Happy birthday, Cathy!
K Hanna Korossy
"Hey, little guy. Where'd you come from?"
The only response he received to his query was more vigorous thumbsucking. Large eyes, torn between fear and confusion stared at him over the pursed lips.
Dean crept forward in his crouch, pulling up short when the kid flattened even more against the wall behind him. He put up his hands calmingly. "It's okay, I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise. My name's Dean." A hand tipped back toward his chest, and he cocked his head persuasively. "What's your name?"
The thumb moved up and down, luminous chestnut eyes carefully following his every move.
Dean glanced around the room, then focused forward again. He dropped his arms on his knees and offered a friendly smile, trying to be as non-threatening as possible. "See, I'm kind of like a policeman. Got a badge and everything." He pulled it slowly from his back pocket, whatever shield it was he'd been using this case; he'd forgotten. The kid's eyes darted over to the shiny metal, then back to him. "The only difference is," Dean continued amiably, "I catch monsters instead of bad guys. And I'm thinking you saw a monster here, didn't you?"
There was a beat, then the mop of hair dipped up and down once.
Dean nodded seriously. "I thought so. But you know what? We caught it, my brother and me, so it's not gonna hurt you again, ever. It's gone."
For the first time, the round eyes darted to the dark corners around them. When the silent gaze returned to Dean, it had thawed a little, cautiously hopeful. Dean gave a small smile in return, and the thumb slowly slid out, hovering before mouth in case of emergency. "You killed it?" The voice was high and clear.
Dean nodded again. "Yeah, I did. I promise."
A blink. "Good." Then the thumb slid back in.
Dean waited a few moments, then sidled a little closer. The shining eyes narrowed a little, but panic didn't flare in them this time. Dean cleared his throat. "So, you gonna tell me your name, or do I have to guess? 'Cause I'm thinkin' you look like a Grover."
The mouth twitched around the hand jammed against it. The kid pulled it away less reluctantly this time. "Sam."
Dean's eyebrows jumped. "Sammy? I've got a brother named Sammy."
Vexation rather than fear creased the expressive face. "Not Sammy. Sam."
Dean chuckled. "Yeah, I get that a lot, too. Okay, Sam. How old are you?"
Four slender fingers of one hand went up. The thumb of the other inched higher again, hovering mid-chest as if uncertain it was needed.
"Four." Dean nodded sagely. "That's old. I was four when I got my brother. You have any brothers or sisters?"
"Susan. She's big."
"Big sister, huh? Guess you're a little brother like my Sam then." He dared reach out then, palm skimming soft hair. "I bet you miss her and your parents."
The large eyes filled. The thumb went back inside, but it looked like the whole hand would have if there'd been room.
Dean knew the feeling, how lost you could feel at four, and how heavy the world could weigh on your shoulders. "I bet we can find your family. You wanna do that with me?" He tried not to look too expectant.
Perceptive eyes stared hard at him. Kids could see things in you that grown-ups couldn't, and Dean didn't try to hide anything. His smile was genuine when the floppy hair slowly rose and fell.
"Can you trust me to help you?" The relief was a rush when he got another nod. Dean moved forward by slow inches until he was next to the kid, arm fitting comfortably around bent shoulders. "Look around you, Sam."
Another blink, then the longish hair swished against his jacket as his order was obeyed.
"You see a bright light anywhere?"
A definite shake this time. The shoulder against his was tense.
"It's okay," Dean soothed. "It's here somewhere--your family's been waiting for you a long time. The monster's not gonna keep you here anymore. You can go see your parents and Susan."
A doubtful gaze studied him.
Dean met it with a rueful grin. "I can promise you, if she's anything like me, she's been worried about you."
A frown gathered between the now-thoughtful gold-flecked eyes.
"Look around again, kiddo. The light's here, I promise."
Another sweep of the room…and he knew it the second the kid saw it, thumb slipping out forgotten but mouth still a rounded "o," shoulders back straight and head up.
"Go on, Sammy," Dean whispered. "You can go home now."
He got an unexpected radiant smile at that, gratitude far beyond a spoken thanks. Dean caught a glimpse of the light, bright and pure. And then it was gone.
Sam slumped against his side, and Dean tightened his grip to hold him upright.
It took a moment before his brother coughed and stirred. His voice, back to its usual deep and soft tones, sounded rusty with borrowed use. "He gone?"
"Yup. You okay?" Dean peered down at him with arched brow.
Sam cleared his throat, pushing up before slumping back again. "Yeah. Little dizzy, but…yeah. How'd you know…?"
"Dude, I haven't seen you sucking your thumb in at least a couple of months."
"Ha-ha," Sam said dryly. His head dropped forward, and he let Dean nudge it back up against his shoulder. "He was scared."
"You were good with him. He believed you."
Dean smirked sideways at him. "Hey, I'm very trustworthy."
"Uh-huh." Sam shook his head, fatigue in every motion, but he was slowly starting to sit up.
"'Sides, I've got a lot of experience with upset Sams."
"Yeah?" He helped Sam settle back against the wall, giving him a hard onceover despite his brother's verbal reassurances.
Sam tilted his head back, Dean's arm still a solid and reassuring support at the nape of his neck. "Next time a ghost decides to borrow one of us, I'm throwing you under the bus, man."
Sam grimaced at his wet thumb and rubbed it dry against his shirt front. "And I hope it's a girl."
"Dude. That's just mean."