Disclaimer: The TV show Supernatural and all characters therein are owned by assorted Americans, not me. This fiction is purely for the enjoyment of readers; no money is being made. All Original Characters remain the property of Catherine D. Stewart and may not be used without the express permission of the authoress.

Summary: Maybe John Winchester wasn't a bad father…maybe he knew what he was doing…

Rating: 'T'/15 because of the odd fruity phase, but there is no gore, graphic or gratuitous infliction of suffering, violence, sex, etc. Please note for the purposes of this story that I have assumed 'Dean' and 'Sam' are the same ages as Jensen Ackles (b.1st March 1978) and Jared Padalecki (b.19th July 1982). Considering that Jensen is 2 years younger than my 'Sam', who also faced dire infant peril (of the medical kind) and Jared is the same age as my youngest cousin who still calls me 'Auntie' Catherine, I shall attempt to forget these facts as soon as possible.


Chapter 1

Boom! Boom!

"Dean, reload!"

Dean was already waaaay ahead of Sammy on that one. It was why he was carrying not one but two 12-gauges and a sawn-off fully loaded with rock-salt…soaked in Holy Water (Sam's impressive idea for double-whammy…now if only they could set the stuff on fire as they shot it they'd be three-for-three). Dean's conviction that it was not possible to ever have too many large-calibre guns within grabbing distance was so far paying off. A quick boom-boom-boom rocked the fugly enough for you to reload and boom-boom-boom again.

At least it had until about five seconds ago. Dean had no idea what the thing was and didn't really care; it was humanoid only in basic body shape, smelled like a sewer and had jaws like Jaws plus six-inch claws with which it was attempting to eviscerate anything within range. Fortunately it was also dense enough for light to bend round it, as evinced by the thing's manic attempt to disembowel a nearby tree, the tough bark of which had caused actual sparks to fly from the aforementioned claws. The ancient oak was largely impervious to the impertinence but now the damn thing had finally got itself oriented facing them and its single-celled-brain had just made the connection between all its current stress issues and physical pain and the two little human males and those metal things that went bang-bang.

If you go down - to the woods today…you're in - for a big surprise! Dean hummed the verse to himself he and Sam nimbly darted around tree trunks and sturdy saplings and kept up the barrage. This little supernatural Gunfight at the O.K. Corral hadn't been planned. Sam had been asleep in the passenger seat and Dean doing his usual driving at speeds measured in warp factors, (badly) singing along to some classic Def Leppard as they drove through the backwoods of rural New Hampshire, when the EMF detector in the holdall on the back seat had squawked like a frightened chicken. Typical that Samuel Winchester who could sleep through five hours of full-on Metallica and probably a missile barrage right outside his bedroom snapped awake the instant the tiny EMF that Dean had jury-rigged from an old Walkman so much as whimpered.

What weren't typical were the readings the thing had been giving. The last time it had gone that far off the scale had been the whole pagan nightmare where Dean had been within a whisker of being killed as a fertility sacrifice to a Norse Vanir. Considering how long it had been even then since he'd got laid, that would have been a huge cosmic bad joke.

Dean and Sam fired again simultaneously right into its face, their ears ringing from the shriek. Taking all their weaponry as a precaution and following the EMF signal had proven prudent when the Chomp Thing had lumbered towards them like a freight train from the woods – obviously the isolated area was the reason why it had failed to register on any radar or do so little damage….Something it was now trying to make up for.

"SAM!" By the time his conscious mind had processed the sight of Sam's slip on an exposed sapling root, Dean was already there.

Pain exploded down his left side as he put himself between his brother and the Bad, but it didn't even slow him down. Over the years pain exploding in various body parts had become par for the course as he was bashed, banged, thumped, thrown, slashed, sliced, dinged, diced, whomped, stomped and generally kicked into next week by the über-evil of the moment.

Despite the abrupt and highly inconvenient floppiness of his left-side limbs, Dean rolled forward smoothly and from a prone position braced the stock of the shotgun against the solid supporting muscles of his right thigh and fired again with that hand into the thing's face from point-blank range.

Happily this time the impact sent the thing falling flat on its back and that was that; in modern America, carrying about t a six-foot-long sacred sword took some explaining sometimes, but when you needed a blade whose forging had been cooled in Holy Water and that had been polished with rock salt and blessed by a living saint it was worth it. In an instant Sam brought the blade down with all his upper body strength and reptilian neck cartilage that should have shattered the blade into toothpick slivers instead proved to be about as deflective as butter against a heated knife.

