Title: What Was He Like?
A/N: This is a short little idea that popped into my head and I just had to write it so I could move on. I didn't have it beta-ed and all mistakes are obviously mine but I hope they don't take away from the story.
Summary: He knew he'd made mistakes but it stung more than anything to know how badly he'd hurt his boy in the process. Not only did Sam never know his mother, but he never really got to know his Dad either.
Being tired was something John had become quite accustomed to in the past twelve years of his life, headaches were practically a permanent presence, and the foul moods seemed to be never ending.
That's why when the door flew open with a loud bang he was quick to throw any threat he could think of at the person behind it, even if he knew his words were a bit harsh.
His youngest stumbled into the room, carrying two boxes of pizza that looked much larger in his small arms.
John mumbled something even he couldn't understand as Sam placed the boxes down on the table. His stomach rolled at the greasy smell but he was definitely too hungry to care.
"Where's, Dean?" He didn't even bother trying to sound less irritated as he flipped one box opened and snatched a slice of pizza.
As if on cue he heard his oldest walk through the door, his entrance much quieter than Sam's, but then again Dean's always been stealthy.
"Hey, Dad." Dean's smile made him almost return one but he just didn't have it in him. "Hope you don't mind pizza."
John shrugged as he stuffed the last of his piece into his mouth and the sound of Dean's laughter actually brightened his mood a little.
Silently he watched as Dean pulled three cracked plates from the cupboard, handing one to Sam and him both before taking a seat at the table beside him. Of course Dean made sure that Sam took two slices of pizza before grabbing three of his own and John couldn't help but shake his head at his son's mothering act.
He had to admit Sam was looking quite thin but he hadn't really taken the time to notice until now. Dean would have it under control though, just like always.
Before John picked up another slice, he decided to break the news to the boys and he knew exactly what was coming.
"I found a job in Maryland." He noticed Dean gulp his food down, the older brother's eyes discreetly watching Sam. "We're leaving tomorrow morning."
"But I have a field trip tomorrow, Dad." Sam's eyes widened, giving John the famous puppy eyes.
Lately he was never in the mood to deal with Sam but sometimes he was a little less patient than others, which left barely any patience at all.
"Do I look like I care, Sam?" He picked up another slice of pizza as if to prove his point.
John took a deep breath but there was no stopping his anger now. "You're not going on the silly field trip."
"It's not silly!" Sam's tone actually shared the same anger as his, and if he were in a better mood, he may have actually cared.
"Do you really think this field trip is more important than people's lives?"
"No, sir." The boy's anger disappeared, quickly replaced with a sad resignation. "It's just…"
"We're through with this conversation." He piled two more slices on to his plate as he stood from the table. "When you finish your dinner, take the trash out, do the dishes and then go to your room."
There was no further argument and he grabbed himself a beer before he went into the other room to watch some TV, if he could actually get the thing to work this time.
An hour later John pulled himself from the couch and headed back into the kitchen, expecting to see Sam standing at the sink but instead the boy wasn't even in the room.
"Where's your brother?" He headed over to Dean who, instead of Sam, was washing the dirty dishes. "I thought I told him to do the dishes?"
"You also told him to take out the trash and go to his room, sir." The annoyance laced in Dean's words didn't bode well with John but he let it slide.
"Then why are youdoing the dishes for him?"
"Cause I told Sam to go outside and cool off for a bit." Dean placed the last dish on to the counter to dry and turned to his dad. "He's sitting on the steps."
John starred at him for a moment, the anger boiling inside as he digested the fact that Dean was actually encouraging his brother's disobedience. He typically didn't have any problems with Dean; the teenage has always followed orders and supported his judgment.
"He's having a bad day, Dad." He watched Dean's demeanor soften, obviously picking up on his growing frustration. "I just wanted him to get some fresh air and then I was going to talk to him."
"Bad day or not, he doesn't have the right to disobey me."
"I know, sir." Dean pushed passed him and headed for the door. "I'll talk to him about it, promise."
Before he could say anything else Dean walked out, leaving him starring at the closed door.
Usually he was all for giving the boys their privacy but tonight was different. The windows were open to let the fall breeze cool the house and John couldn't help but overhear the conversation going on right outside.
He wasn't expecting what he heard but really, he should have seen it coming.
"You okay, Sammy?" He watched from the window as Dean sat down next to Sam, accidentally elbowing the younger boy in the side.
Sam didn't say anything, just continued to stare at his hands and for the first time that night John was starting to feel a bit bad for his attitude. The guilt hit him hard when Sam finally spoke up, shocking both him and Dean with the timid question.
"What was he like?" Sam never lifted his head and John desperately wished he could see the boys face.
"What was who like?"
Dean stared at Sam in confusion but John was starting to understand what Sam meant, his rough exterior starting to crack with the realization.
"Sam, Dad's still here." Dean leaned forward and tilted his head to get a look at Sam's face and John couldn't help but smile at his eldest son's confusion.
"What was he like before me?" Sam finally looked up, giving John his first peak at the kids face, shiny eyes and trembling lip reminding him of a tiny five year old he hadn't realized he'd missed till now. "Before he became mean?"
He shook his head, hating the fact that his son would even consider asking such a question, but knowing there's no one to blame but himself. Really, there's not much reason for Sam not to ask.
