Mother and Son Reunion

All Sam could recognize was that he felt tired, exhausted, as if every spark of energy in his being had been expended. He opened his eyes and as his eyes came into focus he saw a ceiling, an ordinary ceiling, but for reasons he couldn't understand, a familiar feeling of dread filled him as if he had seen that ceiling before, but couldn't place where or when. He rolled over to his side sluggishly and realized that he was on a carpeted floor. The room was semi-darkened so he couldn't tell what pattern it had on it. He noticed that the carpet extended to a doorway, light from a hallway streamed in, again, that strange feeling of familiarity hit him. Why couldn't he place it? He pulled himself up slowly to a sitting position, but his left hand knocked into something that caused him to turn and investigate. A wheel. It was a small wheel. He looked up and saw what the wheel was attached to. A crib. It was a wooden crib. Sam's eyes grew wide with stricken horror as memory and feelings flashed through him. He spun his head around the room quickly and already knew what he'd see, stuffed animals, a mobile, a little lamp, and a crib.

"It's yours," said a soft feminine voice from the doorway.

Sam bolted up onto his feet as he saw a dark figure come into the room, the light of the hallway washing out the features, but Sam knew who it was.

"Mom?" He uttered.

As the dim light of the nursery illuminated the figure, he saw the small and delicate curl of his mother's smile. He had only seen her in pictures until fighting the poltergeist at their home in Lawrence, and in the demon's terrible, Technicolor dream of the night he had lost her.

"Sam," she said as she smiled at him.

"Mom? What's happened to me? Am I dead?" Sam asked in a jumble.

"No, no, you're fine, honey. You're just dreaming," she comforted as only a mother could.

Mary walked over to the crib and pulled out a stuffed car. She smiled as she held it.

"Dean gave you this. Well, he picked it out anyway. He saw it and said that you had to have it," Mary giggled softly.

Sam's face contorted in confusion.

"Is Dean okay?"

"Yes…for now…he's okay," Mary said. "Sammy, I don't have much time and I have so much to tell you."

She then picked up a blanket from a nearby rocker and sat in it.

"I used to sing the both of you to sleep in this rocker. My mother gave it to me when I was having Dean," Mary recalled. "You were wrapped in this blanket.

"Mom –"

"Sam, I need you to listen…I need to tell you about how Dean was before you were born. You need to know him, understand him…understand why he did what he did for you."

Sam stared back at his mother, a woman he had never truly known except through stories that Dean had told him, and a longing to be comforted by her overwhelmed him, but he just nodded his head.

"When I found out I was pregnant with you, Dean was so excited. Most kids would have hated having a brother or sister to share their parents' love with, but not Dean. He didn't understand, at first, what it meant, having another baby around, but when I explained about being a big brother and what a big brother does, he couldn't wait to be one. I think it made him think he was all grown up," Mary smiled. "He used to talk to you before you were born. He used to tell you that he couldn't wait to see you and that he would take care of you, that nothing would happen to you as long as he was around. Sometimes he would lay his head in my lap and fall asleep listening to your heartbeat. It was almost like he knew it was you, though we didn't know you were a boy until you were born."

Mary looked up at Sam and smiled.

"You see, Sam, it's my fault that Dean protects you so fiercely. He learned that from me. I taught him that you don't leave the ones you love. You watch over them, keep them safe."

"But I thought it was the fire that night, when Dad told him to take me out of the house-"

"That just made it horribly real for Dean. He'd lost me, your father's heart and mind were lost that night too and suddenly Dean thought he'd lose you too. I think that he remembered what I had told him and clung to it. He's been afraid to lose you ever since. He's never said anything, I know. That's Dean. He's closed himself off because the memory hurts so much. You're lucky you don't remember, Sam. Dean can never forget. It never really left him."

Mary rose from the rocker and started to exit the room. She turned and with her eyes, told Sam to follow her and he did. They walked out into the hallway. They then entered another room just next door.

"This was Dean's room," she said, fondness in her voice.

When Sam scanned the room, he couldn't help but snicker, it was filled with Batman stuff. There were posters of the Caped Crusader on the walls, the bedspread, the pillowcases, and a stuffed Bat Mobile. It was particularly funny after Dean had declared that he was Batman when he had come to Sam's rescue from those two hunters.

"Dean always idolized Batman. He used to say it was because Batman was just a regular guy, no superhero powers, just the best weapons ever that he made himself," Mary smiled.

Sam walked around a room that he had never seen and his chest tightened. He felt the loss of Dean's childhood. His hopes and dreams were all over the room, even at four years old. Dean had wanted something more too.

