Title: Death's Heartache
Author's Notes: This hit me while I was watching TV the other night and would not leave me alone till I wrote it. Enjoy.
'Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.'
"This Mother's Day, giver her something special-"
"…Opening at 7 am for our Mother's Day Sale-"
"Mother's Day pendants, only $399-"
Sam ground his thumb against the 'off' button and threw the remote against the wall. He sighed, his heart unusually heavy, and crossed his arms over his stomach. The immediate silence was welcome.
Slowly, Dean looked up from his disassembled gun. "Dude- anger problems?"
His jaw was set. "They're all commercials." About Mother's Day.
Dean lifted his eyebrows. "Uh, yeah. That's how TV works, Sam. You watch fifteen minutes of a show, then you watch three minutes of commercials, then the show comes back on-"
"Dean?" he interrupted, facing his brother who was sitting cross-legged amidst a pile of weaponry. When Dean was silent and expectant, he continued, "I want to do something for Mother's Day." As awkward as they sounded, hearing the words out loud eased some of the pressure in his chest and he waited.
Dean blinked, the admission clearly having startled him as much as it did Sam. "Come again?"
Sam looked Dean in the eyes. "I mean, when Hallmark created Mother's Day, they never said your mother had to be living. I don't see why this year, we can't celebrate mom."
Dean set the gun barrel down gently, locking gazes with Sam. "And how do you wanna do that, Sam? Buy a cake and throw a party on mom's grave?"
Sam imagined the two of them at Mary's grave, sharing a memory of the mother they'd been denied. "Well, yeah."
Dean winced and shook his head, closing his eyes in disgust. "You're sick."
"Not a party," Sam corrected, belatedly aware he'd given the wrong impression. "But I think we should go see her. Remember her."
Dean shook his head again, more firmly this time. "We remember her every day. She's the reason we do what we do." Dean finished assembling the gun and moved on to another.
Sam shook his head, his skull rocking against the wooden headboard behind him. "We remember that she was taken from us- we don't remember mom."
"Why not?" Sam pushed himself up and turned to face Dean. "She was my mom too, even if I can't remember her."
"You should consider yourself lucky," Dean argued, laying down the gun to stare at Sam. "You don't have to go through that kind of pain- you don't know what it was like before. You don't have anything to miss."
The words stung, and Sam wanted to sting back. "And that makes me lucky? You don't think I pray to God every day that it never happened? That it had happened differently? Don't you think I envy you because you do know how it was before?"
Dean looked to the bedspread beneath him, his mouth in a thin line. "I know you want your normal, apple-pie life, Sammy. I know. You've made that loud and clear. But trust me when I say that you're better off not knowing. It'd only make you want that life even more."
Sam saw the sorrow and longing in Dean's wet eyes and he knew what as much as Dean refused, this was exactly what they needed. A chance to remember her and feel good about it. A few hours where the hunting stopped and they were simply Mary's sons.
Sam took a deep breath. "We're going."
Their eyes met across the distance of the hotel beds and Dean nodded. "I know."
The next time they spoke, they were in the Impala and heading west on I-70. Dean wasn't speeding; there was no hurry. Mom would wait for them.
"So tell me," Sam said. "Tell me what it was like… before."
Dean placed his right hand on the wheel at 12 o'clock and slouched in the seat. "I don't remember much," he said, keeping his gaze to the road. "I was only four."
"I know," Sam said. "Tell me anyway. Tell me what you remember."
Dean shifted. "I already told you lots of times-"
"Just tell me," Sam insisted, losing his patience. "I want to imagine her."
"She was really happy," Dean began, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. "And her and dad were in love. They were always hugging. When they thought I wasn't there, they'd kiss a lot."
Sam smiled, imagining his parents showing their love for each other as a toddler-Dean peeked out from around a corner. He turned into the sunlight that streaked in through the passenger window, warming his face and his spirits.
"She was smart," Dean began again. "Of course, when you're four, adults have the answer to everything, so I guess that might not be an accurate description." Dean shrugged.
"I bet she was smart," Sam said. "Dad doesn't fall for those all-looks-and-no-brains girls."
Dean grinned. "Dad doesn't fall for any girl that's not mom."
Sam acceded with a shrug of his shoulder. "True."
"But you're right," Dean said. "She was probably really smart. I think you got that from her."
Sam hid an uncomfortable smile.
Dean continued without missing a beat. "Her hair was really pretty. I remember it sparkled in the sun. We'd have picnics in the park, just like in the movies. We'd sit on the red checkered blanket and everything. She always smelled like flowers."
Sam smiled, letting his eyes drift shut as he built an image of her from a combination of Dean's words and the photographs he'd seen. His mother was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen, and this time he could see the rainbow in the length of her hair, smell the soft scent of her… almost hear her laughter as she smiled. She was more than a picture, she was a feeling, and he devoted her to memory, vowing to keep her safe from the flames that always lurked at the edges of his mind. "Thanks," he said quietly, afraid his voice would shatter the warmth that had settled over the car.
Dean wiped at his eyes and shot Sam a look. "For what?"
"Letting me see her."
The Impala rolled slowly between the headstones, making its way along a seldom-traveled but well-known path. The engine idled as the car crept forwards, then finally, it came to a stop and fell silent. After a moment, the doors opened and the hinges creaked.
Without a word, the two brothers got out and closed the doors behind them, then made their way along the cemetery's narrow, paved path, each carrying a bouquet of wildflowers. The sun was sinking low into the horizon as they crested a small hill. They left the path and stepped into the fresh green grass, treading softly and with respect. They came to a stop before a well-tended grave, joining a third man.
"What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you boys the same thing."
"It's Mother's Day. Sammy thought we should celebrate it."
John nodded, then kneeled to lay his own bouquet across the foot of the headstone. When he rose again, tears sparkled in his eyes, reflecting the sunset's blood-red stain.
"I think Sammy had a damn fine idea."