Title: Slow Motion

Author: BlackWingedbird

Standard Dis

Warnings: 'Shadow' fic- lines taken straight from the episode.

Author's Note: The lyrics are NOT mine- they are by the lovely and talented country duo, Big and Rich. The song is entitled, 'Slow Motion'. I felt they needed to be incorporated into the story because they fit so well. Beta'd by Amy.

I got a crack in my windshield
I know exactly how it feels.
It's comin' apart the hard way
It gets a little more shattered each day.

Sam stared straight ahead, unblinking and unmoving. A small, jagged crack had formed in the Impala's windshield and it mesmerized him. It was less than in inch long and it started where the glass met the car's frame, in the lower corner. How long had it been there? What had caused it? When would Dean have enough money to repair it?

How long would it be before the crack grew into an ugly, noticeable scar on the otherwise flawless machine?

Sam blinked, his eyes dry and gritty and surely bloodshot. He'd been to keyed up to sleep last night; adrenaline had continued to flow through his veins long after the threat of the shadow-dwelling Daevas was gone. Dean had drove until the car's needle was a hair above 'empty', then they pulled into a quiet gas station to refuel and clean up. It was nearly 2 am by then, when the boys patched themselves up with the meager contents of a first aid kit, squinting under harsh fluorescent lighting in a dirty gas station bathroom. They had stood side by side at the grime-spotted mirror, alcohol and gauze and butterfly bandages spread out in the sink below them.

Neither brother had said a word.

Dean paid the middle-aged cashier with a wad of crumpled cash. Sam pretended not to notice the man's suspicious looks- after all, they were used to it. They left the gas station and still, neither Winchester had spoken.

They'd gotten in the car and driven- like the hounds of hell were on their heels- and now it was morning and the car would soon need more gas. Sam's eyes went to the stereo as the cassette clicked and Side B started to play. Dean was doing it again, letting the music fill the void between them. But at the moment, it was okay, because Sam wasn't ready to talk about it.

Remembering hurt bad enough.

Oh, I'm breaking slow motion.
Oh, how did it hit me so fast?
It hurts so bad, it hurts so bad,
Somebody tell me how long this will last?
'Cause oh, I'm breaking in slow motion.

He'd opened the door to the apartment at the same time he'd opened the window to a scene he'd never forget.

Dean went in first and Sam's back was turned as his brother shouted, "Hey!"

Sam knew that tone- he knew without looking that there was an intruder in the room. Dean turned on the lights as Sam unzipped the duffel bag, plunging his hand in and snatching the first weapon he felt- a gun.

But there was silence where there should have been more shouting, stillness where there should have been violence. Sam looked up.

Dad was standing by the window, a gentle smile on his face like they had just returned home from school.

And Sam went numb.

Feels like I'm frozen in a dream.
I can't run, can't even scream.
I'm tryin' to fight but I can't get my fists up.
How does somebody get so messed up?

His smile was reflexive- it flickered across his face before he was aware of it.

"Dad?" Dean had spoke first- Sam was still trying to find his voice.

"Hey boys."

Dean turned, glancing at Sam before meeting his father half-way for a good firm hug. Sam wanted to feel that too- he wanted to be welcomed by his father and know the older man loved him just as much- so he figured out how to move his feet and he walked towards them, swinging wide around John and stopping just behind Dean. What happens now? Do they continue the fight from all those years ago?

Dad and Dean parted, and tears sparkled in Dad's eyes. "Hey Sam."

"Hey Dad," Sam replied, his voice made soft from squeezing through his constricted throat. He didn't move- didn't want to offer his affection and deal with rejection. So they stood there, looking at each other and not saying a word.

"Dad, it was a trap," Dean started, and Sam dropped the duffle bag at last. "I didn't know… I'm sorry."

"It's alright, I thought it would've been."

"Were you there." It should have been a question, but like Dean, Sam knew that their father could be anywhere he wanted to be. Of course John was there.

"Yeah, I got there just in time to see the girl take the swan dive." John was looking at the floor so frequently that Sam had to resist looking himself. "She was the bad guy, right?"

"Yes sir," they replied simultaneously, and just like that, they became soldiers again.

"Good," John replied. "Well it doesn't surprise me. It's tried to stop me before."

Dean's voice was hard with obedience. "The demon has?"

Sam sniffed- he couldn't help it, his nose was dripping and his tears threatened to follow suit- and he shifted his weight to help cover the sound of a broken heart.

Nobody seemed to notice. "It knows I'm close. It knows I'm gonna kill it. Not just exorcise it or send it back to hell-" Sam nodded, recognizing a Marine-style prep talk when he heard one- "Actually kill it."

"How?" Dean asked. They needed to know the plan of attack.

"I'm working on that."

The answer surprised Sam and he looked to Dean, who was smiling at the floor. How could Dad not know how to kill it? How could you spend 23 years hunting something and not know everything about it?

"Let us come with you," Sam said. "We'll help." I want to help now. I'm ready- I understand your pain. I want this thing as much as you. I want it to be over.

"No Sam." Sam's heart stopped beating and he felt Dean's eyes on him as Dad continued, "Not yet. Try to understand… this demon is a scary son of a bitch. I don't want you caught in the crossfire. I don't want you hurt."

What? They had spent their lives in the crossfire- he had already been hurt. Why change your mind now? "Dad, you don't have to worry about us." They were skilled fighters- he remembered everything he'd learned before Stanford- he'd prove it if he had to.

