Learn the Hard Way
The Impala raced along the dark, two-lane blacktop like an ebony ghost, silent save for the deep, confident rumble of her engine as the car’s headlights cast a hazy, yellow shroud over the old, cracked asphalt of the road. The car and its two passengers sped past shadowy outlines of houses, trees, fences and barns, mile after mile falling away in the rear view mirror. The apocalypse had begun, Lucifer was free, and the Winchesters had places to go and demons to kill.
They veered smoothly around a bend, the road paralleling an iridescent strip of river that wound off to its left. The sickle of the waning moon reflected bright on the water’s rippling surface as Sam stared down at the wrinkled map of Alabama spread open on his lap. Robert Plant’s wailing vocals softly serenaded him from the Chevy’s speakers, insisting “you don’t have to go – oh, oh, oh, oh, ohh…”
Sam’s brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to keep the flashlight snugged between his neck and shoulder from wobbling too much every time the Impala hit a pothole. Not an easy task, in Sam’s opinion. It was quite obvious that street maintenance wasn’t at the top of anyone’s to-do list out here; nevertheless, he began to wonder if his brother was aiming at every single dip on purpose as the car jounced sharply once again, knocking Sam’s knees up against the dashboard.
They’d argued earlier about the route.
Sam didn’t understand why they couldn’t just take the main highway instead of bumping down a bunch of half-paved, godforsaken country roads in the middle of the night. It wasn’t like Lucifer and his minions were in hot pursuit, he’d argued. The demon hoard was too busy battling the angels in the ultimate World Series. He and Dean were barely a blip on anyone’s radar at this point, so why go out of the way when they didn’t have to?
Dean had insisted that the old way was always the best way when it came to which roads to take. There was less chance of badges patrolling a no-name blacktop than a five-lane freeway, which meant less police intervention of any kind. And that meant less explaining to do about false IDs or a trunk full of scary weapons if something supernatural did happen to crop up.
Whatever, Sam thought. Dad’s been gone for over three years, and Dean still feels the need to follow the man’s rules, regardless.
Squinting down at the map, Sam carefully traced a thin red line with one finger as it snaked across the paper, criss-crossing over other dotted and dashed lines, all representing county roads, highways and state routes. It didn’t come as any great surprise to him that none of them seemed to be the one they were currently on. He concluded that if there was such a thing as a phantom road, then they were on it, because Waukesha Creek Road, according to their map, did not exist.
With a loud, frustrated sigh, Sam reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose, hard. The movement dislodged the flashlight, and it slid down his chest before he could catch it, bouncing once off the map before landing on the floor between his boots.
Sam stared down at it, watching as the flashlight slowly rolled back and forth, the beam illuminating the assortment of discarded fast food wrappers underneath his feet. He debated going after it, even idly toyed with the idea of trying to ‘will’ it back into his hand, like some Jedi, by using what might be left of his powers, and then finally decided fuck it. The flashlight had been to shed light on the map, and the map was pretty much useless.
Dean absently tapped out the beat of some Metallica tune against the steering wheel as he hummed quietly under his breath, apparently unaware of his brother’s map-reading issues.
Sam followed his brother’s gaze out the windshield, surveying the darkened landscape in front of them with a casual disinterest. Lots of big, fat nothing, he thought. Not even a mile marker or occasional road sign to help them figure out where they were. He tried hard to bring his growing annoyance in check, but it was no use. Dean’s oblivious attitude was just too much for him.
Shaking his head, Sam pursed his lips and glanced over at his brother.
“You know, if we had one of those GPS systems, we wouldn’t be lost right now,” he grumped.
Dean’s nose wrinkled in disgust. He chanced a look over at his brother in the passenger seat next to him. “Dude, I am not douching my baby up by attaching some useless gadget to her dashboard.”
“It’s not a useless gadget,” Sam countered.
“Sure it is,” Dean argued. He waved at Sam’s lap. “Besides, we don’t need one. We got maps.”
“Dean, nobody uses paper maps anymore.” Sam gave his brother an exaggerated eye roll.
“Yeah? Well, we do,” Dean stated, matter-of-factly. He arched a brow. “And if nobody uses paper maps anymore, Sam, how come there are racks of them at every single gas station we stop at? Hmm? How do you explain that, college boy?”
The corners of Sam’s mouth twitched upward. “I don’t know. I guess those are for all the losers who haven’t made it into the twenty-first century yet.”
Sam’s smile widened, eyes crinkling, when Dean shot him an acerbic scowl.
“Someone’s asking for an ass kicking,” Dean muttered and Sam cackled in glee. Dean’s eyes narrowed. “Dude, I swear, I will pull this car over.”
“Great, maybe we can ask for directions,” Sam quipped. He laughed and it felt good. It felt good to fall back into the familiar rhythm of their verbal teasing and sparring once again after so long.
Sam held his hands up in surrender, still snickering. “Look, I’m just saying, if you weren’t such a technophobe, then maybe we’d already be in some motel right now, instead of floundering around out here in the dark.”
Dean shot Sam another scowl, silencing the younger man’s chortles. “I’m not techno-challenged, Sam. I’m into the whole Futurama thing; I’m just not a nerdy geek about it like you.” Dean squared his shoulders defensively. “I’ve used iPods and watched hi-def TV and, you know, I get the internet and all that.”
Sam folded up the map and stuffed it back into the glove box before grabbing up the flashlight from the floor and switching it off. He quirked a dubious brow at Dean. “You ‘get’ the internet, huh?”
“Sure.” Dean nodded emphatically. “I know digital porn’s enriched my life greatly. What about you?”
A soft chuckle slipped past Sam’s lips. He shook his head at his brother’s one-track mind. He was not about to let Dean win this one. To prove his point, Sam reached under his seat, pulling out the cardboard box of tapes Dean kept there.
“Okay, so, if you’re so up on technology, then why are you still listening to cassette tapes?” Sam admonished. “I mean, seriously, Dean, you can’t even buy these things anymore; everything’s on CD or downloaded straight off the internet these days.”
“Hey, those’re classics you’re holding,” Dean argued, shooting a protective glance over at the box.
Sam gave a derisive laugh. He rooted through the box a moment, and then held up a battered tape, smirking. “Yeah, here’s a real classic, right here.” He squinted at the faded purple ink on the tape’s side, snorted and then flicked an amused look over at Dean. “Dude, really?”
“Ace of Base?” Sam waved the cassette tape under Dean’s nose, a mocking grin of delight dimpling his cheeks.
“What?!” Dean’s head swiveled towards the offending item. “No way!” he huffed. “Gimme that!” He snatched the cassette from Sam’s fingers and peered down at it, scowling darkly, while Sam continued to chuckle.
“Not mine,” Dean said airily. He flipped the tape back at Sam, who fumbled but caught it.
“What? What do you mean not yours?” Sam challenged. “It’s in the box.”
“Don’t you remember, Sam? I gave you that tape, like, oh, I don’t know, about fifteen years ago.”
It was Sam’s turn to frown. “You made me a mix tape?” He stared at the tape and then back at Dean in puzzlement. “I don’t remember that. You sure?”
Dean snorted, rolling his eyes. “I didn’t make the tape, you idiot; I said I gave it to you. That one chick, uh, what was her name?” Dean tapped the steering wheel, thinking. “Chastity? Connie? Kathy?” He gave a dismissive wave. “Whatever. She made that tape for me when we were living in Ohio that one summer. Remember? Dad was hunting that troll.”
Sam nodded slowly. “Yeah, yeah…okay. That was when I was going to that art camp thing, wasn’t it?”
“Yahtzee,” Dean replied, grinning. He nodded at the tape. “Man, I almost died when she gave me that thing. I knew I wasn’t ever going to listen to it, so I palmed it off on you. And, you were what? Eleven or twelve then? So, yeah, you were all over that craptastic music.” Dean chuckled. “Still are,” he teased.
“Like your music’s any better,” Sam retorted. He stared down at the tape a moment longer. “Man, you remember all the trouble we got into that summer?” he asked quietly as he dropped the tape back into the box in his lap.
Dean’s smile thinned. “Yeah…I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he said, his expression grim. He glanced back over at Sam, who wore a look of rueful amusement.
“Dad got all medieval on both our asses, didn’t he?” Sam said.
Dean shook his head. “That was definitely a lesson learned the hard way, Sammy,” he murmured.
The bright summer sun spilled across Dean Winchester in waves of intense warmth, the heat sinking pleasurably down past the teenager’s skin and into his muscles, relaxing him until he became as limp as a ragdoll. He swore he could even feel the heat penetrating deeper, into his very bones, and it felt awesome. Kind of like Mother Nature giving him the most incredible massage ever.
Dean let out a contented sigh to punctuate his thoughts and stretched, like an oversized cat, atop the ratty army blanket he’d dug out of the trunk of the Impala for just this occasion. Arms flung over his head as if reaching, fingers and toes pointing in opposite directions, Dean sprawled, lethargic, on the grassy front lawn with his eyes closed, already half asleep.
He was barefoot and bare-chested, having peeled his sweat-soaked t-shirt off as soon as his dad had left that morning. His steel-toed boots had followed quickly after the shirt, and the items were now lying in a jumble, along with his socks, on the top step of the porch, threatening to trip anyone coming out of the small, gabled bungalow in which the Winchester family currently resided.
Clad only in a pair of faded, low-slung Levi’s, Dean basked in the midday heat, his second-hand walkman cranking out Zeppelin hits as a thin sheen of perspiration glazed his forehead and the flat plane of his belly, making the freckled skin there glisten. Dean couldn’t help the small, happy moan that escaped his lips. It felt good to have nothing better to do than work on his tan.
It didn’t matter one bit to Dean where the Winchesters spent the next couple months, be it in the swampy humidity of Mississippi or in the baked, dry heat of Arizona. It was summer, and to Dean, summer meant freedom with a big, fat capital F. It meant no school, no books, no tight-assed teachers scowling at him and getting on his case when he forgot his homework, and no nosy school administrators giving him “the look” whenever he showed up to class, looking like death-warmed-over with a suspicious bruise or cut he’d gotten the night before from a job he’d been on with his father.
A faint grin curved the teenager’s lips upward ever so slightly. No two ways about it, he lazily reflected. Summer was made of awesome. What was not to like? Chicks everywhere in skimpy bikinis, hotdogs grilled on the barbecue, and water fights with Sam in the yard as they chased one another around with the leaky garden hose. It just didn’t get any better.
