Lost and Found
Dean Winchester’s world was beyond busy. Between running his shop in town, heading up The Brotherhood and trying to maintain some semblance of order in his personal life, there were times when he felt overwhelmed.
He should be researching a hunt. He was set to head out for with Sam tomorrow, but Juliet had scheduled a surgery at her vet’s office that morning. She promised to be back by lunch and pick up lunch. Dean had hoped, actually prayed, for a quiet morning to get things together. James Murphy Winchester had other things in mind. At barely a year old the youngest Winchester required a lot of attention. He’d skipped over the crawling, wanting to catch up to his brother, therefore he needed to be faster than crawling allowed. It called for those in close vicinity to have eyes in the back of their heads and to be on vigilant guard.
After a morning bottle, two rounds of the singing bear that had a creepy resemblance to the Snuggle bear, which Sam had given James, the youngest Winchester was finally taking his nap. Dean checked on JT who was entertaining himself by watching cartoons and coloring as the mood struck him. There would no doubt be more pictures for their refrigerator by the end of the day, not like they had the spare room. Dean was going to have to start divvying up the artistry between JT’s uncles.
Ben came in from the barn just as Dean poured his third cup of coffee for the day. "Dad, I could really use some help." He was working on a dirt bike that Dean had found. It was a father-son bonding project, which would lead to car building next. This first year with Ben had been a transition as Dean was accustomed to dealing with babies and toddlers, not teenagers. They were figuring things out, not without some bumps in the road with hunting, school and extracurricular activities, namely girls. Yet, Dean wanted to try to make up for lost time with Ben. In a few short years he would go off to college so Dean's time with his oldest was limited in a way.
“Yep.” Ben grabbed a muffin from the table, took a huge bite. “Maybe we should scrap it.”
“Let me take another look, Ace.” Dean clipped the baby monitor to his belt, and went out to help Ben. Having such an eager student, Dean got lost in the work. Ben was a natural with mechanics, a lot like his old man, taking Dean back to rare days with his own father when they’d work on the Impala. A noise on the monitor brought him out of his reverie and after putting Ben to work on cleaning the plugs he went up the stairs to James's room to find an alert baby, gripping the edge of the crib.
"Hey, little man," Dean greeted his son. He picked him up and brought him to the changing table for a diaper change. Since it was coming up on lunch time, Dean just got a bottle of water to take outside to the barn with him. He set James on a blanket in one of the empty stalls in the barn, put a few toys down from James's room and ordered the dogs to patrol. The dogs were very good at wrangling the baby so he didn't travel far. Thankfully, Juliet was expected to be home in an hour. Dean divided his attention between Ben and James.
"I stopped and got some pizza and calzones for lunch." She handed the boxes to Ben, then bent down to pick up James. "What do you think about pizza, Jimmy? Are you ready to eat?"
James was happy when someone mentioned food. He liked to eat, or make a mess in his high chair, dropping food on the ground and entertained by the dogs.
"Better than beets, I bet," Dean commented as he put away the tools they had been using.
"I'll have you know beets are like candy to babies," Juliet said as she walked to the house. "You coming?"
"I'm going to clean up and be right in." Dean would tarp the bike to finish later. Ben had homework to finish.
Dean was in the barn 15 minutes later when Juliet came back outside without James. "Where's JT? Is he with you?"
"Not with me. He's inside the house watching TV." Dean took determined steps closer to Juliet, concern guiding him as he couldn't remember if he had seen JT when he had gone to get James from his nap. His mind followed a common pattern, JT would be inside, but Juliet's drawn expression told him otherwise.
"He's not inside. I looked." Juliet glanced between the house and the barn. "I'm going to check the closets and the basement." She ran towards the house.
"JT!" Dean called out, ripping through the barn. Boo and Dill trailed behind him, picking up on his emotions. Maybe JT had come out and gone into one of the other stalls. Sometimes they played hide and seek and his middle son was good at being very quiet. "JT!" He opened each stall, headed upstairs to hayloft. He dug in the hay, but came up empty. He sped down the ladder and opened the root cellar- he had gotten trapped there a long time ago himself. Nothing. He heard Ben and Juliet in the house, yelling for JT.
Dean opened his cellphone, punching his speed dial. Caleb answered on the first ring. "We can't find JT.”
“Damn it, Damien, can you sense anything?"
Caleb paused a moment. "Deuce, he's fine. He’s not upset or hurt."
"That doesn't mean that someone didn't take him-" Dean's thoughts ran away from him, maybe someone they knew had turned against them and JT went willingly. Maybe JT was enticed away from the farm.
“Don’t go down that road, man…” Caleb started.
“It happened to us, Sam wasn’t much older than JT.” Dean watched Dill and Boo take off towards the pond, and followed them at a fast paced clip as he continued laying out worst case scenarios. JT was not supposed to go near the water without an adult, but kids were curious. How many times had he heard stories of kids drowning?
"Look, I’ll call Mac, he can locate him. .I'm leaving now and I'll be there by dinner. Did you call Sam?"
JT’s emotions might not have been readable, but Dean’s panic was obviously off the chart. Caleb was picking up on it and soon Sam would be calling him, too. He cleared the tree line and was heading towards the dock, as far as he could see no one was on the dock, but he couldn't see if there was anything floating in the water. His heart leapt as Dill pawed at the wood, letting out a soft woof, the alert she usually gave when she had located one of her flock. As he neared the dock, his row boat was pulled ashore, waiting for him when he wanted to go out on the pond. He froze as he saw the sleeping form, nestled in the bow, curled asleep.
