Odds and Ends Take 2!
Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with Supernatural.
Dean 3 years old, John, Mary.
"Do you think we should tell him now?" asked John, placing a gentle, awed hand on his wife's still flat stomach. He gazed at Mary lovingly for a moment, before leaning in and capturing her lips with his own.
John had been in a state of shock when Mary had revealed to him that morning that she was pregnant again. She had been taking the pill and insisted that she hadn't forgotten to take any, but the clinic had told her that the pill wasn't a fool-proof contraceptive and that she had just been really unlucky. John didn't agree at all with their viewpoint however, as he didn't see how having a baby could possibly ever be considered unlucky.
When John eventually pulled back from the kiss, he gathered Mary into a tight embrace. They had both wanted more children in the future, they just hadn't planned on it yet, as finances were tight.
"Yeah, I think we should tell him," smiled Mary, "We're going to have to make sure that Dean doesn't feel left out at all where this baby is concerned, I don't want him getting jealous or resentful."
John nodded. "Don't worry, we'll make sure he knows just how much we love him and that the baby won't replace him in any way."
Hand in hand, John and Mary entered the living room to find three-year-old Dean sprawled on his stomach on the floor watching cartoons.
Mary seated herself on the sofa and John scooped Dean up into his arms, tickling him.
Dean squealed with laughter. "Nooooo, Daddy! No tickle monster."
John stopped tickling and tossed the small boy into the air, easily catching him. The room was filled with innocent childish giggles. A few minutes later, John finally seated himself down on the sofa next to Mary with Dean in his lap.
"Mommy and Daddy have something to tell you, Champ."
"What, Daddy?" asked the small boy, leaning back and snuggling into John's broad chest.
"You're going to have a baby brother or sister."
Mary and John watched intently as Dean's brow furrowed as he thought about it. The little boy then sat up straight in his father's lap and looked around the room.
"Where is it?"
John couldn't hold back the chuckle. "It's in your mommy's tummy right now, Deano."
Dean turned around to stare at his mother's stomach. "When can I have it?"
Now Mary was chuckling right along with her husband. "The baby's got to stay in there for a few months yet so it can grow big enough to come out. Mommy's going to get very fat I'm afraid," she explained.
Dean nodded thoughtfully. "How did it get in there? Did you eat it?"
John literally choked on his laughter. "I'm leaving you to explain that one, Mare!" He grinned across at his now blushing wife.
The three-year-old looked at his mother expectantly, awaiting the answer to his question.
With a smirk at her husband, Mary addressed Dean, "God put it there."
"Coward," chortled John, "though I'll admit that was clever."
Mary rolled her eyes at her husband in mock exasperation, before turning back to her son. "So, what do you think, Dean? Do you want to have a baby brother or sister? They'll be able to play with you and it'll be lots of fun."
Dean thought of Tom who lived down the street. He had a big sister and she wasn't any fun at all, in fact, she was always picking on him and pushing him over.
"Can I choose?" he asked.
"Choose what, Sport?" queried John, having managed to regain some semblance of control over his laughter.
"If I have a brother or sister."
"Sorry, darling, but you can't. It's already in here you see," replied Mary, stroking her stomach, "which would you rather have?"
"A brother," stated the three-year-old with assurance.
"You know, Dean," John cut in, "you're going to have a very important job when the baby gets here."
"I am?" asked Dean, his bright green eyes wide.
John nodded. "You're going to be a big brother, which is one of the most important jobs in the whole wide world. It'll be your job to help me and mommy look after the baby. Think you can do that, Ace?"
Dean nodded solemnly. "I'll be the best big brother ever!"
Sam 2, Dean 6, John.
The naked two-year-old ran giggling on chubby legs across the living room. Dean Winchester huffed in frustration and flung down the clean diaper that he was holding.
"Sammy, come back here!" he ordered.
"Dee tatch Sammy!" laughed the little one, disappearing through the doorway and into the hall.
Dean grumbled to himself and picked himself up off the floor where he was seated next to the baby changing mat. He was totally fed up of this game now and was wishing that he hadn't offered to change his little brother in the first place.
