This was it. The only shot they really had to break the deal, and it still sucked. Sam was still going to lose Dean, his Dean, and not get him back unless some mystical being decided to like them for once. Considering how their lives had been going as of late, Sam was going to take a guess and say no.
Dean was cocky again, but there was a happiness with it that hadn't been there those first few months of the deal. Three days until he came due, and they were going to break the deal tonight.
They just had to be careless on the hunt.
"Kinda be funny if we went through all of this, and I forgot to wear the thing, wouldn't it?" Dean asked with a grin when they stepped out of the vehicle. Empty house, wandering poltergeist. No spirit to take Dean, no werewolf to rip him to pieces, no crossroad nearby just in case they decided three days was close enough to collect. He wasn't sure how intact the body had to be, but they weren't taking chances.
Sam's glare told Dean exactly how very unfunny it would really be. Dean held up his hands in surrender, even as he put the amulet on. It was silver and thin, with a vein of red running through it. The only one on his neck now; he'd already given Sam his personal amulet. "You gotta start wearing one of these, too," Dean said with a raised eyebrow. "Not cool if you get killed, kiddo. Kinda defeats the whole purpose."
"You think?" Sam muttered, but he didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about the fact that this was his last night with his big brother.
He'd have him back, but it wasn't going to be the same. Never again.
They stepped inside, Dean in front of Sam, and immediately began searching for their unfriendly poltergeist. When pictures began flying off of walls, Sam shoved Dean up the stairs and into the first room, shutting the door behind him. Then they waited.
It didn't take long. Some chairs were thrown, the sofa was thrown, and then Dean was thrown against the wall. "Sam!" he shouted, when the table came flying towards Sam's head. Sam ducked, then pulled out the banishing spell. He could still say it, still say it fast enough that Dean'd be okay, but then their entire plan would get shot.
Sam began to speak the first line, haltingly slow. When he finished the first line, he stopped, as if taking a breath. Dean glanced over at him and gave him a wink. "See you on the flip side, Sammy," he said.
Right before the pissed off poltergeist opened the door and threw him down the stairs.
Sam closed his eyes tight, trying to ignore the sounds he heard. When they stopped, only then did he reopen his eyes to finish the spell. The poltergeist disappeared with a wail and flash of light, and Sam was left alone in the room.
He threw the book to the floor and hurried out of the room, only to stop at the top of the stairs. Dean was in a heap at the bottom, not breathing.
Sam stepped down carefully after him, before kneeling at his brother's side. He reached out and gently closed Dean's half open eyes, then rested his hand on Dean's shoulder and began to recite the only spell that was worth reciting.
The amulet around Dean's neck glowed once, before dimming.
Four days later, Sam went back to the empty house. He stepped into the foyer, gazing at the bottom of the stairs. Dean had vanished. He bit his lip, then turned to his watch. Another few minutes or so, and then-
"You fight dirty, you Winchesters."
Sam glanced up at the hissing voice to find red eyes glaring at him. She was a cute brunette, whoever she was. Right now, though, she was all demon. And pissed. "We did nothing illegal," Sam said simply. He'd have glared if he hadn't been so suddenly overjoyed and sure that their plan had worked. She wouldn't be this angry if it hadn't. "You were the one who failed to specify the dimensions of time Dean had to stay in hell."
"I hope you both come down to hell to rot," she snapped, before she disappeared.
That was about the time Sam heard the cry from outside.
He hurried through the door, then froze before he took another step. There, on the porch, was a baby in a single white blanket.
The only other thing it was wearing was a silver amulet far too big for it.
It continued to wail, and Sam gently crouched to pick the baby up. Carefully he held his charge, shushing and mumbling soothing nonsense until the baby stopped crying. Big green eyes stared back at him.
Sam swallowed hard. "Hey Dean," he whispered.
The first year was hard. Not because babies were hard; Jess's cousin had brought a newborn over that one Thanksgiving, and Sam had simply adored her, while Jess had adored that he adored the baby. Newborns were worrisome because they were so small and dependant, but Sam was used to worrying about Dean.
No, the hard part was that he constantly kept looking to Dean for advice, or to answer his question, and realized his brother wasn't there. Not really.
It was Dean, though. A beautiful, healthy baby boy that Sam remembered from the pictures Jenny had found in their old house. Dean's soul was in there, too, somewhere. He'd spent three days dead plus one inside the contract, just in case. Then the silver amulet had changed fate.
Reincarnation. Just with specifics attached, so really, it was a being reborn type of deal.
It didn't mean that Sam still didn't miss Dean, though.
The second year wasn't all that bad. He'd stopped looking for his brother to answer and instead started trying to teach his brother to talk. And walk. And eat. And to play games, recognize colors, sleep through the night. The usual stuff.
He'd wound up renting a house only twenty minutes from Bobby. He'd thought long and hard about it, thought about giving Dean up to a family so he could have a mom and dad, then...couldn't. If Dean ever remembered what he'd been, he didn't want him somewhere that he couldn't find Sam.
