Beta: Kokoda2007 - Thank you so much for all your help with this, there are now words to tell you what a great job you did. You gave me guidance, and pushed me to continue when I was at a total standstill. You are the bestest!!
Authors Note: Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed this story. It started out as a one shot, then took on a life all it's own. You guys rock!!
It could be Different
John Winchester eased his tired body down on the rough bedspread, leaning his back and shoulders up against the headrest. The sun was easing through the threadbare curtains as the darkness rolled away to bring on a new day. It had been a long night. He tugged the cup of lukewarm coffee to his lips as he gazed at his sleeping sons. How had it come to this? All he ever wanted was for his boy's to be safe. Once again, he had let his obsession drive his reckless behavior. He mentally scolded himself. "He had botched that up for the last sixteen and a half years…why would this time be any different?" He swallowed hard against the knot rising in his throat. The problem wasn't with his sons', the problem was with him. He dug his fingers into his eye sockets, and rubbed back the dampness that was rising against his lids. His obsessive need to avenge his wife's death had become all consuming, taken over his life. In his blind rage, he had forced his sons to become a part of it. He sucked down another gulp of cold coffee, and grimaced. He wasn't sure if it was the bad coffee, or the intense hatred he felt for himself that caused the frown to decorate his face. He knew, in his heart, it was too late for him to change, but it wasn't too late for his boys.
They had been resting a couple of hours, and John knew it was time to wake Dean again, make sure he was recovering from his abrupt meeting with the headstone. His oldest was adamant that he didn't have a concussion, but, John knew better. Concussions were nothing to play around with. His eldest had a way of deflecting attention from himself to his kid brother, something he had been doing since the day Sammy was born. This time was no exception. Dean…when had his son became a better father than he was? He shook his own head in amazement as he watched his oldest boy sleep. He had done something right….
Light murmuring on the far side of the room drew John's attention and his eyes darted over to rest on his youngest. Sammy moved among the blankets, weak hand fumbling around then pushing all of them promptly to a mound on the floor. He watched as his teenage son curled snuggly against his older sibling and slept on. John smiled. He stood slowly and sat his coffee to the nightstand, moving around to his sleeping boy. He reached the blankets from the floor and tossed them back over Sam. He eased down to sit against the bed. He gazed at Sam's flushed face and ran gruff fingers through his boy's damp bangs. He feels cooler, that's good. He was angry with himself for not listening to Dean with regards to Sam and hunting. He had pushed his youngest to help, and now he realized that Sam was still recovering from his car wreck, his broken arm, collapsed lung, and learning how to talk all over again. What the hell was wrong with him? He could be such an idiot sometimes. God knows Sam had been through enough, still needing time to recover. He shuffled back around the bed, his large hand coming to rest against Dean's shoulder, giving him a light shake.
"Dean? Wake up son, look at me." He whispered his voice low and weary.
"Huh?" Dean's eyelids flitted open and he blinked groggily at his Dad.
"Okay, you can go back to sleep now." John gripped his tired son's shoulder tightly, and then released it as he tugged the blanket back up across Dean's chest.
"Gee thanks," Dean quirked sleepily, as his head rolled against the pillow.
Okay, he was feeling better. John sat back against his own bed with a sneer.
Dean's eyes remained open as he glowered around the dimly lit motel room. His head fell downward to stare at the lump leaning up against his body. "How's Sam?" he questioned.
"He's fevers down. I think he just did too much."
"No shit…" Dean murmured, as his eyes slowly slid shut.
John's lips curled up and he eased back against the headrest. "You know, you were right son…I admit it, Sam needs more time to recover."
Dean tilted his head toward his Dad, large eyes roaming, and then resting on John's face.
"Holy crap, I can't believe it, did you just admit I was right?" Dean chuckled lightly, as a sharp pain pierced through his concussed head. He winced and brought his hand up to rub a small circle against his own temple. He slowly eased back down resting his forearm across his fatigued eyelids.
"Headache? Serves you right…smart ass." John smirked and shimmed further down on the squeaky mattress.
Dean's arm never moved as his lips curled up in a contented smirk.
"Go back to sleep." John scoffed as he punched at the flat pillow and eased his head down further against it. "I set my watch alarm for noon; we'll see how everyone is doing then."
John listened to Dean's breath evening out in sleep. He smiled silently to himself as he drifted off into nothingness.
