-1Title: Catalyst

Characters: John Winchester, little Dean, little Sammy

Pairings: None. Unless you count random thoughts about John and Mary.

Disclaimer: John, Dean, and Sam Winchester belong to the genius mind of Eric Kripke, et al. I am not making money with this piece of fiction.

Summary: ONESHOT. John became a warrior after Mary's death. But could he really expect his boys to grow up so fast? Dean- 5 ½. Sam- 1 ½

Author's Note: So I usually write Grey's Anatomy fan fic. But people were asking if I'd write a Supernatural fic and I agreed to test the waters. I have an idea for a longer fic…but I thought I'd see what you guys think. So please review!

Catalyst

November 2, 1984

John Winchester stumbled into the run down apartment well after the moon had risen in the sky and the stars had come out to twinkle. It was now after three in the morning, and John was exhausted. Nevertheless, he went about his usual before bed/after hunt routine. He checked to make sure Dean had done the dishes, that all salt lines and rings were still intact, replenished his holy water, wrote in his journal about his latest hunt, and then, finally, went into the bedroom his boys shared. Sammy was in a warm baby blue sleeper with ducks on the side, fast asleep on his stomach, his thumb in his mouth as he slept peacefully. John gently placed his large calloused hand on Sammy's dark curls, reveling in the baby softness before moving on to the bed.

Usually, Dean tried to stay up to greet his father with a cup of coffee and cookies after a hunt. This time, however, it appeared Dean had gone to bed early. He was asleep in his Batman pajamas, the bottoms coming to rest several inches above his ankles. How much had the boy grown in the past year? He made a mental note to buy Dean new pajamas and then recovered the small boy with the blankets that had been kicked off at some point of the night. Dean shifted a little and opened his eyes slightly. "Dad?"

"Yeah, son," John whispered. "Everything okay?"

"No monsters," Dean yawned. "You okay?"

"I'm fine, Dean," John sighed. "Go back to sleep."

"Yes, sir," Dean mumbled and then turned over onto his stomach, kicking the sheets off. "Night, Dad."

"Night, Dean," John responded as he covered his five and a half year old son again. He then closed the door quietly behind him, making sure the salt line was still there, and then went into the kitchen where he pulled out his supply of whiskey. He stared at the amber fluid for a few moments, tears coming to his eyes. "Mary," he murmured. Her face haunted his dreams every night. The gruesome sight he had witnessed just a year earlier still tortured him. Mary on the ceiling of Sam's nursery, her face contorted into a gruesome grimace, blood seeping from her abdomen. And then the heat of the flames, Sammy's cries, a mad dash to save both his youngest son and his wife. He had been unsuccessful in saving the latter, but Sammy was alive. Sammy, his little boy. So unlike Dean. So like Mary, at least in temperament.

It was Dean though who caused John the most pain. The five and a half year old looked so much like his mother, it was eerie. Whenever the boy smiled, John could swear it was Mary smiling back at him. Of course, Dean hadn't smiled much in the past year. Until Sam's first birthday, Dean had rarely spoken to anyone but the baby. After that, Dean had slowly begun to open up. Very slowly. He had learned long ago his mommy wasn't coming back. It was just Dad and Sammy. And so Dean had grown up. Dean took care of Sam. Dean did the dishes. Dean knew how to make pop tarts and waffles and cereal. Soon, he would be able to use the stove. It had been Dean who had witnessed Sammy take his first steps, it had been Dean's name Sammy had first butchered. It was Dean who followed his father's orders with no complaint. John expected nothing less. In the fight against evil, his children had to be warriors. Hunters. There wasn't time for childish fantasies of soccer games and zoos and birthday celebrations.

He stared at the amber liquid for a little while longer and then made his way to his own bedroom, still carrying the bottle with him as he took out his journal and stared at the picture of his deceased wife he kept as a reminder. A reminder never to be weak again. Never to be caught off guard. Never to be distracted. Avenging his wife's death was the number one most important thing. He unscrewed the cap and took a swig of the whiskey, not bothering to pour it into a glass. The liquid burned the back of his throat and he laid back on his bed, praying for numbness and a dreamless sleep.

He felt he hadn't even been asleep for more than five minutes when he felt a small finger poking him awake. He kept his eyes closed as the finger poked him again and again and again. "Dad," Dean's small voice whispered. "Dad, are you alive?"

