A/N: I guess this would probably take place shortly after Dead Man's Blood, if you need a timeline. Whatever interval we need for the boys to be with their father.
Under the Bed
Chapter One - Peanuts
They probably should have moved on.
He's getting old, though, the caffeine's just fucking with him, and staying up for 36 hours straight just isn't in the books anymore. So he called his boys up as soon as he saw a sign, told them he was turning off and that they should, too. He heard Sam's huffy indignation in the background as Dean took the call, but it was accepted that this was what they were doing without much argument, thank fuck.
What he hadn't bargained on was the peanut festival in town, or how it was the largest peanut festival held in the entire country, and it was this week and this week only until next fall.
One room. At least it had two doubles. John didn't care at all.
"We'll take it," he said, and the front desk guy swiped his fraudulent credit card and handed over the room key without question.
"So, you're sharing with Dean, right?" Sam asked, trailing behind him, wearing that same look he's been wearing around John since he'd hit 13. Nine years apparently doesn't make a difference at all. "'Cause I'm not sharing with Dean."
"No," Dean said. "I'm not sharing with Dad. Dad is sharing with you, Bitchy McBitcherson."
And, of course, John said, "Dad's not sharing with anyone." Because he's the dad, and as such, he calls the shots.
And now he knows that was a mistake.
Bodies fall from the bed in five minute intervals, big fucking bodies, six foot plus bodies, and they make large thuds when they hit the ground. And since they aren't dead bodies (the kind of bodies John is really used to these days) these thuds come accompanied with an "ow" or a "fuck me" or a "Stop it, Dean." This last one is always followed by a sulky, "You stop it" and then they stop only for the cycle to begin again five minutes later.
It's when Dean finally snarls, "You little sonuvabitch" and launches himself back on the bed - undoubtedly to perform some (somewhat understandable) act of violence upon his little brother - that John finally gets up to intervene, turning on the bedside lamp and pulling his 27-year-old off his 22-year-old.
He blinks his tired eyes and thinks about not getting mad, because it'll only escalate with Sam, and Dean'll get that sad look about him and John doesn't have the energy or the heart for any of it right now. Eventually he just settles for tugging on their limbs and their clothes until they grudgingly come to sit on the edge of the bed to face him at which he point, he says, "No fucking more. And Dean, you think about what you're saying when you curse. If I hear you call your brother that again, we'll be having words."
"Aren't we having words right now?"
They are having words, John realizes, and he scrubs an irritated hand over his irritated face. "We'll be having more words."
Dean snorts in amusement, but his eyes are aimed upwards. He's thinking it over, like he always does when John berates him about something, and when he reaches that point where he gets it, his jaw drops and his eyes cloud over and he mumbles an apology.
John can't verbally accept an apology. He can't bring himself to say any words of comfort to ease his son's guilt, but he can clap the boy on the shoulder. Which he does.
The tips of his fingers find the back of his son's black T-shirt, and the fabric is damp and kind of sticky. He pulls away and sees the smallest hint of red staining his skin.
John needs to learn patience. John needs to learn to talk. But you can't teach an old dog new tricks and he reaches down and pulls the hem of Dean's T-shirt up from the back until there's bare skin up to just above the kid's shoulder blade, bare skin that's unmarred until he gets to the bleeding wound.
"Dude, Dad..." Dean's protesting and he's flailing, trying to regain control and pull his shirt back down and Sam's got his mouth open and ready to defend his brother from whatever this is. But then he sees the wound.
"Dean, you're bleeding," Sam says.
Dean stills. "I am?"
"You are," John confirms, and he has no idea what made that kind of wound, and he knows for a fact that Dean wasn't injured earlier. He lets go of his son's shirt. Dean pulls it back down, looking flustered and upset at being manhandled in such a way, even moreso when John asks, "Do you need help cleaning it up?"
"I can clean my own goddamn cut, Dad."
But Dean's usual flippant cheer has apparently left him for the evening. "I meant, no fucking sir."
"Watch your fucking tone," is all John can muster up as the boy stalks off to the bathroom. He waits for the slam, but Dean's no Sam. Dean's no teenager, Dean's never been a teenager, and the door shuts firmly with a click.
John gets on his knees on the grungy carpet, feels around, looks under the bed.
"Dad?" Sam asks. "What're you doing this time?"
The way in which his son says "this time" indicates that John is an eccentric old man who does things without any reason whatsoever.
"I'm making sure there's nothing down here that cut him."
"Nothing cut him. His shirt wasn't torn. He probably landed on the end table when I pushed him or something." Sam's voice holds the tiniest hint of guilt and John looks up to see him shrugging. "Probably had something there before that got opened up."
Probably. John will let it go. He'll re-salt the doors and windows and let it go. As long as his kids shut the fuck up and go to sleep so he can get some sleep himself, he'll let it all go.
Sam's looking pale, though, and that's something else to worry about it.
"Get some sleep, Sammy," John tells him. "I don't want to hear any more of this shit tonight, clear?"
