Title - A Father's Sons

Summary - The best thing a father could hope for is that his sons are alive, healthy, and happy.

"A Father's Sons"

John Winchester had seen a lot of things, been through a hell of a lot, lost a lot of people in his life, but the most damaging event of his life after losing Mary was losing Sammy. While growing up, the boy always had a smile planted on his face, an energy that drove John up the wall at times. Sam used to talk a thousand words a minute, rarely breathing in between sentences. He was curious, always asking questions and doubting why they were making the moves they were making. The kid was smart, too smart to be John's son. Nothing could get pass his son, he could smell a lie a mile away.

"Dad?"

John turned his head, his jaw tightening. Dean stood beside him with a lost puppy dog look on his face that looked so foreign as it was usually Sam who had that look plastered across his face. He was helpless without Sam. Since he was four, Dean's very existence was to protect and take care of his brother. Now with Sammy gone, Dean didn't know what to do with himself. The world looked different now for both Dean and John, depopulated in their eyes. It had been the three Winchesters since Mary died. Now, they were following apart. Sam leaving the way he had. Didn't he know that he couldn't survive without them? Didn't he know that the only reason he was still living was because of Dean? Didn't he understand that Dean had protected him, kept him from harm's way? Dean was always the one getting hurt because he always dove in front of his baby brother to save him, to make sure that he didn't get a scratch on him.

"Dad, I don't think you should be drinking anymore," Dean spoke quietly. "The last thing that we need right now is to rush you to the hospital to get your stomach pumped."

He's one to talk, John thought bitterly. He knew Dean had been out drinking by the way the alcohol danced on his breath. He was always one who could hold his liquor well, so who knew how drunk his eldest really was? John knew one thing; Dean was devastated when Sam walked out that door nearly eight hours previous. He went after him. John could hear the two arguing. After a good ten minutes, the two got into the Impala and drove away. For a split second, John thought that perhaps he lost both of his boys. So he started drinking to ease the pain. First Mary and then his boys? He couldn't deal with that.

"I drove Sam to a bus stop a good three towns away," announced Dean as he grabbed the beer from his father's hand, tugging it, "and gave him a good thousand to hold him over for awhile."

"Where you get the money?" John slurred. He wasn't one who held his liquor very well.

"Pool hustling and gambling. It was my money so don't worry about it."

"I pay you back," said John as tears burned his eyes.

"It's fine, Dad. Now, come on. Let's get you in bed."

Dean dragged his father out of the chair he was slouched in and maneuvered the man through the small living room which was cluttered in beer cans. Dean swaggered under the weight of his father and the alcohol that consumed his system. Even at his lowest, Dean took care of his family. Sammy may be gone, unable to care for, but his father needed him now more than ever. Taking care of his brother and dad was what Dean was best at, something that he'd always done. It was natural for him to do so.

John was plopped down on the lumpy bed. There was no way that he could sleep. He was too busy worrying about Sam. What if he didn't make it to California? What if he was mugged? What would he do if he ran out of money? What if something supernatural attacked him? Did he take any weapons? Did he have salt? That damn kid better have taken some salt with him at the very least.

"I'm gonna go clean up, okay?" Dean whispered as he pulled a blanket on top of his father. "Try to get some sleep."

"Dean?" John called as he reached out a hand. "Dean?"

Reaching out a hand, Dean grasped his father's hand into his. He forced a smile on his lips and told his dad that everything was going to be okay, that Sammy was going to be okay. Dean's mind was buzzing, his heart numb from the pain of losing his brother. He knew deep down inside that he hadn't really lost Sam, that he had only went away to college. Somehow, it felt as though Sam had died. He'd left them for something better than a life of hunting. Was his childhood really that bad? Had he really done that bad of a job raising his kid brother?

"We're going to Stanford…"

"Dad, we can't drag Sam back with us," Dean reasoned as a lump formed in his throat. "He'll hate us, and we'll lose him forever."

"But he'll be safe."

"We can't, Dad."

"We're a gonna give him supplies then."

"Sure. We can do that."

A week later, John and Dean decided it was time to drop a few things off with Sam before taking their first hunting job with the smallest Winchester in tow. They packed up what little belongings they had and threw them into the Impala. John allowed Dean to drive because a millions thoughts were clouding his mind. He couldn't concentrate, and he certainly didn't want to crash the car. Dean loved the Impala; perhaps it was time to give to his eldest. He could sure use a new car. He didn't think he could deal with driving the car anymore. He could picture Dean and Sammy sitting in the back playing together, joking, talking, driving him crazy with their pranks and arguments… now it was only Dean. Sam was gone.
It seemed to take forever to get to Palo Alto. As soon as Dean drove into the city limits, John immediately hated the place. So this was the place that stole his son? He wished he could salt and burn the whole damn place. Hell, even if he could just burn down Stanford he might feel a little better. He looked over at Dean to see a scowl on the boy's face. No doubt that he wanted the whole place to disappear as well.

