Beta: Tidia, who made this so much better with her magic delete button and comment boxes!
“No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock the treasure.”-Emma Goldman
It was past seven and Dad still wasn’t home. That was no big surprise since he said he probably wouldn’t be back until Tuesday. Dean understood what his father was doing was important, save the world kind of important. But this was important too, Sammy kind of important. That out ranked the world in Dean’s eyes. Dean looked up at the clock, then to the door. He hoped Caleb remembered.
Tomorrow was the first day of school. To Dean it was seven and a half hours of forced confinement; however his little brother was ecstatic. Sam would start kindergarten tomorrow. His brother was more than ready, but Dean was a little on edge. Screw the butterflies, Dean had King Kong sized moths in his gut.
From the first time his little brother could grasp the idea of school, he begged to come with Dean. Dean would have preferred that too, but schools had rules. Tons of rules, which was one of the reasons Dean didn’t care for the place. His other issue - he and Sam would be separated and Sam's care would be left up to someone else.
A splashing noise from the bathroom pulled him from his thoughts and he dumped the last of their leftover ravioli dinner into the trash. “There better not be any water on the floor, Sammy,” he called. “You remember our deal.” Despite the fact their current tiny two-bedroom apartment wasn’t in the best of conditions, it was much better than the last place they lived. Dean wanted to keep it that way, especially if they got to stay for awhile, like Dad promised.
“There’s no water on the floor,” Sam said. “So I still get to stay up until he gets here.”
Dean sighed, first taking note of the innocent smile on his five-year-old brother’s face, and then the strategically placed bath towels covering the tiles around the tub. It looked as if Sam had dumped the entire load of clean laundry. The floor was dry.
“Maybe I should have said keep all the water in the tub.” Dean took a seat on the commode.
Sam crashed his plastic sailboat through the barricade of empty shampoo bottles. “That would have been more specific.”
Dean snorted. “Specific?”
“We had it for word of the day last month,” Sam used an Ivory soap bar as a battering ram, slamming it into his lone vessel, pelting Dean with sprinkles of lukewarm water. “It means exact. Remember?”
“Sure.” Dean wiped a hand over his face with a sigh. Mackland had given them the dictionary for Christmas, and even though Sam couldn’t read, Dean helped him pick a word out each night and learn the meaning. It was part of Dean’s strategy to prepare Sam for school. His little brother was curious about everything. Sam thought the quiz Dean gave him at the end of the week was a fun game. “I forgot.”
“You think he’ll be here soon?” Sam asked, shoving his toys aside and standing.
Dean picked up one of the drier towels. “Probably.”
“I washed my hair like you told me to.” Sam shook his wet head, scattering more water over his brother.
“That’s good.” Dean tossed the towel over top of him and waited to make sure Sam didn’t slip on his way out. “You don’t want to stink on your first day of school. No one will want to sit with you.”
“I’m going to have lots of friends.” Sam maneuvered over the side, towel still draped over his head. “Pastor Jim said I was irresistible.”
“Pastor Jim is old, Sammy. All old people think you’re cute.”
“Are teachers old?”
Dean shrugged, grabbing the towel and rubbing it over Sam’s hair before using it to help his brother dry off. “Most of them.”
“Then I should be okay.”
Dean laughed. “They’re a different kind of old. Old and mean. Not old and nice like Pastor Jim.”
“Oh.” Sam picked up his underwear and stepped into them. “I don’t want a mean teacher.”
“It’s not the teachers you have to worry about, little brother. We’ve got them covered.” Dean had made sure that any teacher would be completely blown away by Sam.
At five Sam could already write his name, his address and their Dad’s name. He knew their phone number, as well as Pastor Jim’s and Mackland’s. He could count to one hundred, write his numbers to twenty and say his ABC’s, not to mention pick them out of words and sentences. Mackland called that letter recognition, oohing and ahhing over Sam’s knack at it. Dean had taught Sam using Sesame Street flashcards he’d found at a second hand store. His brother was going to be the advanced kid in class. He wouldn’t need extra help or tutoring. Sam would be in the Red Bird reading group, not the Yellow Finches.
