Summary: Pre-Series – John, Mary, Baby Sammy, Kid Dean – "I'm glad you're home," John told her; his voice quiet but genuine. "You're never allowed to leave us again." Mary laughed softly at the order, knowing John was only half joking.

Disclaimer: Not mine

Warnings: None

A/N: A one-shot born of the E/O Challenge word-of-the-week (darling)

Fate changes like the weather. But love pulls a man together. ~ Bryan Weirmier

It had been one hell of a weekend for both of them...just in different ways.

For Mary, one hell of a good time as she had escaped for a rare weekend with just the girls; and for John, one hell of a whirlwind as he had braved life alone back in Lawrence and had tried to keep up with the demands of caring for two kids – baths, bottles, diaper changes, and sleeping schedules...along with playing, watching cartoons, making mac-n-cheese and chicken fingers, and reading stories.

And then the next morning the cycle would start all over again.

Unless, of course, one or both kids didn't sleep through the night; in which that case, the cycle never stopped; it just required a whole different set of demands to be met.

It was exhausting.

Mary smiled knowingly at John's frazzled appearance when she finally returned home that Sunday evening.

"Hi, darlings," she greeted sweetly; standing in the doorway and feeling her smile widen as she watched her husband try to bathe their six-month old in the kitchen sink by himself while their four-year old stood beside him on a stool trying to "help"...but only succeeding in spraying John in the face.

"Dammit, Dean..." John growled in tired frustration and briefly ducked his head; wiping his wet cheeks and forehead across the sleeve of his shirt before glancing over his shoulder at the familiar voice; relief evident in his expression and tone at the sight of his wife. "Thank god you're back."

Mary laughed as she dropped her purse and bag in one of the kitchen chairs; pushing up her sleeves as she crossed to take over the nighttime routine. "Did you miss me?" she asked playfully.

John chuckled at the understatement. "More than you know," he assured her as she kissed him and then continued to hold their baby until Mary's arms slipped under the warm water and cradled their six-month old in the sink.

"How's my munchkins?" Mary asked affectionately; her gaze flickering between her two sons before nodding to John that she had a good grasp on a slippery, squirming Sam.

Mary smiled as John backed away; reaching for a towel to dry his arms – and his face – and looking immensely relieved that he had been able to turn the nightly duties over to his wife.

"Mommy!" Dean yelled excitedly and then beamed up at his mother. "I'm helping give Sammy a bath."

"I see that," Mary agreed proudly; quickly kissing her child before doing the same to her infant; having had fun with her girlfriends over the weekend...but having missed this so much more.

"Where've you been?" Dean asked with the curiosity of a four-year old and tilted his head as he waited for the answer.

"Doing girl stuff," Mary replied simply; not intending to tell her child – or her husband – everything she had done over the weekend.

Because what happened on a girls' trip stayed on a girls' trip...and all that.

Mary smiled at the memory of her and the others sealing that promise with a shot of tequila at the hotel bar on Friday night when they had all first arrived for their weekend getaway and then shook her head at herself.

"Girl stuff?" Dean repeated and then scrunched his face to indicate his opinion of that boring topic.

Mary laughed softly as she continued to stand at the kitchen sink; cupping the warm, soapy water in her hand and carefully pouring it over the back of her baby's head; washing what little hair he had.

Sam sighed – his bath clearly making him sleepy – and then smiled drowsily as Dean pulled a silly face.

Mary glanced at her four-year old. "Go change into your pajamas. And have you brushed your teeth?"

Dean shrugged; more interested in playing with his little brother than in completing those bedtime tasks.

Mary arched an eyebrow as she continued to bathe her baby. "Dean..."

"I'm on it..." John reported to his wife – happy they could once again divide and conquer – and approached from where he had been leaning against the opposite counter; effortlessly scooping Dean from the stool. "Let's go, Dean-O..."

"Daddy!" Dean protested and then giggled as John tossed him over his shoulder. "I gotta help Mommy with Sammy."

"Mommy can manage by herself," John assured their four-year old; having seen evidence of that statement numerous times before. "She's Super Woman."

"Among other things..." Mary added vaguely – because whether John knew it or not, she would always be a hunter, too – and then smiled; appreciating her husband's compliment...especially since she knew John had struggled and had just barely managed to take care of their kids by himself over the past two days.

Dean's eyes widened at John's declaration of Mary's Super Woman status. "Do you know Batman?"

Because in the four-year old's mind – and in most adults' – all superheroes traveled in the same circle.

"Of course she knows Batman," John answered, still holding Dean over his shoulder. "I'm Batman."

Dean laughed. "Oh, Daddy..."

