It’s the quiet that first alerts Dean to the fact that something is wrong.
He lifts his head and peers around the living room with groggy blinks. Heat is everywhere, panting against his skin like a living thing. Not even a faint breeze stirs the dingy curtains that fringe the open windows. All of the lights are off, and so is the TV, although Dean left Sam parked in front of it when he lay down on the couch to take a nap.
Dean frowns, sitting up the rest of the way, and scans the living room floor for his brother. There’s an empty glass with traces of milk at the bottom, a plate littered with cookie crumbs, and a coloring book, all stacked neatly in front of the blank TV screen. There’s a scatter of crayons, left less neatly in the center of the floor.
No sign of Sam.
“Sammy?” Dean calls. “Sammy, you’re s’pposed to stay where I can see you.”
Dean isn’t too worried, though. Not yet. The little squirt’s weirdly mature at times, but he’s still three years old, and three is too small to work the doors leading outside.
But what if someone came in and took him?
“What if nothing,” Dean mutters back, although his skin is prickling now.
Dad left him in charge, and that makes Sam his responsibility, but that isn’t really what’s scaring him.
What if someone did take Sam? Or something?
A sound from the apartment’s short hallway has Dean moving in that direction without thinking twice. He isn’t armed, because Dad says he’s not old enough for a gun of his own yet, but Dad’s been teaching him to punch. He’s pretty sure he can handle whatever’s making that stealthy noise.
It’s probably just Sam anyway.
“Sammy? That you?”
He comes across a scatter of markers in the hallway, and a moment later notices some of Sam’s stick figures low on the walls. Dad’s going to tan Dean’s hide for that when he gets home, and never mind that it was Dad who decided to indulge Sam’s newfound passion to be the next Rembrandt.
Anger scatters Dean’s fear and he bends to collect the markers as he heads for the door to their room, where he’s certain Sam is doing even more things Dean’s going to catch heat for.
“You’re in big trouble, fart-breath!”
There’s a giggle from their bedroom.
Dean squares his shoulders, markers clenched in his fists, and rounds the doorframe.
Sammy colored in front of the TV until he got tired of his crayons. Then he moved into the hallway with his markers, and all the while Dean slept on in a heat-induced stupor.
Then Sam moved into the bedroom and broke out the fingerpaint.
The stuff is everywhere: a riot of color on the walls and the bedspreads and the dresser. Clumsy yellow flowers cover the closet door; red stick figures march underneath the bedroom windowsill. Sammy went abstract with both bedframes, covering them with garish splotches of magenta and cerulean.
Sammy, sitting in the middle of the mess, hasn’t escaped his own whirlwind of creativity. There’s paint in his hair and all over his clothes. His skin is streaked in green and purple like some sort of bizarre war paint.
Dean’s blood washes deliriously cold for a single instant, then goes back to boiling.
“Oh, you…” he says, and then stops, at a loss for words. He’s sure Dad would know the proper swears for this sort of apocalyptic mess, but he’s still learning and he doesn’t trust himself to be expressive enough to get the point across.
Sammy grins up at him. His chubby face beams with pride at his accomplishments. Giggling, he holds up something so coated in multi-colored Sammy handprints that it looks like a solid sheet of paint.
“Made you pwesent!”
“Made me…” Dean shuts his mouth again on a sudden, horrified suspicion. He darts a glance at the dresser again, noting the fourth drawer up—Sammy can barely reach it, but he somehow managed not only to reach but to pull it open. “What did you do?”
Sammy giggles again and shakes the paint-smeared thing in his grimy hands. “Pwesent fuh Dean.”
Horror tightens Dean’s throat, but he has to know. Dropping the pens, he dashes forward and jerks the dripping cloth from Sam’s hands.
It is. Oh God, it is.
Sam claps his hands, sending a cast off spray of paint onto the rug. “Pwetty collaws!” he crows, and all Dean can do is stare at the giggling imp with wide, disbelieving eyes.
Sam has violated Dean’s official Led Zeppelin ‘Day on the Green’ t-shirt, signed by John Bonham himself. He mutilated it.
Dean already knew Sammy was a pain in the ass, but this is the first time he realizes that his brother is, in fact, the Antichrist.
His voice comes back in a rush with the realization.
“You ruined it!” he shouts, darting forward and shaking the shirt in Sam’s startled face. “You little shit, you ruined my shirt!”
Sam’s eyes widen so dramatically Dean almost thinks they’re in danger of falling out, and then he starts bawling.
And that, of course, is when Dad gets home.
Infuriatingly enough, Dad seems more amused than anything else by the mess. He brushes aside Dean’s insistence that they take Sammy to Pastor Jim for an exorcism (not that Dean is all that certain one of those will work on the Antichrist), proclaims that Dean’s shirt will be fine once it’s been washed (it isn’t; a splotch of blue on the hem in the shape of Sam’s hand never does come completely off), and then picks Sammy up and carries him into the bathroom for a bath.
Dean forks two fingers at his eyes and then points them at Sam as Dad carries him away in clear warning. I’m watching you, punk. Sam stares back with wide, tearful eyes and a trembling bottom lip until he and Dad vanish around the corner.
Muttering to himself in disgust, Dean starts figuring out how to clean some of this mess up.
That night, as Dean is trying to sleep amid the too-strong scent of cleaning fluids, there’s a rustle and an unwelcome weight on his bed. Pulling the sheet higher, he rolls onto his side.
“Dean.” Sam’s pudgy hands grab his hip and shake. “Dean.”
Dean jerks his hip free from Sam’s hold. “Get out of my bed. Stupid Antichrist.”
Sam’s quiet for a long moment, and then he says in a tiny, sad voice, “Sowwy.”
“Sorry-lookin’,” Dean mutters.
Dean rolls his eyes. “Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
“Sowwy, Dean,” Sam repeats. His voice hitches, breath speeding, and in a few moments he’ll be at full wail.
Dean rolls over hastily. Before he can say anything, Sam is plastered to his front, clinging to Dean like Dean’s an oversized teddy bear. He sniffles and whispers apologies and is generally so pathetic that Dean feels a sting of guilt despite himself. Grudgingly, he lifts a hand and pats Sam’s back. When Sam responds by burrowing closer, Dean rolls his eyes but doesn’t protest.
“For the Antichrist, you’re sort of pathetic,” he points out.
Sam sticks his thumb in his mouth and sucks on it contentedly as he watches Dean with wide, trusting eyes.
“This doesn’t mean I forgive you,” Dean warns. “I just don’t want you waking up Dad.”
The smile Sam gives Dean around his thumb says he knows better. “G’night, Dean.”
Sighing, Dean resigns himself to the inevitable. “G’night, squirt. Try not to end the world while I’m asleep.”
Miracle of miracles, he doesn’t.