Second Chances

Sam Winchester stood looking at his brother as if he simply couldn't believe what he had just said. And the simple truth was that he couldn't. "How could he be alive Dean how?"

He saw his older brother shake his head and shrug. "He said it was a game that he had to play with the demon and that the body that we burned wasn't him."

Sam sat down hard on the end of the bed before he fell down. "But I just don't understand how could he have done that to us? And how do we know that this is really even him Dean?"

Now for some odd reason his brother could no longer meet his eyes.
"I asked you a question damn it!!" Sam had gotten to his feet and was now chest to chest with his brother.

"Because he told me something before he died in the hospital. It was a sentence and he said if I ever heard it again I would know that it was honestly him."

Now Sam stood stupefied and almost unable to believe what he had heard. "And you didn't think I needed to know that Dean? All the tears that I have shed and all the heart break and grief and you fucking didn't tell me any of that?"

"Look Sam I just did what he told me to do. I wasn't sure that he was going to come back either or if what he had told me meant anything at all. I didn't have a choice it would have been cruel to get your hopes up just to have you lose him all over again. I honestly didn't know much more than you did."

Sam remained close enough to see the tears glistening in Dean's eyes. "Honestly bro, odd choice of words there as you wouldn't know honesty if it bit you on the butt. But at least you're consistent always the good soldier following his stupid orders no matter what. Well you and dad can both kiss my ass. I am so outta here."

Sam turned in his fury and headed for the door and arriving there in three long and angry strides almost took it off of its hinges when he opened it and ran directly into his father. Unable to stop the tears that coursed down his lean face he was also unable to stop the pain. A large part of him just wanted to grab his father and hold on for dear life. But he stifled that physical urge. With a sob he pushed past the man he had thought was dead and took off at a run. Looking at his father as if he were seeing a ghost Dean stood still and took in the broad shoulders and dark eyes and even the scar on the side of his face. It took all that he possessed to keep from sobbing as Sam had.

Dean just remained staring as if in a trance. He was mindful of tears streaming down his face but could neither stop nor even acknowledge them. He knew with all that he had that this *was* his father but even given that he stood still almost unable to move as if paralyzed in some way. And even worse somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind he realized that Sam had just left in as close to hysterics as he had ever seen. And still he stood motionless and frozen.

"Dean." His father stepped forward grabbing him in a hard embrace.

He felt himself surrounded by the familiar warmth of his father's hug. As hard as he struggled with staying stoic and detached he lost the battle with a fierce abandon. "Dad….I thought…we thought."

He struggled to get the words out around the tears and his father shushed him much as he had when he was a child. Dean continued to weep and John continued to hold on and allow him to. Finally he pulled away and faced his father as furious as he had ever been. "You bastard! How could you do that to us? We watched you die dad. We set fire to your remains and all the while you weren't really dead. What kind of heartless human does that to his own children?"

He watched as his father looked pained and noticed for the first time that he too was crying. "It was the only way son. It was the only way we could all be together. The only way that you could come back to us. I had no choice."

The realization of what his father meant was agonizing for Dean. "You did this to save me? You should have just let me die dad. It would have been much less painful."

Dean was shocked as his father grabbed his upper arms and gave him a good hard shake. "Never say that again! Do you hear me?"

Unable to stop the tears that were still streaming Dean managed to force out a "yes sir" more from habit than anything else.

Still feeling near emotional collapse, Dean dropped his head filled with anguish and wept. "This was all my fault then. And I kept what you said to me a secret from Sam and he is never gonna forgive me either and he shouldn't. I had no right to keep it from him and you had no right to ask me to."

Dean hung his again filled with feelings of helplessness and overcome with guilt. On one hand he was joyous to see his father alive again but he was also overwhelmed with so many other emotions including pain. He could no longer just stand and try to process all of it and he headed for the door physically pushing his father out of the way. "I have to find him and make him understand. Otherwise I'll lose him and losing you almost killed me but losing Sammy will. And then I'm gonna smack him for running off like this."

Dean was surprised when a strong hand grabbed his arm. "Hold up there Champ. I will find Sam; I need to be the one to do it. But first you and I need to talk about a few things."

The air in the motel room felt heavy and the silence was deafening as Dean looked at his recently resurrected father with amazement. "What, like what's up since you've been dead? Or how about that funeral pyre really some hot shit wasn't it. What in the fuck could we possibly have to talk about dad?"

As confused and emotionally distraught as Dean was even he could not have misinterpreted the look on his fathers face. He had had occasion to see it often enough in his life. It was the "you have just crossed the line and are headed for dangerous territory" look.

But with all systems on overload his emotions were an unstoppable run away train at this point. Again he tried to push past his father. "Move dad I need to find my brother."

He saw the muscle twitch in his father's jaw and even though he couldn't stop he knew just how angry the older hunter was. "Sit down now Dean!!"

He struggled against the harsh command wanting nothing more than to go and find Sam. But ultimately the good soldier in him won out and he obeyed. But he refused to do it without a protest. "Okay so I'm sitting wanna tell me your genius master plan and how you worked it all out so that this wasn't the most agonizing thing that Sam and I have ever been through?"

Dean knew that he had just crossed the line and was continuing to get in deeper but he couldn't stop the angry spill of words or emotions. "You should have just let me die, at least that would have been the humane and moral way to handle this."

He saw the color drain from his father's face and for a moment he wished that he hadn't said what he was thinking. But he knew that it had needed to be said. "Moral and humane way Dean? That would have been the moral and humane way? What's moral about watching your son die? You think that was the easy way out? You didn't see Sam suffer; you didn't see him slipping away alittle more each hour along with you. I would have done *anything* to save you including sacrificing myself. And I would do it again tomorrow without even a second thought."

Dean felt himself close to tears again remembering how hard he had been to Sam since their fathers supposed death. He realized that he had been angry at his brother for the way that he had treated their father in the last few years. And he had been not only harsh but almost cruel on a regular basis. He had in fact been mad at Sam because he had committed the act of defiance every chance that he had gotten. He had refused to be compliant and with their father presumably dead that had rankled Dean to no end. "I shouldn't have been so hard on Sammy for always busting your chops cause clearly you deserved it."

John could almost feel Dean's anger and pain and wished (not for the first time either) that there had been some other way to deal with the situation after the car accident. But he knew that in order to get through to his stubborn son he needed to make him understand that while it had been a horrible thing to go through that it had been the only alternative. And hopefully he could someday help both of his sons come to some type of forgiveness.

He uncrossed his arms and took a seat next to Dean on the bed and gave his son a moment or two to hopefully calm down. "Look son I didn't want to do this. I never wanted to fool you or Sam or hurt you or your brother. Unfortunately there was no other way and I was running out of time. You were running out of time."

Dean just shook his head and again felt tears slipping down his face. "I couldn't just sit by and watch you die son. I couldn't do it Dean, I wouldn't do it. Even if it meant making a deal with the devil. And even if it meant my life in exchange for yours. And if it came down to it I would do it again. Now you can hate me forever or you can just accept it."

Dean shook his head still resolute in his refusal to accept what his father had just said and John attempted one more time to gently reach him. "Look son I love you and your brother and it's my job as your father to take care of you the best way that I can. I am sorry that you and Sammy went through this but I will not apologize for the decision."

Dean had a scathing reply ready but when he looked at his father he saw eyes filled with tears of regret or maybe remorse and then he spoke again. "Think about it son if it came down to your life or Sammy's would you let him die?"

Suddenly clarity was upon him and Dean knew beyond any doubt that he would have done exactly the same thing. Being able to read his son's face John held out his arms in an open invitation. Dean fell into his arms sobbing so hard that it actually hurt. John just held on tears streaming down his own face humbled by the love that his son had for him and thankful beyond belief that this son at least still loved him.

He let Dean just get it all out knowing that probably never in his life had he given free reign to his emotions like this. Finally he felt the sobs beginning to ease and he allowed Dean to pull out of the circle of his arms just slightly. "I'm so sorry dad, I'm so sorry. I fucked it all up so badly."

