Title: There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of materialistic value from this. Title is from the
Pairings: Gen; mentions of John/Mary and Bill/Ellen
Notes: This is my apology to Papa Winchester for short-changing him in my chaptered story, “Finding Home.” This might not be correct according to the comics, which I haven’t read, but it shouldn’t contradict anything presented in the show.
Everyone thinks he’s insane. Sometimes he starts to believe them.
And then he sees Mary’s eyes, glassy with pain and still alive. He can’t give up, not that easily, not when something killed his wife (which sounds like life). She was watching him from the ceiling, and no, goddamn it, officer, it couldn’t have been an electrical fire, he knows what he saw...
John learns quickly to stop telling people what he saw, because he needs help to figure out what it was that destroyed his life (wife, dammit, wife), and he won’t get very far if everyone he turns to thinks he’s crazy.
Eventually, though, people start looking at him oddly, and it’s not the same pitying looks he got right after the fire; it’s those sideways looks that mothers give as they pull their children closer to themselves as they walk past. The pitying looks don’t go away, though; they just get redirected to little Dean and baby Sammy. John pulls his son closer to himself, too, and Dean clutches Sammy tighter, and they pretend they don’t hear the whispers about Child Protective Services. His wife burned on the ceiling, Christ, and they think he’s going to leave his babies with some social worker?
By then, though, he doesn’t care what people are whispering, because he’s found
He wishes he could find the answers he needs and be done with it, and he knows it won’t be that easy. This might take months, years even...
Sammy begins to cry, and Dean scrunches the precious bundle into his chest like a security blanket. When he can’t make his baby brother calm down, Dean starts to sniffle, too, and John has to stop at the side of the road and gather his boys into his lap. The two of them fall asleep at the same time, and by then, John wishes he could close his eyes and sleep, too.
It doesn’t hit it, really, how much they’ve lost. Not until they’re at the motel and John realizes the only money he has left, besides a few thousand dollars in the bank, is what he’s got in his wallet, and that tomorrow, they can have either a room or a tank of gas and food, but not both.
He could that money out of the bank, use it until he’s had enough time to earn some cash doing odd jobs or something...God, what is he going to do about a job? He can’t work full-time like before, not when he still doesn’t know enough about spirits and monsters and whatever else killed Mary and might come back for his boys. And the boys...
He’s standing in front of a bank teller when Dean pulls on his leg and says, “Sammy’s hungry, Daddy.” And then John’s staring at his two babies, and he turns away from the confused teller. That money is for his children and their education and future, and he can’t give that away. He might not be able to put another cent into those accounts, but he’ll keep them, he will. If there’s one thing he won’t sacrifice, it’s his boys.
So, though he’s never committed a crime in his life, not anything worse than speeding in traffic and drinking underage in high school, John steals someone’s mail and sighs in relief and resignation when he finds a credit card application in the pile. He tries not to wonder too much about how serious a crime it is.
They need more than that, though—they need some cash on hand, and his felony can’t cover that part of it. That night, he tucks Dean into an armchair, because if he puts the boy in a bed, he’ll just crawl out in the middle of the night and scrunch himself in a corner or under a table where there’s not so much open space. So Dean curls up in the chair, which dwarfs him anyway, and whimpers until John puts the baby into his arms.
It takes real effort not to cry when he says, “Dean, I need you to take care of yourself and your brother. Can you do that for me?”
Dean nods at him, his wide eyes solemn and serious and understanding the way no five-year-old’s eyes should be when he says, “Yes, Daddy,” and then John has to hurry out the door, because he can’t cry in front of his kids.
He’s good at pool, but when he gets to the bar, he learns that he’s crap at hustling. He’s always lived an honest life, and it’s hard to change gears. The thirty-odd dollars he brings back are from lifting the wallet off some drunk man so miserable that John can’t help thinking that the poor idiot looks like he just lost his wife, too.
“Pastor James Murphy?” he asks, looking uncomfortably at the priest—or pastor, or whatever—and trying to figure out whether he can shift Dean and Sammy both into one arm without waking them so that he can shake the man’s hand.
“Here, let me help you,” the man offers, and John has to resist the instinct to pull his children back. He reminds himself that they’re in the open, with plenty of people around, and lets the older man take Sammy gently out of his arms. “Hello, there,” the man says to the stirring toddler, asking John, “You have beautiful children. What are their names?”
