Usual disclaimers about owning nothing Supernatural apply! All mistakes, sadly, are all mine! This is the promised epilogue that turned into a full blow chapter! Hope you enjoy!
Written for Starliteyes17 over at LimpSam - STCOL(AR)S. – Happily and always Pimping the Limp!
The hands of time
Chapter 8: Safe – for now at least!
The terror of Buzz Strickland would not be easy to forget.
"Its okay Sammy, don't you cry so," whispered Dean softly his own heart crumbling at the sounds of his brother sobbing so brokenly. "I've got you now kiddo and nothing else bad will touch you. Ever. I promise."
He couldn't let go, his fingers were laced so tightly onto his brother's shirt that he pinched skin, but he couldn't let go. This was his safety. Holding on to his brother. Not letting go.
Sam didn't remember the drive back to Somerton. He didn't remember when the tears had stopped or when the damp patch on his brother's shirt became cold against his cheeks. He didn't remember anything except a blood drenched monster holding a knife to his face and his brother stopping him in an explosion of noise and more blood.
Marjorie had driven the impala back to her house with Dean holding the traumatised boy in the back. No matter what was said to him, no matter how gently Dean spoke the child did not respond other than to burrow deeper into his brother's chest.
For his part Dean held his younger brother just as fiercely, the terror of the night not fading away. His little brother had been put through hell it appeared, way too much for any six year old to go through. Judging from his physical appearance Dean knew that it had been more than emotional trauma Sam had suffered and cursed himself again for allowing this to happen to his little brother.
Marjorie's house screamed middle America, nicely placed in a well established tree-lined avenue and on entering it smelt of warm spice and oranges. It was warm and cosy, but all Dean noticed as they were led to the living room was the way Sam clung even tighter to him. "Come on Sammy. It's okay now. You're safe here."
Sam didn't answer still fisting tightly onto his shirt. Sinking into the large sofa Dean threw a look up at Marjorie that made her wince in sympathy. Both brothers were hurting but she didn't have to time to worry about their emotional wants right now, Missouri's warning about protecting Sam from further harm still rang loud in her ears. She busied herself with placing the protective charms in each corner of the room and then set about the rest of the house.
When she had done all that she could do in protecting the youngest Winchester she was able to breathe a little easier again, especially after getting a call from Raymond helping to settle her frazzled nerves even further on hearing that he was heading safely home at long last
Armed with a tray of milk and cookies, and a bottle of antiseptic, a bowl of warm water and a flannel she sat down besides Dean. As she put the tray onto the side table she touched Dean's rigid back to get his attention. "He needs those cuts seen to Dean. Let me help."
Dean let out a deep breath and looked over his brother's body his brow furrowing in concern at seeing the small nicks to his jacket. Then noting the blood stains littered up and down his brother's pant legs he pulled a reluctant Sam into a sitting position only to hear him whimper at the loss of contact. "It's okay Sammy. I need to get you tidied up that's all."
Sam nodded but still kept his hand twisted in his brother's shirt, his eyes bright threatening new tears. After a fashion Dean managed to wrangle the jacket off him wincing at seeing the cuts running up his arms. When he got Sam's jeans off next he couldn't help but curse out loud at the array of long slashes on his legs and the state of his bloodied scuffed up knees.
Not wanting to know the answer he still asked. "How did you get so many owies little guy?"
For the longest second Sam didn't respond then turned his grubby tear filled face up to his brother. "The bad men chased me and I run into this wire stuff." His chin wobbled as he added. "I'm sorry Dean, I ruined all my nice new stuff didn't I?"
Dean drew a shaky hand through his brother hair, lifting the bangs away that were falling over his eyes, blinking away his own need for tears. "Don't you worry about that Sammy. I'm real proud of you for being such a brave boy."
Sam shook his head miserably, "Nuh huh, I wasn't. I cried when the mean man put me in the dark place. I couldn't help it Dean."
Dean couldn't trust himself to speak at first and instead cradled his brother to him again, rubbing his back in comfort. Feeling his brother finally start to relax he whispered on the crown of his head. "You were bravest little brother ever. The best."
Marjorie sucked in a breath, reading the emotions spilling from both brothers too intensely. Compelled into action she started to dab as carefully as she could at the tiny wounds on Sam's arms and legs eliciting only the odd whispered hiss from the child.
When she had finished she tucked a light throw around both brothers earning a thankful nod from Dean. "I'm going to brew a pot of coffee and make you guys some supper."
With a lot of patience and cajoling Dean managed to get his brother to eat a light meal of warm milk and peanut butter sandwich and then was able to get even more of the story of what his brother had gone through.
It was not a pretty story to hear and it came out slow, in broken little words at first, but the picture slowly built up of what Buzz, Wes, Miss Jones had put his brother through and all the damage they had done to him.
