When Dean woke up, Mary was sitting in the recliner across the room, reading her book. He blinked a few times and looked up to see his dad still sound asleep.
“You have fun with Dad this morning, sweetheart?” Mary asked softly.
“Yeah,” Dean yawned. “We made a fort and I learned to throw baseballs. I gonna teach him sword fights when he wakes up.”
“If you go clean up your snowsuit mess in the doorway, and your army man mess, I’ll get you a snack,” Mary smiled. “If you’re hungry.”
“I’m always hungry,” Dean answered.
He slid off the couch carefully, to not wake his father and went over to the doorway to put away his snow stuff. His dad had installed a special rod in the closet for all of Dean’s coats, so he could put his own clothes away instead of relying on Mary or John do to if for him. Dean had a very loud “No I can do it!” stage six months earlier. It was easier to just give in and let him hang up his our coat than fight with him until he cried.
He crawled into the living room on his hands and knees and started to put his army men into the plastic bag he carried them in and the legos in his box, when John woke up.
“Dean!” John half yelled sitting up quickly.
“I’m right here,” Dean replied as he continued to pick up. “I’m picking up my mess so I can have pie.”
“Mom’s home then,” John said, swinging his legs off the couch.
“Mmhmm,” Dean nodded. “After pie, I’m gonna teach you how to fight monsters. I think you’ll be really good at it. Then maybe, we can check under my bed and if the real monster is there, you can get rid of it for real.”
“Whatever you wanna do, kiddo.”
Dean nodded and picked up the box and his bag and waddled up the stairs to put them in his toybox.
Dean and John sat next to each other at the table while Dean stuffed his face. He turned to his father and offered him a spoonful.
“You want some?” he asked, mouthful of half chewed food.
“Chew,” John instructed. “Then ask again. It’s really not that hard to remember, Dean. No one wants to see the food in your mouth.”
“After you eat you’re sitting in timeout,” Mary sighed, rolled her eyes and shaking her head at John.
“What?!” Dean whined. “I didn’t do nothing.”
“Did Dad tell you to chew with your mouth closed at lunch?” Mary asked. Dean nodded sheepishly. “And what did I tell you at breakfast?”
Dean fell back in the chair and pushed his pie away. He crossed his arms across his chest and let his bottom lip stick out.
“Not fair,” he mumbled. “You’re being mean.”
“No,” Mary explained, kneeling down next to him. “What happens when Mom or Dad tells you to do something and you don’t do it?”
“I go to timeout,” Dean mumbled.
“Well,” Mary shrugged forcing Dean to look at her. “Maybe you’ll stop talking with your mouth full.”
“I don’t like timeout,” Dean pouted, tears running down his face.
“No one does,” Mary said. “That’s why it’s punishment. So finish your snack and go sit in the timeout chair for three minutes.”
“I don’t want it!” Dean yelled jumping down from his chair and running into the living room. He sat down in the corner, facing the wall next to the timeout chair out of protest.
“Necessary?” John asked, not to undermine her but figure out her dealing with Dean process.
“Very,” Mary nodded. “He’s usually really well behaved, but when he doesn’t listen you gotta be tough. That’s what the books say and Karen. I don’t want him to think he can run all over us. And actually, when it comes to tantrums, that was pretty mild. He didn’t throw anything or push the plate on the ground like he usually does.”
“Little bit of a handful,” John nodded. “He doesn’t really stop talking I noticed.”
“No,” Mary laughed. “I asked him one question about Batman the other day, and he just kept talking for, like, two hours. I don’t even know where he learned any of it.”
“Maybe we could get him some of the comics for Christmas,” John suggested. “He’s starting to read, might be good for him.”
“If you’re into replacing Samantha the Mermaid with reading Batman comics at bedtime.”
“I’m up for never reading that ridiculous mermaid story ever again,” John chuckled. “I will read him a hundred Batman comics if I never have to see that book again. How can someone re-write the little mermaid into something so ridiculous? He has hundreds of books up there.”
