Disclaimer: Obviously I don't own SN, Sam or Dean
This is my first attempt at a chapter fic. Hope you like it!
Ch.1 – After the Wendingo
"Dean!" Sam ran through the thick woods. He heard gunfire earlier, but that was useless against a Wendingo. He had already led some campers they had run across to the road safely and now was searching for his stupid brother who undoubtedly confronted the beast alone. His heart pounded against his chest, threatening to either explode or crack some ribs. He was not sure which option he preferred. "Dean!"
"Yo, Sam! Over here!"
Sam felt a flood of relief at the sound of his brother's voice. He followed it until he came across a clearing. There was a rather blood-splattered but very alive Dean Winchester.
"Dean! You okay? Did you get it? How did you get it?" The questions poured out of Sam. Then he noticed a small hand clinging to the pocket of Dean's jeans. "What's that?"
"Yeah, we're fine. Well, actually, I could probably use a few stitches, but what else is new, right?" Dean was grinning at him, victorious over another evil creature.
"Dean?" Sam pointed to the small hand that was holding on to Dean so tight it had white knuckles.
"Hmm? Oh, right. I found her inside the Wendingo's cave. She's fine. Let's get to the car." Dean started walking, a severe limp in his right leg.
Sam stood in Dean's path. "How did you kill it, Dean?"
"Well, since that flare gun worked so well last time, I've been packing one." Dean shot him that lop-sided grin. "Worked like a charm!"
"I think we need to get you to a doctor, Dean. That limp looks pretty bad." Sam cast a practiced eye over his brother's walk.
"Yeah, I'm really
not looking forward to the five mile hike back," Dean admitted.
That drew Sam's attention. Then Dean reached down and picked up the girl attached to the clutching hand. "Especially since I'm walking for two." He grinned at her.
Her face was blank, lifeless. Sam shuddered. "Dean? Is there something-"
"We'll talk about it later," Dean cut him off, arranging the girl so she was holding on to his neck and her weight was over his good leg.
"Right. Fine." Sam looked into those lifeless eyes again. He wondered if she was possessed. Quickly discounting that possibility, especially since his brother was often the first one to spot the signs, he wondered what kind of horrors she must have seen in that cave to make her like this.
Dean looked ready to pass out by the time the car was in sight, but he still had a firm grip on his small charge. Actually, she was probably not that small. She had to be near four feet in height, but thin almost to an unhealthy degree and so filthy Sam could not determine her hair color. If he had to guess her age, Sam would say definitely between eight and ten years old. He would be shocked to learn she was only six. Perhaps it was her vacant stare, or the eyes that were too old for such a young child that fooled him.
As Sam started up the Impala, Dean tried to lay the girl in the backseat, but she clung to him as if he were her last lifeline. Finally he held her in his lap in the passenger seat. Sam started to say something, but the Impala did not exactly have seatbelts anyway, so what was the point? He drove slowly over the unpaved roads. When they reached the highway, he headed straight for the hospital.
"Not yet, Sam," Dean said, pointing out a local library.
Sam pulled into the parking lot. "What, Dean? I don't think this is the time for research."
"I do." Dean's steady gaze told Sam that his brother had made a decision. Lord help them all. "I want you to go inside and check on any families who disappeared out there in the past couple of weeks." He looked down at the sleeping child in his lap. Her head lolled against his shoulder.
Sam reached into the backseat. His hand came back with a thick folder. "Already did, remember? Hang on," Sam flipped through his research. "Just one family. Disappeared about four days ago. John and Holly McDermott and their daughter Clementine, age six." Sam looked at the girl again. "Can't be her. She's older than that."
"No," Dean shook his head. "It has to be her." Careful not to wake the child, he reached into his jacket pocket to produce a wallet. "Found it in the cave. Must be her father's," he explained as he handed it over.
Sam looked inside at the identification for John McDermott. He let out a low whistle. "Well, what do you know? I never would have guessed she was only six."
"Now I want you to go see if she has any living relatives." Dean jerked his head at the library again.
Sam frowned. "She saw it, didn't she? That's why she looks like that."
Dean nodded. "Near as I can tell, she watched the damn thing eat both her parents. I guess she was next. We have to explain it to her family so they'll understand what's wrong with her."
Sam's eyebrows shot up into his bangs. "And you think they're going to believe us?"
Dean glared back. "We don't have a whole lot of options here, Sam."
"Right." Sam stepped out of the car. He shut the door as quietly as he could. The girl, Clementine, did not move.
As he walked away, he heard his brother's voice mumbling, "There is no way I'm calling you Clementine."
