Long time no see! ;) Well, I was too busy with other things like rl and the WSS... but I finally managed to finish this.
It was originally thought for my "Sometimes-Series", but... well, it grew and grew and grew... so, I decided to put it online as an standalone.
I was in the mood of a new monster, so "Swifters" you probably have never heard of... they are my imagination. Hope you don't mind.
Supernatural... as you might know isn't owned by me. And I'm doing this only for entertaintment...
It had been a week. A week since Dean last spoke at all. A week since Dean's defences were like a 250' armoured concrete wall surrounding him and his little brother, who was never left out of his eye-sight for more then a few minutes. No matter what time John checked on his sons, Dean always seemed to be alert. Looking at him in that way… like four years ago… it manifold old pain, brought back Mary's death so close… and this fed John's fury; fury at himself, fury at his stubborn son, at the world that burdened him with this responsibility.
His eyes swept over the place, coming to rest on his little boy, sitting on his haunches, looking at something with undivided interest.
He watched as Sam scrambled up to his feet from where he had been crouching and padded his way over to his brother who was sitting in one of Bobby's rocking-chairs on the porch, wrapped up in an ugly, too bright quilt underlining the paleness of his skin and the dark assortment of bruises marring his face and John knew the rest of his body too. He continued to follow them with his eyes, watching Sam's small hand stretch out, showing something to Dean, making his eyes lit up a little. But no words were uttered between the two. John saw Sam's head cock, his eyes becoming small slits as he seemed to scrutinize his brother and then, as if coming to a conclusion, he turned around, meeting his father's eyes and running up to John looking at his dad expectantly.
"What is it sport?" John asked him, giving up the pretend to work, trying to ignore the bruises that ran down the right side of Sam's face, along his jaw-line to vanish underneath the small boy's shirt.
Sam's little arm flailed back to his brother in the chair.
"Dean's tired, he wants to sleep. And…" his voice turned low, into a whisper, "he hurts, but doesn't want you to know."
John's eyes shot up, resting again on his oldest frame, not being able to meet the boy's eyes. Now, that Sam had spoken the words, his gaze immediately recognized the slump in Dean's shoulders, the small frown on his otherwise blank face and the shallow and cautious rising of his chest beneath the blanket. Nodding in an answer, he left his work alone and walked up to the child, who looked at him impassively as he approached.
"Dean?" he wanted the word to come out more like a question, rather then an order, but that is exactly what happened and he immediately saw the reaction to it. Dean's slumped shoulder straightened as he tried to rise further in the chair, tried to make himself larger then he was.
John cringed inwardly at his son's reaction and dropped his outstretched hand. Instead, he crouched in front of the kid and tried to catch his flying eyes.
"Hey, Dean? You look a little tired. Maybe you wanna go lie down? Sleep a little? Supper won't be ready for another two hours. What do you think?"
He was taken aback at the fierceness the green eyes shot at him suddenly, distrust almost palpable as it radiated from Dean's very pore.
One week earlier:
Dean squinted up at the hot Arizona sun, shielding his eyes from it and turned back to watch Sam slide again. He couldn't believe his dad actually allowed them to go to the playground but didn't waste any thought on that matter when he saw Sam's enthusiasm. Dean grinned when he remembered Sam dragging him forward, chatting non-stop about sliding, swinging and what else Dean would have to play with him. Strolling over to the swings Dean slumped down on one, wiping his sweaty forehead, his eyes skimming the little playground and stopping on his little brother's frame as he scrambled up the ladder of the slide.
A gentle cool breeze ruffled his hair, sending particles of dirt whirling at his feet and suddenly the cheeriness he felt ebbed away, leaving him with an odd knot of fear in his tummy. Sitting up straighter, he looked around, seeking the source that made him feel uncomfortable. His breath hitched when the wind picked up in force, the swing beside him starting to move back and forth, the dirt hitting his eyes, forcing him to blink harshly. And then he thought for a moment that there was a face in the cloud of disturbed sand and dirt and a quiet whisper filled the air. "Play with us!"
