Mary wakes up very suddenly. She shows no signs of grogginess or gradual awakening; one second she's on the ground, immobile, and the next, she's awake and getting to her feet, surveying the damage that was inflicted while she was unconscious.
John takes longer, Michael still has some cleaning to do, and for that he must keep John at bay for a few more moments. When John finally gains control again it's like waking up after a nightmare. Everything is there and happening and he can see it all but he doesn't have control over any of it. Then Michael leaves, and John jerks back into place so quickly and violently that he physically stumbles, brain still fuzzy and trying to fit things into the right order through that haze and lightheaded feeling that still hasn't left yet.
Mary's there. She's got his face cupped in her hands, and she's saying something, but he can't understand it yet. He can hear it, but doesn't know if it's in English or some other language he doesn't know. He opens his mouth and tries to respond, but there's some kind of wall inside of his brain. He can't keep a hold of his thoughts long enough to tell his brain what to do with them. He can't even think about that long enough to panic.
They're in the car when everything comes back into focus. It's another sudden jolt: a vicious, painful snap of clarity, like getting shot with a .bb gun or having a rubber band snapped right into the middle of his palm. It makes sense, not that John had thought about them in more than an abstract way before tonight, that absolutely nothing about angels would be subtle.
The first thing John does when he gets back on speaking terms with the outside world is grab Mary. That would be perfectly acceptable—understandable, even—if not for the fact that, at this particular moment in time, Mary's behind the wheel of a very large car and driving much faster than is strictly legal or safe down a dark, unlit, barely paved road. John grabs her arm, and the car jerks to the right, then swerves hard left to make up for it. The car ends up stopped dead, cutting across two lanes and vaguely facing the direction they just came from.
Mary's breathing heavily, a harsh panting noise that breaks the silence in the car. "John, I love you, and I'm happy you're back from wherever it is you went, but I would really like it if you would please try not to kill us in a car accident."
John can't answer, can't joke about that, because those were his sons back there. He remembers that. Dean. Dean called him dad, and Sam, he talked with Sam about his dad, and he knows, he knows he was that horrible, fucked-up, selfish man who ruined his children's lives so badly that he's pretty sure they just killed themselves to fix it. And Mary—
Mary. Sam said that his mom died, and his dad practically went nuts from grief. John doesn't even have to stretch to see that. He knows that he handles death badly; two expulsions after his mom died and enlistment after his big brother are proof enough of that. He can't even imagine life without Mary, what that was like for that other version of him.
He's across the bench seat as fast as he can make his sluggish body move, pulling her to him and hugging her tight. "I'm not letting you die."
"I'm not going to die, John." She laughs, somewhat bitterly. "Not for a long time."
"No, Mary, you are. Sam, he said, he said you died, when he was just a baby." John leans back a little, not releasing her, but easing back just enough that she can see that he's serious. "Mary, those boys, they were—are our sons."
"You know?" Mary asks him. There's no shock on her face, no confusion, just worry.
"You know?" John asks. He's starting to get really fucking tired of being treated like some useless civilian.
"Dean told me, right before the fight."
"And when exactly were you going to tell me this little unimportant piece of information?" She's heard the fights he's had with what's left of his family, the few times they've spoken, so she knows just how damn much he hates being lied to. And then she went ahead and did it anyway.
"Oh, I'm sorry, John," she says, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "When should I have done it? When I was fighting off the redhead? How about when you got tossed out the window? There were just so many opportunities to tell you; I didn't know which one would be the best."
"You had no intention of telling me about them or about you," John challenges. "Just like you had no intention of telling me about the ghosts or hunting."
"That's not true," Mary protests.
"Bullshit. We're married, and you didn't think I might want to know about shit that can kill you."
"That's not my life anymore," Mary insists. "It doesn't matter."
"Really?" John asks. "Because the last six hours and the sigils all over that house tell me a completely fucking different story."
"I didn't think it was part of my life anymore. I don't want it to be," she admits.
"And people in Hell want ice water; it doesn't mean they're going to get any." John sighs and leans back. He knows he can't hide the grimace on his face, so he doesn't even bother to try. He hates being treated like an idiot or some naive grunt, fresh off the bus. He's never been that bad, not even on his first day of basic training, and he resents the hell out of being treated like he is. "I can't protect you from something I don't know I'm supposed to be protecting you from."
