Title: Of Princes and Toads
Characters: Dean, Sam (general fic)
Rating: PG-13/T for language and brief nudity
Disclaimer: The brilliance of SN does not belong to me, unfortunately, I just like to bask a bit in the glow.
Summary: The Winchester boys get involved in a slightly unusual case.
Spoilers: None, this was written before season 3 started.
Author's Note: Response to NWP's Supernatural Challenge. Oh wow, you have no idea how excited I am, the results just got posted on NWP and this fic won Best Characterization and Best Dean Quote, I couldn't believe it! Anyhoo, hope ya'll enjoy it!
"Of Princes and Toads"
Frank Jackson State Park
3 Days Ago
Lake Jackson was peaceful. There were a few people braving the chill of the fall water, splashing around up the beach, and several boats with fishing gear dotted the calm lake, but it was nearing the end of the season and the camping enthusiasts were becoming less and less every weekend. Nina Moriel loved days like this.
The small voice had Nina moving instinctually, her arms coming up to catch her five-year-old daughter. "Well, hello Princess Sadie!" she exclaimed, as if surprised.
"Mommy, Mrs. Toad stole my ball!"
"Did she now," Nina asked, amused. She sat the little girl down, smiling as Sadie adjusted her princess costume before staring earnestly back up at her mother.
"I told her that wasn't how the story goes, that she's 'posed ta give it back, but she didn't!"
"Well," Nina replied, "Maybe you should tell Mrs. Toad that you're leaving in five minutes and you need your golden ball back before we go?"
"Okay!" And her daughter scampered back into the woods calling, "Mrs. Toad! Mrs. Toad!"
Nina started folding the lawn chairs and repacking the cooler. She hoisted them into the back of the van before going back for her laptop and the picnic blanket. Checking her watch, she decided to give Sadie a few more minutes to finish her game and seated herself on a boulder, proofreading the last chapter she had written.
It was only ten minutes later when the absolute stillness of the surrounding wilderness hit her. Nina put her computer down and stood, frowning. "Sadie!" she yelled, "Time to go!" There was no answer. "Sadie!" she repeated, "This isn't the time for hide-and-seek sweetie. You have school tomorrow." She moved into the woods where her daughter had disappeared. "Sadie?" But it was quiet, no giggling girl or flash of purple cloth. The woods were empty. Nina felt panic like a knife in her heart. "SADIE!"
State Highway 331
"So what are we looking at?"
Sam reached out to turn the volume off and ignored Dean's glare. "Sadie Moriel, five years old, disappeared from under her mother's nose on a day trip to Frank Jackson State Park."
"Any other missing kids?"
"Not any more than you'd find reported regularly in that size of park. Kid wanders away, rangers normally have them back within a few hours, scared and crying."
Dean waited, knowing Sam was building up to something, because one missing kid didn't usually add up to a case, but his brother didn't continue. "And?"
"A Ms. Glenda Perkins was reported missing a week ago."
"Not seeing a connection here, Sammy," Dean pointed out, gritting his teeth at that smug little brother tone.
"It's Sam, and I'm getting to that-"
"Dude, quit interrupting!"
"Forgive me for cutting in on your monologuing, would you just get to the point?"
"Fine," Sam bit out, slumping against the Impala's seat, "Glenda Perkins was eighty-five years old and living in a nursing home, she was non-ambulatory. The night nurse is doing midnight rounds and finds Ms. Perkins' bed empty, wheelchair still in the room. Four days later, a couple hiking in the state park discover her remains. Day after that, Sadie Moriel goes missing."
"Remains," Dean repeated, latching onto the part of the explanation that he understood. "What kind of remains?"
"According to police reports, it looked like she'd been skinned alive." Sam gave Dean that look that said 'supernatural happening'. Dean's eyebrows rose with interest.
"Man!" He thumped the steering wheel, "I hate shapeshifters."
"I don't think that's what this is."
Dean shot the younger man a considering look. "What else you know of that leaves pieces of skin behind?"
"That's the thing, Dean, it wasn't pieces. It was the entire skin. Like she was wearing a suit, unzipped it, and just walked away."
The elder Winchester was frowning now. "What? You mean like how a snake sheds its skin?"
"Exactly! But I've never heard of anything supernatural that could do something like that."
"What about a lamia?"
"They only shed the snake half, not the human half," Sam refuted, "And I think they're extinct."
