Two days passed after the fight without a word from John. Mary knew he was trying to do what he thought she wanted, but his absence was wearing on Dean. He asked about when Dad was coming back several times and Mary was starting to feel guilty that she didn’t have an answer. The afternoon of the second day, Mary took her boys next door to the home of Dean’s arch nemesis, Elizabeth, and Mary’s friend since middle school, Karen. Dean was in the basement where it was ten degrees cooler than the rest of the house, where he was no doubt being tormented by the older girl.
“I think you may have over reacted,” Karen said honestly after Mary explained what had happened in her kitchen.
“You think?” Mary sighed. “I mean, maybe. I don’t want us spanking the boys. Dean’s smart enough to know how to push buttons. That’s what he was doing. He thinks if he can wear me down I’ll give in, but I’m not gonna let him jump off things and break his neck.”
“Oh, no, I understand that part,” Karen smiled sipping her ice tea. “And I think you totally did the right thing after he pushed you. I would have done the same thing to Tony if he ever put his hands on me. But I think the situation got way out of hand and could have been handled better. With this heat, and two little kids and life, stress happens. But I think you freaked about nothing. If you came down stairs and John was, like, hitting Dean, like beating him up, that would be different. A couple swats on the butt isn’t going to hurt anything. Maybe it’s just what he needed to realize he’s not running the show. Dean’s a good kid most of the time, he’s sweet and thoughtful, but that one percent when he’s a little jerk he has to learn that you’re not going to put up with it. Maybe that’s what he needs to learn that Mom and Dad aren’t going to put up with being a brat.”
“Right,” Mary nodded. “That makes sense. Now I just gotta figure out what to do about John.”
“Call the shop and tell him to get his butt back home,” Karen chuckled.
“He thinks I want space,” Mary said shaking her head.
“Do you?” Karen asked.
“No,” Mary said, huffing a laugh. “I mean I didn’t expect him to be gone for two days. I expected him gone for the night. I expected him home for dinner yesterday.”
“Call him when you go home,” Karen told her. “You know he’s at the shop, call him and tell him you’re sorry, being home with two kids all day in stressful. You overreacted and you want him to come home so you can talk like adults.”
Mary nodded and sighed. “I’m glad you live next door. It’s a blessing. I’d go insane without you, I swear.”
“An outsider’s perspective is important sometimes,” Karen smiled as she brushed a piece of hair out of Mary’s face.
“Mom!” came a voice from downstairs followed by the sound of two children running up stairs.
“Did he pull her hair?” Mary chuckled.
“Or did she make him wear a dress?” Karen smiled as the two children ran up the stairs, Dean throwing himself at his mother.
“Guess what?” Dean smiled showing Mary a robot toy with a big smile on his face.
“What’s that kiddo?” Mary asked. “Where’d you get it?”
“It’s Optimus Prime,” Dean explained. “He turns into a fire truck and he’s a robot alien.”
“Oh,” Mary nodded.
“I traded,” Dean smiled. “Not take backs.”
“What did you trade for?” Karen asked Elizabeth, who was standing across the room looking a little bit too proud of herself.
“Dean,” Mary said taking his hands in hers and looking him in the eye. “What did you trade? You didn’t bring any toys with you.”
“You might have to leave Sam here,” Dean said softly.
It took a lot as Mary looked over to Karen to not start laughing. “You traded your little brother for toy?”
“A robot that turns into a fire truck,” Dean correct. “Sam doesn’t turn into a fire truck. He’s no fun.”
“You can’t trade your brother for a toy,” Mary smirked.
“No take backs,” Elizabeth said side stepping toward Sam, who was asleep in his car seat by Mary’s feet.
“I pinky promised,” Dean explained. “You can’t break a pinky promise.”
“Sam’s not a doll, Lizzie,” Karen said seriously. “He’s not a Cabbage Patch Doll. You gotta feed him and change him and rock him to sleep when he cries.”
“I know,” Elizabeth smiled. “I can take care of him. I’ll be a good big sister.”
“Okay,” Mary replied. “How about you go wash your hands and I’ll let you hold him. We’ll see how you like it.”
Elizabeth nodded excitedly and took off toward the bathroom.
“Listen, kiddo,” Mary said pulling Dean up into her lap while he played with the robot. “You can’t trade your brother for things. He could get really hurt. Okay? Something bad could happen.”
