Bobby pulled his car up to the apartment complex. Every once in a while, he could feel the boy shift around in his pocket. It was distracting, knowing that someone's entire body was hidden away in there, completely dependent on him.
He still couldn't quite wrap his head around the fact that Sam was alive. John had spent years mourning the boy, and Dean...
Dean had never quite recovered.
He glanced around the parking lot. There was no sign of the Impala. Whatever the freak they were hunting was, it was still out of the apartment. With any luck it hadn't blown town. The hunt would become a thousand times harder if they had to track the monster across state lines.
Pushing those thoughts out of his mind for the moment, Bobby gently opened the pocket. Sam flinched back in surprise at the sudden movement over his head, staring fearfully up out of the pocket. He relaxed a hair when he spotted Bobby above him, giving Bobby hope that the boy was starting to trust him. Even just a little.
He understood all too well that the only reason Sam had been willing to let Bobby carry him was worry for his brother - the amount of dedication and determination in that tiny body was amazing.
"We're here," Bobby said, keeping his voice down for Sam's sake. "Do you remember the apartment number?"
"Uh..." Sam closed his eyes for a second. "I think it was... 42? It's on the fourth floor, right near the stairwell. I only caught a quick glimpse of the door earlier." He gave a quick, embarrassed shrug from his spot in the corner, shifting his bag around nervously in the tight confines. "You can imagine I don't really get the best point of view."
"Alright then." Bobby let the pocket close. He took the elevator to the fourth floor, taking advantage of the shortest route.
The door was right where Sam had said it would be. Bobby went for the doorknob, surprised to find it had been left open. He pushed it open slow, keeping an eye out for anyone lurking in the shadows. The moment they were in the apartment, he felt Sam pushing up the top of the pocket so he could see out, balancing precariously in the swinging pocket. His small boots dug into Bobby's chest for support as he desperately peered around for Dean. Bobby ignored him for the moment, stalking silently into the next room over.
The moment he stepped into the living room, Bobby could feel the blood drain from his face.
Dean was slumped down on the ground, roped to one of the building supports. His face was pale, almost bloodless. His hands and feet were tied separately, smaller ropes wrapped around tight enough to cut off his circulation. Bloody marks around his wrist showed how he'd struggled to escape while awake. His chest moved in a slow rhythm, barely breathing.
As soon as he saw Dean, Sam started to struggle to get out of the pocket. "Put me down!" he snapped up at Bobby, sounding panicked now that his brother was finally in sight. "Please! I need to help him!"
His heart twisting at the fear in Sam's voice, Bobby immediately scooped his hand under Sam, refusing to keep the boy anywhere he didn't want to be. It would be far too easy to trap someone his size unwillingly, as Bobby knew from experience. He would be damned before he ever saw that happen to Sam on his watch.
Dropping to his knees, Bobby slid Sam off his hand onto the hardwood floor. Once he stood back up, he took a careful step away from the small Winchester, not trusting himself near the boy. Sam was too small and easily hurt to want to see him next to boots so much bigger than him.
Sam immediately set out towards his brother, unfazed by the distance between them. Every inch of him bled determination. Bobby followed, keeping a careful distance between his boots and the miniature hunter. Sam didn't even flinch when the ground shook behind him. He was completely focused on Dean.
The moment Sam reached his brother, he started to haul himself up Dean's prone form. Bobby's eyes widened at the sight of Sam, fearlessly scaling a giant. Dean might not be conscious, but he could easily be dangerous to someone as small as Sam without ever needing to wake up. One twitch, one arm shifting slightly the wrong way and Sam could be tossed to the ground or crushed. Sam was that much smaller. Yet for such a tiny guy, the kid sure as hell had balls. Bobby wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to trust anyone enough to climb up them like that, especially not while they were unconscious.
Seeing Sam that way, outlined against the backdrop of his older brother made Bobby realize exactly how much height the kid had lost. Hell - some of Dean's fingers were as long as him. But Sam still climbed up, using Dean's shirt for purchase the whole way. He didn't hesitate for a second once he reached Dean's hands. Dean needed him, and that's all that mattered. While Bobby was woolgathering behind him, Sam managed to balance precariously on the back of Dean's hand, staring up at his huge brother with worry covering his face.
"Dean!" he called up, stomping one of his small boots onto Dean's thumb, hoping to get a rise out of him. Aside from a slight twitch, Dean didn't respond. His breathing remained shallow and even.
