Disclaimer : I own nothing, except this newfangled computer and a couple of random ideas.
A/N : Contains mild abuse, and probably language, but is in no way related to my previous story "There Be Monsters". Read, review, and keep 'em comin'!
The first time his father hit him, Dean was five years old.
They were holed up in a cheap hotel outside Memphis, and Sammy was crying.
"Take care of him, Dean," John said with a sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. "You remember what I showed you, right?"
"Yeah," Dean nodded, heading to the bed where one year old Sammy was sitting, wailing away.
The little boy pushed aside the pillows John had placed around Sammy so he didn't fall off the bed, and carefully moved the blocks his younger brother had been playing with.
"Come on, Sammy," Dean said cheerfully, trying to unfasten the sleeper the one year old wore.
"Dean," John's voice said sharply. "In the bathroom, remember? We don't want him leaking on the bed."
Dean nodded, and carefully picked up his brother, carrying him slowly, trying to accommodate the weight. Sam weighed next to nothing, but to the scrawny 5 year old, it was enough to be a struggle.
"Careful, Dean," John reminded, not taking his eyes from the journal he was engrossed in. He just couldn't figure out this case. People were being killed, and he knew there had to be a link, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what.
He could hear his son singing cheerfully in the background, some nonsense song to sooth Sammy's nerves.
He sighed, trying to block out the noise.
"Dean!" he called. "Knock off that chatter."
No answer, just the same unintelligible stream of singing.
"Dean!" John called sternly.
Couldn't a man get a little peace? Lives were on his hands here...
He stood up, striding angrily into the bathroom.
"Dean!" he said sharply.
The little boy looked up, lips pursed mid song.
"Keep it quiet, okay?" John said, sighing and resting his hands on his hips. "I'm trying to work."
"Sorry, Daddy," Dean said, his eyes dimming slightly. "I was just singin' to Sammy."
"I know, buddy," John said, feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on. "But I need peace and quiet for a little while."
Dean nodded slowly.
"Ah, dammit," John said in a growl, kicking at the doorway.
What was he doing? He'd only just gotten Dean to start talking again, and here he was telling him to shut up?
"You know what?" John said, trying to make his voice a little lighter. "Why don't we go back into the room, and I'll let you have a soda... that sound good?"
Dean's eyes narrowed. "A whole one?"
John smiled, knowing the boy couldn't drink a whole can of soda by himself, no matter how appealing the sugar seemed.
"Sure," he smiled, bending down to scoop the freshly changed toddler up.
Dean followed his father into the room, watching as he laid Sammy back on the bed, and rearranged the pillows.
"Keep an eye on him, Dean-o, and I'll go get your Coke."
Dean nodded happily.
John fingered the meager amount of change in his pocket and absently hoped he had enough for the drink he'd promised. As he walked the short distance to the Coke machine, he pulled the coins out and counted out fifty cents.
Rubbing his forehead in an attempt to ease the pressure gathering there, he inserted the coins and depressed the button, waiting for the insides of the machine to whirr and dispense his choice.
When the heavy can clanked into the opening at the bottom, he retrieved it and wiped the top off with the tail of his shirt, heading back to the room.
He'd locked the door, even though he'd been only a few feet away, so he held the can in one hand and unlocked the door, pushing it open to reveal his two sons sitting at his desk. Sam was on Dean's lap, arms waving furiously. He felt a smile start, until he realized what it was they were doing.
Coloring - on his carefully written notes.
"No!" he shouted, springing forward without thinking.
The Coke fell to the floor, hitting the carpet harmlessly with a soft thunk.
He wasn't thinking straight, he knew that the moment he felt his hands meet the solid flesh of Dean's shoulder, shoving them out and away from the desk. His eyes went to the journal, now a page full of tiny, cramped writing overruled by dark swirls of crayon - and almost as immediately turned, catching the chair in the corner of his eye.
He watched as it tipped, saw the wide eyed look on both boys face as gravity suddenly played against them, and - thank God - had the presence of mind to reach out and snatch Sammy from midair, cradling the boy to his chest, one hand resting protectively on the soft back of the child's skull.