“He could get cooties,” Dean nodded. “Then if he came home everyone would get cooties that would be bad.”
“Or something even worse,” Mary explained. “No more trading Sammy for toys. No matter how cool they are.”
“We don’t have to worry about it,” Dean smiled turning to his mom. “Because now he belongs to Elizabeth!”
“We’ll see,” Mary sighed placing Dean back on the floor as Elizabeth came running back in.
“No take backs,” Dean reminded her. “I pinky promised.”
Elizabeth pulled herself up onto the couch between the two women and waited. Mary took a sleeping Sam out of his seat and placed him in her waiting hands.
“You have to hold his head or it will fall off,” Dean said quickly when he noticed that Elizabeth wasn’t supporting Sam’s head like his mom always told him to.
“That’s not how it works,” Elizabeth snapped back. “I can hold him without your help. I know how to do it. I hold my baby dolls all the time.”
“You’re gonna break him!” Dean yelled. “I didn’t rip off Optimus Prime’s head. Don’t break Sam. I love him very much. Momma, she’s gonna break him!”
“Lizzie,” Karen said reached over maneuver Sam so that he was lay across Elizabeth’s lap instead of against shoulder so he was better supported. “Dean’s right, you gotta hold his head. A real baby isn’t like a doll, I told you that.”
Sam started to wiggle a little as he woke up. He stretched his little arms and looked up at the stranger holding him. He blinked a few times, then started sniffle, pressing his little fist toward Elizabeth’s face as she leaned in.
“He doesn’t like you either,” Dean pointed out. “I teached him real good.”
“Dean,” Mary sighed. “Just let her hold Sam.”
“She’s going to break my brother,” Dean protested as Sam started to cry. “I wouldn’t have given him to her and I thinked she was gonna break him. She has lots of dolls. I thinked she’d know how to hold him so he doesn’t get broken.”
“It’s okay, Dean,” Karen said taking Sam away from Elizabeth. “No one is going to let her hurt your brother, not even a little bit.”
“No, give him back!” Elizabeth yelled kicking her feet.
“Elizabeth,” Karen scowled as she stood up to place the fussy baby back in his mother’s arms. He blinked up at Mary and stopped crying almost immediately. “You can’t trade people for toys. That’s not how to world works.”
“But he pinkie promised that I could keep him,” Elizabeth argued. “I traded my robot toy!”
“I think you can have Optimus Prime back,” Dean nodded as he held the toy up to her sideways. “I want to have Sam back. You’ll break him.”
“No take backs,” Elizabeth smiled wickedly. “Too late. Sam is mine.”
“No, Lizzie,” Karen said shaking her head. “Miss Mary will let you hold him sometimes if you’re on your best behavior, but you can’t have him. You can’t keep Sam. He’s not yours. Dean’s going to give you back your robot.”
“But I want a baby brother,” Elizabeth huffed. “Dean has a baby brother. Alexa has a baby brother, that’s all my friends.”
“You don’t get the make that decision,” Karen tried to explain.
“Mommies and Daddies have to,” Dean nodded. “They go to the store and pick him out and then they grow in the mom. That’s how I got Sam.”
“Right,” Mary nodded.
“I don’t want to give him back,” Elizabeth pouted. “He’s my brother now.”
“Sweetheart,” Mary said sweetly. “You can’t have Sam. I’m really sorry.”
“I told you my mom would be mad,” Dean continued. “I telled you it was a bad idea to trade, but you wanted to anyway.”
“You pinkie promised,” Elizabeth
“You can visit him,” Dean said softly. “If you want. But you have to learn to hold him right.”
Elizabeth crossed her arms across her chest. “It’s not fair.”
“Maybe one day you’ll get a little brother or sister,” Karen smiled as she played with Elizabeth’s hair. “But not right now, not for a while.”
“It’s not fair,” Elizabeth pouted.
“Life’s not fair, sweetie,” Karen sighed. “You can’t trade a toy for a little brother, and you have to give Sam back to him mom and Dean. He’s not yours. But Dean said you can play with him at his house or when they come to visit.”
Dean nodded and smiled. “I told you it wouldn’t work.”
“I really want a baby brother,” Elizabeth sighed.
“Maybe someday after you learn how not to break them,” Dean said. “Let’s go back downstairs and play.”
“I guess,” Elizabeth answered as she slid off the couch. “It’s my turn to pick the game.”
