Rating: R? Just bad language.
Characters: Dean, Sam, John
Word count: 8.143
Warnings: Swearing. Tears.
Summary: Written for the following prompt by embroiderama for the hurt/comfort Dean comment fic meme - Wee!Dean thinks he's failed at taking care of Sam, so he runs away from "home".
Disclaimer: I sadly do not own any of the main characters in this fic, but I did invent Jimmy Eggar, Elly Baker a teacher and a police-officer.
a/n: I don't know a city called Mayberry. If there is one (I'm pretty sure there is), I swear it wasn't the one I created. I only chose the name because it sounded nice. Should I have offended anyone's home-town, please believe me that it was not intended and I will gladly change the name to something else.
Oh, btw: it's a little heartwrenching at times. So, f you still haven't recovered from 5x16, I totally understandif you come back later ;-)
„How could you let it happen?"
The words ring hollow in John's ear. Who says something like that to a devastated child? And a child Dean is, even though they both pretend he isn't. In a way, Dean lost his childhood six-and-a-half years ago, when Mary burned on Sam's ceiling. And how can anyone say that to a kid when he knows that said kid hasn't really gotten over the whole Shtriga-incident.
'Shtriga incident'. What a nice euphemism for the big fuck-up John had caused that day. Leaving two children in a town where he knew a child-killing thing prowled? Yeah, super-smart, Johnny. And even better, blaming his son for … for being a kid. How could any father do that? When it was one of the things he regrets the most, the fact that Dean lost his childhood and that John steals even more of it. Out of necessity, true, but still.
Because he knows, in a very, very disturbing and unhealthy way, that he delights in Sammy's happy, carefree childhood and… yes, he has to admit it, here, now, he has to: He resents Dean a little for being so obedient. Like he is, ever since the Shtriga-incident. He hates the way the kid tries to read every whim, every word from John's lips, hates that look of eagerness, of…of dedication. He'd hated that look from those Marine-buddies in 'Nam. The brown-noses. And now his child, his carefree, happy whirlwind of brightness has turned into one of those.
He hates the son of a bitch that did that, twisted the boy. The one staring into the mirror every morning, trying to decide if he should be bothered to shave or not. And the one that took the kid's mother away, that he hates too. The mother who would have kicked his ass at how he used the panic of nearly being partly responsible for getting his kid-brother killed. He also, in a way, resents Mary for dying. For being the one to protect her baby, not him. He should have died, he is – was – the man of the house. The fighter. But no, he was asleep in front of the TV. In his bathrobe. Pathetic, that's what he is. And pathetic, downright dangerous for the health of his boys he has turned out to be.
He knows that it's his fault. Thursday was his fault, his alone. On top of the guilt he had kept simmering in Dean, the guilt for leaving his brother, for disobeying an order – fuck, the kid is a child. You want him to be a child, to be like Sammy, free and happy and strong-willed. But … wanting it is not the same as needing. He needs a second-in-command. A soldier, who can obey. So. He resents the boy for being what he is, for becoming what John made him. And because he so hates the look in Dean's eyes, of silent, glimmering hope that he can do good enough, be good enough, every time he looks at the kid… Hates that it actually only shows what a bastard his old man is and hates that Dean will never see it that way. Not like Sammy, who even at six has a strong, healthy sense of right and wrong.
Oh, he loves both boys, more than he can ever say. More than his own worthless live. He wouldn't even say that he loves Sammy more, even though he knows that Dean thinks that. No, he doesn't love any of his kids more than the other. But… sometimes he likes Sam better. Not always. But his tiny, little son with the chubby cheeks and the blinding smile can make him smile and relax in ways Dean never can, with his eagerness to please. Sam babbles strange things and facts, little anecdotes while Dean… Dean stands to attention. And that…that grates on him. And that grating, that feeling of failure, of disgust in himself that the boy represents, simply by being… Fuck, that is why he leashes out at the kid, much worse than he ever does at Sam. Maybe that will change. Maybe, if the world - their world finally robs his baby of the innocence he still possesses, maybe then he'll be the same shitty Dad to him that he is to Dean.
Probably. He knows himself. But no matter what, Dean will always have those years of being the sole aim for his anger and unfairness. He'll always keep it in him.
And… John'll always use it, bastard that he is. Because it is useful. He needs Dean. Needs him to ground him, to show him the line he shouldn't cross. When Dean breaks, he knows he went too far, so John needs him to show him where to stop, how far he can push.
Like he did Thursday.
"How could you let it happen?" Dad asked, anger thick in his voice. "Didn't you watch him? I told you to watch him. I remember it clearly. I said 'Watch Sammy, I'll be back in a second'. Didn't I say that? Didn't I!" He was numb, couldn't say anything, so he just nodded. "What? I can't hear you, son!"
"Yes Sir" he whispered. Looked up like Dad had said he should. 'Always look me in the eyes when I tell you something. I need to see you understand.'
