Mary and Dean are in the kitchen when it happens. She’s back from a hunting a werewolf in Nebraska, stealing a rare moment alone with her oldest son. They’re sharing a six pack at the table, and she’s complaining about a local sheriff.
“The old coot kept giving me the run around, withholding evidence, the whole nine. Honestly, I thought things were supposed to be easier for women these days.” She shakes her head and finishes off the bottle. “Anyway, I might have slashed one of his tires on my way out of town.”
Dean laughs and leans in on his forearms, fiddling the glass bottle between his fingers. He’s looking at her in that way again, like he’s waiting for something more. Mary finds herself struggling again to scratch anything beneath the surface.
It’s still strange, figuring out how to be a mother to someone older than she is. It keeps her up at night, staring into the dark, wondering if she’s screwing it up. If she’s letting her boys down again. She opens her mouth to try again, to do better, when Jack steps into the doorway.
He’s got the Impala’s keys clutched between trembling hands. His face is pale, mouth tight.
“Back already?” Dean asks, swiveling in his chair to look at Jack. “Must not have been a line. Where’s the food?”
Silence hangs in the air for a beat as Jack looks between Dean and the floor. Then the kid’s face crumples and Dean’s out of his chair. He places strong hands on Jack’s shoulders, ducking his face to catch the boy’s eyes.
“Whoa, hey, what happened? Jack, you okay?”
The concern only seems to make Jack feel worse, and Mary can see his eyes well up. On instinct, she rises from her own chair.
“I hit a post,” Jack says miserably. “Dean, I’m so sorry! I broke the headlight.”
“You wrecked the car?” Dean clarifies.
“I’m so sorry!” Jack stammers again, his words picking up speed. “You trusted me to take her out on my own, and now I’ve damaged her. I don’t even know where the post came from, it was suddenly just there and I tried to stop, but I wasn’t fast enough. I just wasn’t…”
He’s cut off by his own gasping. The tears have poured over and down his cheeks, and his chest is heaving. Mary steps forward. She may not know how to mother Dean, but she knows how to comfort a crying boy.
“Whoa, whoa,” Dean shushes, and she freezes. “Come here, kid.”
He pulls Jack into his chest firmly, wrapping a strong arm around his back. Dean’s free hand comes up to the back of Jack’s head, pressing the boy’s face into his shoulder.
“Listen, you gotta breathe. Big, deep breaths. With me, okay?”
Mary watches as Dean holds Jack, exaggerating his inhales and exhales. She watches as her son rubs comforting circles on Jack’s back, telling him he’s doing a good job when his breathing starts to even out.
She watches, and she remembers.
Dean had nursed until he was three. Everyone told her she was spoiling him. They said he’d never know how to do anything on his own. If he could ask for it, he was too old, they said.
John hated it.
“Are you going to let him go off to kindergarten still at your tit?” he snapped one night. Dean was just two, draped across her lap in the rocker, nursing to sleep. She never could understand what everyone was so worried about. He was so little, and he still needed her. What damage could she possibly do by loving her boy too much?
“He’ll stop when he’s ready, John.”
And he had. When she got pregnant with Sam, her milk dried up and he lost interest. One day Dean just stopped asking. The first night he put himself to sleep with a simple goodnight kiss, she had cried knowing her baby wasn’t a baby anymore.
When he was about a year and a half, Mary bought Dean a doll. He loved it. Carried it with him everywhere for years. He would rock and sing to his baby. A couple of times she found him with the doll’s head tucked up under his shirt.
“What are you doing, Dean?” she’d asked the first time.
“Baby having nursies,” he said matter-of-factly, as if it was obvious.
People would scowl at them in public when he had his doll. Old men would make snide comments about what little boys ought to be doing. As if teaching her son to love and care for someone else was a scandal.
John tried everything he could to get rid of it, even throwing it away when she’d leave the house.
“What on earth are you so afraid of, John?” she asked as she fished the doll out of the trash for the third time, handing it back to her crying son. “That one day he might grow up and become a father?”
Since coming back from the dead, Mary had spent so much time trying to reconcile her grown sons with the boys she’d left behind. Every time she looked at Dean, all she could see was the damage John had done to him. The way it hardened him, turned her sweet, gentle boy into the only thing she’d never wanted for him. But here in the bunker’s kitchen, something slots into place for her.
For the first time, as Dean pulls Jack back by the shoulders to look into his eyes, Mary sees her son.
“Wrecking the car is practically a family tradition,” he says. Jack’s breathing normally now, if still looking miserable. “I’ve put her back together from scratch more times than I can count. Don’t sweat it. The important thing is that you’re alright.”
Jack sniffs, skeptical. “You’re not mad?”
“Not even a little.” Dean pats him on the shoulder. “Tomorrow you and me can find a junkyard, and I’ll teach you how to fix a headlight. Okay?”
“Okay.” He wipes at his face with his sleeve.
“You go get a glass of water. Maybe find Cas, see if he wants to watch Netflix with you. I’m sure there’s a dozen documentaries he’s just dying to show you. I’ll go get dinner.”
Jack dutifully does as he’s told, filling a glass from the tap before leaving the room. Dean watches him go, sighing as he twirls the Impala’s keys around a finger. He turns to look at her and freezes, like he’d forgotten she was there. His brow furrows, and he cocks his head.
"I’m just so proud to be your mom,” Mary says.
It comes out before she even realizes she’s speaking. She almost wants to take it back. It’s too real, too raw, too much. But then Dean just visibly melts, and she knows she’s finally gotten something right.
“You, uh,” Dean clears his throat, tries again. “You wanna come with me to grab the food?”
“I’d like that.”