November Second. A day that would be etched into his heart for all time. When Dean woke that morning, he was tired and achy and irritable.
Sammy asked him what they were going to have for breakfast and Dean snapped back that he didn't know. It made the kid jump. Sadly, Dean realized that he would need to reign in all his worry and pain and grief to make it through this day. This long, long day.
He told Sammy to have some more candy for now and they would go out to grab some stuff later. The morning was full of cartoons again although Dean hadn't really watched them. It was mid afternoon when he told Sammy to get ready to head out.
When they reached their destination, Sammy frowned up at his brother. "What are we doing here?"
It was one of the local catholic churches down the road. Dean had timed it so all the masses were over but you could still go in and sit if you wanted to. Dean didn't answer his brother, just led him inside. The layout was typical. Together they walked over to an alcove already aglow with candles. It was empty.
Dean found the bin with extra wicks and took one, lighting it on a large candle above. He walked over to a corner and lit one of the small candles, blew out the stick and set it down in front of him on the altar. Carefully, he knelt down and noticed Sammy mimicking his actions. The kid must have caught on and simply followed his brother.
Over the years, the Winchesters had forged new friendships with various Hunters. Oft times they found themselves shacking up with one of them when this day rolled around. Last year, they had stayed with Pastor Jim. The man was a contradiction between his faith and his actions. But Dean soon realized that he was a man of faith before he was a hunter. And it was he who told him about the candles and what they meant.
Without knowing what else to do on the anniversary of their mother's death, Dean figured this was the best he could offer. He bowed his head and prayed. Prayed that she was happy and safe in heaven. That their father would be home soon and without being too banged up. That they could settle down and be a real family again. That the nightmare would finally end.
He told her how much he missed her. Her voice. Her smile. Her hugs and kisses. And the way she sang to him at night. Her gentle ways. And especially her love.
After all, it's always a mom's love that heals all wounds. And Dean hurt right now, in both body and soul. He needed her. He wanted her there to take care of him. She had tended to his scrapes and 'boo boos' as a child. Then suddenly on this day so many years ago, he had suddenly become the mom. Taken care of his brother and father in her absence. But he was just a kid…
It wasn't fair! He wanted her back in his life. His family whole again. But he knew it would never happen.
Never… it just wasn't fair.
In the end, there was nothing else to say or do. He wiped at his moist eyes, not realizing he had cried at some point, then stood. Sammy remained quiet but watchful of his brother. There were tear lines tracing his round cheeks as well. Dean tried to smile, but failed. His heart heavy.
Taking a deep breath, Dean carefully wrapped his arm around his brother's shoulders and squeezed briefly. Sammy smiled up at his brother and hugged him around the middle. They stood there for a moment before Dean pulled back and led them away.
Together the boys slipped out of the chapel and headed for a convenience store further up the road. Dean used the money Jezzer gave them to restock their empty shelves. They were just rounding the corner to their room when a tall shadow fell across their path.
Glancing up, the silhouette was unmistakable. They dropped their bags and leapt into the man's arms as he bent down to collect them. "Dad!" ghosted past Dean's lips while Sammy had shouted his.
"Boys! God it's good to see you." John Winchester's weary expression brightened at the sight of his boys. He eagerly scooped them up and hugged them fiercely to his chest.
In almost the same fashion as the other night, Sammy leaned back and punched his dad in the arm. "What took you so long?"
"Easy there, kiddo, I had a job to finish."
"And did you?" Dean asked.
John looked his oldest in the eyes and nodded. "Yeah, a few days ago."
"Then why you only getting back now?"
"Caleb called me before I left. Told me about a fire a few towns over." His gaze still locked with Dean's, John inhaled deeply before adding, "Father and kid made it out but the mother died."
Dean's whole body tensed for an instant in recognition. "Like mom?"
Again John bobbed his head. "Yeah, like mom."
