The Road Not Taken Chapter 1

John Winchester walked out of the mist and for a moment Dean thought his heart would stop. He turned to look at the beautiful demoness who had made this happen but she was already gone. He threw himself at his father and found solace in a warm hug the likes of which he never thought he would feel again. He allowed himself to weep the bitter tears that he had been holding back since the death. His father looked puzzled and while he was crying as well, Dean knew that he didn't fully grasp the situation, and for his purposes that suited Dean just fine. "How did you do this son?"

Dean pulled away, and looking into the inquisitive eyes he did something that he had rarely in his life done. He lied. "I had summoned a demon for a case and I trapped her. In exchange for my letting her go, I made her release both you and the guy we were trying to save."

He felt that it was justified when he heard his father weeping with gratitude. "I should have known that I could count on you Dean, that you and Sammy would know and figure out how to help me. I love you son."

Dean just nodded with tears running down his own face, and for a moment he thought about the deal that he had made with the demon. Ten years was a long time for all of them to be together, and even if they couldn't find a way out he would be satisfied with that. Although he knew that his father would not feel the same way, and that was the reason why he would never be able to tell anyone what had really happened here on this dusty stretch of road in the middle of no where. If and when the hounds of hell came back for him he would accept it in exchange for his father. It wasn't even really a hard decision.

John pulled out of the hug and Dean helped his father into the Impala and immediately called Sammy on the cell phone. As soon as he found out that Evan was fine he told his younger brother to meet him back at the hotel and purposefully didn't say a word about their father. He snapped the phone shut and set it down on the seat between them and tired though John was, he was still questioning. "You didn't tell him?"

Now Dean grappled for an explanation, and could only come up with one thing. "No he, he took it really hard because he found you and always blamed himself for going after the coffee and I didn't want to shock him."

Dean realized that he was babbling and had actually broken a sweat what with all the lying to his father but for some reason that answer seemed to satisfy John. He leaned his head against the back of the seat and closed his eyes, and Dean was momentarily panicked. "Dad?"

John opened his eyes and smiled. "Hey buddy, I'm okay I'm just tired."

The rest of the ride back John stayed awake and talked to Dean about the things that had happened while he had been 'gone' including how the Impala was back in one piece again. The topic never strayed to where he had been or what had happened and both Winchesters were glad for that.

As they got nearer to the hotel it dawned on Dean that with all the fury he had felt at his father for making that exchange of his life for Dean's that he had just done the exact same thing, and he felt no remorse and knew that he would have done it again given the necessity. They arrived at the hotel and Dean watched as Sam got out of Evan's car. He turned to his father and John shook his head no. "Let's wait until he gets into the room okay? This is going to be quite a shock."

"He really looks tired Dean." Dean smiled at the last comment as it sounded so much like his father to be worried about Sam. It almost felt as if some small corner of his heart mended just a bit.

They both waited until Sam was in the room and then Dean pulled the car into a parking space and put it into park. Looking again to his father for instruction he got the nod of the head that he had been waiting for and they both got out of the car and went into the room with John in the lead. If Dean lived to be a hundred he would never forget the look on Sammy's face when he saw their father. And then he turned towards Dean with tears streaming and an accusation on his lips. "What have you done?"

Clearly John heard it but ignored it for the moment. He held arms open wide and was rewarded for his gesture when Sam almost slammed into his chest and burrowed his head into his shoulder and simply cried. Dean felt tears slipping down his own face at the sight of this tender re-union and he absentmindedly swiped at them with the back of his hand. Finally both Sam and John released each other and both were wiping away tears of their own. "If you guys don't mind I think I might like to take a shower and then maybe eat something. But unfortunately these clothes on my back are it."

Before anyone else could say anything Dean stepped in. "Well I still have your duffle Dad."

Both his father and brother turned to look at him with surprise. "Look I couldn't help it okay, I just couldn't throw your stuff out. It's in the trunk I'll go get it."

Before either of them could comment he walked out to the car and retrieved the bag. Sam continued to stare at his father as if he might disappear into thin air. When Dean returned he handed the bag to John who shook his head and smiled. "I guess that I would be right in assuming that you didn't accept my death too well?"

Hoping with all he had that this wouldn't turn into the moment of truth he just shook his head no. "Well I think I am going to really enjoy this shower. Thanks Dean."

He reached over and caressed the side of his face and Dean felt tears starting again as he watched the man who he had thought was dead head into the motel bathroom. His emotional moment was disrupted when Sam grabbed the back of his shirt. "Outside now!"

He followed his younger brother out the door without even stopping to grab his coat, determined to diffuse the situation. With one look at Sam he could read the tight lipped fury. "What the fuck did you do Dean? You made a deal with this thing then?"

Dean noticed that Sam was pacing and as angry as he had ever seen him. He tried the same story that he had told their father. "Well I trapped it and made a deal to save both Evan and Dad if I let it go."

Sam shook his head. "Bullshit Dean it doesn't work that way and we both know it. And so does he, right now he just isn't thinking straight. But I'm going to go right back in there and explain it all to him."

Dean could tell from the look on Sam's face that he meant what he had said and he put a hand on his arm to stop him. "Sammy please don't do that."

Sam shook his head unable to believe that this was happening. He was overwhelmed with happiness to see his father and yet to allow his brother to sacrifice himself was just not going to happen. What if he really only had ten years left with Dean? Just the thought of that made him sick. And having stood in the circle as the hounds of hell had tried to take Evan away he knew firsthand what Dean would be going through. No way was that going to happen on his watch. "He needs to know Dean we have to fix this."

