Sometimes The Weapon Chooses You
Mary said, I won’t.
Allie said, You have to. You’re next.
Sam said, Maybe...we’ll find something else -
Sarah said, You can’t say ‘won’t’ until you’ve at least tried.
Dean said, Get in the car.
Dean had found an abandoned house in the hills outside Placerville, close to the edges of the Eldorado National Forest. It hadn’t asked to be burned even though it was gutted and missing part of its roof. In California, houses that far out were usually caught in wildfires sooner rather than later, so finding one that old - thirties, maybe - and so out of the way was rare After making sure it was clear of drug paraphernalia, people living there between stints in prison, and the possibility of falling in on them, Dean declared it official Winchester training ground.
He’d shown Sarah how to use a gun there; years later he’d run Allie through the same paces, and with Sam he still took them out on a regular basis to sharpen up. The girls had to be comfortable with weapons. He had no intention of teaching any of them to hunt. No one wanted that life for the girls, but they’d be prepared should something come knocking.
They’d all started self defense classes at seven, Tang Soo Do at a local studio. Dean augmented that with just flat out rotten street fighting and added an admonishment not to use it for amusement. He also reminded them not to worry about rules if they were being attacked. Go for the eyes, go for the throat. Everything’s got eyes. Go for the balls if it’s got ‘em but don’t practice that on me.
At nine came an introduction to guns. The girls all understood that weapons were only discussed when they were all together, and never at school. Dean had made it clear that it was very much like an old movie he liked, called Fight Club. The first rule of being a Winchester was don’t talk about being a Winchester.
Allie had taken to it easily but with no discernable enthusiasm - just an accepting sort of confidence. There was no hesitation in her, and she treated it seriously. By the age of twelve, she seemed very settled with herself for a preteen. Blowing stuff up on weekends may have helped her self esteem, or she may have simply been built that way. She was developing Sarah’s features and curves and Sam’s backbone, and if hunting were to pass down the line for some ungodly reason, it would have been Allie who carried it forward. The set of her mouth and the tone of her voice occasionally reflected John Winchester no matter how long her grandfather took between visits.
Charlie and Leigh were nearly salivating to start pulling triggers, something all the adults in their lives hoped would be tempered into something more cautious by the time they were old enough to handle them. Only months apart in age, the pair of seven year olds were alike in their urge to not be last.
Then there was Mary.
She didn’t mind the classes. They made her a little less meek, gave her a sense of control. She preferred time alone to roughhousing with a crowd of friends, and she wanted nothing to do with guns. She didn’t want to learn to clean or load them. She didn’t want to find out which of her eyes was dominant for sighting. She didn’t care about the difference between revolvers (they don’t have safties) or automatics (always assume one in the chamber) and shotguns were just out of the question. She had made her wishes plain in softly spoken phrases on many occasions, an still, she was standing out at the Shooting House with her father and uncle for a rite of passage that no one had fully explained to her. It seemed to her as if the adults were convinced something terrible would happen if she didn’t conform.
She was sure something terrible would happen if she did.
“You don’t have to shoot, today, if you don’t want to,” Sam said. “Just get used to how it feels. We won’t even load it.”
They asked and asked why she was afraid and she refused to answer. She had overheard her uncle say don’t you coddle her and her father had answered don’t you push her too hard.
Allie had told her that there were many, many things they said that she could sometimes hear parts of later on in the house, and Mary had almost thought to talk about her secret...but she couldn’t.
Dean stood to one said and held the .38 out to Mary butt-first, not saying anything, not crouching down. Just offering it to her the way he would have offered it to any adult. Sam stood behind and out of her field of vision, there but avoiding any kind of interference unless she wanted it.
She looked at the cans balanced on the dilapidated fence nearly twenty yards away, then back at the gun. Her palms were sweaty and she could feel an anxious tremble beginning at the insides of her elbows and knees. She folded her hands. “I won’t.”
Dean raised his eyebrows and was careful not to glance at Sam. No one had said she’s only a little girl because there was no such thing as only a little girl. Gender had nothing to do with it. He didn’t expect her to be Allie, or anyone else. But he expected her to try this.
“Mary,” he said softly. Careful but firm.
“I won’t,” she said, and her voice trembled despite her best efforts otherwise.
“Take the gun,” he said, and that time it was an order.
She wrung her hands, and it wrung Dean’s heart.
“Then you had better tell me why,” he said. “Being afraid isn’t a good enough reason.”
She fidgeted, refusing to look at him or the gun but also refusing to turn and look at her father. She was not afraid of Dean and she would not bail herself out by looking for sympathy.
