Disclaimer: Supernatural is not mine.
The Impala had barely pulled up to the curb when Sammy and Dean, unable to contain themselves any longer, let the car door fling open with reckless abandon, falling over each other to get out the door first, littering the ground with the remnants of their drive-thru lunch in the process. Dean picked his little brother up under the armpits and lowered him to the pavement. He slammed the rear door shut behind him. The bang reverberated in John's ears and set his teeth on edge.
"Wait up, Sammy!" Dean cried, chasing after the toddler, who was already tottering off as quick as his little legs could carry him.
All of this happened before John had even turned off the car. He opened his door and yelled, "Boys—wait!"He knew his sons were eager to get out and stretch their legs and work off some of their pent-up energy—a result of sitting in the car all day and being hopped up on sugar. (John had consented to buying them each a bag of peanut M&M's when Dean had pleaded with him at the last gas stop.) But that was no excuse for them taking off like that, especially after all the lectures he'd given them about staying in his sight at all times when they were out in public.
Dean caught up with Sammy, stooping slightly to hold his little brother's sticky, colorful hand as the two of them trotted across the walkway lined with cedar bark and juniper bushes.
Dean and Sammy heard their father's calls and reluctantly slowed to a stop. "We've got to wait for dad, Sammy," Dean told his little brother, who was tugging on his hand, trying to drag him forward. "No, Sammy—we have to wait!" Sammy stuck his lip out in a pout, instead dancing impatiently on the spot.
John checked the side of the Oldsmobile next to them, making sure the boys hadn't dinged it when they got out. The other car was a bit dented and scratched, but there was no proof it had been his boy's doing. He examined the back passenger door of his beloved Impala, and found the paint job was blessedly unblemished. Out of the corner of his eye, John saw something blow by near his feet, and, sighing, he stooped down to collect the greasy yellow burger wrappers and wax paper cups that the boys had littered the ground with. He opened the back door, scooped up all of accumulated garbage the boys had created that day, locked all the doors, and threw the trash in the garbage can as he walked by. John liked to keep his Impala pristine—which wasn't exactly the easiest feat with two small children who ate almost every meal in the back seat.
John strode up to his sons, adjusting the strap of the bag slung over his shoulder. The boys were literally wriggling with anticipation, so he decided to give them a condensed recital of The Rules.
"Okay, boys. You know the drill," he said, speaking sternly to his seven and almost-three-year-old, as they stood at attention. "No fighting with each other or the other kids. No talking to strangers. If another adult approaches you, you yell for me. Got it?" both boys nodded, and John continued, "You'll use all the equipment as intended—no stupid stunts. At all times, you will stay where I can see you. And most importantly, Dean—"
"Look out for Sammy," Dean finished.
John reached down and ruffled Dean's hair, "That's my boy," he nodded toward the playground. "I'll be sitting right over on that bench. Now go have some fun."
Sammy and Dean didn't need telling twice. They ran and joined the other children playing on the wood chips. John strode over to the bench, sitting down and stretching his long legs out. The rays of spring sunlight were hitting the back of his neck, a welcome and pleasant sensation over the remnants of winter chill that still hung in the air. He surveyed the area, taking note of all the people in the vicinity. In his line of work, he'd learned that you could never be too cautious or too aware of your surroundings, and there was no such thing as being paranoid; it was stupid to assume that anywhere was entirely safe, which was a part of why they moved around so much. No one at the park raised any immediate red flags to the ex-Marine—a lot kids, a lot of moms, a few dogs, all of them going about their own business. But he knew that any one of these seemingly unassuming people could be something much more sinister in disguise. He'd just have to keep his eyes peeled and his instincts sharp.
Temporarily satisfied with his surveillance of their surroundings, John instead watched his sons play, running around with the other kids. To anyone else, they'd look like normal kids who could have lived in a house with a white picket fence, had a pet dog, dinner at six o'clock on the dot every night at a table with place mats, a home cooked meal spread out, and both parents present and accounted for. They'd never know that Sammy's mother had burned on the ceiling above his head in his nursery, or that Dean could already field-strip a Browning and knew (true) ghost stories that would have every kid at a summer camp calling their parents to go home before the S'mores were even done. It was a nice illusion that the boys could be like all the other carefree kids, if only temporarily. They were between hunts and between cities, and for today at least, the Winchesters were just a normal family at the park—minus the picnic basket.
Sitting on the cold hard metal bench, John felt a restlessness in his legs that told him that, like the boys, he could use a break from sitting. John got to his feet, swinging his shoulder bag so it was resting against his back and made his way over to where Dean was helping Sammy into the little kid swing.
"Hey, dad," Dean greeted, spotting his father. Sammy beamed at him, impatiently wriggling about to create his own momentum to get the swing moving. Dean realized only one of Sammy's feet were dangling through the leg holes.
"I've got him," said John, lifting Sammy up and straightening out the leg that had been curled up underneath the toddler. He eased the boy back into the guarded seat and stood back.
