Last time: That was when Sam noticed how tired his older brother looked, his eyes were a little red and they looked shiny in the dim light of the hotel room.
"I'm going to bed so just shut the damn thing off, okay?" There was no room for anything else to say so Sam didn't. For now.
The Winchesters in Technicolor
It wasn't until Sam turned five years old that he began to wonder why they didn't have a mother.
It must have been his first year in kindergarten.
John Winchester couldn't afford preschool for his youngest, so he forged some papers and had Sammy aged up to get into the system so Dean wouldn't be missing school nearly as much while John went away on short hunts. In retrospective, Sam realized this was less about Dean's success in school and more for the benefit of social workers not coming to call on them and "misunderstanding their situation", something that happened all too often in subsequent years.
Dean's teachers' well meaning concerns were becoming… inconvenient. They moved around so much even then, that by the time the teachers started to discuss parent-teacher meetings the Winchesters were already headed out of town. But as Sam grew older John needed to rethink the strategy he had in his one man war against evil.
Dad had let out his sob story, a blue collar widower and single parent with several jobs trying to make ends meet, or just greased the superintendant's palm with gambling money and Sam began school in the fourth term of the year.
In that district kindergarten was only for half days, being more about teaching children how to share and finger paint than learn, but with John's silver tongue he was able to strike a deal with the principal to let Sammy stay from the morning through the afternoon session until his older brother was dismissed from his third grade class and could take him home.
On Sam's first day, nine-year-old Dean had walked him into his classroom.
Sammy squeezed Dean's hand while his other crunched into a tiny fist as he hung back behind his big brother. It was crowded and loud in the garish primary colored room. He'd never been around so many other kids before. It had always been just him and Dean or Daddy.
He never played outside much then and when he did, Dean and his brother kept to themselves, his wise elder brother telling him not to talk to other people. They would never understand them. Sam listened.
But now, for the first time in Sam's life, Dean was trying to leave him.
"S'okay Sammy. You're gonna have fun, okay?" The effect of Dean's reassurance was lessened by the slight tenseness in his shoulders. Dean was looking at the six-year-olds warily, making Sam cling more as a middle aged woman with bright red lipstick and a grey beehive kept with bobby pins, and a more than liberal amount of hairspray, knelt down next to them.
Sam felt Dean stiffen. "You his teacher?" His eyes bore into the stranger intensely.
"Yes, I'm Ms Sheeney." She looked to the younger boy with his large hazel eyes and messy hair. "And you must be Sammy, huh? Welcome to our class." Sheeney held out her hand and although her perfume was much too strong and he could feel the rigid muscles in his brother's arm, Dean let Sam go.
"You take care'a him."
"Of course, Dean. We'll be expecting you back at three o'clock. Now come on, Sam. I'll show you where the crayons are and what we'll be doing today."
Sam reluctantly took her offered hand, looking back at Dean, who seemed at a loss of what to do, the empty hand that had just been enclosing his younger brother clenched as he watched them helplessly. Dean forced a smile. "Be good, okay? And don't let any of these assholes push you around."
Sam relaxed and nodded seriously, not noticing the teacher's gasp at the young boy's language. Dean gave him a grin, flicked his collar up, and sauntered back into the hallway.
Sam smiled a little as he pulled off his pants to sleep in his boxers in the double bed furthest into the room. Dean always took the bed by the door, overprotective in even the most subtle ways.
Dean wasn't sleeping but it seemed like he was making a valiant effort at getting Sam to think he was. His breathing wasn't entirely even and Sam could practically feel the tension his brother was exuding.
Deciding to leave him alone for now, Sam turned away from his brother as he got into bed, his feet hanging off of the narrow twin a bit before he curled up on his stomach, clutching a pillow under his head.
The television was off, the movies tucked safely in his duffel bag. Sam tried to shake the irrational fear that Dean might do something to them in the middle of the night. He had looked that angry… Or upset.
Sam couldn't help worrying about him.
The look on his brother's face after watching the footage of himself hugging and kissing their Mom on Mother's day in '83…
Well that holiday had never been a good one for the Winchesters. Was there ever a good day for them? It was just another anniversary that they tried very hard to pretend wasn't significant.
However, Sam's first day of kindergarten in Erie, Indiana was before he learned much about his family. Before he learned how to pretend things like that didn't matter.
It was the Friday before Mother's Day.
The five-year-old's hazel eyes were red and puffy, sobbing quietly as he hid in the cubby corner by himself during free play time. The second class of kindergarteners would be arriving soon and Sam would have to listen to the same daily activity explained over again, have to listen to the queries of the other kids about things he didn't know the answer to.
