Do You See What I See?
For Weesta's Sweet
Charity donation who wanted more of Sam & Mary's story, based off
the closing of the above mentioned short:
Mary would choose other weapons later in life for various reasons,
Mostly Sam & Little Mary, but Dean, Sarah, Allie & Leigh as well. And one old woman.
Many thanks to Eighth-Horizon & Killa for hand holding and encouragment and to Geminigrl11 for the awesome beta. Author notes at end.
She hadn't forgotten what her Uncle Dean said. She hadn't forgotten her promise, either. I don't make promises I won't keep, Mom had told her more than once, the last time over something with a school friend, and Mary had tried to make a promise of it. You promised I could go! and Mom had looked at her in the way she did when she caught any of them lying. It was almost worse when Mom caught them, caught Mary. I think I said that if your father didn't have to work you could go, but he does and since he does then I need you and Allie to help me finish packing these boxes up and take them down to the volunteer center, and they don't open until two. So, you tell me, Miss Mary, am I breaking a promise or are you just trying to get your own way?
It did no good to look to Allie for back up; she was trying so hard to be a grown up. Mary didn't want to grow up. She'd rather stay nine (almost ten) forever. Growing up didn't promise her anything good.
She'd only promised to think about it though, and she had and did. She couldn't help it when, for once, Uncle Dean had been wrong and her telling him about it hadn't made the dreams stop coming.
Sometimes she stared at the gun case in the basement, or the smaller one in her father's closet, and wondered if she could find a way just to destroy them. To drag them out and hide them. She knew she couldn't, that there were lots of guns in the world, but it made her feel a little better to think about it.
All the way back from the Shooting House, she'd sat next to her father, pressed close against him on the front seat, glad to have his arm around her shoulder. She'd cut her eyes across to her uncle and he'd been tense and quiet and not until her father suggested they stop at Poojah's and pick up some curry and rice and mango ice cream to take home, had any of them said anything.
Dad had tucked her in that night. He always said good night or came in to say it but this time, he'd leaned against the upper bunk and pulled the sheets and blankets up, stroked her bangs back off her forehead.
She didn't like to make Dad worry. She didn't like to make Uncle Dean mad, either. Although really, he never so much got mad as he'd get to that place where she knew he was unhappy and didn't know how to fix it and didn't know how to be different. She'd seen him get that way with Dad too, but Dad didn't back down and he didn't give way easily. That's his courtroom face. Allie whispered to her once and Mary had liked that -- that in the face of judges and juries, Dad wouldn't back down either.
She didn't know how to do that without feeling bad.
"I'm okay, Daddy," she whispered, because Leigh was already asleep.
"Yeah?" he'd whispered back. "Because I think you are being tougher than you need to be, Mary, Mary, Miss Contrary," he said but he was smiling at her. He wasn't mad at her. "And that's okay. But when you decide you don't want to be that tough anymore, that's okay, too. You know that, right? Because you're right. You aren't like your Uncle Dean, or like me, or your mom. You are your own self, Mary. And that's who you have to be true to. No one else."
She'd wanted to cry then but she didn't, only hugged Dad's neck. "I love you, Daddy," she said and got the best kind of squeeze back from him, like he wanted to fold her up and put her in his pocket for safekeeping.
"I love you too, Mary-mine," he said.
She didn't have the dream about guns and shooting and Dad's voice telling her to pull the trigger for nearly a week. When it did come back, it woke her up, scared her so much she snuck down the hall and pushed her parent's door open a little, but they were both asleep, one big lump under the blankets.
She didn't say anything and she didn't think she made any noise. But the lump moved and shifted and Dad was sitting up, rubbing at his eyes and Mom was pulling the blankets back, opening a Mary-sized space between them. Allie would say she was too old for this and Mary kind of thought she was too old too, but that didn't stop her from crossing the room and letting Dad pull her up on the bed and settle her between them in the warm spot.
"Bad dream," she said, because she supposed she owed them something. And when her daddy kissed the top her head and said "I know," and Mom pushed her hair back. Mary cried, just a little bit, before her daddy's hand rubbing her back lulled her back to sleep.
He asked her in the morning, when he got up and she with him. Just the two of them in the kitchen with bowls of cereal and coffee for Dad. He didn't look like he'd slept much. "It was...just a bad dream," she said.
"Have you had it before?"
She wanted to tell him, she really did. But it was big and scary and just the thought of her holding the gun and the look on daddy's face -- it made her want to run away. Far, far away to where they'd never find her. She only nodded and ate her cereal. Dad didn't push it, but he made her scootch over on the seat, and then pulled her into his lap, both their bowls of cereal in front of them and her eating with her right hand and Daddy eating with his left. Mom came down and asked them what they had done to the rest of the chairs.
"They have cooties," Daddy said with a perfectly straight face and when Mom came over with her coffee and sat on Daddy's lap as well, Mary forgot all about running away from home.
In the weeks following Mary's refusal to pick up the gun and telling her secret, Uncle Dean seemed to be around a lot more, or she just noticed it more. One a Friday night after pizza and a movie, she found him sitting outside with a beer, watching Leigh and Charlie chase each other in a two-person game of tag.
She had a cola in her hand and sat beside him. "Don't want to play?" he asked.