Sam then spied something on a small desk. He walked over to it and picked it up. It was a fire truck, all shiny red, with a ladder pulled out and up as if ready to be perched against a building to save someone. Sam turned it around in his hands and tried to imagine Dean playing with it, pretending he was coming to the rescue of someone, making all of the requisite siren noises. It wasn't hard to picture it. Dean may not have become a fireman, but he was always coming to the rescue of others…to him.

"Dean…" Sam uttered, his voice choked with emotion. "When we were looking for Dad, he told me he had wanted to be a fireman. He'd never mentioned it before. It makes sense though. He's been saving me all my life."

Sam's expression turned sad and he put the fire truck back on the desk.

"He wanted so many things, Sam, but most of all, he really just wanted to be your big brother. After I…" Mary paused, understanding details weren't necessary. "He wanted to give you everything he had, but he knew that he could only give you so much. I love your father, but he could never give you what both of you needed, not after he lost me. He loved me too much and could never get past the pain."

Mary then smiled again, "But Dean, he tried. He tried very hard."

Sam could only nod and smile, too, at the memories.

"He taught me to ride a bike, how to tie my shoelaces…"

"I know. Everything I would have been to you, he was to you. All you have to do is remember everything he's done for you to see and know me. "

Mary walked over and sat on Dean's little bed. She patted a spot next to her to tell Sam to join her there and he did.

"I remember helping someone who had gotten into a car accident and Dean had asked me what he could do to help. I didn't teach him that. It was almost as if he had understood and had known instinctively that you had to help people who needed it. It was always that way for him, Sam. It's why no matter how much your father trained you two, no matter how hard he was on the both of you, Dean could never walk away from helping people. Just as he could never walk away from saving you if there was a way he could do it, more so because you were his family, you were all he had left."

Sam could only nod. Mary smiled again as another memory came to mind.

"Dean was always standing up to anyone who was picking on someone smaller or weaker. I remember I was coming to pick him up from the playground one day and I watched, as a little boy was being teased and pushed around by some other bigger kids. Dean came right up to them, unafraid, and told them to stop. He then put a shoulder around the smaller boy and walked away with him, like he was protecting him. I was so proud of him."

Mary looked wistful, tears rimming her eyes.

"He never mentioned what he did, but a couple of days later, he brought the boy home and asked if it was okay if he could stay for dinner. Of course, I said yes. I learned from that little boy that he had lost both his parents and that his grandmother was taking care of him. He told me that people didn't want to be his friend because he didn't have a mom or dad like everyone else, but not Dean. Dean had told him that as long as he had someone who loved him and who took care of him, he'd be okay. Dean then told him that he'd be his friend."

Sam smiled. Mary took Sam's hand into hers and stroked it.

"Dean has always hated being alone. Your father and I never could understand why. You know him, he's fearless about most things, but not when it came to being alone, to being without his family. Dean would never tell us why he was so afraid and no amount of reassurances made him feel better. Later, I wondered if maybe he knew somehow, oh, not that he was psychic or that he knew that we were going to die, but just that we might leave him someday, that everyone leaves eventually. When I died, it just made him that much more determined to keep you and your father close to him. I taught him that family was everything and he took that to heart.

"That's why he made the choice he did. I know you think it was selfish of him and even though he's told you that it was and that he was okay with it, you have to see it from his side. He couldn't bear the thought of you dead, Sam. You're all he has. You're his family. It's not that he valued his life less, but that he valued yours more. You have to know that it's not in him to leave you. But make no mistake, knowing that he'll have to is killing him. He's already dying inside. Leaving you behind is against everything he believes in. You're all he believes in, but even though he's made peace with his choice, he hasn't about leaving you. You need to help him."

Sam looked into her eyes, his eyes filled with tears.

"I want to, Mom, I can't. I don't want him to leave either."

Sam then took Mary into his arms and hugged her, allowing his emotions to finally overwhelm him.

"Please, Mom, help me save him, please!" Sam pleaded like a little boy would with his mother, hoping that she could make everything right.

Mary wrapped her arms around him and rubbed his back, unable to stop her own emotions.

"Oh, Sammy, I wish I could, believe me, I would give everything, go to Hell, myself, to save him, but I don't have that power. Something wants our Dean's soul and it's not going to let it go."

"What is it, Mom? Why does it want it?"

"I wish I knew, honey, but you have to believe that Dean loves you. He's done all this out of love, not selfishness."

"Mom, how could he just think I could go on without him any more than he could without me?" Sam rebelled.

"Please don't do this. Don't be angry at him. You know it's not what he wants," Mary soothed.

Sam got up from the bed and looked around the room.

"I took all this away from him, Mom. The demon came for me and you were killed. I destroyed his world, his life. How can I ever make that up to him?"