Now John was puzzled but waited knowing that Dean would tell him in his own time and his own way. "I tried so hard to be a good soldier but after we thought that you had died I just fell apart. Nothing mattered anymore and everyday hurt more than the day before and I took my anger and pain out on Sammy sometimes."

The last sentence really threw John a curve ball. "Why were you angry at your brother Dean?"

He watched as Dean stared at his hands clearly not wanting to answer. "I was mad at him because of the way he always gave you a hard time and argued with you about everything. He's just such a pain in the ass and then he kept trying to get me to deal with and talk about my feelings. It just sucked and I was really pissed about all of it."

"Look Dean you don't ever have to stand up for me with your brother. That is between him and me."

Now Dean snorted and the sound made John smile. "Yeah if you aren't dead maybe. It just pissed me off no end that suddenly he wants to do everything your way. Where the hell was that before any of this happened? He would argue with you about the freakin time of day. Maybe I was wrong to be so angry but maybe he deserved some small part of that."

While John appreciated Dean's protective feelings he couldn't permit any of this to come in between his son's relationship. "Look Dean I really appreciate how you feel about this but when I find him and bring him back you still need to apologize to him."

Dean shook his head as if he were not about to do it as the more he thought about it the more he was certain that he was right.

"Dean………" John said it in a warning tone but his son continued to shake his head. John was not surprised that he had been back into father mode for less than an hour and already turning back into mad dad.

"I am not asking you son I am telling you. And if you have a desire to find out just how much I'm back just continue to tell me no. So what's it gonna be here?"

He saw Dean look as if he really wanted to press the issue but knew better. "It really is you isn't it? I recognize all those hard ass threats from say….my whole life."

"Not a threat buddy, but a promise."

Dean rolled his eyes and said "yes sir" but he sounded anything but pleased.

"Now when I first came through that door you wanted to apologize to Sam and now you will. Sounds like a plan to me."

Dean remained clearly unhappy with the plan. "Yeah well we gotta find the little shit first."

John just shook his head at Dean still referring to Sam as 'little'. "I'll find him and bring him back and then we can all sit down and I'll explain as much of this as I know to both of you."

Any other time he might have been amused at Dean's incredulous expression. "So what exactly did you want me to do…sit around here and stare at the walls?"

John nodded "Sounds good as long as you stay put."

He wasn't surprised at the groan from his eldest. "Crap your back from the dead for like five minutes and already you're bossing me around."

John couldn't help the grin that came across his face at his son's comments. "Makes you happy doesn't it?"

Now Dean chuckled. "You have no idea."

John stood up and prepared to go in search of his youngest son. "Dad?"

He turned to look at Dean. "Yeah?"

For a moment he saw the fire again on his son's face. "When you find him can I at least smack him for this taking off in a big dramatic huff thing?"

John shook his head but Dean wouldn't be deterred. "Just a little smack?"

Again John shook his head. "Don't worry your brother and I have some things that we need to talk about."

Now Dean out and out grinned, "Your gonna 'talk' to Sammy, there is going to be actual 'talking'? Good damn thing cause he needs a wake up call in a big way."

John fought to look stern and not amused by Dean's enthusiasm about Sammy getting 'talked to'. "Now that Dean is really none of your business."

Again he heard the familiar snort. "Yeah like I wouldn't know anyway. Just one thing could you maybe just go easy with him?"

John sighed having had no doubt that even given the fact that Dean wanted himself to smack Sam he was once again asking for leniency. "Sorry buddy but no promises."

He headed for the door when once again he heard Dean call him. "Dad?"

Turning he looked at Dean and seriously hoped that this wouldn't be more about Sam but to his surprise he saw green tear filled eyes. "It's umm…..really good to have you back."

He reached his son in two large steps and once again embraced him in a tight hug. "I could say the same Dean. When you were in that bed dying I wished that I had told you a million different things starting with what a great son you are, how you are the heart of Sam and I and how much I love you."

Looking extremely uncomfortable to be faced with dad's emotion Dean shrugged. "You did tell me dad when I woke up remember? What did dying give you amnesia or something or would that just be old age creeping up on you?"

John bit the inside of his lip to keep from letting his son know just how much he enjoyed his smart ass. "I plan on telling you again too."

He saw Dean make a disgusted face and roll his eyes. "Oh well crap don't do that okay? That'll just suck."

Laughing at his son John walked to the door anxious to find and resolve things with his youngest. "Love you Dean."

He wanted to laugh again at Dean's expression of absolute horror. "Dad….please stop saying that! It's just wrong."

And now he did chuckle as he headed out the door to find and bring Sammy home again.
******************************

John Winchester's skills as a hunter hadn't diminished much since he had been gone and Sam in his present frame of mind was easy prey. He left in a far too emotional state to be careful and John simply followed his lead to the nearest bus station. He found him sitting alone with his head in his hands completely oblivious to anyone or anything. John silently thanked God that he hadn't been an actual bad guy as Sam would have been easy pickings.

"Sam."

His son looked up at him with tear filled eyes and once again John ached for what he had put him through even if he hadn't had any other choice. "Just go away dad and leave me alone. Isn't that your specialty anyway?"

John shook his head. "Sorry buddy no can do. You are coming back with me and we are going to sort this out."

Now Sam's temper made an appearance. "The hell I am neither you nor Dean even has the faintest idea what it means to tell the truth. Just forget about me and pretend that I don't exist. You know kind of like you did when I went off to college."

Even though the words were said with a great deal of defiance and attitude John could see right through it. He squatted down so that he and Sam were almost eye to eye and he placed a gentle finger under Sam's chin to tip his face up so that he could look at him. "You *are* coming back with me so that we can get past this. Now you can either just stand up and come to the car with me or I can stand you up and put you into the car. But either way it's gonna happen."

He couldn't miss the sneer on the handsome face of this youngest son. "You wouldn't dare. I mean this is a public place but nice empty threat Dad."

John remained in his bent down position so that Sammy was looking directly into his determined eyes. "Oh but I would dare Sam and if you resist I will be forced to swat your butt right here in front of all these people like you were a two year old throwing a temper tantrum. I think that may just be somewhat embarrassing for you son."

He saw the flicker of disbelief in his son's eyes and he hoped that Sam realized that he meant business. "That is just wrong Dad and I hate you."

Now John dropped his head wishing for just this once, that things could be easy between he and Sam. "If that's what it takes son to be able to have a conversation with you then that's what it takes. And I know that you hate me right now both for leaving and coming back but hopefully that will change. Now let's go."

John took the position of just assuming that Sam would comply with his orders but the truth was that he was holding his breath not wanting to do this the hard way. But if it came to that then it just did. Again he put on his sternest facial expression and stood up looking down at his youngest son. "Now Samuel."

He watched with relief as Sam stood up with tears still evident on his face. Dashing them away with the back of his hand he gave his father a hateful look complete with flaring nostrils. "Fine then let's just go. The only reason that I am even going is that it would be pathetic if you embarrassed yourself any further."

While this was what John had hoped would happen the attitude and the words ruffled his feathers as usual. And he refused to allow Sam to even have that small point. "When I smack your deserving butt right here Sammy I'm thinking the only one who is going to be embarrassed is you son. And unless you want to find out if that is going to be as bad as it sounds you will keep a civil tone when you speak to me because I am still and always will be your father."

John could feel the color rising in his cheeks at Sam's hateful reply. "My father died a few months ago and I don't know or care who the fuck you are."

Even thought it pained him John wouldn't let Sam's defiance go unchecked. "Keep talking kiddo and we'll see if anything about my hand on your butt feels at all familiar."

Sam didn't answer but John was happy to see that for just a second his eyes widened and he didn't look too pleased. With one hand on his arm and another around his shoulders John led them towards the door holding his breath that Sam wouldn't do anything so that he would have to make good on his threat. While he could feel the fury coming off of the boy in waves he knew that Sam was emotional and that was the basis for his anger. And even John did not dispute that his son had good reason to be hurt and angry after what he had been through. He just hoped he could find a way to break through all the pain and reach his son.

