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 anything Supernatural.

Words: 3.054

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 him.”

John glanced around the old library, making sure they were alone. He stood, his darkgaze seeming to glow in the firelight. “What have you done?”

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 up.”

“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. “Dad-please.”

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. Please.”

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 hair.

“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 fire place.

“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 water spirit?”

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?”

“I 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 not listened.

“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 sight.”

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 That Bitch.

Sam laughed. “You might even have groupies that would come to the book signings.”

“Lonely housewives searching for some love therapy-just call me Dr. Phil.”

“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 Salt Lake?”

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 Benders?”

“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 now .”

“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 his voice.

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, Dean.”

“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. “Just…drop 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 like Dad.

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 Insight.”

Sam shook his head and threw his hands up in a defeated gesture. “Whatever, Dean.”

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 brother.

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 little girl.”

The older Winchester groaned. “Dude-shut up.”



Uploaded by Majs