The sound of retching tugged John's tired mind from his slumber, and he scrubbed his sluggish hand over his weary face. Someone was getting sick in the bathroom. He let his eyes dash toward the bed next to him. No Dean? He flung his stiff legs from the mattress, his socked feet scuffing against the shaggy carpet as he half stumbled toward the bathroom door.
"Dean?" His flat hand pounded lightly against the door as his eyes traveled back to his youngest; a brown mop top head stuck beneath a large mound of blankets, oblivious to what was going on. "Son, are you okay in there?" He waited; let his eyes fall to his watch. 9:35 a.m. He sighed and leaned his forehead against the chipped wooden door. Five more seconds and he was going in. He heard the toilet flush and water running in the sink. "Dean?"
Suddenly, the door swung open, Dean swaying slightly with the motion. John's body fell forward as his prop was removed and he flung his hand up to brace himself against the doorframe. The pale, slightly green face of his oldest son blinked blankly in front of him.
"I got sick." Dean offered flatly, as he leaned his blond head into his father's shoulder for a second, and then pushed past him and trudged heavily back toward the bed.
John's hand reached over to Dean's elbow and helped him ease back down on the mattress.
"Drugs?" Dean whispered weakly as his eyes queried at his Dad.
"Sure." John said gently, as he reached to the nightstand and popped the top off the pain meds, nudging lightly at Dean's hand. "Here you go." He handed his shaky boy a glass of tepid water from the night before and two pills, then watched as he washed the pills down with one large gulp, sat the half full glass to the nightstand, and closed his eyes, slumping limply against the pillow.
"Sammy?" Dean squinted back up at his Dad and then turned his head slowly to face his brother. "Jesus, Sammy, you under there somewhere?" Dean snarled as his weak hand moved blankets and sheets around trying to locate Sam beneath the excessive covers.
John moved around to the opposite side of the bed, gawking downward, his eyes roving the blankets for his youngest face.
Sam's flushed cheeks finally appeared from beneath the heap of covers, as Dean tugged the last of them from his brother's head. His sluggish eyes batted up at his Dad, then, his head bowed, cheek resting against Dean's shoulder blade, looking fuzzily at his brother.
"D…e…a.., s...stop it." Sam garbled as his fingers clutched the blankets from beneath Dean's hand and tugged them back against him. Dean's palm ghosted lightly over Sam's forehead and a frown decorated his own weary face.
"Still got a fever, Dad." Dean whispered, eyes clearing momentarily. He pushed his fingers slowly through Sam's long hair, letting it fall wildly back against the kids face. His brother's eyes fluttered closed. Dean pulled his hand down and let it rest on Sammy's arm, thumb rubbing gently across his brother's wrist.
"Hey Sam, how you feeling?" John leaned down closer to the mass of covers and hauled the blankets back, looking through the long hair at Sam's features.
Sam's feverish eyes rolled back open and he whimpered, then pulled away from his Dad's face. John placed his stern hand against Sam's forehead holding him steady and still against the pillow. Sam's eyes focused in on his Dad.
"Okay kiddo, you need some more tylenol." John's stern voice reached Sam's ears and he nodded slightly. "Yes..s…sir."
John took the Tylenol bottle from Dean's shaky fingers and palmed two out. He lifted them up and urged them past his son's pale lips. He took the glass of water from Dean's hand and lifted it to Sam's mouth.
Sam blinked at his Dad as he felt the cool liquid running down his throat. That was good. He gulped down the remaining fluid greedily, slurping when he reached the bottom of the glass.
"Don't let him have too much", Dean offered, as he laid his aching head back against the bed. "He throws up easily."
"Well dah..." John pulled the empty glass from his teenage son's lips, Sam's hand fumbling to grab a hold of it as it moved. "Nope, that's enough Sammy." John's large hand pushed his feverish son back to the bed, and tugged up the blankets around him.
Sam's head snuggled against Dean's neck, his eyes roaming slowly up to his brother's face, glazed orbs squinting at Dean. His lashes fluttered against his brother's cheek, and then his eyes drifted closed.
John shuffled from the Impala, several to go bags clutched tightly against his chest. The coke and ginger ale cups dangled from his fingers, room key clinched tightly between his teeth. He reached the motel door, and eyeballed the doorknob wishfully. He balanced the bags against his leg and shoved the key into the lock, fumbling momentarily, and then swinging the door open with his foot. He slung the bags to the rickety table and looked at the beds, Dean still resting quietly, cool rag across his forehead. His son had a bad concussion, and it was going to take a few days for him to get back on his feet.
