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SPN Fic: Back Seat Driver

Title: Back Seat Driver
Author: debbiel66
Characters: John, Dean, Sam, Bobby
Word Count: 7100
Genre: gen
Rating: R (language)
Warnings: Spoilers through 6X16; AU from that point on
Author's Notes: This story follows Clean Slate and Killing Time in my resurrected!John verse. It is not necessary to read those stories first, but it would probably be helpful.

Grateful thanks, once again, to callistosh65 for being such a wonderful beta. Also, a big thank you to saberivojo for her awesome insights and advice.

Summary: John Winchester is back from the dead, and he and the boys are finally on the road again, but they are a long way from knowing where they are going.

Back Seat Driver

John hates the back seat.

It is damn uncomfortable on every level—he just doesn’t fit. His knees ache while jammed against the front seat, his head has no place to rest except for the window, and he gets nauseous whenever he tries to read. But there’s no way he’s gonna piss and moan about it, not for all the times he told Sam to soldier-up and quit threatening to puke.

“Damnit, Sammy, do you really have to do your homework in the car?”

Blearily, John rubs his hand over his eyes, just thinking about the epic battles launched by that singular question. God knows…there had only been one answer as far as Sam had been concerned, and now John has to concede that it’s really fucking easy to get carsick in the back seat while trying to read.

What goes around, comes around. Nobody knows that better than John.

Still, John wonders if he could covertly pick up some Dramamine when they stop…if they ever stop. He knows he should look out the window, pick out some object on the horizon, and try to get over it, but he’s been trying to get some reading done, catching up.

Sam is letting him use some ridiculous tablet thing to get internet coverage in the car, a piss-poor excuse for a real computer in John’s opinion. He’s having a hard time accepting how far technology has come in the past several years. It’s crazy shit— being able to access the internet in the middle of nowhere.

Unfortunately, there are few websites that sum up how the almost-apocalypse has changed the world as he knew it. There are a couple blogs from some bitter hunters with massive chips on their shoulders against his boys, against Lucifer and Michael and all the powers that be, but that’s about it.

Ignoring his queasiness, John tries to scroll to another page, but there’s no reception…they are even deeper into nowhere than they were before. It doesn’t sit well with him…not having a clue where they are going or what the next thing on the agenda might be. He’s been trying not to complain too much, not when it took all of Sammy’s formidable negotiating skills, as well as some pointed words from Bobby, to convince Dean to bring John along.

John is pretty damn sure Dean only gave in because of a keep your enemies close kind of thing, but that’s all right. He can deal with that. The current seating arrangement is something else altogether. There’s no damn way he’s going to be getting used to being stuck in the back.

John gives up and puts the computer thing on the seat next to him. He wills away the nausea…he’s a hunter and spent a hundred years in Hell. There’s no way he’s going to puke over some inner ear malfunction. But Dean isn’t saying much about anything, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The silence is broken abruptly when Sam says, “Dean, you gotta pull over.”

“Shit, Sam—you gotta take a leak again?”

“Shut up and pull over.”

Dean looks over disbelievingly. “We just stopped, dude…if you’d lay off the coffee, then this wouldn’t happen.”

“It’s been four hours since we stopped, and I can’t help it,” Sam retorts. “My head still hurts…the coffee kind of helps.”

Crap. John sees the way Dean stiffens his shoulders. Most likely, he’d been hoping Sam was feeling better since he hadn’t been talking about it. But Sam glances over at Dean, and from that sidelong glance, John sees that Sam is pale and tight-lipped with pain.

It’s been too long. Sam’s head has been killing him for days, ever since he had the seizure, and John doesn’t like the fact that it doesn’t seem to be getting better. Dean told Bobby that this one was a lot worse than the first.

A seizure like that is nothing to mess around with. There could be internal damage, a blood clot, or even a minor concussion when he hit the floor. Even though Dean is still pissed at Bobby for talking, they were unanimous on one thing…no hospitals, no CT scans, no neurologists poking blithely at a wall that needs to stay firmly in place.

John doesn’t think they’d be taking much of a risk having Sam get it looked at, seeing that it’s not actually a literal wall that’s gonna show up on some neurologist’s computer screen, but Dean isn’t willing to take the chance. John tried to argue it back at Bobby’s, but nobody seems all that interested in his opinion, something he definitely is not used to.

Dean says, “If you weren’t such a stubborn idiot and took the meds, you’d feel better and could just sleep it off.”

But Sam shakes his head. “I don’t want your meds, dude. They just knock me out, and you might need me to drive later.”

Dean levels him with a pointed glare. “Oh, please. Like I’d ever let you drive…”

Sam is pouting—John is sure of it by the hunch of his shoulders. “You should let me drive. You’re coming down with something, and you know it. You’re just being stubborn because you hate being sick.”

John straightens and hits his head on the curve of the damn roof. This is the first he’s heard about Dean being sick.

“It’s just a cold. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine, you’re miserable,” Sam says. “Your throat hurts, you can’t breathe, and you’re gonna start sneezing any second.” He leans over, trying to feel Dean’s forehead.

Dean slaps his hand away. “Get your hands off me. I’m fine—worry about yourself.”

“Why should I when I’ve got you to do it for me?” Sam says in a low voice, and Dean looks at him like he can’t believe what he’s hearing.

“What the hell are you saying about me now?”

Sam sighs. “Nothing…just forget it.”

“I have reason to worry, and you know it.”

“You’ve made that kind of obvious, Dean. But I don’t think we had to leave Bobby’s. You just… react… when you get upset….you never stop and think.”

