Author's Notes: Spoilers for the episode 'Skin'.

Skin

Sam looked down at his cell phone and didn't recognize the number but opened it and put it to his ear anyway. "Hello?"

"Sammy its dad. I'm here at the gravesite why aren't you here son? We both should be here."

Sam heard his usually unemotional father's voice break and he had a horrific thought. "Ummm Dad could you hold on for just a minute?"

He turned to Dean in a total panic. "Dean did you call dad and tell him that the Dean Winchester with your face that they buried today wasn't you?"

Now he watched as Dean's eyes got huge and he vigorously shook his head no. "Oh fuck."

Putting the cell phone to his ear again Sam wasn't quite sure where to start. "Look Dad there is something really funny that happened about all of that and I guess that in all our hurry Dean and I didn't exactly get to tell you that the guy that they buried today wasn't exactly ummm… Dean. I mean it was a shape shifter and not the real Dean. He is kind of alive after all and actually driving right now."

Sam finished his little story with a forced and small laugh and the turned to Dean who had gone as white as the ghost he was supposed to be.

"No dad really he's just fine and I guess we just didn't think about you finding out or anything. You want to talk to him? Just promise that you won't yell okay?"

Dean turned an incredulous look towards his brother and wasn't surprised when dad yelled so loudly that Sammy had to pull the phone away from his ear. "Okay dad no problem just talk to Dean now."

He held out the cell phone and Dean looked at it as if it was a snake and he shook his head no. "Damn it Dean take it do you want him to get any madder?"

Swallowing hard he took the offered and offending phone and put it gently to his ear. "Hey dad how have you been?"

Sammy watched horrified as Dean grimaced. "No sir, I'm just fine in fact. Oh my funeral? Was it nice?"

Sam actually groaned and put his head into his hands knowing just how bad that whole line of discussion was. "No sir, I…., no sir, but you see…, but dad I didn't…, he thought…., no sir. Yeah we'll be there."

Dean snapped the phone shut and threw it into the back seat before turning to Sam his mouth a grim line. "Oh Christ but he was mad. Do you suppose we should have told him?"

Now Sam turned to him totally amazed at what he had just said. "Just don't talk to me Dean okay just shut up now for the next five hundred miles maybe."

Dean shook his head. "No can do Sammy we have to meet dad at a motel in about half an hour."

Sam felt his heart rate pick up. "No please Dean just keep driving it'll take him several days to find us. Come on."

They continued to drive in the wrong direction with neither one speaking until they heard the cell phone ring again. Climbing over the seat Sam found where Dean had thrown it earlier in his frustration. "Oh shit its Dad again."

Dean tried to remain calm. "Look just stall him."

Sam looked at his brother with disbelief and answered the phone. "Hello. Oh hey Dad. How far away are we? I umm don't exactly know."

He looked again to Dean who was shaking his head back and forth and mouthing the words "stall him". "What was that dad are we trying to stall you of course not. Why wouldn't we want to see you?" Again Sam threw in a little laugh which sounded more nervous than true.

Dean leaned his head on the steering wheel and groaned. "Yeah Dean says he can't wait either. What was that? Okay."

Sam closed the cell phone and for a minute Dean was worried about the way the color had drained out of his face. "What did he say Sam? What the hell is wrong with you?"

Sam stared straight ahead. "He said he was waiting for us and marking time."

Dean whipped his head around hoping with all he had that his brother was kidding. "No fucking way did he say that?"

Sam continued to look horrified and simply nodded. "But that's exactly what he said Dean. Do you remember what that used to mean?"

Dean couldn't help snorting. "Yeah it used to mean that when we got home we were gonna get our asses beat. But come on Sam we're grown adults now. Are you sure he said exactly that?"

The only answer was a sick nod of the head from his brother. "Dean he wouldn't would he? I mean like I know it was stupid of you not to think that he might find out that you had supposedly died but you don't think he'd actually do that do you?"

The older brother could feel his blood pressure climbing. "No that's just ridiculous. Maybe he just was joking or something."

Sam looked at him as serious as he had ever been. "It wasn't a joke Dean I think he meant it."

The pair continued to drive and both were lost in their thoughts trying to figure out how they were going to deal with their father and what else he could possible have meant by "marking time". Sam looked up to see a road sign and swore. "Damn it Dean we are still headed in the wrong direction."

Dean was startled out of his thoughts and quickly pulled a u-turn. "This just sucks Sammy who ever would have thought that my funeral would be such a pain in the ass."

Neither one spoke, and both hoped like hell that Dean's prediction wasn't going to come true in the literal sense.

     Finally Dean pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned to look at Sam with a serious look on his face. "Look we have to have our story straight here. What was the reason that we didn't just call Dad and tell him or leave him a message about what really had happened."

Sam looked at him again with amazement evident on his face. "How the hell should I know Dean? We just didn't, I mean one minute we were in the thick of things and the next he was on the phone."

Dean reached over and smacked the back of Sam's head. "Yeah well great that'll save our sorry asses for sure little bro. A story needs to involve an actual story Francis."