"Did you find it? Did you get it?" Dean didn't dare to hope. Could his prayers have been answered so quickly? But it was not to be.
John sighed and his entire frame seemed to deflate. "No. It was long gone by the time I got there." Disappointment mixed with anger rolled off the man. After a moment, John patted his sons' shoulders. "Listen, let's go get something to eat. When we get back, pack up. I'll un-enroll you in the morning before we head out."
At that announcement, Sammy demanded, "Where we going now?"
"Jim's place. We're gonna stay with him til another job comes up."
Not entirely happy considering they had only gotten there about a month ago, Sammy relented. John picked up the plastic bags of food and stood. "Come on."
The trio went to the local diner before heading back to their room. There they packed and got ready to leave. Dean and Sam shared one bed while their father occupied the other.
In the morning, John went to Sammy's school first then Dean's. After they left Dean's school, they were about to head out when Dean recognized a figure on the football field adjacent to his school. The High school was only a short distance away. He asked his dad to stop and give him a minute. Amazingly, John complied.
Dean jumped out of the Impala and ran to the fence calling, "Jeremy!"
Surprised to see the younger boy, Jeremy ran over. "Hey, what are you doing here?"
"My dad got back last night and we're heading out."
"Just like that, huh?"
"Yeah. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks and all."
"Really, Dean, it was no problem. You earned it." He laughed.
Shrugging, the young hunter played it down, "It was no big deal."
"Actually Dean, it was. What you did that night… was incredible. I mean it, Thanks."
Feeling very uncomfortable now, Dean shifted his weight. "Anyway, just wanted to say thanks. Time for me to go."
"Take care of yourself, Winchester."
"You too, Jez. Say bye to Hamster for me."
Jeremy laughed, "Good one. I will."
When Dean climbed back into the Impala, John watched him for a moment. Squirming under the scrutiny, Dean demanded, "What?"
"Did anything happen while I was gone?"
"No," came the quick reply.
"Uh huh." John wasn't buying it. Sammy leaned forward but Dean just shot him a glance and silenced the kid.
"Really, dad, nothing more than usual." John continued to stare at his eldest. "Can't we just go?"
Deciding that starting an argument at the beginning of a long drive was not the wisest thing to do, John dropped it. For now. Sooner or later he would find out what happened while he was gone. It was only a matter of time.
Turning the key in the ignition, the Impala rumbled to life. In minutes the Winchesters were back on the highway on their way to Pastor Jim's place.
And so it ends. Thank you all so much for joining me on this little adventure. I would especially like to thank all those who have taken the time to review:
DelaVega209, PaulatheCat, Sjoeks, magoghair, madiwinchvatore, heather03nmg, jiffers, , runaway08, Cecile, ncis la fan, Lil Threat, Aislinn Rose, Queen Bee, moira4eku, adorereading, and d767468.
Every word has meant a lot to me and my muse! So thank you! :D
Just one last little note, I couldn't help a final nod to the boys of Top Gear and fixed Hammond's nickname back to Hamster. I know he doesn't care for it much and would probably prefer Hammer, but I thought it would work here in the end as a tease.
Anyway, I had thought about continuing, but felt this was the proper place to stop for this fic. In essence, I was going for an advent type fic leading to Halloween and Mary's death anniversary which is what I believe I accomplished here. I had a few thoughts in mind for the aftermath of Dean's adventure including John and Jim, but nothing really fleshed out enough for a full fic. If there had been a lot of interest in this, my muse may have been more inclined to following it up. Alas, she has been temperamental as of late. I will see if I can attempt to do a mini follow up, but I am not promising anything. I still have other fics to work on, so it all depends. If I do it will be a separate fic.
And please don't mistake my meaning. I am very grateful for all the reviewers, alerters, fave'ers and lurkers out there! I'm a big stat whore and it's been awesome seeing the hit counter go up with every post. Lol. So thank you all! Until next fic!
I bid you all ado,