Dean watched his father's face flush pale as Sam bounded up to the doorway. Then the pounding had started as the old, wooden door shook loosely in its frame and the sound of knocking echoed through the stunned quiet.
"Bobby? Dean?" Thump, thump, thump. "It's Sam!" Thump, thump, thump.
"Well, shit." Bobby mumbled, turning to move as Dean caught his arm.
"Just wait a second." Dean said, looking back at John, who looked bewildered. "Just. Wait."
The voice at the door came louder. "Bobby? Is that my dad's car outside?" Thump, thump, thump.
"What the hell is Sam doing here?" John looked between the two of them, searching for answers. "I thought he was going to school?" He focused on Bobby, confusion in his eyes. "Has he been staying with you too?"
Bobby's stared directly at John while pointing his thumb over at Dean. "Just this one." Bobby shrugged casually, but Dean could see the tenseness in his figure. "But I called Sam the night I picked up Dean. Thought he ought to know. Sam's been awol ever since."
Dean's eyes flashed to the twitch in John's jaw as a dull pain thudded through his ribs.
"And no one thought to tell me?" John spit the words out at Bobby. "Didn't think that it would interest me that Sam's just running around the country like a goddamn gypsy?"
"I thought you had more important things to worry about." Bobby retorted sarcastically, gesturing towards Dean. "And I honestly didn't see how it was any of your business."
"My business? Oh, and it's yours? I'm just confused on how you thought it was okay to put yourself in the middle of family business. Our family..." he emphasized "... that you have no part of."
"Scuse me?" Bobby retorted. "Now I have no part in your family? Ain't that fuckin' convenient." Bobby looked away for a second before swinging his gaze back at John's, his eyes furious. "Now that you don't need a place to drop off your boys while you disappear for a week, NOW I'm no part in your family? You're the one who put me here, John, not me. So, don't you dare come at me saying I'm stepping out of my place."
"That's not fair." Growled John. "And you know that's not what I meant! I just don't need goddamn parenting advice from someone who doesn't have any kids of their own."
Knock, knock, knock. The pounding on the door echoed through the room, halting their conversation in a dead, tense silence. Dean found that he was standing, although he couldn't remember when he had gotten up. He should probably move – control the situation - but his feet felt rooted to the floor.
Bobby's head snapped to the side as Sam's voice echoed through the doorway. "Bobby? Hey, open up!"
Bobby sighed, dragging a hand over the top of his hat. "Here we go." He said and started to leave the room, but Dean caught his arm stopping him.
"We have to answer it sometime." Bobby shrugged. "Unless either of you has a better idea." Bobby looked between them, waiting for a response. When none came, he shrugged off Dean's hand and disappeared down the hallway.
Maybe it was because he was so used to reading his father's mood, but out of the corner of his eye, Dean thought he could see his father shift uneasily.
The door creaked open, and Sam's voice echoed down the hallway. "Where's Dean?"
Heavy footsteps and then Sam was in the living room, stopped dead in his tracks as he was caught in a triangle between his brother and father. Dean could see the bewilderment across his face, as he hadn't been expecting to see John there. Otherwise, he looked bedraggled, his eyes tired and his backpack slung haphazardly across the shoulder of his wrinkled shirt.
"Hey, Sam." His father lifted his hand in a hello half-heartedly.
"Don't you..." Sam tripped over his words. "Don't you even fucking talk to me. I'm...we're..." Finding his footing, he continued more clearly. "So sick of your shit. I swear to God if you ever even fucking look at him wrong again..."
"Listen, I don't know what you think you know..." John said.
"Don't tell me to listen! And stop treating me like a child." He pointed to his brother, "Look at him – he can barely stand up!"
Dean automatically shifted his feet, straightening his posture despite the pain that radiated down his torso, suddenly aware of how much he had been leaning on the couch. "Sam, it's not that bad. It's really..."
Sam cut him off, flipping towards Dean angrily. "And don't you tell me that it's fine. Aren't you sick of him? Of this?" His tone took an edge of pleading. "Why won't you stand up for yourself? Why do you put up with this...this..."
Don't say it.
"...monster." Sam finished.
"Hey." The word punched through the air – guttural and final. "Watch your mouth." John's voice was quiet, trying to restrain itself, but the space around him buzzed with anger.
Sam turned towards his father, squaring his shoulders expectantly, and met his father's furious gaze.
John continued evenly as if he were trying to explain something to a child. "I know that I've made some mistakes, but I've tried the best with what I've had."
Sam barked out a laugh. "Some mistakes? I've spent my whole life living in shitty motels and putting up with all of your bull-shit. No, you don't get to play that card."
John said, his voice raising "And what was I supposed to do? I gave up my life to hunt the thing that killed Mary – your mom. Or maybe you forgot about that while you were out there playing normal with your little college friends."
"Don't you dare blame this on mom. You're the one that has made our lives hell for the past 20 years – you alone. Just you." Sam spat, his face darkening.
"You're lucky she died so she can't see what you've become."
It all happened in a second.
Dean wasn't sure what he registered first, his father moving or the loud smack of Sam hitting the floor, looking up as blood streamed down the side of his mouth from where he'd been punched.
Time seemed to stay still as John towered over Sam, his expression mirroring the same surprise that was on his son's face.
"Get off of him." The words ripped out of Dean's mouth as he broke the silence, rushing at John and ripping him backward with all his strength. John stumbled, surprised, tripping over the coffee table and smashing into the floor.
Dean followed him to the ground, anger screaming through every fiber of his being. "Don't you fucking touch him." His fist slammed into the side of John's face. "Don't you ever fucking touch him."
He thought that he could hear someone yelling behind him as he kept swinging, but he couldn't be sure over the red haze that roared through his head and clouded his vision.