It’s What You Do
It all started with the simple fact that Sam didn’t want to hold Dean’s hand.
How hard could it be to get one seven year old kid to do such a simple task, you ask?
Well, pretty damn hard if that kid was a Winchester and brilliant beyond his years and a real pain in the ass to boot.
And it didn’t help that said boy was getting over a nasty case of strep and was crankier than usual, and that his older brother had overindulged his every whim in the past week that he had been sick.
Unfortunately, taking back control wasn't as easy as it seemed.
“Give me your hand, Sammy!” Dean Winchester growled, sounding as threatening as any twelve year old could. “You can’t cross the street by yourself.”
“I’m too big too hold your hand, Dean!” Sam said defiantly, holding both arms behind his back and dancing out of his brother’s reach.
Dean made a grab for Sam but missed. “Says who?”
“Says me,” Sam puffed out his chest and replied. “I’m in first grade-you know.”
“Well I’m in charge-you know. And if I want to hold your hand to cross the street when your seventeen, then I guess you’ll just have to learn to live with it.”
“I’ll be bigger than you then,” Sam pointed out, looking up at his much taller sibling. “Daddy says I’m going to be the tallest.”
Dean rolled his eyes and sighed. “Maybe Dad doesn’t know everything.”
The smaller boy frowned. “Yes he does.”
“That’s right- and he said that you had to hold my hand when we crossed the street.” Ha! Dean showed him.
“But Daddy’s not here.” Sam looked up at him with owlish, liquid pools of complete innocence.
Damn it. It was never easy. “Yeah, and I’m the boss when he’s not around.”
Sam shrugged one thin shoulder. “You’re not the boss of me.”
“I hate to break it to you, kiddo, but I’m your big brother. I will always be the boss of you. That‘s the rule.”
“Who’s rule?” Sam was still backing away from his brother on the sidewalk, hopping back and forth from one foot to the other.
Dean clenched his jaw and tried to remember that he dearly loved the little monster in front of him. “My rule. I made it, and you will follow it.”
“Why do you get to make rules?”
“It’s what I do.” Dean grabbed for his brother again, and Sam dodged him once more. “It’s my job.”
“What’s my job?” Sam stopped moving and stared up at his brother. “I should have a job, too.”
“Oh you have a job, little brother.“ Dean finally grabbed hold of him. “It’s to drive me freakin’ crazy,” he huffed, as he had to pry Sam’s arm from behind his back. The twelve year old then had to use both his hands to uncurl each small, sticky, clenched finger.
“Sam,” he warned as he saw his brother’s foot lift in a perfect arc to deliver a well-placed blow to his shin. “I swear if you kick me-I will take your ass back to the library and tell Dad that you ran out into traffic. He’ll make you wear a leash.”
Sam dropped his foot back to the ground. “You said a bad word.”
“I’m going to say a lot more if you don’t stop being such a brat.”
“I’m not a brat.”
“Today-you are.” Dean sent a quick, silent thank you out that Sam wasn’t usually obnoxious.
“Well-you’re a bully. And Mrs. Jones says bullies get punished.”
Dean snorted. “But Mrs. Jones isn’t here.”
“I don’t like you,” Sam tried to jerk away from his brother again.
“That’s okay, Sammy.” Dean tightened his hold on the little boy’s hand, just enough so that Sam knew he meant business, but not enough to cause any real pain. “I don’t like you too much right now, either.”
“I want to go back with Daddy.” Sam wailed as they made it back to the crosswalk.
That was definitely a first. Dean ignored him.
“I want Daddy!” Sam screamed this time-bringing several eyes to them. “I don’t want to stay with you.”
“Dad told us to get something to eat, Sam!” Dean bit out, practically dragging his little brother behind him now. He couldn‘t deny that it stung. Sam never chose his father over him. “I don’t care what you want. You’re coming to the diner with me.”
Dean ignored the embarrassing looks they were getting from the passerby’s and finally managed to get his little brother across the street and into the restaurant. “Sit,” he commanded, as he shoved Sam into the booth farthest from the door and then slid in right beside him.