"Protect me? You don't have to protect me from anything, John."
"Don't give me that 'I am woman, hear me roar,' crap. You know that's not what this is about. You're my wife; I'm supposed to protect you. I'm your husband; you're supposed to protect me." Mary's watching him, not saying anything, and John just keeps going. "That's how this works. I don't give a fuck if you weigh eighty pounds and don't know how to make a fist or if you weigh three hundred and outshoot me; we're supposed to take care of each other and watch out for each other because we're family, and that's what families do. Period."
"I thought I was watching out for you, John," Mary says quietly. "I wouldn't wish that life on anybody, and I can't stand to think that our children were raised like I was."
"They don't have to be, Mary. No, no." She's shaking her head, and he can see the tears in her eyes. He can't stand it when she cries, he can't, so he takes her face in his hands and shushes her, kissing away her protests and brushing the hair off her face. "They don't. Mary, we can stop it, we can. That's why Dean wanted us to remember; he knows that we can change it."
"What?" Mary wipes the tears away from her face. "What do you mean he wanted us to remember?"
"Michael—the one who was in me, the angel, he wanted to wipe our memories. He was going to; I could feel it. But Dean, he talked him out of it. He managed to... I don't even know how he did it. Some sort of weird... game of chicken? I don't, I think. I think he played chicken with him and won? That doesn't make any sense, but I think he did it."
"Well, at least we know he's really your son."
"I'm not that stupid," John protests.
"Yes, you are," Mary insists. "And I love you for it. You are exactly the kind of man that would help produce a son who would apparently play chicken with... wait. Michael, like the archangel?"
"I don't know, maybe? I don't really know that God stuff," John answers.
"Well, you should probably learn some of it." She's laughing a little, shaking her head that way she does whenever John's done something irrevocably stupid. John can't help it; he has to laugh, too. Somehow, in the last seven or so hours, his life has gotten so absurd that he keeps waiting to wake up to Mary yelling at him about eating pizza before bed.
"I don't need no learnin'," John scoffs, waving her off with a smile.
"Except for maybe a little bit of Sunday school," Mary says. "Because angels exist, and they don't seem to be our biggest fans."
"That's an understatement," John agrees. He waits a moment and then says, "You know, I think that whole chicken thing is your fault."
"It is not," Mary protests.
"Oh, yes, it is. It is all your fault. Those were your genes right there; mine wouldn't play chicken with something that could kill me."
"That is such a gigantic load of bullshit that I don't think you even believe it yourself."
"I do too believe it," John insists. "And I believe it because it's true."
"It is not true, and you know it," she says.
"It's completely true," John argues back. "I remember how we met; you can't tell me the crazy doesn't come from your side."
"I'm not the one who almost got everyone killed," she points out.
John sees a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth and hides a grin himself. "I only almost got me and you killed; everyone else would have been fine."
"That does not help your case for the being sane one."
"You only say that because you're biased," John says. "You hated me on sight."
"I didn't hate you," she says. John knows it's a lie, though. She practically wanted him dead; he knows that look well. "I just thought you were an ignorant jackass."
"Oh, is that all?" John asks.
"Can you blame me?" Mary asks him. And, really, he can't. He wasn't always the perfect, shining specimen of man he is now.
"That's the problem when you marry someone who knew you in high school," John says. "There's no such thing as hiding. They already know all your dirty little secrets and were probably there for most of them."
"You know, a good way to avoid that problem is to, oh, I don't know, not be such a complete idiot?"
"All boys are complete idiots when we're teenagers; it's coded into our DNA. All we can do is hope to suppress it around beautiful women and find ways to make it up to the ones who have to see it."
Mary's smile is wide and bright, and John wants to take a picture of it so he never has to be without it.
"You, John Winchester, are a charmer."
"Only for you, Mary."
"Okay, what do we know?" Mary asks. She's got her journals spread across the kitchen table; her fathers' are there, too, but most of them are still in the chest next to the table that she brought up from the basement. John looked worried when she dragged the large lock-box up on her own but, wisely, didn't offer to help or do it for her. Mary gets the idea of chivalry, but she didn't train her entire life to have to have boys help her with heavy things.
