Characters/Pairings: Sam, Dean, OFC, John
Rating: PG-13 for some language and off-screen violence (including references to child abuse)
Word Count: 5,467
Author’s Note: Written for the super_disney challenge where I claimed the prompt Life Size. Muchos gracias to the lovely cackling_madly for the beta and story advice!
Summary: Once upon a time, Sam Winchester was an only child.
"I don't want to complain," Dean says, because Dean is a liar. Over the past 45 minutes, it has become abundantly clear that he wants nothing in the world more than he wants to complain, with Sam the unwilling hostage who has to listen to it. "You know me, I'm a team player. I don't complain. But this is the creepiest shit we've probably ever done."
"Tuscaloosa," Sam replies. "February 1997."
Dean stops dead in his tracks, a look on his face like he's trying really hard to remember the circumstances. Sam knows he's got it when he snorts a laugh and nods. "Oh, man. That was creepy of us. Good times."
Sam rolls his eyes. "Right, because creepy is fun."
"Well, you would think so at the rate you snatched up this job."
"I just…look, Dean, I feel like this one's on me somehow."
"So you've said five hundred goddamned times."
Dean stops and shines his flashlight on a wall. There's a cardboard display covered in bright blue paper, a sign that says 'Leap Into Learning!' and about 15 smiling frogs with names written on them in sloppy print underneath. Dean gives an exaggerated shudder and the frogs stare back at him cheerfully.
"All I'm saying is, we're in a kindergarten classroom at one in the morning," he continues. "What the hell could be skeevier than that?"
"I don't know," Sam replies. "Being in a kindergarten classroom at one in the afternoon?"
Dean shrugs, turning away from the happy frogs. "At least then we could ask some questions."
"No, yeah. Because I'm sure little Timmy would be happy to tell us if he saw what killed Sally's dad."
"Is someone feeling a bit bitchy today?" Dean asks, raising an eyebrow.
Sam pushes past him and tries to get back to work. He's at the end of his rope with Dean lately, and if his brother wants to goof around instead of focusing on the job, Sam will just do this himself.
"I'll take that as a yes," Dean says to his back, and Sam can just hear him smirking. Infuriating.
He shines his own flashlight on the walls around the room, EMF meter perfectly silent in his pocket. Not that he's expecting it to make a sound, the readings he got from the murder scene were powerful magic, all somehow tying back to this classroom. Nothing to suggest spirit activity. Still, the room looks like any other kindergarten in the world: bright and cheerful and innocent. How it could tie back to a death as gruesome as Michael Pillinger's is beyond Sam.
"Huh." Sam looks up, turning the light on his brother. Dean is standing over the teacher's desk, holding something in his hand and looking pretty pleased with himself. "Looks like sweet old Ms. Lamonwold is into the occult."
He walks over and Dean hands him a bracelet, the clasp broken and the end of it leaking small blue beads. There's one large silver charm dangling from the middle, a starburst made of intersecting triangles.
"The wiccan symbol for magick energy," Sam muses.
Dean nods. "So that tells us who we have to take down."
"Which rules out all the four year old suspects. That's a relief." Sam looks at the bracelet again, a strange sense of déjà-vu settling over him. "Hey, what did you say the teacher's name was again?"
Dean is already halfway through raiding the witch's drawer, each hand full of crinkled papers. "Lamonwold," he says. "Why?"
"We…" Sam turns the bracelet over in his hand. He can feel power radiating off of it like a current, making the hairs on his arm stand up. "We've been here before, Dean. I was in this class."
Dean laughs, shaking his head as he flips through a series of poorly drawn pictures. "Nah. I'd remember. Besides, if there was a powerful witch in this town and we'd rolled through, don't you think Dad would have toasted her?"
"Yes," Sam reaches out to take one of the drawings from Dean's hands, "but I drew this."
Sure enough, the bottom of the doodle is signed SW in a chicken scratch not honestly very different from how Sam still writes.
He looks up for Dean's expression, and Dean is glaring at the paper. It's a family portrait. Dad is a stick figure outlined in red, an upside down 'U' serving as his mouth. Sam is about half his size, drawn in green and labeled 'ME' underneath. There's a big black mess off to the side that Sam is reasonably sure is supposed to be the Impala.
"Why didn't you draw me?" Dean asks, sounding a little put out about it.
"Probably because you're so damn ugly," Sam replies, but the thing is, he did. Suddenly he remembers, and he's never been so sure of anything in his life. He drew Dean in blue crayon, and the dust from his eraser had stuck to his cheeks, creating the illusion of freckles. Dean was even bigger than Dad, holding Sam's hand on the right, his smile an upright 'U,' to match their father's in reverse.