Dean shook his head and prepared to beg his brother if that was what it took. Now that dad was back there was no way that he could give him up again. "Please Sam he will feel the same way that I did when I found out that he had given his life up for me. Don't do that."

Seeing that he was getting no where with his younger brother Dean decided to switch tactics. "Look just not now. I will tell him myself, I promise, just could we have a day or two before I have to do that?"

Knowing that Sam was an emotionally driven person he tried something else. He felt bad knowing that it was a low blow but he couldn't help himself as he didn't want their father to know what he had done until he found a way to fix it. If a way even existed and if not he would accept that ten years was all that he would have. "Please Sam he's been through so much, please don't do this to him now."

He saw Sam's eyes fill with tears and he knew that he had won this round but he felt lousy about it. But their father was back and if that required him to hurt Sam or even go to hell then he would. Things in their world had been askew for too long and now it was time to fix things. He followed Sam back into the motel room and prepared himself to do whatever it took to keep his father in the dark until he figured it all out.

After he had showered and changed, Sam went out and got dinner and brought it back to the room and they shared a meal in the way that families do and take for granted each and every day. Only no one at the table was taking anything for granted and each vowed that they never would. Sam had thought that he wouldn't be able to eat due to his feelings of guilt but he was surprised to find he was starving and like they always had both his brother and father commented on his appetite. And for once the tease didn't anger him it made him smile from ear to ear.

They spent some time talking and Dean was glad that the conversation didn't turn to anything to do with the demon. Finally at two a.m. they all turned in with Dean happily sleeping on the floor in between the twin beds. Both brothers stayed awake long after they could hear the deep and regular breathing of their father. Sam leaned down and poked at Dean to see if he was still awake. "Hey Francis mitts off my person please."

Dean said it in a gruff voice but he leaned up on his elbows with a smile on his face and they both looked to where John slept. "You were right Dean it was the right thing to do to keep this from him for a few days. He needs a change to rest up and recoup. But then you need to tell him okay?"

Dean just nodded not really even thinking about anything other than their father was sleeping soundly in the bed next to them, and no matter what promise he had made or what sacrifice this had cost him, it had all been worth it. "Sure Sammy I'll do that."

They both lay back and closed their eyes happier than they had been in a very long time.
******************

The next few days went by quickly with John resting and relaxing and taking the time to just enjoy being with his sons, and the time seemed to just disappear. Before Dean knew it a week had passed since the fateful night that he had made a deal with the devil and still he hadn't found the courage to admit to his father what he had done. He still wasn't sorry for it as almost each and every night John had nightmares that ended with him screaming much like the ones that Sam had endured. This if nothing else convinced him that his decision had been the right one. But conveying that to his father would be a whole different thing.

For one thing he was definitely back in the same father capacity that he had held for all of Sam and Dean's life. They had filled him in on all that they had done since he had been gone and when they had told him about Jo's involvement in one of their cases he had hit the roof. They had both endured a blistering lecture about responsibility and secrecy and by the time he was done they had been sweating bullets. No on in the Winchester family had any doubt about who was in charge again.

After the lecture he had sent the boys out on an errand and neither one really wanted to talk about how harshly they had been taken to task. But the desire for Dean to confess was even less than before and he decided to let things cool off before he talked to his father. He knew that it was likely to be as bad a lecture as the one over Jo had been and he thought a few days in between wouldn't hurt anybody. And if he hadn't been completely convinced Sam's next comment would have done it. "You gonna wait a day or two until Dad cools down?"

He nodded and planned to do just that.

That week John began hunting with the boys again and they traveled to the Midwest in search of a particularly vicious spirit. And everyone involved became totally immersed in the hunt and doing the thing that they all did best. When they solved the problem and it was over and done Dean found himself teary eyed at how good it felt for everything to be back to normal. He had planned to tell his father about the deal the next morning but the nightmares persisted and Dean thought it could wait for another day.

But the days flew by and before either of them knew it another week had passed and the first night that John had slept in some time without nightmares Sam again approached Dean while their father was in the shower. "Dude you need to tell him, or I will."

Dean sighed realizing that his brother was right and he made his mind up that no matter how mad his father got he did need to tell the truth about the deal that he had made. He still was not sorry that he had done it and he knew that given the opportunity he would do it again and for once his father would just have to accept that. "I'll tell him tonight Sam, I promise."

His brother got the tight lipped expression that meant he had made up his mind. "If not I'll tell him in the morning."

Dean reached over and smacked the back of Sam's head just to let him know that he didn't take kindly to being blackmailed. John came out of the bathroom and sat down at the small table. "I want you two to go to the nearest library and make some copies of some things for me. I think we will need this stuff for the next place we are headed."

Both brothers were excited to have another case to work on and grabbing the instructions and their jackets left in a hurry. John went back into the bathroom to shave and heard Dean's cell phone ring. Surprised that he had left it on the nightstand as he always had it with him John answered expecting it to be Dean himself inquiring about the phone. "Hello."

There was a pause before he heard a woman's voice asking if he were Dean. "No this is John who is this?"

The phone went silent for so long that he thought maybe the connection had been broken. "So it is true you are back from the dead then."

John recognized the voice as one from the past. "Ellen?"