Kneeling down next to the unconscious hunter, Bobby carefully shook Dean's shoulder, trying to help wake him. "Dean." Sam was too small to wake someone like that, as much as he clearly wanted to. Bobby did his best to keep from rocking the hand Sam was standing on.
There was still no response.
While Bobby was trying to wake Dean, Sam dug his knife out of his jacket, tearing into the tight bindings around Dean's hands. Following his lead, Bobby took a bigger knife to the thicker ropes binding the hunter to the wooden post.
By the time Sam had cut through the last few threads and Bobby had freed Dean's legs, Dean was beginning to show signs of life. Bobby sat back, remembering Dean's enforced rule of 'personal space.' He was careful to keep close enough that if Sam was in any danger of being thrown off his brother, he'd be able to catch him.
He needn't have worried. The second Dean's eyes slitted open, they landed on Sam like he'd been expecting him. Bobby was startled, to say the least. Dean shouldn't have been able to feel someone that small standing there. Sam barely weighed anything at all.
"...'ammy?" Dean rasped out, voice barely functional. The glazed green eyes blinked, trying hard to focus down on his hands.
His hands shifted under Sam, just enough to make the smaller Winchester stumble. Sam fell over backwards, safely landing in Dean's palm, outstretched at the last second to catch him. Curling his fingers protectively over his brother, Dean lifted up the hand holding Sam to his face. He blearily checked to make sure Sam was alright while he blinked tiredly.
Bobby could feel his heart warmed by the obvious concern Dean showed his small brother. He had clearly earned the trust Sam gave him. Dean didn't even bother checking if he himself was alright until he was sure Sammy was okay.
Sam stared trustingly up at Dean, unfazed by the sight of the huge fingers eclipsing him. "Dean..." he said, sounding less panicked now that his brother was conscious.
Not responding to Sam yet, Dean pulled himself up to a sitting position, shaking his head to try and clear it. Once his head was straight, he glanced up. It took a few long seconds before what he was staring at sunk in. At long last, he focused on the older hunter sitting near him. "Bobby? " Dean's eyes ballooned in shock, fingers curling around Sam as he eyed the older hunter suspiciously. Trying to move weakly away from Bobby, he cupped the hand holding Sam protectively against his chest.
Bobby's heart almost broke at the reaction he'd gotten out of Dean. Not from the suspicion - if he had someone the size of Sam to look after, he'd be suspicious of everyone too. Hell, he was suspicious of everyone now. But the look in Dean's eyes - how afraid he seemed of ever losing Sam again - that hurt to see. It reminded him so much of the way Dean had been... the weeks after losing his brother.
"DEAN!" The shout rolls across the junkyard.
Bobby glances out the window from where he's sitting reading the newspaper. Ever since John arrived on his doorstep a week ago, battered and bruised, he's been riding Dean mercilessly. The boy has taken to hiding in the junkyard, fiddling with the cars for a distraction, an escape from his father's rage and obsession.
John of course has taken that badly. He's started to track Dean down, finding the boy and forcing him to train. Guns, self-defense... even basic tracking skills. Not that John has half the skill of Bobby at THAT. But John naturally considers his way the best way. Ever since Bobby originally helped him learn hunting skills he's become hardheaded, rarely taking any advice without a grain of salt.
And for Dean, it's either John's way or the highway. His father accepts no less.
Bobby can't take much more of this. The boy hasn't spoken a word since losing his brother. Each time John tracks him down, Dean simply does the training he's told to do. In those moments he has a single minded determination, focused completely on the task at hand. John's heavy handed tasking leaves no time for the boy to recover, no time to mourn.
Bobby watches as John confronts Dean in front of the house. One of the junkyard dogs lies nearby, watching calmly. John yells at Dean for slacking off. He berates Dean for letting his focus slide, for losing sight of their goal. He scolds the boy, asking if he WANTS to die like his brother. Dean simply stands there, taking it. He stares at the ground under his feet, letting the shouts roll off his back as he scuffs a shoe against the rough, gravelly ground.
But Bobby can see the way Dean clenches his fist behind his back. Where his father can't see it. He is holding in all the pain and rage and self-blame, bottling it up until no emotion can escape. Not fear, not happiness, not sorrow. Each day he becomes better at this, using his unique mental focus to keep control. Bobby wishes it doesn't have to be this way. If Dean keeps it all in, it will eventually consume him, a black hole of emotions that will leave nothing behind.
