Summary: John doesn't fall for traps. Neither does Sam. Set at the very end of 1.16, "Shadow."
Warnings/Spoilers: Through Season 1.
Author's Note: Another prompt by AlanahC, who's basically (along with familybizness) the creative director of Sammyverse at this point. They come up with ideas, I write 'em down. Title is from "In My Life" by The Beatles.
So evil bitch went out the window and Sam got him untied and they're both cut and bloody and Sam is awkwardly amped the way he always is after a bad guy goes out a metaphorical (or, you know,not) window and he's feeling around his pockets and bitching that she was breathing into his mouth and fuck, Dean's face hurts. Fuck daevas.
"Dude, I need a new inhaler."
Dean blots blood on his cheek and trudges into the motel. "Sam. Shut the fuck up."
"I'm serious. Her creepy fingers were all over it."
Dean leaves his face alone and presses his sleeve against Sam's. "Your face is swelling up."
"Yeah, it's a fucking dog scratch, not surprising."
"There's Benadryl in the room."
"I'm serious about a new inhaler."
"Christ, Sam, shut up."
Sam grins at him. "Why are you so cranky? We're fine, Dad didn't fall for the trap, and she went over the fucking cliff to her hyenas. Like Scar."
Fucking Simba. "Life is not a movie, Sam."
He leans against the wall while Dean unlocks the door to their room. "It kind of is. Our life."
They always say that. Life. Singular.
"You breathing okay now?" Dean says.
"Yeah, fine, actually."
Dean steps inside, breathing hard and thinkingshower thinking Benadryl thinking sleep and then he's thinking that there is someone by the motherfucking window Sam get the fuck behind him right the hell now.
He grabs Sam and shoves him behind his shoulder and Sam gets the light and holy shit.
Holy fucking shit. Dad.
Fuck. Daddy. Fuck.
"Hey boys," John says, and Dean doesn't have time for these casual fucking hellos, okay, he is all the fuck in his arms Dad Dad Dad he smells like cigarettes and wet hair and iron and Dad and he's holding Dean so fucking tight and don't ever leave okay don't leave again they're together they're in the same room it's been years, it's been two and a half goddamn years since Sam yelled his way out of that hospital room and John cried and no one has ever missed anything the way Dean missed Sam and John in the same goddamn room and missed listening to their bitch fights and missed John kissing Sam's forehead and holy fucking shit if John would kiss Dean's forehead just this once, just this fucking once, and he doesn't because they don't do that and that's fine because Dad and now he's touching the cuts on Dean's cheek and frowning and Dad.
And Sam, behind him, breathing, whispering, "Dad."
Dean moves to the side because yeah, there needs to be a moment right now, but they don't move towards each other, goddamn it, Sam, you are the touchiest kid ever, fuck.
Dean turns to Sam and lowers his voice and says, "Want me to get Benadryl?"
“Stay,” Sam whispers except he doesn't make any sound and he barely moves his mouth but Dean knows because it isn't what he wanted to hear so he's not imagining it.
"You look good, Sammy," John says, all fucking gently, like if he sounds like he means it too much, it will go away. (They were always so fucking careful, don't fucking jinx it, if there hasn't been an ER visit in two months, do not fucking bring it up.)
But Sam nods, hard. "We've been okay."
"That cheek need stitches?"
And then they're talking about the hunt and Meg but but they haven't hugged and now Dean sees how much Sam wants it, sees Sam's hands making these desperate little fists and his breath starting to go junky in that way he does when he needs contact comfort reassurance someone to fucking talk to him and fuck Sam's upset and Dean wants to fix it but he can't touch Sam in front of John, John's been here for all of two fucking minutes and it's like he was never gone and ugh fuck shit (this bullshit of John's that he and John growl through their teeth around but never about, that he and Sam laugh about except that one time they fucking didn't and that the three of them will never ever fucking acknowledge fuck someone needs to hug Sam).
John picks up their bag and starts unloading it, obviously just to do something, and fucking seriously, John?
"I'm going to get Benadryl," Dean whispers to Sam.
"Just going to the fucking bathroom, Sam. Talk to him."
"Talk to him, Sam."
Dean's hands shake on the foil packet and he's trying not to hurry because Sam's not fucking dying or anything and they need to talk, they fucking need to talk.