He and Sammy had been playing with some cars (well, he had been playing with them and the toddler had been putting them in his mouth and sucking them), when their Dad had come in to check his baby boy's diaper before making dinner. On finding it wet, John Winchester had lifted down the changing mat and baby wipes from the shelf, intending to change his youngest. He wasn't surprised when Dean had asked if he could do it instead – Dean loved doing things for Sammy, even gross things like changing wet diapers (John's eldest wasn't stupid however, and never offered willingly if the toddler had soiled, though he was prepared to endure even that task if his father asked). John wasn't sure if this was normal for older siblings or not, but he was grateful for the devotion that Dean showed towards his baby brother. He and Mary had been worried that Dean would be jealous of the new arrival, but their fears had proved unfounded. Thinking of Mary, John felt his chest constrict with the familiar pain, but he determinedly pushed it back behind the wall that he had built around his heart.
John had then entered the kitchen to prepare the meal, leaving Dean with his baby brother. He never had any qualms leaving his youngest in the care of his eldest. When Dean had laid his baby brother on the mat, he had discovered that the diaper had leaked and wet his pants and t-shirt.
Dean caught the toddler just before he ran into the kitchen and scooped him up and carried him back to the changing mat. Sam didn't fight him, instead he put his arms around his big brother's neck and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek.
"Sammy wun fast," giggled the toddler as Dean laid him back on the mat and reached again for the clean diaper.
"Now keep still, Sammy," grumbled the six-year-old.
Tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth in concentration, Dean grasped Sam's ankles the way his Dad had taught him and lifted to raise the toddler's bottom off the mat enough to slide the clean diaper underneath. As soon as Dean did that however, Sam started to squirm and kick his legs violently.
Dean usually had no trouble changing his brother, but then Sammy usually lay still, chattering away non-stop to his big brother. However, the toddler was not co-operating today and the problem was that Dean didn't have the physical strength or co-ordination to pin the mischievous toddler down and put the clean diaper on at the same time. Every single time he tried, Sammy squirmed to his feet and ran off.
Once again losing his grip on the wriggling two-year-old, Dean stamped his foot in frustration as the tiny boy gained his feet and toddled as fast as he could back up the hallway. "Dee tatch!"
John heard the frustration in his eldest's voice and turned around from the stove in time to see his naked two-year-old run into the kitchen. Sammy toddled over to him and hugged his leg.
"Dee tatch Sammy, Dada," he babbled.
A second later, Dean appeared in the doorway, a pout firmly fixed in place. "Sammy won't keep still, Daddy. He keeps running off."
"He does, does he? Let's see what I can do about that then." John scooped the toddler up into his arms and blew a loud raspberry on his stomach.
Sammy shrieked with laughter. "More, Dada."
John obliged and then turned to his eldest. "Do you want me to do it, Ace?"
Dean shook his little head. "No, I wanna do it, but can you stop him running away?"
"I'm sure I can, Sport." John followed his eldest back into the living room and lay the toddler down on the changing mat. As soon as he did, Sammy began to squirm and tried to get up. "Oh no you don't, little one," murmured John, easily holding the tiny child down with one of his large hands.
The toddler pouted, lower lip protruding comically. "No, Dada!" he complained.
John ignored his youngest's whining and instead watched as his eldest slid a fresh diaper underneath Sam's bottom.
"Daddy, Sammy's a little red." Dean pointed to his little brother's privates. "Should I put some cream on?"
John leaned over for a closer look, it was indeed the beginnings of a diaper rash. Not wanting it to get worse, he nodded. "I'll do it if you want, Ace? I know Sammy doesn't like it, but he needs it." John knew how much his youngest hated having the barrier cream applied.
"It's okay, Daddy, I'll do it. I don't want Sammy to get a sore bottom."
As soon as Sam saw the big jar of cream in his brother's hand he began to squirm and wail. "No cweam, Dee! No cweam!"
John easily kept the disgruntled toddler in place with one hand on his small chest and used the other hand to grasp Sam's ankles so that his eldest wouldn't get kicked by the toddler's flailing legs.
Dean carefully applied cream to the whole area, before pulling the clean diaper through Sam's legs and securely fastening the Velcro tabs at the sides.
"Sammy not wike Dee," sulked the two-year-old, lower lip protruding even further.
"Don't be upset, Sport." John was quick to reassure his eldest. "He doesn't mean it. He's just grumpy because he didn't get his own way."