So he does. Always stands straight, even when he doesn't really want to, when his belly hurts because his Dad yells at him. Because he fucked – uhm – messed – up. He silently listened to the yelling, took his punishment. Glad that his Dad never hits him, like Jimmy Eggar's Dad does. But chores forever, on top of extra-laps and extra training, and no TV for three weeks… He waited until Dad left, went to Sammy to check on him. He's just so glad his brother didn't die, like he nearly did in Fort Douglas. He only had a scraped knee. It could have been worse, though. He was supposed to watch him, and he didn't not good enough. It doesn't matter that Sammy just ran from him to the ice-cream-truck. Not his fault, really not. The little jerk just tore out of his hand and ran like a rabbit, and that dog was just in the way. It's totally unfair, but still, he was the one to watch Sam. And he didn't. He failed.
The disappointment in Dad's eyes… that's worse than the punishment. He sniffed. He couldn't do anything right. And he tried, tried so hard! He never disobeyed, never. And still, still he fucked… messed up. All the time. And Dad – he's so sad that Dean can't do anything right too. Dean could see it. He tried and he tried and he tried… and it's no good. So… maybe it was better if Dad did it himself. Or Bobby, or Pastor Jim. Dean liked Pastor Jim, but Bobby was way cooler. Sammy though, he liked Pastor Jim better. Yeah, Dean thought while getting ready for bed. Yeah. If he wasn't there, maybe Dad wouldn't need to be mad all the time. He could have a better time, just him and Sammy. And Pastor Jim, because that's where they'll be living. Or maybe not. But it didn't matter, because without him, Dad could be happy, like Sammy. Sammy didn't look like Mom. Dean did. So, when he was gone, maybe Dad wouldn't cry so often, or get drunk? And it's not that he was any use anyway. He messed up, always did. And he tried so hard, and therefore he cannot do better, and when that was the best he could do, it just wasn't enough. Better if he was gone. For everyone. Sammy wouldn't always be in danger, might even get thirty, one day. Or a super-hero, like Dad. Maybe there was somebody who could be satisfied with what Dean could do? Maybe someone else, who thought it was enough? A Mr Smith, or Mrs Smith, maybe? Because obviously, Dean sucked – uhm… was bad at being a Winchester. Wasn't good enough to be one.
Yeah, maybe it was better if he was gone. For everyone.
That night, Thursday, John slept in Sammy's room. Didn't even need a night-cap, the leaving adrenaline from seeing that huge dog over his little boy was enough to drain him of energy. He hadn't intended it as a punishment for Dean – no, he hadn't. He just needed to be close to Sam, feel him breathing. Because even though Sammy thought nothing more of the dog – had even liked the dog when the shock of falling and scraping his knee, ripping his jeans was gone. John couldn't shake the image. There were too many evil dogs out there, and too many that weren't evil but bit children nonetheless. So he slept in Sam's room, asleep at eleven, gave Dean the couch. He had asked if it was ok for Dean to take it, he wasn't a complete bastard. But ok, considering the dressing-down Dean had just received, it would have taken a very tough Marine to refuse.
He slept and didn't hear the silent taptap of sneakered feet. Didn't hear the rustle of an already packed bag over a shoulder. Didn't hear when jeans-clad legs stepped over the salt-line, careful not to break them and didn't hear the door closing with a silent snick. When he woke at half-past six to make breakfast and get his kids ready for school, Dean had been gone for seven hours.
It was cold. And dark. Of course it was dark! It was midnight. A little weary - not scared - Dean clutched the salt he had filled into his pockets. The salt would keep ghosts away, Dad had said. And there was a spoon and a fork from the motel Dean really hoped were silver, in case of werewolves and other stuff. He was prepared. He had a knife, too. A big, great hunter-knife. He liked the knife. It fit so tightly into his right hand. Dad had given it to him, last birthday. It was a special knife, still a little too big, but Dad had said it would be just right when he was grown up. Maybe Mr. and Mrs Smith wouldn't mind if he kept it? But first, he had to find somewhere to sleep. It was late, cold and the bag was pretty heavy. And he was tired. Stupid tears, made the eyes all mushy. He remembered that there was a bus-station on Oak-Lane. There was always a bus-station on Oak-Lane, no matter what town they were. It was one of those universal truths, Bobby always said. Maybe he could go to Bobby's? He could help him with the cars, and maybe sometimes Dad would visit, and maybe even bring Sam.
It didn't take long to reach Oak-Lane. The station was empty, no-one there. He studied the time-table and the prices. Counted the money he had in his pocket. Hmm. Not enough for South Dakota. Not really enough for anything. He sniffed a little. Where could he get some money? He chose a few quarters and stuffed his bag in one of the locker-boxes, went out to find money. It couldn't be too hard, Dad did it all the time. If he could maybe find a – yeah, right. Idiot! Like a kid could play Poker! They wouldn't even let him in a bar, even if he could play better than most adults. He knew that, Dad wouldn't say so if it wasn't true. Not with so much pride.
