It makes Dean a little jealous. Tall Sam watches Big Dean's every move when he's in the room, doesn't even notice Dean much anymore. For his part, Big Dean's always putting his hand on Tall Sam's shoulder when he leans over the table to look at something Tall Sam's reading. He stands close when he talks to Tall Sam, lowering his head and brushing his hand against Tall Sam's almost unconsciously as he speaks, his voice low and soft. Once in awhile he reaches up and pushes Tall Sam's hair out of his eyes, smiling a little.
Watching how affectionate they are with each other, Dean decides he got their relationship wrong. They must be married, he decides, like Mommy and Daddy, not work partners.
But that doesn't seem quite right either, and not just because they're boys and everybody knows boys can't marry other boys.
"Is Big Dean your boyfriend?" he asks Tall Sam one day when Tall Sam is tucking him in, which at least he still does even though Daddy's back.
Tall Sam frowns.
"He's my brother," Tall Sam says, looking slightly annoyed, like it's something he's heard before.
Then Dean understands.
"Like me and Sammy," Dean suggests, and Tall Sam smiles broadly.
"Exactly," he agrees. "That's exactly right, Dean."
He leans down and presses his lips to Dean's forehead.
"Now get some sleep," Tall Sam says. "Sweet dreams."
Daddy's well enough to start exercising by the end of the week, so Dean and Big Dean take him down to the shooting range for some target practice. Daddy fits some headphones over Dean's ears to protect them, tells him to stand back and watch, but to stay well out of the way of any kick-backs or accidental ricochets.
"You're gonna need to know how to handle a gun, Dean," Daddy tells him. "But your hands are still too small, and with your body weight the kick will just knock you flat. We gotta wait a couple of years."
"So watch and learn, little man," Big Dean adds, winking at him.
Big Dean and Daddy get off several shots, Big Dean hitting the bulls-eye every time, Daddy's shots a little wide, before Daddy puts the safety back on the gun and turns to look at Dean.
Dean's got his hands over the headphones on his ears, tears streaming down his face because the sound is so deafening it makes his head feel like it's gonna explode.
Big Dean looks over at him, frowns.
"Ya gotta get used to the noise, kid," he says. "You're gonna be hearing a lot of it."
Daddy shakes his head.
"Maybe that's enough for today," he suggests. "I think we can both see I'm out of practice."
Big Dean grins broadly.
"Well, I gotta say I never saw you not hit a target until today," he agrees. "It's a little weird for me, too."
"Don't get used to it," Daddy growls menacingly. "I was the best marksman in my unit."
Big Dean nods, serious again.
"Yes, sir," he agrees. "That's what you always said. That's what I've always seen, and I don't doubt it for a second."
"All right, then," Daddy nods. "Just so we're clear. This -- " he waves his hand at the target. "This is just a result of the injury, and it's why I have to keep coming down here every day while it heals. But for now I think maybe we should do something that requires a little less accuracy."
They hit the gym for a little basketball, and this time Daddy's got the upper hand. He's taller than Big Dean, and manages to grab the rebound every time. It makes Dean proud, watching Daddy handle the ball so confidently, and Big Dean finally puts his hands up in surrender.
"Baseball was more my thing," he admits.
Daddy's breathing pretty hard, wipes his face with a towel, nods at Big Dean.
"You play in high school?" he asks.
Big Dean looks at him silently for a minute, then shakes his head, glancing over at Dean.
"Just t-ball when I was little, then some Little League," he says. "We never stayed put long enough -- "
He breaks off, stares at the floor, then shakes his head.
"Never mind," he mutters. "Doesn't matter."
Daddy looks stunned, stares at him, then at Dean, shuffles his feet and scrubs the towel over his sweaty face again.
"Jesus, Dean," he says. "I don't know what to say. I'm sorry. I can see it wasn't easy for you, growing up."
Big Dean shakes his head vehemently.
"You did your best, Dad," he says fiercely. "I never doubted that for a second. You were right to keep us moving. Staying in one spot for any length of time, we wouldn't have made it. You did what you had to do."
Daddy shakes his head a little. "It's all still so new," he admits. "Looking ahead, all I can think about is keeping my kids safe, learning everything I can about this fucked up world full of monsters and demons. Figure out how to hunt down and kill that thing that killed Mary."
"I know, Dad," Big Dean agrees. "And you will."
"You know that for a fact, Dean?"
