A/N: Random plot bunny that just wouldn't leave me alone…just a little peek into the daily life of the Winchester boys way back when.
Summary: Pre-series, Weechester!Fic. A bath time discussion with Sammy makes Dean realise that perhaps life isn't so bad, after all.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the right to squee.
Dean is eight, Sam is four. Much soap and Wee!Brotherly banter. Enjoy!
"You're doomed, John Winchester! Rawr rawr! I am the spirit of the undead zimbie!"
Seven in the evening. The time when the news came on and all the little children were being tucked into bed.
Well, all the normal little children. In a dingy motel room on the outskirts of a small town, Dean Winchester sat absently prising flakes of peeling paint off the motel room door with the Swiss army knife he had been given for his birthday. A compact, smooth-folding bunch of differing blades fitted together with and in-laid (fake) mother of pearl handle.
It was his second favourite birthday present, which was odd considering he had only received a grand total of two presents overall. He wasn't entirely sure how a crudely carved lump of wood (or 'protection tail-man' as Sammy had so proudly deemed it) with a wobbly circle and a few lines could mean more than a breathtakingly swish knife, but hey. That was the magic his little brother weaved.
"That's what you think, you evil crea…um…thing! I shall get out my shotgun and shoot you dead!"
Sammy was at that moment contenting himself with one of his weird little 'let's pretend' games. With an old handkerchief with buttons sewn on for eyes in one hand and some kind of action figure in the other, he was enthusiastically re-enacting one of the many 'ghostie-hunts' that he was not allowed to go on, much to his displeasure.
"Ha ha! You shall not defeat me, evil spirit of the long gone zimbie…uh…zom…dead guy!" Sammy said heroically in his deepest voice, brandishing the action figure at the cowering handkerchief. Dean rolled his eyes, but couldn't help the smile forming at the corner of his mouth as his little brother made the action figure chase the terrified Spirit of a Dead Guy across the bumpy planes of the carpet.
Dean's head snapped up at the sound of his Father's strained voice above Sammy's babbling, and quickly stood, making his way carefully over the scattered toys to the small desk in the corner. John Winchester looked at his eldest son through exhausted eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Dean eyed the many lines in his Father's once carefree face, marred by the harrowing weight of grief, and shifted his weight uncomfortably.
"Yeah, Dad?" He said, quietly, drawing himself up and trying not to notice the half empty glass of something alcoholic on the desk and the sour quality of his Father's breath.
"Your brother's getting restless." John said in a flat tone, and out of the corner of his eye Dean saw Sam halt in his play and poke his head out from behind the armchair "I think it's time for B-A-T-H and B-E-D."
It was practise now that if anything was said that was inappropriate for little ears, it was spelled out so that said little ears could not understand. 'Inappropriate' ranged from cursing to discussing a hunt, but mostly for things that little ears did not want to hear and would most likely object to.
"I don' wanna go to bed. M' not tired." Sammy said mutinously, slamming the action figure's head against the floor with a curled fist. John blinked in surprise at his youngest son and raised an eyebrow questioningly at Dean, who shrugged.
"Sorry, Dad. He kinda figured the whole spelling thing out." He muttered, and his Father shot a wry glance at Sammy, who now sat with arms folded and a pout.
"Did he, now? Well, that's very impressive, son." Sammy deflated, then grinned "But that doesn't change the fact that you need to go have a bath and get into bed."
The response was immediate.
"But Dad, I don't WANNA!" Sammy exclaimed, jumping to his feet and stamping a little. Dean sighed, sensing trouble ahead as Sammy glared at his Father and John's expression grew stony.
"Now." He said, firmly, and when Sammy didn't move his brow furrowed further and said darkly "Dean."
Dean swallowed thickly, abruptly turned and headed for the bathroom, grabbing a violently resisting Sammy by the wrist as he passed him.
"Yes Sir. C'mon, Sammy. You can stay up a little bit later if you don't fuss, okay?"
His little brother immediately swallowed his protests and stopped struggling at this offer of compromise, and glanced up at Dean with slightly suspicious eyes.
"And you'll read me a story?"
Dean chuckled. Sammy was no fool; the kid knew exactly how to milk a situation for all it was worth "Sure."
"The one about the boy and his bucket of bread and the ducks?"
"And you'll let me play with your pocket knife?"
Dean grinned and shook his head, slamming the bathroom door behind them "Not a chance, kiddo." He wasn't falling for that old trick again.
