A/N: I got thinking about how Dean and Sam's relationship would turn out in the long term. This isn't exactly what I expected it would be, but it's what I came up with.
Disclaimer: Of three characters in this story, I only made up one.
Spoilers: General info from season one.
"Dad? Papa? I got my arms full here, if one of you could get the door for me!"
The muscular blond boy kicked the door several times, hard enough to rattle it, but soft enough that he didn't do any damage.
"Dad? Oh, come on, you old bastard, this Heineken isn't going to drink itself!"
In a maneuver that took an enormous amount of balance and strength, he squatted down without letting go of any of his supplies and rang the doorbell several times with his nose.
"Pop! Please, my arms are about to fall off here!"
After several more minutes, he heard hushed giggling and the confusion of two pairs of feet stumbling down the stairs. A deafening whisper of "Get it together!" and then the door opened, revealing Dean's handsome, weathered face and thick graying hair. He looked the younger man up and down suspiciously.
"Heineken, huh?" he asked gruffly. "Never heard of a door-to-door beer salesman before. Sounds fishy to me."
"Dad! My arms! Please!"
"Don't 'dad' me, boy! If you'd been working out like I told you, you'd be able to hold that shit all day!"
Sam shoved Dean out of the way, hastily buttoning up his shirt and smoothing his own gray streaked hair before opening the swinging door and motioning for the boy to come in.
"Come in, John," he said with an apologetic smile.
"Thank you, Pop," the younger man said, surreptitiously sticking his tongue out at Dean as he passed, who promptly stuck out his own tongue in return.
"I saw that, you two," Sam bellowed as he grabbed one of the heavy grocery bags from his son and started up the stairs to the kitchen. "Children," he added with a smirk.
Dean grabbed a Heineken out of the bag in John's arms and cracked it open with his teeth, spitting the cap out onto the front porch. "I don't know what you're talking about, honey," he said loudly.
"Yeah, me neither, Pop," John agreed, following Sam up the stairs. "For as long as it took you clowns to answer the door, I'd think you were newlyweds if you weren't such geezers."
"Dean, don't even think about it," Sam warned, already seeing the twinkle in Dean's eye as he joined them in the kitchen.
"Don't think about what?" he asked. "No problem with the boy knowing that his old dad's still got that thang."
"Gross," Sam and John said in unison.
"You didn't think it was gross five minutes ago," Dean whispered into Sam's ear, pausing to kiss him on the cheek as he ushered the beer to the fridge.
"Of course I didn't think it was gross that we were working on the car, Dean," Sam stated emphatically, with eyebrows maniacally raised into his hairline. "We were working on the car, John," he added.
"Yeah, I'll bet," John replied, catching a bottle of beer that Dean tossed to him across the room. "You guys are 50. Shouldn't you be hitting menopause by now?" He cracked open his beer with his teeth and spit the cap out.
With lightning fast reflexes, Sam grabbed the cap out of the air and tossed it back to John who caught it easily in one hand. "I'm gonna be hitting something if you don't throw that in the trash where it belongs, young man," Sam stated firmly.
"Menopause," Dean scoffed. "Most men would kill to have this much of their hair left at 50. Right, Sammy?" He ran a hand through Sam's equally thick head of hair.
"Yeah, well, the jury's still out on whether or not that's a natural occurrence," John answered. "I've run into more than my share of demons who offer attractive favors in exchange for letting them go free."
"Which I know you always refuse, because otherwise you'd be a traitor and a son of a bitch," Dean said, only half kidding.
"I may be one of those things already, huh?" John quipped, earning a French roll thrown at his head by his dad.
"Pop, Dad's throwing shit at me!" he shouted to Sam.
"Sam, John is threatening to cross over to the dark side," Dean imitated his son's voice. "Make him stop! Make him stop!"
"BOTH OF YOU STOP!" Sam commanded in his very loudest and always effective don't-fuck-with-me voice. Dean and John immediately quieted down, though they continued to snicker at each other. Sam took a deep breath, and then looked back at his son with a polite smile.
"It's nice to have you over, John," he said, in an attempt to restart the whole conversation, "even if it is a surprise. You never call anymore. We miss your presence around here."
