Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural, or any of its characters
We all rushed into the room, breathless. He was awake. John was awake.
"Oh John," Mary said, moving to the bed and hugging him as best she could.
He patted her back and smiled at each of us in turn.
"Hey guys," he said, his voice so soft it was barely above a whisper.
"Hi dad," Sam replied, looking as if he were on the verge of tears.
I slipped my hand into one of his and squeezed, hoping to send him some comfort in the only way I knew how. Sam squeezed back.
"How're you holding up?" Dean asked, shifting until he was sitting and holding his father's hand.
His father smiled as Mary pulled away to sit down.
"I'm fine," he told us in response to Dean's question, "They have me on some good stuff right now."
"Yeah, I bet," his oldest replied.
Despite his raspy voice and how weak he looked I could've fooled myself into believing that he was alright. He had that same gleam in his eyes that I remembered. Then he started coughing. A sick, cough that sounded harsh on the ears. I winced in sympathy.
Mary was there with a cup of cool water to help ease his throat.
"Boys...if you don't mind..." John rasped, looking at his wife.
"Of course dad," Sam assured as Dean said, "Yes sir."
I let Sam gently tug me out of the room. Too numb to really process anything that was going on around me.
"Do you think...?" Sam began as soon as we had stepped into the hallway.
"Shut up Sam," Dean said, wiping a weary hand down his face, "Dad'll be fine."
I could see that none of us could really except that. There had been too many accounts of people's last good days. Where they seemed fully functional, happy, on the mend, and then before you knew what hit you, they were gone.
"Say something," I finally said, leaning tiredly against the white wall.
"Say what?" Dean asked.
"Anything," I answered, "This silence...I don't care, say your favorite color."
Sam snorted, "This seems kind of pointless. Our dad-"
"Exactly," I interrupted, making sure to keep my voice low, "Your dad won't want you to worry yourselves sick. So we might as well try to make our minds focus on something else."
"Blue," Dean stated, "What about you?"
"Green," I replied,"And you Sam?"
Sam still seemed a bit hesitant, his eyes constantly shifting towards the door, then he sighed, "I like green too."
"Okay..." I searched my mind for another question.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Dean asked.
Sam huffed, "Lawyer."
I hesitated, suddenly self-conscious about my career choice, "Teacher."
Dean's eyes widened and Sam raised his eyebrows, in any other situation I might have found their expressions comical.
"Really?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, I had this really good teacher growing up, he inspired me."
"Inspired you? How?" Dean asked.
"Well, he showed me how much impact a teacher can have on a student, and..." I didn't really want to continue, but I could see I finally had Sammy's full attention and knew I should, if only to spare him a few moments of anxious concern for his father, "It was right after my mother died," I began, bringing up the memories wasn't very difficult, they would always be imprinted on my mind, "My father was slowly disappearing, and each day I'd go to school and this teacher would ask me how I was." One quick glance at Dean told me that I had his attention now too. "Of course, every time he'd ask I'd tell him that I was okay. One day he wouldn't except that answer and he asked me like three times until I got super frustrated. So I told him how I was feeling. Angry, tired, regretful, the whole shebang. And he replied that now that I voiced those feelings I had to let them go. That my mother would want me to move on and live my life."
"And did you?" Sam asked.
"Well, at first it sounded like a pile of crap," I told him, receiving a small grin in response, "But eventually yeah."
"Did his words help you after your siblings' deaths?" Dean murmured.
I bit my lip, "Honestly? They were the only thing keeping me going," I admitted, "The knowledge that my siblings wouldn't want me to be sad over them and you know...just end it..."
There was a brief moment of silence before Mary opened the door, tears streaming down her face, "He wants to see you now Dean."
I could tell Dean was preparing himself emotionally. He sucked in a deep breath before boldly walking back into the room where his dying father lay.
We waited in silence after that. Everyone's mind was obviously in the same place. Eventually Dean came back out and told Sam that John wanted to see him. He keep his eyes determinedly trained to the floor, clearly trying to keep himself together.
When Sam came back out he was a sobbing mess.
His watery eyes met mine, "He wants to talk to you."
I froze. Me? Why? I could feel Mary's gaze and she gave me a sad smile.
"Go on," she said gently.
I walked in, feeling nervous. It wasn't like I had done something like this on a regular basis.
He smiled at me as I came in, I couldn't bring myself to smile back.
I sat in the chair next to him and before I could stop it the damn inside of me broke. Tears cascaded down my cheeks.
"What's wrong?" he asked me. Of course he asked me. I should've been asking him. here he was lying in a hospital bed and he was wondering how I felt.
I finally got a grip on myself. The silent tears still streamed down my cheeks but at least now I could answer him, "You gave me everything."
He raised a hand and I grasped it. Trying to memorize every callus.
"You gave me everything and I let you down," I told him, somehow finding the courage to meet his gaze.
He shook his head, "You never..." he coughed, "Let me down...Lily."
I bit my lip, "I left."
"No one...blamed you..."
I found that hard to believe but held my tongue.
"You...brought my family..." another coughing fit, "back together, I should...be thanking you."
I gave him a bittersweet smile, "You gave me another meaning to live, I'll consider the debt repaid."
He smiled, "Are you...happy Lily?"
His voice was getting even quieter.
"Yeah, yeah I'm happy John."
"Watch out for...Dean, would you?"
The tears started pouring down my face harder, "Only until you get better," I promised.
He lips quirked up briefly, "He always...listened to you..."
"That's only because I didn't give him any choice, we practically kill each other every five minutes."
Another quirk of the lips but then it happened. He stopped breathing. It was sudden. His gasped for breath and coughed but couldn't draw the necessary element into his lungs.
"Help!" I screamed, pushing the red button, we were in the frickin' ICU where the heck were the nurses when you needed them, "Someone help!"
There they were. Rushing into the room and trying to push me out of the way but I didn't want to let go of John's limp hand. I couldn't let go. Strong arms wrapped around my and started pulling me backwards. At first I resisted.
"Calm down," Dean told me, his voice strained, "Let them do their job."
My eyes met his and I marveled at how determined he seemed.
"He can't leave," I stated firmly, still wrapped in his arms as we stood in the hallway.
"Shh," he rested his chin on the top of my head.
The constant activity of nurses and doctors in and out of the room did nothing to help ease my nerves.
"You have to be strong," Dean whispered, "We have to be strong for Sammy and my mother."
I nodded numbly. His words made sense. Mary didn't need to think that she had to be strong for us, and Sam...I nodded again and stepped out from his arms. An understanding passed between us as our eyes meant. Neither of us had the strength to be strong all of the time, but maybe if we leaned on each other we wouldn't have to be.
The hallway was dead silent besides Mary's quiet sobs. I felt strangely detached.
"Okay, call it."
"Time of death 9:17."