Opening the Door
Sam flinched at the sounds coming from the other room. The sound of belt against flesh. The sound of muffled sobs.
He knew Dean would come out with bruises and cuts, but he wouldn't say a word about it. He'd stumble into the bathroom right away, without looking at Sam. He'd come out 10 minutes later, smiling and ruffling Sam's hair. "I'm good, Sammy." He'd say. "Don't look so worried about me."
But Sam wasn't that stupid. He saw the marks. He saw the split lips and the black eyes. He heard Dean at night, when he had nightmares. He wasn't good. Not at all.
"You piece of shit!" John's voice roared from the bedroom, dampened by the thick walls. "You're pathetic! Get up and stop crying like a fucking bitch."
Sam could only imagine being the one in that room. Most of the time, he wished he was. He wished he could switch places with his brother, so that Dean didn't have to suffer through that anymore.
But he knew Dean would sooner die, and Sam was beginning to worry that he would.
Sam heard the door fly open, banging into the drywall. Sam stayed where he was, curled up on his bed. He could hear Dean careening into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Sam held his breath, listening for the sound of his father's heavy, drunken footsteps.
He heard his dad approaching, stopping for a moment outside the door before turning the handle. He peered into the room, locking eyes with Sam. "Hey, buddy."
Sam's stomach twisted at the sight of John. He was smiling. Grinning, really. He was breathing a little heavy, his hand gripping the door as if after all that he was still ready to punch something. His face was pale and tired, and even from across the room Sam could smell the whiskey.
John stared at the silent boy, his expression unmoving. "Get to bed, Sammy. It's late." He waited for a reply, but again met by silence, he closed the door.
There was really no use pretending like Sam was oblivious, anymore.
Dean came in not too much later. He didn't turn on the light, but Sam's eyes had adjusted enough to the dark that he could see his brother quite well.
He looked like shit. "Dean-"
"I'm going to bed, Sammy." Dean whispered, hoarsely. He waved his brother off and went to his own bed.
"Wait, Dean-" Sam lurched off his bed, and grabbed for his brother's arm.
Dean flinched, but Sam didn't stop. He pulled Dean around to look at him, uncomfortable at how easy it was. Was Dean getting thinner? Sam couldn't remember the last time Dean had eaten a full meal. How did Sam not notice that? "Sam, please..." Dean's voice sounded broken, and Sam found himself hating his father more and more.
Sam finally had his brother where he wanted. He was tired and hurt, and he had let Sam hold him in place. If he was going to get Dean to talk... now was the time. And yet... Sam was at a loss for words. "D-Dean... you can't... we can't- "
"Sammy, I don't want to do this right now." Dean pleaded and tried to pull away from his little brother's grasp.
"I can't do this anymore, Dean. I can't just sit back and pretend this isn't happening." Sam tried to make himself sound forceful, like Dean used to do when he was a kid. He would straighten his back, deepen his voice, and speak with a confidence that was hard to ignore.
Dean clenched his jaw, and Sam thought he was going to be angry. Angry at him for ruining the facade Dean had spent so much energy building. Sam knew Dean didn't want him to know about any of this. He wanted his little brother to to keep that youthful ignorance... but Sam was long past that.
But Dean sure looked angry, and for a brief moment, Sam thought about what he learned at school about abuse. Abuse victims were much more likely to become abusers themselves. They often lashed out at those around them, or even their own kids later on in life. Sam felt terrible about it, but for that split second, Sam was scared of him.
And he knew that was stupid, because Dean would never hurt him. Dean wasn't like their father. He was kind and gentle, and no matter what Sam did, he had never before been afraid of what Dean would do to him. Not like how Dean must have been afraid of what John would do.
So no, Dean didn't hit him or grab him by his hair. He didn't smack him or push him like he had heard John do so many times. Instead, he did something almost more surprising. He cried.
"I'm so sorry, Sammy... I'm so sorry..." He cupped Sam's face in his hand, running his thumb over his cheek. "It's all my fault..."
