Disclaimer: I own nothing in the following story. All recognizable characters and locations belong to Eric Kripke, the actors who portray them and everyone in between. No money was made and no offence was intended in the telling of this story. All characters will be dusted off and returned after I have finished playing with them sometime in the very distant future.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Muffy for betaing this story. I've updated since getting it back so any mistakes are from me.
I'm having difficulties focusing on writing, or anything really, but this had been brewing for a little bit. It's nothing like what I'm posting with Shadows. After the last several months I needed some tender moments for the family. It didn't quite work out that way, and I think I'm way off the mark with this offering, but I'm posting anyway. I hope its an enjoyable read anyway.
To everyone celebrating on this special day Happy Fathers Day!
This chapter's warnings: May be a few swear words but I may have taken them out.
By infinite shadow
It had been three days since they'd last seen their father. Not that Dean minded all that much. At the age of sixteen looking after Sam and keeping the food on the table was easier than it had been in previous years. Most people thought he was eighteen so they didn't get much in the way of glances that used to set his pulse racing wondering if people were going to figure out if they were alone and would send in child protection services. Fake ID's covered for almost anything else, and what it didn't cover he could usually bullshit his way out of.
The only thing that bothered him was it was a very small town and there was nothing to do. At all. He was bored out of his mind.
He turned the page of the town's newspaper looking for anything decent to do. A small smile graced his lips as he skimmed over an advertisement.
Quiet mumbling behind him from the bed had him turning to glance at his little brother. Sam mumbled something else under his breath as he scratched out something on the page before writing something else down.
"Too hard for you, Sammy?"
"No. Just getting the tenses right," Sam answered, still mostly concentrating on the paper in front of him.
"You know I've got some cash. We could catch a movie or something," Dean suggested.
Sam sighed softly. "I'd like to, but I still have pages and pages to get through."
Frowning slightly, Dean got up and snagged a page off the bed. He scanned through the translation then looked down at his brother. "You know dad wouldn't mind. He asked if you could do a few pages for him, Sammy. Doesn't mean you gotta do the entire thing for him, not in a couple of days anyway."
"I'm already half way through. I could do more. I mean it's summer and I don't have homework or anything else to do. I don't mind," Sam answered.
"It's ok to have fun once in a while, Little Man," Dean said softly then grinned. "So take a break already. We'll catch a movie and you can come back and do more if you want."
"Ok," Sam said quietly. "What's playing?"
"We'll find something. Come on."
Almost four hours later the boys sat in a booth at a diner near their motel.
"You've been quiet," Dean said.
Dean looked at him carefully. His little brother looked like he hadn't been sleeping, and he'd been really working hard on the translation. But there was something else that seemed to be wrong. Sam just got this look when he was trying to work out a problem, and he got quieter the longer it took to find it.
"Come on. I know you like alien movies. ' Independence Day' was awesome. So what's the problem?"
Sam shrugged again. He reached out and put his thumb and his finger around his water glass. He stared at it as he began to turn it in its own puddle of condensation.
"The special effects were good, you could see the creepy aliens and there were awesome lines," Dean said with a bright grin hoping to get his brother into a conversation but sighed softly when he knew it wasn't working. "Ok, what flew up your ass this time?"
"I dunno," Sam said quietly. "It was a good movie. I liked it."
"But…" Dean prompted as he hunched forward slightly to hear his brother better.
"It's stupid," Sam muttered.
"If something's bothering you, Sam, it's far more stupid to keep it locked away," Dean said, then reached out and put his hand over the glass to stop it from turning.
"I miss dad," Sam whispered.
Dean nodded. "He's not been around much lately, has he, buddy?"
Sam shook his head and looked down at the table.
Dean could feel the glass shake under his hand. It happened like this once in a while. Their dad would be out on several hunts and only see them a couple of times a month. Sometimes it wouldn't matter, but sometimes it seemed to hit Sam hard. It was difficult to judge because it seemed to come out of nowhere.
A quiet sniffle had Dean out of his seat and sitting next to his brother. He was surprised when Sam let him wrap an arm over his shoulder without making a complaint or trying to push him away.
"It's ok to miss dad, but he'll be back in a day or two."
"Unless something happens then it could be weeks," Sam said quietly.
"True. But he said four days, five tops. Means he could be home tomorrow or day after tomorrow. You know that," Dean said gently. "So what brought this on?"
Sam gave a shaky sigh before leaning against his brother's side. "It'll be too late by then."
Dean frowned. "Too late for what?"