Well, almost didn’t get any better, Dean mused. He reached up to tug at his Ray-Bans, sliding the sunglasses down his nose a bit and cracked one eye open, raising a hand up to shield his eyes against the sun’s glare. Dean’s lopsided smile widened into an ear-splitting grin at the sight of the cute blonde in cut-offs and a tank top standing in front of him. Summer rocked.
“Christy, hey, how’s it going?” Dean asked amiably. He yanked his headphones off, tossing them to the side, along with his sunglasses, before propping himself up on his elbows.
Sixteen-year-old Christy Dennison returned Dean’s grin with an animated smile of her own as her eyes hungrily trailed down Dean’s broad chest and across his muscled abdomen in obvious interest. She wasn’t the only one performing such an inspection. Dean’s eyes did a once over on her as well, although his examination was less blatant than Christy’s. Enough slaps to the face from random cheerleaders had taught Dean that outright ogling usually wasn’t appreciated, much less tolerated, by the fairer sex.
Nevertheless, Dean couldn’t help staring in a mild state of awe, as the tip of the girl’s tongue peeked out to lick at her full bottom lip. Christy’s blue eyes glinted with a hint of playfulness that kindled a tingling heat low in Dean’s belly. His mind immediately flooded with images of what those sweet lips of hers could do; the way that agile pink tongue of hers could…Dean’s dick woke right up at that thought and Dean squirmed uncomfortably, eyes widening, at the instant boner suddenly filling his pants.
“Um, Dean?” Christy asked, brows raised, “Something up?” Her smirk seemed almost a leer.
Dean choked, his face reddening. “Wha-? Uh-up?” he stuttered, trying to loosen his tongue from the roof of his mouth.
He quickly sat up on the blanket, trying not to wince at the pinch of denim against his hard-on. Leaning forward, Dean casually let his arms fall across his crotch to cover the obvious bulge there. He cleared his throat loudly. “Up? No, no, uh no. Nothing’s up,” he said, shrugging off the suggestion. “Something up with you?”
Christy laughed, eyes sparkling. “I made you a gift,” she said, unable to contain the excitement in her voice.
“Yeah?” Dean looked at her expectantly.
Christy nodded and brought her right hand from behind her back. Dean stared at the cassette tape she held.
“What’s that?” he asked, brows raised in curiosity.
“It’s a mix tape, silly!” Christy giggled, rolling her eyes.
She plopped down onto the blanket next to Dean, all sweet smelling and curvy in the right places, and as she snuggled up next to him, her right breast mashed up against Dean’s bare arm, sending his erection into overdrive. Dean closed his eyes, swallowing hard, as he tried to will his hard-on back down before it clawed its way out of his jeans all on its own.
“Wow, a mix tape…that’s just…that’s…wow,” Dean stumbled over his words. It was hard to think straight when his eyes and his dick were concentrating on the bead of sweat slowly tracking its way down between the twin mounds of Christy’s B-cups.
“Yeah, I spent all last night making this,” Christy announced proudly, holding the tape out to Dean.
Bryan Adams – “All for Love”
Bon Jovi – “Always”Madonna – “Secret”
Collective Soul – “Shine”
Ace of Base – “All That She Wants”
Gin Blossoms – “Found Out About You”
Melissa Etheridge – “Im the Only One”
Dean took the tape from her, studying the cassette box with feigned interest as she eagerly watched. He tried hard not to gag at all the hearts Christy had drawn all over the front of the cassette box with a sparkly, purple magic marker. Just kill me now, Dean thought disgustedly. Opening the box, he glanced down at the list of music written in Christy’s girly script.
Dean quickly scanned the bands, his forced enthusiasm turning to out-and-out revulsion: Bon Jovi, Madonna, Collective Soul, Bryan Adams, Gin Blossoms, Ace of Base… Ace of who? Who the fuck was that?
Clearing his throat, Dean composed himself and offered up his patented ten-thousand watt smile to Christy. He reached up to sling an arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer into an appreciative hug. It wouldn’t do to upset her when he’d worked so hard to get this far. Maybe Sammy would enjoy the emo pop music, Dean absently thought. He was close to scoring a home run with the girl currently giggling into his neck and he wasn’t about to let some crappy gift mess with his chances.
“I’m…speechless,” Dean said, phony smile still in place. Well, at least he wasn’t lying. Speechless just about covered it, along with nauseated, disgusted and slightly disturbed. “You really shouldn’t have, Christy. Really.”
“I wanted to make something special for you,” she whispered, suddenly turning shy. She looked up at Dean through her long eyelashes. “You know…‘cause I like you.” She blushed deeply.
Dean took advantage of her confession and reached over, gently tilting Christy’s chin up, his lips descending on hers, nibbling and tasting in a way that seemed far more experienced than a fifteen-year-old had a right to be. Christy let out a breathy moan, going limp, her lips parting slightly. It was enough for Dean.
He took the opportunity to slip his tongue inside her wet, warm mouth and when Christy didn’t resist the invasion, it was game on as far as Dean was concerned. He deepened the kiss, one of his hands going up to tangle in Christy’s long, loose hair, while his other hand slipped up under the girl’s tank top. Dean hastily pushed aside Christy’s cotton bra, letting out a low groan of pleasure at the silky feel of exposed breast against his fingertips. Christy reached between them to palm his dick through his jeans and Dean’s senses whirled in a growing eddy of lust.
In fact, Dean remained so busy exploring every inch of “mount Christy” that he didn’t even hear the deep rumble of the Impala as it pulled up in front of the bungalow.
Dean jumped in surprise. He glanced up over Christy’s shoulder, sighing heavily when he spotted his dad standing at the curb with a displeased glower painted on his face.
Christy quickly rearranged her top, blushing guiltily. “I guess I better go,” she whispered.
Dean nodded, sighing once again. Just when things were getting good. Figured. “Yeah, I’ll catch you later,” Dean said to Christy. He wiped a thumb across his spit-slick lips, giving his partner in crime a cocky grin. “We definitely need to finish this conversation.”
“Can’t wait,” Christy replied. She grinned as she stood up and pointed at the cassette tape lying on the blanket next to Dean’s thigh. “Hope you enjoy the music, Dean.”
“Oh, I will,” Dean lied. He picked up the tape and gave it a little shake. “Thanks.”
“Anything for you,” Christy cooed. She shot Dean a naughty wink over her shoulder as she sauntered off.
Anything? Dean let out a satisfied chuckle, imagining just what anything could, and would, entail until a shadow fell across where he sat. Angling his head back, he looked straight up into his father’s face. The smile fell off Dean’s lips.
“What the hell was that all about?” John jerked a thumb back at Christy’s retreating figure.
Dean shrugged, eyes dropping to the blanket he sat on. “Nothing,” he muttered.
A muscle twitched in John’s jaw. “We’re going to be here all summer, Dean. I don’t need you causing trouble with the locals.”
Dean’s head shot up. “I’m not causing trouble! Jeez, she’s just some girl, Dad. What’s the big deal?”
“Well, for starters, the neighbors don’t need to watch you act out a skin flick on our front lawn,” John stated, giving his son a reproachful scowl. “Jesus, Dean, you’re fifteen.”
“I know,” Dean replied, squirming.
“Then how about you slow it down a little, Casanova.”
Dean shot his father a sullen pout. “I’m just having a little fun, is all.”
“Yeah, I know all about your fun,” John countered sourly.
Ever since his eldest had hit puberty, the boy’s raging hormones had decidedly taken charge over his brain, to the detriment of Dean’s grades, his training and his attitude lately. While John didn’t expect his teenaged son to be a celibate hermit, he did expect Dean to take his responsibilities to the family seriously and to show some respect where it was due, and that included treating the opposite sex as something more than just a release valve for his revved up sex drive.
Dean had been close to getting expelled from his last school when one of the jocks had come after him in the hallway between classes for having messed around with the guy’s girlfriend. Dean’s training had given him the distinct advantage in the fight, but it had also cost him, since he’d missed so much of his coursework during his suspension.
“This job is going to take several weeks, so we need to be able to stick around here without bringing attention to ourselves too much,” John said. He gave Dean a sharp look. “I don’t need some pissed off parent calling me about their daughter being knocked up.”
Dean huffed, rolling his eyes. “I’m not gonna get her preg-“
John cut his son off, pointing at him. “Bottom line here? Keep it in your pants. Understand?”
Dean’s brows drew together, a gloomy frown blooming on his lips. He glared at the tips of his father’s shiny loafers.
John’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Dean?” he growled. “We gonna have a problem with this?”
“No…sir.” The tone was just shy of outright belligerence and both of them knew it.
John’s jaw clenched, but he let it go. He felt too damn tired to deal with his teenager, and it was hotter than hell standing out in the front yard. It had been a long morning spent researching dusty town archives and tooling around the small farming community, fake badge in hand.
He’d asked the locals questions about the unusual number of missing children in the area, making sure to never actually use the words ‘troll’ or ‘ogre’ in connection to the seemingly random disappearances. Nothing like the mention of a fairytale monster to set the town folk on edge and make them even more suspicious than they already were.
John wanted nothing more than to go inside, change out of his suit and tie, and relax in front of their crappy little 19-inch television set for a bit. Maybe even have a beer or two. Instead, he studied his son in silence for another long moment, making sure Dean understood by his look that he wasn’t happy with the attitude being thrown at him.
“Put your shirt on, you’re starting to burn,” John snapped as he loosened his tie and finally headed for the bungalow. He caught sight of the shoes and socks tossed on the steps and turned to give his son a caustic glare.
“Sorry, I’ll move ‘em,” Dean muttered. He stood up, gathering up the blanket he’d been sitting on, along with his sunglasses and walkman, to carry them all inside.
John tromped up onto the porch, reaching for the doorknob, when he stopped, brows suddenly furrowing. Dropping his hand, John slowly turned to face Dean, who stood on the bottom step of the porch.
“Where’s your brother?” John asked.
Dean gave his father a look of momentary confusion. “Huh?”
“Sam,” John said. “Where is he?”
Dean stood a moment, lost in thought, and then his eyes widened. “Oh,” he muttered, a look of chagrin on his face, “Shit! Dad, I’m sorry-”
“You forgot to pick him up?” John glared at Dean.
Dean grimaced. “I didn’t forget. I just…”
“You forgot, Dean,” John stated angrily. “Damn it! He’s probably still there waiting for you!”
