You left without saying goodbye, although I'm sure you tried ( John/Dean fanfic ) [ Obviously, this is back before John disappeared - but not too long before then. New Orleans was where Dean told Sam he was working a gig when Dad went missing. This might not be all that factual, because I have no idea what was going through Papa Winchester's head at that point or how far ahead he knew certain things, etc. But it was the best way for me to set-up something that would be a remotely interesting read that had substantial length and depth ... since the two are so forthcoming with what's on their minds. Not my best work, so yeah. Be merciful. Although I don't know if I really have a 'best work.' - ponders - Anyway, hope it's at least decent enough not to bore you to tears! ]
The door clicked shut behind John who'd just returned from a hunt. Once Dean was alerted to his father's presence, he immediately stood and flipped off the television. After surveying for damage, he concluded that Dad didn't appear too banged up, but he sure did look beat. Which left him suspecting that something had either gone wrong, or that he'd stopped off someplace else. The old man had insisted on handling this one on his own. There was probably a reason for that, but all that got asked was, "Did you get it?" It was instinctually the first thing out of his mouth; he knew better than to pry.
A weary glance was cast over to Dean as he mumbled a response. "Yeah, I got it." He wouldn't have come back unless he'd nailed the bad guy, but that wasn't what was troubling him. Not this time. There was something else on his mind, not that he was intent on sharing any of this with his devoted son. Instead, he shed his jacket and turned away, as if he was dismissing any further conversation. But he was aware that he was getting the suspicious eye. Ultimately, he decided it was better to get this out of the way now, so that in the morning they could start fresh. He already had his instructions all planned out. So with a single swag, he did an about face. "What?" He asked.
The question caught Dean off-guard. Dad had a habit of closing himself off even more after making a kill. Typically, they'd pop open a bottle of bourbon or something to that effect and finish off the night in silence. Neither of them were heavy talkers, but they had their moments. Might've been better that way, anyway. Still, if his father was offering up an explanation, he wouldn't pass on it. "What happened?" There was no way to pinpoint exactly what it was that was off, but there was something not quite right. He'd be willing to bet all the money in his wallet on it. 'What happened' seemed like a good place to start: nice and general. Didn't narrow the field any. It was direct, to the point, and broad enough to give the other person the chance to tell it however he wanted.
John lowered himself down onto the sofa and settled there as he contemplated the best way to answer Dean's question. It was true. This case hadn't been like all the others. It was the start of something much bigger: something that would require his full attention. He planned on staying busy with this one. That's why he'd taken the time to make a stop en-route through California to check on the estranged member of the family. He'd wanted to make sure Sammy was okay. Because this thing that was starting, it could very easily affect both his children. That was part of the reason it was so important that he pursue the matter now. Well, there was that, and that he wasn't an extremely patient person to begin with.
He purposefully chose not to disclose the details of the case itself, but he didn't attempt to dodge the question. He simply took it in a different direction. "I swung by to check on Sam."
It was a well-known fact between them that Dad had a soft spot for Sammy. Even though they fought like cats and dogs and said some pretty nasty things to one another, he was still the baby of the family. Whatever fights they'd gotten into in the past ( and boy there were many ) didn't matter. They still loved the wayward kid ( to them Sam was still a kid ) and secretly just wanted him home where he'd be under their protective wing. You know, if he would just shut his pie-hole every once in awhile and try and act a little less like a spoiled brat who wasn't getting his way. Unlikely, but no harm in engaging in a bit of wishful thinking.
The topic of Sam was always a doozy, so Dean decided now would be a good time to take a seat. Once he'd gotten anchored down in one spot, he'd lift a curious brow and present the question that'd been on the tip of his tongue this whole time. "And?" That 'and' could mean about a half a dozen different things, though he knew better than to ask whether the two had exchanged words, or whether their dad had finally let the younger brother know he was paying him one of these 'below the radar' visits. That would be a definite no. So he skipped right into a bunch of more relevant questions. "Was he okay? Did he look happy?" There was a brief pause before he added: "Did he still have that same goofy haircut?" Oh yes. He'd accompanied Dad on one of these semi-routine checks, and Sam seriously needed to introduce that head of hair to a pair of scissors. Although all humor aside, he was much more interested in hearing an answer to his first two questions.