“He likes it,” Mary smiled. “But he’ll grow out of it, eventually, find something new. He doesn’t have the longest attention span. He’ll pick a new one soon enough. I’m going to go get him before he starts yelling that we forgot about him.”
Dean was curled into a ball, as small as he could get in the timeout corner, still sniffling.
“Are you ready to listen?” Mary asked.
“I always listen,” Dean whimpered.
“When you talk with you mouth full after I asked you not too so many times,” Mary explained. “That’s not listening. I know you can listen. You’ve been a good listener most of the time, it’s not very nice to talk with your mouth full.”
“I got a lot to say,” Dean huffed.
“I know baby,” Mary smiled. “You just gotta slow down and chew first. You can talk after you swallow. It’s important, okay, that’s what big boys do, and you wanna be a big boy right?”
Dean nodded. “Yeah, Momma, I wanna be a big boy. I’m not a baby no more.”
“Then can you try harder to not talk with your mouth full?” Mary asked.
“Okay, go finish your pie,” Mary said. “And if you do it again, what’s gonna happen?”
“More time out,” Dean answered. “And early bed time.”
“That’s right,” Mary answered. “No give me hug and finish your pie so you can teach Daddy to sword fight.”
“You gotta step and stab,” Dean explained. He was once again wearing his blue and red striped towel around his neck, standing in the living room holding his plastic sword demonstrating proper technique.
“If you stab in it’s face, it’s better. You get them in the brain and they die faster.”
“Oh,” John nodded, taking his own plastic sword and copying what Dean had done. He looked over the little boy’s head to see Mary holding back giggles with a disposable camera.
“Don’t even think about it, Mary,” John shook his head.
“It’s cute,” Mary argued. “Don’t you want to remember the day you learned to fight monsters forever?”
John shook his head quickly and looked down at Dean smiling at him.
“It would be much better if you had a cape,” Dean suggested. “Then the monsters know your a good guy and stay away.”
“If they stay away, what’s the point in learning how to fight them?” John asked.
“Well, umm,” Dean replied squinching his face. “Good guys just wear capes, Daddy. You’re not aposta question it.”
“Fair enough,” John nodded. “Still not wearing a cape. What’s the next thing we gotta do?”
“You just,” Dean pulled his arm back and thrust it forward again, jumping around in a little circle while he did so. “Stab. Get it for all the directions so it can’t bite you. That’s the most important. You don’t want to get eated.”
“It really is, John,” Mary giggled. “Getting eaten by the monster is the worst. Dean’s been very good at making sure I don’t get eaten by monsters. It would be very amazing if my husband could do the same thing.”
“You just can’t be better than me,” Dean added. “Cuz I’m the hero and you’re the side kick in the monster business.”
“Right,” John replied, rolling his eyes.
Mary couldn’t hold back any longer, a loud half snorting laugh exploded from her as she snapped a couple more pictures.
“You think it’s so funny, you do it,” John said, offering Mary the sword.
“Momma’s an expert,” Dean said. “She’s very good at sword fights. One time we had a sword fight together. But I was a pirate that time. It’s your turn to learn. You said you wanted to.”
“I do, Dean,” John nodded. “I really do. But don’t you think it’s a little bit silly?”
“No,” Dean said shaking his head. “Monsters are serious. There is one under my bed and you need to learn to take care of it so it doesn’t eat me, or worse eat Momma. I don’t know how long teddy bears can keep it away.”
“Dean,” John sighed. “There’s no…”
“Don’t,” Mary interrupted. “Can I talk to you in the kitchen for a second.”
Mary grabbed his arm and pulled him off. “Keep fighting monsters, kiddo. We’ll be right back.”
Dean nodded, smiling. He started to jump around a stab the air again, making sound effects to match.
“I thought we decided to not tell him it’s not real,” Mary whispered. “Just let him work it out himself.”
“You decided,” John answered. “I still think it’s stupid to give in to a three year old with an overactive imagination.”
