A/N: I guess you could say this is a missing scene from the beginning of the pilot. Just very slightly AU.
Disclaimer: The characters, of course, belong to Eric Kripke and the CW.
By: Vanessa Sgroi
Four-year-old Dean Winchester leaned against the back bumper of his daddy's car, the blanket-wrapped, squirming bundle in his little arms becoming almost unbearably heavy the longer he stood there. Despite the trembling in his arms, he pulled his baby brother closer and glanced down at his chubby cheeks, noticing they were wet from earlier tears though Sammy was quiet now.
The crackle-pop-roar of fire consuming everything in its path drew his attention back to their house. The night sky was obscenely illuminated as large bright orange flame gnawed greedily away at what was left of the upstairs windows, the glass having long since blown out and rained down in little diamond-bright pieces on the lawn. Smaller tongues were slurping away at the windows and doors of the main floor as the fire worked its way through the entire structure. All around a pall of thick, rancid smoke hung heavy in the air. He watched as big men—firemen like in his books—in bulky suits and helmets sprayed big streams of water at the house using the biggest hoses Dean had ever seen.
Dean was scared. He didn't understand what was going on, but he knew fire was bad. Dane-jer-us Mommy and Daddy had said. And this much fire was terrifying. The ugly sound of it filled his ears, the heat of it pinkened his soot-glazed cheeks, and the acrid smell of it invaded his nostrils and lungs, scratching angrily at the back of his throat.
"Mommy? Daddy?" His words were no more than a hoarse, barely-there whisper. He trembled and leaned harder against the car. His baby brother was so heavy now. Little Dean wasn't sure how much longer he could hold him. Tears welled in his expressive green eyes, clinging desperately to his eyelashes before overspilling onto his cheeks, cutting little white paths through the grime.
Finally through the gloom, the four-year-old saw a welcome sight—his father, backlit by hellish orange with his singed blue robe hanging open and limp over his soot-soiled pajamas, was staggering toward him. A smile of relief graced the little boy's face. "Daddy!" he croaked. As John stopped in front of him and reached out to take Sammy, Dean cocked his head and leaned to his left absolutely certain he would see Mommy coming up right behind him. When he didn't, the smile fell away from his face and he frowned, turning his attention to his father.
"Daddy, where's Mommy?"
He watched as his father closed his eyes for a second and pulled Baby Sammy closer, but John didn't answer. Dean tugged on the front of the terrycloth robe. "Where's Mommy? Should I go tell her to 'quit playing around and come here' like you say to me when I'm being naughty?" Dean mimicked his father's serious voice almost perfectly.
"Dean—" John's voice cracked and he stopped speaking for a couple of seconds before finally continuing, "Your brother has a messy diaper. Can you grab his diaper bag out of the back seat of the car so I can change it?"
Daddy's voice sounded really weird, and Dean really wanted to ask more questions but decided he better just do what he was asked. He walked around the back corner of the Impala and tugged on the heavy door. Sammy's spare diaper bag, the one with little clowns all over it, was on the floor and he grabbed it with both hands. He carried it to his father and set it at his feet. Dean watched as John knelt and laid Sammy on the ground and then dug through the bag for a clean diaper and wipes. He was used to watching Mommy do this all the time—she'd even let him help occasionally, but Daddy rarely did it.
Seeing that his father was completely absorbed in that stinky and unpleasant task, Dean turned his attention back to their house and again wondered where his mother could possibly be. Deciding, with all of his four-year-old logic, that she must be either playing hide-and-seek with them or just plain old lost, Dean silently moved forward toward the house making it his duty to find her. And when he did, he was going to scold her just like she and Daddy did to him—shaking finger his finger at her and all.
