A/N: My husband didn't want me to write this story, didn't want me ruin a perfectly good bedtime story. But once the muse bites, you have to move forward or die. Anyway, if there's a special place in your heart for Margaret Wise Brown, go read something else.

Disclaimer: Just borrowing, and will always return them, good as new.

ooooOOoooo

In the great green room

There was a telephone

And a red balloon

And a picture of –

John had been awake for about thirty hours straight when he finally dropped to bed like a thing shot, clumsily undoing the laces on his boots and kicking them off to thunk loudly on the floor. Grave dirt still caked his hands and smudged his face, and for a moment he contemplated a quick shower. But the pull of sleep was not to be denied, a force stronger than gravity, and after a confused thought about showering in bed, John succumbed.

He was digging again, in a cemetery forgotten by the living, opening a grave nearly sixty years old. His shoulders hurt, his knees ached, and the blisters on his hands had long since burst and turned to open sores. The dirt his shovel bit into was slimy and filled with things best not examined closely, though John cursed every time his shovel twisted off a deformed skull.

Shovelful after shovelful, dirt heaping next to the grave, until John was in over his head, the pile of dirt towering over him. And still no casket, but the ground was crawling with things that hurt John to look at them, and the breath coming out his lungs rode on sobs. Finally, something in the dirt, and John knelt to examine it.

A child's hand, the fingers splayed out limply.

And John dug with his hands, flinching at the feel of the greasy dirt, and finally the child's head was uncovered, and the child (WAS) looked remarkably like Dean. Before he could breathe, before he could move, the grave closed seamlessly in front of him. With a groan, John bent, grabbed the shovel and began to dig again.

"Daddy?"

John blinked, struggling to drop the shovel, reaching for wakefulness with gratitude.

"Daddy? Daddy?"

The dark room around him reasserted itself, banishing the ghost-like environs of the cemetery and its endless round of digging. He blinked again. Home. The crappy apartment above the bar he had rented nearly two months ago. From the bar, filtering through the floor, came the smothered sounds of talk and jukebox.

"Daddy."

He sat up stiffly, groaning softly at the pulled muscles in his back and shoulders. Sammy stood in the doorway, hair twisted from sleep, too-small pajamas revealing the delicate bones in his wrists and ankles. The four year old was chewing on a cuticle, studying John with eyes too big for his face, brown eyes that could slay John with a flicker. "Sammy?" John rubbed his face, wincing at the smell on his hands. "You okay?"

The boy was silent, fingers nervous in his mouth. John was trying to break him from sucking on them, with limited success.

"Sam –"

"Daddy, nobody's in my closet." Sam's voice was clipped and hurried, anxious.

"What?" John couldn't comprehend Sam's sentence.

"Nobody, Daddy. Nobody's here."

"Oh, okay." A pause. John's brow furrowed. "Who's here?"

"Nobody." The word said with an inflection rising at the end, Sam's anxiety becoming fear.

This John understood. He pushed past the nonsensical conversation he was having, and held out his arms to his youngest. "C'mere, boy."

The boy rushed into his arms, ignoring the dirt and smell, burying his face in John's neck. His small body was trembling slightly. "S'okay, Sammy. S'okay." John rubbed his back soothingly, and lay down again, adjusting the pillow and tucking Sammy against his chest. "Go back to sleep." John was asleep again before he could finish the sentence, and the smell of Johnson's baby shampoo took him past the cemetery into peace.

The cow jumping over the moon

And there were three little bears sitting on chairs

The library was quiet around John, the only sound the hum of the microfilm machine he was using. The peculiar smell of books and paper and age was overpowering, and John sat hunched forward, one hand hiding his mouth, trying to shut out the smell. Sam sat on the ground next to John's chair, cross-legged and engrossed in Dr. Seuss.

JUDGE FOUND GUILTY – After deliberating four days, the jury in the Killer Judge case announced a guilty verdict on Thursday. Judge Roger Grady, accused of molesting and killing 3 children, now finds himself facing the death penalty.

