I've always thought it was interesting that the writers choose November 2nd as THE fateful day everything seemed to start for the Winchesters. Okay, we know it all started long before that, but November 2nd, Day of the Dead. Interesting choice.
This story begins on November 1st, so I'm posting it on, well, November 1st. I'll try and post with the same timeline as the story, just 14 years off.
Coupla things: This is set in 1996 so even though cell phones were invented, they were huge and expensive without a lot of network choices, nor widely used by the public. It wasn't until 1997 when radioshack started selling sprint pcs cell phones, and most of the general public still widely didn't start using them until 1998 or closer to 2001 really. So for this fic, I'm assuming that the Winchesters, like most people, did not have cell phones available.
2nd: I happened to be watching Hook Man from Season One while writing this and noticed Dean explaining the salt rounds to Sam. Apparently John and Dean invented the use of salt rounds while Sam was at Stanford – so no shooting ghosts with shotguns in this earlier fic either, which would have made it so much easier. Ah, well. I'm a stickler.
Oh yeah: Usual Disclaimer: Just havin fun. Own nothing.
Day of the Dead.
The flowers were everywhere. Bright orange marigolds strung along tops of fences and bursting from pots grouped on porches and storefronts like little shrines. The moppy-headed thirteen-year-old stopped at one display and frowned at the brightly decorated sugar skulls sitting in prominence among the cheerful blossoms.
San Miguel, Arizona was vibrant with energy, even on the outskirts of town where their current motel squatted. The streets were alive with celebrants. The Winchesters had never taken a hunt this close to the Mexican border at this time of year. They wouldn't be here now if Caleb hadn't called in a panic about a Chupacabra who had dragged two children off after it'd taken a bite out of Caleb's side. With Caleb in the hospital, even though the Winchesters were heading north, they were still the closest hunters available to get to those children quickly enough.
John was adamant about not taking Sam on this one and Sam remained quiet, knowing it was no use complaining. This time of year Dad always got a little more edgy, a lot more worried and protective.
Before Dad and Dean left, John's large palm curled around Sam's shoulder. "Remember to keep the wards up, the salt lines unbroken. This shouldn't take long, we'll be back before . . ." He left the rest unspoken.
Watching from across the Impala's roof, Dean's jaw clenched. He'd grown more tense with each mile headed southward. Sam had nodded, not wanting to talk about it either. But days passed and John and Dean hadn't made it back yet, and Sam had worried until he got the call from Dean. They were okay. The kids were okay, taken back to their parents, but the little toothy monster had gotten away and they were heading back out to track it. "Hopefully only another day," Dean had said. "Um, Sam?"
"Maybe, uh . . . just try and stay inside tomorrow. You know, watch the tube."
"Okay, yeah." Sam shifted from one foot to the other. He felt awkward. Neither brother knew what to say after that. He heard his father in the background, reminding Dean to tell Sam to double check the wards again.
But he didn't want to stay inside. So he walked around the area, looking at all the private altars and dolls that looked like skeletons in wedding attire. Though the excited people walking around thrummed with energy, Sam rode along a current of sadness. The entire city was celebrating. From a flyer, he knew that at midnight there would be a parade of sorts, the All Souls' Procession, with people wearing skeleton masks to honor the dead and carrying urns with prayers written on slips of paper that they would burn. Sam rubbed his chest, feeling hollow inside, even though he'd just had a sandwich. Sam watched a couple walk by, laughing, enjoying themselves and Sam wondered how they could be so happy. Of course they couldn't know the Mexican holiday came on the most painful day for the Winchester men.
Día de los Muertos. November Second. Day of the Dead.
The day Mary Winchester burned above the crib of her six-month-old son.
For the Winchesters, it would never be a night for celebration.
Yet . . . Sam's brows pulled together. Maybe, honoring family members who died wasn't a bad thing. Certainly, holding everything in in silence, taking sideways glances at each other like his father and brother did every time November rolled around, didn't do anything to fill the hole in his heart left gaping where memories of his mother should be.
Sam walked past a little flower stand. He read the sign above the blooms. Flor de Muerto. Flower of the Dead. Sam knew their scent was meant to attract souls so they would hear the prayers and the comments of the living. On a whim, Sam turned back and bought a small bouquet of marigolds.
