Chapter 28

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"When do I get this out?" A weak, raspy, muffled voice asked, as an IV encumbered hand pointed at the plastic tube protruding out of his stomach.

"Hopefully..."

"Soon," Dean mumbled and sighed deeply. He doubted anyone heard it behind the piece of green plastic that was molded around his mouth and nose. He was getting sick of that answer.

"Soon," Dr. Scott supplied, confirming Dean's suspicions that he wasn't heard, as he finished changing out the bag that was delivering a constant supply of nutrition into Dean's body.

Dean's left hand drifted up to his face and he pulled the mask down, attempting to angle it, so that he could still feel the flow of the cool air on his mouth.

"Dean," Sam said in a light, admonishing tone, from his place by Dean's bedside. His eyes drifted to Dean's monitors and he reached for the mask, intending to put it back where it was supposed to be, only to feel a light tap as Dean tried to push it away.

"Want it out," Dean said trying to sound firm, but hating the way his voice came out in a whisper. Damn stupid hospitals and their damn stupid ET tubes. He grimaced as it felt like he was trying to talk through ground glass.

"Look at it this way," Dr. Scott replied. "If it hurts that much to talk, think of how much it's going to hurt to try and swallow. I highly doubt you feel up to eating right now." Dean shrugged. That was true. The prospect of eating was not high on his list right now, but he was getting tired of the tubes, especially the ones in unmentionable places. "It will help you get stronger, quicker, and get out of here sooner," he added the usual line that usually seemed to placate Dean.

Dean shrugged again and rolled his eyes, clearly communicating that he appreciated the effort but had stopped believing that. Sam felt his temper grow and before he realized it, the word "liar," tumbled from his lips. It wasn't said at full volume, but Sam's voice wasn't hindered by an oxygen mask, or weak from just coming off a ventilator, and both Dean and Dr. Scott heard him loud and clear.

"Dean, Cindy should be in shortly to prep you for your bone marrow aspiration," Dr. Scott said.

"Swell," Dean muttered, but he didn't protest as Dr. Scott lifted the mask and replaced it over his mouth and nose.

"Well, yacht payment's due…oops did I say that out loud?" He was pleased when Dean grinned, but he didn't fail to notice that Sam's scowl deepened, and the smirk fell from Dean's lips. His patient's hand started to make its way toward the mask again.

Dr. Scott had had a chance to observe the brothers over the last few weeks, and he hadn't failed to notice that Dean's mood was often tied to Sam's. If his younger brother felt the feeding tube wasn't helping Dean, then that was exactly what Dean was going to ask for once he had the mask off again. He wondered if Sam knew exactly what kind of power he held over his brother. It wasn't the first time he had wondered what these two had gone through in their lives that made Dean want to cater to his brother's every whim. In his mind, having that kind of power over someone was a little scary, as it could be used for good, but also be used to cause harm. Right now, that was exactly what Sam was doing without even realizing it. As much as he knew that Dean hated all the tubes he was attached to, every one of them was necessary, but as much as he preferred not to remove any of them at this time, there was one he could offer to get rid of that wouldn't hurt Dean or set back his recovery.

"How about we make a deal?" he offered.

That didn't stop the progress of Dean's hand. He reached and lifted the mask but didn't pull it completely down. He just lifted it up, so he could be heard over the hiss of oxygen without having to raise his voice. His throat felt like it was on fire. "No bone… test?" He dropped the mask back in place on his own.

"We need to do that one," Dr Scott said in a sincere, apologetic tone. "I'll remove the Foley…"

"Hell yes!" Dean said as loudly as he could, which was too much for his poor abused throat, and he visibly grimaced.

"There are a few conditions you need to agree to," Dr. Scott added quickly. "First, you are not to get out of bed unless there is a doctor or nurse in the room. Let's forget for a moment that you're still hard-wired to a lot of machines, you haven't been out of bed in weeks. If you have to use the bathroom, and can't wait for one to come in the room, then you use the urinal or bed pan. If not, the Foley goes back. Deal? You can just nod, if you agree. You shouldn't be talking."

Dean nodded quickly. He probably would have agreed to have the vent put back if it meant getting the pee tube out. He hated those worst of all, especially the care and cleaning that they required. It was just downright embarrassing.

"Okay, Cindy will be here in a few minutes, and I'll leave instructions with her to remove it. Sam, I'll need you to step out of the room for a bit and give them some privacy."

"I want…"

"No… watching," Dean rasped.