As fast as it started everything stopped and went quiet again, leaving Dean breathless as he looked up to see Sam on the slide. The little boy hadn't noticed anything.
"Sam!" his shaking voice fought for determination as he called out to his brother.
He could see Sam's head cocking to the right, as if the small boy weighted up his options.
"Why?" Sam's light voice asked and Dean inwardly grabbed his little brother's collar and tried to shake some sense in him. 'We don't have time for this!' he thought.
"Because I said so." He answered coolly, hands settling on his hips.
"Looky! Dean! Daddy!" Sam started to jump up and down squealing, forcing Dean's head to snap around, stopping at the big figure of his dad on the other side of the road… his dad with a gun in his hands… his dad waving at him… frantically…
"Dean?" the tone of fear in Sam's voice made him face his little brother again, his mind suddenly screaming at him to do something. That he needed to get to Sam before...
"What's that?" Sam's little arm shot up, pointing at something on the other side of the playground, something in Dean's blind spot and he could feel goose-flesh spreading as he stiffened and slowly turned around.
He never fully finished the motion.
The air became alive with wind and dirt and whispering voices, taking his breath away before he could draw it in. He was ripped from his feet, something connecting with his left side and he cried out in pain, loosing even more air as it was forced from him when he hit the ground hard and a face loomed over him grinning devilish. "Play with us!" Another face appeared in the polluted air and another and another… cold, icy fingers were grabbing his ankles, burning his skin, keeping him trapped, away from Sam… then the sudden storm was gone and he laid there, panting for breath, his ears ringing as he tried to comprehend what just happened.
A high pitched scream made the blood in his veins freeze and made him move even before he knew he did.
"Play with us! Little child! Play with us!" The wind ruffled his hair and clothes as he held on tightly to the banister on top of the slide, felt it swing slightly under the onslaught of wind and a small wail escaped him as he scrunched his eyes close. Something hit him hard in the face, forcing him to open his eyes in shock and scream in pain and terror as his eyes settled on a disfigured face in front of him.
Cold fingers that touched his face made him whimper as he stood frozen and entranced, the voice repeating its words over and over again.
"Play with us! Little child!"
The moment he saw Dean's head snap up, John knew something was wrong.
He heard about the town's play-ground and the accidents that happened there ever since last year's autumn, about kids falling, odd shaped bruises on their bodies… bruises like handprints. It all started right after a huge storm that struck and cost several people's lives. One of them had been Marjorie Simmens, a kindergartener who had her kids playing there on a regular basis. John was sure it was her that haunted the little playground but one thing just didn't fit the MO. Children. So far only children had been attacked. And it only happened when no adults were around. That thought lingered in the back of his mind, keeping him agitated.
He burned Marjorie Simmens bones the night before another accident happened. A little boy – Sam's age - fell from the slide and was in a coma, due to the sustained head-injury.
The guilt was eating John alive. He stopped sleeping and doubled his efforts to stop whatever was haunting the play-ground and by doing so forgot all about the two little boys in his care, grew short in temper if said little boys demanded his attention and kept him from finishing this hunt.
He shook himself from his reverie to see Dean tense up and hear him yell for Sam to leave.
At the same time he could see the cloud of unsettled dust and sand. Foreboding made his stomach clench and he drew out his gun, screaming his oldest's name, calling out to him, flailing his arms wildly to get his attention. Dean turned around and their eyes met for a split second. He could feel the dread settle into Dean's frame, his head snap back to Sam as the little boy raised his arm pointing at the huge cloud of dirt.
Dean started to turn around but never finished the movement, because suddenly he was airborne and flung, hitting the jungle-gym hard as the cloud settled around him.
John was moving before he even noticed, yelling his son's names repeatedly, seeing the small cloud leave the heavy cluster and felt the sudden wind hit him frontal, sending him to the ground, keeping him from going anywhere… and a voice, that made his very core shudder, whispering "They are gonna play with us…"
Dean reached the slide and struggled to climb up the ladder. His back hurt and it felt as if something was broken there. He swallowed a sob, reached the top and stopped breathing, seeing Sam holding onto the banister, eyes closed tightly, the knuckles on his little hands white from the force of his grip.
