Dean was eight, but in just a few years he'd be thirteen- a teenager, practically a grownup. Sam was still only four (basically a baby) but Dean was plenty big to take him out on a day trip like this.
"He really likes pumpkins right now because of that thing his class did when they went to the library, and since it's Halloween the day after tomorrow it's only four dollars for big pumpkins and two dollars for littler ones. And we can go while you go talk to those people tomorrow morning. I'll look after him, Dad," he promised seriously. "We'll only be there for a couple hours anyway, Sammy gets tired after that long and needs to take a nap so he doesn't get cranky in the evening."
"I know he does, Dean," Dad sighed. "I'm his father, remember?"
Dean ignored him, and ignored the plate Dad was mistakenly loading with cut-up pieces of fried chicken, a stirred-together pile of mashed potatoes and gravy, and a biscuit with butter. Dean set his own plate on the table and got another paper plate out of the package. He carefully picked out a drumstick, plopped down one pile of mashed potatoes and a separate puddle of gravy (Sammy didn't like his potatoes and gravy touching, everybody knew that!), and squeezed out a honey packet onto a butter-free biscuit. He carried the plate over to the table where Sammy sat, frowning miserably down to the all-wrong food Dad had given him, and switched the plates. Sam's face lit up and he beamed at Dean, picked up his drumstick and started gnawing away happily.
Dad sighed again. "Dean, he's really too young to eat chicken with the bones still in it," he said. "You don't want him to choke, do you?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "Don't be silly, Dad," he said. "I'm sitting right here next to him, nothing's gonna happen to him."
Dad rolled his eyes but didn't argue, so Dean figured he'd seen sense. "Hey, Sammy," Dean said through a mouthful of potatoes. "You wanna go to the pumpkin patch tomorrow?"
Sam's eyes went huge and he slapped his hands on the table, his fork going flying so Dad had to duck or get it in the eye. "Pumky-patch!" Sam squealed.
Dean grinned. "Yeah, Sammy, pumpkin patch. Just like you were learning about at that library thing on Monday, when you did the paper pumpkins and read those Halloween books. You wanna go?"
Sam shrieked wordlessly in delight, getting up to stand on his chair and jump excitedly.
"Sam, no- sit down, that's not safe," Dad said sternly, trying to grab at Sam's middle to pull him down. Sammy just twisted away, still jumping. Dean laughed and held out his hands.
"C'mere, Sammy," he called. Sam threw himself into Dean's arms and squirmed onto his brother's lap, his smile wide and dimples deep in his chubby cheeks.
"Pumky-patch," he told Dean happily.
"Sammy, I haven't actually decided whether or not you two can go yet," Dad argued. "I'll have to look the place up first and make sure I'll be able to get back in time to pick you up when you're done."
Sam popped his head up and stared at Dad, clearly confused. He pointed a stubby finger up at Dean, nearly poking him in the chin. "De says we go."
"Yeah, but Dean's your brother. I'm your dad."
Sam nodded vigorously and Dean leaned back in his chair, hauling Sam back with him with his arms around Sammy's chest so he wouldn't whack his chin on the table edge.
"De says we go," Sam said again, like he thought he was agreeing with Dad.
Dad shook his head and looked tired. "Dean, can you explain it to your brother, please?" he asked, and turned back to his food.
Dean looked down at Sam, sprawled across his lap and hanging in his arms, staring back at him with wide, focussed eyes. Dean tried to look serious. "Sammy, Dad's in charge of you, okay? He's the one who takes care of you, so he gets to decide what you get to do, and you have to do what he tells you, not what I tell you. Okay?"
Sam blinked, and burst into a fit of giggles. Dad sighed loudly, but Dean just shrugged. He'd done his best- wasn't his fault if Sammy knew he was Dean's.
Dean usually woke up before Sam, but because of Sam- as soon as the sun started coming in the motel windows, Sam would start turning and twisting under Dean's arm, his fluffy hair getting in Dean's nose and mouth. Some mornings he'd pull Sammy in and roll back holding his brother to his chest so he could tickle him awake. On school mornings he'd carefully scoot away and push his pillow up to whichever side of Sam Dean had been laying on, because Sam would snuggle into it and stay asleep a little longer.