When she confirmed that it was indeed her, John first of all apologized for Jo's involvement with Dean and Sam and the case. She informed him that while she held Dean somewhat responsible that her daughter had her own hard head and she was the one who had made the stupid decision to join them and not the other way around. John smiled just to hear her voice as she seemed like the same no nonsense woman that she had always been.

"Look John I had heard that you had come back and how. I was calling Dean to find out if he had any idea what he had gotten himself into with this. I may be mad at the boy but I never wished something like this to happen to him."

John felt the smile freeze on his face as she continued. "You know making a deal with something like this and then to top it off when you're Dean's and Jo's age you think ten years is a long, long time when the truth is that it's the blink of an eye."

For a moment John felt as if he couldn't take a breath and then it all just made so much sense. "Don't worry Ellen we are working on that. I appreciate your concern especially knowing that I am not one of your most favorite people."

He heard another long pause before she answered. "Even with that John I never wished you dead. Those two boys of yours suffered so badly. They never said a word, and they never had to. It was written all over the both of them. If for no other reason than that, I am happy you are back. Just take care of this thing with Dean if you can please."

John responded and hung up the phone and spoke to the empty room. "Oh I'll be taking care of it all right Ellen, you can count on that."

John paced trying to get rid of his anger and angst about what Dean had apparently done. He wondered just how Sam had played into the equation. He was glad that they were both gone as he wanted to work through this a bit in his mind before they got back and hopefully get a grip on the furious temper that was brewing. He heard a noise and looking up saw both sons walk into the room.

"Hey Dad, I forgot my cell. Can you believe it? Dude, that never happens."

Both of his sons came to a dead stop when they saw the look on his face. "Dad?"

He looked towards Dean who had asked the question, and still felt like he was pulsing with fury. That and absolute and total fear. If Dean had made a deal with this thing and his end was ten years and he couldn't stop it from happening John would wish that he was dead with every single breath that he took.

"Okay then boys as long as your back, how about we talk a little bit about how I came back."

It would have been impossible to miss the absolute panic on Dean's face and although Sammy didn't look as bad he still didn't look guilt free. He could see Dean mentally scrambling to come up with a cover story.

"Well it was just like I told you Dad." He said it in the usual Dean flippant tone and that made John's blood boil.

He reached the boy in two steps and had both hands on his upper arms and gave him a little shake. "Don't screw with me here boy I want the damn truth and I want it now!!"

Dean went absolute deer in headlights and for a second John forgot which son he was dealing with. "I am giving you a direct order Dean to tell me exactly how it is that I got a chance to come back. And my patience is about to run out so I would do it and do it now!"

Dean flinched at the word now but he turned to face his father and squared off his shoulders and John didn't miss the tear that ran down his face. "Okay so the demon gave me a chance to make a deal and I jumped at it. In fact I didn't even have to think it over. You came back and I got ten more years. I was hoping that maybe we could find a way out, but at that moment I accepted that if ten was all that it was, it was still a fair trade. And since I'm being completely honest if I had it to do over tomorrow I would do the same damn thing."

Silence hung heavily in the air for a moment and John tried to find the words to relay to Dean how he felt about that. Mistaking his silence for indecision Dean continued. "Look Dad I know that you must understand, because you did the same thing for me."

He finished his little speech by crossing his arms over his chest as if it was all a closed subject. John got nose to nose with him. "You know that I understand Dean? Oh really? Well let me tell you something, you know exactly shit. You couldn't possibly understand how I felt when you were dying and why I made the decisions that I made at the time."

John saw Sam step closer trying to diffuse his anger. "C'mon Dad you…"

He cut Sam's thought off with a furious glance thrown in his direction. "You be quiet young man, I will get to you soon enough."

Again he turned to his older son still not quite believing what he had just learned. "So you did it, and you're not sorry that you did it. And then you would do it again, and oh yeah lets not forget that you have been lying to me about it for almost a month now. Does that sound about right Dean?"

He felt nothing short of amazement when Dean turned to him with a smirk. "Yeah well you forgot that I also talked Sammy into keeping his mouth shut too. Don't let that one slip."

John actually looked at Dean opened mouthed unable to believe that even now in this circumstance he would be giving him sass. Making a quick decision he looked at the defiant look on Dean's face and still was amazed. "Dean, go and run the errand that I sent you on. I am far too angry to even begin to deal with you now. I will let Sam go first."

Sam turned an astonished face towards John. "Go first?? What? I didn't even do anything and I get to go first because you're too angry to deal? Why does that sound like a really bad idea? I'll go with Dean and we can just come back when you have calmed down, like in a month or so."

John shook his head resolute and still very angry. "No, you will stay and we will have a little talk."

Now Sam was in a full blown panic. "A talk, a little talk? C'mon Dad really this was all Dean, talk to him. I was just a really innocent bystander."

John continued to shake his head. "No you had as many chances to tell me the truth as he did and yet not *once* did you mention that your brother had made a deal with a demon to get me back. Am I wrong about that? Did you try to tell me?"

Now he actually saw Sam squirm. "Well it just never seemed like the right time. I wanted to tell you. Oh okay I didn't really want to, I actually wanted Dean to tell you. Because I always thought that you should know."

John just fumed for moment thinking about what his son had just said. "So you knew I should be told you just didn't bother to tell me. That is exactly what got you into trouble along with Dean."