"Dad's not mean, he's just strict. There's a difference, bud."
Leave it to Dean to defend his old man, even if John didn't deserve the defense.
"He wasn't like this before I came, was he?" The first tear finally rolled down Sam's cheek and John felt the urge to rush out and brush it away. "I made him mean, or strict. I made him hate everything and I took away his smile."
John felt his own eyes start to water at those sad, apologetic words.
How could Sam even think that? Was he really that hard on the kid?
The sad part is John knew the answer to both those questions. Of course Sam had every right to think that because he was far too hard on the boy. He can't even remember the last time he really smiled.
He shook his head sadly and turned his attention back to the boys, knowing the conversation was far from finished.
"Sam," Dean sighed, obviously not knowing what to say, and John couldn't blame the kid. "Dad was different, yes, but not because you weren't there."
"What was his like though?" Sam pushed and John braced himself for what the boy would say next, knowing it was only going to tear at him some more. "Did he smile a lot? Did he take you to baseball games and even teach you how to play yourself? Did he pick you up and give you hugs or tell you how proud he was? Was he happy?"
He let a few tears silently slipped down his cheeks, unable to hold them back any longer when he heard just how much he's really screwed up with Sam.
The poor kid never had the chance to know his Mother and he never really got to know his Dad either. Yeah, John was right there, but since Mary's death he's never actually been a father, but a drill sergeant instead.
He can't think of one time he gave Sam a hint of praise, though just yesterday he made sure to tell Dean what a great job the older boy did when he cleaned the guns.
Sam just wasn't interested in the same things John and Dean were, but that didn't mean the kid was any less worthy of a proud smile or slap on the back every once in awhile. John just neglected it too much, another thing he regretfully assumed Dean was able to handle.
Of course Dean was more than capable of picking up John's slack, but how could he possibly expect Sam to believe that just because Dean was proud that meant John was too; especially not when all he gave the kid were orders and punishments.
Had he ever told Sam I love you?
"Yeah, Sammy," Dean was now staring at his own hands nervously and John knew his son wished it wasn't true but even Dean, king of optimism, couldn't deny the facts. "But that wasn't because you weren't here."
John was surprised when Dean quickly brightened up, as if an idea had suddenly hit him, and turned toward Sam, grabbing the boys chin, forcing the younger brother to make eye contact.
"I don't remember too much before you were born, Sammy, but I know I had never seen Dad smile more than when he brought you home from the hospital. He never put you down and was already talking about taking you to baseball games and signing you up for t-ball, just like me."
"Why didn't he then?" Sam was openly crying now and John could even see Dean's eyes were shinning after that little speech. "Why does he hate me now? What did I do? How do I fix it?"
John bit his lip so hard he thought he'd break the skin, but he just couldn't take much more of this. He knew he'd made mistakes but it stung more than anything to know how badly he'd hurt his boy in the process.
"When Mom died things got really hard for Dad. He doesn't realize he's forgotten some things through the years but I know for a fact he hasn't forgotten how to love you." John nodded to himself, thankful that at least one of his boys knew the truth, though he wished he had thought to make sure he made it more obvious for both of them.
"I'm sorry you never got to do those things, but that doesn't mean that Dad hates you. Sammy, he loves you and I more than anything, he's just not always good at showing it." Dean wrapped his arm around Sam, smiling down at the younger boy, and John smiled his first genuine smile in a really long time.
"I guess I don't make it easy on him."
Both Dean and John laughed and Dean pulled Sam closer with one arm, the other playfully punching Sam's shoulder.
"No you do not, kiddo." Dean continued to smile slightly even as his tone became more serious. "He may upset you, but you still have to obey him. Dad only does what he thinks is best."
"Guess I should take the trash out then and go to my room."
John quickly pulled the bag out and pushed the door open before Dean could answer, "I got it."
"Dad, I," Sam jumped up, wiping at his eyes quickly as he reached for the trash bag.
John grabbed Sam's wrist and quickly pulled the kid closer as he dropped the trash bag so he could wrap his son in a tight hug, lifting Sam off the ground. He kissed the top of Sam's head and buried his face in the boy's hair, making note to mention cutting it later.
"I love you so much, Sammy, I'm sorry you ever doubted that." He reluctantly let go of Sam who was now smiling brightly, dimples and everything.
He looked down at his boy, his youngest son, who still didn't look a day over five, and smiled just as bright as he hugged him close one last time. If only he could freeze time, this would be the perfect moment.
"I love you too, Dad!" Sam wrapped his small arms tightly around his waist and John found himself trying to pull the boy back in when Sam finally let go to pick up the trash bag
Sam turned to walk away and John watched with a smile as the kid stopped in front of his older brother and whispered a quiet, "Thanks, Dean." then left.
With Sam gone, John turned to Dean and smiled, pulling Dean in for a tight hug as well, releasing him only slightly quicker than Sam.
"Yeah," John smiled, nudging Dean playfully. "Thanks, Dean."
I kind of really love any moments between Sam and John so when one comes to me I feel the need to write it.
Hopefully there weren't too many mistakes but I apologize for them all! I wasn't even going to post this but I ended up changing my mind.
As always, I'd love to hear what you all thought.
Thanks for reading!