He walked down the streets and into the little park close to the motel and sat at a picnic table. It was quiet here. The southwestern landscaping scheme of the park with mostly pebbled pathways wandering around sagebrush and tall sequoias was pretty, peaceful, empty of partygoers. The early evening was still warm so Sam laid his little bouquet on the table and shrugged out of his gray hoodie, placing it beside him on the bench. He picked up one of the marigolds, rolling the stem in his fingers and tried to come up with happy memories of his mother, except he didn't have any, not really. All he had were borrowed memories from Dean, images of her that his mind did the best to fill in, but they weren't real.
He nearly jumped off the bench, rapping his knee on the underside of the table. His gaze jerked up to a woman, standing on the other side of the table, hands folded neatly together as she stared at him. She had dark sad eyes and long blond hair. Her pale blue sundress seemed to float around her legs in a breeze that didn't really exist.
"Hello," he said hesitantly, alarmed that she knew his name. "Can I help you?"
She smiled sadly. "Sammy, don't you know me?" She took a step forward.
Turning sideways, Sam swung his legs out from under the table. He shook his head.
The woman nodded her head forward. "You brought me flowers, sweetheart."
"But . . ." He looked at her through lowered eyes. He'd only seen one or two pictures of his mom. They didn't have many, and even though there were similarities, he didn't think this woman . . . yet . . . seeing someone fully was different than viewing them on the flat dimension of an old photograph, right? "Mom?"
Her smile blossomed and Sam's heart stuttered to a slow crawl. "Oh, Sam, I've missed you. I've missed so much of your life."
"But . . ." Still not convinced, Sam stood, shifted backwards, keeping the table between them. "How are you here?"
Her gaze shifted to the marigolds. "Día de los Muertos. The veil is thin on this night." Her head tilted, making her hair sway. "You were thinking of me. I felt it."
Sam's throat grew tight. His vision grew hazy from a sudden press of tears. He wiped them away. "Is this real? Are you real? You're . . . Mary Winchester?"
She nodded. "Oh, Sam. I'm your mother. I really am and I've missed you, baby." She came around the table, held out her hand. "Will you walk with me? Just for this one night. Will you walk with me?"
Sam shifted back, afraid. His mom let her hand drop, disappointment and sadness creasing her face. Sam couldn't bear it. All the hurt and loneliness of being a motherless child rushed to the surface. Just for this one night, he could have his mother. He swallowed and stepped toward her.
Her smile was so beautiful it made something pull painfully in his chest. When she took his hand, a cool tingly touch, he let her lead him onto one of the pathways into the darkening evening.
"Motel sweet motel," Dean muttered as his dad swung the Chevy into the parking place. "I could sleep for a week."
John shut off the rumbling engine and glanced over. "You deserve it, sport. You did well. We'll both have to make do with one night though. I want to be out of here before first light."
Dean couldn't agree more. Although they'd come in through the back streets, the music and the merriment of what the citizens of San Miguel celebrated was a little hard to take when the day represented so much more for their family, for the life they'd lost, for their own lives that had been irrevocably changed on that evening. With the festivities continuing on through the next two days, lack of sleep would be well worth putting Arizona behind them.
Dean swung the car door open, stilling upon hearing the music filtering from a few blocks away. He tried to make light of it with a quip. "I hope Sam's not sprawled across the whole bed again. I got bruises from his flopping limps last time, but I'm not taking the couch. It's lumpy."
John chuckled, sliding the key into the doorknob. "Kid's getting tall."
"And knobby." Dean pushed inside behind his dad. Complaining aside, he was happy to get back to Sam, even if the kid was hogging up all the bed space. Besides, getting him to move to the couch would give him a good excuse to wake Sam up and see his younger sibling's face light up at their return. That never got old.
Except . . . John and Dean just stood there. Sam was not sprawled out on the bed. In fact both beds were neatly made. In three quick strides, John was at the bathroom, pushing open the door. The scowl stamping his features when he turned told Dean that Sam wasn't in there either.
Dean glanced at his watch. Ten-fifty.
"Maybe he went out to grab a bite," Dean offered hopefully. "You know how Sam is, he gets caught up in things and forgets to eat until he's really hungry."