He knows he did.
"This is very nice," Ms. Lamonwold says, taking the seat next to Sam. Her bracelets all jingle when she puts her arms on the surface, little metal charms dancing when they touch.
Sam laughs, because she's big and she looks silly sitting in the little chair, trying to fit her legs under the plastic blue table.
She leans in, smiling at Sam, and she smells like flowers. Sam likes Ms. Lamonwold. She's nicer than any teacher he's had before, and she brings fresh cookies to class every day. "You want to tell me about your family portrait, Sam?"
He pushes the paper so that it's sitting between them and points. "This is my daddy."
"Why does your daddy look so sad?" she asks, pointing to his mouth. "Did you mean to draw this the other way? Like yours?"
"No," Sam says. "Dad is grumpy, just like Oscar from Sesame Street, but he doesn't eat garbage. He makes me eat peas." Sam wrinkles his nose. "I hate peas."
Ms. Lamonwold laughs. "But peas are good for you!"
"I don't care," Sam replies. "Peas are evil."
She laughs softly, and Sam grins at her. He likes making her laugh, likes the way her face wrinkles up and she throws her head back a little, her long, curly black and white hair following. Sam thinks, if he had a grandma, he would want her to be just like Ms. Lamonwold.
"Where's your house?" Ms. Lamonwold asks. "Is this it?"
Sam shakes his head. "No, Ms., that's a car. See? It has wheels. We don't have a house, but we go on lots of adventures in the Impala."
"And who is this handsome gentleman?" she asks, pointing to Sam.
"That's me!" Sam replies, pointing excitedly. "I wrote it down. M-E."
"Oh, that's very good," she says. "You spelled it just right. You'll get a gold star for that, how does that sound?"
Sam shrugs. He doesn't think he'll be here long enough to get five gold stars, he only has three right now. If he gets five, Ms. Lamonwold says he gets to spend an extra hour at the library and check out four books instead of three.
"This is my big brother, Dean," Sam tells her.
"Is Dean a giant?" she asks. "He's twice as big as your father."
Sam can tell that she's teasing, but he doesn't think she wants to hurt his feelings, so he just explains, "Dean is bigger than anything and he can protect me from the monster under my bed and from the other kids and when he hugs me it's the best hug because he's so much bigger."
"Ah, I see," she says, her smile widening. "You get along with your big brother, then?"
Sam nods. "He's my best friend. We play all the time and he always lets me win and he's the coolest because he's in the third grade but he doesn't mind that I'm little."
"And he's not grumpy like Oscar from Sesame Street?"
"No, see," Sam points to his brother's face and then to his own. "Dean is happy and so am I because I have the best big brother in the world."
Dean paces the room for the fiftieth time, and Sam just watches him, feeling the headache coming on from trying to track his movements.
"It just doesn't make sense, Sam," Dean says again. "How could Dad have missed something like this?"
Sam reaches out, trying to stop him. "Dude, will you sit down? You're making my brain hurt."
"Seriously, some powerful as hell witch is dropping bodies all over town and Dad just drove away?"
"We can't find much evidence she was dropping bodies," Sam says. "According to the journal, Dad was here investigating minor magical occurrences, stuff that could lead to a bigger problem. None of my research has indicated that anyone died or even got hurt."
"Well, she's certainly dropping bodies now," Dean says. "Or did you want me to show you the pictures again?"
Sam shakes his head. He's spent more than enough time looking at the remains of Michael Pillinger, husband and father to two girls, including Sally Pillinger, a student in Ms. Lamonwold's class. A stand up member of the community, according to everyone they’ve spoken to, though the wife wouldn't answer the door or let the little girls out to talk to them.
"I lied to him," Sam says. He doesn’t know where it's coming from, it's like there's a scab somewhere in his memory and he's not sure what'll be under if he picks at it, but he's starting to find out. "That's why Dad left. He asked me some questions about my teacher and I lied to him. I knew she was the witch. I knew it, and I lied."
"Okay," Dean replies, leaning against the long set of drawers and crossing his arms. He looks down at Sam, sitting at the end of the motel bed, slumped over. He lied and now someone is dead because of it.
"First of all, you didn't even know witches were real back then, so how could you have known why Dad was asking or what to lie about? Second, you never would have lied to him about anything back then, let alone something serious. And lastly…don't you think it's weird at all that I don't remember any of this?"
