Title: The young flowers are blowing toward the west

Fandom: mostly "Supernatural"

Disclaimer: not my characters; title from Browning.

Warnings: AU

Pairings: John/Mary

Rating: PG

Wordcount: 2100

Point of view: third

Notes: prequel to "You called me and I came home to your heart"


John was the first to realize that Dean's talent for taking things apart and making them better is an actual ability.

He visited the Starfleet Academy for Gifted Students without telling the boys. He hadn't seen Bruce Wayne, the principal, in almost twenty years, not since Clark introduced them at some party or other.

"John," Wayne said, shaking his hand with one of his polite smiles. "It's been a long time. I'm surprised to see you here."

"Yeah," John said gruffly. "I wouldn't be except my boy—he's got an ability."

Wayne nodded. "I see." A moment's pause and then he added, "Not surprising, considering your and Mary's strength."

John looked him in the eyes. "I want Dean to learn control and responsibility, so when he's old enough, I'll send him here. And I'll be here too, Wayne. I'm sure you can find a job for me."

He smiled again, this time sincere. "Mary chose well, Winchester."

John said, "Thanks."

Wayne studied him silently for a moment. John waited him out.

"From what I understand," he finally said quietly, "you could take away your son's ability. Make him as normal as you've always wished to be."

"Yeah," John agreed. "I could do that. But Mary told me once, a long time ago, that I'd come to a crossroad's of choice. That I'd have a chance to change things forever." He looked down at his clenched fists. "My boy has this ability for a reason and Mary saw something, so…" He shrugged. "Does he have a place here?"

Wayne nodded. "Do you want to start when he does?"

"That'd be best. Is there a place for younger kids?" John asked. "If Dean inherited, Sam did, too."

Wayne considered. "Clark has been after me to start something for children who manifest before puberty. I'll consider all the details and get back to you."

John nodded. "Thank you, Wayne." He stood and strode to the door.

"John," Wayne called. He didn't glance back as Wayne said, "You didn't have to pull away and vanish with her sons when Mary died. You had friends. You still do."

Sighing, John said, "I know. But who could I trust, Bruce?"

He opened the door and left without another word.

o0o

That night, John talked to Dean after supper while Sam splashed water all over the floor during his 'bath.'

"Son," he asked, interrupting Dean's clean-up of the kitchen. "What do you remember about your mother?"

Dean looked at him with wide eyes—John never mentioned Mary. "I…" he said. "I remember her hair. Her laugh. We… we danced around the kitchen and she told me angels watched over me every night and then kissed my forehead and called me love." He rubbed his eyes, flinching when he realized he had spaghetti sauce on his hand. "Why, Dad?"

"Your mother had an ability, Dean," he explained. "So do I." He held Dean's gaze. "And so do you."

o0o

As expected, Dean freaked the fuck out. John hadn't been an active part of the hero world in seven years, not since he took the boys and ran. Looking back, he knew he could have handled that better, but at the time he was too angry and frightened for the boys.

Someone had betrayed Mary and killed her. They almost killed Sammy. All John saw was a shadow, and he was too slow to catch it.

With distance, John realized that Mary must have known she'd die that night. Why she didn't take precautions, he still didn't understand.

He tried not to think that maybe she had taken precautions and failed.

o0o

When Dean finally walked back into the house, Sam met him at the door. John watched from the kitchen as they spoke quietly. Sam nodded after a moment and shoved him a little before heading down the hall.

Dean slowly walked to John and stood in front of him, head bowed. "Dad," he mumbled. "Uh. I'm sorry for how I acted."

John placed a hand on his shoulder. "'s'alright, kiddo," he said. "Let's finish our talk and call it even."

o0o

They sat in the den this time, John with coffee and Dean with a coke.

"Your mom could see the future," John told him. "She could pick any day and look at it, if she wanted. She usually didn't—your grandparents scared her out of it as a girl." He took a sip of his coffee. "Abilities go back far in her family, but I'm only the second, after my grandmother. She could touch people and know their potential, where their strengths lay. She could see some of the future, too, if something major would happen."

Dean blinked up at him, silent and waiting.

John said, "I can activate and deactivate abilities."

Dean's mouth dropped open. "What?"

John nodded, looking down at his coffee. "I discovered it by accident. But that's…" He shuddered. "That's not important." He looked at Dean. "You see how things work, don't you, Dean? Machines, systems, people." Dean shifted his gaze past John. "Dean. I know I haven't done the best I could with you, all the moving around, lack of stability, and I'm sorry for that."

Dean glanced up, shocked again. John couldn't remember the last time he apologized to his boy.

"In two years, you're going to the Starfleet Academy. An old friend of your mother is the principal." John waited, but Dean kept silent. "Wayne told me I'd have a job there when you go and he might even start a program or somethin' for kids Sam's age."

Dean chuckled but it didn't sound mirthful at all. "What if…" he asked quietly. "What if I don't want to go, don't want to be a freak?" The fear was buried but there and John wished, for the first time in seven years, that he had stayed, gone to Kent after Mary died. "Dad," Dean said, almost excitedly. "You could turn it off, couldn't you? Make it go away?"

John refused to lie. "I could," he said. "But I won't."

