Author's notes: This...started off as crack!fic, and very quickly became a rather serious story; it's a genre (kid-fic) that I normally avoid, but for numerous reasons it fits well in the Supernatural universe, I think, and so I beg your indulgence. Warnings for: some violence here and there; and some adult language. No Wincest, purely gen. My thanks to my LJ friends, for succumbing to the crack and encouraging me to finish this. Y'all are the best. Hope you enjoy.

Under a Haystack



1. Red Sky at Morning

It doesn't catch him at his best. Who is, right after waking up?

And he's tired as only a sound beating by a nine-year-old girl who just happened to be a really freaking sneaky werewolf – what'd you call them when they were kids? werepups? – and a grade-A-plus hella nightmare can make him, and so he just doesn't have much in the way of reflexes. Which is why, he figures, it takes him so long to get what's happening.

Exhibit A: Dean is not in his bed. That part Sam gets. Kinda hard to miss.

Exhibit B: Small lump under Dean's covers, on Dean's empty bed. One could be forgiven for thinking the lump is just – covers. Lumpy covers. The bedspreads are maroon and white and pink, and they're already lumpy; pushed every which way, they will naturally form a lumpish mass. Lump, identified.

Exhibit C: Only not. Because after staggering into the bathroom to pee and brush his teeth, seeking out his boots which had ended up one under one bed and the other under the other, he sits down on the lump and it yelps.

Exhibit D: Under the lumpish covers, a kid. No kids in this room until this moment, that Sam's been aware of, but this is a kid, who stares up at Sam with wide, flat eyes, as shocked as Sam himself, wearing a camo tee-shirt about eight sizes too big for him.

So he has to cut himself some slack, because well, it isn't every day you find a strange kid in your brother's bed.

There's really no way to say it that doesn't sound like a damn pedophile.

Sam bends forward and gapes at the kid, says, "What the fuck," and that's when the kid kicks him in the face. Hard.

Smooth move, he thinks later, but at the time he claps his hands over his nose, which is suddenly gushing a real fountain, bawls, "Oh, you liddle SHID," and falls back on his own bed.

The kid sits up, gives him another flat scary look, and then screams bloody murder.

"Waid a seccud," Sam yells, and the kid stands up on the bed, still screaming, and ducks Sam's grasping hand, slippery as a goddamn eel. Kicks out at him again – this one Sam ducks, although it's more because the kid's standing on a mattress and struggling with the shirt that fits him like a full-length gown than any real smooth moves on Sam's part – and makes a pretty damn fine leap at the door. There's no time for admiring it, because the door's open and the kid's running, and Sam's dripping blood from his probably broken nose and catches him in the parking lot, right when the housekeeping lady is standing on the balcony above them, staring.

"Help!" the kid shrieks, kicking and flailing his arms and catching Sam another whack on the face, this one on his chin. "Help, he kidnapped me!"

Sam claps his hand over the kid's mouth, and the kid bites him.

The cleaning lady mutters something in Spanish and turns back to her cart. Sam schleps the kid back into the room, hanging by his teeth from Sam's hand like a mutant tee-shirt-wearing badger, and then shakes him off. The kid thuds to the carpet, slithers back against the dresser.

"You are DOT baking a good first imbresshud," Sam says. His index finger is howling with pain, joining the infernal chorus with his nose.

The kid twitches, and Sam shakes his head. "Uh, uh. I don'd thig so."

And then takes another look, because those eyes spitting murder at him are pretty familiar, yes? Familiar in a wild freaky sort of way. Greeny hazel, over a nose covered with freckles. And that's Dean's tee shirt, isn't it? Dean always gets those Army-drab tee shirts at the surplus places.

"My dad's gonna kill you," the boy says with evident satisfaction, and that's when Sam's morning-slow, only mildly concussed brain informs him that this is not just a child in Dean's shirt, previously occupying Dean's bed. This kid with blood on his mouth and Sam's messy death gleaming in his feral green eyes is, in fact, DEAN.

Dean, minus about sixteen or seventeen years.

Sam sags down on the bed and says, "ohshit."

