Author's Note: This story is a birthday gift for my good friend Snow White. This story takes place a week or two after the episode 'Bloodlust' with Gordon and the vamps.

To Hell and Back

Dean fell down onto his bed and wondered if the room would stop spinning if he closed his eyes. He could hear Sam whining about drowning in puke or something, but he was trying hard not to listen. It was his birthday damn it, and if he wanted to drink himself into a stupor, then Sam was just going to have to deal. Dean thought he needed at least one day a year when he didn't have to look after his younger brother.

Sam tried to get Dean to roll onto his side, assuming he would vomit after the amount of alcohol he had consumed, but Dean was actively trying to push him away and said, "S'op it Sammy! M'm fine."

Sam stepped away and sat down on his bed waiting for Dean to pass out. Three minutes later he rolled Dean onto his side, and made sure the wastebasket was close by. Sam stepped back and sat down on his bed again staring at his older brother and thought about their day. Sam had woken Dean up with a cup of coffee, some donuts, and a 'Happy Birthday'. Dean had rolled over and said, "Screw that. Let me sleep."

The day had gone downhill from there. Dean refused to work, and spent the whole day in various bars telling people it was his birthday and getting free drinks from loose women. Dean didn't mind Sam being with him as long as he kept his mouth shut, but if Sam mentioned anything about work, Dean gave Sam a glare that made him shut up.

Looking over at the clock Sam saw that it was only ten PM. Sam looked at his brother and felt what could only be called despair wash over him. He felt tears on his face but he didn't feel the need to force himself to stop crying since Dean wasn't awake to tease him about it. He knew Dean needed help, and Sam had tried to help, but everything he had tried had failed miserably.

Sam knew how to make himself feel better, and since Dean was out, he decided to go all the way with it. He stood up, turned around, and kneeled down beside his bed. He closed his eyes and started to pray. He concentrated all of his energy into the prayer and begged God to show him a way to help his older brother.

A few minutes later Sam felt an unusual mixture of peace and joy go through him. Taking a deep breath he found he was no longer crying, and he wiped the residual tears off his face. He felt his face smiling and he opened his eyes to see his father sitting on the bed watching him.

Sam had a stray thought that he should be startled, possibly even terrified to see his dead father sitting there looking as alive as ever, but instead Sam's feelings of happiness just increased. He said, "Hi Dad."

John gave him a smile and put a hand on the side of Sam's face. He said, "Having a bad day kiddo?"

Sam nodded and said, "I don't know how to help him." expecting his father to understand.

Nodding John said, "It's gonna be okay. I'm here to help, and things are gonna be better for both of you after tonight."

Sam believed him. John stood and held out a hand to help Sam up as well. Taking the offered hand Sam stood and felt himself pulled into a big hug. Sam hugged his father and was able to say with no pain, "I miss you."

"I know, and I know you felt bad about the way things were between us when I left, but those thoughts need to stop. I always have and I always will love you, and no matter how much we may have fought, I always knew that you loved me too."

Letting go of John Sam said quietly, "Thanks Dad."

John put a hand up to Sam's forehead and some white light came from John's hand. John put his hand down and said, "You need to go to sleep now son."

Sam's eyes were already half closed. He kicked off his shoes while nodding in agreement and climbed into bed with his clothes still on. Sam was in a deep and peaceful sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. John leaned down and kissed the top of Sam's head. "Night Sammy."

John turned to Dean and walked over to his bed. John held both hands over Dean's stomach for a few seconds while white light came from them. John reached for the wastebasket and waited for two seconds.

Jerking himself into a sitting position Dean reached for the wastebasket that was in front of him and retched vast quantities of liquid into it three times in quick succession. Dean stayed where he was breathing hard for a few seconds and spitting a few times into the garbage before looking up. Dean's entire being froze when he saw John standing in front of him.

John gently took the wastebasket from Dean and took it into the bathroom. As Dean watched his father walking away he muttered, "Someone must have slipped me some major drugs."

A few seconds later John came out of the bathroom holding a glass of water. He handed it to Dean and said, "Have a drink son."

Dean took the water and automatically took a few swallows. John held his hand out for the cup and Dean handed it back. "Dad?"