She shook her head and sipped her cola while Uncle Dean sipped his beer. Leigh and Charlie flopped on the grass and started yelling out, asking for the names of constellations appearing. She let Uncle Dean answer, but Mary knew most of them. She liked the Pleiades the best, the seven sisters, and sometimes named each one after herself and her own sisters. Allie was always Alcyone and Charlie always Electra. She liked being Maia in the middle. Leigh was sometimes Calearno and sometimes Taygeta. Sometimes, Aunt Dani was Merope and sometimes Sterope. Mom was always Pleione and Daddy was always Atlas. She wanted Uncle Dean to be in there, too, but there was only one boy star and so she just decided he was Orion.
She liked the names but she didn't like the myths so much, so sometimes she made up her own. But knowing the stories behind those stars was impossible to unknow, and it was not so much like lying as it was not being the truth.
"Uncle Dean, if I ask you something , will you tell me true?"
"Have I ever lied to you, Mary?" he asked her seriously, and not like he was offended.
She shook her head and squeezed the can in her hands until it crunched and nearly spilled. "My dream," she said quietly and couldn't look at him. "Did my Daddy shoot you for real?"
"Tell me true," she whispered. She didn't want Leigh or Charlie to hear. "You're still here and you still love Dad and he loves you, so whatever it was, it's all right, now."
"Yeah. It is," he said. His hand came down on her hair and stroked it before resting on her shoulder, tugging her close. "And yes, he did, but--"
Mary shook her head. "No. I don't want to know why. And did he shoot Papa Winchester, too?"
"Yes. Are you dreaming again, Mary?"
She nodded and the can got scrunched a little more. Uncle Dean's can of beer was set on the deck and Mary was suddenly in his lap again, listening to his steady heartbeat.
Uncle Dean didn't lie and Mary dreamed true.
She sat there for a long time, until Charlie and Leigh decided stars were boring. Mary pulled herself away and stood up with her hands on her Uncle's shoulders.
"I need to talk to my Dad," she said and Uncle Dean only nodded and gave her a little squeeze.
Daddy was helping Mom finish up the kitchen and Allie was at the table nibbling on the crusts that Leigh had left behind.
"Daddy, can we go for a walk?" Mary asked, and for a moment she thought it would be all of them, which would be no good at all, but then Uncle Dean was there. She didn't look but she knew when Dad looked at Uncle Dean and then at her, and Mom said she would rather play Red Rover.
They only walked as far as the end of the driveway, where the brick wall curved around and disappeared into the bushes at the edge of their yard.
There wasn't any way to tell other than to tell it and Mary was glad it was a little dark, with only the lights from their house and other people's houses shining. She didn't mind more lap sitting, no matter what Allie might think.
Dad didn't seem all that surprised. "I'm glad you told me," he said and kissed her forehead before settling her back on the brick and turning her a little so he could see her face with light. "Does your head ever hurt when you have dreams? Do you have them when you're awake?"
"No. Not either of those. They're just scary. Well, that one is." "You have dreams that aren't?"
"Sometimes. Like when we went to the Grand Canyon. I dreamed about it for weeks before."
"You've seen pictures of the Grand Canyon--"
"But not of our cabin, or the blue jeep we rented or that there wouldn't be enough beds." There hadn't been. The cabin had two beds and Dad had requested a rollaway, but they'd not had any available when they arrived.
"That's why you insisted we bring our sleeping bags even though we weren't camping. What else?"
Mary had to think. So many of her dreams weren't so specific, weren't so obvious until she actually got to the real part of them. "I dreamed about the bad man -- the one on the news. The one you put in jail. When Uncle Dean stayed with us."
"You weren't scared then."
She shook her head and shrugged a little. "I saw him go to jail with the police and the gates and you not being afraid, so I wasn't afraid."
"Okay, so no other dreams are making you scared, right now?"
"No. Just this one. I'm older in it, but it feels like now, Dad," she said. "That's why it's scary. Because it's not now while I'm still a kid. But it feels like it's starting now." She took a deep breath. "And Uncle Dean says you have dreams, too, and that's why you get those headaches and why Mom always looks worried and I don't want that to happen to me and I don't want you to hurt and can't we get rid of them, please?"
Dad kind of laughed, except Mary thought it sounded like he might cry, but his face was in a shadow and she couldn't be sure. "I don't know if we can get rid of them, Mary-mine, but we can try," he said. "We will definitely try, okay?"
His question was as good as a promise and Mary nodded, then just wrapped her arms around him because she wanted a hug and she thought maybe, just maybe, Dad needed one too.
It didn't happen all at once or even soon, although in later years, Mary would admit that her father had moved surprisingly quickly, though with his usual -- and maybe even more than usual -- caution.
There were phone calls, and there were talks, because the very first thing Daddy did was ask her if they could tell Mom. It hadn't occurred to Mary that he wouldn't tell her, but she was glad to be asked anyway.
She never said anything to Allie or Leigh, but she already knew it was almost impossible to keep secrets from Allie. They might not know what, but they knew something, because both of them offered roundabout ways of comfort -- separately. Allie let Mary sleep with her in the big double bed that was in Allie's room when it wasn't the guest room, and Leigh offered Mary her most prized and beloved stuffed animals and dolls, because she never had bad dreams when she slept with them.
Before anything actually got done, she took Allie up on her offer a few times. She didn't even bother to wake her up, and Allie never made a fuss about it when she woke to find her little sister in the bed with her.