“Then who do I have to worry about?” Sam asked. He was struggling to get the too small shirt over his head.
Dean stepped forward and with a jerk of the shirttail finished the deed. It still slid half way up his brother’s belly. They would need to do a Salvation Army run soon. The thought of it made Dean’s chest clench. There some matters he couldn’t solve with practice and determination. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “You have to worry about the other kids.”
Sam looked puzzled, his large eyes narrowing. “But you and Caleb like me and you’re kids.”
Technically that wasn’t true. Caleb was seventeen, and Dean was almost ten. “But we’re family. We have to like you.”
The crestfallen look on his little brother’s face caused Dean to quickly amend his words. “Not that we wouldn’t like you anyway.” He lightly punched his brother on the shoulder. “Like Jim said, you’re pretty cool for a baby.”
The kicked puppy look disappeared, replaced by a familiar indignant scowl, which had been Dean’s intent all along. “I’m not a baby. I’m in kindergarten now.”
Dean laughed, tossing his brother the bottoms to his pajamas. “You’re not officially in school until tomorrow.”
Sam slid into his pants. “Daddy registered me last week. I already have a classroom and a cubby and everything. Daddy said so.”
Dad hadn’t actually registered them. He’d gone to the school, dropped off their shot records and briefly met the principal’s secretary, which had been all he could squeeze in between the new job at the garage and the hunt he was researching. The rest was going to be up to Dean, and that was okay. At least it would be, if Caleb remembered.
“I guess you’re right. You’re all grown up now.”
Sam considered Dean’s words for a moment, then smiled. “But I’m still your little brother. I’ll always be that no matter how big I get. Right?”
Dean nodded, blinking rapidly. “You bet. Now how about we do another round of flash cards before lights out.”
“But you promised I could stay up.” Sam propped one hand on his hip.
“Only if it’s not too late. You don’t want to fall asleep in class on the first day, dude.”
“I’m too excited to sleep.” Sam jumped up on the bed. “It’s like Christmas.”
“No fat jolly old man is coming to give you a present, Sam.”
“Not the kind in a box, but Mac says school’s a gift. A very expensive gift! He says some kids don’t get to go to school. It’s a priv…a privy….”
“Privilege?” Dean guessed.
Sam nodded. “That’s it. We need to put that on our word list.”
Dean started for their bedroom directly across from the bathroom. “Mac told you that?”
Sam followed, climbing up onto the bed they shared. “Actually he was yelling it at Caleb, but I could hear him loud and clear.”
Dean snorted. He and Caleb had some of the same feelings about school. That didn’t mean it had to be as hard for Sam. “Mac’s right. School is important.”
“That’s why you and Mac want me to be smart.” Sam picked up his flash cards. “You want me to learn lots of new things so my brain will grow and I will be a great person someday.”
Dean frowned. “You’re already a great person, Sammy. I don’t care if you’re smart or not.” Other people did though, people in school. They judged you on how much you knew, on how good you did on their stupid tests. It made life a whole lot easier if you made A’s. “And Mac just wants you to be happy. He knows how books make you happy.” Dean wanted his brother to be happy, too. “Schools have lots and lots of books.”
Sam nodded. “I love books. I’m going to love school.”
“I know you will.” Dean looked at their alarm clock. “That’s what I’m counting on, anyway.” He picked up one of the cards and held it up to keep his mind distracted as much as Sam’s. “I bet you don’t know this one.”
“B. B for Bobby.”
Dean flashed another one. “Okay, smart guy. How about this one?”
“That’s easy,” Sam said. “It’s a P. P for Pansy-ass, just like Josh.”
Dean tried hard to keep the smile from his face. “Do not use Damien’s examples. They will not go over at school, trust me. Caleb spends more time in detention than in the classroom.”
“Okay.” Sam grinned. “P. P for Pastor Jim.”
