What My Mom Gave to Me

By: Ridley

Beta: Tidia

Rating: T-just for a little language.

Disclaimer: Nothing remotely familiar belongs to me. That's all Kripke's goods.

Timeline: This story would fall after Toy Soldiers and before Dragons.

A/N: Okay, I'm a sucker for Mother's Day. I think it's because I have met so many incredible stand in-mothers in my line of work. I see a lot of foster children and so many teens who are being raised by aunts and uncles and especially grandparents. It takes more than functioning ovaries and a uterus to be an incredible mother. Sometimes, amazing mothers are missing a X-chromosome completely like in the story Sam talks about called 'A Mama for Owen.' Happy Mother's Day!

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"I have learned to really hear the message my mother has given me. I will be with you always. As in forever, into the eternal here after, no matter what."

"Finish your damn homework, Dean," John Winchester ordered as he slid into his old field coat and scooped his worn duffel from the floor. "And I mean tonight! If I get one more call from your teacher about a paper you haven't turned in…"

"Yes, Sir." Eleven-year-old Dean Winchester answered half-heartedly as he packed up the last of his father's supplies and held them out to the hunter.

"I mean it," John reached out and squeezed his son's arm. "You gave me that 'yes sir' crap two days ago and yet Ms. Wright called the garage yesterday."

Dean glanced down at the floor, unsure of what to say; a few choice words about his new teacher came to mind though. He knew his Dad didn't need the extra grief right now.

Winchester took the silence for understanding but still looked to the couch where his youngest son and house guest for the next week were sprawled watching some stupid cartoon. "No one leaves this house, Caleb, until all the homework is done. You understand me?"

The nineteen-year-old in question lifted his gaze from the television to smirk at his mentor. "You're grounding us? Seriously, Dude, I'm like almost twenty."

"Seven is more like it," John corrected harshly. "Get your feet off the goddamn coffee table, turn that nonsense off, and try not to let things go to hell while I'm gone."

Reaves clicked the TV off and sat up straighter. "You're welcome, Johnny. No reason to be grateful I gave up a trip to Daytona to spend my first week of summer break playing super nanny in freakin Nebraska."

"You owe me, Junior." John pointed a finger at the boy. "Or do you want Mackland finding out I had to wire you bail money after that little Mardi Gras bash you and your roommate Bull threw."

"Moose," Sam piped up helpfully. "Caleb's roommate is named Moose."

John frowned at his youngest son. "And, Sammy, don't you wait until the last minute to finish your project for class, kiddo. All I need is another person from that nosy school bugging me." He motioned to Reaves. "You can get the artist here to help you. Maybe some of that money Mackland is shoveling out for college will go to good use instead of purchasing kegs."

"Cool." Sam bounced enthusiastically. He looked at Reaves. "We're making a mask."

"Great." Caleb groaned, slumping back on the couch. "I knew I should have never answered my phone."

Sam wrapped sticky, gummy-bear coated fingers around Caleb's wrist and squeezed. "I'm glad you came, Caleb."

"Thanks, Sammy."

The little boy glanced up at him and lowered his voice. "But you're still taking us to the movies. Right?"

"No movies! No going out for food! Nothing until Dean finishes that paper." John barked before Caleb could reply to the boy.

Dean dropped the bag he was holding for his father to the floor, turned on his heel and stormed down the hallway of the small two-bedroom rental home. A resounding slam of a door had John's face flushing red and Caleb quickly standing to intervene.

"Looks like Deuce is in one hell of a hurry to get to writing, Johnny." He crossed the floor quickly, picking up the backpack Dean had discarded. Reaves was in no mood for a repeat of what happened the last time Dean was rebellious with John. "You sure have got him where you want him." He shoved the supplies in his mentor's arms with a crooked grin. "Aren't you running late to meet Bobby? The hunt waits for no man-Knight or not."

Winchester took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "If you want to see him live to reach twelve, I suggest you make sure he gets an A on the paper and loses the attitude."

"No problem." Caleb gave a mock salute. "Sixth-grade reports, first-grade art projects, and attitude adjustments-all covered in The Hunter's Handbook. I won't let you down, Sir."

"Smart ass," John grumbled, picking up the last of his things and the keys to the Impala.

"We'll miss you, too." Caleb called after the man and Sam added his own choruses of goodbye.

"Can we go now?" The youngest Winchester asked, coming alongside Reaves with a hopeful gleam in his dark eyes.