"Do we really need all this?" John asks her.
Mary takes a look around their kitchen, and... okay, so maybe it looks a little bit like some school teacher set up shop in there, but this is how she knows how to do things. Mom's chalkboard, sectioned off into three sections—Sam, Dean, and Michael—her and Dad's journals; and a large roll of butcher's paper on the floor, waiting to be used for the extra room Mary knows they're going to need. They need to figure out exactly what they know so they can figure out how to do this, how to—how to keep her alive.
She's not gonna die. She won't let it happen, and she knows John won't. Mary doesn't want to die, but more than that, she doesn't want her boys to suffer whatever fate they did that brought them back here, begging her not to let them be born.
"We need this," Mary assures John. "Trust me, we do. Or, at least, we will. Now, come on, what do we know?"
"Okay," he agrees. "We know... Sam said that their dad—that I—raised them hunting. He said you died in his nursery and that I went nuts, basically."
"Okay, that's good, so we know it happens in his nursery." Mary takes the blue chalk she's designated in her head for things John was told and writes nursery in the board in Sam's column in big letters. "What else? Did he say when?"
"I don't know. He said... he said he was a baby?" John says. "But then when they first came in, Dean said you looked like their mom, so does that mean they remember what you look like?"
"Just Dean, I think," she says. "He's older, so I think he remembers. And... and he was here before, back before this, so he knew."
"Wait, what do you mean he was here before?"
"When my dad died. He was here. I don't know why. I didn't really want anything to do with him; it was some kind of hunt, he was—" She stops. It didn't connect before, but now— "He said he was hunting a demon. That killed his mom. So it's a demon that gets me in Sam's nursery." She writes demon in Dean's part of the board in the green chalk she's decided is hers. "Do you think we should have two Dean sections? One for now and one for then?"
"How can you be so... so calm about this?" John asks her, setting down her journal. It's a pink one, so it's probably from years ago, when she was a dumb teenager herself and didn't know better than to be terrified and angry all the time. "A demon is going to kill you in our son's nursery, and you're treating this like it's some—some science project."
"I'm not calm about this, John." Mary sets down the chalk and whirls around. "I'm not, I just—I have to, I have to distance myself from it. I have to pretend this is just some other case about some other person who we need to save. If I do that, then we can figure this out and fix it. We don't have time for me to panic, John, I'll do that after we save our family, all right?"
John gets up from his chair and comes around the other side of the table, wrapping his arms around Mary's waist and pulling her in close. Mary lets him because she knows this isn't John trying to be the big, strong man like he still sometimes does; she knows that this is just John, her husband who loves her very much and is afraid for her life, trying to remind himself that she's still there.
At least, that's what Mary is telling herself. She has no tolerance for weak women or overbearing men, and she needs John's arms around her now just as much as she bets he needs her in his arms.
"We're going to figure this out, Mary. I promise we are. I can't do this without you."
"Yes, you can," she tells him. Sam and Dean are proof of that.
"Yeah, well, I don't want to."
It takes them a couple of hours to sort things out, and once they do, they know that Mary dies in Sam's nursery on November second, nineteen-eighty-three; that she's killed by a demon; that Sam is younger than Dean; that Michael is, indeed, that Michael, the archangel; and that Sam and Dean are a part of something so bad that they would rather never be born than let things happen the way they did.
Mary still hasn't told John all of her secrets. Not the part about her dad and the deal; she's already told him that, or pieces of it, at least. John knows she made the deal for him, but he doesn't know it was to bring him back to life. He doesn't need to know that, not yet, at least. He doesn't know about Dean yet either, that she's pregnant with him now. She knows that's important, but she doesn't... Mary doesn't want her pregnancy and Dean to be connected to this, to be some kind of thing. Pregnancies are supposed to be good things—first-born sons and families and ten billion other things that aren't connected to death and demons and...
And she's scared. She wants her sons, both of them, and she can't bring herself to take the chance to tell John and have him possibly—she couldn't stand to bear it if he suggested something drastic. She's all for a woman's choice, but her choice is to keep her sons. She doesn't care what they turn out to do or be; she wants them. Mary knows that she's real to John. He knows her, he loves her, and Sam and Dean are still abstracts in his head. He doesn't know how much older than Sam Dean is.
