Disclaimers: Nope, still not mine.

Rating: PG

Summary:

A/N: Look, Mom! No spoilers! But I do have lots of gratitude for my partner-in-crime, Faye, just for being her. And for Brenna, who put together the most kick-ass website known to man. Or at least, to SN-dom!

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When the Bough Breaks

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It was cold. He was cold.

The only part of him that was warm was his side, but he knew it wasn't supposed to be. And that scared him a little.

Okay, maybe a lot.

"Don't break position," Dad said. "No matter what."

No matter what.

So, even though he was shivering so hard he could barely hold his gun, even though the body of the (thing he had to keep reminding himself. It's a thing, not a person anymore) was lying only inches away from him, even though he was starting to feel a little lightheaded, a little nauseous, he didn't move.

Dad would come for him. Dad always came. Maybe not right when he said he would, and maybe he had forgotten him at time or two, at school, at the neighbor's . . .

But this was different. This was a hunt.

Dad would come.

He just had to hold on a little longer.

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Even the midst of battle, John didn't lose track of his sons. Dean was close – he could hear him, feet crunching through the brittle surface of frozen snow.

He cursed the weather, knowing it left them more vulnerable, more exposed. But Dean was careful. He was a good hunter. He had learned his lessons well.

And Sam . . . Sam was safe. Hidden away, just outside the perimeter John had marked. Involved enough to feel like he was a part of things, like he had a role. But not close enough to the action to be a liability.

Sam had good instincts, was as skilled with a gun as his brother had been at that age. Maybe even more skilled with a knife. But he was young. Inexperienced in much more than a simple exorcism or routine salt-and-burn. He needed to learn, too, John knew. But this wasn't the time for a training exercise. Hunting werewolves was serious work. They were smart and agile and damned fast, and even a competent ten-year-old had no business trying to face one down. He'd left Sam in a position to spot trouble if it came – or tried to escape. For now, that was enough.

Two shots rang out in quick succession, the last echoing oddly through the trees.

"Dean?"

"Got one!"

John nodded to himself. Two more to go. He scanned the darkness, looking for signs of the others.

A rough growl behind him was the only warning he had. He dropped and fired as the werewolf bore down, jaws snapping the air where his legs had been, seconds before. He heard it hit the ground with a dog-like yelp, and then it was up again, scrambling toward him.

His second shot found its heart.

He felt Dean's presence before he saw him and answered his unasked question.

"I'm alright."

Panting a little from the adrenaline rush, he let Dean pull him to his feet. He saw the flash of worry in Dean's eyes, but didn't respond to it. It disappeared almost instantly and he felt a little swell of pride – watching Dean's focus, his determination. His skill.

He's a good soldier. No less than what he expected, but John allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction.

He motioned Dean north while he moved south.

It started to snow – wet, heavy flakes that quickly covered the frozen ground, obliterating their footprints, and the werewolves' as well. The hunt would be harder now. Time was of the essence.

His jacket and jeans were quickly soaked. The snow began to thicken, blanketing the woods around him in a peaceful quiet.

It barely lasted an instant.

He heard a snap and lunged sideways. Something heavy hit him in the shoulder and shoved him down.

He wedged a hand beneath his body, pushed himself away. It was on him again before he could stand, and he felt a row of teeth dig into his back. They didn't break the skin – he had on too many layers – but they worked as a perfect distraction.

He twisted, ducked and the werewolf sailed over him. It rolled as it landed, already turning on him. He dropped to one knee and raised his gun, this time finishing the job with a single shot. It collapsed in front of him, its blood staining the ground with dark fingerprints.

He exhaled a long breath and flicked the safety on, calling to Dean as he tucked his gun in his waistband.

Three werewolves dead. Not bad for an evening's work.

Time to bless and bury the bodies and get back on the road.

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The snow made it harder for him to see, less sure of what direction his father come from. But at least it covered the body a little.

He hadn't felt bad about shooting it until it changed. Once it was human again, it was a lot harder. Even though it had hurt him, it had been a monster then.

It was a person now.

His mouth suddenly ran dry and he forced himself to swallow, desperately trying to not get sick.

His side throbbed. He'd tied his flannel shirt over it as a makeshift bandage, but it was still bleeding. He didn't know how else to make it stop.

He didn't lower his gun, though, even though he had to hold in both hands. It took too much effort to keep it in just one, but Dad would expect him to stay ready.

He made himself stand up to change position. His legs had started to cramp and he knew that if he didn't move now, he wouldn't be able to.

The pain was sudden and excruciating. Like being burned with a hot poker. He gasped as he put a hand out, closing his eyes against another wave of dizziness. The little knobby pine he'd been sitting near barely held him and he slid awkwardly back to the ground.

"Dad . . ." he whispered into the darkness. He kept the rest of the thought to himself. Please come soon.

TBC