Sam did every quick records search he could think of with no results. Not wanting to delay medical treatment any longer for his brother or the girl, he headed back out to the car. Both Dean and the girl were sleeping. Dean woke with a start as the engine roared to life. The girl continued to sleep, one fist clutching Dean's shirt.
"Nope," Sam's frustrations came out as a growl. "Near as I can tell, both of her parents may have been orphans. Now what? She becomes a ward of the state? Poor kid. They'll have no idea what to do with her."
Dean was oddly silent as the Impala prowled through the streets to the hospital. Dean motioned for Sam to pull through the Emergency entrance. He carried the girl in his arms. "See you inside."
Sam parked the car and hurried in. Dean was no where to be seen. He walked up to the admissions desk. "Excuse me? My brother just came in; do you know where he is?"
"Just now?" The admissions nurse asked.
"Oh, you must mean the man who just found his daughter, who was lost in the woods for three days? What a wonderful father! You're his brother? Come on, I'll take you to him," she bustled through the door at the end of admissions.
Sam's mind was in a whirl. Wonderful father? Dean? He tried to shake away the image, but it would not go. When it came to women, Dean was definitely the love 'em and leave 'em type. But Sam wondered what kind of father Dean would make, and that thought alone scared the hell out of him.
The registration nurse pulled back a white curtain to reveal Dean hovering over the little girl, holding her hand, while an ER doctor examined her. He was patting her hand, whispering comforting words. She was staring blankly at the ceiling. Sam doubted any of this was registering with her.
"Well, she is malnourished and dehydrated, which is to be expected after being lost in the woods for three days. But I have no idea why she is unresponsive. I would like permission to run some neurological tests." The doctor was shining a penlight into the girl's eyes. "Sammie Rae, can you hear me?"
Dean cleared his throat. "Um, we just call her Rae."
"Thank you," the doctor smiled at him. "I know how worried you must be. I'll bring back the permission forms." The doctor pushed past Sam on his way.
"Sam. How long you been standing there? Come here," Dean motioned to an empty chair.
Sam moved closer to his brother. "Sammie Rae?" he hissed.
Dean gave him an embarrassed smile as he shrugged. "First thing that popped in my head," he claimed. Sam's eyes narrowed. Somehow he doubted that.
Three days later a much healthier, if still vacant and thin, Sammie Rae was released from the hospital clinging to Dean. Dean still had a slight limp and about fifteen stitches but all in all Sam had seen his brother look better, but perhaps not happier. Now that was another disturbing thought. Rae, as Dean had taken to calling Clementine, had shrieked every time Dean left her hospital room. So he had stayed at the hospital, sleeping in those visitor chairs he hated so much, for three days.
"Sam, you need to watch Rae for me for a couple of hours." Dean informed him as they drove to a local motel.
"Why, Dean? You have a lead on her family?" Sam was ever hopeful, the optimist.
"Nah. I need to pick up some cash." Rae, or rather, Clementine, was nestled in Dean's lap, her vacant eyes staring out the window.
"So you want me to babysit while you go out and hustle?" Sam demanded.
Dean clapped his hands over the child's ears. "Sam! Do you mind?" he growled.
"As a matter of fact, Dean, yes! I do mind!" Sam slammed a fist on the steering wheel. "It's not like you're adopting this girl!" There was silence in the car. "Dean?" More silence. "Dean!"
"Now, Sam, I know that legally-"
"Legally? Dean, legally this is already kidnapping!" Sam threw him a furious look. "And you can not just – just – keep that girl!"
"Sam! Not in front of the K – I – D."
Sam rolled his eyes. "And watch where you're driving!" Quick reflexes saved them from bumping into another car during Sam's eyerolls. Sam was huffing for all he was worth by the time they reached the motel.
Dean ignored him completely. He carried Rae, no – Clementine, inside and set her on the bed. He turned on the cartoon channel for her before unloading his stuff out of the car. As Sam carried in his own bag he was amazed that the kid was not screaming bloody murder each time Dean stepped out of the room. He wondered if she even knew where she was.
"See? No problem. Sam, you just hang out here and I'll be back before you know it. Rae? Behave for Uncle Sam!" Dean slammed the door before Sam could say anything.
Sam fumed for several minutes, glaring at the closed door. Realizing that this course of action was really inaction, Sam brought out his trusty laptop. He found a local wireless network to tap into. Really. People should at least make it a challenge by setting up passwords. Of course, passwords just take another minute, maybe two.
