Title: Little Toy Soldiers
By: mcee
Pairing: gen
Rating: PG-13
Summary: There's something comforting in knowing he shares this knowledge of backseat topography with nearly every other kid in America.


Sam is trying not to bleed on the car seat.

His eyes follow, half-focused, the wobble of a power line that runs along the road, stark black against a sky the shade of a crayon. When he stops thinking about it - and he has - it seems like the line is running with them, dipping lower in between posts then jerking back up at regular intervals, dotted with blackbirds. The angle he's at has removed all context, all perspective; three states ago he knew where they were, but now the square of sky through the car window comfortingly anonymous. Sam cradles his arm more tightly to his body and pushes the worn treads of his sneakers against the door, wondering how blood loss can feel so much like a blow to the head, and amused that he can compare and contrast so easily.

The front seat is eerily quiet, and Sam shifts just to hear Dean's breathing alter, just to feel Dean eye him in the rearview mirror, his voice too loud in the absence of music, too sharp without the hiss of a magnetic band. Sammy. Hey. Sam. You okay? We're almost there.

Stop being a freaking baby, it's just a flesh wound.

Sam nods and presses his forehead to the warm leatherette of the backseat, trying to remember the last time he fit on it sideways. But he can't quite reach the memory, and settles instead on one of Dean's adolescent thigh under his cheek, and Dean's hand covering Sam's ear as Dad's voice resounded loudly over the no-man's-land between them. Sam had not only fit lengthwise across the backseat then, but there had been room to spare for a front seat refugee, duration of stay unknown.

This was back when Dean's answer to everything regarding Dad was, I'll tell you when you're older. Sam never had the heart to tell him he'd never be older than Dean.

Sam curls in on himself as much as the position will allow and runs weak fingers along the crease between seat and backrest, idly summoning a lick of strength to push in until he hits something. He pulls out a lighter, three dimes, a chewed pencil. He goes in again and his fingertips close on something solid, the shape of which feels immediately familiar. He grins, knows exactly what it is before he's even pulled it out: a little toy soldier, the kind Dean was fiercely possessive of, growing up. This one had been forgotten on a motel radiator once and had half melted into something much less mundane than a man-at-arms, something alien and fantastical, limbs and weapon hardened into a shape that had reminded Dean of something he was never able to explain quite to Sam's satisfaction.

This was the favored trooper, and Sam had been expressedly forbidden to play with it, ever, on pain of fratricide. Which is why he'd stolen it, feeling reckless, and hidden it, lest Dean actually find reason to follow through on his promise. Something about finding it again eons later, when Dean has probably forgotten nothing of it (he never did) makes grown-up Sam smile in triumph. He pushes the dimes and the pencil back into the crease of the seat but pockets the toy soldier, his arm twinging with distant pain at the movement. He keeps the lighter, too, because fire is always good, until it's not.

He likes to imagine a collective consciousness of youngest sons remembering each other's every pit-stops at every fringe-flagged gas station in every state; the wet concrete floor of public bathrooms, the knobs of which could only be negotiated with tiny keys on huge keychains; stale shrink-wrapped sandwiches that were somehow still a treat even after years on the menu; watching Dean eye the gum-smacking red-striped waitresses like they were the answer to both their father's unpredictable bouts of silence and Dean's own growing fascination with girls.

Surprisingly easy to forget are the tap water of bathroom sinks turning pink against stained enamel; the Ding Dongs and Yoo-Hoos smuggled out to the car under baggy coats and guileless faces; the sharp-eyed women who sized up Dad suspiciously and gave Sam and Dean french fries on the house. He keeps those remembrances stuffed deep, somewhere out of reach even to himself, along with the first time he'd kissed a girl who hadn't kissed back, with the single C he'd earned in ninth grade math, and the sound of Dad's silence when Sam'd said goodbye.

There's something comforting in knowing he shares this knowledge of backseat topography with nearly every other kid in America, with every family who's ever road-tripped cross-country to the Grand Canyon, where Dad had collected a month's worth of Hopi rituals, or to Mount Rushmore, where Dean had nearly lost a finger to a banshee, or to the World's Largest Ball of Twine, where Sam, once, had gotten sick on too many corndogs.