"Daddy, are there wosets in our closets?"

"No, Sammy." The machine whirred as John forwarded the film.

"That's too bad. They are always fun to have around." Sam's serious tone indicated he was reading from the book, imparting this wisdom to his father.

"I bet they are."

KILLER JUDGE GETS DEATH DATE – Judge Roger Grady's date of execution was set today for March 30, 1954. The Judge was found guilty of murder by a jury of his peers on December 12 of last year.

"Daddy, the bofa on the sofa acts as if he doesn't care. Dean would make him care." The four year old cackled, something he had picked up from his brother when they were perfecting their evil laughs.

"That's why we don't invite bofas over, Sammy."

A sigh from Sammy, the sound of a book being set aside. John tensed slightly, knowing Sam's attention span was coming to an end. He read quickly, racing against time. The sound of pages turning as Sam was diverted by more Dr. Seuss.

"Daddy, what's – ooo – oh – "

John glanced down at the book Sam was holding. "Oobleck. I don't know. Read and find out."

Sam gazed at his father, watching him turn back to the microfilm machine. "Read and find out," he repeated quietly, his face alight with this gem John had given him. "Read and find out."

"Hush, boy."

The machine whirred again, John forwarding the film. The library creaked and sighed in the late afternoon sunshine.

And two little kittens

And a pair of mittens

And a little toyhouse

And a young mouse

Sam lifted a handful of suds to his face, patting his chin and cheeks until his soapy beard was dripping. "Look, Dean, I'm Santa!"

Dean snickered. The older boy, green eyes alight, opened his arms and gathered in an armful of white. He began to cover himself with soap. "I'm gonna be the bumble snowman."

Steam rose from the running hot water, turning the small bathroom into a sauna. The papers John had copied from microfilm began to curl at the edges. John glanced up from his reading to check the level of water in the tub. Found it perilously close to the edge. "Dean, turn off the water. You're gonna flood us out."

Dean did so, his face disapproving. More water meant bigger waves.

Sam held up wrinkled fingers to his father. "Look, I'm a prune!"

"Yep. Now I'm gonna stew you and eat you."

"Daddy!"

"Time to get scrubbed."

Both boys groaned. "Do we have to wash hair tonight?"

"You smell like dogs left in the rain, so yes, it's wash hair night."

Again the groan, harmonized.

John set aside the copies from the microfilm machine, turned his attention to scrubbing boys. The simple grace of the boys' feet, the toes perfect and pink from warm water. The smooth elegance of their bodies as they splashed and tried to avoid John's washcloth. Faces scrunched against the flow of water as John rinsed their hair. The tiny bathroom contained warmth and laughter and the scent of watermelon from the bubble bath.

The papers John had set aside teetered precariously on the edge of the sink.

KILLER JUDGE EXECUTED – Judge Roger Grady was laid to rest in the Mapleton City Cemetery in an unmarked grave after being executed for the deaths of three children. The Judge's family was unwilling to have him buried in the family plot.

And a comb and a brush and bowl full of mush

And a quiet old lady who was whispering "hush"

"What will it be tonight, gentlemen? Dr. Seuss or Ms. Brown?"

Dean shook his head. "Not Goodnight Moon, Dad. Sammy doesn't like that book anymore."

The boys lay cramped together in a single bed, the mattress bowed inward from age and use. Dean wore one of John's oldest t-shirts, knotted in the back to avoid tangling him during sleep. Sam was quiet, regarding his father in silence, letting Dean speak for him. One finger was picking at his lip, a sure sign of his uncertainty.

"What, Sam? No Goodnight Moon? How come?"

Sam was silent, his brown eyes fierce on his father's face. "He just doesn't like it anymore, Dad." Dean held up another book. "How bout this one?"

John took the proffered book, his eyes still on Sam. "What's wrong with Goodnight Moon?"