"Did you just not hear Papa Bear bellowing, Runt?"

"Yeah. But you never listen to Daddy."

"Not true." Caleb denied. "I listen occasionally." He didn't mind defying John as long as it was his own neck on the line. Watching John come down on Dean after the little fiasco at Auburn had sobered him a bit.

"But the movie starts at eight." Sam tugged on Caleb's arm. "And you promised. For my birthday."

Caleb sighed. "Guess we better go help your big brother with his homework then." He looked down at the kid. "But first we need brain fuel."

Dean was not in the mood for company when Reaves and Sam burst into the bedroom with all the gusto of the troops at Normandy.

"Go away," he muttered, continuing to glare at the blank sheet of paper in front of him.

"But we brought you some gas," Sam said, brightly.

The older Winchester glanced up to find his little brother and his toothless grin beaming at him. Sam was proudly holding a bag of chips in one hand a bright yellow package of Peanut M&M's in the other. "Caleb sneaked us some contraband."

Dean snorted as the smuggler in question held up a two-liter Dr. Pepper and some plastic cups. "College living has spoiled me. Casa Winchester never has the good stuff."

"Sammy, you don't even know what contraband is."

"Yes I do." The little boy moved to his brother's bed where he climbed up and offered him the candy. "It's illegal goods. It was my word of the day last week."

Caleb laughed. "Mac will be so happy one of us has been using those matching Thesauruses that Santa brought."

"Dean uses his to keep our desk level." Sam pointed to the old microwave stand that now served as a study station for him and his big brother. Caleb could see where one wheel was missing, having been replaced by the thick Webster's tome.

"I won't tell if you don't," Reaves said. "Besides, Deuce has a vocabulary all his own."

"Shut up, shit head."

"See." Caleb handed Sam a glass of cola and then poured one for himself before setting the drink on the pseudo-desk. "I don't know if his brain could handle much more."

"My brain is like a sponge." Sam informed the older boy with a serious nod.

"Really?" Caleb hid his smile behind his cup. "How's that work exactly?"

"I soak in everything!" Sam made a huge gesture with his hands, sloshing Dr. Pepper on Dean's notebook. "My teacher says so."

"Sammy, cut it out." Dean snapped, wiping at the mess on his blank sheet of paper. "I'm trying to work here."

"Sorry." The little boy shrugged. "But you haven't written anything yet."

"Yeah." Caleb joined in, taking a seat on the corner of Dean's bed, much to the eleven-year-old's annoyance. "What's up with that, kiddo? I mean I know school's not exactly your favorite thing, but you usually do just enough to slide under the teacher radar."

Reaves knew for a fact Dean was more than bright enough to do well in school. He might not have been the 'sponge' his little brother was, but he was gifted in a lot of areas. It was tempting to reach out and probe the kid's thoughts, but he would rather Dean talk to him.

"It's a stupid assignment and my teacher is just being a pain about it." Dean shrugged. "I told her I'd take an F, but she's one of those goody-goody types who actually thinks learning is more important than a grade."

"Yeah." Caleb sighed in commiseration. "It's a bitch when a teacher actually cares about her students."

"She doesn't care about me!" Dean fumed. "I don't like her and she doesn't like me. She just wants to get me in trouble because I'm the new kid."

Reaves frowned. "Okay." He knew what it was like not to fit in. After all, Mackland had been forced to switch him from a few prep schools when Caleb found creative ways of making his presence known. Sometimes it was easier to act out than deal with feelings. "Dude, there's only a few weeks of school left. You need to just get through it and then we'll hang out at the farm."

"I like my new teacher," Sam declared. "She's teaching us about Africa. That's where she's from."

Dean rolled his eyes with a slight groan. "Yeah, all schools are great for the human sponge."

Sam continued on with his testimony, unaware of his brother's mockery. "I get to be an animal from the Serengeti. That's what the mask is for. Guess what animal?"

Caleb shot Dean a side-long glance and then cocked a brow at Sam. "A WooBee Bear?"

"No!" Sam rolled his eyes. "WooBees don't come from Africa. They come from yard sales."

Reaves laughed. "Okay, I give up. What animal, Runt?"

"A flamingo!" He crowed.

Caleb frowned. "A flamingo? Aren't those like…pink?"

"Already been there." Dean opened the bag of candy. He might as well have a snack and let the Sam show continue.

