Dean packed up a dinner of chicken and rice, with a side of steamed vegetables for Sam. He tried not to think about how this was their first meal as a married couple. He shook his head vigorously at allowing that thought. That kind of stuff was going to kill him if he let himself go down that road. After successfully getting the statue of Apedemak dug up, he unpacked the dinner on the hood of the Impala and waited for Sam to appear. His husband, Sam. He shook his head again, thus missing the moment of his appearance.
“You okay?” Sam asked.
Dean jumped in surprise and looked up to see Sam sitting on the other side of their dinner. Sam twinkled with the touch of the dawn all over his skin, it was ridiculous how beautiful he was. “Hey…hi,” Dean managed to say.
Sam’s eyes went warm and caring, oh god, he’d seen how embarrassed Dean was. Before Dean could freak out about that, Sam was leaning over their dinner and kissing him. It was just what he needed, Sam was just who he needed. Dean hoped that was getting across to Sam when he kissed him back. As they finally broke apart, Dean fussed with the dinner supplies.
“How’d it go with Mom and Jack’s trip?” Sam asked, serving himself some dinner to give Dean a chance to get himself together.
“It seemed okay, she said he was a very careful driver, so I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.”
“What?” Sam asked, he looked at Dean like he was examining and weighing all the expressions Dean couldn’t keep off his face. “You’re leaving something out.”
“I’m…it was hard being with Mom, and her not knowing. About us, and yesterday, and all that,” Dean said.
“Oh you mean about how her sons are now married?” Sam asked with a grin. “I could see how that’d be a little uncomfortable.”
“At some point we’re gonna have to have the talk with her, right?” Dean asked, unsure how Sam would want to proceed or if he’d even thought about it.
“Can we go with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for now?” Sam asked.
“I want to tell her at some point, I want her to know, no, more importantly, I don’t want to have to lie about you and me…to her or to anyone,” Dean said, firm in his conviction, he wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to hide his love for Sam.
Sam, who hadn’t said anything for a few long moments.
Dean glanced at him and saw tears glimmering in the corners of his brother’s eyes. He laid one hand over Sam’s and waited for him to speak.
“Sorry, just…that was something I was worrying about, a lot. And hearing you sound so sure of how you feel, it just—it was just what I needed to hear, Dean, thanks.”
“Sammy, what I vowed to Ullr, and what I said and did in front of Hespera, I meant it. If Mary can’t deal with the facts of who we are, and what we mean to each other, then…I’m okay with letting her go.”
“You are?” Sam asked, sounding so young and unsure, it broke Dean’s heart to know that he hadn’t made his brother understand how he felt.
“Yeah, absolutely, how about you?” Dean asked.
“I—yeah, same, me too, all that,” Sam babbled.
Dean pulled Sam into as much of a hug as he could manage with their dinner in-between them. The Impala’s hood was slick, and Sam slid forward easily into his arms. He didn’t care if the chicken and rice spilled. Sam was kissing him and whispering words into his mouth, and Dean inhaled it all, not wanting to let a molecule of it ever escape him. Sam tasted so good, so perfect, he didn’t ever want to stop. Dean’s phone alarm beeped at the time he’d set, interrupting them. The light was quickly disappearing from the sky, hopefully they’d still have enough time to get this done.
“C’mon, let’s get this last one done, huh?” Dean said, reluctantly letting Sam pull away.
Dean lit several pillar candles and Sam arranged the wheat bundles. Dean got Ra out of his cage and situated him on his preferred spot to perch, up on his left shoulder.
Sam grinned at him. “He really likes you,” Sam said.
“He’s pretty cool, never thought I’d like a pet,” Dean said. “He likes bacon even more than mom does.”
They leaned forward together to touch the top of the statue, the golden mane glinted in the flickering candlelight. Apedemak appeared with a roar, a real lion’s roar of noise and sound and movement, it lit up the fight or flight response in Dean’s body, going on pure instinct he stepped in front of Sam. Sam’s hand landed on his non-hawk-laden shoulder and squeezed gently, Sam’s way of offering silent reassurance.
