Know the Water's Sweet, But Blood is ThickerRecipient: tifachingAuthor’s Note
- I had to do a little shifting with the canon at the end of Season 12. For the purposes of this story, Cas was the one to push Lucifer through the rift. Thank you as always to my (at this moment) nameless beta. Warnings:
bad language, allusions to past prostitution. Word Count:
PG-13Summary: “See that's the thing you've got to understand about Dean; he's really big on people forgiving themselves for any mistakes they've made - unless he's the person making them.”
Written for this prompt: In their drug induced mind meld, Dean filled Mary in on Sam's traumas and his own feelings of helplessness. Over the course of time, Sam fills their mother in on Dean's nightmares.
When Sam hears the door open, he doesn't bother to look up to see who it is. Dean had said he was going to a bar, but sometimes on arrival, he discovers it doesn't scratch the itch the way he'd thought it would. Either that or he's found himself a fight and has ended the night prematurely, before the cops show up. Sam hopes it's not the latter, but Cas disappearing with Lucifer into some alternative reality has left his brother trapped somewhere between anger and grief.
"I'm sorry," Mary says in lieu of a greeting. It's an epitaphic phrase for a Winchester if ever there was one. "I didn't know."
Sam looks up. He blinks as his eyes take a couple of seconds to refocus after hours spent staring at his laptop. Sign of old age, he thinks, along with creaky knees and the odd grey hair that catches his eye under the bathroom lights. His brain's moving equally slowly, all caught up in nephilims and trans-dimensional rifts.
In the absence of something more intelligent, he says, "huh?"
Mary's expression shifts, a quick flash of a frown, concerned for his inability to process the words or maybe just annoyed by his obtuseness. He can't read her, because he doesn't really know her.
"The deal I made with Azazel. To save John." She looks away as she says it, her eyes following her hand as it traces the grain of the wood on the table. "Everything that's happened to you ever since that moment is because of what I did."
His mouth opens, the denial poised and ready to fall. It's true and not true all at the same time. He's not sure her sliding doors moment is enough to account for the sum of his parts after thirty-three years, but he doesn't want to dismiss that cataclysmic event, nor look as if he's refusing her apology.
"Mom... it's okay, you don't need to-"
"I didn't know," she repeats, more emphatically this time. Her expression is anguished. "Please understand, I would never
have made that deal if I'd known what it would mean for you."
He drops his gaze, wonders how she'd take it if she knew the half of what he's experienced over the years. He's glad she doesn't know--
"Dean... Dean told me everything."
Eyes snap to hers, searching. Despite the fact she's little more than a stranger, he instantly knows it's true. She knows all of it. He thinks about Dean, so angry with Mary for all the decisions she's made since she was back. Leaving her own flesh and blood to go off with hunters she barely knows. The British Men of Letters. All of it pointing to the painful truth that being around them is too much for her to bear. His brother has always been pegged the brawn in their duo, yet Dean is as adept with words as he is with his fists, so he's laid out all the damage her decision caused. How better for his brother to wound her without landing a single punch?
"He told you?" he repeats wearily. “Everything?
She nods. “There was a lot.”
Fuck. He gestures at the empty chair across from him. They're going to talk, so it may as well be now. Dean, he can deal with later.
Mary takes her seat, but doesn't say anything. She looks uncomfortable and he can't say he blames her, given that she sees her deal with Azazel as the sole cause of everything bad that's happened to him.
"What do you want to know?" he asks.
"Everything?" she replies softly, then gives him a sad smile. "Nothing?"
He mirrors her expression. His hand strays to the almost empty beer bottle standing next to his laptop. He scoops it up and gestures toward her.
"Think we might need more of these," he says simply.
OoOoO"Mary... Mom, why won't you look at me?"
She's not facing him, but she closes her eyes anyway; another barrier to shore up the only defences she has between her and heartbreak. His voice cracks as he repeats his plea and she winces, breathes, and then firms her resolve. She paints on the smile and turns, neatly avoiding him to step toward the other person in the scene.
"Hey, Dean," she says to the small, mop-haired boy sitting at the table. "What d'you wanna do this afternoon? We could go to the park if you want? I reckon I could push you even higher on the swing today."