Dean started to say something, but John held up a hand. 'I haven't done right by you, Dean. The heroes—I shouldn't have raised you to distrust them because the Academy will be so difficult now, and I am sorry about that." He waited, but Dean sat quietly, fingers clenched around the coke. "Dean," John said. "Your mother never told me what she saw for you or Sammy." She never told John anything about what she saw for him, either, except that their second boy would be a giant with the Winchester stubborn streak.

"But what she did tell me," he continued, setting his empty mug on the coffee table and leaning forward. "She told me that I'd have a choice, Dean. The opportunity to change things forever." He reached out and lifted Dean's chin. "My grandmother died before I was born, but she left a letter. My mother gave it to me because it was addressed to my firstborn son." Dean blinked but still didn't speak. "I read it when I was your age because curiosity was eating me alive. Do you know what my grandmother wrote three years before my birth?"

Dean shook his head and John let his hand fall, settling back against the couch.

"I thought it was a crock of shit," John said. "Even after I met your mother. I'd gone to Starfleet Academy myself, but I wanted nothing to do with all the heroes. I just wanted to be a mechanic, yet heroes and villains kept courtin' me for my ability." He sighed, watching Dean sit motionless. "My grandmother wrote that my son had limitless potential. That the first child my wife bore me might one day be unstoppable, that he could learn to survive death."

Dean blinked up at him and his mouth opened, closed, opened again. "Um," he finally said. "What?"

John smiled gently at him, remembering the first time he saw Mary holding this boy. Only seconds old, Dean hadn't cried. He'd looked around and Mary grinned down at him. "Welcome to the world, Dean Jonathan Winchester," she'd whispered. "Big things afoot for you, love."

"You understand how things work, Dean," John explained to Mary's son now. "You can learn powers. You can learn anything, astrophysics or how to shift reality or healing. You could probably figure out how to make gravity vanish, if you really tried, and that's why you need to go to Starfleet Academy, so Wayne and Kent and the rest can teach you responsibility."

Dean sighed, closing his eyes. They sat in silence until Dean said, "Goodnight, Dad," and walked to his room. John let him go because Dean had to decide for himself.

John knew he'd make the right decision.

o0o

Sam woke screaming just before dawn. By the time John got there, Dean'd already crawled in with him and curled around him.

"'s'alright, Sammy, I'm here," Dean murmured. "I got you. I'm here."

John silently backed away, but paused when he heard Dean ask, "What'd you see, Sammy?"

A few minutes passed before Sam calmed enough to say, "A plane went down. Burned. No one got there in time."

"Was it a nightmare?" Dean asked. "Or the other thing?"

"The other thing," Sam whispered. "Dean, I don't like it."

John rested his forehead against the wall. If Sammy had Mary's ability, then he needed help sooner. She'd said she'd almost gone mad—that she would have, if her father hadn't dampened her strength until she had a better grip on it.

He could turn Sam's visions off. Take them away forever.

"Really?" he heard Sam exclaim. "You can do things, too?"

"Yeah, Sammy," Dean said. "So did Mom. She was like you. We're special."

John smiled, but still wanted to cry. To hold his wife, to kiss her, to demand why she didn't save herself.

He left Dean to console Sam and went back to bed. He didn't sleep again, just stared at the ceiling, trying to remember everything Mary ever said about their sons. Maybe it was time to read her journals. And Dean needed to see his great-grandmother's letter.

o0o

Dean made breakfast with Sam's enthusiastic help. John watched, waiting to see if Dean would ask him to take away Sam's power.

Sam settled down with a sketchbook and charcoal, and Dean just sat beside him for a moment before ruffling his hair and going to John. Dean looked steadily at him and John knew this was Dean the overprotective big brother, not Dean the dutiful son.

"Could I learn to help Sammy?" Dean asked quietly.

John nodded. "I can go talk to Wayne again, see if he has anyone who can help Sam now."

Dean glanced back at Sam. "Take us," he said. "I think Sam needs to see he's not alone."

"Alright." John placed a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Don't worry," he assured his boy. "I'll take care of things."

Dean canted his head, looking up to meet John's gaze. "I've been having dreams, too," he said quietly. "If going to this school, if bein' able to control—" He cut himself off and started over. "If I can change what I've seen, Dad, then I will attend every class."

"Dean!" Sam called. "Come see this horse I drew."

John thought back to Deanna Campbell, the way she smiled at him the first time Mary brought him home. "You're just as willful as my little girl," Deanna had said. "But you've got a good head on your shoulders and you'll love her till your last breath."

"Mama!" Mary had said, shoving him down the hall. "Don't scare him away."

Later, while Mary spoke with her mother, Samuel pulled John aside. "Take care of my daughter, Winchester," he had growled. "Deanna looked in your mind and says you're a good boy. But if you hurt my Mary, I'll rip you apart."

Mary came to his rescue and led him to the porch. John knew he loved her then.

Her parents were dead two weeks later and Bruce Wayne swept her away. John didn't see her again for three years, not until he met Clark Kent at a disaster scene and watched the world's most powerful man pull a bleeding blonde from the rubble.

Watching their sons examine a drawing together, John knew that Mary must have had a reason to do let herself die that night. He couldn't fathom what it could've been, but he still trusted her.

John left the boys in the kitchen and went to his bedroom to call Wayne.