“It’s always your turn to pick the game,” Dean whined as he followed her back down the stairs.
“Well,” Karen nodded. “That was interesting.”
Mary laughed loudly letting her head fall backward against the couch.
That night, long after bedtime, Mary sat in bed reading Christine when there was a soft knock on the door.
“What is it Dean?” Mary said rolling her eyes.
“Can I come in?” Dean yelled.
“Yes, Dean,” Mary chuckled. “Come on in.”
“Momma,” Dean said, walking up to the side of the bed dragging a teddy bear behind him. “I think I should sleep in your bed.”
“You do?” Mary asked placing her book on the side table. “Why is that?”
“Well I was thinking,” Dean said taking a deep breath. “Usually Daddy sleeps in your bed, cuz it’s really big.”
“Mmhmm,” Mary nodded.
“So I thinked, that your bed is lonely,” Dean continued. “And that you need company. So me and Bear we decided to come keep you company.”
“Well, that’s very thoughtful of you,” Mary smiled.
“I’m very thoughtful,” Dean nodded. “Can I sleep in your bed?”
“Sure,” Mary smiled. “I don’t see why not. But Sammy’s gonna cry in the middle of the night. I can hear it on the monitor. I gotta get up and get him when he does.”
“No problem,” Dean said as he did his best to climb up onto the big bed. “I’ll just sleep, though.”
Dean placed his head on his mother’s shoulder.
“Are you okay, Buddy?”’ Mary asked running her fingers through his hair.
“I just miss Daddy,” Dean yawned. “I want him to come home.”
“Me too,” Mary replied. “I’m going to call him again in the morning and talk to him.”
“You tell him I’m sorry for being bad?” Dean asked. “Tell him I’ll never ever be bad ever again?”
“Deano,” Mary said seriously. “Daddy’s not mad at you. He didn’t leave because of anything you did. I want you to remember that.”
“He telled me one time that he would always kiss me good night,” Dean told her. “Because his Daddy didn’t, cuz he goed away. But forgetted that he telled me that. And now he’s gone forever.”
Mary’s heart broke listening to her little boy miss his dad. She knew how much it hurt to think you’d never see your father again; how it felt to know it was all your fault, but she was an adult when she lost her parents. She knew the choices she was making when she made them. She couldn’t imagine how much it must crush her little boy to feel all of that.
“He’s not gone forever,” Mary replied seriously. “He’ll be back. He’ll be home really soon. I promise, okay?”
“Can you promise me another thing?” Dean whispered.
“Anything, sweetheart,” Mary replied.
“You’re not gonna go away,” Dean mumbled as he pushed himself as close to her as he possibly could. “You can’t go away from me never ever. Even if I’m a grown up. I don’t want you to go away.”
“Dean,” Mary said seriously. “It’s gonna take an act of God to get me to leave you. Nothing will ever come between me and my boys. And when Daddy comes home, nothing is ever going to make him leave you again either. Me and Daddy are going to fix what Momma broke. You’re never gonna have to worry about it ever again.”
“Okay,” Dean smiled. He wrapped his arms around hers and yawned softly. “When Daddy comes home, do you think we can go fishing?”
“I don’t see why not,” Mary answered. “You got that new fishing rod for Christmas you haven’t used yet.”
“Next time it rains,” Dean said sleepily. “I’m gonna dig up lots of worms to go fishing. Then we can catch lots of fish. It will be the best time.”
“I’m sure your Daddy would love that,” Mary smiled. “Now go to sleep, kiddo. I’ll talk to you more in the morning.”
“Okay,” Dean said finally closing his eyes and falling to sleep.
For a long while she just watched him sleep, teddy bear tucked under his arm. It wasn’t until Sam started to fuss through the monitor that her trance broke.
While Dean ate breakfast, Mary spoke to John on the phone across the room. Dean tried not to listen, but it was hard not to when his mom was getting upset.
“Just come home,” Mary pleaded. “We can work this out… for the boys… Dean misses you much. He’s… John, seriously… I want to talk to you face to face. It’s only… Stop... Stop making this about you, John. It’s not about that anymore… come home… Fine… Call me later then since your job is so much more important than your family.”
Mary slammed the phone back down onto the hook and leaned against the wall doing her best not to cry.
“Are you okay, Momma?” Dean asked.
“Yeah, Dean, I’m fine,” Mary smiled weakly.
“Do you want me to sing the Sad Song to you?” Dean asked. “Make you feel better?”
