“Man, Sam, you sure as hell best be glad Dad ain’t home, ‘cuz he would kick your ass six ways from Sunday if he saw you like this.”
“Fuck’m,” Sam muttered.
It was dark. Late. The breeze of early May brushed softly against Dean’s skin as his little brother stumbled beside him in a drunken haze. He reached out quickly, slinging a strong arm around Sam’s back to keep him on the sidewalk. He was fairly certain if he let go, Sam would fall flat on his face.
“Shit, Sammy, if I’d known how messed up you were gonna get, I never would have let you go to that party. I just wanted you to have some fun, forget about Dad and broken promises for a while. I didn’t mean for you to drown yourself in booze.”
“Shouldn’ta gone off wit that girl then, Dean,” Sam said, his tongue getting twisted. “She was hot, sure, but mine was cute as a button and had the tastiest...margaritas.”
Margaritas. Dean was pretty sure Sam was after the tastiness of those margaritas on the little blonde girl’s lips more than the liquid in the glass. Dean wondered which he’d gotten more of.
Well, good for him, Dean thought. He deserved it.
Dad would say Sam deserved something else entirely. He was probably right. Any other day Dean would have agreed completely. Would tan Sam’s hide himself if Dad wasn’t around. But not today.
“Okay, little brother, just a few more blocks and you can crash and watch the motel ceiling spin until you pass out.”
Sam didn’t answer and Dean didn’t press him. Truth was, he was growing tired, holding his brother up. The kid was barely a kid anymore, still somewhat small for his age but gaining muscle and bulk that would have him taller than Dean in less than a few years’ time.
“I think I need to work out more,” Dean joked as they finally got back to their motel room. Holding Sam steady with one hand, he unlocked the door with the other, shuffled his brother in and shut the door behind him.
“Okay, slugger, let’s-”
Sam had frozen, eyes wide, and Dean followed his gaze. Someone was standing across the room, tall and muscular. Dean would have reached for his gun, but even in the shadowed darkness of the motel room, he could tell the ominous silhouette of his own father.
“Oh, crap,” Dean said.
“It’s one o’clock in the morning,” John barked and Dean was glad it was dark inside the room. It’s not like he didn’t know the burning stare of his father like the back of his hand, but imagining it was one thing. Seeing it was quite another. “Where the hell have you been?”
“Movies,” Dean answered immediately before Sam could say a word.
His father hadn’t become an idiot on his last hunt, though. “Don’t you dare lie to me, Dean.”
Dean started to answer, but his brother let out a scornful laugh first and staggered away from Dean’s hold.
“Says the king of liars,” Sam spat.
John was halfway across the room in less than a second, the street lights now illuminating his penetrating stare. “What did you just say to me, boy?”
Dean knew he and his brother were standing on the edge of a cliff. Sam was either too out of it to realize or he just didn’t care. “I’s said-”
“Nothing, sir.” Dean stepped in front of his brother as quick as lightning and shoved him back against the door. “Sam didn’t say anything.” He knew Sam was mad at Dad, hell they both were, but the last thing they needed was Sam starting something.
“Then tell me where the hell you’ve been, Dean, because you must be fucking stupid if you think I can’t see your brother’s drunk.”
Anger bubbled up inside Dean, but he clamped it down. “Dad, I can-”
“And last I checked, movies don’t get out at one o’clock in the morning and they sure as hell don’t sell alcohol to fourteen year old-”
“Fifteen!” Dean yelled. All the patience and understanding he’d tried so hard to hold on to all day, just for Sam’s sake, flew out the window. “He’s fifteen, Dad. Today. And you didn’t show like you promised, like you always promise, and Sammy was upset and his friend was having a party and I told him just to wait, you were gonna be here, but when you hadn’t showed by eight, I figured the kid deserved to have a little bit of fun on his birthday!”
“Having a few drinks to forget about the fact that you’d either forgotten his birthday or didn’t care!”
John’s eyes narrowed. “You think I wanted to miss his birthday?” He took a step toward Dean and Dean wished more than anything he could just disappear. “You think I ever want to miss your birthdays? I raced back here, Dean. I drove for hours on no sleep without stopping, after a twelve fucking hour hunt. Because I had promised him I’d be here.” Dean felt his breath hitch and all the anger drained out of him. “And I’m sorry, Dean, that the monsters didn’t get the memo that it was Sam Winchester’s birthday and they needed to stand down, but if you think I’m going to just leave people to die-”
“I’m sorry,” Dean whispered.
