Title: I WIsh I was a Growed Up
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural except in my dreams where schmoop abounds.
Warnings: Those of you who think John Winchester was a good father doing the best he could under terrible circumstances may not like my portrayal. He's not deliberately cruel, but he is negligent and he treats his sons as though they are soldiers, not little boys. Just remember this story is AU and Sammy knows what his daddy does at a much younger age than canon Sammy.
Word Count: ~3,400 this chapter 54,000 in total
Summary: Sammy has just figured out that life isn't fair for his older brother, Dean. He wishes there was some way he could help. When his wish comes true their lives are changed forever. AU hurt/sick!Dean protective!Sam Wee!chester Ages Dean 8 Sam 4 and 24
A/N: Thank you to everyone who has shown an interest in this story. I have incredibly mixed feelings about finishing it. On the one hand, it seems as if I've been writing it forever and it has gotten quite long. It needs to have an ending and Sam and Dean deserve a break at this point. However, I'm going to miss them like crazy!
I Wish I was a Growed Up
Chapter 16 The Curse
John looks at his boys and is struck at once by just exactly what he'd gambled with. He had put his two most precious possessions on the line as though they were commodities in a high stakes game of chance. Yeah, the gamble had paid off, they're both alive, Sam is grown, and the imp is now on the defensive instead of on the offensive. He feels a sense of deep relief, accomplishment even, in that he was able to determine how the wish would respond to a certain situation. There's something satisfying in knowing he was able to trigger Sammy's transformation, make the wish react to him instead of the other way around.
And yet…his boys look shattered.
Sam has Dean tucked up against his torso and under his chin, the only visible parts of Dean are the toes of his sneakers. The way Sam is wrapped around every possible inch of his brother makes the young hunter appear to be hiding Dean away from the entire world, no exceptions. John can just barely hear the muffled sobs coming from his first born son. They sound like the very epitome of heart-wrenching grief, reminding John of a vulnerability he doesn't want to think about in connection with either one of his boys, but especially not Dean.
Sam's face shows a combination of utter despondency and an all-encompassing resolve bordering on obsession. It's a strange combination, to say the least.
Guilt steals across his mind, briefly trashing his composure. John shakes it off as an emotion he can't afford.
After urging Sam to get Dean back to the house, John takes off after the imp, Bobby at his side. There's a blood trail to follow, thanks to Sam's last gunshot. The sticky, green slime coats everything it lands on as though it were some kind of tree sap. John swipes some of the imp's blood off the hood of a beat-up red Mustang in passing, smears it between his index finger and thumb, and grimaces when the stuff sticks like glue.
"Maybe not the smartest thing, touching that gunk." Bobby raises an eyebrow and gives John his patented 'idgit' look.
It's not difficult to figure out that Bobby disapproves of the way John has handled this threat to his family's welfare. The gruff hunter has never been hard to read and he has a soft spot the size of Texas for John's kids. Other people, even those he considers friends, should really learn to mind their own business where his kids are concerned. John keeps his own counsel where they're concerned and he has no use for anyone else's opinion.
John grunts a noncommittal reply and rubs his hand on the seat of his pants, succeeding mostly in gluing lint to his fingers. Fantastic.
The blood trail ends at the edge of Bobby's property where several large oak trees clump together. Squinting up into the branches from a conservative distance is futile; the leaves are so thick and the trees are so closely entwined, it's impossible to see further than the outermost limbs. Still, the safe bet is on the imp being up there and if the creature has stopped running, it must have some plan of action in mind.
As soon as the thought occurs to him, John's vision dims and he hears a sound like maniacal laughter reverberating inside his head. "You hear that, Bobby?"
His friend takes a step forward and begins circling the stand of oak trees. "You don't want to know what I'm hearing. I suspect it's not the same for you. The potion's starting to wear off. We need to end this." Bobby's curt voice clips through the haunting chortles.