Despite any harsh words of the past, John worried the most about Sam. If for no other reason, because he was the youngest. He was also out of arm's length, which left him vulnerable: open to attack. Configure in the fact that he'd always been such a sensitive boy ( even though he had a sharp tongue and a serious stubborn streak ), and it would be easy to understand where all this concern was coming from. Dean, on the other hand, was the perfect son: dutiful and dedicated, strong and cautious. He was one of those children that any father would be proud of. But he'd never gotten the chance to experience the life he was owed, and for that, John blamed himself. He knew Sam blamed him too. It was an on-going source of tension between them. It's funny that even though they partially saw eye to eye on this one, they still clashed. Mainly because he wouldn't admit it, and his son couldn't see past the anger.
Yet there came a time when old wounds needed to be closed in order to move forward, and they were rapidly approaching that fork in the road - even though Dean didn't know it yet.
A stiff nod was given to confirm that Sam was okay. He hadn't paid much attention to his hair. On second thought, he probably had noticed. He just wasn't sure what his eldest meant by 'goofy,' so John avoided addressing it directly. As far as whether he was happy or not ... well, Sammy had seemed pretty cozy with the blonde on his arm. Took a fella back. It reminded him of how much he missed Mary. They'd had days like that once upon a time. Before things had gotten so complicated. But all he said in response was, "He looked good." He stopped there, his thoughts temporarily leading him to someplace distant.
Well that was reassuring. Really, come on. That's it? Was that all he had to say? Dean was practically hanging on the edge of his seat in anticipation - waiting to hear about the encounter with a little more detail, but nothing came. Seems like the subject had been open and shut before he could even ask everything he wanted. A surge of disappointment swept over him as he frowned and learned forward, interlocking his hands in front of him. Just 'cause they all didn't get along so well didn't mean he didn't want the geek around. This life was so much more tolerable ( dare-say even fun ) when he had someone around he could pick on. Well, and ... here came the whopper: he wanted them all to be a family again. You know, the real kind: all in one place instead of scattered all across the globe. Okay, so it was just California, but it seemed like they were worlds apart.
It was a relief to hear that Sammy was okay. That was the most important thing. But it did sting a little to know that he was making it so easily on his own. Didn't call. Didn't write. Certainly never visited or invited them up. It was like he'd severed all ties, and he didn't even care. That's what it felt like sometimes. The funniest part about it all was Dean hadn't realized how much he liked having the constantly nagging, sniveling, sniping presence around until he was gone. Just to college, mind you. But gone from their lives, all the same. He'd kind of gotten used to having his kid brother around. Needless to say, the adjustment hadn't been as easy as he thought it'd be ... for either of the Winchesters left behind.
"Good for Sammy," Dean quipped. And he meant it, too. He didn't wish any ill will on the guy: just wished he cared a little more about walking out and staying gone for so long. "You know, out there living the American dream. At least he hasn't gotten into too much trouble."
John cut his eyes over to Dean. He easily recognized the contradiction in his son's tone and the words that were spoken. Apparently still a sore spot for him, as well. And why wouldn't it be? The two were close in age. They'd been practically inseparable. Now that Sam was gone, that'd left a void. One that no one would be able to fill aside from the one who'd left the gap in the first place: his brother. "You miss him," he stated matter-of-factly. It wasn't so much a question: more like an observation.
Dean shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. That didn't really matter, now did it? "Yeah. But he doesn't want to be here." So what could he do about it? A part of him selfishly didn't want to be the one to try and drag him back. He didn't want to be the one Sam was furious with. Not that he liked Dad taking all the heat either, but he didn't see that repeating history would do anything except cause things to escalate to the next level. None of them were ready for round two. Certainly not one anything like that last blow-out. No thanks. Better to just leave things as they were. They all seemed to be managing just fine. Maybe with some hard feelings here and there, but nothing they couldn't get over.