“And then, I pull up before midnight and I think I might be late but at least I didn’t miss it completely, and I walk in and you’re not even here!”
“I do the goddamn best I can Dean! And all I ask is that you do the same. All I ask is that you take care of your brother and keep him safe. And instead you take him out until one o’clock in the morning and get him plastered.”
“I know, Dad, I’m sorry.”
“Well, sorry ain’t gonna cut it, Dean!”
Dean went still.
He wasn’t stupid. He was nineteen years old, and even if he hadn’t been able to see the dangerous glare in his father’s eyes, he knew that voice, he knew what came next. And he knew he couldn’t protect Sam all that much in this situation; they both knew the rules when it came to drinking underage when Dad wasn’t around, and Dean knew all too well the penalty for breaking it.
But Dean could protect him from seeing this.
“Sammy, go brush your teeth and take a shower,” he said softly. He didn’t take his eyes off his father, nearly daring the man to challenge him. But John didn’t move.
“Dean…” Sam started.
Dean could hear the fear in Sam’s voice, the guilt, but now wasn’t the time to deal with it. “Go, Sam. And stay in there until I tell you to come out, okay?”
It wasn’t okay with Sam at all, and Dean knew it, but thankfully his brother didn’t argue. Sam grabbed his things and walked to the bathroom, stopping for just a second to look back. Dean forced a smile and a nod, trying to convince his brother that everything would be okay. He had no doubt Sam didn’t believe him, but he disappeared inside anyway. He waited to hear the water run, then took a deep breath, swallowed, and looked back at his father.
“Something could have happened to him, Dean.” John’s voice was quiet. Filled with emotion. “To both of you.”
Dean hung his head, the heat of shame creeping up his neck. “I know, sir.”
“Hands against the door.”
Dean wiped his palms on his pants, not even realizing they had been sweating. He turned around, heart beating fast inside his chest. He stared at the door. A small voice in the back of his head told him to open it and walk out. He was an adult. He didn’t have to take this from his dad anymore. But his dad was right. He’d let him down, put Sam at risk, and he deserved what he was about to get. Though his arms felt as heavy as lead, he raised his hands and placed them flat against the wood. The sound of leather sliding through cloth and the jingle of the buckle filled his ears, and he squeezed his eyes shut.
The first lash came biting across Dean’s ass. He sucked in a breath and lowered his head, but he refused to make a sound. His father said nothing either as he swung with what seemed like all his strength; a second, third and fourth time. Words weren’t necessary, explanations weren’t required. Dean knew his father far too well for that. Better than anyone.
Dean had done far more wrong than let his brother drink.
With the fifth heavy swing of the belt across his ass, he knew the fear his father had felt walking into an empty motel room.
With the sixth, he recognized the disappointment he’d suffered when he’d tried so hard to be there for Sam just to have his efforts fail.
Biting his lip to keep from crying out with the seventh and eighth, Dean understood the anger that had filled his dad at the sight of his sons returning, at the nerve of their disobedience.
And with the ninth cutting strike, he knew the hurt that had pierced his father like a stab in the heart at Dean’s accusations.
He knew it wasn’t done, but he felt his father’s fisted hand on his back, the drape of the belt falling down his spine. John leaned down close to him, his voice low and dark in his ear.
“Did you let him drink or did he drink on his own?”
Dean tried to think, but his head was spinning, he couldn’t figure out which answer was the right one to protect his little brother. But his father knew him too well.
“The truth, Dean. Sam’s got it coming either way, this is about you. Did you stand there and watch him disobey, or did you leave him on his own to get in trouble?”
“I…” Dean’s forehead fell against the door. He’d been so stupid. “I wasn’t watching him like I should have, sir.”
His father’s heavy hand now pressed into his back, the belt started falling again. Dean lost track of the count, but he knew he was owed nineteen and with every stripe painted across his skin the pain shot through him like a knife.
When it was finally done, his father stepped away and Dean rested his cheek against the cool wood, catching his breath as every inch of his ass burned like it was on fire. He heard his father loop his belt back in his jeans then walk across the room, grabbing his car keys from the table. Dean stood himself up and stiffly turned around.
There wasn’t anger in his father’s eyes anymore, just an intense sadness that broke Dean’s heart. Dean stepped toward him.
“Dad, don’t go.”
“I just need some time, Dean. And Sam doesn’t need to see me when he gets out. Both of you go to sleep, I’ll be back before either of you know it.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. I really am.”
John walked toward him and placed his hand gently on Dean’s cheek. “I know you are, son. I’m sorry too.”
