It wasn’t the first time Sam Winchester found himself upended over his father’s knee. And he knew it wouldn’t be the last either. But something about the way John always held him down over his lap like he was a little boy again, the brute force behind every smack of his palm against Sam’s bare butt… made every time feel like his very first. With time, you’d think it’d get better or easier to handle somehow.
Au contraire… every new time was three times more painful, and six times more humiliating than the last one.
“Settle down. We haven’t even started yet.”
Sam rolled his eyes before wincing and shutting them tight, and wrung his fists into his brother’s checkered duvet. John’s hand fell about a dozen more times before Sam started to squeal. “Dad, stop alright! I’m sorry…”
“Are you? You’ve missed six training sessions in a row. At least till yesterday you had the decency to give me an alibi. Couldn’t even bother with one today could you?”
The smacks didn’t stop and Sam squirmed and jerked with every hit. He bit his lip, trying to gulp the angry sobs back down his throat. “I told you. I’ve been working on a science project Dad, I thought you’d remember.”
John huffed and shook his head. Sam knew his father was disappointed, but at this point he didn’t much care. Trust the man to forget the silly unimportant details about his kids like, oh, school.
“You finished that project three days ago, Sammy.”
Shit. He knew?
Sam couldn’t think of anything that would not be a blatant lie and which would only make John break out the damn belt, so he kept his mouth shut.
“You lied to me. You’ve been playing hooky with me and it’s got to stop now.”
Playing hooky, yeah right. Sam would have found the use of that expression amusingly ironic if he wasn’t in a world of escalating pain. Trying to be strong, he bit his lip hard but after another minute though, Sam broke again. “Okay! Okay! Please… enough!”
“You’re going to make up for all the missed sessions starting tomorrow morning, is that understood?”
Sam gritted his teeth and did not respond. John paused, the tautness in his son’s frame reeking of a defiance that should have evaporated twenty smacks ago.
“I’m waiting, Samuel.”
The ‘yes sir’ should have been automatic, forthcoming without even thinking about it. But it didn’t. Sam just continued to bite down on his lower lip harder until it bled. John spanked harder.
“Ow!! For God’s sake, Dad!”
“I cannot believe you would endanger not just yourself, but also Dean and me just because you’re too lazy to get up in the morning!”
Great. Just great. Why was he not surprised Dad was already blaming him for future failures on missions that hadn’t even happened? It was always his fault, wasn’t it? His golden firstborn Dean could never do no wrong. And Sam could never do no fucking right.
“Answer me, boy. I’m not going to take you on any more hunts if you don’t give me your hundred percent, you hear me?”
The spanking stopped. “What did you say?”
Fuck. Sam winced hard against the pain, against his own tears of rage and frustration and plowed ahead. “I said don’t take me then. I don’t want to go anyway.”
He hated those stupid missions. His dad’s futile quest for vengeance had taken over their whole lives. They were nowhere close to tracking that damn thing and keeping the faith was getting harder and harder with every passing year of Sam’s life, every year wasted of Sam’s life.
The silence seemed to stretch to eternity and beyond. His father’s solid presence beneath him had frozen up so hard it made Sam’s skin crawl. But it was too late to back down now. His chest heaved uncontrollably as he continued to rip the fabric in his hands to shreds, waiting for John to say something. Anything.
The voice was cold, colder than usual. Sam didn’t waste another second and sprang off his father’s lap as well as his brother’s bed. Turned away from John and pulled up his boxers and jeans hurriedly. Too scared to face John Winchester’s impending wrath.
“Samuel. Look at me.”
Sam swallowed. With no choice left he turned and struggled not to look away from John Winchester’s razor-sharp gaze.
“I’ll give you one more chance to think before you speak, it’s not that hard. You used to do it once upon a time. Before you turned thirteen I think.” John ground out each sarcastic word slowly, deliberately like he was talking to a four year old. “Did you really mean what you just said? Are you telling me that you don’t want to hunt?”
John exhaled, his disappointment palpable. Sam hated how his father was able to make him feel so small, so… so wrong, even when his super-sized head was telling him he was right, so right. John stood up. Sam was just about touching an even six feet but his father and brother still towered over him and he hated that as well.
“Sammy,” the boy could see his father was grasping for words that never really came easy to him. “Hunting is what we do. What this family is all about. I’ve spent fourteen years of my life…”
Sam snorted, interrupting his dad before he got all emotional and self-righteous and shit. “Don’t you mean my life?” And then he couldn’t stop. “All my life, this is all I remember ever doing. Hunting, training, moving, living like a bunch of homeless drifters.”
“No it’s Sam and I don’t want to do this anymore! All I want is a normal life. Regular friends, friends I can hang out with and be myself with. Friends I never make because you never let me stay in one place long enough to get to know anyone. You never let anybody get close enough to know me! And I’m so sick and tired, alright? Dad I… I just want to be like everyone else.”
