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[ how to go on ]
by kHo

People think there are two reactions you can have to any great tragedy.  The right one and the wrong one.  John doesn't see it that way though.  He's not even sure there are any wrong reactions, just misguided ones.

And there came a point after Mary died that he realized he had to make a choice.  Had to decide what was the right way to go on from here.  Or at least, the least wrong way, because nothing would ever be right again.  Not with Mary gone.

He couldn't stay in bed all day, though that's just about the only thing he wanted to do.  Sammy needed to be fed and changed and bathed, and Dean was old enough to do most of that, but Dean needed the same things.  The kid was only four years old, he had no business having that kind of responsibility.

So the only real decision to be made was whether or not he was going to go on as they'd been before, or choose a different path.

Mary had wanted stability.  She'd wanted the white picket fence and the nice house and the nine-to-five job.  She wanted to stay home with the kids while he worked at the shop, and when he got home, that was his time with the kids.  She wanted everyone to eat dinner together.  She wanted everything to be normal, and good, and the way her childhood wasn't.

Except she'd burned to death on the ceiling of that perfect house, and the last thing that was was "normal."

So what does he do now?  What does he do now, when she's not there to stay home with the kids?  When she's not there smiling at him when he gets home from work?  When she's not there for Sammy when he gets colic and Dean when he scratches his knee?  When she's not there for John just because he needs her?  

Because he does, he needs her so bad it hurts to breathe, and he doesn't know what the hell to do now, and he can't help but think that Mary would.  Mary would know.  Mary always knew.

But it's too much, it's too fresh, so he just does what he can. He takes care of the small stuff.  Gets up an hour earlier than usual because Mary had always gotten the kids fed and changed before he'd gotten showered.   

He showers and when he comes out Dean's always sitting at the end of his bed, sleepy eyed and watching Sam.  He fixes Dean whatever kind of breakfast he wants because he's too tired to force the kid to eat what he doesn't want, and he changes Sammy's diaper on the kitchen table while he's eating cereal and reading the newspaper.

He brings them to work with him because the garage isn't any place for kids to be but what the hell choice does he have?  They stay in the office with Claire who coos when she sees Sammy and starts to cry when Dean asks her if she'd tie his shoes because "Momma didn't teach me yet."

It took her two days for her to tell him that and three days for him to teach Dean the up, around and through the rabbit hole approach.  Dean's shoes come untied more than they should, but Dean's the determined type so John doesn't worry about it.

He tries to tell himself that Mary wouldn't mind that the kids come to work with him because she'd like the fact that they have three meals together now.  Even if lunch is just sandwiches and chips and Dean's too young for soda but he lets him drink it anyway.

His boss asked him on his third day back if he was sure he was ready to come back to work and John just ducked back underneath the car he was working on because he didn't know how to say that he didn't know what else to do.  It was this or fall completely apart and he doesn't have time for that.  There are kids to feed and change and teach how to live in a world where their mother isn't anymore.

They get home, if you can call a motel room home, at five thirty.  Dean watches television and John wonders whether or not you're supposed to let a four year old watch four hours of television before bed.  He figures it's all right 'cause maybe if he's full of Papa Smurf and Big Bird the kid won't have nightmares of the flames licking around his mother like John does.

Sammy's a remarkably quiet baby, and the only time he cries is when John puts him down, so he keeps him on him as much as he can and whenever he can't he doesn't even have to ask Dean to take over.  

Dean used to argue over bedtime every night.  He'd throw a tantrum and ask for just one more hour.  He'd ask John if he could read with him, and even though he couldn't read John usually let him if Mary was in a good mood.  He'd put Dean on his lap and make up stories that had nothing to do with what he was reading because Dean didn't know any better.

He doesn't argue now though, just nodded and picked up Sammy and went to the motel bed where they all slept now.

Dean always asks for a glass of water before bedtime and when John saw the full glass beside him the third night he took it back to the kitchen and left it in the sink.  In the morning he woke up to Dean screaming and hitting him and when he grabbed Dean's arm Dean started sobbing like his heart was broken, and it hurt John so bad he started sobbing too.

That's the moment he realized he needed to do better, needed to do more, he couldn't just keep going on, because Dean wanted a glass of water because water was how you put out fire, and what if Sammy needed it?

Because a glass of water wasn't going to do it.  If Sammy was up on the ceiling a glass of water wasn't going to cut it.  They'd need more than that, they'd need a hose.  That day he took the boys to the hardware store and bought the longest garden hose there was and showed Dean how to turn it on.  Dean slept with his hands curled around it like he used to with his teddy bear, and John didn't sleep at all.

The day he received the insurance money on the house he quit his job and packed up everything he could in the back of the Impala.  They traveled all the way across the country in three days and arrived at his superior officer's house at dusk on a Sunday.  He figured if Major Stewart could turn a scared 18 year old into a Vietnam Vet he sure as hell could turn a sorry excuse for a father that wasn't anything without his wife into something.

The Major's wife was the matronly type, with a flour stained red apron around her hips and rosy cheeks and the instant she saw Dean's muddy fingernails she took him over to the sink and scrubbed his nails clean.  She put Sammy on her hip and explained how to make biscuits and let him play with the dough until his face was covered in flour.  

It was the first time he'd seen Dean smile since Mary died, and he hadn't even realized that Dean didn't smile anymore until that moment.

The Major took him to a local bar and got him so sloshed he couldn't even talk anymore and when he tucked him on the couch that night he leaned down and grabbed his face with his hands.  "There now, son," he'd said in that stern voice that John had had nightmares about his first six months of training.  "You've had your mope time.  Tomorrow I shape you up."

They went out early, four in the morning, and John hadn't held a fishing pole since before he went in the service but hooking the worm on the line is all it took to remember.  The Major sat in silence and John told him every thing that had happened before and since Mary's death and he didn't even look at him when John started crying so hard he couldn't even see anymore.  Just rested a hand on John's shoulder and told him he'd get through this.

He trained him again, right from scratch.  Told him what to eat and how to walk and how to talk.  Took him out shooting and taught him to hold a gun again.  At night John was so dog tired he could barely keep his eyes open but when Dean curled up beside him he squeezed him to his side and told him he loved him.  When Dean started crying he realized he hadn't told him that since Mary died either.

Two months later the Major kicked them out and told John he was ready.  John wasn't so sure but he'd never been able to defy the Major so he'd nodded and found a place in town because he couldn't bare to leave just yet.  Dean was just starting to open up again, talk and maybe even giggle, and Sammy was big enough to crawl and he really seemed to love the carpet.

It took a year for John to feel like a person again, and he thought he'd probably always have that hole in his heart but at least he'd found a way to let Dean and Sammy fill it a little.

That's when he decided that he wasn't gonna let this happen again, not ever.  Not for anyone.  

He was gonna find whatever it was that killed Mary and kill it.

He was gonna kill it if it was the last thing he did.

He was gonna kill it fucking dead.