Title: Chaos Theory
Characters: John, Mary, Dean, Sam, Adam, OCs
Warnings: some violence, mature subject matter, sexual assault of a minor (off-screen) in later chapters.
Summary: AU. When Anna goes back in time in season 5 to kill off the young John and Mary Winchester, the boys are able to convince Mary to leave John and the angel is assuaged. However, she doesn't tell anyone that she's pregnant. Mary raises Dean alone as a single mom, and John does his best to move on with his life, settling in with Kate Milligan and fathering two boys with her, Sam and Adam. Years later, our favourite Winchester brothers are reunited (not knowing they're half-brothers) through baseball. And Mary's shacked up with a long-standing boyfriend who has set his sights on pretty teen!Dean (it was a prompt, okay? bear with me!). Will Sam and John recognize who Dean is and save him from the big, bad wolf living in his house?


This story was written for a prompt over on LJ. Like most of my stories, it's a WIP, but chapter 2 is well underway. The usual disclaimers apply: no copywrite infringement intended (I don't own anything!).


In Chaos Theory, they say that unpredictability is about the only thing we can really predict. A butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo and we get snow in New York as a result. The butterfly effect, if you will. The gist? We can never guess what the consequences of our actions will be, however huge or insignificant they may appear. When you start messing with time travel, start messing up the natural order of things, attempt to fight City Hall, well, that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

It happens like this, though. At some point in 2010, an angel named Anna tries to save the world by killing a young couple, whom you all know as John and Mary Winchester, before their fated sons can be born and, you know, start the apocalypse. Those same boys get zapped back to 1978 to stop the angel from killing their parents, and kind of sort of end up telling their Mom to leave their Dad so as to prevent either of them from being born.

In another universe, the archangel Michael descends from Heaven and literally snaps his fingers to undo all this ridiculous dabbling with time (erasing John and Mary's memories of the event and sending the adult boys back to their own time), but it's not this particular set of circumstances, in this particular timeline, that we're interested in here. Because you see, in a different timeline, where angels don't care to get their hands dirty involving themselves in the petty concerns of those crafty apes, Michael sits on his ass and lets the Winchesters try to escape their destiny.

This is how that story goes.

888

Mary

Mary's not sure what happened, but the freaky angel chick with the unnatural red hair backs off when she learns of Mary's plans to split town (she doesn't mention the pregnancy to anyone – she's not that stupid), taking the imposing black angel, Uriel, with her. It wasn't easy convincing her, but Dean had made some kind of reference to their 'history together' and the angel had caved, even offering an apology that things couldn't be different. Dean and Sam, who are supposedly her own grown-up children, offer bracing, tight-lipped smiles with too much pain behind their eyes, and leave her to plan her life out on her own without John. Whether they go back to their own timeline or simply disappear into the ether is something she'll never really know. But what she does know is that she's walking away from the love of her life, and it's like losing him all over again (neck broken, demon wearing her father and everything suddenly, terrifyingly over).

'You gotta leave John… When this is all over, walk away, and never look back,' Sam, her youngest son who will never be if she does this, had said.

She calls the police from a nearby payphone to report a mugging (John's still unconscious and beat all to hell from when Anna threw him through the side of the house) and slips away before they arrive, trusting them to look after her husband while she finds the nearest stretch of highway and extends her thumb. With nothing more than the clothes on her back and a tiny of cluster of cells growing in her womb, Mary Winchester sets off to seek out a new destiny.

It's not easy starting over.

She hitchhikes to Chicago and gets a job waiting tables in a little diner that's only a block away from the roach trap she's squatting in. They don't ask questions about Mary Campbell's history (back to using her maiden name), and don't look too closely at her current address when she provides it to them. It's home for now until she can get a few pay cheques as start-up for a more decent place. Either way, she knows it'll be modest living for the next 18 years or so. With a baby on the way and no husband (God, she misses John like she would miss an arm or a leg) to help with the burdens, she has to plan out every expense with miserly attention.

They're the loneliness seven months of Mary's entire life.

The tiny one-bedroom apartment that she settles for is far and away from the dreams she'd had growing up, from the dreams she'd had with John. The baby's crib is second-hand, borrowed from one of the girls at work who doesn't need it anymore, and is set up in the living room because the bedroom's too small and there's nowhere else to put it. The sink in the kitchen backs up at least twice a week and the super's rather lackadaisical about doing repairs in the building. And only one of the burners on the stove works.

