Summary: Dean learns how to plant something very dear to him.
Warnings: Incest(non-graphic), established relationship
Spoilers: None in particular
Original Story: Perennial by girlguidejones
Notes: This was a first experience with remixing, and I took more liberties than I think I was allowed. Apologies to the author! I hope it still works for you.
A big big thank you to my beta baileytc.
Sam put down roots fast. That didn’t surprise Dean at all.
“God damnit!” Dean kicked the trunk of the tree (but not very hard), throwing down his shovel in exasperation. “This is stupid. You’re stupid. How’m I supposed to deal with this?” The forest seemed to take no interest in his ranting. Dean cursed and stomped away, pacing back and forth.
“Don’t even know where the fucking dryad went.” Dean scratched at his stubble. “I mean, it knows hunters are onto it now. It’s not gonna stick around, especially with you all--” He made some vague motions towards Sam. “Damnit.” He cleared his throat. “So all I gotta do is find it. I’ll just waste it, and then everything will be back to normal.” There was, of course, no response.
“Fuck!” Dean yelled, frustrated and worried. He paced some more, but finally picked up the shovel and moved back over to the tree. “You better fucking appreciate this,” Dean muttered to the trunk.
Sam, being a tree, didn’t say anything at all.
It didn’t have a face in it or anything, but he could somehow still see Sam, arms now branches and his long legs having formed together to make a tall, willowy trunk. Dean couldn’t say for certain what kind of tree Sam was, but he was definitely leafy and green, despite the fact that it was late fall.
Dean managed to stuff Sam into the back of the Impala, roots first. Clumps of dirt and mud fell off the roots and scattered over the leather seat, Dean cursing all the while. Half of Sam jutted out of the passenger side of the car, some branches sprawling over the roof while others dangled down to the asphalt of the parking lot of the nature reserve. Dean didn’t want Sam’s…arms, or whatever they were (he didn’t want to think about that), dragging along the street and getting run over, so he tied them together and managed to manipulate them over the roof, where he tied them down with bungee cords from the trunk.
“There.” He dusted his hands briskly, somewhat proud as he looked over his work. The Impala was definitely leaning slightly to the right, the weight of the tree pressing on the shocks. Dean was just glad that Sam was still a sapling, as opposed to a fully grown tree. Twenty-four years in tree life, as it turned out, wasn’t all that much.
Dean drove down the highway at about 26 miles per hour with people honking at him and speeding past. He didn’t want to take the risk of Sam falling out or his car falling apart –equally bad scenarios.
The dryad was out in those woods somewhere, but Dean couldn’t go after her now, as much as he wanted to. Despite his comments in the woods, he needed to be sure that killing her was the best method of getting Sam changed back. He’d feel like a complete douche if he wasted her and then it turned out they needed her to reverse the spell.
Dean set Sam up in the motel room, after a lot of jostling and cursing. Sam was too big to be in there, really (and wasn’t that just hilariously true anyway), the tops of his branches crammed against the ceiling.
“It’ll have to do,” Dean muttered. “I best not hear any complaining out of you, leafy.”
Sam wisely kept any complaints to himself.
Dean wasn’t bad at research; he just didn’t like it. He got bored, got distracted, and eventually missed things because he was thinking about doing something else. It was why he usually left it up to Sam, who genuinely enjoyed perusing the books in a library. All the same, it wasn’t like he couldn’t do it when needed, and it was definitely needed now, with Sam very…well, wooden.
Dean spent the next three days at the library, looking things up mostly online because the texts they had there weren’t the greatest. Even so, what he found was more about dryads in myth than it was about people being turned into trees. He found a couple Greek myths about people being turned into trees, but both ended with the people staying that way, which Dean was not about to consider.
On the fourth day, another person went missing, and Dean had to go scouting around in the woods to try and find her. He stayed out all night and through most of the next morning, but came back empty-handed.
He was displeased when he entered the motel room, but stopped short when he saw that Sam’s branches were drooping, leaves lying around Sam’s dried-out roots and more turning brownish on the branches.
Dean dug the hole deep, three feet down at least. Sam’s roots were pretty thick, after all, and he wanted there to be enough loose dirt for them to grow into. He’d read that somewhere online. His hands were shaking a little.
It felt too much like burying his brother.
Once the hole was sufficiently deep, Dean yanked over a big bag of soil he’d bought at Pike’s, dumping it into the hole and around the edges. He’d asked the motel clerk where the spigot was and hauled out a couple buckets full of water. He wasn’t going to plant Sam right next to the motel; he didn’t want people’s trash around Sam’s roots or some punk kids trying to climb his brother or something.
