Title: The More Things Change
Summary: It's been a long time since they all shared a hotel room.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Supernatural do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.
AN: Post-ep for "Dead Man's Blood," spoilers for the season up to this point. This was written pre-"Salvation"—I have no idea how or if they'll handle the revelation of Sam's visions to John, but I'm sure this will be AU. No slash, just brotherly and fatherly love.
Dad gets one of the beds.
It was an unspoken rule, but they'd had it since they'd started hunting all those years ago. When the boys were little they hadn't cared to share. In fact, on the few occasions when there had been another option, he still invariably found them together in the morning. They couldn't sleep apart.
Then, of course, they had grown. They'd always been different—strong, capable Dean and sweet, sensitive Sammy—but when the sweetness started to be tempered by a questioning of John's ways, the relationship between the boys had suffered as well. Petty squabbles took on a more serious slant and they shared the bed grudgingly, as far to the edges as they could get and backs to each other.
And yet, despite their best efforts, he'd still find them wrapped around each other in the morning.
But they got older still, and bigger. Fitting into a double bed was just uncomfortable for two teenaged boys. Unfortunately, Sam moved a lot in his sleep. When he kicked or pushed a half-awake Dean would invariably push back, and one of them would end up on the floor. They eventually got to the point where they just took turns with the bed. Of course, they did it about as graciously as they'd traded out the coveted shotgun position in their younger years.
Neither was complaining now—at least not to him. But apparently neither had volunteered to take the floor, either. When he emerged from the shower and crossed the room to get his shaving kit they were both lounging on the bed nearest the bathroom, watching TV.
That was an addendum to the rule. Dad sleeps in the bed closest to the door.
He fished out the kit and turned back towards the bathroom. Both of them were watching him, but the instant he caught them both gazes skittered back to the screen. Perfect unison.
His lips twitched upwards, but he quelled it and cleared his throat as he walked in front of them. He glanced meaningfully towards the television. "We've got an early morning and a long day ahead of us, boys."
"Yes, sir." This from Sam, surprisingly. Dean obliged and reached for the remote, and they both looked at him innocently as he went back into the tiny bathroom.
Funny, he didn't remember it being that easy. He left the door partially open, mostly to let the steam out. Overhearing the boys was really just a side note.
There were tossing noises, bedsprings squeaking in protest as they tried to get comfortable.
"Stop kicking me!"
"I'm not doing it on purpose!"
"Well if you could do something with those freakishly long legs…"
John bit his lip to keep in a laugh. Though it had done nothing to diminish the big brother attitude, Dean had never quite gotten over Sammy's growth spurt.
"Hey, don't blame me if you got shorted in the gene pool."
There was then a solid little thump that could easily have been a fist hitting cotton-covered muscle.
John shook his head as he located his toothbrush. Apparently some aspects of a relationship didn't change with age or separation.
"Hey! You can't have the entire blanket!"
"Why not? You'll just throw it off in the middle of the night. And I get cold when I'm sleeping." The tone had taken on a bit of a wheedle, and John could just imagine the puppy dog eyes.
Another beat of silence. Then Dean huffed. "Well you're sharing the sheet, at least."
Oh yeah. Sammy still had big brother wrapped around his little finger. John tried to ignore the goofy grin that was playing his lips as he stuck the toothbrush in his mouth.
"Put that thing away. I am not sleeping with it."
John raised an eyebrow and very nearly swallowed his toothpaste.
"No? And if something comes after us in the night, we're gonna fight it off with what? Your sharp wit?"
"Put it on the floor. I'm not going to sleep with a dagger a foot from my head. The way you move around, I'll get stabbed before morning."
"Me? You're the toss n' turner here, Sammy."
"I don't hear you complaining when Dad calls you Sammy."
He used to. Boy, did he. Sam had turned 13 and decided that he didn't like being the baby Winchester, and that 'Sammy' made him sound about 5. He'd pouted and stomped off when either of them called him that outside of a life and death situation.
But it was just second nature to John. And, come to think of it, Sam hadn't complained about it since their reunion. Interesting—especially considering his anger over their child-like treatment.
"It's…I don't know. Affectionate."
"I'm affectionate." Dean's indignation made John smile, especially since that was something he would normally deny adamantly.
"Of course you are. But most of the time you're just doing it to bug me. Besides…I know you love me."
The smile froze.
He turned on the water, effectively drowning out whatever was said next. He didn't need to hear his oldest insist that their father loved them both. He didn't need to hear Sam protest that he knew that, that he hadn't meant it that way.