“Sammy… you’re not like everyone else.”
“And whose fault is that?”
Sam watched his father as he swallowed, hard, then nodded curtly, just once… then turned and walked out of the room.
Just like that.
Stunned, Sam fell back onto Dean’s bed, only to whimper with the re-ignited pain in his behind but he didn’t stand up. He’d been on the verge of erupting for weeks now. A part of him was relieved that he’d finally gotten it all off his chest, and yet another big part was frazzled by his father’s complete lack of reaction.
Breathe, he instructed himself. Fought to ignore the sharp prickling both under his butt and in the corners of his eyes. “This is a good thing,” he whispered to his empty room.
He didn’t have to train five nights a week anymore and he didn’t have to spend weekends staking out cemeteries and mausoleums, so he’d basically have all that time to himself. Time to join the soccer team, maybe even basketball since he had the height for it now. And spend more time to make the friends he longed for so desperately.
The last couple of months in San Antonio had been a revelation. The guys in his class genuinely seemed to want to hang out. They took him seriously, considering he was tall and from what they’d probably seen of him in the shower, they knew he could just as easily kick anyone’s ass if he needed to. But man, the biggest surprise was the girls. Sam was getting hit on by freaking hot cheerleader types! He felt their eyes following him around wherever he went, the kind of attention he’d only ever seen people lavish on Dean.
Sam smiled shyly at the thought of Vanessa, the A-grader hottie who always smiled at him with such sweetness in her eyes. Oh yeah. He’d done the right thing, alright. He was sure of it.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?”
Obviously, and expectedly, Dean did not share his sentiments. And for some reason Dean’s reaction was freaking the hell out of Sam more than Dad’s ever did. He managed to keep it together somehow and stood up to face off with Dean. “What’s the problem, bro? Can’t handle a job without me watchin’ your back?”
Sam knew he was taunting, and a part of him was horrified at the words that were pouring out of his mouth. But the rest of him was still determined to cut himself loose, from the damn Winchester family business, no matter what the costs.
Dean responded to the challenge, as Sam knew he would. “Don’t be a smart-ass, Sammy. You don’t have the fucking balls to carry it off.” Sam glowered back, but Dean wasn’t done yet. “You know as well as I do that Dad does not need our help, Sammy. All he needs is for us to believe in what he does. Believe in the battle that he’s been fighting for so long!”
Sam wanted to roll his eyes in defiance, but somehow he couldn’t. “I don’t see how vengeance could ever possibly…”
“Vengeance? You really think we do this out of obsession for vengeance, Sammy?”
Sam huffed and started to turn away because this argument could take all night without consequence. His brother would never understand him… regardless of their faith or lack thereof, Dean really should have been named John Winchester fucking Junior.
“Just leave me alone okay, I don’t wanna talk about this.”
Dean closed the distance between them and grabbed his arm yanking at it roughly. He looked so livid, Sam half-expected his brother to punch him in the nose.
“You wanna be a jock? Go ahead. Make friends, go to the freaking prom, whatever! Go have your normal life Sammy. But don’t you dare trivialize what Dad and I do here, you hear me?”
Sam held his tongue this time, wisely, letting Dean glare him down with disgust before finally storming out of the bedroom. He didn’t return to his bed that night. And Sam tossed and turned in his own until the wee hours of the morning.
He had done the right thing. There was nothing wrong with wanting to be normal. He was not the bad guy here, was he? Hell even Dad couldn’t think of anything to say to counteract his logic, right?
Sam sighed. His earlier feelings of victory didn’t last too long, and something else… something far heavier and darker settled onto his heart instead.
Life carried on.
Sam continued to go to school, hang out with his new friends and gradually made his way into the inner circle of the social who’s who at Kennedy High. He got into the basketball team, which helped him continue the level of physical activity that he’d become accustomed to. Helped take the edge off, lose some of that pent up nervous energy festering inside of him. He also attended a couple of parties and had his first taste of Sam Adams. Didn’t like it too much though, heck he didn’t like it at all.
The good grades came automatically, Sam didn’t have to work too hard for them. Sure he was filling up a lot of his time that he would’ve otherwise spent researching supernatural stuff for Dad pouring over more academic references than usual, but he didn’t realize it. And then there was Vanessa… they’d already been out on a couple dates in the past two weeks.
Yeah, life was good. Then why were his insides still twisted like something horrible was about to happen?
Sometimes in class, his mind drifted and he wondered what his family was up to. Sam hadn’t seen much of Dean or John of late. They’d been working on something major in a neighboring town. Like a whole nest of werewolves or something, they hadn’t felt it necessary to tell him. Of course he hadn’t felt the need to ask either, so what if the curiosity was damn near killing him already.
It wasn’t like they needed his help anyway.
Mr. Yeager droned on about Faulkner as Sam swallowed the lump of bitterness lodged in his throat and looked out the window. He thought back to the conversation he’d had with John last night over dinner.
