Written for the lovely Xeia for the SFTCOL(AR)S Summer Secret Santa Challenge! I'm afraid my abilities at writing humor are limited, but hopefully a lighthearted story will suffice. I hope it lives up to your expectations, sweetie!
Betaed by the wise and ever-helpful Faye Dartmouth. If this story is at all comprehensible, it is her doing. Any mistakes are all mine.
Disclaimer: I own only what you don't recognize.
The Golden Age by Starliteyes17
Courage is a moral
quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like, say, an aptitude for
games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed
resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not
once but many times by the power of the will. Courage is willpower.
They'd just finished a kelpie off the night before when the Dean and Sam stumbled upon one of their most odd supernatural encounters. Most of the day had been spent sleeping, with the brothers waking up intermittently to use the bathroom. They'd finally gotten out of bed around five in the evening, but even then only lounged around the motel room.
Around ten Sam had been busy searching for their next hunt on the laptop when Dean had declared he was absolutely starving and promptly left to search the premises for the nearest vending machine. But when Dean returned from his nightly motel junk food outing empty-handed instead of loaded with cheap, greasy snacks like Sam had expected, he was a bit surprised. Dean coming back with nothing was unprecedented, and threw Sam for a loop.
That is, until Dean opened his mouth. Then it just got weirder.
"Got some quarters, Sammy?"
Sam's eyebrows scrunched from his spot at the desk. Since when did Dean need change? Dean didn't believe in parking meters – or, at the least, he didn't believe in paying for them. Also, to Sam's best knowledge and for which he was eternally thankful for, there were no Magic Finger beds at this motel. So why the sudden need for a couple quarters?
Dean just grinned. Sam decided then that whatever it was, he would have preferred the Magic Fingers.
Instead of nodding, Sam stood up and walked to the bathroom, his pockets jingling. "Nope. Sorry, Dean."
Dean smirked and eyed Sam's pants suspiciously. "Is that so? Well, no problem, 'cause I do."
Not knowing where this was going as sick of waiting for Dean to just tell him, Sam decided to cut to the chase. "What did you find, man?"
"Man, you won't believe it. Get your shoes on – it's in the backroom of the main office. I haven't seen one of these in years!"
Honestly curious (although tentatively so) as to what had Dean so completely excited, Sam pulled on his shoes and followed Dean past the Impala and across the parking lot. As he entered the main office and nodded to the clerk, Sam saw Dean disappear ahead of him behind a door marked GAMES in faded paint. Reluctantly Sam followed him inside. The small room was dark, but for one lit-up arcade game.
"Dean you got me to come all the way over here just to see a video game?" Sam said playfully, pretending to be annoyed. In actuality, he was more amused then anything, but Dean didn't need to know that. Sam had a reputation to maintain, after all. "And you call me a geek."
"That's because you are one, geek. Seriously, check this out."
For all of Sam's childhood, one of Dean's favorite past-times when they were holed up at motels while Dad hunted was playing arcade games. Whether Tetris, Lunar Lander or even the regular stand-by Asteroids, Dean could spend hours on end playing game after game, usually just trying to beat his own high score, after quickly wasting the previous ones. It always seemed to stirred the same rush in him that hunting always had – the desire to be the best, the need to excel just to survive, but without any outside stipulations. On a hunt, Dean was as focused as possible, the way he'd been trained to be. In front of a video game he had the same passion, but instead of being forced to participate, he could do his best not only because he was able to, but because he wanted to. Although Dean would never see the distinction – in fact, Dean would probably outright deny its existence – it had always been a clear and important difference to Sam.
Presently, Dean showed much of the same enthusiasm he had in his younger years, and Sam couldn't help but be reminded of the past. Watching his brother look down into the mystery arcade game's console, Sam was suddenly bombarded with an image of his father hunkered down in front a pinball machine at a gas station in Indiana over fifteen years ago, his two young sons flanking him on either side.
John wasn't a man who often paid for games that didn't pay him back in equal or greater measure. However, Sam remembered rare occasions in his childhood when a lighter mood would seize the oldest Winchester, and nudge him to battle Dean or Sam at the nearest arcade. John had played video games like he hunted – ruthless and with deadly accuracy. But when he played, he'd also let his sons call him dad instead of sir, too. Those memories of his father, like only a few others, were the ones Sam still desperately held onto – in Sam's mind, they were by far the most important.
For Sam himself, the fascination with the games had ended about the same time he quit completely idolizing his father, or basically when he read his first novel and began to long for something besides the hunt. If Sam had to venture a guess, though, he'd bet that for every page of a book he'd ever read in his life, Dean had stuck a quarter into a game machine. Even after Sam came back to hunt with him, every so often Dean would fall back into his little kid obsession, and especially during the lulls between hunts.
So tonight, wasn't really much of a surprise.
Upon coming to stand next to Dean in front of the arcade screen, Sam found his older brother's promise that Sam 'wouldn't believe it' to be true for once. This wasn't just Pacman or Tetris, or another common one for crummy gas stations.
This was one of the rare ones that Dean coveted like his Glock.
This was Space Ace.
"No way," Sam murmured, genuinely impressed.
"See, Sammy, next time you shouldn't doubt me."
Sam shoved at Dean's side with force, but Dean just watched as the previous high scores floated across the board. "Hey, this punk named Justin got to the twelfth level, but he didn't beat it. We can totally win."
Sam gave Dean an appraising look. "We?"
"Yeah." Dean gestured to the controls. "I'll be joystick, you just keep hitting the buttons."
Sam's eyebrows slid further into his hair. "You want to cheat? At an arcade game?"
