"This is stupid," Dean muttered.
"You've said," Jess sighed, her head falling back against the headrest.
"Why is it stupid?" Sam asked.
"Going to visit Mom's grave?" Dean said. "She doesn't even have a grave. There … There was no body left, after the fire."
"She has a headstone," Sam said.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah, put up by her uncle; a man we've never met. You wanna go pay your respects to a slab of granite put up by a stranger?"
"That's not the point," Sam said tiredly.
"Grieving is for the living, Dean, not the dead," Jess said softly. "My mom only has a headstone as well, but I feel better knowing there is somewhere I could go, if I wanted to feel closer to her. Besides, I'd like to go."
"After Dad … it feels like the right thing to do," Sam added.
"It's irrational, is what it is," Dean grumbled.
"No one asked you to come," Sam said, frowning. "You keep worrying about the demon – why don't you go to the Roadhouse."
"Yeah, drop us off here and we'll meet you there tomorrow," Jess suggested. "We'll hitch a ride or something."
"Stuck with those people making awkward small talk until you show up?" Dean snorted. "No thanks."
"Those people are perfectly nice," Jess said.
"Dean doesn't do socialising unless it's going to end in sex," Sam said.
"I think Jo would go for that," Jess said smirking.
"She's not my type," Dean muttered.
"She's not your type," Jess repeated. "Gorgeous blonde isn't your type?"
"You're a gorgeous blonde," Dean said. "You're not my type."
"I am in a different box," Jess said. "I don't count."
"Whatever," Dean said, pulling up outside the cemetery. "Are we doing this or not?"
Jess sighed, but let him take the change of subject, getting out of the car. As she did, she caught sight of a florist across the road. "You guys go ahead; I'll catch up."
As she browsed the arrangements, Jess couldn't help dwelling on Dean's words.
Why had Mary's uncle put up the tombstone?
Had John not gone to his wife's funeral?
For that matter, why had Mary been 'buried' – for want of a better word – in Illinois rather than in Kansas, where her children were (at least to start with)?
Picking flowers was difficult when she had no idea what Mary's favourite flowers were.
In the end, Jess went with her gut, and bought a posy of sunflowers, carrying them back across the road to the cemetery.
She found Sam and Dean in a quiet corner, with a simple headstone, bearing the words MARY WINCHESTER 1954-1982 In loving memory.
Clearly the uncle wasn't that close to Mary – that, or he wasn't a big talker.
"Sunflowers?" Dean asked. "Why sunflowers?"
Jess smiled a little. "You blinked it."
It had become a little inside joke among the three of them, used so that Jess didn't weird them (okay, Dean) out by 'psychoanalysing' them.
Dean sighed. "What did I do?"
"You get a little smile every time you see sunflowers," Jess said. "Figure it's either an old girlfriend or your mom liked them."
"She loved them," Dean said. "She used to plant them in the spring and use me to measure them." He cleared his throat. "Just get it over with, yeah?"
Sam watched him walk away to look at some of the other graves. "I never knew that."
"I don't think Dean likes talking about her," Jess said quietly. "It makes him feel stuff and he was taught that wasn't a good thing."
"You mean, Dad taught him," Sam said.
Jess held out the flowers. "Just visit with your mom."
"No, you do those," Sam said. "I've got something else."
Jess smiled. "Either way, you should have some privacy first."
Sam nodded, looking back at his mother's headstone. She watched him steel himself and walk over to kneel in front of it.
Looking away to give him some space, her eyes fell on Dean, who was examining a nearby gravestone with a frown.
Hopefully nothing was wrong.
Jess smiled and moved to join Sam, who had risen to his feet to take his hand.
"Mom," Sam said. "This is Jess. And I love her very much."
Jess pressed a kiss to his cheek and bent to set the sunflowers on Mary's grave. "Hi Mrs Winchester. We've sort of met before." She hesitated. "Honey, do you mind giving me a moment with your mom? I need a moment of girl talk."
"Sure," Sam said, glancing over at Dean. "Oh, what's he doing?"
"I dread to think," Jess said with a sigh.