Another look. "That's what we thought about vampires." It was Sam's turn to glare, and Dean just smirked back. "So, besides the fact that Sadie went missing a day later, what's the connection?"
"Get this; 1930, seven-year-old Glenda Perkins goes missing in that same stretch of woods, shows up a week later completely unharmed. The same newspaper," and Sam waved a printout, focusing on his notes, "that reports her miraculous return also reports that search parties found the body of an old drifter, so eaten by animals that nothing but the skin was left."
"Huh." He looked out the windshield in time to catch the sunny little sign welcoming them to Opp, Alabama, the 'City of Opportunity'. "So, what's the next step?"
Sam sighed, scratching his forehead. "Talk to the mom. She's the closest thing to a witness we have." Dean's reply was to turn the volume up, letting AC/DC blast through the Impala.
The doorbell startled Nina and she bolted from Sadie's empty room to the front door, flinging it open. The two men jumped slightly and Nina felt her heart drop. She'd been hoping see Ranger Richardson standing there with her daughter instead of another set of people she didn't know offering condolences and angling for a sob story.
"Nina Moriel?" the shorter one asked, and if Nina hadn't been in a state of constant dread she would have realized he was perfect material for the hero of her next novel, but as it was…
"Yes. I'm sorry, I'm not seeing anyone-"
"Ms. Moriel," it was the tall one, voice soft, "We're sorry to bother you, we're with the Park Rangers-"
"No, you're not," Nina interjected, "I know all the Rangers, believe me," her voice rose an octave, panic fluttering, "I don't know who you think you are, but you are not going to sensationalize my daughter's disappearance and you should be ashamed of yourselves-"
"Ms. Moriel," it was the shorter man again, "We're from Blackwater Ridge, Colorado. We're on exchange to Frank Jackson State Park for a few weeks." He reached into his back pocket, pulling out an I.D. and handing it to her. "I'm Sam Cole, this is Dean Michaels, we helped solve a missing persons case up in our neck of the woods and offered to get involved in this one."
"Oh," she said, flustered, handing the card back, "I'm sorry, I just…"
"We realize how hard this is for you Ms. Moriel," Ranger Michaels said, "We just wanted to get a first hand account of what happened and then we'll be on our way."
"Of course, of course, please come in." She stepped away from the door, as they entered, and ushered them into the living room. "Can I get you coffee or water?"
"We're fine Ms. Moriel," Ranger Cole said, smiling at her.
"Nina," Ranger Cole repeated, smile widening, bringing a light to his green eyes and Nina found herself blushing, "You can call me Sam."
Ranger Michaels cleared his throat and she turned her attention to him as they all sat down. "Nina, could you tell everything that happened when Sadie disappeared?"
She nodded, clasping her hands together, and felt tears prick her eyes. "We go to the park every Saturday, just a quick day trip, and we're home by supper. Last Saturday was the same as usual until the end. Sadie was playing dress up. She'd been the princess in her day care's production of the Frog Prince and she just loved the costume so much…" she trailed off, "I have a picture, if that would help? I know there's one at the station, but…"
"A picture would be great," Ranger Michaels said, his voice still soothing, and Nina thought he'd be really great at having in a crisis situation. She flipped through the album on the coffee table until she came up with one of Sadie in her purple princess dress, her dark hair in pin curls and a smile spread across her face, and handed it to the Ranger.
"She looks just like you."
"Yeah, that's what everyone says." And Nina felt the tears overflow. Before she knew it, she was in Sam's arms and he was offering her a tissue. "I'm sorry," she cried, "She's just all I have…I'd do anything…"
"Hey," Sam's arms tightened, and she met his eyes, surprised at the emotion that thickened his voice, "Believe me when I say I understand how you feel." He eyes shot over to his partner's before coming back to rest on hers. "I promise you, we will find her, but we need you to tell us everything."
She straightened, giving him a smile of thanks, and finished her story. "It was just about time to go and Sadie came running up saying that a toad had her golden ball. It was in the story; I figured she'd found a toad hopping around and decided to make it her frog prince, that she was just pushing for more time to play. I told her she needed to tell the toad to give her the ball back. That we had to leave, and I gave her about fifteen minutes before I started calling for her, and then she just wasn't there. Wasn't anywhere." She threw up her hands, sniffling, "I just don't know what to do!"
"A toad had her toy?" Sam tried to clarify.
