Summary: Pre-series – Baby Sam, Kid Dean, Awesome Daddy John POV – Three days ago, I used to laugh and smile and trust...and all that got me was a dead wife, a six-month old barely managing to take his next breath even with medical assistance, and a four-year old who no longer talked except to say his little brother's name.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Just the usual few swear words and f-bombs scattered about. Plus, I think by now we all know what happens to Mary in the opening scene of the pilot episode, right?
Now there's some sad things known to man. But ain't too much sadder than the tears of a clown when there's no one around. ~ Smokey Robinson
"His sats are better," the nurse tells me quietly; standing across from me on the opposite side of the PICU crib; talking about Sam's oxygen levels as she checks the various monitors surrounding my six-month old son.
I rock back and forth in the only chair in the room and nod, acknowledging that she spoke, but don't otherwise respond.
Because I've heard that report before; that Sam was seemingly improving from the double pneumonia caused by smoke inhalation, only to see my baby literally turn blue less than an hour later when his sats inexplicably dropped.
I sigh at the memory of last night's panic and chaos that erupted in this tiny cramped room – "he's coding!" – and glance at the monitors to double-check them myself; still not really knowing what I'm looking at when I see all of those numbers and lines and flashing colors but quickly learning.
"You always were a quick learner," Mary liked to sass to me with a smirk and a wink whenever we would tease each other...and was it really just three days ago that she was still alive...that she was still with me...with us?
I close my eyes and swallow against the flood of pain and grief and loss that swells in my chest at the thought of my wife; still remembering the look of horror on her face as she stared down at me from the nursery ceiling; still seeing her blood on my fingers as it dripped from the slash across her stomach; still feeling the heat of the fire as it burst forth and consumed my reason for living.
I open my eyes and glance at the chubby baby – my Sammy – lying motionless on the small mattress in the PICU crib; stripped down to his diaper right now with various electrodes attached to his tiny chest and leading to various monitors.
I then glance at the four-year old nestled safely in my arms; Dean – my little man – curled up and sleeping in my lap; his small chest against mine as his head rests in the hallow of my neck and shoulder.
I clench my jaw against the emotion that surges forth – because I'm done with crying – and force a smile instead, even though it hurts like hell.
Because while that fire – and whatever thing pinned Mary to the nursery ceiling – took one of my reasons for living, I still had two more; the best things Mary ever gave me besides her love and trust...my two precious baby boys; my Sammy and my Dean.
And I would go to hell and back before I let anyone – or anything – take them from me.
I sigh, feeling the nurse's eyes on me, and glance at her expectantly.
She smiles softly, and I can tell just by her expression that she's a mother.
"He looks like you," she tells me, nodding her head at Dean.
I shake my head because she's wrong "He looks more like his mom."
Not that this woman would know that; not that anyone would ever know that again since Mary was no longer around for comparison.
The nurse blinks against welling tears – because everyone in the unit knows about me and the boys by now...the widower and the motherless orphans...such a heartbreaking tragedy.
And I'm struck with a mix of appreciation and resentment for her obvious sympathy.
Because she has no idea – not even a clue – what I've lost; what the boys have lost...and I don't want anything from her.
In fact, as the past three days have gone by, I've found myself not wanting anything from anybody. I feel myself changing; withdrawing and adopting a mindset of "us" – me and the boys – and against "them"...which is everybody else.
Three days ago, I used to laugh and smile and trust...and all that got me was a dead wife, a six-month old barely managing to take his next breath even with medical assistance, and a four-year old who no longer talked except to say his little brother's name.
"I'm sorry for your loss," the nurse whispers to me, clutching Sam's chart to her chest as she continues to stand on the opposite side of his crib in the tiny PICU room.
I stare at her, knowing she means well but still not interested in her condolences.
"Now, John..." Mary had once said to me when I was being an asshole about something that had happened at work. "Play nice."
I blink at the reminder.
"Thank you," I politely tell the nurse; realizing I don't even know her name; that I don't know anyone's name in this entire unit.
And for some reason, that doesn't bother me.
In fact, I think it's a good idea to not learn people's names anymore; to not get attached to anyone except my boys; to only use people for what they can offer to me and then move on.
Much like me and the boys are going to do once Sammy is better.
The nurse shifts uneasily across from me.
I glance at her, hoping my expression is enough of a hint that I want to be alone.