"Dean, go back to bed," John ordered gruffly.

"I can't," Dean insisted. "Sammy's awake."

"Then change him and feed him. I need sleep. You know that." He had taught Dean long ago that if Daddy came home late, to let him sleep late the next morning. He had thought the lesson had gone over well, until now at least.

He could still hear Dean breathing next to him before the poking started again. "Dad, it's a 'mergency," said the young boy.

John turned over and made out his son's small shape in the dark room. "What is it, Dean?"

"Dad," Dean sighed, "what do leopards eat?"

"Dean Winchester, what did I say an emergency was?"

"If something bad comes in our room or if one of us is dying," Dean recited.

"Does asking questions about leopards fall under either of those categories?"

"Maybe," Dean said.

"Maybe?"

"Yeah, maybe," Dean nodded. "Because I can't feed Sammy until I know what leopards eat. Because I don't think they eat Che'os and juice."

"Dean, what the hell are you talking about?" he regretted snapping the moment he did it, but Dean was exhausting sometimes. And he was exhausted. "Go feed your brother and we'll talk about this when I'm awake."

"Sammy may be a full leopard by then!" Dean exclaimed.

John stood up and towered over his young son, his entire frame tense. "Dean, you better tell me this instant what you're talking about." Dean nodded and took his father's hand, leading him back to the room he shared with his younger brother. Sammy was sitting up in his crib, tears streaming down his chubby cheeks. Dean flipped on the light switch and John recoiled in horror. His youngest son had red welts on his face and neck. "Sammy."

"Dada," Sammy whimpered as he lifted his arms up, tears still coming from his brown eyes.

John took the boy to Dean's bed and quickly undressed him, finding the rash all over the baby's torso, arms, and legs. "He's turning into a leopard," Dean said from the corner of the room. "Only with red spots."

John sighed and looked up to reprimand his oldest, but stopped when he saw that Dean too had the red welts on his face and arms. The boy was scratching his leg furiously and John suddenly understood. "It's chicken pox," he said carefully to Dean. "And you have them too."

"Chicken pox?" Dean's eyes went wide and then became a little tearful. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" John asked as he held Sam close to him, the baby still crying.

"I shoulda protected Sammy better," Dean sighed. "I let a chicken attack him."

John just shook his head and then turned his attention back to Sam, kissing the boy on the forehead. "You've got a fever, little guy," he sighed and then beckoned Dean to come stand by him. "How do you feel?"

"Itchy," Dean admitted as his father's large hand came to rest on his forehead.

"No fever," John nodded and then grabbed Dean's hands. "Don't scratch, Dean. It just makes it worse."

"Dada, owie," Sam whimpered in his father's arms.

"I know, Sammy," John sighed and then ran his fingers through his hair. Mary would have known what to do. Mary had always known what to do. Dean had an ear infection, Mary knew. Sammy was colicky, Mary knew. Mary knew about vaccinations and immunizations. Mary knew that Sammy had liked pureed peas the night she had died. She knew that Dean wanted to be a firefighter, but that Dean was also afraid of airplanes. Mary knew things that he didn't. Mary had died that night a year ago with a wealth of information that he didn't have. He felt a tear slide down his face and Sammy look up at him, "No, Dada," the toddler murmured. "No."

He stood up and handed Sammy to Dean, who was doing a very strange dance in his too-small pajamas. "Stop it, Dean," he ordered.

"Yes, sir," Dean sighed and then sat down on his bed with Sammy next to him, the baby still crying. He tried to sit still but he was having a very hard time of it.

"I'm going to the pharmacy," John announced. "Don't open the door, Dean. And don't answer the phone."

"Yes, sir," Dean nodded.

"And put salt down," John stood and pulled his coat on over the clothes he had hunted in, slept in, drank in.

"I know, Dad."

"And don't scratch, Dean." He didn't wait to hear Dean's response before closing the door swiftly behind him, and trekked out into the cold day to find a pharmacist who would know things in the way Mary knew things.

He came back an hour later, arms laden with lotions, oatmeal for the bath the pharmacist had suggested, oven mitts, mittens for Sammy, toy soldiers for Dean, and a Sesame Street toy for Sam. Dean was scratching Sammy's back when his dad came in, the toddler curled up in the fetal position on the floor. "Dean Winchester!" Dean's hands fell quickly from his brother's back and down to his side, as he choked back tears. "Didn't I tell you not to scratch?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then why were you scratching?"

