Title - Wearing the Trousers
Summary - It's Dean's first time caring for his baby brother alone for more than twenty-four hours straight.
Part of The Dark Horse series.
"Wearing the Trousers"
When John heard about the hunt a good seven hours away, he was torn. Sammy and Dean were only six and ten respectively and could not be left alone for that long. Sure, he'd left before and put Dean in charge; except this time was different. Never before had his oldest cared for himself and his baby brother for longer than a day at most. The boys, on the other hand, had to grow up. Dean tried to act grown up, tried to act mature, but John saw through the façade. He was still an awkward ten year old trying to find his place in not only the family, but in life.
They had been in Casper, Wyoming for only one week in October of 1989, the first time John even contemplated leaving his sons alone for a couple days. The hunt was just outside of Idaho Falls. People were dropping like flies, and John needed to get there.
It was an eleven-hour drive from Blue Earth, Minnesota where Pastor Jim Murphy lived. The pastor, however, was the slowest driver John ever knew. If he was lucky, Jim could be in Casper in two days including his overnight stays at motels - not the run down kind either. Jim was simple but didn't like half-assed buildings, actions, people.
John was on the phone with Jim within the next twenty minutes when the hunt became a priority. If he was going to be gone for several days, then John needed someone to stay with his children. There was a function at the pastor's church in the morning - a food and clothing drive for the homeless that he was running. After that event, Jim would hit the road and be in Casper to look after the boys.
"Hey, Dean," said John softly as he leaned over the back of the couch to look at his sons sprawled out watching Thundercats and doing homework. "I gotta talk to you. Come in the kitchen."
The kid threw his literature book onto the rickety coffee table before maneuvering himself out from underneath Sammy's limbs. The boys had been tangled in what looked to be an extremely uncomfortable position. Except, the boys were always sitting and sleeping in awkward positions. They were used to sharing the backseat of the Impala or a twin bed when they settled into an apartment.
Dean took a seat at the kitchen table. The kid constantly tried to look grown up when he and his father had serious talks alone. So many hardships fell upon Dean's shoulders in his life - hardships that caused him to grow up much too fast. John, on the other hand, could not see the grown up that Jim, Caleb, and Bobby saw. John saw his child forcing himself to appear older and more responsible to help take some of the pressure off his father's shoulders.
"Do you think you can take care of yourself and Sammy for a couple of days?" asked John despite the fact that he already knew the answer.
"There's this hunt that about seven hours away. I think it's some form of a skin walker. Anyways, I don't want to leave you boys here alone for more than a day, but I can't drive back every night."
Dean looked up at his father with pain and confusion. Ever since the raw age of four when he watched his home burn with his mother trapped inside, Dean grew up. He went from loving T-ball, stories, and burnt chocolate chip cookies to feeling the responsibility of caring for his little brother and father and being constantly scared of the creatures that lurk in the shadows.
"I've taken care of Sammy before," Dean snapped sternly. "It's nothing new."
"Hey, you wanna get that attitude of yours in check?" John sat down at the head of the table. "I know you can take care of Sammy. Hell, Dude, you've been taking care if me sometimes too. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with this though. It's stuff you've never done before. You've gotta get out of bed without me waking you up, get dressed, make breakfast. You gotta get Sammy up, dressed, fed. You two have to be at school on time. You have to do your homework and make sure Sammy does his. You gotta help him if he's stuck. You gotta make dinner. You gotta make sure you boys brush your teeth, get in your PJs, and go to bed at a decent hour. You gotta listen at night for noises and be ready at anytime to use a weapon. It's tough, Dean, and I don't… you're only ten."
"I've been helping you take care of Sammy since I was four. I think I got the routine down."
"You've never taken care of him by yourself. You've only helped."
Dean looked thoughtful for several seconds before a ball of dark-haired energy came barreling into the kitchen with a book in hand. Sammy loudly dragged a chair across the tiled floor until it was in-between his father and brother's chairs. He clambered onto to wood and plopped his math book onto the table.
"I can't su'tract," the smallest boy pouted.
"Hey, Sammy, let's have a little talk and then I'll help you with this subtraction thing, okay?"
Sam nodded as he climbed onto his father's lap. His back eased into his father's stomach and chest. Dean faintly smiled at his brother before leaning back in his own chair.
