Buzz & Woody
Sam sat on the far side of the couch in front of the television eyeing Dean warily. Dean was stepping back and forth between room and the kitchen. The groceries were left in plastic bags on the table near the motel room door. The stove was on in the small kitchen. Dean was making eggs.
Dean moved into the room again and reached for the salt and pepper just as Sam sneezed. He stopped a second and looked over at Sam.
"You okay?" Dean appraised gruffly.
Sam, still a little off-put by his older brother's appearance, nodded quickly.
"You getting sick, Sammy?" He asked, warning in his tone.
Sam shook his head in response to Dean's question. He desperately didn't want this dark man to help him. He was scared of this Dean. This Dean was angry... Sam wanted his Dean back. He wanted the eleven year old Dean.
In truth, his throat was sore and his nose was runny but he was worried that if he told, this Dean would just get meaner or angrier and Sam didn't want to provoke him.
Dean narrowed his eyes at Sam.
"I'm fine," Sam said casually meeting Dean's gaze. "Swear."
Dean pursed his lips and nodded, walking back into the kitchen.
When Dean had finished making eggs and toast he moved back into the room with the plates in his hands.
"Breakfast for Dinner," he murmured, his eyes lighting on Sam. For two seconds Sam thought he could spot a glimmer of his Dean but it went away too fast. Sam smiled weakly as Dean set his plate down on the coffee table in front of him along with his own on the other side. He went back into the kitchen to bring out the glasses of milk.
Dean readied himself to sit down on the couch. As he settled against the cheap cushions he felt his little seven-year-old brother scramble away, pressing himself further against the far side of the couch. A little hurt, Dean bit his lip and chose to ignore it, leaning forward and grabbing his plate.
"So," he tried to smile at Sam. Sam could tell it was fake. "What're we watching?" He asked, nodding to the television and taking a bite of food. Sam gulped and forced himself to look away from Dean. He had to stop making it so obvious that he was disturbed at the sight of his brother.
He sniffed and looked at the television.
"I don't know. I picked cartoons or whatever," Sam mumbled. He pushed the remote over to Dean on the couch. "You… Want to choose?" He asked tentatively. Even this simple gesture was making Sam scared that Dean would just blow up at him for doing something wrong.
Which was bad. It was bad because Dean hadn't done that at all in the past three days since this whole thing started. But Sam was seven years old; he could sense the fumes running through this man's thoughts and if he could've helped it he would've run away from him first chance he got.
But he stayed. Because Dean had proven to Sam that he actually was his really really older brother. It took a lot of effort; the man before him wasn't wearing the amulet and when Sam had asked Dean told him with an edge in his voice that it had gotten lost.
Dean stopped eating mid-bite to look at the remote Sam was pushing towards him. He looked up at his little brother and Sam braced. Was this the moment Dean would snap?
"You really can't find anything?"
Sam shook his head unwilling to look at Dean. He stared at the floor instead.
"I don't recognize the stations," Sam murmured, trying for an excuse. Sam chanced a glance at Dean and he started to worry. Dean looked judgmental: Sam should've kept the remote.
Dean reached for it on the cushion to take over.
Sam gave a small sigh of relief as he saw the channels start to flick through on the set. Sam coughed and sniffed a few times as he reached for his dinner. He kept Dean out of his peripheral vision and tried to imagine his Dean next to him instead.
Dean stopped the channel on an airing of Ghostbusters and Sam gave a small smile. He didn't know Dean had been watching his reactions to gauge what channel to land on.
They ate their food quickly. It was a habit ingrained in them both at an early age to eat fast.
Sam set his plate down on the coffee table and picked up his milk to finish it, trying to be on his best behavior – the behavior his Dean had taught him to have. He coughed again before taking another sip of his milk. He felt his whole body shake for a second from the milk's coldness and suddenly he just felt cold all over.
Sam lifted his knees up on the couch, tucking his feet under him and leaning further into the corner cushions. He completely ignored the man (stranger, more like, even if it was Dean) on the other side of the sofa. Sam was pretending like he wasn't sick because this Dean was already acting like he was overwhelmed. He was so high-strung Sam felt like only just one more problem would fray everything. And Sam was so scared that problem was going to be him.
As Sam thought about this he felt his eyes start to water. He wanted his Dean.
He sniffed a few times again and tried to cover it up with another sip of milk. Setting the glass down on the coffee table, his hand shook as his body shivered again.
"Okay that's it," Dean said, suddenly impatient. Sam looked sharply at Dean, eyes wide with anxiety as the man stood up and walked over to him.