But he comes back and they're just fucking standing there, Sam scuffing his shoes on the floor, and John says, "Tell me how the asthma's been."
"Pretty good." Sam says. "Pretty good all in all."
"He's been doing well,” Dean says, passing the pills to Sam. “Considering.”
Sam says, "I've been lucky. But, y'know, out of Stanford pollen and stuff..."
"I don't know." Sam swallows the pills dry. "Hey. Are you, um, making progress?"
John crosses his arms, Jesus, hug their fucking kid, John. "I am, yeah. I've been looking for...fuck, I'm sorry. I can't concentrate."
Sam looks up, and Dean says, "What's wrong, Dad?" but John's only looking at Sam.
"Sam," he says. "Sammy. Baby. I am so fucking sorry about Jessica."
And then Sam is slamming the fuck into John and clinging to his coat and crying and saying, "Thank you I miss her so much if it weren't for Dean I don't know how you did this I don't know how you can look at us and I was so sick and thank you so much for and and" and John holds Sam's hair and whispers in his hair and loves the shit out of Sam and no Dean isn't crying fuck you.
And then there's a roar and hot pain and Dean's thrown against a wall.
Something tears at his forehead and fucking mother of fuck he hates these things, where is Dad and where is Sam it's too fucking dark in here Sam I thought you turned on the light, fucking shitty motel lights flickering like nobody's fucking business going to give Sam a migraine where's Sam and then Sam's yelling something Sam's alive Sam's saying shut your eyes okay. Okay when things are bad he always always listens to Sam.
Even through his eyelids he can see the room light up, and the pain's gone but there's smoke, smoke everywhere, smoke means fire pull Sam out of the fire he has to find Sam but it's too bright, he can't open his eyes, but Sam's coughing and coughing and Dean follows the sound but the first person he reaches isn't the one coughing isn't the one choking and John yells, "Get Sam!" get your brother outside and Dean hauls John up and pushes him towards the door and calls the kid and finds the kid and gets his arms around the kid.
They're out in the hallway, panting, blinking out smoke, getting the fuck out of the motel, and Dean turns around to grab Sam but John has him and Sam's okay, upright and coughing like all hell which means he's moving air and he's alive and it's okay.
They're in the car following John's truck when it becomes very clearly not okay, and Jesus, Sam and a roomful of smoke, why do they always end up here?
Sam's very still, leaning against the window and taking these careful breaths with his hand flat against his chest.
"Is it bad?"
He nods a little.
"We've got to get the fuck out of town. Then whatever you need, okay?"
Sam takes another hit from the inhaler the bitch had her hands all over.
"You stupid fucking kid," Dean says.
He coughs and nods.
"Saved our fucking life."
"You're...bleeding a lot."
"Sam. Shut up."
Sam opens an eye and gives him this breathless damn smile.
"You hold on, got it?"
He squeezes his eyes shut and hisses out a breath.
John calls five minutes later, sounding almost as out of breath as Sammy (not really, Sam's wheezing so hard Dean almost couldn't hear the fucking phone). "Dean. You all right?"
"Good. What about Sam?"
Fair enough, honestly.
"Sam." Dean gives his knee a shake. "Heyhey you okay?"
Sam barely fucking moves, but he's shaking his head.
"He's not okay."
"We've got to stop."
"I'll find somewhere. Keep up."
It's a skill he a skill Dean and Sam have never been able to perfect, but John's always, always been able to find houses. It's a tiny place with ivy grown up to the windows and it'll do.
"You brave fucking kid." John sits him down in one of the kitchen chairs. "Fuck." He cups Sam's chin in one hand and grips his shoulder with the other. "Dean, where's his nebulizer?"
Dean's heart just about fucking stops. "It's...back being eaten by daevas."
"There's a spare in my truck."
"I keep a spare in my truck. Go get it."
Sam has his elbows on the table and his head in his hands, and he's wheezing his way through a list of the stuff they'll need to replace, what the fucking fuck, Sam, shut up, but it's not like Dean's going to fucking say that because talking keeps Sam grounded and it's Sam's way of telling them he's still conscious so yeah, Sam, go ahead, keep talking, you crazy thing, neb's coming.
Except it's fucking not. Dean gets up and nudges John away from it. "I'll do it."
"I'm already in the middle."