A hand lifted to absentmindedly rub across his chin. That appeared to be true, but it didn't erase the possibility that his boys could work it out ... if he temporarily removed himself from the picture. A risky assumption to make perhaps ( based on past experiences ), but one he felt he had to make for Dean's sake, and for his own peace of mind. He didn't like the idea of leaving Dean behind to pursue this potentially life-altering lead that had suddenly come up, but he had no other choice. It needed to be done. And until he could figure out more about what was going on and why it was happening now, he would be working alone. However, he had a feeling his son wouldn't be too keen about that plan, so he'd already dug up another gig. A real job, even though it was more like an excuse to part ways. Though it was a selectively mild task. He wasn't about to send Dean off on anything too dangerous when he'd be flying solo.
"I miss him too." A startling confession, considering the source. But he couldn't deny it. It wouldn't be fair to Dean to pretend that he was okay with this arrangement. It's just somehow, he'd always expected their fight to blow over. He thought maybe Sam would pick up the phone: put an end to this stubborn streak of theirs. John certainly wasn't going to be the one to apologize first, on principle alone. But there'd never been a phone call, and now his hand was being forced. It was crucial that a bond be re-established between his sons. And once it was taken into account that he was the primary source of tension between them, it seemed reasonable to conclude that if Dean didn't have to choose sides, he and Sam could make amends. John Winchester was no fool, after all. He knew that was a large part of the problem.
"You want to know something else? I think he wants to be here more than you think." In all fairness to Sam, you couldn't hold a person accountable for what they said in the heat of the moment. If you could, he would've been in some serious trouble with everyone he'd ever met. John was known for being highly temperamental, especially after his wife's death. He'd verbally lashed out at everyone, at one point or another. Even those he loved the most. Especially them. So he was hoping that his theory was correct: that Sammy just didn't know how to say he was sorry, even if he wanted to. He understood, because he was in the exact same situation. But Dean hadn't done anything wrong. It had to be tougher on him to grasp how it was possible to love someone so much, yet keep your distance, regardless.
Man, how badly Dean wanted to believe that. And since Dad had said it, a part of him did: the part that always bought into everything his father told him. Now it didn't feel like false hope, but a piece of wisdom that had been bestowed upon him to straighten things out. And boy, had he needed to hear it. So for the time being, he was going to quit analyzing everything himself, and just go on what he was being told. It wouldn't be the first time, and it wouldn't be the last. "You really think that?" He asked quietly. Alright, so he couldn't help but fish for a little extra reassurance, 'cause this one was a bit hard to swallow.
"Yeah son, I do." It was times like these that he wished the boys were more like their mother. The whole making-up process would've gone a lot smoother, and a lot faster. But as long as they all hung in there, they'd get to it eventually, when the time was right.
He reached over and gave Dean's shoulder a reassuring squeeze, sensing that he still had some doubts. Physical contact for them was rare, but every once in awhile, especially when he was tired out from a hunt, he could act a little less like a drill sergeant and more like a father: a good father. Although the action was carried out in an earnest attempt to convince his son of what he was saying, it was also done because he wasn't sure how long it'd be before they'd cross paths again. He didn't want there to be any regrets on how they'd split.
Shortly after, he retracted his hand. That was the end of their heart-to-heart. When he spoke again, his tone was stern and strictly professional. "There's a job in New Orleans. I want you to check it out. I'll be working on a different case. If you run into any problems, just call me." A brief pause fell in between his last sentence and his next, which indicated that he remained preoccupied with other looming thoughts even as he was issuing orders. Fortunately, he was good at multi-tasking. It came with the territory. "I'm sure you can handle it." And while Dean was off doing this gig, he'd be able to focus solely on the new discovery he'd made on his last outing.
Ordinarily Dean would've found something suspicious about this whole thing. First, Dad had gone to visit Sam ( but stayed at a distance, of course ). Then they'd had some touchy, feel-y talk about each of them possessing a 'missing link' or whatever since they were all still at odds with each other, and now they were back to their separate corners? Huh. Was this confusing anyone else? But curiosity warded off any caution lights that were flashing in his head. He appreciated the vote of confidence way too much to blow it on some pesky nothingness picking at his brain. Besides, he wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to prove himself. And he knew Dad would be fine, 'cause ... well, he was Dad. There was nothing he couldn't do.
So naturally, the only answer to give was ... "I'll head out first thing in the morning."