Author's Note: This story takes place during the episode "Something Wicked"

Letting Go of the Guilt

John Winchester drove silently into the dark night and for once the only demons that he was worried about were the emotional ones. He glanced in the rearview mirror for the thousandth time at his son Sammy who remained asleep worn out from the ordeal of the last few hours. You wouldn't guess it to look at him other than the fact that he was once again clutching to his chest his old, worn, well loved rabbit that he had deemed he was too old for a year ago. The fact that Dean had gotten it out of his bag and given it to Sammy who now was sleeping holding it tightly in his arms told John much about the emotional condition of his baby.

He glanced in the mirror again and looked at Dean this time. He was wide awake and John knew with one look that he was going over in his head again and again the events of this evening. He wished with all that he had and all that he was that he hadn't snapped at Dean when he had found the demon standing over Sam. He knew that even with as young as Dean was he took his responsibility to his brother very seriously and he had simply made a mistake. But Dean tended to be harder on himself than John could ever be and he knew that just telling Dean while it was a bad night they were still all alive wouldn't help the self loathing and disgust that he was feeling.

They had been driving for three hours now and were getting close to Pastor Jims. Dean hadn't uttered a word since they got into the car. He was staring straight ahead and John couldn't even see him blinking. He was unsure at this point which son's condition concerned him more. Looking at them both again he knew the answer. Sammy would forget this someday soon but Dean would never forget and unless John found a way to fix it he would grow up to be a thirty year old man still feeling the guilt of almost letting his brother be killed because he wanted to play video games. It was at that point that John made a decision about how to handle Dean and the situation.

It was another hour and they pulled into Pastor Jim's yard and still Dean hadn't spoken. He saw his friend walk out towards the car and he opened his door and got out and opened the back door of the vehicle. Gently lifting Sammy still clutching his bunny he handed the precious bundle to Jim. "Hey John, everyone okay?"

John nodded hoping that that would be the case. "Would you mind putting Sammy in whatever bed I'll be sleeping in tonight? Dean and I need to have a talk."

He saw Jim's eyes narrow with concern and John kissed his youngest on the forehead. "It'll be all right Jim; I know what I'm doing."

Jim looked in the car to where Dean still sat not moving. "I hope so John, really man I do."

Any other time John would have smiled at the way his friend loved his boys almost as if they were his own but tonight he was too concerned with Dean to give it more than a passing thought. Gently closing the car door he walked around to Dean's side and opened his door. Putting a hand on his arm he gently helped him out of the car. "C'mon son we need to talk about some things let's take a walk."

"Yes sir." He watched Dean as he walked beside him as if he were on auto pilot and with each passing moment John became more concerned and more convinced that he was making the right choice.

They walked into the old barn that was on the property and John sat down on a bench and motioned for Dean to do the same. John took a deep breath and prayed that this was going to work because looking into Dean's eyes he was stunned by the pain that he saw there. "We need to talk about tonight."

Now he noticed that Dean wouldn't even look at him when he spoke. "Nothing to talk about I disobeyed you and almost got Sammy killed."

Now John sighed knowing that he had a long way to go before this was done. "Yes you did disobey a direct order and put Sammy in danger."

He watched as Dean kicked up the dirt on the barn floor with the toe of his sneaker. "Not put him in danger Dad almost got him killed."

Now John turned to his tenacious son suddenly feeling a little anger. "So you think that you're responsible for what that thing tried to do to your brother?"

He was amazed at his kid's courage as he looked him dead in the face and replied "Yes sir."

John shook his head. "Now that's where you're wrong kiddo. What ever this demon tried to do to your brother was on its head not yours. That's like blaming me because I couldn't keep your mother safe."

It had been a hard admission to make but John again prayed that it had worked for Dean. "But *don't* you blame yourself dad?"

Now John sighed and wished and not for the first time, that this kid of his wasn't so damn intuitive and smart. He also knew that the only way to go was to be honest. "I try really hard not to Dean, but yes sometimes I do. But the difference is that I am a full grown man you are not. You are a great kid and a wonderful son and an amazing big brother but you still have a way to go before your grown."

Now he saw a single tear roll down his son's face. "I should have done what you told me and none of this woulda happened."

