Characters: Sam, Dean
Word Count: 1900
Summary: One day Dad put Sam in charge, said he needed to talk to a few people, that maybe he had a lead on how to turn Dean back into a twenty-year-old. Then he left. And he didn't come back.
Notes: Inspired by maypoles's prompt at mad_server's Sneezy Boys Comment Fic Meme: deaged Dean with a cold.
"You're not coming back," Sam said.
Dad never replied.
That was answer enough.
The west coast slides into highway, and Sam rubs a hand down his face. His eyes are dry and aching. There are pinpricks of lights scattered on the horizon to the right. Sam's hoping for a motel, but it's probably just a gas station.
The rain speeds up outside, and Sam turns the heat up a little, turns the radio down. He wants Dean to sleep, is hoping Dean will sleep, but so far nothing's worked. He's a tiny little thing in the passenger seat – where he shouldn't be at all, but it's dark and while Dean is still uncertain around Sam, Sam is better than the lonely backseat – wrapped in his old leather jacket and dosed up on children's Tylenol. Sam would think he was asleep if he didn't sniff morosely every few minutes and fidget restlessly. Sam's not sure if he can't sleep or if he just won't. It's not fucking helping the fever, that's for sure.
"Try to go to sleep," Sam says gently.
Dean is quiet for a moment, before he asks, "Can I call Dad?" His voice is congested and heavy from exhaustion.
Sam wants to say no, because Dad's going to do what he's been doing for the past two weeks, since Sam last talked to him, and that's not answer his phone. It'll ring and go to voicemail and Sam will have to see the disappointment in his now four-year-old brother's face and want to punch a wall.
There's a muted thrill in hearing Dean say his name. Sam's fingers slip over the dash, find his cell. He sets it in Dean's small hands and then checks his watch.
"Dad might be asleep," he says.
"Can I try?" Dean asks.
For a few minutes, there's silence. Dean's busy with the phone. Sam goes back to watching the road.
"I can't do it."
Sam looks over, finds Dean looking forlorn and holding out the phone. "It doesn't ring," Dean says.
Fucking hell Dad, Sam thinks for no reason whatsoever.
He takes the phone from Dean, dials Dad's number and hands it back.
Rain falls in metallic plinks on the roof of the car. Dean waits patiently with the phone to his ear, bundled in a jacket that fit him perfectly two months ago.
Sam watches the lights on the horizon.
One of their last phone calls:
Dad was drunk.
"You're like your mother," he slurred into the phone, when Sam answered.
"You'll be good for – you'll be good. She was like you. You're like her. Sammy, I—"
Sam hung up on him.
It's a motel. Sam thanks God fervently as he parks.
Dean clambers out of the car, and when he walks around the car to meet Sam, his jacket is dragging on the rain-wet tarmac. He yawns wide and wipes his nose on his sleeve. It seems to take an enormous amount of effort to raise his arm to his nose. His shoulders are slumped. The light from the lamppost paints him yellow. He squints up at Sam, eyes narrowed. A drop of rain hits his nose and he flinches and then sneezes.
"Come here," says Sam, and for once, Dean obliges without hesitation. Sam lifts him into his arms and holds him close. He's fever-hot, and his head immediately falls onto Sam's shoulder, a hand coming to curl at the neck of Sam's t-shirt.
Sam walks towards the illuminated office feeling his brother's hot breath on his throat.
He'll find a clinic somewhere, tomorrow. And eventually, he'll find an apartment. And a kindergarten. And a job.
He'll make this work. There are sixteen-year-olds with kids of their own out there. If they can do it . . .
The woman sitting at the reception desk looks tried, but when she sees Sam walk in, her eyes find Dean who has his head tucked under Sam's chin.
Her lips curl sweetly.
Sam learned to sew on his brother's body. He never built sandcastles. Playing soccer wasn't practical. School gets in the way of saving lives.
Would it be so bad, if Dad never did find some way to reverse this? Would it be so bad if he just never came back, kept running from whatever it is he's so afraid of?
What if he can give Dean what Dad couldn't?
Would that be so bad?
Sam tucks Dean into bed with precision. His back cracks when he straightens up and stretches. His body aches, a deep hurt that makes him feel tired in a way that sleep cannot help.
He looks down at this new image of his brother, filled with relentless hopefulness as only a child can be and sighs. Dean's cheeks are flushed. Sam brushes his hair away from his eyes. It's much blonder than it used to be, and floppier, more like Sam's.
If Dad doesn't find a way to reverse this, Sam can make a difference. But it's going to mean never having his Dean back.
The room is a lot quieter without him, and Sam's bed is a lot colder, and the hole in his heart darker than it's ever been.
Sam knows he's gonna have to get past that, but a selfish part of him doesn't want to, secretly hopes he won't have to.