She took Leigh up on her third favorite -- a stuffed cat -- but mostly because she liked the way it felt and because Leigh just wanted to help. Kind of the way she sometimes wanted to help Mary color in her books. Leigh wasn't always that great at it, but she meant well.
Mom always asked them how they slept, but Mary found her mother's eyes lingering on her when she asked, like she expected an honest answer. Mary wasn't comfortable with the attention, but Allie had that whole casual, "she slept with me last night," answer ready, like it was nothing and everything all at once. Allie teased her sometimes about not being so good with snakes and salamanders and frogs, but never once did she tease Mary about being too old to share a bed or sleep with a stuffed animal.
Daddy told her what he was doing -- not the details, just enough to let her know he hadn't forgotten. He let her know when he called Missouri Moseley. They'd only met her once, but Mary had been almost a baby. There was a picture of her in the album from her parents wedding, and Papa Winchester talked about her like she was a good friend.
Twice, Daddy and Uncle Dean went to talk to someone who might help, once to Nevada to see Ms. Mosely's cousin, and then they drove into Oakland to talk to someone else.
In the end, they only had to go as far as San Francisco.
Uncle Dean went the first time, too. Leigh was spending the day with Aunt Dani and Charlie, and Allie was going to the mall and a movie with a friend and her friend's parents. Mary kind of expected something, although she was kind of hoping for a girl day with Mom, only to have Uncle Dean show up.
"So," Dad said. "There's a lady we are going to take you to meet. And that's all we're going to do today is let you meet her. She has dreams like you do, and sees thing like I do, but she's not scared of seeing what she does. And what she sees doesn't come to her unless she wants it to."
"Oh. Can she make them go away?"
"No. Not exactly," Daddy said. "I can't promise to make them go away entirely, Mary. It may be like your freckles. "
"You only have to meet her, Mary," Mom said. "And listen to what she has to say."
"Are you going too?"
"We're all going with you, Mary," Uncle Dean said.
She wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. "To...protect me?"
"No. No, honey," Mom said. "If she can help, it may mean going to see her more than once. Like piano lessons. So, I want to meet her too. And you may need to practice some things, so I want to be able to help if you need it. You and your dad," she said.
"So, you're going to study with her, too?" Mary asked and Dad nodded.
"If she's the right person for us."
That sounded better, but she looked at Uncle Dean. "You already met her."
"I did. She's kind of weird but in a cool way," he said with a grin.
"But you don't have dreams."
"No. But I kind of started this...so...it's only fair that I see it through too, right?"
She couldn't argue with that, and wasn't sure she wanted to.
She'd been to San Francisco lots of times, and liked the hills and narrow houses. The house they stopped in front of wasn't all that pretty and the neighborhood didn't look as good as some. It was kind of dirty, and there were people just hanging out on the streets and in front of the few shops at street level.
Dad held her hand when they crossed the street. "Her name is Aga R'sal," he said, carefully pronouncing her last name with a roll to the "r". "She's very old, and she's almost blind, so don't be nervous if she stares at you a long time. She sees like you were looking through a pinhole. But she's very nice, just...different. "
Since Mary didn't really think her parents or her uncle would take her to see someone awful, she took it as given.
They had to climb two flights of stairs and Mary could only wonder how an old woman, who was mostly blind, managed to get up and down those stairs to go anywhere.
The inside of the house was very different from the outside, what was once a three story house, broken up into six small apartments. Outside, the clapboards were dull white and worn to the wood in places. There was no porch or any cover over the front door, and the hallway was very narrow.
But inside, the carpet was worn but clean, the bright colors faded but still looking like a field of red and yellow and blue flowers filled the hallway. There were two apartments on the first floor and two more on the second and all the doors were brightly colored, the paint looking almost new. She could hear music behind a couple of doors, and the smells in the hall were strong but not unpleasant -- like cinnamon cookies and strong curry.
Aga R'sal's door was a very bright yellow -- like a sunflower. All around the door frame were tiny little paintings of flowers and fantastical creatures, little squares of them like tiles, but they were painted directly on the wood and outlined in black or dark green or sometimes white.
There was a pull string outside the door, and Mary stared up to see the little string going through the wall. At the end of it, where Uncle Dean gripped it, was a metal fish, also brightly painted. Inside, she heard a bell ring -- not like their doorbell, but like a ding-a-ling bells like Mary used in music class sometimes.
Mary was very surprised that she only had to look up a little bit to meet Aga R'sal's eyes. She was only a little taller than Allie, and it meant that Dad and Uncle Dean and even Mom all kind of towered over her.
She had blue, blue, blue eyes...almost like sky -- or like one of Leigh's dolls. Painted-on blue. She was very brown, like Uncle Dean's leather coat, and while she was very wrinkled, her hair was almost black with only a few streaks of grey.
"Dya R'sal, it's Sam Winchester and my brother Dean. My wife Sarah, my daughter--"
"Ande Mar-y-a" she said and smiled at Mary.
"It's very nice to meet you," Mary said and offered her hand.
The small, soft, frail hands that covered hers were warm. Aga R'sal held her hand for a long time, almost long enough to make Mary nervous, but then there was a little squeeze and she was let go. The woman stepped back and opened the door wide and waved them in. "Droboy tume romale."
