Characters: John, Sam, Dean
Category: Gen, wee!chesters, pre-series
Disclaimer: All Winchesters belong to Kripke
Summary: When it came time, John's decision to leave was an easy one.
Author's Note: My first Supernatural fic, so please be kind. I was interested in why it was that John left Dean on his own in the pilot...and I came up with this.
Dean was good after Sam left. A good son. A good soldier. He obeyed and covered John's back with a ferocity John had only seen in him when it was Sam's back that concerned him.
And maybe John noticed that Dean smiled a little less and cracked a few less jokes. He ignored it. Dean would get used to not having Sam around, he just needed time. It was hardest in the beginning, when Dean would move as if to glance over into the backseat, the beginnings of a joke on his lips, only to remember that there was nobody back there. John kept his eyes on the road.
Two years later though, Dean may have realized that Sam was no longer in the back seat, but there was a new habit. John wasn't quite sure when Dean had first started doing it - maybe he had been doing it the whole time and it just took a year for John to notice - but every once in a while, Dean would glance into the distance as if looking for something. Someone. John dismissed it at first, but then grew curious when he realized that Dean would sometimes do this while looking over his shoulder, or looking just passed John's shoulder, or glancing to the right on the way into the motel room, and then glancing to the left on the way out of it.
It was then that John realized with an unsettling emotion, that if he and Dean ever got lost, all he would have to do is follow Dean's glances and they would eventually reach Stanford. He never mentioned it to Dean. He was sure that Dean didn't even realize he was doing it and, even if he did, well, it was all kinds of weird, and John had enough weird things to worry about already.
* * *
It was hard to go out on a hunt without Dean tagging along, no matter how simple a hunt it was. Usually, the only way was to find Dean a hunt of his own, something else that was simple - usually a salt and burn, because Dean had always liked those the best. In those circumstances, Dean was willing to divide and conquer. And maybe John lied occasionally about how simple his solo hunt was, but there were some things he wanted to find out for himself before he burdened Dean with them.
The convenient thing about demons was that as long as they thought they were winning, they liked to boast. This one was no different, and John was lucky, because it happened to be a well connected demon. He had discovered that most every demon knew of the Yellow-Eyed-Demon's plans, but few knew any details about it. He had found out that Sam was marked in some way, but he hadn't known to what end.
"You'll fail John Winchester and your boys will too! Accept it!"
"What makes you so sure..." John allowed his voice to get a little unsure, though he wasn't, and made sure to fumble just a bit with the holy text in his hands, while he backed up, as if frightened, towards the window.
"He'll begin mobilizing within the year...it's only a matter of time once it starts, and your precious little boy will be one of us!"
John stopped backing up. "How?"
The demon laughed, and moved to close the distance between them, but stopped at the line of the devil's trap it had unknowingly walked right on top of. The smirk vanished off it's face and was replaced solely with anger.
"How? When?!" John repeated, but the demon just snarled refusing to give more information. Demons knew that once they were caught, John Winchester never showed mercy, no matter how much information they gave.
John read the latin with only half a mind to his surroundings. 'How? When? Sam....' were the only thoughts that filled his head while the demon screamed, while he checked the pulse of the victim, while he drove his truck the 150 miles back to Dean. They needed to get to Sam before the demons did, but he didn't know how they were going to protect him when he was all the way in California refusing to have anything to do with them. John focused on the road, while his thoughts churned.
* * * *
After one of the many hunts that John went on when the boys were kids, he had gotten a flat tire in the middle of nowhere on his way home. Luckily, there had been a service station not far back, and after a long walk, he had met the owner, named Ricky, who was happy to sell him a tire and give him a ride back to the Impala. On the way, Ricky asked him where he was headed.
"Home. I was away on business."
"What sort of business?"
"Nothing interesting, believe me. I'll be happy to get home" John laughed, and hoped Ricky wouldn't press the topic.
"Your wife ok with you traveling for business? I think Lily would kill me if I left her with the kids for too long. They'd drive her right crazy." Ricky joked.