"Dean- Sorry, I'm sorry," he said pleadingly as he pressed himself against the couch in fear at Dean's approach. He stared up at Dean, frightened, as the man hovered over him.
"Please don't. Dean, I'm fine," Sam put up his hands against Dean coming any closer. Dean batted them away causing Sam more distress and a couple tears.
"Sammy," Dean said, his tone normal but annoyed. Sam had backed up so far trying to get away from him that his head was resting on the sofa's armrest. With nowhere else to move, Dean kept the little seven-year old still and pushed his palm then the back of his hand against Sam's forehead.
Sam swallowed dryly, breathing heavily after the lame attempt to escape from Dean's ministrations. Unable to blink, his starkly worried eyes stayed on Dean as the man realized Sam was running a fever.
Sam bit his lip in anticipation of Dean's anger. Whatever it'd be about, he knew Dean would explode. To live with him for even just three days was like living with a ticking time bomb.
"You were coughing – sore throat?" Dean asked, keeping his hand on Sam's face longer than Sam thought he would. He nodded up at Dean.
Dean nodded seriously back and then Sam saw his Dean surface when he felt the man push past his forehead and gently brush his hand through his hair.
The stranger Dean (stranger-Dean, Sam was starting to call him) came back fast and let go of Sam. He went to his bed and pulled the thin comforter off it, bringing it over to throw on top of Sam. Sam sputtered with the blanket suddenly on top of him. He hadn't known Dean was just going to throw it in his general direction.
"Thanks," Sam said with a small voice once he'd gotten his head above the covers. Dean went into the bathroom and came out, throwing a toilet paper roll to land near the middle of the sofa for Sam.
"I'll be back in a few minutes," Dean called to his brother as he grabbed his jacket and keys then opened the door.
"Wait! Where are you going!?" Sam squeaked, alarmed. He winced: he'd tried to shout and it'd backfired, hurting his throat.
"Out," Dean answered glibly before slamming the door.
Sam didn't understand and his eyes stayed on the motel room door Dean had just slammed. Ghostbusters was still playing softly in the background.
Feeling terrible. Abandoned and out-of-place with the world around him, Sam was overwhelmed. He felt his face screw up, his eyes start to water and he couldn't stop himself from crying. He reached for and gathered the comforter to him as he tried to calm down, feeling the chills from the fever as he did so.
He wanted his Dean and he wanted to feel better… And he wanted to go home, damn it. He didn't want this stranger to take care of him.
Sam slowly brought himself down from tears. Lazily watching Ghostbusters, he just tried to ignore reality and stay in on the movie. Maybe by the end, stranger-Dean would come back. Even though he didn't really want him to, he still kind of needed him to. He was only seven years old.
Sam started to drowse, sniffing and using the toilet paper to blow his nose. He felt so sick and vulnerable. He tried harder to listen to the movie so he didn't have to think about it. Ten minutes passed in silence as Sam stayed still and stared at the television set.
Suddenly the door banged open and Sam jerked up, alert. Dean charged in with what looked like another bag of groceries and Sam gave a brief sigh of relief. He tilted his head to study the things Dean had brought in with him.
"Dean?" Sam coughed, squinting up as Dean set the groceries down on the table. Before he knew it Dean was bearing down on him again and Sam retreated as much as he could.
"Hey, Sammy, calm down. You know it's just me," Dean said, annoyed, but Sam just stayed quiet and watchful of the man before him. Dean sat down right next to Sam and pulled out what looked like an electric razor out from the bag. He rounded on Sam with it and leaned in.
"What is that?" Sam asked as Dean moved even closer into Sam's personal space.
"Hold still," Dean ordered, gently placing his hand against Sam's head, the other pushing the electrical device into Sam's ear. Sam was finding it hard to trust but did as Dean said, feeling the cold end of the thing enter. He felt chills run through his body again and a drop of sweat dripped from his hairline. Dean thumbed it off his face and Sam just held his breathe, waiting for stranger-Dean to finish.
"It's a thermometer," Dean explained softly.
"Okay," Sam murmured, holding as still as possible. Thermometers used to be the sticks you put under your mouth but Sam knew he was in the future so he let it go. Things changed over time; he understood.
The device beeped and Dean pulled away to look at the monitor. Sam watched Dean, worried that his temperature would make stranger-Dean mad. Instead Dean made a tick sound and set the device down to look through the rest of the bags' contents. Sam watched him for a few seconds.
"What'd… What'd it say?" Sam asked.
"That you've got a fever," Dean said simply, sighing as he pulled a bottle of blue liquid out of the bag.
"I mean, what number?" Sam pressed.