Dean winced, feeling terrible. Sammy had been spending the summer attending a free arts and crafts camp at the local library during the mornings. It gave Dean some free time to himself each day while John did his research in town, and it gave Sam the opportunity to geek out with kids his own age, making such wondrous works of art as a popsicle stick pencil cup and a lopsided clay vase that Dean couldn’t help comparing to a pile of shiny, bloated worms.
What Sam lacked in artistic talent though, he definitely made up for in enthusiasm. He had eagerly attended the camp every single day since they’d been in town. Well, he’d attended every day except for one, Dean reflected with a smirk. Sam had flat out refused to attend class the day they were scheduled to make clown masks. He’d claimed a stomach virus as the reason, but Dean knew better. Sam’s clown phobia never failed to amuse the hell out of him. Even so, Dean had wisely kept his mouth shut after the warning look his father had leveled at him.
John had given Dean the responsibility of walking Sam to and from the library each morning, which is where Dean had met Christy. She did pretty much the same thing, providing escort service for her younger twin brothers on the days when her mother couldn’t. The two teens had hit it off rather quickly and had spent quite a bit of time together after that. It hadn’t been a problem either, Dean reasoned, until Christy had shown up today wearing next to nothing and given him all sorts of X-rated ideas of how they could spend the afternoon together.
“Let’s go,” John said, his tone gruff. He started back down the porch steps, brushing past Dean; almost a shove but not quite. Dean stood a moment, not following, until John turned back, his body stiff with impatience. “Get a move on, Dean. I’m sure your brother would like to get home before dark.”
“Right, sorry,” Dean mumbled tiredly.
He dumped the armload of stuff he’d been holding onto a chair on the porch and grabbed up his shirt, yanking it on over his head and then bent down to scoop up his boots and socks, running to catch up to his dad, who already sat behind the wheel of the Impala, waiting.
Dean plopped into the front seat opposite his father without sparing a glance over at him. He quickly shoved his feet into his boots, not bothering to lace them up as the car pulled away from the curb.
Dean chanced a sidelong look at his father once they were down the block. “You know, Sammy could’ve walked home by himself if he’d wanted,” he said quietly.
Dean felt the instant burn of a glare falling onto him.
“That’s not the point,” John stated stiffly. “I told you to watch out for him, Dean. I specifically asked you to walk with your little brother to make sure nothing happened to him.”
Dean couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of his voice. “Jeez, he’s eleven, Dad. I mean, seriously, what’s going to happen to him in this podunk town?”
John slammed on the brakes so hard that Dean would have knocked his head against the dashboard had he not thrown out an arm in time to stop his forward momentum. He glanced over in surprise at his father, who met Dean’s look with a thunderous scowl.
“You the parent now?” John questioned icily. “Hmm? You the one putting food in our mouths and keeping clothes on our backs?” Dark eyes glinting, John continued, the timbre of his voice matching the stormy look on his face. “Last time I checked, buddy boy, I was the parent around here and you were still the kid. I decide what’s best for this family, Dean, not you.” He slapped the steering wheel hard, letting out an exasperated huff. “Jesus Christ! You know what I do for a living and what I’m tracking in this town, and you ask what could happen?”
“Yeah, but we’re safe during the day, right? That thing doesn’t-“
John cut Dean off. “There’s no such thing as safe in our line of work, and you know that.”
Dean bit his bottom lip and stared hard out the side window, then nodded. “Yeah, I know,” he said. He looked over at his father, eyes full of contrition. “M’sorry, Dad. I’ll keep a better eye on Sammy, I swear.”
John’s voice softened as he hit the gas and got the car moving once again. “I know you will, bud. Look, I know I put a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, Dean, but it’s only because I know I can trust and depend on you.” John glanced away from the road to fix Dean with a serious look. “And until I’m one hundred percent positive about what I’m hunting, we need to play it safe and not assume anything.”
Dean gave a small nod. “Right. Never make assumptions until you can back them up with fact.”
John nodded back. “You got it, dude.”
They rode in silence down the next block until John cleared his throat casually and glanced over at his son. “So, this blonde you’ve been spending time with…”
“Christy,” Dean supplied.
“Christy,” John repeated slowly. “Very pretty girl…”
“She’s smokin’ hot, huh?” Dean said, a glimmer of pride creeping into his voice.
“Apparently not too bad a kisser either, from what I got a glimpse of,” John dryly commented.
John chuckled as Dean’s face flamed beet red.
END OF PART 1
Dean caught sight of the bitch-face on his little brother from all the way down the street as the Impala rolled towards the library. Sam sat, perched like a sullen gargoyle, atop the low partition surrounding the front of the small one-story library, his narrow shoulders hunched and neck held stiff. The heels of his dirty Converse sneakers beat an angry tattoo against the bricks of the wall, a clear indication of his annoyance.
The eleven-year-old’s shaggy head swiveled up towards the noise of the car coming towards him, and his brows and lips puckered into matching pouts when he recognized the Impala.
It appeared quite obvious to both Dean and John that Sam wouldn’t let this insult go easily, if he’d let it go at all. Holding a grudge was nothing new to the youngest Winchester, especially when he felt he’d been wronged by one of his own family members. In Dean’s mind, Sam would forever remain the king and undisputed champion of taking umbrage when and where it was due.
Hearing a frustrated sigh escape his father’s lips, Dean glanced over and caught, full force, the stormy glare being cast at him. He quickly looked away, a grimace on his face.
John put the Impala in park, but kept the engine running as Sam slowly slid off the wall and stomped over to the car, yanking the back door open without a word. He slid into the car and slammed the door harder than necessary, the Impala rocking slightly from the force. Neither John nor Dean said anything about it.
“Hey, kiddo, sorry about the wait,” John said. He turned slightly to offer up a small, apologetic smile over his shoulder. “How about you choose what’s for dinner tonight to make up for it?”
“Thanks, Dad,” Sam replied quietly. The boy’s frosty gaze panned over to the other side of the front seat, eyes narrowing in accusation.
Dean took the unspoken condemnation in stride. He swiveled on the seat, leaning over the backrest, ready to make with an apology to Sam, but stopped short. He stared in puzzlement at the thing sitting in his little brother’s lap. Sam’s hands were tightly clutching a papier-mâché…something…Airplane? Bird? Dragon, maybe? Dean wasn’t exactly sure, but he could see that the thing definitely had wings and was painted bright blue.
“What the hell is that?” Dean uttered, forgetting all about the apology as his curiosity got the better of his mouth.
John’s eyes flicked up to the rearview mirror to catch Sam’s frown deepening. Uh oh.
“What’s it look like?” Sam questioned testily. He held the paper and paste creation up for Dean to take a closer look.
John coughed loudly, hoping to drag Dean’s attention away from Sam’s art project before the teen could add insult to injury but Dean ignored him.
Dean chewed on his bottom lip, thinking. “Let’s see…that’s gotta be a…”
“Dean, just drop it,” John whispered roughly from the side of his mouth while concentrating on the road.
Dean’s eyes brightened suddenly. “Oh, I know! It’s a blue jay! Right? Am I right, Sam?”
The temperature in the car seemed to drop by twenty degrees in a matter of seconds. John let out a soft groan.
“No, it’s not a blue jay!” Sam spat angrily. Hurt blanketed his features.
“Sammy, I’m sure what Dean meant-” John began, but Dean interrupted.
“Jeez, don’t get all bent out of shape, Sammy. It’s obviously some kind of bird.”
“No, it’s not!”
“Sure it is,” Dean argued.
Sam glared at his brother. “I think I know what I made, Dean, and it’s NOT a stupid bird!”
It was Dean’s turn to frown. “Well, it’s got wings,” he pointed out as if that solved everything.
“No, it DOESN’T,” Sam huffed.
Dean’s brows furrowed. “Sure, it does,” he replied.
“Oh, for the love of God…” John muttered, driving a little faster, hoping to make it home before the fireworks in the backseat began.
“It doesn’t have wings, Dean,” Sam insisted through clenched teeth.
“Yeah, it does, Sammy.”
Dean ran a hand through his hair, his own irritation growing. “Dude, if those aren’t wings, then what are they?”
Sam smiled triumphantly. “They’re fins.”
“What?” Dean’s face scrunched in disbelief. “No, they’re not!”
“Dean, for chrissakes,“ John rumbled tiredly.
“C’mon, Dad, fins don’t look like that,” Dean complained. He pointed over the front seat at Sam’s art project, indicating the protrusions. “Those are all pointy and…I don’t know…BLUE. I mean, look at ‘em,” he chuffed.
“They. Are. Not. WINGS.” Sam glowered at Dean, lower lip jutting out dangerously. “You’re a dickhead, you know that?” he spat.
“Hey!” John dragged his eyes from the road to hurl a glare at both his sons. “Cut it out, you two!”
Dean held up his hands in surrender. “Fine. They’re fins. Whatever.” He sat in silence for a few moments, eyes still on Sam’s art, unable to let it go. “So, Sam, this finned thing. What is it exactly?” Dean demanded.
Sam glanced down at the object in his lap, a whisper of a smile on his lips. “It’s a sperm whale,” he proudly announced.
Dean blinked several times, his lips twitching uncontrollably. “A what?”
Sam’s smile disappeared. “A. SPERM. WHALE.” He nearly shoved the papier-mâché piece into Dean’s face.
Dean couldn’t hold back the snickers any longer. “A s-sperm whale? Seriously? Sperm whale? Holy crap, Sam! Only you would think to make something out of sperm!”
“What?! That’s not– it’s – you –“ Sam sputtered, Dean’s cackles of glee making him lose his train of thought. He kicked the back of Dean’s seat with one sneakered toe. “You’re such a jerk, Dean!”
“Okay, that’s ENOUGH,” John growled, his frustration at its limit.
“Aw, what’s the matter, Sammy?” Dean crooned. “Did little spermy get his feelings hurt?”
“Dean!” John barked.
He reached over grabbing Dean’s arm and giving it a rough squeeze. The kid was really pushing it.
“What?” Dean asked, brows raised in innocence, despite the smirk painted across his lips.
“What did I just say?” John shot Dean a warning glare.
Dean pointed to Sam. “He’s the one that started with the whole sperm-“
“I said enough!” John seethed. “You want me to pull this car over?” Both boys instantly fell silent. Good to know that one still works, John silently mused. “I don’t want to hear another word out of either of one of you. You hear me?”