"Sammy, you didn't do anything. You were a baby. You were innocent in all this. Dean knows that and doesn't blame you."

"That just makes it worse because he should. I asked so much of him, Mom. I made him give up everything…his life, his soul."

"No, it was his choice, he's an –"

"No, don't say it. Don't say he was an adult, that he knew what he was doing. The crossroads demon said that and it doesn't make it better or right. He did it for me. That makes it different."

"I know, sweetheart."

Sam walked around the room, took a breath and closed his eyes, seemingly trying to imagine a young Dean's happiness, playfulness, and his joy for life. Then he remembered how the Dean he knows now is haunted, acting as if he was okay with going to Hell because it was for him, that no price was too high for Dean to pay to bring Sam back.

"Why does Dean want to die, Mom?"

Mary stood to be by Sam's side.

"He doesn't, Sam. Believe that. If there was a way to save you without dying, he would have taken it, but there wasn't."

"He tells me that it's not about a death wish, but what else could it be? He says he's tired, tired of living, yet he acts like he wants to live every moment."

"He's doing it for you. Putting on a brave front because he doesn't want the time you have left with him to be about fighting, to be about him dying. All his life, all he's ever wanted was to be a family again. He's never stopped wanting that. With your father and I gone, all he has left is you. He needs you to accept it so that he can just be a big brother to you."

"I don't think I can. I don't think I can stop trying."

"Then don't, but Sammy, don't waste the time you have with him only doing that. Do you want to look back and realize that while you were busy trying to save his life, you lost time that could've meant the world to your brother?"

Sam was silent. He hadn't thought about the fact that maybe Dean had just wanted to be with him. That, yes, it was about the double mint twins and acting a little crazy, but he had tried to deny the pleads from Dean to just have fun with him because all it translated to for Sam was less time finding a way to save him. Sam then looked towards his mother and screwed up the courage to ask her what he'd been wanting to since he saw her.

"Mom, did you know the demon?"

Sam had expected his mother to act surprised, angry even, but she stayed calm. She didn't smile though.

"There are many things in my life that I regret, leaving you and Dean my greatest one. Others have come from being who I am and from a past that I had no say in."

Mary looked into Sam's eyes.

"I'm sorry," she said and disappeared into mist.

Sam was left there, shocked, lost, and once again alone. He sat back down on Dean's bed and took one of the little pillows. He squeezed it against his chest and couldn't help the tears.

"Mom…"

Sam then laid his large, awkward body onto the bed made for a four year old. He curled up into as small a ball as he could on it, putting the pillow to his face to staunch his tears and he breathed in, hoping to smell a trace of the little boy his big brother had been.

"Dean…"

oooo

"Dean…" Sam murmured.

He blinked his eyes open and tried to clear his vision. The memory of the dream came slowly back to him, but not where he was. His last memory of that was lying on Dean's little bed, hugging Dean's pillow, and missing his brother. He turned his head and realized that he was in a hospital bed now though he couldn't remember why or what had happened. He looked over to his right and spotted Dean, asleep, in a chair. Sam couldn't miss how haggard Dean looked. There were dark circles under his eyes and Dean hadn't bothered to shave. He had let his beard grow in so that it was more than just the 5 o'clock shadow he normally wore. It aged him and seeing him like that made Sam feel inordinately sad. Sam tried to mentally calculate how long he might have been unconscious and figured that it might have been at least 2 days, maybe 3. Dean probably hadn't eaten much, if at all, during that time either. He knew his brother well. Dean had never left his side, let alone the hospital.

Sam heard Dean moaning fitfully in his sleep and felt guilt seep into his heart. He didn't know if Dean had ever had a decent night's sleep since they had lost their mother. Oh, he'd sleep through the night most times, but not without nightmares of his own. Sam knew from clues in the many motel rooms they had stayed in that Dean had slept less than he had let on. It had gotten worse lately. Sam would sometimes find Dean pacing outside the motel room door. He thought about confronting him about it, but they had been fighting a lot lately and Sam had to admit that he had started a lot of them, taking his frustration at not being able to find a way to save Dean out on him, especially when Dean wouldn't help. Sam also hated to admit that he resented Dean's cavalier attitude about his death and his belief that Sam would survive without him. Sam knew that was far from the truth. He tried to cajole Dean into caring about his life, his future in Hell, but Dean would just blow him off or act out. Sam had hated that Dean didn't seem to care about his life or place any value on it, but after his dream, after sharing Dean's childhood memories with his mother, how could Dean have possibly felt otherwise? His life had been all about Sam, about protecting Sam, about being second to Sam even when he was the older brother. Sam had never seen, that in Dean's eyes, he always came in second, his life always secondary to Sam's. It hurt him to think back to when the yellow-eyed demon had possessed their father and had taunted Dean about how they didn't need Dean, not like he needed them and that Dean had probably already believed that, despite his defiance.