The next morning, though, Dean woke up as the sun was barely rising when Sam jumped on his belly and screamed in his ear.
Dad groaned from the other bed. "Dean, get him quiet."
Dean rubbed his stomach with one hand and his ear with the other. "Ow, Sam," he muttered.
Sam stopped bouncing on the mattress next to him and leaned forward. "You okay?"
"You shouldn't jump on people, you could hurt them," Dean told him tiredly. "And you need to be quiet in the mornings or you'll hurt Dad's ears."
"Sorry, Daddy," Sam yelled to the other bed.
Dad growled and grumbled something and pulled a pillow over his head.
"Ouch. Too loud, Sam!" Dean complained, squeezing his eyes shut into an exaggerated grimace and holding his hands over his ears.
Small hands tugged one of his wrists away and Sam's sleep-warm body burrowed in against his side. "Sorry, De," Sam whispered. He kind of spit when he whispered because he hadn't really figured it out yet, but Dean figured the lesson was learned well enough. His eyes flew open and his arms shot up and he snatched Sammy into his chest, rolling over and over until Sam was back on one side of him and they were both wrapped up tightly in the blankets.
"There. Go back to sleep, Sammy," Dean said, his eyes already drifting shut. "Just for an hour or two, okay? Then we'll get up and get ready to go."
"Pumky-patch," Sammy mumbled.
"Yeah, Sammy, we're still going to the pumpkin patch." His brother was trapped too close for Dean to see his face, but he could feel a big damp sigh against his chest and Sam's hot breaths slowing down. When Sammy gave a little wiggle that fit him better against Dean and relaxed like he'd melt without Dean's arms holding him together, Dean let himself fall asleep.
Sam agreeably slept until the sun was fully up, and only started stirring when Dad was already sitting at the table with his coffee and a newspaper. Dean squirmed out of the way of Sammy's kicking heels and unwrapped himself from the blanket roll. Sam blinked blearily up at him, messy hair in his eyes and a sleepy smile poking one dimple in deep. Dean smiled back. His baby brother was sort of sweet sometimes, really.
Then, suddenly, Sam was wide awake and jumping. "PUMKY-PATCH!"
"Sam, inside voice," Dad begged. "And don't jump on the bed, you'll fall off. Get down."
Sam ignored him and bounced in giant lunges from corner to corner, still shouting "PUMKY-PATCH! PUMKY-PATCH!" at the top of his lungs.
"Sam," Dean called, sliding off the bed so he wouldn't get jumped on. "Sammy, only good boys get to go to the pumpkin patch. Is yelling inside and jumping on the bed being a good boy?"
That did it. Sam flopped down on his butt in the middle of the mattress and fixed Dean with big, beseeching eyes. "I am good," he insisted.
"Yes, you are, because you're sitting on the bed and not being loud," Dean pointed out. "Come on, as soon as you eat breakfast we can get ready and go, okay?"
Sam crawled off the bed and up into a chair. Dad fixed them both bowls of cereal and for a second Sam looked like he was going to complain that it wasn't Lucky Charms, but Dean raised his eyebrows and whispered "only good boys get pumpkins!" at him, so he didn't.
Then they were struggling into their turtlenecks and warm sweaters and Sam needed help because he kept getting his head and arms stuck. Dean made Sammy try to tie his own bootlaces once, like he did every day, then undid the tangled knots (which got a little smaller every day, so Dean figured they were getting somewhere) and retied them himself with Sammy watching closely. Dad handed them their coats, hats, and gloves, made sure Dean had a knife in his boot, and got dressed in his nice suit while Dean filled a couple ziploc bags with cheerios and m&ms for snacks later.
"You're gonna keep an eye on your watch, right, Dean?" Dad asked as they drove the two miles out of town to where the farm with the pumpkin patch was. "I'm gonna be right back here at twelve-thirty, I want you two waiting at the entrance gate for me when I pull up. Got it?"