Huh, maybe he was good at something, at least?
Pool was out, too. He couldn't reach the table. He had played a little at Pastor Jim's. Crawled on top of the green felt. Had been good, too, but it was kinda embarrassing. No, he couldn't hustle pool. And he didn't have any money anyway. So… where can you get money from? Winchesters don't beg! But… maybe he wasn't a Winchester anymore? Than it was ok, right? He could beg. He would wait till the Target opened. There would be people.
With his decision made, Dean went to find the big street, with the super-markets. He'd just have to remember to be back here at eight. Or maybe not, there were lots of buses. And it didn't matter which way he went, anyway. Maybe he could go to the beach? He had liked the beach. Sammy had loved it.
John was frantic. Sammy still in bed, he had run out after he'd realized that Dean was not in the bathroom, not outside getting a soda or at the reception. He wasn't in the Impala, either, like he sometimes did when upset. And he had been upset, rightly so. It hadn't been his fault, dammit. Sammy was a firecracker, even he couldn't keep an eye on him all the time. He should have told Dean that, instead he had exiled him to the couch. Like a dog, locked in the mud-room. God, and now he was gone, his little boy was gone. And deep in his heart he knew it was nothing supernatural that got him. Nothing could have gotten past the salt and the sigils he painted on everything nowadays. Dean went on his own. All alone, and it was his fault. All alone and God only knew what could happen to child out in the world. Even to a tough boy like Dean.
Seven o'clock, and Target had just opened. He had woken on a bench close by, hidden underneath an old newspaper like he had seen homeless people do on TV. It was hard, cold and uncomfortable, and he wished he'd had his duffel with him as a pillow. And maybe another sweater.
Dean had been sure that begging would be easy, as pie, like Jimmy Eggar always said. But it wasn't. He knew how to look sad and sweet, innocent. He knew he could melt people's hearts. Had used it often to get ice, or an extra coke from the waitresses in diners. Dean loved waitresses, no matter what age. They loved him back, usually.
But begging? Outright asking for money? That was hard. The words stuck in his throat, choking him, refusing to come out. Every time he spotted someone who looked like a target – ha, a target at Target – his mind screamed 'CPS! CPS! Police and CPS!' at him. He couldn't say a word. Once he managed to say "Excuse me" to a kind-looking old lady, but when she asked him what was wrong "Sweety?", he had stuttered and asked for the way to Oak-Lane. Which he knew already, since he'd come from there. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Not good for anything, not even begging! Stupid.
Good thing he was gone, he was a disgrace for a Winchester.
John grabbed Sammy as soon as the kid was dressed, shoving a dry bun and some milk in a plastic-cup at him and stuffed him in the car, before the boy could say anything. He cruised the neighbourhood, taking the way to the school in the very, very distant hope that Dean had gone there. He knew he wouldn't, didn't like school anyway. Always said that he wouldn't learn how to be a hunter in school. John sobbed suddenly, unexpectedly. Covered it so it sounded more like a kick-up. His boy was gone.
Sam was sitting silently, sipping his milk with wide eyes. He probably didn't know what was going on, but John was glad that for once, the constant chatter from the backseat was absent. Was glad and missed it, at the same time. Where was his boy? Where had he gone? Please, God, please, let him be ok. He would change, he would. He'd find a way to be a better father and teach his son to become the best-damn hunter in the world. He would be, his kid was already good at what he could do. He watched his brother, took care of him, all the time. Dean was smart, kind, caring and after everything, responsible. And if he did kid-stuff again… well, he would find a way to give him some of that. To be a child, at least sometimes.
Please, God, please. Don't take him away from me…
In the end – eight had passed – he had given in to desperation, given in to the fear of getting noticed and had stolen the money from that blind guy's hat, near the shopping-carts. He felt like shit, trudging back to Oak-Lane, and he swore to himself he would pay the man back, someday. But he needed the money, needed to be gone so his family could move on, be better off without him. He'd go to… Arkansas, or whatever. He had twenty bucks now, together with his own money, and that would get him somewhere. Again Dean thought about moving in with Bobby. He liked the cars. That was something he could do, something he didn't mess up. Even Dad said so. "Son," he would say "Son, you have a gift with cars. You'd be a heck of a mechanic." He sobbed a little at the memory. No, he couldn't go to Bobby. Bobby wouldn't understand why he needed to be away from his family, always gave Dad shit… uh.. talked back when he left them there for a while. Not because he didn't like them, the old man had said so. But he said that his Dad should do things differently. Bobby didn't understand. Couldn't, really. Wasn't Bobby's fault, but still, he couldn't go there. So, what's in Arkansas?
"Dad, did Dean run away?"