"Fathers day. It's tomorrow and I don't have any money. I wanted to finish translating the text for him," Sam said then shook his head. "See? Stupid."
Dean's lip cured up slightly in a fond smile. "Sammy."
His little brother huffed and wiped at his eyes.
Dean tightened his arm around his little brother. "Dad probably doesn't even know."
"Right. Exactly. See stupid."
"Hey," he said sharply. "I was gonna say why don't we get him a card, or we could even make one for him. Some of the stores are still open. Then I can help you translate if you want."
"Doesn't matter," Sam said. "Just forget it."
"No, I won't forget it because it matters, Sammy. It matters to you. So, we'll go over to the drug store across the street on the way back to the motel. If they don't have a card you like they should have some supplies that we could make one of our own," Dean said then cringed slightly. Arts and crafts weren't normally his thing but if his little brother wanted to do this they would do it. "If it's a day or two after father's day dad won't care. It's the thought behind it that he'll appreciate."
"You think so?" Sam asked softly.
"Yeah I do," Dean said and nodded at the waitress as she put the food down for them.
"I thought… I thought you'd make fun of me," Sam said, dipping his head down even further.
"Why would I do that?" Dean asked and when Sammy looked up with him with a look that said you've got to be kidding me? He quickly added, "This time?"
"I hardly have to do anything and you're bugging me. Usually I don't mind. But this…" Sam said and shrugged.
"This means something," Dean finished for him.
"Yeah," Sam said very softly.
Dean gave him a slight nudge. "Eat before it gets cold. What is that, anyway?"
"Chicken ravioli. I didn't feel like a burger," Sam said with a shrug.
"Huh," Dean said as he reached out and speared a piece. He chewed it and smiled as Sam snagged one of his fries. "Dude, they're naked. You can't eat them yet."
"Sure I can. You didn't order a side of mayo for them," Sam answered.
"That's because you ordered pasta. My fries get ketchup," Dean said and caught the way his little brother eyed his burger. He quickly cut the burger in half and handed one to Sam.
"You sure? You never do this?" Sam said warily.
"Yup," Dean said, helping himself to another ravioli and getting the waitresses attention. "Can we get a side of mayo over here?"
Dean glanced at his brother, ready to make a snappy comment but one look at the appreciative expression on the kid's face and he couldn't bring himself to say it.
Dean was awake. One eye slightly cracked open to see the clock. Just before three in the morning. He kept his breathing deep and regular as his hand gripped the handle of his knife under his pillow. He was on his feet a second later as the motel room door opened quietly.
"Just me son," John said quietly.
"Hey, Dad," Dean said with a sigh of relief as the room door closed with a quiet click. "You ok?"
"Yeah. Job went fine. You boys ok?"
"Yes sir. No problems while you were gone."
John nodded in the dark. "Good."
"Take the bed," Dean offered. "I'll bunk with Sammy."
"You sure?" John asked.
"Yeah," Dean answered.
"He still having the nightmares?"
"Had a few," Dean said. Tonight he'd been woken up by Sammy screaming, terrified that aliens were taking him away from him and dad.
John nodded again and ran a hand over his face.
"It's late. We can talk in the morning," Dean offered.
"Ok, son," John said softly.
John didn't sleep for long. After a hunt he was usually restless and this time was no different. It felt good to be back with his sons again. He'd told Jefferson on the way back to the motel that he needed at least a week before going after the next thing that came up. It had been a while since he'd just spend time with his boys and that was going to change as of this morning.
He was lying in bed quietly planning out what they could do when soft whimpers caught his attention. He frowned knowing his youngest son was having another nightmare. The frown eased up as Dean's sleepy voice quietly soothed his younger brother back to sleep.
It bothered him that his son was continuously plagued with nightmares. And not for the first time he wondered if he should just set his boys up somewhere in a safe community where they could forget about hunting and have a real life. A life that was safe from the demons and creatures he hunted. But he always came back to the same conclusion. If he left them somewhere there was no way to keep them safe. The hunting community was far larger than he'd ever told his children and some of them wouldn't think twice to use his sons as leverage to get a job done.
It wasn't the only reason. He also wanted his sons with him. It was selfish to a degree because he knew it took a heavy toll on both of them. Dean had always been able to deal with it better than Sam.
Knowing he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, he glanced at the clock. It was almost five thirty and he knew the diner he passed on the way into town would be open. He'd grab himself a cup of caffeine and find out what there was do around this town that his kids would enjoy. As quietly as he could he slipped out of bed and was glad he hadn't changed before going to bed. He quickly put on his shoes and scribbled out a note in the darkened room, using the sliver of light coming through the curtains to see what he was doing. He was out the door in less than five minutes certain that both of his kids were still sleeping.
