A/N: This is going to be the first fic in the Raising a Big Brother!verse; I've had this one planned out for a long time, but only lately been finally able to write it.
There was only so long he could stare at the stupid text before his eyes started to burn. John rubbed at the offending eyes, widened them, and then hunkered back over the text. The pastor he'd talked with, Jim Murphy, had encouraged him to start small with the Latin. "Use a text you're familiar with," he'd said. "Then you can compare it with a Latin text and learn it easier that way. It's better if you have a grasp of it for the exorcisms."
Exorcisms. John still couldn't believe it sometimes. Even after six months, he still couldn't believe he was looking at the English Bible and then the Latin version, comparing and learning for exorcisms.
And really, the Bible wasn't a familiar text anymore, but John knew enough of the Psalms still that he could use those as a reference point. It was hard to believe in a God anymore.
The pain hit hard and he had to slap his hand over his mouth. Mary, his mind whispered, and he could see her if he shut his eyes. Her long blonde hair she threatened to cut whenever she needed to win an argument fast, because she knew damn right well John would do anything to keep her from chopping it short. Her with her two big bellies, her first being cradled in such awe, the second being shared with Dean who was just as awestruck as the rest of them.
His eyes burned for another reason, and he opened them again, letting the vision of his Mary dance away. Dean wasn't awestruck anymore. Six months, and Dean still hadn't said a single word. His baby boy who used to talk nonstop, who used to grin and shriek and laugh every moment of his life when he was four. Not anymore. His five year old face was constantly blank, except for when there was fear, and John hated that the blankness was the better emotion of the two.
His face was still blank now as his gaze followed Sammy. His eyes had a little bit of life in them now, though, and that John knew was in part to his watching Sammy. Sammy was certainly making noise, but it was all consonants, "b-b-b" and "d-d-d" and "s-s-s" so far. Kid wasn't really even walking yet, just standing, wobbling, then back to crawling, but he was still trying. Stubborn little thing, barely even a year old. Mary would've loved to see him-
The memory made John hunch over the Bibles in his arms, tears spattering the pages. Mary wouldn't see her babies grow up. Mary was gone, up in flames and blood, and the fear on her face, the sheer terror still had John gasping awake in the middle of the night.
He had to glance over at his two sons, if just to make sure they were still alive and okay. Still there. Sammy was happily playing with a toy on the floor, burbling sounds coming from his lips, oblivious to everything except his own ability to stand with it in his hands. Dean was watching from his seat on the floor, toys Sammy had given him surrounding him like a moat. All Dean ever did these days was watch Sammy. Help tuck Sammy in, help feed Sammy, help bathe and clean and do everything else for his baby brother. He never said a word, never really got upset when Sammy got angry or cried or even splashed him in good fun from the sink.
John knew Dean cried, though. Not always, but a lot of nights John heard his oldest sobbing in his bed as quietly as he could, and after the fire, John had always rushed in hold him and tell him it was going to be okay when it wasn't. The last time John had tried to do it, though, Dean had been even more distant the next day. John didn't try and help at night anymore.
He turned from his sons back to the Bible. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. With a snort of bitterness he turned to the Latin. Nam et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis, non timebo mala. "You're supposed to fear evil," he muttered under his breath. "Non timebo mala my ass."
Just because he couldn't help himself, John glanced away from the texts to his sons again. They were exactly as they'd been before, except Sammy was making his way over to Dean, toy grasped in his hands, determined little look on his face. "You doin' okay, Dean?" John asked. Not like Dean was going to answer him, but John would keep asking anyways. He needed Dean to know he would.
Dean tore his gaze from the advancing Sammy to John at last, then gave a small nod. "If you're not, you know I'm here, right? Dean?" John couldn't help but add. Dean's eyes averted to the floor, then back up to Sammy. He'd heard him at least, and John shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. They'd both been so scared as new parents, him and Mary, and there'd been two of them to raise their children. Now it was just John, and he felt so lost and over his head. "Mary, help me," he whispered.
John froze, his eyes shooting open, and his head shot up towards the boys. Dean looked just as frozen as he was, staring at Sammy. Sammy dropped the toy in Dean's lap, a wide smile on his face. Then, a moment later, he fell back down on his diapered butt and said proudly, "Deee'n!"
His first word. Sammy's first word, and John wasn't all that surprised at what it was. A little fractured, but it was definitely Dean. Sammy giggled and clapped his hands, then crawled over to nudge Dean's knee. "Deee'n?" he asked, little face turned up towards his brother.
Dean swallowed hard and stared back. A minute passed before he swallowed again, this time letting his lips part. He licked them tentatively, and John found himself clutching the texts in his hands.
When Dean whispered back, "Sammy," John shut his eyes and let himself cry. He could hear Sammy's joyous laughter at having gotten his brother engaged and replying, not even knowing what he'd truly done.
John opened his eyes once more to gaze at his boys. Sammy grabbed another toy, a plush ball, to bring to Dean, one of the ones from the moat already surrounding his brother. He handed it over on wobbling legs, and Dean actually reached out to take it. He stared at it for a moment, then moved to let it roll away. Sammy plunked back on his butt with a sound of frustration and crawled to get it back. "Deee'n!" he said, a babyish reprimand, and Dean's lips turned up for the first time in months.
"You boys doin' okay, Dean?" John asked again, his voice as soft as he dared to not break the spell. Dean swung his gaze over once more, and the nod came quicker this time.
"Yes," Dean answered. His voice was near a whisper, too, but John didn't doubt part of that was from having not used his voice for so long. John couldn't help the smile that spread across his face from relief, and Dean's lips turned up again.
"Good to hear," John said. Then, glancing over at Sammy, he warned Dean, "Incoming," and the ball was rolled back. Sammy stood and began carefully making his way back over to Dean. Dean caught the ball easily, then rolled it back to Sammy. It touched his ankle and down he went again, making a frustrated noise. He rolled it back once more, making to stand, but Dean pushed it back before he could. After a minute Sammy began to giggle and bounce, catching onto the new game. "Deee'n!" he called happily.
The game of rolling continued, and John let his eyes slide back to the text. Et misericordia tua subsequitur me omnibus diebus vitae meae. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
He didn't know if he'd have it for all his life, but if he could have these little pockets of happiness, John would take them and consider himself lucky. It was almost enough to make him believe in a God again.
And enough to have him believe that Mary would always be with her sons. He let himself smile, then set the texts aside to watch his boys play.
A/N the 2nd: And this is why Dean is truly the big brother he is today, protecting and saving Sam: because Sam saved him first. Which is why this has to be the first ficlet in the 'verse.