“I’m not like you!” The scream came from the very middle of her. “I’m not like you and I can’t be like you!” Stiff with emotion, she ran from him, straight for the house, vanishing from sight.
Dean lowered the gun, a little startled by the vehemence but not really surprised. Sam looked sad when Dean finally looked at him. Not disappointed. Just faintly defeated over something.
They both knew that Mary was not someone who could be chased after. She had to be given a minute.
Dean looked at the unevenly spaced cans in the afternoon sunlight for a bit. Then he walked over and handed the gun to Sam. What was happening was between Dean and Mary and had nothing to do with Sam, and Sam understood that. They stood shoulder to shoulder for a long moment, facing opposite directions. Then Dean said, “Am I turning into Dad?”
Sam nodded a little in Dean’s peripheral vision.
Dean took that for the truth without judgment that it was, and headed for the house.
Mary stood at the far end of the one-room space, hands gripping a stripped and crumbling windowsill, staring out onto the expanse of sparse chaparral beyond. Dean didn’t pause at the door or kick at any of the debris in his way to announce his presence; he just headed straight for her.
When he’d made it halfway across the floor, she turned and ran for him, arms outstretched.
Dean caught her close and picked her up, even though she was almost too big for it. She pressed her face into his shirt and sobbed.
“Hey, hey,” Dean said, sitting down in a clear space on the floor with her wrapped against him. “Nobody’s mad. But you don’t do things without a reason, and I want to know what’s up with you.”
She continued to cry quietly, hugging him as hard as she could.
He sighed and laid a hand on her head and waited, but he didn’t relent. “If you don’t want your mom or dad to know, then it can be just between us.”
She struggled to breathe for a moment, then said, “P-promise?”
Dean closed his eyes. He felt a bomb dropping and was going to give his word anyway. “I promise, baby.”
Without lifting her head, Mary held her right arm out to the side with just her pinky finger extended.
Dammit. The dreaded Pinky Swear.
He sighed again and hooked his pinky with hers.
She hugged him for another moment, then leaned away, hiccuping. Dean dug a handful of napkins out of one jacket pocket - parents did not go anywhere without some means of sanitation - and handed them to her. She blew her nose daintily, then folded the dirty napkin inside a clean one and handed them back when he held a hand out. He tucked them away in another pocket.
“Gross,” Mary said with a hint of watery humor.
“Little-girl snot is the least of my worries,” he told her. “Talk to me.”
She wiped her eyes with one sleeve. “I don’t want you to think I’m weird,” she said. “I don’t want to be different.”
“Honey, if you’re weird, then you’re not different from the rest of us,” Dean said. “Your family is very weird.”
“I’m serious,” she said, brows drawn together in distress.
“So am I,” Dean said. “There is nothing you can ever tell me that will make anyone love you less or think less of you.”
“You don’t know,” she said.
“Quit stalling and try me, Mary-maid,” he said, fingers laced behind her back.
She pressed her mouth into a small white line and glanced around. “I dreamed,” she said. “I dreamed about Daddy, and a gun. There was one where Daddy shot you, and one where he shot Papa ‘chester, and then there was one where I shot him.” Her eyes welled up with tears again. “I hate guns. I hate them a lot. I don’t want to shoot Daddy.”
Dean pulled her in again and rocked her, partly to comfort and partly so she wouldn’t see his face.
“Listen,” he said. “In the dream about grandpa, where did your dad shoot him?”
“In the leg,” she said. “But it was only sort of him. I know it’s just a dream and they don’t always make sense, but I have them over and over. Please don’t make me learn the guns.”
“Okay,” he said.
She lifted her head to look at him tearfully. There was no way it was that easy. “Really?”
“Really,” Dean said. “There are a lot of other things you can learn, if you want to. No one will make you touch the guns.”
She mulled that over.
“Is the dream about you and your dad the same every time?” he said softly.
Mary nodded. “I’m bigger but I don’t know when, and he says I should.”
Enough of that.
“You don’t have to worry,” Dean said. “Maybe because you told me about it, it’ll go away now. I swore not to tell, but I want you to tell your dad.”
“I - “
“Wait,” he said. “I want you to, because your dad has dreams like that too. He won’t be mad, or scared. He can help you with them. He won’t just say they’re nightmares.”
She stared at him for a long moment.
“Think about it?” he said.
“It’s nothing bad, and it doesn’t make you weird.”
She laid her head against his chest again.
After awhile, they packed up the guns and headed home. Mary would choose other weapons later in life for various reasons, but guns were not on the list. She never learned to use one.
Less than a month later, she had a long talk with her father.
Within a year after that, Sam Winchester finally learned how to control his own visions - courtesy of help and advice from his daughter.