Now John knew the time was coming to fix things. "That's right Dean and because of that I'm going to punish you. I'm going to spank you."

He saw the boy's eyes widen but yet he didn't back off. "Yes sir."

He watched with pride as his son stood up and turned to face him. And the worst of it was that he couldn't even just give him a swat or two, because with as sharp as Dean was, in order for this to be effective it would have to be the real deal or Dean would know the difference. "The one and only reason that you are getting spanked is that you disobeyed an order. Do you understand me young man?"

Now Dean looked as if he were struggling. "But it had Sammy and…"

John grabbed his shoulders and gave him a little shake. "Do you understand me?"

He saw defiance written on every feature but he was thankful that Dean mumbled "Yes sir."

Now John was feeling sick himself and steeled his heart for what he knew he had to do. "Take down the jeans Dean."

The boy didn't say a word but John could see that his fingers were trembling as he did as he had been told. He pulled him across his lap and rested his hand on the slim behind. "Now once this is over and done you have paid for your mistake and you are forgiven. Understand?"

He held his breath as he waited and he knew this was a concept that Dean was going to have a problem with. "Dean?"

He could feel the boy trembling under his hand and finally he got the answer that he was waiting for. "Yes sir."

Not wanting to but knowing that he needed to he yanked down Dean's briefs and just started spanking. He didn't hear a sound from his son and could actually feel him shuddering with suppressed emotion. He continued to spank side to side feeling sick that his hand almost covered the boy's entire behind and he knew Dean had to be feeling miserable but he had still not yet made a sound. He placed a few smacks on Dean's upper thighs and finally could hear him quietly crying.

"The next time I tell you not to leave your brother alone you darn well better listen to me." He chastised the boy in a stern tone that was totally false but he knew that Dean wouldn't know that.

And of course he didn't as the scolding made him actually sob out loud. John finished with ten hard swats and then wiped tears off of his own face. He rubbed Deans back and let him cry, happy to hear the tears as he knew they would help him overcome the guilt that he had been feeling. Finally Dean moved off of his lap and he adjusted the boy's clothing. He stood looking at his father with a tear stained face and John felt a knife stab to the heart. Dean reached around behind him to try and rub out some of the sting and looked at his father completely serious. "That really sucked."

And John wanted to laugh out loud but he didn't. "Dean" he admonished and then he watched as Dean dropped his head and mumbled "Sorry."

"Dean come over here and sit down on my lap please."

He saw his son look at him as if he were insane. "Not even if you were Santa Claus Dad."

He rolled his own eyes and prayed once again for patience. "I am gonna count to five and when I get to five if I don't have a lapfull of you I am gonna start swatting your butt again."

He saw the distress flash across Dean's face at that pronouncement as he counted one, and then two and finally as he was getting to three he saw Dean roll his eyes and mutter "Shit" under his breath as he walked over and sat down wincing as he did so.

Before John could start with Dean he was thrilled when the boy leaned his head against his father's chest and John reached down and stroked his hair in gratitude surprised when Dean didn't push his hand away. He put his arms around Dean and whispered in his ear. "I love you Dean and you are a good son and a good brother."

Now he felt Dean shake his head no and struggle. He held him tighter and said a little louder. "The fact that the monster tried to hurt Sammy is not your fault."

He could feel Dean's heart pounding now. "But it is!!"

He hugged his boy all the tighter. "You are not responsible for the evil that exists in this world son."

Again he felt Dean shake his head. "I am so proud of you and you are already a good soldier son. You are always so careful and you can't let yourself dwell on this, it is over. You took your punishment like a good boy and now it's done."

He knew that this had pushed Dean over the top as he felt his breath catch in his chest and then he just wailed with an intensity that both scared and gratified John. He held the boy and let him vent his pain and as he cried John rocked him as he had when he was a baby. Murmuring soft words of love and devotion into his soft hair and placing an occasional kiss on the top of his head. "I love you Dean and you always take good care of Sammy for me."

It seemed to John as if Dean cried for a good long while. He just held him and continued to tell him how much he was loved and rubbed his back and finally the demon hunter realized that the boy had gone to sleep exhausted by all the events of the day, being on the receiving end of a spanking and his emotional response to it. Emotions were something that Dean usually avoided at all costs. He placed one last kiss on the top of his head and stood up with his precious bundle in his arms and walked towards the house.