John chuckled. "What? You don't believe me?" he asked and then scooted Dean further back on his shoulder; holding the four-year old's ankles as he dangled Dean behind him.

Dean squealed his delight at being held upside down and laughed harder. "Daddy!"

"John..." Mary called and shook her head; knowing her husband had a good grip on Dean but still feeling nervous at the sight of her child being held like that.

John chuckled again – because Mary worried too much – and then pulled Dean back across his shoulder; holding the four-year old in his arms. "Alright, kiddo. Time for Operation Toothbrush..."

Dean wrinkled his nose but nodded his agreement; knowing there was no way out of brushing his teeth.

Mary quirked a smile – because everything was an Operation with her former Marine – and watched as John and Dean disappeared down the hall; hearing Dean squeal and laugh once more...and knowing John was holding him upside down again now that she couldn't see them.

Mary shook her head; exasperated...and overwhelmed with love. "Your daddy is so silly," she commented good-naturedly to Sam and smiled when the baby smiled at her like he already knew that.

Mary's smile lingered as she carefully sprayed the soapy water from Sam's skin and then reached for the dark brown towel waiting on the counter; laughing like she always did at the sight of the moose hood over her baby's head as she toweled him off; the orange cloth antlers sticking out and rocking back and forth with the motion.

"Alright, Sammy..." Mary called, hugging her six-month old close after he was sufficiently dry; briefly closing her eyes as she inhaled the unmistakably sweet scent of a freshly bathed baby. "You ready to go night-night?"

Sam whimpered and sighed sleepily in response; relaxing in Mary's arms as she held him and fisting her shirt as she carried him upstairs; then turning his head in the direction of Dean's voice as it floated down the hall from the bathroom.

Mary smiled. "You hear your big brother?" she asked her baby and lightly kissed Sam as she entered the nursery and laid him on the changing table; experience allowing her to quickly diaper her squirming youngest and then slip a onesie over his damp hair; fastening the snaps between two pudgy kicking legs as Dean ran into the room decked out in his Batman pajamas.

"I'm back," the four-year old needlessly announced and immediately crossed to the changing table. "Do you need help?"

"Mmhmm," Mary hummed in response and glanced at Dean as he stood beside her on his tiptoes to better see his brother. "You know Sammy won't go to sleep unless you kiss him goodnight."

Dean nodded seriously at the mention of one of his big brother responsibilities and watched as Mary lifted Sam; following behind her as she crossed to the crib and gently settled the baby on the mattress.

"'Night, Sammy..." Dean called quietly, climbing up on the stool next to the crib and leaning over to kiss his baby brother.

Sam smiled and kicked his feet.

Mary felt like her heart would burst from the swell of love in her chest. "Goodnight, my sweet baby..." she added and kissed her six-month old before rubbing Dean's back. "Come on..." she encouraged, knowing Dean would literally stand there all night and stare at Sam as the baby slept. "Time for bed."

Dean hesitated – like he always did when asked to leave Sam – but then stepped down from the stool; obediently holding his mother's hand while looking over his shoulder at his brother as Mary led him from the nursery and back down the hall to his room.

As they walked, Mary glanced toward the bathroom at the sound of water running; smiling at the thought of John enjoying an uninterrupted shower now that she was home from her trip.

"You have the baby monitor, right?" Dean checked, like he did every night as he crawled under the sheets.

Mary nodded. "Yep. Right beside my bed," she assured her four-year old; touched that Dean always seemed worried about his brother. "Sammy will be fine."

Dean nodded as well and settled on his mattress as Mary sat beside him with the book he had picked out earlier; intently listening to his mother's voice as she read aloud before he drifted off to sleep.

Mary smiled; holding her oldest close as she finished reading the story and then glancing up at John as he appeared in the doorway; freshly showered and changed and staring at her like there was no other woman in the world.

"I'm glad you're home," John told her; his voice quiet but genuine. "You're never allowed to leave us again."

Mary laughed softly at the order – knowing John was only half joking – and carefully eased out of bed; making sure not to wake Dean as she tucked him in and then turned off the bedside lamp; leaving the room and pausing by the nursery door before following John downstairs.

Later that night, Mary rested against John's chest while they lounged on the couch together; their children asleep; their life happy and content.

"So, the truth..." Mary began, angling her head to glance up at her husband. "How was it flying solo?"

John huffed a laugh and smiled – knowing Mary already knew – but kissed her temple and told her anyway. "The truth is I'm lost without you."

Mary nodded. "Sounds about right..." she agreed teasingly and then kissed him back; bothered more than she would admit by that truth...and by the possibility that John and her boys would indeed end up without her because of the lies she kept.