author: victoria p. [musesfool]
summary: "I'll be the best big brother ever, and you'll be the best little brother ever."
characters: Sam Winchester and Dean Winchester
notes: Thanks to the devildoll for betaing, and to angelgazing and amberlynne for handholding.
original story: When the Summer Comes Along by laurificus
word count: 1,755 words
Hold On Loosely (The Southern Rock Remix)
three and a half
Dean likes to curl up on the couch next to Mommy and talk to the baby in her belly. He tells it (him, he thinks, because he wants a little brother like Billy Hubble down the block has, someone to play football with him and Daddy) all about his day.
"After nap, we had snacks--I had a pretzel and chocolate milk--and then we went to the playground. I climbed the monkey bars," he says while Mommy pets his hair, like he's Mrs. Cranston's cat. Dean doesn't like cats, but he wishes they had a dog. "Maybe after you come," he says, mouth pressed close to Mommy's belly, breathing in the sweet smell of her clothes, "we'll get a dog."
"Daddy said maybe."
Mommy sighs. "Of course he did."
"He'll be the best dog ever," Dean continues, "and I'll be the best big brother ever, and you'll be the best little brother ever."
"Or little sister," Mommy says gently.
"Or little sister," Dean repeats dutifully, but he knows, he knows, he's going to have a little brother.
Take your brother outside as fast as you can! Don't look back! Now, Dean, go!
Everything they have still smells like smoke, even Sammy, who usually smells like baby powder or poop (or both). Dean doesn't like it. It makes his throat itchy and his eyes water. He's not crying--big boys don't cry, Daddy says, only babies like Sammy, and Dean's a big boy now.
He changes Sammy's diaper and makes sure he drinks his bottle while Daddy talks to Uncle Mike and Aunt Kate and the police and the firemen and everybody.
It's just him and Sammy in the bed, and that's how Dean likes it best.
"Batman is still cooler," Dean says, but he helps Sam find a sheet that might have been red once, when Mrs. Gillespie lets them root through her closet to find her son's old toys.
Sam ties the sheet around his neck like a cape, puts his hands on his hips, and says, "I'm Superman." He's missing a front tooth, and Dean tries not to laugh at the slight lisp it causes. Sam pokes at the empty spot with his tongue, even though Dad's told him not to a million times. Sammy's always poking things, asking questions that have no answers, and sometimes it drives Dean nuts.
"Yeah, Sammy," Dean says. "You're Superman." He doesn't think anything more about it until they're at the park and Sammy takes a dive off the top of the monkey bars.
Dean rushes over, sick feeling in his stomach, leaving his baseball cards behind (he never does find his Doc Gooden card again; that rat fink Ricky Ciffarelli probably stole it while his back was turned). He manages to catch Sam, cushion his fall with his own body. He hits his head on the mat, which isn't nearly as soft as he thought it was ten minutes ago. He has to blink away the spots in front of his eyes and pretend it doesn't hurt because Sam starts wailing like a banshee (not that Dean's actually heard a banshee wail, though Dad says they're real).
"'S'okay, Sammy," Dean says. "'S'okay."
Sam takes huge hiccupping breaths, his face red and shiny with tears and snot. Dean smiles weakly at some of the parents who are watching them warily, and stands. He pulls Sam up to stand beside him, dusts them both off quickly, wipes Sam's face clean with the sleeve of his flannel.
"Come on, Sammy, I'll buy you an ice cream."
Sam's face lights up, tears forgotten, and when he puts his hand in Dean's, Dean doesn't even really mind having to spend what's left of his allowance, even though he was totally trying to save up to buy a new mitt.
"You know better than that, Sammy," he says on the way back home. Sam's face is covered in chocolate ice cream, which is a big step up from snot and tears, in Dean's opinion. "Only big brothers can fly."
"Batman doesn't fly," Sam points out.
"That's 'cause he's an only child," Dean says, and that's the end of that.
The sound of Sam crying in the other bed makes Dean sick to his stomach. He knows Dad is coming back--he has to come back. He always does. He's like Batman and Superman all rolled into one, but better, because he's real.
Dean wishes he could make Sam believe that, but he's learned that some people only ever believe what they see (and sometimes, not even then), and that they weren't so much lying to him about Dad's job as they were not telling him the whole truth.