"Doing it wrong."
John looks at his hands. "I've done this hundreds of times."
"You haven't in four years. He's bigger now. Different dosages. Just let me do it, okay? You can sit with him."
John gives Dean a long look, but then he pulls a chair up next to Sam and kisses his temple and says, "Sammy, kiddo, stop talking, save your air," and wrong and Dean grips the mouthpiece so hard he almost breaks it.
Sam falls asleep sucking on the nebulizer, but that's okay, because they're watching him, and he's so fucking miserable that they can't even think about waking him up.
So they sit on the other bed (a twin, like Sam's--Dean thinks this was once a kids' room, two kids) and play cards and drink whiskey and watch Sam fight for air. He's working hard, muscles in his shoulders and chest heaving, and Dean doesn't fucking get how Sam can do that in his sleep.
Out of fucking nowhere, but it always fucking is (it never fucking is) John says, "I remember the night your mother died.”
Yeah. Dean knows he does.
"They gave oxygen to both of you, and they tried to take Sam to the hospital, but I just...no, I clung like a fucking idiot. Took you to some shitty motel, watched you two all night. Just stayed awake and watched you. And Sam was all right somehow."
"We got him out fast."
"What about with Jess?"
Dean bites his cheek and looks down at his cards.
The truth is, he and Sam talk about Jess a lot, but they talk about her cooking and her smile and her shitty taste in music and how pretty she is in this picture and how much they miss her and what she would be doing right now and they talk about her however the fuck Sam wants to talk about her, which means the truth is they don't talk about that night.
And it's not really related, but the truth is Dean misses her so goddamn much.
"I dropped Sam off," Dean says. "After Jericho. He had his law school interview the next morning and...and it was November fucking second so I was just going to get drunk somewhere, and he didn't need to get bogged down in that. I was going to come back in a few days, find out how the interview went, give him a hug on my way out of town. Try to convince him to come with me again if school turned him down. Go off to find you."
Dean digs the corners of his cards under his fingernails. "So I let him go, watch him walk up this apartment. He had this little thing he shared with Jess, but it was nice. They'd just moved in together. I'd only been there once or twice, but I knew the number, because I fucking know that stuff, you know? Because it's Sam and it's fucking important, okay? So I'm sitting there in the parking lot thinking about his LSAT score and his peak flows and thinking about Jess and the ring I saw in his duffel bag. Yeah. And I'm thinking about November 2nd and twenty-two and a half years of shitty breathing and just looking up at his building and I see flames from one of the windows.
"Someone's fucking apartment is on fire, you know? I was out of the car before I'd even thought about whether or not it was Sam's, but I'm running in and in my head I'm counting windows without even fucking realizing it, I have this image of the building in my head and I'm counting windows to see where I should go and it's Sam's and...fuck, Dad, I almost lost it. I almost just folded up in the middle of the hallway because I thought he was dead and I thought about Jess and...
"And I get in there and he's on the bed trying to get up on the ceiling trying to...to get her hand and pull her down, and I've got him by the arms trying to wrestle him out of there and he won't let me, he's screaming for her and...God fucking damn it he was sick. We were in and out of hospitals for goddamn weeks. And when he finally broke down...he was so fucking brave about it. He told me he was having nightmares. He told me he wasn't okay. He just...was honest and scared and I've never see anyone in that much pain."
The words are out before he thinks about them, and he knows that he's just lost John.
But he doesn't regret it.
John clenches his jaw and says, "You were young. You don't remember."
Dean was young.
But when he closes his eyes and thinks blond hair big smile kisses on his forehead he doesn't see his mom anymore.
And when he thinks strongest fucking man I know he doesn't see his dad.
Sam wheezes and John looks at him and says, "My poor fucking boy," and Dean looks up at the ceiling and sees nothing.
So he closes his eyes and imagines himself asleep on a scratchy, second-hand, so fucking clean (my poor boy's lungs) couch, embroidered pillow scrunched under his cheek. He hears his brother's laugh and his sister-in-law's voice and John will never, ever understand how it feels to lose a whole life.
Sam's whole entire fucking life (Jess, three kids, uncle Dean. Their entire goddamn life pinned to a ceiling like a butterfly).
John sits in the rocking chair and pulls his coat over his lap.
"You can take the other room, you know?" Dean says. "We'll be fine."