Walking towards the truck that he was driving John Winchester kept a firm hand on his son's arm even though Sam repeatedly tried to shake it off. Opening the door to the vehicle he kept his voice low and even so that Sam would have no doubt that he was serious. "Get.In."

Thankful that even with as upset as he was the boy knew better than to disobey. With one final yank he pulled out of his fathers grasp and climbed into the truck throwing an angry "fine" over his shoulder. And John's hand just itched to swat him as he did so.

He stood and took a few deep breaths attempting to calm himself and wondered why it was that every time he and Sam got in the same room they ended up butting heads. That would be one of the things that he changed now that he had another chance with his sons. Finally a bit calmer he climbed behind the wheel and turned the engine over and pulled out of the parking lot.

The silence in the car was deafening and John made no attempt to speak to his son as he wanted Sam to just think about things. He pulled out his cell phone and pushed a button. "Yeah Dean I got him. No he's all right for the moment anyway."

There was a pause as an unhappy look crossed John's features. "I believe I told you that the answer to that question was no and I also think you and I are going to discuss that very matter when I get back."

He nodded as his older son attempted to backpedal. "Yeah well I think that we do. I will see you in a few hours."

He attempted to hang up but Dean wasn't going to be put off. "No Sam and I are going to be busy for a few hours we will see you then. Goodbye."

Not giving Dean another chance to say anything he hung up and heard Sam's sarcastic laugh. "Ohhh boy I'll just bet he's shaking in his boots now!"

John turned to look at Sam and shook his head realizing just how difficult this was going to be.

He drove for about twenty minutes the last ten being down a dirt road and still Sam had not spoken but he was actually glad as he had needed the time to gather his thoughts about how to handle this. He pulled off of the road and stopped in front of a cabin and turned off the engine. "Well Sam this is it. Let's go inside."

Sam turned to him with another disdainful look. "So did you bring me out in the woods dad so that there would be no one around? Did you really think that you were gonna beat me and make me change my mind?"

John took a moment and just shook his head. "Oh for the love of heaven Sammy when have I ever beaten you or Dean? And before you say it each and every spanking you ever got you richly deserved. Just get the hell out of the car all right? I brought you out here because some of the things we need to talk about involve Dean and I don't think he needs to have a part in this."

John wrenched open his door and walked into the cabin muttering to himself about how he never should have let Sam do drama in high school and thankfully Sam followed. He retrieved the hidden key and turned the lights on in the cabin that he had been to before with a fellow hunter. The guy owned the cabin and John had actually stayed there for a month once. Luckily it was nearby and the perfect place to have his discussion with Sam. Knowing their relationship it was likely to be loud and unpleasant but he had no reservations about taking the gloves off as he was fighting for his son here. He pulled out a kitchen chair and instructed Sam to sit down. He prayed that the boy would at least be somewhat complaint as the next few minutes would speak volumes.

He fought a sigh of relief when Sam sat down and he pulled out an identical chair for himself. "Okay buddy let's talk about it."

Now Sam shrugged with his mouth tight with anger. "What Dad, you pretending to be dead and only telling Dean the good soldier that you were only kidding while you sent me for a cup of coffee so that I arrived just in time to see you hit the floor. Good one. Or how about the fact that it's always about Dean with you. No matter how hard I have tried since Jess's death to be the good little hunter none of it matters cause I'll never be Dean. He's the one that you trust."

John watched with such anguish as Sam's voice broke on the last sentence and he fought the tears that coursed down his face. He leaned forward to stand up and embrace the boy and he actually ached when his son pulled back from him. "Don't Dad just save your bullshit apologies for someone who cares."

He gave Sam a moment to compose himself and he reached over and put a gentle hand on the boy's arm. Sam's reaction was to shake it off but he held strong wrapping a large hand around the boys forearm and holding tight. "Let me go Dad!"

John shook his head and realized that he too was crying. "Never Sammy, never."

Much to John's relief Sam left his hand where it was and dropped his head fighting the angry tears. "Now you listen to me. I had no choice but to tell Dean I knew that he would not fight what I was saying and he would listen. Would you have done that son or would you have tried to change my mind? I didn't tell him anything other than the sentence so that he would know it was actually me. At the time I wasn't even sure if I could pull it off. My intention was never to hurt you Sammy. Please you have to believe that. Even if I have to lose you for the rest of my life please believe that I never wanted to hurt you."

For a moment he saw the emotions wage war on Sam's lean face until finally he crumbled and put his head into his hands wailing. "But you did you hurt me Dad, you left me again. You died and I didn't think I would ever have a chance to say that I was sorry for all the fighting and the angry words. I didn't think I could ever take back any of it and I would have to live with that feeling of knowing that I went out of my way to hurt you whenever it suited me."

John felt something give in his chest and he reached over and pulled Sam out of his chair and led him into the living room and sat them both down on the couch. He pulled Sam into a hug and just let him cry. He realized at some point that he was actually rocking his youngest son and he too had apparently been crying as his entire face was wet with tears. He had never even dared to hope that he and Sam could resolve all the issues between them or that his stubborn son would admit that some of the problem was his attitude. It seemed as if Sammy cried for a long time before he started to calm.

He waited until Sam leaned back and he put a gentle knuckle under his chin and lifted his face so that they were eye to eye again. "Sometime fathers and sons just don't see eye to eye on things and argue and even say things that they don't mean. You and I are very alike and sometimes we butt heads. In the future, now that we have a future we will do better I promise. Will you try too Sammy?"

Sam nodded his head and still didn't say a word. "I am sorry that it hurt you that I spoke to Dean and not you. I am so sorry for that. I love you every bit as much as I love your brother and you shouldn't ever doubt that."

John knew that he had hit a bull's-eye with this as his son resumed crying and hard at his words. Once again he waited while his youngest got it all out before asking an important question. "You believe me right?"

Now he was simply relieved when Sam shook his head indicating that he did. "Yes sir and I'm sorry."

John grasped his son's head in his hands and brought his forehead close for a kiss. "Apology accepted Sammy boy and now we need to take care of some unpleasant business."

Sam had been his son all of his life and John knew without doubt that he knew exactly what his father meant. If nothing else the horrified look on his face gave him away. "But Dad you don't mean what I think you mean do you?"

John just raised an eyebrow. "Now why would you think that you had earned a spanking son it isn't like you have been disrespectful or hateful or even make some seriously wrong choices now is it?"

He could feel the panic from his son. "C'mon Dad you just said that we were gonna do better right? So let's just go with lesson learned okay? Please?"

Much to his son's consternation he shook his head no. "We will have a fresh start and a clean slate just as soon as we are finished here Sam. But make no mistake you are going to get a spanking and we are going to discuss your choices and your attitude. Got it?"

Even though he hated the sad look on Sam's face he knew that the boy realized in some part of him that he deserved this and it was going to happen and even make some of the guilt go away. And John knew that it some odd way this would put things back into the proper perspective between he and Sam. He needed to regain the upper hand with both of his sons and this way worked better than any other.

      John Winchester stared into the sad and teary eyes of his youngest son and he was relieved to see that maybe the boy had some idea of how much they had to deal with. Well no time like the present and John just jumped in before Sam's attitude made a return visit. "Okay first of all let's talk about Dean and why you are so mad at him."

Sam dropped his gaze and shook his head. "Let's not. Just leave it alone Dad."  He added a gentle "please" almost as an afterthought.

    He held steady and shook his head no. "I understand about my confiding in him and not you but what else is going on and don't waste my time telling me nothing because I have been your father for all of your lives and I know better."

Still Sam remained silent and didn't answer and so he tried a different route. "I'm sure that whatever has happened Dean is sorry for."

The look he received made him even more sure that something had gone on.  "Yeah well your confidence in my big brother is misplaced to say the least dad. He fell completely apart after your supposed 'death'."

Trying to diffuse the situation John took Deans side. "Look Sam it was a hard situation and he handled it the best that he could I'm sure, just like you did."

Now he felt sick as he saw Sam sneer again. "Really well at least I didn't smack him in the chops for saying that his behavior was disrespecting your memory. And oh yeah I also didn't beat the hell out of the trunk of the Impala with a tire iron either but then I guess that's just me."