He probably hadn't; it wasn't something Sam would say, even in a screaming match.
But John had certainly given him cause to wonder.
He stared at his reflection for a long moment, then pivoted and sank down onto the closed toilet seat.
He hoped he'd cleared the issue up now, having confessed his fears the other day. But that couldn't erase five years of estrangement.
Dean had always seemed to thrive on structure and directions and a simple 'Good job, son.' Sammy, on the other hand, needed affection and affirmation. John hadn't always had it to give. An abundance of emotion wasn't really something he could afford in his line of work.
He hadn't always done a good job of handling Sam. Dean had just been so much easier. Come to think of it, Dean was also better at handling his brother.
But there had never been a moment when he hadn't loved them, both of them, with everything he had. And if calling him Sammy helped remind him of that, he'd use the nickname in every sentence from now until he died.
He didn't expect that to be a terribly long time, anyway.
He stood slowly, meeting his own eyes in the mirror. He held the gaze for a second before flipping off the light, belatedly shutting off the water as he left the darkness for the still-lit room.
"Put on some socks or something, would you? Your feet are freezing!"
He was out in time to see Dean slide both legs over to Sam's side, prompting Sam to kick him quite purposefully this time.
"Boys," he said warningly. He got a dose of innocent eyes again. He raised his chin and gave them a stern look. "Don't make me separate you."
"Funny you should mention that…Sammy was just saying how he wanted to sleep in the car."
"Dad, Dean's being a jerk!"
"Ah, life with children. I've missed it so." He crossed to his bed and gave them a pointed look. "Goodnight, boys."
"Goodnight Dad." Perfect unison, again.
Shaking his head slightly he reached for the lamp and plunged the room into darkness.
The tossing and turning was not over, of course. John settled comfortably on his side, waited for his eyes to adjust to the moonlight, and just watched them.
They had been facing each other. Sam flipped onto his back. The movement took him too close to the edge so he scooted back—and collided with Dean, who had rolled onto his stomach. Sam turned fully to shoot his brother a glare that was returned full force.
Finally, Dean prodded Sam onto his side and curled against his back, slinging an arm across his waist. Sam took a moment to burrow into the pillow and then, apparently finding the position acceptable, he relaxed back into his brother's hold.
After that it was only a few minutes before breaths evened out and soft snores began.
But John couldn't sleep. His thoughts were still in turmoil, and he was seized by the image.
It took him back 22 years to the nights after the fire, to a crib that was not made for 4 year olds. But Dean was always in there, scrunched up in an uncomfortable-looking ball, cradling baby Sammy while they slept. Protecting him the only way he knew how.
They'd looked so innocent then. He'd wanted nothing more than to wrap them in his arms and never let them go. So he'd protected them, the only way he knew how.
They looked so innocent now.
John's chest tightened painfully, such that he almost found it hard to breathe. He loved them so much. It was ripping him apart on the inside.
He never should have reconnected with them. When he'd seen them in the cabin he should have walked away, or better still enticed them to leave. It would have taken one text message, one set of coordinates.
But his gut instinct was telling him that he needed them with him. No matter how he fought it, it just refused to go away. He'd survived 22 years on his instincts—and kept the boys alive on them, as well.
All he'd ever wanted was to keep them safe. He sometimes worried that in trying to protect them, he'd put them directly in harm's way. But he feared that he was making his biggest mistake yet by letting them stay with him now.
He lay there for over an hour, just watching them. He had missed them so much. Missed being with them, but also missed watching them together.
Watching them interact made him feel like he'd done at least something right.
His thoughts were eventually interrupted when one of the objects of his attention moved. Sam's face twitched, his brow furrowing. A moment later a little whimper escaped.
John frowned and started forward, intending to soothe him before he woke Dean. But it was too late for that. Dean was alert with Sam's first stirring. John swung his legs over the edge of the bed, but his son caught his eye and shook his head slightly. He froze, and watched.
Dean moved slowly, cautiously. He rubbed Sam's arm with long, gentle strokes. "Sammy, wake up," he ordered softly.
Despite the careful handling Sam came awake with a gasp. Wide, panicked eyes stared up at his brother. "Dad," he choked out, and the fear in his voice made John's blood run cold.
"Easy, Sammy. Dad's right here."
John reached to flip on the lamp as Sam struggled upright. Their eyes connected, and he was forcibly reminded of a scared little boy looking up at a bloody, hunt-scarred father, begging for reassurance.