Sam thought about it for a moment and still came up with exactly nothing and then they both froze as the cell phone rang again. "You answer it Dean I am *not* answering it this time."

Grabbing it off the seat Dean looked at it for a moment as if he could make it disappear and then answered it. "Hello."

"Ah no sir we are on our way. Uh no we aren't trying to pull anything. C'mon Dad have some faith in us wouldya?"

Again holding the phone away from his ear both he and Sam could hear their dads scathing reply. "Yes sir room 1420 I've got it. And Dad it'll be really great to see you again."

Sam noticed that Dean seemed to pale under his tan. "Marking time yeah that's what Sammy said too…but you see Dad…."

Dean huffed and pulled the phone away from his ear and snapped it shut. "He hung up on me of all the freakin nerve."

Sam grimaced. "Just get this car on the road and now Dean cause this is so bad. Really like nightmare kinda bad."

For once Dean did as his younger brother instructed in silence.
******************

Dean Winchester drove the last mile to the motel where their father waited deep in thought. He and Sam hadn't seen dad in a few months and when they had it had just been for a very short visit. Dad had been so happy to see them and even Sam had set aside his differences with him for the re-union. It had been just a nice little slice of time. And somewhere in the back of Dean's mind he had gotten the idea that their father had accepted that they were adults now and could take care of themselves. But this whole line of "marking time" had thrown him into a complete panic. Why in the hell would dad have said that to the both of them?

He pulled the Impala into the parking space in front of the room that his father had said to come to and thought about it. He hadn't been punished like that for a very long time. He would never forget the last time either. He had been almost twenty and he was supposed to be following a lead for dad when he had spent the entire evening romancing
a really hot waitress and even going back to her place after she got off of work. He had come through the door whistling at three a.m. and run right smack dab into a very furious father. While he had spent almost the whole night feeling like a man within very short order his father had him across his knee and he was once again feeling like a little boy.

And even though he had known both then and now that his father was right about the lesson the manner in which he taught it had sucked. And the other thing that had stood out about that evening had been the fact that he was almost twenty years old and his father had had no reservations about punishing him in that way. And he felt a good squeeze to his chest as he thought again about the phrase "marking time" that he had used. But certainly he couldn't have meant that. He hoped and prayed that he was right.
"We could just turn around and pretend that we got lost he would never even know that we were here."

Just as the words came out of his brothers mouth Dean saw the door to the room open as if dad were saying that he knew they were here. "Okay so now *that* creeps me out like more than slightly."

As if he knew they were talking about him Dean's cell phone rang and when he answered it John's voice was loud enough for the both of them to hear. "Get your asses in here NOW!"

Snapping it shut Dean looked into Sam's wide eyes and swore. "Well just fuck."

They both slowly got out of the car and made their way into the motel room. When they walked in with Sam in the lead they saw their father standing with his back to them and he slowly turned around. Sam said hello and when John held his arms out he went to him for a hug and John clasped a large hand around the back of his younger son's heads and pulled his forehead down for a kiss and both boys were surprised. Sam stepped aside and John looked to his older son and Dean was amazed to see his eyes fill with tears. "Dean, oh God son I thought…."

He reached him in two long strides and pulled him hard against his chest and held on with tears streaking down his face. And Dean felt his own eyes fill with tears and his heart was filled with shame. His dad was a tough guy and if the ex-marine was this emotional about seeing him again he must have suffered terribly when he thought Dean was dead. Dean looked to Sam and could tell by the look on his face that he also was feeling ashamed of their lack of concern about dad possibly finding out. He hoped that dad would just stop with his emotional display because he found it uncomfortable to be on the receiving end but he also hated to see dad so vulnerable.

Soon John pulled back from the tight hold he had on his older son. "When Pastor Jim called to tell me that you were dead I just…"

Both brothers were dismayed to see more tears roll down the older hunter's face. "I always knew that what we do is dangerous but the thought of living my life without ever seeing either of you again…"

John paused to keep from sobbing and Dean actually groaned at how bad this was. "Look Dad, Dean is just fine really. We are both just fine it was just a big mistake kind of thing on Dean's part to not call you."

Dean stopped his emotional interlude long enough to shoot his brother a disbelieving look. Clearly Sam didn't seem to think that this involved him. "When I got there they had the coffin open and they had dressed you in this cheap suit that I knew you would have hated and I looked down and all I could think about was how a parent isn't supposed to bury a child not ever. And how all the hopes and dreams that I had for you were over. All of the fine things that you are were done."

John sat down on the bed and put his head into his hands and Sam sent Dean a distressed look that clearly was a request for him to do something but for once in his life Dean didn't know what.

"Look Dad it's all right I'm just fine."

John looked at him and Dean saw the naked pain on his face and realized that if ever in his life he had deserved to be disciplined this was it. How could he and Sam have not thought about this and worried about this and ultimately let their father suffer in this way. Dean wanted, no he needed to make his father understand just how sorry he was. He put an arm around his shoulder and leaned in close to his ear. "Look Dad please understand that we simply made bad decisions by not realizing that you might find this out and that it would hurt you in this way. Sam and I are so very sorry. And we both think that we deserve to be punished."