“So, Sam, how’s school?”
Sam shrugged and avoided eye contact, as he’d been doing for two weeks now, concentrated on the mashed potatoes in his plate instead. “The usual.”
“Dean tells me you’ve joined the basketball team.”
Sam squinted at his big brother, who was completely unconcerned as he stuffed his mouth with a giant piece of flame-grilled chicken. “Y-yeah.”
“Good. That’s good. You better keep working out even if you’re… you know, not training anymore. It’s good to stay athletic and ready for…”
“I joined up because it’s fun, Dad. It’s a sport. You remember what a sport is, don’t you?”
He couldn’t help it. The man had hardly been around since their argument and even when he was, he barely even spoke a word to Sam directly. It was always Dean this and Dean that. Never Sam anything. And now he wanted to talk, why? Just so he could lecture him again about the importance of fucking training?
Dean’s voice dropped a couple of decibels in warning. “Sam…”
“It’s okay, Deano.”
Sam set his jaw in a rigid line and looked up at his father. John seemed… like he always did when he wasn’t smiling. Cold, distant. Unreadable.
“Sam can do the dishes. Go get geared up, load the guns and stock up on more vials. I’ll be back, should call Caleb and let him know we’re taking the job.”
With that, John stood up and left the dining table. As soon as he was out of earshot, Dean turned to Sam and hissed. “What is wrong with you Sam? Why can’t you just let it go already?”
Sam’s eyes threatened to tear up at that alone. Sure it was easy for Dean to side up with Dad like he always did. John never gave Dean the silent treatment did he?
“He’s the one who keeps forcing the issue.”
“The fucking training issue! Why the hell do I need to train if I’m not hunting anymore?”
Dean huffed, rubbed his eyes once before lowering his head closer to Sam’s. “He was only trying to talk to you, Sammy. Don’t you see? So maybe he said the first thing that popped up in his mind. Maybe he thought basketball would be a safe bet to start with but you just chewed his head right off.”
Sam looked away, feeling slightly guilty about that. Pushed his chair back and stood up to go… somewhere.
He paused and exhaled loudly. “Dishes I know. I’ll take care of it.”
“It’s not that.”
Sam bit his lip, and turned around. Dean didn’t look too angry anymore, which was a massive relief. Instead he just looked… sympathetic. Towards who, Sam wasn’t quite sure, but he had his suspicions. Dean’s voice was a soft, unhurried whisper. “He just needs to know you can take care of yourself, kid.”
Sam turned and fled to his room before another word could be spoken. All his instincts screamed at him to run to his father’s room instead, but he didn’t. He was a big boy now, he shouldn’t need to feel his dad’s arms wrapped around him or beg for his forgiveness anymore. He shouldn’t let the big fat traitorous drops of water shining in his eyes fall.
Sam sighed as the last class of the day finally ended, then gathered his stuff and snuck out the back door just so he didn’t run into his pals again. The constant obligation to smile and small-talk and be all freaking social to fifty different people every day was new and frankly quite overbearing.
He walked back home from the library in hopes that the cold November air would help clear his head, but it wasn’t really working. The clock was striking seven when he closed the front door behind him, only to find the other two Winchesters getting ready to go out. Sam frowned and waited to catch Dean alone before pitching the question casually, like he couldn’t care any less, really.
“What’s going on?”
“Wolves in Waco. Gotta go.” Dean chuckled, “Hey that…”
“Rhymed I know. Thought that gig was over?”
Sam swallowed as Dean went about filling more vials of silver nitrate. “So this is how it’s gonna be? You guys won’t even tell me what you’re doing now?”
Dean looked at him briefly before turning away. Which obviously prompted Sam to resort to more mocking. “What if I need to come down and bail your asses out huh?”
Dean snorted. “Yeah right. You and what army, kiddo?” Then continued without giving Sam a chance to so much as pout. “I ordered pizza, money’s right there on your desk. ETA o-hundred hours, and you better save a slice for me or there’ll be hell to pay.”
Sam mutely nodded and let his brother pass. Dean let him know of their whereabouts as always. Then rattled away the last minute instructions which was usually John’s job but Dean was forced to do it for recent hunts. He sure could shorten the hell out of it though.
“Salt the doors and windows, locks, forty five. Check?”
“And dishes. Don’t forget the dishes or I’ll wake you up in the middle of the night and make you do them.”
“I know, go away.”
Dean shrugged into his leather jacket and quickly ruffled Sam’s hair. The younger brother squirmed away as always, muttering “jerk” under his breath and Dean just chuckled before walking out. John was already behind the wheel, definitely not looking at Sam as the young boy stood with his arms crossed at the door. Fine. Sam bit his lip and looked away himself. Slammed the door behind him more forcefully than usual.
Waiting was a bitch. Not that Sam was actually waiting or even needed to, of course.
Sam lay stretched out on the couch in front of the television and floated in and out of restless sleep until midnight. That was when he thought of going back to his room. If John caught him sleeping on the couch he’d… he’d what?