Nina nodded, "She said, 'Mrs. Toad stole my ball.'"
"Mrs.?" Ranger Michaels asked, frowning, "Shouldn't it be Mr.?" She looked at him, confused. "I just, I mean if it's the Frog Prince it would be male, right?"
"She's five Ranger Michaels; I don't think it mattered to her."
"Right." Ranger Michaels turned to look at his partner beside her. "Thank you for your time Ms. Moriel, we should be going." He stood, staring pointedly at Ranger Cole. "Sam."
"Sure thing, Dean," and Sam rose also, smirking. "We'll contact you as soon as we know something, Nina."
"Thank you." And for the first time in 24 hours she let real hope fill her. Something about Sam Cole inspired confidence and she knew that if anyone could find Sadie, it would be him.
Dean wasn't sure he liked the speculating look Sam was giving him. "What?" he demanded.
Sam gave him the innocent face and took a bite of his frou-frou sandwich. "I have to say, Dean, I'm a little surprised."
"At what?" he asked warily.
"At you. No MILF jokes, no 'kids are the best' line, are you feeling all right?"
"Well, asshat," he drawled, giving his little brother a kick under the table that had Sam wincing, "I thought I'd wait to hit on her until after we get her daughter back. And then maybe I'll stand in front of her husband's truck while he runs me down."
"No husband," Sam said, sipping his coke, "Although nice sarcasm there."
"Nina Moriel, 27, single mother, music teacher, and writer of Harlequin romance novels," Sam rattled off the facts.
"Seriously, and I bet I know who's gonna be the star of her next one…"
"No, I meant seriously, are you acting like this when there's a lost kid out there?" Dean slammed money onto the diner table and stormed out. He was waiting in the Impala for less than a minute before Sam slid into the passenger seat and had the car rumbling toward Frank Jackson State Park before his brother was buckled in.
"Shut up, Sammy."
"No, we need-"
"Not now, Sammy!"
"Yes, Dean, now!" Sam shouted back, "Two days ago you were trying to get me into a threesome with those two waitresses while you were flirting with the bartender, the week before that you wanted to ditch the job to go to an amusement park, and now you're so focused you're acting like Dad. You keep going from one end of the spectrum to the other and I can't keep up!"
"No one asked you to."
"No one had to." He looked at Dean, who refused to look back at him. "Look, Dean, I know-"
"Oh, you know," Dean interrupted, jaw working, "That woman lost her child, Sam, lost her world." His voice got rough, "You may think you know what that feels like, Sam, but you don't. You have no idea-" He broke himself off, and finally met Sam's eyes, "You don't know, Sammy, and you won't ever know. Not if I have something to say about it."
"Dean," and his brother looked away as a tear escaped, "How do you think I'm going to feel in ten months, huh? You're all I have, Dean. What the hell do you think is going to happen when that demon comes to collect?"
"You're strong, Sammy, you'll get your life back on track. Become a lawyer, marry that Sarah chick, have 2.5 kids and a fluffy golden retriever. You can get along without your big brother dragging you down. You can live without me."
"Yeah?" he asked, feeling his own tears trickling down his cheeks. He rubbed them away, conscious that Dean was doing the same.
"Well, I don't want to."
The Impala came to a stop at the registration booth to the park. "Day trip?" the attendant asked, "Park closes to the public at 7:00pm."
"Camping," Dean corrected, "Tent."
"That'll be $14.00 a night." Dean passed over $28.00 and gave Sam the park information the attendant had shoved at him. "Enjoy your stay."
Pressing on the accelerator, Dean looked at Sam. "Bitch."
Sam's head shot up, grinning, "Jerk."
Dean smiled back and Sam felt the world brighten a little bit. Everything might not be perfect and would probably never be all right, but at least it was back to normal. Well, as normal as it could get for the Winchester brothers.
"How weird is it that a campground gets wireless?" Sam asked, clicking through web pages.
"Weird," Dean grunted, "Are you going to help me with this?" He held up the small, two-person, nylon tent that was jumbled in his arms.
"Dude, I'm researching."
"Fine," he said shortly, "Maybe you can just sleep outside tonight."
Sam shot him a glance over the top of his computer, "I didn't think we were sleeping tonight. I thought we were hunting."
"Yeah, well, it helps if you know what you're hunting. Do you know how many frogs there probably are in these woods?"
"It was a toad."
"Nina said Sadie said it was a toad."