Two surly “yessirs” answered him back.
Screw having a beer before dinner tonight, John thought. He planned to drink the whole fucking six-pack. Rubbing at his now throbbing temple, John pressed down hard on the gas pedal, the speedometer jumping up to forty.
If Dean had been only a few years younger, John would have handed the kid’s ass to him by now. However, at fifteen, the boy was a bit too old, in John’s mind, to be getting a spanking. Instead, extra chores and being confined to quarters for a week would get his point across to his eldest. Dean would not be happy about losing face time with his little girlfriend, but it’d do him some good to cool his jets for a while, John reasoned. He sighed, praying Sammy wouldn’t be as ornery when he hit puberty. Goddamn teenagers.
Three days later…
“Okay, you know the drill,” John said as he hefted the duffle bag full of weapons over his left shoulder. He waited for Dean to acknowledge him, snatching the car keys off the coffee table in the meanwhile. “Dean?” John snapped his fingers at his son. “You listening?”
“I still don’t know why I can’t go with you,” Dean stated sullenly. “You might need back up, and I can help.”
Dean slouched in the far corner of the worn leather couch, arms crossed, momentarily ignoring the sci-fi movie on the television. He and Sam had been watching it while their father had been packing, readying for an evening of recon work in the woods bordering a large park at the southeast end of town. Several of the children had last been seen there before they had disappeared.
John adjusted the strap of the bag crossing his shoulder, settling the weight more evenly before answering his son. “We’ve been over this already, Dean. You’re grounded, and that means you don’t leave this house other than to walk Sam to and from the library.”
John’s eyes traveled over to where Sam lay on the floor, eyes glued to the space battle raging on the TV set. He flicked his gaze back to Dean. “I need you here. To keep things safe. Got it?”
Dean let out an exasperated sigh. “Yes, sir,” he replied. He refused to meet his father’s eyes. “Chief babysitter on duty and ready for action,” he muttered unhappily.
Sam let out an indignant squawk at being indirectly labeled a baby, and John carefully let the duffle bag of weapons slide off his shoulder and drop to the floor. He took a step towards Dean, his face darkening.
“You know, I’m getting pretty damn tired of the attitude you’ve been throwing around lately,” John said. Anger glinted in his eyes, darkening them, making them look almost feral. “You and I are going to have a talk about it, too, when I get back, and you better pray to God I’m in a better mood then.”
“That’s not fair,” Dean blurted and then blinked in surprise. The words tumbled from his mouth without his full consent, and Dean now winced in trepidation. He stiffly waited for the shit-storm he knew his comment would bring. His father didn’t disappoint.
“Not fair? That so?” John crossed his arms over his chest. “You wanna talk about fair, Dean? You think it’s fair that all I get is lip from you, now, when I ask a simple question or ask you to do something? You think it’s fair that I should take you on a hunt when I can’t even trust you to remember to pick up your brother?”
John’s piercing stare bit into Dean and the teen hunched further down onto the couch. “I don’t know what the hell’s gotten into you, but I don’t have time for it, so you better straighten up.”
The tips of Dean’s ears burned. His father’s harsh reprimand was par for the course and fully expected, but Sam witnessing Dean’s dressing down in all its humiliating glory made it very hard to swallow. Bad enough your dad hands you a verbal smack down, but far worse, when your baby brother gets to gloat openly about it afterwards.
John pointed at Dean. “You just do your job and follow orders.”
Dean angrily wondered if his father had ever been a teenager. He stared silently at the flickering TV screen rather than let his dad see how much his reprimand had stung, which only added to his father’s mounting irritation.
“I’m talking to you, mister,” John barked, arms unfolding as he took a warning step towards the couch.
Dean slowly raised his head. He frowned mulishly at his father, and John stopped, momentarily taken aback. He’d been on the receiving end of that petulant expression more times than he cared to admit, but it had always come from Sammy. Seeing it now, on his eldest child, the look struck John as far less innocent. It hit a raw nerve with him, and he stiffened at the implied insult, his eyes sparking with a glimmer of fury.
“Maybe we should just take this discussion to your room right now, Dean,” John threatened. “Because the way I see it, you’re already well on your way to an ass beating as it is.”
Sam’s ears perked up in interest. His older brother hadn’t gotten a spanking in years, not since Dean, at the age of twelve, had decided he was old enough to take the Impala for a spin by himself. Sam, on the other hand, still maintained a healthy fear of his father’s stinging hand and had been told - and shown – on numerous occasions, that he wasn’t yet too old to be put over his dad’s knee.
Pretending to focus on the TV show, Sam shifted slightly, keeping an ear cocked to listen in on the conversation between his brother and father. The possibility of Dean, “Mr. Smart Ass Teenager”, getting his butt handed to him by their dad pleased Sam to no end, especially in light of recent events. Sam hadn’t been able to pay his brother back yet for leaving him sitting and waiting at the library or for making fun of his papier-mâché whale.
Dean sat back up, staring at his father, incredulous. “Are you serious? Dad, I’m fifteen!”
John snorted. “Yeah, I know, son. I was there when you were born,” he shot back.
Dean’s mouth flattened into a thin line.
John continued, his tone calm but full of heat. “Fifteen or no, Dean, you keep up with the insubordination and you’re getting a spanking. Plain and simple. I’m done with this crap.” And that was that, as far as John Winchester was concerned. He didn’t have the time or inclination to get into a pissing contest with his teenager.
John turned to Sam as he picked his weapons bag up once again. “Sammy, you listen to your brother while I’m gone.”
“Yes, sir. I will.” Sam gave his father a serious nod, trying for obedient and innocent, now that his dad seemed focused on the topic of spankings.
“I should be back before morning, boys,” John said, opening the front door. “I’ll call you if the plan changes.”
“Yes sir,” Dean gritted out. He turned to glare at the door as it shut behind his father.
John had been gone a little over an hour when Dean clicked off the television, a determined, if not defiant, look on his face. He tossed the remote onto the coffee table in front of him and then turned, reaching over the arm of the couch to grab the phone sitting next to the lamp on the side table.
Sam wandered back into the living room at that moment, humming under his breath, a bottle of Arizona green tea in one hand. He’d been in the kitchen, chowing down on leftover pizza while Dean sat and stewed over their father’s recent scolding.
The younger boy ambled towards his brother, absently swiping at the crumbs littering his shirtfront. Taking a lengthy gulp of his drink, Sam let out a noisy burp and then patted his stomach, grinning to himself as he stopped beside the couch. His grin slowly faded as he observed Dean punching numbers into the phone.
“Who you calling?” Sam asked, frowning.
“Christy.” Dean flashed a brief grin at his brother as he put the phone to his ear.
Sam, just as quickly, snatched the phone from his brother and ended the call before the first ring, leaving Dean stunned, sitting frozen in place, his now empty hand still curled near his ear as if still holding the phone.
Sam fixed Dean with a look made up of part wonder, part displeasure and part little brother know-it-all. “You can’t call her,” he carefully explained. He held up the phone and shook it for emphasis, as if Dean wouldn’t understand without Sam throwing in a little sign language to help. “You’re still grounded, remember?”
Dean dropped his hand to his lap, giving Sam a sour glare. “Technically speaking, professor dork-much, Dad said I couldn’t leave the house. He didn’t say anything about me calling anybody or having someone come over.”
Dean knew he was taking a bit of liberty with the rules. Well, more like massively torquing them out of shape, he admitted, but who would it hurt? Because when all was said and done, he would honestly be able to tell his father that he hadn’t left the house all night. And wasn’t that the crucial point? That he hadn’t disobeyed the gist of the order and had kept an eye on Sam?
Satisfied with his line of logic, Dean leaned forward on the couch, hand held out to Sam, demanding the phone back. Sam snorted, and instead, leaned back, holding the phone just out of Dean’s reach, a mocking smile plastered on his lips.
Dean’s brows shot up. Seriously?
Sam waggled the phone enticingly, took another sip of his iced tea and proceeded to push his luck by burping in Dean’s face. Dean just shook his head sadly, huffing at his kid brother’s naiveté, before unexpectedly lunging and capturing Sam’s wrist in both his hands.
Eyes widening, Sam howled at the assault and tried to wrest his arm away, but Dean, being bigger and stronger, held on fast. He squeezed until Sam’s death grip on the phone loosened and Dean pried the instrument away, almost getting the bottle of green tea dumped on him in the process.
Dean grunted, wincing, when Sam punched him in the shoulder in retaliation, and then chuckled at the bitch face his brother now sported.
“Don’t be a sore loser,” Dean taunted, rubbing his shoulder. “Oh, and maybe use a napkin next time you eat, too, slob.” He pointed to the grease stains on Sam’s t-shirt, tsking.
“You’re gonna be in so much trouble when Dad finds out,” Sam stated huffily. “You’re not supposed to have friends over, Dean.”
Dean’s eyes narrowed. “And how exactly is Dad going to find out, Sammy?”
Sam leveled a shrewd look at Dean.
Sam shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant, despite the mischievous glint in his eyes. “I don’t know, Dean,” he said. “How much money you got in your wallet?”
“My – what do you mean how much do I have in my wallet? What the hell does that have to-”
Sam’s smile turned nasty. He held out his hand, palm up, wiggling his fingers.
Dean let out a choked breath. “You little extortionist!” he snarled.
Sam’s cheeks dimpled. “Yeah, so? Don’t be a sore loser,” he smugly parroted back.
“I oughta beat your ass,” Dean grumbled under his breath. He glared hard at Sam as he slowly pulled a twenty from his wallet and handed it over to his brother. “Man, I can’t wait until you’re my age, Sam, because I am so going to be on your case the first time you even try to get to first base with a chick!”
Sam shrugged off the threat, stuffing the money into the front pocket of his jeans, satisfaction written all over his eleven-year-old face.
Dean growled low in his throat but otherwise ignored Sam as he hit redial on the phone and waited for Christy to pick up.
“Christy? Hey, it’s Dean. What’re you doing?”
“Dean, hi. I hoped you’d call,” Christy replied. “I’m just sitting here, watching TV. You should come over, so we can um, you know, finish what we started earlier.”
Dean’s dick twitched in his pants. “Man, I wish I could, Christy, but I’m stuck here babysitting my little brother.” Dean made a sound of disgust and Sam rolled his eyes. “Say, how about you come over here, instead? My dad’s out and my brother’s in his room, playing with his sperm...whale.”