John put the cup down on the nightstand and turned his full attention to Dean. He said, "That's right Dean, it's me. It's not a hallucination, I'm not a shapeshifter, you're not drunk anymore, and it's not a dream either."

Shaking his head slightly Dean stammered, "But… but…."

"I'm dead?"

"Yeah."

John sat down on Dean's bed, and Dean unconsciously scooted away from him. John said, "Yeah I am."

"Then how…."

John put his elbows on his knees and said, "A lot of forces converged tonight to make this happen, and we don't have that long to talk, so you're just going to have to accept what you're seeing in front of you."

Dean looked over at Sam's sleeping form and said, "Sam!"

"He's asleep."

"What did you do to him?"

"I made sure he would sleep peacefully through the night so we could talk uninterrupted."

Dean glared and said, "Did you give Sammy a choice about that?"

John said, "You're in a lot of trouble here pal, so take my advice and listen up."

Dean shook his head not liking it, but did listen. "I'm here to set you on the right path again, because since I died you've been making one mistake after another and it needs to stop."

Dean glared and said, "I've been making mistakes? What about you? Please don't try and tell me that you didn't trade your life for mine, because I know that's what you did."

"You're right Dean. That is exactly what I did, and given the choice I'd do it again."

"You had no right."

John motioned Dean towards him and said, "Come here son."

Dean was wary, but slowly scooted himself towards John. John patted the bed right beside him and said, "Sit next to me."

Dean put his legs over the edge and sat right next to John. John put his arm around Dean's shoulder and pushed Dean's head down towards his shoulder. Dean took in the scent of his father, and any reservations he might have had about this not being his father went away. John rubbed his hand up and down Dean's arm in a comforting way as he said with quiet authority, "Dean, I love you. I love you more then myself. I would do anything in my power to keep you safe, including giving up my own life."

Dean put his arms around John in a tight grip and started to cry as he said, "But you're suffering in Hell every day."

John put his other arm around Dean and held him tight. "I'm not going to insult your intelligence by trying to tell you that I'm not in hell, but believe me when I tell you that my suffering would be ten times worse if I were alive and you were dead. I'm not sorry about the trade I made. It was more then fair."

Dean shook his head no, crying too hard to talk. John said, "Hey, look at me kiddo."

Dean pulled away far enough to look at John's face. John said, "Hell can only keep me for so long Dean. No matter what trade I made, a good soul can't stay in Hell forever. The universe just doesn't work that way. And in all honesty I made plenty of mistakes in my life, so going straight up to heaven probably was never gonna be an option for me. Some things I did with you boys, and some things I did in the Marines before I met your mother…. well they were just wrong. But I did a lot of good in my life too, and the demons who want to keep me in hell can't just ignore that."

For the first time since John's death Dean felt a small measure of peace about what his father had done. He said between sniffs, "You're not just bullshitting me right?"

John chuckled, "It's the truth. Scout's honor."

Dean let go of John and wiped at his face. John was glad he had been able to say the right things to give Dean some peace about what had happened, and really wasn't looking forward to what he had to do next. John sighed and said; "I find it ironic that part of why I'm able to see you today is because it's your birthday."

Dean looked slightly unsettled and said, "Why?"

"Because I'm thinking you're in for the worst birthday spanking you've ever received."

Dean tried scooting away from John, but John grabbed his wrist. Dean gave a nervous laugh and said, "I stopped thinking that was funny back when I was ten Dad."

"There's not going to be anything funny about tonight. Over my lap please."

"But…."

"The only but around here is going to be your butt getting what it has deserved for the past few months."

Dean shook his head as he felt his stomach churning. John pulled Dean's arm hard enough that Dean went over his lap. Dean didn't put up much of a struggle until he felt his dad reach under him and undo his jeans. Dean said, "No! Dad, no!"

John's answer was to yank the jeans and briefs down to Dean's knees. Dean frantically tried to come up with a reason that this shouldn't happen. Dean said, "I'm twenty eight!"

John said, "Not for another twenty minutes your not, and do you really think that your age is going to make a difference to me?"

Dean grimaced thinking that bringing up his age hadn't worked the last time he had tried it, and that had been when he was twenty-five. He had been hoping it would work, but since it hadn't he said, "No sir."

