Round and Round the GardenAuthor: lilacsigilRecipient: shay_renoyldsRating:
4500 words. Thank you to both my lovely betas!Summary:
Sammy Winchester undergoes a startling change, but at least he knows the right words to describe it. Dean is not impressed.
Dean liked Saturdays. No school, the best cartoons on TV, and Dad was working a regular job right now. They made him work on Saturday mornings, and Dean and Sammy could lie around in their pyjamas and watch Real Ghostbusters and Mighty Mouse all they wanted. Dean felt a little bit guilty about that, because if Dad was there they'd go and do even cooler things, like practising with the shotgun. Every time he missed his Dad, he had to remind himself that Dad didn't have any choice about working Saturday mornings because he was the new guy, and Dad would want him to make the best of things. He always said that. So, after cartoons and washing up their cereal bowls, Dean got Sam dressed and they went out to play in the playground.
Reno had some pretty good trailer parks. They were mostly full of old people. Dean and Sam were the only kids in this one, apart from a pair of teenage sisters who liked to ruffle Sam's hair and say he was cute ñ but there was a little playground. It had two swings, a bright yellow plastic slide, a really gross sandbox full of cat poop and flowering weeds, and a bar that Sam liked to swing on, hanging upside down by his knees so his t-shirt went over his head.
"Dean! Help me up!" Sam shouted, trying to climb onto the bar for the millionth time.
"Go on the slide, Sam. I'm busy!" Dean was using a particularly large piece of tanbark to make a jump for his Hot Wheels car, and it was a delicate balancing act. He'd already pushed Sam on the swings for half the morning.
"No, I wanna go upside-down! Dean!"
Dean glanced over at their putative babysitter, Mrs Lloyd, who was sunning her veiny legs outside her trailer and doing one of her crosswords, cigarette firmly wedged into the corner of her mouth. She was pretty cool, usually, but she did sometimes get mad when Sammy whined, and Dean didn't like it when she got bored of watching them and made them stay inside her trailer which stunk of cigarettes and cat pee. Nine cats lived there, and Dean suspected they were responsible for the poop in the sandbox, too, like stinking up a whole trailer wasn't enough. A big, three-legged cat was rubbing its head on the pine logs that edged the sandbox right now.
He put his Pontiac Fiero safely in his pocket ñ he wasn't going to lose it like he lost that cool yellow T-bird in Minnesota ñ and went over to help Sam onto the bar, but the little dork had already got bored of waiting and had started running around and around the edge of the sandbox, making car noises and screeching his brakes at each corner.
"Dean!" Mrs Lloyd had stubbed out her cigarette and folded her crossword magazine. "I'm gonna visit the little girls' room, then I'll make you boys some lunch, okay?"
"Thanks, Mrs Lloyd," Dean yelled back, over the noise of Sam revving his imaginary engine and leaping over some trailing weeds with a roar and squeal of brakes.
Dean stuck out an arm but Sam scrambled under it and kept running, though he now had a distinct wobble to the left, towards the stinky sandbox.
"You better stop, Sammy, or you'll get dizzy." Dean held out both arms to block his brother's next pass, but before Sam got there, he stumbled and caught his heel on one of the pine logs, falling flat on his back into the dirty sand. He lay there for a few seconds, blinking up at Dean.
"Sammy! Get up!" Dean grabbed both his wrists and hauled, pulling Sam up in a shower of clumpy sand and yellow flowers. "Dude, there's cat poop in there!"
Sam's eyes brimmed with tears and his chin wobbled.
Dean sighed. "Don't cry, Sammy, you're not in trouble."
"I fell in!" Sam's voice was choked by the inevitable tears, but Dean was pretty sure he could stop a full-on crying fest.
"You can just get changed into clean clothes and then we'll have lunch with Mrs Lloyd, okay? I won't tell Dad, it was just an accident."
"You won't?" Sam cheered up immediately. "But I think there's poop on my butt."
