Author: Minx

#34 - Balktalk


Type of Story

Author's Website
Minx(blog) OR Minx(LJ)

Author's Note: Disclaimer - I own none of these characters. They are the property of Eric Kripke and the CW. Any characters in this story are used simply for entertainment purposes, and I am not making any money from these stories. This is set pre-series, Dean is 15 and Sam is 11. A HUGE thank you to Nocturnal08 for beta-ing this! You're my hero!
[Definition: BACKTALK (noun): impudent, insolent, or argumentative replies]

Bored Games

John Winchester thought he was going to lose his mind. Either that or his brain would just spontaneously implode, caving in the entire back of his head, which by the way, was keeping time in a steady throbbing beat with his blood pressure at the moment. It had been three days since the Winchester clan had set up base at the Wayside Budget Motor Lodge just outside Davenport, Illinois after hearing about a series of disappearances that had occurred in the area. Three long, stressful, mind draining days, John mentally tallied as he wearily rubbed his bleary eyes with a thumb and forefinger.

The early fall storm which had been languidly building in the darkening skies during their drive into town had finally arrived in full force, the rain coming down the minute they'd settled into the motel. And much to Mother Nature's credit, it hadn't let up since then. It fell in a steady gray sheet against the picture window of their motel room as if someone had set a gushing garden hose up against the glass and left it there permanently.

As a result, John had been forced to remain holed up in the motel working on research rather than going out to comb the surrounding hiking trails where the disappearances had all taken place. It wasn't that John hated doing research. In fact he was quite thorough, making sure he had as much information on a job as possible so that he could develop the best plan of attack. His marine training had taught him that. A well thought out strategy and in depth knowledge of your opponent were the best tools for success on any mission. No, it wasn't the fact-finding that was giving him the massive headache at the moment. It was his children.

The long car ride from Caleb's in Nebraska had been bad enough with 15-year old Dean and 11-year old Sam squabbling over everything from the selection of music on the radio to who had gotten more fries with their quarter-pounder at the last stop for food. John had finally lost it somewhere around Des Moines and had threatened to pull the car over on I-80 to deliver some much needed ass kickings if Dean and Sam didn't pipe down and cut the crap that instant. That had blessedly shut the two boys up for about a hundred miles or so at least. Used to be a time, John fondly remembered, when that warning alone would have put his sons on their best behavior for the entire trip.

But that was before Dean had turned into a wise-cracking, withdrawn teenager who was constantly pushing the boundaries set up around him as he flexed his burgeoning independence. Sam, of course, had taken it into his head to try to emulate his brother as much as possible. That was, John dryly thought, when Sammy wasn't offering up his own brand of sass in the form of acerbic comments or snarky questions directed at his authority. John felt a nostalgic pang for the little puppy-eyed toddler that used to think his daddy hung the moon and he let a wistful smile cross his lips. That little moppet of adoration was now a strapping headstrong eleven-year-old who seemed to be outgrowing his clothes every other week. While John was not thrilled about his sons' growing need to test his patience, he wasn't quite ready to start blistering butts.

He knew he was pretty strict about the boys following orders and behaving, more so than most parents to be sure. But he had to be, he reasoned. Their way of life didn't provide any leeway for mistakes. A broken rule or accidental misstep didn't just mean a scraped knee and a few frustrated tears. It could very well mean someone ended up seriously injured or dead. And John just wasn't ready to lose any more of his family any time soon. While some (aka Sam) might call his parenting tactics dictatorial and somewhat harsh, John was often pretty lenient under the circumstances. As the boys got older, he usually reserved spankings for big time violations like direct insubordination, reckless behavior, or lying.

And that was the only reason the boys' squabbling and general brattiness had yet to earn either of them a trip over his knee. He understood that his kids were cranky, restless and bored after being cooped up at Caleb's for a week and a half and now were having to deal with being thrown into the car for another long drive to another nondescript town to spend the night in another rundown motel. Sam especially hated being uprooted so much and often acted out as a way of showing his displeasure. Dean usually remained pretty stoic about things, preferring to show his dad he could suck it up no matter what, but for some reason, this trip had been different and his teenager had been acting more like the youngest child. No other kids to play with, a limited number of distractions on hand and a tired and frustrated father thrown into the mix didn't help matters. That being the case, John was willing to cut the boys a little slack despite his protesting head and already strained patience.

By the time he had pulled into the parking lot of the motel in Davenport, the elder hunter was about ready to just dump the kids off in the room and go out in search of the nearest bar for a drink or three just to gain some semblance of his sanity back. But then, the early October sky, dark with surly storm clouds had abruptly opened up dumping buckets of rain down on the area. They barely had time to get themselves and their meager belongings out of the Impala and into the room before everything outside became soaked in the chilling downpour. And so, for the past three days John had sat on the beat-up couch in the motel room with his journal, the local newspapers and various reference books spread out on the pine-wood coffee table in front of him trying to figure out what he was dealing with creature-wise while at the same time keeping a very bored Dean and Sam from killing one another. That was, if he didn't kill them first, he dryly concluded. As if testing his resolve, Sammy let out a shrill whine that stabbed at John's ears, making him wince.

"Deeean! I had that pillow first! It's from my bed, so give it back!"

Dean ignored his little brother's plea and held said item at arm's length off the double bed opposite of where Sam was sitting. His other hand was planted firmly in Sam's heaving chest to keep the boy away from the pillow as he struggled to grab it from Dean.

"Dean, c'mon, it's my pillow!"

"Nuh uh, Sammy. Mine now. You can have that one," Dean indicated the pillow that was next to Sam with a nod of his sandy blonde head.

"I don't want that one!" Sam complained. "It smells all funny since you used it." He picked the pillow up pretending to sniff it and made a face of disgust. "Jeez, did you rub your armpits all over it or what?"