The little boy nods enthusiastically, then carries on drawing, chubby fingers wrapped around the crayon in a sturdy fist-grip. Always stickmen. Her, John and Sammy - the epicentre of this little boy's world. She strokes his head affectionately, even though she knows that none of it's real; that this little boy is now the tall, devastated man crying silently behind her.
"You need to hear this," he says. He sounds angry, but there's no real heat in his words. Resignation, maybe. Somehow that seems worse, like he's expecting her to disappoint him. There's also determination, that he's going to say his piece even if it breaks his own heart to do it.
She doesn't turn, but she stills. He knows she's listening.
"Let me tell you about Sam," he says, "what happened to him, what happened to his life, after you were gone..."
They've drunk three bottles apiece. He studies her across the table, tear tracks faint upon her cheeks. He's shed tears himself. Telling her about Jess, reliving that brief hopeful period, when her smile rivalled the sun in both intensity and import to his life, is painful in a way that it hasn't been for years. Mary listens, his pain becoming her own.
He cries again when he talks about Dean's deal coming due. That awful midnight when his brother's blood had painted the walls of an anonymous suburban family home. Even though Dean has died several times since then, that first time - losing him, knowing his soul was going to the last place it deserved to be - holds a special place in his nightmares. Mary listens silently as he explains how he carried Dean's eviscerated corpse from the house, how he couldn't bring himself to burn his brother's body so had buried him instead, how trying to avenge Dean's death took him almost to the brink of destruction.
They talk into the early hours. Mary asks questions from time to time, but mostly she just listens. Occasionally, he wonders if he should stop, that maybe the horrors of his life are too much all in one go, but whatever his brother's reasons for doing so, Dean has providing this opening so he keeps going.
As dawn is breaking Mary leaves. Naturally he insists that she can stay at the bunker, that there'll always be a bed for her here, but she declines. She's grateful for everything he's shared with her and she hugs him hard before she leaves, but she goes all the same. After she's gone, he wonders if she was always like this, with John or even her parents. The kinder, more sympathetic part of him rationalises it - she just needs time and space to process everything. The smaller bitter part that he recognises as the motherless child in him, says she's just running again.
Alone, he processes the last few hours. Relaying the many low points in his life was undoubtedly exhausting, but something in him feels lighter now with everything out in the open. When Mary was first back, he'd wanted to shield her from the horrors, to forge a relationship with her based on the present, but he realises that was never going to happen. To know him now needs an understanding of who he was before.
Barely an hour has passed before the door opens and Dean clumps down the stairs. He grips the handrail as he descends - the only tell that he has spent the night at the bottom of a glass. Dean rarely appears drunk, testament to the amount of alcohol he consumes on an almost daily basis, but Sam instinctively knows when he has been abusing it more than usual. He's still angry with Dean, but he softens at the desolate expression on his brother's face.
They haven't really talked about what happened up in North Cove. The alternative dimension. Strangers with familiar faces. Crowley's sacrifice. Cas ending up back through the rift with Lucifer. A Pyrrhic victory to join all the others. Another chapter in the Winchesters' sorry saga of loss and heartbreak.
Dean meets his gaze, startled. His eyes swim with whiskey. He looks old, tired. Nearly forty. Sixty is apparently the new forty, but not to a Winchester. Forty is positively ancient. Forty is a fucking miracle.
"Hey," Dean replies, his gaze now travelling to take in the room beyond and the empties on both sides of the table. Still observant, even when wasted.
"Is Mom here?"
"No. She left earlier."
Dean nods. After a brief silence, he takes a deep, wearied breath and says, "She say anything?" He doesn't even shoot for nonchalance.
Sam knows he's testing the water, a cautious inquiry following confirmation that Mary was here. He wants to be angry with Dean, but they've lost enough recently. Instead he claps a hand on Dean's shoulder and squeezes it firmly.
"Come on; I'll get you some coffee."
When he returns from the kitchen, Dean looks as if he's asleep. He's sitting where Mary was, head resting on his hand, listing slightly to one side. At the thunk of the mug hitting the table, he cracks one eye open.
"Rough night, huh?" Sam says, taking his own seat again.
Dean doesn't respond for a long time. Eventually, he reaches for the coffee, takes a tentative sip, then meets Sam's gaze with clear reluctance.
"Shouldn'ta had that last beer," he says, somewhat listlessly.
