Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural, nor do I own the related characters.

Notes: Hello everyone. Before I start, just quick thanks once again to all of the fantastic people who review/favorite/alert my other stories, and to all of the ones who just read them and enjoy them regardless! Thank you! This is just a snippet into a more normal time in the lives of the Winchesters… because not every problem can be supernatural. Dean is 21, Sam is 17 and there's a lot of good Papa Winchester in here too, because I firmly believe John had his moments. Let me know what you all think, if you have a minute. Thanks again!

Overrated

The front door slammed open, ricocheting off the wall next to it and then slamming shut again- and John Winchester was instantly annoyed. Some choice words with a raised voice were a second from rolling off his tongue from the kitchen when Sam's voice stopped him.

"Fuck off!"

Wordlessly, John raised an eyebrow. The boys were in the living room, not in sight but probably only ten feet around the corner, and while it wasn't unusual for Sam to get pissed off, it was unusual for rage like that to be directed at Dean. And even more so for the choice of words; that language was usually reserved for himself or his oldest, rarely Sam.

"Sam, come on, she kissed me, I didn't-"

"Save it!" Sam growled, furiously interrupting his brother. John could imagine them in each other's faces, fighting like they so rarely did, "You kissed her back! God forbid you keep it in your goddamnit pants for once!"

"Watch it, Sam," now Dean sounded equally pissed, his voice a warning and John half wondered if he should get between the two. After only a moment of deliberation, he decided to stay out of sight for now- perhaps it wouldn't be so bad for Sam and Dean to hash it out for once. Sam was seventeen and Dean twenty-one, they didn't need daddy breaking up their fights anymore.

"What? You've gotten so much you can't even keep to your own age? What the fuck is your problem? You don't think I get enough shit without worrying about my brother stealing my girlfriend? You couldn't have- you shouldn't-"

"I shouldn't what, Sam?" Dean interrupted, his voice matching his brothers and then even raising a notch. John thought the mocking was perhaps a low blow, but he couldn't exactly fault his eldest. He knew better than anyone that Sam was near impossible to reason with when he was this pissed.

"You shouldn't do this to me!" Sam roared, suddenly angrier than his father had ever heard him, so much so that John stood as Sam continued, "You just couldn't stand the goddamn fact that someone actually liked me more than you for once!"

"Oh for fucks sake, Sam, for the last time- I didn't know she was your girlfriend! Maybe next time you shouldn't date a whore who-"

John was on the move instantly as his oldest was cut off and something fell to the ground, shattering. In the five seconds it took him to reach the living room, Dean was shoving Sam back and the youngest Winchester looked ready to pounce, "Hey!" he shouted, authority making both boys freeze.

Dean looked over at him, chest heaving as he stood right in his brother's face, but Sam didn't move. They were the same height now, Sam maybe even a little bit taller, but Dean had mass where his brother was thin. Right now though, John thought a betting man would place his money on the younger boy. Sam looked beyond livid, his eyes hard and his breath loud. He was looking at his older brother the way he had looked at his father more than once, and John wasn't surprised that it hurt more seeing that looked directed at Dean than it ever had at himself.

The betrayal was clear as day, and even though the presence of their father hardly affected Sam at all, it lessened the fire in Dean's eyes.

"Sam-" Dean began, turning back to Sam and reaching out, barely touching his brother before the younger boy yanked away like he had been burned.

"Screw you, Dean," Sam hissed, turning away and up the stairs before either of them could react.

Sighing, John turned back towards the kitchen. Sometimes their problems were so damn normal that none of them knew had to handle it. He hadn't been good with normal in seventeen years. Hell, as far as he was concerned that normal crap was overrated. Give him a Big Bad and he was there.

He could practically hear Dean's hesitation, but they both knew nothing good would come out of Dean trying to talk to his brother now, "Leave him, Dean," John called. It wasn't a suggestion and he knew without turning that his oldest son would follow him into the other room.

