Just before rounding the corner of the building, Sam stopped in his tracks and leaned against the wall, pressing his head back against the red clapboard. As he let out a sigh, he began preparing himself for what he was about to do. In a few minutes, he was going to lie to a little girl who had quickly become his best friend. He was going to tell a lie that was rather cruel. Lucy wanted so badly for her mother to come find her that telling her that her mother had called for her when she really hadn't struck Sam as mean. However, he also knew that his father and brother were right and that it was easier on Lucy if they lied. As much as he didn't want to lie to her, he really didn't want to have to explain to Lucy that the mean man had killed her years before and that she was actually a ghost.
After one final deep breath, Sam hurried around the building to the small play area behind the motel. "Lucy!" he shouted, calling for her when he didn't spot her at the slide or on the swings.
There was a short beat of silence and then Lucy exclaimed from behind him, "Boo!"
Sam was not startled this time and turned around to smile at her, suddenly understanding how she had been able to sneak up behind him so easily.
"You're back!" she cried happily.
"Yeah, I am," Sam said, hesitating at her excitement. It was time to put the plan into action. His breath hitched in his throat as he tried to force out the words. Don't think about it, he commanded himself. Just tell her, don't think about it. "Guess what! I have some good news for you! I was just in the office with my dad, and your mom called to see if you were here. She said she wanted you to come home right now."
"She did?" Lucy asked, a delighted smile slowly spreading across her face. A knot immediately formed in his stomach when he saw how happy and thrilled she was. "I knew she'd come for me, Sam! I told you she would!"
Oh, why did she have to be so excited? "Yes, you did," he replied after a moment's pause. "My dad said I could walk you home, if you want to go now. Do you know how to get to your house from here?"
"Yes!" Lucy nodded, grinning widely. "Well, I mean, I think so! I know how to get to my house from the playground, and the playground's just down the street." It was obvious that she was absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of finally going home and seeing her mother again. "Come on, Sam!" she exclaimed, taking off in a run. "I want to go home! I want to see my mom!"
"Hey, wait for me!" Sam ran after her and caught up with her a couple moments later as she was leaving the motel grounds.
As they stepped onto the sidewalk, Sam turned around and glanced over his shoulder, making sure that Dean was in fact following them. Dean, who was a few paces behind the two children, gave his brother a small wave. Sam nodded slightly to let Dean know that he saw him then faced front, turning his attention to Lucy.
The two kids were silent for a minute or two, each of them lost in their own thoughts. "You know what I'm going to do first?" Lucy asked, breaking the silence. "I'm going to give my mom a huge hug and tell her I'm sorry for leaving with that man because she told me never ever to go places with strangers. And then I'm going to ask her if we can go to the movies, just her and me. She promised she'd take me to see Pete's Dragon."
Sam inhaled sharply. Lucy's mention of Pete's Dragon was the first time she'd said anything that proved she was from another time. Pete's Dragon wasn't in the movie theaters anymore and was actually out on video; John had rented it once for him. Lucy, somewhat confused by Sam's silence, turned her head to look at him. When Sam saw the excited sparkle in her eyes, he forced a smile for her sake. "That sounds like a great plan."
The two of them walked in silence for another few minutes. The sounds of other children playing hit Sam's ears as he realized they were approaching a small playground. Looking past the playground a little, he could see thin headstones from an old cemetery. That had to have been the playground Lucy disappeared from all those years ago, the same playground that had been haunted by whatever his dad had just gone after.
The sound of Lucy's voice startled him back to reality. "What?"
Abruptly, the little girl stopped walking and instead took a seat on one of the benches outside the playground area. Puzzled, Sam sat down next to her. Something was wrong; the excitement in Lucy's demeanor had disappeared and for only the second time since Sam had met her, she was on the verge of tears. "I'm not going to see you again, am I?"
After letting out a sad sigh, Sam shook his head. "I don't think so."
Lucy nodded and bit her lip, presumably to keep from crying. "I'm going to miss you. You're one of my best friends."
"I'm going to miss you, too," Sam replied, clearing his throat so he wouldn't sound upset.
The reality of Lucy's situation was starting to dawn on him. Once he walked her back to her house, she was going to go … somewhere. Though he didn't know exactly where she would go, he was pretty sure that she'd disappear forever. Lucy would never have a sixth birthday. She would never get to give her mother that huge hug. And poor Maryann Saybrooke would never know what really happened to her daughter. None of it was fair at all. Lucy had done nothing to deserve what happened to her, and it was beginning to make Sam angry.
Lucy shifted on the bench, turning slightly so that she was sitting sideways. "I'm never ever going to forget you," she said softly before leaning forward and giving him a quick peck on the cheek.
Though the kiss felt like nothing more than a soft breeze on his face, Sam immediately felt his cheeks blush furiously. Knowing that Dean was following behind him and had almost certainly seen her kiss him didn't help. He gave her a shy smile in return. "I'm never going to forget you, either."