This wasn’t giving up. Dean was dead set on that point. He wasn’t going to just leave Sam here to grow like a tombstone over a living grave. He just needed somewhere for Sam to stay where he’d be safe and healthy. Dean could hunt down the dryad on his own, put a bullet in its head, and then he and his brother would be just fine again.
No one was going to convince him otherwise.
The pimply kid at Pike’s had said bone meal was good for plants, and while Dean was creeped out by the notion of putting his brother in a pile of ground-up bone, the hippie website he’d been reading had said the same thing.
“Here you go, Sammy, lots of delicious bone meal. Mm mm good.” He poured the white stuff around and tried to blend it with the soil, pouring one of the buckets of water over it until the ground was mushy and moist. Dean stared at it awhile, then smoothed it out, making certain it wasn’t too packed down. His hands were wet and covered with black flecks of dirt, particularly dark where they’d crammed up under his nails.
His expression soured as he looked over at Sam. Dean’d leaned him against another, much larger tree, and even as he watched, another leaf fell and twisted its way lazily to the ground. Dean didn’t like this. He didn’t like sticking Sammy in the ground and leaving him alone and untended, but he didn’t have much choice. It was that or hoist Sam around with him wherever he went and watch Sam wither and die.
He pushed himself to his feet and tried not to dwell on it, tried not to think of the other possible meanings there. He walked over to Sam, putting his arms around Sam’s trunk. It was difficult to lift Sam (he was still pretty heavy, no change there), and his branches seemed to have gotten a little entangled with the tree he was leaned against.
“I know he’s a looker,” Dean complained to the tree (the actual tree). “But he’s taken. Sorry, buddy.” Dean gave an extra yank and got Sam righted, aware that he looked like a complete psycho, standing in a clearing, telling one tree to get its branches off of Dean’s tree. He hefted Sam over and deposited him rather unceremoniously in the deep hole, the roots fitting in well. Dean leaned back and put his hands on his hips, surveying his work.
“Not bad. Now I guess we get you settled in.” Dean picked up the extra bag of soil and began to fill in around Sam’s roots, pressing his hands down against the dirt until it was firm. He used what water he had left, then sat down with a deep sigh. His hands were still muddy and dirty, and it was getting pretty damned cold. He looked down the rise towards the motel, a distant glow of light, and beyond that the road and the faint sound of the occasional car cruising by. He was cold and muddy, and a hot shower and bed sounded pretty damned good.
But that meant leaving Sam out here all alone.
“S’all your fault,” Dean muttered, settling in against Sam’s trunk, figuring Sam owed him a backrest at least. The wind made Sam’s leaves rustle, and Dean pretended it was Sam calling him a jerk.
When he finally found the dryad, she had her arms wrapped around a little girl, whose fingers were already turning into twigs. He shot the creature twice and burned her, the little girl having recovered her hands the minute the dryad released her.
Dean drove back to the motel at breakneck speed, stopping only for a red light, which was when he noticed a tree with names carved harshly into the trunk. His heart skipped a beat, and he just ran the damned light. When he got to Sam, he felt his hope sink when he saw Sam was still a tree. He quickly looked the trunk over for any signs of carving and let out a breath when he found none.
“Don’t worry, man,” he said, sinking down to lean against his brother. “We’ll figure this out. Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out. Hey, you’re already perking up some, eh? Bet it was the bone meal.” He ran his fingers over the bark, rough against his hand but he hoped it was somehow comforting to Sam, if his brother was even aware in there. He kept talking, conversationally. “Hey, talked to that kid at Pike’s again. Showed him that Polaroid I took of you. He said you were a Southern Live Oak.” He grinned a little. “Can’t escape those Southern roots, eh? Get it? Roots?” There was no response, of course, and Dean’s smile faded slowly. “I read about them online. Know what they’re known for? Surviving fires,” Dean’s lips quirked a little. “Somethin’ about their roots growin’ deep or something. But you do that, doncha? Survive fires…”
The night stretched on quietly, out over the meadow behind the sparse smattering of trees that Dean had planted Sam in. The crickets hummed quietly, the cicadas having gone with the first cold snap. Dean leaned his head against Sam’s trunk and looked down at the small town far down the slope of the hill, its lights shining out dimly into the darkness.
“I’m not gonna leave you, Sammy,” Dean muttered. “No matter what. Even if I can’t figure out…I’m not gonna leave. Nothing should have to live by itself.” He sighed and shut his eyes. “Nothing really can, you know? Live alone.” He shrugged slightly. “Not and make it worth it, anyway.”
He rolled to press the side of his head to the trunk, like he might a pillow, folding his arms against his chest.