Dean rolled his eyes dramatically, his hands vaguely motioning to the wall next to the game. Taped on the yellowing plaster was a hand-written announcement:
FIRST TO BEAT SPACE ACE
WINS FREE POUND OF PEANUT M&M'S.
COLLECT PRIZE AT REGISTER.
Sam turned back to Dean. "Dude, you want to cheat. At an arcade game."
Dean turned away, shaking his head.
"Can't you read, Sammy? Free pound of candy! Do you realize how many peanut M&M's that is? Because it's a lot!"
"Still less than you stuff in your mouth every day though, I bet," Sam chided, amused at Dean's utter determination to win the prize.
"Shut up, Samantha," Dean shot back, but without heat. He turned from the sign back to Sam, his face focused as though this was about a hunt instead of just a game and some chocolate. "Now are you with me or not?"
Sam sighed and pretended to debate inwardly.
"Dude, I know you're faking. You've already decided to help me. Shall we get this show on the road, then?"
Sam opened his mouth to protest, but at the sight of Dean's narrowed eyes and pursed lips, merely rubbed his neck instead. "Whatever, man. Just don't come whining to me when you're puking that whole pound of chocolate and nuts back up."
"That's my boy, Sammy," Dean laughed, slapping Sam's back. "I always knew you would come in handy for something, you know."
With little preamble, Dean shoved the necessary 50 cents into the coin slot. Right away, the game went from silent to lively, as the words SPACE ACE flitted across the screen.
Sam had to admit, he'd always had a finer appreciation for this particular arcade game. It told the story of Ace, a futuristic mercenary of the universe, who came into constant battle with his large blue Aladdin genie look-alike arch nemesis, Borf. Borf had a ray that turned Ace into his boyhood self, Dexter. The game was all about defeating Borf so Dexter could rescue his kidnapped girlfriend, save Earth, and of course turn back into Ace.
When Sam had been a kid, he'd always imagined that Dexter was Dean, killing off dark forces. Whenever Sam had mentioned it, Dean had agreed that he was just like him, never forgetting to mention what a babe Kimberly was. One time, even, bored at some random library while his dad and brother had researched for a hunt, Sam had tried to look up the Infanto Ray, determined to use it against Dean next time he tried to tease, tickle, poke, prod, wrestle, attack, touch or otherwise infuriate young Sam. Unfortunately, Sam had discovered – to his major chagrin – that no such thing actually existed. But the memory of it still made Sam chuckle.
However, none of these memories were why Space Ace was Sam's favorite game. It was his favorite because it was the first game – of any kind – he'd ever beaten Dean at. Sure, following his win, Dean had still clobbered him at most any arcade game he could find, but Sam would never forget the first time he'd felt bigger then his big brother. After all, he'd still been a foot shorter than Dean at the time. For Sam, it had marked a major shift in his nine-year-old thought process: despite his invincible big brother's claims, there was something little Sammy could beat Dean at. Because of this game, a confidence had been kindled in Sam that had only grown with time. A confidence that had led to things like fights and attitude and rifts. To things like Stanford.
Things like Jessica.
Even after all that had happened, Sam didn't know if winning that one game fifteen years ago had been a good twist of fate or not, but it had still made all the difference, regretted or no.
Sam's reminiscing ended when Dean called out "SPACE ACE!" along with the game. Sam put both hands on the two buttons. The brothers were shoulder-to-shoulder now as both edged into their designated positions, Sam accidentally stepping on Dean's toes. Surprisingly, the older brother said nothing, only moved his foot a couple inches away from Sam's. Apparently for Dean, the usual demand for personal space was a non-issue when peanut M&M's were involved.
Resuming his concentration, Sam watched as the pre-game action unfolded. The scene opened with Ace and his girlfriend Kimberly on the side of a rocky mountain, with a spaceship slowly floating into view.
"Space Ace: Defender of justice, truth and the planet Earth! Ace is being attacked by the evil Commander Borf," the narrator voiced.
"Hold your fire!" Ace cried. Borf appeared. "Who is that creep?"
"Borf!" Kimberly cried.
"Earthlings must surrender to me!" Borf bellowed.
"No way, Borf, ol' buddy!"
As Sam and Dean watched with mild interest, Borf aimed a gun on Ace and rayed him, turning him into a child.
" Aargh! I've been hit!" yelled Ace.
"By the Infanto Ray!" cried Kimberly.
Sam rolled his eyes, wondering how he could have ever had respect for this game, and decided it was time to rethink his assessment.
"Earthlings must surrender to me!" Borf hollered again.
"Struggle with Dexter to regain his manhood. Destroy the Infanto Ray. Defeat the evil Borf," the narrator supplied.
"Hey, Borf! C'mon, Kimberly, let's go!"
Sam looked back at the screen. Ace had been hit again by the Infanto Ray.
" I've been hit!" Ace cried. Again.
Sam glanced at Dean. "Seriously dude, this game is ridiculous."
"Shut up, Sammy."
"Be valiant, space warrior, the fate of Earth is in your hands!" the narrator cried, the picture fading to black.
Dean glanced at Sam. "Ready to win a pound of candy, Sammy?"
Sam just stared at the screen, trying to focus. He felt Dean tense in anticipation, his grip on the joystick tightening.
But as nothing but more black came up on the screen, Sam frowned. "Dude, are you sure you put in two quarters?"
"Yeah," Dean said, hitting the side of the arcade game with his left arm, his right hand still clutched around the joystick.
Suddenly the buttons underneath Sam's fingers went red-hot. Sam pulled away as though burned. "Ah!"
The muttered curse next to Sam and the way Dean was clutching his right hand told Sam he had been similarly burned.