“That’s better…” Dean was interrupted by the pounding on the front door. Sam shot off the bed before Dean could stop him, running to kitchen.
“Remember the password,” Dean called after him. He picked up the shotgun behind the door just in case.
“Who is it?” Sam yelled louder than necessary, his hands already on the doorknob.
Dean came up behind him, tugging him away from the door and edging slightly in front. After the Shritga, Dean didn’t take any chances. “Password.”
“Melmac,” came the reply.
Dean grimaced. That was two weeks ago. He was going to have to start writing them down for Caleb.
“That was wrong, Caleb,” Sam shouted. “But you’re getting warm.”
Dean rolled his eyes. His little brother was supposed to stay quiet. He most definitely was not supposed to give clues. “Sammy…”
“Thundercats?” Caleb tried again.
“Cold. You’re way cold.” Sam bounced up and down on his toes.
Dean heard a slight growl from behind the door. “Gordon Shumway.”
“That’s it!” Sam crowed. He shoved past Dean, pulling the door open with a burst of excitement. He wrapped his arms around the hunter’s legs and squeezed. “I missed you.”
Caleb laughed. “Good to know, Runt.”
Sam maintained his stronghold, looking up at the teen. “I’m going to pick Tanner next time it’s my turn, just so you know.”
“Thanks for the heads up, Sammy.” Caleb waited to be released from Sam’s greeting before attempting to come in. His arms were loaded down with Wal-mart bags. “I like it when you stick with a theme.” He glanced at Dean. “Could you put away the cannon, Deuce and maybe give me a hand here.”
“I’ll help!” Sam grabbed several of the bottom bags, tearing them from Caleb’s grip.
“Sorry,” Sam said.
Caleb managed to hold onto a few bags including his duffel which he dropped to the floor before closing the door behind him. “Now I know how the lady who hands out free sandwich samples at the mall feels.”
“You’re late,” Dean said. He put the gun back in the corner and locked the kitchen door.
“Sue me.” Caleb slid out of his jacket, tossing it on the kitchen table. “You try fighting all the moms in minivans at the poor man’s Macy’s on Back to Hell Eve. It’s a freaking mad house.”
“Hell begins with H,” Sam said, grinning up at Caleb.
“So does Hat, Sam,” Dean reminded.
His little brother shrugged, picking up one of the bags. “Are these for us?”
Dean looked down at the pile of shopping bags and then back to Caleb. It was a lot more than he expected. “I’m not sure.”
Caleb didn’t meet his eyes, instead kneeling down next to Sam. “You bet. I hear tell that someone’s starting nursery school tomorrow.”
“It’s not nursery school!” Sam defended. “I’m starting kindergarten and Dean is starting the fourth grade!”
“Really?” Caleb scratched his head. “Are you sure Deuce passed third grade last year?”
Dean smirked as Caleb feigned surprise. “I did, dickhead, and my Daddy didn’t even have to give money for a new wing at my school.”
“Cute.” Caleb huffed. “Keep it up and I’ll keep the present I brought you.”
“Presents?” Sam’s eyes widened as he looked at Dean. “Going to school is like Christmas.”
“No it’s not.” Dean frowned at Caleb. He wasn’t supposed to buy Dean anything. Dean didn’t want charity. Dad would freak. The cards should have brought enough money for Sam. Dean had done his math. He was good at math. Dean had asked Caleb to do one simple thing. Couldn’t the idiot follow any rules? “These are school supplies. That’s all. It’s stuff you have to have for class.”
“Cool.” Sam looked at the bags with a renewed awe, before cutting his eyes to his brother with a frown. “I never remember you getting new school supplies.”
Dean ignored Caleb’s eyes on him now as he joined the two of them in the floor. Dean had gotten supplies, but they had come from the special store at the school. “This school is different, Sammy. Kids have to bring their own stuff.” Nothing but the best.
“What kind of stuff?” Sam asked, peeking into one of the bags.
