These walls I make they hold me in and hold me back today but tomorrow's new, then I walk right out and walk right over you
John was watching Dean with more than a little concern. He looked so pale to the hunter's trained eyes, so weary, and yet so determined to prove his worth. He had always been like that, the father knew. Every time Dean had been injured or ill he would go into over-drive to prove he didn't need to be looked after, to prove he could handle himself was well as ever, that he wasn't as weak as he felt at that moment.
But his shoulders were drooping, and fatigue always won in the end.
John had explained all he knew about the demon, telling his boys of every little pattern he had noticed after grueling sessions checking and re-checking information, afraid he had been wrong. Hoping h had been wrong. Especially when he had sifted through articles and news reports of that day...of Mary's...
And he had seen the confirmation on a lit up computer screen in a dark library just before closing. Just before he was ushered away he had seen it, electrical storms, cattle deaths, all of it, and then nothing after November began. They stopped come the third and John knew all he needed to know, and yet, was left yearning for more.
If there was a pattern, a concise term of events then logic told him he could practically predict the next attack. If he was careful, and so very precise, he could find the demon. He could kill him. But ever since he had found the pattern it had only mounted his guilt as he watched too many houses go up in flames, saw too many husbands clutching their newborns as they stood on the lawn, screaming, and sirens sounding in the distance.
He'd watched, running out of his truck, running, but never getting there in time. Sometimes driving up when the fire trucks were already blocking the road, and the remaining broken family already taken to the hospital to be checked out. He knew how much that hurt. He could remember that night more clearly than most days of late. Sitting on the Impala in the cold night air, watching with detached care as the men rushed in and out of the burning family home, clutching the bleary eyed baby in his arms, feeling Dean's head resting on his arm as he stayed close to his father, still shaking a little.
He remembered the paramedics who had cajoled him into the back of the ambulance with his children, and he remembered that when they finally stopped, when they climbed out, his children were gone. He had fought, shouted, but the nurse who had seemed to appear out of nowhere, whom he later apologized to and thanked for taking his screaming with a pinch of salt, had told him so calmly that he had to let the Doctors check them out to be sure, and that he'd see them soon.
She hadn't lied. His boys were fine, no smoke inhalation, nothing, but Dean had yet to say a word.
"What do you mean post-traumatic-stress-disorder?"
"It's mild, Mr. Winchester, and considering what Dean saw, it's not surprising."
"But he's okay, right? He's not hurt...?"
"No, he's perfectly healthy, but he really needs his father right now." And the doctor had given him that look; the look of a concerned bystander, the look that Mike and his wife would give him in a week or so after staying with them, and spouting his ideas on the occult. The looks social workers who came across the Winchesters in hospital would shoot him, as he dodged yet another bullet, and kept his boys for just that little bit longer.
The look told him, the doctor had seen him at his worst, seen his screaming from earlier, and had seen from previous cases what grief could do to someone, now suddenly made to be a single parent. But the look softened, as he led him to the little playroom where Dean sat on a chair, absently scuffing his shoe against the carpet, rocking his feet back and forth a fraction above the ground as a young lady asked him if he wanted to play with the blocks, and after a moment of staring at her as though she were silly, he looked back to his feet.
As soon as John actually stepped into the room, Dean's head shot up and he ran forward, barreling into his father as though he were afraid he might never see the big man again. John had looked at the boy hooked onto his knees, before quickly scooping him into his arms and telling him it would be okay, and planting little kisses on the boy's skin, smoothing down the long hair – Mary said it looked cute to grow it that long, and John would joke that Mary had always wanted a girl.
He turned back to the doctor, Dean safely in his arms, head resting in the crook between John's shoulder and neck, little fists clutching his father's night shirt. "Sammy?" He asked simply, and the doctor nodded, leading the father once again to where the youngest child was sleeping.
John wished they were that young now. He wished he could still hold Dean, and have him fall asleep in his arms. He wished he could watch Sam sleep, and indeed he had only seen him do it once now, after four years of nothing...