Sam looked a little green around the edges when he realized that he had said the one thing that would have gotten him in deeper. John turned to his oldest son again. "You can do one of two things here Dean you can continue to make smart assed comments or you can just go out that door and do as you are told. Think carefully here pal, because one of those choices is going to be very unpleasant for you."

He watched as Dean stood apparently weighing his options before he spoke and for the first time since this began he could see a bit of regret behind the words that were spoken. "It isn't like you aren't still gonna be pissed when I come back."

John nodded in response to his comment. "Yeah you can count on it, but it is in your best interest to go out that door now."

Suddenly Sam stepped in so that they were almost chest to chest. "Yeah well what about my best interest? This is just wrong. I am innocent here."

John put a hand on his youngest son's shoulder. "Not even close Sammy, not even close."

John noticed that Dean ignored the imploring look that Sam sent his way and tried one last time. "But Dad…"

He pointed to the door and growled. "Go, and that is an order."

He saw the soldier in Dean spring to life as he dropped his head and mumbled 'yes sir' and walked out the door. If this hadn't been such a serious thing John would have laughed at the expression on Sam's face. He turned to his clearly astonished son and his anger returned full force. "Tell me exactly what happened on the job that resulted in my coming back, and leave nothing out."

He watched again as his son actually squirmed. "Look Dad if I tell you all of this it's going to look like I was involved and really I wasn't. I had no part in this honest."

John then watched Sam's attempt to use the puppy dog eyes that he always tried when he was about to be punished and John was ashamed to admit that more than once they had saved him. "Honest Sam? Now that is an interesting choice of words. It isn't like I haven't already figured out that while you weren't in on it in the planning stage, that at some point you figured out what he had done."

John paused for a moment and again attempted to get his temper under control. "And being as you went to a really good college on a full ride, I know that you're a bright boy. So I'm thinking that it was sooner rather than later. So do you know what that means Samuel?"

Sam grimaced at the use of the full name. "No" he answered unhappily knowing pretty well exactly what it meant.

"That means that for at least the last three weeks now you have lied to my face every time you spoke to me. What do you think that the punishment for that should be?"

Now he saw Sam actually flinch. "Punishment?"

John stood with his hands on his hips shaking his head in amazement at the horrified look on his youngest son's face. "Not even you could possibly think that you were gonna get out of this and still be able to sit down."

Panic flickered across Sam's lean face. "But Dad!!"

John shook his head again knowing the best way through this was right through the middle. "Start talking kid."

And even though he didn't want to, Sam did talk while John sat quietly except for a few well placed curse words at the appropriate moments. It only took Sam about ten minutes to lay the whole thing out and John was sick with the knowledge of exactly what Dean had done as he himself had done the same thing.

Now Sam was recounting how Dean talked him into not telling him that first night. John could completely believe how easily Dean had used guilt to buy Sam's silence although he would not ever tell Sam that. And now they had reached the crucial part of the story as far as John was concerned. "So why then Sam did you make the bad choice not to tell me when you saw that he wasn't?"

Sam colored a bit at John's censure and the older hunter thought to himself if Sam thought that the words had hurt he was in for a big surprise before they were done. "Well you were having nightmares and I just thought…."

He trailed off unable to meet his father's eyes knowing just how he felt about lying. "And he was gonna tell you he promised me that he would."

John just nodded and then chuckled. "You know the funniest thing is that while I was visiting hell I thought of so many things that I wished that I could do with you boys just one more time. This however wasn't on the list."

John walked over and pulled a chair out and placed it in the center of the room. Sam's eyes widened and John waited for the begging which he knew would come and of course it did. "Please Dad really you can't do this. Please I'm too old for this."

John chuckled again. "You won't ever be too old, so my suggestion is that you start doing what I have taught you that you need to do for say your whole life, and by the way not lying is at the top of the list little boy."

It almost amused John to call Sam a little boy but for some reason he always seemed to be that to John, and he could see that the words had the desired effect on his nervous son who was now eyeing the door. Knowing that he needed to take charge of the situation he crooked a finger at Sam and then pointed to his lap. His younger son was in a full blown panic and he raised an eyebrow in warning and with anguish evident on his face, Sammy came to him. He went to lean over his lap and John shook his head. "Jeans down pal, I think you know the drill by now."

Again Sam's eyes widened and looking sick he did as he was told and leaned across his lap looking ridiculously tall. John bit back a groan as Sam's weight landed and thought that maybe finally all the eating that the boy did was starting to fill him out a bit. Although with his tall frame it would be a very long time before he had to worry about it. "All right Sammy what are you about to get your behind blistered for?"

He felt Sam tense at his words and he knew another plea was coming. "C'mon Dad, don't say it like that!"

John just shook his head. "Why not, that is exactly what I plan on doing, now answer my question young man."

He saw Sam drop his head even further than the position demanded. "For lying to you."

John was glad that Sam at least realized that much. "Anything else?"

Sam struggled to get out his answer, and it sounded to John as if it was pushed past a throat tight with tears. "I'm sorry."

He gave Sam a small pat on the back, glad that he knew that he was wrong. It would make his parental job just that much easier. And after the tender and gentle pat the first crack of his hand landing must have seemed all that much worse.

He began in earnest the act of punishing his youngest son and placed swats hard and fast right from the beginning. He wanted Sam to understand with no doubt that lying was unacceptable and he wanted to make sure that message was received. The sting in his hand was already uncomfortable but he just ignored it and continued. Sam was already straining against the arm holding him into place and crying.

