The next morning Jesse made sure they didn’t wake Dean or Sam when Jackson, Emie, Tara and Janna tried to wake Grandpa John up. At eight he was the ring leader of the kids. Their dad had told him not to wake their uncles up because they needed rest like he did after an apocalypse attempt. They were standing in a half huddle next to John as he slept.
“How we doing this?” asked Janna in a loud whisper that little kids used when they were trying to be sneaky.
“Uncle Connor says its creepy when we stare at him but that always wakes him up,” offered Tara.
“We could just jump on him like we do with daddy,” offered Jackson.
“I don’t think we should do that. ‘Member when we did that to Uncle Wesley when he was visiting,” countered Emie.
“No jumping on anyone but Dad and our Moms and Aunt Dawn cause they’re used to it,” reminded Jesse.
“Squirt gun?” asked Jackson.
“Kinda mean for a first wake up call,” countered Janna.
“Feather?” offered Emie.
John could barely suppress the urge to laugh at his grandchildren plotting how to wake him up right next to him. He’d woken up as soon as he heard the door to his room open. He was just happy he was facing away from them because he couldn’t avoid the smile he was currently wearing.
“You could just ask if I’m awake,” offered John as he rolled over to face the kids.
The startle giggles from Tara and Janna and surprised expressions on the other three faces was a balm to his battered heart.
“No fair grandpa. You’re supposed ta be sleepin’,” pouted Jackson.
John snatched Jackson up and started tickling him. Jackson giggled while his sisters helped their grandpa tickle him. Jesse watched with a smile before meeting his sisters’ eyes and declaring war on their grandpa.
Dean smiled at the giggles and shouted declaration of war that came from next door. His bladder had woken him about an hour before. After taking care of that problem he’d taken a shower and changed into clean sleep pants and a t-shirt from his duffle bag that someone had been kind enough to bring in. Then he’d been content to just lay in bed soaking up the happiness that permeated the house. Their lives were dangerous but they took pleasure in the simple things. Deciding he might as well get up for the day he glanced in his father’s room and smile before heading to where he felt Xander without the kids or his father noticing him.
In the kitchen Xander and Dawn were making breakfast. The slayers that had been out last night were still sleeping but not for much longer. The smell of bacon, sausage, eggs and pancakes would wake everyone before too long. Dean was the first to wander in.
“Good morning Dean,” greeted Xander without taking his attention from the massive amounts of food before him. He was cooking pancakes and sausage while Dawn made various omelets and bacon.
“Morning,” returned Dean absently as he checked out Dawn. Her hair was messy and she was wearing a Scooby Doo themed camisole and boxer set and she was still hot. Dean’s little day dream about her legs wrapped around his hips up against a wall was interrupted by a wooden spoon to the back of his head.
“No sexy fantasies in the kitchen,” rebuked Xander before turning back to his cooking.
Dawn smirked and said, “I don’t mind. We can make it a real memory if you want.”
Dean actually blushed at getting caught and her remark and asked, “I wasn’t broadcasting was I?”
Dawn grinned at the blush on his face and answered, “Not enough for me to pick up on it if you were but you had the same look on your face that Xander and Faith get right before they drag each other off for-”
“Daaawwnie,” whined Xander interrupting her.
“Xaaaannnndddeeerr,” whined Dawn right back, “We’re all grownups and he’s yummy.”
Xander rolled his eyes and said, “My little brother having a fantasy involving you is not something I want to see. Do whatever you want as long as I don’t have to see it.” Seeing Dawn’s predatory look at Dean he added, “After you’re done cooking.”
Dawn pouted but returned to cooking, “You want an omelet or pancakes or both?”
“Both,” answered Dean with a grin.
“What kind of omelet?” asked Dawn.
Dean looked at all the ingredients around Dawn before answering, “Cheese, onions, mushrooms and ham.”
Dawn grinned and said, “Good, we’ll both have onion breath.”