"No talking," Dr. Scott reminded Dean. "I'll also leave orders for Cindy to give you some numbing spray for your throat."

"I'll be back," Sam promised as he followed Dr. Scott out the door.

There was part of Sam that wanted to sit by Dean's side, but lately, it seemed that the walls were closing in on him every time he sat with his brother. He found the protective clothing really constricting. If this was affecting him so badly, he could only image what Dean was feeling, given the fact that he had claustrophobia. Although, it shouldn't have been surprising that Dean wasn't reacting, because he had been barely conscious these last few weeks, he thought bitterly. He ripped the mask off his face and felt the need to hit someone or something, but he could feel Dean's eyes on him through the window of the isolation unit. As pissed off as he was feeling, he didn't want to upset Dean.

"Sam, what's going on?" Dr. Scott asked the distraught young man as soon as he had his own mask off.

"Nothing," he insisted as he sat down, ripped off his gloves and pulled the plastic booties off his shoes. He slammed them into the garbage.

"I can see that," Dr. Scott remarked.

"Aren't you just a ball of laughs," Sam ground out and he untied the strings on the gown that was covering his clothes. He missed one and ripped off the covering so hard that it tore.

"Sam, stop," the doctor said firmly. Through the window, he could clearly see Dean watching them. If he had to guess, he would say his pager was going to go off with the news that Dean's blood pressure was on the rise. "Dean's watching you. We are trying to keep his stress levels down. Him watching you get upset and not being able to do anything about it isn't going to help that."

"Well, neither is lying to him," Sam said finally unable to hold back.

"Lying," Dr. Scott answered, clearly confused. "I'm not lying to him."

"You keep telling him all that crap is going to help him. The feeding tube, the vent, the chest catheter, and theFoley is all supposed to heal him. Make him well again, faster. It's not. He's been in that room for over a month now and he's no closer to getting better now than he was then. We both know that feeding tube isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Why keep getting his hopes up?"

"Sam, it may not seem like it, but he is making progress. He's off the vent, isn't he?"

"But his O2 stats are barely holding and you still have the vent in his room. You only took him off it because he spent more time fighting it than letting it help him."

"Is that what you really think?"

"Yes," Sam admitted honestly.

"It's not true. I spent days fighting with him, trying to convince him not to have it removed. Why would you think that I would remove it before he was ready after he finally did agree to leave it in?"

Sam did have to think about that one. He knew that his father and Dean had cleared the air about something and whatever it was, John hadn't felt the need to elaborate, and it had made Dean agree to the vent. His brother had tried and, whenever he was awake, he tried to relax and breathe with the rhythm of the machine, but he found it difficult and he had been sedated for much of the last five days, when Dr. Scott had finally said that he was removing it. Both Bobby and his father had been ecstatic, but Sam realized that this was when he started feeling like the doctor wasn't telling them the truth.

"I need to get Dean's orders to Cindy and prep for his bone marrow aspiration, but we need to talk, Sam. Will you give me about a half hour and meet me in my office?"

"Fine, whatever," Sam huffed and he slammed his way out of the anteroom and into the hall.

To say that Sam was not in a good mood when he arrived at Dr. Scott's office was putting it mildly. His father had shown up just before Dean's bone marrow test. He was the only one that Dean liked in the room when they were being done. Despite the fact that they were being done every week, it still didn't make it any easier for Dean to endure. Sam could hear his grunts of pain from the anteroom and he desperately wanted to go and offer Dean any kind of comfort, but there was nothing he could do. It really didn't help matters when after the test was completed, Dr. Scott ordered another transfusion.

"Do you want any coffee?" Dr. Scott offered when Sam stormed into his office.

"I just want answers."

"I've never held anything back about Dean's condition, why do you think I'm doing it now? It's more than just the stuff with the vent, isn't it?"

"I met the wife of one of your other patients. It was last week. I was in the elevator on the way to visit Dean and she was going to see her husband. He was having a bone marrow transplant too. She told me that it was going really good and that he's getting out of isolation next week, and probably going home in a couple of weeks. Dean's been in isolation for 5 weeks, in the hospital three weeks before that and so far, there is no end in sight."

"The average stint in iso…"

"Is 4 to 6 weeks. I know that."

"They're…"

"Averages. I know that too."

"Sam, I wish I could give you a guarantee, but medic…."

"Is not an exact science. Can we please skip the clichés?"

