"All things considered, we turned out okay…"
Sam Winchester, 1x14 Nightmare

Chapter 3

"Ma'am, I'm a single parent with two jobs. If my son doesn't show me something like that when I see him at dinner time, there's no way I'm able to figure it out if he's rough housing with his brother later on. You saw Dean for a half hour this morning. Did you notice anything wrong with him?"

"No, I suppose I didn't notice anything either. Take both of your boys to the hospital to get checked out today, though. I want to see a doctor's note for each of them tomorrow. That bruise looks nasty as well." She pointed to Sam's neck.

"Of course. Come on, boys. Let's go."

Sam shot a look over to his brother who had paled even more considerably. Gone was the six hours of freedom from their torment. The ones who were supposed to protect them had just sent them straight back into the lion's den. "Yes sir," they chimed in unison.

"You two had better hope that this doesn't take too long. I have a meeting at one o'clock, and you'd better not make me miss it." John grumbled as he pulled into the local urgent care's parking lot. "You two have those stories straight?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. Because you know what will happen if some social worker bitch gets the idea that I'm less than the ideal parent for the two of you."

"Yes sir."

"Tell me again, Sammy. What will they do if they find out?"

"They'll take Dean and me away and separate us. They'll send us to orph…orphan…orphanphages…yeah, those…where the other kids'll beat us up and steal our stuff, or worse, and we'll never see each other again."

"And what else, Dean?"

"And we'll never have a family. Ever again."

"Right. Let's go."

The boys piled out of the pristine Chevy Impala, and Dean once again resisted the urge to kick the damned things tires. At least he takes care of something Mom loved, he thought glumly as he closed the door softly. Nothing asked for a couple of rounds with his father's belt like slamming the door of the precious car.

"I just want my brother. Where's Dean? Where's my brother?"

"Calm down, Sam. You can see your brother just as soon as we take a look at that bruise and get some x-rays. Have you ever had x-rays before? Do you know what they do?"

"Sure, I broke my arm last year on the swings at school, and they took x-rays of it. You could see the bones and stuff. You're gonna take one of my head?"

"Well, of your neck mostly," the pediatric resident smiled, "but I know the tech who's working the radiology department today...I know the woman upstairs," he amended to six-year old terms. "I bet we can manage an x-ray of your head too if you want to see that."

"Why? There won't be anything in my little brother's head, just fluff." Dean's humor wafted around the corner and had Sam off his exam table before the boy was fully in the room.

"Are you okay, Dean?"

"Sure. Takes more than an x-ray or two to beat me down, kiddo."

"Do your doctors know where you are, son?"

Dean stiffened. "No, sir. I'm going back now."

"You'd better."

"Yes sir. Be good for the doctors, Sammy."

"I will."

"One unofficial x-ray of a skull coming right up, Ray. You owe me a dinner for this, you know."

"Yes, ma'am. One dinner it is. You hear that, Sammy? Dinner for a picture of your head. I'd say that's fair."

Sam smiled and nodded as he clutched the teddy bear to his chest.

"Now just lay very still for me, okay? There'll be a couple of clicks and I'll be right back in to get you, okay?"

"Yes sir."

"Now Sam, I've told you before. My grandfather gets called sir. My name's just Ray."

"But my father says that…"

"I'm just Ray, Sam. Okay?"

"Ye...Sure, Ray. Okay."

"Good boy. I'll be right back."

"Look what I got, Dad. It's a picture of my head…from the inside."

"Something like that, Samuel. Are we free to go now?" John looked annoyed to still be waiting, even though Dean had yet to resurface.

"You are. I'm going to write Sam a note to keep him out of gym classes for a few days until this heals a little more, but there's no evidence of bony damage, and his strength seems fine. Just make sure he ices it down a few times a day, and he can take a few Children's Tylenol a day as well…following the recommended dose on the box."

"Of course. We have some of that back at the house."

"Then, yes. You're free to go. Enjoy that picture, there Sam."

"You bet, Ray."

"Samuel," John growled.

"I mean, thank you, sir." Sam bowed his head and scurried out the door before either man could say something else.

Ray simply looked at the man who commanded, in his opinion, far too much subservience from a six-year old and smiled professionally.

"That's a cool cast, Dean." Sam was bouncing in the back seat of the Impala as his father growled about the time. It seemed to the boys that someone who growled like a bear as often as their father did should be far more hairy and have far bigger claws.

"Yeah, it is, Sammy. Much cooler than that ice pack you got." Dean laughed silently at his own pun, playing himself openly into his little brother's hands. He knew what was coming next.

"Yeah, maybe. But look what I got instead. I bet you've never had your own x-ray to keep. And of your head too."

"No, Sammy. That I haven't. That's pretty cool, little brother."

