Firefly 'Verse – Snow Angels 2/2

By: Suz Mc

Dean stayed close to Emily's face for way too long after they both realized this waking up thing wasn't going to magically happen in a Lifetime movie moment just because she heard their voices. He kept checking her IV, adjusting her blanket, doing anything to feel like he was doing something.

"You want some coffee?"

It was all Sam could think to do. Coffee. It filled up the time, filled up your hands, kept your blood pumping and your brain firing when you were too damn exhausted to think. Sam sure as hell could use a good java buzz. He was still cold from wallowing around in icy water with the Div last night. The snow falling outside that had clung to his hair and his jacket had melted and he could feel the damp shiver beginning again at his neck.

Dean was still hovering over Emily.

"Dean? I said, do you want some coffee?"

"Is it going to be like this all the time?" Dean was still looking down at his child, but he needed an answer to some question Sam didn't really comprehend.

"If the doctor said she was going to be okay, then—"

"No, that's not what I mean." Dean looked back across the bed, something truly unsettling playing across his face. "I mean, worry, all the time. Twenty-four seven. Doesn't matter if she's asleep or awake, night or day. I wake up at night to see if she's okay, can't sleep because I'm realizing something else that I need to take care of or plan or something else that could happen to her."

While he talked, he was hunching more around her, arms unconsciously circling her while all of these imagined threats played though Dean's mind.

"I could follow her around all the time, everywhere she goes, but that's not right either. I just don't know how to keep up with it all, Sam. I don't. "

"You can't be with her every second, Dean. Things are going to happen that you can't control." Sam leaned back in his chair, letting Dean keep his obsessive, hugging circle over Emily while she slept.

"You don't get it, Sam. You really don't."

Holy shit. Dean was about to come to tears. He was doing that gnawing on his lip thing and breathing through his mouth hard in some attempt to fight it off.

"It's all I think about, what dark evil bastard could be looking for her. Or, hell, looking for us and find her instead. I'm not shittin' you that I have tried to pull back on it a little, I have, and I can't."

"You didn't break into the school and install those surveillance cameras. That's progress." It would be funny except that Dean had been dead ass serious until the box of pinhole cameras arrived and Sam talked him out of it. "You didn't, did you?"

"No, I didn't."

"You're just upset because she's hurt and you need caffeine." Sam was on his feet and heading toward the door. Dean tended to come a little unwound when his blood to coffee ratio thinned.

"I spent all that time with the hex bags and the sigils every fuckin' where, at the house, at her school, all over, and what happens? I let her bust her head wide open on some goddamn ice." His hand was resting on her head again, caressing her forehead with his thumb. "I thought she was dead, laying there in the snow in her pajamas. Son of a bitch, this just keeps happening."

"That's not a happy word."

Dean either didn't hear him or didn't give a damn that Sam was trying to joke him out of his self induced panic attack.

"There's no way to do this right, no way to protect her all the time, no way to get this damn knot out of my guts all the time worrying about her. Is this how it's gonna be? Forever? 'Cause if it is, I don't know how people friggin' do it."

That was it. The Dean Winchester identity. Lord God King Protector of everybody within his circle. It could be a pretty damn safe place to be. That is if he wasn't smothering the life out of you and protecting you into a nervous breakdown. Now, it seems, Dean had found a way to smother himself right along with his family.

Sam eased down onto the edge of the bed, resting one hand on Emily's foot. "So you're worried all the time? Thinking about her every second? Freaking out that you've made or are about to make a mistake?"

"I think that's what I just said, Brainiac."

"Dean, I'm no parent, but I think that means you're doing it right, dude."

"So doing this right landed her in the hospital?"

"No, being an impatient four-year-old landed her in the hospital. You think every kid who breaks a bone or gets sick for going out without her coat is in here because they have crappy parents?"

"Probably."

"You're wearing me out, Dean, and you're going to wear her out, too."

"This is so hard."

"It's hard because you're doing a good job. Really, Dean, you gotta lighten up. If you weren't a good dad, you wouldn't give a damn."

"Yeah, this is payback, that's what it is. Payback for the way I shot my mouth off to dad about what a shitty father he was to us. Bet he's laughing his ass off." Dean looked up toward the ceiling. "Point, set, match, JW."

