Line stolen from V for Vendetta – hangs head in shame –

Thank you to everyone who's reviewed and kept with this despite it's confusion and unreliable updates, but this is the last chapter so enjoy, and please review!

Laid Bare

They hadn't always been like this. Fighting, be it with each other, or the Supernatural, and once upon a time, they hadn't even known a thing existed. John had been content with his house, his family, his job, all of it, and his oldest was growing up so quickly, playing ball, enjoying school. And Sam, was so small, such a bundle of joy to their already happy family.

People he knew were always telling him how jealous they were. The guys would tell him how lucky he was to have a gal like Mary under his arm, and they'd only keep saying it after the two got married, earning playful glares from their own respectful wives, and making Mary laugh. Oh that laugh, god he missed it.

When they first found out Mary was pregnant they had spared no time in making sure the whole world knew. John told everyone he knew, and ones he didn't. He informed family and friends even when it meant making the long distance calls to wherever they were.

He hadn't spoken to them in a while either.

The book filled with numbers had burned with the house. Mary was the one who made sure everyone kept in touch. She'd check in every month or so, sometimes more often, and get the recap in everyone's lives and give out her own, how Dean was getting so tall and lively, how he would run around the house, smiling all the while.

John would creep up on her while she was on the phone, wrap his arms around her hips, and plant little kisses on her neck, leaving the caller on the other end confused as to why Mary was not only now avoiding the conversation, but giggling every now and again. She would have to apologise and promise to phone back, while she reprimanded her husband, before kissing him back.

When Mary told John she was pregnant again, he wasn't the first to know, and he remembered feeling slightly put off to find out that he was the fourth to find out. She had told her sister first, accidentally, and her sister had then told her husband, and together they had told Mary's parents. Only then did Mary decide to inform her husband, laughing at the crestfallen expression, and apologising time and time again.

He had gotten over it, choosing instead to get more of a head start where the newborn was concerned. With Dean, their first, they hadn't been as prepared as they had assumed, and soon realised that things as trivial as diapers would become a crisis in a small amount of time. The first thing John did was build the crib. It was Dean's old one, but one of the panels had broken off after John and Mike had tried taking it to the garage, and dropped it unceremoniously to the floor. He gave it a fresh coat of paint, and made sure it was as clean as could be.

They had painted the nursery, decorated it, and finished it when the baby only had a couple more months to go. Mary had the over-night bag packed three weeks in advance, constantly getting false alarms whereas labour was concerned. That night, the night, Mary was already on her feet, cheeks flushed bright red, as she shook John awake, who jolted upward, waited for the world to focus, and then shot to action, helping Mary down the stairs. He opened the car door for her, sat her down, and ran back into the house.

He roused Dean quickly, grabbing him in his arms, and taking hold of the boy's coat on the way out of the house. Keys in the door, house locked, and now keys in the ignition, engine purring, Dean yawning in the backseat, sat next to his mother, slowly falling asleep against her shoulder, as she tried to breathe in and out, quietly, but failed. She did however; resist the need to cry out, gritting her teeth instead, and telling her husband to hurry. Dean, thankfully, did everything he was told. He put on his jacket, climbed out of the car, on the same side as his mother and kept in front of them at all times, within their eye line, stopping only when they got to reception and he was at a loss.

They were in the hospital for so long that in the end, John called Mike and his wife to take Dean home, realising that was the one thing they hadn't really put enough fore-thought into. Dean did as he was told then too, aware that today was not about him, and letting Mike's wife take him in her arms, and home, to bed.

And days later, when finally they could return home, Dean was there, waiting in the doorway, waiting to see his mother, and, the baby. He had already deduced some months previous that it would be a boy, though how? John had no idea. But the boy was completely unfazed when his father told him he had a little brother, and his name, he and Mary had decided on some hour or two ago, was Samuel. Sammy. Sam Winchester.

Dean had smiled at his mother, covered her in kisses and stared at his baby brother for hours. Waiting for his eyes to open, wanting to be the first thing that baby Sammy saw when he woke up in the house. Itching to introduce himself as his big brother.

When Sam had woken up, he had screamed, and cried, and screamed some more before Dean even had the chance to say hello. John had rushed in, letting Mary rest for a little while and had taken Sammy upstairs, leaving Dean alone in the living room wondering what he had done wrong, putting himself into a foul and sad mood until hours later when Sam returned, in his father's arms of course, content on staring at his own tiny fingers, until he was faced with Dean, and instead, chose to stare up at him, smiling.

Maybe that was why it happened to them. Happiness is never granted a long stretch. Joy is seldom left alone. The demons, the ghosts and the night stalkers saw to that. As well as any higher power watching over them, like a big kid with a magnifying glass, and the human race were nothing than ants to be burnt, scorched and destroyed in the mid-day sun.

Set alight, with the fire.

Mary's hair was gold, and glinting, it shined in the sunlight, and when there was a breeze, timid enough to do nought but brush across the skin, little wisps of her hair, not caught in a bun, would fly ahead of her, leading her to wherever she went, and she followed without question.

And John followed her, wherever she went. Only stopping when he could go no further, as Mary fell into the world where John could not follow, though he screamed and cried her name out, begging for her return, as the flames blocked that path, already marred with the droplets of her blood...

This family has seen too much blood, John thought to himself. Knowing it to be true. In the space of a few short days, Sam had once again shown his hatred toward the hunt, sparring yet another fight, letting Dean play peacemaker, putting the boy's life in danger as usual, but this time...

...too close. Too much blood, too close to losing his son.

Never again.