"Of course I do," John started and Sam was already shaking his head, "I'm your father."

Sam stopped moving. He couldn't and didn't want to dispute that.

"Listen Sammy… Last time we were together we had one hell of a fight."

"Yes sir." Were they going to continue it now?

Several heartbeats went by before John said, with tears glistening in his eyes, "Good to see you again. It's been a long time."

And that was a Marine apology. Sam swallowed- because at this point he'd take any form of parental affection- and said, "Too long."

He blinked, his eyelids smashing the pools of tears balanced at the bottom of his eyes, and a small smile passed over his face.

They hugged.

Dad was finally holding him after years of absence that started before Sam ever received Stanford's acceptance letter. Pain and love swirled together in his gut and exploded outward, making his muscles tremble and his face twitch in the uncertainty of wanting to both smile and cry. Then, way too soon, Sam felt a pat on his back and Dad was pushing them apart.

Sam felt small and fragile and utterly pathetic under both his father's and his brother's gazes, but he still yearned for more. He sniffed as another drip tickled his nostril, and John smiled.

Then he was ripped away.

Oh, I'm breaking slow motion.
Whoa, how did it hit me so fast?
It hurts so bad, it hurts so bad,
Somebody tell me how long this will last?
'Cause oh, I'm breaking in slow motion.

They had gotten away, thanks to a little luck and a big flare. The light was blinding and it filled the room, sending the Daevas scattering. They scraped themselves off the floor and Sam managed to grab the duffle bag as Dean helped Dad out of the room and out of the building. They had escaped by the skin of their teeth again, all of them bleeding and none of them capable of doing any more battle.

They'd gotten down the stairs and down the sidewalk, then turned the corner into the alley where the Impala sat waiting. Sam grabbed the door handle and yanked it open, tossing the duffel bag onto the back seat. "Alright, come on. We don't have much time. As soon as the flame's out, they'll be back."

"Wait, wait, wait. Sam- wait." Sam had already pushed the door shut and he swung around to look at Dean as he continued, "Dad, you can't come with us."

"What?" Sam couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What are you talking about?"

Apparently, Dad didn't like the idea either. "But you boys- you're beat to hell-"

"We'll be alright."

Dean wasn't thinking clearly- he must have been hurt worse than he appeared… "Dean, we should stick together." Sam's hands were open at his sides, his whole body trying to force his brother to listen. "We'll go after this demon-"

"Sam listen to me." Dean's head was tilted downward and his eyes were glassy with pain- but they were also clear and demanding. "We almost got Dad killed in there. Don't you understand? They're not gonna stop. They're gonna try again. They're gonna use us to get to him." Sam didn't like hearing the words, didn't like knowing where Dean was going with this, but he didn't stop. "Meg was right. Dad's vulnerable when he's with us, you- he's stronger without us around."

And there it was.

The cold, ugly truth.

Sam couldn't accept that- he wouldn't accept that- and he turned to his father. "Dad," he started, grabbing John's shoulder like a lifeline, "No. After everything… after all the time we spent looking for you…. Please. I gotta be a part of this fight." He finished in a whisper, barely breathing.

John's hand came up to cover his wrist and Sam's hope flared- until he spoke. "This fight is just starting, and we are all gonna have a part to play. But for now, you gotta trust me son, okay… you gotta let me go."

Let go, let go.
Why can't I make myself do it.
I don't know.

And Sam's heart bled even more. His hand felt so heavy and a part of him- the small, innocent, childish part of him still couldn't understand why he was being denied a father. Why couldn't they just stand here a little longer? Why couldn't they stay together and take their chances- at least they'd die by one another's side.

Sam looked at his hand and nodded- yes, he could do this, he could lift his hand- and John's warmth dropped from his wrist. Why was it so hard? All he had to do was lift his hand… they were waiting for him to just lift his hand…

He tried, he lifted it up but couldn't resist one more touch. It turned into a firm pat, like his failure was intended, then he blinked back the tears as his hand lifted and fell to his side.

Oh, I'm breaking slow motion.
Whoa, how did it hit me so fast?
It hurts so bad, it hurts so bad,
Somebody tell me how long this will last?
'Cause oh, I'm breaking in slow motion.
(I'm breaking in slow motion.)
Oh, I'm breaking slow motion.

And then he was gone. John Winchester was walking away, walking out of their reach and out of their lives, and Sam could only stand motionless behind Dean and watch. He stopped, turning to look back at Sam and Dean, and for a second, Sam allowed himself to hope. But then John turned and got in his truck, and Sam hated the part of him that wanted that man's love to desperately. Were all his hopes as pointless at this? Were all the good things in his life going to abandon him, leave him to fend for himself? Would anyone ever offer him the constant love that Jessica had, before she was taken from him?

The Impala hit a deep pothole and Sam blinked and sniffed, the crack in the windshield swimming into focus. He felt Dean looking at him and Sam rubbed away the blurriness in his eyes before turning his head.

"You okay?" Dean asked.

Sam wanted to tell the truth, wanted to have a chick-flick moment and say that no, he was not okay. In fact, he was so not okay that it hurt. But he didn't even get the chance to force a brave face.

"Yeah, stupid question, huh?" Dean returned his gaze to the road but reached out and grabbed Sam's shoulder, squeezing gently. "We'll see him again, Sam. And when he do, it'll be to kill that thing and this will all be over."

A warmth crept into Sam's heart and he suddenly realized something.

What he had been looking for had been right beside him his entire life.

Sam smiled and allowed himself to hope.