|The Eyes Have It.
Gen. Shadow related. John POV. Thanks to Em for the fast beta.
There are times when Sam's eyes are the only things John remembers of Mary. Most of the time, his younger son's eyes hover between blue and green, mood or shirt color or just emotion shoving the color along the available spectrum. When they settle on blue, his eyes look so much like his mother's, John could swear Mary was staring back at him through them.
In all other things, Dean favors his mother more than he does John, but it's more comfort than reminder. He's got that steady, unyielding, and sometimes formidable ability to love, fierce and hard and unrelenting. He's got her mouth, and the cast of her face to his features, handsome as she was beautiful.
Sam though, Sam got her stubbornness and John knows it's hers and not his; John will dig his feet in just because, but Mary, Mary would dig her heels in and this and this and this is why, like she kept a damn running tally in her head and when it hit some pre-approved limit the calling out and calling on started out with "No," and ended with, "deal."
She'd have made a hell of a lawyer too.
He'd lost those arguments with Mary more times than he could count and that was saying something because Mary didn't dig her heels in without reason, and Mary didn't carry grudges, win or lose, and Sam did both and John doesn't have to look past a bathroom mirror to know where he got that from.
Mary never looks at him so clearly through Sam's eyes as when Sam is laughing. He saw it the whole time Sam was growing up, that laughter, that smile that uses up so much more of who Sam is, who Mary was, than just mouth and eyes can express, like there was more just busting to get out and the flash of teeth and the wide set eyes (blue, so blue) that it came out in flailing hands and open arms and body that vibrated with laughter so infectious it could have been the plague for the way it struck family and total strangers alike.
John only barely remembers when Sam stopped laughing so much; somewhere around fifteen, he thinks, before he realized that Sam was no longer falling or tripping over furniture when he got going, when he started pulling all that joy back into himself until even Dean could only coax it out once in awhile and then with only the most extreme effort.
When he did notice, it made him irrationally angry, the way grief does, because he knew he was at least partially responsible for driving it from Sam, for driving that much of Mary out of their son. He didn't know how to undo it, couldn't call it back, couldn't, didn't, want to admit he missed it almost as much as he was glad not to see it any longer, that he couldn't bear to be reminded of all she'd wanted for them and all he'd failed to provide. He couldn't face Mary's gaze in Sam's eyes and that failure at the same time. It felt like a betrayal
Maybe it was, but Sam's eyes were more knowing than they should have been, and it wasn't so much Mary's disapproval he saw for what he'd made of their sons, for what he'd made of himself in her absence, as much as it was those looks made him question it all. Mary had been his conscience as much as his partner all the years they'd had together, and Sam could have been that too, maybe if he'd also gained her ability to cut to the heart of things, rather than just cutting the heart out of things.
Dean was all her steadiness, her grace and confidence, the happiness she wore like a barrette in her hair. Sam was all her smarts and her compassion and her heart that she never hid or apologized for. That Sam did both was probably his biggest mistake.
He could still see her in Sam's eyes, cut and bleeding and shaken and wary and looking nothing like her when Dean was such a sharp reminder of her that hugging Dean was like a gift he wasn't sure he deserved any longer.
He saw Mary in that stubborn set of Sam's jaw, in the barely suppressed tremors in his body, that John could no longer read -- anger or fatigue or relief, maybe all three.
But she was still there, though not with laughter, more with sorrow.
John's, "It's been a long time," was for his Sam, a fumbling attempt to close the breach, shorten the distance.
Sam's, "Too long," though…was