"'Cause of nobody." The voice was small.

John frowned. This conversation again? He shook his head, stymied by his son's imaginative mind. "Fine. We'll read –" He glanced at the book Dean had handed him. "– Everyone Poops."

Dean giggled. Sam smiled. Dean loved the book, thought it was hilarious when his father said poop. John shook his head, smiling, and took his spot at the edge of the boys' bed.

Goodnight room

Goodnight moon

Goodnight cow jumping over the moon

The grave he had opened last week had been empty. John wondered at that. Grady's family had refused to have the judge buried in the family plot, considered the taint of murder too foul for their ancestors. In the small cemetery that served Mapleton, John had easily found the section where those too poor or too unwanted were buried, but the records were spotty at best, and the grave that had been marked Grady had been empty.

John's shoulders were still sore from digging, and the thought of opening up the remaining twelve graves in search of the judge's bones was intolerable. And a waste of time. One child had been killed already, his unmarked body found in the judge's old house. The cause of death was still unknown. The child had simply quit living.

John sat on his bed surrounded by the copies from the microfilm machine. He had read all of it at least twice, and had finally been forced to admit that the knowledge he was looking for simply wasn't there. His mind kept returning to the fact that the grave he had opened had been empty. He could see where old, poorly kept records would mislabel a grave, but no one had been in the casket he had broke open. It didn't make sense.

He groaned and lay back, kicking his feet out in disregard for the copies around him. Paper fluttered around him, rustled gently on the floor. Tomorrow night he would have to go to the house again, try to see what he could puzzle out from the ghost itself. He would have to ask Brandi next door to watch the boys.

"DADDY!"

He sat bolt upright, Sammy's call freezing his heart. "DADDY! DADDY!"

He left the bed in whirl of paper, feet thudding across the floor and down the hall. He heard Dean's voice, understood only the sibilant hiss of the first letter of Sam's name. The door to the boys' room opened almost magically in front of him as he thundered in.

Sam was standing in the middle of the bed, hands to his face in false comfort, eyes wide and ringed with white. Dean knelt at his feet, hands on Sam's hips, trying to pull the boy down into his arms.

"What's wrong?"

"Nobody! Nobody's here again!" Sam pointed to the closet, the door slightly ajar. "Nobody's in the closet!"

John went to the closet, threw the door open. It was nearly empty, a few clothes littering the floor, empty hangers swinging from John's effort.John stepped in, checking the corners and the shelf above the hangers, confused at Sam's obvious fear. He turned back to his son, still standing in the middle of the bed, impervious to Dean's attempts to soothe him. "Sam, nobody's there."

At that the four year old wailed, a high, thin sound full of terror. Dean's own anxiety rose in response, bringing tears to his eyes, and he stood to pull his brother into a tight hug. The two were not alone long, John sweeping them both up into his arms, and carrying them down the hall to his bedroom.

It was an uncomfortable night, with two boys and a grown man sharing a bed with nearly a ream of copy paper.

Goodnight light

And the red balloon

Goodnight bears

Goodnight chairs

"There's a box of macaroni and cheese in the cupboard for dinner. And cookies on top of the refrigerator." John caught a glimpse of Dean's face, the green eyes narrowing with cookie calculation. "Which they can only have if they're good."

Dean, sitting at the kitchen table, scowled and bent his attention to the coloring book in front of him.

"Okay," said Brandi, and snapped her gum.

John walked back into the small entry way of the apartment, Brandi following behind mindlessly. "Bedtime's at nine. Don't let Dean talk you into staying up. There's school tomorrow." The last sentence pitched louder, meant more for Dean's ears then the babysitter. John could tell from the back of his son's head that Dean was scowling again.

Brandi snapped her gum, nodding.