"I'm not mad at you," Sam says, apropos of nothing. "Well, I was, but I'm not now. I just... I guess I just wanna understand why you told her everything, because that was harsh, man. Sure, she's made mistakes; we all have. But telling her she ruined my life? Did you wanna get back at her that badly?"
Dean looks at him, eyes narrowed.
"You think that's why I told her? Just to get back at her?"
"No! Jesus, Sam. What kind of asshole do you take me for?"
Their eyes stay locked for a moment.
"Hey, I'm sorry, okay?" Sam replies softly, hands raised in placation. "I knew you were mad with her; you have every right
to be mad with her - I just figured--"
"Yeah, well you figured wrong," Dean says gruffly. For a moment, it seems he isn't going to elaborate, but then finally he says, "I'm sorry if it made things weird for you, but if I hadn't told her, we wouldn't have got her back."
This feels as if it's going to be another conversation that requires alcohol, but it's eight o'clock in the morning and even they draw the line somewhere. Mostly.
"You saw her, Sammy. She was like some kind of robot - and not the awesome kind. When she was brainwashed, she'd retreated into some weird part of her mind," Dean says, waving a hand and frowning like this is much too complicated to be explaining after too much alcohol and too little sleep.
“When Lady Penelope put me under, I found her standing in the kitchen of our old house, playing perfect mom to an imagined four-year-old version of me."
Dean stops abruptly and looks down at the mug cradled in his hands, as if he's trying to decide what to say next. Even now, it's clear Dean hates laying his own feelings bare, even though every agony sits right there on his perfectly crafted poker face. He frowns into his coffee.
"She knew I was there, but she was pretending I wasn't. She stepped round me, kept talking to the mini-me at the table, anything to avoid having to acknowledge me standing there telling her she had to come back to us."
Dean looks up, his expression bleak. "I tried. I really
tried, and I ain't gonna lie, I got madder and madder with her because it was like it was all just washing over her; like I was talking about the weather, or what we did at the weekend.
"I was getting nowhere, Sammy. I knew I had to dig deeper, so I started telling her about Yellow Eyes and everything that happened after. I told her about you and me and how Dad got all hung up on his quest for revenge. When I told her about Jess and everything else that had happened to you, I knew
she was listening, so I just kept going. In the end, it worked. We got her back."
He's not gonna argue with that. He's heard about what happened next - if Mary hadn't broken free of the programming, Ketch would have undoubtedly killed Dean. After a moment's silence, he decides to ask the question foremost in his mind.
"You said you talked mom through everything that happened since she made the deal with Yellow Eyes?"
"What did you tell her about you?"
Dean frowns. "I don't get you."
Sam breathes, studying his brother's expression for signs of equivocation, but Dean's so exhausted-looking it's unlikely he's being deliberately evasive.
"I'm saying, I totally understand why you told her about all the things that happened to me, but I was just wondering how much you'd told her about your
life after she'd died?"
"I just said; I told her about what happened to you and me and Dad--"
"Yeah, I know you did, but what I'm saying is did you tell her about specific
things that have happened to you over the years?"
Dean takes some coffee and appears to consider the question for a moment. He looks faintly annoyed.
"I... I dunno. I guess so?"
That's a no then. Sam shakes his head, which evidently increases Dean's irritation. His brother glowers over the rim of his cup.
"I'd gotten her attention, Sam, that was the important thing; there wasn't any point in talking about me."
Sam studies Dean in disbelief for a moment before he sighs. It never ceases to amaze him how his brother's self-esteem can be so abysmally… well, abysmal
. Dean meets his gaze, eyebrows raised in question.
Sam shakes his head, exasperated. “Do you not think it'd be better if she knew?”
“Knew what exactly? Why I'm such a fuck up?”
. Experience so far has taught us that trying to keep Mom around is tricky enough. How will it help if she knows all that other crap, huh? We'd be lucky if she doesn't just run for the hills, changing her name and phone number as she went.”
“You really think she'd turn her back on you knowing you went to Hell?”
“What I did there wasn't anything to write home about. Alastair’s pet student, remember?”
“You were tortured, Dean!”
Dean puts his coffee cup down so he can gesticulate better. “Okay, well how about when she finds out that her cute little dungaree-wearing firstborn ended up a demon palling around with the King of Hell?”
Sam changes tack. “She didn't turn her back on me when I told her about the demon blood.”