"Aw, but Dean-"
Sammy, realising he had been thwarted, decided to try for a different approach. He let his face fall with heartbreaking disappointment, his large brown eyes widened and his lower lip trembled. Dean hastily looked away. He had fallen for the 'You-just-kicked-an-innocent-puppy-you-big-ol'-meanie!' face far too many times to not realise its surprising power.
"I said no. Not until you're bigger than I am."
"When will that be?"
"Not any time soon."
While his little brother sulked quietly, Dean set about preparing the tiny (and not exactly clean) bathroom for the cyclone of destruction that was Sammy. He had no clue how the kid managed to cause complete mayhem wherever he went, but he did, somehow. Dean grabbed the nearest grubby towel and laid it carefully beside the grey tub, scowling as he noticed the splinters sticking out of the wooden floorboards. He was glad he'd gotten his tetanus shots.
"Shoes." He said commandingly in Sammy's direction, and his little brother reluctantly plopped down onto the towel and began wrestling with his laces. Dean put the plug in the bath, turned on the taps and then crouched down to help him. "Ugh, look at this mess…it's all in a knot. I thought I taught you how to tie these properly."
"Bows are girly." Sammy muttered, pulling at the frayed edge of his jeans while watching Dean grapple with the lump of knots he had fashioned hastily that morning.
"Yeah, but at least then you can actually get the damn things off…ah!" Triumphant, Dean removed the shoe with a dramatic flourish, and Sammy giggled "Dean 1, shoes 0. Another win for the knot meister."
Sammy tilted his head to the side and wrinkled his nose, giving his older brother a bemused look. Then he grinned.
"Dean, you're weeeeeeeeird." He drawled, and Dean flicked his ear gently.
"And you're a bundle of oddness. Arms up." Obediently, Sammy raised his arms and Dean pulled the material of his pullover up until only a thatch of brown hair was visible. He tugged, but found the thing was stuck.
"He he…oops. Sorry Sammy, I've lost your head. Wonder where it went?" he wiggled his fingers in Sammy's side, and Sammy squirmed, giggling at the tickling sensation.
"Deeeeeeeeeeeaaan…." Came the muffled protest, and Dean yanked the itchy thing over Sammy's head with a quick tug, and breathed an overly dramatic sigh of relief as his little brother's disgruntled head appeared.
"Phew! Here it is. Everything present and correct?" He ruffled Sammy's hair "Nose snotty, ears attached?"
"Eww! I'm not snotty!"
"Sammy, if bogies were dollars then we'd be rolling in it by now. You'd be a regular little cash machine."
"That's dis…um…dis-just…disgusting, Dean!"
Dean just smiled, and leant over the bath-tub to dip his hand in the water, checking to see if it was too hot or too cold. Sammy came and leant against the edge of the tub and peered intensely into the water, as though trying to see something the very heat rising from the surface.
"Eh, whatever. I could do with some new clothes. Reckon if I make you sneeze some coins will come flying out?" Dean teased lightly, and Sammy's little hands flew to his nose protectively.
"Ewwwwwwwwwwww!" he trilled with a visible shudder, and Dean frowned as he noticed goose bumps rising up his little brother's bare arms. It was quite chilly in the bathroom, even with the door shut and the heat from the water.
"Alright, hop on in, snotty wonder." He said, grinning at the disgruntled look his little brother shot his way. Sammy scrambled over the smooth grey lip of the tub like a monkey, landing in the water with a resounding plop and a spray of water which splattered Dean's clothes. Dean sighed, rolled up his sleeves and fixed a smug Sammy with a beady eye.
"Sammy, that was not cool. Water in bath and not on me, got that? Bath good, Dean bad."
A devious glint lit up in his little brother's eyes, and he crouched down in the water like a sprinter poised to bolt. Dean immediately tensed and attempted to back up.
"Don't even-" Too late, as he was cut off by a jet of water smacking him in the face, and an eruption of triumphant giggles from his little attacker. Wiping the moisture from his eyes with cold precision, he grinned mirthlessly and dipped his hand subtly into the water, as Sammy swallowed his laughter to gulp nervously.
"Alright, little guy, you asked for it!"
Thus ensued a furious (and entirely unfair, considering Sammy had no clothes to get wet, and therefore nothing to lose) water fight, in which Dean allied himself with the shower head and Sammy bombarded his brother with wet flannels. Eventually their shrieks and war-like cries alerted adult ears to their play, and:
They froze, Sammy halfway through wringing out a flannel over Dean's lap and Dean brandishing the shower head over his brother's hair. Slowly, they turned their heads to look at each other, suddenly allied, and shared a sheepish glance.