To pass the hours of loneliness, Mary talks to the little life inside her. A boy, she knows. Tiny now, and growing every day, but one day he'll be big and strong. He'll have green eyes like hers, and fair hair, and freckles. He'll be broad-shouldered and handsome like Robert Redford. Dean. Of course she'd name him Dean, after her mom.

Mary swears to herself that this baby will grow up just as strong as the Dean she met, only without the ghosts in his eyes, without the scars of hunting marring the landscape of his body. Without being cursed. He won't know a single nightmare, or face an hour of darkness, that she isn't at his side to soothe away. He won't have a mourning and revenge-addled father to turn him into a soldier, a killer. He won't have a little brother whose destiny is mapped for darkness by a yellow-eyed demon. He'll just have her, and hopefully it'll be enough.

When January 24th hits there's a snowstorm fit for the record books, which of course means little Dean decides he's ready to come out. There's no team of doctors or nurses to help coach Mary through her contractions, no clean, cold, sterile environment to herald this new life into the world. Only a midwife with a steady voice and a firm grip and several decades of experience. Mary can't afford a hospital, and the idea of having her baby at home suits her just fine. It'll be just her and Dean against the world, after all. The way it should be. Seventeen hours of contractions, pushing, screaming and crying, with sympathetic neighbours not pounding on the door to complain about the noise, and Dean Campbell (Winchester) finally comes into the world.

He's pink and squishy and squiggly and squalling, his little lips curled up to reveal enraged gums as he wails at the injustice of his own birth. 'I'm sorry, little one,' Mary thinks, knowing all the things she won't be able to provide that she wishes she could. Knowing she's robbing him of a father who could have been one of the best if a demon weren't destined to interfere and set him on a path of blood and vengeance.

This path she's chosen… it's for the best. She and Dean will get by because it's the only option they have. And whatever curse was chasing them, they've escaped it. That's all that matters.

888

In the years that follow, Mary sometimes finds herself aching for the other life she could have had if fate hadn't destined her to die in it. She imagines what she and John would have made of this little blonde-haired, green-eyed miracle, what joys they would have shared in watching him grow. She wonders what Sam, who will never be now, would have been like, if he would have been as much of a treasure as Dean is. She thinks he must, because his eyes, big and hazel and cat-slanted, had been so warm and earnest, so pleading and filled with a sweetness that belied his man-wall size and hard edges.

But all she has of that could-have-been is Dean, and Dean is a gift.

A more lovable boy Mary couldn't have hoped for. He's wide-eyed and full of giggles and big smiles, arms always extended for hugs, cheeks just begging for kisses. He's warm and affectionate, even-tempered and kind to his mama. He delights in the smallest things, entertains himself with everything and nothing, and never seems to realize that he's missing out. If he has fewer toys than other boys his age, he doesn't seem to notice. And if his clothes are used and worn, he doesn't seem to care. From the moment he starts talking, he's all animated chatter. And every night before she tucks him into bed, Dean's sweet voice will follow her into the night, "G'night mama."

She loves him so much it hurts.

The first few years are the hardest. There's no such thing as maternity leave for single-mother waitresses, so Mary doesn't have the option of staying home with her son without going on welfare, which she's simply too proud to do. Luckily, there's a neighbour two floors up who's running a sort of at-home daycare and who charges next to nothing for the service, on the condition that Mary return the favour on the days that she's free. It's exhausting, but it allows them to get by.

Dean doesn't like being away from her, but he doesn't complain. Sometimes his lower lip will jiggle with the threat of tears, and his eyes will go dewy and sad, but he always puts on a brave face, waves goodbye like a big boy, and waits out his day until his mother can return to bring him home. He's an angel like that, Mary knows. Never prone to throwing tantrums like other kids his age, always in tune with his mother's feelings, offering encouragement when he can sense (with his astute three year-old mind) that she's feeling down, or hugs when she's tired and worn out.

