Lawrence, Kansas. December 19, 1983.
Sammy was wiggling in his plaid baby seat, making a little sound like "eh, eh, eh." He'd been fastened in now for a good hour. He was kicking his feet and throwing his arms out at the same time, as if with enough power, he could launch himself from the restraints. From across the backseat, Dean looked over at him cautiously, seeing the little grimace on Sammy's face. He recognized that face. Mom would say that Sammy was about to "tune up."
Dean shushed him.
The firemen had told them they could go back into the house now to get a few things. They had told dad he shouldn't go back into the nursery. Dad had gotten angry about something and took them out of there, snapping Dean out of the arms of the fireman who was holding him up to pet their Dalmatian. Now they were here, just parked at the curb, not going in. Dean was fighting to stay still and well-behaved, but Sam was getting wiggly again and making his sounds.
"Dean, keep your brother quiet." His father commanded from the front seat, still not turning around. "I'm trying to think."
Dean did what Mom did: he jiggled the seat from side to side and smiled at Sammy, saying what she always said, "Be good, little angel. Be good."
From the front seat, there was a desperate sound, like choking.
For the first time, Dean was hearing his father cry.
As if a switch was flipped in himself, Dean began to cry, too. He almost had when they pulled up to the house, when he noticed how their house was dark and blackened on top, but the houses on either side were strewn with Christmas lights. Dean had felt like crying lots of times, but he didn't. Because if dad wasn't, he wouldn't. But now he allowed himself to wail some. He wailed for their house, for living in the cramped spare bedroom of a neighbor, for not knowing the right way to hold Sammy to make him stop crying like mom did, for Sammy...
And for mom.
Like that, Sammy looked over at Dean, watching his face. Then he went from tuning up to a full howl within seconds, tiny fists clenched and waving, hitting at the sides of the baby seat. Unlike their father's quiet sobs and Dean's wailing cry, Sam's frantic howl threatened to fill the inside of the Impala. Dean panicked, shushing him more, patting him, but it wasn't working. Sammy was scared and Dean felt like he had scared him.
Finally, Dean sniffed, wiping the back of his hands across his eyes to dry them. He put on a little half-smile for Sammy, blinking more tears away, just trying to stop that sound.
Sammy looked at his big brother's face. Dean blinked and he blinked. Dean sniffed and he sniffed. Dean half-smiled again and Sammy tried to, but he didn't know how to use his face all the way yet. And now that Dean had stopped crying, Sammy did too.
There, Dean thought and felt like he had done some kind of magic trick. Like special mom magic.
Dad's voice was still thick and heavy when he spoke. "Boys, I don't wanna go in."
But Dean was thinking about Sammy's bear on the shelf in the hallway. It was a bear that was bought "for later" because it was almost as big as Sammy and mom said Sammy might try to eat the little bow-tie it wore. He wasn't supposed to, but sometimes Dean would pull it off the shelf and give it to Sammy anyway, putting it back before mom noticed. But babies forgot about stuff all the time, because their brains were still growing. Mom said so. If Sammy forgot the bear, he might even think it was for Christmas.
Dean picked up the empty, battered suitcase he had brought along to get his things, and thought: Christmas. He'd almost forgotten.
He looked over at Sammy and gave him a little wink.
With that, he pushed open the Impala's heavy door and took off with the suitcase.
His father yelled after him. But Dean had already put some good distance between himself and the car across the frozen grass. He knew he couldn't go into the nursery, he heard the fireman, but he was going to pack as much into that suitcase for Sammy as he could before dad had a chance to drag him out.