Author's Note: Just a little something that popped into my head for some reason.. Slight spoilers up to Bloodlust but nothing major – it's just fluff really, but I hope you enjoy it:)
They'd been driving for a few hours. No particular destination in mind, just moving on from their last job. It hadn't been a particularly rough one, thankfully, just your common or garden poltergeist but nonetheless both of them were tired and Dean was recovering from a minor concussion. Not that you'd get him to admit that of course. Oh no, getting slammed into a wall from the other side of the room was nothing to the great invincible Dean Winchester. Even if it had left him unconscious for a good five minutes. Sam knew that was how long it had been. He'd counted every second.
He sighed to himself, watching the trees go by in a blur. He was tired of Dean keep getting hurt. First there was the crash – and he was so not going there right now – then the fight with Gordon. It was like every time one set of bruises healed, fate went and gave him another newer, shiny set. And it was really starting to piss Sam off.
Not that he could say any of this to Dean of course. Any remote indication that his little brother might be worrying about him would be met with fierce declarations of 'I can take care of myself Sam!'. It was truly frustrating to Sam that his brother was so quick to take care of other people, chief amongst those Sam himself, and yet he refused to believe anyone might actually want to take care of him for a change. It was like talking to a brick wall sometimes.
A sign they had just passed grabbed Sam's attention suddenly and he smiled.
"Hey Dean, can we stop in the next town?"
Dean had been lost in thought as he drove, just enjoying the simple task of driving his beloved Impala. He swerved slightly as Sam's voice made him jump.
"Jesus Sam! Warn a person, would you?" he said and Sam rolled his eyes. It wasn't his fault Dean hadn't been paying attention but as far as he was concerned it was yet another indication that they both needed a break.
He repeated himself with exaggerated patience "I said, can we stop at the next town?"
Dean frowned "Why, what's so special about it? Did you read about something we should be looking into there?"
Sam shook his head "Not everything is related to hunting you know. I saw a sign actually, back there. They're having a fair this weekend and I thought it might be fun to go"
Dean turned to look at Sam, giving him a look like he might be possessed.
"What the hell Sam? You want me to stop so we can go to a fair?"
Sam flushed, embarrassed now Dean was making a big deal of it. It had only been a spur of the moment thing and now he was starting to wish he'd kept quiet.
"I just thought it might be nice, that's all. Take a break for five minutes. It's not like we've got another job to get to yet, and you used to love fairs when we were kids"
Dean rolled his eyes "No Sammy, you used to love fairs. I just had to tag along because you wouldn't give me or Dad a moments peace if you didn't get to go"
Dean saw the flash of hurt on Sam's face before he turned back to the window and he regretted his words almost instantly. They weren't really true as it happened – he'd enjoyed going to those fairs almost as much as Sam had, albeit after making the obligatory arguments against having to go. At the age of 12 it wasn't really the done thing to be excited about going to a small town fair with your little brother and Dean had always had a feel for what was cool and what was not. He wasn't really sure why he'd shot Sam down in flames so quickly. He was just feeling so out of sorts lately. With John's death still hanging over them and the all the mess with Gordon, it left Dean feeling like he didn't really know where he stood anymore. Everything he'd thought was solid and secure in his life had shattered, and the tiredness he was currently feeling wasn't helping.
Deciding to try and make amends – without of course actually admitting he'd been wrong or saying the dreaded 'S' word – Dean turned left along the road that was signposted to the town and the fair with it.
Sam glanced at Dean, his expression still a mix of hurt and anger.
"What are you doing?" he said and Dean flashed him a quick smile.
"We need some gas, and while we're at it some food, so we might as well stop. I guess it wouldn't kill us to take a look at this fair while we're here" he said.
Sam continued to stare at him for a second and then gave a small smile. He recognised Dean's peace offering for what it was and there was no point in getting into a fight. Dean probably hadn't meant what he said before – they were both tired and the break would do them good.
Dean pulled into the car park for the fair, which was in fact just a large field. Grumbling under his breath about getting mud all over the Impala, he switched the engine off and got out. Sam followed suit and stretched as he did so, hearing something in his back click as it went back into place. Four hours sitting in the passenger seat of his brother's beloved car was so not comfortable. Not that he was going to tell Dean that of course – he quite liked having a full set of teeth.
"Entrance is over there" he said, pointing. Dean grimaced and shook his head, not quite believing he was about to do this, but he followed Sam anyway.