That remark got Sam a pillow to the head as Dean swung the one he was holding up and around nailing Sam hard across the face. Sam cursed when the back of his head connected with the plaster wall behind it due to the impact of the pillow. He reached up and clamped onto the pillowcase surrounding his face with both hands, yanking it down roughly but still keeping a solid grip so that Dean couldn't pull the pillow back for another swing.

"Leggo, you dipshit!" Dean yelled.

"No, you leggo, you jerk!" Sam retorted.

"Make me!"

John's head shot up from his work. It wasn't the first time this afternoon the boys had interrupted his research with their squabbling, he angrily noted, and he glared at his sons in mounting displeasure. They were arguing over the pillows now, for chrissakes. The pillows!

"Hey, cool it!" John barked trying to keep his temper out of his voice but failing. He pointed a warning finger at Dean and Sam. "I don't give a damn whose pillow is whose. You'll both be sleeping without them tonight if I hear one more word from either of you!"

Sam's chubby face fell into a serious pout as he shot his older brother a stony glare. He let go of the pillow in question with a small shove towards Dean, more of a show of resentment than obedience. Dean, now in full possession, turned and tossed the pillow over onto the opposite bed as if it was no big deal now that he couldn't harass Sam with it. John gave a curt nod to Dean, relieved that this latest battle of wills had been put to bed. He settled back onto the couch shaking his head and trying to pick up where he'd left off on the page of one of the demonic reference texts he was reading. Not two minutes had gone by before Sam's voice piped up again, cutting through the relative quiet.

"Dad, I'm bored. Can we watch TV?"

John sighed and set the book down again. "No, Sam. The reception is still out due to the storm."

"Oh, yeah, I forgot," Sam replied, moping even harder if that were possible.

John ignored the dramatics. "Look, boys, I'm trying to do some research here and --"

"You've been reading those books for the past two days," Dean sullenly interrupted, shooting John an accusatory look.

"And?" John growled back, daring his eldest to make further snide comment.

Dean swallowed and fidgeted, realizing he may have pushed it too far.

"And…nothing, sir," he mumbled. He quickly looked away. "It's just that there's nothing to do around here is all," Dean said as he shrugged and rested his head back against the whitewashed headboard of the motel bed staring up at the water-stained ceiling with a loud, beleaguered sigh.

"You could practice your Latin," John suggested offhandedly and was met with a pair of scrunched up faces. "Okay, fine. How about reading something?"

"I read all my books," Sam replied petulantly.

The boy gestured to the bedside table at the small stack of battered used children's novels sitting there. John made a mental note to look for a used bookstore in the next town so he could trade out the current selection of Sam's books for some different ones. He couldn't help but wonder at how fast Sam seemed to gobble the stories up. He'd make an excellent researcher when he got older.

"Yeah, dad, there's nothing to read around here," Dean chimed in, the tedium in his voice quite obvious, "The only magazine in the room is some promotional one of the hotel's and it's just full of ads."

John thought a moment before replying. He got up from the couch and went over to one of the bags on the floor that held the boy's 'play things', mainly Sam's books and toys, but there were also a few board games that Pastor Jim had donated to them. Reaching into the canvas duffel, John pulled out the first box that his hand touched. It was Scrabble. He rose and turned back to the bed tossing the game onto the rumpled covers between the two boys.

"Here. Play that. It's quiet and it'll help you with your vocabulary," John flatly stated.

Without waiting for a yay or nay vote, John returned to the couch and his book. Dean gave the game a cursory glance and then shrugged. What the hell. It beat staring at the walls, and at least it was something he and Sam could do together. He opened the box and while he unfolded the board and set it on the bed between Sam and himself, Sam began the laborious process of turning all the game tiles face down in the lid of the box. Once the game was set up, Sam and Dean each picked out a tile, arguing about whether Sam's D won because it was closer to the front of the alphabet or whether Dean's L did because it was closer to the end, then picked out the correct number of tiles and set about positioning them on the little wooden troughs that came with the game.

"I'll keep score," Sam offered in a semi-bored tone and grabbed a pencil and the little motel notepad near the telephone.

"Yeah, whatever," Dean said while attempting to stifle a massive yawn.

Playing Scrabble with his geeky little brother was not exactly Dean's idea of a thrilling afternoon. Sam was more the wordsmith type - a side benefit, no doubt, of keeping his nose buried in books all the time. If Sam could choose to be anywhere, it would be a library or a schoolroom, Dean thought with distaste. What a dork. Dean much preferred more active pastimes, like bow hunting and handgun training. But one look out the rain-speckled window told the teen that neither of those activities would be happening today or any time soon. The next several days promised more of the same monotonous cycle of finding ways to annoy Sam when the eleven year old got on his nerves, followed by his dad yelling at them for the millionth time when they got too loud or rambunctious.

Let's see, he reviewed silently, dad just snapped at us so, now it's time to pick on Sam again. Dean settled back onto the bed chewing absently on his bottom lip as he studied the lettered tiles in front of him and tried to come up with some good words, or at least something that would get Sam all hot and bothered. A sly grin stole over his lips. He checked to make sure his dad was occupied with his research and then grabbed up several of the tiles from in front of him, hazel eyes crinkling with mischievous glee.

"Okay, Sammy, I'm going to start this game off for us," Dean enthusiastically asserted.

He laid down the lettered squares at the center of the Scrabble game, giving himself a mental pat on the back for his own creativity. Sam glanced down at the word on the board and then back up at Dean, his green eyes narrowed in silent accusation.

"Very funny, Dean," Sam hissed.

"What?" Dean's eyes widened but he couldn't quite pull off the innocent look he was trying for. He chuckled softly and gave his younger brother a playful nudge in the leg with the toe of one sock-covered foot. "Whatsa matter, Sammy, can't take a joke?"

Sam nodded sharply, his mouth screwed up into a tight line and angrily grabbed up tiles from his own trough. "Fine, but just remember, you started it this time."

"Don't know what you're talking about, Francis," Dean smoothly shot back as he waited for Sam to spell out his word on the board.

