Sam's down there, down where the water's gone from green to blue to dark. There's a murderous ghost down there, too, and he's never let danger get between him and his brother. Dean takes a breath and dives in.
Once he's wrapped his head around going to a school with uniforms and coming back to Pastor Jim's every day, Dean knows what he has to do.
"Sammy," he says, nudging his brother's foot a little until he lifts his head from his book. At least it isn't Encyclopedia Brown anymore; that phase had been incredibly annoying, and Dean had never figured out if Sammy was messing up the dumb jokes to make fun of Bugs Meany or if the kid really hadn't gotten them.
"Whaaaaaaaat," Sammy says, dropping his head right back down when he sees it's just Dean, not Dean with Dad behind him.
"Listen up. This is important." Sammy still isn't looking up. "It's about school."
That gets his attention.
"We're going to have to eat cafeteria food."
"So?" Sammy just doesn't get it. Part of Dean is glad that his brother can still be so innocent, but he can't really keep awful truths from the kid for too long.
He tries to break the news gently. "Don't eat anything that has the word 'surprise' in its name, okay?"
Sammy just rolls his eyes, but Dean knows that one day, he'll be glad to have such an awesome brother.
He sees a flash of movement out of the corner of one burning eye and darts after it.
"Why aren't any of the good imaginary things real?" Sammy asks, sounding so heartbroken that Dean holds off on popping the cap off his beer and getting shitfaced.
"Hey," he says.
"Goblins and werewolves and sirens exist. Why can't, I don't know, fairy godmothers and magic carpets?"
He can't lie to the kid, and that leaves him with pretty much nothing to say. Sammy is getting kind of big to cuddle, but he goes willingly into Dean's arms. Dean kisses his temple, buries his nose in his brother's hair and smells gunsmoke. Sammy just lets out a shuddery sigh, like when he's thinking about crying but hasn't gotten around to it yet.
Dean braces himself for tears, or maybe a request for a story or a song, but they don't come. Sammy just falls asleep like that, heavy and warm, and Dean finds himself telling him a story anyway.
The pressure hammering against his head is getting more and more agonizing. Going back to the surface for a gasp of air feels like cheating somehow but contending with nature and the unnatural means he'll take what he needs and get the job done.
"Dean!" Sammy says like he wouldn't trade his big brother for a genie in a lamp; the kid looks like he's about to cry.
The office aide who was sent to fetch him takes one look at the situation unfolding in the nurse's office, sniffs, and slams the door behind her. Dean's got no time for her. He looks briefly at Nurse Freddy and steps between her and Sammy. "What's the matter?" he asks.
"I fell down at recess and Miss Marcy made me go to the nurse," Sammy starts, pointing to the shin that Dean knows is a vivid mess of bruises under his corduroy pants. His voice drops to a whisper so low Dean can barely hear it. "But I didn't wanna go 'cause the B-R-O-O-Z-E is from a G-H-O-S-T, not stupid kickball."
"Yeah, okay, but what's with the waterworks and the screaming?"
Sammy's face darkens. "She kept saying she was gonna take somethin' from me."
Dean swings around to glare at her. "Yeah, you," he hears Sammy say from behind him.
"Honey," she says, putting her hand on Dean's arm. "I'm just trying to take his temperature."
Dean almost laughs in relief. "Sammy, it's okay. She just has a different way of doing this." He sweeps away Sammy's bangs and puts his hand on his forehead.
Sammy seems to get it, but then his face screws up as another thought occurs to him. "But that's dumb, Dean. My leg is hurt. Why's she need to take my tempachur?"
Nurse Freddy sounds like she's about to laugh. "Standard practice, honey," she says, and Dean gets that; he knows all about routine.
"Just open your mouth and make her day a little easier, Sammy," he says, and Sammy obeys, shooting her one last suspicious look, and squeezing Dean's hand tightly.
It's not like he has a photographic memory, though there are a few wild nights he wishes he could recapture with that kind of clarity. And it's definitely not like he spent the hundreds of days Sam was gone on a couch in a frilly robe, clutching Sam's baby album and a handful of tissues. It's just that, yeah, he remembers stuff about Sam, has a whole bank full of memories that come to him at odd moments of the night and day, and it's kind of nice.
He remembers Sam at that age, his bright eyes under that mess of hair. Remembers Sammy and his quicksilver moods, the way that silence would envelop him like a blanket when Sammy got lost in a book.
He remembers Sam. He dives back down, and his arms wrap around a little body. He breaks the surface with a gasp, Lucas held safely up to the light and air and the mother who loves him.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.