Dean is already real to her. She's taken the tests and gone to the doctor, daydreamed about her future son or daughter—at least now, she doesn't have to worry about buying the wrong clothes—and thought about names, which is another thing she doesn't have to think about anymore. Maybe she can still pick their middle names.
This is real to her. She can't go back from that; she just can't.
Mary knows she has to tell John, and soon, before she starts showing. She just doesn't know how to do it.
John hasn't exactly told Mary he doesn't have a job. It seems a little trivial in comparison to everything, and he's sure he can get it back. It's a morbid thought, but it's actually kind of a good thing for him that his boss is dead now—that's one less paycheck to hand out, which gives John a higher chance of actually being able to get his back.
He won't go crawling back to his dad; he can't make himself. He spent his whole life with that asshole telling him how worthless he was and that he'd never be able to do anything, and he's not gonna prove that fucker right. He'll figure something out.
If he's lucky, he won't have to tell Mary. He'll have his job back before it even gets bad enough that they need to worry about things.
"I imagined that going differently in my head," Mary tells John as she holds the ice pack to his head.
"I think you gave me a concussion," John complains, rubbing his bruised forehead.
"You snuck up on me!" Mary retorts.
"I did not," John says. "I walked in the door, very loudly, and I said hello, and then I gave you a hug."
"You don't just sneak up on a woman like that when she's got a pan in her hand!" Mary insists.
"Yeah, I got that now," John grumbles. "Any reason I had to hear it from the ER doc that you're pregnant?"
"Because the good Doctor Melville has a big mouth?" Mary suggests, giving John the cutest, most clueless look she can manage right now.
"You didn't think that maybe mentioning that Dean's already on his way was something important to know?" John asks her harshly.
"Our son—our first child—is not some piece of a damn puzzle, John," Mary spits out. "He's our son, and he is not going to be lumped in with demons and ghouls and shit like that. He is something to be happy about, damn it, and I'm not letting you spoil that. Not for me, or you, or him, or anything, do you understand me?"
She's so angry that she can feel the sting of tears at her eyes, threatening to spill over and give her away. She won't let them, though; she can't, because John can't stand it when she cries. She's been known to use that to her advantage, but this is serious. This isn't a ding in the car or placating a worried husband that nothing happened to her in the extra hour it took her to get home from the store.
"He's my son, too, damn it!" John yells.
"Lower your voice right now," Mary says. "This already looks bad enough as it is; if you bring the nurses running with the deputies, it's going to be a long time before we have this conversation again."
John takes a deep breath, then another. Then another. All he does for a few minutes is breathe deeply: in and out, in and out, in and out.
Mary is keeping a close eye on the surroundings; John's injury isn't exactly a cut thumb while chopping onions, so the nurses are already suspicious to begin with.
"Are you afraid of me?" John finally asks.
"You don't scare me," she says.
John's looking at the ground, head dipped low. The ice pack is blocking most of his face from her view, but she can see the clench of his jaw, can hear how he's sucking on his teeth like he does when he's angry.
"That isn't what I asked you," he says, voice low. He voice has none of that anger in it, not directed at her. He sounds more... worried? Defeated? She can't quite pin it down. "I asked if you were afraid of me. If you thought—if you thought I would do something to our son."
"No—John, never." The lie is effortless and easy, rolling right off her tongue like she hasn't spent the last three days worrying that John might think the best course of option to keep Mary alive is to never let their sons be born.
"Bullshit," he says. "I don't—I. I know you watch the news," he says haltingly. "You're a smart girl, a hell of a lot smarter than me, and I know you saw what those fucking jag-off reporters said we did over there, but that was different. That was—they. No one ever mentioned the live grenades they would bring us. I did a lot of things I'm not proud of—things I never want you to know about, things I never want anyone to know about, but. You had to do bad shit to survive there, and sometimes you had to do bad shit, and you still didn't survive, but I would never, ever, lay a hand on our child. Ever."
"No, John, I don't think—I don't," she tells him again, this time honestly. Mary climbs out of the chair and goes over to John, cradling his face in her hands the way that he does to her when she's upset. "John, baby, I never thought that, not for a second. I know you, John. I know you're a good man, and it never crossed my mind even for a second—it didn't, I swear. I trust you with every fiber of my being, and that isn't going to change."
