Author's Note: This one is for my Mum x 1st May 1951 - 1st September 2004
The question, the first words either of them had spoken in about an hour, was slightly hesitant. Dean glanced across at Sam and looked a little wary. It never boded well when Sam used that tone of voice and although to his knowledge there was nothing wrong right now, knowing his brother he could be about to bring up some completely random piece of drama that was going to totally ruin Dean's day. He sighed.
"I was thinking."
"Hilarious, Dean. Could you try being an adult just for a second?" said Sam exasperatedly.
"Alright, Princess, don't get your panties in a knot. What were you thinking about? And how is it going to ruin my day?"
Sam huffed. "Forget it."
Dean struggled to control the smirk threatening to break out. Sometimes his brother really was too easy. Deciding that riding in the car for the next 3 hours with a sulking Sam would not be fun, Dean relented and tried to look apologetic.
"Hey, come on Sammy – I'm just kidding. What did you want to ask me?" he said.
Sam shifted his gaze from the window and glared briefly at him.
"It's Sam." he said, still sounding annoyed. Dean bit back the automatic response and reminded himself he really didn't want to get blood all over the interior of his baby.
Ok, Sam, what were you going to ask me?" he said evenly.
Sam knew his brother better than anyone and knew when he'd pushed things to the limit. Shifting so he was facing Dean, his brow furrowed apprehensively as he thought about how to phrase the question.
"I was just wondering about Friday. You know, if we were going to do something." he said softly.
Dean frowned for a second as he tried to work out what was significant about Friday. He glanced at his watch briefly, saw the date and mentally added three days to it. As he realised what that made Friday he grimaced and the muscle in his jaw tightened.
Oh yeah – this was definitely gonna ruin his day.
"Dean?" said Sam, still waiting anxiously for a response.
Dean flicked his gaze across to his brother and back to the open road again. He really wished he'd taken more notice of the date but they'd been so busy on the last job that – naturally – turned out to be more complicated than they were expecting, he hadn't really had time to pay attention to anything else.
"I don't know." he said in the end.
Sam felt a little relieved. It wasn't exactly a helpful answer but he hadn't had his head bitten off so that was a start.
"Well, we're not that far from Lawrence.." he began but Dean didn't let him finish.
"No! We are not going to the cemetery again, Sam." he said adamantly and Sam shook his head.
"What is it you've got against going to see Mom's grave?" he said and Dean looked at him incredulously.
"You mean other than the fact it's her grave?" he said and Sam winced.
"Come on, you know what I mean. No one likes cemeteries but you take it to a whole other level, Dean. Most people find it comforting, having somewhere to go to remember someone."
"You don't need to stand next to a cold lump of rock to remember someone, Sam. All a gravestone does is remind you they're gone. I mean, what the hell is supposed to be so comforting about seeing someone's name carved in stone with two dates next to it? All it does is ram home the fact they're gone and remind you the gap between those two dates is too damn short." Dean said vehemently.
Sam swallowed. "Ok, well I guess I get where you're coming from. You could have said that before you know. The world won't end if you actually give an honest answer to a question." he said and Dean shook his head.
"It won't end if you don't insist on wanting me to care and share every five minutes either."
Sam took a deep breath and reminded himself that turning this into the usual battle of wills wasn't going to help any. At least he'd got a relatively straight answer for once, so that was something.
"Alright, fine. Not the cemetery. We should do something though." he said and Dean rubbed the back of his neck with one hand.
"Like what? And just so you know, you even think the word church you're walking to the next motel." he warned.
Sam sighed. It wasn't even worth getting started on that one.
"Well, what did she like? Maybe we could do something she would have enjoyed." he said.
Dean's face softened as he thought about Mary, the image of her smiling face coming to his mind unbidden.
"Lakes. She really liked lakes. I remember us driving out to one on vacation one time. She sat there on a rock, dipping her feet in the water and laughing at Dad trying to make a fire on the beach." he said softly.
Sam smiled at the memory, imagining them in his mind and feeling the usual ache in his chest at what had been taken from them that night.
Shaking off the mood before things got too melancholy he cleared his throat and reached around for the map.
"Ok, well there's a lake about 400 miles from here. It's in the direction we were going to head anyway. Maybe we could stop there on the way through?" he said.
Dean thought about it for a second. Sam was right, they should do something on that day and perhaps this wouldn't be so bad as going to a cold, impersonal grave that had no real connection to who their Mom had been.
"Ok." he said, reaching out and switching on the radio to effectively finish the conversation.
Sam nodded and put the map back. As he listened to Metallica's 'Unforgiven' begin he decided it could have gone worse. At least they'd managed to agree on something, and without bloodshed too.
Yep. For the Winchesters that definitely came under the heading of a successful conversation.
