By Ridley C. James, February 2006
Rating: T-for language
Disclaimer: You'd think it would be a given-but no, I don't own
Timeline: Tag on epilogue for The Benders
“What do you mean you can’t find him?” John Winchester lifted his head
slowly- his smoky browneyes raising from the book that he was reading
to stare at his oldest son. “Dean-answer me!”
His twelve year-old shrugged in a way that was very reminiscent of his
little brother. “I went to the bathroom-that’s all, Dad. And when I got
back-this was all I found. I looked everywhere.” Dean held up the
ragged copy of Sam’s favorite Spiderman comic. “I think something took
John glanced around the old library, making sure they were alone. He
stood, his darkgaze seeming to glow in the firelight. “What have you
Dean flinched and took a step back. He’d expected his father to be
angry-after all he’d told Dean not take his eyes off of Sam while they
were at the diner across the street. “I’m sorry.”
“Damn right-you’re sorry, boy.” John stepped forward and shoved Dean
down in a chair that was in front of the old stone fireplace. “I give
you one simple task-take care of your brother-and look how you screw it
“Dad…we have to find him.” Dean swallowed back his own hurt and fear,
and concentrated on what needed to be done. They were wasting time. His
father should already be out looking for signs as to who or what might
have snatched his kid brother. “Please.”
“Don’t beg, Dean.” John leaned down in his son’s personal space.
“You’re going to tell me what I want to know.”
“What?” Dean tried to pull back from the man looming in front of him,
as a nauseating smell made his stomach rebel. His father’s face
wavered, momentarily replaced by another menacing grin that Dean
vaguely recognize, before morphing into John Winchester once more.
The fist was hard and swift and the contact sent his head snapping
back. “I told you not to whine! Winchester’s are tougher than this.”
Dean could taste blood on his lips, coppery and bitter. His father had
never hit him. Never. But he deserved it this time. He’d lost Sam.
“Dad you can do whatever you want to me-but let me find Sam first.
John‘s hand came up and his fingers twisted in his son‘s hair, yanking
his head back in a painful angle. “Tell me what I want to hear, and
I’ll go get your brother.”
Dean tried to push away the pain and figure out what he should
say-something that would help him and Sam. “I failed. I screwed up,” he
whispered. “I let Sam down-I let you down.”
John smiled and released Dean. “Do you think it’s going to be that
easy? After what you’ve brought down on my family?” The older
Winchester shook his head and walked towards the fire place. “You
always did have too much faith in me.”
Dean tried to get up from the chair. Something was seriously wrong with
his dad-and if he wasn’t going to look for Sam, then Dean had to. The
only problem was, he couldn’t move.
Suddenly frightened, the adolescent looked down at his hands. They were
now tied to the chair, and his legs were bound in similar fashion.
“Dad? What’s going on?” Dean swallowed back the fear that was trying to
take over. “Why are you doing this?”
“Because I’m crazy.” John turned from the fireplace, a hot poker in his
hand. “And you need to be punished.”
“No,” Dean shook his head and tried to shrink back into the chair, as
his father approached him. “I’m sorry.”
John smiled. “I know, Ace. You’re sorry.” The hunter reached out and
ran his hand over Dean’s hair with a sad smile and then pressed the
glowing poker to his son’s shoulder.
“NO!” Dean screamed and bolted straight up in bed, the sheet slipping
from his sweat-slicked torso. His father was gone as was the library
and the poker.
“Dean?” Sam sat up and fumbled for the bedside light, nearly tripping
over his own feet as he struggled out of his bed, still half asleep.
“Son of a bitch,” Dean bit out, holding a hand to his bandaged
shoulder. “Damn it!”
The older Winchester still had his eyes closed his jaw clenched against
the obvious agony he was in, when Sam made it to his side. “Hey?” Sam
laid his hand on his brother’s uninjured arm. “You okay?”
Bright, glassy green eyes met his concerned gaze. “Sam?” Dean was
panting hard, beads of sweat were sliding down his face from his damp
“Yeah,” Sam forced a smile and casually reached his hand up to rest
against his brother’s flushed face. He was burning up. “I’m here.”
Dean swallowed, making the act look painful. His fevered gaze traveled
around the sparse room. “What…Where are we?”
Sam frowned. “The motel. Remember?” The burn his brother had suffered
was second degree, and not large, so it was relatively safe to treat
themselves, or so Sam had thought. Maybe he’d been wrong to let his
brother talk him out of the trip to the hospital.
Dean sighed, and finally released his shoulder, letting his hand fall
back to the covers. “Right-hillbilly country.” He seemed to relax some,
the fear receding from his eyes.
Sam forced a grin. “I don’t think Jed and Granny would appreciate being
lumped together with the Benders.”
Dean shifted on the bed so he could rest against the headboard. He
leaned his head back against the wall, and tried to get his breathing
under control. “Yeah-but I wouldn’t have minded if the girl would have
been a little more like Ellie Mae.”
“You want to talk bout it?” Sam raised an eyebrow, not liking the way
his brother was squinting even in the soft light of the lamp. He must have one hell of a headache.