"Yes, dad," Dean answered dutifully. He could see in the side mirror that Sammy was up on his knees in the back seat, hands and nose pressed against the window as the orange spots in the fields came closer.
"And if something happens or you want to leave earlier, you go to the farmhouse, they'll let you use the phone to call me. Okay?"
"Alright." Dad pulled the car into the parking lot, a big dirt area with signs and an orange-painted gate leading out to the pumpkins and the corn maze. Dean climbed out of the car and helped Sammy get out the back. Dad leaned over to talk through Dean's open door. "You two be good, okay? No talking to or taking anything from strangers, and if anyone seems weird, you run away and call me, okay?"
"Yes, Dad," Dean said again. Sammy was already pulling at his arms, eyes fixed on the pumpkin fields.
"Alright, dude. You have fun. And watch out for Sammy, Dean."
Dean snorted. Dad always told him to do that, like he thought it wasn't something Dean did all the time!
Dad pulled the door shut, waved, and backed out of the parking lot. Dean watched him drive away, then reached down to grab Sammy's hand. "Alright, Sammy, you wanna go pick out a pumpkin?"
It turned out Sammy was picky when it came to pumpkins. Like, really picky. That one was too big, that one was too small, that one was too round, that one was too tall and skinny. Dean trailed along behind with one of his hands wrapped around one of Sam's and both of them tucked in his pocket to stay warm, pointing out pumpkins and leading Sam carefully through the rows and around other families. Sam stopped at each pumpkin, sat down next to it, and peered at it from all angles, running his hands over the orange skin and fuzzy green stem.
"Why not this one, Sammy?"
"'s too yellow-y," Sam decided, and got clumsily up to his feet. He pulled Dean a few feet to the next one, and sat down again.
"How about this one?"
"'s got white spots." Sam pointed at white lines and streaks mixed in with the orange on this pumpkin. It was a pretty big one, sort of unevenly round and squatty. Dean liked it.
"It looks old," he said. "Like Dad."
"Yeah? You think we should get this one for Dad?"
"Okay." He reached into his free pocket and pulled out the roll of tape that the pumpkin patch owner had given him to mark which pumpkins they wanted so the workers could come along and bring them up to the front, like the stuff they used at crime scenes on tv except bright blue. He ripped off a piece, tied it around the stem, and used the black marker they'd also been given to write their names on the tape. "There. 'Sam and Dean'. We'll get it later, okay?"
Sammy finally found his perfect pumpkin, and Dean didn't really mind too much what his pumpkin looked like so he chose a big one close by with darker orange streaks where the indents were. He wrapped more blue tape around the stem of his pumpkin but Sam didn't want to.
"What if somebody takes it?"
"Nobody's gonna take your pumpkin, Sammy."
Sammy just looked up at him with big, pleading eyes and tugged a little on the sleeve of his jacket.
Dean sighed. "Alright, alright." He looked around to make sure no-one was watching, then quickly pulled his knife out of his boot and sawed through the stem. Luckily, Sammy's pumpkin was plenty big to Sam but small enough for Dean to carry in one arm, so he picked up the pumpkin and took Sammy's hand back and they headed up to the front to pay.
After they gave the lady thirteen dollars they stood off to one side and waited for Dean and Dad's pumpkins to be brought up. Dean looked at his watch. "We still have almost an hour, Sammy," he said. "You wanna go through the corn maze?"
Sam was leaning into Dean's side so he could hug his pumpkin, propping it up against Dean's leg. He looked down at it and his lower lip went out a little. Dean could already see where that was going.
"No, Sammy, if we go through the maze I'm not gonna carry your pumpkin with us," he told his brother. "It'll be just fine if we leave it here with mine. Nobody's gonna take it."
Sam's lip stuck out into a full-on pout. Dean sighed.
"Maybe he'd like to carve his pumpkin now," the lady who took their money suggested. Dean looked up at her suspiciously and pulled Sammy a little behind him. She smiled. "We have some tarps spread out over there," she said, and pointed to the side of the farmhouse. When Dean stood up on his toes he could see a few other kids and families crowded around. "There are spoons, markers, and safety knives, everything you need."