     John tried to hide his shock but failed. "Dean hit you Sammy?"

Now he saw tears shining in his youngest's eyes. "Yeah he did dad but hey no biggie as long as it made him feel better right? It didn't change a damn thing."

John disagreed and said so. "Yeah other than the way you feel about each other."

His son didn't answer but he could see the hurt on his face. "I'll deal with that when we go back to the motel. It sounds to me like your brother needs to be made to understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate ways to express hurt and anger."

  
   Sam just shrugged not wanting to let his father see how much what Dean had done had hurt him. "I told you it doesn't matter; Dean was in pain although he at least had some small idea that you might not be dead because you trusted him with that information."

John knew that he needed to get things back on track again.
"Again Sam I am sorry that my decision about that hurt you."

He was relieved again when his son nodded trying to accept his apology.  "Now let's talk about your behavior at the hospital while Dean was in a coma. You accused me of pursuing my obsession with the demon and letting Dean die. And now that you know that I did everything that I could to save Dean you are mad at me about that."

He watched as Sam sunk lower in his seat on the couch and John could actually see the guilt on his face.  "Add to that the fact that once again you had a shouting match with me complete with waving your finger in my face while I was supine in a hospital bed. You called me selfish and obsessed and told me to go to hell. That little boy is going to be a main feature of what is to come."

Suddenly he could once again see the little boy that Sam had once been. "I'm sorry. Really I am, I was just wrong."


He gave his son's shoulder a squeeze. "I know but I still have to punish you and I think that you know that. We'll both feel better when it's done."

He wasn't surprised by the serious look on his son's face. "Doubt that Dad."

Looking at his son and realizing that he might not have ever had the chance to see him again almost made John change his mind about what he needed to do. But a part of him realized that beyond all else he needed to set things straight between all three of them. He needed to help Sam and Dean realize that he was still their father and still in charge and above all that even when they made mistakes that he still loved them heart and soul. John realized that he needed to once again assume the position of the father so that his sons could regain the relationship as brothers that they both needed so badly. He was sure that he felt as badly as Sam did regarding what was about to happen.

"Stand up Sammy and jeans down please."

He watched as two fat tears rolled down Sam's face and he knew he would give it one more try. "Dad no please……"

It was just like any other time he had spanked his youngest and as always the begging had the effect of making him want to just let the boy off the hook. But he knew that he couldn't and somehow that didn't make it any easier for him. "Yes Sam this needs to happen and even you know that. A couple of swats over your jeans just isn't going to cut it."

The words spoken must have been the correct ones as his son did as he asked and he grabbed a hold of his wrist and tugged his lanky frame over his knee. It amazed him with as tall as Sam had grown that he even fit but he still did. "So why are you taking this trip over my knee today Samuel?"

Sam squirmed a bit as if trying to find a position of comfort even though he knew none existed. "Because I was disrespectful to you and I acted like you didn't care that Dean was dying."

Even though John knew Sam couldn't see it he nodded. "And Dad I'm really sorry…."

He felt a twist in the region of his heart at Sam's earnest apology and the gently crying that accompanied it. There was nothing else to do but just get on with it and so John raised his hand and brought it down hard. He swatted hard and fast side to side and while he could hear Sam crying for once he noticed that the boy wasn't begging him to stop or trying to get off his lap. It was almost as if he realized that he deserved this and was trying to accept it. Again John was overcome with pride but he continued with the task at hand.

Soon the behind under his hand was warm and he began to swat with a bit more force and Sam just buried his face into the couch cushions and sobbed. Knowing that he was just about done he quickly yanked down Sam's briefs and delivered ten very hard swats and even then Sam stayed still and didn't try to stop him. In a way that made him feel even worse than he had before and it almost seemed as if this was Dean instead of Sam. He sincerely hoped that being punished would get rid of the guilt for Sam.

He tugged the briefs back up and then the jeans and put a gentle hand on Sam's back and rubbed. "Okay buddy we're all done now. It's all over and the slate is clean again."

The fact that Sam had been so quiet and compliant concerned him and he leaned closer to his son. "Sammy?"

This started a torrent of tears and he put a hand on the boy's shoulder to pull him to standing. Sam sat up and simply turned so that he was actually sitting on John's lap. Not having had a lapful of Sam in many years John was surprised both that he fit and that he wanted to be there.

If he had had any questions about the second thought it was dispelled as his tall son dropped his head onto his shoulder and fisted both hands in his shirt and held on as if he were drowning and John was a life vest and cried. Not wanting to stop the emotional firestorm he simply wrapped the boy in his arms and gently rocked him murmuring soft words of comfort into his ear all the while. Finally when the hard crying eased Sam again tried to tell him how sorry he was. He rubbed his hand up and down his son's back. "Look son we are done with this now and I know that you're sorry."

Not lifting his head to look his father in the eye Sam mumbled something and John strained to hear it. "Not just for the things that got me trouble today but for all the times I've been hateful and mean and difficult."

Having gotten it out Sam resumed crying. For a moment John couldn't speak he was so overcome. But he knew that he had to do something to stop the guilt that Sam was feeling. "Hey Champ I have forgiven all those things and our relationship now is going to be just great. I promise."

He felt Sam relax against him and within a very short time the crying tapered off. He continued to just hold onto the boy and rub his back and shoulders knowing that Sam would let him know when he was feeling better. And of course he did within a very short time his youngest lifted his head off of his shoulder and dried his face with the sleeve of his shirt. "Feeling better?"

Now Sam nodded and looked sheepish. "Yeah I'm kind of big to be sitting here though."

John chuckled. "Well I'm thinking that if you aren't too big to go over my knee then probably you aren't too big to sit on it either."

Sam just nodded and then looked alarmed. "Okay but promise me *never* to tell Dean this."

John actually laughed out loud at this. "Scout's honor Sammy."

He was relieved to hear his son snort. "That doesn't make me feel any better Dad you were never a scout."

John felt better than he had in a long time. "Don't think that he hasn't ever sat on my lap afterward either. That should make you feel better."

Suddenly there was the Sam smile that John loved. "Actually dad that makes me feel a lot better."

Sam climbed off of his fathers lap and again wiped his face and immediately grimaced. "Now that was just miserable."

John had to agree with his son's assessment. "Are we done here kiddo or did we need some more time to talk about things?"

John wanted to laugh at the expression on Sam's face. "No we are reaaaaallllly done."

John stood and prepared to leave but first put a hand on Sam's broad shoulder. "You know that you still need to apologize to your brother right?"

Seeing the stubborn look return John continued. "And he will be making a full apology to you as well for hitting you. I still am surprised about that."

He saw some of the pain return to Sam's face. "He was in such a bad place he actually scared me."

John just nodded. "After your mother….well I was consumed with grief. Just being alive hurt so much that I…"

John stopped and realized that this was probably making things worse for Sam. "The only thing that mattered was that I had you and Dean and that was my reason for living. The hunting may have seemed like it was all that I lived for but the truth was that it was you and your brother. Don't worry I'll help Dean figure all this out."

They closed up the cabin and Sam followed his father to his vehicle. Both climbed in and John noted with amusement that Sam was sitting to the side and effectively avoiding sitting on his recently punished behind. He drove in silence and looked over to see that within ten minutes Sammy was sound asleep and that suited John just fine. He needed this quiet time to prepare himself for dealing with his eldest. He knew that even though he and Dean had talked about all of it that it was far from over. And he also knew that while Dean appeared unemotional and stoic that was far from the truth. And lastly he knew that Sam had apparently dealt with his "death" much better than Dean and he knew that he needed to help Dean straighten all of this out and fast.

Looking ahead John realized that they were almost at the motel where Dean was waiting and he woke Sam up. Sam stretched and straightened his position and immediately groaned. "Aww man I forgot how much I hate that feeling."

John didn't say anything but wondered if there was a problem with Sam's long term memory as he had been in this position often enough that he should have had the situation memorized. He pulled into a parking spot and Sam's hand immediately went for the door. "Hold up there buddy."