And, truthfully, it was because Sam was selfish. He refused to give up the last part of his brother he had. Then Bobby had pointed out that it was the best thing for Dean, too, because Sam would protect him from everything, raise him right. Personally, Sam thought he'd said it because he knew how Sam thought about their childhood. He was right, though. Sam wanted Dean to have a childhood he could remember with a smile. Even if it was without a mom and dad.
He settled for being Uncle Sam, which Bobby teased him about mercilessly. "Should get you a long top hat with the American colors," he'd mentioned once, before Sam had threatened to paint his truck pink. Dean, meanwhile, had clapped his hands and giggled from his high chair.
The third and fourth years were fairly easy, too. Dean was learning fast, faster than even Sam had learned at that age, and Sam sadly wondered how much potential Dean could've had if the fire hadn't happened. At least this time around, Dean would have that chance.
It was during the fifth year that things got tough.
"Yeah kiddo," Sam said, leaning back in his chair and stretching. He glanced to his right, where Dean was standing in the doorway. "What's up?"
"Are we gonna go to Mister Bobby's for dinner?"
Sam grinned. "Why, you don't want his hot dogs for dinner?"
Dean shook his head rapidly. "No, I do! I was just wonnerin'."
"Won-der-ing," Sam enunciated.
"Won-dur-eeeng," Dean repeated with exasperation. Sam chuckled and turned in his desk chair.
Dean hurried over, arms already open to meet Sam's own arms. He slammed into Sam with a grin, then giggled when Sam hoisted him into the air and onto his lap. When he was up high enough to see what Sam had on the desk, though, he frowned. "Whatcha readin'?" he asked.
"Big guy stuff," Sam said, reaching out to close the book on demons and prophecies. Bobby had mentioned something about a ton of demon omens out further west, had asked Sam to look stuff up on it. "No stories for five year olds."
"Six," Dean said, crossing his arms.
"You're not six yet, Dean."
"Almost! Only 'few more days," Dean said firmly. "Might as well be six."
"Uh-huh," Sam said, before standing with a groan, Dean still in his arms. Dean immediately wrapped his legs and arms around Sam. "Well, then if you're six, I'll have to put you down. Six year olds can't be carried anymore."
Dean gasped and stared at him. "Yuh-huh!"
Sam shook his head. "Nope. Sorry. It's a rule, you know." Never mind that a ten year old Dean had carried a six year old Sam many many times. And that a twenty-six year old Dean had carried a twenty-two year old Sam out of harm's way several times.
Sam's chest tightened at the memories, but he'd long since learned to let them pass. No use wishing for something that wasn't going to happen anymore. He'd learned to let it go.
"Are you sad again, Uncle Sammy?"
Dean, however, had learned to see it before he could let it go. "You miss your friend, don't you," Dean continued.
Sam managed a smile. "Yeah, I do," he said honestly. After Dean had caught him one day crying over a picture of a Dean much older, he'd told Dean about a friend. A friend he'd lost a few days before he'd gotten Dean. When Dean asked about him, he couldn't help but tell him things, things he'd hopefully see one day when Dean regrew into the brother Sam missed so badly it hurt some days.
"He must've been somebody pretty cool," Dean added, and Sam felt the burn of tears.
"He really was," he whispered, before hugging Dean. Dean's return hug was tight, and Sam had to close his eyes. Dean was right there, right there, in his arms, but he couldn't have been further away.
He pulled away, blinking his tears away before he regarded his now solemn brother. "I miss him a lot, but you know what?" he asked softly. Dean shook his head quickly.
Sam gave a small smile. "I got you out of it, and I wouldn't trade you for anything."
Dean's smile was bright and beautiful, and Sam's own smile got wider. He missed his Dean so much, it did hurt sometimes. This Dean, though, his brother happy at the age of six (five he mentally corrected himself) was someone he loved just as much. His brother had never been this carefree and happy and innocent at this age. That had been shattered when he'd been only four years old. Sam was going to make damn sure it lasted well past that this time around.
Sam lowered Dean down until his feet were on the floor. "Go get your jacket, and we can go get dinner," he said. Dean needed no further prompting, turning and bounding out of the office to his bedroom.
Sam watched him go with a wistful smile, before turning back to the book. He seriously couldn't pick Dean up anymore; Dean was still young and small, really, but Sam sure as hell wasn't getting any younger. He was thirty-one, now. He still had streamers in his office from when Dean had surprised him with a cupcake and paper colors for his birthday. Sneaky little kid had brought Bobby into it, too.
He grabbed the book from the desk, along with several others, then headed out of the office. He glanced over his shoulder towards the bedrooms, grinning. "If you're not outside in five, I'm leaving without you!" he called.
A giggle was his only reply, and Sam headed for his shoes with a smile.