"Sammy…" his voice was inaudible in the roaring wind and Dean cautiously crept closer, his hands almost being able to reach his brother… just a few millimetres…
His scream was ripped away from him when the wind hit him hard in the face, knocking him backwards. A sharp pain went through his head as it met the banister and the light dimmed around him. His last glance was aimed at his little brother who stared back at him with wide, frightened eyes.
He reached the slide in time to hear Dean's muffled outcry, grabbing the rung of the ladder to heave himself up. His movements froze when the first droplet of blood landed on his hand.
His heart started beating faster as he was scrambling up the latter, frantic now. He needed to see if his boys were okay. He needed… his breath caught in his throat when he saw Dean lying right on top of the staircase, angry bruises already starting to form on his child's face, blood running from his nose, slowly trailing down the side of Dean's head hitting the wooden planks and running further down until dropping to the ground. His eyes were frozen on his oldest slumped form for a split second but the husky chorus of voices made him raise his eyes.
"Let's play…" they whispered, and his head snapped up to see spidery fingers about to touch his baby boy. And John just reacted. Raising his gun, filled with rock-salt he shot, one, two, three times…
The wind died down immediately, dust and sand settling and everything around them grew quiet for a second. But the silence was soon replaced with the first sobbing wail coming from the distressed little boy ahead.
John was swamped with feelings that were running through him. Guilt, rage, worry, love, despair.
He scooped up both boys into his arms, getting them off of the slide, hurrying back to their current motel-room.
John felt Sam's small arms that were wrapped tightly around his neck as he carried him along; could hear the hiccuping sobs and felt the wetness that soaked his shirt where Sam's head rested on his chest.
On the other side Dean's head rested in the crook of his neck, the blood that was still running from his nose already soaked the collar of his shirt and John felt small shivers rippling through his frame.
"Shh! We're almost there." They were the first words John was able to say in comfort. "'m sorry. I should've been faster..." he knew his apologies went unheard and swallowed around the lump in the back of his throat, trying to suffocate him.
Frigging Swifters! No spirit haunted that playground but a whole bunch of Swifters – Storm-Goblins. He had never seen them before, only read about the invisible creatures that loved to bring mishap and disaster upon man. He thought of the stories and what he had read about them as folklore – nothing more. But today, the moment he saw the cluster of dirt and sand, heard the voices that the disturbed air brought with it; he knew that his assumptions were wrong. Swifters.
"Play with us!"
John stopped dead in his stride. The fine hair at the back of his neck raising.
A loud sob and hands that were suddenly holding on even tighter made him take a deep breath.
"They are gonna play with us."
He could see threatening clouds accumulate on the before bright Arizona-sky.
"They are ours!"
The voices rose to a screech as the storm around them started, faces appearing in the polluted air, grimaces with disfigured features, their lips drawn back in a snarl, showing pointy, sharp teeth and claw-like fingers, trying to hold onto him, trying to wrestle his sons from his arms.
Sam's shriek almost deafened him and he held on for all it was worth, feeling Dean's limp form being almost ripped from him as talon like hands grabbed for the unconscious boy in his arms. John kept going, feeling icy wind hit him hard in the face, blood starting to run into his eyes as one set of clawed, invisible fingers opened two long gashes on his forehead.
The day grew into night around them as he continued to hold onto his sons, continued to get going. Away from the Swifters, back to safety. His sons and him... because the world around them was gone. Vanished into darkness, and storm, and shrieking voices that demanded his sons and sharp talons that were clawing at them...
John never knew what hit him as they attacked all at once, managing to wrestle him down. He was forced to the ground, and his arms were pried open while he was helpless and unable to breathe. From far away Sam screamed for him, the weight of his sons in his arms abruptly gone... and then... nothingness took him away...
... He woke with a start to the ringing of his phone.
Cursing, he stumbled to his feet, padding over to the phone, almost making the receiver fall as he tried to pick it up addlebrained.