Sam was careful not to bring it up again for the next couple of days but it was obvious from the long silences and almost permanent frown on Dean's face that his brother was thinking about it anyway. They stopped in the town nearest to the lake on the Thursday night and they were both up early for once come Friday morning.
Sam insisted they eat breakfast in the Diner in town, partly because it looked like it actually served decent food and partly because he was determined to break Dean out of his mood before he got too melancholy. It was hard to be cheerful when you were marking the anniversary of your Mother's death but Sam didn't want it to be more painful than it had to be. And he knew what Dean was like when he got like this.
As they sat drinking their coffee, Sam leaned back against the bench.
"I thought we'd pick up some flowers on the way. Maybe we could put them in the water, something like that." he said.
Dean nodded but still didn't say anything. Sam leant forward, nudging Dean's leg with his foot under the table.
"Hey – come on, man. We're supposed to be celebrating Mom, remembering her. Not getting tied up with what happened. She wouldn't want that." he said.
Dean looked at him and felt some of the ache in his chest ease as he saw the concern in Sam's gaze. He sighed and rolled his head from side to side, trying to loosen the muscles in his neck.
"Yeah, you're right." he said quietly and Sam grinned.
"Can I have that in writing?" he said dryly.
"Whatever. Don't let it go to your head, Francis." said Dean, downing the last of his coffee and getting up to pay the bill.
Dean waited in the car while Sam went into the store to buy the flowers. He refrained from commenting but the smirk he gave his brother spoke volumes. Sam just nudged him as he walked past, muttering under his breath about being secure enough to actually buy flowers, unlike some people.
He'd expected more teasing when he came out but Dean had just looked at the flowers, given a small smile and said "Nice choice, Sammy."
Sam shook his head as he laid them on the back seat and got back in the car. Dean really was a walking contradiction sometimes.
The drive up to the lake hadn't taken too long and Sam wound his window down to the breath in the fresh air as they passed tree after tree. There was hardly any cars on the quiet road and the only sound was the throaty rumble of the Impala's engine and the occasional bird.
Dean pulled into the parking area beside the lake and switched off the engine. Sam grabbed the flowers and two bottles of old fashioned lemonade he'd picked up with them. It hadn't felt right for them to drink beer for this and besides, it was a little early.
Dean opened the trunk and took something out, dropping it into his pocket before Sam could see what it was. He was curious but he didn't want to push – Dean would tell him when he was ready.
They walked over to the edge of the lake quietly, Dean not missing the fact Sam was walking so close that their shoulders were actually touching now and then. Normally he would have nudged Sam away and made some comment about personal space but today, with what they were about to do, it felt ok.
For now, anyway.
They stopped by the edge of the water, next to a large rock. Sam bent down and put the bottles in the sand as he undid the wrapping around the flowers. He noticed Dean doing something out of the corner of his eye and when he looked he saw he'd placed a candle in a crack in the rock and was just finishing lighting it. As he put the lighter back in his pocket Dean turned round and saw Sam watching him. He ducked his head self-consciously but Sam just smiled.
"That's a nice idea, man." he said and Dean looked up again, a pleased look on his face.
"Yeah, well." he said awkwardly, clearing his throat as he went down to the edge of the water. Sam went back to getting the flowers ready, chuckling to himself. It really was almost endearing just how awkward Dean was about anything like this. He swore his brother would rather face a demon any day than deal with anything remotely emotional.
A psychiatrist would have a field day with their family.
Having removed all the wrapping from the flowers, Sam separated them into two bunches. He laid them out on the sand and left them there for now. He walked over to where Dean stood, looking out over the water.
"So she loved lakes, huh?" he said softly and Dean glanced at him briefly, a slight smile on his face.
"Yeah. I only remember one vacation, I think it must have been about a year before you were born. We drove out to this cabin that was next to a lake. Kinda like this one actually. We were only there a couple of days but I remember Mom sitting next to the water, every day, just looking out at the view for hours. Sometimes she'd take her shoes off and paddle on the edge with me. The water was really cold even though the weather was pretty hot. And Dad lit this fire on the beach one night, for a barbecue. Only it was a little windy so it took him forever. Mom laughed so hard, especially when he got really mad that it wouldn't light. He was stood there glaring at the thing while me and Mom just laughed at him. I probably didn't even know why I was laughing, but that was the thing – whenever she laughed you laughed with her. It was kind of infectious, you know?"
Sam nodded, feeling a lump in his throat as he pictured the scene. Dean was keeping his gaze firmly on the water but Sam could see his eyes were glistening and he moved a little closer, torn between wanting to hear more about Mary and wanting to spare his brother the painful memories.
"In the end Dad started laughing too. He didn't give up on the fire though – got it alight eventually."
Sam chuckled. "Yeah, that sounds like Dad." he said and Dean glanced at him with a brief smile.