Yet John can see none of this. Too buried under his own guilt from losing his youngest, piled on top of the loss of Mary all those years ago, he can't see anything but the mission. His holy cause. The beginning and ending of his day. His own personal Alpha and Omega. He will drag Dean down into the pit with him if given half the chance. And Dean will let him. He knows no other way.
After the shouting is over, John storms off. Dean settles down on the steps, mechanically taking apart his gun and reassembling it, over and over and over. Each piece is meticulously removed, cleaned and fitted. He knows that gun better at 14 than Bobby did at 28. No child should have to live that way.
The roar of the Impala starts up. John is off to the bar, his most self-destructive habit. He might come back later, he might not. Either way, Dean will sit there until his hands are covered in blisters, sore and bleeding, memorizing the gun down to its smallest parts. He probably knows it well enough to build one with his eyes closed. He won't stop until he falls asleep there on the steps or is TOLD to stop by his father. Which will not happen.
And, Bobby knows why Dean is like this. He blames himself for his brother's loss. Sammy's memory haunts Dean's every footstep, his shadow behind every door Dean opens. The little brother that used to idolize him, follow him everywhere like a lost puppy. Gone forever. Dean will never stop blaming himself for what happened.
Bobby can't stand by and watch anymore. He goes outside. Dean barely glances up from the gun, eyes flicking to the older hunter for a mere second before resuming his work. Bobby bends down, putting a hand on the gun. Dean meets his eyes, confusion showing through. He knows as well as Bobby how John will react if he finds out Dean is slacking off again. Bobby just stares back, letting his own silence speak for itself when he meets the boy’s eyes. He doesn't get a response from Dean and doesn't expect one.
But the boy has suffered enough.
Bobby takes Dean back in the kitchen. He cooks them both a meal of hot dogs and baked beans. He takes Dean out back and tosses a ball back and forth with him. They spend that night eating popcorn, drinking Pepsi and watching old westerns. They start with a Clint Eastwood one. With the monkey.
John will never find out that Dean didn't train that day. Not from Bobby. And Dean won't speak for another few months, the time it takes for him to process through his brother's loss. John drinks himself into oblivion each night for another month before he returns to hunting. Obsession blinds him to the changes in his eldest son.
That day, Dean doesn't smile. It's too soon for that. But the darkness that's been hovering over him is pushed back.
For a time.
Bobby brought himself back to the present. Dean was still eyeing him up suspiciously, with Sam cupped protectively in those same hands covered in scars and calluses from years of training and hunting. Years of John pushing him to the limit.
Sam was trying his best to push off the big fingers pressing him to Dean's chest. He was so small there was no way for him to make any progress while the two hunters sat there in a silent standoff.
His small voice broke the silence, cutting through the thick tension like a knife. "Dean! Stop it... Bobby's here with me! I brought him!"
That was enough to get Dean's attention. Uncovering Sam, he held his smaller sibling directly in front of his face, glaring at him. "You did what? "
Sam stood up to his full four inch height as soon as he was freed. He glared right back at Dean, unintimidated by the larger hunter. "I called him because you were in trouble, and I couldn't help you!" The desperation showed through his voice. "Not on my own at least! Ever since you came into the motel room not acting like yourself..."
In less than an instant the expression on Dean's face went from annoyance to worry and fear. "Did he... did I... see you?"
Sam shook his head. "No, I kept out of sight the whole time. He never gave any signals, or even a sign he knew I was there... just tore the room apart searching for weapons."
Dean scowled. "Weapons? What's a monster want with weapons?"
Bobby felt it time to interrupt the brotherly bickering and get them focused on the problem. He had a feeling they could go on like that the rest the night. "It's a doppelgänger, idjit. Unless it links to you, it has no natural weapons. Meaning, it needs to protect itself the good 'ole fashioned way we all do."
Footsteps came from behind him out of nowhere. Before Bobby could react, something solid hit him in the head. All he saw was a flash of red, and then he hit the ground.
Sam barely had time to register the ominous footsteps before he found himself mashed into Dean's chest, his brother trying his best to block Sam from sight. He tried to escape the huge fingertips, with the pressure holding him down almost strong enough to snap bones. "Dean!" he gasped out, praying Dean could hear him. "Too much!"
Immediately, the pressure released from his back. Dean still held him in the dark, but his hand cupped around Sam instead of pressing him down. Sam slumped down in Dean's grip, panting from how close it had been.