John knows he’s listening to an old argument by the way Dean takes a deep breath and rubs a hand over his eyes. “I don’t want to talk about Bobby. I’m serious.”

“I’m just saying…”

Shut up, Sam.”

“Fine, great…but I’ve still gotta take a leak.”

“For God’s sake,” Dean mutters. “Okay—fine. Give me a minute, and I’ll look for a place to pull over.”

They are in the middle of nowhere—thick woods crowd both sides of the road. Anywhere would be a good place to pull over, but John doesn’t blame Dean for trying to push Sam for a few more miles. John has no idea where they’re going, but he has always hated when they don’t make good time.

“Don’t wait too long…I mean it, Dean,” Sam warns and looks back out his window.

Sam always did have a twitchy bladder, always asking to pull over after they’d just gotten back on the road. When he was really little, three or four years old, Dean could hold Sam up bare-bottomed and let him pee out the open window. It was damn convenient, and Sammy got good at it once he worked on his aim. But then when he got a little older, Sam heard somewhere it was against the law to pee on public roads, and that was the end of that. John can still hear his six year old’s mortified voice—Dad! It’s a statute!

Just remembering it makes him sigh.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Dean asks suddenly. John looks up to see that Dean is glaring at him in the rearview mirror again.

“Nothing’s wrong with me,” John replies, but there’s an edge to his voice that gives him away every time. “Keep your eyes on the damn road.”

“Look—you’re the one who wanted to come.”

“Dean, lay off,” Sam says.

But John interrupts, “I can fight my own battles, Sam.”

Sam holds his hands up in mock-surrender and mutters, “Sorry.” John feels a little guilty because damn but he just hurt the vessel of Lucifer’s feelings…

No. Damnit. He needs to stop thinking like that.

Not the vessel of Lucifer, not the soldier boy of Azazel, and not some demon-blood addict who slept with a demon while his big brother rotted in Hell. Not the boy who saved the world and now has his sanity propped up by a crumbling, death-mortared wall.

But this is still Sam, his Sammy, the one who fought him every day they were together, the one who needed to be saved at all cost. John has always clung to the known when confronted with the unthinkable, and he cannot afford to do it differently now. If he stops and considers everything Bobby told him, he would end up in a padded cell, and that just can’t happen. His boys need him a helluva lot more than they think they do. A mental breakdown is a luxury he does not have right now.

“Don’t talk to Sam like that—he was only trying to help,” Dean snaps, and that’s sure familiar…big brother Dean always coming to Sam’s defense.

“I don’t need you fighting my battles either. Look, can we just stop?” Sam says in a rising voice.

Dean glances back in the rearview again, and John can see that his mouth is pressed in a tight, anxious line. Ever since Sam’s seizure, Dean has been gun-shy about Sam getting wound up.

Before they’d left Bobby’s, Dean had warned John, “First time you push his buttons, you’re out. I don’t care if I’m off the map or in the Sahara desert, I’m kicking you out of the car…”

But now Dean says, “Bring it down a couple notches, Sam, everything’s fine. We’re fucking Switzerland, that’s how fine we are. Do me a favor—just try to get some sleep. You’d feel better.”

“I still have to take a leak…remember? Dean, I swear I’m about to use my coffee cup.”

Dean mutters under his breath about mutant sasquatches with lousy aim, but he does move the car off the road. John cranes his head, trying to see anything that gives away where they are—Sam had tried to show him how his so-called computer’s GPS worked, but John couldn’t do anything with it. No matter how he set it, it kept whining that it was fucking recalculating, and once Dean started bitching about it, John turned the thing off. He’s got enough stress in his life—he doesn’t need a goddamn map giving him attitude.

Sam gets out of the car and heads off into the woods, and John figures he should follow. There’s no telling when they’re going to find a station. From where he’s sitting, John tries to sneak a look at the gas gauge. Dean should know better than to let it get too low…it’s terrible for the engine. John’s gonna kick his ass if he isn’t keeping a spare gallon in the trunk…

“Still got half a tank,” Dean says, sounding bored. “Plenty to get us where we’re going.”

John isn’t crazy about the fact that Dean seems to know what he’s thinking, more often than not. He really doesn’t like this particular tone in their relationship either. He can remember saying that to Dean once in another life, when John had told him if anything was going on with his brother, Dean needed to call him right away. Dean had basically told himself to go fuck himself, albeit more politely than that.

At the time, John worried that his authority was in question…had planned to rein his son in, but things had escalated so quickly with Azazel, he hadn’t had the chance. Now he knows it had just been a simple act of defiance from his good soldier of a son.

Things were so much simpler then.

But John can’t let himself get stuck in the past. What matters is they’re here now, improbably alive and together. From what Bobby told him, the odds’ makers in Heaven and Hell weren’t counting on the Winchesters coming out of the apocalypse intact. If John feels a little bit of pride at blowing those odds, well, who could really blame him?

Dean coughs into his elbow, and John looks up. He can hear a worrisome rattle to Dean’s breathing, and he wonders why he didn’t notice Dean was getting sick before Sam brought it up.

“You all right?” John asks gruffly.

“I’m good.”

Dean has been tapping his fingers on the dash, but his eyes haven’t left the patch of woods where Sam disappeared. His fingers stop their tapping as soon as Sam emerges, zipping up his jeans. But instead of getting back in the car, Sam starts up with some inexplicable stretch against the hood. The poor car rocks from his weight, and John grimaces because it’s terrible for the suspension.

Dean rolls down the window and yells, “Knock it off, Sam! You’re gonna dent the hood!”

