“And did you hear about the pies?” Mary Winchester stood in her sunny little kitchen, pointing a wooden spoon at her eldest son. Her hair was pulled back at the bottom of her neck, and her eye makeup was beginning to smudge. Dean didn't know why she bothered with makeup this early in the day, and only with him around her house at the moment.
“No, Ma. What about the pies?” He spoke into the counter as he rested his head on his hands in defeat, his beautiful face smooshed and muffled, hiding the way the past fifteen years or so had prematurely weathered him a bit.
“Well you know when Bobby butchered that pig we split it with your father, but of course he leaves me to render all the fat, which is fine. It’s not as if I wouldn’t have done it anyway.” She turns to dig a spoonful of said lard out of an old coffee can and plunked it into an iron skillet. “But of course he comes over when I’m finishing up and asks me if I can put aside a can for her because her cherry pie is just the cat’s meow.”
“I don’t buy it.” Dean looked up with a bland expression.
“Oh no, I’m sure it’s pure organic. She probably pits every cherry herself and only uses raw honey or agave or whatever that is. You know, it probably costs $30 just to fill a pie plate! I mean, I know we’re not poor anymore but I like to use what we have. My pie is store brand sugar and flour and apples from the yard and lard and no one has ever complained.”
“There's nothing to complain about. You make the best pie, Ma.” Dean conceded, wincing a little when his mom started talking over his compliment.
“So I go over there with the lard that I saved her because he asked me to and I knock on the door and she opens it up and she’s having coffee with Jody. I can see the squad car parked there plain as day. Do you think she invites me in? No! She looks at me like I’m holding a bag of flaming dog poo and she literally laughs in my face when I explain to her what lard is. And you know what the kicker is??”
Dean drops his head back onto his hands and doesn’t answer. His mother continues.
“God’s honest truth she looks me in the eye and tells me she’s never made a pie crust in her life. She. Buys. Them.” Mary looked over her reading glasses at Dean to make eye contact and confirm that he fully understood the gravity of the situation. Dean sighed.
“Well dad wouldn’t know a decent pie if it bit him in the ass. All he knows is that he’s getting some play. She could be feeding him cat litter. Everyone knows she’s a joke, Ma. Anyway, you’ve got Bobby. Maybe you want to dial back how much you talk about Dad in front of him?” Dean’s hands were rested on the counter in an open, pleading position.
“Oh Bobby knows it’s just the principle of the thing. All those years your father paraded around like a tyrant treating everyone like his servant, including Bobby. And now he’s kowtowing to this brainless ditz? Bobby knows she’s a joke, don’t you worry.” Mary whipped around and stirred her pasta sauce with a surprising amount of restraint - but then, no matter what, her cooking always had to be perfect. She wasn’t the type to splatter sauce everywhere no matter how full of rage she might have been.
“Who’s a joke?” Sam had quietly opened the kitchen door sometime during the rant, and he ducked through with a curious expression and a head nod for Dean.
“It’s nothing.” Dean dismissed.
“That Kate. ” Mary bit, simultaneously. Dean groaned internally.
“Oh. I actually ran into her just now. She seems nice. They’ve got the house all decked out. I was really surprised. Dad’s really getting his act together. ”
Dean looked up at his towering beast of a brother and straight glowered. Sam gave him a puzzled expression of innocence. Dean looked to the ceiling in defeat and dropped his head back into his hands for a good rubbing.
“Oh I’m sure she’s nice. ” Mary growled at the backsplash as she adjusted the temperature of her sauteing vegetables. “You’re a handsome man. Why wouldn’t she be nice?” She wheeled halfway around, but didn’t bother trying to look at Sam. “Did she offer you some of her world famous pie?”
“Well I had already eaten. Her pie is famous? I’ll have to give it a try this weekend.”
“Hah.” Mary choked out a guffaw.
“Pie is more of Dean’s thing.” Sam continued. “How are you, man? Is Lis here?” Sam glanced through the kitchen archway into the dark living room.
“Nah, she’s not coming. We’re not-” Dean just left that sentence to speak for itself and spun a slow circle on his stool.”
“Your brother is single this Christmas. Which is too bad, because that means Ben won’t be here to play with Adam. ”
Dean stopped his slow twirl and stood up with a nervous energy.
“Jesus, Ma! There’s like a 10 year age difference between them. Adam can drink next year. Ben is just an eight year old kid.” Dean’s voice cracked as it was squeezed between the agony of disappointing his mother and the sheer rage at her callous obstinance regarding his dad’s new relationship - or his old relationship. His renewed relationship?
“Oh good. Well then by all means, chalk the boy’s ID and you can take him out to the bars with you. Just try not to get drunk and hit on his mother. Or anyone else that your father might have knocked up while we were married. I only have room for eight around the table.”
At that Dean slammed his fist on the counter and stalked out of the room. Mary jumped a little, then scowled and went on cooking with a forced air of carefree whimsy.
