Title: Cold and Lonely Watch
Characters: Jack O’Neill, Dean Winchester, John Winchester
Category: Gen, Angst, Crossover
Rating: T/PG13 (language)
Spoilers: Vague ones for the previous story in the series, that’s all.
Summary: For awhile, John watched. It was the paranoid psychotic bastard in him. He wasn’t ashamed.
Word Count: 1867
Disclaimer: I own only concepts and ideas and strange, twisted trains of thought like clouds shot through with rain and sun, therefore ephemeral. And so my possession is not material and cannot be held. ::sigh:: This also means that I make no money.
Author’s Note: Sequel to “Corner of Your Eye,” but should be readable without reading that one first. I’ve been really nervous about writing John in this—that’s why it took so long. I do love him, but there’s such complexity there. I’m usually very simple.
Cold and Lonely Watch
For awhile, John watched. It was the paranoid psychotic bastard in him. He wasn’t ashamed.
Dean’s voice in the message he’d left had been…strange. Something different in it, something John wasn’t sure he’d ever before heard in the tones of his oldest son, as familiar to him as the sound of his own breath on cold night watches, the sound of his own blood thudding through his veins in the heat of the hunt. John didn’t know how many times he had replayed that message, trying to suss out just what was so different. More than twenty, less than a hundred.
The kid’s voice had been shaken, yeah, letting John know that the hunt he’d found in Minnesota had not gone quite as smoothly as he would have his father believe. But his voice had also been loose, relaxed. At ease. It had sounded as if Dean had surrendered some of his wariness, the hounded-fox alertness that kept them both alive. But that was impossible. Dean never let his guard down. John had taught him that, and his son learned every lesson well. The only times Dean let even a piece of his wariness go was when his dad was taking watch. That was how it was supposed to be.
So John watched. He watched his son pal around with a man he didn’t know at a cabin in Minnesota that he’d never visited before. It was a bit like an out-of-body experience, lurking in the trees near the lake, using binoculars to spy on two men, one older and one younger, both bearing themselves with a hunter’s grace and presence of mind. In another life, that could have been John standing with Dean, nudging their shoulders together in friendly warmth, talking and laughing, mouths teased into a smirk. It could have been John, but instead it was this gray-haired stranger, wearing a fatigue jacket with old familiarity, military bearing in every step, every stance.
They were practicing throwing knives at a target that had already seen the thump of many blades, red and white rings faded, chips knocked out of the edges and deep slices inside. John was too far away to hear what they were saying, and they rarely turned around so he could read their lips, but their body language told the tale well enough. They were competing, kidding each other with every less-than-perfect hit, friendly insults flying back and forth.
And they impressed each other, too. The older guy watched Dean’s movements with a deep, soft smile, not a smirk, and his dark eyes were… John sucked in a gasp when he realized what he was seeing. This man he didn’t know—this dangerous semi-retired soldier with too many blank spots in the records John had been able to dig up—this stranger from Minnesota was fond of John’s son, his boy, his child, his partner in every hunt and roommate in every backcountry motel.
John felt the binoculars in his hand creak, the thick plastic beginning to give way, and forced himself to lighten his grip on them. Damn, the anger was overpowering, as stupid and unjustified as it was. What right did this man have to look at his son like that? He didn’t know them. He didn’t know their mission, their world, their life. John had seen none of the marks of a hunter on the man’s cabin, no sigils or marks of protection, not even a dreamcatcher. Just a civilian.
And yet Dean looked back at this stranger, this man called Major General Jack O’Neill, with all of the same admiration and friendliness, open and at ease. As O’Neill readied a knife to throw, Dean studied the smooth line of his arm, the viper-quick movement, as avidly and fervently as he had ever watched John demonstrate a martial arts move. When O’Neill straightened, Dean quirked that familiar sideways grin and gestured broadly, probably voicing some criticism of the older man’s technique. O’Neill grinned, eyes sparking, and reached out to give Dean’s shoulder a shove, not hard, just continuing the conversation. Dean beamed back at him.
No, this wasn’t anger John was feeling. It was jealousy. Fierce and hot and utterly overpowering.
He lowered the binoculars and tried to breathe through it, pulling in the sharp scent of spring through his nostrils, blowing it out in a thick stream from his mouth. His eyes remained fixed on the two distant figures, seeming so much farther away without the shell of glass between to magnify them. This was ridiculous.
So Dean had made friends with a USAF Major General, a man with some kind of special-ops in his background, exceedingly dangerous and well-connected. So he seemed to enjoy being with the guy. So he had earned his respect and friendship, and apparently was perfectly comfortable with being continually touched on the shoulder or back, his hair being ruffled, his arm being punched. It didn’t have anything to do with John. It just meant that his son was even better at charming people than either of them had realized.
Still, it was definitely time to get his son and bug out.
John approached the door cautiously. He felt strangely out of his depth, walking onto this rough-hewn porch to knock on an unfamiliar door. This wasn’t like going to interview witnesses or visiting a hunter he knew—it was halfway between, and therefore a completely different animal, the son he knew as well as he knew his own gun collection in the house of a stranger he had never met and didn’t trust.
