Title: As A Family
Author: P.L. Wynter (wynter_rebel)
Pairings: gen
Fandom: Supernatural
Characters: John, slight Sam and Dean
Prompt: 038. Headstrong
Word Count: 870
Rating: PG-13
Warnings/Spoilers: A lot for "Dead Man's Blood."
Summary: "We're stronger as a family, Dad. We just are, and you know it." -Dean, "Dead Man's Blood"


"We're stronger as a family, Dad. We just are, and you know it." -Dean

John watched his sons sleep.

They both had unique sleeping positions that hadn't changed much over the years. Sam's was neat, pristine. His lanky body stretched straight. On occasion, he'd curl a leg up, or move a hand beneath his head. His face impassive, head tilted slightly to the side. Even the blankets he slept under were neat, pulled up to his chest, straight and settled. Dean's had always been the exact opposite. Mouth open, limbs sprawled, blankets messy and scrunched and untucked.

He knew the way they slept like he knew how to assemble a rifle in under 30 seconds. It was habit, something he'd didn't have to think about. But whenever he did, whenever he paused to look, he'd fumble. Fumble so bad it brought him to his knees. Because looking at them there, so vulnerable and innocent, so unaware and open, he wished things could be different.

He wished he didn't have to die.

It was finalized within John's mind that he wouldn't be walking away from this one. There had been a time when he thought it was possible. When he'd been able to live with missing limbs, scarred faces, broken bodies. But that was gone now and John knew it. He knew it in the bottom of his heart. It should be different. His sons thought they had been saving him by making him stay, by sucker punching him with family ties and pleads and resistance to let him go. And though they thought being together, fighting this god damn demon together, would save John's life, it was the exact opposite. With his sons there, John was sure to die.

It wasn't that he didn't have the will to live. Damn if he didn't wish they could kill this thing and be the family they once were. Damn if he didn't want to watch his sons go on to normal lives, get married, have kids and grand kids. Damn if he didn't want to die an old man of lung cancer or heart failure or some natural disease that old men get.

True he wouldn't fight with that reckless abandon he had planned on with his sons depending on him. But there was something far more dangerous now playing in his head and in his heart. Something he had felt all his life and had wanted to keep out of this final fight, with all his heart wanted to keep out.

John would give anything, anything, to make sure his sons lived through this. To make sure they walked away. Unscathed was too much to ask for, but scars would heal, scars could be concealed. Death could not. And if someone had to die, if in the end when they fought this thing and one of them had to die, it would be John. There was no question in his mind. His sons needed each other more than they needed him. He'd seen as much over the year they'd been together. They'd flourished. They'd risen and conquered and stuck by each other's side and lived. They could go on without him. But if his sons died, if he had to watch someone else he loved die, he wouldn't be able to go on. There'd be no bouncing back. John would do whatever it took to make sure he was the one to die. And he'd take that son of a bitch demon down with him.

He'd tried to make his sons understand. He'd tried to tell them that he didn't expect to make it through this fight, with or without them at his side. But they'd fought. They'd pleaded. They'd worn him down kicking and screaming. And in the end, he couldn't deny his sons. Dean had been right, they were stronger as a family. Stronger, but not invincible.

Even Winchesters ran out of luck sometimes. No hunter goes through this life without casualties. And sometimes, it's the hunter himself.

So John watched his sons sleep. He watched them shift and settle. He watched them put their lives in his hands and trust him to get them all out of this. John had never liked lying to his sons. But this was a lie he couldn't get around. If they knew, they'd never go along with it. Their minds would drift off each other and focus on him and it could get them killed. So he kept it to himself and silently asked whatever God was listening that one day they'd forgive him. They'd understand what he had to do.

Sam shifted in his sleep and rolled over, his eyes opening slightly to look at John. "Dad?" he murmured.

"Go back to sleep, Sammy," John said, his voice rough with emotion.

Sam didn't pick up on it, still half asleep as he nodded and turned his face towards Dean, settling again.

"What if you die? What if you die, Dad, and we could have done something about it?"

"I'm sorry," John whispered, thinking of Dean's words, thinking of the looks on his sons' faces. "You boys will be all right."

And John watched his sons sleep until morning.