"What do you know about this place? Anything supernatural happening here?"

"Not really. I mean, this isn't Ohio University or anything, so at least Sammy didn't pick a notorious haunted campus."

"How'd he even get a full ride anyways?" questioned John with bitterness lacing every word.

"Well, Sammy said that since you don't have an official paying job, that financial aid stepped in. He said he got grants from the school and did essay scholarships… stuff like that."

"Find out where he's living?"

"Said he was going to rent an apartment until the semester starts. Then he's living on campus in a dorm."

"Track down which apartment?"

"Dude, do you take me as an amateur?" Dean inquired slightly offended. "I've been keeping tabs of the kid, don't worry."

"And I've been keeping tabs on the area. Anything supernatural happens here, I'll be sure to know."

"How're you pulling that one off?"

"I have a hunter… friend who knows this kid who's good at tracking patterns."

Dean pulled off the road, across the street from an apartment building. Both Winchesters look up at it. Dean sighed, gripping the steering wheel. John's throat seemed to close, a wave of emotions washing through him.

"You take the stuff in. There's a knife, a gun, a lot of salt, a lot of bullets in the box. Give him the money too." John reached into his coat and pulled out an envelope stuffed full of money. "Five thousand… that should tide him over."

"Dad, what if he doesn't want any of this stuff? What if he doesn't want our help?"

"You don't leave until he takes it, you understand me?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Make sure he keeps this."

John pulled out a cell phone from his pocket and handed it to his son. He then turned away, looking out his window at a small coffee shop. Dean sat there, unsure of what to say. After getting out of the car, Dean opened the back door and threw the cell phone and the money into a box that held all the supplies they were giving Sam. Grabbing the box, Dean made his way across the street unsure of what he was going to say to his brother. The fight that had transpired was still fresh in his mind. He said things to Sam he didn't mean… hell, they'd all said things to each other that they didn't mean.

He couldn't remember everything that was said, especially the end of the fight. Dean was too shocked at first to process what was being said. The end of the fight was one hell of a fight, the worst fight in Winchester history. Sam always picked a fight with their dad but never had the two gone at it quite like that.

"You're a coward," John said in a painful voice. "You wanna pack up and go to college, then go. But if you walk out that door, you had better stay gone! I don't want to see your ungrateful face again, you hear me, Samuel?"

"I hate you so much, you know that?" retorted Sam with tears burning in his eyes. "This whole crusade of yours has been for nothing. It's all pointless. You've ruined your children's lives hunting the thing that killed Mom, except you're never going to find it! No matter how many people you save, Mom will still be dead and she's not coming back."

"How dare you talk about your mother like that? Do you have no respect for her?"

"No, I respect Mom. I just don't respect you. You're a horrible father who cared more about hunting than your own sons. Dean's been more of a father to me than you ever have. You never gave a shit about us being happy!"

"Don't you even dare drag me into this, Sam!"

"What, Dean? You honestly think Dad did a bang up job raising us? Oh wait, he didn't raise us! He was always dropping us off with Pastor Jim or Caleb. He couldn't be bothered to take care of us. He had to hunt! Then when you were old enough, he'd lock us up in some crappy motel room!"

"Just leave. I don't have to listen to this. I did everything I did for you and Dean. To protect you two. Dean understands that, but you're too selfish to."

"Why did I even think for a second that you would understand? You didn't even graduate high school let along go to college."

Dean found himself outside of Sam's apartment, at least the apartment where Sam said he was staying. Bringing up a hand, he knocked on the door. Nothing. He knocked again. Nothing. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a lock pick. Looking both ways to make sure no one was watching Dean picked the lock. He heard a click, and he knew he was in business. Opening the door, he took a look around the crappy apartment. It was basically falling apart. The walls were cracked, the hardwood floors stained. There was barely any furniture except broken pieces here and there.

"Sammy," Dean whispered as he made his way in.

He walked over to the coffee table to see an assortment of mail. Reaching down, Dean quickly went through it just to make sure he had the right apartment. Sure enough, official Stanford envelopes were there addressed to Samuel Winchester. Next to the mail were the classifieds with several jobs circled. Dean took a seat on the decrepit-looking futon and picked up the paper.

