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Dark Sacred Nights

Title: Dark Sacred Nights
Fandom: Supernatural
Summary: The night Mary Winchester gave birth to her second son was the first night she dreamt of flames. Written for family_secret.(D)

Written as part of family_secret, for prompts #50 ("Mary Winchester was never as relieved as she was the day they put her first born in her arms and she saw that he was completely human. But her second son... now he was just like her.") and #56 ("Mary knew she was going to die that night, but why didn't she say anything?").




I - May 1983

The night Mary Winchester gave birth to her second son, she knew something was wrong even before they put him in her arms; and so there was no surprise, just a dull exhausted disappointment, when she did finally see him.

There was a part of her that had known having children was a bad idea. Stupid, given everything. But she loved John, and could see in his eyes that he loved her, and he was so normal. He could almost make her forget she wasn't.

Their first child had been born squalling, noisy, a healthy baby boy. Mary had cried over him, when she held him for the first time, tears of relief at who he was, what he was. And John, her John, kissed her and put his hand on baby Dean's head and had absolutely no idea.

Their second child, though; he wasn't anything like his brother. Dean was very much his father's son. Normal. Human. And Sam... wasn't.

"You did good," John said quietly. His voice was full of wonder and pride and love. "You did real good." His hand lingered on her shoulder; his gaze lingered on Sam, sleeping in her arms.

He didn't see it, Mary realized. On one level, she found that hard to believe; Sam's otherness was blazing like a beacon, such that it didn't seem possible that anyone couldn't notice. Then again, she thought, aching both physically and mentally, it shouldn't be that surprising. After all, how could he see it in a baby, his son, when he didn't see it in her?

"Yeah," she whispered.

John must have heard some of the numb exhaustion she felt, because he looked at her and smiled, gentle sympathy in his eyes. "Get some rest." He leaned over to kiss her forehead. "I'll be back in the morning, bring Dean with me, if that's okay?" He touched Sam, who gave a little sigh without waking, and touched Mary's cheek. "I love you," he said, and the truth of it was almost blinding.

"I love you too," she said, and tried to smile, and wondered if he would still love her if he knew what she was.

That night, after he was gone, was the first time she dreamt of flames and despair.


II - June 1983

The dreams had been shapeless at first. Aside from the all-consuming fire, there was nothing but vague feelings of helplessness and dread. They could have been normal dreams, normal nightmares. They didn't mean anything.

For a month, Mary could tell herself that, and almost believe it.

And then the dreams changed; Mary was no longer alone in them. Even afterwards, when she woke, Mary remembered the flames parting around a figure made of shadow and smoke, with eyes of fire, and the flames gathered behind him like angel's wings.

She remembered that he knew her name, and remembered not being surprised.

She remembered that he had spoken in a voice that sounded more human than she might have expected, but with a hollow sort of echo behind it. "You know what's coming," he'd said; and she'd said, "Yes." Awake, she couldn't quite remember what it was she'd known, but she did remember the feeling of certainty, the feeling of knowing that she knew, and the feeling of dread that came with it.

She remembered--

"Mary." John's voice, gravelly with sleep.

--remembered--

"You okay?"

She didn't answer at first, then said in a low voice, "It's nothing. Go back to sleep, John."

The bed shifted as he rolled over, but it wasn't to go back to sleep. There was a click, and Mary flinched at the sudden brightness of the bedside lamp. When she glanced over, John was watching her, concern in his eyes.

"It's nothing," she insisted.

"Like hell it's nothing." He touched the side of her face; his touch was gentle, hesitant, almost like she was going to break under him. His thumb brushed her cheek, wiping away tears she hadn't realized were there. "Talk to me," he pleaded. Mary opened her mouth and then closed it without speaking. "Please," John said, and his voice was low and slightly desperate. "Mary."

A part of her wanted to tell him, to tell him everything. Not that she could risk it, of course; she'd always been afraid to. Afraid, if nothing else, of having to watch the love in his eyes disappear any time he looked at her. It would either be fear, if he believed her -- fear of who she was, what she was, what might happen -- or pity, if he assumed she was just crazy. She wasn't sure which would be worse, but she didn't want to find out.

It was selfish, perhaps, to cling to his love as though it were for her, when it was only for the Mary he thought she was, but she couldn't bring herself to let it go. Couldn't bring herself to break the illusion for him; he wouldn't want to know the truth any more than she wanted to speak it.

But John, she knew, would be persistent until he found out something. It just didn't have to be the whole something. "It's just a nightmare," she said finally.