Dad took Mary's hand again and bowed a little to the woman. "Nais tuke, Dya."
The apartment was very small and narrow, with the kitchen and bathroom just to the left of the door and opening into a dining area, and beyond that, a living room. There was one door at the end and Mary could see the edge of a bed.
Bright fabrics covered everything; yellow and blue and red, aqua and tangerine and bright, bright green. Ms. R'sal offered the chairs and the couch for them to sit on, and then she tapped Mary's shoulder. "You will help me come get tea, ayet?"
"I can help," Mom said, but their hostess waved both hands, like she was fluffing a pillow.
"Small hands make the best tea," she said which made Mary giggle.
She wasn't sure yet that she wanted to be alone with a stranger, but it wasn't like she was leaving the room. There was water already boiling in a sauce pan, and Mary waited, not sure what to do. Aga R'sal pulled down a large metal tin and opened it. Inside were dark, fragrant tea leaves. "You have questions. How many?"
"I...I don't know.." Mary said but Aga R'sal only nodded and gave Mary the tin. "I will get the cups. You -- for every question, you put a spoon of tea in the water."
"What if I have lots?"
"Then we add more water."
Mary chewed her lip and gathered up a spoon of leaves, thinking. She looked back and her parents were watching her, and Dad smiled.
A deep breath and, Can I make the dreams go away?
The tea leaves spread over the simmering water and started to sink. Behind her, Aga R'sal was putting pretty, delicate, bright cups, none matching, on a tray one at a time, and set down a little plate with tiny cakes.
Can Daddy's dreams not hurt so much? More tea, and the aroma was like flowers and spice.
Why do I have them?
Do they always come true?
Am I special?
I don't want to shoot my dad.
The last wasn't a question and Mary stopped and set the tin aside, just as Aga R'sal held out a glass bottle of milk and little cream pitcher shaped like a cow. "You fill. And then we will have tea like royalty."
Mary carried the tray with the cups and the milk and the sugar back to her family and watched Aga R'sal pour the steaming tea through a strainer and into a tall, narrow teapot that was painted all over with violets and lilies-of-the-valley.
It was all very formal, only not, with Mary sitting between Mom and Dad on the low couch, and Uncle Dean sitting on the edge of a fragile, thin-legged chair like he was afraid it might break. Aga R'sal served her mother first, pouring the cold milk and adding a cube of sugar, and the tea came out dark and strong, like coffee.
Mary wasn't sure what she wanted in her tea, and then took hers like her dad did with no milk, only a sugar cube. Uncle Dean drank his like Mom did only with two sugar cubes.
Aga R'sal put nothing on hers. She sipped at her cup and smiled and Mary almost laughed when everybody else sipped as well, all at the same time.
The tea did taste like flowers and cinnamon, kind of like liquid cookies.
No one said anything and Mary fidgeted, but sipped her tea. Her parents didn't look nervous and neither did Uncle Dean, like being so quiet was normal for them -- which it wasn't. She found Aga R'sal staring at her and remembered what her father said, but she seemed to be able to see well enough to live alone and make tea and cookies. Mary wished she had put two sugar cubes in her cup like Uncle Dean, because the first sip had seemed interesting and nice, but now it tasted bitter.
And then Aga R'sal offered her the little plate with the sugar cubes and smiled at her. Mary took another cube and stirred it into her cup and wondered if she should have asked What do I do? as one of her questions.
"You ask the questions, Mary," Aga R'sal said softly and Mary almost dropped her cup. She felt Dad's hand on her back and Mom's hand on her knee.
"Are you reading my mind?" Mary asked very quietly
"What you think, no. What you intend...you are not afraid of me."
Mary shook her head. She wasn't. Aga R'sal was very strange but not scary, wouldn't be, she didn't think, even if she didn't know her parents and uncle would never take her someplace or to someone who was dangerous. "I'm scared of my dreams."
She finished her tea in one big swallow, and it was too sweet; the last sugar cube not having dissolved all the way. Aga R'sal refilled her cup and dropped in two more cubes. "Your dreams are true, Mary, but not real, you understand?"
"No, I don't," Mary said and she wanted to cry. "I want them to go away."
Dad set his cup down and pulled her up into his lap, and Mom moved closer.
"Ah. I cannot make them go away."
"But you can help," Dad said, pulling Mary's hair away from her face.
"Why do I have them? Why does Daddy?"
"You have them because you are your father's daughter, little one," she said and Mary was sure her father flinched all the while holding her tighter. "And your father has them because he is his mother's son. These gifts...they are a woman's gift. You have them as they were meant to be, Mary. To come to you in the quiet, in the dark. They come to you before. They do not all scare you, true?"
"True...but the ones...I don't like the ones that do."
Aga R'sal was quiet for a long moment before picking up the plate of tiny cakes. There were five of them -- not cupcakes, but little miniature cakes, flat and round, each one iced in a different color. "In one of these cakes, is a small gift, a little present. The cakes are the same other than that. They are very tasty. Would you only want the cake with the gift?"
Mary chewed her lip. "It would be nice to have the gift but...cake is good too."
"Pick a cake, Mary."
She liked blue, and she liked the pink one with the yellow edges. She though maybe Aga R'sal thought she could pick out the cake with the present but she hadn't dreamed of cakes. She finally picked the blue one.
"Give that cake to your mother."