"I'm going to go hunting, and Dean's going to be in charge."
"So this hunt is seven hours away. It's a hunt that needs my full attention, because it's really dangerous."
The small child wiggled in his father's arms to get more comfortable. His head tilted backwards so that he could see John's face gleaming down at him. Sam was oblivious on why they were having this chat. Whenever John needed to leave to go hunting, he would tell Dean to lock the doors and such, tell Sammy to listen to his brother and not cause trouble, and hug them both before leaving. This time was different as they rarely sat down as a family to go over things such as this.
"I'm not going to be home for a couple days," John spoke quietly as he brushed his son's bangs out of his eyes.
"Who's gonna help me with su'traction?"
Sammy leaned forward so that he could twist his body to look at his father more clearly. A frown etched on his face as his eyes slowly wandered to his big brother. Perhaps he knew subtraction.
"Well, I'm not leaving until the morning so I'll help you tonight. If you need more help while I'm gone, Dean can help you. He's a math wiz. Pastor Jim will be here in a couple days too, so you two won't be alone for long."
"What's fifty-seven minus fifteen?"
Sliding off his father's lap, Sammy situated himself onto his own chair with his legs folded beneath him. He pulled a pencil out of his pocket and looked up at his father expectantly with the utensil at the ready.
The next morning, John allowed Dean to wake up on his own and get Sammy ready for school. Then, they all piled into the Impala to drive to school. On the way, John explained how they'll need at least ten extra minutes in the morning to walk to school so to plan accordingly. Once in front of the school, the engine was cut.
"Lock and salt the doors. Don't go anywhere but school. Don't answer the phone. If it's me, I'll ring once, hang up, and then call back. Dean-"
"Dad, I got it. I know the drill by now."
"Maybe I should just wait until Jim gets here."
"I can't do my job if I'm worrying about you two."
"Daddy, don't worry," Sammy piped from behind them.
He leaned over the bench seat with his feet up in the air. John grabbed the boy by the midsection and pulled him over the seat to sit with Dean and him in the front. Sammy wrapped his arms around his father's neck and then pecked him on his cheek.
"We're gonna be late!" he whined as he shoved his brother's shoulder. "Come on!"
"Sammy and I will be fine. I can handle taking care of my hyper little brother."
"Dean! 'M not hyper… Beatle Butt!"
John watched wearily as Sammy huffed. The small boy continued feebly to shove his brother closer to the door to get to school. Under normal circumstances when Dean wasn't trying to impress his father by his maturity level, he'd be spewing out brotherly insults to Sammy. A war would rage between them until Dean would call his brother a bitch. Sammy then would retort with jerk, and their battle would be completed. Leaving the boys alone for two days was definitely a mistake.
"Be careful, you two. Don't let anyone know I'm not home. Sammy, come here," John said as he snapped his fingers.
The boy groaned before turning to look at his father. John reached out, drew his youngest towards him, and buried his face into the mess of curls that covered his head. Pulling away from the embrace, John kissed Sammy gently on the forehead before motioning for Dean to come forward. He leaned over his brother to get to his father. They hugged briefly.
"We will," Dean answered as his hand found the door handle. "Just… be careful. All right?"
When the final bell rang later that day, Dean walked towards Sammy's first grade class per usual. They always met at the end of the hallway and walked to the Impala together. This time, walking out of the grade school, there was no jet-black beauty to greet them. Gripping Sam's hand slightly tighter, Dean led his brother to their apartment with little words. At home, Dean set Sammy up at the kitchen table with his homework so he could make dinner.
"What do you want?"
"Lucky Charms," Sam replied as his face scrunched up in concentration.
"Cereal is a breakfast food, not dinner. What do you want for dinner?"
"But… but we always have Lucky Charms for dinner when Daddy's not home."
Dean sighed as he took a seat at the table with his brother. Their dad was counting on Dean not to screw up a simple thing like serving a somewhat suitable dinner. He refused to give them sugary goodness.
"Sammy, don't make this harder than it has to be."
"Grilled cheese," he replied dejectedly.
