Title: These Small Hours
Author: kaly
Category: Gen; humor; pre-series (Sam's 14, Dean's 18)
Characters: Dean, Sam, John
Word Count: 2,000
Rating: G
Spoilers: none
Summary: When Dean's stuck at home, injured, Sam revives a lost pastime from their youth.

Note: geminigrl11 provided the beta, as always. Thank you!

Disclaimer: Not characters or settings you recognize are mine. The pretty, snarky, angsty brothers belong to Kripke & the CW.

These Small Hours

"I can still go with you. You shouldn't go after this thing alone, Dad," Dean said, sitting up as straight as possible on the couch, trying to look ready. He knew the effort was wasted, however. His left leg was bandaged and splinted, after all, resting on the coffee table. But that didn't mean he couldn't help.

He cringed inside, though not letting it show, when his dad turned and stared at him. It was rare he disagreed with his dad - at least out loud - and he often dreaded the ramifications when he did so. But when there was a reason... Then it was different. And the goblin they'd been tracking was plenty of reason his dad shouldn't go alone.

Dean was surprised when his dad's face softened, just a bit. "Bud, I know you want to go. But that thing already did a number on you." He gestured toward Dean's mangled leg and Dean felt his cheeks flush. If he had been faster, it wouldn't have gotten the drop on him - they would be done with this hunt already.

"I need you at a'hundred percent sooner rather than later," John finished as he shrugged into his coat. "Okay? Stay here with Sammy and rest up."

Groaning, Dean let his head fall onto the back of the couch. Staring at the water-stained ceiling, Dean snorted. "All Sam does is read, Dad. Seriously, I'm not sure how we could even be related. It's certainly not normal, you might want to get it checked out."

He heard his dad laugh, and sat up straighter so he could see him.

"No, it's no question you're related. Pretty safe in saying he learned how to pout from you." Dean opened his mouth to defend himself but his dad cut him off. "The kid didn't learn that puppy-dog eye trick from me, that's for certain."

Dean scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "I do not pout."

John shook his head, grinning, and picked up the axe and pistol. "Okay then. You don't pout." He checked that the bullets were in the gun, glanced back at Dean and shrugged. "Might want to stop, though, if you're going to prove your point."

"Geez, suddenly you're a comedian," Dean muttered, rolling his eyes. "I just want to help," he added in a quiet voice a moment later.

"I know you do," John replied, his voice equally seriously. "And I appreciate that. But this thing already got you once."

Dean again opened his mouth - this time to defend himself - and was cut off once more when John held up a hand. "I'm not saying you did anything wrong, Dean. Sometimes, things just happen that can't be avoided. But I am saying that you have to heal up right. We don't always have time to rest when we need it, that doesn't mean we shouldn't take advantage of it now."

Still not completely mollified, Dean nodded begrudgingly. "You'll be careful? It's a sneaky bastard."

"Yeah," John said. "I promise." Crossing the room to the door, John pulled it open before adding, "Keep an eye on your brother."

Keep an eye on your brother.

Dean doubted there was ever a sentence spoken so much in their family. As if he would forget. As if he could. He knew that his dad was aware how seriously he took that charge.

Enough so that he could be safe in being a smart ass, every so often. "I'll be sure to keep him safe from rampant paper cuts and other bookly disasters." Dean capped his response with a sharp salute.

His dad just shook his head, chuckling under his breath as he pulled the door closed behind him.

Dean realized, only moments too late, that the television was turned off and there was no remote. Staring at the screen and willing himself to develop Jedi-like powers resulted in no consequence. The television remained stubbornly dark.

"Sammy!" When there was no answering call or the sound of feet in the hallway, Dean sighed before trying again. "Sam!"

Sam rushed into the room then, sliding on the linoleum. The entrance was far from graceful as Sam had yet to figure out how to manage the extra inches of both arm and leg he'd gained over the past few months.

"What?" Sam asked, sounding rushed. Crossing the room quickly, he kneeled beside Dean's leg, reaching for the blanket that covered it. "You didn't hurt yourself did you?"

"I'm fine," Dean said, swatting Sam's hand away. He wondered when exactly Sam was going to outgrow being so anxious when either he or their dad was hurt. Serious injuries, sure, then he could understand, but this was just a busted-up leg. Besides, it was just a reminder he should be with their dad, not sitting at home.

"Turn on the TV, would you?" Dean asked, pointing toward the still-silent box. He counted to ten, knowing it wasn't Sam's fault he was stuck at home and trying not to take it out on him, before adding, "Please?"

Sam's eyebrows crept up his forehead then, and Dean wondered if the 'please' was a bit too much. "You're sure you're okay?" Sam asked, confirming that it was, indeed, too much.

Sighing, Dean nodded. "Yes, Sam. My leg'll be good as new in no time. But for now, I'm stuck, I'm bored, and I need television to rot my brain."

"You could read a book," Sam said with a grin, sitting back on the coffee table. Dean gave the rickety furniture a wary glance when it groaned under Sam's weight. The ominous sound didn't deter Sam, however. "Might even learn something new."