"Don't worry about it," Dean retorted absently, squinting at the directions on the bottle. Sam actually gave small smile at that, their conversation just now having been an old common dialogue that he and his Dean would have whenever he was sick.
Sam coughed again, grimaced from the pain, and pulled the blanket further up around him. He watched Dean rip the top of the bottle off (which included a measuring cup) then pouring a certain amount of the blue liquid into it.
Dean turned around and passed the small measuring cup to Sam.
"Take this; it'll help," Dean said evenly, nodding to the medicine in his hand. Sam shivered again and reached his hand out, grasping the cup and weakly downing its contents. Smacking his lips with disgust, he handed it back to Dean's outstretched hand.
"It doesn't taste good."
"I know," Dean said, for the first time sounding sympathetic, and handing Sam a nearby bottle of water to drink from. Dean watched Sam thoughtfully as Sam took a few sips of the water. Sam put it down and screwed the cap back on.
"What?" Sam asked tiredly, noticing stranger-Dean's expression. Dean's face softened slowly as he tilted his head and continued to look at his little brother at seven years of age.
Dean was thirty-three and in the midst of a battle with Leviathans. Constantly concerned and paranoid about his Sam's hallucinations. Haunted by the ghost of Bobby whose spirit may be turning evil at every turn of the clock's hand. Dean was damaged, barely able to remember his childhood – or Sam as a child.
But as he stared at his baby brother's wide timid eyes, things he did – things he felt he needed to do – for Sam were starting to come back to him. His intuition had started to grind its gears again; his memories gave him reminders of what to do.
Dean's expression turned to curiosity and Sam mimicked him.
"Dean?" Sam prompted again.
Dean cocked his head the other way, studying his brother. His breath gave a jump-start, and then finally he slowly reached his arms out to Sam.
"C'mere," he asked. Sam screwed his face up and shook his head. No matter how much this Dean looked like his Dean right now, he wasn't.
Dean, soundly rejected, kept his hands up awkwardly. He didn't want to give up on this moment. Something inside him was caught on the idea that Sam shouldn't have to feel alone while he was sick. Dean shook his hands towards himself.
"C'mon," Dean prompted and Sam shook his head again, frightened that Dean was going to force him.
Dean waited, pursed his lips in anger, and finally dropped his hands, giving up.
"What? What is it? Didn't you always - you know," Dean gestured to himself, entirely unable to say, 'cuddle with me,' "when you were sick at this age?" Dean waved at Sam.
Sam chewed his lip, uncertain if he was going to make stranger-Dean mad by answering him.
"You're… Not you," Sam said quietly. Dean frowned and raised his eyebrow.
"Come again?" He asked skeptically.
"You're- You're like a stranger to me," Sam said truthfully, a hint of regret in his voice. Dean's expression melted as he started to understand what Sam was saying. He nodded, deflated. Sam figured he'd complete his thoughts: "You're really angry. I don't want to piss you off."
Dean gave a rueful snort of laughter, knowing that it had to have been him from whom Sam had picked up his language. He sat still, moving his eyes to the coffee table, staring into space.
Sam didn't feel better for having confessed to Dean. He felt empty and alone – and feverish and sick. He repositioned himself against the corner of the couch, pulling the blanket up around him a little bit more as he watched Dean sitting next to him solemnly.
"I'm sorry," Sam whispered genuinely as he noticed Dean's wilted posture. Dean sniffed and shook his head with a weary smile.
"No, it's okay, Sam," he said heavily, "You don't have to be sorry. I understand."
Dean huffed and slapped his hands on his knees, giving Sam yet another fake grin as he rose up to grab the dirty dishes from the table. He moved into the kitchen and Sam heard the faucet turn on as Dean started to wash them.
Dean had only a couple more days before the spell ended and Sam would go back to being his Sam but for now Dean just had to take care of the boy. He thought he was doing a decent job of it until now.
Now, he just felt like the worst caretaker in the world.
It occurred to Dean that even their father was more tender and less jaded than either Sam or Dean were now. He supposed that had to be a direct result of having Sam and Dean with him. John had always, underneath the imperative and duty for vengeance and hunting, adored his children. They were his heart. Upon reflection their childhoods had been far more innocent than Dean thought they were.
Dean sighed wistfully as he rinsed a glass and set it on the dish tray to dry. Dean and Sam worked together for the greater good; they had no deeply personal relationships to anchor them besides one another. And lately neither of them had been very interested in spending time on that.
Dean braced himself against the sink, his hands spread on the counter, his weight on one foot as he leaned forward, staring unseeingly at the kitchen sink.