"What's the difference?'
"Did you not pay attention in biology?"
"That was like twelve years ago, dude."
"Frogs are more aquatic, they live in or near the water. They're usually more narrow than toads are and they're green. Also, they don't have warts. Toads, conversely, are more terrestrial, preferring woods like these. They're bigger, darker, and they have warts." His older brother was staring at him like he was crazy. "Got it?"
"Thank you Encyclopedia Boretannica."
"Just set up the tent," Sam commanded, throwing a stick at him.
Half an hour later the tent was set up, though looking slightly unstable, Dean was seated by a fire he had had no trouble starting, and Sam was fed up.
"All I'm getting is crap!" he exclaimed.
"Crap like what?" Dean inquired, munching on some peanut M&Ms he'd had stashed in his duffle bag.
"How toads are thought to be witch's familiars, or even demons themselves. Some sites say they're bad omens and others that they're good luck. Heck, there's an ancient civilization in Mexico that used to revere them as immortals…I just, there's no solid lead. Maybe we should just explore the area and see if we can uncover something other people might not see."
"No. It's getting dark and we're not walking into those woods without at least an idea of what we're doing." Dean popped a few more M&Ms. "Call Bobby on that fancy satellite phone of yours and see if he can turn anything up. If this thing is a demon then he'll find it and if it's just luring a kid to a witch…although how many witches' you know of wait seventy-eight years for a new victim and then return them a week later?"
Sam just pulled out his phone and dialed.
"Thanks, Bobby." Sam shut his phone, staring at it for a minute before bringing up one of the websites he had bookmarked.
"Well?" Dean prompted, impatient.
"Well it seems like that ancient Mexican civilization created a few actual immortal deities through their idolatry. Bobby says the last case was a hundred years ago in Texas, and the only reason it was discovered was that a hunter found the thing as it was shedding."
"How's it work?"
"Well, a normal Cane Toad, also known as the Giant Toad, which is what we're looking at, secretes a milky-white fluid called a bufotoxin that's poisonous to most animals and even humans in some cases," he reached out to smack Dean, who was snoring as he pretended to sleep, "The largest known Cane Toad was 21 inches long fully extended, but what we're dealing with here? It's over a thousand years old and probably at least four feet long. It probably spent twenty years of its natural life being worshipped and then started taking human bodies, migrating from the Yucatan Peninsula all the way along the Gulf until it hit the States and just settled around here, living out its human host's life until it needed to take a new body."
"Huh." Dean had started checking over their weapons.
"Myths have it that they have a "Toad-Stone" in their heads that when worn will detect poisons or, if ingested, will stop death."
"That'd be useful."
"Yeah, only you ingest one of these things you're going to think you're immortal until the hallucinogen wears off and you die."
"So…not so useful." Dean shrugged, gesturing for Sam to continue as he checked the shells in his shotgun.
"Bobby said the toxin it secretes probably paralyzes the victim at first and slowly kills him or her until the toad can hop into the host's skin."
Dean frowned, "How the hell does it manage that?"
Sam shrugged, "I couldn't come up with a theory for that."
"So how do we kill it?"
"It's a toad, dude."
"So there's no special trick? Doesn't need silver bullets or cold iron?"
"How'd it survive this long?"
"Besides the fact that it's been adopting a human form? Probably no one's actually tried. It's not the most common sight in the world. I don't think killing it will be the problem."
Dean pursed his lips, "Then what's the problem?"
It was quiet for a moment, Dean sharpening his Bowie knife the only sound. "Tree," the older man said suddenly.
"What?" Sam's eyebrows twitched, not following his brother's mind fart.
"In that freaky faun movie, the big toad was in a tree."
Sam had to think a minute to figure out what Dean was saying. "You saw Pan's Labyrinth?"
"Yeah, that's what it was called!"
"You saw a movie with subtitles?" Sam asked this as if his entire world had been thrown off its axis.
"When did you have time to go see-"
"Sam, let's focus," Dean interrupted.
"You got any better ideas, geek boy?" Sam's silence answered his query. "I didn't think so. Now, our legs are considerable longer than Sadie's, so I think we should walk in where she disappeared and continue on for about eight minutes and then do a sweep. Sound good?" His brother nodded and Dean smiled, tucking his silver Beretta at the small of his back. "Gear up, Sammy, we've got some rescuing to do."