The firemen were all busy, intent on their tasks. He stayed in the shadows and crept around the corner of the house. At the moment, no one was in the backyard, and Dean was hoping that the one back cellar window was unlocked—the one Daddy always opened when he was down there doing stuff like painting. He bit his lip and hurried to it, smiling when it opened inward without a sound. Dean lay down on the ground and quickly inched his way through the window feet first. In seconds he was standing on his father's workbench in the cellar. Filled with determination, Dean hopped down and ran across the concrete floor heading for the stairs.
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John Winchester was on grief-fueled autopilot. Mary, his Mary, was gone. He hadn't even yet had a chance to fully absorb the implications and impact of that cold, hard fact. He'd staggered blindly from their burning house and out to the car where his two boys—all he had left in the world—waited and found his tow-headed son still tightly gripping his baby brother.
Dean's inquiries to his mother's whereabouts cut through John like a sharp knife and he couldn't bring himself to answer. Taking the baby from Dean's quaking arms, he immediately noticed the foul odor wafting from the diaper and mixing with the acrid stench of smoke. Odd as it was, he was almost relieved to have something to do with his hands—something normal and mundane—something that would fill the next few minutes of his ruined life. He asked his eldest son to grab the diaper bag out of the car and allowed his shaky knees to buckle toward the ground. When he finished changing the diaper and cleaned up the mess, John murmured a smoke-roughened, "Okay, Dean, you can put it back now."
When there was no response and no flurry of movement from his four-year-old, John's head snapped up and looked around, hoping to see the gleam of flyaway blond hair. He gathered the baby and stood, his head still swiveling from side to side. "Dean?" he called. Still nothing. "Dean Scott Winchester!" He yelled again, using the tone and the full name that usually got a response and fast.
"Where's Mommy? Should I go tell her to 'quit playing around and come here' like you say to me when I'm being naughty?"
His little boy's words suddenly came back to him and he turned horrified eyes to the burning house, a frigid chill somersaulting down his spine. No! It couldn't be! He couldn't—Dear God, NO!
John raced to the nearest firefighter and pulled on his arm. "My son! H-H-He went—"
The fireman shrugged off his hold. "Sir, you need to get back."
"NO! You don't understand! My son—I think—I think he went back inside. Looking for his mother." John's voice was frantic.
"Sir, we've got both entrances covered, there's no way he went back in through the doors. Unless he could fly, I don't see how—"
For a split second, John felt relieved, and he ran a shaky hand over his face. Then a sudden thought exploded in his brain and he raised anguished eyes to the fireman before him. "The cellar window!"
"There's a cellar window that I always forget to lock. Mary's always yelling at me about it. Dean—Dean would know."
"You think he'd do that? Go in that window?" The fireman was already moving, John following close behind.
"If he thinks he can find his mom? Hell, yes!"
The two men rounded the corner of the house at a jog and John's heart stuttered in his chest when he saw the open window.
"Shit!" The fireman immediately thumbed his mic. "WE GOTTA KID INSIDE!"
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Dean crept up the stairs, listening as the house shrieked and groaned and growled ominously above him. It sounded kinda like one of those scary haunted houses Daddy had taken him to a week or so before Halloween. He'd been frightened, but Daddy had held him tight throughout and had kept him safe.
The little boy paused about half way up when he heard a particularly loud crash. Dean was torn. He was scared and wanted to run right back across the basement, climb up on the workbench, and scramble out the window into the night to be with his daddy and Sammy. But finding Mommy seemed right too. He HAD to find her. With that thought in mind, Dean started up the steps again. At the top, he reached for the door handle, wincing when heated metal bit harshly into his hand. He turned the knob and pushed. Dean squeezed through the opening and stepped right into Hell.
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John, forcibly moved back to the Impala to wait, watched as two firefighters geared up to go inside and search for his eldest son. Tears meandered down his grief-hollowed cheeks, darkened by both soot and five o'clock shadow. He'd lost his wife and now was in danger of losing his first-born son too.
And all he could do was stand there and wait.
