The World Over
It had become a game.
Dean had started it when they were in some small town in Texas. It had been raining solidly for several days, and John had finally had enough of the boys – cooped up in the room for too long without a chance to stretch their legs, they had begun to wear on his nerves, and after four days he had grabbed his coat and journal, told Dean to watch over Sam, and gone out. Dean had scowled, and was tempted to lock Sam in the bathroom until he found some cartoons on the television and Sam had quietened down.
There had been no food in the cupboards come lunch, and the rain had finally stopped, so it had taken only a moment for him to catch Sam up, and eager to go outside the younger boy had thrown on wellingtons and jacket faster than he'd ever dressed before. Dean had locked the front door carefully as Sam had splashed in the puddles created in the motel car park.
They had come back thirty minutes later with spaghetti'os, bread and peanut butter, and Sam proudly clutching a bag of green toy soldiers Dean had brought them.
The soldiers had kept them occupied until the end of the week, when John had found a new hunt in another state. But before they had left Dean had hidden one of the little green men in a gap in the skirting board.
He had continued to hide the men in every place they came across; hiding each as cleverly as possible. There was one in a motel in Missouri he had wedged onto one of the slats of the bed he and Sam shared, another in California was hidden on top of the kitchen cabinets, his favourite he'd hidden inside of the Bible, carefully cutting out Genesis to turn the soldier into it.
There was one hidden in the pulpit of Pastor Jim's church, and another carefully placed amongst Bobby's tools.
And then the game had become two. He would hide one of the soldiers as soon as they moved into a motel, and Sam would spend, at the very least, the entire first day searching for them. It gave Dean time to consider the very best of hiding places, and when Sam appeared before him with the tiny green man clutched in one hand, the soldier would then be turned out into the hiding place.
He wasn't sure how many they hid, although if they had counted them out whilst they'd hidden them they'd have worked out how much they moved. And he couldn't go by how many bags of soldiers they got through. Soldiers were forever being lost, or broken. An almost full bag was left behind in a hospital then Sam had fallen down the stairs, and they had had to cut and run before CPS were called in. But Dean had hidden one of the soldiers in the toilets of the women's toilets, and that marked another one of his favourite hiding places. And John had used almost twenty of them once in shooting practise, though he had later brought the boys another bag of the men.
He wondered now why he had done it, why he had started the game. It had ended quickly when Sam had left for Stanford, the last bag of soldiers handed over to some little boy in the diner dad and he had stopped in after Sam had left. But he didn't know why he had started it. The soldiers had meant nothing much; it had been all about leaving them behind. They were fairly cheap, there were a lot of them in one bag, and the toys were everywhere, it was rare they went through a town that didn't sell them at all.
He supposed, the little green men had meant something even if he'd never realised it. They were dad's little soldiers after all. They had no permanent home. They had nothing of themselves really. They moved around persistently, they left barely any marks of their lives. There might have been some people who remembered them at any one time; concerned teachers or pretty girls. The largest mark they probably left was through the job. Supernatural presences that no long hovered around, or charred ground and ash piles beneath the ground where bones had been burnt. The soldiers, and hiding them in every motel was in a way Dean leaving their mark. A piece of them everywhere they went, so that even though they had no home, they weren't just not there.
The door click closed quietly, but Dean didn't look up as he heard Sam's familiar tread across the floor. The little man in his hands was holding an RPG, Sam had used to call them 'bazoogas', and Dean was almost tempted to call it that again now. There was a thin layer of dust on him, settled thickly across his helmet, shoulder and the top of the weapon, but this had been after Dean had cleared it off somewhat. The dust had covered him so thickly at first the man had looked like nothing short of a snowman.
"Coffee Dean," Sam said, the takeaway cup appearing in his vision. He stirred then, looking up at his younger brother, finding immediately the huge bruise on Sam's temple and the stitches just under tangled fringe, the last hunt had been complicated.
"Thanks," the man went into one hand, coffee accepted into the other, the soldier trapped in one closed fist, head and shoulders poking above his fingers, weapon pointed towards the bathroom door as though he knew something the boys didn't, and was ready to kill any monsters that stepped through.