"Dean, what the –"
At that moment the video game screen came to life. A giant Borf stared at out at them, his blue face filling up the screen.
"Cheaters. You will pay," Borf bellowed, laughing.
Without warning, the game suddenly shut off, the screen going black again.
The room was silent except for the brother's harsh breathing. Sam turned to Dean with a confused expression, although he also felt worry creeping up too. If Sam didn't know his brother so well, he would swear Dean looked just as concerned as Sam felt.
"Well," Dean began, trying to break the tension, "that was a crappy game."
"Dean, it was like it knew we were trying to cheat," Sam said. "You think...?"
"Nah," Dean said, waving his hand at the arcade game, though his eyes looked a little weary. "Probably just broken or something. You know, they really shouldn't put up advertisements for free candy when the game is busted."
"Yeah, I guess," Sam agreed, but didn't even try to mask his lingering apprehension. "But Dean, it burned us-"
Dean turned hard eyes on Sam. "Like I said, it's probably broken. Maybe the wires are trippy, and it was just an electric shock. Hey, maybe we could sue the motel for it or something."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Seriously, Dean..."
"No Sam, it was nothing, okay? Yeah, a little weird, but compared to what we usually see it was nothing. Tomorrow we'll find a hunt and be on our way, anyways. Either way, I'm beat. Let's order some pizza and call it a day, huh?"
Sam acquiesced, but he didn't feel right about it. Still, sometimes weird shit just happened. Doesn't mean it's supernatural, Sam reminded himself.
"Sam? Sammy? You better be okay, dorkface."
Sam floated back to consciousness slowly. The last thing he remembered was listening to Letterman list off his nightly Top Ten before nodding off. But Dean's voice expressed worry, and not just normal wake-up-in-the-morning hurry, but real concern. Feeling a hand smack him in the face, he groaned lightly.
"Come on, Sammy, that's it."
Without opening his eyes, Sam put his hand up to his brow, massaging it gently. "Dean, stop it, that hurts-"
Sam stopped. Something was wrong. His, that wasn't his-
"Dean! My voice, it's-it's..." Sam's eyes snapped open, and he found himself staring at a slowly whirling fan. Early morning grogginess clouded his brain over for a second, and he forgot about wondering why he woke up in the first place, not to mention his very important question.
"I'm over here, Shorty."
Without thinking about it Sam looked over at Dean. Except, oh god, it wasn't – that's wasn't – it couldn't be –
"Dean, you're... you're little."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Duh, dude. So are you."
Sitting up abruptly, Sam pulled back his covers and looked himself over. Dean was right; he was no longer Sasquatch, that much was for sure. His too-long 42" legs now looked like they barely made two feet, and his hands were far smaller and rounder then normal. Putting his hands up to his face, Sam felt rounded cheeks, baby-smooth without the roughness of stubble.
Without the ruggedness of manhood.
Sam looked back up at Dean, who also appeared to be examining himself. "Dean, what happened?"
"I don't know exactly, but if I had to guess I think it has something to do with that damn game and the crappy extra from the Blue Man Group," Dean deadpanned. "Now we're just kids again. That damn game fucking de-aged us or some shit. I mean, what else could it fucking be?"
Sam had a lone moment of insanity where he wanted to berate Dean for swearing, but then he remembered that if he was still twenty-four inside, Dean must still be twenty-eight on the inside too. It only made sense. "How old are we?" he asked instead.
Dean shrugged. "Judging by what a short chubbers you are, I'd say you're about six." Sam glared. "And, since I'm obviously still older then you, that'd make me about ten or eleven, I think."
Sam's look tapered off into something akin to agreement as he looked Dean over himself. Sam could hardly remember Dean at this age. He was obviously older then Sam was, as his face was slightly leaner and his body more muscled, already losing baby fat. The freckles that had all but disappeared when Dean entered his teens were prominent now, making a front and center appearance across his nose and upper cheeks. Yeah, Dean looked about ten, if Sam was any judge.
"So, what, the game somehow knocked us out and turned us into little kids? Dean, that doesn't make any sense."
"Well, obviously it wasn't the game itself, Sam! Something supernatural is going on here, and we're going to figure it out and waste it without leaving this room, if I have anything to say about it."
Sam shuffled to the edge of the bed, carefully stepping off and standing next to Dean, who was looking down at him with a very familiar smirk.
"Dude, you really are short again!"
Sam breathed loudly through his nose, feeling his nostrils flare in irritation. "Shut it, jerk," he said, walking over to his duffle. Quickly, he pulled out a large t-shirt and put it on. He'd only gone to bed with boxers the night before, and was pretty sure they were buried deep in the covers of his bed somewhere now. The shirt was huge on him, though, and he dug farther, looking for a belt.
"Whatever, Sam. You're still puny. Face it, I could whoop your ass six ways to Sunday right now."
On second thought, Sam decided, nix the belt. He was going straight for the .45.
After getting dressed, or rather, putting on large t-shirts, Dean promptly decided that their first problem was getting some real clothes. Luckily, it was only a hop and a skip next door to where a family with six boys was staying.
Last night, Dean and Sam felt punished by God, with all the screaming to be heard in the room over, but right now both were very glad that Disney World happened to only be thirty miles away.
While Dean played look-out, Sam picked the lock, and they were in. Well, sort of – the place was trashed with toys, bags, and other various travel items. Dean was amazed.
"Dude, look at all this stuff! I mean, where do people find time to buy it all? Or have the money to get it?"
Sam walked past him, already headed for a Power Rangers suitcase lying open on the floor. "I'm sure the parents have jobs, man."
