Disclaimer: The Winchesters belong to Eric Kripke and I will be forever grateful to him for sharing them with us. I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing them from time to time; I promise to return them as I found them.

And I know the rule. If I break them, I buy them.

A/N: I've got a school break coming up in a couple of days and things have been fairly calm this week, so I thought I'd get started on the next idea. As always, thanks to Kelli for many things, including her diligent typo-hunting.

I'm always interested in your thoughts so review away!

Father and Son

Chapter One

"Yeah, Dad?"

"You about ready to go?"

"Almost."

"Hurry it up."

Dean waited another moment before tossing the covers off. He and John were supposed to be on the road this morning, headed for some town whose name Dean couldn't remember, to investigate a haunting. It was the first job they were working without Sam and Dean wasn't even used to the idea that his brother was gone yet.

"I'm going to put gas in the car. Be ready when I get back." John called from the living room.

"Yes, sir." Dean muttered, just loud enough. He looked at the bed his brother had slept in until two days ago. He hated the thought that his little brother was somewhere he couldn't keep an eye on him, but he hated it even more that in a fit of anger, John told him to leave never come back. He would never forgive his father for that, but he would continue to take his father's orders.

Dean took a quick shower and threw the few toiletries onto the bed before grabbing his duffle bag from the closet. He saw the envelope at the bottom of the bag before he started tossing things in. He knew it was a letter from Sam and he didn't want to read it. Not now. Not yet.

He wanted to be angry with his brother, but he couldn't quite manage it. Sam was smart. He was scary smart sometimes and he could do anything he put his mind to. Dean had known for some time that Sam wasn't happy hunting the supernatural beings they spent their lives chasing, but he never expected Sam would leave the family. Until his brother told him about being accepted to Stanford, he didn't know that he had been applying to colleges.

Dean wasn't sure what bothered him more; Sam being gone, banished by their father, or having orchestrated leaving without Dean knowing anything about it. Dean thought they talked about everything, that there was nothing they didn't know about each other. It hurt him to find out Sam applied to college and figured out how to pay for it without so much as a word to him.

"Dean?" John called as he walked into the apartment.

"Here." Dean came from the small bedroom he'd shared with his brother with his duffle bag. "I'm ready."

"You're running a little slow this morning, Son." John said as they got into the car. "You okay?"

"I'm fine." Dean said quietly, angry that John wouldn't even realize he might be missing Sammy.

They stopped at some nondescript motel late that night. Conversation during the day was stilted and forced -- disintegrating to muttering and one-word sentences only when absolutely necessary. John understood exactly what was going on but had no idea how to change things. Sammy forced his hand; he'd given the boy an ultimatum and Sammy made his own choice. Dean would just have to accept that and move on.

They arrived in the small North Dakota town late in the afternoon of their second day of driving. If conversation was difficult in the beginning, it was downright impossible as the time wore on. Dean couldn't stop thinking about his brother; where he was and what he might be doing. He hoped the kid was keeping himself safe. He became more and more angry that John not only let him go, but demanded he never return and by the time they checked into the only motel in town, he was about ready to blow. He couldn't wait until he was face to face with whatever evil thing had brought them to town. After they finished the job, he intended to find the nearest bar, because every small town had at least one, and find some way to work off the anger.

"We're working this job for Caleb." John said, in the motel room. "At first he thought it was a simple haunting, but he's not so sure now."

Dean said nothing, knowing his father would continue without any prompting. Besides, he'd heard the story before. He sat down on the edge of one of the beds and began to inspect their weapons.

"The town has a haunted house legend; an old farmhouse that no one has lived in for years. It was the teenage hotspot for years, not exactly with the consent of law enforcement, but the sheriff shut it down a few weeks ago when some kids fell over the stair railing from the second floor. The windows have been boarded up, locks and chains put on the doors. Caleb did some research and found that other kids have died in similar accidents over the years, in and around the property. But it's in a pattern – two or three kids every ten years."

John paused and looked at his son. Normally Dean would have been intent on every word, his eyes glistening with anticipation. Now he merely stared at the weapons as he inspected and cleaned them. He knew when that when the time came he would be able to count on his son, but had no idea how to handle the anger and silence. He figured if he waited long enough, Dean would come around.