But it would happen again, they all knew, and it didn't matter how much blood Dean lost, or how much Sammy complained, because there would always be something to hunt, always something to kill, and demon or no, that had become their duty, their job and destiny ever since John had found those books at the library, and seen Missouri in her little house. Ever since he had seen the world, the real world, the shadows lurking...ever since he had perfected his exorcisms and Latin tongue, ever since he had made friends with those like him. Since meeting men like Elkins who taught him so much, keeping in touch with members of the clergy retaining a clue, and ensuring he had a friend in the weapons industry.

Ever since he had switched off the light, and taken Dean to bed. Ever since laying the boy down, kissing his forehead, and closing the door carefully, tiptoeing past their room as Mary slept on. Ever since falling asleep to the bombshells in the film, and ever since waking up to the sounds of a high pitched scream. Terror in his home. Ever since running up those stairs, throwing open the door and thinking it to be nothing more than a dream.

Ever since looking up after the droplet had fallen, ever since seeing...

Ever since the fire and the flames and the heat, so intense.

Ever since then, John had become more than a man hell bent on revenge. He had become a hunter, with a purpose. A killer with a conscience so black and white and devoid of grey. Such was life, such was simplicity. Such was their life, or not.

Simplicity meant that his sons followed him blindly, and though at times, Dean would give that impression, he knew the boy too well, and could see the question lingering in his eyes, and soon enough, he would start asking, while Sam spared no time in the why's, shooting them out, demanding answers, and refusing to do as he was told.

A part of John felt proud of that, aware that his son was clinging his own feet, independence, almost a complete contrast to Dean who seemed to cling to the notion of togetherness, again, something John didn't hold against him, but prided in his son. At times, at least.

Others he would scream at Sam, call him selfish and drag him wherever they went, and sometimes, he would see Dean's attempts at playing the good-guy, constantly between him and Sammy and it would always annoy him. They didn't need a referee, Dean would just get caught in the crossfire.

As usual.

All day he had worked odd jobs to meet an end, to get the pay, the money, enough to buy his son's food, stock up in the first aid supplies that didn't need an impromptu trip to the hospital to borrow a few items not on the shelf. He had kept his mind on one-track, never letting it stray to his son's for fear of de-railing. When finally night had fallen, dark all around, only then did he realise how late it was getting, and excusing himself, made his stop offs at the pharmacy and the grocery store.

Driving had always been a pleasure, never a chore. He had an incredible amount of love for his car, too much, Mary would say, especially as it didn't exactly scream, child safety, but they would work around it, John was sure. Or rather he had been, now, he wasn't too sure of anything. Just revenge, anger, hatred, fighting, hunting, killing, revenge, always revenge. Everything else, hung on by a thread. Including, he sighed sadly, his son's. He sped up unconsciously, his foot pressing down on the gas pedal, suddenly in need of getting home, wanting to see his son's to quell the worry that had never really left him since that night in November.

Rushing down the road like a bat out of hell, tires squealing as he came to a stop, grabbed the bags, and fumbling for the key in his pocket, noticing so many of the lights out, hoping his boys were still awake, he hadn't even caught a look at the clock yet. Finally getting the door open he saw the flickering blue hues from the television set in the living room, the dilapidated box of metal, barely finding a channel through constant stacking...and the boy with shaggy sitting in front of hit. He turned to see his father watching him.

"Hey," John greeted Sam carefully, still so wary, and unable to fight right now.

"Hey." Sam repeated, no real tone to his voice. John took a breath, telling himself to push the attitude away, and put the bags down in the kitchen, making his way upstairs.

Sam watched him go with a mixture of exasperation and relief. The man was late, more so than usual, and the boy wondered if he was avoiding his son's perhaps. After all, he had left without a word that morning, and now, trudging upstairs to bed perhaps? Sam let his eyes trail back to the set, barely making out the War heroes through the occasional bouts of signal on the screen.

All day he had kept his watchful eye on his brother, from waking up later than he would have liked, intent on helping Dean, though granted, ruining their lunch had been a mishap he had not intended on. Four times Sam had walked in on his brother exercising. Doing push ups his body could not yet handle, and the last three times, Dean had really tried to hide it. Closing his door, keeping quiet, but Sam still found him doing so, and lectured him on it seeing as their father was absent at the present moment. Dean hadn't listened, there was nothing new there but Sam hadn't found him doing it again. Either Dean was getting better at lying, which scared him, or his body had refused to let him continue, which come to think of it, scared Sam too.

He looked back at the screen and realised he had managed to miss one of the pivotal moments during the film. Stretching, he too made his way upstairs, checking that the doors were locked, and switching off the lights as he did so. When he made his way over to his room, he saw Dean's door open slightly, though no light came from within, and he could hear a faint voice, but he paid it no heed as he went to the bathroom.

It was on his way back, when he could still hear the sad, gruff voice, that he paused. He opened Dean's door carefully, aware that it would creak when too close to being opened fully. He stayed, half in, half out, seeing his father perched on the edge of the bed, head turned away from the door to watch his oldest sleep.

"You're gonna be okay, aren't you kiddo?" John whispered, stroking the hair on Dean's head lightly enough for Sam's brother to not even stir, and the youngest Winchester in their broken down family of three, had a sneaking suspicion that John wasn't just referring to the now healing injuries of late. And he was fairly sure this was one of the last of a long lists of whispered words John had spoken since first seeing Dean injured as he was that night.

John would pretend to be a hard-ass so much that everyone him had no clue it was all a show. Even Dean. He would watch his sons, fear for their lives with every passing second, as he trained them how to fight, defend, live. Sometimes, you wear a mask for so long, you forget what's underneath, but you keep up appearances, keep up with the Jones's, keep telling yourself that that little part of you, they'll never see, is more important than anything they'll ever know. And sometimes, when watching others, you see the masks falter, but it is seldom, Sam knows, and he basks in the moment, watching still, unbeknownst to his brother and father.

The End

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