The worst part of Dean
being hexed to toddlerhood wasn't that he didn't remember his life as an adult,
or how to hunt, or how to speak properly, or even how to use the toilet, something
Sam wasn't thrilled about but could deal with.
No, the worst part of Dean's becoming a toddler (again) was that he still remained—essentially—Dean. Stubborn, opinionated (in a toddler-sense kind of way) and most of all, demanding. Then again, the small amount of research Sam had been able to do in the past ten hours indicated that these were common toddler behaviors.
Which ultimately—in Sam's best, educated opinion—meant that Dean's natural state of adulthood was, in fact, indicative of development somehow arrested at or about twenty-two months.
He tried not to think about this as he gripped the steering wheel in white-knuckled fists and stared grimly ahead, attempting to ignore the child—the formerly demanding adult Dean—who was throwing the Mother of All Temper Tantrums in the back seat of the Impala.
Oddly, this was not so different from the hissy fits he'd pull as a grownup, especially when Sam tried to introduce any kind of music other than Metallica and AC/DC to their driving repertoire.
"A'din! A'din, Dam! Pway it a'din!" the child shrieked, pressing his heels into the seat of the car and pressing upwards until his small body had formed a perfect arch, straining the restraints across his chest to their limit. "I. Wan'. Wheeels!"
"No, Dean," Sam ground through clenched teeth. "No more 'Wheels'."
Slam! His miniaturized brother threw his body back into the child safety seat and began to kick until the Impala's seat rattled. "Wheeeeeeeeeels!"
"No." Sam said, trying to sound calm. He reminded himself that he was the adult here. That he wasn't about to let a toddler run the show. Even if that toddler was his big brother. "We've listened to Wheels enough." Twenty-seven times in a row, as a matter of fact. He'd started paying attention after the fifth play; by the tenth repetition, he'd developed a twitch in one eye. He was pretty sure that if he gave in and played the song again, he'd discover he was bleeding from his ears.
The Happy Meal's under three boy's toy he'd gotten for Dean a few hours previously flew through the air and smacked Sam in the back of the head before bouncing off to land on the passenger seat. Apparently, toddler-Dean had retained his adult self's propensity for accurate aim as well as his attitude about obsessively listening to his favorite music. "Wheeeeeels!"
Sam chewed the inside of his cheek, remembering something about driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole. "No wheels, Dean. Wheels is broken."
Dean's demanding shriek turned into a heart-broken wail. "No. No, Dammy. Wheels is…bwoken? Oh no. No. No more wheeeeeeels!"
A sense of shame washed over him. Lying to a child—even if the child was Dean—felt like one of the slimiest things he could do. A tantruming toddler was one thing; this was painful to see (as well as hear). Sam did the only thing a rational adult could do when faced with such trauma.
He gave in.
"All right! I'm sorry. I'm sorry! Look. Look, Wheels is fixed. I fixed it. Here." He pressed the play button on his mp3 and steeled himself for the twenty-eighth playing of Barney the Fucking Purple Dinosaur singing The Wheels on the Bus with a group of demented child-aged performers of questionable talent.
"Wheels!" Dean chirped happily and rolled his fists one over the other as Sam had taught him the first time he'd mistakenly played the song. Back when he was actually enjoying the novelty of being the older of the two of them. Back when toddler Dean had seemed kind of cute and cuddly instead of demonic and demanding. "Go wound and wound, wound and wound, wound and wound…" he sang in his high-pitched little voice.
Sam had drunk demon blood. He'd been to Hell, lost his soul, and he’d even been possessed by Lucifer. But nothing had ever made him cringe as much as the sound of his big brother's tiny voice piping along with Barney.
"Round and round," Sam agreed wearily, and glanced down at his phone. Four more hours. Four more hours to Bobby's, and hopefully, a cure for this hex.
Because if he had to listen to Wheels on the Bus one more—
"A'din, Dammy! A'din!"
He was going to summon Crowley and beg to be let back into Hell. It was easier to endure than this.
"Crap, boy, you look like—well, crap." Bobby greeted Sam on the porch of his house.
Sam trudged wearily up the steps, Dean in his arms. The little boy’s head rested on his shoulder, and he snored faintly. His fine, flyaway hair tickled Sam's cheek.
"Awww, he's a cute little bugger, I'll give him that." The older man peered at the boy. "He sucks his thumb?"
Sam managed to grunt in response. His ears were ringing. Dean had managed to stay awake until about thirty minutes from Singer Salvage and up until then had been a constant and increasingly whiny stream of demands for wheels and wound and wound. It was a wonder Sam's head hadn't exploded.
He carried his brother inside and lay him on the couch. The sharp ammonia reek of warm urine wafted up to his nose, and he realized Dean's diaper was soaked through enough to make his small jeans wet and Sam's shirtfront, too. Despair washed over him. If he left Dean wet, he'd get a rash. If Sam tried to change him, he might awaken. Sam might have to kill him, then. He couldn't take anymore of his peanut-sized older brother.