The edge of the jacket helped shield Sam from the creature’s line of sight. One of the fingers surrounding Sam nudged him roughly to the side. After a second's confusion, Sam realized Dean was trying to guide him into one of the inside pockets of his jacket, where he would be safely out of sight.
A voice cut through the air over him, a very familiar voice. But Dean's chest didn't vibrate the way it always did when he was talking, and the voice might have been right, but the intonations, the way the words rolled off the tongue just wasn't Dean. "Well, well well. What have we here." The boots stopped right next to Dean. Sam froze where he was, hoping to escape notice. "Another hunter. You hunters... you're drawn to things like me... like flies to shit." A second passed where Sam could hear fabric shifting. "You don't even know what you got yourself into, did you?"
This time, the voice was clearly Dean. "What are you talking about, you freak?" he demanded, loud enough to shake Sam where he was hidden.
Sam was starting to get confused. Dean should have gone for the monster already... he was untied and free. Bobby'd been knocked out, but surely Dean could take out the monster on his own. Why wasn't he moving?
The boots started up again, pacing away. Sam took the opportunity to wriggle out of Dean's grasp, tumbling head first into the closest pocket once he was free. After a short drop he landed on salt shells almost as long as his leg. He let out a small groan, the metal clinking softly as he landed. Dean's pockets weren't exactly made to hide a person in comfortably. That's gonna leave a bruise, he thought to himself ruefully. Shifting until he was sitting on top, Sam listened to the surroundings outside.
Something was being dragged across the floor. "You know," said the fake Dean's chipper tone. "I thought I'd have to hunt down my next meals. I mean, I spent years drifting before I anchored myself to that girl. So weak, so pathetic was I that I couldn't wait, draw out the feeding the way I should. The way that is proper. I had to take all her essence at once. Otherwise it would have been sweet, sweet oblivion for me." The shifting ended with the fake Dean grunting. Rope rustled.
Sam frowned. Must be tying Bobby up. It wasn't far away either. The sounds were coming from Dean's right side. Dean still wasn't moving though. In fact... He's getting weaker. His breathing... it's getting shallower...Worry pervaded every corner of Sam's mind. Whatever the monster had done to the girl when it stole her life, it was doing to Dean, now.
"Tell me what you are." Dean's loud voice demanded. But Sam could hear the effort that phrase took out of his brother. No wonder he hadn't made a move at the creature... Dean had no strength left. And the creature knew it. That's why he wasn't wasting his time tying the hunter up... he knew Dean was no threat.
Grim determination filled Sam. Dean might not be a threat, but the monster didn't even suspect Sam was there. Who would? All he had to do was get Bobby free so he could go for his silver knife and take the monster out. And hope he could wake up Bobby.
Just sneak past a monstrous version of Dean, untie a giant hunter and stay clear of getting squashed in the chaos that would ensue.
"Hell, once I'm done with the two of you, I won't even need to feed for.... oh, another century or so. Your friend... he has a bit of life left in him. But you... you have one of the strongest life forces I've ever felt."
Dean growled at that. "What the hell kind of shapeshifter are you? I've never heard of one taking a person’s life force from them..."
The second Dean scoffed. "Shapeshifters. Pretentious creatures, the lot of 'em. Always looking down at my people because we need to feed to survive. Whereas what they do, they do for fun. I'm a doppelgänger, fool. Your unconscious friend here got that much right."
Sam took the opportunity to haul himself out of Dean's pocket while the giants were going back and forth over his head. Sam braced himself against the flannel shirt Dean was wearing under his jacket and started to climb slowly down, focusing solely on not disturbing the outside of the jacket. He needed to keep under the radar for this to work, his greatest asset. He used the small amount of light leaking into the tight area to see his handholds ahead of time, planning out his descent.
The moment Dean felt Sam start to slip down his shirt, he realized he needed to keep the creature distracted. Whatever Sam up to down there, Dean trusted his judgement. "Doppelgänger. I'm really not seeing the difference here. They change their shape, you change your shape," he baited.
The creature tuted under his breath. "Shapeshifters kill for pleasure. My people kill for survival. If we don't feed from a human, we fade away into nothingness. Lost in the wind."
Sam made it to the edge of Dean's pants. He carefully peeked out from under the jacket, searching for the creature. It was standing across the room, glaring at Dean with the same familiar green-eyed scowl Sam saw most days. A shiver went up his back from the disturbing familiarity. It really was like looking into a mirror of Dean. Sam slipped down off Dean's leg, landing out of sight.