“Apedemak, you who gives guidance, we are Sam and Dean Winchester, and we are here to revitalize our support. You guide us to satisfaction, and we give much reverence to you. We give it amicably to you, may it go forth,” Sam read from the paper they’d prepared, it had been adapted from a tablet found in one of Apedemak’s temples in Egypt.
Apedemak lowered his mane-covered head slightly in a very human looking bow of acceptance. “You Winchesters have kept me entertained and well-occupied these last few years, I did not think gods and angels and demons would beat such a path to your doors.”
“We appreciate any protection you have provided and any that you can offer in the future,” Sam said, bowing his head, Dean was struck with how much like a lion-mane his brother’s hair looked in the light from the candles.
“Yeah, thanks for keeping us, and the bunker protected. We’re sorry that we haven’t made any offerings to you, we honestly didn’t know it was a thing we were supposed to be doing. We want to make it up to you,” Dean said, Ra crowed from his shoulder which made Apedemak smile. The revelation of the lion’s sharp teeth made Dean gasp in fear. Sam bumped him with his hip.
“What is it that you offer to me?” Apedemak asked, his lion eyes sharp and assessing on both of them, it made Dean’s skin crawl, a predator eyeing its prey.
“One of the offerings going forward is that we have signed an agreement with our neighbor to plant wheat here every year from now on. He’s already planting it on his own land, so we’re renting him this quadrant of our land. In addition to that, we promise to tend to the wheat, offer you a portion of the harvest, and to bring the hawk out every month to see you,” Sam said.
Apedemak smiled, his enormous lion-sized teeth shining in the candle light. “I accept, but with one small adjustment.” He held out an arm and the hawk took off from Dean’s shoulder, swooped over their heads several times in the quickly darkening sky and landed elegantly, digging its talons into the dark skin of his forearm. “The hawk will be much happier with me.”
Dean was momentarily sad to lose Ra, but he knew Apedemak was probably right. Pets, no matter how cool, didn’t really fit in with their hunting lifestyle. Were there even pet-sitters who could take care of hawks?
“So we’re all good then?” Dean asked.
“Yes, Dean, we are as you say, ‘all good’. I assume you ask because of Mater Matuta and her demands?”
Dean nodded, not wanting to name the details of what they were both so worried about.
“Is there anything you can do to help us with what she’s asking?” Sam asked.
“Unfortunately, no, that is not how this works. We are each separately engaged to protect part of the lands here. We hardly interact at all, but please know that each of us has communicated to her that we believe her demands are egregious. But she is what you would call ‘old school’ and cannot be swayed. I am sorry to say there is nothing any of us can say or do to change her mind.”
“Thank you for trying, we appreciate it so much, especially because you didn’t have to do that for us,” Sam said.
“But I did, after all, it wasn’t just done for you. As you’ve been told before, your presence in the world is one of the things keeping it all in balance. Call it a measure of self preservation. Ra and I will go now, I want to show him the night skies.”
Apedemak disappeared with a lion’s growl that echoed into the silent night. Shit—it was night. Dean turned to Sam and got to say one thing. “Told you we were the shit, Sammy.”
Dean grinned and then disappeared before Sam could reply. Maybe the two of them were important to the world’s balance or whatever, but standing there alone, left with a hole in the ground to fill in, Sam didn’t see how that could continue to work if they were always separated like this. He didn’t know how much longer he could go on, it was getting to be too hard.
It had been months and months of this, all the way from the end of January to June, they’d alternated in and out of the dawn and dusk, researching and digging up statues and appeasing deities. The brothers grew more and more desperate as the days passed, the worry over the sacrifice that Mater Matuta demanded an ever-present storm cloud.