Sam blinks. "Yessir." And as obediently as the kid's ever been able to manage, he climbs back into bed and turns on his side, leaving as much room as he can for his brother.
John knocks on the bathroom door after it's been five minutes too long.
"Dean?" He's met with silence. He persists. John Winchester always persists. "Dean? Answer me or I'm knocking the goddamn door down."
"Can't a guy take a leak?"
"I don't hear any leaking, kid. If you're done with your cut, come out here and get in bed."
Again, silence. Silence is like a stick, and John's like a bear, and he really doesn't have the fucking patience to be poked at the moment. He bangs a heavy fist against the door. The mattress squeaks a little when Sam jumps.
"Dean. Do I sound like I'm kidding right now?"
The door opens. John's anger melts into guilt.
Dean's standing shirtless in his boxers, wringing his T-shirt in his hands and not meeting his father's eyes. "I can't get the stupid bandage on," he mumbles. "It's in an awkward place. I can't reach it."
John doesn't say anything, just pushes his way into the bathroom and turns the kid around and applies the bandage himself. Dean pulls his T-shirt back on. Everything's fine.
"Get in bed," John grunts, but Dean doesn't move. He's stock still, staring out the bathroom door in trepidation. And trepidation isn't something Dean's known for at all. "Dean?"
Dean's eyes skirt away, settle on the bathtub. "Can I sleep in here?"
John's really sick of this juvenile bullshit. "No, you can't sleep in here. Your brother's made room for you. Stop pouting and get your ass in that fucking bed."
John tries to do the counting-himself-into-calm thing in his head but he was never good at that. So he goes for the tried and true method of manhandling instead, grabbing Dean's arm and yanking him forward.
Dean's feet are bare and they make slapping and soft skidding sounds as he tries to pull away. "Dad, Dad. I can't," he says, and which John totally believes when the kid finally manages to wrangle away, shoving John against the doorway in the process. "I can't, alright?"
"Why can't you?"
And again with the silence. Dean gnaws on his lower lip and looks at the floor and John's running on an hour of sleep and this is fucking it.
"You have three seconds. I'm serious with you right now. I'm going to count to fucking three, Dean."
"Jesus Christ, Dad, am I five?"
Apparently one is all it takes.
"There's something under the bed!" Dean yelps and backs his way back into the bathroom, slaps a hand over his face. "Okay? There's something under the fucking bed. Are you happy now?"
John blinks. "Dean, there's nothing...I checked under there-"
John looks back into the room to see Sam with his big hands planted on the floor and his head hanging down, looking behind the bedskirt to examine this claim.
"I don't see anything." Sam lifts his head, swipes his rumpled hair out of his eyes and looks at Dean in concern. "Dean, are you sick or something?"
"No, I'm not sick," Dean snaps. "There's something under there!" He dodges and skitters away when John reaches to feel his forehead. "Dad, there's something-"
"Dean." The tone stills the boy. Always has, always will, and John tries to brush away the guilt that comes with the fact that Dean has actually come to fear it. "Come here."
Dean comes on trembling legs, green eyes zooming in every possible direction, possibly looking for escape, possibly for something that might want to come in. The kid's wired and afraid and John has no fucking idea what happened in the past ten minutes that could have caused this.
"It's okay," John tells him, and tries his best to put something soothing in his voice as he lifts his hand and rests it against his son's forehead. "It's okay, Dean."
There's no fever, but Dean's eyes are wide and his skin is pale and he says, "M'sorry. I didn't mean-"
"It's not your fault," John cuts him off, because it isn't. It can't be. Something's up. Dean doesn't act this way. "I'm gonna check under the bed again, okay? Mine, too. I'll make sure there's nothing there."
Dean nods and stands in the bathroom's threshold, watches as John gets down on his knees and looks under both beds.
And finds nothing.
"There's nothing there, dude," he tells his son. "All clear."
But Dean shakes his head. "No. Dad, there is. There is something under there."
John sighs. "Sammy, can you look in the closet? We never looked. See if there's a cot. I don't think your brother's going to be able to sleep in one of the beds tonight."
"Sure," Sam says, but he doesn't move as John shuffles back into the bathroom.
Again, John pulls the T-shirt off of Dean, and it's quite the extraction. He has to unfold his son's arms to get the sleeves off, because Dean refuses to uncross them.
"I need to look at your wound again, Champ," he says, and he's trying his best to keep his patience now. Dean's a fucking wreck and all of John's earlier ire has been successfully destroyed by guilt and worry. Dean's obedient now, anyway, turning around at the slightest guidance.
"Dad?" Sam calls, as John gently peels the bandage from his eldest's trembling back.
"I...I can't go into the closet, I don't think."
The bandage comes off. Dean's back is unmarred. The wound is gone, completely healed. John's mouth drops open as he stares at the space where it just was, absently asks, "Why not, kiddo?"
"This is, um...this is gonna sound crazy. But I think something's in there. Yeah, there's definitely something in there. There's something in the closet. Will you check?"