The Real Deal
Rating: T, for language only, and it's very slight.
Disclaimer: No, Supernatural is still not mine. And this story is partially made up of wonderful excerpts from Margery Williams' book The Velveteen Rabbit, which I adore, but have no rights to.
A/N: This story is just a snippet that came to me as I was working, and thinking of my other fics that I have started and Mother's Day things. It's from my favorite story as a child. I love stories of all kinds, and use them often when counseling children, but this rings true for adults also, and it made me think of Dean and Pastor Jim, and funny, but I needed to write it because of a scene that is in my next big fic called Worlds Will Fall. I don't always mean for my fics to intersect but they have a mind of their own sometimes, so please endure this little side bar into the boy's lives.
A/A/N: This is also tag on scene for Something Wicked, so there are light spoilers. It picks up right after John shoots the Shritga in the flashback scene.
Nursery magic is strange and wonderful, and only the oldest and wisest truly understand it.-Margery Williams
"What is REAL asked the Rabbit one day. Does it mean having things that buzz inside of you and a stick-out handle?" Pastor Jim's deep rumbling voice filled the semi dark room and ten-year-old Dean Winchester watched the older man as he carefully turned the page of the well-worn story book that Sammy had insisted on bringing with them.
"Real isn't how you are made, said the Skin Horse. It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." Jim pushed his glasses higher up on his nose and squinted in the dim light, his blue eyes flicking to the boys in the bed before continuing on.
"Does it hurt, asked the Rabbit," Jim lowered his voice and made it sound younger. Sam usually giggled at that when Dean tried it. "Sometimes said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful." The pastor switched back to his own rough voice, and Dean decided that Jim was a natural for the old horse. After all, his skin was kind of wrinkled and some of his hair was worn off. "But when you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Pastor Jim?" Dean's quiet voice stopped the big man's reading and he smiled down at the ten-year-old.
"Sammy's asleep." He had been for a while. Dean had known the instant that his kid brother had drifted off. Years of sleeping with the younger boy had honed Dean's senses. So when Sam's breath had slowly evened out as it brushed against Dean's neck, and the death grip that he had on Dean's hand had loosened, the older boy was sure he was the only one left listening to Jim.
Besides, Sam always asked why it hurt to be real. He never liked the idea of anyone or anything being hurt.
"You don't want me to finish?" Jim asked with a raised brow, and Dean had to keep from smiling as the man's glasses slid all the way to the end of his nose again.
The boy shook his head. "Nah, I've already read it only about a hundred and fifty times." And, as comforting as it was to actually have the older man nearby, Dean felt totally lame being read to at his age. After all, he'd been reading to Sammy since he was six, and had learned how to read in first grade.
"I see," Pastor Jim closed the book and removed his wire-rim glasses, laying them on the bedside table. "That would explain why it's looking rather ragged around the edges then-kind of like old Velveteen, himself."
Dean nodded. "Sammy loves it," he replied softly, and then shrugged. "I'm just glad he got over the Dr. Seuss thing."
Jim laughed, and glanced at the small boy curled close to Dean, his dark curls tumbling over his innocent face, his arm wrapped around his brother as if Dean were a treasured stuffed toy. "He had an exciting night, I take it?"
"Yeah," Dean whispered, and Jim didn't miss the look that passed over the ten-year-old's face, or how his own arm tightened around his brother, as he unconsciously ran his fingers soothingly through the tangled locks of the little boy's hair.
It only confirmed the older man's suspicions that something bad had happened. John hadn't taken the time to explain things. He'd shown up on Jim's front door step at nearly three in the morning, dragging his two small boys in with him.
Jim didn't mind. He hadn't seen his favorite nomadic family in a while, and the boys and John were always welcome. "Your father seemed quite distracted."
"He was pissed," Dean said, but quickly glanced up at Jim. "Sorry, sir. I mean he was pretty mad."
"Pissed seems appropriate," the big man laughed. "Nobody does pissed like your daddy."
"That's for sure," Dean agreed, but still felt bad for his foul language. Pastor Jim could make him feel guilty like nobody else, kind of like seeing Santa Clause at the mall, when you knew you hadn't been good at all. "He's mad at me."
Jim frowned. "Now, I find that hard to believe." John was hard on his boys, especially Dean, but he'd rarely seen the man angry at them.
Dean shifted slightly as Sam mumbled something in his sleep. He watched his brother for a moment, and then looked back up at Jim. "He should be mad at me. I messed up."
"I think all of us have been known to do that on occasion, young man. I'm sure it was nothing that can't be forgiven and forgotten."
The look that crossed Dean's face was far too full of pain and self-recrimination for someone so young. "I disobeyed an order and…" Dean glanced at his sleeping brother, "...Sammy got hurt."
Jim leaned forward slightly, his eyes searching Sam's face for signs of distress that he might have missed in his half-awake state as he'd shuffled the boys to bed. John hadn't mentioned any injuries, and Sammy, although a little more quiet than usual, had seemed fine.