"Another one?"

Mary closed her eyes, aching at the edge in his voice. She hadn't thought he'd known about the other dreams. "I'll be fine."

"Mary--"

"Don't." She looked at him, forced a smile. "It's all right, John. I'm just... tired, that's all."

"That's what happens when you don't sleep well," he muttered; and it struck her as such an inane comment, given the situation, that she couldn't help but start laughing. John's mouth quirked upwards in a smile, but the worry still lingered in his eyes, and he looked like he was about to speak. She put her finger to his lips, stalling whatever it was he might say.

"I'll be fine," she said again. "I promise."

John gave her a fondly exasperated look, but didn't push it. "Mary," he murmured, saying a thousand things with that one word.

She shifted so that she could lie with her head on his chest, so that he could put his arms around her. "I love you too," she said, meaning it with all her being. He could make her feel safe just by holding, and she loved him for it, even knowing that there was no keeping safe, not from what was coming.

Lulled by the steady beating of his heart, by the steady rise and fall of his chest as he breathed, she fell asleep again; and it was weeks before the flames came back into her dreams.


III - July 1983

"I can't sleep," Dean said. "Mommy, I can't sleep."

It would have woken her up if she'd been asleep. She hadn't been. "It's late, baby," she murmured, and reached out to stroke her older son's hair. "What's wrong?"

"Something's in my closet."

Next to her, John grunted, stirred, rolled over to face them. "What's the matter?"

"I'll take care of it," Mary said. "Go back to sleep."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure." Mary leaned over and kissed his cheek, rough with stubble. "Moms are better at this sort of thing anyway." Even normal ones, she added silently.

"Mommy," Dean said impatiently, tugging at her nightgown. John had fallen asleep again and was snoring already, as Mary picked Dean up and carried him into his room. Big boy's room, now that Sam was in the nursery, with a big-boy bed and a big-boy closet and the big-boy monsters that came with it.

"The closet, you said?" Mary reached for the light switch, but Dean shook his head at her and plucked at her sleeve.

"Don't turn on the light," he whispered. "That makes them hide. Hafta look in the dark to make sure."

And he was the normal one, she thought with a wry smile as she set him down. But this was normal, wasn't it? Just the sort of thing that normal kids did. Dutifully, somberly, she opened the closet door, stuck her head inside, made a show of looking around.

"Nope," she said finally. "Nothing there."

"Promise?" Dean looked up at her, wide-eyed, hopeful.

"Yeah," she said, smiling at him.

Just to make sure, she rested her hand against the closet door for a moment after closing it. But there really was nothing there-- or if there was, she couldn't feel it, which meant that it couldn't be anything major.

"C'mon," she said, picking him back up, "back to bed with you." He was outgrowing his pajamas again, she noticed.

"'Kay," he said agreeably, and snuggled against her as she carried him.

She tucked him into bed, and then sat on the edge, stroking his hair as his eyes grew heavy-lidded. "Go to sleep, love," she said softly. "Angels are watching over you; you'll be safe until morning."

There was no such thing as angels, she knew. Just the opposite. But she could hardly tell him the truth -- not now, not at this age, and probably not ever -- and so she spoke of angels, and wished she could believe in them. (For a moment she had a flash-memory of darkness and of wings made of fire, but the memory vanished when she tried to think about it.)

Dean blinked drowsily at her, and said something that sounded like, "Samm've ang'stoo?"

"Yes," she said, after a moment's pause to figure out what he'd said. "Sammy has angels watching over him too." Dean nodded; his eyes fluttered closed again. "And he has you," she murmured, not sure if he was awake enough to hear it. "You're his big brother, you need to be responsible for him, okay? Watch over him. Keep him safe." She hoped, with all her heart, that Dean's protection would never be necessary; but a part of her knew that Sammy was likely to need more help than nonexistent angels could provide.

After Dean was soundly asleep, she stopped by the nursery to check in on Sam. He was awake, staring up at the darkness with wide solemn eyes; when he saw her, he burbled a little, and kicked at the air. "Hey, you," she said, and touched the soft skin of his cheek.

Where Dean was the noisy one, and always had been -- a near-constant stream of random babbling even before he could talk properly, most of his waking time spent chattering to himself or to anyone who would listen -- Sam was quiet. Agreeable, sweet-tempered, almost cheerful, but silent and watchful.

Especially at night.

Not for the first time, Mary found herself aching for him, for what she had created. "Oh, Sammy," she whispered. "I'm sorry."

Sorry that, if nothing else, a part of him already knew what was out there in the dark.