Of all the things that he had ever done with or for his sons, this task was by far his least favorite. But he knew that it was a highly effective way of getting his point across. As if to prove that Sam threw an arm back trying to cover the target area, which John gently pinned to his back and then continued to spank. He could soon feel the heat beneath his hand and Sammy was now begging him to make it stop. He wanted to do just that with all he had, but he couldn't, not yet anyway. It all but broke his heart as Sam continued to plead. "Dad pleaaassseee stop! No more! I'm sorrrryyyyy."

John steeled himself against the heartfelt pleas or maybe bottom felt. "Do you think that you have the message now Sammy? Are you ever going to lie to me again?"

He followed his question with six sharp smacks and he hadn't really expected an answer. And as he had thought Sam was sobbing too hard to even speak but he shook his head from side to side and that was good enough for John. "It's all right now buddy we are all done."

He spent a few minutes gently rubbing Sam's back trying to calm him and give him some small measure of comfort after the hard spanking he had just administered. Finally the sobs began to ease and he gently replaced the jeans and helped his son to standing. One look at the tear stained face and he propelled him towards the bed and gently pushed him to sitting ignoring the cry of protest that the action caused. He sat down beside his very contrite son and put a consoling arm around him. "You're okay son I'm sorry that was so hard."

He saw fresh tears trickle down Sam's face. And he could tell that there was something on his mind other than the obvious. "Come on pal you can tell me whatever it is."

He saw Sam struggle to say the words and knew that it was something important. "I'm sorry Dad."

Now John rubbed his back again. "We are all finished with that and I know that you are sorry and that you were even before I began."

Sam tipped his head and squinted and John suspected that there was even more. "Not just for that. I am sorry for all the times that I fought with you and was disrespectful to you in the last few years. Sometimes I would say hurtful things just to get a response and when we thought that you had died, I was so ashamed of myself. Maybe you just need to do it again because I really am a rotten son."

John squeezed Sam's shoulder and fought tears of his own. "You are a great son Sammy boy, and I am the one who decides when you need a spanking, and that doesn't qualify. We have had our differences but I have a lousy temper too pal. Where did you think yours came from? I have never held any grudges about any of that. I love you and am damn proud of you."

The unexpected praise released a fresh torrent of tears and Sam put his head down on John's shoulder and gave into them. John did all that he could to comfort his son and finally realized that Sam was actually asleep. He carefully stood and then lay Sam down on his side on then rolled him onto his stomach knowing that would be a more comfortable position for him. He took a seat in the chair and just watched his youngest sleep. He had hated what he had just had to do but he knew that it had been good for Sam to release all those emotions and that was the very thing that had worn him out. He wished with all that he had that things with Dean would be this easy but he knew better. He sat for a good, long while and just thought about everything.
*******************************

John looked up as the door quietly opened and Dean stepped into the room. The look on his face was the same one that he always had when he knew that he was in serious trouble. John had had countless encounters with that same exact look. It was equal parts guilt, fear, and defiance. He watched as Dean's gaze fell to Sam still sprawled on his stomach on the bed asleep. And he didn't miss the regret that flashed across his features. He waited for his son to speak and he remained quiet wanting him to make the first move. And clearly the boy was uncomfortable and worried and John thought ruefully that he damn well should feel that way.

    "So I'm back. How's Sammy?"

He asked the question and he could hear the anger in his voice and John thought that he would take care of that and damn fast too. "He's been better, that's how. But at least he has faced up to his mistakes and taken what he had coming."

Now Dean snorted and John was amazed that he was on the receiving end of another hostile glare. "Yeah well who woulda thought that he would be the good little soldier?"

      John found himself suddenly angry again. "Just keep up with the smart ass Dean and see what happens."

He was surprised to see apparently Dean was angry too. "Yeah like that isn't gonna happen anyway. And I don't think Sleeping Beauty there is gonna sleep through it either. Not that you care."

The older hunter had heard enough and walking to Dean grabbed his arm and all but marched him outside and gently closed the door.  "I am unsure what has you so angry, but just know that I am far more upset than you are. Don't make the mistake of letting your mouth write a check that you butt is gonna have to cash."

He saw Dean pale a bit at the words and he knew that underneath the bravado that he was afraid, as he should be. But his next words of course were filled with false nonchalance. "So just do it then."

To his son's apparent surprise he shook his head. "No."

      For just a second he saw relief flicker over his features. "Then why did you 'talk' to Sam then?"

John was filled with amazement. "No as in 'not now' Dean, not no as in 'not gonna happen'. Because believe you me it is gonna happen, and in a really big way too pal."

Now he watched as what he had just said sunk in. "I am still far too upset and angry with you. This needs to wait until tomorrow."

       He was amused by the indignant expression on Dean's face. "Wait? You want me to wait?? You think I should spend all evening thinking about it and worrying about it? What kind of stupid plan is that?"

Once again John felt his temper straining and he circled Dean's upper arm with his hand and squeezed. "You exchanged your future with a demon for my life, and while I appreciate that, it is the stupidest damn thing you could ever have done, so yes I do want you to spend the entire evening worrying and thinking about the consequences for that decision. Maybe by tomorrow you will have at least a clue as to how much trouble you are in."

     "Dad you're hurting my arm!"

John remained fierce but let go. "Oh sorry, because it's your butt that I intend to do the damage to."