“I get that you’re an adult,” Mary said trying to keep her voice even. “I get that you don’t like looking ridiculous, but just do it. Hearing Dean laugh should be enough to make it okay. That’s your little boy. He loves you, and he wants to teach you something. You taught him how to throw a ball today right? He wants to teach you something he thinks is equally as important. Just give in. I’m not going to stop being a bitch about it.”
“Mary,” John sighed. “You don’t…”
“I’ll put the camera away,” Mary interrupted. “I just want you to have a good relationship. I want you two to get along and I want him to know that he can come to you with his problems. I mean, yeah, right now it’s something stupid, but in three years there could be a kid being mean to him at school or he could be struggling with his homework. What if he doesn’t want to come to you then because he’s afraid you’ll just brush it off as not important?”
“That’s not how it’s gonna be,” John shook his head.
“You got a time machine?” Mary spat. “Cuz if you don’t you don’t know a damn thing. So go fight monsters. If you just don’t want to, after telling that boy all day that you’ll do whatever he wants, well, John, the only way I can take it is that you just don’t care, or only care when it’s convenient. And I honestly don’t know which one is worse.”
“I’ll do it,” John mumbled. “It doesn’t make it less stupid. It’s obnoxious.”
“Yeah,” Mary shrugged. “So is wearing an eyepatch and holding a teddy bear hostage under a laundry basket. But I did it. Because it made my little boy smile.”
“I bet you were a cute pirate,” John smirked.
“I’m mad at you,” Mary said, staring cold at her husband. “Go fight monsters.”
“If this one’s a girl,” John said stepping close and placing his hand on her stomach. “I’m not wearing feather boas or pearl necklaces. That’s where I’m drawing the line.”
“You’re afraid of cooties too?” Mary smirked.
“Nah,”John smiled leaning in to kiss her.
“Stop, I’m mad at you,” Mary protested. “And Dean’s waiting. Go.”
“You’re not doin’ it right, Daddy,” Dean said seriously. “You’re not doing it like I do it.”
“What I am doing wrong?” John rolled his eyes. He was going to do this, but no one told him he had to enjoy it, and being bossed around by a toddler wasn’t exactly high on his list of things he considered fun.
“You’re not stabbing hard enough,” Dean explained. “If you do it to real monsters the way you’re doing the sword will just bounce off. You gotta stab!” Dean demonstrated by thrusting his plastic sword as hard as he could at the air in front of him.
John tried again, putting a little bit more effort behind it as he swung the sword back and forth where Dean told him the big invisible monster was.
“You don’t want to play do you?” Dean asked sadly. “You think it’s dumb?”
“No, Dean,” John shook his head.
“If you don’t want to play with me, that’s okay,” Dean pouted. “I’ll play by myself.”
“No, buddy,” John picked Dean up off the floor. “That’s not it at all. Dad just hasn’t fought monsters before. It’s different. I’m not an expert like you are.”
“I really want you to play monsters,” Dean pouted. “But if you don’t like we can play something else. We can play Chutes and Ladders.”
“I think I’m just having a hard time seeing the monsters,” John confessed.
“They’re invisible to grown ups,” Dean explained.
“How about… how about if you and me build one,” John suggested.
“Build a monster?”
“Yeah,” John nodded. “We can use the sofa and stuff cover it will all sorts of blankets and stuff. Make it real. Then I think that I’ll be able to fight it better.”
“That’s gonna make a big mess,” Dean warned. “Momma doesn’t like it when I do that. She said to me ‘Dean do not make big messes.’ I’m not very good at cleaning them up. Only little messes. And sometimes I’m not very good at that either. Momma has to telled five times to clean it up, and then I have to have time out from bad listening.”
“Let me worry about Mom,” John smiled, lowering Dean back to the ground. “You go get some blankets out of the linen closet upstairs. I’ll make sure you don’t get in trouble.”
Dean nodded and ran up the stairs as fast as his little legs could carry him.
