Year/Length: 2007/ ~4898 words
Pairing: Dean, Sam...Dad, little!Dean, baby!Sam.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Any of it.
Warning: Fluff. Language.
Summary: When he steps back into the room he is wearing one of Dean's adult shirts, completely swallowed in the long sleeves. It hangs down to his ankles, keeps slipping off one shoulder, and looks completely ridiculous. Sam grins, unable to help himself, "Nice dress."
Author's Notes: So I promised bakarini fluff. And she wanted wee Dean. And I do so love requests that I had to do it. Possibly not as fluffy as it should be, but as fluffy as I can manage. Fluff breaks me out in hives! It's not my fault! Hope it's close to what you wanted, bakarini. I also threw in wee Sam, for ultra–sweetness.
It seems like there should be a bright flash of light, or a sudden boom of sound, the smell of fire and brimstone filling the air. It seems like there should be some warning besides Dean jerking away, trying to scramble back out the door the moment he sees the big mirror hanging in the motel's lobby. Something besides the sudden flash of recognition in his green eyes and the way he had started to shout and then–
And then he was gone.
There was no show, no ceremony, not even a flicker in the air. One minute his brother was making a rude gesture to the man behind the counter who hadn't so much as looked away from the grainy television situated in one corner of the room, and the next... Well, he was still being horribly rude, and Sam briefly wonders where his brother had learned sign language for that particular phrase. Mostly, he wonders how he had learned it before he was five foot tall.
There's no doubt that the child is Dean. Sam would have know him even without the vulgar gestures. There's a picture of Dean at this age, somewhere, or at least there was once. All freckles and sharp green eyes, hair falling to his shoulders because in the winter Dad let their hair grow. The cockiest little seven–year–old son of a bitch to ever walk into the Sleeping Time Motel in Havelock, North Carolina.
Sam tries to think of something to say, comes up blank. Not that he has much time before Dean is scanning the room, and he has to watch the realization that something is terribly not right dawn in his brother's eyes. Emotions flicker across his baby face almost to fast for Sam to catch: surprise, worry, anger, fear, swinging back to anger and settling there.
Dean's face closes up, lips thinning, jaw tightening, eyes narrowed to slits. He edges back towards the door, half crouched. Ready to run. Sam half expects him to dart out the door and out into the parking lot, but instead he pauses, levels his furious eyes on Sam.
"Where's my brother? What'd you do with him?"
Dean didn't notice the mirror, not at first. He'd been preoccupied with trying to remember all the aspersions he could make on the clerk's mother, genetic background, and moral compass. Been imagining a hot shower and cool sheets and sleeping a goddamn day, if he could get away with it.
By the time he'd recognized the icy trail of familiarity up his spine, it had been to late. By the time he'd managed to scramble backwards, trying to force a warning to Sam out of his suddenly tight throat, he was already slipping inevitably away.
There's no dizziness, no blur, no shift. No change expect suddenly he's not looking across at Sam wondering how much broader his baby brother's shoulders are planning on getting. Instead, he's staring at the back of his Dad's head, watching him buy a room from the same goddamn clerk that was behind the desk a second ago.
This, this is Not Good.
He swears, swallows it down into his gut when warm, chubby little fingers grab his hand and pull on it. Sam's face is still round with baby fat, all big huge dark eyes and a slobbery smile. He laughs, sweet, tinkling baby laughter, tugs on Dean's hand with both of his, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. He says, "Dean."
Dean sighs. Sinks to his knees in front of his brother, pushing his dark little curls away from his mouth and the mess of tomato sauce that's formed a protective barrier around his lips. Says, "Hey, Sammy. This is weird, huh?"
Sam giggles. And then pokes Dean in the eye.
The way Sam sees it these are his options:
A: Attempt to explain to Dean that he is, in fact, Sammy. Just all grown up. And that, yes, a second ago Dean was grown up too, and no, he's not sure what happened. There's got to be some part of him that looks enough like the Sam Dean is used to for him to be recognizable. There has to be.
