Gen, schmoop, G. 1100 words.
Circa 1x01. Warning: improper use of seatbelts.
Thanks to iuliamentis and mumbles11 for beta!
Dean wasn't asking to be carried.
To Drive So Far at Night
Dean hadn't made a sound since Mary died, and some nights John thought that Sammy had taken over crying for both of them.
Maybe even for all three of them, because John hadn't cried for Mary any more than Dean had, and he thought he understood his older son's silence. Mary had been killed, their home destroyed, by something indescribably terrible. There was a rip in the world now--they'd lost something more than just a wife and mother, and it was a horror too huge to cry at. John didn't think Dean knew that, exactly, but by his silence he thought Dean must have felt it.
It seemed to affect Sammy just the opposite way. He cried some nights from midnight to dawn, on and on and on until John's ears were numb with the sound. Sammy didn't even seem to stop to breathe, and nothing would soothe him, not a bottle, not a diaper change, not a pacifier or a teething ring or John's fingers. John would rock him and talk to him, sing to him, pacing back and forth with Sammy in his arms until he was exhausted and hoarse. He'd get almost hypnotized by the nonstop wailing of his baby boy, and by the thought that Mary could have quieted him down in a second if she'd been there.
Tonight John looked down an hour into Sammy’s fit of screaming to see Dean at his side. Dean couldn't sleep through it any more than John could, so they all suffered--and now Dean was out of bed, standing beside him and holding up his arms. John thought he wanted to be picked up too, to be carried like Sammy was, and he bent down toward Dean only to have Dean reach for the baby.
Dean wasn't asking to be carried. He was offering to take his turn carrying his brother.
Before Mary died, they never used to let Dean hold Sammy unless he was sitting down, and even then one of them would stay right there beside him.
John froze for a second, almost losing his breath at the strange shock of pain he felt when he understood.
"No, Dean." He pressed a kiss into his son's hair, picked him up and pulled a blanket off the bed to wrap around both boys. Dean stayed still, quiet as ever, but Sammy fought the blanket like he fought everything, screaming and flailing. John got them outside and put them in the front seat of the car together, Sammy lying half in Dean's lap and the seatbelt stretched around both of them. Dean held on to his brother as John started up the car and started driving, rolling along the quiet streets barely above an idle.
Slowly, the quiet growl of the engine became audible above Sammy's crying, which faded into hiccups and then into silence. John looked over to see the slow flare of the streetlights they passed reflecting off Sammy's wet cheeks. Dean was slumped against the passenger door, yawning.
"Sorry, buddy," John said softly. "The longer we drive, the longer Sammy can sleep. You want to climb in back and lie down?" They'd been driving long enough for the car to warm up, so Dean would be all right without the blanket, and at this crawl along empty streets, it was safe enough for Dean to climb over.
Dean sat up straight, blinking his eyes wide and shaking his head.
John had to smile at that, and the shape of his mouth felt unfamiliar. "Aren't you tired, Dean?"
John was tired, the kind of tired that sank into your bones, got into your eyes and ears and turned everything gray and muffled. It felt like late in a tour, just waiting to get back Stateside and be able to rest, away from the sound of gunfire and helicopters.
Dean, though, Dean was four years old and stubborn. He shook his head.
John looked from the quiet street they were rolling down to Sammy's sleeping face and back to Dean, determined and alert.
"Why don't you come help me drive, then," he said softly, reaching a hand out across Sammy to Dean. "Can you squeeze out of there?"
Dean could and did, without raising more than a sleepy whimper from Sammy. Dean grabbed John's hand and let himself be half-lifted across the bench seat and into John's lap, squirming around to get settled. He was wearing blue pajamas with worn white feet and smelled like baby shampoo and Spaghettios, and he was heavier than he looked. He set his hands on the wheel beside John's.
"Okay," John said, easing up to an intersection. "I'm going to help you with the corner, and then you're going to steer, all right?"
Dean nodded quickly.
"Just hold it steady," John said softly, taking them through the turn and then straightening it out. He set his hands over Dean's for a second and then lowered them to Dean's sides, feeling the motion of his breathing through the worn fleece of his pajamas.
"There you go," he said softly as Dean's hands tightened on the wheel. "Small moves. We don't want to wake up Sammy."
Dean looked over to ask Sam what he thought of crashing at the Rockabye Road Inn, three miles away according the billboard they'd just passed. Sam was sound asleep with his head tipped back and mouth open.
Dean faced front and tightened his hands on the wheel. Some nights he could still feel his dad's hands over his, showing him how to steer. Small moves. He kept the Impala humming down the straightaway, and didn't make a sound to wake Sam.
Sam hadn't slept straight through a single night since he'd joined Dean on the road. Since Jess had died. He was having nightmares, that much was obvious no matter how often he said he was fine. Dean wasn't exactly sleeping like a baby since Halloween—he’d noticed himself getting wary around open flames again, like when he was a little kid--and it had been Sam’s girlfriend up there. He’d always taken things harder than Dean did anyway.
Sam was sleeping now, though, quiet and easy for the first time in days. Maybe they were moving too fast for a nightmare to keep up.
Dean pushed down just a little harder on the gas, blowing past the Rockabye without a glance. He wasn't tired, and the longer he drove, the longer Sammy could sleep.