The brothers traded the advances in their research at dawn and dusk, during the only times when they could appear to each other. Dean had the hours between dawn and dusk, and Sam had dusk to dawn. These were the hours when they were corporeal and able to do stuff, see other people, work on research, etc. But they couldn’t see each other during the majority of the day, and they found they couldn’t stand it, it drove them both nuts how much they missed each other. In the very short times twice daily between dusk and dawn, and dawn and dusk, they could appear to each other, but it wasn’t enough. In those times, they gradually came back together. They couldn’t help it, they needed the comfort, they needed something for their hearts and spirits to hold onto while they worked on the case. Their case.
The three other deities were now appeased, the lutin was dead too, thanks to Diana. Just Mater Matuta remained and June 11 was soon approaching. The brothers hadn’t worked on that issue, it hadn’t seemed like something that was negotiable. Their only hope was that the other three deities would be pleased enough to intercede with Mater Matuta on their behalf. But after talking to all three of them in turn, they’d realized they were stuck with having to pay this horrible debt.
The boys didn’t ever ask Mary, or even tell her about the sacrifice that was coming due. But she found their research, and saw the date written and underlined. Sam’s last words written were:
“Was two lives owed to Mater Matuta, now “only” one because of Diana killing the lutin. If we don’t sacrifice someone, then what happens to us? Are we stuck like this dawn to dusk forever? Or—worst case scenario: Do we then become the default sacrifice if we don’t make another one in our places? Can I offer myself, would she accept that? Due Date: June 11 - Matralia.”
“Oh boys, no wonder,” Mary whispered to herself. She had less than a day to think about it, but it all came into focus in a flash, knowing what they’d been worried about these past months, on top of everything else it explained so much of their behavior. She might have a chance here to finally make things right. This might be her turn to make the sacrifice. After all they’d done it seemed like it was someone else’s turn, and since she was their mother, it only seemed right.
Mary wasn’t sure if a voluntary sacrifice would count to pay the sacrifice. But she might be able to appease Mater Matuta before tomorrow, which was June 11. It was the festival of mothers for mothers, for women married only once especially. It was part of the traditional celebration, held on June 11, the date of the annual festival of Matralia.
She sat and drank her coffee alone in her room, read all about mothers and sons and long-lost husbands and families and their experiences with Mater Matuta back in the ancient times. If she was honest with herself, she knew that she hadn’t been much of a mother to these boys this second time around, she hadn’t really tried. Most of her time since she’d been back had been staying busy to avoid the pain of being separated from the ones she’d left behind in Heaven. These men were not those boys, she didn’t know them, even though she loved them. And they were in so much pain being separated like this, it wasn’t right for the world to maybe lose them altogether. If she had the chance to save both of the brothers from their torment, she was going to at least give it a try.
Every day she had seen the pain this separation had wrought on both of them and it wasn’t getting any better for them. They were not adjusting, it seemed more and more like they were not going to survive it if it went on much longer. Then there was Sam’s written speculation about what happened if the sacrifice wasn’t made, maybe they’d be stuck in the dawn-dusk thing forever, or even worse, be taken as the sacrifice. Neither of those two options were okay with her. This world needed them, that she knew for sure. This was their world, she’d never felt right here in this time and place, it had never felt like she truly belonged or that they’d really needed her around. She knew that she didn’t know even half of their whole story and she wasn’t sure she wanted to.
Mary saw Sam come in, dragging himself into the kitchen to heat up some leftover coffee. She hugged him and tried to keep it normal so he didn’t notice. But he was so tired, exhausted really, and he barely looked at anything besides his coffee cup. It made up her mind for her.
“Everything go okay with Apedemak?” Mary asked.
Sam nodded. “Yeah, he took Ra with him, so Dean was a little bummed. But otherwise, it went as planned. He said that Dean and I are important to keeping the world in balance. I’m not sure how to think or feel about hearing that.”
“Whoa, that’s pretty wild to hear from a god. I think it must mean something really positive though. Right, Sam?” Mary asked.
Sam nodded, but stayed silent, obviously chewing over all the thoughts of what balance Dean and he could provide to the world if they never got back to normal.
