A/N Another chapter! Yay! It comes with a slight warning though. There is a fine line between discipline and abuse. It is in this authors opinion that John crosses that line in this chapter, though the characters of John and Dean don't see it that way. Because of it, I've been worried about posting this chapter even though it's been ready to go for over a month now. Methinks I may fret too much but there you go. If it bothers you, well you've been warned.
Please note that I love the character of John and while he's more of an asshole than usual in this chapter, I think he's way too complicated to put in a box. I say this because in many stories I've read, he's either the world's greatest dad (who made some well intended mistakes) or a downright abusive father and even the show can't seem to make up its mind. Whenever I write John, I try to portray him as both if that makes sense.
That said, uh, enjoy!:)
By the time they reached the cabin Dean was shivering as the cold water from the creek seemed to soak through his jeans and skin and settle deep into his bones, and he was tired from carrying Sammy all that way. Sammy was heavy after a while. But nonetheless, they were laughing and joking all the way after Dean cracked a joke to distract his brother from the pain and Sammy retorted with a few zingers of his own. But the tone immediately changed as dread washed over Dean and he stopped dead in his tracks as he caught a glimpse of the impala parked in the driveway on the other side of the house.
Dad was home.
Shit, Dad's gonna kill me! Dean thought.
He had really hoped Dad wouldn't get home until later, preferably after Sammy's ankle was healed or at least stayed away long enough for them to come up with a good story that wouldn't get them in deep shit.
Just his luck he'd get back during the short time they were gone.
"Dean!" Sammy tapped his back, trying to get his attention. "Come on, I said knock, knock?"
"Not now," Dean whispered, taking a deep breath as he headed forward. Maybe he could convince Dad that they stuck to the property and that Sammy hurt himself when they were playing tag in the woodsy back yard. But the incriminating watermarks on his jeans already made it impossible for that lie to work. Besides the rule was they had to stay inside when Dad was gone hunting so either way they'd be in trouble.
Finally Sammy picked up on the change in atmosphere and frowned, "Dean? What's wrong?"
"Daddy!" Sammy exclaimed, not yet cluing in to how much trouble they were going to be in. He tried to wiggle off Dean's back but Dean held on tighter, bouncing him up higher on his back.
"Dean! Sammy!" Dad called, coming around towards the back of the cabin and meeting them halfway. "Where the hell have you been?" he demanded, waving the note Dean left in his hands, his expression darkening further when his eyes scanned down to see Dean's wet jeans and that he was holding Sammy's shoe and noticing Sammy's swollen bare foot. "What happened?"
And like any six year old kid would, Sammy began to cry, "I fell and hurt my ankle!" he held up his hand, "And I scraped my hand too!"
Dad bent over and took Sammy from Dean and Sammy wrapped his arms around him, sobbing as though it had just happened. Dean gaped at Sammy incredulously, feeling anger swell up inside him over the act which borderlined on betrayal, he knew it wasn't Sammy's fault, that Sammy had no idea, but he couldn't help but suddenly feel heavy with anger and jealousy. Dean used to pull that kind of act successfully too when he was little, but after the Fire, things changed. He tried it once, it was a pure attempt at manipulation after a rough day at school, but Dad didn't fall for it and give him the sympathy and comfort he had wanted, instead Dad told Dean to man up and stop being a cry-baby, that he needed Dean to be strong. They all needed Dean to be strong. But now Dad was holding Sammy in his arms, stroking his back and soothing him all the while glaring at Dean.
Dean shrank back a little, lowering his gaze apologetically, feeling very small.
"Come on kiddo," Dad said, "let's take a look at you."
Sammy sniffled, "OK."
With Sammy in his arms Dad headed back to the cabin and Dean lagged behind, dragging his feet, feeling like he was heading for the gallows because Dad was definitely gonna kill him.
"What were you thinking Dean?" John yelled fiercely, "I gave you one rule while I was gone, one, and you were supposed to keep Sammy safe and not leave the damn property!"
"That's two," Dean muttered quietly, and then winced when he realized he said it out loud. John slammed his belt against Dean's shoulder, striking the shoulder blade, sending pain to spike down his arm. He whimpered and shied away from his father, blinking back the sting of tears.
"Sorry," John spat viciously, "I thought the Golden Rule was a given! Obviously you were being too stupid to figure that one out!"
Of course, the Golden Rule: protect Sammy, keep him safe and happy. It was the most important rule in Dean's eyes and the fact he failed at that in the first place hurt badly enough. And now that Dad knew about it, now that he was caught it was so much worse, and not just because he was in trouble and currently on the receiving end of a much deserved beating, but because Dad trusted him, and he blew it and for what? So Sammy would stop whining? He cringed more at the disappointment in Dad's eyes than the threat of the belt which had already supplied him with a couple of painful welts on his bottom.
"Yes sir," Dean cried, "I'm sorry sir."
"You'd better be you useless little shit!" John snapped, "So what were you thinking? What was going though your head when you decided to disobey a direct order and get your brother hurt?"
"We wanted to go to the lake," Dean replied softly, apologetically, "I didn't want Sammy to get hurt but he wandered off…"
John slammed the belt across his back again, the thin shirt Dean was wearing doing nothing to lessen the sting of the blow, "You should've been watching him and then it wouldn't have happened!"
"I was!" Dean protested, wincing in anticipation of another strike with the belt that didn't come. Instead John dropped the belt and grabbed him by the upper arms shaking him, pushing him until he was pressed against the wall in the shed where John decided was the best place to fight without Sammy hearing. "I thought he was right behind me! Please Dad, I'm sorry! I won't do it again, I promise!"