"Yatzhee." Dean let loose a whistle and saw his brother's flashlight come bobbing toward him.
"Found something." He gestured toward the tree, roots pushing up earth all around it, and the two approached slowly, trying to find an opening. "Here." He aimed the beam toward the hole in the roots. Sam was just standing there. "Well, go on."
"I'm not going in there."
"You think I'm going to fit?" Dean demanded.
"What makes you think I'm going to?" Sam shot back.
"Your girly body."
"Dude, keep your voice down," Dean hissed, "Fine." He could tell his little brother had his stubborn face on. "I guess there's only one way to settle this." His slipped his flashlight under his arm and held out his hands, fist cupped in palm.
"Seriously? Dean, we both know how this is gonna turn out."
Sam sighed, mirroring Dean's pose. "Count of three. One. Two. Three." Sam threw rock, Dean threw scissors. Surprise.
Another three thumps and Sam again beat Dean's scissors. Sam patted his brother on the back as Dean grumbled his way toward the opening, pulling his gun out and shimmying on the ground.
This friggin' sucked. He wanted to curse, especially knowing that Sammy was probably laughing at him while he fought his way through roots and crawly things, but he didn't want to tip the toad off. A giant toad. Seriously. He shook his head, focusing back on the case; on getting little Sadie Moriel back to her mother safe and sound.
"Holy Jesus fuck!"
A bulbous yellow eye was staring straight at him, horizontal pupil splitting the gold, and the eye was the size of his frickin' hand. Dean was backtracking before he could even take it in.
"Dean?" Sam stared in surprise as his brother popped back out of the roots, covered in dirt. "What happened? Is it in there?"
"Oh, it's in there all right," Dean confirmed, eyes wide, "That's some freaky ass shit right there. The thing's friggin' ginormous!"
Ignoring the older hunter's descriptions, Sam asked, "Was Sadie in there?"
Dean had to think a minute, running his mind back through the shock to what he'd taken in of the hollow in the tree. A pair of skinny legs covered in tattered purple had been visible to the left. "Yeah, she's there. She wasn't moving."
"Do you think we got here too late?"
"No," Dean shook his head, refusing to believe the little girl was dead. He'd promised her mother, and Dean Winchester always kept his promises. "I'm going back in, gimme your gun."
"Where's your gun?"
"I dropped it, genius."
"You lost your gun?"
Dean pulled a face. "I did not lose my gun. I dropped it. Somewhere," he gestured to the roots he was standing on, "in there."
"You lost your gun."
"Man, now is not the time, just gimme yours!" Sam handed over his own matte black Beretta and Dean disappeared again. Crawling his way through the tree a second time was slightly easier as he'd already forged a path, but he really wasn't a fan of the tight space. He spied his flashlight up ahead, still on, and the silver Beretta was lying a few inches away. "Hello again, gorgeous," he muttered, maneuvering the gun back into his waistband, "That'll never happen again."
He darted into the hollow quickly; gun at the ready, and the bullet hit the disturbingly large toad square in the head. It exploded, unexpectedly, raining down guts, blood, and some white shit he was pretty sure Sammy had said was toxic. "Shit." He pulled himself forward until he could reach Sadie's body and dragged her toward him, apologizing in his head for the rough treatment. A quick check assured him she was breathing and Dean felt his chest loosen.
It seemed like an eternity before he was out of the tree, Sam's hand pulling him up, relieving him of weapon and car keys. "Meet you at the Impala."
Dean nodded, following at a slightly less urgent clip, afraid to jar the girl in his arms. She made a small sound and Dean stopped, looking down at the little face. Big brown eyes blinked dazedly open and focused on him. A smile flitted across her face and a skinny little hand touched his cheek.
"Are you my prince?" she whispered.
Dean felt his chest tighten again, and his voice came out slightly husky, "Sure, sweetheart."
She smiled again and went limp against him. Dean started running.
The call had been curt, but it had been the sweetest she'd ever received. "We have her, meet us at the hospital."
Nina wasn't sure what to expect when she got to Wizwell Memorial Hospital, but it wasn't to see her daughter sitting perkily on a bed in hospital scrubs, her face and body washed clean, staring up at a grimy Sam Cole adoringly.
"Mommy!" her daughter exclaimed, "Prince Dean rescued me from a wicked witch that was trying to turn me into a frog!"