If he tried to talk he’d cry, so Dean just nodded, swallowing down the tears that were threatening to fall. John gave his face a pat, nodded back and walked out the door.
Dean took a deep breath and ran a hand over his face, centering himself before going over to the bathroom and rapping his knuckles on the door. “Hey, you gonna spend all night in there Sammy?” he called lightly. “The bed’s probably a helluva lot more comfortable than the bathtub, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a leak without an audience.”
Sam was curled up in their bed when Dean finished in the bathroom and he slipped himself under the covers behind his brother. He laid down on his side and pulled Sam toward him. He could feel his little brother shaking beneath his arm.
“I’m sorry, Dean,” Sam said in a quiet voice, and though he tried to hide his crying, Dean could see him wiping his eyes.
“Hey, shhh,” Dean said, holding him tight. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”
“But it’s my fault Dad whipped you.”
“No, Sammy. I’m the one that let you go to that party. I shouldn’t have. I was wrong, Sam, it was my fault.”
Sam didn’t say anything for a while and Dean had thought he’d fallen asleep. But it seemed his little brother had too much on his mind. “Dad’s gonna lick me good. What a crappy birthday.”
“Hey now, don’t say that. Come here, look at me.” Sam rolled over to face him. His eyes looked so sad and Dean wondered how it was possible to love someone as much as he did Sam. He just wanted to protect him from everything, give him everything he could ever want. “Did you have a good birthday before you walked through this door? Did you have fun at the party?”
Dean grinned. “Did you get with that girl?”
Sam giggled and Dean could see the blush even in the darkness. “Yeah.”
“Well, that sounds like a pretty damn good birthday to me. So don’t let whatever happens tomorrow ruin that for you.” Dean brushed Sam’s hair out of his eyes. “I’ll tell you a secret I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older.”
“Sometimes, Sammy, the crime is worth the punishment.”
“Dean,” Sam groaned. He’d woken up with his stomach feeling like a volcano had erupted. “Dean, I think I’m gonna-”
Before he could say another word, Dean was at his side, getting him to the bathroom just in time. “It’s okay, little brother.” Dean rubbed Sam’s back as he emptied his stomach. “You’re okay.”
Sam sat back on his heels, panting slightly, sweat dripping from his forehead, and Dean handed him some tissues. “Take your time, just come out when you’re done, okay?”
Sam didn’t think he could talk so he just nodded with his eyes closed. He felt awful and just wanted to curl back up into bed, but he was pretty sure his dad would just drag him out. So he waited until he was certain he could move without getting sick again, brushed his teeth, and stumbled out of the bathroom.
Dean was waiting for him outside the door holding out two pills on his palm and a glass of water. “Take these, drink all of this, then come sit down for breakfast.”
Breakfast. The smell of bacon and eggs frying in the kitchen made his stomach turn. “Dean, I don’t think I can-”
“I know you don’t, Sammy, but you can and you should. I promise, it’ll make you feel better.”
“Your brother’s right, Sam,” John said with a smile and Sam realized his dad was there doing the cooking. “And I should know.”
Sam didn’t have the energy to argue with either of them, so he took the pills, drank the water and sat down at the table. Dean stayed in the kitchenette, leaning against the counter, but his dad came over with two plates and sat down beside him. “Here you go, eat up.”
Holding in a groan, he decided he would do his best to humor his dad and Dean with one slice of bacon, but quickly realized they were right. Before he knew it, the plate was empty.
When he was done, Dean took his plate and Dad replaced his breakfast with two packages wrapped in brown paper and string. Sam looked up at him, eyes wide. His dad nodded toward them with a glint in his eye. “Go ahead, Sammy. Open them.”
Sam looked back at Dean with curiosity, but Dean just grinned. He turned to study the two gifts. One was a neatly wrapped box, about the size and shape of a shoe box. The other looked like his father had wrapped and rewrapped until he’d managed to tie it into some sort of a pyramid. He reached for that one first and pulled the string. The paper fell away and Sam discovered three books stacked inside.
“I asked Bobby what you liked, and he told me you’d nearly worn these out in his library,” John explained. “So I got you your own.”
Sam flipped through them, barely believing it. His favorites on mythology, lore, and comparative religion, almost in mint condition. Presents from his dad were usually last minute grabs from the convenience store down the street, if he even got anything at all. But these books not only took money, they took time. Planning.
“Thank you,” he said, and he really meant it.
John beamed and pushed the other box toward him. “Open this one.”
