Regression, ch. 1

Um. Yeah. Not sure what to say, but here you go…

xxxx

Jo picked up the phone without checking the caller ID. She almost dropped it when a loud voice sounded in her ear.

"Damn it, Dean!" The yelling was suddenly muffled by what Jo suspected was a hand over the receiver. "If you don't turn the sound down…."

"Sam?" she ventured.

"Now, Dean! I swear to … Jo? I'm sorry, I… DEAN!"

Jo could hear the raucous sound of canned sit-com laughter echoing through the phone.

There was a thunk as the phone was dropped and an interlude of scuffling accompanied by muffled curses and a couple of angry shouts. She listened intently until things quieted on the other end of the line.

"Jo?" Sam's voice was breathless and slightly desperate.

"Still here," she said.

"Thanks, I…" She could hear what must be Dean's voice, outraged, and a little off. "Because I said so, Dean." She thought she heard an edge of hysteria in Sam's voice. "Come on, man. Please? Could you give me a break here? For just a couple of minutes?"

Jo heard Dean, strangely shrill, yell, "Screw you, Sam!" and then the sound of a slamming door followed by Sam's heavy sigh.

Uh, OK.

"Is everything alright?" Jo asked hesitantly.

"Yeah." In her mind, she imagined Sam slumped on the bed of a non-descript motel room, head in his hands. "He just went into the bathroom." He sighed again. "I took the keys to the Impala away from him."

Jo's eyebrows went up almost into her hairline.

"You took the car keys away from him? Is he OK? What happened?" Jo could only imagine the worst—what condition must Dean be in that Sam would take those keys away from him, never mind how he'd been able to get the keys away from his brother in the first place.

Sam gave a snort of bitter laughter.

"I guess that depends on you define 'OK,'" he said. "He's 14."

xxxx

Jo thought it said something about how much her view of life's possibilities had changed that she'd barely reacted to Sam's pronouncement.

"And then the freakin' witch cursed him, and he was a teenager."

"OK," Jo said. Very calmly, she thought. "Is it like when you were little? Does he remember?"

"Oh, he remembers," Sam said. "And he's driving me crazy." The last word was especially bitter. And loud.

"How?" she asked. "I'd think that would make it better?"

Sam snorted. "Yeah. Not so much. He remembers, but he's still 14. And it's like he remembers everything with all the emotions and hormones of a teenager. So he's moody and pissed and I think he's taking all his frustrations out on me," his voice was beginning to rise, "because I'm so much bigger than he is now so he feels free to hit me whenever he wants to!"

Sam's voice had gotten decidedly stronger as his rant had progressed, and Jo got the impression that he was directing it, to a large extent, at the closed bathroom door.

Sam took a couple of unsteady, calming breaths on the other end of the phone. "And having just told you that… this may not be the best time to ask. But can we come stay with you guys? I can't… I can't figure out how to fix this and keep an eye on him and…."

"Of course, you can! Honey, I was just going to tell you to come home."

She laughed now, in a kind of joy Sam probably wouldn't understand.

Dean as a boy.

"Thank you," Sam said in relief. "Payback time," he added and she heard the smirk in his voice.

xxxx

Sam knocked on the bathroom door.

"Dean?"

There was the answering thump of a foot on the hollow wood door.

"Can I come out now?" Dean's voice was sulky.

"Yeah, man. I didn't mean you had to lock yourself in the bathroom. I just …"

The door opened and Dean edged out, a scowl set on his young face. Even after a couple of days, it still took Sam by surprise. Dean had always seemed so grown-up to his little brother—strong, tall (even after Sam had a couple of inches on him), worldly. This glimpse of Dean as a child—thin, gangly arms and legs, freckled face with an innocence Sam never would have suspected—was taking some getting used to.

Dean sat down on the bed and looked up at Sam. The temper-tantrums seemed to blow themselves out pretty quickly. Dean flared up easily, frustration and anger boiling over almost against his will. And then, just as quickly, he'd deflate, reason reasserting itself as he got a handle on his emotions again.