“What’s that song you’re humming, it sounds familiar, maybe?” Mary asked.
“Just…uh something I picked up somewhere,” Sam said. Mary didn’t press him any further, but was unnerved by the strange look that crossed her son’s face. It reminded her of the expression Dean had worn when he’d been humming the same tune. Sam wandered off without another word.
She took the chance when Sam was sleeping for his four hours to drive out to the east of the bunker. She started digging in the spot where it had been marked and soon uncovered the top of the statue. She touched it and was blown away by the whoosh of light and singing that assaulted her senses. She heard and felt music, a strong female voice was singing “A crown above and a crown below” and Mary wondered what it meant. She realized that it was the song she’d heard both of her boys humming over the last few months.
When the light cleared from her eyes, Mary saw a female figure standing before her, tall and shapely, glittering like the dawn’s light on a dewy morning lawn. “Mater Matuta, can we talk?” Mary asked.
“Ah, yes, Mary Winchester, I have heard many things about you,” Mater Matuta said, her voice ringing like bells.
“I’ve heard many things about you as well. I have come to celebrate Matralia with you today. Was that you who I heard singing so beautifully?” Mary said.
“Yes, that is my song for the dawn, thank you. I sing it every morning for the dawn’s light to rise. In order for us to celebrate Matralia I must ask you, are you a free woman, in your first marriage? And do you honor your sister’s children on this day?”
“I am a free woman, I have only been married once, although my husband has passed. I have no sister of my own, just the sisterhood of other women, and I do honor all of their children,” Mary said.
Mater Matuta smiled in acceptance. “Mary, I will be honest with you. I have been very tired, all these years alone, fighting with the lutin for the protection of this place, never getting my due as I was promised. The only thing that kept me going was that the dawn light is so pure and strong in this place. I was giving up, becoming weaker year by year, and then they came. Lit up the whole place, from my point of view, you see? The love pouring from the two of them was something to behold, brighter than the most beautiful sunrise. I was told by one of my directional counterparts, that they are anima genimae and then it all made sense. Especially once I met them together.”
When Mary didn’t respond, Mater Matuta continued, “Anima genimae is what I believe you would call soulmates.”
“My boys…are soulmates?” Mary asked, stunned almost into paralysis.
“They are brothers?” Mater Matuta asked, sounding surprised with herself to not have considered that possibility.
“Yes, they’re both my sons, Dean is four years older than Sam.”
“That was not how I saw it, I am sorry for assuming.”
“What was it that you did assume?” Mary asked in a halting voice.
“That they were soul mates in all the ways two humans can be.”
“Ah…that explains a lot,” Mary said, everything suddenly slotting into place. All the strange things she’d noticed over the years about her boys, the obvious thing between her boys. They’d likely been one thing before she’d arrived, and ripped themselves apart because she’d come. Maybe it made her the worst sort of mother, but she didn’t want to deal with what she’d caused, or what they truly were. It was too much, she just wanted to go back to her little boys, and her husband in their corner of Heaven.
“What does it explain?” Mater Matuta asked.
“Knowing that my boys are anima genimae makes this decision even easier for me. I would like to offer myself to you to pay the required sacrifice,” Mary said.
“I thank you for your generous offer, however a suicide will not be enough, it must be a sacrifice,” Mater Matuta said.
“Can you bring someone here for me? There is a boy, a nephilim, they consider him as their son, he lives with them here. His name is Jack, and if I ask him, I think he will do it for me and for them.”
Mater Matuta nodded and closed her eyes, her mouth moved as she whispered, “I will bring him here. Jack, come to us.”
The light flared up again, bright and hot, Mary shielded her eyes, and then she felt someone standing next to her on the dewy lawn.
“Mary?” Jack asked, “Where are we?”
“Jack this is Mater Matuta, the goddess of the dawn. She is the one who has split Sam and Dean’s time. She requires a human sacrifice to be made today.”
“It is what I am owed,” Mater Matuta said.
Jack looked at both of them without speaking, his face full of fear.