"Yeah, John, we miss your presents around here," Dean amended, cracking open a second beer. "Delicious as always."
"You're an ass, Dean," Sam spat.
"No wonder you love me," Dean said in return, kissing Sam's cheek again as he strutted back to the kitchen table to help unload the rest of John's groceries.
"Yeah, well, I know what awful cooks you both are," John said in mock graciousness. "I thought you could do with a real home-cooked meal for once."
"And by home-cooked meal, you mean…" Dean said, looking leery.
Sam and Dean both breathed a sigh of relief.
"So no more Betty Crocker shit," Dean said. "Good, son. Good."
"Not that Margaret's funeral potatoes weren't workable," Sam added kindly.
"Although I can see why they're called 'funeral potatoes,'" Dean argued. "Yeesh."
"But it was nice of her to cook for us," Sam said, still trying to smooth things over.
"And it's nice that it won't happen again," Dean concluded. "Right, John? I mean… it's not going to happen again, is it?"
"Margaret is a very nice girl," Sam submitted as an afterthought.
"You guys can cut the crap," John said taking another swallow of beer. "Margaret and I broke up."
"Oh, thank the gods," Dean blurted.
"There are other fish in the sea, son," Sam agreed. "Good move."
"Um… She broke up with me."
There was a silence as Dean and Sam silently conferred with each other on how to approach this one.
"Maybe it's for the best," Dean said unsurely.
"Is it for the best, John?" Sam asked.
John thought about it for a long moment, slowly taking another swallow of his Heineken. "Yeah," he nearly whispered. "Yeah, it's fine."
"John?" Sam repeated.
John shook his head sadly. "She was too normal for me anyway, right?"
His voice broke on the last word, and he sat down at the kitchen table, lowering his face to his hands.
"Johnny boy," Dean said, pulling out the seat next to his son and putting a hand on his shoulder. "Ain't nobody as normal as you, kiddo. Hell, you're downright boring."
"Dean—" Sam started.
"A football scholarship at Stanford?" Dean went on. "A 3.8 average? I mean, you drive an SUV for Christ's sake."
"Dean, I don't know if now is the time," Sam urged.
"Sam, he drives an SUV for Christ's sake. With a bike rack. I mean, he's practically drowning in normalcy, right?"
"Yeah, well, I'm drowning, Dad, that's for sure," John piped up. "Somewhere between my studies and my football practice, I have to find the time to maintain that goddamn SUV, and oh, yeah, there's that other little detail about the fact that I kill evil supernatural demons on the side! Nope, doesn't get more normal than that!"
Sam sat down across the table. "Johnny, I think what your dad is trying to say is…"
"So why not try to add a girlfriend on top of everything else?" John kept going. "I got nothing but free time, right? It's not so bad, really. Lying every day to the one person who means the most to me, always having to make up an alibi when I ditch out on a date or cancel a dinner, knowing that if she ever did find out what I'm really up to, she would think I'm a freak and hate me forever, unless of course I saved her the trouble by somehow managing to get her killed!"
"We both know you wouldn't do that, John," Sam interjected. "You're far too careful to let that happen."
"Oh, what, Pop, was grandma just 'not being careful' the night that she fried above your crib?"
"John!" Dean shouted.
"And what about Jess, huh? Were you just not keeping a close enough eye on her?"
"John Winchester, Jr., don't you dare speak to your papa like that!" Dean slammed his fist on the table. Sam put a quieting hand on his arm.
"It's not about careful, Pop!" John continued. "If anyone should know that, it's you two! Shit happens in this business, and it's either live with the one you love in fear, or live alone and know that she's safe!"
Sam and Dean didn't respond to that. They couldn't deny the truth of what John was saying.
"But hey, pressure's off now," John said, calming down. "Decision was taken out of my hands. Margaret got so tired of my sneaking around that she took the initiative and called it off herself." He finished off his beer. "For the best right?" he said sardonically.
As stillness settled over the family, Dean scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably as John spun his empty beer bottle slowly on the table. Sam stared into space, as if remembering something from long ago. Dean was the first one to speak.
