What Mom's Do
By: Ridley C. James
Disclaimer: Nothing Supernatural is mine.
A/N: I said I wasn't going to do it, but I'm such a sucker for Mother's Day, and little Sam. Be warned, this is just fluff. I tried to send this yesterday, but alas something was wrong with the site. Belated wishes, anyway.
Caroline McCroy had taught school for twenty-three years, kindergarten for ten and then first grade from then on. She adored the children, hated the bureaucracy, tolerated the low pay, and looked towards retirement with both longing and dread. But in all her years, she had never encountered anyone quite like Sam Winchester.
He was bright and terribly mature for a six-year-old, but incredibly shy, and had stolen her heart like not many had before him. The fact that he was absolutely adorable didn't help matters either. So when she found him hiding in the cubby room behind a pile of jackets, she was concerned, to say the least.
"Sam?" Caroline knelt down in the floor beside the little boy, who currently had his knees drawn in tightly to his chest, his head buried against his jean-clad legs. "What's wrong?"
Soulful brown eyes lifted to meet hers, and Carolyn's breath caught at the pain reflected in that haunted gaze. She quickly ran through her mind, trying to recall if something tragic could have happened without her knowledge, because although Sam was quiet, he was usually a happy, inquisitive, and gregarious child, with an infectious smile that he was anything but selfish with sharing. But nothing came to her. They had only been in school for about an hour and Sam had seemed fine during the sunrise circle.
Caroline had not noticed him missing until after she had assigned the journal topic for the day and made her rounds to check on progress. His seat had been empty, blank drawing paper and pencil discarded on the floor, beneath his desk. Mallory, Sam's reading buddy, had quietly pointed towards the Bear's Den, the name of their class's coat room, which was appropriately named since Kodiak Elementary was home to the Kodiak Grizzlies. "Sam? Please tell me what's wrong."
"I don't know what to do," the child replied, miserably, tears filling his eyes, with one crocodile-sized one slipping down his cheek.
Caroline reached out for him, but he shied away, backing further into the corner. "I'm sorry. Don't be mad, " he hiccupped, his breath coming in harsh pants now.
Caroline frowned. "Sam, I'm not mad. Just calm down, sweetie."
Sam shook his head, more tears falling. "I don't know what to do," he said again. "I want Dean."
"Dean?" The teacher searched her memory, coming up with a face to match the name. Dean was Sam's older brother, he usually walked the little boy to class in the mornings. If she wasn't mistaken he was in the fifth grade.
"Tara?" Caroline called as she stood and walked to the edge of the cubby room.
The teacher's aide quickly crossed the floor, a concerned look on her face. "Is everything all right?"
"Could you possibly watch the class for a moment while I make a quick trip up to Ms. Lankford's room."
Tara nodded, her eyes straying to Sam, who was crying harder now. "Is Sam okay?"
"I'm not sure," Caroline glanced over her shoulder and then back to the younger woman. "Do you recall anything that might have upset him?"
"No." Tara shrugged. "We were working on the journal, Sam usually loves that, and we were talking about the art project that would go along with the assignment. He and Billy were working together. They get along fine."
"Okay, thanks." Caroline sighed, "I don't think he's going to tell me what's wrong, but maybe his brother can help."
Caroline walked back towards Sam, who was mumbling something between quick gulps of breath. "I don't…know…what…to do."
"Sam, I'm going to get your brother, all right?"
The little boy didn't look up at her this time and Caroline was tempted to skip the trip to the fifth grade and retrieve the nurse or perhaps the counselor, but feared how Sam might react. He didn't respond positively to visitors in the room and was wary of most adults. It had taken nearly a month for him to open up to herself and Tara, and she most certainly didn't want to ruin the progress that they had made.
With that thought in mind, she made excellent time through the long halls, and thanked her stars that she'd made good use of the treadmill that her son had gotten her for Christmas when she wasn't even out of breath when Mary Anna Lankford opened the door for her.