Dean makes all good points. And yet.
"I knew. I knew and I lied and I did it to protect her."
It's raining hard.
Sam had waited out on the bench for a long time before Ms. Lamonwold had come out, saw him there and insisted he come back into the classroom. "You'll catch your death out here," she'd told him, and it sounded pretty scary so Sam followed her.
He wasn't sure it was a good idea to go inside. Dad made it very clear that Sam should wait for him outside, and Dad's been madder than usual for the last few days. He's working, he tells Sam, and even though Sam doesn't know what grownups do when they work, he can tell from Dad that it makes them very cranky.
Ms. Lamonwold isn't cranky, though, and she doesn't give Sam much of a choice, anyway. She takes his hand and leads him back to the classroom, and Sam gets extra cookies and lemonade. He gets to sit in the beanbag chair that is usually for the teacher to sit in during story time, and Sam chooses his favorite book from the class library, The Travels of Babar. He can't read all the words yet, but he likes the pictures.
He reads it two and a half times while Ms. Lamonwold hangs their drawings from today up on the wall, and then the door opens with a loud clang, and Sam looks up to see Dad there. He can tell Dad is angry with him.
"There you are," he says when he sees Sam. "I thought I told you where to wait for me."
Ms. Lamonwold puts down the clothespin she was about to hang something with and smiles, holding her hand out. "Hello, you must be Sam's father. John, is it? I'm his teacher, Patricia Lamonwold. It's so nice to meet you. I know Sam transferred in a few weeks after open house." She waits for Dad to shake her hand, but he doesn’t move. "I hope you'll accept my apology. I asked Sam to come inside from the rain. I was worried he would catch a cold."
"You don't tell my kid where to be," he says, and then he turns back to Sam. "I've been worried sick about you, son. You have to wait where I tell you. If I can't find you, anything could happen."
"I tried to contact you, but the phone number on Sam's In Case of Emergency slip forwarded to a local motel for some reason." Dad looks at her in a way that always makes Sam cry, but Ms. Lamonwold just keeps smiling at him like she doesn't notice. "I'm sure that you understand that when a child of Sam's age is left unattended for over an hour after class is out for the day, and considering the weather, I simply couldn't have left him."
"I got here as soon as I could."
"Perhaps his brother could have come by to keep him company," she says. "He shouldn't have been alone so long."
Dad makes a confused face. "Brother?"
"His older brother," Ms. Lamonwold says. "Dean."
"Sam's an only child," Dad replies before turning back to him. "Get your things and let's go. I'm not asking twice."
In the last couple of decades, Ms. Lamonwold hasn't changed as much as Sam was expecting. She's a little older than he remembers her being, her hair much more on the gray side than black now. But she hasn't transformed into some stereotypical witch with black robes and warts; the kind of person you might expect to kill off her student's parents for fun.
She's still dressed like a garden in spring, too many bright colors clashing cheerfully, and there's nothing in her expression but the same sweet old grandma vibes Sam had liked so much as a child when she sees him.
Ms. Lamonwold folds her hands on her desk and looks up from Sam to Dean as if she's been expecting them.
"My, little Sammy," she says. "You sure have grown up. Here, have a cookie."
Sam eyes the jar she pushes toward him with suspicion and feels his stomach turn when Dean lifts his gun, training it on her. "We know what you did, so cut the sweet old lady act."
"Old?" she looks at Dean with a smirk. "I thought I looked quite spry this morning."
"Have there been others?" Dean asks, all business.
"Others?" she seems to search for a few seconds, then shakes her head. "Oh, heavens no. I wouldn’t hurt anybody."
"You wouldn't know what he was referring to if you hadn't done it," Sam replies.
She nods. "Well, if you mean Michael Pillinger, I certainly killed him."
Dean snorts. "Great, can I shoot her now?"
Sam puts a hand out to stop him and looks at her. "I protected you."
"From that dreadful hunter father of yours, I know, dear. I appreciate that." She nods her head at Dean. "I don't imagine you're itching to do it a second time?"
"What? No." Sam steps forward. "You killed someone. I thought you were—"
"Nice?" she asks. "I killed a monster. Isn't that just what you boys do?"
"He was a person."
She laughs, her head falling back the way Sam remembered. "Hardly. The things he did to those two girls. Believe me. He was a monster."
"This is my favorite part," Dean mutters. "I suppose now you're going to tell us you're a good witch."