After exchanging pleasantries with the lady at the ticket booth, they walked into the large field currently housing the fair. They were hit immediately with sounds and smells that took them back to their childhood. Dean could almost imagine that if he turned his head he's see little Sammy standing next to him, eyes wide as he tried to take everything in. When he did turn his head of course his brother was still 23 years old and still annoyingly slightly taller than him. But the expression was almost the same as he remembered.
Dean couldn't help smile himself as he watched Sam's excitement, and when Sam finally turned round to look at him he just shook his head with amusement and nudged Sam with his shoulder towards the food stands.
Having bought burgers and fries, Sam for once not complaining about the unhealthy food, they wandered round the stalls and rides as they ate. Sam had stopped to look at the waltzers, which Dean dryly reminded him was probably not a good idea given what they'd just eaten, so Dean carried on walking towards the next lot of brightly coloured stalls.
Suddenly he heard a child's cries, coming from somewhere to his left.
The voice was plaintive, almost hysterical and accompanied by heaving sobs. Dean quickly went over and spotted a young boy, no more than 7 years old, standing in the shadow of the Ferris Wheel and crying his eyes out.
"Hey there kid – what's the matter?" said Dean, crouching down so as not to scare the boy too much.
The crying stopped almost instantly and the boy looked at Dean, his bottom lip still quivering and his eyes wide as he stared at the stranger in front of him.
Dean put on his best non-threatening face and smiled gently at the kid.
"It's ok – I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise. I just want to help ok?" he said softly.
The boy seemed to think about that for a moment and then spoke quietly, his face almost a whisper.
"Jonathan says I mustn't talk to strangers" he said, eyeing Dean warily still.
"Well, sounds like Jonathan is really smart. Who is he?" said Dean and the boy sniffed.
"My brother" he said, looking perilously like he was going to start crying again.
"Ok, and where is your brother?" said Dean still using his most soothing tone of voice.
"I don't know - I can't find him!" said the boy, his voice rising to a wail again.
"Ok, it's alright – no need to get upset kiddo. Why don't I help you look for him?" said Dean, desperately trying to stop another crying fit before it began.
The boy blinked at him hopefully "Can you do that?" he said and Dean grinned.
"I sure can. Where did you last see him?" he said and the boy pointed over to the right.
"We were looking at the rifle range. I wanted one of the teddy bears and Jonathan said that those things were just a con and you never won, so I got angry with him and I ran off. But now I can't find him and he's gonna be really mad" he said mournfully.
"Hey, I'm sure he'll just be happy to see you – trust me" said Dean, knowing from first hand experience how frantic the kid's brother must be right now not being able to find him.
"My name's Dean by the way. What's yours?" he said and the boy seemed to debate the matter for a moment before replying.
"Carl" he said a little shyly and Dean smiled at him and held out his hand.
"Pleased to meet you Carl" he said and Carl giggled before solemnly reaching out and taking Dean's hand.
Having established to Carl's satisfaction that he was one of the good guys, Dean kept hold of his hand tightly as they walked back over to where Sam was still watching the waltzers spin past.
"Hey Sammy" he said and Sam turned, raising his eyebrows in surprise when he saw Dean holding the hand of a small boy.
"Carl, this is my brother Sam. Sam, this is Carl – he's lost his brother and we're going to help him look for him" said Dean.
"Oh. Ok" said Sam, not quite understanding but knowing there must be a reasonable explanation. "Hi Carl"
Carl ducked behind Dean's arm a little and gave Sam a shy smile. "Hi" he said quietly.
"Alright, why don't we start where you saw Jonathan last and take it from there?" said Dean and Carl nodded.
As they walked Dean called out Jonathan's name, and Sam followed suit. Pretty soon Carl had added his voice to the shouting and Dean figured wherever Jonathan was he'd have to be deaf not to hear them.
Sure enough a young boy suddenly ran towards them, his face a mask of fear and panic, calling Carl's name.
"Jonathan!" exclaimed Carl excitedly and letting go of Dean's hand he ran to his brother and threw himself at him.
"Where have been Carl?" said the older boy, his voice frantic. "What have I told you about never running off like that?"
"I'm sorry" sobbed Carl, clinging to his brother's neck. "I won't do it again"
Dean and Sam smiled slightly at the reunion and walked over to both boys. Jonathan held Carl to him protectively and eyed the Winchesters with suspicion.
"Who are you?" he demanded fiercely and Dean held his hands up.
"Hey, we were just helping Carl look for you that's all. We saw him upset and wanted to make sure he was ok. My name's Dean and this is my brother Sam" he said.
Jonathan still looked wary until Carl lifted his head up. "It's ok Jonathan. They were helping me find you. They're nice" he sniffed, and both of them struggled to hide their smiles at that simple statement.
