What Could Have Been

Chapter 2

It took the fire brigade three hours to douse the flames that had engulfed their house and by then there wasn’t much left.

The Winchesters huddled together in the street, surrounded by sirens and fire trucks and curious onlookers, staring at the ashes of their home.

“We… we’ve lost everything,” Mary whispered.

John shook his head, looking down at the boys he still had cradled protectively in his arms. “No. We didn’t lose our children or each other, and that’s all that matters. Everything else can be replaced.”

Mary pulled her gaze away from the ruins of her normal, safe life, and focused on her family. They were okay. They were safe. That was what was important. “You’re right.”

She reached out to take her baby from Dean’s arms, needing the reassurance that the fire in Sam’s nursery had not stolen her youngest child from her. It had been close, too close, and if anything had happened to him she would never have been able to forgive herself.

But when Dean let go of his little brother, Mary caught sight of his pyjama shirt.

It was covered in blood.

“Dean! John, he’s bleeding!”

“No, Mommy-”

John quickly laid Dean out on the asphalt. “Oh my god. Oh my god-” He pulled up the shirt and Mary braced herself for the sight of a deadly injury-

But there was nothing.

“Dad, I’m-”

John didn’t listen, checking every inch of Dean for the source of the bleeding.

“Nothing,” he reported. “Mary, is it Sam?”

Almost choking with terror, she checked on her baby. But aside from a red smudge at the corner of his mouth he was fine, too.

“What happened?” John demanded. “Dean, are you okay, son? What happened?”

“I’m fine, Daddy,” Dean replied calmly, sitting up. “The angel fixed me.”

“What?”

“The bad man stabbed my tummy with his big ugly knife but the angel fixed me all up,” Dean said, as if that explained everything.

“Bad man? Knife? Angel? Dean, what are you talking about? What has this got to do with the fire? How did you know about the fire before we did? Dean-”

Dean drew in a big breath. “Sammy was crying. Mommy didn’t get up so I getted up to check on Sammy and sing ‘Hey Jude’ for him, but Daddy was already in there, but it wasn’t Daddy it was the bad man, and he said you let him in Mommy but I didn’t think so and then I saw he had a knife in his pocket and I thought he was gonna hurt Sammy so I was gonna scream, but then he stuck me to the wall and my words stopped working and he didn’t cut Sammy he cut his arm because Sammy was thirsty, and then he said he didn’t want me to kill him so he stabbed me and it hurt, like worse than a bad ouchie on my knee, and then he put me on the ceiling and he set it on fire to burn me up, but when he left my angel came. He getted me down and froze the fire and fixed my tummy, but the fire unfroze so he gave me Sammy and we runned out here and the house sploded.”

Mary and John looked at each other, and then back at their son. “What?”

Dean looked on the verge of spouting out the entire story again, so John held up a hand to stop him.

“Dean, you’re saying… there was a bad man in Sam’s nursery? And he lit the fire deliberately?”

“Uh huh. With his magic powers.”

“Magic?”

“Bad magic,” Dean confirmed.

“Like, a lighter, or…?”

“No, Daddy, I know a lighter isn’t magic. It was real magic. He stuck me to the wall without any glue and made me stop talking without covering my mouth and made the fire start without any matches and then poof! He was gone. It was magic.

John did not look convinced. “What did this ‘bad man’ look like?”

“He was tall and had a not-nice smile and he was wearing a big black coat.”

“Right…”

“Oh, and he had yellow eyes.”

Mary gasped.

John looked at her. “Mary, you’re not believing any of this, are you? I mean, magic? Yellow eyes?” He huffed a disbelieving laugh and shook his head. “The crazy things kids will come up with.”

“It was real!” Dean protested.

“No, Dean. If you don’t know what happened you don’t just make up a story. That’s called lying.”

“But I didn’t make it up! There really was a bad man and there really was an angel! He saved me!”

“Come on, now, Dean. There are no such things as angels.”

“John-”

“No, Mary, we have obviously been filling his head with too much nonsense. It is time he learned what is real and what isn’t.”

“My angel is real!”

“Tell the truth, Dean Winchester.”

Dean’s eyes filled with tears. “I am!”

John crouched down to his level. “Dean. Did you light the fire?”

“No!”

“Was it an accident? I’m not mad, Dean, I just want to know what happened.”

“I didn’t do it, Daddy. It wasn’t me! It wasn’t!”

“Okay, Dean. Okay.” John sighed and stood up. “Maybe it was an electrical short in the walls or something. I’m going to go talk to one of the fire fighters, see if they can find out what happened.”

Dean watched his father go with frustrated tears spilling down his cheeks. “Why won’t he believe me, Mommy? You believe me, don’t you?”

Mary thought about everything that Dean had told them. The ‘bad man’ with yellow eyes had to be the same demon that she had made the deal with 10 years ago. He had come by her house, just as he promised he would, and whatever he had been planning to do it had something to do with Sammy. Dean had interrupted him, and the demon had tried to kill him. That blood on his pyjama shirt probably was real blood, and the only reason he was alive right now was because… an angel had answered her prayers? She didn’t know for sure, but yes, she believed him.

She couldn’t tell him that, though.

She had left the hunting life. She didn’t want anything to do with it. She didn’t want John to find out about her past, and she didn’t want her little boy to know that monsters were real. Dean was only four years old. If they told him often enough that he had imagined the whole thing, eventually he would come to believe it. His innocence would remain intact, and he would stay far, far away from the hunting life.

“I think you had a nightmare,” she said softly, trying to ignore the pang of guilt in her chest when she saw the look of betrayal in her child’s eyes. “But it was just a bad dream, okay, honey? You’re okay. Everything is alright.”

Dean’s voice took on a hysterical pitch. “It wasn’t a dream!”

“You’re tired, Dean. Come on. We’ll find a motel to stay in tonight and get some rest. It will all be better in the morning.”

Dean threw a screaming, sobbing tantrum, and Mary just stood there, letting him work it out of his system. Then she gathered him into her arms, murmuring soothing words into his ear. “Hush now, Dean. Settle down, honey. It’s okay.”

Dean’s eyes were red from crying, but when Sammy reached out a small hand to grab his nose he gave his little brother a watery smile and snuggled up alongside him.

Her sons fell asleep in her arms.

“I’m sorry, Dean,” she whispered.

Mary cuddled her children close and turned away from the crowd so no one would see her cry.

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