Dean raised his head and looked at him. “About why I prefer Ellie Mae
to Linda Blair’s mini me?”
The younger Winchester sighed. No-you idiot. “The nightmare.”
Dean managed an imitation of his usual cocky smile. “Nah, I’m good.”
Sam thought about letting it go, but something about seeing his brother
in such obvious pain and the haunted look that his eyes still held
wouldn’t let him. “Tell me.”
Great-why don’t you just take a swing
at me too, Sammy. He sighed. At least this motel didn’t have a
“Remember Salt Lake?” Dean laughed lightly, unable to keep his eyes
from stinging at the memory of his father’s face. Of course it had
never happened, well not the whole punch and the poker-that was all his
in his warped mind. Damn, sneaky unconscious. “Dad was hunting that
Sam’s brow furrowed, and then he grimaced. “Yeah-not the smartest thing
I ever did.”
“One of the brattiest, though.”
The younger Winchester shrugged. “I was eight-what can I say.”
“When I first came out of the bar-I thought about it you know.”
“You thought I was forcing you to play hide and seek?” Sam laughed. “I
kind of outgrew that game a few years back.”
Dean shook his head. “I mean-I thought you were playing some lame-assed
practical joke-you know. Making me worry.”
Sam looked at his brother, his smile fading. “I wouldn’t do that. I
know how you feel about me …” Sam stopped himself before he could say
the L word. Not the four-lettered one that they often struggled
with-but one almost as hard. Leave. Leaving. Have Left.
Still, Dean read his thoughts. “I admit- for a minute, I might have
considered that, too. But even Dad had the decency to do it in the
light of day, with somewhat of an explanation. I knew you hadn‘t left.”
Sam felt a renewed anger for his father. “I wouldn’t ever do that.
You’re stuck with me-remember?”
Sam shook his head. “So-you were dreaming about Salt Lake?”
Dean nodded. “Sort of. It was all twisted. The part about losing you at
the diner was still in there, but Dad’s reaction kind of got mixed up
with tonight’s fun times.”
“You didn’t lose me,” Sam pointed out. “I was hiding from you.”
“You did a damn good job of it, too. Took me and Dad over three hours
to find your scrawny ass.” Dean sighed. It had been the longest three
hours of his life. “Thirty six hours kind of makes it seem like a day
at Disneyland though.”
Guilt wrenched at Sam‘s heart, as he remembered just how his brother
had looked that day so many years ago. A lot like he had when he‘d
found Sam in the Bender‘s caged prison. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep
in the supply closet.” Just like I
didn’t mean to get caught by some crazy serial killing family.
“I don’t know who was more shocked, you or that waitress who thought
she’d stumbled across a dead body.”
“She screamed so loud that I started screaming.”
“I remember.” Dean winced as he accidentally moved his shoulder.
Sam noticed and got up from the bed-going to the first aid kit. He
grabbed the Tylenol and a bottle of water, both of which he handed to
his brother. “How’s the arm?”
“Let’s say I feel strangely bonded with cattle now-and a little angry
with their inhumane treatment.”
The younger hunter smirked. “I doubt that will hinder your leather
fettish or your great love of hamburgers.” Sam took the bottle of pain
killers back and waited for his brother to finish with the water.
“Like you have room to talk, Grimace.” Dean closed his eyes again,
feeling suddenly exhausted. Every part of his body hurt, but none worse
than his arm which still felt like it had the hot poker attached.
“You want me to turn the light off?”
Dean reacted without thinking, and his right hand shot out to grab
Sam’s arm. “No.”
Sam took in the slightly panicked look in his big brother’s eyes and
nodded. “Okay.” He waited for Dean to release him. “You want to tell me
more about the dream?”
Not really. But anything won
out over sleep and a chance at a repeat performance of his dad playing
old man Bender. “It was warped.”
“You reap what you sew.” Sam smiled.
“Fuck you,” Dean growled. “If I am warped, it’s partly because of you.”
“Mostly because of Dad,” Sam added, and continued on quickly before his
brother could disagree. “So-he was in the dream? Was he as mad as he
was when he found me back in Salt Lake?"
Sam had thought his father was going to tear the door off the hinges to
get at him, that is after he nearly shoved the waitress to the floor to
move her out of his way.
Dean remembered the punch and the poker from his nightmare. “No-he was
worse. Daddy-dearest comes to mind.”
Sam frowned. “I never understood why he was so angry with you back
then.” The younger Winchester looked away from the green gaze watching
him. “I should have gotten punished-not you.” He’d told his father as
much-begged him not to blame his brother, but as usual his father had
“Yeah-Dad busted my ass for that one.”
“He made me watch.”
Dean sighed. “Marine tactic.”
“It wasn’t fair.”
“It worked. You never hid from me again and I never let you out of my
And that’s what it came down to. Where their father was concerned, Sam
saw gray where Dean only saw black and white. Maybe it’s because he had
the luxury of being angry with the man-after all, Dean was his primary
care giver, not John. Dean didn’t have a choice but to rationalize away
anything wrong his father did. He was the only thing that stood between
him and the big bad world. Sam had Dean.