Dean burst out laughing. "There's always poop on your butt!"
Sammy's lip trembled once more, then he burst into giggles instead of tears. "Is poop!"
"Okay, Poopy-butt, go back to the trailer and take off your pants." Dean turned Sam around, examining him closely. "And your t-shirt."
Sam ran for their trailer, and Dean followed, pausing at the steps to Mrs Lloyd's open door. "Mrs Lloyd! Sammy got dirty, so I'm getting him new pants from our trailer!"
"Okay, hon," she shouted back. Dean really hoped she wasn't talking to him from the bathroom with the door open again, but it sounded like she was. "I don't want him messing up my sofa again!"
Dean scowled, but replied only in a mutter that she wouldn't hear. "That was an accident! He's only four. You shouldn't pick on a four-year-old." He stomped his way across to their own trailer, where Sammy was standing clad only in sneakers, socks and underpants, the rest of his clothes in a heap on the top step.
"Hurry up, Dean! I'm cold!"
"You are not, it's ninety degrees out here."
Sam did a little jiggling dance on the step. "Well, okay, I need to go to the bathroom, too."
Dean rolled his eyes and pushed past Sam to unlock the trailer door. "You've got to tell me before it gets desperate, dude. You're gonna be at school next year, and if you pee your pants it's gonna make me look bad."
"Just let me in!" Sam threw the door open and scampered straight for the bathroom, slamming the wobbly chipboard door in exactly the way Dad had told them not to do. Dean grabbed Sam's dirty clothes and beat them against the side of the trailer a few times to dislodge the lump of cat poop on the seat of Sam's pants. There was still a nasty stain there, and two on his t-shirt, but Dean thought that would probably get past Dad okay. He gave them an extra hard shake for good measure, then went into the warm gloom of the trailer. The big duffle that served as a laundry bag was sitting in the bottom of the closet, and it was pretty full, which Dean took as a sign that there would be a visit to the laundromat soon. With any luck, it would be before Sam's poopy clothes stunk up the whole bag. He shoved the dirty clothes deep into the bag and grabbed another t-shirt and the last pair of jeans from Sam's shelf.
"Come on, Sammy, you're taking forever in there!" Dean bellowed in the general direction of the bathroom.
"It's cos I have to sit down to pee!" Sam called back.
Dean stomped over to the door. "Are you reading a book in there again?"
"No, Dean! My penis went away and now I have a vagina."
Dean rolled his eyes. Ever since he and Sam had read that stupid library book about body parts, Sam had been obsessed with boys and girls, and who had which part. He wouldn't even use the dirty words for them, like any cool kid would ñ he had to use the words right out of the book. Sam had only ever asked one woman if she had a vagina, but that had been enough humiliation to last Dean's entire life, since that woman was his third-grade teacher. Still, it had almost been worth it to see Dad blush.
"Don't be stupid, Sammy. You're a boy, you can't just say you're a girl. And if you make us late for lunch and Mrs Lloyd makes us stay inside, you're gonna be in so much trouble."
The toilet flushed, finally, and Sam opened the door. "No, look, Dean, I really do have a vagina."
Sam could barely walk with his underpants around his ankles like that, and Dean was about to tell Sam to pull them up and get dressed, when he realised something awful. Sam was telling the truth. Dean shrieked ñ not at all like a girl, a manly shriek ñ and scuttled backwards until he hit the sofa.
"See? I have a vagina. Does that mean I'm a girl now? Dean?"
Dean stared at his brother. The kid looked and sounded exactly like Sam, except that he was most definitely a girl. His private parts looked just like Beth Parker's, the girl at his last school who took off her underpants all the time. Dean had always stared at the half-naked Beth, even though the teacher said he shouldn't because she was troubled. "Were you a girl this morning, Sammy?"
"Nuh uh. Just now. Are you mad?"