Daddy looks him in the eye, and Big Dean looks away, which is how Dean knows he's gonna lie.
"Yeah, Dad," Big Dean mutters. "I know it for a fact."
Daddy nods, satisfied. It's what he wants to hear, and Daddy is good at that -- getting people to say what he wants them to say.
Even if it isn't true.
While Daddy and Big Dean head off to the showers, Dean goes up to the library to help Tall Sam, who's been babysitting so Dean can have a little time with his dad.
Tall Sam is so relieved to see him it makes Dean want to hug him. So he does, holding on for a long time because now that Big Dean is back he feels like he doesn't get to spend much time with Tall Sam anymore and he's missing that.
"He's really fussy," Tall Sam complains, handing the baby to Dean. "Every time I tried to put him down so I could get back to work, he started to cry. No matter what I did. I tried feeding him, he wasn't hungry. I tried changing him, he peed on me."
Baby Sam looks up at Dean and smiles his big, mostly-toothless grin. Dean smiles back proudly, looks up at Tall Sam, who's scowling a little.
"Oh, now he's happy," Tall Sam grouses.
Dean can't help feeling proud that he's the only one his baby brother loves. It's a big responsibility, but it's a good thing too.
"Okay," Tall Sam is watching him smiling at the baby, watches the baby reach up and grab Dean's nose. "Okay, I get it. I remember. You and Dad are his whole world, Dean. And it's like he knows that, even when he's too young to form a coherent thought yet."
Tall Sam shakes his head. "You know, seeing it from the outside like this, it's no wonder Dad kept us moving around all the time. We were creepy kids, right from the start."
Dean blinks up at Tall Sam, not understanding, but feeling vaguely insulted anyway.
"Mommy says we're special," he insists, and Tall Sam's eyes widen for a moment, then he shakes his head.
"Okay," Tall Sam nods. "Not creepy. Just special. I get it, Dean."
He puts his hand on Dean's head, ruffles his now-short hair.
"I get it," he says again, softly.
The next week is spent helping Dad recover, letting him get back in shape and slowly learn to use his muscles again. Big Dean decides to train him as a hunter, the way his dad trained him, so they spend hours in the gym and the shooting range, sparring and practicing their skills. Big Dean is older and more experienced than Daddy, but Daddy's a quick learner and he's very competitive, so he makes good progress. He's got the advantage in terms of height and weight, so by the end of the week he starts winning their wrestling matches, despite the fact that Big Dean is clearly giving it all he's got.
Dean watches sometimes, then mock-wrestles with Baby Sam, who laughs and laughs until they both collapse in giggles on the floor.
Tall Sam spends every spare moment researching, pouring through files, obsessed with finding the spell that will send him and Big Dean home again.
Although Dean can't understand why he wants to leave so badly. Dean's starting to get used to this strange new life with this strange new family he didn't even know he had before. And Daddy's happier too, not drinking so much and smiling at him again, tossing him up in the air and catching him and making him laugh out loud like he used to before Mommy got burned up. Daddy likes to win, and whenever he beats Big Dean at something he slaps him on the back and smiles so broadly his face dimples and cracks open and it makes Big Dean smile back.
And Big Dean doesn't seem to mind. He seems content to lose, like it's more normal for him that way. He's got this haunted look on his face sometimes when he looks at Daddy that makes Dean look away because it's scary and sad and makes him think about Mommy.
When Big Dean catches him looking he frowns at Dean, like it's Dean's fault they're all here in the first place.
On the day before Christmas Tall Sam takes him and Baby Sam into town again so he can buy a present for his dad. He picks out a sterling silver jackknife in the hardware store, and Tall Sam picks up a compass for Big Dean, "so he can always find his way in a storm."
They forget to buy wrapping paper and bows, so they just wrap the gifts in the bags they came in, ripped inside out and with the gift's recipient written on the paper in black magic marker. Back at the bunker, they put the presents under the Christmas tree, then stand back to view their handiwork. The two little brown-paper-wrapped packages under the scrappy little tree look pretty pathetic, but Dean thinks it's the best thing he's ever seen.
Tall Sam hugs him when he says that, kisses his cheek and rubs his scruff on his tender skin, but Dean doesn't mind.
"A Christmas Carol?" Big Dean scoffs. "Really?"
"It's about ghosts, Dean," Tall Sam protests. "I figured you'd approve."