"Yeah!" he mumbled into the receiver, his eyes still half closed, smacking his lips.
But as soon as he heard the frantic voice he sobered up, his eyes widening.
"Where are you?" he listened to the answer and nodded.
"HOW....." he didn't finish the question but listened again to the voice on the other end of the phone.
"Shit. This is bad... hang on a second..." now fully awake, Bobby scouted for the book of folklore he needed, pushing aside an assembly of old parchment and books. Finding what he was searching for, he started to flip through the pages. "Storm-Goblins... they get bored fast and when they stop "playing"... your boys will be lost. They probably took them somewhere into the wildness, away from people... a forest, a park... something near. John. Listen. I'm on my way, you hear me? Just... leave me a message at the motel's front-desk so I know where to join you. I'm on my way. 10 hours. At the most, okay John?"
After the phone-call with Bobby, John had left instructions for him at the front-desk of the motel, grabbed a few things from their room and returned to the play-ground, looking beyond it at the first line of trees. It was the place the cluster had showed up the first time. And it was John's best guess. Just let them be okay... with the mantra repeating itself over and over again in his mind he broke through the first line of undergrowth and was soon swallowed by the dense trees.
He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms tightly around his legs, tears running down his face as he cried quietly. His face hurt. And where was his daddy and why was he here? He vaguely remembered being ripped away from his dad, crying out for him but everything that happened after that had grown hazy. They just kept screeching and whispering and dancing around him, scaring him with their ugly faces and their long and mean claws. A branch snapped and Sam shut his eyes even more tightly. When I don't see them, they can't see me... he bit his bottom-lip to keep from crying. Daddy! Dean! Daddy!
He felt the soft ground under him, a small branch poking into his right side, while his left side seemed to be numbed. He felt sweaty and wet and his head hurt.
Then he remembered what happened at the playground and his eyes snapped open to see the treetops above him. Treetops, that were waving on an already darkening sky. It must be late afternoon. Trying to raise his head Dean let it fall back with a small cry.
"Sammy..." he called out with a small voice, knowing that his brother wasn't near, wasn't here. "Sammy..." he felt tears slipping down his face as he drifted off again.
It had been hours since the Swifters took his boys. Hours since he entered the forest and started his search. Hours, and still no sign of Sam or Dean. He needed to find them.
"Dean! Sam!" he screamed turning around in a circle, intend on not missing any trail left by the Goblins.
He felt hot tears prick his eyes again and he swallowed hard.
He had been so obsessed with this hunt. He knew about the risks, about what could happen, but in his warped mind it was the solution to this screwed up situation. That is why he finally gave in to Sammy's begging to go to the playground.
Using his sons as bait to draw out the baddy. Be there, wait, survey and hit when the time was right. Easy as pie. And Dean was capable of defending himself and his brother... Dean... his nine-year-old son!
"Dean! Sam!" he screamed again, panic gripping him with long fingers as the light faded fast now and night approached.
He woke up again to darkness. Night was here. Night... and his little brother was out there. Alone. And he couldn't move. Oh, he did try to get to his feet so he could find Sam, but there was no strength or movement in his limbs and the left side of his body wasn't complying his orders. Only hot, spiking pain was running through his left side, from his hip up to his head.
"Sammy!" he didn't dare more then a whisper this time.
Why did dad tell him it was okay to go to the playground? He couldn't understand why he did it. And if he didn't know about it, then why did he turn up with his gun? How did he know if not... and he felt hot tears starting to run down his cheeks as he was contemplating about it, feeling alone and betrayed and afraid like he never felt before.
Why? And his hands turned into fists. The confusing emotions he felt turning into anger.
Dad told him it was safe to go.
"Daddy..." he softly sobbed as exhaustion crashed over him once again like a tidal wave and his eyes closed in defeat.
It was long past midnight as John's flashlight swapped over the small form on the wooden ground. His breathing hitched and he was at the boy's side in a flash, falling down to his knees, his flashlight abandoned as he took in the slight shivering and the unnatural paleness of his son's skin.