"It's not cool, you brats. It may very well make us late to my meeting. That's all it is. Now I want you two on your best God-damned behavior or else you'll regret it when we get home, do you hear me? Not a word out of either of you. And Samuel, I want you to throw that damned doll away when we get home. Stupid hospital giving my son a teddy bear. It's just going to get in the way, and no son of mine is going to play with a baby's toy. Do you understand me?"

"But Dad…" Sam hugged the bear tighter.


"I…Yes sir. I understand."

"Damn right you understand; and you'll understand better when you get home, young man. I thought I told you never to talk back to me. And I thought I told you to call people 'sir' and show them some respect. Seems like after your little show with your doctor today I'm going to have to punish you again to remind you how we should treat our betters."

"Yes sir." Sam had tears in his eyes and was shaking under his brother's embrace. "He asked me to call him Ray, Dean. I didn't mean to make anyone mad." The whisper was hidden under the roaring engine, but Dean heard it all the same.

"Don't worry, Sammy. You didn't do anything wrong. And we'll hide that bear in your pillow at home. Dad won't remember if he doesn't see it, all right?"

"Really, Dean? You don't think it's for babies?"

"You know I hide Scruffy in my pillow every day and Blue-y in yours. He'll never notice."

"Thanks, Dean."

"Any time, little brother. Any time."

"What are you two whispering about back there?" The tone was clipped and startled both boys.

"Just telling Sammy why he should always listen to what you have to say, sir. That's all."

"That better be all, or he'll learn doubly well tonight why."

"Yes sir."

The rest of the car ride was silent, doing nothing to assuage Sam's fears as to what was to come when they finally got home, and sending even more shivers down his back. His father was on a whale of a mean streak right now, and the boys both just wanted to see it end. But when they pulled up to the small two-story house promptly at one o'clock, neither boy could foresee the culmination of the day in anything other than more of their father drinking and them hiding.

"God damn it, I told you boys we'd be late. Get your asses out of the car quickly, and remember – not a sound."

"Yes sir."

The door opened as John lifted his hand to ring the bell, and even he had to take a step back in the unexpectedness of it. "John, come on in. You're just right on time. And these must be your boys, Sam and Dean."

"Uhh…yes, that's them. The taller one is…"

"Dean…and this little angel is Sam. Yes I know. You did come to a psychic, after all. Well come in already."

Sam smiled up at the woman, instantly taken with her as she ushered him inside, not forgetting he was there like his father's other friends usually did.

"Well now, let me take a look at the two of you. You're growing up to be fine young men. Strong looking, too." The psychic laid a hand lightly on each of their shoulders nonchalantly, but couldn't stifle the slight gasp, which she turned quickly into a cough.

"My name's Missouri, I'm not sure your father told you. And there's an old swing set out back that you two can go play on while I speak to him. Just be careful, there may be some splinters and such. It's been a while since anyone has played on it."

"Yes, ma'am." The boys hurried off through the front door.

"Now as for you, sir. I know why you've come and what you're aiming for, but you let me tell you something right now, John Winchester. You're here about your wife, and if you want to talk to me about her, than you'd better start thinking about honoring her memory."

John was taken aback and affronted completely. "I do nothing but honor Mary's memory."

"You're going to stand there and lie to a psychic? Those boys are all that you have left of your wife's memory, and you're going to tell me you honor them by beating them to Hell and back like you do? Sure seems like a piss-poor way to honor your wife if you ask me."

"I do no such…"

"John Winchester, I could just slap you. I've seen what you do to those boys. I saw it just now. You mean to tell me that there aren't welts hidden under Sam's sweatshirt that you put there with Dean's belt just last night? And that Dean's ribs aren't just as broken as that wrist of his because you were kicking him around for following your damned orders? You're going to tell me that? You have something to ask me about your wife and what happened to her six years ago, then that's fine, and I'll do my best to answer your questions. But you may just want to think twice about what you're doing to your sons. They don't respect you, John. They're scared to death of you. Too scared to respect you like they would if you would lay off that God-damned drink."

John was speechless. And for the first time in six years, he stopped to look back at his sons, and saw the fear in their eyes, and the distrust whenever he was around. "I…I don't know what I'm doing. I think I'm losing my mind. I keep going back over what happened the night Mary died, and I swear, I'm not hallucinating…I mean, I wasn't hallucinating. But there's no other explanation…"

"Than what, your six-month old son being to blame?"

And John stopped again. Something about this woman just threw everything into a new light. "I guess that does sound pretty ridiculous, doesn't it?"

"Completely. Now, why don't you start at the beginning?"

"I like her, Dean." Sam sat at the top of the old slide, unsure of whether he really wanted to go down the metal incline now that he had gotten up there.

"You would, she was all over you…'little angel'. She'd eat you right up if she could."

