“Sammy, go take a bath.” His father’s voice betrayed his anger.
Dean moved toward the bed, knowing what was coming next.
“But, Dad, I’m too big for baths! I take showers now, remember?”
“Just go, Sammy,” Dean muttered, too low for anyone to hear. He wanted his brother out of the room before this started.
“Bath, Sam. Now!” Their dad was already yanking his belt off as he stalked across the room to turn the TV on.
Sam was staring at Dean, eyes wide. He knew what was coming, too, and Dean was pretty sure Sam was trying to think of a way to help him.
Dean shook his head, mouthing the word “Go”.
As soon as the bathroom door closed, Dean sat on the edge of the bed to pull off his boots.
“Good,” John snarled. “I see you remember the drill.”
Dean nodded. “Strip, face down on the bed, don’t move, stay quiet.”
John snorted. “If you’d listened that well out there, we wouldn’t be doing this right now.”
Dean pulled his shirt off, trying to slow his heart rate by force of will. “I know, Sir. I’m sorry, Sir.”
“Hurry up,” was his father’s reply, and he began wrapping one end of his belt around his fist.
Humiliation warred with fear as Dean shimmied hurriedly out of his jeans and boxers, then quickly lay on his stomach on the bed.
From past experience he knew that keeping quiet would be hard, and he pulled a pillow over his head, wrapping his arms around it and locking his fingers together.
The first blows came without warning, raining down on his unprotected backside like molten lava. He gasped, crossing his ankles as his body went taught in silent protest at the onslaught.
The lecture began, each word accompanied by a blow, now spreading out from his buttocks to cover his thighs and back.
“You. Disobeyed. A. Direct. Order.”
“I’m sorry, Sir,” he gasped. Couldn’t tell his father that he froze. Some things were worse than being punished for disobedience.
“I. Command. You. Obey. Immediately. No. Questions. No. Hesitation.”
“Yessir.” It was difficult to breathe, but even harder to keep from crying. He clutched the pillow tighter.
“You. Almost. Got. Sammy. Killed.”
Now his back was on fire, and it was getting hard to think.
“You. Could. Have. Gotten. Yourself. Killed.”
“Sorry!” It came out in a high pitch, sounding so young that Dean almost didn’t recognize his own voice.
“I. Can’t. Lose. You. Two.”
“Yessir. I’m sorry, Sir.” His voice was strained, breathless. “I’ll listen next time, I swear.”
And then the blows rained down, rage-fueled, fast, hard, on every exposed inch of flesh, too close together for Dean to apologize, or beg, or recover, and the pain was so intense,
he couldn’t breathe, and inside his head he was screaming, begging his father to stop, just please stop--
Abruptly he lunged for the side of the bed, abdomen convulsing.
John dropped the belt just in time to thrust a waste basket under his son’s heaving face. Bile mixed with mucus and saliva spilled into the can.
Dean pushed himself weakly back into position, wiping his face on the sheet as he dragged himself across it.
Through slitted eyes he watched John stoop, rising with the ensanguinated leather in his hand.
Dean knew he couldn’t take any more. Not without screaming. Or blacking out. “Please Dad, please!” He heard the tears in his voice, and hated it. “I-I’m sorry.”
John dropped the belt, and Dean choked back a sob.
“I’m sorry, Dad.” He couldn’t stop shaking, but needed his father to know how grateful he was that the punishment was over. “I’m really, really sorry.”
And suddenly John was on his knees, one hand on Dean’s hair, forehead pressed to his son’s temple. “I’m sorry Dean. I hate doing this to you.
I was so afraid for you two, and when parents are scared they get angry…. but I can’t…. I can’t risk losing you. Or Sam. And I don’t know how else to get you to….”
His voice trailed off, and Dean realized that his father was crying.
“I’m sorry, Dad. I’m sorry I made you do this. It’s okay. I’ll do better, I promise.”
And in that moment, Dean hated himself for what he’d put his father through.