John said, "Okay let's go over the list one by one."

Dean groaned. He knew from experience that this meant he was going to be over his father's lap for a while. John said, "First up, you did a shitty job of comforting Sammy after I died. I know you were dealing with your own pain, but you and I both know that Sammy looks up to you, and with me gone you need to step in and do a better job of filling my shoes then you have been."

Dean did feel bad about that. He had been trained to protect and take care of Sam his whole life, and he knew he had done a lousy job of it lately. He said, "Yes sir."

John brought his hand down hard and fast making his displeasure obvious to Dean. Dean bit his lip and tried to be quiet about the whole thing thinking he deserved it. As John was swatting he wondered if it ever occurred to Dean that John was being unfair in asking him to take on so much responsibility for Sam. It didn't matter either way because John had no one else to ask, but for some reason John hoped that it hadn't occurred to Dean.

By the time John was done spanking Dean for that, Dean was shifting around over his lap, and finding it difficult to remain quiet. After a short pause John said, "You beat up my car."

Dean griped, "It's my car now."

John brought his hand down hard ten times, and Dean started to make noises down in his throat. John said again, "You beat up my car."

Dean gave in, "Yes sir."

John swatted him ten more times and then said, "You yelled at Sammy and made him feel bad about wanting to hunt things after I died."

Dean had guiltily relived that conversation in his head more then once and he felt his throat tighten up as he said, "Yes sir."

John started spanking again, and this time went way past ten swats. Dean had tears coming down his face by the time that round was done, and it was a struggle to not put his hand back to cover his butt. John stopped and took off his belt as he said, "Last one Dean, and this is a bad one."

Dean heard the belt coming through the loops and said, "No. Please don't Dad. I swear I'm sorry."

"I haven't even told you what it's for yet."

"I know it's for hitting Sammy. I was angry, and I lashed out. I'm sorry. I was sorry as soon as I did it. It won't happen again."

John said, "You know if Sammy gets out of line I have no problem with you spanking him, but you punched him in the face because you couldn't take the truth of what he was telling you."

Dean said, "I know. I know." and broke down into sobs.

Not wanting to do it, but knowing Dean deserved it, John bought his belt down ten times on Dean's already dark red behind.

Dean lay over John's lap crying harder then he had in years. John rubbed Dean's back for a few seconds and said, "Okay, I'm done."

Dean pushed himself up, and immediately fixed his clothes with tears still coming down his face. John pulled Dean down to sit next to him, and pulled him into a hug. Dean hugged John back and let himself cry. He cried not only from the spanking, but also because he was finally letting himself say goodbye to his father. After ten minutes Dean was down to some sniffles. John kissed the top of Dean's head and said, "I love you."

Dean hadn't said it since he was twelve, but tonight he whispered, "I love you too."

After a few minutes of silence John said, "I have to go soon."

Dean hugged him tighter. John gave him a tight squeeze and then let him go. He held Dean at arm's length and said, "I fully expect you to straighten up both yourself and your brother. No more drinking bouts. No more fighting between the two of you. No more keeping all that anger inside you and refusing to talk to your brother. I know you love Sammy as much as I do, and you know you have a duty to protect him. I expect you to do it."

Dean gave John a very sincere, "Yes sir."

John thought maybe he would be doing an extra five months in Hell for this, but he needed to know Dean was gonna be willing to do what needed to be done. "You remember what I told you before I died?"

"Yes sir."

"Don't disappoint me again son."

Dean blushed knowing his behavior of late had been disappointing to John. "No sir, I won't."

John nodded and said, "Good boy. Also, Sam won't remember seeing me, and you aren't to tell him about it. You hear me?"

"But why?"

In a warning tone John said, "Dean."

"Yes sir."

John kissed Dean's forehead and said, "Goodbye for now Dean. I promise I'll see you again."

Dean felt tears going down his cheeks again and he said, "Bye Dad."

Dean blinked and John was gone. Dean sat down on his bed and then quickly rolled onto his side. He found an amazing amount of comfort in the absolute knowledge that he would see his father again, and instead of dwelling on how much he missed John, he instead thought about what he needed to do to put his relationship with Sam back on track.