John could hear the shower running and the mass of blankets on the floor indicated that Sammy had woken while he was gone. He eased out of his jacket and shoveled the take out food from the bags to the table. It was now dusk, and he should probably wake Dean to eat, but he knew his son needed the rest. He mulled it over for a second, and then placed his burger and fries back in the bag and stuck it in the microwave. One of the two conveniences this grungy motel offered, microwave and coffee pot. He blew on his cup of coffee as he eased himself down in the chair, and pulled the paper from around his burger. His eyes scurried up when he heard the bathroom door open and Sam appeared in a mass of steaming vapor, wet hair adorning his face, damp tee shirt and sweats sticking to his freshly showered body. He looks seven, not seventeen.
"Hey Sam," John muffled through a mouth of burger.
Sam gazed at his father, his hands trembling lightly as he stuffed his dirty clothes back into his duffle, pushing the bag to the carpet at his feet.
"I got you a soup and salad." John smiled at the surprised look that adorned his shaky son's face when he turned from the duffle bag. Sam needs more time to rest, to recover from his injuries. John realized more than ever, his boy needed support from his family, his brother, and from him .
Sam eased over and flopped in the chair across from his Dad, fingers reaching for the soup and salad.
"That's your ginger ale." He watched as his son opened the steaming soup and pulled the spoon from the bag. "So, how you feeling?"
Sam's eyes rose to meet his Dad's, he seemed to hesitate, and then stuttered, "B...b...etter."
"Good, good. You had me worried there…." John's voice trailed off uncomfortably as he stuffed the rest of the burger in his mouth, and washed it down with the brisk coffee. "Did Dean wake up while I was gone?"
"Y...Y...yes…f...for...a m...minute." Sam fumbled with the words and he laid the spoon to the table. He looked uncomfortably down at the floor. His face scrunched up in hard concentration as he tugged it back up to look at his Dad. "He's sleepin'."
My boy's embarrassed, thinks I don't realize how hard this is for him. John looked keenly at his son. "You got your flash cards?" He grinned.
Sam eased backward in his chair, eyes staring brightly at his Dad.
"Well?" John slurped down the rest of his coffee and held his hand out in a 'give me' motion. "Giv'um here, I'll help you practice."
"Th..thats okay, you..you don't hav..have to." Sam whispered in a nervous fluster.
"Sam, let me help you." John glared gently at his son, heart beating loudly in his own chest. Come on Sam; let me make this up to you, let me help you.
A warm smile eased up on Sam's face as his tense body relaxed, he stood, reaching back into his duffle and pulled out the flashcards. He dropped them hesitantly into his Dad's waiting fingers.
John held up the first card, and grinned at his boy. "Okay, what's this one?"
Sam rolled his large eyes at his father, "My name is Sam." He giggled lightly and grinned at his Dad.
John chuckled and flipped to the next card, intent on helping his boy as much, and for as long, as he needed it.
Dean heard the rustling of paper bags; he smelt the aroma of greasy hamburgers. Food? His stomach grumbled. He could open his eyes and look, but he wasn't quite ready to pull himself from his slumber. His stomach was still a little queasy . His headache had eased to a dull throbbing, the cool rag his father placed on his forehead helped immensely. He listened as his little brother opened the bathroom door; the clean smell of steam assaulted his senses. He heard his father's garbled greeting to Sam. Better wake up and eat now, it might make him feel better. He was about to ease himself up when he heard the light conversation between his Dad and brother. He stopped his movements, and held his breath with each word. He listened as his father made the effort to be there for his brother, to help Sam. Way to go Dad. He heard Sam's nervous attempt to shrug his Dad off, then the relief in his brother's tone when he finally accepted his Dad's gesture. He listened attentively as they started reviewing the flashcards that Sam had not used in well over a week. His eyes never opened. He relaxed with their muffled voices and yawned. He didn't want to intrude on Dad's time with Sammy. He snuggled tighter into the pillow, their voices dimming into the background as exhaustion began to pull him under. He let their words roll over him; soothing him. He faintly heard Sam's giggles, and smiled, as he drifted back toward sleep. Maybe everything would be okay.