Title: Overheard
By: Xrho
Pairing: gen
Rating: G
Summary: Preseries. John Winchester listens in on the aftermath of a nightmare.


John Winchester bolted upright in bed at his son's scream, wide-eyed and holding back his breath so he could hear what was going on. It was hardly a rare occurrence for him to be woken up by one of his sons' nightmares but every time he paused, listening cautiously for another, less earthly sound. Tonight though, like nearly every other night, all he heard was the rasping sound of a child panting in fright and a softly muttered mantra, "Not real, not real, not real…"

He sank back down into bed, his hearing still intently focused on the sounds coming from his sons' room. He almost grinned when he heard the soft "whump" noise little six-year-old Sammy made as he slid out from under the covers and landed on the floor in his bare feet. He was proud of his sons' interdependence, if only because it meant they weren't so dependent on him. They couldn't afford to be.

The floorboards squeaked under Sam's feet as he padded across the room to Dean's bed and the covers rustled as he heaved himself up into it. "Dean?" he whispered in the too loud voice children use when they think they're being sneaky and quiet. John didn't mind. The kids could hide well enough if anything were to get into their house and Sam had a lot of time to learn how to be quiet before John would take him anywhere more dangerous than a playground. Besides, he liked hearing his boys' late night conversations. When he heard them, he could almost pretend they were a real family.

There was more rustling, probably caused by Dean moving over to make room for his pesky little brother. "Dean?" Sam asked again, more urgently.

"Hey, Sammy."

"You 'kay?" John frowned at the question. Which son had been screaming? He wasn't sure.

"Yeah," Dean answered, "Didn't mean to wake you up. Go back to bed."

"Mmmph," Sam replied petulantly, sounding half asleep. The covers rustled a bit as the two brothers got settled but John heard no sign that Sam was going to go back to his own bed. He heard Dean sigh heavily and smiled a secret smile to himself. Sometimes Sammy was too stubborn and sometimes he was just stubborn enough.

Thinking back, he wondered how many times he'd gotten home late at night to find Sam and Dean sleeping together had been a result of Dean's nightmares rather than Sam's. It made sense that Dean would have bad dreams once in a while, he knew far better than Sam did that the monsters little boys dream about aren't always the products of hyper-active imaginations, but he'd never mentioned his dreams to John.

Eyelids almost closed, John wondered if it mattered who was dreaming. Hell, he'd had a nightmare or two from time to time himself. Maybe all that mattered was that Sam and Dean would wake up together in Dean's bed the next morning and John could pretend he hadn't overheard a thing.