Dean heard his father get up. He wasn't really awake but he wasn't totally asleep either. He was floating between the two and drifted towards waking just in case his father needed him. It wouldn't be the first time that his father had been injured on a hunt and not mentioned it when he returned to them.
What he expected his father to do when he didn't say anything was to grab the first shower of the day. Instead he heard him leave the room, heard the Impala rumble to life and then nothing.
He made a mental note that she needed some work, the idle was off slightly.
Dean found himself totally awake and blinking in the darkness. Dad was supposed to be sticking around at least long enough to have a chat that morning. He was suddenly angry. Hunting was important but really was it too much to ask for a few hours of the man's time?
Sam sighed and shifted slightly. A moment later he mumbled something and flung out an arm smacking Dean in his chest.
"Easy, Little Man. I'm still here," he said softly.
Sam sighed again and his hand twitched grabbing onto Dean's shirt.
"S'ok, Sammy, I'm not leaving you alone," Dean said in a low calm voice.
He frowned deeply. Sam didn't usually grab hold of him in the night while they slept. "You awake?"
"No," was softly mumbled back to him.
"Yeah, that's convincing," Dean said with a slight smile as Sam's hold tightened slightly.
"Not a kid," he mumbled just as softly.
"Didn't say that," Dean responded.
Sam sighed again and shifted closer. "Dad's gone again."
"I know, Sam, I'm sorry. I thought he would stay."
"You're staying right?" Sam asked shakily.
"Dude, there's no way I'd leave you anywhere on your own. Orders or no orders," Dean said strongly.
"But you like hunting," Sam said, sounding fully awake now.
"Well sure. Dad didn't ask me to go with him and if it meant leaving you behind, alone, I wouldn't have," Dean said softly then pulled Sam's hand off his shirt and shifted till he was lying on his stomach. He put an arm over his brother's chest. "It's too early for this. Go back to sleep. I'll be here when you wake up. Promise."
Sam didn't say anything but put his smaller arm over his brothers. It wasn't long before his breathing deepened and evened out in sleep.
Dean wondered how he could keep his little brother busy. He'd have to keep him occupied to keep his mind off the fact that their father was gone yet again.
His mind buzzed with the possibilities. There was always training, or testing him on how to take out various evil things. But there had to be other things, normal stuff kids did for fun. School wasn't really out quite yet for kids Sam's age, but like dad had told the motel manager the last school had given him the year end test earlier and then released Sam.
Still, the small town had to have an arcade or fun park of sorts his brother would like. He'd have to find a card game or pool hall to stock up on cash. Even though dad frowned on him doing that while he was gone so he couldn't watch his back, he had the id's needed and it would be definitely worth it if it made Sam happy.
Dean sighed softly as he rested his chin on his forearm over the pillow. He stared straight ahead in the darkness. Anger churned in his gut. Dad couldn't even wait until morning. He had to know something was up when he asked about the nightmares. So why leave at, Dean shifted to read the clock face, five forty-nine?
A few simple words would have gone a long way for Sammy, and he would've been able to give his father the translations and the card. He'd worked so hard on them and Dean knew he'd be disappointed when Sam was up later that morning.
He'd fix it. He always figured out a way but quite frankly he just couldn't figure out why it would've been so hard to stick around for a few more hours.
With a quiet sigh he pillowed his head on his arm and closed his eyes. A few more hours of sleep would be good before he had to deal with all of this.
John pulled up outside their room. He'd been out longer than he planned but he'd driven through the town and found a few places his boys might want to go. In any case they'd be up by now and he could take them to breakfast.
With a slight smile on his face, he opened the motel room door. "You boys up yet?" he asked as the door swung open. His grin faded as he realized the room was empty. The beds were a rumpled mess, duffels were against the far wall, the room pretty tidy, but no boys.
One more quick scan showed a scrap piece of paper on the floor under the table. He picked it up and found his note that he'd written earlier that morning. With a sinking feeling he knew his boys believed he'd taken off again.
They couldn't have been gone for too long. With any luck he could catch them at the nearby café Dean had mentioned to him earlier that week on the phone.
He quickly left, hoping he wasn't too late to catch them.
Dean sat across the small table for two in the café four blocks from the motel. He'd like it here the first time he walked in. There were murals on the walls that were framed like works of art. The waitress was smoking hot and the portions were huge for a small price. The food tasted better than he'd had anywhere else. While the light was a little dim it felt warm, like anyone was welcome and he was comfortable here.