Lucy smiled and after a long beat tore her eyes from his, then stood and continued walking towards the cemetery. Lucy led him past two side streets but then turned down the third one. When she reached the sixth house down, she stopped in front of the walk and gazed up at the house wistfully. Sam looked up at the small blue house and smiled. It did indeed look very cozy and comfortable, and he could easily see why Lucy missed it so much. "This is it? This is your house?"
"My mom's in there!" Lucy answered excitedly. "Oh, Sam, I can't wait to see my mom again!"
"Then what are you waiting for?" Sam asked, laughing. "Get in there!"
Lucy jumped up and down before grinning at Sam. "Thank you so much, Sam. You're the best friend I've ever had!"
Sam blinked away the tears that were welling in his eyes. "Goodbye, Lucy."
After a silent wave goodbye, Lucy ran up the walk and hurried up the porch steps. Just before she reached the door, Sam closed his eyes and turned away. He didn't want to watch her disappear or fade away or whatever it was that ghosts did when they finally moved on. He didn't want to remember her like that. Instead, he wanted to remember her as the little girl who made one of the motels he had stayed at a little more enjoyable and as the girl who had given him his very first kiss.
A moment later, he felt a hand slide onto each of his shoulders. "Come on, Sammy," Dean said softly as he gently began guiding Sam back down the street and away from Lucy's house. "Don't even look back."
The walk back to the motel was made in silence, Sam upset and Dean not quite sure what to say. He had one arm slung around Sam's shoulders, trying to comfort him as best he could. Soon the motel came into view, the red building bright against the trees surrounding it. "It's not fair," Sam muttered, though whether he had meant to say it aloud Dean wasn't sure.
"It's not fair, Sammy," Dean agreed. "She deserved better than that."
Sam just looked up at Dean, helplessness in his eyes. "Why her, Dean? Why? Why did this happen to her? Why did we have to stay here? Why did I have to meet her? Because now I can never see her again and it's just not fair!" He pulled away from Dean and wiped his eyes as the tears started falling fast and furious.
"Sammy--" Dean reached out and tried to pull his brother closer to him, but Sam just dodged out of his grasp.
Sam didn't want to be comforted. He wanted to be angry, he wanted to be sad, he wanted to yell and scream and throw a tantrum. Luckily, Dean knew his brother enough to know when to back off and just let him work through the emotions on his own.
Sam dejectedly leaned against the building while Dean turned the key in the motel room door and twisted the knob. As soon as the door was open, Sam stepped inside and flopped down on his bed. John was in the middle of packing up the boys' belongings, and all it took was one look at his younger son to know that the two of them had been successful in taking Lucy home. It was killing him that he had had to hurt Sam in order to put Lucy's spirit to rest, but he hoped that someday, his son would realize that he'd had no other choice.
Sam changed position on the bed, pushing his back against the headboard and pulling his knees close to his chest. He knew he should have been helping his father and brother pack, but he was too upset to do much except think about everything. On some level, he knew that he would have had to leave Lucy behind anyway; that was the reason he didn't play with most of the other kids he met at the motels. It was hard making friends for a few days and then leaving them behind. However, what happened with Lucy was much worse. At least with the other kids, Sam could pretend they'd see each other again someday. But with Lucy, there was no way he was ever going to be able to see her again because she wasn't even alive anymore.
When John was finished packing Sam's backpack, he sat down on the bed in front of Sam's feet and forced his son to meet his eyes. "I'm proud of you, Sammy."
Sam sniffled back a couple of tears. "You are?"
"Yes," John replied. "It takes a strong boy to do what you did for Lucy, and even though it hurt, you did it, no questions asked. I'm very proud of you."
After a moment, Sam gave a small smile, wiping his tears from his face. "Does that mean you can take us to the castle place?"
John chuckled. "Yeah, I guess that deserves a trip to the castle place."
Sam stole a glance at his brother and grinned. "You were right! He's taking us to the castle place anyway!"
Dean just gave his brother a knowing shrug. "Told you."
Dean stepped off the Tilt-a-Whirl, holding a hand over his stomach. When he saw Sam make a beeline for the end of the line to go back on the ride again, Dean just shook his head. "Dude, no way. If you drag me on this one more time, I'm going to throw up all that cotton candy I just ate."
Sam pouted in disappointment. "Well, what about the Scrambler?" he asked, his voice verging on a whine.
Dean wrinkled his nose; his stomach was turning at just the thought of the Scrambler. "Can we do something that doesn't spin?"
Sam frowned, taking a look at the other rides around him. "Well, there's a roller coaster. And bumper cars!"
Even though the roller coaster wasn't all that big or all that high, it did have spirals. Dean sighed and ushered his brother towards the bumper cars, solely because he needed the stability of solid ground until his stomach settled.
Dean, John, and Sam had been at the "castle place", which was in fact named King's Castleland, for a couple of hours already. It was a small theme park with some kiddie rides and a few playhouses that were modeled after fairy tale characters. The various rides and activities were providing Sam with some much-needed distraction.