Sam just watched his brother sleep, not wanting to deprive him of even fitful sleep after all that he had probably gone through in the last 2-3 days. He let him sleep. Sam let his thoughts wander back to his dream, to talking to their mom, learning so much about Dean's past and achingly wishing that things could be so different. He had entertained the idea that life would have been better for Dean if he had never been born, but dismissed it because of what Dean was going through now. To do an "It's a Wonderful Life" after what Dean had done for him would be selfish and ungrateful and he had to stop doing that. Their mother's purpose for coming to him was to make him see that Dean had loved him from the moment he was in their mother's womb. Long before the fire, long before the supernatural intervention that had ruined both their lives, Dean had loved him, had pledged to protect him. Dean had taken on being a big brother first and foremost.

Dean jerked awake and quickly oriented himself back from his sleep. His first act was to look over at Sam and when he had seen Sam's eyes open and responding, Dean's tired, red eyes, filled with tears. He stood up and walked over, his first steps wobbly and unsure, two conditions that Sam would never equate with Dean except for when he was drunk.

"Hey…about time you woke up," Dean joked with an even shakier smile. "How are you feeling? Should I get a doctor?"

"No…no, I'm okay…how long have I been out?"

"Three days," Dean said, confirming Sam's math. "You gotta stop scaring the crap out of me like that. I can't -"

Dean stopped himself from saying what he was feeling. It had been déjà vu all over again seeing Sam so still, so quiet and it had almost broken him completely this time. The only thing that had kept going through his mind was what if Sam never woke up? Who would take care of him after he was gone? More painfully and selfishly, had he gone through what he had for nothing? Would he go to Hell for nothing and leave Sam behind as a vegetable? For three days, it was all Dean could think about. The relief at seeing Sam awake again nearly overwhelmed him, but he had managed to keep it together for Sam.

"What happened?" Sam asked.

"We were on a hunt, nothing special. You got tossed, cracked your skull against a rock. The doctors said it wasn't serious, but you stayed clocked out and wasn't coming out of it. What did the doctors say, uh, oh, there was 'no clinical reason' for you to be still unconscious, but they couldn't wake you up. Then they told me we'd have to wait until you woke up on your own…For a high-priced education, they sure have a flair for understatement."

Dean tried to joke, but Sam could see his mouth and chin tremble under the strain of keeping up his light-hearted façade.

"Did you get any sleep?" Sam asked knowing Dean would lie to him.

"Sure, here and there," Dean said.

"Liar," Sam replied back with a small smile. "When was the last time you ate anything? You look like crap."

"This coming from Sleeping Beauty. I can take care of myself, have been for most of my life in case you hadn't noticed," Dean joked back.

Sam took in a breath at that. Dean had been doing more than taking care of just himself most of this life.

"I noticed," Sam said.

There was a moment of silence.

"Seriously, you okay?" Dean asked.

"Yeh, yeh, I'm okay," Sam repeated softly.

Sam then saw Dean waver, as if the adrenaline that had kept him going, probably for days, was finally wearing off. Knowing that Sam would be okay took away any reserves he had left and Dean had to lean on the bed, bone weary and likely running on hunger. Sam grabbed Dean's arm and hand to steady him and was surprised to feel a squeeze back from him, as if confirming that Sam was real.

"Dean, get some sleep. You need it and I'm okay."

Dean nodded his head and scooted his chair over closer, then laid his head down. He was out in seconds.

Sam looked down at his brother then laid back.

"I'm sorry, Dean."

As he said those words, Sam knew that he had been more than just sorry for being so harsh to Dean for the last few weeks. He had been keeping things from Dean. He had hated doing that, but knew that, for now, until he got more answers about their mom, he had to keep those secrets to himself. He couldn't have Dean doubting what he had brought back from the dead because, truth be told, Sam had been wondering about that himself, noticing some changes in him that had scared him. He also didn't have the heart to tarnish Dean's memory of their mom. Dean had remembered everything about her and Sam knew that after the Djinn's fantasy, knowing what he had wished for, Dean still held his mother's memory in high esteem. In Dean's eyes, their mother had died innocently, cruelly, savagely without rhyme or reason. Sam couldn't hurt Dean like that until he knew the truth, truths that may involve making his own kind of deal with a different kind of demon entirely. Sam could only hope that he wasn't making a mistake by trusting Ruby's claims that she could save Dean, that some demons really do tell the truth because no matter what was happening to Sam, he knew one thing hadn't changed, his love for a brother who had done everything for him, who meant everything to him.