"Sleep tight, Dean," Tall Sam murmurs as he presses his lips to Dean's forehead. "You're safe here."
Dean reaches out and there's the baby, just as it should be. Tall Sam's laid the baby right there next to him, and Dean scoots in, presses his face into Sam's hair, breathes deep.
The next thing he knows, he's waking up in a strange dark room. He's been crying in his sleep; the pillow is damp under his cheek. Baby Sam is sucking on his fingers; Dean feels the baby's chest rise and fall under his hand as he breathes. The only sounds are Sam's soft sucking noises. He climbs off the bed carefully, finding the floor with his bare feet, shuffles toward the door where there's a light on underneath, hoping it's the bathroom.
Outside is a long, dimly-lit hallway, full of doors just like the one he's coming out of. The doors are all closed. He can hear a voice now, speaking low and intense, from somewhere down the hall, so he follows it, turns a corner and finds the bathroom. When he's done he comes out into the hall again, panics. He can't remember where his door is, the room with the bed and baby Sam. On instinct he pads down the hallway toward the voice, rounds another corner into a big room with tall ceilings. Tall Sam is sitting at a big table, a pile of papers and books in front of him on the table, and he's talking on a telephone. It's an old, antique kind with a big handle and a long thick cord attaching the handle to the cradle where the dial sits.
"No, Dean, I had to page you," Tall Sam is saying into the phone. He pauses a moment as the person -- Big Dean, probably -- answers, then Tall Sam shakes his head, looks irritated. "Cells don't work. No cell service in 1983, duh. No internet either. I'm looking at a pile of books and files, trying to find the spell. Manually. I gotta tell ya, Dean, we could be stuck here for awhile."
He looks up then, notices Dean standing in the entryway, fighting the urge to put his thumb in his mouth.
Tall Sam's eyes soften, and he smiles a little.
"Hey, I gotta go," he says into the phone. "I gotta take the kids shopping. They need stuff."
He pauses again, listening, then frowns into the phone.
"I don't know, Dean," Tall Sam's voice is annoyed again. "Food, clothes, diapers, for godssake. Stuff. Okay? We'll go to Walmart or something. No big deal. Just keep an eye on Dad, okay? Get him home for Christmas. And call me."
Tall Sam hangs up the phone, smiles at Dean.
"Hey, buddy," he says. "You sleep okay?"
Dean shakes his head, feels the tears well in his eyes.
Tall Sam frowns a little, gets up and crosses the room, kneels down in front of Dean so they're almost eye-to-eye.
"What's wrong?" Tall Sam asks. "Bad dream?"
Dean nods, feels tears slide down his cheeks, reaches up instinctively for a hug.
Tall Sam puts his arms around him, patting his back a little awkwardly, seeming to find it hard to know what to do with his long, long arms, since they could wrap around Dean twice and still have room for more.
It works, though, feels good, comforting, as Dean knew it would after being carried in Tall Sam's arms already. It's a place he feels safe, like he does with Daddy, only different.
"Okay," Tall Sam murmurs softly. "You're okay now, Dean. Nothing can hurt you here."
He holds Dean for another minute, then gently pulls back, wipes his own eyes, smiles and shakes his head.
"You're so little and helpless this way," Tall Sam, as if he's talking to someone else. "I just never realized how really little you were when all of this happened."
"I'm four years old," Dean holds up his fingers to show Tall Sam, because it's not like he's three or something.
Tall Sam nods, smiles softly.
"I know," he nods. "You're a big boy. I know."
Dean blinks, watches Tall Sam's almond-shaped eyes and soft lips as he speaks, not understanding but feeling a familiar warmth in his chest like he gets when Daddy or Mommy are hugging him. It makes him remember what Big Dean told the policeman in the hospital, and suddenly he thinks he understands.
Tall Sam loves him, just like Daddy and Mommy do, because he's family. That explains why Tall Sam feels so familiar.
"Are you my daddy's brother?" Dean asks. "Are you and Big Dean in my family?"
He feels a sudden surge of hope, wishes it were true more than anything. Needs it to be true. Dean's never had an uncle, or a grandmother, or anyone besides Daddy and Mommy and Baby Sam. Other kids at his preschool have those things, they talked about visiting grandparents, having holiday dinners with cousins and aunts and uncles. It always sounded so warm and wonderful to have so many people loving you, not just the two or three people who live with you. The most important people, of course, are your mommy and daddy and sisters and brothers, but Dean's got so few, and on Christmas there's just them --
Which leads him to follow up his earlier questions -- and Tall Sam is staring at him with his eyebrows lifted, obviously struggling to come up with something to say -- so Dean bursts out with it.
"Are you gonna be here for Christmas? Are you here to have Christmas with us?"
It fills him with such hope -- the idea that he could have a big Christmas like his preschool friends do, with cookies and pie and kids laughing and running around and he could climb on anyone's lap and he would be welcome -- Dean is too excited suddenly.
Tall Sam's mouth falls open and he gives a funny little frown, like he's trying to decide whether he should say something but then decides to say something else.