Honestly, Mary doesn't know what she ever did to deserve such a great kid. That horrible night, almost ten years ago, she'd made a deal with a demon. She'd bartered for John's life, kissed a contract for a demon to enter their home and (unbeknownst to her) defile their as of yet unborn, second-born child. She'd invited that mess into their lives. God, she deserved to be burned at the stake, not showered with affection from the sweet little soul who is her only companion through the lonely days and nights.

If there is a God, Mary hopes and prays that He will reward Dean some day for his goodness and light. He's the only light left in Mary's life.

888

John

At first John is convinced that the angels are responsible for Mary's disappearance. They'd wanted them dead, the two drifter cousins had explained. Maybe the Heavenly assholes had whisked her off somewhere, or beaten her to death. The old Campbell homestead had been one hell of a mess when John finally came to, and there were clear sings of a struggle. And every scenario his distraught might conjures up is more horrifying than the first, but with each passing day his imagination only proves more disturbingly creative. It's enough to drive him insane.

He doesn't remember much about what happened that night. The supposed angels (and he still almost can't believe all that talk about angels and monsters can possibly be true) had shown up and dealt out some pain before John got tossed through the side of the house and then it was lights out. When he came to, Mary and her cousins were gone, and there was no sign of where anyone went. A few puddles of blood and a wreck of old furniture were the only evidence left behind, and they all pointed to a big heapload of nothing.

The police did say that an anonymous call, placed by a woman, had come through to report John's 'mugging.' Somehow John knows that it was Mary that placed the call. He doesn't want to believe it, but his heart tells him that it's probably true.

Still, he's got more questions than answers and has absolutely no intention of just sitting back and waiting for revelation to fall out of the sky. Something or someone took his wife away from him, and he's determined to find her and bring her back. He won't let her go until he knows there's absolutely no hope… until he gets confirmation that she is really and truly gone.

Of course, getting answers himself proves to be easier said than done. There's not really a whole lot of information out there on angels that isn't just biblical crap. He'd tried talking to a priest and been told that angels are guardians and don't kidnap people or have wetworks operations. The dick. He'd also suggested that maybe John check himself into a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

Then John got the idea that maybe he should try fighting fire with fire. If something supernatural, like an angel, took his wife, then maybe supernatural means were required to find her. So he started looking up local psychics to see if maybe they could help.

That's how he finds himself in the sitting room of a very comfortable little two-storey house, in the presence of one Missouri Moseley, a self-advertised psychic with a sweet voice and stern disposition. She's short, with a tiny frame with just a bit too much stuffing around the middle, with chocolate skin and a perfectly round afro atop her head. Young and pretty, but ageless in a way that kind of freaks him out when her eyes meet his. He doesn't really know if he buys into the whole psychic crap thing, but he's out of his depth and he knows it, and he doesn't even know where to begin to look for his wife.

Missouri sits across from him in a cozy armchair and watches him as a myriad of expressions dance all over her face. At first she's clearly confused, receptive, but then her eyes go wide and she has to stifle a gasp. John's not sure what he thinks of the theatrics, and by the time she starts shaking her head as if in wonder, he's about ready to storm right out the front door and forget the whole thing.

"Oh honey," the woman says at length, holding a hand to her ample bosom to steady her breathing. Her voice is a mixture of awed and slightly terrified. "Give a girl some notice before you lay all that baggage down on her stoop, would you? Been a long time since I had that much comin' at me at once."

She purses her lips tightly and gives him a hard look, as if it's his damned fault she just had some kind of psychic overload.

"What?" is all he can think to ask.

"Destiny," she says intently, fanning herself. "Hooboy, you come so close to steppin' in a bear trap of it and don't even know it."

John's pretty sure if she doesn't drop it with the cryptic code routine, he's going to flip her coffee table over and start breaking things. Seriously.

"Don't you be messin' up my stuff, boy," the woman snaps sharply. "I may be smaller than you but I got a sturdy spoon in my kitchen and I ain't afraid to use it."

Deep breaths. He needs to take deep breaths or else he's going to lose it. He thinks of warm beds and counting sheep, of Mary's sweet scent, her golden hair, and tries to relax himself, only it serves to bring that deep ache into his chest, nearly choking him. He's not sure he can fucking do this.

"It's not clear," Missouri says at length, slowly, choosing her words carefully as though picking them out of the atmosphere. "But I see two distinct paths. Like a tree with two branches growing into the sun. You and your wife, what you could have been, leads one way. The other branch…. It's new. Someone made a decision, a big one. Changed things."