"I was scratching Sammy. He's crying a lot."

"No scratching, Dean."

"Sorry, Daddy," the little boy sighed. "It itches."

"I know," John nodded and began unpacking his purchases. Baby Tylenol for Sammy's fever, calamine lotion for the itching, and then the oatmeal bath. "Let's go, guys, bath time."

"Dad!" Dean frowned. "I took a bath yesterday!"

"Yeah, well, bath time again," John stated firmly.

"I don't want to take a bath."

"Dean, I don't need your lip. Bath tub. Now. And take your brother."

John went and filled the bath tub just enough for the boys to sit in it comfortably without drowning. He brought his journal into the bathroom and watched as Dean and Sam sat in the oatmeal tub. Dean tried to keep Sam occupied, playing and laughing. John watched them for a moment, a swift but ridiculous wave of anger coming over him. How could his sons be happy today? How could Dean laugh? It was the anniversary of his mother's death. He should be fighting mad, not laughing with his baby brother. John tore his eyes away from the site before him and concentrated on his journal, on writing information about evil. This was his life now. Fighting evil. He had to protect his boys from evil, in the same way he couldn't protect Mary.

After the bath, John put calamine lotion on both boys, let Sammie run around without his diaper, and gave them their oven mitts to cover their hands. He set up the boys in the living room with their new toys and took up residence in the kitchen, reading and studying. Every once in a while, he would hear Sammy scream about something and then Dean calm him down quickly in a quiet and even voice. But mostly, the boys were perfect. Dean knew that when Dad had the big books out, it was time to be a quiet. And since Dean knew it, Sammy knew it too.

It was around one forty-five when the phone rang. The boys had finished up lunch and Sammy was being put down for a nap, Dean sat with his army men in the living room, creating small battles complete with sound effects. John answered the phone quickly, excited when Pastor Jim Murphy's voice came over the line. "Jim," he greeted. "What can I do for you?" It was nice to have an adult to speak to. An adult who could take his mind off the fact that Dean looked like Mary. That Sam had Mary's personality. That Mary had died. Burned by something evil.

"John," Jim greeted, "I have a job for you. Tonight."

"What can I do for you?" John asked, already grabbing a piece of paper and a pen to take down all of the information. Jim rattled off the details quickly: poltergeist, town about 20 miles away, terrorizing a family to insanity. It would only be John's second poltergeist but Jim assured him he could do it. John wrote all of the information down and then looked up from his piece of paper. Dean. Dean was gone. His army men were deserted and he was gone. "Jim, I'm going to call you back." He hung up the phone and looked under the tables and chairs in the area before moving to other areas of the small and cramped apartment before finally ending up in the boys' room.

Sam was lying next to Dean on the big boy bed, Dean's arm thrown haphazardly across his brother. "And she was funny, Sammy," the five and a half year old whispered. "And pretty. Very pretty. You would have liked her, Sammy.

"Dean," John's voice came out strained as he realized what exactly his oldest was talking about to his youngest. Dean stared at his father and then broke into a smile. Mary's smile. Mary's eyes. Mary's sons.

He felt the emotion rise in him at that thought. Mary's sons. Mary's pride and joy. Mary's boys. And Sammy depended on Dean for food, changing, baths, and almost everything else. It was a miracle Sammy even knew who he was. "Dad," Dean said slowly, carefully, "I was telling Sammy about Mommy cause she's been in heaven for a whole year."

And so Dean hadn't forgotten his mom's death. He wasn't seeking revenge. He was simply trying to remember his mother, trying to make his brother remember his mother. John stared at his boys, at Mary's boys, at their boys and took a step forward, the poltergeist completely forgotten as he took his two boys into his arms, holding them close for a few minutes until pulling away and saying, "How about a movie, boys?"

"Don't you have to kill bad things?" Dean asked.

"Not tonight," John shook his head. "Today, it's just us boys, okay?" And as Dean's face burst into a smile, John imagined for a moment that Mary would approve. At least at that moment, anyway.

Fin.

Author's Note: So…not sure. You tell me. Good, bad? Boring? Go back to Grey's fics? You tell me!