"No, um, I'm not mad. But Dad is going to kill me when he gets back and finds out I let you get turned into a girl."
Sam pulled up his underpants and ran over to Dean. "No way, Dean! I won't even tell him!"
Dean stared again. Partially dressed, Sam-the-girl was indistinguishable from Sam-the-boy. "Sam, Dad gives you a bath nearly every night. He's going to notice that your dick suddenly went missing."
Sam drew himself up to his full height, with that arrogant, teacher-like look on his face. "Dean, it's called a penis. And it hasn't gone missing, it's just got swapped. Boys have a ñ"
"I know, I know. Okay, so I guess you're a girl. For the moment."
"Can we have lunch now?"
Dean was about to snap at Sam, but he was really hungry, all of a sudden. It must be shock. Dad always said that you should stay warm and have something to eat if you're in shock. Dean took a deep breath. "Get dressed. We'll have lunch, then we'll work out what happened and change you back, okay? I don't want to be stuck with a little sister."
"But I can't get dressed. Girls wear dresses. And have pigtails. I don't want boy clothes."
"Sammy, they're still your clothes. You're still you." Dean spoke as slowly and calmly as he could, because the last thing he needed was to yell at Sam and make him even more stubborn.
Sammy stuck his finger in his ear and thought for a moment. "I guess some girls wear jeans."
"Yeah, totally. Now get dressed."
Sam struggled into his t-shirt and jeans and waited for Dean to do up the button. "But girls who wear jeans still have pigtails. I want pigtails."
"Oh, come on! A minute ago you wanted lunch." Dean fastened Sam's pants and glared at him.
"Pigtails then lunch. Girls wear pigtails and I'm a girl," Sam declared, folding his arms as if he couldn't believe that Dean would resist his irrefutable logic.
Dean's growling stomach wasn't going to let him win this battle. "Okay, you can have pigtails if you promise not to tell Mrs Lloyd you're a girl. And you have to take them out before Dad gets home. Promise?"
"Sure! I promise! Probably you'll turn me back into a boy by then anyway. We'll have a whole hour after lunch."
"Course I will." Dean tried to sound confident. He went to the shoebox where they stored their coloured pencils, markers and various odds and ends, and retrieved two rubber bands. He grabbed a handful of Sam's curly hair and twisted the rubber band around it to keep it secure, ignoring Sam's squirming and plaintive cries of "Ow!"
"That's one. If you want two pigtails, you'll have to stay still."
Sam weighed up his choice for a moment. "I'll just have one then. It can be a ponytail. That's just one, isn't it?"
"Sure, Sammy." Dean patted the soft, springy tuft of hair until it blended in with the rest of Sam's mop a little better. He really didn't want Mrs Lloyd asking questions, and she was the kind of old lady who suddenly turned nosy at the exact moment when Dean had something to hide. "Let's go and have some lunch, then we'll fix you. No problem."
Mrs Lloyd's trailer was brighter but hotter than theirs, despite the blades of the ceiling fan swinging slowly and menacingly above them. Her trailer was also much larger, but she lived there all the time, not just for a few months over summer. Four of her nine cats were draped about the furniture, eyes slitted, pretending not to be interested. Dean helped Sam up onto the vinyl-covered seat of her kitchen chairs, then poked Sam in the side to warn him not to pick at the flaking laminate on the table this time. Sam squirmed away from Dean's finger with an annoyed squeak, fiddling with his sloppy ponytail, and for a moment Dean caught himself considering what it would be like if Sam actually was his little sister. She'd probably be just as bossy, and read too much, and have messy hair and cry when she had nightmares. But maybe Dad would be nicer to her, like he used to be to Mom, pick her up and spin her around and kiss her, and smile. Dean pressed his lips together and shook his head, pissed at himself for being so stupid. Sam being a girl wouldn't have stopped Mom being killed, and Dean thinking traitorous thoughts wasn't going to help Sam now.
