Title: Everything Changes
Story type: wee!chesters
Summary: Set post-308, John returns home and has to face Sam, who stole his journal and now knows the truth about their life.
For minx999's challenge, prompt #38 – bargains, John's journal, breaking
A/N: I'd been toying with a 308 coda-type thing for quite awhile, but minx999 finally got me off my lazy butt and write it out, so this is totally dedicated to her! Also, I'm writing another one for a different set of prompts – this was supposed to be an unrelated fic, originally, and then turned into an actual challenge submission! Go figure.
John Winchester was absolutely furious on the four-hour drive back. Absolutely furious.
A hunt that should have taken him a day at most had ended up costing him two, plus a few cracked ribs to boot.
He'd left on the 23rd, meaning to be back at the latest late the 24th. It was a simple salt-and-burn – a ghost haunting an old house near the center of town. The ghost liked to lure young kids into the house and hang them, but it only showed up in the last few days of December, near Christmas. He'd figured it for an easy job.
And it would have been, if he'd had his journal with him. John's memory was solid, but when the one ghost in the house turned into three on the grounds, he hadn't been able to remember which members of the ghost's extended family had also died violent deaths.
It meant an entire morning knocked out while his ribs started healing, and the rest of the day spend digging in old archives and avoiding suspicious stares from the librarians.
He wouldn't have left his journal. It had been in his bag when he left, like it always was. Which meant that one of the boys had taken it. He had a sneaking suspicion he knew which one it was, even though his gut clenched at the thought.
Nine years of protecting Sammy from the truth of what they did, of trying to keep him untouched – as untouched as he could be after Mary's death – for a little while longer, and all of it would be for nothing if Sam had read that journal.
Sam had been eying the journal a lot more recently, asking more questions. Too smart at five, at nine it was almost annoying, how quickly he seemed to be able to pick up that the things John and Dean were telling him just didn't add up.
He pulled into the drive at about 10 in the morning, sighing deeply. He was not looking forward to this.
Both the boys were asleep when he went inside. Huddled up on the same bed, even, something that wasn't too common anymore. That didn't bode well, either.
John was careful to be quiet as he dropped his bag, but he paused when he noticed the couch. There were a couple of wrapped presents there, and one obviously unwrapped one that seemed to be a…baton? What the hell?
And on the bedside table sat his journal, its presence almost menacing. John actually avoided touching it until after he'd cranked the heat up and taken off his jacket.
He took it back to the couch and flicked through it, wondering what its contents must look like to 9-year-old eyes. There was no way Sam would write it off as anything but what it was – either proof that his father was crazy, or proof that John's day job wasn't exactly what they'd been telling him it was.
The blankets stirring brought his attention away from the journal. He hoped it was Dean, but knew instantly that it wasn't – that floppy hair belonged to Sam.
Sam rubbed across his eyes with one hand, then his eyes fell on John. The instant fury in them was familiar by now, and John stifled a sigh. He held up his journal.
"I trust this was your doing?"
"Yes." Sam didn't sound the least bit sorry; in fact he sounded almost triumphant. He untangled himself from his brother and the blankets, and walked to the couch. He didn't sit, though; he stood, back straight, head high. Gearing up for a battle, it looked like.
John honestly didn't know where to start. Should he yell at Sam for taking it first? Or explain what was in it? Would Sam even believe him?
Deciding, John said, "You read it, then?"
"Of course." Of course, John thought. Why take it if you're not going to read it?
"Either you're crazy or it's true. Which is it?" Sam said bluntly, sitting himself on the arm of the couch, arms resting on his legs. It seemed absurd that John was being interrogated by a nine-year-old in PJs, and even more absurd that he was feeling a bit intimidated.
"What do you think?"
"I think it must be true."
"Why do you think it's true? How do you know I'm not just crazy?" John asked curiously.
"Because Dean told me it's true." John snorted. Of course. Sam would fight John tooth and nail for everything, but if it came from Dean, there wasn't a problem.
John's thoughts were interrupted when Sam demanded, "Why didn't you tell me? That this is the reason we move all the time, that we're always living in motels? That Dean has to patch you up when you come home late at night from your trips?"
"Sam…I didn't want you to know yet. I wanted you to be able to be a kid, to not have to worry about me all the time."
"That's stupid! I worry all the time anyway! Only I was worrying about – about car accidents and somebody robbing you when I should have been worried about…" Sam's voice trailed off, hands clenched.
"About what?" John asked gently.
"About ghosts or werewolves or shapeshifters!" Sam burst out. "Why do you do this, Dad? Why can't you just work at a normal job like everyone else?"
"Because I'm not like everyone else, Sammy," John said gently, tugging Sam to the couch beside him. "There aren't a lot of people who know about the bad things out there, that can protect people from them. So I have to."