"Okay, I have not lied to you or Dean about his condition. Let me finish okay," Dr. Scott held up his hand to stop Sam's protest. "I was expecting Dean to be on the vent for at least another week, maybe two, but he weaned himself off it in five days. There is no medical reason why Dean can't eat right now, but it's better to use the G-Tube because his throat is probably raw from the ET tube, and he's not going to be able to eat much at first, and this will give him the calories he needs to keep fighting. "

"Why all the transfusions then? Why all the extra IV's?"

"If you did half the research I think you did, then you know the answer to those questions. Transfusions help keep Dean's counts up while his body manufactures its own cells. The IV's are fluids to help his kidneys since the antibiotics are hard on them. I had them remove the Foley because Dean really doesn't need it anymore. He just needs to make sure that someone helps him more because of the machinery he's still attached to. He'll be working with a physical therapist in the next day or two to help him get out of bed. I think there's more than going on, Sam. Something else is bugging you, more than your brother's tubes. What's really going on?"

"The woman's husband never had any of the complications Dean did."

"I can't discuss the specifics of another case, but I think I know who you are talking about. Yes, that case went off without a hitch. It was textbook, but Sam, you know you can't compare Dean's case to anyone else. No two are alike."

"That man's bone marrow came from his brother," Sam blurted out. "I was Dean's donor and…" he trailed off.

"You're not biologically related. You're asking yourself if Dean's marrow came from a related donor, would his case have gone as smoothly. I can't answer that question. There's no way to know how Dean would have reacted to someone else's bone marrow, but statistics show there is no significant differences between success cases with related and unrelated donors."

"But related donors do show a higher success rate," Sam pointed out.

"Slightly, but I've had cases where the recipient rejected the marrow of a related donor an hour after it was infused, and I've had unrelated ones go as smoothly as the case your referring to. Don't judge your brother's progress against statistics or averages, or other case studies. I get the feeling that he's never been one to go by them in his life. Why expect him to start now?"

A small smile graced Sam's lips before he could help himself. That was so true.

"Dean is making progress, even if it is slow. He's fighting hard, Sam." What Dr. Scott didn't say out loud was that he felt the biggest reason for Dean's progress was the very fact that he had Sam's bone marrow, and would feel as if he had disappointed his brother if he didn't get well. He didn't know the Colt brothers that well, and would never make that thought known, despite the fact that his gut was telling him it was true. He would have bet a year's salary on it.

"I am planning on starting him on a liquid diet in a day or two, as soon as his throat gets a chance to heal. I just didn't say anything because..."

"The threat of hospital food might cause a setback," Sam quipped.

It was the doctor's turn to smile. "I guess I need some new material. I wish I could give you the answer you want to hear, Sam, but all you can do is what you have been doing. Be with your brother and remind him of all the things he has going for him. Give him even more incentive to get out of here."

"I'll keep in mind what you said." He was feeling a bit lighter, but part of him still couldn't see past the wires.

"Sam, I know this is none of my business, but talking to your father may help. He told me about the time Dean was born. He's been in this position before."

Talk to his dad, yeah right. "I'll consider it," he lied. "I'm going to go sit with my brother now."

Sam took the elevator directly to the Oncology floor where the isolation units were held. He entered Dean's and went to the sink, grabbed a soap packet and started scrubbing up, getting ready to go back to Dean's room. He tapped lightly on window to let his dad know that he was here. Dean didn't stir, which meant he was probably asleep. Again! Yeah, right. The doctor sure wasn't lying about Dean getting better, Sam though sarcastically. His temper getting the better of him again, Sam suddenly flung the soap he had been scrubbing his hands with against the wall. He really wanted to hit something.

"Sammy," a gentle voice said from behind him.

"What?" He huffed.

"Everything okay?"

"Everything is just peachy keen. I get to cover myself in plastic just to sit and watch my brother sleep."

"Actually, you don't. Not with that attitude."

If looks could kill, John Winchester would have dropped dead on the spot. "Stop trying to tell me what to do."

"You're angry at something. Anyone can see that, kiddo. I don't want…"

"I really don't care what you want. I never have and I sure as hell ain't gonna start now."

John's temper instantly flared. "How da… No! I'm not going to do this now. Us fighting is the last thing your brother needs, along with your attitude. "

"Scr…"

"Enough Samuel! Heaven help us if you want me to be the calm one here," John replied trying to lighten the mood, unfortunately it just made Sam angrier.

"Why is everyone treating this as something funny? You, Dr. Scott, Cindy you're, all cracking jokes like this some big, freaking game. Yeah, my brother is fighting for his life. That's so freaking hilarious."