Dean nodded. "I know, Daddy." He wasn't upset – he knew his baby brother responded exactly the same way to their Dad whenever he had to apply the dreaded cream, so he didn't take it personally.
Sam 4, Dean 8, John.
John watched fondly as his children ran ahead laughing towards the fenced-in duck pond at the local park. Dean kept stopping and waiting for his younger brother to catch up. John relished the rare occasions when he was able to spend normal quality family time with his boys.
Sam was running as fast as his little chubby legs would carry him, one hand clutching the bag of bread that he intended to feed to the ducks. I hope there's ducklings! he thought, as he ran towards Dean, who had once more halted up ahead and was waiting. Suddenly, the toddler heard a crunching sound under his foot and he stopped dead in his tracks, looking down.
Sammy's wail had the other two Winchester's sprinting towards the precious baby of the family in alarm. Dean, who was much closer, reached his brother's side first.
"What's the matter, Sammy? Did you hurt yourself?"
Sam raised his gaze from where it was fixed firmly on the ground to look at his brother, tears pouring down his chubby cheeks. "I killeded it," he sobbed.
Confused, Dean glanced down to where the distraught toddler was pointing, understanding flooding him as he spotted the remains of the squashed snail.
"It's okay, Sammy, you didn't mean to," he soothed.
"Fix it, Dee," implored the tiny child, turning hopeful, tear-filled eyes on his big brother.
"Errr…" Dean glanced up at his Dad, who had just arrived on the scene, for help.
John crouched down to Sam's level, reaching out and gently brushing his falling tears away with his thumbs.
"I'm really sorry, Sammy, but Dean can't fix it, no-one can."
"But it's deaded!" Sam let out another ear-splitting wail, looking down at the remains of the snail once more.
John couldn't bear to see his baby so upset and thought fast. "It's okay, Sammy, the snail's happy. It's in Heaven now."
The small boy sniffed and looked up. "Mommy's in Heaven too. Will she look after it?"
John felt his own heart break at his son's words.
"Yeah, Baby, I'm sure your Mommy will take good care of it." John scooped the toddler up, hugging him tightly to his chest, hiding his own tears as he buried his face in Sam's soft chestnut locks.
Sam 4, Dean 8, John, Pastor Jim.
John glanced up at the clock. It was nearly midnight, nearly Christmas day. He and Pastor Jim were sitting at one end of the kitchen table drinking coffee.
Jim waved a hand towards the assortment of foodstuffs at the other end of the table with a grin. "I'll eat Santa's cookies and drink his milk. You can eat the reindeer's carrots."
"Gee, thanks," John deadpanned, struggling to keep smile off his face as he remembered how excited Dean had been when he'd prepared the treats after supper. Four-year-old Sammy had already been put to bed by then, having been worn out by a fun-filled Christmas Eve (they had attended the annual children's Christmas party at Pastor Jim's church in the morning and then in the afternoon, they'd gone to the local funfair, which for the month of December, also housed Santa's Grotto)
John remembered back to that afternoon:
The first thing that the children had wanted to do upon arrival at the funfair was to see Santa. They had joined the end of the queue, little Sammy so excited that he bounced from foot to foot, though he kept tight hold of his big brother's hand. John and Jim had sat down on a nearby bench to keep an eye on them.
John constantly regretted allowing Dean to know from the beginning that his mother had been killed by something supernatural. He had been too consumed with grief to have his wits about him in the immediate aftermath of Mary's death. He was determined not to make the same mistake with Sammy and to protect his youngest from that knowledge for as long as possible. Lamenting the loss of Dean's innocence was made all the more poignant by the child's unwavering belief in the fictional Santa Claus. John supposed that seeing as the kid believed in vengeful spirits, poltergeists, banshees and the like then it wasn't surprising that the child could accept a jolly fat man who could circumvent the Earth in a single night and had reindeer that could fly, without question. John wasn't stupid, he knew that as Dean was eight, this could possibly be the last year that he would still believe and John wanted to hold onto this piece of childhood magic for his eldest for as long as possible.
When Sam and Dean had finally reached the front of the queue however, the four-year-old had become extremely shy and hidden behind his big brother.
"It's okay, Sammy. He won't bite you. Santa's nice remember?" Dean tried to reassure the toddler.
Sam stuck his thumb in his mouth and refused to come out from behind his big brother.