"We doppelgängers need to tie ourselves to this plane. Once anchored, we assume the form of the person we attached our essence to. Now, the closer we stay to our anchor, the faster we absorb their life. Which is why you feel so weak right now. So mostly, we keep away. A few miles is close enough to still gain the energy without losing the bond and discorporating. It gives us a few months before we have to seek out a new bond. Humans started to figure us out near the beginning of the 1900's. Catching a picture of a person on the other side of town while the actual person is at home with their family... or at church, at work. And so on. A few were killed by hunters, but most survived by staying as far from their anchor as possible, so there was less chance of recognition."
Sam glanced over the top of Dean's leg as best he could. Seeing the creature gazing off in another direction, he took his chance, darting across the floor to Bobby. Now that he was further away from Dean, he could see his brother's lips were almost bloodless, Dean barely breathing at all. But he soldiered on, knowing Sam and Bobby's safety depended on him.
"Heh," the creature laughed. "All I gotta do now is wait. With me so close, you'll be dead in an hour and your friend will follow soon after. And I..." he leaned close over Dean, "...will be free to leave at last, living off this energy until I need to anchor myself once more."
Sam managed to crawl up Bobby's arm, clutching his knife desperately. The doppelgänger had tied Bobby's arms to the pole behind him, giving Sam cover while he started to hack away at the bindings. One of the hands twitched under Sam as Bobby roused, starting to recover from the blow to his head. Thinking fast, Sam pulled himself onto Bobby's wrist so he wouldn't get thrown off by the moving fingers below. He was suspended in the air by a foot or more, so if he got thrown off he'd break bones at the least.
Bobby groaned as he roused. His head ached something fierce. Remembering what happened the minute before he lost consciousness, he glanced around the room, eyes falling on Dean. The younger hunter was slumped further down, exhausted by both his continued banter and proximity to the Dean-alike. Bobby could almost see the life force being taken from Dean now. He felt his worry spike. Dean clearly couldn't hold on much longer. He wondered what had happened to Sam... there was no sign of him anywhere, dead or alive, when he realized he could feel something on his hand. Moving... shifting... then one of the ropes on his wrist went slack and he realized where Sam must have gone. The kid was actually standing on his wrist, cutting Bobby free out of sight. For someone smaller than a hand, he was hands-down one of the bravest people Bobby had ever known. Bobby froze, holding his arm as still as he could for the small hunter.
The doppelgänger leaned over Dean, stroking a hand over his face. It grabbed ahold of his chin, forcing Dean to stare into its own green-eyed glare. A white mist rose from him, swirling into the Dean-alike. Dean's body sagged down as his life force was taken, breathing out a death rattle.
Right when Bobby thought it was all over and Dean was lost to them, the rope behind him completely snapped. Sam's small body plummeted when he moved, catching Bobby's sleeve at the last second. Bobby went for his knife with the Sam-free arm as he swooped his other hand beneath the boy, scooping him to safety. He dove for the doppelgänger, slamming it away from Dean. Dean collapsed to the side as Bobby raised his silver knife, plunging it down into the fake Dean's chest.
The creature let out a shriek, clawing at its face. A white mist rose from it, part scattering in the air and part drifting back to Dean, laying over his body like a fine dew. Dean took a deep breath, color returning to his face as the mist sank into his skin. The creature faded into the air, its body returning to the energy it stole from others. The last few flickers drifted by Sam, wafting his hair as he stood on Bobby's palm.
Bobby dropped to his knees, helping Dean sit up, still weak. "You okay, boy?" he asked gruffly.
"Uh... yeah, 'hink so." Dean blinked his eyes. "Sammy?"
"Here!" Sam waved up at his big brother from his perch on Bobby's hand, grinning hugely.
Dean smiled with relief the moment he saw his brother, thankful his family was still in one piece.
Later that night the three hunters were found sitting around the small table in Dean's motel room, enjoying a quiet drink together. Well - Dean and Bobby were sitting at the table, on opposite sides. Sam was sitting on a small pile of books Dean had set up for him, close to his brother's relaxed arm.
He wasn't afraid of Bobby now, but he didn't feel completely comfortable around the large hunter. Not the same way he felt sitting near Dean. He felt safer here, next to the massive, familiar hand distractedly tapping out the beat to 'Ramble On' without even noticing.
Neither human had been surprised that Sam had stayed with his brother on the trip back to the motel. He couldn't believe the relief he'd felt, being held in those familiar, callused hands. The whole time they'd been trying to save Dean, he'd been afraid he'd never get his brother back... that that creature, that doppelgänger would kill Dean before he got Bobby free.
