John woke up slowly. None of his internal alarms were screaming for him to wake up, so he let his body take its time with it. He was surprised at how refreshed he felt. He hadn't felt this relaxed and rested since before he got sick; it was probably months, hell…maybe even years since he'd felt this good. On top of all that, John surmised he must have slept like a rock; he couldn't recall any dreams from the night before.

A soft sigh very close by caught John's attention; surprisingly, it didn't alarm him although he was not able to immediately identify the source of the sound. John's lack of reaction should have bothered him much more than it did, but whatever was out there couldn't compete with the overwhelming feeling of security that surrounded him.

Unwilling to let go of the relaxed and content feeling, John opened his eyes slowly. He was in his own bed, though he couldn't recall how he got there. That wasn't much of a surprise; sometimes after a strenuous hunt he fell into bed on auto-pilot after securing the house for the night. What was a surprise was the fact that the boys were also sleeping in his bed, one on either side – Dean to his right and Sam to his left.

John cast his thoughts back, but could come up with no reason the boys would have crawled into bed with him. He wasn't sick – even through the past winter when he had been ill, the boys didn't sleep in the bed with him; they brought the armchair in from the living room and took turns as sentinels against the delirium that plagued John in his fevered sleep. Again, his lack of memory distressed him far less than it should have. In fact, it didn't bother him at all. Instead, a soft smile graced John's face in an unfamiliar expression.

John turned his head slightly to the right, keeping his movements minimal to avoid rousing either of his sons. It was no surprise that Dean was on the side of the bed closest to the door. He lay on his belly with his right hand snaked under the pillow. His head was turned to the left and his left arm hung loosely off the side of the bed. Even in his sleep he was prepared to stand between whatever might come through that door and his family. John felt his heart swell in his chest with unspoken pride. He gingerly stretched his left hand across his body until it hovered over Dean's back. Gently so as not to disturb Dean, John let his fingers rest feather-light between Dean's shoulders so he could feel the rhythm of his breathing, just like he had when Dean was a baby.

Blinking back unexpected tears, John turned to look at Sam. His younger boy was curled into the shape of a question mark. He lay facing John; the almost ever present crease of frustration between his brows was smoothed in his sleep, and he hardly looked his sixteen years. What was even more unexpected than Sam's peaceful presence was the hand on John's chest. Sam didn't have a hold on him like he needed comfort; the hand on John's chest was a steadying influence saying "I'm here. I've got you. You're safe."

Not knowing what to do with the tremendous influx of emotions that resulted from waking up in a bed with his boys around him, and unwilling to forsake the remarkable feeling of being utterly safe and secure, John allowed his eyes to slide closed. He brought his right hand across his chest until it lay on top of Sam's hand. Breathing in deeply, John smelled popcorn and cotton candy while the phantom tune of a merry-go-round lulled him back to sleep.