“Dean!” Sam roared, eyes widening.
Dean bit back a chuckle, easily batting Sam’s hand away as Sam aimed for his head.
“So, you coming over?” Dean pressed.
“Sounds good,” Christy replied. “I’ll see you in ten. Oh, and um, just so you know…I’m on the pill…”
The line went dead. Dean sat there for one long, stunned moment, a stupid grin plastered on his face at the realization that he was so getting laid that night. He glanced over to Sam, grin still in place, but Sam didn’t appear to share Dean’s excitement.
“Gross! I don’t want to sit here watching you two suck face all night,” Sam complained.
“Then, go to your room,” Dean suggested, tossing the cell phone onto the coffee table next to the TV remote.
“Not fair,” Sam countered. “The TV’s out here and there’s nothing to do in the other room.” He glowered at Dean, hands fisted, daring Dean to make another comment about his papier-mâché whale.
Dean sighed. “Fine, then stay out here and me and Christy’ll go into the bedroom.” His grin returned. “That’d probably work out better for all involved anyway.”
Sam scowled. “No! Ew! Then I’ll have to listen to you two going at it through the wall!”
“Dude, bedroom or living room,” Dean growled, fixing Sam with a serious stare. “Choose.”
“I don’t want to choose,” Sam sulked.
“Yeah, well for twenty bucks, you’re gonna have to suck it up tonight, bitch,” Dean stated.
Sam’s whole body registered his disappointment, his shoulders slumping as his lips curled down into a tight pout.
“Why does Christy have to come over anyway?” he griped. “You guys are always together, Dean. Jeez, you’d think the two of you would be sick of each other by now.” Sam gazed up at his brother, eyes wide and hopeful, playing the puppy-face for all it was worth. “I wanted us to just hang out together tonight. You know, just you and me.” Sam brightened suddenly. “Hey, maybe you can help me make a homemade barometer, like the one they showed us yesterday at the library!”
“A barometer?! Are you freaking kidding me?” Dean stared at Sam in amazement, before letting out an angry chuff of disbelief. “Who gives a flying crap about a barometer when I’ve got a gymnastics champ wanting to come over and show me her reverse splits!” Dean eyed his brother suspiciously. “What the hell is a barometer anyway?” he snapped in irritation.
Sam stared at the floor, anger slowly building in his chest. “I just wanted to do something together, is all,” he said stiffly.
“Yeah? Well, I wanna do something together too, only with Christy,” Dean replied. “I haven’t seen her in three days, Sammy, and little Dean’s finally about to see some action tonight.” Dean shot his brother a knowing leer.
Sam made a face. “You’re such a perv,” he grunted.
“Whatever. You’ll understand better in a couple years, squirt,” Dean said. “For now, you need to make yourself scarce.”
“No,” Sam said, planting his feet and folding his arms across his chest.
“Dad told you to mind me, Sam,” Dean said.
“Yeah, and Dad told you, you were grounded,” Sam retorted, the ‘so there’ implied in his arrogant smirk.
The two boys glared at each other for a minute. Then, without warning, Dean surged off the couch and tackled Sam around his middle, picking the younger boy up and slinging him easily over a shoulder.
“You jerk!” Sam hollered, pummeling his brother’s back. “Lemme go, Dean! I’m telling Dad!”
“Nuh uh, Sammy,” Dean crooned. “You accepted the pay off money, which means you agree to the terms of the bargain.” He gave Sam’s denim-covered rear end a sharp slap as he carried the boy down the hall. “Just remember, stoolies who rat out their associates are usually never heard from again.”
“Mmm, God…yeah, that’s…ohh…” Dean moaned loudly into Christy’s mouth when she wormed one of her hands down into the open vee of his jeans, the rest of his thoughts completely forgotten.
Christy’s manicured fingertips brushed against Dean’s cock, swirling against the engorged head through his briefs, leaving Dean panting and groaning in desperation. The two had been on the couch for the past hour and a half, slowly progressing from heated tongue-filled kisses to the unbuttoning of clothes, hands roaming urgently across naked flesh, caressing, squeezing and rubbing.
“Omigod, you get me sooo hot, Dean,” Christy purred, her persistent fingers letting him know she was ready to move past the kissing and groping stage of their rendezvous. “Mmhmm…wanna go to your bedroom?”
Yeah, bedroom, Dean thought happily, and then he hesitated, lips hovering over Christy’s. Bedroom. The word abruptly snapped Dean out of his sex-filled reverie, and he sat up, frowning. He hastily pushed Christy’s fingers away from his groin.
“Uh, hang on a sec, sweetheart,” Dean said, as he adjusted his stiffened dick. He slid a little further away from his girlfriend, a knot of uncertainty growing in his gut. Something suddenly seemed…off…to him, but Dean wasn’t quite sure why.
Christy frowned. “What’s wrong? Didn’t you like it? You sounded like you liked it.”
“No, no, Christy, I liked it just fine,” Dean replied with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Bedroom…Sam. “No, um, I just need to check on my kid brother, you know? Before we, uh, take it to the next level.”
“Oh.” Christy fell back against the couch cushions with a sigh, shrugging her shirt back onto her shoulders. “God, I wish my brothers were as quiet as yours,” she said, fiddling with a bra strap. “He must be sleeping or something,” she suggested as Dean rose from the couch, carefully zipping up over his erection. “I mean, what? It’s been like an hour and he hasn’t even come out here to spy on us or get a glass of water or anything.”
“Yeah,” Dean muttered, worry blooming on his face. The niggling feeling in the pit of Dean’s stomach now had something to focus on.
Sam had been pretty pissed off earlier about Christy coming over. It wasn’t like him not to at least attempt to interrupt their make out session in retaliation. Not like Sammy at all.
Dean headed toward the short hall leading back to the bedrooms. “I’ll be right back,” he told Christy. “Get yourself a soda or something. I won’t be long.”
Dean went to knock at the closed bedroom door, but held off. If Sam was sleeping, he didn’t want to wake him, and if the kid was doing something he wasn’t supposed to, it would be better to catch him in the act. That decided, Dean grabbed the doorknob and opened the bedroom door to peer inside the darkened room.
“Sam?” Dean whispered.
He squinted across the shadowy room over to Sam’s bed, saw that it was unoccupied and then quickly felt for the light switch on the wall near the door, flicking the lights on. The room was empty. Dean’s stomach did an ugly flip-flop.
Dean made it over to the closet in two strides, fear and anger warring in his chest. He took hold of the doorknob. “Dude, if you’re hiding in the closet, being a little bitch and trying to scare me, you just bought yourself a butt whupping,” Dean said in growing irritation.
He yanked open the door and stared mutely at the row of swaying clothes on their hangers. His eyes dropped to the floor of the closet, searching for Sam’s feet, but the floor was completely bare, save for a few dust bunnies along the baseboards.
“Fuck,” Dean whispered, his heart pounding. Sam was really and truly not in the room. His little brother had gone AWOL.
The window over his bed proved to be the telltale factor for Dean. That and the perfect size 8 footprint left on his pillow. He glanced at the windowsill, his eyes running over the broken line of salt there, and Dean’s jaw clenched in fury. The little shit had crawled out the window!
Christy appeared in the doorway of the room. “Hey, I heard you yelling. What’s going on? Everything okay?”
“No, everything is not okay,” Dean answered, stiffly. “My brother’s gone.”
Christy studied the messy room a moment, as if Dean might have somehow missed Sam, hiding in a corner or something, and then gazed back up at Dean in mild curiosity. “Hmm. Guess he got bored,” she said. “Probably went over to a friend’s or went down to the park.”
The park? Dean thought. Crap. Kids had been going missing from the park. Their father was at the park right now, doing surveillance, hoping to verify whether or not a troll was causing all the trouble. SHIT.
“Shit!” Dean swore aloud. He pivoted and brushed past Christy, the prospect of sex now forgotten. He headed for the living room and the front door.
Christy trailed after him, hurriedly buttoning up her blouse, missing a hole in the process. “Dean, wait,” she called after him. “Wait!” She grabbed the back of Dean’s shirt.
Dean halted, turning around to meet Christy’s confused look.
“What’s the big deal?” she asked. “I mean, yeah, he should have told you he was going out, but your brother’s probably just gone to hang with some friends. Jeez, you act like he’s been kidnapped or something.”
“Or something…” Dean muttered unhappily under his breath.
“What?” Christy’s face scrunched in puzzlement. She put her hands on her hips, frowning. “What is going on, Dean?”
Letting out a ragged breath, Dean ran a hand through his hair and offered up an apologetic smile. “Look, Christy, I’m really sorry. You gotta go.”
“Go? Why?” Christy’s bewilderment turned to hurt. “I thought we were having fun.” She reached out to trail her fingers down Dean’s chest. “C’mon, your brother’s fine. And, hey, we have the whole place to ourselves now.”
Dean pushed Christy’s hand away. “We don’t know that Sammy’s okay,” he said, his voice rising in worry. “Look, I gotta go look for him, so you have to leave.”
“Can’t you just call around and see if he’s over at a friend’s?” Christy wheedled.
Dean shook his head as he began herding Christy towards the door. “You don’t understand-”
“No, I don’t,” Christy snapped, stopping to turn and glare at Dean. “God, Dean, you act like this is some life or death situation. Is this like your first time babysitting him ‘cause I’ve babysat my brothers a lot and-”
Dean cut her off. “Christy, I don’t have time to explain,” he said, reaching for the door and opening it. “Believe me, I am really, really sorry about this,” Dean glanced sadly down at the crotch of his jeans. “Really sorry,” he mumbled. “But, I need to go find my brother before my dad gets back.” He shrugged helplessly.
“I’ll come with you,” Christy suggested.
“No. That’s okay, I’m – I need to take care of this myself,” he explained. He grabbed Christy unexpectedly by the shoulders and hauled her close, pressing his lips against hers in an ardent kiss. Pulling back, Dean grinned faintly at the woozy smirk on Christy’s face.
He gave her a rueful smile. “Save that thought,” Dean said and then he shoved her out the door with a pained sigh. “Sammy, you better be okay, little brother, or I’m gonna kill you,” he muttered under his breath.
Dean raced back to his bedroom to grab his shoes. As he hopped around the carpet on one leg, attempting to get his left sneaker on his foot, the front door opened. Dean groaned in exasperation. While he admired Christy’s pluck in wanting to help, he didn’t have time for it. Dean stalked out of the bedroom, shoes unlaced, an agitated frown painted on his face.
