John slammed the door of the house he and his boys were staying at still furious that Sam would leave them like this. Stanford? And he has a full ride four year scholarship? He knew he should be proud of the kid, and he was he really, really was but he was also afraid. The kid didn’t know how dangerous this course of action was and John couldn’t bring himself to tell Sam, not yet at least. He needed to keep Sam safe and he couldn’t do that if he was in California. His mind was racing, fear and fury mixed together when he felt Dean shove him against the wall.
“Dad, what the hell?” Dean yelled at his father.
“Dean, I,” He really didn’t know what to say. He also couldn’t tell Dean about the danger Sam could be in, because he still didn’t know the whole truth. Looking at the hurt in Dean’s eyes John knew that he broke more than Sam’s heart, he crushed Dean’s. He also knew that Dean would go to his brother and try to stay near, but John needed him. He needed at least one of his boys and it was tearing him up to. Those boys had only been separated once and it had made Dean crazy then, he didn’t know what it was doing to him now. Ever since the day John had put a 6 month old Sam in Dean’s arms and told him to run Sam became Dean’s, period.
“Daddy, daddy…” 5 years old Dean was patting his father’s arm trying to get his attention.
“Hey kiddo, what is it?”
“Daddy, Sammy needs a dipur”. Oh God, thought John his 5 years old was telling him when his brother needed a diaper. There was so much wrong with this but he didn’t know how to go back to their old life now.
“Okay buddy, let’s go change him”. He handed Dean a fresh diaper and got up to go help.
“It’s okay Daddy, I can do it”. This was how it had been for the last few months. Dean wanted to do everything for his brother. Change him, feed him, and even pick out the clothes he would wear. Many of their babysitters thought it was adorable, but some had told John their worries. That maybe Dean was a little too protective and too close to his brother. John just told them it was because he lost their mother and that often would keep them from saying anything else.
John got the portable crib out of the trunk, came in and set it up between the two beds. Dean had been sleeping in his own bed for a while now, so he only needed to worry about Sam. Of course more often than not when he woke up in the morning he would find Dean curled up around Sam with one of his little hands holding onto his brother’s. And it broke John’s heart. He knew it was foolish to drag two little boys along on his obsession, but he couldn’t live without them. They were all he had of Mary. They hadn’t had the perfect marriage and God knew he made mistakes, but Mary was his soul mate and thinking about her brought a fresh wave of pain.
“Look, you two, this prank war stops right now, you hear me?”
Dean was 10 and Sam was 6 the first time they started pulling pranks on each other. Two very bored little Winchester boys were sometimes more than John could handle, he didn’t even want to think what they put the babysitters through.
“But Dad, he started it”. Sam said looking at his brother with a little glint of humor in his eye.
“Bitch”. Dean looked at Sam with that same humor.
“Jerk”. Sam fired back
“Boys, I will not have you talking to each other like that. Now apologize to your brother Dean”. Dean hesitated for a moment, “Now”. John roared.
“Yessir. Sorry Sammy”. He said with feigned defeat in his voice.
“Yeah, Sorry Dean”. He looked back with a tiny smile on his face.
Their Dad wasn’t fooled, but he knew the prank war was at an end for now. God, these two were exhausting. Even gun and hand-to-hand training was sometimes exhausting, but he had to get his boys ready, prepare them for what was out there and especially Sam. He didn’t know what that Demon did to his boy and he wanted to make sure the little guy could take care of himself.
“Now, I have a job lined up and I’ll be gone for a few days. You two be good. Dean here is some money that should get you through till I get back”. Dean had been responsible for the finances for him and Sammy for about a year now. Even though Dad got babysitters they still needed money for some of the everyday things.
“How long this time Dad?” Dean asked with worry and sadness in his voice.
“Shouldn’t be more than four days Son, and when I get back, I’ll take you to that amusement park you’ve wanted to go to, okay?”
“Sure Dad, sounds like fun”. Dean smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes because he expected to be disappointed. Either they wouldn’t have the money or Dad would take them and leave the town in a hurry, like always.
John sighed. He hated seeing the wariness in Dean’s eyes, hated seeing the pain he caused his boys and he really did try to keep his promises, but when you wade in blood and guts sometimes keeping promises were hard.
“Dad, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” Dean was on the verge of tears. He didn’t mean to leave, he was bored and he didn’t think. He just wanted to play video games for a little bit. Sammy was asleep anyway and he thought ‘what could go wrong’.
“That’s not good enough Dean. You almost got your brother killed. You need to protect him and I need to trust you again”.
Dean knew he shouldn’t have left, but he was bored and Sam was asleep. He knows now that if anything had happened to Sammy it would have torn him apart. Sammy was his and as the big brother he needed to protect him. He knew from that day on that he would protect Sam, no matter what.
