John couldn't measure how long he'd been sitting, staring at the ceiling listening to the steady sound of his sons breathing. It would be very easy to be lulled to sleep by the comforting sounds of the boys, but John Winchester had not kept his family alive and together for as long as he had by allowing himself to be lulled. Reluctantly, John shifted Sammy from where he'd curled tucked into John's side to a prone position on the bed. Sam immediately rolled and flipped, burrowing his face into the pillow as John tossed the Hardy Boy book aside and made his way off the bed on the other side.
With the ease of long familiarity, John went about the routine of closing up shop for the night. The flimsy security lock on the motel door was just the first step; John knew better than to think that a deadbolt was in any way effective for keeping trouble out. It amazed him that people could sleep at night in a place like this; but then again, what they didn't know couldn't keep them up at night.
Lines of salt at the door and windows followed next. Then John reinforced the protection charm he'd carved into the door frame with a touch of his fingertips and a whispered phrase of Latin - Beatus is domus quod illud intus. John had no qualms about defacing motel property with his unobtrusive charms; he liked to think that travelers who stayed in the rooms after the Winchesters had been there slept a little easier for the protections left behind. The words he spoke, however, were more a demonstration of the faith in the man who'd taught them to him, than the power that was supposedly behind them.
John continued to move around the room, now focused on general housekeeping. There wasn't much to clean; Dean had already straightened up behind himself and Sam, so all that was left for John was to take care of his own mess. Years of habit ingrained in the military ensured that there wasn't much for John to do, so he ended up back by the unsteady desk holding his most recent round of research. John settled himself into the chair behind the desk and tried to focus on the work before him, but he found it difficult to focus. He'd completed most of the research he needed earlier in the day at the lake, so the books and papers on the desk did not command his attention the way they should have. Instead his attention kept drifting back to the sleeping forms of his sons.
A fierce wave of protectiveness washed over John so intense it was nearly breathtaking. The irony of the situation was not lost on John; of all the supernatural things he faced and fought, it was a commonplace, totally preventable injury that had knocked his feet out from under him. He mentally berated himself for not noticing the sunburn Dean had developed throughout the afternoon. That was probably the thing that got to him the most – it had taken hours for the burn to develop, and he hadn't noticed it at all.
One part of him wanted to lay it all at Dean's feet. Dean had been on duty, not just taking care of Sam, taking care of himself. John had to trust that Dean could and would be responsible enough to look out for himself and his brother, particularly when John couldn't. But today had been different; John had been right there and theoretically in charge. When it came down to it, Dean was still a thirteen year old boy who got distracted and caught up playing with his brother and a bunch of other kids. John was the parent, and he failed.
John dropped his face into his hands pressing the heels of his palms hard up against his eyes. It had been such a good day, such a rare day, and he hated that he was sitting there twisted with guilt. But it was times like these, nights like this - that wrenched his gut and made him wish he could provide so much more for his boys. John had never wanted this nomadic life for his family, but after Mary died, staying in Lawrence wasn't an option; eventually it became easier just to keep moving. For Sam moving from town to town was just their way of life; but Dean knew better – Dean knew different. But he never complained and that was the hardest burden for John to bear.
John asked too much of Dean; he knew it, but he had come to depend on all the things Dean did for him particularly when it came to Sam. Dean might occasionally be lax in his attention to negligible things like laundry and chores, but he was never lax about Sammy, not since Fort Douglas. John shuddered at the memory of the shtriga hovering above a semi-conscious Sam. He very deliberately pulled his head out of his hands and assessed the status of his slumbering boys. Their steady breathing brought him a measure of calm.
Taking a deep breath, John brought himself back to the present. He couldn't change what had or hadn't happened today, only take what occurred and move on. John stood and automatically organized the research that was spread on the table into a pile, all the while making a mental list of what he'd need to do tomorrow – restock the first aid kit, check for surface anesthetic, go clothes shopping for Dean.
It was the last errand that John allowed himself to perseverate on; he listed in his head all the items of clothing Dean had that could be passed down to Sam, what could be saved for scraps and what could be thrown away. He mentally assessed his own wardrobe considering what he could pass down to Dean, but realistically, although Dean was growing, he was nowhere close to John's size. Borrowing the occasional t-shirt was fine, but it wouldn't cut it for school. Pondering school wardrobes drove John's thoughts down another track which led in turn to a mental review of potential hunts, their locations, known hunters in the areas and level of schooling available – all of which he'd been working out as the summer came to a close.
Planning for the next day, next week, next month allowed John to preoccupy his thoughts as he ran through his nighttime rituals. It wasn't until he was showered and dressed for bed that he was centered enough to return his thoughts to the present. John paused beside Dean's bed, his hand hovering slightly above Dean's neck. Even with the crappy air conditioning turned up as high as it could go, John could still feel the heat radiating off of the burn on Dean's back and shoulders. Gently, John allowed his hand to fall on Dean's head and ran his hand softly over his son's close cropped hair as he whispered, "Senior vadum reservo thee ex totus malum : is vadum reservo thy animus. Senior vadum reservo thy exitus quod thy coming in ex is vicis continuo , quod vel pro evermore."
Even more softly he whispered, "Indulgeo mihi." before he moved on.
Climbing into bed with Sam, John was amused but not surprised when Sam immediately responded to his weight by rolling in his direction and throwing an arm across his chest. Sammy was a snuggler and a bed hog. He also had a tendency to flail. But that wouldn't happen until the wee hours of the morning, for now he was just a cuddly boy and John was glad of his company. John ran his fingers through Sam's unruly hair as he repeated the blessing he'd said over Dean; the one he said over their bed every night.
Comforted by the fact that he'd done everything he could to keep them safe while they slept, John drifted to sleep full of determination to do better tomorrow.
Beatus is domus quod illud intus – Bless this house and those within.
Senior vadum reservo thee ex totus malum : is vadum reservo thy animus. Senior vadum reservo thy exitus quod thy coming in ex is vicis continuo , quod vel pro evermore. –
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. (Psalm 121:7-8)
Indulgeo mihi – Forgive me.