John shrugged into his jacket, looking at Brandi with misgivings. Pre-teen girls were a mystery to him, something unfathomable, and again he thanked the universe his children were boys. A sexist thought, he realized, but the idea of trying to do what he did with a girl in tow was the stuff of nightmares. Sometimes, in weak moments, John wondered if Dean or Sam had been girl, if he would have followed the path that Mary's death had set him on. At those times, John did not know whether to be grateful by that fact or devastated.

Brandi was staring at him vacuously, chewing industriously.John noticed with a suppressed shudder that she wore glittery purple nail polish.

"Um. I'll be back late, around midnight or so. Lock the door after I leave." He caught up the handle of the duffle he was taking, slung it over his shoulder. "Sam? Dean? Be good."

A chorus of Okays drifted to him from his sons; Dean still coloring in the kitchen, Sam watching cartoons in the living room.

John went out the door, shut it behind him. He paused, heard the click as Brandi locked the door. He shifted the duffle to a more comfortable position, his mind still in the apartment behind him.Something niggled at his brain, bringing disquiet and unease. Stay. He should stay.

He shrugged away the thought and strode down the steps to the Chevy. Items in the duffle bag clinked together with a sharp sound in response to his movements

Goodnight kittens

And goodnight mittens

Goodnight clocks

And goodnight socks

John's heart hammered in his chest. There wasn't enough oxygen. Sound no longer had any meaning. Home, he thought, the word lit up in neon in his mind. Home. Home. Home home homehomehome...

The judge's study, where the dead child had been discovered, had been painted green. When John had picked the lock and eased quietly in, the judge's spirit had been waiting, its presence freezing the stale air. Breathing had been like biting tin foil. John had raised the shotgun, his other hand gripping extra rock salt shells, grinning a promise of violence to the otherworldly thing in the room.

Finally, the car. John fumbled for the handle, his hands curiously numbThe shotgun shells he had forgotten he was holding tumbled to the gravel, quickly forgotten again. Somehow the door opened, and John slid behind the wheel, hands shakily turning the engine to life. A spray of gravel from the tires, and the Chevy burned down the road, quickly disappearing into the twilight.

The judge's study had been green, and huge, with twelve foot ceilings and a grand archway over the window. Facing John's shotgun, the ghost had grinned in response, a rictus of horror that John had inwardly flinched at, though his aim on the spirit had remained rock steady. The ghost had grinned, and raised its hands, showing the empty palms to John.

The judge's study was green, and great, and the judge's spirit turned a gaze of ice on John and said, "Goodnight, nobody." Its voice less heard and more felt, a shiver of terror that had originatedat the back of John's skull and tremored throughout his whole body, until his hand on the shotgun was shaking like a leaf.

Because of nobody. He was terrified because of nobody. "Sam," John had said out loud, and the thing in front of him had grinned wider, its face literally split in half with the force of its repulsive grin. Then had come the manic run through the judge's huge house, across the wide lawn toward the car, John forgetting everything except Home and the shotgun in his hand.

John found himself on the street where he lived, and he could no longer drive with the spike of fear driven into his heart. He pulled over indiscriminately, had the presence of mind to kill the engine and pocket the keys, and then he ran, his boots jarring on the sidewalk.

Up the stairs, oh, god, please, the door locked, as he had instructed. He pounded on it, the door shuddering, and Brandi opened it, looking up at John with all the excitement of a confused cow, chewing gum. John pushed past her, into the small living room.

"Hi, Daddy," two little voices chirruped at him.

Sam and Dean sat on the small love seat, Sam's legs over Dean's lap, each clutching a cookie. The TV was on, the inane sounds of Full House, Mary Kate's voice syrup sweet, adding a weird backdrop to the sound of John's heart trying to batter its way out of his chest.

Goodnight little house

And goodnight mouse

John sat at the edge of his bed, paging through Goodnight Moon, searching every picture for some sort of clue as to what was going on. The clock on the mantle above the fireplace on page nineteen was a duplicate to the one he had seen in the judge's study. Ah, very interesting, yes, quite a breakthrough. But what the fuck did it mean?

