Title: A Good Visit
Characters: Wee!Chesters, John, Pastor Jim
Summary: Sometimes even stuffed animals know where they belong. Written at the behest of eloise_bright
for her “Hug-A-Winchester” challenge.
A/N: George is real. And the lullaby is “St. Judy’s Comet” by Paul Simon.
All things considered, it could have been one of their worst visits to Pastor Jim’s. But it wasn’t.
Dad had been in a hurry when he dropped them off, barely staying long enough to unload their bags and take a bathroom break before giving them quick hugs, a little kiss (Sammy), and a hair ruffle (Dean), before jumping back in the car. “I’ll be back next week,” he’d called out the window as he turned the car in the gravel circle. Then the Impala slipped into the tree line and the road through the woods curved, hiding the car from sight. They could still hear it, though, for a good long way down the hillside, as its rumble echoed and left stillness in its wake.
Sammy was nearly two now, and very good at opening cupboards, climbing countertops, and pulling things down on top of himself. Pastor Jim just laughed and said it had been so long since he’d had a toddler that he’d forgotten how much fun they could be.
“You mean trouble, right?” Dean asked.
“Sam’s just curious, Dean,” Pastor Jim told him patiently. “He wants to see what’s inside and behind and underneath. It’s a good thing. But…maybe a little irksome at times,” he allowed, lurching forward to stop Sammy from pulling the television over by its cord.
Dean helped keep an eye on Sammy, like always, and he liked sitting in the kitchen at the big table, drawing on some butcher’s paper while Pastor Jim cooked supper. Sammy ate more food than he threw around the room, which was a big improvement over their last dinner in what Dad called “Polite Company.” Pastor Jim even gave Sammy his bath so Dean could watch “The A-Team” without being interrupted. It wasn’t until afterward, when they were getting ready for bed, that Dean realized this was not going to be a good visit.
“Hey, Sammy, do you want your bear?” Dean asked, looking through the small collection of stuffed animals.
“No!” Sam yelled. “Where’s Daddy?”
“Daddy’s not here, Sammy,” Dean sighed. Sammy hadn’t missed Dad all day; why now? “Do you want George?” George was a dragon who lived with Pastor Jim. George was green and had a bandage on his tail, to keep the stuffing in, but Pastor Jim had told Dean they could sleep with him if they were careful.
“No! Daddy!” Sammy insisted.
“Dad’s not here,” Dean repeated, a little whinier than he’d intended. “Now you can have one stuffed animal, which one do you want?”
Sam’s face turned dark red and he started screaming. “Want Daddy!” he yelled, pounding a pudgy fist on the mattress.
Dean sat down heavily on the bed and lassoed Sammy around the shoulders. “Me, too,” he said sadly. “But Dad’s far away right now. Crying isn’t gonna help.” Sammy didn’t listen. He struggled against Dean’s sideways embrace.
Pastor Jim knocked and came in. “Everything okay?” he asked. Then seeing Sam’s red, tear-streaked face, he said, “What’s wrong?”
“Sammy misses Dad,” Dean said glumly.
Pastor Jim sat down next to Dean. “It’s hard, isn’t it, Sam?” He pulled the not-quite-two-year-old into his lap and started talking very softly over the boy’s noisy tears. Dean leaned his head on Pastor Jim’s elbow. Pastor Jim shifted and Dean found himself held in the circle of the older man’s arm. Pastor Jim talked quietly about how you can love someone even if they’re not there, and how their Dad would be back in a few days, and before long, Sammy stopped fussing. Dean drew in a deep breath and sighed loudly.
“I think you’ve both had a long day and you’re tired,” Pastor Jim said, squeezing Sammy before laying him down in the bed. “Things will seem better in the morning.” He tucked Sammy in and Dean climbed in next to his brother.
“Sammy, do you want your bear now?” Dean asked tentatively.
Sam thought about it. “Bear’s too big. Bunny.”
Pastor Jim nodded and dug through the bag. He didn’t bring out the toy. Instead, he asked: “Dean, did Sammy have his bunny when you were playing today?”
Dean shrugged. “Maybe it’s in the other bag?” he suggested.
Pastor Jim looked in the other bag. He looked under the bed. He looked in the living room, the kitchen, even the bathroom. Bunny was nowhere to be found.
“Oh, no,” Dean said, clapping a hand to his mouth when Pastor Jim came back empty-handed.
“I think…Sammy, did you take Bunny to the diner for lunch?”
“No,” Sam said.
“Didn’t, Dean! Bunny doesn’t like lunch.”
Dean got a flash of memory and knew they were sunk. “Pastor Jim? Bunny’s in the car.”
They finally got Sam settled with Bear and
the promise of making cookies in the morning. Pastor Jim turned out the lights and left them alone, and then Dean’s job really began. It took nearly half an hour of convincing for Sammy to accept that Bunny would be okay without him.
“But what if Daddy leaves him inna car, Dean? All night!”
“He’ll be okay, Sammy. It’s not that cold. And Bunny…has fur, right?”
“Yeah….” Sam snuggled a little closer to Dean. Their legs were all tangled up together, Dean’s arms around Sam. Sam’s head rested just under Dean’s chin.
“He’ll be fine.”
“What if he gets lost?”
“Not gonna get lost, Sammilly, he can’t leave the car on his own!”
Sam shrugged, as if eight-inch-long stuffed bunnies had been known to do stranger things. Then his eyes widened. “What if…Daddy no comes back?”