“That was an addiction, Sam; it’s different.”
It's incredible how Dean can rationalise anything when it's not about him. When
it's him, the blame will always sit squarely on his shoulders and he'll resist all efforts to budge it, no matter how good the reasoning behind why he's got it wrong.
“You're wrong about her,” Sam says flatly. “I know she's not found it easy readjusting to life, to having sons who are now grown men, but she’s trying. I didn't wanna talk about all the crap that's happened to me, but I didn't have any choice-”
“Hey, I said I was sorry, okay?”
“No, you don't understand. I didn't want
to - hell, I probably wouldn't have if she hadn't come to me - but it's been a good thing, Dean.” He gestures to himself, as if it's maybe something Dean can see if he looks hard enough.
“I feel… better, lighter
. Like for the first time the air is completely clear between us and I don't have to worry about what she'll think of me if she found out about the stuff I've done.”
Dean rolls his eyes, which isn't entirely unexpected.
“I just think you should consider it,” Sam says in conclusion. He stops there, to prevent anything he might say next from derailing his brother’s thoughts, in case Dean actually might be about to do as he suggests for once.
“Yeah, well. I ain't doin’ it.”
It takes Sam a moment to understand exactly what Dean's saying. He replays that last sentence in his mind and realises that Dean’s emphasis was on ‘I’ - a blink and you'll miss it moment of ridiculous significance. He studies his brother’s expression for a moment, not sure if Dean’s
even aware of what he's said.
“Do… do you want me
to talk to her?”
Dean’s face responds as he internally runs a gambit of emotions. Done, he sighs heavily and waves his hand.
“Knock yourself out,” he says tiredly.
For someone who knows Dean as well as he does, he recognises this as Dean-speak for ‘yes, I'd quite like you to’.
It's a good start.
Sam sets to work trying to devise how and when he will speak to their mom, but the reality is the opportunity presents itself organically. Jody calls to ask for their assistance, but he's in the midst of a bout of food poisoning, courtesy of a Kung Pao Special from the Chinese restaurant Dean had ordered from two nights before. His brother, with his cast-iron constitution as well as an avoidance of the king prawns, agrees to go alone. As Dean's about to leave, Mary calls.
He overhears Dean explaining the situation. Presumably Mary offers to go in his place, but Dean assures her it's fine, he's happy to go, before agreeing with something she’s said.
“What did Mom want?” he asks, when Dean wanders through to his room, duffel in hand.
“She was just checking in. Told her your delicate stomach was upset—”
“I've got salmonella, Dean!”
“Yeah, well, she offered to come and nurse you while I was gone. She'll be here in about two hours.” Dean pauses and offers his best asshole grin as he throws his duffel over his shoulder. “Least you'll have someone to watch America’s Next Top Model with.”
“Brilliant,” he replies, rolling his eyes, determined not make do the face Dean derives so much pleasure out of making him do. “Have fun at Jody’s; say hi to them all for me.”
Dean leaves and he settles back into the documentary he's watching about Aileen Wuornos. It's not particularly riveting, and he's pretty certain he's seen it before, but it's at least helping to keep his pity party under control as his stomach churns and roils and the nausea threatens in waves.
He's in the bathroom in between heaves when he hears Mary calling his name. Evidently, she follows the sound of retching, as the bathroom door inches open and her face appears, looking concerned. Done, he splashes cold water on his face and turns, his own expression sheepish.
“Still rough, huh?”
“Not as bad as I was yesterday. Sorry.”
She smiles. “Hey,” she chastises. “Don't apologise for being sick
, Sam. You want me to get you anything?”
“Some more water would be great, thanks.”
They walk back through the bunker together. His legs feel weak, but the thought of eating something to regain his strength is worse. He tells her he’ll get up now she's here, but she insists he gets back in bed, which is a relief. He's under the covers when she arrives with his water, gratefully accepting the glass before she puts the jug she's brought as well on the small side table. She's made herself a coffee, which she takes in her hands once she's seated comfortably next to his bed.
“So… serial killers, huh?” she remarks, after gazing at the television for a few moments. Their eyes meet. She's trying not to smile.
“Dean told you that, too,” he says flatly.
She does smile now. “I think it's… endearing.”
They both laugh. Sam shakes his head.
