Title - Achilles' Heel
Summary - Even at the tender age of four, Sammy Winchester knew exactly how to hurt his father. With his naïve questions, John doesn't know how to help his son understand why.
Part of 'The Dark Horse' series
It was late at night, nearly two o'clock in the morning. John Winchester was slowly falling asleep at the rickety old table in the apartment that they were currently staying at. The latest hunt was finished, but he couldn't just pack up the kids and leave after only staying a week in Brookline, Massachusetts. Dean had been enrolled in the nearest school, and it was only two weeks before the end of the semester. Perhaps they could wait it out, take a long needed rest. Sighing, John leaned back in the wooden chair and looked over the notes laid out in front of him. It had over three years, and there was no sign of the demon that took Mary's life. Maybe in the next two weeks, he could try pasting together some of the abstract information he collected over the years. Though, granted, it wasn't much, but at least it was something.
Soft footfalls snapped the hunter out of his thoughts. Looking up from the mess of papers spread out on the table, a tiny boy appeared in the living room. His brown hair was tousled on his head. Small bags resided under the child's hazel eyes. His bottom lip was securely positioned in-between his baby teeth. John straightened at the sight of his youngest son up at such a late hour, making a mental note that they needed to make a trip to the Salvation Army. The little boy's wrists and ankles peeked out from his pajamas.
"Sammy?" he called as he stood up from the table, concern written across his face. "What's wrong?"
At his father's gentle tone - a tone that he reserved for when one of the boys was sick or scared - Sammy scampered towards his father. Bending down, John opened his arms to his son. Immediately, the boy threw his arms around his father as he buried his head into the crook of his dad's shoulder. Hoisting him up, John shifted the four-year-old onto his hip to free his one arm. Brushing the kid's sweat drenched locks of hair off his forehead, he leaned in to plant a soft kiss on his son's temple.
"Sammy? Tell me what happened."
"Bad dweam," the kid murmured into the folds of his father's t-shirt.
With his free hand, he rubbed circles on the kid's back as he made his way to the lumpy couch. Setting down on the couch, he allowed the little boy to slip from his grasp onto the cushion. Sammy made a noise of protest as he curled himself up at his father's side, his hand clenching a fistful of John's shirt. The hunter looked down at his son as he ran a hand through his son's mess of brown curls.
"What was it about?"
"Daddy?" the kid ignored the question.
His voice was so quiet and naïve that it broke John's heart more than the question itself. Wrapping an arm around the boy's small shoulders, he pulled the kid as close to him as humanly possible. He could feel the tears burning his eyes, threatening to fall. John never sat down with Sammy and explained to him what happened to Mary. Sure, he'd heard his youngest asking questions to Dean about their mom, but Dean had a way of avoiding the question at hand with ease. He had a way with handling Sammy that John wished he had. The kid could dodge around Sammy's million questions without the little boy being none the wiser.
"She died," he answered stiffly.
Sammy lifted his head from his father's side. John could barely look at his son, his eyes wide with curiosity. John swallowed hard. The tiny boy buried into his side was his ultimate weakness, his Achilles' heel. Sammy knew just the right way to pull his heart apart, to make his stomach churn in a mixture of guilt and sadness. The little boy knew how to get a reaction out of people with his large, sad puppy dog eyes and quivering lip. John was convinced that Sammy could turn on and off tears as he pleased, using it as the ultimate weapon to get what he wanted.
"I wanna died wif Mommy."
"No, Sammy. You don't want to die. You got to stay here with Dean and me… okay?" John struggled to talk. "Dean and I need you more than anything. You got that?"
"What's died?" he asked again.
"Mommy, she uh, she had to leave. She didn't want to, but she had to. You see, Sammy, when someone dies it means that they can't be with their families and friends anymore."
"Where they go?"
"I dunno, Sammy. Some people think when you die you go to a place called Heaven."
The kid's brows furrowed, his nose scrunching up in concentration. The words coming out of John's mouth weren't processing in his mind but only confusing him more. Shifting next to his father, Sammy looked away from John as he buried the side of his face into the man's side. John could feel the boy's ear digging into him. The handful of shirt clenched in his tiny hand twisted.
"Nobody really knows. It's supposed to be really nice though."
"I hope so, Kiddo."
Sammy went quiet and perfectly still. John soothingly ran a hand along his son's back hoping that the bout of inquiry was over with. He didn't know how many more questions he could endure without breaking down completely. Talking about Mary was still too raw. Part of him believed that the wounds would never truly heal, that talking about his wife would never be easy... especially with his children.
"What she look like?"