“Did he hurt you-I mean in the dream?” Sam knew the answer-could see it
in the pained look on his brother’s severely bruised face. In reality,
John may never have physically abused his oldest son-but he’d caused
him injury in countless ways. And Sam just wasn’t as willing as his
brother to forgive the man.
“Nothing hurts me, Sammy.”
It was such a load of bull, but Sam still smiled, not able to kick his
brother when he was down. “Not even that evil thing that we call the
unconscious- that likes to play tricks on us when we’re unprotected?” Like when we sleep.
Dean swallowed hard, and felt like his face would shatter as he fought
to keep his grin in place. “I’ve got that under control, too.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Well, I’m sure a few thousand shrinks would like
to know how you managed that amazing mental feat.”
“Yeah, I should write a self-help book. Hunting Down Your Inner Child-and Killing
Sam laughed. “You might even have groupies that would come to the book
“Lonely housewives searching for some love therapy-just call me Dr.
“Dr. Frankenstein is more like it,” Sam replied, and then raised a brow
at his brother. “So-in the dream, Dad blamed you for me disappearing in
Dean’s smile faded. His brother was like a dog with a bone. “He was
pissed,” he replied, casually.
“And you think he would be pissed about me getting kidnapped by the
“You know our old man. He would probably make you train for the next
week-getting jumped by a bunch of backcountry humans.”
Sam ignored the usual tactic-getting to the heart of the matter. “What
would he do to you?”
An image of the fire poker flashed through Dean's mind and he couldn’t
help to feel a rush of fear. It wasn’t like the feeling of having a hot
iron held up so close to your face that you could feel the intense
heat, but more akin to the anxiety that one gets when they know they’ve
made a terrible mistake-and there’s absolutely nothing they can do to
fix it. Dean wasn’t afraid of his father-more of what his father would
think of him. “I don’t know. I’m a little too big to turn over his knee
“He wouldn’t do anything,” Sam said with confidence.
Dean raised an eyebrow.
“Because I’m too big for him to sit in a corner now.”
“I don’t need you to protect me,” Dean said, a hint of anger touching
Sam didn’t seem to notice. “It wasn’t your fault back then-it was
mine.” Dad should have seen that.
“And this time was all on the Benders. You didn’t leave me unprotected,
“Dad might not see it that way.”
“Who cares? He’s not even here!” It was Sam’s turn to get mad. I hate that he still has some invisible
grip on you.
“You don’t get it…” Dean shook his head, more than frustrated at the
turn their conversation had taken, and too tired to continue it.
“I understand more than you think.” Sam watched his big brother for a
moment before continuing. “I know you think that it’s your job to keep
me safe. That you think that I’m your responsibility. I’m not blind, or
stupid. I knew that even when we were kids-hell, I used it against you
on more than one occasion.” Just
It hurt a little to hear his brother say it. Dean had always known that
Sam knew exactly how to push his buttons, even at the tender age of two
he could be manipulative-as most two year olds can be. He could easily
play John and Dean against one another-just like any bright child could
turn one parent on another. “Sammy-I don’t do anything I don’t want to
do.” And it was true. Dean accepted Sam-loved him unconditionally. That
would never change. It was as much a part of his make up as pleasing
his father was.
The younger Winchester sighed. “So you want to let Dad torture you in
your sleep-haven’t you already been punished enough?”
Sam saw it the moment the walls came up. Dean’s defenses might have
been weakened by the pain and trauma, and the late night hour, but he
was still and would forever be Dean. “I’m really wiped, man. Can we
continue this little session tomorrow? I’ll take notes for the chapter
in the book called: Never Listen to Little Brothers and their Suck-ass
Sam shook his head and threw his hands up in a defeated gesture.
Dean forced a grin to make it all better. “Whatever, Sammy.”
The hurt look faded. “Scoot over.” Sam crawled to the head of the bed
and nodded for his brother to move to the other side.
“Why?” Dean frowned. “What the hell is wrong with your bed?”
“Nothing,” Except it’s on the other
side of the room. Sam waited for his older brother to comply,
and then crawled under the covers. “Just want to be close in case any
more psychotic, sadistic fathers find their way past that moat you’ve
build around your unconscious.” And
in case you’re hurt worse than you’re letting on.
Dean continued to look at his brother, but eased himself over just the
same. There was that manipulation thing again. “You’re referring to old
man Bender, right Sammy?”
Sam shrugged and turned the light off. “Sure.” If that makes you feel better, big
He waited until Dean finally laid down before turning over and facing
him-the darkness bolstering his confidence. “But no matter what-or
who-shows up, I’m not leaving you unprotected.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “You really are letting that whole little rescue
go to your head, you know that-right?” He pointed to himself, even
though he was sure his actions were masked by the lack of light.. “I’m
still in charge.” As much as I ever
have been in charge.
Sam grinned. “Said the big bad hunter- who got his ass kicked by a
The older Winchester groaned. “Dude-shut up.”
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