Sam turned to him with a puzzled expression on his face. Reaching into his wallet he pulled out cash which he handed to his son. "Go and get all of us some supper and take at least an hour. Call me on the cell on the way back."

Sam looked grim knowing exactly what his father had in mind. "Dad he was really hurting soooo badly just don't…"

He held up a hand to silence Sam. "Just trust me here please. Do as I just asked you and don't worry about Dean I'll figure it out."

Sam looked like he wanted to argue but nodded and started to get out of the car. "And Sam one more thing. I love you and am so proud of you and the way you stepped up to take care of Dean while I was gone. You are a great son and Dean and I are lucky to have you."

He saw Sam fight tears again and he pulled his forehead close and placed a soft kiss there. "Now get out of here and let me talk to your brother."

John climbed out of the car and watched as Sam slid over behind the wheel. "Good luck Dad."

As Sam pulled the truck back out of the parking space John just stood and watched him go until he was out of sight.

*******************************************************************

John Winchester looked towards the door of the motel room where his son Dean waited. If he knew anything about his eldest it was that he was probably pacing the floor waiting for his return and to make sure that Sam was all right. Taking a deep breath he headed towards the room and hoped and prayed that this would go easily with Dean. While Sam was always the more emotional and hot headed of the two Dean tended to be more stubborn. Often even getting him to admit to problems wasn't an easy task and John was without doubt that tonight would be a perfect example of just that. He hadn't even reached the door when it was thrown open and he found himself face to face with his eldest son.

"So is he okay and where the hell is he?"

John refused to allow his son to take control of things right out of the starting gate. He ignored the question and brushed past him going into the hotel room. "Dad? I asked you……"

He turned taking off his coat and facing his son with his no nonsense look firmly in place. "I heard what you asked me now close that door and sit down we need to 'talk' about things. And if I were you I would watch that mouth because I don't plan on tolerating any disrespect from you tonight."

If it hadn't been such a serious situation John would have smiled at the way Dean flinched when he used the word 'talk'. But he knew that with as tentative as he had needed to be with Sam that in order to get where he needed to be with Dean he would have to be just the opposite. Dean was still doing the deer in headlights thing and John pushed on. "Do you understand young man?"

He asked it in his most intimidating and gruff voice. "Yes sir."

He fought to keep the relief off of his face as Dean made the first move in what would prove to be a long line of bending to his will.

He paused mostly for effect and then said a silent prayer that this would be as easy as possible before he began. "Your brother is fine. I sent him for some food specifically so that you and I could have some time alone together."

Dean didn't look at all pleased at that pronouncement. "So let's talk a bit about your brother shall we?"

He could see from the look on his son's face that he didn't want to do that but knew that he had no choice. "First of all how come you suddenly want to smack him?"

Dean shrugged and backpedaled. "Did you get that idea dad? Really I was just kidding I wouldn't ever smack Sam and you know that."

John sighed wishing that Dean had not just said that because it would have been easier if he had just been truthful and accepted things. But John had a suspicion that underneath Dean was still as mad as hell at him and that nothing was going to change until they resolved that. "Is that the truth Dean because I heard a different story?"

He saw Dean actually squirm. "Well it isn't as bad as it sounds really Dad."

Now John raised an eyebrow and fixed his oldest son with a look. "Oh really so then you didn't hit your brother in the mouth?"

Suddenly Dean was silent and he prompted an answer. "Dean........"

"Well actually I didn't hit him in the mouth it was in the jaw and I offered to let him hit me back."

John took a moment to try and calm down. "Why?"

"Why what?"

He could feel his tenuous grip on his temper going. "Why did you hit your brother in the jaw Dean? What could he possibly have done to deserve that?"

The only answer was absolute silence and losing the battle with his temper John stood up and advanced on his son. Dean recognized the both the look and the intent and conceded. "Okay, okay he said that I was trying to replace you with a hunter that we met. He said it was disrespectful to you for me to do that. Where does he get off saying that kind of crap?"

John sat back down and asked the question. "Was he right?"

Now he saw Dean swallow hard. "What does that have to do with anything Dad?"

John knew damn good and well that it had everything to do with the situation and Dean's state of mind and that it wasn't likely that his son would volunteer that information. "Answer the question young man."

Dean's temper was also on the scene now and he shook his head resolute in his decision that he was done with this conversation. "No."

Not wanting to but knowing that there was no other way he walked to where Dean sat and taking his arm pulled him to his feet and swatted hard and fast until he got to ten. Dean hadn't made a sound but was breathing was labored as if he had just run a mile or two. "We can do this all night if need be or you could just answer the question Dean."

He could feel the struggle that his son was going through. He placed two more stinging swats to help him along with the process. "Yes okay hell yes I was. Sam was right I was trying to fill that huge gaping hole that your dying left in me. And oh yeah that tiny little guilt thing let's not forget that either dad. So do whatever the hell you need too cause I don't care. You left us…again. So why the fuck you care now dude is beyond me."

He noticed that while Dean said it in a very emotional way he remained dry eyed and the pain on his face was evident. He let go of his son and didn't fail to miss the hateful look he sent in his father's direction as he rubbed his behind as if to erase what John had done. "Sit down we obviously still need to talk."

Now Dean shook his head. "What is the deal with everyone if I get asked about how I'm feeling one more freakin time I may just have to hurt someone."

John realized again just how difficult this was going to be and thought he would just take it one step at a time. "Please sit down Dean."

He all but heaved a sigh of relief when Dean obeyed. "Now first of all you shouldn't have hit your brother no matter how much pain you were in."

Dean sneered at this. "Yeah well have you ever tried to live with the knowledge that you father died so that you could live. It sucks and if I was angry so fucking what."

Again John sighed. "I'm so sorry about all of this Dean."

He couldn't keep the naked pain out of his voice when he said this and for just an instant he saw a flicker of something cross his sons face. He realized that Dean (the old Dean) was still in there buried underneath a huge amount of grief. It was time for him to take the gloves off and step back into being the dad. He paused for a moment and then just jumped right in. "Okay so first of all you are going to apologize to Sam and then later to me. We are going to get past this and while it isn't going to be easy it is going to happen."

He sat down next to Dean on the bed and gave his son the once over. He looked tired with dark circles under his eyes and to John's father's eye it looked as if he had lost at least ten pounds. Hopefully once he was done Dean would be able to rest and get back to his old self again. Spanking him would be an emotional catharsis of sorts and he knew that it would restore the balance between them. Dean still hadn't responded and so he continued. "And you and I are going to have a serious talk about inappropriate anger tomorrow and maybe even the next day."

He watched as Dean rolled his eyes. "Ohhhh no a lecture please Dad don't…"

He said it in as smart ass a voice as John had ever heard. "If I were you buddy boy I would save the begging for the ass whippen you are about to receive. You may need it."

While Dean didn't say anything John could see that he got pale and his breathing picked up again. "Come over here."

Dean shook his head and went to stand up and get away from his father but John was too quick for him. He grabbed his arm and managed to wrestle him across his lap with Dean fighting like a wild cat every step of the way.

It had been a long time since he had put Dean over his knee by force and he had forgotten just how strong this son of his was. But he had resolve and age on his side and he used both of those things to his advantage as he brought Dean's arm behind his back and used it to hold him into place. Throwing a leg over both of his son's he left the boy without room to even struggle. He squeezed his wrist to try and calm him down and Dean was not only still fighting the position but he was in a full fury. "Settle down Dean I don't want to accidentally hurt your arm. Your butt now that is a whole different matter."

Dean stopped struggling and threw another hateful glance over his shoulder. "Fuck you Dad."

John just shook his head and sighed. "Okay buddy if that's how you want it."

He reached under the boy and unbuttoned his jeans and despite Dean attempting to stop him he had them down in short order. And wasting no more time he smacked his hand down hard and started side to side. He was dishing out a pretty serious spanking and still Dean was struggling against being held in place and being punished. "Stay still young man and accept this."