His nose doesn't appear to be broken. No thanks to Mighty-Midget!Dean, who continues to glare at Sam from where he sits on the closed toilet, looking like he'd like to finish the job.

"Don't even have any shoes on," Sam says, while hot water runs over his throbbing right hand. "I don't remember you being able to kick like that."

"Eat shit and die," Little!Dean says.

Sam blinks at him. "Does Dad know you talk like that?"

"Fuck you."

Sam wraps his hand in a dry washcloth and fumbles for the hydrogen peroxide. "How old are you anyway?"

"Penis breath."

Sam bites down hard on his lower lip to keep from laughing. "Okay, then. I'm gonna say around, what? Six?"

Kid!Dean draws up so indignantly Sam laughs anyway. "I'm not six! I'm not a baby! And you're a bad man!"

"Not that bad, kid," Sam says, still grinning. The grin fades. "How the hell…."

Dean tenses, eyes flickering in the direction of the door, and Sam shakes his head. "Not getting the drop on me again. I trained with the best."

"You're slow," Dean says crisply, "and you're stupid, and you won't be able to run from my dad. He catches things like you. All the time."

"Not quite like me," Sam replies. His nose is red, but otherwise looks pretty normal. He wraps some gauze around his index finger and calls it good.

He keeps Dean's wrist in his hand when he goes out. There's no struggle, not yet, but one look at those calculating eyes and a few things occur in rapid succession in Sam's now fully operational brain. First, his little experience with elementary-age children is no preparation for suddenly becoming – at least on the hopefully short term – a kid's guardian.

Second, he misses Dean – grown-up Dean – like he's woken up with his right arm chopped off.

And third, kid!Dean is not at all what he remembers. He doesn't remember the potty mouth, he doesn't remember this utterly untrusting reptilian stare, and he sure as shit doesn't remember hearing about Dean doing some time travel when they were kids.

As far as Sam knows, that never happened. And that means this isn't time travel. This is DEAN. Who's been…regressed, somehow. Maybe. Or something.

And this pint-sized version of Dean obviously has no idea who Sam is, or where they are. This Dean thinks his dad will gallop in wearing his white hat and save the day. Hell, this Dean probably thinks Sam's a demon.

He stares down at the kid, marveling at that fragile little wrist in his grip, and Dean snarls and kicks him on the shin.

There's more screaming, when they hit the parking lot again. This time Dean's screaming for his dad, and Sam's starting to feel just a little bit weary of hearing how Dad's going to shoot him, cut him up, poke his eyes out with a knife, slice him so his guts dangle out on the ground, eat his brains for breakfast, etc., etc., and so he just sticks the squirmy little fucker in the car and locks the doors.

"Sorry," he says through the window to the concerned-looking guest who's poking her head out of the room they've just vacated. "I'm getting his Ritalin prescription refilled today."

"Help!" Dean shrieks, yanking at Sam's grip on his arm. "He's gonna kill me!"

Sam turns and looks at him. "If I were gonna kill you, kid, trust me, I'd have done it already."

Dean subsides to lizard-like staring again, and Sam lets go of his arm, not without some trepidation. "You stole my dad's car."

Sam swallows and says, "This is my car."

"No, it's not. It's my dad's. See?" He opens the glove box, and smiles triumphantly when papers, old half-eaten bags of chips, and a loaded Colt semi-auto tumble out. "That's his stuff. You stole his car."

He reaches for the gun, and Sam thinks, How old was Dean when he learned to shoot? Hopes it wasn't seven or eight, and snatches the gun out of Dean's hands. "Oh, no. I'm so onto you. No way."

"My BROTHER could kick your ass, and he's only three!"

Shit. Dean is seven years old. Christ on a soggy cracker. "Don't be too sure of that," Sam tells him.

"Know what I'm gonna do after my dad kills you?" Dean grins with infernal joy. "I'm gonna set your stinky guts on FIRE!"

"Sounds like fun," Sam says wearily.

"And then –"

"So where is this all-powerful dad of yours anyway?" Sam asks, meanly, and Dean's mouth shuts like it's spring-loaded. "I don't see anybody racing in to save you, kid. Just me and you, all right? So why don't you shut it, and let me figure out what to do?"