Sam shook his head, taking Dean's hand in his. "No, Dean. Of course it's not."
"You shouldn't have to... I didn't want you to know." Tears were streaming down Dean's face, and Sam inwardly wished he'd stop crying. It was so strange and unsettling. He wished to God his brother could be as strong and tough as Sam always thought he was.
But it was fine. They were going to make it. Sam could be strong, too. Dean had made sure of that.
"Dean, this isn't your fault, okay. This is Dad's. We just... we need to think, now. Okay?" Dean nodded, pulling his hand back. Sam spotted a welt protruding up from underneath Dean's shirt. "We need to get out of here. We can't stay here, with him, anymore."
Dean ran his fingers through his hair, closing his eyes. "We can... we can go to Bobby's."
Bobby's... good. Bobby's was safe. He had faith that Bobby would help them, and keep their location a secret from their dad. Bobby and John always said that they were friends, but Sam knew they didn't get along very well. Hell, maybe Bobby already had an idea of what was going on. "That's good, that's good, Dean. Let's go. You can drive, right?"
"Yeah, but..." Dean seemed to need to catch his breath again. "Dad's right in the living room. And he has the keys..."
Sam sighed, thinking. "Okay... we'll wait him out. We can go tomorrow, maybe. He's always leaving for hunts and stuff... we'll just wait."
"Okay..." Dean didn't seem convinced, but he wasn't about to argue. "Thank you... Sammy..."
Sam just reached forward and hugged him, burrowing his face into Dean's shirt. Dean had stopped crying, and now Sam thought he might start at any moment.
The next morning, Sam awoke with a start. The first thing he noticed was the absence of Dean. Sam had fallen asleep curled up against Dean's chest, but now he was gone.
Sam jumped up and snuck to the door, pressing his ear against it. He could hear talking, but he couldn't hear what the voices were saying.
As quietly as he could, Sam creaked open the bedroom door. "You know I don't want to hurt you, Dean... you know that." Sam bit his bottom lip as he slid to the floor. He could peak around the corner, and see John and Dean.
"I know, sir..." Dean's quiet voice replied. Sam could see them, now. John sat on the couch beside Dean. Dean seemed nailed in place, and John was sitting a little too close. Dean could feel his hot breath on the back of his neck. John had one arm wrapped around his sons shoulder, pulling him in close. Trapping him.
"I promise, it won't happen again..." John moved his hand up and down Dean's arm. "I promise..." Dean nodded, and Sam watched as John's hand glided down Dean's side until it came to rest on his hip, and then his thigh. Sam was going to be sick.
Dean's mouth opened and closed, and his whole body tensed. Sam's skin crawled as John's hand began to pick at the hem of his brother's shirt. His fingers went beneath the fabric, and they ran slowly up his chest.
"D-dad..." Dean was frozen in place. He felt John's sweaty palms on his bare skin. He couldn't move, he could barely speak. He just wanted out. Out of this room, out of this house, out of this life.
He glanced over at the front door, and knew he could probably run for it. It would be hard, but he could do it. His dad was still hungover from last night. He'd be stumbling and uncoordinated. Yes, that was it. Dean could get out.
But Sam would still be in here. He'd be trapped in this God-forsaken house with this monster. He couldn't leave without his brother. He just had to... deal with what was happening, now.
"Shh..." John hushed him, his other hand reaching for his jeans. Dean closed his eyes, willing himself not to cry. "Don't worry, Dean. I'm not going to hurt you."
Sam felt frozen where he was, but he had to shake himself out of it. He had to do something. He had to get Dean away. But how, without putting them both in danger?
Dean felt John's hand slide into his jeans, and he couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't do it. He couldn't... He had to leave. He had to find another way-
"Dean!" Sam's voice came from the bedroom, causing Dean to jump. "Dean?"
Dean glanced back at John, who just sighed. He pulled away, letting Dean go. "Go see what your brother needs."