"...my wife...she died. It's just me and my two boys now." John kept his eyes on the road, and once again, hoped Ricky wouldn't press the topic.
"Oh. Sorry. Must be hard, looking after kids by yourself and having to travel for business. How old are your boys?"
"Thirteen and Nine."
"Oh boy...they must be at each others throats all the time, huh? I remember when my boys were round them ages, couldn't get them to stop bickering and going at each other no matter what I tried." Ricky laughed and shook his head. "I bet the traveling gives you a nice break from all that"
"Uh, yeah..." John gave Ricky a bemused look, but Ricky wasn't looking at him.
"That your car there? She's a beauty...."
Long after the tire had been changed and John was back on the road, he found himself mulling over what Ricky said. His boys never bickered, not really. They would take jabs at each other, and sometimes Dean would deliberately rile Sam up, but it was never mean-spirited or lingering. There was never any real anger in anything they did.
John tried to put it out of his mind when he got back to the cabin they were squatting in. He walked in to find both boys leaning over papers laid out over the table. Both looked up, Dean with a smile and Sam with a smile, quickly followed by his an increasingly familiar scowl.
"Hi Dad!" Dean said, "How'd it go?"
"You're late" Sam said almost over top of Dean's question. "You were supposed to come to parent-teacher night..."
"Dean. Sam" John replied, cutting Sam off. "It went well, Dean. All taken care of, no problem. Sorry I'm late, Sam, I got a flat tire on my way through..."
"Is the car ok?" Dean interrupted, a rare occurrence, but it only made John smile.
"She's fine, son." Dean visibly sagged with relief. Sam rolled his eyes, in an eerily grown-up manner, but the childish scowl remained fixed on his face.
"Sure...flat tire." Sam said incredulously, "You were supposed to come to parent-teacher night...you were supposed to talk to Mr. Pitman about putting me in advanced math..."
"Sam" John replied exasperated, just as Dean sighed and echoed "Sam" in a much gentler tone.
"He doesn't even care! Dean! You don't even care Dad! They're going to start asking questions again if you don't show up to these things..and then we'll have to leave again, and I'll have to start a new school and it'll RUIN MY LIFE!" Sam's high-pitched voice quavered on the last bit and he crossed his arms and stared resolutely at the floor.
"DON'T SPEAK TO..." John started, but Dean quickly planted himself between the two and raised his hands in an odd expression of surrender.
"Dad don't! Wait..." Dean, eyes cast around the room quickly, as Sam's glare came up to rest on the back of Dean's head behind him. "Why don't you have a shower while I make you a sandwich, yeah? I bet you missed dinner, what with that flat tire and all...I'll explain things to Sammy too."
John nodded, though he sorely wanted to explain respect to Sam himself, he recognized the pleading look in Dean's eyes. It reminded him of a little of Mary. He scrubbed a hand over his face, and said "you do that" and made his way to the bathroom.
As the door shut behind him, he head Dean say "Move your homework to the box over there Sammy, I'll help you with it again after Dad eats..."
No, the boys never fought, John thought, stepping under the spray of the shower, but they did drive him crazy...well, no, Sam drove him crazy. He could never seem to do anything right for that boy. Him and Sam were always at each other's throats, yelling, until Sam cried and ran to Dean, or Dean stepped in and diffused the argument before it got to that point.
John slipped on a clean pair of jeans that had somehow appeared folded and waiting for him. Dean was going to be damn useful on hunts, if he was that quiet around his own family. John nudged the bathroom door open and made his way towards the kitchen, his barefeet silent in the hall.
"You always take his side." Sam whined, and John halted in the hallway, just out of sight.
"I do not, Sammy. I know you're mad at him, and I don't want people at your school getting suspicious either, but you can't go yelling at him the minute he walks in the door. Dad works hard and he would've come on time if he could've." Dean lectured Sam in a tone that John had never really heard him used before, gentle yet firm. He realized, with a slight jolt of pain in his chest, that it was probably the way Dean always spoke to Sam when no one was around.