Dean was less Sam's heart and Sam was less Dean's than ever before right now. The two of them framed family as an obligation; not a saving grace. It was failing to motivate them like it had their father.
Their father who would come home beaten and bloody and manage to take them for ice cream the next day. He was a verifiable hero that could still spare the time to tell Dean when he was doing a good job in training or when he looked after Sam. His father fostered his family; structured his boys to see one another and himself as their primary sources of support and love.
And while Bobby once said that family was, 'supposed to make you miserable,' Dean realized that John hadn't raised them like that.
And so that was why… That was why Sam, at seven years old, feverish and sick, bundled under a threadbare blanket on the couch, wanted to be left alone. Dean knew Sam like the back of his hand: even at seven years of age Sam was perceptive. Beyond the disgruntling fact that Dean was an adult, Sam could sense how off-kilter and unanchored Dean had become. It was that insight that had drawn a rift between them in the past few days.
Dean had no doubt that Sam believed him to be his brother in the future. But the connection had dropped. Sam always deferred to Dean's lead and within minutes of interaction with his thirty-three year old sibling, Sam must have discovered that Dean, while capable, was acting distant towards him - absent and unaware.
So Sam must have taken the cue and tried not to bother Dean. He was trying to be invisible for Dean because Dean was giving him the impression that that would be the best he could do for him.
Dean sighed and rubbed his face with grief. He really did adore Sam. It's just that it'd been awhile since they'd last ever really done something together. He'd have to change that maybe when his Sam came back to him. For the time being, he had a child on his hands that was missing the brother that Dean used to be. The brother that openly prioritized Sam because he loved him; not because he was an obligation.
"Dean?" A small, crackly voice whispered into the kitchen. Startled, Dean turned around and found Sam standing at the threshold between the kitchen and room. He'd dragged the blanket with him, keeping it wrapped around his body.
Dean looked at the poor kid standing in front of him. He'd forgotten how little Sam had been when he was seven. He'd been a runt for his age until his growth spurt hit at around twelve.
Sam's nose was already starting to redden, his face had a slight sheen of sweat on it, and he was holding the blanket tightly around him, trying to dispel any shivers.
"Yeah? How you doing? You need something?" Dean asked lightly, then kicked himself for again sounding too much like a practical stranger and too little like the caring sibling he used to be.
Sam looked at him with glassy eyes and shook his head a little.
"No, I-" he stopped, hesitantly looking at Dean. Dean tilted his head and nodded for Sam to continue. "I just… I'm feeling worse," he managed. A chill shot through Sam and he rewrapped the blankets around him as he looked up at Dean.
Dean nodded slowly.
"Okay-" Dean started, thinking maybe Sam was trying to ask for liquids or something to eat. He stopped short when he watched Sam stretch his arms out to him.
Dean, despite himself, felt so thankful just then that Sam was his brother. The one thing he'd neglected to figure into all his thoughts was Sam's role in keeping his family together. It wasn't obvious; it was often underscored by the more active actions Dean and their father took to take care of him.
However, Sam knew his way to his family's hearts better than anyone. He also knew how and when to remind them. It wasn't deliberate; it was just who he was.
So when Sam watched Dean smile at him while he reached for him and when he saw that this time the smile was genuine, Sam finally recognized his brother.
Without words or delay Dean took a couple of steps forward, bent down, and wrapped Sam in his arms. Sam hugged Dean back, his arms settling around Dean's neck.
Blanket and all, Dean picked the kid up and felt Sam's legs wrap around his waist tightly. Sam laid his head down on Dean's shoulder after Dean propped Sam up a couple of times to get comfortable. He held Sam up with his forearm, his right arm rubbing Sam's back.
"You're really tall," Sam whispered secretly surprised that Dean had lifted him to a height higher than the one he was used to with Dad. He felt Dean's calm breath of laughter as he started to sway back and forth a little bit. The movement was soothing; it reminded him of what his father did. Sam felt Dean sigh and turn his head towards Sam, resting his chin on Sam's shoulder. Sam tucked his head into the crook of Dean's neck.
"I'm sorry I called you a stranger," Sam whispered.
"Ah," Dean hummed, "It's okay, Sammy," Dean assured. "I'm sorry I've been acting like one," he added honestly.
Sam hugged Dean harder and Dean returned the pressure immediately, feeling the rush of affection towards his brother coming out of hibernation.
"Do you want water or something?" Dean whispered into Sam's ear. Sam shook his head.