John was discouraged to find that his stern order did nothing to stop his son's struggles. Refusing to give up before Dean gave in and let go, he increased the intensity of the swats and placed several across the back of the boy's upper thighs, and could actually feel him shudder with repressed emotion. "Let it go Dean or I will keep this up until you do. Stop trying to hold back your feelings."

He felt the struggle worsen and he heard Dean's "noooo!!!" come through gritted teeth.

Again John refused to allow this emotional pain that Dean was in to win and he stopped long enough to yank down briefs. He brought his palm down on the reddened behind in a blazing swat and for the first time since he started Dean stopped fighting him and he could hear tears behind the request. "Please Dad no…."

He paid the request no mind and continued to spank and soon Dean was making small owwing noises and then louder ones that hurt John's heart to hear. Hoping to push his son to where they needed to be he used an empty threat. "Do you want me to use the belt Dean? Will that help?"

He felt him go limp against the restraining arm. "Please no, I'm sorry, please Dad no..."

And then to his relief he heard Dean softly crying and then really sobbing and he stopped and put a comforting hand on his back and rubbed hoping that he was done spanking. He hoped that he could help Dean by saying the things that he needed to hear. "You had nothing to feel guilty for son. I made that choice and it was my decision."

He was disappointed to see Dean shake his head. "Tell me it wasn't your fault."

Dean shook his head and John laid four quick swats on his bare bottom which caused Dean to sob. "Tell me or it'll be four more. Did you want that?"

Dean vigorously shook his head no and John persisted. "Then tell me."

After a pause he heard Dean mumble that it wasn't his fault and John praised him. "Good boy. Now tell me that you won't bottle your emotions up about this anymore."

Dean raised his head and looked at him over his shoulder as if he had lost his mind and he applied four more hard swats. "Okay, okay I won't. I'll be a freakin chick from now on like Sammy."

If his son hadn't have been so uncomfortable John would have smiled at this. "Good boy. Now you'll apologize to your brother right?"

Thankfully Dean just nodded. "Yes sir."

John thought he had never heard music sweeter than those words. "Okay then all that remains is for me to remind you that I love you and I am back again and this attitude needs to stop."

He didn't wait for a reply but gave Dean another ten crisp spanks and tugged his clothing back up. He pulled his crying son to his feet and sat him back down on the bed next to him. He was relieved to see that Dean was crying and hard and he just held him and let him get it all out. He didn't feel the need to make any additional points or discuss anything else he just wanted to help Dean recover from his harsh spanking. Finally the crying eased and he rubbed a gentle hand across his son's neck. "Feeling better now son?"

He was amused to see Dean raise an eyebrow and stare at him as if he had lost his mind. "Yeah great dad that was loads of fun. It isn't like I need to be able to ever sit down again."

John fought a grin and fixed him with a stern look. "And what is this that I heard about you taking a tire iron to the trunk of the Impala?"

Dean actually snorted at the question. "What is it with you Dad one minute your all 'let your feeling out Dean and romp in the daisies' and then when I do let them out your gonna bust my chops over it? Make up your mind dude."

John didn't have a thing to say as Dean was completely right. Luckily his cell phone rang and he answered it to find that Sam was almost back at the motel. He spoke with him and closing the phone put it on the table. "Okay Dean all kidding aside you got my point right?"

He saw a shadow of the pain cross the boys face. "Yeah dad actually other than the furnace that my ass is I do feel better."

He opened his arms and was grateful when Dean came to him and allowed him to embrace him. "I love you buddy."

They stood that way for a few minutes and neither one was anxious to break the bond. Finally John pulled back. "You need to….."

Dean jumped in before he could finish. I know, I know I'll tell him I was wrong. And Dad it's good to have you back. Really."

Now John smiled and squeezed his shoulder. "You are a good son Dean and I love you."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Oh crap would you please stop saying that?"

Shaking his head no John pointed to the bathroom. "Go on in there and clean up before Sammy gets here okay?"

Dean nodded and did as he was told and John sat back down on the bed as exhausted as he had ever been. He looked up to see Dean stick his head back into the room. "Dad?"

He answered his sons question "Yeah Dean?"

"Just one more thing you really swat hard for a dead guy." He just sat there grinning until he heard Sam at the door with the food.

John walked to the door of the motel room and forced the smile off of his face as he opened it. Standing there looking rather sheepish was his youngest son Sam carrying two bags of what appeared to be their dinner. He pointed to the table to set the food down on and waited while his son got to his question. The question that John had known he would have. He watched as Sam raised his eyebrows as if to say "well". He once again was reminded of just how much these two sons of his stuck together.

"He's okay."

He saw Sam sag with apparent relief and he wondered what exactly Sammy had thought he was gonna do that was so horrible. "Well son are you gonna stand there all day or are you going to put that food down?"

Sam looked as if someone had snapped their fingers and his trance state was done. "Oh sure Dad, sorry."

He did as his father had asked and was taking his coat off when Dean came in from the bathroom ravages of crying still evident on his face. John watched his sons as they looked at each other and then immediately dropped their gazes as if suddenly their feet were interesting.

"Sam did you bring drinks too?"

Sam shook his head. "No sir."

Now John knew what he needed to do. "Okay then I'll just run over to the office and there's a pop machine there and I'll get some. You and Dean stay here and talk a bit."

Before either one of his sons had a chance to say anything he grabbed his coat and ran out the door. Watching the retreating back of their father Sam and Dean stood in uneasy silence. Finally Sam decided to just grab the bull by the horns.

"Look Dean I'm sorry about what I said before."

He saw Dean's head snap up and he found himself ensnared in the look he received. "Don't go there Francis. You had right to be pissed at me. Hell I'm pissed at me."

Sam had the oddest suspicion that tears weren't far off with his older brother and again they remained silent until Dean spoke again. "Look I am so ashamed of the way that I've acted towards you since all this started. The anger, the meanness and for the love of crap I actually smacked you one."

Before he could say anything in reply Sam looked up and saw tears rolling down Dean's face and he felt his own eyes well. "I would have been glad to let you hit me again if it had helped. Dean it killed me to watch you hurt."

The tears slipped down his own face and he wasn't sure which one moved but suddenly his older brother had him wrapped in a hug. They stayed that way for a few minutes until Sam finally pulled back. "I couldn't bear to see you in such pain Dean."

He was relieved to see a familiar eye roll and a snort. "Yeah well this must be unpleasant as hell for you dude cause dad did a number on my ass and I think it'll be a while before its pain free again."

Sam laughed and nodded. "Yeah I hear you; I think I must have gotten the same thing only the hour earlier version. I had forgotten…"

Sam ended in mid sentence too embarrassed to continue but he noticed his older brother nodding. "Yeah well welcome to your ass on fire refresher course. And didn't it just suck loads."

Neither one said anything for a moment, and Dean pulled Sam close for another hug. "Really man I am so very sorry for the way that I've been. I know that you had lost him too and never once did I try to comfort you I really am a rotten big brother."

Sam responded by clinging tighter to him. "Its okay Dean it's behind us now and hey it's good to have you back."

Neither had heard the door open and they heard someone clearing their throat and turned to see John standing in the doorway. "Now that is more like it, let's eat."

He walked to the table and sat down motioning for his sons to come over. They both walked towards where their father sat and looked at the chairs as if they were some type of torture devices. Dean grabbed a Styrofoam container and opened it taking the burger out and wrapping it in a napkin. Leaning gently against the desk he bit into it.

Amused by his sons actions John looked at Dean with a serious look. "Wouldn't you like to sit down son?"

He saw the boy go pale under his tan. "Ahhh no. I'm good really, maybe later."

Now John shifted his gaze to his younger son who was doing the deer in headlights look that always made John want to smile. "And you Sammy did you want to sit down? And just so you know I'm telling and not so much asking."

Sam looked appropriately horrified but he walked over and sat down as gently as he could still grimacing when his behind made contact with the chair. "Awwww man that really isn't cool."

Now they were both surprised when Dean chuckled and spoke. "No shit Sammy I'm thinking definitely not cool, in fact like hot. Like gee did I sit on the campfire kinda hot?"