Dean breathed a shaky sigh of relief, and ran off to find Sam.
That night, John announced he had to leave. A hunt. "I'll be back in no more than a week." John promised, and both his son's nodded. Dean thought back to a time when he was disappointed his father would be gone. He used to be afraid to be alone. Now he was afraid not to be. "No leaving this house except for school, ya hear me?"
"Yes, sir." They said in unison.
As soon as John left, they started to pack. Sam put all their clothes into two duffel bags while Dean went to find a car.
They were on the road by midnight.
Dean could still feel John's hands on him as he drove. Sam had fallen asleep on his lap, which was comforting. He felt guilty as hell for ripping Sam out of his life, and running off with him. The only thing making him feel better was that staying would have put Sammy in even more danger.
John had only been getting worse as the years went on. Dean had always done his best to ensure that Sam was never at the receiving end of his father's wrath, but then again he had also tried to keep it a secret from Sam, and that didn't end up well.
"Where are you gonna go, Dean? Huh? Who's gonna save your sorry ass?" Suddenly his father's words were replaying in his head. "You've got no one except me. You should show me some respect."
Dean hoped he was wrong. He hoped that at least Bobby would help them. Dean pulled the car into a gas station, putting it in park. He got some change from the cup holder and quietly slid out from underneath Sam. The payphone was empty, so Dean quickly made his call.
"Bobby? It's Dean." Dean's voice almost caught in his throat, and he didn't even know why. Of course he could trust Bobby. The man was practically family.
"Hey, Dean. Is something wrong?"
"I was just... me and Sam are headed out to South Dakota, and we were gonna stop by Sioux Falls for a while. I just wanted to check with you first." Dean lied, planning to tell him the truth once they got there. It was easier that way.
"You callin' me at 2am to tell me that?" Bobby accused, but his voice was filled with nothing but humor. "You know you boys are always welcome here."
Dean nodded, not considering Bobby couldn't see his gesture. "One more thing, Bobby... could we keep this between us?"
Silence. "You askin' me not to tell your daddy?"
Dean gulped. "Yes, sir."
For a second, Dean thought Bobby was going to refuse, and that his father had been right all along. "Alright, Dean. But you're gonna tell me why as soon as you get here, you got it?"
"Of course. We'll be there in the next couple of days."
It was a few more hours before Dean had to stop to sleep. He pulled off to the side of the highway and locked the doors. He managed to get in a semi-comfortable position without waking up Sam.
Dean had nightmares about John.
Hands holding him down. Punches landing on his face, blood dripping out of his mouth.
A belt against his back, arms, legs.
Stifling his pathetic whimpering, knowing that Sam was just a room away.
He only woke up when Sam shook him violently. "Dean! Wake up!" Dean shot up, breathing heavily. He could feel the sweat covering his skin. When he finally regained himself, he looked to Sam. "I'm sorry... you were having nightmares." Sam didn't mention that he was thrashing all over the place in panic.
"Sorry, kiddo. I'm sorry..." Dean sat up, stretching his aching limbs. "What time is it?"
Sam shrugged. "Like six I think."
Dean sighed. Another night with little sleep. They had to keep going. "Come on, we gotta go. I told Bobby we'd be there in a couple days." Dean explained, revving up the engine.
"You called Bobby?" Dean nodded. "Did... did you tell him?"
"Not exactly. We'll worry about that when we get there."
An hour or so later, a very bored Sam asked, "Can I drive?"
Dean glanced over. "Are you joking? You're eleven, dude. You can't drive."
Sam shrugged. "You can teach me. You knew how to drive when you were eleven."
Dean considered it. They needed to make this trip fast, they didn't have time to mess around. But still... it was hard to say no to Sammy. "Let's compromise. Come on, scoot on over." Dean pressed his body up against the door so that Sam could sit in the seat with him. It took a little maneuvering, and it was difficult to do while they were driving down the highway, but they managed. "Alright, I'm gonna keep my feet on the pedals, but I'll let you take the wheel."
