A/N: set in the vague future.
I looked up from my desk to the doorway. I'd been reorganizing my drawer and my classroom. Again. Some wisenheimer had started off the school year by rearranging my things for me. Every single day. So I had to reorganize. Every single day. If not for that, I would've been out of the school and on my way home already. I didn't recognize the man standing in my doorway, but I knew the look – pleased, inquisitive, hesitant. He had to be a former student.
"It's Mrs. Mogavero now." I told him, not unpleasantly. Teachers can be intimdating, even when the student is a grown man. I didn't want to scare him.
"Oh – right. Yeah. Mrs. Mogavero. I knew you as Miss Smith." I knew it – former student. He came a few steps into the classroom. "Um – you probably don't remember me. I was in your second grade class for about a month, a long time ago…"
I opened up the file cabinet in my brain and rummaged around briefly as he went on.
"…my name is Sam –."
But he didn't need to finish.
"Sam Winchester? My goodness! You've grown!"
"Yeah, that's what I've been told." He said. "Um – can I sit? For a minute?"
"Sure! Of course!" I pulled the extra chair away from the desk so he'd have room for those long legs. I remembered distinctly a small boy with a slight build and a huge smile when I could coax it out of him. Now he was a huge man with a slight smile that needed to be bigger. "I'm glad you caught me here. I usually leave before now, but somebody keeps deciding to rearrange my desk drawer and I have to put it right again before I go home."
I waited for him to fold himself down into the too-small-chair before I went on. He managed to look not-uncomfortable, and yet so much bigger than he had standing. He didn't start right in with why he was visiting me, so I asked.
"So – what brings you town? Did you move back here after all this time? You're not still traveling with your Dad, are you?"
"Uh – no." His eyes dropped to his knees and I suddenly remembered very very distinctly the same gesture from when he was six or seven. Sadness and regret. "Dad – um – we lost him, a long time ago."
"I'm so sorry. I lost my Mom, too. Last spring. I think it was the hardest thing I've ever been through."
"Last spring?" Sam asked me, looking up with those same shaggy bangs I remembered now so well. He sounded surprised.
"Last spring." I said, then chided him for his surprise, "I'm not that old, you know, that my Mom couldn't still be alive last spring."
He smiled, and laughed, sort of. He looked sad, but then - he usually had. I wanted to get a bigger smile and more of a laugh out of him.
"So what are you doing in town? I'm an egoist, but even I won't believe you came here just to see me."
"Ha. Um, Dean and I, we're here to try and help out a friend. I was hoping I might see you. I never forgot you, you know. You were one of the best teachers I ever had."
"I hope not! I'd hate to think your experience with teachers peaked your first week in second grade!"
He smiled and it was sad and my heart ached for him, the boy I knew and the man I was with. What had gone on in his life?
"So – Dean's in town with you? Is he with you here?"
"Yeah, um, yeah. He's -." He gestured with his head toward the door. "You know. Looking around. He knew I wanted to talk to you."
Tears – actual tears then were in his eyes. Something was seriously, seriously wrong. I reached over and put my hand around his. He was maybe all grown up and a good foot taller than me, but once my student, always my student, and always deserving of the care and concern that came with that.
"Sam – what is it?"
"Um – I don't know how – it might be a little hard to…." And that was all I got out of him right then.
"Whatever it is – whatever I can do – tell me. I want to help."
"It's just – just – do you believe in Heaven?"
"Heaven? Sam – are you sick? Did something happen? Are you all right?"
He seemed surprised by that question.
"No – I'm – no – I – I'm okay. Really. I am."
But he wasn't. I could tell. He might've only been mine for a month all those years ago, but I knew something was wrong.
"Dean's all right?" That was the next thing I could imagine that would drive Sam to desperation, if his big brother was in trouble.
"Yeah, Dean's fine."
"And everyone else?"
That question puzzled him so much, it actually pushed him back in his much-too-small chair a little. I think I might as well have asked him how things were going on the Lost Continent of Atlantis for how confused he looked.
"Everyone else. You know - the rest of your family?" Someone please tell me these boys have more family than just each other.