B: Pretend to be a friend of Dad's. Dad left them with people all the time growing up, certainly Dean would buy it, at least for a little while. He could say that Dad had taken Sam to a hospital or something, left Dean with him for the night.
C: Pray this changed back. Immediately. Please. God?
None of these options seem particularly promising, and he takes a deep breath to brace himself before crouching. Dean takes a quick step back at the movement, squaring his shoulders and feet, balling his fists. Sam tries not to flinch at that. Honestly, isn't Dean always saying how Sam's the least threatening person on the face of the planet?
When he speaks he tries to keep his voice soft and gentle, "Hey, Dean. I'm–"
He's interrupted when the man behind the counter finally notices they're in the room, and loudly clears his throat. Dean's eyes jerk towards the man, and he takes another quick step backwards, color draining out of his face, fists raising. Threatened, scared, backed into a corner. Dean's going to run or start swinging in a second, and neither one of those options can possibly end well.
Sam hears himself saying, "Actually, I think we need to grab some dinner before we check in, what do you think, Dean?" Giving him an out. Getting them back to one–on–one where hopefully Dean will calm down enough for Sam to work out some kind of explanation.
Dean's eyes dart back to him, to the man behind the counter, back again. He nods, a sharp curt movement that Sam's seen Dean make a thousand times over his lifetime. "Yeah. Yeah. I'm hungry." He backs out the door, slow measured steps, never taking his eyes off either of the men in the room.
Sam follows after a minute, waiting for his heart rate to slow down.
Dad can't seem to decide whether he should be angry, scared, or confused. Dean can't really blame him. He's actually rather surprised that Dad's not flying completely off the handle, what with one son gone missing and the other clinging to some strange man.
So Dean smiles his most charming smile, forces his posture as open and relaxed as he can manage, and extends a hand towards his father. He knows what he's going to say, because he remembers reading about this hunt in Dad's journal. He knows all about the stranger Dad met and the thing they hunted. The lies roll off his tongue like water.
"Mister, my name is Shooter Jennings, and I think I've got some information you might find useful about the hunting trip you're planning."
For a half–second Dad stares at him, and then they're shaking hands, rough skin to rough skin and Dean prays that Dad can't feel how similar their hands are. Can't feel the way their fingers curve the same way. "Let's go someplace a little bit more...private to talk about this. There's a Denny's down the street and I'm sure my boy is hungry."
Dean doesn't know if he's surprised or not, that Dad's not even going to mention the fact that he's got another son that's missing.
As they leave, Sammy clings to Dean's hand instead of Dad's, hides behind Dean's legs when Dad tries to take hold of him. Dad gives them a strange look, but doesn't say anything. Dean swallows and curses and wonders what the hell he's going to do about this mess.
Sam waits till the blond haired, middle aged, waitress drops off their food before even attempting to talk to Dean. It's always easier to discuss things with Dean when he's stuffing his face with food.
Everything on Dean's plate is covered with ketchup, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. It's vaguely nauseating, and also confusing. Sam can't remember Dean ever putting ketchup on his eggs. He waits till Dean's got a mouthful of toast, hash browns, and eggs and then speaks. " Look, Dean, I'm Sam and I know that–"
"I know." It's amazing how quickly he chewed and swallowed that mess.
"Excuse me?" He stabs at the pancakes on his own plate, more out of a nervous impulse to do something with his hands than anything else. His stomach is tied in far to many knots for him to actually consider eating anything.
"I know you're Sammy. So, am I cursed, or what?" he flickers his eyes up, unconcerned, and shovels another huge bite of food into his mouth. A huge dollop of the ketchup starts sliding down his chin and he reaches up and shoves it back into his mouth before it can fall.
"What?" It's the best he can manage.
"Why am I little? If you're big then I must be big too, so why am I the same as I remember being? Are we in Florida?" Sam's having some serious problems keeping up.
"Florida?" Dean flashes him a disgusted look, rolls his eyes.