Gently turning the kid to his back he received a pained moan and withdrew his hands like they were burned.
He raised the boy's shirt with even more care, exhaling sharply at the brunt assortment of bruises covering the whole left side of Dean's torso and back.
"God..." he whispered, his fingers ghosting over the boys ribs to search for more damage eliciting another soft whimper. He took in a relieved breath when he found none.
What he found was too clammy and too cold skin. Dean needed to warm up. He shrugged out of his outer shirt, gently lifting Dean's body into a semi-sitting position so that he could wrap the shirt around him. When he was finished, he snaked his free arm underneath the boy's legs and gently lifted him up, retrieving the flashlight on his upward movement.
Dean didn't even stir as he was carried away, safe in John's arms.
Dawn had come without sleep for John. He had first thought about leaving Dean in the backseat of the car to continue his search for Sam, but the little boy in his arms needed more then just a backseat. He needed to be checked thoroughly.
So John placed him on the passenger-seat instead, Dean's head near his thigh, and drove back to the motel room.
He felt devastated for doing so. But he had to bring Dean to safety before continuing his search. Stopping the car in front of the motel room, John sat there, dragging in deep breaths. God... his little boy... Sammy was out there... Alone. In the dark.
The nausea struck suddenly and without mercy and John just managed to push the driver's door open as he crashed to the tarmac, starting to retch violently.
He startled as a gentle but firm hand dropped to his shoulder.
"Fuck!" he swore as he leaned back a little, tugging at his shirt to drag it over his mouth.
"'t is only Dean?"
"Yeah... I... I didn't want to leave Sammy out there... I wanted to go on... wanted to... wanted to... but he's hurt... he... he... Damnit!" John screamed out his frustration.
"I'll take him from here. I got walkie-talkie's. You go back to search. Let me know when you find him. So I can..."
"Sammy's out there all by himself... he... he... he's all alone out there by himself!" John rambled.
"Damn you John. You need to keep it together and find your boy." Although the words were gruff he felt a gentle squeeze on his shoulder. A caress he didn't deserve. Jolting to his feet he pulled back.
"Bobby, you don't understand. Everything was my fault. Everything that happened. It's all been my damn fault."
At some point his mind went numb from all the crying and all the fear he had endured. He sat with his back leant on a huge tree, his knees drawn up and his arms wrapped tightly around them. His eyes were still closed, he hadn't dared to open them, because he knew if he'd open them "they" would be able to see him too.
It was Dean who had told him that one night when he couldn't go to sleep because of the monsters under his bed. Dean crawled into his bed, holding him close and whispered "his secrete" to him...
"Sammy..." he said softly, almost inaudible. "Sammy, I'm gonna tell you a secret. Some wizard once told it to me. And you have to swear that you'll never reveal it, because, ya know squirt? If you say it too loud and some adult hears it, it won't work on you anymore. So, you gonna swear Sammy? Are you gonna swear to keep this a secret?" And Sammy nodded in awe at his brother's words. "I swear." he whispered back breathlessly in return.
"Good. So... this wizard, he told me, if I ever get scared I just have to close my eyes. Because ya know? Its special magic only those who know have it. If you close your eyes you go invisible." Sam could hear the rustle of sheets as Dean lifted his arm and snapped his fingers in the darkness. "Just like that, Sammy. So, nothing can harm you. They can't see you as long as your eyes are closed. And Sammy, believe me. It works." Dean shifted again beside him and Sam could feel his brother's eyes on him.
"So, do you want to try it? Together with me? Close your eyes? So the monsters under your bed won't see you? And me?"
And again Sam nodded in awe. "Yeah..." he whispered back and closed his eyes, wrapped safely in his big brother's arms...
Only this time his brother wasn't with him. But still, Sam knew their magic would work, as he sat there, in the dark forest, with his eyes closed, flinching from time to time as nocturnal animals made themselves known, waiting for morning to come. Waiting for his brother to come. Waiting for his daddy to come.
It was nearly midday again and John felt ready to collapse.