"And that's got something to do with destiny?" John asks skeptically.

"That first branch," she agrees, nodding for emphasis. "There was darkness in it, for you and your wife. Your whole family. I don't know what, but it was big. Biblical kinda big, you understand what I'm sayin'?"

John thinks of angels, of sigils smeared in blood on derelict walls, of two men warning them that angels had put a hit out on him and his wife. Biblically big.

"But it's changed?" His heart's hammering in his chest so hard it makes his fingers tingle.

"Your wife walked away," she says thoughtfully. "Tore herself offa that path to save you all from the darkness that's coming."

"What darkness?" John demands, pleading.

"A curse," she explains unhelpfully. "I'm sorry John, the details aren't clear. But what she did – leaving – she mapped out somethin' new."

It doesn't make any sense. Or maybe it's that John doesn't want it to make any sense. Mary would never just leave him, would she? She's his wife. They'd exchanged vows, 'til death do us part and the whole nine yards. She wouldn't just bail on him without even saying goodbye. She wouldn't.

"You're wrong," he whispers. "Mary wouldn't just walk out. She wouldn't."

"Even if it meant savin' the whole world from somethin' awful?" she challenges.

Now that's just fucking ridiculous. John should have known that this psychic broad was a fraud.

"Those visitors you encountered a few weeks ago, the ones with the big fluffy wings, the ones trying to kill you?" she says, eyes sharp and scolding. "They don't come down here to meddle in our business unless it's end times, boy. End of the world kind of end times, you hear what I'm saying?"

"But that doesn't make any sense!" he protests. "For Christ's sake, I know she said she hunted monsters or whatever, but I don't see how her being here could lead to the end of the world, or how her taking off could prevent it. You gotta give me more than that."

Missouri purses her lips and squints in thought. "Secrets," she says. "Your wife had a few big ones under wraps. I don't know what they were, but one was big enough it was worth runnin' away for. Worth losin' you forever for."

"Well how do I find her?"

When she finally answers, her eyes are cold and hard.

"You don't," she orders. "Mary doesn't want to be found, John."

888

John stays in Lawrence for a whole year, looking for clues and hoping and praying that Mary will change her mind and come back to him. She doesn't. The days are long and lonely, and with each sunset John feels his hopes dying, his heart hardening, his despair growing. Mary… Mary is everything to him, and she's just up and left without even a word of goodbye. He'd like to believe that her intentions had been altruistic, that the whole fate of mankind really did rest on Mary's decision to leave him, but in his heart he fears that he just wasn't good enough for her. Wasn't enough to make her stay.

Maybe Mary deserved more. All that talk of destiny crap aside, maybe Mary had just been unhappy. Maybe living pay cheque to pay cheque had just gotten too much for her. Maybe she longed for the stability of something more than a struggling mechanic husband with bills piling up and not enough work some months to make rent. Maybe she was better off without him.

These thoughts plague John for an entire year, but at the end of it he decides that he's had enough. He can't keep punishing himself for what he couldn't be for her. He loves her – always has and always will – but he can't keep clinging to her memory in the hopes that she'll suddenly materialize and return to him. He can't torture himself in this limbo, dreaming about having her back but knowing that he never will.

So he makes a clean break. He packs up everything that he can fit into the Impala and sells the rest. He's got a small amount of savings and an invitation from an old marine buddy, Graham Baker, of a couch to crash on and a job interview at a local garage in Windom, Minnesota.

It's a new start.

888

Mary

Mary doesn't date. Even if she were inclined to find solace in the warmth of another man's embrace (which she isn't), she knows better than to tempt fate. The fact remains that she made a deal with the yellow-eyed demon. She's the one who gave him an open invitation to her house. John was just a pawn, a bargaining chip, for the demon to get what it wanted. And Mary opened the door by saying yes.

She's not sure what that means, exactly, but she knows that there could somehow still be a Sam in the future somewhere, maybe from a one-night stand or from a short-term boyfriend. All it takes is one accident (and she made the deal, so if ever a metaphorical piece of toast was going to land butter-side down, it would be now, with her), and Mary's not taking any chances.

