Reaching for the impossible

Usual disclaimers apply. Thanks for the lovely reviews for the first chapter. Just hope you enjoy this final chapter.

Part 2. The little monkey did what?

o0o0o0o0o

Sam chewed his bottom lip in concentration as he looked up at the tall shelving unit. Just like the climbing frame in the park this was another challenge to be met.

Stuffing his penny back into his pocket determinedly he tilted his head upwards grinning confidently. He'd show that mean Tommy Patton just whose brother he really was.

o0o0o0o0o

Charging into the large store John Winchester face was grim, hardly daring to hope that Sam had made it here unscathed. How on earth someone hadn't noticed a small boy like him traipsing the distance from the school to this store was just unbelievable. Didn't any one take notice anymore? Didn't anyone damn well care about a small child wandering around on his own?

He was met on his arrival by one of the store's internal security guards already forewarned he guessed by the police that he was on his way.

"Have you found him?" he demanded of the short dumpling of a guard, who looked well past retirement age and did not inspire confidence in the anxious father.

Shaking his head the security guard shook his head. "No sir, but we got as many staff as he can looking for him." Seeing the scowl from the man he quickly added. "And we're reviewing all the CTTV footage of the last half hour. If he came into the store we'll know soon enough."

He puffed wheezily at trying to keep up with the longer stride of John Winchester who was already tearing apart the nearest aisle of clothing, his voice loud and booming as he called out for his son. Pushing aside rails of sale goods that littered the area he looked underneath each rail but was still left coming up empty.

"Damn it Sammy, just where the hell can you be now?" he muttered to himself appalled at just how freaking huge this store actually was. His little boy could be anywhere.

Dean was squirreling between the racks of clothing just as feverishly checking for his missing brother, and when he had no success he straightened up and yelled out loudly. "Sam, you better not be playing around in here."

He paused aware of his little brother's fondness for the game of 'hide and seek' before adding a warning. "Get your butt back here big time Sammy."

When there was no returning giggle at being caught out Dean's hope fell. He really did think that all he had to do was call out for him and his little brother would come running. Shuffling up anxiously to be by his dad's side, his eyes reflected his concern as he looked to him fearfully with threatened tears. "He's could be lost dad. Really lost by now."

"No Dean, stop it," answered John a little harsher than he intended, a clamping hand gripping the boy's shoulder firmly. He couldn't deal with Dean breaking down right now, not when his own heart felt readying to explode. "Don't you dare start snivelling like a baby. You hear me? It won't help us find him."

Gulping hard Dean swallowed down his tears and bobbed his head as he responded weakly, "Yes sir."

Struggling to do as instructed he took in a long breath and rubbed his sleeve across his face hastily, the sting of his dad's rapprochement as always so wounding. He couldn't meet his dad's gaze, couldn't bear to see the disapproval in them, instead his eyes locked on to the floor. Inside his heart was beating so loudly it sang in his ears as his Sammy was still missing and the terror that it brought couldn't just be turned off.

John winced inwardly as he watched his oldest boy try to suck it up and a stab of guilt tore through his guts. He knelt down and lifted his chin to his eye level and gave him a weak smile and ruffled his hair loosely. "Listen son, we'll find him. I promise. Its what we do. Right?"

Dean eyes brightened, and he nodded reassured by the gentle touch of his father's fingers. "Yes sir."

Deep down he had to believe that they would find him and when they did he was never going to let him out of his sight ever again that's for sure.

John stood up tall again and guessed that his boy must have slipped further into the store. They left the clothing section and moved on through the long bland corridors of household goods. Sharp eyes searching out every pocket, every shadow that could keep a small child hidden.

Dean paused by a huge stack of waste paper bins and called out again loudly for his brother the feeling that he would never find him growing ever more desperate inside him.