Dean’s awake now, too, and both of his sons are staring at each other—they’ve hardly out of reach of each other for more than a few seconds over the past few months—and John holds his breath, bracing for the sniffling to start.
But Dean takes his sleepy gaze from his brother to look at James Murphy, then buries his face in John’s neck to go back to sleep. As if waiting for that signal, Sammy drops his head onto the man’s shoulder and closes his eyes, too.
Murphy’s still waiting for his answer, so John says, “Oh, uh...this is Dean, and you’re holding Sammy—Sam.”
“They’re very well-behaved,” the man says, though clearly he’s just being too polite to ask.
“I’m sorry, I should’ve...My name’s John Winchester, and a woman named Missouri Mosley gave me your name. My wife...she was k...killed, you see, and
Murphy looks at the two sleeping children and back to John. His eyes are full of true understanding that can only come from someone who really knows what it’s like, not the cheap pity he’s learned to hate, and John begins to trust him just a little. “I’m very sorry to hear that. I might be able to help a little, or point you toward someone else who can. And please, call me Jim.”
Two weeks later, Jim offers to watch over the boys for a while, because the backseat of a car is no place for children to grow up, especially, Jim says, where he’s headed next. John’s reluctant at first, but the boys have taken to the older man. Sammy hasn’t uttered his first word yet, but Dean is actually talking to Jim and has stopped watching him like a hawk every time John steps out of the room. So the boys stay with Pastor Jim, and John is headed to Nebraska, to a place called Harvelle’s Roadhouse, where Jim says he can learn about a society of people who themselves hunters.
When he gets to
Harvelle turns out to be a friendly hunter named Bill, who is close to the same age as John. He’s got a young wife, and John asks whether they’re both hunters. “Nah,” Ellen says. “I’ve gone on a few salt-‘n-burns, but mostly I just run the Roadhouse. Besides,” she adds, with a fond look at her husband that makes John’s heart clench, “I got a little one on the way.”
John forces himself to ignore the adoring look Bill gives his wife and asks instead, “What do you mean, ‘salt-and-burn?’ ” A few people shoot him surreptitious looks out of the corners of their eyes, and he feels a prickle of threat trail down his spine.
Bill cocks his head to the side. “New to the business?” John inclines his head, and Bill tells him, “There’s a few things you gotta know before you start. So, John Winchester. You been on a hunt yet?”
He has been, once. It was just a few days after he left
“There was a werewolf, in
Ellen raises a skeptical eyebrow. “A werewolf, huh?”
John hesitates, because, really, he’s not completely sure. “I was pretty sure it was, because of the moon and the way he was rippin’ away at the girl...but I thought they were supposed to turn into wolves? This guy, he just had longer canines and nails—or claws, I guess.” He feels a little stupid, trying to describe a werewolf, but
Bill gives him a considering look. “
“Would’ve been...around Shenandoah, ‘bout a month back,” John says.
“Where’d you learn to handle a weapon?”
John smiles tightly. “Marines.”
“Well, I’m impressed,” the man tells him. “Werewolves ain’t the easiest prey around. We heard about one around the south of
John doesn’t respond to the implicit praise, taking a casual swallow of his beer.
“But,” Bill adds, “Caleb said it was a pretty messy job.” John looks up at that, scowls, and Bill quirks and eyebrow. “If you wanted, I could take you with me on the next job. Show you the ropes, teach you a few tricks. Ellen here’s always wanting me to take someone with me for backup, anyway.”
John doesn’t like being treated like the rookie. Ellen doesn’t look satisfied, either; no doubt she’d rather have a more experienced hunter watching her man’s back. They don’t know him, though, and he’ll show them just how John Winchester does his work. “I’d be glad to,” he agrees.
It’s another two weeks before John gets back to Jim’s place in Blue Earth, having learned just what a salt-and-burn entails and how much damage a poltergeist can do. Bill’s a good man, though, and seems to think the same of John. There’s so much to remember about things he’s never thought were real, and he’s started a journal now.
Dean’s getting restless by now, already starting to accustom himself to moving around constantly. He runs across the church grounds when John pulls up in the Impala, screaming, “Daddy!”
“Hey, kiddo,” John greets, scooping Dean up into his arms. “Were you good boys for Pastor Jim?”