Dean came to stand next to him, but was still overlooking the room. "Yeah, well, still... this is a lot of crap to bring on one trip, dude. I bet the parents are drug dealers or something."
Rolling his eyes, Sam grabbed a pair of pants that looked his size, and stepped into them. "Come on, Dean. They have six kids that we know of, which means there's probably a couple more we never even noticed. Of course they'd have lots of crap. Now get dressed."
Dean grabbed some sweatpants, then a t-shirt that looked about his size, examining it closely before shrugging it on. He looked down the front of it, then back up at Sam distastefully.
"Dude, who the hell is Spongebob Squarepants?"
"This is the last time I'm holding your hand, ever again," Sam muttered to Dean as they entered the motel office twenty minutes later. "Dude, why do I have to hold your hand like a freakin' two year old, huh?"
Dean rolled his eyes, wondering off-handedly where the nearest orphanage was. "Because it has to look real, Sam."
"Like he'll even notice," Sam muttered, but took Dean's outstretched hand anyways. However, when Dean squeezed it too tightly on purpose, he cried, "Ouch! What was that for, jerk?"
"You know what for. Now shut up or I'll sit on you, I swear it, Sammy," Dean answered as the manager tiredly turned to them from the soap opera he was watching.
"What can I do for you, boys?"
"Please sir, my brother and I were just going to get candy over at the grocery store on 3rd, but now he has to use the bathroom really bad and says he can't wait. Can he please use yours?" Dean asked in his best polite voice, looking up expectantly over the desk.
As the manager appeared to consider the question, Dean glanced over at Sam expectantly. When Sam stayed silent, Dean got impatient and stomped on his foot.
"Ow!" Sam cried, looking at Dean accusingly. But as the manager turned to him, Sam piped up with, "Please, mister? I really have to go. Please?"
The manager rubbed his face, as though exasperated. "All right. But your brother has to wait out here. The last time some kids got into the back room they ate my entire stash of pistachios, so I'm not taking any chances with you two."
Dean watched as Sam walked around the edge of the front desk and followed the manager to the door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY.
"No funny business, young man, you hear?" the manager called to Dean, who nodded expertly. The manager nodded back, than turned to Sam. "Hey, little guy. How about you hold my hand while we walk through here? I don't want you to wander off, now."
Sam sent a look of absolute hate at Dean, who merely winked, before turning back to the manager, a plastic smile across his face. "Okay, mister," he answered, taking the grubby man's hand.
The moment they were through the door Dean set off into the game room, half-expecting the arcade to be missing. But it was still there, looking just as it had last night. Dean pulled a flask of holy water and his Glock out of the back of his pants, before turning to face it.
"All right, whatever is inside this, give it up. The charade's over, and if you don't come out right now I'm going to-"
Suddenly a blue light filled the room, as the screen began to glow. Dean covered his eyes, but when the light died down he saw Borf staring back at him on the screen. Dean, however, had a feeling this wasn't the game Borf, but something else entirely.
"You'll do what, boy? Kill me? Bust the game into pieces? What?"
"Something along those lines," Dean said, grinning wickedly. "Now tell me what you are, or else I start shooting and the game and you both go down."
"Go ahead," Borf said, laughing. "But all that will accomplish is you paying a lot more to this motel then you bargained to."
Dean held up the gun, pointing it directly at the middle of the screen. Borf raised an eyebrow, unconcerned.
"Go ahead, little boy. Try it, if you dare."
The last bit was spoken in Russian, Dean realized, but what made him drop the holy water was that he had understood what the digital blue evil dude had said. "How'd you – what – what did you do to me?"
Borf snickered. "That is a small trick for a being as powerful as myself. But listen here, boy. Perhaps we can help each other."
"Help?" Dean said, incredulous. "No way. I don't make deals with things like you."
"You don't?" Borf said, eyebrows raised. Dean was silent. "You see, boy, for all my power, there is just one problem. Some good friends of mine – two of my colleagues, in fact – trapped me in this box not long ago. All I want is to get out, but I can't – not until someone beats the game. You are the first to come by with the ability to do so. I sensed it right away. However, your addiction to certain perishables made you do something I cannot permit – attempt to cheat. It was only in my nature to make you and your brother see the error of your ways."
"Wait a second. Are you telling me that you – whatever you are – have been stuck inside this arcade game for a while now?"
Borf nodded, yawning.
Dean chuckled, one corner of his lips creeping upward. "Well, you must not be too powerful then, are you?"
"Watch your tongue, boy. It was nothing but a practical joke – one which both Karrie and Ruge will pay for dearly, when I get a hold of them. They both know well I could manipulate any number of humans to get out. My principles, though, are against it. So I have been waiting."
"What exactly are you, anyways?" Dean asked, truly wondering.
"My origins are not important now. You want to be adult again, yes?"
"That can be arranged. But first, I need you to do me a favor – beat the game. Poor Justin got to the last level, but I'm afraid Borf and his minions were too much for him. You, however, are stronger. You can defeat Borf."
"Why can't you just make me and Sam big again?"
"You and your brother attempted to cheat. This goes directly against the morals you were taught. You knew better. I cannot let you become adult again until you deserve the honor. Helping me escape would fulfill that."
"How do I know you're not something evil who will try to kill us the moment we do, huh?"
Borf smiled. "You'll just have to trust me, won't you, boy?"
Damn, that Russian again. Dean sighed and was about to answer, until-
"What are you doing, young man?"
Dean turned to the door, where the manager waited impatiently, his right hand on the door knob and his left tucked around Sam's shoulder, who looked less then happy about the situation.
"I was just looking, sir."