“Not gonna leave. Promise.”
When Dean woke up, he was flat on his back and looking upwards at the sky. It was still dark, predawn, but he could tell the sky was just beginning to lighten. The stars were still visible, but only just. There was someone next to him, a warm line up his side and a head on his chest. He looked down, saw tousled dark hair and a large hand against his collar bone, and knew it was his brother. His head thunked back, and he let out a breath of relief.
Sam shifted a little, stirring and raising his head as Dean began to move. Sam looked down at Dean blearily, then blinked a few times and turned to look down at their legs.
“Why do I have no shoes on?” he asked, then thought of a better question. “Why’re my feet covered in dirt?”
Dean snorted and tugged Sam back down, messing up his hair despite his protests, then just rested there with Sam in a headlock. Sam didn’t fight it, just settled into it like an embrace.
“Dryad’s dead?” Sam asked.
“Yep,” Dean responded, gaze hopping from one star to the next.
“What’d it take?”
“Fire. Burned her. I mean…made of wood, so. I figured that was the best way.”
“Yeah, sure, you ‘figured.’ Fire is your answer to everything, Dean.”
“Works, don’t it?”
Sam sighed and didn’t dignify that with a response, but Dean assumed it was because he was so right. Sam shrugged out of the headlock and rolled over onto his back so that he and Dean were at a 45-degree angle, heads together and legs extending out in different directions. Their shoulders still bumped amiably.
They were quiet for a while, and the edge of the sky started to turn a little orange, the top of the firmament changing to a lighter blue and the stars beginning to fade from sight. Dean’s brow furrowed, the words weighing too much to carry around this time.
“Sam,” he said, but it was almost a question.
“You’d be better if we—do you wanna—” Dean made a face. “I think we should get you a place somewhere.”
“Like an apartment.”
“Again, I say: What?”
“I’m just…You know I know this isn’t good for you. I’m not stupid. You need somewhere to settle in. Get familiar with.”
“Dean,” Sam said in his “I’m being reasonable” voice. “The FBI is on our trail. There’s no way I could—”
“We’ll get you another name, doofus. You know that. We do it all the time. Just get a fresh ID, fresh identity. We could settle you in somewhere. School’d be pushing it, but…just an apartment. Some small town. We could totally do that.” Dean had his eyes fixed on the brightest of the few remaining stars, and the clearing was silent for a while. Dean could only imagine that Sam was considering it, what it’d be like, where he’d live, the color scheme he was going to use, and where he was going to buy the monogrammed towels.
“Dean,” Sam said again, more wearied this time. “Why’re you saying this?”
“Damnit,” Dean muttered. “Do you always gotta look a gift horse in the mouth? Just take it, man. Just take it.” He took a deep breath. “Just take it.”
A silence fell over them, as still as the sky, and Dean could only assume that Sam was trying to figure out how to say it. Dean’d come visit from time to time, rest up. It wouldn’t be so bad. Not as bad as watching Sam wilt.
Dean blinked and came back around, turning his head a little at the sound of his brother’s voice.
“No,” Sam repeated. “I don’t want to. I’d rather stay on the road with you.”
Dean sat up a little finally, looking over and down at Sam, who refused to meet his eyes.
“Why not? I know you don’t like moving from place to place. I’d be fine, and it’s not like I wouldn’t come by to see you.”
Sam huffed and looked to the other side, away from Dean.
“Damnit, Sam. Why not?”
“Because no one should have to live by themselves, Dean.”
Dean’s eyes widened a little, and he stared down at his brother, curious and a little embarrassed.
“You heard all that?” he asked. Trees didn’t have ears. How was he supposed to know these things?
“All that?” Sam’s brow furrowed, and he finally looked up at Dean. “Heard all what?”
Dean studied Sam for a moment, trying to figure out if he was bluffing or not, but it was too hard to say. Sam had a good poker face, and Dean preferred to think Sam hadn’t heard anyways. Dean flopped onto his back, looking up at the sky again.
“Nothing,” he muttered. “Never mind.”
He shut his eyes when he felt Sam’s head turn to the side, nose pressing against Dean’s jaw. Dean knew this wasn’t good for Sam. It wasn’t like Sam genuinely wanted to be out here on the road, never getting to really settle down, never getting that safe little niche in the wall to curl up in and read his books. If Sam had, if he’d really wanted this, it wouldn’t have meant as much as it did. Because Sam was staying with him despite it.
Dean moved his head to the side a little, too, to lean their heads together. His fingers twisted into the loose earth where Sam had pulled free. He shut his eyes when Sam’s hand covered his and felt, rather than saw, the sun come up.