Then he makes up his mind and nods.
"Yeah, Dean," he says softly. "We'll have a big Christmas. Would you like that?"
Dean nods, and he can tell his eyes are shining with tears because Tall Sam smiles broadly, and his face crinkles and dimples and shines like the sun, so that Dean almost has to look away because Tall Sam is so beautiful suddenly, too bright to look at directly.
Then Dean hears Baby Sam crying, and he turns toward the sound, grabbing Tall Sam's hand.
"Sam's crying," he says, and Tall Sam looks confused for a minute, then he hears it too and stands up to follow along.
"Wow," he mutters. "You could hear that."
Like it's such a surprise that Dean knows in his bones when Baby Sam needs him.
But for Dean it's obvious. Who else can take care of Baby Sam, now that Mommy's gone? And Daddy's sick and sleeping all the time, and now he's in the hospital -- of course it's up to Dean.
Luckily there was a diaper bag in the car with unmixed formula, because Baby Sam needs his diaper changed and he's hungry. When the essentials are taken care of, Dean eats his own breakfast and Tall Sam bundles them into the car for the drive to the store, which turns out to be a K-mart, as Tall Sam mutters out loud to Dean, because "there weren't Walmarts yet in 1983," which is just another funny nonsensical thing like a lot of things Tall Sam says, so Dean ignores it.
It's cold out -- mid-December in Kansas is always cold -- but there are blankets and extra clothes in the trunk of the Impala, so it's all good. Dean left his coat in the apartment, though, and the only clothes for Baby Sam are a couple of spare onesies in the diaper bag, so he gets the blanket and wraps it around his brother before they drive to town.
At K-mart, Tall Sam straps the baby into his car-seat, then puts the car-seat in the shopping cart the way Dean shows him. Tall Sam seems to need Dean to tell him what to do a lot, and Dean is fine with that because Tall Sam might be grown up, but he obviously doesn't know anything about babies. They find the baby aisle and load up on diapers, baby clothes and baby food.
"Sam eats real baby food now," Dean explains to Tall Sam. "He needs a high chair so he can sit up when he eats."
So they find a big box with a high-chair inside, then they find the bottles and formula and put those in the cart too.
A grandmotherly-looking woman offers to help them and Tall Sam gets defensive and nervous, bundling Dean and the baby into the cart quickly and moving away across the store at top speed, barely looking back at the woman.
"Can't trust people," he mutters. "This happened before. Never talk to strangers, especially when buying baby stuff."
Dean nods solemnly.
"That's what Daddy says," he agrees, and Tall Sam stops dead, stares at him for a minute, shakes his head.
"Oh my god," he says softly. "This is how it started, isn't it? All the paranoia. Dad was preaching it at you from the very beginning."
Dean looks at Tall Sam, waiting for his words to make sense.
Tall Sam shakes his head.
"Never mind," he says dismissively. "Let's get this stuff and get home."
Dean feels instantly sad because Tall Sam forgot. He forgot Christmas.
"What? What's wrong?" Tall Sam is right there, tuned in to Dean like he's the other half of his soul, like he understands Dean better than he understands himself.
Dean feels his lip quiver, but he refuses to cry, manages to mutter, "You said we could have a big Christmas."
Tall Sam's face clears immediately.
"Right," he says. "Absolutely. Come on, let's go get a Christmas tree."
Dean feels his face relax into a big grin. He knew Tall Sam wouldn't lie to him. He knew it!
The store is full of Christmas items. It's a little overwhelming how much glitter and lights and red-and-green bows there are everywhere. Tall Sam grabs stuff off the shelves without looking very closely, and by the time they reach the check-out line they're tired and Baby Sam is fussy and they have to wait and wait and wait because it's Christmas season at K-mart and that's the way it is.
Then Tall Sam's credit cards don't work, so he has to pay cash, and they end up leaving the high chair because Tall Sam doesn't have enough money, and they get a lot of irritated looks from the people in line behind them because Baby Sam is wailing by this time and Dean wants to climb up on his seat so he can just hold and rock that baby but Tall Sam's afraid he'll fall so he won't let him but he does it anyway while Tall Sam is dealing with the harried check-out guy and sure enough, Baby Sam settles down right away with Dean up there practically on top of him.
The entire store bursts into applause, and a chorus of "awwww"s rise around them, but when Tall Sam turns to see what all the commotion is about and Dean's perched awkwardly on the baby's seat, murmuring comforting words and sounds and kissing Baby Sam's plump little cheeks and fingers, Tall Sam looks shocked, just stares blankly for a minute like he can't quite believe what he's seeing.
"You've got a special little boy there, mister," the store manager says.
"And that baby sure loves his big brother," comments the lady behind them in line.
"I never saw a baby stop crying so fast," another woman agrees.
"It's like he's flipped a switch or something," the check-out guy says. "Like magic."
Tall Sam frowns at the check-out guy, reaches up and pulls Dean off the top of the cart, holding him in one arm as he pushes the cart out of the store at top speed.