Caleb cleared his throat. “According to your brother’s list…”
Dean rolled his eyes as the shit for brains made a big display of pulling out the crumpled notebook paper he had given him over a month before. At least Damien hadn’t lost it.
“Paper, pencils, markers, glue, scissors, construction paper, Kleenex, pencil box….”
Dean watched Sam’s smile grow with each new item Caleb listed. “And not just any crayons. Crayola crayons. The sixty-four count box with the built-in sharpener.”
“Cowabunga!” Sam cried.
“Funny you should say that because this was on the list, too.” Caleb handed a bag to Sam who pulled out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack. He clutched it to his chest.
“Donatello.” Sam held the book bag at arm’s length so he could inspect it. “He’s my favorite.”
Caleb snorted. “Figures you would like the geeky one.”
“Hey, don’t look at me, Runt.” Caleb pointed to Dean. “Your big bro is the one who bought all this stuff. I was just his personal shopper. Thank him for the hookup with school surplus central.”
Dean was nearly bowled over by his little brother who showed his appreciation in typical Sam fashion. The five-year-old squeezed Dean’s neck, nearly cutting off his oxygen supply. “Thanks a lot, Dean. You’re the best!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dean held his brother close for just a moment before giving him a slight shove away. Caleb was there after all and Dean didn’t want to look like a complete sissy. “It’s not that big of a deal. Just some stuff you needed.”
“I bet I’ll be the coolest kid in school,” Sam said as he started scooping up his loot and shoving it into his backpack. “I’m a real kindergartener now.”
“I almost forgot…” Caleb picked up another bag. “There’s one more thing that every kid needs before going off to battle the big bad world of school.”
“What thing?” Dean gave the teen a harsh look. He hadn’t asked for anything else.
“The thing that’s going to keep Sammy from making the first fatal mistake of his school career.”
“What?” Sam stopped packing, his young face growing grim. “What mistake?”
Dean watched as Caleb leaned in close to reveal top secret information. “Eating cafeteria food.” He pulled out a shiny red box and placed it in Sam’s hands. “This could save your life, Runt.”
“Oh man!” Sam jumped up and down, hugging the plastic box with a hairy alien on the front. “It’s Alf! Look, Dean, Alf!”
“That wasn’t on the list,” Dean hissed.
Caleb shrugged. “It was on my list.” He turned back to Sam. “The thermos has Lucky the Cat on it.”
Sam squeaked. “Lucky the Cat is my favorite! I love Alf!”
“Yeah, you and every other kid in America,” Caleb said. “I risked my life for that box. It was the last one on the shelf and I thought I was going to have to fight some fat kid and his mom for it.”
“Going to school is better than Christmas,” Sam crowed, doing a little dance of joy.
Dean couldn’t exactly be mad at Damien. He hadn’t thought about a lunch box. It would beat having to eat free. Some schools had different colored lunch tickets for the poor kids. Dean would rather go hungry, but that wasn’t an option for Sam.
“Thanks, Caleb,” Sam said. “Now I won’t die on my first day.”
Caleb laughed. “What kind of uncle would I be if I let that happen?”
“Sammy, why don’t you take all this stuff to our room so we can get it ready for tomorrow?”
“Okay.” Sam gathered his new school supplies, turning to give Caleb another smile before leaving the room. “Are you spending the night? You can come to school with us tomorrow?”
“No can do, Runt.” Caleb stood and ruffled Sam’s damp hair. “Mac is pretty set on me making my first day of school, too. I promised him I’d make the drive back tonight, hell or high water.”
“Going to school is a privilege.”
Dean smiled when Caleb made a gagging noise. “Yes, Dad,” Caleb teased. “Let’s see if you still feel that way in twelve years or so.”
Sam shrugged. “I think I’ll like school forever.”
“More power to you, Einstein.”
“Will you tell me bye before you leave?”
“He’s really excited,” Dean said when they were alone. He started picking up the empty bags strewn across the floor. “I doubt he’ll sleep at all.”
“What about you, Deuce?” Caleb took a seat at the table. “Are you excited about the big day?”