Sam started a full search on all possible relatives of Clementine McDermot. As he was researching the McDermots of Carson City, an idle thought struck Sam. Was the girl inside there at all? Or was she merely a shell? Sam lifted the remote control for the television and shut it off. He returned to his research. Soon he had the uneasy feeling he was being watched. Sam looked up through his bangs. She was staring at him, with those vacant eyes. He lifted the remote again and clicked the television back on. She turned back to watch her cartoons. Huh. Maybe there was someone in there after all.
The McDermots of LA were of no real relation, either. Sam sighed in frustration. There had to be a McDermot somewhere who – Sam slapped his forehead. The mother's family! He started a new search. Her maiden name was Williams. Gee. Couldn't it have been something easy, like Smith? He let out a long, long sigh.
She was looking at him again. "Sorry," he murmured. She did not look away. "I don't suppose you have any grandparents? Aunts? Uncles?" He met her vacant gaze. The skin around her eyes tightened and her eyes sudden had a spark of life in them. She nodded.
"Really?" Sam jumped up and rushed to over to her. He knelt in front of her, making sure he was at her eye level. "Who? Can you give me a name?"
She nodded again. One finger prodded Sam in the chest. Her vacant stare returned and she turned back to watch Spongebob.
Sam rocked back on his heels. Him? Dean did call him Uncle Sam earlier, but that was a joke. This girl could not possibly travel with them. It was ridiculous. This job was far too dangerous to have a child with them.
Sam returned to his laptop. He kept researching Rae, er, Clementine's family tree. As he searched, the girl kept drawing his attention. She was simply staring at the television, her face blank. He wondered what horrors she had seen, was still seeing. Dad was always careful not to let them see too much at an early age. Well, at least him. He knew Dean always did stuff at a younger age than he had ever been allowed, but Dean was older. At least, that was what Sam always told himself. Maybe it was because Dean had seen their mother die? Sam doubted there was anything worse, unless it was your wife or girlfriend. No, probably not even then.
The girl turned around to look at him again. Sam smiled. She did not return it, but he thought he saw a flicker of something in her eyes before she turned away. He snapped his laptop closed and moved over by the bed.
"Do you mind if I watch with you?" he asked.
She did not look at him, but she scooted over on the bed. Sam sat next to her, not close enough to touch but close enough to be felt. When the next cartoon started she shifted closer to him. Sam sat perfectly still.
"I've never seen this one. Have you?" That vacant gaze was his only answer, but he was starting to understand. It was the only answer she could give right now. Who else could possibly understand what she had seen? What family other than the screwed up Winchesters would be able to handle something like this? Sam wished he had been older so he could remember what Dad did for Dean. In Dad's journal, Sam had read the early pages so many times he practically had them memorized. Dean quit speaking after Mom died. Correction – after he saw Mom die. But what exactly Dad did to pull Dean from cowering inside that shell into the swaggering tower of self-confidence that is Dean Winchester, Sam had no idea. So he sat watching cartoons. But the whole idea was still absurd. They had a demon to destroy.
The door opened and Dean entered under a mound of plastic bags. Sam jumped up to help him. "Hey! I'm back!" he called out. "Got the clothes and stuff I promised!"
Sam peered into one of the bags. Sure enough, there was little girl underwear and socks. The next bag was full of clothes, as was the bag after that and the bag after that. "Dean, how much money did you spend?"
"It's my money. Doesn't matter." Dean sniffed.
He shrugged. "Maybe a little over two hundred."
Sam looked into the next few bags. "A little?"
"Okay, three hundred."
The last bags were full of toys. There were stuffed animals, coloring books, crayons, blank paper, and lots of things that made noise. "Dean?"
"Fine. Four hundred."
"How could you possibly pick out all this…" Sam's voice trailed off. "You had help, didn't you?"
"I picked out all the toys myself," Dean replied proudly.
"Yes. I'm sure you did." Sam caught Dean's eye. "You do know she's going to grow out of all this before you can turn around twice?"
"Nah. There are lots of different sizes in there. I had them give me a variety." Dean beamed.
Sam shook his head, his long bangs shaking. "Dude. I don't think that's the way it works."
Dean looked hurt. "Oh? Like you would know?"
"Well, no, but…"
"And who do you think shopped for all your clothes growing up, princess? Well, okay, most of the time it was Dad, but all the really cool stuff was me. All me." His thumb pounded into his chest.
They were distracted by a whine. Dean and Sam whirled around. The girl was crying.
"Rae?" Dean's voice was soft and gentle. He knelt by her, wrapping his arms around her but not drawing her in close. "Hey, we're sorry. But we're brothers. We argue all the time. It doesn't mean anything, right Sam?" Dean glanced up at his younger brother.
Sam shook his head. "Dean's right. It doesn't mean anything. We'll always be family, no matter what."