“I can speak Latin!” he says excitedly. John raises an eyebrow at Jim, who’s coming toward them more slowly, because Sammy’s toddling along with a hand gripped in the pastor’s.
John’s mouth drops. “What—”
“Dean was getting bored, so I taught him a few Latin words,” Jim explains. “He’s a smart boy”—Dean beams—“and he picked them up very fast. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Wha...mind, no, of course not,” John says distractedly. “Jim, is that...is Sammy...?”
“Sammy started walking!” Dean pipes up.
Jim smiles proudly at Sammy, who’s just tripped and fallen on his butt. “Took his first step the day before yesterday.”
“That’s great,” John says.
Later, he adds to his journal:
9/12/84: Blue Earth, ME. Missed Sammy’s first step.
He meets Bobby Singer a few months later and gets along really well with the man. Although, actually, they don’t get along with each other so much as they get each other, which is better. Bobby’s a man he’d trust at his back; John just wishes he’d keep his stupid dogs from always trying to bite him and stop criticizing his car.
This time, Sammy totters into Bobby’s house, which no one notices until Dean yells, “Sammy, no! Stay!” as if calling back a dog. John sees Sammy stop and turn, which makes him overbalance and fall over. Dean ducks in after him, but by then Sammy’s already back on his feet and runs that awkward way only toddlers can. When he inevitably falls, it’s face-first and into paper with odd-looking symbols written all over them. The pile is deep enough that he actually
“Watch it,” Bobby growls, though his hands are gentle as he lifts Sammy away from the mess.
“I’m sorry,” John apologizes, making a grab for Sammy that he has to abort in order to reach for Dean, who’s winding his way around Bobby’s legs trying to reach his brother. “Dean, stop that. Sammy, don’t take other people’s things.” John finally catches his younger son and pries a handful of sheets from his hands it Bobby. “Hope he didn’t disturb your...order,” he says, though he certainly can’t see any order in the mess his son fell into.
“Naw, they were like that, pretty much,” Bobby admits. “I’ve been looking for something I came across earlier, but I can’t find...” He trails off as he takes the papers that John hands him. “Well, god-damn.” John winces, glancing at Dean, who’s mouthing the word as if testing it out. “I think Sammy found it for me.”
“Really?” John says in surprise. “What is it?”
“Friend of mine found some of Samuel Colt’s old notes—never been seen before.”
“Colt? What, like the revolver?”
“That’s the one. He was a demon hunter, too.” John thinks he should stop being surprised by things like this, knowing how secretive the hunting world is. “Caleb—my friend—was saying something about a gun that can kill demons, but he went through all the notes and couldn’t find the reference again. And I was starting to think there was a curse on the damn pages or something, since I’ve gone through this stack a few times and never found shit.” Bobby leafs through the papers again, shaking his head and chuckling a little. “You sure your kid ain’t psychic, John?”
John snorts, then furrows his brow, wondering how real—or, rather, how common, since he’s already met
Bobby notices and says, “Hell, John, I’m just kidding. Now, why don’t we get the boys settled somewhere before we talk business, huh?”
John leaves Dean playing with Sammy on the floor of an unused, upstairs bedroom and returns to Bobby’s study, though not fast enough to avoid hearing Dean test out, “Shit!”
Nearly a year later, Bobby’s a regular contact, and Dean’s calling him Uncle Bobby. Sammy’s not, because he still hasn’t spoken his first word, which makes John a little concerned, since Sam’s more than two years old now, and Dean was talking and wouldn’t shut up by the time he was just over a year old.
Surprisingly, it’s Bobby who assures him, “Some kids’re just late bloomers. S’nothing to worry about yet.” The boys are staying with their Uncle Bobby for the week while John checks out something nearby that sounds like a standard vengeful spirit.
“Didn’t know you knew so much about kids,” John responds, trying not to laugh at his gruff old friend.
Bobby falters a little but is completely composed—and a little scary, actually—when he says, “My wife was hoping for a kid before she passed. Read all kinds of shit about ‘em.” Bobby doesn’t look like he wants to elaborate, and John doesn’t push.
Bobby tells him a little more about this demon he’s going to help Jefferson take care of—his first demon—and he leaves for
The exorcism goes a lot better than he expected, but there’s a little bump in the middle when the demon screams at him, “We’ll get you,
When he returns to the Singer house, he finds out that Bobby’s been making Dean shut up by teaching him about carburetors and that John missed Sammy’s first word, too.