Dean slumped into a chair at the small table as John reached into the refrigerator, grabbing two beers and uncapping one for his son, "You kissed his girlfriend? Really, Dean?" he tried not to sound disappointed, and he tried even harder not to sound amused. Now that he wasn't listening to a furious seventeen year old, the whole situation seemed ridiculous. His sons were four years apart for crying out loud.

In response, he got a glare from his oldest, "Jesus, how many times do I have to say I didn't know-"

"Cool it, Dean," John interrupted, "I know, okay?"

Dean visibly deflated, slumping back in the chair and loosely rolling the beer around in his hands.

"I know you wouldn't have purposefully gone after Sam's girlfriend, and he knows it too."

"Exactly! So what's the damn problem? He shouldn't be pissed at me; he should be pissed at the bitch who knowingly cheated on him!"

"How old is she?"

Dean looked a little taken aback by the question, "She's nineteen. But she looks older, so don't start with-"

"Nineteen, okay," John cut him off, "So Sam's what? Just some kid she can screw around with. You're his brother, Dean. She doesn't have to give a shit about his feelings- you do. Knowingly or not, you still screwed up."

There was a long silence and then Dean nodded, "Okay. Yeah. I screwed up, but seriously it's not that big of a deal. We've all dealt with a bitchy girlfriend- doesn't mean he has to get all… upset about it."

John leaned back in his chair, frustrated with both of his children but unwilling to let this fight come between them. It was funny, seeing his sons fight like real brothers who have normal problems that can cause rifts between them. Not that Dean and Sam didn't always bicker, but it had been years since they actually fought, and it was a little reassuring to see that they weren't afraid to test the waters. It was only occasionally that John worried about what they'd do for each other.

Ironically, he had ingrained that bond in them from the day Mary died. It was a bond that strengthened them and weakened them more than either of them saw, so sometimes it was (quite selfishly, he'd admit) nice to see that Sam and Dean could still hate each other just that normal amount.

"Sam depends on you more than anyone in the world, Dean," and it hurt to admit, but damnit if anything hadn't ever been truer, "It doesn't matter if it's stupid to you. The fact that you made him feel that way, intentionally or not," he added the clause quickly before his eldest son could interrupt, "Means that it's a big deal."

Dean straightened in his chair, fixing his dad with a half entertained, half perplexed look that instantly rubbed John the wrong way.

"Is there a problem with that?" he asked, his voice harsh but lacking the fire it normally may in similar situations.

"No sir," Dean replied, a grin making its way onto his face, "It's just that that was awfully… father-y of you."

At the comment, John was very nearly offended until he saw the joking in Dean's eyes. Then he was left with just the desire to swat the kid upside his cocky head.

"It's gross, anyway," Dean continued, taking a swig from his beer.

John could tell he understood now, knew Dean would never do anything to purposefully hurt Sam and knew Sam knew it too, but to his very roots Dean was a smartass and it kept John going in the same way Sam's humanizing questions did. Without them…

It was a thought John couldn't afford, though the end of Dean's sentence made him consider it.

"It's like I kissed Sammy," Dean finished, looking disgusted.

John actually snorted at that, "Yeah, Dean. That's what it's like," he responded, sarcasm dripping from every word.

At that end, and with a satisfied grin at successfully amusing his father, Dean set his beer down on the table and rose, "I should go talk to him, then."

Resolutely, John stood as well, shaking his head and pushing Dean by the shoulders back into the chair, "You go up their now and Sam's going to clock you- and I'd have half a mind to let him do it. I'll talk to him. You stay."

Amusement gone and uncertainty replacing it, Dean fixed his father with a surprised look, "You're going to talk to Sam about this?"

Once again, Dean hadn't mean to offend him but he very nearly did, "Yes, Dean," he responded evenly, his voice holding no room for debate, "And you're going to stay."

Dean didn't protest, but he could feel unsure eyes on him the whole way up the stairs.

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John was surprised to reach the room and find the door part way open. Peering in, he could see his youngest sitting on the edge of the bed, a book in his lap and his head down, face in a scowl.

He rapped his knuckles against the wood twice, pushing the door open with the knock.

