A/N: Happy New Year, darlings. May it bring you joy.
The motel room is small, but it's warmly-lit and cozy, and John finds two bags of movie-style popcorn in the bedside table drawer, underneath Gideon's Bible. He doesn't know how old it is but his experimental sniff reveals nothing but the salty tang of butter, so he gets the first bag started in the microwave and finds a cracked Mickey Mouse mug in the cupboard, pours himself a few fingers worth of whiskey.
"Can I have some of that?" Dean wants to know, watching his father from his upside-down angle. He's lying on the floor with his feet on the wall, kicking a rhythmic, staccato pattern, eyelids drooping and then snapping open with the force of Dean's will to stay awake.
"Sure," John agrees affably. "After I buy you a flamethrower and let you drive the car a hundred miles an hour with your eyes closed."
Dean lets out a sound that's half-snort half-giggle and scoots away from the wall to flip himself over so he's on his stomach. In the background, the microwave hums and the kernels begin to pop.
"What time is it?"
John comes to sit on the bed nearest to Dean, puts an absentminded hand on Sam's foot and checks his watch. "Eleven thirty."
"Should I wake Sammy up?"
John glances down to where his youngest is sleeping curled up beside him, thumb lodged firmly in his cheek, cheeks flushed and hair messy. He's still in his jeans and Spiderman sweatshirt, refused to change into his pajamas because, as he insisted, "If I put on my pajamas it means I'm sleeping. But I'm not sleeping, I'm napping, so I have to stay in my real clothes."
John can't argue with the logic of a four year-old. He reaches out to push Sam's hair away from his eyes but stops himself before his fingers land.
"No," John says to Dean. "We'll wake him up in twenty minutes or so. Let's keep it just you and me for a little longer."
Dean nods unsmilingly, but his eyes light up, and John turns his head, gets up to take the popcorn out of the microwave. It worries him, how much Dean's eyes give him away. Like Mary's used to. Nothing hidden, no way to lie or deflect, and it's a dangerous quality for a hunter. He's gonna have to train his son in the art of the pokerface.
John opens the steaming bag, pours the popcorn into a blue plastic bowl and brings it over to the bed Sammy's not asleep on.
"C'mon," John says, settling against the pillows and patting the space beside him. Dean lifts himself slowly off the floor and climbs up next to his father, curls into his side when John lifts his arm invitingly. He's very warm, and smells like clean hair and the inside of the Impala. John picks up the remote, turns on the T.V., mutes it before the noise can wake Sam. There's a party going on onscreen, Times Square packed full of revelers. The people are shouting silently, shrieking noiseless good cheer into the cameras, and Dean lets out a soft, exhausted sigh. It's way past his bedtime.
"You want some popcorn?" John asks, shaking the bowl in front of him, because he knows Dean will never forgive himself if he falls asleep the first New Year's John's allowed him to stay up 'til midnight.
"Yeah," Dean says, reaches out a small fist and grabs a handful of buttery popcorn, dropping some carelessly on John's lap as his hand travels to his mouth. John doesn't comment or brush it away.
They watch the quiet T.V. wrapped in their own quiet, eating the popcorn, and John wonders what Dean is thinking, what goes on in the head of an eight year-old. Dean laughs a few times when the camera zooms in on some obviously drunken partiers, waving peace signs and sticking their tongues out, and John smiles a little.
On the other bed, Sammy shifts and snores, a surprisingly loud noise for such a tiny kid, and Dean cackles in delight.
"Wow," John observes, and gives his own snort in imitation.
Dean snorts back, louder, and John matches him, and they snort at one another until Dean chokes on a piece of popcorn and John has to whack him on the back, still laughing.
"What time is it?" Dean asks.
"Eleven fifty," John says. "You wanna wake your brother up?"
Dean immediately starts throwing popcorn at Sam, who twitches and kicks, eyes fluttering open slowly, pouting with tiredness and then smiling as he remembers why Dean is waking him up.
"New year, new year," Dean shout-sings, tossing popcorn. "Goodbye, old year, stupid old year."
Onscreen, the silver ball is still suspended high above the crowds, glittering enormous and silver like an artificial moon, ready to plummet at the toll of the bell. John watches Sam grin at Dean, watches Dean grin back, and he thinks that this is one ball he will never let drop.
So help him god, he cannot drop this ball.