"Well, come on, then, let's go. Your brother here already took ages to finish up, there's no way I'm waiting any longer. Get your butts out of here, will ya?"
Dean nodded, walking past him, yanking Sam on his way out of the room. Once they were outside again, Sam yanked on his hand away from Dean's.
"Dude. Never again. Ever."
Dean smirked, but only briefly. "Come on, man, I got lots to tell you."
"Dean, er, I have a problem."
"Yeah?" Dean didn't look up from the television, mildly irritated.
It had taken Sam a while to convince him not to just go bash the arcade game to a million pieces, and even still he wasn't fully convinced that wouldn't solve their little problem. Now Sam had "better get some research finished soon" so they could fix it. But, uh...
"Gonna have to say that louder, dude," Dean said, looking over to where Sam sat at the laptop, his hands in his lap and his eyes there too.
"My hands, they're too little. I can't type."
Dean looked shocked for a second, than burst out laughing.
Sam was incredulous. He stood up and walked to his bed, chucking his pillow at Dean. "Shut up, man! It isn't funny. How am I s'posed to research now?"
"I don't know, Sam. You went to Stanford, you tell me."
Even at the age of six, Sam's 'thinky-face' was all too obvious. "I could one-finger type. But that'll take ages." Sam looked over at Dean, his face strangely blank. "I guess you'll have to do it."
Dean's own smirk promptly disappeared. "Me? No way, college boy. Research is your job, remember?"
"But Dean, I can't even type! How am I supposed to help out now?" Sam whined. Dean almost asked why the dork cared so much, but the chubby gap-toothed geek actually sounded sad that he couldn't research, and Dean just didn't have it in him to tease the little guy when he was so, well, little.
"And, I'm having trouble with coordination," Sam added when Dean remained silent.
Dean frowned at that. "What do you mean?"
Sam sat back down at the desk. "I think the curse, or whatever it is, let us keep our adult minds, but we're still in kid's bodies. And a six-year-old doesn't exactly possess the most finesse, you know?"
Dean looked himself over again. "Well, I haven't noticed any problems so far. Though I haven't had to jerk off yet today-"
"Dean, that's just gross," Sam interrupted, truly disgusted. "I don't want to know that."
"Hey," Dean said, pretending to be offended. "You mentioned coordination problems. I was just letting you know about my own, okay?"
"Whatever dude," Sam said dismissingly. "You still have to research, though, since I can't."
"No. I refuse. That's your job, not mine. And since I'm the older brother, what I say goes," Dean finished, looking back at the television.
Sam, however, wasn't one to be deterred. Pulling out the biggest puppy eyes he could, he stared at Dean unblinkingly, his eyes inevitably tearing up. Dean tried to ignore him, but Sam knew Dean could feel the stare. Finally Dean glanced at Sam, and promptly groaned.
"No Sammy. N-O." Dean shook his head. "I won't do it. Just 'cause you're six again, doesn't mean that'll still work on me. Which, by the way, it hasn't since you were, like, twelve. So you can put that away now, 'cause there's no way I'm doing it for you."
Sam let his chin tremble. "Dean, please," he pleaded, his voice wobbling.
Sam's eyes slowly focused as he woke up, eyes fixed on the clock. It was six forty-five already, but how could that be? He'd only laid down for a short nap at three. It seemed apparent now that his theory about being stuck in a six-year-old's body was correct – it just couldn't handle the stress his adult body could endure.
Sam turned to face Dean, who – to Sam's utter surprise – was still at the laptop. He'd already been at it for over four hours by the time Sam had zonked out. Sam had tried to stay awake and help Dean, but when he yawned for the fifth time Dean had insisted he go take a nap. Well, sort of. It had actually been closer to, "Lay down before you fall down, bitch," but Sam had heard the endearment beneath it anyways.
"Got anything yet?" Sam asked, pulling himself up from under the covers.
"Yeah, actually, I do. See, you're not the only one who can do this stuff, college b-"
"Oh shit," Sam exploded, squirming suddenly and looking underneath the sheets. Dean's head snapped up.
"What is it?" Dean asked as casually as he could, trying to hide his concern.
Sam looked up at Dean, his face blank. "Dean, am I potty-trained?"
Dean's mouth opened automatically to answer, but nothing came out except a croak.
Sam groaned and hid his face in his hands. "This is so unfair," Dean heard him mumble.
"Sammy, are you telling me you had an, er, accident in your sleep?"
"Not on purpose, dickwad," Sam answered, though it was muffled by his hands.
Dean thought for a second. "Yeah, come to think of it, Dad had to buy those big kid diapers until you were at least seven." He chuckled. "Man, I hadn't thought of those in years. Hey, remember what I used to call you?"
"Don't remind me."
"Dude, I totally called you Plastic Cheeks."
Before Sam could retaliate, Dean turned back to the computer. "Well, at least you took off your pants before you got into bed."
Ten minutes later Sam walked out of the bathroom clean. He put his pants on before coming up next to Dean. "What'd you find out?"
"Well," Dean said, almost enjoying being the one to give the info for once. "We knew already that dude-stuck-in-the-box was Russian, right? 'Cause that's what he made me hear. And he didn't feel evil, not really, since he kept talking about fair play and all. Plus he mentioned two guys named Karrie and Ruge, right?"
"Yup. Glad to know you have a memory, Dean."
"Shut up, Plastic Cheeks. Anyways, so I did some checking, and it turns out that you were right – the game Space Ace was made in 1984, which was twenty-three years ago, which is how long dude-stuck-in-the-box has been, well, stuck in the box. But here's the thing – the game was invented and manufactured in the Soviet Union. So I did some checking up on Russian folklore, and I think I know who our dude is."