Sam hadn't slept last night, and John wasn't stupid. He too had stayed awake, sitting on the same chair as the few nights before, watching with a trained eye, and leaving on the timidly-bright-lamp to help him see better. He could hear Sam's breathing, and knew the boy was wide awake, listening out for any distress from his brother.
But there had been none, Dean's nightmares weren't gone, he tossed and turned, but for the most part calmed himself down, before any audible sounds could be made known.
John wondered if he had had to do that in the hospital after waking up alone and he berated himself once more for leaving his son there, to wake up alone and have no comfort from either family member. It wasn't his fault, Sam had left.
But it was his fault that he himself was a coward, unable to face up to what he had caused. Unable to see Dean for fear that the blood would still linger on skin so hard and tough, old and sunken around the eyes were sleep had been starved from him...
Only once, last night, had Dean woken himself up from a cry. A simple, hissed "No!" Through cracked lips, that split at the sudden motion, pain only increasing as he jolted his wounds, and fell back to the covers instantly, being surrounded by his brother and father as soon as his head hit the pillows. But his eyes had closed too, and Sam had trudged back to his bed, while John stared, his hand still outstretched, wary to touch the boy lying so still, before he too, walked back to the chair, and settled in.
Now, Dean was grasping the table for support, and the motion hadn't gone un-noticed by anyone, but John knew better than to make an outward comment too soon. If he damaged Dean's pride then the boy would only feel the need to prove his worth increase ten-fold, and instead John saw Dean take a breath, as though trying to swallow his mantra, and tell himself that pain was good, pain made him alive, and he turned back to the conversation.
"All right, so what's this trail you found?" Dean asked John, jaw still set against the aching of his body.
"It's starts in Arizona, then New Jersey, California, houses burned down to the ground...it's going after families, just like it went after us."
"Families with infants?" Sam asked, carefully from his spot by the window.
"Yeah, the night of the kid's six-month birthday."
"I was six-months old that night?"
"Exactly six months."
"So basically this demon is going after these kids for some reason, same way it came for me? So Mom's death, Jessica it's all 'cause of me?"
"We don't know that, Sam." Dean said, a hand still lingering close to the table for support.
"Oh really? 'Cause I'd say we're pretty damn sure, Dean!" Sam shouted, frustrated and angry.
"For the last time, what happened to them is not your fault!"
"Yeah you're right, it's not my fault, but it's my problem!"
"No, it's not your problem, it's our problem!" And as soon as he finished yelling that last word his vision swam and he leaned back into the table, effectively sitting on it, as he took deep breaths, and unconsciously let a hand rest on his injured abdomen.
"Dean?" John came running to his son's side, and Sam swallowed any words he had intended on replying with when he saw his brother's pallor go ghostly.
"I'm fine." He bit out, but his eyes were still closed, trying to focus beneath the eyelids, and he had made no move to stand up again.
"Come on, you need rest." John said carefully, already trying to maneuver Dean's arm around his shoulders, to lead him to the bed, but Dean was pulling away from the grasp, muttering that no, he was fine, but then Sam was on his other side, blocking him from retreating and he too, began leading his brother to the bed.
"We can't waste any more time." Dean said, dejectedly, as he was sat down slowly, talking to take his mind off of the hurting.
"And we won't." Sam said simply, looking him in the eyes, begging Dean to see that his well-being came before the demon, no matter how obsessed they became.
"Don't worry," John said, "We'll wake you up before we leave."
"I'm not tired, Dad." Dean whined, but laid his head against the pillow all the same.
He had never intended to fall asleep himself, especially as it was mid-morning now, but Sam had, and staying up and watching both of his son's had made him more tired than he had originally thought, not to mention how calming his son's steady breathing was, to ears so used to the painful gasp every now and again. As soon as his eyes dropped and closed, he was haunted by his memories, same as always. He hadn't dreamt of the fire and flames for nearly a year, and it surprised him considering how often he let his mind wander to those dark times.
...that only got darker...
No, not even Mary came to him in this nightmare. But Dean was there. Bound like an animal, strung up, and beaten, and John was forced to watch it all, though most of it was his own imagination working into over-drive trying to work out how the wounds became so extensive; especially when Dean wouldn't tell them anything.