Aside from the petulant little jerk sitting across from him with his arms crossed over his chest with a glare to match, it was a perfect morning.
"Sam," Dean said, a warning note to his voice.
"I said I'm not hungry," Sam almost growled.
Dean leaned forward over the table slightly. "Dad's coming back," he said, beginning to lose his patience and then frowned slightly. Something else was off he just couldn't put his finger on it.
"I said," Sam started to repeat but got cut off.
"Fine. Fine," Dean said with a shake of his head as he leaned back fully in his chair. "Juice then. 'Cause I'm not having you whine about being hungry or something ten minutes after we leave."
Dean frowned even more. Sam didn't always eat but he'd usually have juice or something. "Ok. What's wrong, Sammy?"
Sam shrugged and looked out the window.
Sun cut through the clouds and brightened up the table they were at. That's when Dean took notice of the paleness and the slight sheen to his little brother's skin.
"Why didn't you tell me you weren't feeling well, man?" Dean asked softly.
"Didn't seem important," Sam muttered.
Dean sighed and shook his head. "Idiot," he said out of frustration. He threw a few bills on the table for his coffee and stood up.
Sam blinked up at him.
"Come on, then. We're going"
"Back to the motel, genius. Get some meds into you and then some sleep."
"But," Sam tried to protest.
"Nope. Let's go," Dean said.
Sam seemed to sag down in his chair slightly. "Kay," he said softly.
They had just left the café when a sleek black car pulled up next to them on the sidewalk. Dean put a hand on his little brother's shoulder to stop him.
The driver's door opened and John got out of the car. "You two go for breakfast without me?" he asked with a slight smile.
"Yes sir. We thought you'd gone again," Dean answered.
Sam just stared at his father and then leaned against his brother.
"Left you a note but it was under the table," John said. "It doesn't matter. I'm glad I caught up with you. Give me a minute to grab some food and we'll do something."
"Really?" Sam asked.
"As great as that sounds, sir, Sammy's not well."
"I'm ok," Sam said.
John looked from Dean down to Sam. "You look tired, kiddo. Tell you what, I'll take you back to the motel, you can get some rest and we'll plan something for tomorrow."
Sam glanced up at his brother before getting into the back of the car. He felt tired and freezing cold. It was all he could do to keep his teeth from chattering. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the back of the seat. He jumped as he felt a hand on his forehead. "Wha?"
"It's ok ,son," John said softly. "We're back at the motel. Let's get you inside."
Sam blinked up at his father for a second. This wasn't right. Dad had left, hadn't he?
"Come one," John said as he helped his youngest out of the back of the car. He watched him rock slightly back and forth on his feet. "Dizzy, Sammy?"
"Where's Dean?" Sam asked, not really sure what was happening.
"I'm right here," Dean answered as he came out of the motel room.
"Dean? Feel sick," Sam whispered as he began to shiver. "Why is it so cold?"
"He's burning up," John said worriedly before he scooped him up in his arms and carried him inside.
"Got the water running already," Dean said as he closed the car door and hurried after his family.
"Get me some Tylenol or something," John said from the bathroom.
Dean quickly dug through the med kit and came up with a small container. He shook out two white pills and put them on the table. Grabbing a mug off the counter, he used the bottom to break up the pills and put them in the bottom of the glass. He added water out of a water bottle and stirred the contents until the powdery bits had been mostly dissolved.
By the time he made it into the bathroom, his father had Sammy into the cool bath water already and was putting a wet cloth on his forehead.
"No… Too cold," Sam muttered through chattering teeth. "Where's Dean?"
"It's ok, Sammy," Dean said soothingly as he father moved back so he could kneel next to the tub. "Drink this. It'll help."
"Has he been sick?" John asked.
"No sir. Not till this morning," Dean answered as he brought the cup up to his brother's lips and got a little of the water into him.
"He needs more than just water," John said, sounding annoyed.
"It's in the water," Dean said. "I didn't think he'd swallow a couple of pills right now. And it worked a few months back when you were after that demon with Bobby."
John nodded. "All right. Good thinking, son."
Dean ignored him and put all his focus on helping his little brother.
Later that afternoon Sam blinked his eyes open and stared up at the water stained ceiling. He could hear quiet voices around him but he didn't look. It seemed like it would take too much energy to move.
"Hey, you're awake," Dean said softly as he sat on the bed next to him.
"Dean?" Sam said groggily.