"Not now, Dean-" Sam snapped, whipping his head up and then stopping mid-sentence, "-Dad," surprise coloring his tone.

"Getting a lot of reading done, son?" he began conversationally, leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed.

Sam closed the book and flung it on the bed next to him, "You don't need to do this dad," he said in place of an answer to the question, his voice leading up to a sigh and a shake of the head, "I know I overreacted."

The oldest Winchester nodded slightly, moving bones that were older than their age to sit across from his son on the adjacent twin bed, "Maybe. But that's not what I was going to say."

"…Really?" Sam actually looked genuinely stunned, and it tore at John just a little. In a heartbeat and without further thought, Sam had instantly assumed he would take Dean's side. Although in retrospect, maybe the assumption wasn't too far off. Though it had improved since Sam was fourteen and genuinely thought everyone lived solely to piss him off, there were still very few times when John thought Sam was the one in an argument with the valid point. Perhaps if he were a better father, he would have made that a bit of a lesser known fact, but present musings wouldn't change past mistakes.

Swiftly changing tactics, John carefully said, "Yeah, Sam. I was thinking I could use your help, anyway. How do you think I should punish him?"

If Sam looked stunned before, he looked absolutely astonished now. "We are talking about Dean, right?"

"Damn right we are, son. You don't mess with another man's woman- especially not your brother's. So what do you think we should do about it? Extra training? Or maybe we can give him a taste of his own medicine, eh?"

"I-I guess I don't know. I mean, maybe, you know. She was kind of… flighty," Sam began hesitantly, and it was almost amusing to John how much his son looked like he was waiting for the carpet to be pulled out from underneath him.

"No, no. That doesn't matter, Sam," John said sternly, "You're his little brother. I know he didn't know her, but he still should have known."

"How?" Sam asked suddenly, "I mean, I only mentioned her name once. And regardless, you know Dean doesn't get names first."

"Still, Sam. He should have asked you more about her, should have been more careful. He hurt you, hurt your feelings, maybe your pride," John leaned forward so his elbows were resting on his knees, "It's a hell of an accident."

Sam's eyes looked about ready to bulge out of his head, and more remarkably- anger was starting to brew again. He sat up taller, his lanky body no longer shifting uncomfortably but rather taking stock in all of its six foot glory. Still an impressive height, even sitting, "Come on, Dean wouldn't have done that to hurt me, I mean it's Dean. He spends all his damn time making sure I don't get hurt, he wouldn't just do this on-"

He paused and John realized he had let it slip. His lips were curving up in what could be a grimace in anyone else, but was damn close to a smile for him. And Sam caught it.

"…purpose," Sam finished lamely, sinking down again. He fixed his dad with a glare; the first one he had given anyone since he got home that didn't have any fire in it.

"Ya think, Sammy?" John leaned forward and clapped Sam on the knee before sitting up and stretching. He let a moment of silence pass between them and then continued, quieter, "So why'd you assume he did?"

Sam's jaw set and John was sure he had lost the chance to get anything out of him, "You're right, okay? I'll apologize to him. I was just pissed but it wasn't a big deal. Point made."

"Hell, Sam, that's not what I was getting at," John ran a hand over his face. Leave it to his youngest to twist every damn word he said, "Something pissed you off more than Dean kissing a girl you've been seeing for two minutes. There isn't anything to apologize for- Dean screwed up and I'll bet you forgave him the second you walked in this room. So what's the problem?"

Sam diverted his eyes, emotionless. Just like John had taught him.

"Sam," he nudged the kid's knee again, and it seemed to ignite Sam.

"Dean does everything right, every fucking thing- he's a better hunter, he doesn't get what it could possibly be like to not be liked in school, he's everything you could want and I'm stuck being me," Sam snapped, standing up fiercely and raking a hand through his hair. He was mad again, but the raw fury from before wasn't there. Instead, there was defeat that John hadn't ever really noticed before, "And then I get one goddamn thing that's mine, and Dean gets that too!"

Sam stopped moving, seemed to stop breathing and then just stood, his arms by his side and his back to his father.

