"What does it matter? I'm here now," Mary said, willing John to just drop it. Not that it worked any better now than it had twenty years ago.
"Baby, I need to know," he protested.
"You don't," she said, trying to get by him, but he wasn't budging and he somehow managed to take up all of the space in the hallway. "God, I forgot what a stubborn jackass you could be."
He refused to rise to the bait, damn him, which meant somewhere along the way he'd learned patience, and that was going to make it so much harder to keep him in the dark. Then she remembered the holy water and realized there was a whole host of things he'd picked up since she'd been gone, and she was the one on unfamiliar ground. "John," she tried again, "can't you just trust me? I swear I'm only trying to protect you."
"Not good enough," he said. "Not for me, and not for the boys."
He'd just made a tactical error, bringing up her boys. "I'll tell you. But only tomorrow." She held up a hand to forestall his protest. "Tonight, you're going to tell me everything about my kids, everything I missed."
"So, Dean," John started out, wrapping his arm around her and making sure her head was pillowed comfortably on his chest. There was grey hair on his chest and in his beard now, and suddenly that was all she could see, all the lost years between them, and she shoved him away and scrambled out of the bed.
"Nothing, nothing. It's fine," she said before he could say anything. She fetched a chair from beside the kitchen table and sat in it, forcing herself to keep still and project outward calm. "I just - I'm ready now."
He gave her a long look from underneath lowering eyebrows but he started up again as instructed. "Dean," he said, then paused, considering, and she waited while a smile grew on his face. "Dean could charm the stripe off a skunk," John started, and she laughed even as her eyes welled up.
She didn't realize she was rocking in her chair, tears streaming down her face, until the low rumble of John's voice stopped washing over her, and he was there, holding her head in his hands and murmuring, "Mary-girl, Mary, Mary, I'm sorry." She locked her hands on his biceps and didn't let go or look away.
Her boys had been superheroes and warriors, roles she would have sacrificed herself for them never to know, but her death had precipitated all of it. It wasn't just what she had missed; it was what she had never known to warn them about, the life that her parents had raised her in being passed down to her own children like sins in the Bible, staining generation after generation.
Her fury at John for making that choice burned brightly, then snuffed itself out. What else could he have done? What else would she have done, had he been the one to die screaming in twists of fire? There were no other options she could have lived with.
But there was no need for that now, whether she stayed or whether somebody up there realized their mistake and snapped this body free of her and put sweet Jessica back in her proper place. Revenge was always a losing proposition.
She scrubbed at her face, heating the tracks of her tears, and turned to look back at him as she left his room. He still had one hand outstretched toward her. "Bring Dean home," she asked, not waiting for his response.
Only one thing he'd said had brought her any comfort. "They're good boys, Mary. And they look out for each other." Her boys had been brothers, for real and not just in name, and she took that thought with her to the little twin bed Sam had given up for her and turned out the light.
There was a mug of tea on the bedside table when she woke up; Sam's gift, she assumed, because John had known not to get between her and her morning coffee for anything less urgent than a life-or-death situation. She sat up and cradled it in her hands, blew on it, and took a tentative sip. It tasted like he'd dumped half a sugar bowl into the mug, and it hurt her teeth, but she drank it down, the proof that even the baby who'd never known her had grown into a good man like his father.
The caffeine and sugar woke up her brain, and she realized that the tea was also a sign that Sammy was up and alert, and she'd have to spend the day evading him and pretending she didn't see the confused hurt in his eyes, when what she really needed to be doing was preparing herself to spill the truth about her death to John. She needed time apart, time to think. She locked herself in the bathroom and took a shower that lasted as long as the hot water did, making her judgments as she shampooed her hair. There was no way around it; she was going to have to tell John everything.
She hadn't been expecting to come back, and for all she knew, this was just some colossal mix-up and soon enough she'd be sent on her way. In a dark corner of her mind, she hoped that it would happen before she had to narrate the circumstances of her life and death to her husband.
"Sam asked me to tell you he's borrowing your car for the day," John said when she emerged from the bathroom; his eyes seemed to be caught on the towel turban she was wearing. "Said he needed to run some errands and he'd be back with dinner."
"I'm going to get dressed," she said. "We might as well get this over with." While she was pulling on Jessica's clothes, she tried to think how best to start the story.
When she went out to face him, sitting on the dingy couch that Sam had been using as a bed, she had half-moon indentations in both her palms from the bite of her own fingernails. "My parents were hunters, too. Good enough that the Campbell name meant something to people."
And there it was, the situation of the earlier confessions reversed, because it looked like John was fighting the urge to deny everything coming out of her mouth, to shake her and rage at her for keeping her lips so tightly locked over these secrets. "Timing really is everything," she said, startling a laugh out of both of them, and then she traced out the lines that led up to what had happened on that day that he'd taken the boys for haircuts and burgers and she had burned, alone, in their kitchen, along with the cookies she'd been making for Dean.
"I don't know its name or what it was after," she said. "It doesn't matter now, anyway."
His mouth thinned down to a tight white line. "Yes, it does. Killing that thing's all that's kept us going."
"No." He was the only one living and breathing vengeance. What had kept her boys going was each other. "It's a fight to the death, John," she said, watching him use her words to gird himself up, hating herself for flooding with desire at the sight of him still centering his life around her, twenty years gone. "Please don't do this. Don't let them keep hunting."
She wasn't budging him; his body language gave him away. "I'll tell them myself, then. I can't watch you live the life I hated, knowing where it's going to get you."
Was this why she had been brought back, to choose between her children and her husband?
"Mary," he said, and shook his head, arguing against the choice she'd made.