Dean fights the urge to cry so he can be a big boy and show Uncle Bobby how to do things like feed Baby Sam and change his diaper. Uncle Bobby makes faces a lot, curses as Baby Sam gets into his stuff, makes a mess of his house.
"You're a menace, you know that, kid?" he says to Baby Sam as he picks up another armload of papers that the baby has pulled down off his desk. "Of all the monsters I've learned about in the past two years, you are the scariest."
"He's not a monster," Dean lisps defensively. "He's my brudder."
Uncle Bobby just shakes his head, makes more comments about what a holy terror Sam is, and he never seems to get the knack of caring for the baby, so Dean really has his hands full. It's awkward having to tell the strange grown-up that he needs to feed Sam now, or change him, or put him down for his nap, so Dean just does it himself, and by the end of the day he's pretty tired. He pulls Sam into the crib and sings to him, and he's only vaguely aware of Uncle Bobby checking on them, turning out the light, because he's pretty much asleep by that time.
The next day passes a lot like the first. Then the one after that. By the end of the week they're in a routine, Uncle Bobby doing the cooking and cleaning up after the baby, Dean taking care of Sam. Daddy calls to check in on them every day, making his report "from the field," and asks Dean if he's keeping the home fires burning.
Dean bites back the terror he feels the first time Daddy asks that question, protests that "There's no home fire here, Daddy. I've got my firetruck."
"Good boy," Daddy answers. "You keep your brother safe. That's your job right now."
"Yes, Daddy," Dean nods.
"All right then, I got somebody who wants to talk to you."
He puts Tall Sam on the phone.
"Hi," Dean feels warm all over, although he's already forgetting what Tall Sam looks like.
"How are you doing?"
"Fine," Dean looks at Baby Sam, who's sitting on the floor of the kitchen with a spoon in his mouth, stacking bowls.
"How's the baby?" Tall Sam asks.
"He drools a lot," Dean says.
"That's because his teeth are coming in," Tall Sam says. "The one-year molars. Those are the big ones in the back. Soon he'll be able to eat everything you eat."
"He already does that," Dean says. "Yesterday he ate most of my hamburger. Then he threw up."
Tall Sam chuckles.
"Yeah, sorry about that. He's never gonna be very good with hamburgers."
Another day, another phone call, Uncle Bobby talks to Big Dean for a long time, exchanging information about demon activity, omens, other stuff Dean doesn't understand.
"Where are you?" Uncle Bobby asks, then huffs a breath at Big Dean's answer.
"They're headed to Salvation, Iowa," he tells Dean when he gets off the phone. "You can't make this stuff up."
The next day when Daddy calls, he passes the phone to Tall Sam pretty quick.
"Are you practicing your reading?" Tall Sam asks.
Dean nods, then remembers Daddy telling him people can't see you when you talk on the phone, so he says, "Yes, but Sammy keeps trying to grab the book."
"Put him in the playpen with a toy for awhile," Tall Sam instructs. "You need to practice what I taught you. Okay? Can you do that, Dean?"
"When are you coming home?" he asks plaintively.
"It'll just be another day or two now," Tall Sam says. "We're gonna bring your dad home safe and sound, I promise. Okay?"
"Okay," Dean nods.
"Listen, Dean," Tall Sam says. "I want you to remember one thing, okay? Can you do that for me?"
Dean nods, then says "Yes."
"No matter what happens, no matter how things go here, you are a really special little kid, you hear me? Don't ever let anybody tell you anything else. Least of all you. It's been a real privilege to know you, Dean Winchester."
Tall Sam pauses, and his last words come out sounding choked, like something went down the wrong pipe.
"One more thing," Tall Sam says when he gets his voice back. "Your little brother is gonna grow up and you are gonna be everything to him someday, okay? Everything. It may take him awhile to figure that out, but eventually he will. So don't forget that, okay? Sam loves you. He always will."
Dean's mind is starting to wander, because Tall Sam is just saying stuff he already knows, and he doesn't really understand why grown-ups get so sad-sounding sometimes.
So he just nods, says "Okay," and "Bye" and waits politely for Tall Sam to say the same thing.
He waits and waits, but finally Tall Sam sniffles and takes a deep breath.
"Okay. It's gonna be okay," he says. "We'll be home soon, I promise. You have my word."
But the next day they don't call.
Uncle Bobby mutters a lot all day, keeps looking at the phone. Finally he takes the boys into town for groceries, then stops at the playground to let them run around. Dean puts Sam in a baby swing and pushes him, then climbs onto the big-boy swing next to him and pumps his legs, trying to show Sam how to make the swing go.