"Oh. Oh." Finally his mouth turned up a little bit in a wry smile. "Yeah. They're all fine too."
"Sooooooo – Heaven." My eyebrows rose up of their own volition as I tried to figure out why Sam was here and asking me about The Great Beyond. "You just found religion and you want to convert me?"
"Ha. No." Well, I got a little bit bigger smile out of him. My hand was still around his and he laid his free hand on top of mine. "Miss Smith – um – Mrs. Mogavero - do you remember last April – the last day of school before Spring Break?"
I almost pulled my hand away from his. Student or no, good intentions or serious trouble, I didn't like to talk about it. I didn't want to talk about it.
"That's the day my mother died. It's not a topic I discuss."
He nodded but he stared at our hands and didn't look at me. He had that look on his face. Sadness and regret. I wish the hospice nurse had shown as much sadness and regret when she pronounced my mother dead.
"Sam? Does this have something to do with my Mom? Are you a police officer? Because she died of a bad heart. Blocked arteries. I mean – if you want to arrest her primary physician who told her for two years there was nothing wrong with her until her heart was too weak for surgery, please do. Other than that – what?"
And then there was a long minute of some clock ticking and Sam apparently memorizing the age spots on the back of my hand. Until there was a voice at the classroom door.
And there was Dean, as ever and always, I suspected. Exactly as I remembered him. Same expression – concern. Same gaze – straight at Sam and only Sam.
"Not yet, Dean. Just – I just -."
Same reason for being there – making sure Sammy got where he was supposed to be going.
"Sam – you need to tell her." There was concern in his voice and I wondered – for Sam or for me?
"Tell me what?"
"Your mother died five years ago." Sam said, like he was telling me he'd just run over my dog.
I looked up at Dean, waiting for him - expecting him - to acknowledge Sam's maybe-not-so-sudden mental illness, and to make a lame apology for that rude remark about my Mom, and I would accept it just-barely-graciously and see then that they were escorted off the property, preferably to the closest psychiatric hospital.
But Dean was looking at me like he'd just run over my dog, too. He didn't think Sam was crazy. Maybe they could get the bulk rate at that psych hospital.
"No." I answered patiently, as though Sam was still my second grade student and insisting that girls did too have cooties. "Mom died last April."
"No." Sam echoed me, only he sounded like his life depended on my believing him. "She didn't die last April."
Well, I might've fallen off a turnip truck a time or two, but it wasn't in the dark and it wasn't last night; the emphasis on 'she' meant something. I opened up that file cabinet in my mind again and rummaged around, until I found a file folder that refused to be opened. Until I ripped it open anyway and saw -
"I died last spring."I said.
And everything changed.
Instead of the daylight of mid-afternoon, the classroom was dark and lit only by moonlight through the window. Sam held a dark flashlight. Dean held a lit flashlight, pointing it down at the floor. Suddenly I was cold. Suddenly I was scared.
"You died right here in this chair." Sam agreed. "Last April, that Friday afternoon before Spring break. The kids were all cleared out, you had a massive stroke and died. Right here in your chair."
"So – my desk drawer…"
Sam shrugged like he was about to explain something necessary but painful.
"The new teacher. Every morning she comes in and rearranges it back. And the bulletin board, and the way she has the kids line up their desks."
"And the 'friend' you're in town to help?"
He shrugged again.
"You really were the best teacher I ever had. You cared, you understood, when not many other teachers ever did. I wanted to give you a chance."
A chance. We were moving from crazy to weird to creepy now.
"A chance to do what? Are you going to go all 'Ghost Hunters' on me and ask me to leave and send me out to wander the mean streets of Bradford all by my ethereal lonesome?"
"A chance -." Sam looked back at Dean, clearly for help, and Big Brother stepped up to the plate.
"A chance to get to Heaven." Dean supplied. He walked closer to my – the – desk. "The easy way."
"Do I want to know the hard way?"
That question bothered Sam, judging from the pained look on his face.
"Miss Smith – I mean, Mrs. Mogavero –."
"Hold on." I interrupted him, because this was just something I had to point out. "Let me just get this straight. I'm dead."
