In The Life We Lead

At eighteen Dean is tall and solid – he is standing at a good six foot, and except for a possible extra inch or two in the next year will stay there. The years of training have filled him out, the young man all height and muscle and attitude. And God is there a lot of attitude, at sixteen a testosterone filled Dean opened his eyes one morning to the world of girls, and on that day his brain had seemed to pick up the point that he had, as John was apt to note, a mix of his fathers and mothers looks. At sixteen Dean was handsome, with further promise into the man he would become, and in the past two years his natural attributes had made him cockier, more sure of himself, more sure in the fact that one glance at a woman could probably send her weak at the knees and willing to do the boys bidding.

Sometimes, John wishes a girl would put him down just so Dean would lose some of that cockiness, although this is his son, and the kid bounces better than those super rubber balls, he'd probably shrug it off and move onto the next girl.

Take now for instance.

Now, John has pulled into a non-descript diner off the highway, a place that would no doubt be filled with bikers in the evenings, for sure there are three or four large men sat at the back of the diner, nursing large coffee mugs, and four bikes stand, black and gleaming out front, but John can tell they are no threat, the men too interested in their coffees and large lunches to go looking for a fight, not that they seem the fighting type to him.

He drops himself into a booth in the corner, his back at the wall so that he can see everything that goes on in the diner and not worry about what's coming up behind him, and orders a coffee off the leggy blonde waitress when she wanders over. There is a newspaper on the seat beside him, some local rag a previous patron has left behind, and for lack of anything better John begins to read that, drinking a coffee so strong it could probably strip paint – it's damn near making his eyes water after all – and he waits.

His flicking the pages and starting on a second coffee as strong as the first when he hears the low rumble of a car, though his doesn't look up. He knows that engine sound within his heart, and only listens as it slows and pulls into the diner lot, parking up beside where he'd parked his truck – near the entrance so his boys could see it as they drove up – and then the engine quits.

His takes a long draft of coffee as the doors slam; one single loud bang as both are thrown back into their place simultaneously; and turns his gaze to the newspaper – to the obituaries section – as he hears the muffled tones of conversation and then the door open.

He doesn't need to look over the paper to know what his boys were doing. Sam's giggle tells him that his eldest had either told Sam something choice about one of the other patrons of the establishment – a quick flick of his eyes to the window shows him that the bikers have left, only a sedan and a truck are left in the lot asides from John's truck and the Impala – or that Dean had playful attempted to trip his brother, something he was persistently trying to do. He hears Sam's voice, the pitch too low to catch the actual words but loud enough for him to know he's said something, and in response Dean snaps out a laugh. If John was forced to bet, he'd place his money on Dean having said something about one of the other patrons – probably on the owners of the sedan; they are on the road too much for the boys to hold anything other than respect for truck drivers.

There was a squeak of rubber on linoleum, Sam's sneakers, Dean wears nothing but boots these days – something John is more than grateful for, the boy went through sneakers like crazy – and the soft familiar tread of those has stopped. He hears Dean's voice, again the actual words too low to make out, but it is the unfamiliar giggle that has him glancing up from his paper.

The boys are stood at the counter, Dean leaning against it and talking – no surprises to John here – to the leggy blonde who stands behind it. She is blushing crimson, giggling and smiling and obviously flirting and God if John wouldn't have to suffer with that smirk Dean always got after a successful moment with a girl, luckily he wouldn't have to be in the same car as the boy, though he still had to see that grin until they left for the road again...

Beside Dean stands Sam, and though Dean was flirting with the waitress, even a single glance over could show John that his eldest was more occupied with his brother, the angle of his body slightly tipped towards Sam, the way his head sometimes tips to the younger boy even though his eyes never leave the girl. How he occasionally shifts slightly to brush his arm against Sam's...

Eventually the blonde pulls herself away from his eldest to see to her patrons, but no doubt a phone number or, at the very least, a free slice of pie, would end up in Dean's hands before they leave the diner. Dean grins lazily, that grin that John has dreaded and has him inwardly groaning, and the father of the two boys lays down his paper as Dean straightens.

His arm goes around Sam's shoulders as they turned to start towards their father and God if you can't see the differences then.

Whilst Dean is tall and solid, Sam is just tiny. At fourteen he has still to hit on one of the growth spurts that would no doubt come eventually, but until then he is just tiny, Dean at six foot towers his brother, the kid he doesn't think is even scraping five foot yet and God if they don't all know about it.

Even with Dean's arm around his shoulders the elder boy is having to angle his body to comfortably do so, and Sam, wearing some of Dean's old clothes, is in a jacket that had fitted Dean at eleven, his jeans are new, Dean had been going through a phase at Sam's age where he'd been able to rip holes into all of his jeans no matter what, and no matter what John can't find a pair of jeans that properly fit his baby boy, the pair he wears now are held up by a belt, and are bunched near his ankle where they are still too long. Sam's sneakers had been new, but John could see the breaks in the rubber, and the large gap at the front, Sam's body is not growing but his feet are, testament that when his boy finally hit his growth spurts he would shoot up, John just hopes it will be soon, and that the boy would stop growing shortly after that, Sam is going through sneakers faster than Dean had ever been able to, and damn it if he didn't want to put the kid in a pair of boots he couldn't go through in three months.