"No one has lived in the house for about thirty years; not since Jackson Border died. His father built the house about twenty-five years before that and it was rumored he was into some kind of black magic. Until he bought the land, it hadn't been fertile. While he lived in the house, a crop never failed. Jackson wasn't so lucky and when he died he owed everyone in town money. The bank owns the property but, because of the local legend, can't find a buyer. I figured we'd go there tonight, see what we can find and get rid of it." John said. "Could be he's haunting the house, or whatever his father was into is still there."

"Fine." Dean said simply.

Not exactly sure what they were up against, they brought holy water, guns loaded with rock salt and a book of incantations used for exorcisms. John parked the car just outside the back door to make sure it wasn't seen from the road and to have it close by in case they needed additional supplies.

He watched as Dean walked toward the house. His gait was longer than usual, his stance outside the door more purposeful. He wrongly assumed that Dean was just as angry at Sam as he was. It never occurred to him that he was the object of Dean's anger.

"Be careful, Dean. We don't know what's in there." he said, joining his son on the back porch.

Without a word, Dean picked the lock on the door and went inside, John close behind. The EMF reader that Dean fashioned out of an old Walkman was going crazy; there was definitely some kind of paranormal activity going on in the old farmhouse. After a brief search of the first floor, they split up as John headed upstairs.

John looked around slowly and carefully, shivering a little as the temperature suddenly dipped when he walked into a bedroom. He was about to call for Dean when he heard his son yell from downstairs. Before he could move, he heard a loud crash.

"Dean!" he yelled racing down the stairs. "Dean, where are you?"

John turned in the direction of another crash and found Dean on the floor, leaning against a wall.

"Dean?" John knelt down next to him, but kept an eye on the room. "Wake up, Son. Tell me what happened."

John shook Dean lightly. He felt the temperature in the room fall and it took all his strength to pull his attention from his son to assess the situation. He didn't see anything, but the EMF reader Dean dropped was exhibiting all sorts of activity. He wished Sam was here to get Dean back to the safety of the car while he finished the job, but that wasn't going to happen. John saw some old books fly from a shelf, crashing angrily against the wall and when the window exploded inward, showering him and Dean with glass, he knew he had to do something to protect his son.

"Come on, Dean." he said gruffly, pulling the boy to his feet.

Dean fell, limp, against his father. John shifted the weapons he was carrying and lifted Dean to his shoulder. He heard furniture shifting behind him as he raced from the room, but he didn't take the time to look back. He saw lights flashing in the house after he loaded Dean into the passenger side of the car. He had assumed there was no power going to the house, but he knew he hadn't seen enough lamps to be causing what he was seeing now. The few pieces of furniture left in the house were mostly broken and he couldn't believe the lamps were in any better condition.

Once he was a safe distance from the house, John pulled to the side of the road to examine his son. He saw no signs of major injury and sighed in relief when Dean started to wake up.

"What happened?" he asked groggily.

"We ran into a few problems." John said, more gently than he'd spoken to Dean in years. "I want to get you back to the motel."

"I'm fine." Dean sat up straighter, but the movement caused him to groan in pain.

"Remember what I taught you, Son. Sometimes you have to retreat and regroup. There's no shame in that."

Dean looked at his father, surprised, as John pulled back onto the road.

Back at the motel room, John checked Dean out again even though he insisted John was overreacting.

"Get some rest, Dean. I'm going to see what else I can find out about this house."

"Now? Where are you going?"

"Where do we often get the best information in small towns?" John asked.

"Bars and cafes."

"Right."

"I'll go with you." Dean offered, slowly getting up from the bed.

"No. You need to rest. You got pretty banged up."

"Dad –-"

"That's an order, Son."

Dean looked at his father. He would never disobey an order, but John was acting strange. Reluctantly, he nodded and sat back down. Before he left, John got an anti-inflammatory from the first aid kit and made sure Dean swallowed the medication.

"I won't be gone too long. You should probably take a hot shower; you don't want your muscles to stiffen up too bad."

Dean could only nod.