"Who?" Sam asked.
"Lado, the Slavic God of youth, beauty, and equality. In myths, he's kinda like the trickster of the group – he enjoys messing with people. But only when they deserve it, I guess. And Karrie and Ruge? Karewit and Rugiewit are two other Gods from Slavic lore. Anyways, it appears that the two of them somehow stuck Lado in the game before it came over to the States."
"Why didn't the god just let himself out?"
"He said something about being fair or some shit – he didn't think it was right. Which is also why we're kids – he didn't think it was right for us to have cheated," Dean explained. "The only reason he's helping us now is because he knows I can help him get out."
Sam's jaw worked. "How is that?"
"He can only leave when someone beats the game. And apparently, he knows I can."
Sam considered for a moment, before promptly smacking Dean on the head.
"Ow! What the hell, Sam?"
Sam huffed. "This is all your fault, you know. I didn't want to cheat, but no, you just had to have those peanut M&M's."
"Whatever, dude. All I know is that it's time to kick some evil butt and save the hot chick. All in a day's work for me."
"Kimberly isn't even real, Dean."
"So, what's your point? Whatever, let's go finish this."
It was harder the second time, getting the manager out of the room. Dean and Sam sat in the darkening parking lot, watching the oblivious manager through the office window.
"Dude, let's just start a fire in a trashcan or something."
"No, Dean. We're not going to cause any unnecessary damage to his property. It isn't his fault his arcade game is possessed by a Slavic God with a conscience."
Dean had to admit, Sam had a point, yet – "It's still his fault he's a dick though, at least to little kids who have to use the bathroom." Sam gave him a Look. "Yeah, well, what do you propose then? 'Cause I don't think the bathroom one will work again."
Sam appeared to be in thought for a moment. "I have an idea. Just make sure you close the game room door. That way if he comes back too soon he won't know you're in there."
"He'll hear the game through the door, man. I can't mute it, you know."
Sam clenched his jaw. "I'll keep him occupied, then." He turned to Dean, seeming to brace himself. "Here, hit me."
Dean's eyes narrowed. A request like that rarely meant something good. "What?"
His eyes widening, Sam raised his short little right arm as high as it would go, and smacked Dean in his shoulder. "Hit me, jerk. If I'm going to be crying, it has to look authentic."
Flabbergasted, Dean gaped. "Why do you have to cry?"
"You'll see. Just watch."
Dean balked. Hitting Sam just to hit him went against everything Dean knew – especially a little Sammy. "Dude, you won't even cry. Me hitting you hasn't made you cry in years," he stated all the authority he could, trying to make Sam see sense.
"I know, but I figure with my coordination problems, maybe my body will have a parasympathetic response to the force and I'll start crying anyways," Sam explained.
Dean formed a quick plan, then sighed dramatically. "No way dude, I refuse to-"
Without warning, Dean pushed Sam in the chest so that he promptly fell to the ground, landing hard on his butt. To Dean's utter surprise, Sam's eyes welled immediately, a soft cry escaping from his lips. Dean couldn't help it – he felt like a horrible big brother.
Gingerly helping Sam to his feet, Dean began, "Sammy, I'm sorry-"
"Shut up, Dean, I asked you to do it. So no chick-flick moments, especially when it concerns my ass."
Dean balked. Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Parasympathetic response, remember? It doesn't really hurt that bad."
Dean nodded tightly, regaining his composure. "I'll remember that next time you try to whine about your ass, bitch," he remarked, attempting to hide his previous feelings of guilt.
Sam smiled genuinely through his fake tears. "Jerk."
Relieved at the abrupt end of the impending chick-flick moment, Dean quickly checked Sam over to make sure he was okay, before patting him on the shoulders awkwardly. "Go on, then – whatever you're planning better work, though, s'all I'm saying."
Sam pinched his cheeks for added effect. "Oh, I think it will," he said to Dean, before running over to the office door.
Dean rolled his eyes, than snuck around the side of the small building to listen through one of the open windows.
"You again?" Dean heard the manager say.
Sam sniffled dramatically in response.
"What's wrong? Where's that brother of yours?"
"He's – he's – I'm lost." Dean had to admit, that was the most pathetic whine he'd ever heard, in the history of Sam's Pathetic Whininess.
"Way to go, Sammy," he whispered to himself.
"Well, what do you want me to do about it?" the manager asked, but his voice held a bit more sympathy then it had before.
"I – I don't know!" Dean could hear Sammy sobbing now. Man, even as a little dude the kid sure knew how to bring out the big guns when he needed to. "Please, mister" – sniffle – "will you" – hiccup – "help me?"
"Ah Jesus, kid," the manager said softly. "Uh, where do you live?"
"I don't know."
"What's your phone number?"
"I can't remember."
"Well, what's your last name?"
"My brother hasn't told me yet, mister." Well, that one was actually true, Dean thought to himself.
"Ah, Christ. Well, what do you want then?"
A pause, then – "Some pistachios?"
"Sure, kid, come on in here."
As soon as Dean heard the EMPLOYEES ONLY door click shut, he walked in the front door and on to the game room.
"I'm back," he announced as he entered. "And I'm taking you up on your deal."
Borf, or Lado, or whatever the hell he went by suddenly appeared again on the screen. "I knew you'd see things my way. Well, good luck then."
Dean stuck in the first two quarters he pulled from his pocket – he only had ten total. Cautiously, he put his hands on the joystick and buttons. "Er, any chance on some tips?"
Borf shrugged. "Do your best?"
Dean stared. That was all the advice he was getting? Lado wasn't serious, was he?