John was happy to leave his sons to their game. Happy for the relative silence that ensued to concentrate on the possible link he'd finally unearthed between all the people who had gone missing in the area. But, as time went on, it became more and more obvious to John that the boys were not quite playing by any standard Scrabble rules he knew. He paused in his note taking, ears suddenly quirked toward the bed as the two youngest Winchesters erupted into another heated debate.

"Asswipe is not even a real word, Sammy!" Dean sniped pointing down at the tiles in question on the multi-colored board. "Take it off."

"Is that a challenge?" Sam asked rudely while crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Dean rolled his eyes and let out an exaggerated breath. "And how am I supposed to do that? We don't have a dictionary, so it's not like we can verify it. Besides, there's no challenge to be had, dude. It's not a word and you know it!"

"You use it all the time!"


"If it's used commonly in everyday language, Dean, then it's considered a word by regularity of use," Sam tried to sound official but Dean threw up his hands in disgust.

"That's total bull, you freaking egghead! You're just trying to cheat because I'm 30 points ahead of you for once!"


John heaved an irritated sigh from deep within his chest. Without looking up from his journal, he answered his sons. "It's not a legitimate word, Sammy. No matter how much your brother enjoys using it in sentences."

Sam's lower lip jutted out in a pout worthy of an Oscar, but he grabbed the little square tiles back up from the board as Dean shot him a smug smile of victory. Sam studied the letters on his trough, his lips pooched out and face scrunched up in deep thought and then a grin flitted across his lips as he grabbed up the letters needed and placed them down on the board with a small sense of triumph.


"Pisser..." Dean slowly mouthed the word Sam had just laid down on the board and shrugged. "Yeah, okay. I'll give you that one."

John had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from snorting out loud. Right. Asswipe doesn't count, but pisser does. Go figure.

"Ha, double word score and I used all but one of my tiles!" Sam crowed and quickly added up the points on the little pad they were using to keep score. "Hey, that brings me up even with you...pisser."




"BOYS!" John's fed up roar thundered across the room as he slammed down his pen and looked up, swiping a hand over his careworn face in utter exasperation.

"M'sorry, dad," Dean muttered hanging his head down while fiddling with some of the game tiles.

"Me too," Sam added, turning a fearful eye toward his father.

"Just...keep it down, would you?" John quietly scolded them, reigning in his temper. "And watch the language," he added gruffly with a special glance at his oldest because more often than not, any crude words Sammy tended to pick up came directly from his older brother's colorful vocabulary.

The peace lasted all of five minutes and then Sam started up once again.

"Dean, what's that word mean?" Sam asked innocent puzzlement in his voice.

Dean smirked, his eyes dancing with amusement, but he didn't answer Sammy's question directly. "Trust me, dude, that's a word."

"Okay, but what does it mean? C-U-N-"

John's ears perked up immediately, his eyes going wide in shock. He looked up from his research to spear Dean with a malevolent look.

"Son, that better not be what I think you're spelling!" *Where in God's name had he heard that one??*

"What? It's a valid word," Dean challenged back.

John sat up straighter, leaning forward and glaring at his oldest son. "It's a word I don't ever want to hear come out of your mouth, Jonathan Dean. And it's a word you definitely won't be spelling out on that damn game board either!"

"Yes sir," Dean mumbled sullenly as he reluctantly removed the offending tiles from the board. "Man, that would have been a triple word score," he groused under his breath.

"Dean." The warning was evident.

"Well, it would have," Dean retorted unable to keep from commenting.

John was up and over to the bed in three long angry strides. He glanced down at the scrabble board letting out a groan of parental dismay as he noted that his children's vocabulary choices so far consisted of: loser, dumbass, butthole, dork, jerk, geek, retard, and pisser. Just great. So much for this being an educational team-building exercise. John eyed his offspring with impatience as they sat on the bed staring innocently up at him.

"New rules, boys," John heatedly declared, a small vein near his temple now beginning to throb in a splenetic manner. "No more swear words, derogatory names or body parts. I don't want to hear out of your mouths or see on this board any more of that kind of language. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes sir," was the twin reply.

"Good, because I'm not going to repeat myself again. Play nice or the game's over - in more ways than one!" John warned as he returned to his seat on the couch.

He rubbed at his temples feeling the beginnings of a migraine coming on and then grabbed the last of the coffee out of the pot he'd set on the corner of the table and refreshed his mug. He took a swallow letting the warm bitter brew hit the back of his throat and picked up his journal, stared at it for a brief moment and then set it back down on the coffee table with a grunt. He needed a break.

John rose from the couch once again and ambled over to his duffle sitting atop the unoccupied bed across from where Dean and Sam were. He dug through it until he found the first aid kit and with a grim smile on his face, he opened the kit to grab some aspirin. Unfortunately, the bottle was empty. John swore under his breath and squeezed the empty bottle in his hand taking some of his frustration out on it. Damn it! He'd forgotten that he'd popped the last couple tablets back in the car earlier. John stuffed the empty pill bottle back into the kit and turned to Sam and Dean who were studying the game board with a whole new eye now that John had changed the rules on them.

"Boys, I need to run out for a minute. Alone," he quickly amended when he caught the gleam of excitement on Dean's face. Dean scowled his disappointment but didn't say anything. "I want the two of you to behave yourselves while I'm gone. Understand?"

"Got it, dad," Dean said.

"Where ya goin'?" Sam questioned.

"Your old man needs some more aspirin, kiddo," John replied softly as he kneaded the sore muscles just at the nape of his neck. "And I'll probably pick us up something to eat as well. It's getting near dinner time."

"Pizza?" Dean suggested raising a brow hopefully.

"No, tacos!" Sam countered.

The boys gave each other dirty looks mouths opening to start another bickering contest but John stopped them with a raised hand and a sharp look.

"You'll eat whatever I bring back," he stated emphatically and then grabbed the car keys off the dresser and headed for the door.