Dean laughed. The three of them talked uninterrupted for twenty minutes while Dean ate his breakfast. Dean found that he enjoyed being around people that he didn’t have to lie to or hide a part of himself from. Dawn was refreshingly open without coming off as a floozy. He had nothing against a willing bed-partner, most of them just wanted a fun night to remember but sometimes they were just as messed up as he was and looking for a release. It wasn’t even his empathic ability either; by the time that he was twenty he’d gained decent control over it. But by that point sleeping around and being a flirt had become an ingrained part of the persona he wore around his dad and brother plus it was fun so he kept it up. Yesterday had been the first time in years that his shields had completely shattered.
People started to trickle into the kitchen in ones and two’s, some of them grabbed plates and headed right back out. Buffy, Willow, Kennedy, Spike, Fred, Cordy and Faith sat at the kitchen table while the six teens that Dean had met yesterday and Adam came in carrying a second table and folding chairs which they set up next to the actual kitchen table. They grabbed plates, sat down and started eating.
Dean caught Adam’s eyes and raised an eyebrow in question. He hadn’t got much of a chance to talk with Adam yesterday but he really did want to make sure the kid was alright.
Adam held his gaze for a moment smiling hesitantly before turning his attention to Xander and asking, “Are we still paint balling today?”
“Yeah, but not until noon because Graham and the twins don’t get back until ten,” answered Xander.
Adam turned back to Dean and said, “You should join us. It’s a lot of fun.”
“Sounds like a plan,” replied Dean with a grin.
“Think Sam will play?” asked Adam.
“If you ask him to he will,” answered Dean. “Who’s all playing?”
“Me, Faith, Buffy, Graham, Dawn, Connor, Spike, Caridad, Kennedy, Rona, Vi, Ariel, Alayna, Niaira, Dylan, Kyoko, Camila, Adam, Jesse, you and Sam while Willow referees,” answered Xander.
“That’s a lot of people,” stated Dean.
Xander shrugged and said, “We normally only play two teams of six, but almost everyone's home today so we have extra players. If Cordy plays we’ll split into two teams of eleven and if she doesn’t we’ll play three teams of seven.”
Cordy sent a glare at Xander for talking about her like she wasn’t less than ten feet away from him.
“Dad would probably play,” offered Dean.
“Nope, Keely won’t let him. He might be healed but she nixed all the fun stuff. He’s on light activities only today,” countered Adam.
Dean snorted and said, “He’s not going to like that.”
Dawn and Xander ate at the counter while Dean got drafted into taking a turn cooking. The teens finished before the adults and put their plates in the dishwasher before heading off on their own again.
John arrived with the little ones after the teens left. Dean made John a plate without talking to him. The kids all asked for pancakes so Dean made silver dollar sized pancakes for them. Jackson got the biggest kick out of them but his siblings enjoyed them too.
The kids dragged John off as soon as he finished eating.
Vi took pity on Sam when she found him wandering around the manor like a lost puppy and lead him to the kitchen.
“Mornin’ Sammy,” greeted Dean affectionately.
“It’s Sam, jerk,” returned Sam.
“You love it, bitch,” responded Dean with a grin.
Sam rolled his eyes in annoyance. Of course Dean would be able to tell that he liked being called Sammy. Being called Sammy reminded him of better times so yeah he kinda liked it but it was still embarrassing to be called Sammy as if he was a five year old not a twenty three year old.
Dean handed Sam a plate of food before he could say anything in response.
“You two are just adorable,” stated Cordelia rolling her eyes at the brothers’ antics.
“I know I am,” remarked Dean sweetly.
After breakfast Dean and Sam were dragged off by Adam to get a look at the paintball course. Buffy left to pick up her husband and children. Cordelia, Dawn, Fred and Willow when to the bat cave to work on creating more ammo for the Colt. Faith, Connor, Spike and Kennedy herded the little ones off to self-defense practice leaving John alone until Xander found him.
John and Xander just stared at each other for a few minutes trying to think of anything to say.
Xander hadn’t really come up with a game plan because he figured he could wing it. He did some of his best talking during spur of the moment things. The problem he was having was he wasn’t as mad as he was expecting to be or even really upset. He was who he was because his father hadn’t been there.
John didn’t know what to say either. I’m sorry seemed too contrived but he couldn’t think of anything else to say.