"She scared Daddy when she opened the door."

"Okay, I'll give her that one, I guess. But she looked at me like I was goofy looking or something."

"You are goofy looking."

"Sam…" Dean growled in warning, but unlike their father's warning, this one just sent Sam into giggles.

"So your research thus far hasn't led you to any real clues?"

"No, and that's the thing. I can't find any type of precedence for it, no rhyme or reason, but I know my wife was on that ceiling, and I know her belly was slashed way open. And I know that the fire came from where she was pinned. I wasn't delusional, and I wasn't drunk. I'd been sober for five years when this happened. Mary wouldn't have kids with me until I gave it up."

"I believe you. Things like this, they really do happen. There's evil out in this world that no storybook could ever fully capture. So what do you want me to do?"

"Well, I was hoping you might come back to the house with me and see if you can…I don't know…do your psychic thing and see if you can't figure out what it was. I know it's asking a lot, but…"

"I'll do it. On one condition."

"You don't have to ask." John looked out the window to where his boys were giggling. He could see Dean, broken arm and all promising to catch Sam as he came off the end of the slide. "I know I've messed up with them, and I don't know that it's going to get better all at once. And I can pretty much guarantee you that we aren't ever going to have a story-book 'meet the Brady's' kind of life, but I know I've gone wrong by them."

"All I want is for you to try, John. Shoot pool instead if you have to go out drinking. Smack a bunch of inanimate balls around a table instead of your two boys around the house. Hell, I bet if you got as good at that as you do smacking them around, you could hustle people out of a lot of money. But don't you go telling anyone that I said that, you hear me?"

"I can try that."

"Uh-oh, Dean. Dad's coming. You think he's gonna be mad that we were out here being loud?"

"Oh Sammy, I hope not. Come on, little brother, let's go."

Sam and Dean walked slowly towards their father as he and Missouri came out to meet them. The boys noticed as the psychic slowed down to let John approach them alone, and both had to gulp down a heaping ball of nervousness. Surely the man wouldn't punish them out here in front of someone?

"Are you boys…having fun?"

"Yes sir. We're sorry we were loud. It was my fault, I got Sammy going. I'm sorry."

John knelt to his sons' level and placed a hand on each of their shoulders, cringing himself when he felt, for perhaps the first time in years just how frightened they were of his touch as they both trembled and drew back. He closed his eyes and dropped his head.

"It's all right, Dean. I'm not angry with you for helping your brother have fun. God knows I've done a horrible job of that the last few years."

Dean didn't know what to say; afraid this was some kind of test – some kind of trap.

"Look, I know I've been downright awful to the two of you since your mother died. I don't know what got into me, but I promise you both that I'm going to try to make it better. We're going to be a family again; I'm not going to lose the two of you. Not like I have been doing. You understand me?"

Both boys nodded their heads, but it was plain to see distrust in the older boy's eyes and confusion in the younger one's.

"You don't, I'm sure. But for starters, Sammy, I don't want you to believe anything I've said about it being your fault that Dean doesn't have a mother. I'm sure he's been telling you that for as long as I've been telling you otherwise. We're going to figure out what killed her together, with some help along the way, but it wasn't your fault. And Dean?"

Dean wouldn't look up at his father until John tilted his head so they saw eye-to-eye. Both Winchesters were crying now. Dean's hazel orbs were bright as he finally saw the man that he once knew as 'Daddy' in front of him.

"Yes sir?"

"You're not weak, son. And you've done amazingly with your brother. I told you to protect him at all costs, and you've done nothing but that since your mother died. You're a lot stronger than I am. I don't expect you to forgive me, not for a while at least, I just want you to keep watching out for him, the best way you know how."

"I can do that, sir."

"Daddy?" Sam's voice was quiet and unsure.

"What, son?"

The six-year old leaned in and whispered in his father's ear. "Does this mean I'm not going to get punished tonight?"

"I swear to you, Samuel Winchester. I will never punish you like I was planning on doing ever again. And I'm going to try my damnedest to not hit you ever again."

"And Dean?"

"The both of you. I swear I'm going to try."


"What, Sammy?"

The little boy smiled a little. "Does this mean we'll never get punished again at all? Like, having to go to our rooms and stuff?"

"Don't push your luck, mister."

Okay, so I know that the school probably would have put in a call to social services, and even if they hadn't, I'm sure that the hospital would have, but it didn't work out with the ending I had in mind, so bear with me...or shoot me an email and I'll be glad to debate it with you. And I know that the turnaround was really abrupt, but I'm also sure that what AU John says and what AU John does are two completely different things and it will take time to turn things around to the relationship you see in the show...I couldn't bring myself to leave the story so AU with John being that abusive, so I had to do something to kind of bring it back to Supernatural-verse...hopefully it worked somewhat...let me know.