Sam’s laying out on a towel, sticks and stones in the dirt under it digging into his back. The sunlight dappled across his skin, streaming in between the leaves of the trees towering above him.
He can hear the sound of Dean splashing in the lake, swimming around and laughing with their dad. They’d taught him how to backstroke earlier, he’s so tired from it. His blinks are growing slower, his eyelids becoming heavier.
It’s summer and there’s birds chirping. They’ve been in Oregon for a few days now, it’s so much better than it was out east. Less humid, less bugs.
Sam drifts back awake when he’s being carried to the car. He hears the rumble of John’s voice through the fog, “Get the door, would ya, Dean?”
“Yessir,” Dean’s voice cracks and Sam smiles sleepily. His brother’s twelve and his vocal chords are already betraying him.
Sam stretches out in the backseat once he’s put in, puts his head in Dean’s lap. Falls back asleep while Dean runs his pruned fingers through his wet hair.
It’s a night early in September and they’re in the bumfuck bottom of Ohio when they end up at the Paradise Motel, neon sign flickering in greeting as John pulls up to the office.
Dean’s craning his neck around Sam and pushes him out of the way before yelling, “Sweet! Their pool’s still open.”
It’s hot, bible belt gross and sticky hot. John comes back out, twirling their room key in his hand. Drives them down to number 6 and throws it in park. Sam can feel Dean’s relief rolling off of him in waves, the excited itch that he gets when he’s impatient is tangible.
Once they’re inside, Dean asks, “Dad, we can go swimming, right?”
Dean’s got his hands on his duffel’s zippers, waiting for the okay. Sam’s on standby, his duffel still strung up on his shoulder. Will they get to go race to do a cannonball or will they be substituting with a cold shower?
John sighs, “It’s late, kiddo. I just drove all night. Can’t you wait until the morning?”
Dean’s trying hard to not look disappointed and it’s bumming Sam out so he says, “Pool’s right outside the window, you could just keep the blinds open and you can see us. Or you could take a nap in one of the chairs out there.”
Dean tenses, probably expecting an argument, but John chuckles instead. He’s in a surprisingly good mood despite a ten hour shift in the car, he nods in acquiescence.
“I’ll be in here watching tv and looking over at you both, so no funny business. Don’t be loud, it’s late. And don’t push your brother in, Dean. It’s not funny anymore.”
They both nod vigorously and start changing, John shakes his head fondly.
On the way out the door, Dean mutters, “It’s still pretty funny.”
Sam socks him on the arm and leaves him in the dust, sprinting across the parking lot with his flip flops smacking on the pavement. Dean catches up quickly, throws open the gate and they rush in.
Dean jumps first, water spraying back onto Sam before he joins him. Under the surface, they open their eyes and wave at each other before breaking through it.
Sam sucks in a breath and floats on his back, drifts around. He’s being pushed by the waves that Dean’s making by diving down and coming back up again.
Suddenly, there’s a weight near him and then hands dragging him below. He throws his foot out blindly, gets Dean right in the face.
When they’re topside, Sam’s spluttering and Dean’s holding his cheek as he says, “I guess I deserved that.”
Sammy flicks his hand and gets water right in Dean’s eye. Avoids Dean’s lunge towards him and pushes down on his head, dunks him hard.
When Dean’s free from his clutches and coughing, Sam’s still laughing.
Dean’s got a finger in his ear, trying to get water out, “Truce, uncle, whatever. When’d you get so fast?”
Sam just smiles at him before he swims away.
They spend the better part of an hour out there before calling it quits and walking back to their room with their trunks dripping.
John’s passed out on the couch, Dean leans over to Sam and whispers, “Whattya think, Sammy? Should we just leave him there?”
Sam sighs, “Probably shouldn’t. Last time we did, he complained about his back for a week.”
Dean nods stoically before saying, “Good call. I’m not poking the bear, though. That’s on you.”
He claps Sam on the back and promptly goes to the bathroom. Sam hears the sound of the shower starting and rolls his eyes. Dick.
He reaches out and shakes John’s shoulder gently, “Hey, dad. You wanna sleep here or in bed?”
John yawns, pats his hand, “Bed. Thanks for waking me up, Sammy.”
Despite showering, they still smell like chlorine when they crawl under the covers. Dean does the usual routine, tosses and turns a million times before Sam tugs him over. Dean lays his head on his chest, starts snoring shortly after.
The air conditioner’s blasting and even though it’s not loud enough to drown out the sound of John’s snoring joining Dean’s, Sam’s used to it. It’s been his lullaby for as long as he can remember.
The following year, John lands a two week stay at a beach house in Florida while he’s working on a case.
Sam’s up and at it every morning, dragging Dean out of bed for walks along the coast. Sand’s not too hot in the morning and he likes to take advantage of it. They bring sandwiches and get all the way down the jetty that’s a mile away, eat them and watch the dolphins out in the distance.
There’s an ibis that begs for food and Dean honks back at it until it goes away.
Swimming in the ocean is better than anywhere even if the saltwater stings your eyes. The waves push them around and into each other but they play nice for once, they’re out growing the horseplay. This part of it, anyway.
They bake like hot potatoes on the sand until noon, they get more tan that summer than any other.
Sam reads out on the deck in the evenings while Dean cooks dinner, the slider door open to let out the kitchen’s steam. He listens along to the classic rock station that John puts on, laughs to himself at how badly he and Dean sing along. They all watch the sun set together as they eat.
Falling asleep to the sound of the gulf meeting the shore, still feeling the waves crash over him, before he’s dragged off to dreamland.