“He’s still touchy about his breakup. He’ll be fine. Lisa was a very nice girl, but it’s not as if we all couldn’t see it coming.”
“He sounds like he’s not the only one who’s touchy about a breakup.” Sam folded himself into Dean’s abandoned spot at the counter and used his quiet, therapist voice. “I know Dad screwed up first, but after you guys split you moved us in with Bobby pretty quickly. Dad’s actually been alone for a long time. I think it’s a good thing that he’s getting a chance to settle down again.”
Mary spun around and put on her best patronizing expression, a disingenuous smile that did nothing to disguise the fire in her eyes.
“Well you know what? I don’t think he’s earned the right to settle down. I worked hard to get where I am. I worked on his farm for our family day in and day out. I spent so much time in the barn that you’d rather have Dean make you a peanut butter sandwich than your own mother!”
“The PB&J thing? Again?” Sam couldn’t contain a childish whine of exasperation. Mary pressed on.
“And then after I finally divorce him, what does he do? He still comes over and eats my food. He still bosses me around and makes me keep the books for his damn failing business. He still calls up Bobby at all hours of the day to ask for help, as if Bobby doesn’t have anything better to do than stand around and watch John Winchester bark orders and curse at things.”
A timer on the stove went off, and Mary whirled around and checked inside the oven, shaking her head to herself and reaching to reset the timer before turning back to Sam.
“And I did it all, because it was my fault I married the man. We have two wonderful sons. We have a family. Bobby understands. We all understand how your father is and we just live with him. He’s never going to change.”
“So he’s not allowed to be happy?” Sam played a mean Devil’s advocate.
“Why should he be? Sam, that man is going to come over here tomorrow at six A.M. and he’s going to bitch up and down about the combine still not being fixed and then he’s going to demand that Bobby go on some fool’s errand with him at the drop of a hat, and he’s gonna bite my head off when I tell him that he doesn’t have enough cash in the bank for his dentist appointment on Wednesday because Roman’s haven’t paid us in six months. Then he’ll ask if I have any toast.”
“Which you will already have served him, buttered and jammed just like he likes it.” Sam reminded her of her doting ways with a raised eyebrow.
“Because things like that calm him down and everyone benefits when he’s calm. I'm not doing it for me!” Mary sassed back. “And then he’s going to go back up to the farm house, which I still technically own half of, and she’s going to cook him a wonderful breakfast at 10 A.M. because she can’t be bothered to get out of bed before that. Then she’s going to go meditate on the hill for an hour. You think he’s going to say a damn word? No he’s just going to smile like an idiot. Then at lunch time he’ll have some half-baked reason to come stomping down here because she’ll just be getting in the shower and all she leaves him for lunch is tuna fish again. Do you think Bobby appreciates that?”
“You always make too much food, Ma. You love feeding people. Bobby knows that.”
“But why should he just get to waltz all up and down the road deciding who has the best food? He’s with her now and he can eat with her, whether it be cat’s meow pie or tuna! That’s his problem! That is NOT my problem anymore!”
Sam sighed and his eyes glazed over as he gazed out the kitchen window, which, hilariously, had a clear view of the old Winchester farmhouse.
“Well it doesn’t sound like you truly gave up all your wifely duties when you divorced him.” Sam mused. “Maybe you should take a break this Christmas and take a little time for yourself. Jess and I can take care of a lot of the cooking. I got her a spa package for Christmas. We can call and get you booked and you two can go together, just the girls.”
Mary stopped kneading some sort of dough and skipped over to the sink to run her hands under some warm water.
“Oh please! Can you picture me at a spa? I can’t lay around and spend all that money. I like to do things. Canning is my spa.”
“No, Ma. Canning is a health hazard, if you’re still using Grandma’s old pressure cooker. Plus. Maybe if you calm down a little Bobby won’t catch on to all the issues you’re having with Dad’s new girlfriend.”
“Too late for that.” A gruff, but amused voice entered through the hallway to the bathroom, followed by the owner, Bobby himself. He was wearing his usual trucker hat and sardonic grin, and he clapped Sam on the shoulder in a standard mechanic’s form of affection. “I’ve heard it all, and more, kid.” He settled himself onto a stool next to Sam. “And the spa sounds nice, but your mom will never go for it. It just ain’t who she is.”
“Well.” Sam looked at his mother. “I think people can change.”
Bobby wrinkled his nose at the idea, then proceeded to peruse the newspaper. Mary ignored them entirely, as she combined more delicious ingredients on the counter. But Sam didn’t miss the way her eyes periodically darted to the window, always keeping tabs on what was happening at the farm house that she still technically owned half of.
Dean lay draped over the couch in the dark of the living room, stubbornly not thinking about anything he’d overheard, until receiving a text from his Dad demanding that he get up to the new barn to help figure out why the Gator wouldn’t turn over.