That's when the anger truly set in cold with Dean and would have happily killed with his bare hands that bastard Strickland. Now he just prayed that there would be a chance to run into him at some later date and finish the job.
Then there was the continued threat of that bitch Miss Jones. Holding his brother tightly to him his insides churned, knowing that at some point he would have to hunt her down. Sam wouldn't be safe no matter what size he was with that evil bitch around, and affter what she had done to Wes he was left with no doubt as to her power.
There was one final question Dean had to ask, "Sam how did you get out of the house? Away from the bad woman." One minute it seemed that his brother had been in the clutches of that uber-bitch Jones only to then reappear alone in the woods.
"The pretty lady took me outside," yawned Sammy sleepily, the warm milk and a full tummy starting to take effect as he leant his head against his brother's shoulder.
"Pretty lady?" asked Marjorie softly raising a questioning eyebrow at the little boy and for the first time that evening was rewarded by Sam actually turning around to look at her without the familiar look of terror in his eyes.
"You know, the girl that Dean was cross with," answered Sam with a small shrug, fingering his brother's leather braid that circled his wrist absently.
Dean was instantly alert. "The girl in the red dress Sammy? Is that who took you outside."
"I told her that she was naughty but she said sorry. Honest," sensing his brother stiffen at his remarks he was instantly concerned. "I know I'm not suppose to talk to strangers but she seemed nice and didn't make me scared like the others did. Did I do wrong?"
"No Sammy, you did good – really good kiddo," answered Dean quickly noting the haunted look returning to his brother's solemn face, and gently cuddled him to him again before asking. "Do you remember what she said to you?"
Sam sighed softly snuggling up closer, enjoying the comfort as he answered. "She said she was sorry but that she had to go." He threw up a small smile up to his brother. "I think she was happy that you were coming. That you'd stop all the bad people."
Dean cocked a confused eyebrow over at Marjorie and saw her shrug her shoulders in return. "Dean I think that whatever spell that girl cast will wear off soon enough. She didn't mean to hurt your brother. That much I've always sensed."
"But she did though." answered Dean darkly, not happy with his own role in what had happened to his brother.
Sam chose that moment to yawn loudly again before curling up into a smaller ball, fingers still looped around his brother's leather bracelet. Battling the closing eyelids he sighed softly. "I knew that you find me Dean."
Dean nodded watching as the exhausted boy finally succumbed to sleep, wrapped securely in his arms. He stayed like that, curled into a tight huddle in his brother's lap as Dean and Marjorie debated what to do next.
"He can't remain like this and we shouldn't be waiting for whatever hoodoo mumbo jumbo spell that girl cast to wear off. Its not safe with that Jones bitch is still out there," snapped Dean wearily, before adding. "And god knows what else might be out there waiting to take another chunk out of him."
Marjorie shrugged and patted his knee, "You have done all you can Dean. Now you have to have to be patient and simply wait for this spell to be reversed. Sam is safe here."
"Bloody fucked up magic," griped Dean still feeling the burden of guilt weighing heavy on his shoulders and his voice shook as he confessed. "Don't you see, after today I just can't trust myself to keep him safe."
"Oh Lord Dean I don't think Sam sees it like that. If ever there was a case of hero worship going on its there in your little brother. Its clear that he adores you."
Dean shook his head angrily. "Well he shouldn't. Look at the bloody mess I've gotten him into. Some fucked up big brother I've been for him recently."
"Dean honey, if it wasn't for you that little boy wouldn't be here right now." Dismissing his scowl Marjorie leant and kissed him lightly on cheek, adding. "And if it counts for anything I think you're an awesome big brother too."
The next morning both brothers were stiff. Sam from his healing cuts and bruises and Dean from cradling his sleeping brother in his arms all night. Dean didn't mind though, just thankful that his brother was safe again. For now at least.
It seemed a good nights sleep had done the world of good for his little brother, already more communicative though still very clingy, but hungry enough to demand breakfast much to Dean's relief.
Ray had turned up earlier with the stuff from their motel room and was sitting down at the kitchen table supping hot coffee when the brothers came into the kitchen.
Sam blanched at the sight of a stranger and instinctively clutched his brother's leg and Dean sighed. "It's okay Sammy. This here is Ray, Marjorie's nephew. He helped me get you back last night."
Shyly Sam ducked his head from behind his brother and looked at the seated Sheriff with wide eyes. "Thank you Sir."
Ray threw him a smile and Marjorie hustled them both over to the large oak table. "Sit down you two and have some breakfast. I've made oatmeal."
Sam couldn't help but giggle at the face Ray pulled behind his aunt's back, slicing his hand exaggeratedly across his throat as he whispered a warning. "Go for the toast kiddo. It's the only thing she can cook that doesn't come out of a can."