“I’m now wondering if there's anything he didn't
He watches as Mary’s expression fades to something that hints at sadness. She looks away, then down into her coffee.
“Sorry,” she replies, trying to re-find her smile. “After we spoke, it just hit me that I've missed so much
. Not even just the major events. It's everything
, and I just realised that I don't know you - you or Dean - at all
and the way I've been with you since I've been back has meant that I'm no closer to changing that, so I'm sorry. I guess I was scared I wouldn't live up to the idealised version of me you both must have in your heads.
“And I know your hand was kind of forced, but I'm glad we were able to talk about your life.”
He reaches out and takes her hand.
“Me too. I was telling Dean how much better it made me feel that we did that.”
“I'm glad. I just wish Dean would do the same. With me… I know it's a weird situation, but he's just a closed book.”
“Has he told you anything?
” he asks, wondering about the time Dean and Mary spent together while he was languishing in Lady Bevell’s clutches. Surely part of filling Mary in on their lives while she was gone - sorry, dead
- must have involved some level of detail about Dean’s own movements over the years.
Mary thinks for a moment and then shakes her head, blond waves tumbling about her face. “Not really.” She opens her mouth to say something, pauses, and then says hesitantly, “Does he hate me, Sam?”
She's watching him intently, like she needs to know the truth no matter how painful it might be.
“Hate you?” he repeats, incredulous. “No, no, Mom, honestly, that's not it.”
“So, explain it to me, please
, because it sure feels that way to me.”
He wonders how she can be so wrong about Dean before he reminds himself again that she doesn't know his brother, and so far, everything she's seen could be interpreted as hostility. It's a massive relief that he's got Dean’s consent to talk about him, because he hates the idea of this misconception being perpetuated a moment longer. He sighs. He's about to take Mary down a rabbit hole from which there is no return.
It makes sense to start chronologically.
He talks about Dean as a kid, from what he can remember. Obviously being young himself, the early details are sketchy, possibly misremembered or coloured by the little brother in him who was determined to see Dean as an infallible superhero. The accuracy of his recollections improves as he reaches the teenage years. Mary makes an unhappy face when she learns of Dean’s periods in juvenile detention, which intensifies when she asks if Dean graduated high school and gets a ‘no’ in response.
He talks about how Dean idolised their father, how Dean's unswerving belief in John and his quest for vengeance drove a wedge between them for a time. He tells her of Dean’s strength, his determination and his unfaltering faith in the idea of family.
She starts to cry silently as he tells her of the times John left Dean in charge - much too young - in a succession of dingy motels and truck stops, often with too little money for the time he usually ended up being gone. He talks about how Dean would ensure Sam was fed while he would go without until the food and cash dwindled away to nothing, and how he would then go out and secure more of both, steadfastly refusing to say how. He's not trying to sully her memories of her husband, but he's prepared to risk that to help her understand Dean better.
An hour has passed and in this narrated version of The Story of Dean Winchester, they're barely into adulthood. Mary already looks somewhat haunted, so maybe he should stop. She shakes her head firmly when he suggests as much.
“If you're not feeling up to it, that's one thing,” she explains, “but if you're trying to spare my feelings then please don't. I need to hear this.”
He nods and launches back in; highlights this time include Dean’s near-death experiences involving formerly a taser and a reaper and latterly a semi barreling into their car. Then he talks about the profound impact John’s death had on Dean - this is all important back story in understanding the next landmark event in her eldest child’s life - the deal he made to bring Sam back.
She knows already what Dean did - after all, he'd already shared his desperate attempts to save his big brother and ultimately the failure that followed. He doesn't want to make it about him though, so he focusses on the resurrected Dean who returned to him, changed forever by the experience, his soul indelibly marked with blood and his mind disfigured by fires of Hell. Mary’s horror is complete when he continues the story and reveals that Dean’s distress was compounded by the knowledge that he was instrumental in starting the apocalypse.
“But he was tortured,” Mary cries, her voice barely more than a whisper. “How can he blame himself for that?”
He sighs. “See that's the thing you've got to understand about Dean; he's really
big on people forgiving themselves for any mistakes they've made - unless he's
the person making them.”
At this point Sam decides he's going to call time on the conversation. Mary reiterates her view that he should not stop on her account, but he says no, he's ready to quit because he's not feeling all that brilliant. It's a lie, obviously, but Mary doesn't call him out on it. She asks if he could eat something and he agrees to give it a go. She then leaves his bedroom, with one final swipe at the tear tracks on her cheeks.