Sam just frowns, flips him off, and begins doing side stretches. His shirt rides up, and John catches a glimpse of perfectly toned abs underneath all that flannel. He smiles a little, thinking of the kid with his nose in a book, who hated training the way normal kids hated homework, and John wonders how his dorky kid turned into the poster boy for some fitness magazine.

“Any time now,” Dean grumbles, more to himself than anyone else.

But John is still studying Sam. “He’s in good shape.”

“Holdover from his sociopath days.”

John looks up sharply, but all he can catch in the comment is rueful affection. Bobby told John what Sam was like without a soul, and really, it’s almost unimaginable. Just like so many other things that happened while he was gone.

“Bobby says Sam was a damn good hunter after he came back,” John says. Dean takes his eyes off Sam long enough to turn to John and glare.

“Bobby said a lot of things he shouldn’t,” Dean says, and there’s a world of warning in that statement—keep out…don’t even go there.

Dean has been furious ever since he woke up from his angel-induced coma and learned that Bobby and John had spent the night over a bottle of Jack, caring and sharing, as Bobby put it. Thanks to Bobby, he now has the full story of what happened to his boys over the past six years. Thinking about it is a little like looking at the sun. John can’t stare too long before flinching.

“It ain’t safe for you not to know,” was how Bobby put it before laying it out…

John has a hard time getting his head around the basic facts: Sammy’s death at Cold Oak, Dean’s deal with the crossroads demon and his death a year later, the breaking of the seals, the demon who seduced his youngest son with promises of demon blood and power.

His boys were intended to be pawns from the beginning, to fall into line, and play their parts for Heaven and Hell. Everything John did as a hunter…every monster he killed, every restless soul he laid to rest didn’t change a thing. Angels and demons had damned his boys from the day they were born. It hurts like hell to remember Mary’s joy of the birth of her boys. It hurts like hell, but John is glad Mary never had to see this coming.

But the boys didn’t live up to expectations. The way Bobby put it, the friggin’ Powers That Be had a fit over the fact that the boys went off script. John didn’t know why they should be surprised if they’d been paying attention. Sam never did do a damn thing he was told, and Dean was never going to leave a man behind…and most definitely not his brother.

Bobby had finished off his story by aiming a look at him that John never wanted to see again. “Your boys saved the world. They made choices nobody else has ever had to make, and they didn’t screw it up. If you’re too much of a stubborn sonofabitch to see they did their best, then you can get the hell out of their lives. Those boys don’t need any more trouble than they got.”

John said quietly. “I’m their father. I’m not going to cause them any trouble, Bobby.”

“Family means more than blood around here. It’s gotta be earned, and you got a long way to go.”

John was feeling hazy from too much alcohol and too many revelations, so he shook his head. “I swear I’ll protect them.”

“You ain’t getting it. Things have changed, John.”

“I’m still their father,” John said stubbornly. “That hasn’t changed.”

Bobby grumbled, “Bunch of jackasses…the whole lot of you Winchesters.” He finished off his whiskey in a single swallow, which John figured it was its own concession.

He and Singer may have come to an understanding at the end of that long night, but Dean hadn’t seen it that way. After kicking holes in a basement wall and raging around the junkyard for an hour, he’d slammed back into the house and announced to Sam, “C’mon, we’re leaving.”

Sam had tried talking him out of it, but Dean wouldn’t be swayed. He had never taken betrayal easily, and John knew he was both freaked and furious at having all their secrets laid out like that.

John had been waiting on the front porch, but he could still hear the conversation between Dean and Bobby by the car. Dean had already packed up but still hadn’t decided if he was leaving John behind. Post-seizure, Sam was still pretty out of it and was dozing on the couch, but he’d made it perfectly clear that he wanted his dad to come along.

“I’m gonna forgive you,” Dean told Bobby. “But not today. I know you did what you thought you had to, but you gotta give me some time.”

Bobby just stood there, scuffing the toe of his boot in the dust and looking downright miserable. “It was the right thing to do. I had to tell him. You were there…you saw what happened. He pushed Sam into a seizure without having any idea what he was doing—just bringing up Lucifer.”

“That’s exactly why Sammy shouldn’t be around him…it’s not safe,” Dean said, and John had flinched. Damn but that boy knew how to inflict damage without even trying.

“He’s your father,” Bobby said, resting a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “You can’t just drive away from here and pretend John Winchester doesn’t matter, because you and me both know he does.” Dean had started to shake his head but Bobby persisted, “You’re gonna have to deal with it. Deal with him. What Sam’s been through…that wall he’s got shoved in his head. Sam needs all the protection he can get, and you know that.”

Smart man, putting it like that because John saw the moment Dean’s shoulders slumped…the moment he gave in. Dean glared at Bobby before stalking over to where John was standing and said, “Get in…but I’m driving this.”

John knew he wasn’t talking about the car.

“Dad?” John looks up and slips back into the present. Sam is still outside, leaning in. “You need to get out?” He nods his head toward the trees off the road.

John wouldn’t mind taking a leak, but he’s not taking the chance that Dean would drive off without him. Not that he really thinks he would but John has never believed in taking unnecessary chances. “No son…I’m good.”

Sam gets in and slams the door hard enough to make Dean glower, and Sam glares right back at him, before inexplicably grinning.

“Loser,” Dean says affectionately and elbows him in the ribs, Sam shoves him back, calls him a dick, and they’re good with each other. It has never taken much…

John can hardly imagine the rift between his boys that Bobby described. If nothing else, he’s glad he didn’t have to witness that. It’s the only way John has been able to justify the choices he’s made…his boys didn’t need him. They had each other.

Dean turns the key, and John winces at the rattle when he starts up the engine. From the sound of it, the timing chain needs to be replaced. He wonders what the hell Dean was working on all that time he spent under the hood in Bobby’s yard.