Marjorie spun round and smacked her nephew lightly over the back of the head but made some toast without protest. The oatmeal was too thick and lumpy to serve up anyway, resembling more setting concrete than food. Truth be told cooking was not a skill the psychic had ever mastered.
Dean visibly felt himself relax at hearing his brother giggle so freely. Damn it was good to see the boy acting like a little kid again.
Still sporting a way too big t-shirt that Marjorie had dug up for him to wear Sam looked incredibly small sitting at the large table. But at least he was still with them, thought Dean appreciatively, a little battered but still inherently the same innocent child that he remembered as he watched him blow bubbles in his glass of milk.
Fingering a slice of toast Sam looked around at his big brother and smiled up big huge dimples. "Its good Dean, not burnt like daddy makes."
"See Raymond, finally someone appreciates my culinary expertise," responded Marjorie as she plopped down next to him and threw a happy smile at the little boy. "What are you two going to do today?"
Tilting his head towards his brother Dean nudged his little brother, "We're going to the Mall. Sam needs to see a certain man. Right little dude?"
Frowning suddenly Sam shook his head sadly, "Daddy said I couldn't go, remember?"
Punching him lightly on his arm Dean grinned at him. "Well I'm not dad and I say we're going."
Sam leant into him and laughed happily, the white moustache of milk on his upper lip brushing off against his brother's t-shirt. "You're the best big brother ever!"
Dean rolled his eyes and laughed in return as he wiped away the smudge of milk, "And your just plain soppy!"
"Nuh huh, you are!" countered Sam brightly enjoying the teasing.
"You wish, dude," responded Dean with a wink. "Now eat your breakfast, then you can get showered, dressed and then were out of here to hopefully give Marjorie some peace and quiet for a while."
Sam asked with a pleading quality to his voice. "Can I wear my Spiderman t-shirt again?"
"What? And stink out the line to Santa's Grotto. No way dude - you have to wear something clean," frowned Dean in return at his brother's sudden attachment to a comic book hero.
Ray quickly interjected at seeing the pout on the little boy's face. "Hey Sam I brought your gear over from Burkesville. I think I saw an awesome Wolverine t-shirt in a bundle of your stuff." He leaned across and gave him a knowing wink. "Personally I think the little hairy man with the titanium claws is way cooler than that pretty boy Spiderman…"
"Yay Wolverine. He's cool." nodded Sam happily, before thinking on it again. "Still Spiderman is way cooler."
Marjorie watched the scene and sighed happily that the terror of yesterday seemed to be fading fast from the little boy. Still she knew that the child needed their protection. Pulling out a brightly corded necklace she passed it over to Dean. "Missouri said Sam should wear this, until you know, things go back to normal. It should stop him broadcasting so intensely."
Sam squeaked out indignant at the colour of the pendant attached to the cord shaking his head vigorously, "No way. It's pink."
"Yes you are," warned Dean roughing up his little brother's hair. "With hair this long every one thinks you look like a girl anyways."
"I don't look like no stupid girl," muttered Sam at his brother a scowl on his face as Dean looped the necklace over his head.
"Sure you do Samantha!"
"Dean your such a jerk." giggled Sam uncontrollably as his brother tickled his bare feet under the table.
"And you're a ticklish jello monster." laughed Dean easily in return at his squirming little brother.
The queue at the Mall seemed eternal but Sam didn't seem to notice, his excitement growing exponentially as they neared the front. Santa's grotto, tastefully decorated in fluorescent two-foot high green elves, plastic reindeer and mock snow was everything Dean hated about Christmas. But to Sam it was sheer magic.
After an almost two hour wait all the while holding tightly onto his brother's hand Sam went through the glitter curtain into the small room labelled 'The Grotto' where Santa sat next to two large sacks of presents.
Dean had tried to keep his face as neutral as possible but seeing his brother stare wide-eyed in wonder at the sight of Santa Claus sitting on what only could be described as a gold sprayed polystyrene throne made him smile in return.
Studying the man sitting on the chair Dean had to cast him an appreciative eye. He really did look the part, and as he searched out the join for the beard he realised that it was real. Raising an eyebrow in surprise he led Sam closer to the man, keeping a tight hold on his little brother's hand as he did so. Sam jiggled excitedly by his side but stilled the moment Santa spoke. "What's your name young man?"
His mouth fell open but no sound came out. Dean found himself answering for him nudging his suddenly shy brother forwards. "It's Sam."
Santa threw Sam a warm smile and knowing wink. "So Sam have you been a good boy this year?"
Sam let his hand me taken in a soft shake. The gloved hand felt warm and comforting and he stepped up closer to the chair, and finally he found his voice. "I try to be good but sometimes…"
"Hmm, well I think Sam that you have been really good this year. Or your brother wouldn't have taken you to see me."
Dean frowned, wondering how he knew their sibling status. Sam though merely nodded and whispered a little frightened. "Daddy said I couldn't come but Dean doesn't care what daddy thinks. He won't get into trouble will he?"