Would he even care?
Sam sighed, the bitterness returning with a vengeance to the fore. Deciding the bed was infinitely more comfortable anyway, Sam got up. His family should be done with the hunt by now, must be on their way back.
The next time he blinked his eyes open was at two am. Dean’s bed was still empty and so was the rest of the house. Sam was wide awake now, the ever-familiar anxiety starting to settle in the empty pit of his stomach.
Three am. Sam paced back and forth in the living room. He’d tried John’s cellphone about thirty times in the past hour, only to get more and more frustrated at the lack of response from the other side. Even if it was on silent it should damn well vibrate. Could John be ignoring his calls because… because they were from Sam?
No. Dad was mightily pissed sure, but he couldn’t possibly be that heartless. Could he?
Sam’s throat was parched and his hands couldn’t stop shaking just as his feet wouldn’t stop pacing. His family was in trouble, he just knew it. That terrible feeling of foreboding from before, rapidly rushed up his throat and try as he might, there was simply no escape from it. His breathing became shallow and it took every ounce of the genetic Winchester determination in him not to… freakin’ bawl.
Think, Sammy, think.
Could he find a cab at this hour of the morning? He didn’t have a driver’s license yet but he knew how to drive. So what if Dad would kill him if he so much as touched his brand new truck? Right now he’d give anything to hear his father’s voice, even if it was angry as hell. But what if they called and needed something and he wasn’t here to pick up? Bad idea. Sam started to pace. Okay so there was a protocol to be followed in such situations, because it clearly wasn’t the first time that John was late coming back from a mission. But for some reason this time was worse, God so much worse.
Sam looked at the clock again. He was supposed to wait one more hour and then call Pastor Jim or Caleb or some guy called Bobby who was apparently a friend of Dad’s to come and get Sam. The numbers were all tacked on the fridge. The closest would have to be Pastor Jim in Pasadena. John Winchester always preferred to work alone but hell they’d almost considered calling his old friend for help on this one. Which is when it struck him, hard… like a sucker punch to his gut.
He should have been there with his family. Sam should have been watching their backs, loading their guns when they were out, salting and burning the motherfucking sonsofbitches that dared hurt his family.
“God… Dean…” Sam called out for his brother without intent or design. His eyes watered and his lip trembled, and the teenager covered his ears tightly as if trying to drown out the accusatory voices in his head. He was never going to be able to forgive himself if anything happened to them.
To hell with the fucking protocol. He picked up the phone and counted seven rings before a sleep-filled voice answered on the other end.
“Pastor Jim! It’s Sam… Sam Winchester.”
The sleep magically evaporated. “Sam? What is it?”
A minute of probably completely nonsensical rambling about werewolves and pissed off brothers and fathers later, Jim Murphy sighed into the phone. “Sammy, I need you to calm down. This is so unlike you, I don’t know what is going on but I’ll be sure to talk to John about it when he gets back.”
Sam winced and bit his lip hard. “…if he comes back.”
There was a long pause on the other end, and then, “Get a hold of yourself, soldier. What’s the ETA?”
It stung, Pastor Jim’s casual transition back to his marine days, and his complete apathy toward Sam’s misery. The boy swallowed the tears down and responded as he was trained to do. “Twelve midnight, sir.”
“It’s three twenty. Okay. Let’s just give them another forty minutes, if they don’t call or return by…”
“But… if they’re in trouble, if we wait any longer…”
“I understand, son. But your father won’t be too happy if you ignore his rules, possibly rushing into the middle of a hunt and stirring up more trouble. I suggest you stay put okay? I’m on my way to you now.”
“I’m fine! You should go to Waco instead and…”
The line went dead. Of course. Stupid hunters, even now ignoring him like he was nothing but the kid they were babysitting. Sam hung up, fuming… gradually realizing he now had absolutely nothing left to do or distract himself with. Nothing but his thoughts of guilt and regret. Nothing he could do but hope and wish, maybe pray…
His eyes wandered over the wide expanse of their sparse living room, eventually resting on the rustic old bookcase in the farthest corner. Books, good. He could read… something. Divert his restless mind. Sam’s feet moved almost on their own, carrying him steadily but urgently to the small collection they’d got started. Books on the occult, ancient religious manuscripts, Greek mythologies and urban legends, the Grimm brothers fairy tales and a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes… it was Dean’s favorite book as a child even though he’d never admit to it.
Sam gingerly opened the case and reached in with a trembling hand. Hesitantly caressed the worn out stem of the little paperback, looking so small and unworthy, leaning against a thick English translation of the Book of the Dead. Awesome. His family was dead, and he was reading science fiction fantasy. That’s when his guilt spilled over, in the form of furious self-disgust.
The sound of glass shattering heavily echoed for about half a minute after Sam shoved the case to the floor. Maybe that was why he didn’t hear the Impala pull up or the main door jerk open.