John sniffed a little and his heart ached. Should have figured that Sam understood what's going on.
"I think so, yeah. Did… do you know where he could have gone?" A little hope flared in his chest. If somebody knew, it was Sammy. But the boy shook his head. Bit his lip and his eyes welled up.
"Did he run because I ran away, yesterday? Because I fell over the dog?" And now there where tears dropping from his cheeks, big, fat, sad tears. And he couldn't do this now, couldn't take care of a crying child in the backseat, yet he couldn't spare the time to drop him off at kindergarten. He had to find Dean.
"No, I …"
"Was it be-be-because I m-m-m-made him cry?"
"No, Sam. No. Nothing you did. Not… not really. But you shouldn't run away like that. Anything could have happened. You could have gotten under a car. The dog could have bitten you."
"Rover was a nice dog!" Only a child could be this indignant about someone blaming a dog that nearly ate him. Only Sammy would take the dog's side… John sighed, concentrated on the road and strongly thought about calling the police. He never called the police. They were usually useless. But they had more resources, more eyes. Knew how to find a missing child. He swore, he'd look another half hour, one hour, no more, then he'd call them. Pride would only go so far.
"One ticket to Mayberry, please."
"No, just one-way. My grandma lives there, she'll drive me back next week." Lying had come easy for him. Lying was a game, and he was a master. Ever since Dad had taught him how, had told him the golden rule of K.I.S.S. Simple but believable.
Easy. Mayberry wasn't that far, but it'd looked like a good-sized city. It would be easier to find Mr and Mrs Smith, there. There were probably more Smiths in Mayberry than here, so the odds of one of them taking Dean in were better.
"Here you go, Sweetheart. Bus leaves at nine-twenty, in ten minutes, bay three. You got someone going with you?" Uh, what now? Was he supposed to have someone? He played for 'big boy' and indignantly shook his head.
"Ok, just tell the driver where you want to go, he'll remind you of your stop. You look like you'd fall asleep and might miss it, otherwise." Oh. That was a good hint. He nodded. Better not to miss Mayberry, his new home. He wondered if they had a playground there, too.
"Sam, … not now, ok? Please? It wasn't your fault. Okay? I'll need to find Dean right now. Need to concentrate." The boy pressed his lips together, looked out f the window and thought. You could tell when he was thinking, his forehead crinkled.
"Was it because you yelled at him?" That came out from left field, totally unprepared. He sobbed out loud and Sammy jumped on the seat, putting his arms around him and nearly choked him.
"Daddy, don't cry. Dean won't be mad at you. He's never mad at anyone." And his son was right, was so right. Dean never got mad at his family, even when he should. He freed himself from the little octopus in the back-seat.
"I know, Sam. But I'm a little worried here. He might… I just want to find him. Fast" he added. And Sam nodded his curly head, understanding in his face.
"He might get bitten by a bad dog, or get under a car." John shuddered at the idea, pressed the accelerator and vowed to go to the police when he didn't find Dean in the park, where Sam had nearly been slobbered to death by Rover.
Mayberry sucked ass. Now that he was on his own, he could say 'ass' as often as he wanted. Ass, ass, ass, ass, ASS! Fucking ass.
No 'Language, Dean!', no 'mind your tongue, boy'. He was his own man. Dean Smith, hell yeah.
But Mayberry still sucked. Gray, dull, boring. No trees, no park anywhere in sight. At least he had slept in the bus, and the old lady had given him cookies. He loved cookies, and these were awesome. She had given him two more when they'd reached Mayberry, and he had reverently put them in his pocket, to have something to eat for tonight. Because, well, the ticket had cost nineteen dollars, and he probably wouldn't find too much to eat for one buck. Shit. Fuck. Fuckety-fuck-fuck. Fuck. He hadn't really planned that well, had he? Dad would be… well. Yeah, not important anymore, right? Dad wasn't here. Dad was three hours away, probably getting dinner ready. Sammy would be back from kindergarten soon – or maybe he'd already be back, since he didn't need to wait for Dean's school to finish? Sammy would come in, chattering like a chatterbox and never stopping, only sometimes to get some air. He would sit down at the table and Dad would tell him to wash his hands first, like Dean usually did. Maybe Dad forgot? What if Dad forgot to collect Sam? He sometimes forgot a lot. Dean bit his thump.
Did he remember that it was 'show-and-tell' in Sammy's class? He had wanted to show one of those super-cool amulets, but Dean had told him to take something else. Dean swallowed. No, Dad would do everything right. He would remember that stuff. Dad was a hero, heroes don't forget show-and-tell. Right? He sniffed, hitched his bag higher on the shoulder and started walking, following the sign that said "Centre". Centre meant people, people meant money, and money meant food. His stomach growled. He'd keep the cookies as long as he could, maybe he'd find something warm to eat first. He should have taken some buns last night, but he hadn't wanted to take Dad's and Sam's breakfast. They were two, they needed it more. Dad was bigger and needed more food, and Sammy was still growing. Right. Centre it was. Life, here I come!