A mild look of distaste crossed his unshaven face when he realized that he'd probably get completely drenched by the time he got from the motel to the Impala, even though it was only a few yards away. Ah well, he was willing to pay that price if it meant a few minutes away from the room and the boys. A few minutes of much needed solitude. He opened the door to the room, the wind and clamor of the pounding rain growing loud now as he gave Sam and Dean once last look.

"Lock the door behind me and don't answer it if anyone comes knocking. I'll only be gone twenty, maybe thirty minutes max, so you shouldn't need to worry about anything, but you know where the shotgun is just in case?"

Dean nodded and pointed to the far opposite corner where the pump action shotgun stood propped up against the wall next to the couch loaded and ready.

"Good. And boys? I don't want to hear any more arguing or swearing." John flicked his steady dark gaze from his oldest to his youngest pointing a warning finger at each of them in turn. "No more."

"Dean started it," Sam openly declared, resulting in Dean aiming a kick to Sam's leg in annoyance coupled with a blatant WTF? stare.

John cut off any further admissions with a scalding look. "I don't care who started it, Samuel Alan, I'm stopping it, right now."

Sam's long choppy bangs partially hid his affronted demeanor but his tone wasn't as easily disguised. "You always take his side," he moodily huffed.

John blinked. "What was that?"

Sam stared back at his father for a moment, silent, his rigid jaw telegraphing his emotions quite clearly to the older hunter. And what John saw on Sam's face was nothing less than petulant contempt. This is what happens when you let things go too far, Winchester, he suddenly realized. And that epiphany brought him to the decision that no matter how badly he wanted to escape for a brief respite from the past 72 hours of madness, he had some business to take care of before he walked out the door.

John met the eleven-year-old's defiant look with an icy calm one of his own before suddenly pocketing his keys and shutting the door to the room with a firm slam. John walked over to the edge of the bed where Sam was sitting cross-legged and towered over the boy, crossing his arms over his well-muscled chest. The air was thick with explosive tension, like a powder keg just waiting for the match to be touched to the fuse.

"I asked you a question, Samuel. What did you just say?"

Sam's dimpled chin jutted forward, rigid tendons standing out along a jaw still plump with the last vestiges of baby fat. His chest heaved but he remained silent in defiance of John's request.

"I'm not going to ask you again." The admonishment was plain and direct, John's tone conveying all the threat it needed to.

"What do you care what I say?" Sam finally replied his voice tight, the hot angry words now spilling from his mouth. "You never listen anyways. And what difference does it make if we swear or not? It's not like you don't! You-"

The rest of his tirade was cut off as John reacted with the lightning quick reflexes of an ex-Marine, snagging his youngest son by the forearm and dragging Sam up and off the bed in one calibrated move. Sam's foot caught the edge of the scrabble board as he went, jarring it enough that some of the lettered tiles went flying off into the nooks and crannies of the bedspread. Once Sam was clear of the mattress, John swung his son around, bending him over his left hip, his left arm curled around Sam's waist to hold him securely in place. He then proceeded to plant a dozen solid ringing smacks onto the seat of Sam's jeans in quick succession with his right hand.

Dean winced and turned his head slightly to look away, suddenly feeling awkward and embarrassed for his little brother. Sam hissed in pain, the prickly heat blossoming across his assaulted bottom as his face reddened in indignant shock. John was leaving absolutely no doubt in Sam's mind that his patience had been sorely tried and was now pretty much worn out. John leaned over putting his mouth close to Sam's ear his voice low and clipped.

"I don't know when you started thinking it was okay to lip off to me like that, Samuel, but it most certainly is not okay. I am your father and you owe me some respect whether you like it or not."

John emphasized that point with half a dozen more heated swats and then stopped. Straightening, John pulled Sam back up and around and gave him a firm shake to emphasize his point. "Now, I know this has been a long week for all of us, but I've about had it with the attitude…from the both of you!" John fixed his stern countenance now on Dean who gaped at his father.

"What'd I do?" Dean asked with a tinge of adolescent irritation.

"You really need me to tell you, son?" John replied, hazel eyes flashing a glint of warning.

Dean ducked his head down low to study his game tiles intently.

"That's what I thought," John gruffly remarked.

John let go of Sam who immediately scooted out of his father's easy reach before putting a hand back to rub at the lingering sting resonating across his backside. He shot John a watery hate-filled glare. John studied his boys a moment and then decided it was time to take off the gloves.

"Now, I'm going out to the store. And when I get back, you two are going to be on your best behavior. No more arguing. No more swearing. And no more smart-mouthed comments from either of you or the belt's coming off."

Sam paled slightly at that. Keeping his eyes to the carpeted floor he offered up a sullen nod that he understood. Dean remained silent, watching his dad through hooded hazel green eyes, a frown pasted across his full lips.

"You got something to say, Dean?" John snapped.

"Dad, c'mon, I'm fifteen," Dean muttered the scowl deepening on his youthful features. "You can't spank me anymore."

John raised an eyebrow at his son. "You keep on in that tone of voice, buddy boy, and you're gonna find out just how fast I can put you over my knee," he warned, his jaw now clenching in anger.

Thoroughly chastened, Dean traded his scowl for a more neutral look, his eyes falling to the patterned bedspread in defeat. Funny, no matter how old he got, his dad always seemed to be able to put him in his place with nothing more than a few terse words and a look.

"We done here?" John questioned.

"Yessir," Dean mumbled.

"Yes," Sam quietly spat.

"Yes what, Samuel?" John curtly prompted.

"Yes sir."

John fished the car keys out of his jacket pocket heading for the door of the room once again, satisfied that his authority had been firmly established. He left the boys with a slam of the door that wafted in the fresh ozone scent of the rain from just outside. Sam listened for the distinct rumble of the Impala's engine fading away and then lifted his head and turned towards his brother who was still seated on the bed. A small wooden scrabble tile smacked into Sam's forehead bouncing off and tumbling downwards to do a somersault off his chest on its way to the floor. It landed face up and Sam noticed it was an 'S' tile. He gave Dean a dirty look

"Nice job, Francis," Dean complained. "You pissed dad off so bad now he's gunning for me. Thanks a lot!"

