The Impala came to a stop, stirring Sam from his previously peaceful sleep. He rubbed a hand over his eyes and looked to his older brother.
“Where are we?”
“Maybe if you hadn’t been sleeping for the past four hours you’d know!” Dean joked, sliding out of the car. “I’ll be right back.”
Once his eyes adjusted to the light Sam started to recognize their surroundings, and a frown pulled on his lips. He watched as Dean disappeared into a flower shop.
When Dean entered the brightly decorated store, the woman behind the counter flashed him a friendly smile. She looked to be somewhere in her forties, and had curly brown hair. “Hi there!”
“Hey.” He smiled.
“My name’s Jackie! Is there anything I can help you with today?”
“Uh,” he ran his right hand through his short hair and sighed, “I need to buy some roses.”
“Yeah, that’s what most guys who come in want.” She chuckled. “Do you know about what the colors of roses in a bouquet mean?”
Dean’s eyebrows furrowed as he scanned all of the flowers set up around the little room. “They have meanings?”
Jackie let out a little laugh before going on to explain what each different color meant, capturing his attention with her words.
When Dean came back to the Impala he was clutching a bouquet of twelve roses, six red and six pink, in a small vase against his chest.
Sam looked him over when he sat down, vase now sat between his legs as he prepared to start driving again.
“We’re in Santa Fe, aren’t we?”
Dean smirked as he backed out of the parking space. “Someone woke up sharp. Have you been eating your Wheaties?”
“Dean,” Sam sighed, “are you sure you wanna do this right now? We’ve got a case all the way out in San Antonio.”
“I just need to talk to her for a minute, Sam. Just a minute.” The older man said, his face now stern, jaw clenched as he held his eyes steady on the road ahead of him.
Both brothers fell silent after that, the only sounds coming from one of Dean’s cassette tapes as it played through.
He drove through a gate and stopped the car not too far away, hopping out without a word to Sam. It had been a while since he’d come here, but he still knew right where she would be.
His feet trudged on through the grass, faltering as they came to a stop when he got to her.
“Hey, ______.” He smiled, shifting the vase around in his hands as he continued. “Look, I know it’s been a long time, and I haven’t come around, and I’m sorry. We’ve got a job to do in San Antonio, so we’ve gotta make this quick, but I just--I wanted to give you these. Did you know that rose colors actually have a meaning?” Dean laughed lightly, nervous as he rambled on. “I didn’t until about half an hour ago. The red ones mean ‘I love you’, but I mean that seems obvious. The pink ones, though, they’re different. The lady who sold ‘em to me said that’s the closest to sorry that any of the colors get. She told me they can be given to say ‘please believe me’. Isn’t it weird that they have a bunch of symbolic colors for everything except ‘I’m sorry’, though? Half of the time that’s what people buy them to do, isn’t it? Apologize for something?”
Dean knelt down, setting the vase in front of the marble stone before him.
He and his brother had paid to have her buried here, in her old home town. Most of the other hunters they knew had tried to persuade them to give her a ‘hunter’s funeral’, but Dean completely refused the idea, Sam right along with him. So they had used hustled poker and pool earnings as an upfront payment, with a credit card scheme to pay off the bill.
It had been over a year since she passed away, and this was the first time he was able to bring himself to visiting her grave.
“I’m so sorry, ______. You shouldn’t be here. I should have been able to protect you, but I screwed up. You always got mad when I said it was my job to protect you, that you could take care of yourself, but it was my job. Truth is, I probably needed you around a Hell of a lot more than you needed me.”
Once the first tear fell, it was like a chain reaction. No matter how he willed himself to stop crying, it just wouldn’t happen.
“I loved you. I hope you saw that, since I was too damned stubborn to tell you back when you could hear me. I don’t know why I did that, ______, I really don’t. It was so stupid! I should have told you when I had the chance! I guess I thought if I denied it, I wouldn’t have a chance to screw things up. Now you’ve been gone for a year and I still miss you so bad that it hurts to breathe sometimes, because I still love you. I just wish you knew that.”
Dean heard footsteps nearby and closed his eyes, momentarily entertaining the idea that it was her, coming to playfully knock a hand across the back of his head to get his attention.
Sam crouched down next to his big brother, who started pawing the tears from his face hurriedly with both hands. “I told you I’d just be a minute, Sammy! Go back to the car!”
“I miss her too, Dean. She was my best friend.”
The short-haired man looked to his brother, noticing the teary tracks already present on his face.
The two sat in silence for a few minutes, neither bothering to fight back the trails of pain and regret waterfalling down their faces, before Sam spoke again.
“You know, she’d probably never let us live this down.” He said, breathing out a light laugh.
His brother joined him, the sorrow lifting from his chest just long enough to picture how she would react to them crying over her. “Yeah, we’d never hear the end of it. But you know what?”
“What?” Sam asked, drying his face with his hand.
“I’d give anything to be not hearing the end of it right now.”
Dean felt a pat on the shoulder coming from his brother.
“I would, too. We ought to get back on the road, though, Dean.” Sam stood, offering a hand to help his brother up.
“I know, I know.” He shook his head at Sam. “Just give me a second alone to say goodbye, alright?”
Sam nodded, touching the top of the gravestone before making his way back towards the Impala.
Dean traced each engraved letter of her name one-by-one with his index finger, as if she’d feel the touch somehow.
“We have to go for now. You’d kick my ass if you knew we were putting off a job to cry, anyways, wouldn’t you? When we get done in San Antonio I’ll take the long way home, make a pit stop back here in Santa Fe, alright? We haven’t been to Sherry’s Busy Bee in a while, anyways--I could go for some of that chocolate and peanut butter pie.” He pressed his lips to the cold stone before taking to his feet. “I’m sorry we didn’t come visit any sooner. It’s just, hard. I hope you like the flowers. I love you.”
He wiped the remaining tears away on his sleeve as he made his way back to the car, the pain of regret in his chest finally dulling to a certain numbness. When he got to the Impala Sam was in the driver’s seat.
“I figured you could use a break.”
Dean nodded, sliding in the passenger’s seat.
As they were leaving the cemetery, he could almost swear he saw ______ in the mirror, standing in front of her headstone, smiling and holding the vase of roses he’d left for her. When he turned to look out of the window, though, there was nothing there.
'Your mind is playing tricks on you, Dean.' He thought, settling in to the seat as he prepared for the three and a half hour drive to San Antonio.
As soon as the familiar black Impala's tail end was towards her, ______'s spirit appeared, picking up the vase of roses. She looked them over fondly, smiling in the direction of the vehicle.
"That's all I've been waiting around this place to hear. Goodbye, Dean."
She saw a bright beam of pure white light in front of her and sat the vase back down. A laugh pushed through her lips.
"Well I'll be damned. The whole 'light at the end of the tunnel' thing is true after all, boys."
She stepped into the light, crossing to the other side just before Dean got a chance to look back.