This Is How We Remember


The boys honor their mother the only way they know how, through what Dean remembers and what Sam wishes he did. oneshot, written as a mother's day present, mostly Sam POV


Kripke owns the Winchesters.

I own the words.

author's note:

Written in a last-ditch attempt to get my mom a Mother's Day present, since she was saying that if there was any justice in the world there would be a Supernatural episode on today. I ended up liking this enough to post it because, aww. I love these boys.

For Mom,

who teaches me everything I know and loves me more than I deserve.

Happy Mother's Day.


Dean never watched TV at the beginning of May.

It had always puzzled Sam, because their Saturday morning tradition was to sneak in an hour of cartoons before Dad woke up. Starting at the end of April, Dean would simply leave Sam to watch by himself, either going out to buy some food for breakfast or actually sitting down to do some homework; anything to avoid it. Then, inexplicably, one day a few weeks later he'd be right back next to Sam on the couch or lumpy motel bed, acting like nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened.

Sam didn't ask why; he already knew not to expect a straight answer. There were some things Winchesters just didn't discuss—this was obviously one of them. Dean and Dad did lots of weird things, Sam reasoned. The annual TV-boycott was just one more unexplained idiosyncrasy to add to the ever-growing list.

Sam was eight before he began to make sense of Dean's strange ritual, and even then, he still couldn't fully understand what the big deal was. It was during one of his lonesome cartoon marathons that he actually didn't hit the mute button on the remote when the commercials came on, instead watching idly, not really paying much attention. Dean was sitting off on the other side of the room, his back to Sam as he wolfed down a bowl of cereal and skimmed a Latin textbook Dad was making him read.

"This Sunday, make it your mom's best Mother's Day yet," a woman's voice chirruped, as a man, his 'wife', and three or four beaming kids ran around some sort of jewelry store. "All the best prices for Mom, all the—"

"Sam." Dean's voice was overly-loud, and when Sam glanced over at him, his shoulders had visibly tensed. "Dude. Turn down the volume."

"It's not that loud." Sam frowned over at him, annoyed. These days, everything seemed to get on Dean's nerves, and frankly, Sam was getting tired of it.

"Sam, I'm serious." Dean didn't glance over his shoulder, but his voice got even louder. "I don't want to listen to that crap when I'm trying to eat."

"What's the matter with it?" Sam turned the volume up a little, just to be a brat. Hey, Dean wasn't exactly Mr. Awesome Brother himself half the time. Not like he didn't have it coming. "It's just a commercial, y'know."

"Sam." Dean's voice now had that warning tone to it, the one that let Sam know he'd get his face punched in if he didn't cut it out. "Either hit the freaking mute button or I'll hit it with your face."

"Well, fine," Sam muttered, a hint of a whine tugging at his voice. He guessed it wasn't that important, just a commercial, after all. He turned the volume all the way down, sneaking a glance at his older brother, who seemed to loosen almost immediately, heaving a long sigh. Sam watched the images flash by as another Mother's Day commercial popped up. His gaze traveled back from the TV to Dean and back again.


He had a theory, but waited to have it confirmed, biding his time. The next Saturday he asked Dean,

"Hey, wanna watch TV?"

"Yeah, sure," Dean agreed, plopping next to Sam with a great big grin. "But we're not watching any of that sissy PBS crap, okay?"

And just like that, Sam got it.

Sort of.

Okay, so Dean didn't like being reminded of Mother's Day. That made sense, Sam supposed. Dean never talked about Mom, at all, period. Sam thought he'd mentioned her maybe once in his presence, at least that he remembered, and Dad never talked about her either, except for when he'd explained to a five-year-old Sam how she died. The only way Sam knew anything about her except her name and death was because he'd found a picture in Dad's journal, so he knew what she looked like, and that he had her smile, and Dean had her eyes.

Sam didn't miss having a mom. Unlike Dean, he couldn't remember anything about her—and well, you can't miss what you've never had.

To be honest, Sam really couldn't identify with Dean, and he didn't particularly want to. Mom meant way different things to each of them, and it wasn't like Sam could change that.

Still, there were times when Sam saw kids at the grocery store with their moms or, on rare occasions, went over to a friend's house and ate food that didn't come out of a can and got scolded for being too thin or was enveloped in big, warm hugs, and he felt this pang in his chest. Like maybe he was missing out on something after all.