"Nobody thinks this is funny, Sammy. Dean…"

"ISN'T GETTING BETTER! He's just lying there and…"

"Are you mad at your brother?" John asked his tone neutral.

"What the hell are you talking about? I'm not mad at Dean. Why the hell would I be mad at my brother? None of this is his fault."

"Because he's still sick," John said calmly.

"He can't help it," Sam reminded his father.

"No, he can't," John agreed. "But he's your big brother. "

"SHUT UP! OKAY, JUST SHUT THE HELL UP!" Sam yelled, as his temper finally exploded.

John didn't say anything then. He just closed the gap and pulled Sam into a tight bear hug. It actually felt good to be able to physically comfort one of his sons. Contact with Dean wasn't allowed. "It's all right, Sammy." John said soothingly.

Sam struggled, trying half-heartedly to get out of his father's grip. "Let me go!" he insisted.

"No. Not until you calm down."

"I AM CALM!"

"Why are you mad at Dean, Sammy?"

"SCREW YOU! He's not getting better. He's supposed to get better. He's supposed…"

"To defy every single odd and cut recovery time in half, because he's Dean and he's your big brother."

"He has to. Why isn't he well? Why does all this crap happen to him? He… HE'S NOT BETTER! I AM SO…"

"It's okay, son."

"NO! Don't you get that? It's not okay. I'm furious at my brother, who's sick. How pathetic is that? How is that okay?"

"Because it's not really Dean you're angry at. You're angry because you can't do anything to change the situation," John said calmly and knowingly. He had felt all these same emotions and knew exactly what Sam was going through and for once, he refused to rise to the bait and lose his temper, which is what Sam wanted him to do.

"So what are you a psychologist now?" Sam accused.

"Definitely not," John agreed. "But I did talk to one."

"When?" Sam asked in disbelief. His dad had always felt that psychologists were quacks.

"Before the adoption. It was required by social services. We were looking to adopt a kid that might have been looking at long term medical issues. They wanted to make sure we knew what we were getting into."

"Dean doesn't have any issues," Sam pointed out.

"We didn't know that at the time. He did have heart problems until he was four. Sit down a minute, kiddo." John said as he removed his arms from Sam's shoulders. John reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, opened it and removed a picture.

"This is a picture of the first time I held Dean," John said handing it over. "Do things look familiar."

Sam accepted the small photograph John was holding. It was bent from years of being handled, but Sam could see his father, dressed with a paper gown over his clothes and gloves on, holding a very small baby, who was hooked up to so many tubes and wires you could barely see him.

"Most babies can roll over on their own at two months and they start to sit up at 5 months. When Dean was two months old, he still couldn't breathe on his own. At five months, he was back in the hospital with a lung infection. We had to learn to measure milestones in a different way. Dean's first unassisted breathe in the place of rolling over. Getting to hold him, tube free, was as exciting a time as the day you were born. It's the same thing here, son. Don't look at what progress Dean hasn't made, look at what he has done. He is on oxygen, but he is breathing on his own. He's getting out of bed tomorrow with the help of the physical therapist. He's making progress."

"But he's still sleeping about 15 hours a day. That's not progress."

"It is when you consider a couple of weeks ago, he was barely awake for 3 or 4 hours out of the whole day. Now, he's awake about 3 hours at a time. This week he's had 2 transfusions. Last week he had four. As hard as it is to do, in this situation you need to look at Dean's progress in inches, not feet. This isn't something he can bounce back from easily. I get your feelings, Sam. I know you're mad and I'm not going to tell you not to be. I'm mad too. Mad that I can't do anything but sit beside his bed."

"That's all Dean would want from you," Sam said. That's all Dean had ever wanted from their dad.

"I know, but it's still doesn't seem like enough, does it," John said trying to make his point.

Sam totally understood what John was saying, he just didn't want to say that John was right out loud. He was a Winchester after all.

"Think about what I said. I'm going to the hotel. Bobby's looking for an apartment or a house to rent. Dr. Scott said that he wouldn't even consider releasing Dean to a hotel room."

"But he's…"

"He's going to come home. We need a place to go. Just remember, Sammy, sometimes things don't go the way we expect them to."

Sam watched as John walked out the door. He scrubbed up, then donned the protective coverings and sat by Dean's bed. While he was flipping through a magazine, waiting for Dean to wake up, Sam was suddenly overwhelmed with memories of his brother. Surprisingly, one of the most vivid was a trip to a flower garden of all places.

1998

"No way, you can't be serious," a 19 year old Dean said to his father in disbelief.