So Sam was right. Dean is definitely sick but not only that, he’s most likely toxic from the way he’s sniffling and coughing. Sam pulled out a box of tissues from underneath the seat, but Dean flat-out refuses to use them.

The two of them have been bitching back and forth for the past hour about all sorts of things…taking meds…drinking water…taking a nap…using a tissue when you can’t friggin’ breathe…even acknowledging that there is anything wrong in the first place. John knows he raised them to be good soldiers and just deal with it, whatever it is, but he is getting sick of this.

“Do you want me to drive?” John asks blearily, but Dean just huffs and clears his throat, like he’s trying to suppress a cough. “Do you even know where you’re going?”

This time, Sam is the one who aims a look over his shoulder, clearly irritated. “Dad, it’s not like we spent the past six years driving around lost.”

“That’s not the way Bobby tells it,” John says, but it comes out more accusatory than he meant it. He should know better. Right now, he’s way too testy for any good to come from anything he says so he knows he should stop while he’s ahead. But he’s got a crick in his neck, and he is tired of the back seat. Truth is he’s too old for this crap.

Dean takes his eyes off the road and turns around. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

John sets his jaw. “It means nothing. Forget about it.”

“You don’t ever say anything you don’t mean,” Dean says.

Sam shoves a hand through his hair, pushes it out of his eyes. “Let it go, Dean. It’s too late.”

“I’m not letting anything go until he tells me what he means.”

Sam sighs. “It’s past midnight.”

“And I told you to go to sleep,” Dean retorts.

“I can’t sleep,” Sam says mournfully. “My head hurts too much.”

“Then take the fucking medicine,” John surprises himself by saying it out loud. But seriously, this headache has been going on for days, and John can hear the strain in Sam’s voice. It’s just not natural to have a headache hang around like that.

“Hey—don’t talk to him like that.” Dean is scowling at him in the rearview.

“He’s being stubborn,” John insists. “He’d feel better if he took the damn medicine.”

“Yeah, well you don’t get to tell him what to do.”

“I was agreeing with you,” John says, exasperated.

“Well, I don’t need you to agree with me. I’m in charge of Sam…not you.”

“I’m really not five years old,” Sam says, but neither pays attention.

Instead, John warns, “This isn’t a competition. I’m here now, and you’re just going to have to get used it.”

“We’ve gotten used to a lot of things,” Dean mutters, sounding miserably hoarse and congested.

Immediately, John’s head goes to what Bobby told him about some of the more questionable choices they’ve made. It’s not the right time. John knows he should let this go. He knows. With Sam’s headache not letting up and Dean sick as a dog but refusing to blow his goddamn nose, John realizes he needs to defuse the situation, not escalate it.

But he can’t help getting in the last word.

So he says, “You boys got used to some pretty fucked up things.”

Dean places both hands flat on the wheel, swears under his breath, and pulls the car off the road. He turns to stare at John. “What the hell do you mean by that?”

Sam throws his hands up. “For God’s sake…can we not do this? Let’s just not.”

“Shut your cakehole, Sam,” Dean grits out. “I want to hear what Dad has to say.”

Sam just groans, “C’mon, Dean…”

Dean turns off the engine, flips on the dome light overhead, and faces John squarely. In the yellowed light, John can see that Dean’s eyes are red-rimmed and watery. He looks like he needs to crawl into bed and stay there for a week.

In a low voice, Dean asks, “You got something to say about me and Sam?”

Dean may be sick, but John has never backed down from a fight, and he sure as hell doesn’t like Dean mouthing off at him. “Maybe I got some issues with some of the choices you boys made while I was gone.”

Dean looks like he’s going to come over the seat at him. “You must be talking about the way me and Sammy had to clean up the mess you left us.”

“I can’t believe this,” Sam mutters, but John is already jabbing his finger at Dean.

“The mess I left you? I did my goddamn best to protect you boys. That’s all I’ve ever done, my whole life.”

Sam lays his arm across the seatback, like it’s enough to keep them from from throwing a punch at each other. “Dean, don’t. Just let it go.”

Dean turns to his brother. “You know, I don’t get you. Dad has screwed you over your whole life, and you just keep protecting him over and over again. Don’t you know what he does…what he did for a living? Think about it, Sam. After what we’ve been through, why would you trust another hunter?”

“He’s our dad,” Sam says stubbornly.

“He’s a hunter,” Dean says. “Remind me again what a hunter does, Sam.”

John has no idea what Dean is getting at, but Sam seems to, and he sets his jaw.

“Just because he’s a hunter doesn’t mean we’re like mortal enemies or any stupid crap like that. Bobby’s a hunter too.”

“Bobby’s family. He’s proven himself.”

Sam winces a little and rubs his hand against his forehead, reminding John that his son is still in considerable pain. John is hit hard by the memory of Sam convulsing on the floor at Bobby’s…Hell literally shoving through the cracks. They need to ease up. From what Bobby says, they don’t know how long this wall is going to last, and all this fighting isn’t going to help.

John is ready to back down when Dean asks, “What did Dad do for a living, Sam? You gotta answer me that.” The question makes no sense to John.

Sam doesn’t answer at first. Finally, he sighs deeply. “He hunts monsters…same as you and me.”

Dean nods grimly. “Last I checked, Dad’s definition of a monster was a little less flexible than yours and mine.”

Quietly, Sam asks, “You calling me a monster, Dean?”

Immediately, Dean’s hard look softens. “No, I’m not calling you a monster, dumbass. But I remember when Dad freaked over you having visions. What do you think he’s going to do about all the rest?”