"No, this is good. If he needs me--"
"He won't need you."
John raises an eyebrow.
"Sir," Dean mumbles.
John runs his tongue over his teeth. "I think I'll stay. Just in case. All right?"
It's that thing.
To put it plainly, fuck you, Daddy dearest, but Dean doesn't say that (Christ, Dean was so happy to see him).
But he does say, "You know we've been on our own for six months, right?"
John takes a minute to say, "Yes."
"And...Sam isn't..." Fuck. "...dead, you know?"
John lets out a breath Dean didn't know he was holding. Maybe John didn't either.
No, John, they're not going to fucking talk about it.
That wouldn't be like them, would it?
"I think I'll stay," John says. "You take the bed."
Dean tugs back the quilt. "Fine."
Dean gets a hand on his elbow, gentle, to wake him up. In the moonlight, he sees John asleep, brow creased, in the rocking chair.
Dean sits up and gives Sam a small smile. "Hey, buddy. You don't sound too bad."
Sam wraps his hand around his ribs. "Don't feel good, though."
Except even if there is a coffeemaker here, there are daevas back in in Chicago all hyped up on the instant shit Dean carries with them. He checks his phone. "All right. It's five. I bet we can find a Starbucks open."
Sam gives him a little grin. "Caribou coffee?"
Damn it, Sam.
Sam's sleepy as hell in the passenger seat, rubbing his chest and staring out the window.
"Hey." He pinches Dean's knee. "Look at you, you've got Dad back."
"We both do.”
"You know what I mean. This was your big mission, you know that. Dad and I are in this for ugly cold-blooded revenge, and you just wanted your Dad back."
"Yeah, I'm no saint, you know? I like killing shit."
"But you wanted us all to kill shit together. Family bonding!"
"No, I wanted you to have your house in the 'burbs, but barring that, yeah, let's shoot stuff. And it's not like Dad's going to stay long, you know? He can't. We're not safe together.”
Sam plays with Dean's fingers.
Dean says, "You don't have a drop of cold blood in your body, fucking look at you."
He stops smiling and says, "I wish you were right. I just...I wish I weren't always this fucking angry. God. I'm surprised Dad recognized me. I'm not the same.”
"We lost shit in that fire," Dean says, softly.
Sam takes this wheezy breath and says, "We lost the loves of our damn lives,” and Dean practically feels a fist punch his stomach.
They're in a booth at some cafe (not Caribou Coffee, fuck you, Nowhere, Illinois), Sam all splayed out on his side cuddling his scarf and his coffee cup, when Dean's phone rings.
"Where are you?" John.
"Getting coffee, he wasn't feeling great."
John breathes all loudly. Runs in the family, apparently.
Sam raises his eyebrows across the table. Dean crosses his eyes and Sam grins.
"You could have told me," John says.
"I...guess we didn't think to."
"I wake up and you're both gone--"
"Should be a comfort that it's both of us, right?"
"You could have been at the hospital for all I knew."
"Well...we're not. We're fine. His chest's a little tight so we're dosing him up with caffeine. No hospital."
Sam says, "Ugh, it's like I'm six. Can I get a bendy straw with my coffee?"
Dean kicks him and asks John, "Why didn't you call Sam?"
"I...didn't think of it."
"He's the one you're checking up on," Dean says. "He's the one you should be asking about this. He's not a kid anymore, you know?"
John doesn't have anything the fuck to say to that, so he starts talking about research and a gun and a demon but Sam's wheezing so this has to wait, okay?
"We'll be back soon," Dean says, and he drains his cup and sets it down.
Sam's watching him.
"Creepy," Dean says.
“I'm not a kid anymore?”
“I thought you were too cold-blooded to be a kid.”
“I'm fucking with you, you know?”
“Yeah, you still think I'm sunshine and roses,” Sam says, an eyebrow up.
“Hey, for all you know I could.”
“I know you better than that. You know me better than that. You know fucking...Sam better than that.”
“What the hell's that mean?”
“It means...if you ever stop calling me your kid, I'll skin ya."
Dean taps his fingers against Sam's.
Sam, despite bucketloads of coffee and that fucking wheeze, sleeps in the car, so Dean drives around for a little while to give him some rest and yeah, he's fully aware of the irony in that, thanks.