And then Dean hit the ground.
A wail reached the boy's throat almost as soon as his head cracked against the ground.
John deposited Sam safely, if not unceremoniously, on the bed, and knelt at his oldest boy's side.
"Dean, hey," he said, picking the boy up and resting him on his knee. "Stop crying, buddy, and let me see."
Dean only wailed harder at his father's probing fingers.
John could already feel a knot forming on the back of his son's head, and cursed himself mentally. What had he been thinking? He'd shoved his sons, his first instinct not being to protect them, but his precious journal.
"Dean, Dean," he repeated softly, pulling the boy to his chest. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Daddy didn't mean it."
Almost as if he realized his brother was hurt, or maybe just offended at his rude disposal, Sam started to cry, too.
"Stop!" John barked at the child, turning his head back to Dean, who cried louder now, to be heard above his brother's wails.
"Dean, stop, hey, it's alright!" he tried, but the boy just scrunched up his face and cried harder.
"Come on, Dean, please?" he begged, the sounds of both boys cries filling the room. He could imagine the owner hearing the racket, coming down to kick them out, or calling the cops, or God only knew what else.
"STOP!" John roared frantically, grabbing Dean by the shoulders and shaking him hard.
Looking shocked, Dean stopped, blinked twice, and stared up at his father.
"Oh, God," John said, looking down and realizing his knuckles were turning white from holding the kid so hard. He loosened his grip. "Sorry... Dean, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to - "
Dean's lower lip trembled, and John thought for a minute he was going to cry again. Instead, he wrenched out of his father's grip and stumbled off his knee, stopping when his back hit the table a few steps away.
He looked shocked, John thought.
His throat tightened. "Dean..."
"That hurt, Daddy," Dean said, disbelief lacing his voice.
He stood there, feeling lost, while Dean just looked at him, eyes wide.
"I'm sorry, Dean," John said, his voice raw with emotion. "I really didn't mean to, bud. Come here and let me see."
Dean didn't move.
"Please?" John croaked, feeling like he might cry.
He'd hurt his child. Oh, God, he'd hurt his boy.
Sam's cries subsided at the sudden silence in the room, and he poked his head over the top of the pillows, looking with wide eyed innocence.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Dean," John said, his heart breaking at the suspicion in his son's eyes.
Hesitantly, Dean took a step toward him. John held out his hand, urging him closer, until he could pull the boy into his arms and hug him.
And hug him he did, resting his chin on Dean's head, blinking back the tears he refused to acknowledge.
Was he already getting too old to hug his father? John dreaded the thought.
He wriggled again, trying to get out of his father's grasp.
"Daddy," he said, finally. "Daddy, stop. That hurts."
"Oh, shit," John cursed out loud, pushing Dean back gently. "Let me see."
He gently lifted Dean's t-shirt and saw the red marks at his son's shoulders. they'd be bruises by tomorrow, and likely bad ones. John was a strong man, and he hadn't been thinking.
"Oh, Dean," he said hoarsely, staring at angry red on those tiny shoulders. "I'm sorry."
Looking uncomfortable, Dean patted John on the shoulder. "It's okay Daddy... don't be sad."
John stood up, taking a deep breath. "C'mere, bud."
He sat on the edge of the bed, resting a hand on Sam's tiny head for a moment while Dean climbed onto his lap.
"That won't happen again, okay?" he said. "I'm sorry. I was just mad. My journal's not a toy... you can't touch it without my permission, okay?"
Dean nodded gravely, and John had a feeling that was one lesson he wouldn't soon forget.
John swallowed, looking at the leather book on the desk, and found himself wanting to throw the damn thing against a wall. "Hey, what do you say you, me, and Sammy go get some ice cream?"
Dean's eyes widened. "Ice cream?"
John smiled at the obvious interest in his voice. "Yeah."
Dean's face lit up with a smile and he jumped off John's knee, racing to gather his jacket with only a hurried nod as acceptance.
John stood up, plastering on a smile for his son's benefit, while mentally berating himself.
Never again, he swore.
No one would lay a hand on his sons. Least of all their father.