"Dad says that there's water there that will turn you into a little baby and we shouldn't ever drink stuff from strangers in case they've got some of it and are trying to give it to us." Sam doesn't remember this being explained to him when he was younger. But John had been a harder man by the time Sam was old enough to be warned that human strangers could be every bit as dangerous as the supernatural kind.
"No. No, we're not in Florida. We're in North Carolina, by the coast."
"So I'm cursed." He smiles when he says it, big enough that his eyes crinkle closed, and the emptiness of the gesture turns something over in Sam's stomach. He hadn't realized that his brother had learned to close himself off like that so young. It makes his knuckles itch and his stomach sour.
"You're not cursed."
Dean flashes him another look, sharp and cold, and catches himself. Sam watches his brother rearrange his features into something softer, gentler, younger. Watches Dean lean across the table and place one skinny little hand over Sam's. He squeezes, his fingers sticky with ketchup and soft with youth. "It's okay, Sammy. Don't worry."
Dean pulls away then, resumes stuffing toast and eggs into his mouth. When he speaks again he doesn't look up from his plate. "Eat your pancakes, Sammy, you'll be starving later if you don't."
Dean grins at the waitress that takes their order, a pretty little blond thing that's got legs up to her neck. Then he does the quick mental calculation for how old she must be by now, and feels the smile slip off his face. She's probably married with a half–dozen kids and twice as many grandchildren. When she brings their food, leaning over till her cleavage brushes his arm, he tries not to look as disturbed as he feels.
He stares at Dad over the pancakes and sausage, lost in thoughts and memories as Sammy digs into the heap of food in front of his with gusto. Sam had insisted on sitting beside Dean, locked his stubby little legs and crossed his skinny little arms until John had been forced to relent and let his youngest crawl into the booth with this stranger.
Dad downs two cups of coffee before speaking, and when he does his voice is rough and hard, "You'd best start talking, Jennings."
Dean takes a deep breath, tries to clear his head. He doesn't know, exactly, what it was Dad came here to hunt. His memory is strange and fuzzy whenever he tries to think to hard about it, and he was only seven years old, for Christ's sake. So, no, he doesn't know what they were doing in Havelock.
But Dean memorized Dad's journal by the time he was fourteen, and he knows damn well what it was they ended up fighting here. He grins, because there's nothing else he can do, "It's a jabberwock."
There's a beat of silence, of Dad staring down into his coffee and clenching his fists so tight around the ceramic that his knuckles all turn white. Even Sammy pauses in stuffing his face, and looks up at Dean, grinning from ear to ear. When Dad does speak his voice in incredulous. "A jabberwock?"
Dean leans forward, ruffles Sam's hair, and explains.
" How old are you?" Dean is sitting in the passenger seat, swinging his legs back and forth against the cool leather. He's staring at the dash and bobbing his head along to the Black Sabbath tape that Sam hasn't bothered to change. Sam looks away from him as quickly as possible, chilled by how small Dean looks, swallowed against the expanse of the seat.
"I'm twenty–three. How old are you?" It's the first time they've spoken since Dean told him to eat his pancakes. The silence has been heavy, uncomfortable, and Sam is desperate to keep it at bay as long as possible.
"I'm seven and a half. You're old."
"I'm not–" his voice is sharp, and he catches himself, starts over. "I'm not old. You're older than me, anyway."
Silence falls again, and Sam curses himself. When Dean speaks again his voice is very small. "Do you have a baby? A–a family? Somewhere?" There's such sadness, such expectation for hurt, in Dean's voice that Sam flinches. He's reaching across the seat before he can stop himself, gripping Dean's bird–thin shoulder and squeezing.
"My family is right here, Dean. Don't ever think different, either, no matter what I say to you." Dean stares at Sam's hand on his shoulder for a long moment, and then shrugs it off. But he's smiling when he looks across the seat at Sam, soft and small and honest. Sweet.
Of course, the next thing out of his mouth ruins that image. "How old are you when you turn into a girl?"
"A jabberwock. From Alice in Wonder–fucking–land?"
