"Tomato rice soup," says Dean. Mary knows he's been waiting to start this conversation since Red Cloud, at the supermarket. "Do you remember?"
"Like it was yesterday," she says wryly.
Dean smiles at her. She can't tell if he thinks she's funny or not.
Dean wouldn't know this, because he's never had kids--two! yesterday she'd had two (baby) boys--but after a few weeks on two hours of sleep and a colicky, teething infant and a big brother who is not quite old enough to fend for himself, yesterday can feel a galaxy away, whether you've died in between or not.
Mary drops the stick of butter into the pot, and Dean turns the heat down for her. When he hands her the ladle, there's a half-second where he doesn't quite let go. For that half-second, Mary pulls the ladle to her heart, and his grip balances hers perfectly.
Mary's mother had given her her first knife that way.
She stirs the pot, and Dean eyes the ladle with something like reverence--and that, Deanna hadn't done. Not with that knife.
Mary rubs the thumb and forefinger of her free hand together. A nervous tic. She's not sure reverence is such a good idea. Oh, she'd always been the type to pray to angels; but the truth is, Mary prayed mostly because she felt that good people--better people than she--believed in God, angels, grace. Even if she maybe didn't. But there is one thing Mary's sure of: She does not want Dean's reverence.
"Was it--is it your favorite?" Dean asks. "Tomato soup, I mean."
The butter's melted down to almost nothing. Mary keeps stirring. She knows what she'll see if she looks up--Dean guarded, intent, and somehow wide, wide open all at once. Thinking impossible things about a couple quarts of soup. She hasn't known him that long, but she's memorized that look.
"I used to make it for you when you were sick. Do you remember that?" she asks, though of course he does.
She could have stopped then, confirmed his cherished fantasy and left it at that. She probably wants to--she may not want his reverence, but she does want him to like her. It's stupid, but she does.
Dean loves in a way that is painfully obvious, and she gets the impression he always has and will always love her. No matter who she turns out to be, this Dean will always love her. The intensity of that would be frightening, stranger that he is to her, but let no one forget: She's had children, two--babies, they were babies--and she knows exactly what that kind of love is like.
But Mary wants Dean to like her, and that is a completely different thing.
She still says, "I loved it because it was fast and easy to make. That's all."
That's the tomato soup story--her deep connection to this revered thing. It was warm, and it was easy, so Mary made it all the time.
Dean says, "You and Sam are the same that way, then."
"But not you," Mary prompts. In the last twenty-four hours, she's heard a lot about Sam and a little about Cas, and nothing at all about Dean. When he'd been four, he'd had the opposite problem.
I'm disappointing you, she thinks.
I love you, she thinks. She wants it to be true.
She waits, and hopes that Dean will answer. She ladles soup into three bowls.
From across the room, a voice chimes in, "One time we crossed fifteen states just to go to a barbecue shack that Dean thought had a special kind of sauce. 'Easy' wasn't exactly part of the equation."
It's Sam, awake now and limping only a little. Gingerly, he lowers himself into a chair. Sam has a reverence problem, too, but when she turns to face him he's looking at Dean, a fond smile on his face. Mary breathes.
The last thing she'd ever done with Sam was tickle the bottoms of his soft and unworn feet. Yesterday, he'd been six months old. She could fit both feet in one hand.
Yesterday, he'd been tied to a chair, and drugged, and burned. He'd been thirty-three. He is thirty-three.
"Eat up," she tells him. She does her best to be kind. "You too, Dean."
Then Mary takes a long, hot sip from her own bowl.
When she looks at them, she thinks, I miss my children. She does not think, I've found them.
Instead, she tells herself: These are the only men on earth who've ever known your children. So love them.
Love them the way they love you, or leave.