Disclaimer: Supernatural isn't mine – good thing or bad thing?
Summary: The night he lost Mary, he lost his son too. Wee!Chesters.
Author's Notes: Is it written into my DNA that I can't a) have less than a million and one fanfictions on the go at once and b) not get obsessed with a TV show?
John knew very little else other than moving, before joining the Marines he'd felt uncomfortable and claustrophobic, even in his own home, to the point that in the summer he'd climb out onto the roof and sleep out there regularly, the bedroom door rarely closed, the window always open and he was only ever home for meals and sleeping, sometimes not even that. Joining the Marines had been a good escape, the strict chain of command, orders all felt normal, he liked them; some sort of security, maybe even something to rebel against.
Mary had been an anchor. He'd met her on the third day of a two week leave, and he'd spent the rest of the break with her, it had nearly broken his heart to leave her again and that was only after eleven days, but she'd kissed him and said she'd wait for him, and unlike what he had expected, when he returned she was still there.
Their relationship grew and grew and then he'd asked her to marry him, that's when she'd given him an ultimatum; her or the Marines. It had been a reasonable request, it's one thing dating a man who's barely at home, but marrying one? Starting a family? It would have been unfair to expect her to do that. And so he'd answered without having to think about it: he left the Core as soon as he could.
It was strange, to be back home, looking for somewhere to live, they chose an apartment at first; nothing much, two bedrooms, a bathroom, a cupboard of a kitchen and a sitting room that just about fitted a television and a couch in it. That in itself was a contradiction to what he had felt before.
The claustrophobia never set in and the panic never twisted his stomach in knots. The beautiful young woman he had married calmed him and he felt far less inclined to move with her there.
Nearly a year later Mary announced she was pregnant, the smile that had lit up her face as she told him was one that he would never forget. Mary had always had this look about her; like she was glowing. Whenever he had mentioned it she had laughed and shook her head, but in that moment she genuinely looked as if she had some sort of shimmering aura around her and he never thought he could love her more; that was until his first son was born.
As soon as she had uttered the words 'I'm pregnant John' he swept her into his arms and spun her around, laughing in delight; when their antics succeeded in knocking the lamp off the minute little corner table next to the couch they came to the conclusion that they needed somewhere else to live. They spent the entire pregnancy looking for the perfect house, and they finally found one; she went into labor an hour after the moving truck left.
He'd helped her into the backseat of the Impala and raced to the hospital; knuckles white he was grasping the steering wheel so tightly and shaking so hard he swerved unnecessarily more times than he could count.
She had sworn and cursed, shouted that she hated him and done all the perfectly normal things a woman did when she was giving birth, alternating between sobbing into his chest and beating him around the head with anything she could reach; he was grateful then that the décor of the maternity ward did not help her seeming mission to knock him unconscious; they had been both the longest and shortest eighteen hours of his life.
It took nearly ten hours before the nurses finally won the battle to make him go home and get some rest, with swift reassurances that Dean wasn't going to look any different if he came back later in the day and that Mary was perfectly content to be there on her on her own for a little while he drove home.
The downstairs of the house was filled with boxes, the stairs were non negotiable and so he searched through the maze of packing – when they had managed to get that much stuff he didn't know – until he found the couch, swept it clear before collapsing onto it and falling asleep.
He spent the next three days trying to wrestle the house into some semblance of order, determined to have the place somewhere near inhabitable by the time Mary and Dean came home. In fact that was the only thing that stopped him from pitching camp in the maternity ward himself.
A little less than three years later Mary announced again, that she was pregnant and his reaction had been much the same, only this time it was followed by a rather vague explanation to a curious little boy as to why mommy had eaten a baby, and if she hadn't eaten how it had gotten in her tummy. Still somewhat confused but placated by the knowledge that he was going to have a little brother or sister Dean joined in their celebrations.
When Sam was born Dean had been dubious. Having gotten over the shock of hearing his mother screaming in absolute agony, he'd sat quietly in the waiting room with his father, playing with the toy cars the hospital supplied until the nurse came out and said they could go and see Mary.
John remembered how tightly Dean had clutched his hand, hiding behind him as he approached the exhausted woman on the opposite side of the room. John had, had to literally pull Dean's fingers away from their death grip on his when he sat him on the bed next to Mary who ran a hand up and down her eldest son's back warmly before letting her hand drop back onto the mattress beside her.
"Do you want to see your little brother sweetie?" Mary's voice was hoarse and they both had to strain to hear her.
Dean shook his head, blonde hair falling to his eyes and Mary had, had to brush it away.