"I'll get you another beer, kid." He started to get up from his seat, but Sam stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"No," Sam said.
"Oh, come on, Sammy, the boy's been through the wringer. He's allowed a beer."
"No," Sam repeated with authority. "What he needs is a relaxing day with his dads. That's why you came here, right?"
John merely looked back at his papa with tears in his eyes.
"So let's do it right," Sam said. He walked over to a cabinet above the stove and reached high up onto the top shelf, pulling down a large bottle of Gentleman Jack whiskey, still unopened. He went to another cupboard and pulled out three glasses. Dean sat up straight in his seat, a surprised smile spreading across his face.
"Well, look at you, honey," he said. "Breaking out the good stuff in the middle of the day." He looked back at John and shook his head with a laugh. "This one," he said, pointing to Sam. "Married 23 years, and he still surprises me."
John rolled his eyes tolerantly.
"Get over here, you two," Sam said once he had three glasses poured on the counter. All three of them picked one up.
"To our little boy," Sam toasted.
"Oh, Pop," John whined uncomfortably. "Really?"
"Who made the long and arduous trek from his dorm in Palo Alto to visit us here at the dark, distant edge of the earth," he went on.
"Laying it on a little thick, aren't ya?" Dean muttered.
"Do you want the good stuff or not?" Sam muttered back, shaking his glass.
"Please continue," Dean conceded.
"Who is only just beginning on the long and winding road of love, and who only gets to experience his first heartbreak once," Sam finished.
"Damn straight," John agreed.
"May he eventually find peace and satisfaction on that road, and please, for the love of God, please, may he somehow avoid being saddled with someone as impossible as his dad, Dean. Cheers."
"Cheers," John repeated.
"I thought we weren't going to talk about the saddle in front of the boy," Dean whispered loudly, causing Sam to choke on his whiskey.
"Gross!" John yelled.
"Cheers," Dean said, satisfied, downing the contents of his glass. "Let's get cookin'!"
The sun had already gone down, and the last blue hues of the sky lingered bravely as bright stars gradually became visible. Rusty mountains could be seen in the distance, lining the horizon. After generous helpings of well-done steak and non-funeral potatoes, Sam and John sat side by side in camp chairs in the wide open dirt field that served as the back yard. They sat before a large fire that was growing larger and larger by the minute as Dean, more than a couple of whiskeys later, had determined that he would build the 'biggest blaze this town has seen.'
"It's not even a town," John had said quietly to Sam. "You live on the outskirts of Death Valley and your closest neighbor is an old lady ten miles away."
"Don't burst your dad's bubble," Sam had replied. "He's having fun."
And now they were all enjoying themselves, Dean merrily throwing logs into the fire pit while Sam and John quietly sipped their after dinner whiskey, savoring the warmth of the flames as the desert night grew chilly.
"She was a little too normal for you, you know," Sam said quietly.
John turned his head. "Huh?"
"Margaret, I mean."
"I know," John nodded. "I was stupid to think it could work out with someone like her."
Sam shook his head and turned slightly in his seat. "No, John, that's not what I mean. I guess when I say normal, I mean… plain."
"The fuck you talking about, Pop? Plain? She was head cheerleader. She was beautiful."
"Lots of girls are beautiful, John. That doesn't mean that they're good enough for you. She had absolutely nothing going for her. She couldn't even begin to match your intelligence and your wit. How could she possibly understand someone like you?"
"You only spent one evening getting to know her," John argued.
"And I needed less than that to know what she was about."
"She knew that you and Dad are brothers."
Sam gasped quietly and let his mouth hang open for a few seconds. Then he alternated nodding and shaking his head a few times. "Really," he finally said. "That surprises me."
"And she was okay with it," John added on.
"Really?" Sam said again with true disbelief.
John nodded. "I mean, obviously she thought it was kind of weird at first. But after I explained to her how you two grew up, minus the evil stuff of course, how Grandpa John never let you interact with anyone else and all that. How you and Dad only had each other your whole lives. She was totally fine. She even thought it was kind of sweet."
Sam was quiet for another few moments. "Well, I don't know what to say, then. Maybe I misjudged her."