So she ignores the polite interest of customers during the breakfast rush. She ignores the offers of phone numbers and candle light dinners. She ignores her own loneliness, ignores the frustrations of going so long without someone to share her bed, and thinks of the baby she'd be dooming – cursing – if she allowed herself to be weak. There's too much at stake to be weak.

She's also ready for any efforts on the demon's part to make things happen.

One night in early August, 1982, a man follows Mary home from the diner. She'd taken an evening shift to pick up some extra tips and had left Dean with Mrs. Jeffries two floors up. It's been a long day and Mary's tired and cranky and can't wait to wrap her little boy in her arms and just snuggle him close. That's how she almost misses the sound of approaching footsteps when a dark figure attempts to drag her into an alleyway.

It's more of a struggle than Mary thought it would be. It's been a while since she's put her fighting skills to use, and she's rusty. But this guy isn't combat trained and expects an easy conquest. He's all rough, grabby hands and ordered commands to 'Shut the fuck up!' and 'Play nice and I won't hurt you!' Mary promptly breaks his nose and then jabs him in the eye so hard he falls to his knees with a shriek of agony. The kick to the jaw sends him sprawling, while the follow-up kick to the groin steals his breath completely.

Once she's sure he's completely incapacitated, she looms over him, fists defensively held in front of her, ready to fight more if she has to. The guy just wheezes, panting on his back and blinking past tears. She barely notices the blood trickling from the cut on her lip from when he's grabbed her and tried to force her down.

"What do you want?" she spits at her attacker, chest heaving.

The man groans and tries to roll over to his side, but Mary kicks him in the thigh for him to stay down.

"Jesus Christ!" the man moans. "I'm sorry, all right? I surrender! Just stop fucking kicking me!"

"You're gonna be sorry when I call the cops!" Mary threatens.

"Won't do any good," the man wheezes with a faint chuckle. "You owe somebody somethin', and if I'm not the one to take it from you, he'll just send somebody else to get it. I can guarantee you that."

Mary's blood goes cold.

"Wh-what do you mean?" She doesn't want to believe it's true, but deep down she knows – she knows – that the demon is behind this.

The man coughs and groans as he shifts, the movement causing new agonies to swell up in his abused groin.

"Some guy came up to me and offered me fifty bucks to drag you into an alley and have my way with you," the man explains. "Said you owed him somethin' and he was gonna take it one way or another. He said I could have you."

Mary runs home so fast her own shadow can scarcely keep up.

There are more attempts after that. The entire month of August is a nightmare of near-misses from would-be rapists, including a home-invasion that ends in Mary stabbing the intruder as he tries to force himself on her in her own bed. He dies gurgling on his own blood, his whispered, choked off warning his last words in this life.

'Azazel sends his love.'

When a nameless, black-eyed demon finally tries to accomplish the job that old Yellow Eyes' human lackeys couldn't, Mary's reached the end of her tether. She'd expected it, thank God, so the black-eyed bastard doesn't make it further than the doorway before he's trapped in the Devil's Trap she'd painted on the ceiling, invisibly, with white paint. Dean's asleep in his bed in their shared bedroom, the apartment is quiet but for the angry breathing of the trapped demon, and Mary's so desperately angry and terrified that she wants to tear this monster apart with her bare hands."

"Tell your master, Azazel, that he lost," Mary warns through gritted teeth. "There won't ever be another baby. I've had my tubes tied."

And it's true. It was the only permanent solution she could think of to prevent an unwanted pregnancy with the demon so determined to make it happen, and after the break-in, she'd been desperate. It was a simple, though expensive, procedure, and now there's no way that she can conceive another child and damn it to its fate at a demon's hands.

"It's done," she says. "It's over."

"You welch on the deal and Johnny boy pays the price," the demon taunts. "Hubby dearest'll be a sack of rotting meat before you can say 'Bob's your uncle.'"

She tries not to let her worry show on her face, because she'd feared this. She'd feared that the demon would take back John's life, undo what he did, kill John because of her refusal. But there'd be nothing to gain from it now. So she bluffs.

"Go ahead," she shrugs. "John and I broke up years ago anyway."

The sneer disappears from the demon's face, those onyx eyes boring into hers with such malice, such anger, that the hair on her arms stands on end.