Twenty sets of curious eyes glanced up as she entered the fifth grade room, and it flattered her to no end that most of them lit up with genuine affection, even Dakota Miller's, who she'd held back in the first grade two years in a row. "I'm sorry to interrupt," she spoke to the class as well as Ms. Lankford.
"Please, interrupt, Ms. C," Dakota called out, "We're reviewing decimals," he explained with very realistic gagging noises, which elicited giggles from all around.
"Considering how well all of you did on the last test, I wouldn't be laughing," Mary Anna said with a frank arch of her brow, before turning to the other teacher. "What can I do for you, Ms. McCroy?"
"I need to borrow one of your students if that's okay?"
"Please, take me!" Dakota shouted dramatically, only to be parroted by several others in the class.
"Sorry," Caroline smiled. "I'll just be taking Dean Winchester today."
Ironically enough, Dean was sitting beside of Dakota, and looked rather confused at the mention of his name, even as the other boy enviously punched him on the shoulder. He stood up, casting an unsure glance to Caroline and then his own teacher. "If I could see you for a moment, Dean?"
Caroline didn't miss the deer in the headlight look that flashed across the boy's face and decided that speaking outside in the hall would be preferable for everyone. "I'll bring him back, Ms. Lankford. I promise."
"Keep him as long as you need," Mary Anna smiled at the boy, "Dean is a whiz in math. He honestly probably doesn't need the review."
Caroline led the way and motioned for Dean to precede her through the door. Once outside, the teacher smiled to try and take away some of the worry she could read on his young face. "Dean, I believe you're needed in my classroom."
"Is something wrong with Sammy?" Apprehension raced through the green eyes so different from his brother's but somehow very similar.
"He's very upset," Carolyn shook her head. "But I'm a little confused as to why."
The boy's fist clenched and she could tell it was taking a fair amount of will power for him not to take off in a run for her room. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure. We were having class and I looked up and he was gone."
"Gone!" Panic swept across the boy's features, and Caroline quickly held up her hand.
"He was in the Bear's Den."
Some of the anxiety left, but the tension was still palpable. "The place where you keep your coats and backpacks?" Sam really liked the idea of the cubby room, he'd even asked Dean if they could make their own closet into a cave.
"Yes. He was hiding."
Dean frowned. His little brother was notorious for hiding when things upset him, or if he was angry, but Sam had been fine that morning. "Can I go talk to him?"
"I was hoping you would, before I called the counselor or the..."
"No," Dean cut her off quickly. "He doesn't need the counselor. Just let me take care of him."
Caroline frowned, but nodded her head, "Okay, we'll see how things work out."
Dean took that as an agreement and jogged ahead of the woman to get to the familiar classroom, with the giant bear painted on the front of it. He couldn't help but to notice his little brother's picture on one of the honey bee cut outs circling the big brown animal's head. All fifteen faces from Sam's class donned either bees or butterflies, but Dean only saw Sam's smiling face, and he felt a lump lodge in his throat.
Opening the door elicited a few giggles, and one "Hi, Dean!" from Billy Cole, who had actually been to their small apartment on occasion. Dean didn't pay much attention, not even to Tara, who usually garnered the best heart-stopping smile Dean could manage, instead all his energy was focused on one thing-Sammy.
He stalked into the coat room that was ironically decorated as a large bear cave, like a great hunter after its game. Sam's crying was easily heard, because by now he'd worked himself into quite a state, so it wasn't hard for Dean to find him, tucked away behind a fake gray boulder, curled up on a bear-skin rug and some discarded coats, clutching what looked like a stuffed bat. "Sammy?" He asked dropping to his knees beside the distraught little boy. "What's going on?"
Sam looked up, appearing surprised to see his brother, but immensely relieved. He pushed himself up, and tried to say his brother's name through the broken sobs.