In no rush to move things along, Sam dropped onto the sand and crossed his legs. Dean looked down and then did the same, pulling his knees up and resting his arms loosely round them.
"What else did she like?" asked Sam after a moment and Dean thought for a second. He closed his eyes, bringing memories he usually kept carefully hidden to the fore. It hurt a little but he drew strength from having Sam sitting there with him. And his brother deserved to know what she was really like.
"Well, she loved Fall. All the leaves on the trees changing colour. She used to help Dad rake them up in the yard but she always ended up kicking through them and making twice as much mess. It drove him nuts. I can remember getting wrapped up warm and taken for long walks with her, looking at all the trees. And she liked to dance. She was always moving around to whatever song was on the radio. I remember when she was pregnant, she used to say you were joining in – she'd get me to put my hand on her stomach whenever you were kicking. She always swore you didn't keep still for five minutes." he said fondly.
Sam smiled at the image of Dean with his little hand on Mary's stomach, feeling him kick. He suddenly felt even more connected than usual to his brother as he pictured it in his mind and unconsciously he leaned closer to him. Dean noticed the movement but said nothing, figuring that for today at least he could relax the usual rules about personal space.
"Even though I was just a kid I can still remember I don't think I'd seen her looking so happy as the day they brought you home from the hospital." he said, continuing. "I wanted to hold you so she sat down with me of the sofa and they put you in my arms. You were heavier than I'd thought you'd be and your face was kinda scrunched up."
"Gee, thanks." said Sam dryly and Dean just smirked.
"I can only tell it like it was, Sammy. Not my fault I'd already got all the good genes."
Sam huffed and shoved his brother with his shoulder, making Dean's smirk just get even wider.
"As I was saying, you didn't really do that much. Just sort of lay there, staring at me. I asked her why you weren't moving or talking and she was trying so hard not to laugh as she explained you were just a baby. It was kind of an anti-climax really." he said, the teasing tone of his voice making it clear he wasn't entirely serious.
"Yeah, that must have been tough – I can't help it though that I got the brains and the attention span."
This time it was Sam's turn to get shoved, so hard he nearly ended up face down in the sand.
Sam smirked and Dean ignored him briefly, picking up a flat-ish stone that was next to him and skimming it across the water.
Sam watched as the ripples faded and waited for Dean to continue. It was nice to talk about Mary like this, to remember her as a person and not just a memory trapped forever in time.
"She used to smell like flowers. I don't know what perfume she used and it wasn't something I could ever ask Dad. Mind you I'm not sure I'd want to smell it again – it wouldn't be the same."
"I know what you mean." said Sam, thinking of the perfume Jess had worn and how he'd literally had to run out of a store when someone had passed him wearing the same one.
"But mostly I remember her smile. She was always, smiling you know? That's what I try and picture when I see her in my head." said Dean, quietly, and Sam sighed.
"I wish I could remember her myself sometimes. I mean, I get a picture of her – from what you and Dad told me. And it's a little easier now, after we saw her in Lawrence. But I'd like to have a memory of actually doing something with her. Does that makes sense?" he said and Dean nodded, looking at him sadly.
"Of course it does. I wish you could have that too, Sammy." he said and Sam glanced at him.
A memory came to Sam suddenly and he laughed involuntarily. Dean looked at him, one eyebrow raised.
"Something you wanna share?"
Sam chuckled, shaking his head. "Man, I was just thinking about that card I made for Mother's Day – do you remember it?"
Dean frowned and then groaned as it came to him.
"Are you kidding? Of course I do – it's kinda hard to forget." he said dryly.
"Hey, come on – I put a lot of work into that you know." he said and Dean shook his head.
"Yeah, and an entire tube of glitter! Dude, I was finding it for months after you gave me that thing - I looked like a reject from glam rock band." he said and Sam laughed.
It was true, he had gone a little overboard in the glitter department. But in his defence he'd been six years old and not all that steady with his hands at the time. He could picture it as if it were yesterday. The whole class had been making cards for Mother's Day and Sam hadn't been at the school very long so his teacher hadn't realised why that would be a problem for him. He'd got a bit upset about it at first but the teacher had been really good about it, asking if there was anyone else he'd like to make a card for. Even back then Sam had adored his big brother, so his answer had been pretty instantaneous. He'd never concentrated so hard on anything in his whole life.
When it came to home-time he'd flown out the door, eager to give his masterpiece to Dean. His brother's face, he could remember, had been a mixture of surprise and horror at the thing that had been shoved at him by his little brother, literally covering him in a cloud of glitter.
Sam had been upset then, thinking Dean didn't like it. Dean of course had soothed the situation in seconds, assuring Sam that he loved it and he'd just been taken by surprise that was all. He'd walked out of school, card in one hand and Sam attached to him in the other, and John's face had been a picture. Sam could see now that their father had been struggling to contain his amusement at the predicament Dean was in. He could hardly admit the card was not exactly the coolest thing to be carrying around when you were ten years old without hurting Sam's feelings, and of course little brother came before everything else so he'd simply endured the whole thing with a pained expression that dared John to laugh at him.