When they get back to Bobby's place Dean puts Sam down for his nap, then he climbs up on the chair at the table with his reading book and his pencil and paper, practices writing "Dean Winchester" over and over, then tries "Sam Winchester" a few times.
Uncle Bobby cleans his guns, looks grim, stares at the phone a lot.
After supper Dean gets his reading book out again while Uncle Bobby makes a couple of phone calls. When he gets off the phone after the second call he seems worried, a little shocked.
"Omen activity's stopped," he tells Dean. "All's quiet, and I got no idea what that means."
Dean nods and goes back to his reading, sounding the words out slowly like Tall Sam taught him. Baby Sam is practicing climbing onto and off of one of the big chairs, looking pleased as punch when he gets up on it and manages to sit there like a big boy, his chubby bare legs sticking straight out in front of him, little dimpled hands clutching the arm-rests, looking like a tyrannical baby king.
The next day comes and there's still no sign of the hunters. Uncle Bobby charges around the house, slamming doors and cursing.
The phone rings.
Uncle Bobby knocks over a chair to answer it, barks "Yeah?" into the mouthpiece.
He listens for a moment, and his eyes go wide.
"You sure? Rufus, are you sure? 'Cuz I got these kids here and if they just lost their family, I gotta know."
Dean's sitting on the floor with his firetruck while Sammy chews on one of Uncle Bobby's slippers.
"Yeah, well okay, if you say so, 'cuz I got instructions to put these kids in a truck and high-tail it to a storm-shelter in Kansas if that thing got away, and I --
That's when the familiar rumble of the Impala's engine reaches Dean's ears. He looks up, excitement surging through him.
"I gotta go, Rufus," Uncle Bobby says. "I think they're here."
Dean's already up and running across the room to the door, has his hand on the knob when it opens on its own, sending him jumping back a few steps.
Daddy and Tall Sam stagger into the room, holding Big Dean between them, his arms across their shoulders. Big Dean looks battered, one eye swollen shut, his lips and one cheek cut and bleeding, the other one bruised dark and purple.
Tall Sam doesn't look much better, and Daddy's pretty messed up too, but he manages to smile a little at Dean as they stop in the doorway.
"We got him," Daddy says. "We killed the bastard."
"Cornered the son-of-a-bitch at the Talley ranch," Daddy explains later, once they've got Big Dean laid on the couch and checked his wounds. They all need cleaning and bandaging, so Dean's got his hands full fetching supplies and helping Uncle Bobby and Tall Sam, who's in the best shape of the three and still has use of both his hands.
"He was getting ready to infect another baby," Daddy goes on. "Laid a devil's trap in the kid's room, caught him in the act. Sam rescued the kid while Dean and I took him down."
Big Dean has three cracked ribs and a broken knee cap -- apparently the demon slammed him into a wall and them stomped on his leg while beating on his face pretty well. Fortunately, he was so distracted by Big Dean he never saw the other two, didn't expect Tall Sam to grab him from behind, hauling him backwards off his brother so Daddy could get his shot.
The details go right over Dean's head. He's too overwhelmed by all the blood. When the men strip their jackets and shirts off there are more wounds, more blood. Daddy tells Dean he's seen worse, as Tall Sam stitches up the gash in his shoulder. Daddy's left hand is broken, and he's pretty banged up and bruised, but nothing that won't heal, he assures Dean.
"I'll be fine," he ruffles Dean's hair, pulls him in for a hug once he's fairly well cleaned and bandaged.
And Dean goes, hugs his Dad as tight as he dares, squeezes his eyes shut to hold back the tears.
Later, when they're all bedded down -- Daddy sharing Uncle Bobby's room, the elder Sam and Dean on the couch and floor of the living room, little Dean and Baby Sam in the crib in the hall -- Dean is almost asleep when he overhears them talking.
"Thought I'd lost you," Tall Sam whispers.
Big Dean makes a groaning noise.
"Ow! Not so tight, Sam."
"The way he kept slamming your head against the floor -- and when you stopped moving -- "
"Damn it, I'm fine. Stop sniveling," Big Dean mutters. "You're getting the pillow wet."
"I just lost it, Dean," Tall Sam goes on, and his voice is a little muffled, like he's got his face pressed against Big Dean's shoulder. "I saw red. I didn't know what I was doing."
"Well, whatever it was, you done good, Sam," Big Dean mutters. "Happy birthday."