Shaking his head, Sam jerked himself out of his reverie, but not before he had decided one thing.

Next year, he thought, I'll keep the volume off.


Sam's last big English assignment in eighth grade was to write an essay about his mom for a Mother's Day present, and he'd quietly drawn the teacher aside to explain he couldn't. People always got that look on their face when he said, My mom is dead, and Mrs. Randolph was no exception. Sam, as always, was calm and quiet about it, saying he didn't remember her, it happened so long ago, blahblahblah, could he write the essay about something else?

"Well, why don't you still write it about your mom?" Mrs. Randolph suggested. "Wouldn't your dad like that?"

"No," Sam sighed, fidgeting a little. "I mean, he doesn't really talk about her, you know? It's kind of …a touchy subject." Mrs. Randolph had frowned, her lips pursed.

"That's a bit of an insult to her memory, isn't it?" the rather blunt woman pointed out. "And every son should know his mother, even if it's not firsthand."

"I…" Sam was actually at a loss for words for a moment or two, simply staring at his feet.

"Oh…Sam, I'm sorry," Mrs. Randolph immediately apologized. "It's not my place." Her hand settled on his shoulder briefly, then she smiled sadly and said, "You write your essay about whatever you want."

That afternoon, Sam was unusually quiet on the car ride to the latest cheap motel room they called home. Dean, at this point a senior (and, as a result, even more high-and-mighty than usual), glanced over at him and grinned.

"Girl trouble, Sammy?"

"What?" Sam squinted at his brother. "No."

"You aren't jabbering at me a mile a minute about how sweet your Geeky Smart Kid Algebra class was today," Dean pointed out, drumming his fingers on the Impala's steering wheel. "There have been no deliriously giddy mentions of all the studying you're gonna have to do for your science exam. You haven't even regaled me with the adventures of you and your new bestest friend, Mario. Therefore, Sam, there are only two logical conclusions: you're either dying or you fell for some pre-pubescent drama queen with nice hair."

"It's not girls," Sam snapped. "And I don't like school that much." Dean said nothing, merely raised an eyebrow and shot Sam a look that said it all. "Well, okay, whatever. Not my fault you're jealous I'm on high honor-roll." Dean snorted in disgust.

"High-honor roll in eighth grade, God. Like that has anything to do with real life."

"By real life, do you mean digging graves? Salting-and-burning?" Sam rolled his eyes as Dean shrugged. "Yeah, whatever, man."

"So cynical, Sammy," Dean sighed, reaching over to muss his little brother's hair. There was a pause, and then Dean added, "So, does this mean you're dying?"


"Well, you said it's not girls," Dean pointed out.

"Me not talking doesn't mean anything," Sam grumbled. "You're making too much outta it."

"Uh-uh." Dean grinned. "Dude, I know you too well. So just spit it out." He eased the car to a stop at a traffic light, fingers still drumming, waiting.

"It's just…why don't we ever talk about Mom?" It was out of his mouth before Sam could think to even censor it, dance around it, lie. The change in Dean was immediate and unbelievably obvious, though if a stranger had been with them in the car, Sam would probably have been the only one to pick up on it. It was in the way his shoulders tensed, the muscle in his jaw flickered. The way his eyes darkened and his grip on the steering wheel tightened so that his knuckles went white. The way he muttered,


"Sorry." Sam shifted in his seat, sliding down, trying to fold himself more comfortably in it. Either the car was shrinking or he was getting taller.

"You know why." Dean's voice was quiet, a harsh edge to it. "You do."

"But…" Sam exhaled shallowly. "I don't really know anything about her. And…you know, Mother's Day, it's this weekend and I just—"

"What, Sam?" Dean turned into the motel parking lot, hitting the brakes a little too hard as he pulled into their parking space. "You want to open old wounds? Make things even worse than they are?"

"That's just it, Dean!" Sam looked up, eyes bright, fists clenched. "You can't open up wounds that never healed in the first place, can you? Dad acts like she died yesterday, for God's sake."


"It's true," Sam snapped. "It's been thirteen years and I know, like, four things about her. Four. I can't even ask what her favorite color is because Dad will break whatever he's holding and you get like you are now and it's not fair. You remember her, I know you do. Did you ever think I might want to remember her too?"