"Dean?" Nina echoed, moving toward her daughter. She felt like she was in a dream, but Sadie was real, and Nina held her close, looking at Sam wonderingly. He had a slightly sheepish expression on his face and looked like he wanted to say something, but wasn't quite sure what.
"Yeah?" Sam replied, and Nina felt confusion hit her over the amazement of her daughter's incredible return. Dean? Hasselhoff?
"Your friend just finished giving his statement to the police."
"Thanks." He nodded to Nina and the doctor, patted Sadie on the head, and slid out of the room. She stared after him in confusion.
"Ms. Moriel?" She turned her attention to the doctor, hands stroking through Sadie's hair. "I'm Dr. Pratt, I just wanted to let you know how Sadie's recovering from her ordeal."
"She's surprisingly resilient." He gave Sadie a smile. "There were some toxins in her system, but we've managed to flush them out and she's recuperating rapidly. Although it was very lucky that Mr. Hasselhoff and Mr. Anderson decided to go for a midnight hike, eh?"
"Very," she echoed faintly.
"We'd like to keep Sadie overnight for observation-"
"I wanna go home, Mommy!" Sadie interrupted.
Nina looked down at her, prepared to be firm and tell her that they needed to follow the doctor's orders, but one look at the sleepy child and all Nina wanted was to have her daughter home in her own bed.
"Can I bring her back in the morning?"
"We need to leave, now."
"Man, I know," Dean replied, glaring, "Just give me the car keys." A throat cleared and they spun to see Nina looking at them, a sleeping Sadie cradled in her arms. "Nina!" he said, plastering on his most charming grin.
"Follow us home."
Her tone brooked no disagreement and Dean stopped smiling. "Yes, ma'am."
The Impala was quiet as it followed the van back to the Moriel household. The brothers would occasionally exchange nervous glances, but there was no talking and no music. They pulled to a stop in the driveway, and Dean twisted to glare at his brother. "You just couldn't give me the keys, had to be a stubborn sonuvabitch…"
Sam shrugged, "I'm a Winchester, sue me." And he got out of the car. Dean followed, still grumbling, and itching at the dried toad mess. The door had barely shut behind them when Nina spun.
"I don't know who you are," she announced, "and I don't care. You saved my daughter's life." Her grip tightened on Sadie. "I'm going to put her to bed, we'll talk after." The men nodded. "If there's anything…" she trailed off.
"I could use a shower," Dean spoke up, he was pretty sure the itching patches of skin were going numb.
"Oh," Nina said, as if she had just realized he was dirty, "Of course, it's the second door on the left down the hallway."
"Thanks." Dean lumbered forward, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
"Towels are under the sink!" she called after him before turning to Sam. "I really do need to set her down…Make yourself at home?"
"Sure," he said, smiling easily, "I'm really Sam by the way, and he's really Dean." She nodded in acceptance and he watched as she moved down the same hallway, heading to the first room on the right. Sam sighed, glad this odd case was over and glad it had turned out okay in the end. Now he could focus on how to break Dean's deal-
Dean's cry echoed down the hallway and Sam was moving instantly, hand going to his gun, his mind racing. Had it all been a trap, was Nina really a witch and the toad thing had been just a lure? If anything happened to his brother…
"Dean!" he shouted, pounding on the door, "Dean!" The door was locked, but that was really no deterrent to a Winchester. With a well-placed kick, the door was swinging open and he stalked in, gun at the ready.
"Dude! You couldn't wait five seconds for me to open the door?" And there was Dean.
"Are you all right? I heard- I thought- You're okay?"
"Fine, dude. Are you okay?" Dean was eyeing him suspiciously.
"Yeah. But you screamed, right?" Sam needed a little clarification.
"Screamed? Please. I possibly exclaimed…joyfully." And now Dean wasn't looking at his brother, which gave Sam a perfect shot of the blush on his cheeks.
"And what were you 'exclaiming joyfully' about?" amusement seeped into his tone and Dean glared at him, although his expression lost its fierceness when he smiled. And it was the smile he got when he was flirting or thinking about a past conquest…or eating pie.
"Is everything all right?" Nina's question caused her to be subjected to the intense gaze of both men, but she was having trouble focusing past the fact that Dean was in nothing but streaks of mud and a fluffy blue towel. "I heard shouting."
"Everything's fine," Dean assured her, "Sammy's just got his panties in a little twist."
"Excuse me for being worried," Sam scoffed back.
Dean leveled a stare at him and Sam knew what was coming. "Bitch."