Santa smiled and patted his shoulder and winked in return up at Dean. "No son, your brother will be okay as long as you two stick together."
Sam beamed up at him, the weight of his confession lifting the worry off him. Santa spoke again, his voice deep and gentle as he looked at the boy with so much hope on his face. "I think you need a special present, don't you? And I have just the thing for you."
Routing around in one of the large sacks he pulled out a long oblong green box, wrapped in a red ribbon and handed it over to the suddenly mute again boy. Dean coughed behind him, a little fazed by his brother's open adoration of the man in the red suit.
Sam took that as his cue and he took the present offered with a shy smile. Looking up through his bangs he leant in closer to Santa and whispered. "Can my brother have a present? He's been good too."
Dean shook his head and threw a warning look at his brother. "Sam, no dude."
Laughing a hot belly chuckle Santa threw the little boy a knowing wink and pulled out a smaller gaudily wrapped present from the sack. "Of course your big brother needs a present. Thanks for reminding me Sammy."
His face flushing red Dean squirmed as Sam raced to his side to shove the smaller box in to his brother's hand excitedly. Turning back to the chair Sam whispered as he fingered his own present. "Thank you Santa. I'll try to be good all next year. I promise"
As they left the small enclosure Dean couldn't help but think that had to be the weirdest encounter he had ever had with a shopping Mall Santa. Still judging by the dreamy expression on his little brother's face as he hugged the green box it was all good.
Sam stubbornly refused to open his present there and then, adamant that they had to wait until they got back to Marjorie's so that she could share in some of the fun. Dean in return had managed to get a token gift for the woman after some gentle nudging from his little brother and inwardly felt quite pleased with himself.
The morning had gone better than he could have hoped, the car side window had been fixed, his brother was insanely happy despite queuing for Santa for half the morning and best of all the terrified little boy of last night already seemed a distant memory.
Things were finally looking up for the Winchester brothers. Now all they had to do was wait. Wait for the 6ft 4in giant of a little brother to return.
Sadly looking down at the little six year old Dean felt a pang of regret. The easy air of the little boy would be submerged again under a mountain of loss and doubt that shadowed the older Sammy. If he could keep that pain from returning to his brother he would have been happy to scrub toilets for a year, or worse.
Marjorie had forgotten just how much energy it took to keep up with a six year old. All her three boys were grown men now and lived life at a thankfully more gentler pace.
On his return from the Mall Sam had rushed excitedly into the house, hooting with excitement at how well his morning had gone. Talking ten to a dozen the words fell out of his mouth as he danced around her, describing in all its lurid details the wonder of Santa Land, the Mall and most importantly Santa himself.
Dean stood in the kitchen doorway watching him skip around the older woman, offering her an apologetic shrug when she glanced his way.
When the small boy had told his morning adventure to the patiently nodding psychic he calmed down enough to remember just why he had made Dean rush back to the house. "Come on Dean. Give it to her now and we can all open our presents together."
Marjorie looked surprised as Sam pulled his brother hurriedly into the kitchen.
"Just to say thanks," muttered Dean under his breath as Sam pulled the bag from behind his back and shoved it into her hands.
"Oh boys, you didn't have to," blushed the woman, admiring the beautifully wrapped gift as she pulled it from the bag.
"Dean made the lady in the shop wrap it up all pretty for you. I picked the paper cos' it's the same colour as your hair so I knew you'd like it," gushed Sam excitedly as he sat down besides her, fingering his own wrapped present expectantly.
Marjorie laughed at the connection and reached over to give the child a small hug. "Thank you Sammy. The paper is just perfect.
"Go on Marjorie. Open it." demanded Sammy, watching her face in fascination as she tore the wrapping apart.
A small chuckle escaped her lips as she viewed the cook book. Obviously Ray's warning about her culinary abilities had been well heeded. "I just love Jamie Oliver. This is the nicest present ever boys."
She leant over and gave Sam a kiss only to watch him rub it away hurriedly, mortified at having his big brother watching such a scene. Only girls got kisses like that.
Dean chuckled at his reaction and sat down at the table, fingering the small gift he had been given as an extra from Shopping Mall Santa. Eyeing his little brother he gave him a knowing nod and Sam took that as his cue to tear into his present.
On taking the box lid off he stopped, his jaw falling open in honest surprise. Small fingers run over the figure in awe. "Wow, look what Santa gave me."
He pulled out a very expensive figure out for his brother to see not expecting the frown of disbelief he caught on his brother's face. "Dean, it's the best present ever…."
Dean choked back a cough of surprise as his brother wrapped his arms around his neck, the plastic figure clunking on his back still firmly gripped in one of Sam's little hands. He could see the same look mirrored on Marjorie's face. "Wow kiddo, Spiderman! Santa's sack sure has changed since I was a kid. It's amazing what ten bucks gets you now days…."