Dean didn't look at him, just sat, hands now fisted on his knees, jaw set tight as he stared blankly straight ahead. Sam was breathing hard, arms folded, feeling angry and sad and exasperated and a little guilty, because this shutting down thing Dean did every now and again was his way of crying. Or at least, that's what Sam had always figured—with Dean, it was kind of hard to tell, really.

"Green," Dean said suddenly, blinking and turning to look at Sam.


"Her favorite color was green." Dean ran a hand through his hair. "She said it was because of my eyes."

"Really?" Sam's heart warmed to this tiny bit of information; he tucked it away in the back of his mind, filed under Stuff I Know About Mom.

She liked green.

"Yeah." Dean swallowed, then let out a long, long sigh. "Okay, maybe you're right. But it doesn't make it any easier."

"I know."

There was a silence, and then Dean raised a brow and said,

"What got you thinkin' about Mom?"

"My class is supposed to write an English essay," Sam explained, "about our mothers." Dean winced.


"Yeah. I told the teacher…and she maybe mentioned that it was kind of an insult to Mom's memory not to talk about her and I just got to thinking…" Dean's gaze darkened, and Sam hastened to add, "She didn't mean anything by it, really. She said I could write about anything I want."

Another pause, and then Dean muttered,

"What do you need to know?"

"For what?"

"Your essay, Sammy."

"But Mrs. Randolph said—"

"Tell me what you want to know, Sam," Dean said steadily. Sam met his brother's gaze, and felt the uncertainty there. Dean probably doesn't remember much about her, anyways, Sam's conscience whispered. No use getting him upset. Sam opened his mouth to say it was okay, but then the selfish, utterly human part of him piped up, And what if this is a one time thing? What if you want to know stuff later and you miss your chance?

"Was she happy?" Once again, Sam's mouth seemed to have developed a mind of its own; every inch of common sense was screaming, Winchesters don't have heart-to-hearts. Get out while you still can.

Dean smiled a little and said,

"Yeah. I really think she was."

They sat in the car and they talked for a little while, and that night Sam sat down and wrote out his essay.

It was a lot shorter than his normal work, but he had a feeling Mrs. Randolph wouldn't mind.

My mom's name was Mary Winchester, his essay began. She read The Mitten to my brother and me every night, and she sang old rock-and-roll songs when she was gardening. Her favorite color was green, and she was happy.


At twenty-four, Sam knew only a few more things about his mother than he had when he was thirteen.

One, she had always told Dean angels were watching over him before he went to bed.

Two, she made really good sandwiches, something Dean had remarked upon when he felt up to discussing what happened when the djinn attacked him.

Dean still didn't want to talk much about her, though ever since Sam's outburst all those years ago, he'd been more sensitive to his little brother's curiosity.

Sam didn't pay much attention to holidays and neither did Dean; they had little time for TV watching these days and mostly, important stuff like Christmas and birthdays went un-noticed.

They were driving along on their way to a gig down in San Antonio, radio blasting, when the commercials came on, and all of them were about Mother's Day, announcing that it was today, talking about last minute gifts, brunches, etcetera, etcetera.

Sam's hand jerked towards the radio dial, turning it off reflexively. Dean gave him a long, sideways glance, then reached over and turned it back on. Sam raised his eyebrows in disbelief, hand falling to his knees.


"Sam, did I ever tell you Mom's favorite color was green?"

"Uh, yeah," Sam said, completely confused. "Dude. What's gotten into you?"

"She read us The Mitten every night," Dean continued, ignoring Sam. "And she sang rock-'n-roll when she weeded the garden." He paused significantly, and Sam recognized it for the invitation it was.

"She told you angels were watching over you when she tucked you in," Sam offered quietly.

"She made awesome sandwiches."

"She only called me Sammy when she was talking about me to you."

"She and Dad danced around the kitchen like lunatics when they found she was pregnant with you."

"She was a terrible cook."

"She taught you how to spell your name."

"She loved us more than anything." Dean turned down the radio as the music came back on. "She said so every day."

"She was happy," Sam said softly, smiling a little. "And her name was Mary Winchester."

That Mother's Day, the Winchester brothers drove along listening to cheesy commercials (but no music) and pieced together everything they knew about their mother, everything Dean remembered, and everything Sam wanted to.

They honored her the only way they knew how, through scattered memories and snitches of granted wishes.

They talked.

And, just for a little while, Dean and Sam Winchester remembered what it was like to be somebody's sons.

// the end