"Way to be inconspicuous, Sam," he mutters to himself as he finds the car, dumps Dean and Baby Sam in the back seat, then starts loading the trunk with all the baby and Christmas stuff. It's freezing in the car so Dean pulls the blanket around the baby, starts to climb up onto his seat to keep him warm.
Tall Sam is in the driver's seat, glancing at Dean in the rearview mirror, when he remembers.
"Oh shit," he says. "I was gonna buy you a coat."
He finds the other blanket, tucks it around Dean and the baby, starts to leave them huddled in the backseat while he goes back into the store to buy the coat.
But he's ambushed by a plump, middle-aged lady who wants him to join her "mom's club" because "Dads are welcome too!" and she watched him with "those two adorable little boys" in the store and she's sure he could use some support.
Tall Sam looks horrified at her, backs away muttering "no thanks, no thanks," and gets into the driver's seat as fast as he can, pulling out of there in such a hurry the tires screech.
"We'll get you a coat later," he says to Dean in the rearview mirror, and Dean just nods.
When they get back to the bunker, Dean shows Tall Sam how to feed the baby with the tiny spoon and some Cheerios. They forgot to buy a bib, so Tall Sam tucks a towel around Baby Sam's front. The baby pulls it off, of course, and gets himself covered with baby food and drool, so with Tall Sam's help Dean changes the baby's clothes after he eats, then gets him ready for a nap. They don't have a crib, and Baby Sam is rolling around and sitting up pretty well now, so they cobble together a makeshift pen in a corner of the room where Dean can sit and rock with the baby until he falls asleep, then puts him down gently on the blanket on a rug with pillows and books all around to keep him from hurting himself.
Tall Sam watches as Dean takes care of the baby, then pads over to Tall Sam and climbs into his lap, tucking his head under Tall Sam's chin and resting his head against his chest, where he can feel his heart beating.
It takes Tall Sam a minute, but then he's got his arms around Dean, presses his face into his hair and breathes. They sit like that for a few minutes, silently, until they're sure the baby is asleep. Then Dean's stomach rumbles.
"Come on," Tall Sam whispers. "Let's get you some lunch."
While Dean eats his peanut butter and jelly sandwich Tall Sam makes another phone call. Dean listens as Tall Sam's voice rises and falls, and he knows he's talking to Big Dean because he's used to the way Tall Sam talks to his partner now. Tall Sam sounds irritated at first, then pleading and whiny. Finally his voice gets soft and quiet, and he answers in monosyllables with a lot of pauses as he listens to Big Dean being reassuring and confident and in control.
They spend the afternoon decorating. Tall Sam brings in the funny-looking little Christmas tree they bought, and Dean helps him put on tinsel and lights and sparkly ornaments. When it's done they stand back, stare at the wobbly, lopsided little tree hesitantly.
"It's probably not exactly what you're used to," Tall Sam suggests. "I'm sure your mom's trees were pretty awesome."
Dean slips his hand into Tall Sam's and smiles up at him, speechless with happiness. Feeling a little sad too, but he's starting to get used to that.
Tall Sam smiles down.
"Kinda more like A Charlie Brown Christmas than It's a Wonderful Life," he says with a shrug. "Sorry."
"Do you think Santa can find us here?" Dean asks, looking around for a chimney and not seeing one. That makes him frown, and he looks up at Tall Sam expectantly.
Tall Sam's face changes expression a few times, like he's trying to decide how to answer and changes his mind a lot before he does.
Finally he squats down in front of Dean and looks him in the eye, all serious and thoughtful.
"I'm sure he will, Dean," Tall Sam says. "Don't worry. When you get up Christmas morning, there'll be presents. Just like always. Okay?"
Dean nods, then puts his arms around Tall Sam's neck and hugs him because he looks like he needs it.
Tall Sam hugs him back, and his hugs are getting better, like he's starting to get used to hugging a four-year-old and it's not so awkward.
Baby Sam is fussing so Dean spends some time playing with him, brings him over to the tree so he can look at the lights and the sparkly decorations. Baby Sam reaches for the tree and seems so delighted by it that it makes even Tall Sam laugh. Tall Sam finds some old phonograph records with Christmas music on them, and he makes hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches for supper.
Nobody wants to leave the room with the Christmas tree, but finally it's time for bed. Tall Sam makes a secure area on the bed in the same room where they slept last night -- "It's your room, Dean," Tall Sam assures him -- and Baby Sam goes to sleep in Dean's arms just like he always does now. Then Tall Sam makes him brush his teeth, wash up and put on the pajamas they bought at K-mart. He lets Dean stay up a little while since he's a big boy, and Tall Sam reads him a story from the shelf in the library, curled up in a big chair with Dean on his lap where he can see the pictures. Dean's belly is full, the Christmas tree is pretty, and Tall Sam's lap is warm and secure, and Dean falls asleep before they're even done with one chapter of the strange story about the little girl who leaves her Kansas home for a strange new world called Oz.
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