Mary was surprised, but she offered it to her mother. Aga had her choose again and the pink cake went to Uncle Dean. She gave the green one to Aga R'sal and that left two.
"Samuel, you will pick the next cake."
Her daddy picked the purple one and that was Mary's. The last one was white and plain and her Daddy took it.
Aga set the plate down and took her cake and broke it in half. Inside was more creamy frosting but no present. Mom's and Uncle Dean's cake also had no present, and Mary wasn't sure she wanted hers.
"Your father gave you the cake, Mary," Aga R'sal said.
"That's enough," Dad said and set his cake down, unbroken. He took Mary's cake back and got up, picking up Mary with him. "Dya R'sal--"
"Sam--" Uncle Dean said, eyes wide.
"You cannot take them back, Samuel," Aga R'sal said and her voice was no longer soft, but hard. Not mean, just stern. "This gift you have, that you have given your daughter -- it is a woman's gift, meant to pass from Mother to Daughter. Your mother had no daughters. And the first born, the first son, has other gifts, other paths to walk, responsibilities to carry. Your gift is meant for a woman's strength, and on you it fits badly, but it is still yours. Your daughter, though, it comes to her as it should. She fears now because you fear. Her gifts are not yours."
For a long moment, Mary thought her father would leave, because he held her tight, and she hugged his neck. Buried her face against his throat and smelled his aftershave, felt him hold her like she weighed nothing -- like when she was small.
She felt her mother's hands at her back and then her uncle's, Mom held out her arms and Mary went with, leaving her uncle to pull her father away, toward the door and out into the hall.
Aga R'sal opened a box on the table and pulled out a dark cigarette, and a lighter shaped like a bird. Mom wrinkled her nose but didn't say anything.
It smelled like cloves and autumn and Mary watched the smoke twist and turn around Aga R'sal's head all silvery and soft looking, like the silver streaks in her hair.
"This dream you fear, Mary. Will you tell me?" she asked and she offered Mary the cake her father had picked out for her.
Her mother's arms were firm around her waist.
She took the cake and broke it open.
There was nothing inside but frosting.
"I'm a lot older," Mary said around a finger full of cream and sweetness. She stared at the cake on her father's plate and thought about what was real and what was true. "And I don't know where we are, but we're outside I think..."
When her father came back in with Uncle Dean's hand resting on his shoulder, Mary had finished her cake and almost her tale.
"...and he tells me I have to shoot. But then the dream ends."
Dad came in and sat down beside her and Mom, hands folded in between his knees like he didn't know what to do with them. "Sometimes..." he said but his voice seemed too high and he cleared his throat. "Sometimes she does...and sometimes she doesn't."
Aga R'sal put out her cigarette and lit another. "And which frightens you more?"
He shook his head, and looked at the lone cake, then at Mary. "I don't know."
When her father finally broke open his cake, inside was a small silver charm -- like a medicine wheel, only there was a econd circle inside the first, caught in the cross pieces.
"Eye of the storm," Aga R'sal said when Mary asked.
They went for curry afterward, but no one was very hungry. Mary wasn't sure if Aga R'sal had taught her anything, but she felt like she learned some things anyway.
And she suddenly had a lot more questions.
"Are we going back?" she asked on the way back home. She sat in the back seat with Mom and the leftovers. Uncle Dean drove.
Dad twisted around to look at her. "Do you want to go back?"
"Do you?" she countered but got a tap on the knee from Mom. Answering a question with a question wasn't polite, but this was important.
"I think she knows more than we do about dreams and what they mean."
"I like her," Mary said although she wasn't sure "like" was the right word.
Dad gave her a little smile. "Reason enough then, I guess. Okay."
"Mom, do you have any paper?"
Mary spent the rest of the ride carefully writing down her questions.
They went the next week, just her and Dad. There was more tea and little cookies this time, that Mary helped Aga R'sal cut out of the dough. It was more like play than lessons.
Aga R'sal didn't so much talk or tell as give them things to do. Mary learned that "Dya" meant mother. She learned a few other words too, and she learned how to paint on little blocks of wood, making one for each of her parents, for her sisters and cousin, for Uncle Dean and Aunt Danielle. Her father painted too, looking at the patterns Aga used as examples. Mary thought they meant something to him, and he copied some of them into his notebook. Her father asked questions, not hiding them from Mary, and she half-listened...letting the words wash over her.
"Four cardinal points --"
"You spend too much time looking for patterns, Samuel. Look to relationships -- air to fire, fire to water...water to earth..."
"No. They are only the medium...air to earth, mother to daughter, brother to brother..." Aga made an impatient sound. "You think like a man."
Her father chuckled. "It kind of comes with the territory..."
Aga had poked his shoulder. "This is the gift of women. So, you must regard relationships as one."
"Just don't tell my brother," her daddy said, and that made Mary giggle. Dad poked her, then stole the blue paint brush.
Sometimes, they went every week and sometimes, there were two between. Mom sent Aga R'sal flowers sometimes, or pretty scarves. Mary never saw her father pay her.
They spent an entire afternoon with hand mirrors, looking at each other backwards. Another afternoon they came in and Aga had propped mirrors up all over the place, big and small. Her father laughed when they played tag with them -- unable to look at each other except through the mirrors, and required to find more of Aga's painted tiles, only by searching for them in the mirrors. Her father was better at it than she was, but she didn't mind at all and she liked best catching him looking at her in the reflection of a mirror and her looking back. He grinned at her and they moved around the room until they found a way for both of them to be in the same mirror without actually being close to one another.