"Two words, Dean. Drama Queen."

"Screw you."

"Nice. Maybe I should get some old lady to needlepoint that phrase for you to hang on the wall."

Dean wasn't listening to him at all. He was spiraling down under the burden of everything he knew and everything he didn't know about the life he was trying to create for Emily and the life he had that was always circling them all. "When it was just me and you, when you were a kid, I was a kid. A little boy like you and I knew what you needed 'cause I needed it, too. But, Sam, she's a girl. A little girl."

"Damn, Dean. Are you kidding me? Thought she was a puppy."

"This isn't funny, asshole." Anger was always Dean's fallback position. "She's a little girl and she's growing out of her clothes and I barely go shopping for myself and one day all that other girl shit will start and what the fuck do I do about that, Sam? Do you know? No, your head's just as far up your ass about girls as mine. What the fuck do I do about that?"

"We'll just ask some woman to help us, Dean." He had him there. Neither one of them knew much about the personals of the gender that peed sitting down. "Ellen. You can call Ellen and she'll help with all that."

"I'm Emily's dad and I shouldn't have to run to Ellen for this shit." Dean scrubbed his hand hard over his face, his chest rising and falling hard under the pressure of it all. The brave new world was smacking him hard while he looked down at the little girl he was in charge of now.

"Do you think Dad knew anything about taking care of us when Mom died? I'll bet she did it all and he had to figure it out on his own. But you've got an advantage." Dean was looking at him with a glare that was half desperation and half pissed. "You got me, the smart one."

"Bite me."

"Seriously, what you don't know and I don't know we'll just have to Google it or call somebody or something. I'll bet everybody else has to do that, too." Sam looked down at the little girl curled up under the covers. Aside from the bandage on her head, she was perfect. A healthy, happy pre-schooler who got enough to eat, slept in the same bed every night, had clothes to wear, and was doing great in school. If you didn't count the sporadic night terrors and intermittent flashbacks Emily had to what she'd been through, this kid's life was happy. Emily laughed, danced, and played and filled up the refrigerator with drawings that rarely had flames on them anymore. All of that came under the heading of success, but Dean couldn't see any of that around what had happened this morning. "You're building a life, Dean. It takes time to figure it out."

"And about that life, Sam. I don't know shit about that either. I mean, building this friggin' shop and getting supplies and people want fucking checks and I've never even had a legit credit card or a bank account. Father's are supposed to know that shit, too, and I don't. I know skeevy hookups and hustling pool and gankin' demons, Sam. Not useful in this venue."

Hell, Sam hadn't known about that crap until Jess had gone with him to the bank and helped him open an account. She'd been shocked that his parents never taught him about this stuff. A basic, normal thing adults needed to know. Everything Dean had never been taught about the regular world that functioned with order and rules was coming back to bite him, set off by a childhood accident.

"Dean, you, uh, we are playing catch up. It's hard learning this stuff Dad should have taught us, should have done for us, but you don't have to keep all these plates spinning on your own. Why didn't you tell me you were freaking out over this?"

Dean kept his focus on Emily unconscious face. "I've got a family to look after and I don't want, didn't want…"

"First of all, you aren't in charge of me, dude, so you can forget the Dad impersonation you're doing for my benefit. Needing some help doesn't make you weak or a bad parent." Sam leaned in a little more closely and considered reaching out a hand to his brother who was clearly exhausted from his worry over Emily and the worst stream of consciousness freak out he'd had since that forty-eight hours of ghost sickness years ago.

"If you friggin' hug me, Sam, I swear I'll slug you right here." Dean was trying to hang onto some of the dignity he'd just given away by admitting he was floundering.

"She's going to be okay, Dean."

"Until the next accident or demon or what the fuck ever shows up. Who knows what's got her in its sights, Sam. Hell things were watching us, plotting over us when we were babies and two hunters couldn't protect us." He was balancing Emily's fingers on his hand, smoothing over her soft skin while the worry churned inside his gut.

There wasn't an answer to that, or at least not one that was right because there was no valid argument against Dean's point of view. The positive thinking his older brother had done for the past weeks had been shattered along with Emily's skull on the sidewalk. "I'm going to get coffee. "

"Black and none of that gay shit you mix in yours."