"You know, for a god, you kinda suck."
It had been over forty minutes, and Dean was down to his last dollar. He'd made it through every level twice now, but the final one was giving him trouble. Defeating Borf was harder then he remembered it being. He'd only ever beat the game once in his life, and he'd had four days stuck at a motel to do it.
"Come on, come on," Dean coaxed, watching as Dexter used his laser gun on some of the creepy alien minions. If only he could get these last couple ones dead, then he'd get to Borf. "God, I could use a beer right now."
Just then, the game room door banged open. Without thinking, Dean looked backwards, expecting to see a very pissed off manager. As soon as Dean realized it was only Sam, he heard the Borf call out, "You lose, creep."
"Damn it, Sam!" Dean said, turning back to the screen. "Now look what you did!"
"Sorry. I just wanted to make sure it was going all right," Sam explained petulantly, shuffling up next to Dean.
"Well, it was, but now thanks to you, it's not. I only have two quarters left." Dean took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. "What'd you do with the manager?"
"Locked him in the bathroom," Sam answered casually, shrugging. At Dean's look of surprise, he went on, "Wasn't too hard – just asked to wipe my nose and as soon as he entered the bathroom to get some toilet paper I slammed the door and shoved the chair against it. I don't think it will hold too long, but I wanted to make sure you were okay."
"Well, I'm doing fine," Dean said, no longer mad – after all, he better then anyone understood the need to make sure his brother was okay. He figured it was allowed to go both ways – well, sometimes, at least. "Except now we only have one last chance."
"Well, you better get started – I don't know how much time we have before he breaks out and busts both our butts," Sam said.
With a deep breath, Dean shoved in the last two quarters. Sam leaned all the way on his tip-toes to see the screen, looking up at Dean every few seconds expectantly.
Dean looked down at him, trying to give a comforting smile. "Here goes nothing."
Twenty minutes later, Dean was on the last level, but he knew he was in trouble. Almost all of Dexter's life-force was gone, and Borf's minions were closing in.
"Dean?" Sam's voice sounded resigned. "Dean. Dean."
Dean didn't answer, trying only to focus on the game. It was a losing battle, but that didn't mean he was just going to give up 'cause his brother wanted him to admit defeat.
"Dean, let me do it."
The words took a couple sentences to sink in, but Dean knew Sam could see his look of disbelief when they did, though Dean made no motion to look at Sam.
"Seriously, Dean. I can do it. Let me."
Dean huffed irritably. "You're too little, Sammy. You can barely see the screen."
Sam shook his head. "You and I both know you can fix that, Dean. You think I don't remember? I can do it, if you give me a chance. I've beaten this game before too, in case you've forgotten."
Dean searched for another reason. "But your coordination problems – you're only six years old –"
"I can do it."
Dean was silent for about half a minute, fiercely killing two minions while he pondered. Sam hadn't been able to research or to converse with Lado – two things he probably would have been better at then Dean was. Instead, Sam had been forced to hold Dean's hand, get pushed on his butt so that he'd cry, not to mention dealing with bladder issues he had gotten beyond years ago. Dean had definitely had the easier time of it, and for a while had actually forgotten Sam wasn't just a six-year-old who needed coddling and protecting. Instead of an equal partnership, Dean had a control over things since the beginning. But right now, even big-kid Dean wasn't doing too hot. Sure, he was almost to Borf – but Dexter was also nearly dead. Dean came to a decision.
"Okay, get in front of me, then."
Sam promptly slid in front of Dean, facing the screen. Dean smiled in anticipation – of course he remembered this set-up, how could Sammy accuse him of forgetting it?
"On the count of three. One, two, three –"
It had been nearly twenty years since they'd done this, but the muscle memory was still intact. In one graceful motion, Dean let go of the controls, letting Sam raise his arms to clasp around them. With hardly any loss of time, Dean hauled Sam up by under his armpits so Sam's head was level with the screen, although Sam's feet dangled off the ground by about two feet. Once they were comfortable that way, Dean took his time to get his arms under Sam's thighs to move him into a sitting position and lean his back against Dean's chest, giving Sam more freedom with his arms to maneuver the joystick and press the buttons.
This all happened in less then a second. Dean smirked – apparently he hadn't lost his touch.
"Comfy, Sammy?" Dean asked him, as he had hundreds of times when they were growing up.
"I'm good, Dean. Thanks."
With that, Sam set off on a minion-killing rampage.
Watching Sam, Dean was impressed. He knew Sam was good even when he wasn't entirely focused on a task, but right now Sam was on his game and already Dexter was gaining back some life-force ground. Dean wouldn't ever tell Sam, but Dean hadn't felt so proud of his brother in a long while.
For the first time, Dean thought maybe this little kid deal wasn't so bad, after all.
It was only minutes later that Borf was meeting his demise. Well, in a manner of speaking. To Sam, it felt like eternity. Just as Dexter was reaching Borf, a minion had shot him, leaving him without enough life-power left to outlast even one more hit. That was the moment when Sam wondered if he'd made a mistake. Now they were going to lose and the manager would find them out and then how would they fix this? Sam had been ready to just tell Dean to finish it instead when he heard murmured in his ear, "No way, geekface, you're not handing it over to me. You can do this, Sammy – you just have to trust yourself."
Dean believed in him, and with that knowledge Sam had rallied his courage and plundered on, until finally, after what felt like ages –
"No! NOOO!", the game-Borf cried as he was changed into a baby Borf, and Dexter became Ace again.
"Oh Ace! My hero!", Kimberly cried, embracing her boyfriend.