"You'll be sorry," the demon intones. Then, cocking its head to the side in thought, a smirk growing on its mouth, it smiles a shark smile, all teeth. "And so will he."

Mary hears a tiny gasp and her heart stops. She turns, ice running through her veins, to see Dean standing in his doorway, a teddy bear clutched tightly in one dimpled fist, eyes sleepy and confused.

"Mommy?" he whispers.

"You've made a big mistake," the demon taunts.

888

Mary barely registers the rest of that night. She ushers Dean back into their room, turning on his Sesame Street record player on repeat on 'C is for Cookie' before returning to exorcise the demon. She's got the ritual romanum memorized so it's a simple matter of saying the words while ignoring all the taunts the demon slings at her about bathing in Dean's blood and making the little piggie squeal. Then she's on the phone, calling up what old contacts of her father's that she can remember and making arrangements to move somewhere safe.

There's a pastor in Blue Earth, Minnesota, apparently, who's got protections and assistance to offer, so Mary packs their few belongings and by morning she and Dean are on a Greyhound bus. She doesn't look back.

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John

The thing with Kate's a mistake. John knows it as soon as it starts. It's August of '82 and John's bitter and lonely – four years without Mary is a long time – so when the pretty, off-duty nurse sidles up to him at the bar and offers him a beer, he doesn't think too much about the consequences of saying yes. Several beers later he's feeling pretty good, and Kate's looking pretty appealing (and if her long blonde hair reminds him of Mary, no one could blame him for it). So he throws caution to the wind and takes her home for a quick rough and tumble. It sure as hell doesn't mean anything.

But see, the problem with drunk, reckless sex is that it's drunk, reckless sex. And when you don't use condoms sometimes accidents happen. That's how he ends up comforting the terrified Kate Milligan six weeks later when she shows up at his garage bawling about how her life is ruined. And John… John doesn't quite see it that way. And isn't it just a kick in the nuts that one night with a woman he hardly knows can result in a pregnancy, while almost five years of marriage to Mary had been completely childless?

He'd be lying if he said he loved her, because it's obvious that he doesn't. He gave his heart to Mary Campbell years ago and that's where it'll stay until the day he dies, whether she wants it or not. But the minute Kate Milligan tells John he's going to be a father, something in his heart eases up for the first time in four years.

A baby. His baby. He'd wanted kids with Mary so badly, but they'd never had the chance, though not for lack of trying. There'd been a destiny to avoid, apparently. But still, fatherhood was a mantle John had longed to wear. He's wanted so badly to have some little tyke, of his own flesh and blood, to look up to him and call him Dad.

And now it's here, within his grasp, with this woman who's sweet and kind and nurturing, who'd be a good mother and who could help ease the loneliness away. It's tempting. It's so tempting.

John doesn't propose, which he knows disappoints Kate even if it would be shot-gun style, but there's no getting around it. Mary's still alive, most likely, and she hasn't been missing long enough to be declared legally dead, so John's still legally married to her. Besides, John doesn't ever want to marry anyone else. It would feel like a betrayal, even though it's Mary that left him. So instead he suggests that he and Kate move in together, maybe get a house together – shack up and live in sin for a while. Raise the kid together. It might not be fireworks, but it's a good life. And maybe he can learn to love her.

They've got a due date of May 14th, but baby Sam Winchester decides to come early on the 5th. Kate thinks it's hilarious and tries convincing John to name the kid something Spanish in honour of the date, but John's stuck on Sam for some reason. He has to cajole her into it, especially because she's had her heart set on Adam. But when they look down at their baby boy who's got John's dimples already, they both agree that he kind of looks like a Sam, so Sam sticks.

Man, John loves being a Dad. It makes up for years of loneliness, of abandonment and inadequacy. Feels like a second chance, actually, to do it right this time. Not that he really knows what he did wrong with Mary (he still can't quite believe that destiny is the reason she left him, no matter how solemnly Missouri had sworn that that was the case). But with Kate and Sam, John's at least got a new lease on life and he's determined not to waste a minute of it.