But apparently it's not.
"Do you know what you'll do when he's discharged?" she asks me, nodding at a sleeping Sam. "I mean...do you have family in the area?"
...which is a stupid question for her to ask.
Has she seen anyone stop by to visit?
There's no one except me now.
It's an overwhelming thought.
I hug Dean a little closer and continue to rock in the chair as the nurse looks at me expectantly.
"Do you hear her or what?" Mary had once snapped at me when I was too involved in a football game on the television behind the store clerk to actually pay attention to the store clerk herself. "John...do you hear her?"
"No," I finally answer the nurse. "We don't have family nearby."
She nods; her eyes soft and sympathetic.
"Do you have somewhere to stay? I mean..." She pauses. "I know it's none of my business, but I heard your house was a complete loss in the fire, and we have local organizations that can help out. I know a lot of our families with really sick kids sometimes stay a night or two at the Ronald McDonald House until they can sort things out."
And for some reason, I laugh.
The sound is deep and startlingly loud in the small PICU room.
Dean shifts against me and then settles when I rub his back.
The nurse arches an eyebrow, and I think she's finally realizing what I've known for the past three days – I'm going crazy.
"You know people are unsure how to respond to you, right?" Mary had once pointed out when I had purposefully given a weird look to some woman at a restaurant who had kept staring at us during dinner one night.
"Sorry," I apologize to the nurse, not really meaning it; because I'm not sorry for anything except for what my life has become.
The nurse smiles politely.
I sigh, imagining Mary's epic bitchface silently scolding me and staring me into submission.
...which makes me smile and softens my heart.
I glance at the nurse.
"I appreciate the offer," I tell her sincerely. "I really do. But I just don't think I can take another clown right now."
Realization lights in the nurse's eyes, and she smiles.
"I'm with you there," she admits and shudders dramatically as she looks around the small room. "Clowns are pretty freaky, if you ask me."
I nod in agreement, glancing at the walls – all four decorated with brightly colored clowns – and knowing even more line the halls of the entire pediatric unit.
"They're supposed to be cheery and promote good feelings, which in turn leads to happier patients who heal and recover faster," the nurse reports. "Some expert the hospital hired said all that."
I arch an eyebrow, unimpressed but unsurprised by the explanation.
"Sounds like bullshit to me," I tell her, as if she couldn't already tell by my expression. "I think there's a better chance of kids being psychologically traumatized for the rest of their lives because they'll now associate clowns with hospitals and being deathly ill."
"I completely agree," the nurse says earnestly and then nods at the space above Sam's crib. "Is that why that's gone? Because you're not a fan of clowns either?"
I follow her gaze and then chuckle softly, remembering how I had cut down the clown mobile that had been hanging over the crib a few hours ago.
"I can take 'em or leave 'em," I tell her, talking about the clowns. "But Sam doesn't like them."
The nurse tilts her head. "Really?"
I nod. "He's cried every time he's been awake and just kept staring at that stupid, freaky mobile like he thought those midget clowns were hovering over him just waiting for the perfect time to strike."
The nurse laughs good-naturedly and glances down at Sam in the crib. "Poor baby!"
"Yeah," I agree, remembering how pissed I was when I realized those clowns were causing my sick baby even more distress.
"So, you took it down?" the nurse asks, glancing around as though she expected to see it relocated in the room.
"No, I cut it down," I correct her and don't feel guilty for smiling about it.
The nurse looks slightly alarmed. "Cut it down?"
I nod and continue to rock back and forth; holding my warm, snuggly four-year old while also keeping a watchful eye on my baby resting in the crib.
There's a beat of silence.
"Well..." The nurse pauses, like she's afraid to ask. "What did you do with it?"
"Trashed it," I report with a chuckle, remembering how I had crumpled the mobile and had stuffed it in the dirty linens bin. "And if I had the time and the supplies, I probably would've salt and burned it for good measure."
And although I'm not sure where that phrase came from – salt and burn – I kinda like it; because it sounded good; sounded right...like maybe almost everything should be salted and burned before it was disposed of...just in case.
Just in case of what, I wasn't sure – but I liked the idea.
"Wow," the nurse comments and then shakes her head, clearly amused.
I smile and then glance at Sam as he shifts restlessly in the crib.