Frowning, John nodded. His gaze flicked toward the little table, absent of any books Sam might have been going through. "Check the salt lines."
Dean flinched. "You don't think something got in here?"
"No." John shrugged a hand through his dark hair. "I just want to make sure."
"Yeah. Okay." Dean checked the door while John went to the window. His father's features had already lost that relaxed-hunt-went-well look and were hardening, shifting into focused hunter mode, spurring a whisper of icy breath to trickle down Dean's spine.
John's fists came to rest against his hips, elbows out to his sides like stiff wings, the old man's stance when he was mulling over a problem . . . or worried. "Nothing's been disturbed." The weight of his gaze fell on Dean. "You told Sam to stay inside today?"
"Yes, Sir," Dean was quick to answer, then added, " Well, it was more like a suggestion." Dean held himself still, prepared for all that tension vibrating beneath his dad's skin to bark out at him, but John only nodded. His hands slid from his hips, lowered to his sides as he let a weary sigh escape.
"I'm sorry," Dean said.
John wiped a hand down his face. For a moment it seemed to Dean as though the motion forged new worry lines into his dad's forehead. "It's okay, Dean. Your brother shouldn't have to be on lock-down while we're gone. It's just . . . on this day—"
"Yeah, I know," Dean interrupted, not wanting to go there. Not now, not when they didn't know where Sam was. "Dad, he's probably just down the street. You know how curious Sam gets about, well, about everything." John's tight lips quirked up into a hint of a grin at that. Encouraged, Dean went on. "I'll bet Sam's over at that little area with all the pretty painted girlie-type shops, just standing on the sidewalk with everyone else in this town, waiting for that weird-ass parade to go by."
John nodded, the worry visibly leaching with a roll of his stiff shoulders. "All right, let's go get your brother. But Dean . . ."
Half-way to the door, Dean stopped at the authoritative edge of John Winchester's this-still-is-a-hunt tone. "This is the Day of the Dead. You know what that means."
"Yes, Sir." Dean nodded. Salt.
"What is this place?" Sam looked at the little broken down shack within the dip of a hill. He'd walked with the spirit for a little less than an hour, moving into wilderness at the edge of the park. Arizona was like that, the cities and towns small pockets of civilization within vast swathes of desert and sagebrush. The moon gave enough light to navigate his way, but still Sam wished for his flashlight, if for nothing else than to warn away snakes and scorpions. When the first of the stars came out, he'd quickly oriented himself the way Dad taught him to. He wasn't worried about getting lost out here, besides the lights from town and the music that echoed loudly out in the quiet of the hills were an easy beacon to guide him back.
He turned his attention back to the shack, if it could be called that. There was really only two walls left and half of a third. Except for one corner of the roof, the tilting wooden frame was open to the sky. His mom's cold whispery fingers tugged on his, drawing him down into the ravine until they stood within the shell of what once was possibly someone's home. Maybe a hunter's shed?
Sam tried again. "Why did you bring me here?"
The ghost shrugged. "It's just a place." She sat down on the rotted floor and patted the space beside her. "It's peaceful here. We can talk. Be together, just you and I. Oh, Sam honey, tell me everything, all your hopes and dreams. I've missed so much."
Hopes and dreams. Sam's heart did a little flip. He frowned. He had hopes. Of going someplace permanent. Digging in roots so secure, nothing could tear him away. A house, a real house that was his, always would stand. For that to be possible he knew it meant a job, a real job, which meant getting good grades in school. He was already working hard to achieve that . . . He stopped himself, lowered to the floor and looked into those beautiful brown eyes, wishing so badly that he could tell her all of that, but some things are too deep for words.
"Why am I here?" he asked again.
"Because I missed you."
He held up a hand. "Stop. I know you're not my mother."
"But, Sam . . ."
"Please. Don't pretend anymore. It hurts me."
Her head lowered. The ends of her long blond hair dipped. Sam ached to reach out and roll a lock between his fingers, even knowing that it wasn't real, wouldn't really be like touching something of his mom anyway.
She looked at him through lowered lashes. "If you know that, why did you come with me?"
Sam kept his hands on his knees. "Because you need help."
I'm just going to throw this plot bunny out there: JOIN ME. Write your own November 2nd fic . Let's slam the actual day with them!