“Alright Dad, I promise I will always look after him. I promise”. Dean looked at his father hoping to make him understand just how much he was hurting over this.
“I will keep you to that promise.” John looked hard at his oldest, angry that the boy didn’t follow instructions. Inside though he was hurting for his son, he wanted to grab him in a hug and tell him it would be okay, but that wasn’t the truth. If they were going to survive, Dean needed to understand just what they were up against. John was also starting to figure out what Yellow-eyes did to his son and it wasn’t anything good. He just didn’t know what the bigger picture was.
John gentled his voice just a little “Dean, look there are going to be things coming after Sam. I can’t explain everything to you right now because I don’t know it myself, but you have to be strong and you have to watch out for your little brother, Okay?”
“Yeah, sure Dad, watch out for Sam”. Dean walked away head bowed and a little defeated. He loved Sam and would always take care of him, Sammy was his, ‘but who is going to take care of me?’ Dean thought as he lay down on the bed, holding the back of his brother’s hand.
John looked at his two sleeping sons and thought, not for the first time, “What have I done?”
It was Sam’s 15th birthday. John had something special planned for him. He had saved up here and there for quite some time now and was able to buy something for his son other than a knife or a gun. Sam was smart and still did well in school no matter where they went. John made them use their real names in school because he wanted them to get an education at least something normal. He had everything ready for when Sam got home.
Sam walked in the door not expecting his Dad to be back from his latest hunt so he was very surprised. He was also surprised by the Happy Birthday sign on the table. “Dad, you’re back,” Sam said as he launched himself in his Dad’s arms. John was happy that Sam didn’t pick a fight with him. Sam’s teenage years so far had not been a laugh-a-minute funfest to deal with.
“Sam, Happy Birthday son,” To John the mile wide grin was the best thing he had seen in a long time.
“Hey, I got you something. I hope you like it.” Sam took the slightly heavy box, but he didn’t want to open it yet.
“Let’s wait for Dean, Okay?” John kept a happy face, but his heart fell just a little. He had wanted this to be for him and Sam. He should have known that Sam wanted Dean there, but it stung a little.
“Okay son, okay”.
Just that precise moment Dean walked in the door and had a self-satisfied grin on his face. John thought he knew what Dean had been up to, but he didn’t want to ask. He figured his oldest had started having sex, but John just didn’t want to think about it.
“Hey bitch, I see it’s your birthday,” Dean said looking at his little brother with a twinkle and a smile.
“Yeah ya Jerk, and Dad made it too. He got me something, but I wanted to wait till you got here.” Hearing it again John flinched slightly, and the gesture didn’t get past Dean.
“Well, open it”.
Sam tore into the package and pulled out a laptop. It wasn’t top of the line and he knew it wasn’t new, but it was a computer and he couldn’t have been any happier. “Dad, wow thank you. Thank you,” He said as he hugged his father close. John closed his eyes and welcomed the rare warmth.
“It’s used, but the guy assured me it was in good working condition. You deserve it kiddo, you’ve done well in school and your hand-to-hand has much improved, so there you go”. John was grinning from ear to ear at how happy this made Sam.
“Hey Sammy, I got you something to,” Dean said with a hint of jealousy in his voice. For some reason he and his Dad had been in a weird competition for quite a while for Sam’s affection not realizing that Sam loved them both.
Sam took the present and opened it. It was actually several things, one was a journal, almost like their Dad’s, the second was a better pocket knife than what he currently had and the third was a book on Hindu mythology. It looked old and Sam loved it immediately.
“Dean, this is awesome, thank you,” He held the book close, exchanged the pocket knife and put the journal in his backpack. He then gave Dean a manly one-armed type hug. Sam knew his brother was not the hugging type.
“I know you like that nerdy stuff, so you know”. John looked at the boys and saw them having one of those closed off conversations they could have with just a look. It did nothing to quell John’s jealousy.
“Well, get your jackets boys I’m taking you out for dinner”. The boys got their stuff and John took them not only to dinner, but the rare treat of a movie. It was a stupid action fest, but they all loved it. When they got back, the boys were tired and they flopped on the bed to go to sleep. Sam had the Hindu mythology book in his arm and he went right to sleep. Dean was sitting up next to him looking at a magazine with one hand and the other he was caressing the back of Sam’s hand.
John was watching his sons with a bit of a broken heart wondering how it came down to this. He shouldn’t have had to compete with Dean for Sam’s affection, but the tighter the boys got the more they pushed him out. Silent tears fell down as he asked for the thousandth time ‘Mary, what have I done?”
John and Dean burst into the hotel room with an unconscious Sam between them. They laid Sam down on the bed and before John could say anything Dean started to bark orders at him “Dad, grab me the first aid kit”. Dean had pulled out his pocketknife and was cutting away Sam’s jeans to get to the gashes on his brother’s leg.