“WHAT… the hell?”
Sam turned to the source of the voice, his face contorted with absolute relief. “Dean!!”
Running to Dean and throwing himself at his big brother was at once both the first and the last thing he could think of doing. So of course, he decided to stay where he was, glued to his spot right next to the scene of the crime. Dean apparently, for all his tough macho talk, had no such inhibitions. He was the one rushing to Sam the very next instant.
His hands were grabbed and Sam mutely let his big brother check him for cuts or bruises. John was not so considerate when he walked in a couple of seconds later.
“What the hell is going on here? Sammy? I need an explanation right now!!”
There was so much he wanted to say… they were late, they were still angry, he betrayed them, they were not dead, Sam’s betrayal didn’t get them dead… But all that came out, all that survived the scrutinizing glare of John Winchester, was an overwhelming urge to bury himself in his father’s arms and he didn’t give a damn what Dean or anyone said.
They were back. Safe. That’s all that mattered.
*** Dean ***
So Dean hardly needed any more reasons to go out at night. But for the past two weeks, he was also spending most of his days outside the house, least as much as he could get away with. His job as a temp instructor at the local gym paid good money, and especially his female clientele couldn’t possibly be happier. But despite being surrounded by so many half-naked leotard clad beauties all day, Dean’s head never stopped hurting. The air in their tiny rented house was so thickly laced with tension, it followed him around wherever he went.
Sometimes Dean felt like he could hardly breathe.
He tried talking to Sam, but that didn’t go so well, expectedly. His brother had recently opened his eyes to a whole new world he didn’t know existed before. Dean couldn’t really blame him. After all, he had gone through his own phase of conflict at the same age. Except Dean got over it pretty darn quick, in fact… it was hardly a fair fight. Manic depressive father plus pain in the ass little brother versus… everything else? Was a no-brainer.
But it wasn’t going to be so easy for Sam. He’d always had a hard time understanding why they did what they did. Moving around so much, living out of their duffel bags, never being allowed to own more than two toys ‘cause there simply was no space in the boot of the Impala. Dean sighed, as he placed a few more vials of liquid silver (Sam's idea) into his jacket pocket and a couple of syringes he’d swiped from the nearby vet’s place. Maybe he should talk to Dad instead he mused, not feeling too optimistic but it was worth the try.
They were on their way back from Waco when he managed to gather his thoughts, and the courage to speak. “Permission to speak freely? Dad?”
He threw in the “Dad” to let John know what he wanted to say had nothing to do with the hunt, and John got it. He looked at the boy sharply before turning back towards the road. For a moment Dean thought he was going to refuse. “Go ahead.”
Dean gulped. “I know you’re disappointed…”
Dean waited, but John didn’t bother to complete his sentences like he usually did. Damn. “… I don’t think it’s about you or… or what we do. It’s got everything to do with this new gang of friends he’s made at school this year and…”
“He thinks his dad is a revenge-obsessed whack job, and his brother a pushover robot with no mind of his own.”
Touché. Dean knew John could be uncannily harsh with words, but that was just the way he was. Ex-marine and all. Dean never took it to heart, which made a part of him wonder if Sammy was right about Dean after all.
“He doesn’t mean it, Dad. He just throws those things at you because ‘I wanna shoot hoops and go on study dates with the cheerleader’ sounds too weak. And it’s a passing phase, really. He’ll come around…”
John looked at him then, smiled sardonically. “Really? You think so?”
Okay, so Dean didn’t know that for sure, but he knew his brother. And Sam didn’t look too happy with the way things were himself. Surely, he was beginning to realize the whole social circle deal wasn’t really worth it? How could basketball ever be as thrilling or as meaningful as what they did?
“Yeah, I do, Dad. And I think he is just waiting for you to… I don’t know. Make the first move or something…”
Instead you are freezing him out. That is not the way you deal with Sammy, Dad! Dean wanted to yell at John, and not for the first time in his life. Just another occasion where he wished his father would do a better job of, well, being a father.
John’s chuckle pulled him out of his thoughts. “Sometimes I think I should have been the big brother and you should have been his old man.”
“I bully him way more than you do, and you take care of him the way I should.”
Shit. Dean didn’t want to step on John’s toes obviously. “Dad I didn’t mean…”
“I know, kiddo, it’s okay. I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”
Dean waited. But John just went back to driving, a couple of seconds later he turned on the radio, found the college football channel and zoned out.
The nineteen year old gave up then. He sighed, and leaned back against his seat, turned to look out the window. He’d tried. Tried telling Sammy he didn’t need to keep acting the part of the angry young brat just to get Dad to talk to him. Tried telling John that fifteen year olds should be allowed to try different things in life and make up their own minds about stuff. There was nothing more he could do. Except hope, that this latest fight didn’t tear his family apart for good.