Dean didn't miss the horrified look that Sam sent in his direction and for once he didn't care. They both had really done it this time and hurt their father. And he supposed that seeing your son in a casket would be something that you just didn't get over very quickly. And he realized that he felt no small amount of guilt at what had happened and while he didn't want to be well "talked to" with everything he had he also realized that he richly deserved it and if anything it might help with the guilt that he was feeling.

He was both relieved and dismayed to see his father nod his head. "Yeah I know that you both deserve it and I plan on taking care of that along with the fact that it took you an extra half an hour to get here. But right now I just need to…"

Dean saw tears shining again in his father's eyes and once again felt like the worst son on the face of the earth. Even Sammy bent down and looked into their fathers face. "What dad?"

They both watched as he struggled to get a rein on his emotional state. "I just need to be with you guys and visit and just look at you both for a while before I turn into mad dad okay?"

Dean choked back a groan as if there was one thing that was worse that being on the end of a dad "talking to" it was waiting for it. But he saw Sammy sigh apparently relieved that it wasn't going to happen now. "Sure Dad why don't we go and get some lunch and Sammy can tell you all about how we got into this mess."

John nodded and stood patting Dean on the knee. "Yeah well I am going into the bathroom and try to pull it together and we can do just that."

They both watched his retreating back with amazement. "I don't think I have ever seen him like that before Dean."

Now Dean was actually feeling sick. "Yeah well I have."

His saw his brother look at him confused. "When Dean?"

Dean wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. "When mom died."

Now Sam just looked horrified. "C'mon don't say that this wasn't nearly that bad Dude."

The older brother shook his head. "Yeah well guess what Francis thanks to our not give a shit attitude he didn't know that until just an hour ago."

Sam sat down on the bed next to Dean and put his head in his hands. "Oh God this is gonna be soooo bad."

Dean sighed. "Yeah and the fact that we richly deserve it isn't gonna make it much better either."

They both looked up to see John walk into the room and with one look they knew that the real dad had returned and they both stood. Putting a hand on each of their backs he steered them towards the door. "Okay boys lets have some lunch and talk a little. We can even discuss what obligations we have to each other as members of the same family. Or even the action of communication with each other. Or possibly staying in touch especially in times of crisis. And then finally the whole concept including ramifications of marking time. Sound like fun?"

Sam caught Dean's eyes as they walked out the door. "Suddenly I'm not hungry." And John just nodded.
*************************

The Winchester family sat down at the booth that the pretty waitress who was already flirting with Dean showed them to. For just a moment it all felt surreal to John who still wasn't over either the emotion of actually seeing his eldest in a casket or the overwhelming gratitude that none of that had been real. He felt as if he had watched a bus narrowly miss his oldest son and he realized that he was going to have another chance for a future with him. He felt tears fill his eyes again and realized that he had cried more in the hours since Pastor Jim had called him than in the several years preceding that phone call. And then he stopped as he thought of something.

"Oh hell I need to call Jim."

He opened his cell phone and hit a button. "Jim its John. No man wait a minute I have something pretty amazing to tell you."

He told his friend the story of how it hadn't been Dean at all, and how he had gone to the funeral not knowing that. And then he wiped tears away again as his friend expressed the same gratitude that he was feeling. And he looked towards his sons seeing them both sink lower and lower into the booth. "No sure Jim you can talk to him."

He handed Dean the phone and was not surprised when Dean looked as if answering it were the last thing in the world that he wanted to do. "Umm hello Jim? Uhh yeah well we didn't think about dad finding out…no I know but…well how were we supposed to know that….no I'm not being a smart ass…no really…..I AM too sorry."

Sam swallowed hard as he could actually see sweat breaking out on Deans forehead. "No sir….well it doesn't sound like you're glad that I'm alive."

Hearing this John reached over and smacked the back of Dean's head hard. "Owwww Dad. No he just smacked the back of my head…yeah I'm sure that won't be the extent of it either. No really we didn't mean to worry anybody we really do feel bad……uh yeah I guess so. Bye."

Dean handed the phone back to his dad who finished his conversation and Sam looked at him with a question in his eyes. "You guess so?"

Now Dean squirmed. "Yeah he said knowing dad he figured that the feel bad was just starting."

Sam's face fell and he tried to think of anything but that. But of course he knew that Jim was right. Both Sam and Dean watched as their father finished up is conversation with his friend and both noted when he got serious again. "Oh yeah Jim you can count on it I don't care how old they are now."

They exchanged a look and Dean looked like he might be sick. "Just fuck."

John ended the phone call and the three of them ordered lunch. While John didn't even think that he was hungry earlier he realized that he hadn't eaten anything since he heard the news and was in fact starving. Neither Sam nor Dean thought that they could choke down anything but they did as they father directed and ordered. As they were eating lunch and generally catching up since their last visit Dean was disconcerted to see his father stop and look at him every so often as if he couldn't believe he was actually sitting there. He was unnerved and more than just a little ashamed by this.