The rest of the day passes uneventfully. The bouts of vomiting have ceased and he feels moderately better after he's got up and showered. Mary is quiet as she potters around the bunker. On questioning, she assures him she's fine.
He almost points out how much she sounds like Dean.
Admittedly, it's a lot to take in, so he gives her space. She's only just had the details of his own tragedies and transgressions and now she's insisting on hearing Dean’s too. It's impossible not to feel sorry for her, pulled from Heaven and the fantasy life she had going there to discover both of her boys have been broken and put back together so many times they're riddled with cracks and imperfections.
That evening he receives a text from Dean.You enjoying America’s Next Top Model with mom? It's nice for you to have some girl time.
He rolls his eyes even though he's heartened by the sentiment behind the message. This is Dean checking up on him, but with a playfulness that says he's not being allowed to wallow in misery at Jody’s. Whether the thing she wanted them out there for is in their wheelhouse or not, it's still kept Dean busy for a time, and he's grateful for it.
He texts back: Yeah, we’re having fun, thanks. She loves ANTM and says it’s better than the crap you TiVo. She's asking me to explain anime. Which is more representative: giant robots or tentacle porn?
He smiles as he pictures Dean spluttering at the thought of Mary looking through his recorded shows on TiVo. The reply is swift.Jesus Christ! You saw Legend of the Overfiend ONCE.
Quickly he texts back jerk
- a term of endearment if ever there was one - and slings his phone onto the coffee table as Mary settles next to him. She grabs the controls and unpauses the episode of Homeland they were watching together. He likes her being here and almost says as much, but given her proclivity for bolting he decides to keep his thoughts to himself.
He's in bed half-asleep several hours later when his phone buzzes again. Blearily he reaches for it, eyes fixed on the screen as the words come into focus.Did you talk to Mom?
Now he can picture Dean staring at his own phone, waiting for a reply.
He types: Yeah. She said talking to me had really helped and she wanted to know how things have been for you, but you’ve never told her anything. We've talked a lot today and will probably carry on tomorrow. You sure you don't wanna speak to her yourself?
Almost instantly he gets: No, you carry on
. And then: How's she taking it?
He considers what to send back, conscious of not taking too long, lest Dean read anything into the delay.It's obviously hard for her to hear, but she wants to know everything. She was worried you hated her because you wouldn't talk to her.What???I know. I told her that wasn't why you didn't want to tell her stuff. Trust me, it'll be fine.
For a few minutes, there's no reply. Then, just as he's weighing up whether to text something else he gets, I hope you're right. Either way, thanks Sammy.
So, he sends back: You're welcome. Stay safe, big brother.
In the morning, he wakes to the smell of breakfast drifting through from the kitchen. His first instinct is god, no
before he realises that his stomach’s no longer flip flopping and he's actually hungry. He throws on a clean t-shirt and pads through the bunker, just as Mary is starting to serve up eggs and bacon.
She smiles at his self-conscious attempt to smooth his sleep-mussed hair.
“Sorry, I didn't want to wake you; if you don't want it, I won't be offended. I've put in some toast in and the coffee’s ready.”
“No, no, this looks great, Mom. Thanks.”
Conversation is virtually nil until the food is gone. When he's done, he sits back and pats his belly, satisfied.
“Dean would have loved this,” he says, happily.
The mention of his brother pulls the smile from Mary’s face. For a moment, he wonders if Dean’s right - that maybe she's better not knowing things about him. But then she meets his gaze, eyes reflecting the same determination he's seen in his brother's expression so many times over the years.
“If you're okay to carry on, I want you to tell me more about Dean.”
“Are you sure?”
He picks up where he left off, with the aftermath of Hell and how averting the impending apocalypse meant Dean dealt with everything that followed in ways that no one on the planet would describe as healthy. He tries to explain, even though the words seem inadequate, how the experience changed Dean. How the change was so subtle, like a person physically growing, that it was imperceptible at first. How his brother lost sight of saving others and doing good to focus solely on his failures. How in another life, those around Dean would encourage him to get treatment for depression instead of telling him to sack up and get his head in the game because there were greater things at stake than his own wellbeing.