The card had gone on Dean's wall as soon as they got home and it had stayed with them for a few years after that, Sam recalled, trailing glitter wherever they went. He wondered what had happened to it in the end.
"You didn't have to keep it you know – you could have pretended it got lost somewhere." he said and Dean shrugged, looking awkward.
"You'd put a lot of effort into it, not to mention the world's supply of glitter. It would have been mean to 'loose' it." he said. "Besides it wasn't that bad."
He turned to see Sam grinning at him and pointed a finger warningly at him.
"Do not turn this into a 'thing', Sam. It'd kind of ruin the moment if I had to drown you on Mom's anniversary."
Taking the safe option Sam said nothing and stood up, brushing sand off his trousers. He picked up the bunches of flowers and held one out to Dean.
Dean grabbed them, holding them as if they were contagious. Sam shook his head and held his hand out to help Dean up. His brother took it and pulled himself to his feet, shaking his legs to shift any sand that came with him.
They walked slowly to the waters edge and Sam bent down. He glanced up at Dean and at his nod he gently laid the first blooms on the surface of the water. They floated for a moment and then began to drift towards the open water, pulled by the slow currents. Dean separated his flowers and he threw them in the water, watching as they landed quite far out and also began to drift towards the centre of the lake.
Sam stood up again and they walked over to the rock where the candle still burned, the flame guttering now and then in the soft breeze. He picked up the bottles of lemonade they'd left on the ground and opened them both, handing one to Dean. He held his bottle up.
"To Mom." he said softly.
Dean clinked his bottle gently against Sam's.
"To Mom." he repeated, taking a big sip to clear the lump in his throat.
They leant against the rock, watching the flowers as they bobbed and floated their way out into the lake. This hadn't been as bad as Dean expected. It was painful, of course, but it was also nice in a way to share his memories of Mary with Sam and to reminisce about happier times. And it was much better than when they'd visited her grave – zombie chicks notwithstanding.
He still missed her. Every moment, for 22 years. There wasn't a day went by when he wouldn't think about her at least once and wish she was still alive. There were so many things he wished he could have shared with her, so many conversations they'd never got to have, things they'd never got to do.
But although she was gone, she'd left him something more precious than memories. She'd left him Sam. And for that he said a silent thank you to her as he stared out over the water.
Next to him, Sam's thoughts were running along a similar vein. He wished he'd had more time - any time - with his Mom but he knew nothing could change that. But he too thanked her as he stood there, for leaving him Dean. Because as hard as it had been growing up without a Mom he'd never felt like he was deprived. He still had his big brother, who would do anything for him, who took care of him in more ways than he could ever count, and who made sure that he never, ever felt unloved.
When it came down to it, they'd both been lucky in some ways.
He glanced at Dean, wanting to say something, but as his brother turned and met his gaze he realised maybe he didn't have to. They always had been better at things unspoken and when you knew someone as well as they knew each other, sometimes you didn't need words.
He smiled and Dean smiled back, nudging him slightly with his shoulder. They both finished their drinks and Dean turned round and blew out the candle. Being careful not to get hot wax on himself he picked it up and they started to walk back towards the Impala.
Dean stopped as they neared the end of the beach, turning back to face the water for a moment. In his mind he saw Mary by the waters edge, dipping her feet in and laughing.
"I love you, Mom." he whispered, the image blurring a little as he blinked back tears. He felt Sam come and stand next to him and his brother's expression when he turned to face him was one of open concern.
He gave a small smile to show he was ok and put his hand on Sam's shoulder as they turned back to the car.
"Come on." he said, and Sam didn't say anything but kept an eye on Dean as they walked.
Putting the candle back in the trunk and the bottles in the trash can, Dean got back in the car. As he switched on the engine he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was glad they'd done this. It felt right and he had a feeling that Mary, wherever she was, would be pleased to see the two of them remembering her like this.
"Hey Sammy?" he said softly and Sam turned to look at him.
"This was a good idea." he said simply and Sam looked surprised, then pleased. He ducked his head a little.
"Yeah, it was. I'm glad we did it." he said.
Deciding it was time to lighten the mood a little, Dean turned on the radio. A fairly slow, ballad type song came on and Sam expected Dean to put a tape on instead but he left it. Sam glanced across at him but Dean seemed ok, just content to drive and listen to whatever it was, so he said nothing.
As he looked out of the window as they pulled away he smiled to himself. He hoped Mary was watching them and that she was proud of what they'd become. And as he thought about her sitting with Dean on that sofa, watching him hold his new brother, he felt a particular warmth settle inside him and he whispered quietly.
"I love you, Mom."