An older gentleman sat down in the booth directly behind him and while John never was big on eavesdropping it was impossible to miss the apparent fact that the owner of the diner was a woman named Christine Wilkerson and her fifteen year old son had disappeared sometime yesterday. The authorities had been unable to locate him and his mother was frantic with worry. John looked into the healthy faces of both of his sons and knew what he had to do.

When the waitress came back to the table he asked her to take him back to the office where he introduced himself and told Mrs. Wilkerson that he was a private investigator. Much to her delight he then offered to look for her son Daniel. She brought out a picture to aide him in his search and it all but took his breath away because this kid looked remarkably like Dean had at fifteen. Taking the picture and the important information he promised her that he would do his best. Returning to the table he faced with his puzzled sons. "We are going to go out and look for this kid."

"But Dad we don't even know if this is our kind of thing."

He looked at Sam and shook his head. "Today for some reason I thought my son was gone as well and he was by the grace of God given back to me. If I can facilitate that happening for this woman then I don't care if it isn't what we usually do."

Looking at his father, Dean again felt overwhelmed with guilt, and Sam apparently did as well because when John was paying the bill he turned to his older brother. "Why in the hell didn't we think to call him again and tell him you were alive? Watching him like this just sucks."

Dean just nodded knowing that it was the truth.

It had taken the entire day but they had actually found the kid alive and unhurt and returned him to his grateful and nearly hysterical mother. Watching the reunion left all three Winchesters in actual tears. While sorry Daniel didn't have much of an excuse and both Sam and Dean watched as his mother hugged him and told him that it was all forgiven. It was about then that the brothers exchanged an incredulous look.

Once they were back in the car Sam felt it was his duty to try and help their situation. "So dad wasn't it nice how Danny's mom forgave him and just knew instinctively that he had learned an important lesson from his mistakes?"

Dean actually turned to look at Sam over his shoulder not quite believing that he was desperate enough to even try that.

John remained silent and Sam just couldn't let it go quite yet. "I mean really that isn't all that much different from what happened with us today now is it?"

John caught his son's eyes in the rearview mirror. "Yeah with the exception that you and your brother are both going to get your butts blistered. But other than that yeah there were a lot of similarities."

Dean groaned and Sam wondered if he had just made it all worse.

It was past midnight when John pulled the Impala into the parking lot of the motel. He leaned his head back on the seat and sighed tired but pleased with the results of their days work. Sam looked down and found Daniels backpack. "Oh no Danny forgot this."

John took it from the hands of his youngest son and handed it to Dean. "Sammy and I need a little bit of time anyway Dean. Go ahead and take this back over to the diner and have a piece of pie or something. Since Sam is so anxious to point out how similar these cases are he can go first."

Dean shook his head knowing that Sam just should have kept his mouth shut. "Yes sir."

John got out of the car and Dean slid over to the driver's side and almost smiled as Sam sent him a pleading look as he got out of the car. "Shoulda kept your mouth shut Sammy, shoulda kept your mouth shut."

And he pulled the car out and headed back to the diner backpack in hand.
************************

Sam Winchester followed his father into the motel room and just couldn't believe that at his age he was about to receive a spanking. But everything about the way his father was behaving was so familiar that he was already getting that sick feeling of dread that always preceded his being punished this way. And then as if it were some stomach-turning déjà vu thing he watched his father take off his coat, push up the sleeves of his sweater and put a chair in the center of the room. Sammy felt for just a minute as if his heart was going to jackhammer out of his chest.

"Take off your coat son and sit down. You and I need to talk about some things."

He could even see the determination on his father's face and he knew that this was going to be bad. Not really wanting to but not really wanting to disobey more he did as he was told and waited nervously with hands clasped together and leaning on his knees. "Do you have any idea what the last twenty four hours have been like for me?"

Oh God Sam's stomach did a slow roll as he actually saw tears shining in his dad's eyes. Not wanting to know he simply shook his head.

"Thinking that Dean was gone was the worst thing that has ever happened to me right up there with losing your mother. And to actually be there and see him…."

His father paused and dashed tears away with the back of his hand. Sam hung his head and felt sick to his stomach and not from the fear about being punished either. The shame of knowing that this could have all been prevented was unbearable. "I'm sorry dad but really it wasn't my fault Dean should have called you."

Sam knew from the look on his father's face that he didn't think so. "Samuel do you know how to operate that cell phone that you carry with you at all times?"

The tone in which he said it booked no resistance. "Yes sir."

His father shook his head. "Are you or are you not a member of this family and my son as well as Dean's brother?"

Again it was with a sinking feeling that Sam answered "Yes sir."

His father gave him the stern look that he always hated. "Then there is *no* excuse for your behavior. You should have called me or seen to it that Dean did. And if I couldn't be reached you should have left me a message and that action alone could have prevented all of this including the rather unpleasant punishment you are about to endure."

Sam felt his eyes well with tears and for some reason grown as he was he felt just sick about what his father was planning on doing. His apprehension kicked up a notch when John motioned with his hand for Sam to come to him. Sam groaned and slowly stood and wanted to obey his fathers command but somehow his feet didn't seem to be moving. "So do you want to add to your list by disobeying me and make this one a two parter?"

