Dean paced the limited confines of their most recent motel room rental — the Huggy Bear Motel he believed was the name of it. The name was laughably juxtaposed to the dim lighting, stained carpets and skeevy occupants that seemed to loiter around the halls and back corners, slinking away to their rooms whenever Dean passed by to do God knows what. But Dean had bigger things to worry about then some sketchy patrons, because tonight, he knew he was in deep shit.
Yesterday Dean had been witness to a shouting match between Sam and his father. Now, this was nothing out of the ordinary, it seemed to only take minutes for the two of them to begin to butt heads. But this was the fight to end all fights. It had started in the Impala when Sam again decided that it was a good time to bring up his long-awaited departure to Stanford. Dean groaned internally at Sam's choice of timing…rookie mistake, he had thought; doing this in the small enclosure of the Impala was bad news since there would be nowhere they could cool off. The fight started off following its familiar pattern, his father would tell Sam that he's not going, Sam would get riled up and scream about his father's control issues and the tension would grow until it seemed to be palpable. But this fight didn't just peter off into the normal anxious silence, because after all the yelling had been exchanged, Sam had muttered under his breath that he was leaving this week. All conversation came to a halt as John glared at his youngest through the rearview mirror. Dean could see the anger flashing across his father's dark eyes as he spit out the unforgivable words "If you leave, don't come back."
The quick look of hurt that flashed across Sam's face was quickly replaced by a simmering anger that resided in his clenched jaw and furrowed eyebrows. The rest of the trip was completed in utter silence until their arrival at the Huggy Bear Motel where Sam jumped out of the car, slamming the door the moment the engine had been cut. When John and Dean were the only ones left in the car, John let out a deep sigh and let Dean know that he was going to give them some space for the night and stay with Bobby, who happened to be further uptown. Dean gave the customary "Yes, sir." and went to go rent a double while the Impala slowly backed out, taking John away.
Sam seemed…different that night.
Dean couldn't tempt him with burgers from the greasy joint down the road or even cajole him into leaving the room. When Dean suggested that they rent a movie later, Sam just continued to lay in his bed, back towards the door and head down like he was thinking. After a while, Dean gave up on trying to talk with him and hit the lights for bed. In the darkness of their room, staring up at the ceiling, Dean whispered what he thought must have been implicitly obvious. "You know he didn't mean that, right?" Several minutes later, the response returned with "Yes, he did.", before the two of them fell asleep. Or at least, Dean thought that they both fell asleep.
The morning light slanted through a broken section of the blinds, highlighting a particularly nasty looking stain on the brown carpeting. Dean immediately noticed that Sam's bed was empty, but assumed that he was out grabbing some breakfast— he hadn't had dinner last night after all. But as the day progressed, there was still no sign of Sam. By 1 p.m. Dean had tried Sam's phone 5 times, all to be sent straight to voicemail. Panic rising in his chest, Dean went to go talk to the lady at the office that he rented the room from yesterday. Her long, acrylic nails clacked rhythmically against the desk as she told him that some twenty year old kid had come in early this morning to ask about bus schedules. "Do you know which one that he took?" Dean asked impatiently. "No sweetie" her voice creaked out " 'Bout ten buses have came round since then and I didn't see him get on none of 'em. Here's a schedule if it helps." Her leathery arms extended him a brightly lit pamphlet with a bus on the front underneath "Oh the Places You'll Go!" imprinted in bright yellow lettering. A sinking feeling threatened to cave in Dean's chest on the slow walk back to his room.