Although it's jumping ahead, he contrasts it with his brother’s return from Purgatory. This time, he explains, there were
no coping strategies, unhealthy or otherwise. He admits Dean scared him back then, when the status quo - the aforementioned depression and low self-esteem - lost out to detachment and an almost psychotic desire for violence.
Through it all he's completely candid. He tells her he knows he's contributed to Dean’s situation - how he hadn't looked for Dean and the impact that had on his brother's fragile psyche. Bad decisions had been followed by more bad decisions. Gadreel. Kevin. The Mark of Cain.
Mary’s face is drained of colour by this point. He gently suggests they stop and this time she nods her agreement. In the afternoon, he shows her more of the bunker. She's interested, asking lots of pertinent questions as she strives to understand more about both the Men of Letters and life in twenty-first century, but he can see her mind is really elsewhere. He attempts a throwaway comment about how she could live here too, but she doesn't respond. He tries not to think about what that means.
After they've eaten their evening meal, she tells him she wants to carry on hearing about Dean. She attempts to lighten the mood, saying how she hates cliffhangers, but it sounds flat to both their ears and fails to mask her anxiety.
And she's right to be anxious. The story of Dean taking on the Mark, of what he became
as a result of its influence isn't easy to hear. As he tells her of Dean's surging aggression, killing Abaddon and then single-handedly taking on Metatron, he realises he's reaching the part of Dean’s history that his brother has been most resistant to Mary knowing about. His time as a thing they’ve spent their entire lives hunting.
Dean’s greatest shame.
If it was anyone else, Dean would have told them to stop beating themselves up about what happened next, but the demon’s name was Dean Winchester, and wore his
face, so therefore he is the exception rather than the rule.
Even after, when Dean became a human bearer of the Mark once more, its corruptive dominance continued to provide Dean with reasons to hate himself.
“The things he did,” Sam tells Mary, “he couldn't help it.”
Mary nods, doesn't doubt it for a second. Only Dean sees it differently, he explains. Dean does, and will always, think he should have been stronger, should have been able to resist
the Mark’s pull, even though Cain himself had told him it was impossible.
And now? Things have been a little better. For the most part, they're on the same page. They've learned to trust each other and talk to each other even though their views can be wildly different. He still worries about Dean though. He talks about how Dean deals with stress through alcohol; how sometimes that’s scared him - sometimes still does - despite the amount he drinks himself.
“All hunters drink,” Mary observes, although it lacks real conviction - not because it's not true, but because she knows Sam's not an idiot and if he's mentioning it, he's mentioning it for a reason.
“Does he think it's a problem?”
Sam shrugs. “I think he knows. His usual refrain is he doesn't think he'll live long enough for it to be a problem.”
“Why does he hate himself so much?” Mary asks, swiping at the tears on her cheeks angrily.
“I don't know. He never thinks he's good enough. In all fairness, over the years a lot of people have given him reason to feel like that.”
Mary shakes her head, her expression shifting from anger to determination.
“Well, that stops now.”
Abruptly, she stands and leaves the room. He sits frozen for a moment before he closes his eyes and sighs, realising his last comment sounded a little like an accusation. He hopes he hasn't fucked things up, because he'd been so sure that Mary knowing their histories would be a good
He'd told Dean
it would be a good thing.
An hour or so later, Dean texts to say he's on his way home. Jody’s instincts were spot-on as usual as her ‘thing’ turned out to be a werewolf; it's been taken care of and he's ready for a couple of cold ones and his memory foam mattress. Tellingly, the text doesn't mention Mary. Dean will know, by now, their mom will be fully versed on what he did last summer, and all the summers before that, and it's clear he's too afraid to ask how she's taken it. Or if she's even still there.
He goes to find Mary to tell her that Dean will be back within the next few hours. She’s in her room, but she hasn't packed her bags yet and the news doesn't send her racing for her duffel, so maybe it'll be okay. He tells her he's going to go back to his research on trying to track down the nephilim and she's welcome to join him. He's working on his laptop when she comes to the table. She opens her mouth to say something, stops, and then asks him to pass her some books.
She doesn't mention Dean or any of the conversations that have taken place while Dean has been gone.