Looking to his father with wide horrified eyes he vigorously shook his head no. "Well you tell me no but you are still all the way over there. Now you have exactly three seconds to get your ass over here Sam."

It took three steps to get to his father and only another second before he wrapped a hand around Sam's upper arm and yanked him across his lap. And as miserable as he felt in this hated position he was in total disbelief when his father reached under him and unsnapped and yanked down his jeans. "Dad! What are you doing?"

Sam couldn't believe just how childish and scared that sounded but it had. "Making sure that this is the first and last time ever that you fail to notify me about something this important. And being as this is an important lesson from me to you I think it deserves the personal touch."

Sam couldn't believe it when he felt his father tug briefs down to join his jeans. He braced himself on the floor with his hands and felt embarrassed and humiliated at his age and size to be bare assed across his fathers knee. "I am disappointed in your decisions and your lack of regard for me Samuel."

Now Sam felt tears spill and before he could think about the emotion of that he felt a large palm land in a hot swat across his bare behind. Maybe it was that he hadn't had this done for a very long time or maybe it was because of how upset his father was but Sam was squirming trying to avoid the stinging swats from the very beginning.

As much as he tried to fight it the tears came and Sam just let them. His fathers hand kept a perfect rhythm and Sam soon felt as if there wasn't an inch of skin left unmarked. The unfailing repetition and the hard stinging blows soon had him struggling to break free from the punishing hand. But his father was as strong as he remembered when he was small and he got no where other than to become weary. But the heat was escalating and even sobbing wasn't helping. "Daaaad please no more…..please…it hu...hurts."

The smarting swats continued and if anything he felt as if his father had picked up the pace. "Owwww please dad stop….I didn't me...mean to hurt you."

He felt the large hand pause for a moment and he hung his head in relief. "I know that Sammy but your lack of thought did just that."

And he landed a particularly hard set of swats across Sam's upper thighs and he just gave him and sobbed. "I'm sorrrryyyyy, I'm soooo sorrrryyyyy."

His dad placed four more hard swats onto his behind and then stopped. "Okay son we are all done here."

Sam cried in relief and fought to get the words out. "I'm so...so...sorry."

His behind throbbed so intensely that it felt as if he were still being spanked. "I know buddy and I forgive you."

He could hear a hint of tears behind his father's usual gravely voice. Again Sam hung his head sobbing in great heaving sobs feeling as badly as he ever had. This had just been stupid and thoughtless and that fact hurt every bit as much as his blazing behind did. He drew a ragged breath and noticed that his father was rubbing his back in an attempt to make him feel better which he thought for sure wasn't likely to ever happen. He was pretty sure that his behind was damaged for life.

He had just gotten the sobbing under control when his father tugged his clothes back into position and it hurt so fiercely that he started again oblivious to anything other than the inferno his ass was and the way his heart ached at what he had put their father through. He felt an arm tug him to standing and he fought for control of his emotions. His father stood as well and as soon as he saw tears on John's face he dropped his head onto the broad shoulder and wept bitter tears not sure if he would ever be able to stop. He felt a large hand thread through his hair and give him a gentle caress. "Hey now Champ its all over and its all okay."

He shook his head still on his fathers shoulder. "No it's not okay at all."

He felt like he was in pieces and he didn't understand why they had had so little respect for their father's pain that they had allowed this to happen. "Look Sammy you said that you are sorry and I believe you, I know regardless of how hard I just spanked you that you never meant to hurt me. And you just paid the price for your lack of concern for my feelings and I know that it wasn't a small price either. Actually I'm rather proud of you."

Sam pulled back to look at his face to see if he was joking and when he was met with nothing but sincerity he again lapsed into sobs. "I don't deserve your pride."

Now John tipped the trembling chin up so that he could look into eyes awash in tears. "Don't ever say that Sammy boy I am always proud of you. Even when you make a mistake I know the man that you are going to be and he is kind, smart as hell, loving and good. He puts his own life on the line everyday to save others and today he just made a little mistake so we are going to forgive him and he is going to forgive himself. Got it?"

It actually hurt Sam's heart to hear his father say those things about him but he knew better than to disagree. So he remained quiet. "So son you have about a minute to tell me you understand or we are gonna sit back down again and resume spanking your behind until you understand that I know best."

As expected Sam lay his head back down and sobbed onto the broad shoulder again. "Well Samuel what's it gonna be? Do you understand me?"

Not trusting himself to look his father in the eye he spoke a soft yes sir into his fathers shoulder. Satisfied that the hard lesson had been learned with as minimal damage to his sons butt and psyche as possible John just held him in a hug and allowed him to settle down. Finally after what seemed a very long time even by Sam standards he did just that. Looking sheepishly at his father Sam wiped the tears off of his face. "Now go on into the bathroom and wash your face. Then I need you to go over to the diner and give me an hour with Dean."

Much to his surprise and to the credit of a good spanking his son obeyed without question. If he hadn't been feeling emotional enough as Sam went out the door he awkwardly approached him for another hug and the kid hugged him hard enough that he felt he couldn't breathe for just a minute or two. "Okay kiddo what gives?"