"I am serious, and watch the tone, dude," John admonished lightly. He wasn't really angry; after all, if you promise a 19 year old a special trip for graduation and then tell him you were going to visit a flower garden, you couldn't exactly be surprised that he wouldn't welcome the idea with open arms.

"We're in Cleveland, dad," Dean pointed out, thinking his meaning should be obvious.

"Your point?" John wondered, clearly confused.

"Cleveland!" Dean emphasized. "The Rock and Roll hall of Fame. The Indians are playing the Yankees this week. We could catch a game. I think the Browns might be at home. We could go see them play. "

"Yeah dad!" 15 year old Sam couldn't keep quiet anymore. Neither, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nor sports stadiums were high on his list of fun things to do, but this was Dean's graduation gift, and there were so many other interesting places they could visit. The Cleveland Botanical Gardens was not even registering on his list either. "I want to visit the Walter G. Mather Science Museum or the natural history museum. Flowers are totally boring."

"I agree. There is way more stuff to do here than stupid flowers," Dean argued.

"Don't knock it until you try it. When you were a kid, you wouldn't eat cheeseburgers," John informed his eldest.

"Seriously?" Sam asked incredulously. Unless their father made Dean order something healthy, it was all Dean ate.

"Practically had to stuff them down his throat," John replied.

Dean just scowled. "You're making that up."

"Nope, it's true."

"It's my graduation gift. Why can't I pick where we go?" Dean asked a slight whine in his voice. It was so rare they did something as a family, but flowers. "You didn't have girls."

"The way you two are bitching, I may as well have," John quipped. "I know that. Just trust your old man on this one, okay? Both of you," he added glancing in the rearview mirror where his youngest looked like he was about to protest again.

Sam huffed and crossed his arms, and Dean scowled deeper and looked out the window. "Make you guys a bet?" John offered. "If you guys like the place, you can't bitch at me for a week about anything. You don't and I'll drive you to anywhere you want to go."

"Anywhere?" Dean asked in disbelief. "What if I want to go to Arizona and see the Grand Canyon? And then Sammy wants to go to California and visit Tinkerbelle at Disney world."

"Shut up, Dean!"

"Don't knock Tink, dude. She's hot," John said glancing in the rear-view mirror with a wink.

"I want to go…"

"Someplace totally boring," Dean teased.

"DAD!"

"Dean, stop teasing your brother or I'll make you wait in the car," John said without thinking.

"Promise?" Dean said eager at the thought that he might have found a way out of looking at flowers.

"No. The first place we go that interests you."

"That's not fair."

"I don't have to be. I'm the father," John said and he saw Sam stick his tongue out at Dean. He was tempted to reprimand his youngest, but the mood was so light that John just couldn't bring himself to destroy it.

"Keep it up Sammy, and I'll throw you into a cactus," Dean said in a mock threatening tone.

"We're in Cleveland, they don't have cactus's, dummy," Sam threw out without thinking.

Playtime's over! "SAMUEL!" John ground out sharply.

"Oh my God! Dean, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it," Sam said sincerely when he realized exactly what he had said.

The tension of Sam's words enveloped Dean immediately, he slumped in his seat and his jaw hardened. "Fine," he ground out in a tone that said it was anything but.

"'M sorry," Sam said again. "I didn't mean it, Dean."

"Just shut up," Dean said forcibly.

"I'm…"

"Both of you, enough," John cut in. "We have a full day planned. I don't want you two fighting and besides, Dean's right, Sam. They do have a tropical exhibit and they do have cacti."

"You were there, dad?" Dean asked in surprise.

"Yeah," John said vaguely, not wanting to tell them the whole story about the meaning behind the place just yet. "I'm hungry. You boys want to stop or do a drive through? You guys can let me know if we have a deal," John said changing the subject. He heard Sam voice his opinion for a diner, Dean just said he didn't care, which told John that Sam's comment still stung, despite the fact that both brothers knew that Sam hadn't meant what he said. John just hoped that if he ignored it, Dean would let it drop. He had to know that his father and brother didn't think he was a dummy. Instead he let his thoughts dwell on their destination. He had fully meant what he said about taking the boys anywhere they want to go if they didn't enjoy what he had planned. There was no way they wouldn't enjoy their trip to the garden, despite their protests. There was one other piece of information that he hadn't shared with the boys yet. Why the Cleveland Botanical Gardens were so important to him. It was where he and Mary had spent their honeymoon.

