“Sammy, go take a bath.”
“But, Dad, I’m too big for baths! I take showers now, remember?”
“Bath, Sam. Now!” He was already yanking his belt off as he stalked across the room to turn the TV on.
Sam looked to Dean, trying to think of a way to stop this.
Dean’s face was white, but he shook his head, mouthing the word “Go”.
The running water and loud television weren’t enough to block out the sound of leather striking flesh, of his father’s angry tirade...and eventually of Dean’s raw, pain-filled promises.
“Yessir. I’m sorry, Sir. I’ll listen next time, I swear.”
And finally, “Please Dad... please!...I’m sorry.”
The TV show had ended and the news was on by the time Dad had knocked on the bathroom door. “Time for bed, Sammy.”
He dried, dressed, and brushed his teeth, putting an ear to the door before opening it. Past experience had taught him that Dean hated to still be crying when Sam walked out.
The room was both dark and quiet when he cracked the door.
He opened it all the way, the light falling on the figure of his father, sitting in a chair farthest from the bed that Dean lay in, tilting a bottle up to his mouth. He paused.
“Turn the light off, Sammy.”
There were tears on his face.
Sam did as he was told, crawling into bed as carefully as he could. He reached out, wanting to offer comfort, only to hear Dean hiss “Don’t touch me” as he jerked away.
Sam’s pillow was wet.
The spots looked dark in the dim lighting. He raised it to his nose, confirming his suspicion. “Dean,” he whispered as quietly as he could, “there’s blood on my pillow.”
“I know, Sam. Go to sleep.”
“What’s it from? Did that ghost hurt you?”
“I said go to sleep, Sammy.”
So he had, but the next morning Dean hadn’t moved, and Sam could see that there were scattered drops of blood on the bed, too.
“Go brush your teeth, Sam.” His father’s voice came, low and quiet, from the chair across the room.
Sam wondered, eyeing the beer bottles as he passed, if his father had spent the night there.
Their father’s belt hung in the bathroom, clean but damp.
Sam finished brushing his teeth and stepped out to the sight of his brother, face down and stripped bare, being ministered to by his father.
“Come and help with this, Sammy.”
Horrified, Sam approached the bed. Dean was holding a pillow over his head, arms wrapped around it, crushing it against him.
Their father was pressing a towel against Dean’s side to catch the alcohol that ran off of him as John poured it over the cuts that criss-crossed his back.
“Sit down, Sam. See what I’m doing here? Take a towel and that bottle and do the other side.”
Sam climbed carefully up on to the bed, sliding close to his brother.
He took in the corded muscles in Dean’s arms and shoulders, the bruises and welts running from the nape of his neck to the backs of his knees.
“Breathe, Dean,” John commanded, and when the rib cage obediently rose and then fell, nodded to Sam: “Pour.”
Sam tucked the towel against Dean’s side, pressing it firmly as he watched the clear, cold liquid run over his brother’s battered skin. He could feel Dean trembling.
He glanced at his father, wanting to apologize to Dean, but afraid of incurring his father’s wrath.
As if reading his mind, John spoke: “The sooner we get this done, the sooner Dean will start to feel better.”
And in that moment, Sam hated his father.