"No he wouldn't." Sam said indignantly, "He doesn't like me...and..." John could hear Sam's voice waver, he didn't have to see him to know that he was biting at his bottom lip, "...YOU like him better than me, it's why you always take his side..."
"No no, Sammy..." Dean voice, if possible, became even more gentle and affectionate. "Sammy, I don't like him better than you, don't be silly..." there was a pause, and John held his breath, wondering if calling Sam silly was a wise thing to do, if he had done that, Sam would've yelled at him. There were a few quick steps, and then Dean's voice came back, "...Sammy...I don't like him better than you, and I don't like you better than him. You're Sammy and he's Dad, and I like you both the same. Dad keeps us safe, so we have to do what he says - even if we don't like it. Now, here, I'll make you a sandwich too - no crusts - if you just promise to sit over there and work on your essay and not give Dad a hard time when he's done his shower."
"Ok" Sam sniffed once, but John could hear the smile on his face even on the small word. John was amazed that Dean was able to placate Sam so quickly and efficiently. He wondered if perhaps it came from him leaving the boys on their own so much.
"That's my boy, Sammy!!" Dean voice rang out, and John eyes went wide at the tone and the proud smile that would have accompanied the words flashed in his mind.
John bit at his lower lip and crept back towards the bathroom. He rattle the bathroom door and made sure his heels struck the floor loudly as he approached the kitchen again. He entered rubbing the towel over his head, and then threw it in a heap on the counter. Dean was in the kitchen. Sam was sitting on the floor next to a box covered in papers, a crust-less sandwich clutched in his hands. John's own sandwich was waiting for him at the table, placed neatly on a plate with a opened beer beside it.
"Thanks Dean" John said, as his eldest son turned away from the fridge.
"Anytime, Dad" Dean gave him a strange look, and walked over and picked up the damp towel and hung it over the back of the chair, then placed his own place on the table. John took a bite of his sandwich, before he realized that the only thing on Dean's plate was a small pile of bread crusts.
John swallowed and forced a smile. Someone had told him once, that when a family lost one of their own, one or all of the remaining family members would sometimes take on aspects of the lost personality, in order to fill the void left behind. John realized that Mary wasn't the only one Dean had lost that night. He suddenly had his answer to why it was that Dean and Sam never fought like normal boys, and why he and Sam did.
* * * *
John looked over Dean in the motel room, marveling at how Dean could still sleep so soundly after all these years.
If what the demon said was true. Sam was in danger. Well, Sam had always been in danger, John had known from the beginning that Sam was at the centre of everything that happened to them, but now the danger was different. Sam was in a type of danger that John knew he couldn't handle alone. He needed John and Dean to protect him now more then ever. But John himself had banished him from the family, a move made in rash anger that John regretted every day since. There was no way that the occasional weekend stalkings that John did now would be enough.
John knew that Sam would never come back willingly, not after getting himself a normal life. Sam would never accept them moving into his life either. At least, he would never accept John - not after all the things John had yelled at him on his way out the door. Dean though...well, Dean would never willingly leave John's side, and if he told Dean that Sammy needed protecting, it would only scare him. John didn't even know the truth about everything yet, the last thing he wanted to do was burden Dean with the paranoia of wild guesses.
The solution, when it came to him, was simple. John may not have been around very much while they were growing up, but John knew his boys. Dean couldn't stand to be alone. If his Dad wasn't around, Dean would seek out the only other family he had. John knew, if he went after that White Lady in Jericho and just disappeared, Dean would find Sam and remember John's first and most frequent command, "Look after your brother." And just as John knew that Dean would obey his father, he also knew that if Dean showed up at Sam's door, interrupted Sam's normal life, and told Sam to help him find his dad, Sam would help him - because both boys obeyed their father. It was time that John faced the truth of what he had discovered all those years ago - In the coming months Dean would be looking for his father, and Sam would once again be traveling with his.