Dad keeps saying that. Dean thinks that perhaps he exaggerated in the journal about how quick and easy this job was, if he still can't seem to believe in what they're hunting. They're back at the motel, standing over the Impala's trunk and it looks almost empty compared with what Dean's used to seeing in it. He can actually see the bottom of the trunk, in some places.
"Plenty of writers see supernatural beings and then blab about it. Carroll saw the monster and wrote some crazy damn poem. It happens."
Sammy is still in the Impala, curled into a ball, sleeping around his full stomach. Dad sighs, stuffs his hands deep into his pockets. "And how are we going to kill it, again?"
"We need a vorpal blade. "Snicker–snack, he thinks, but does not vocalize. Dad stares across at him for a long moment, and it's strange to be seeing him this young. Alive. There's only a few years separating them at this point. Dad's still young and there's still a sharp edge of hurt and anger haunting his steps. He never really lost that aura, but it had faded over the years to the point that Dean had almost forgotten about it.
"And what's–" John pauses, fiddles with his hands in his pockets, and then swears colorfully before continuing. "It doesn't matter. I don't want to know. Where is the goddamn 'vorpal blade'?" Dean grins. Breaking and entering with Dad and Sam has always been one of his favorite family traditions.
Thankfully, they actually manage to get a room this time. Dean stares at the mirror mistrustfully the entire time they're in the lobby, but Sam's starting to assume that Dean just stares at everything like that. Even Sam. Maybe especially Sam.
The room smells vaguely of the ocean, the high water table in the area, sour and sulfur. It also smells like cigarettes and cheap whisky and Sam is momentarily ashamed of himself for not taking Dean somewhere nicer than this. But Dean seems to relax the moment they're in the room, plops down onto the bed closest to the door and balls his fists into the comforter.
"You want the shower first?" Because after the food fight that had ensued over dinner they were both showering. Sam can still barely believe that the little punk threw a glob of scrambled eggs at his head. He's having an even harder time believing that he followed that up by hurling a whole pancake at Dean.
Once Dean had grabbed the syrup bottle things had gotten really out of control.
"I better. You probably take forever." Dean mouths 'pussy' as he walks by to the bathroom, and Sam shakes his head. Wonders if he could get away with washing his brother's mouth out with soap. It probably wouldn't help anything, anyway. His smile would just be brighter around the vulgarities.
Dean showers fast. Apparently at seven he hadn't discovered his insane love for thirty minute showers with the temperature control flipped all the way over into the red.
When he steps back into the room he is wearing one of Dean's adult shirts, completely swallowed in the long sleeves. It hangs down to his ankles, keeps slipping off one shoulder, and looks completely ridiculous. Sam grins, unable to help himself, "Nice dress."
Dean makes a face at him, crawls into his bed and pretends to fall asleep immediately. Sam's still grinning when he steps into the shower, right up to the point that the ice cold water hits his skin.
Dean's not sure exactly how this is all supposed to work. It doesn't seem quite right, really. Because the only reason he knows where to find the blade is because he read it in Dad's journal, and the only reason Dad knew how to find it was because Dean told him. And that's just...not right.
Time travel makes Dean's head hurt, but it's still damn convenient to not have to actually research or dig around or waste countless hours trying to track the damn thing down.
The old blade is hanging on Byron Johnston's wall, just where Dean had known it would be. His grandfather's axe, used mostly for beheading chickens, and Dean's not sure why the hell the man would want it hanging in his living room, but who is he to judge.
The blade is crooked, warped along the edge but still sharp. And little sister Johnston was a witch for two years in highschool and went around chanting over every object in the house. That makes Johnston Sr's axe a magical, warped blade used for beheadings. And that makes it a vorpal blade. And that means that Dean can tear it off the wall and get the hell out of these people's house before they wake up.
Dad's got the car running when he bursts out of the house at a run. He throws his hands up and makes a disgusted noise when Dean slides across the hood instead of just walking around, and Dean only laughs. Not like he's ever going to get the chance to do that, not in the present he belongs to. It wouldn't feel right there, but this is all some kind of cosmic fuck–up. He figures the normal rules are up in the air.
