Papers and books are scattered haphazardly across the passengers seat beside John Winchester. He has been searching for days to find a way to put an end to whatever is going on in this town, but he has yet to come up with anything.
People are still missing, still going missing, and he feels there is nothing he can do at this point. He has so many leads, yet it seems every one of them leads to some other answer and nothing is fitting together. It all just seems hopeless.
The ringing of his cell phone pulls him from his search, just adding to the anger boiling within him. He throws his book to the side with considerable force before grabbing his cell phone from his pocket and answering the call.
"What?" he asks harshly, not really caring who it is, just frustrated they have the nerve to bug him.
"Dad?" All his anger washes away in an instant at the sound of his eldest on the other line.
"Yeah, Dean. What's up?" His tone is soft and his words gentle as he addresses his son.
There's a pause and John can hear the squeaking of springs from the motel bed followed by a door closing. Somehow John figures this isn't just a friendly, "How you doing, Dad?" call. Something is wrong.
"It's Sammy, Dad." Dean's voice shakes with what John can only assume is fear and that has all of his fatherly instincts jumping into action.
"What happened? Is he okay? Where is he?" The questions roll off his tongue so quickly he can't even think about what he's asking.
"He's sick and I don't know what to do." The crack in the boys voice is lost on John, but the boy covers it up well. "He's in bed right now."
"When did this happen?" John turns the car on and quickly heads back to where he his boys have been staying alone for the last two weeks.
"It started as just a sore throat. I gave him some medicine for it but then it just got worse," Dean swallows, trying to keep himself as calm as he can. "He's had a fever the past two nights and I can't get it to break, Dad. It's really high right now and I really just don't know what else to do."
"I'm on my way back, Dean. Just keep a cold rag on his forehead but keep him warm. I'll be there soon, son." There was a soft whisper on the other line but John can only make out the good bye that follows and the click of the phone, signaling the end of the call.
By the time John reaches the motel it is dark. He pulls the key from his pocket and rushes into the motel without any warning to let his sons know it's him; he's in too much of a rush right now.
Sam lies in the bed, bundled up with both blankets, as Dean sits in the chair beside him, asleep. John feels himself smile quickly before his eyes fall on Sam again.
The shivering wracking his little boy's small frame is visible even through the many layers on top of him. His face seems so flushed and there is sweat running from the boy's forehead. The fever has broken but the boy still doesn't look well at all.
"Dean," John places a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder, and waits for his eyes to open. "Why don't you head to bed for a bit. I'll take this watch."
Dean is too tired to even question him. He stands from the chair and crawls into the other bed before turning to his father with a tired gaze.
"I'm sorry, Dad." Dean's eyes slip close again before John can answer.
"You did fine, son," he reassures the boy anyways. "Just fine."
Once he is sure his eldest is out for good he turns to the small boy in the other bed. He takes a seat on the edge of the bed and watches as Sam's eyes flutter open and close slowly, giving John a quick glance at how glassy his eyes really are.
"Hey, Sammy," John whispers softly. "How about waking up and giving your old man some company."
Sam tosses a bit, mumbling something incoherent. Placing a hand on each side of the little boy's head, John leans closer to his son and whispers softly.
"Sammy." He gently touches Sam's cheek, turning the boy's face toward him. "Wake up, buddy, please."
This time Sam's eyes flutter open and manage to stay open for more than a second at a time. John smiles, reaching for the glass of water Dean must have set on the bedside table and lifts Sam's head slowly before offering him a sip from the cup.
He can't hide the worry that runs through him from the heat that still radiates from his youngest son. The glassy look in his eyes and the deep cough the boy lets slip only adds to his fears.
"Daddy." Sam stares up at his father looking
more like he's five rather than eight.
John knows it's bad when Sam calls him "Daddy." The boy has grown up way too fast, just like Dean, and he hasn't called John daddy since he was four. Once in while when the boy is scared or hurt he still uses the term, but very rarely.
"How you feeling, kiddo?" It's a dumb question but he doesn't want his son picking up on his fear. "Dean says you're not feeling so hot?"
"Sometimes I feel hot," Sam answers with another cough following. "Then sometimes I feel cold."
"I think you've got a little fever there, buddy," John chuckles softly.
"Where's Dean, Daddy?" The kid's eyes dart from side to side and he tries to sit up in order to find his brother.
"He's resting," John smiles, pushing the little boy back down on the bed gently. "Even big brothers need rest sometimes."
Sam coughs again, this one lasting much longer than any of the previous fits he's had since John's been back. His eyes slip close again and he lets his head fall to the side before he's being shaken awake once more.
John leans over the boy's small frame again, waiting for his son's eyes to flutter open and meet his own. It takes a moment for Sam's eyes to adjust to the light once more but when they finally find John's dark eyes in the dark room he smiles.
Tiny arms wrestle their way out of the layers of blankets and wrap themselves around John's neck, pulling him even closer to his little boy. John lets his forehead rest against Sam's for a few moments before he wraps his own arms around his son and pulls him into his lap.
Sam's arms never fall from his father's neck as he buries himself into the man's chest and takes in the warmth. His breathing slows as John lets his own head rest on top the boy's, rocking him back and forth gently.
John gently brushes the hair back from his son's forehead; smiling to himself when he realizes his son's shivering has stopped. The sweat on the boy's brow is a sure sign the fever has broken, though still pretty high. Looking down at the little boy in his arms, John realizes his son is looking back at him.
"I'm sorry," Sam whispers.
"For what?" John stares down at the boy in confusion.
"For making you come back before you were done." The shine in the kid's eyes this time is obviously from tears, which he is fighting to hold back.
"Sammy," John smiles, holding his son even closer. "You're far more important that any hunt. I hope you never doubt that."
John realizes from the look in the boy's eyes that he hasn't done such a great job of making his priorities clear. His sons will always be his number one priority even if he has a hard time expressing it.
"I love you, Daddy," Sam buries his head into his father's chest and squeezes the man's neck more.
"I love you too, Sammy," John squeezes the boy back with a genuine smile. "I love you too."