Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters belong to Kripke and the CW. No copyright infringement intended.
Note: Okay, so this has been a long time in coming. I've gotten some really great feedback for You Okay? and some have asked if I was going to write more about Dean and his migraines. This is the sequel to You Okay?. Well, not some much a sequel as a bridge to the third part in the series, I'm Fine.
Note #2: This was extremely hard to write and it might also be a little hard to read. Not much talking goes on in the first chapter. I do promise, though, that the second chapter contains lots of talking, possibly some yelling, and maybe the occasional pounding of fists. If you can indulge me by reading this first chapter, it'll be all worth it in the end (I hope).
As always, feedback is appreciated. Thanks for your continued support.
Dean was driving, eyes intent on the road. The radio was on, but it was too low to hear it. John thought that was unusual. He knew his son liked noise, whether it be rock anthems blaring from the car speakers or raucous-filled bars, it was what helped Dean drown out the thoughts in his head. The particular thoughts he was having these days were probably heavier than most. John was sure of that. He should know. They were the same thoughts in his head, too, and neither dared speak them aloud.
John reached forward and turned up the volume. For Whom the Bell Tolls chased away the silence, the underlying thump of Cliff Burton's bass causing a slight vibration in the Impala's frame.
That ought to help, John thought with some satisfaction. Music had always been an outlet for Dean and Metallica was one of his favorite groups.
Dean didn't say anything, didn't even flick a glance in John's direction. Where he would normally be tapping along with the beat, his fingers were still. In fact, all of him seemed to be still, unnaturally so.
John sighed, disappointed.
Three weeks since his return from California, and Dean still hadn't said much of anything. Sure, he answered direct questions, but his responses were always short and monosyllabic. John was pretty sure he should be grateful that Dean hadn't gone completely silent like he'd done when Mary died. A quiet Dean was unnerving and John had a hard time dealing with that. Sam had always been the one who could get through to his brother. He had made it look so easy.
Not for the first time John ached for the presence of his youngest son. He missed him. Dean, though, was the one suffering. Dean had retreated inside himself and John was once again having to cope with a quiet son. John was completely out of his depth and he resented Sam for putting him in this position.
John's shoulders slumped. He had to be honest with himself. None of this was entirely Sam's fault.
If you leave, don't bother coming back. Those were the words John had yelled at his youngest. Like a song set on repeat, the words played in John's head. In his mind's eye, he saw Sam standing defiantly before him, his face contorted with anger. But it was the anguish in Sam's eyes that had completely gutted John. How could have done that to his own child?
John had no one but himself to blame. He'd let anger get the best of him as it often did when he argued with Sam. He hadn't even given a thought to what this was doing to Dean, hadn't even glanced at him as the three of them had stood in the kitchen, the acceptance letter to Standford lying on the kitchen table like a damning piece of evidence.
A movement from Dean interrupted his musings. His son had turned down the music.
"You want to stop and grab a bite to eat?" John asked in the thickening silence.
"Not hungry," Dean answered, voice dull.
John restrained his sudden irrational urge to slam his fist into the dashboard of the Impala. This had been an all too common response as of late. He may not have had much to say since Sam had gone, but Dean had managed to eat and sleep, and generally act like a functioning human being. In the last couple of days, though, things had changed. Dean's appetite had waned. John may not have liked it, but he hadn't said anything, preferring to give his son the space he needed. That's what John liked to tell himself, anyway. Deep down, he knew he was trying to assuage the guilt for pushing Sam away and hurting Dean in the process.
Right now, none of that mattered. John couldn't let it. Today John was sure Dean hadn't eaten anything and John had just about had enough.
"There's a diner. Pull over," John growled, a hint of danger in his voice. God help them if Dean decided to disobey.
Without a word, Dean took the highway exit and pulled into the nearly empty parking lot in front of Ma's Kitchen.
John didn't say anything either, refusing to give voice to the frustration filling his veins. He wasn't going to be responsible for his actions if he did.
John chewed a French fry and stared at his son sitting across from him.
Dean was flipping through John's journal, occasionally glancing down at the notes concerning their latest hunt. There wasn't much, but Dean was giving it all his attention, ignoring the plate sitting to the right of him. The golden fries were still piled on the plate, the hamburger with two bites missing—John had counted—next to them. Interestingly enough, Dean had gone through two tall glasses of Coke.
John gritted his teeth. The hunt was his last resort. Dean needed something to do, something to kill. Frankly, John did too.
"You gonna eat?" John asked gruffly.
Dean, eyes still focused on the page in front of him, reached for a fry and put it in his mouth.
"Dean," John growled, resisting the urge to reach across the table and throttle his son. It was Dean saying, without actually saying, 'sure, Dad, whatever you say, Dad. I don't really care, but I'll do it just to shut you up and get you off my back.' In comparison, Sam's open defiance had at times been refreshing.
"Let me have the journal." John let his frustration run free. "And the notes."
Dean looked at him in confusion, but handed over the items as asked.
John put both on the seat next to him, his movements almost gentle. Then he picked up Dean's plate and slammed it down in front of him. John ignored Dean's flinch and didn't bother to pick up the few fries now scattered on the table. He leaned against the back of the booth and folded his arms. He knew that this wasn't how Sam would have dealt with this, but that was too damn bad.