"Push me, Dean!" Sammy squealed excitedly. Dean was just closing his hands around the chains when John said, "Take the next swing, Dean. I'll push you both."
"Really?" Dean said, his eyes brightening.
"Yeah, kiddo," said John, feeling a guilty pang that this simple gesture clearly came as a surprise to Dean—he really needed to play with them more. "Hop on."
Dean obeyed, sitting himself on the flat swing next to Sammy and gripping the chains.
"Ready?" John asked, hands poised on either of his sons backs.
"Yeah, dad!" Dean responded eagerly, as Sammy let out a loud, "Yeeeees!"
John pushed on both his son's backs (slightly harder on Dean than Sammy) and stepped back. The boys both swung forward and back, and he pushed them again, with slightly more force. Sammy was already giggling with delight, but Dean seemed to be reserving his jubilation for when he had a bit more air.
"Pump your legs, Dean," John instructed as he gave his boys another push, "It'll get you going higher faster."
Dean obeyed, bending and straightening his knees with each push. Sammy was giggling manically, looking up at the sky, his childish mind imagining that each push was bringing him closer to the clouds. Dean closed his eyes, enjoying the monster tickle he got at the height of each swing as he dropped backwards again.
John laughed along with his kids, completely lost in the moment; it was just him, his boys, and this swing set. Everything else—the other kids and parents around him, faded away. He temporarily forgot his quest for revenge—that burning rage and crippling grief he constantly felt; he forgot he was a hunter and that they still had another 300 miles before they reached their destination. He was just an ordinary dad, playing with his kids.
"Higher, daddy!" Sammy enthused.
John wasn't sure he could swing Sammy much higher without the boy being tilted out of his chair, and Dean seemed to have a goal of swinging over the top of the bar.
"I think you're both as high as you can go without going into orbit," John laughed, standing back and watching now that he'd powered their swinging enough to keep going independently.
"Daddy?" Sammy panicked, looking over his shoulder when he realized he no longer felt his dad's hand on his back with each turn.
"I'm right here, Sammy," said John, giving Sammy another push. Sammy looked reassured, kicking his feet in delight. Dean had it worked out now, self-powering his own swinging.
John stood there for some time, pushing Sammy and watching Dean. Dean finally stopped pumping his legs, letting the swing slow. "I'm done. My legs are getting tired," he announced, trying to get off the swing while it was still in motion. John reached out and grabbed the chains to steady the swing as Dean climbed off.
"Me, too!" Sammy exclaimed, always following his big brother's lead. "I'm done, too!"
"Okay, kiddo," said John, lifting Sammy out of the swing and setting him on his hip. "What now, boys?"
Dean surveyed the playground, scoping out their options. "The slide!"
"Yeah—the slide!" Sammy chanted. John smirked, knowing Sammy would have just as enthusiastically supported any number of options Dean came up with; Sammy idolized his older brother, and always wanted to do exactly what he was doing.
"Alright. You boys do that. I'll be right over here," He set Sammy back on the ground, and John stood with his hands in his pockets as he watched the retreating backs of his sons. He went back and sat on the same bench as before and dug around in his bag, looking for something to read. He settled on a local newspaper, deciding it was a much more appropriate read in public than a book on monsters or the occult.
John opened up the paper, spreading it out on his lap, but he could never read more than a couple of sentences before he'd find his eyes drifting off the page to watch his sons; he was afraid of taking his eyes off them for even a second. He knew he could be overprotective of the boys, but how could he not be, knowing what he knew?
Dean went down the slide, his arms wrapped around Sammy, who was sitting on his lap. He saw them slow at the bottom of the aluminum slide, heard Sammy's yelp of, "Again!" and watched as Dean patiently helped Sammy climb the steps up to the slide to do it all over again.
That kid's amazing, John found himself thinking, proudly. Sammy could not have asked for a better older brother. How many kids, first chance they got, would ditch their younger siblings to play with kids their own age? Not Dean. He was oblivious to everyone else around him; the only kid there who mattered, who even existed-was Sammy.
John watched as Sammy insisted on Dean taking him down the slide at least half a dozen more times, and Dean never looked weary in his consent. Whether or not he was getting tired of the slide, it was impossible to tell; he looked every bit as happy as Sammy as they slid down the silver chute time after time. John admired his young son's patience, wishing it was possible for him to siphon a bit of it from him.
Next the young Winchester boys were onto the shorter of the two sets of monkey bars. Sammy was at least two years of upper body strength and a considerable growth spurt away from being able to do them on his own, but there was no need—Dean lifted the boy up on his shoulders, allowing Sammy to hold onto each ring as they passed underneath. "You did it, Sammy!" John distantly heard Dean exclaim when they reached the end. Sammy pumped his arms above his head and cheered along with Dean. John felt his heart seize at the sight; he may have been a flawed, broken shell of a man, but he loved his boys with everything he had in him.