“Look, Christy, I already -” Dean froze at the sight of his father standing in the hallway.
“Christy?” John echoed in confusion.
He took in his son’s flustered countenance, and then cast a glance over to the open bedroom door behind Dean. Realization dawned bright across John’s features, hardening them. He snapped his gaze back to his son, studying Dean’s rumpled appearance, now with the critical eye of a parent.
“You invited your girlfriend over?” John asked, his tone brimming with indignant shock.
Dean’s mouth opened but no words came out. He blinked, his mind stuttering to catch up with the situation at hand.
“What the hell’s going on, Dean?” John demanded. “I asked you if you have girl in this house. Answer me, boy!”
John’s low roar was like a physical blow to Dean. It snapped him to attention instantly.
“No, sir. I mean, yes, sir…but no, sir, not now,” Dean stammered. He swallowed and tried again. “Christy was here, but um…I sent her home.”
John took the information in with an almost casual nod that belied his anger.
“Exactly what part of ‘you’re grounded’ did you not understand, Dean?” he inquired icily. “What part of ‘keep it in your pants’ was too hard for you to comprehend?”
Dean focused on the pattern of the carpet between his shoes.
“I don’t believe you,” John said, disappointment written across his face. “Bringing some chick over to bang while you’re supposed to be watching your brother.”
Dean’s head shot up. “Sam,” he gulped, eyes wide and panicked.
John’s heart skipped a beat as he caught the frantic desperation in his son’s eyes. “What about Sammy?” he asked. “Dean? Is Sam all right?”
Dean found it hard to catch his breath all of sudden. He gasped, feeling his throat tightening and he bent over, hands on his knees, trying to draw oxygen into his lungs.
“Dean!” John shouted in alarm.
He was at his son’s side in an instant, hands clasping the teen’s shoulders, eyes full of fear. One hand slid to the back of Dean’s neck, fingers roughly kneading the taut muscles there.
“Okay, just calm down, son. Take a deep breath. Calm down now, and tell me where Sam is.”
“He’s gone,” Dean wheezed, head still bent almost between his knees.
Dean nodded. He took a long ragged breath, then another. “He was in the bedroom while Christy and I were…” Dean’s cheeks flushed with guilt. “While we were making out on the couch,” he finished miserably. His panic attack ebbing, Dean slowly straightened up. He looked up at his father. “I noticed it was quiet and I went to check on Sam and, and he was gone, Dad. He climbed out the freaking bedroom window!”
“You sure?” John questioned.
Dean nodded gloomily. “There are footprints all over my pillow and the salt line’s all messed up on the sill,” he stated.
John scrubbed at his bearded face, trying to remain calm as Dean explained the events of the evening, leading up to Sam’s disappearance. Despite his best efforts, John felt his blood pressure rise as he listened; however, he resisted the urge to throttle Dean right then and there. First things first, John thought. They had to find Sam. There’d be plenty of time to deal with Dean later. He gave his eldest boy a long, hard look.
END OF PART 2
The front door opened slowly, almost stealthily.
John’s head snapped around and Dean’s followed suit. John tensed, battle-ready, his eyes quickly scanning around for a possible weapon. Years of fighting the unimaginable had instilled a sense of constant paranoia in him that, sadly, often came in handy.
A soft rustling indicated someone or something had entered the house, and then just as quietly, the door snicked shut.
“Dean?” Sam called out hesitantly from the living room.
Both men visibly relaxed at the sound of Sam’s voice. Sammy was okay. He was safe!
Dean shut his eyes, letting out a ragged breath of relief and by the time he opened them again, John was already stalking down the hallway towards the living room with a purpose.
Dean started after his dad, but pulled up short when he overheard a loud crack ring out - the unmistakable sound of a hand meeting a denim backside - closely followed by a surprised holler. He winced in sympathy. Dad was pretty pissed. Another whack ensued and Dean almost tripped over himself as he sped down the hallway toward the living room.
Rounding the corner, Dean skidded into the room, his feet catching and flipping up a corner of the area rug as he came to an abrupt halt. He stared anxiously at his brother and father, standing in the middle of the room. John had Sam by the upper arm, the boy’s body twisted away from him, giving John clear access to his son’s backside, which he blistered with deadly proficiency.
“Where the hell have you been?” John barked at Sam. “What have I told you about leaving the house and not telling anyone?”
John delivered a volley of heated smacks to Sam’s butt as he lectured, and Sam yelped pitifully, squirming in his father’s grip.
“I just went for a walk around the block!” Sam howled. He attempted to dance out of the way of the blows raining down on his vulnerable rear end. “M’sorry!”
“I’ll show you sorry, mister,” John intoned darkly. He headed for the hallway, leading Sam in front of him, so that he could punctuate his words with stinging swats as they walked. “You know better than to go wandering around at night by yourself!”
“Dad,” Dean begged, following the two down the hall. “Dad, please, it’s not Sammy’s fault.”
John stopped. He pivoted, Sam still in his grip, and shot Dean a brittle glower. “Your brother knows better than to take off like that. Regardless of why he did it, Dean.”
Dean fidgeted, letting his eyes drop guiltily to the floor. He knew why, and from the insinuating tone his father had just used, Dean was pretty sure his dad knew too.
“You go plant your ass on the couch,” John directed gruffly. “I’ve got plenty to say to you after I’m done with Sammy.”
Dean watched numbly as John and Sam disappeared into the bedroom, the door slamming shut behind them.
He stood staring at the closed door until he heard the sound of his father spanking his little brother in earnest. Sam’s tearful “sorrys” and “ows” were punctuated by the loud, rhythmic smacks Dad delivered to poor Sammy’s rear end. The kid wasn’t going to be sitting easy any time soon from the sounds of it. Dean swore under his breath and trudged back out to the living room to await his own fate.
“I was supposed to get laid tonight,” he muttered, dejectedly.
END OF PART 3
“You’re alright, kiddo,” John murmured softly.
Sam latched onto his father’s chest, sobs wracking his slight frame. One hand rubbed gingerly at his freshly spanked bottom as John cradled the boy between his legs, hands gently rubbing and patting Sam’s quivering back.
“C’mon, Sammy, calm down, bud.” John reached up to give Sam’s neck a reassuring squeeze before tangling his fingers in the fine, tousled hair at the boy’s nape. “You’re going to be okay. It’s all over and I’m not mad anymore.”
Sam’s breath hitched, then held steady, then hiccupped once before finally settling down into a more normal rhythm. He snuffled into his father’s shirtfront, trying desperately to ignore the stinging throb emanating from his rear end.
“M’sorry,” Sam mumbled again.
“I know you are,” John replied, dropping a kiss onto the top of Sam’s head.
“Didn’t mean to scare you,” Sam said. “I was just trying to get back at Dean.”
John let out a short chuckle. “Yeah, well that wasn’t exactly the smartest way to go about it, was it?”
Sam shook his head.
John pulled Sam away from his chest, so that he could look his son in the eye. “I gave you an order before I left, Sam. You remember what it was?”
Sam squirmed. “Yes sir,” he mumbled, face flushing with shame. “Listen to Dean.”
John nodded. “That’s right.”
Sam’s eyes glinted bright with new tears. “Yeah, but Dad, Dean-“
John cut Sam off with a wave of his hand. “We’re not talking about what Dean did or didn’t do, here,” he said. His mouth thinned. “I’ll be dealing with your brother soon enough; don’t worry about that, Sam.” He reached up to brush Sam’s bangs from his face. “You understand why you got a spanking?”
Sam nodded slowly, not able to meet his father’s eyes. “I left the house without permission or telling Dean, and I went out after hours by myself while you were out on a hunt.”
“A hunt that was taking place only a few blocks from here,” John added, his voice growing tight. “Do you understand how dangerous that was? What I’m hunting Sam…” his voice trailed off, unable to finish as the horror of it hit him fully.
Sam’s head popped up in interest. “What? What are you hunting?”
John’s mind flooded with images of trolls and their hapless victims – most of them children - gnawed bones, hanks of bloody hair and torn, tattered flesh…John dragged in a deep, calming breath through his nose. He forced a weak smile onto his face as he patted his son’s head reassuringly.
Sam was still relatively new to the hunter lifestyle; it’d only been two years since he’d found out about it by stealing John’s journal and reading about what his dad did for a living, if one could call it that. After paddling the kid’s butt for going through his private stuff, John had sadly realized Sam’s ‘innocence’ was pretty much shot to shit at that point, and he’d slowly begun to involve his youngest in the minor details of hunting, letting him do simple tasks, such as laying down salt lines or helping melt silver for bullets.
“Dad? What are you hunting?” Sam repeated. His wide, hazel eyes searched his father’s worn face for anything that might tell him more, give him a hint as to how big a risk he’d taken. “Is it really bad?”
While his son’s natural curiosity and sharp intellect would serve him well in the future, John had sworn to keep as much of the more gruesome details from Sam for as long as possible. Dean never had a choice in the matter, but with Sam, John had a chance to keep some of the darkness that surrounded their lives at arm’s length.
“It doesn’t matter, Sammy,” John said. “All you need to know is that your old man’s going to take care of it. But until I do, you need to follow my orders, exactly, and stay inside the house when I’m out at night.”
John vowed his kid would never be one of those small, lifeless bodies he’d discovered, left rotting in some burrow deep in the forest by the troll. Not ever. Not as long as John Winchester was alive and drawing breath.
“We clear on the rules?” John asked, and Sam nodded diligently. “Good. You and your brother are the most important things in my life, Sammy. And the orders I give you are to keep you safe, to keep you alive. You follow them, and nothing’s ever going to happen to you. Understand?”
“Uh huh,” Sam replied, his eyelids drooping sleepily.
John smirked, watching his eleven-year-old fighting his tiredness and then leaned forward, scooping Sam up in a tight bear hug.
“C’mon, buddy, time for bed,” he said, voice whisky-warm and full of what he hoped was reassurance.
John slipped off the bed, grabbing the covers and flipping them back, so that Sam could climb in to lay down on his side, his tender backside safely off the mattress.
Sam peered up at his father, red-rimmed eyes holding nothing but love now in their gaze.
“Sweet dreams, Sam-I-Am,” John said, as he tucked the boy in, fingers caressing along Sam’s jaw line. “Get some sleep,” he murmured.
John turned off the light and headed out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him as softly as he could.