"But why?" Sam whispered, pressing his face into John's side. "Why does it have to be you? It's not fair for you to get hurt all the time, for Dean to have to worry and take care of me. It's not fair…that we don't have a mom."
John's throat clenched and his eyes burned, but his voice was steady when he answered, "Life's not always fair, kiddo. I hunt so that no one loses their mom, or their brother, or their dad."
"But what if they get you?" Sam was crying now, hands clenched in John's shirt. He still wouldn't look at John, so he pulled Sam into his lap, arms wrapped tight around his back.
"They won't," John said. "I've been doing this for a long time, Sammy. They won't get me." Not before I get the thing that took Mary away from us.
Sam didn't say anything after that; he cried himself out and then just hugged John tightly, breathing slightly shuttered. John rubbed his back and kissed the top of his head before he leaned Sam away from him.
"We have to talk about you taking my journal, Sammy," he said gently. Sam rubbed his eyes and nodded, looking at him seriously. "I really needed that on this hunt, Sammy. I had all my research in it, all my notes on the spirit I was hunting."
He hesitated briefly, debating on whether or not it would be too much too close to such a world-shattering revelation, but Sam had understand that hunting was dangerous, that people died doing it, that he could not play around with the tools of their trade.
"I got the house, and there wasn't just one ghost, there were three. And I didn't have my journal, so I didn't know who else was there, and I ended up getting hurting. I broke a couple of ribs. Then I had to spend a bunch more time researching because I had to start from scratch. That's why I wasn't here last night – I drove all night but I didn't make it back in time."
Sammy had gone very pale, and it made his eyes seem ten times bigger. "You…you got hurt…'cause of me?"
"No," John told him. "It probably would have happened anyway. But do you understand now, why I needed that? Why I always carry it with me?"
"You know what else is in there, right? You read it?"
"Yeah," Sam whispered. "There's lots of monsters in there. There were the pictures, and some medals. And – and some parts that I didn't read, 'cause they weren't about the monsters, they were about...after mom died." He bowed his head and his eyes disappeared. John smiled and titled his head back up.
"That's good, Sammy, that you respected my privacy. But you shouldn't have taken my journal at all, should you?"
"No, sir," Sam said, "But I'm not sorry I did."
I am, John thought. He stood Sammy up and sat straighter himself, all business again.
"You know what you did. You stole something very important to me. Come here," He gripped Sam's waist and pulled the boy over his lap, not planning on too hard a spanking on top of everything else, but needing to reinforce that Sam was to in no way, ever, steal his journal – or anything else – again. Especially not now that he knew.
Sammy squirmed and cast a pleading look over his shoulder, but sighed and slumped down when John raised an eyebrow. John swatted him lightly at first, letting Sam warm up, and then started in for real, knowing that Dean was probably going to wake up in the middle of it and wanting to get it over quick. Dean hated listening to his brother being punished.
"Ow, Dad!" Sam protested. "Oww, I'm sorry!"
John's spanks were solid on Sam's butt, and his voice was just as solid, cutting through the quiet room. "You will never, ever steal anything like that again, Sam!"
"I'm sorry!" Sam cried, one hand going to clench on John's thigh. "But you should have told me!" he suddenly burst out.
John paused, shocked, and lifted Sam up again. "What?"
"I shouldn't have had to find out from your journal! Dean shouldn't have had to tell me!"
"Are you saying it's my fault you stole my journal?" John asked incredulously.
"Yes! No! I don't know," Sam cried, looking as frustrated as John felt. John sighed, rubbing a hand over his face, and finally said,
"I wish you had found out from me. And maybe I should have told you sooner. But I just…wanted to protect you as long as possible."
"I know," Sam sighed, slumping against John. "I just…I knew you guys were lying to me all the time. I hate it. I'm not stupid, I knew."
"I know you're not stupid. But Sam, I'm your dad, you have to trust me to do what's best for you."
"And this was best for me? You lying all the time? Not knowing what was really going on, what could really happen?"
"Yes," John said. "At least when you were younger. Dean already knew, he knew something had killed his mom. But you…you didn't remember any of it. I wanted to spare you for as long as possible."
Sam looked at him hard for a minute and said, "I guess…I understand. But I don't like it."
John chuckled. "I know. You don't have to like it. But I'm your dad, which means it's my right to decide what you're old enough to know. And if you're old enough to know about hunting, you're old enough to know that stealing is wrong."
Sam gulped and muttered, "Yes, sir." John moved him back over his lap again, ready to get back to it now that Sam had expressed what was bothering him. His swats were swift and hard now, landing precisely on Sam's sit spot, and Sam immediately began yelping.