The place hadn't changed much over the years. When Mary had suggested this place for their honeymoon, John had felt the exact same way his boys did. Honeymoons were supposed to be romantic getaways to exotic locales, like Tahiti or Fiji, not Cleveland. Not to mention it was killing John's pride that he couldn't afford to give Mary a proper honeymoon.

Mary, bless her heart, had said that she would have chosen Cleveland anyway, no matter how much money they had. John had been amazed at what he had found there. He visited the gardens once a year since Mary had died, usually on their anniversary. It had been his way of staying close to Mary, but the gardens also had their own appeal. He could understand why Mary loved it. There was just something magical about the place. It was mostly just flowers, but the atmosphere made one feel calm and at peace. It was almost as if nothing bad would dare disturb the beauty of this place.

It was a good thing nobody could read his mind, because it was laughable that a big, tough marine could be so drawn to something so girly, but he was. Every year, like clockwork.

"Hey dad," Dean's voice cut into John's thoughts. "This place may not be so bad."

John glanced over to his son and saw him eyeing a group of young woman exiting the car next to theirs. One of the girls saw Dean looking at her. She blushed and looked at her friend and they put their heads together, giggled and then started walking toward the entrance.

"I'll meet you back here in a couple of hours," Dean said as he started to follow them.

"Freeze dude," John said, stopping him before he got too far. "I need you to look after Sam." Dean groaned silently. Sam was old enough to look after himself for a while. Try convincing his father of

that, though.

"I can take..."

"Care of yourself. Yeah, I get that, Sammy, but I'm the dad. Don't tell me it's not fair," John said cutting off the next protest from both his sons. "I want you to give me about a half hour and then meet me by the Hershey's Children's garden. "

"Daaaad," Dean groaned. "It's bad enough we gotta be here, but now you want us to spend time in children's section?"

"Do I have to remind you…"

"You're the dad," Dean groaned. "Fine. Come on, Sammy. Let's go see if we can find something to do that isn't going to bore us to death."

John just rolled his eyes and led his kids toward the entrance, where Horace Finkler's credit card paid for three admission tickets. (That was, the last time he was allowing Dean to fill out the application forms on the credit card scams.)

"I can't believe they actually make you pay to get in here," Dean lamented.

"Dude, enough," John snapped more harshly then he intended. Dean didn't know the reason they were here. "You two behave yourselves."

"Deeeannn," Sam all but whined. "I want to go see the Western Reserve Herb Society Garden. It's the closest thing to history they have here. I don't want to follow some girl you have no chance of landing." Sam wasn't all that enamored about looking at plants, but the sign by the exhibit said something about explaining how the herbs were used thought history. Boring, but at least educational.

"I'm in charge," Dean said firmly. "Dad said so."

"Why do we have to do everything you want to?"

"Shut up, Sammy. I'm the oldest, so I'm always right. Now hurry up, slow poke,"

"Yeah, well, dad's going never going to let you go out tonight anyway. We're headed toward Blue Earth, to go see Pastor Jim."

"Well if you didn't piss him off all the time, he might let you do stuff," Dean snapped. "Come on. We're going to lose them."

"No!"

"Sammy."

"I'm going to the Herb Garden. You don't have to come."

"You're supposed to stay with me, Sammy. Dad doesn't let…"

"Yeah, I know that, but if I show up at the children's garden without you, who do you think is going to get in trouble for losing me. I'll give you a hint. It isn't me," Sam said smugly.

"You wouldn't?" Dean challenged. He couldn't deny Sam's words. "We always do what you want."

"I don't want to follow two air heads. You can come with me or you can stay here. Your choice."

"Fine," Dean huffed, as he gave one last longing glance at the girls who were headed toward the Japanese gardens and he reluctantly followed Sam, wondering how he could kick Sam's ass and get away with it. It wasn't fair.

"Can we leave now?" Dean pleaded as he stepped into the Hershey's children's park and spotted their father sitting on a bench.

"I want to go too," Sam agreed. The herb garden was every bit as boring as he had thought it would be. The only interesting thing he had learned was that herbs and spices were used because back in the days before refrigeration, meat was often rotten and the spices covered the taste. Other than that, Sam couldn't wait to leave. He couldn't wait to work that in there somewhere about his father's cooking.

"Not yet," John said to twin groans of displeasure. "I need to show you something," John said as he led both boys over to an area where perennials were growing, and people were planting flowers. "I just wanted to make sure it was still here."

"Great, more flowers," Sam said sarcastically. This was worse than herbs.

"I think you both will like this one. See these flowers here?"