Dean hastily arose from the couch as his father entered the living room. He stood, shifting from one foot to the other, eyes flicking up to his dad’s unreadable face and then quickly darting away to study the picture on the wall, the pattern of the rug under his feet, the coffee table.
John remained impassive, hands in his jeans pockets, placidly watching his oldest son struggle to maintain his composure. The kid understood he’d done wrong and now he was just trying to figure out the damage. John weighed the options in his head, debated over how to handle this, and then came to a firm, if not foregone conclusion.
Dean licked his suddenly dry lips and waited.
When John finally spoke, his tone carried a sharp edge to it, meant to intimidate and demand attention. “I hoped I’d never have to go here with you again, Dean.” John sauntered slowly towards his son, a serious frown on his face.
“I know, and Dad, I’m sorry. Honest,” Dean began, “I know I should have been watching Sammy-“
“Then, why didn’t you?” John questioned, fixing Dean with a cold stare.
Dean didn’t really have a good answer for that. He winced and returned his attention back to the floor.
Dean gave a wilting shrug. “I don’t know,” he replied quietly. “I guess I didn’t see anything wrong with having Christy over, you know, until Sam…” he didn’t finish the sentence, too embarrassed to admit the rest aloud.
“Yeah,” John said, nodding. “Let’s get this over with, then.”
He walked over to the armchair opposite the sofa and used his knee to nudge the matching stuffed ottoman away from the chair, pushing it toward the center of the room. Taking a seat on the ottoman, John spread his legs slightly and then crooked a finger at Dean.
“Let’s go, bud, jeans down.”
Dean was a statue, frozen in place. He stood, mouth agape, eyes widening in shock.
“What?” Dean squeaked.
“I told you what would happen if you gave me any more trouble, Dean.” John leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees.
“Aw, c’mon, Dad, you don’t really…” Dean swallowed, floundering, as his mind tried to rationalize what was happening. “You’re not gonna…”
“What? Spank you?” John interjected. He cocked a brow at Dean.
“But, but…I’m fifteen,” Dean blurted helplessly.
John nodded. “Yeah, I know, son. We’ve already had the discussion about your age.”
Dean looked like a panicky horse getting ready to bolt. “I-I’m too old for…” He wrinkled his nose and gestured sharply at his father’s seated position. “For that.”
John’s amused smile did nothing to settle the butterflies in Dean’s stomach.
“Right?” Dean asked timidly. “Dad? I’m right, aren’t I?”
“I made you a promise, Dean,” John stated. “I said I’d give you a spanking if you continued with the bad behavior. The choice was yours and you made it. Now, get over here.” John patted his lap in an ominous invitation.
Dean crossed his arms, squaring his shoulders. “Why can’t you punish me some other way?” he demanded.
John blinked. “Come again?”
“I’m a teenager. You can’t spank a teenager.”
“I can’t?” John inquired.
“No,” Dean replied.
Dean nodded, more as if to convince himself. “Yeah, so, no. You can’t go through with this.”
John lurched to his feet and Dean immediately scuttled back until his thighs hit the edge of the couch. He toppled backwards onto the cushions in mild surprise, the air leaving his lungs, making a sound akin to a balloon with a slow leak.
“It was just a suggestion,” Dean bleated.
“This isn’t up for negotiation,” John remarked brusquely. “You’ve got to the count of three to get your butt over here, or I come get you.” He fixed the teen with a no-nonsense glare. “And Dean? If I have to come get you, my belt’s going to be getting a work out tonight.”
Scrambling off the couch as if it were on fire, Dean neatly hurdled over the coffee table, ending up at his father’s side before the man could get any further in the count.
“Nice hustle,” John murmured.
“Thanks,” Dean replied, smirking a little, despite the seriousness of the situation.
John motioned towards Dean’s pants. “Get ‘em down, boy.”
The scandalized eye roll was inevitable, so John ignored it as he took a seat once again on the ottoman. He waited impatiently while Dean took his time carefully unclasping his belt and fiddling with the metal button at the top of his jeans.
“Dean. Today,” John demanded.
Flushing, Dean nodded and hurriedly unzipped his pants, shoving them down to his knees. He stood back up, jittery, unsure of where to put his hands. The humiliation of standing before his dad in just his Hanes briefs seemed almost unbearable.
John reached over, taking Dean by the arm and directed his son over his lap.
Dean squirmed, uncomfortable and mortified at his prone position. He felt all of five years old. It ate at his ego in the worst way, particularly knowing that Sam was just down the hall, within earshot, and that he would undoubtedly hear the noise and would recognize that Dean was getting his ass beaten.
“You know, I could end up majorly traumatized from this,” Dean sullenly declared over his shoulder.
John snorted as he adjusted his son over his lap, raising a knee to lift Dean’s backside up just right. “You’ll live,” he countered dryly. “Probably won’t want to sit down for the next day or two, but I hardly think you’ll be scarred for life, son.”
“This sucks,” Dean whined. “Almost sixteen and I’m getting a spanking, for crying out loud.”
“You were warned,” John reminded him. He raised his hand, aiming for the meaty portion of his son’s rear end.
Dean’s lip curled into a stoic sneer. “Fine. Just do it, then. It probably won’t even hurt that much any-“ <CRACK!> “OW!”
The smack stung! Really freaking stung.
Dean didn’t have time to process the tingling heat spreading out from the impact site before his Dad’s large hand came down again, just below where the first blow had landed and then another and another followed in quick succession, trailing fire down to his sit spots and back up again.
Dean lost count of the swats as his nerve endings sang out in protest against the painful assault.
“OW! Dad!” Dean yelled as he bucked over his father’s lap. “That – Holy! OWW!”
Okay, he knew it had been a few years since he’d last been relegated to staring at the floor directly under his nose while getting his ass roasted, and yeah, memories faded with time and all that jazz, but Dean was pretty sure he should have remembered this. This agonizing, raw ache that exploded across his butt and upper thighs with every single swat his father delivered. Fuck, was his dad’s hand laced with adamantium or what?!
Several dozen, heated smacks later and one of Dean’s hands flailed back to cover his smarting backside. John caught Dean’s wrist and moved the hand out of the way, holding it off to the side as he continued with the punishment, maintaining a hard, steady tempo. He wanted to make sure Dean was left with a solid reminder of who was the adult and who was the child here.
“Why are you getting this spanking, Dean?”
Through the haze of pain, Dean could hear his father talking, but his accuracy in comprehending what was actually said was somewhat off, or so he thought. Because what Dean thought he’d heard his dad ask was, why Dean was currently ass up over his father’s knee with his Levi’s tangled around his ankles, getting paddled like some errant toddler.
But, Dean knew that couldn’t possibly be right. His dad wasn’t that cruel, was he? He wouldn’t be so sarcastically inclined, would he?
“Dean, why are you getting this spanking?” John repeated, a little louder and a little slower this time.
Well damn, Dean thought. He had heard right after all.
“Dean.” The censure was punctuated with a sharp smack to Dean’s butt crease.
“Okay! All right!” Dean yelped. “Jeez, can’t a guy have a minute to collect his thoughts?”
The flurry of swats that followed left Dean with the clear impression that his minute was pretty much up, and he quickly began to list his crimes, interspersing a grunt or hiss in between each offense. By the time Dean got to the end of the list, his butt felt as if it had been incinerated.
Tears stippled Dean’s face, and he risked losing his balance to reach a hand up to swipe them away.
John ended the spanking, but kept Dean draped over his lap, his hand resting lightly on his teen’s scorched rear end.
“Have you learned anything from all this?” John softly questioned.
“Yes sir,” Dean replied, his voice rough with unshed tears. “I need to buy thicker underwear.”
Dean felt John tense underneath him and his stomach clenched in apprehension, but instead of anger, John shook with silent laughter.
“Smart ass,” John said, giving his son a token pat on his sore butt. “Anything else?” he pressed.
“Yeah, I should have followed orders and shouldn’t have tried to bend the rules, and I should have kept a better eye on Sammy and not treated him so lousy and all.” Dean shifted, wincing slightly. “And oh yeah, chicks are so not worth this.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” John said, smiling. “Your mother was.”
Dean snorted. “Bet you didn’t ever get your ass beat over her,” he declared huffily.
John’s smile widened. “Bet I did,” he challenged.
Dean’s head swiveled up and around. He stared at his father, incredulous. “Seriously?”
John nodded sheepishly. “That’s a story for another time,” he said. “C’mon, get up.” He helped Dean up from his lap, averting his gaze and giving his son a bit of privacy as Dean bent down to retrieve his pants.
Dean hissed, grimacing when the rough fabric of his jeans caught on the under hang of his butt. He tried but couldn’t keep from dancing from one foot to the other as he zipped up and buckled his belt; it was slightly disconcerting to him that his ass now pulsed in time to his heartbeat.
Before Dean could orchestrate an escape, John stood up and corralled the teenager, bringing him in for an affectionate hug. Dean leaned into his father’s shoulder, acquiescing to the unmanly moment, for his dad’s sake, he told himself, but he didn’t reach up to hug back. His hands were already employed, cradling his throbbing butt.
They broke the hug, but John slung an arm around Dean’s shoulder, keeping him close.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with a chick, dude,” John said. “But, family comes first, and that includes the family business.”
“Hunting things,” Dean said.
John nodded. “Yup, and saving people,” he added. “I left you in charge tonight, Dean. I trusted you to keep the home front secure and safe while I was tracking that troll and you let me down.”
“So, for sure, it’s a troll?” Dean asked, eyes filling with concern.
“Yeah,“ John responded, tightly. He fought the rise of bile in his throat. “I found its empty burrow in the woods.”
“Sooo, it was somewhere out there, tonight, hunting for food,” Dean stated, “And Sammy was…” his mind made the logical connection and Dean’s face suddenly turned ashen. “Oh, God,” he whispered.
“Starting to see the bigger picture now?” John casually inquired. He knew it was a callous thing to say, but he needed to drive the point home.
Dean could only nod, horrorstruck at what could have been. John let the teenager reflect on the lesson a few minutes longer and then reached up to give Dean’s shoulder a comforting squeeze.
“Sammy looks up to you, Dean. You may not realize it, but your little brother watches everything you do. Listens to every word that comes out of your mouth.”
Dean snickered. “Yeah, he sure picked up the swear words pretty quickly, didn’t he?”
“Dean.” John warned, giving his son a stern frown. “Let’s focus here.”
