Title: Never Alone

Rating: PG for character blood and mentions of violence

Category: Gen vignette loaded with angst

Author's Notes: A big thank you to my beta who read this one over multiple times and helped me to edit out all the little glitches to make this one oh-so-pretty.

Disclaimer: The following characters and situations are used without permission of the creators, owners, and further affiliates of the Warner Bros television show, Supernatural, to whom they rightly belong. I claim only what is mine, and I make no money off what is theirs.

I. He talks to her on the night that moved his world.

She nurses Sam next to his crib, singing lullabies while he clings to her chest, and afterwards, she changes into her lacey nightgown, so drained that she prepares for bed before her husband. He washes his face in the bathroom, listening to her hum quietly while she changes clothes. When Mary returns to their room after taking her dirty clothes downstairs to the hamper, breasts tender but no longer aching, he helps her into their shared bed and tucks the covers around her. She smiles in gratitude, her face framed by smooth sunshine curls. "You're too good to me," she says.

He kisses her on her forehead, smelling both her floral perfume and the scent of Sam's baby innocence. "Oh no, honey," he whispers, "you're too good for the both of us." He pulls away to gaze down at her and smiles, stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers. "I don't know what I'd do without you." She smiles back at him, her face glowing underneath the soft illumination of the bedside lamp. "I love you," he tells her.

She leans up and before she kisses him on the corner of his mouth, she whispers in his ear, "I'll always be yours."

- - - - -

II. He talks to her after her funeral

He puts the boys in the car, both sleeping after such a long day with so many unfamiliar people clustering around them and offering sympathy to two boys who don't even understand that their mother is gone forever. Sam had only cried once during the funeral when Mary's parents had started sobbing in the seats next to them. Dean had been silent, gazing at his mother's glistening closed casket with large, bloodshot eyes and a runny nose that he kept wiping with one of John's old handkerchiefs. But, many hours and hundreds of mourners later, the boys are tired and John is alone.

Slowly, hands shoved deep into pockets that she repaired the holes in less than a month ago, he walks to the fresh pile of earth and crouches next to it. Her grave mocks him in its ability to now cradle his wife when he cannot, and the clouds are growing thick in the November twilight, heavy with rain and grief. Still shaking, he runs his hands over his face, prickled and worn. "I'll take care of them, baby," he tells her. "You know I'll never let anything happen to them. I just—" His voice cracks, the baritone timbre which he has kept strong and even for everyone all day, and he inhales twice in sharp, hot breaths. When he speaks again, his voice is pinched and frail, weak with the onset of tears. "I just wish you could be here." It isn't until he starts the ignition on the car that he realizes he's covered in mud from lying on her grave.

- - - - -

III. He talks to her when he kills his first demon.

He's smeared with blood, mostly his own but not all, and he sits on the tailgate of his truck to watch a sunrise that he didn't know if he'd see again. The boys are at home with a baby-sitter, and he called them every night before he went out to hunt, just in case he didn't come back. There's a six pack of beer growing perspiration droplets on their necks beside him that he bought himself in congratulations for surviving such an endeavor, only he wishes there were someone else with him for a proper toast. But now that he knows that he can stop these monsters from killing innocents like his wife, he refuses to stop. He has been bitten by an addiction greater than his own will to live. The only thoughts that keep him rising from bed one morning to the next are those that tell him that with every hunt, he is one step closer to finding his wife's killer.

The sun crests over the sloping hills, and he cracks the metallic lid off his first glass bottle and drinks slowly, savoring in the bittersweet flavor. He takes a long swig, feeling how the cold fluid hits the inside of his stomach and bounces with a slippery punch. "Morning, darlin'," he says to the sky. His words are endless, speaking mostly about their sons and how they still ask about her, and he tucks his head against his chest to stifle his tears for a moment or two. When a morning dove begins its soft coo from the trees above, he bites his lip and jumps off the tailgate to start the truck for his journey home.

The boys are waiting for him.

- - - - -

IV. He talks to her the first time their sons are injured on a hunt.

He berates himself all night, pacing their small living room and muttering curses in sharp hisses under his breath until Dean, arm in a sling and gauze in his nose, climbs down the stairs to see if there's something wrong. Instead of answering his son's question, he smiles and pats his oldest son on the head with words to go check on Sammy because he's going to go outside for a walk. Dean asks him if he wants company, but he shakes his head. He needs to be alone right now.