The static and hiss of radio wave was his answer and the Security guard snatched at his walkie-talkie hurriedly. A crackly voice hissed down the line. "Hey Fred a little boy's was spotted back near aisle fifteen a while back. The description matches the missing kid"

"Thank god," whispered John, blinking back hot tears of relief. Grabbing Dean's hand he followed after the shorter man, desperate to get to his little boy. They weaved down the countless aisles in a blur of colour and shapes. All he needed to see was that his son was safe and sound. The stern talking to would come later.

As they turned finally into aisle fifteen John frowned and Dean sucked in a breath of disappointment. It was empty. The security guard quickly called on his walkie- talkie, "Hey Barney you sure it was aisle fifteen?"

Dean though had already clocked eyes on his wayward little brother and he pulled on his dad's hand, pointing a shaking finger upwards to the top of the stand. "Dad," he whispered softly not wanting to startle his little brother, but the alarm vibrated clear in his voice.

John's eyes followed up towards to where he was pointing and he gave a small strangled cry of disbelief.

Perched up on the top shelf, at least fifteen feet off the ground, was his little boy, casually swinging his little legs back and forth as he cradled a large industry sized jar of cocoa powder on his lap. Looking to all intents and purposes like the cat that had swallowed the canary he sat there grinning, without a care in the world, now that he had found his 'freckles'.

"Oh my god," murmured John, his stomach clenching in alarm at just how high up his boy was. How in hell had he got up there? Shaking his head he realised that he really didn't want to know. That could be dealt with later.

Racing up to the large shelving unit he lifted his arms upwards desperate to grab hold of his boy but he was still out of this reach. Frustrated he called out as gently as he could, not wanting to startle his boy into falling. "Sammy, it's dad."

Sam on hearing his father call his name looked down and if anything his grin widened. "Daddy," he answered brightly and shoved out the heavy jar for him to inspect. "I got them. See."

The cartoon face plastered on the jar seemed the perfect answer to his little problem but it caused his brother to shake with fear. So high up, so utterly unafraid, Dean couldn't help but be terrified for him.

The security guard behind him verbalised his fears. "Holy crap. If he falls…"

Putting out a warning hand to the man to come no further John took a steadying breath needing to try and keep some control of the situation as he eyed his son worriedly. "Yep you found them son. Put them down now and wait for me to come up to you. You understand me Sammy?"

Sam shook his head eager to get back to the ground and show his dad his prize and wobbled onto his feet unsteadily, the huge jar awkwardly cradled in his small hands. "S'okay I can come down now."

John gasped in horror as his boy teetered forwards and he called out in alarm. "Oh for Christ Sam, stay still, you'll fall."

"No, no, daddy, you'll catch me, see!" demanded Sam confidently before leaping suddenly into the air his jar of freckles held tight to his tummy. His self-belief in his dad to be his superhero and keep him safe unlimited by his naivety of years.

Dean didn't recall screaming a warning yell, didn't see his dad catch Sam in one big swoop of jumbled arms and legs, didn't hear the jar shatter as it hit the floor, because in the nanosecond it took for Sam to leap into the air his senses simply shut down in fright.

It wasn't until a few heartbeats later on hearing Sam's voice that he could breathe again and dare to look. Wrapped in a tight hug to his dad's chest was his squirming little brother.

"No daddy it's all broken," stuttered Sam, fat tears falling at seeing the mess on the floor, the cocoa powder lifting in small puffs from an unseen breeze, "All my freckles are running away."

"Oh god, Sam, you trying to give me a heart attack?" choked out John as he smothered a kiss on the crown of his head. The boy was way too fearless at times. Especially it seemed when it came to heights. "You little monkey, doing that to me. All for a stupid jar of cocoa."

"They're not freckles?" gasped Sam in surprise his eyes narrowing at the sight of the chocolate powder on the floor. Not entirely convinced that his dad was right he murmured. "They sure look like them daddy…."

Feeling the energy draining from him John shook his head and looked over with rueful smile to his oldest and saw the shock still evident on his way to pale face. "Hey Dean it's okay. The little guy's safe."