Dean picked up another tile from the bedspread and bounced it in his one hand contemplating his younger brother a moment.

"I wasn't the only one cussing, Dean," Sam hotly replied.

"No, but you're the one that went off on the life's not fair – I hate dad rant. Dude, what was that all about?"

"Leave me alone," Sam angrily muttered.

He headed for the other bed but stopped when he felt another scrabble tile ding him in between his shoulder blades. Sam stiffened slightly letting out a heavy sigh but not turning around.

"Dean, quit it. I don't wanna talk about it, okay? Just leave me alone."

But Dean wasn't going to do that. He couldn't. Sam was upset and not just because of the spanking either, although that was indeed part of it. No, Dean knew that there was something else, something deeper that had been festering as of late and he felt obligated to find out what it was. Unfortunately tact had never been one of the teenager's better attributes. So, in classic Dean Winchester style, he snatched up another game tile from the scrabble board next to his leg and let fly with the precise aim born of hours spent with his father in the woods practicing with blade and gun. The wooden square nailed Sam hard in the rear, setting off a fresh sting that married well with the duller smart that persisted from the spanking.

"Ow!" Sam flinched, both hands darting behind him as he whipped about to offer his older brother a dark scowl. "What the hell, Dean! Stop it!"

"You gonna tell me what's eating you, Sammy?" Dean pressed his brother.

He knew that if he pushed hard enough, Sam's temper would erupt and he'd open up to Dean. Of course, it also meant that Sam would probably be testy enough at that point to take a swing at him. No biggie, Dean thought, especially if the end result was that he and Sam were no longer at each other's throats or on their dad's shit list. With that in mind, Dean picked up another game tile, one corner of his mouth raised in a teasing smirk.

"Better start talking, Samantha, 'cause I have about 90 more tiles here all with your name on them."

Sam was not amused. "You throw that at me, jerk wad, and I'm gonna make you eat the rest of them!"

"You and what army, geek boy?" Dean snorted.

He tossed the scrabble tile at Sam in a half-hearted lob that bounced off Sam's thigh. It wasn't painful but it was enough for Sam to see red.

"You are so dead!" Sam snarled as he launched himself onto the bed and on top of Dean.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It took less than fifteen minutes for the heated wrestling match to run its course and for Sam to finally spill his guts to Dean. Both boys now sat on the littered floor of the motel room, chests tiredly heaving from the altercation, backs leaned up against the disheveled bed behind them.

"Sammy, dad doesn't come down harder on you because he likes me better than you," Dean said softly, eyeing his little brother from the corner of his eye. "You just seem to push his buttons more often than me, that's all."

"Why is that, Dean?" Sam whispered as he absently fingered an old rip in the knee of his jeans, unable to look his brother in the eye.

Dean shrugged. "I don't know, Sam. I guess 'cause the two of you are so much alike."

Sam's head instantly shot up, a familiar blaze in his emerald eyes. "No we aren't!"

"Yeah dude, you are," Dean chuckled and gave his brother a playful nudge with his shoulder. "You're both stubborn as hell and have that same, I don't know…what? Drive? You get on something and you don't let it go, you know? Just like him." Dean's voice became more sober. "Look, Sam, whatever you might feel, dad doesn't think you're a fuck up, and he totally doesn't think more of me than you. Trust me."

John's words from over ten years ago echoed in Dean's mind. *Take your brother outside as fast as you can! Don't look back! Now, Dean, go! * John had given Dean a job back then, and Dean had taken that job to heart ever since. Sam was his responsibility, his to protect and to keep safe. And you didn't order someone to keep a person safe if you didn't think they weren't important
…if that person wasn't worth something precious to you in the first place.

Dean decided it was time to lighten the too somber mood that had cast a pall over the room. He glanced around at the Scrabble tiles and shredded pieces of cardboard from the game box that were scattered haphazardly about him and Sam on the floor and bed, and then swung his head over to Sam, a comical grin splitting his handsome face.

"Hope that wasn't your favorite game there, Francis," Dean said, suddenly shaking with silent laughter. Sam's smile was more reserved yet no less amused.

"Dean, dad's gonna kill us when he sees this," Sam murmured, a frown pushing the smile from his youthful face. "What are we gonna do?"

Dean glanced down at the black rubber sports watch on his left wrist, noting that their father had been gone for twenty-two minutes. With a grunt, he levered himself up from the floor and began gathering up the confetti-like pieces of cardboard from the bed. He shot a look over his shoulder at Sam who was still on the floor.

"We have maybe ten minutes tops to get this crap cleaned up," Dean advised. He pointed to the floor. "Since you're already down there, start picking up the tiles and get rid of them somewhere. As long as we can hide the evidence, dad isn't going to know anything went on here."

The smile returned to Sam's lips as he eagerly began to gather up the game tiles around him. Leave it to Dean to come up with a good plan to save their collective hides, he happily thought.

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The purging torrential rain of the past several days finally let up by the time John Winchester pulled back into the parking lot in front of the motel room about half an hour after he'd left, his disposition markedly calmer than before. The hunter put the Impala in park and shut off the ignition, reaching over on the bench seat beside him to grab up the bag of burgers and tray of shakes he'd brought back for dinner.

He gave a brief glance out the windshield at the somber late afternoon sky peeking between the dull grey clouds and said a small prayer hoping that it would remain clear enough for him to start out on the hunt in the morning. The sooner he could track down the thing killing local hikers, the sooner he and the boys could be on their way out of this town. At least his headache was gone, John noticed with amused relief as he made his way along the wet pavement towards the room. Amazing what four extra strength Bayer caplets washed down with two cups of ungodly strong truck-stop coffee could do for a migraine.

