Characters: Sam, Dean and John
Spoilers: References to IMTOD
Summary: Five times John Winchester tried to be a good father.
Disclaimer: Not mine!
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I did the best I could.” – John Winchester, “In My Time of Dying”
“Look . . . I don’t expect to make it out of this fight in one piece. Your mother’s death, it almost killed me. I can’t watch my children die, too. I won’t.” - John Winchester, “Dead Man’s Blood”
The sound of Sam’s desperate cries seemed to bounce off every corner of their small hotel room. John had been pacing from wall to wall with the baby in his arms for what seemed like hours, rocking him, bouncing him, but it was as if the child knew the words were meaningless. Sam wouldn’t stop crying, and John couldn’t help but think it was because he wanted his mother.
Sighing at a particularly loud wail, John forced himself to relax tired, tense muscles and shuffled to the opposite side of the room and back again, glancing at his oldest son who was sitting on the bed watching them with a lost expression John was afraid was permanent. Dean had yet to really cry, and John wasn’t sure if it was because Sammy was doing enough of that for both of them, or because the four year old was still in shock. He had no idea what to do.
Mary, come back. Please come back. Don’t leave me here alone.
“Ssssh, Sammy.” John soothed for what seemed like the thousandth time, shifting the baby to his shoulder and rubbing his back. Sam only cried louder, kicking his legs and flailing his arms, his tiny hands smacking against John’s chest.
“Mommy used to talk a lot.” Dean offered in a voice so quiet John almost missed it. Dean had barely spoken two words since entering the hotel room several hours earlier and John wanted to sit down on the bed with him and hold him close as well, but Sammy was taking all of his attention. He managed to free a hand and rub through Dean’s soft blonde hair, forcing a painful smile.
“Thanks, kiddo.” John said, swallowing hard, unsure how many words he could get out without crying. He was tempted to remain silent, but Sam was whimpering and Dean was looking at him wide with green eyes, so he sat down on the bed with the baby and raised his free arm so that Dean could press against his side.
“Let’s try that, huh Sammy?” John whispered, blinking back tears. “I know I’m not your momma, but I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise. You’re safe now.”
Sam let out a howl, his little face scrunched in protest, and Dean cringed. “Mommy told stories.”
“Uh, okay. Once—once upon a time there was a . . .”
“A prince,” Dean supplied, eyes still clear, and John realized that he had no idea Mary wasn’t coming back.
Oh, God, don’t cry, don’t cry.
“Once upon a time there was a prince named Dean, and he had a brother named Sammy. Sammy and Dean lived in a big castle and had their own . . . their own dragon . . .”
Sam looked up at him, tear-filled eyes narrowed, and for a minute the cries stopped and John thought that finally Sammy was going to listen to him and calm down. Then there was a loud banging noise as a hotel door slammed shut somewhere down the hall and the baby jerked, stiffened, and then let out another ear-piercing wail.
John winced and held his son closer, resuming his stilted, meaningless fairytale, resigned to the fact that he was just going to have to wait for Sam to wear himself out.
Mary, come back. Please come back.
The scream was loud enough to wake the deadest zombie, and John bolted upright in his chair just as Dean dashed around the corner and slid on sock-clad feet until he was on the other side of the table. A second later a dripping, furious Sam came charging in, wearing a towel and clutching a handful of . . . hair?
“Sammy, what –“John started to speak, but was cut off by the irate ten year old.
“He put Nair in my shampoo! He put Nair in my shampoo!” Sam shrieked, jumping towards the table and throwing the handful of hair at his brother. It missed by several inches and landed on the edge of the ragged surface, dangerously close to the plate of macaroni John had been eating.
For a second John was frozen, staring at the clump of hair, and then turned an incredulous gaze to his oldest son. “You put Nair in his shampoo?” he asked, disbelieving.
Dean shrugged, as if to say “big deal,” and Sam let out an enraged scream, launching himself towards his brother, ready to do damage. John caught him at the last second and pulled the struggling kid against him until he was almost sitting on his lap.