Mutely nodding Dean struggled to deal with the memory of what he had just witnessed His knees felt like jelly barely able to support his weight and his throat was painfully dry. All he could think of, all he could ask himself was had his little brother really just jumped off that way too high shelving unit like Spiderman? Was he freaking nuts?

As he eyed the broken glass jar on the floor, the spilt mess of brown powder, he realised just how close to harm his little brother had come, not from any of the monsters that dad always warned him about but from his own self. All because of some stupid quest for freckles.

Hadn't his dad always told him it was for him to look after little Sammy. That it was his responsibility to keep him safe, but just how was he supposed to stop him from doing something like this ever again? Suddenly he felt sick to his stomach his face greying as his chest tightened in a vice like grip as he struggled for a panicky breath.

His wriggling brother stilled in his father's arms on noticing his brother since his daring leap, and wiping away an errant tear off his face he leant across to him with a reaching hand.

John for his part was still more than a little stunned at how near to harm his boy had come but he could feel the boy stop his squirming as he anxiously extended an arm out to reach for his brother.

Putting him down he watched with a careful eye as his youngest ran over to Dean, thoughts of his runaway freckles apparently forgotten on seeing the strange look on his big brother's face.

Pausing in front of his still silent sibling Sam looked up at him in concern. "Dean, you look funny? Does your tummy ache again?"

When he didn't get an answer Sam wrapped his arms around his brother's waist for reassurance and gave a quick to look over to his dad and in an exaggerated loud whisper said. "I think he needs to go home daddy. I think his tummy hurts again."

His catatonic state waning fast fury pushed up from his toes upwards at how stupidly his little brother had put himself at risk. Pushing Sam away at arms length Dean finally found his voice his body shaking visibly as he yelled. "You stupid idiot. Don't you ever do this again little brother, run off without me or dad, or I'll spank you so hard you'll not sit down for a month. You hear me?"

John nodded his approval, glad that he was stepping in like this. With Dean taking back charge of his youngest he knew that Sammy would learn not to do this again. His adoration of his big brother was his normal way in to keep him under control any ways.

Visibly shocked at the telling off from his brother the little boy head shook, fresh tears spilling messily again. Dean never spoke to him like this. It sounded just like a scolding from daddy but it felt ten times worse to hear the words come from his brother.

His small face puckering again he managed to choke out a hiccupping apology. "I'm sorry - don't spank me Dean, I promise that I won't ever leave you. Won't ever." He buried his head into his brother's waist, demanding that his brother forgive him as he gripped his hands into the small of his back. "Sorry Dean."

o0o0o0o0o

By the time John had dealt with the police, the school and Mrs Patton all the energy he could muster was to just drive home and make a quick spaghetti supper for the boys before he collapsed on the couch with a cold beer in one hand.

Sam had seriously scared the life out of him today, and he could sense it had had the same affect on his oldest. He had tried to talk to his youngest on the drive home but he had a feeling that whatever he said would never measure up to the scolding he had gotten from his brother earlier.

After awhile he heard the bath being run and guessed that Dean was getting back to their usual routine, perhaps reasserting a need in him to have some sort of control back, especially over his little brother.

For his part Sam had been very compliant, almost docile since his brother's threat of a spanking. He had never seen his youngest look so utterly shocked and upset before. Dean never threatened him, so the thought of getting punished by him had really unsettled his little world.

With a carefully cocked ear he listened carefully as the boys talked quietly as they waited for the bath to fill.

"Dean?" asked Sam turning his head shyly up to his brother, brushing away with a tired hand the bangs covering his eyes.

"What is it Sammy?" answered Dean cautiously, mimicking the same motion with his own fingers to pull back the hair over his brothers face, muttering absently. "You need to get this cut kiddo."

"Why can't I have freckles like you? Is it because I was naughty today?" whispered Sam sadly. He really did want those freckles still.

Taking a long breath Dean answered. "Well yes you were really naughty today Sammy, and you know now not to do that again, right?" He watched as his brother nodded slowly sucking on his fingers timidly before he added. "But that isn't the reason you can't have freckles."