"Do you want me to go first?" Dean thought maybe his baby brother would be reassured if he saw that Santa didn't do anything to him.
Fearing his big brother was going to leave him, Sam wrapped his little arms tight around his brother's waist and clung like a limpet. "Nuh-uh! No go, Dee!"
Dean was at a loss. He really really wanted to see Santa, but Sammy came first.
"Okay, Sammy. We don't have to talk to him if you don't want to. We can go on the rides instead."
Dean was preparing to leave the queue when Santa spoke.
"Is the little one shy? I've got two knees you know, why don't you come together? I'd love you to tell me what you want for Christmas. I know you're both on my good children list."
Dean turned to Sam. "What do you say, Sammy. You wanna come with me? I won't let anythin' bad happen to you, I promise."
The toddler chewed on his lower lip considering and risked a peek around his brother's legs at the man dressed in red with the snowy white beard. The man was smiling warmly at them.
"'Kay, Dee," he murmured, accepting his brother's proffered hand and allowing Dean to lead him forward.
John had been unable to prevent himself from snapping a zillion pictures of his boys perched on Santa's lap.
END OF FLASHBACK
John finished his coffee and set down the mug.
"Listen, I just wanna thank you for inviting me and the boys to stay here at Christmas. I know it's a really busy time for you with it bein' such an important date on the Christian calendar an' all and I just want to let you know I really appreciate it…."
Jim held up his hand with a smile. "No need to thank me, John. What are friends for? Besides I like having you here. How often do I get the joy of seeing kids opening their presents on Christmas morning? We'd better get to it."
"Yeah, time to play Santa."
John followed Jim to the locked hallway closet which usually housed a range of weapons and other tools-of-the-trade necessary for hunting the supernatural, but presently it also housed all of the gifts that the two men had hidden from the two boys sleeping peacefully upstairs.
They set about putting the larger, wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. When they'd finished, John stood back and felt tears pricking behind his eyes as he surveyed the mound of gaudily wrapped gifts. His boys would be truly spoiled this year! John always felt guilty that he wasn't able to provide his sons with much in the way of material items. This year however, despite John's protests that they weren't a charity case, he had been inundated with gifts for his children from Bobby, Caleb and Jim.
Next, the two men tiptoed upstairs to fill the boys' stockings with small toys and candy.
"What do we do if they wake up and see us?" whispered Jim.
"Tell 'em Santa left all the gifts downstairs 'cause he was in a hurry and we thought we'd bring some up to put in their stockings," John whispered back.
They needn't have worried – both children remained in a deep slumber.
John was awakened early in the morning by excited chatter coming from the room that his sons were staying in. They had both been told the day before that they couldn't go downstairs until he took them down – John didn't want to miss one precious moment of witnessing them opening their presents.
John quickly hurried through, pausing in the doorway at the sight before him. Dean and Sammy always shared a double bed whenever they stayed at Pastor Jim's. The two boys were sitting in their pyjamas on top of the bedclothes with the entire contents of their stockings tipped out in front of them. Both were talking animatedly, their small faces lit up and their eyes shining with excitement.
"Look, Dee, bubbles!" chattered the four-year-old, thrusting the tub towards his brother to show him.
"Cool, Sammy." Dean was busy examining a small toy fire engine.
"Morning, Boys. Merry Christmas!" John strode into the room, a genuine smile splitting his care-worn features.
"Daddy!" squealed Sam, scrambling off the bed and running up to the hunter and hugging his legs. "Santa comed!"
"Did he?" smiled John, lifting the excited toddler and cradling him to his chest.
Sam planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek before squirming to be put down, wanting to return to exploring the contents of his stocking.
John chuckled and set the four-year-old gently back on his feet. He moved over to his eldest next and enveloped him in a quick hug.
"What's Santa brought you, Deano?"
Dean's freckled face was lit up with childish glee. "Look at all these things, Daddy. There's so many!"
John felt a lump form in his throat over how thrilled his eldest was with the meagre stocking-fillers. What would the child think when he saw the mountains of presents downstairs?
Fifteen minutes later, the Winchesters were all downstairs and the sitting room was filled with excited squeals and the sound of tearing wrapping paper. John knew he'd treasure this memory forever!