Before him were four plants that were about two feet high and a yellowish white in color. "They're calla lilies," John explained.

"Are you a horticulturalist now?" Dean asked. "What?" he exclaimed when he felt John and Sam staring at him? He felt his anger grow. "I'm not an id…"

"I know that, Dean-o," John said cutting him off before he could go down that line of though. "Nobody thinks you are. I know what they are because they were your mother's favorite flower."

"Really?" Sam asked in surprise. It was like pulling teeth to get their father to talk about their mother. Dean went silent, as he always did when Mary's name was mentioned.

"Yeah. They're perennials and they bloom every year. They usually have a life span of about 5 years, but these have bloomed for the last 20 years."

"Really," Sam asked again. He was eager for more news. "How do you know that?"

"Because I was here when your mom planted them. This is where we spent our honeymoon."

"Awesome," Sam said again as he looked around the gardens with a new eye. He was starting to see the beauty in the place. It couldn't be that bad if their mom liked it here. "Isn't that cool, Dean. Mom planted them."

"She even named them," John replied. "Their names are John, Mary, James Dean, and Sam."

"Why did she have Dean's full name? Why don't ours? Why did mom like Calla lilies? What else did she like? Please dad, tells us?" Sam fired questions rapidly. He knew next to nothing about their mom.

"You know why we chose James Dean, but if our first child was a girl her name was going to be Samantha Frances. Technically, the flowers represented the names of our first child, but she just used Sam in case we had more than one, since it could be a boy or a girl."

Sam fully expected Dean to tease him about having a girl's name, but his mind seemed to be a million miles away. He watched as his older brother slowly reached out a hand and fingered the flower that was named after him, delicately as if he was afraid it might break.

"Dad," Sam prompted him to continue, but he was watching Dean closely. "Oh, she liked the colors and the way they bloomed every year. I would give them to her on her birthday every year."

"I remember," said a very low, shaky voice. "Mom always had them on the table in the dining room. She…"

"You okay, dude?" John said, a little worriedly.

Dean swallowed. "Yeah," he lied. He let go of his flower and touched Mary's with an even gentler hand. "She would bring one to my room to cheer me up if I was sick, along with some tomato rice soup."

Sam opened his mouth to ask more, but John glared at him and shook his head slightly. He didn't want Sam interrupting Dean's train of thought. "She always could make me feel better. I remember one time; I woke up during a thunder storm. I didn't want to go back to bed, but mom told me that the thunder was angels bowling, and that the lightening was them taking pictures. Then she brought me a flower as proof that there were angels watching over me, because they would never let anything bad happen to something that was so beautiful and delicate."

John wondered if Dean knew that Mary had been talking about him, not the flower, but he didn't interrupt. He had a feeling that if he didn't, Dean would continue.

"Then she sang Hey Jude to help me get back to sleep. She'd sing that to you too, Sammy."

Dean let go of his mother's flower. "I just wish… I mean… I..."

"Hey, buddy," John cut Dean off when his eyes misted up. "Come here," he laid an arm over Dean's shoulder and led him to a bench. Dean leaned into his dad and Sam and John watched in concern as Dean tried to keep the tears at bay. "I miss her too," John whispered softly. "Do you want to leave?" he offered, wondering if he had done the right thing. Dean shook his head, and took a few deep breaths. One lone tear slipped down his cheek. Dean swiped at his face, embarrassed. "I'm okay. Can I… Can I just be by myself for awhile? Can you look after Sam?"

"Yeah, dude. Just meet back here in about an hour, okay."

"Thanks," Dean took off quickly, like he was afraid that John would change his mind at any time.

John saw his youngest track his elder brother's exit from the children's garden. "I'll trust you. You can go off on your own for a bit, but you have to leave your brother alone. Just let him be for a while, okay?"

"Um," Sam said hesitantly and he reached out and fingered his flower and his mother's. "Can you tell me more about mom?"

John smiled and ruffled his son's hair. As much as it hurt to talk about Mary, this place had always seemed to take some of the hurt away, and it seemed that Mary was working her magic again, as Sam and John had their first conversation that didn't turn into a fight in a long time.

A half hour later, Sam felt totally at peace and he was really beginning to understand the appeal of the place that his father had. He began to see the beauty and feel that sense of peace his father had mentioned. He just hoped that wherever Dean was, he was feeling it too. He was probably behind some bush with the girls he'd been tailing earlier though, Sam thought to himself in amusement.