He hesitated only a moment. Then he tentatively opened his arms.
Sam came to him, went to his knees beside the bed and buried himself in John's chest. The quick response stunned him. It was a couple of beats before he closed the embrace, cradling him as if he might break.
Sam had had plenty of nightmares over the years. But now Dean was looking unduly apprehensive, and Sam was clutching John like the world was ending. He didn't need decades of hunting experience to know that something else was going on here.
Dean sat up and pushed the sheet back, eyeing his brother carefully. "Sam?"
His youngest gave a dejected little nod against John's chest.
He wanted to demand to know what was going on. But Sam was sniffling against him, twisting the fabric of his t-shirt between trembling fingers, and somehow all he could do was hold on.
It was Dean who eventually spoke up. "Dad…there's something we should probably tell you."
"All right," he responded, more than a little wary.
Sam pulled free of him and backed up, back to his bed. Back to Dean. The action bothered John more than it should have. What was he seeking? Comfort? Moral support?
Dean shifted to sit on the edge right next to his brother, a hair's breadth from actually touching. He looked at Sam; Sam looked at the carpet, forehead in his hands and breath hitching. Finally Dean nudged his shoulder. "You want me to…"
"No." Sam squared his shoulders and finally made eye contact.
John forced himself not to react to the fear lying so naked there.
"I have these nightmares sometimes."
"I saw." He glanced between his sons. "There's nothing wrong with that, Sammy."
"They're not really nightmares, not always. Sometimes they're…visions. Of things that haven't happened yet. But they do. Happen, I mean."
He needed a moment to sort that out. "You're telling me you have prophetic visions?"
Sam winced, and slowly nodded.
And John just stared at him, not sure he was comprehending. His son had supernatural powers?
And Dean was not helping. He felt eyes boring into him, and he actually did a double take when he caught the look his oldest was throwing him. Worried, definitely, but also fiercely protective. There was a decidedly dangerous gleam there. There had been times through the years when loyalty to Dad and standing up for little brother had contradicted. Dean had always been loyal to a fault. But, in that look, John understood that Sam was now trumping him in the priority list.
The look remained, but when Dean turned slightly towards Sam to speak his tone held only light teasing. "He can bend spoons, too."
Sam finally looked up again to huff, "I can not."
"Well if you'd just apply yourself like a good little geek…"
"Once. I used telekinesis once."
Telekinesis? So not only could he see the future, he could move things with his mind? John's head was spinning.
Sam was speaking again, rambling a bit as he talked about Jess on the ceiling, a lady in their old home, and some kid named Max. John tried to take it all in and make sense of it, aware that Sam was talking to the floor and Dean was watching him closely for reaction.
It wasn't as if he thought all preternatural abilities were evil. He'd leaned on Missouri's gifts more than once. But his own child?
He realized Sam had finally gone silent. At some point Dean had hooked an arm around him, and now they both sat stiffly waiting for him to say or do something.
He opened his mouth, snapped it shut, then rubbed at his forehead. "You're gonna have to give me a minute here, boys."
After a little stretch of uncomfortable silence Sam volunteered softly, "They seem to concentrate on things I'm closely connected to. My girlfriend, the house Mom died in…Max."
"You knew this Max kid?"
"Max was like me."
Dean's response was immediate, voice hushed and insistent. "You are not Max."
"Max had telekinetic powers." Sam hesitated, seemed about to say something else, then shut his mouth again. "We had a connection."
John nodded absently. "You just had one. A vision. About me?"
Sam nodded tentatively.
"These visions. They've helped you save people?"
Sam's eyes darted in Dean's direction. "Sometimes."
"Well Sammy, anything that helps keep people alive can't be all bad."
Dean's tension eased ever-so-slightly. Sam stared at him for a moment as if he hadn't quite heard him correctly, then broke out into a tiny grin. "Yeah, I guess."
John nodded and tried to keep his expression positive. There were so many implications here; he knew he couldn't think through them all as he sat with his boys watching him. He wasn't entirely sure what he was feeling, but he had picked out one emotion. One that seemed very, very wrong.
If Sam had powers like this, he'd been born with them. Destined for them. If Sam had powers like this, he would have been mixed up in this fight no matter what John had done. Heck, the life they'd led had probably helped him.
That was incredibly selfish, and he knew it, and hated himself for it. He would never, never have wanted this for Sam.
But…Sam had powers. Powers that could help them defeat this thing.
He leaned forward, elbows on his knees and attention focused on his son. "So tell us what we're getting into, Sammy."