Sam would have done anything to save his brother. As afraid as he'd been, so high up in the air balancing on the wrist of a human he didn't know well, he'd have done it all again. And again.
Those few seconds falling, he'd been sure it was all over. But Bobby hadn't let him down, scooping Sam's tiny body to safety while he went for the creature wearing Dean's face, saving both brothers.
For the moment, Sam sipped from the tinfoil cup he'd made himself, drinking some of the beer Dean had poured him when they got in. He wasn't planning on getting drunk this time... he didn't remember much from the last time he'd been drinking, but what he did remember made his ears burn in embarrassment. How did Dean never have a problem, no matter how much he drank? Yet Sam had a few capfuls and he ended up swimming in his brother's cup. Literally.
Sam stretched his legs along the book he was sitting on, propping them up. Sitting on the table with the two humans looming above didn't bother him in the slightest. He wondered if he should be worried about that. Here he was, four inches tall, clearly not human, yet he was perfectly safe, surrounded by two massive, dangerous hunters. Men who lived to hunt down the supernatural. If only Walt could see him now... Sam wished desperately that his father would have given Dean a chance. Maybe if Sam hadn't been so concerned about his family wanting him to stay away from Dean, things would be different now...
While Sam was lost in his thoughts, Dean's deep voice rumbled through the air. "So Bobby. You never told me. How'd you end up here, anyway? And with Sam, of all people?"
Sam watched the older hunter lean back in his chair, taking a huge swig of his bottle. "Well, I got a strange phone call from you. Picked up, but no one was talking on the other line."
Sam felt his ears turn red at the memory. He hadn't been able to talk to the other human... even to get Dean help. If Bobby hadn't been such a paranoid bastard, he'd never have come to investigate and right now Dean would be...
Bobby arched his eyebrows down at Sam. "It seemed suspicious enough to come check out. When I got here and found him hiding in your room it all started to make sense."
Sam bowed his head, remembering those first moments when Bobby had broken into the room. Listening to the huge voice echo through the room, knowing if he got caught there was no one around to save him... afraid of being found by another human, a hunter that wasn't his brother. Walt would be rolling in his grave if he knew what Sam had been through the last few days.
The huge hand he was sitting near moved, draping a finger against the book Sam was sitting on. Glancing up at his brother, he saw Dean looking down at him with worry and fear covering his face. Sam sighed, knowing Dean was blaming himself for leaving Sam on his own. He gave the closest finger a rough kick, annoyed with his brother's overprotectiveness. "Dean, nothing bad happened." He stared up at Bobby, pushing Dean from his mind as best he could. "How did you figure out I was there so fast? I've been caught out in rooms before, but no one's ever figured out I was there like that."
He tried to ignore how that massive hand near him tensed when he mentioned being caught. Peeking up at Dean, he saw that his brother had an angry, intense look on his face, directed at Bobby.
Bobby had no reaction to Dean's anger. His eyes fell on Sam, making the smaller hunter freeze up for a second under the unfamiliar scrutiny. Bobby gave him a small, reassuring smile. "You're not the first person your size I ever met. I've run into your people on and off throughout the years."
Sam couldn't help the look of hope that washed over his face. "You have? Who... where was it? When?"
Bobby gave a laugh. "Calm down. It’s been years now. And unlike your brother here, the closest I ever came to one of you before today was one time I found a man locked up in a cage. There was a hunter in town, tracking down all the littles that lived there... I got there just in time to get him out of the cage. Spent the rest of my time convincing that hunter that there was nothing to hunt." He closed his eyes in memory. "Bastard would have killed 'em all with a clear conscience if he could."
"I don't understand... what would make someone actually search them out and try to kill them?" Dean glanced down at Sam, meeting his brother's eyes. "They're not exactly dangerous."
Sam shifted in his seat, disturbed by the sudden consideration in Dean's eyes. He knew Dean well enough to know he was analyzing the type of threat someone Sam's size could pose, from a hunter's perspective. Though he knew he was perfectly safe, it put a chill up his spine to be sized up by such a large hunter.
Bobby frowned deeply, lines etched in his face. "I don't know what would make anyone actually search them out," he admitted. "But for why he wanted to kill them... it was just because they're different. Just because they’re ‘supernatural.' " He stared down at Sam and gestured at him. “Those same people would say Sam here’s not human, too.”