"I trusted you Dean! I thought you were better than that!" John snapped, "But I guess I was wrong. I thought you would be smart enough, mature enough by now to keep Sammy safe but I should've known better than that."
"I'm sorry," it came out like a whimper and Dean felt a rogue tear slide down his face, pausing at his lip where it mixed with the snot running down his nose, "Sammy just wanted to go to the lake Dad, we were getting tired and bored of hanging around here all the time and you… we…needed to get out for a while. I… I didn't mean for anything to happen." He sniffled pathetically, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.
"Well consider yourself lucky Sammy's only got a twisted ankle and not something worse. What would you have done if it were? What if he broke it or fell in the lake and drowned? What if something went after him? Did you even think of that?"
"So you knew the potential danger and yet you went out anyway," John shook his head and then threw him to the ground where he towered over him, "you stupid kid!"
"We went prepared and…Dad you can't keep us on lockdown forever!" he dared to snap back, "Sammy was getting bored and I just wanted to make him happy but you weren't there and we had no idea when you'd be back! Other kids get to go to the lake and go bike riding and hiking and go to parks and malls and…"
John grabbed the belt he dropped and brought it down hard against Dean's shoulder and he curled into himself, protecting his face as John struck again, hitting his back, once, twice, "You're not 'other kids' Dean! Other kids don't know what we know! Other kids aren't magnets for supernatural threats! And did you even stop to consider what would happen if Sammy got hurt worse and CPS found out that I wasn't home at the time?"
"No sir," Dean lied because he had thought about that, which was why he was prepared in the first place. But Sammy was bored, and he was bored and tired of Sammy's whining and so he thought at the time that it was worth the risk because odds were that nothing was going to happen. Countless numbers of kids go out and play every day and nothing bad happens and despite the paranoia drilled into him since he was four, Dean was counting on those odds. And being separated from his family because of CPS was one of his biggest fears. But he didn't dare mention that, not when he deliberately went against the rules that protected them from such consequences. At the moment, while John's temper was raging out of control, ignorance, although a weak excuse, was looking like his best defence.
"They'd take you and Sammy away from me," John said, the raw pain and fear suddenly evident in his voice was jarring, "and I'm not prepared to deal with that."
"I'm sorry sir," Dean repeated, feeling the much deserved welts on his body from the belt throb in time with his heartbeat, "You know I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to Sammy. Never."
John held out his hand with a sigh, "I know," he replied shakily, anger deflating suddenly with what looked like resigned and profound disappointment, which to Dean seemed worse than the belt, "but you just have to be more careful. Just be glad that Sammy's OK." He took Dean's hand and helped him to his feet.
"I am," Dean murmured quietly.
"Now go to your room," John tilted his chin towards the front door as he put his belt back on, "you're going to stay there until I say you can come out."
"Yes sir," Dean nodded, stiffly heading inside.
He rubbed his shoulder as he made his way to the bathroom to quickly clean up before Sammy could see him. He could feel a bruise forming there and his back was throbbing, but he knew it could've been worse. John held back a lot, even in his rage. If he hadn't Dean knew he wouldn't be able to walk. But it still hurt.
Dean walked into the bathroom and cringed at the sight of himself, his face red, eyes puffy from crying, nose dripping with snot, his hair a mess. He turned on the water and roughly washed his face, still shivering from the dampness of his dirty jeans and trembling uncontrollably from the ache of his punishment. He had it coming, he knew it. He disobeyed a direct order, he had it coming. But as he unsuccessfully tried to stifle back a sob, he couldn't help but despair at how unfair it was. He just wanted to make Sammy happy, to stop having to listen to him whine, to be a regular kid for once. Was that so bad?
Growling in frustration, hating himself for wallowing in self-pity Dean haphazardly wiped again at his eyes, scrubbing his face to erase evidence of his tears. When he felt like he looked presentable enough, he went to his and Sammy's room.
Sammy was sleeping soundly thanks to the painkillers Dad gave him and was probably completely oblivious to what happened between Dean and John outside in the shed which suited Dean just fine. Sammy didn't have to know. But looking at his little brother's tear-stained cheeks, Dean wondered if Sammy might've worn himself out by crying himself to sleep.
"I'm sorry," Dean whispered. He never wanted Sammy to get hurt, never in a million years. He took off his wet socks and changed out of his sodden jeans into a clean pair of sweats. After checking again to make sure Sammy was still asleep took off his shirt, pausing to get a look at the welts on his back and shoulder in the mirror. He winced at the sight, seeing signs of a few bruises beginning to form, though it didn't look as bad as he thought it would. Dad definitely held back a lot but he was going to be feeling it for a few days. Dean stiffly grabbed a clean, black t-shirt from his dresser and threw it on and went to the window to close the blinds for Sammy's sake.
Their bedroom window faced the edge of the property, overlooking the driveway with a clear view of the fence surrounding the place. Just on the other side of the fence was a white rabbit and it seemed to be looking right at him. Dean frowned and closed the blinds.
He sat down on his bed and watched Sammy a moment as a million thoughts went through his head. Suddenly the tears were back, falling freely. He buried his face in his pillow, feeling like he could suffocate under the weight of his failure and soon he too cried himself to sleep.
A/N Thanks for reading. Please let me know what you think! Your feedback is greatly appreciated.