"Or maybe you just don't think anyone is good enough for your little boy," John joked, clinking his glass against Sam's and taking another sip.
"Well, like I even need to say that," Sam said with a snort. "Frankly, I'm relieved that your dad and I aren't the reason things went south. I know it can't be easy for you to have…" Sam closed his mouth against an emotion he didn't want to express. "To have us…"
John punched Sam's shoulder softly. "Pop, come on. I'm so over it, okay? To be totally honest, when I meet all my friends' parents at the football games and stuff, you know, the 'normal' parents? I think about you and Dad, and all I can say is that the weirdest thing about your relationship is how much you two like each other."
Sam sputtered laughter at that as a single tear rolled down his cheek. Dean looked up from his business poking the fire to see what had happened. Sam merely mouthed the words, Love you, to which Dean goofily smiled back and returned to his task.
"It's just all the demon slaying," John said. "I don't know how I'm ever going to succeed in a relationship with that going on."
"Well, I don't know what to tell you other than what I've already said about that, John," Sam said, holding his glass up to his face to look at the fire through the dark liquid. "Your father and I told you that we used to be hunters because we wanted to be upfront with you. It was never our intention that you pick up the torch where we left it."
Sam winced at his inappropriate choice of words.
"You mean where you left it at my birth mother's house?" John asked, more as a statement of fact than out of bitterness.
Time was when John had used the story of his birth mother against his dads, as a moody adolescent trying to get a rise out of his parents, bewailing the fact that his mother had died in a demonic fire. "I wish she was alive to see the freaks who are raising me!" he had said years ago, along with a long line of other hurtful, and ultimately, untrue sentiments.
"I didn't mean to put it that way," Sam apologized.
John chuckled. "I'm just messing with you. God, I was a shit when I was 14, wasn't I?"
"I'm gonna go ahead and say yes," Sam agreed.
They clinked glasses again and took another sip.
"You don't have to hunt, you know," Sam tried again. "I mean, I'll level with you here. As far as normal goes, you've already got some heavy strikes against you. But the hunting has always been in your hands to do with what you will. If you want to give it up, that's totally up to you."
John nodded thoughtfully. "I know. I just can't, though, you know? Every time I think about letting it go, I just remember my mom. I mean, I don't remember her, obviously. But I have this image of her in my head, plastered to the ceiling, terrified…" He stopped for a moment, resting his head in his hand. "God help me, Pop, but when I murder a demon, it's just so satisfying. I like it."
Sam looked from John over to Dean at the fire and back. "You know who you sound like, right?"
John looked at Dean as well and smiled. "I am my father's son."
"Well, even your father had to give it up at some point, John. Revenge is a powerful driver, we all know that, but there comes a time when something, or someone, will matter to you more than your pain."
"Do you ever miss it?" John asked. "Hunting, I mean?"
A glint of more than just the fire fleetingly passed through Sam's eyes, a flexing of his face as his jaw clenched and his fingers wrapped more tightly around his glass for only a moment. He didn't answer. The moment passed.
John picked up the nearly empty bottle of Jack and split the dregs between their two cups. He took another sip, then smiled mischievously. "Too bad you and dad never adopted another brother or sister that I could fall in love with."
Sam stared at his son in honest shock that turned into a shocked smile that turned into a shocked laugh. "You little bastard."
"Yes, I am," John said proudly.
"You are a disgusting little bastard, do you know that?" Sam slapped John's arm. "I can't believe you just said that to me!"
"Well, am I wrong?" John answered. "Dad told me that you two kept hunting for a few years after you fell in love with each other. It was an ideal scenario! You were both already in it, fighting the good fight, so there was no reason for either of you to have to give it up."
"Which means it's a good thing that we rescued you from that burning house," Sam said matter-of-factly. "John, I've known a lot of hunters in my life, and I know what this life leads to. If you hadn't crossed our path and needed someone to take you in, we would have kept going, and eventually one or both of us would have gotten killed."
"That's not what Dad thinks."
"Dad's an ass," Sam continued loudly. "And we've been over that already. And yes, that is what he thinks, he's just too proud to say it."
John pulled his coat around himself a little tighter. "So you're telling me to stop hunting."