He saw the downcast eyes and the new tears and just waited. "Umm Dad I really am sorry and I umm…well…I just love you a lot."

Now John looked at the floor not wanting his son to see the tears in his eyes as well. "Hey buddy you know that goes for me too right? I might not say it often enough but I love you too Sam."

Again John found himself on the receiving end of a ferocious hug and he hugged back with all that he had. "Go on now kiddo get out of here and send Dean."

Sam wiped his eyes and nodded taking a quick moment to attempt to rub out the feeling of his punishment, which John was sure would hurt for a while yet. As the door closed John allowed the tears to spill down his cheeks as he thought about how much his sons meant to him and how thankful that he was that he would have an opportunity for a future with them both.
*****************************

Dean sat in the diner staring down at his barely touched cup of coffee. He felt too sick to even take more than a sip. And his panic was growing with every passing moment. Sam had been with dad for a long time and that alone convinced Dean knew that his worry was justified. His only hope was that being older now the "dad treatment" wouldn't be nearly as bad as he remembered. He looked up and saw Sam standing in front of the window and he motioned for him to come in. Sam shook his head and Dean grabbed his jacket and threw down a five dollar bill and hurried out the door.

    He got close enough to look Sam over and the way that his younger brother looked felt like a gut punch to him. His eyes were rimmed with red and swollen and he looked like someone had shot his puppy. "Sammy man how was it?"

He was horrified to see Sam struggle to keep from crying. "I can't talk about it Dean I *can't*."

Dean felt his stomach drop as he looked at Sam barely keeping control. And then he had a thought and ever so relieved he smiled. "Dude that's not funny at all you really had me going."

The puzzled look on his brother's face didn't reassure him any. "This is just payback right from the time I pretended Dad really gave it to me just to scare the crap out of you. Good one Sam."

His anxiety climbed and became outright fear when Sam shook his head and he saw new tears shining in his eyes. Reaching over he squeezed Dean's shoulder in a consoling manner. "Just go Dean don't keep him waiting."

     Dean walked to the car with his heart in his throat. He drove to the end of the parking lot and put it in park and just sat and stared. "Well just fuck this all kinds of not good."

He must have sat there for a few minutes and his cell phone rang. "Hello. Oh hi Dad no I'm coming I was just delayed. Why well...ummm...traffic?"

Now he grimaced and looked across the street at the motel. "Yes sir I know that it's just across the street. Oh look traffic is much better see you in a few."

He snapped the phone shut and put his head down against the steering wheel. "Smooth Dean really smooth. Oh I am so dead now."

Not seeing any other option he put the car into gear and drove across the street parking in front of his father's hotel room. Squaring his shoulders he got out of the car and tried to remember that whatever was about to happen he deserved. He smiled as he realized that that didn't help one iota. "So on top of being late and hanging up on me you think this is funny Dean?"

He glanced up in a panic to see his father who had apparently come out of the room in search of him standing there with arms crossed and a really pissed off expression on his face. "No. No sir I don't think this is funny at all."

He quickly sailed by his father and was actually surprised when John landed a hard swat on his behind as he walked by. "Shit this is sooo not good."

John pointed to the bed and growled the word "sit" which Dean immediately did and wondered just how many years it had been since he had gotten an actual swat from his dad. Looking at the stern expression on his fathers face he again wished that he had just thought about it and called his dad when all this had happened.

"First of all Dean remind me what "marking time" means."

Dean shrugged and pretended that he didn't remember. "Marking time…hmm…marking time. Nope not ringing any bells here Dad."

He watched as his father's face suffused with angry color. "Did you want a spanking before the spanking smart ass?"

Now Dean actually squirmed "That is a really bad idea there Dad."

His answer prompted John to actually stand up and take a step in Dean's direction. Recognizing the intention of bodily harm (well mostly just harm to his ass) Dean held out his hand as if to ward off his father. "Okay, okay I remember I'll tell you just please sit back down and relax okay?"

"Answer my question." The fact that he had forced that command out through clenched teeth made Dean even more worried than before but he still thought if he stalled it would give his father at least a chance to calm down. The next word out of his father's mouth all but stopped his heart. "One." His eyes widened and he fought panic because he as well as he remembered "marking time" he also remembered exactly what happened when his father got to five. "Two." Feeling completely rattled and about seven years old he immediately started talking.

"Marking time was always your way of letting Sam and me know without saying it that we were in big trouble and needed to get home as fast as we could cause bad things were gonna happen."

Now John sighed hating how this felt like pulling teeth. "And what specifically do you mean by bad things Dean?"

Now he watched as his son actually squirmed. "C'mon dad don't make me *say* it. We both know what I meant by bad things."

He saw John shake his head. "Three." Oh shit with the counting again.

"Dad please….."

"Four and if I were you I would make damn sure I didn't get to five."

Dean was in a panic but knew that he had no other choice. "Okay spanking. The bad thing was spanking all right so there I said it. It wasn't being talked to or any other dumb ass euphemism it was in fact a spanking. We knew that when we got home we were gonna get a spanking. And as long as we are on that subject they really hurt. Way to bruise my fragile emotional state as a child Dad."