Sam pulled it close. It was heavy. He thought about guessing, but that had always ended in disappointment in the past, so he just ripped the paper away. He was right, it was a shoebox inside, but the size was his father’s not his, so he lifted the lid. He reached in and pulled out something heavy, wrapped in leather. He’d held enough weapons in his life to know what it was and he carefully took it out ; a pistol, a 9mm Taurus model 92, with a mother of pearl grip. He turned it over in his hand. It was pretty, for a gun, and Sam looked at his dad.
“Hold it up, try it out,” John said eagerly. “I thought you were old enough for your own now, no more borrowing mine or your brother’s. We’ll take it out and practice with it real soon.”
Sam held it up and aimed safely at the wall. Though he didn’t really like guns or shooting, he knew this really mattered to his dad, and his dad had worked hard to get him a present that had really mattered to Sam. “It’s great, Dad. Thanks.”
“Now, I know we were supposed to do all this yesterday, but I thought, if you weren’t too mad at me, Sam, I could take you guys to a movie. Then have that fancy dinner I promised you?”
“Dad, I’m not mad anymore. And I don’t need a fancy dinner.”
“I know you don’t need it, Sammy, but I thought maybe we could all use one. You know, catch me up on what’s been going on while I was gone. You can tell me about school, everything you’re learning?”
Sam blinked. He felt like he had fallen into some alternate universe. He wondered if something was going on, if maybe Dean had said something, his Dad seemed to be trying so hard to be nice to him. But it didn’t make sense, he knew what he had coming, he knew he wasn’t going to get away with drinking at that party. And the last thing Sam wanted to do was bring it up, but he needed to know.
“Dad,” he said carefully. “What about…you know…”
He tried to get the words out, he really did, but they just wouldn’t come. The blush in his cheeks did though.
John leaned over and ruffled his hair. “We’ll worry about that tomorrow, okay? Let’s just give you a happy birthday today. If that’s alright.”
Sam looked at his dad, then back at Dean, and he couldn’t help but notice both their eyes seemed so full of hope. And Sam thought that maybe the best birthday present would just be to have this one day to enjoy, as a normal, happy, family.
“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “That would be great.”
“Hey, Sammy, wake up.”
A light smack to his foot and his father’s voice jolted Sam awake and he quickly turned beneath his blankets and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The sun was streaming in through the motel blinds. He glanced around the room, but other than his dad, it seemed empty.
“Where’s Dean?” he asked.
“Supply run,” John said. “Should be gone about an hour. Come on, wash up quick. You and I have something to take care of.”
Sam looked up. His dad was standing over him, arms crossed, eyes like steel. His stomach dropped. Something to take care of was his backside and Sam didn’t think his dad would really use that much care.
Yesterday had been great, spending the day with his dad and his brother; laughing, talking. Forgetting about things like monsters, and hunting, and discipline.
But yesterday was over. Now it was time to face the music.
He wished Dean was there. Dean always made sure Dad didn’t go too far. But either way, there was no getting out of this one. So he climbed out of bed, the chill in the air hitting him with just his boxers on.
“Here, put this on,” Dad said, throwing him a shirt. It was Dean’s, big on him, but he figured his dad had just grabbed the closest one he could find. “I want you back out here in five minutes.”
Five minutes was just enough time for Sam to think of every what if he possibly could while he brushed his teeth and took care of business. It was just long enough for his heart to start racing and his palms to start sweating and he really wished this bathroom had a way to escape outside.
But it didn’t and five minutes were up and Sam knew there was no avoiding what was waiting for him in the other room, so he slipped Dean’s two sizes too big shirt over his head and opened the door.
Dad was sitting on the bed. Sam wasn’t sure if he was planning to talk first and spank later or spank first. He took a cautious step toward him.
“Do you, um, want me at the table, or the wall, or the chair-“
“I want you right here, Sam,” John said, pointing beside him. “You’re going over my knee today.”
Sam’s eyes opened wide. “What?” he managed to sputter. Sam hadn’t been over his dad’s knee since he was twelve years old. John Winchester didn’t coddle teenagers, he let them take their licks like a man. “Dad, I’m fifteen.”
“Yes,” John said, eyes narrowing at the argument. “You’re fifteen. A child. And maybe I’ve forced you to grow up so quick that you’ve forgotten that, but I haven’t. And sometimes we all need a good reminder. Now I suggest you get over here before I come get you.”
Even with his head spinning, Sam didn’t need to be told twice and he quickly walked himself to stand beside his dad. John’s lips were pursed. His gaze hard. Unrelenting. Unforgiving.