They’d been alone for a full ten minutes before Xander started to laugh and said, “You’d think we’d have something to say after twenty years.”
John snorted and said, “I’m sorry doesn’t make up for it no matter how much I say it.”
Xander smiled sadly at his father and said, “It doesn’t but I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t grown up the way I did. I’m pretty sure Mom would have tried to foist me off on you a long time ago if you hadn’t sent the papers and if that had happened I wouldn’t have my family. I made peace with it a long time ago. I already have the father figure that I want and I’m too old to actually need you to be my dad again but how about we try friends?”
John was amazed that Xander was being so calm. Dean would have punched scratch that Dean had decked him in the hotel room the day he’d been released from the hospital and so had Sam. Both of them had yelled and screamed and raged at him before falling back on Dean’s specialty of silence that hurt worse than all the rest combined. At least when they had been yelling they’d acknowledged his existence. Dean still hadn’t said a word to him besides asking him ‘why’ before he broke down yesterday. Sam was speaking to again but Dean was silent and he hadn’t even seen Adam yet. It took John a minute to realize that Xander was a grown man with children of his own, not a twenty something bachelor or a teenage boy. He couldn’t compare them.
Sure, there might have been some slight similarities but all of them were their own person and none of them were very much like him. He didn’t know Xander very well but the fact that his friends and family loved him enough to threaten John said more than enough about the type of man his oldest son had grown to be. Adam was a strange mix of Dean and Xander from before Mary’s death. Knowing that Xander had unknowingly stepped in as surrogate dad when he hadn’t been around was about as painful as it was relieving. Sam was the closest personality wise, but he’d managed to retain just a bit of the innocence and kindness and compassion that John had lost that night. Dean might be a good soldier but he was nothing like John no matter how much Sam claimed he was. Dean was pure Mary. Sam had never bothered to look beneath the surface and John himself had looked away every time he’d gotten a glimpse.
John knew that no matter how much Sam claimed to hate hunting he couldn’t actually give it up. Sam had tried to live an apple pie life but it had only taken five minutes for Dean to get him back in the game. John now knew that Sam hadn’t been running from hunting he’d been looking for acceptance and John had failed him once again.
He was getting a second chance with all of his sons and he wasn’t going to fuck up this time so he said, “I’d like that but I should warn you I’m a stubborn asshole.”
Xander laughed and said, “Most of my friends are at times so I’ve got experience dealing with stubborn asses.” Xander turned serious before he continued, “You have to get your priorities straightened out though. Vengeance for the dead isn’t as important as living for the survivors. I learned that at sixteen but it’s something you need to understand. It shouldn’t be about killing monsters it should be about saving lives. The longer you’re in it for vengeance the more of yourself you lose until you’re no better than them.”
John didn’t know what to say to that. Xander was right but he had spent twenty three years trying to find and kill Azazel he couldn’t give up now.
“We’re still killing the bastard. Dawn, Willow, Fred and Cordy are making more ammo for the Colt right now,” explained Xander.
“They can do that?” asked John.
“Yeah, I explained what I saw and Wills said she can duplicate it as long as the others help,” answered Xander.
“We need to come up with a plan for taking the bastard out,” said John.
“Not today. They need a break. Let them have fun and bond with Adam. Tomorrow the ammo should be ready and we can make with the planning. One day won’t make a difference in taking out Azazel but it will make a difference for Dean and Sam. They’re almost burnt out and one day of fun will go a long way in preventing a totally burn out,” responded Xander.
John hesitantly agreed to let them relax today even if he couldn’t help worry that even one day would matter on the Azazel issue. But Xander was right about Dean and Sam being so close to burn out that one more day of hunting would push them over the edge and he wasn’t willing to chance that.
Xander left John alone with his thoughts and joined Willow, Dawn, Fred and Cordy in the bat cave. John may have thought Xander wasn’t taking the threat of Azazel seriously enough but he was. The kids were on lock down within the property wards and slayer patrols had been doubled. He was also trying to keep his brothers from being so worn out that they would make semi-suicidal decisions when the time came.