Sam blinks a couple times and turns away. “I own my own mistakes, Dean.”

“I’m not talking about your mistakes. I’m talking about what you are.”

“Fuck you,” Sam says, but there’s only hurt in his voice. No anger.

Dean continues, “Damnit, Sam, I’m not talking about what I think. Maybe the name ‘Gordon Walker’ rings a bell. Don’t forget…old Gordon and Dad were hunting buddies from way back. Gordon always said he and Dad were cut from the same cloth…said Dad would have done the job himself if he’d still been around…”

John stiffens. Gordon Walker was a perfect hunter and a perfect sonofabitch. He was nobody John had ever wanted his boys exposed to, and he’d worked hard to keep them away from Gordon and hunters like him, the whole time they were growing up. He tries to think of anything Bobby might have said about the boys having any contact with Walker but comes up short. It occurs to him that Bobby might have told him the basics, but there are crucial parts of their history that he knows nothing about.

“What the hell were you doing talking with Gordon Walker?” John asks roughly.

“We did a lot more than talk with Gordon Walker. Your hunting buddy tried to kill Sam.”

John is going to kill the sonofabitch himself. “You take care of Walker?”

“Of course,” Dean says indignantly, before he stifles a sneeze.

“I’m the one who killed him,” Sam retorts. They both look at him. “Since you’re still insisting on treating me like I’m five.”

Dean admits, “Yeah, but only because you got to him first. I told you I wasn’t gonna let anything happen to you.”

John takes a breath at Dean’s statement and feels anger build inside over the thing that has been bothering him the most, ever since he heard about the demon blood.

He leans forward until his face is just inches away from Dean’s, and he jabs a finger at his son’s chest. “You were supposed to look after him…I told you to look after your brother. Why the hell weren’t you keeping an eye on Sam while he was off banging some demon chick?”

“What the hell?” Dean whispers, and Sam pulls back as well, eyes wide.

But John has something to say, and he’s not backing down. “Sam was strung out on demon blood…and you didn’t realize it? How exactly is that possible? What could have been more important than paying attention to your brother when you knew he was in trouble?”

Sam looks away and faces the front windshield, while Dean continues to stare at John. There is only silence in the car, except for Sam’s oddly hitched breathing. For a bad moment, John worries that Sam is about to have another seizure, but when Sam finally turns around, it is clear Sam isn’t seizing—he’s just fucking mad.

Sam grips the seatback. “Don’t you dare…don’t you ever dare say that to him. You have no right.”

“I’m talking to your brother,” John retorts, and Dean sucks in a congested breath, coughs a little with that rattle in his chest.

“No, he’s right, Sam,” Dean says, after a long pause. “Dad’s right.”

“That’s bullshit. I made my own choices. You don’t get to take the blame for that.”

“I was messed up from Hell…wasn’t looking after you right.” Dean is still staring, shell-shocked, at John.

Sam slams both hands down on the dash hard enough that it’s got to hurt. Dean turns to him.

“You okay, Sammy?” Dean asks, voice cracking a little on his brother’s name.

But Sam shakes his head, shoves the door open, and gets out of the car. He leans over and says to Dean, “If there’s anything we’ve learned from the crap we’ve been through, it’s that free will wins. I made my choice, I’m the one who fucked up, and I’m the one who gets to pay for that. It’s why I threw myself into the pit, Dean. Don’t take that away from me.” He glares at John. “So yeah…I got myself addicted to demon’s blood, I fucked a demon, I let Lucifer out of his cage. Dean did everything he could to stop me, so don’t you dare make him feel bad that he couldn’t.”

John shakes his head. “You were his responsibility.”

“I’m a grown man!” Sam explodes, gesturing expansively. “And Dean was in Hell when Ruby came to me! You remember Hell don’t you? Well, guess what? Dean went there for me. I fucked myself up while he was gone…but Dean had nothing to do with it! I was already addicted by the time he got back!”

John sucks in a deep breath…Sam getting emotional isn’t the way he wants this to go. “Calm down, Sam.” It’s an order, and he makes sure his tone is dead serious.

Sam is panting like he just finished training, but he nods, apparently aware the situation is getting out of control. He takes a step away from the car.

Dean gets out and heads toward him, but Sam backs up. “No…stay here. I need a break…I’m just going for a walk. I…I need to calm down.”

“C’mon, Sammy…get back in the car,” Dean says. “I don’t want you on your own when you’re like this.”

But Sam is walking away. “I’ll be fine. I just need some space. I’ve got my phone—call me when you’re done marking your territory.”

He disappears into the woods, and John has to fight off the temptation to follow and bully him back. But at this point, trying to force Sam would most likely do more harm than good.

Awkwardly, John climbs out of the back seat and stretches his aching back. He’s always been one to fix what he’s broken, and he knows he needs to put this right. He isn’t sure why he picked the battle in the first place.

“Son, I’m sorry,” he says.

Dean folds his arms on the roof of the car and buries his face, looking back up after a long moment. “No…you…you were right. I screwed up.”

John closes his eyes, wishing he could take it back. “You made the most of a bad situation…you and Sam both. You did the best you could.”

Dean shakes his head. “I was…I was messed up…from Hell. I wasn’t paying enough attention to what Sammy was doing when he wasn’t with me. I didn’t even know it was Ruby before it was too late, and then, I didn’t handle it right. I…I should have been keeping a better eye on him. I knew something was wrong, but I could barely deal with myself. I didn’t want Sam to be messed up too.” He pauses a moment and says, “I made the deal with the crossroads demon so he’d be okay.”

It’s too much. John has to look away, not wanting to cope with this any more than Dean had wanted to know what was wrong with Sam.