For just a second Dean thought that his father was going to laugh. And the worst thing was that he had been serious and not even trying to make a joke. "You earned each and every trip you ever took over my knee including this one."

Dean grimaced at the very sound of that. "Look we could just talk about this I mean that would do."

He was ever so relieved to see his father nod. "Oh we can talk about this all you like son."

He sighed, feeling like he could take a deep breath again. "Oh thank God you really had me worried there for a minute."

"And then when we are done talking I am going to blister your butt for not even having enough concern for me to call and tell me that you weren't dead."

Dean wasn't about to give up easily. "Come on Dad please."

John shook his head and suddenly Dean saw the tears shining in his eyes. "You don't have a son so I can't use that as a comparison but do you know what it would feel like to look at Sammy in a coffin and actually say goodbye to him knowing for damn certain that you would never see him again Dean? Now answer that question and tell me again that you don't deserve to be punished."

Dean shook his head frantic to get away from that thought. "Think about it son."

And not wanting to but knowing he needed to for just a second he tried to imagine what that would be like. And he felt agony squeeze his chest. When he looked at his father again his eyes were also filled with tears.

John was surprised when Dean stood up and shrugged out of his jacket and walked to where he sat unsnapping his jeans and pushing them down his legs. "I did think about it and you are right. Really, really right so just do it okay?"

John could actually hear the tears in his voice and he knew it wasn't fear of the impending spanking it was the emotion of what his son had just thought about. He heard Dean call him softly. "Dad?"

He nodded wondering what was on the boy's mind. "I'll never be able to make this go away the hurt that this caused you. But I am sorry that I was so careless. And if you need to really you know…talk to me… hard I understand and I know that I deserve it."

John didn't trust his voice enough to reply but he made a mental note that when this was over he would tell Dean just how much he was loved and just how horrible it had been when John thought he was dead.

He took a hold of Dean's forearm and pulled him over his lap and adjusted him across his knees so he was in the position that both of his sons hated so very much. Dean shifted trying to find some degree of control or dignity in this position and he just gave up finally realizing that none existed. He felt his breath catch in his throat as his father tugged his briefs down as well. The color flooded his face and even though he knew he deserved what was about to happen he could not stop the plea. "Dad no please not like that."

He felt his father shake his head at his request. "Exactly like that son."

And before he had time to process that he felt the large palm descend and like every other time in his life that he had ever been spanked he was overcome from the first with the simple fact that it hurt. Really hurt and it was just starting. In his life he had had many injuries and Sam had stitched him up more times than he could count. He had taken each and every one of those with a grain of salt. But this pain was inescapable and intense and unrelenting. And the stinging swats continued side to side and were so hard that Dean was sure his fathers palm must feel as badly as his ass did. While he knew that his father had good reason and he deserved all of it already the pain was escalating to a point where he thought if dad didn't stop soon he was going to panic.

A spanking from John Winchester was never something to be taken lightly but he was setting Dean on fire with his hand and going at it both hard and fast. Hating the knowledge that soon he wasn't going to be able to stay silent he struggled with himself to do just that. But soon he couldn't help squirming to try and avoid the hard hand that was applying correction with unerring accuracy. It felt as if he had spanked the same spots at least ten times already. And he must have sensed Dean's becoming frantic as he paused long enough to grab his free arm and secure it behind his back and now Dean was totally unable to move and that kicked the alarm up an entire notch.

As the large hand resumed its repetitious swatting Dean had the sudden thought that maybe asking dad to make it hard was not one of his brightest moments. He realized that tears were streaming down his face and he hated that as much as the fire that dad was setting. And then as much as he fought not to small owws and groans began issuing from his throat. But through it all dad just kept on. Soon he started trying to reason with his father. "Pleaaassseee Dad I'm sorry. It was stupid."

He sighed relieved as he felt his father stop. "Right now son you are just sorry because you are being punished. When I'm done you will have learned the lesson that will prevent this mistake again."

And much to his amazement the hand resumed. "Ohhhh noooo more please Dad."

Without even stopping his father answered. "Yes Dean more."

Dean knew that his limit was just around the corner and within five more swats he dropped his head and just cried. While sobbing seemed to relieve the ache in his chest the ache in his ass was an entirely different matter. He was pretty positive that his father had done some damage and he would never sit comfortably again. Again he felt the hand pause. "Use this time to think about how much your irresponsible behavior hurt me and how in the future you need to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Dean was frantic to make it stop. "I'll try I will."

As his father resumed smacking hard side to side he countered. "Trying isn't going to cut it son you will have to do better than that."

Dean lifted his head. "I will I p...p…promisssse"

He felt the punishing hand pat his back. "I hope that you will but for now I want you to just think about it."

And without another word the painful swats continued and Dean tried to think about what his father had said. But soon all he could do was sob and not too long after that he resumed begging hoping that that would work. And still the correction continued until he was as exhausted from the painful swats as he was from the sobbing. He had assumed now that he was older that a spanking would be just an unpleasant experience. Little did he know that dad would tailor the experience to match both his age and the crime. He swore that nothing had ever hurt this bad in his whole life.