Dean just sat there until John lifted him up again, holding him high enough to look over the side of the cot the baby was in. Dean cocked his head to one side in questioning.
"That's your little brother champ," John said, beaming down at both his boys as Mary smiled wearily at his back "that's Sam,"
"Sam?" Mary had asked, the argument over names had lasted nearly three months and neither of them had managed to settle on one they liked.
John looked over his shoulder her and shrugged sheepishly.
"I like Sam," she murmurred, eyes closing.
"Me too," John replied needlessly, before looking back at Dean who had one arm outstretched towards his little brother and had hesitantly poked his cheek, "what about you Dean? Do you like Sam?"
"Squishy," Dean replied as if suddenly everything made sense.
"What?" John nearly had to bite his tongue not to laugh.
"Call him Squishy,"
"We can't call him Squishy, Dean," John set him on the floor and glanced at Mary who was trying really hard not to laugh because inevitably it would hurt.
"Why not? He is squishy,"
"Yes but…" how do you explain it to a little boy who, in his eyes, was arguing a perfectly sustainable case, that you can't call a baby 'Squishy'? "Dean," he took his son's hand "stop poking him,"
"Dean," Mary whispered, desperately fighting sleep, "come here," when he did she refused to look at John for fear they would both end up laughing "we can't call your brother 'Squishy' because it would sound a bit silly wouldn't it?"
Dean cocked his head to one side as if in permission for the explanation to continue.
"Do you really want your brother to be called Squishy Winchester?" John deadpanned, mirth dancing in his eyes.
Exactly as planned Dean clapped his hands over his mouth and giggled "Squishy Winchester," he repeated to himself under his breath.
"So we'll call him Sam okay?" Mary said as he sobered again.
Dean seemed to consider it for a moment "'kay," he declared.
"Dean, why don't we go home and get some dinner? I think mommy's tired." John held out his hand for his son to take.
Dean bounced over to the cot and looked at John with a 'go on then,' gesture, waiting to be lifted up to see over the top of it again, when he was he leaned over the top and kissed his forehead "love you Sammy,"
John wasn't sure when exactly he had slept over the following couple of days as Dean seemed to be up nearly the entire time, and the night before Mary and Sam came home John woke to a noise in the newly decorated nursery, hurrying in there to find out what was going on he found his eldest pulling the mattress and sheets from the cot and throwing them on the floor.
"Dean!" he scolded "what are you doing?"
Unfazed Dean looked at him "too heavy," he pointed at the cot and fixed him with stare that said quite clearly how stupid he thought his father was being, "I'm trying to move it." He added.
Rubbing a hand over his eyes John calmed "why are you trying to move it?"
"It's in the wrong place," he threw his weight against it and was delighted when it shifted.
"It needs to be closer to the window," he hit the cot unhappily when it didn't move this time.
"It's fine where it is kiddo," he crouched in front of his son "it's really late and daddy needs to sleep," Dean might not have to but he certainly did; there would be nothing but sleepless nights for months now that Sam had been born and he wanted to at least try and get some before he and Mary came home.
Dean shook his head, scowling when John caught his wrist to keep him still and John sighed, "fine," he couldn't help but smile back when Dean beamed at him "can I at least help?" right now it didn't matter why he thought the cot was in the wrong place, all that mattered was sleep… how long can a four year old go without sleep?
Thirty minutes later the room had been refurbished to Dean's liking and just as John was about to announce that it was bedtime for the second time that evening the child scampered off, only to return with a small stuffed bear which he placed proudly atop the mattress.
"Where'd you get that?" John inquired, unable to ignore his curiosity.
"'Lissa," Dean replied simply.
Melissa was a friend of Mary's, and she'd taken Dean for a couple of hours the day after Sam had been born as even when he was as besotted with his younger sibling as he was Dean had started climbing the proverbial walls and Melissa had offered to take him for a while so John could stay behind; she must have taken him shopping.
"I been saving up," he continued "but I didn't have enough so 'Lissa paid the rest, I said I'd pay her back but she said no," he shook his head as if to emphasise his point.
Of course he didn't have enough. You don't give three year olds money, you bought them what they wanted and said no to the rest, but recently Mary had taken to giving Dean some of her spare change for helping out, or doing odd little jobs, like tidying up his toys, clearing his plate etc.
John had voiced his opinion on the matter, pointing out that by doing that all she was doing was making the boy expect something every time he did something he knew he was supposed to do anyway. Mary had countered with a point he couldn't argue with; Dean would be more likely to do things he didn't want to do, liske eating vegetables, if he was likely to get a reward if he did it, she wasn't going to do it every time but it served as a motivation.