So now, he was in deep shit. He had no idea how to track down his brother, no inkling of what route he would've taken to get out to Stanford and no car to go look for him. Not only sick with worry about Sam's wellbeing, Dean was afraid for his own. Dean had seen his father become furious over him losing Sam for just a couple hours, much less for losing him permanently on a country-wide bus trip to California. Dean remembered one time that his father was supposed to be gone for a week on a hunting trip, so Dean had loosened the reigns to let Sam spend the night at a friend's house. His father had returned early, tired from the long drive, scratched to hell from a fight with some monster or other and desperate to relax awhile. The door had slammed open with Dean openly drinking a beer on the couch while watching TV. John's brow darkened at the sight of an 18 year old Dean sipping a beer, but he didn't mention it as he barked out, "Where is Sam?" Dean, entirely caught off guard, stammered out that he was staying the night at a friend's house. "Excuse me?" John's voice came out cold as ice. "And who gave him permission to do that?" He took a step towards Dean. "Who, in the right god-damned mind, would allow his 16 year old brother to go wander around this godforsaken town with a stranger?" He advanced on Dean, grabbing his collar and throwing him off the couch. A buzzed Dean was unable to keep his balance and cracked his head against the floor. A slight moan escaped his lips as his father asked with disgust, "Are you even sober enough to go pick him up?" Knowing the consequences would be much more severe if he somehow managed to drunkenly wreck the beloved Impala, Dean stammered out "No, sir." White lights burst into his vision as his father landed a stinging kick to his ribs. "I gave you one fucking job!" John roared. "Watch your brother. Now here I come home to find you drunk on the couch like some pathetic housewife, while your brother could be in danger!" Another kick to the ribs. "Get your ass in the car, we're going to fix your fuckup." John practically threw Dean out the door and shoved him into the passenger seat. Dean tried to focus on remembering the route that he had taken earlier to drop Sam off, but it was really difficult with his head swimming from booze and the throb he had earned from his tumble to the floor. Every time he would mess up the directions, his father would begin to fume some more, building up anger that would boil up in an occasional hit to the face.
Eventually, the Impala pulled up to a cute little house in the suburbs, where John parked the car next to a couple bikes laying forgotten in the driveway. Dean craned his eyes to see a middle-aged woman in a robe answer the door that his father was now knocking at. Through John's demeanor and gestures, Dean could only assume that he'd worked out some story about a family emergency and needing Sam to come home right away. Sam stormed out of the house, infuriated that his father didn't trust him enough to stay the night with a friend, but pulled short when he saw Dean through the car window. Man, he was a sight. He was hunched over as if he was having trouble breathing, blood was trickling down the back of his neck from a matted red spot in his hair and his lip was split open in two places. All anger displaced, Sam stuttered out "What happened?" as John marched angrily back to the car. "I came home to find you missing and your brother lying around drunk after a fight at a bar he had snuck into." His tone did not leave any room for challenge and Dean weakly nodded his head in agreement.
Later in their motel room, Sam had helped Dean clean up and asked him the question that had been bugging him all night. "Dean… did you really get into a bar fight?" His voice came out soft and understanding, he knew that his father had been physical with Dean before, even if Dean tried to pass it off as if it had been someone else. "Sure, Sammy" Dean replied quietly. "Now help me get to bed." Avoiding the purpling bruises around Dean's stomach, Sam wrapped his arm around Dean's side and laid him to bed, hurt that Dean didn't trust him enough to share this with him.
That was what happened when Dean had lost Sam for just one evening. Pacing around in his motel room, he began to work himself into a full blown frenzy as he considered his father's reaction when he got home. Maybe Dean could leave? Just like Sam. He could hop on a bus, catch it the nearest town and wait for his dad to calm down. No, that wouldn't work. Knowing John, it would just be better to suck it up and get it over with. Anyway, a part of him felt like he deserved anything coming to him…after all, he should have been keeping a closer eye on him last night. He should have known that Sam was going to try to leave and tried to stop him. Resigning himself to his fate, Dean sat down dejectedly in a chair waiting for the fateful moment that the door handle would start to turn.