"I'm a witch. And I do what I think is good, yes." She shrugs and shakes her head. "I haven't done much magic for the last two decades. Your father nearly figured me out. I never wanted to meet another hunter again. But Sally needed me, so I granted her wish."
"Sally, who is five years old, asked you to kill her father by having his insides reversed to his outside?" Dean snickers and looks over at Sam, but his gun doesn't leave its target. "I'm glad you were cuddlier at that age."
"She wanted him gone," Ms. Lamonwold says. "Maybe she didn't specify how, but you should see the life insurance check her mother is going to get in the mail next week. They'll be able to live a good life now. I won't make apologies."
"Why did she want him gone?" Sam asks.
"Ah, Sam, come on. You're not really listening to this just because she was nice to you twenty years ago, are you?"
"Why did she want him gone?" Sam repeats, looking Ms. Lamonwold in the eyes.
"He hurt her. In the worst ways. He hurt her big sister. He did it all the time." The old woman's lips purse as if she's sucking on a lemon. "She was such a sad child. I can't stand to see children sad. Most of the ones who come through here, a cookie and a few minutes of distraction and they're back on their feet. Sally was different. She was the kind of sad you only see every few decades, even if you're unlucky. Like you were."
"Me?" Sam asks.
"Yes, you," she replies, nodding her head. "If anyone should know what kind of witch I am, it's you, Sam."
"What are you talking about?" Sam asks.
She looks sorry as she takes the drawing he and Dean had found the night before out of the drawer and tosses it across the desk so he can see it. So he can see the big blank space where Sam so clearly remembers scribbling Dean in. "Ah, sweet boy. You were the loneliest child I'd ever seen. I just couldn't stand it."
And it's like something in Sam snaps then. He moves quickly until he's standing in front of the gun. "She's telling the truth. She's not dangerous. Don't hurt her. Let's just go."
His brother's eyebrows draw together. "What? Why?"
"Please, just trust me. Dean, trust me. She's good. We're letting her go."
"Nah, no way," Dean shakes his head, "she's got some power over you. Made you lie to Dad all those years ago. This job is getting done right this time."
"I won't move," Sam tells him, watching Dean with a look he knows his brother will understand. One that says he's not playing. "You'll shoot me before you shoot her."
He looks back at her and then at the ground. "I can't explain. She…she gave me something."
"Okay," Dean replies, talking slowly as if Sam is an idiot. "What did she give you?"
Sam is trying to teach Dean to play Duck, Duck, Goose, but it's not going very well. For starters, Dean isn't very good at sitting still and taking direction when he could be kicking something. And it's not a very fun game with just two people.
"We could try one of the hand games," Sam suggests, holding his palms up and trying to remember how Miss Mary Mack went. He had a friend named Linda at his last school who taught him, but that was weeks ago, and Sam wasn't very good at it.
Deep down, he kind of hopes Dean says no. It's hard to pretend when there's no one there to meet your hands every time, and Sam has gotten good at make belief, but sometimes it's easier to believe in Dean than others.
Dean always knows the right thing to say, though. He scrunches up his face, his freckles all bunching together in a way that Sam tries not to laugh at. "Those are for girls, Sammy."
Sam nods. He liked Miss Mary Mack, and he really liked Linda, even though she was a girl. But Dean is much older and wiser and cooler than Sam, so Sam doesn't like to disagree with him. He's about to suggest they try chasing some squirrels by the sandbox, but then Ms. Lamonwold kneels down next to him and Dean disappears, just like he always does around grown-ups.
"What are you up to, Sam?" she asks, in her nice way, but she's looking around and Sam knows he's going to get in trouble for talking to himself as soon as she realizes he was alone.
"Nothing," he says. Then he feels bad for lying, so he admits, "I was playing Duck, Duck, Goose."
"All by yourself?" she asks. Sam nods, keeping his eyes on the rubber floor of the playground. "There's a group of other kids playing that. Why don't you join them?"
Sam shrugs. "I don't know them. They didn't ask me to play because they're all already friends."
"Come on, you'll only make new friends if you talk to them," she says, standing up and holding her hand out so that Sam will follow her.
He doesn't. "Dad says we're only going to be here another week. What's the point?"
Ms. Lamonwold makes a 'hmm' noise and sits down next to him. "Aren't you lonely over here?"
"I've got Dean," Sam answers angrily before he can think to stop himself. He realizes he messed up and gives his teacher a sorry look. "I know Dean isn't real. But he's my brother, so he can come with me no matter how many times I move and he's already my friend. I don't ever have to be alone."