"Its not the money", admonished Sam softly "Its magic silly."
"Yes Sam, magic is everywhere this time of year." remarked Marjorie softly, tears filling her eyes at the visible the joy the gift was bringing the little boy. "
"Dean what did Santa give you?" asked Sam eagerly pulling away from hugging his brother anxious to see what the present was.
Dean swallowed dryly at noting how expectantly his brother watched him, and carefully opened the thin present. He smiled ruefully as he pulled out a dangling rainbow key ring. Gaudy and very plastic but on seeing the look of genuine delight on his brother's little face he chuckled. "Just what I've always wanted."
Sam hugging his own special present to his chest sighed happily as he watched the plastic key-ring glitter brightly as it spun around in Dean's fingers. "It's really pretty. You must have been really good too."
Marjorie snorted out loud at the confused look on the older Winchester's face. "Yep Sammy I think your right. Santa just adores your older brother too it seems."
Another shot of whiskey and the pain seemed just a little less sharp. Buzz fingered the dressing on his head absently and poured out another slug of alcohol. After last night the bar was a sanctuary of calm where he could sit alone in a dark booth and drink himself senseless and believe that the name Winchester never existed.
His face wore the marks of his encounter with the older Winchester brother. A broken nose, fat split lips, cut brow and a left eye swollen shut. With the wad of white bandaging stuck to his scalp, he looked more like a road accident victim than your average small town psychopath. The patching up had taken place in a Somerton's back room barbershop by an old acquaintance handy with a needle and thread had been done under the crudest conditions and only the general doses of regular alcohol kept the pain in check.
As he knocked back another shot a cold grip touched his shoulder and warily he looked up. The delicate features of Miss Jones looked down on him, a small smile playing on her lips as she felt him quiver with a small whimper of panic tight in his aching throat.
Soothingly she stroked his shoulder with cold fingers. "Mr Strickland, don't look so alarmed. Anyone would think that you're afraid of little old me. Its not as if I intend to eat you or anything."
"You stay away from me. I saw what you did to Wes and it weren't natural," shuddered Buzz yanking away from her touch abruptly, inching quickly further down the booth despite the flaring pain that rippled through his battered body and ribs. The horror of last night was still too fresh in his mind not to know the monster she was.
"Oh what a great opinion you have of yourself. You think that I would need that from the likes of you Mr Strickland?" sneered Miss Jones as she sidled in beside him. "I believe I would sooner starve."
"Well I didn't see you going freaking hungry last night," answered Buzz as he knocked back with a shaky hand another shot. He belched and the sour smell of whiskey wrapped around him and Miss Jones nose wrinkled in disgust.
Waving away the lingering fumes the older woman eyed him carefully. "The thing about Wes is that he had something special he could give me. That's why I kept him around."
"Yeah he was a freaking psychic retard," muttered Buzz as he laughed ironically, "You would have thought that someone like him would have seen it coming, wouldn't ya?"
"He let me down Mr Strickland. He led Hunters to my home. That couldn't go unpunished. Loyalty is everything. Right?" demanded Miss Jones, before carefully adding. "I did what I had to, nothing more, nothing less."
Buzz frowned then half nodded, his good eye heavy from the alcohol and pain. "He was an ugly little bastard anyway. Couldn't stand straight without pissing his pants in fear half the time."
Grinning more assuredly now she could see the small cogs of Buzz Strickland mind starting to work overtime and she continued. "But you are different aren't you Buzz?" she paused and threw him a bright smile. "You don't mind me calling you Buzz do you?"
He shook his head, his good eye watering as he felt the tingle of her fingers sliding over the still throbbing knife wound on his arm.
She squeezed gently eliciting a grunt of pain from the man and smiled in satisfaction at the response. "I can make it this all so much more enjoyable for you Buzz. I have need of man like you and you know that I can pay well for that service. I think you and I can come to a mutual understanding here."
Buzz laughed despite the ripple of pain it caused to wash over his bruised face. "Of course we can Miss Jones."
Missouri listened to her friend relate the mornings events with a growing smile on her round face. "Mazza girl, well if I hadn't heard this so early in the day from you I would have believed that you'd been on the gin again!"
"Gin! After a day like yesterday you're bloody lucky that I haven't pickled my liver with the stuff." remarked Marjorie with a small chuckle.
"I know. I'm just really thankful that those boys had you to turn to. They have so little in their lives to trust in now. Thanks for being there for them."
"Well I could say it's all been a pleasure but I'd be lying. Honestly those Winchester boys seem to live their lives need deep in trouble Missy. How they cope with it, day in, day out, with cracking under the pressure is beyond me."
"They're made of sterner stuff than you and I girlfriend. It's what makes them so special."