"I already told you: No, I didn't hit him! And even if I did, which I didn't, would it matter? Will you stop looking if you know I hit my son? Would he be worth less if he was abused?" John gritted is teeth, aware that every hour they spent at this stupid, stupid police-station, his son could be in danger, would be alone. They were looking, they'd assured him. Told him to calm down and have a cup of coffee. Bastards. They'd lured him in, with their kindness and with giving Sammy hot cocoa. He was madly, insanely proud that Sam refused the toys and was sitting on his father's lap, staring at the officer with murder in his eyes. He had already told them that Dean might get eaten by a dog, and why weren't they looking, as they were supposed to. He hadn't really believed them when they said they were.
"No. Of course not. But with an injury, he would be more likely to hide from people, be ashamed. Finding a kid that has been abused is a different matter than finding a kid that was just…upset."
"Oh no, you don't!" John growled. He had noticed the little slip. That stupid officer had no right to judge his boy. "You do not get to call my son 'spoiled'" he hissed.
"Sir, I never said that."
"No, but you wanted to. You don't know the first thing about Dean. He is a great kid. Responsible. He… he takes care of his family, more than he should, more than is good for him." This stupid ass in front of him. Now he had to swallow the tears, and there was no way the man didn't notice.
"So why did he run away? If he was so responsible?"
"I already told you" John yelled. "I yelled at him, I was mad. It wasn't his fault, but I lost my temper, and I yelled at him an…"
"It was because of Rover" Sammy said, loud and clear. At once, all the attention was on the little boy and John used the time to get himself back under control.
"who is Rover?"
"Rover's a dog. I fell, and Rover licked me, and Dad got mad because I ran away and Dean was sad because I ran and because Dad yelled. So, now you know. Now go and find my brother." Sam stated that last sentence with so much fire and command that John had to chuckle, even though he shouldn't.
"You're right, son." He stood, putting his boy down. "I answered all your questions. I didn't even punch you. You find my boy now, because no matter what happened and why he ran, he is still only eleven, and he is still a kid, and the world outside is no good place for an eleven-year old with huge eyes and a face like an angel. You'll excuse me for going out and looking myself, because this little sit-in here? Didn't really infuse me with confidence in your abilities."
He left, and his heart was heavier than before, because it seemed no-one was interested in his family, in finding his boy. Nobody deserved this, but Dean deserved it less than anyone else.
Great. Bananas. He hated bananas. But Ms Walters from biology said bananas where good for you, healthy. Dean scrunched up his nose. Healthy sucked. Maybe as much as Mayberry Centre.
He had stolen one of the bags that the mother of the squealing baby had placed on the ground so she could put her kid into the car. It had stood there, just outside the open trunk, and he had seized the opportunity, grabbed the bag and slowly walked away. See, slowly, his Dad had said, slowly no-one realizes you just did something forbidden. Only run when you are spotted, and always behave like you have a right to be where you are, do what you do.
So now he had a bag full of bananas, frozen peas, toilet-paper, baby-powder and some smelly cream for wrinkles. Awesome. At least he could wipe his ass.
Well, a banana was better than no banana, he supposed. With barely hidden disgust, he ate one of the yellow fruit, dropping the peel in the trash-can. Ok, next step: find shelter. He could do that, until Mrs Smith found him. Or Mr Smith. No problem. The park was south, he had found out. Park was good, there would be trees, and he could sleep in a tree. Or, even better, if there was a playground he could sleep in one of those play-houses, the wooden ones they always have. That would be cool.
Dean left the baby-powder and the cream on the bench where he'd eaten his banana, maybe someone would need it. Only the fruit and the toilet-paper went with him, stuffed in his duffel. And the pas. One never knew.
He had called Bobby, Jim and Caleb. Those were the only hunters he trusted enough to watch his kids, the only ones who ever met them. But they hadn't heard from Dean. He had somehow hoped his boy would seek them out, would somehow find them and go there, where it was safe. He had gotten offers to come, help him looking, and he had said yes, if he didn't find him until tonight, he would call them. Oh God, he didn't want to call them. He wanted to find Dean, well and healthy. He wasn't sure if he would tan his hide or hug him to death, but he would find his boy and never let him go again. Never ever.
Sam had been so silent since they'd left the police, deeply disappointed that they wouldn't help them find his brother. John knew they probably did their best, but it was hard to believe that, after that little interrogation.
"Dad, do you think he would take a draft?"
"A draft?" What the…?
"Yeah. You know, like in that story, about the boy? Where the father hit him?" John sighed.
"What story, Sam? What boy?"
"Oh, you mean a raft. No, I don't think that he would take a raft, Sammy. There is no river here, remember?" He chuckled a little. Only Sam… But wait…
"Maybe not a raft…" he muttered.