The first thing John noticed when he opened the door to the room was that it was inordinately quiet. Too quiet he thought, the hackles rising on the back of his neck. Sam and Dean were lying side by side together on one bed watching the ancient color television which was working now that the storm was over. Neither looked up when John strode into the room setting the food and drinks down on the little round table underneath the picture window. Instead, both boys seemed overly engrossed in what appeared to be an infomercial for a piece of workout equipment called the 'belly buster'.

Yeah, this isn't a good sign, John mentally surmised, feeling the muscles in his neck and shoulders tightening back up. While it was nice to see his children so chummy once again, John had the distinct feeling that something major had occurred in his absence and was now being covered up for whatever reason. The coffee churned in his gut a bit forcing a sour burn up into his throat. Nothing seemed amiss and yet he knew his sons well enough to know that the forced composure was all an act. Well, that and the fact that neither of his sons would normally be caught dead watching a paid TV commercial much less be entranced by it like it was the Victoria's Secret underwear special. Well, whatever it was, it could wait John decided. The burgers and fries were getting cold and he was tired and hungry.

"Hey you two, food's here." John indicated the bag of sandwiches but neither boy seemed overly concerned.

"Thanks, dad," Dean mumbled his eyes glued to the set. "Smells good."

"Yeah," Sam echoed.

Both boys finally slid off the end of the bed when John continued to stare at them. Eyes averted, Sam and Dean ambled over to the table. Dean reached into the bag of burgers and grabbed one out studying the wrapper.

"Did you remember to get one with extra onions?"

"Should be marked on the side there," John replied and handed a shake from the cardboard tray to Sam. He peeled off his still damp jacket and draped it over a chair heading for the bathroom to wash up. "Leave me some fries this time," he called over his shoulder teasingly.

Something on the floor caught John's eye as he passed by the one bed, and he stopped to get a closer look. It was the Scrabble board, one corner just barely peeking out from underneath the bottom of the bed. John half turned, a look of annoyance crossing his face.

"Hey, if you're done with the game, pick it up and put it away. Don't just throw it on the floor, guys. If you can't take care of your stuff, I'll just give the games back to Pastor Jim and you can do without."

"Sorry, sir," Dean said around a mouthful of burger.

The teenager exchanged a quick glance of alarm with Sam as they heard the faucet turn on in the bathroom. Sam suddenly discovered he was no longer hungry. He quickly dropped his partially-eaten cheeseburger back onto its wrapper, the portion in his stomach now feeling like a greasy lead weight.

"Dean," Sam whispered tersely, eyes growing dark with fear, "He saw the board!"

"Sorry, Sammy. I thought I'd kicked it all the way under the bed," Dean softly apologized, keeping his voice low.

Sam bit his lower lip, his heart thudding painfully in his chest now. "Dean, if dad finds out we trashed the game because we were fighting, we're gonna get it."

His hands crept back to protectively cover the seat of his jeans in dismay. One spanking from his dad in a twenty-four hour period was more than enough for him. Way more than enough!

Dean gave a shake of his head. "Don't worry about it, Sam. I'll think of something."

"Like what?" Sam asked, his voice laden with concerned doubt.

"I'm working on it," Dean replied distractedly offering his little brother a confident smile despite the fact that he didn't feel very confident at the moment.

The bathroom faucet shut off, and there was a long pause before their father's agitated growl carried from the bathroom out into the main room.


Dean and Sam shared another grimace of apprehension. John ducked his head out of the bathroom doorway to fix a quiet parental stare on his two children.

"C'mere," John said. His tone told them it was an order rather than a suggestion.

Dean slowly set the remains of his burger down onto the table and made his way over to the brightly lit motel bathroom with Sam shadowing behind him. John stood next to the toilet, arms crossed and one hip propped up against the chipped sink basin that was next to the commode. The older man gazed pointedly down into the toilet bowl a moment and then slowly up into the faces of his children. He unfolded his arms and pointed down into the bowl his dark eyes still fixed on Sam and Dean.

"Either of you want to tell me what those are?" he asked forcefully.

Sam couldn't seem to focus on where his father was pointing. In fact, his guilt-ridden eyes wandered all about the tiny room never once landing on the object of John's query. Dean, on the other hand, put on his best stoic façade and craned his neck to peer into the toilet bowl while his father looked on. He swiftly flicked a perplexed glance at his little brother and then moved his gaze up to his dad, offering the older man a carefully controlled smile that was supposed to convey innocent speculation.

"Looks like some Scrabble tiles, dad," Dean casually remarked.

John's eyes narrowed and he reached out to place a warm callused hand on the back of Dean's neck drawing the teen closer.

"Yeah, I can see that, Dean. You wanna tell me what the Scrabble tiles are doing in there?" John's voice, although low and mild sounding, held more than a hint of his repressed fury.

Not missing a beat, Dean shrugged and responded with his usual light-hearted tone. "Kinda looks like they're floating in there, dad."

"Out. NOW." John gestured angrily for Dean to go back out into the room. He turned putting out a hand to stop Sam from following. "Samuel, you stay here until I come for you."

Sam swallowed hard, fighting back the tears that were welling in his eyes as he nodded and took a few shaky steps back until his legs met the bathtub rim. He sank down onto the side of the tub complying with his father's order. John gave him a cautionary scowl before shutting the door and leaving Sam to himself.

He stalked past Dean without a word and went straight for the game board that was still peeking out from underneath the boys' bed. He bent down and snatched it up, blinking in shocked surprise when he came back with only half a board. John studied the jagged tear running sloppily down the middle of the cardboard game and then turned with it in his hand and held it up for Dean to see. His face was a mixture of disbelief and mounting anger.

"What the hell happened to the game?" John growled waving the torn Scrabble board at Dean. "Where's the other half?"

Dean actually had to fight a smirk as he looked from the ravaged board over to his dad. He couldn't believe what he was about to do. Don't say I never do anything for you, Sammy, he thought.

"Dean!" John snapped, breaking through Dean's thoughts, "Where is the rest of the board?"