Aga R'sal sat at the table in the kitchen smoking her cigarettes and sipping her tea and laughing at their antics. It was very much like playing tag with her sisters' shadows in the back yard.
On the drive there and back, she talked to her father and he told her some of his dreams, although she knew he would never tell her the worst ones or the worst of them. But the dream she shared with her father was almost the only one that was the same.
Her father saw what would be. Not always, but mostly.
Mary saw what could be, all true but not always real.
She went two months without dreaming at all and wondered why.
Her father went those same two months with dreams -- bad ones -- every few nights. But she never asked him what they were about, until the day it was her mother and not her father that took her to see Aga R'sal, because her father felt sick and Mom put her foot down and called Uncle Dean and told him to make sure Daddy slept.
"Is my Daddy taking my dreams from me?" she asked.
Aga R'sal had her and her mom looping fringe into the edge of a shawl -- silky, multicolored threads.
"Dreams cannot be given or taken from one to another -- even if your father wanted to. Even if you wanted to. How many threads in a knot of fringe?"
Mary counted them. "Twelve."
Aga knotted another and spread the threads. "Twenty-four."
"Those are doubled."
A snip of scissors at the top of the knot and Mary frowned. If she untied the knot there would be twenty-four threads now. "That's kind of tricky. There were twelve when you asked."
"True. But twelve is what is. Twenty-four, or forty-eight -- that is what could be. Your dreams are your own, Mary. Your father's belong to him."
"I'm not dreaming."
"You will," Aga said and got up to make more tea.
Aga gave Mary the shawl when it was done and one for each of her sisters.
When the dreaming started again, Mary wasn't sure they were the same. They seemed quieter somehow, and when she felt anxious in them, she found herself looking for the mirrors, like the ones in their house -- reflections of reflections -- or looking for the colors in the otherwise black and white landscape. When she woke, she would stare at the lines of brightly painted tiles lined up on her dresser. Mostly blue or mostly red or white or yellow. She didn't know what it meant yet, what was different, but it was.
Summer was winding down and school would be starting soon. Daddy was working on a big case that with lots of clients and Mary kept thinking it had something to do with school, but that wasn't quite right. Daddy still went with her most of the time, stopping whatever he was doing, but a few times her mom took her and once it was uncle Dean.
Uncle Dean didn't help with the game of tiles and polished stones Aga showed her -- and said he didn't recognize the symbols cut into the small clay squares. Mary called them out, "Aba, deit, thun, moaur, kishi..." while Uncle Dean worked under Aga's sink to fix a leak in the pipes there.
Leigh had asked to come once or twice, not angry, just curious. "Does she have a birthday? We could take her a cake...you've been going forever."
Mary rolled her eyes. "Have not. I've gone..." she counted, not surprised when she remembered what they did rather than the days. "Eight times."
"Your dreams don't wake you up any more," Allie said from the doorway of Mary and Leigh's room. Of the three of them, she was the one who liked the bright gift shawls best. She wore it like skirt sometimes and sometimes like a shirt, sat on the porch with it wrapped around her shoulders.
Mary's dreams didn't wake her. Sometimes she thought she recognized bits of it from before; the unfamiliar walls with the peeling paint and the graffiti, the broken equipment strewn across the floor. She could hear Uncle Dean's voice and her father's...but the shot never came. She never heard the horrible thunder of the gun going off. There was the cabin too, worn wood and bare walls, salt spilling from the windows, but it was an empty place, echoing with sounds that she couldn't see the source of.
And the open place; building to her left, woods to her right, out in the dark and knowing her father was close, her uncle...but her hands were empty and the gun she'd picked up never fired.
It was on the way to her tenth visit to Aga that her father suddenly pulled the car over to the side of the road, arm coming out to hold Mary against the seat even though she had her seatbelt on. It was sudden enough to make her drop her water bottle, though, make it splash a little against the footwell. He pulled all the way over onto the shoulder and cut the engine, his hand coming up to press his fingers to his eyes.
He didn't need to say what it was. Mary had seen it before, the sudden scrunching of her father's face, eyes and mouth all tight like Mary's own face got when she was hurt or upset. His other hand gripped the steering wheel, but then he fumbled for his cell phone, almost dropping it. He looked like he might be sick.
"Just...give me a minute, Mary. It'll be okay," he said, but he was almost whispering. He picked up the phone again, but he couldn't seem to find the right buttons. Mary took the phone.
"Who do I call?"
"Mom...Dean...I'm okay, Mary," he said, even though he wasn't.
Mom would be at the gallery she worked at sometimes, hanging pictures and setting up lights. Daddy was supposed to go with her to the opening tomorrow. Allie would be with her.
Mary called her uncle.
"Where are you, Mary-maid?" Uncle Dean asked her, calm as anything.
She wasn't sure of the street name but she described the area...just a few blocks from Aga R'sal's.
"I'll be there soon. Can your dad talk to me?"
Her dad took the phone, but mostly he gave only "Yes" or "No" answers and the name of the street they were on, and "...no. Not now. It's ...it's dark--" and her dad scrunched his face up and closed his eyes tightly like he was straining to see through his blindness.