"I see." She gives Sam a very serious look and asks, "Don't you wish you could stay here longer? So you could make friends with the other kids?"
"I guess." Sam wipes his hand over his nose and tries to imagine what it would be like. He'd miss Dean. "I'd rather Dean be real, though."
Ms. Lamonwold smiles. "You really like Dean, huh?"
"He's my best friend," Sam agrees. "Even if he's only imaginary. He's my big brother and he looks out for me. I wish he was real."
"Okay," she says, standing up and patting Sam on the head. "I think recess is just about over. You ready to come back to class?"
Sam hurries to his feet, nodding and taking her hand this time when she reaches out to him. There's a little spark as soon as Sam touches her, and it feels warm, like someone's pouring hot chocolate all through him. Sam smiles. "I don't like playtime as much as storytime," he tells her.
"What about Dean?" she asks. "What's his favorite part of the day?"
"It used to be naptime, but now he's too old and they don't take naps during school anymore. So now it's lunchtime," Sam replies. "Dean's always hungry."
"I can't tell you." Sam looks back at the witch and she nods, and his chest feels like it's a pipe about to burst. "She saved my life."
Dean raises his hands to show that the gun is out of the scenario, and he gives Ms. Lamonwold another threatening glare before he gestures for Sam to follow him out. "Try anything and I will waste you, grandma, we clear?"
"You speak with such subtleties, dear, it's hard to—"
"Are we clear?" Dean asks again, every word its own sentence.
She sighs and nods, and Dean stomps into the hallway with Sam on his heels.
"What gives, Sammy?"
"Dean, I know it seems crazy, but—"
"She's a murderer and you're about to take a bullet for her," Dean replies. "Yeah, I'd say it's not the sanest thing you've ever done."
He's talking with the same angry urgency he always does when he thinks Sam's in trouble, and Sam feels just a little bit pathetic. For a moment, he wonders what it says about him that his universe is shaped around someone he made up so he could feel loved.
But then Dean shifts, angry stance, impatience that is all his own. Sam imagined the freckles and the big brother edge, maybe, but there are so many tiny details he never could have made up, like the way Dean's voice trembles when he's scared and trying to hide it, or how his fingers are always three seconds too late when he tries to tap in rhythm to the music he's blasting, even though he's heard the song a million times.
Dean is real. Dean is all his own person, and Sam can't even let himself think of what his life would have been like if Ms. Lamonwold hadn't brought him out of that picture.
"She told me I could be anything I wanted to be, even if it wasn't what Dad wanted," Sam lies, thinking of another teacher, a different kind of loneliness. A life saved, even if Sam didn't get to live it very long. "It stayed with me."
Dean narrows his eyes, cracks a grin. "That's it? That's how she saved your life? You're standing in front of my gun when I already have a finger on the trigger because she gave you that greeting card shit? Sam, I'm pretty sure there was an episode of The Looney Toons that told you that, you about to eat lead for Bugs Bunny?"
"Maybe," Sam replies. "Though I'd find it really disheartening if you were trying to shoot Bugs to begin with. Childhood hero, man."
His brother laughs, shaking his head. "You trying to distract me, little brother?"
Sam shrugs. He licks his lips. "Listen, we've let people go before. Because we trusted them not to hurt anyone again."
"Yeah," Dean admits. "But I don't trust this bitch."
"I do," Sam answers. "Trust me?"
After a long silence, Dean huffs. "If I catch a pinprick of magic in this town again, I'm wasting her."
"Understood," Sam replies. "I'm going to…" He points a thumb over his shoulder, and Dean nods, understanding.
Sam walks back into the classroom and finds Ms. Lamonwold sitting at her desk, calmly putting gold stickers on a pile of papers. She doesn't give any indication that she knows Sam's in the room with her, doesn't even lift her head.
"Ms. Lamonwold," Sam says, his voice low.
"What'll it be then?" she asks, still not looking up at Sam or acting the least bit concerned. "Are you and your brother going to shoot me?"
"You could have told him," he says. "You could have made this whole thing go away if you'd just told him."
She frowns and finally meets Sam's eyes. "I don't believe in taking back wishes I've already granted. Especially not when you need him as much now as you did then."
Sam looks to the floor, wanting to thank her, but not even knowing where to begin.
"We're not gonna hurt you," Sam hears from the door, and he looks back to see his brother leaning against the frame. "Sammy's vouching for you. Let's go, man."
"I'll be out in a minute," he says, wishing his voice wasn't cracking. Dean will tease him for it. But it's worth it, to have a Dean that'll tease him.