That afternoon, after a service at the church and a traditional Christmas dinner, they settled down to watch Christmas TV.
Halfway through Santa Claus: The Movie, John looked up as Sam, who had been sitting on the other side of Dean on the large sofa, climbed over his big brother to get to his father. The toddler then plonked himself down on his lap, immediately slipping his thumb into his mouth.
John smiled. One look at his baby boy told him that the child was well-overdue his afternoon nap – all the excitement of the day had worn the four-year-old out.
"Tired, Sammy?" he enquired, stroking his hand through Sam's silky bangs.
"Nuh-uh, I's not tired," he mumbled without removing his thumb.
John bit back a chuckle as the toddler then gave an enormous yawn. Ten minutes later, Sam was fast asleep, snuggled in his father's arms. John glanced at Dean who was sitting next to him and leaning against his side - his eldest was totally engrossed in the movie.
John wished more than anything that he could give his boys a normal life like this all of the time. He knew Mary would not approve of the hunting lifestyle he had adopted. But he had to find her killer! He just had to! And then they could settle down and he could be a proper father!
Thinking of Mary reminded John of the first Christmas they had celebrated after her death.
The Christmas of 1983, the first one after the event that tore John's world and heart to pieces had gone completely uncelebrated and had passed in a haze of all-encompassing grief. By the following year however, when Dean was five and Sam one, John had managed to pull himself together somewhat and was determined to celebrate it for his children's sake and it would in fact be special, as it would be Sammy's very first Christmas considering they'd missed the previous year's altogether.
He had enjoyed watching his children open their presents, chuckling in amusement over the fact that baby Sammy was having more fun scrunching and tearing the wrapping paper in his chubby fists than actually playing with the toys he had been given.
After opening all of his presents, Dean had run over to John, his little face glowing with happiness and joy. It made John's heart melt.
"Daddy, when's she coming?"
John was puzzled. "When's who coming, Ace?"
"Mommy. I asked Santa to bring her back for Christmas."
John's heart stopped and time stood still. He looked down at Dean's little hopeful face and his heart splintered into a million pieces.
He dropped to his knees in front of the small child. "Oh, Baby, Santa can't bring Mommy back, I wish he could."
"But he's magic, he can do anything…," Dean's lower lip had begun to tremble and his expressive green eyes filled with tears,"…..he can have all the toys back, I just want Mommy…."
The five-year-old burst into tears and John wrapped his arms around the trembling boy, hugging him tightly to his chest.
"Santa would bring her back if he could. The angels love your Mommy so much they won't let her go. But she's watching you and she loves you!"
Dean was sobbing so hard he couldn't catch his breath. John began to rock the child, rubbing soothing circles on his back with one hand, desperate to calm him down. "Everything's going to be okay, Ace," he soothed.
Eventually, the small child cried himself out. He lay cuddled to his father's chest, exhausted.
"I miss Mommy so much," he sniffled, just before his eyes slipped closed, his breath still hitching slightly in his sleep.
Only then did John Winchester allow himself to break down, silent tears gliding down his cheeks as he looked down at the slumbering child in his arms.
END OF FLASHBACK
Sam 6, Dean 10, John.
"Daddy, what's the matter with Dean? Why's he got germs?" whispered the six-year-old from the doorway, worriedly looking towards the lump in the bed.
"He's all right, Sammy, don't worry. He's just got the flu…..that's the germs he has…., so he's not very well and he needs to rest and take his medicine." John dropped a reassuring hand onto the child's head and ruffled his tousled chestnut locks.
"Are you making the flu go away?" asked the tiny boy seriously. His daddy could do anything and he wanted his Dean to get better!
John chuckled. "Yeah, Tiger, I'm doing everything I can to make the flu go away."
He scooped the child up into his arms and cuddled him to his chest, as he carried him back downstairs. Every single time John went to check on Dean, Sammy insisted on going with him.
In the beginning, he had resisted, not wanting to risk his youngest catching what his eldest had. Despite being told he couldn't come and John patiently trying to explain it was because he might catch Dean's germs, the little tyke had still tried to follow him. In the end, it had taken the threat of a smacked bottom to get Sammy to remain in the living room. But when he had returned ten minutes later to find his baby curled in a ball on the sofa and sobbing his little heart out, John had felt his resolve crack.