Pulling his sticky fingers out of his mouth Sam looked at him in surprise. "It isn't?" He was sure that his brother was so smart that whatever he said had to be true.

"No dude. Like I said this morning you either have them or you don't. The only way you're gonna get freckles Sammy boy is to get them tattooed on!"

"What's tattooed?" frowned Sam, not familiar with the word and mouthed it a few times silently as it felt so strange on the tongue.

Dean grinned at the silly face his little brother was making at miming out the word. "You know like the picture dad has on his arm. The one he put on when he was a marine"

"The one that doesn't wash off. Why's that?" asked Sam before adding, "Is it so he doesn't forget he was a marine?"

Before Dean could come up with an explanation Sam had run out of the bathroom excitedly. "Daddy show me the picture on your arm."

John put down his beer bottle and eyed the little boy in front of him. He was staring at him expectantly and he drew him wearily on to his lap. Pulling up the sleeve of his t-shirt he showed him the tattoo of 'Semper Fie' plastered on the top of his bicep, the result of youthful bravado and way too much cheap alcohol on a shore leave break.

Little fingers rubbed hard across the tattoo still puzzled at why it wouldn't come off before his dad gave him his answer. "This here is a tattoo Sam. Its done with ink and a needle and it really hurts to get one."

Sam traced the red and blue insignia on his dad's arm, his eyes wide at the explanation not liking the thought of his daddy hurting. "I'm sorry daddy. Did Dean kiss it all better for you?"

John bit down on his bottom lip, mainly to not chuckle at the absurdity of the boy's question but at also the complete look of innocence he offered up to him. "No Sammy, it got better all on its own. Now go and have your bath and get ready for bed."

As Sam jumped off his father's lap he paused and shook his head. "Will Dean always have his freckles? Are they like a tattoo?"

Dean tucked his head around the bathroom door. "Naw dude, I'm gonna grow out of them. You just wait and see."

"How soon will they go away?" asked Sam hopefully. "Can you wash them away now? Then we'll look the same."

Dean sighed not sure how to answer the impossible. "No kiddo." He ruffled his brothers long baby dark wavy hair adding, "Besides with hair this long no one could ever mistake me for you."

Sighing Sam shook himself out his brother's touch. Why couldn't he understand just how important this was? Tommy really did need to see that they were the same. Everyone had to see that they were brothers.

Tugging at a long lock of hair he pouted and wished longingly not to be a stupid long haired no-freckles boy. This was so hard trying to be like Dean.

o0o0o0o0o

John sat on the edge of the sofa, the drone from the info commercial a background noise, as his mind raced. He was too wound up to sleep as his mind kept running through the day's events to see all the horrors that could have been visited on his youngest. Somehow he would have to try and keep that little tyke more fully in check from now, it was proving too dangerous not to do otherwise.

Without Mary around he knew that there was not a balanced approach to parenting going on with the boy but from now he would just have to be firmer with him. Sam had to understand the reason why they stuck by the rules that governed their lives. From now his youngest was going to have to get with the programme even if meant him being the big bad daddy for a while.

Sighing he took another long swig from the near empty bottle. This was never how it was supposed to be. Sam was just a little boy with too much life in him. Inherently it felt wrong to try and submerge the enthusiasm running through him, but with the life he now led, the path he was following with his boys in tow, he couldn't afford to be sentimental anymore.

After watching Dean's reaction to seeing his brother being so reckless he knew that he could use him to keep the little boy under firmer control. From now it was going to be a two-pronged attack to keep the youngest Winchester safe and secure. Taking another long swig of his beer he sat back into the sofa and closed his eyes, letting the voice selling high priced plastic utensils drone on and on till he drifted off into a fitful sleep.

o0o0o0o0o0o

It had just turned dawn and light was drifting in through the thin curtains. Silently he crawled out of his bed to kneel by the side of his brothers' bed studying his profile as he slept. Concentrating he silently started to count the freckles that peppered his brother's nose. When he reached ten he stopped and rocked on his haunches and whispered in awe. "You sure have a lot of them Dean."