"Yeah its me, kiddo," he answered as he put a hand over his forearm. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired and kinda sore," Sam said as he blinked slowly. "My head hurts."
"You spiked a fever just after we left the café," Dean said quietly. "Think you could drink some water?"
Sam nodded and tried to sit up. He didn't seem to have the energy for that and was grateful when his older brother helped him sit up some. When Dean moved to the table he watched him and was surprised to see who else was sitting there. "Dad?" he whispered.
"Yeah, son, it's me," John said as he got up and moved closer to his youngest boy. "Gave us quite a scare."
Sam looked down. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"Got nothing to be sorry for. Just glad you're awake now," John said as he sat on the bed and put a hand on his son's forehead checking his fever.
"I wrecked everything," Sam said miserably.
Dean sat down on his other side of the bed. "Nah. You've not wrecked anything, Little Man," he said.
Sam looked up at him. "But the stuff and the day."
Dean shook his head. "It's still Sunday and we've got everything," he said with a crooked smile.
Raising a shaking hand, Sam tried to take the glass.
"Easy. Let me help," Dean said as he helped his brother drink down some more water.
Sam sagged slightly when his brother put the glass on the side table. "Dean, can we?"
John looked between his two boys and wondered what they had got up to while he'd been away.
"Sure," Dean said. He got up and went into the top drawer of the dresser. He pulled out an item wrapped in newspaper comics and a card. He turned back to see his little brother's eyes already beginning to drift closed. He moved back and sat down next to Sammy. "You want to give it to him?"
Sam nodded and took the rectangular item and card with both hands. They shook but he passed item over to his father. "Happy father's day, dad," he said softly.
John took the package from his youngest son and for a moment he couldn't say anything. He swallowed against the lump in his throat. "Thank you, Sam," he said roughly.
"It's from both of us," Sam said and yawned before he began coughing.
Dean moved and settled next to him against the headboard. He helped him with some more water and then put an arm around him.
John smiled at both of them before he began to open the package. He looked up as the last of the paper fell away. "It's my book?"
Sam sighed quietly against his brother's side.
"Yeah. It's what's inside. Sam bookmarked it for you," Dean said.
John opened to the page where a small piece of cardboard stuck out of the book. "This is the translation I asked for."
"He did it all," Dean said proudly. He'd helped but it was mostly Sam. "It was important that it was all done by the time you got back. He worked really hard on it."
"Thank you, Sammy," John said as he skimmed through the words amazed at how much his son had done over the last few days. It would've taken him weeks to get through the entire translation.
"He's asleep," Dean said softly. "I didn't see this coming, dad. He was a little upset yesterday but he wasn't sick."
John nodded. "You used to do the same thing when you were younger than Sam. You seemed fine one moment and the next you were talking nonsense, disoriented and burning up with fever. I was so relieved when you stopped doing that. There was no warning that I could ever figure out."
"I don't remember that," Dean said.
"You were young," John said with a slight smile as he focused somewhere in the past. "Once I could get you into a cool bath and some children's Tylenol in you, I couldn't keep you awake. You slept for three days once. When you woke up you were fine again, couldn't even tell you'd been sick."
"Sammy's a late bloomer then?" Dean said as he pulled the sheets up a little higher over him.
John shook his head slightly.
"There's, um, something else for you," Dean said as he blushed slightly.
"Yeah?" John said.
"It's in the top drawer too," Dean said. "Would you mind?"
John shook his head and moved over to the drawer. He opened it and pulled out a bottle of spiced rum. "You got into a liquor store?"
Dean shrugged. "Good fake IDs," he said with a smile.
John nodded. "Thank you, son," he said heartfelt.
John opened the bottle and poured some into a glass. He took a sip and smiled as he felt the alcohol blaze a path down into his belly. "So you want to tell me what else you two have gotten up to while I've been gone?"
Dean shrugged. "Not much. Just hung out and did some translating."
John took another sip.
"You need to stay for a bit, dad. It's important," Dean said quietly. "It really is."
John nodded as he sat down at the table. "I know. I've not been around much lately. But we can take a few days when Sammy's better and do something fun."
"You mean it?" Dean asked in surprise. He'd been expecting to fight to keep his father around for a few days. This seemed too easy.
"Yes, really," John said. "I've been gone too long this time."
"Yeah, you have," Dean said. "Sam needs you around sometimes, dad. It hurts him when you're not."
John nodded. "I have a job to do, Dean."
"I know that," he answered. "But we need you sometimes, too."
John nodded. "Well I'm here, now. We'll make the best of it. Ok?"
Dean smiled. "Yes, sir."