And hell if John hadn't done everything wrong by the kid.

"Sam, sit down."

His youngest didn't move and John didn't get up.

"Sammy," he said, his voice firmer, "Sit."

Silently, Sam obeyed, and once again John thought he had done it wrong. For some reason, the compliance he had just demanded stung.

"Look at me," John said softly, not waiting for a response and instead pulling Sam's jaw up to him, "And listen, because I'm only going to say this once. You are second best to nobody. Do you understand me? You and Dean- you're different. You know your brother would do anything in the damn world for you. We'd have done everything to make sure you didn't feel that way. I need you and Dean, there's no way around it and there ain't any favorites, am I clear?"

Perhaps it wasn't the most eloquent thing to say, but it was probably more than he'd said to Sam in five years.

And it seemed to work, at least to his naked eye (and granted that eye didn't know much about Sam), but the praise from a normally wordless father made Sam sit a little bit taller, and John thought he could at least sleep easy with that.

He let go of his son's face with a soft pat on the cheek, "You good?"

Hesitantly nodding, Sam opened his mouth and the guilt on his face may have satisfied John in any one of their other fights but this time just left him feeling oddly empty, "I'm sorry I said-"

"Save it, Sammy, okay?"

There wasn't any anger or disappointment there, and the small smile Sam offered him in return was more than enough to please him. It was extraordinarily rare when one of those grins was directed at him. Using his hands on his knees to give himself leverage, he rose to his feet and slapped Sam on the shoulder, "I'm going to order pizza for dinner, sound good?"

"Great," Sam replied as his father turned away. He remained sitting and John made it to the door before the kid spoke again, "Dad," he called. John stopped moving, "Uh, thanks. You know, just… thanks."

John smirked again, though his son couldn't see his face, and nodded before he walked into the hallway. He was unsurprised to see Dean leaning against the wall next to the room, a frown twisting his features. Out of view of the inside of the room, John bobbed his head to the door, "Go."

Dean obeyed, pretended he was waiting for his father's permission, and right upon his entrance he must have had that same face, because Sam's first comment was, with exasperation, "You were eavesdropping?"

With his oldest son's response of, "Of course I was eavesdropping dude, you were talking about me!" John shook his head.

Well, Dean had to get it from somewhere.

It didn't take much listening for John to know exactly what was going to be said. Even though he thought for the first time in a long time he may have actually helped his youngest son, he knew with the last comment he heard, quietly spoken from Dean ("Dad was right you know. All that crap you said was bull, okay? I swear to you."), that they'd sort the rest out. Hell, knowing them they'd be fine in time for dinner, because in Dean's world everything could be fixed before a good, greasy meal.

With Sam, it had been 'big brother knows best' since he was six months old, and more often than not, John thought it was for the best.

Regardless of that easy fact, his boy was slipping away. John hadn't ever heard Sam actually say anything that clued him in so blatantly like he had tonight, but this only solidified it. Still, John was going to try, and if Sam was still going to leave then he'd for damn certain leave knowing he mattered. But John was a realistic man, and he was pretty sure he wouldn't react so well to Sam leaving them, so he'd do what he could now because maybe Sam could think on the past to try to redeem future actions.

John took the stairs two at a time to the bottom floor of the ramshackle renter they had this month, thinking about a nice Hawaiian pizza and a family of three that stuck together. He couldn't spend too much time worrying before he had something real to worry about, and tonight all he had to worry about was if Dean and Sam were going to mind that he wasn't going to bother asking them what toppings they wanted on their pizzas.

Hell, pizza toppings seemed like a bigger reason to get pissed to him than two brothers fighting over a girl, but damn if that fight wasn't a dose of reality. Sam was still a teenager, and they would both always be his boys. His kids. An hour ago them fighting had seemed alright, it had seemed borderline normal in a life of every unnormal thing, but now he was glad to see it go and to hear Dean called his brother an asshat upstairs.

Because this normal crap wasn't for him, and if he had to wait his whole life for another blow out like the one tonight- like his sons were two regular, everyday brothers- then it'd be too damn soon.

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