"I would never tell you that," Sam corrected. "I'm no hypocrite. I'm just saying that there are things you can balance, and there are things you can't. A football scholarship and a 3.8 grade average? Sure. An SUV and the price of gas these days? Why not. A normal social life with a couple of gay brothers for parents?"
John chuckled at that. Pop was getting drunk.
"Well, it's a tough one, but I'd say you're making progress," Sam finished. "But hunting demons and a long, fulfilling relationship with the one you love?" He shook his head. "Good luck with that."
John nodded his head, honestly thinking it over. In the meantime, the fire had grown impossibly high and Dean stood back from it with his hands on his hips, nodding proudly at his creation.
When he finished admiring his handiwork, he jogged over to his family and kicked at Sam's leg eagerly.
"No," Sam shook his head. "It's mine."
"The hell you say," Dean fired back and physically lifted Sam out of the camp chair, sitting down in his place, and then pulling Sam snugly into his lap. Sam giggled softly and then hiccupped.
"Ooh," Sam marveled. "We need to break out the good stuff more often."
"Yeah? You guys having a nice heart-to-heart over here?"
"Dad, Pop was telling me that I need to give up hunting if I'm ever going to have a stable love life."
Sam looked to Dean, unsure of what his reaction would be. The tone in John's voice was teasing, but it was also clear that he was trying to get a rise out of Dean so that he'd back up the idea that he could hunt and carry on a relationship.
Dean took a breath and looked at Sam, then at John. "Your Pop's a wise man, kiddo." He pulled Sam tightly into his arms and kissed his cheek. "Maybe you should listen to him."
"Wait. Are you taking his side?"
"Yeah, are you taking my side?" Sam repeated, just as surprised as John.
"What use do I have for fighting demons anymore, Sammy?" Dean said quietly. "When you were the one I was fighting for in the first place?"
Sam lips turned down at the corners as tears sprung to his eyes. He touched his forehead to Dean's and laughed at his own emotions. "You can't say shit like that when I'm drunk, Dean," he whined. He kissed his brother on the lips.
"Okay," John said. "I think that's my cue." He got up from his seat. "You two aren't going to pass out and roll into the fire or anything, are you?"
Dean and Sam both snorted. "We're not that old," Dean intoned.
"Okay, good. I'm going to the guest room, then. Good night."
Sam and Dean said good night, and remained in their chair, cuddling in front of the crackling bonfire. A great sense of love suddenly overcame John as he was walking back to the house, gratitude for the love of his fathers and for the wisdom and kindness they had always shared with him. He felt really fortunate knowing that he had a home to run back to when he needed to fall apart, maybe not a typical home, but loving parents who would always support him. He turned back to say something more, but stopped.
He watched as Sam ran a hand back through Dean's short hair and in turn, Dean put a hand on Sam's face. The intensity of their stare spoke of years of absolute devotion and deep, deep love. The hunger that John had for the hunt, the passion for the fight against evil, was in his parents' eyes forever. But it was clear to him in that moment, that they now had that passion for each other. He could see that the satisfaction they used to get from killing things, they now found multiplied in their love.
John turned away as they began to kiss. He wasn't grossed out by it, really. Not to the extent that he pretended sometimes, anyway. It was just that when Sam and Dean kissed, it seemed somehow special. Sacred. Something that regular eyes shouldn't behold. He left them to it.
Back by the fire, the whiskey had really gone to Sam's head, and memories of years ago had returned to him from his conversation about hunting. Those old feelings of frenzy, of pumping adrenaline, and of imminent danger to himself and to his beloved brother had fired up inside of him again, as they tended to from time to time, and he was feeling a posttraumatic restlessness that only Dean could soothe.
"Dean…" Sam whispered uncomfortably.
"Ssh," Dean breathed, kissing Sam's face all over.
"Dean, please…" Sam begged fearfully.
"I know, baby, I know," Dean said. "It's gonna be okay."
Sam shifted around in Dean's lap for a few more agitated minutes, his head full of grisly images and violent remembrances, and Dean continued to quiet him.
"It's okay, baby brother. We're gonna be okay."