"Sorry Dad!" Dean called, hastily replacing the shower head and frowning at Sammy "Now, see! You've made Dad mad."
"You did too!" Sammy protested distractedly, rubbing at his eyes with a fisted and slightly pink hand. In the bright glare of the bare bulb swinging from the ceiling, dark shadows lit up his round face and made him look almost gaunt, and Dean shivered suddenly. Sammy was breathing hard after the excitement of the water fight, his hair plastered to his head and dripping slowly into the still water.
"Ow." He murmured faintly, and Dean dropped down so he was at eye-level with his little brother, the cold fist of worry eating at his insides.
"What? What's the matter?" he said, sharply, quickly assessing Sammy for injuries. Had he been too hard on him? Dammit, he always did this. Took things too far, forgot that Sammy was only little and he had to be careful. Four years was a lot of time; it was four years Sammy hadn't been with him, four years with only Mom and Dad. And now, it was four years since Mom had been gone, since Dad had handed him his little brother in the heat of the fire, and for four years he had kept him safe. Sammy was his responsibility; Dad had said so. Dad trusted him to look after Sammy, and Sammy, too, trusted Dean not to hurt him. It was heavy, all that trust.
"I got soap in my eyes and it stings." Sammy muttered a little tearfully, looking so sad and wet and miserable that Dean felt immediately like a failure. But he buried the pain deep, pushed it down and fixed a reassuring smile onto his face.
"Oh, is that all? Let me see…" He gently tilted Sammy's head up so he could see his eyes, which were red with the irritation of the soap and welling up with cleansing tears. He brushed the sticky strands of hair off Sammy's forehead and grabbed a towel, dabbing carefully at his brother's skin while Sammy sat obediently still.
Once satisfied that Sammy had stopped squinting and blinking in pain he sighed quietly, the silence of the room seeming to swallow him whole.
Sammy nodded, scratching absently at his knee with a troubled expression marring his features.
"What's that face for?" He asked, and Sammy bit his lip and drew his knees up to his chest, wrapping his skinny arms around them.
"Did we really make Dad mad?" He murmured sadly, gazing at the door. Dean took a moment to retrieve a fallen flannel, dip it in the water and then begin scrubbing down the skin of his brother's shoulders.
"No, not really. He's just busy working and we were being kinda loud." He said, grabbing the soap and working some foam into the flannel before indicating for Sammy to turn. Sammy did so, a heavy silence falling over them as Dean scrubbed at his little brother's back, frowning at the clearly visible ridges of Sammy's spine. He had to get the kid to eat some more.
"Dad's always busy."
"Yeah, well, he has lots to do."
"And he's always mad."
Dean froze, took his brother's shoulders and spun him around again, wiping at Sammy's face perhaps a little more firmly than was necessary "Stop it, Sammy. That's not true."
"It is." Sammy muttered resolutely, and Dean chose to ignore him.
"Foot." He commanded, and Sammy slid back so the soles of his feet were visible. Dean blinked in surprise at the blackened appearance of his brother's toes, and raised his eyebrows as he reached for the soap "Man, squirt, I think you must attract dirt or something. How'd you get so grimy?"
Sammy shrugged, flinching a little as the flannel tickled his feet "Fell over at school today. That's how I got my knee beat up, too."
Dean's head snapped up, and sure enough, something large and red sat bulbous and ugly on the cap of Sammy's left knee.
"Let me see." He inspected it, prodding at the rough edges and trying to see if any dirt had gotten caught in the clot. "Wow, that's an impressive scab…like a war scar or something. Except the only thing you were heroically hitting was the floor."
"It hurt." Sammy muttered defensively, and Dean nodded in vague sympathy.
"I bet it did, kiddo. I'll put some antiseptic and a plaster on it before bed."
"But that stuff stings!"
"Or we could just let your knee go all mouldy and turn green. It's up to you."
Sammy muttered darkly to himself while Dean retrieved the shampoo from a nearby shelf. It was some kind of odd strawberry toddler gloop, which had been the last bottle left in a convenience store in the middle of nowhere. Ah well. Better girly and fruity than sweaty and smelly. Oh, wait. It was probably better being smelly…
"Sorry, Sammy, but today's a hair washing day." Sammy groaned "I promise I'll try and keep it out of your face, okay? But if you squirm around it'll only make it take longer." Dean considered Sammy's betrayed expression, and decided to sink to the levels of bribery "If you don't whine I'll take you to the park after school tomorrow. How's that?"