"Suddenly I'm in a family of comedians," Dean muttered, rubbing a hand over his face. "I could probably still take you, even with a bum leg, ya know." When the kidding was met with a dark, worried look that promised retribution should he even try, Dean relented. "Or not."

Abruptly, Sam grinned and jumped up from the table, jogging from the room without a word. Dean stared at the empty space where his little brother had just been for quite a few seconds before looking over his shoulder at the hallway. Several worrying thumping noises later, Sam emerged carrying a small box in one hand and a gleaming smile on his face.

"Found it!" he said, triumphant in a way Dean rarely saw anymore.

Not certain what 'it' might be, Dean asked, "Do I want to know?"

Still smiling, Sam went to the television and turned it on, soon followed by the VCR they'd found at a second-hand store a couple of Christmases before. He pulled a tape from the worn box, and shoved it into the machine. Sam was reaching for the play button, when he paused and said, "Hold on, forgot something."

Before Dean could even ask what now - or that Sam at least change the channel from the static-filled hissing - his little brother was gone once more from the room. Moments later, he had his answer when he heard the sound of popcorn popping in the kitchen. After a couple of minutes, Sam returned, handing Dean the oversized bowl that somehow had survived more moves than Dean could count.

"Have to have popcorn," Sam said, as though Dean had foolishly suggested otherwise.

Eyebrows rising, Dean nodded in baffled agreement, taking the offered bowl. "Okay." Once more Sam reached for the VCR, pressing play before settling onto the couch beside Dean.

"So what's the grand plan here, Sammy?"

"You'll see," Sam said, grabbing a handful of popcorn from the bowl and shoving it in his mouth.

Dean turns his attention back to the screen and soon enough, it was filled with a very familiar scene of roiling clouds and white lettering.

The NeverEnding Story

Oh. Ooh.

He tore his eyes away from the screen and looked at Sam, who was mouthing along with the song's words; although Dean doubted he even realized it. It was something he'd not seen his little brother do since he was a little boy.

Once when they were younger, and Sam had been sick, Dean had found The NeverEnding Story on television, and had left it on in the hopes it would distract a cranky Sam. It had worked. The creatures (good and bad) and the story had kept the five-year-old quiet and gawking.

And if Dean had been just as entranced, what of it? If he had teared up when Artax had died in the Swamps of Sadness, while Sam cried; well, Sam had been too young then to remember it anymore. Which was just as well, Dean would hate to have to deny it.

Even if watching it meant Sam had asked questions about their mom, because of Bastian and his own mother, that was okay, too. Dean kind of felt like he understood a little bit of where Bastian was coming from - missing his mom, dreaming of her and wishing she were still there with him and Sam. Although he had Sam, and that was something Bastian never had.

Admittedly, he claimed to want to be like Atreyu. He was the cool one - the warrior, out on his own, setting out on a great quest - chosen to save the world. That was exactly the kind of guy Dean had wanted to be when he was little.

Of course, they both wanted a Falkor of their own. Dean didn't believe that maybe monsters could be good, nice, and friendly, but that was beside the point.

The following Christmas, Dean hoarded up his money to buy a used copy of the movie. It wasn't his very own Falkor, but it made Sam ridiculously happy, which made Dean happy, too.

And after that, anytime Sam was sick - or the occasional Saturday when they were bored - if they had a VCR, they would watch the movie together. Only at some point, they'd outgrown it (especially Dean) and they'd stopped watching it. Dean had thought the tape surely lost during a move years before, in fact.

Sam must have finally noticed him staring, because he said, "I can stop it, if you want." He was hesitant, embarrassed, his cheeks flushing. "I know it's silly, I just thought that maybe..."

Dean shook his head and smiled. For some reason, he didn't want to break the childish spell the movie was weaving. It wasn't very often Sam was able to act his age, much less like a kid - even when he had been a kid, much less now.

"Nah, it's cool. I'd almost forgotten about it."

He knew he'd said the wrong thing when Sam's face lit up and he started laughing. "That's the problem! People not believing and forgetting and the Nothing. You'll doom Fantastica!"

"I think you've seen this movie too many times, Sam," Dean said, trying and failing to keep a straight face.

Grinning, unrepentant, Sam grabbed another handful of popcorn and slouched back into the couch. "No such thing," he said, spitting half-chewed bits of popcorn everywhere.

"Eww," Dean complained, pushing Sam further away. "You're cleaning that up."

Sam threw a piece of popcorn at Dean and kept grinning. "Whatever. Now shush, we might miss something."

"You have the movie memorized," Dean said, throwing popcorn back at Sam. "I have the movie memorized. I think we're safe."

"Not the point," Sam said, not looking away from the television.

Dean followed Sam's gaze, just in time to see Bastian getting chased by bullies. At least that was something they didn't have in common. Dean had never been one to take any crap - even when he was little - and no one dared give it to Sam on Dean's watch.

Relaxing back against the couch, Dean crossed his arms over his stomach and watched the movie unfold for several minutes. Absently, he picked up pieces of popcorn and ate them, noting that Sam had given up on the snack and was entranced in the movie.

Happy, happier than he expected to be when he found out that he was going to be trapped at home, Dean smiled softly. "Thanks, Sammy."

Sam just smiled.

fin