He blew a spit bubble at her, and she smiled. He might be like her, but she could at least try her best to give him a normal life.


IV - August 1983

The flames swirled behind the shadow-figure, this time more like a cloak than like wings. He was still mostly in shadow, except for the flickering fire of his eyes. He didn't speak; just raised one arm, pointing behind her with a dip of his head that said, look.

Mary, dreading, turned around, and she was in Sam's nursery. Sam watched her wide-eyed from the crib. "What--" she started to say.

"It's time," the shadow-figure whispered from behind her. When she tried to step forward, to go to Sam, a hand clamped down on her shoulder, keeping her there. The touch made her skin crawl. "You're too late. Look."

Sam gave a little whimper, a sound of restrained terror, and promptly burst into flames, which quickly consumed his crib and then the entire room.

With a cry, Mary woke, and the air in their room was stuffy enough that she couldn't breathe. She sat up, fighting the lingering echoes of the dream.

"Hey," John said. He put his hand on her shoulder; she jerked instinctively away from the touch, and then curled into him, shaking. "Hey, it's okay, shh." His voice was low and soothing, and he held her until she'd stopped trembling against him. "I--" he said, and hesitated for a long moment before discarding that sentence in favor of a question. "Another nightmare?"

Mary nodded. "It was Sammy," she said after a moment. She knew that John wouldn't push her if she didn't want to talk, but she needed to tell him, even if he didn't understand. The words came haltingly. "He was... there was a fire, in his nursery, in his crib."

John was silent for a moment, and then said, "Sam's fine. I checked on him less than an hour ago, and he was soundly asleep. No fire. He's fine. And your dream... It's just a dream."

They aren't just dreams, Mary didn't say.

I dreamed about you, she also didn't say. Before I met you. I dreamed, and we met the way I'd dreamed, and you were the person I'd dreamed about-- and I dreamed I'd love you, and I do--

"What if they aren't dreams?" she said finally. She looked up at him, looked into his eyes, seeking reassurances she knew he couldn't give. "What if they're more? What if something happens?"

One side of his mouth quirked in a smile. "Dreams are always just dreams," he said. "And having a nightmare"-- (His smile faltered briefly, as though remembering it was more than just one.) --"doesn't mean it'll come true." He brushed aside the hair that had fallen over her face, tender and infinitely patient despite the fact that it was the middle of the night. "Mary, I promise, nothing's going to happen to Sam, him or Dean. I won't let it."

You can't stop what's coming, Mary thought; but she swallowed and nodded and smiled like she believed him. "Yeah, I know. I just... worry."

John gave a flicker of a grin that lingered in his eyes. "See, that explains the dreams."

"Probably," Mary said, and wished she could believe it.

She settled back onto her side of the bed and feigned sleep, letting herself relax, letting her breathing become slower, shallower, more even. She was aware for a while of John watching her, and probably worrying more than he'd ever admit, but after a while she could tell he was asleep. Mary shifted position to test it, and he didn't stir; moving carefully so she wouldn't wake him up, she stood and went in to check on Sam. Just in case.

He was awake, tense, unsmiling but not quite crying. The nursery was shadowed, except where the glow from the moon-shaped nightlight fell, but perfectly normal-looking, with no signs of anything amiss. No odd feelings; no flame-eyed shadow-figure in the corner; no indications of fire. Mary picked Sam up. He immediately grabbed at her hair, and she smiled and disentangled herself from him, and started walking back and forth to lull him to sleep.

"Oh, Sammy," she murmured. She wanted so desperately to believe what John was saying -- it was just a dream, it didn't mean anything, Sammy would be fine -- but a part of her knew that wasn't true, couldn't be true. The dreams had an unshakable feeling of impending reality. She didn't know how soon something would happen, but she couldn't doubt that it would.

When he was asleep against her and drooling on her shoulder, she put him back down. She kept one hand in the crib for a moment, the fingers lightly touching his blanket, making sure that she couldn't sense anything. There was nothing there that she could find. Not yet.

Almost reluctantly, Mary left the nursery and went back to her own bed. Not to sleep, but to watch John in the dim blueness of the moonlight. She felt hollow inside, exhausted, and aching -- less for herself than for John. Whatever was coming, however it happened, she knew somehow that it would destroy him.

If she just left--

(but whatever it was, it involved Sam.)