So the hunt had taken longer than expected, but in the end it came down to a simple chase-and-decapitate. No biggie. Ordinarily Dean would call Sam up just to piss him off ‘cause it was two in the morning and a half-asleep Sam would grumble and call him a jerk and Dean would call him a little bitch in return. But this time, for some reason, he decided not to bother Sam. Let him sleep for a change.
Bad move. And as it turned out later, even if Dean had wanted to call, he couldn’t have.
The noise from the shattering glass was so loud and scary even the neighboring houses’ lights went on. Dean and John dashed out of the car and ran into the house, fearing the worst. Dean’s heart was pounding so hard he thought it would burst.
Please be okay, please be okay…
The door opened and he was the first one in, blessed relief washing down his panicked adrenaline when he saw that Sam was okay. The bookcase? Not so much.
Dad barely flinched as his younger son came practically flying at him, opening his arms wide and promptly wrapping them around Sam’s slender torso holding him tight. As tightly as Sam was gripping him back. Dean sighed, his father’s face was an open book in that very moment. He could see how much John must’ve missed… this… in the past two weeks. And Sam was shaking real hard, which made John hug him even harder.
“It’s okay… shh… it’s okay…”
Dean shook his head and looked away, his family really was just a bunch of severely repressed drama queens underneath it all. He knelt down then and started to separate the books from the shards of glass all around him. That was when Sam’s whiny bitch voice behind him floated to his ears.
“I’ve been calling for hours, why didn’t you pick up?”
The words were muffled in Dad’s thick leather jacket but Dean heard his lingering fear and resentment anyway. He looked up just in time to catch the questioning glance his father threw at him. A hand reached for his jeans pocket and he frowned. “I must’ve dropped it on the cliff when I fell…”
Sam stilled, turning his head slightly to look at his brother and maybe ascertain if Dean was lying. Of course he wasn’t, why would he? John sighed, and stroked his youngest son’s hair, a rare gesture coming from him. “It’s alright. We’ll get a new one.”
Sam pulled away from him then, leaving John’s arms achingly empty. Because for some indecipherable reason, that was absolutely the wrong thing to say.
“That’s it? You’re just gonna let him get away with this?”
Yeah, Dad had been saying a lot of wrong things lately. There was hardly anything that did not tick his volatile fifteen-year old brother off these days. John frowned back. “It’s just a cellphone, Sammy.”
Sam was practically screaming. “And what about me, huh? I called like a hundred times! I was going out of my mind trying to reach you, not knowing if you were…”
Of course. That would explain the shattered bookcase, and the royal-ass temper tantrum. John sighed and rubbed his eyes slowly, and Dean recognized the bone-deep exhaustion. He knew what John was about to do and say, probably even before John did himself. No. Dad, no. Don’t let it slide again…
“Look, it’s really late. Why don’t we talk about this in the morning, okay?”
Now he’d done it. Dean grimaced just before Sam exploded. “Everything Dean does wrong, hey no problem!! I miss one stupid session and you don’t talk to me for weeks!! Why the hell do you even bother any more? Oh wait, that’s right. You FUCKING DON’T!!”
Sam stood there, his shoulders heaving with the effort of his heavy breathing. Eyes shining with something wet and his lips trembling with all of his pent-up rage. Seething. Daring Dad to do something about it. But there was only so much that Dean could take of this stupid crap. Sam was hurting, and their father was too damn busy having an ‘Et tu Brutus’ moment to do anything about it. Fuck it, he himself was going to have to…
“Dean, go to your room.”
“That’s an order.”
“Fine! But just so you know, this is not about the cellphone anymore.”
Then he turned around and stalked out, a barely visible smile playing on his lips. About damn time.
*** John ***
John cursed himself for the millionth time for passing on his severe repressedness to both his sons. Thankfully Sam would never be as bad as Dean… the last two weeks alone had taken such a huge toll on the boy and he was now ready to burst.
And then he cursed himself a million-and-oneth time, because this was all his fault. Dean was right, he should have dealt with this two weeks ago. But he’d been too busy feeling sorry for himself, too busy holding himself together pretending that his youngest son’s apparent… desertion wasn’t hurting him. And it so happened that he’d been really occupied with a couple of jobs at once, and so never really had the chance to process the way things had gone down earlier with Sam. All John knew was this ache in his chest, because it’d seemed like his greatest fear had just come true. The fear that his sons would not understand the hard choices he’d had to make in life… that they would reject him and everything his life stood for… that his sons would not be around to see (and maybe help) when he finally tracked Mary’s killer, that yellow-eyed sonofabitch and cut him down.
Oh well, no time for any of that crap now. He’d indulged his selfishness far too long and his son had meanwhile been suffering the consequences, thinking John had given up on him. How could he? Damn it his sons were all he had left. He needed to fix this, now. And before Sam decided to share any more evaluations of his fatherly abilities, or lack thereof.
The first thing he had to do was send Dean away, give the younger boy whatever privacy he could get.