He rubbed his face hard but couldn't stop the trembling of his lip, hoping no one would find him. He didn't wanna look like a crybaby or tell on anyone. He wanted to be left alone.
He just wanted Dean.
Can't tell time but… it's a long time since he left so he should be back for me soon. Said he'd come back soon... Sam's breath hitched but he stiffened his shoulders when he heard the other kids filtering out of the classroom. Sam would find Dean himself and then they'd go home and play or watch TV and Dean could give him Lucky Charms with lots of milk for dinner or get them junk food and then he could forget all about school.
The tears came again and Sam felt a hand on his shoulder. "Sammy…?" It was Jenny, Ms Sheeney's assistant teacher. She didn't smell like an old lady and had a nice smile, her mousy brown hair tied in a low ponytail.
"Don't you want to have some lunch and then make some new friends? More kids will be here soon." She gave him that nice smile, her paint covered green smock crinkling as she kneeled down.
He imagined his mom might have had a smile like that. His father never smiled so moms must be the ones that did the smiling.
Sam sniffed and rubbed the snot running down his face on the sleeve of his baggy hand-me-down shirt. "I wanna go home with Dean." He looked up at the young woman with the watery eyes that usually got him what he wanted, even from their stern father. "Need him." He sniffed again hard and clenched his eyes shut.
Jenny seemed to survey him for a moment and her sympathy won out. It was only the child's first day in a classroom where all the kids already knew each other. The boy looked exhausted. "Okay." She ruffled his shaggy hair affectionately and frowned a little at his flinch. "I'll see if I can get permission for Dean to come down. I'll call your Daddy to have him pick you up."
Sammy nodded slowly, knowing better than to blurt out that their father wouldn't be home for three more days. He knew somehow Dean would take him home anyway. He rubbed his eyes with his cleaner sleeve before taking the hand she offered him and walking slowly back over to the activity table where his supplies were still spread out before him.
He heard the teacher's speak softly for a little while before Jenny left the room and he fidgeted and listlessly tore little pieces of paper off the roll out for the students' projects and sorted the strips into piles by color until he heard the pounding of someone hurtling down the hallway.
"Please don't run in the hallways!" echoed the exasperated voice of one of the adult hall monitors.
Sam stood up, ready to bolt to his brother when Dean burst into the room wild eyed and searching for his baby brother.
"Dean," Sam was surprised to hear his own voice come out so small.
The older Winchester boy immediately slid over on his knees, taking in Sammy's ruffled appearance and checking him over for any injuries; standard Sammy protocol. "Sammy, y'okay? That lady said you were crying. What happened? Someone hurt ya?" Dean's eyes hardened and his eyes flicked around the room to find a culprit, only coming upon Ms Sheeney correcting papers at her desk.
The rapid fire questions had Sam close to tears again as Dean straightened out his little brother's shirt and fussed over him. Both teachers looking on in a mix of disgust and awe as the nine-year-old licked a hand to rub off the dried snots on the little boy's face and wiped up with his own sleeve. They not so secretly hoped that the boy's father did laundry often.
"Just wan' go home, Dean." He stuck out his bottom lip and the older boy stood up straight and gave Ms Sheeney a look.
She nodded slightly. "We couldn't reach Mr. Winchester but the principal notified me you both have special permission to leave school grounds today."
Dean answered her with a curt nod back, his expression far too adult for his few years, and immediately went to Sam's cubby hole to grab his ratty windbreaker and lunchbox, still stuffed with cheerios that had just been poured into the plastic case without ceremony that morning. Then he went back to pick up the crestfallen boy. He bundled him up efficiently as the ladies watched on. The younger boy automatically latched on to his brother as soon as he was able after stuffing the project he was working on into his pockets.
"Feel better Sammy! We'll see you tomorrow, alright?" Ms Sheeney called after them but Dean had already dragged Sam into the hallway to speed out into the street and walk to their temporary residence.
Dean's voice was slightly gentler when his frail looking sibling didn't respond to his earlier questions. "What happened Sammy? I thought you'd like it there. …Give me names. First and last."
Sam winced when Dean couldn't keep the hardened tone out of his voice completely. It couldn't be helped, when Dean thought of any of those little bastards touching his baby brother...
