He starts crawling in the middle of February, and by March 1st he's pulling himself up on chairs, table legs, bookcases. He cruises around the library by holding onto the edges of things and moving sideways, planting his wobbly legs firmly before leaning his weight into his next step. By the middle of March he's standing without holding onto anything, just out of reach of both the last solid surface and the next one, hovering there in limbo while he reaches and tries lifting his foot tentatively.
Most of the time when he tries to take a step he loses his balance and falls down plop on his well-padded bottom. He sits there for a moment before turning onto all fours and crawling to his next destination, then pulling himself up and starting all over again.
The day he manages to pull down an entire pile of books and papers from the library table is when they all realize how endangered he is.
He's not badly hurt, just a little stunned, but he sits and cries with such indignation and accusation -- as if it's Dean's fault those stupid books fell on him.
And Dean feels terrible because he was playing with his firetruck when it happened and didn't catch him in time. Baby Sam won't let him hug or console him at first, just cries louder, and Dean feels even worse until Big Dean picks him up, scolding gently.
"Okay, you little terror," he says to the baby. "You're okay. No need to make everybody feel guilty."
The night he falls off the bed and wakes everybody up with his screaming is the night they realize he has to sleep in a crib from then on.
"So now we know what really happened to you," Big Dean says as they tuck the baby in.
"Very funny," Tall Sam mutters.
Dean finds it impossible to get back to sleep without his brother next to him, so he climbs into the tiny crib, and that's where Daddy finds him in the morning.
"I don't know how I coulda done it without you boys," Daddy says at the breakfast table that morning. They finally got a high-chair for baby Sam -- just to have something to keep him still for a few minutes so he's not tearing all over the bunker getting himself hurt is such a relief!
Dean's eating his bowl of Cheerios and Daddy's spooning applesauce into Baby Sam's mouth.
Tall Sam shakes his head.
"I don't know, Dad," he says. "I really don't."
"I guess we'll never know," Big Dean adds, taking a sip of his coffee and bumping his knee against his brother's under the table.
Then Baby Sam starts walking.
Dean's right there when he takes his first step, sits down -- plop! with a surprised look on his face. Then he tries it again. And again.
By the end of the day he's got the hang of it. He's at the end of a line of bookcases and he's reaching for the chair but it's a little too far so he takes one step, two, three steps in a row and he's at the chair, slapping the seat and bouncing up and down on his short little legs, grinning at Dean.
"He's walking!" Dean shouts excitedly. "Sammy's walking!"
Daddy's on dish duty that day so he's in the kitchen and comes running, Big Dean on his heels.
"Now we're in trouble," Big Dean comments dryly.
And so they are. Up until now the most dangerous thing in the bunker was the stairs out of the library. Now the baby's mobility makes it virtually impossible to keep tabs on him every second. He moves too fast. And his new height and ability to reach things on counters and desktops and tables means they all have to be doubly aware of leaving knives or other sharp metal objects lying around. Never mind actual weapons.
None of the drawers or cabinets are baby-proof, and all the baby wants to do is open things, reach inside, pull out whatever his little fingers can grab hold of, and put it in his mouth.
Dean takes to following the baby around all day, watching out for him. Tall Sam helps, taking dangerous objects out of the baby's hands and mouth and putting them away high over his head, which frustrates Baby Sam to no end. He stops being a happy, contented baby and starts being a demanding, easily-annoyed toddler. His temper tantrums bring the household to its knees, send Daddy and Big Dean out the door and leave Tall Sam and Dean to deal with the emotional turmoil of living with a walking baby.
Tall Sam stops researching, stops trying to get anything done. Dean stops playing with his toys. They live for Baby Sam's nap times, when they can both decompress a little.
"It would be easier if the bunker had some actual baby-proofing," Tall Sam complains to Big Dean one night in the hall outside Dean's room, which is where they seem to carry on most of their private conversations. Sometimes Dean wonders what they do in their room, because it sure isn't talking. They seem to need to do all the talking in the hall.
"You know, like those plastic gates and those little plastic door-handle covers and latches for the cabinets," Tall Sam continues. "I caught him sitting on the floor of the bathroom getting ready to drink a bottle of bleach yesterday."
"What the hell, Sam?" Big Dean sounds shocked. "How the hell did he get ahold of a bottle of bleach?"
"Believe me, this baby finds things I never thought to go looking for in the first place," Tall Sam says. "And I spend all my time following him around, keeping him out of trouble. I have no time to look for that spell anymore. I'm starting to think we're stuck here, at least until the baby starts school. Maybe by that time I can find a little time for research again."
"Or maybe you can just wait for him to find it," Dean growls. "Looks like he's finding everything else."
Big Dean turns his glare on Little Dean, who's trying to slip back into the shadows of his room.
"And what about you?" Big Dean demands. "Where were you while your baby brother was almost killing himself?"
"Dean -- " Tall Sam puts his hand on Big Dean's chest, trying to get him to back off. "It's not his fault. Kid follows his brother around like he's on a leash or something."
"Yeah?" Big Dean looks skeptical, throws another glare at Dean. "You better learn to watch out for that little brother of yours, kid, if you want to keep him safe. I did my job in that department; now let's see if you can do yours."
"Dean, I'm serious," Tall Sam frowns. "I don't see how we can ever leave. Dad's a mess, and Dean's still too little to manage by himself."
Big Dean shakes his head.
"I was shopping, cooking, washing clothes, and carrying you everywhere on my bike by the time I was eight years old," he insists gruffly.
"Exactly," Tall Sam nods. "You were eight. Not five. You were taking care of a four-year-old, not a baby or a toddler. There's a difference."
"What are you saying, Sam?" Big Dean growls. "You think I didn't do a good enough job? Because I didn't do everything for you when you were a baby? Because I had some help?"