Dean is going to be smug about that for a long time, and he parades his brother around while Sammy shrieks, “Dean!” Sometimes, though, he chirps, “Dammit, Dean!”
John glares at Bobby, who shrugs.
“Oh, Dad,” Dean tells him as they pile into the car. “I lost my first tooth.”
John forces himself to smile into the rearview mirror. “That’s great, son.”
They’re low on cash again, and John finally closes the bank accounts. It’s part of keeping them safe, after all, and college won’t mean a thing if they’re not alive to go to school.
John makes sure to keep his weapons hidden away, but Dean’s a smart kid. He doesn’t get it and just thinks they’re so cool, Dad, wow. The first time John finds Dean turning the gun over in his hands, squinting curiously down the business end, he take his son out to an open field and teaches him how to hold and aim and shoot and never forget safety, Dean, and don’t you ever point it at yourself or anyone else unless you’re trying to kill them.
“I know how to be careful, Dad,” Dean protests. “I won’t hurt myself.”
“Don’t touch them when I’m not watching. This isn’t a game,” John says, knowing that, from now on, he can’t let it be a game to his son. Sensing another protest coming, he adds, “Sammy might get hurt accidentally, son.”
Dean puts the gun down right away and drags the bag away to hide it himself.
John shouldn’t really be surprised when Dean finds the journal. It’s not easy to explain to a seven-year-old kid that his mother was killed by something supernatural and that all the monsters he’s ever dreamed about are real.
There’s this sense of awe about Dean, though, as he says, “And you fight them, right, Dad?”
“That’s right. That’s why I’m away sometimes.”
Dean grins at him, starry-eyed, then frowns. “Don’t tell Sammy,” he says as if in warning.
John wasn’t planning to, but furrows his brow in question anyway.
“He’ll have nightmares,” Dean explains, and John puts his hand on his oldest son’s head, wondering what nightmares Dean will have now.
He’s started leaving his sons by themselves for short periods of time, and he feels guilty for it, but he knows Dean will have it covered. He always gets a motel room with two beds at first, one for each of his sons and a sofa or chair for himself, but most nights when he gets back, he finds Sam curled up in Dean’s bed, anyway. He never finds out if Sam is going to his brother for comfort or if Dean pulls his brother in with him. He doesn’t ask, because Dean has begun to assert his toughness at every opportunity and will deny needing a security blanket—or brother, as the case was. Sam won’t say a word until he knows what story Dean’s using, and then he’ll pipe up and talk and talk and talk until no one could remember what the question was to begin with.
True to his word, he doesn’t ever talk about hunting in front of Sam. Dean’s always interested, though, and between stories told by big brother, Jim Murphy’s Latin lessons whenever they visit Blue Earth, and Sam’s own astuteness and curiosity, John isn’t surprised when he comes home one winter to learn that Sam knows the truth, too. John teaches him to shoot and to fight, but, unlike Dean, Sam isn’t thrilled.
He doesn’t get a chance to deal with it, though, because Bobby calls around that time and says, “John, I’ve found something you should see.”
“It’s from around the time your wife died.”
John leaves a note on the door for Dean, telling him that he’ll be gone for a while, that there’s food in the pantry, and that they should call Uncle Bobby or Pastor Jim if there’s any trouble.
“It’s a demon,” Bobby tells him when he arrives.
Dean takes to hunting like a ghost to graveyards. At sixteen, he’s a better shot than most hunters John knows, and while he prefers guns and fire, he’s good with a crossbow, too. And he knows how to handle himself on the job: he knows when to speak up and when to obey, because when they’re on a hunt, there’s no margin for error.
Ironically, Sam’s even better at it, in some ways. He’s not as good with a gun, but John can tell he would be if he’d just practice more. It’s the way he pieces patterns together and the intensity that settles over him when he does agree to join in. But, whether it’s because of the way Dean coddled him growing up or because Sam’s just stubborn, he’s not good at following orders, or at least he gets that way by the time he’s fourteen.
People think Dean’s the loose canon, but that’s only because he’s innovative, quick and good at thinking on his feet. He’ll listen, as long as he respects the one in command, and really, he only scraps the plan when the plan craps out on them first. Sam, though...he’ll be good after he’s got more experience, but for now, his constant disagreements are unacceptable. John has to admit sometimes that his youngest son is right, but there’s no time for that in the field. Of the two, Sam would be the better hunter on his own, but they’re a team, and Dean’s the one who’s got the right idea there.