Nodding Marjorie quickly added her own thoughts. "Speaking of special its just amazing to see Dean cope with Sammy being so small again. He's totally attuned to his little brother that it's quite spooky to watch at times."
"There's nothing unusual about that at all. That boy virtually raised young Sammy since he was a baby. Dealing with a six year old Sam is as natural to him as breathing is." answered Missouri sadly recalling all the times she had tried to intercede on the boys behalf with their intransigent father and his unique way of child rearing.
"Their father was one stubborn bastard Marjorie, and ruled those boys with a fist of iron at times, but it kept their bond solid. It kept them alive I suppose."
"Lets just hope they can continue with it once Sam is big again. It would be a shame to see it disappear," responded Marjorie, her fingers absently tracing the spine of the cook book that she had been given by the brothers.
"Oh Marjorie, I have to confess that no matter what age he is Sam is a darling. And believe me when you say big that he certainly is," smiled Missouri down the phone line adding, "And just like his brother he can melt hearts with a simple smile and a glimpse of those puppy dog eyes of his."
"Lord help me then. Just how is a girl supposed to cope with two gorgeous Winchester boys in tow," giggled Marjorie with a blush to her cheeks, already too aware of the magnetism that Dean could project with a simple look.
"Still girl, I'm surprised you let them go to Mall like that, with only the pendant as protection for the boy," admonished Missouri softly. It vexed to be so far away and she knew she had to trust in her friend to do her best for the boys but the thought of them walking around relatively unprotected made her guts churn..
Sighing Marjorie answered. "Missy, they needed to go. Both of them. It was a risk but it was well worth it just to see the joy it brought."
"A Kodak moment, eh?"
"Yes my old friend, it most certainly was."
Sam scratched his arms absently, the itching from the healing cuts more of an irritant now than anything else. He lay on his tummy on the carpet in the living room, engrossed in one of books that Marjorie had brought down from the attic along with a number of childhood stuff that she had ferreted away as her own boys grew up.
The little box had kept the small child entertained all afternoon and into early evening leaving the carpet littered with an odd assortment of toys, colouring books and reading books.
Dean had taken his brother's distraction as his chance to do more research into the Jones woman, and was managing to build up a portfolio on her business activities. Still it was frustrating not being able to get out there and hunt down her boney ass straight away.
Instinctively he knew that tracking her down had to be his main priority after Sam was normal again. That damned witch had had her claws into his little brother way to close for comfort to ever allow her near him ever again.
All the while as he searched down his quarry he kept a careful eye on his brother over the laptop. No matter how secure the house felt he wasn't going to take any chances with his little brother. The Glock was a comforting weight in the back of his jeans and he had rechecked the lines of salt and charms dotted around the large house twice already to make sure that nothing, but nothing, was getting into the house without going through him first.
For his part Sam loved the musty smell of the Roald Dahl book that had been ferreted out of the dusty box. It was like having his own personal treasure chest From time to time his small lips could be seen going over an unfamiliar word but it didn't distract him enjoying 'The Twits' with the odd explosive giggle or snort of laughter as the couple did the vilest things to one another.
Outside of the house the small grey figure of the girl lingered, sensing the boy within but was frustrated at every attempt of entry. She was sure he could hear her calling. Why then wouldn't he come out and play? It was so lonely this waiting. "Come on little boy, come out and play with me," she called again.
Behind the house another figure rolled like mist over the backyard, attracted to what was inside, but like the small ghostly figure of the girl waiting desperately at the front he just couldn't get to the prize inside.
Marjorie sat with a warming cup of her coffee in her hand, eyeing the dark shapeless figure through the kitchen window with an acknowledging grunt, thankful that Dean's vigilance was paying off. No nasty ghoulies were getting into her house tonight.
When she strolled back to the boys she was surprised to see Sammy curled up in his brothers lap fast asleep on the sofa, the Spiderman figure firmly clenched in one hand. Dean shushed her gently with a finger to his lips before whispering. "He's knackered himself out Marge, what with the new toys, new everything. I don't think I can remember him being so happy…."
Absorbing the implications of his words Marjorie sank down besides him. "I know how bad a time you boys had it growing up, but there were good times too. I'm sure of that or your brother wouldn't love you so much."
Patting his leg she got up quickly. "Come on Dean lets get the little guy up to bed. I think he deserves a good night sleep, don't you?"
Dean nodded and followed her up the stairs. Marjorie had given them a cosy bedroom at the back of the house that had two single beds. She knew there would be no way Dean would sleep apart from his brother right now and this was the ideal setup for them both.
Earlier that day she had found an old night light in the attic and she switched it on now bathing the ceiling in a pretty kaleidoscope of colours. Deans stripped his brother down to t-shirt and carefully tucked him into bed. Satisfied that his brother was deeply asleep he straightened quickly to scan with cautious eyes around the room, quickly taking in the deep line of salt on the window ledge and around the doorway.