"Yes." Dean answered, straightforward and honest.
"And I'm a ghost."
"A spirit, to be more accurate. But – yeah."
I looked back to Sam who wasn't looking at Dean or me until I nudged his hand.
"So I'm dead and a spirit and still you're making sure you address me by the right name?"
"Um – well – yeah – I just -." Sam stammered. I'd taken him completely off guard.
I couldn't help it. I cupped my hand against his blushing cheek.
"You are the sweetest boy I ever met, do you know that? And the smartest student I ever had. And you -." I looked up at Dean " - are the best big brother I've ever met."
"Told you she was smart." Dean grinned down at his brother. Sam nodded his agreement, but still looked sad. Could he be that sad over me?
"So – I'm dead, and I want to get to Heaven. What do we do?" I asked. "What do I do?"
"Basically," Dean explained as though he was explaining diagramming a sentence. "At this point, you just need to want to go to Heaven."
"Really." I was less than impressed. "That's it? No white light? No thunder or earthquakes? No party?"
"You'll see the white light when you're on your way." Sam said. Whispered. This was really being hard on him.
"On my way." That sounded odd. Not odd that I was dead, I'd retrieved that fact from my mental file-o-fax. But that I was moments or steps away from my everlasting reward. "On my way to Heaven."
"Your Mom is waiting for you." Sam told me. His eyes were brimming with tears. Maybe – maybe he wasn't sad for me. Maybe he was jealous. In a few minutes, I'd be seeing my Mom again.
"And how would you know that?" I asked.
"Because -." Dean stepped in again when Sam obviously couldn't answer. "We know the guy who runs the place." And then he winked at me. Winked at me. The flirt. I wondered if there was a way I could get him to wink at me again.
"I'm sorry." Sam said. Again - suddenly, like he had a handful of things he needed to say, but only a fingerful of courage to say them.
"Sorry for what?"
"You should've had more time."
"No one ever gets enough time." I said. "How did you know? That I was here?"
Even dead, I didn't miss how Dean gripped his hand around Sam's shoulder. Big Brother still being there for Little Brother.
"It's kind of hard to explain." Sam told me.
"Dean says he's got an 'in with the guy who runs Heaven', but telling me how you knew I was dead is 'hard to explain'? Really?" No way was I buying that. "Wait – you're not dead, are you? This isn't the 'Welcome Wagon to Eternity', is it?"
"No – no. We're alive. Dean and I – we're - we're still okay."
"Good. So then?"
Dean stepped up again.
"Investigating supernatural things is kind of what we do. When we heard some weird things were going on at this school and Geek Boy here figured out it might be you - "
"I wanted to help you." Sam finished. "You deserve to be happy. You took care of me all those years ago, when those other kids were trying to be mean to me, talking about Moms when I didn't have one. I wanted to help you."
All those years ago. A long time ago. What did he mean?
"How many years has it been?" I had to ask. I was losing my focus on the whole space-time continuum.
"Since I was in your class? Um…forty years."
And everything changed.
My desk was no longer my desk, it was a massive podium with a computer monitor and keyboard built into it. The chalkboard was gone in favor of a whiteboard. The lovely creaking wooden floor was covered over with tacky carpet squares. The casement windows were glass block. The bookshelves and books were gone.
My classroom was gone.
I was gone.
I only just needed to leave.
"Okay." I said. I stood up and Sam did too. "Okay, I'm ready. Do I click my heels and channel the whole 'Dorothy' vibe, or what?"
"Your Mom's waiting." Sam said again. "You just picture your Mom and want to be with her. That'll be enough."
"Says your 'guy on the inside'? Okay."
I started to picture my Mom, as young as I ever remembered her being, but there was Sam still there, looking as sad as I've ever seen anyone look. So, I was dead - didn't mean I couldn't still care.
"Thank you." I said and reached out to hug him. "I'll be waiting for the both of you, too."
Then the light and the warmth and the rightness enveloped me, and as my Mom shone more clearly, and the Winchesters shone less clearly, I could almost imagine Dean reaching out for Sam's hand so he could lead him from the classroom and to home again.