Jonathan seemed to grudgingly accept his little brother's assessment of them and nodded. "Thanks for helping him out. He doesn't usually run away like that" he said almost wearily and Dean found himself wondering how old the boy was.
"Are you here with your parents?" he said and Jonathan's expression tightened.
"Our Mom's dead and our Dad's working. We just came down to see the fair before they leave tomorrow. I can take care of my brother you know, he just got away from me for a second that's all" he said defensively and Dean was struck with a sense of de ja vu so strong that he couldn't respond.
Seeing Dean freeze and guessing why, Sam stepped in.
"Hey, no one's saying you did anything wrong" he said earnestly and Jonathan relaxed a little.
Pulling himself together and clearing his throat slightly, Dean spoke.
"So Carl was telling me you're not a fan of the rifle range. That's a shame it's one of my favourite things at the fair" he said.
Jonathan rolled his eyes "Those things are so rigged. You never hit anything" he said and Dean exchanged an amused look with Sam at hearing such cynicism from someone so young. He actually reminded Sam of Dean at that age, scarily.
"Well I beg to differ there Jonathan" said Dean with a cocky grin and Jonathan raised his eyebrow.
"Oh really?" he said and Dean nodded.
"Yep. Want me to show you how?" he said and Jonathan thought about it for a moment before nodding.
"Sure. It's your humiliation" he said dryly and Sam smothered his grin at watching Dean being taken on by a young kid.
Twenty minutes later Sam's sides were aching from laughing so much. Dean was on top form and was not only hitting the target with every shot, much to the stall owner's chagrin, but he was making Carl giggle with all kinds of elaborate celebratory moves when he did. Even Jonathan was laughing along with them, and Sam couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his brother this relaxed or having this much fun.
"Hey Jonathan, you want to have a go?" said Dean and Jonathan shrugged trying to appear nonchalant.
"Nah, I'm not a fan of shooting things" he said awkwardly.
"Oh go on Jonathan. Please!" said Carl looking up at his brother with undisguised admiration. "I know you can do it" he said and Jonathan flushed.
"Come on – it's fun honestly" said Dean encouragingly.
Jonathan thought about it for a moment and reluctantly gave in. "Ok, if it'll make you happy" he said.
Dean smiled at Sam, and crouching down he helped Jonathan to line up the rifle sights with the target. Just before he took the shot, Dean whispered something in his ear and Jonathan adjusted his aim slightly. Firing he hit the bullseye bang on.
"Yay! You did it! I knew you would!" exclaimed Carl, almost deafening Sam who was standing right next to him.
Jonathan shrugged but his face was flushed with pleasure and he grinned at Dean. "Thanks" he said and Dean shook his head.
"Hey, it was you who made the shot not me" he said with a grin.
The long-suffering stall owner came over to ask Jonathan what he wanted and the young boy pointed to a stuffed brown bear without hesitation. Taking the bear from the man, he handed it to Carl who hugged it tightly and then hugged Jonathan just as tight. Stepping back he clutched the bear to him and looked up at his brother with awe and admiration.
Sam found himself looking at Dean with the same expression. Watching him interact with the boys and knowing that he was responsible for Jonathan being able to hit the target, Sam was unbelievably proud of his brother right then. Dean looked up and saw Sam looking at him with a fond smile on his face and rolled his eyes, flushing a little as he suddenly found the ground they were standing on highly interesting.
"We were going to get some milkshakes on the way home. Would you like to come too? If you want to" said Jonathan a little awkwardly.
Dean raised his eyebrow at Sam who nodded "That sounds great" said Sam and both boys smiled at them happily.
To the stall owner's delight Dean declined to take any prizes with him for all the bullseye hits he'd made, except for a stuffed purple bear which he presented to Sam with a mock flourish.
"Gee, thanks Dean" said Sam dryly but he couldn't help but laugh, and Dean grinned at seeing his brother enjoying himself so much.
The café was just one block away from the fair and Jonathan insisted when they got there that the milkshakes were on them. He said it was the least they could do for helping him find Carl and spending the afternoon with them. Dean recognised the fierce pride there and so agreed albeit reluctantly.
As they sat sipping their milkshakes, Dean and Sam watched the two boys opposite them. Jonathan fussed over Carl, making sure he wasn't gonna spill his drink, and Carl for his part leant against his brother tiredly, his eyes almost closing even as he drank his shake.
Sam smiled, remembering a time when he used to lean against Dean like that, and glancing at his brother he saw he was remembering too. He shifted slightly so that his arm was resting against Dean's, and when Dean looked at him he just smiled. Dean recognised the thought behind the gesture and smiled back, swallowing slightly to get rid of the lump that had materialised in his throat.