“I’m gonna kill you!” Sam screeched, small hands extending like claws towards his brother. John grabbed his arms and pulled them in as well.
“Ha, I’d like to see you try, baldie!” Dean chortled, dancing a few steps away and grinning as Sam growled angrily.
“Hey, hey, knock it off!” John exclaimed, finally getting control the situation. “Dean, you wipe that smirk off your face. Are you kidding me with this shit?”
John could feel Sam trembling against him, and pulled him closer as he issued a fitting punishment for his eldest son’s crime - grounded for a month, two miles of running in the morning before school. Never a morning person, Dean still left the kitchen in high spirits and John took the opportunity to get a good look at his youngest son’s head.
Patches of his hair were completely gone, pink-tinged shampoo still on his scalp. John fought the urge to laugh (because if these weren’t his kids this would be funny as hell), and instead lifted his son off his lap, turning the boy to face him and holding both his shoulders. There were unshed tears glistening in Sam’s eyes, and John smiled in what he hoped was a sympathetic, encouraging manner.
“Oh, come on Sammy. It’s not so bad. We’ll just give you a buzz cut, like I used to have in the military. It’ll grow back in no time.” John promised.
Sam looked dubious and rubbed at his eyes, sniffling.
“Trust me, kiddo. It’ll be cool. And after we’re done we’ll put rock salt in his toothpaste, okay?”
They’d been in Montana for two months hunting the surrounding areas, and Sam was getting harder and harder to deal with. The kid fought every order, scowled through training, and just generally acted like being a member of the family was torture. Dean had never been this difficult, and John was at his wits end. So when Sam slunk quietly into the house after school John’s first instinct was to be grateful for the silence; then came concern, because after twenty years of being a father he could always tell when one of his kids was sick.
Sam was pale and quiet, and John decided not to mention target practice, instead letting him wander listlessly around the rented house until he finally settled himself on the couch. John heard the television turn on, but when he went into the living room twenty minutes later Sam was face-down on the cushions, not paying any attention.
“You okay, Sammy?” he asked, earning a listless shrug that John interpreted as a no. “What’s wrong?”
“My stomach hurts.” the fifteen year old admitted, rolling onto his side to glance up at his father. Sam was flushed and shivering slightly, prompting John to lean down to feel his forehead, ignoring the way his son tensed beneath his hand. He frowned; Sam didn’t feel excessively warm, but he was definitely running a fever. Shit, he thought to himself.
John threw the blanket from the back of the couch over his son and ruffled his shaggy dark hair. “You’ve got a fever, kiddo. Why don’t you sleep for a little while, hmm? Maybe you’ll feel better later.”
Two hours later, John was readying himself to stake out a werewolf sighting two towns over when Sam started throwing up. John forced Dean into the hallway and crammed himself into the tiny bathroom, rubbing Sam’s back as he vomited what seemed like everything he had ever eaten. John couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his youngest this sick.
All of Sam’s teenage angst seemed to have disappeared along with his stomach contents, and he finally collapsed in a trembling, miserable ball against John’s legs. John flushed the toilet and let Sam rest against him, shaking his head at Dean, who was hovering in the doorway, to stay back. He didn’t need them both to get sick.
“You think you’re done, kiddo?” John questioned after a few moments of silence. Sam didn’t’ seem to hear him, and John decided to get him off the bathroom floor. He’d put him to bed and get a bucket and . . . he tried to pull Sam upright only to have the kid tense, whimper, and try to drop back down to the floor.
“Don’t . . .” Sam moaned, curling back in a ball at his feet. “It hurts.”
John frowned, alarm bells going off in his head. ““Your stomach hurts?” he asked, and received a nod, followed by a groan as John shifted his grip to examine his son. Sam squirmed and coughed, but John ignored him, pressing down gently next to Sam’s belly button.
The action elicited a muffled cry of pain and their hands tangled as Sam tried to push him away, eyes shimmering with unshed tears. John let go of him and leaned back on his heels. Dean hovered anxiously in the doorway again, one foot pressed against the tiles, ready to dart in.
Three hours later the werewolves were still loose, and Sam was getting his appendix out.