Ten minutes later he stood in front of Clarice, holding the picture of his little left-over family in front of her.
"I'm not sure… the baseball-cap hides his face a little."
"Clarice, please. Did you sell a ticket to a boy, eleven, about this high" he indicated with his hand, because in his experience women were awful with judging heights "with dark-blond hair? Being alone?" Come on, Clarice. It's not rocket-science
"No, sorry. But, maybe Sarah did. I remember there was a boy this morning in her row. Could have been him."
John, Sam at his hand, clutched so tight the little boy couldn't slip out of his grip, ran over to the next booth, pushing in front of the indignant grandpa with thick glasses. He couldn't remember much apart from "Mayberry, nine-twenty, sweet child." Didn't matter, anyway. Mayberry. He could totally go to Mayberry. It wasn't that far. And how big could a city be, with a name like 'Mayberry'?
Pretty big, it turned out. When he passed the "Welcome"-sign, his heart had dropped into his knees. Mayberry was huge. A boy, lost in there, all alone… Oh God, Dean…
They hadn't made the time he'd liked to. He had to change Sam's pants, about halfway. His boy hadn't said a word since leaving the bus-station, but about two hours later, he'd started to fidget. John had wanted to tell him to quit, but he'd suddenly seen the silent tears in the rear-view-mirror, and then the smell had registered. His boy had peed his pants. Sobbing, Sam had told him he hadn't wanted to stop, didn't want Dean to die just because he needed to pee. At least that's what John had made of the garbled, sobbed-out words. Poor boy.
Still, it had taken ten minutes to get him cleaned up, find an old pair of jeans in the trunk and wipe the seat. He felt a little evil, cleaning the car. But it had taken only a second and the smell… well, it had been pretty sharp. He'd given Sam a Twinkie and now they were in Mayberry, and it was already three o'clock. School was mostly out, and the streets were full of little boys with jeans and jackets, full of eleven-year-olds that looked just like Dean.
Sammy called every ten seconds, it seemed, but he didn't dare tell him to stop, because it could be Dean. But it never was.
An hour ago, it had started to rain. Real rain, not some lame drizzle. Now he had to worry not only about supernatural and natural evil, about fast cars, big dogs and food-poisoning - it's possible! – no, he had to worry about soaked clothes and pneumonia. He should have gone to the police, called at least. But his last experience had him still rattled. People were calling him a shitty father since forever, it seemed, but implying he hurt them, on purpose? Physically?
Where was his son dammit. He wanted his son back. Needed him back.
In his anger, he punched the dashboard, jerking Sammy awake who'd fallen asleep exhaustedly. Huge eyes sought his in the mirror.
"It's ok. We'll find him. We will .I promise, Sam." Sam only nodded, still rattled, not entirely sure he could believe his father. John wasn't sure either.
Where would a kid go, in this dump of a city?
The trees had either been too small or hadn't had enough branches. But the playground, not in the park but nearby, had a play-house with a roof, even three walls.
That's where he huddled after the rain had caught him in the open, that's where he was still huddling, shivering. He eyed the bananas blearily, didn't want to eat one more. That chalky feeling they leave on his tongue was gross. He liked banana-shakes, though, imagined one in his hand but it's too cold outside to enjoy the fantasy. He already put two shirts and one more sweater over his first sweater, changed his jeans. But he'd needed to pee so badly that he had gone outside, had changed back to the cold, damp jeans from before and taken two layers of shirt and sweater off, so they wouldn't soak. But the ones left had soaked. As had his jacket. His hands were ice-cold and he couldn't really feel them anymore, he'd started shivering some time ago.
Dean's lonely, so terribly, terribly lonely. He wanted his family so badly it hurt in his guts, wanted his little brother to chatter stupid stuff about his teacher and Elly Baker, who was gross and wanted to give him cooties. He wanted his Dad. And most of all, he wanted his Mommy, wanted her to come back. He'd be better, a good boy. Would do everything right, everything, if only his Mom would come back. And if his Mom couldn't come… he got that, he wasn't dumb! … well, maybe his Dad could come and hug him, like he used to. Like he did with Sammy. Hell, he would even take Dad yelling some more, but maybe Sam could hug him? The little monkey loved to hug. Surely, Sammy would give him a hug? Even though he messed… fucked up? Even though he nearly got him eaten, got him killed a second time?
Ah, who was he kidding. They wouldn't take him back anyway. Not only was he a fuck-up, but he was also a coward. Ran away, like some whiny girl. Cried even. Angrily, he wiped away the traitorous tears falling, in big drops, on his duffel he kept hugging, substitute for a blanket, substitute for a little brother. Who would be better off without him anyway. A shiver wrecked through his body, tore another sob out of him. Pathetic looser. Whiny girl. Stupid, stupid Dean. Fuck-up.
