Character(s): Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester
Word count: 1578
Summary: When John isn’t there to teach Sam the important stuff, but Dean is.
Their dad had left again. He had dropped them off with a lady Dean had never met before, but she seemed nice enough. In the car on the way there, Dean and his father had played their usual little game. Dean would turn away from the car window, frost-bitten countryside rushing past, and say, “We’re not in Kansas anymore?”
John would turn to look at his son, and smile weakly, but something behind his eyes seemed cracked, almost manic. “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
The way he said it always seemed odd to Dean, like there was a joke to the phrase that he didn’t quite understand, but he never asked about it. Sammy had been asleep in the car seat beside him. Years later, Dean would cringe at the thought of putting a car seat inside the Impala.
So they weren’t in Kansas anymore. In fact, they hadn’t been for six months now. A few hours from the house they were staying in they had passed a sign that had welcomed them to Wyoming, but Dean couldn’t even read the word “Wyoming”, let alone work out how far from home they really were. He was turning six in a few months, but his education had been somewhat drawn to a halt by the night that he still woke up having nightmares about a year later. They had stayed in Lawrence for six months after the fire, and Dean continued to go to Kindergarten, but now instead of revelling in learning as he had before, he was constantly distracted by the fact that from school, he had no way of keeping an eye on his little brother. Daddy said his Mommy had gone that night, that he wasn’t going to see her again, that something very bad had happened. He couldn’t let that happen to Sammy, too.
The first few weeks were the worst. His father had tried to send him off to school, to take his mind off everything that had happened and to get his life back to normal, but he would always end up having to collect Dean early, the young boy kicking and screaming to see his mom, his baby brother. Dean had liked it when they’d left Lawrence, in a way. He missed their house, but they hadn’t lived in it since the fire, and he missed his mom, but Daddy said he wouldn’t see her in Lawrence, so leaving wasn’t so bad. Leaving meant he could keep an eye on Sammy, and they would spend hours in his dad’s big black car. He knew its name now. His dad said it was a “Chevrolet Impala”, and Dean always thought it was the most beautiful car he had ever seen.
He quickly learned to love watching the scenery fly past the window, in between glances at his little brother, goofing around to distract him when he got fussy.
The sitters would try and teach him things when he stayed with them, and he tried to pay attention, he really did, but he would always have one eye trained on Sammy, sitting nearby on the floor, playing with some toy or other.
Dean had noticed Sammy’s attachment to him. The boy was quiet, always had been, but Dean noticed his bright eyes following him around the room. One night Dean had woken to find Sammy stood up in his crib, clutching the railing. Light from the the landing was falling through the door, illuminating the blonde curls on his brother’s head. Dean got up sleepily and went over to him.
“Hey Sammy, you okay?”
The toddler stared at him with round eyes. “Dadda?”
Dean wanted to call the sitter into the room; Sammy was speaking! He’d been making the mumbly sounds of word-shaping for weeks, but this was the first time he’d managed a full word. He quickly tried to suppress his excitement to answer his brother’s question. It was still dark outside and he would need to get Sammy to go back to sleep. The sitter wouldn’t like it if he woke her so early. His dad never did, at least.
“No, Sammy, just Dean.”
The little boy blinked.
A smile broke out on the older boys face.
“That’s right. Now you need to go back to sleep okay? Sleep.”
Sammy didn’t make any acknowledgement that he had understood Dean, but he slumped back onto his behind, still staring at Dean.
“See you in the morning, Sammy,” his brother said, crawling back beneath the sheets of his bed.
Just as the fog of sleep began to envelop his mind once more, a soft, mumbled, “Dean,” slipped through the doors of consciousness, the last thing before they shut entirely.
That was a few months back now. Sammy was bigger, and getting to be quite mobile. They were in the house in Wyoming, Sam sat on the floor of the kitchen, chewing on one of Dean’s army men. Dean came racing down from upstairs and skidded to a halt by his baby brother.
“Sammy! What are you doing with my soldier?”
He noticed the sitter, the nice lady, standing nearby, watching the two carefully. Sammy looked up, the small green man clasped between his teeth, a bit of drool on his chin. Dean reached out and took the figure from him, stuffing it in his pocket, ignoring the wet patch he could feel it making against his leg.
“You’re not supposed to play with those, they’re mine!” He said, stubbornly. “Dad said you shouldn’t play with my toys.” That was only half the truth. Dad said that Sam shouldn’t play with his army men because he might swallow them and choke, and every time Dean spotted his brother with them he was overcome by a wave of blind panic at what his father had said, but he wasn’t about to tell Sammy that. Plus, Sammy wouldn’t understand, he reasoned with himself.
The blonde toddler looked up at him, eyes flicking between his brother’s face and his pocket, knowing where the army man was stashed.
“Dean,” he pleaded, chubby fists reaching out for his stolen prize.
“No, Sammy,” his brother responded, backing away from him.
Sam stared at his brother for a long moment, trying to work out how to get what he wanted. Dean was much faster than him, but he had watched him for months, how Dean walked, ran. He put on a determined scowl, intent on getting the soldier back, and reached for the leg of the chair beside him. Dean didn’t look too bewildered, Sammy had been able to pull himself into a standing position for months now, but something in his brother’s expression seemed different.
The toddler pulled himself upright confidently, eyes fixed on Dean’s pocket, then took a shaky step forwards, one hand still latched the the chair. His next step forced him to let go of his support, and he wobbled a bit. Dean was frozen, watching his baby brother take another tentative step, ready to spring into action.
Sammy toppled on the forth step, but his behind had barely hit the floor before Dean was there, catching him under the arms and setting him down carefully.
“Take it easy there, buddy,” he said softly, “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” His Dad had said these words to him a million times before, but they felt natural in his mouth, repeating them to Sam.
The babysitter looked on, puzzled and a little concernedby the older one’s protectiveness at such a young age. She expected that a boy of his age would want absolutely nothing to do with the slobbering toddler that appeared so attached to Dean, but the boy took it in his stride, barely leaving Sammy’s side, and not looking begrudging of the younger child’s dependence upon him in the slightest. He went about his task as a five-year-old carer as though it was more than a job, but as though his very life depended on it, and the sincere actions of the boy, so young yet so old, would stay with her for many years to come.
Their father returned a few days later, and Dean sprinted into his arms the moment he stepped in the door.
“Hey, buddy!” John cried, sweeping his son up into his arms. At the door to the kitchen, Sam appeared, thumb in his mouth. “Sammy,” his father smiled, noticing the child.
Sam, who had been exploring his new found ability, quickly pulled himself to his feet, using the door frame for reassurance. Eyes fixed on his dad, he took a step forwards and removed his thumb to say, “Dad!”
Dean quickly scrambled out of John’s arms, running to Sam’s side should he fall. Their father’s eyes shone, and he cleared his throat, brushing away the sudden emotion.
“When did this happen?” he asked the sitter, who stood beside him at the door.
“About four days ago. Dean’s been helping him practice since.”
John nodded but didn’t say anything. He wondered what Mary would think of him missing their child’s first words, first steps. But Mary’s dead, he told himself, her death is the reason you’ve missed these things. You should be glad that he has Dean to teach him these things. I have a feeling Dean will be teaching him a lot over the next few years.