John was about to say something to Dean when Dean shot him a murderous look. John hurried to the Impala and grabbed the kit and brought it to Dean.
“Son, let me do that”.
“Back off,” Dean had a dangerous tone to his voice “Get me some warm water a couple of washcloths I’ve got to clean this wound”. Dean said. He looked back at his Dad who hadn’t moved, “Now Dad”.
John moved quickly and got a bowl and some washcloths and handed them to Dean. He watched as Dean cleaned Sam’s leg thoroughly, then he took the large antiseptic wipes and further cleaned the wounds. He got the tweezers out of the kit and carefully picked out the small rocks that were imbedded in the wound. Dean barked orders at his Dad again to get fresh water. This time Dean carefully used the antiseptic soap to make sure he got everything out. John watched as Dean got the suture needle and thread out.
“Son, let me do that.”
“No”. John knew at that point he wouldn’t be able to get near Sam. It was all in Dean’s court and John’s heart sank just a little. John watched as Dean made careful neat stitches, cleaning the wound and putting pressure when it bled a little. When Dean was done he applied gauze and surgical tape, but not before giving the wound a good spray with antiseptic. John was impressed by the calmness and care Dean took with his little brother. Well, not so little anymore, at 20 and 16 his boys were no longer little kids.
Dean went to go wash up and that meant that John could get over to Sam. He grabbed a bottle of water and crushed some painkiller in it. He somehow got Sam to sit up a little and got some of the drugged water into him. When Dean came out John told him that Sam took some of the drugged water and hopefully he would sleep for a while.
“What the hell were you thinking Dad? Sam wasn’t ready for a freakin’ werewolf”.
“Dean, I didn’t know it was a werewolf. I thought we were dealing with a Kitsune. The kid handled himself really well”. He didn’t know why he was standing there trying to defend himself to his son. “Look, I made a judgment call and told Sam he could come along. The kid is a good fighter and if it hadn’t gotten the drop on us I would have killed it sooner”. The guilt for getting his youngest hurt was weighing on his heart, but the way Dean was hovering over Sam, which was supposed to be John’s job hurt even more.
“He’s only 16 Dad. He should be worried about tests, girls and getting caught drinking. Not going after a werewolf on the third moon of the goddamned lunar cycle”. Dean yelled still angry at the recklessness his father showed.
“Sam’s been hunting since he was 14 Dean. He knows what he’s doing”.
“Ghosts, Dad and exorcising trapped Demons, not this”.
“Would you two shut the hell up, I’m trying to sleep”. Sam slurred, trying to yell at his Dad and Brother.
“Sammy, Sammy you okay?”
“Don’t call me Sammy. Don’t worry, didn’t get bit,” Sam fell back on the bed and this time it was sleep. How Sam knew that was what Dean was thinking John would never know. Sometimes his boys would hold full conversations with just a look. It was one more thing that put a hole through his heart.
“Dean, look we are not arguing about this anymore. I am your father and I made the call. If YOU had been here you could have come along”. John glared at Dean telling him this fight was over and there would be no more discussion till Sam was okay.
Dean pulled a chair closer to the bed Sam was sleeping on, made sure the kid was deep asleep, grabbed his hand and held it. John watched as Dean fell asleep in the chair holding his brother’s hand. It was cemented a long time ago that Sam was no longer John’s he was Dean’s in every way. That knowledge was sometimes a crushing weight on his heart, but he knew they both loved him they are just not close to him like they are to each other.
John knew this wasn’t the life he should have given his boys and he knew he disappointed them with his drinking and illegal activities, but nothing was more important than finding out what that damned yellow-eyed Demon did to his Sam. He was a little closer to the truth and the things he found out scared him to his very core.
“Dad, What the Hell?” John came back to himself and shoved Dean off of him.
“That boy is going to get himself killed. He shouldn’t be away from us Dean, he needs to be here”.
“Oh, really? And telling him ‘Don’t you ever come back’ was the wisest thing to say to try to get him to stay? I don’t think so”.
“I’m angry. I’m angry he didn’t tell us about Stanford”.
Dean looked at his Dad, bowed his head and said in a low voice, “I knew”.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I knew, okay? I knew. I found the acceptance letter, but didn’t say anything”.
“Dean, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I knew this was how you were going to react. I don’t want him to go either. Out there, I can’t pro…” Dean choked with emotion, “I can’t protect him when he’s there”.
John moved in to take his son into a hug when Dean ducked to the side. John stared after Dean with a frown on his face. They stood there looking at each other angrily when Dean suddenly grabbed his jacket and stormed out the door. “I’ll be back late. Don’t wait up for me”.
John watched as another son walked out the door that night. He knew, though, Dean would be back, but Sam, oh god Sam, the kid was lost to him the night he put Sam in Dean’s arms...