His arms tightened around his baby son, and John buried his face in Sammy's blanket. The usual baby scents—a mixture of powder, baby oil, formula, and diaper rash cream—had long since been eradicated by the smell of bitter smoke.
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Flames danced up and down the walls. The heat was overwhelming. His skin felt too tight and itchy all of the sudden. Dean dropped to his hands and knees and started to crawl across the kitchen linoleum.
"Mommy?" Stinging smoke, invited in by his call, assaulted his lungs and he began to cough hard. Involuntary tears from the corrosive irritation poured from his eyes, blurring everything around him.
The continuous cackle of a self-satisfied blaze was the only response.
"Mommy!" His desperate plea was no more powerful than the mewling of a distressed newborn kitten.
Dean sniffled against the grayish snot streaming from his nose and across his cracked lips. It hurt to breath. He crawled another foot or so before dizziness bombarded him and he swayed before sinking flat to the floor. When the darkness pressed in, he quivered and welcomed it.
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John's legs wouldn't hold him anymore. With his back against the Impala, he slowly sank to the ground. His wide, tormented eyes remained fixed on the gaping hole that had once been the front door of his house.
OhGodpleaselethimbeokay, OhGodpleaselethimbeokay was a jumbled prayer in his head, competing with the thunderous tattoo of his heart thumping against his ribs.
"We've got him! We've got him!" The call over handy-talkies electrified the firefighting personnel and brought John to his feet. Seconds later, he saw the two firefighters who'd gone inside tear through the door into the tragedy-laden night. One of them was rescue breathing for the child in his arms, and he jogged straight to the waiting ambulance, beating John there by three steps.
"How is he? Is he all right? Dean? Son, can you hear me?"
The firefighter handed the boy over to a paramedic and glanced over his shoulder at the boy's father. "He'll be okay. They're gonna take him to the ER over at Lawrence Memorial."
"Can I ride with him? Please."
John's gaze flicked between the firefighter and the paramedic. Finally, the paramedic nodded, never looking up from what he was doing. The firefighter offered to take the baby while John got settled inside the ambulance. John reached for Sammy and settled him on his lap as the firefighter shut the door and thumped a fist against it to signal it was okay to go.
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At Dean's harsh whisper, John's eyes flew open and his head snapped up from the back of the chair. "Deanie?" He leaned forward and grabbed Dean's left hand. The palm on his right hand had been burned and was bandaged. He had a few other minor burns, a few cuts on his feet from the glass in the yard, and some smoke inhalation. The doctors had decided to monitor him for a few hours before letting him go.
"Wha' happened, Daddy?"
John rubbed his eyes before speaking. "There was a fire. Do you remember that? There was a fire at the house and you—y-you went back inside."
Dean blinked a couple of times as he took in his father's words. He remembered the fire. Squinting at his Dad, he asked, "Where's Sammy?"
"One of the nurses is cleaning him up a little and giving him a bottle for me."
The older man swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. "Dean—son—Mommy—your mom didn't make it out. She's—she went to be with the angels."
Dean's lower lip quivered. "You—y-y-you mean she d-d-died? Like—like G-Grandpa?"
"Yes, Dean. She died."
His reaction was instantaneous and not completely unexpected. Dean flew up to his knees on the hospital bed and started a hoarse screaming, "No-no-no-no-no-no-no. S-She's coming back!" His little fists pounded into John's chest over and over and over again and he began to cry hysterically.
John wrapped his arms around his son and began to rock back and forth. "Ssshh. Ssshh. Dean, I've got ya. Ssshh."
After several minutes, Dean quieted and his tears slowed.
"Here—lay back down." John eased him back down on the bed. "Do you want a drink of water?"
Dean shook his head no, staring at him with wide, traumatized eyes.
"Mommy's never coming home again?" he whispered, his voice shattered.
John shook his head no.
"Because I couldn't find her."
Dean rolled over, his back to John, and curled into a tight little ball. Those were the last words the little boy spoke for a long, long time.