"Daddy, we're done brushing our teeth." Dean padded into the room, holding his arms out in a vain attempt to keep his t-shirt, borrowed from John, from slipping off his shoulders. "Will you tie me?" He presented his back to John, arms still out in a zombie gesture.

"Sure." John made a knot in the shirt's neck, his eyes still turned to the book he balanced in his lap.

"Ow, Daddy." Dean bent his head, pulling the hairs that had caught in the knot free.

"Sorry, buddy." John tore his eyes away, focusing on the boy in front of him. "Dean. Do you ever see nobody?"

"See who?" Dean turned to his father, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Nobody."

Dean's face scrunched in thought. "Well, you can't see nobody, Daddy."

John smiled slightly, remembering his previous conversations with Sam. "I'll take that as a no, big guy."

"Will you come read us a story?"

"Sure, but you guys are sleeping in here tonight."

"With you?" Dean's hands raised slightly, an aborted movement to touch his father.

"No, I'm staying in your room." Dean was silent, and John added, "I'll just be down the hall. Now, go find Dr. Seuss or something."

Dean's feet padded lightly down the hall, and John distinctly heard a slight giggle. "And not Everyone Poops!"

Goodnight comb

And goodnight brush

After tucking in the boys, John laid salt lines on the window sill and across the door's threshold. On a second thought, he poured one across the closet's threshold also, the line thick and bold. Dean and Sam watched sleepily from the bed, Sam's fingers ghosting over his mouth, wanting to be sucked.

John stepped carefully over the lines, switching off the light and casting the room into shadow. "Goodnight, guys. Remember, I'm just in your room, okay? Call me if you need me."

"'Night, Daddy."

"Watch the fingers, Sam."

"'Kay."

John had bivouaked in the boys' room earlier, the shotgun set neatly on the floor, shells on the bed. John's journal and the nearly useless information he had retrieved from the library were sitting on top of the first aid kit, along with a couple of liters of holy water.

He was dressed for bed, seeing nothing wrong with being comfortable while waiting for a ghost that was out to kill your kids, and sat on the floor with his back against the boys' bed. He tugged a blanket around his shoulders, and waited.

It was maddening, this strange link between the spirit of a man who had killed children and a children's book. John supposed that the nightly incantation of goodnight, nobody had somehow summoned the judge's spirit, but the book had been written in 1947, before the judge had even been executed. He rubbed his face and grabbed the shotgun, breaking it open to check the loaded shells. Double checked the holy water, double checked his journal, open to a general banishing ritual, scanned his surroundings. Nothing to do but wait.

An hour had passed when John raised his head to see Sam standing in the doorway. He froze, staring at his son. "Is it nobody?" John whispered, the night still and expectant.

Sam, his face flushed with sleep, solemnly shook his head.

"Did you step over the salt lines?"

An equally solemn nod.

John held out an arm, gesturing to Sam. "Come here."

Sam came silently, snuggling down into his father's lap, John's arms cocooning him in the shared blanket.

"Who's nobody, Sam?"

"A mean guy." The voice was small, and matter-of-fact.

"Why does he come here?"

"We said good night to him."

Father and son were whispering, and the night surrounded them with a velvet sense of things that may be.

"How do we make him stop?" John not understanding why he was asking a four year old this, only knowing that somehow the thing was attracted to Sam, and Sam could see it. And seeing was its own sort of power, defining both that which was being seen and that which was looking.

Sam was silent for a moment, struggling with his answer. "Stop playing with him."

"What do you mean?"

"Dean doesn't play with the kids at school, 'cause they're mean, and after a while they quit bothering him."

John couldn't breathe suddenly, his heart clenched like a fist in his chest. Finally, after discarding several responses, John said, "So if we don't play with nobody, he'll leave us alone?"

Sam's thin shoulders rose in shrug. "I guess."

"Are you playing with him?"

Sam's hair swung with the vehemence of his answer. "No, sir. But maybe someone else is."