"Are we going to Jo's?" Dean asked. His voice broke on Jo's name, and he gritted his teeth. Sam bit back a smile.

"Yeah," Sam acknowledged when he could trust himself not to laugh. He sat down on the bed across from his brother. "Your turn," he said with a wicked grin.

Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah."

xxxx

When they entered the diner, Sam had his hand on Dean's shoulder, steering the boy past a huddle of men on their way out. Jo's breath caught at the sight of him and then exhaled in a laugh when Dean shrugged irritably out from under his brother's hand, scowling back up at Sam who raised his hands in a placating gesture. She couldn't hear what Dean said, but his expression was speaking. As was the shocked look on the face of the girl the Winchesters brushed past. Sam cuffed Dean on the back of the head and smiled apologetically at the young woman.

Who blushed at Sam's attention.

Unnoticed by the pretty girl, Dean stared in open-mouthed dismay.

He was just a little bit shorter than Jo, face baby-smooth, unlined and unscarred, freckles standing out prominently. The softness of his skin made the dark of fringe of lashes around his eyes even more arresting, emphasizing the brightness of his green eyes.

Jo put her order book on the counter and made a beeline for them. She bit her lip, trying to swallow back the sudden hysterical laughter that threatened to bubble out of her at the whole incredible situation when Dean noticed her.

He narrowed his eyes. "Don't," he said warningly, and Jo widened her own at him in response.

"What?" she said, a smile breaking across her face. Reaching out she pulled him into a hug. "Oh, sweetie."

Dean stiffened for a second—just on principle—before he gave in and relaxed against her.

"This sucks," he muttered into her shoulder, arms coming up to wrap around her. She raised her eyes to Sam, who just shook his head. "Sam won't let me drive," Dean grumbled.

"I should think not," she said pulling back to look at him. She couldn't resist reaching out to smooth her fingers through the short hair at his temple. Soft like her boys'. "You're not old enough to drive," she said mock seriously.

"I have a driver's license that says different," he ground out.

Jo ignored him, cupping her palm against his face. "Look at those freckles," she said wonderingly, smoothing her thumb over his cheek.

Dean's face pinkened with a blush, and Jo couldn't help the deepening of her smile.

"Oh, honey," she teased. "That is too cute."

"Stop," he mumbled, annoyed. He backed away from her and into Sam who threw an arm around his brother's neck, putting him in a headlock.

"He is cute, isn't he?" Sam said.

Dean started to struggle in earnest, and Sam just tightened his hold, continuing to smile serenely at Jo, unaffected by his smaller brother's writhing.

"Sam, honey," Jo said. "Let your brother go."

Dean stumbled when Sam released him, scowling ferociously at both of them, face flushed now with anger. He straightened with all the dignity a 14-year-old could muster, chin jutting out. Jo felt a twinge of guilt at having teased him.

"I'm sorry, sweetie" she said gently, reaching for him again. Dean didn't pull away, though he continued to frown, and she ran a consoling hand up and down his arm. She left her hand there and turned to Sam.

"Y'all want to put your stuff away? I'll finish up here and head on back."

Sam nodded. "Come on, Dean." He put a brief, conciliatory hand on Dean's back, and, though the boy shifted away from the touch, he turned, following Sam's lead.

xxxx

It went without saying that the Jo's own boys were thrilled with a Dean their own age who was still Dean. And for his part, Dean endured their teasing and rough-housing with good humored acceptance, using his training in hand-to-hand combat to great advantage, particularly with Jake, who seemed to think it was just delightful that he was bigger than Dean for the moment.

"We've got to get him some clothes that fit," Sam told Jo, giving Dean a critical look. "I just grabbed him some jeans and a t-shirt that look like they'd work, but…."

They'd gotten settled and Sam was sitting at the table with Jo, finishing lunch, while Dean fought off the concentrated attention of Tommy and Jake.