Dean placed a hand on each shoulder and peered anxiously at his brother's red tear-streaked face. "Take it easy, Sammy. Just breathe, okay. I'm here."
"Dean..." Sam finally managed to get out, and the utter grief and complete misery in the six-year-old's voice had every protective big brother instinct on full alert.
"Sam? Are you hurt?" Dean lifted one hand from his brother's shoulder and placed it against his flushed cheek. "Are you sick?"
Sam shook his head, and sniffed, his breathing finally coming back under control. "I...I...don't know how to do it. I don't know...," he cried, falling forward against Dean and wrapping his arms around his brother's waist. "I want to go home."
Dean glanced up to find Sam's teacher watching them with worry and a look of complete helplessness that he'd witnessed on their own father's face before. "Do you know what he's talking about," she asked, quietly.
Dean licked his lips and stared at the top of his little brother's head. Sam was squeezing him so tight, that breathing was difficult. "Sammy?" Dean pushed at the little body, "look at me. I need you to tell me what's wrong, okay. You're worrying Ms. Caroline."
"I'm sorry," Sam howled, holding tighter to Dean. "I can't do it. I don't know anything. I'm like Stellaluna."
Dean looked up at Caroline. "Stellaluna?"
The teacher frowned and pointed at the brownish-gray animal in Sam's arms. "The bat. She's from a story we read yesterday."
"Sammy!" Finally Dean pushed hard enough to dislodge the kid's arms and he quickly grabbed Sam's face, forcing him to look at him. "Tell me what's wrong so I can fix it."
Sam sniffed, and looked from his brother to Caroline. "My journal...," he whispered, "I can't do it...and if I don't do my work...I lose a bear claw...and Daddy will be mad, and...you won't be proud no more."
"What?" Dean's brows drew together, and he glanced again to the teacher for a translation.
Caroline shook her head. "We do journals everyday-small writings about a certain topic." She too knelt in the floor and met Sam's gaze. "If the students don't complete their assignments, they lose bear claws, points, " she clarified for Dean. "But Sam, you always do a wonderful job on journals. You're one of our best writers."
"I know," Sam said miserably. "I always do good...but...I don't know how to do this one. I just don't know how to do it!"
Dean looked at his brother some of the pieces falling into place. Even in kindergarten Sam wanted to do everything just perfect, from making his letters to writing his name. Sometimes he'd get so upset if he'd make a mistake that he'd hide papers from Dean. If he didn't know how to do something just right, Sam didn't even want to attempt it. The older boy sighed. He supposed his constant bragging on his little brother's work probably hadn't helped matters. "Sammy, you don't have to know how to do everything. It's okay to have to ask for help. You're still little." Just a baby, really.
"But...Billy said I was stupid," Sam said, a hint of the tears returning. "He said everybody should know what..." Sam's words trailed off and he collapsed against his older brother again, burying his face against Dean's neck.
Dean decided then and there that Billy Cole wouldn't be making any more trips to their house and that he might just have to have a one on one with the six-year-old after school.
"I'll talk to Billy," Caroline told Dean, obviously reading the anger in the green depths.
Dean nodded, and brought a hand up to brush some of Sam's too-long bangs away from his face. "What was it you didn't know, Sammy? Maybe I can help."
Sam shook his head. "You don't know, neither."
"Try me," Dean asked again, and Sam lifted his head to stare earnestly at his brother. "What moms do."
Dean felt his heart clench, and a thousand of those bees and butterflies seemed to be flying around in his stomach as he stared at his little brother. He knew his mouth opened before even hearing his brother's reply, set to give any answer that would make the little boy feel better, but he quickly closed it again when he saw the raw pain in the brown gaze and felt in reflected in his own heart.
"Oh dear," Caroline sighed, feeling her own eyes sting. How could she have been so stupid? She usually made sure of these types of issues before doing anything to celebrate Mother's Day, but Sam had come in at the beginning of Spring term, in early February, and she hadn't even taken the time to investigate his background. "I'm so sorry," she said and both brothers looked up at her.