Sammy brightened a little, and nodded "Okay."
Dean watched his little brother curl himself into a tight ball and tense up, keeping rigidly still. Sammy absolutely hated having to wash his hair. He had told Dean it was because he didn't like the sticky feel or the foam running over his skin, but Dean had always wondered whether there was another reason. Nonetheless, it had to be done.
As he worked the gelatinous pink substance into his brother's skull he frowned, thinking. Once, when Sammy had been very little, he had had a complete freak-out when Dean had used some bright red shampoo to clean his hair. He'd screamed and yelled and flung himself about for an entire hour, and in-between the crying and the hysterical noises Dean had managed to decipher two words: Mommy. Blood.
He shivered, grabbed the shower head and instructed Sammy to close his eyes. As he rinsed out his brother's hair he recalled something he had overheard Dad say to one of his friends:
It was horrible. For a moment, I thought everything was fine, but…then I noticed Sammy was looking up. There was blood on his face, Missouri. Her blood, dripping down from the ceiling. Jesus…but he was too young to remember, right? He'll be okay?
"There, all done. Here." Dean murmured, far more gently than usual. Sammy peeked open his eyes and slowly uncurled himself, shivering despite the warmth of the bath. Dean sighed when he noticed Sammy had been biting down on his lip so hard he had split it right open. "Aw, Sammy. You idiot."
"Don't call me an idiot." Sammy muttered miserably, and Dean rolled his eyes "Fine, then you're a dumbass. Come on, get out."
Dean pulled the plug, and Sammy stood up a little shakily, still shivering. Dean hastily grabbed a nearby towel and leant over, wrapping it firmly around his brother. Sammy surprised him by wrapping his skinny arms around Dean's bent neck, clinging to him like he used to as a baby.
"It's c-cold. Lift me out." Came a muffled murmur from somewhere in the region of Dean's shoulder, and Dean a deep breath, let it out, then grasped Sammy under the arms and lifted him over the lip of the tub and lowered his feet to the floor. When Sammy didn't release his neck, Dean sighed, and briefly tousled the wet hair under his chin.
"Sammy, you need to let go now. You're making me damp."
Sammy drew back, and sniffled a little. Dean began towelling him down, trying to ignore the gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn't like bath time. It was too normal. Too much like his other life, before the fire, with Mom, when there was kisses goodnight and warm embraces and safety.
"No, come on. What is it?"
"Then I'll try not to laugh."
Sammy peeked up at him behind a curtain of slowly drying hair, and hesitated, gnawing at his already bloody lip. Dean batted his hand away with a disapproving reprimand, then wiped the bloody lip and sat back, expectantly.
"At school, Miss Clancy taught us this new song, because we have song time at the end of the day…she said it was a bath time song for when you get out of the water."
"Sounds sissy. What's it called?"
"Um…Rub-a-dubby-dub, I think."
Well, my little wet monster. Shall we scrub you dry now?
Warm hands, pink skin and golden hair. Blurred. The sweet smell of vanilla perfume and baby powder. Her smile. The soft gurgles of a little brother too young to even speak or crawl or scream.
Sammy's little face was right close to his, concern filling his kindly features. The raw emptiness of his Mother was suddenly swallowed with his little brother's presence, filling the gaping hole with purpose and love and responsibility. He smiled faintly, retrieved a small pair of clean but un-ironed pajamas from the corner and began dressing Sammy for bed.
"Yeah, I know. Mom used to sing it to me." He murmured, progressively working a row of buttons into small slits down his brother's chest. Sammy's face lit up with awe, and Dean felt suddenly guilty. He never talked to Sammy about Mom.
"Yeah. To both of us, every night."
"I don't remember." Sammy said, face falling, and Dean sighed and patted him on the head.
"I wish I did."
"Dean? Can we sing the-"
Vanilla perfume. Loss. Hurt. Little brother.
"Please? Just once? Everyone else got to try it."
"I've forgotten all the words. And look, you're dry now anyway."