He let Sam jerk his hand free, and watched as the seven year old crossed his arms over his chest and stuck his lip out. “I hope your face freezes that way,” Dean sighed as he picked up a menu and flipped it open in front of them.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw a fat tear splash to the table, and then another, and he groaned. Not again. It really wasn’t like Sam to be a brat. In fact, Sammy was hardly ever bad at all.
Dean knew that the temper tantrum could most likely be chalked up to the fact that the little boy hadn’t been sleeping well since the cold, and the whole matter of traveling over 600 miles in the last two days hadn’t helped things either. “You can have a milkshake for dessert, if you want.”
A shake of the head was the only reply, and Dean shrugged. “ Suit yourself, but they have peanut butter-your favorite.”
Sam seemed to perk up a bit at that. “Do I have to eat vegetables first?”
That was usually the deal-at least when they were eating somewhere that actually had vegetables. Most of the time, French fries or hash browns made up the mandatory food that had to be consumed before dessert. But today, Dean was tired, and was ready to call a truce. “Not today, kiddo.”
“Good-my throat still hurts.”
“The yelling probably didn’t help with that,” Dean pointed out and Sam actually looked somewhat contrite.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
The waitress finally made her way over to them and took their order. Dean was surprised when Sam actually agreed to eat a hotdog with his milkshake, and he ordered enough fries for the both of them-just in case.
Once the waitress was gone, Dean scanned their surroundings, noting faces and body language. It was an ingrained habit that his father had drilled into him. Know what and who is around you at all times. His eyes stopped on two doors not far from their booth, and he nudged his brother with his elbow. “Come on, Sammy, let’s go to the bathroom.”
“But I don’t have to go.”
“Well, I do.”
Dean silently counted to five. “At least come and wash your hands.”
Sam held his hands up. “They’re not dirty.”
Dean rolled his eyes and wondered if the horrible sickness that Sam had suffered from during the past week hadn’t actually been some weird demonic possession. He bit his tongue to keep from saying ‘Christo’.
“Fine-germ boy.” Any other day and Sam wouldn’t have wanted to be separated from him for even a moment. There were times when Dean couldn’t even go to the bathroom by himself, without the barnacle affectionately known as Sammy attached to his hip.
Sam shrugged. “I like germs.”
Dean sighed, and pulled the comic he’d been carrying for Sam out of his back pocket. “Sit here and read this.” He handed the rolled up Spider Man comic to his brother and then pointed a finger at him. “Do not move from this seat.”
Sam took his book and nodded. “Okay, Dean.”
Dean really should have known better.
After all, no matter what he’d said or suggested for the last two days, Sam had done exactly the opposite. Of course, he never expected his brother to be so bold as to disobey a direct order, or break a rule that was set in stone by the mighty John Winchester. It had been drilled into both their heads that they were never to go places alone.
Unfortunately, not only had the antibiotics and variety of other drugs cleared up the strep-they had apparently wiped Sam’s memory clean also. Because when Dean exited the men’s room, just ten feet from the table where he’d left his brother, Sam was no where in sight.
“Sam?” Dean walked quickly to the booth, peering under it to make sure his brother wasn’t simply hiding.
The Spider Man comic was laying in the floor, as if it had been dropped and as Dean picked it up, every terrible scenario that could have happened flooded his mind. “Sammy?” he said, louder this time. His eyes searched the crowded diner.
Mostly older couples and a few business looking types were crowded into booths and around the front counter. But no sign of Sammy.
Dean nearly jumped when their waitress touched his arm as she delivered their drinks. “Is something wrong?” the blond asked, eyeing the teen as she sat his Coke and Sam’s milkshake on the table.
“Have you seen my little brother?” Dean turned a panicked gaze on her. “You know-blond hair, big brown eyes, just about this high?” The boy held his hand up to his waist.
The waitress glanced around and then looked at Dean. “Just when you two came in, and when I took your order. Did he go to the bathroom?”
Dean shook his head. “No-I just came from there.”
“What about the women’s?”