Dean's eyes are wide, and Sam feels like he's just kicked a dog lying run-over in the street. Dean stares at him, and his lips wobble, and then he looks down at his lap and doesn't say a word.

"Oh God," Sam moans. He hasn't even started the fucking car yet. "I'm sorry, D – kid. I didn't mean that. We'll find your dad. I'm not a bad guy, really. I'm not. You don't know that, I realize, but I swear, I'm not gonna hurt you."

Dean sniffs, very softly, and whispers, "He'll come. He always comes."

"Okay, and when he does, you know. That'll be great. I mean, except for the part where he kills me, okay. But until then –" Sam clears his throat, puts on his best suitable-for-all-ages kind face, and says, "Until then, would you mind not freaking out on me quite so much? We're gonna work it out. I promise."

He smiles, but Dean doesn't smile back. He looks little, and scared, and Sam thinks, God damn it, because this regressed little-kid Dean really IS just a kid. A child, who woke up in a strange room with a strange man and is scared out of his mind. Probably dealing a hell of a lot better with all the strangeness than most kids do, sure, but when you get right down to it, seven years old is seven years old, and Dean had seen enough shit by this age to know that sometimes the Bogeyman was real, sometimes there really WERE things in closets and under beds, and sometimes they fucking ATE YOU.

"It's okay," Sam whispers. "I promise."

Dean shivers in his gigantic grown-up tee shirt, and doesn't say anything at all.

Dean's big to carry, but he's got no shoes and the parking-lot asphalt is already melting in the July sun, so Sam slings him on his hip to get him to the door. Dean endures it, still silent and no longer struggling, and Sam is surprised at the little hurt twinge when Dean scrambles away the minute they're inside.

"You're not gonna scream again, are you?" Sam asks, hunkering down to look Dean in the eye. "We got a deal? I don't hurt you, you don't hurt me?"

Dean regards him distrustfully, but after a moment he nods.

More than one person looks at them while Sam finds the clothing section. Dean, he is beginning to realize, is a cute kid, a very pretty child in spite of his perpetual suspicious scowl, and people notice. A heavyset woman in a green pantsuit coos over him, and Dean jerks away, the flat look back in his eyes.

"She was just being nice," Sam mutters at him.

Dean just pads next to him, frowning a little while he looks around Wal-Mart. Probably looking for their dad, Sam thinks tiredly. Yeah, you and me both, kiddo.

He buys a couple of sets of clothes, because he doesn't know how long Dean will stay a seven-year-old and people start noticing if your kids don't wear shoes or have anything that fits. Sneakers and socks and little-boy underwear.

When the stuff's bought, he takes Dean to a restroom and tells him to get dressed. Without the tee shirt, Dean is so small it hurts Sam someplace deep inside. He doesn't ever remember seeing Dean small, ever remember thinking of him as being small. To his little-brother eyes, Dean has always had a bigger-than-me glamour, and it is bittersweet now, while Dean climbs into his crisp new jeans and shirt, struggles with the laces of his stiff new sneakers. To Sam, Dean's always been larger than life. This jars him, makes him feel helpless and scared and overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility.

He holds out his hand, and Dean just looks at him.

"So we don't get separated," Sam says.

"What's your name?" Dean asks sadly.

"Oh. Sam. My name's Sam."

"That's my brother's name. Only we call him Sammy."

Sam smiles. "Good name. What's yours?" because Dean hasn't told him yet, and he's not supposed to know, he thinks.

But Dean looks down, and Sam wonders if in a minute he'll be biting and screaming again, because Dean looks like he's bracing himself for something.

Then Dean gives a hurt-sounding sigh and puts his hand in Sam's, fingers clinging with surprising strength, and Sam realizes he's going to be hard-put not to be pissed off if a regressed John Winchester shows up ten minutes from now to reclaim the elder of his two sons. Because Sam's fallen in love with this little boy, already knows he'd give anything to keep him safe and make him smile someday, and the irony of it just about kills him.

Cont. in ch 2