Since they had been at the park, he had only mentioned Lucy a couple of times. One time he wondered aloud what her favorite playhouse was, and another time he became excited when he found the carousel horse she had described to him as her favorite. Dean had smiled and told him that he should ride on that horse for Lucy, which he did.
"Do you see Dad anywhere?" Sam asked, startling Dean back to reality. "I'm really thirsty."
Dean craned his neck, trying to spot his father in the crowd. When Sam had started complaining of thirst before their last ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl, John had gone off in search of drinks and snacks. After a few seconds, Dean noticed that John was walking back towards the Tilt-a-Whirl. He waved his hands over his head, trying to let him know that they had switched lines.
It wound up not being a problem. Once Sam saw John coming towards them with a couple of sodas and a Sno-Cone, he dashed out of line to meet him halfway. He snatched the Sno-Cone from his father's hand and happily bit into the colored ice as he took his place in line again in front of Dean. "Thanks, Dad!"
"You're welcome," John replied, sharing an amused glance with Dean. He let the moment hang for a second before speaking up again. "I hate to break up the party here, but we've only got another hour or so before we have to get back on the road. Pick a couple more rides and then we have to get going while it's still light out."
Sam pouted for a moment before realizing that the bumper car line was moving. He handed his Sno-Cone back to his father to hold while he was on the ride. Dean took a quick sip of his soda and did the same. The boys along with a bunch of other kids then ran onto the bumper car arena, Sam running to a red car and Dean hurrying to a blue one.
Sam slammed his car into Dean's a couple of times, but then Dean chased him into a corner and proceeded to get him stuck. No matter which way Sam turned the wheel, he couldn't get his car out of the corner. Dean snickered and drove off, slamming his car instead into someone else's. By the time Sam finally got his car out of the corner, the ride was over. As the brothers were getting off the ride, Sam smacked Dean on the side of his arm. "What'd you get me stuck for?"
"I was tired of you running into me!" Dean replied with a mischievous grin.
Sam rolled his eyes and stomped ahead of him. "Just for that, you're going on the Tilt-a-Whirl with me again!"
"Sam, seriously, if we do anything else that spins, I'm going to throw up on your shoes."
Sam wrinkled his nose at the thought of Dean vomiting on his shoes. "Okay, how about the Ferris wheel? We haven't gone on the Ferris wheel yet."
"Yeah, I guess we can do the Ferris wheel." Dean ran up to John, took the soda back from him, and told him where they were headed next. Sam snatched the Sno-Cone back and began hurriedly eating it before it melted any further.
As the Winchesters made their way to the Ferris wheel, Sam hung back a few paces and then grabbed Dean's sleeve to get him to do the same. "I have a question," he whispered.
Dean frowned slightly, wondering why his brother was being secretive. "Okay, squirt, shoot."
Sam hesitated, almost as if he was unsure whether he really wanted to ask his question. Figuring he was now beyond the point of no return, he met his brother's eyes uncertainly. "If Lucy's gone and Mom's gone, are Mom and Lucy in the same place?"
Dean stopped walking, giving his full attention to his little brother. Sam very rarely so much as mentioned their mother, never mind contemplated where she was at the moment. "Why?"
"Because I think they are," Sam said with a small, unsure shrug. "And if they are, I think Mom knows that Lucy wants a mom and I think she's going to watch her until Lucy's mom can be with her. Mom would look after her, right?"
After quickly looking Sam over, he could tell instantly that this was something that his brother needed to believe in, that it was somehow making everything that happened with Lucy easier for him by believing that she was still somehow connected to Sam and that she would be protected. "Yeah," he answered, giving his little brother a smile. "I do think Mom would look after her."
Sam let out a soft breath of relief, smiled, and began hurrying his pace to catch up with their father. Once the Ferris wheel came into view, Sam took off in a full-blown run, leaving both Dean and John behind.
"Sammy! Not so fast!" John called as Sam ran past him. Dean sidled up next to his father and smiled up at him. John rested his hand on Dean's head for a moment, then dropped his hand back down to his side. "This job's been hard on you, too, hasn't it?"
"Yeah, a little," Dean replied with a nonchalant shrug. "But I'm okay."
John nodded and then fixed his attention on his younger son, who had arrived at the Ferris wheel and was impatiently waving his father and brother over to the line. "Is Sammy okay?" he asked, nodding in Sam's direction.
Dean took a moment to answer, mentally going over everything his little brother had been through over the previous few days. Sam had had a six-year-old's version of a whirlwind romance only to find out that his new friend was a ghost who had died eleven years prior. And if that wasn't enough, Sam then had had to be the one to talk the little girl into the light. But Dean knew that his brother was strong, and as long as he believed that Lucy would be taken care of, wherever she was, he'd be fine. He eventually nodded. "Yes," he replied. "Yeah, I think he'll be okay."