"No I just wanted… To say that," Sam said weakly, referring to his apology. Dean nodded against Sam's back, incredibly remorseful that he'd been so aloof towards him for the past few days. He turned his face towards Sam and kissed the top of his head.
"You want to keep watching Ghostbusters?" Dean asked airily. Sam sniffed sickly.
"I was thinking about that."
"If I'm from the past, are there any new movies you think I'd like?" Sam asked curiously. Sam couldn't see, but Dean gave a broad grin.
"Well, let's see," Dean murmured as he started moving them back over to the couch. He leaned down to grab the remote and felt Sam's easy, automatic grasp tighten to combat the change in gravity. Dean couldn't stop the thought that Sam was so genuinely cute when he was little and inwardly rolled his eyes at himself. Even his Sam would roll his eyes at Dean, but hey. It was who he was.
Dean settled himself on the other side of the couch that Sam had been on. He'd noticed that it was more centered with the television awhile ago and had wondered why Sam always forfeited it for the other side. It wasn't a stretch to think that Sam had just been trying to stay out of Dean's way – letting him take the more desirable locations in the room and whatnot.
When Dean sat down, Sam sat with him in his lap, waiting for Dean to push his boots off with his feet and angle himself to lean more against the side armrest rather than the back. As he lowered himself down, finding a pillow or two to put behind his hand, he felt Sam lift up from his chest, moving around to get more comfortable on top of him. Dean stretched his legs out along the couch and gave a gasp as Sam accidentally kneeled on him.
"Sam-" Dean whispered in pain as Sam's knee was digging into his chest as he was leaning towards Dean's feet for some reason. "Ow, Sammy," Dean tried to communicate as he started to lift Sam's knee up. He felt fabric cover his feet and realized Sam was getting the comforter straightened out to cover both of them and not just him. Dean smiled for a second before the pressure in Sam's knee returned full force as Sam moved back up to Dean's chest.
"God, Sammy- Get off-" Dean gasped again, but still smiling at the circumstance. Sam pushed off Dean's chest, causing Dean to grunt, and murmured, "Sorry!" as he settled down against Dean, his head angled towards the television on Dean's chest. Dean felt Sam's knee rise to rest on his waist, and Dean made sure the rest of the blanket was covering the boy as he settled on top of him.
"Okay, we good now?"
"Yeah," Sam breathed against Dean, hugging him around the chest. Dean smiled and rested his arm around Sam's back, covering it. He gave a brief cough and used the remote control to find something Sam might like.
"Got one," he said with conviction.
"Toy Story," he replied, flicking to the channel. Sam looked at the television.
"Whoa…" he coughed, covering his mouth, "The way it looks is really cool. It's like 3D," he observed delightedly.
"Yup," Dean agreed, turning the volume up a little bit more and setting the remote down near his waist. Sam shivered again as he watched the movie and Dean put both arms around him, drawing him up higher to bring Sam's head up against his shoulder. Dean settled a hand on Sam's head, absently stroking his hair to put the kid to sleep.
Sam started to have a difficult time keeping his eyes open to watch the movie. Dean was warm, his heart beat steady and the rise and fall of his breathing calming. When Dean started carding his hand through Sam's hair, Sam knew he'd fall asleep soon.
"M'a fall asleep," Sam muttered groggily.
"S'what I want you to do," Dean replied kindly, continuing to pass his hand through Sam's hair.
"I wanna watch the movie, though," Sam whispered his whine.
"I'll get it and we can watch it all the way through tomorrow," Dean murmured, rubbing Sam's back.
"Okay," Sam breathed, relieved, and closed his eyes.
Dean kept up the light head massage on Sam while he listened to him sleeping. He watched the movie, surprised that he could still get invested in the plot and characters. Sam, who had been twelve when the film came out, had loved it and Dean remembered that he had secretly appreciated it as much as his little brother.
Dean smiled at the memory. He didn't recall his childhood often but thinking back on these things was helping him. That, and the sick bundle of brother currently sleeping on top of him. Before the movie finished, the same effect his breathing and heartbeat had had on Sam was moving in reverse. Dean's hand rose and fell with Sam's back as he breathed evenly in his sleep and Dean started drifting. His eyelids becoming heavier and heavier, he stopped moving his hand, leaving it to rest on Sam's head.
A few minutes later Sam and Dean were sound asleep on the couch, Toy Story playing in the background.
Woody had just found Buzz at a tea party with some other toys.
"'Snap out of it, Buzz!'"
"'I-I-I… You're right. I'm sorry. I am just a little depressed, that's all. I can get through this.'"
Writer's Note: Thank you so much for reading! Please review/comment if you can spare the time! ~ Alex