Their chain of command is the only logical one—whatever their potential, John’s still the most experienced of them all, and Sam is to listen to his older brother and his father because he’s just started hunting, in comparison. John knows that’s a main part of the problem, though—Dean might stand out most among them all, but it’s Sam who’s fighting with John to be the alpha dog in their pack, though neither of the boys is completely conscious of it.
It’s not the only problem, though—school is another. One day, when he’s twenty, Dean tells, “Sam’s teachers all say he’s not giving them any problems.”
John looks up from updating his journal with the information from the last hunt. “Why would there be any problems?”
“I’m just saying—that’s what they told me. Thought I should let you know.” When John still doesn’t understand, Dean explains, “They had mandatory teacher conferences last night, Dad. It’s not a big deal, you know, I’ve been going since he started high school.”
John didn’t know, actually, and mutters, “I wish Sam had told me.”
Dean looks at him oddly and says, “He did.”
He doesn’t remember that. There must have been a fight about it, because everything with Sam is a fight these days, but he honestly can’t remember it at all. He thinks he might feel better if he at least remember why they fought about it, because there had to be a reason, but then he reminds himself that it doesn’t really matter—Sam’s doing fine in school, he’s pretty sure, and they won’t be staying for long anyway. And besides, Sam doesn’t seem to want to realize that there’s real evil out there. It’s not like the local high school or college will teach him to survive.
It’s only when Dean graduates from high school just after his twentieth birthday (finally, Dean says, because moving around and Dean’s own disdain with authority haven’t helped him any) that John realizes he was a senior that year. It’s a good thing, because Dean won’t have to waste time doing homework he doesn’t really care about anyway, and he can hunt or help earn money fulltime.
Sam has started hunting more, too, unwilling though he might be. They have a rule against hunting alone—not John, the boys—but sometimes he lets Dean go with just Sam as backup. What’s strange is how well Sam listens then, especially with the way Dean is more used to taking orders than giving them. As long as he trusts the commander, that is.
And John realizes then that Sam doesn’t hate him, not really—that part’s just adolescent sulking. The trust, though...he’s not sure he’ll ever win that back.
But Sam’s safe—him and Dean both—and John consoles himself with that. And with the fact that Dean, at least, still trusts him unconditionally. He starts passing more responsibility to his older son, then, both in the hunt and with his younger brother, because it’s just logical to run operations that way now. If Sam looks more and more betrayed and Dean more and more tired, it’s fine with him, because it keeps his boys alive and safe. It’s fine with him.
When Sam is in his senior year, John hears about psychic children and what the demon wanted with them, and his mind is spinning so dizzyingly that he doesn’t notice when a letter comes in the mail with Sam’s name on it.
Dean doesn’t talk to him for nearly a week after Sam leaves for Stanford. He doesn’t talk to Sam, either; in fact, the only words he’s said within John’s hearing were Fucking son of a bitch, to a wendigo they smoked. He can tell when his son stops trying to reach Sam by phone, because Dean snaps back to the way he used to be, flirting with every woman he meets and diving into hunts with relish.
John wonders if it would have gone differently if Mary were still alive, but then, everything would have gone differently, then.
It’s when he sends Dean to
John calls Dean and leaves him a message that he knows will make him go to his brother for the first time in years. Nearly a week later, he finds the obituary for a young woman named Jessica Moore, and he searches until he finds a news article about the fire.
...Moore’s roommate, Samuel Winchester, escaped the blaze...
His cell phone rings, and for the first time he remembers, but not the last, he lets his son’s call go to voicemail. Sam will be safer on the road. Dean will protect him, and John knows that Sam will protect Dean, too. He doesn’t feel guilty for that.
It’s another year before he sees them again. They have the Colt and the information they need to stop the next attack, and John can’t be there to see it. He promised Mary he would avenge her death himself, but in the end, he has to protect his boys, and they will finish it, anyway.
John Winchester isn’t an idiot—he knows the chances of escaping the trap he’s walking into.
But it will be over. The demon will be dead, his boys will be safe, and he will be free. He’s been fighting a war for twenty-three years, and he’s so close to the end. And then he can rest at last.