So it's a pretty good thing that he owns his own business restoring classic cars. It's not exactly booming, but his reputation spread pretty quickly after he first opened shop and now people come from all over the country for their restoration work. He makes a decent living and, combined with Kate's salary as a nurse, they've got a pretty decent nest egg to sit on. They buy a two-story, three-bedroom house and set up a beautiful nursery for Sam. There's a spare room for when Kate's parents come to visit from out of state, and they even have a fireplace (which John confesses he'd always wanted so he could hang the kids' stockings on when he eventually had kids some day). He's not in love with Kate, but he's fond of her and has feelings for her, so it's enough.

Sam's a pretty awesome baby, John admits smugly. Big and sturdy, like his old man, and stubborn from the word go. He's got these bright, inquisitive eyes that seem to want to take in everything. As he gets older and stronger, John notices an independent streak a mile wide in the kid, always wanting to master things on his own, wanting to do things for himself. It's kind of hilarious watching him struggle with that serious frown on his face (John never pretended to be a nice man) when his chubby little baby fingers won't do what he wants them to, but John's heart surges with pride when Sam eventually masters it.

That is, of course, until the kid starts talking. Then John realizes that he's met his match. Because Sam Winchester is 100% his father's son. And maybe it's a sure sign of John's level of maturity (or lack thereof), but the minute that boy starts talking he and his old man start butting heads. Sometimes it's merely a matter of, "Do as I say, Samuel" and a tiny, petulant retort of "No!" that degenerates into "Yes!" "No!" "Yes!" "No!" until Kate has to break it up and send both her boys into their proverbial corners to cool down.

It's turning John's hair prematurely gray, but it's the happiest he's been since Mary walked out of his life.

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Dean

Dean's 10 when Mom meets Richard. Part of him wants to be an ass about it, because it's always just been Dean and Mom, and this Richard guy's getting into the middle of everything and ruining it, but even at 10 Dean knows that's not fair. Mom never talks about it, and would never in a million years admit it, but Dean knows that she's lonely. She's never had a boyfriend that Dean knows of, so he figures she hasn't been with anyone since his dad (which is a topic that is not up for discussion, apparently). He can see it in her eyes when they go out for groceries and an old couple passes them by holding hands, or any couple shares a kiss or a hug. Then she'll pull up a big, bright smile and squeeze Dean's shoulders, drawing the love from him, and pretend that she wasn't just sad only moments before.

Besides, Dean's never had a dad before but always wanted one, and maybe if he got to know him better, Richard would turn out to be pretty cool. Dean hopes so, because he doesn't want his Mom to be lonely anymore.

So he keeps his complaints to himself when Mom brings Richard over for dinner. She seems to really like the guy, though that's probably only because Richard is so nice to Dean. He brings presents, like video games and cassette tapes, every time he comes over, and has twice offered to take Dean to see a baseball game. When Richard's being all nice and dad-like, Mom's eyes will go soft and warm and she looks so relieved that Dean tries extra hard not to feel uncomfortable around his Mom's boyfriend when he's trying too hard to be liked.

When Mom and Richard go out on dates, Dean gets sent over to Pastor Jim's, sometimes for the night. Dean likes the pastor. He's been a family friend since they moved to Blue Earth (pretty much before Dean even remembers), and he's helped Mom out a lot. He's also got a huge collection of rifles and sometimes on the weekend he'll take Dean shooting at the range, which is ten kinds of awesome. Turns out Dean's a great shot. And to repay the favour, sometimes Dean will help out at the church, like playing with the littler kids when Sunday school is over or handing the collection plate around the pews. Pastor Jim's really nice, and he's always so happy to see him when Dean comes around. Dean even talks to Jim about Richard, and Jim tells him that it's okay to feel 'conflicted' about his mother having a boyfriend. He says that it's natural, but that it's always good to make room in your heart for new people, that families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Dean takes it to heart and promises himself that he'll make more of an effort to be accepting of Richard.

After six months Richard asks Mom to move in with him and they end up moving into his big house across town. It's the first time Dean's ever lived in a house instead of an apartment, and it's kind of weird because there's just so much space. Richard makes a lot more money than Mom because he owns a chain of family restaurants (and Mom just manages one of them), and so he has a lot of really nice stuff. And he really likes spoiling Dean, as Mom so often says, buying him a little TV for his room and insisting that Dean always have the best of everything. It's Mom that has to explain to Richard, because Dean's too embarrassed to and doesn't want to hurt his feelings, that Dean doesn't like to dress like a preppy and would rather go for the warn, hunter-look that Pastor Jim's friend Caleb wears (he might idolize the guy just a little bit).