Conversation is minimal and all business for the next few hours. With little on where the nephilim might have gone, he shifts his attention to dimensional rifts in the hope that maybe they can get Cas back. Every so often, his gaze flicks over to Mary as she alternates between a stack of dusty old tomes and her iPad Air. He desperately wants to ask her how she's feeling, what she's thinking, but the last thing he wants is for them to be getting into something unpleasant when Dean walks back in.
They both turn at the sound of the door opening and simultaneously get up and move to the bottom of the stairs. Dean comes into view before proceeding to stomp down the steps. He's projecting casual indifference, but his eyes are wary. They flick from Sam to Mary and back again, at odds with the grin on his face. There's a gash across his head, held together with neat sterile strips; Jody's handiwork, most likely.
“Good trip?” Sam asks.
Again, Dean’s eyes flick between the two of them before he answers.
“Uh, yeah. Us, one; creepy dude who turned out to be a werewolf, zero.”
“A good result,” Sam agrees as he reaches out and claps Dean on the shoulder. “Good to have you home, man.”
With nothing more to add, he goes to sit back down, creating the illusion of privacy. Mary is now face to face with Dean. Dean looks mildly concerned, which in reality means that he's petrified. He looks so tense, it's as if he’s contemplating bolting back up the stairs.
Nothing happens for a moment, then Dean opens his mouth to speak just as Mary steps forward and opens her arms. Dean looks momentarily surprised, then goes willingly into the embrace, eyes closing, head coming to rest on Mary’s shoulder. His arms come up too, fists grabbing handfuls of her shirt, locking them in place.
They stay that way for a long time. He realises that Mary is whispering something in Dean’s ear. He doesn't catch it, but the way Dean reacts tells him it's something his brother needed to hear. Dean nods several times, and his eyes are damp when they eventually pull apart. Mary says something again, and this time Dean shakes his head.
“You don't need to apologise, Mom,” Dean says in reply to whatever it was she said.
“But I do.” She turns slightly to include Sam in this part of the conversation.
“I've missed so much of your lives, but it's got to stop. I've been given a chance that no one
ever gets and yet so far I’ve wasted it because I was frightened to get to know you both.”
She takes Dean's hand and leads him over to the table. When they're all seated, she reaches for Sam’s hand too.
“The last few days I've learned so much about you and Sam and regardless of what he told me, I'm so
goddamned proud of you both. My two little boys became two incredible men and I'm not going to waste this second chance any longer. I’m so sorry I kept you at arm’s length.
“I thought… I thought you'd realise having me back wasn't really what you wanted. That I wasn't the mom you remembered, that I couldn't be the mom you needed. Then when the British Men of Letters said we could eradicate all of the supernatural, I focused on that instead; like it gave me something tangible that I could do for you instead. I realise now I was wrong. I'm so sorry.”
“Mom,” he and Dean say almost simultaneously. Mary waved them away, not yet done.
“So… how would you both feel if I moved in here?”
He looks at his brother, Dean’s surprised expression mirroring his own. The longing in his brother’s eyes is obvious. Dean gives a slight nod, smile spreading even though he knew they'd be on the same page. He answers for them both.
“Mom, we'd love to have you here. This is your home too.”
Mary smiles and squeezes their hands, studying each of them in turn. She brushes the wetness from her cheeks and then she laughs.
“What?” Dean asks.
“Sorry,” Mary says, although it's clear she’s still amused. “It's just, you must be the only two grown men who actually want
to live with their mom.”
Sam laughs too, because she's probably right.
“Better get to pickin’ your underwear up, Sammy,” Dean muses, as he picks up a screwed-up piece of paper and throws it at Sam’s head.
“Awesome, thanks,” he says dryly, “Oh hey, Mom, you were wanting to know more about anime, weren't you? Dean can probably explain it better than I could, since he's such a big fan.”
He ducks down behind his laptop so he can avoid the death glare Dean will now be giving him.
“Dick move, Sam.”
“Hey, you started it.”
“You're kidding, right?”
Then Mary. “Are you two always like this?”
He studies Dean for a moment, heartened by the hopeful look in his brother’s eyes. He wasn't lying when he’d told Dean he felt lighter by talking to Mary and he thinks, just maybe, Dean finally gets why she needed that same conversation with him, even if he couldn't have it himself. Outside, things are still fucked - when are they not?
- but in here, they’ve got a chance to move forward and when they're ready, they'll take it all on together.
Hunting is their family business, after all.End