Of course, John thinks, the imp's most effective weapon is its illusions. When injured and cornered the shifty little elf-like creature is going to fall back on what it knows best. So, it must be lurking in the branches, relying on the illusions to confuse its enemies. Little does the black imp know, the illusions are only partially effective as long as the potion continues to help the hunters see through them. Advantage goes to the hunters until the potion wears off completely.
Perceiving reality through the illusions is like looking through a window at dusk and seeing whatever is on the outside of the window while also seeing a reflection of whatever is inside at the same time. Two images overlaid on top of each other.
With the knowledge that time is not on their side and that the black imp probably won't hurt them physically, concentrating as it is on a mental attack, John marches into the small glade, gun pointed upward into the leafy canopy. "Cover me," he calls to Bobby just in case.
At first, John assumes the chittering sounds of amusement are coming from the imp, but then he realizes it's the same weird laughter from before. The disturbing thing about this illusion-based humor is the familiar quality of it. He knows that laugh – it's his own – the way his laugh might sound once he's completely gone 'round the bend to crazy town.
An icy shiver flows from the base of his skull all the way to the bottom of his spine. John has a new appreciation for the term 'spine tingling'. The fortunetelling gypsy wasn't lying when she said the imp would use their greatest fears against them.
Only a little sunlight penetrates the cloud cover and the patchy green foliage of the oak trees. John peers through the gloom, ignoring the strains of his own insane mirth and the darkness shading the edges of his vision. Bobby joins him in the shadows a moment later.
"There." Bobby points and John gets his first glimpse of the black imp as it swings from one branch to another, shunning the rare motes of sunlight for the darker recesses of the thickest branches. The spell-casting creature dances and hops, spins and dodges, one second easily visible, the next second all but hidden from sight. John's not certain whether the frenetic movement is a part of creating the illusions or just a personality quirk, not that it matters either way.
His gun tracks the imp as it weaves a crooked path among the tree tops. If it would just stay still for…one…second.
The bullet pierces a greyish-blue shin and the imp falls from the branches, landing almost at John's feet. Illusion spawned maniacal laughter fades away leaving only the harsh panting of the injured creature in its wake. Squinty eyes regard John from an itty-bitty stub-nosed face.
Speaking rapidly in a sing-song voice, the imp tries to strike a bargain in a last ditch bid for its life.
Let me go free
Or forever cursed you will be
To grow less and less fond
Of your sons and their bond
For the pain they do cause
Will give you reason to pause
Too late, John realizes the imp isn't bargaining, it's casting a curse, a curse with an escape clause for itself built in.
From the cryptic lyric, John gathers he has two choices, either release the black imp, allowing it to continue its crusade against his children, or suffer the ramifications of the imp's curse. The curse itself doesn't make a whole lot of sense; something about pain caused by his sons with no explanation for how or why. But it doesn't matter, there's not really any choice to make here as far as John is concerned.
He raises his gun, pulls the trigger, and shoots the creature twice between its squinty little eyes. Satisfied with this outcome, John gestures at the remains. "Light'im up."
While Bobby starts up a bonfire featuring blackened imp charred to a crisp, a low grade headache settles into John's sinuses. He doesn't think much of it, chalks the throbbing up to the smoke and the greasy smell coming from the bubbling flesh.
Bobby is the one to bring up the curse during the trek across the yard to his house. "You know you've got a curse to deal with now, doncha?"
The question is mildly irritating, obviously he has a curse to deal with. He also has two boys to raise and protect, a compulsion to avenge his dead wife, the continuing uncertainty caused by his youngest son's wish and unpredictable transformation, and no steady job. Not to mention the growing rift between himself and both of his sons. There's no shortage of things he has to deal with. "Yeah, I figured that out all by myself."
Eyebrows raised in exasperation, Bobby grumbles, "Well, good for you. I guess you don't need my help then. I can sit this one out, is that right?"