“He—” Dean pulled up short. Of course Dad would come back. They loved Pastor Jim, and he was a good friend of Dad’s, but Dad wouldn’t just leave them here forever. He said he’d be back. The only reason he might not come back was…. “Don’t be a baby, Samarama,” Dean said forcefully. “Dad said he’d be back next week. Bunny will be with him. It’s okay.”
Sam sniffed but didn’t say anything. Dean held on tight and rubbed his brother’s back lightly with his free hand.
“Hey.” Dean said a minute later.
“What?” Sam asked. His voice was thick with tears.
“It’ll be okay, Sammy. Where’s Bear?”
He felt a rasp of pilled plush as Sammy pulled Bear up between them. “You wannim, Dean?” Sammy asked.
“No. But you’re getting my PJ’s wet, so cry on him, will ya?”
Sam giggled. “You so weird, Dean.”
“Right back atcha, freakazoid.”
Dean woke sometime in the night. Sam had rolled over, leaving George between them, but Bear had been flung onto the floor beside the bed. Dean leaned out of the bed to pick up the stuffed animal and heard voices in the living room.
He tucked Bear back in next to George and Sammy and quietly crept down the hall. “At least stay and get some sleep, John,” Pastor Jim was saying.
Dean heard someone answer in a gruff rumble but couldn’t make out the words. Then Pastor Jim spoke again. “Dean will know when he sees this. He’ll know you came back and didn’t stay. Sammy, too.”
Dean inched closer. If Pastor Jim was talking about him and Sammy, maybe the voice was....
“I’ve lost too much time already, coming back with that thing,” his father said. Dean took another step forward. He was almost to the kitchen door, now. He could see Pastor Jim standing by the front door, sideways to the hall. Another step. There was his father, by the inner wall of the living room, in front of the bookcases that lined that wall.
“Daddy!” Dean called out excitedly. He ran into the living room and caught his father around the legs.
“Hey, Dean,” Dad said. He lifted him up in his arms, setting him on one hip with a little "oof" of air.
“You said you’d be back next week!” Dean told him incredulously. Dad smelled like coffee and cordite and motor oil.
“I know,” Dad said, and he looked at Pastor Jim in a kind of funny way, but Dean didn’t care. “But you know it’s the darnedest thing.” He held up Bunny. “This little guy showed up when I cleaned out some old cans of soda-pop from the back seat.” He carried Dean down the hallway, still telling him the story. “And he wouldn’t stop screaming for Sammy. So I had to turn right around and bring him back.”
“You came alla way back because of Sam’s bunny?” Dean asked.
“Well…yeah, I guess I did.” And he chuckled a little at himself. He opened the door to Dean and Sammy’s room and sat down on the bed, Dean still in his lap. Dean leaned his head into Dad’s chest. It seemed impossible that Dad would drive all that way and then turn around for a stupid stuffed animal. But then, it was for Sammy, after all, and Dean knew from experience that people did things for Sammy even when it didn’t make a lot of sense.
But it was nice, being in Dad’s lap like this. He wanted to make it last longer. Pastor Jim had been trying to get Dad to stay, too. “Will you read me a story?” he asked. Maybe he could pick out the longest story in the world, so Dad would have to read for days.
“Oh, Deano, y’know, if we turn on the light, might wake up Sammy….” Dad said, but he sounded sad about it.
“Will you stay with us, then?” Dean tried again.
“Me? You’ve got…jeez, Bear, and…who’s that?”
“That’s George. Sammy wouldn’t go to sleep without them. Please? Dad, please?”
Dad grinned, and it was almost like Dean had the old Dad back. “Okay. Until you fall asleep, okay?”
“Okay,” Dean agreed. He promised himself he’d stay awake all night. Dad lifted him off his lap and Dean climbed in. Sammy turned over toward Dean as soon as he felt the weight settle next to him. Dad stood up, kicked off his shoes, and took off his jacket. He sat back down on the edge of the bed and Dean nestled up into him. Dad put Bunny into Sammy’s hands, but then he held Dean close against his ribs. Dean breathed in the smell of Dad’s t-shirt, a mix of oil and sweat and whatever detergent had been available when they’d done laundry last, and he relaxed in his father’s arms. His Dad started humming something softly, singing under his breath.
“....‘Little boy, little boy, won’t you lay your body down….’”
Dean yawned. He was going to stay up and keep Dad here. But it was so warm, so comfortable, so safe with Dad there, that it was hard to keep his promise. He had to stay awake….
John smoothed Dean’s hair as his boy fell asleep. Sammy’s would need cutting soon, he saw from the moonlight through the curtains. Dean relaxed by inches, and John scrunched down against the headboard for a more comfortable position. He twitched the blankets up around his arms, careful to leave a gap for Dean to breathe. He’d stay until he was sure Dean was down for the count, he told himself. Then he’d crash on Jim’s couch for a couple hours….
“Dad? Will you still be here in the morning?” Dean’s voice breathed warm and muffled into John’s stomach, small and tired and so young.
John kept murmuring his lullaby, soothing Dean down into sleep. “Shhh…‘I can tell when you rub your eyes that you’re fadin’ fast…fadin’ fast.’”
Jim found John and his boys tangled up a couple hours later. He didn’t envy John the crick in his back and neck he’d have come morning, but he didn’t disturb them, either.