“Fine! But just so you know, this is not about the cellphone anymore.”
Sam glared at Mr. Obvious’ retreating back for the both of them, but didn’t say a word. John hated doing this to Dean, especially right now when all his big brother instincts must be screaming at him to stick around and make sure Sammy was okay. John’s distant behavior these past two weeks hadn’t just been hard on Sam alone. Dean may have also lost some of that probably undeserved faith he had in John, faith that John would always do the right thing for his sons. John knew he needed to earn that faith back. Now.
“Start talking.” He threw out, for lack of a better opening.
The son just looked away. “There is nothing to talk about.”
“What happened to the bookcase?”
The boy shrugged like he couldn’t care less and looked away. Ugh. This was going to be a truly long night. John rubbed his eyes again. “Sammy… I need some straight answers or we’re going to be here all night. Is that what you want?”
He scowled. “Don’t pretend you care about what I want! You know I’ve had it up to here,” gesturing with a hand at his chin, “with you and your stupid hunter friends. I’m not a kid anymore, alright?”
Okay this was getting way too confusing. “Yes. You. Are! And what ever did Jimmy do to you?”
He crossed his arms and looked away, full on sulk mode.
“Is he on his way right now? Why did you call him? You know you’re not supposed to until the four hour limit is up, right?”
Oh boy. John swallowed, wishing he had the way with words Mary used to have. “Sammy, were you scared because you couldn’t reach us, and you didn’t know what to do?”
He sniveled then, wiping hurriedly at the corner of his left eye. “I wasn’t scared,” he ground out with as much petulance as he could muster, and it was a lot. John wanted nothing more but to pull Sam close and hold him to his chest like he was six months old again.
“We have been late before, son. But we’ve always made it back within the limit. You jumped the gun this time. Why, did you think something would happen to us tonight?”
“Is it because, maybe, just maybe… you felt guilty? For not coming with us?”
Now he really looked scared, his eyes running towards John’s just as fast as they kept darting away. The father didn’t need to hear the words. Sam’s body language was loud and clear enough. John couldn’t help but feel a little gratified because Sam may have rejected John the hunter, but he still needed his dad. But he sure didn’t seem to want to be anywhere near him right now.
“I’m going to bed.”
“No you’re not.”
And that was enough for Sam to start shrieking again, making John wince. “Stop telling me what to do!”
John sighed and moved towards the dining table. “Who’s telling? I’m ordering you, soldier. Get your butt over here right now.”
That tone, John had used it way too often in the past fifteen years and no it didn’t get any easier. Sam recognized it soon enough and his eyes went impossibly wide, but he was still angry enough to stand his ground. Brave kid.
“Do I need to start counting?” John hated counting, almost as much as his boys did.
Sam took a step back then, just as John took one forward. “You don’t get to… to… do that anymore.”
“I’m not Dean, alright!!”
“Okay wait, listen… you can’t do this…”
Too late. John crossed over to Sam in two long strides and grabbed his son’s arm just before he could break into a run out the house. He blocked out his boy’s near wordless sounds of protests – half enraged, half frightened, but mostly just desperately longing to make the hurt stop. He knew they would address everything soon enough. It wouldn’t have taken him long to overpower his son’s struggles even if Sam was making a concerted effort. John wrapped his huge biceps around his son’s slender torso from the side, with both Sam’s arms tucked in against his chest tight so he couldn’t lash out.
“Dad…” his boy whimpered, and John buried his face into Sam’s hair, pressing his lips hard to the scalp like he hadn’t done in… let’s just say a really, really long time.
“Shh… it’s okay. I got you.”
Then before his heart could completely melt, he strode over with Sam to the dining table nearby and pulled out a hard-backed chair. Sat on it and tugged Sam down… how he managed to lower and drape the lanky length of his growing son across his lap, he couldn’t say. Sam struggled to pull away but John was simply bigger and stronger and at last his teenaged butt was perfectly positioned for the intended punishment.
“Hold still Samuel. Don’t make me take out the belt.”
Sam froze at the threat, for which John was truly grateful. He pulled the thin pajama bottoms down and the boxers came with them. Not that they would have provided any protection, but John knew from past experience that baring Sam always made him acquiesce a lot faster. And God knew he did not wish to stretch it anymore than necessary. He knew the first smack was shocking more than anything. His boy was resilient even at his young age, and just as stubborn as his old man. The pain would start to build up after half a dozen swats and then Sam would forget all about the belt and try to get away again. He sighed, pushing Sam back into position and continued to spank him.
“I’m sorry son. I should have delivered a full spanking two weeks ago instead of leaving it incomplete.”
“That was leaving it incomplete?!?!”
John had to chuckle, he rested his hand on the small of Sam’s back and the boy’s taut form also relaxed, just for a bit. “Listen and listen carefully Sammy. This is how it’s going to be. You will attend all your trainings like you did before. If you have homework you do it in the evenings. But every morning at o-six hundred…”
“Fine, o-five hundred then.”
