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The Art of Building a Nest IV

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Dean couldn't remember if he'd ever been to a baseball game before. He'd seen plenty of them on TV, able to keep track of the way the game was going thanks to the stats being posted as the game went along. But as for actually going and watching one for real? Never. Dad had suggested they go to a game, just the two of them, before school started again. It was an unspeakably wonderful treat in Dean's mind. Mom was working on her lesson plans for the fall semester, and she thought the two of them needed some special 'bonding time' anyway. There was another concept to get used to – even after seven months, he still wasn't used to all these little things that he had a feeling most people took for granted. Things like sitting down to dinner together, working on projects around the house, and... going to church.

Dean was certain that Pastor Jim might just have a heart attack if he discovered that he'd gone to church almost every Sunday for the past six months. Even more so if the Pastor found out he'd not had a problem with it since March.

The Baltimore Orioles were playing the Kansas City Royals today and Dean found it ironic that what was hopefully the first of many games he attended was being played by a team he'd spent the first years of his life cheering for was playing his new hometown team. Dad told him he didn't have to be an Orioles fan right of – just as long as he never cheered for the Yankees or the Red Sox. Fat chance of that happening.

Camden Yards was located in downtown Baltimore and while the city itself had it's own smell, the stadium was like another world. Dean had always focused in on smells to familiarize himself with things, as his previous nomadic life hadn't been too good on being just visual. The place smelled of peanuts, hot dogs and something Dean couldn't quite place. Some kind of cleaner was his first thought.

Mom had sent both of them off to the city slathered in sunblock and Dean was glad of it. Their seats were off of the third base line, in a foul zone. They were almost directly in the sun and he had no desire to have another sunburn this summer. The hat also helped and it was easier to read the large scoreboard on the far side of the field. Despite it being summer, the game was not extremely crowded – he guessed that was because it was the middle of the week and dad said a lot of people went on vacation this time of the year. The first truly striking thing for him was when the crowd stood to sing the national anthem. He couldn't hear it, but as he stood there, his Orioles cap off his head and over his heart, the feeling of pure concentrated sound was a little unnerving. He could feel the voices vibrating off the seats, the other people, the stadium itself and he wondered if anything could feel more powerful – it was even more overwhelming than it was in church sometimes when the choir sang.

The fact that no one was pointing at him and dad and talking was a wonderful bonus too. One thing Dean planned on learning at speech therapy this year at school was the phrase 'what are you looking at' without stumbling over the 'l' in that sentence. Every time he and mom went to the grocery store people turned and stared and it made Dean angry. They weren't a freak show.

For his part, Michael was glad to be back home in Maryland. After two weeks of combing a cornfield in Iowa looking for every scrap of debris and quite frankly, spending most nights feeling sick to his stomach over some of the things he'd seen, being able to be home every night was wonderful. They were still working on the case, but his field work was hopefully done. The change he saw in Dean upon his return was remarkable. While there were still times when the boy seemed to close down and lock out the world, those incidents were now few and far between.

Elisa hadn't told him about Dean starting to call her mom and him dad. That was quite possibly the best welcome home present he could have imagined.

*
Michael kept the foul ball Dean had caught safe in his hands while the boy and several other kids were allowed to run around the bases after the game. The Orioles had done spectacularly, winning 5 to 2. He watched, rather surprised when Dean slowed down halfway between first and second, stopped completely, and waited for a small five year old girl to catch up with him. He couldn't tell what he said to the kid, but he could guess. A moment later, with the little girl on his back and her arms around his neck, Dean took off and caught up with the rest of the pack.

Neither Michael nor Elisa had ever brought up Sam with Dean. They knew that he had little brother and he was out there, somewhere. Every Sunday, Michael prayed that Sam stayed safe, but as for talking about him, they were waiting for Dean to bring up the subject.

*
Dean set the final chair down at the dining room table. They had returned home from the game and
Dad declared them dry enough to be moved back inside. The old dining room table was now in the formerly empty breakfast nook in the kitchen. The faint smell of varnish still clung in the air, mixed with Old English furniture polish. He couldn't believe how much work had gone into making the chairs match, or nearly match the table. He looked up as his dad came into the room, carrying a vase of flowers, which he set in the the middle of the table. “There aren't two more chairs we've somehow overlooked, are there?”

“No.” He smiled in response. “I think we'll wait a little while before starting another project. School starts back up in a few weeks.”

Dean nodded in reply. Summer school had let out at the end of July and he knew classes would be right back in session before the end of August. “Wouldn't we need to find a project first?”

“True.” He slid a hand through his hair. “Did you put your ball someplace safe?”

“It's on my bookshelf.” Dean grinned. “I still can't believe I caught it.”

“You can't believe it?” The man's eyes widened. “It's a good thing you did, it nearly hit me!”

Dean wasn't sure how to respond to that. His dad had been focused on the scoreboard when the first baseman from Kansas City had stepped up to the plate. He'd been almost certain the man was going to hit a foul ball it was scary – even more scary was when the rawhide ball came racing towards them. It was like some latent hunter instinct kicked in and he'd stood up and caught the ball (his hand had stung for about an hour afterwards) a foot above his dad's head. “Do you think mom will want to eat in here tonight?”

“I wouldn't be surprised.” He frowned slightly. “Although it is just going to be leftovers.”

“But they're good leftovers.”

Michael laughed – Dean managed a weak grin – and then the man ruffled his hair. Both of his parents tended to do that a lot. Like he was a puppy or something. Or maybe – just maybe – they did it to make sure he was really there. It was kind of reassuring – he still had trouble believing all of this was real sometimes too.

*

Sam Winchester pulled the blankets of his bed at Pastor Jim's closer to his chin, trying to tell himself he had only been seeing things earlier today. Dad had left him here while he went off – somewhere. Pastor Jim had to preside over a funeral, leaving him under the supervision of Janice, a girl who lived in Blue Earth who spent the two hours she was there going through a large book.

Sam had watched a baseball game. The Royals were playing and Dad would want to know how the game turned out. He was always too busy to watch them, or something.

As much as he wanted to tell himself he had to have imagined it, that it couldn't possibly be, Sam's convinced he saw his big brother Dean catch a foul ball off of the bat of the Royal's first baseman, John Kennish, in the middle of the fourth inning.

But Dean wouldn't be at a baseball game – he couldn't be. Dean was still sick. If he wasn't sick, he'd be here. Maybe Dad would bring Dean back with him this time. His brother couldn't be sick forever, could he?

Sam curled up into a ball, struggling for a moment as he started to sign the alphabet, the way Dean had taught him. He'd need to brush up on his hand-talking if Dean was coming back.