Which was a pretty good thing, considering. The pain was refusing to wait politely in the queue for its turn and was instead bullying its way into his lungs and shoving in line at his spine. Dean was aware that Sam was kneeling next to him. His brother's mouth was moving but no sound was coming out. Dean frowned as he saw that Sam's face was wet even as Sam started pulling him and tugging him – hello, not helping to lessen the searing agony, dude! – and despite the pain he tried to sit up. It wasn't right when Sammy was upset…and he couldn't bear to see him cry. He had to make it better, it was what he did. Dean blinked rapidly, amazed at the speed with which the fog had come down as he tried to focus on Sam…

Chapter 2

Dean thought again about opening his eyes. But his lids were still far too heavy for him to lift…and to be honest that fact didn't bother him in the slightest, though it probably should have caused a teensy bit of concern he supposed. However, he was just too warm and snugly to really be bothered somehow…

Not that his warm and snugly was a total utopia, he had to admit. There was his mouth, for a start. It was drier than prairie grass during Texas mid-summer and he had the most horrible taste in his mouth, like a member of the skunk family had crawled inside and died on his tongue. There again though, it wasn't enough to impinge on his toasty, fuzzy cocoon.

Dean thought about it some more and remembered that the only time he'd been this mellow and floaty and…that word… 'S'…Sammy…no Sammy wasn't it. Sammy was the dwarf…whatchmacallit…Grumpy…Sarasota? No… that was some place…down in….someplace. Sir? Nope, that was dad…serene…yeah that was it. Serene. When had he been this mellow and floaty and serene…oh yeah, the first time he'd been drunk – really drunk…about ten seconds before the hangover kicked in and his gut got its revenge for him mixing tequila and snowballs with 3:00am Korean takeaway and forced him to spend the morning with his head in the toilet bowl.

That wasn't an option though, since the first time he'd ever been drunk was also the last time he'd ever been drunk. It had been the closest dad had ever come to actually hitting either of them…Where had it been now? No recollection came, just some anonymous college town with a boisterous frat-boy population and one more crappy motel room with that funky smell such places always seemed to have and seriously psychedelic wallpaper …He'd only been thirteen and had wheedled his way into some college party dive where most everyone else was already too out of it to comprehend that one of the guests wasn't merely vertically challenged but a kid.

Dad had been furious when he'd swaggered/staggered back to the motel in the small hours; though probably for the fact that a barely adolescent roaring drunk would focus unwelcome official attention in their direction than any actual concern for Dean himself, he thought now still without any great concern over what should have been a painful memory. It had been the first time he'd ever done any yelling back though too, which was kind of a point of honour. Dad had yelled about responsibility and safety and then made the mistake of bringing up Dean's age…at that point Dean's blooming sarcastic skills had taken over; most thirteen-year-olds weren't hardened killers who knew more about decapitation than the hockey scores…

In every way other than ignorable biology he wasn't a child…couldn't remember when he had been…so why should he allow others to apply those rules to him for their convenience but not his? See, though he didn't have Sam's genius-IQ he wasn't totally as thick as a brick! Besides, maybe Dean should do the hunting while Dad tried spending days on end cooped up in a sleazy motel room with an eight-year-old Einstein made stir crazy because the trash on motel TV nourished his intellect about as much as week-old lettuce? All the time wondering if this was the day John Winchester wasn't going to walk back in the door because he was dead in a ditch somewhere. Lecturing me on responsibility may not be the tack to take when you're a guy living in a glasshouse, Dad! In fact, why don't you look after Sammy for a change, 'cause I am out of here!'

Dean remembered the way it had seemed almost like slo-mo as his dad's hand had curled into a tight fist and he'd braced himself for the blow…never landed of course…Sammy had saved him – the little squirt had run from his hiding in the bathroom when Dean had taken a single step towards the motel room door and wrapped himself limpet-like round his brother's knee. Impossible, to countenance Sammy's pain, and he had fallen to his knees on that grime-fest carpet and let Sammy half-throttle him with the hugging as he apologised for yelling and assured Sammy that he wouldn't leave…Sammy hadn't even seemed to notice that dad was even there and now Dean recalled that funny look on dad's face…a mixture of resignation and hurt, because Sammy had only cared that Dean would not leave him…

Two days later dad had gone on another 'I swear I won't be long' hunting trip and the first night they were alone Sammy had hugged that big book he'd found in one of the drawers – Mark Twain it was – tightly to his chest like a shield…the thing had been nearly as big as him…and timidly told Dean that he didn't mind if Dean wanted to go out and be with his friends…Sammy would be perfectly alright staying in the motel room until he got back, with his book…oh sure, and the shaking voice and terrified eyes were barely noticeable…

I wonder if that's why Sammy really went off to college…the thought popped into his brain from someplace…not so much because he was desperate for that normal life he's always going on about, but because ever since that night he's had some crazy idea that by leaving he was freeing me from the burden of him…Idiot, Dean thought affectionately, genius IQ and still got the sense of a seam squirrel…Sammy, Sammy…so smart but so dim…didn't you ever realise…? Like that song, dude…The story of my life, Is very easy to read, It starts when you came, And it ends when you leave…me.

What had he been thinking about? That was another downside to warm and snugly…you tended to lose track of…thingie…whatsit…not plane, he hated planes, he had no control on a plane – now the Impala, his Black Beauty was his to command…yeah…went tcha-ch-tcha…on rails…train…that was it, train of thought…I've lost my choo-choo…Dean decided…

Being drunk, that was it. The closest he'd ever experienced to this level of fogginess was when he was drunk…but he'd never been drunk since. Not just 'cause of dad's anger though…Spending six straight hours with your head close-up-and-personal to a fleapit motel room toilet bowl as your stomach brought up everything you'd ever eaten was an experience most definitely to be missed; plus the fact was, being the only sober guy in the bar had been a real eye-opener, watching the risible stupidity of the drunken and the stoned and marvelling at the fact that anyone thought such a state was a good thing to regularly visit.

