Chapter 1 – The Lesser Man

He wasn't a bad father, quite the opposite in fact but he wasn't a perfect father either. Not that anyone could truly expect perfection. He was only human after all and humans fell down, they made mistakes. That was just part of the deal. This knowledge of course gave little comfort to John when he did screw up though. And this time he had really screwed up.

He had lost he temper. Well OK, he lost his temper a lot. But this time he had lost his temper and he had lost control. That was what the problem really was. A loss of control was a BIG problem, particularly with his training. He could snap a guy neck as easy as a normal person could spell their own name. He couldn't allow himself to lose control especially not around his kids. Lord, how he loved those kids.

But some days no matter how much he loved them he found himself struggling not to throttle them. Sam with his constant questioning and the sulking, God how he hated Sam's sulking. Then there was Dean the walking hormone; chasing girls and getting into fights. The fights weren't always his fault exactly, he just had this kind of air about him that seemed to invite trouble and boy did he have a mouth on him. Not to John as a general rule (and certainly not in front of Sam) but just about every other authority figure he came into contact with.

It was like Sam saved all his troublemaking for home and Dean saved it all for everywhere else. A weird little Yin and Yang thing they had going on that stretched into many other aspects of their personalities.

Sam hated that Dean just followed John orders unquestioningly, couldn't understand that kind of complete and utter deference to him. What Sam of course did not realise is that it was necessary when they were out on hunts. Sam had not been out on any major hunts, a few simple jobs were they knew he wasn't going to be in any real danger. Sam's role at the moment featured a lot more research than action – not that Sam minded of course. Dean on the other hand was out there in the thick of things, taking the hits and never complaining. He was practically a fully fledged hunter and had been for a while now.

Dean understood that if John yelled "Get down!" or "It's behind you!" that it was react or die, there wasn't time for a little Q&A and it was an order not a request. To rely on someone to keep you alive like this and not go crazy you had to trust them completely. There couldn't be a little voice in the corner of your mind going "Does he really know what he's talking about?" that split second of hesitation or indecision could kill you.

Sam just didn't get it. He thought that John's lack of explanations meant that he was unprepared, that he was winging it on a hope and a prayer (which though he'd never admit it he sometimes was – not that that was the point!). He didn't understand the soldier mentality. It made him furious and terrified at the same time – what if John got himself or Dean killed, how could he live with that?

Of course there were occasions – NOT hunting related - that Dean had disagreed with his Dad. He just made sure it was never in front of Sam. Dean understood the unspoken chain of command there was in their family; it went John then Dean then Sam. So it was imperative Sam never saw Dean questioning their Dad on anything.

It also tended to be that Dean was either right, and John was not thinking rationally, or Dean had completely lost his temper - which was actually relatively rare. These fights were OK as long as one of them kept a cool head, which they normally managed.

Not always though.

This was when the violence happened.

And Dean was always the one to suffer.