The next time he had gone to check on Dean, he had hoped his youngest would just accept it and not make a fuss, but as soon as he had stood up and told Sam to stay put, the child had burst into tears. One look at the tears rolling down the chubby cheeks, his trembling lower lip, not to mention the infamous 'puppy-dog' eyes that his youngest was naturally endowed with and John, even with his hardened hunter's heart, was powerless to resist. He had capitulated and held out his arms, into which his baby had run with a blinding two-dimpled smile as he realised he was going to be allowed to see his beloved big brother.
An hour later, John picked up the thermometer from the table and glanced over at Sam who was sitting on the floor surrounded by crayons.
"I'm gonna check on, Dean. You coming, Tiger?" John knew it was a stupid question, of course Sam was coming.
"Can you wait one minute please, Daddy? I've drawn him a picture to make him feel better. I've nearly finished."
John nodded and sat back down. Exactly five minutes later, Sam scampered over, waving his masterpiece.
"Let me have a look, Sport." John had to bite back a laugh. His youngest might be extremely bright, but he definitely had no talent for drawing!
On the paper were three colourful misshapen lumps. He wouldn't have had a clue what they were supposed to be if the child hadn't painstakingly labelled the largest lump 'daddy', the middle-sized lump 'dean' and the smallest lump 'sammy'.
"What a wonderful picture. I'm sure your brother will love it." John took Sam's hand and led the small boy upstairs.
Dean felt awful. He was achy all over, his head felt like it was going to explode and his throat felt like someone had rubbed it with sandpaper. He opened his eyes slowly as he heard his father and brother enter the room.
"Hey, Deano, how're you feeling?" asked John as he seated himself down on the edge of the bed. He reached out his hand and pressed it gently against the child's forehead. Dean still felt really warm.
"Not so good," admitted the ten-year-old, his voice raspy and sore-sounding.
"I drew you a picture to make you feel better!" John flinched as Sam shoved the picture enthusiastically at his big brother and nearly hit him in the face with it.
Dean slid one hand out from under the bedclothes to take the picture. The boy studied it for a moment before turning to his little brother with a weak smile. "Thanks, Sammy. I love it!" He then folded the picture in half and tucked it carefully under his pillow.
The six-year-old attempted to climb onto the bed next to his brother.
John shook his head at him. "No, Sammy, stay here, Dean's not well."
"But he's not asleep this time so I wouldn't wake him," reasoned the tiny child.
"The answer's still no, Sammy. Dean needs to rest undisturbed."
"I wouldn't disturb him," replied the six-year-old with certainty, recommencing his attempt to climb on the bed.
"Sammy!" This time, John's voice held a stern note of warning.
The small boy pouted, but reluctantly did as requested and planted both feet back on the floor with a huff.
Dean looked at his disgruntled little brother and wanting to make him happy, turned to John.
"It's okay, Dad, Sammy can come up if he wants. I don't mind."
"Dean you're not well, you need to rest," replied John, gently cupping Dean's cheek with his calloused hand.
"Sammy won't stop me resting, honest. Please Dad?"
John took one look at his eldest and knew he was a gonner – on occasion, Dean could pull out a puppy-dog expression that could rival his little brother's.
With a sigh he gave in. "Okay, Sammy, you can get on, but you must keep still and be sensible or you will come straight off. Understand?"
The little boy nodded, his dimples reappearing as if by magic.
As Sam clambered up and settled behind his brother, John popped the thermometer in Dean's mouth. Checking his watch, John realised that his son could now have another dose of medicine.
"I'll be back in a minute," he murmured, retreating to the bathroom where the medicine cabinet was situated high up on the wall where his children couldn't reach it. Mary had always been adamant about keeping drugs and harmful substances out of children's reach and in spite of everything, that had stuck. The irony was not lost on John that while his eldest was denied access to painkillers and bleach, he was however, fully capable of handling a loaded shotgun competently.
As his dad left the room, Sam studied his brother for a moment. Dean had lain back down on the pillow, one palm resting under his fever-flushed cheek, the thermometer still nestled under his tongue. Then the small boy reached out tentatively and started gently stroking his little hand through his big brother's short, dark blond hair. Whenever he was ill, Daddy and Dean always did that to him and it made him feel a bit better. Maybe it would make Dean feel better too?
