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Home Sweet Home

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John wasn't quite sure what woke him up.

Automatically, he tapped the button on his watch that made it glow blue green in the dark to reveal the time. Not so late. In fact it was getting around the time he usually was just about thinking about bed.

He listened carefully.

It was a new place so he hadn't quite gotten all the sounds down yet. The place sat right above a crowded store front and all its plumbing and most of its electrics had really gone to hell. But the real old guy that owned it seemed grateful enough that it wasn't some college kid that just wanted to use it up and trash it for a semester so he had cut John quite the deal. Free utilities, rent cut in less than half and all John had to do was keep the pipes running and check the basement furnace whenever it busted.

Drafty in the middle of December but it was good enough for him. The owner preferred to deal in only cash and didn't like the look of a lease let alone bring one up. And even better yet, it was all cheaper than the cheapest motel around.

The boys had been excited because it actually had rooms for either of them. His oldest claimed the larger leaving his nine year old with the one that almost could have been a walk in closet. But what the hell, the kid was walk in closet sized anyway so it all worked out.

And he was glad for it. His oldest son had just hit his teens and it was about time that he had at least one door to shut.

In fact for the first few days he expected Sam to do much of the same with his new found closet proportioned privacy. Truth be told, he expected it a little more from his youngest than he did from Dean. But oddly enough, on the very first few days, John woke up to the subtle bounce of his mattress as the nine year old slipped in quietly next to him.

The kid had never done that before and John had been so confounded by the gesture that he didn't even try to stop him. Another symptom of Dean and his now shut door he supposed. But as he suspected, it was a phase, a small one at that, that abruptly and quickly ceased less than a week into their new residency.

Pausing, he wondered if that had been why he was woken up. He felt along the side of himself for a warm Sam sized lump under the blankets but there was no one there.

Sitting up he listened again past the whir of the sporadic late night traffic below and the little clicks and hisses of the aged radiators. His room had its own bathroom, a luxury he hadn't had in quite a while, and the faucet whined and creaked whenever the old landlord who lived downstairs used his water. There was also the beginnings of a gentle winter storm picking up outside too.

But none of that was what had roused him.

He stood up and walked to his bedroom door which he never shut so he could hear anything that happened in the apartment. Almost. Its layout was strangely oblong as it ran the front length of the stores and shops under it.

However, his room was next to the front door which he liked. No one could go in and out without him knowing it. Opposite his room was a large living room with the smaller kitchen attached. Just through the kitchen was a hall that lead further down to the boys rooms and one other bathroom. Street lamp light from the outside glared down through the windows and lent fluttering shadows of whirling snow against the floor and walls.

Walking across the peeling linoleum, he peered down through the deeper dark of the somewhat narrow and long corridor. He stopped in front of Dean's room first. Sure, the boy could shut a door but that wasn't going to stop him from opening it when he wanted to.

John did so quietly.

His oldest was sound asleep under one thin sheet and with one bare leg hanging limply off the bed. It was hot as hell in there. This room might have been the largest but its radiator was rusted into place and got stuck on full blast whenever the furnace kicked on.

It seemed his son's solution was to open the one large window about as far open as it could go. Snow was drifting through and collecting in a small pile right on the sill but Dean's hair was still clinging to his forehead in a light sweat from the heat.

John smiled a little bit. It was probably the most uncomfortable room in the place but that didn't stop his boy from claiming and keeping it.

Turning his attention back to his son he saw that Dean was awake and looking him.

Took him long enough. Must be getting too comfortable in this new environment. Sleeping through someone walking right into your room. Unlocked open windows that lead right out onto the goddamn fire escape...

They'd have to drill a little bit this week and have a small talk.

The only reason he wasn't taking Dean's new found door off the hinges this moment was because the symbols that he had carved into every entrance to the house worked better than any lock anyway.

Against some things.

His boys sometimes forgot about people.