Dean rolled his eyes, tossing the bags in the garbage before joining the teen. “As about as happy as you are.”
“Yeah, but this is my last year. You’re too young to be jaded. You’ve got like eight more first days of school left.”
“Thanks for reminding me, jerk.”
Caleb grinned. “Maybe this will make it easier.”
Dean suspiciously eyed Caleb as he dug in his duffel bag. “And before you go all John Winchester on my ass, it’s not new. I’ve had it since my first school year with Mac and it’s not like I plan on carrying home a lot of books since I’m a senior now. Mac went overboard that year almost as bad as you did with the Sammy supplies, wanted to make sure I fit in with the other kids.”
Dean chewed his lip, not meeting the older boy’s eyes. He wanted Sam to fit in, too. Dean wanted there to be no reason the other kids would pick on his brother.
“Was that why you were so worried about him getting all this stuff?” Caleb pulled out a familiar blue backpack from his bag and handed it to Dean.
“I wasn’t worried,” Dean said. He was terrified. He took the backpack with L.L. Bean stitched across the front. The well-worn material felt solid and warm beneath his fingers. “Sam will be fine.”
“Of course he will,” Caleb said, kicking his duffel out of his way. “The kid is so jazzed about school you could have sent him in with a piece of charcoal and tree bark and he would have never known the difference.”
“The other kids would know.”
Dean took a deep breath and finally met Caleb’s gaze. “What?”
“The other kids won’t even notice Sam. They’ll be too excited, nervous and too busy missing their parents. Don’t you remember what school was like when you first started?”
Dean swallowed the lump in his throat, blinking to keep himself from crying. He would not cry. It was stupid. Dean had wanted to go to school. Everything but the leaving baby Sammy part had sounded good. Dad told him there would be games and other kids. Dean hadn’t been around other kids since the fire, since Mom. Nothing was exactly as he thought it would be. He looked up at Caleb. “Some things you never forget.”
Caleb looked at him. “Kids make fun of you?”
Dean shrugged. “Forget it. It doesn’t matter.” None of it mattered now.
“Deuce? Talk to me, kiddo.”
Caleb wasn’t going to drop it. “I liked it! Alright? ” Dean snapped. “Are you satisfied? I liked stupid school up until the time I realized I didn’t know the stuff the other kids did, that I was dumb. I didn’t do well on their tests and I needed help to catch up. I didn’t have the things the other kids did, because Dad couldn’t afford them. It was all good until they figured out I didn’t like to talk, that I didn’t have a Mom, and that I was a freak.”
“Don’t say that,” Caleb snapped. “You’re not a freak and you are definitely not dumb. So you were a little behind, who cares.”
“You don’t understand.” Dean felt the hot tear slide down his cheek and roughly brushed it away. “Not everybody has a rich dad to make it all better.” He loved his Dad. Dean wouldn’t change anything about his family besides having Mom back with them. But sometimes he wished they had more things and stayed in one place.
Caleb’s chair scraped loudly against the kitchen floor as he roughly pushed it back and made his way to Dean. He looked as angry as Dean could remember and the nine-year-old couldn’t hold back the flinch as the teen grasped his shoulders. “I’m going to forget you said that, Deuce. Because you know Mac didn’t show up in the picture until I was a lot older than you. I had the crazy single parent thing going on for a while, and trust me when I say being the orphaned grandson of the town Voodoo Priestess did not score me any points with the local kids. And even with all Mac’s money, things haven’t changed that much.”
Dean leaned back in his chair when Caleb let him go. “I’m sorry.”
“So am I. I hate that it was like that for you. I would have protected you from it if I could have. But fuck school. It doesn’t matter what teachers or other brats think about you.”
“It does when you’re a kid.” Dean no longer cared what his classmates or teachers said to him, what their stares or whispers behind his back meant. He’d go to school as long as he had to, do the bare minimum, and then be done with it. But Sammy was different. “I can’t let Sam go through that. I won’t.”