Sam opened his eyes and saw Dean staring down at him. Startled Sam said, "What's wrong?"

Dean said, "Get up. We need to talk."

Sam sat up and tried to remember the night before. It was kind of fuzzy, but it wasn't so fuzzy that he didn't remember that Dean had been drunk. He said, "Don't you have a hangover?"

Dean shook his head, "Nope."

"But you….."

Dean leaned down into Sam's personal space, which made Sam's voice trail off. Dean said, "Get ready for the day. You've got fifteen minutes. We're gonna get some things straight between us."

Sam wasn't sure why, but he simply nodded and got up to go to the bathroom and take a shower. As Sam took a shower he wondered why he wasn't balking at Dean's tone or orders, and tried even harder to remember what had happened the night before.

When Sam stepped out of the bathroom he saw Dean standing next to the motel room's little table and saw a plastic container with food. He walked over and saw scrambled eggs, toast and bacon. He looked at Dean and asked, "What's this?"

"It's called breakfast dumbass. Eat it."

Sam again sat down without protest and did start to eat. He noticed another container was already in the trash, and assumed Dean had already eaten. As soon as he was done, he tossed his container as well, and then looked up at Dean. Dean sat down in the chair across from Sam, and Sam could have sworn he saw a wince, but it went away so fast he couldn't be sure. Dean looked at Sam and said, "Listen up Sammy, because I'm only gonna say this once."

Sam nodded and knew Dean was deadly serious. Dean continued, "I'm sorry about the way things have been between us since Dad died. I know that you really needed me to be strong for you, and I'm sorry I let you down. I'm sorry that I've been so angry, and that I've taken it out on you. I'm sorry I couldn't talk to you about how I felt, and I'm sorry you've been feeling lost."

Sam sat there with his mouth hanging open, not sure what to say. Dean almost never apologized, even when he knew he was in the wrong. After a few seconds Dean looked out the window and said, "I felt guilty for Dad's death. So guilty that I couldn't function."

Shaking his head Sam attempted to interrupt, "Dean it's…."

Dean shut him up with a look and said, "I knew that Dad had traded his life for mine when I was dying in that hospital bed, and I couldn't deal with it."

Sam waited a few seconds and said, "But now you can?"

Dean gave Sam a grin and said, "Yep."

Even more confused Sam said, "I don't get it."

"I don't really care. Point is, I'm fine now, and things are going to be back on track. And just in case you need that spelled out for you, it means I'm in charge and you do what I tell you to do."

Sam scoffed, "No way Dude. Just because you have a drunken revelation doesn't mean…."

Dean held up a hand to shut Sam up and said, "Telling you pal, not asking you."

Sam sat back and crossed his arms looking like he was getting ready to argue. Dean sat back as well and said while looking at the table, "I miss him you know. I miss him so much it hurts every second of every day."

Sam's arguments died on his lips and he whispered, "Me too."

Dean looked up and smiled at Sam, "Remember when you were five and asked him about mom?"

Sam smiled as well, "Dad realized he never talked about her because he said it hurt too much, but when he realized I didn't know anything about her, the two of you spent the whole day telling me things you remembered about her."

Dean nodded and said, "So tell me something good you remember about Dad."

Sam thought for a second and then started telling Dean about the summer Dad had taught him how to swim, and by the time he was done there were tears on his face. Without a word Dean stood, and pulled Sam up to standing with him. He pulled Sam into a tight hug and said, "I miss him too."

Sam cried even more and held onto Dean. Dean waited for a few minutes and when he felt Sam calming down he let him go. Sam wiped at his face and said, "Dude, did you just hug me?"

Dean glared, turned Sam to the side, and swatted him hard once. Sam said, "Hey, what the hell!?"

Dean said, "Know when to keep your mouth shut."

Sam was glaring, but he knew he had said it just to get a rise out of Dean. And he couldn't explain why, but having Dean swat him was somewhat comforting since the last time Dean had gotten pissed he had socked him in the face.

"Sit your ass down and I'll tell you some things I remember about Dad from when you were too little to remember."

Sam begrudgingly sat and listened. They spent the rest of the morning talking about John, and by the time lunch rolled around they both felt better then they had since their father had died.