"I found him." Dean lowered his voice, his breath leaving him, causing his knees to go weak. "I'll call you back, Damien." He snapped the phone off without further discussion, knowing his best friend would show up for dinner even though JT had been found.
Dean ran a hand through his hair; torn between climbing into the boat to scoop his son up, and going back to the house to let Juliet know he’d found him. JT was safe and Dean didn’t want to scare him so he ordered Boo and Dill to stay and went to tell Juliet everything was okay.
She came out of the guest bedroom, while Ben came down the stairs, holding James who was wiggling to be put down. Ben complied. "I'll watch him."
Juliet covered her mouth, fighting to gain her composure. Dean let her lead the way outside, placing a hand on her back, rubbing a small circle. "I'm sorry."
She nodded in response.
"I should have watched him. I got caught up in Ben and…"
"I know." She placed a hand on her chest, over her heart. "I think my heart stopped."
"Are you okay?"
Dean was relieved in a way. He needed to hear that confirmation from the most important woman in his life. He grabbed her hand and squeezed.
The dogs greeted them when they got closer to the boar. Juliet kneeled at the boat, ghosting JT's golden hair. "Don't wake him up," she whispered.
"I'm just going to wait here." Dean got in the boat to wait.
Juliet nodded again, couldn't take her eyes off of JT as she pursed her lips. She placed her hand on Dean's arm, using it to push herself to standing. She gave his shoulder a squeeze as she passed by.
He knew the feeling. "This won't happen again," he said. Juliet responded with a small smile, and went back into the house. He focused on watching his son sleep and breathe.
Dean pulled out his cell when it vibrated in his pocket. It was Caleb. Damien never had any patience. . "I think I bit off more than I can chew, Dude. I lost JT."
"You found him. No harm, no foul," Caleb replied. “Was he at the pond?”
“Yeah, asleep in Jim’s boat at the dock." Dean looked out across the water, Dill leaned into his leg. “How’d you know?”
“I lost you a few times back in the day. You seemed to be drawn there, but not content to stay dry-docked. One time you took the boat out in the middle of the pond, and I had to fucking swim out to get you. You know how I feel about the water.”
"You were just a kid yourself, Damien, I’m an adult, and I fucking neglected one of my kids. You know those stories you hear. This could have turned out so much worse." He thought about what worse was to a parent and it made his stomach clench.
"Dude, three kids, Juliet, Guardian of The Brotherhood, a mechanic, something is bound to happen."
Dean was still feeling guilty. He understood he juggled a lot of positions, but he thought he was doing well. "Yeah, but it’s not supposed to happen to one of my kids."
Caleb sighed before answering, "You can't exactly give them back, not even Jimmy, and I think Juliet is in for the long haul. Who is going to get my amazing charm and put up with Sam? That leaves the Guardian gig and the garage…. . ."
When he was younger Dean didn’t believe he could be The Guardian, but now he couldn't imagine his life without what truly was a calling. "I should have paid more attention."
"You need a break, Kiddo, like any other working parent." Caleb continued, "I'll come down next weekend. You take Juliet out, and I will watch the kids and hang out with Ben."
Ben was at an age where he resented the term babysitter, but his uncle could 'hangout' or assist him in watching his brothers. Dean started to feel better. "For free?"
"Since when does a Winchester pay for babysitting ? I'll be the one forking out cash for Ben to stick around."
"True. Hey, he's waking up," Dean said as he scooted closer to his son. JT stretched, then licked his lips.
"I'll let you go, call Sam and let him know what's going on," Caleb added. “Maybe I can take that hunt with him tomorrow.”
“Thanks, man.” Dean ended the call. "Hey, Bud," he softly called out to his son.
JT blinked, rubbed the impromptu nap out of his eyes, then smiled at seeing his father in the boat. "Hi, Daddy."
Dean didn't want to alarm his son with the panic he had felt. "How come you took a nap in the boat? You're not supposed to come out by the lake on your own."
JT scampered closer to Dean, but wouldn’t look directly at Dean. This usually happened when there was something for his young son to be guilty for. Dean hoped his son would always be so easy to read. "I wanted to help you and Ben, but you were busy."
Dean gathered his son into his arms as he felt guilty. He wondered how long JT had stood there waiting to be noticed.
"Then I heard the lady singing and I came here and fell asleep." JT shrugged his shoulders.
If only the situation was worth just a shrug of the shoulders. "A lady? Must have been a special song. Do you remember it?"
JT hummed off key as Dean looked out to the water. He remembered the song, had hummed it to himself many times when he was scared or frightened. Dean wasn’t sure to be grateful or worried but knew firsthand the Lady that JT heard meant no harm. He let his ringed hand dangle over the side of the boat, his fingers slide through the silky water. Thank you, he thought as he tried to connect with the Lady of the Lake.
He is a charge.
Dean saw a ripple on the water. Does this mean. . .Dean did not finish the thought, unsure he wanted to know the answer. He hugged JT to him, lifted him up to carry him into the house. "Your mom has pizza inside."
"Pizza!" It was JT's favorite food. He would probably also get ice cream, his other favorite food because Juliet had been so worried and would want to spoil him. Hell, Dean would dig out the hot fudge, cherries, and whip cream himself. “Can Jimmy have pizza? I bet he would love it too, just like you and me.”
“Not yet.” Dean clutched his son to him, glancing out over the water again. There were some things he wasn’t quite ready to share with his boys. “He still has some growing to do.”