He had to find Sammy. God, please! His mind was stuck, kept playing horrible scenes of what could happen to his youngest as he kept going. One foot in front of the other... one in front... he stopped dead.
His ears strained to hear the small noise again. There it was! Nothing more then a whisper. Slowly and silently he followed the sound, his eyes skimming the area as he walked on step by step... and then he could see him, almost curled into a little ball, his head resting on his knees, small rocking movements rustling the leaves he was sitting on. Sammy!
In four large strides he was there, the noise he created making the rocking-motions start to grow faster, more agitated. Then he was dropping to his knees, his hands hovering for a moment to finally close the gap, grabbing his baby-boy under his arm-pits, lifting him up and pressing the child to him.
He could feel Sam's shivers, the cold and clammy clothes and his fast beating heart as he held him close; felt the little boy's muscles freeze before the first soft sob escaped.
"Daddy..." without opening his eyes the thin arms wrapped themselves around John's neck and held tightly. And John felt the pressure leave him, felt the hot tears he had kept at bay run down his cheek as he hugged the small body to him, sharing his body-heat, his hand washing through the unruly, chocolate-brown curls.
"Sammy... o god! Thank you! Sammy..." he continued to stay there, rocking himself back and forth with Sam safe in his arms.
John looked up as Sam tugged on his sleeve.
"What is it Sammy?" The little boy's head cocked to the right.
"Dean's asleep, although he didn't want to sleep, because... because he wants to stay with me. He doesn't want me to be alone..." Sam said hesitantly.
"What? But, you aren't. I mean... I'm here. Bobby's here." Sam looked back at Dean's sleeping form on the rocking-chair and shrugged.
"Daddy, what is trust?" Sam continued, surprising John with his question.
"Trust? Well... it's... that's complicated. Why do you want to know?" John asked in return.
"Because... Dean don't wants to explain it to me. But he said it's why you can't hear him anymore.
"He said what?" John asked, flatly.
"He doesn't trust. If he would trust you... you..." the little boy swallowed.
Taking a deep breath Sam said: "If he would trust, you would be able to... hear him."
"Dean says it's kind of magic... you don't hear with them..." and Sam tugged on his ears. "You hear with here..." and he put his small hand on his chest.
John ever so gentle laid Dean down on the bed, tucking him in and smiled at Sam, as he crawled in the bed, resting his head beside Dean's.
Swallowing hard, he looked at his two little sons.
"You two okay?" he asked hoarsely.
Sam nodded, yawning and watching Dean's relaxed features, now that he was asleep.
"Daddy?" Sam asked, looking at John.
"What is it?" John walked around the bed, sitting down beside his youngest.
"In the forest... you... you could see me, right?" John stared at him and nodded, not knowing what to say.
"So, that means you're not bad, right?"
"I... don't understand..." John whispered.
Sam turned to his side, using his right arm to prop himself up.
"It's..." he looked back at his slumbering sibling and then continued, "It's another secret. And Dean said I can't tell it to an adult. But you're dad, so you aren't an adult, right? Dean said to me that if you close your eyes monsters can't see you. And... monsters are bad. So, it means bad people also can't see you... and you could see me... so..."
John reached for the little boy and took him in his arms.
"God... I'm so sorry for what happened." John held Sam tight, feeling the little chest draw in a deep breath and pulled away.
"Dean says he's hurt. It hurts," and with that Sam's small hand rested on John's chest, "in here. And that's why he can't trust. And... as long as he can't trust, you can't hear him and he won't talk to you... and... I... I don't want that..."
"Don't worry. I know that Dean hurts. I promise I'll make him better. And as long as Dean has his awesome little brother he can trust he won't be all alone and some one hears him, right?"
John smiled a watery-smile at the little boy as he saw him nod.
"You gonna stay with him?" John asked.
Sam again nodded and crawled back over to Dean, lying down beside him.
John waited for Sam to settle before he left the room quietly.
Outside the door he slumped against the wall, running his hand through his hair and over his face, wiping the silent tears away.
Only now did he understand what his actions cost him: The trust of his oldest.
And John realized that this was the first betrayal to his sons...