"You don't know what I'm capable of, Mary."
"Yes, I do, John. You might be stubborn as a bull, sometimes, and one of the biggest jackasses I've ever met when you're in a mood, but you aren't a bully. Even back in high school when I hated you—you were lazy, and irresponsible, and disrespectful—"
"Don't hold back, Mary," he interrupts. "Tell me how you really feel."
"And I could hardly stand to be in the same room as you without wanting to punch you right in your smug, smug face," Mary continues, brushing his hair back a little. "But you never picked on anyone. You didn't shove the other kids in the hallway, and you didn't let your friends do it around you, either. You are honest to an almost disgusting fault sometimes, and even when you think you've got some kind of secret, you don't because you believe that people are as good as you are. It doesn't even cross your mind that Mr. Woodson's wife could possibly blab all over the supermarket about how her husband had to let 'that poor newlywed orphan boy' go."
"I knew that lady had a big mouth," John grumbles, trying to make light of the whole situation. "She can't even remember my name or that I'm not a damn orphan, but that, she remembers."
"Woman doesn't know how to keep her nose to herself," Mary says. "I'm not going to ask why you decided I didn't need to know that you lost your job because, as I just said, I know you. And I know how your sometimes tiny brain works, and I'm very sure there was all kinds of chivalry in there."
"It wasn't chivalry," John insists. "I thought I could get it taken care of before I had to tell you."
"I love you, John, but you are a stupid, stupid man sometimes." She smiles to take the edge off. "You act like this is going to kill us."
"Bad choice of words. You act like this is going to send us to the poor house. We own our house. We have no mortgage on it, so we don't have to worry about that. I have a job—"
"Part time," John interrupts yet again.
"Do we need to go back to kindergarten so you can learn about waiting your turn?" she asks him, raising an eyebrow. John shakes his head, then squeezes his eyes shut because it really isn't a good idea to do that after a head wound. "We're going to be fine. I still have some money from my parents, and you aren't going to be out of a job forever. There's a difference between losing your job because your boss can't afford to pay you anymore and losing your job because you don't do it well or you goof off instead of working."
"You shouldn't have to take care of us," John says.
"Why? Because it's your job to do that?" she asks. Mary will break him of that crap—mark her words, she will.
"Because you work twenty hours a week and then still manage to take care of me when you get home," he says.
"Well," she says, "I guess that just means you're going to have to take care of me when I get home from work now. Just—no cooking. I like our house best when it isn't on fire."
"It was one tiny little fire, and it didn't even set off any alarms," John says. "And I put it out before you even got downstairs."
"And yet, you can stick to cold foods and sandwiches. Nothing that gets cooked or fried or baked," Mary says, laughing.
"What about a stew?" John asks, mock serious.
She thinks about it for a moment and concedes, stepping closer and wrapping her arms around his neck. "Only in a crock pot. I don't trust you with my stove."
"I can't describe how your trust in me makes me feel," he tells her. "When the hell is the doctor going to get here?"
"I think you scared him away," Mary says. "With the cursing."
"You started it."
"Pretty sure I didn't," Mary smiles.
John quiets down—not that he was being loud before, but his entire presence seems to slow down. He wraps his arms around her hips, pulling her closer until he hardly has to lean forward at all to rest his head against her stomach.
"We're having a baby," he says.
Mary brushes a hand through John's hair, marveling down at the man in front of her. "We're having a baby."
John pauses. "I can't believe we have to name my son after your mother."
"You just had to cheapen it, didn't you?"
John's lack of a job is actually kind of a blessing in disguise, in a way. Sure, money is tight as hell, and Lawrence seems to think it's still a small enough town that everyone and their cousin can talk about him and Mary like it's any of their business what either of them do, but he's got about eight libraries' worth of books to read through, and Mary gives him pop quizzes on the most random shit at the weirdest times.
Like halfway through dinner one night, when she's already got him doing flashcards on kill methods in between bites of food. He's got most of a meatloaf polished off and is working his way through the mashed potatoes when she changes tracks and asks, "Name of God in Latin."
