By gale

SUMMARY: John has two sons, and not a lot of time.

John’s known his days were numbered since that first morning on the beach, when he looked down and saw his toes looking back at him. Miracles don’t just happen randomly, for no reason, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t come without a price. He’s lied to himself sometimes, more than once, but not about that.

It’s not something he knows the details of, but he can feel it under his skin and in his bones. The days are ticking off, going-going-gone, and he only has so long to teach a replacement. He can’t be sure something will happen to him, but he’s read his Campbell. He knows his myths. The teacher guides his replacement and steps aside. And since John knows damn well there’s no way he’d step aside unless he was physically incapable—

He knows how his story will end. And he’s all right with it, really. He’s been given a brief respite, allowed to do what he was born to do. And he has his legs back. There are worse ways to spend the time you have left.

He’d thought it would be Walt; the boy has power, but it’s all so *vague*. So unfocused. There’s talent there, and skill, but it needs time to nurture. And if there’s one thing John doesn’t have a lot of, it’s time. Besides, Walt has a father, and if Michael’s not exactly good at parenting yet, he’s getting there. John will do what he can with the time he has, but he’s not sure how much that’ll be, and that’s what grates at him.

So it will have to be Boone. The boy had come to him, after all, and he hadn’t run, not even after the visions he’d had. He’s the opposite of Walt – no power at all, fumbling and uncertain in a way that John wouldn’t expect in someone his age. He’s desperate, too, which will either be a help or a hindrance, and for the life of him John can’t figure out which.

It doesn’t help that the two of them don’t like each other. Boone’s jealous of the way Walt picks everything up – hunting, the knives – on his first try, though John’s tried to tell him that that’s part of who Walt is. Walt, for his part, is jealous that Boone has liberties he doesn’t, because he’s ten and has his father around. John’s tried to tell him that it’s only a matter of age, that he’ll get there eventually.

Talking to both of them results in a lot of shrugging and averted eyes. It’s enough to make John wish he could ground them.

But then, that’s the point, isn’t it? They’re similar animals: Boone, casting around for something – some*one* - to belong to, for a purpose; Walt is looking for a father figure, someone to guide him. They’re not so dissimilar as you would think on first notice.

One white, one black. John’s noticed that, too.

And the hell of it is, John knows that when – not if, *when* - he’s gone, they’ll be left to their own devices. And that’s the scariest part of all.

It wouldn’t take a lot to warp either of them to something darker. Walt would be dangerous enough, especially once he’s been trained in his abilities; but Boone might still be desperate, and John’s seen enough campaigns to know that desperate men are the most dangerous.

He can’t tell either of them this, of course. It would just put ideas in their heads, and right now that’s the last thing John wants. But he can’t think of anyone else to tell, either, and that’s the damning part. The best he can think to do is to have them look out for each other.

He’ll have to do it soon, he knows. He’ll have to tell Boone to keep an eye on Walt, to teach him the things his father never will: how to defend himself, how to defend others, that hurting someone to protect people you love isn’t always a bad thing. And he’ll have to tell Walt to look out for Boone, to nudge him when he needs it, to watch his back, because that’s what brothers do for each other.

John will have to give them up, sooner or later, and not because he wants to. And it will kill him even if nothing or no one else does, because they are his sons, and he loves them.

He only has so much time, and too much to teach.


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