Sam blinked in surprise at that. "You'd still consider me human?" He waved an arm at himself. “Even like this? "
Bobby's face went solemn. "The only difference between you and Dean is your size. The curse didn't take away your humanity, boy. No matter what anyone tells you. Now you may not be the normal definition of a human, but that's no reason for people to treat you any different."
Sam tucked his chin down. "I just..." He stared at the hand draped casually on the table next to him. Fingers as long as he was tall, a palm so wide he could curl up on it and take a nap... He couldn't bring himself to accept he was human like Dean anymore. Not like this. "We're so different..."
"Different's not a bad thing." Bobby blinked his eyes, focusing on what he'd been talking about before. "But that don't mean everyone believes it... There's a few hunters out there like that. More'n one community's been slaughtered because of people like him."
Dean scowled at Bobby. "And why didn't you ever tell me they existed? If I'd known..." He stared intently at Sam, making him shift uncomfortably under the scrutiny. Sam's instincts were on overdrive today. "I might not have almost hurt Sam when I found him..."
With a nod Bobby accepted Dean's reaction. They'd explained to him when they first got back how Sam had been first discovered, leaving out no details, including Sam injuring his wrist and how Dean had grabbed him before knowing what was there. "I never told you because there was no way to know how you'd react. They're perfectly harmless, and even helpful on occasion if you managed to get them to talk to you. Which almost never happens because of how vulnerable they are around us. The trust isn't there. It might never be." At this Bobby gave Sam a sad smile. "No one knows exactly where the others like Sam came from, or what they really are. Names have been given to them throughout the years..."
Sam tensed, hoping Bobby wouldn't reveal the ‘borrower’ name his people had been given 'officially.' He didn't want to give Dean more fuel than he already had.
But Bobby didn't let him down. "...but all that does is cover up fact we know almost nothing about these people who share our world. Now, yer daddy had a bee in his bonnet against anything he considered 'supernatural' and they'd certainly qualify. The last thing I ever wanted to do was put them in more danger from other hunters. Especially since I didn't know how he'd react." He met Dean’s eyes steadily at that. Dean scowled, but nodded his understanding.
Sam winced at the thought of his dad. It was all too true for him. John Winchester could easily be a danger to his youngest son, whether he meant it or not.
Bobby watched the brothers reaction for a moment before he kept talking. "Once I found your bag lying out, it was obvious you were there. No regular sized human could ever make a bag that intricate, that small. You can tell when something's made for a dollhouse and when it’s actually made to be used. And the signs of wear on it... I figured you couldn't be far."
Sam tightened his grip on his bag, remembering those moments with a stranger holding all his most important possessions. How powerless he'd felt, having to hide with no way to get his things back.
Dean stared down at him with a worried gaze when he noticed Sam's tense posture, making Sam fire up his own annoyed glower at his brother's overprotectiveness.
Bobby smiled slightly. "Idjits..." he said, bringing Sam and Dean's focus back over to him. "Once I knew he was there, I tried to let him know he was safe. I was shocked when he stood up and let me see him... that almostnever happens. Sam's one of the bravest people his size I ever met."
Dean's eyes went round at that. "You did that for me?" he asked quietly, knowing how dangerous it would be for Sam to reveal himself to another human... a hunter, at that.
Sam rocked back on the books, staring down at the table. That same helpless feeling struck him. "You needed help and he was the only person I could go to..."
Bobby stared at the two of them for a long moment, taking in the tall hunter and his miniature brother. Both hunters in their own rights, no matter their size. "You boys..." he sighed. "Ain't no one out there like the two of you."
It wasn't long before Bobby excused himself, wanting to head back home before it got too late. "You two keep out of trouble now, hear me?"
Dean laughed. "We'll see you around, Bobby."
"Don't be strangers." Bobby cast one last look at Sam. "Both you boys are always welcome at my place."
Sam watched from the table as Dean let Bobby out of the room. He sighed, glad it was all over. Back to just him and Dean, no freaky monster running around with his brother's face, no unknown hunters for Sam to worry about. Standing, he took stock of where he was. It wasn't too late, so he could get some exploring in before turning in for the night... do a quick run through of the walls. Just too sure.
Dean was leaning his head against the door of the room when Sam started his climb down from the table. He scaled down the long table leg, keeping a firm grip on his fishing line. A third of the way down, he realized the world was shaking around him. The moment it stopped, Sam twisted in place. His breath caught in his throat. His brother's knees were barely a foot away from Sam, sending a small shiver up his back at the sheer scale of his brother.