Dean's already learned to make those distinctions, but he's never really wanted Sam to have to; now he's not sure Sam ever will.
It was for his own good anyway, Dean thinks, waiting for Sam's shoulders to stop shaking and his breathing to even out.
Once he's sure Sam is asleep, he slips out of the room again, down to one of the nice houses at the other end of the block. He doesn't even have to pick the lock--the door's open, and the presents are all under the tree. He grabs two, doesn't even look at the tags, and hustles back to the room, where Sam is still sleeping.
If he'd known they were chick presents, he wouldn't have picked them, but at least he tried.
Maybe Sam understands that--he's pretty smart for a little kid--because Sam gives him a present, too, a real present, something cool and grown up, even if he originally meant it for Dad. He says he wants Dean to have it, and that makes Dean's chest a little achy.
Dean doesn't know what to say. He puts it on, likes the weight of it around his neck, against his heart. "Thanks," he says. "I love it."
Sam smiles, brighter than the twinkly lights that are strung up all over the place in this nowhere town, and Dean thinks it's been a pretty good Christmas, after all.
Sam is finally starting to be interesting again. He was a lot of fun when he was a little kid, but he's been a gigantic pain in the ass since he turned ten and started thinking he knew better than Dad (or Dean) about everything.
But at sixteen, he's finally starting to break out of that hard shell of superiority, starting to get excited about things that aren't school and books (about things Dean likes, like cars and girls), so when Dad leaves them alone for the weekend, Sam's already waiting by the car with his duffel. He doesn't even ask to drive, though he's vibrating with the unspoken question.
"Maybe you can drive later," Dean says finally, trying not to grin, "if you don't annoy me too much."
It's enough to keep Sam smiling, brighter than the sun, and for that, Dean will even forgive him for riding the brake.
They set out with no destination in mind, just the road unfurling before them like a red carpet, the two of them off to see the world, Zeppelin blaring from the speakers and the wind rushing through their hair.
This is all Dean's ever wanted, all he's ever needed--his brother, his car, and the road--and the way Sam looks as they ride down the interstate, laughing with his mouth and eyes, with the engine rumbling in their hearts and in their bones, Dean thinks Sam finally understands.
It's not like Dean didn't know this day was coming. He's been hearing for years about how smart Sam is (sometimes even from people other than Sam). Like he needs some stranger or some random standardized test to tell him that. And that's inevitably followed by a conversation about how so much potential shouldn't go to waste. He's seen Sam's report cards (put them up on the fridge for years, not that Dad cared all that much, but Sammy wanted normal and that was one thing Dean could give him) and college brochures, thick white envelopes that came through the winter and spring, all of them asking Sam to come be part of their world, to leave his family--to leave Dean--behind.
And Dean's always known Sam would say yes, that he'd turn and go his own way. It's how they raised him, after all, to stand on his own two feet and look at the world like it's his for the taking.
"I have to do this," he says before he gets out of the car at the bus depot, all earnest hope and pleading, like he thinks Dean doesn't understand. "This is everything I ever wanted, Dean."
"I know," Dean says, and he means it. He's tried talking to Dad, tried telling him that forcing Sam to stay when he wanted to leave would lose him forever, but the man is stubborn as a rock, and, where Sam is concerned, twice as thick. Dean's promised himself he's not going to make the same mistakes. "Call if you need anything."
Sam looks surprised, looks like he wants to cry, like that same five-year-old who leapt from the monkey bars and thought he could fly. The one who believed he was Superman and Dean was Batman, and who knew that Dean would never let him fall.
"Yeah," Sam says, "I will."
Dean knows he's not really lying, because he thinks he's telling the truth, and it makes his heart hurt a little bit.
He watches Sam push his way through the double doors into the bus station, his height (and his stupid hair) making him easy to track in the small crowd. He waits until the building swallows Sam up, and then he eases the car back out on the road. He doesn't look back.
Dean's never been any good at letting go, but Sam's never really given him the choice.
Dean knows, on the intellectual level, that making the deal is probably not his best move ever, but his gut and his heart tell him it's the right thing, the only thing, he could have done.
When Sam opens the door, alive and whole, if a little confused, Dean pulls him into a hug so tight he thinks he might hang on forever. If he could keep Sam here like this--safe, protected--he would. He only moves away because Sam winces and starts asking questions Dean's not ready to answer.
He has no regrets.