Waiter. Host. Construction worker. Busboy. Museum tour guide. Tutor. Janitor. So his brother was looking for work? A small smile crossed his face. He could picture Sammy giving tours in some old museum, spreading his useless knowledge to everyone. He could even picture Sam as some tutor to summer school kids. They'd sure give him a run for his money.

Sighing, Dean got to work. First, he salted every entrance to the apartment making sure his salt lines were perfect. Next, he put the wad of money into a dresser filled with clothes. He didn't trust it not to get stolen in a dump like this. He put the box with the weapons on the coffee table, sealing it shut from peering eyes. Dean then looked at the cell phone, making sure that Sam had all the necessary numbers. His dad had already saved Dean's, Bobby's, Caleb's, and Pastor Jim's numbers into the phone. Conveniently, John had failed to enter his own number into the directory. Dean quickly added it just in case. Satisfied, he sat the phone down on top of the newspaper.

Looking around the small apartment one last time, Dean's gaze landed on a pile of college textbooks and notebooks. They looked like pretty hard courses: philosophy, psychology, calculus, physics, theology, criminal justice, government and politics… hell, none of them were classes Dean would ever take in a million years. Opening up a notebook, he tore out a piece of paper and opened a pack of pens Sam had bought. Dean knew he had to leave a note, say something, but the words weren't coming. What the hell could he say to his little brother who abandoned his family? To a brother who had so blatantly hurt their father? A brother who had hurt him? Taking a deep breath, Dean wrote:

'Sammy,

'You left pretty quickly last week, so I wanted to make sure you at least had the proper equipment while at college. Look, I know we all said things we didn't mean that night. You and Dad have always been at each other throats since you were a teen, but it really got out of hand last week, you know? We're worried about you out here all by yourself. Take care of yourself. If you need anything, don't hesitate to give me a call. You know I'll be out here as fast as I can.

' - Dean'

The note looked fake. How could he just leave a note like that and leave? There were a thousand things Dean wanted to say to his brother and maybe it was a good thing that Sam wasn't there to hear them. There would sure be one hell of a fight if Sam were there. Sighing again, Dean taped the note onto the box and left. There was nothing else he could do or say in a note.

Wordlessly, Dean got into the Impala and started to drive. John looked over at his son, curious to know how it went but didn't say a word. They drove in silence until they passed the California state line.

"What happened?" John broke the silence.

"Wasn't there. Left the stuff with a note."

"Where would he be?"

"Probably working. He had a whole bunch of jobs highlighted in the newspaper."

They lapsed into silence again. It was the only time that that Dean could remember where he was actually uncomfortable in his father's presence. Both of them were grieving the loss of Sam, neither of them knowing what exactly to say to the other. There was an unwritten rule about the Winchesters, the simple 'don't ask, don't tell' defense mechanism. They were a family of all men who didn't bother with the wishy-washy, chick flick crap. So when John turned to his oldest with tears threatening to fall, Dean knew that his father wanted to talk to him about something - something that was defiantly going to make him uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry," he started.

"Dad…"

"Sam was right. Somewhere along the way, I stopped treating you two like my sons. I just… after Mary… I couldn't lose you and Sammy too. You were all I had left. I screwed up though. I drove Sammy away, and I put too much responsibility on your shoulders."

"Dad, you didn't drive Sam away. He just... Sam's not like us. He wants that normal life, that white-picket fence, happily ever after crap," Dean started as he shifted in his seat, his hands clenching the wheel tightly. "And you didn't put too much responsibly on my shoulders. You didn't force me to take care of Sammy or anything like that. I mean, he's my little brother so I wanted to take care of him. He's always been my responsibility and always will be whether you ask me to protect him or not."

"I should have been there for you boys more."

"You were protecting us, Dad. We're alive and healthy and pretty happy considering everything. That's the best a father could hope for, right? To see his kids healthy and on the verge of being happy. I know letting Sammy go was hard on both of us, but this is what he wants. This is what will make him happy. You and me, Dad, we're happy hunting, happy knowing that we're kicking some demon ass, that we're saving peoples lives. Sammy's not going to stay mad forever. Let's just let things call down and convince him to at least spend the summers with us."

"That is if he doesn't die out there by himself."

"Dad, don't be so pessimistic."

"After everything I've seen, how can I not be? Sam's back there in California without his family to protect him. If anything happens to Sammy… God, Dean, I couldn't take it. You boys mean the world to me. I can't lose either one of you."