The pastor had racked up his unwillingness to let go of Dean and the few tears he'd shed when his father had left to the extremely late hour and to Sam's obvious tiredness. "He seems fine to me, son."
Dean shook his head. "A witch almost got him. A witch that likes to kill little kids."
"A witch, huh?"
Dean nodded this time. Pastor Jim was one of the few people that they were allowed to talk to about their lives. He wasn't a hunter like Mac or Caleb, but he knew more about Evil things than anyone Dean had ever met. John said that he was like a demonic encyclopedia. "She attacked Sammy while he was asleep."
Jim got the distinct impression that Sam would not be sleeping alone for quite some time, as Dean's voice dropped and took on a harsher tone. "I left him by himself. Unprotected. "
"And where was your daddy when all this excitement was taking place?"
"He was hunting for the witch."
"I see," Jim sighed, and scratched at his chin. Hunting for, or waiting for? Jim fought back the idea that his friend would set a trap for the creature. "John is always hunting for something."
"Yeah," Dean agreed, solemnly. "He works a lot."
Jim swallowed hard, and forced a smile onto his face as Dean yawned widely. "Well, speaking of work, I guess you and I should take a cue from Sammy and get some shut eye also." He patted Dean's leg and started to stand, when Dean's quiet voice stopped him.
Jim relaxed in the rocker once more. "Yes, Dean?"
"Do you think I'll ever be Real?"
The question took his breath and Jim felt his eyes begin to sting as the words sank in and he took in the imploring green gaze beseeching him for the right answer.
"What do you mean, son?"
Dean's brows drew together, and his lip quivered slightly. "I mean…to Dad and Sammy…will I be REAL?"
Jim glanced to the worn book, and an image of the stuffed rabbit discarded on the forest floor sprung unbidden to his mind. Will they love me like they should? It was what Dean was asking him, in the only way a ten-year-old boy could.
"I really don't know, Dean," he replied softly, because he was always truthful. But, God, I hope so.
Dean nodded, resignedly, his fingers starting their trek through Sam's hair again. "That's okay, sir."
Then next words had what was left of Jim's heart breaking for the child. "They're Real to me. That's all that matters."
"I'm really tired," the boy yawned again, although it seemed awfully well-timed to the pastor.
"Me too," Jim rubbed at his eyes, erasing any traces of his own anguish, not wanting to add to Dean's. "And we have a busy day tomorrow."
Dean looked up. "Are we going to work? Dad said Sam and I should help you around the farm, for our meals and stuff."
Jim shook his head, and tried to appear firm. "Why Dean Mathew Winchester, I'm surprised at you. Tomorrow is Sunday. The Lord's day." Jim shook his head, and clucked in mock disapproval. "We don't work on Sunday unless our Ox is in the ditch."
Dean frowned. "You don't have an Ox, Pastor Jim."
"Exactly, so they'll be no work tomorrow then."
"So, do we have to go to church?"
The complete sound of dread in the boy's voice had a genuine smile returning to the Pastor's lips. "There are other ways to worship the Lord, Dean. After all, Jesus was a fisher of men."
A hint of the usual spark returned to the green gaze. "Did he like to fish in ponds?"
"Oh yes, he was big on ponds, and picnics too, although that is a little known fact, that only a chosen few are privy to."
Dean finally smiled and Jim felt his heart lighten slightly. "I think he might have liked riding horses, too."
"Like Sammy does?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah, like Sammy."
"Alrighty then, we'll worship the Lord tomorrow, all day long. Just the three of us."
Again, Jim started to stand when Dean's voice once more brought him up short.
"I suppose you are Real?"
Jim amazingly enough recognized the line from the book, that the little rabbit says to the old Skin Horse. Dean was looking just about as worried over having said it aloud as the rabbit had been.
So he smiled, and nodded his head. "My late wife, Emma, made me Real." Jim's voice broke with emotion, as he recited the last line just as the Skin horse had said, "That was a great many years ago, but once you are Real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."
Dean nodded, understanding more than he should. Another large yawn, and he wrapped his arms tighter around Sam and closed his eyes. "For always."
Jim watched him for a moment, then picked up the story book and flipped it open. He began to read again.
"Does it happen all at once, the rabbit asked, or bit by bit?" Jim licked his lips, and continued, as Dean shifted on the bed, curling protectively around his younger brother. "It doesn't happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. You become. It takes a long time."
Jim couldn't help to wonder how long it would take for his old friend to understand what his son was missing.
"That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept."
Thankfully Dean was none of those things.
"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don't matter at all, because once you are real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
Jim closed the book, both boys breath was slow and even in sleep, rising and falling in time with one another. One look at their faces, their arms and little legs entwined, and Jim wasn't worried. Because even if John never did, Sam would come to understand. His brother was the Real deal.
"Once you are real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."-The Skin Horse