"Awesome," Sam grinned. Dean kept one hand on the steering wheel and both eyes on the road as Sam clutched onto the wheel.
"Okay, so this part is pretty easy. You just turn it whichever way we want to go, which in our case right now is mostly straight. So just hold it steady, okay?" Sam nodded, holding onto the wheel, tight. When Dean felt comfortable enough, he let go of the wheel altogether, and just put his arm around Sam instead. "There you go, buddy. You got it. You're gonna make an excellent driver."
"You think so?"
Dean appreciated this moment of normalcy. He wished his fucked up life could be like this more often. Why did he have to go out and hunt monsters all the time? Why did he have to deal with his dad? All he wanted was to spend time with his brother, and teach him things- like driving. "Totally."
They drove with the two of them in one seat for a few hours until Sam was tired of just steering. He wanted to take over completely, but he knew it wasn't the time. That would mean pulling off to the side of the road, and practicing with the gas and the brake for a while. So instead, he settled with stopping to eat.
Dean had pocketed the cash John had left for them for the week. Dean inwardly hoped there was enough for food and gas the rest of the way.
Dean ordered a burger, and Sam a salad. Sam didn't say anything, but he made a mental note when Dean actually ate this time. That was a good sign. Not too long into their meal, Dean went to use the restroom.
It was only a few moments later, seemingly by absolute chance, that John Winchester pulled into the diner's parking lot.
Sam happened to glance over, and immediately spotted the Chevy Impala. "Shit..." Sam muttered to himself. "How in the world...?" He didn't know if it was coincidence, or if John was looking for them. All he knew is that their dad could not find them there. Sam reached over for Dean's jacket, which he had left on the seat. He pulled out what he guessed was enough money for the meal, and left it on the table.
He could see John walking up to the front door as he ran to the bathroom, clutching Dean's jacket in one hand.
"Dean?" The whole restroom was empty except for his brother, who was currently at the sink.
"What, did I really take that long?" Dean asked, jokingly.
"No, Dean- Dad's here." He watched his brothers eyes go wide with fear. "I don't know why, or how, but he just walked in."
"Did he see you?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't think so. I booked it in here as fast as I could."
"Shit!" Dean pounded his fists onto the porcelain sink. "Shit shit shit! What do we do?" Dean looked around, but there were no windows where they were. The only way out for them was through the front door.
"I don't-" Sam was interrupted by the sound of the door being opened. They both turned to see their father walking through the door.
"Boys," For once, John seemed sober and competent, which only added to the boys fear. John was smart, and he was one of the best hunters they'd ever met. Without his drunkenness to slow him down, he was practically unstoppable. "Wait, don't freak out."
"Stop, there!" Sam tried, forcefully. John, did in fact, stop in his tracks. He held up his hands as if to show he meant no harm. Sam didn't believe it for a second. "Dad, just let us go..."
"I came back early, and you boys were gone," John's voice was strangely gentle, like the calm before the storm. "I thought something had happened to you two, but all your things were packed, and one of the motel guests had their car stolen..."
Neither spoke. Dean was sure he'd never be able to get a word out, anyway. His throat was raw with fear, his hands and feet frozen where they were. He though for sure that he was going to die, right there in some crappy diner's mens room.
"Look, we can talk this out. Let's just get back in my car. You guys don't have to sneak away!"
"We are not getting in that car with you," Sam wished his brother would say something, too, but he was eerily quiet. "You know why, so don't even play that game."
"Dean," John moved his gaze to his oldest, since his youngest didn't seem to be changing his mind anytime soon. But he would always follow Dean, wherever he went, so if he could just convince Dean... "I'm so sorry, son, for what I did to you. I promise, if you come back, it will never happen again."
Dean knew it was a lie, and a shitty one at that. One that he had heard one too many times. It would always happen again. Always. "Dad... I... I can't..."