And so he might as well.
Dad gives him a dirty look when he finally slides into the Impala and he can't help but smile back. It took them hours to get all the way out here, they won't make it back to Havelock before daybreak. Dean considers offering to drive, but doesn't. He rather likes having Dad behind the wheel, actually. Even if the man does drive like a freaking sociopath.
Sam wakes up sometime in the early hours of the morning to soft little animal whimpers. For a long moment he blinks up at the ceiling, confused and disoriented. He's woken himself up before, making noises in his sleep, but these sounds keep going even after he's awake.
He swings up in bed, looks across at Dean, who is twitching and jerking, little face pale and scared. Eyes pressed closed. Dreaming. He whimpers again, his little fists balling into the sheets and Sam is out of his own bed before he can think about it.
He kneels on the edge of Dean's bed, one hand on his shoulder. "Hey, Dean, wake up, man," shakes him, just once. Dean wakes up in a mess of flailing limbs and wide, bright eyes. His heartbeat is desperately fast under Sam's hand, his breath quick and shallow.
He's scowling when he says, "What are you doing?"
"You were having a nightmare." He looks so small, swallowed by his own shirt, by this bed, by the room, by the world in general and in every specific sense Sam can think of. He looks tiny and young and angry. Dean bats Sam's hands away, drawing his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms around them.
"No I wasn't."
"It's okay, there's nothing wrong with having bad dreams, Dean." He doesn't make another move to touch Dean, just stares at him. Dean won't meet his eyes, just glares down at the mattress and curls in on himself. "Do you want to talk about it?" That earns him an incredulous look. " What? It might make you feel better."
There's silence for a long moment, and Sam takes the opportunity to settle into a more comfortable position on the bed, back against the headboard, legs extended out. When Dean speaks Sam doesn't think he knows he's talking. Not really. "Dad has nightmares. You do, too. I don't have them. I don't."
Sam takes a deep breath, tries again, "Dean–"
"I have to take care of you, Dad said so. I'm going to do it, too. You're all grown up and big and so I must have taken care of you good. I must do okay. I do okay, don't I?" Dean's looking at him now, all wide desperate eyes. He's coiled tight, like Sam's answer might make him or break him.
"You do a great job, you always do." And just like that Dean relaxes, deflates. Smiles big and bright. "Hey, look, I know you didn't have a nightmare, but I did, do you think you could–"
He doesn't get to finish talking before Dean is sliding across towards him, curling his little body against Sam's, sliding one thin arm over Sam's waist and squeezing. He buries his face against Sam's side, doesn't say anything, doesn't move or twitch or anything. After a few minutes Sam can hear his breath even out into sleep.
Sam stays awake till dawn creeps through the curtains, standing guard against the night terrors for his baby brother.
"How do you know where this thing is, again?" Dad looks suspicious and unnerved, which is understandable. Dean hadn't really wanted him along, had planned on tramping off into the swamp by himself, but apparently that wasn't to be. Which sucks, because he really doesn't have any explanation for how he knows.
I read it in a journal you haven't written yet just doesn't seem like it would cut it.
Good thing Dean's a highly accomplished liar. "I told you about my associate Dr. Brown. Emmett's killed these things before, found out one was here, and sent me to take care of it." Dad scowls, looking disgruntled and like he knows he's being played, but can't figure out how.
"And it's causing all the supernatural activity in the area? I had it pegged as a werewolf, poltergeist and some kind of curse action all interacting together."
"It's just the jabberwock. They cause..." he pauses, trying to remember how Dad had explained it in the journal. He closes his eyes and reads the words off the back of his eyelids, "Temporal paradoxes. Since they exist anything can exist and they spread impossible events wherever they go, like a plague."
He's ready to explain further, when a fire–red bird falls out of the trees in front of them. It plummets almost to the ground before catching itself, beating it's wings furiously to not crash. Two more birds follow it, chasing, pursuing, and they disappear into the underbrush almost immediately.