Sam nodded enthusiastically. "They're pink because they eat lots and lots of shrimp." he explained.

Reaves looked at the little boy. "And that doesn't bother you?"

Sam shook his head. "No. I like to eat shrimp. I mean…I guess I do." He gazed at his brother. "Do I like shrimp, Dean?"

"I was talking about the whole pink thing?" Caleb wasn't so sure about having Sam decked out in Strawberry Short Cake fashion. "Couldn't you be like a lion or a jaguar? Both of those live in Africa."

"Pink is a good color." Sam defended. "And lions don't have feathers."

"Don't ask," Dean warned, tossing another handful of M&M's in his mouth.

Caleb raised his hands in mock surrender. "Okay. If you want to be a flamingo then I'm cool with that." He glared at Dean. "I'm not cool with you being a middle-school drop out."

Dean tossed the bag of candy aside. "It's one stupid paper."

"Exactly." Caleb snatched the notebook away. "How hard can it be?"

"Give it back, Damien!" Dean grabbed for the notebook, but Caleb held it out of his reach. "I have private stuff in there."

"He writes girl's names in the back." Sam giggled.

"Really?" Caleb flipped through the spiral-bound pages. "Does he draw hearts too?"

"No!" Dean made another lunge but Caleb evaded, placing the younger boy in a headlock.

In their scuffle a white assignment sheet fell out and Reaves retrieved it, releasing Dean. "This looks like what we need."

Dean grabbed the notebook away and punched Caleb hard in the shoulder. "Dick head."

"From shit head to dick head." Caleb stood moving out of the adolescent's reach. He rubbed his arm and smirked at Dean before returning his gaze to scan the list of homework assignments. "Are you sure you haven't been sneaking peeks in that Thesaurus?"

"I'm sure," Dean growled. "You just inspire me, ass wipe."

Caleb ignored the slur and continued reading through the assignments until he came across the problem at hand. He felt his chest tighten when his eyes locked on the Language Arts box with the bold letters:

Special Mother's Day Essay: What My Mom Gave to Me

It all became painfully clear for the older teen in one moment of gut-wrenching realization. Dean wasn't avoiding the homework out of laziness or rebellion. He wasn't writing the essay because of a well-developed sense of self-protection. Caleb looked at Dean and swallowed thickly. "Damn, kiddo. That sucks."

The eleven-year-old raised one shoulder and let it drop in a dismissive gesture. "It's no big deal. I just didn't want to take the time to do it. That's all."

"Right." Caleb played along, sat down on the bed again. "Did you happen to mention to your teacher why you didn't want to take the time to do it? Maybe you could have done something different?" If Dean said yes, and the bitch had pushed him to do it anyway, Uncle Caleb would be scheduling a teacher conference of his own.

"No." Dean looked down. "I don't want her to know anything about me. I don't want any of them to know anything about me."

Caleb once again understood the sentiment. At one school, the kids had found out both his parents were dead, and it was the talk of the cafeteria for weeks. "Look, Deuce, maybe I can call her and tell her…"

"NO!" Dean's head whipped up. "She might call Dad. I don't want him to have to deal with this. Especially with…you know…" He jutted his chin towards Sam. "With this Sunday and all. I'll just make up something."

Caleb had almost forgotten what the coming weekend would bring. Mother's Day. It made sense now that Mackland and Bobby had been adamant about John needing to go on the hunt with Singer. And it also meant John hadn't been the only one set up. Most times Winchester let the boys stay alone. But he had been insistent Caleb come for the weekend. It was a sad state when they all needed a distraction from one of the most commercialized holidays known to Hallmark.

"I'll help you make up something, Dean." Sam broke Reaves's reverie. The little boy was looking from his brother to Caleb and back, not completely understanding the veiled conversation, but picking up on the sentiment just the same. "I'm good at being creative."

"Thanks, Sammy."

"And I'm a pretty decent writer, if I do say so myself." Caleb nudged Dean's shoulder. "Between the sponge, my poetic soul and your diverse vocabulary we can knock this baby out in time to grab some dinner and catch the late show."

Dean's mouth twitched. "How did I get so lucky?"

"You're going to be helping with the flamingo mask, so don't go getting all choked up just yet."

"What's the paper about?" Sam asked, moving closer to his brother. "Is it about birds?"

"No." Dean shifted on the bed. "It's about Mom."

"Oh." Sam frowned. "Because of Mother's Day?"

Caleb laughed. "Sponge Boy strikes again."