When John re-entered the bedroom, he paused in the doorway for a moment, medicine bottle in hand, overwhelmed with emotion at watching little Sammy try and care for his big brother. His heart was filled to bursting with love for his children, his reason for living.
Sam 7, Dean 11 (mentioned), John.
John Winchester heard the scream and was on his feet in an instant, hurtling down the hallway to his sons' room. He had laid the salt lines earlier as always, so he was confident that no demon or spirit could have entered the apartment, but even so, all of his hunting instincts were immediately on high alert.
Snapping the light switch on, he was met with the sight of his seven-year-old as he suddenly sat bolt upright in bed.
John had no doubt that his youngest had had a nightmare as the child suffered from them frequently. Now that he was awake, Sam's screaming had been replaced with tears. The little boy scrambled out of his own bed and made a bee-line for Dean's only to pull up short when he found it empty.
"You okay, Sammy? Dean's at a sleepover remember?"
Sam's face crumpled even more – Dean always made his bad dreams better!
John knew that it was his eldest who usually dealt with his little brother's nightmares - firstly because they always shared a room so he was automatically the first on the scene and secondly John was frequently away on hunts overnight. But tonight, he would need to step up to the plate.
John moved over to the small boy and scooped him up. Sam immediately buried his head in his shoulder and wrapped his skinny arms around his father's neck.
"Bad dream, huh?" asked John as he carried Sam back over to his own bed and sat down on it, keeping the child on his lap.
He felt Sam nod against his shoulder.
"Wanna talk about it, Tiger?"
This time John felt Sam shake his head.
"Are you sure, Sammy? Talking about it might make you feel better."
Sam sniffled and mumbled his answer without raising his head. "Monsters."
"Well, you don't need to worry then, because monsters aren't real." How John wished that were true!
John would never forgive himself for not concealing the truth from Dean after his beloved Mary's death – he'd been too grief-stricken to realise the implications of being honest. Dean had grown up from the tender age of four knowing that the supernatural, the stuff of nightmares was real. He'd been determined not to make the same mistake with his youngest. Between them, he and Dean had kept the baby of the family protected and innocent, completely ignorant of the existence of the supernatural….and he wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible!
John held Sam until he had stopped crying. When the little boy finally raised his head from his shoulder, John gently thumbed away the last of his tears.
"You okay now, Sammy?" he asked gently, "Ready to go back to bed?"
The seven-year-old nodded. "Yeah, daddy."
In reality, he wasn't ready. Sam didn't want his dad to go – he didn't want to be left in the bedroom alone. After a nightmare, Dean was always nearby in the next bed and if Sam was especially scared, Dean never teased him if he asked to sleep with his big brother. But the seven-year-old didn't want his dad to think he was a baby, so when John pulled back the bedclothes, Sam obediently climbed underneath them.
John pulled the covers back up and tucked his youngest in, leaning down and pressing a gentle kiss to his still damp cheek.
"Love you, Sammy." He ran a tender hand through his son's floppy bangs.
"Love you too, daddy."
As soon as John had turned off the light and exited the room, the seven-year-old closed his eyes and lay stiff in the bed trying to force himself to go to sleep. The little boy heard a soft creak and his eyes flew open. He strained them as he looked around frantically, trying to see through the darkness.
Sam took a deep breath, trying to calm down and reminded himself that Dean had told him that houses creaking was normal and nothing to be scared of. He closed his eyes once more, but lay there rigid, unable to relax.
The child physically jumped a few minutes later when he heard a scraping sound on the window and even though he told himself it was the wind making the branches of the tree outside rub against it, unbidden to his mind came the image of a twig-like hand reaching for him. Sam shuddered and squeezed his eyes tight shut.
"It's the wind, it's the wind' it's the wind…..," he muttered the mantra under his breath, trying to convince himself there was nothing to be afraid of.
He needed Dean. But Dean wasn't there.
Tears began to run down the frightened boy's face. Suddenly outside there was a crash (unbeknownst to Sam, the wind had simply blown someone's trash can over), but for the little boy, it was the last straw.
Sam leapt out of bed and dashed to his father's room.
John was sitting up in bed, reading by the light of the bedside lamp when his baby appeared in the doorway, tears running down his cheeks.
"Sammy?" John got no further as the boy literally threw himself at him.