John carried Dean into the kitchen and he saw Jim stand up and look down and smile at the sleeping boy and place a kiss on his forehead. "I put Sammy in the double bed in the spare room in the back."

John just nodded and carried Dean in there gently placing him on the bed where Sammy was sleeping. He lifted up first one foot and then the other taking off his tennis shoes and unbuttoned his jeans and started to pull them down.

Dean stirred in his sleep as this action obviously caused him some discomfort.

"Oww Dad." He protested still sleeping.

"I know buddy I'm sorry." He took his pants completely off. "Come on roll onto your side it won't hurt so much."

Dean as always did as he had been asked and John pulled the covers over both boys and kissed Dean again on the forehead glad for the chance. He sat down on the side of the bed and looked at them both for a long while. Knowing that if he lived to be a hundred he would never love anything or anyone the same way and with the same intensity that he loved these two. And it broke his heart that he couldn't spend every moment of every day being the hands on dad that they both deserved.

He walked back into the warm kitchen and wasn't surprised to see that his friend had left a glass with two fingers of bourbon on the table for him. He sat down and looked to Jim. "Thanks man I really need this tonight."

He downed his drink and Jim reached behind him and grabbed the bottle and poured him another. "I figured as much it's been a while since you've spanked Dean."

Now he looked at his friend closely trying to figure out just how he knew that. "What makes you think that I spanked him?"

Now Jim shook his head "Oh please that boy is so tight and disobeying an order like that and having it almost result in Sammy being killed. I know damn good and well something like a spanking would be the only way to get rid of his guilt. And if you hadn't I would have. It's important to keep them safe man but you know as well as I do that Dean already has developed a nasty habit of just sucking it up and being the good soldier and this time it was too big to handle like that."

Now John shook his head. "I didn't want to but he was just sick with guilt. I am the one who should be beaten, I had no business letting them be alone knowing that that thing was out there and targeting children. It just makes me ill to think about it."

He felt tears come to his eyes and looked up to see Jim shaking his head. "Just don't tell me that you wonder where in the hell Dean gets the whole too hard on himself shit from okay? You do the best that you can man and you never asked for any of this. You would give your life for either one of them in a second without even thinking about it."

John felt a companionable hand squeeze his shoulder. "I have to go back out in the morning can I leave them with you again?"

Now Jim smiled "You know I love those boys and of course they can stay here. I already called Sally and she is coming in the morning. You know how she loves Dean."

Now John smiled. "Yeah that kid certainly has a way with women that's for sure. Hopefully when he gets older he'll be able to handle all that female adoration."

Jim smiled. "Yeah he takes after his dad about that- the lucky bastard."

John took no offence to the comment because he knew that Jim was probably the best friend that he and his boys could have ever asked for.

"Hey John grab your drink and let's go out and sit on the porch and watch the sun rise."

John smiled and followed his friend to the porch where the sun was preparing to come up. They watched the beautiful event and John finished his drink and they went back inside each to their own bedroom. John pulled off his jacket and boots and climbed into the center of the big bed over what seemed to be a tangle of arms and legs. Settling himself into the middle between his two sons he gathered each one to him and placed a kiss on each forehead. Of all that he had accomplished in his life or could ever hope to accomplish here was his greatest feat in these fine and strong boys. Sammy who was so much love and laughter and Dean who was so much fire and passion and John knew just how lucky he was.

He felt Dean shift in his sleep and saw him frown. He hoped that the punishment that he had given the boy wouldn't cause him too much discomfort. He hadn't had a choice in the matter and he was so glad to see Dean finally give in and let go. For while it was important for these two to stay safe and sound it was just as important that they have some measure of happiness and peace. He checked Dean again and was surprised to see him open his eyes.

"Hey dad you're in bed with me and Sammy."

Now he smiled. "Yeah I am- so what and what are you doing awake?"

Now he saw his son become somewhat pensive and he asked another question. "Thinking about your punishment?"

He heard Dean snort. "No thinking about how much my butt is hurting cause of my punishment."

John just shook his head and smiled. "C'mere tough guy."

He settled the boy against his chest again and felt him relax in his arms and held on tightly closing his own eyes thankful for even a few more minutes with his boys.

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