"Congratulations, space warrior, you have helped Ace to defeat Borf and save Kimberly!" the narrator cried. "Long live Space Ace!"
Sam couldn't believe it. He'd done it. He'd defeated Borf himself, just like he had promised Dean he could. The pure joy he felt at that moment was uncensored as he twisted in Dean's arms, wrapping his own around Dean's neck and hugging him tight.
"Dean!" Sam cried into his brother's ear. "I did it!"
"You sure did, kiddo," Dean said. "Now for the best part."
As SPACE ACE flitted across the screen, Dean said to Lado, "Okay, you're free. Now it's your turn. Turn us back."
The arcade game tune ended, and Sam and Dean watched as a bright blue light cut off their vision, bursting forth from the screen. Then, just as suddenly, the game shut off and everything went black. After a few seconds, Dean lowered Sam to the ground, putting his hands around the edges of the arcade box, shaking it from side to side.
"Didn't you hear me, Lado?! Turn me and Sam back into adults!"
Silence. Nothing. Sam's happiness slowly filtered out, leaving only a growing fear. What if Lado didn't hold up his end of the deal? How would they fix it?
Dean let out a howl of rage, than quickly started to walk out the game room door, Sam running to catch up with him. "I knew it, I just knew it... of course a god would turn on us, of course he – AH!"
Sam's eyes snapped up to Dean in concern, but just then he felt a white-hot pain cross his fingers, where he'd been burned by the arcade game buttons only the day before. "Ouch!"
Before Sam had a chance to say anything else, he felt himself surrounded by an energy of some sort. The sheer surprise brought him to his knees as he clutched his fingers to his palm.
Then, just as suddenly, the energy was gone, along with the pain. Sam blinked, and looked down at himself. His very naked self. "What the..." Wait a second – that wasn't his six year old voice, that was –
Sam looked up at Dean, who was also lying naked on the floor, his clothes surrounded him in tatters. "Dude, we're back."
Dean gave a large sigh and grinned, examining himself. "Oh, the ladies will be so relieved –"
Before he had a chance to finish his sentence, though, the backroom door began to open a familiar voice called, "You boys better be gone, or else there'll be hell to pay! Do you hear me? Do you – Jesus Christ!"
The manager and the brothers stared at each other in shock for a couple moments, until the manager yelped and ran behind the door. It didn't register to Sam what was about to happen until he heard the familiar sound of a gun being loaded. He quickly sat up, than turned to Dean who was looking at the backroom door, a look of shock still on his face.
"Dean, get up!"
Thankfully Dean snapped out of his funk, and didn't need telling twice. Just as the brothers cleared the office, Sam heard a howl of rage behind him and a sound that was suspiciously like a shotgun being cocked.
"You – you perverts! You crazies! I'll get ya!"
The shotgun blast barely missed Sam. Gasping, he picked up speed. Luckily, the road outside was empty and the brothers were soon lost to the darkness.
After two hours huddling in a dark alleyway, they finally had the guts to risk going back to the room.
Sam came out of the bathroom clutching his stomach and sporting a slight shade of green as Dean finished packing.
"So, everything went well in the back room last night, I take it?"
"Shut up, Dean. Dude, I think those pistachios are making me sick. I must've had a million before I finally trapped the manager. And I don't even like pistachios."
It was four in the morning, and Dean and Sam were busy packing to leave before the sun rose. They didn't want to chance anyone seeing them, especially the manager, as they high-tailed it out of town and on to their next peculiar adventure.
"Yeah, well, if it weren't for my spectacular skills, dude, you'd still be having bladder issues. So I wouldn't complain," Dean said, hauling his duffel over his shoulder as he opened the door.
"Your skills? What about my skills?" Sam asked, zipping up his bag while visually checking the room for anything he might have missed.
"Well, you might have helped a little," Dean said. "But even then, I had you up the whole time. Believe me, man, those pancakes we let you eat every morning in your youth definitely made a difference. No wonder you were such a chubby kid."
"Yeah, well, Dad could never resist letting you get burgers at every stop, so I wouldn't be talking man," Sam said.
"At least everything's back to normal, now," Dean offered..
As he started to leave, Sam put a hand on his shoulder. "Wait a second, Dean. We gotta leave some cash to pay for the room."
"Dude, we don't owe that damn manager anything. The guy called the cops on us, remember?"
"Well, we did sorta turn into nude men right before his eyes, Dean."
"He tried to shoot us – hell, he almost hit you!"
"Well, he didn't hurt me, did he? I'm leaving him some money."
"Fine, whatever. I never did get my free pound of candy for beating the game though," Dean lamented. Heart slightly heavy, Dean walked out to the car and opened the trunk. "Come on, let's get going – woah! Sam, get your ass out here!"
Sam walked out of the room, closing the door carefully. "What is it?"
Dean merely pointed.
"Wow," Sam said. Dean nodded in agreement. The entire trunk of the Impala was overflowing with peanutbutter M&M's.
"Dude, this is like a year's worth of candy."
Sam turned to Dean. "You think Lado did it?"
Dean shrugged. "Must've. Guess he felt he still owed us. Which he totally did, the principled bastard. Morals, my ass."
"Well," Sam began, as Dean rolled his eyes, "maybe now you won't be so quick to cheat next time."
"Dude, end the lecture now before I end it for you. You're not six anymore, you know."
"Yeah, right. I'd love to see you try – don't forget who's back to being the short one, Pipsqueak."
"Shut up, Plastic Cheeks."
Yup, things were definitely getting back to normal.
Reviews are coveted like a pound of M&M's - regular ones, though, as I'm not a fan of peanuts. Sorry, Dean.