So that's how it was. John was faced with either digging up twelve graves, torching eleven sets of bones, or hunting down every copy of Goodnight Moon and torching them. "Maybe," he responded to Sam. "Now, you get back in bed. Watch the salt lines."

"'Kay." The boy stood and padded to the door.

"Sam. Did Dean tell you about the kids at school being mean?"

The boy turned back to his father. "Yeah."

"Did he tell you why?"

"Dean says they're mean 'cause their daddies can't protect them from ghosts and demons and stuff."

John felt his chest loosen, his heart still intact, though wounded. He nodded. "All right. Go get in bed."

The rest of the night was quiet, John waiting in vain for nobody.

Goodnight nobody

Goodnight mush

"Kerry blues." The old man's eyes were rheumy and wept constant tears; he did not look at John, staring out the window at the green hills in the distance.

John, who had been updating his journal while waiting for the old coot to talk to him, lifted his pen from the page, slowly looking up at the man across the room from him. His face was stoic, the brown eyes revealing nothing. "What?" The word came softly, John careful, not wanting to scare the old guy into silence again.

"Kerry blues. Brownie loved 'em. Kept a passel of 'em. Cobalt, Skye, Azure." The old man's forehead furrowed, and he cocked his head. "Can't remember the rest of 'em. Beautiful dogs."

"She liked dogs, huh?" John's tone was soft, the usual steel in his voice wrapped in cotton.

He was rewarded by a quick glance, the old man's eyes touching his face lightly. The room they were in was lit by afternoon sun, the afghan hanging on the back of the rocking chair Nathan Grady sat in vivid with color. "Yeah, took 'em with her wherever she went."

John had been in this room for close to an hour, trying to get the old man talking. Before that it had been the librarian, knowing her weakness for gossip, her glee at an opportunity to dish dirt. She had been the one to give him Nathan's name. The infamous judge's brother. John's patience was thin, and he was unsure of how long he could keep Grady's attention. He pushed, lightly. "Did she take them to the judge's house with her?"

Grady's skeletal hands tightened over the arms of the rocking chair, but he showed no other reaction at the mention of his homicidal brother. "Oh, yeah, and it was in Roger's study that she first said goodnight to nobody."

The great green room. John's breath stilled in his lungs, and he leaned forward slowly, his elbows on his knees. "Who's nobody, Nathan?"

Grady's knobby knuckles whitened with stress, gripping the rocking chair. "Didn't know at the time. Brownie found out, though, and took it back. But it was too late, Freddy was gone. Little Freddy, his father was on the force at the time." His old, pale eyes touched John's face again, like a frightened bird looking for cover. "But I know who it is now."

John did too, now, so there was no reason to add hurt on top of hurt. "What does nobody want now?"

"The boy." Nathan leaned back in his chair, his eyes going to the window again.

"Which boy?" John's heart waiting for the answer, waiting to see if it would beat again.

"He liked boys. Freddy was freckled, that's what we called him, Freckly Freddy, and he would cry. Roger liked it when they cried." The old man patted his own cheek, held his hands in his lap and knotted them together.

John's heart had stopped, but there was one more question. "You said Brownie took it back. How did she take it back, Nathan?"

"Standard poodles. She had a passel of 'em. Luna, Stella." Nathan frowned. "Can't remember the rest of 'em. Beautiful dogs."

"How did Brownie take it back, Nathan?" Steel in John's voice now, glinting sharply in the sunlit room.

"Freckly Freddy, burned in the sun so easily. Freckly Freddy." The tears on the old man's cheeks were copious, dripping off his chin and nose.

John was standing, the hollow feeling in his chest aching for one more heartbeat. "How'd she take it back?" That was nearly a yell, and there were footsteps coming down the hall toward them.

"Blond boys always burn so easily."

Ow, Daddy. The hair caught in the knot, colored like sun on snow.