"I know, Sam," John said, moving his spanks farther down and then bringing them back up. "But hunting is dangerous, and every single tool that I have – including my journal – I need all of them. When I need something, it has to be there, not back here with you because you got curious."
John heard Dean shifting in the bed over the sound of his swats, and sped up, not spanking harder but rather alternating spots, wanting this to be over. He felt Sam's chest rising and falling erratically as his sobs got louder.
"I'm sorry," Sam sobbed, "Sorry, sorry…"
John eased up and finally stopped, rubbing Sam's back as he shuddered. Sam's hand was still clenched on his thigh. John finally lifted Sam back onto his lap, hearing Sam wince as his butt settled.
"'m sorry, Daddy," Sam said tiredly, arms going around John's neck. For a split second, John ached for both his boys to be three years old again, small enough to fit into his lap and shielded from the whole world.
"You're forgiven, remember?" John said gently, looking over at the pile of blankets on the bed. He could see Dean's eyes but nothing else, and gave him a lopsided smile. The eyes abruptly disappeared and John smiled; Dean was smart enough to realize that John needed some time with Sam, and just he always did, he was willing to suffer to give his brother what he needed.
Sam sat back on his own and reached out for the journal, regarding it and then his father.
"You read it already," John said, confused.
"I know but…I want you to tell me." Sam said, biting his lip nervously. John reached out slowly and took the journal from him, understanding.
"I'll make you a deal, okay buddy?" Sam eyed him suspiciously and John smothered a smile. His boys weren't stupid, that was for sure. "I'll tell you about what's in my journal, if you tell me what the heck those are." He indicated the presents on the floor and out of the corner of his eye saw the blankets give a violent jerk.
Sam regarded him with fox-bright eyes and said, "I'll make you a deal. I'll tell you what those are, if you promise no one gets spanked. 'Cause it's Christmas," he added quickly, seeing John's eyebrow rise.
"It's Christmas, and I still spanked you."
"You spanked me for something I did before Christmas," Sam reasoned. "This happened on Christmas."
John and Sam regarded each other for a few moments, then finally John said, "You drive a hard bargain, kid. But okay. Since it's Christmas."
Sam slumped in relief, and John saw a bit of Dean's head poke out from the blankets.
"Dean got them for me," Sam said finally. "From someone's house. I was upset, 'cause I thought you weren't gonna be here in time. He didn't want me to be mad at you. He told me they were from you, that you'd dropped them off while I was asleep."
John felt a mix of pride and alarm shoot through him. He wasn't surprised by the lengths Dean had gone through to protect John and keep Sam happy, but the thought of his kid out in the middle of the night stealing…
"But I knew they weren't from you," Sam went on.
"Well, 'cause you wouldn't drop them off and just leave. Also," Sam made an expression that Dean was started referring to as a 'bitchface,' "They were all girl presents."
John snorted before he could stop himself.
"I didn't know!" the blankets protested, and everyone froze. Sam turned to look at the bed, but the blankets didn't move, so Sam rolled his eyes and crawled off the couch to jump on them.
"Hey!" Dean yelped. "What the h- heck, you shrimp!"
"Eavesdropper!" Sam accused, wrestling so that he was on top and sticking his tongue out.
Dean scowled. "Well, you were cryin' so loud a guy couldn't get any sleep!"
"Shut up, jerk!"
"You shut up!"
The boys dissolved into a giant ball of blankets and limbs and John sighed and rolled his eyes. He slipped out to his car and opened the trunk, stacking the few presents he'd gotten each boy and taking them back inside.
The boys seemed to be trying to free themselves from the blanket now, but the boy froze when they saw the presents in John's arms. John piled them on the coffee table and said,
"Presents after lunch. I'm starving. Anyone else hungry?"
"I am!" both boys said, free of the blankets. They followed John into the kitchen and helped him make it, chattering all the while. John could almost believe that Sam still didn't know, that the foundation on which he'd been building their lives hadn't just fractured and rebuilt itself.
John spent Christmas day eating lunch with his boys while he went over everything in his journal, Dean adding tidbits of story where he could. Sam listened to it all with rapt attention, the same way he read the books his schools assigned him, and fired back questions that sometimes had John stumped.
By the end of the day, the boys' new presents stacked on the table and tucked into bags, John was feeling a whole lot better than he had that morning.
It wasn't as bad as he'd thought. In fact, Sam seemed to have a knack for details, a mind for remembering the creatures he'd read about in John's journal. With a little training, he'd be a real asset to his father and, when the time really came, to his brother.
John had known it. Both his boys were meant to be hunters.
He just had to start training them.
How was it? There wasn't any actual breaking, but I heard the sound of Sammy's innocence shatter in 308, so I figured it worked! ;)