Quickly, Dean ruffled his brother's hair before going about making grilled cheese. He listened intently to Sam's multiplication questions as the sandwiches cooked on the stove. Somehow, he managed to get two decent sandwiches in only three tries. Setting the plates on the table, he watched as Sammy's face fell.
"I don't want it."
"What?" questioned Dean in slight disbelief. "Why the hell not?"
"You made it wrong." Sam pushed the plate away. "Daddy makes them different."
The boys' diets consisted of primarily fast food, dinner food, Lucky Charms, and grilled cheese. Grilled cheese sandwiches were the only hot food their father could make that wasn't a TV dinner. Dean glanced at the sandwiches. They looked exactly like their Dad's if you disregarded that Dean's sandwiches were slightly darker.
"Eat it, Sam."
"No, you made it wrong." Sam paused to pick up his pencil. "You can have mine, Dean. Thanks."
"How did I make it wrong? It looks exactly like Dad's."
"No, it doesn't!" whined Sammy. "He cuts off the crusts."
Suppressing the need to roll his eyes, Dean grabbed a knife and started to cut off the sides. He started with the left side and then the top when Sam groaned.
"You did it wrong! You're only 'pose to cut off the sides! The top and bottom crusts stay!"
"It's a sandwich, Sam! It goes to the same place no matter if the crust is cut off right!" screamed Dean.
"You're mean! I want Daddy!"
"Dad's in another state, Sam, so shut up!"
"I don't want you! I want Daddy!" Sam pushed his chair out from behind him. "I HATE YOU!"
Dean stopped in his tracks as he tried fruitlessly to mask the pain that clouded his face. A soft, sad smile worked its way onto Dean's face. He grabbed his sandwich and cut off the sides of the bread, leaving the top and bottom, before sliding it over towards his brother as an olive branch.
"I'm sorry, okay? I'm not Dad, and I never will be."
Plopping down in the nearest chair, Dean pulled the discarded sandwich towards him. He didn't feel much like eating. He had never flipped out on Sammy before, never yelled at him. Except, the pressure he felt was too much. He couldn't handle the obligations for his dad and his brother.
Sammy sat down in his chair and pushed his math book aside. Grabbing his sandwich with both hands, he took a bit. His eyes never left his brother as he chewed.
"'M sorry too," he said quietly. "You've never yelled at me 'fore. Daddy doesn't yell at me neither."
Sam was right. John rarely ever yelled at his children, although, they had heard their father screaming at fellow hunters. Only once had John ever yelled at his sons - or rather yelled at Sammy. The kid went through a weird stage right before he turned three, a biting stage. He'd go around pretending he was a dinosaur when he felt like it. One mood hit when they were at Bobby's about a hunt. Sammy turned all T-rex on the house. He gnawed on furniture, ripped books, and finally decided to nibble on Bobby's ankle. Their father tried to sit Sam down and have a calm "proper manners" lesson that involved not biting people until the toddler bit John's arm, hard. That's when the yelling came. Dean had affectionately called his baby brother Ankle-Biter and Vampire Boy until he was five.
"I know a lot of things you like, Sammy. I know your favorite school subject, your favorite TV show, your favorite music, your favorite book. I know how you like to sleep and how you like to sit. I know a whole bunch of stuff about you, but I'm not Dad though, okay? I don't make your food, so I don't know how you like it. You gotta talk to me and not just assume I know everything."
"Bu-but you're Dean. You know everything."
"I know I'm one hell of a big brother, the best there is," Dean flashed a smile, "but I'm no Batman."
"I hate Batman. Superman is so much cooler!"
"Psh, Superman? In your dreams, Vampire Boy!"
"Dean, you promised not to call me that!"
So I had this idea when eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Then, I contemplated how much of a little terror Sam was when he was younger. I read this one story on livejournal - I forget what it was because I forgot to leave a review since I had to get to a meeting and then lost the link. (If anyone knows who the author was, please tell me so I can review since I hate when people don't review what they read). Anyways, they were at a church picnic with Pastor Jim and Sam ended up throwing potato salad at a church lady. Oh, the little terror. So, inspiration came from my grilled cheese sandwich and that one story.
Also, thanks to Shannon, my lovely editor, who got this done before the holiday rush.
Don't forget to leave a little something for me. Happy Holidays to all the Americans out there. Travel safe.