They hadn't asked, but they wanted to give him space, it was vital to ensure that he would ever talk to them; he needed to talk when he was ready, and divulge precious information only when he felt the time was right. Never before, only after.
They were hitting him and kicking him, and the sickening sound effects of a rib cracking and breaking, or the pain filled groans of his oldest, made his stomach churn. He wanted to save him, rescue him, but he couldn't move, not toward Dean, only backwards. Only further away. He was pushing himself further away and Dean was on the floor now, eyes wide open and glassy, staring at his father, a light dimming somewhere, a lamp flickering so dangerously that soon, the light would be lost.
"Dad," Dean whispered, and John felt his heart beat more and more, faster and faster. Dean was trying to get up, there was hope in his face as though he were saved, rescued, but John couldn't get to him, and the Vampires had yet to leave. They were taunting him but he still took steady steps to where John waited for him.
And when he moved back, John thought he might die at the hurt look that flash across his boy's face. He held out his hands, begging for touch, and John did the same, unable to reach him, just too far away, pushing himself further away. Pushing him further...
The Vampire sneered, and the glint of a knife in the waning moonlight from nowhere made John's entire being freeze, daring him to keep watching, to keep his eyes open for this, his boy's last moments.
"No!" He cried as the knife dug deep, and Dean only moved his head to stare up at his father. But he was closer now. Had he finally been able to break the spell and run toward his son that fast? There was something on his hands, and when he looked down, he saw the blood quickly covering his skin, spouting out from somewhere, from the knife edge. The hilt in his hand, dying red.
Oh god, no.
John let go, and Dean fell to the floor with a horrible thud, the blood now seeping all around him into the ground, as his son's skin got paler and paler
"Dean!" A voice called from afar in the distance, and John couldn't bare to look at the dying any longer.
He shot awake, his body jerking in the chair, and he knew where the voice, the far away voice, had come from.
"Dean!" Sam cried trying to calm his brother down, as his body bucked completely up off of the bed, and thrashed wildly, caught in the throngs of a powerful nightmare that Sam dread to think of the content. His head was tossing back and forth, dangerously close to the wall behind, and Sam was trying to keep his brother still, still enough to calm down, maybe just wake up, anything but this.
Sam's head shot around, hands never straying from Dean, as he looked at his father with a gaze that told him to help!
John shot into action, in much of the same way he had woken up; startled, and afraid. He reached his son's bedside, and firmly put his weight into holding him down as he tried to move again. A fist almost struck him, before the hand was held down beneath the burly arms, and it was then John realized it might not be the best thing for his son.
Dean was not calming down, but he was quieter, he was whimpering, whispering, "No, no." And the bucking stopped, but the slow tossing did not. Methodically, one side to the other as though looking for a familiar face that wasn't there. God they hadn't even found him until after he had fallen unconscious and when Dean should have woken up in safety, to his father and brother berating him for his stupidity to hide their emotions...
But Dean had woken up alone. Dean had gotten dressed, escaped the hospital, gotten a taxi and arrived at the front door. Even he had made a comment on the Winchester vanishing act, but he hadn't, and neither had Sam, though, it was hardly the youngest' fault. John had left, again, and he wondered how Dean could stand it. But then, looking back at the crumbling resolve of his son's subconscious, he knew, Dean couldn't. Not really.
"Dean, it's okay, you're safe now." Sam whispered to his brother ear, but John still heard and wondered when Sam had become the father, because John knew those were the words he should have spoken to his son, and he felt a tiny pang of jealousy at how much Dean calmed at the words, and Sam's hand brushing across Dean's hair, slightly wet from perspiration. Sam took his own deep breath, and dared let go of his brother, and saw to his relief, that he didn't jerk, and was now sleeping once more. Sam looked at his father, waiting for John to relinquish his hold, but he was more than reluctant. He was still staring at Dean, swallowing words of comfort, aware that Sam had done it instead.
"Dad?" Sam whispered, and John jerked, the last time he had heard the word, Dean was calling out to him in his dream. Dean had whispered then too, and John hadn't moved then either. "Dad, it's okay, come on." And Sam was prying his fathers' fingers from his brother's wrist, and leading him away from the bed, noticing the slightly shell-shocked expression.