Marjorie sensing his concerns squeezed his arm and started to guide him out of the room. "It will be okay Dean. I'll leave the hallway light on. Nothing is getting into this house for him tonight. You need to take a break and get some supper."
"No Marjorie, if you don't mind I'll think it's best if I stay with him. If he wake in a strange room he might be scared…." Dean shrugged unwilling to step out of the door.
Marjorie knew that she wasn't going to persuade him to do anything else. "Okay Dean. I'll bring a tray up to you. You need to try and get some rest yourself."
Dean woke to a grumbling tummy and he instantly recalled being forced to eat a half cooked in the middle but still incredibly burnt on the outside pizza that Marjorie had dished up for supper last night. He should have heeded Ray's warning more seriously he realised as the burn of acid made its way up his throat.
Groaning he sat up, cranking his eyes open noting the room was bathed in gentle sunshine streaming in through the thin pastel curtains. He swivelled his head round to see how his brother had fared during the night and cursed softly. He had expected a different sight, but there sleeping soundly was his little brother of yesterday. The damned spell was yet to be broken.
Dejectedly he took his stuff and headed for the bathroom down the hall. He really needed to brush his teeth to be free of the taste of pizza, and then a long hot shower called his name.
The shower was pretty powerful and he let the hot spray run down his back as he leant against the tiled wall, aware that he had another day of big brother sitting ahead Not that he minded it but he was really starting to miss his major pain in the ass older Sammy.
It was the high pitched scream that broke him from his thoughts, followed by a distinct thud and a loud shout of surprise. Jumping out of the shower, wrapping a towel round his waist and grabbing his gun he raced down the hallway leaving a trail of wet foot prints behind him as he burst back into the bedroom where he had left his brother.
Marjorie had her back to him, but what caught his attention was the incredibly welcome sight of his brother standing a good head and half taller over the older woman.
Dean grinning wildly let the gun fall idly to his side before stepping past the clearly still shocked Marjorie and reached for his brother in a quick embrace before pushing him back at arms length to study him better. "You still got all your fingers and toes little brother?"
"What the hell is going on? asked Sam, a blush of pink on his cheeks at being scrutinised by two pairs of eyes as he stood butt naked with only a hastily grabbed pillow for modesty. "I wake up in some strange room to have her," he jabbed a suspicious finger in Marjorie's direction, "scream like some freaking banshee."
Marjorie eyes widened at being called a banshee. Sniffling slightly she bent down to retrieve one of the towels that she had dropped onto the floor and handed it with a twinkle in her eye at the clearly confused younger brother. "Here, I think this will be better used than the pillow."
Huffing slightly Sam snatched up the towel with a small nod of thanks and wormed it around his slim hips, before dropping the pillow back onto the bed with a scowl. Determinedly he turned back to his brother his jaw clenching and unclenching under a barrage of strange emotions, "Dean, what the frigging hell is going on?"
Still dripping wet Dean shook his head to stop the droplets from running from his scalp into his eyes. "Sam it's a long story. Lets get dressed and I'll fill you in. At least lets try and spare Marjorie's blushes here. Two naked Winchester eyes may be too much for any mere mortal woman to take in at once."
Marjorie chortled behind him and slapped him gently on his arm. "Dean honey with three grown boys of my own and two husbands along the way you've got nothing that I haven't seen before boy."
Sam's blush deepened as she threw him a knowing wink. "Its nice to make your acquaintance Sam Winchester. Come on down for breakfast when your both fit for this lady's company!"
As much as he tried to grasp the facts Sam just couldn't believe the story that had been told to him by both his brother and the pink-haired Marjorie. Finally he was forced to accept the strange reality of being turned into a child again when Dean showed him the picture of them both with Santa yesterday.
Fingering the photo in shock, his mouth hanging open in amazement he suddenly looked far younger than his twenty four years as he looked at his brother with trusting eyes. "Dean, this is, umh, well you know, its …."
"Incredible?" interjected Dean smiling at his normally eloquent brothers lack of ability to string a sentence tighter.
He had cautiously fudged some of the facts of what had actually happened to his brother, especially the reason why it had all started in the first place. If Sam didn't remember then who was he to tell him and make him madder than hell at him. They had been walking a fine line between anger and mistrust for the last few months as it was.
"Wow!" came back Sam as his face scrunched up in thought. "I think I can remember some of it. But it's like trying to recall a memory from almost twenty years ago, all fuzzy and I'm not sure what's real or not."
"What do you remember Sam?" asked Marjorie curious to see what he had retained. She had bitten her tongue a few times already that morning listening to Dean only telling him half the facts. Still she had to go with what Dean thought best. He knew his brother better than anyone. A half lie here, an avoidance of the truth, in the end it was down to Dean to tell his brother the true story.