“Deuce, Sam has something none of those other kids will ever have. He has a big brother that would do anything for him, even sell his two favorite baseball cards for school supplies.” Caleb sighed, running both his hands through his long dark hair. “And as much as you want to, you can’t control everything. Trust me.”
“No. Not everything.” Dean stood, determination edging out over his frustration. Even as a kid, Dean understood he couldn’t control what happened to Mom, or his Dad. He couldn’t govern where they lived or moved, but Dean could control this. “Sammy’s smart, way smarter than most kids his age, and he’s well-prepared. He’s got all the intel he needs for this job.” Dean gestured to the few bags still on the table. “And now he has the necessary supplies. Just like a hunt. Going in ready can make a difference. It’s like a formula. School will work for Sammy.”
“Like I said before, I have no doubt Sammy will be fine, kiddo.” Caleb shook his head. “But what about you?”
“I’m fine,” Dean said. That wasn’t exactly true. He’d never had to send Sam off into a situation by himself. He hated the idea he wouldn’t be there to watch out for him, protect him from whatever dangers the unknown variables might bring.
“Deuce, schools are pretty safe.” Caleb reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “They’re not holy ground, but no self-respecting demons or monsters are going to show their faces there. They try to stay out of hell as much as possible.”
Dean frowned when he realized Caleb was snooping through his thoughts as usual, but couldn’t find it in himself to get angry. Instead he garnered the energy to force a half smile. “What about your biology teacher that you tried to convince Mac was a succubus?”
“When Sammy gets to high school we’ll worry about the evil incarnate getting to him. For now, stick with worrying about teaching the runt to tie his freakin’ shoes.”
“If I can learn, so can Sammy.”
Caleb snorted. “It took you months to learn and let’s face it you’re much more kinetically blessed than your brother.”
“It could have been that I had a lousy teacher.”
“Hey!” Caleb smacked his head. “No blaming the instructor for your ineptitudes. I was working with what I had.”
“Ineptitudes?” Dean laughed. “Have you been doing a word a day, too?”
“Mac’s making me practice for the SAT’s. The man is worse than Johnny with his physical training shit.”
Dean shrugged. “They just want you to be prepared. That’s not a bad thing.”
“Speaking of which…” Caleb held up a finger, picking up the other bags he had brought in. “I thought you guys could use some new school threads and some shoes.”
Dean held up a hand and took a step back, shaking his head. “No way, man. I know I didn’t have enough for clothes and definitely not shoes. We’ll be fine.”
“Deuce.” Caleb forced the bags on him. “You’re not the only one who wants to watch out for his little brother. Got it?”
Dean took the shopping bags and nodded. He wanted the clothes, if not for himself, then for Sammy. “Got it.”
Caleb grinned. “Good. Plus, buying shit at Wal-mart is like giving Mac the finger. Something I would never risk my life to actually do, but every time he starts harping on my grades or college applications this year, I’m so going to relive the moment at the checkout line. I used his favorite credit card just as a bonus.”
“He’s going to get a statement you know.” Dean had heard one of Mackland’s tirades about Wal-mart and Sam Walton’s dark plan to undermine the small business owner and take over the world. Dean didn’t understand it. Wal-mart was like Disneyland.
“Hopefully, it will come at a convenient time, like the same time as grade reports. He’ll be distracted.”
“You could try making good grades this year.”
“I could say the same for you. I know you’re more than capable.”
Dean’s smile faded. “Easier said than done.”
Caleb reached out and tugged on the front of his shirt. “Dude? You know you’re smart. Right?”
Dean met his gaze. “Sure. Whatever.”
“I mean it. You’re a whiz at math, and you got more out of my biology homework than I did. Besides you are way better prepared than any other kid your age in the little thing called life.”
Dean smiled and this time it didn’t take a lot of energy on his part. “I’m in a fourth grade/fifth grade split this year. Did I tell you that?”
“No way,” Caleb said. “I have two words for you then, Deuce. Older women.”
“Dude, I’m nine.”