“What sad song?” Mary asked walking across the room and sitting next to him.
“The Sad Song,” Dean explained. “The one you sing when I’m sad and can’t sleep.”
“Hey Jude?” Mary chuckled.
“I don’t know,” Dean shrugged. “It goes ‘I’ll sing the sad song til you feel better.’ Those are the words.”
“Not really,” Mary smiled. “But you’re close. Finish up your breakfast. I’ll play some music while we play for a while until Sammy wakes up again.”
“That sounds like fun,” Dean smiled. “Are we gonna learn stuff?”
“You want to learn some more words and letter?” Mary asked.
Dean nodded excitedly. “Yeah. So I can read to Sammy when you are busy.”
“You like Sam again?” Mary laughed.
“I didn’t not like Sam,” Dean explained. “I just wanted a robot, and it was Elizabeth’s idea to trade.”
“I don’t doubt that for a moment,” Mary smiled. “Finish up, put your bowl in the sink and I’ll get the workbooks.”
“Yes, Momma,” Dean nodded as Mary stood up and walked away.
After Sammy woke up, Mary sent Dean upstairs for a while. He’d gotten a pretty cool Hot Wheels set so he sat on the floor playing with that, letting the cars spin around again and again with a big smile on this face. He couldn’t wait until the next time Jamie and Brandon came over so he could show them.
“Dean…” Mary called leaning into his room. “Hey Dean are you hungry.”
Dean nodded before putting his cars away and running down the stairs in front of her.
“I’m very hungry,” Dean told her as he sat at the kitchen table in front of a peanut butter and jelly.
“You want me to cut the crusts off?” Mary asked as she poured him a glass of milk.
“Yes please,” Dean nodded. “I would like that very much.”
Mary did so then kissed Dean on the top of the head as the phone started to ring.
Dean turned in his chair, sandwich in hand to watch him mom. He knew it had to be his dad on the other side of the phone by the way Mary’s body changed after she said hello.
“No, John,” Mary sighed. “We’re not having this conversation again… Think about what? ...You’ve got two boys at home…”
Dean wanted his Dad to come home more than anything; he didn’t like how his mom was so sad.
“Fine,” Mary sighed into the phone. “Then don’t. There’s nothing more to talk about.”
Dean placed his half eaten sandwich back on his plate and walked over to his mom.
“You get to explain it to Dean,” Mary said her voice breaking. “You get to explain to him that you’re so mad at me about something stupid that you can’t come home again. I’m not doing it.” She hung up the phone with a slam and took a deep breath to keep from crying.
Dean wrapped his arms tightly around her legs and looked up at her. “It’s okay Momma, Daddy still love you, I love you, too. I’ll never leave you.”
“You’re my little angel,” Mary smiled a little too brightly, cupping the little boy’s face. “Did you finish your sandwich, you want some pie?”
Dean nodded as Mary let go of his cheeks. He climbed back up into the chair and ate the rest of the sandwich while Mary prepared him a piece of pie.
“I was thinking,” Dean said as his mom sat across from him with her own piece of pie. “What if me and you and maybe Sam even though he can’t go anything, we maked Daddy’s favorite dinner?”
“Why?” Mary asked.
“Acuz Daddy will smell it,” Dean explained. “And then he will come home and he will eat it and he will remember why he loves it here with me and you and maybe Sam.”
“Why don’t you like Sammy?” Mary asked chuckling.
“I like him,” Dean defended. “He’s just no fun.”
“He’ll be fun soon,” Mary promised.
“You keep saying that,” Dean huffed shoveling pie into his mouth. “But it’s been days and days and he’s still no fun.”
“Chew,” Mary sighed. “Swallow, then talk. It’s not that hard to remember that.”
“You keep asking me questions when I have food in my mouth,” Dean huffed crossing his arms across his chest.
“Maybe I’m testing your ability to remember not to talk with your mouth full.”
“Maybe you’re tricking me,” Dean pouted.
“Don’t be a brat,” Mary said shaking her head. “When you’re all done, how about you help me give Sammy some lunch. You can sit in my lap and give him a bottle?”
“I guess,” Dean shrugged. “I want to like Sam more, but it’s hard when doesn’t do nothing. I want to play with him. But I thinked you thinked I will hurt him. I won’t. I’ll be gentle.”