Suddenly Dean didn't look so confident and John was glad to see some evidence that he was going to back down. "Now I want you to think about all of this for a while and let me cool off, and then we will discuss this is great and painful detail. And make no mistake buddy boy, I intend to blister your ass first and then we will talk about it."

Dean while looking frightened shrugged. "Whatever dude."

Now John actually saw red. "Whatever Dean? Whatever? How about if I just blister your ass every day until we fix this?"

He wasn't surprised when Dean paled even more. "How about if you don't? If the deal can't be broken we go back to the way that it was. What if that is the resolution?"

And he was surprised at the look of determination on his stubborn son's face as apparently now his temper was controlling his mouth. And his next comment confirmed that. "Ten years is the deal that I made and ten years it'll be then."

John felt his own temper straining. "I highly doubt that Dean. We will find a way to fix this and how about I just blister your ass until you realize that that isn't up for debate, not now and not ever."

Now Dean actually took a step backward but remained resolute. "It isn't gonna change my mind. If ten years is all I get then it just is."

John leaned into Dean's personal space. "You had better hope that isn't the way this is, because ten years is a very long time to get your ass beat every single day."

John saw Dean eyes get wide and before he could say it John sealed the deal. "Oh I absolutely mean it."

For once Dean seemed to have nothing to say. "But… you can't… that's not…"

John crossed his arms and looked harshly at his oldest. "I can and I will and if that seems harsh then maybe you will get the message that this was an incredibly stupid and dangerous thing for you to do, and that it makes no difference to me if I did it for you first or not."

Dean grimaced and swallowed hard. "Every day?"

With a nod John turned and walked back into the motel room where Sammy slept on.

Sam opened his eyes and rolled over and stood up quickly rubbing his still sore behind. He looked into his dad's solemn face but thought that there was definitely a smile behind his eyes. "How ya feelin Champ?"

Sam dropped his hands as if he hadn't just been rubbing and shrugged. "Okay I guess. Sorry still."

John stood up and opened his arms again and Sam went to him for another hug. "It's okay pal."

Sam just nodded and looked around the room. "Where's Dean? Is he still gone?"

John shook his head again. "No but I think that he might have gone back out to do some more research on the deal that he made."

Sam looked puzzled as Dean hadn't done a thing on it in a whole month, but he didn't question any further. "Did you…"

Sam stopped unable to actually say the word and for a second felt like Dean.

"No, not yet, I want him to really think about it before it happens. Maybe the next time he decides that his life is worth nothing he will have something to remind him that isn't true."

Sam and John just spent the next few hours enjoying some father and son time together. Both looked up as the door opened and Dean entered not looking too happy. Sam could almost feel the tension when John growled at Dean. "Well?"

Dean just shook his head, and Sam was still puzzled as to when this had become such a priority to his brother. Dean looked at his father and dejectedly dropped his head. "No sir."

If Sam hadn't known better he would have thought that Dean was near tears but he still didn't understand why. It wasn't until later when they went out to get dinner that Sam had a chance to talk to Dean alone. He thought that Dean was unusually quiet and hadn't really said too much since he had come back from his research mission. John had gotten up to go to the men's room and Sam looked at Dean puzzled by his unusually quiet demeanor. "Hey Dean man, are you all right?"

Dean shook his head. "No how about you?"

Sam also shook his head. "Dude even standing hurts, much less sitting down. Today sucked for sure."

Now Sam read the pain on his brother's face and the guilt. "I should have told him just like you said Sammy. Not only did I get you in deep but he said he was…."

If Sam hadn't known better he would have thought that Dean was about to cry, but that couldn't be right. "He said he was gonna what Dean?"

Dean looked down at his plate of uneaten food. "He said that he was gonna have a 'talk' with me every day until we resolve this, and if that's ten years then it is."

Sam raised his eyebrows in amazement. "I'm sure he didn't mean it."

Now Dean shook his head. "Have you *ever* known dad to make a promise like that that he didn't keep. Sam I swear to God he meant every word."

Sam just stared at Dean unable to believe what he had just heard. Ands then he thought about repeating some version of this afternoon with dad every day for a while. Just the thought made him shudder. And even though he knew it sounded harsh and almost unbelievable, he also knew beyond doubt that it sounded exactly like something his father would do, and even something that his big brother deserved for the stupid choice he had made at Crossroads. But it also sounded like something out of a horror flick. "Oh Dude that is just awful. We gotta find an answer and fast."

Dean made a faint sound that was similar to his usual snort but just not up to full speed. "Yeah otherwise I'll be begging the hell hounds to show up early."

While Dean has made the comment in an offhand way Sam could see the panic underneath the surface. John returned to the table and seeing the angry look that Sam sent in his direction, correctly guessed that Dean had told his brother about the promise that he had made to him earlier. The rest of the meal progressed and John noticed that neither of his sons seemed to have an appetite anymore. And silence prevailed.

"The both of you had better clean those plates."

John felt foolish even saying it and usually was attempting to get the two of them to stop eating everything in sight. He hoped that they wouldn't point out that they weren't seven anymore either. But to his surprise both picked up their forks and began eating. He knew that they were both probably upset with him for his promise to Dean but he just didn't care. Every time he even thought about what Dean had done it made him sick to his stomach. He knew that the waiting must have been hard on his oldest but he still didn't think that he was calm enough to deal with Dean's stupidity without really blistering him. So the waiting was necessary.