"I'm not going anywhere, Dad," Dean's voice broke slightly, "and we'll keep a good eye on Sammy until he comes around."

"What if he never comes 'round?"

"He will. Trust me."

Meanwhile, back in Palo Alto, Sam stuffed the key into the lock of his apartment and went inside to see a box sitting on his coffee table. Walking over, he noticed that it was a care package from his brother. Tearing off the tape, Sam sighed in relief at the contents. He hadn't slept in a week, too worried about not having the proper protection. Every noise at night made him jump. He didn't have the comfort of Dean in the next bed over or his father in the other room keeping an eye on the place.

His eyes wondered over towards the cell phone. Picking it up, he quickly looked at the number directory: Bobby, Caleb, Dad, Dean, Pastor Jim. Sam's gaze lingered on his brother's name, the familiar number itching to be called. Before he could hit send, Sam snapped the phone shut as tears burned his eyes.

He wanted to be at college, have a normal life but it killed him inside not to be with his brother. His brother was the only one he could open up to, the only one he felt completely comfortable talking about anything with. Even though Dean hated talking about feelings and all that wishy-washy crap, he was always there for Sam when he needed it the most. He would make a joke, sometimes call him a girl, but in the end would sit with his brother and listen intently. He would try to offer the best advice he could. It didn't matter if that advice was shitty, unusable; it was just nice that Dean would listen to him as though he was the only thing that mattered in the whole world. That's why it baffled Sam's mind why Dean couldn't understand why Stanford meant so much to him. His big brother helped him do everything, had always been there, but now he was absent.

"Dean, we'll always be best friends, right?"

Sam could remember the look that Dean gave him when he asked that question nearly a month previous. He had just gotten accepted into Stanford and was contemplating whether or not to go. He needed Dean's consent, his okay. If he didn't have his brother's blessing, then Sam didn't know if he could go through with the whole thing. Dean had always been there for Sam. It was Dean who took care of Sammy. Dean who taught his brother how to tie his shoes, ride a bike, throw a football, how to shave, learn to drive, and everything else that a father was supposed to show his son. Dean was the one Sam went to when he was hurt. A skinned knee, a cut, a bruise, Sam would run to Dean and ask to make it better. Dean would oblige with a band-aid and a kiss in the younger boy's mess of hair. When Sam had a problem with school, girls, friends, or hunting even, he'd go to Dean for advice and never to his father. It was Dean who would sit with Sammy at the kitchen table and help him with his math work, who helped him learn his lines for a school play. Dean was much more than just a brother to Sam, they were more than just best friends.

"Dude, you couldn't get rid of me if you tried."

"What if you got pissed at me for something?"

"Sammy, you do a lot of stupid stuff and I never could stay mad at you for more than a couple hours. Why're you getting all girly on me all of a sudden?"

"I love you, Dean. I can't even begin to... to thank you for everything you've done for me."

"What's wrong? Are you sick or something? You're talking like you're dying here, Sammy, and I don't know what to make of it."

"I did it…"

"Did what?"

"I got accepted."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I got accepted to Stanford, Dean. I want to go college, but I need you to tell me it's okay."

"College? What- what about hunting? Dad? Me?"

"I don't want to hunt anymore. I want a normal life."

"A normal life that doesn't involve me, huh?"

"Dean…"

"No, Sammy, you want my frickin' blessing for college? Forget it. I can't… I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because you're leaving, Sam! That's why!"

When Sam finally made up his mind to leave without his brother's good wishes, it made it all the more harder. Walking out that door, Sam couldn't help but think he was making the biggest mistake of his life. So when Dean came barreling out the front door, calling his kid brother's name, Sam was beyond shocked.

"This is what you want?"

"Yes."

"Going to college will make you happy?"

"Yeah."

"Would you keep in touch with me?"

"Of course."

"If you needed anything, money or food or anything, you'd call me?"

"Yeah. Yeah."

"If you had a problem, you'd still come to me, right? I mean, I could get to Stanford anytime you needed me."

"Dean, you'd be the only one I'd want to talk about a problem with."

"If you don't like it, you'll come back?"

"Dad said-"

"I don't care what Dad said. You don't like it, you're coming home right?"

"Promise."

"Let me drive you to a bus stop at least then. I don't want you hitchhiking."

Author's Notes - I hoped you enjoyed the short one-shot. I'm using speculation that John never graduated high school, but it was suggested in the series that he was a rifleman in Vietnam. High school graduates were almost always sent to aviation or communication schools, rather than combat arms. Don't forget to review.