"Hey, kid!" Mrs Lloyd snapped her yellow-tipped fingers in his face. "Eat your sandwich or I'll give it to the cats!"
"Sorry, Mrs Lloyd," Dean muttered, and realised that she'd put his sandwich ñ cheese and lunchmeat ñ and a glass of chocolate milk in front of him. "Thanks."
Sam was already happily pulling his sandwich to pieces and eating each component separately, a habit which drove Dad insane on occasion, but didn't seem to bother Mrs Lloyd at all. Dean ate his sandwich and drank his milk ñ Mrs Lloyd put in way more flavouring than Dad did ñ and kept an eye out for the cats. Sam always took ages to finish his lunch, and Dean didn't trust the cats not to leap onto the table and steal Sam's lunchmeat. Maybe even his slice of cheese.
"Hey, Mrs Lloyd?" Sam asked, and Dean eyed him suspiciously. "Have you ever heard of, um, boys turning into girls and girls turning into boys?" Dean was kicking Sam's ankle really hard, now, but Sam just tucked his legs up on his seat. "Or anything?"
Mrs Lloyd sat down opposite them, fiddling with an unlit cigarette. "Why are you asking, Sammy?"
"He's obsessed with who's a boy and who's a girl right now," Dean spoke over the top of Sam, just in case he was going to break his promise, by accident or otherwise. Still, Dad said that supernatural things always repeated their crimes, so maybe Mrs Lloyd had seen something before.
"Oh, I remember when my little girl went through that stage. Never grew out of it really, and now she's a pole-dancer in Vegas."
Dean raised his eyebrows, suddenly more interested.
"Yes," Sam was utterly dismissive, "But she was always a girl, wasn't she?"
"Persistent kid, aren't you? Yeah, of course she was always a girl." Mrs Lloyd frowned, and tapped her cigarette on the table. "Then again, there's my cat, Priscilla."
"Which one's Priscilla?" Dean asked, looking at the cats, who stared back with half-closed eyes.
"The big gray girl with three legs. Don't bother looking over there, kid, she likes being outside in the daytime."
"I saw her by the sandbox!" Sam squeaked in excitement, and Dean grabbed his chubby thigh ñ threatening a camel bite ñ to make his little brother stay put.
"So what happened to her?" Dean kept a firm hold and Sam's wriggling subsided.
"I could have sworn she was a boy kitten when I found her. She'd been run over and I took her to the vet to have her broken leg fixed. The leg had to come off and the vet said to bring the kitten back in a few months to get him neutered." She looked straight at Dean. "That means to have his balls cut off so he won't run about peeing on the walls and making more kittens."
Dean felt that he should make some kind of protest, but Mrs Lloyd's stare was quelling.
She coughed. "So I called him the Colonel. Anyway, when I took him back to the vet, they thought they must have got it wrong, because he was a she. Same three-legged cat, though. I would have thought the vet was drunk, except she was a Mormon. Cost me thirty bucks more for a female cat, but they're good people. Let me pay on instalment."
Dean was wriggling in excitement too, now, and released his grip on Sam's leg, letting Sam slide off his chair. "Can we go outside and play now, Mrs Lloyd?"
"You stay in the playground, okay? I don't want to have to tell your Daddy that you got run over. Or kidnapped." She lit her cigarette and inhaled the rough smoke with pleasure.
"No problem, Mrs Lloyd, we'll stay right there!" Dean scrambled out the door, pushing Sam in front of him, and they both dashed down the steps and over to the dirty sandbox.
Priscilla was sunning herself by the sandbox, just as she had been earlier. The bright sunlight made a kind of halo at the edges of her thick, fluffy fur, but apart from the missing leg, she looked like a totally normal cat, not the kind of monster that would turn Sam into a girl.
"Hey! Cat! Did you turn me into a girl?" Sam stomped up to the cat and stood in front of her, blocking the sunlight. Priscilla yawned.