“What am not worrying about?” Mary asked as she came down the stairs. “Because Dean just looked at me and said: ‘Don’t be mad, Daddy says it’s okay.’ And climbed into the linen closet.”
“We’re building a monster,” John shrugged. “I’ll take care of the clean up.”
“You can do that laundry because I’m not rewashing all our sheets,” Mary rolled her eyes.
“They won’t be dirty,” John replied. “We’re just going to turn the couch into a monster so I can fight it.”
“Dean can stay inside all day and get covered in dirt,” Mary sighed. “You get to rewash all the sheets when you’re done.”
“Fine,” John nodded. “I know how to work the washer. I think I can handle it.”
“When you flood the basement, you get to clean that up too,” Mary smirked.
“You have such little faith in me,” John shook his head as he heard Dean start to come back down the stairs.
“No,” Mary smiled as she walked away to start dinner. “I’m just expecting nothing better than last time you tried to do laundry. We almost lost so of my parents photo albums from the water damage. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I’m capable of learning from my mistakes,” John chuckled. “I’ll use the cap to add soap this time.”
Mary chuckled and walked away, shaking her head.
“Okay,” Dean called from behind him. “I got all the blankets I can reach. I don’t know if it’s enough.”
“That’ll work, Deano,” John smiled taking the blankets. “Why don’t you push on of the chairs from the dining room in here.”
“No!” Mary called. “Do not let him do that. He’ll scratch up the floor.”
“Momma said no,” Dean said swaying back and forth and swinging his arms. “She’s the boss.”
John smiled and patted Dean on the head as he went to get the chair himself. “You’re smarter than you look little buddy.”
“Don’t let him climb on anything,” Mary said. “I don’t feel like going to the hospital cuz he cut his face open jumping off the couch.”
“I won’t let him hurt himself,” John said defensively. “We’ll be good. Feet on the floor.”
“I mean it,” Mary said. “I get what you’re trying to do, but don’t break him. It’s not easy to get blood out of the carpet.”
“That was one time,” John sighed. “And it wasn’t my fault.”
“You let a two year old slide face first down the stairs, John,” Mary rolled her eyes. “He needed stitches. Don’t break my kid.”
“Jesus, I’m not neglectful,” John argued. “Do you want me to play with him or not? Because you’re being kind of crazy right now.”
“Do whatever you think is best,” Mary sighed. “Just don’t break him.”
“Alright,” John shook his head and he picked up the kitchen chair and walked back into the living room.
Dean was standing on the couch trying to put a sheet over the back of it. John placed the chair in front of the couch and grabbed Dean around the waist, placing him on the floor.
“I’ll do that part, kiddo,” John said softly. “How about you put a blanket over the chair.”
Dean nodded and unfolded new blanket. John couldn’t help but chuckle at how funny it looked to see the look boy holding a blanket twice his size and trying to drape it over the chair.
“This doesn’t look like a monster,” Dean decided after seeing what John decided was the final product. “It’s needs a face.”
“What would be a good face for it?” John asked.
“I don’t know,” Dean shrugged. “I think I pretend it has a face, if you can pretend it’s a monster. We’ll make it work. If it makes you fight the monsters, it’s good for me. I just gotta know which side is the face.”
“I think the chair,” John said. “The seat of the chair is kind of like a nose. You think?”
“Yeah,” Dean nodded and smiled. “I like it. Let kill it.”
John laughed and shook his head. “A little over eager there buddy?”
“No,” Dean replied, looking up at his dad with a very serious face. “That’s what you do to monster. It’s the only way. Then they don’t eat nobody.”
“Alright,” John chuckled. “Show me how it’s done.”
Dean nodded and picked his sword up off the floor. He aimed it at the space between the kitchen chair and the sofa and ran full force at it.
“Kapow!” Dean shouted as he stabbed it repeatedly, running around that couch to stab every piece of it.
“Careful, little dude, you’re gonna hurt yourself,” John said grabbing Dean around the waist and picking him up. “Slow down. You’re not supposed to run in the house anyway.”