Dean shrugged, not having thought about it. Maybe Sam had gone in the wrong one.
“I’ll check for you.” The woman touched him briefly on the shoulder and smiled. “I’m sure he couldn’t have gotten far.”
As the server went to look in the restroom, Dean stalked around the small restaurant, glancing under tables and behind booths. There was a jukebox and some gumball machines in the back corner, but Sam hadn’t been drawn to either.
“He wasn’t in there,” the blond waitress told Dean as she set her tray on the counter. “Hey Terry?” She called, and Dean watched as a balding man with a greasy apron stuck his head through an opening that led into the kitchen. “You ain’t seen a cute little kid back there, have you?”
Terry snorted and looked at the woman like she’d grown a second head. He waved his spatula at her. “Doris-do I look like I’m running a daycare here?”
Doris rolled her eyes. “We’ve lost a customer.”
“Won’t be the first- or the last,” Terry grumbled and went back to wherever he’d come from.
The waitress squeezed Dean’s arm. “Don’t mind him. I’ll go back and check in the kitchen myself. We‘ll find your brother.”
Dean only nodded, his eyes searching the room again. There was an elderly couple sitting in the booth by the door and he strode up to their table. “Excuse me?”
“Can we help you, son?” The gray-haired man asked, eyeing Dean suspiciously.
“Did you happen to see a little boy leave the diner?” Please say, no. Please. “He has blondish brown hair, and was wearing a red shirt, blue jacket and jeans.”
“We saw you two come in a few minutes ago. He's the cutest little thing,” the woman smiled as if she had been highly amused by the sight. “But I don’t think anyone’s left since then.”
“Thank you,” Dean nodded and backed away from them. A feeling of relief washed over him for the small miracle that apparently Sam hadn’t been stupid enough to leave the diner by himself.
“He’s not back there, son.” Doris informed Dean, breathlessly. “I don’t know where he could have gotten to.”
“Are you sure ?”
“It’s not very big. I’d have seen him if he was.”
Dean ran a hand through his hair, feeling the anxiety and fear starting to close in on him. If Sam hadn’t walked out, and he wasn’t in the building somewhere, then that left only one alternative-something had taken him.
Something that could sneak in and take a little boy without anyone being the wiser.
Something from the Dark.
A spirit. Or a phantom. Oh God-what if it was a phantom. What if it hadhurt Sammy?
Dean had left his little brother alone and now he was gone. Vanished.
Tears stung his eyes and Dean didn’t even care if someone saw them. He’d never been quite so scared. His heart was threatening to pound its way out of his chest, and he felt lightheaded.
“Do you want me to call the police, sweetie?” Doris was touching him again, but Dean shook his head, and pulled away from her.
They were never to involve the police. “NO-I’ll go get my dad. He‘s just across the street.” He’s going to kill me, but if he helps me find Sam first-then I can live with that.
“I’ll make sure and keep my eye out for him.”
Dean nodded. “His name’s Sam. Please, if you see him, just keep him here. Tell him Dean said to stay right here.” The teen started for the door but then stopped and turned back to face the waitress. “Christopher Robin,” he said, softly.
“Excuse me?” the woman’s brow furrowed. “I thought you said his name was Sam.”
“That’s our code word this week. He’ll listen to you-if you say it. Just tell him, and he’ll know he’s safe.” Please let him be safe.
Doris agreed, wringing a napkin in her hands, and looking on the verge of tears herself. “Are you sure I shouldn’t call the police, honey? People can be so crazy these days.”
Dean knew what she was thinking. Predators took children all the time. He wasn’t too young to not know what happened to innocent, little boys and girls at the hands of human monsters. People were crazier than the supernatural creatures he’d grown up dealing with.
But Sam would have fought if it were a human. He’d never have gone with anyone without them knowing their safety word. Sam understood that at the age of two.
“My dad will know what to do. We’ll be right back.” And God help whoever or whatever has taken my brother.
watched the lanky teen leave the restaurant and sent up a quick prayer
that this was just some big misunderstanding. After all, it was a Tuesday.
And nothing exciting ever happened on Tuesdays.