So John takes a deep breath and looks around. He should be taking stock of his surroundings anyway…never let your guard down. It was the first thing he’d taught his boys. There was almost always something lurking in the dark that wanted badly to kill you, and it’s a strange night. The moon is bright, and he can see the shadows of trees slashed like arrows across the road. So many stars….he can’t remember the last time he looked up at the night sky, but he remembers teaching them to Dean by name, telling him how he could find his way anywhere, no matter how lost he got.

But Dean never wandered…never strayed off the beaten path, and certainly never got lost.

John knows he has not done right by his oldest son, but he also knows he came back from the dead for a reason. John could forgive himself a lot of things, but not this…not if he doesn’t make this right.

He reaches an arm around his son’s shoulders. Frowns when his hand brushes the back of Dean’s neck because he feels way too warm for how cold it is outside. Dean always did run a fever when he got sick…

Hoping he’s not making it worse, John says bluntly, “I know what you went through in Hell.”

Dean shakes his head. “Alistair told me…it wasn’t the same for you.”

Dean makes a move to pull away, but John doesn’t relinquish his hold. “I know.” John waits a moment and says, “I remember Hell. Every second, minute, decade. A hundred years of torture…. I almost broke, son.”

“But you didn’t,” Dean says. “You were strong.”

“That’s not true.”

This time, Dean does pull away, and the expression on his face is edgy and desperate. “I did break. I jump-started the apocalypse…. Sam never would have had to do what he did…it’s all because of me…. because I failed.”

John would have rather repressed the truth for eternity rather than confess to his son. But John owes this much to Dean. All the same, it takes a minute before he can get it out.

John clears his throat. “Dean, listen to me. This is important—it’s something you need to know. I would have broken if I’d been down there longer. One more day…maybe even one more hour…it would have been me who broke that seal. I wish it had been me, so I could have taken this from you.”

Pale in the moonlight, Dean frowns. “But that’s not what Alistair said…”

John braces himself against the roof of the car. “Demons lie, Dean. Alistair lied.” Dean winces, so John forces himself to lower his voice. “It was supposed to have been me. I should’ve been the one to break the seal. Hell consumed me…inside and out. I couldn’t take it for much longer, and I knew it. Alistair knew it too. He knew he was so close…that’s why he had it out for you when he finally got you on the rack. The truth is when you boys opened that Devil’s Gate, I saw my chance and took it. You were saved by an angel, but I followed Alistair out of the pit.”

It’s the truth, but saying it out loud doesn’t make it better.

Disbelievingly, Dean just shakes his head. “You saved us…me and Sam. Azazel would have killed us if you hadn’t clawed your way out.”

That is also the truth. Solemnly, John says, “I’d do anything for you boys, but I’m only human.”

“I thought I ruined him…Sam was so messed up, Dad. The withdrawal… I tried so hard to fix him, but I still don’t know if it’s gonna work.” It’s obvious Dean is trying to keep his voice from breaking.

John says quietly, “Now you listen to me…Sam is Sam. He’s not broken, and he’s for damn sure not ruined…not by a long shot.”

Dean just stares, his face unreadable now. But there’s a rustle in the undergrowth, and John instinctively reaches for the weapon he’s not carrying any more.

But Dean grabs hold of his arm, shakes his head. “It’s Sam.”

John can see Sam now, coming through the trees toward them. His face registers some surprise to see them standing in fighting distance of each other, unscathed.

“No collateral damage?” Sam asks with just a hint of a smile, but it’s obvious he’s not really kidding.

Collateral damage…? Nobody answers. Maybe it’s too soon to tell.

For a moment, they all stand by the car, warily studying each other, as if trying to figure out if it’s safe to get back in. Then Dean sneezes, and the moment is broken. Loudly.

Sam makes a face. “Will you please just blow your nose? I bet you’re running a fever by now too. At least, take some Tylenol. There’s some in the car.”

Dean swears under his breath as he climbs in. But he does take a tissue and blows hard. John climbs back in the back seat, Sam following after. Dean tosses the used tissue on Sam’s lap, grinning when Sam calls him an asshole and flicks it back at him.

But Sam winces when he moves too quickly—clearly, he is still hurting.

“Hey Sammy,” John says. “How about you take a couple of those pain pills your brother’s got stashed away and let us take it from here?”

“I’m okay,” Sam begins, but Dean cuts him off by flicking another used tissue at his face. “That’s disgusting, Dean…knock it off.”

“Your head’s killing you, and you’re gonna puke in my car if you don’t take care of it… not cool, dude. Besides, Dad and me…we can’t afford to have you off your game.”

Sam looks bewildered by the change in Dean’s demeanor, but John smiles. Dean always did know how to work his little brother.

“But Dean…you’ve got a fever. You might need me to—”

John has had enough of this crap. “Sammy, take the goddamn meds.”

Dean looks surprised, and Sam looks shocked, but then he nods. It takes Dean about a second to pull the pill bottle out from his jacket pocket. Clearly, he was keeping it close at hand. Sam downs the pills with a single swallow from his water bottle. While he’s waiting, Dean starts to cough and grabs the bottle out of Sam’s hand, taking a quick swig.

John shakes his head. “No wonder you idiots always got each other sick when you were kids…”

But Dean is already fumbling through his box of cassettes, finds what he’s looking for, and once he turns the key and pushes in the tape, Zeppelin blares out of the loudspeakers.

He turns to Sam. “Okay? We good? You gonna sleep now?”