Dean sighed, glanced up at the older boy. "I guess I was stupid to think they wouldn't be talking about it in his class too."

"You were trying to protect him," Caleb said softly. "Nothing stupid about that."

"I didn't have to do a journal this year, Dean." Sam reassured his brother. "My teacher already knew I didn't have a Mommy. She said that lots of people didn't have mommies and she read a book to the class called A Mama for Owen. Owen was a baby hippo who lost his mommy in a flood, but then he found a new mommy only it was a turtle."

"Breathe, Runt," Caleb said around a grin.

Sam took a gulping breath and continued his story. "The turtle took care of him just like a mom would do. She even played hide-n-seek. Ms. Mays talked about how other people could do Mommy things even if they weren't your mom. I told her about you and the picture I drew in Kindergarten."

"That's great, Sammy." Dean slid a hand over his little brother's hair. "I didn't want you to be upset again. Not like last year."

Caleb looked at Dean. He knew exactly how Sam's teacher found out about her student not having a Mom. His big brother had told her. Reaves had never even thought about doing the same thing for Dean. John should have. Somebody should have.

"Does it make you sad to write about Mommy?"

The question was a loaded one and Dean shot Caleb a helpless look. Reaves felt his gut twist again and he cleared his throat. "Sometimes it's hard to think about people who are dead, Sammy. Memories aren't always the good kind."

"I don't really remember anything about her," Sam said. "But I'll try if it will help you write the paper, Dean."

"I bet Deuce remembers more than he thinks." Caleb snatched the notebook again, pulled the pencil from where it was stuck in the spiral binding. "What my mother gave to me," he said out loud as he wrote. He looked up when he was finished. "We'll make a list and then you can fill it in later. Piece of cake."

"Right." Dean seemed skeptical. He leaned his head against the wall. There was a reason he had glared at a blank sheet of paper every night that week until his head hurt.

"Your eyes." Sam said, thoughtfully. "Mom gave you her eyes. Daddy said so. And her smile too."

Caleb and Dean looked at the grinning little boy. "I have Daddy's smile." He pointed to his dimples. "See?"

"Yeah." Reaves shook his head and wrote down 'eyes' and 'smile'.

"Are you serious?" Dean glanced at the paper. "I don't think that's what she means."

"Go with the flow, kid." Caleb told him. "What else?"

"Your hair." Sam again chimed in. "It's the color of sunshine. Like hers was."

Dean groaned and Caleb nudged him. "Hey. I got my mom's hair, too. Hers was so black it almost looked blue."

"Did she have green eyes with little gold speckles in them?" Sam asked, intently studying the older boy's face.

"No." Caleb shook his head, his smile fading. "They were brown." He licked his lips. "But not normal brown. They were the color of the amber sea glass she use to pick up on the beach."

"I like the beach." Sam gave an understanding nod.

"So…" Caleb focused on the paper once more where he wrote down 'hair' and drew a sun beside it because it would annoy Dean. "Tell me more."

Dean looked at the earnest expression on Sam's face and took a deep breath. " Well, she gave me this special blanket when I started sleeping in my own room." He glanced towards the small window on the other side of the room. The quilt had burned in the fire along with everything else she had ever given him. Dean shook his head. "I don't really remember what it looked like, but it always made me feel safe. Like nothing in the dark could get past it to hurt me."

Caleb met his gaze for a minute and then smiled. "She wanted you to feel safe." Dean had definitely latched onto that lesson. Reaves wrote the word 'protection' and glanced back up. "My mom hung chimes on the front porch because I was afraid of the wind." He'd forgotten all about that.

"Like the ones at Pastor Jim's?" Sam asked.

Reaves nodded. "Yeah. Now that you mention it."

"Mom sang to me a lot." Dean looked from Caleb to his brother. "She sang to Sammy when he cried. And she played old records." The eleven-year-old smiled. "She liked rock. Especially Zeppelin."

"That makes sense." Caleb grinned. "And here Pastor Jim's worried John is a closet hair band freak." He wrote down the word 'music'. "What about your sense of humor? You must have gotten that from her, because Johnny was born without a funny bone."

"No. That's all you." Sam said matter-of-factly before his older brother could reply.

Caleb shook his head in denial. "No way."

"Yes way." The youngest Winchester asserted with a firm nod. "Just last week Daddy yelled that Dean better put a lid on that smart-ass sense of humor he picked up from Caleb Reaves." .