But the fact is that the band is back together and Dean's been clinging to the idea of that for almost four years, everything will be fine when we're together, everything will go back to how it's supposed to be and it's just not the same, and fuck, fuck, fuck, they lost a lot in that fire.
He's having a nightmare anyway, so Dean doesn't feel horrible about waking him up as they pull up. Sam jerks away and breathes hard and doesn't say anything.
“Vision?” Dean says, quietly.
Sam blinks and shakes his head. “Just a nightmare.”
Sam shrugs like he's trying to get away.
"Doesn't sound like the coffee helped much."
Dean looks down at his pancakes and Sam, pacing back and forth with his hand on his chest, says, "Shut up, Dad."
John raises an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"
Dean says, "When it's bad, he doesn't like talking about it," and swallows the except for with me and the how do you not remember that because it looks like this is John and Sam's bitchfight, not his, and at least that's familiar, you know?
"Fuck," Sam whispers, tapping his fingers against his sternum. "Fuck fuck fuck."
Dean says, "Hey. What do you need?"
"I don't know. Fuck."
"Dad got you food. Try to eat something."
"Can't." He huffs out a breath from behind his teeth. "Can we just. Um. Talk about the hunt?" He looks at Dean kind of desperately.
"Yeah." He opens up one of John's folders. "So Dad, you've been tracking omens?"
"Dean," John says, softly. "He can hardly breathe."
"And he wants to talk about the hunt, so we're going to talk about the hunt. All right?"
John opens up another folder, but he looks up and says, "Sammy, come sit down."
Sam takes a few more anxious paces but comes and settles between John and Dean. John tugs his chair closer and rubs a hand between Sam's shoulder blades. "There we go. Breathe breathe breathe."
They used to call Sam-time, when Sam was really fucking sick, because that wasn't how it normally worked, because usually on a day-to-day basis taking care of Sam was Dean's and when something bad came up that was John's but when he passed the point of sick and got to holy fucking shit they'd call Sam-time because if something was happening to him they each wanted to be the one right the fuck there, okay?
Except Sam isn't really fucking sick right now, Sam's breathless and uncomfortable but not fucking dying, but, okay, Dean had Sam-time for the past six months (Dean shared it with Jess for two years) and Sam looks a little better now sitting down with John's hand on his back than he did a minute ago so Sam is fine so this is fine, except Sam is breathless and uncomfortable so it's not fucking fine, all right?
And in a few hours John's going to be gone whoever the fuck knows where so yeah, he can cling to Sam a little right now, Dean remembers holding onto Sam's sleeve when he was supposed to be leaving his apartment.
Sam turns and drives this wheeze into John's shoulder. John says, "God, Sammy," and tugs his hair a little.
Sam clears his throat and moves his head away. "The hunt."
"Right." John spreads a few of his papers out. "I was thinking we'd start heading north, then from there survey around Southern Michigan, there've been--"
Sam looks at Dean, eyes wide.
"We?" Dean says.
John looks up. "Yes."
"Dad...we're taking a ridiculous risk being here together tonight, and I get it, Sam's sick, you wanted to make sure he's okay, it's fine, but he is--"
John looks at Sam, cocks an eyebrow. Sam cocks one back. Good boy.
"--and we're setting ourselves up as fucking demon food when we're all together. Fuck, if Sam and his delicate little lungs wouldn't keel over the second we leave him alone, Sam and I would split up."
He gives Sam's foot a press under the table and shoots him a look that hopefully fucking gets across that this is total bullshit and there are a zillion and one reasons there's no fucking way they'd split up and that one's pretty far down the list and Sam gives him this tiny, confident little nod and a subtle thumbs-up. They're good.
John says, "We're stronger together."
"You left me before with no problem. What's different now?"
It's a rhetorical question.
They both know what's different now.
(There's a reason Sam always has to be the one to leave them, you know?)
Sam twists his fingers and looks down and concentrates on breathing.
"I don't think now's the time for me to be away from you two, all right?" and then it fucking comes together in Dean's head, this isn't about hunting, this is about long-term fucking Sam-time and that's just not going to fucking work, Sam-time Sam-time Sam-time Dean doesn't have to call it anymore, it fucking defaults to Dean, all right?
