She hasn’t been home more than twenty-four hours when Sam calls.
“Missouri” is all he says.
She stops in the middle of the stairs, takes a seat. “Oh, baby, where are you all?”
Sam’s never been one to not cry. So most of what he says is choked, his sobs breaking her heart: Car wreck. Demon. He shot it. Dad hurt. Dean in a coma.
“Sammy, you need to get yourself looked at.”
“I’m all right.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
She hears the breath he takes. “It’s just Dean and Dad…Compared to them.”
“Just tell me where you are.”
She makes the drive on pure adrenaline. In all her years, it’s never been this bad. By the time they’ve gotten back home, the worse was always over. She’d always scold them for not calling. And they’d always say they didn’t want her to worry. Which was ridiculous. She always worried. She’d be some kind of monster if she didn’t.
Hospitals don’t bother her, the smell of antiseptic doing its best to cover up the smell of sickness and death. She’s been in them enough – her mother, father, various clients over the years. It’s the patients that get to her. So much energy in one place, most of it not good. It can get to be too much. It takes a lot from her to be able to block out most of their thoughts, to be able to do whatever she came for.
She makes her way to John’s room first. It’s empty, no real sign that he’d ever been in there. Just that someone had, the sheets messed up and the bed still warm. She figures he’s probably in Dean’s room along with Sam.
Dean’s room isn’t that far away, just four doors down the hall. John’s not there and neither is Sam. Dean’s there alone, his skin pale and cool to the touch, his freckles standing out.
“Oh baby,” she says aloud to him not sure if he can hear. She can’t hear him and it scares her. She stands hovering over him for awhile before she finally takes the only seat in the room, a chair under the window. She pulls it close and takes a seat, dropping her bag and jacket on the foot of the bed as well.
“I’d hoped I’d be gone before a day like this,” she tells him. “I hoped but in your and your daddy’s and Sammy’s line of work I didn’t really know if hoping was going to be a waste of my time or not.
“I don’t know where your daddy is or Sam. I’d think they’d be here hovering over you, driving the doctors crazy. I’d hate to think what’ll happen to those two without you. You and me, we were always a team in keeping those two in line.”
She smiles, takes one of his hands in hers.
“Oh Dean, why can’t I hear you? I know you haven’t left us yet. Not you. Not without a fight. Remember when you used to get sick?” She laughs. “You were the worse. Never wanted to stop long enough to rest. Didn’t believe half the time you were sick. Boy, many a time I wanted to put a little whiskey in your orange juice. Put you down for awhile. You’re daddy wouldn’t let me though. Surprisingly enough since he always looked like he wanted to pull his hair out.”
She laughs again then stops because soon she’ll be crying. She’s not ready to go there.
“You better pull through. And then you better not scare me any more this year. You’ve reached your limit. Cops think they got you. Sammy calls and tells me you’ve been electrocuted. Now this? I don’t know if your daddy had this many close calls in a year.” She sighs. “Who am I kidding? He probably did. I just never heard about them. I know when to stay out of someone’s head.”
She goes silent, the only sound in the room the machines beeping to keep him alive. She’s not sure how much time passes before Sam comes in.
There’s always been strong energy around all of them. Now she can’t feel Dean’s and Sam’s is almost too much. When they pull apart, she doesn’t let him go completely, slipping an arm around his waist even has she feels everything so completely.
They are both looking at Dean when he asks, “Have the doctors come back in?”
“No. No one was here when I got here either.”
“Dad’s up to something. He told me to get some things from Bobby but wouldn’t tell me what’s it for.” He turns to her, clearly angry. “Dean’s dying and he’s still keeping secrets.”
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
He turns back to Dean. It isn’t long before John enters the room.
For a man involved in a serious car wreck, he looks pretty good. He’s got a couple of scrapes on his face. Blood stains his shirts. One arm is in a sling. He’s not as well of as Sam but he’s better than Dean. It kills him that he’s not the one in the coma.
“Where were you?” Sam starts in, taking a step to move towards John.
“Sam,” is all she says and he stops. She walks over to John, hugs him, shuts her eyes at the knowledge that’s seeping through. He’s warm and solid under her hands. Heart beating steadily against her own. She breathes in his scent, what’s always been him underneath the smell of sweat, blood, ash and gun oil.
“I’ll miss you,” she finally whispers.
He doesn’t speak but he knows he feels the same. He thinks she’ll take care of the boys better than he ever could.
“You did your best,” she tells him.
When she finally pulls out of his arms, he smiles at her. She will truly miss that smile. “I’ll be outside.”
She stands just outside the door. She listens to the sound of John’s voice, the last time she’ll ever hear it. She can’t decide if she’s smart or stupid for not going back in there. It’s not like she can do much.
It’s final. The deal’s been made. Lord only know the consequences if it’s broken.
She leans against the wall, it doing most of the work of keeping her upright. Her eyes are closed to keep the tears where they need to stay for the moment.
When Sam steps out of the room, his head is down. He looks startled to see her. His eyes are wet. When she looks at him, she can’t stop a few stray tears. She wipes her face when she says, “How about I go with you to get that coffee?” He only nods.
Missouri links her arm through his and they walk. His head’s a mess over John’s words. The last thing he said being You did good Sam. Real good. Sam had been almost out the door when John stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. He squeezed it, smiled proudly. Sam had smiled back.
The elevator doors are about to close when he says, “It felt like goodbye.” He looks at her for confirmation. She won’t, can’t lie.
The doors open on the next floor and he’s off the elevator, pushing past whoever’s in his path.
She helps them get the body out, handles with paperwork, runs interference even as she deals with their silent accusations.
They find a field and burn the body. Still they stand shoulder to shoulder watching his ashes float heavenward.
Still they come home with her. Sam goes straight upstairs. Deans wants to talk. He follows her into the kitchen.
“Did you know?” he asks if though he really wants to say ‘You knew.’
She’s putting the kettle on when she answers. “About Sammy? Yes and no. About what your daddy was planning? I did only after he came into your room.”
He looks betrayed. His voice is low, dangerous even and she knows how he’s managed to make it thus far beyond his training and instincts.
“How could not tell us?” He stands in the middle of the kitchen, a few feet away from her at the stove.
“I wasn’t so sure about Sammy. Your daddy?” She sighs. “I don’t know what to tell you except, he loved you two more than anything. He wanted to do that. Save you, protect you the only way he figured he could. A man on a mission.”
“He shouldn’t have done it.”
She doesn’t know what to say so she asks, “Are you going to tell him?”
He just looks at her and doesn’t answer for a long time. She almost wants to say ‘See? It’s not so easy.’ She doesn’t though. Just closes the space between them and takes his hand in hers.
Dean doesn’t cry except when he does. She pulls him close, his shoulders shake and the sound of his sobs fill the air.
There’s nothing to bury but she gets a headstone anyway. She puts it right next to Mary’s. It’s the right thing to do; what he would’ve wanted.
Sam and Dean aren’t there to see it. But she knows they’ll come back one day.
She sits a long time staring at the two headstones, letting her tears fall and talking to them, not caring how she looks.