"That's right," Dean brushed the hair out of her face, "no matter what." His face brightened. "Want to see some really cool toys that will annoy Uncle Sam?"
She showed no interest in the toys that made noise, to Dean's obvious disappointment. But when he brought out the paper and crayons, she practically snatched them from his hands. While she colored, Dean removed tags from the new clothing and packed them into a new bright pink backpack. It looked large enough to put Rae in as well, but Sam did not comment. When he was done, he checked on the girl who was still coloring away. Then he pulled up a chair beside Sam.
"Find anything?" he asked quietly, indicating the laptop.
"Not really," Sam admitted, running a hand through his mop of hair. "Dean, I've tried everything I could think of. I've hacked into the local police computers, state police, FBI, you name it. The whole family is listed as missing, but no next of kin. Apparently they were reported as missing by the park rangers when they failed to check in after their camping permit expired." Sam shrugged. "I hate to admit it, but I'm stumped."
"That's okay. She can stay with us for a while." Dean was watching her color.
"No, she can't, Dean." Sam knew this was a really, really bad idea. "You know what it's like. How we grew up."
Dean's cold green eyes turned on him. "Yes, I do." His voice was soft, the way it usually was just before his fists started swinging.
"Dean, all I'm saying is-"
"I know what you're saying! You've been saying it for ten years!" Dean's voice was a low, menacing growl.
"Dean," Sam shot an elbow into his brother's ribs. Rae was watching them intently, silent tears coursing down her face.
Dean sighed. "I guess we need to watch when we argue. At least for a while." He moved over to sit beside her. "What are you working on here?"
Dean picked up her paper. His eyes widened and he turned it around to show to Sam. "Does this look like what I think it looks like?" he asked.
Sam looked at the pink page. On it were three figures. The tallest one had brown hair that covered most of his face. The next one in size had about the same hair color, but it was short and spiky and he wore a blue jacket. The third figure stood between the first two and was much smaller than the other two, reaching maybe to their knees, with long arms. Those long arms reached all the way up to hold hands with the tall man on either side.
"It's very good," Sam replied softly. He looked directly at Rae's tear-stained face. "You did a good job."
She did not look back, her eyes had that distant, vacant stare again. But the tears had stopped and Sam knew, somewhere deep inside that shell, hid a little girl looking for a way back.
Sam figured he spent more time apologizing than sleeping at night. Rae woke up constantly during the night, screaming. Not that he could blame her, of course. The poor kid had been through more than anyone should, ever. But by the end of the week, the three of them were short-tempered and sported blood-shot eyes. Rae was crying constantly because Sam and Dean were consistently sniping at each other. That was the evening Sam realized that this girl had indeed become part of their family, whether he thought it was a good idea or not.
Dean had changed into a large gray t-shirt and baggy black boxers for bed. He helped Rae put on her princess nightgown and supervised the teeth brushing. Then he pulled out a storybook and patted the bed beside him.
"Come here. I'm going to read to you."
Sam left them to it as he prepared for bed. When he came out of the bathroom, his brother and the girl were both sound asleep in Dean's bed. She was snuggled up against Dean's side, her head on his shoulder. The sight was both so natural and unexpected Sam just froze. When he realized that he was staring, Sam forced himself to go to bed. As exhausted as he was, it was not difficult.
He woke in the morning with the wonderful sense of a good night's sleep. Sam had forgotten what that felt like. No disturbing dreams. No screams at two, three and four am. Sam stretched muscles weary with sleep, enjoying the feeling. When he glanced over at his brother's bed, he noticed Dean was sleeping on his side. Sam stood, fully intending to harass his brother before making a donut and coffee run. After seeing how his brother was sleeping, he thought better of it. Dean was on his side, protectively curled around Rae. One arm clutched her to his chest while the other was thrust under his head and pillow, his hand undoubtedly close to his hunting knife. Even in sleep she was clinging to his arm and her face was not vacant, it was peaceful.
Sam slipped out of the room, careful not to disturb its sleeping occupants. When he returned with two coffees, a bag of donuts, a bag of donut holes, and a small bottle of milk, Rae was watching cartoons and Dean was face-down on the bed.
"Hey, Dean! Coffee!"
"Thank God," came the pillow-muffled reply. Dean rolled over slowly, one hand reaching into the air. Sam pressed the cup into his outstretched hand. "You're a lifesaver." Dean rewarded him with a sleepy smile.
"So, how did you sleep?" Dean asked, swinging his feet down to the floor and rubbing a hand over his hair.
"Like a log. You?" Sam offered Dean some donuts.