But for now his baby boy is just that, and that leaves him deceptively innocent, but unfortunately slightly weakened. Sam is too smart for his own good, though John is damn proud of his baby boy. The kid, despite the amount of moves they made, is always still able to outsmart his teachers to the point of persistently – nine times out of ten – being shunted up a year in school, and whilst that was good for Sam's astro-sized brain, it left him surrounded by bigger kids – not that they're not bigger kids in Sam's original classes, but in these advanced classes he is being turned into these kids are, to Sam, giants – and damn it if they don't use it against him. John can't remember the last time Sam had been able to make it through a run at any school without him being whaled on. He is the new kid, the small kid, his brother – and sometimes John saw the guilt in Dean's eyes when Sam came home with a shiner or a split lip – is also getting the attention of girls who are with other boys, and whilst there is no way they could take this out on Dean his brother is smaller, an easier target...

Not that Sam doesn't put up a fight, even as he watches his boys now - they have reached the table and with murmured greetings to their fathers are dropping into seats beside each other, Dean pushing Sam in before him, protecting his little brother from anyone within the diner – Sam has a bruise on his cheek bone that is just fading away, but his knuckles are cracked and red. Sam fights back every time. Dean assures John each time the pair turned up at the house with Sam sporting a new in jury that the other kids are worse off, and yes Sir, Sammy had taken out most of the trash before Dean had got there. John is inclined to believe him, most of the time. The proud glint in Dean's eye is there seven out of eight times. And anyone Sam doesn't take care of, Dean does.

Sam may be small, but he trains with John and Dean every day. He shoots better than most men, fights almost as well as Dean despite his height disadvantage, and his oversized brain allows for him to calculate the fight before moving into it. Sam has street smarts as much as he has book smarts, and the body hidden beneath the too big clothes and the clothes for kids three years younger than Sam hides powerful, building muscles. The kid is a Winchester, through and through, and although John pushes him hard, harder than he pushes Dean due to his size disadvantage, John is proud of his son, proud of both of them, but looking at Sam gives him that extra surge of pride.

The door to the diner opens now, admitting a family of four, the two boys pushing and shoving ahead of their parents, and John sees Dean tilt his head, as though he was talking to Sam, but watching the four for a moment, trying to decide if they're a danger, before turning away, glancing briefly at John as though for confirmation that the family four pose no threat.

John for his part is still watching the family, the kids, probably around Sam and Dean's ages, though the one of Sam's age taller than his own son and both less muscular than his own boys, are fooling around. Like Sam and Dean had been, pushing and laughing, but unlike with his sons, the elder boy holds no protective stance over his younger brother, is not taking in his surroundings encase of danger. Whilst these boys are goofing around and have not a care in the world, his boys move with a dangerous grace that both interests and scares people, his sons move like wild animals on the prowl – despite Sam's occasional lack of grace as he tried to accustom himself with his long limbs – and damn if it doesn't put most people on edge. John also knows that that in part is what has the girls at Dean's every beck and call. They can see, sense the danger his son possesses, and it reels them in like a drug, girls crave Dean's danger.

The leggy blonde has wandered over now, all flirtatious smiles as she takes their orders, standing just a little too close to his son, so that her hip brushes against his elbow, and she laughs at Dean's bad joke like it's the funniest thing in the world before she goes to see to our food. Dean watches after her, she's putting on a good show for him after all, swaying her hips more than any person could manage without thinking about it, and Sam rolls his eyes at John, giving him a look that just says 'she's trying too hard'. John nods his agreement. Dean will milk her for all she's worth, probably score free pie for both himself and Sam, but if she gives him her phone number he'll conveniently lose it somewhere. Dean's good at what he does, and though he acts like it, he doesn't go for the cheap and easy scores. The boy works for the prize.

They sit comfortably for a while. John has finished with the obituaries – nothing suspicion to speak of – and is now browsing through the rest of the paper, Dean has produced a pack of cards from the depths of his jacket pocket and is playing Sam at cards. John doubts it will be finished before they get back onto the road again – Dean's been playing cards since he was six, and Sam was practically taught how to count from them. That and both his sons know how to cheat. And do so even in their friendly games. Better to keep in practise after all.

The girl comes back with their meals – the burgers are oozing with grease, but none of them are complaining, plus the fries are good and Sam's side salad consists of more than just lettuce. The blonde tries to draw Dean into conversation as she refills John's coffee without asking – this one will be good for them all at this rate – but there is food in front of his son, and she is only able to get half of his attention.

Not that half his attention isn't too little for the blonde, she wanders off to see to the other customers with the same exaggerated sway of her hips.

They're rising as soon as the last of the food is gone from the plates. They still have a number of miles of road to get through before they get to Bobby's after all, and with John there to watch over Sam Dean detours to the counter where the blonde is. Sam snorts, shaking his head and John notices for the first time that Sam has to brush his fringe from his eyes, the kid needs a haircut and soon, they step out into the car park, and whilst Sam hovers beside the bonnet of the Impala – watching the diner doors encase Dean lands in trouble somehow – John opens the door of his trucks and fishes his journal out from the glove compartment, makes some idle notes and entries that had run through his head in the diner.

Dean steps out five minutes later, looking smug and again John is glad that he doesn't have to share the car with Dean and be an observer to that smile for the next few hours. Sam sighs, casts his eyes skywards in a 'God, why me?' gesture, but grins all the same as Dean passes him a container that without doubt contains free pie, and warns Sam if he gets crumbs anywhere in his baby he's kicking him out of the damn car.

John's kids, tall and solid and simply tiny, but great kids, and more loyal to each other than anyone John's ever met.