Sam takes a deep breath and leans his head against the window. It’s too soon for the meds to be having an effect, but it’s clear he’s not going to be awake for long. John remembers Sammy as a little kid always falling asleep like that…it never took much more than the engine running and some Zeppelin to knock him out cold. It’s too confusing to reconcile this sleepy, aching boy with the demon-blood fueled monster who almost ended the world, so John decides he’s going to have to stop trying. For now.

It isn’t over though…

But they aren’t ready to push each other harder than this. It’s probably a symptom of a psychotic break, but John swears he can hear the peculiar trench-coated angel whispering in his ear…too soon, too soon.

“Fine,” Sam mumbles. “Take your Tylenol.”

Dean shoves his jacket at Sam. “Put this under your head. Your neck always gets messed up when you sleep like that.”

“Bossy,” Sam says, but he bunches it under his head. Even though he is almost asleep, he adds, “Wake me up if anything good happens.”

Dean snorts and then sneezes. “We’re just driving, Sam…you ain’t missing much.”

John isn’t so sure about that, but as Sam’s breathing deepens into real sleep and Dean blows his nose again, John leans back and lets himself take it in. Closes his eyes and reminds himself that the backseat isn’t so bad.


It’s almost dawn when Sam wakes up. “Are we there yet?” he mumbles, rubbing his face with both hands.

John blinks wearily. He didn’t sleep, not really. Kept expecting Dean to pull over at some point and need him to take over. But no, Dean just kept driving through the night, getting more and more stuffed up as the hours passed, coughing and wheezing and breathing through his mouth like he might as well just give up and die. Didn’t talk much either. But Dean is still behind the wheel.

“No.” Dean meets John’s eyes in the rearview, and his mouth twitches. “But we’re getting there.”

The End


( 117 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 13th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
Yay - first one here!! ::does happy resurrected!John dance::

Fabulous, me dear. As ever. he’s a hunter and spent a hundred years in Hell. There’s no way he’s going to puke over some inner ear malfunction. Heh. I love how you handled John here - champing at the bit to be his old self with his boys, but realizing there is so much more going on in their lives now. Having him observe them both from the backseat was a genius touch.

May. 13th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked it and so appreciate your input and insight...what would my "cadence" do without you? &hearts

The perspective is SO hard - let me tell you!
May. 13th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
Aww, great chapter. I'm glad the Winchesters worked through their issues, at least a little bit.

Are we going to get an Adam mention? It seems like Bobby kept that part from John.

Can't wait for the next part of this 'verse.
May. 13th, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
Bobby definitely left that little bit out about Adam... that is yet to come, for sure. Thank you so much for letting me know you'd like more... I have to admit being a little worn out after this one, but it's good to know there's interest. :)
May. 13th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, you do such a great job of showing how all of their rough edges don't quite fit together the right way anymore and how they're struggling to make it work.
May. 14th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
They are definitely a puzzle that doesn't fit right now. So many rough edges... thank you so much for letting me know you thought this worked. Can definitely use the encouragement!
May. 13th, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, sweetie! This 'verse is quickly becoming one of my happy places. :)
May. 14th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
That just makes me so happy, I can't even say! &hearts
May. 13th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
Excellent chapter!

Love the three of them, circling around each other, pushing for dominance but also re-forging the bonds of love and loyalty. The Gordon Walker bit was great, too. I'm sure Bobby filled in the broad strokes, but there are so many little details that he doesn't know. You have their voices down so well, I can hear all of them saying this dialogue :)
May. 14th, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks so much! I don't know...writing John is tough. He's the elephant in the room of Supernatural. He casts quite the long shadow, and I worry I'm not doing him justice. I'm so glad you think the dialogue works because I worry about that too.

Thanks so much for reading!
May. 13th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
Holy awesome shit! This just proves again that you don't need a big sized monster to rattle things up. Winchester being themselves is enough. I like the way John still needs adjusting, can't just nod his head and start over. But he might be the thing which will ease some things for the boys if they talk it out.
May. 14th, 2011 04:34 am (UTC)
Hee, this made me smile! This was originally supposed to be about 2000 words and it ended up being well over 3X that, so go figure. And nothing really did happen! Thanks so much for reading and commenting - it means a lot!
May. 13th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
I have so much love for this! I've had one seriously emotionally draining day and I don't think I've cried this much because of a story ever since reading Harry Potter V when I was 13.
I love how John is so terribly confused by how far technology has come in the time he was dead. The whole first half with John just watching Dean and Sam felt so right, in that it just cements his new role where he just doesn't fit into their dynamic anymore. And I love Sam trying to take over Dean's old role as peace maker and both other Winchesters shutting him down. And even though I'm still convinced Alastair didn't ever make John the offer of getting off the rack, I love John trying to sooth Dean's insecurities over that particular issue.
I think I said it before, but seriously, I could spend my entire day just reading this 'verse!
May. 14th, 2011 04:38 am (UTC)
This may be one of the nicest comments I've ever gotten! I'm so sorry you had a rough day, but knowing that somehow my story helped make it better...albeit tearier. Thank you so much for reading and letting me know you enjoyed it. Seriously makes it all worth it!

(and I hope you have a lovely relaxing weekend!)
(no subject) - saberivojo - May. 14th, 2011 12:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - debbiel66 - May. 15th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 13th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Love this update and seeing how they deal with John coming back. :-)
May. 14th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for reading - I'm so glad you liked it! &hearts
May. 13th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)

Fabulous!!!! First, I loved John's reaction to Sam's "technology". Also, his reactions to the events after his death were stellar, as John realized that killing all those monsters and hunting Yellow Eyes could never completely save his boys. They were marked for the Apocolypse before they were ever born. Also, Dean and John's argument was necessary for the boys to be able to find some common ground with their father.