"Wait, Sam. There's a better way to tell." Dean grabbed one of the paper salt sachets he always kept in his pocket and ripped it open, then flung the salt all over the cat. He waited for a moment. So did Priscilla. Then she turned her head and started licking salt from the fur on her shoulder.
"What does that do?" Sam asked, staring at the untroubled cat.
"Nothing, I guess." Dean scowled. "Maybe it isn't the cat."
"Dean, look!" Sam pointed past the cat into the sandbox. Several of the weedy plants that had been hit by Dean's spray of salt were curling up, their yellow flowers closing, though the sun was still high in the sky. "Did you kill them?"
"No, they're not dead. They're making a pattern!" Dean grabbed Sam by the t-shirt and dragged him back from the sandbox as the long straggly stems shifted and twisted over each other. Priscilla hissed and leapt up, trotting away at considerable speed, despite her distinct lean to the left. Sam tried to wriggle away from Dean and get a closer look, but Dean pulled harder on Sam's t-shirt until Sam lost his footing and sat down hard on his butt. Dean stepped in front of him and stared at the shifting, twisting weeds which seemed to be forming a tiny, loosely woven bowl, dotted with yellow petals.
A tiny shriek rang out, and Dean stumbled backwards in surprise, tripping on Sam, who slapped Dean's leg on principle.
"Help me!" The voice was high-pitched and shrill, and rather reminded Dean of all the bossy little girls who liked to tell him that his clothes were too old and his hair was stupid.
"Who said that?" Dean cautiously leaned a little closer.
"Help me!" The voice seemed to be coming from the bowl of weeds, though the tangle was no bigger than a coffee cup.
Dean edged towards it, keeping a firm grip on Sam, who was struggling to see what was going on, until he could flip the bowl over and look inside. It contained a tiny ginger cat, no bigger than his thumb, standing on its hind legs. "What are you? Did you change my brother?"
"Hi, kitty! I'm Sammy!" Sam waved at it cheerfully, until Dean grabbed his hand.
"You idiot! Don't tell it your name!"
Sam leaned around Dean. "What's your name, kitty?"
The cat just purred, as if it had never said a word. Its little cat face looked like it had a permanent smirk under its tiny white whiskers.
Sam pulled free of Dean at last, and crouched down by the sandbox. "Okay, um, can you say how you got here? Or why you turned me into a girl?"
"Or what the hell you are?" Dean added.
"Help me!" Four fluttering silken wings were unfolding from its furry back. Sam seemed delighted, but Dean shuddered. Insect-like wings did not belong on a cat, and cats should not be talking.
Sam was undeterred by the lack of an answer. "But you didn't change everyone into a girl, did you? D- my brother is still a boy."
"Yeah! Why did you pick on Sammy? And that cat?"
The tiny cat's voice was even shriller with scorn. "What you have done can be undone."
"I didn't do it!" Sam shrieked back, and Dean was glad that he had a firm hold on Sam's arm to stop him from launching into the sandbox and grabbing the creature.
"Oh yeah? How?" Dean tried to stay cool, but the idea that Sam could undo the spell made him fidget with excitement, and at least they'd got the creature to talk.
"No way! You'll just do this to other people, and they won't even know to go and look for monsters like you."
Sam looked up at Dean. "It's not a monster, it's a fairy. It's got fairy wings"
Dean pulled Sam back a little further. "Big difference. And if you're so magic, why are you stuck in a sandbox full of cat poop?"
The tiny cat bared its teeth with a hiss, threshing its tail about and flicking its wings, but Dean stared it down. Its tail lashing slowed and the hiss turned into a sigh. "My flower-seed carriage..." The fairy climbed to the top of the piles of weeds on all four legs, then stood on two again, its eyes hostile slits as it glared one corner of the sandbox.
"The sandbox! It's held together with iron nails!" Dean shouted. "No wonder you can't get out! Did the wind blow you in here?"