Sam had just taken a large drink of his pop when Dean made his comment and he laughed unexpectedly and sprayed their father with an almost full mouth of sweet, syrupy pop. The room got quiet as John mopped his face with a napkin and turned to his sons. "While I am glad to see that the two of you are mending fences and all I suggest that you both zip it and eat your dinners."

John noted that while neither Winchester brother was too comfortable both of them seemed to have good appetites. He was glad about this as Dean especially looked way too thin. But at one point he was wishing that Sam had brought more food. And as always his sons seemed to fall back into the easy banter back and forth that they had been doing since Sammy had uttered his first word which to no one's surprise was "no." For the next six months he and Dean had gone back and forth no and yes until John wanted to shoot himself just to make it stop. So seeing them interact in the way that they always had was a huge relief to him as it meant that all was right again.

They finished the meal and John cleaned the table surprised again by just how tired his young sons looked. He figured it was time to explain what he had planned. "Okay guys so I have rented this house about an hour away. I already stocked it with food and supplies. I had planned to bring you there and explain all of this but unfortunately someone saw me and word was already on the street. The last thing in the world that I wanted was for the two of you to find out before I told you. So that's why I showed up here tonight with almost no warning."

He looked at his sons hoping to see anything but anger and he was delighted when they both just looked curious. "I think that it would be better if we waited on the whole explanation until tomorrow when we get there. I will go and rent a room for tonight and then we can leave early in the morning. You two both look pretty done in."

He was relieved to see compliance as they both nodded and he was sure that was due in no small part to both of them having well spanked behinds at the moment. But he would be glad to use any opportunity at his disposal.

Reaching for his coat he headed for the door and was stopped by Dean's voice. "Dad could you just stay here with Sammy and me? I could sleep on the couch over there."

He looked to the small couch that Dean was referring to and it was in no way going to be comfortable for his six foot one son. "You are both exhausted and need a good nights sleep."

This time he got as far as the door before the other son chimed in. "Please dad?"

Turning to look at them was his undoing as both suddenly had tears shining in their eyes. "Sure I could guys just let me go out to the truck and bring my duffle in okay?"

He was pleased to see smiles and once again was struck with how horrible this had been for both of them. He brought his things in and within an hour they were all settled in bed. He lay on the twin bed with hands stacked behind his head and thought about his boys.

He would have to find someway to make this up to them. He knew that while they seemed okay that it would take time and effort to get them back emotionally one hundred percent. But today seemed like a good start and while he hadn't planned on coming in and spanking them both it actually had been the right choice. He stood up and walked to the bed when his youngest lay sprawled and sleeping soundly. He was sleeping on his side and he had a long arm thrown over his head as if hiding from the world. Knowing that the position couldn't be comfortable he sat down next to him and gently moved his arm. Looking at the boys face he could see circles and he felt terrible about that. He leaned in pushed the shaggy bangs out of his face and placed a gently kiss on the side of his face. Sammy stirred but didn't waken. "I love you Sammy boy."

Looking to the couch where Dean was he out and out smiled. His oldest was asleep on his stomach which made John smile in what looked to be a very uncomfortable position. John gently tucked the blanket back around him and carefully leaning in placed a small kiss on his temple. He chuckled as he realized that he needed to be careful as Dean usually slept with a knife under his pillow and the last thing he wanted to do was startle the boy. "I love you Dean."

He walked back to his bed and was surprised to hear Dean mutter in his sleep. "Stop saying that crap."

He crawled back into his bed grinning from ear to ear and feeling more whole than he had at anytime in the last year. He would help both of his sons to rebuild their trust in him and they would move on as a family. They would find the demon and get the answers and take care of it all. But since he had been given a second chance he would never again forget that his sons were the most important thing in his life…now and forever. Finally feeling confident in his decision he drifted off to sleep.

************************************************************************

Sammy was in the middle of another story of something that he and Dean had hunted down and killed as John pulled up in front of the house he had rented. As always John felt his chest swell with pride at what fine hunters his boys had become. They were smart and fast and rarely made mistakes and as a team he thought they were formidable. But that worried him almost as much as it made him proud. "Is this it dad? It's really very nice."

John nodded glad that the place he had chosen had Sam's stamp of approval. "I wanted to pick somewhere off the beaten track but yet not too far away. And I wanted the house to be comfortable. And I got a great deal on this cabin since we'll be here for a month."

John could read the disbelief on his youngests face. "A month dad? Will we be hunting from here then?"

He smiled glad that he had made the decision that he had. "No hunting Sammy at least not for the next month. We all deserve and need to rest and regroup. The demon will still be there trust me."

The smile that he received was simply dazzling. He parked the truck and turned it off pocketing his keys. He chuckled when he saw Sam immediately call Dean on his cell phone and tell him the news. Even he could hear Dean's response. "Dude you coulda waited like three seconds I'm parked about two feet from the back of the truck."

He had sounded annoyed but catching his older sons face in the rearview mirror he could see that he was grinning from ear to ear. Sam put his cell phone away and they both got out and started unloading the truck first and then the Impala. Once they had put the boy's duffels in the room they would be sharing and John had put his stuff in his room they all headed for the kitchen. Having already stocked the house with food he pulled out things to make sandwiches for lunch and sat down.

After the usual frenzy of "pass the ham", and "don't use all the mustard", and even the moment when he thought Dean was going to fling a spoonful of mayo at Sam they settled down and John began his story. He was glad that they both simply listened as he described coming up with the plan and summoning the demon and setting things into motion. He noticed that when he explained how he had made the decisions quickly and that he had to somehow let them know that something was going on Sammy dropped his gaze and stared intently at his plate.

"I made the demon promise me that I could see Dean wake up first and I knew that would be my only opportunity with it watching me like a hawk. If there had been any other way. I wasn't sure how it would happen and that's why I sent you away Sammy I didn't want you to have to watch me die I honestly thought it would be all over by the time you came back. I would have told you too if I had had the chance."

Much to his surprise Sam reached across the table and covered his hand with his own. "Its okay dad I'm sorry that I was such a jerk about it."

As if the honest apology hadn't been enough the eyes filled with tears would have done him in. He looked to his sensitive son and was so proud of his forgiveness. "Thank you buddy."

He struggled with his own tears. He then proceeded to tell them how he had done it and how narrowly it had come to almost not working. Dean had a million questions and Sam just kept shaking his head and asking him how he ever came up with a plan like this. He realized that they had been talking for almost two hours and he asked his sons if he had answered all of their questions and was relieved when they said that he had.

Thankful to have all of that behind him he stood up and started putting the groceries away. He noticed that while neither one was really talking they both seemed as if their curiosity had been quelled. Straightening up the kitchen he gave them a few more minutes to let it all sink in. "Dad?"

He turned not surprised that Dean would have a question. "Yes son."

He watched almost amused as his eldest squirmed in his seat a bit. Lord only knew what he was going to ask. "So what happens now? Sam said you said we were gonna stay here for a month? But then what? You'll have to go again won't you?"

Dean said it in his strong older brother and son voice but John knew better. He sat back down at the table next to his boys. "Make no mistake about this ever. We are a family and it's high time that we started acting like one. I am not leaving alone anymore. There is no law that says demon hunters have to be either single or in pairs. We'll give the number three a shot for a while. We will fight the demon and any other thing that comes our way together from now on."

Neither of his sons looked as if they could believe what he had just said. "Do either of you have a problem with that?"

He used his sternest voice and was delighted by the identically timed "no sir" that each of them answered.

They finished cleaning up the kitchen together and John told Dean to go and unload the weapons in John's bedroom. Dean did as he was told and John smiled when he noticed that Dean was whistling as he walked by. Sam went to stand up and John pushed him back into place with a hand on his forearm. "I need to talk to you for just a minute Sam. And I need for you to do a favor for me."

Sam looked puzzled but nodded and John reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a letter. "I need for you to mail this to Ellen for me. There is a post office about twenty minutes away. The directions are on the table by the door."

Sam still looked confused and John decided to elaborate. "I felt that I owed it to her to explain some things or at least to try. And I wanted to thank her for doing what she did when she thought that I was dead."