"Better," Dean admitted. "She still woke up a few times, but at least there wasn't all that screaming."
"So…what? She'd wake up scared, realize you were there, and fall back asleep?" Sam crammed a donut in his mouth.
"Not exactly. She'd wake up then wake me up. Once she could see I was awake, and I guess alive, she'd just drop back off to sleep. Of course, I'd be up for a while." Dean sighed, sipping his coffee. He shook his head. "Don't know how Dad did it."
"What do you mean?" Sam asked, reaching into the bag for another donut.
"There were two of us, Sammy," Dean spotted the milk and donut holes. He opened the small bottle and set it on the floor in front of Rae. "Okay, you were a baby, but that just meant that you needed more care. And I was four. I know I had some terrible nightmares." He opened the bag of donut holes and set them in front of Rae, too. Then Dean returned to face his brother. "I just don't see how he did it. Without just losing it, you know?"
"Think that's why he drank so much?" Sam asked, unable to stop himself.
Instead of getting mad, Dean just shrugged. "Dunno. Maybe." He rubbed his free hand down his face. His eyes met Sam's over his coffee cup. "We need a new gig."
"I'm going stir crazy cooped up in here. Let's find a new gig." Dean grinned. "Come on, Sammy. You know you want to."
"But what about…" Sam's eyes drifted to little Rae. Her milk was half gone and one hand was inside the bag of donut holes.
"No problem. Between the two of us, she'll be fine." Dean waved a hand in a manner Sam assumed was supposed to be reassuring.
"Dean, this has got to be the stupidest idea you've ever had. Including the waitress in Tampa."
"Dude. That's harsh." He waved at the laptop. "Just look for another gig."
Sam grudgingly opened his laptop and connected to the same open wireless network as before. As he searched for the unusual, his mind replayed their earlier conversation.
"Dean?" Mysterious deaths in Wichita. Wild wolf blamed.
"What nightmares?" Three families disappear after attending revival in Topeka.
"You said you know you had nightmares after Mom died. What kind of nightmares?" Four deaths due to wild animal attacks. Oddly, all four only days prior to their deaths reported sightings of a black dog.
Dean looked disgruntled. "Did I say that?" He shrugged. "It was nothing."
Rae abandoned her cartoons. She walked over to Dean and leaned on his knee, peering up into his face. She patted his leg with one hand, her face intense instead of the vacant stare it usually held.
"What the?" Dean looked to Sam as though he would have all the answers.
"Maybe she wants to know about the kinds of nightmares you had," Sam suggested. He thought if Dean would talk about it, it might be therapeutic for both.
Dean scratched the back of his head, his face scrunched with discomfort. "Well," he looked down into the girl's face and visibly melted. He sighed, picked her up and settled her on his lap. "Okay. Here goes. And I've never told anyone about this, ever. Got that Sammy?"
Sam nodded, though he was not sure if Dean was addressing him or the girl.
"And after I tell you, we drop it. No question and answer time, right?" His green eyes bored into Sam. There was no doubt who Dean was referring to this time. Sam nodded again.
"Good." Dean looked at Rae instead of Sam, though. After all, it was obvious she was the only reason he was doing this. "My Mom was, uh, killed in a fire. My Dad sent me out of the house with Sam over there. I had to carry him out of the fire. But before we left, I saw her," he swallowed hard, "burning. For a long time after that I dreamed about her burning, my dad burning, Sammy, uh, Uncle Sam that is, burning. I remember that I would get so scared I'd crawl into Sam's bed, just to make sure he was okay." Dean gave her a soft smile. "But those nightmares were just bad dreams, they were not real. And one day they just stopped," Dean snapped his fingers, "just like that. Okay?"
Rae's face betrayed nothing of what might be happening under her stoic exterior. She hugged him around the neck then clambered down to watch cartoons again.
"She should be in school," Sam remarked idly, watching her sit vacantly in front of the Transformers.
Dean snorted. "Why? So she can stare down all her teachers? She has too much to deal with right now, Sam. School can wait."
Sam opened a new search window. Maybe he could locate some school records or something. Surely her parents had her enrolled in school. A news headline popped up.
'Child Missing in Woods Found. Returned to Family Attorney.' Curious, Sam opened the news story. It claimed that Clementine McDermot, daughter of self-made business entrepreneur James McDermot, had been found and returned home. The attorney, apparently the executor of the McDermot estate, was quoted as saying he was so relieved the child had been found and looked forward to many years of caring for her as her legal guardian.
"Dean? I think I found something strange." Sam pointed out the news article. As Dean read it, his countenance darkened.
"It's not our usual gig," he muttered, "but it might do."