While Sam went to talk to his brother, Jess crouched down to talk to silent marble. "Okay, Mrs Winchester, now it's just you and me. I love both of your sons very much, in very different ways, and I promise you that I will take care of them."
Whatever Dean was saying, Sam was not happy about it.
Their voices were beginning to get louder.
Jess sighed. "However difficult they make it." She straightened up, but lingered a moment longer.
There was no body, and Jess knew her spirit had passed on, but still …
"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen."
"Dean, this is ridiculous!"
Jess shook her head. "On a more personal note, Mary, give me strength. Boys!" She called, turning away from the headstone. "This is a cemetery; have some respect!"
As they drove away from cemetery, leaving Angela Mason to rest in peace – again – Jess had found herself increasingly concerned about Dean.
Sam's assertions that Dean was finding hunts where there were none in an attempt to avoid thinking about Mary – or John, for that matter – had been proved wrong, but that did not mean Dean wasn't acting strangely.
Sam seemed to agree with her – he kept glancing at Dean out of the corner of his eye.
After a few minutes of silence – not even Dean's classic rock tapes – Jess cleared her throats. "Is now a good time to talk about what not to do if I die?"
"Not funny," Dean muttered, suddenly swerving to pull up on the side of the road.
As the door slammed shut behind him, Jess frowned. "I was only half-joking actually."
"I don't think it's what you said," Sam said, opening his door.
Jess followed suit, and they joined Dean at the front of the car, the three of them leaning against the hood.
"Dean?" Sam asked quietly. "What's up?"
Dean took a deep breath. "I'm sorry."
"You're …" Sam faltered. "For what?"
"The way I've been acting," Dean said. "And for Dad. I mean … he was your dad too. And it's my fault that he's gone."
Jess closed her eyes. "I knew this was going to happen at some point."
"You know?" Dean asked.
"I know," Jess said heavily.
"What are you both talking about?" Sam asked. "How is it Dean's fault?"
"It's not," Jess said firmly. "It's not Dean's fault."
Dean snorted. "Face it, Jess – I was as good as dead and then made a miraculous recovery. Meanwhile, Dad's absolutely fine, then he's dead and the Colt's gone as well."
"Dean, Jess told us what happened," Sam said.
"No," Jess said tiredly. "I told you a possibility. What I didn't tell you, because you had enough on your plates already, was that I made damn sure we all got MRIs, because we'd all had head injuries. If they'd missed an aneurism that burst within 48 hours, they'd have to be blind."
"What are you suggesting?" Sam asked.
"You can't tell me there's not a connection, Sam," Dean said. "I don't know how it went down. I don't know how the demon was involved. But Dad's dead because of me. That much I do know."
"That's not how it works, Dean," Jess said softly. "Maybe your dad did find a way of taking your place, I don't know. But if he did, he did that because he was your father. Parents protect their children, Dean; it's what they're supposed to do."
"No," Jess interrupted. "I know you don't want to talk about your last conversation with him. But the last conversation I had with him, he asked me to promise him that I would never let you two forget that he loved you very much, and that he would do anything for you. Your father was an adult, Dean; he made his own decisions, and you are not responsible for those decisions."
"Besides," Sam added. "We don't know any of this for sure."
"Sam …" Dean closed his eyes, a tear slipping down his cheek. "You two and Dad … you're the most important people in my life. And now … I never should've come back. It wasn't natural. And now look what's come of it."
"Dean …" Jess murmured.
"I was dead. And I should have stayed dead. You wanted to know how I was feeling." Dean sucked in a shaky breath. "Well, that's it. What could you possibly say to make that alright?"
Sam didn't answer.
Neither did Jess. She just leaned into Dean, slipping an arm around his waist, feeling him rest his head atop hers, tears seeping into her hair.
But still, she said nothing.
Because Dean was right.
There was nothing either of them could say to make any of it alright.
Quietly adding Gabriel to my list of characters to do better by. Poor baby. I want someone to give him a hug. I volunteer Mary - the boys are still a little too emotionally stunted for that sort of thing. Or Jack. I bet Jack would do it.