And then the towel slipped and Sam was scarred for life. "Dude!"
"I'm just going to…um…check on Sadie." And Nina backed out of the room, slowly, her face flushed, eyes never leaving the sight before her.
"Well, that was embarrassing," Dean said, crouching to pick up the towel.
"I think I've gone blind."
Sam didn't see it coming, as he had his hand clamped firmly over his eyes, but he heard the snap and flinched when the towel connected. "Ow!"
"Dean…" And he was laughing now, not even hiding it as he fumbled for the door.
"Jeez, can't a guy take a steam shower in peace?"
The 1967 black Chevy Impala sat idly on the curb outside the one-level ranch house, one man leaning against the passenger door and another a few feet away, his arms full of a rambunctious five-year-old girl.
"Mommy, look!" The girl shouted to the woman descending the front steps. "Prince Dean got me my golden ball back!"
Dean grinned in response to Nina's smile as she came toward them. He and Sam had gone back to the tree to salt and burn the carcass of the evil Mrs. Toad and he had seen the little wooden ball, painted gold, sitting in the middle of the mess. It had been a simple matter to pick it up, wash it a bit in the lake, and return it to Sadie.
"That was a very princely thing to do," Nina said, her hand briefly touching her daughter's back. They'd checked in with Dr. Pratt while the boys had gone back to the state park, and the doctor had assured her that Sadie was in perfect condition. She turned her eyes to Dean, "Thank you."
A shrug moved the leather of his jacket against his shoulders, "It's what we do; slaying wicked witches, rescuing damsels in distress, riding off into the sunset." He gave Sadie a teasing tickle and she squirmed, giggling.
"Do ya really gotta go?"
"Yeah, sweetheart, we do," he told her, "There are a lot of evil creatures in the world that me and my brother need to deal with. Other people that need saving. But you," and he gave her his most charming Winchester grin, the one that in fifteen years would have her weak-kneed and starry-eyed, "will always be my favorite princess."
She cocked her tiny head to the side, considering his words and suddenly leaned up, planting a childish kiss on his cheek. "'Kay!"
Surprise showed on his face and his grin softened into a gentle smile. He pressed his lips to her forehead and set her on her feet wondering when he'd become such a sucker for kids. "Okay," he agreed. Sadie ran back up to the house with her toy and Dean met her mother's eyes. "She's gonna be a heartbreaker."
"Probably," Nina confirmed. She was eyeing him a contemplative way and suddenly she was kissing him. "Sorry," she said, blushing as she pulled away, "I just wanted to see what it was like."
Dean blinked, ignoring Sam's muffled laughter from behind him. "Like mother, like daughter, I suppose," he replied.
Her hands found her back pockets and she bit her lip, short hair falling into her eyes as she peered up at him. "Have a safe trip," she offered. He nodded. "Good-bye."
She turned back toward her house and Dean headed to the driver's side of the Impala, stopping to smack Sam for not covering his grin. "Good-bye Prince Dean!" It was Sadie, standing on the doorstep, waving.
Dean smiled, waving back. "Bye, Princess!"
"Bye, Sir Sammy!"
Dean choked, shooting a glance at his brother who had turned a deep red. "Bye, Sadie!" Sam called, ducking into the car. Dean echoed the move, chuckling as he started the car and pulled away.
Sam was checking his messages as they got back on the Interstate and Dean was pretty focused on the Metallica in the cassette player, singing along under his breath, when Sam spoke. He closed his phone, looking slyly at his brother, "So, nice kiss." Dean grunted. "I've bookmarked Nina's website, that way I can let you know the moment your novel comes out."
"Seriously, maybe there'll even be a whole series starring Prince Dean-"
"I said shut it." Sam fell silent at the seriousness in his brother's tone and wondered if maybe they weren't as okay as he'd thought. "Besides," Dean stated, glancing at his brother, "I wouldn't be talkin'. While Prince Dean's getting all the nookie, what do you think his baby brother-tagalong-sidekick'll be doing?"
"What baby brother-tagalong-sidekick?" Sam asked suspiciously, not liking where Dean was going with this.
"Dude, you think Prince Dean would go anywhere without someone to carry his gear?"
"And you automatically think Nina'll make it me?"
Dean snorted, "Who else, Sir Sammy?"
He cranked up the volume, drowning out Sam's indignant reply, as they drove off into the sunset.