Sam stood up and shrugged. "Sure Dad I'd be glad to go maybe Dean might like to come with me. I'll go ask him."

Once again John stopped his youngest son. "No I want your brother here with me. We still need to talk about some things."

John didn't fail to notice the look that crossed Sam's handsome face. "Talk dad? That's kind of an interesting choice of words."

Now John shook his head no happier with the situation than Sam and yet wanting to make Sam understand. "It something that needs to happen. Now just go and he'll be fine. Even if he isn't too happy about the next few minutes."

Sam looked as if he wanted to say something but he didn't and he took both the letter and his fathers keys and headed for the living room of the house and the door. John walked to the window above the kitchen sink and looked out watching Sammy climb into his truck and drive off. He stood there for a moment longer wishing that he didn't have to do what he was about to do. Finally with a sigh he turned and went to his bedroom where Dean was.

"Hey dad did Sam go someplace?"

Dean looked up from his position on the floor where he was laying out the weapons one by one on a clean blanket. John nodded and sat down in the armchair that was in the room. "Yeah I asked him to run an errand for me. You and I aren't done yet Dean."

He saw his oldest sons head snap to attention and he slowly stood up. "You mean like with the weapons dad?"

John could tell from the expression on Dean's face that he knew exactly what his father meant. John stood up and walked to his dresser and picked up the square hairbrush that he always kept stashed in the bag with his toiletries. Sitting back down he looked to Dean to see that his son was already in a full blown panic. "But dad c'mon we handled all of that yesterday. Remember? And please for the love of God tell me that you plan on brushing your hair with that freakin brush."

John shook his head no sadly and Dean took a huge step backward as if by putting physical distance between them he could stop what was about to happen. "Yesterday was about the fact that you told me to fuck off and that you fought me so hard on everything that I tried to help you with including dealing with your emotions. Today is because I still am unhappy that you smacked your brother and took your anger about my supposed death out on both of you. I am not trying to be critical here son but that kind of anger can destroy a person. Not to mention what it did to Sam."

He saw the stubborn set of Dean's jaw and thought that this wasn't going to be any easier than yesterday. The words out of Dean's mouth just confirmed what he knew. "Yeah like you are some big expert on grief dad. You could barely function after mom died. Whole years went by when that was the only thing on your mind. That pain was a living, breathing thing."

John could feel himself loosing his reign on his temper. "Why do you think Dean that I have no intention of allowing you to follow that path? I know it too damn well. You shouldn't have taken your pain out on Sam or on yourself. And after today hopefully that's a lesson that you will remember. Now don't make this as bad as yesterday just come over here and let's do it."

He could see Dean eyeing the door and he knew he was thinking about making a run for it and not wanting to but needing to he pulled his ace out from up his sleeve. "I know that you feel guilty about hitting your brother in the face son."

He actually saw the guilt flicker across Dean's face. He said nothing more but motioned for Dean to come to him and he prayed that he would. Dean stood for a moment as if contemplating it and then with tear filled eyes walked to his father and unbuttoned his jeans without even being asked and leaned across John's lap. John sighed and just began spanking. He knew that after the hard spanking of yesterday that it wouldn't take much to get his message across. He had no desire to brutalize his son just make him understand and feel as if he had paid the price for his actions so that he wouldn't repeat them or feel guilty.

He could hear tears already and knew that Dean wasn't fighting him at all on this and he was glad. He continued to spank hard side to side and he knew as the crying increased in volume that Dean was already miserable. Placing even harder smacks he could feel heat under his hand again and felt so bad for Dean. But he knew that this son needed to be made to understand that avoiding pain by taking it out on someone else was not ever a workable solution. And it was with that thought in mind that he stopped and picked up the hairbrush.

He knew that he should make this as awful as possible and use it on bare skin but he just didn't have the heart to. "Are you ever going to take your anger and pain out on Sam again?"

He heard a muffled reply of "no sir" and he brought the brush down hard six times and wasn't surprised by Dean's vocal response. "Are you going to learn how to deal with your anger better?"

Dean was crying too hard to answer and John just brought the brush down six more times and tossed it on the floor. He wrapped a warm hand around Dean's neck and just let him cry.

John thought that in the last two days that Dean had cried more than in the last two years. But he knew that with as tight as Dean was with his emotions that this was exactly what he had needed. Even if John had hated to do it. He began talking to Dean in a quiet voice telling him that he loved him and that it was all over. And for once John didn't hear his eldest son telling him to "stop saying that crap." He gently replaced jeans to their original position and helped Dean to his feet.

With just one look at the tear ravaged face he walked him over to the bed and sat down pulling Dean down next to him. Keeping an arm around Dean he continued to talk to him and tell him how much he and Sam meant to him and how proud he was. Finally after what seemed like a very long time Dean's tears began to slow and John tipped his chin up so that he could take a good look at his son's face. "Are you okay?"

Relieved he saw Dean roll his eyes. "Yeah but I am *never* using anything but a comb on my hair ever again. That freakin brush should be registered as a lethal weapon."

John shook his head at Dean's ability to be a wise ass even now. "Okay Dean but all you all right?"

He could still see tears lurking beneath the surface. "I guess so. That really hurt."

John was amazed that as he had seen Dean strangled, cut, punched and once actually thrown out of a moving car by the evils that they hunted and yet a trip over his knee had affected him so much.

He hugged the boy again and just kept rubbing a large hand up and down his back trying to soothe away some of the hurt even though he knew that the pain was definitely lower down. Finally he looked over and realized that Dean had drifted off to sleep. He
stood up and gently laid Dean on his side and then rolled him over to his stomach. John knew that position would be more comfortable for him and was surprised when Dean didn't even wake up. He pulled the bedspread over his sleeping son and didn't resist placing a kiss on the back of his head before turning off the light and leaving the room.

Sam came back about half an hour later and thankfully didn't ask him too many questions about Dean. He suggested to his younger son that maybe he should just relax until dinner. Sam took his advice and lay on the sofa in the living room with his laptop and within minutes he was asleep as well. John gently removed the laptop and covered the boy with an afghan. He hadn't realized just how exhausted these two had been but a month off should help them to recover. He went into the kitchen and made dinner rejoicing in the feeling of normalcy to all of this.

Soon he had what he thought to be a pretty good dinner on the table and he called them both in. He was glad to see that Dean looked much better than he had and the circles under Sammy's eyes were getting lighter. After an uncomfortable moment when Dean apologized to Sam again and they hugged and Sam shot him the "what the hell did you do to my brother" look they sat down to eat. Soon both boys were teasing him about his new cooking skills and he warned them if they didn't stop there would be no dessert for either of them. And much to his delight this pronouncement sent them both into howling laughter which felt so good that he couldn't seem to stop grinning.

They all pitched in and cleaned the kitchen and John did serve up the dessert that he had bought and gave each of his sons a plate and fork and sent them into the dining room of the rental house. Neither one could believe their eyes as there on the table was a Monopoly game all set up. John followed them in with his cup of coffee and sat down and motioned for them both to follow suit. As he knew he would Dean was the first to speak. "Dude what is up with this?"

John fixed his eldest with a stern look. "It's a game, it called Monopoly and we are gonna play it. Sit your butts down now."

Dean sent Sam an incredulous look and shook his head. "No freakin way are we playing some stupid board game? We are the hunters of all things evil. Isn't that right Sammy?"

John almost laughed out loud when Sam ignored Dean and sat down. "Can I be the dog?"

Dean looked to Sam with amazement at what he had just asked. "Sit down son there is a car and if you be a good boy and play you can be the car."

Dean sat down and just shook his head. "Well it had better be a freakin awesome car."

John smiled again as Sam handed the token to Dean. "It's a race car Dean."

Dean took the token and looked at it as if to determine if it was really a race car or not and finally just decided to take Sam's word for it.

They got down to the serious business of playing and soon were consumed about with arguments about money and buying property. John wished that he could freeze the moment in time watching his sons so relaxed and happy. He made a promise to himself that he would do all that he could to assure that their future would be filled with moments just like this one.

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