Ahead of him and into the darkness.
Mary reached over to grab Daddy's wrist. He clasped her hand and clicked the phone off. "Uncle Dean will be here soon."
Mary knew Dad was brave. She wondered if she would ever be brave enough to look at the things in her dreams head-on instead of always trying to look away.
Dad leaned back, rubbing his hand over his eyes and blinking. His eyes stayed open for a moment then closed again, his mouth all tight and frowny. "Is it going away?" She asked very quietly.
"A little," he said and looked at her, gave her a small smile, then clenched his eyes tight again and hissed.
Mary wasn't afraid-afraid -- but she didn't like seeing her Daddy hurting. Hadn't really ever seen him like this, because so often they happened at night or Daddy would go to his bedroom and shut the door, while Mom told them he had a headache but it would pass. "Can't you stop looking?" she asked scooting closer.
"I try, Mary --There's just...pieces. I'm just trying to put the pieces together." His voice sounded stronger. Mary wondered if talking about it helped. He talked about them with Mom, and Uncle Dean. She wanted to help, and she knew Uncle Dean, at least, asked questions.
"Is it like looking in the mirrors?" she asked, petting her father's hand.
"Is it pieces like when we look in Aga's mirrors? Not in order?"
Dad blinked again and took a deeper breath. "No...but..." he chewed in his lip and then winced, squeezing Mary's hand. "Take the phone. Don't unlock the doors for anyone but Uncle Dean."
Her father breathed deep and slow and closed his eyes again. He didn't say anything else and he didn't let go of her hand -- not really, but it went soft and limp in hers and his head rested against the back of the head rest.
He shook once, like he had chills and made a sound, like an "Oh..." and then his head slumped forward. His chest rose and fell and Mary thought she might cry. She held it in though, and rubbed her father's hand, but he didn't respond.
By the time Uncle Dean pulled up behind them, she had tucked herself against her father. He wasn't sleeping, she knew that, but she could feel him breathing and if she listened really hard, she could hear his heart. Or maybe it was her own.
When Uncle Dean tapped on the window she used the button on Dad's key to unlock the door.
"Hey, sweetheart," he said and he still sounded calm, even though he pressed his fingers to her father's neck. His hands were shaking a little. "You okay?"
"Just worried." It was true. A little scared, but more like the jittery feeling in her stomach when she stood up in front of class to read a composition. "What's wrong with Dad?"
"Not sure. How long's he been like this?"
Forever Mary wanted to say but the little clock on the dashboard said not. "About five minutes."
"All right. It's going to be okay, Mary-maid." He put both hands on either side of he father's neck and face. "Can you do me a favor? Can you go to my truck and get the first-aid kit? It's under the seat in front. The truck is unlocked. You stay on that side of the road, okay?"
Mary nodded and scooted back over, opening her door and running back to Uncle Dean's truck to find the kit. It was bigger and heavier than she expected, but not too heavy for her to carry. She pushed the box onto the seat next to her dad and climbed in after it.
"Good girl," Uncle Dean said. He had a little flashlight out and was holding her daddy's eyes open, shining the light into them, like a doctor did. "Go ahead and open it. There's some little pellets there, on the side."
She handed him one. "This is going to stink," he told her with a little smile and broke it open. The ammonia-smell made Mary sneeze, but it made Dad wake up when Uncle Dean waved it under his nose. He jerked awake and coughed and then he and Mary sneezed together.
Uncle Dean grinned at them both. "You got some water over there, Mary?"
The bottle of water was half empty and not cold any more, but her dad dfrank from it anyway, small carefully-swallowed sips. He reached over and wrapped his hand around the back of her head, fingers rubbing her neck. Uncle Dean didn't say anything, only leaned in and against the open car door, occasionally looking out and around at the street, at the buildings close by.
"Thanks for coming," Daddy finally said.
"Yeah, well, I was hip deep in paperwork and you know how much I love that. How ya' doing there, Sammy?"
Her dad nodded slowly. "Better. I mean--" he sounded surprised and he looked at Mary, stroked her hair. "Sorry, sweetheart. I'm sorry I scared you."
"I wasn't scared," she said, but she was glad her dad didn't let go of her either.
"You good to go home? We can leave yours here, I'll take you. Come back for--"
"No," her dad said. "No. Mary...you still up for seeing Aga? If you aren't, I'll let Uncle Dean take you home, but I need to talk to her."
"Sam, you were out cold for at least five minutes--what if it happens again? And if you saw--"
"I'm okay. I'll tell you -- but really, I need to go. Mary?"
He still had a hand on her shoulder and Mary leaned into it. "We can go. It's not far."
Uncle Dean looked kind of mad, but he just threw his hands in the air. "All right, fine. But you're not driving. I mean it, Sam. Lock the car up. If I think you're okay, we'll pick it up on the way back," he said and reached over to grab the keys where Mary had left them on the seat. "Only deal I'm offering, ass."
"Fine. Okay...Okay," her daddy said and pulled the first aid kit up and over his lap to give to Uncle Dean. Then he took Mary's hand before he got out of the car. He didn't let go as Mary climbed out afterward, or even when he stumbled a little and Uncle Dean pushed him against the side of the car while he rolled up the windows and locked it. Mary put her arms around her father's waist and he tucked her close.
"You did good, Mary. Better than you know," her daddy said. He smiled at her and Mary smiled back.