"Here. You look like you could use this." Bobby appeared from behind him and tapped his bicep with a half-full bottle of cheap hooch.
Finally. Something he could relate to. He took the bottle, opened it and took a swig, welcoming its fiery burn all the way down into his gullet. Closing his eyes, he let the booze pool in his stomach where it sat, churning and welcome, a reminder of all the other things that drove him crazy about his brother. Things that were so much better than this.
Bobby leaned over the small, sleeping boy, then reared back. "Kid reeks!”
Sam sighed and chugged another swig before answering. "I'll go get the bag of diapers."
"Diapers? He's in diapers?" Bobby sounded alarmed. Sam didn't blame him.
"As far as I can tell, he's about eighteen months old. I haven't had much time to research kids. I tried, but he was…too distracting." And, when he'd stopped at a library, Dean had run off in the blink of an eye and gotten lost in the stacks.
It had been terrifying, realizing that his brother was gone, unable to care for or protect himself and worse, at the mercy of human monsters as well as real monsters. And when he'd found Dean hanging like a monkey off the top of one of tall shelving units, Sam had realized that Dean was also in danger from his inherent curiosity and energy. As a small child, he was hardwired to move, to explore, to taste, touch, and experience life—but thinking first wasn't part of the program. Sort of like adult Dean. Except now, the thinking, the protecting and planning, was all up to Sam.
Then again, how was that different? Crap. He emptied the bottle and turned to the older hunter.
"When I realized he'd need clothes, I stopped at a consignment shop; the woman there asked if that's how old he was."
It was only because Sam had experience in hiding the truth that he was able to summon up the story that he was a Fed and Dean was a recently rescued kidnapped child who needed clothes instead of just the grimy old blanket he’d found rolled up in the trunk of the Impala. She'd given him several small outfits out of the goodness of her heart, and Sam was so overwhelmed with the fact that she'd pronounced his brother "at or about two years old", that he hadn't felt the least bit guilty about taking advantage of her with his lies. She'd provided the car seat, too, and even helped him install it. And all the while, Dean had flashed his baby-greens at her, blinking at her and the other unsuspecting shopping mommies with his absurdly long eyelashes, and flirting like the manwhore he usually was.
Only, instead of sex, he flirted for teddy-bear shaped graham and cheddar cheese-flavored goldfish crackers. It was frightening, really.
"I'll go get his clothes, too. I think there are pajamas. You think I should put pajamas on him?" He turned to face the older hunter, hoping Bobby would make an executive decision and take the responsibility of the whole mess off his shoulders. At least, for a minute.
"How the hell should I know? I've never taken care of a kid that little," Bobby answered. "You were older when your dad started dropping you off here. I think you already knew how to use the john."
"Dean taught me," Sam answered. He wanted to cry. If Dean was here, he'd know how to toilet train a toddler. The irony was unbearable. He shook himself and went out to the car to get the supplies.
Fortunately, Dean was out for the count. Apparently, being a light sleeper was a trait he'd acquired only after he'd become an adult hunter ready for any conflict or calamity. Which was a good thing—Sam almost broke Dean’s leg trying to shove it into the footed pajamas. For some reason, they didn't have convenient snaps like the jeans had, and if they weren't the only jammies he'd gotten and if it wasn't so cold, he would have forgotten the whole enterprise.
"I think you should pull the leg part of the pajamas over his foot and slide it up instead of the other way around," Bobby observed. "You can't just try to jam his leg in it, boy."
"Thanks, Bobby. I'll try that." Sam realized his shoulders were up around his ears. He'd been thinking that once he got to his foster father's, everything would fall into place, and the problem would be solved. But that wasn't the case. Dean was still—essentially—a baby, and now he had to deal with useless advice from an old coot who acted like he knew everything but remained hands-off, more of an amused observer than a participant in the nightmare that was—as usual—Sam's life.
He bunched up the pajama leg in his fist and slid the hole part over his brother's small foot. After that, it was a matter of sliding the thing into place. The same technique worked for Dean's arms, and before long, the little boy was snuggly wrapped in a pair of fuzzy, navy blue footies with a red firetruck stitched over the left breast.
Should be a ward, Sam thought dimly. When he'd been zapped back to toddlerhood, all Deans' scars, wards and tats had also been nixed. Just like all his knowledge and experience.
He lifted the boy up, ready to carry him to his usual bed, pausing when he realized Dean might wake up and wander around unsupervised during the night. "Do you think we should put him in the panic room? He won't be able to escape while we're sleeping."
"That's a little drastic, don't you think?" Bobby touched Dean's head, then, as if he couldn't not make contact with the little boy. "Putting a tot in an iron cell?"
Sam thought about Dean's face when he'd found him hanging off the shelf in the library. Fearless. Dauntless. Clueless. "He'd be safe."
"I dunno. Seems to me we could take shifts. You look like you're just about done in. I'll take the first one."
It was the best thing Sam had heard all day.