Sam's eyes went over Dean, taking in cuts and bruises, before landing on the soldier, and he reached out, taking the dusty little man before sinking onto the bed beside Dean.
"We used to hide these in the motels we stayed in," he said quietly, possibly remembering as Dean had. Dean coughed, taking a swig of the scolding coffee before nodding at the green man now held in Sam's hand.
"That's one of ours," he said, and Sam, taking a drag on his own drink choked.
"Seriously?" he asked once the coughs had subsided.
"Found him stuck in the corner of the cupboard," nodding to the corner cupboard in the kitchen "It's one of ours." There was a quick flash of something across Sam's face, a small grin that suggested he was remembering the hiding games they did across the country with the soldiers, and one thumb carefully brushed at the dust on his helmet.
"How many of them do you think are about?" he asked, and Dean heard the underlying question 'How many places have we stayed', and he shrugged.
"We went through a load of bags. Hundreds probably," it was, in a way, impressive they hadn't stumbled over one before now. Many dad was in on the game and kept taking them to different motels just so they could hide them. Maybe once they'd done a hunt in a town that was it, and nothing else went there. He doubted the latter. Was sure they'd stopped in a couple of towns more than once. Dad must have kept a recorded of the places they stayed if for no other reason than to avoid questions, they'd left numerous times with blood on the sheets from bad hunts, and salt on the floor and windows... dad's memory must have been amazing to keep them from going back to places they'd been.
"Did you keep hiding them?" Sam asked, setting the man on the bedpost, he wobbled, and then steadied out, weapon aimed at the front door, Sam used to do that when they were kids Dean remembered, after he had found out about what dad did. "After I left for college?" he eyes were on the ground, talking about Sam 'deserting' was a sore subject.
"Stopped," Dean responded, draining the last of his coffee, the cup hurtling towards the bin as he moved for the bathroom.
"I took one with me," Sam said quietly, Dean leaning back out of the bathroom door, looking at Sam, sat on the bed next to the little green soldier.
"Yeah?" he said, didn't add anything, a million thoughts running through his head, why's and what's and most importantly why did you go Sammy?
"Forgot about him for a while," Sam continued, guilt in his voice, and then he raised his head, found Dean's eyes "When me and Jess moved in together I," his cheeks went red, and a quick Sammy like grin appeared on his face "I hid one in her underwear drawer." Dean laughed, coming back out of the bathroom, and he looped an arm around Sam's shoulders as the younger Winchester boy's face fell, probably remembering. The soldier had probably burnt up when the apartment went up, when Jess died.
"Sometimes there is no denying that you are my brother." Dean said, and Sam smiled.
For the five days they stayed in the motel room the soldier sat on the small kitchen table, weapon pointed at the front door. A little green guardian, a memory of Sam and Dean as John's little soldiers.
Dean had, with solemn ceremony, returned the little man to his original hiding spot as Sam was throwing their duffels into the back of the car, readying to head out to Wyoming. Sam had stepped back into the room just before Dean had locked it up, shrugging and muttering about doing a final sweep before they left. Just to make sure.
Four days later, looking through the boot of the Impala for some elusive rosary beads, Deans fingers closed around something small and plastic, and Sam had shot him a quick grin as Dean had pulled out the little soldier. Tan instead of green, brandishing a pistol.
"There's one with the soldier back in Washington," he said quietly, looking unsure of himself, casting Dean a look that made the elder Winchester think of Sam, five years old and thinking he was in trouble.
"Give me the bag Sam," he had said in an equally quiet voice, watching his brother slope guiltily into the motel room, and placed the little tan soldier with great care back into the boot, hidden in amongst the guns, they had never hidden a soldier in the car, Dean wondered why.
He slammed the boot closed, walked into the motel room where Sam was sat on his bed, duffel bag at his feet, a bag of fifty tan plastic soldiers in his lap, looking all of five and like he'd had his puppy kicked. Dean rolled his eyes, strode over, and plucked one man from the bag. Like the last little green soldier, he was holding an RPG.
"Where do we put him then?" he asked.