prove anything.”
Two years later Sam cashes in on his bet. Mom and Dad are a little shocked but Eric’s been like a third son for so long that when he comes over for dinner with Dean and they’re lacing fingers together instead of trading playful punches it’s just another layer of family, just another kind of love.
One year later Sam nearly hyperventilates over his acceptance letter from Stanford. It’s a full ride though their parents would have put up all they could afford and help shoulder his loans even if it wasn’t. Dean’s heart breaks a little, but Sam’s joy is like wildfire and they promise to visit each other even though Palo Alto is so far away. They make good on it, trading off driving (Dean) or flying (Sam) on breaks, keeping tabs in email and, later on, Skype. Sam brings a girl home with him for Dean’s graduation. They all love Jess, of course, instantly, and she’s instrumental in talking Dean into going after his MSE after all. Dean starts placing bets with himself on how long it’ll take til she’s wearing a ring.
They were good boys, and they become good men. Stalwart, too clever for their own good, not so attached at the hip anymore but still close, still mischievous, but good men. Dean soaks up love and radiates it back into everything he does and everyone he knows. Sam harnesses the dark inside him and turns it into a driving passion to do good and right wrongs, and doggedly ignores the nightmares that seem to come out of nowhere – Jess is there to soothe him when he wakes. Neither of them are marksmen, neither have Latin chants memorised; they don’t fear the night or the fire, nor go looking for trouble in them.
So when Azazel comes for Sam six months after his twenty-third birthday none of them are prepared to put up a fight.
He makes a good king.