--if she left and took Sam with her--

(but John would never forgive her, and neither would Dean, and she couldn't do that to them)

--if they all left, if she could convince John they needed to move--

(but whatever was coming, it could track her down, her and Sam; and she didn't have any sane-sounding reasons for leaving, anyway)

--if she stayed--

(she could maybe help fight what was coming, but probably not; she had dreams, so she knew something, but that was all. Sammy would die, and John would be devastated, and maybe he'd blame her for having known and not acted)

--if--

(but there were no ifs left)


V - September 1983

Sam was crying when Mary woke up, the sound shrill over the baby monitor they kept by the bed. The other side of the bed was empty. She'd slept badly, and being awake felt like dragging through very thick mud, but Mary forced herself to stand and shuffle into the nursery. "Hey," she said, and John, pacing back and forth across the room with a wailing baby in his arms, gave her a slightly helpless look.

"I don't know what's wrong," he said. "He's dry, he isn't hungry... he's just... upset. I don't know. I think he'd been asleep..."

"Lemme take him," Mary said. John passed Sam over. Almost as soon as he did so, the crying settled to a hiccoughing sniffle.

John gave a wry humorless smile. "He's your son, I guess," he said, in the sort of voice that attempted to be light and fell very flat.

You don't know how right you are, Mary thought, but she just shrugged and continued to hold Sam until he'd settled again. John left abruptly, frustration in every line of his body, and Mary closed her eyes. "Sleep, love," she whispered to Sam. "It's all right, you can sleep."

John hadn't gone back to bed. When she came back into the bedroom, he was pacing, his expression unreadable.

"John," Mary said, hesitant. She wasn't sure what she'd been about to say, so instead she said, "He's asleep again."

"Good to know," John said tightly.

Mary crossed to him and took his hands in hers. "You're upset."

"I--" John looked away. When he looked at her again, his eyes were shadowed. "I don't know what I can do," he said. "I couldn't get Sammy calmed down, I can't-- I can't do anything--"

She felt an abrupt flush of irrational anger. "Why do you have to do anything, then? Why do you always need to fix things?" Equally abruptly, she felt herself near tears, and fought to keep them at bay. "Why can't you just let things be the way they are?"

"And what is that, huh?" he countered, his voice harsh. "You're having these... nightmares nearly every night, and you refuse to talk about them, and now Sammy's--" He closed up abruptly, looked down, rubbed the back of his neck. "You know what, never mind, I'm sorry. I shouldn't-- never mind."

"John," she said, and wasn't sure what else she could say.

After a long moment he looked up, searching for something in her face. "Oh, Mary," he said, quiet, despairing. "Sometimes I look at you and I don't know who you are."

Mary went a little cold at that -- (if he knows, if he finds out, if he pulls away out of fear or anger; a hundred ifs beating like fear inside her mind) -- but she forced herself to smile, to speak lightly, like it was a joke. "Don't worry," she said, not quite deadpan, "I don't know who I am either."

After a moment's pause, his mouth twisted, and then he started to laugh. His mouth opened as though to speak, but he just shook his head and laughed a bit more. "I'm sorry," he said, sounding more like the John she was used to. He pulled her into a hug. "I don't know what I'd do without you."

Mary gave him a slight smile. "For one thing," she said without thinking, "you wouldn't have our boys--" She stopped cold, keeping the smile in place by an act of will. If they hadn't had Sam, she wouldn't be so afraid of losing him, or of what that loss would do to John. Would that have been better?

He didn't seem to notice the tension in her. "And wonderful boys they are too," he said, and kissed the tip of her nose. "You're wonderful too. And bed, right now, is sounding even more wonderful."

"Subtle," she teased, but didn't disagree.


VI - October 1983

She dreamed, and in the dream she knew.

"Something -- someone -- is coming for Sam, isn't it." It wasn't a question, and the flame-eyed figure in front of her didn't bother treating it like one. He regarded her, silent, unmoving; except for his eyes, his face was completely shadowed. "How do I stop it?"

"You don't." There was a detached sort of amusement in his voice. "You can't."

"Fine," she said. "Can you stop it?"

"And why," he said softly, "would I want to do that?"

The question made Mary blink. "Because you're the one that's been warning me?" She shook her head. "Look, I know I don't have anything to offer--" Except she did, she realized. One thing, and it might even be enough. Slowly, she said: "Except a trade. My life for his."

The figure reacted to that, a subtle shift of position; she got the feeling that he was surprised. That feeling was gone almost as soon as she was aware of it, but she knew she had his complete attention. Knew that she had a chance of getting him to help her.