Sam squeezed Emily's foot under the covers while he pushed off the bed, and she wiggled it out of his grip.

"Dean."

"Come on, Emily. Wake up, baby?"

She was wiggling now, eyes breaking open in pinched little slits. Dean had her close, both hands touching, trying to keep her from jerking the IV out of her hand.

"Daddy?" Her voice trembled, hoarse and confused, while she peeled off the sleep. In the middle of her confusion, Emily's head twisted just enough for the wound at the base of her skull to make itself known. "Ow, it hurts." Her features crumbled down into a sob, as she cried and tried to touch the source of the pain.

"It's okay, Cutie Pie." Dean had her hands and was gathering her up close. "You hit your head on the sidewalk but it's gonna be okay. I promise."

"I'll go get the nurse. See if they can give her something for the pain." On his way out the door, Sam could hear Emily's cracked little cries while Dean tried to calm her down.

A warm, round nurse in lavender scrubs met him halfway down the hall, smiling and already on her way. "Is she waking up?" The woman's name tag said "Jeanette" and she was dragging a BP monitor and hanging onto a stethoscope around her neck.

"Yeah and her head hurts."

"I figured it would. Got the meds her doctor wrote on the chart in my pocket."

Jeanette rounded the corner into Emily's room to find her crying and Dean Winchester ready to do anything it took to make it stop.

"Give her something for the pain." He said it in a barked order, completely lacking in the charm Dean generally used to finesse nurses, waitresses, and anything else with girl parts.

And Nurse Jeanette ignored him.

"Sleeping Beauty is back," she said, checking the empty IV bag, then turning her attention to the undone preschooler who'd climbed up into her father's arms. "How are you feeling, sweetie?"

"Her head's cracked open, lady." Dean's impatience had a new edge to it.

Sam wanted to tell Dean to shut his pie hole before he pissed off the person who had the power to make Emily feel better, but he didn't have to say a word.

"Daddy, if you'll let Emily talk to me just a second, I'll know if I can go ahead and give her this happy juice, okay?"

Sam wanted to make an appointment with this woman so that he could master that tone. It was magical the way she told Dean to stop acting like a dick so she could work in language so sing song it could have been from Sesame Street. He had to cover his face to keep from breaking up in laughter.

"Yeah, okay." Super Dad backed off.

"Sweetie, can you tell me your name?" Jeanette was using a penlight to check Emily's pupils, touching her gently to hold open one eyelid at a time.

"Emily Claire Winchester." She'd stopped sobbing and took the penlight when the nurse put it in her hands to play with.

"Good. Can you follow my finger with just your pretty eyes?" She moved her finger back and forth and kept talking. "Do you know what today is?"

"It's Fun Day."

"That's what she calls Saturday." Dean butted in then shut up, expecting to be lectured again.

"It is a Fun Day, Emily. I like Saturdays, too." The child-sized blood pressure cuff slipped easily around Emily's arm and she didn't fight against it as long as Dean was whispering to her that it wouldn't hurt. "Do you know why you're in the hospital, Emily?"

"I slipped'd on the steps. I just wanted to see the snow." That made her cry again.

"Em, there's lots of snow and it'll be here when you get home." Sam decided to sit down on the other side of the bed to stay out of the way.

"Did you hunt the monster, Uncle Sammy?"

"Sure did. Got him, too."

Monster. The nurse perked up at that and Sam had to think quick and smooth. "Monster Bear hunt. Just got back."

"Oh, well then," she said, turning her attention back to Emily's bandage. "I think it'll be fine to go ahead and give you this medicine so your boo boo won't hurt for a while. I'll just put it right here," she injected it into her IV port, "so I don't have to stick you again, then we'll take this all out of your hand."

She worked quickly and efficiently, letting Dean handle the job of cuddling the little girl through the sting of the needle slipping out of her hand.

Jeanette cleared away the needle and gathered up the IV bag and other items. "She should go down fairly quickly. The doctor usually does second rounds about three. I doubt he'll make her stay the night." She gave Emily's leg a soft pat. "I'll check on you later. Use the call button if you need me."