Sam groaned really loud at that and John bit back another chuckle. They’d of course negotiate the hell out of it later. For now he was glad to see his kid starting to act like himself again.
“You train with me, or you work out with your brother. Regardless of whether you accompany us on future missions. Or not. Do I make myself clear?”
Sam was panting so quietly, it scared John a little. The left hand wrapped around Sam’s waist pulled the boy closer to himself, and his voice when he spoke next was softer than before. “You don’t have to hunt if you don’t want to, Sammy. I leave that decision entirely up to you. But I need you to always be prepared. That’s all I ask. Can you do that for me?”
One hand slid into Sam’s hair and caressed gently, which is how he felt the very subtle nod and John was relieved. For once he seemed to have said something right.
“Good. Now for the rest…” He raised his right hand again and Sam ducked his head, bracing himself for the next round. Nothing could have prepared him for the hard smack that followed, of course. Nothing ever did.
“Oww!!! Jeez, Dad!”
“You know I have no patience for tantrums and prissy fits, Samuel.”
Four swats landed on the crest of Sam’s butt, alternating uniformly between his burning cheeks. “You don’t destroy furniture, leased one at that, just because you’re upset. And you don’t yell at your brother for absolutely no fault of his. Understand?”
“It was so his fault!”
“Oh yeah? And what did the bookcase do to you?”
“It was in the way!”
John huffed, exasperated at the very expectation that he was supposed to understand his baby boy’s weird teenage logic. Shaking his head, he brought his hand down four more times, really hard, this time eliciting more than the occasional gasp and a genuine sob from the boy.
“Ah okay, okay! Understood!”
“Okay then,” John said way too brightly for Sam’s comfort and wrapped it up with a couple more swats at the base of the boy’s scorching butt. Sam gasped and finally let the rest of the sobs trapped in his throat escape. It broke John’s heart to hear those sounds, but he also knew it was the catharsis Sam needed to let go of the bitterness of the past two weeks, and move on. He had to release his guilt, and think about what he really wanted to do rationally. And no matter what Sam decided, John had to… just… learn to accept it.
Live with it.
“Shhh… it’s over kiddo. All done.”
As gently as he could, John tugged the boxers and pajamas back into place and rubbed the boy’s heaving back. Sam slowly pushed himself up until he was standing beside the older man. Adjusted his short tee shirt and wiped at his tears-soaked face like a three year old.
How could a father resist a sight like that? John sighed, not believing how ridiculously sappy he was being, but getting up anyway. He opened his arms and for the second time that night, Sam practically flew into his embrace, clinging to his father with all his might.
“Dad? I’m sorry…”
The father sighed, “Okay Sammy, everything’s okay now. Shhh…”
John rocked him gently, until the sniveling completely subsided.
*** Dean ***
Dean paced back and forth in the room he shared with his little brother. Waiting, wondering… hoping Sammy was okay. The smacking sounds had ceased some ten minutes ago, and the little sniveling sounds that Sammy made when he was trying to stop crying had also died away some time after. He wished there was something he could do, but this was between his brother and his father. And despite Sam’s best attempts to try and drag him into it… Dean couldn’t possibly protect him from this. Didn’t think he’d even want to.
A good half hour passed before the door slid open and Sam walked in, avoiding eye contact with Dean and quietly slipping under the covers of his bed. On his stomach of course. Dean deliberated for awhile before walking over to his brother’s side and gingerly sat down on the bed next to him. “You okay?”
Sam nodded, not looking at Dean.
“Still mad at me?”
Dean smiled, because this time Sam did look at him. Scratched his nose softly before turning his head the other way on the bed. “I was never mad at you, Dean.”
Dean knew that, of course. He shook his head, recognizing a dismissal when he saw one. Couldn’t resist running his hand through Sam’s soft hair a couple of times, before he got up and collapsed onto his own bed. He was exhausted, the hunt had not been too complex but a physically strenuous one, and the drama that followed after had zapped him completely. Just when his eyes started to droop, Sam spoke.
“I’m coming with you.”
Dean woke up again. “Are you sure?”
The silence lasted long enough to make Dean uncomfortable.
“Someone’s gotta watch your backs. And your frigging cell phones.”
The older brother chuckled. The sputtering of Pastor Jim’s old pickup pulling into their driveway wasn’t motivation enough to drag him out of bed. Dean lay flat on his back with his hands clasped under his head, wishing for this tenuous peace to last forever… for Sam to quit fighting Dad and Dad to quit riding Sam. He wished they could go back to being the way they once were again. Brothers in arms. Together forever… and all that shit.
It wasn’t going to happen, of course. Dean knew that too. Sam may have sacrificed his dreams for his family for now. But sooner or later he was going to start feeling trapped again. And then nothing they could say or do would be strong enough to hold Sam back. Nothing.
Oh well, Dean closed his eyes. A man can dream.
*** END ***