So…what did that mean? Not drunk…right. So if he wasn't drunk why did he feel so nice and cuddly-cosy? This state of being was certainly artificial...Dean couldn't remember feeling actually happy since before mom was killed and that was…twenty-two long years ago…Contentment and peace of mind were two exotic creatures that as far as Dean knew had never been anywhere near his brain and which he wasn't entirely convinced weren't as semi-mythical as unicorns anyway…Although considering what he did for a living, he couldn't state that there were no such things as unicorns either…The closest he got to positive emotion was the few hours of unconsciousness when he was sleep...

So I'm high…practically in orbit with Mir from the way he felt…but since I don't do rec…rec…reational stigmas…stim…that drug crap…I'm in hospital...he was aware the realisation should at the very least alarm him in some way…they must be pumping distilled happy juice into my veins…Oh well; at least he wasn't dead – yet – so he'd deal in the morning – maybe some dude would take the anvils off his eyelids then…

Although…if that much narcotic numbness was being pumped into him by whatever IV, Dean thought, he shouldn't have woken up. The docs around here were probably thinking he was dead to the world – okay, bad phraseology – deeply unconscious. But something had woken him up…he thought about it…it wasn't himself, he was feeling no pain. So…?

Anger...that was it, he could almost feel it in the room. But he wasn't angry…it wasn't bio-chemically possible to be this stoned and feel the slightest inclination to ire. Concentrating, Dean tried his eyelids again – but all he could see was a vague sliver of light…oh yeah, that was because he only had his eyes open a crack…if I open my eyes…I can see more…pleased with this deduction, he tried again but only managed a slightly increased view of a largely hazy and foggily indistinct world.

Still it was enough to see…Sam…at the end of his bed…Sammy…Uh-oh…Sammy with a face like thunder as he stood in profile at the end of Dean's – presumably – hospital bed angrily facing someone else. There was only one person in the world who could get Sammy that mad, that fast...Yep, if he tried to move his eyes to the right, there was Dad out of the corner of his eye, facing off against Sam.

Mentally Dean tried to clear away the fog; this was his job. Sam and Dad collided like tectonic plates – immovable object and irresistible force…but Dean was the fault line between the two, the safety valve by which those tremendous opposing forces were…well, not stopped but at least dissipated somewhat. He wasn't always as successful as he'd like, sometimes he could only reduce a 9.2 to an 8.8, but hey, every little helped, surely?

Somehow though, his thoughts wouldn't come together, although, while he couldn't hear dad, he got Sam's side of the fight.

"Do you have any comprehension of how close he came to dying? Dy-ing. Gone, finished, dead! You will not come in here bullying him with that stupid Marine crap – 'repress your feelings and get out that bed, boy, you can overcome 99 blood loss and all four limbs being ripped off, you're just not trying hard enough!'"

Dean wanted to laugh – that was actually a pretty good imitation of the way Dad used to hector him if he'd ever wanted to give up at something when he was kid…he saw Dad's mouth move but couldn't hear the words.

"…you're not his father here! Next-of-kin, dad, next-of-kin, I'm the techno-wizard of the family Dad, remember, the cyber-surfer extraordinaire? You appreciated that back in the days when you could barely work a toaster. As far as the medical system of the US of A knows, I am Dean's only living relative. I alone have full power of attorney and as of now, you are barred from this hospital room…"

Dad's mouth moved again but he looked upset instead of angry.

"Save it for someone who cares…and is too gullible to see through you. Set one toe over that threshold and I will have you arrested on any charge I can dream up!"

Dad reached out a hand that Sammy batted away, sharply.

"Okay, that's enough." Dean told them. "Come on, Sammy, it's probably not as bad as it looks...Dad, just let me have until tomorrow morning, then we'll all blow this burg…Okay?"

Okay…? Dean's leaden eyes blurred despite his attempts to focus as neither man showed any sign they had heard a single word…I only said it inside my head?

"Do you know how many times you've endangered Dean's health because you're an emotionally crippled bully who demands feats of endurance and stamina that would drive Superman into therapy? How many times I've stood there terrified that this time you will go too far in your pushing and your hectoring and your harassing - and Dean will drop dead because of trying to please you above all sanity and the agony of his own body? No more! Get out!"

No, Sammy…don't…Dad, he doesn't mean it, he's just upset. Sammy, please don't be mad with Dad about me…I'm not worth it…I never was, you know he loves you so much, man, and it hurts him so much when you two fight, even though he hides it with anger himself. Come on Sammy?

But the words remained in Dean's head and his eyelids just would not stay open and it was so hard to stay awaaaaa…

Continued in Chapter 3…

© 2006, Catherine D Stewart