The last thing Dean wanted to do on this earth, at this moment, was let go of Emily and put her back down on the bed. Sam watched him cradle her and rock her and it was still weird to see him do it. Two months hadn't made it look any less shocking. Dean was rough and crude and called people douchebags and screwed cocktail waitresses in cars and plunged wooden stakes into monsters.

And he fathered a little kid like nobody's business, like it was natural as breathing in and out. He was scared shitless, unsure of himself, lathering himself up into a panic over every decision, but he wasn't going to cut and run.

******

"I wanna make snow angels, Daddy."

She was still weepy and weary, head lolling against Dean's chest. She'd made it through having the IV removed like a trouper, one tear rolling out with the sting of it. Dean had made more of a flinch on her behalf.

"There's going to be snow all week long, Cutie." Dean had her snuggled up close, her head right up under his chin. All of the tension from before had been put away to make Emily at ease. "I promise you that when you're better, we'll fill up the yard with snowmen and snow angels. Uncle Sammy's here now so you can make your snowmen super tall."

The meds were taking effect and Emily gave a big yawn, giving up on holding her eyelids open.

"She said she'd make one for me to look at."

Dean decided to make her comfortable, sliding off the bed and arranging Emily against the pillows. "Who said that, Emily?" He smiled up at Sam, relief spread out across his face while he tried to soothe the little girl with a soft tone.

"The real angel." Her hand groped over the sheets looking for Dean's. "She was so so pretty."

Angel. That word sent a shotgun blast through the momentary relief in Dean's body. He stiffened quickly, shooting Sam a look that was one hundred percent pure hunter.

"When, baby? When did you talk to an angel?"

Another yawn stretched Emily's mouth wide and her eyes wobbled open briefly. "Just now, I wanna go look, but I'm too sleepy."

"What did the angel look like, Emily? Emily?" Dean's voice was a little sharper, trying to keep her awake long enough to tell him if this was real or just a little girl dream.

"She's so pretty. Wings were white and glittery and there was a light over her head."

Sam let out the breath he'd been holding. They'd met angels face to face and they weren't this glowing fluffy image from a little girl's head of gleaming wings and halos.

"She had pretty red hair and she promised to make me one to look at."

Okay, so maybe he was wrong. Dean was holding his jaw so tight his teeth could shatter at any second. "Emily? Emily, stay awake just a second longer. Emily!"

"Dean, drop it."

Please drop it so if this is real we can just ignore it for a while.

It had been two years since they'd mingled with angels. Two years out from the good and evil battle and all the interference between Heaven and Hell in their lives.

"Shut up, Sam." Dean didn't even spare Sam a glance away from Emily's face. She was trying to mumble something. "What was the angel's name, Emily. Please, tell Daddy then you can go to sleep."

A heavy sigh escaped from Emily's sleepy pout and it sounded like she was going down for the count. Then she whispered something so faint and light only Dean could hear.

"Dean, what did she say?"

He was shocked into stillness, but Dean's eyes tracked back and forth, chasing some sort of resolution to what he'd just heard.

"Dean?"

Emily was completely out now, her little body limp and pain free. Dean got to his feet quickly, striding around the bed and over to the window like he was in the middle of a chase so Sam joined him there.

"Open the blinds."

Sam obeyed, tugging the cord downward to clatter the metal blinds up toward the ceiling. The window looked down on an enormous courtyard space with ice covered shrubbery and park benches that were empty because of the cold, save for a few smokers.

"Holy shit." Dean pressed his hand to the window like he could feel something or absorb some detail his eyes were missing.

A crowd had gathered around the center of the huge smooth field of newly fallen snow. The impression of a twenty-five foot span of wings was pressed into the snow like it had been molded in clay. Every feather was meticulously carved against compacted snowflakes. The sunlight reflected off of the ice like crystals and sent sparkles out in every direction. In the middle of the wings, was the shape of a small body that had kicked out its legs like any child would to create the image of long gown spread over the snow.

"What did Emily say, Dean?"

There were people taking pictures now, marveling at what they thought was a miracle or a great holiday treat. This was no miracle. This was a sign or a message.

Or a warning.

Dean's voice was rough and low when he answered, the kind of no prisoners tone he used when he was getting ready for battle.

"Anna. She said it was Anna."

The End