By Ridley C. James, May 2006
Disclaimer: No, Supernatural is still
not mine. And this story is partially made up of wonderful excerpts
from Margery Williams' book The Velveteen Rabbit, which I adore, but
have no rights to.
"Nursery magic is strange
and wonderful, and only the oldest and wisest truly understand
it." -Margery Williams
“What is REAL asked the Rabbit one
day. Does it mean having things that buzz inside of you and a stick-out
handle?” Pastor Jim’s deep rumbling voice filled the semi dark room and
ten-year-old Dean Winchester watched the older man as he carefully
turned the page of the well-worn story book that Sammy had insisted on
bringing with them.
“Real isn’t how you are made, said
the Skin Horse. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves
you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you,
then you become Real.” Jim pushed his glasses higher up on his nose and
squinted in the dim light, his blue eyes flicking to the boys in the
bed before continuing on.
“Does it hurt, asked the Rabbit,” Jim
lowered his voice and made it sound younger. Sam usually giggled at
that when Dean tried it. “Sometimes said the Skin Horse, for he was
always truthful.” The pastor switched back to his own rough voice, and
Dean decided that Jim was a natural for the old horse. After all, his
skin was kind of wrinkled and some of his hair was worn off. “But when
you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Pastor Jim?” Dean’s quiet voice
stopped the big man’s reading and he smiled down at the ten-year-old.
“Sammy’s asleep.” He had been for a
while. Dean had known the instant that his kid brother had drifted off.
Years of sleeping with the younger boy had honed Dean’s senses. So when
Sam’s breath had slowly evened out as it brushed against Dean’s neck,
and the death grip that he had on Dean’s hand had loosened, the older
boy was sure he was the only one left listening to Jim.
Besides, Sam always asked why it hurt
to be real. He never liked the idea of anyone or anything being hurt.
“You don’t want me to finish?” Jim
asked with a raised brow, and Dean had to keep from smiling as the
man’s glasses slid all the way to the end of his nose again.
The boy shook his head. “Nah, I’ve
already read it only about a hundred and fifty times.” And, as
comforting as it was to actually have the older man nearby, Dean felt
totally lame being read to at his age. After all, he’d been reading to
Sammy since he was six, and had learned how to read in first grade.
“I see,” Pastor Jim closed the book
and removed his wire-rim glasses, laying them on the bedside table.
“That would explain why it’s looking rather ragged around the edges
then-kind of like old Velveteen, himself.”
Dean nodded. “Sammy loves it,” he
replied softly, and then shrugged. “I’m just glad he got over the Dr.
Jim laughed, and glanced at the small
boy curled close to Dean, his dark curls tumbling over his innocent
face, his arm wrapped around his brother as if Dean were a treasured
stuffed toy. “He had an exciting night, I take it?”
“Yeah,” Dean whispered, and Jim
didn’t miss the look that passed over the ten-year-old’s face, or how
his own arm tightened around his brother, as he unconsciously ran his
fingers soothingly through the tangled locks of the little boy’s hair.
It only confirmed the older man’s
suspicions that something bad had happened. John hadn’t taken the time
to explain things. He’d shown up on Jim’s front door step at nearly
three in the morning, dragging his two small boys in with him.
Jim didn’t mind. He hadn’t seen his
favorite nomadic family in a while, and the boys and John were always
welcome. “Your father seemed quite distracted.”
“He was pissed,” Dean said, but
quickly glanced up at Jim. “Sorry, sir. I mean he was pretty mad.”
“Pissed seems appropriate,” the big
man laughed. “Nobody does pissed like your daddy.”
“That’s for sure,” Dean agreed, but
still felt bad for his foul language. Pastor Jim could make him feel
guilty like nobody else, kind of like seeing Santa Clause at the mall,
when you knew you hadn’t been good at all. “He’s mad at me.”
Jim frowned. “Now, I find that hard
to believe.” John was hard on his boys, especially Dean, but he’d
rarely seen the man angry at them.
Dean shifted slightly as Sam mumbled
something in his sleep. He watched his brother for a moment, and then
looked back up at Jim. “He should be mad at me. I messed up.”
“I think all of us have been known to
do that on occasion, young man. I’m sure it was nothing that can’t be
forgiven and forgotten.”
The look that crossed Dean’s face was
far too full of pain and self-recrimination for someone so young. “I
disobeyed an order and…” Dean glanced at his sleeping brother,
“...Sammy got hurt.”
Jim leaned forward slightly, his eyes
searching Sam’s face for signs of distress that he might have missed in
his half-awake state as he’d shuffled the boys to bed. John hadn’t
mentioned any injuries, and Sammy, although a little more quiet than
usual, had seemed fine.
The pastor had racked up his
unwillingness to let go of Dean and the few tears he’d shed when his
father had left to the extremely late hour and to Sam’s obvious
tiredness. “He seems fine to me, son.”
Dean shook his head. “A witch almost
got him. A witch that likes to kill little kids.”