"Sammy, d'you wanna make your jack-o-lantern now?" Dean asked, shaking Sam's hand a little so his brother would stop pouting and look up at him. "We can carve Dad's and wrap it up or something so we can get up really early and scare him with it tomorrow morning."
Sam cheered right up. "Yeah!"
"You wanna go carve the pumpkins?"
Dean thanked the lady and asked one of the farmhands to carry his and Dad's pumpkins over to the tarp while he carried Sam's. They settled down on a corner away from the other kids and their parents where Dean could still see the gate in case Dad came back early. He used one of the big knives to carefully cut off the tops of all three pumpkins, then helped Sammy take his jacket off and roll up his sleeves so his sweater wouldn't get too dirty and handed him one of the spoons. Sammy had fun making a huge mess of scooping out the pumpkin guts while Dean quickly did his own and Dad's.
"What should we put on Dad's jack-o-lantern, Sammy?" Dean asked. "We should do his first and then ours, so we can wrap it up before he gets here."
"A scary face," Sam told him, flinging a spoonful of pumpkin guts over his shoulder.
"Okay...here, you draw the right side and I'll draw the left," Dean said, handing Sammy one of the markers. "That way it won't match and it'll be twice as scary."
Sammy took the pen, but he frowned at the pumpkin and didn't move to draw anything. Dean groaned.
"The right side is the one on your side, Sammy. Remember how I showed you on your hands? The left hand is the one that makes the L?"
"But I can't 'member which way the L's s'posed to go," Sammy complained, holding his sticky hands out.
Dean sighed. "Never mind. Just draw an eye and half the mouth on your side, okay?"
Sammy stuck his tongue out in concentration and started drawing. While he was distracted, Dean quickly finished scooping out his pumpkin properly, then scooted back to his spot and began drawing, too. A squinty eye with a big sharp eyebrow, and the corners going down; and a jagged mouth with loads of big sharp teeth. He looked over at Sam's drawing. Most of it was just messy lines and squiggles, and not really anything Dean could cut out, but that didn't matter. As long as Dean told him that whatever he ended up carving was exactly how Sammy drew it and it looked awesome, Sammy wouldn't mind.
"Shhh, Sammy! You have to stop giggling or he'll wake up!" Dean hissed, pressing a hand over Sam's mouth. Sam licked his palm wetly just to be a brat, but he went quiet.
Dad was a light sleeper, after all- Dean knew this was going to be tricky, and Sammy giggling away wasn't going to help.
They were crouched on the floor in the bathroom with the door shut. It had been a nerve-wracking few minutes picking up the paper bag they'd asked for to put Dad's jack-o-lantern in, tip-toeing into the bathroom, and shutting the door without making any noise, but Dad kept snoring through the whole thing. Trying not to rustle the paper, Dean pulled the pumpkin slowly out of the bag.
"Cool," Sammy breathed excitedly.
It was pretty cool, Dean had to admit. He'd done a good job with the carving, and the mix of the sharp face he'd drawn and Sammy's scrawled mess made a lopsided, mean-looking face with a grinning mouth full of teeth that drooped down on one side like a zombie. One eye was glaring and the other one was bigger and pointing in a different direction. The nose was just a slash all on one side, because Sammy hadn't drawn any nose.
"Okay," Dean whispered. "Did you get the candle?"
Sam handed him a stubby white candle. Dean didn't know why Dad had it, but he remembered seeing it in his bag sometimes, and Sammy was good enough at sneaking that he'd been able to get it out without waking Dad up. Dean pushed the candle into the middle of the soft inside of the pumpkin so it would stay put, then handed Sam the jack-o-lantern's lid.
"Here. You bring that, and give it to me as soon as I light the candle, okay? Don't drop it. You ready?"
Sammy nodded excitedly and bounced a little where he sat. Dean grinned. Dad was going to scream or fall out of bed or something funny when he saw his jack-o-lantern, he just knew it. He slowly, quietly, opened the bathroom door, and slowly, quietly carried the jack-o-lantern out into the room. He set it on the table and turned it to face Dad, still sound asleep. It was only a little after dawn but there was just enough light for Dean to be able to see Dad's jacket on the back of one of the chairs and pull his lighter out of a pocket. He very carefully opened the lighter, reached into the pumpkin, and lit the candle. Sammy solemnly handed him the lid and he fitted it into place on top of the jack-o-lantern. He grabbed Sam's shoulder and they stepped back.