I continue to be so captivated by this 'verse, as John attempts to find his place in the Winchester family, once more. :)
May. 14th, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked this one - it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. So glad that John's reactions rang true. Thank you so much for reading - I really do appreciate it! &hearts
May. 13th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
Ah this makes me so happy! I really, really love John's POV.

I also can't believe the remarkable restraint that John must be using. He's been relegated to the back seat and that demotion can't sit well with him. John's displaced, he's no longer running the show and for the sake of his boys he seems to be able to at least try his new position as back seat driver.

I love how he is nauseous and how that reminds him of Sam's complaints. I also adore that he's not gonna say a damn thing about it considering all the grief he gave Sam growing up. (That sounds so like John)

And this He’s got enough stress in his life—he doesn’t need a goddamn map giving him attitude. HA HA. Loved it.

I loved the boys banter and push and shove. Tylenol and medicine and tissues. Silly Winchesters.

The ending was perfect, a subtle shift in letting John through.

I think I love you.
*kisses Dean's fevered brow*
May. 14th, 2011 04:42 am (UTC)
Hee, this made me grin, you brow kisser you. :))

This dang story is so complicated...I can't tell you how much I've appreciated you as a sounding board. The next story will be the Big One, but I'm not sure I'm up for it. *chews nails nervously*

John is so hard, so complex. Kudos to the Show for giving us characters that are so difficult to figure out. But man, it makes them hard to write.
May. 13th, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
Oh my gosh girl I am LOVING this 'verse. It's seriously rocking my stripey socks off! I couldn't help but giggle over the arguing when it came to Dean taking medicine, blowing his nose and Sam taking medicine for his head and Dean talking about him puking all over the car if he didn't take it. Ahhh, Sammy and Dean brotherly banter is true love! <3 And you have John's voice so awesome in this. Though a few times I wanted to slap him upside the head and tell him to watch the way he's talking to the boys. I loved protective Dean over that though. I loved it very much though and I really really hope you plan on writing more in this 'verse! Please!
May. 14th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
This comment just made me smile! So glad you liked all the "married" stuff because those two area all about that... the fact that you wanted to slap John probably is a good sign.

Thanks so much for reading - it means a lot that you would like to see this continue. &hearts
May. 13th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
I squee'd when I saw there was a new chapter in this 'verse. This whole chapter was so *Winchester*. I love John watching Sam and Dean as well as not being able to resist getting the last word in the argument--only to have it completely blow up in his face. I don't blame him for having trouble reconciling his boys (especially Sam) with what he'd learned had happened in his absence, but I appreciate him holding onto what is familiar--even if that means pushing the buttons of his boys, only this time it's rebellious Dean and peacemaker Sam.

Also, loved Sam blowing up about Dean trying to take responsibility for the mistakes he made. "I made my choice, I’m the one who fucked up, and I’m the one who gets to pay for that. It’s why I threw myself into the pit, Dean. Don’t take that away from me." That was a really powerful thing for Sam to say and for both John and Dean to hear :)

Oh, and John having the same reaction canon Bobby did to the iPad? Brilliant.

I just adore this 'verse and can't wait for the next installment.
May. 14th, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
They are all so flawed and so very much a family in every screwed up way imaginable. But that makes it very hard to write, and I'm just thrilled you thought it worked. Thank you so much for reading and for letting me know you're not tired of it yet! ;)

May. 13th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
I was so happy to see another installment in this Verse. What must it be like for John to peel back the layers of everything his family has gone through while he has been gone and he wasn't there? You have captured that sense of confusion and loss so well. The strange computer tablet and a map giving him attitude, all the way to his position in the family changing (his is now relegated to the back seat) and his boys have not only been involved in a war between angles and demons, but faced Gordon Walker. Obviously the broad strokes that Bobby gave him weren't enough, those details that are missing contain important gaps that are leaving him in the dark, too.

Thank you for continuing this. I look forward to more when you are inspired to do so.
May. 14th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
It's very much like an onion analogy... there is so much there, it's truly difficult knowing where to even begin. Definitely some important gaps left open. Thank you so much for reading and for letting me know you'd be interested in more. There was a point of -how long before this gets kind of tedious? :)

Thanks again!
(no subject) - auntmo9 - May. 14th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - debbiel66 - May. 15th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - auntmo9 - May. 15th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - debbiel66 - May. 15th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 13th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
You can write the most amazing *nothing happens* fic! Really! It's all about character and relationships here, and I love what you do.

John is such a complicated beast to write, and this fits my view of him perfectly. (The whole back seat angle was awesome!) I love Dean and Sam together, worried about each other and defending each other and annoying each other. And the way you started slowing healing things in the family? Rocked!

This leaves me with *no idea* of where the story is heading, but I love that there is more to look forward to!
May. 14th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Lol, this was only supposed to be about 3000 words max. Because after all, nothing happens, right? Then they kept talking and talking, and the more I edited it, the longer it got. Usually my editing jobs trim about a third off a story, so this is new.

I'm so glad you think I got John right. He's hard and I worry! :)

Thanks so much for your encouragement!
May. 13th, 2011 11:35 pm (UTC)
You have a deft way with writing John--half the time I want to kill him for what he says to the boys, half the time I feel his pain...

I do hope this keeps going!
May. 14th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
Yep, that's John. He really does feel real to me... JDM made him so much larger than life, both for us viewers and for the boys.

I hope I will be able to continue with it. It's nice to know there's interest in more...I actually left them in a better place than I intended, so there's part of me thinking that maybe "getting there" is a good way to end.

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( 117 comments — Leave a comment )