"Here's the thing," she said, talking as much for her own benefit as for the figure's. "Whatever happens, it'll-- it'll be bad, but if I'm the one that gets taken, or killed, or whatever, at least Sam can have a normal life." She got the feeling of intense amusement radiating from the figure. "Somewhat normal," she amended, wryly. "If Sam dies... he won't have that chance. And I..." Can't be normal, she didn't say. Won't ever be normal. "At least this way, if-- if I-- he at least has a chance."

She ignored the small voice in her head that said: and you won't have to watch what happens afterwards. Whether it was strength or cowardice that led her to make the offer, she didn't know, and didn't care.

There was a long moment of silence, and then the figure dipped its head in acknowledgment. "Very well. When the time comes, if you are there and if you are still willing to do this"-- the two ifs were stressed heavily, like he doubted both --"you will die and your son will not."

"Thank you," Mary whispered, not sure whether she should be grateful or not; and she woke up.

She didn't dream again of the fire-shadow figure; but the next time she dreamt of the nursery going up in flames, Sam wasn't in the middle of it, and she was.


VII - November 1983

The night Mary Winchester died, there was no sign of anything wrong. The dream hadn't given her any indication of when things were coming, but she'd expected to know by instinct, to feel dread or fear or lead-heavy certainty, when the time came.

Things didn't happen that way.

It was, in fact, a rather normal night. Perfectly normal for her to wake to staticky fussing noises from the baby monitor. (Less normal that for once she hadn't had dreams of fire, but that didn't occur to her.) Normal to have John out of bed already, probably having woken first; normal to find him in the nursery, standing over Sam. (Less normal for him to shush her the way he did without turning around, but she was till half asleep and too tired to care.) Normal to have the hall light flicker, if annoying.

Less normal for the tv downstairs to be on; it had been off when they went to bed.

When she saw John sleeping in the recliner downstairs, the jolt of adrenaline was enough to kick her fully awake, because if he was down here then he couldn't have been up there too; but even then, scrambling back upstairs with her heart in her mouth, it was somehow a normal fear. She didn't connect it to her dreams.

Not until she skidded around the corner from the hallway into Sam's room, and the intruder turned around and looked at her with flame-colored eyes.

"It's you," she said. Anger replaced the fear -- it wasn't supposed to happen this way, Sam wasn't supposed to be in danger -- and she started forward, only to be stopped, held abruptly immobile by some force she couldn't see. The intruder gestured, and Mary felt herself sliding back until she was pinned against the wall of the nursery.

She couldn't speak, could barely breathe. We had a deal, she thought as hard a she could at the intruder, whoever or whatever he was. He just smirked, which might have been a response to her thought and might have just been an accident of timing, and gestured again; she could feel her feet leave the ground, feel herself sliding up the wall towards the ceiling. This isn't possible, she thought, then: This isn't real. I'm dreaming.

The intruder did speak, then, his voice colored with dark amusement. "Not a dream, sweetheart. And I do seem to recall our little agreement. You sure you want to do this?"

A part of her wondered what he'd do if she said no -- but that wasn't really an option. "Yes," she said, and against the force holding her in place, the effort of speaking felt like walking through broken glass. "You're not getting my son."

He just laughed.

She was on the ceiling by that point, being forced into position over the crib. Sam stared up at her, obviously terrified, equally obviously not wanting to make any noise. The flame-eyed intruder tilted his head, regarding her curiously. "Just so you know," he said, musingly, "I wasn't ever actually going to kill him." His face was in the light now, and except for the eyes he looked almost human. "I need him alive later, you see."

He was lying, Mary knew. He had to be.

"Oh, I'm not lying," he said, almost cheerfully. "Why would I lie when the truth's so much more fun?" He reached down to touch Sam, without taking his eyes off of Mary; she wrenched vainly at whatever was holding her to the ceiling. The intruder laughed. "He'll be very useful, your Sammy. It's such a tragedy that you won't be around to see it-- but we did have a deal, didn't we?"

He made another gesture, and she screamed; even though he hadn't touched her, it felt like something impossibly sharp and hot was clawing her apart from the inside, and the wave of pain threatened to consume her. She fought it back, but by the time she came back to full awareness of the room, the intruder was gone, and John was there. He hadn't seen her, hadn't looked up, not yet.

She desperately wanted to say something, say anything. I love you -- I'm sorry -- please understand, please forgive -- take care of them -- I love you -- But whatever was still pinning her to the ceiling kept her from speaking, kept her even from blinking or closing her eyes.

When the flames came, consuming everything -- including the sight of John's expression when he did look up and see her, and the sound of Sam finally beginning to wail -- it was almost a relief.

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