Seriously, what the fuck makes him think he has custody of Sam? Even little goddamn kids get to tell the judge who they want to be with, and Sam wasn't calling John when he needed homework help at school, you know? Jesus fuck.
Sam looks between Dean and John and says, "Dean, maybe he's right. Hey." He reaches across the table and touches the tips of Dean's fingers to his. "Maybe...all three of us. We'll watch each other's backs. Like old times."
But then he and Sam look at Dad at the same time and Dad is looking at their fingers and no it wasn't Sam-time he wanted he didn't want Sam he wanted Not SamandDean and ugh Jesus fuck he better not bring it up he better not say anything this is fucking not something that they mention, not something they even fucking skirt around, in front of Sam, you leave Sam the fuck out of this but then Sam's on his feet, his chair shoved back and stuttering against the floor.
"No," Sam says. "No. You do not get to stay because of that bullshit. No. You do not get to stick around make Dean feel like shit."
Fuck fuck fuck. "Sam," Dean says. "Stop."
"No. I'm not putting up with this shit. Not anymore."
Sam isn't supposed to know about this.
This is supposed to just be a joke.
Stupid paranoid Dad.
Sam is supposed to be so not hurt by this.
"We're not going back to being jumpy every time I touch his hand," Sam says. "We're not fucking going back there. And to think that you can walk back into our lives and..."
"Sam," John says. His warning voice.
"The fucking audacity of that, I can't...What we're doing works, what we've done has always fucking worked. And for you to come in here with your bullshit unspoken accusations, this unfounded fucking ridiculous worry that, what, we're too close? What the fuck were we supposed to be? How the fuck do you want me to feel about him? And the petty fucking bullshit of you trying to pin us down and define...this is why we make up fucking words, okay, because there isn't any...and why don't you fucking say it so we can tell you it's not fucking happening, but you won't you just sit here with your mindblowingly offensive, completely unnecessary--”
Sam shut up you're making it worse.
Sam shut up you are too fucking brave and Dean doesn't know what to do with it.
Sam shut up you are seventeen and beautiful again.
Sam shut up you're hurting me.
"Sam," Dean says, softly, and Sam deflates and pants and John, John just watches him.
John always used to fight back.
"No, John," Sam says. "No. You don't get to stay."
They sit in tense silence for the rest of the morning, Sam angrily drinking in nebulizer treatments in the corner and John passive-aggressively flipping through his folders and Dean staying the fuck out of everyone's way until it becomes abundantly clear that the tension's getting to Sam, so yeah, enough of that.
"Nap-time." He tugs Sam up by the arm and leads him into the bedroom. He doesn't protest.
John doesn't look up.
He doesn't mean to sleep--there are demons to fight, there's shit to do, guns to find--but Sam is so drowsy in his twin bed, stretched out on his back, trying to get comfortable on a mattress that's way too fucking small for him. He's half-asleep, turning his head back and forth, giving out these little wheezy sighs and pawing at his nose and how the fuck is Dean not supposed to feel calmed by that? How the hell is that not a lullaby? He sleeps.
When they wake up, John is gone. He left coordinates.
The car is loaded and they're driving off to wherever the hell John sent them (south. He sent them south), and Dean finally says, "Okay, so what the hell?"
Sam doesn't look up from the map. "I know."
"Where'd that even come from?"
"I don't know. I wouldn't even have guessed I had the fucking air for it."
Dean laughs a little.
"I...after yesterday, what I said..."
"I feel horrible about saying that."
"The love of our lives thing.”
Dean swallows. "Hey. It's fine."
"It's not. It made it sound like...like a lot of fucking things, like I don't love you as much—”
“You've really got to shut this speech down. You got one yesterday.”
“Okay. I just..." Sam turns and looks out the window. "Jess died. And it's just this fucking horrible thing that's not getting better and we're dealing with it and...I just...I just didn't die. And I won't let us say some bullshit that sounds like I did." He swallows and finally looks back to Dean. "I just...think it's important to remember that we didn't lose everything."
This fucking kid.
Dean clears his throat. "That was heartwarming, Sam."
"Yeah, bite me." After a minute, he says, “Plus I said lives, you know?”
“And that's just wrong,” Sam continues.
“I really am stuck with you, aren't I?”
“Hey, someone's got to pull me out of fires.”
Sam twists Dean's fingers. “Our life kind of depends on it.”