Summary: Pre-series. Anothing sleepless night and all John can think about is how messed up things were and how badly he wanted the truth.
Spoilers: If you've seen season 1, you're good to go.
Warnings: I may have used God's name in vain... once.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my imagination.
Author's Note: This doesn't even qualify as a story because it's so short so I guess it's a drabble. Got bored at work and John was stuck in my head. I have another I'm working on as well.
It was 2am and John Winchester was drunk and counting his regrets. His list grew with every waking moment and he wished he'd just pass out already. Not five minutes ago, his four year old son was next to him, buried in his side. But like most nights lately, Dean would wake up from his restless sleep, climb out of John's embrace, and find his way to Sammy's (not Sammy's) crib. It was where he would find his boys every morning - together. John couldn't help but feel another loss. He hadn't even realized how much he hated sleeping alone until his wife was no longer by his side. That was one regret he'd never shake. He should've been next to her that night. He should've turned off the damn tv and went to bed. He didn't know if it would've made a difference or not, but he thought if he would've been there, been closer, he could've saved her.
Mike, his partner at the garage, had told him you can't change the past. All you can do is try to move on. All John heard was a big load of bullshit. It was easy to hand out advice when it wasn't his wife that was burned alive on a ceiling. He tried not to be angry with his friend. Mike had done a lot for him and the boys since the fire and he was in their debt. But Mike was wrong. You don't move on from something like that. When he looks at his boys his heart aches something fierce. Everyday he watches Dean drift further away. He hasn't spoken a word since that night and John knows he should be doing something more to help him. He'd give anything to feel like he wasn't letting Dean down. Like he wasn't letting them all down.
John turned on his back and stared at the ceiling. He was faced with the constant barrage of images of Mary, torturing him as he replayed her last moments over and over in his head. They said it was grief. His mind was playing tricks on him. John knew what he saw and he knew it was real. He just doesn't know how it was real. Something had done that to his wife. Something had killed his Mary. Tears stung at his eyes as he recalled her silent pleas - the look of terror on her face. He doesn't want that to be his last memory of her. He doesn't want that to be all he sees.
John bit his lip to stifle the sob that threatened to break loose. He had tried so hard not to cry lately, not wanting Dean to see him like this. Because he knew Dean wasn't asleep. Some nights, John would get up just to watch them and Dean's eyes would always be open and alert, trained on his baby brother. He was proud of Dean's protective streak lately but the cost had just been too much. He wanted to ease his little boy's pain but he knew it wasn't him that Dean needed. Just like he knew it wasn't him that Sammy cried for either. John felt pretty damn useless anymore. He was a marine. He's seen loss and he understands what it does to people. But it never prepared him for this. He doesn't think anything could. He wished Dean wasn't old enough to remember this loss. John knew his son understood when he told Dean that mommy wasn't coming back. Dean had nodded, his face soaked with tears, and all John could do was hold onto him. His only salvation was that Sam was just a baby and only cried because it was all he could do.
He let out a heavy breath and wiped at his face. Sleep wasn't going to come to him, he knew. He didn't want to sleep anymore. Maybe another man would accept what the officials told them but John just couldn't. He wanted answers - answers that the police and fire department couldn't give him. He was going to have to find the answers himself. Quietly, John got out of bed. He stopped by the crib to check on the boys and wasn't surprised when Dean's head came up to look at him questionably. It wasn't much but John took any reaction he could get.
"It's okay, Dean. Go to sleep." Dean stared at him a moment longer before laying his head back down next to Sam's and closing his eyes like he'd finally been told it was okay to stand down. John wasn't sure if Dean would actually sleep right then but he was thankful for at least that. His eyes rested on his children for a moment longer before he left the room, leaving the door open. He always left the door open now. Just in case.
He sat in the kitchen, his third cup of coffee halfway gone, when Mike walked in. "You're up early." John mumbled around his mug. Mike eyed him for a moment before grabbing a cup of Joe himself.
"I was gonna say the same. It's five am, John. You sleep at all?" John looked at the clock on the wall and shook his head. He hadn't noticed how much time had passed.
"John," Mike sighed heavily, "you gotta get out of this funk. Your boys need-"
"I know what my boys need." John replied, sharply. He was aware of where this was heading and he couldn't contain his anger anymore. Mike had been on him for weeks.
"Sure as hell ain't acting like it. Going off about conspiracy theories, saying all this crazy stuff about something killing Mary."
"That what the boys need? Dean ain't talkin', John. You won't even take him to a doctor."
John snapped, his coffee cup hitting the table so forcefully it sloshed a good amount on the surface.
"He doesn't need a God damn doctor!"
"Keep it down." Mike hissed. "I don't want to keep fighting with you on this, John. Hell, it's too damn early for this shit as it is. But you need some help. For the boys sake."
John knew it was the time to put an end to this. He didn't need anyone telling him how to raise his children and he sure as hell didn't need it from Mike of all people. A man that claimed to be a friend.
"Mike, I owe you and your wife for letting us stay with you but this is my family and I'll decide what's best for us. You can call me crazy all you want but I know what I saw and I'm gonna find out the truth." His tone was fierce and determined but he knew he hadn't won anything with his friend. Mike simply shook his head and left the room. John knew he hadn't heard the last of Mike's do-good words of wisdom, but the more time he wasted sitting around wondering was time he could be using to find whatever did this. No matter what anyone thought. So John got up. He got up and got to work.
Two days later, he went to Missouri. And he learned the truth.