"Mommy, please…" he whispered, alone on a deserted playground, hidden in a wooden playhouse where rain kept leaking through the ceiling and came through the openings at the sides. Wind blew through the open side, where the slide was attached and cold crept through the wide margins of the wooden planks.
"Please, Mommy. I'll be better… please…"
The park had been the last option. It was getting dark, not only because of the rain but because it was getting late. He swore bloody murder that he hadn't gone to the police, nearly woke Sam up again. When it was dark, no-one could find a single, tiny boy in stupid bumfuck Mayberry. So, the park it was. He'd had to wake Sammy, couldn't leave him in the car. No way could he do that, lose another kid.
Now the little limpet was clinging to his back, tired but alert, a huge raincoat over him. The rustle was distracting, made John hear things that were nothing but tiny movements from Sam.
"Dean" he yelled, because how else could he find his son in a park? "Dean!"
"Dean" Sam joined in.
Yelling, they wandered the whole park, twice, once from south to north, once from west to east. No answer, no Dean. John wouldn't lose his boy, he wouldn't. He'd search the whole city, sell his car to find him. Hell, he'd kill his grandma, if he still had one.
"Dad" Sam whispered. "The playground" Incredulously, he lets his youngest slip from his back to look at him better.
"You want to play now?
"No, Dad. But… I thought there was a … maybe it was a squirrel." The little boy looked so crestfallen that John's heart melted. He looked across the street, at the playground. Swings, a slide, some see-saws. And… maybe there was some movement, up in the slide-house?
"Come on. We'll check" and he hefted Sam back on his back.
Cold, so cold. He was shivering now in earnest, sniffing his snot back into his nose because the toilet-paper was useless as a tissue, too soft and damp and soggy from the rain. He was just glad that he hadn't needed to use it for his ass, yet. He would have soiled his hand. But then again, there was enough rain to clean it up again…
Dean was cold, cold, cold. He wasn't sure he was awake, but his chattering teeth made strange sounds, not only the frantic clickclickclick, but suddenly it sounded like someone was calling him. Calling his name. But no, who would be looking for him? Mr and Mrs Smith didn't yet know he was alive and available, and it had been a stupid idea anyway.
Who would want a soggy fuck-up like him. He grabbed his bag closer, suddenly remembering to seek the salt in his other pants. Nononono, he couldn't even make a salt-line with it anymore, it was just a clumpy, sodden mess. Like himself.
And his cookies had crumbled.
He sobbed, curled in on himself. He was so useless, if a ghost got him, it would be a relief. Poor ghost would probably think he had something of worth in napping him, until it realized that he was just a stupid, stupid, dumb and useless fuck-up. Maybe it wouldn't even bother to kill him.
He sobbed some more, imagined to hear Sammy's voice in the rain.
Somebody was crying. Painful, choking sobs full of misery and pain and loneliness, like John barely remembered from his childhood but very much remembered from every November 2nd. It was heart wrenching to hear, and it was soul-crushing to know – to hope - it was his son who was sobbing and crying silently for his Mom.
He recalled that there was something that lured victims to them, sounding like a crying child, and he cursed his knowledge to high heaven in this situation, not daring to run even though every instinct screamed at him that it was Dean. He wasn't only scared of a supernatural evil, though. He was scared that somehow, by some twisted fate, it would be another lost kid, somebody else's. Not his. It would crush him.
Sammy had no such reservations. With a yell of "Dean!" he jumped from his father's back – how did he do that, John had had his wrists in his hands! - and ran to the slide, crawling up the ladder without hesitation.
"Sam… wait." But it was no real heat behind it, too much hope of finding his boy alive. Cold, miserable but alive.
Something attacked him. Of course it would. Not a ghost, too warm, but maybe a werewolf. It grabbed him and Dean couldn't do much, yelled a little, tried to get it off of him but it clung on, digging into his clothes and not letting go. It would kill him, and why the Hell did he leave the knife in his duffel? Fuck-up.
Just good it will be over now. He relaxed, exposed his throat, hoping the pain wouldn't be too bad. It took him a second to realize that the werewolf was pretty small, didn't bite him and smelled familiar. Very familiar. Dean looked up.
The werewolf – Sam! – clung on and sobbed into his wet clothes, and suddenly he was grabbed at his legs and he screamed, kicking and yelling at whatever had him, wanted to steal his brother, wanted to hurt Sam.
"Go away, leave him alone! No!" He screamed and a viscous kick connected with something, tore a loud growl of pain from the monster. But it didn't let go and yanked him outside, grabbed him and held him and Sam was still clutched to his side and wouldn't let go, but the thing would be occupied with Dean and Sammy could run, run away, be safe if he would only let go.
He was held so tight, so tight and the thing was growling at him an Dean knew he would die, would die tonight and he couldn't save Sam, couldn't keep him save, even here, far away he couldn't save his brother and he gave up. Just like that, he went limp, wanted it to be over. To…
Was the werewolf rocking him?