When they were all done with their drinks, Dean and Sam insisted on walking the boys home. On the way they entertained them with stories from their own childhood, Dean doing his best to embarrass Sam and Sam returning the favour.
By the time they got to the boy's house Carl was being carried by Jonathan, practically asleep on his shoulder. Jonathan turned to face them with a smile.
"Well, this is us. Thanks again for this afternoon – we had a really good time" he said shyly and Dean smiled at him.
"So did we. You two take care now ok?" he said and Jonathan nodded.
"We will. You too" he said seriously and both of them nodded.
Carl roused himself enough to hug both Sam and Dean goodbye, Dean looking slightly awkward but returning the hug after a moment. Jonathan just gave them both a wave and with a final nod to both boys, Dean and Sam turned and walked back to the fair.
As they walked Sam found himself lost in thought. Watching Carl and Jonathan he'd been reminded of how it used to be with him and Dean. It had been almost scary the similarities between those young boys and the way they'd been at that age. It gave him a warm feeling inside, remembering how well Dean used to take care of him. Remembering a simpler time when it had seemed like his brother knew the answer to everything and was invincible.
He knew logically that everyone had to grow up, but he had to admit that some of those feelings never changed. He knew he still relied on Dean a hell of a lot, to make sense of things. To help him deal with all the crap that kept getting thrown at them. But who helped Dean? Could he persuade his brother that he wasn't a kid anymore, that he was capable of helping Dean in return?
Dean was also thinking too. It had been so strange watching those two young boys and seeing himself and Sam as children. It reminded him of when times had been simpler. When he knew all the answers to Sam's questions and could keep him safe from the dangers of the world. Part of him wished that things were still like that.
"Hey Dean?" said Sam and Dean looked up at him.
"Yeah?" he said and Sam stopped, trying to think how to say what he wanted to.
"I was just thinking. About how those two reminded me of us when we were that age you know?" Dean nodded and Sam continued "It just made me realise. However much some things change, other stuff stays exactly the same. You know?" he said, meeting Dean's gaze and trying to get across exactly what he meant.
He was trying to say that whatever they'd been through, whatever might be coming in the future, there was still a bond between them that was as strong now as it had been when they were kids. Probably even more so. And however old he got, he was still proud to be Dean's brother and still cared about him, a lot.
Dean saw all that in Sam's eyes and he nodded, feeling immensely touched by what his brother was trying to say.
Knowing Dean was uncomfortable with discussing stuff like this, Sam decided to change the subject but not before he'd said one last thing.
"That was really nice what you did tonight for those kids. You were really great with them" he said, and Dean shrugged embarrassed.
"They were good kids. And it was kinda fun anyway" he said self-consciously and Sam grinned.
"Yeah, it was fun wasn't it?" he said and Dean rolled his eyes.
"Fine, you win Sammy – it was a good idea of yours to come here. Happy?" he said and Sam nodded.
"Ecstatic" he said dryly and Dean shook his head in disgust.
They were almost back at the car now and as they neared it Sam had one last thing to say.
"And Dean?" he said and Dean groaned.
"Oh God, what?" he said and Sam struggled to keep a straight face.
"Thanks for the bear" he said.
Dean looked at him for a second and then he chuckled. Which became a full on laugh. Sam struggled to try and appear serious for a few seconds, and then he too laughed out loud.
It felt good, standing in the car park at a small town fair, holding a purple bear and laughing their asses off at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. For just a moment the coming darkness, the loss of John, all of it faded into the background and they were simply two brothers, having fun and laughing with each other.
Dean was the first to recover, wiping his eyes with his hand as he unlocked the car.
"Damn, Sam – get in would you before people start thinking we're drunk or high" he said and Sam managed to get a hold of himself as he slid into the passenger seat.
As they drove out of the town and back on the road Sam sat back contentedly. He felt lighter than he had in months and he hoped Dean felt the same. It wasn't much really – just an afternoon spent having fun and being kids again at a local fair. But even though it couldn't solve all their problems for them, it did remind them of what was important. That as long as they faced whatever was coming together, then they would be ok. And that whatever happened, they would always have each other.
Dean glanced across at Sam and smiled at how relaxed and happy he looked. He really had had fun at the fair and what Sam had implied on the way back to the car had meant a lot to him. He felt more hopeful than he had in weeks. He may not have all the answers these days but he still had his brother. And right now, that was good enough for him.
Glancing in the back at the purple bear now adorning the back seat he grinned. It had been a joke, but maybe they would keep it. Just to remind them both now and then what really mattered. Family.