"Sam," Dean warned. "Watch the language."

"You said ass earlier."

"Well that's me."

Caleb tapped the pencil on the paper. "Boys, we have work to do." He returned his gaze to Dean. "And I'm still pinning the practical jokes on Mary."

"Okay." Dean's mouth twitched. "She did laugh a lot."

Reaves scribbled 'fun' on the paper.

"But I can't think of anything else." Dean said with a hint of frustration. "Sometimes it's hard to even remember what she looked like."

"She gave you a home." Sam said solemnly. "You told me about it. The big yard and the trees. And how Mommy planted flowers, hung a mobile over my bed and painted baseballs on the walls of your room."

Dean nodded, realizing Sam had never had that. At least not for an amount of time he could remember. "Yeah, Sammy. She did."

Caleb wrote the word 'security'. "Speaking of baseball?" Reaves started, breaking the dark moment. "Wasn't she a huge Boston Red Sox fan?" Caleb's brow arched. "Maybe she gave you the Babe Ruth mojo, Kid."

"Put it down." Dean gestured to the paper. "Dad said she had a mean pitching arm."

Caleb wrote 'passion'.

"Is that enough?" Sam asked.

"Let's see." Caleb held up the paper. He looked at the list which included 'hair', 'eyes', and 'smile', along with those more elusive traits such as 'security', 'protection', 'passion' and 'fun'. "It's looking pretty good, guys." But something was still missing.

"Wait!" Sam clasped his hands to his head as if he had just performed a cataclysmic blunder. "How could I forget?"

"Forget what?" Dean frowned at his little brother.

"The most important thing Mommy gave you!"

"Enlighten us, Einstein." Caleb crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the epiphany.

"Love!" Sam said as if it were the most obvious of answers. "Mom gave you love without any conditions. Ms. May says that's the best kind. The kind you give to me."

The older boys exchanged silent looks and then Caleb sighed. "Why didn't we thing of that? What would we do without Sponge Boy?" Reaves wrote 'love' in a flowing script and handed the paper to Dean. "All done."

"Everything but me writing it." Dean raised a brow. "You guys want to help out with that?"

Sam shrugged. "I can't write in cursive, Dean."

Caleb held his hands out. "Sorry. I'm on summer break, Deuce."

"Thanks." The eleven-year-old sighed heavily.

"But I tell you what." Reaves reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "You can finish it up after we go to eat and to watch a movie."

Sam put his hands on his hips. "But Daddy said we were grounded."

"Since when do I listen to your daddy?" Caleb stood up, scooped the little boy off the bed and turned him upside down before placing him back on the floor. "But if you breathe one word about it, there will be no super cool mask-making going on this weekend."

Sam giggled. "I promise I'll keep quiet." He made a locking motion over his lips and then mimed throwing the key away.

"Good." Reaves gave him a shove towards the door. "Now go get your shoes and jacket. We're going out to eat lots and lots of shrimp tonight-find out if this Flamingo gig is going to work for you."

"Yes!" Sam made a distinct flapping gesture with his arms and twirled around on his toes before fluttering away.

"Flamingo dance," Dean explained with a laugh of his own.

"Great." Caleb watched the little boy go and gave a shake of his head. "We're doubling up the viewing on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers on Saturday. Maybe we should even slip some beer in his chocolate milk tonight."

"Maybe," Dean agreed.

"And on Sunday…we'll do whatever you want to do." Caleb held his gaze. "Okay?"

"I want to make cookies. Peanut butter cookies."

"Okay." Caleb nodded. Maybe in a few years they could do something he wanted to do, like going to a bar and getting shit-faced. "But I draw the line at wearing an apron."

Dean grinned. "Thanks, Damien." He lifted the paper. "I thought I lost everything my mom gave me in the fire."

Reaves shook his head. "No way. The important things…those are indestructible, Kid. Now get ready so we can go eat shrimp."

Caleb started to go, but then turned to face Dean once more. "And Deuce? It just hit me… but we forgot to list the best thing your Mom gave you." It was something Caleb's mother had never been able to give him. "And you saved it from the fire."

Dean frowned. "What's that?"

Caleb forced a grin. "Your little brother." Reaves didn't wait for a reply, pulling the door closed behind him.

Dean sat quietly alone, staring at the paper no longer daunting. With a contented sigh, he picked up the pencil and in big bold letters wrote 'SAM'.

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