Then he pouted in a small sulk as he realised that his big brother had too many just to wash away and vanish like he hoped.

Tommy was only going to tease him again if he didn't get this fixed. Brothers were supposed to be the same, that's what he said and didn't all of Tommy's older brothers look like him with the same red haired and round ugly faces?

Maybe if he didn't look like his brother then Dean might think Tommy was right – that they really weren't brothers at all. Snuffling slightly he sat back down on the cold floor, twirling a finger absently around a lock of dark hair as he thought on his problem.

For the last two days Tommy's teasing words just wouldn't stop bothering him. Had he really been left on the door doorstep by the Milkman as Tommy had said? Was that why he didn't look like Dean?

His tummy did a little tingling flip-flop at the memory and he shook his head fiercely. Dean would have told him about he Milkman if it was true, wouldn't he? Dean never lied to him, so he mustn't know about him and the doorstep.

With a sinking feeling he sighed afraid more than ever that Tommy had been telling the truth after all. He really did need to get his freckles then that would shut his stupid mouth up and Dean would never have to know about the Milkman.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor with his chin cupped in his hands his little mind tried to figure out a solution to his no freckles problem. Didn't daddy always say it was always better to think things through, that's why he always sat down and wrote things out. Drew lots of strange things to do.

He struggled to remember the word that he called it, then it pinged like a light bulb in his head. He had to have a 'plan'.

o0o0o0o0o0o

John woke to a firm hand shaking his shoulder. Bleary eyed he noticed that the sun had risen and that the room was bathed in bright sunlight. Rubbing a tired hand over his gritty eyes he muttered, "Go away Sam and pester your brother."

"Dad," demanded Dean, his face showing his determination to get his father on his feet. "Dad, the little monkey has really done it this time. You have to get him down."

"What?" asked John a little groggily before panic kicked in fully, "Sam? Where the hell is he Dean?"

With a small snigger Dean couldn't keep the smirk of his face and the giggle in his voice any further. "In your room dad."

Groaning John blinked away any thoughts of further sleep and staggered up quickly. Judging from the peculiar look on his oldest face he was not in for a pleasant surprise.

Since the moment Sam Winchester had learnt to crawl John had learnt never, not ever, to leave anything valuable or dangerous in easy reach. The little boys way to inquisitive need to touch everything meant nothing was safe to his exploring hands. Most things were now automatically kept up high. It was the only way to keep the valuables safe and Sam out of harms way.

What he hadn't fully realised until he opened the bedroom door was that height restrictions no longer applied to the boy. After yesterday's escapade he really shouldn't have been so surprised that Sammy could scale this new hurdle.

Still the top of a six-foot wardrobe should have been off limits to any other normal three year old, but for Sam Winchester it had been merely another challenge to be met.

Curled up on the top of the tall piece of furniture contentedly fast asleep was his youngest, sporting a newly crafted freckled face and horrendously scalped hairline.

"Oh my god," was the only words John found himself able to muster up, his face an easily read mask of disbelief and for the second time in twenty fours hours felt his heart beat an erratic pattern in his chest.

What on earth had his beautiful little boy done to himself? Truly the kid was trying to give him a heart attack he reasoned as he looked down to see around his feet a halo of shorn locks of his youngest beautiful baby brown hair.

As he scooped up his sleeping form from the top of the wardrobe and saw in close up detail the self inflicted damage to his head and face he felt the cold flutter of panic hit him again, especially when he noticed still gripped in one tiny fist a pair of scissors. Angrily he pried them away from him, throwing them down on to his bed with a grunt of disgust.

Shaking him slowly awake John didn't know whether to spank him, hug him or just sit down and cry. It was until Sam eyes drifted open and he was rewarded with an innocent smile born of his delight at achieving his 'plan' that he knew that he really wanted to cry.

He was forced to ask in a tight whisper. "What where you thinking Sammy?" Running his fingers shakily over his shorn locks he cringed anew. "God boy, what on earth possessed you to do this?"