"We don't have a mommy," Sam said softly. "She went away when I was a baby so I don't know what one does...Like Stellaluna didn't know how to be a bat because her mommy was gone…so I can't write about what moms do...and I can't make a picture for her because she's an angel in Heaven," Sam looked back to his brother, "Right, Dean?"
Carolyn watched as a wealth of emotions crossed the older boy's face and she felt her own heart break as he struggled to come up with something to say to his little brother.
"My mom's in Heaven, too, Sam," Carolyn said, sitting down near the boys. "But I had her for a lot of years, so maybe I can tell you the kinds of things she did, and that might help."
Sam glanced up at his brother with an unsure look, but Dean nodded, and a hint of a smile tugged at the six-year-old's mouth as he swiped the back of his arm across his eyes, and settled in his older brother's lap, and pulled Stellaluna close to him as if he were about to be read a story.
"All right then," Caroline took a deep breath, "for one thing, Moms usually feed their children..."
"Like Bugs?" Sam asked, and although Dean frowned, his teacher smiled.
"Yes, like Stellaluna's adopted mom fed her bugs. But human moms usually go for things like mashed potatoes, and steak and gravy and..."
"Macaroni and cheese? It's my favorite."
"Yes, Sam, macaroni and cheese, also."
"Dean fixes it for me," Sam said proudly, and Caroline hid her smile as the older boy's face reddened. "But sometimes he fixes spinach, which I hate."
"But it's good for you," Dean pointed out.
"You don't eat it," Sam shot back.
"That's because I'm older. I'm already grown up."
"Well then, let's see," Caroline continued, interrupting the growing argument. " Mom's also make sure kids have their baths, and that they brush their teeth, and that they have clean clothes."
"But Dean makes me take a bath every day," Sam interjected, with a doubtful raise of his eyebrow. "Did your mom do that?"
"Oh yes, every day is the norm, I'm afraid." Caroline shook her head in mock sympathy. "And that goes double for the teeth. Brushing should take place both morning and night. At least most moms think so."
"I have bubblegum tooth paste," Sam announced. "Dean bought it for me."
"That was very thoughtful," Caroline glanced up at Dean, who rolled his eyes.
"What else?" The six-year-old asked. "What else do moms do?"
"Well, you remember when Stellaluna and her adopted brothers and sisters were learning how to fly, don't you?"
Sam nodded. "Well, mom's teach their children important things. Like how to tie their shoes, and how to dress themselves, how to cross the road safely, and how to …"
"Duck and roll?" Sam interrupted.
Caroline frowned. "Duck and roll?"
"Sammy," Dean started, but his brother rushed on.
"Yeah, you know, like if a monster tries to grab you."
"He means drop and roll," Dean explained quickly. "In case of fire."
Sam looked up at his brother. "That's not what I mean, Dean."
"Monsters aren't real, Sammy," Dean raised his eyebrow at his brother. "You know that."
Sam's little mouth made a silent O and he squeezed both eyes shut quickly and then opened them again, which was the only version of a wink he could manage, despite Dean's diligent training on the art form. "I forgot that I knew that."
"So, what else do mom's do?" This time it was Dean that asked, and Caroline got the distinct impression the boy wanted to change the subject.
"Well, they are excellent at fixing things. Like broken toys, and flat bicycle tires, and…"
"Cuts?" Sam held his hand up, proudly displaying a Scooby Doo bandage across his palm.
"Well, yes," Caroline nodded. "Mothers are wonderful for patching up booboos and ouchies, and all those other scrapes and bumps that life can throw at us along the way."
"Do moms use magical kisses?"
"Sam," Dean groaned.
Caroline bit her lower lip. "Sometimes."
Sam's smile grew. "Dean does too."
"Geez," The eleven-year-old groaned under his breath. "Not sense you were a baby."