"Deus?" John asks after a few seconds.
"Technically, yes. I meant Christ's name, though."
"Christus, right?" John asks as he helps himself to a second helping of meatloaf.
"You have to actually read the journals, John."
"I am reading them," he insists. He is; he doesn't want to leave any of this to chance.
"Well, you're using the wrong kind of Latin, and it's post-Roman, which—just trust me. It's explained in the journals in detail. Say Christo, and you'll be fine. If you try Christus, the demon will smile at you and snap your neck when you turn your back."
"So what I'm hearing you say is that I shouldn't say Christus."
"How did you get through high school without your teachers killing you?"
"You know I didn't even finish high school, right?" John asks, looking up from his green beans.
"Which is why we're only doing Latin," she says, holding up a flashcard.
"Death by fire. What do you mean 'only' Latin?"
"We could be doing Sanskrit, too," she says, setting the rugaru card into the pile with the other correct answers. "Or Aramaic."
"Aren't those dead languages?" John asks, looking up at the new flashcard with Sidhe written on it in big, swoopy letters. "Can't be killed, but you can trap them with cold iron and bribe them with milk."
"That's good, but you have to remember that there are different types of sidhe; some of them don't need to be stopped. And Latin is a dead language, too, John. Demons are old, and so are most monsters."
John wishes he could say that his first ghost hunt was exciting, thrilling, or anything but nine kinds of boring, but it isn't. They spend three weeks combing through records at the library—okay, so it's only about nine days, but it feels like it's three weeks—and find a map to the unmarked plot.
The ghost is tied to a particular spot that is nowhere near his grave, so there isn't even any worry about that.
He and Mary take turns with the shovel. John does most of it because, despite Mary's arguments that she knows what she's doing, he's not about to give his pregnant wife a hernia, and they dig only about four feet before they hit old, rotted wood that splinters instantly under the metal of their shovels. Some salt, a little gas, and a book of matches later, the world is down one ghost. John's hands are throbbing in time with his heartbeat and bloody with ripped skin; he can see that Mary's are, too, though not nearly as bad.
"You'll get calluses soon," she tells him, spilling water from a bottle into his cupped hands and then rubbing them gently once he's gotten most of the blood off. "It'll start hurting less and less, and then soon, you'll be able to dig a standard-sized grave in a few hours without losing a drop of blood from your hands."
"Are the hunts usually this..."
"No," she says. "But you're new, and I've already been thrown into a car and beaten up. And as tough as we know Dean's gonna be, it would be nice to make sure we meet him."
A week later, John gets his ass handed to him by a chupacabra while they're in New Mexico, and Mary laughs at him for a full fifteen minutes.
"You can feel free to knock that off any time, you know," John says, hunching over morosely as Mary cleans at the scratches on his back.
"I'm sorry, sweetie. I just don't think I've ever seen someone actually get attacked by a chupacabra—I mean, they eat goats, and are pretty much dead to the world when they eat."
"So, what?" John asks, looking over his shoulder. "I look like a goat now?"
"No, uh-uh," she starts, pushing John's head forward again less than gently. "I'm the pregnant one here; I'm the one who is supposed to be taking random comments as insults about my looks."
"Maybe I'm sensitive."
"Just shut up and keep pouting."
Mary breaks her hand dispelling a poltergeist in Chattanooga, and John nearly loses his mind.
It's an all-out war, two solid days of screaming and yelling followed by another day and a half of silent treatment from both of them.
"It's a fucking broken hand," Mary snaps, breaking halfway through a terse pot roast dinner. "It's not like I almost got decapitated or killed. I broke a hand."
"You broke you hand so you didn't fall on your stomach," he spits back.
"For the last time," she yells, "I wasn't shoved! I tripped; it happens. It could've happened anywhere."
"I'm pretty sure you're not going to trip over a pile of bones in our house," he tells her.
"No, but I do trip over your boots at least twice a day," she says.
"My boots aren't actively trying to kill you."
"I think I can argue against that."
"You're pregnant, Mary," he says. "It's not just you I'm worried about."
"Yeah, and Dean and I won't matter to you one bit when you go off and die on a hunt because you aren't prepared and I'm not there to tell you what to do."
"Oh, that didn't sound ominous at all," John says.