One of Dean’s first memories was of his Mom gently wrapping a warm hand around his wrist and tugging his hand away from him mouth with a soft but firm look on her face. “No, baby, remember? Daddy and I said no sucking your thumb and no pacifiers,” She scolded lightly, tapping the 3 year olds nose in a way that made him giggle despite being told off.
“But mama,” He protested, lips curled in a pout that made her lean down and nuzzle his cheeks.
“No buts, little angel,” Mary had said softly lifting him up with some difficulty, manoeuvring him around her swollen stomach, “Don’t wanna set a bad example for your little brother or sister, do you?” She asked him, setting him down in his playpen. Dean shook his head in horror. Of course he didn’t, he was going to be the best big brother ever. That’s what he’d promised, “The no sucking your thumb, ok?”
Dean nodded as he lay down for his nap, “I promise mama.”
An hour later he had woken crying, his thumb in his mouth as he hung his head in shame. “Oh baby…” Mary crooned, kissing his forehead softly, “It’s okay, my sweet little prince, you’ll grow out of it.”
Dean didn’t grow out of it. Whenever he curled up in bed he’d cross his arms tight, trying not fall to the temptation, but every morning he’d wake with the digit between his lips. If he fell asleep in the Impala he’d wake to John swatting at his arm, telling him to stop being such a baby and little Dean would burn with shame teeth tight between his bottom lip, forcing tears back. Most of the time John would be sorry, would ruffle Dean’s hair after a little while of silence and tell him he was his his brave little soldier.
Dean would forget he was even upset after that. Would light up with pride and he wouldn’t suck his thumb for days.
It’s on Sam’s 3rd birthday that he actively forced himself to stop. Sam hadn’t sucked his thumb in years, never really had in the first place, so when he crawled into Dean’s bed that night and pried his brothers thumb out his mouth with a frown, Dean blushed. “Were you sucking your thumb?” Sam asked, his eyes wide as he looked at Dean.
“No!” Dean had replied, bursting with shame as he avoided Sam’s eyes, “I burnt it on one of the candles.”
“Oh. Only babies suck their thumbs. That’s what dad says.”
“Yeah, Sammy, I know.” So Dean had stopped. Simple as that. Dean couldn’t be a baby, not when his dad and Sammy needed him to be grown up. That morning he had thrown away all his childish things. The little army men went to Sam. Why did Dean need little plastic army guys when he was his Dad’s little soldier?
Dean often fell asleep on the porch at Bobby’s when his dad was away on a hunt and didn’t come home when he was meant to. Not that it mattered, wherever he fell, he’d always wake up in his bed. On the rare times he didn’t he woke up when Uncle Bobby carried him upstairs and he protest and shift, but he’d be shushed, “Go back to sleep boy, I got you.”
It was those nights that he’d find himself turning against Bobby’s chest and gripping at the worn fabric oh his shirt with one hand. Being held and cared for always made him feel safe, safer then he’d felt in years and that made him scared, scared he’d mess it up and be a baby again.
Sammy and his dad had only just stopped thinking of him as a baby. He didn’t want Bobby to think the same.
It only took an hour after Sam shut the door on them for John to break flipping the table in their motel room over and sending it crashing to the floor. Dean had been waiting for it and didn’t even flinch, didn’t tear his eyes away from where the were fixed on the floor a few feet to the left of his father.
“You blame me for that?” John asked, voice hoarse, breathing heavy. Dean didn’t answer, just looked up at at his father, lips pressed together, face pale and impassive, “I’m going out,” he’d muttered, looking, Dean was shocked to see, ashamed of himself. Dean hadn’t though he was capable at that.
As the door slammed a second time, he took a deep breath and lay back on the bed. When he raised his hand to his mouth, his thumb traced the shape of his lips but they didn’t part. Dean lay staring at the off white ceiling, whole body tense as he hoped and prayed that he’d hear Sam’s big clumsy feet traipse back in, his expression mutinous and stubborn but defeated and sorry. But all that came was John’s drunken stumbling at around 3 am. Slowly Dean pulled his thumb away from his lips and let it fall against the bed.
“You had a scar on your thumb,” Cas’s voice comes sudden and quiet in the dark of the cave they’d made camp in, away from the beasts and spirits of Purgatory. Dean looked over at the angel confused to be pulled from his sleep, “I see now, why,” Coming to his senses Dean realised what had happened as he slipped his thumb out of his mouth slowly.
Even in their circumstances Dean couldn’t help but blush. With their sides pressed together so tight there was no denying what Cas had seen; the Righteous Man, the hunter, the only soul who’d been to all four levels of the game was sucking his thumb like a child held to his mother’s breast.
“Don’t stop,” Cas said, shocking Dean out of his own revulsion as he turned his head to stare at the angel, “In my travels I saw human’s repress their own comfort… It confused me. Whatever brings you comfort in this place is good Dean, don’t deny yourself.”
“Well, what brings you comfort,” Dean found himself asking, voice rough with exhaustion, fear and embarassment.
“You do.” The hunter looked up in awe, something warm shifting inside his chest as the angel simply watched him. Slowly Dean wrapped his lips around the his thumb, letting his eyes fall shut as he rested his head against Cas’s shoulder deliberately. While there was no hope for him and Cas any more, at least there could be comfort.