The last hunt hadn’t gone well. The monster was taken of, the civilians warned to keep their mouths shut to the authorities (the real ones), but a last minute effort of the monster to throw the hunters into a wall had broken John’s arm. John was out of the action for another week or so, and he had been growing more and more restless; the cast Sam decorated with his A+ homework stickers did not help.
Bobby refused to offer John information on any hunt until he was fully healed, so John stayed at a rented cabin near the woods with his boys, and an uneasiness settled in on the family. Rather than waste time, John did what he thought was the next best step, training Sammy.
Which led to this mess.
“Goddammit, Sam! I told you, you need to concentrate on your shot. Dean could have shot these all down minutes ago!” Of the twelve cans they had lined up along the barren field, only five were down. “Have you been practicing like I told you?”
Sam swallowed. He wanted to tell his dad he was top of class again, that even though he was only in the ninth grade, he had figured out the monster’s weakness as quickly as Uncle Bobby could have done, that he wasn’t worthless. But he knew there was no use. John wouldn’t listen.
“I can’t believe I have such a useless son!”
Sam’s eyes welled up, and he sent a heated glare towards his dad before running off. Dean, who had been sitting silently on a dead stump stood up and growled at his father. “Dad, inside. Now!”
Dean strode into their shared living space and looked around. Sammy hadn't come back. John walked in and rubbed a hand over his face. "I messed up, didn't I?"
"Yeah, dad. You did. Sammy’s just in his first year of high school. This is hard on him and he's trying his best."
"His best is not enough, Dean. If we want any chance of killing the thing that killed your mother, Sam needs to get stronger." John rummaged through their fridge and pulled out a beer before taking a swig. His grip was tight on the bottle.
“I’ll talk to Sammy. You can’t just yell at him all the time.”
“Yell at him? He’s not going to get any better with you always mothering him, Dean!” John roared.
Dean swallowed hard but the anger boiled up. “Well someone has to!” He yelled back, turning furious eyes on his father. A silence fell upon the two, and Dean just shook his head. “Of course, you have nothing to say.” He walked out and slammed the door shut.
Going around the cabin to the back where they parked the car, Dean saw a tuft of Sammy’s hair in the backseat of the Impala. His brother was sleeping, curled up in the backseat, tear tracks dried on his face. Dean opened the door, and when Sammy didn’t wake up, he took off his brown leather jacket and tucked it around his brother. Night’s got cold quickly in Nevada.
When Dean heard footsteps behind him, he whipped around, but it was only his father. “If you’re here to yell more, then I’m not interested, dad.”
John shook his head. “Sit with me, Dean.” He patted the hood of the Impala and settled himself on top. Dean kept his cautious gaze, but sat down beside his father. John chuckled quietly. “You never raise your voice at me unless it’s for Sammy.” He looked back at Sam. “You know, it used to be you back there in the backseat, and I would be the one to put my jacket around you and Sammy. Seems so long ago now.” John took another long drink from his bottle. “I’m not a good father, am I?”
Dean raised his leg and lowered his head onto his knee. “I don’t hate you dad. And neither does Sammy.”
“I am sorry, Dean. For not being here when you boys need me. Sometimes I’m so busy being a hunter, I forget what it means to be a father.” He sighed deeply, and weariness in his voice was heavier than the weight of the world. “It’s been a long, long year.” John reached around his other side and pulled out another beer. Dean’s eyebrows jumped when John twisted off the cap and passed the bottle over to him.
“Really, dad?” Dean didn’t let go of the bottle though.
John smiled. “If there is ever any freak miracle and you get to see your mother again, tell her I gave you this drink when you were twenty-one.” He held out his own half-empty bottle at an angle towards Dean and Dean smiled and tapped his own bottle with his father’s. “A man’s first drink should be with his father.”
“Thanks dad.” It was clear in his voice. All was forgiven as it always was.
“Just don’t tell Sammy. He’s not getting his until he starts growing some damn facial hair.”
Dean laughed. They had their fights but at the end of the day, they had their car and they had each other. And looking out while sitting on the hood of the Impala next to his father, with Sammy in the backseat and a bottle a beer in his hands, even though it was cloudy, Dean could almost make out the stars in the night sky.