For a moment he felt the hand still and he heard his father ask him a question. "Do you understand just how wrong your choice was? Do you understand how your behavior hurt me Dean? Do you think you have been adequately punished?"

He struggled to speak his throat almost as raw as his ass. "Yes sir I do understand and because I do maybe you need to continue for a while longer."

He knew that he simply couldn't take so much as one more swat and he had no idea why he had just said that but he knew somewhere deep inside (other than his ass) that it was the right thing.

As his father's hand landed again this time on the back of his right leg he sobbed with an intensity that he didn't even recognize. But something about that seemed to help. He just lay limply and accepted the punishment. After five more hard swats he felt a warm hand on his back. "Okay buddy it's all done now. You took that like a champ. I accept your apology."

He attempted to pull it all together and do the usual Dean thing with the smart assed remark but absolutely nothing came to him. He hurt, inside and everything from the waist down was an inferno.

He felt John's warm hand rubbing his neck. "What's the matter Dean you always have something to say right about now?"

Dean struggled not to but burst into noisy tears anyway. "I'm so sorrrryyyyy."

Now he felt his father's concern as he rubbed his shoulders. "Hey come on kiddo it was just a spanking and it's all done now. You have had worse."

Dean shook his head completely without the ability to stop this runaway train that his emotions had become. "No sir and this time my dumb assed choice hurt you." He gave in and sobbed again.

His father made no attempt to move him he just left him in that position and rubbed his back and neck. After a few minutes Dean felt as if he had the sobbing at least under control and he felt his father adjust him clothing. And if he had had worries that his ass was damaged he was pretty sure he was correct when the jeans came back up. He yelped and fought crying again as he stood up. He reached around to try and rub out some of the sting but he stopped and put hands at his side. He saw a small smile lurking on his father's stern feature. "Go ahead and rub I know it hurts."

He did just that and was amazed that he still apparently had skin back there. He couldn't stop the small moan at the relief of rubbing the punished area. Now he did see his dad smile and he couldn't resist. "Well I'm glad one of us is freakin enjoying this."

And as his father chuckled he could have sworn that he was glad to see the return of his smart assed attitude. "Not at all son. I didn't like that any more than you did."

Now Dean was sure maybe he had just lost his mind and he snorted. "Yeah well I *know* that's absolute bullshit Dad."

John fought a smile. "You know smart ass if your butt didn't already hurt so much I'd give you another swat for that remark."

Dean's emotions must have been closer to the surface still than he realized because hearing his father say that caused his eyes to fill with tears again. "Oh hell. Come over here and sit down with me and let's talk about it."

Dean did as his father instructed now sure how he would accomplish the sitting down part. John put his hands on Dean's shoulders and gently pushed him down on the bed and then sat down himself. He wasn't surprised at Deans groan and the "oh shit" that issued from his lips when his behind connected with the bed. "Now let's talk about this."

John was both surprised and amazed when Dean for once in his life sat quietly without anything to say. "Okay well we both know that you didn't mean for this to happen right?"

He watched as his son nodded. "And it isn't likely to ever happen again either?"

He smiled at Dean's snort. "Not freakin likely."

John took a moment just to enjoy the sound and the comment. "So what we have left is that you make a mistake, were punished and learned a lesson. So unless there is more to it than that I think we're done."

Dean looked relieved and while John didn't want to upset him further he still felt the need to tell him how he felt. "You know that today was both one of the worst days of my life and one of the best days. When I thought that you were gone well it all but did me in. Look at me Dean."

He turned Dean's face to his. "You are the most amazing son that a father could ever have. You are both smart and strong and you have a huge capacity for love and your devotion to this family is what holds us all together. You are the heart of Sammy and I Dean."

Ignoring the tears cascading down the handsome young face he continued. "And while I realize that you were born to be a warrior that fact still terrifies me. And like you I try to be all macho and strong and not let silly little things like my emotions get in the way. But you have to know that at the end of the day I am still your father and I would die if anything ever happened to you. You are the only reason that I exist son."

Now John permitted his own tears to fall and pulled Dean to him in a hug. The young man allowed himself to be hugged tightly for about a minute or two before John heard him muttering about emotional old men and John laughed out loud. He pulled away and looked at his son and shook his head in warning. "Dean…"

Now he watched as the younger hunter shrugged his shoulders. "What? All this thing needed was a freakin Hallmark movie of the week script."

John grinned delighted that Dean was suddenly so Dean again. "Hey can I go get Sammy now while all the tears and all that shit are still fresh? I bet I can scare the ever loving crap out of him?"

Just shaking his head in amazement as his oldest son John sat still as he did just that.

He fully expected them both to come back in the door in about ten minutes with Sam ready to kill Dean and Dean having the time of his life. He also knew that the emotional interlude was as close to facing his feelings as Dean ever came. And he accepted that the more things changed the more they stayed exactly the same. And both of his sons and their unusual relationship was a perfect example of that. Wiping the tears off of his own face he sat back and relaxed smiling and waiting for the floor show and delighted to be doing so.

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