"Help me!" Its voice was even more insistent, like the beeping of a smoke alarm.
Sam tried to reach in and touch the little creature again, but Dean was holding him back. "Why can't we help the fairy? It's just a little fairy."
"Can be undone..." The fairy-creature was trying to make itself look harmless, Dean was sure of it.
"Please?" Sam begged. "I don't mind if I'm a girl, I'm sure Dad won't get too mad."
"Ha! He'd get even madder if I just let a fairy go." Dean frowned. "But fairies can't go around breaking promises, can they, fairy? Okay, I'll make you a deal."
"The deal is this: you tell me how to change Sammy back, and promise never to use magic on anyone ever again, and I'll let you go."
The tiny cat lashed its tail again, but stared at Dean with a speculative look on its face. "I cause nothing."
"Deal!" Sam shouted before Dean could stop him. "No, Dean, that's totally fair, and I don't want Dad to get mad at you. And it's after lunch, he'll be back any minute!"
"Stop using my name!" Dean ran a hand through his hair. "Okay, okay, the deal is made." He bent down and pulled the tangle of weeds free, lifting them over the edge of the sandbox, complete with the creature, and put them on the ground, free of the iron. "Now, tell me."
"Seven turns against nature, seven back restores balance!" With a sudden gust of warmth, the fairy-cat fluttered off into the air, petals and leaves swirling after it.
"But what does that mean?" Dean shouted after the fairy, but it was too late.
Sam was staring at the sandbox. "Can I use your name, now?"
"Yeah, sure, Sammy." Dean was doomed. Dad would be home and Sam would still be a girl.
Priscilla the cat had come back the moment that the fairy had fled, and was rubbing her chin along the side of the box, leaning into it and worming her way contentedly along the side, just as she had been this morning.
"So she came back. It doesn't do any good."
"No, look! Priscilla can only go one way around the sandbox, because of her leg!"
Dean grabbed Sam and hugged him around the head until he squeaked. "You doofus! You did the same thing as the stupid cat! You went around and around the sandbox in the same direction. Seven turns!"
"Let me go!" Sam wriggled free of the unexpected hug. "So I just have to run the other way around the sandbox, seven times?"
"Go!" Dean gave him an encouraging shove, and Sam dashed forward, running around the track that he had worn into the ground that morning, but clockwise this time, as Dean counted off the laps at the top of his voice.
"ÖFive! Six! Seven!"
The moment Sam made it around the last corner, he stumbled and fell with a shriek, onto the earth this time instead of into the dirty sand.
"Sammy! Are you okay?" Dean knelt beside him.
"Quick, undo the button so I can take my pants off!"
Dean didn't bother with the button, but yanked Sam's pants off entirely, pulling his underpants with them. Sam was a boy again, and Dean had never been so happy in his life.
Sam leapt to his feet, kicking the jeans and underpants free, and started dancing on the spot.
"I've got a penis! I've got a penis!"
A deep voice came from behind them. "Okay, Sammy, we've all seen it now. You can put your pants back on before you embarrass your brother again."
"Dad!" shrieked both boys and ran to throw their arms around his waist, regardless of his dirty coverall.
"What have you guys been doing today?" His voice rumbled through his chest, and they felt it more than heard it as they clung on.
"Oh, nothing," Dean started.
Sam chimed in. "Dean forgot to take my pigtail out! But you have to take it out because I'm a boy!"
"Yeah, Sammy, we can all see that." Their dad gently untwisted the rubber band from Sam's hair, while Dean shot a warning look at Sam, who seemed blithely innocent of the day's events. "Now, if you get your pants back on, I'll go clean up, then we can all go up to one of the hotels and sneak into their pool for a swim. What do you say, boys?"
Sam went to retrieve his pants, and Dad went off to the trailer to scrub off the engine grease, and Dean grinned. He'd cracked the case like a real hunter, he'd made Sam his brother again, Dad was back, and all was right with the world.