"Are you okay?" He asked, quietly, though now a sufficient distance to rouse Dean.
"Bad dream." John said simply, and saw Sam grin. "You're not the only one."
John looked at Sam in bewilderment and wondered how he could mock his brother, but then realized Sam wasn't referring to Dean.
An invitation to talk, but Sam looked down, and confirmed it with his own muttered, "Yeah."
John ran a hand through his mussed hair, looking over at Dean sleeping. "He-god-it was bad." He bit out finally, and knew Sam felt the same. "Has that...has he ever had nightmares like that before?"
"No, he has nightmares though, but he always wakes himself up, and goes back to sleep. He thinks I don't notice, and there's no point in bringing it up, he'll only deny it."
John nodded in agreement, switching his gaze back to his youngest. "You knew exactly what to do." John said, looking at his boy in slight awe. Granted, he knew what to do, because being their father, by default meant a few nightmares every now and again, but never as severe as this he was sure. In the morning they would have to check that Dean hadn't ripped out any stitches in his frenzy.
"He's had to do it with me." John said nothing, waiting for more, and Sam continued. "Sometimes, my dreams can get out of hand and Dean's just there."
"You've been helping each other, then?"
"Yeah, yeah we have."
Sam didn't speak for a moment, letting his eyes find Dean's prone form once more.
And they let the rest of the day pass lazily, letting Dean sleep until the next morning.
When John came back into the room, having gotten breakfast for them all, Dean was standing, much to Sam's obvious annoyance, and looking over the notes pinned to the wall, re-reading every little passage of messy scripture by his father, thoughts and ideas, and wild theory's some more than others. Sam was hovering close, should Dean fall, but he looked stronger today, color beginning to return to his cheeks, and his stance more precise. More Dean.
Sam greeted their father in the doorway, helping to pile out the food on to a portion of the table not covered in papers. Dean stretched a hand out to once again trace the lines of a map when he noticed the slight bruising on his wrist that wasn't there before. Spots, as though fingers had held on tightly.
"What the-?" He cursed confused, and John, following his gaze winced.
"You had a dream last night." Sam said simply, looking Dean straight in the eye, daring him to deny it.
"And you decided to grab my wrists, because..."
John recognized the tone, intricate humor laced into the volumes, mocking the situation, the diversion tactic was clear.
"Because if we hadn't, your stitches would have ripped."
Dean heard the we, and gulped, flicking his gaze over his father for a moment.
"Huh." Dean muttered, turning back the map, flexing his wrist a little, the pain more obvious now that he had indeed noticed the bruising.
"You wanna talk about it?" Sam asked carefully, after a while, and Dean raised his eyebrow.
"I'm good, thanks."
"What? I already told you I don't remember it."
"Then don't talk about the dream."
"What the hell, Sam?"
"You can't just ignore what happened; you'll have to deal with it when you're asleep!"
"There's nothing to talk about!"
"The hell there isn't, Dean, they beat the crap out of you, you were bleeding everywhere, damn it, you could have died!"
"So why the hell would I want to re-live that Sam?"
"Boys!" John cut across, seeing both tempers flaring dangerously. Dean took a deep breath but refused to look at his father.
"Sam, I'm sure Dean will trust us enough soon, to talk when he's ready."
And Sam knew of the guilt-trip maneuver John was now playing, but Dean seemed unfazed, too much experience on the receiving end.
"There's nothing to talk about."
"Dean-." John began, hoping to get through to him, but Dean only softened.
"I had a bad dream, that's all, Dad, I'm fine, okay? You found me, and I'm okay."
John smiled, but Sam wondered at Dean's careful word-choice. Saved would imply he needed saving, something Dean would never admit; rescued did the same, but found? Well Dean did need finding, and Sam was glad his brother wasn't trying to deny that, but his brother was right. They had found him, and he was there with them, healing, albeit reluctantly, and he was back to his old defense mechanism ways, and looking at the next hunt. The hunt. The one they had been hunting for twenty-years, and Dean would be damned if he was left out of it.Always trying to prove something, always yearning for pride...
But he was found, and that was all that mattered.