May 1, 1997
Dean comes back from parking the Impala, sees him sitting on the open sofabed, and tightens his lips just like Mary used to - careful, bracing, buying time. Today, of all days, he cannot deny Mary's boy, so when Dean stabs one finger at the bedroom door and says "Go," he does as he's told.
His back twinges treacherously as he rises from the lumpy surface. He's getting tired more easily these days, but there's no way he's going to shuffle to the bedroom like an old man. The pillow hits him square in the back. His boy's got perfect aim.
He catches the flat pillow automatically and looks over questioningly. Dean's sitting on the edge of the thin mattress, pulling his shirt off. "Sammy doesn't like to share," Dean explains as soon as his mouth's clear of the material. He rolls the shirt up and pulls off his jeans and lies down, sighing contentedly like he's on a featherbed. John has no doubt that this is an act for his benefit; there's a loose spring somewhere in the hellish bowels of that mattress. He's not sure whether he should let Dean get away with lying to him, but lets it go with a laugh when Dean pretends to snore, snorting and wheezing outrageously.
He falls silent when he pushes open the bedroom door. The curtains are thick but not pulled completely shut; orange light from the parking lot streams through the unwashed window and the ripped screen. Sammy is one long, dark, insistent line against the overbleached sheets, his hair fanned out sweetly over the pillow like a girl's. John looks down at his baby boy, mouth relaxed and open, one arm tucked awkwardly under his chest.
He eases himself onto the bed, distributing his weight like he's crawling through the jungle on his belly again, shifting gingerly. He lies flat on his back and tucks Dean's pillow under his spine. The sheets are rough and he can hear his hair catch as he turns his head to see if Sammy's cat eyes have opened. Sammy sleeps on, the faint frown on his face visible through proximity. He wonders what conundrum is taunting Sammy's logical mind right now. Or maybe he's just dreaming, running away with words and images too bright and exotic for this dingy place, chasing them frantically.
He tries not to imagine how far behind Sammy's leaving him. He starts to shift but his back seizes up until he settles into the same position once more, flat and staring up at the ceiling. After all these years it still takes effort not to let the sight of a ceiling bother him, and the struggle tenses his body, fighting against his mind's desire for sleep. A hot breeze blows through the room and his floundering brain seizes it gladly, remembering what it once promised.
"John," she said, smiling at him, her hands moving busily; "do you know what day it is?"
He's reclining lazily, stuffed full of her good cooking, the heat of the sun and the scent of newly mown grass conspiring to keep his brain muddled. "Nahhh," he said, nice and slow, wishing her pretty hands weren't hidden by her dress, fluttering in the sultry breeze.
"It's May Day," she said, resting the mayflower wreath on his head.
"You're a goddamn hippie," he growled, plucking the wreath off with a snap of the wrist.
"And you're a goddamn illiterate," she said, pulling him close by the collar of his faded shirt, leaning into his startled kiss. She held his rough head between her unlined palms and rocked forward, her hair dancing around them. On her tongue he could taste yes to all the questions he hadn't yet dared to ask. She was light and bright and golden in his arms.
He doesn't want to think about how many May Days he's rung in without her, how many more there will be before he's earned the right to go home and lay his head on her breast.
He hears the alarm clock go off in the main room, soft like it's been muffled under sheets and a blanket. It looks like it's still dark, though, so he's not sure why Dean is padding quietly toward the bedroom. The door swings open silently and Dean meets his eyes, then moves to the other side of the bed. "Sammy," he says, crooning it like a lullaby, "Sammy."
"Mmmm?" Sammy turns onto his back, snuggling into Dean's hand, cupping his shoulder, sliding to his neck.
"Midnight," Dean whispers through a smile. "Happy birthday, Sammy."
Sammy still hasn't opened his eyes but his lips are curved like he's warm and safe. "Dean," he mumbles, and John's heart tightens as he realizes he wouldn't have remembered in time that this is Sammy's day, not just an afterthought to Mary's.
He looks to Dean, whose hand is still on Sammy's warm skin, and reaches his own hand out tentatively. His heavy fingers get lost in his baby boy's messy hair. "Happy birthday, son," he says softly and Sammy's eyes fly open. He pulls him into his arms and drops a kiss on the top of his head. In the near dark, his eyes meet Dean's once more with a soft gleam, and after Sammy's arm comes up to wrap around him, Dean leaves them alone in the quiet night.