John took a step forward. "Dean, we're a family. We're supposed to be together. Every family has their ups and downs... but they stick together in the end, right?" John could see Dean's wall breaking with every word. He was starting to buy into it. "You're my son, Dean, you both are. And I love you two more than anything in the world. Just, please... come back home."
"No, Dean." Sam turned to his brother, ignoring John for the moment. "He's lying, Dean, you know that. You're stronger than this, Dean. You're better than that."
Dean felt torn. All he wanted was for his brother to be safe and happy. He figured the only way to do that was to keep him as far away from John as he could. "I'm sorry, Dad. I'm not going with you. Neither of us are."
It was right then that John leaped at them. The boys scattered to either side of the room, trying to avoid him. "You son of a bitch. You get over here right now!" John lurched toward Dean and managed to grab onto his shirt. Dean tried to pull out of his grasp, but he felt himself being pulled unwillingly toward the larger man. "You're not going anywhere, you hear me? Neither of you." He landed a punch that had Dean falling to the tiled floor in a second.
Sam jumped forward to his brother, trying to pick him off the floor. "Dean!" He cried. Blood was dripping from his lips. "Dean, get up."
John reached down and grabbed Sam by the jacket, standing him up, effortlessly. Sam struggled to get away, or at least to get the jacket off, but his father just adjusted his grip. "You heard him, Dean. Get up. We're leaving."
As John practically dragged Sam out of the bathroom and through the restaurant, Sam hoped that someone would try and help him. He was pushing against John, and yelling, but he supposed he must have looked like a rotten kid, mad at his father. It didn't help that he was shouting "Dad!" In hindsight, he should have said something else, like, "Stranger danger! I'm being kidnapped!"
Unfortunately, he wasn't thinking like that, because he was too worried about Dean. His father had just left him on the floor of the bathroom, apparently confident that he wasn't going anywhere without Sam.
Sam wished that Dean would just get the hell out of there. He wished he'd just leave Sam behind and run. But he knew better than that. Dean would do exactly as John had predicted.
John shoved Sam against the Impala with one hand as they waited for Dean to limp out. "I expected more from you, Sammy." His father lectured, shaking his head. "I was always easier on you cause I thought you knew better. Obviously I was wrong."
"You're an asshole, you know that?" Sam spat back. "You can't possibly think you're doing the right thing."
Then there was Dean. He walked through the front doors of the diner, heading straight for the Impala. Sam let his head drop onto the car, a sob escaping from his lips. They were back to where they started. After all they had been through, things had only gotten worse.
Or so he thought.
It surprised them both when Dean, still a few feet from the car, pulled a gun out from behind him. With little hesitation, he fired two bullets at John. Startled screams came from inside the diner. One bullet went into John's arm, the other into his abdomen. John screamed in pain, releasing Sam, and fell to the gravel floor.
Sam ran to his brother, who was just standing there, staring at his father like he didn't know what was happening. "Dean! Come on, we gotta go!" Sam's voice seemed to trigger Dean back to the present, and they both ran to the car they had come in.
Dean drove as fast as he possibly could out of that parking lot, driving right past their dad, who was still writhing on the ground.
Neither could tell how long they drove in utter silence.
Suddenly, Dean spoke. "I shot him."
"I shot Dad."
"He can't... I mean, He'll be okay. Those weren't fatal shots, right?"
"I hope they were."
"Sam, no! I shot him! Holy shit I shot Dad. What have I done?" Dean pulled off to the side of the road and put his face in his hands. "What if he dies, Sammy? What if I killed him?"
Sam leaned over as far as he could to get closer to his brother. "Look, Dean, you're right. They weren't fatal shots. Someone in that diner must have called the cops, and he'll go to the hospital. He's not going to die."
Dean nodded, but that barely made him feel any better. "I'm going to Hell."
"No, Dean. You're not. You had every right to do what you did. You saved me!" Sam was more than a little surprised at what Dean had done, but he wasn't going to let his brother feel guilty. If he hadn't shot John, John probably would have killed them, or worse.
