Thank you so much to everyone who's read it, reviewed it, enjoyed it! I had a lot of fun with this fic, and a lot more fun reading the reviews. I hope you enjoy the last chapter!
It wound up being four out of the five that walked away alive; Jacket Guy had, apparently, taken a blow to the head well before Bobby and Dean had encountered him. The others had left, dazed but more than willing to accept the far-fetched story about Bobby being an old war veteran who'd found them out in the woods a few days ago, and was he damn glad they were up and around again. Dean used one of his most recent credit cards to get them plane tickets home, and Bobby promptly drove them to the airport.
The guy with the jacket was buried out back, after his corpse had been salted and burned. The ghoul had finally disintegrated back into dust, which had been promptly blessed and gathered to be thrown off the property.
The next morning, Dean was up early to talk with Bobby about the second spell. "I don't even know if it's gonna work, Dean," Bobby said over his coffee. "Trying to take apart a well known spell doesn't always work, but something like this...even if it did tell us what went into the original spell, I'm not sure we'd understand it."
"It's been four days, Bobby," Dean argued quietly. "I don't want to wait for the week to be over and suddenly find out that it's not gonna wear off. I'm not leaving him like that."
"Leaving who like what?"
Dean froze, then whipped his head around to the doorway. His brother frowned at him from beneath his mop of hair, hair that was perched at its normal height of six feet and four inches. "Also, I was, uh, kinda wondering why I woke up wearing a sleep shirt with race cars on it. Besides it being ten sizes too small." When Bobby and Dean simply stared, Sam sighed. "I'm gonna guess I missed something," he said softly.
"You don't remember anything," Dean said. Sam shook his head.
"Last thing I remember was yesterday, when we checked into that hotel, which...was apparently four days ago," Sam said faintly, staring at Bobby's calendar with wide eyes. He turned back to Bobby and Dean, fully puzzled. "What happened?" he asked.
"It's a long story," Bobby said, rising. "You're gonna want coffee."
"Um...okay," Sam agreed, moving over to the table. Dean stared at him as he walked by, trying to put it into his head that the spell had worn off on its own, that Sam was back. His Sam was back, and yeah, the kid version was his Sam, too, but not the Sam who'd fought beside him for years, who knew the score as it stood now.
Sam hovered by the table, and Dean nudged the seat beside him out from the table. Sam blinked at him, as if startled by the move, and Dean's grin began to falter. If Sam didn't remember anything from the past four days, though, maybe he didn't know the score as well as Dean thought he did.
Sam sat hesitantly, then accepted the mug Bobby offered him. "Spell went wrong with the wizard wannabe," Dean explained after Sam had had a sip. "Age spell. You were five years old again. Mindset, bodyset, everything."
The mug was to his lips for a second sip when Sam paused, then lowered it and frowned at Bobby. "Those aren't supposed to be possible, I thought," he said. "I mean, you can de-age someone mentally, or physically, but both? Without a time-warp?"
Bobby shrugged. "Wasn't a very good one; only lasted four days."
Sam snorted, setting the mug down. "Thank god for you two; I must've been a pain in the ass," he said, and Dean frowned.
"Pain in the ass?"
"Dean, I remember what I was like at five," Sam said quietly, giving him a small smile. "I'm sure you remember it, too. I never stopped asking questions; used to bug the crap out of you and...Dad," he finished, wincing as he did so. He cleared his throat. "I wasn't any help to you guys; I just got in the way."
He paused at that, eyes falling to the edge of the table. He looked sad and tired, before he shook himself, pasting a smile on his face. "I'm gonna go snag a shower, if I didn't miss anything else."
"You know where it is," Bobby said, and Sam stood from the table, backing his chair out so he wouldn't bump into Dean. Dean watched him leave, shoulders hunched and head ducked low.
He turned back to Bobby then, and said, "I'm gonna go snag my brother, since he missed a hell of a lot more than that."
The sides of Bobby's lips slid into a small, approving smile, and Dean pushed away to follow after his brother. Down the hall and to the bedroom, where he found Sam with his own bag already opened on the bed. Must've gotten his pajama bottoms out of it before he'd come out. At the moment, his attention was fixed on the smaller duffel bag, the one filled with the children's clothes. His fingers brushed against the Batman logo with a small, bewildered frown that hurt to see.
"Figured you'd enjoy it, and I was right," Dean said, and Sam snatched his fingers back as if he'd been burned, turning to face Dean just as suddenly. "Red shoes are around here somewhere," Dean added helpfully.
"Red...?" Sam said, going to fully confused before shaking his head. "Not very practical."
"They covered your feet; sounds practical enough to me," Dean said casually. When Sam didn't move, Dean sighed and stepped inside. He was going to have to bring it up; he'd burned Sam too many times for Sam to just start talking about their dad and the accident. "Sam, we need to talk."
Sam stared at him long and hard, before giving a forced chuckle. "Who are you, and what have you done with my brother?"
Dean moved to the end of the bed, forcing himself to not cross his arms. God, this was so hard, but if he didn't do this now, he'd shut Sam out further, possibly for good, and he couldn't do it. He wouldn't. "I'm serious, Sam."