"Unhuh," Sam countered. "You did just the other day when I felled and cut my hand when the ghost scared me."
"Ghost is our neighbor's big yellow cat," Dean explained, "He's all the time jumping out at Sammy."
"You kissed it to make it better." Sam looked at his teacher. "And it worked," he added, in amazement.
"I'm sure it did," Caroline replied, sincerely. "Magical kisses are pretty potent medicine. Speaking of which, did you know that mothers are known for helping their children feel better when they are sick?"
"Well, they make chicken noodle soup, and keep them warm, and read to them and…"
"Do they bring them crackers and 7-up and grape popsicles and give them lots and lots of hugs?"
"Well, the good ones do!"
Sam nodded, seriously. "I thought so. That's really important."
"True, but do you know what the most important thing is that mother's do, Sam?"
Sam shook his head, and Caroline smiled. "They love their children with all their heart. No matter how old they are, or how tall they get, or how far away they might someday move, moms always, always, love their children best, above all else-even when they're up in Heaven, they still love their little boys."
Sam's big brown eyes, grew even larger and his voice dropped slightly, "Do they love them more than baseball, and big knives, and Sonny Crockett's car?"
"Yes," Dean replied, before Caroline could, and she smiled at him, even as he ducked his head in embarrassment.
Sam looked at his brother in amazement. "How did you know?"
Dean looked from the six-year-old in his arms, to the teacher watching them. "Know what, Sammy?"
"What Mom's do?" Sam explained. "You do all those things all of the time."
Again, the fifth grader looked rather embarrassed, and he merely shrugged as if his brother was making a big deal out of nothing. "I just take care of you, Sam. That's my job."
"Big brothers and moms have a lot in common," Caroline pointed out, and Sam looked at her.
"Then why don't they call it Brother's Day instead, for all us kids who don't have a mom."
Caroline sighed. "Well, Sam, not everyone is as lucky as you to have a big brother like Dean."
"Oh," Sam thought for a moment. "But is it okay if I call it that?"
"Sammy," Dean started, but Caroline cut him off.
"I think that would be perfect, Sam, and you know, I bet Dean's teacher wouldn't mind if Dean had lunch with you today, when everyone else's mother comes for our special presentation of the cards we are going to make."
"Could you?" Sam looked up at his big brother. "I'll make a card just for you. I even know what I'm going to draw. A big sunshine, and daisies, and me and you and Mom, and Dad, and our big brown dog, Brownie."
"We don't have a dog, Sam," Dean said in feigned exasperation.
"That's okay, the neighbors don't have a cat named Ghost, neither."
Caroline covered her laugh with a well-timed clearing of her throat. "Well, I'll let you boys work out the details and I better get back to teaching class," She looked at Dean, "after I have a little conversation with one Billy Cole."
"Thanks," Dean replied, with a quick smile. "For coming and getting me."
"No problem, sometimes little boys need their brothers."
"Hey, Dean?" Sam turned and looked up at his brother once his teacher had gone.
"Yeah, Sam?" Dean used his hand to brush Sam's ever-present bangs out of his eyes.
"Do you think Ms. Caroline was right, that Mom still loves us, even though she's in Heaven?"
Dean nodded, never so sure of anything else. "I know she does Sam."
The little boy smiled. "Maybe we'll see her again someday, like Stellaluna when she found her mom."
Dean's smile faded just a little, but he didn't want to disappoint his brother. "Maybe, kiddo."
Sam surprised him then, by wrapping his arms around him in another crushing hug. "Thanks for doing all those things, Dean."
"What things, Sammy?" Dean asked, returning the hug.
Sam sighed, his breath warm on Dean's chest. "All the things that mom's do."
May 14, 2006
A/N: This is for all my wonderful friends who are mothers, and do such amazing work at the toughest, most amazing job in the entire world. And to all you out there, who do all those fantastic things that mothers do.