Throwing his brother a shy smile Sam finally answered with a knowing nod. "Just Dean and really liking Spiderman."
Dean frowned, "Nothing else. Nothing about Miss Jones? Or Buzz?"
"Nah, just you taking care of me. Like you always did." answered Sam softly. "Guess it's all I needed to remember. Nothing else was important maybe."
Letting out an exhale of relief Dean felt like a worm wriggling off the hook, realising how lucky he was that Sam's mind had held on to only the good things. The nightmare of his abduction and near death the night before had faded into nothing with the return of big Sam.
Then Sam had to ruin it all by saying, "Hey Dean, you know I do remember something." He paused and threw his brother a dark look that threatened pay back at a later date. "I rang you tell I felt something hinkey in town and you put the damn phone down on me, didn't you."
Dean nodded guiltily muttering under his breath. "Might have done."
Sam's eyes narrowed as he added. "It's all connected to that girl in the red dress. Right?" Realisation dawned clear not needing to hear his brother's answer and his lips thinned as he hissed out. "God you are such a little whore!"
Dean put up his hands to placate the sudden anger on his little brother's face. "Hey you said it Sammy boy. Your brain is all mushed up, like Swiss cheese. Yer can't be sure what was real or not."
Marjorie chuckled as she buttered her one culinary skill the toast. "Oh I think he has a better understanding than you think Dean."
After staying one more day at Marjorie's Dean felt confident that his baby brother was back to normal. A big moaning pain in the ass who was still royally pissed at him that is.
After saying their goodbyes to Ray and Marjorie, promising the odd phone call and email to keep them updated, it felt good being back on the road again. Even with a festering Sam, big and pouting, by his side.
No matter how much he tried to remember the last few days were still a blurry mess of half images and sounds. Sighing Sam finally asked. "So this Miss Jones character sucked the life out of this guy and was going to do the same to me. Sounds like I had a really nice time of things for a while."
Dean didn't answer, his throat tightening at the rebuke no matter how innocently given and his knuckles whitened on the steering wheel.
Sam lost in his won thoughts didn't notice his brother shutting down. "So it was all because we were psychics. Do you think she was connected to the demon?"
Dean looked at him more than a little startled at the connection his brother was making. "I don't think so. But then honestly I have no idea what she is, how she does the things she did or what she really wanted with you. That's why were gonna hunt her down and put a stop to her, once and for all."
Sam looked over at his brother and noticed for the first time just how worn down he looked and any anger he might have wanted to harbour melted away. "Hey Dean you know I may have said some crazy stuff back there at Marjorie's but that's just what it was, me being pissy and mouthing off. What happened was not your fault. Not really."
"Goddammit Sammy. I fool around with some magical chick and you almost get killed because of it. Of course it's my stupid fault." Dean snapped hard, aching inside that his brother had absolved him of any blame so unconditionally. "I let you down Sam."
Shaking his head Sam offered up. "You can't beat up on yourself like this man. So what if you got laid by a hot magic girl and then crap happened. All I remember is that you kept me safe, watching my back every step of the way as usual. Makes you kind of the good guy in the end, big brother."
Grinning weakly at the praise Dean whispered. "If you say so little brother."
"Besides gotta love you for taking me to Santa," added Sam, rewarding his brother with a large grin as he pulled something from under his feet. "This is way cool."
Watching his little brother play with his Spiderman figure brought a laugh to Dean's lips. "God you were always such a dork little brother. Why couldn't you have asked for an GI Joe, a real man's action figure, rather than a wimpy Spiderman?"
Sam rolled his eyes in mock hurt, "Hey don't diss the Spiderman dude."
As the black car sped out of Somerton on the opposite side of town another car slowly pulled away from watching Marjorie's house. She had observed with cold indifference as the owner of the house left earlier that morning, any thoughts of extracting from the woman details of where her prize had gone dismissed realising the repercussions it might visit down on her later. Having Hunters on your tail was never an enjoyable experience and was for the time being to be avoided at all cost.
Still as she swung the car away she could still feel the ripples of the mutation of the child back to the man the morning before, and as she left tree lined street she could feel the tug in her stomach as he got further away from her.
Sucking in a deep breath she could taste in the air his essence, it lingered heavy to her senses, altered but still as sweet, and that in itself was a comfort.
One day she would have to reconnect with this most unusual boy she told herself, sensing a darkness trying to wrap itself around him. A familiar darkness that she had enjoyed an eon ago.
Now though was the time to disappear from the Hunters' radar. The big brother was a threat that was not so easily dealt with and with her latest addition to her family, Buzz, still not up to par she had no other option than to lay low. In time she would be able to seek him out again. In time she could make him her own.
Okay, so this wee epilogue went into major ramble ala full blown chapter mode! Hope you've enjoyed it all! I'd love to get your thoughts. Thanks again for all the support and simply amazing reviews along the way. Rozzy.