"But I got you wet, and I can show you!" Sammy said enthusiastically, and before Dean could protest he tossed the still damp towel over his brother's head and began clumsily rubbing it back and forth. Dean sat still, and raised his eyebrows, and said warningly:
But Sammy just grinned, his smile infectious, and began to sing with the uneven enthusiasm of one too young to fully understand loss and hope and the pain of remembering.
"Rubby-dub-dub, three men in a club-"
"Tub." Dean corrected automatically, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth even though there was a lump in his throat and the back of eyes were stinging. Why the hell did he feel like crying?
"-tub! Who do you think they be? The butcher, the baker, the…the…um…"
Mom was gone; and that hurt, a lot. Still, even after all these years. And yet, whenever Sammy was around, he found he could laugh, and have fun, and get angry and excited and sometimes even cry.
"Throw them out, throw them out, rogues all three!" Sammy finished with a flourish, giggling and rocking back and forth on his heels. Grinning, he poked Dean mock-accusingly in the chest "See, you can remember!"
Dean smiled sadly "I guess so."
Sammy's face fell seeing that something was bothering his big brother, and without invitation he plonked himself down in Dean's lap, staring up at him "Dean, why does talking about Mom always make you sad?"
"Because I miss her, Sammy. That's all." An uneasy silence fell, and Sammy fiddled with his hands while Dean cast about for something to do or say. After a moment Sammy piped up:
"Mom wouldn't want you to be sad." A maturity and compassion shone in his brother's eyes which surprised Dean, and he realised with a touch of sadness that Sammy was slowly growing up. That one day, he wouldn't need Dean any more.
"Mom's gone." He said, bitterly, and Sammy knelt up, protesting:
"But she wouldn't! She'd be sad if she knew you were sad. I know it." He crossed his arms, frowning reproachfully at Dean "Dad's always mad, and when he's not, he's sad, too. Although I can't remember, I don't think Mom would've liked it at all."
Dean sighed and replied absently "Maybe you're right, Sammy." Sammy, disappointed and somewhat hurt by his failed attempt to cheer Dean up slumped down in his lap and bowed his head.
"I'm sorry." He murmured quietly, and Dean blinked in surprise, leaning over to better see his little brother's face.
"That Mom's not here, and I am."
Dean felt sickening shock and denial and self-loathing fill his chest till he felt it would burst, and he grabbed his little brother by the shoulders and spun him round to face him, feeling inexplicably angry.
"Don't say that, Sammy." He said forcefully, and Sammy winced "Not ever. Understand me?"
Sammy broke away from his hold, face twisted with fright, and Dean ran a hand shakily through his hair. He closed his eyes, breathed deeply, then opened them.
"Sorry. It's just…not your fault. It's not anyone's fault. Okay?" he said flatly, face emotionless, and Sammy hesitated before creeping back over to stand beside his brother.
Warm little fingers curled around his palm, and Dean glanced down to see Sammy clutching onto his hand like it was his last lifeline. His little brother barely reached his waist and had to crane his head right back to look up at him, and Dean was struck suddenly with the revelation that Sam was not seeking comfort, but trying to give it.
"I don't want you to be sad, either." He said simply, his expression unbearably serious. Dean swallowed thickly, and briefly clasped his brother's shoulder.
"Well, in that case, I guess I'll just have to try not to be sad."
"Not just try." Sammy said, a glint of something shining in his eyes as he smiledtoothily "Do. Or else."
Dean laughed as the bath gurgled up the last of the bathwater with a slurp, and they walked together to the bathroom door "Or else what, little man? You'll beat some sense into me?"
Sammy curled a fist and whacked it gently into Dean's side, nodding furiously "Damn straight!"
"In your freaky dreams, squirt." He said, ruffling Sammy's hair. His stomach rumbled hollowly, and Sammy giggled "Hey, want some hot chocolate? I think there's still a packet left."
Sammy punched the air triumphantly, his face lighting up, and did an odd little dance before throwing his arms around Dean's middle and squeezing tightly.
"Alriiiiiight! Hot chocolate! You're the best, Dean!"
"Don't I know it."
As Sammy continued to babble excitedly, Dean looked up and caught his Father's eye. John gave his son a tired smile, and nodded, and they both turned their gaze to look fondly on the little boy Mary gave her life to protect.
Dean smiled. Life really wasn't so bad. Nope, not at all. In fact, sometimes, you might even say it was good.
A/N: I was thinking of maybe continuing to write little snippets of the Winchester's childhood, so if you have any suggestions, comments, requests etc it would be appreciated, so please review!
Thanks for reading!