"Um, it uh, kinda got shredded, sir," Dean muttered in chagrin. "I lost my temper with Sammy and sorta took it out on the Scrabble game. Heh, they sure don't make those board games like they used to, huh?"

"What?" John was incredulous.

"It's kind of a funny story, actually," Dean gave a nervous laugh and then cleared his throat when he saw that his father was unbuckling his belt. "Dad?"

John didn't waste time on explanations. "What did I tell you and Sam right before I left, Dean?" John gruffly questioned as he slid his thick leather belt out of the loops of his jeans and folded it in half, gripping it tightly in his right hand. He didn't wait for a response from his speechless son, who's eyes had gone wide, riveted on the piece of leather in his hand. "I told you the belt was coming off if I got any more flak from either of you tonight, didn't I?"

"Yes sir," Dean sighed heavily and hung his head in resignation.

He was most definitely not looking forward to what he knew was coming. But hey, sometimes you had to take one for the team, he concluded. And it wasn't like he hadn't sacrificed himself for Sam before for one thing or another in the past. What were big brothers for after all? It wouldn't be so bad, he tried to reason. He'd suffered a broken hand as well as numerous bruises, cuts and contusions helping his father on jobs. What was a little spanking, really? He slowly trudged over to where John had seated himself on the edge of his bed.

"Lose the jeans, buddy boy," John ordered, motioning for Dean to get over his lap.
Dean reached down to unsnap the button on his Levis, plucking the metal-toothed zipper down with the resolve of a convicted man heading for the gallows. He slowly shrugged the jeans down, gooseflesh rising as the cool air of the room hit his bare thighs. John reached out, taking his son firmly by the wrist, guiding him over his lap and positioning the teenager so that his torso and head were supported on the bed while leaving his behind draped indecorously over his dad's knees. John addressed Dean as he clamped his left arm around the boy's waist.

"I would have thought that seeing your brother getting spanked earlier for mouthing off would have been warning enough for you, Dean," John lectured, letting a hint of disappointment slip into his voice. "I don't appreciate the smart ass tone and the backtalk you've been throwing at me lately, son. And I especially am not liking the fact that you and Sam find lying to me about what's going on here so amusing."

Dean remained silent, knowing that anything he offered up would only incriminate Sam, and that was what he was trying to avoid. He lay still, just wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible.

"We'll see if you think this is funny," John dryly stated as he raised the belt and brought it down on Dean's upturned bottom with a loud crack.

Dean just about jumped out of his skin from the zinging bite of the leather against his flesh. He quickly bit off the hiss of pain exiting his lips as another hot stripe of fire suddenly coursed across his butt, followed closely by several more with unerring precision. He hadn't been treated to this sort of parental attention since he was thirteen, and that time he'd only gotten it with his dad's hand, not the dreaded belt. That time had been pretty awful in his estimation, but this? This was agony, Dean decided as the belt came down once more, causing him to grunt in distress. What the hell had he been thinking that this would be no big deal? This was a huge deal, he thought, biting the sob that was building in his throat.

"You going to give me any more attitude, young man?" John calmly requested as he continued to bring the belt down on his son's roasted behind.

"No sir," Dean dutifully managed between groans as he tried hard to squirm away from the punishing swats.

Dean's breath hitched uncontrollably as his dad continued to lay down a sizzling pattern of swats with his belt, the skin underneath his thin cotton briefs turning a deep rosy pink. Just when he thought he wouldn't be able to take another lick without crying out, John stopped. Dean held his breath waiting while his dad took a moment to gather his conflicting emotions.

"You ready to tell me about what happened while I was out?" John questioned.

"I told you. I got mad and tore up the game," Dean managed between clenched teeth.

"And your brother had nothing to do with it?" John coaxed, knowing that wasn't true in the least.

"No sir," Dean staunchly replied.

John sighed in frustration, his anger evident by his furrowed brow. It wasn't like Dean to lie outright like this. Not to him. John had trained the teenager better than that through the years. But, for some reason, his eldest felt compelled beyond all common sense to take the blame fully on himself for the ruined Scrabble game and general disobedience that had occurred while he was out. In a way, John could almost understand Dean's fierce dedication to protecting his baby brother. Almost.

"Fine, son. You want to play the misguided martyr here, I'm happy to oblige," John grimly asserted as he reached down to peel back Dean's briefs, baring the teenager's bright red backside.

With that, John resumed the spanking, bringing the belt down hard, working his way from the crest of Dean's round butt down to the crease where the tender sit spot was located. Dean began to cry out with each and every smack against his bare skin, his legs jerking in tandem with the smarting licks of the belt. Holy crap! He wouldn't have believed that his stupid underwear would have made that much of a difference in the discomfort factor were he not feeling it firsthand.

"Dad, I'm sorry!" Dean wailed in misery. "Please! Dad! It won't happen again!"

John laid down a few more stripes before stopping and laying the belt down on the bed next to him. While Dean wasn't sobbing outright, he was crying, the silent tears streaming down the strong planes of his cheekbones, his breath hitching hard. His heart near breaking, John eased Dean's briefs back up and then rested his hand on Dean's back, making small slow circles.

"I know you feel like you always have to be there for your brother, Dean, but there's a big difference between safeguarding him from evil and protecting him from a valuable life lesson," John gently remarked as he continued to rub Dean's back.

He paused when he felt Dean stiffen slightly and then pulled his oldest child up from his lap, letting Dean grab up his jeans before carefully sitting him on the bed beside him. John felt a twinge of sympathy when Dean visibly flinched when his throbbing butt met the mattress. John's deep hazel eyes met Dean's and he offered the teenager a conciliatory smile, reaching out to ruffle Dean's hair.

"Regardless of what you might think, son, Sammy needs to learn to take responsibility for his own actions." John held up a hand as Dean began to protest. "No. Hear me out, Dean. When I told you to watch out for your little brother, I didn't mean that you should cover for him whenever he gets it into his head to be a brat. I meant that I needed you to keep him safe from harm. Safe from those things out there that might hurt him." John gave a wry smile. "And that doesn't include my hand or belt."