“A witch, huh?”
Dean nodded this time. Pastor Jim was
one of the few people that they were allowed to talk to about their
lives. He wasn’t a hunter like Mac or Caleb, but he knew more about
Evil things than anyone Dean had ever met. John said that he was like a
demonic encyclopedia. “She attacked Sammy while he was asleep.”
Jim got the distinct impression that
Sam would not be sleeping alone for quite some time, as Dean’s voice
dropped and took on a harsher tone. “I left him by himself.
“And where was your daddy when all
this excitement was taking place?”
“He was hunting for the witch.”
“I see,“ Jim sighed, and scratched at
his chin. Hunting for, or waiting for? Jim fought back the idea that
his friend would set a trap for the creature. “John is always hunting
“Yeah,” Dean agreed, solemnly. “He
works a lot.”
Jim swallowed hard, and forced a
smile onto his face as Dean yawned widely. “Well, speaking of work, I
guess you and I should take a cue from Sammy and get some shut eye
also.” He patted Dean’s leg and started to stand, when Dean’s quiet
voice stopped him.
Jim relaxed in the rocker once more.
“Do you think I’ll ever be Real?”
The question took his breath and Jim
felt his eyes begin to sting as the words sank in and he took in the
imploring green gaze beseeching him for the right answer.
“What do you mean, son?”
Dean’s brows drew together, and his
lip quivered slightly. “I mean…to Dad and Sammy…will I be REAL?”
Jim glanced to the worn book, and an
image of the stuffed rabbit discarded on the forest floor sprung
unbidden to his mind. Will they love me like they should? It was what
Dean was asking him, in the only way a ten-year-old boy could.
“I really don’t know, Dean,” he
replied softly, because he was always truthful. But, God, I hope so.
Dean nodded, resignedly, his fingers
starting their trek through Sam’s hair again. “That’s okay, sir.”
Then next words had what was left of
Jim’s heart breaking for the child. “They’re Real to me. That’s all
“I’m really tired,” the boy yawned
again, although it seemed awfully well-timed to the pastor.
“Me too,” Jim rubbed at his eyes,
erasing any traces of his own anguish, not wanting to add to Dean’s.
“And we have a busy day tomorrow.”
Dean looked up. “Are we going to
work? Dad said Sam and I should help you around the farm, for our meals
Jim shook his head, and tried to
appear firm. “Why Dean Mathew Winchester, I’m surprised at you.
Tomorrow is Sunday. The Lord’s day.” Jim shook his head, and clucked in
mock disapproval. “We don’t work on Sunday unless our Ox is in the
Dean frowned. “You don’t have an Ox,
“Exactly, so they’ll be no work
“So, do we have to go to church?”
The complete sound of dread in the
boy’s voice had a genuine smile returning to the Pastor’s lips. “There
are other ways to worship the Lord, Dean. After all, Jesus was a fisher
A hint of the usual spark returned to
the green gaze. “Did he like to fish in ponds?”
“Oh yes, he was big on ponds, and
picnics too, although that is a little known fact, that only a chosen
few are privy to.”
Dean finally smiled and Jim felt his
heart lighten slightly. “I think he might have liked riding horses,
“Like Sammy does?”
Dean nodded. “Yeah, like Sammy.”
“Alrighty then, we’ll worship the
Lord tomorrow, all day long. Just the three of us.”
Again, Jim started to stand when
Dean’s voice once more brought him up short.
“I suppose you are Real?”
Jim amazingly enough recognized the
line from the book, that the little rabbit says to the old Skin Horse.
Dean was looking just about as worried over having said it aloud as the
rabbit had been.
So he smiled, and nodded his head.
“My late wife, Emma, made me Real.” Jim’s voice broke with emotion, as
he recited the last line just as the Skin horse had said, “That was a
great many years ago, but once you are Real, you can’t become unreal
again. It lasts for always.”
Dean nodded, understanding more than
he should. Another large yawn, and he wrapped his arms tighter around
Sam and closed his eyes. “For always.”
Jim watched him for a moment, then
picked up the story book and flipped it open. He began to read again.
“Does it happen all at once, the
rabbit asked, or bit by bit?” Jim licked his lips, and continued, as
Dean shifted on the bed, curling protectively around his younger
brother. “It doesn’t happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. You
become. It takes a long time.”
Jim couldn’t help to wonder how long
it would take for his old friend to understand what his son was missing.
“That’s why it doesn’t happen to
people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be
Thankfully Dean was none of those
“Generally, by the time you are Real,
most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you
get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter
at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people
who don’t understand.”
Jim closed the book, both boys breath
was slow and even in sleep, rising and falling in time with one
another. One look at their faces, their arms and little legs entwined,
and Jim wasn’t worried. Because even if John never did, Sam would come
to understand. His brother was the Real deal.
you are real, you can’t become
unreal again. It lasts for always.”-The Skin Horse
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