Dean lowered a wriggling Sammy to the ground. Once his sneakers made contact with the wood chips, Sammy tapped Dean's arm and ran away, giggling over his shoulder. Realizing the toddler had just instigated a game of one-on-one tag, Dean took off after him. John watched Sammy give Dean the run-around, dodging around the other kids and weaving through playground equipment. Dean could have easily caught up with Sammy, but was letting the little boy think he was faster.
Sammy's flight led him in John's vicinity. The boy caught sight of him, and, breathless and red-faced, he raced up to John, small hands splaying across John's kneecaps. "Hi, daddy!" he gasped.
"Hey, Sammy," said John, smiling warmly. "Dean hasn't caught you yet?"
Sammy shook his head vigorously, looking pleased with himself. "I'm too fast," he boasted. He glanced over his shoulder, gave a start, and scrambled up on the bench beside John when he saw Dean stealthily approaching. "Quick—hide me!" he scrambled onto John's lap, curled up as small as he could, and tugged either side of John's leather jacket closed over himself.
Already catching on and making a new game, Dean stopped in front of John, blatantly ignoring the Sammy-sized bulge in the front of his leather jacket, and the tennis shoes that were clearly visible beneath the hem. "Dad, have you seen Sammy?"
"No. I thought he was with you," said John, straight-faced as Dean and playing along despite the trembling giggles coming from his jacket. "Don't tell me you lost him."
"I don't see him anywhere, dad. It's like he just disappeared," said Dean. He couldn't help but think how differently his dad would react if he'd been telling him this and really didn't know where Sammy was; his father definitely wouldn't see the humor in THAT situation.
"Is that so?" John said slowly. "He's got to be around here somewhere..."
"I dunno, dad. I think he's gone. Maybe we should call 9-1-1," Dean said, putting a note of panic in his voice for good measure.
The threat of the police turning up over his little joke was enough for Sammy to reveal himself. "I'm here, Dean!" he exclaimed, throwing open the folds of John's jacket.
"Wow, Sammy," Dean gripped his heart, staggered backwards and did a good job of looking shocked, "You mean you were hiding in dad's jacket this whole time?"
Tongue poking out between his teeth, Sammy nodded, clearly proud of his Houdini act. "Uh-huh!"
"You still want to play, Sammy?" John asked, bouncing the boy on his knee.
"Yeah," Sammy said. He swallowed hard. "But I'm thirsty first."
"'Thirsty first'," John repeated in a low chuckle as he reached into his bag. That was the sort of thing Mary would written down in her journal when she was alive. She loved keeping a record of all the cute or funny things the boys said or did, so she'd never forget them. He retrieved a juice box from his bag, poked the plastic straw through the top and handed it to Sammy, offering another one to Dean. Both boys sucked the apple juice down in record time, juice-fanatics that they were.
"Thanks, daddy," said Sammy, thrusting the empty carton back at John and taking Dean's as well. Sammy hopped down from John's lap and took off with Dean again.
John looked around and spotted a garbage can about ten feet away. Judging his sights, he aimed and tossed both cartons, one at a time, for the center of the can. The first one went straight for the center, the second bounced off the rim and fell in. John found himself wondering if he'd ever told the boys he'd played varsity basketball in high school...
John glanced down at his watch. It was half past twelve. He looked up at the boys, now playing on the roundabout. He figured Sammy would be running out of steam soon; the boy usually took a nap around this time. Not to mention they really needed to be getting back on the road if they were going to reach Jim's by dinner time.
Sammy tumbled off the roundabout, looking dazed. He took a few steps forward, veering this way and that. Dean ran forward and gripped Sammy's shoulders to steady him as the dizziness wore off.
Once Sammy's world had righted itself, he took off, running towards John again, with Dean trailing closely behind. Sammy stopped in front of the bench, putting his arms in the air. John lifted him up, and Sammy rested his head on John's shoulder, his arms locking around his neck. John's arms closed around the boy, returning the hug. He gave Sammy a squeeze, realizing that the duration of this Sammy-hug was longer than usual. He turned his head to the side to look down at his youngest son.
"He's asleep," John mouthed to Dean.
"What?" Dean sat on the bench beside John. "But he was just—"
"I know," John chuckled softly, rubbing the sleeping boy's back. "You must have really tired him out, kiddo. You can go back and play for a few more minutes if you want—do some of the big kid stuff."
"Nah," said Dean, shaking his head. "It's no fun without Sammy."
John gazed fondly down at Dean—his son, his confidant, his business-parter in-training; he honestly didn't know what he'd do without that kid. "You're right, Dean—party's over when Sammy checks out. Let's get going."
John stood up, holding Sammy against his chest with one arm, his other hand on Dean's back. The three Winchesters returned to the Impala, leaving behind the perfectly normal spring day in the park. Back to life, back to reality. Back to killing evil sons of bitches.
I hope you enjoyed this fic! If you liked it, please review! They really inspire me to write more :)