Dean quietly nodded unable to keep the sheepish smile from spreading over his lips. "I just figured since he'd already had a run-in with you tonight, you know…"

"Yeah, I know," John replied, giving his son's back a pat. "But, that's not really a call you should be making, kiddo. Next time, you let me make that decision, all right?"

Dean nodded, thankful that his dad seemed to understand without him having to explain further. He glanced up at his father, his hazel-green eyes full of stormy apprehension. "So…you gonna…?"

John shook his head. "Nope. You want to be held accountable for you and your brother's actions tonight? You got it." John stood up now, running a hand over his stubbled jaw. "I just hope you remember this, Dean, the next time you want to jump in and 'save' Sam from a lesson he might be better off learning on his own. Ask yourself if you're really helping Sammy, or if you're giving him an easy excuse to misbehave whenever he feels like it."

John motioned for his son to stand. "Why don't you go get washed up, and let Samuel know he's off the hook this time, thanks to you. Then I want you and your brother to finish your dinner and then hit the sack. Okay, buddy?"

Dean nodded, still stubbornly relieved that he'd managed to save Sam from another John Winchester "special" even though his own backside was screaming for some semblance of justice. He made his way to the bathroom and opened the door, poking his head in to see Sam still sitting on the edge of the tub his gangly arms clasped about him as if for comfort.

Sam's head shot up in wary alarm but he relaxed as soon as he saw that it was Dean and not his father.

"You okay?" he asked Dean, a frown of worry masking his features.

"Yeah, I'm good," Dean lied. He gingerly made his way over to the sink, wondering if he'd ever be able to sit comfortably again, and turned on the faucet. He bent down to splash some of the cool water onto his face. "By the way, Mr. Fearless? Besides killing dad with my witty repartee, I told him I was the one that wrecked the game. So you're in the clear."

Sam gaped at Dean, a look of befuddlement crossing over his young face. "That was your big plan? Get dad so pissed off at you that he'd forget about punishing me again?" It occurred to Sam at that moment that his brother had perhaps suffered some form of brain damage on a past hunt that he hadn't ever bothered to tell anyone about. "Oh yeah, real good plan, Dean. Um, so, how'd that work out for you?"

"Shut up," Dean half-heartedly shot back at Sam, turning and giving him a playful punch in the arm. "Hey, you were bitching that dad is always coming down harder on you than me, so I was just trying to show you that you were full of crap. That work for you, Samantha? Feeling the love here yet?"

Sam let out a small flustered laugh, amazed that Dean could be so blithe in light of his recent encounter with their dad's belt. He gazed at his big brother with something akin to hero worship in his big green eyes.

"Thanks, Dean," Sam said with a bit of reverence in his voice.

Dean blushed slightly at the blatant adoration and then made a face to cover up that fact.

"Yeah, yeah, don't get all chick on me, Sam," he gently teased, offering up a grin. "And don't say I never did you any favors either. You so owe me now, dude."

Dean gingerly eased himself down onto the closed toilet lid and rolled back so that his butt hung off to the side to alleviate the aching throb from the direct contact. He thought a moment, his tongue coming out to lick at his lower lip, brows furrowed. Dean gazed down at the toilet underneath him and then over at Sam, studying the younger boy as he scrubbed a washcloth over his face. Dean gave his brother a critical look.

"So, dude…what was up with the scrabble tiles in the can?"

Sam shrugged, embarrassed. "I don't know, Dean. I was trying to get rid of the evidence…" his voice trailed off as he caught Dean's eye roll. "What?"

"Like the trashcan wouldn't have worked?" Dean offered, pointing to said object under the little porcelain countertop. He shook his head. "Sammy, Sammy…sometimes you over think things, little brother." Dean winced as he gave his aching rear end a rub. "Just my luck too."

The door to the bathroom opened just then and both boys immediately quieted down, as John poked his head in and told them to hurry up.

"Let's go, you two," he admonished with a little nod of his head toward the bedroom. "Finish up your dinner and then get to bed."

"Yes, sir," Dean and Sam answered in perfect unison.

John gave his youngest son a long, hard stare as he passed by, and it didn't go unnoticed. Sam blushed, head bowed in guilty relief as he scurried over to the table where he'd left his cheeseburger earlier. John reached out to give Dean's neck a squeeze as he passed by, making the boy grin softly in response. Despite disagreeing immensely with Dean's reasoning this evening, John couldn't help but feel a tiny flare of pride for the selflessness his oldest had so bravely exhibited. He would grow up to be a supportive, loyal brother; someone he and Sam would always be able to count on.

Burgers eaten, both Winchester boys climbed into bed, quickly flipping onto their stomachs to ease the soreness in their respective hind ends. Dean reached back, amazed at the heat that still bloomed all across his backside, then yawned sleepily. It had been a long day. Hell, it had been a long week. As they settled into the blankets, Dean caught the familiar sound of rain spattering against the window and silently groaned. Just great. Another long day of boredom on the horizon, he glumly realized. He rose up and looked toward his father who was seated at the nearby table, paging through one of Sam's books while polishing off the soggy french-fries his children had left behind. Without completely thinking, Dean addressed John.

"Hey dad? Is the yahtzee game still out in the trunk of the car?"

John glared up at Dean, speechless. Either his eldest was possessed or was a complete idiot.

"Go to sleep, son, before I kill you," John tiredly warned, only half-joking.

John set down the paperback he'd been skimming and leaned his elbows onto the table, putting his head in his hands. He absently wondered when his oldest would, if ever, outgrow the reckless sarcasm he seemed to wield so easily.

"Night, dad," Dean said.

"G'night, dad," Sam echoed.

"Night, boys," John replied from behind his hands. He sat back in the chair finally and reached over to click off the main light in the motel room, leaving only the small study lamp on the table for him to read by.

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