Any doubts John had, had faded upon the announcement that Dean had spent the money on a present for his little brother.
"Did you say thank you?"
"Of course," he answered with a grin that had John thinking 'smart ass'.
Waking up in the middle of the night was not uncommon with him, and he usually just rolled over and went back to sleep, only after forty-five minutes of restlessness he had decided to try and lull himself to sleep with infomercials and a drink. He'd been downstairs no more than twenty minutes before he'd heard a scream and bolted up the stairs faster than he had ever moved in his life.
Mary had died that night and the last thing he had heard was her screams.
People had offered casseroles; what was with that? People hand over the home made meal like that in itself makes everything okay, they say that they're sorry even though it's not their fault and then they mutter 'I shouldn't have happened…' as if it makes a difference, of course it shouldn't have fucking happened, if it hadn't have happened his boys wouldn't be living in cheap motel rooms with people far more frightening than any ghost, spirit or poltergeist living just the other side of a thin wall of plaster and a crappy paintjob.
If it hadn't happened he would still have his wife, the boys would still have their mom, Dean wouldn't be coming home to be told that tomorrow was going to be his last day at school, at least in that town, and Sammy would be able to forge his own memories of his mother rather than having to listen to second hand accounts from his brother and father. John wasn't sure who it was harder on; Dean because he'd known his mom, would remember her, even if through only instinctual memories that would never be lost, or Sam because he had never known her at all.
He'd rented an apartment for them – it looked the same as the one Mary had told him she was pregnant with Dean in, but it wasn't because he would never have been that stupid – and had lost himself in a haze of grief, and pain and anguish only coming out of it when Dean had timidly whispered to him one morning 'Sammy's hungry' and he had realised there was no food in the tiny kitchen area; he'd berated himself for weeks.
It took him three and a half months before he cried. Three and a half months of self-induced silence, only broken by Sammy's cries for food or sleep, play or any number of things the baby had demanded and either he or Dean had gladly given him.
He'd been packing up, ready to move because without Mary he had no anchor, no reason to stay still, the boys he could take with him, Sammy was nine months old, he couldn't argue with him, and Dean… Dean had never once wavered from his side, and if he wasn't following him around like some sort of lost puppy he was with Sam, it became increasingly rare for him to see one son without the other. Whilst packing he had found an old photograph of Mary, smiling at the camera with her arms wrapped around herself to shield herself from the breeze that was playing with her hair and it was only then that he cried.
Sobbing into the pillow like a child as it finally came crashing down on him; Mary was gone, she'd been gone for nearly four months and nothing was going to bring her back. She was gone. Completely gone. Consumed by fire, stolen by a son of a bitch demon none of them had known existed.
He'd scared Sam, Dean probably too but these days it was impossible to tell what emotion was playing with his eldest boy, the once bright and bubbly infant and turned into something totally different, something quiet and independent, who no longer asked to sleep in daddy's bed because he'd had a nightmare. Now that there was a reason for his nightmares he simply stopped asking for comfort, he must have started dealing with them himself. Either that or he was doing what John had done and simply worked himself into unconsciousness. Come to think of it, it was hard to remember when he had last seen his eldest asleep.
Upon hearing his father's pain Sam had started crying, crying turning to screaming and he'd wanted to get up and try and comfort the child but the claws in his stomach wouldn't relinquish their hold long enough for him to move. Dean stood in the doorway for several seconds, eyes wide, before moving over to Sam and lifting him up, hugging him and whispering things John didn't hear but succeeded in quieting the wailing baby until he fell asleep.
Later John recalled trying to talk to Dean but the child had not wanted to talk, he never did any more, just sat in silence, or did as he was told in silence, everything was silent now that Mary was gone.
Dean hadn't cried when he'd been told mommy wasn't coming home, he'd screamed but there hadn't been any tears, just a small red face wrinkled with fury as daddy told him that mommy was dead, he'd stamped his feet and clenched his fists. When John had tried to hug him because there had been a time when a hug fixed everything, he'd struck out, kicked him in the shins and wriggled free. Too shocked by the reaction John hadn't moved to stop him when Dean had gone off into his and Sam's bedroom and shut the door behind him.
He'd listened at the door, expecting to hear sobbing or even sniffling, possibly even a mumbled apology, but all he heard was silence for several minutes and just as he had been about to move he heard Dean telling Sammy what he'd just been told. Talking to him as if he could talk back. When he'd re-emerged a few hours later neither one of them mentioned the 'talk' and Dean hadn't asked about Mary since.
