Summary: It begins with a house.

#1 - Beginning
100 Themes Challenge

It begins with a house.

They say that you can tell within two minutes of stepping inside a house whether or not you like it. He'd never forget the look on Mary's face when they stepped inside that three-bedroomed house in Lawrence – the way that she gushed every time they saw a new room.

"This is going to be the baby's room."

She'd told him as soon as she'd stepped foot in the small room, her hand unconsciously resting on the small swell of her stomach as she smiled, eyes glittering with joy. The bump was still small, barely tugging the material of her shirts into a smooth curve, but already John couldn't fight a smile at the sight of it.

That was his kid in there. A little person that was a part of him and a part of Mary, and nothing could evercompare to that feeling, and John felt his happiness increase even further as he signed on that little dotted line – securing a future for him, his wife and the unborn child who he already loved more than anything.

It didn't take long for their small house to turn into a home.

Mary had a knack for that – adding all of the little things that mattered. Photos on the fireplace – John and his family, his buddies from the marines, Mary and her family, the two of them together. A baby scan, showing their son, safe and healthy.

A homemade blanket lay folded across the back of the sofa, John's magazines neatly stacked underneath the side table, books on the shelves and a coffee table with symbols carved into the sides (John wouldn't discover until years later that they were protection runes, and then he'd wonder how Mary had known).

The nursery was John's favourite room, Mary's too.

Baby blue walls, toy cars zooming along mid-way down to break up the colour; paintings of trains framed on the walls, stuffed toys sitting on shelves and a small angel statue directly above the hand-made crib.

More importantly, their baby. Dean sleeping soundly on his back, small hands clenched around a stuffed giraffe. The most perfect thing in John's world.

xox

John had always known that Mary wanted another baby. After holding Dean in his arms for the first time, seeing those beautiful eyes focus in on his face, he understands the feeling. Neither of them expect it to take the better part of four years. Doctor after doctor assure them that there's nothing wrong, that it'll happen eventually, and John's just beginning to suspect that Dean will grow up an only child when it happens.

Both of them are delighted.

Mary jokes that their third bedroom finally has a purpose, and neither of them mention that secretly, they've both thought of it as a nursery all along. Mary takes to decorating again with delight; spends hours agonising over the best paint colours (blue again, because even if it is a girl, blue is still Mary's favourite colour), whether to have patterned curtains or plain (patterned, because plain looks too serious).

Deciding what stuffed toys to buy takes just as long – Mary doesn't want anything that will look 'out of place' and eventually settles for two teddy bears with blue shirts, and a teddy bear and matching giraffe that have blue noses. When Dean sees the giraffe, his own clutched tightly in his hands, he smiles and nods his head in approval.

Eventually the nursery is complete, perfect and pristine, and later that evening Mary goes into labour – six weeks early.

John is undeniably terrified; goes through the process of phoning Mary's sister to come and look after Dean with his hands shaking and sweat on his brow. Mary is surprisingly calm, packing her things efficiently and reassuring John that everything's going to be fine.

It's two days before a healthy, if not tiny baby Sammy, is deemed strong enough to go home. The relief John feels at finally being able to take his son home, away from the sterile environment of the hospital and to somewhere that he can be warm and safe and loved, is almost a physical being. John almost doesn't believe it's really happening - that everything is really okay, until Mary is gently placing the newborn in his crib, four-year old Dean looking on intently.

"I'm going to be the best big brother ever." He promises solemnly, and in light of his declaration, John and Mary pretend not to notice when he slips out of bed that night - duvet in hand - and spends the night curled up on the floor next to his sleeping brother.

John knows from the determined look in his son's eyes, the way that he'd cradled Sammy to his chest like his brother was something precious – something to be treasured - that his oldest will keep that promise.

xox

The day that John goes back to work at the autoshop, he's a wreck. His friends do their best to keep him calm, plying him with car after car in the hopes that it'll take his mind off his family back home.

It wasn't the same as when Dean – happy and healthy and two weeks old had sent John off to work with a happy gurgle. Sam was nearly a month old now, but John's painfully aware of all of the times that Mary's panic had driven the small family of four to the hospital. The doctors had assured her that it was normal for premature babies to be a little sickly – Mary had shot back that spending a week out of his short life in the hospital wasn't normal.

He can't shake the fear that something will happen whilst he's gone, that he'll return home to find the house empty save for the distant echoes of sirens, or Dean and Mary clinging to each other. A note directing him to the hospital hours too late to do anything but hold his son's cooling body.

Mary had said that they'd been fine at home. Mary had also said that Dean had more sense than to try and climb onto the climbing frame at the local park a year before, and John had been the one to drive him to the emergency room with a snotty nose and a broken arm.

John barely makes it to lunch.

His boss sends him home with a warm smile and a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and he's pretty sure that he breaks at least three traffic laws on the way home. When he gets there, it's to find his boys curled up on the couch with Mary, all three of them sleeping soundly. He kicks off his boots, throws his jacket on the back of the chair and tucks a blanket around them.

Feeling silly, but unable to shake the relief he feels, he heads into the kitchen and starts making them some lunch.

When he turns up to work the next day, it's to his co-workers teasing him relentlessly.

Remembering the sight of his family sleeping, safe and sound, on the sofa, John just grins and lets them get on with it, completely unable to regret his overprotective worry.

xox

It seems like only days later that John finds his baby with blood on his pillow, and his wife cut open and pinned to the ceiling, the moon-shaped nightlight illuminating her face in a grotesque parody of the fire that comes only moments later.

He barely remembers pressing Sammy into his brother's arms, telling his oldest to "Take Sammy outside as fast as you can. Don't look back. Now, Dean. Go!" He doesn't remember the moment that he realises that his wife is beyond saving, the moment that it registers that if he doesn't move, goddamnit he's going to make his sons orphans.

The next thing he remembers is sitting on the hood of the Impala, his boys safe in his arms and the knowledge that his beautiful wife is dead ringing in his ears. Fire fighters bustle around him, paramedics trying to engage him in conversations about smoke inhalation, and none of it makes sense until little Sammy makes a painful wheezing noise and he hears panic in the paramedics voices for the first time.

They talk about oxygen therapy, and John shoves his shaking hands into his dressing gown pockets and nods his head, tells them to just please make sure my boys are okay.

They keep them on oxygen overnight, John routinely waving off the concern of various medical professionals whilst he watches over the two of them in the cheery-looking paediatrics room, and wonders whether he really saw what he thinks he did. Was his wife really pinned to the ceiling? How is it possible?

There's hundreds of questions, nothing in the way of answers, but when he looks at his sleeping sons, John's resolve to figure it out strengths into an iron core at the very centre of him.

xox

Twenty-five days later, John Winchester takes out an empty leather bound book and starts the journey of a lifetime with a single line:

Today I went to Missouri and learned the truth.