It didn't take long for them all to finish dinner and Sam looked at him again, anger evident on his lean face. "We will be going back to the library for a few hours trying to find something to break the deal that Dean made."

He said the words in a mean and hateful voice, and the spanking from earlier was clearly forgotten. John had no intention of tolerating Sam's attitude and leaned in so that they were almost nose to nose. "Did you want another trip over my knee tonight son because so much as one more word and that is exactly where you are going."

Both John and Dean held their breath waiting for the answer. John hoped with all that he had that Sammy would just give in and snap into line but he knew this son is particular often had a difficult time with being obedient and controlling his temper. Finally the hard look on Sam's face softened and he dropped his eyes. "No sir."

John sat back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "Good then finish your dinners and go ahead to the library. And Sam I don't plan on doing anything that your brother hasn't richly earned."

Sam and Dean exchanged a look but neither one said anything; they just did as they were told. Soon everyone was done and they headed for the Impala. John waived them off and told them he would walk back to the hotel and they both got into the car and headed for the local library. Dean turned to Sam and shook his head. "Look dude, I appreciate what you thought you were doing back there, but just leave it alone okay?"

Sam leaned his head against the headrest of the car. "It just sucks to not be able to help you here at all."

"Hey look Sammy really it's not even a big deal okay? I mean it's a child's punishment you know? It'll be like nothing."

Dean said it in as nonchalant a way as he could but both occupants of the vehicle knew differently. Not wanting to make his brother feel any worse about it Sam just said nothing. Soon they arrived at their destination and both got out and went inside. "Hey Dean go on up and check out anything they have that is mystical in nature. I need to find the vending machines and get a candy bar, for some reason I'm hungry again."

Knowing just by his brothers smile that he bought it hook line and sinker Sam walked in the other direction. When Dean was far enough away he walked back into the stacks and took out his cell phone and dialed. "Hey it's Sam….yeah you heard right. Look I have a favor that I need only nobody can know about it. If you can do this for me I'll really owe you big time."

He listened for a moment and then laid out his request and wasn't thrilled with the incredulous sound of the other person's response. "Look I know it's almost impossible but that's what I need from you. Can you do it or not?"

Minutes later Dean turned to feel Sam's hand on his shoulder. "Dude we have to do something about that big old sugar addiction you have going on."

Sam ignored him and looked at the books spread out on the table. "Anything?"

He was discouraged when Dean shook his head no. When the library closed they both returned to the hotel and their father. After asking them if they had found anything that would help he swore. "Dammit to hell this is not going to be easy. Get ready and get into bed."

Even though they both felt like five year olds, they did as he had told them. But it was long into the night before any of the three Winchester's fell asleep.
*********************

The next morning dawned grey and gloomy, much like the three occupants of motel room number 346. Sam woke up earlier than usual due to a nightmare about dad making good on his promise, and while it wasn't a vision Sam knew for sure that it would be a reality if something didn't happen and happen soon. He sat up and found Dean looking out the window already dressed. If the circles under his eyes were any indication he had been up for a while. Looking towards the bed where their father still slept Sam wished that he had something comforting to say to his older brother.

He got out of bed and walked to where Dean stood still unaware of him. Putting a soft hand on his shoulder he gave it a squeeze. "Well at least he's not dead anymore. That's gotta be some comfort."

Dean turned to Sam and rolled his eyes and snorted. "Yeah well with his new plan eventually the pain of his death and the pain of his being alive are gonna be about the same."

Sam sighed knowing that if he were in Dean's spot that he would feel just the same way. He grabbed his clothes and headed for the bathroom to change. He showered and dressed and came back out to find Dean in exactly the same position. "C'mon dude lets let him sleep and go get something to eat."

Dean followed him out to the car as if on auto-pilot and Sam drove to the nearest diner. They had just ordered when Sam's cell phone rang. Looking at the number and then at Dean he stood up and walked away to answer it. Finding the conversation to be frustrating he all but growled into the phone. "Then keep looking there has to be one!"

Hanging up he felt bad that he had yelled at the person on the other end of the phone but failure was not an option here. He sat down to his brother's narrowed eyes and suspicious look. "Obscene phone call that you wanted to take all alone Francis?"

Sam shook his head and frantically searched for an answer. "No it was Sarah from the art gallery. She just called to see…how I was."

Sam struggled to work up a blush and it must have worked as Dean smacked him on the shoulder. "Awww Sarah, now that was a hot chick."

Sam frowned at his brother. "What?? That was a compliment."

Sam continued to pretend to look offended until breakfast was brought out. Although neither one was hungry they both forced themselves to eat. After breakfast they returned to the hotel and even had brought a breakfast sandwich for their father. Using their keycard they opened the door to find John sitting fully dressed in the chair with a perturbed look on his face. "So I guess the two of you didn't run away from home after all."

His comment was said without even a trace of humor and Sam found himself getting worried that the time had come for Dean. And if he hadn't been worried the next words out of his father's mouth would have done it. "Sam here is the name of a man who can sharpen the blades on the machetes for us. Last hunt I realized that they were getting dull."

Looking at the name and address and directions Sam realized that this errand would take him at least two hours. "Okay we can do this."

Eager to get Dean off the hook his hopes were dashed. "Not we…you. Dean is going to stay here with me for a while."

Sam wanted to say something but Dean just shook his head at his younger brother. "Just go Sammy, it isn't like I didn't know this was coming."

