“Dean!” John wrapped his arms around his son in a brief but tight embrace. “We gotta go. Cops are right behind us.” He turned back to the truck.
“Wait! I found Martin! We gotta carry him.” Dean turned to go back the way he had come.
“Shit.” John followed at a trot, the distinctive sound of sirens growing louder with each step.
“Put him in the back!” John directed, and Dean rested the rake ends on the tailgate before vaulting in himself.
“I’ll stay with him.”
“Keep your head down.”
John circled his hand over his head, one finger raised, then pointed to an exit at the opposite end of the compound from the railroad tracks.
Red and blue lights were striking the sides of some of the buildings as the three vehicles rolled out of the lot.
Dean cradled Martin’s head, doing his best to keep the other man from bouncing too violently as the big diesel sped along poorly maintained back roads.
By the time they finally stopped moving, he was feeling both nauseous and battered himself, and was thankful that the injured man had not regained consciousness.
He was surprised to see the number of hunters that came boiling out of the other vehicles. Some he recognized, others he didn’t. He lifted a hand to acknowledge Caleb, helping his friend and another man lift Martin, still in his litter, out of the truck bed. He hopped out himself, and smiled at Pastor Jim, who patted him on the shoulder on the way past.
He submitted to a patting down by his father. “I’m not hurt, Dad.”
John continued his examination. “Yeah, right. Like you’ve never lied to me about that before.”
Dean couldn’t deny it, so he stood, legs slightly spread, arms out the sides, and endured.
Satisfied that his son was truly in one piece, he stepped back, blistering the young hunter with his glare. “You are a goddamn idiot.”
Dean dropped his arms on a sigh. Here we go . Several responses came to mind, but for once his brain was ahead of his mouth, and he kept quiet.
“What the hell were you thinking, offering yourself like that? Going in alone, unarmed?”
A hunter Dean didn’t recognize moved past them, and Dean dropped his eyes, feeling heat creep up his neck.
John shoved his shoulder, and Dean staggered back a step to catch his balance. “I asked you a question, dammit! Answer me!”
Dean knew that anything he said would only feed his father’s wrath. “It had Sam.” I thought it was going to turn him. Couldn’t stand the thought of maybe having to behead my baby brother.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” John threw both hands up, paced off a tight circle, then came back, fingers combing through his hair roughly. He pulled a key on a large plastic fob out of his pocket. “We’ve got a separate room. One-thirteen.” He pointed in the opposite direction that the flow of hunters had gone. “Go wait for me.”
Dean swallowed hard as he accepted the key. “Yes, Sir.” He’d been given that command before. He’s gonna beat the living shit out of me again. But Sammy’s okay, so maybe it won’t be as bad as the last time.
He kept his head down as he trudged to the room.
Exhaustion won out over fear, and Dean was asleep by the time John returned.
He was a light sleeper, even in the worst of conditions, and the sound of his father’s key in the lock roused him. The gruff, “Dean, I’m coming in,” confirmed that it really was John at the door.
Dean rolled to his stomach, pushing the covers down over his hips, not baring himself completely, but making it obvious that he had prepared for his punishment. He pulled a pillow over his head, securing it with both arms, lacing his fingers together. His ankles were crossed, and he was as ready he could make himself.
“Dean! Cover yourself, for Christ’ sake!”
Dean lifted the pillow, peering out from beneath it.
Caroline was standing beside his father.
“Caroline! Hey...uh...sorry. I thought --” He fumbled for the covers, tugging them up as he rolled into a sitting position. He hugged the pillow to his chest.
“You thought what, Dean?” She moved past John, taking a seat at the small table near the foot of the first bed.
Dean stared down at the pillow, wishing he were anywhere else.
“Dean! Answer the lady!”
Dean flinched at his father’s tone. Closed his eyes. I don’t want to do this. I can’t win. “I just...Can we do this later, Caroline?” He looked up at her, eyes pleading. “After I get some sleep, maybe?” He dropped his chin to rest it on the pillow he held bunched in his arms. “I’m just really, really tired.”
“We are doing this now, Dean. This is the same damned behavior --”
Caroline stood, cutting him off. “You thought he was going to use his belt on you again, didn’t you, Dean?”
His grip on the pillow tightened. Have to answer, or it’ll piss him off. What can I say that won’t make this worse? “I ….” I hate stripping in front of you, Dad. It’s humiliating. “I just thought, you know….It’d save time if I was….” He closed his eyes, trying to breathe away the hard knot of fear and sorrow in his chest. “Wanted to show you that I was sorry.” Was hoping you’d go a little easier if I did everything right before you started.
“See?” John rounded on Caroline. “I told you: he knows he screwed up. We have rules, Caroline. It’s how we survive. And he broke about a half dozen of them, going in alone, no weapons, no back-up, no intel --”
“To save Sam, which is your number one, over-riding rule.” Caroline met the man’s rage with cool logic.
John took a step forward, looming over the woman, and Dean tensed, ready to stand.
“We were getting a group together, gathering information, and we were on our way. You know that, Caroline! You were there!”
“Yes, John, but Dean wasn't.”
“Because the dipshit left before I had a chance to tell him anything!”
“His brother was abducted by the same vampire that nearly turned him right under your nose! Do you really think --”
Dean stood, bringing the bed linens and pillow with him. “Caroline.”
The calm steel in his voice caught their attention, and they both turned to look at him. “You should go. This is family business. Let us take care of it.”
She folded her arms over her chest, leaning back in her chair defiantly. “No. I will not walk out that door, knowing he’s going to hurt you as soon as it closes behind me.”
“It’s okay, Caroline.” I’ve had worse. “It’s what we do. I’ll be fine.”
Caroline turned to John. “This is exactly what you came to me to try to prevent.” Her tone changed, softening, pleading. “Think about what you are planning to do. Is this really what you want? Will it change anything for the better? Or will it just drive your sons further away than it already has?”
Dean watched his father closely, ready to put himself between John and Caroline should the need arise.
John’s neck and ears were a dark red, and he stood so close to Caroline that his knees nearly brushed her chair. He stared down at her, unblinking, with his hands curled into fists.
Caroline held his gaze, the pallor in her face betraying her fear while she continued her refusal to back down.
The older hunter spun on his heel abruptly. Two long strides carried him to the door.
He slammed it with enough force to knock a framed print off the wall.
Dean sat down wearily. “You shouldn’t have done that. I was sure he was going to hit you.”
Caroline smiled weakly. “So was I. But I couldn’t let him do this to you again.”
You haven’t prevented anything, lady. And now it will be ten times worse.
This was not a situation where Dean felt that ‘honesty is the best policy’ applied. “Thanks.” He lay back on the bed, covers resting at his waist, and slipped the pillow under his head. He left one arm up, knowing that the position showed off his bicep and chest. “I’m going back to bed. Care to join me?”
She stood, color suffusing her cheeks. “Um...that’s not…” She turned away. “I need to go.”
He grinned. Knew that would work. No sense of adventure, that one. “See you later, Caroline.”