“Sorry,” Dean mumbled. “I got excited.”
John placed Dean back on the ground.
“You do it now,” Dean demanded. “You can do it real good now.”
John took a deep breath and bent his knees, he felt completely ridiculous. There were millions of other things he should be doing on his day off: the sink in the upstairs bathroom was leaky, the door to the basement squeaked, he had to start taking the furniture out of the guest bedroom to start the new nursery, the car needed a tune up, his list of things that needed to be done was longer than his arm. But standing next to him bouncing on the balls of his feet was a little boy with his smile looking back up at him. He leaned forward and stabbed that the couch.
“Yeah!” Dean giggled. “Just like that. Much better. I knew you could do it Daddy. You just need a little more practice and then… and then maybe we check out under my bed.”
“Whatever you want kiddo,” John nodded. “I’ll get rid of them.”
“Keep practicing,” Dean instructed. “I gotta tell Mom you did it.”
John smiled as he watch Dean take off toward the kitchen.
“Don’t… don’t run Dean,” John sighed.
“How’s it goin’ in there,” Mary asked looking up from peeling potatoes. “Sounds like quite the situation.”
“It’s good,” Dean answered. “Daddy’s getting the hang of it. Can I help?”
Mary had tried to involve Dean in cooking dinner. He was always looking to help with something, and even if he was just stirring vegetables before she turned the stove on or sprinkling salt and pepper over things, letting him help a little bit seemed to make him happier than anything else.
“Not right now, sweetheart,” Mary smiled. “Just keep playing with Daddy.”
“Okay,” Dean nodded. “I just wanted to tell you that Daddy’s doing real good now, and you don’t have to yell at him no more.”
“I wasn’t yelling at him,” Mary replied.
“I’m three, Momma,” Dean said seriously. “I know yelling, but Daddy’s better now. So you don’t have to be mad at him no more. I don’t want Daddy to go to timeout, because you have sit in time out of one minute for how old you are and Daddy will be in timeout forever. And that’s not fair.”
“Alright,” Mary smiled. “I’ll take it into consideration.”
Dean nodded and turned on his heels, sprinting back into the living room.
“Don’t run!” Mary sighed shaking her head.
When Dean crossed the threshold to the living room two big strong arms grabbed him and tossed him over the back of the couch. The high pitched scream that left Dean has he flew through the air caused Mary to abandon dinner and fly into the living room to see what the hell could have just happened.
Dean lay on his back on the sofa, giggling and kicking at John.
“No fair!” Dean laughed. “I wasn’t ready.”
“You can never be ready for the tickle monster,” John replied.
“You’re not a monster,” Dean squealed trying to squirm off the couch. “Monsters are bad guys.”
“Not all of ‘em,” John said letting up so Dean to breathe again. “Some of them are good guys.”
“You think so?” Dean asked pushing himself up. “You think the monster under my bed is a good monster?”
“Maybe it’s protecting you,” John suggested. “Maybe it doesn’t want to eat you, just wants to make sure you’re okay.”
“I never thinked of that,” Dean said thoughtfully nodded. “But Jamie said there was only bad monsters, and they eat you.”
“Jamie’s only four,” John replied. “You think he’s met all the different monsters?”
Dean shook his head. “But you don’t believe in them. You said so.”
“Well, buddy,” John said pulling Dean close to his side. “Maybe you taught me something today. But if they are real, they can’t all be bad.”
“I guess so,” Dean nodded. “I can go with that I think. So long as there is no tickle monster under there. That was… that was crazy.”
“You didn’t like the tickle monster?” John asked as he started to tickle Dean again as the little boy squealed.
In the doorway Mary shook her head and chuckled. That was exactly what she was hoping for when pressured John into calling out of work that morning. She held her hands up to her face and mimed taking a picture, wishing she hadn’t put away the disposable, because that right there in front of her, were the types of moments she wanted to remember forever.
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