Tall Sam makes a surprised snorting sound.
"It's not my -- shit. It's my birthday. Wow. Huh. Killed that bastard on my birthday."
"Yeah," Big Dean agrees. "Helluva birthday present, wouldn't you say?"
"Yeah," Tall Sam breathes. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it."
They're quiet for a moment, then Tall Sam huffs out a breath.
"So what now?"
"What'd'ya'mean?" Big Dean growled.
"Well, these kids are still vulnerable. Just because we killed Azazel -- hell, maybe just because we killed him -- there'll be fall-out. What do we do next?"
Big Dean shifts, moans a little because it hurts to move.
"Sorry. Oh shit, Dean, I'm sorry," Tall Sam mutters.
"Fuck you you're sorry," Big Dean grumbles. "You ever been flailed on by a demon general? 'Cause I gotta tell you, it sucks ass."
"No, I know," Tall Sam says sympathetically,. "I get it, Dean. I'm sorry. Oh my god, I'm so sorry -- "
"Ow! That's my sore arm!"
The sound of moaning and creaking springs finally stops, Big Dean finally finding a way to lie comfortably.
"So -- " Tall Sam tries again quietly.. "What do we do now?"
Big Dean sucks in a big breath, shifts again before answering.
"Right now? Right now we get some sleep. Tomorrow we get a birthday cake."
"Seriously?" Tall Sam sounds irritated and pleased at the same time.
"Ow, goddamn it, stop hugging me! Let me sleep!"
"Can't let you sleep," Tall Sam says. "You've got a concussion. I have to help you stay awake."
"Ow! Not the leg!"
"Sorry," Tall Sam mutters. "Can't give you more pain meds 'cuz they'll just make you sleepy."
"Fuck," Big Dean moans. "Just stop touching me!"
"Can't," Tall Sam says petulantly. "Need to make sure you're okay."
"I hurt everywhere, Sam. Fuckin' everywhere, okay? Everything hurts."
"Everything?" Tall Sam murmurs.
Big Dean gasps, makes a funny little noise low in his throat.
"Not everything," he agrees. "That doesn't hurt."
"Hmm," Tall Sam says. "How 'bout this?"
Big Dean gasps again.
"No, that doesn't hurt either," he says, his voice sounding a little choked and gravelly.
"Feels okay?" Tall Sam pushes.
Big Dean give a low moaning sound and doesn't answer.
They don't speak again, and after awhile Dean pulls his brother's small body against him and kisses the back of his neck. Within a few minutes he falls asleep feeling all safe and warm and at home.
The next day they have a birthday party.
Baby Sam gets cake all over himself, all over the table and chairs and floor and Dean and Daddy, who's holding him in his lap as he takes handfuls of the sugary stuff and crams them in his mouth.
Then he throws up.
Uncle Bobby can't wait to get rid of them. He's grumpy and happy at the same time, relieved the demon's dead and excited to share the news with his network of hunters. He's even more relieved when it's decided that Daddy should head to Minnesota with the kids the next day, leaving Big Dean to recover for awhile. And of course Tall Sam will stay with his brother, so the next morning they say their goodbyes on Uncle Bobby's porch.
The men give each other hearty handshakes and pat each other on the back, wincing a little at the soreness of their pulled muscles and bruises.
Tall Sam squats down to Dean's height, looks him in the eye.
"You remember what I told you, Dean," he says. "You're a great kid. You're gonna be a really good man someday. I promise."
Dean nods, puts his hand out to shake Tall Sam's. Tall Sam looks down at Dean's hand, takes it between both of his and squeezes for a minute, then puts his hand on Dean's shoulder and leans in to place a kiss on his forehead.
"Take it easy, kid," he murmurs. "Have a good life."
"I will," Dean promises, because he can see it matters to Tall Sam.
"Good luck, son," Daddy says as he shakes Tall Sam's hand. "Thanks for -- Just thanks."
Tall Sam pulls Daddy in for a hug, and there are tears in his eyes. He nods as he releases Daddy, watches them as they walk to the car, where Baby Sam is already strapped into his car seat in the back. Dean crawls in beside him, lets Sam pull his hair and pat his head. The baby kicks his chubby little legs restlessly, anxious for the car to start and the familiar rumble of the engine to help him relax and fall asleep.
Dean turns around and stares out the back window as they drive away, watching Tall Sam on the porch until they finally turn a corner and he's gone.
PART NINE - BACK TO MASTERPOST