The only time Dean had cried since his mother's death was his first day at school; the boys hadn't been separate for longer than fifteen minutes since the fire and it nearly broke John's heart to have to put his foot down and insist that Dean went to school and that no, he couldn't stay at home with Sam, and Sam couldn't go with him. Most kids were excited about their first day at school, some had cried yes, but none as much as Dean had.
He'd been late, John had ignored the school teacher when she came out into the schoolyard to ask them if Dean was ready to go inside. Sitting on the tiny little bench with his son in his lap as he sobbed into his shirt, begging to be allowed to stay home, to stay with Sam and him. John had been able to handle that, hugging him tightly for the first time in what felt like forever and calmly explaining to him that he didn't really have a choice. It had been when he had started wailing for Mary that John nearly fell apart all over again.
Rocking back and forth, stroking his hair and back, whispering words that were useless and he knew it because everything was not 'okay' things were not going to be 'fine' and Dean was not going to be 'all right'. None of them were.
The teacher had been completely out of her depth and she knew it, standing a couple of feet from them, the kids already in the classroom peering outside to see what was going on. At least she had, had the decency to stand in the way so that the children's view of their classmate and his father were obstructed.
The night he lost Mary, he'd lost Dean too. His baby wasn't a baby any more, he was a soldier, he should be proud that his boy was so eager to please him, who hadn't shrieked the first time he'd heard a gun shot and had no qualms about reciting Latin over breakfast, but he wasn't. He didn't want soldiers for sons, he wanted boys, children, but it wasn't about what he wanted. It was about what would keep them alive.
Before Mary had died Dean had never left Kansas, he'd never even left Lawrence. Mary had been dead twelve months next week and he'd been through five states and back across two since then; he was at his second school already and he was only in first grade.
Picking up the car keys from amidst piles of research and scraps of paper he lifted Sammy up and headed for the car; school would be finished soon.
"Dean?" Sammy asked as he was fastened securely into the child's seat in the Impala.
"Yes," John answered, fixing his youngest with a smile as he got into the driver's seat "we're going to get your brother,"
Sam grinned at him through the rear view mirror "miss Dean," he said decisively then he posed the same statement as a question "miss Dean?"
John swallowed and nodded and that seemed to sate the child's never ending curiosity. Sammy was still innocent, for how long he didn't know, he wanted to keep him innocent, silly little questions like that were what stopped him jumping off the deep end. Without questions like 'why?' and 'what?' there was nothing to stop him from throwing himself into the hunt. It was his boys that kept him alive, that meant he came home every time, because without them the only thing to keep him among the living was revenge and a man who lived for revenge alone was not a man at all.
Upon arriving at the school the secretary at the reception gave him an odd look, sizing him up through her glasses before muttering "Winchester." She sighed "Dean's father?"
"Yes," he shifted Sam from one arm to the other and tried to ignore the small hands playing with his hair "is something wrong?" if something had happened, if Dean was hurt…
The secretary looked at him clinically; she didn't seem to approve of him. Most teachers didn't, casting him wary glances as if they thought he was preparing to attack them at any minute and that was without the knowledge that he was armed to the teeth; carrying a salt shaker and a lighter in one pocket, a knife tucked into the back of his boot and a handgun in the waistband of his jeans.
She gestured down the hall "third door on the right."
Realising he wasn't getting any more out of her he followed her directions and shushed Sam when he pointed delightedly at his brother through the window of the classroom door which was left ajar, pushing it open he was pounced on almost instantly by his eldest, book bag packed and ready to go.
Dean was always collected straight from class, John had told his son's teachers when he had started he wasn't to leave the classroom once the end of school bell had gone, someone would always be there to get him. If it wasn't him who collected him then it was Pastor Jim or Caleb, all three of them made the staff nervous but John didn't care, so long as his son was safe, he really didn't care.
"Hey Dean!" he greeted with an enthusiasm that his son knew was fake but never once called him on it "had a good day?"
Dean shrugged "can we go now?"
"Sure thing," he clapped a hand on his shoulder and went to guide him from the now empty classroom when he was called back by the only person still in there.
"Hi… Miss Malcolm." the woman seemed a little breathless as she introduced herself, when he didn't speak she continued "uh… we had a visitor today – Father James from the local church?"
He blinked at her.
"Now, we don't force religion on any of the children but we do ask that they try and keep their opinions to themselves if possible – it can upset the others." She added hastily as she realised how oppressive she'd just made the school sound.