Sam swallowed hard, then tried for a casual air as he turned to find his own clothes. The tension in his shoulders, though, told another story. "About what?" he said, his attempted breezy tone failing.
"Everything. Dad, the accident, Yellow Eyes. More importantly, the fact that you think I don't care about you anymore. That's kinda the critical one I want to hit."
Sam's head spun so fast, Dean was almost afraid it was going to fall off. "Wha...h-how did that come up?" he stammered, his face losing some of its color. It lost a little more when Sam asked, "Dean, what did I say when I was five?"
"A few things. All true, as much as I didn't really want to go the grief route or the thinking route or, you know, the fully honest route." He raised his eyebrow at Sam, who slowly sat on the bed as if he couldn't stand anymore.
"Dean, I...dude, whatever it was, don't worry about it. I mean, I was five, for crying out loud. I was only concerned with myself and Lucky Charms, okay?"
Yeah, right. Dean ignored him and continued on, worry sliding into his voice. "Is that how you really feel, Sam? Like I don't care?"
"No," Sam said too quickly. "That's not...that's not how I feel, okay?" He let his gaze drop, not looking Dean in the eyes as he said it, though. "Don't worry about it," he said earnestly and quietly. I'm fine, Dean. Don't worry about me."
And there it was, just like Dean had been afraid of. "Seriously, Sam; do you honestly think that I don't want you here?"
Sam opened his mouth to answer, then paused, gazing at Dean before asking quietly, "Don't you?"
It hurt, just like Dean had known it would, and he couldn't help the cringe before he spoke. "Sam-"
"I'm not...I'm not helping you," Sam continued miserably, turning his gaze to the floor. "I keep trying to be the support you were for me through Jess, and I'm doing something wrong, or-"
"I can't grieve, Sam," Dean said, moving because...he had to move. The strength he'd felt in wanting to talk about this was failing him, and he focused his gaze on the wall. "I just...can't, dude. And yeah, I know I said all that stuff when you were going through it with Jess, but it was easier to say than it is to do, you know?"
He finally had to swing his eyes to Sam, who was watching him, still looking unsure. "I just...whenever I start feeling that ache in my chest, or that burn in my eyes, I get angry, you know? It's easier. It's so much easier."
Sam still wasn't speaking. Dean took one deep breath in, let it out, then took a seat beside Sam on the bed. "I forgot what being a big brother was because of it, though. You at five knew that before me at twenty-seven did. I wanna be that big brother again, but...I don't know how, Sammy. I don't know how I can be Dean for you when I don't even know how to be Dean for me."
Sam shifted over slightly, almost touching but not quite. Still not one hundred percent sure of Dean's reaction to it, but obviously heartened enough to try. Improvement. "Don't shut me out," Sam said softly. "You can put on the fake smiles and crap for everyone else, but...you don't have to for me. You never have. I'm not gonna think less of you because you cry or have to look away or whatever."
"So you'd be totally cool with me wiping my nose on your shoulder," Dean said, knocking his shoulder against Sam's. Contact established, and from the surprised smile on Sam's face, it had been missed.
"So long as you do laundry after," Sam replied light-heartedly, but his eyes glistened.
"Bitch," Dean muttered with a grin, and Sam's sudden laugh was worth it.
They packed up and left that afternoon, and Dean mentioned something about owing Bobby a lifetime supply of coffee on the way out. It probably had something to do with the four days Sam had missed.
Whatever his younger self had said or done (Dean still wasn't giving up details), though, had done something. Something Sam as an adult hadn't been able to do. Dean was talking to him again, Dean was joking and giving a smile that wasn't forced.
It wasn't all okay. They were on the road for maybe an hour when the radio played one of their dad's favorite songs, and Dean pursed his lips. Sam changed the station as casually as he could, and a moment later, despite BTO telling them they were taking care of business, Dean shut it off. Sam said nothing, resting his head on the door and gazing out at the passing countryside.
"You handle his truck?"
Wasn't all okay, not yet. But Dean was talking, talking about Dad for that matter, and even though the question hurt not just Dean but Sam, Sam cleared his throat and answered. "Yeah, the, uh, the policy was enough to cover the doors for the Impala."
Dean didn't say anything about it after that, didn't do anything but turn the radio back on. The silence wasn't strained, though, and as the miles rolled on, the random questions came. Did Sam still hurt from the accident? Had he really signed himself out AMA to see Dean and Dad? Had Sam handled all the paperwork from the hospital, too, about releasing the body?
His big brother had lost a few weeks, and was trying to put them back together, trying to regain his footing from when he hadn't been there. Sam answered them all quietly and patiently, feeling a warmth growing inside of him as each question was asked. Dean was firmly back on big brother duty not because he had to be, but because he wanted to be.
"You miss him?"
Sam inhaled sharply at the question, feeling the ache in what had to be his soul. "Every day," he whispered, before he snorted. "And it hurts."
A hand on his shoulder squeezed gently, before Dean replied with a rough voice, "Yeah, I know. Me too."
It wasn't all okay, but he had Dean back, and right now, that was more than enough. They'd work to all the way okay together.