Dean doesn't tell anyone this, not even Pastor Jim, but that first night in Richard's house, Dean cries himself to sleep. It's stupid and probably makes him a sissy, but he misses their tiny apartment where it was just him and Mom. He misses their wobbly kitchen table that was pushed up against the wall to save space, so there was really only room for the two of them to sit. He misses their cramped little sofa where they would snuggle up together and watch movies. He misses his Mom's presence in the room right next to his, so close that she could hear him sneeze in the night.

At Richard's everything is so much bigger, all the spaces so much more open. It feels empty, and worse yet, it makes Dean feel very far away from his Mom. His room is down the hall from Mom and Richard's, and he bets if he had a nightmare she wouldn't even hear him. The kitchen is huge with high ceilings and a skylight, and there's an island with stools where they're supposed to eat breakfast together (which would be cool except it's not). And yeah, Dean knows he's being stubborn, that he's looking at all these nice things, at all these comforts his Mom never had before, and being really ungrateful about it, but he just wishes it could be him and his Mom in their tiny apartment again.

He doesn't think he's crying loudly, but he must be because the door creaks open a crack and someone peeks their head in. Dean stills and pretends he's sleeping, really not wanting his Mom to know he's upset because she's really happy now and he doesn't want to ruin it, but the door creaks open further and his Mom shuffles in. Dean tucks his face into the pillow and holds his breath, willing her to go away, but then the bed dips when she sits down, and Dean realizes that it's not his Mom at all. It's Richard.

"Hey, shhhh," Richard whispers. "What's the matter, Dean? Why're you crying?"

Dean's so embarrassed he wishes the bed would just swallow him up or something. Richard's going to think he's such a wuss for crying. He doesn't even have anything to be crying about.

"It's okay, Dean," Richard soothes as he lays a hand on Dean's back in comfort. Dean wants to shrug it off but doesn't. He figures it's probably a rude and ungrateful thing to do, and he doesn't want Richard to stop liking his Mom because he's being difficult.

"It's a big change," the man says quietly. "But you'll get used to things in a few days and then it'll feel like your home too."

The hand on Dean's back starts rubbing in slow, soothing circles.

For some unknown reason Dean feels the sudden urge to cry harder. He bites his lip to stifle a whimper and just holds still. If he doesn't say anything maybe Richard will go away.

"Just sleep tight," Richard says at length. "Everything'll look better in the morning."

And then he gets up to leave, lightly ruffling Dean's hair in farewell before making a quiet exit. Dean allows his feelings to run away with him then, tears returning with new zeal now that he doesn't have to hold them back. He doesn't know why he feels so overwhelmed and is ashamed of himself for being such a baby about this. He's never been one to grump or complain, and he's never minded that he didn't have stuff that other kids have. But all of a sudden, now that things are finally working out and their lives are looking a whole lot easier, Dean's feeling terrified and alone. Feels like he's losing his Mom.

All Dean can think is of what Brandon Watt said at school two weeks ago.

"Your Mom and her boyfriend are going to get married and then they're going to have their own kids together and they won't need you anymore."

Dean had punched Brandon in the face and told him to shut the hell up, but it hadn't kept the boy from sneering and going on.

"And he's got a lot of money so he'll probably send you off to boarding school until you're old enough to not be his problem anymore. Trust me, Campbell, you're totally history."

He hadn't wanted to believe it, but the very idea of being replaced, of his Mom, who is his whole world, not wanting him anymore, makes his heart seize up so tight in his chest he has to stifle a sob. He doesn't know what he'll do if his Mom stops loving him.

Of course, that's when she appears, like an angel in a dream. He'd been so intently buried into his pillow that he hadn't seen the door creak open again, but he knows it's his Mom this time when the bed dips and she crawls up beside him. Her arms open and he dives into the curve of her neck, feeling all of three years old again as she holds him tight and close.

"Hush, love," she whispers as she wipes a blonde lock from his forehead to place a kiss there. "Everything will be all right."

She crawls under the blankets and curls up at his back, holding him to her chest with her arms wrapped tight around him. And now he believes that it will be all right after all.

TBC...