Sammy, situated firmly on Dean's shoulders, claps his hands and laughs.
Dean grins, nudges Dad, says, "Jubjub birds. We're close."
It doesn't seem fair that the first words out of Dean's mouth in the morning are about a subject that Sammy had been hoping wouldn't be brought up at all. He thinks he should probably lie about it, because Dean doesn't need to deal with that particular bit of craziness, but his expression gives him away before he can form any words at all. Dean flinches, says, "When?"
Pointless to lie, now. "Almost a year ago."
Dean stares at him for a long moment, looking shell shocked, lost, adrift. Then he pulls himself together, manages a sharp nod. "I'm sorry."
Sam makes himself smile, fights against the hurt that never really goes away, the hole that Dad left. It's not important right now. "Come on, lets watch some TV, just, just relax for a while. Then we'll go into town and do some research, try to figure out what's happening."
Dean curls against his side again, pillowing his head on Sam's shoulder, fisting his hands in Sam's shirt. Sam tries to remember if Dad ever let them cling to him like this, and can't remember once that he did. He wraps an arm around Dean, figures that the least he can do is give his brother some of the affection that he obviously wanted, and never got.
He's surprised when Dean speaks again, face still buried in the cotton of Sam's tee–shirt. "I don't want to go back. Please, I like it here, I'll be good and the big me can take care of little you. I'll do a better job as a grown–up, anyway, and I can stay here and–and–" he cuts himself off with a little strangled sound.
Sam starts to say, "Listen–" but Dean pinches his arm and so he stays silent. Cuddles his brother and watches Saturday morning cartoons and tries not to feel like a bastard for wanting grown–up Dean back so much it hurts.
It's Sammy that spots the goddamn thing, in the end. They're scanning the trees ahead when suddenly Sammy bursts into laughter and points directly at the very bizarre thing meandering it's way into the clearing. It's the size of a turkey, with bat wings and a neck twice as long as it's body, claws that would do a t–rex proud.
It takes one look at them, eyes flaming crimson in the morning sun, and bellows a challenge.
Dad grabs Sammy off his shoulders but Dean barely notices. The axe is heavy and firm in his hands, all worn warm wood, perfectly balanced. He waits for the thing to close on him, bats aside one swipe by it's terrible, curved claws, and swings the axe with as much force as he can.
The jabberwock's neck wasn't particularly thick, and it splits with a decidedly satisfying wet snap. The body jerks spasmodically as it dies, the head stares up at him and opens and closes it's mouth a few times. Dean grins, hefts the axe onto his shoulder and turns to face Dad and Sammy and vertigo drops the bottom out of his stomach.
Sam is rocking his baby brother slowly back and forth, trying to apologize somehow for wanting his own Dean back. He's trying to find words, trying to explain, trying to make it all right, and only beginning to realize that there really isn't anything he can say.
He squeezes Dean's shoulders tighter, feeling how skinny, how small, how breakable he is.
And then he's not. Because Dean's shoulders are broad and thick with muscle, and his forehead bashes against Sam's chin and knocks his head back. Sam lets go of him with a yelp, flopping backwards, thrown off balance by the fact that there's suddenly an extra hundred pounds of weight in his lap. He lands on one of Dean's arms, feels Dean fall with him, and barely has time to brace for the impact of Dean's elbow in his gut.
"What the fuck, Sam?" Dean's face is buried against Sam's neck, and his words are warm and moist against Sam's throat. "You okay?"
"Yeah. You?" Dean nods, rearranges his arm over Sam's chest and lets himself go limp and boneless. Sam can see out of the corner of his eye that Dean's hand is covered in blood, but it's apparently not his own, and so he lets it go. "Never do that again, okay?"
Dean laughs, sharp and sweet and there's still a hint of the boy in it. Sam thinks there always was, and he just hadn't let himself notice before. For a while they lay there, trying to make sense of things, taking a deep breath so they can move on.
Dean sits up first, stares at the TV screen for a long moment. "Dude, SpongeBob?"
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