Dean took deep breaths, feeling pathetic for freaking out like that in front of Sam. What happened, recently, to make him like this? He had always tried his best to be strong, but now he was just weak. "We have to keep going. To Bobby's..."
Sam nodded. "Okay. Let's go."
Dean drove non-stop the next 14 hours until they were finally in Sioux Falls.
He thought he was going to pass out right on Bobby's doorstep, but he managed to make it up the stairs and knock on the door. Sam, who stood beside him, reached out to hold his hand. Usually it was a gesture Dean would refuse, but for once he allowed it. Maybe it made him feel just a little bit better. Maybe.
Bobby heard the knock on the door, and knew instantly who it was. He put down his book and his glass of whiskey, and headed over to the door. When he opened it, he didn't quite expect the boys in the condition they were in.
They both look exhausted, like they hadn't slept in days. Sam looked liked he was holding onto Dean like a lifeline, as if he was afraid if he let go his brother would just fly away. There was a faded black and blue bruise on Dean's cheek, and another at the base of his neck.
Regardless, both smiled in relief when they saw Bobby's face. "Good to see ya, Bobby." Dean greeted.
"You too, boys. Come on in." They had some explaining to do, that was for sure. But first he was going to get those boys something to drink, because they both looked like they desperately needed it.
He handed them each a glass of Coca-Cola, and had them sit down on the couch. He pulled a chair over so he could sit right in front of them, and they could finally talk face to face. "Like I said on the phone, Dean, you gotta tell me what's up."
Dean looked down at his glass, and Bobby hoped he was going to spill. Because really, even if Dean didn't hold up his end of the deal, it wasn't like Bobby was gonna kick them out. Either way, they were staying with him until they wanted to leave. "We, uh... we ran away, Bobby."
Bobby narrowed his eyes. "I'm sorry?"
"We had to leave, Bobby, and there was no where else we could go!" Dean silently prayed that Bobby wasn't about to pick up his phone and call their dad. He couldn't blame him, of course. Bobby couldn't possibly understand what it was like...
"Why did you have to leave?" Bobby asked, calmly. This was turning out worse than he predicted. He had thought that maybe Dean had just run out of money or something while John was gone. He thought he just needed some food and a place to crash until John was done with whatever hunt he was on.
"Because of Dad." Sam spoke up this time, glancing over at his big brother. "Show him, Dean." He added, more gently.
Dean shook his head. "Sam..."
"Dean." Sam said, firmly. Dean looked down at the ground, again, putting his untouched drink on the table. Hesitantly, he reached down and pulled up his t-shirt, exposing bruises and cuts all over his abdomen.
Bobby's eyes widened. This felt all to familiar. "You tellin' me John did that?" Dean nodded, still not making eye contact. He pulled his shirt back down and picked his drink back up. "Boy... how long has this been going on?"
Dean shrugged, and Bobby looked at Sam, instead. Thankfully, the younger Winchester looked relatively unharmed. "Awhile." Sam answered.
Bobby rubbed his face, taking his cap off. "Why didn't you tell me before, Dean? I would have helped you, sooner."
Dean shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "It... it wasn't that bad at first. He was just... rough with me, that's all. But it started getting worse, and..." Dean's voice trailed off, but he had said enough.
"Where's John now?"
"We don't know." Sam answered. "He, uh... he was shot."
"Shot?" Bobby repeated. "Who shot him?"
"I did." Dean said, quietly. "I didn't... he had Sam..."
Bobby leaned back in his chair. This was a lot of information to take in. He had to deal with this situation delicately. He didn't know much about what had happened, but it was most likely way worse than what Dean made it seem. But either way, he was going to protect these kids, no matter what. "It's okay, Dean. I understand. We'll figure this out, together. You're not alone."
Dean nodded, and somewhere deep inside, he felt relieved. So yeah, maybe he was going to Hell. But as for right now, he wasn't alone.