He heard Dean sigh when he slammed down the window pane and twisted the latch shut. The jangle of the chain lock he'd installed when they moved in went on next. And then all four dead bolts.

"Maybe you forgot, but there's a living room out there." John said curtly as he shut the door back behind him.

Stepping back into the silence of the hall, the air felt almost frigid compared to the dry sauna he'd just been in. He gave it thirty minutes tops before his son gave up and found the sofa. Tomorrow he'd see what he could do about that old radiator before he woke up next week and found a dried husk where his kid used to be.

Gathering his thoughts, he fought back a yawn that wanted to send him back to his own bed. But not quite yet. One room left to check.

It never usually took this long to take stock of his family. He wondered at that. It wasn't often that his children were so far from each other and himself. Tucked behind corners and walls away from his line of sight. As much as his boys seemed to enjoy the space, or maybe the convention of it, he started to realize why he didn't situate themselves like this more often.

It made him nervous.

He thought of the wide open gaping window he had just shut. When he left them alone, how often did they just slip through their own cracks, unwilling or unable to see how close they were to every danger big and small that the world could possibly conjure? A sick churn of his gut made him walk faster to the last small room that lay just around a sharp corner in the very back of the building.

Walking to it in the dark, John did suddenly see that while they had joked, that the room was indeed probably originally intended as makeshift storage. Pushed back out of sight with one small opaque wired window, it never did quite seem like was for any kind of living space. It was colder back here too, set up against the main set of groaning pipes that were probably seeping slick green mold through the near rot of the drywall.

John was surprised when as he drew closer in the gloom to find that this door was closed as well. Using even less discretion than he had with his teen, he opened it without knocking and looked inside. Because the window was so small and didn't really let any street light in, he had to flip on the lamp to see anything at all. It would wake Sammy up but oh well--

John felt his heart thud in his throat when he saw the small room's empty bed.


A quick look under the bed revealed nothing.

In several strides he was at the bathroom, clicking on the switch to see the dripping sink and stark white tiles.

John backed up into the hall and took a few deep breaths.

"He doesn't like it back there."

He turned to see Dean sleepily rubbing at his eyes and dragging a quilt behind him. So much for thirty minutes.

"Been sleeping in there instead." He pointed.

John looked back at the empty bathroom he had just been in. He walked to the large ceramic tub and pulled back the shower curtain.

There was his boy.

Curled up in the bath tub with a mass of blankets and a pillow, he appeared to be sleeping quite comfortably. At least this tub wasn't leaking like everything else in the place. It didn't take very long for Sammy to start blinking awake. Although, John noted with some disappointment, that he had taken about as long as his brother had to do so.

The nine year old looked up cautiously at his father.

"Is-Is it morning?"

"No, it's not morning." John rubbed at the rough growth of his beard and sighed. "Get up outta there son."

Suddenly and completely focused, Sam looked up at him hard. "I dun wanna sleep in my room--"

"You don't have to, just come on now, get out of there."

Sam pulled himself up and over the tub's side while regarding his father suspiciously. He grabbed up the arm full of his covers and trailed them behind him out into the hall. John watched him with a small shake of his head and picked up the pillow that had been left behind.

He walked out into the living room where Dean was already tossing and turning on the itchy plaid furniture they had inherited along with most of the old appliances of the former renter.

"Boys, just go ahead and sleep in my bed."

Dean shrugged and moved to obey. His younger brother, wrapped in his blanket collection, wordlessly but hurriedly followed right behind him.

John stretched out on the lumpy sofa and folded his hands behind his head and listened once again.

He could hear Dean's voice if not the words, tinged with soft offhanded annoyance at whatever demand had been raised. Sides of the bed. John's fleece blanket. Leaving the bathroom light on. He could hear Sam's indignant high pitched responses until they both quieted down. When he knew they were finally sleeping he shut his eyes too.

You could bend and reshape where and how you lived all you wanted.

But things did seem to have a way of always returning to their natural state.