John's hunting instincts enabled him to easily catch the flying child. He was concerned to find that Sam was trembling.
"What's the matter, Tiger?" John found himself automatically rubbing soothing circles on the small boy's back.
"H-heard noises, was sc-scared" sniffled Sam.
"Hey, there's nothing to be frightened of," he soothed, "Daddy's gotcha."
Inwardly John was cursing himself for not considering the possibility that the kid might still be scared after having had the nightmare. What kind of father was he? He should have realised!
"Do you wanna sleep with me tonight?"
Sam pulled back slightly from John's embrace and looked up at him hopefully. "Can I?"
"Course you can, kiddo." John was rewarded with the appearance of Sam's dimples as he gave a watery smile.
John lay down, tugging Sam with him, keeping one arm wrapped tightly around the seven-year-old. He smiled as the child snuggled into his side and rested his tousled head on his chest.
"Do you want me to leave the light on, Sammy?"
Sam shook his head. "No, it's okay, daddy, you can turn it off." As long as he was with his dad, he felt safe!
Sam 12, Dean 16.
John Winchester stumbled into the cabin, clutching his side, trying to stem the bleeding.
As he staggered into the living room, both of his sons jumped up from the sofa in alarm.
"Dad?" Sam took one look at the state of his father, covered in blood, and paled.
Not wanting his youngest to see him in this state or to witness the full extent of his injury, John gasped out, "Go to your bedroom, Sammy."
The twelve-year-old stood frozen. Dean was already moving forwards to help his dad.
"Now, Sam!" John barked.
With a last stricken look at his father, the boy fled the room.
Dean looped his arm around his father's waist, helping to support him and began leading him towards the sofa that he and his brother had just abandoned.
Forty-five minutes later, Dean glanced at his dad who was now in a drug-induced sleep. With a grimace, he looked down at his blood-soaked hands and moved into the kitchen to scrub them.
Dean had dealt with minor injuries before, but nothing like this! He was feeling a bit shaken up, but his dad had insisted he didn't need a hospital and Dean trusted his old man implicitly. In the end, he had closed the gaping wound with fifteen stitches after thoroughly cleaning it out.
His dad and taught him how to stitch when he was fourteen – modelling how to do it on a piece of raw chicken. Dean had wanted to practise the technique on cloth, being grossed out by the idea of handling lots of raw meat, but his father wouldn't allow it, saying that cloth was completely different to flesh. He had stitched his father for the first time when he was fifteen – it was a very small cut and John could easily have seen to it himself, but it was important that Dean was given the opportunity to apply what he had learned.
Serious injuries, John usually dealt with before returning to the boys as he didn't want to worry them – Caleb, Jim, Bobby or some other hunter were usually around to help patch him up. Tonight however, John had been hunting alone and he'd had no choice but to come home.
After washing his hands and returning all of the equipment to the med kit, Dean made his way towards their shared bedroom. He knew his little brother would be worried about their dad and was anxious to reassure him. As he pushed open the bedroom door, Dean immediately heard the muffled sobs. Sam was lying face down on top of his bed with his face buried in his pillow.
At his brother's voice, Sam immediately pushed himself up into a sitting position, his young face streaked with tears.
"Is Dad d-dead?" The boy choked on a sob.
Dean's eyes widened in surprise. "What? No, of course not!" No wonder the kid was so distraught if that's what he'd thought!
He pulled Sam into a hug, resting his chin on Sam's tousled chocolate locks.
"But th-there was so much b-blood. You s-sure he's n-not gonna die?"
"Yeah, Sammy, I'm sure."
"H-how d-do you know?"
"Because big brothers know everything."
Sam gave a watery snort. "Yeah, r-right!"
"Come on." Dean released the twelve-year-old from his embrace and pulled him to his feet. "I'll show you. He's just sleeping."
Sam followed his brother into the living room. John was lying on the sofa. Dean had removed his blood-soaked shirt and a large dressing was taped to his side, hiding the injury from view.
"See," said Dean, "sleeping. I'm just gonna go get him some blankets."
Sam stared at his father, relieved to see by the rise and fall of his chest that he was indeed still breathing. He tiptoed over and pressed a kiss to his dad's forehead.
Author's note: A big thank you to Capricorn 1986 for giving me the idea for number 6!