No, he couldn’t be a human same as Dean. Not like this.
Now that Bobby was gone and the case was solved, he remembered how angry Dean had been before. The fear he'd pushed to the back of his mind came rushing to the forefront.
Dean knelt down, giving Sam an uncertain smile. "You, uh... you want a hand?" he asked hopefully.
The words "I'm fine" were on the tip of Sam's tongue when he saw the expression on Dean's face. The fear faded from his mind, forgotten.
He's afraid, Sam realized.
Afraid of what?
The realization hit Sam at the last second. He's afraid of pushing me away.
He's afraid of losing me.
So Sam smiled through his nerves. Dean needed this more than he did. "Yeah, that'd be great."
A huge hand rose up, letting the fish line slip through the fingers so Sam wasn't jostled. It came to a rest less than an inch under Sam's dangling feet, forming a broad platform. Sam let go of the line, hitting the surface of Dean's palm with a thump. It caught his weight easily. He dropped into a squat to keep his balance as the hand rose up, close to Dean's face so it would be easier for them to talk.
"Where do you want me to drop you off?" Dean asked seriously. Sam's hair was ruffled in the slight breeze caused by Dean's words.
Sam took a quick look around the room. "Mind dropping me off near the nightstand? I thought I saw an entrance my size... figured I'd check it out..."
Dean unfolded himself to a stand, plucking Sam's small hook from the table as he rose. Sam accepted it from the massive fingertips gratefully, tucking it safely back into his bag. A few thudding steps later and Dean was kneeling down. He paused for a second, raising up Sam.
"Sam, you know I never meant to scare you the other day, right? That no matter how annoyed I get, you're always safe with me?"
Sam couldn't bring himself to respond at first, too surprised by the sudden outpouring from Dean.
Dean held up his other hand, staring at it while he clenched it into a fist. He took Sam's silence the wrong way. "I mean, I know I'll always be dangerous for you to be around because of what I am, but I'd never purposely hurt you..."
Sam cut him off mid rant. "Dean..." He stared down at the hand he was standing on, stared at all the ridges and scars that made it uniquely Dean's. Some were so small it was doubtful Dean would ever be able to see them, but to Sam they were as clear as day. As familiar to him as his home had been all those years. As small as he was, as vulnerable as he was, he felt safe here. He knew now that no matter what, no matter how much he pissed off Dean, these massive hands would always mean safety to Sam. Security. His only sanctuary in the world. "I know you didn't do it on purpose. And, dude? I'm not scared of you." Sam held out his small arms. "Would I be standing here if I was?"
Sam met the uncertain green eyes above him. Dean gave a hesitant smile back. Sam gave the thumb near him a swift kick for emphasis, knowing he couldn't hurt Dean. And Dean would never hurt him. "So stop worrying so much, alright? It wasn't your fault."
"Whatever, pint-size." Dean gave Sam a small chuck on the shoulder with a finger before he lowered his hand down, letting Sam slide off. "Wish I could go with you," he said quietly.
Sam smiled that. "Yeah, me too," he admitted.
Sam started his trek towards the back of the beds, only to pause when Dean's loud voice rang out behind him. "Sam, wait!" Sam almost stumbled from the sudden volume.
He turned to see Dean rubbing the back of his neck apologetically. "That, uh... that password thing you came up with. Good job."
Sam beamed with pride before turning away from Dean, heading silently under the bed.
No other words were needed.
The next morning found Sam sitting on the nightstand next to the remote for the TV. He was watching the news, seeing if anything raised any flags for their next hunt. Dean was out like a light. He'd spent the night after Sam had left at a local bar, playing some poker and getting a drink.
The news droned on with stories of local politicians and events. Absolutely nothing Sam was interested in, or had any meaning for him. He leaned back with an annoyed sigh.
A loud guitar riff broke through the room.
Sam jumped out of his skin, not expecting the loud noise. Dean's phone lit up next to him, ringing again.
"Dean?" Sam called out. He glanced over at the bed his brother was snoozing on. Dean was still out cold.
Must have been a fun night...
Sam sent a glare at the phone when it went off again.
Giving in, he stalked over. It took effort but he was able to pry it open. Barely. He hit the button forcefully to answer, taking some of his aggravation out. "Hello?" At least the person on the other end had no idea he was four inches tall. Aside from his voice being quieter than Dean's, he sounded normal enough.
"Sammy? Is that you?"
Sam stared at the phone like it had morphed into a venomous snake.