His head tilted up ever so slightly so that he could only see his father through the fringe of his bangs. Reaching out a hand, he brushed the kid's hair back onto his head to look at him clearly. Forcing a smile on his lips, John tried his hardest to keep his emotions at bay. He had to hold it together for Dean and Sammy. There was no way he could go on as a walking mess. When Mary first died, John was beside himself in grief. He was a walking zombie half the time, and it forced Dean to step up and care completely for his younger brother. John swore he'd be there for the boys - help keep his family together. He had to be strong for them.
"She looked a lot like Dean. She had long, wavy blonde hair. She had Dean's green eyes and his freckles. She smelled like lilies."
"I wanna look like Mommy," Sammy whined, his lips forming into a pout.
"But you look like me, Sammy. We have the same dark hair and dark eyes. You have my smile, even down to the dimples in your cheeks. You even have the same honker as your old man," John said playfully as he reached down and lightly pinched the boy's nose.
Sammy laughed childishly, smiling brightly up at his father until his dimples showed. Whenever his youngest lit up, John couldn't help but grin right along with the kid. Sammy had a way of sucking all the sorrow out of the air with a simple smile and laugh. John sometimes doubted him and Dean would have made it if Sammy had died along with Mary. Scooping the kid up in his arms, John stood up and walked quietly to the room that the boys were sharing. Sammy's arms wrapped themselves around his father's neck, his head lying comfortably on his shoulder.
Walking into the small room, John noticed Dean was fast asleep in bed. Lowering his youngest onto the bed, Sammy instantly rolled over towards his brother. Wrapping an arm around the older boy's stomach, he laid his head on his brother's chest. In his sleep, Dean wrapped his arms protectively about his baby brother. Nothing else mattered to John beside his boys.
John lifted Sammy's legs in the air to pull the covers out from under his petite body. Tucking the boys into the bed, he leaned down and kissed both kids on the forehead. He rested a hand on his the smallest boy's head, letting it linger there for several seconds.
"I love you, Sammy. Don't you ever forget that, okay?"
"Love ya, Daddy," the boy responded sleepily.
Smiling, John's hand left the boy's head and fell limply to his side. Giving one last forced smile, he made his way towards the door. Just as he was about to close it shut, Sammy's voice called his name in his whisper voice which wasn't actually a whisper at all. His whisper voice was sure to wake Dean from his slumber. Turning around, John leaned in the door and looked at his youngest who propped himself up on his elbows.
"Yeah?" he spoke softly.
"Is Mommy here?"
"Mommy… do she watch us? From Heaven?"
John felt like a knife was twisting in his heart. The words were trapped in his throat as he stared at Sammy looking at him innocently from the glow of the Thundercats nightlight plugged in the wall. Shifting his weight to allow the doorframe to keep him steady, he jerked his head up and down. He vaguely felt the hot tear run down his face and into the corner of his mouth.
"'Course she is, Sammy," Dean mumbled sleepily. "She's always watching out for us. Now go to bed and stop talking."
"I whisp'ing," Sammy retorted.
"Sure you were. Come on."
A smile split across the kid's face as he snuggled down into his brother waiting arms. John sighed in relief, glad that Sammy would take anything Dean said as the truth and not question it. Rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, he reached for the doorknob.
"'Night, Boys," he called.
"'Night, Daddy!" Sammy exclaimed.
"'Night, Dad," Dean said in a tired voice.
Closing the door with a soft snap, John leaned his back up against the door. He sank down the wood to the carpeted floor, drawing his knees close to his body. Letting out a shaky breath, he twisted the wedding ring on his finger. He was told that time eases everything, that it would get better as the years went along. It didn't get easier but harder as the years wore on. Sammy's never-ending questions always hit him like a ton of bricks.
"Sammy, you gotta stop asking Dad questions about Mom," John heard Dean's voice through the door.
"It makes him sad. You got a question about her or what happened, you ask me. Got that?"
"Mm'kay. 'Night, Dean."
From that day on, Sammy never asked him any questions about Mary or the fire. His youngest only asked his father the stupid questions like 'Why's the sky blue?', 'Why's ice cream cold?', 'Why can't we have a doggy?', 'Why's it called Christmas and not Birth of Jesus Day or something?' Late at night, after he'd put the boys to bed, he could hear Sammy asking the important questions to Dean. He'd lean up against the door, his ear to the wood, and listen to Dean's answers about death, hunting, and Mary. Granted John felt more than a little guilty that Dean took on the responsibility of answering the most damaging questions, he was more than grateful.
A little blurb of John and his inability to cope with the death of his wife let alone answer the questions that Sammy would most likely ask. I always pictured Dean answering Sam's question, trying to shield his dad from the pain. Anyways, hope you enjoyed it. Do leave a review if you liked it or not.