John, Sam, Dean
Summary: John knew things would have been different
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters do not belong to me
Six Times John Missed Mary
by Carole Seegraves
"Shh, Sammy, daddy's here," John crooned, removing the twist cap from the bottle of calamine lotion and reaching for a white cotton washcloth. He quickly dipped the corner of the cloth into the pink liquid and covered the angry-looking spots that dotted the toddler's skin, but despite his efforts, the two-year-old continued to scream in misery at the top of his lungs. Dean was still valiantly trying to distract his little brother, making silly faces and stroking his hair, but even his touch, usually one of the only things that would calm Sammy down when he was out of sorts, wasn't working.
Mary would have been able to soothe her youngest. She would have held him tenderly, cradled him in her arms, sung soft lullabies. She would have gently rubbed his little back, read his favorite books, gathered up the tiny fingers that wanted to scratch in a quest for relief.
She would have had the right medicines, known the right doses, made sure Sammy's temperature had stayed below fever level. She would have found a way to convince the fussy toddler to eat.
John shook his head and picked up the phone. Maybe someone down at the local pharmacy could tell him what to do before the neighbors started banging on the thin walls between their apartments and complaining about his kids again.
"Ready, Sammy?" John asked, glancing down at the five-year-old beside him. He stifled a sigh when he discovered that the previously excited little boy now wore a wide-eyed expression of fear and was clutching his pant leg in a tight grip. He nodded toward the classroom, used his hand to gently move his son forward, but Sammy resisted, and next to him, Dean looked almost as stricken as his little brother as the time came for their separation.
Mary would have known how to encourage Sammy to enter the room, join in on the activities, make friends with the other children who were playing, laughing, and chattering happily with each other just beyond the door.
She would have prepared him for his first day of school, let him pick out a new lunch box and backpack, bought him new clothes and shoes, made sure he had brand new crayons and pencils and scissors. She would have brought him to 'Meet Your Teacher Day,' made sure he knew where to put his things and where to find the bathroom. She would have had him at school well before the bell rang.
John tried one more time to move Sammy forward, but when this effort failed, he caught the attention of the kindergarten teacher. As she approached, a smile on her face, he swiped his hand roughly through Sammy's hair, pressed a quick kiss to his forehead, and peeled his son's fingers away, one by one. Then he handed him over into her care. All the while, doing his best to ignore Sammy's soft sobs and Dean's accusing stare.
"Don't forget the cookies, Sammy," John called, watching as his youngest grabbed his lunch box and backpack, trying to catch up with Dean, who was already half-way to the door.
Sammy backtracked just far enough to grab the cardboard box of cookies from the kitchen counter, then raced off, not wanting his big brother to get too far ahead of him. It didn't take him long to catch up, though, because Dean was waiting patiently for the younger boy, and as soon as Sammy reached the door, the two of them set off for school together.
Mary would have made the cookies herself. She would have been thrilled with the opportunity to provide Sammy's class with two dozen home-made treats, and she and the boys would have spent an entire afternoon baking. She would have had flour smudged in her hair, chocolate smeared on her face, a smile on her lips. She would have met him at the door with a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
She would have carefully packed the cookies inside a special tissue-lined tin box, and instead of the required two dozen, there would have been at least thirty-six, because she knew how much little boys loved cookies.
John knew that Sammy would be happy passing out the cheap, mass produced cookies his father had purchased the night before at the all-night convenience store, regardless of how they tasted. Because Sammy had never known anything else.
"Nice to meet you," John responded with as much sincerity as he could muster, ignoring the chair positioned in front of the desk and remaining on his feet. He took a deep breath, forced himself to meet the teacher's gaze, hoped the meeting wouldn't last more than a few minutes.
Mary would have loved this. She would have smiled and laughed, and the two women would have talked about Sammy's accomplishments and difficulties, shared their devotion for the ten-year-old. They would have gushed over his art work, and science projects, and book reports, and smiled over the way he still sometimes wrote his name with the "S"'s backwards.
She would have told his teacher how much he looked forward to attending school every day, and reminisced about the three days in a row that Sammy had brought her an apple, and how he had come home, wearing a bright smile on his face each afternoon after giving it to her. She would have stayed well beyond the allotted time, and regretted when it was time to leave.
But all John could think about at that moment was the shapeshifter in the next town over. So he rushed through the parent/teacher conference, nodding at the appropriate times and making promises he'd never be able to keep, all the while knowing he'd have to leave his boys alone to fend for themselves again that night.
"Dean'll pick you back up at eleven," John reminded, grimacing as he propped his cast foot on the second-hand coffee table and leaned back against the couch cushions.
Sammy just nodded, his cheeks flushed pink in response to Dean's relentless teasing. He checked to make sure he still had the tickets in his pocket, ran his hands through his hair, and then, after letting out a sigh, headed for the door with Dean in tow.
Mary would have helped him pick out a suit to wear, straightened his tie a thousand times, made sure his shoes were polished within an inch of their life.
She would have taken his picture with the old Polaroid camera, reminded him to get a flower or a corsage or whatever a guy was supposed to get for his date these days. She would have smiled, given him a hug, told him how handsome he looked, whispered into his ear that she wanted to hear all about his evening when he got home.
The truth was, though, John knew, that if he hadn't been laid up, Sammy wouldn't have been on his way to his first dance. He would have been joining his father and older brother on a hunt. Because dances - and other extra-curricular school activities - always came in second when there was a job to do.
"Don't bother to come back," John shouted, standing toe to toe with his son, ignoring the efforts of his oldest boy to get between them. His hands were clenched into fists at his sides and it was all he could do to keep them there.
Sam walked away, only to reappear a few minutes later with duffle bag in hand and a desperate-looking brother trailing behind.
Mary would have done it differently. They would have pored over the college catalogs together, visited campuses, studied majors and class descriptions. She would have been so excited, so proud, celebrating each and every acceptance letter.
She would have taken him shopping, made sure he had all the clothes and supplies he needed, insisted on buying a few luxuries he didn't. She would have cried as they drove away, leaving Sammy behind, a college freshman, ready to begin the next step in his life.
John did none of those things. Sam's jaw was set and his mind was clearly made up. And there was no way to take the words back. So instead, he just stood there and watched his son walk out the door.