“We’ll work something out so you can play with Sam,” Mary nodded. “Maybe I’ll lay him on the floor for a bit and you help him play with his toys.”
Dean nodded and smiled as he finished his pie. Mary dropped her plate in the sink and went into the living room to get Sam out of his play pen.
“Whenever you’re ready kiddo,” Mary called. “Put your plate in the sink and grab a bottle from the fridge.”
Dean ran from the kitchen to the living room with the bottle in hand. Mary maneuvered herself and Sam around so Dean could fit between them. Sam squirmed and smiled at them, pressing his fist into Dean’s face a little.
“I don’t think he likes very much,” Dean said softly. “He hits me a lot.”
“He likes you just fine,” Mary insured him. “He hits me all the time too, and throws up on me and all sorts of other gross stuff like that. That’s how baby’s show love.”
“I don’t want him to throw up on me that’s gross,” Dean replied shaking his head.
“If you do this right,” Mary explained showing Dean how to hold the bottle. “They you don’t have to worry about spit up or anything like that.”
Dean nodded and did exactly as his mom told him; making sure the bottle didn’t drift too far down and humming softly as he watched his little brother.
“He’s kinda cute,” Dean decided when Mary took the bottle away.
“You gotta slide down, Deano, I gotta burp him,” Mary explained.
Dean slid down, sat on the floor and looked up at his mom with a very confused look on his face.
“He doesn’t even know how to burp?” Dean asked skeptically. “Everyone knows how to burp. I can burp right now!”
“Don’t,” Mary warned as she placed Sammy against her shoulder. “Don’t be gross.”
“Can I teach Sammy to burp?” Dean asked.
“When he’s bigger,” Mary sighed. “Yeah.”
“That’s gonna be the first thing I teach him,” Dean said excitedly. “Cuz it’s real important.”
“That’s… that’s awesome,” Mary said shaking her head. “I can’t wait for that to happen.”
“I’m gonna start plannin’ all the stuff I gotta teach Sam,” Dean said, a huge smile growing across his face. “I gotta teach how to talk and how to roll over and how to burp and how walk and how to read stories and how swing on the swings and the best hide and seek places.”
“That sounds a lot of stuff,” Mary nodded as she patted Sam on the back.
“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “He better start growing up soon. We got a lot to do.”
Mary laughed as Sam started to make noises again. “I’m gonna lay him down on the floor. Be very careful around him, but you can play with him. Watch his fingers and if he starts fussing, you call me. I’m gonna go switch the laundry. Think you can handle it?”
“I think so,” Dean nodded. “I get to put my big brother skills to the test.”
“Right,” Mary said placing Sam on the floor. “Don’t let him put anything in his mouth.” She walked to the play pen and pulled out the toy that went Sam’s head. “Pull on the different parts of this. They play music and light up. Sam really likes that. Do not leave this room until I get back.”
“Okay,” Dean agreed. “I’ll be real good.”
“I’ll be back in five minutes, at the most,” Mary said. “Make be proud, Dean.”
As Mary walked away, Dean lay on his stomach next to his brother and pulled on the butterflies down. Sam kicked and reached up for it.
“You like this toy, Sammy?” Dean asked. “Momma said I had a toy like this when I was baby and I really liked it. I wish you could play on the playground with me. You’d have a lotta fun. The most fun.”
Sam reached toward Dean as the butterfly’s song stopped play, so Dean pulled down the next piece, one that lit up in different colors.
“I’m sorry I tried to trade you away,” Dean whispered leaning in real close. “I didn’t mean to really give you away. I like you a little bit, but Elizabeth is kinda bossy and she made me.
I’m glad Momma got you back, though. I’d be very sad if she got to keep you and breaked you. I think Momma thinks I don’t like you, but I do. You’re just kinda weird. I want you to be bigger, but it hard to wait. I’m excited to teach you stuff. You want to learn stuff?”
Sam wiggled a little bit as Dean pushed the little mirror in the middle of Sam’s toy back and forth.
“Yeah,” Dean said softly. “I’ll teach you all sorts of stuff. You’ll be real smart.” Dean kissed Sam on the forehead before rolling onto his back and looking at Sam’s toy with his brother.
Mary stood in the doorway with the clean laundry watching her boys. Suddenly she felt that everything was going to be okay. It didn’t matter of John came home or stayed at the shop forever, everything would work out. She had her boys, her beautiful little boys and nothing was ever going to stand in the way of that.