"No, Dean, that's not what I'm saying," Tall Sam insists. "I'm saying these kids are not going to make it unless they have a lot of backup. For at least the next three years."
"Three years -- Sam, we can't stay here for three years, we've got responsibilities!"
"Exactly," Tall Sam agrees. "We need to get them settled with Pastor Jim. Soon. So I can get back to finding that spell and we can go home."
"After this hunt tomorrow," Big Dean promises. "We'll see how it goes."
How it goes is not good.
Daddy and Big Dean come home from the hunt early, after only a day in the field. They're both bruised and bleeding, and they both look pretty freaked out.
"Things were waiting for us," Big Dean explains to Tall Sam, right in front of the kids this time, not even waiting to talk in the hall. "They ambushed us. Knew Dad by name."
Dean brings bandages, needles, dental floss, a big bowl of warm water. Daddy and Big Dean take their shirts off, wash the blood off at the kitchen sink, then sit in chairs at the table while Tall Sam stitches up their wounds, assisted by Dean and a bottle of Jack.
"So it's what we said? Azazel's trying to kill off the families? That's why he's after Dad?" Tall Sam suggests.
"I'm not so sure it's just that anymore, Sam," Big Dean says, shaking his head.
"What then?" Tall Sam demands as he finishes his stitching, reaches for the bandage Dean hands him. "What else could it be?"
Big Dean and Daddy exchange glances, then Daddy looks down at Dean, his eyes sad.
"It's just a theory," Daddy says.
Tall Sam glances at Dean, frowns.
"What? What's the theory?"
"It's me, Sam," Big Dean says. "It's after me. I'm the primary target."
Tall Sam shakes his head, confused.
"What are you talking about, Dean?" he demands. "Azazel doesn't even know you're here. How can he?"
Big Dean takes a swig from the bottle of Jack, flexes his shoulder and winces as he gets up.
"I'm already here, Sam, in this timeline. I'm fuckin' five years old. Easy pickings."
Three sets of eyes turn and gaze down at Dean. He wants to put his thumb in his mouth so bad he can taste it, but he doesn't. He wants Daddy to see how brave he is.
Daddy puts his hand on the top of Dean's head, gives him a reassuring smile.
"You know that thing about messing with the timeline?" Big Dean is going on. "Well, I already did."
"What?" Tall Sam's confused. "How?"
"Listen to me," Big Dean takes a deep breath. "When I met Azazel in 1973, I told him I was gonna be the one who kills him. He knows it was gonna be me. He knows who I am. You get me?"
Tall Sam stares, his face changing as he understands what Big Dean is saying.
"No," he shakes his head, but Dean can see he isn't really disagreeing. "No way."
"So I already fucked it up, Sam, you get me? Which explains why those demons attacked us in Lawrence. It explains why we got ambushed today. They're after this helpless little twerp here." He glances at Dean, who's doing his best to pretend he's not listening.
"You don't know that," Tall Sam sounds shaken.
Big Dean nods.
"Our whole lives growing up -- on the run because that demon was sending evil after us -- after me -- it's all my fault. Because I couldn't keep my fuckin' mouth shut."
"You were face to face with him, Dean," Tall Sam looks sucker-punched, his voice sounds desperate. "He was gonna kill you. He was gonna end you right there, in the past, and I wasn't there. I would never have even known what happened to you."
"Well, that didn't happen," Big Dean says. "But here's the thing. The damage is done. Azazel knows. What did happen in 1973 is Azazel made that deal with Mom because of me, and now he's gunning for me -- his future killer -- right now, in the past."
"Dean, that's just insane," Tall Sam protests. "Azazel is a monomaniacal demon general. He's King of Hell. He's not gonna care about one small boy who might grow up to kill him. His ego's so big -- he's so sure of himself -- he probably didn't even believe you when you told him you were gonna kill him someday. He probably figured you were making that up."
"Maybe," Big Dean mutters, clearly unconvinced. "But I think we need to find out. Dad and I are going out again tomorrow."
"What? No! No way!" Tall Sam looks shocked, and Big Dean puts his hands up, gestures for him to stop.
"Listen to me," he demands. "We need to find us a demon. Ask it some questions. See if our theory holds water."
"Dean, no," Tall Sam insists. "After what happened today -- "
"We'll be ready," Big Dean says. "I've been explaining about devil's traps and demon mojo to Dad. He's been up against them twice now. We can do this."
"Dean -- "
"We need answers, damn it," Big Dean growls. "And I hope to god I'm wrong, I really do."
That gets Tall Sam, finally convinces him, and he stands down, shifts his feet and puts his hands on his hips, looks down at Dean, glances up at Daddy.
He huffs out a breath. "Yeah, 'cuz the odds are ever in our favor," he quips sarcastically.
Big Dean nods grimly, exchanges a look with Daddy, who still has his hand on Dean's head, gently stroking his hair.
"We head out in the morning."
Tall Sam puts the kids to bed so Daddy and Big Dean can talk strategy and plan for tomorrow's hunt.
"Do you love Big Dean?" Dean asks when he's tucked in and Tall Sam has pressed his lips to Dean's forehead, like he always does.
Tall Sam hesitates, and Dean can see his eyes shine in the dark as he considers Dean's question.
Then he nods.
"Yeah, Dean," he says softly. "Yeah, I do. A lot. Too much, probably."
"Like I love Sammy," he says.
Tall Sam ruffles his hair, lays his hand on his cheek for a moment, just looks at him before he finally nods, pulls his hand away.
"Yeah, Dean," he breathes. "Just like that."
After Tall Sam leaves the room Dean climbs out of bed and pads to the crib, climbs into it and curls himself around his brother.
He's out before he can count to ten.
PART SEVEN - BACK TO MASTERPOST