Dean offered his father an abashed look. “Sorry.”
John continued. “What kind of role model are you providing for Sam when you countermand my orders or smart off to me or make acting irresponsible look cool instead of what it really is?”
“A real crappy one,” Dean admitted glumly, his face falling.
“Is that the kind of role model you want to be?” John asked. “That the sort of man you expect me to depend on and trust?”
“No sir,” Dean replied, giving a firm shake of his head. He really didn’t want to be that kind of man. He wanted, more than anything, to be a hero, just like his father.
John’s features softened as he watched his son’s demeanor change, mature a little. It was a hard message delivered in an unkind way, especially at fifteen, but it was a necessary one if they wanted to survive in this world.
“You’re almost a man, son. So, this better be the last time I ever have to give you a spanking,” John advised.
“It is,” Dean assured him, reaching back to rub at his butt. “I ain’t making that mistake again.”
“I hope not,” John warned. He leveled a serious look at his eldest. “Because if we ever have to do this again, Dean, I’ll make sure you can’t sit down until you’re ready for retirement.”
Dean flushed in embarrassment but nodded. “Got it, Dad.”
“Good. Now, hit the sack,” John ordered, jerking his head towards the hallway. “Oh, and you might think about apologizing to your brother,” he called after Dean. “You treated him pretty shitty tonight, Dean.”
Dean stopped and turned to face his dad. “Yeah, I know,” he sheepishly admitted. “I was planning to say something to him.” Dean made a face, his cheeks suffusing with color. “He just wanted to spend some time with me, and I totally blew him off.” he muttered.
John winced. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t done the exact same thing to both his kids time and again. So much for being a role model on that one, he thought dryly.
“Look, don’t beat yourself up over it,” John said. “Just, I don’t know, make it up to Sam somehow, okay?”
“Will do, Dad,” Dean replied and turned to head off to his room once again.
The bedroom was quiet as Dean entered it, the air still and heavy, filled with the emotional residue of words unspoken and tears shed.
Sam was curled on his side in bed, facing away from Dean. He looked so small, Dean thought.
“Hey, Sammy?” Dean called, hesitant. “Sam?”
The lump on the bed stirred. “What do you want?”
Dean ambled over to the bed, and stopped, his knees pressing against the side of the mattress. “So…about tonight,” he started.
Dean made a face. “Yeah, I know. I was a pretty big jerk, and I’m sorry,” he said. “But, you weren’t exactly Mr. Perfect either,” Dean asserted. “You scared the crap out of me, you know that?”
Sam rolled over to glower at Dean, mouth in a pout. “I just wanted to hang out with you tonight,” he said. “You’re the one that got all mean and told me to get lost.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t mean pull a Hilts and go over the fence,” Dean countered.
“I was mad,” Sam stated.
Dean cocked a brow.
Sam huffed. “I did it to get back at you,” he suggested, the lingering hurt in his voice unmistakable.
Dean rubbed the back of his neck in consternation and nodded slowly, looking down in shame. “For the whale thing?” he asked.
“No,” Sam replied. “Well not just that.” He regarded Dean with wide, wet eyes. “Because Christy’s more important to you than me.”
“Whoa, there, hold up,” Dean said, frowning slightly. “Where’d you get that idea?”
Sam gave a sad little half-shrug. “You’re always talking about her and spending time with her and stuff,” he replied. “And you wanted to be with her tonight instead of with me. So, she’s gotta be more important to you.”
The words were like a punch to Dean’s gut. He reached down, tipping up his brother’s chin. “Hey, look at me, Sammy.” Sam slowly raised his eyes to meet Dean’s. “No one’s more important to me than you, okay? No one.”
“Not even Dad?” Sam asked.
Dean shook his head. “Nope, not even Dad.”
Sam thought a moment and then said, “What about pie?”
Dean snorted. “Apple pie’s got nothing on you, Sammy.”
“What about the Impala?” Sam challenged.
Dean arched a brow at Sam. “Don’t push your luck, squirt.” He smirked, giving Sam’s shoulder a playful shove.
A smile finally ghosted across Sam’s lips but faded just as quickly. He gazed up at Dean in earnest. “How come you wouldn’t help me make a barometer then?” he quietly asked.
Dean sighed. “Dude, you know I’d do anything for you, but I don’t think I will ever willingly want to make a barometer. Not even with the hottest chick on the planet standing next to me, handing me the parts.” He shook his head, his expression a mix of curiosity and frustration. “Seriously, Sam, what the fuck is a barometer?”
Sam burst into a fit of giggles and Dean grinned.
“Look, I screwed up, okay? Big time. And I’m sorry.”
Sam chewed on the apology for a quiet moment.
“So, we okay?” Dean pressed.
Sam nodded, yawning. “Yeah. We’re good.” He scooted over, careful to keep his sore butt off the mattress as he did so, and patted the bed. “Share with me until I fall asleep?” he begged.
Dean pretended to look aghast at the thought of sharing a bed with his geeky little brother but then he gave an indulgent nod and crawled in beside Sam. He flinched a little as the bed sheets scraped across his aching rear end, and he bit his lip not to groan out loud in front of Sam. Damn, getting a spanking at fifteen hurt in more ways than one, he thought ruefully.
He tugged the blankets up under Sam’s chin. “Night, Sammy,” Dean said.
“Night, Dean,” Sam replied, yawning once more. He snuggled down into the warmth provided by the blankets and his brother, relaxing and letting his exhaustion overcome him.
“I’m just staying for a couple minutes,” Dean reiterated, cracking a wide yawn himself. He laid his head back against the headboard, fighting the heaviness falling over him, trying to pull him down into slumber. His eyes wearily fluttered shut, despite his best efforts. “Just for a few…” Dean mumbled, trailing off. The rest of his sentence was overtaken by a soft snore.
Half an hour later, John carefully tiptoed down the hall to peer into the boys’ room before calling it a night himself. He leaned against the doorjamb, stuffing his hands into his jeans pockets, and smiled softly.
Dean and Sam lay fast asleep, both snuggled together on the single bed nearest the door, looking like a pair of tuckered out pups as they snuffled and squirmed, boyish snores filling the room. John was amazed that they both fit on the mattress, since it had been years since the two had shared a bed like that. Not since Dean had hit puberty and had had his growth spurt.
Dean lay on his side, facing Sam, nose almost buried in the back of the younger boy’s hair. One arm curled protectively around his little brother, drawing him in close to his chest while the other hand was hidden under his pillow, fingers probably unconsciously searching for the familiar feel of cold steel. John hoped Dean had left the .45 he usually kept under his pillow back in his own bed. The kid needed his rest.
Sam slept like the dead, lying on his stomach with one sock-covered foot dangling off the side of the bed, his big toe peeking out of a hole in the seam of the sock. He had one hand, balled up tightly, near his cheek where it lay on the pillow.
It instantly reminded John of when the kid was still in diapers and would cuddle up on John’s chest after a bottle with one chubby hand raised to his cheek, tiny little fingers stuck in his mouth as he suckled on them contentedly. Sammy may have outgrown the thumb sucking, but the rest of the gesture was still there, and John felt a warm rush of nostalgia spread through his chest.
He bit back a wry chuckle when he caught sight of Sam’s other hand, which he’d flung behind him, protectively covering the seat of his pajama bottoms. John figured the kid must have gotten an errant knee or elbow to his sore backside at some point as Dean shifted in his sleep and Sam had decided to be proactive about possible future assaults.
John had no doubt that both his kids’ butts were going to be pretty tender for a while if his stiff, sore hand was any indication. He hadn’t gone easy on either one of them, wanting to drive home his point so that they’d never forget it. Nevertheless, the discomfort would fade in a day or so, and Dean and Sam would be back to their rambunctious selves. For now, though, his boys were home, safe, and they had learned a valuable lesson. That’s all that mattered to John Winchester.
“I’m not touching you.”
Dean glared at Sam from the corner of his eye, fingers gripping the steering wheel tightly, knuckles bone-white as Dean fought his rising exasperation. He couldn’t prevent the low growl of frustration that emanated from his throat, however.
“Sam. I mean it,” he warned.
Sam smiled, inordinately pleased, as he held his index finger about an inch from Dean’s jaw. “I’m not touching you,” he repeated smugly.
The juvenile bit of retaliation had been going on for the past several miles, ever since Dean had refused to let Sam play the stupid mix tape he’d found.
It would be just for fun, Sam had argued; a trip down memory lane.
Dean didn’t see anything particularly entertaining about having to listen to sickeningly bland pop music sung by a bunch of pussies. Nor was he one for dredging up the past, especially not that particular moment of it. They’d both been pretty dumb that summer and they’d gotten their asses royally pounded by their dad for it. Most definitely not a sentimental Kodak moment to be re-visited, as far as Dean was concerned.
However, Sam had latched onto the idea in pit bull fashion, stubbornly refusing to let go until he’d gotten his way.
The bickering had gotten pretty heavy, with Dean calling Sam an emo pansy ass and Sam retorting that Dean was a repressed Neanderthal, afraid to get in touch with his lighter side. A few half-hearted shoves and a slap to the shoulder later, and Sam was pulling out his old childhood standby of pointing a finger in Dean’s face, declaring he wasn’t ‘touching’ him, counting on Dean to cave and play the tape.
“Okay, this is ridiculous,” Dean growled, his jaw clenching. “You’re not ten anymore, you moron.” It infuriated the hell out of him that his brother could still push his buttons with that one, immature maneuver. “Get your damn finger out of my face, Sam!”
Sam continued to grin devilishly. “I’m not -,”
Dean cut him off. “Last chance, Sammy,” he snapped, eyeing his brother darkly.
“What? I’m not touching you, Dean,” Sam insisted, matter-of-factly.
Dean nodded once to himself, eyes flashing angrily as he eased off the accelerator, and checked the mirror before veering slowly toward the side of the empty road.
“What are you doing?” Sam asked, finger still in place. “Dude, why we pulling over?”
Dean didn’t answer.
Sam’s finger slowly fell away, an uneasiness settling in his stomach. “Dean?”
Dean’s expression held a note of grim satisfaction to it as he put the car in park, shut the ignition off and turned to Sam.
“You might not be touching me, little brother, but I sure as hell am gonna be touching you, in a minute, in a very painful way.” Dean reached for Sam. “Remember that ass kicking I promised you earlier?”
Sam’s eyes widened in comprehension. “Oh, shit,” he squeaked.