Jo nodded, frowning at the way the pants were slipping off Dean's hips as the tussled with Jake. The tattered waistband of his boxers was bunched around his middle. "And some underwear, too, it looks like," she agreed. "There's a…"

"I'm right here," Dean said loudly. He delivered a ringing blow to the side of Jake's head. Jake took a couple of stumbling steps away from Dean, shaking his head, while Dean turned his attention to the adults. "I can figure out my own clothes."

Jo had been ignoring the wrestling match and continued on as if Dean hadn't spoken. "I've got some of the boys' old stuff that might work," she said consideringly, eying Dean vaguely. "But the underpants…"

"Stop talking about my underwear," Dean snapped.

"Sorry, sweetie," Jo apologized absently, although she didn't really seem very sorry. She stood and headed out of the room. "I'll go see what I can find."

"It's a good think Mom keeps my stuff and Michael's for Tommy," Jake said, wide-eyed with put-on innocence, rubbing at the bruises he'd gotten in his grappling with Dean. "I bet there'll be some little pants for you," he said, grin feral.

With Jo out of the room, Dean flipped the kid off.

But he didn't duck fast enough to avoid the smack Sam aimed at him.

"I'm so gonna kick your ass," Dean growled darkly to his brother, pulling at his stinging ear.

"You're welcome to try, pumpkin," Sam dimpled at him.

"Dean, baby, come out here," Jo called from the hall.

"Yeah, baby," Jake snickered.

"And I'm gonna kick your ass, too, while I'm at it," Dean gritted, narrowing his eyes at the other boy.

Jo had pulled some plastic bins out of the closet and had a couple of pairs of jeans and shirts draped over her arm.

As Dean approached, she sat down on the wooden chest next to her. "Stand here."

When he got close, she held up a pair of jeans against his waist, pursing her lips thoughtfully as she checked on the length. She tossed that pair to the side and held up the next one.

Dean reached for the jeans, but she slapped his hand away.

"Don't," she admonished him, not stopping her assessment of their fit.

"Jo, I can…"

"Turn around."

Realizing that resistance would be futile, Dean obeyed with a sigh. She held up a couple of shirts against his back.

"Alright, sweetheart, go try these on."

He stared at her.

She made shooing movements with her hands, clearly not understanding why he wasn't doing what she'd told him to do. "Go on. Try them on and let's see if they fit. Then we can see what else will work."

Dean looked at his brother for help, but Sam just shrugged, no surer than Dean how to avoid a fashion show. Sighing again, Dean trudged off.

When he came back, Dean submitted stoically to Jo's smoothing and tugging on his clothes. Until she grabbed the seat of his pants.

"Dude, what the hell?" He jumped out of her grasp, meeting her surprised look with an offended glare.

Jo's hand hung suspended in mid-air, and when her eyes met Dean's, it moved up to cover her mouth. She started to giggle.

"I'm sorry," she whispered around her fingers. "I just wanted to see how the pants fit. I …" She stopped, her other hand coming up to join the first, thumbs twitching convulsively on her cheeks. She dissolved into laughter, leaning over to hide her face in her knees, shoulders shaking.

Startled, but somewhat appeased, Dean started to relax. "Yeah," he said. "Well. Careful with the merchandize." Which sent her into more muffled peals of laughter. Dean grinned bemusedly, shaking his head at Sam and the boys. Women.

Finally, Jo got herself under control, and wiping at her eyes, declared the pants and shirts acceptable, rooting into the containers for more things that Dean could wear. She produced a pair of worn, but serviceable cowboy boots. Dean eyed them skeptically, but tried them on. They fit and went on the pile. In the end, Jo managed a fairly respectable stack of clothes for Dean to wear, heading with them toward the laundry room.

That evening, Luke just shook his head, rubbing a rough hand over Dean's hair. Dean slapped out, but missed when Luke, surprisingly spry, dodged out of reach.

"Dude," the sheriff admonished him mockingly. He hung his had on the peg next to the door. Gave Dean a grin. "Michael's on his way home."

xxxx