The nurse notices as well and then checks the monitors as I reach through the narrow slats of the crib's railing and gently grasp the plump calf of Sammy's bare leg.
"Shhh..." I soothe my baby, rubbing my thumb back and forth over Sam's velvet soft skin as I continue to hold Dean, too.
Sam instantly stills under my touch and even turns his small face toward me.
I smile affectionately.
"Atta boy, Sammy..." I praise him quietly; surprised I can talk around the emotion suddenly lodged in my throat.
The nurse smiles, too; her eyes suspiciously bright with moisture.
There's silence before she clears her throat.
"He's okay," she assures me, glancing at the monitors again. "He's just ready to wake up, and he can't yet. I think he's getting a tad irritated by how sedated we're keeping him." She smiles tenderly before adding, "I think you've got a little fighter on your hands here."
"He's a fighter, John," Mary had soothed me when Sam had been whisked to the PICU for observation after first being born. "He's little...but he's a fighter."
I swallow and gently squeeze Sammy's chubby little leg; readjusting my hold on Dean as the four-year old shifts in my arms as well.
The nurse smiles again, and even though I don't want to, I wonder how old her children are; if they're the same age as mine and that's why she seems so touched – or if they're grown and gone...and that's why she's touched.
I don't plan to ask, so I guess I'll never know.
...which is just as well.
"Well..." she sighs. "I guess I'll go check my other patients before coming back to administer the evening meds."
She glances at the monitors again, then at Sam, then at me.
"Call if you need me."
I nod. "Will do."
"And try not to destroy hospital property while I'm gone," she teases and winks at me conspiratorially.
I chuckle. "No promises."
Because if something else upsets my baby – or my four-year old, for that matter – then that thing's toast, with no apologies for my actions.
Sam and Dean first.
They're all that matters now; all that's left of my Mary; all that's left of our life together.
The nurse carefully readjusts one of the lead wires attached to Sam and then quietly leaves the room.
I watch her go and then listen to her steps fade down the hall as I continue to rock in the chair; holding Dean against my chest while rubbing my callused thumb back and forth over the soft skin of Sammy's leg.
"They're beautiful," Mary had whispered to me just last week as we had lied in bed; our boys between us sleeping peacefully; none of us knowing what was to come. "We're so lucky."
I blink against the welling tears as the moisture burns my eyes; the emotions making my chest and throat tight.
Because I know Mary was right – we are lucky.
We were lucky to have found each other; to have loved each other; to have made two precious children together.
And even though she's gone now – and it hurts so fucking much – I know that if she were here, Mary would point out that I was still a lucky man; lucky to have survived; to still have Sam and Dean with me; to still be able to avenge her death.
Well...maybe not avenge her death.
Mary wouldn't like that.
But the grief and pain and loss rage through me like a fire – like a house on fire – and I honestly don't think I can let this go as an accident; as something that just happened.
Something is going to pay for this.
I'm not sure when – hell, I'm not even sure what just yet; but something is going to wish it never fucked with me and my family.
I nod to myself and then glare at the clowns on the opposite wall as they smile at me.
"That goes for you, too" I warn them; my eyes scanning the painted mural, still a little too pleased with myself for cutting down that mobile over Sammy's crib.
Daddy Winchester – slayer of all things scary and evil.
I chuckle and shake my head, letting out a shaky sigh as I suddenly realize the most painful thing in all of this – that life goes on.
Life goes on.
And no matter how much it hurts, I have to go with it; me and my boys...together.
I nod, unable to argue with the truth, and then sigh again...because the truth still sucks; is still hard to swallow; to accept; to do.
But what's gone is gone.
Mary – and the life we had – is not coming back.
And I can't get lost in wanting what was taken from me at the risk of not appreciating what I still had – Sam and Dean.
With that thought, I glance at the crib; checking on Sammy – making sure my baby is still resting comfortably – and then look down at Dean to check the same.
Satisfied that my boys are fine for now, I lean my head against the back of the rocking chair and close my eyes.
"I love you," Mary had told me three nights ago before she had kissed me and then had left me on the couch and had gone up to bed.
I smile and feel the silent tears return beind my closed eyes.
"I know," I whisper to her now in the quiet darkness of the tiny PICU room; promising myself that I will remember her last words to me and that I will make sure the boys remember that she loved them, too; that she loved them enough to die for them.
Because that's a lesson worth learning.