He could hear the homey sounds of someone cooking in the kitchen, a low, contented murmur of conversation. Time to cowboy up, John Winchester, be a man. He set his shoulders and knocked, firmly and loudly, three sharp raps on the unfamiliar door.
O’Neill’s muffled voice, the slightly nasal Northern burr in his accent. “Wouldja get that, kid? I’ll probably set the kitchen on fire if I step away.”
Dean’s voice, easy, teasing. “Sure, old guy. I like your kitchen the way it is.”
John drew in his breath at the same speed as the door opened, gentle and smooth. And there was his son, standing in someone else’s living room, a look of complete and utter shock blanking his face. “Dad?” His voice was breathless, almost a whisper, stunned and reverent
The noises in the kitchen ceased. John tried on a smile. “Yeah, son. It’s me. Can I come in?”
Dean stepped back, numbly, still blinking. “I didn’t hear your truck.”
He would have recognized the sound of it, too. John knew that. He stepped inside and carefully closed the door behind him. “I parked it a ways down the road. Wanted to surprise you?” He made it a question, suddenly uncertain. The shocked look on Dean’s face wasn’t going away. If anything, it was deepening. What had happened here?
Without any warning at all, Dean stepped forward and wrapped his arms around him, strong and tight, gripping the fabric of John’s jacket in his fingers and squeezing, dipping his head to press into his shoulder. John stood frozen for a stark second, unable to remember the last time Dean had asked for this, had needed this. Then he reciprocated, folding his son into his arms. Something was going on here, and maybe he was a shitty dad sometimes, but he knew what to do when one of his boys grabbed him like this. There was only one way to respond.
“Hey, Dean,” he murmured, gentle, rubbing a hand up the strong plane of Dean’s back, which shuddered slightly under his touch. “Hey, buddy. It’s all right.” A movement caught the corner of his eye and he glanced up, saw Jack O’Neill leaning against the kitchen doorway holding a big wooden spoon, tomato sauce still clinging to the light grain.
O’Neill gestured a hello with the spoon. “I’ll go dump some more spaghetti in the pot.” And he stepped back into the kitchen.
“I thought you were…” The tightness of Dean’s fingers in John’s shoulders, the desperate clutch of well-built muscles, told John all he needed to know about what Dean had thought. “You didn’t tell me where you were going. You didn’t call.”
Dean stepped back, then, shoved himself off John’s shoulders with a measured push, and they stood facing each other again. There was no anger in Dean’s eyes, no accusation as John half-expected. Just relief. “Why didn’t you call me, you son of a bitch?”
John grinned. This was easier. This was familiar. “Sorry, Deano. I was in the badlands for awhile, no cell reception. And when I got your message and knew you were staying with someone neither of us knew, well, I had to look into it, didn’t I?”
“You were spying on us.” It wasn’t a question. Dean nodded curtly, already knowing. “Jack and I had a bet going on who was watching us from the woods. I thought it was probably a hostile and we would have to go flush it out. He thought it was probably just some kids from down the road.”
“No, I said it was a kid,” Jack called from the kitchen. “That Gunder boy, he’s a strange one, and I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m an alien in disguise.”
Dean grinned, flicking a glance toward O’Neill, but then looked back at his father. Beaming now. Just happy to see him.
“Well, who wins when you’re both wrong?” John asked.
“I guess we’ll have to start another one.”
O’Neill stepped out of the kitchen again, wiping his hands on his flannel shirt. He offered John a hand. “Hey, Jack O’Neill. Call me Jack.”
John shook his hand, firm, but didn’t make a contest out of it. “I’m John.”
Dean rolled his eyes a little. “It’s okay—he knows our last name. I kinda let it slip while I was concussed.”
John gave him a little glance, but looked back at O’Neill. “John Winchester.”
“Welcome to my cabin. You like fishing? We’re going fishing tomorrow.”
“Fly fishing, down by a creek east of here,” Dean supplied. “Jack still hasn’t convinced me that there are any fish in that lake of his.” He watched John carefully, though, ready to leave now if the elder Winchester gave the word. Dad was back and Dean would fall in line, as usual. As always.
But what the hell. Spaghetti would be ready in a few minutes. And fly fishing… John hadn’t done any fishing in forever.
“Sure. That sounds great.”
Jack grinned. “Excellent.” He clapped John on the shoulder and moved back into the kitchen.
Dean was still watching him, smiling now, grateful. He had probably been worried that there would be some blow up when his new friend met his anti-social dad. He hadn’t been wrong, really. But John was here now, and he was starting to see why Dean liked the guy so much.
“So, Dean. Another concussion? Really? Again?”
Dean groaned and flopped down on a handy couch. “God, I knew I would never hear the end of this.”
John smiled and sat down in an armchair nearby. He couldn’t wait to hear the story.
Next story: The Fine Art of the PB&J