"How did the bitch take it back?!?" And that was an honest-to-god shout, and John did not fault the orderly for grabbing his arm and pulling him toward the door.

"Mother forgave him, in the end." Nathan shouting now, half standing in the rocking chair, his eyes steady on John's face. "Do you hear? We all forgave him, in the end."

John pulled his arm free, pushed the orderly away, and strode down the hall, his boots echoing in the sterile atmosphere.

And goodnight to the old lady whispering "hush"

Digging, again. This time with the added threat of being caught, as the Grady family plot was near the front of the cemetery, not hidden in the back like those that had been unwanted even in death. John had just finished squaring the plot of land he would dig up, had begun loosening the turf, when headlights swept over the cemetery.

He ducked, dropped the shovel, and crab walked to the headstone for cover. The name on the headstone read Phillip R Grady, with the judge's birth date and death date. John watched the car drive slowly through the cemetery, surmised it was a groundskeeper or security checking the place out. He waited it out, and soon the shovel was biting into the turf.

In his dream, he had uncovered a child that (WAS) looked remarkably like Dean, down to the scattering of freckles across the nose. After leaving the care center, John had checked the newspaper archives, found a picture of the child that had just recently quit living, and had nearly cried out at the resemblance to his son. Green eyes, a smile snaggletoothed by a seven year old's penchant for loosing teeth.

Sammy had seen nobody, Sam had seen it and recognized it for what it was. Dean, for maybe the first time since his mother had died, had been blissfully unaware of what had been stalking him. But Sam … John thought again, of the power inherent in seeing things, of being defined by seeing things. And it was something that couldn't be taken back.

Soon the sod was pulled back, rolled and stacked neatly to the side. The bare expanse of dirt in front of John sent a frisson of dread up his spine and into his head. He gritted his teeth, pulled on a pair of gloves, and began to dig.

We all forgave him, in the end.

Forgiveness was for blood. John wasn't blood. The judge's remnants in the cracked open casket seemed pitiful and hideous at once. John glanced up, at the spirit hovering next to its headstone. "Brownie's not here to take it back." It was the first time he had ever spoken to one of the things he hunted. "But I am. I'm taking it back." Fire at his fingertips, arcing through the air to burst into flame among the gasoline-soaked bones.

Goodnight stars

Goodnight air

They moved not long after that, when the weather was still good and Dean's teachers wouldn't give him shit for taking the boy out of class so far into the school year. Sammy was upset, angry at the sudden change, sucking his fingers in a tantrum in the back seat of the Chevy. Dean was silent, green eyes seeing everything, storing away the emotion in Sam's face, in his father's jerky movements as they loaded the car.

John was sitting on the curb next to the car, taking a breather from the battle with his kids. He looked up at the windows of their apartment, seeing again the dirt-encrusted sills, the absolute impropriety of where they had been living. It had seemed so easy, four years ago, to leave Missouri's and vow to destroy the monster that had killed Mary. Like a special ops mission; drop in, find the enemy, neutralize it, and return to base.

It was just now dawning on John that maybe there wouldn't be a return to base. In the back of his mind, these past years, he had thought normal and school and white picket fence. After the thing that killed Mary was gone. After. Deliberately, he shredded those thoughts, leaving a big blank hollow where all his dreams of after had been.

Evil had touched his kids, here. Sam had seen it; Dean had been its target. There was no after, now. Now there was only moving, and training and showing his sons what was out there.

John stood, absently brushed dirt from the seat of his pants, and went to the open back window of the Impala, where his sons waited. Sam sucked his fingers in open rebellion; Dean ducked his head away from his father's gaze, down to the book in his lap. "Sorry, guys," John said softly. "We've got to go.

At that, Sam opened his mouth and began to cry. John turned away, opened his door and slid behind the wheel. From the back seat came Dean's soft voice. "Its okay, Sammy. Let me read you this book."

John started the engine and pulled away, wondering idly how one would go about killing bofas.

Goodnight noises everywhere