Caleb laughed. “Right. It’s easy to forget sometimes. You still like cartoons and shit.”
“No, I don’t,” Dean lied. Honestly he thought Voltron kicked ass, and Thundercats ruled.
“Then I guess I should take this back.” Caleb held up one last bag.
“More of your hand-me-downs?” Dean asked.
“Hey, if you want me to trade the backpack in for a new one then…”
Dean dropped the shopping bags and snatched the book bag before Caleb could get his hands on it. “No. This one’s fine.” In truth, it was far from fine. It was awesome.
“Don’t worry though; I wouldn’t bring you a used lunch box.”
Dean raised a brow. “You got me a lunch box?”
“It’s not like I wanted to or anything. I mean I have to save you from the cafeteria food too. Who’d watch out for the runt if something were to happen to Captain Onehelluva Big Brother?”
“You would,” Dean said. “I’m willing you my cape as of now.”
“Just as long as I buy the farm before you,” Caleb said. “Some jobs I’m just not willing to do, even for you, kiddo.”
Dean snorted. “Just give me the bag, Damien. I hope you didn’t get me Alf, or something really cheesey with your hero Sonny Crockett on it.”
Caleb sighed. “Sammy is quickly becoming my favorite Winchester. At least he appreciates my taste.” He pointed a finger at Dean. “And if I did happen to have a lunchbox when I was a kid it wouldn’t have had lame Sonny Crockett on it; it would have had The Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin.”
“He wasn’t bad,” Dean said. “I liked it when he jumped on buildings.”
“Yeah, he was almost as cool as this guy.” Caleb pulled out the blue lunch box, tossing it to Dean. “Who is badass without the bionic body.”
Dean tried not to look as awestruck as his little brother had before. He definitely wasn’t going to do anything embarrassing like Sam and jump up and down or hug Damien’s neck. He was almost ten for crying out loud. “Chuck Norris and the Karate Commandos.” It was one of Dean’s favorite cartoons. They stopped making it after a few episodes, but he and Sammy still found the reruns from time to time.
“It was a tossup between that and The Smurfs.”
Dean grinned. “Good choice.” The Smurfs would have gotten him in a fight for sure.
“Now you’ll have the same stuff all the other kids do.”
“But I have one thing they don’t.” Dean lowered his voice. “I have you.”
It made him squirm a little as Damien stared at him unblinking, gold eyes brighter than usual. To his relief the teen finally cleared his throat, typical smirk in place. “And you can call me any time to come kick some ass, if need be.”
Dean snorted. “You just want a reason to ditch school.”
“Damn straight.” Caleb rolled his shoulders back. “What do you say we go help Sammy bone up on his alphabet? You still got those flash cards?”
Dean shook his head. “You don’t get to pick the word this time. Dad almost had a stroke when Sam let loose your idea for the letter F.”
“As if that isn’t permanently etched on Johnny’s word of the day list. I figured the kid would have a stronger association with the familiar. Really, how many times does he hear ‘flower’ around here?”
“Just leave the flash cards to me.”
“Speaking of …” Caleb dug in his back pocket and pulled out a plastic sealed card. “I thought you might want your change back.”
Dean took the card, his brow furrowing as he ran his finger over Roger Clemens’s Red Sox uniform. “But I told you to sell this for Sam’s supplies. You promised…”
“I did take the cards to the hobby shop. The McGuire rookie card brought more than enough. I thought you might want to hold onto Clemens, him being from the better team and all.”
Dean knew the Clemens card would have held more value. He’d had a better run in 86 than McGuire, although both would have brought more later on, especially if the guys were still playing in twenty or so years. It was also one of his favorites. Jim had given it to him the first birthday he’d celebrated at the farm. Caleb knew that.
“Thanks, Damien.” Dean looked up at his friend. “Not just for the card, but for remembering me and Sam.”
“Are you kidding?” Caleb threw an arm around his shoulder, pulling him in for a sideways hug before shoving him towards the bedroom. “Some things you never forget.”
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