His eyes round at surprise at such a question Sam shook his head as if they should already know the answer. "So I'd be like Dean daddy."

"You promised you wouldn't be naughty anymore," snapped Dean with a scowl on his face as he started to pick up some of the marker pens littering the floor. "This is very naughty Sam, very bad."

"No don't spank me Dean," whispered Sam fearfully as he pulled tighter into his dad's arms afraid of his brother's temper. "I didn't want to be naughty. Honest, daddy."

"Playing with scissors is always naughty. That's why dad puts them away, and you know it," waded back Dean before his dad could find his voice again. "Look at the mess you've made of yourself now you little idiot."

"But I have to look like Dean, or you won't want me here anymore," his voice broke as the final truth came out as he started to sob into his dad's shirt. "I don't want to go live with the milkman."

John couldn't follow the meaning behind his youngest words and he threw a confused look over to Dean who face looked as equally baffled. Disentangling his clearly distraught boy he tried to make him sit up straight on his lap so he could question him. "Why would you go live with the milkman Sammy? Who said that to you?"

"Tommy. He said you that wouldn't love me anymore cos I wasn't like Dean."

"I'll punch his lights out," snarled Dean throwing the pens he had collected back down to the floor in temper. "Just wait till I catch up with him at school…"

John threw his oldest a warning look before turning his attention back to his youngest. "Sammy what he told you was a lie. You'll always be apart of this family, you understand kiddo?"

"Tommy fibbed?" asked Sam suddenly hopeful and a feeling of relief washed over him as he saw the truth in his dad's eyes. "I wasn't left on the doorstep by…"

"No freaking way," interjected Dean hotly again guessing what his brother was going to say next. "He said the milkman had left you on the doorstop. Oh my god I'm going rip his stupid head off his stupid shoulders. No one screws around with my brother like this."

Drawing in a long steadying breath John shook his head as Dean finished his rant and looped his long fingers around Sam's smaller ones. "You listen up here son. Don't you ever let anyone else not think that you're not a Winchester or that you have to be someone else."

"I don't daddy? Not ever?"

"No I will always want you to be just as you are. My little boy. Not Dean, not me, but you. Clear."

o0o0o0o0o

Thirteen year old Dean smiled at seeing a genuine grin on his little brother's face as he recalled the story of his freckles fetish.

"I couldn't leave the house for almost two weeks afterwards could I?" giggled Sam.

"Well I suppose using dad's permanent markers to leave zit city all over your face wasn't the brightest thing you've ever done was it?" When Sam didn't say anything in return he added. "And the moral of the story Sammy is…."

"….is that I got my freckles even if it was only for a little while!" wisecracked Sam, his eyes bright with amusement.

"Oh yeah you most certainly did. Only thing was that 'your' freckles were bright purple, green and orange and wouldn't wash off. Dad was…."

"Livid? Wanted to tan my behind but you wouldn't let him I bet?"

"Dad didn't touch you, you idiot. What I remember is him just standing there mouth open looking completely stunned. You looked like some mutant freak. Still do, but only back then it was ten times worse."

"Thanks!" snorted Sam back bridling under the insult.

Dean chuckled at the memory. "Well you did. Only you at the age of three could be so insanely focused to break into dad's room, then manage to climb onto the top of his wardrobe to ransack his pens and scissors like that. Dad almost had a heart attack there and then again. You could have broken your neck or nicked an artery."

"Scissors?" queried Sam with a small frown and then his face scrunched up in dismay as fresh memories popped into his head.

"Oh did I forget to mention that you had given yourself a haircut from hell before we got to you?" reminded Dean with a smirk

Sam managed the grace to blush a little. "Oh yeah, you'd got your haircut short, really short that time. I remember now. I couldn't be you with long baby hair could I?"

"It was so bad you looked liked you'd been scalped in places. Damned lucky you didn't cut your ears off too you little dork." laughed Dean afresh at the memory and ruffled his brother's head hard with his fingers before Sam squirmed away from his touch.