He's not sure that a life where he's safe and where he can keep Dean safe is better than a life without the Dean he could lean on, the Dean who put him back together with strong, work-rough hands more times than he can count, the Dean who'd lock Sam in a stranglehold and rake his knuckles over Sam's skull and call him "Sammy" and look at him in that way that made it easier to bear Dad's frowns and Dad's disappointment and the endless nightmares his life brought. Can he stand to lose that?
He's just not sure.
Two months ago, they were in Rhode Island. There was a hunt, something that was supposed to be an open-and-shut case, really. People in New Shoreham were being cursed. Curses that stopped you from lying, curses that gave you pus-filled boils, curses that killed you if you had sex, curses that made ice water feel like fire – you name it, someone in New Shoreham probably had it. Bobby had found the hunt and Dad took it, 'cause it was pretty obvious that they were dealing with some amateur witch who couldn't handle the controls.
So they went out one morning, Sam and Dean and Dad, to find the witch and, hopefully, scare her straight.
Turned out, there was no witch, just an old, abandoned mansion on the outskirts of town that people liked to dare each other to go into, filled with dusty furniture, old books, a few vases, the occasional hex bag. All anybody had to do was touch the wrong thing, and – poof. Enjoy a life of permanent celibacy.
Too bad they hadn't figured that out before they went into the mansion. Before Dean wiped his palm across one of the pictures frames to clear away the dust. Before he turned into a four-year-old.
The problem with old spells is that the caster is probably dead, which means it's almost impossible to reverse them.
So they left town. Bobby set the mansion on fire. Dad booked a motel room and spent a few day on the phone, a permanent frown between his eyes. One day he put Sam in charge, said he needed to talk to a few people, that maybe he had a lead on how to turn Dean back into a twenty-year-old. Then he left.
And he just . . . didn't come back.
The morning newspaper must have been sent down by God himself. There's no other explanation.
"Why are you smiling?" Dean asks suspiciously. His mouth is full of waffles, and his cheeks sticky with syrup. His fever broke last night, but his nose is still running fiercely, despite the medicine, and he sniffs in a desperate attempt to stop it.
"No reason," Sam says. He hands Dean a Kleenex, and then takes it back when Dean only manages to rub a disgusting mixture of waffle crumbs, maple syrup and snot all over his face. Sam cups the back of Dean's head carefully, holds the Kleenex to Dean's nose and makes him blow. It's revolting, but Sam finds it hard to care. Dean's treating him more like a brother and less like a stranger this morning and the newspaper is full of good news. Things are looking up.
"Did Dad call?"
"Nope." Sam would apologize, but he thinks maybe it's time to get Dean used to the idea that Dad has . . . better things to do.
"Is it your birthday?" Dean asks. His fingers are reaching for a piece of waffle. Sam's instincts are to tell him to use a fork, but a strange mixture of shame and guilt drown the words before they can reach his mouth. He doesn't need to be going off on Dean for stupid little things like eating with his fingers. That was Dad's job. Sam's not going to be Dad. He's not.
"No, it's not my birthday."
"Then why are you happy?" asks Dean, throwing his hands up, a picture of endearing perplexity.
Sam's never thought of himself as someone who particularly likes kids. But Dean makes his heart do funny things.
"I'm happy 'cause I think I can get a job at a town close to here," Sam says. Dean gives him a look that tells Sam he has no idea why anybody would be happy about something so stupid, so Sam adds, "It means we can stop driving around everywhere."
Dean perks up. "And get a puppy?"
Sam blinks. "I never said we'd get a puppy."
"Hmm," says Dean. He tears a piece of waffle off his teeth. "But we should, right? Could we? Puppies are good. Mom—"
A look washes over Dean's face, something like shock and distress that's quickly replaced by blankness. Sam's stomach clenches so hard and fast that he jolts forward, almost retching.
He forgot – this Dean is four. Mom just died for him.
"We can get a puppy," he says, loud and quick, and that seems to bring Dean back from wherever he'd been.
"Whoooo!" he cheers, and it's a little subdued, but it's there. Sam swallows hard and smiles.
The day is bright and warm, but the breeze is cool. Sam drives with one hand on the wheel, the other at his mouth as he chews on a nail. He can see Dean watching him out of the corner of his eye, and this is probably a really bad example to set. Looking for jobs always makes Sam nervous.
"What'll happen if I call Dad?" Dean asks in his soft, high voice.
"What d'you mean?"
"Will he answer?"
Sam lets his hand drop back to the wheel and glances at his brother. He looks Dean right in the eye and says, "No, I don't think he will."
Dean holds his gaze for a moment and then looks away.
There are all sorts of things Sam has already given to this life, and there are things he is sure he'll keep giving. But it's not his right to give Dean, not this Dean, who finally has a chance.
There's enough tragedy in this family without Sam letting Dean become another.
Dean's struggling to roll down the window. Sam leans across him to help.
Wind floods in and Dean lifts his face. His hair rises and his eyes close.
Their lives are endless threads.
For once, Sam's holding the needle.
little boy lost