"Wasn't them… Johnny asked why I couldn't make a present like everyone else and I said I didn't have Mom, but Ms Sheeney made me make a present anyway and said I should give it to Daddy." The words began to spill out of Sam and he choked again. "-but Daddy isn't here and Mother's Day is s'posed to be for Moms so I shouldn't have made a present. You can't send presents to heaven."
Dean slowed their walk and bit his lip as Sam continued.
"And they kept askin' me and I didn't know why we didn't have a mom, but they kept asking…" Fat tears ran down Sam's face again as they went up the pebble covered drive to their shabby duplex. Dean squeezed his little brother's hand but didn't reply as he fiddled with the rusty lock and let Sam in to the sparsely furnished living room.
"Well Ms Sheeney's a bitch." Dean commented finally. Sam's eyes widened. Other kids were one thing but Dean didn't usually talk about adults like that. "You shouldn'ta had to do anything you didn't want." He finally let go of Sam's hand that he seemed to realize he was still holding as he went for the cabinet where they kept the cereal.
Sam dropped his lunch box on the floor and sat at the table, keeping his thin jacket on. It wasn't a very warm day for May and the apartment wasn't well insulated.
He heard the tinkling of pouring cereal but he kept his eyes to the table as he waited for Dean to continue. "It's none of their damn business what happened to Mom and you tell those little assholes that too." Dean came over with two mismatching bowls and the milk. The box of cereal was empty now and Dean handed his little brother the prize inside.
The 'magical popper,' whatever the hell that was, earned a watery smile. "Anyway it's not even a real holiday. Nobody gets a day off and there are no fireworks and everyone knows that on holidays kids are supposed to get the presents. It's stupid. When I had to make that stuff I just told them to screw."
Sam couldn't help the giggle that escaped his mouth, and Dean grinned triumphantly as he poured the last of the milk into Sam's bowl. His own cereal was dry and he started eating the crunchy bits around the marshmallows as he continued talking. "So don't worry about making any dumb presents or anything. It's not like you're getting graded on it or nothin'." Dean ruffled his little brother's soft hair and earned another smile. Dean was the only one he felt comfortable with touching him, no matter how nice or like a mom Jenny was.
After a big bite of cereal, Sam reached into the pocket of his jacket and shyly brought out what he had been clutching in his left hand. "I made it."
Dean blinked and bent over the table, still chewing, to see the small item better and his mouth fell open slightly. It was a string of paper clips, something the older boy only found useful for picking locks, with small strips of what looked like wall paper that had been dipped in glue rolled around each one until it
formed a perfect little bead. The pattern alternated light pink and green. It was surprisingly well made for a kindergartener but Sammy had always been a perfectionist.
Dean's green eyes held a faraway look, the speckling of freckles on his face standing out as Sam watched him curiously.
Dean plucked it out of Sam's hand to look at and stuffed more lucky charms in his mouth. "…S'great Sam. I think I made somethin' like this before. Yours is way better though."
"…Want it, Dean?"
Dean looked back at his cereal doubtfully before appraising the little necklace again. "Its kinda girly, Sammy."
The younger boy's face crumpled and he held his hand out for it back. "I can throw it away."
"Never said I didn't want it. I want it, Sammy." He gave Sam the warmest smile, a smile he only reserved for his little brother and Sam glowed with pleasure. "It's great. So is today 'Awesome Big Brother Day'?"
Sam giggled, his dimples appearing for the first time all day. "You always say you're awesome."
"Because I am. Now eat your cereal before it gets soggy, big mouth." Dean carefully tucked the necklace into the pocket of his shirt as he continued eating.
When Sam was curled up with a pillow on the couch later, with Dean allowing him as much room as he wanted, he gave in to asking what had really been weighing on his young mind during the lunch break.
"You think mom would have liked it…?"
"She woulda loved it, Sam." Dean carefully appeared absorbed in the slip'n'slide commercial airing but his voice was quietly confident as he passed over his nearly empty bowl of dry cereal to Sam. All that was left was a mini mountain of charm shaped marshmallows, left just for the smaller boy to get a little sugar high off of.
Sam seemed to glow after that. He missed having a mom. But maybe he didn't really need one too much.
He had a big brother.
He had a Dean.
Author's Note: Gotta love the unabashed sap.
When I was in elementary school we made presents or did projects for all the seasonal occasions and every student was required to participate. It never occurred to me until now to wonder what they did about the kids that didn't have parents.
I broke pattern and there wasn't a home movie this section. There won't be next chapter either as it's from Dean's point of view.
I hope you enjoyed the very late chapter. I believe there's one for Father's Day as well… a week late. But better than never.