The jack-o-lantern was awesome. If Dean didn't know better, even he might be scared of the fiery eyes and glowing mouth. The flickering candle made the face look even meaner, and like it was moving.
"Okay, Sammy," Dean whispered in Sam's ear. "You ready?" Sammy nodded. Dean patted his back and pushed him forward.
Sammy tensed, then ran forward and jumped onto Dad's bed. "DADDY! DADDY, LOOK! IT'S A GHOST!"
Dad shot upright in bed, looking around wildly. He set eyes on the evil, fiery monster across the room and his jaw dropped. He grabbed Sammy to his side, reached under his bed, came up with a shotgun, and fired.
The jack-o-lantern exploded in a shower of pumpkin guts.
Dean stared. Sammy looked up at Dad in shock. Then he burst into tears.
"Deee-eean!" he wailed, struggling out of Dad's tight grip and throwing himself into Dean's arms. "He k-killed our pumky!"
"I- Dean, Sammy, what-" Dad was breathing hard and when he switched on the light next to the bed, Dean could see that his face was white. Dean bit his lip as he rubbed Sammy's back and pet his hair.
"We...made you a jack-o-lantern," Dean explained, feeling his stomach start twisting like it did when he knew he was about to get in trouble at school. Sammy started crying louder so he bent down and picked his brother up, letting Sammy hook his knees around his hips and his arms around his neck. "We wanted to scare you for Halloween."
"Well, you sure managed that," Dad growled. He muttered some bad words and rubbed his hands over his face. When he finally looked back up, he seemed to only just notice that Sam was upset. "Sammy okay? Did the gun scare him?"
"He's fine," Dean answered hesitantly. "I think he's just upset about the pumpkin. Sammy? You okay?" Sammy sniffed wetly but stopped crying, nodding unhappily against Dean's shoulder. "Yeah, he's okay."
Dad sighed. "I'm sorry, Sammy. You guys scared me pretty good, I thought there was a real ghost in here."
Sammy picked his head up. "Really?"
Dad grinned tiredly. "Yeah, dude. That's why I grabbed you and shot it- you scared me so good I thought there was really something after you."
Dean couldn't help smirking and Sam looked up to give him a wet, snotty smile. "We did pretty good, huh, Sammy? We did so good that Dad got so scared he tried to kill the monster," he said proudly, rubbing his pajama shirt sleeve over Sam's face to wipe away the snot. It worked, and Sammy gave him a big dimply smile.
"Is our pumky awesome?"
Dean grinned. Sammy had been picking up words more and more from him lately, and 'awesome' was one of them- he was always asking Dean if something was awesome or not, like he was trying to figure out a scale or something. "Yeah, Sammy, our pumpkin was totally awesome."
"Sure was, Sammy," Dad agreed. He slid the shotgun back under his bed and twisted his legs out from under the covers. "How 'bout I clean this up while you two take a bath- Dean, you've got pumpkin goo all over you. Then we'll go get breakfast, sound good? I heard about a place in town that makes pumpkin pancakes."
Sammy's eyes went huge. "Pumky pan-akes?"
Dad smiled. "Yeah, Sammy, for Halloween you can get pumpkin pancakes."
"Ow, Sam, indoor-voice in the morning, remember?" Dean muttered as he let Sam slide down to stand on his feet, rubbing his deafened ear.
Dad was grimacing, too. "Dean, if you can teach your brother to say the word 'pumpkin' by the time we get to the breakfast place, I'll make sure you two get more candy tonight than any other trick-or-treaters in town."
Dean grinned down at his brother. "Come on, Sammy, let's go take a bath. You like Snickers, right?"
Naturally, Sam learned how to say 'pumpkin' just long enough to get Dean loads of candy. Then he promptly forgot and went back to saying it his way.