Dean looked from the plate to John, a look of uncertainty flickering in his eyes.
John nodded his head toward the food. "You didn't eat breakfast or lunch. You're sure as hell going to eat dinner."
Dean's Adam's Apple bobbed as he swallowed. He looked down at his plate then over at his soda. He reached for his glass.
John took firm hold of it and moved it out of Dean's reach. "Eat!" It was an order.
Dean's eyes widened. "I'm not three."
"Then quit acting like it," John returned. His finger tapped on the table, signaling his impatience.
Dean stared at him for a moment before picking up the burger and taking a big bite. He managed two more bites before setting it back down on the plate. He glanced at the fries and a look passed over his face, but it was gone before John could decipher it.
A couple of fries disappeared into Dean's mouth. Then he pushed his plate away. He stared once again at John.
"Fine," John said. Dean had eaten more than half the burger and some of the fries. He could be satisfied with that. "I'm going to go take care of the bill." He slid out of the booth, watching Dean do the same.
Dean nodded and headed toward the back of the restaurant where the restrooms were located.
John sighed and wondered if breakfast was going to be another battle. He guessed it didn't really matter. He'd win that one, too.
They stood in front of the old house, trees looming over both sides of it. Both Winchesters carried shotguns full of rock salt. John had a handgun tucked away at the small of his back and a water pistol of holy water in his pocket. He'd seen Dean equip himself in a similar fashion.
John had gotten wind of some activity that could possibly be their kind of thing. Unfortunately, he hadn't had much to go on and a reconnaissance mission was in order. He was pleased to note that Dean was scanning the area, eyes alert. It seemed as if, finally, Dean's head was in the game.
The three hour drive to the Lisle farm had been just as quiet and oppressive as the entire trip had been. There had only been one difference. Dean's hands had been locked on the steering wheel, knuckles white. John had waited for Dean to say something, thinking that the incident at the diner had finally provoked a response from his son. There had been nothing.
John sighed, he was doing that a lot these days, and pulled out his EMF meter. The front yard was clean of activity.
They climbed the front steps, but John hesitated at the front door. He turned to look at Dean and saw that his son had his own EMF meter out. John took a quiet moment to be proud of his boy. Sam's...desertion had taken a toll on Dean in ways John could hardly imagine. But here Dean stood, every inch the hunter. This had been a good idea. John congratulated himself. He didn't need Sam at all, not to take care of Dean.
"Wait," John said as Dean put a hand on the knob. "Just so we're clear, we're looking for signs of ghostly activity."
Dean glanced down at the meter in his hand. By the look on his face, John could tell Dean was barely restraining himself from rolling his eyes.
John decided to overlook the expression, knowing he was being overly cautious. They hadn't been on a hunt in weeks and they were a man short. Dean would just have to indulge him. Besides, John was kind of glad to see a spark of attitude.
"The people who used to live in this house," John nodded at the For Sale sign with the Contract Pending notification, propped in the front yard, "reported lights flickering, things being misplaced or completely lost, and the final straw, a disembodied voice."
Dean nodded at this summation and again reached for the doorknob.
"I'm not done," John said and watched as Dean's lips tightened. "Words or no, drop the attitude." He might have been glad to see it, but he couldn't let Dean get away with it.
"Yes, sir," Dean responded, voice steady.
"Better," John muttered, then continued. "We did our research. No one died here, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a piece of someone left behind."
Dean frowned, his nose wrinkling.
"You're right," John said, these one-sided conversations were nothing new. These might be new circumstances, but it was like riding a bike. "It's gross. Keep an eye out for the strange or unusual."
Dean raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I know. This isn't Ripley's Believe it or Not." John put a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Be careful."
Dean frowned at him and made a dismissive gesture with his hand.
John grabbed his wrist, jerking his son's attention back to him. "Do not be flippant about this, Dean. Do you understand me?"
Dean dropped his head, but nodded.
"Look at me!" John's grip tightened as he waited for Dean to comply. "Need to hear words, Dean."
Dean blinked up at him and tried to tug his wrist away, but John just glared at him. "Dean."
"Good," John said, letting go. He dug a flashlight out of his pocket and entered the house. Dean right behind him.
The twin beams of their flashlights swept over the mostly empty house. "You take the upstairs," John ordered. "I'll look around down here."
There was no answer, but John wasn't expecting one. John scanned the living room, nudging at cardboard boxes with the toe of his boot. When he glanced inside them, he noted some of the odds and ends and concluded that it was all trash.
He pushed open the swinging door to the kitchen and checked the cabinets. The whole room was empty.
John was just making his way back through the living room when he heard the roar of a shotgun. Even knowing that he'd trained both his sons and that Dean could handle himself, John felt his heart leap into his throat.
He raced up the stairs and stopped dead. Dean was at the far end of the hallway, slumped against the wall like a doll forgotten by it's owner. As John watched, Dean fell over onto his side.
John didn't waste any time. He ran and knelt down next to his son. "Dean?" He ducked down his head and noticed that Dean's eyes were half-open. But what chilled John was that there seemed to be no spark of life in them. "Dean? Son? What happened? You okay?" He grabbed at Dean's shoulders and pulled him upright. Dean's head fell forward. "Damn it, Dean. Answer me." John refused to give into the panic. "Dean!"
Thanks for reading. Please let me know what you think.