"I didn't know!" he shouts to the sky. "I wouldn't have let them come if I had known!" His sentences rise and fall in frantic crescendos that skitter through the night air, words of apologies for hurting their sons and explanations that if they have his knowledge, then they will never fall prey to the same pain consuming his life. He sags against the side of the barn, aching muscles giving way under bruised flesh, and he looks back to the cloud-smeared sky. His apologies become a ramble, a confession to the night, and from a distance, an owl calls in mournful forgiveness for him.

- - - - -

V. He talks to her when Sam leaves for California.

He doesn't mean to tell Sam to leave the house, careless things said in anger and fear rise to cruel actions before the words can be retracted. Sam packs frantically, stopping only to yell down the stairs his accusations at his father. From the couch, Dean casts careful, sneaking glances from his father to his brother as if he wishes both would end the petty fighting and return to reality. Instead, Sam slams the door of the house violently, and a framed picture smashes to the floor in a puddle of broken glass. Dean snaps his magazine shut, controlling his own curses, and walks outside in heavily clipped strides to leave his father alone.

At the kitchen table, where Sam's college acceptance letters are discarded, he sits in one of the chairs and fingers the embossed pages addressed to his youngest son. "He's not ready for the world out there," he says, thinking back to when Sam took his first steps without help from his father. He knows that Sam's never really needed his assistance, has always been a powerfully independent person, capable of controlling his own life. Yet he feels as if there is so much that Sam still needs to know before he is ready to live on his own. There are too many dangers in the world, and he will not have another member of his family be taken away from him by the hand of evil.

Pondering over the numbers that tell him that his son has ranked higher than ninety percent of his peers on his test results, an orange butterfly comes to rest on the rim of his coffee cup. He finishes his words to her with the promise that he'll travel to California to check on their youngest son every now and then. The butterfly's wings tremble, and it dances away on a warm summer breeze that rolls through the house.

- - - - -

VI. He talks to her instead of calling his sons.

He hears the voicemails they leave him, Dean's voice usually and Sam's rarely. He knows that they're both worried about him; he can hear it in the way Dean's pitch wavers even when his oldest son tries to be brave for Sam. But he doesn't call them back, doesn't let them know that he's not dead or injured; he is only trapped within his own stubborn silence. With his two sons reunited, though, he has no doubt that they are safe together. Perhaps separated, they are simplistically mortal, but when they stand together at last, he knows that no fatal harm will come to them.

He drinks his morning coffee, rich and dark, while he drives down the road on the way to his newest destination. "I'm not avoiding them," he says, then sighs when his words hang heavily in the silence. "Maybe I am, but I can't have them worrying about me now." He knows that he is impossibly close to finding the terror that destroyed his family so many years ago, and he refuses for his sons to become caught in his apocalyptic crossfire. Sipping again from the Styrofoam cup, the caffeinated liquid crashes through his exhausted muscles, snapping the synapses of his nerves awake for another day. Across the field, a white tailed deer turns and fixes its gaze on him through soft onyx eyes as he makes the declaration that this fight belongs to them alone and not their sons.

- - - - -

VII. He talks to her after he embraces his sons.

He clears the blood from his eyes and wipes away the tears when the Illinois roads blur into misty, black trails dotted yellow in front of him. Sam's grown into a man now, wearing his mother's eyes and his father's determination, and Dean's never changing, always loyal and courageous in every aspect that he always has been. With every mile that passes, they are that much farther apart, and when he breathes, the agony of his aching heart is almost too great. He presses his fist to his mouth, and his breathing against his knuckles is hissed and jagged.

He tastes his blood inside his mouth, and he spits into a crumbled tissue beside him on the worn seats. There's so many things he wants to say about how his sons are everything he's always wanted them to be, and how he has finally seen the eyes of his enemy for the last battle. "Hey baby," he whispers in the silence of his vehicle. "Did you know that we have one amazing pair of sons?" He stops there, unable to continue because of the thick lump in his throat, and a tear mingles with his blood and runs into his dark beard. Through his open window, the night air gently sweeps his hair and kisses the back of his neck.

- - - - -


When John Winchester talks to his wife, the woman he will always love above all else, and the only woman who ever really mattered, she looks over at him and holds his face in her warm hands.

When he talks to her, she always answers.