Eleven fateful hours later, the door swung open to his father carrying a sack full of burgers from the restaurant Dean had wanted to go to last night. "Where's Sam?" John asked carefully, setting the burgers down on the dresser. "I brought him a peace offering." He gave a side-smile as he sat down on the bed and started to take off his shoes….actually, struggled to take off his shoes. Oh shit. Catching a glare off the light from his father's glazed over eyes, Dean could only assume that he'd been drinking in order to try and mellow out for this confrontation with Sam. This is not going to go over well.
Dean tried to speak, but his voice hitched in his throat to just come out as a kind of sharp sound. His father's eyes snapped over to him, reading his apprehensive behavior with curiosity. "What's your problem?" John demanded. After a deep breath, Dean mustered up enough courage to say "I can't find him. I think he actually left this time…" his voice getting quieter as he looked down at the carpet. They sat in silence for a minute. Dean could feel the rage building up in the room like a thunderstorm, the few seconds of peace before the storm hit with all the intensity it could muster. John had stopped trying to untie his shoes and just sat there, eyes downwards, the anger he felt being expressed in his tensed muscles and quickened breathing. John's voice came out quiet and controlled. "Now. Do not lie to me. You will regret if you do. What happened to Sam?" Dean exhaled all the details of the past evening in one anxious breath. He sat there, body tensed, to see his father's reaction to what had to be the largest screw up of his life.
"This is just fucking like you Dean." John's quiet voice was now beginning to raise. "You have one thing. One thing that I ask you to do, and that is to watch over Sam. I leave for one night, and your brother gets a ride to go parading all over the god-damned country, while you're asleep with your thumb up your ass." John's eyes flash dangerously at Dean. "This is the last, fucking time, that you will be a disappointment." With that he gets up and grabs Dean roughly by the arm, throwing him into the motel wall. Dean could vaguely hear shouts of surprise from the occupants of the room next door. Looking into his father's eyes, Dean knew that he was in trouble. Bloodshot from anger and glazed over from beer, John's normally calculated behavior was about to turn into a full on shit-show. Dean was so busy staring at those eyes that he didn't even notice the fist coming towards him until he was slouched over, gasping for air and staring at the floor. A knee to the face snapped his head upright and he could feel the blood beginning to pour down his throat from a bloody nose. Dazed, he tried to put his hands up to shove John off, but an angry John Winchester maintains a special kind of strength, one fueled by shear, concentrated rage. Trying to fight John like this is like trying to fight an angry bear. "Don't you dare" John hissed at him, "Try to get out of this. This…" Smack. "Is your…" Grab. "Fucking fault." Throw to the ground.
Dean looks up in surprise as his dad sits on top of him like this is a schoolyard fight. His stomach aches from all the pressure being set upon his bruising ribcage. His head snaps back forth left to right as John continues to lay into him, his vision is beginning to become fuzzy from the swelling on his face and pressure that's thundering through his head. All he can think is It's never been this bad before...and lets fear radiate through his body in kind of a nonsensical roar. Not sure if he can handle any more, Dean whispers "Dad…please." This seems to snap a little bit of pity into John as he stares down at his son with a mixture of anger and regret. He shoves off the floor, yells at Dean to get cleaned up and immediately crashes down on the nearest bed. Dean lays there half conscious and waits until he can here the loud snore of his dad before managing to wriggle the phone out of his pocket. Through several belabored attempts, Dean manages to search through his contacts until he gets to the name he was looking for. Bobby answers on the second ring. "Do you know what time it is, kid?" "Bobby." Dean croaks out. "Shit!" Bobby's voice starts to take on a panicky tone. "Are you boys okay? What happened?" Dean knew that his father would be livid with him for calling Bobby, but he was worried that he had a concussion and he needed some help. Normally, he'd ask Sam but… "Bobby, I need you to come pick me up. We're at the Huggy Bear Motel, Unit 3, Apt. 7." "Dean, what the hell is happening?" Bobby interjected. Dean replied, "I need you to not ask about it, but please, just please come pick me up." The other end of the line grew silent.
"I'll be right there." And the line clicked off.