"What happened?" John asked, if there was one thing he really hated about the people in this town was how vague they all were; trying to get information out of any of them had been like trying to get blood from a stone.
"I think it might be best for Dean to explain," she answered calmly.
"Dean?" he crouched down, "what happened?"
"He was talking about angels,"
"Ah," John answered, understanding instantly "okay," he ruffled Dean's hair and then pushed himself to his feet, shifting Sam again as he reached down to his brother and chuckled softly when Dean reached up and he managed to brush their fingers together.
"Mr Winchester I don't think-"
Sighing, and more for the sake of Miss Malcolm than anyone else, he asked "what did you say Dean?"
Dean ignored him and John didn't want to push him.
"Father James was telling us the story of Jesus' birth-"
The nativity; the virgin Mary… oh God Mary… next week she'd have been dead a year, it felt like a lifetime. Breath two three four, ignore the nausea, fight the vertigo, that's it… and breath two three four, breath two three four…
"Dean was very adamant that angels don't exist when Father James mentioned Gabriel-"
"They don't." Dean snapped at her instantly.
"Some people believe they do," Miss Malcolm said wistfully.
"They're stupid then."
"Dean." John warned.
"Well they are,"
John was a little surprised by that; Dean would have normally answered with 'yes sir' and left it at that but it seemed that he thought this far to important and who was he to tell his son that he didn't have the right to think what he did? It would make him a hypocrite, and whilst he might do things when hunting he hoped that neither of his boys would ever even dream of, he didn't believe in angels any more either. His faith had been lost long before he had met Mary and she had accepted that, neither of them had held it against the other for what they believed in, he had his reasons and she had hers, simple as that.
"Why are they stupid then?" Miss Malcolm asked gently "your friends could very easily call you stupid for believing angels don't exist,"
John neglected to mention the fact that Dean wouldn't make an friends, he refused to, preferring to sit alone when he was at school and then at home he kept himself amused, besides, judging by the way she glanced at John she already knew.
"They didn't save mommy," Dean replied "if angels existed then mommy wouldn't be dead,"
Miss Malcolm was thrown; his reasoning was far beyond what she had expected and much more mature than she had ever thought a five-year-old could come up with. Of course she knew that he was mother-less and for that she was extremely sorry for the Winchesters, all three of them but the rationalisation behind this child's claims was inarguably correct.
"Mommy believed in angels and they didn't save her."
His son sounded so dejected that even though he felt much the same way John had to swallow hard to stop himself from ripping into his son's teacher. Little boys shouldn't say things like that, they shouldn't have to explain themselves to their teacher when they didn't believe in angels. Surely this woman knew? Surely it should have occurred to her already?
"If angels were real then mommy would be alive because mommy wasn't a bad person. I loved her, and daddy loved her and Sammy loved her; if angels look after people then why didn't they look after mommy?"
John could see tears sparkling in Miss Malcolm's eyes, served her right for asking the question. His stomach was so tight he thought he might be sick, the words were so right and sounded so old but they were coming for the mouth of a little boy with a brutal honesty that should never mar the voice of someone so young.
"Let's go," John whispered quietly, putting a hand on Dean's back to push him from the room.
As the three of them walked away and Miss Malcolm was left alone in her classroom; somehow she knew she wouldn't be seeing any of them again.
John glanced in his rear view mirror, smiling sadly to himself as he watched Dean patiently amuse Sam in the backseat. His little boy wasn't a little boy anymore, he'd been taken the same night Mary had. A warped version of the lively child who would come and sit on his stomach on Christmas morning, burrowing beneath the covers between his parents as he roused them from sleep.
However, he could not, not be proud of what Dean had become, he wished with all his heart that he could give his boys back their mother but he knew that was as impossible as giving Dean back his innocence. He wanted to give them both so much but it wasn't ever going to happen, all he could do was give them everything he had and hope it was enough; at least as soldiers they had a chance, as children they were blind.
"Sammy wants to get ice-cream,"
John laughed "he does, does he?"
Dean nodded emphatically.
He should say no, after the incident with Miss Malcolm there was no reason for Dean to stay another day and they could make an early break for the next job but with his son's words still ringing in his ears there was no way he could.
"If angels look after people then why didn't they look after mommy?"
"We better get some then hadn't we?"
Dean beamed at him and went back to talking animatedly to his brother.
Watching his sons in the backseat John came to a conclusion; if angels didn't exist then Mary had been pretty damn close.
Author's Notes: So what d'ya think? (be nice)