“Pants down, Sam,” he ordered.
Another wave of shock hit him, but sense reached Sam’s brain before his mouth got him into even more trouble, and he wondered now if Dad giving him Dean’s shirt had been intentional. At least he was able to have some sense of modesty.
“Yes, sir,” he answered, his cheeks flushing red with shame as he slid his underwear down to the floor.
John wasted no time pulling Sam over his lap. The blood rushed to his head and all he could think about was how embarrassing it was to be draped over his father’s knee like a little kid until he felt Dean’s shirt pulled up to his back and the cold air hit his ass only seconds before Dad’s hand came crashing down to light it on fire.
“What’s the rule about drinking, Sam?”
Sam held in a groan. The only thing worse than being forced to talk during a punishment was having to do it hanging upside down. He could just barely reach, but he pressed his fingertips into the ugly brown motel carpet, even if it just gave him the illusion of some support. “No drinking under age unless it’s with you, sir.”
“That’s right,” John said and his hand came down again. Sam winced with the sting.
He had thought that since he was older, a spanking wouldn’t hurt as much, but it turned out that his father must have been holding back when he was twelve, because another smack and then another had his skin already burning, the breath punched out of him, and every muscle in his body tightening.
He flinched with the next strike, clenching his teeth together and pressing his face into his arm to hold back his cries. He wanted to be as strong as Dean, but he couldn’t, and tears started pooling in his eyes.
“Alcohol distorts your reaction time.” John lectured as he spanked and Sam knew that as hard as it was, he better pay attention. “It alters your view of your surroundings. It lowers your inhibitions. All of these things, in our world, can get you killed.”
Sam wanted to argue that his father drank and could still hunt, but if his common sense didn’t hold back his tongue, his father’s next volley of stinging smacks definitely did.
“Ahhh…” he whimpered, trying but failing to stay silent.
“You get caught in a fight when you’re drunk and this is what it’s gonna be like.” John tilted him forward and spanked him just above his thighs where his skin was still untouched. “Like you’re caught with your pants down. Vulnerable. And once they get their hands on you, humiliating.”
The pain had been enough for Sam to forget the position he was in, but with the reminder, his embarrassment returned. Especially when his dad spanked him twice on each of his thighs.
His entire backside felt raw and try as he might, he couldn’t stop himself from begging anymore. “Dad, please,” he gasped.
John didn’t stop, though. Three more punishing strikes rained down to add to the fire in his skin and the ache that now went far deeper. “No one's going to hold back in a fight just because you’re drunk, Sam. In fact, they’ll do everything they can to take advantage of it.”
Tears started streaming down his face. He hated this. He hated that his father wasn’t around. He hated that this was his life. But most of all he hated that his father was right, and that he knew it, that he’d always known it. He hated that he’d given in to the peer pressure and had used alcohol to drown the ache in his heart and had put himself in danger. That wasn’t him.
“I’m sorry,” Sam cried, his body going slack against his father’s legs, accepting the pain of each new blow because he deserved it. “I’ll never do it again, I promise, please.”
He sobbed into his arm, soaking the sleeve of Dean’s oversized shirt, the pulse in his ears matching the throbbing in his ass. It was only once the noise in his head faded that he realized his father had stopped and was rubbing his back.
“Alright, Sam, you’re alright,” his dad was saying and he fought to stop crying and get his breathing under control. “Shhh…we’re all done. You’re okay.”
It took some time, but when he had finally calmed, his dad gently helped him get on his feet again. John rose from the bed and gathered Sam in his arms, kissing the top of his head. Sam would have thought he’d be mad at his dad, but he wasn’t. He was just glad he was home.
“I don’t ever want to do that again, Sam,” John said, holding him tightly. “I know how much you want to be like your brother, but going out and partying and trying to drown your feelings, that’s not you. You can do better than that. And before you say anything, I know I can too. I should have been here.” He placed his hands on Sam’s shoulders and pushed him back slightly. Sam looked up at his father and it surprised him to see that he had been crying too. “I don’t think we should make any promises we might break, but can we agree that we’ll both try to do better?”
Sam rarely saw his father as a man, not like Dean did. Dean understood him, but Sam always just saw the marine or the hunter, the unyielding disciplinarian trying to raise his boys as soldiers. But yesterday and today, he saw something different. He saw a man trying to be someone his son could look up to.
“Yes, sir,” Sam said and he leaned himself back into his father’s arms. He didn’t know how long it would last. He didn’t have hope it would last very long at all. But today, he could agree to try. “We’ll both do better.”