Part Three - Conclusion

Present Day - 2006

"Dean, we were lucky we had Dad. A little less demon hunting, a little more tequila and we could have had Max's childhood." Sam quietly observed.

Dean looked surprised and pleased.

"I never thought I'd hear you say that." He replied with relief, maybe his younger brother had finally made peace with Dad and how he raised them.

"Well, all things considered we turned out OK." Sam continued.

"Yeah, all things considered." Dean agreed as a reflective smile crossed his lips.

Dean remembered that fateful encounter when his dad lost control in his drunken rage and lashed out at the only person who was near. Dean remembered it like it was yesterday. How shocked and hurt he was to think Dad could strike out at his own son with so much anger. How disillusioned he had felt to lose sight of the only person he had to depend on.

He knew his dad wasn't himself, he knew his dad didn't even remember the offense, but it still rocked him to his core. Dad who had always been his knight in shining armor had fallen from his steed. For a brief moment Dean had been left alone without the strong guidance of his hero.

Dean's first thought had been relief that Dad struck him and not Sammy. He didn't think he could have forgiven him if it had been Sammy, but he had found it fairly easy to forgive Dad for striking him. He should have known better. He should have stayed back. He should have given him room. He should have just kept quiet and let him sleep it off. He knew Dad didn't know, didn't mean, didn't want to hurt him.

Still, he had been hurt. The pain of the bruises was bad but not as bad as the turmoil in his heart. With all the anguish he had suffered in his young life he only had two things to hang on to: his dad and Sammy. He needed to believe in his dad and for a short time, he lost that and he was scared. He was adrift with no anchor.

When his dad finished inspecting his bruises and pulled him close into his chest in a warm embrace, Dean had felt good again. As twisted as it may sound, he felt the pain of the bruises was worth it to have his dad's arms wrapped around him in a long overdue embrace. He had gotten lots of hugs from Mom and Dad before that fiery night. He always knew he could count on a hug from each at bedtime and countless times in between.

After Mom died the hugs, the contact, the connection diminished and eventually ceased as Dad became increasingly distant. He didn't blame his dad, he understood he felt bad. Dad just withdrew from everything, including his two young sons. Sammy was still a baby that needed held, so he still got hugs. Dean hated to admit it but he even felt jealous of Sammy once or twice when he so desperately longed for an embrace and Dad instead picked up the baby and held him.

Dean missed the warmth and love those hugs instilled in him. He missed the closeness and the safety of those hugs. He missed the comfort of knowing secure arms held him and protected him from all danger and woe.

So yeah, as twisted as it sounds he would have taken on more bruises if it would have meant his dad would hug him again. Man, he better not ever tell Sam this story. He wasn't sure if Sam would understand, if Sam could understand. Sam was just now accepting Dad and the path they were raised on. Dean sure as hell didn't want to muddy up the waters with another confusing tale of their warped upbringing.

No, he knew Sam now needed to believe in Dad just like he did. Dad had faced the devil head on and was still alive to tell the tale, and had somehow managed to raise his sons and keep them alive. Yeah, theirs was definitely an unconventional upbringing but all things considered, they were OK. Hell, they were alive and they were together. Dad must have done something right.

Dad was Dean's hero. He had fallen off his pedestal for a brief moment in time when weakness and despair overcame him but he had clawed his way back up to take his rightful place in his sons' hearts. It was as it should be.

Dean knew what despair felt like and what it could do to a man. He hoped he would never fall from Sam's good grace and disappoint him. He knew first hand how that felt and he didn't want to be on the other side. Dad had given him invaluable insight into how to be a hero and he hoped he was up for the task.

This was a tough road they had embarked on and he just hoped they were all up to the challenge. Dean knew they were human, and humans are frail and humans make mistakes. He just hoped they could stay true to their calling and also be heroes.

The End

Disclaimer: Nope, don't own them, no connection to them and drat no chance of having a connection. Just simply love those Winchester men and all their family angst and turmoil, not to mention their deep and abiding love and devotion.