They both paused to study one another afresh and Dean added nodding over at his brother's shaggy head. "You had to have it all shaved off. You looked even more freaky with a bald head like some giant peanut with multi coloured spots for a while. You were lucky that Dad would let you leave the house after two weeks. Me, I would have locked you up in a dark cupboard for at least a year…!"

Sam giggled easily and confessed. "Well you can blame that on that stupid Tommy Patton. Teasing me like that. Every time I saw a milkman it scared me for years."

"Yeah about that Sammy" drawled Dean with a small smirk on his face,, "You were never meant to find that out, it being the big family secret and all."

"Dean, your such a jerk!" snapped back Sam at the teasing and stuck out his tongue. "At least my freckles went away, you're still stuck with yours."

"True", answered Dean with a small sigh and his face fell serious. "Look kid, this thing with you and dad you gotta know he pushes for a reason. Not because he needs you to be me but because he gets afraid for you. He knows I can look after myself, he just wants you to be able to do the same."

"It doesn't feel like that," answered Sam sulkily.

Studying his brother's face he could see him shutting down again and Dean nudged him gently with his shoulder, "You've never needed freckles for dad to you love. You know that, right?"

"If you say so," muttered Sam unconvinced but he didn't lean away from his brother. The touching of shoulder to shoulder was a rewarding comfort he hadn't been able to share with him for awhile.

Sighing Dean tried to make him understand. "Seriously Sammy you didn't see how it upset dad when you did that to yourself. He may be all hard as nails most of the time but I swear he had tears in his eyes when he swept up all your baby hair off the floor. Sometimes just try and remember that cos' you know he's still our dad and he loves us both despite being a hardnosed sonofabitch. Okay?"

Sighing Sam nodded and grinned weakly. "I'll try."

o0o0o0o0o0o

Outside the door as John listened to the tail-end of their conversation he felt a band of pain tighten across his chest. Did his youngest really believe that he could love him less than his big brother? He knew he rode him hard at times but he never realised just how much Sam resented him for it. Not till now. Didn't he know it was his only way he knew to keep him safe in this mad fucked world they lived in? That he couldn't risk Mary's baby not being able to fight off all the bad things out there.

He fingered the doorframe longingly, wanting to fling open the door and deny any such feelings of favouritism, any such thoughts that he could love one boy less than the next, but that wasn't the John Winchester way of doing things, not since losing Mary. Instead he turned away from the door and walked back to the kitchen reaching for a cold beer to help deaden the churning pit of emotions in his belly.

Sitting deflated on a rickety wooden chair he scrubbed a tired hand over his face and battled the urge go back to their bedroom and hug his boys to him, to tell them both that they were his world, his reason for fighting on.

Desperately he fought down the wave of emotion that gripped him as he wondered just when he driven away the little boy who flew fifteen feet into the air so confidently knowing that his dad loved him and would automatically catch him and keep him safe.

Just where had that fierce surety that ran through that little three year old, not doubting for a second that his father loved him, gone to?

As he fingered the cold bottle he sighed, not able to stop the road ahead he was taking his boys on or go back and stop the damage already done. Taking a long swig of his beer he blinked back the sting of tears afraid to let them escape and show his sons just how desperately hard it was to keep up this façade of coldness he projected around them. The hunter in John Winchester didn't have the luxury of tears, not if he was going to continue with this life for his boys.

This was all he knew now, the pretence of indifference when he saw his youngest hurting or flinching whenever he barked a command. This was the only way to keep him protected, no matter how much he might hate him for it now or in the future.

At least he would have a future, he told himself grimly, the cold beer nestling warm in his stomach now offsetting the tinge of guilt that gnawed inside of him. Another beer later and the guilt lifted completely along with the sharp memories of a quiet conversation shared between two brothers that had momentarily stripped him bare.

Big Bad Hunter John Winchester was back in control.

The End

Feedback most welcome! Roz.