He had been surprised to find his wayward brother when he wondered into the Elizabeth and Nona Evan's Restorative Gardens, and found Dean sitting on a bench by the reflective pool. It was very tranquil and according to the sign, had been designed by four of the nation's top therapeutic designers. It was actually one of the nicest places Sam had seen. He really wanted to sit with Dean for a while but he had promised his father. Reluctantly, turning to leave, Sam heard his brother call him.

"You can stay," Dean said shifting over and making room.

"You sure?"

"Yeah," Dean said with a small smile. The magic of the Cleveland Gardens was working its spell on him as well. His memories of his mom were all on his mind, but after the initial period of grief, he felt himself welcoming them. "Did you know that I wanted to name you Impala Winchester?"

"Seriously?" Sam asked.

"Yeah. Mom talked me out of it. Convinced me that you were a Sammy, instead. Although, I think Samantha would have suited you better."

"Shut up, jerk," Sam said good naturedly. He didn't mind the teasing.

"Yeah, bitch. I remember how excited I was when I found out I was going to have a brother. Mom loved you, Sammy."

"She loved you too, Dean."

"I know," Dean confirmed. "I got to hear her say it, a lot. She said it to you too. I wish you could remember."

"Me too," Sam said wishfully.

"She was the best mother, Sammy. You would have loved her. She could always make us feel better when we were sad. She had a great laugh, and she smelled like lilies. Dad would use any excuse to buy her some because she always smiled when he did. She gave great hugs, and made a mean chocolate milk shake and chocolate chip cookies from scratch. She had this old blanket that she said belonged to her grandmother that she loved to wrap herself up in on cold nights. She made us hot chocolate. Real hot chocolate, Sammy, with milk and whip cream. Not the powered stuff. She didn't like marshmallows in her hot chocolate either, but Dad liked the mini-fruit flavored ones. Mom used to tease him about that."

"Thanks for sharing that, Dean," Sam said sincerely.

"That's all I remember," Dean said sadly. "It's like a blur sometimes. Like I think I know it, but some stuff I'm not sure is true. I forgot about the lilies until I came here."

"You were only four," Sam reminded him. "I know you're going to tease me forever for this, but I don't care. You remember mom's love, that's what's most important. "

Sam was a little surprised when Dean didn't tease him but he gave a sad smile. "She had a lot of that," Dean said as he stared at his hands as if there were the most fascinating things on the planet. He looked at Sam and the younger Winchester could tell that Dean was debating with himself about whether to say more. "I remember mom's love with my heart."

"What was that?" Sam asked a little confused.

Dean grinned. It was a true grin that reached his eyes. "Mom told me that my first day of daycare. I was sca… nervous that she would forget to com… that she would forget me… I mean… she told me that she would never do that because there were two ways to remember things. With our heads and with our hearts. She said once you remembered something with your heart it was impossible to forget. There she was at 2:00pm sharp to get me. Yes Sammy, we had a great mom. She was definitely the best." Sam watched as Dean gave a little shake of his head, like he was putting the memories back behind their concrete walls. He threw Sam a grin. "I'm going to go check out the theme gardens. Want to come."

"Sure," Sam said eagerly. He hoped that Dean would continue to talk about their mom, but he changed the subject and Sam didn't push. When they walked into the theme garden and found a display on desert plants. He looked at Sammy with an evil grin and pointed. "Look Sammy, cacti."

Sam couldn't help but laugh. Yeah, he couldn't judge something by what was on the outside. The Cleveland Botanical Gardens may not sound like a place he would ever want to set foot near, but now he didn't want to leave. He was definitely coming back. Sam didn't know it, but Dean was having identical thoughts. Their mom was in Heaven, and both brothers felt closer to her than they had in a long time.

When John went to take one last look at the flowers his beloved Mary had planted, he found two new ones there that the caretaker had said his boys planted. He felt lighter than he had in a long time as he reached over and touched the name markers, Mom and Impala. He laughed and was in such a good mood, he could even bring himself to say "I told you so to his sons."

The ride to Pastor Jim was even peaceful, with no arguments or hurt feelings. Yes, to the Winchesters, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens were magical, and their Garden of Eden. It was a place their family was together.

"Sammy… Earth to Sammy."

Sam looked over at his brother. "When did you wake?" he asked.

"About 10 minutes ago. You were in never never land."

"Pretty close. Hey, Dean, when you get better, I think we need to plan a trip."

"Bunny ranch," Dean joked.

"No I was thinking we need to take a trip to Cleveland."

TBC

I goggled the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and the places Sam and Dean mention were real.

I hope you liked it, please leave a review and let me know.