"What did I do?"
He crouched down and kissed her forehead. "I think you taught me how to see."
It wasn't so simple, of course, and Mary wasn't sure she understood it even when her father explained it. It made a little more sense after they'd been at Aga's for a little bit, with her father and Aga speaking quietly and Mary making the tea with Uncle Dean. He didn't really know how it was supposed to be made, and Mary found herself telling him how much water to put in the pot, and how much tea. She let him strain the tea into the china teapot because the water pan was heavy and Mary was always afraid she was going to break the delicate-looking thing. Uncle Dean's hands were much steadier.
She also didn't know exactly what her father had been seeing, only that he'd seen someone being hurt, maybe dying, and it wasn't anyone he knew but he kind of knew where and he kind of knew when but it wasn't now and he and Uncle Dean would take care of it.
"I don't think I could see that," she said in a very small voice, with a tea cup in her hand. "I want to look away when I see bad things happen."
"That's not a bad idea," Dad said and Aga chuckled and then laughed and Mary thought her daddy looked kind of embarrassed. "What you said, Mary, about there being pieces and not in order...that helped a lot."
"It did?" she said surprised.
Dad smiled and nodded. "Yeah. Kind of like...you know how when we look at an eclipse and we never look at it directly? We use the box and the pinhole?"
She nodded. They had done that just last spring. She'd wanted to look at the sun, but it had been so bright it hurt her eyes.
"Well, some things you can't look at directly."
She still didn't really understand, but while Dad and Uncle Dean were talking, Aga sat down next to her and handed her a small, square hand mirror, all bright enamel and silver, and helped her hold it up so she could see her father and uncle. "Is that really them? Who you see in the mirror."
Mary didn't answer immediately, but glanced over her shoulder. They seemed smaller in the mirror and reversed. "It is, but it's just a reflection of them."
"Yes. Sometimes, when you look directly at something, you can see only what you look at. In dreams, sometimes what you see is not what you should be looking at. So," she held the mirror up again, "What else can you see?"
Mary stared, and she could see her family, but she could also see the edges of the room and if she tilted the mirror she could see more -- the way the sun slanted in the window, the faint stain on the curtain there, near the bottom. She could see the flash of light the mirror she held cast upon the wall, and how the bright pictures of saints on Aga's wall all seemed to be looking at each other. "But I can see those things when I look at them, too."
"True, but you would not be looking for those things, only for what you want to see, what you cannot ignore. The mirror lets you step back. This, you know...you have known it. Already in your dream, the one you don't like, you are seeing other things; things other than the gun and your father. Look long enough, Mary, and you will see what brings you there as well."
"And if I know how we get there..." She'd know how to avoid going there at all.
Aga smiled and lit a cigarette. She leaned back and sipped her tea.
Years later, the scent of cloves and cinnamon, and a warm cup of tea would calm Mary.
And when looking in mirrors, she sometimes thought she caught glimpses of a woman walking a different path.
She was never really sure if it was Aga, or herself.
Notes: In terms of the Salvation 'verse, Sam's ability to see the future and use his telekinesis, are present but glossed over. He does not, as his daughters and Dean's daughter later demonstrate, ever become accustomed or comfortable with his powers. When Weesta asked for this story, I was kind of thrilled, because Barb and I knew Sam did, finally get some instruction and guidance but we never really explored it.
The designation of Sam's gift as a "woman's gift" was both a minor inside joke and a nod to some fairly common mythological tropes -- i.e. that many oracles and seers in classical mythology, are indeed, women, and in some areas of study, gifts are often characterized as being either "feminine" or "masculine" -- that is, woman's gifts are identified as being more receptive, and men's gifts as more active. That Sam has both foresight and telekinesis puts him smack in the middle of conflicting gift structures. Barb and I didn't consciously plan it this way (or at least I didn't) but in a very real sense, Dean's "Gift" of intuition, of knowing where the bodies are and when a house is ready to burn, would also be considered a "woman's gift", and Charlie's telekinesis more masculine.
In some ways, Sam and Dean's gifts are flawed, in a away their daughters' gifts are not. Where the boys have fractured gifts, the girls, especially together display the whole array of psychic senses. When Aga teaches Mary how things fit together and how to see things differently, she's laying groundwork for more than just Mary's sight.
And a note on Aga: I have long been fascinated by, but am by no means a scholar of, the Romani; from their origins in Persia and India to their modern day efforts to reclaim their heritage, I find the cobbled together multi-cultural nature of them incredibly intriguing. That said, nearly everything here is made up -- also cobbled together from bits and pieces of folklore, of cultural tidbits. I've used bits and piece of Rom history before, stolen artifacts and even stereotypes. At the end of these notes, I have some clips of music -- folk songs that are as much a part of the region I drew much of Aga's ethnography from as well as few links to what little online documentation there is of the Rom dialects. All of it is meant as information and entertainment and not intended to imply that may use or portrayal of Aga R'sal is a legitimate or accurate representation of a race of people who still carry both the taint of other and outsider and the mystery of the unknown and magical.
Some Romani folk songs (I have no idea what they are saying, or if these are titles or artists, but I liked them. Please right click and "save as")
I once had a great family,
Russian Gypsy song, "Okonchen Poot," by Yul Brynner and Aliosha Dimitrievitch.