"I don't believe I said that." John inclines his head in mute apology. "I get that it's a curse…just not sure what it means." The pain in his nasal cavity spikes and he presses his thumb and forefinger into the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes shut.
"Well, if you ask me, which I know you didn't," Bobby frowns, but it's only to keep up appearances. "I'd say that headache you're nursing is gonna get worse and worse the closer we get to the house."
Opening one eye to gaze at his friend, John questions, "What makes you say that?" It's nearly impossible to get anything past Bobby. John should have known the headache wouldn't escape his notice.
"John…" Now Bobby sounds genuinely sympathetic. "The curse is a fairly standard one even if the rhymes were…unusual."
"Spit it out, Bobby."
"The source of the pain is Sam and Dean. They're in the house. The closer you get to them, the worse the pain will be." Bobby's heavy hand falls onto John's shoulder, a steady pressure. "I hope I'm wrong, but that's my working theory."
John runs through the imp's last words, nods slowly, and starts walking toward the house again. This changes nothing. It's not as though he hasn't lived with aches and pains of one kind or another before, he can live with this. He's not going to let some poorly thought up rhyme keep him away from his kids.
They get back to the house to find a still-grown-up Sam on the couch humming softly to Dean, who is fast asleep on his lap. From the fistful of Sam's shirt tangled tightly in the sandy blond-haired boy's hand, it appears as if Dean had been clinging to his brother even as he succumbed to exhaustion. Clinging as though his very life depended on maintaining his grip. The sight makes John doubt some of his choices in a way nothing else ever has.
The humming breaks off as Sam looks up at his father.
Bobby stares at the two boys for a full minute then excuses himself to review his research on spell casters. He doesn't mention the curse and neither does John.
"Looks like someone's all in." John remarks, a warm smile playing along the corners of his lips despite the grinding ache which has spread to his forehead and temples.
"Cried himself to sleep." Sam levels a significant glare at John.
They both speak quietly in order not to disturb the sleeping boy, but Dean doesn't so much as twitch.
Stepping closer and resisting the urge to rub a hand across his forehead to ease the pounding, John reaches out to take Dean off Sam's lap. "Should get him into bed." Now that he's really looking, he can see how pale Dean is, how puffy the skin around his eyes is, how his freckles seem to have multiplied.
Sam halts his father with a shake of his head. "Naw, he's good where he is. Don't want him to wake up later and think he's alone." The fierce set of Sam's jaw contradicts the lazy drawl. "You know, the imp had plenty of time to terrorize him while we were waiting for the potion to start working. He needs some reassurance."
The accusation isn't lost on John, but he's too bone weary and anxious about how the imp's curse is going to play out to be antagonized. Mostly he wants to revel in the fact that the danger represented by the imp is gone and his family is safe. So, he tries to lighten Sam's oppressive mood. "If you revert to your four year old self right now, he's gonna squish you."
John's attempt at humor falls flat.
"About that…I've been thinking and…well…I haven't changed back yet, have I? I'm thinking he must still need me like this." Sam sighs and brushes his fingers through Dean's fine hair. "Yeah, I'm thinking about leaving and taking him with me." Getting him away from you is implied.
"No!" The word is out of John's mouth before he has fully processed what Sammy's trying to say. Sam can't mean what it sounds like he means. "No, that's never going to work. How's that going to work, Sam? No, it's too dangerous for you two to be out there on your own. You need me." I need you. Denial spills from John's mouth in an unstoppable torrent and Sam couldn't have scalded him any deeper if he'd rammed a red hot poker into his gut.
"Dean used to need you, he idolized you, dad. You know that, right? He would have done anything for you, followed you anywhere. Now though…now, I think he'll come with me willingly if I go. I think he's ready to leave."
At this point, Sam shifts his brother higher against his chest and angles his head into a more comfortable position on his shoulder. Dean makes an unhappy fretful noise, but subsides almost immediately, never really waking up, when Sam shushes him. A matched set, even with all the physical differences between them, these two boys fit together and the bond between them is so self evident that there's absolutely no denying its existence.