And suddenly, since his frantic struggle had seized, the sounds, the growls registered as speach, as a voice, as words.
"Shh, Dean, shhhhh, it's alright, I've got you, keep quiet, stop screaming, son, please, please, I've got you, I won't let go, please, please, Dean stop crying, please, you're safe, I've got you, Dean, I've got you..."
John had stopped caring if anyone saw him cry, had given up pretence the minute Sam had squealed in delight after climbing into the little house. Had grabbed his eldest, wanting, needing him close right there, right then. So he'd grabbed the slight boy and yanked him out, not gently but desperately after the kick to his nose, holding him so tight and rocking him and the attached Sam in the cold, wet sand of a boring, Mayberry playground. He sobbed, Dean sobbed, Sammy sobbed and the rain plattered on Sam's raincoat and on his jacket and soaked into his son's hair and it was uncomfortable and wet and John had never felt happier ever before.
It felt like hours had passed when Sam finally let go, climbing back in the house to investigate and get his brother's duffel. John kept kneeling on the ground, Dean clutched in his strong arms, his nose buried in the boy's wet hair and listening with an aching heart to his miserably child.
"Sorry, sorry, I'm so sorry, please, I'll be better, please, take me back, please I hate bananas. Please Dad, I'm sorry, s-s-s-ss-sorry, Dad. Don't leave me here, I don't want to be a Smith, please, let me be a Winchester again, please." He sobbed without breathing and when he finally needed air, John hugged him even tighter.
"Dean, son, you'll always be a Winchester, no matter what you do. A great, great Winchester, one of the best. Shhh, boy, shh…" his boy, his beautiful, great, awesome boy looked up at him, looked him in the eyes and with timid hope he asked "Can I come back with you? Please?" and it broke John's heart all over again.
"Yes", he sniffed "Yes, Dean, of course you can. It's all right, boy. You listen to me, now, boy, listen good." And his kid sniffed, wiped his arm over his nose and red-eyed he soaked up every word of him, like he always did.
"You can always come back, ok? I won't ever let one of you not come back, you hear me? No matter what you do. You are my boys, my sons. I love you, both of you, and I'll always, always take you back. There is no expiration-date on being a Winchester."
And Dean nodded his earnest nod, sniffed some more and new tears welled up.
"My cookies crumbled"
And it was so ridiculous a statement, given with so much sorrow that John couldn't help but laugh, laughed and held his boy tight and rocked him some more.
"We'll buy you a new one."
Sammy crawled back out of the house, munching a banana and smiling wide, since in his little world, everything was alright now.
On the way back, both his sons had fallen asleep the second the car came to life. Dean lay on the passenger-seat, a rare treat that he had forsaken him for not watching Sammy. But he hadn't been able to bear the thought of losing the touch between them right then, and so he had packed him on the bench-seat beside him and put his head on his thigh the minutes Dean had fallen asleep.
Back at their motel, he had wanted to carry his kids inside, a second unsure which one to take first. But Dean had woken up, staggered into the room by himself and so he had carried Sam, put him to bed right away. When he came back out, Dean still stood where he had left him, desolation on his face, shame and fear and deep, deep misery. He looked at the couch and John took two steps, grabbed him again.
"Don't ever, ever do that again, Dean. Don't run away like that. Don't run away at all. I'm lost without you, and if you ever, ever do that again, I will kick your ass so hard you can't walk straight for a week. Got that?" And Dean, a little stiff in his arms, nodded.
"Come to bed, now. We'll talk about it tomorrow." Without further fuss, he grabbed him up and carried him into the boy's room, putting him in bed and rubbing his cold fingers until he drifted off.
That had been Thursday.
And today he watches his sick, feverish child sleeping, listens to Sammy watching cartoons and happily humming along with the theme. He has no idea how to fix him. How to make him better, because he fears there is no complete fix.
He'll take him out to Bobby's, for a while. Both of them. Sam can play with the dog and Dean will help him with a car, just he and his son. He'll try to be nicer, or maybe not as gruff as before. Dean'll understand him, always does. Yeah, that is a good plan. And maybe, if he can find one, he can take Dean on a small, relatively harmless hunt, teach him more hands-on? He is still so young, but he can shoot like a pro and it'll be good for his confidence, doing something with his Dad, doing something right.
And... he'll find a baby-sitter. Can't possibly leave Dean alone so long anymore. Anything could happen.
Now he just needs to convince Dean that it is not a degrade, that he isn't taking Sam away from him.
He sighs. That'll be fun.
a/n: So, that's all, folks. If you enjoyed the read, I would be thrilled to know. If you found grave mistakes, let me know too, so I can correct them. Anyone from Mayberry? Let me know about your home-town.
Happy Easter, by the way...