Sam shot a hateful look in the direction of his father and John shook his head in warning. "Just be a good boy and go on out that door Samuel. Let's not make this a two for one event."

With one last mournful look Sam went out the door and John sighed relieved. Hearing the sigh, Dean turned to his father with a puzzled look on his face. "You can't possible think Dean that I really wanted to spank him again."

Thinking about it Dean realized that what dad had said was probably true although he had another thought. "No but somehow I do think that you are anxious to get started on my ass."

The dark look on his father's face gave him a momentary start. "Do you want to tell me exactly why each and every time you are in a really bad situation you have to engage your mouth and make it just that much worse? Is it like something that you can't stop, or do you have some deluded notion that making me madder is going to make me go easier on your butt?"

Dean just shrugged. "Maybe I just like to see that vein throb in your forehead."

For a moment John just stared at his oldest son unable to believe what he had just said. "Don't think for one minute that you are going to goad me into losing my temper. The punishment you are about to get is going to be extremely exact. And the same thing is going to happen nightly until you find out a way to reverse what you have done."

Now John could see that Dean was furious. 'Yeah well how about you finding a way to reverse what you did Dad? I'm not sorry that I did it and beating my ass isn't gonna change that."

John nodded clearly resolute. "We'll just see how you feel about that in a month or so of me applying nightly swats to your behind. And I think that is exactly where we need to start then. Get your butt over here."

John motioned for Dean to come to where he sat and Dean fought the dive that his stomach took. There was nothing in this world- not evils or monsters or demons that he feared and hated more than this. And as usual dad was wearing his spanking face. The look that said, 'I am so disappointed in you and your choices. You have let me down.' The look was almost as bad as the actual thing, and that sucked loads. He had to give it one more try. "I did the same thing that you did. And by the way I am too old for this crap anyway."

His father looked as if he was considering that and then he spoke and Dean knew his fate was sealed. "I am your father and if I chose to sacrifice my life for you, that was my decision. I had lived a lot of years Dean while your life is just starting. I appreciate with all my heart your love and loyalty but I would never accept it at the risk of your own life. So what I have said stands. You will be punished every single night until you find a way to fix this and I don't really care how old you are, the decision was childish and immature. Maybe this will teach you how important your life is to me and to your brother and to yourself."

Dean swallowed hard as he knew just from the look on his fathers face that he was dead serious and before he had any more time to think about it he again heard his fathers growl. "Take the jeans down son."

If there was one thing that Dean Winchester had been taught almost from birth it was how to follow an order. And there was no way that anyone could have mistaken that command for anything else. Having been John's son for all of his life he also knew the penalty for fighting a punishment and so he complied.

John put a heavy hand on Dean's upper arm and pulled him across his lap positioning him just as he had when Dean was a child. The ritual of it actually made Dean's face burn with embarrassment, and like he had each and every time he found himself in this position, he made a promise that he would never be back here again. And to make matters worse his father tugged the jeans down to his ankles and Dean held his breath waiting for the boxers to follow but they didn't. Without so much as another word John brought his hand down heavily on Dean's backside. He swatted side to side and made each one hard and fast.

Dean struggled to stay quiet but John was determined to make a real impression on this stubborn son of his. He brought the large palm down harder and laid several across the back of Dean's thighs. Dean was fighting giving in to the discomfort with all he had and John was intent on making this memorable. Not just for the sake of motivation but because he was determined to make Dean see how wrong his decision had been. He continued the punishing swats and finally he could hear Dean making small sounds of distress which he was sure were heartfelt as his hand was just on fire.

He continued to cover every inch of Dean's behind with hard, well placed smacks until finally he could hear the boy softly crying. He continued for just a few minutes beyond that and then stopped as suddenly as he had started. He let Dean settle down for a few minutes and then pulled the jeans back into place and helped his son to stand. Standing himself he pulled the boy into a hug and didn't mention a word about the tear stained face knowing that it would embarrass him.

"I love you Dean and you are going to get the long life that you were meant to have and you are *never* going to make as stupid a decision as this one was again."

And at least the boy for once didn't argue with him. He honestly felt it wouldn't take too many more sessions like today to make Dean understand. And while he hated to do it, he knew damn good and well that it needed to be done. Dean pulled out of his embrace for a moment and John knew that he had something to say and that he was fighting saying it. "Dad….I….I'm sorry."

John smiled, nodded and placed a kiss on Dean's forehead knowing that those were never easy words for someone as stubborn as Dean. "Good boy, now go and clean up a bit and we can work on the laptop and see what we can find."

Dean did as he was asked stopping at the doorway to the bathroom. "You really mean this right?"

Sadly John nodded his head yes that he did, and he saw tears shining in green eyes again before Dean went into the bathroom. John sat back down in the chair and ran a sore hand over his face and felt like crying himself. Their were days when being a demon hunter was next to impossible and yet that job had nothing on the difficulties of being a father. He went to his duffle and searched for a moment and smiled as his fingers made contact with a familiar object. Pulling out his flask he unscrewed the top and took a long pull and winced as the liquor burned a path down his throat. Today had sucked, no two ways about it, and tomorrow wasn't looking much better.
*******************

Earlier:

Sam Winchester sat behind the wheel of his brother's Impala and felt sick. He knew exactly what was happening to Dean right about now and while he knew his brother richly deserved it, he still felt bad about it. His cell phone rang and he answered it hoping and praying that the person on the other end had the answer that he needed.

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