"What happens if you revert back to a child? What then?" John scrubs a hand roughly through his hair. "Don't do this, Sam. Please…just. Don't do this. You two are all I have; it's just the three of us." He knows he sounds desperate and it's not like him to become an emotional puddle in front of his kids or anyone else these days. It's not as if he can't stop them or track them down and drag them back if he has to, but he doesn't want things to get that bad between them, he doesn't want their relationship to be broken beyond repair and that's exactly where they're heading.
Silence follows his plea as though Sam is giving it due consideration. They both watch Dean sleep, the way his eyelashes fan lightly across his cheeks, the way his breath puffs softly from his slightly open mouth. Sam presses a palm to his brother's cheek, adoration, pure and simple in the gesture.
Finally, Sam says, "You don't know how close I came today. I was so close to hauling off and decking you. You so deserved it too."
It's a little off topic, but John thinks maybe it's a step towards reconciliation.
"You can still hit me, if it'll make you feel better." He offers.
Sam's face scrunches up and he looks off into some middle distance. "Sometimes I wonder how much of mom's love Dean remembers. Does he remember what it feels like to be nurtured; does he remember downy soft kisses to his temple just as he falls asleep and whispered lullabies? I think he does 'cause it's like…he's trying so hard in his own way to show me what that kind of love feels like. He gives me everything he can, everything he's got, and between the two of us…you and me…he's losing himself. We've got to give him something back."
Then John smiles because Sam just said 'we'. It's all the opening he needed.
~*Two weeks later*~
They're in Beaufort, North Carolina, a quaint little town on the coast, where they book a room at a motel on the wrong side of the road from the beach because the rates are cheaper. The major draw for this particular motel is the swimming pool. It's not as large or as luxurious as the pool at the condo, but that's hardly the point. There's a diving board and the water is clear and clean, smelling of chlorine and other pool chemicals.
Dean gets his cast off at the local doc in a box in the morning and by early afternoon he's thrashing happily in the deep end of the pool. Sam, who for some unknown reason has remained in his grown up form ever since the black imp attack at Bobby's, throws his laughing brother into the air as high as he can and Dean cannonballs back into the water, making the largest splash he can achieve. There seems to be no end to the game in sight as Dean demands to be tossed again and again, each time calling "Higher, Sammy, higher."
They both try to entice John to join in the fun, but he's perfectly happy to watch from the shade of an umbrella covered deck chair, notes for the hunt he's working on stacked between his knees. It's a compromise of sorts, one that's working pretty well.
He's getting used to the constant headaches. Sometimes he seeks refuge in a longer than necessary trip to the library or extended errands, but for the most part, the pain is bearable and it's a price he's more than willing to pay to keep his kids with him.
For dinner John gets carry out from the deli next door. They eat poolside, just because they can. Dean finishes his meal first and jumps back into the pool, sending a spray of water over the concrete edge to splatter his dad and brother. He grins up at them in childish delight.
The very next morning, Sammy wakes up and he's four years old and his big brother fixes him a bowl of Lucky Charms for breakfast.
A/N: I'm deeply moved by all of the story alerts I've received on this fic and for those of you who would like to see more, there will be additional stories in this 'verse, so be on the look out for upcoming posts in the Wish 'Verse. My plan is to show the continuing effect of the wish, John's curse, and the brothers' bond on the family as time goes on and the boys get older.
If you can spare the time, please give me a little feedback. Even if you haven't reviewed any of the other chapters, I'd love to hear from you on this final one. And I really appreciate those of you who have taken the time to review every chapter!
On to the sequel The Reason I Live Chapter 1
Back to ( I Wish I was a Growed Up Chapter 15 The Illusions )
Back to ( I Wish I was a Growed Up Chapter 1 - The Wish)