Big Dean rolls his eyes as he puts the bags on the table, then catches a whiff of the smell of baking and his eyes go wide.
"Pie?" he almost stutters in his excitement. "You're baking a pie?"
Tall Sam looks smug, exchanges a surreptitious wink and thumbs-up with Dean, who's climbing into Daddy's lap so he can reach the table better.
"Okay, but the music has got to go," Big Dean insists. "Stuff sounds like old toothpaste commercials."
Dean thinks it's kinda nice, actually, so he's glad when Tall Sam ignores his brother and leaves the music on.
And Big Dean doesn't mention it again, so he mustn't really mind it that much either.
After they eat the take-out, the cookies, and the pie, and the men share the whiskey and start singing along with the music, Dean picks up Baby Sam and dances with him around the room, which makes everybody smile and Baby Sam laughs and laughs.
When it starts to get late Daddy bathes Dean and Baby Sam in the big claw-foot bathtub -- Baby Sam sitting in a porcelain serving bowl they found in the kitchen. Mommy always bathed them together like that, every day since Baby Sam started to be able to sit up, since it took less effort to clean them both at the same time. Daddy finds a big soft towel to gather Dean into afterwards so he can carry him to his room while Tall Sam carries the baby. Then Dean rocks Baby Sam to sleep like always. Daddy lets Dean stay up late tonight, since it's Christmas Eve, and he sits in front of the tree in Daddy's lap while Tall Sam and Big Dean read "A Christmas Carol," Big Dean doing the voices of the ghosts with remarkable expression. Dean watches the brothers huddle together over the book, shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, and it's comforting for some reason he can't explain. He's getting drowsy, leaning back against Daddy's broad chest, feeling warm and safe and only a little homesick.
Dean wakes up screaming.
He feels the heat of the flames, hears the roar of the fire, smells the smoke. He's sobbing, his chest rising and falling in huge heaves, and his throat is sore from screaming. He knows he's been calling "Mommy! Mommy!" because he can hear his own voice echoing in his ears and it hurts because it's so loud.
This time he's managed to wake Baby Sam, who's wailing next to him, and he's shaking so bad it takes a minute or two before he can get his bearings in the dark, reach out to touch the baby. Sam's cries soften a little when Dean touches him, but he's pretty freaked out, and Dean can't stop sobbing loudly himself, which doesn't help.
Then the door flies open and Tall Sam bursts in, scoops Dean into his arms.
"Hey, Dean, it's okay. You're safe. It's okay."
Dean's torn between letting himself be comforted and comforting Baby Sam, who's wailing louder now that Dean's not touching him anymore.
Then another shadow moves into the room, bends over the bed, and suddenly Big Dean is there, gathering up Baby Sam and murmuring softly to him. Baby Sam quiets almost immediately, and Dean feels himself relax in response, lets himself cling to Tall Sam and cry into his shirt as Tall Sam strokes his hair and back.
"I knew we shouldn't have read that stupid ghost story before he went to sleep," Tall Sam shakes his head. "I'm such an ass."
"Shut up," Big Dean says. "It was a good story. Kid needs to learn to deal with scary."
"I'm not afraid of ghosts," Dean chokes out, feeling defiant whenever Big Dean is in the room. He pushes away from Tall Sam and wipes his eyes with his sleeve.
"There, see?" Big Dean says to Tall Sam. "This was just another nightmare. I had 'em all the time at first. For years. Not a big deal."
Tall Sam shakes his head.
"You'd just lost your mother, Dean," he says darkly. "In a really awful way. I still can't see how you ever got over something like that."
"I had you, didn't I?" Big Dean shrugs. "You and Dad."
Big Dean rocks Baby Sam in his arms, looking down at the baby and smiling a little.
"Ain't that so, Sammy?" Big Dean murmurs to the baby. "I had you, didn't I?"
Baby Sam grins up at him, his little body wiggling with joy, arms flailing a little until one tiny fist connects with Big Dean's jaw.
Big Dean pretends to be hurt, makes a face and jerks his jaw to the side as if the baby had really managed to land a good one.
Baby Sam giggles delightedly, does it again, gets the same response from Big Dean, and the game is on.
Tall Sam pulls Dean into his lap again, wipes his eyes with a tissue.
"And I guess you had us too," he mutters to Dean, smiling a little as he watches Dean watching Baby Sam and Big Dean.
PART FIVE - BACK TO MASTERPOST