As soon as they're alone, Sam swallows hard, gets his voice under control. "I want you to make him forget we were here. I don’t—he can't keep checking into this. Unfinished business doesn't sit right with him and he's smart, he'll…"
"That's fine by me, dear," Ms. Lamonwold says. "He won't remember by tomorrow. Do you…I think it was easier for you not to remember, as well?"
"I have to," Sam replies. He looks down at the floor. "This is on me now. I will be keeping an eye on you. And if you hurt someone again, I'm sorry, but I'll have to—to hurt you. Even if it means losing him."
She gives him a warm smile, like she knows Sam is bluffing, but she doesn't call him on it. Her nod is respectful, and she crosses her heart. "I'll be retiring soon, anyway."
Sam nods. He opens his mouth to try and express his gratitude, but apparently Dean gets edgy leaving Sam alone with killers, even if they're senior citizens, because he sticks his head into the room again. "C'mon, Sam! We going or what? You're buying me pie at the first diner we pass."
Ms. Lamonwold raises her eyebrows. "Lunchtime still his favorite?"
Sam ducks his head as he laughs. "They never change, do they?"
"I'm hungry, bitch, get walking!" is called down the hall, and Sam flinches, hoping all the students have gone home for the day.
"I'm coming, jerk," he yells, and Sam follows his brother out, nothing but a look to say 'thank you' to the woman who gave him everything.
He wakes up the next morning in the same bed he's been sleeping in for months. Dad is snoring on the other one, and Sam doesn’t realize what woke him until he feels it again.
Someone is shaking him.
Sam turns over and sees another boy there, a little older. He looks familiar to Sam. He feels familiar.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean says, smiling. His middle tooth is missing; Sam thinks he remembers it falling out. "Time to get up for school."
He sounds familiar. Like this is every day and Sam rolls out of bed and heads to the bathroom where his brother has already laid the clothes he's going to wear today on the closed toilet lid.
Dad is awake by the time Sam gets out, sitting at the table with a newspaper and a bowl of cereal. Dean is there, cleaning out his own bowl, and he smiles at Sam, pointing to the one that's waiting for him to pour the milk. "Eat up, Sammy. We're leaving for school in ten minutes."
"You're gonna walk with me?" Sam asks.
Dean laughs. "I always walk you to school, stupid. Now eat your breakfast."
"Don't call your brother stupid, Dean," John says from behind the sports section.
"Sorry, sir," Dean replies.
When he gets to class, the family portraits they drew on Wednesday are up on the walls. Sam finds his, but there's something missing.
Ms. Lamonwold crouches down next to him, her usual smile on her face. "Good morning, Sam."
"Good morning, Ms. Lamonwold," he says. He points to his drawing, about to ask, and she gives him a pat on the head.
"How do you feel today?"
Sam bites his lip and looks down at the floor. "I dunno. Kind of weird. Dad didn't tell me not to talk to my imaginary friend today, and then he tied my shoes for me even though he usually can't do stuff like that. And now I think maybe he's not imaginary anymore."
"No, he's not," she agrees, leaning down and talking to Sam in a whisper. "But you have to be careful, okay? If Dean ever finds out, he'll come right back to this picture I took him out of."
"I don't want that," Sam replies. "He tied my shoes just right and I think I remember liking him from before, but I know those memories aren't real because he was imaginary!"
"It'll be our little secret, huh?"
Sam frowns. "I'm not supposed to have secrets."
She smiles. "Then why don't you forget this one?"
"Okay," Sam says with an easy shrug. And just like that, Dean has always been there.
Outside the schoolhouse, Sam stops as he approaches the Impala and turns back to face his brother. Dean is only half a pace behind him. Watching his back, like he always has. As long as Sam can remember.
Dean sends a glance over his shoulder, then looks back to Sam. "Having second thoughts?"
Sam doesn't answer. Instead he wraps his arms around Dean and hugs him tighter than he's ever done. At least, without someone dying first.
"What's this about?" Dean asks. His voice sounds a little strained, and Sam loosens his grasp, but not by much.
"I'm just…I'm really sorry," Sam says. "I've been taking you for granted lately. I shouldn't have snapped at you so many times and I—"
Dean pats him on the back and then pulls away from the hug, his eyes narrowing as he looks Sam over. "Yeah, okay, dude. Calm down. You're wigging me out."
Sam shoves him and laughs when Dean reaches up to ruffle his hair, and, well. Sam got the brother he asked for. He only has himself to blame.